It’s “Hell Yes!” or no, with Jay Baer.

Episode 305

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Jay Baer, CSP is the world’s most retweeted person among digital marketers. He is a business strategist, keynote speaker, and the New York Times best-selling author of five books including “Hug Your Haters.” Jay has advised more than 700 companies including Caterpillar, Nike, Allstate, The United Nations and 32 of the FORTUNE 500. He is the founder of Convince & Convert, a strategy consulting firm that helps companies gain and keep more customers through the intersection of technology, social media, and customer service. His Convince & Convert Media division owns the world’s #1 content marketing blog, the world’s top marketing podcast, and many other education resources for business owners and executives. Jay is the creator of five multi-million dollar companies, he is an active venture capitalist, and technology advisor, as well, Onward Nation…an avid tequila collector and certified barbecue judge.


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Secret – timesaving technique

Jay believes in this philosophy — if you don’t say “Hell yes!” — you must say no. ONWARD!

Daily habit that contributes to success

Be very reachable — Jay responds to email within minutes.

Could have ruined your business – but now – an invaluable learning experience

Jay’s weakness is valuing ideas over execution — and Jay tells the whole story here.

Most critical skill you think business owners need to master to be successful

“Lack of fear — fear holds people back.”

Most influential lesson learned from a mentor

“Give your clients your best professional advice — it’s up to them to take it or not.”


Final Round – “Breaking Down the Recipe for Success”


What systems would you go back and put into place sooner?

I would have had more systems to track and measure things from the beginning.

What one strategy or “recipe” would compound into big wins for business owners?

Take everything you know and give it away for free — one bite at a time.

How to exceed expectations and add the most value?

An individual would think strategically and act fast.

What strategy would you recommend new business owners focus on to best ensure success?

  1. Write down your fears
  2. Understand the business you’re in

How best to connect with Jay:


This is Onward Nation episode 305.

Get ready to find your recipe for success from America’s top business owners here at Onward Nation with your host Stephen Woessner.

Stephen Woessne: Good morning, Onward Nation. I am Stephen Woessner. We all know that building and scaling a business is hard work, but when you have the right strategy, the right recipe for success to follow, the action steps become more like ingredients. It could be added systematically into your business one ingredient at a time. That’s why I am so excited to introduce our guest today Jay Baer. Jay is the world’s most retweeted person among digital marketers. He’s a business strategist, keynote speaker, and The New York Times bestselling author of five books, including Hug Your Haters.

Jay has advised more than 700 companies, including Caterpillar, Nike, All State, The United Nations, and 32 of the Fortune 500. He’s the founder of Convince and Convert, a strategy consulting firm that helps companies gain and keep more customers through the intersection of technology, social media, and customer service. His Convince and Convert media division owns the world’s number one content marketing blog, the world’s top marketing podcast, and many other education resources for business owners and executives. Jay is the creator of five multimillion dollar companies.

He’s an active venture capitalist and technology adviser, as well, Onward Nation, an avid tequila collector and certified barbecue judge. Welcome to Onward Nation, Jay.

Jay Baer: Onward Nation. I am delighted to be here. Stephen, thank you for that delightful introduction. Let’s do it. I’m fired up.

Stephen Woessne: Well, apparently I’m fired up maybe even a little bit nervous too because apparently I can’t say multimillion dollar, instead I said multimedia. For Pete’s sake, you have such an impressive background. I am excited to have you here. Really looking forward to the conversation, but still even in sharing that, I still only gave Onward Nation pretty thin slice in all of the things that you’re intimately active in on a day-to-day basis. Take us behind the green curtain. Tell us more about you and your businesses and what has brought you to this point, and then we’ll dive in with the questions after that.

Jay Baer: I started in politics, which was an interesting background at least this year. I was a political campaign consultant as a young man. Discovered that that was a tough business and not a great family business, so I moved out of politics and gotten into traditional marketing and advertising work for a Fortune 500 company when I was in my early 20s. Then for a very brief period of time was a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections where my job was primarily to give tours of Arizona’s juvenile prison system, and that wasn’t awesome at all. I was having beers with some friends of mine from college and they said, “Hey, what are you doing?”

I said, “I’m doing this prison gig.” They said, “Well, we’ve started this internet company. It’s the first internet company in Arizona. It’s getting kind of busy and we don’t know anything about marketing.” I said, “Well, that’s fine. I don’t know what you mean when you say the word internet, but I will do anything to not give another tour of this prison.” I walked in the next day and quit, and I found myself a week later as the vice president of sales and marketing for an internet company having never been on the internet.

This is 1994. Early ’94. It’s pre-Netscape, pre-Google, pre-Browser, in the days where this is pretty much AOL copy server prodigy, but we were in the dial-up business. We were sending people out floppy disks to let them connect on their modem, and that’s how I got started. 25 years later or nearly 25 years later, here I am. My firm does three things. We train from the stage. I do a lot of speaking and workshops, and other people on my team do as well. We do consulting for major brands, and then we have a media division as you mentioned.

We run six podcasts a week, six different shows per week, 12 blog posts per week, four emails per week. We make a lot of content for a lot of people, and I love every minute of it.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. Okay. Phenomenal background. Love the story too. I remember those floppy disks back in the day. Three divisions, but take us back to when you first started Convince and Convert. I think if I remember the timeline correct, it’s 2008, right?

Jay Baer: That’s right. Yes.

Stephen Woessne: How did it start? I mean did all three divisions … I mean maybe you were doing podcasting back in ’08, but how did it start?

Jay Baer: I had a previous company in Arizona called Mighty Interactive. Mighty Interactive was a web strategy firm that then became a web marketing firm. I grew that, and we were one of the more successful firms of that type in the Southwest. I sold it to an advertising agency. Spent three years helping to run that advertising agency. When my contract was up, I started Convince and Convert. It was just me in my basement. It’s called Convince and Convert. Funny story. Hardly anybody knows this. They do now.

It’s called Convince and Convert because the original premise of the firm was to do conversion rate optimization consulting, to do landing page testing, and email headline testing, and those kinds of thing. I did a fair bit of that work in my previous firm. It’s called Convince and Convert because we were going to focus on conversion. I started a blog. I had written a lot of magazine articles for business publications in the past, but I never had a blog. I’m like, “I’m going to start this new blog. I might as well have a blog to talk about conversion rate optimization.”

I did and then every once in a while I’d start writing about social media because that was another and those things were starting to converge. I discovered using my analytical tools that every time I wrote about conversion rate optimization nobody read it. Every time I wrote about social media, everybody read it. I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. Maybe I should do more of that,” and so Convince and Convert very quickly became a social media strategy firm. Fast forward and here we are.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. You left the name the same because of that intersection, right?

Jay Baer: I had a domain name at that point. You got to keep it real. It’s a name that has a lot of … It invokes a lot of emotions in people. It almost sounds like an old school law firm, right? It’s Convince and Convert. If you’ve been injured in an accident, call Convince and Convert. Something like that.

Stephen Woessne: Well, that’s the type of conversation we’re going to have, Onward Nation. Full transparency, obviously a little bit of humor too, but grounded in great business fundamentals. Jay, let’s dive into this first section that I like to call focus and preparation. Preparation because it’s so true that greatness is available to all of us if we’re willing to do the common things uncommonly well, which is a powerful lesson I learned from one of my mentors Don Yaeger. Jay, start us off with if you want to call it a secret, maybe prefer to call it a time saving technique, is there something you can share with us that helps you focus and prepare to tackle your most vital priorities each day?

Jay Baer: I will tell you that, but are you referring to Don Yaeger the speaker and the former journalist?

Stephen Woessne: Yeah. One of my very best friends.

Jay Baer: I do not know Don well. I know Don. I saw him speak again just recently at the National Speakers Association Conference in Phoenix about two weeks and he absolutely crushed it. Gave an unbelievable presentation. Not a dry eye in the house. He is fantastic. He and I came up together as speakers. We did a fairly half-assed workshop side by side in the middle of Ohio at one point when he and I were both just starting off as professional speakers. I could not be more happy for his success and what a great guy. You’re good at picking friends. If there’s nothing else, I’ll give you that.

Stephen Woessne: Thank you very much. Yes, he is a great man. That is for sure. Just talked to him this morning. Every Friday morning we have an accountability call and he’s a dear friend. Just a wonderful family man and so forth, but awesome that you guys know each other too. It is a small world.

Jay Baer: Indeed. I don’t have a secret or even a technique. What I have is a philosophy. I learned this philosophy from Derek Sivers. Derek Sivers is a fantastic business person, marketer, modern stage, great blogger, speaker, book writer. His claim to fame initially was he founded the business CD Baby. CD Baby was one of the most successful eCommerce companies in the world and sort of the first internet boom. Derek’s just a really thoughtful guy. He has a philosophy that I’ve adopted as my own and that philosophy is this, hell yes or no. If you’re even modestly good at business, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities.

Opportunity volume is never the issue. When you get those opportunities, you have two choices, you can either say yes or no. His philosophy, which is now my philosophy, is when you are presented with that opportunity, if you don’t immediately say hell yes, then you always must say no. If you focus your time and attention only on things that are truly interesting and exciting to you, the byproduct of that will be the focus, the preparation, and the excellence that you seek. When Stephen contacted me and said, “Would you like to be on Onward Nation,” I said, “Hell yeah,” and here we are.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. What a great, great philosophy. I’m glad that you tied that back to Derek because I have heard that many times from like other experts and so forth, but I didn’t realize that he was the genesis of that.

Jay Baer: It is his. It is indeed.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. I love how you also … See if we can make this connection here if I’m tracking with you properly. If you say hell yes or no and you’re really good at what you do for the hell yes opportunities, then the opportunity volume’s not going to be the problem because you’re going to have a reputation that really precedes you, right?

Jay Baer: Absolutely. One the challenges I think that business people have especially entrepreneurs and people who are starting something new is that they allow themselves to get pulled into too many directions. Right? They allow their power to become diffuse. Instead of saying, “Look, I’m going to be really, really good at these two things,” they end up being okay at 14 things. That is a real challenge.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. If we take this momentum and now shift it into the focus of maybe daily habits, Jay, is there a habit or two you strongly believe contributes to your success?

Jay Baer: I don’t know that it’s a habit. It’s more of a policy, which is typically I am really, really, really fast at email. I tend to answer people’s emails not every time, that would be a lie, but whenever I am at a computer, which is most of the time, I tend to answer people’s emails within minutes, two, three, four, five minutes. It freaks people out because that’s not how most people handle it. Many people are familiar with The 4-Hour Workweek kind of philosophy and hey, I’m only going to check email twice a day because that allows me to focus. I think that does a disservice to anybody who wants to contact you. I think it is saying that your time is more important than their time.

One of the things that I’ve done since the very first day I started in business is I’m super duper responsive, especially via email. Less so via phone just because I’m on planes a lot and it’s hard to do that, but certainly via email, which is where most people try and contact me now. I try and be very quick to the degree that people really can’t believe it’s me sometimes.

Stephen Woessne: I can attest and validate that for sure, Onward Nation, from the communication that you, Jay, and I have had leading up to this conversation. You just saying that, I mean that is pretty counterintuitive. My guess is you’ve gotten some flack. Aside from people maybe not believing that it’s you whether that’s a productivity or some sort of guru in the space that probably maybe try to call you on the carpet in that, but I personally really, really like that especially somebody interacting with you. I love being able to get a response really quickly, but I love that too. Have you gotten any pushback of this? People trying to change your way with that?

Jay Baer: I think some people believe that it is impossible to be excellent when you’re always kind of giving partial attention to your inbox. I certainly understand that and it’s not for everybody. Not everybody can do it, but I’ve been doing it for almost 25 years. I’ve trained myself to kind of be sort of thinking about a couple of things at once. I can stop, start really quickly. Like one of my superpowers is I can instantly stop a task, start another a task and then flip to another task, and then pick up right where I left off. I don’t have to have any ramp up time or ramp down time. Just in my head. That allows me to say …

I mean I could stop talking in the middle of this sentence, not even finish the sentence, check an email, come back, and finish the sentence. I’ve discovered that not everybody can do that. That style of responsiveness works for me. It doesn’t necessarily work for everybody.

Stephen Woessne: Well, great lesson there on self-awareness, right, and knowing what your superpowers are, Onward Nation. Jay has dissected that and practiced it, and perfected it, and mastered that superpower over a couple of decades. Don’t try to do what it is that Jay is doing if that’s not your gift. It is his gift. He does it expertly well, but it all starts with self-awareness and really understanding what our gifts are. We all have an abundance of gifts and talents. It’s being able to understand what yours are and then applying them with precision.

Jay, let’s transition now into, it might seem kind of because you’ve started us off here with some good momentum, superpowers and great lessons, now I want to talk about overcoming obstacles. Tell us about that challenging time, that situation could have devastated maybe even ruined your business, but you persisted because you made the tough decisions, and now that once painful memory serves more as an invaluable learning experience. Tell us that story, Jay.

Jay Baer: Never really had a titanic level kind of disaster or near disaster. I’ve been very, very fortunate, very, very lucky I would say in the long time that I’ve been self-employed. I do have a weakness for sure and that weakness is valuing ideas over execution sometimes. I’ll give you a concrete example. About two years ago, maybe a little less, I was doing even more podcasting. We were expanding the number of show that we produce at Convince and Convert. I was looking for some other shows in the marketing discipline that might compete against some of the shows that we were contemplating.

I started to look around to see kind of what podcasts are out there and I discovered, as most people have discovered in their life if you’re listening to this show, that podcast discovery is a bit of a sticky wicket. There really isn’t a Google for podcasts in a classic sense. If you go to iTunes and kind of look in their business category, it’s kind of a hot mess. It’s not very useful at all. It sort of organizes people by Google’s secret algorithm. There’s some other ways to find podcasts using an app or things like that, but there really isn’t a great way to do it. I thought jeez, it’s 2015 at that point. This is crazy.

Podcasting continues to soar in popularity. There’s really no way to find shows. I said, “I’m going to solve this problem. This is a problem that must be solved.” I created a whole division of my company called was and still is, you can still go there, we still run it, it is Google for podcasts. It categorizes I think over a thousand marketing podcasts and it’s small business, and entrepreneurs, and creativity, and social media, and content marketing, et cetera. We wrote a custom scoring algorithm, which uses number of shows and iTunes ratings and reviews, et cetera, to rank shows one to a thousand, et cetera.

It really works. I mean it’s a very useful tool. We built it and have spent a bunch of money building it, but what I discovered is I didn’t actually have a business model for it. It solved the need that I had personally, but I never really thought through well, how are we going to make money at this other than just sort of slapping an ad on there. Then I realized that there were several ways that we could make money at it, but none of those ways were at all integrated into our other businesses. It sort of became this like stepchild, this thing that didn’t really fit, this square peg in a series of round holes. We sort of abandoned it.

We sort of backed out of that project. It still lives on, but in a very low level way. Recently I kind of went down another dark alley in a similar vein. I swore I’d never do it again, and I did it again. I’ve discovered that being overly enthusiastic about the idea without the accompanied execution plan is certainly a blind spot for me. It’s something I’m working on to this day.

Stephen Woessne: Let me make sure that I’ve got the lesson here cemented in a place here for Onward Nation. The fact that you had the idea, that’s great. You built it and so I would argue that that was great execution, but I think what you’re saying too is that because that monetization strategy, which would essentially give the survivability of that on your PNL going forward, that’s the piece that wasn’t there. We’re not running nonprofits here. If we can’t monetize that and have it contribute to the PNL, then overall as a strategy that’s not really solid I think is where you’re going. Am I reading that right?

Jay Baer: Yes, absolutely. Of course. Of course. You have to think it through all the way to a logical conclusion. That’s one of the things I have a problem with is this advice in the industry, sometimes it’s credited to Seth Godin and others, this concept of just ship it, right? Just make stuff. Well, that’s bad advice because creating a website like, starting a podcast, writing a book, starting some other kind of new company or division gets you nowhere other than in debt unless you have a plan for how to monetize that well into the future after it ships, after it launches.

This kind of just do it mantra that’s taking over in marketing and business I think is actually poorly thought through advice because it’s not about making the thing. It’s about making the thing and then making money from that thing over time.

Stephen Woessne: Isn’t it amazing though too, and I have the same opinion as you, but isn’t it amazing though how prolific that message has become?

Jay Baer: Because it’s easy. It’s pablum, right? Nobody wants to really think hard. They want a shortcut and the shortcut is just ship it. Well, you’re going to learn a lot of painful expensive lessons that way.

Stephen Woessne: I think Reid Hoffman maybe said, the founder of LinkedIn, like if you’re not completely embarrassed by the first iteration of your product, you waited too long.

Jay Baer: Yeah. Couldn’t agree less with that.

Stephen Woessne: Love that.

Jay Baer: I like Reid. He’s a smart guy and obviously LinkedIn has done pretty well for themselves. I get that he’s coming at it from a software perspective, right, where you really want that minimum viable product and market testing and iteration and all that. I get that. When you’re dealing in my business, which is about thought leadership and reputation and things like that, I’m not going to put my name on something that is half baked. I can’t. I have an economic disincentive to do that. This idea that oh, I’m okay if it’s embarrassing, no, I’m not okay with that.

Stephen Woessne: Well, and quite frankly you’re consulting with 32 of the Fortune 500. That’s probably not an awesome strategy either to present to them in the boardroom about how it could be embarrassing.

Jay Baer: We’re not going to walk into a deed and say, “Hey, we got this idea. This idea is totally half baked. Probably crap, but you know what? At least we shipped it.”

Stephen Woessne: Oh gosh. I love that. What do you think is the most critical skill business owners need to master in order to thrive today?

Jay Baer: The most critical skill, I would say lack of fear. I know lots of brilliant people who have big plans and terrific ideas, but they don’t fully make them real because they’re scared of something, right? They’re scared of making the mistake I just made about not thinking it through all the way, or they’re scared of what happens if it doesn’t go well, or they’re scared of losing money, or they’re scared of this or that. I think the amorphous concept of fear holds back a lot of people. I think the most critical skill that you can have is the discipline to what I call dimensionalize your fear.

Anytime you’re scared or uncertain about something, instead of just thinking about, “Well, I’m a little concerned about that or I’m just kind of having that palpable sense of apprehension,” to action. This is what I do all the time. I take paper and pen, I don’t even do it on a keyboard, paper and pen and I write down exactly what I’m scared of. When you do that, when you actually give words to your fears, in almost every case you realize, “Well, that’s silly. That’s not really worthy of that level of apprehension.” It kind of gives you the clarity you need to take the next step.

Stephen Woessne: I’ve seen clients do that, Onward Nation, in conversations like in their conference rooms when they needed to map that stuff out all the things that were preventing, the obstacles and so forth, before moving forward with an idea. When they did the exercise that Jay just guided you to do, it became like a myth in their head. They couldn’t articulate it out on paper, which then removed the obstacle, right, Jay?

Jay Baer: Absolutely. Some of it is just like illogical, right? We get paralyzed by uncertainty more than it’s actually fear. In most cases, fear becomes uncertainty because we didn’t actually write it down. We don’t know what we’re scared of. We just know we’re scared.

Stephen Woessne: Boy, that is such great advice, Onward Nation, for you to follow. It really demystifies and de-Boogeymans it, and just makes it so much less real because you forced yourself to articulate it. Jay, tell us about the most influential lesson you ever learned from one of your mentors and how that lesson helped you become the business owner you are today.

Jay Baer: I’ll give you two from different parts of my business. When I was an intern, I was a 17 year old intern at a public affairs firm in Phoenix, it was the first week on the job and I got invited to sit in on a client session where the firm was delivering some recommendations to a client. The co-owner of that firm, a brilliant man by the name of Robert Robb whose now the editorial page columnist for the Arizona Republic Newspaper, pulled me aside before the meeting and said, “Hey, I know this is your first ever big client meeting. You’re just a kid, but I want to tell you something that you need to remember if you’re going to be in the consulting business.

Our job is to give our clients our very best professional advice. Their job is to decide whether or not to take it.” That one little rule has served me very, very well ever since because it can be frustrating when you sort of say, “This is what you should do. Don’t you see? This is what you should do,” but you really can only lead a horse to water in business especially on the consulting side. In some cases, you cannot save them from themselves and you have to allow them to do it because after all it is in fact their business, not your business. You’re going to make different decisions? Start your own business.

The second piece of advice I got that really has helped me is from my friend Scott Stratten. Scott’s a terrific marketing author, fantastic public speaker. One of the best in the world. When I first started getting busier as a speaker, when I first met Don Yaeger as a matter of fact about that same time, and I was kind of moving from doing breakout speeches to bigger room keynote speeches, Scott said, “What you have to do in every case is take the speech you want to give, throw away half of it, and then you have the right amount of content.” He’s exactly right.

The big mistake that a lot of speakers make is they try to tell people everything they know in 60 minutes, instead of telling people just enough in 60 minutes.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. Okay. I was furiously taking notes here as you were giving us those two lessons. Let me go back and make sure that I’ve got both of them correct. The first lesson was our job is to give our clients the very best professional advice you can, then their job is to take it. Right?

Jay Baer: Exactly.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. Without trying to sound patronizing here, that’s really profound because it is so frustrating when you think you’re giving your client the very best advice, you’re maybe even in some instances emotionally tied to it, and then they just look at you and say, “Wow. We’re going to do something else.” I mean that is frustrating. You’ve built some discipline around that lesson to be able to just give it and then walk away, right?

Jay Baer: Well, look, one of the things that kills consultants is getting too emotionally invested in your own work. Look, I care deeply about it. I’ve been a consultant for a really long time. We have amazing clients who pay us a bunch of money to tell them the truth and we do it every time. I take it very, very seriously. It’s an honor to do what I do. At the end of the day, it’s their company. It’s not my company. I can tell them what I think, but ultimately it’s their responsibility to take action or not. You have to divorce yourself from the emotional side of that, and you can’t treat advice as precious, and too many consultants do that I think.

Stephen Woessne: I think you’re right. Then the second lesson from Scott, take the speech you want to give, throw half of it out, and then that’s the right amount of content to deliver, right?

Jay Baer: Yup. Exactly.

Stephen Woessne: Great words of wisdom, Onward Nation. Don’t try to stick the five pounds or the ten pounds into a two pound bag. That is just so perfect. Let’s chat a little bit about systems and I know that the magic reset button doesn’t exist, but let’s just imagine that it did for this particular instance. If you have that magic reset button, Jay, as it relates to starting your business, what systems would you go back and put into place sooner rather later and why?

Jay Baer: I tend to manage via Post-It note, which is not the best system. I am not a systematized person. For anybody out there who’s a golf fan, like there’s two kind of golfers, right? There’s golfers who are great because they just practice like crazy. Vijay Singh is a legendary proponent of that style. That guy will hit range balls until it’s dark everyday. He has just practiced so much. He is just amazing, right? Then there’s other golfers who are what they call in the industry a feel golfer, right? Some of them don’t even have coaches. They just sort of have a natural inclination and intuition.

I kind of fall more in that camp and that is very, very useful when growing a company to a certain size. When a company gets beyond the size that you can actually oversee all the things yourself, you can no longer be a feel golfer. You can no longer manage via Post-It notes. In the last say three years, we’ve put a lot of systems in place at Convince and Convert to run it more like a business and less like Jay’s hobby. I wish I would have done those things from the beginning and said, “Maybe we’ll never get that big, but at least we’ll have the systems.”

It’s always harder to systematized while you’re moving as opposed to systematized from the beginning because you’re essentially pin stripping a car while it’s in motion. It just becomes disruptive to everybody. I wish I would have built systems to track and measure and report things where I can look at a spreadsheet and know what’s going on instead of having to have a conversation with somebody. I wish I would have done that sooner.

Stephen Woessne: What would have been the right litmus test to know when you should have done it because that would be a great sort of milestone if you will for Onward Nation? How do we know to move from emails and Post-It notes over to systematization?

Jay Baer: To me, I think the tipping point if when you’re spending more than about a third of your time having conversations with your own team, then you don’t have enough systems, right? If you have to actually have … One of the symptoms of that is organizations that have so many meetings, right? If everybody in the meeting works in the same company, then that’s a meeting that could probably be replaced by a system if you just committed to it.

Stephen Woessne: Love that. Okay, Onward Nation, a third of your time. Great benchmark. Great vital metric for you to keep in your front and center. Jay, I’m just thoroughly enjoying the transparency in this conversation. I love the fact that you’re like, “Yeah, I’m in my inbox. Yeah, it’s me who responds in two to three minutes. Yeah, I kind of manage by Post-It notes.” I love that. Most people don’t say that kind of stuff. Most people want to kind of hide behind some sort of productivity mantra, this, that or whatever to make them sort of sound whatever they want to sound as. I really love the fact that you are being so transparent and genuine in how you do your stuff.

I think that that really aligns well with most business owners, most executives because they’re doing it that way. This is really, really a comforting message and is real world stuff that’s great.

Jay Baer: Well, I kind of feel like it’s difficult and dangerous and often frustrating to read books or go to conferences or pay for consulting or even listen to podcasts and you’re like, “Wow. How come I’m not doing it that way? I should be doing it like that guy. He’s so successful. I should be doing it that way. She’s amazing. How come I’m not following her secret recipe?” Look, the whole saying of be yourself because everybody else is taken I think is a really good piece of advice. Don’t try to copy somebody else. Just take bits and pieces of what works for you and make it your own.

Stephen Woessne: Love it. I know that this is an impossibly framed question or challenging I guess maybe is the right word, but if you could distill it into just one strategy, and then we’ll expand on strategy here later, but if you could distill it into one strategy that if business owners and their teams could consistently apply everyday do you think would compound the big wins for them?

Jay Baer: Oh yeah. I mean I wrote a whole book about it. The book is called Youtility. Y-O-Utility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype. The recipe is take everything you know and give it away for free one bite at a time. Give away information snacks to sell knowledge meals. People can’t believe how transparent we are on our blog. Here’s how we do social media strategy. Well, don’t people pay you for that? Yeah, they do, but we’ll tell you how we do it. We’re not shy or embarrassed. If your decision is well, I could hire Convince and Convert to do social media strategy or I could read their blog and do it myself, you’re probably not a good client for us anyway.

I think one of the worst and most dangerous concepts in business is the concept of the secret sauce. We have a proprietary methodology. We have a way that we do business that our competitors don’t. You know what? 99% of the time that’s total BS. Your competitors do it the exact same way with the same tools, the same methodologies. They just have a different logo or a different name for the methodology. Your secret sauce is not secret because many of your customers have worked with you and your competitors. Many of your employees have worked for you and your competitors.

This idea that somehow you’ve got the stone tablet from on high and you can’t possibly talk about them because your competitors will steal your stuff is crazy. It’s absolutely crazy. Give away everything you know one bite at a time and the world will beat a path to your doorstep I promise you.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. Let’s take that a little bit deeper here because one, I love it. Two, I think that the fear just came up a little bit in Onward Nation when you said it, although it is a fantastic philosophy. Let’s take information snacks and then the transition into full meals. If you’re to execute that as a strategy, how does a business owner just break that down? What is a snack? What size is that?

Jay Baer: I mean one of the fastest and most direct ways to do that is to sit down, do it today, finish the show, and then get on your computer, and spend the next 90 minutes writing down every single question that a customer has asked you in the last year. You should be able to come up with 50 to 100 questions off the top of your head. If you can’t, go talk to your customer service team. They’ll know. Then you take those questions and then you go answer them, and you answer them in public, and you answer them on your blog or on Facebook or in a podcast or in a series of photos or videos. Ideally you answer them in many ways because people have different information preferences.

You take all those questions that typically you only answer when somebody is in a meeting with you or on the phone and you just give all those answers away in public. That will eventually create a tsunami of attention and awareness and drive people on your purchase funnel and creates clients.

Stephen Woessne: Brilliant. Onward Nation, you got the recipe. You got the strategy, the tactical plan right behind it. Do exactly what Jay said. That’s fantastic. I’m doing that after you and I hang up from this doing this interview. This is fantastic. I mean that is really where the rubber meets the road. Really good stuff.

Jay Baer: It works.

Stephen Woessne: Oh my gosh. Absolutely. Absolutely. Let me give you another scenario and ask you to fast forward one year. You’re looking back on the hiring decisions you’re considering making now, Jay. Imagine the people you hired today exceeded your highest expectations, whatever those might be. What strategy did they consistently apply that deliver the most value to your business?

Jay Baer: We really only have one thesis for our team. We have a different kind of team. It’s all virtual. I have people all over the world. We have four team calls per year. We have one team meeting per year. They’re all senior staff. We have no junior staff because we only do strategy. We don’t do tactics. It’s a different kind of company. We don’t have to hold a lot of hands because we’ve built a company that doesn’t require that. We only really have one guiding principle, which is to always think strategically and always act fast. Because when our clients need us, they need us now. They don’t need us in five months. We have a bias toward action, but we don’t want to be a commodity. Right?

If you’re only in the action business, you will eventually become commoditized in every industry. Thinking is never commoditized. The people who think strategically and act fast, those are the people who drive value for our business.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. Okay. Again I’m trying to takes notes as quick as I possible can in keeping with you. I think I heard you say if you’re in the action business, you will be eventually commoditized. Did I get that right?

Jay Baer: Absolutely. Any business that revolves around pure execution whether it’s fixing a faucet or making food or publishing books, I mean there are literally thousands of businesses that are essentially in the execution space at some level, they will eventually be commoditized and will have to compete at least in part on price. The commoditization cycle is accelerating in a very palpable way. All you have to do is look on your smartphone and look in your apps to see what I mean. Whether it’s Uber or Airbnb or this app or that app, many businesses that have been primary execution based will eventually be disintermediated because somebody can always do it faster and more efficient.

Consequently, the only way you can compete is to somehow hang on for dear life and compete on price. How would you like to own a taxi company right now for example, right? That’s a tough business, right? Strategy is never commoditized. Thinking is never commoditized because it’s always the frosting on top of the cake. What I always tell clients is we’re not an agency. We’re not an ad agency. We’re not a marketing agency. We’re not a digital agency. We are a strategy firm. We only do strategy. We do not do tactics. We will tell you what to do, and then you and your agency can do it. We are in the gravy business. You are in the chicken business.

We are only gravy. We do not sell chicken. If you want gravy, we have the best gravy in the world. If you want chicken, we’ll direct you to some chicken purveyors, but that’s not what we’re going to do.

Stephen Woessne: I love the metaphors in this conversation. I thought maybe this was going to … When you were talking about food, I thought are we going to start talking about tequila and barbecue?

Jay Baer: Eventually, yes. It is my preferred medium. Some people paint and oil. Some people work and clay. I work in tortured metaphor.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. Well, tequila and barbecue, that would be a fun conversation at some point.

Jay Baer: You need a different show. You need a whole different show.

Stephen Woessne: Indeed. Indeed. This has been a very enlightening conversation. I know that we’re compressed on time. I’ll make this my last question. This is where we can hopefully go even deeper with strategy. Again let me give you another scenario. If you’re standing in front of a room of brand new business owners, people just like you when you were starting out. They’re battling their way through the fears, through the worries and the doubts and the struggles to try and find their footing, Jay. What would be two or three strategies you would recommend that they focus on to best ensure success?

Jay Baer: Well, I think the first one is, we talked about earlier, that idea of writing down your fears, of always knowing what’s holding you back, and having the discipline to write it down. That would be the first one. The second one I would say is that most business owners don’t really understand the business that they’re in. Let me give you an example. A couple weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Indiana University Global Business Institute, which is a summer program they do everywhere where they bring in a couple hundred students from around the world. Smart, smart young people from places that are not like here.

Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt, all over the place. They bring them here to teach them about American business norms and customs. I gave a presentation about the 11 big lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. One of the things I talked about was this concept of giving away what you know that we talked about earlier. In the Q and A, a young man stood up and he said, “I am in Egypt and I am working in a startup that I have founded with my friend. We are going to start a laundry business. People can drop off their laundry and we will do their laundry and return it to them.”

I said, “That’s great. It sounds like that’s not something that has really taken hold in Egypt yet, so that’s probably a good idea.” He said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well, how would I use this concept of making things useful and giving away what we know?” I said, “Well, let’s take a step back here.” I said, “What business are you in?” He said, “Well, we’re in the laundry business.” I said, “Well, yeah, you are, but let me tell you my secret question that I tell all business owners. Here’s the secret question, Onward Nation, why does that matter? Why does it matter that people can have their laundry done by you?”

He said, “Well, it matters because today that service doesn’t exist, and so people have to do their own laundry.” I said, “Okay. Well, why does that matter?” He said, “Well, because it takes a long time to do laundry and most of the people who do laundry in our country are the women and the mothers.” I said, “Okay. Well, why does that matter then?” He said, “Well, if they bring their laundry to us, they won’t have to spend that time.” I said, “Okay. Well, that’s good, but why does that matter?” He said, “Well, then they’ll have extra time.” I said, “Well, I know they’ll have extra time.” He said, “I don’t know what you mean.”

I said, “Well, isn’t it true that most people especially mothers want to spend as much time as possible with their children? Isn’t it true that one of the reasons moms want to spend time with their children is that they can work with them on schoolwork and the people in Egypt are trying to achieve a greater degree of educational attainment, sending more children to university like you have done, et cetera.” He said, “Yes. That’s absolutely true.” I said, “Well, then isn’t the case for your business, the reason it matters, the fact that mothers in Egypt can help their children succeed in school?” He said, “I never thought about it like that.”

I said, “Well, if I owned your business, I would create an entire communications program around educational achievement. I would give out textbooks. I would have tutoring inside the laundry facility. I would tie your entire business towards educational achievement because that’s what really matters.” Onward Nation, if you’re in business and you’re not getting the kind of traction you want from your marketplace, do that exercise. Walk it back. Why does that matter? Why does that matter? Why does that matter? If you keep answering that question, you will eventually get to the core, to the root of what you do well.

Stephen Woessne: Holy buckets. Wow. Seriously that was awesome.

Jay Baer: Thank you.

Stephen Woessne: I bet he left that conversation with you thinking I am in a completely different business than what I thought. Hopefully he does exactly what you said.

Jay Baer: Yeah. I hope so. I got his contact information. We exchanged cards so hopefully I’ll get some more of the story.

Stephen Woessne: What a powerful, powerful way to close this piece out. Well, you just gave us this very precise recipe for why does that matter. You gave us that secret question and then a way to figure out what business you’re truly in. Then starting that off by writing down the fears. Write down your fears that transitions then into figuring out what business you’re in. Jay, Onward Nation, just gave you the secret question and then mapped that out with a tangible example, a recipe now for you to follow. Jay, that was fantastic. Fantastic.

Jay Baer: Terrific. Thank you so much.

Stephen Woessne: Wow. I know we covered a lot, but before we go, before we close out and say goodbye, is there any final advice you want to share? Anything you think we might have missed, and then please do tell us the best way to connect with you, my friend?

Jay Baer: The best way to find me is at That’s our main site. All of our blogs and podcasts and emails and webinars and all those kind of things. You can find me online, social media, all the places that people. Jay Baer. B as in boy, A-E-R. The new book is Hug Your Haters. If you go to, I got all kinds of cool special offers. If you send me your receipt, I will send you socks. Limited edition I love haters socks. You can’t get that just anywhere. It has been my absolutely pleasure to be on the show. Stephen, thank you so much for having me. Onward Nation, I hope you take this advice and prosper.

Stephen Woessne: Okay, Onward Nation, no matter how many notes you took and I took four pages of them trying to get all of this goodness down and wisdom, or how often you go back and relisten to Jay’s words, the key is you have to take it, you have to break it down, you have to apply it into your business and accelerate your results. If you do that, you will do that quickly. Jay, we all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day my friend and I am so, so grateful that you had taken the time out of your compressed schedule and doing all that you do on a day-to-day basis. I know that your time is in demand.

You came onto the show to be our mentor, to be our guide, to be our strategist. I am so, so grateful. Thank you, my friend.

Jay Baer: My pleasure. We’ll do it again some time.

This episode is complete. Head over to for show notes and more food to fuel your ambition. Continue to find your recipe for success here at Onward Nation.

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