Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of two bestselling books, speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.
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Good Morning Onward Nation…I’m Stephen Woessner. And thank you for taking the time to be here this morning…and for all the support, the encouragement, and the notes letting us know how we can improve and deliver even more value.
I appreciate the feedback so very much.
Each week — we receive virtual high fives, thumbs up, posts on Facebook, Tweets, LinkedIn messages, and emails letting us know how much Onward Nation means to you as well as the value delivered by the incredible transparent lessons learned shared by our rock star guests.
I want you to know that my team and I are deeply committed to our mission and purpose of sharing practical and tactical insights you need in order to think, act, and achieve like today’s top business owners — so you can move your business onward to that next level.
So thank you, again, Onward Nation — it is an honor to be here with you — just 2 days after July 4th — a day for us to remember how fortunate and blessed we are to live in a free country — where we can chart our own course — where we can be a business owner if we choose to be — and where we can create the life of our dreams…if we just have the grit, the persistence, the tenacity, and the courage to do so.
Thank you also for helping us celebrate our recent 1-year anniversary. Episode 258 on June 15th with Wendy Keller as our great guest marked 12 full months of Onward Nation…and what started as our mission to help business owners here in the United States…quickly spread globally.
In fact, two of our early guests, Afraa Zammam in Episode 9 and Albrecht Behmel in Episode 12 — both business owners from Germany — started our international expansion, which has grown steadily to the point that our episodes are listened to in 91 countries around the world. 91!
So thank you, Onward Nation — thank you for everything.
It is hard for me to express just how much these last 12-months have meant to my team and me. To be able to see our hard work provide so much value is rewarding.
And…it is especially rewarding to me because I know the backstory…the story of how Onward Nation almost never happened.
This dream of ours almost never got off the ground.
The concept of Onward Nation could have vanished before it ever started — if — I would have let FEAR cheat us out of our full potential.
So for today’s solocast, I am going to take you deep behind the green curtain of Onward Nation — and — deep behind my personal green curtain by sharing Onward Nation’s startup story — it is a story about fear, about procrastination, perseverance, and then success — but — FEAR could have derailed Onward Nation from launching or from becoming a top-ranked business podcasts that it is today.
Let’s start the story like all great stories do…
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the middle of May 2015 — and — I was sitting at my dining room table looking out the front window at my daughter and her friends having fun at our neighborhood playground.
All was well outside – but all wasn’t well inside.
I was under a great deal of stress. Predictive ROI — our core business — had just lost a key client. Not awesome.
The loss was particularly painful for more reasons than just a temporary decline in revenue.
It was painful because we were already overstaffed so the loss in revenue made that reality even more excruciating. Plus — the loss was a vivid reminder of how we needed to put a consistent lead gen system into place to generate a steady stream of new business for our agency. Once and for all.
Predictive ROI is a digital marketing agency and experts at driving traffic, leads, and sales for clients — with excellence — and yet — we suffered from the “Cobbler’s kids have no shoes.”
I wanted this reality to change — and — we needed it to change immediately.
The loss of the client caused me to remember that we had purchased the domain name OnwardNation.com about 12-months earlier — but had no idea why.
No strategy – we just bought it because I felt compelled one day to make the purchase. I liked the idea of hosting a podcast but had no strategy.
Isn’t it funny how God whispers the seeds of inspiration into your ear sometimes and then just lets them sit there until He is ready for them to germinate into a magnificent creation?
That Sunday must have been germination day because as I was sitting there at the dining room table – I remembered the OnwardNation.com purchase – and made the DECISION that we would create and launch a podcast using that name.
I then crafted an email filled with enthusiasm and optimism that Onward Nation would be the answer we were looking for to turn Predictive ROI’s lead gen and sales activity around (mind you – I had zero strategy – I was just filled with unbridled optimism).
I also set an aggressive launch date of June 15th within the email, closed the lid to my Mac Book, and somehow felt good about the decision (or chaos) that I had just initiated.
Why chaos, you ask?
Well, I should probably share that making the decision to create and launch a podcast was essentially made in complete and utter ignorance. I knew nothing about creating or launching a podcast. In fact, to say that I knew nothing would be to give me a compliment.
I knew less than nothing.
Sure, I had been a guest on a couple of podcasts before like Episode 649 of EOFire with John Lee Dumas and Relaunch with Joel Boggess and Dr. Pei Kang. So I guess I knew how to put on a headset and open Skype. But those two experiences constituted my entire body of knowledge in the podcast world.
Gulp. Then fear began to set in as my decision to launch a podcast began to feel more foolish than courageous.
What could be so scary about hosting a top-ranked podcast in iTunes that shortly after launch goes global? I mean…really?
The fear set in quickly and intensely. I fell into the trap of asking myself some pretty awful and disempowering questions as launch day got closer and closer and it was time for me to start doing interviews.
Why would anyone want to be on my show?
What if everyone I invite says NO?
Would anyone listen — why would they listen to me?
Would I be a good host — or would I be terrible?
What if I stumble on my words?
What if I can’t think of any good questions to ask?
Would anyone find value in the content we were planning to deliver?
Would haters light us up on social media and tell us how bad our show stunk?
And the dizzying list of silly questions continued.
But here’s the funny thing about our brains — and I learned this lesson from Tony Robbins — if you ask yourself a stupid question you get a stupid answer — your brain doesn’t want to make your out to be a liar.
So if I asked myself the question, “What am I going to do if I end up being a terrible host?” I would become anxious and I would receive an answer like… “Yep, you need an escape route.”
As opposed to telling me… “Hey wait a minute…you’re going to be a great host.”
Our brains don’t do correct the question asked.
Instead, we need to ask ourselves better questions like, “What are some of the things I can do in order to be a great host?”
Ah. Much better question, don’t you agree, Onward Nation?
So it came time for me to conduct my first interview with Scott McKain for Episode 1.
Gulp — again. Someone actually said yes to an interview.
Thankfully, Scott is a great friend and I was already familiar with his material — but even still — it took me hours and hours to prepare for the interview. With each passing minute, I became more and more fearful that I was insane for attempting to do something so bold and intense as a daily podcast.
Tick, tock, tick, tock…the time was getting closer and closer to when I needed to dial in with Scott.
Then it was time for the interview…and of course…Scott was awesome.
But when it was over, I listened back to the raw audio and we ended up editing out most of the audio of me speaking unless I was asking Scott a question.
Fear of criticism. If there was less of me being heard…then there was less opportunity of being criticized. Seriously — I know that may sound ridiculous — but that was what I thought.
Then came interview number 2 with Don Yaeger — and it got easier.
Then interview number 3 with Stacey Alcorn. Hmmm. Did that just go smoother?
Yep, I think it did. Wait…what was that…was that a short burst of confidence that I just felt there?
Momentum began to set in with each passing interview. I was finishing the interviews and my Predictive ROI team was doing all of the behind the scenes production. Wonderful. We could all feel a system being formed.
Ultimately, Predictive ROI team and I pushed through it all…and on June 15, 2015…we launched Onward Nation and the first day runs smoothly.
We launched with three episodes: Episode 1 with Scott McKain, Episode 2 with Don Yaeger, and Episode 3 with Stacey Alcorn. All three are rock stars and Onward Nation is off and running — and I felt the fear begin to subside.
My fears were subsiding because I was figuring out what it meant to be a great host. For example, here are some strategies I learned along the way about how to improve my hosting skills:
- Forget there is a show to do. Instead, think of the conversation with your guest as just like one you would have if a friend came over to your house for dinner.
- Keep the conversation casual, light-hearted, and fun.
- Put a great guest advocacy system in place so your guests receive email and text reminders about the day and time as well as how to sound the best during your interview.
- Be respectful of your guest’s schedule so begin on time and end on time.
- Prepare and provide questions in advance so your guests can get a feel for the topics you want to discuss and what you want to learn and pass on to your audience.
- Go deep — probe — ask for more details and thank them when they share it.
- Summarize and recap your guest’s awesomeness during the interview. Then ask your guests if you got the summary right or if you’re missed something. This is the perfect invitation guests to go deeper and share even more value with your audience.
With the help of these strategies — I was becoming a better host and receiving some nice compliments from guests following the interviews.
Hmmm. We could be onto something here.
And then I attended a mastermind group in August 2015. Onward Nation had aired 47 episodes, daily downloads were steadily increasing, and we had scored some top rankings in iTunes.
I was feeling proud about our accomplishments.
We had gone from zero to 60 in about 3.5 seconds. Not bad.
But we were missing a vital result outcome. Podcast-related revenue — but worse yet — no real strategy for generating revenue at all.
My mastermind group – all exceptional business owners from across county – asked me how I was going to make money from the podcast. Excellent question but I had no idea of the answer. My answer was, “I don’t know. I don’t want to clutter up our episodes with ads. But I’m sure we’ll figure it out at some point.”
The resurgence of fear hit me like a tidal wave. I suddenly felt like a ship without a rudder — or more appropriately — a podcast host without a strategy.
Then providence set in.
Following the mastermind…two of our Onward Nation guests got in touch with me and asked, “Hey, could you do that for me?”
And I said, “Do what for you?”
And they said, “Could you build me a podcast!”
Ah! YES…I think we can! Gulp.
What was I saying? Could we actually?
Sure we can! Gulp, again.
So we stripped out the branding, content, etc. from the Onward Nation system – cloned it – and replaced everything with our client’s branding, episodes, content, and viola!
We created two more podcasts and we earned some good revenue for our effort.
I was smiling — and the fear — had been kicked to the curb! Rock solid awesome!
Now, a smart businessperson would have said – “Hey – we might be onto something here. This could be worth pursuing.”
But I didn’t do that. Ugh.
Instead, I went back to focusing on how we were overstaffed and really needed to grow revenue. I know, ironic, isn’t it?
But it’s the truth.
I often say that if God wants me to get the message – he needs to take out a billboard or hit me over the head with the brick.
Subtlety is lost on me.
In late October 2015, one of the clients we had produced the podcast for earlier asked me, “Hey – the podcast you built for me is awesome. And Onward Nation is awesome. Why in the world are you not building more of these?”
And in my brilliance, I said, “For who?” He rolled his eyes at me and said, “There have got to be more Onward Nation guests who would love to have a podcast of their own! So build it for them. You already have the system.”
Brilliant. So my Predictive ROI team and I immediately got to work creating service packages.
And then providence struck a second time.
It was November 17th and I was scheduled to interview Wendy Keller, literary agent extraordinaire.
I wasn’t exactly nervous for the interview with Wendy – but I wasn’t exactly relaxed either. The conversation began and it was lovely – just the conversation I had envisioned.
And then it was if someone had punched me so hard that the air had been knocked right out of me. Wendy told the emotional and devastating story about the tragic car accident that her and her husband, along with their two kids, were in while on vacation in Europe years ago.
Her life was forever changed. Her two children were killed and she was critically injured. I felt my legs get weak and I didn’t know what to say. I was in shock. Wendy had to be the strongest person I had ever met.
She continued for a few more minutes – she paused and gave me a moment or two to catch my breath, too – and then we continued the interview. She had me – I was captivated by her courage – by her commitment – by her resolve.
Seriously, what could stop this woman?
We finished the interview and then she turned the tables on me. She began asking me questions about Onward Nation and the business model behind it. Gulp. Fear.
Why was I doing it? Ack…FEAR!
What was the end game? FEAR…UNCERTAINTY…FEAR!!
I shared that I was planning to write a book representing a distillation of all the wisdom collected during the episodes of Onward Nation. Whew — there we go. That should do it.
And then it was as if I could hear her smile on the other end of our Skype connection.
Wendy asked me that life-altering question, “Hmm. Why don’t you write a book about how business owners can use podcasting to grow revenue and their business? That’s where the real opportunity is for a book. Maybe call it Podcasting for Profit.”
Fast forward to several weeks ago…and Wendy sold my manuscript entitled, “Podcasting for Profit,” to a major publisher — and it will be released in the spring.
Following my interview with Wendy, my Predictive ROI team made it an immediate vital priority to accelerate the sales of our newly minted podcasting service. Our goal was to grow revenue, and at the same time, create a compelling proof of concept for the system that would eventually become this book.
Fear. Could we do it? Yes, I thought we could — but — ugh — what if we actually did!?!
Our result outcomes: we grew podcast-related revenue to $223,000 between November 17 and December 31, we scaled our production and sales teams, created step-by-step documentation of our system, and are now on the path of $2 million in podcast-related revenue over the next 12-months.
All from a podcast that just became a year old. It has been an amazing adventure.
Because we pushed past fear — we listened and applied the advice of several amazing mentors who stepped into path — AND — we used everything we learned to build a great system behind Onward Nation.
We also pushed past the fear of having a podcast, ignored the daily temptations to quit when I didn’t know what I was doing as the host…and we figured it out.
But as I have become more of a devout student of fear — I have come to learn that my own fears do not revolve around the fear of failure or even the fear of criticism — NO. Instead, my fears revolve around the fear of success — the fear of too much opportunity — or realizing the fullest in potential.
I realize that may sound ridiculous to you…but Marianne Williamson said it best when she said… “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So Onward Nation…there were many times that I wanted to quit before the launch — when I wanted to cancel interviews — when I wanted to find a different strategy. But with each day — we kept pushing forward — past the fear of the unknown — we reached out to mentors — we applied what we learned and we kept pushing forward.
No matter what. Don’t let fear cheat you out of your full potential. Be brave — step into the light — and become all that God intended you to be.
So with that said…
I want to thank you for taking the time to be here with me today. It is an honor to have you here — thank you for tuning in — your time is sacred and I am delighted you chose this episode to be what you listen to, study, and take with you on your morning run, or maybe Onward Nation has become part of your daily commute, or in some other way has become part of your morning routine.
However our daily podcast fits into your daily routine — I want you to know how much I appreciate you sharing some of your invaluable 86,400 seconds you have in your day with me and the strategies we learn and share each day from today’s top business owners.
And please continue to let me know what you think of Onward Nation…good or bad…I always want your feedback. My direct email address is email@example.com — and yes — that is my actual Inbox. No fancy filters or filing system and I read and reply to every single email.
So please let me know how you think we are doing. I look forward to hearing from you.
We will be back tomorrow with an incredible interview with Kelly Hatfield where she will share valuable lessons for discovering if there are better ways to do what you do. Kelly is off-the-charts and really delivers during this conversation. She shares the exact steps you need to take in your business right now to move to that next level.
Until tomorrow, onward with gusto!