Episode 048 – Mike Koehler
Welcome to another episode of The HERO Show. I am your host Richard Matthews, (@AKATheAlchemist) and you are listening to episode #48 with Mike Koehler – Doing Great Work Yields Happy Clients and Good Money.
Mike Koehler is the founder and chief strategist at Smirk New Media in Oklahoma City, a digital marketing firm he launched in July 2010. For more than 20 years, Mike has helped tell stories and transform the way content is delivered to consumers.
At Smirk New Media, Mike and his team help companies connect with their audiences online using great content and proven strategies. The Smirk New Media team consists of experts in writing, digital advertising, leadership, visual content, and online customer service. Smirk is recognized as one of the fastest-growing digital consulting firms in the Midwest.
Smirk’s clients range from Fortune 500 companies and national brands to mom-and-pop retailers and nonprofits.
Mike speaks around the country about how-to brands can use storytelling and content strategy to win. He has spoken at the NCAA National Convention in Washington DC and the 140 Characters Conference in New York, the first national conference on the impact of Twitter on business.
Here’s just a taste of what we talked about today:
- How to manage customer service for a company using social media.
- Leveraging automation to create opportunities for human connection instead of replacing human connections with A.I.
- The limitations of A.I.
- The transition from being an employee to a business owner.
- A lesson to learn: do not say yes to anything and everything.
- Brutal honesty and being interested in the content’s voice.
- Unconscious trust signals.
- More clients do not necessarily mean more success.
- Surrounding oneself with great people.
- A lot of entrepreneurs struggle with the definition of success.
- Do great work. Get happy clients. Make good money.
- The story behind “Smirk”.
- Your planning time in the morning is essential for productivity.
The HERO Challenge
Today on the show, Mike Koehler challenged Bobby to be a guest on The HERO Show. Mike thinks that Bobby is a fantastic interview because they were together during lunch when Mike first came up with the idea of starting Smirk New Media. Bobby is a great entrepreneur and marketer. He has an extraordinary life story, a mentor of Mike, and a great creative.
How To Stay Connected With Mike Koehler
Want to stay connected with Mike? Please check out his social profiles below.
Call To Adventure
Don’t forget you can stay connected to me and the show by subscribing now. Just text ALCHEMY to 444999. Or you put your email address in the box at the bottom of this page. You’ll get all sorts of cool gifts, be updated about our contests and polls, and get notified when we publish new episodes. With that… let’s get to listen to the episode…
The Webinar Alchemy Workshop: https://richardmatthews.me/fs/waw-slf/
Hello, and welcome back to the HERO Show.
My name is Richard Matthews and
I’m on the line with Mike Koehler. Mike, are you there?
Yeah. I’m here.
Awesome. Glad to have you here on the show.
Let me do a quick introduction for you,
Then we’ll get right into your story. So, Mike is the founder
And chief strategist at Smirk New Media in Oklahoma City,
Digital marketing firm that you launched in July of 2010.
And for more than 20 years, you have been helping people
Tell their stories and transform the way that content
Is delivered to consumers. What I want you to start with, Mike,
Is tell me what it is that you guys are known for today?
Why do people come to you? What is it that you help them do?
Well, we were sort of the first ones – We, meaning me,
We’re the first ones in Oklahoma City to sort of
Dive into the deep end of the pool of digital marketing.
After spending a long time in traditional media,
I launched the firm solo, but nobody else
Was really doing social strategy and content and all of that.
Now it seems like everybody’s doing it now,
But back then, we were the first. What people really
Come to us for then is sort of our knowledge
And knowing where the trends, and all this is going
And what the latest strategies are. And then lately,
Our biggest product has been social media and
Customer service for big businesses.
And multi-location companies are coming to us
To figure out how to sort of have replaced their call centers,
Their customer service interaction
With real-time human interaction social media.
So that’s actually really interesting. How is that -?
Is that kind of customer service available to smaller companies?
Or do you have to have a big staff
To manage something like that? How do you actually
Manage customer service for a company
Using real-time social media?
Well, it’s … for just one of our smaller clients, maybe,
A locally owned business has one or two locations,
That sort of services sort of baked into the content creation
And monitoring and engagement that we’re doing for them.
What the big service is what we call active response.
It has much more complexity in terms of how do we get
The workflows created to connect my frontline people
To frontline managers at the stores to the marketing
And PR department at the corporate offices.
And to maybe, some real-time call center IT
Sort of tagging system there so that work,
We’re creating a lot of sort of intricacies and responses.
But the hardcore small business work that
We started doing from day one is
We’re managing people’s social content
And we’re interacting with their customers.
So it’s real-time either way. But what …
With App responses is showing a differentiation
Between what we do and what people are trying to do now
With bots and AI and sort of programmable information
That’s really lacking in some areas.
It’s one of the things that I’ve talked about with
My business partner a lot. It’s just because
You can automate it, doesn’t mean you should.
And learning how to leverage automation to create
The easier opportunity for real human connection.
Instead of trying to replace human connection with robots.
And I think a lot of companies make that kind of mistake
Where they’re trying to replace humans with robots
Instead of using robots to enhance human communication.
And a lot of where we saw, where the rubber meets the road
On this, is really one of our key measurements in that area is,
Sort of positive or negative sentiment, sentiment about a brand.
And what we found and what our clients have found is that
AI doesn’t understand sarcasm, for one.
So what might be a comment from a customer
Dripping with sarcasm is then tagged as a positive interaction
By the AI because all they see is “Oh, I had such a great time tonight
At your location.” Doesn’t sort of register the rolling eye emoji or
All the conversation above and below that.
Where my folks can go and not only do they understand that,
But our goal is always, how do we turn a negative comment
Into a positive one? Or how do we turn a negative comment
And rectify it in such a way that it doesn’t spawn?
Sort of 10 more negative comments, which for some of the –
What’s happening all the time on Facebook or on the review site?
It makes a lot of sense. So, what I want to talk about next
Is your origin story. Every hero has an origin story.
It’s where you started to realize that you were different.
That maybe you had superpowers and maybe you can
Use them to help other people. When did you start
On your entrepreneurial journey?
Was this company that you started in 2010?
Was that your first step in entrepreneurship or
What did the journey look like to get you to this point now?
Well, it really was. So I was a regular print journalist
From the time I turned 16 and could go cover high school
Football games and write stories. I did that all the way up until,
Like we said 10 years ago. But what happened in that-
In my career in printer journalism was, I sort of became
The guy who figured out the internet before everybody
And was really starting to experiment.
Once we moved here to Oklahoma City and we were –
I was working for the state’s largest newspaper,
But in about 2005, 2006, 2007, we really started
To experiment with what can we do to tell stories differently
Using some digital tools. And so those digital tools became
Social media, those digital tools, … live streaming video,
All of the toolbox continued to expand and expand for me.
And we were just sort of playing in my area,
Which was sports journalism for a long time.
And then, as the things started to catch on and we started
To experiment more. Then, I did that for the newsroom, writ large
And we did a whole bunch of really cool things,
As Twitter was sort of starting out and getting it speed under it,
As we did a lot of stuff with sort of live chatting,
Which was really the first time we hit in 100 years,
You could get real-time feedback from your customers
About what content they were interested,
What information they needed. And we were having
Those sort of conversations with them. And then, the industry,
Being what it was, all the good that I found that came
From the internet, also undercut the entire industry
And so there some setbacks there. And I quickly figured out,
“Hey, I could leave and still sort of help people tell their story.
But I could go do that for brands, and get ahead of this.”
The tsunami that was about ready
To knock over traditional media. And that’s what I’m doing now.
It’s a lot of the same tools and tricks that we did back
When social media was just starting. But now it’s about,
Creating that connection between brand and customer
Instead of that connection between media outlet and reader.
So, I’m curious, how did you find the transition
From being an employee to being a business owner
And then from being a business owner to growing a team
And a staffing agency? What was that like?
Well, it was, I always say that it was the world’s biggest trust fall
Where I just fell back and hope that the community
Would catch me. So a good, the superhero metaphor
For this is there’s that scene in the Shazam movie
That came out last year where Billy just sort of runs off the roof
Of the building and yells ‘Shazam!’ and fortunately it catches him
And he’s able to fly off. So that’s what I felt like I was doing
That I had no clients, I had no money, I had laptop that I bought
From a coffee shop, and just like, “Hey, we’re doing this.”
And I was an English major in college, so I didn’t have any business.
I had taken no business class that I had no marketing classes.
I did know how to put a P&L together. All these skills
That I was lacking, basically, … register my LLP
And put together a very rudimentary website and just start.
So I mean that was … been the scariest part.
But at some point, I picked up my first intern who turned into
My first hire who turned out to be my business partner,
Was really great. I was blessed by that.
And there was a point at which, we had to make a decision of,
Do we want to stay small and have maybe five or six
Really good clients make a good living?
Or do we want to do something different.
And so, we made that turn to – We want to grow.
One of the things I love more than anything in my job
Is being able to hire people and allow people to
Have a good life and make a good living themselves.
So, we’ve added staff and grown that.
That’s had its ups and downs and roller coasters and sacrifices,
But it’s been a lot of learning on … the biggest sort of been,
Find people, finding people who know more than me
About the stuff that I – the help that I need
And so fortunately that’s happened.
Absolutely. So what would you say one of the biggest lessons
Of making that transition as if you had started over
And you can talk to yourself right and say
“Hey, make sure you do this real early on in growing your business.”
Is there anything you would you tell yourself to do differently?
I think the hard – What one of the lessons and we’re still learning
It now it would have been not to say yes to everything.
When you’re sort of in … ground and you’re taking –
You’re saying ‘yes’ to anybody who wants to hire you
To do anything for any amount of money,
It takes longer, then to learn what the true value of your time is.
The … to realize who makes a good client,
Who doesn’t make a good client? And so, I would teach
A little more discernment and a little more patience
To myself starting out. And it maybe that would have,
Lightened a lot of headaches down the road where we had to,
At some point, we had to stop doing that. And it was hard,
At least for me personally, who had lived through the lean year,
Lean startup years, to understand why we had to stop doing that.
It’s a tough lesson. I think a lot of entrepreneurs learn too.
I know I went through that because when I started my agency,
I said yes to anything and everything because that’s what you do.
I need to put food on the table. So if you’ll pay me, will do it.
And it’s interesting because it’s almost like a Catch-22.
You almost feel like you have to go through that experience
To realize what your value is. So you can learn to not do that.
I see you have to do it to learn you shouldn’t do it.
But it helps you really develop who you are
And what you’re really good at.
It really – And it’s been additionally weird for us,
And I’m sure you’re in the same spot is that,
I always talk about my first couple years of Smirk,
Which was a lot like being a missionary, I had to go out
To people, explain to them what something was,
And then tell them how much they needed it.
And if you could give me money for it to that would be great.
So, all these people had no idea
What digital marketing was in 2010, let alone that it had value
To their business and it has value
Where they had to pay somebody to do something.
So, that was a real struggle, but now in our business.
My … retainer is 10 times what it was 10 years ago.
And there’s a lot more competition, but people see
That we’re not having that ROI conversation as much anymore.
We’re not – People are coming in and
Because they just, they know.
They understand how much work it is.
They understand how much potential it is to pay for itself
And bring big business and so that part of it has gotten
A lot easier but the journey from there to here
Is like going through the wringer.
Yes, that’s part of the problem with being in your case,
A early adopter and an innovator in the space
Is you’re at the front end of that bell curve where that –
The awareness level is not there. So all of your potential customers
There at the, I talked about awareness levels;
What? Why? How? They’re at the ‘What’ stage
They don’t even know they have a problem yet,
To be … about the problem yet.
Educate them about why it’s a problem.
We have to educate them about how they can take care
Of the problem and then how you can actually help them with it.
Whereas, nowadays, a new agencies coming in
And everyone knows they’re looking at like,
“Okay, I know what I need to do, how do I get it done?
Who can I hire to make it happen?”
So the conversation is a lot different than it was 10 years ago.
That’s really funny because some of my very first clients
Were the bigger ad agencies in town,
Who would outsource to me to just write social content
And everything like that. So I was doing that for a bunch
Of those folks. But then they all realize,
“Oh, hey, this is a service that we need to include in for all clients.”
And so they all brought all of that work in-house.
And now those people, with whom I was a contractor,
Are now my peers and competitors
Because everybody’s fighting in the space.
Makes a lot of sense. So I’m gonna move on just a little bit
And ask you about your superpowers. So what is it, specifically,
That you either bring to your business or
Bring to your clients that that really helps you
Solve problems for people. It really helps you
“Hey, this is my superpower,” would you say it is?
Slay the villains so to speak. If you could nail that down and say,
Well, one of the things that I’ve, always brought to the table.
Well, a couple things. One is sort of a very brutal on honesty.
I don’t have sort of a BS bone in my body where –
So I’m coming to people, and very, very quickly telling them
What they’re doing bad. Now, that doesn’t always
Make all the big smile. But, I want to make sure
That people understand that there’s good ways to do what we do.
And there’s poor ways to do what we do.
And there’s ways to get good, but you can’t do that
Without recognizing the bad.
That makes a lot of sense.
I have no filter. So, I’m going to say,
There’s no—you shouldn’t be putting just pictures
“Your website is bad and it’s affecting you in this way.
Of baby kittens on your social media
If your a construction company,” things like that,
That drive me crazy, but I think that some people
Are just sort of being told what they want to hear
And I really have no tolerance for that.
On the flip side of that, the sort of soft
And fuzzy side of me is the one thing that I did
From the very beginning and now is one
Of the big pieces that I’ve so contribute to the team
Is I’m very interested in the voice of the content
Voice and the consistency of what brand sound like
And how they use words. And how that is such
A big differentiator in both the daily organic content
That we put out and the customer service content
We put out. I see oftentimes, in the online
Content space where people fall into the trap
Of the brand’s content sounds like.
Whomever is managing the brand, whoever’s the manager
Of the brand content. So, I would see where there’s these,
Law firms that have been around 100 years.
And the average age of the lawyer is 72 years old.
But they’ve hired a 22 year old intern
To post social media content. And that content
Sounds like a 22 year old intern. And so that gap
Is something that I really feel strongly about.
Sort of scratches that, English Lit Major
In me where I can go through
And we analyze vocabulary. We analyze words
And emoji use, and all these different things,
And I just want to paint, I just want to help our clients
Paint the most honest picture of themselves
Online. And that means they have to be consistent
In the way that they be.
I call that unconscious trust signals.
Because in the way that we interact
With pretty much anything our brains test for truth,
Is consistency. And even things that you wouldn’t pick up
If you weren’t an English Lit Major didn’t quite understand.
You may not know exactly why it makes you feel
Uncomfortable or why it’s not congruent, but it’ll be there.
And that’s why we talked about things like branding.
If you have a consistent style, and consistent typography,
And consistent color uses, and consistent vocabulary usage,
It’s an unconscious signal of trust to your potential customers.
Saying that we are who we say we are.
And you can rely on us; we have integrity, that kind of thing.
I think it’s foundational for those brands
To be able to actually attract customers
In any form of media, but regardless whether or not it’s social.
And, to me, that’s still an indication
Of an immaturity and how people do their social media
Content. Where it’s still, the youngest person
On the marketing team is like, “You know how to run
A Facebook page, run this.” And there’s still a level
Of sophistication there that’s missing.
And that’s where I’m surprised by that;
Not surprised by that, as we dig deeper into
Sort of doing things for these bigger brands.
There’s only a third of companies in the latest
That I saw that are even monitoring for customer service,
At all. It’s 2019 and people are still not—
Once five o’clock comes, nobody’s answering questions
On Twitter or Facebook or Instagram
And that still shocks me. It makes me smile
Because that’s a lot of potential business.
Opportunity. Let’s talk about the flip-side
Of superpowers. Superpowers which you help
To solve problems. Your fatal flaw
Would be your kryptonite. Superman has Kryptonite.
Batman is not actually a superhero. He’s just a rich guy
Who’s really dedicated. What would you say
Your fatal flaw is? Something that has either
Held you back personally or held back your company
That you’ve had to work on? And more importantly,
What have you done to help overcome that?
Helped continue to grow your business
For people who might struggle with the same thing?
I think it’s sort of similar to those early lessons
Of saying yes to anything. And that meant
Really getting overextended and really not understanding
What my capacity was. Honestly, in those early few years
Doing a lot of really bad work just because
I always thought more clients equals more success.
And so, instead of doing great work for three people,
I was doing—I was to overextended
And doing bad work for them.
Doing mediocre work.
That was a lot of it. And just to be a little bit more open
And personal about it. I’ve had success
And I know a lot of people in the entrepreneurial space
Have this are: I had a lot of issues with the definition
Of success when I first started.
And measuring myself against that, almost on a daily basis,
And then it was either a pass fail everyday and really,
If losing a client or something or a mistake
Went out on the work that we did
Or not getting picked after giving your proposal
Or something like that. It was really hard, mentally,
To cope with that, too. And, fortunately,
What I did was surround myself with some great people.
Had myself do a lot less and had learned
To delegate, and really learned to not care so much
About many other things, abstract things,
But just being more content
That the business existed and that things were going okay.
For me, on that same journey, it was like,
My success was a revenue number.
Can I hit this revenue numer yet.
And when you’re focused on the revenue number,
You realize that you’re making choices.
Hit revenue numbers instead of choices
That are best for your customers.
And I realized, somewhere along that way,
That I didn’t actually need that revenue number to be happy
With what I was doing in my life. And that focus shifted
To how can I help my customers. And still hit
What I wanted to hit. And it’s interesting
Because once that focus shifted to:
How can I do the best thing for my customers,
My business grew. It’s led to your point,
A lot of entrepreneurs struggle with that definition
Of success. And what does success look like
And one of the things that I’ve noticed,
At least in my business, is that for me,
Success is my clients get the best result possible.
And the benefit of that is that I get paid
Really well for it and my agency gets paid well for it.
Whenever anyone asked us, asked me
What our vision statement is; it’s great work,
Happy clients, making money. That’s my vision statement.
I like it.
That’s all we need to be doing.
But that’s been a journey to get to that point.
We talked on the show regularly
About your driving force. Just like Spider-Man
Fights to save New York. Batman fights to save Gotham.
You guys fight for happy clients who are making money.
I like that. It’s a good vision statement.
If that’s the driving force, that’s what you’re fighting for.
The other side of your driving force is your common enemy.
I’d like to think of a common enemy
As the thing you’re fighting against.
For every time you bring in a customer,
A new agent, or a new client into your agency,
There’s some sort of struggle in education that happens.
Mindsets that are holding them back.
That are keeping you from getting really good results
For them. If you had a magic wand,
Where you could just bop your new clients
In the head with it
And magically remove something
That is holding you back from getting great results
From your clients. What would you say that thing is
You may have to fight against regularly?
Part of it is just perception of what we do.
The reason we’re called Smirk, which is a story I tell
All the time, is I feel like, we’re at this intersection
Of something to take very seriously.
How the digital world has impacted all parts
Of our lives. And the fact that what we do,
Sometimes, is very silly. This is back when you could poke
People on Facebook. Everything had a silly name
And everything on the social media side
Was not taken seriously. And so it’s that combination of,
I’m sending a tweet, which is a ridiculous thing to do.
But it is for a very serious purpose of helping your client.
But that perception that social is still something,
Is still a punch line is—even with clients that come in.
There’s still something that I wish would go away.
You see how people talk about it in the media.
You see how older people still act like it’s
This confusing and crazy thing. And that’s something
That we still have to fight against.
And I just wish, if people could see it the way
I’ve seen it impact real lives. They would would treat it
With a little bit more respect I guess, or at least treated
As something that is much more positive than negative.
It’s an interesting battle you have to fight there.
Because all of your customers are using social media.
They use it personally, and the business stuff that happens
With it, it’s happening right alongside their teenage son
Who’s posting cat videos, and their friends
Who are posting political stuff and that make them want
To pull their hairs out. And then it’s right next
To serious business stuff. That applies everywhere,
From Facebook, to YouTube, to even iMessages
Has business chat. And you can communicate
With a business on iMessage and talk to TMobile
And get things taken care of
Right next to your conversation
—getting them to separate and think about
There is a serious aspect to social media,
That as a company, you need to treat it well.
And treat it like it’s a serious part of your business
Because it’s a straight, it’s a bottomline revenue driver,
If you do it well.
And now the unseriousness of it has been replaced
By the paranoia about privacy. And so now,
Instead of getting laughs with Zuckerberg as the punchline,
I can get laughs with Zuckerberg as Big Brother.
But then people are like, it’s this duality,
Where people are like, “Those places
Are stealing my privacy. And they know everything
About me.” But then at the same time, they’re like,
“That’s exactly the kind of brand of soap that I like.
And I’m so glad that I’m seeing ads about that,
Instead of ads about stuff that I don’t like.”
It’s that whole, everybody wants the web
To serve their whims and be very focused
Narrowly on what they like and what’s in their bubble.
But at the same time, not understanding
And not wanting to understand that, “This data exists
So you can have a better relationship
With what you’re doing on the web.”
That’s an interesting discussion.
We probably have a whole podcast
Just on that and how that’s going to affect society
And culture and whatnot, because it’s really interesting.
But it’s probably outside the scope of breaking down
All of how social media affects us. What I want
To talk about next is your tool belt. Some of the things
That you guys use to make your business
Do what it is. Maybe have a big magical hammer
Like Thor. Or bulletproof vest like your police officer
Down the street.Or maybe you guys just really love
How Trello or Evernote let’s you manage your stuff.
What are some of the things that you guys use everyday
To either manage your clients or to delivering your services
For your clients that actually are game changers.
There’s a couple of things. We really live out of Asana
And out of Slack everyday. And Asana has become
Such a robust tool for us. And I was sort
Of a late adapter compared to all the strategists here,
Doing many more tasks than me,
But that I’ve built out the business development team.
The ability to sort of template out, our customer journey.
We use slack internally for all of our communication,
And I love how those two things play together.
And a new tool that I’ve been using just solo,
That I’m trying out for the team is this web service
Called Sunsama. I think it’s S-U-N-S-A-M-A.
And what it is, basically, the strange baby
Of Asana and Google in the Google Calendar.
Where I can go through and plan my day,
And see both tasks and calendar items, prioritize those,
Assign amount of time to each of those.
So what I do every morning, which is the biggest thing
In my tool belt was just how I manage my time.
From 8am to 10am every morning, I’m really digesting,
What does my day look like? Making sure.
Looking at my task list, that’s setup time for me.
It’s so valuable that I don’t think anybody should start
Their day without sort of that pause
At the very beginning, before you roll into all the stuff
That you have to do.
That’s the thing I need to start doing.
Not take early morning appointments.
Move them back a little bit so I can do that more often.
So, I know the days that I do, I get more done.
And he said that tool is Sunsumo. Ought to check that out.
I think it’s Sunsama.
I think it’s what it’s called.
We use slack as well in our business. We use Trello
For the project management, though not Asana.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Asana, though.
So, we’re gonna have to check that out at some point.
Those couple of things come up regularly.
The other one that I’ve noticed is how frequently guests
On the show, talk about that morning time
Where you plan your day. How important that is
To actually growing a successful business.
It’s really interesting to see that continue to come up.
On the social side, we use—we’ve transitioned,
Recently, to using Sprout Social for managing
All of our client accounts. We’re actually an agency partner
For them now because some of the stuff we’re doing
With active response is sort of pushing the boundaries
Of what Sprout can do, but we’ve really liked that
I was a Hootsuite guy from back in the day.
Their inability to really innovate really got us in a bind.
And so Sprout’s been a really great partner for us.
We just had to on-board 150 new accounts with them
For a new client, and they were they were cool with it.
And it was a pretty smooth transition like that.
Music is by https://purpleplanet.com/
Let’s move on a little bit and talk about your own
Personal heroes. Frodo had Gandalf. Luke had Obi Wan.
Robert Kiyosaki had his Rich Dad.
Who are some of your heroes?
Were they real life mentors? Speakers or authors?
Were they peers who were just a few years
Ahead of you? And how important
Were they to what you’ve accomplished
So far with your agency?
I’ve had a bunch of people just pop in and out of my life.
Sometimes I feel a little like Forrest Gump that way.
I had a great mentor when I was at the newspaper,
Named Mike Sherman. He was my editor.
I was his number two and he was really part
Of that innovation that we were doing
With trying out new tools. It’s probably a common story
But Mike and I started reading Good to Great by Jim Collins,
And this must have been 2006-ish
When that book first came out. And it really changed us
In that. We were journalists
Who didn’t have a business mindset.
And by the time we got through all that,
We had a business mindset for the journalism
That we were doing. And that’s what lit the fuse on me
Of doing something differently
Because it was about analyzing data
And it was about listening to the customer.
And for 100 years newspaper business had been,
Ten old white guys in a room deciding
What the best news was for everybody.
But once we opened our eyes, once the web
Opened our eyes to readers giving us feedback
For seeing what—
And being subservient to that data, that change.
What Mike did really changed my life
And changes direction of things. There’s always been—
I’m a big Gary Vee guy. I was since along
Since Crushed It, first came out. That whole idea.
He’s a competitor of ours, now, actually.
So, being able to really share good content
And the engagement being so important was
For us. Then my wife, not to be all corny,
But she was working the real jobs while I was out
Trying that make this thing happen, and really busting it
For us and listening, and being patient
With the growth, and being patient with the promises,
And all of that. Then just our community Oklahoma City
Is really interesting because there’s a handful of us
That all went out and in 2009, 2010, 2011
Was really a renaissance time for our city
And when a lot of people went out and started
Their own businesses and we were real tight-knit
Twitter community there. And we all still lean
On each other and refer business to each other.
I wouldn’t be around if not for all those people.
I particularly feel it with the the wife as well.
My wife is a homemaker. We got four kids at home
And she’s always like, “I don’t know what I’m contributing.”
I’m like, “If you weren’t doing what you were doing;
I couldn’t do what I’m doing.” It makes everything
Go around. So I appreciate that as well. The last thing
We talk about on the show is your guiding principles.
What are the top one or two principles or actions
That you use on a daily basis that you think contribute
To your success and the influence
That your company enjoys today?
Maybe something you wish you had known
When you started out?
It’s changed over the year. Now that we have 512
Employees, now. What really gets me through
The day now is really about servant leadership.
It’s really what can I do to help make them more successful
As they can be? What can I do to shine light on them?
I’m getting old, I’ve done all that.
That’s what brings me joy. Instead of like,
“Look at me.” That’s been a lesson, quite honestly.
That’s super important to me. How do I put my people
In the best position for them to succeed?
Loyalty is a big thing for us. Flexibility is a big thing.
There’s a short tire between when I left in December
When I started the company where I worked for
To traditional PR agency, the favorite time
Because there were a lot of rules at that place.
And what we’ve done is created a culture here
Where we’re all about flexibility. All I care about is
That you’re doing great. Those three guiding principles:
Great work, and happy clients, and money.
If you’re doing that, I don’t care if you’re in the office
Or out of the office. I don’t care if you work at Starbucks,
Or work your desk. I want to be as flexible as I can
In order to get you into a headspace
Where you’re doing great work and then you’re honest.
Consistently, every problem that I see, not just in our business,
But in the world is people not being hundred percent honest.
And then having to figure out and take a lot of their time energy.
Never remember all the dishonest stuff they said to people.
It goes back to when I really first talked about was
If something’s not working or if you do not believe,
I’m just going to tell you because the consequences
Of telling you are not nearly going to be as bad
As the consequences of not telling you,
And then having to fix it later.
That is absolutely true. As you realize
The time management that goes into trying
To keep up with not having integrity.
It’s just not a profitable way to go.
I’ll be honest with you, ironically,
That time where we’re doing for work.
It was because of that. It was like, “I know, I told this person
That I would have this project done.
I don’t remember the reason, the excuse I gave
For missing that deadline. I don’t remember
The excuse I gave for not having this thing done.”
All those plates, he tried to spin all those plates
And they’re all going to fall
And then it’s 10 times the suffering.
Makes a lot of sense. The last thing we do
On the show is something it’s real simple.
I call it the HERO Challenge. HERO Challenge is basically
This: Do you have someone in your life
Or in your network that you think has a cool
Entrepreneurial story? Who are they? First names are fine,
And why do you think they should come
Share their story on the show?
I know quite a few people. I have a really good friend
Of mine named Bobby, who was actually
At the lunch. I have the napkin on my wall
From the lunch we had when I first came up
With the idea of starting my own company.
He’s a great entrepreneur, a great marketer.
Grew up—he has an extraordinary life story. Growing up
In a boy’s home around other boys and bootstrapping
His way up to things. And he’s a guy who is a mentor
Of mine and a great creative, calming force in my life.
Another one of those people, if not for that lunch,
Would I be sitting where I’m sitting today
And he’s a great entrepreneur.
I will reach out after the show and see if I can get
Connected with him. That basically brings us
To the end of our interview. What I want to do here is
I just want to thank you so much for coming
On the show and sharing your story. Last question,
Where can people find you if they’re interested
In learning from you or hiring you?
And more importantly what is the ideal type
Of person to reach out and hire an agency like yours?
Smirk New Media, we’re the only ones,
As far as I know, everywhere.
Our URL https://smirknewmedia.com/
That’s where all of our social channels are.
All of my social channels are MKOKC.
I’m on Twitter should be on there now, quite honestly.
But I’m on all there. The idea
That we’ve grown into and people can see this
As they read our story
On our website and the way we do things,
What we’re really looking for now is people—
Internal marketing people who need help.
There’s a lot of people who are working now,
As maybe a one or two person marketing team
At a bigger company. And they just don’t have the time
To keep up with everything nor the time
To do everything. So what we want to do is we want
To be an extension of that marketing department.
When five o’clock rolls around, you can go home
And feel secure and that you’re still getting great
Engagement on your brand. You’re still getting people.
People aren’t left wondering, with questions, wondering
What the answers are. And that’s where we feel like
We fit in with a lot of boots on the ground
And a lot of creativity in our head.
That makes a lot of sense. If you are listening
To this show, and you’ve been in that spot,
I know I’ve been in that spot. I ran a marketing
For a big regional firm and the marketing department
Was me and one other person. We were managing
The marketing for hundred plus employee company
And having someone to come in and actually take care
Of some of those things will probably be really helpful.
If you’re ever in that space, definitely reach out.
And just make sure I got the web address right.
You can reach out to Mike there. Mike, thank you so much
For coming on the show. Do you have any final thoughts
For our listeners before we we hit the end record button here?
No, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you
And if any chance anybody gets to tell their story,
They should take advantage of it
Because you don’t know about who’s going to be listening
And who you’re going to park after that conversation.
Absolutely. That’s why we do the show. So again,
Thank you so much, Mike
For coming on. We really appreciate it.
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What Is The Hero Show?
A peak behind the masks of modern day super heroes. What makes them tick? What are their super powers? Their worst enemies? What's their kryptonite? And who are their personal heroes? Find out by listening now