Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss spent two decades of ups and downs in corporate America and barely lived to write about it. As company journalists, speechwriters, and C-suite advisors, they stockpiled insider stories and cautionary tales and are here to tell you about it.

Episode highlights:

  • 0:35 – Jennifer and Michael’s Background
  • 6:13 – Corporate Experience
  • 11:20 – Real Life
  • 16:17 – Corporate Entity
  • 19:00 – Jennifer and Michael’s Story

Learn more about this guest:

Podcast Episode Transcripts:

Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.

Joining us any Apolis Minnesota, Jennifer rock and Michael Voss are entrepreneurs and authors that are critically acclaimed, dark humor, novels, shine, light on the cob Webby crevices of corporate life. Thanks for jumping on guys. Thanks for having us. It’s great to be here. So I’m actually really excited about this one because, um, when I got in touch with you, uh, I had actually been starting to reach out to other guests where I said, Hey, I want to bring some more humor into this.  

So it was perfect timing for you guys to come in. So I’m excited to see what the Guthrie and get some laughs. And why don’t you, why don’t you just start right there? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about these dark humor novels that you guys jumped into? Sure where well, um, Jennifer and I have a 40 years of combined experience in corporate America in various communications disciplines from public relations to internal communications and marketing communications, et cetera.  

And our paths crossed, uh, when we were working at. Best buy headquarters here in suburban Minneapolis. And, uh, turns out we had both shared the longtime dream of writing a novel. At some point, even though we didn’t know each other. And we had never shared that with each other. Um, and after escaping a soul sucking half day meeting with snuck off, two of our patio had a few cocktails, started swapping stories and, and realized, you know what we always say.  

Yeah, so many people say we should write a book. And we said, why not us? And we pinky swore then after we sobered up, we would actually follow on our commitment that we made on the bar patio that afternoon. And I’m six years later, our first novel B S incorporated came out. And then about 18 months after that, we came up with the SQL, which is operation cluster puck with a P.  

So, how did, uh, how, how has he experienced writing as a dynamic duo? I mean, writing one, writing a book is, is a task in itself. So I imagine doing it together has its ups and downs. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, people always say, you know, I can’t imagine writing a book with a coauthor. Well, I can’t imagine writing a book without a coauthor.  

You know, you have a built in sounding board and you have somebody, you know, when you, you have a great bit of dialogue and then you. You put in the notes, you know, put something funnier here, like hand it over to somebody who can actually kind of, you know, Boost it up a little bit. So, um, but there’s a reason our first book took six years to write.  

Um, we it’s, it’s a process, right? It’s a process to figure out how to write fiction to begin with, but certainly a process to figure out your characters and what they sound like, what their voices are like, what the narration sounds like. Um, so that when a reader reads that novel, they’re not aware that two people have written it, it sounds like a cohesive.  

Novel that one person has written. And you’re not trying to guess who’s written what you actually are just in depth with the characters and what’s happening in the plot and the intrigue and the romance and things. So it took us awhile to figure that out. Um, second book operation cluster puck took us a lot less time because we had figured out the process and how to outline and how to, um, put some things on paper ahead of time so that the writing was a lot faster.  

So do you have, do you have storyboards where it’s like in the I’m solving mysteries where you drag strings to from one character to another. You know, it’s not quite, um, quite that visual, but we definitely storyboard things out. And, uh, we’ll use a whiteboard very often or sometimes just multiple pieces of paper that were sliding around on the table.  

And, um, figuring out when a certain character will be introduced when a certain plot point takes place, because we are a corporate people. That’s so sad, but.  

Well, why don’t I give a, why don’t I give our listeners little snippet about the book that you had provided? So our workplace novels are to entertain and in lighthearted, but heartfelt ways teach readers. Our communications agency rocked up boss communications improves and drives communication strategies for companies through that.  

So here here’s a little paragraph from the book or about the book fresh off the brink of an all American corporate disaster business solutions, inc. Is launching a new ill-advised venture North of the border as BSI executives spend their hopes and bonuses on a hastily plan, Canada partnership, a shocking shakeup at the top threatens not only BSIS expansion, but its legacy and future.  

So you already answered one of my questions by saying B S inc. Uh, was there like a light bulb moment where you’re like, yeah, that’s the name we’re going with? Yeah, actually, we, we started writing with, without a title and we, we knew the story. We knew some of the characters and we knew where we wanted to go with it.  

And we just kicked around a few different lame title options, to be honest with you. And Jennifer finally came up with a B S incorporated because it just worked on a number of levels. It allowed us to name our fictional company business solutions incorporated. Um, but of course there’s just so much BS if we all do this, regardless of what our jobs are.  

And then as communications professionals, Sometimes your job, frankly, is to spin the BS and to try and make it sound, you know, a little more legitimate than, uh, than the people inside the company know what’s really going on. Yeah. So, so was there, so Jennifer came up with, with BS. What, where, where was your light bulb moment on that?  

And then you had to reverse engineer business solutions into it. Yeah, that was pretty much it. Um, you know, we, we want it to be a tad edgy with the title or publisher encouraged us to, um, to, you know, kind of, uh, Put ourselves out there on the shelf, so to speak and in a way that people would go, Hmm, wonder what this is about.  

So you kind of know from the title, this is not a book that takes itself too seriously. These are two authors that don’t take themselves too seriously. And what happens to us in the corporate environment may seem pretty, you know, serious at the time. But you know, we’re not heart surgeons here. You know, we are, we are selling goods and, you know, working for.  

Retailers and service corporations and things like that. So, um, you know, a sense of humor is important and we really wanted to get that across with both the title and the books that we write. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your corporate experience, that lended your credibility to be able to make these little jokes and poke fun about this world?  

Sure. So, as I mentioned, uh, Jennifer and I worked together at best buy for, uh, she was there for 12 years. I was there for 15 and we certainly worked at other jobs along the way, too. And all of those experiences informed the stories and the. The vignettes and the examples that we have in our book, but best buy in particular was a bit of a crucible for us.  

It was a, a huge, pretty, but very fast paced in the retail environment. You’re constantly going, going, going, trying to support those stores, trying to beat the competitors. And you just run into all kinds of crazy. People and characters and situations along the way. Sometimes they’re just downright funny.  

Sometimes it’s horrible and humiliating, and sometimes you make these lifelong friendships along the way to the people who have your back every day. And we really wanted to represent those stories really well. We spent so much time in the office oftentimes more time than we do with our own families.  

And, and you make some really lifelong relationships. So we wanted it sort of mix all of that together. The humor. The heartfelt aspects of it and the heartbreaking aspects of it too, because you know, these careers can be difficult. You put yourself out there, you, you know, people fail, you can, um, you can find yourself without a job.  

There are a lot of things that can happen to you. And we really wanted our readers to be able to identify with that broad range of, of, uh, experiences that you can have in the workplace. Do you secretly have, um, are these, or any of the characters secretly tied to people in your real life world?  

Absolutely. And in some not so secretly we, um, when the first book B S incorporated came out, um, I know both Mike and I had a flurry of texts from people going, Oh, come on. You didn’t even try to pretend this wasn’t me, you know? Um, And, and of course it’s with, if it’s with mostly love and respect for our main characters and for the communications team who really kind of rise is the middle management heroes in the book.  

Um, certainly based on people that we knew. Um, sometimes not so flattering, but certainly true. Um, are our villains in the store, which happened to be a lot of, um, executives types are certainly among them gums of people that we have known. So we, we took some of the worst of the worst of, of bosses that we’ve had and squished them together into complete characters.  

And one of my favorites, you know, so. Lyle Kirkland is an executive on the rise and he’s, um, you know, he would consider himself the hero of the story. Right. But he’s very much the executive villain. And, um, and I think we’ve had probably seven different people contact us. Absolutely sure. They know the boss that that is based on while Kirkland is X and the next person says, well, clearly Lyle Kirkland is Y you know, Nope, Lisle Kirkland is Z and they’re all right.  

I mean, we’ve, we’ve taken snippets of things and dialogues and bad behaviors and put them into one character because you know what truth is. Certainly stranger than fiction. And, um, and, and you just can’t make some of this stuff up. You can’t make up some of those bad behaviors. So we, we, um, are very grateful to the bad bosses that we’ve had.  

They made some very, very good characters for us. Have you had any of the, any of those historically bad bosses call you out thinking they were the bad guy? Um, definitely we’ve had a few examples because of that, because I think self-awareness is not a strong suit of a lot of, uh, a lot of those bad bosses.  

Um, I did have a situation once where we hired a very whole, uh, high profile, new executive to come into the company. And he was speaking to the top 400 officers and directors of the company for the very first time. It was his second day on the job or whatever it was. And he came to talk to me as his communications.  

A liaison and asked if I had any advice. And I said, you know, I think just go ahead and speak from the heart. I said, this is a kind of group of people who are going to appreciate authenticity. So just be who you are. Don’t worry about prepared remarks. Go on up there and speak from the heart. He went up to the front of the room and said, I was just talking to, uh, to the communications team in the back of the room and they wanted to give me a script, but I decided instead, I’m just going to speak from the heart.  

So it just completely through let’s do that. I mean, that’s almost word for word in, in one of our books. I can’t remember if it’s the first or the second. I think it’s in the first and that’s the type of leader who would never recognize himself in that because he, you know, Of course, he thought he was awesome and the best speaker ever.  

And it’s like, well, goodness, that’s horrible behavior. So it’s that kind of stuff. Like we took copious notes over our core corporate. Oh, that’ll be a good little tidbit to show exactly. What’s at the heart of some of these people we worked with. You find yourself in real life wondering what a character would do.  

So you have, you have, you know, what would Jesus do? Bumper stickers. Do you ever think? Well, what would lie? I’ll do. Oh, my goodness. Yes. I think about that a lot actually. Um, And it, and again, you, when you put yourself, when you’re writing fiction and you put yourself into the shoes of a character like that, I mean, it’s, it’s a little frightening sometimes when you can go.  

Yeah, I know exactly what a bad boss would do in this situation. Like I don’t want to be in those shoes. I want to be a good leader. I want to be somebody that somebody, if I wasn’t respects and you know, and grow is under, you know, in, under their tutelage. Like, I don’t want to be the bad boss, but absolutely you get so in depth, writing these characters that you, you, um, you really think about that all the time.  

It’s like, if I was a good leader, I would do this, but if I was alive Kirkland, Oh my goodness, what I do something selfish and unethical and immoral. Yeah. Well, why don’t you tell us a little bit about rock dot communication. So is that entity tied directly to the book or is the book of platform or that entity.  

Uh, it’s a little more of the latter. The book is a little bit more of a platform for the entity. So, uh, when we left our jobs Fs, bye, we, uh, we were fortunate enough to be able to negotiate a severance, which gave us, um, a period of time where we could finish the novel. And during that time, uh, we had a number of contacts throughout the industry and really throughout the country who had heard we’d left.  

Um, left our jobs and said, well, are you consulting now then? Because I could use some help. And that was really fortunate. And we decided, um, the book was, you know, uh, sort of a long range plan and a bit of a riskier prospect. So we, we pulled together, um, an LLC and started doing some consulting on the side.  

So they, they ran concurrently. I guess we were finishing the novel and doing. Some consulting and we really, um, we do keep them bit separate in terms of the books are a little more humor and they’re certainly fictional and they’re more for entertainment purposes, but we do talk to our clients about it.  

Um, all of the experiences we have and how we, how we package those up. And we have that. The side gig, so to speak of writing the novels, but we do take our work in helping our clients very seriously. We we’d like to help companies do a better job of connecting with their audiences and engaging and informing them and really getting all of their employees or really all of their constituents constituencies behind the strategy of the company and moving in the same direction.  

Walk us through what it’s like to work with you guys in that type of environment. Sure. So, you know, we are in a very much relationship based business and we pride ourselves on, on learning our client’s industry and learning their culture and learning, uh, what makes, uh, the executives tick? What makes, um, you know, where employees currently are on a subject, what they think, and they hope, and they feel about something and it may be something, um, As kind of a regular and frankly, a little mundane, like changing an it process and they need some help communicating that.  

And so we need to understand that process, break that down for them employees, what they need to do, you know, how you communicate that, so that, um, that a rollout like that goes smoothly, it may be something as complex, hated as reorganizing a business and in a merger or acquisitions kind of. Um, environment, or it may be something like, um, off situation, unfortunately, and that takes a great deal of sensitivity.  

Um, a great deal of understanding about the company and, um, and just the human and qualities that you need to communicate. You know, I think. Companies mean well, but they default to telling you the strategy of why the company is downsizing, the strategy of how the company is going to survive in the future. 

 And what they really just need to hear is today’s going to be a tough day. Um, people are going to walk away from this company and not have their own volition and here’s how we’re going to get through it. So, you know, our engagement with companies is really, um, A very human one, um, to help them communicate to employees, especially on, on a very honest and, uh, uh, very, um, human level that allows people to be treated like adults and, um, and to not sugar coat things, which I think, again, I think companies, I tend to lean towards in tough times when you just have to lay out what’s going on, um, and allow people to, um, kind of, uh, Understand that, and then move on.  

It seems like the human element is, is because becoming such a CR I mean, it’s always been important in business, but it seems like it’s being more accepted or it’s, it’s people are realizing the importance of it more. And it’s not just in the tougher situations, like you said, where they just need. To, to fill some understanding, but, but even in the opposite end of things, in the sales process, it’s almost like the less you sell the better you sell because you’re communicating with them and people want to buy from that person.  

They can relate to not just this kind of faceless corporate entity. I think that’s absolutely true. I think there’s been over the last even 20 years or so, a greater understanding that business is fundamentally a human endeavor. It truly is. And I’m not sure it was approached that way and say in the seventies or the eighties, when it was really about the boss making the decisions.  

And figuring out a way to make as much money. And, you know, we had the typing pool and you had to sort of be people playing roles and keeping their mouth shut and doing whatever. And I think there is a greater realization now about, um, The way people need to be treated. And also I think just the collective power of the intelligence of all of your employees together, right.  

And unleashing that, that collective thinking and all those new ideas and, and diverse perspectives that are out there, um, can really improve a business in a number of different ways that maybe we didn’t realize 20, 30 years ago. And it’s, it’s interesting that that’s taking place now in this era of technology where it’s.  

In some ways, you know, with algorithms and things like that, it’s stuck the humanity out of it. But I think at the same time, You’re seeing, um, as you said, that realization that whether it’s the sales process or whatever, it might be, that when touch is so important and, and really treating people with respect and not leading with the strong sales pitch or here’s exactly what I need you to do.  

Don’t ask any questions, go do it, but actually engaging on, on a much more human level, um, gets more out of people and delivers more for the organization. Yeah. Are you familiar with the book? The hard thing about hard things. It’s it’s something it’s a book you would probably enjoy. Cause it’s about this topic, you know, sympathy throughout the layoffs process.  

And it’s like all the, just the really rough grindy stuff about unicorns that are really successful. And then they implode and then they have to. Uh, re you know, metamorphosize into like another entity to stay afloat and sell off this product and keep that product. But it really goes through the guy that wrote it. 

Uh, it’s written from his perspective, he went through all of this as a startup owner that was sold and acquired and whatever, and he just talks about all the hard things throughout it. Sure. Interesting. Yeah. We’ll have to check that out. Hmm. Um, so I’m curious about best buy. So you guys have a lot of experience with best buy.  

I don’t know how far detached you are from them now and how many years ago. Um, it was since sincere in your peak of that career, but it’s been interesting that best buy is one of the retailers that still kind of stay in a float, um, with all these other retailers shutting down and, and Amazon just killing them. 

And from what I understand best buy has actually partnered with Amazon for a couple of things. Um, what’s your take on that? Yeah. You know, we’ve been out of best buy for about five years now. And, um, but of course, I mean, it’s in our backyard here. Um, literally I could walk out this door and see the headquarters from, from where I am and, um, we wish them nothing but the best.  

Um, I mean, we still have friends there and, um, and yeah, they’ve, they’ve figured something out. I think it’s, it’s a lot in relation to exactly what we were just saying about, um, figuring out that human element of doing business. You know, so many of us shop online for what we need. And I think everyone was prepared to see Amazon take over all the brick and mortar retail, but people like Amazon, or, you know, people like best buy. 

 You still want to go into it with score and be able to touch something and feel it and see the weight of the phone or the, you know, the, um, the size of the laptop you’re buying. And you still want to look a human being in the eyes and ask. What you think is kind of a dumb question. No, you still want to say, yeah, but how do I connect, you know, my TV with this, you know, Slingbox or how do I do, you know, something like that.  

And so, um, that’s fine. It’s still holding up the technology that the, um, the consumer electronics end of, I think that human connection and, um, that’s hard to get away with. I mean, that’s, it’s hard to get away from it and that human connection and Amazon just as an offer that without having storefronts.  

Do you think that a best buy is lucky in some respects that they are in the, they sell the type of products that they do so they can offer that human element. If they were in a different line of selling different products, could they take the same approach that they’ve done and still survive? Uh, I don’t think so, actually, to be honest with you, I think so there’s certainly fortunate that they’re in the industry that they’re in.  

And I think it’s not only the products, but it’s the relationships with those brands and those manufacturers because they need. Um, they need somebody to represent their products. And even during the last few years of our time there, um, we, we would bring in executives from Sony or Samsung and some of the big other manufacturers.  

And, and we were trying to figure out at best buy what was next for us because surface city had a business, Walmart and target had moved into the electronics space, but, but we were still the King. Right. But as. You said Amazon was coming in and just eating market share in that electronic space. And without fail these executives from the, from the big name, manufacturers would say, we need you.  

If best buy didn’t exist, we, the industry would need to create something like you, that you can give customers a choice of brands. Explain our technology to them, because certainly there are some people that are sort of in that technology, Beaky kind of thing that can go online and figure out exactly what they want or what they need.  

But the vast majority of Americans need some help in figuring out that constantly in technology. So I think the, um, there’s, uh, You know, they were fortunate to be in that industry and fortunate to have those really strong relationships with those big brands from Apple to Samsung across the board to say, we need to help us connect our products, that’s numbers that are out there.  

And I think that the management team there has done a terrific job of really evolve in those relationships with those vendor partners, where they have to fall within a store experiences, Apple store, really within a best. My story, you can go to a Samsung store in a best buy store and get that expertise.  

So it’s a combination of being fortunate and being savvy. I would say that they they’ve come through the other end. Are the, are the relationships, do you think those are what say best buy from going down the circuit city path? I think it’s a combination of the relationships. It was better fiscal discipline.  

Um, and it was really just making some difficult choices. Uh, it might, it might seem quaint now, but the decision on whether or not to price, match, internet retailers. What is a huge struggle inside that company, because you had all sorts of online, only players like new egg that would sell it for far less than we could sell it  

Do you price match them? Well, then we’re selling it below cost because we have the stores and all of that, you know, all of those additional costs built into the business model. And it was something that the company struggled with for three or four years, do the price match or do you not, and, um, you know, a credit to you, bear Joel Lee, who is just now retiring from the CEO role, um, and moving into an executive chairman role. 

He put a stake in the sand and said, we’re going to price match online and we’re just going to do it. And we’re going to make sure we don’t lose any business because of it. And they dropped us out of other parts of the business to be able to afford to do that, I guess you would say so. Um, they definitely made some bold moves, some really good moves, um, and in a number of ways to really reposition the company for their next era of growth  

You know, there’s this building up the street from where I’m at. Um, I don’t know how big of a chain ultimate electronics was. Are you familiar with that name, but there’s, there’s like this building will always be ultimate electronics to me. I don’t care that it’s a plumbing store now. That’s ultimate electronics.  

Oh yeah. I brought, I remember those days. Yeah. Yeah. Well, um, I want to touch back on the book for a little bit. Uh, do you have any advice for aspiring book authors? Uh, well, first of all, get a coauthor again, it’s you need, and I’m kinda joking, but, um, when you are working on a book and I don’t care if it’s fiction or nonfiction, um, it is so easy to get so far in your own head.  

I think you need a sounding board of some sort. And whether that be a beta reader that you trust, who can read a few chapters and see if you’re on the right track or hire a great editor who can be, you know, offer you that tough love and say, I see where you’re going, but this is a little Rocky for me. Um, you really need.  

Somebody to bounce ideas off of, um, yeah, I’m speaking really personally here I am my own worst critic when it comes to writing. And so if I put something on paper, I will always say, it’s not quite good enough. It’s not quite good enough. I mean, I’m not sure I would ever have put a book out into the world without somebody in terms of a coauthor, in terms of several editors saying this is really good.  

Like let’s, let’s do this. I think you’re done. I would have kept writing. You know, forever and ever, and ever, and kept editing. So I would say, you know, put stuff on paper, um, completely just start, get out of your own head, put words on paper and then bounce it off. Some people, you know, bounce it off. Some people you trust to say, do I have something here? 

 Um, and that’s going to spur you to keep going. Cause you need perseverance in this industry. You want anything you want to add to that? Michael? Uh, you know, I guess I would just summarize it, surround yourself with smart people, really, no matter what you do, right? Whether you are an entrepreneur, whether you’re an author who wants to write a book, um, whether you’re just working in someone else’s organization, surround yourself with the smartest and brightest people you can find.  

And, um, that will bode well for you overall. Well, has there been anything that’s been surprising to come from writing a book, whether good or bad something expected unexpected in the process or, or as a result afterwards? Boy, that’s a great question. Um, I think for me, um, I was really surprised how completely supportive other authors are of other authors.  

I, you know, the writing community. Is so vast and so wonderful. And, you know, we came from, as Mike said, a really volatile, competitive corporate environment where, you know, it was competitive inside, you know, the company, I mean, you know, nothing of, you know, trying to crush ultimate electronics or, you know, trying very hard to out price, um, you know, circuit city, it was competitive inside, you know, with your own team maids and to, to put out a book and realize that  

Authors don’t compete with each other because it’s not like. Somebody only reads one book and then they’re done, you know, people readers our readers and there’s so plenty of space for all kinds of books and all kinds of writers. And even in, you know, are very dark humor space that happens to take place in workplaces.  

Um, there’s there’s room for lots of stories there too. And so I was really surprised at how wonderful writers are. And that’s another bit of advice, you know, if you’re writing a book. Go online, find writers, communities, um, find good hashtags, Graham and Twitter, and make use of those. I mean, people are very open and free with advice.  

Um, you can definitely go out there to writers, communities and bounce ideas off of, or say, Hey, have you ever encountered this? Or I’m pulling my hair out here. Has anyone ever done this? And, um, and people will support you. It’s really wonderful. I think it’s because having reformed, we started chatting. We were speaking offline.  

How I’m just about done wrapping up my book.  

And I think I know why I speak they’re sympathetic. They’re like, I’m like, I’m sorry you started this journey, but you’re already in it. Someone helped you out. Yeah. Maybe that’s another, maybe that’s another bit of advice. If you’re thinking about writing a book, go be in accounting instead. Just don’t even start.  

Don’t even start. Yeah. You’re right. It’s there’s a, certainly a measure of sympathy attached to it. Yeah. All right. So tell me about Cameron Crowe. It’s Seminole it’s and I have no idea why we are, uh, we’re both big Cameron curl fans, fast times at Ridgemont high. I was a child of the seventies and early eighties.  

So when fast times at Ridgemont high came out that movie. Blew me away in terms of, wow, that’s what high school is like in California. You know, I’m a Midwestern kid grew up in Minnesota and, and just even as time evolved and you realize just how spot on the dialogue is throughout that entire movie.  

People still quote, Jeff Spicoli to this day is 30 some years later. Um, and then of course almost famous, uh, we’re both big music fans, so that’s, um, that’s another amazing movie. And then, you know, Jerry McGuire, so w. We sort of pride ourselves on writing good dialogue. And I think we both view Cameron Crowe as the high water Mark for writing spot on quotable, hilarious stuff.  

Yeah. And, and seriously, if you know, your podcast was another two hours, um, I would tell you the entire, almost famous movie, because again, you know, in dialogue, in a book or in a movie is, is kind of like the soundtrack. Like if you. If it’s a good one, you don’t really, you don’t sit there going, wow, this is a good soundtrack.  

And when you reading good dialogue in a book, you don’t go, wow, this is really good dialogue. You just enjoy it. You’ve drawn in, you get drawn in and it just, yeah, it draws you into the story and you, and you feel like you’re there and you feel like you’re listening into a conversation and that’s really hard to do.  

And so. Cameron Crowe as a writer is brilliant at that. So he is kind of our hallmark that we shoot for when you read our books and you get into this like quick patter of dialogue and you go, that was really enjoyable. What would you say is the key to tapping into creating that good dialogue? I think you have to flesh out your characters really well  

First you have to make them three dimensional. You have to, but have them be fully realized and have them have a unique role in your story, because then you can channel that person. You know, we have a, uh, we have a, a really, um, whip smart and, um, Uh, just an amazing, uh, public relations manager who has her own unique way of talking she’s from Boston.  

She’s got a little bit of an edge she’s she sort of stands out amid the Midwestern, passive, aggressive people that populate most of the rest of our novels. Right. And so once, once, and her name is Benny, her name is Susan Benedetti, but everyone calls her Benny. So once we really figured out who Benny was writing her dialogue and she just.  

Flat, you know, it just pops off the page compared to the way everyone else talks. And, and if we’re able to do that, because we made her a, not just a one dimensional stereotype of a person, but a fully realized transplanted East coast person who is dealing with all the craziness of the company and all of these passive aggressive Midwesterners.  

And that gives her something to sort of bounce off of and react to. Yeah. And also, I think, you know, as writers when, when both Mike and I, you know, separately are writing, um, we both. Read the dialogue out loud. So it sounds like something that you would actually say out loud and you go, Oh, that’s a mouthful.  

No one would ever say that. Or, you know, Ooh, that’s a little too, you know, too many ums and AHS or something. And so we both read the dialogue out loud. Okay. And I always joke that, you know, my dog, um, Loves our books. I mean, he has read, he has heard our books a million times because everything that I write, I read it out loud.  

And so, yeah, my dog is incredibly supportive of our, of my writing career. Bye.  

And otherwise you, how do you task each other with who writes we’ll have, you could even chapters, you get odd chapters, like where you started. Interesting. So we, we flesh out the whole story arc and even the individual character arcs in three acts. Um, as Jennifer said, it’s kind of boring. It’s almost like a strategic planning document for a business.  

So we have most of it mapped out. And then we just sort of go with that field. Do you want to take it established this chapter? Or should I take that one? We do have a male and a female protagonists. So sometimes Jennifer will write for Anna first and I’ll write for will first, but we’re always flipping the pages back and forth.  

And each of us touches every word in that book several times before it makes it into a printed copy. So, um, it’s just kind of a gut feel and we both trust each other enough to know that. All right. Here’s my draft. You go ahead and take it and do whatever you want with it. And inevitably we see something either missing in what the other person has written or something we can build on like, Oh my gosh.  

That’s a great idea. I’m going to put in two more lines of dialogue for Anna here, because I love where you started going with that. So what’s next in the BS universe. Well, you know, we, we always said that we would run right, a third book in this universe, um, with the same characters, if readers were calling for it.  

And we were completely happy to, you know, stop the BS universe after operation cluster puck, um, or keep going, um, you know, depending. But, um, right now we are sketching out a third book, um, But a little sneak preview is that it, it actually doesn’t overlap quite at all with the last sequel. It, it may take place in the same extended universe, but you know, kind of like the, the Marvel or the DC comic universe.  

It’s yeah. It may be kind of within the same world. Um, but certainly features different characters and in fact, a different industry, um, you know, people ask us, you know, are you ever, uh, worried that you’re gonna run out of stories? No. No, never, never worried. We’re going to run out of stories. Have you worked in corporate America?  

I mean, do you know the characters that exist out there? No. The situations and the. Crazy industries that exist. I mean, we will never run out of material. It’s just the question of what we want to highlight with the, with the next one. Yeah. I can relate to that. I, uh, I’m probably opening Pandora’s box here.  

Uh, but you know, I I’ve, I’ve ran a company for 12 years, but the jobs I had before I started my company, those employers. I’ve I’ve actually written down, write a book about this guy, write a book about that as you should. Again, you know, there are, there are so many stories within business, within corporations and, um, and, and I don’t think people get tired of reading about it.  

I mean, there’s a certain amount. Of humor attached to it, but also, you know, there’s a, um, there is a comradery attached to reading about this. I mean, you know, we’ve heard from so many readers who will, who will read one of our books and say, Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one that had a boss, the spatter, I thought I was the only one who looked forward to happy hour was because that was my moment, my friends and yeah, it’s like, Oh no, no, no, no, no, sweetie.  

You’re not, you’re not the only one. It’s it’s all of us. And I think, yeah, That’s the joy of telling these stories is that. You give people, somebody to commiserate with, even if they’re fictional, have you seen the videos about the conspiracies about the, so you said the, you know, the Marvel universe, have you looked into the Disney universe?  

Not, I know what you’re talking about. Yeah, go ahead. Michael, go hit YouTube. Like a Disney universe or something and it, and what it does is it just overlaps completely unrelated movies. And I mean, it makes sense, but I don’t know. I think the bottom line is people have way. Yeah, that’s probably true. Yeah.  

But as, as we kind of get closer to wrapping up, I want to talk about what, uh, what you do outside of, you know, work and consulting and, and the book world. Uh, tell me a little about, about what you guys are into. Uh, well, uh, I’m, uh, I’m married with a couple of teenage sons and, uh, you know, I live in the frozen North, so we’re in the summertime right now.  

So I like to get my wife and kids out on our boat and we do a lot of boating in the summertime. And you know, again, Jennifer and I are we’re, we’re both like, we love what we do, so we never really quit working. So we’re always talking about the book or we’re always planning for the next, uh, next bit of client work that we’ve got going.  

I don’t know if Jennifer. Yeah, I’m, I’m completely obsessed with the Minnesota twins right now. I have been a baseball fan since I was a little kid and, you know, listening to baseball on the radio outside, you know, when my dad was tinkering in the yard with things and, um, and the twins are rocking and rolling this year, you know, tons of homes, it runs on the top of the league.  

And, um, and so it’s a, it’s a good summer for baseball here in Minnesota. Um, my dad is obsessed with the Vikings and I have no idea why it’s a it’s it’s a curse. I’m sorry. I am. My family are also huge Vikings fans and we, we, we all are, and it’s, um, Again, it’s, it’s one of those things. I think like having a corporate job, like we, we commiserate with each other.  

It forms a really tight community of people who are constantly disappointed. It just, it fits with that, that Midwestern mindset somehow. We’re we’re. Slightly above average, but will never be great. Hold on. I need to write that’s your quote for the  

microphone. Yeah, that’s great. No, go ahead, Jennifer. No, I was just gonna say there’s a certain, yeah, it’s, it’s a Midwestern humility attached to do it, you know, like, Oh, you know, we’re, we’re not that good. Oh no, we’re not that good at what we do. Yeah, go ahead. Wait, we got that with the Utah jazz. I’m right there with you.  

And actually that brings up just a tiny, funny point. You know, when, when you do work with an editor on a book, um, there is always the, the worry that an editor who is very smart is going to say, you know, I really like this, but. I don’t like your main character or your book should be set in New York instead of Minneapolis, or, you know, it should be in a different industry.  

And one of our non-negotiables from the very start from the very first start of the book of BS incorporated was that this is a pure Minneapolis Midwestern story because you need the past of aggressiveness, you know, river that runs under it, these characters and you need, okay. The incredibly ambitious work ethic that Minnesota companies have.  

Um, and you also need, um, that again, that, that humility and that, you know, that, that piece of it that says, um, you know, we are really good, but all we’re not that good. It’s I mean, how can you not basis story in Minneapolis? This story just simply does not work in LA or in. Orlando, but now that you illustrate that, that makes sense.  

Well, why don’t you put out any contact information for our listeners? Where can they learn more about the book? Where can they learn more about working with you? Sure. So the easiest way to find us is, um, So that is our website URL yeah. Is our Facebook page. Um, and we, we link to all of our other, um, uh, properties from there.  

I guess you would say to the rock dot Vos website and our Twitter accounts, and you can find us on LinkedIn under our actual names, Jennifer rock and Michael Voss. So we are, um, we are essentially everywhere, but rock and boss’ books is probably the easiest way to start finding us. Very cool. So last thing before we wrap up, uh, we surprise our guests with a random question generator.  

And your question is what is your favorite childhood memory? Oh my goodness. Wow. Um, okay. Give me, give me two seconds to think. Um, I’m gonna go with, um, One time at, uh, at Christmas. I, so I really, really wanted a cat. That was my whole thing. When I was a little kid, um, my father was a little bit strict and Nope, we weren’t ever going to have a kitten in the house.  

Nope. You know, just a whole bunch of problems. No, no, no, no. We’re not going to have a pet. Um, and so my mother always, the optimist was. No, let’s see what you get for Christmas, see what you get for Christmas. And, um, and that’s how I was really excited. Cause I really thought I was going to get a cat for Christmas.  

And you know, as a little kid you go running downstairs and you, um, and you are looking under the tree, like for something that might be like, I don’t know, a cat shape. I was like, I was like, I was like five, what do I know? I didn’t get in. You’re not gonna a cat anyway. But, um, I got a shovel for Christmas.  

I’m not even kidding. I got a shovel for Christmas and I think that’s one of my favorite childhood memories because I look back on that and I go, well, first of all, can you get any more Midwestern than that? And secondly, um, if anybody ever wonders where my ambition and my work ethic comes from, comes from my father, who was the most practical person in the entire world who said, Sure I can get you a cat, but what I need is some help shoveling the front wall.  

Here you go. Five year old daughter have a shovel for Christmas. Um, so yeah, that’s mine. Well, I definitely should’ve gone first because who wants to follow? Yeah. Great. Um, you know, I think my favorite childhood memory was, um, Oh, Honestly, when I’m a teenager from the neighborhood, decided to form a basketball team for us younger kids, I was in fifth grade and he formed a basketball team.  

Got us into a. Basketball league as fifth graders. And none of us knew anything about how to play the game in this, this wonderful older kid just gave up his time to set up a team for us, younger kids. And they just feel a lifelong love of the game for me and my kids, both of my kids play travel basketball. 

 My oldest son plays high school basketball. Um, and yeah, that was just a life changing event for me. It just. Created a love of the game, because some generous teenager who wasn’t thinking about himself and going out to parties and picking up girls, he said, I’m going to organize these neighborhood kids into a basketball team.  

And I think it was a life changing event for a lot of us. It created a lot of lifelong friendships and like I said, a love of the game. And, um, and now I coach youth sports too. And I think, um, that’s something that, you know, I learned from, you know, a guy named Marty Meyer who could have been doing any other thing he wanted with his life.  

And he decided to mentor a bunch of young kids. That’s cool. Well, cheers to Marty Meyer, wherever he is. Did you guys just learn something new about each other? Yeah. I’ve never heard that story before. I’ve known this guy 17 years. I’ve never, I’ve never heard that story. So thank you. I hadn’t heard that the cat and shovel story before either, which sounds now darker than it.  

That’s what I was thinking. I was waiting. I was waiting for the. It’s for the dad to say your cat’s out, back. Go find it.  

Yeah. Well, you know, we do write dark humor the next time I tell that story. Add elements. Thank you for the feedback I got. Yeah. Well, Jennifer rock, Michael Voss. I appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for having us. 

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Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss spent two decades of ups and downs in corporate America and barely lived to write about it. As company journalists, speechwriters, and C-suite advisors, they stockpiled insider stories and cautionary tales and are here to tell you about it.
Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss: Humor Goes a Long Way

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