Today’s guest gave up a 20 year career with an S&P 100 multinational company when he realized that most of us love only 10% of our job. Another 10% we hate, and the other 80%? Eh. He wanted to pursue a career that he loved all of.

He’s here today to share with you the value that storytelling has played in his career’s success, and how it can help your business grow, too. Please welcome, Paul Smith.

Other Podcast Guests Mentioned in This Episode:

Episode highlights:

  • 2:40 – Paul Smith Career
  • 5:26 – Five Criteria
  • 9:36 – Destination of Phase
  • 11:23 – Transparent with your Boss
  • 12:56 – How to introduce your Books

Learn more about this guest:

 

Podcast Episode Transcripts:

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


Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts in business storytelling. He’s one of inc magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers of 2018, a storytelling coach and bestselling author of several books, including the 10 stories. Great leaders tell, sell with a story lead with a story parenting with a story.  

And four days with Kenny Tedford, he holds an NBA. From the Wharton school is a former consultant of a center and former executive and 20 year veteran of Proctor and gamble company. And most importantly, he’s a husband and father of two boys. Paul, thanks for jumping on. Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to it.  

So, um, you know, right from hit record, you’re tapping on your mic and, and you’re saying, Hey, I just like to make sure the audio is coming through. So yesterday, since, since today’s topic is the value in storytelling, I have a story for you now. I don’t necessarily think it has value, but it’s a good story.  

So yesterday yesterday’s guest, at least the recording guest was Mitch Russo. And, um, so we’re recording and I hear this dog outside my office yelling. And so I hit mute on my studio mic. And as you’d seen before we hit record, I have, you know, one of those floating arms and have a professional mic. And so I hit mute and I yell, shut up any pauses.  

And he goes, you still there? And I go, what, why did he positive hear my mute button? Or what did he hear? And so we go through the whole recording, like 20, 30 minutes later. And then I say, thanks. And we small talk for a little bit. And we say our goodbyes, and then I’m downloading the files to send to my editor.  

And I noticed my levels are low. Let me say that’s weird. And so I go through and what happened is my mic dropped and defaulted to my computer mic. So you heard that. So I email him, I say, I say, Oh, Mitch, I’m so sorry. So here’s what happened. And he, he writes back just one sentence. Unexplained phenomenon now explain to, Oh, well, I, I hope nothing that funny happens on this conversation.  

Yeah. Well, I owned it. I ran with it. I wasn’t gonna let that be embarrassing. So, Paul, I want to talk mostly about the value of business owners learning the art of storytelling. Um, but speaking of being a father. I’m a dad. And this morning, I see that your other storytelling book parenting with the story is on audible.  

So I’m gonna check that out and we are now BFS, just so you know. Awesome. Thank you. I’m glad to hear that. So Proctor and gamble, 20 years, I mean, two things Proctor and gamble is obviously a high profile company at 20 years is a long time in a career. So how do we tell us a little bit about your corporate career and then what made you leave it?  

Yeah. So it was pretty standard corporate career, I guess. You know, I, uh, studied in undergrad economics and went to work for what’s now Accenture for a couple of years after that, and then went back to school to get an MBA and, you know, very classical career path. There went to P and G spent my first half of my time there and finance and accounting type roles in the second half in consumer and CA and a communications research type roles 

And I think my last job there was. Uh, director of consumer and communications research for about a $6 billion global business unit. So reporting to the president of that business unit. Um, so, and, and I liked it. I mean, um, I liked my job. I would, wouldn’t stay somewhere 20 years if I didn’t like it. It’s a phenomenal company.  

I love the company always have and still do. Um, but I didn’t love my job. I mean, I liked my job. I didn’t love it. And I thought at some point. Um, gosh, wouldn’t it be great if, if I just, I loved my job and, and I don’t, I don’t mean that there was nothing about it. My job, I loved them. In fact, my theory about most people is that there’s about 10% of their job that they love.  

And that’s the reason why they took the job in the first place. That’s why they got into the field. You know, there’s probably 10% of the job that they hate, you know, it’s office politics or filling out their expense report or whatever, but that. Big swath in the middle of that 80% in the middle is work.  

That is, you know, it’s good. It’s good work. Uh, you know, you wouldn’t do it if they didn’t pay you, but it’s not anything that makes you jump out of bed in the morning and can’t wait to get to work. And I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if that 10% at the top that I just love, wouldn’t be cool if I could do that all day long.  

And so I had to think, well, what is that? What is the 10% of my job that I love? And I thought about it a while and I realized. It’s the few days a year that I get to teach them new new managers at P and G are the newly promoted general management group or the new hires or, or the couple of days I got to spend, uh, you know, giving a speech at the company annual meeting or something like that.  

Um, so it was basically being a speaker and trainer. It’s what I wanted to do, but there was literally not a single job out of 120,000 people at the company who had that job full time. It just didn’t exist. I realized, gosh, if I want to want to do that for living, the only people I know that get to do that are people who’ve written a bestselling book.  

And then they go around and do that a lot of companies. So that quite literally became my goal, which is what led me to start writing books. But my journey to get there though, Uh, so every everybody’s got a different thing they want to go do, but the journey might be similar. So if I, if I could, I could, uh, I could tell your listeners the five criteria that I chose, that I said, if I could make the, if I could have a job that met these five, five criteria, I would absolutely quit my job mid career and go do it.  

Is, is that worthwhile? Yeah, totally. Yeah. So, so I, number one was to, to do work. I was passionate about if I could find a job that would, I was really passionate about doing. That would be awesome. I would leave a company for that. Um, secondly, work that I could really Excel at and be great at as opposed to be good at like, I think I was good at my job, you know, they hadn’t fired me and I think they kept promoting me every once in a while, but I didn’t, I don’t think I was at the top of my game in, in that job.  

Um, wouldn’t it be great if I was awesome at my job. So third was, uh, and I know this is going to sound cliche, but, uh, I wanted to do a job that I thought would make a real difference in people’s lives. I mean, you know what, when I teach, when I taught a training class or gave a speech, people would come up to me afterwards and thank me, you know, I would get, you know, applause, nobody ever stood up and applauded at the end of a budget meeting, you know?  

So I just didn’t feel like I was really making a difference in people’s lives. Um, number four was the most practical one. It’s got to pay the bills, but, but it just has to pay the bills. It doesn’t have to make me rich. You know, I was making plenty of money in my old job. I w I wouldn’t leave to make more money.  

That was plenty of money. In fact, I would leave to make less money as long as it met these other criteria, but I had to pay the bills, you know, I don’t want to be homeless. And then, um, The last criteria was a job. My wife was comfortable with me having right as my right, as my life partner. That sounded a little more salacious than a man.  

It’s not like I was going to go off and be considered, there’ll be a porn star or something like that. No, not that I could get a job like that, but you know what, not like that, but I mean, um, a job that she wasn’t gonna worry every month. That, you know, the bills weren’t going to get paid, but, you know, so, um, so those are my five criteria.  

And when I finally got to the point that I could honestly answer all five of those in the affirmative about this career of writing books and getting speeches for a living, that’s when I left. But those were the criteria and I, and I would not have left a company as good as P and G for anything less than those five.  

All right. So what’s. You get into, you use your butt to leverage a new career in storytelling, but you had to have had some seed already planted to be a story teller. So how did you, how did you actually get to that point? Yes. So, so I knew I wanted to write books and teach, figure out what was the thing I wanted to teach about.  

And, um, and, and so I, I made that decision that I was pursuing these five things and this title career before I knew what the thing was. And I literally spent a year or two kind of waiting to be inspired by some topic. And, and it occurred to me on that route that, that storytelling. It was probably going to be that thing.  

Uh, and, and there were a number of things that led to that part of it was I, I ended up, uh, becoming the licensed trainer, the first licensed trainer for chip and Dan Heath’s made to stick book. If you remember that from back in 2009, 2010. Um, and so that gave me my first taste of, of. Teaching kind of for a living teaching adults for a living.  

Um, and one of the criteria in there, their book about, uh, the six criteria that make ideas really, really effective is that they’re communicated via story. And so that was maybe, you know, part of my first introduction into that. But then I realized, gosh, that’s how I teach is by giving. Uh, examples through stories.  

And so that felt like something that I was interested in. And also, I just, I noticed the leaders that I admired the most and kind of wanted to be like, and work for. And, you know, be like, when I grew up in the company were just really good storytellers yet nobody taught me or them, I think. Yeah. Right. So how did you S so, so correct me if I’m wrong.  

So you decide, you want to. Uh, you know, talk to an audience at some capacity for living, because that’s partly enjoy from your, your experience in your corporate career. And so you say the first stepping stone is a book. And so you, you pick your trajectory, but you don’t know where the final destination is in your phase.  

One is that fair to say. Yeah, well, I didn’t know if it was succeed. I knew if it’s success seated where I would end up, I would end up on, on stage, I guess, you know, uh, multiple times a year, uh, being a speaker and a trainer on the topic of storytelling. What I didn’t know is if it would work, right. So I kind of followed the safe route and I wrote the book while I still had the job at P and G.  

So literally nights and weekends for two and a half years. I researched and wrote my first book. And then even after it was published, I still didn’t leave. I waited. Kind of, for the phone to ring, quite frankly. So I mean, to be able to tell you, and you’re listening to this romantic story that I woke up on morning, and I said, you know, I quit.  

I’m just going to go pursue this dream. And I have no idea if it’s going to work. And, but, you know, I, I’m a little bit more risk averse than that and maybe a little bit more practical. And so I thought, let me test market this idea first. So I wrote the book, got it published. And then it was a year after the book got published before the film had rang enough and I’d had enough.  

Uh, companies hire me to come do what I wanted to do before I was comfortable leaving. In fact, I even, so I, after a few months I had spent all of my vacation time. I burned up a whole year’s worth of vacation in about three months, um, of going and speaking to companies. And I still wasn’t convinced. So I asked my boss for a reduced work schedule.  

Right. I would take, I would take a voluntary 10% pay cut and get 10% days off a year. So like another 25 days off a year or something. Um, and then three or four months later, I’d spent all of that time. At companies teaching. And that, that was kind of my criteria. If I can fill up that length of time this soon, I could see a sustainable business model.  

And that’s when I quit. Where were you transparent with your boss at the time? About why you honor the reduced work time. Oh, yeah, absolutely. In fact, I was even long before that I was tell, I told them I was working on this book, you know? Yeah. So I, and I counsel people all the time that call me and ask me, Hey, I want, I want to kind of do the same thing.  

I want to write a book, but, you know, I don’t want to tell my boss cause it, you know, and I just think that’s a terrible idea if, because a you’re going to get found out and if it is a problem, Well, it’s, it’s worse because you weren’t honest about it. Yeah. And if, yeah, if you’re honest about it and it’s a problem, well, they’ll let you know, and then you can make a choice.  

Okay. Well then I can either keep working on the book and quit my job, or I can keep my job and quit working on the book. But, um, most companies that are worth working for wouldn’t have any problem with you doing something exciting in your free time. Yeah. Um, talk briefly about how the F you got the phone even ring from the book.  

And the reason why I asked that is because we’ve had several guests that are authors and, you know, I just finished writing a book about my area of expertise, which is search engine optimization. And every time I talk about either my book or the guest book, Like writing a book is just brutal. And the, at the end of the day, the majority of books should be written as a business card and you’re not expecting to profit.  

And there’s a very high probability. You will actually lose money every time you print one. But you’re hoping to make that up by establishing a relationship and having a transaction that comes as a result of that business card. So how did you get your book in front of people for them to even call you?  

Yeah. So I kind of went the old fashioned route on book publishing. So I mean, self-publishing is a big thing today and most people do it and I get that. Um, but I wanted my book to get into as many hands as possible. And the best way to do that today is still the old fashion, New York city. Big publishing house because they just they’ve got it.  

Bigger reach than you do from the trunk of your car. You know, they’ll, they’ll get it into every bookstore in America. They’ll, they’ll, they’ll pitch it to publishers and other countries and get it translated into other languages. You know? So my, my first book I think, is in its. 11th or 12th printing now, and it’s in seven languages around the world.  

That’s just, that would not have happened if I tried to self publish it. So that got it into people’s hands. And that’s what got the phone to ring. But just to set your expectations, since you, your book just came out recently, it’s being printed right now. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. All right. So, um, the first speaking engagement I got, but because of my book was six months before it was published.  

I didn’t it. Literally, I got a phone call from a speaker’s Bureau in California saying, Hey, are you Paul Smith that wrote this book, you know, lead with a story. And I’m like, well, I am Paul Smith and I’m writing a book under that title, but I’m not, I’d even done writing yet. How on earth do you know about?  

And he said, Oh, I’ve got a client who wants to hire you to come give a speech about it. I’m like, well, again, how enough did they know about it? Like my wife and kids that’s like, who knows about this? How would they know? Yeah. And he said, Oh, well, they found it on Amazon. And so I looked up on Amazon and by golly, there, it was for preorder six months ahead of time.  

My publisher didn’t even tell me that. So that was my first gig. But my second speaking engagement. Was six months after the book came out. So that was a fluke that, that happened. Yeah. So normally it takes time to books gotta to get out. People have to find it, they got to then spend time to read it. Then they’ve got to have a need.  

Oh, well, you know, we just had our annual meeting three months, so it’s going to be nine more months before we need another speaker. So about six months after the book comes out, is when, you know, you, you, you shouldn’t think of anything ringing in the first six months, but that, for me, that was my experience.  

Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s good. Yeah. I’ve I’ve I I’ve been toe has been dipped enough in that industry that I have realistic expectations. I don’t have high hopes, but I think it’s important to, to reinforce that and bring that up again for the listeners. The most important thing, though, I think is what you, you said at first, which was, think of the book as an expensive business card, because I made that mistake with my first book thinking.  

The book has to pay for itself. I’ve got to earn a good return on this book. So I don’t want to invest much in marketing or, you know, because, because it wasn’t self published. It means I was getting a really low royalty rate around. Let’s make it a buck 50 or a buck, 80 per book, like I’d you just can’t afford to spend a lot of money to promote the book.  

Um, and that was a mistake. Uh, so now I think of it very differently that yeah, I can lose money on the book and it doesn’t matter as long as it’s bringing in speaking engagement. So you need to think about your business model holistically and the role that the book plays in it, uh, is not like a separate, a business unit that needs to stand and fall on its own.  

Now. Yep. Yeah. All right. So your most recent book, 10 stories, great leaders tell, um, we’ve obviously established your credibility as a storyteller, so let’s dig more specifically into the value of storytelling for our listeners. Um, so on the topic of your newest book title, can you give us a few examples of great stories that leaders do or should tell.  

Yeah, so, well, let me, let me give you the list first, just so of ground you on what are the 10 stories and then, yeah, I can give you a couple of examples of them. Um, so, uh, and by the way that, yeah, I came up with these largely just from the seven or eight years. Now that I’ve been working with clients, coaching them on stories.  

These are the type of stories that my executive clients most frequently asked me. For help developing. And they also happen to be the ones that I think every functional leader needs to tell, and they probably don’t need to change very often. These are like evergreen type stories. So there were a few criteria that went into how to select them.  

But I think once you hear the list, you’ll, you’ll feel like, yeah, that I want all 10 of those stories for my, you know, my business. So, um, so the first four kind of go together because they’re about setting direction for the organization. So here they are. Uh, where we came from. So that’s a founding story why we can’t stay there.  

So that’s a case for change story. Where we’re going, which is a vision story and how we’re going to get there, which is a strategy story. So, you know, if you can tell those four stories, you can easily explain to people, you know, where we came from, why we can’t stay there, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.  

So, yeah, I think you’ve got a much better chance of getting the organization to go wherever it is. You want them to go, right? So the next four kind of go together as well, but they’re more about who we are as an organization. So that’s what we believe. So that’s a corporate value story. Who we serve. So that’s a customer story story about the customer.  

So everybody that works there with you can understand who they are on a visceral human level, um, what we do for our customers. So that’s kind of a classical sales story or customer success story that explains to people what it is you do. That’s so awesome that people should pay you money to do it right.  

Um, and then number eight is how we’re different from our competitors. So I call that marketing story because I think marketing’s job is generally different, getting you from your competitors. So, so imagine you can sell those four stories. You can, you can explain basically yeah. Who you are, who you serve, what you do for them, people and how you’re different than your competitors.  

Alright, so there are two more and, but those are more personal to you as the leader. So number nine is why I lead the way I do. So that’s a personal leadership philosophy story. And number 10 is why you should want to work here. So you, the person you’re talking to now, You right. So that’s a recruiting story because every leader’s job is finding and attracting great talent and bringing them into the organization and following your leadership.  

You know, that’s not just the job of HR recruiting. So those are the, those are the type of stories that I think every leader needs to be able to tell, let me, let me, let you react to that first, before I jump in with an example. Yeah. Who is the audience for these stories? Is this your, in your internal team?  

So it depends on which story. So, um, so your founding story, it can be for anybody, obviously the people inside the company, you need to share that story, to have them all kind of share the same passion that the founder of the company had, but your investors. You know, your shareholders, people outside the company want to hear that as well.  

They want to know they’re working with a, uh, you know, a group of people, not just some faceless bureaucracy. Right? Um, some of the stories are definitely just internal, like your strategy story. You probably don’t want to be telling everybody what your strategy is. Right. So that may be just an internal story.  

Um, your, your marketing story and that’s a very external story, right? You want that story told to everybody outside the company, right? Same for your sales story, but they’re also beneficial inside the company. You know, you, you want everybody to have a good handle on how it is that you are better than your competitors kind of thing.  

So, uh, so it kind of depends on what the story is, but, but they’re both, they’re both for internal and external consumption. So, so they’re entirely independent of each other, but they are supportive of each other. Yes. So all, all 10 of these stories would be completely independent. Yeah. They wouldn’t really have anything to do with each other other than, um, you know, your strategy story ought to have something to do with your vision story.  

Right. Because it’s trying to get you where your vision said you wanted to go. So they’re related in that sense, but the stories can be told independently of each other. Got it. Yeah. Okay. So let’s, let’s hear some of the, the greater examples you got. Yeah. So let me, let me start with that. Number nine, uh, uh, personal leadership philosophy store.  

So this is a, well, let me ask it this way. Have you ever worked anywhere where like your first time to meet somebody, they put a piece of paper in front of you and it said something to the top, like, uh, my personal leadership philosophy or my leadership operating principles. And then it’s a bunch of buzzwords underneath that, about adding value and.  

Customer focus and stuff like that. Does that sound familiar to you? Yeah, I’m sure we’ve all experienced the generalities. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So you get that and you read it and you’re like, okay. Ho hum. Okay. Yeah. Everybody could say that’s probably on everybody’s side. Yeah. Not connecting here. So a far better way to do that is to tell people a story about what made you, the leader you are today?  

What is it that. Influenced your leadership style. So that’s what a personal leadership philosophy story does. So the example on the books about a guy named Mike  who’s, um, he went to West point, so it was, uh, spent his first few years in the army. So his first leadership opportunity was leading a platoon of tanks.  

Right. And so is in fact, one of his first real leadership challenges was in a training exercise out in California. That’s probably 25 years ago. Um, and so, uh, it a wasn’t even in a real battle, but just a training exercise with real tanks is fictional or like, are, these are real life stories. These are all true stories, right?  

Um, well, your vision story will always be fictional because it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a, it’s a future. Right. But all the rest of them should be a true story. So it’s a real guy. Mike  as was, is real. It was real life story. So, um, so he happens to be in, uh, uh, commanding the first tank. That’s going to go into battle on his side of the field at a 400 tanks, 400 tanks on the other side of the field.  

So a 10 mile long, five mile wide, uh, training field with real tanks, but they’re not shooting live ordinances. Right. They don’t wanna hurt each other. So they’re shooting laser beams, right. Let’s just detect. If they got shot or not. So think of it as a giant game of laser tag with tanks. So, um, so yeah, I imagine, yeah.  

Imagine that he’s the first tank in his side of the field to go in. So the night before, of course he sits down with the commanding officer and they go through, you know, the map of the terrain and come up with a battle plan and figure out where the high ground is to have the best strategy of winning.  

So the next morning the thing starts and he’s in his tank and they race out on the field and there’s 399 tanks behind him. And he gets to the first point where he’s got to make a decision to go ride a left and he doesn’t know what to do. Like apparently looking at a, a battlefield through the crack and a hatch going 40 miles an hour, getting shot at that is a little different than it is in a conference room on a map.  

Right. You can imagine. Yeah. So, so he’s got a choice to make. He can either. Stop the tank, turn the light on and get the map out, figure out the right thing to do, which might take, I don’t know, 30 seconds. Or he can just guess, well, Mike chose option two. He just yells out driver turn left. Right? So in, you know, as authoritative a voice as he can command, even though he knows he has no idea if that’s the right thing to do bus driver turn left.  

So driver turns left. Man or two later, the little lightness tank goes off, which means you just got shot by laser you’re dead. So they have to stop the tank, pop the hatch, get out. Those guys are done for the day. So of course, you know, 30 seconds later, thanked number two turns left right behind him. And they’re a little light goes off.  

They’re done for the day. And a few seconds later, tank number three, turns left, and they’re a little light goes off. Okay. They’re done for the day. But the, the guys in tight number four, saw three tanks turn left and get shot and killed virtually. Yeah. So they’re like, that was a mistake. So they turned right.  

And then 396 other tanks turned right. They took the high ground and they won the right. So what Mike learned from that? Well, so that was a mistake, right? Mike made a leadership mistake, but what he learned from it was sometimes it’s more important to make the wrong decision quickly, then make the right decisions slowly, because if he waited that 30 seconds to make the right decision, he’d have 400 tanks lined up in a row, sitting ducks, they’d all gotten shot killed.  

Right. And it’s kind of that way in life in business, too. Right? If you, if you. Spend too much time in analysis paralysis, trying to figure out the right thing to do. Your competition is still moving forward. It might be better just to make an educated guess. Life is going to let you know pretty quickly if you made a mistake, right, bad things will start happening.  

And as long as it’s not like really a life or death, um, maybe the best thing to do would be to just go ahead and try something and make a mistake and monitor and adjust. So today he’s a very decisive leader. But he’s also a very forgiving leader, as long as you learn from your mistakes and that story that he tells people, helps them understand what kind of leader he is, the kind of leadership they can expect from him and the kind of leadership he expects from them a lot better than if he’d just given them that sheet of paper that says I’m a decisive leader.  

Okay, what does, what does that mean? Right. So that’s an example of a personal leadership philosophy story. I think, I think the, the core of that story can be applied at so many different levels. So not only as you said in the course of action, um, but, uh, a phrase that I hear regularly is something along the lines of.  

Um, you know, perfect is the enemy of good, something like that. And I think that applies on so many levels. So not only if you’re already in motion, you know, pick a path and learn and pivot, but probably more relatable to a lot of listeners is even before you start, like you can’t overthink a business plan or a strategy or writing a book that you just have to start because once you start.  

Your game plan goes out the window all that time you spent it’s probably 99% different three days later. What is it that Mike Tyson said everybody’s got a plan until they get punched out of seat. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. A plan goes out the window. So yeah. So that’s number nine. Um, number eight is a really good one too, that I think really everybody’s got to have this, no matter what function you are.  

So number eight, the marketing story, the how we’re different from our competitors. I mean, if you’re the marketing leader at a company, you need dozens of marketing stories, but even if you’re just a head of HR, finance, or sales or something else, you need one good marketing story right now. You need to know why your company is different from your competitors.  

So, um, my favorite example of this one comes from a guy named Sharad Matt, listen, who’s the CEO of United building maintenance, which is a commercial cleaning company. So they’re the folks that come in and clean your offices at night, right? Well, when he’s calling on a new prospect and he’s probably got a sales guy with them and they’ve got a sales pitch, probably they’re going through, but he almost always tells them a quick story about what he does when he gets a new client.  

He says, you know, there’s always a 30 day transition period. And after we signed a contract before my company takes over, and during that 30 days, I always do the same thing. Like I go sneak into the building in the middle of the night, just. To see how the people are cleaning it today. Right. Um, and it’s probably less nefarious than I just know.  

Cause he, he gets permission to do this, but I mean, the point, the purpose of it is that apparently most of those people doing the cleaning are contract employees. So he’s going to inherit them at the end of the month. So he wants to know if they’re well trained and properly equipped to do the job, you know?  

So there’s a legitimate reason to go do it. So he said, so, you know, last month we took over the Verizon building, so sure enough, you know, a week earlier than that, um, I’m in the building and two o’clock in the morning and he said, I go find this guy and he’s, uh, he’s vacuuming the carpets. And he’s using the same kind of residential quality vacuum cleaner that I use at home.  

Right. He said, now you’ve got to understand those corridors are 12 feet wide and it’s a half a mile around. It’s going to take that poor guy a month just to vacuum the carpets one time. Plus. You know, it’s not going to do a very good job and it’s going to break down every couple of weeks because you know, those machines just aren’t made for that kind of use.  

He said, so when we took over, we put them into a triple wide industrial grade, you know, vacuuming machine, you know, and, uh, which will do the job much better in a fraction of the time. And that thing’s going to last forever because it, so then we go to another floor and I, and I find this. This, uh, somebody shampooing the carpet, he said kind of the same story he’s using the same kind of residential quality push behind squeeze bottle, Shannon, who who’re that I use at home.  

And it’s the same problem with it. He said. So when we took over, we put him into a commercial grade writing shampooer that really would just do a fabulous job in a fraction of the time. Plus notice that this gets the guy off his feet. Right. He’s now he’s sitting down all day instead of standing up. So he said, you know, that means he has my, that I have fewer workman’s comp issues, which means my client has fewer workman’s comp issues.  

He said, but the last thing I wanted to do, I want to check and see other dusting, the offices. So I had family offices and I looked on top of the file cabinets and I saw the same thing on top of all of them. It was off a half a moon swiped out on top. And he said, I know exactly what that means. You probably don’t see it.  

Right. He said, those file cabinets are five and a half feet tall and three feet deep. Right. He said some of the people cleaning them, just aren’t tall enough to reach all of them way to the back. And that’s what leaves that half a moon swipe he got on top. And he said, the truth is they’d be better off not cleaning it at all because it’s the contrast between the dusty part and the clean part that makes it obvious that it’s not been cleaned properly.  

So he said, when we took over, I just gave everybody these little 18 inch plastic extension wants for their dust cloth. So they could reach the back. Problem solved. Right? So telling this little, you know, two, three weeks story explains his key differentiating features, right? As opposed to him saying, well, look, the reason I’m better than my competition is we use a triple wide industrial grade vacuuming machines 

We use commercial grade riding shampoos, and we use a 18 inch extension loss. Right. You’re already asleep. Right. So, and, but the story exactly the same three benefits. But in a way that is so much more memorable and visceral, and like you can see in your mind’s eye, that guy riding around in that shampoo, or like the Zamboni, the driver at the ice skating back, right.  

You can see somebody easily reaching the back of the cabinets with their dust cloth. So the story is a far better tool to deliver that than him just. Reading the list of his features and benefits. Yeah, for sure. I mean, it makes it a lot more relatable and understandable and digestible and, and sticks better.  

You know, me personally, what’s funny, as you’re telling these stories is, um, my first job forever ago and I was 16. Was, I was a janitor at a junior high. And so as you’re talking about the triple while, I’m like, yeah, I remember that one of those I did. Yeah. Good boss. Yeah. Instead of a cheap one. So, all right.  

So you got these stories. What’s, what’s the deal with 10? Like, is there a strategic reason behind 10 is the magic number? No other than, you know, people like lists of 10. But, um, the other reason for it is that I literally, I counted up 70 different types of stories that I kind of trafficked in. And my first three books and I gave over 250 examples of those stories.  

So 10 was just a much smaller number than that. And, uh, the other reason is, um, I wanted, or my publisher wanted me to write a book that could be written that could be read in one hour. Right. So my first three books were normal size, 250 page books that, you know, you might spend eight or 10 or 12 hours reading, um, to write a book that can be read in a single hour is a big challenge. 

  

Right? So I just did not have space for any more than 10 stories. I didn’t have room for, you know, a hundred stories. How does a PO and you may not know, but how does your publisher, like what. What data goes into them making that decision that says, Hey, I’m our last Paul? Yeah. Well, so this pertains, so this is a new publisher for me.  

So my first book was published by one publisher, which is now heart part of Harper, Harper Collins leadership. My fourth and fifth books were published by two different. Publishers and this, this one, the 10 stories, great leaders tell the reason I wrote that book and part with it was because that the publisher Sourcebooks call me and basically said, Hey, look, we’ve been following your career as a writer.  

We like what we see. We’d love to publish a book by you, but look, here’s the deal. Okay. We only publish books designed to be read in one hour, like that’s, that’s their thing. And it’s a whole new genre of book for the, you know, the busy executive gets on an airplane, wants to finish the whole thing before the plane lands.  

So it’s just our shortening attention span of the core of corporate America. So why one hour and 90 minutes? I don’t know, but it’s, it’s a lot less than a normal eight to 10 to 12 hour read. Have you noticed any, and, and since, since your other books have been out for a little bit longer, you might not have any data to give an answer, but have you noticed any difference in the pattern of either the sales quantity or the reader feedback from those.  

Very different types of lengths of books. Yeah. So it’s probably too early to tell on, on sales and, uh, but feedback is definitely different. Um, most people that give me feedback love. The short format. Um, and it’s also a, it’s a higher quality book. It’s, I mean, it’s hard cover, but it’s all glossy pages and a lot of pictures.  

So it’s kind of like a small coffee table book. And so, you know, and a lot of people just really like that. Uh, they, they like the look the feel of it, but not everybody. And if you don’t know, what you’ve just bought is a book that you can read in one hour. Yeah, I’m guessing you’re going to be disappointed.  

In fact, that there was at least one feedback on my Amazon reviews. That was like, this was awful. I basically, I read the whole book in an hour. I could have written this book, you know, so if you’re expecting a 300 page book and you get a book that you read an hour you’re yeah, you’re going to be just you, you didn’t pay for a three hour book or a 10 hour book though.  

Yeah. So storytelling is clearly I think, um, why it works so well in business and marketing is because at the end of the day we’re humans. And so it just makes things more relatable and some people are natural storytellers, others, not so much. So do you think that, like, is this a skill that. Just about probably not everybody, but the majority of people could pick up or like there’s clearly an art behind it.  

So where do people get started? They say, I want to be a storyteller. What do they do? So it’s definitely an art and more than it is a science. Um, but yes, you can learn it. So, I mean, think of the best analogy is like music or painting or something. Like, there are definitely people who are naturally gifted artists or musicians.  

But for those of us who are not, that doesn’t mean you can never play the guitar. Right. But if you, if you wanted to learn to play the guitar, what would you do learn to play the guitar? Well, yeah, but how would you do it? Would you just buy the guitar and put it by your bed and hope as most of know, you know, Paul, I think that you’re reading my mind because I just bought a guitar for my kids and my, for me and my kids for like a thing for us to do.  

So my two boys got one, I got one. And, and so, yeah. So what’s your plan, YouTube. Okay. Yeah. So you’d learn from somebody who knew you take lessons is the answer. If you’d watch videos online, you’d buy a book. You’d go take classes. You’d learn from somebody who knows how you wouldn’t just start strumming on it and hoping that it sounded good.  

Right? Right. And storytelling is no different. Yes. It’s an art. Yes. Some people are better at it than others, but you can learn it. If you learn from somebody who knows what to do. So at the same thing, watch it, YouTube videos, read some books, go take a class. That’s what I do for a living. Right. I teach people how to be better storytellers at work.  

So yeah, absolutely can learn this in fact, I mean, all of us have been storytellers. Right. I think we, all of us as children are our storytellers and then somewhere in our early work career, we get that drummed out of us. No, you shouldn’t be doing that ridiculous piece of advice by the way, but yeah. Um, so it comes naturally to humans.  

You just have to kind of remember that it is a natural thing once. All so I’ll help me out with a specific example. So, as I mentioned, my area of expertise is search engine optimization. Clearly not the sexiest industry that’s out there. So where it’s largely data driven or factual evidence, how do I leverage my expertise and create crafting stories that are more attractive?  

Well, so you will want to tell us, uh, so like, uh, story number seven is a sales story. What we do for our customers, you will clearly need stories that help articulate what it is you do for your customers. Um, and you’ll also need a number six, which is actually what you tell before that, of course, which is, um, uh, w w w what you’re doing for them and why you.  

Why they need you like a problem story is a really good story for somebody like you to tell, because my guess is for your customers or your clients or your prospective clients, the biggest problem, they don’t even know what they don’t know. They don’t know that they have problem that you can solve for them.  

So for, um, for example, uh, there’s a, a guy named Ben, uh, Cole Berna who’s, um, at one point was. Uh, no, I’m sorry, Kevin Moulton. I got my names wrong. Um, he was selling. Uh, internet security protocol systems, right. Which is another mouthful for a sexy thing. Right. Which is, uh, they’re the people that right.  

Graham, so that when you get money out of an ATM machine or buy something online, nobody steals your credit card number. Right. Very necessary. Very boring. Very non-sexy. Okay. Yeah. So when he’s calling on a bank, he almost always tells him a personal story about him. When he was in Las Vegas at a conference it’s like at a sales company, that’s when he said, you’re now in Vegas.  

You know, you go to the conference during the day and then, you know, you’ve you go to the casinos at night? Right? So I was at the casinos and I was losing some and I was winning some and I was losing some and losing more. And pretty soon I got tapped out of cash. I’ll go put my card in the machine to get some more money.  

And it said, transaction denied. I tried it again, same thing, transaction nine. And then he was like, Oh, I know what’s going on. I live in New Jersey, all of a sudden I’m 2000 miles away in Las Vegas. It’s the middle of the night. And I’m trying to get a ridiculous amount of money out of this machine. Right?  

Like they think somebody stole my credit. Okay. And he says, I’m fine with that. Like, I’m glad my bank’s looking out for me that way he said, but the problem, the thing he did have a problem with, he said it was what they did about it. He said, they call my wife. In the middle of the night in New Jersey.  

Right. And can you imagine what that sounded like? Wow. Sorry to wake you up at 4:00 AM mrs. Moulton. But, uh, your husband’s at a casino in Las Vegas, trying to get a boatload of cash out of a machine. Do you approve of this transaction? He says she was so mad at me and I was so mad at them and he said they did not remain my bank very long.  

Right. He said, now, if that had been my company that had. With those, my credit card that, that, uh, you know, had the security protocols systems, whatever we wouldn’t have done it that way. Right. We would have sent a text message to, they would have sent a text message to my phone. They would ask me a smart security question.  

All the smart things that they do today. This is, you know, story must be a little old now, but. Anyway. He said that story helps them realize, Oh my gosh, you probably, they have the same problem where you’re getting in the way of your customers. Not only them doing legitimate business with you, but like getting in the way of their life and you don’t even know it.  

Right. So it’s a story that it helps them realize that they have a problem that they probably don’t need know they have. So that’s the kind of, you need a story like that, but then you also need a story. That’s a happy ending where you’re telling them, okay, now, Here’s a customer that was similar to that, but they came to me and here’s what I was able to do for them.  

And here are their results. So that’s kind of the classic customer success story. And you probably have those, you just haven’t thought about them as being a tool that you needed to develop and Polish off and, uh, and, and share. Oh, yeah, I got a ton of stories, you know, I, um, I’ve been an agency owner for 13 years, so it’s not like we’re in startup phase or anything.  

I think our blessing and our curse is that we’ve we’ve. Perform so well at SEO, you just get a constant stream of referrals. And so it’s, it’s pretty ironic that us as a marketing agency just about never does any marketing, that’s a great position to be in. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I appreciate your time, Paul, as we get kind of closer to wrapping up, I want to give you the opportunity to do two things.  

One, uh, give us your contact information. Tell us how listeners who get lost you there. I’m still here. You hear me? Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Hello? Can you hear me? Can you hear me? I definitely lost you. Can you hear me? I can hear you. Can you hear me? I can see you, but I can’t hear you. Um, why can’t I hear you?  

Oh chat. Uh, where’s the chat. Oh, there it is. Gear icon settings. Where’s the gear.  

Uh, can you hear me? Oh, there you are. You can hear me now. Yeah. Yeah. What’d you do? I didn’t do nothing.  

That’s fine. I still haven’t found the gear icon. So I’ll have my editor cut this part out. All right. Wait, wait, wait, let me get rid of this. Alright. Say something again? Hello there. Okay. Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe my, maybe my ear, uh, your bud ran out of juice or something. I don’t know. Now you’re on a different, but anyway, so, uh, hopefully we can use most of that  

And can we just do the closing again? Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, we’re totally good. I’ll have my guy cut it out. So, um, let’s take just like a two second pause and then I’ll just re ask the question. Let me, uh, let me put some other headphones on, hold on. Uh,  

Okay. Say something. Let me see where you are. Yeah, how’s that? Okay. You’re in my ears now. Okay. Good. All right. Okay. So one sec, I’ll just re ask the question and give a little break for my editor. All right, Paul. So as we get closer to wrapping up, I want to give you the opportunity to do two things. One is give us your contact information and you know what, but our listeners know how they can find out more about you and your books and you as a speaker.  

And then two, you have another book four days with Kenny Tedford. Um, just real quick. I’m guessing it’s a book that’s quite different than teaching storytelling. Um, so I’m just curious about that just as we call out. Yeah, thanks for both those. Yeah. So the best place to get in touch with me is my, my website, which is lead with a story.com.  

Just the name of my first book, I guess I was never more creative for that. Um, but yeah, that links there to all my courses and books and everything I do. Um, yeah, the, the newest books that just came out last month, four days with Kenny Ted rehab, very kind of off pattern for my other business books. But it is.  

So it’s a biography about a deaf man. He’s deaf in both ears and legally blind in one eye. Partially paralyzed on one side and couldn’t speak until he was like 10 years of age. So kind of like Helen Keller from that standpoint, but he also is a developmentally disabled. So he is IQ typically tests at around the third or fourth grade level.  

So he’s got a learning disability. So in that sense, he’s kind of like Forrest Gump, even though force comes fictional. So imagine this guy that has both sets of challenges and that is Kenny Tedford. And so he’s just a fascinating man. Well, a lovely human being and you know, far nicer than I would be. I think if I was him, I’d be angry and better at life and he’s just not, and that’s one of the reasons why I just felt compelled to, to capture his life story.  

So I spent the last few years writing his life story, and if I finally found the right publisher and, uh, so the, the title of the book four days with Kenny Tedford refers to the, the main four days that he spent at my house. Interviewing him for this book and the impact that it had on me and my wife, my kids are like listening to them, tell these stories.  

And, um, so you, you see in the book, not only his life kind of go by, but also the impact, you know, in my mind reaction to each of his stories and my internal thought processes about it. And, um, so it really ended up being something special that, uh, I just, I think the world will be a better place when people get to know mr.  

Kenny Tedford. It’s always amazing. You know, I have family and friends that have disabilities and challenges, and it seems like those that are drilled the roughest hand are the ones that are just more open arms. Yeah. The rest of us. Yeah. And maybe it’s just cause they have to be, but you know, here, this guy that he told he’d never finished the third grade.  

And um, so spoiler here, he ended up getting a master’s degree. In sports, by the way, at the age of 55. So it took them a lifetime, but perseverance, the guy did it. So, uh, yeah, just a really impressive human being. Oh, very cool. Paul, I appreciate your time. Paul Smith leadwithastory.com. It’s been a pleasure. 

Thanks Bob. Thanks for having me on. 

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Paul Smith: Using Storytelling to Grow Your Business

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