TSP006 | Jim Beach – Transcription

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TSP007 | Ben Larson – Transcription
TSP005 | Andrew Ackerman – Transcription

John Livesay:

Today’s guest on The Successful Pitch is Jim Beach who is the host of the radio show School for Startups Radio as well as the author of Hack Google Maps. Jim has quite a background including being invited to pitch at the White House and being invited to go back to the White House holiday party. That was a ringing endorsement. Jim really talks about the keys to being successful is having an enticing opening to your pitch that begs people to want to know more and he gives us a specific example that will blow your mind. Jim has something called rock stars in an elevator.

So, your elevator pitch set to music. Everything from Johnny Cash telling a story with a song A Boy Named Sue to Lady Gaga. Why is that so appealing that the song she sings and the things that she does, is because it’s shocking and our brains like new information. You’re going to like this new information that Jim has to share in today’s interview.

Hi everybody, welcome to The Successful Pitch podcast. Today’s guest is Jim Beach, who is known around the world as one of the top keynote speakers. He’s got a great book called Hack Google Maps. We’re going to ask him about that, but mostly we’re excited to hear about his rock stars in an elevator concept that he has. He has talked about this on his School for Startups Radio, which has incredible guests and airs on over 11 FM stations as well as the internet, so please welcome to the show with me. Jim, welcome.

Jim Beach:

Thank you so much for having me. It’s my honor.

John:

Jim, you started your career at such a young age. I was reading you started at 25 with an incredible startup that grew. Would you take us on that little bit of a journey, because people are always fascinated about how somebody gets to be as successful as you are.

Jim:

Well, thank you for that. I was working at Coca Cola and they decide they didn’t want me to work there anymore, so I got shown the door and I was distraught, I thought my entire career would spent at Coca Cola and I had a mid life crisis at the age of 23 or 24, decided what I really wanted to do was become architect and so I applied for architecture school to go and get a masters of architecture and started that and needed to pay for it. I also wanted to get married. I thought I would start a summer time business that would allow me to work three months a year and go to school nine months a year and support myself.

So, I started a summer computer camp company. It doesn’t sound so cool now, but back in the early 90s it was pretty innovative and exciting and it was a huge success. We eventually grew to 89 locations in the United States at placed like Stanford, MIT, Georgetown, UCLA, every big name school in a big city. We were also at Sorbonne, Oxford, Cambridge, internationally, and we did a lot of other projects as well. We write K through 12, math, science, technology curriculum for entire school systems. Things like that that eventually grew to 700 employees before I sold it about six years in.

John:

What a great story. You know what’s interesting is while you had plans to be an architect, you basically became the architect of your own life and your own business from this idea of doing a computer camp.

Jim:

That is true and unfortunately I had to stop architecture school just short of graduation because, you know, I think at that point the business had something like a 100 employees and it’s hard to do an 18 hour day masters program when you have 100 employees sitting around waiting for you.

John:

Depending on you. Well, what I find also really fascinating about that story you told is no matter how young or old we are, when we have an unexpected bump in the road whether it’s being laid off by a major corporation, that’s a big time to analyze what do I want to do with my life and sometimes it’s something that can be so devastating or shocking and not what we expected. If we can reinvent ourselves like you did, it’s so inspiring for everybody at any age, because even as an entrepreneur there’s many times where you have to pivot in your own life as well as your own business.

Jim:

That’s very true. I never planned on being an entrepreneur. It was the last thing in my mind and I’m not even sure what the word was when one of my friends asked me what does it feel like to be an entrepreneur and I never thought about it. To me, it was not what I wanted to do, but it turned out to be the perfect lifestyle for me. Interestingly when I found out from Coco Cola why I was invited to leave, they said, you don’t play well with others, maybe you should start our own business. It was very interesting that the astute people at Coca Cola had figured me out before I had figured me out.

John:

Ah. Well, I find that really fascinating feedback because, as a radio show host for School for Startups, you clearly have to play well with all of the different guests and all of the different next works. So, play well with others, running your own show is I guess different than playing well with others in a corporate environment.

Jim:

Yes, very true. It’s even more amazing. In the short time I was with Coca Cola, I saved them about a billion dollars over ten years and saving a company a 100 million dollars a year is apparently still not enough for them to keep you around.

John:

Isn’t that fascinating? Yeah, business today is not about taking any rejection or seemed rejection or, as you said, invitation to move on, you can’t take any of that stuff personally or you’ll drive yourself crazy.

Jim:

Especially as an entrepreneur where you’re going to get a rejection nine out of ten times, perhaps.

John:

That’s right. Well, I’m really excited to hear you talk about this whole concept of rock stars in an elevator, because we’re all talking abut pitching for funding a lot on this podcast and the whole concept of taking the word pitch and interpreting it not just pitching your idea, but also pitch in terms of music and being on key, so tell us how you came up with the whole concept of taking music into an elevator pitch?

Jim:

Well, it was not my idea, I must say. My co-author from my first book, which is called School for Startups, the McGraw-Hill book. The co-author was Chris Hanks and he’s the head of the entrepreneurship program at the university of Georgia and he and I have been friends for a long time. So, we’ve heard each other’s lectures. We know everything that each other does and he had two of these rock star songs that he was using. I will tell you at the end which two they were because I don’t want to give them away quite yet.

When the first book came out and did very well, we were sitting around drinking around one night and I was like, well, we need to write another book, we need to have a follow up, which still hasn’t happened yet and we sat down and created a whole paradigm of 14 of these rock star pitches and so Chris started it and I kind of took the ball after it and together we’ve come up with all of these, but I have, I’m more active with it than he is right now. He is pretty busy running his entrepreneurship program and one of the pitches that we will use to date, today, is one of the pitches that he actually won and, you probably didn’t see this, ESPN didn’t cover it very well, but he won the collegiate elevator pitch competition using one of the models that we will go over. So, this is the work of both of us, let’s say it was 50/50, I’m just the one talking about it today.

John:

Everybody requires a marketing voice and you certainly have the voice of America and the voice of startups, listening to you on your amazing radio show and it sounds like a great partnership and I want to talk about that too with you. Obviously, for you to decide to go into business with somebody, the relationship of having a right partner is a key to being successful in any startup.

Jim:

That’s very true.

John:

But, you know, that’s a key factor. So, sharing the credit, respecting everybody’s talent. Would you say that finding the right person to either be on your team or be a co-CEO or co-partner in something like you just did with rock stars in elevator is probably you want to look for somebody who has other skills that you don’t have that compliments you so that the two of your are stronger. If you were both really great at hosting a radio show, for example, or being the voice of something, then you may not need each other, right? So I think it’s always good to look for somebody who has something that brings to the table that you don’t really like doing, maybe.

Jim:

You know, there’s a fascinating book about this written by one of my friends named Joe Abraham from the Chicago area called Entrepreneurial DNA and he has the belief that there’s four times of entrepreneurs. There’s builders, opportunists, specialists, and innovators, and look for example Bill Gates versus Richard Branson. Incredibly different models of entrepreneurship. Branson has done 400 different business and is really not involved in any of them and Bill Gates spent 30 years at one business compared to Tomas Edison who’s really not even an entrepreneur. He comes up with new businesses like GE, but he rather be involved in the lab and just giving stuff away.

And so, I believe after reading this book by Joe Abraham that it’s more important to find someone who has a different entrepreneurial DNA than to find someone who has a different skill set. Two marketers, a marketer and a finance guy, if they’re both opportunists will run the business into the ditch. So, I would wholeheartedly recommend this entrepreneurial DNA philosophy and you can go and take a test at BosiDNA.org, I believe. It’s either .org or .com and it will tell you what type of entrepreneur you are in terms of builder, opportunist, specialist, innovator. It’s a fascinating way to look at your own personality and learn about yourself. I would use that metric before I would put a marketer with a finance. I don’t have a problem having two marketers together if one is a builder and one is a specialist or something like that.

John:

That’s a wonderful, unique perspective. I love that. I’m definitely going to get the book as well as going to put that link where people can take the test in the transcripts. So that obviously begs the question, Jim, which of these four entrepreneurs are you? A builder, opportunist, innovator, or specialist?

Jim:

I’m a builder. I like to build it and soon as it’s up and running, I lose interest in it pretty quickly. I’m the five year in and out type guy. I would rather build it, get it running, and then turn it over to a professional management team. I’m not a great manager, I’m a better builder along the way, I believe.

John:

It’s so important to know what you like to do and how to best to suit that. One of the things that really stands out for me in your fascinating bio is the fact that you’ve been to the white house more than once. Can you tell our listeners how did that happen and what’s that like to be there?

Jim:

I’ve been there several times, most interestingly to pitch. I was actually pitching a business there, so that’s very relevant to tonight’s discussion, but also I was invited to the White House Christmas party this same year and that was an amazing experience as well. They have several Christmas parties every year, they just don’t have one, but it was still an amazing experience just to see the beauty of the White House at Christmas. You go through and look at every different tree. There’s a different tree in every room and to experience it at a social level. The times I had been before,

I was there to pitch different White House officials for business that I was raising money for and so it relates exactly to what we were talking about and this business, I believe, it’s one of the coolest, sexiest businesses I ever run across. It had a pre-revenue valuation in the 15 million dollar range, which is one of the highest pre-revenue valuations I ever heard of.

So, I was hired to go and help raise money for this business at what I think we would all agree was an asinine pre-revenue valuation and the White House is one of the places that we pitched. It’s a health care business and so it relates directly to health and human services and the Obamacare law and so we were there to pitch to the White House officials I think the thing that was absolutely the most shocking and a little bit discouraging was that the room that we were invited into had absolutely no technology in it and…

John:

Oh, you’re kidding.

Jim:

So, we were literally, you know, here they have, what 1.9 trillion dollars of tax revenue of money to spend and myself, the founder of the company, three or four White House officials were literally crowded around a laptop computer in the White House, because there was no way to, you know, present normal, you know, no screen, no projector, nothing like that.

John:

I’d love to have a picture of that to show people. Pitching for most people is very nerve wreaking and I work with a lot of clients on confidence building and making sure that they’re prepared so I say don’t get rid of the butterflies in your stomach, get them to fly in formation, but I can’t imagine upping the anti so much that not only do you have to pitch, but you have to pitch at the White House and in a situation where you don’t even have technology, so you really have to prepare. Can you take us back to that day of, did you have butterflies in your stomach, more so because you were at the White House? The whole intimating, yet beautiful place. Did that make it more difficult or were you just excited?

Jim:

It was more of the excited type response. You know, just walking through the hallways and you would see the plaques on the office doors where it would say, White House Chief of Staff you would go past and the next office would be White House Counsel and you would know that used to be Hilary Clinton’s office and, you know, just the pure aura of the history, the excitement, it was not that nerve wreaking. It was not. I have presented in other situations where, for example, if I didn’t get the money, I was going to lose my house and end up taking up my two young children and living in a car or something like that. That was much more nerve wreaking.

I have been in that experience where the outcome of the fund raising would determine bankruptcy or not and I have gotten to the point where one day I got a letter from the bank saying you have 28 days to move out of the house, because we are repossessing it. That was much more nerve wreaking because there was a wife at home who was trying to find out of – you know, needed to start packing her clothes and personal items and stuff.

So, pitching can be both exhilarating and frightening. I think that once you’ve done it a bunch of times and I’ve done it a bunch of times at this point that hopefully it should be fun for you. I get to the point where I enjoy it because it’s an opportunity for you not only to shine, but it’s an opportunity for you to learn what other people think about your business. When you’re pitching, you think, you know, I’m here to get money, I’m here to get money. That’s a really bad attitude. I think you should go into it with the attitude, I’m here to learn more about my business from other really smart people and who may happen to decide that they think it’s sexy enough to want to invest in.

John:

Well, I want to go back to what you said a minute ago, because you know, pitching for money versus pitching to learn is such an important distinction for people. It’s all about the energy you put out and the mindset. If you have any insights, because much like, dating for example. No body wants to date someone who is desperate and if you, even when you have that financial thing hanging over your head, right, foreclosure or if I don’t get this money this business goes out of business, all that work and effort.

 

How did you take a breathe, compartmentalize that maybe and say, even though I’m under pressure, I don’t want to come across as desperate just like I don’t want to come across as desperate on a first day. Do you have any tips and suggestions for the listeners on even if, no matter how much pressure you’re under, how to deal with that and not come across desperate.

Jim:

Well, it’s so easy to come across desperate and you also have to be very honest with them. If you hide the fact that you’re desperate and they learn about that later, so they start the due diligence and they wake up and go, wow, this is really ten million dollars in debt. You’re going to seem dishonest and very deceptive. You told me how great the business is, but you’re hiding the biggest fact of all of the business. So, what we ended up doing and what I ended up learning was let’s take the dirty laundry out absolutely in sentence one and start off like this. I would like to tell you about the only business that’s ten million dollars in debt, 27 days away from bankruptcy that you’re still want to invest in!

John:

Wow, that’s a powerful opener.

Jim:

It really is. It totally – they’re like, okay, I got to hear more about that thing, because there’s a never business I’m going to invest in that’s ten million in debt, the venture capitalist or the angel would think, but if you can then give them one or two sentences that sort of their, you know, well, you’re right, maybe I do want to invest in this. We have 95% market share. We are 60% profit margins. We’re still growing at 300% a year and we’ve only got about 2% market share.

Well, okay, maybe I do want to hear about that. How are you stupid enough to get ten million dollars in debt would be the follow up question that you would expect to hear, but what you’ve done then is you’ve done all the pitch stuff that you want to do which is get them enticed to make them want to hear more, make them beg to have a follow up question, but also you’ve proven how incredibly honest you are and you’ve established a wonderful foundation for just an honest relationship.

I believe very sincerely in pitching and dating, you know, I was divorced and had to go out into the dating world with two kids and an ex-wife. That’s the first thing you tell someone. You meet a good looking girl, the first thing you should say is, you know, I know you never wanted to date a divorce guy with two tiny kids, but I’m the one you’re going to want to date, you know.

So, I think that whenever you have a bad thing to share or you are incredibly nervous. I think that’s probably where you should start. This is the first time I ever given a pitch in front of a real VC and so I just want you to know that and so I may come across as a little bit nervous because I am. However, I still believe in this business very, very much. I always lead with, you know, your weakest thing. I am here to sell you a $400,000 car. If you can’t afford a $400,000 car, you want to stop the negotiation really fast and not waste your time. So, if you walk into a Rolls Royce dealership, the first thing they’re going to say is, here’s a beautiful $400,000 car. Are you still interested and you know, if you go, well, that doesn’t scare me. What color is this come in? They know they have a hot customer or a hot lead.

John:

I love what you said so much because people are judging us whether they want to invest in particular on so much more than just the idea. It’s all about character. Do you have integrity? Are you someone I like? Do you, are you going to be honest with me? And what you just shared Jim is so incredibly helpful because you showed how to give a statement in three different examples where it’s enticing, but incredibly open and airing the dirty laundry up front so that there’s no secrets and yet people are still intrigued when they would think they would not be because you’ve got that element of surprise in there. So that’s really great structure and so amazing. Well, I really want to get back to the rock stars and elevator, because it’s just a great concept. If there’s anything more you can talk about or share with us, an example of a song or how you’ve tied that in.

Jim:

Sure. Well, there are actually 14 songs that we’ve selected. Each one leading to a unique and sexy value proposition and so let’s start off with Lady Gaga. You could also replace it with Madonna or that girl who keeps taking naked pictures of herself, Miley Cyrus, right. Why did these actresses, rock stars, try to shock and provoke us? It’s because shocking and provoking things attract our attention. Anything that’s new. The concept of just newness is going to attract our attention.

For example with Lady Gaga, I don’t think I had ever heard any of her songs, but I already knew she appeared at the Oscars wearing a meat uniform. Remember she showed up with a meat costume and then like a week later she went to the Emmys inside of a big egg and had four guys carrying the egg and why does Madonna like to go on stage and kiss other girls on stage? It’s to shock us. To make us think, wow, that’s a new idea and when you hear something new, you intrinsically want to find out more about it.

So, the elevator pitch for the very first year of our summer camp business was we run computer summer camps and people would go, computer summer camps? I’ve never heard of that. That’s more interesting. Tell me more about, because instead of saying we run outdoors rock climbing, horse back riding summer camps, you throw in that new word, it’s the unexpected, exactly. So, any time you can shock people with the newness of what you’re doing, that’s a pretty good elevator pitch. I’m not going to say it’s the best. I think this is one of the weakest, but it’s still something that allows the listener to go, oh really? That’s interesting. I want to hear more about it because people love hearing new things that they’ve never been exposed to.

John:

So, 14 songs or examples, is there one that you think is one of your favorites besides the Lady Gaga example?

Jim:

Sure, we could go with another really important one would be Johnny Cash and the song for Johnny Cash would be A Boy Named Sue. You know, Johnny Cash is a story teller. If you listen to his songs, there’s almost always a story there. Why did this dad name a boy named Sue, so that the boy would be toughed up and so, we need to learn from that that when we make a pitch, we should try wrap it in a story so that people remember it.

People remember stories better than they remember anything else. So, in year four, the elevator pitch for our summer camp was, I take kids that have never been happy before and make them happy. Last week I had a letter from a girl named Alison and she said to me that she’s now smiling for the first time in two years. So, I’ll remember that. You’ll remember that because it’s got details. Two years. A girl named Alison. Smiling.

Now, instead of saying, we had a camper who had a really great experience. You don’t remember that! Instead I tell you a true tangible story that reenforces the general theme that we’re talking about and the reason the business was so successful was because we really did take unhappy kids and make them happy. We thought we were teaching them computers.

In year two or three what we found out was we’re taking unhappy kids and making them happy and a parent will pay anything for that, you know, pay anything for that. So, the Johnny Cash theme or the point from Johnny Cash is, always try to tell a story, because people remember stories better than anything else.

John:

We’re going to tweet that out, for sure. People remember stories better than anything else and what I really like about what you said is, the way to make your story incredibly memorable is to give specific details. Not just any story of any child, but how did this one particular person because happy through this experience and then everybody can broaden it out to well, I want my kid to be like that, so I want that and if someone is pitching something. If you can tell a story of one customer whose problem you solved and how much that changed their life then suddenly that’s a memorable story. It’s the detail. It’s so great. Well, Jim, in the last few minutes, you know, people obviously should buy your book, Hack Google Maps. Do you want to tell us real quickly what the big takeaways is, I mean, the title along is intriguing. You’ve got my lizard brain curious about how do I hack a Google map.

Jim:

Well, we’re going to give you screen shot by screen shot for hacking anything on Google maps. The story started, my co-author Bryan Seely was at a McDonald’s play land and was bored and from a McDonald’s play land was able to go on Google Maps and reprogram the CIA and the FBI contact information so that if you called the CIA, you actually his cellphone instead.

The end of the story is that it’s a 200 billion dollar a year problem in the United States affecting mostly consumers and small businesses and there have been entire industry devastating, destroyed, because Google has let this flaw in Google maps persist for the last ten years. They’ve done nothing to solve it.

They know that the problem is there and now the chances are if you call a lock smith in the United States, the chances are about 95% that you’re actually communicating with the Russia rob and it’s a really sad story and it’s start off with just changing the FBI and the CIA contact information, which you can do under 30 minutes from a Mcdonald’s play land wifi. So, the book tells that entire story, but most importantly it tells you as a small business owner how to prepare your business so that you’re not a victim of this.

John:

That’s so important. Well, how to prepare yourself so you’re not a victim of that. Hack Google Maps is a book that you’re definitely going to want to get as well as the one you recommended, Entrepreneurial DNA. We want to definitely subscribe to or listen to School for Startups Radio and how else could someone reach you Jim? How else could people find out more about your rock stars in an elevator or book you for a talk?

Jim:

I’m at @EntrepreneurJim on Twitter and SchoolforStartupsRadio.com is the radio show and if you wanna see about the different speeches that I give, you can go JimBeach.com and all of the presentations that I give are there including a really great presentations on how to hack LinkedIn. We’ve done that as well. So, you can get anyone’s email address off of LinkedIn. Rock stars in an elevator is also one of the presentations there as well.

John:

How to hack LinkedIn or the CIA. You might be getting another invitation from the White House for a whole other reason, right?

Jim:

Or jail somewhere. Yes. I’m always looking out for five black SUVs to show up and mysteriously make me disappear. So, we’re looking for that as well.

John:

You have way too much value and insights to offer the world. You’re not going anywhere. I know we’re so grateful for you being on The Successful Pitch. Look forward to hearing you interview other people who can tell us about how to be successful and you certainty model that for everybody, Jim. Thank you again.

Jim:

Thank you so much for having me.

TSP007 | Ben Larson – Transcription
TSP005 | Andrew Ackerman – Transcription