TSP039 | Mark Asquith – Transcription

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TSP040 | Brandon Esposito – Transcription
TSP038 | Roger Dooley – Transcription

John:

Today’s guest on the Successful Pitch podcast is Mark Asquith. He has the number one podcast in the U.K. with a podcast called “Excellence Expected.” He’s also a speaker, an entrepreneur, an author of a wonderful book about productivity that’s free to download from his website. He also has some great insight on the five Twitter mistakes to avoid. He says, if you have a start-up there are three things you need to do to be successful. Number one, you need to really be focused, and that taps into your productivity.

Number two, you need to really be prepared to shift or pivot. He gives a great analogy of, you’re a captain of a ship and you’re just off by one degree, it doesn’t matter at the beginning, but by the time you get a year into your business, you could be miles away from the destination you need to be at. Finally, you need to have a profit mindset. That really is the key to being a successful start-up. I think you’re really going to enjoy listening to Mark. He’s going to talk about Blab and Periscope and all things new and exciting for start-ups.

Hi, and welcome to the Successful Pitch podcast. Today we’re honored to have Mark Asquith, who is an entrepreneur, a speaker, has the number one podcast in the U.K. called “Excellence Expected,” and a self-described geek. Obviously, I want to know him. Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark:

Thank you, sir, pleasure to be here.

John:

Mark, you have such an amazing story of how in 2005, you decided you weren’t going to work for anybody anymore, you were slightly burnt out, and you said, there’s got to be a better way. You started your own design and digital agency, with a bunch of great initials, DMSQD, 2010, which is still operating, and then you really have become an expert on productivity, starting in 2012. Would you mind taking us a little bit on that journey, because it’s so interesting?

Mark:

Yeah, of course, I kind of got to about 2005 and realized that I just got really bored working for other people. It was just quite a dull time really, and I was working in the corporate world, as many people do. It’s just a story that’s familiar to many entrepreneurs and business people, and kind of realized I was spending a lot of time with people that, being completely honest, I didn’t really have too much in common with. I decided just not to do it any more, so I stopped doing it, just stopped doing it.

I was kind of lucky, because I was still young. I didn’t really have too many commitments, especially financial commitments, so I was able to do that relatively easily. Just kind of started freelancing, doing contract work, and moving through into training and digital training and digital enablement for big public bodies and private sector clients in the U.K.

As you said, in about 2008, I think it was, I started the web agency, which has gone through various different versions, and when I say that, I mean, it started out, it was me, just being me, then we morphed into being me with a couple of co-founders, and then we morphed into what we have today, which as you say, is actually DMSQD. Believe it or not, as we record this, we have just actually rebranded. Yeah, we’re changing from DMSQD to Hacksaw, which is quite an interesting one. I always feel that, there’s always different, I guess, progression points in the life of a business. Being in the creative sector, we find that so much. Every few years, we redefine how we serve people and help people.

This particular time, when we did that, we realized that actually DMSQD didn’t fit anymore. We’re just going through a bit of a fun rebrand, which is kind of nice. Throughout the process of developing that business, like you said, John, I’d sort of got to about 2012, and just got the balance wrong. Even if there is such a thing, I actually don’t think there is, balance to be had between work and life. I kind of got that wrong, I was working on the wrong things at the wrong time, spending too much time on these wrong things. Just have to do something about it.

That’s when I started really taking productivity seriously. Which sounds odd, I mean, had a business for such a long time before that. I realized the power of focused and conscious productivity as opposed to just getting through the day. Big, big turning point, and that led to the podcast, “Excellence Expected,” led to what we’re doing at the studio, rebranding to Hacksaw, and the success that we’ve had there. Yeah, it’s an interesting journey. It’s certainly been a fun one, and it continues on, which is always the main thing, really.

John:

Well, I’m always fascinated, because my background is in branding and advertising, and I think all the founders listening, when you’re pitching for investors, you really have to have a good story behind your brand, and even the name of your brand. Oftentimes there’s a great story on how you came up with the name. I’m sure you considered a lot of different names before you landed on “Excellence Expected” for your podcast. How did you come to that?

Mark:

You know, I didn’t consider many, as odd as that might sound. Normally, I completely agree. I’ve renamed several businesses, I completely agree, you go through such a process with it. But I kind of knew what I wanted to say with it. I knew that it was for business people, they always want more from themselves, they always expect themselves to be excellent. I knew what the sentiment was for the show, I knew that it was helping small business people, I knew that it was trying to enable people to pick out certain issues that were stopping them excelling, and really try and solve some of those problems, using the show.

I stumbled upon, well, I didn’t stumble upon it, I was consciously reading Steve Jobs’s autobiography by Walt Isaacson, and did the famous quote that Steve Jobs states that people aren’t used to working in an environment where excellence is expected. I just thought, you know, that kind of just summed everything up.

John:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark:

People like you and I expect ourselves to be excellent, and if we’re not, we don’t let it out the door, or we beat ourselves up. That was the real light bulb moment. Of course, you know, we expect ourselves to be this good. That’s where it came from, really.

John:

I like it.

Mark:

The sentiment was there for a long, long time, and then Mr. Jobs managed to articulate it for me in the pages of his autobiography.

John:

Well, Steve Jobs was also known for being a perfectionist, but for me, excellence is not the same as perfectionist, perfectionism. Do you agree that there is a difference?

Mark:

Oh, absolutely, you can be a perfectionist and completely fail at everything, because you focus on the things that don’t matter.

John:

Right, got it. Well, let’s take a deep dive, so the listeners are going to get some great takeaways. Because you’re such an expert in productivity, you actually are kind enough on your website to allow people to download a free book on this topic, which I’ve spent some time reading, and I have to tell all my listeners, you’ve got to download this book on productivity, it’s fantastic. One of the things that really resonated with me was, you know, the element of personal scheduling. One of my favorite quotes is, “If it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t happen.” How do you personally, and what kind of advice do you give people who are saying, “You know, I have my schedule and then the day gets out of control, and all I’m doing is putting out fires, and I don’t get any of my things accomplished.”

Mark:

I think it’s a challenge that faces all, and I think so many of the most successful people would just completely live by the sentiment that you’ve just stated, “If it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done.” That was something that recently I’ve tried to even tighten upon myself. I think we all dip in and out with habit, and we sometimes catch ourselves falling back on things we’re comfortable doing. I think we constantly have to be assessing that and you know, the idea that “if it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t get done,” is really important.

The way that I determine what gets done is, kind of using a couple of different methods. I’m a big advocate of the Gary Keller book, The1Thing, which I think is a fantastic book. I wholeheartedly believe that set some time aside and focus on something that’s the one thing that you need to get done. The issue is, defining that one thing that needs to get done can be really, really difficult. The way that I do it, and it’s in the book actually, is I just use something called the “triple one principle.” Someone told me the “double one” principle when I was younger, and I added the third one myself.

John:

I love it.

Mark:

The first two things are, you’ve got to basically sort out what’s important and what’s interesting. So the task that you undertake, which of these is important, which of these are interesting. The trouble is, that doesn’t really take into account the things that you can’t get away from, so that’s the third one, which is, what’s integral. Just measure your time out, figure out what you do on a daily basis. I mentioned in the book, measured it for two solid days, and then all the tasks that you do, split them into one of three categories. Important, interesting, and integral.

John:

Fantastic. We’re going to tweet that out. That’s great. “Is what you’re doing important, interesting, and integral?” That’s great.

Mark:

Exactly.

John:

I love it.

Mark:

It’s huge, and it will change the way you think about things. I talk through in the book as well, various ways of deciding what to do. So many productivity books will just cut out what’s interesting. But you can’t do that, that’s impossible, because it’s interesting to you for a reason. I think it’s about finding a harmony between all those tasks, and making sure, just as so many other productivity books state, making sure you get the important stuff done when it should be done, and making sure that your mind is completely active when you’re doing those things.

You can’t ignore the integral. You can’t, it’s not as easy as turning off your e-mail, it’s not as easy as not taking any phone calls all day. It’s just sadly not that easy. Yeah, I think that’s the big thing people need to understand. I think we all need to keep reassessing that, break everything that we do down into this “triple one” principle.

John:

Right, and especially the interesting aspect of that. Because you talk about one of the key ways to prevent burn-out is to stay happy. It seem so basic, but if you’re interested in what you’re doing, then you’re engaged and then that prevents burn-out, if I understood your book correctly. Would that be accurate?

Mark:

Well, I think so, and I would sort of add to that piece. It’s the, I feel the happiness comes from the fulfillment and the satisfaction that you don’t have anything hanging over you, so you’re not, when we think about the burn-out stage or we think about the path that takes us to that stage, it’s because we’re constantly, as you said earlier, John, we’re constantly fighting fires, and we’re constantly shifting gears and shifting directions, just to try and get these little things done. I think when you start to focus on what’s important, and you achieve that, you actually concede to yourself that it’s all right to do something interesting for twenty minutes or for half an hour.

John:

Nice.

Mark:

Because you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve for the day.

John:

Yes.

Mark:

I think we can’t be too hard on ourselves in that respect. We’ve got to understand that we set out in business to enjoy it. No one ever says to their parents, “I’m going to start a business and two years in, I’m going to absolutely hate it. I’m going to be doing work that I don’t enjoy.” No one says that. So you’ve got to keep it interesting. No question.

John:

Fantastic. One of the guests that you had on “Excellence Expected” was none other than Guy Kawasaki, and one of the things that he said in that interview that I wanted to ask you about, that I thought was so great, is “most CEOs suck at social media.” Since one of the other things that you offer on your website, is something again that you can download for free, everybody, “Five Twitter Sins,” I’d love to have you talk about Guy’s quote and the whole concept of social media and all that. Good stuff.

Mark:

Yeah, it was a fun one with Guy, such a fantastic character and such a nice, gracious chap. The sentiment there, the context of that was really that, he’s very much, and this is massively advocated by so many entrepreneurs, but he’s very much about people-to-people, human-to-human, and that’s why most CEOs generally suck at social media, because they don’t understand that it’s not the traditional one-way, linear, shout-out-loud marketing that they perhaps are used to.

That kind of puts that into some context, and I think especially in small business, I find that most people still don’t get how social media works, because they feel like they should go on there. It’s like an e-mail newsletter, they think their e-mail newsletter is still the way to go about marketing, using e-mail marketing. The minute that you realize no one really cares what’s in your newsletter, the minute you start to get creative and actually start to give value. I think that’s where so many people in small business really, really struggle. They’ll jump on, they’ll pop a tweet out once every three days because “it’s the right thing to do,” they feel somehow vindicated by doing so.

All they’ll do is, they’ll say, we’ve got a new product, we’ve got a new service, or we’ve won an award, or we’ve got new premises, or new team member. No one cares. When you start to dig underneath that and really dig into it, most people in small business, they only worry about that, because they assume it will take all of their time to create this massive overarching social strategy, when actually they can start, they can really start very easily by just being their self and having a bit of personality, and having something to say that will connect with people. You know, the whole “know-like-trust” linear path through

That starts with personality, and I think that’s what Guy was getting at, that most CEOs don’t get that. I do believe a lot of small business people still don’t understand that it’s all right to just be yourself and actually be you.

John:

Yes, because especially when I’m coaching people on how to pitch themselves to investors, I explain to them time and again that you’re pitching yourself. They’re investing in you and then your idea, not the other way around. Social media is a great way to develop relationships as you mention in your “five Twitter sins to avoid.” Judy Robinett who wrote that great book, “How to be a Power Connector,” and how we actually met, which is a great example of connecting, is all about connecting through people and who can you acknowledge on Twitter that’s said something nice about you and having that personal relationship and your personality come through in social media, which then translates to your brand, which then translates to what you’re doing, really is such great insights that you’re offering people.

Mark:

Well, I think it really is about that, I think it is about just connecting and being there and adding the value.

John:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). One of the things that I really enjoyed recently is your new Periscope videos that you’re doing, and you had such great tips on start-ups. There’s three of them, focus, pivot, and profit. I wanted to have you, if you wouldn’t mind, go into each one a little bit, but in particular, I love this concept of how being, the analogy you used of the captain and this ship and one degree.

Mark:

It’s a massive one that is, and really understanding that, that’s in the pivot, and it kind of overlaps into focus as well, but definitely the ability to be able to pivot and just decide that you’ve gone ever so slightly in the wrong direction, and when you start looking back over your shoulder, you’re miles away from where you wanted to be. I think, as you said, the captain of the ship analogy is a really useful one, because if you set out in small business, I don’t know any business, really, that one year later is exactly the same as it was the year before, you know, when they first started. People change.

The businesses that go under, in my opinion, a lot of the problems that they have is they don’t realize soon enough that they have got it wrong. They’re focused so much on being busy, getting through the day today, going in and doing what they need to do just to get through that day. They’ve not stepped away from it, looked to the big picture and course corrected where they need to. You know, if you do set off one degree out for six months, you’re still only, you’re within touching distance of where you thought you might probably want to be. But a year down the line, eighteen months down the line, you’ve got such a massive chasm to cross to get back on course, that people really do then start to lose a bit of faith.

I think having the mindset of being able to pivot and allowing yourself to actually understand that that’s all right. It’s not failure, you’re just changing. If you go to a restaurant, you order a steak, and then the minute the guy walks off, you say, “Excuse me, actually, sir, I changed my mind, I didn’t want a steak, I wanted a lasagna.” He doesn’t care, he’s not, oh, look at this guy, he’s changed his mind. It’s just that steak wasn’t going to work for you at that time. I think that’s, allowing yourself to have that confidence that it’s not failure, you don’t have to impress anyone, you don’t have to pretend to anyone that you’ve got everything sussed, it’s all right to have that pivot.

I think that’s where the focus comes in. You’ve got to, I believe you’ve got to have the focus on the day-to-day, and you’ve got to schedule a time, as we mentioned earlier, to be able to get through the important tasks. But then, you’ve got to allow yourself to focus on the course. If you look Eric Reeves’s book, the job of a founder is to steer the business, it’s to knock it back in line. It’s like a puck on an ice rink, you’ve just got to knock it in the right direction. That’s the same thing with focus, you’ve got to take some time out to not only focus on the minutiae and get the day-to-day done, but focus on this course, and if it’s not right, be able to pivot through.

When you put that together with a third tip that I discussed in that Periscope, which is to have the profit-first mentality, and this is something that people like Chris talks about a heck of a lot. You’ve got to understand that it’s not about being in a pub and saying how much you turn over. No one cares. It’s about actually making the cash, you’ve done the thing that makes your business a success. Really, when we break it right down, is you’ve got to have cash in the bank. If you don’t have that, you won’t be there doing business.

John:

That’s so valuable to our listeners, because when you’re pitching an investor, you have to not just say how you’re going to make money, but how you’re going to be profitable so that they can actually get the return on investment that they’re seeking. If you’re just talking about how many users you have on an app and you haven’t figured out how to monetize it, it’s meaningless.

Mark:

Well, the best example of that is Twitter, you know, they still struggle. They still really, really struggle. We’ll tweet that.

John:

We’ll get kicked off Twitter.

Mark:

Yeah, we’ll get kicked off Twitter, see you all on Facebook. It is difficult, and in the first year, you just, you get through the first year by getting through the day to day. You go to work, you’re busy, you come home, and then the next day you do the exact same thing, and before you know it, you’re eighteen months in, you’ve not made a penny. It’s difficult because you need to step out and look at the profit. We’ve all fallen prey to that before.

The sad thing is, it’s because we enjoy what we’re doing so much that we just want to go and do it, especially new start-ups or new business people. Never had the freedom, we’ve never had that freedom to be able to do what we want, so for a year or eighteen months or whatever it is, we’re just going and loving it. We’re like a dog in a field, we’re running around, it’s amazing. But without it actually being profitable, not turning something over that’s impressive but without actually making profit, the second eighteen months is not going to be as much fun.

John:

No, and I think one of the key things that you talk about is this importance of focus. One of the focal points is how many months until we break even, and once we hit that milestone, then we can start talking about being profitable, but if you don’t even have that first milestone of breaking even in mind, then you’re never going to be profitable.

Mark:

Exactly. Completely, sorry, just to interject there, I think one of the, the other thing I would say to people, I would even skip over break even. If your goal is just to recoup the cash that you’ve invested, that really feels like such a safe goal. I always really, really try and tell people, look, just make the profit as quick as you can. Because you can make it, with the right focus in the right place. You can focus on it, because if you didn’t think you could profit from it, you wouldn’t have started the business.

John:

You wouldn’t have started it, exactly. Great. Well, the other thing that’s really in your wheelhouse of expertise is Periscope and Blab and getting leads from all that. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Mark:

Yeah, absolutely, this is still quite a new thing for me, actually. Well, it’s a new thing for everyone at this point, and there’s certainly some massive social media influences that are doing a really, really good job with this. But I’ve been using Periscope very specifically to build the relationship, put my face there, because I do an audio podcast, I write the blogs, I run the Facebook groups, I do everything else, I do, I run the agency. People in the agency know me completely differently to the people that listen to the podcast.

It’s all right for me to go on Periscope and give my tips out, but I also want you to see me walking through my house, past my Batman and Robin picture and my set of comics. You know, I’ve got, I’ve just literally picked up a Superman hat , and I want people to see that it’s me that’s doing this. It’s all these things that I say, I’m actually practicing. It’s not just wannabe, this sounds like a really good idea. That’s what I’m using Periscope for, so it’s about generating leads in a very passive, nurturing manner, just allowing you to contextualize a lot of the content that you put out there.

Because if you send an e-mail newsletter to your clients, they don’t know, they don’t care. If you’ve won an award and you tell them on the, the only newsletter that you’ve sent out in the last six months is you telling your clients how well you’ve done at awards ceremony, they don’t care, but if they know you, if they feel like they know you, then they care. Then they reply, and say, “Well done.” Then you’ve got a dialogue, you can start talking, you can start to help them, you can start selling things with them. For me, that’s where Periscope really comes into it.

Of course, it has so many applications, but I think for the small business owner, for the entrepreneur, it’s about taking your face and making it something that people are used to seeing and enjoying what you’re doing. I think it’s just add the personal element, and it will add to the arsenal that you’ve got when it comes to saying, “Listen, guys, I’ve got a new product, let me give you this behind the scenes look at it. I’m going to turn my phone around. Here is my product that I am working on right now, so when you buy this, you can see, it’s blood, sweat, and tears gone into it.” I think that’s really powerful.

John:

We’re going to tweet that out. “Use Periscope to make your face something people are used to seeing.” That’s a great line. Love it. Then can you chat briefly about Blab?

Mark:

Yeah, Blab again, I mean, this is really new as we’re recording this one. But I’m seeing, especially in podcasting space, I’m seeing so many people, so many people start to use Blab for recording, which is mindblowing, you know, really just recording the entire conversation. Which I love, I love the idea, I wish I’d kind of done it sooner. I think Blab is really really useful, I think that’s going to really find its place for small business in particular, when it comes to Q&A sessions or when it comes to engaging your customers.

Like for example with podcast websites, I can see us using Blab to have a conversation, “Listen, guys, what do you want? What else can we do to make your life better?” Allow people to jump in on that conversation. I think small business people, the barrier, I wrote a blogpost on it earlier, actually. It’s called “Periscope: The Marketing’s Game Changer.” Something like that, it’s over on the website. It talks about how the barrier to creating an engaging video content has never been lower. We’ve all got amazing cameras in our pockets, we’ve all got access to high speed internet. We complain if we’ve got 3G, like that’s the slowest we can tolerate. Think about, that’s amazing.

The tools that we’ve got at our disposal, the things that we’ve been doing business with for so long. We’ve got our personality, we’ve got our faces, we’ve got our expertise, we’ve got our smile, we’ve got the way we articulate things, and these are the tools that we’ve been doing business with for the last whatever, five hundred, six hundred years. Commerce has been going on with these tools only. People using Periscope and Blab, that’s all they’re doing, they’re using the tools that they’ve always had.

I think that’s where small business needs to just perhaps catch up a little bit, insofar as don’t be shy of it, don’t be afraid, don’t worry about, well, what do I need to say? What do I say? Just go on, and people, when you’ve done two or three of them, people will tell you what they want you to talk about. Because they will ask you the questions. I think that’s where Blab is really going to take off. It’s about small businesses, it’s about talking directly to the people that you want to work for, that you want to serve. I don’t think there’s ever been a medium like it. I think it’s stunning.

John:

It’s great. It reminds me of an old TV show called “The Brady Bunch” here in America, where they had all these squares of the family members popping up and pointing and looking at each other. It’s quite funny to see all that now become a reality, of a whole new way to communicate and connect. In addition to the book that you have on your site of “The Fourteen-day Guide to Being More Productive,” and you mentioned The1Thing, is there another book that you want to leave our listeners with as far as a recommendation about life, productivity, anything.

Mark:

One of the biggest influences on my life has been such a short book, but it’s so powerful. It’s “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale. I mean, it’s such a powerful book. It talks about success, it talks about what we as a society, what we desire and how we pursue what we desire in life. The sentiment of that book being, we become what we think about, and it’s really that simple, the strangest secret to life is we become what we think about. It’s so simple, yet so profound. I think that is always my barometer. If I’m in a bad mood, if I’m having a bad day, I always go back to, we become what we think about. Do you want to become this pain in the ass, negative person? If not, get over that bad mood. Just get back to normal.

John:

Right.

Mark:

Yeah, the Strangest Secret, Earl Nightingale, is amazing.

John:

Oh, that’s terrific. I love that. We’ll be sure to put that in the transcript and the show notes for people to click on that. Because you know, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re afraid that this isn’t going to work out or you got some bad news from a customer or what have you, you can either continue to think about that, and make catastrophe in your head and play worst case scenario out, or you can stop yourself and focus on something you do want to have happen. That’s great insight, there, Mark.

Mark, it’s been a pleasure. How can our listeners follow you on Twitter and your website? Give us all that good information if you would.

Mark:

Of course, well, thank you, John. Honestly, it’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The easiest places to connect with me are, as you said, on Twitter @Mr. Asquith, and over at excellence-expected.com. Or if you do a Google search for Excellence Expected, the site will come up, and you can find everything there.

John:

Terrific. Well, it’s just full of so much valuable information, and your podcast is fantastic, you have amazing guests and we’re honored to have had you on The Successful Pitch today. Have a great one.

Mark:

Thank you, John, all the best.

John:

All the best. Thanks for listening to The Successful Pitch podcast. If you like the show, please go to iTunes and write a review, and encourage your friends to write reviews, too. It really helps get the word out. You know, people say that the longest distance is between someone’s mouth and their wallet. People can tell you they’re going to invest, but when it comes time to write the check, they don’t do it. So how do you get people to say yes and then follow through?

Visualize yourself on the left side of a river bank, and you have to cross the river, and on the other side of the river is where the funding happens. So first you make up your idea, then you make it real, then you make it reoccur. Once you start dipping you toe into the water to get to funding, that’s where I can help. I get you across that river faster than you would on your own, with a lot less frustration than you will get when you hear a bunch of noes and you don’t know why. So if you want some help getting funded faster with less frustration, go to my free funding webinar, sellingsecretsforfunding.com/webinar. Sign up and get in-depth information on how you can get funded fast. Thanks.

TSP040 | Brandon Esposito – Transcription
TSP038 | Roger Dooley – Transcription