In this episode I talk with Kristi Piehl, who after 12 years as a TV news anchor decided to turn the tables and use her expertise to get her clients on TV. She’s the Founder and CEO of Media Minefield, a TV news-driven public relations agency specializing in earned media nationwide. In this conversation, you’ll hear how Kristi has carved out a niche that is shaking up the PR industry and doing things differently to help financial advisors across the country get the attention they deserve!
- To begin, we learn about Kristi’s journey in the news industry. She shares how she went from being laid off as an investigative journalist to starting a company that is completely transforming an outdated approach to public relations. You’ll discover her unique methodology for consistently helping financial advisors and other clients, land big interviews on major TV outlets around the country!
- We then talk about the best way to make sure you are getting the most mileage out of your media coverage with different strategies to keep your content alive, as opposed to the one and done approach most TV appearances receive.
- Next, Kristi goes into her firms step-by-step framework for helping their clients nail every TV interview, including tips on answering tough questions from rogue news anchors and how to drive traffic from TV to your website to ultimately create appointments and drive revenue.
- Finally, we really dive deep into company culture and building a world-class team. Trust me, Media Minefield didn’t get listed as one of Business Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work, 3 years running, for nothing. Kristi shares a ton of tactics and best practices for creating an engaged, motivated and happy team that will take your business to an entirely new level!
Already heard it once or twice? Please leave a short review here, and tell me which guests I should have on!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- [03:40] Kristi shares her methodology for keeping a positive mindset during adversity, a skill every financial advisor can benefit from.
- [07:41] Find out how Kristi went from being laid off to finding her passion and starting Media Minefield, a company that’s completely changing the public relations game and helping financial advisors get the media attention they deserve!
- [18:48] The framework Kristi uses to help financial advisors effectively communicate with their audience in order to ace every on-air interview!
- [23:58] A creative and collaborative approach to turning a passive audience into engaged leads.
- [31:34] Got a big interview coming up? Don’t let your nerves control the narrative! Learn what you can do to stay calm, feel confident and tackle any interview knowing you’re going to nail it!
- [37:10] Find out what you can do to get more mileage out of your most valuable media coverage.
- [39:16] Kristi shares an insightful tip for when unplanned media opportunities arise!
- [40:09] How to build a world-class team and a winning company culture. You won’t want to miss the incredibly insightful tactics Kristi shares to keep employees happy, engaged, and valued.
- [55:12] Kristi shares her all-time favorite business books.
- [59:35] Kristi shares her definition of success and the one person she thinks of first when she hears that word.
- [01:01:30] One thing Kristi hopes is looked at as being absurd 25 years from now.
- [01:02:43]Kristi describes the power of partnerships and how she and her husband have been able to create a relationship that has stood the test of time.
- [01:07:09] The one piece of advice that has led to her success.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Kristi Piehl
- Media Minefield
- The 5 Minute Journal
- Bethel University
- Neuroscientist Explains One Concept in 5 Levels of Difficult
- Good Morning America
- Good to Great
- Wild Company: The Untold Story of Banana Republic
- Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
- Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration
- Compound Effect
- Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is The Time To #JoinTheRide
- Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business
- Double Double
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE
- Amy Mcilwain
- Barbara Walters
- Diane Sawyer
- Simon Sinek
- Darren Hardy
- Gino Wickman
- Patrick Lencioni
- Cameron Herold (also check out Cameron Herold on the podcast)
- Sheryl Sandberg
- Brene Brown
- John Wooden
REVIEW OF THE WEEK
[00:00:37] Brad: In this episode, I talk with Kristi Piehl who after 12 years as a TV news anchor decided to turn the tables and use her expertise to get her clients on TV. She’s the founder and CEO of Media Minefield. It’s a TV news-driven PR agency specializing in earned media nationwide. In this conversation, you’ll hear how Kristi has carved out a niche that’s really shaking up the PR industry and doing things differently to help financial advisors across the country get the attention they deserve.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation. To begin, we learn about Kristi’s journey in the news industry. She shares how she went from a low point of being laid off as an investigative journalist to starting a company that’s been completely transforming PR. She covers her unique methodology for helping financial advisors land big interviews on major TV outlets all around the country. We then talk about the best way to make sure you’re getting the most mileage out of your media coverage with different strategies to keep your content alive as opposed to the one and done approach most TV appearances receive. Next, Kristi goes into her firm step-by-step framework for helping their clients nail every TV interview including tips on answering tough questions from world news anchors and also how to drive traffic from TV to your websites to ultimately creative appointments and drive revenue. Finally, we really dive deep into company culture and building a world-class team.
Trust me, Media Minefield didn’t get listed as one of Business Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work three years running for nothing. Kristi shares a ton of tactics and best practices for creating an engaged, motivated and happy team that’s going to take your business to an entirely new level. As I’ve come to expect with Kristi, she always over delivers and she was nice enough to share a free download for all you Blueprint listeners. Her gift, Five Tips for Financial Advisors When Considering a PR Firm, is available right at the top of the show notes. Get it at BradleyJohnson.com/26. That’s 2-6. Links to books mentioned and I might add they’re a bunch as Kristi’s a prolific reader, people discussed as well as a complete transcript of the show are available out there as well.
[00:02:35] Brad: Also, be sure to stick around after the show as this week I’ll cover our latest review which just so happens to come from one of our show’s very earliest listeners. Once again thanks for all of that love out on iTunes. Keep it coming and as always, thanks for listening and without further delay, my conversation with Kristi Piehl.
[00:02:55] Brad: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s episode of the Elite Advisor Blueprint. I am excited. We have CEO and Founder of Media Minefield, Kristi Piehl, here with us today. Welcome to the show, Kristi.
[00:03:06] Kristi: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.
[00:03:08] Brad: Well it’s been a long time coming. I think we originally met way, way back Amy McIlwain’s original book release back in Colorado or I know I was at least a member of your team that was out there speaking on Media Minefield which was pretty much a brand-new company at the time.
[00:03:23] Kristi: Yeah. Back then, that was almost five years ago, we were just two years in and you met Andrea and Andrea is still an awesome member of the team and we have had many conversations since.
[00:03:32] Brad: Very cool. Well, I want to just dive right in. I know we’ve got a limited amount of time here today and lots to cover. So, as I was doing a little bit of research here for the show, you have quite the background in news which is I know kind of where the original thought process or idea came from Media Minefield so you spent some time all over the Midwest at a number of different news stations so I see Mankato, I see Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Dayton, Ohio and then found your way to Minneapolis, Minnesota. And as I was thinking about this, one of the things that I find in financial services is the most successful financial advisors have this incredible control over their mindset and how they approach the business and how they adapt and react to a lot of no’s and a lot of rejection over and over.
And I found just an interesting kind of parallel with when you’re in the news business, unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad news. And I was even doing a research. There was an investigative piece that you did on the Smiley face killers. I don’t know if you remember that back in 2010 but every interaction we’ve ever had, you’ve been nothing but super positive. You have this energy about you. And so just getting into that mindset, is there certain things that you did when you were kind of bombarded with bad news after bad news after bad news that it was your job to cover day after day, how did you protect your mindset as you were doing that job?
[00:05:01] Kristi: It’s a great question. I don’t know anyone’s ever asked me that question but really if it wasn’t for my family and my faith, I think it would’ve beaten me up. It really does mess with your mind because I went from college to news business and I was the one that was standing at the fire and knocking on the doors of the murdered person’s parents’ house and getting the interviews. And I remember when I had my oldest son and he was about two and I would always pick up the toys all over the floor after he went to bed, and my husband would say, “Why are you so particular? We can leave a toy out,” and I’d say, “No, that’s the fire safety route.” And he’s like, “What are you talking about?” But that’s your mindset. I mean if you only cover tornadoes and fires and murders and these things that really don’t happen to the general population, you believe that perhaps, you get a real skewed mindset that that could happen to anyone at any time and it could be me. So, it’s been really great for me to detox out of that mindset and to be able to have a place to go and to realize that that isn’t most people’s experience. Those things do happen but that isn’t normal.
[00:06:05] Brad: Are there any frameworks that you found when you were working? And the reason I ask is a lot of financial advisors will struggle at times if they go on let’s call it a rough streak with a few strings of no’s in a row. Was there anything that you did? Did you have a morning routine, meditation, anything that just kind of help you stay on the positive path?
[00:06:23] Kristi: You know, at the time when it was the worst for me with the darkness so to speak and the rough patches, it really was about having other outlets and focusing on the yeses and a journal focusing on the positive things. And it’s real easy to go to the one, the last difficult time. I was laid off from my job. That was a real dark time. That’s the genesis of this company was after losing a TV job when the economy tanks and there were 20 of us that all lost our jobs. My entire department was wiped out and I didn’t think I would ever do anything besides my dream job which is to be a TV reporter for my hometown. So, it was a dark time and if it wasn’t for the people around me and for me to get my priorities straight, even if I lost everything and I still had a healthy family and I was healthy, it was okay. So, really it was about focusing on what mattered and that helped me during that time and got me to the point where we are now.
[00:07:19] Brad: It’s amazing what journaling can do. My wife and I actually use something called the five-minute journal. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it but basically five minutes a day, what are three things you’re excited about today, what are three things you’re thankful for and it’s amazing when you just start your day with a focus on what’s good as opposed to what’s wrong with the world, how that can really change your perspectives. So, that’s cool to hear that you were journaling throughout that. All right. So, let’s dig in. We hit a little bit of your background journey as far as a TV news anchor and then it sounds like really the genesis of Media Minefield was kind of from a low point where you were laid off. So, can you walk us through how Media Minefield came to be, how it started out and really, I guess, the step-by-step journey of how it started and where you guys are today and the cool work that you guys are doing.
[00:08:06] Kristi: Sure. So, like I mentioned, I lost my job. I didn’t see it coming. There was no warning and it was fairly public. I was the only person in the 20-person department and group that was on the air. I was an investigative reporter and I had just won, from the stories that you mentioned, I had just won some Emmy’s and was at sort of a high point in my career and then this happened. So, I knew immediately that it was a blessing. I called my husband from the parking lot and I said, “I lost my job and it’s a good thing,” but it was really difficult. So, I spent some time off with my children. My husband was traveling for his work at the time. It was wonderful to be with them and yet when my youngest was getting to go into Kindergarten, I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I was volunteering a lot when he was at preschool. I took a 10-hour a week job at my church when he was in preschool because they needed some help on the communication side and it put me in a different environment to be around some different people and different experiences and it was very positive because I was in a healthy environment. Newsrooms are not healthy environments.
So, that was a great place for me to be to start of detox from the news and to get back to center and to really take the time to figure out what am I supposed to do and what do I want to do and what’s my purpose. So, I spent a year and a half doing that. I took a class also at my church and it was how do you take what your passions are, your talents are and help people because I knew that I wanted to take my media background and my media experience which is really unique and really different and I had 12 years doing it and help people. I didn’t know how to do that. In one of the classes I immediately know I needed to start a company and I called my husband who was in New York at the time and I said, “I’m starting a company.” I’m an English major with a TV reporting background wanting to start a company and he said, “Great.” And I told a few friends about it and they said, “That’s fantastic. Let me help you.” I had a graphic designer friend and she said, “I’m going to make you a logo,” and I said, “I don’t need a logo. I’m just going to do some consulting. It’s totally fine. I’m going to do a mom job.”
[00:10:05] Kristi: And she says, “No, no, no. You need a website. You need a logo. You take me out to dinner and I’ll get back to you.” So, she was pushing me positively at the beginning and I think when I do speeches now for young college, I do a lot of speaking for college women or young entrepreneurs and I talk about dream bigger. Dream bigger and think bigger and we need to be around people that push us as opposed to people that say that we can’t, we shouldn’t, “You should probably be at home with your kids. You should probably, yeah, go find a safe job.” So, I started doing this consulting. I started Media Minefield within 30 days of saying I had an idea to start a company and I was legal in the State of Minnesota and I was sitting at my kitchen table giving away work, trying to figure this out. Because what I knew was that traditional public relations is completely flawed when it comes to getting people press. And that’s what I know how to do and that’s what I wanted to help people. So many folks out there, advisors are a great example, have such a good story and have such expertise that the public and media is interested in but they don’t know how to get connected.
And when I was a reporter, I regularly let’s say that the stock market would go high or go low or somehow it made news and I would try – I needed an expert. I needed someone with the licenses to do an interview with me. I wouldn’t get past the receptionist or they’d be too busy or they say, “Let’s do it tomorrow.” “Well, guess what, the stock market is going to probably stabilize tomorrow so I sort of need you tonight.” And if I did do an interview with someone, they didn’t ever say the name of their, rarely, say the name of their company, say their website, talk in a soundbite. These all these words that your general mainstream audience doesn’t understand and to me media is such a powerful tool, such a tool to get credibility and authority in the market and it frustrated me that when I couldn’t get people to do interviews, they didn’t do a great job. And I’ve always been intrapreneurial and business-minded and came from a family with entrepreneurial and I started selling Avon in seventh grade. I mean I’ve always been doing – my friends are wearing makeup so it’s like well, “Hey, I can make money off of this.”
[00:12:07] Kristi: So, I have always been doing some sort of things on the side and it just made sense to pair my passion for media and my business background and this calling, this purpose that I now have. My intention was not to have a business, a company. It was just to have me doing this and to supplement my time and financially. So, within a year I needed to hire and I met Andrea who you mentioned earlier. She actually happened to – we met. I was speaking at my church. She heard me. She just moved to town. She had this TV background. We went to coffee. She sent me an email and said, “I think I need to work for you.” Perfect. I was getting busier than I wanted to be by myself. And I spent the first year, as I mentioned, alone working out the approach. I didn’t study traditional public relations. I didn’t do any research. I really felt like it had to be done differently. So, it was how do you take a client from the first time you meet them to doing an interview that the press are so happy with they want to have that person back on.
And how do you take someone like a financial advisor who to many people is boring? How do you make that interesting month after month after month? How do you put them out there so that they can be likable, show off their expertise that’s still be relatable? So, that was the trick. That was what the way I did the first year and then as Andrea came on board, we’ve been growing quickly. We’re at over 20 people and hiring and are really working to change the industry. That’s our goal. Now we have clients all over the country. We have this ridiculous, I mean, these people here in my office are so amazing. I hire people out of newsrooms and they have this whether it’s print or radio or a broadcast, they know what they’re doing. They have a mindset and a passion that I have. Man, public relations can be done better and it can be done so that it impacts positively, impacts the businesses of our clients. That’s what we want. And we’re in a lot of different industries and the results they’ve had are crazy. I mean it’s the kind of results that no one else in the country can have.
[00:14:04] Kristi: We did over 1,000 interviews in the last four months with our clients and we have 100% placement which means every client we’ve ever worked with has gotten press. And these kinds of numbers just aren’t out there because we’re working on this whole new approach and it works.
[00:14:21] Brad: I think what’s funny is, I mean, I don’t know how many probably at this point approaching 100 or more conferences I’ve been to in my career in the decade consulting financial advisors and the good one stick out or you remember them. The good stuff sticks. And I’ll never forget when I met Andrea and she kind of gave me this overview, this concept of Media Minefield, I mean I’ve run across a lot of PR companies, I’ve run across a lot of PR companies that focused on financial advisors but what was really interesting to me was the niche that you guys really played in which was, I’m probably going to mess this up but this is the best way I can explain it, it’s almost like you’re a matchmaker between these TV newsrooms and financial advisors. Because, yes, financial advisors would love TV exposure but at the same time there’s this deficit of content on the TV site. So, can you speak just high-level how it works on both sides and how that mutual benefit has really led to the type of success that you’re talking about right here, Kristi?
[00:15:21] Kristi: Sure. Our perspective has always been that any of our clients are advisors. They need to be getting consistent press and that’s at least one media interview a month. We want them to be recognized. We want them to be known. We want their clients to know them. We want the television anchors to know them. We want it to be regular. So, to your point, the trick is the content because, yes, there are maybe two times a year. Brexit is one I can think of in the last year. Stock market dancing around is another one. Those are obvious times when we know a newsroom is going to look for an advisor and probably any advisor who is media savvy could call a newsroom on one of those days, get an interview. So, if they did that, would they know what their message is? Would they know, I mean, they can answer the questions but if they just answer some questions and the name of their company isn’t out there or they’re not in somehow differentiating themselves from someone else in their industry, they just wasted a couple hours of their time.
Sure, they got on TV but that’s going to be forgotten. The goal is to do a great interview so someone can remember you and want to do business with you. So, how we work that is on our end because we do have this talented pool of former journalists. They write the content. So, we’re anticipating what is going to be newsworthy and then we’re plugging in a financial angle to that story. So, for example, March Madness happens every year. We have done segments around the Final Four finances. We created it. It’s been picked up. We’ve seen it nationally. Some national writers have now done it because these people have great ideas but it’s just taking – we know in these markets especially where we have some of the Final Four, some of the Sweet 16 teams, we know that they’re going to, “Oh gosh, we have to talk about this but we can’t talk basketball day after day after day or weeks.” But if we can plug in, “All right. What’s more important? Spending your savings to help your grandkids go to college or getting an IRA? I mean what’s more important, Social Security, saving, not?”
[00:17:19] Kristi: So, this is how we can get our clients’ messages into something that’s newsworthy but it is about the content and it’s about being really creative with the content and having relationships. It’s all about the relationships. I’ve heard some really ridiculous pieces of advice that people in our industry tell as truth. If you follow all the reporters in town on Twitter, they’re going to get back to you. Probably not. If you send pizza to newsrooms, they’re going to want to interview you. No. The reality is and we have clients asked us these questions and this is a good tip for folks, it’s against journalism ethics to accept gifts. Now there are people who do it but I worked in newsrooms where any gift that is sent to a newsroom, the news director keeps and at the end of the month he had a raffle. So, unless it’s food, I mean it’s going to get eaten but it’s really the photographers who are slipping the cameras who can have the pizza every day. It’s not the anchors because they need to look a certain way and they probably brought a salad.
So, sending lots of gifts is something that generally doesn’t work. I think once a relationship is established, perhaps you could. We have advisors who now have been with the same, sitting next to the same anchor for years and go golfing with them. Okay. They have a relationship. That’s a legitimate relationship. So, it’s all about the content. Back to your point, it’s all about knowing, anticipating. What news is going to happen? What are they going to be interested in? And how do we take our clients and make sure that they’re the ones interviewed about it?
[00:18:49] Brad: Is there a certain framework just high-level simple, obviously, we can’t go into a full media coaching session on today’s conversation but are there certain frameworks that make a good interview for a financial advisor that gets that shot on TV?
[00:19:04] Kristi: You mean when they’re actually doing the interview? How to make…
[00:19:05] Brad: Yeah. Like you mentioned before the key to communication which in our industry we’ve covered this on a few past shows. It’s like jargon is such a killer in our industry because a lot of financial advisors are using jargon because, A, I sound educated, I’m smart but in reality, nobody understands what they’re saying. So, are there certain frameworks where you coach through, “Hey, you’ve got a three-minute segment on your local TV news, here are one, two and three that you need to make sure and hit?”
[00:19:32] Kristi: Yes. And we write our scripts out to the point where there are talking points and there are bullet points that then the advisor needs to take the – any interview is going to have stats so here are the stats that this anchor needs to know to ask you good questions but you need to insert your own perspective about each of these stats so that it is your own, it is your mindset and you can make it personal. But really, at the end of – well, we were taught in the different consultants I worked with when I was in media, the average TV viewers mindset is that of a seventh grader. It doesn’t mean that they’re stupid because people can make jokes about media watchers and media right now but it means that generally speaking, if media is on even if it’s on, we’re getting a lot of folks watching interviews on their social media accounts which is great or they are watching it in someone’s lobby because an advisor has been interviewed and placed it in their lobby. Someone watching it or if they’re home making dinner, they’re doing something else. They’re not in a movie theater, they’re not 100% focused.
So, what we want is name of advisor on the screen, website, easy to remember, not tricky, something that someone can remember and write it down to mention that and can’t be mentioned over and over and over because the purpose of a media interview that you’re not paying for is to give information so it can’t sound like a commercial. Certainly, there will be benefits to the client but also, they have to be personable, relatable. At the end of the day, the goal of that interview is for someone to go, “You know what, man, I think I can sit down next to him or her and talk about my money.” And it’s funny that the kinds of interviews that are done that have done really well for advisors, it can be about budgeting.
[00:21:13] Kristi: And I know a lot of folks probably don’t call their advisors and say, “Hey, I need help with my vacation budget,” but the fact that an advisor is willing to talk about that and willing to share their expertise with someone who may be struggling with a budget is going to tell that high net worth person, “Man, they have a heart. They care. They’re educated. They want to help everyone. They’re in this business to help, not just to get rich,” and that’s frankly the perspective that a lot of folks have about advisors. And so, it’s about showing heart, being real, being true, being authentic. That’s what comes across in a media interview and the jargon is frankly a turnoff. That sounds smarter than the audience of course. You have to be able to talk about what Brexit would mean financially but there’s a way to do that in language that’s understandable and there’s a way to do that in a way that really turns someone off. With talk about and I’ve talked to people about even if you go to your doctor’s office and they start telling you all the minutia of what’s wrong with your knee using all of this language, at some point you just stop listening and really want to understand it so that I without having a medical degree can understand it and that’s the same it goes for advisors.
[00:22:19] Brad: You just made me think of something. We’ll link this in the show notes but I just watched a really cool YouTube video and it was a neurosurgeon that was explaining this. Basically, they’re trying to map the human brain but it was really cool how they did the YouTube video because he first explained it to a fifth grader then he explained it to a high schooler and then he explained it to a college student and then he explained that to some other brain surgeon. And so, it was interesting to see how the conversation progressed. And basically, what I’m hearing you say is financial advisors speak finance day in, day out. I mean, this is our world so common terms to us are not common terms to others. So, if you’re that college or graduate level with your information, you need to bring it back down that scale to that seventh-grade level that you’re talking about to really engage your audience.
[00:23:02] Kristi: Absolutely. And the goal of an interview is to get people in your office. Once they’re in your office, now you can talk higher level. They’re going to feel comfortable. They can ask you questions. The thing about media is nobody can ask you questions. Certainly, if it’s on social media they could tweet or call your office but really, it’s a one-sided communication. It’s not a two-sided communication. So, you want to save the high-level stuff for in the office. The goal of media is to get that personality out there, get the business name up or the branding. And whenever I do speaking specifically to advisors about dumbing this down, there’s a quote from Albert Einstein that I love, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself,” and that’s true. If someone can’t explain the concept of annuity to a child then you probably have a hard time explaining without using the word annuity.
[00:23:48] Brad: Yeah. Now that’s great advice. We’ve been doing a lot of coaching on that lately and it’s definitely rampant in our industry so it’s something that needs to be coached on. I want to hit on something. You mentioned just being relatable and having heart and how that really engages the audience whether it’s on TV or radio or wherever the media happens to be. You guys did a really cool I think it was just a test this last year but I want to talk about it because I thought it was just really cool how you started with something that going back to the March Madness theme this one was around Valentine’s Day and it was, are you financially compatible with your Valentine? But what you did was besides the segment, you took that from a TV what I would call passive viewership to an engaged audience because then you drove them to a website to take a test to see if they’re actually financially compatible with their Valentine. Can you speak high-level about, number one, how you guys came up with that idea? And number two, what are the keys to taking a passive audience and turning them into real leads that are interacting with your website, calling your office, driving appointments, things like that?
[00:24:52] Kristi: Sure. I would say probably once a quarter we come up with an idea and we have a financial team here and they’re constantly talking about different ideas and all the different markets we work in have different focuses. So, how are we being creative all the time and the whole company gets together. Every morning we talk about what’s going on in the news and clients. And so, we have this collaborative environment and one of the things that we like to do is every three months we like to come up with one of our concepts to have some kind of a website download or engagement, something. So, the one that you’re speaking of was, are you financially compatible with your Valentine? And we had done some research and found that there are tests out there that you can take about this so we had our graphic designer put it together then we shared with the advisors so they could put it on their websites. And then at the end of a conversation on the news about this, they said, “Go to my website and you and your Valentine can take this.” So, what we’re doing is it’s fun. It’s not scary. It’s not something that you would be afraid to talk about and it was real light kind of questions and yet it works for someone who’s newly dating whether they’re in their 20s or newly dating for their second or third time.
And it allows advisors to talk about even in an interview because at first that might sound too light but really it allows an advisor to talk about, “Gosh, sometimes I’m meeting with folks that are coming out of a divorce so then it’s two high net worth people.” Now that’s something a lot of advisors want to talk about, these two high net worth people, and they need to talk about their financial philosophy before they’re married, before they’re too far down this path and you have different families, different children, to weigh into that. So, it is a topic that is the topic that you can bring up, make it light and then give the advice or something that they can put on their website. And now we have a bunch of people on the website and even if they’re not the right folks but they’ve downloaded that PDF, we planted a seed. That might be the first financial website they’ve ever been to. And who knows what else they’re going to find there? Whether it’s white papers but I think that there’s a mindset in the financial advisor world that it has to be detailed and complicated and tough. I’m sure that stuff is going to be important to some of the clients but a lot of folks like the lighter content, like some of those other things that make it real. It says I understand you as opposed to we make really hard-to-read white paper that you don’t understand at all.
[00:27:08] Brad: And I think what was so cool about you sharing that, I think there is a massive untapped market out there. I’ve been doing this a decade and what’s interesting, I like to think I’m not that old still but I’m starting to get there, and I’ve seen this massive evolution in financial services. When I first started, PR meant, “Hopefully I get in the Wall Street Journal. Hopefully, I get in Investment News or Forbes or wherever they were trying to get placed so it was print.” And then I saw it evolved to more what I would call your traditional radio. A lot of guys would run direct response ads, radio shows. And now I feel like TV is kind of there’s a few of the front runners, a few of the I would say some of our largest most successful advisors have kind of tapped TV but it’s still this unexplored frontier and then I see it even beyond that, the digital side. So, Facebook and how do you repurpose this content. So, what was really cool about that when we walk through the Valentine’s idea is, number one, you’re already on the front end if you’re on TV but then if you’re now taking that to the digital side, website, capturing leads, some sort of a drip process following that up, that’s really where our industry is going. And I know you’re constantly thinking there and I know you don’t rest on your past laurels. Are there certain things that you guys are looking out a year, two years out where you’re like, “Hey, this is where we’re going and this is going to be a really cool for our clients to help get them there?” Anything you like to share on that front?
[00:28:35] Kristi: It’s interesting. A lot of folks asked us, “Gosh, TV is dead. Who is watching the news anymore?” And the reality is the numbers show that many, many people consider their local television news source to be their number one source of news. But those same people say that, “I don’t watch the news.” They’re getting it online so a lot of these interviews that are happening are being pushed out by the television station and that’s super powerful. So, an agent, an advisor does a great interview and then the NBC station posts it on their website or on their social media account and they’re now all – that’s a huge following. I don’t think there’s any advisor that has the same kind of following as a major television network and now you’re pushing it out there and then people can share it and like it and it becomes an organic tool.
The other thing that we encourage advisors who do have a decent social media following is that they’re going to do an interview, get your audience involved so people out of your current clients involved, we can ask, we encourage folks to say put two ties out, going to do a TV interview, ask clients, he plays at this time, “Which tie should I wear? Most votes win.” Okay. Well, people are going to engage with that because now they’re going to watch because they want to see which tie you went with and all of their friends are seeing them comment. And a lot of folks, my experience with advisors is that many of their clients’ friends, that’s who they want to get to. So, this allows social media to do that and again it’s not a high level, it’s not difficult. It’s a simple thing to do and people really like it.
[00:30:06] Brad: Yeah. And there’s credibility that comes along with media. I mean that’s just the fact of the matter whether it’s right or wrong and what’s interesting about that as you are explaining that, I liken news on the TV to drive time on radio. And what’s interesting is if you look at most financial advisors, they have bought the time that the radio can’t sell which is weekends when typically, less people are listening and that’s where they can carve out time for a half hour or an hour show. We’ve had a few advisors that have done the same thing on TV. TV is astronomically expensive especially if you’re in a big market. So, if you’re trying to carve out 30 minutes in Chicago, you’re looking at, I’ll probably butcher this, but I know it’s $30,000 plus a month if not more. And once again what’s the time that the TV station is willing to sell would be weekend when most people are out actually hanging out with their kids, going to baseball games like we were talking earlier, Kristi that we’re doing with our kids. But you are now inserting them right in the middle of drive time as far as TV is concerned because that’s when people are tuning in, the TV news, to see what’s going on.
And it’s just I think this massive untapped opportunity that most financial advisors if they focused on radio and they get it there, they see the difference in price as far as drivetime radio versus weekend radio. And you guys have really unlocked the framework to here’s how we can get you right in the middle of all of the eyeballs right when they’re all tuning in. So, I’m going to throw this out there because I want to know. You’ve done a lot of TV. You’ve coached a lot of people on doing TV. The number one fear for a lot of people is public speaking. If that’s an audience of 20, that’s scary, let alone if it’s an audience of millions in these large markets. How do you coach your clients on how just to be themselves and relax and be normal on TV as opposed to clam up and just, I guess, let nervousness overtake them?
[00:32:02] Kristi: It’s interesting and it’s happened to me when I was doing some of the stories that I was doing in my last station. I just worked for Good Morning America so I did an interview with Good Morning America. I was in the studio. Barbara Walters was there and Diane Sawyer was there. That should be scary but when I was doing an interview I was focusing on the person interviewing me. When I go to a setting now of a college classroom and I have to speak, I get more nervous because I actually have to see faces. When you do a TV interview you’re really just talking to one person, whoever is asking you the questions. There are cameras around but for many people, if they can get past, “Oh my goodness, how many people are watching out there,” and have a conversation with one person. An anchor or a reporter is trained. So, they have a very good interview and they can make you feel comfortable but we do a lot of training before every interview about making sure that advisor knows his or her message and if you get asked a strange question, how to feel confident and I do think it’s about confidence.
If you can go into any interview setting and feel confident about what you’re talking about, what you want to say, you’re going to nail it and we also offer to coach as many times as anyone needs until they’re comfortable. The most anyone has ever taken is seven, seven practices, and the agent did a great job and it was no problem but we do mandate and not everybody likes this, mandate coaching before every interview because even people who do a great job need to practice. Because you’re always going to say it better the second or third time and you need to be asked the question that’s tricky so that you have an answer in case an anchor goes rogue because that can happen. I have done some interviews in town for some of the things related to this business. I get coached every time because I know that I’m better the second or third time and it is about feeling confident and practicing.
[00:33:51] Brad: Okay. So, a couple of takeaways there. Number one, treat it like a conversation just like we’re having right now, one-on-one.
[00:33:58] Kristi: Yes.
[00:33:58] Brad: And so that as long as you’re engaging, focused on the person asking you questions, don’t worry about the cameras, you’re literally just having a conversation. Number two is making sure you’re very familiar with your content. So, just reviewing the bullet points, being able to speak at a high level and have a couple of curveballs thrown at you so just in case you’re ready to cover them.
[00:34:21] Kristi: Yes.
[00:34:21] Brad: So, is there a go-to I throw you some random curveball? Here’s a good one in financial services. They’re up giving a seminar or a public education event and somebody raises their hand in the audience and says, “We’re going to bomb Russia. The whole US economy is going to tank,” and the advice I was given is I should buy guns and gold. What are your thoughts? So, if you get something off the wall like that, what’s a go-to response to handle something like that, to get the conversation back on track?
[00:34:51] Kristi: So, we always tell folks the way to get out of something like that is to say, “You know, that’s really interesting and that actually isn’t something that I get asked very often but what people really are talking about right now,” and go talk about what you want to talk about. So, you have to acknowledge it. Okay. Interesting. But that actually isn’t what people are talking about and then move forward. And politicians are very adept at this, the good ones, and ultimately, we tell folks it doesn’t matter what you’re asked, it matters what you say. So, most of the time, yes, you certainly have to be having a conversation with someone but I could’ve come to this even this interview right now with scripts that I memorized which I didn’t but let’s just say I did and if I was conversational enough, I would be hitting all of my points and you wouldn’t even know that I was sort of listening to your questions because I’m thinking about what I’m going to say next.
And that’s how an interview should be approached. And yet, we love our media partners. The reason that our clients get interviews is because we give them good content and people who are ready to do a great interview. And our mindset here is that our real client is the media. Because if the media is happy with an interview and it’s great content for their audience, our actual paying clients score every time. So, it’s really making sure that whatever that anchor or reporter needs, we’re giving it to them. So, what that also means is a lot of times if you’re doing an interview and there are three or four points, the three keys to retirement are A, B and C, they need to have that written out beforehand so they can make the graphics for the screen. They’re doing live TV so that doesn’t mean that they have time to stop and edit something and put it in. They need to know that ahead of time.
[00:36:31] Kristi: So, the more that a news producer can have a segment, an interview all the way planned, content for their website, that helps them a lot because the lovely thing about interviews with financial advisors, generally speaking, is that they’re planned in advance, a week out, two weeks out. That allows that news producer, the person putting that show together, to have time. If there’s a car accident or a fire or a tornado or something that’s happening, those five minutes are already done. So, the more that we can make sure that the media gets what it needs, it’s going to be best for the advisor.
[00:37:09] Brad: What are some ideas around, okay, I did an awesome TV interview. It was five minutes. It was with a super well-known news anchor in my market. Okay. That’s done. It aired. What are some ideas that you guys coach on at Media Minefield as far as repurposing or getting the most mileage out of that actual TV appearance?
[00:37:30] Kristi: Sure. If anyone does a seminar, they should start their seminar playing at it, playing an interview and the way that the rules are it needs to be played in its entirety. So, what networks don’t like you doing is changing it. So, play the interview in the entirety, give credit where credit is due, don’t take logos and steal those sorts of things because people get into trouble for that. So, take an interview and play it all the way through. At the beginning of a seminar is a great place. Put it on a loop, put it in the lobby because the message you’re sending immediately is, “The person I’m here to see is an expert. If the news folks think that this is the person to go to, my gosh, I should totally be bringing my money here and tell all my friends.”
Also, send it out in people are doing e-blast or newsletters, put it out on social media. Social media can be done beforehand, “Hey watch me. I’m going to be on the news here,” and then afterward. Here’s the interview. Thank the anchor if they’re out there and they have a personality or a handle that’s available. We always thank the station for doing interviews with our interviews, “At so and so, thank you for having me on to talk about blah blah blah.” It’s the right thing to do and a lot of times they retweet it. So, you’re gaining traction that way as well. So, basically an interview is a wonderful thing but it can’t die after five minutes. It has to keep living. It has a lot of lifespan. That’s the beautiful thing about video.
[00:38:50] Brad: And here’s the tie you helped me pick out.
[00:38:53] Kristi: Thank you very much. Right. Yup. And people totally love that. I mean they just love that.
[00:38:58] Brad: Yeah. Okay. I want to move on because there are some really cool cultural stuff you do at your company and I want to hit on that but anything that we didn’t hit on because I know your expertise is in PR, TV, media, anything we didn’t hit on that we should definitely bring up before we move on to kind of more team building culture?
[00:39:16] Kristi: Yes. Something easy. If anyone is interested or they think they’re going to be interviewed or they want to be, they want to be calling a TV station for Brexit, you have to have the right clothes in your office. We’ve had folks that haven’t been able to do interviews because they’re wearing a T-shirt because they just popped in the office and a TV station wants to come over. If you’re in the game and you want to play this game, have a nice shirt, women have a blouse, have something that you wouldn’t mind going on TV in and have some makeup, men, women, you have to shave if you think today maybe a breaking news day for men because that’s a really bad reason to miss an opportunity and that’s such an easy thing to have something in your office that you can access. Have an extra shirt and tie or whatever it takes but we’ve seen people miss interviews because of that.
[00:40:07] Brad: That’s a great tip. Now I would’ve never thought about that. Okay. Kristi, so you were an English major and then you decided to start a company and apparently, you do a pretty good job of starting companies because I know Media Minefield has won top 100 places, best places to work 2015 and 2016.
[00:40:25] Kristi: And 2017.
[00:40:26] Brad: And 2017. Very cool. And we’re not even done with 2017 so wow. Good job. So, can you speak to, and the reason I want to get into this topic, is one of the things that financial advisor struggle with is I call it being a victim of your own success. You start out. You’re kind of a one man or one woman show. You do pretty good at what you do. You connect with people and before you know it, you’ve got clients and you’re like, “Oh I should probably bring somebody on to the firm to help me.” And it seems like sometimes it’s this hire-six-months-after-I-should-have mentality and that leads to cultural issues. That leads to high turnover. That leads to not very clearly communicating roles and responsibilities. So, you’ve done some really cool things with building your team very quickly. How many employees? You said 20 plus now, right?
[00:41:13] Kristi: Yes.
[00:41:14] Brad: How did you create a winning culture? What are some tips you can share for financial advisors they might be able to benefit from?
[00:41:20] Kristi: You know, one of the benefits of my background is that I had no idea what I was doing. So, as an English major and a journalist what I did know how to do was get experts. I knew how to access experts and I wasn’t afraid. And I’m not afraid to say I didn’t know what I was doing and most days I feel like I have no idea. So, it was always about reading books. I am constantly reading and learning and listening to TED talks and hearing speakers and taking online classes and all those kinds of things and getting into groups with other entrepreneurs so that I could constantly be learning. So, I think reaching out to experts and I visited Zappos to see what their culture is like with some of our entrepreneur friends. And just to pick up nuggets and then to shape them and make them Media Minefield. And also, it’s always been from the beginning golden rule, I want this place to be someplace I would want to work at if I didn’t have to. So, if I was looking for a job, would I want to work here? If the answer to that is yes then I’m winning.
I also really think that in the scheme of priorities, work shouldn’t be first. So, that’s how our policies are put together. It’s about family first. We want our parents to be able to go to the baseball games and conferences and band concerts and plays. You don’t get those opportunities again. So, if we could have a flexible environment and I know a lot of folks can’t but in our industry, we can. We have a team of folks. So, if someone needs to leave to go on a field trip then that means that someone else can step in because they know the clients and they know what’s going on. We have unlimited vacation because if you hire the right people and you know your core values then they’re not abusing it. It’s all about trust. It’s all about making sure that this is a fun place and yet we’re wildly successful because these people are passionate about what they do. We tease around here. I say, it isn’t all cakes and margaritas. There’s a lot of work happening and we celebrate a lot.
[00:43:21] Kristi: We celebrate everyone’s work anniversary. On their one-year anniversary, they get a superhero cape and this has become kind of a big deal where I put a cape on someone and they share their favorite memory of the last year. We have Margarita Friday where everyone sits down in the plaza and has lunch together. So, it is about celebrating and building this team and it’s so rewarding and I’m really passionate about workplace culture because I think in my experience in what I’ve seen is that it isn’t done very well and my goodness we could have more engaged employees and happier families and many, many other benefits if we as employers get that part right.
[00:44:00] Brad: I think I want to come work with you. Okay. So, let’s keep going. So, you hit on a number of things I want to ask you about. So, the first one with the Zappos. Is there one thing, maybe there’s more than one thing but was there something that just stuck you’re like, “Wow. We are implementing that when I get back to my office?”
[00:44:19] Kristi: They had a prize wheel there and I tweeted this to them and they retweeted me back. I give them a hard time. It was lame. It was a cardboard prize wheel that they had in one of their areas and it had the gift cards so people could win different games and gift cards. But I loved the concept. So, when we were building this our new office I wanted a prize wheel and I wanted it like front and center. So, when you walk in our door, there’s a big light shining on this super cool custom like Price Is Right kind of prize wheel and it’s noisy and it clicks off and there’s all these different numbers and then a unicorn. So, I talk about unicorns here and if someone like me can do someone like this, unicorns must be real. So, we have people give me unicorns. We actually have a bio on our website of a unicorn. It’s the optimist in our office.
So, we have a unicorn on the prize wheel so we have a health contest every month and the person who does the most steps or the most active minutes gets to spin the prize wheel and then we have prizes on the different numbers. And if you hit on the unicorn you get all the prizes. And it’s a fun thing we do. We have Timberwolves tickets up there sometimes and then we also have different contests throughout the month or the year. We’ve done it at a Christmas party where all the employees and spouses can spend and they win whatever is on there. So, it’s fun and it’s motivating and work doesn’t have to be dull.
[00:45:46] Brad: It sounds like you do a really good job of making it not dull. I mean, I can tell by the background right there behind you. For those watching on video, if you’re tuning in on audio, you need to check out the video. Kristi has the best background on the show that we’ve ever had. Okay. You hit on a few of these but you mentioned something that I think is a tidbit I don’t want people to miss. You said, “I wanted to create a culture where I would actually want to work here.” Besides putting capes on the one-year anniversary, Margarita Fridays, the Prize Wheel, are there any other things that are just these were instilled into our culture from day one that basically led down that path of I would want to work here?
[00:46:25] Kristi: I thought a lot about working parents and I thought about when I had both my sons and my one son I couldn’t wait. He was such an easy baby. I was sitting at home watching him sleep and it’s like I cannot do any more laundry or, gosh, I could be working. I could be doing something. He’s just sleeping. My other son not so much but the first one I totally could have. So, what we instilled here and it’s happened four times is, yes, our fourth one is that people can bring their babies back to work with them when they come back after their maternity or paternity leave and as long as the baby isn’t mobile, because it’s dangerous and our insurance company doesn’t like that, the baby can be at work. And it’s interesting because when we launched this we thought, “Oh my goodness, what’s going to happen? It’s going to be a daycare in here.” So, it hasn’t happened with a man yet. It’s only happened with women but the women bring their babies and a cry to a mom is way louder to her than to anyone else. So, we haven’t had any disruptions.
We have right now Carrie, our office manager, had Stella a few months ago and Stella comes in one day a week. People love it. Clients love it. It’s no problem. In fact, I was holding her in the kitchen last week so I could let Carrie eat and little Stella spit up in my high heeled open toed sandals and that’s fine and of course, Carrie felt terrible and I told her I’m going to tease Stella about this in ten years. But that’s real. We want to have a kind of culture where I’ve had kids. I get it. It happens. We do have cement floors so that’s making it a little bit less stressful. It wasn’t on the carpet. But that would’ve helped me coming back to work and the transition back to work. I also really believe that every employee has great feedback. I can learn from them and the bigger we get, the less that people are really telling me what’s happening. So, we have an anonymous feedback form that everyone fills out every Friday but we literally have no idea. We have five questions related to culture, five questions or two questions, rate your managers, rate the executive leadership and how is the company doing for culture. And we see it every week.
[00:48:26] Kristi: So, that allows people to give comments, to give feedback. We can look for trends. If our culture is about getting better or doing better or learning, and my goodness, my number should be going up at the same time. So, I also can see how a decision impacts the culture and that’s very powerful and a really good tool. So, I think another thing that is valuable around here is giving everyone a voice and that’s someplace I do want to work.
[00:48:49] Brad: How do you facilitate that? Is it just a little comment box that people drop in? Is it electronic? How do you go about doing that?
[00:48:55] Kristi: Sure. When this concept came up, our COO developed a – I feel like we should be setting this thing because everyone I talked to about it it’s like, “That’s a great idea.” But he came up with a little program and it has our core values in it, people rate it and then it feeds into a spreadsheet anonymously and we can see the results. So, it was something that we built here.
[00:49:16] Brad: What’s the most surprising or maybe the response that you learned the most from to date?
[00:49:22] Kristi: I’ve seen how – we also have Give Back Day so we shut down the office twice a year and go volunteer somewhere and I am constantly surprised and impressed with how the little things make the biggest impact on the team. It’s shutting down and going and serving helping clean bikes at Christmas time for needy kids who were going to get new bikes and we cleaned the bikes that have been donated. People love that. It’s the things that I worry about like, “Oh gosh, we have to let someone go. That’s going to kill the culture.” That isn’t killing the culture. It’s really powerful to see the little things and we’ve had times here, it’s funny, we’ve had times where we’ve given bonuses and that I think, “Oh gosh, what are our numbers going to be like?” I don’t do it for the numbers at all but it’s interesting to see what’s coming. It doesn’t impact numbers the way shutting down and allowing people to serve. So, people want to be able to give back. They want to be valued. When folks have things happen in their families and we say, “You go be with your family right now,” that’s the stuff that impacts them.
[00:50:24] Brad: Yeah. It’s interesting you bring that up. When I started Advisors Excel, I think I was the 12th employee and we’re at 450 today. So, to see a culture that started where I knew not only every single person by their first name. I knew their spouse, their kids’ names and now at 450 that’s just not scalable but one of the things we’ve incorporated is quarterly everyone in the office gets out and gives back in the community somewhere. And I find from a culture standpoint, number one, it feels good. That’s like the most addictive drug is giving to others but actually connecting with other team members the larger you get because we’ll typically do them in groups of six or eight. You’ll have conversations. You’ll meet people that you’ve worked at the same company with for a couple of years and you’ve really had no idea what who they were. So, I know you guys are still a smaller team but you guys are growing very quickly so it’ll be interesting as you guys keep that going, how that’ll also help those personal connections stay really strong.
[00:51:22] Kristi: And that is hard. I used to be in everyone’s quarterly review. Now I’m not and so it’s then on me to make sure that I do have interactions with everyone and that’s something that the leadership team we talk about regularly, are we making sure that we’re connecting with different people? And also, we have this daily meeting every day where everyone talked and I want the intern feeding in just as much as I want if someone at the C-level speaking in because everyone has good ideas and we can learn something from millennials, from baby boomers and all these different generations that people we now have in the workforce and they all bring something different. And it’s awesome that we can tap into that in the right environment where people are empowered to speak up.
[00:52:03] Brad: So, last question on culture and then we’ll get to the fun philosophical questions I have for you. You’ve mentioned a few different things. You mentioned Margarita Fridays. You’ve mentioned kind of prize wheel once a month based on health goals. You mentioned even this quick meeting. Like if you laid out the calendar for all of the 2017, are there set group activities that you guys just build into the calendar from an employee standpoint just to keep these connections going, fun events, things like that that you don’t mind sharing?
[00:52:30] Kristi: Sure. We have the every Friday thing but then beyond that, each team gets a budget and then they get to decide what they want to do with that and they generally do it in the summer because it’s more fun to do things in the summer in Minnesota than in the winter. So, last year one team went on a Segway tour downtown, one team went to the state fair and do a scavenger hunt. One team went bowling, mini golfing. So, another team went to Timberwolves this week. It’s just different things that each team had and then has a choice about what they want to do and how they want to spend their money. And a lot of folks when we do this anniversary memory, what’s the best it memory you’ve had in the last year? A lot of folks go back to that, the time that they had outside of the office making connections with their teams.
[00:53:09] Brad: And it’s not in corporate. Here’s where you’re going. Here’s what you’re doing and here’s the budget, go dream up something fun to do that you’re all going to enjoy.
[00:53:18] Kristi: Do it every month.
[00:53:19] Brad: Cool.
[00:53:20] Kristi: The other thing that we do which is kind of neat is every five years and we’re just now are getting to this point where we’ve been to the company five years to get some money to go have an experience and the only caveat is you have to tell us about it. So, it’s fun to when you give people some choice what they want to do. I went to hear one of my favorite authors speak in South Carolina. Andrea went because she would be employee number one and has had five years. She went and she was part of a leadership conference with women in faith that I’d always wanted to go to in Atlanta. So, there are these different things that people want to do and they think, “Gosh, I really don’t want to spend my own money or I don’t want to take the time,” but if we can do that for them and they can bring back what they shared and it can be, “Hey, I want front row tickets to my favorite concert,” and what they share is, “Man, it is really close.” That’s fine. But just I want them to know how much I appreciate what they’re doing here and what they’re giving here because I know that they’re giving a lot.
[00:54:18] Brad: Yeah. Very cool. Well, thank you for sharing. I’m glad we got into the culture question. That was just goal for the last however long we’ve been talking about it so thank you, Kristi. That’s cool. All right. So, we’ve got to hit on books. Your bio, number one, I love. So, anybody that wants to see a proper bio how it should be written to really engage people to go to your website and check out your About section, we’ll post a link to Kristi’s on Media Minefield and probably I’m guessing that you use a lot of that format for the rest of your team members as well. I didn’t check them out but super engaging.
[00:54:50] Kristi: Thank you.
[00:54:51] Brad: And one of the things that you said on there, I think it’s true. You said two out of three are true so I’m just going to assume this one is true that you’re at any one time somewhere in the middle of three books.
[00:55:02] Kristi: Yeah. I currently have four. That’s true.
[00:55:03] Brad: Four?
[00:55:04] Kristi: I couldn’t lie. All of mine are true and only would have to be true but I was like I can’t lie. They’re all true. No, I have four going right now.
[00:55:12] Brad: Okay. So, let’s go to this. What is the best book that you’ve ever read and why?
[00:55:18] Kristi: I can’t do it. I can’t do it.
[00:55:21] Brad: Let’s go business. Let’s narrow it down to business and maybe top two or three then.
[00:55:26] Kristi: Good to Great has to be on the list. I always have one business book going, one business audiobook going, a fun book and then a faith or something on that side as well. So, those are my four going right now. And when it comes to business, some of the best things I’ve learned haven’t been out of business books. So, I love reading stories of entrepreneurs. I read Wild Company which isn’t something that a lot of people have heard of. It’s the true story of the Banana Republic couple and that was a fantastic story that I’m surprised doesn’t get more publicity or more people talking about it. The book, Alive, is about the folks who survived the Andes plane crash. I mean, when I’m having a bad day around here thinking, “Man, how can I really get this done? Hey, there are people who lived on top of a mountain that had to make really difficult choices that are way bigger than what I’m dealing with here.”
And I just recently put together executive leadership training program for some of our leaders who have potential and I couldn’t find a program out there that I really resonated with us especially because of the background we come from so I created it myself and it’s called Flight School. We haven’t even rolled it out to the whole company here and I’m really excited about it because it gives TED talks, books, different things so that they can think about culture and people and some fiction stories, some real stories that are powerful in development. So, I sort of dodged your question. See, what I did there?
[00:56:57] Brad: That was a good lesson in how to pivot when you get a curveball thrown at you. Are there books that you’ve gifted repeatedly over the years?
[00:57:05] Kristi: Yes. I gave everyone Simon Sinek’s Together is Better. Everyone in our company got it and I sent it to many, many of our clients. It’s a fantastic little read. I have a box I’m going to give more out. I’ve received from people in the last year I’ve received some Darren Hardy books. I have some friends who are really into Darren Hardy and I’m listening to a lot of his stuff and that’s a book that has been gifted to me and I would give it to someone else
[00:57:30] Brad: Compound Effect or the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster? Which one?
[00:57:33] Kristi: Compound Effect.
[00:57:34] Brad: Yeah. One of my favorites.
[00:57:35] Kristi: Yeah. It’s a great one. Traction. We’re an EOS company here so I’m a big fan of Gino Wickman. Recently went to a conference and heard him speak and that was fantastic so I’m all about Traction and we have a consultant we’re working with so I believe in that as well. Lencioni, I mean I’ve given Lencioni stuff out. I’m a book nerd.
[00:57:59] Brad: Most successful people that I have conversations with are so that’s a common theme. So, Together is Better, that was the first one you just right off the bat named. Is there one theme in there where you’re like, “I wanted my entire team to be on board with this?” Why that book?
[00:58:14] Kristi: You know, the more successful we get, I think the more easy and tempting it is to say, “I. I did this,” and I’m not talking just me. I mean anyone here. Everyone here has so many success stories and it’s so easy to get to a point of I and we cannot do it without each other. So, the theme of that book is together is better. We can do more together. We can achieve our big audacious goal of interrupting the industry and redefining public relations. That’s what we’re trying to do. We can only do that together. So, that’s where I wanted everyone to be. We’re all in this. I gave everyone matchbox cars with DeLoreans because we’re going into the future. Back to the Future, you saw it, right? So, we’re going into the future. I gave everyone a matchbox DeLorean with our logo on it and the book for Christmas and most people have them sitting around their desk because we’re going into the future and we can only do it together.
[00:59:09] Brad: A lot of the themes you’ve talked about as far as your culture and just the vision that you’ve shown remind me a lot of Cameron Herold, DOUBLE DOUBLE. Are you familiar with that book? He has a vision wall. Yeah. So, you’re just doing so many things because every leadership book you ever read it’s you’ve got to paint a vision for where you’re going and you guys are doing such a great job there just on some of the examples you’ve shared. All right. You ready for the next one?
[00:59:32] Kristi: Yeah. Oh no.
[00:59:33] Brad: I’m going to make sure you don’t dodge this one here.
[00:59:35] Kristi: Okay.
[00:59:36] Brad: When you hear the word successful, who’s the first person you think of and why?
[00:59:40] Kristi: That’s a hard question. I’m not dodging but I have been struggling with this, what is the definition of success? I think success isn’t what we traditionally think of. I actually went to my dad. It’s who I first went to. He was an entrepreneur and I think the reason that I would define him as successful isn’t because of what he did businesswise or how he helped me as I was launching. It’s really about the giving back. It’s about how every time I have a question – he’s a CPA and every time I have a tax question and he doesn’t see it if I worked for some other companies, he answers. Even if he can’t give any answer right now, “I’ll call you back,” and it’s about giving back wanting to help others. And as a child, I saw him. There was someone who passed away. He was paying for the funerals quietly and he was doing things. He was making an impact. So, to me, success equals making an impact and that’s what I saw him doing and he’s not perfect. I’m not saying everything he’s ever done is exactly what I’m doing. I’m saying when it comes to making an impact that to me is success.
[01:00:47] Brad: Yeah. That’s very cool. Success in our industry is to piggyback on that thought. I see a lot of people that look at success as a bank account unfortunately and they’re not the ones that are happy. It’s the ones that have figured out how to create the business where they can still be a mom or a dad and hang out with their kids and make those memories. And it’s funny because you mentioned your childhood and those were things you picked up when you were younger. Your dad could’ve just as easily been the guy that was at the office 80 hours a week and had no relationship. So, it’s cool to hear you echo that. Something I strive to do as a parent. All right. This one would be fun. You’re just a deep thinker and so I want to hear your answer. This is quickly becoming one of my new favorite questions. What is something you would like to be considered absurd 25 years from now?
[01:01:36] Kristi: Less women than men on boards, CEOs. I still get people asking me, it makes me crazy, “What does your husband think of what you’re doing? How can you not be at home? Women don’t make the choices. Men do.” There’s still so much of that and to me, I love Sheryl Sandberg’s work. I love Brené Brown’s work. It’s so much about partnership. I have these two boys and I want them to see us working together at home and it isn’t about working or not working. I have great friends that are stay-at-home moms. I have great friends who work. It’s about being in relationships with partners and I didn’t think that my life would go the direction it has. That wasn’t my plan. I thought that I might stay home a little bit more. This is where it’s gone and I have a great partner. And I think the concepts that there are these real specific roles that we all must take, we’re missing out because there are some fantastic stay-at-home dads. And I think that this concept that every gender has this specific role, we’re missing out.
[01:02:38] Brad: Yeah. So much of that. I mean, we’re in the Midwest too. There’s a lot of very traditional thinkers. And to go a little bit further there, you said your husband makes a great partner, are there certain things that you guys do where you’re like, “Wow. This has really helped with that balance,” and seeing each other as equals as parents or partners or whatever that may be?
[01:02:57] Kristi: Over time, we’ve had different roles. We’re high school sweethearts. We’ve been together a long time and we’ve had different times where he’s leaned in, I leaned in and it’s just that balance of back and forth. He’s worked from home. He’s traveled a lot. I have been called to a tornado and have been gone for three days. There are these different dances that we do and we do it for our team, for the two humans that live in my house, the two little humans, one’s bigger than me now but the four of us, that’s the priority. And one of the best things, I’ve told a friend this the other day, one of the best things that his mom ever did is she ruined his, in seventh grade, ruined his Coca-Cola shirt. So, he started doing his own laundry. So, because of that, we both do laundry. If it needs to get done, it gets done. If groceries need to get purchased, they get purchased.
So, it’s a partnership. I’m not saying we have it perfect. I’m not saying we have it figured out. I don’t think there is a perfect. That’s what normal is, right? But it’s about the give-and-take and the constant when I lost my job, man, he was there for me. And it wasn’t, “Hey, go get the job.” It was, “What’s right for us? What should we do here?” and giving me the time. It’s so sad how many people don’t have the partnership and I think that’s key.
[01:04:12] Brad: I heard it once like actually it was a guy that I was a mastermind with. He put it this way. He said in life there are different seasons and sometimes there’s rough seasons, winter. It sucks outside. You guys experience a lot of that up there but then there’s always another season and it was cool to hear you say, “Hey, through those different seasons of life we’ve taken different roles but it’s always been a team the whole way through.” So, that’s awesome advice there. I think not only does it apply to relationships at home and families but it also applies to business as well. There are different seasons in business. There are rough times there too and as a team being able to pick up the slack on different parts there.
[01:04:49] Kristi: And you know, that’s a great point because I went to when we were probably when we were in high growth, high growth mode, building, maybe year two or three, I turned off my salary. Turned it off for over a year and I was putting everything back in the company and I didn’t want the employees to know that. We had months where we were losing money and that was part of the plan but it’s still scary to see that much red right on the balance sheet and someone here pushed me, “They need to know. They want to know.” So, we have State of the Minefield which is an all company meeting where I share a vision and the four leaders were very, very transparent with the whole company. And so, during one of those, we shared, “Turned my salary off. It’s a rainy season around here. We’re not going to be spending some money for a while on – we’ll do what you do to get a job but the parties aren’t going to be what they used to. The Margarita Mix isn’t going to be as nice as it used to but we’re going to get through it and we have a plan to get us through it. We know this is the season we’re in. We see the other side out but this is what we need to do right now.”
And people were so passionate and they felt so bad for me and even we turned the salary back on, and we told everyone, they were cheering. They were cheering about me getting paid. And when we moved here and then when we needed to build out, it was the first time, well I still financed the business up until we did this big build out here and went to the bank and my collateral is my house. Pretty typical and we told people here and they were so impressed that I felt that strongly that I would do that and someone came into my office with tears in her eyes and said, “Boy, you’re going to get your house. That’s not even going to be a problem. I know that and you’re going to get so much more. Thank you for doing that. Thank you for being willing to put everything in.” And they want to know and I think being transparent and telling folks what’s really going on even in the hard times makes the good times that much better.
[01:06:43] Brad: Without meeting almost any of your staff, other than Andrea, I guarantee they would run through a wall for you just based on how you’ve built your team, the transparency, the trust that you’ve created there. I mean, this is really cool stuff to share because a lot of financial services advisors sometimes that’s a struggle, the culture side, so I think there are so many pieces throughout this whole conversation where there are things they can pick up to correct that. Okay. So, Kristi, last question, you haven’t dodged the last two so you’ve done really well.
[01:07:14] Kristi: So, I can? Are you saying I can dodge one?
[01:07:17] Brad: Now this one, this is why I like to wrap every conversation with. What is the one piece of advice that you can share with the audience here today that’s led to your success?
[01:07:29] Kristi: Seek experts which I think is humility. It’s the humble, hungry, smart mentality from Lencioni. It’s really about knowing that I don’t have all the answers and not being afraid to let other people know that. However, I think that when I’ve really had the struggles and not been sure of things, the employees don’t need to see that until I have an answer. They don’t need to know that I am struggling to the degree at some point that feels like I am. I mean, this entrepreneurship is tough. It’s tough stuff but it’s really about not being afraid to ask for help because I’ve seen a lot of folks that have gone down a path way too far when if they would’ve sought some help out early or because of a lack of humility they’ve had blind spots that have caused them to hit up against the wall.
So, I tell my leadership team, from the very beginning, the COO actually started who’s been here only five years this fall and it was because I was doing payroll at my kitchen table. It was a hot mess. I had like receipts and spreadsheets are not my friend and I needed the help and, “Welcome to work. Here’s my file of all my receipts. Thank you for being here. Payroll is next week.” And it was about not being ashamed to say that I don’t know, I can hire around a lot of things and I’ve been working out this lately is what do I have that no one else can do here? And I need to hire smarter people than me to do everything else because I think there’s this trap of and I’m listening to Essentialism right now which is another good book but what should I be doing and what do I need to say no to and pass off? Because I think we live in a trap of, “Man, if I work longer, if I do more, if I…” and that’s not it. So, I think it’s humility. It’s about not being afraid to say I need some help.
[01:09:10] Brad: I think everybody that leads a team struggles with that because I think at a certain level to be successful you have to have this confidence to be a hard driver and really build the company and do the same things. So, I read one book, I’ll listen to another when I drive to and from the office and I’m listening to John Wooden. Actually, the last book that he ever wrote which was on his mentors written by…
[01:09:33] Kristi: Yaeger.
[01:09:34] Brad: By Yaeger? Have you…
[01:09:35] Kristi: Yeah. I have the audio.
[01:09:36] Brad: Yes. So, he was on the show previously and it was on my list but he had a rule which speaks to exactly what you’re saying here. He said, so Wooden as a coach, he said when things went bad, the buck stops with him. Basically, it was that he’s the head coach. “I’m the guy that runs the team here. That’s my fault. We just got beaten by 40. Even though some idiot on my team didn’t do what he was supposed to, it was always the head coach’s fault.” But he said, “When things went well, it was always the team. It was always my assistant coaches that prepared. It was always my guys out on the court that worked hard and ran the system,” and that it’s something I haven’t always done well in my career but it’s something that I strive to do and it’s exactly what you’re saying right here and if I can be just that much of what John Wooden was, that’s obviously a good guy to follow in his footsteps.
[01:10:23] Kristi: Another one of the books that I’ve listened to, it was Team of Rivals. It’s the story of Abraham Lincoln and how he built his cabinet and his advisors and he wanted people around him that didn’t agree with him. And I think that’s so critical to not just get yes people around you who’d tell you how great your ideas are and I know some people. I know some entrepreneurs who hire folks and it’s like, “You’re awesome.” You’re awesomer.” “You’re awesome.” Those companies don’t do as well as they could and we’ve had tough conversations with leadership around here and we don’t take messages to the team until we know what we’re going to communicate and if we are having a tough time. I didn’t open a bank statement and go, “Oh my gosh, I’m turning my salary off. Everyone come to my office. Pass me a tissue.”
We had a plan. It was orchestrated. We communicated when we’re ready to communicate with them and I’ve had my COO say to me, “You know, you can make that decision but no one would want to work here.” All right. Thank you. I’ll think more about that and get back to you. You’re right. So, it’s really about being humble and to your point, giving credit to other people is critical. And you’re going to take that mentality, you have to have friends outside the office because otherwise, it’s pretty lonely at the office if your game is which I think is the right game. I mean, I am friendly with everyone here. When I need to relax, it isn’t with folks at work.
[01:11:41] Brad: It’s with a nice glass of wine, right?
[01:11:43] Kristi: And some friends, yes. Some girlfriends or my husband.
[01:11:46] Brad: Yes. Well, Kristi, I just want to say thank you. This has been an incredible conversation. I know all of the Blueprint listeners, I mean, this is one they better re-listen to a couple of times because just all types of knowledge whether it’s actually kind of your day job, getting financial advisors on TV which I know you guys have every – and I want to share this because this is the truth. From day one that I came across Media Minefield, I was like, “Wow. That’s a cool idea.” And then every single financial advisor I’ve ever had a conversation with that’s ever engaged with your guys, the services or your team, has raved about you guys. So, I just want to go ahead and I want to throw that out there because that is very hard to do in financial services. There’s a lot of very critical people sometimes when it comes to marketing or PR and things like that. So, you guys have a great team there and I know you’re just getting started. So, I want to say thank you for the conversation and for carving out some time to share here with us today.
[01:12:43] Kristi: Thank you. It’s been a great conversation. I appreciate it.
[01:12:46] Brad: All right. Kristi, well I’m sure our paths will cross soon so take care and until next time.
[01:12:50] Kristi: Sounds good. Thank you.
[01:12:51] Brad: All right. We’ll see you.
[01:12:55] Brad: Thanks for checking out this week’s show. I’m excited to feature a review from one of our show’s earliest listeners. Special thanks to Lonnie over at Gordon Wealth who started showing me love out on Twitter when honestly, he may have been the only one listening in the early days of the show. Much appreciated, man. And by the way, for you out there who haven’t connected with me on Twitter yet, look me up. It’s Brad_Johnson and let me know what guest I should have on for future shows. I’d love to hear from all of you out there. So, here’s what Lonnie had to say on iTunes. “Listening to podcasts has become my default option for learning about whatever I’m interested in. I have listened to countless podcasts. This is one of three that has become religion. I cannot miss one episode. Listening to Brad speak and teach with his guests is better than a class at Harvard Business School and it’s free. Any entrepreneur who is interested in taking their life to the next level, I strongly recommend every episode.” Lonnie, I am humbled, man, and although I’m not sure I can live up to the Harvard Business School analogy, I will take it. Thanks again for supporting the show from the very beginning and hopefully someday our paths cross so I can tell you thanks in person.
So, that’s it for this week’s show and for those out there who haven’t given a review yet, I’d love if you take a quick second to do so at BradleyJohnson.com/iTunes. We’ve made it super easy for you and I would love to give you a shout out on a future episode. Thanks for listening and I’ll catch you all on the next show.
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