Named one of “America’s Coolest Entrepreneurs” by Inc. magazine, Adam Witty is a seven-time author, keynote speaker, and CEO of Advantage Media Group | ForbesBooks, one of the largest business book publishers.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:56] – Adam, as a kid, wanted to be a professional basketball player
- [01:51] – His area of expertise is in authority marketing
- [02:13] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: The biggest mistake is that “authority can’t be manufactured”
- [02:36] – Authority can’t be manufactured, but you can strategically and systematically create it to win over your competition
- [03:12] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: A few years ago, Adam found himself 2 weeks from running out of cash. His business was growing and expanding so fast that Adam forgot to keep an eye on the cash balance. When he realized this, he didn’t have any sort of backup or even a line of credit. What saved his company was 3 big contracts that brought the money in
- [05:11] – Incentivize your customers to make them pay in advance
- [05:57] – A small discount and extra marketing services were all it took for Adam to turn it around
- [06:49] – Adam shares how this incentive works for their company
- [08:42] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: 2 years ago, Adam sat next to the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Forbes at an industry luncheon. He turned to her and said, “You need to be in the book publishing business.” He then explained how his business model goes, and thus, Forbes Books was created
- [09:59] – “Never take a lunch time companion for granted”
- [10:20] – Have conversations with people
- [11:01] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “I’m just most fired up about the momentum that we have in our business”
- [14:43] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “My head”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “As a CEO, your job is not to grow a company. Your job is to grow people that grow a company”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Daily rituals”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Align
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – American Icon – “the book chronicles the story of Ford hiring out Alan Mulally and him single-handedly saving the company”
- [18:13] – Get Adam’s book, Lead the Field, for FREE at ForbesBooks.com/Fire
- [18:42] – Growing a business is hard — if it were easy, everybody would do it
Adam: Let’s go, baby!
John: Yes! Named one of America’s coolest entrepreneurs by Inc. magazine, Adam is a seven-time author, keynote speaker, and CEO of Advantage Media Group/Forbes Books, one of the largest business book publishers. Adam, take a minute fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Adam: Yeah, the quick background is I did not grow up as a little kid wanting to be a publisher. I wanted to be a professional basketball player. And you know sometimes when life takes paths, best suited to follow that path and be curious.
And I spent two summers as a high school intern at a publishing company. I thought I would hate it. I ended up loving it, and a mentor of mine said “Adam, you need to start a publishing company for business people and CEOs and that can be the golden goose the lays the golden eggs for you for the rest of your life.
And it’s a darn good thing that I listened to his advice because it’s been quite a ride.
John: Well, I’m pretty sure I could guess what your area of expertise is, but if I were to challenge you to lay it out in just one sentence, what would that be?
Adam: Authority marketing. Two words, don’t even need a full sentence.
John: What you will need though is a follow-up because I want you to share with us something that we don’t know about authority marketing. Or something that we don’t get. Or something that you just see entrepreneurs doing wrong time and time again when it comes to authority marketing. Break it down.
Adam: The biggest misconception is that authority cannot be manufactured, and that is false. When people think about authorities, thought leaders, and experts, they immediately think they have to put in their dues, and they have to wait until someone comes along and crowns them king or crowns them queen.
The bottom line is this: that authority can be manufactured, and regardless of the industry or the business you’re in, you can strategically and systematically create it, to create an outsize advantage over all your competition.
John: Fire Nation, I hope that you’re absorbing this content about authority and marketing and put it to use. Take action. Put this stuff to use.
Now Adam, what I wanna really do is take a look at your journey as an entrepreneur. You’ve had the ups and the downs, but what is the absolute worst entrepreneurial moment you’ve experienced to date? Take us to that moment, tell us that story.
Adam: Yeah so, I’m two weeks away from being completely out of cash. This was a few years ago, and there’s a great saying in business that growth sucks cash. And there’s another great saying that cash is oxygen for a business. And we were growing; we were expanding, we were hiring people, we were spending more on marketing and sales.
And I was not keeping a close enough eye on the balance and the checking account and how much cash we had coming in and how much cash we had going out. And literally, we were two weeks away from being completely out of cash. At that point, I didn’t have a backup, I didn’t have lines of credit, and it could have all been over.
John: And what happened?
Adam: We got saved by the bell. There were three big contracts that we were waiting on that were getting pushed and pushed and pushed. And the total of these three contracts were worth about $200,000.00. Which was the cushion that we needed to give us room to live for another day or in this case another month?
And the contracts came in, and all three of the clients had one-paid which means they paid all the money up front and that was the saving grace.
And I got saved once, and I’m gonna be smart, and I said to myself I’m not gonna let myself get into this situation again. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” That wasn’t gonna happen again.
John: So, my main question here is entrepreneurs face this kind of cash crunch all the time. I mean it seems like you know every month we’re coming up should I you know pay this, person, pay this client, you know it’s just like a juggling act it seems.
So, what’s the biggest lesson, the biggest take away that you can give to our listeners so that maybe we can just improve a little bit in this area?
Adam: One of the greatest lessons I learned is that you can incentivize your customers to pay you in advance. And that was something that I didn’t understand initially. I thought that people only paid you as you went along. And I read a book, and they were talking about member supported financing. And they used Costco as a great example.
Costco sold memberships, they got the money up front, and they used the money for memberships to help financially support the business. And so, we said, okay, what type of incentives do we need to provide to get people to pay all the money up front as opposed to paying us on a milestone basis as we complete the project?
And as it turns out, giving them a small discount on the fee and giving them additional marketing services was all it took and today, 52 percent of our customers pay their entire fee for the work they do with us before we lift the first finger when they sign the contract. And that money has allowed us to fund our growth without relying on banks or credit cards or outside investors.
John: Okay so that was a pretty clear example that you gave about a discount on the services and then some extra marketing or extra services. Can you get even a little more specific in that? Like what’s an example without even using names if you don’t have to, but like what’s like a specific example of how you approach somebody. What exactly you offered them for extra services and percentage off? Just so the listeners can really get a good grasp of this.
Adam: So, our typical customer is investing about $50,000.00 on average to work with us. If they pay the entire fee up front, we provide an eight percent discount. So, you know that’s $4500.00 which is – that’s real money. If they pay everything in the first 90 days, we give them a four percent discount and then of course if they pay the normal structure over the life of the project, then there is no discount.
The other thing that we do is, of course, we’re a publishing company, and we have a partnership with the company that owns the main billboard in Times Square. So, if they do a one-pay, not only do we give them the discount, but we’ll also do a book launch in Times Square where their book will be on the main video board in Times Square. And we have a professional photographer take pictures of that, we blow it up, and we frame it, and we mail it to them so they can hang it in their conference room or the lobby in their office.
Two incentives that we offer that are pretty attractive that have a high perceived value that have a high what I kinda like to call sexiness factor. And that really drives people to say “You know what? I’ll do the one-pay because I want the Times Square book launch.
Adam: Of course, the discount, the eight percent discount doesn’t hurt either.
John: Yeah, I mean that’s not really even perceived sexiness, that’s just downright sexiness to have that Times Square situation going on, so that’s pretty awesome stuff.
Now let’s talk about another story in your journey, Adam. This one being one of the greatest ideas you’ve had to date. No doubt the eight percent off, the Times Square billboard, an amazing aha moment. It’s worked, you crushed it. What’s another one of those ideas? Take us to that moment, kinda unpack that story.
Adam: So, one of the great ideas was our partnership with Forbes. Probably your listeners have heard of Forbes Magazine. It’s the largest business magazine in the world. And about two years ago I was sitting next to the senior vice president of marketing for Forbes at an industry luncheon. And I turned to this person, and I said you need to be in the book publishing business. And she laughed at me, and she said, “Adam, it’s hard enough to sell magazines. Why in the world would we want to sell books too?”
And when I explained our business model that CEOs and entrepreneurs would hire us to help them create a book and use a book as a marketing tool to grow their business. When I explained that our clients weren’t interested in selling books in bookstores, they were interested in getting clients and growing their companies and using the book to do it. The lightbulb went off, and I said: “Listen if you let us use the Forbes name and apply it to the work we do, one plus one could literally equal five.” And that was the initial idea that ultimately birthed Forbes Books.
So, I think for me the lesson is I never take any lunchtime companion for granted. And always be thinking big and always try –always connect the dots in your mind of how you could partner with other people to turn one plus one into five instead of just two.
John: And I think what’s important here to realize Fire Nation is just have these conversations because conversation literally could have turned into nothing at that moment in time. But Adam might have planted a seed, and you know maybe she would have come back a month, six months, a year from now or maybe not. But then maybe whatever she would have come back with would have made Adam’s idea even better or pitch even better for the next opportunity he would have come across.
So, just have these conversations because, at the very worst-case scenario, you’re just going to improve your thoughts, your process, your pitch, how you go about talking promoting what you’re looking to get forward, and that’s a win.
So, Adam, rightfully so, you’re excited about lots of stuff right now, but what are most fired up about today?
Adam: Man, I’m just most fired up about the momentum that we have in our business. You know, if you are a fan of professional sports or even college sports, you know that momentum is a very real thing. One team’s ahead and then there’s a change in momentum, and then the other team’s ahead, and then maybe they go to win the game.
I think the same is true in business. I call it the Big Mo, and we’ve just got a lot of wind at our back right now. And I know that this is a unique time to exploit the momentum that we have to transform our business to radically grow to make big bets. We’re making some acquisitions, and we won’t always have momentum. It doesn’t exist forever. There’s high points, and there’s low points
And so, I think what I’m most excited most excited about is just capitalizing on the momentum while we have it and try to do really big things while we have the wind at our back.
John: Fire Nation, if you think Adams been dropping value bombs, just wait for the lightning round. When get back from thanking our sponsors.
Adam, are you ready to rock the lightening rounds?
Adam: Let’s do it, baby!
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Adam: My head. I was telling myself a story that I didn’t have the experience. I wasn’t prepared, and I wasn’t gonna succeed. And what I learned was that whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. And the stories that we tell ourselves in our head are typically manifested into reality.
John: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Adam: My mentor, Jack Daly, said “Adam, as a CEO your job is not to grow a company. Your job is to grow people to grow a company.”
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Adam: Daily rituals. Every morning I get at 5:30 a.m. Every morning I go to the gym and workout and get exercise before I do anything else. Every morning I review my day with my executive assistant. Everything is time blocked and compartmentalized. Every day I try to read for 60 minutes or do something to learn. And every night before I go to bed, I journal and give gratitude.
John If you recommended just one Internet resource, what would it be?
Adam: There’s a really neat piece of software called Align A-L-I-G-N. And this is really cool if you have team members if you have a lot of people in your company. The website is aligntoday.com, and we use this for every single person in our company to set their top priorities for the quarter. And it’s a dashboard where we can real-time track the progress of every single person in our company as they work towards their priorities and their goals for the quarter.
John: Now, I know this gonna be tough for you, but recommend just one book and share why.
Adam: Oh boy, this is like asking me to pick my favorite child.
John: So maybe you should pick somebody that’s not even related to you.
Adam: My favorite book is American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company.
Adam: The book chronicles the story of Ford hiring Alan Mulally, and him single-handedly saving the company and literally saving the American automobile industry during the Great Recession of 2007, 2008, and 2009. If you want to be a better leader, the book is filled with great stories of how Alan Mulally brought people together to accomplish things that were far bigger than they ever thought they could accomplish on their own.
John: And one more time, what was the title?
Adam: American Icon.
John: Fire Nation you obviously love audio so if you want to listen to an audiobook like this for free and you’re not currently an Audible member, head over to eofirebook.com and snag it.
Adam let’s end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, sharing the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.
Adam: So, I would love to hear from your listeners, and I have a gift. You mentioned that I have written seven books and one of those books is titled Lead the Field. So, for all of Fire Nation, visit ForbesBooks.com\fire and you can get a free copy of the book.
The last thing that I will say, John, growing a business is really hard and just remember, if it were easy, everybody would do it.
John: So true. And Fire Nation you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging with A-Dubs and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, just type Adam in the search bar, his Show Us page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today.
These are the best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links galore \and of course, head directly over to Forbesbooks.com\fire for that impressive gift.
And Adam, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, for that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Adam: Thanks John.
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