Courtney Smith Kramer is the co-founder of Purematter, a top marketing consultancy. She has earned hundreds of creative awards as a creative strategist, writer and designer, and her first book 21 Reasons Creativity is Like Sex launched as a #1 Business Humor book on Amazon in the Fall 2016.
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- Bitmoji, Asana Rebel and Simplenote – Courtney‘s top business resource
- Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie – Courtney’s top business book
- Courtney’s website
- 21 Reasons Creativity is Like Sex – Courtney‘s book
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3 Key Points:
- Creativity is not innate, it is a skill that can be learned and honed by everybody.
- Having a mentor can be beneficial for your business, as they can forecast and advise you on what you should do.
- Have the consistency, discipline and commitment to achieve your goals and chase after your passions.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:07] – Courtney was born and raised in Michigan and started her first business there
- [01:32] – She met her husband, Bryan, at an advertising conference in Washington, DC
- [01:47] – 2 years later she was engaged and moved to California
- [02:10] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: Courtney’s expertise is in either creativity or sex
- [02:34] – Everybody is creative as it is a skill that can be learned and honed
- [02:54] – You can be your best in creativity in the shower because of the double d’s – distraction and dopamine
- [03:48] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Today marks the one year anniversary of Courtney’s worst entrepreneurial moment. She and Bryan started Purematter in 2002 and worked hard to grow the business. From servicing local clients, they received regional clients and even global clients from the Fortune 1000 list. Last year, they made the difficult decision to shift from having a staff to hiring contractors because of problems with their cash flow.
- [05:10] – They had to switch to becoming a virtual company and work from home
- [05:31] – Their employees still signed on as contractors
- [05:55] – The main problem was their cash flow; they couldn’t maintain the office rent or give bi-monthly salaries to their staff
- [06:06] – Enterprise companies set the payment terms and some of their clients shifted from 90 to 120 days
- [06:49] – Courtney learned that you should diversify your client base
- [07:01] – When you get into business for yourself, you do it because you are passionate about it
- [08:33] – Greatest AH-HA Moment: In 2012, Courtney gave a presentation about the 10 Reasons Why Creativity is Like Sex. One of her friends who was in the audience told her she should write a screenplay about it. Courtney rejected the idea because she did not know how to write a screenplay
- [10:22] – Courtney says there is power in encouraging others
- [11:01] – Having the commitment, consistency and discipline to prioritize what you want to do is important
- [11:37] – We all have something we can share with the world, so we should find the time to share it
- [11:53] – JLD and Courtney give you permission and encouragement to do what you want to do
- [12:32] – What are you most FIRED up about today? – Launching the brand new, online membership community called Own Your Line with Bryan
- [13:26] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Fear and feeling I had a lack of resources”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “If you want to plough a straight line, keep your eye on the fence post at the end of the road”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Discipline to be consistent and making the space and time to focus on writing”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Bitmoji, Asana Rebel and Simplenote
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie
- [15:33] – Gordon is Courtney’s inspiration for her creative career
- [16:05] – “Don’t stop”
- [16:17] – Connect with Courtney on Twitter @cshasarrived, visit her book page CreativityisLikeSex.
John Lee Dumas: Yes! Courtney is the cofounder of Pure Matter, a top marketing consultancy. She has earned hundreds of creative awards as a creative strategist, writer, and designer. And her first book, 21 Reasons Creativity is Like Sex, launched as the No. 1 business humor book on Amazon in the fall of 2016.
Courtney, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Courtney Smith Kramer: My personal life? You wanna get personal with me, JL?
John Lee Dumas: Personal – let’s do it.
Courtney Smith Kramer: I love it. Well, I was born in a small town in Michigan. I don’t know how far back you want me to go. But, yeah, I was born and raised in Michigan. Those of you out there who are from Michigan know I’m holding up my right hand and pointing to the middle of my hand. That’s like the secret handshake of Michigan. Lived there for 30 years, started my first business there, and then one fateful day, met my husband, Bryan Kramer, who some of you guys might know, in Washington, DC, at an advertising conference, and the rest was history.
He lived in San Jose, California, at the time, and I never could conceive that I would be living in California, but sure enough, two years later, I was in San Jose. We were engaged, and the rest is history.
John Lee Dumas: Yes, Bryan is a past guest of EO Fire first, so for all of those Fire Nation faithful, you know exactly who BK in the house is, for sure. But Courtney, let’s turn the focus back to you because I wanna know what your area of expertise is.
Courtney Smith Kramer: Well, I think my book gave it away. So, it’s either creativity or sex. Hopefully, it’s both.
John Lee Dumas: Well, let’s stick with creativity, and within that, what would you say is something that we don’t know, as entrepreneurs, that we probably should?
Courtney Smith Kramer: So, I would say the dirty little secret of people who are considered “right brain” – using air quotes – is that, actually, everybody’s creative. It’s not a right brain-left brain thing. It’s actually a skill that can be learned and honed and trained in your brain.
John Lee Dumas: Give us a quick tip about how we can hone that skill.
Courtney Smith Kramer: Do it in the shower, meaning you can get your best creativity in the shower because what I call double-D is in the shower – distraction and dopamine. So, the water in the shower actually distracts your brain and allows you to make new connections, which releases dopamine, which is kinda the serotonin. It’s the feel-good hormone that your brain releases when you’re in euphoria.
John Lee Dumas: Wow! Love it! I will say a lot of double entendres here, which is great, and I’m sure that’s why your book was so successful – No. 1 business humor book on Amazon in the fall of 2016.
Courtney, let’s talk about something that might not be quite so fun. We’re gonna get back to the fun part again, and to the humor, and to having a blast, but right now, I wanna take you to your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. Duhn-duhn-duhn, take us there, girl. Don’t pull any punches. Tell us that story.
Courtney Smith Kramer: Today is actually the one-year anniversary of it, so thank you for opening that –
John Lee Dumas: I thought you were gonna say today is the worst entrepreneurial moment. I’m like, “No!”
Courtney Smith Kramer: No, today is the one-year anniversary of that moment, so throwing salt in the wound, thank you.
John Lee Dumas: I’m shaking it right now, baby, shaking that salt right in there. Woot! Woot!
Courtney Smith Kramer: So, Bryan and I own a marketing firm called PureMatter, and we started it back in 2002. And like all entrepreneurs, our dream was to grow our business and eventually have some sort of a windfall moment. And so, we worked so hard over the years, growing our business, gaining new employees, going from local clients to regional clients to servicing global clients like IBM, and Cisco, and Intuit, and the big ones – Fortune 1000.
And a year ago today, we had to make the gut-wrenching decision to convert all of our staff of 20 into contractors because what we had done, unwittingly, unknowingly, is kind of put all of our eggs in one basket of working with enterprise companies, and as a small business, we couldn’t stay ahead of the cash flow, and it killed our business in that way. So, we had to completely switch to a virtual company. We had to give up our office, which was in downtown San Jose, a gorgeous brick-walled building, old historic building that I absolutely loved, and move home, work from home.
And then, thank god, our employees were gracious enough to understand, and they all signed back on as contractors, and we’re still working like that today. But I think I still have PTSD from it.
John Lee Dumas: How did you get there? What took you from where you were able to have that amount of employees to the point where you weren’t? What went wrong?
Courtney Smith Kramer: It was just the cash flow thing. It’s expensive to hold an office, and to have employees, and be expected to pay salaries every two weeks. And what happens with enterprise companies is they kind of are the boss, and they set the payment terms, and we had a couple of our big clients shifted their payment terms even out to 90 and 120 days. So, even when you have big contracts, million-dollar contracts, when you’re not getting paid for 120 days, it’s tough to maintain that bimonthly paycheck with your employees. So, it was a really tough moment.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, big time. So, what would you say that you learned as a lesson from that? What do you wanna make sure our listeners take away from that very difficult moment that you experienced in your journey?
Courtney Smith Kramer: Diversify your client base, first of all. Have a variety of clients that you can control your terms. For a lot of entrepreneurs, when you get into business for yourself, you’re not necessarily businesspeople. You’re passionate about whatever you’re passionate about, which is why you wanna become an entrepreneur, but the lessons that I learned there is get someone on board who can forecast this stuff. When you’re stuck in your business and you’re working on it, it’s not always easy to anticipate or see these things.
And then, the other thing is stay out of debt, if you can do it. I’m a marketer, but I’m a writer and a designer by trade, so I think having that really solid business adviser to just say, “This is what I’m forecasting, and I think we need to make some adjustments so that this can be avoided,” I think that’s a really smart thing to do, even if it’s not in your wheelhouse.
John Lee Dumas: Sage, sage advice, Courtney. And now let’s talk about maybe a more pleasant time. This is gonna be one of your greatest ideas that you had to date, one of those aha moments that maybe you had in the shower during your double-D time. So, take us to that moment. Tell us that story. And then, make sure you kinda walk us through how you turned that idea into success.
Courtney Smith Kramer: The first one is really stupid, but my husband, Bryan, wanted a massage chair in our house, and I kept denying because they’re so ugly. And then, I had an aha moment that, “Wait a second. If there’s a massage chair in my house, I can sit in it.” I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.
No, but the big idea is actually stemming from my book. So, back in 2012, I gave a presentation that was actually called “The 10 Reasons Why Creativity is Like Sex,” and I was in Albuquerque speaking to an advertising club. And one of my friends in the audience heard me speak about it, and the next day, we were having lunch, and he said, “I have a friend who’s a producer, and he heard about the idea, and he really thinks you should write a screenplay about it.”
And I thought, “A screenplay? I’ve never even thought about writing a screenplay,” and he’s like, “No, I think it’d be a great movie.” So, he kept encouraging me, and I was like, “I don’t know anything,” and kept denying it.
Well, about six months after that, I thought, “You know what? Why not? Why don’t I just try?” So, I just tried. I sat down and started working in a Word doc, and then when that got unmanageable, I switched over to some screenplay-writing software. And nine months later, I had finished my first screenplay, and it was probably one of the proudest moments of my life because it was something that was completely outside my comfort zone, and I pushed myself to do it, and I researched it, learned about it, and even pitched it to a couple producers, unsuccessfully.
But it was really the act of writing it, and what I realized after trying to pitch that screenplay for a couple years after that, that maybe a screenplay wasn’t how this idea was meant to be manifested, and that’s what prompted me to write my book.
John Lee Dumas: So, with that, Courtney, what do you wanna make sure our listeners get from that story? Throughout that aha moment and how you turned it into success, what’s the one takeaway that our listeners can really maybe apply to their lives and whatever situations, industries, niches they’re in to catapult them towards that success?
Courtney Smith Kramer: Well, a couple things. First of all, you never know the power that a little bit of encouragement to someone else means to them, and being a cheerleader for someone or having a cheerleader in your life is so important. And I know it sounds simple, but that one guy just saying, “I believe in you. I think you should do this. This is really great,” and that’s really all it took for me to give myself permission to do it. And I feel like that’s what holds back a lot of people is just themselves giving themselves permission to do things, and it really, truly can take your life in a new direction.
And I also feel like committing to yourself and allowing yourself that consistency and discipline to do the things that are really important to you, make it a priority, is so important because, so often, we put things that are not a priority but we feel are a necessity as a priority, and that doesn’t feed our soul. And I feel like that’s why we’re all here, to really share our soul and our energy with everyone, and our special gifts. And it sounds super stupid and foofy, but it really is true. We all have something unique to share with the world, and if we’re so busy just working in our lives, when we’re not working on our lives, then it’s not ever gonna be shared.
John Lee Dumas: And, Fire Nation, it’s so true about the permission thing, so right now, I just want to make the statement that I give you permission. Courtney gives you permission. And this is also the importance of finding your mastermind because you need to have people who you know, like, and trust, who you respect, who are positive, who are enthusiastic, who are just overall optimistic people. Surround yourselves with these people because you’ll get those comments like Courtney got from that person, and they will encourage you.
And it might be that one thing, that one idea, that one word of guidance, encouragement, positivity that gets you to that next level that allows you to take that next step, and that’s all that it takes sometimes.
And, Courtney, what would you say, today, you’re most fired up about?
Courtney Smith Kramer: Well, Bryan and I, just a few weeks ago, launched a brand-new online membership community called Own Your Line, and we launched it because we wanted to take all the expertise in our marketing firm, Pure Matter, and be able to scale it for small-businesspeople and entrepreneurs to learn about marketing so they can grow their business.
So, I cannot be more excited about this, and I feel like the small-business owners and the entrepreneurs of this world are the underdogs. They’re the pioneers, the ones that are working their booties off trying to make their business work, and not all of them are marketers, so we’re here to help.
John Lee Dumas: Booties! And, Fire Nation, we’re gonna be talking about things like booties in the Lightning Round, so don’t you go anywhere. We’re gonna take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors.
Courtney, are you ready to rock the Lightning Rounds?
Courtney Smith Kramer: Let’s do this!
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Courtney Smith Kramer: Probably fear. I can’t remember because it was over 20 years, and I was young and enthusiastic at that point, but it was also probably just feeling like I had a lack of resources, but I feel like when you’re so focused on what you want to do, then you’ll find out how to do it.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Courtney Smith Kramer: So, my grandma always used to say that if you want to plow a straight line, keep your eye on the fencepost at the end of the row.
John Lee Dumas: Ooh. What is a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Courtney Smith Kramer: So, like I mentioned before, I think it’s just the discipline to be consistent in making the space and time to focus on writing. And you can insert whatever is passionate for you, anyone out there listening. You have to be consistent. I feel like, no matter what you’re doing in life, if you want to succeed, you have to just be consistent at it. Just don’t stop.
John Lee Dumas: Can you share an Internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation?
Courtney Smith Kramer: Yes. So, the one for fun is my Bitmoji, which I love because you can add personality. This is where you can customize your own little personal avatar, and then you can add it to your emails or your texts or your Facebook posts. That one’s just super fun.
I use Asana Rebel, which is a yoga app that you can do yoga anywhere. It’s super-challenging yoga.
But I use Simplenote, not Evernote, although I love Evernote. Bryan loves Evernote. But I use Simplenote to record my ideas.
John Lee Dumas: If you could recommend one book, Courtney, what would it be and why?
Courtney Smith Kramer: It would be a book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon Mackenzie, my absolute all-time favorite book. It was published in 1996. Gordon Mackenzie was the executive creative director for Hallmark, and I actually got to see him speak in person. This was way back in 1996, and he was the inspiration for my creative career. He was the first one that showed me that you can be creative, and you don’t have to let the conservatism within enterprise business rule the day, that creativity can actually rule it.
John Lee Dumas: Courtney, I wanna end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say good-bye.
Courtney Smith Kramer: Parting piece of guidance is my Reason No. 21 why creativity is like sex, which is “Don’t stop.” Like I said, the earth needs your energy, so just don’t stop doing what you’re doing.
And you can get a hold of me on Twitter @CSHasArrived. You can visit my book page, which is 21Reasons.CreativityIsLikeSex.com/book. There, you can download the first chapter for free, and there’s an inspirational adult coloring page that you can also download for free.
John Lee Dumas: What?! So cool. Now, is that Chapter 21, is it just those two words, “Don’t stop”?
Courtney Smith Kramer: It is.
John Lee Dumas: I love that because I remember reading Crush It one day, and I think Chapter 8 or something for Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, it was just like “Care,” and I was just like, “Wow, that says so much with so little.”
And, Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with CSK and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type “Courtney” – that’s Courtney with a C – in the search bar. Her Show Notes page will pop right up. These are the best show notes in the biz with timestamps, links, transcripts galore. You name it, it’s there.
Courtney, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
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