David Nihill is the Founder of FunnyBizz, a community and conference series where business meets humor to abolish boring content. He is also the author of the Best-selling book, Do You Talk Funny? He has been featured in Inc., Lifehacker, The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Entrepreneur and Forbes.
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Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- Public speaking is the #1 phobia of most people, and David quit a great corporate job before he realized the extent of his crippling fear. But Fire Nation, all the magic happens OUTSIDE of your comfort zone.
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- You should be EMBARRASSED by the shipping of your first product! When the information is just in your head, you’ll never make progress.
Small Business Resource
- Toofr: Figures out business email addresses using only the first and last names, and the website domain.
Best Business Book
- FunnyBizz: A community where business meets humor to abolish boring content.
- 80 Free Tips to Become a Better and Funnier Speaker
David: John, I’m practically boring up over here, I’m ready to roll.
John: David is the founder of FunnyBizz, a community and conference series, where business meets humor to abolish boring content. He’s also the author of the bestselling book, Do You Talk Funny? That has been featured in Inc., Life Hacker, Huffington Post, Fast Company and Forbes. David, take a minute and fill in any blanks in the intro and give up a glance into your personal life.
David: There is probably a couple of gaps in there seeing I have lived in about 12 different countries over the last 10 years and I don’t know how many job I got carried away with before I found my way to FunnyBizz, but it’s been really a long journey, but it’s actually how we found our way to helping businesses create more engaging content.
We kind of figured there was too much boring stuff out there and too many people really struggling to produce the content they kind of strayed away from the core principles we like in storytelling, improve and comedy. So, yeah, it’s been a bit of a wacky journey finding our way and there are plenty of holes in there so, I’m happy to fill in any of them that are missing.
John: Oh, we will be doing that for sure and Fire Nation is well aware that I’m all about the story. So, I’m looking forward to a couple stories from you specifically David and your journey and really getting specific with those. But, first I kind of want to have you picture yourself with the networking party. If someone comes up to you and says, “Hey David, what do you do?” what is your ten second answer?
David: I help businesses created more engaging content using techniques from the work of stand-up comedy storytelling and improve. So, we are on a mission to abolish boring content. Then I’m going to explain my accent, which is going to confuse the life out of them and probably something we should do in case somebody needs a translator here, you’re now in charge, but I am from Ireland and that tends to dominate a bit as well.
John: Oh, for sure. So, David I want to start with your entrepreneurial origin story of how you came to do what you are currently doing right now. So, don’t go way back into the history books, just to whatever point you started doing what you are currently doing. How did that happen?
David: Yeah, it was slightly random, I left my corporate job and I was looking at new startup ventures and a friend of mine tragically suffered a spinal cord injury falling from a balcony. The insurance provider he had, had cut off his coverage and we were looking for ways to do fundraisers to raise some money for him. I said a comedy show would be a good idea and as luck would have it, I knew a guy who had made it fairly big in comedy and was my next door neighbor many years ago and he agreed to do it.
So, all of the sudden I was nominated to host this event and one thing that my American friend didn’t know, which my Irish friend knew extremely well, that I turned into just a wobbling sweaty mess of jelly when it came to public speaking. Massively, my biggest fear and I absolutely hate it, but compared to the recovery process from a spinal cord injury person is going to go through and the challenges that they are facing, all of the sudden, something that was massive drill my whole life and hugely scary, was but a bit more into prospective.
I had to get over this, so I was inspired by a couple of guys I’ve heard online a lot and a couple of guys who’s books I’ve read, like A.J. Jacobs and Tim Ferris, the idea of going deep into a topic for years and trying to break it down and take core principals out of that and apply to 80/20 principal and just really break it down to explain in point. So, I got carried away and did that with standup comedy, initially just so I wouldn’t look like an idiot hosting this charity show.
It went pretty well and I was like surprising well and I wasn’t the mess that I normally was. I decided to break down the principles I’d learned along the way and try to share them with some people and see if I could help anybody else with the similar problem. So, the idea wasn’t to commercialize it originally, but along the way and all the people I met and spoke to, we realized that business had a lot of the same problems of breaking down core messages like anyone that public speaks does or anyone who produces content doesn’t get it down to its realer, finer, more impactful and hopefully entertaining point.
That led us to FunnyBizz putting on a series of contents and creating a writer portal where we actually have comedians and comedic copywriters take content and try and make it more funny and engaging and essentially punch it up. So, it can all be traced back to my friend’s spinal cord injury and a moment where I really didn’t have a choice and I felt I just had to deal with it.
John: Well, that is a fascinating origin story and it's so true, that public speaking is the number one phobia for a vast majority of human beings. Getting up in front of people and the bright lights and talking is incredibly nerve racking, but I do like to say this Fire nation, we all know our comfort zones and we all love our confront zones for the very reason, they are comfortable, but all the magic happens outside of your comfort zone, so remember that whenever you feel yourself pushing against your comfort zone that is a good thing, as an entrepreneur. David, how are you currently, today, generating revenue?
David: Well, we have been running a series of workshops for private individuals and companies that help them to take public speaking, which is something nobody ever wants to sign up to. They are like, public speaking training, great, I am out of the building, or at least that was me. So, we are like, it’s a lot more fun if we take the principals from the world of standup comedy and teach them to have fun. Our core argument was that modern day business speakers are essentially expected to be entertainers and a lot of them really don’t know how.
So, we have been running workshops doing that, we set up a platform where companies and individuals can send us any form of written content and we use comedians to punch that up and make it funnier. So, we, have some really great guys who write for top shows like Saturday Night Live and we have also been working a lot with a number of high profile CEO’s on their individual public speaking, just to help them kind of find their story and make it a bit more interesting and engaging and ultimately funnier.
John: All right David, its time. We are going to go where a lot of the guests happily go, but at the same time, they are happy because it's in the past and history and hindsight's, and that is your worst entrepreneurial moment. So, take us to that moment in time and you know the power of story, so tell us that story, like we were there first person. I want to be there and smell the roses or lack thereof, and I really want to hear it in depth.
David: Yeah, I was sitting in a friend of mines kitchen in Manchester with him and his wife and I just decided I was going to leave my pretty fun on the face but corporate job. As corporate jobs go, this one was a bit more interesting. It involved being a trouble shooter for the world's largest private education company. I worked across many different companies and businesses and they kind of make fun of it for being the James Bond role. Nobody knew where I was and what I was up to.
The highlight for me, at one stage, an email went around the company, would have had 70 people copied on it and I had a very high level and the title of it was David Nihill’s October salary. There were trying to figure out where I was and I was in Bolivia at the time actually, so as corporate jobs go, it was pretty nice and I was well paid. I just decided to quit it and to pursue and entrepreneurial venture that I really believed in, which was going to be called Career Republic.
It was going to be a website that gave people access, people who earned six figure salaries but were no famous in any way. We just wanted to get that video content out there and introduce people, and this is going back a couple years, and I was still hugely afraid of public speaking. So, the business partners that I had on this venture, who were experienced entrepreneurs and I wasn’t as much, just found out that the lady was pregnant and she was married to my friend, so they were a couple, and she was allergic to being pregnant.
So, she was going to be bed ridden for about the next 8 or 9 months and very under the weather and it was their second child, so there was no way that they were going to be able to commit to this project anymore. I felt hugely passionate about it and the amount of work we would have done would have been creating the video content and interviewing all of these people and that is what my friend’s wife was going to be doing. She had a background in media and she had a background as a radio presenter and host. Of course, I am massively scared of public speaking.
So, rather than suck it up and get on with it and get over the fear, what I did was let it go and it was an idea that I was really, really passionate about. All of the sudden, I have no job and no income and no definite plan, something I passionately wasn’t to do, but I just couldn’t get over the fear of actually getting there and jumping and doing it.
The public speaking part now was the hole, we had to interview these guys and create and put content and to execute it, and I would have had to do that. It was bad, I was like all of the sudden, what am I thinking, I'm in England and wasn’t planning on living in England and all of the sudden, roles have changed, job had changed and all of the sudden the entrepreneurial plan I’d had was pretty straight forward, was gone out the window.
John: So, you had this pretty solid corporate job, where you had some flexibility, you weren't having to go into an office every day and in fact you were in Bolivia at one point, hanging out, rocking a rounds, and you decide to give it all up. You decided to get into a career path, a journey, that was actually going to have you focusing on doing something that you were terrified about and you realized, what is going on here and what have I gotten myself into, but at that point it was too late.
I’ll tell you, a lot of us entrepreneurs, we find that we have kind of gone down that path, and there is no real good way to turn around and retrace our steps, which is good because we don’t want to retrace before the time really requires it, but how do you, David, looking back on that now, what is your biggest take away, what is the insight that you want to make sure that Fire Nation, our listeners, get from that journey, from that tough period, the worst moment that you experienced thus far in your entrepreneurial journey?
David: Yeah, the biggest take away for me, is exactly as you said earlier. It's when you're out of your comfort zone that is what you are meant to feel and what you are meant to be. You're meant to be scared of the thing that you are passionate about in executing that. If you don’t feel that, you shouldn’t be worried in the first place. So, my biggest take away was just to face that fear head on and get over it and get on with it and go ahead and follow your passion.
John: So, David, we are going to stay with the story theme as we move forward for sure, but this one is going to be of a different ilk. It's going to be your ah-ha moment, your light bulb that went on at some point in your journey, an epiphany that you’ve had and of course you have had a ton, my friend, but which one make a great story, which one are you going to take us to right now and share with us that light bulb that went off and then specifically go through the steps that you took to turn that idea into success.
David: I gathered everything I went through on public speaking and I figured that if I could solve the problem for myself, I could probably solve it for some other people along the way. So, I gathered up all those thoughts and I recorded me speaking at a presentation and I posted that online as an online course that people could get paid access to. Now, my thought was, that if other people found it interesting, then I would pursue the project and try and turn that course into a book.
You never know when you put your thoughts out there and your options out there if anyone else is going to agree with you. You are always opening yourself up to that negative feedback and I was pretty worried about doing it. I didn’t tell any of my friends I was doing it whatsoever. All of the years experiments I did, I did it under a stage name in the world of stand-up comedy and I really didn’t want anybody to know. I used Udah Mae specifically as an online platform because they would do the marketing on my half.
So, the big thing that I didn’t want to face was showing it to everybody, hey, I have this product; I left my cool job to do something that looks kind of wacky, to say the least, and put it out there. So, the Ah-ha moment came when I put that course out there and the very first email inquiry I got came from a pretty wacky, like, AOL account like 1960 something at aol.com and I thought it was my friend making fun of me. The email said; do you take private clients, I would be very interested in working with you.
Because I thought it was my friends joking with me, I just write back, oh yes, of course, but on a very exclusive basis and very seldom and its very expensive stuff. And he wrote back, listing his achievements, which included a network of approximately 400 million, which he unmasked as being a shark on Shark Tank. I thought, oh man, this guy's email is genuine and I looked him up.
I thought to myself, if a guy operating at this high of level, who has this high level of exposure to public speaking, needs help with this problem, well then there are probably a lot more ordinary people who haven’t got to that level of success. Your average person must need help with it too so, it's not just me. So, that was the real ah-ha moment, like okay, people needs this information and I'm kind of obligated to get it out there.
John: With all of the stuff, David, what specifically was that one action you took that really made you feel like you turned the corner and really started accumulating success after success with this idea?
David: It was definitely putting it out there. So, up to that point when I published it as a [inaudible][00:13:28] open information online in any format, it was just information in my head and if the information is just in your head, there is no way to commercialize it and no way of getting feedback on it. So, it was just putting it out there to open it up to the public to see, all right, was I crazy, or was there some merit and stuff in the content I was putting together that I really believe in, but I just hadn’t really put it out there for anyone else, to risk being critical upon.
So, it was defiantly taking that risk and putting it out there and seeing and acting on the feedback that came back in and really taking that chance to see if anybody else was interested or not. So, I would say, just publish it, just get it out there, if you have content in your head, you have ideas in your head, just try and action them and share with people. If you can sell them to people, even better, that is a proven concept.
John: Absolutely and there is a Reid Hoffman quote that I always resonate with and I can't share it enough, "if you are not embarrassed, Fire Nation, by the shipment of your first product, service or whatever it might be, you waiting way too long" quote, Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn. You waited way too long. So, it's okay, be embarrassed, get it out there, make yourself vulnerable, that is part of what it is.
You will be shocked and excited and at the same time, yes you will have some setbacks, but those setbacks are going to allow you to iterate to pivot to improve, get it out there. David, we are going to enter the fire round; this is where you take about 30 seconds and just answer a couple of quick questions. The first one being, what is your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
David: Definitely my biggest weakness is selling stuff and self-promotion. I would give anything away for free. I need a team around me or my friends to say, oh, you need to commercialize that or like, that is valuable stuff and you need to sell it. So, asking for money has been a big problem for me. I think it’s a bit of an Irish thing, we don’t like self-promotion in any way and if you do it and your own people will chase you around and make you stop doing it, for the most part. So, yeah that has been my biggest weakness and it's been a very tough transition to make.
John: Yeah, that is interesting, they have something in Australia called the Tall Poppy Syndrome, where if you are a poppy, which is like a flower I think, and you grow higher than the other poppy's they chop it off, right at the head. So, they chop you back down to size, so to say.
David: Exactly, the same way with lobster climbing out of a boiling pot. The joke, where I was from, that they can get out with no problem, the only thing that stops them from getting out of the boiling water is the other lobsters pulling them back in again.
John: Which is why it is so critical, Fire Nation, find those other lobsters that are pulling you down and get them out of your lives. Find those people that are chopping off your poppy when it grows a little higher and get them out of your life and surround yourself by the other tall poppy's or by the other lobsters that are going to give you a helping claw.
David: We have really brought this strangely profound today, we didn’t think we were going to be talking about lobsters and poppies, but now we are and it's not too bad.
John: I love it. So, what is your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?
David: I think my biggest strength is getting things done and getting stuff down in the execution of that. So, my background was operations for five years, so once I got over the hump of actually, all right , I need to share my stuff, getting it done and getting the sequences needed to get things in place operationally, that came pretty easy for me.
John: That's critical. So, David, you have a lot of really exciting things going on, but if you could just drill it down to one for Fire Nation, what is that one thing that has you most fired up today?
David: The thing that has me most fired up is the chance to help performers and comedians continue their passion and make it a living, instead of dropping out. So, a lot of comedians don’t earn a lot in the U.S. so, they drop three, four or five years into their passion and they don’t really have a way of commercializing it, but over that period, they have developed the skills to really be a good copywriter. I love that businesses need that skill and don’t have access to it. So, bridging that gap and allowing these guys to keep pursuing their passion while doing something they love, is what I'm most excited about working on at the moment.
John: Love that, love that. So, David we are about to enter the lightening rounds, but before we do, let's take a minute to thank our sponsors. David, are you prepared for the lightening rounds?
David: I am, let's do it.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
David: That is a tough one, I would say, over education. At 16 years old, we have a magazine that was a free ads, newspaper, at the age 16 I was blacklisted as a professional [inaudible][00:17:54] and in Ireland they don’t even let you drive until 17 years old. So, I was doing pretty well and was a little entrepreneurial machine and all of the sudden, I went to the University, six years of University business school education later, I had no entrepreneurial ventures, and I was very focused on getting a job and you get too comfortable and being you know it, I had a job rather than a passion.
So, it took me a long time to get back to be being comfortable being uncomfortable, which was who I was at 16 years old. So, yeah, I would say over- education was the thing that taught me to over analyze things rather than just follow my gut instinct and doing them.
John: What is the best advice that you have ever received?
David: Best advice would be to work on solving a problem that you actually have and it you can solve it for yourself, chances are, and you can solve it for others as well and probably commercialize it. So, just build something, get out there and try and fix a real problem.
John: Yeah, and again, even if you are embarrassed by what that first solution looks like, get it out there, because that won't be the last solution, iterate, pivot and improve.
David: Exactly and that advice came to me from a guy who walked away from ten million dollars at the age of 19 to pursue his passion on another idea, so I figured it was pretty good.
John: Wow, what is a personal habit that you believe contributes to your success?
David: I was going to be stereotypical Irish and say drink an occasional beer, which is mostly occasional, don’t want to succumb to the stereotype. To be honest, I would say keeping fit. I think any good idea I have had, has never come sitting at a desk.
It always comes when you are out running or out doing something where you subconscious are doing the work rather than you sitting there consciously staring at a computer screen, trying to generate ideas. I think it's something that if presidents around the world, like your President Obama can make time for exercise or great business leaders like Richard Branson, then you should be able to too. I think it really helps keep your mind fresh.
John: Priority, it has to be a priority. Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
David: Ilovetoofer, which basically allows you to guess peoples email if you enter first name, last name and their life work domain name, it will basically link all of their social networks to get registered to that and verify whether it is correct or not. That tool will allow you to do that on mass, but for me it's been so good because it allowed me to reach out cold to people that I admired, but I had never met and it seemed like somebody might have given me their email so, they were much more likely to respond.
Then I like to combine that a lot with using gifties, which are short funny videos and no words, just as a sequential follow up. Like, we have a cookie monster sitting there looking impatient and then we have somebody looking disappointed and [inaudible][00:20:46] looking frustrated waiting, the response rate to those is huge and its essentially a cold email, but if you just keep following it up with little bits of happiness.
You know, your email inbox these days, is not much of a place for happiness so, those gifts are really good at doing it. On our blog, we actually have a list of my ten favorite ones and your listeners can go check out as well. I'm sure we will put those on.
John: What is the link?
David: FuzzyBizz.co and then we have our twelve favorite gifties there. I run a conference series and when I'm trying to get new speakers that maybe not know me in anyway, I find those massively effective. People, who never replied to emails or get swamped with emails, suddenly see this little bit of happiness in their inbox and it tends to generate a response so, I find that very effective.
John: I love it. If you could recommend one book for our listeners to join, do you talk funny, on our show nose pages, what would it be and why?
David: My favorite book it called The Man Who Tried to Save the World and it is the story of Fred Carney, written by Scott Anderson. It's basically a guy who really wanted to be the world expert in humanitarian disaster relief. So, if there is a Tsunami strike, who is the guy that you call to sort it all out and he basically had no qualifications to be this guy, but went around and convinced everybody that he was this guy and so much so, to a level that George [inaudible] [00:22:12] the famous fancier actually just gave this guy a blank check and went to go fix Chesnee.
In the book, it details what happened to him, but the entrepreneurial lesson from it that I take is, if you believe in your ability to be able to execute something good, tell people and go prove it and others will start to believe as well.
John: Act as if, I love that. In Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so I have teamed up with Audial and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. David this next question's the last of the lightening round, but it's a doozy. Imagine, you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all of the experience and knowledge that you currently have, your food and shelter are taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00, what would you do in the next seven days?
David: I don’t want to say that I have been influenced by the content of your great show at all here and your success. I'm pretty sure I would first buy a Logitech headset for $28.00, which is a pretty good value.
David: I would go on 99designs and get a really cool logo for a new company that I think I would call something cool, like Fire Republic, the company that I never quite started.
David: And then I think I would get to work on creating and releasing a podcast episode with interesting folks, many of them Irish, to go out daily. I might even look at doing this aerially, just in case you ever decide to expand there. You are being way too productive and I might invest some of the rest of the money in getting you a medical marijuana card to calm me down a bit so I can dominate the world of podcasting on this new place.
John: That would be the ingredients in the recipe for world domination and David, let's end today on Fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, then we will say goodbye.
David: I think the best piece of guidance I can offer is just get out there and just try it. Just build something and try and solve the problem for yourself and if you can solve it for yourself, you can solve it for others and if there is value in that, people will pay you for it. I certainly found that to be the case.
So, overworked for your listeners, we have our blog at Funnybizz.co and the book I have is, Do You Talk Funny, which details the year's experiments, I'm on Twitter at Funnybizzsf and I have my own blog which I use for public speaking and that can be found at 7comedyhabits.com.
John: Fire Nation you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you have been hanging out with D and JLD today so, keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, type David in the search bar, his page will pop right up. David, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, for that my friend, we salute you and we will catch you on the flip side.
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