Thom Singer has an eclectic background working in sales, marketing and business development roles for Fortune 500 Companies, Law Firms, and entrepreneurial ventures. He believes that all opportunities come from people, and when we work together to find “cooperative significance” with others we all discover more success.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Thom shares a moment that would crush mortal men, but he bounces back with this one focus.
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- AH-HA moments are one thing, but taking action is on another level. Listen in to hear how Thom takes ACTION on his idea and turns it into reality!
Small Business Resource
- SignEasy: An electronic signature offers the easiest, most intuitive way to implement e-signatures in your business.
Best Business Book
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Thom Singer: I am prepared to ignite.
Interviewer: Yes. Thom has an eclectic background working in sales, marketing and business development roles for Fortune 500 companies, law firms and entrepreneurial ventures. He believes that all opportunities come from people and when we work together to find corporative significance with others, we all discover more success. Thom, say what’s up to Fire Nation and what’s going on in your world right now.
Thom Singer: John, thank you very much for having me. I’m having a good time. I’m a very fortunate guy. I make my living now as a professional speaker and professional master of ceremonies and I’ve been doing that full time for six years. I actually got laid off from a corporate marketing job on April 1, 2009 and at that point, I called my wife and said I’m going to pursue this dream of being a professional speaker and I think after she got off the floor from the shock, we launched the business and it took a while to get going, but now I earn my living more than I earned in corporate America.
I get to travel, meet very cool people and I do a program called the conference catalyst. I kick off events because the reason people say they go to all types of business events, conferences, seminars, etc. is for the networking opportunities, but once they get there, John, they often stink at it and so I have either as the master of ceremonies or the opening keynote speaker a way of getting people more engaged with each other while they’re there which improves their whole experience of being at the event for two, three, four days.
Interviewer: I love that, Thom, and I was recently honored to be a guest on your show and one that we talked about on your program that I thought was so significant that I wanted to share here was you asked me a question and I came back with if you want to be due, about if you want to be podcast, you need to podcast, and then you shared about how you wanted to be a speaker, a master of ceremonies and a keynote performer and you did it and you’ve done over 450 of these now. Can you speak to that for a second?
Thom Singer: Sure. I had this dream. I was a sales and marketing guy and I’d go to these seminars and you’d see people like Harvey McKay and some of the other great leaders of the 90s and early parts of 2000 and I would think gosh, I want to do that.
That would be so great, but people said well, you’re not famous and you haven’t written a best seller and so you’ll never be able to do that and the naysayers were all around me, but there were also people who said just go do it and I shared with you when we talked on my show that one of my favorite sort of quotes or I’m sort of paraphrasing it is from Stephen King. Somebody told him they wanted to be a writer and he said what have you written?
And their answer was nothing and he said then go write because writers write, and so I take that as speakers speak. So I started while I had a corporate job I started speaking at Rotary Clubs and other things and inside my company doing training for the lawyers or the accountants that I worked for teaching them how to get more engaged, how to network in the community, and they liked it and they started referring me and all of a sudden I had given a couple of hundred speeches on the side and people started wanting to hire me. So by going out and doing it, I actually became it.
Interviewer: If you want to write, write. If you want to speak, speak. If you want to podcast, Fire Nation, podcast. So whatever that niche, that industry that you in your heart of heart and your intuition want to do, for gosh sakes do it. I mean I can pretty much guarantee without even asking you Thom that if we went back and watched speech number two or four or ten, it’s not quite the same level that number 450 was.
Thom Singer: Oh, my gosh, John. I think back to some of those early ones and it was like I was putting on a façade of being somebody else. I would show up and be speaker man. All the pontifications that I could think of.
Interviewer: Right, but let me kind of just say here and this is so important for Fire Nation, that is part of the process and yes it’s cringe-worthy and I know that we don’t even want to start there, but it’s part of the process. We need to stand on the shoulders of giants to speak for better words on some levels and just learn from what others have done, imitate them on some levels, take what works for our personalities and try to implement it and then see in real time if it does or doesn’t and then drive on from there and like you said, Thom, I mean those first few for you, cringe worthy.
Same for me. I mean that’s just a reality of becoming an entrepreneur and good and a master at your craft. It takes time and Thom I don’t want to mess around here because your mind to me is fascinating. So I want to take a minute and do what I call the one minute mindset which are five insights into your mind and take about 30 seconds, maybe a minute to kind of expound upon these. The first one being ideally what are the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Thom Singer: Wow, I wish I could say that they were just peaceful and quiet, but I have two children and their ages 17 soon to be 18 and 13, and they’ve got to get out of the house and get to the bus and the 17 year old drives to school and so part of the day is my wife and I get up and there’s – my wife does most of the work. If she ever listens to this and I was to say we make the breakfast, she’d be like yeah, sure, we make the lunches and breakfast.
She does all the work, but I’m there to sort of coach getting the kids out of the house, but then I jump in to writing because I am more creative whether I’m preparing a speech or I’m writing an article or I’m just blogging just to sort of clear my mind, I write best in the morning. If you asked me at 3 pm to do some creative work, it’s just not going to happen to me. So the ideal hour, hour and a half first part of my morning is where I jump in on a creative project.
Interviewer: I love looking at it like we have a creative gas tank and Fire Nation, when you wake up in the morning, your gas tank is full. Okay? You’ve just had hopefully a nice night’s sleep of good REM and if you’ve used sleep cycle the great app that I use you’ll know exactly how much REM you’ve received and you’re off the races. Do you want to be using that gas to check out emails, to look at social media right now?
I mean right at the beginning with that great, grade A gasoline right at the top or do you want to be using it for something like writing and I think that’s something to really think about. Social media, emails, they can always come later. You can always get on somebody else’s agenda later, but treat yourself first, Fire Nation. Now, Thom, I want to talk about what you consider your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Thom Singer: Well, I’m a classical solo-preneur. So I’m a one man show for the most part and every now and then I’ll get someone to help with a project or I’ll do a joint venture, but my biggest weakness I’m not very good at letting go of the reins. I tend to want to do everything. My – the publishing company I’m with, my business partner for that company, he has a virtual assistant and he’s always get her to book your travel and I’m like no, I have to know when I leave because I have such weird connections. I can’t let go of the minutiae and that’s by far my biggest weakness.
Interviewer: I’m like Mr. App Recommender today. So get the app Trip Its and then as soon as your VA books your trip, she just forwards you to your special for that and it just pops right up in your Trip It and it’s there for you, all the connections, all the – if there’s any delays. It’s amazing. It will be a game changer and you’ll feel like you’re in the know all the time and Fire Nation, don’t be a micromanager. You’re not going to be able to scale and leverage your business, your knowledge, your brand unless you’re willing to give things away and it’s not easy, but what I want to talk about now Thom now is the opposite, your biggest strength.
Thom Singer: I think my biggest strength is that I absolutely love people. I love finding out what their stories are. I love meeting new people. I like looking for the connections. I gave a speech the other day and off the cuff things come out of your mouth. I happened to mention that I went to Arcadia High School in Southern California and then I went on with my speech and afterwards this woman who was much older than me came up to me afterwards and she said I also am an Arcadia Apache and we both live in Texas.
So who knew? So I got really excited about that connection. So I really like people and the second piece is I absolutely love what I do. I have people all the time when I finish a presentation come up to me and say, wow, you really are passionate about what you do and I’m like yes, that is without question and I think that becomes a huge strength.
Interviewer: That’s huge. That’s a huge strength and whenever people say John, you bring so much energy to every episode I just say because I love having these conversations with people like Thom and all the other great entrepreneurs I get to talk to. I truly feel that way. So what lights you up inside, Fire Nation? What gets you fired up and that’s going to shine through and it shines through so clearly on voice and video, just really take that in. So Thom, you have some good habits. You have some bad habits. What’s a habit you wish you had?
Thom Singer: Well, I wish I was better at being dedicated to working out. I listen to your show and a bunch of shows where they interview entrepreneurs and there’s these people with like great abs and really strong arms who are sitting there talking about their routine of their shake every morning and how they get to the gym no matter what and if they’re travelling, they find the hotel gym or they go for a run and I think wow, that would be such a great habit to have.
I’m almost 50 years old and I’m not like in horrible shape. I mean I always – whenever I complain about it, people go oh you look great and I guess by the greater standards I do, but at 48 years old, I get up in the morning and it takes a while for the knees to move. I never was an athlete. I was kind of – I forget the term for it when you’re a kid. Oh, lame-o. So I wasn’t picked first for like baseball and volleyball and things like that. So I never got into sports because I was bad at it as a kid and because of that now I don’t have really good workout habits. I’m trying to improve that and I’m improving my diet, but I wish I was good at it, John.
Interviewer: Well, I can proudly say that I’m still picking the chia seeds out of my teeth right now from my great green power shake this morning, but I still don’t have the abs, Thom. What can I say? I want them, but I don’t have them yet. Maybe my mentor Shaun Stevens is going to get me there. Shaun, if you’re listening, crack down on me, buddy. So Thom, what is the one thing that has you most fired up right now?
Thom Singer: So I’m most fired up at all the creativity I’m seeing in the meetings business. I mean I’ve been doing this full time for six years as a speaker and an MC and as a breakout leader and a workshop person and before that I was doing it part time for about four years. So with a decade now of being part of the meetings business, I’m really excited about all the creativity that I’m seeing in the people who are organizing these meetings. They’re willing to step out of the box. I had a big client, a big association that I’m going to be speaking for in April.
One of their people called and said hey, while you’re there, would you mind doing some other stuff for us and I’m already there. They’re already paying me well. Of course I’m willing to help, but they said are you willing to – and the guy paused, and he said, play. I said, yes. Yes. I don’t even know what that means, but yes, I’m willing to play. They’re going to have me do some stuff on video and things like that that are out of my normal and out of my comfort zone, but I get so excited when the client is willing to try new things because when they’re willing to try new things, I can’t fail because we’re experimenting.
We’re playing together. So I’m seeing more and more of that in people who are organizing meetings and it’s a perfect fit for me when people want to be out of the box because to launch your conference with a guy who’s going to talk about how do we make our conference better, you’ve got to be willing to play from the start. So when they’re willing to play, they’re more likely to hire me and vice versa.
Interviewer: I like that phrase, are you willing to play? Because to me that just brings the right connotation to the conversation and also I love how you said it’s going to bring you out of your comfort zone because to me, Thom, it always brings into mind this great image that will always be with you when I talk about comfort zones and it’s this big kind of fluffy circle. It looks like a cloud and then inside this great comfortable cloud, it just says comfort zone. Like that’s where we all want to be, in that comfort zone. That’s so cozy and fun, but then there’s a little black dot outside of that cloud and it just says where all the magic happens.
Thom Singer: Yeah, I agree.
Interviewer: You know what I’m saying? All the magic happens outside of your comfort zone Fire Nation. So embrace that. So Thom I want to move forward into your journey as an entrepreneur and really talk about one story specifically to start. This is your worst entrepreneurial moment. So take us there. Really take us to that moment in time and share with us that story.
Thom Singer: So John when you spend your life as a speaker, you’re on stage and you probably see this being a famous podcaster. People come up to you and say, oh, what a great job. Oh, that was fantastic. Oh, I loved that story and what happens is it can become very easy to start to believe your own press and a few years ago I fell prey to this. I mean I wasn’t huge – I’m not famous.
I’m not like one of these people who’s headlining everything. I don’t have a New York Times best seller and all this stuff, but I was getting a lot of work and I was getting some really cool organizations who were hiring me to come in and I started thinking well yeah, they come up and say great speech to me after every speech. I must be great and I kind of burned a couple of bridges with some people and you know I teach relationships. I talk about how do you better relationships.
So it’s sort of embarrassing to say I screwed it up, but I did. I started to get a little bit of ego and one of my mentors, a guy named Jim Pensaro who’s been a speaker and sales trainer for a long time he told me you can’t listen to when people come up and say great speech and I said – he asked me what do you want people to say when you come off stage and I’m like oh, that was great. I want them to say great speech and he said Thom imagine for a minute that you’re watching another speaker and they’re just okay.
They don’t stink, but you’re glad when they say in conclusion and he said now you’re at the cocktail party and you turn around and you’re alone and it’s you and that speaker. What do you say to them? Great speech. Exactly. You look at them and say great speech or at least hey, I loved that part when you talked about your brother or whatever, and he said there’s a whole slew of people who think they’re fantastic presenters because they believe that and he told what you really want people to say is some version of what else can you do for me?
Meaning do you have a book, do you have a podcast I can listen to? Do you do personal coaching? Hey, would that speech work for a group of doctors or lawyers or engineers because I want to hire you? If they say something that translates to what else can you do for me, you know you’ve done a good job and so I learned by burning a couple bridges and I can think of a couple of people in particular where I was cocky and they didn’t like me and so I had to learn that lesson the hard way to remember that great speech doesn’t mean I gave a great speech.
It means we live in a polite society and I didn’t stink. So now when someone comes up afterwards and says great speech, I’m very polite, but I don’t let that go to my head.
Interviewer: You want people to say how can I get me some more of that Thom Singer content?
Thom Singer: Absolutely.
Interviewer: No, and that’s another reason why I feel like it’s a blessing to have Kate as part of my team because she is that person that as soon as she sees – she starts to see a little bubble kind of forming, she just reaches out and pops that thing and she’s like bro, get your head back on straight. Let’s be honest here. Do I need to go back and play episode 24 for you because you were pathetic? And I appreciate that. It’s huge. So let’s move into another story and Thom this one, this is going to be a lightbulb that you had at some point in your journey. So take us again right to that moment specifically when that lightbulb hit you and then walk us through it.
Thom Singer: So John I know exactly when that sort of I think you call it a ah-ha moment was and that was – I had just started. I was doing this full time for maybe about a year and the truth was my family was hemorrhaging cash. I had had a really good corporate marketing job and all of a sudden – I was the sole – the main breadwinner.
We didn’t have any income at first and my wife was very supportive and she basically said I will support you burning through cash and burning through credit cards to a degree and as I was burning through and getting closer to the end of that runway, one of my friends said to me, he goes when do you quit? And I remember it vividly because he was serious. He was basically saying go back and get a job and I said you know I know there’s a point where financially we hit the end and I will have to do that.
I go, but we’re not there yet and there’s still plenty of runway in front of me and I said the only thing I know for sure is that 100 percent of the people who quit at this point never make it as full time speakers, and I sort of – as I said the words, I was like ah-ha and I knew I couldn’t quit and I knew at that moment that even if I went back and took a full time job, I was going to continue to speak on the side because I couldn’t not do it because it’s what I wanted to do and from that conversation forward I always knew that I couldn’t quit even if I had to say take different paths. I couldn’t quit because this was what I wanted.
Interviewer: And what I love about this story specifically Thom is that you in a way had enforced your ah-ha moment upon yourself. So many people including myself, I was waiting for this lightbulb to strike me from the sky and just give me that guidance that I was finally looking for and I lucked out and I did kind of have that semi-lightning bolt hit me kind of out of side of the head, but you like I said kind of just looked out and – you looked at it differently and said I’m going to create this ah-ha moment by reshaping my mind, by having the mindset that I know I need to have in order to be a success.
So Fire Nation, if you are like me and were waiting for this lightning or were sitting on your laurels thinking it was going to happen someday, why not take a proactive stance and go out there and actually make your ah-ha moment happen and Thom there’s a lot of things we have to discuss in this interview and we’re going to pack in some massive value in what I love to call the lightning round, but before we get there, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Thom, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Thom Singer: Let’s do it.
Interviewer: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Thom Singer: Self-doubt. I wasn’t sure – even though I’m a confident guy, I wasn’t sure that I could do it and with the naysayers saying you’re not famous and are you really good enough and what do you have, I just kept thinking maybe I can’t.
Interviewer: I just love remembering when I was starting to get into the podcasting thing and people were saying the same thing and the naysayers were talking to me and they were saying but you’re not famous. You don’t have an internet following. You’re not a podcaster and I’m like well, how does one become any of those things? Don’t you have to start from somewhere? I just didn’t get it and it’s just reality to me now that none of them did either. So – yeah, go ahead Thom.
Thom Singer: Well, I got laid off and it pushed me out of the nest and I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t gotten that lay off in the midst – sort of the recession, I sometimes fear that the self-doubt might have kept hold of me.
Interviewer: And it does for so many. I mean there’s so many times it just – it takes an unforeseen event to push entrepreneurs off the edge and then they become incredibly successful, but don’t feel like you have to wait for that, Fire Nation. And Thom what is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Thom Singer: So this advice came from my dad and I was really close with him. He passed away last year at the age of 99. So he was like being raised by a grandfather because he was 52 when I was born and when I was a teenager he always told me be slow to anger and fast to forgive.
Interviewer: Slow to anger, fast to forgive. That’s so valuable on a lot of reasons because I can remember specifically relationships that I have damaged, some irrevocably because I wasn’t slow to anger and that’s why I have definitely adopted this mentality Thom and let me tell you – tell me if this resonates with you. Whenever I’m a little frustrated and I want to send this email out, I send the email. I write the email. I send, but I send it to myself using boomerang to come 24 hours and then when I receive it, I read it as the recipient would and I say is this is actually something I want to send 24 hours later? And if it is, I send it and if it’s not which is usually the case, it’s pretty decently reworded.
Thom Singer: Yeah. I think that’s great and the other piece is be fast to forgive and that means realize your friends are human and they’re going to say stupid stuff and let it go.
Interviewer: Yeah. There’s a phrase that I love. It’s to err to human, to forgive divine. So I kind of look at it where people when they do make mistakes, I’m like wow you’re giving the opportunity to be divine right now. That’s pretty darn cool. So Thom do you have a personal habit that you believe contributes to your success?
Thom Singer: I do and that is since I was about 26 years old, I write 10 written notes every single week which means I do approximately – and I’m not perfect, maybe it’s seven one week and 12 another, but which means I do approximately 500 notes a year. Now I go to a lot of conferences. I meet a lot of people. I have a lot of people who refer me stuff so I’m always trying to say thank you, but I try to send five to 10 handwritten notes every week which means that I am touching people in a way that says you were important than an email, a like, a link, a share or a follow.
Interviewer: Wise words. That’s a great habit, one I would love to adopt. Thom do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Thom Singer: Absolutely. My favorite is Sign Easy which is an app that allows you to sign contracts right on your iPhone because you’ve preprogramed your signature and you just sort of cut and paste it in and then it resaves it as a PDF and you can email it. So with me being on the road all the time, it used to be someone would say we want to book you. I would need to wait until I had time on my computer to create an invoice or whatever and get the contract to them and then when it would have to be countersigned, I’d have to be a computer or I’d have to print it and scan it. Now I can just do it all on my iPhone.
Interviewer: Oh, I love that. I mean it’s so frustrating to me dealing with banks these days and they’re like can you fax this to me and I’m like what is a fax machine? I don’t even have a printer in my home. I mean these are things that we’ve got to get with it Fire Nation. Let’s be efficient. I love – Sign Easy. That’s going to be downloaded to my new i6 and Thom if you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Thom Singer: So John, I’m going to go old school with a book that was written in 1989 and I’m sure out of 920 other guests several have said this, but I’m going to recommend The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Interviewer: That has been recommended, but it’s one of those things. Can it ever be recommended enough? I mean that book is so huge and in fact I’m such a habit person that our big author right now on our website is 11 habits of successful entrepreneurs. So Fire Nation if you haven’t read this book and Thom is resonating with you right now, maybe it’s time and guess what? I know you love audio. So I teamed up with Audible and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book like this one for free at eofirebook.com.
Thom this next question is the last of the lightning 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 the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter, taken care of, but all you have a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Thom Singer: John, I love this question because all food and shelter are taken care of. Once that’s taken care of, I can step back and realize that I need in this brand new world I need people because in the old world every opportunity I had came from the people I know referring me and introducing me to people and giving me recommendations and what’s the other word? Testimonials. So I need to get out and meet people.
So I would take the $500 and I would invest it in the registration fee for as many networking lunches or conferences that I could attend and I would meet those people for the first time because that’s just a foundation. Meeting someone once doesn’t make them part of your network. Meeting someone once makes them someone you have met once. So you’ve got to start somewhere.
So I’d get out there and I’d meet them and then I’d invite them for coffee and I’d send them a note and we’d chat on the phone or by Skype and I would build relationships and this takes time, but if my food and shelter are taken care of, I don’t have to have the money rolling tomorrow. I can invest in people and I know for a fact that a year, two years, three years down the road, I’ll be right back having successes.
Interviewer: Love it. So Thom let’s end today how we started, on fire, with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, then we’ll say goodbye.
Thom Singer: Well, the best parting piece of guidance is remember that all opportunities come from people and you cannot prejudge just because of someone’s clothing or what city they live in or what their job title is or how their hair is combed. You can’t judge who’s going to be the person who brings you amazing opportunities or don’t forget this part, that you might be able to bring amazing opportunities to. If you just go out and meet people hoping they’re going to help you, you’re going to get disappointed.
You have to be willing to go out there and give as well, but you can’t prejudge. So go out there and be nice to everybody and you’ll see the results. So if people want to know anything about me, they can find me at thomsinger.com and T-H-O-M-S-I-N-G-E-R.com, but I’ll tell your listeners a little secret. If you go to tom spelled T-O-M Singer you’re still going to find me.
Interviewer: Oh, you did the redirect. Brilliant. Love it. And Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with Thom Singer and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com and that’s my version of entrepreneuronfire.com, Thom. And type Thom, T-H-O-M. It will have to have an H and his show page will pop right up and Thom, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today and for that my friend we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Thom Singer: Thank you.
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