Ryan Estis

  • Stephen: Coming to you live from Chatterbox Studios, in downtown Memphis. It's Steven Kirkpatrick with Executive Speakers on speakers. I've got leadership and sales extraordinaire Ryan Estis on the phone with me today, we're going to talk about visioning, we're going to talk about leadership, and we're going to talk about Rufus the Mascot. Stick around, it's going to be awesome.

    We're so lucky to have speaker extraordinaire Ryan Estis with us. Ryan is known for his innovative ideas on leading change and proving sales effectiveness and preparing for the future of work.

    He was recently recognized as one the best keynote speakers ever heard by Meetings and Conventions Magazine. Ryan is from the great of state of Minnesota and we're so happy to have him.

    Ryan, how are you today?

    Ryan: I'm doing great, I'm doing great, thanks for having me.

    Stephen: Awesome, hey, we're going to jump to right into it. So, what do the Timberwolves have to do in this upcoming draft to improve their playoff chances next year?

    Ryan: Oh, my God. I don't think it's the draft. I wouldn't count on a rookie improving anybody's playoffs chances. I think it's just a process, I mean, you got one of the youngest teams in the NBA. I think were might be a couple of years that have missing piece or two away but I like the direction, riding.

    So, give us a year or and I think you'll see some very competitive basketball in Minnesota.

    Stephen: So, you really think by adding Markelle Fultz, Minnesota Timberwolves would not be a playoff team, next year.

    Ryan: I think ... I don't know if they'll be playoff team or not. I mean, there's a lot of factors that go into that, right? One of them is health, just staying healthy. Now how does Zach LaVine come off his injury, you know, what else happens in free agency. Can we add a veteran piece here, or there.

    I think they're heading in that direction with the pieces they have. Is it going to happen next year? You know, fifty, fifty we can get the seventh, or eighth spot next year, I mean, so, I think that's the goal, right? I think, you know ...

    Stephen: Yeah, get into the playoffs, get your foot in the door.

    Ryan: Yep, you got to get your foot in the door, you got to break through. And, we've had a bit of a drought here I think that's becoming the expectation, I think it'll happen soon, so ...

    Stephen: So, it's interesting. So, you know, the Grizzlies have a really good run in the playoffs here and one of the first things that really kind of kicked us off was whenever we in Eighth Seed and we beat Spur's in the playoffs. And, that kind of launched us into the future, so you never know what happens if you get that Eighth Seed. It just takes one time.

    Ryan: No, that's it man. And you know, anything can happen, you know, sports are delicate, right, anybody can beat anybody in the NBA and you know, over a series if some good things happen. But a guy gets on a run, somebody else gets hurt, I mean, you never know. So, that's what makes it exciting to watch, right? So ...

    Stephen: Now, you have a lot clients through professional organizations. I know you just recently spoke for another NBA franchise. So on paper, people think most professional sports organizations are run, really well. I mean, they're efficient and they're going great because you see them on TV all the time.

    How do you as a speaker, how do you as someone who's a sales, and leadership speaker kind of prepare differently going into these major brands, like a Sacramento Kings, or someone like that. You know, who people think they're just going amazingly well?

    Ryan: Well, look, sports is a different business because there's a couple of unique variables about sports. Number one; the majority of sports teams are small family owned businesses, right? They're privately held companies, they're family owned and they're small businesses.

    Most sports franchises you know, on the operations side have under 1,000 employees and that's small business. So, I think that in spite of the global awareness of the brand, it's still by its very nature a small business, so, that's one thing.

    The second thing is, you know, the product is in a constant state of flux. It's a variable, right? So, the Sacramento Kings had a big trade, DeMarcus cousins get shipped off mid-season, that affects expectations, fan sentiment but that, potentially ticket sales. And, if you're an employee in that organization, you don't control any of that. So, it really, it's very different for maybe what you would consider the typical, you know, B2B sales organization where a couple of times a week, or if the NFL once a week, you know, your product is being evaluated. Is in kind of a constant state of flux and customer objected scrutiny opinion. So, that's what's really different kind of working the business side of a professional sports team.

    Stephen: That's a really interesting angle. Now, I want to kind of talk about your journeys as professional speaker. I mean, it's not, I mean some people wake up and like, "Hey, I want to be a professional speaker." And they go into it.

    But, especially in the categories you're in, kind of with leadership, innovation, and sales, you know, those can be pretty broad categories. You know, one of things that we always talk about in the speaking industry is we want speakers who create distinction and are able to have a unique voice.

    What was your journey to kind of create your distinction as a speaker and kind of view find your unique voice?

    Ryan: Well, you know, in many respects, I'm an accidental entrepreneur, accidental speaker, right? So, my background is in sales, and sales leadership, you know, I came up from the corporate side, I worked in the advertising communications industry. I was an executive at an agency, so I worked on the account management, the sales, and leadership side.

    And I really got into speaking as part of our sales, and marketing discipline, so I realized as a sales executive that if I ... Attending these trade shows, and conferences. If I created the little thought leadership around for our business around our brand in the industry that it really could generate some additional interest and potentially business perspective customers. So, that's how it started.

    I would kind of speak at the face of our agency, these trade shows and conferences. And like anything else, I got better at it, I enjoyed doing it, the more I did it, the better I got, the bigger the audiences get, the more I was getting invited to do it.

    And then I just kind of set out on really a three year research project of studying the learning, development, and consulting industry. Like, if I was going to go in or segue out of advertising and take a shot as an entrepreneur ...

    I hired a coach, I developed content and I kind of had a little runway going. And then in January 2009, I made the exit. Originally, I thought it was going to be a consulting business. I had a partner, I thought speaking would be a small part of it. You know, that I'd speak and we'd pick up consulting clients and we had two consulting projects with marquee clients out of the gates.

    And then a couple years into it, I really hit an inflection point where the speaking side of it was growing. And, that led me to kind of shift focus and really double down on being a professional, speaking, and training organization and that's where we've been since.

    And so, it's now, it's research, it's training, and the keynote speaking that you guys know and I've never looked back and it's the best professional decision I ever made. I love the work, I love the customer's, I love the live events and we're having a great time doing it, so ...

    Stephen: Awesome, awesome, awesome. So, one of the big things, obviously that clients want, they want a customized presentation, they want to feel like the speech you're giving to them is for them and them only and no one else is hearing it.

    And feedback is really important, too. How has client feedback kind of changed your content and how you speak, over the years?

    Ryan: Well, I think the best way to build a business is in concert, and lock step with your customers. So, you know, feedback is critical. I mean, with feedback, like anything else, you have to consider the source.

    I've actually written quite a bit about customer feedback, and feedback and you know, kind of, leveraging feedback on the blog.

    I think for us, your point is customization, like, it's really understanding the client on the front end. So, you know, we make a pretty huge investment in our approach and our preparation to really understand the customer, their learning objectives, why they're bringing people together, and what success looks like on the back end.

    And I think for me, that's for the work I do. That's the most important time to prepare. Feedback is a gift, we'll take it any time. But it's that front end kind of preparation and disciplined approach to really understanding what the client needs and what success looks like that I think it's helped differentiate us a bit and deliver more custom on target presentations.

    And then, ultimately you cycle through the feedback. I mean, we have a whole process where we capture feedback and want to understand if we're bringing in value and having impact. And, a lot of times you get that and that's great. That's one of the great things about this business, is you can typically ... There's a survey mechanism, you're getting anonymous comments dubbed in feedback. You can have some posthumous analysis with the customer and really fine tune your craft.

    Stephen: So, you talked about whenever you get feedback you really kind of want to understand the person is. Is there some feedback you give more weight to from certain people, or less? What's your process there in determining how much you want to listen to that feedback?

    Ryan: Yeah, absolutely, look, feedback is subjective. You know, entertainment keynote speaking content, you know, publishing, I mean, all that's very subjective. I'm not going to field everybody and you know, I understand that. So, we're looking for feedback that is specific and constructive.

    You know, somebody didn't like ... It's an interesting business because you're in the public domain. I think you know, with social media today, and anonymous comment, and everybody kind of becoming a critic, and an arm chair quarterback, you know, there's this whole domain. You kind of have to remove yourself from that.

    And then, I always say, you know, is the feedback constructive? Can we learn, and adapt from it, you know? Sometimes the feedback is real time, you get a hash tag on Twitter, you're on stage, you can walk off the stage and see 200 comments.

    The thing for me ... And we don't deal with a ton of like, real, harsh, negative criticism. But the thing for me that I look for is, what's resonating? What are people connecting to? What are they taking action around? What are they willing to go back and do and do differently as a result of the hour, or the half day, or the full day?

    That's the kind of feedback that I'm really looking for. Because you know, it gives us a sense of you know, what people are taking, what they're actually able to go do that has impact, afterwards. And, you know, my goal is to kind of serve in the catalyst of change or to help people move a little bit further, and faster in the direction they desire.

    And so, that kind of specific feedback's really, really valuable. And look, like an athlete, you talk about sports, we watch the game tape from it. A lot of this stuff we get the video. So, I've got a team of people around me that'll analyze that and break it down just like, you know, sports team would preparing for their next where this was great, this wasn't, this resonated, we could improve this, this way, back story could be tightened up, and we continue to evolve, grow, and get better.

    Stephen: That's good. Always good to have a process. I want to piggy back on that comment about how people take your hour, hour-and-a-half, and change, and kind of how they want to go in the direction they want to.

    And, you do a very good job of giving people specific takeaways, especially when you do your sales speech. Where do you see people making their biggest mistakes, on 8:01 Monday morning, or even two to three weeks after the conference, after they've heard you. Where do you see some common mistakes and pitfalls that those people have?

    Ryan: Well, we try and course correct the biggest one I see before it happens. The biggest one is, you go to a conference, there's a learning opportunity, whether it's internal, external, whatever it is. Three, or four days, you're off-site, you're immersed in this moment, there's a lot of energy and inspiration, you have a whole workbook full of notes.

    And then you go back to the office and the first thing you do Monday morning is start cleaning out your emails, going through your 17 voicemails and you get kind of back into your old routine and the acceptance notes on the shelf for three days. Three days turns into three weeks, three weeks turns into three months, you forgot everything you learned and nothing changes. That's a mistake.

    And so, you know, we have this kind of way we close our events called, Action Planning, where it's an exercise. We actually put people through the discipline of deciding, committing to three specific changes in the room, in the moment.

    What you want people to do is make that decision when they are at an elevated emotional state. When their inspiration, and energy is activated. And, it's literally write it down, sign it, date it, share it with the person next to you, create some built in accountability because in a week, or two weeks, or two months it's easy to let go of some of those things that we thought were good ideas in the room but move us directly out of our comfort zone.

    And so, I call it bridging the gap between what happens at the event and the conference and our actual day-to-day reality. And, giving people a specific plan, process, routine, ritual to create that momentum is critical in order to accelerate change.

    Stephen: How can organizations help that? How can they kind of know that this may happen with people, that people may lose what they see, or what they feel, what they decide to do to conference, how can leadership come along and help people to make those changes?

    Ryan: Yeah, I mean, I think leadership has to play an active role in what happens next. I'll tell executives, "Most important minute, this three day off-site, or this two day event, or my keynote is what happens at 8:01 Monday morning when you get back into the business. What are you going to go do and do differently?"

    Now, if leadership doesn't support that, doesn't reinforce it, doesn't engage around it, doesn't inspect it, doesn't create two way conversation around it, then the opportunity to actually to create real momentum around that, across the business, was lost.

    So, as part of that action planning exercise, we'll work with leadership on the front end so they know what's going to happen.

    The Sacramento Kings was perfect example, I mean, we spent time on the front end of that scene. We're going to create these action plans, everybody's going to decide, and commit and then as leaders you should follow-up and have some conversation, what were the three commitments you made? How can I support you around that?

    And then, we give leadership teams an entire portfolio of supporting and anecdotal content, videos, articles, blog posts, things we've created that they can use to leak out, to reinforce the hour in the room. So, for 12 months, every 30 days, your people should be getting some reinforcement, some methods, a video, an article, a note. To reinforce the learning that happened on-site.

    And by the way, that just doesn't have to happen from my content portfolio, if you're smart you'll capture all of the good learning at the conference, through video, and audio. You could have a whole portfolio of tools to activate, and accelerate the learning, and transformation that you have at an event like that.

    So, that's the way we approach it with our clients, that's kind of the advice and consulting we give around it and we'll build a post conference mechanism so leaders can actually continue to activate, and accelerate the learning.

    You want to amplify those investments, right, and support people that are making the commitment to change, that's what it's all about.

    Stephen: Cool, really cool. So, you wrote an E-book, which is really cool. I've been perusing through it the past couple days. One of the things you talk about in your E-book is story and the power of story.

    So, a lot of companies, they feel like they don't have a story to tell. They have a standard product and they just say, "Hey, here's our product." You know, you take it or leave it, it doesn't matter.

    What are they missing out on? And then I've got a follow-up question, how do you work with maybe, smaller companies, and start-ups to begin to create the narrative with which they can sell their product. I know that was a lot, so you can take two different things ...

    Ryan: Yeah, so first of all, I think story telling is such an under-utilized opportunity and mechanism. After presentation, if I'm going to get this right and I want to credit it to the statistic comes from Dan, and Chip Heath, 65% of attendees remember the story while only 5% remember statistics.

    As you say, I just wrote and E-book and that E-book was a two year research project, right, so I spent a lot of time and money, I partnered with a research company to collect all of this data. But I know that the data alone falls flat, it doesn't create an emotional connection, what I call resonance. The way to do that is storytelling.

    So that's why we go out and get case studies. We interview executives and we have real examples of people that are actually delivering on these principles in their organizations because that's where people connect.

    I would challenge any organization small, or large that doesn't believe that they have stories and I would say, look at it through the lens of the customer. What difference do you make for your customer's, what impact are you having with the customer's that you serve? And that's often times one place you can kind of develop you know, a story narrative, is what's the effects that you have on the customer.

    The other thing to consider, it's not always what you do, but it's why you're doing it and how you're doing the work. So, things around values, and teamwork, and connection, and culture, and how we show up in the world. All of those things can serve us moments to connect us, and inspire us, and remind us that we're all part of something larger than ourselves.

    And that is what moves the human spirit, that's what galvanizes us as creatures. We're social animals, we're want belonging, and connection, and storytelling is fuel for that. So I say, if you haven't found that, you got to look a little harder or maybe you're not looking in the right places.

    Stephen: Good word, that is a good, good word. Something else you talk about and I think this is so important and it's definitely an art. Having honest conversations with underperforming people, especially in sales. Because sales is such just a results driven metric, you know, talk about that. Obviously, you as an executive, you did that and it's necessary to have those conversations. You know, talk to me a little bit about your perspective, and your tact on how to have an honest conversation.

    Ryan: Yeah, I call them courageous conversations, right? Everybody should know where they stand and I think it's one of the hallmarks of effective leadership. Is, leadership isn't a job, it's a responsibility. It's not about us, it's about helping other people become the best they're capable of being.

    And, I think part of the responsibility is having courageous conversations and course correct things when they get off track. In a high performance culture there are very clearly communicated standards, expectations of performance and then leaders work to hold people accountable to those standards consistently.

    Consistency is a big part of this. You can't have courageous conversations one week and then ignore under performance for three months. You'll create an egg shell culture and drive people crazy and eventually you know, off the ship.

    But, what you have to do, is you have these conversations consistently and let people know where they stand. When, you're having an honest, veracious, empathetic conversation with somebody that is underperforming, ultimately you're doing them a service and you're giving them the opportunity to understand where they are.

    Not everybody's meant to sell. I think, that was one of the things that was born out from the research, that not everybody is meant to be in a B2B, or B2C, sales, outside sales, commission, incentive driven role. And somebody that's slotted wrong, that's in the wrong spot for their skill and their desire, and you know, and how they want to work and live. You're doing them a favor by having that conversation on the front end and giving people the understanding that you know, maybe it isn't the right shit, or whatever the case.

    Or, you're up scaling, or course correcting, you know, behavior to get somebody down the road to success. Maybe, it's a few barriers that people can attack and improve upon and you know, move in a different direction. That's the other side of it too, and that's just good leadership.

    Stephen: So, Ryan, you have a pretty interesting, couple of interesting routines you do, kind of daily, and very often. I know one is, visioning. Talk to me about how you kind of started visioning, kind of what it is and how it plays into your business and your organization.

    Ryan: Well look, having a compelling vision of the future just creates clarity around you know, all the day to day choices that we have to make to move us in the right direction. Without a destination, or without something that you're moving towards, it's easy to get off track, or it's easy to get discouraged, or it's easy to let fear kind of overwhelm you, and overtake you.

    So, visioning is just an exercise that I think kind of helps you get excited about a future. I always say create a compelling future state. And then, the little routines, and rituals that kind of move us toward that destination you know, will fall into place and are easier to swallow. So, it was a technique that was introduced to me at a seminar I was attending a few years ago.

    It was interesting, I remember the first time I did what I would say is kind of a future state vision, and then you know, someone said to me, if you continue to do everything that you're doing now, where will you be five years from today. And I thought about it, I was like, "Now, where I want to be?"

    And so, then you start to unravel that, reverse engineer that a little bit and say,"Wow, okay, where do I want to be and what choices would I have to make today, to be really kind to myself in the future and give myself the best opportunity to arrive at a destination I can get really excited about five years from today."

    Look, man, life throws us all kinds of curve balls but to me the future's going to look different then I probably imagine it. But that's not a reason to not create a compelling, high leveled desired future state.

    So, I think visioning, and visualization these are kind of time honored, battle tested techniques. Like, you hear about athletes like, Lebron James, and Michael Phelps using them, they're great for us mere mortals, too, that just want to have an exciting future.

    So, a lot of this stuff around my work and speaking was all part of a vision. You know, it's amazing how when you get clarity around that stuff you have the discipline to move toward it, so ...

    Stephen: Clarity, and vision is always something that is very important. Also, important for businesses and things like that, so ...

    Ryan: Because they can help you focus, right? I woke up today, nobody's telling me what to do. I could go workout, I could binge watch, Billions, I can write a blog post, I can do a podcast with you, you know, today's mine. And, so that ...

    Stephen: What else would you want to do besides doing a podcast with me, I don't understand.

    Ryan: You know what, that's why we're doing it, man.

    Stephen: That's why we're doing it.

    Ryan: You beat out binge watching, Billions all day. So, here it is.

    Stephen: Hey, that is a big deal, I take that as a win, okay? Take that, Showtime, take that, Showtime. Gosh.

    Ryan: There you go.

    Stephen: Billions is great, anyone out there who hadn't seen Billions, highly recommend it, okay? And that's you know ...

    Ryan: That's a great show. That's a great ...

    Stephen: We don't get paid for saying that but we'll just go ahead and say it. So, that's cool. Alright, Bob, hit the music, it's time, man. Alright, Ryan, it is time for our highest rated segment, it's called, Three Random Questions. Here is the deal, I'm going to ask three random questions about something in your life and we're going to find out how smart you are. If you get two out of three, you're pretty smart, if you get three out of three you're absolute genius.

    We're going collegiate today, Ryan, proud graduate of Ohio University, we're going to ask you three random questions about Ohio University.

    Ryan: No, my alma mater, oh boy, here we go.

    Stephen: Hey, really quick, Bob, do you know what alma mater means? No, you don't, alma mater means nourishing mother. I learned that in fund raising school. There you go, there's your money.

    Ryan: Does it really? I didn't know, I didn't know that.

    Stephen: Yeah, it means nourishing mother, there you go. Gosh, people learn stuff by listening to this podcast, I love it.

    Okay, first question, Ryan, what is the mascot's name at Ohio University?

    Ryan: Bobcats.

    Stephen: There's a specific name, the mascot has a name.

    Ryan: Oh. Bobby, the Bobcat, I have no idea.

    Stephen: [Buzzer Sounds] That means you're wrong, that means you're wrong.

    Ryan: Shoot, I figured. What is it?

    Stephen: It's Rufus the Bobcat. It was named in 2006.

    Ryan: Rufus, are you kidding me?

    Stephen: The bobcat first appeared in 1925, it was named after General Rufus Putnam, a trustee of Ohio University from 1804 to 1825.

    Ryan: That is not common knowledge. Okay, Rufus, I had no idea.

    Stephen: There you go, well, you know something now.

    Okay, question number two, multiple choice. When were the first students enrolled at Ohio University?

    Was it A: 1804, B: 1809:, or C: 1815?

    Ryan: 1804.

    Stephen: [Buzzer Sounds] Oh, actually, a trick question, actually, a trick question, a little bit. The school was chartered in 1804 but did not enroll its first students until 1809.

    Ryan: Wow, okay, there you go. I knew the 1804 was significant but ...

    Stephen: Yeah. We'll give you ...

    Ryan: You got me.

    Stephen: You know, we'll give you one ding.

    Ryan: Can I get layup or something? These are tough questions.

    Stephen: Look, I thought ...

    Ryan: It's been a few years.

    Stephen: I thought Rufus the Bobcat was going to be an easy one, come on now. Hey, so actually, hey, listen, whenever you're at your next Ohio University alumni function, you can tell them this random factoid; they actually only enrolled three students in 1809. That was the first class was three, so there you go. You can just up to someone and say,"Hey did you know in 1809 they only enrolled three students."

    Okay, number three, this is going to be hard one, so hopefully you'll get it. Who was the most famous alum from Ohio University?

    Ryan: Wow, I'm going to go with, I know a couple, I'm going to go with Matt Lauer, the journalism ...

    Stephen: [Buzzer Sounds] Oh right, come on, now, how could you not say Ed O'Neill, Ed O'Neill! Al Bundy, from Married, come on now, Married With Children.

    Ryan: Is he more famous than Matt Lauer? I don't know about that, I'm disputing this. Really?

    Stephen: There's no disputing here, it's basically just me, so, there you go.

    Ryan: Okay. Is there a fame, or is there a celebrity index ranking here, I don't know, Matt Lauer is, you might be right.

    Stephen:             Married With Children, come on, it was classic. So great.

    Ryan: It is classic, it is classic. You're right, you're right.

    Stephen: Hey, all my listeners out there, if you're going to wonder if what Ryan's doing this afternoon, he's going to binge watching Married With Children on Netflix.

    Ryan: That's exactly right. I'll be reading the Ohio University website as a shamed alumnus.

    Stephen: That's good. Ryan, thanks so much for playing, man, hey really do appreciate the time you gave us today. Thanks for all, just the nuggets. You can check out Ryan on his website, www.ryanestis.com, learn more about his speaking at www.executivespeakers.com, you can check out his blog, he's on twitter, on all the social media, he puts out great content. Ryan, thanks so much man, thanks for being a big friend of our bureau.

    Ryan: Thanks, appreciate all the support guys. Thank you.

    Stephen: Hey, thanks so much for listening today, I want to thank my guest, Ryan Estis. To find more about Ryan go to our website www.executivespeakers.com, you can find bio, speech topics, and video on Ryan as well as booking information.

    Thanks so much as always to Chatterbox Studios, Producer Bob Arnold, and to Ryan Sheeler and Poddington Bear for our music. Hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, we'll see you next month.

    Stephen:             Coming to you live from Chatterbox Studios, in downtown Memphis. It's Steven Kirkpatrick with Executive Speakers on speakers. I've got leadership and sales extraordinaire Ryan Estis on the phone with me today, we're going to talk about visioning, we're going to talk about leadership, and we're going to talk about Rufus the Mascot. Stick around, it's going to be awesome.

                                    We're so lucky to have speaker extraordinaire Ryan Estis with us. Ryan is known for his innovative ideas on leading change and proving sales effectiveness and preparing for the future of work.

                                    He was recently recognized as one the best keynote speakers ever heard by Meetings and Conventions Magazine. Ryan is from the great of state of Minnesota and we're so happy to have him.

                                    Ryan, how are you today?

    Ryan:                     I'm doing great, I'm doing great, thanks for having me.

    Stephen:             Awesome, hey, we're going to jump to right into it. So, what do the Timberwolves have to do in this upcoming draft to improve their playoff chances next year?

    Ryan:                     Oh, my God. I don't think it's the draft. I wouldn't count on a rookie improving anybody's playoffs chances. I think it's just a process, I mean, you got one of the youngest teams in the NBA. I think were might be a couple of years that have missing piece or two away but I like the direction, riding.

                                    So, give us a year or and I think you'll see some very competitive basketball in Minnesota.

    Stephen:             So, you really think by adding Markelle Fultz, Minnesota Timberwolves would not be a playoff team, next year.

    Ryan:                     I think ... I don't know if they'll be playoff team or not. I mean, there's a lot of factors that go into that, right? One of them is health, just staying healthy. Now how does Zach LaVine come off his injury, you know, what else happens in free agency. Can we add a veteran piece here, or there.

                                    I think they're heading in that direction with the pieces they have. Is it going to happen next year? You know, fifty, fifty we can get the seventh, or eighth spot next year, I mean, so, I think that's the goal, right? I think, you know ...

    Stephen:             Yeah, get into the playoffs, get your foot in the door.

    Ryan:                     Yep, you got to get your foot in the door, you got to break through. And, we've had a bit of a drought here I think that's becoming the expectation, I think it'll happen soon, so ...

    Stephen:             So, it's interesting. So, you know, the Grizzlies have a really good run in the playoffs here and one of the first things that really kind of kicked us off was whenever we in Eighth Seed and we beat Spur's in the playoffs. And, that kind of launched us into the future, so you never know what happens if you get that Eighth Seed. It just takes one time.

    Ryan:                     No, that's it man. And you know, anything can happen, you know, sports are delicate, right, anybody can beat anybody in the NBA and you know, over a series if some good things happen. But a guy gets on a run, somebody else gets hurt, I mean, you never know. So, that's what makes it exciting to watch, right? So ...

    Stephen:             Now, you have a lot clients through professional organizations. I know you just recently spoke for another NBA franchise. So on paper, people think most professional sports organizations are run, really well. I mean, they're efficient and they're going great because you see them on TV all the time.

                                    How do you as a speaker, how do you as someone who's a sales, and leadership speaker kind of prepare differently going into these major brands, like a Sacramento Kings, or someone like that. You know, who people think they're just going amazingly well?

    Ryan:                     Well, look, sports is a different business because there's a couple of unique variables about sports. Number one; the majority of sports teams are small family owned businesses, right? They're privately held companies, they're family owned and they're small businesses.

                                    Most sports franchises you know, on the operations side have under 1,000 employees and that's small business. So, I think that in spite of the global awareness of the brand, it's still by its very nature a small business, so, that's one thing.

                                    The second thing is, you know, the product is in a constant state of flux. It's a variable, right? So, the Sacramento Kings had a big trade, DeMarcus cousins get shipped off mid-season, that affects expectations, fan sentiment but that, potentially ticket sales. And, if you're an employee in that organization, you don't control any of that. So, it really, it's very different for maybe what you would consider the typical, you know, B2B sales organization where a couple of times a week, or if the NFL once a week, you know, your product is being evaluated. Is in kind of a constant state of flux and customer objected scrutiny opinion. So, that's what's really different kind of working the business side of a professional sports team.

    Stephen:             That's a really interesting angle. Now, I want to kind of talk about your journeys as professional speaker. I mean, it's not, I mean some people wake up and like, "Hey, I want to be a professional speaker." And they go into it.

                                    But, especially in the categories you're in, kind of with leadership, innovation, and sales, you know, those can be pretty broad categories. You know, one of things that we always talk about in the speaking industry is we want speakers who create distinction and are able to have a unique voice.

                                    What was your journey to kind of create your distinction as a speaker and kind of view find your unique voice?

    Ryan:                     Well, you know, in many respects, I'm an accidental entrepreneur, accidental speaker, right? So, my background is in sales, and sales leadership, you know, I came up from the corporate side, I worked in the advertising communications industry. I was an executive at an agency, so I worked on the account management, the sales, and leadership side.

                                    And I really got into speaking as part of our sales, and marketing discipline, so I realized as a sales executive that if I ... Attending these trade shows, and conferences. If I created the little thought leadership around for our business around our brand in the industry that it really could generate some additional interest and potentially business perspective customers. So, that's how it started.

                                    I would kind of speak at the face of our agency, these trade shows and conferences. And like anything else, I got better at it, I enjoyed doing it, the more I did it, the better I got, the bigger the audiences get, the more I was getting invited to do it.

                                    And then I just kind of set out on really a three year research project of studying the learning, development, and consulting industry. Like, if I was going to go in or segue out of advertising and take a shot as an entrepreneur ...

                                    I hired a coach, I developed content and I kind of had a little runway going. And then in January 2009, I made the exit. Originally, I thought it was going to be a consulting business. I had a partner, I thought speaking would be a small part of it. You know, that I'd speak and we'd pick up consulting clients and we had two consulting projects with marquee clients out of the gates.

                                    And then a couple years into it, I really hit an inflection point where the speaking side of it was growing. And, that led me to kind of shift focus and really double down on being a professional, speaking, and training organization and that's where we've been since.

                                    And so, it's now, it's research, it's training, and the keynote speaking that you guys know and I've never looked back and it's the best professional decision I ever made. I love the work, I love the customer's, I love the live events and we're having a great time doing it, so ...

    Stephen:             Awesome, awesome, awesome. So, one of the big things, obviously that clients want, they want a customized presentation, they want to feel like the speech you're giving to them is for them and them only and no one else is hearing it.

                                    And feedback is really important, too. How has client feedback kind of changed your content and how you speak, over the years?

    Ryan:                     Well, I think the best way to build a business is in concert, and lock step with your customers. So, you know, feedback is critical. I mean, with feedback, like anything else, you have to consider the source.

                                    I've actually written quite a bit about customer feedback, and feedback and you know, kind of, leveraging feedback on the blog.

                                    I think for us, your point is customization, like, it's really understanding the client on the front end. So, you know, we make a pretty huge investment in our approach and our preparation to really understand the customer, their learning objectives, why they're bringing people together, and what success looks like on the back end.

                                    And I think for me, that's for the work I do. That's the most important time to prepare. Feedback is a gift, we'll take it any time. But it's that front end kind of preparation and disciplined approach to really understanding what the client needs and what success looks like that I think it's helped differentiate us a bit and deliver more custom on target presentations.

                                    And then, ultimately you cycle through the feedback. I mean, we have a whole process where we capture feedback and want to understand if we're bringing in value and having impact. And, a lot of times you get that and that's great. That's one of the great things about this business, is you can typically ... There's a survey mechanism, you're getting anonymous comments dubbed in feedback. You can have some posthumous analysis with the customer and really fine tune your craft.

    Stephen:             So, you talked about whenever you get feedback you really kind of want to understand the person is. Is there some feedback you give more weight to from certain people, or less? What's your process there in determining how much you want to listen to that feedback?

    Ryan:                     Yeah, absolutely, look, feedback is subjective. You know, entertainment keynote speaking content, you know, publishing, I mean, all that's very subjective. I'm not going to field everybody and you know, I understand that. So, we're looking for feedback that is specific and constructive.

                                    You know, somebody didn't like ... It's an interesting business because you're in the public domain. I think you know, with social media today, and anonymous comment, and everybody kind of becoming a critic, and an arm chair quarterback, you know, there's this whole domain. You kind of have to remove yourself from that.

                                    And then, I always say, you know, is the feedback constructive? Can we learn, and adapt from it, you know? Sometimes the feedback is real time, you get a hash tag on Twitter, you're on stage, you can walk off the stage and see 200 comments.

                                    The thing for me ... And we don't deal with a ton of like, real, harsh, negative criticism. But the thing for me that I look for is, what's resonating? What are people connecting to? What are they taking action around? What are they willing to go back and do and do differently as a result of the hour, or the half day, or the full day?

                                    That's the kind of feedback that I'm really looking for. Because you know, it gives us a sense of you know, what people are taking, what they're actually able to go do that has impact, afterwards. And, you know, my goal is to kind of serve in the catalyst of change or to help people move a little bit further, and faster in the direction they desire.

                                    And so, that kind of specific feedback's really, really valuable. And look, like an athlete, you talk about sports, we watch the game tape from it. A lot of this stuff we get the video. So, I've got a team of people around me that'll analyze that and break it down just like, you know, sports team would preparing for their next where this was great, this wasn't, this resonated, we could improve this, this way, back story could be tightened up, and we continue to evolve, grow, and get better.

    Stephen:             That's good. Always good to have a process. I want to piggy back on that comment about how people take your hour, hour-and-a-half, and change, and kind of how they want to go in the direction they want to.

                                    And, you do a very good job of giving people specific takeaways, especially when you do your sales speech. Where do you see people making their biggest mistakes, on 8:01 Monday morning, or even two to three weeks after the conference, after they've heard you. Where do you see some common mistakes and pitfalls that those people have?

    Ryan:                     Well, we try and course correct the biggest one I see before it happens. The biggest one is, you go to a conference, there's a learning opportunity, whether it's internal, external, whatever it is. Three, or four days, you're off-site, you're immersed in this moment, there's a lot of energy and inspiration, you have a whole workbook full of notes.

                                    And then you go back to the office and the first thing you do Monday morning is start cleaning out your emails, going through your 17 voicemails and you get kind of back into your old routine and the acceptance notes on the shelf for three days. Three days turns into three weeks, three weeks turns into three months, you forgot everything you learned and nothing changes. That's a mistake.

                                    And so, you know, we have this kind of way we close our events called, Action Planning, where it's an exercise. We actually put people through the discipline of deciding, committing to three specific changes in the room, in the moment.

                                    What you want people to do is make that decision when they are at an elevated emotional state. When their inspiration, and energy is activated. And, it's literally write it down, sign it, date it, share it with the person next to you, create some built in accountability because in a week, or two weeks, or two months it's easy to let go of some of those things that we thought were good ideas in the room but move us directly out of our comfort zone.

                                    And so, I call it bridging the gap between what happens at the event and the conference and our actual day-to-day reality. And, giving people a specific plan, process, routine, ritual to create that momentum is critical in order to accelerate change.

    Stephen:             How can organizations help that? How can they kind of know that this may happen with people, that people may lose what they see, or what they feel, what they decide to do to conference, how can leadership come along and help people to make those changes?

    Ryan:                     Yeah, I mean, I think leadership has to play an active role in what happens next. I'll tell executives, "Most important minute, this three day off-site, or this two day event, or my keynote is what happens at 8:01 Monday morning when you get back into the business. What are you going to go do and do differently?"

                                    Now, if leadership doesn't support that, doesn't reinforce it, doesn't engage around it, doesn't inspect it, doesn't create two way conversation around it, then the opportunity to actually to create real momentum around that, across the business, was lost.

                                    So, as part of that action planning exercise, we'll work with leadership on the front end so they know what's going to happen.

                                    The Sacramento Kings was perfect example, I mean, we spent time on the front end of that scene. We're going to create these action plans, everybody's going to decide, and commit and then as leaders you should follow-up and have some conversation, what were the three commitments you made? How can I support you around that?

                                    And then, we give leadership teams an entire portfolio of supporting and anecdotal content, videos, articles, blog posts, things we've created that they can use to leak out, to reinforce the hour in the room. So, for 12 months, every 30 days, your people should be getting some reinforcement, some methods, a video, an article, a note. To reinforce the learning that happened on-site.

                                    And by the way, that just doesn't have to happen from my content portfolio, if you're smart you'll capture all of the good learning at the conference, through video, and audio. You could have a whole portfolio of tools to activate, and accelerate the learning, and transformation that you have at an event like that.

                                    So, that's the way we approach it with our clients, that's kind of the advice and consulting we give around it and we'll build a post conference mechanism so leaders can actually continue to activate, and accelerate the learning.

                                    You want to amplify those investments, right, and support people that are making the commitment to change, that's what it's all about.

    Stephen:             Cool, really cool. So, you wrote an E-book, which is really cool. I've been perusing through it the past couple days. One of the things you talk about in your E-book is story and the power of story.

                                    So, a lot of companies, they feel like they don't have a story to tell. They have a standard product and they just say, "Hey, here's our product." You know, you take it or leave it, it doesn't matter.

                                    What are they missing out on? And then I've got a follow-up question, how do you work with maybe, smaller companies, and start-ups to begin to create the narrative with which they can sell their product. I know that was a lot, so you can take two different things ...

    Ryan:                     Yeah, so first of all, I think story telling is such an under-utilized opportunity and mechanism. After presentation, if I'm going to get this right and I want to credit it to the statistic comes from Dan, and Chip Heath, 65% of attendees remember the story while only 5% remember statistics.

                                    As you say, I just wrote and E-book and that E-book was a two year research project, right, so I spent a lot of time and money, I partnered with a research company to collect all of this data. But I know that the data alone falls flat, it doesn't create an emotional connection, what I call resonance. The way to do that is storytelling.

                                    So that's why we go out and get case studies. We interview executives and we have real examples of people that are actually delivering on these principles in their organizations because that's where people connect.

                                    I would challenge any organization small, or large that doesn't believe that they have stories and I would say, look at it through the lens of the customer. What difference do you make for your customer's, what impact are you having with the customer's that you serve? And that's often times one place you can kind of develop you know, a story narrative, is what's the effects that you have on the customer.

                                    The other thing to consider, it's not always what you do, but it's why you're doing it and how you're doing the work. So, things around values, and teamwork, and connection, and culture, and how we show up in the world. All of those things can serve us moments to connect us, and inspire us, and remind us that we're all part of something larger than ourselves.

                                    And that is what moves the human spirit, that's what galvanizes us as creatures. We're social animals, we're want belonging, and connection, and storytelling is fuel for that. So I say, if you haven't found that, you got to look a little harder or maybe you're not looking in the right places.

    Stephen:             Good word, that is a good, good word. Something else you talk about and I think this is so important and it's definitely an art. Having honest conversations with underperforming people, especially in sales. Because sales is such just a results driven metric, you know, talk about that. Obviously, you as an executive, you did that and it's necessary to have those conversations. You know, talk to me a little bit about your perspective, and your tact on how to have an honest conversation.

    Ryan:                     Yeah, I call them courageous conversations, right? Everybody should know where they stand and I think it's one of the hallmarks of effective leadership. Is, leadership isn't a job, it's a responsibility. It's not about us, it's about helping other people become the best they're capable of being.

                                    And, I think part of the responsibility is having courageous conversations and course correct things when they get off track. In a high performance culture there are very clearly communicated standards, expectations of performance and then leaders work to hold people accountable to those standards consistently.

                                    Consistency is a big part of this. You can't have courageous conversations one week and then ignore under performance for three months. You'll create an egg shell culture and drive people crazy and eventually you know, off the ship.

                                    But, what you have to do, is you have these conversations consistently and let people know where they stand. When, you're having an honest, veracious, empathetic conversation with somebody that is underperforming, ultimately you're doing them a service and you're giving them the opportunity to understand where they are.

                                    Not everybody's meant to sell. I think, that was one of the things that was born out from the research, that not everybody is meant to be in a B2B, or B2C, sales, outside sales, commission, incentive driven role. And somebody that's slotted wrong, that's in the wrong spot for their skill and their desire, and you know, and how they want to work and live. You're doing them a favor by having that conversation on the front end and giving people the understanding that you know, maybe it isn't the right shit, or whatever the case.

                                    Or, you're up scaling, or course correcting, you know, behavior to get somebody down the road to success. Maybe, it's a few barriers that people can attack and improve upon and you know, move in a different direction. That's the other side of it too, and that's just good leadership.

    Stephen:             So, Ryan, you have a pretty interesting, couple of interesting routines you do, kind of daily, and very often. I know one is, visioning. Talk to me about how you kind of started visioning, kind of what it is and how it plays into your business and your organization.

    Ryan:                     Well look, having a compelling vision of the future just creates clarity around you know, all the day to day choices that we have to make to move us in the right direction. Without a destination, or without something that you're moving towards, it's easy to get off track, or it's easy to get discouraged, or it's easy to let fear kind of overwhelm you, and overtake you.

                                    So, visioning is just an exercise that I think kind of helps you get excited about a future. I always say create a compelling future state. And then, the little routines, and rituals that kind of move us toward that destination you know, will fall into place and are easier to swallow. So, it was a technique that was introduced to me at a seminar I was attending a few years ago.

                                    It was interesting, I remember the first time I did what I would say is kind of a future state vision, and then you know, someone said to me, if you continue to do everything that you're doing now, where will you be five years from today. And I thought about it, I was like, "Now, where I want to be?"

                                    And so, then you start to unravel that, reverse engineer that a little bit and say,"Wow, okay, where do I want to be and what choices would I have to make today, to be really kind to myself in the future and give myself the best opportunity to arrive at a destination I can get really excited about five years from today."

                                    Look, man, life throws us all kinds of curve balls but to me the future's going to look different then I probably imagine it. But that's not a reason to not create a compelling, high leveled desired future state.

                                    So, I think visioning, and visualization these are kind of time honored, battle tested techniques. Like, you hear about athletes like, Lebron James, and Michael Phelps using them, they're great for us mere mortals, too, that just want to have an exciting future.

                                    So, a lot of this stuff around my work and speaking was all part of a vision. You know, it's amazing how when you get clarity around that stuff you have the discipline to move toward it, so ...

    Stephen:             Clarity, and vision is always something that is very important. Also, important for businesses and things like that, so ...

    Ryan:                     Because they can help you focus, right? I woke up today, nobody's telling me what to do. I could go workout, I could binge watch, Billions, I can write a blog post, I can do a podcast with you, you know, today's mine. And, so that ...

    Stephen:             What else would you want to do besides doing a podcast with me, I don't understand.

    Ryan:                     You know what, that's why we're doing it, man.

    Stephen:             That's why we're doing it.

    Ryan:                     You beat out binge watching, Billions all day. So, here it is.

    Stephen:             Hey, that is a big deal, I take that as a win, okay? Take that, Showtime, take that, Showtime. Gosh.

    Ryan:                     There you go.

    Stephen:             Billions is great, anyone out there who hadn't seen Billions, highly recommend it, okay? And that's you know ...

    Ryan:                     That's a great show. That's a great ...

    Stephen:             We don't get paid for saying that but we'll just go ahead and say it. So, that's cool. Alright, Bob, hit the music, it's time, man. Alright, Ryan, it is time for our highest rated segment, it's called, Three Random Questions. Here is the deal, I'm going to ask three random questions about something in your life and we're going to find out how smart you are. If you get two out of three, you're pretty smart, if you get three out of three you're absolute genius.

                                    We're going collegiate today, Ryan, proud graduate of Ohio University, we're going to ask you three random questions about Ohio University.

    Ryan:                     No, my alma mater, oh boy, here we go.

    Stephen:             Hey, really quick, Bob, do you know what alma mater means? No, you don't, alma mater means nourishing mother. I learned that in fund raising school. There you go, there's your money.

    Ryan:                     Does it really? I didn't know, I didn't know that.

    Stephen:             Yeah, it means nourishing mother, there you go. Gosh, people learn stuff by listening to this podcast, I love it.

                                    Okay, first question, Ryan, what is the mascot's name at Ohio University?

    Ryan:                     Bobcats.

    Stephen:             There's a specific name, the mascot has a name.

    Ryan:                     Oh. Bobby, the Bobcat, I have no idea.

    Stephen:             [Buzzer Sounds] That means you're wrong, that means you're wrong.

    Ryan:                     Shoot, I figured. What is it?

    Stephen:             It's Rufus the Bobcat. It was named in 2006.

    Ryan:                     Rufus, are you kidding me?

    Stephen:             The bobcat first appeared in 1925, it was named after General Rufus Putnam, a trustee of Ohio University from 1804 to 1825.

    Ryan:                     That is not common knowledge. Okay, Rufus, I had no idea.

    Stephen:             There you go, well, you know something now.

                                    Okay, question number two, multiple choice. When were the first students enrolled at Ohio University?

                                    Was it A: 1804, B: 1809:, or C: 1815?

    Ryan:                     1804.

    Stephen:             [Buzzer Sounds] Oh, actually, a trick question, actually, a trick question, a little bit. The school was chartered in 1804 but did not enroll its first students until 1809.

    Ryan:                     Wow, okay, there you go. I knew the 1804 was significant but ...

    Stephen:             Yeah. We'll give you ...

    Ryan:                     You got me.

    Stephen:             You know, we'll give you one ding.

    Ryan:                     Can I get layup or something? These are tough questions.

    Stephen:             Look, I thought ...

    Ryan:                     It's been a few years.

    Stephen:             I thought Rufus the Bobcat was going to be an easy one, come on now. Hey, so actually, hey, listen, whenever you're at your next Ohio University alumni function, you can tell them this random factoid; they actually only enrolled three students in 1809. That was the first class was three, so there you go. You can just up to someone and say,"Hey did you know in 1809 they only enrolled three students."

                                    Okay, number three, this is going to be hard one, so hopefully you'll get it. Who was the most famous alum from Ohio University?

    Ryan:                     Wow, I'm going to go with, I know a couple, I'm going to go with Matt Lauer, the journalism ...

    Stephen:             [Buzzer Sounds] Oh right, come on, now, how could you not say Ed O'Neill, Ed O'Neill! Al Bundy, from Married, come on now, Married With Children.

    Ryan:                     Is he more famous than Matt Lauer? I don't know about that, I'm disputing this. Really?

    Stephen:             There's no disputing here, it's basically just me, so, there you go.

    Ryan:                     Okay. Is there a fame, or is there a celebrity index ranking here, I don't know, Matt Lauer is, you might be right.

    Stephen:             Married With Children, come on, it was classic. So great.

    Ryan:                     It is classic, it is classic. You're right, you're right.

    Stephen:             Hey, all my listeners out there, if you're going to wonder if what Ryan's doing this afternoon, he's going to binge watching Married With Children on Netflix.

    Ryan:                     That's exactly right. I'll be reading the Ohio University website as a shamed alumnus.

    Stephen:             That's good. Ryan, thanks so much for playing, man, hey really do appreciate the time you gave us today. Thanks for all, just the nuggets. You can check out Ryan on his website, www dot ryan estis dot com, learn more about his speaking at www dot executive speakers dot com, you can check out his blog, he's on twitter, on all the social media, he puts out great content. Ryan, thanks so much man, thanks for being a big friend of our bureau.

    Ryan:                     Thanks, appreciate all the support guys. Thank you.

    Stephen:             Hey, thanks so much for listening today, I want to thank my guest, Ryan Estis. To find more about Ryan go to our website www dot executive speakers dot com, you can find bio, speech topics, and video on Ryan as well as booking information.

                    Thanks so much as always to Chatterbox Studios, Producer Bob Arnold, and to Ryan Sheeler and Poddington Bear for our music. Hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, we'll see you next month.
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Executive Speakers Bureau consistently receives praises about our speed and efficiency. From the beginning of your event planning, our extensive online speaker database and resourceful staff allow us to quickly equip you with the best speaker for your event.

Need a last minute speaker? No worries. Our speed and efficiency help us give you ideas for speakers in two hours or less.


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