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SPI 691: How to Grow Your Small Business NOW with Donald Miller

If your business doesn’t bring in enough cash, you can’t help your clients, employees… or anyone. So how do you reverse engineer a big economic objective and build a profitable company around it?

I’m very excited because joining me today is none other than Donald Miller, bestselling author of Building a StoryBrand [Amazon affiliate link]. His book is one of my favorites of all time and one I’m always recommending here on the podcast. Our chat in episode 393 is an absolutely essential listen for all entrepreneurs looking to supercharge their sales by tweaking a few basic marketing elements!

Donald is now back for an equally important conversation. His new book, How to Grow Your Small Business [Amazon affiliate link], will give you a six-part framework to succeed and reach your financial goals!

This interview is your introduction to the vital aspects that determine the growth of your brand. We discuss everything from scaling a business with the right systems in place to the crucial principle of effective marketing. Donald also shares insights into hiring the right people to uplevel your company and master leadership.

Listen in on this powerful episode because it will change how you think about and run your business. Enjoy!

Today’s Guest

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is the CEO of Business Made Simple. He is the host of the Business Made Simple podcast and is the author of several books including the bestsellers Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Building a StoryBrand. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, Emmeline.

You’ll Learn


SPI 691: How to Grow Your Small Business NOW with Donald Miller

Donald Miller: A lot of small business owners don’t want to admit they just, they need cash. But the sooner you admit that and you reverse engineer a successful economic outcome, the more stable your business actually is. I’ve never laid anybody off. Everybody has dental insurance. You know, and I explain that to my team all day long. Because we are so open about these economic objectives, we all enjoy really, really great quality of life.

Very few books we’ll talk about here’s how to reverse engineer an economic objective for your company so that you actually make money. And so I open up this book with frameworks that help you do that.

Pat Flynn: One of my top three recommendations for books that I often share here on the podcast is Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller. And I’ve shared this multiple times, this idea of allowing your students, your customers, your followers, subscribers, making them the hero of the story, you being the guide.

And when people hear the story, they want to go to the guide you who is helping with these transformations. And so we’ve used this and adopted this framework with marketing a lot. And it just works wonders. It’s, it’s incredible. And a huge thank you to Donald Miller, who we have back on the show today, in fact.

And he’s got a new book called How to Grow Your Small Business. And this is a very unique take on the business growth formula. He’s got a six-part framework and it’s, it’s, it’s not anything like I’ve seen before. You know, Donald always brings something new to the field that he is in and, and right now we’re talking about growing your business, whether it’s small or big.

There’s a lot of components to this that we’re gonna talk about today that were new for me as well. And he drops some incredible tidbits that you can use right now to help you grow your brand much faster than you’ve ever, ever have before. So make sure you sit tight and listen in because we’ve got a good one here today with Donald Miller.

In fact, let’s not wait any longer. Here he is, Donald Miller, author of How to Grow Your Small Business and StoryBrand and just one of the coolest people ever. Here he is.

Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he prefers an eight-hour road trip over a two-hour plane ride. Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn: Donald, welcome back to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thank you again for joining me today.

Donald Miller: I’m very glad to be here. Glad to be back.

Pat Flynn: I think you are one of our fan favorites here because of your book, Building a StoryBrand.

I mention it all the time. People when they read it, they realize like the world opens up for them for, Wow, if I just make the customer or the student the hero of the story, like everything works out better. And, and I love that. So I’ve been preaching that, I’ve been trying to amplify that for you. And I, I think I’ve done a okay job of that because it’s definitely one of our top three recommended books here on SPI.

So thank you for writing that again.

Donald Miller: Well, no, thank you for enjoying it and telling other people about it. It’s been fun.

Pat Flynn: We had JJ here on the podcast to talk more about the story as well, but today we’re talking about starting a business and specifically starting your small business using your six-part framework, and this is a new book you’ve written. Why did write a book about this now when you were known as the StoryBrand guy?

Donald Miller: Well, the book is really about how to grow an existing business, and it’s exactly what I had to do when, you know, StoryBrand, Building a StoryBrand took off, which I’m so very, very grateful for. I feel incredibly lucky. But all of a sudden I had, you know, a three and a half million dollar small business and I have a, a mentor friend who scaled up his dad’s company into the billions and then bought some small businesses and were, was mentoring these executives. And he, he didn’t buy any of my business, but he, you know, he, he was gracious enough to, you know, spend some time with me. I said to him once, he said, what do you think the potential of your business is?

And I said, you know, I, I’d love to see it at a hundred million. And then for the first time, ever that I’ve known him, he looked at me as though he didn’t, didn’t quite think that was going to happen. And I love this man. I mean, this is an incredible, and I’m like, what do I need to do? He said, he said something that really changed my life.

He said, Don, if you really wanna grow a business to that size, you’re going to have to quote professionalize your operation. That’s what he said. And I, I’d never heard that before. I didn’t know what it meant, but, It rang so incredibly true and he said, look, the business is so dependent on you, it’s dependent on your ideas, you being present in the room. You’re gonna have to, to install systems and processes that let the business run more or less like a machine, so that if you go on a six month sabbatical, you could actually come back in the business would be larger. He didn’t have the time to help me figure that out, you know, to be candid with you, he was the governor of Tennessee at the time. He told me that he was just spending some time with me, but, and so I, I kind of had to figure it out on my own. And I spent five years just honestly just making a ton of mistakes. I mean, you know, stupid stuff like, like doing, you know, opening the day with yoga, you know, with operation, whether we had a yoga instructor on our team.

She’s like, I’d love to open that day with, you know, voluntary yoga if you want. You know, I’m like, okay. I ended up hurting my back. I’m like, this is dumb. This is not helping us make any money. Although yoga’s great, don’t get me wrong, but you know, it came down to five years later, we were actually at 16 and a half million and we did six things right there. There were six areas of the business that we did professionalize and we did install, you know, very real systems and playbooks that were life changing. And now when I meet with my friend, he’s no longer the governor, but when I, when I meet with my friend, we don’t talk about professionalizing my operation.

We talk about what my business is actually worth on the open market because it’s suddenly worth a lot because it isn’t 100% dependent on me. I’m certainly helpful to the business, but the systems and and processes that we installed turned it into a machine that somebody else could buy and run. Now I have no intention of selling my company.

I enjoy it too much. But then I realized, well, you know, everybody knows me for marketing, but in order to support the marketing and messaging, I had to hire 30 people and create all these revenue streams, which meant I scaled up a small business. So I, I thought, man, I’ll be saving, you know, I made 500 mistakes professionalizing my operation, but did six things, right? If I just write a, a book about the six things, I would be saving small business owners, an enormous amount of headaches, and you know, painful nights, sleepless nights, because they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made. So I ended up writing the book, trying to help people solve a problem that I felt like I had solved. And the, the six frameworks, the six areas of a small business, ended up being leadership, marketing, sales, product optimization. And what I mean by that is just coming up with the products that people wanna buy and designing those products and learning how to sell them, or at least learning how to price them.

Marketing sales. Management of operations. In other words, management of people, and then cash flow management, how to run your business using five checking accounts. And I wrote that book partly as a way to teach everybody else, and partly as a way to try to understand what happened to our business and try to understand why it succeeded.

And then the whole book sort of lend itself to this metaphor that you’re, your business should run like an airplane. You know, the leadership is your cockpit. The right engine is your marketing. The left engine is your sales. The wings are your products. The body is your overhead, and the cash flow is your fuel tank.

And then took that to another step and, and created this tool called a flight plan. And basically it’s a, it’s a bunch of worksheets that you fill out that if you’ve just filled these things out and you learn to fill them out, it changes the way you think about business and do business. So it’s an operating system and once you start using this operating system, your business pretty naturally just kind of grows.

And we’ve seen that happen with hundreds, if not thousands of small businesses. So, so that was where the, the actual book came from, the, the why of the book, if I can share it really quick. Yeah, please, Pat. Is there, there’s a number that breaks my heart and the number is that 65% of small businesses fail.

And 25% of ’em fail within a year, 45% within five years, and 65% within 10 years. That those are American statistics. And I, I just don’t think that many need to fail at, you know, I think the reality is about 30% of small businesses have a product that isn’t gonna work. Everything else falls apart because of one of six reasons.

Leadership, marketing, sales, product optimization, overhead and cash flow. And if you know how to do those six things, or if when you have a problem, you just open this book to that chapter and fix it using the frameworks that I recommend you can avoid crashing your business. So that, that’s the real reason I wrote it, is because I just don’t think that that many, I think small business is way too big to fail.

We can’t let it fail. You know, it’s 33 million small businesses in America, average of two to three employees at 66 million jobs. They’re failing unnecessarily. So I wrote the book so that your, your business wouldn’t fail.

Pat Flynn: We’ll definitely get into those frameworks. I do wanna pick those out and, and, and talk about them a little bit more deeply.

But even before we get into that, I do wanna ask you about, your transition from being like the center of the business, you being synonymous essentially with StoryBrand, how does one begin to unravel themselves from the brand in a way that that would allow for a six month sabbatical or professional operations and, and such, especially a personal brand and or one that’s so tied to the personal.

Yeah, how did you wrap your head around that transition?

Donald Miller: I don’t know that I ever fully wrapped my head around it. I’ll, I’ll tell you what I did that worked. There tend to be, and I can’t remember the thinker who posited this idea, but it’s a good idea. There tend to be three necessary personalities at the top of a successful company.

The artist, the entrepreneur, and the operator, and the artist is gonna obsess about products. And how we market those products and how customers experience those products. The entrepreneur is gonna wanna sell more of those products. They’re not thinking about making them or customer experience, they’re just figuring out different demographics and segmented audiences, and using CRMs and sales teams and marketing teams to sell more of those products.

Maybe moving into new markets. Then your operator’s gonna think about people and processes. And my answer to your question is, I, I recognize that I’m the artist. I love the products, I love the frameworks. I love introducing them to small business owners and helping them install them. I don’t really care about making a lot of money.

I love the product and I love the way my customers use it, and I want a better, wanna understand how they use it. So I had to hire, or got to hire, I should say, an operator. I, I hired somebody to run my company. I’m the CEO of my company, but really, I’m. I’m kinda like Bill Gates. I’m over here in research and development in the lab making things, and I’m the CEO of my company because I founded it and I started it, not because I’m the right person to run it, so I found somebody to run my company.

I’m actually on my second operator. They tend to do so well that they get cherry picked by outside companies. I lose them. But I’m on my second operator and he’s amazing and I can, and fact that my wife and I are going to London for five weeks in June and I’m not the least bit worried about what’s gonna happen with my company.

I’m gonna miss being on the team for five weeks, you know, creating content and interacting with everybody, but the operator is going to run the company. And so my, my advice to anybody trying to figure out. How to, you know, the first step is to hire an operator. And by the way, if you do, hire an operator, hand them the book, How to Grow Your Small Business and tell them, this is what I want you to do, because it is basically a job description for an operator.

Run this playbook.

Pat Flynn: Was there any worry that because you weren’t running it anymore, that it would fall apart or grow in a way that you didn’t want it to? And how did you mitigate that risk if, if it felt risky to you in that way?

Donald Miller: Yes. It felt terrifying to me. I can’t tell you that I didn’t worry. I worried very much, you know, because my baby is now, you know, the, you know, my 1967 Corvette that I rebuilt in the garage is being driven by somebody else.

Right, right, right. And I’m back home mixing up paint for the next project, but was somewhat surprised and somewhat I don’t know, emasculated to find out that it actually runs better if I’m not at the steering wheel. Yeah. You know, because he knows what he’s doing. He know, you know, he, he’s, he’s able to coach everybody and, and be in all the meetings that I’m not in, and people trust him with their livelihoods and he’s the right guy.

And people also trust me, they say, Hey, I trust Don to create products that the market wants and products that work. Do I trust ’em to run the day-to-day operations? Heck no. You know? And so I hired somebody else to do that. And we make an amazing team, which just shows you that you can go so much further together than you can alone.

You really can.

Pat Flynn: How did you find them?

Donald Miller: We hired, we hired from within. Both of the people who’ve been, my operators were, one came out of sales interestingly, and the other one came outta marketing. So they were, you know, We made our sales, or sorry, our marketing director, our sales and marketing director, and then when our president left, I moved the sales and marketing director to the president position.

Actually, I did something really interesting. I put three people at the top of the company and gave them shared leadership. And I just said, whoever wants the presidency, I want you to come to me and tell me that you want it. And it took months, but because you know, no pressure, but I’d like to hire one of you.

And if I don’t, if one of you doesn’t want the job, I’m gonna go search for somebody. I. And we all just took our time and stayed very, very calm. And finally Tyler came to me and said, I want this job. And I said, okay, let’s give it a year. And he has just, he’s just done an amazing job. And I’m so grateful because I prefer hiring from within than looking, you know, you just don’t know what you’re getting out there on the open market.

And I knew Tyler. As well as the other leaders had really great character and they were filled with integrity and they were very talented. So I’m glad that he took the position.

Pat Flynn: That’s cool. How might a listener who you know, doesn’t have a large team to pull from within to bring a operator on? Where might they explore or how might they progress to that point where they would be confident in hiring somebody or finding somebody?

Donald Miller: Well, you know, essentially you want your operator to run a management system. Something like Lean Management. My management system’s called Management Made Simple. It’s chapter five of the new book. You want them to run that system, and so you’re gonna want to ask questions like, Hey, you know, if you run my company, you’re gonna be, you know you’re gonna be over about five or six people and I think that could grow to 25 people over the next five years. Talk to me about how you manage people. If they open up with like soft skills, like I try to be a good listener and those kinds of things, you probably don’t have your person, and it’s not because soft skills aren’t important, they’re actually more important than anything else, but what they need to say is, I will run your business using five meetings. We will have an all staff meeting, then we’ll have department stand ups, we’ll have quarterly performance reviews. In other words, what you’re looking for is a system. I use this system because if they don’t have a system, what they’re saying is I basically wing it.

I make it up as I go along, and that doesn’t scale. They need a system. Now they can learn my system or they can learn lean management. They can learn a system, but they need a system and preferably a system they experienced it running. Now you can hire somebody who’s a really good project manager and teach them a system.

That way you don’t have to pay them as much because they aren’t as experienced and they, they’re willing to, you know, work for less money in exchange for the experience. But as the company grows, you’re gonna have to reward them and compensate them, you know, fairly. That makes sense. But that, that would, you know, you’re looking for a system, like what system do you bring?

You know, if I’m hiring a basketball coach, I say, you know, what’s the key to winning? If they say, you know, just enthusiasm. Right? Just passion. Like, you’re not gonna, you’re gonna win a single game, buddy. Everybody’s got passion, right? I know. Are you gonna run a four, three offense? Are you gonna run, you know, what are you doing?

Like, tell me what your system is and, and who we need to, how, who we need to put into the system. And that’s what you’re looking for, I think.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, we could have used that over at SDSU yesterday with the championship.

Donald Miller: Oh, I’m so sorry. I was, was really rooting for SDSU yeah. A lot of people were the Aztecs.

But tell me like, I, like I don’t remember them having an amazing basketball program. Has that been happening without me noticing?

Pat Flynn: They have had a really decent program for a while and just recently it’s been really coming up. They’ve been in the tournament a couple times and do pretty well.

Donald Miller: I mean, Gonzaga, Gonzaga has a good, had a great program for decades and can’t get to the final, right.

Pat Flynn: I mean, things change. That’s, that’s, I mean, it was so, it was so good. But Yukon I actually grew up in Connecticut and I just remember them even back then being powerhouses. Yeah, yeah, as well.

But you had mentioned leadership as sort of the first part of the framework. Why is leadership first and, and what does that actually mean here in this, in this context?

Donald Miller: Well, in the context of the book, leadership is really about casting an economic vision. It’s about, you know, 90% of effective leadership really is soft skills. It really is. I’m not trying to downplay the need for us to be incredibly talented relationally. We, we have to be good listeners. We have to be empathetic, but it’s the last 10% that keep a company alive. And the last 10% is, in my opinion, an economic vision. And what I mean by that is we’re gonna double revenue or we’re gonna see a 50% increase in revenue. And then I think that needs to be broken down into three categories. So in order to see a a hundred percent increase in revenue, we need to see sales of this product do this and sales of this product increase by this much, and sales of this product increase by this much.

And then everybody on the team needs to reverse engineer that objective to make it happen. You know, the, the business will die without money. It will just die. Businesses eat cash. And so you’re looking for a vision that, that acknowledges the fact that we have to make money. What we do with the money is we can be generous, we can give higher salaries, we can get bonuses, we can provide healthcare, we do all sorts of stuff, but money in itself is not bad, and it’s not something that we should be afraid of.

And I think a lot of small business owners don’t want to admit they just, they need cash. But the sooner you admit that and you reverse engineer a successful economic outcome, the more stable your business actually is. I’ve never laid anybody off. Everybody has dental insurance, you know, and I explain that to my team all day long.

I say, look, we talk about numbers, we talk about, you know, whether the monthly revenue is down or up, but because we are so open about these economic objectives, we all enjoy really, really great quality of life, at least as it relates to work. So for sure, I, I think of what, what I focus on, there’s a thousand books about soft skills and leadership and how to give a good speech and you know how to be driven and what kind of person becomes president.

I mean, you know, You throw a rock and you hit a book about that stuff. Very few books we’ll talk about here’s how to reverse engineer an economic objective for your company so that you actually make money. And so I open up this book with, with frameworks that help you do that.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, I mean, it’s a very different approach I noticed than a lot of other books that help businesses, which, you know, get into the products and marketing and, and understanding the customer avatar and all that kind of stuff. I mean, this is sort of like the next level book that you would need if, especially you already have a business like you said. And I love that. I think if Matt were here, he’s now CEO of SPI Media, he’s, he’s the financial guy and, and he’s the one helping with the, with the financials and the projections. And those all come from the directors. And, and I’m just, you know, we’re gonna maybe read this as a team, I’m suspecting.

Donald Miller: Well, you might be the artist and he might be the entrepreneur, right, or something.

Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean that’s, that’s kind of, you know we, we’ve heard of the visionary integrator role that sounds very similar in, in, in, in a way. So leadership from an economic standpoint, meaning we need to make decisions based on what will keep bringing fuel into this company to keep it growing, to keep it, that’s right, flying, if you will, which I, which I love. And then the M, which is part two, which I think you said was marketing. Yes, that’s right. Yeah. Marketing is a million things. What does, what does it mean to you?

Donald Miller: Well, everybody has a different way of doing marketing. I personally prefer sales funnels. I don’t get into email marketing or sales funnels in the book, I wrote a whole other book about that called Marketing Made Simple. But in this book, I talk about the incredible importance of clarifying your message. So I summarize the only thing in this book that is actually taken from any other book is the marketing section because I think the StoryBrand framework is so incredibly important.

So I just talk about, you know, and I share news stories cuz that book’s been out for five years. I share news stories and new, you know, ideas about how to clarify your marketing so that your marketing actually works better. If you have a clear message, you can spend a hundred thousand dollars on marketing.

If you have an unclear message, you can spend a million dollars and get the same results that somebody with a clear message got for a hundred grand. It’s just a fact. And so the most important thing you can do in your marketing is have a very clear message. And let me just give your listeners one tip cuz I, you know, I, we talked about the tip of economic objectives.

Let me give you one tip in marketing, own a problem. Just own it. If the problem is, You know luxury homes at a good price in the Milwaukee area. Own it. If the problem is dogs that bark at the door, when somebody knocks at the door and drive everybody crazy, own it. But if you are known as the person with a solution to a problem, you will not suffer. Your business will grow. If you are elusive, if you say dogs are a great part of the family, and we just make them an even better part of the family. I mean, nobody knows what in the heck you’re talking about, man. What I mean? But if you say, if a dog’s peeing on your furniture, call me, then you’re gonna do a lot of business.

Right? Right. Because nobody goes, wow, this dog should be a better part of our family. What they do say is, that dog just ruined an $800 couch. You know, and so they’re gonna call you, so you wanna own a problem. And if you can talk about that problem on your website and your lead generators and your emails and your keynote presentations and your elevator pitches, whenever you’re at a cocktail party, you know, you want to be able to say, you know, when somebody says, what do you do?

You wanna be able to say, y you know how like people get a puppy and they, they thought the dog was really cute, but it’s driving them crazy cuz it’s chewing up the furniture. It’s barking at strangers. It’s peeing in the house. I’m the guy they call to fix that dog. You know how much business you’re gonna do.

If you talk like that, you’re gonna do an enormous amount of business. So marketing is really about having a clear message in which you own a problem.

Pat Flynn: How would a person who has a business who knows their message isn’t as clear as it could be, what exercises or what things can they do to help clarify that message?

Donald Miller: Yeah, so I give you a seven part framework in the book, and I take you to something called Small Business Flight Plan. And there’s a piece of software inside of Small Business Flight Plan, it’s a free piece of software. And it helps, it’s a tool that you use to come up with seven sound bites. Only one of them, by the way, is the problem.

There are six more, and once you come up with those seven sound bites, you start populating all your marketing collateral with those sound bites, and you repeat them until you’re dizzy. Just repeat them until you’re so tired of saying them, and that’s how you grow your business.

Pat Flynn: So sound bite. Why did you choose that terminology? I’m curious for that.

Donald Miller: Because marketing, in order for it to be effective, needs to be an exercise in memorization. In other words, when I come up with my marketing message, I need to repeat it so often that the audience actually memorizes it. This is incredibly powerful. You know, I, I got a call from the Jeb Bush campaign saying, Hey, can you come to Miami and help us?

You know, Jeb’s like at 3% in the polls. He is getting beat by Donald Trump, like, what do we do? And Jeb was just the kind of guy who couldn’t, couldn’t reduce anything to a soundbite. He, he’s an extremely intelligent man. He’s a scholar and probably would’ve been a, you know, a decent president.

Although I think the president needs to be good at soundbites, to be honest with you, because they’re communicating in soundbites. Right, you know, so you gotta figure that out. But then I was in Finland. Eight time zones away in front of 8,000 entrepreneurs, and I said, Hey, I’m just curious, what does Donald Trump wanna do with America?

And the entire finish audience with a finish accent shouted, make America great again. Now, I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. But he’s an incredibly effective communicator, and one of the reasons that he’s so popular is that, that love him or not one he’s, he has an amazing way of bringing attention to himself that I think is pretty profane, but he also breaks everything into sound bites that people can memorize. And what I would love to do is have some really good candidates be able to do that, but they can’t. You know, Bernie Sanders is very, very good at it. Hillary Clinton was terrible at it. Joe Biden is okay at it, but not great.

You know, Ronald Reagan was good at it. I’m neither a Republican or Democrat. I, I tend to lean more with the Forward party with this tiny little upstart party. But I do study messaging for a living, and I see some of the greatest ability to get attention and get their, their message out there by some of the worst people.

Pat Flynn: You know, I have known that clarifying your message is, is really key. But the idea that you, you break it down to a single sentence or two that can and should be repeated multiple times over, my initial thought is, well, that’s repetitive.

Donald Miller: It’s reductionistic. I think, you know, for somebody who’s really intelligent and authentic, It comes off as reductionistic and it comes off as sort of manipulative.

Right, right, right. So I understand sort of the internal pushback. I, I and I, I used to feel that I spent my twenties feeling that, but then I realized, wait a second, you know, if you want to change the world and if you want to have an impact, people are not gonna say, Hey, hey Don, you know, good to meet you.

Let me pour a, a scotch and get outta cigar and sit for two hours and try to figure out what the hell you’re saying. Right, right. I got, if you think about it, that’s incredibly narcissistic. No, I don’t, I’m not gonna explain it to you. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna summarize my message or reduce it for you.

I expect you to sit down and understand me and figure out the puzzle that is my message. That’s incredibly narcissistic. I like that reframe. That’s really good. Yeah. If you’re, if, if you care about somebody, you know, when I ask my wife to marry me, I, I didn’t wing it. You know, I thought for weeks about how, you know, what I was gonna say to her.

And because her understanding what I wanted to say and me getting the answer that I hoped to get, that I did get, thank God was important. And I think if you really love somebody, you think about how you’re gonna communicate to them.

Pat Flynn: Let’s keep going, like the, this sound bite like exercise could be really neat.

Can you give us a, a tip or two on how to find that and like what exercise? I know you had the flight plan as well, which, which does that, which, which is mentioned in the book.

Donald Miller: But I think there’s an even better tool than the, the brand script is a sales script tool inside the flight plan I. And the sales script tool helps you figure out, write a f, maybe a follow up email or or talking points if you’re in a sales conversation.

And the way the formula works is you start with a problem. So when somebody says, what do you do? Let me give you an example. Let’s say at a cocktail party. Let’s get the heck away from politics cuz I don’t want anybody to turn off your podcast. You know it, let’s, let’s say you’re at a cocktail party and you meet two people who do the exact same thing.

Pat, you, you meet one person and you say, you know, what do you do? And they say, well, I’m an at-home chef. You know, I come to your house and cook. You might ask them, I. About how much they charge, whatever. But probably not. You’re probably gonna say, well, where’d you go to culinary school? And, you know, what are your favorite restaurants?

And have you ever cooked for anybody famous? And that was my question, right? Yeah. You know, I’ve, I’ve been trying to, to make a Holland Day sauce for years. Like, how much sugar do you put in that thing? You know, you’re gonna ask, you’re gonna make very, very polite conversation. Let’s say an hour later, you, at the same cocktail party, you meet somebody who does the exact same thing, exact same price, exact same quality.

You say, what do you do? And they say, well, you know how most families don’t eat together anymore. And when they do, they don’t eat healthy. I’m an at-home chef. I come to your house and cook. Now, which chef is gonna do more business? Chef one or Chef two? Yeah. Two. Chef Two’s gonna do all the business, right?

Because they position their product as a solution to the problem. So really what I’m getting at is the way that you talk about what you do matters. It matters a lot, especially if lives are at stake. If you’re, if you’re selling medicine or you’re selling medical procedures or you’re part of a nonprofit, that is, you know, I have a good friend named David Beasley, who’s head of the UN Food Program.

He’s just one of the, a Nobel Peace Prize for what the Food Program. Did you know when he gets on camera for 25 seconds on an Instagram, he can’t wing it. He’s got 25 seconds or, or literally, and I’m not making this up, 40 million people are gonna die. He better have a clear message. You know, and he better, you know, and he does, he actually is an incredible communicator, you know, so I, I think this stuff, to me is, is really, really important.

And it’s not just about selling plungers, you know, it’s about changing the world. But, you know, you start with a problem. You, you position your product as a solution to the problem. The next step, and this is the sales framework by the way, from the book, the third framework, you, you build a three-step plan or a three-step bridge from their problem to your solution, and then you paint the negative stakes.

What’s gonna happen if we don’t do this? 40 million people are gonna die. You paint the positive stakes. Listen, these people don’t have to die. If we just do this, and then you actually call people to action. You say, it’s time for you guys to get out your checkbook and do something here, or it’s time for us to negotiate a, a resolution to this conflict in Ukraine so we can get the wheat out of, out of this port.

If you do it in that order, essentially what you’re doing is inviting people into a story. I saw this, you’re gonna love this, Pat, I saw this Instagram clip. I need to find it because I, I want to use it in my talks, but on the left side of the frame was a young man, and I don’t know if he was in a juvenile home or what, what, what he was doing, but he was sitting at a cubicle by a computer.

They were showing him a video that was teaching him how to do this sort of basic algebra equation. And he was turning, spinning in his chair, not paying attention. And then on the right side, they showed the exact same kid and the exact same cubicle watching Star Wars. And he wasn’t moving, he was staring at the computer.

That’s the power of story, and I think when most of us try to communicate, people are spinning in their chair. They’re not paying attention. But if you invite people into a story, they have no choice. Their brain has no choice but to pay attention. And so when you’re talking about growing your business or you’re talking about getting a product out there to market, when you’re talking about making money, donations and increasing donations for a nonprofit or getting people behind a a specific agenda, you gotta communicate super, super clearly.

Pat Flynn: Let’s see, for example, Donald, that I sell, A camera lens. I’m just looking at one right now. So it’s just camera. Right? A camera lens isn’t gonna save 40 million lives. Right, right. There’s nothing seemingly at stake if you don’t get this camera lens, but it’s a great lens and it’ll, you know, help you make vid your videos and, and photos better. How would a person who sells a widget like that, that on the surface just, you know, it’s like a good version of other things that people already have and put story in that, how do we, how might we even approach that?

Donald Miller: The very first thing you’re gonna wanna do is identify the problem that your camera lens solves.

So if you say something like, Hey, you know, when you’re filming your videos and you move back and forth toward and away from the camera by about two feet. You go fuzzy, and then you get cleared and you go fuzzy. Our camera lens doesn’t do that. There you go. Now as soon as I realize, oh, this camera lens solves a problem, I’m gonna buy more of it. Or you say, Hey, have you ever been on a Zoom call with somebody and it just seems like they’re being shot by a Hollywood producer and you’re being shot by, you know, your iPhone camera. The reason is they’re probably using this lens so you know, there’s a thousand problems that lens may solve.

The problem may be, you know, you need a really great lens, but you don’t wanna pay $3,000 for it. This lens is $300 and it gives you the same quality. Well, that’s the problem of price. So you wanna identify what problem that particular product, that lens solves, and you wanna talk almost more about the problem than you do about the product, because that’s where the real value is perceived.

Pat Flynn: The lens has to be good. Obviously the lens has to do what I’m saying it’s doing.

Donald Miller: Yeah. I don’t sell products that aren’t good. Right, and I don’t, I try not to help people sell products that aren’t good.

Pat Flynn: But, and that’s, that’s the other big pro problem that I think a lot of people have is, is perhaps they’re not confident enough about the products they’re selling or the coaching that they do, or the agency that they have.

And, and, and then the messaging can’t be genuine when you don’t even really believe in the product that you, that you have. This is a common problem that my audience has, which is they’re first time entrepreneurs. They’re selling something for the first time. And they’re doubting whether or not it can actually work or not.

And the truth is, it’s gonna be tough to sell it if you don’t, if you yourself don’t know if this works or not, right?

Donald Miller: It is. But there’s a, there’s a season that you can go through to gain that confidence and it’s a season where you really don’t think much about selling. What you think about is talking to customers and perfecting that product.

And so you want to get it out there. And if somebody emails you and says, Hey, this didn’t work for me, you wanna jump on the phone and you wanna say, Hey, first of all, I’m sorry that that didn’t work for you, and can you tell me what you were trying to do and what you were trying to accomplish and where you got frustrated?

Because I never want this to happen for anybody else. And then you actually fix those problems, and then you get fewer and fewer of those calls, and then you start getting a different kind of call and you get the kind of call that says, Hey man, you know, I gotta tell you, I, I spent 300 bucks for this thing.

It’s worth 3000 and I, and that’s a totally different call. And at that point you get really confident and you better believe you start doing really effective marketing and competent marketing. So you know, cuz you love it, right? I mean I get that all the time. People, I just talked to a survey group and they said, man, our number one problem with you is we feel guilty cuz we feel like we owe you so much money.

I’m like, okay, I love that. I’m, I, can I put that on my website first of all? Yeah. You know, so I, I think welcome to being an entrepreneur, right? Creating exactly something and perfecting it and trying to get there. And God bless you. God bless you. Don’t stop like, you know, make it better and better and better until that’s not your problem anymore.

And then the next problem is, okay, you got this great thing that nobody knows about, or at least not enough people know about. And now you’re into messaging, right?

Pat Flynn: And go get building a StoryBrand to help you with that. There you go. Yeah. So as we finish up here, Don, first of all, this has been such a pleasure and joy to, to hang out with you for a little bit.

I know it’s been a while for us, but the new book is out. Where can people go to check it out? Where would you recommend?

Donald Miller: There’s this independent underground bookseller called that has heard of those guys. Yeah, and there’s a company called that I think Amazon bought, but you can buy the book anywhere you get books. It’s available at your local independent bookstore. You can get it anywhere.

Pat Flynn: The flight plan in the software you mentioned is all in there as well.

Donald Miller: So yeah, it’s in there. If you go to, that software is free. You give me your email address. I am gonna turn around and email you something that I want you to buy, but if you don’t like that, you can just unsubscribe and continue using the software for free and I’d love for you to use it.

Pat Flynn: That’s cool. Now, we obviously didn’t tackle all the parts of the flight plan and, and, and the book.

Donald Miller: Now we got through three of six, so you’ll have to get the book to understand.

Pat Flynn: Exactly, exactly. That’s where, that’s where I was going. However, if we could leave them with one more tip before we head out or one part of the book that you think is very important.

I mean, it’s all important, but what comes to mind and can we scratch the surface on that?

Donald Miller: Yeah. You know, for me, growing my business, it, it had, there had to be a why, you know, Simon Sinek talks about why you’re doing this. And I think if all of us can say, it can just come up with a little list of here’s why it matters whether my business succeeds.

You know, the first thing is you matter. You know, you’re, you’re a person who has the right to feel and experience joy, and so number one, I like my business and I like doing it, and I think it should succeed for me. You know? Second is, you know, my family, right? I mean, if you have a family, then you want this thing to provide for your family, and you want your family to be free, and you want your family to not be dependent on somebody else telling you what to do or where you can go or whether or not you can go on vacation or those kinds of things.

That might be number two. You know, for me, I, I, I’ve, I’m fine now. I’ve, I’ve paid for myself and my family’s gonna be okay. You know, if I get hit by a bus, I think they’d be pretty okay. But I look at that 65%, 65% of small businesses fail. And I would like for that number to be reduced to 50%. So I’m, I’m wanting to, you know, get these frameworks out there.

I’m hopeful to have 2,500 coaches teaching our frameworks. Right now we have 200 and I would like to see that number in America go from 65% fail within 10 years to 50% within 10 years. And I’d like for maybe people to say, look, Don gave us an operating system. So we just make fewer mistakes and to me, like if I, you know, what really matters in my life is my wife and my daughter, but on my deathbed, if my wife said, I love you and you’ve been a great husband, and my daughter said, I love you, you’ve been a great dad, and maybe some small business owner says, Hey, thanks man.

I’m great. I can, I can. I can die and go to heaven and be okay.

Pat Flynn: Well, I wanna make sure I thank you here publicly for what you’ve done directly and indirectly for us. And just thank you again. Everybody go check out the book. I’ll share links right after we finish here. But Donald, thank you so much.

Really looking forward to connecting with you again, congrats on the book and looking forward to seeing you achieve and surpass all those goals that you just mentioned.

Donald Miller: Thanks, Pat, I appreciate it.

Pat Flynn: Take care.

All right. I hope you enjoyed that episode. I enjoyed that conversation so much. Donald’s always such, just such a cool guy.

I just wish we could hang out and have some drinks together or something. He’s just so fun to talk to and so knowledgeable. As you can see, he’s got all the things you need to know about growing your small business in his book, which you can find on Amazon, little small Independent bookstore, it’s called How To Grow Your Small Business by Donald Miller.

Check that out, the Flight Plan, all that good stuff, the software that you can get access to as well. And just thank you Donald, for coming back on and sharing your wisdom with us and I hope to connect again soon. You can listen to the other episode that we did together about building a StoryBrand. We had his colleague JJ on as well, and we got a lot of things that we could offer you over on our show notes page to go and continue this road that you’re on with growing your small business and marketing. If you go to, again,, you’ll be taken to the show notes page and resources and links and all the things you need to know.

You should go there now. Anyway, thank you so much. I appreciate you for listening in and gimme a shout out and Donald, a shout out on Twitter. Let us know that you heard the episode and hopefully you enjoyed it. I did. I hope you did too. Peace out. Cheers, and I’ll see you in the next one. Bye.

Thank you so much for listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Our senior producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media, and a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Catch you next week!

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