Pat’s business, The Idea Coach helps small business owners understand their customers and refine their positioning so they can stand out and sell. Pat left a career in broadcast radio after 22 years to help small business owners grow. He focuses on coaching, content creation, and community hosting for small business owners. He hosts a weekly small business talk show called The Idea Collective Live, and two communities; The Idea Collective on Facebook, and The Idea Collective Collaboration Community.
How is running a small business or being an entrepreneur different than being an employee in a corporation?
The biggest difference comes from what happens every two weeks. I was in a corporation for a long time, 20 some odd years working for somebody else. One thing provided you’re not in a terrible corporation you can count on is that paycheck. Now maybe it’s not as big as you want it to be every two weeks, but it happens every two weeks. So that’s what happens when you work for somebody else in a corporation. When you run your own thing, you eat what you kill. So if you run your own business, if you want to get paid every two weeks, you got to go out and sell something. Now it’s kind of a scarcity mindset to focus on, Oh, I gotta go do something so I can make some money.” But it also allows you to look at it from a supply-side and say, “Woah, if I go out and sell a bunch of stuff, I can make a lot of money!” So there is just a big difference between your personal relationship with your bank account when you work for somebody else, and when you work on your own.
Can I get your perspective on how content creation ties into building a network and these relationships?
It’s something I’ve used a lot, creating content in order to get known. I know that sounds silly, but getting to know more people by creating content is not necessarily trying to become an influencer. You see on LinkedIn or on other social media platforms, or even just on people’s websites, I’m going to do a blog, I’m going to do a podcast, I’m going to do a show and they think by doing content, people will know who they are and they’ll get famous. But to me creating content is interviewing other people and using it as a networking strategy. So I create a weekly show called Idea Collective Live which is built on interviewing other people. I do that because there are a lot of smart people in our network and when you interview smart people, people give you the benefit of the doubt because you’re hanging out with smart people. So they start thinking that you’re pretty smart and then you also get yourself exposed to the smart people’s network. So if I have Lori on my show, Lori has a lot of people who respect her and when she’s on your show, then people who know Laurie know you. By doing content and building a stage or having a spotlight and shining it on other people allows you to go out and get known by the leading players in your network and meet people who don’t already know you. It’s a strategy that I’ve used quite a bit through live shows, podcasts, education nights, and networking events. The strategy has always been to build the stage and give it away because when you do that, you get a chance to extend your network to more people.
What’s missing for most small business owners’ lives that would help them to perform better?
Time off, rest, support, all of this soft, squishy stuff that you don’t learn in business school. I went to business school, they never talked about any of that stuff. They talk about finance, accounting, strategy, business plans, marketing, and sales. They talk about all that stuff, but they don’t talk about all of the squishy, personal stuff that you need to be a great small business owner. Being a small business owner is a lifestyle, it’s not a job. When you build your own company, and you build your own thing, it consumes everything around you. You make sacrifices with what you eat when you work out, how often you see your family, what time you get up, what time you go to bed, where you go, what you do. Everything changes to suit what you need to do to make money and grow your thing. So that support idea is what I built the Idea Collective Community about. The phrase that we use in the group is, “Don’t grow it alone.” When you’re growing your small business alone, you end up not having accountability partners or people to celebrate your success with or people to just bounce questions off of. That’s the market opportunity for the idea collective. It’s not just business, it’s business and life because like I say, being a small business owner is really a lifestyle and not a lot of people talk about that and I wish more people did.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you’ve had?
I think my favorite one goes all the way back to the beginning because I came out of corporate America from 20 some odd years in the radio business. When you work in radio, you know a lot of people and what I mean by that is you do business with a bunch of people. So I was the director of marketing and innovation for WTMJ radio in Milwaukee and I knew all the people in the Packers organization and all the people in the Bucks organization and the Brewers organization, and even more, because TMJ does a lot of business with some really interesting people. But then when I left corporate America, I realized I didn’t know these people at all. I did business with them, but that’s different than networking with people. My favorite experience was walking into the Brookfield chamber, which is my networking home base, and realizing here’s a roomful of people doing business who don’t know who I am because TMJ is not in my name badge anymore and I don’t know who they are because I’ve never really had a good networking conversation in my entire life. They taught me how to network and that is as simple as, “How can I help you?” and then shutting up and listening and then helping if you can. Then you rinse and repeat for the rest of your life. So my favorite networking memory is walking into the Brookfield chamber for the first time and realizing the difference between knowing people and networking with people and it was the start of the journey.
How do you best stay in front of and nurture your network?
That’s a challenge because if you’re networking in a couple of different places, you have to consistently show up. There are days when you don’t want to show up and there are times when maybe you’re not showing up as often as you should be, but showing up is the rule and getting in front of even the people you think you know, well, and asking them consistently, what do they need, how can you help, is the challenge. The other thing that goes along this line of maintaining relationships is being someone on their speed dial, that they know, you’re going to help them no matter what. There are people who don’t want to provide free service, they don’t want to provide free help and sometimes they’re very vocal about it. The way I think of it is if someone thinks of me first, and calls to talk for 20-30 minutes about a problem they’re having, that will go into the goodwill bank long term and you will be a trusted member of their community. If you’re not standing there every time they want to ask you a question with your handout. So I always try and help first. I would rather be someone on someone’s networking mind as a helper, and there for them when they need it rather than someone who wouldn’t help out, I don’t like to work that way.
What advice would you offer to that business professional who is looking to grow their network?
I think it’s common for people to think of new places to go network, I like to go deep in the places that I’m at. I like to have a few places that are really home base, places that I can get to know a lot of if not all of the people in the organization, as opposed to being involved in a bunch of different networking groups and only knowing 5% of them. I like to show up and be someone that’s known in the groups. You earn that by giving and showing up and offering help and getting to know people. But I would recommend that people go deeper into the groups that they’re in before they add more groups. That’s something that could pay off better in the long term than just knowing some random people from 10 or 12 different groups.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
Wow, my 20-year-old self I had hair back then! Oh man, I would say Enjoy your hair, so that’s the first thing! The second thing is going to get my MBA. I spent a lot of my career trying to change the industry I was in instead of changing industries and that was a mistake. I saw things I wanted to do differently, but I wasn’t in a position to actually make those changes to my own self. So that would be the advice I give myself, many, many, many years ago to do your own thing, and don’t rely on other people to make the changes that you want to see happen.
We’ve all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you’d love to connect with, and do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
I would say Marcus Lemonis and I think I could do it within the Six Degrees if I got a little bit of help, because he has Milwaukee ties and a lot of folks in our network know him. I’ve been trying to connect with him for a long time, but that’s one of those big picture asks. My dream is to have him do an event for The Idea Collective because I think he’s inspirational to a lot of people that do what we do. So I think with a few good introductions and a lot of elbow grease, I might be able to get there. He’s someone that I would love to connect with and I think we could get it done, I just would need some help with people between me and him.
What final words of advice would you offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would find a way to interview someone. I don’t care what modality it is, but I would create a show or a blog, or a podcast. It doesn’t need to be big and 10,000 people a day don’t have to watch it, but I would find some way to offer the stage to someone that you admire or want to learn from or you think better yet that your audience wants to learn from or they admire. To me, it’s been the way I’ve grown my network and it’s also because I was a radio guy, and I did it forever so that’s natural to me. If you’re a writer, start a blog and have guest bloggers where you interview them and if you’re a podcaster, create a show and really get inside people’s heads. It makes them feel good, first of all, and they’ll also share your stuff and tell people how great you are. But that would be the thing that I would recommend, everyone needs some sort of content creation where you can give a stage to somebody else because it’s worked for me and it might work for you.
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