UnNoticed Entrepreneur - public relations for business

This author tells his readers 'Don't be dumb' and be smarter to #getnoticed

January 04, 2022 Jim James
UnNoticed Entrepreneur - public relations for business
This author tells his readers 'Don't be dumb' and be smarter to #getnoticed
Show Notes Transcript

'Don't be dumb' sounds like a really negative expression, but Robert Towle, a former CFO and now a business consultant and founder of 636 Advisors, wants you to take it as a motivation to get your business noticed.

In this episode, he shares what his book 'Don't be dumb' is all about, how do you lead and develop as an entrepreneur, why interjecting fun is important for any business, how to recover from mistakes as rapidly as possible, how to become more resilient, and how you and your business could rise more rapidly especially in these challenging times, and how his podcast guestings help him and his business #getnoticed.

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Jim James:

Hello, and welcome to Robert Towle who's joining me all the way from Radford in Virginia. Welcome.

Robert Towle:

Thank you, Jim. Really glad that could be on the show today. Thanks for the invitation.

Jim James:

Well, you know, I have to have you on the show because you have the most amazing Hawaiian shirt on is bringing the sunshine to me over here in the UK. It's a bit damp, as always. But we're going to talk about your book, which is called, 'Don't Be Dumb', but also the communications and the journey that you've been on going from being a corporate finance CFO, to being an entrepreneur and coach of entrepreneurs. Is that right?

Robert Towle:

That sounds great. Absolutely.

Jim James:

Great. So Robert, let's just talk about your book, 'Don't be dumb', in a sentence 'or two. Do you want to just share with us about the content of that book?

Robert Towle:

Sure. Well, I'll start off Jim, with the title, is the one point with the publisher where I got into a, a, a confrontation over, because they were that's so negative.' And I'm like, 'it's not negative. It's it's about being smarter. It's not that I don't do stupid things every day all day long, but it's about attempting to not be dumb.' And it comes from advice my dad gave me when I was like 13, which didn't please my mom, where she was looking for him to give me nice advice over the breakfast table. When he just looked up at me over his coffee and says, "Yeah, don't be dumb." And it stuck with me all these years. And Not that I've always followed it, but it's a unique way to get the point across of you can do better, try not to make mistakes, but if you do, how do you recover? And that sets the context for the book of how do you lead and develop as an entrepreneur? How do you recover from mistakes that you make as rapidly as possible? How do you become more resilient? And how can you rise more rapidly in your business, and grow your business, especially in these challenging times.

Jim James:

Okay. Well, there's a lot of things to unpack there. Aren't there, Robert?

Robert Towle:

There are.

Jim James:

Yeah, where should we start? I mean the 'Don't be dumb', and one of our favorite movies of course, is 'dumb and dumber' over here. But as an entrepreneur, if you're building a business and you're trying to grow, you inevitably get more people within your company. So you talk about rising, as a company, as an entrepreneur, what sort of learnings have you got in the book about helping everyone else to follow your journey and be with you and help you to get the business to grow?

Robert Towle:

I've had a lot of, examples in my career even, even back in corporate finance of interjecting fun into the workplace. So even for examples, we would do something like a golden shoes award, where it was an old pair of sneakers that were spray painted gold and put on a stand. And every month we would give them to the employee that exhibited the best customer service of walking a mile and their customer's shoe. And they were really just an old pair of sneakers that have been spray painted gold, but people really wanted this award and wanted to see who got it the next month, when we would have our monthly meetings about things. And, and that interjected some pawn in a unique way, and they would display it in their cubicle or in their office until the next month until then the next person got it the next month. So it's always been part of my approach is how do you, you know, you're spending a lot of time at work and you want to have a good time and your team members are what gets you to success and the people that work for you. And I came across a number of years ago, something called the fish prints. And it was actually based off of a fish market in Seattle, where it had been just a regular market outside in Seattle, but a new owner came along and found a way to make it fun. And so suddenly they're singing songs about the fish, they're throwing the fish back and forth, they're interacting with the customers in a playful manner. Meanwhile, you know, stinky fish, cold outside. If there's any place you wanted to be miserable, you could be miserable there. And instead they turned it completely around to where now it's a tourist attraction, people come to this fish market and buy fish there. They've actually gone and done consulting, teaching other people how to interject fun into the workplace. And you know how do you every day, make a difference to your stakeholders, to your customers, to your employees, interject fun, being there and being present for your customers, as opposed to being distracted by whatever you got behind the wall that you need to work on, whether it's paying the bills or your marketing plan, and how do you engage with them every day and have fun with your employees. And it makes a huge difference. It really does.

Jim James:

You know, heard about a, a baseball team as well, that wasn't doing so well, but they started to make it an entertainment based sport rather than a performance spaced sport. And they also put the fun back into the whole baseball as an event. And also equally successful making the, you know, the business into one of entertainment rather than just, playing a sport.

Robert Towle:

You're you're spot on Jim. And I actually had an example in my history. I started off being irritated to tell you the truth was when one of my favorite teams was, still is the Houston Astros, but their farm team at the time was out in Tucson. One of their smaller teams to development league, and they would come out and have a play each other once a year. And I sat there and went to it and got to see them there locally in Tucson in a small stadium, which was really fantastic. And I looked at these players and they looked really different than they did on TV. And I'm like, what's going on? These guys don't look the same, but their numbers or their names are on the jerseys. And I realised that they would traded their jerseys with each other and were imitating each other's stances and approaches to baseball and just having a grand time out of it. Just having so much fun. So I got over my irritation of wait a minute, I wanted to see them play like they normally do and realised they were making it so entertaining for themselves, for their fans, that game didn't count for anything anyway, it was just an exhibition game. So why not have fun with it and enjoy it and make it an experience for the fans.

Jim James:

So do you think then part of the 'Don't be dumb' message is around don't sorta over worry the work and to try and make it fun as, as if it was not work, but life in general?

Robert Towle:

I think, I think you're right, Jim. And I think it even ties to when I talked about recovery strategies. So many entrepreneurs get tangled up in not wanting to make mistakes, and the reality is you're going to make mistakes, you're going to get yourself in bad situations. And don't take it so seriously, find a way to turn it around, find a way to improvise, adapt, overcome, improve. You can get yourself out of nearly everything if you don't take yourself too seriously and just go, 'wow, that was a bad idea. what do we do?'

Jim James:

So, can you give us an example then Robert of how one of the set of chapters in your book has, has case studies. Can you give us an idea of one that you think would be particularly relevant.

Robert Towle:

I can get you an idea of one that I ended up with what I would call the worst conference call in history. Kicking off a major project with a client that we'd worked on for four years and made the mistake. I made the mistake of using their conference call system versus my conference call system. And for the big introductory kick-off call with hundreds of people around the world. And their conference call system we had no control over and introduced everybody who joined. And so you start the call and his, 'beep Jim just joined.', 'beep Bob just joined', 'beep. Sally just joined, for the first 10 minutes of a 30 minute call interrupting constantly. 10 minutes of me being able to talk clearly, and then everybody started leaving it and also announced their departures. And I'm sitting there and I'm frantically talking to my IT person when I'm on mute between the beeps, trying to get him to change the system, which he can't, because it's not our system, and hung up, finished the call dreadful. Horrible call. Worst one I've ever had thinking 'That's it. We're done.' We're we're in London at the time, they may not even pay for us to fly back home. We're done. This whole assignment is finished and had to sit there and go, okay, what, what lessons have I learned out of this is first of all, you've got to own it. I made the mistake. I have to go down the hall now with a recovery plan, which is we can do another call tomorrow and record it on our system. But I have, I have a window of about five minutes to get down the hall and save this. If I hesitate, we've lost it forever, but it, I can't sit here and moan about my faith or my mistakes. I just have to find a way to recover. And I did, and it worked out and it turned into like a year and a half assignment that worked very, very well because I got to them and I owned it and found them. But didn't just say I made a mistake. I made a mistake and here's what I'm going to do to fix it. Here's how I'm going to improve and how we're going to recover. And people miss that, they get hung up in the, I made a mistake, which we all do.

Jim James:

And you've got a couple of things in there. I think one is the need to go back and be proactive. But I think from the context of this podcast, the control of the platform that you have the communication on is really key. Isn't it?

Robert Towle:

Oh, it was.

Jim James:

And today, are you recommending any particular platforms that you use or that some of the big companies that you've worked for? Are they all using Teams or are they using Zoom or are they using other tools.

Robert Towle:

There's, pros and cons to both. I mean, traditionally I use Skype, but it got a little bit clunky over time and not nearly as good as it used to be, and have used both Zoom and Teams, and there's pros and cons to both. I would say teams has an advantage because can also have a repository of documents and documents to be shared with people that you're interacting with. So when you're working on projects or have ongoing interactions, Teams I think wins that way over Zoom. Sometimes you get into upgrades and so forth that doesn't work quite as well as you'd like. Zoom works very well for having the ability to interact with lots of people, but it also has limitations such as how long you can be on a Zoom call. Unless you have a zoom account, they'll cut you off at 45 minutes. So you have to be willing to pay for that extra to have unlimited amounts of time. And so I'd say both, I would say it's a near tie between the two, it just depends on what purpose you're using it for.

Jim James:

Right. And the key as you say, is that you own, you own the channel for communication. If you've had the transition from being sort of a CFO, including from Pinkerton's, the investigative agency to being a Hawaiian shirt wearing business consultant and author. Can you just tell us some of the lessons as well that you've learnt about that transition because it's quite different to represent a big brand or be part of a big brand and then to build your own, isn't it, Robert?

Robert Towle:

It is, it is. And I think it took me a little bit of time. It may be back to the Don't be dumb sometimes I am. It took me a while because in finance, you typically want to be, you know, wearing the brown suit or the blue blazer and the light blue shirt and the tie, and sort of be in the background and not necessarily stand out, but be that voice of stability, but you're really not recognised or seen very often. You don't, you don't really want to be in that position. That's for the CEO to be in, to be the one that's more of the outward recognisable figure. And it took me a little bit of time to figure it out with some good advice from my wife and others of in consulting you want to stand out, you are your brand. How do people know you for who you are? And that's led to, you know, Hawaiian shirt wearing and being even known to the point where I got this one, for a Christmas present this year of, from my wife was saying, here's another one that you can wear on the podcast. And other people I've been on other podcasts said, oh, 'there you are again, wearing that a white shirt' or, 'oh, that's a different one that's a star wars Hawaiian shirt. Where'd that one come from?' And, and helping you be have a place cause there's only so much space people have in their heads. Brands, and people, and who they are, and being known for something, whether it's something as simple as a white shirt stands out where a light blue shirt and a blazer doesn't stand out a bit.

Jim James:

Yeah. I'm slightly embarrassed because I'm wearing a, a blue button-down collar shirt today. So, you've got the, you've got the high ground on the fashion today.

Robert Towle:

No, no. I guess world war II bombers on a Hawaiian shirt, might, might win today, Jim. I don't know.

Jim James:

But what part of your strategy then as an advisor to building our own brand has been the book.

Robert Towle:

Yes.

Jim James:

Can you just tell us how you've gone about writing that and how you're publicising it? And the impact that it's had on your business?

Robert Towle:

It was interesting because I wrote, it started off being random stories from Robert and it was going absolutely nowhere, other than some interesting stories about, and I wanted to, after I'd, I'd been through, you know, Jim I'd been through having a brain tumor that was removed and it was a really a wake up call for me. Successfully removed, but maybe want to give back from my experiences and see if I can take a different approach on things. And that's what the Genesis of writing the stories down and then found a way to link them using popular music as the beginning of themes of the, of the chapter. And tying things together that way. And so once I found the way to connect the random stories, they all sort of came together. The impact has been really very positive. Published the book in October, took a fair road of time to get there between editing and getting it ready to be published and cover design and all that other good stuff. But it's had a you know, we've got an incredible reviews on Amazon so far. Got reviews, pre reviews that are in the book from, from people that I've worked with through the years, going all the way back to very early jobs that I had. And some of them aren't even published Jim. A guy that I worked for, several of his experiences there, my experiences with him or in the book. He read it, stayed up at night reading, downloaded it, read it, and he wrote me an email at two in the morning saying, 'Wow, everything you're saying makes a lot of sense. And you've had some interesting experiences I didn't even know about. And I endorse everything you've said, and this was absolutely fantastic' And that wasn't even a public review, but it just, waking up in the middle of the night and made me feel very good about the positive impact.

Jim James:

That's fantastic, Robert. Yeah. Congratulations on getting a book published because I know it's not easy to do, and getting pre reviews and so many positive reviews. Congratulations indeed on that. And so in terms of helping you to build your brand, you're doing the book, and how you're promoting the book, and how does that then kind of make a lead magnet for your consulting business?

Robert Towle:

Well, the idea is that for, to be that lead magnet, somebody says, 'okay, I can use this type of advice, or how do I apply that?' I tried to give away elements of it Jim, like at the end of sections, talk about here's action steps you can take, here's an appendix with some tools you can use. So it wouldn't require somebody to come to me, but make them interested enough to where they can call and email and get help if they want some more help for some time with that. So how I've been publishing has been primarily through, getting the reviews on, on Amazon, some publications on LinkedIn and Facebook of talking about things, as well as going to podcasts like yours and, and then publishing those out and linking to those on LinkedIn and Facebook to get the word out about the book.

Jim James:

And Robert, are you doing that yourself or have you got people, sort of, helping you to do that? Because it is time consuming, isn't it?

Robert Towle:

Yeah, I followed my own rules, Jim, of the time I've spent in India where you outsource things, if you, if you can, and, hired a firm to help find podcasts that would be a good fit. And so they do a lot of the heavy work of sending out inquiries, connecting to then coming back with, 'okay, we've got somebody. Jim wants to talk to you, he's interested', and then I take it from there and book the time. But it means I'm spending 10% of the time on it that I would be otherwise. So I can keep focusing on delivering to existing customers and promoting the book.

Jim James:

Is that very expensive Robert to outsource the sort of podcast bookings.

Robert Towle:

Relatively not, not horrible because they actually broke it down across like a six month period of time with a fixed fee, with a fixed guaranteed number of podcasts. So it's broken down, so it's not horrendous.

Jim James:

Can you give us some, some indication of what that's costing?

Robert Towle:

I want to say it was like $1,800 a month across six months. So not free, but not a hundred thousand dollars either.

Jim James:

Yeah. Okay. So affordable. And if it gets you in one or two more clients, then.

Robert Towle:

Yes. And that's, and that's the key, you know, like to sell some books. And we've had some good sales so far, but we'd always like more, I know you can understand that. But then leading to more engagements with clients, it doesn't take much in the way of engagements. And we've gotten some good interest, I've got some local clients here, I've got, one international, one US client, and then another one that I'm working on right now. I have the passion for working with entrepreneurs. My grandfather opened his own shoe store, when he got tired of moving, I helped him when I was growing up with that and that sort of returning back to that has a lot of meaning to me after, and applying those corporate skills to a smaller enterprises.

Jim James:

And it there's one of the rules in your 'Don't be dumb' that you could share just to give people a flavor of what do you think you've talked about refreshing, for example, and growing. Can you give us one example from the book?

Robert Towle:

Well, I'm I to cut to the chase, Jim is that, my final section is about rising rapidly, and it's based off of a song that's called The Cape. And it's basically someone that tied a Cape around their neck and thought they can fly so they jumped off the garage and they kept throughout their life. But the message is they didn't know that they couldn't fly, so they didn't. And that's about rising rapidly is don't be hesitant, don't be afraid because you don't know everything. Don't be afraid because you're not perfect. Put on your Cape and fly. You can do this. You can, you can go forward and achieve great things.

Jim James:

But one does have to be careful, of course, of gravity, I guess, Robert, right?

Robert Towle:

Someone that's broken a few bones and done some stupid things. Yeah, gravity is not pleasant, but you still pick yourself up and you keep moving forward.

Jim James:

Yeah. And I think to your earlier point about finding people. You know, like yourself that can help to guide and advice people seems to be really key. Doesn't it?

Robert Towle:

Yes, it does.

Jim James:

So, Robert, if we, if you want to find out about you, and find out more about, 'Don't be dumb', of course, I'll put a link to the, to the book in the show notes, but how can they find you?

Robert Towle:

Uh, they could find me on LinkedIn or Facebook. There aren't that many Robert Towles out there. T O W L E. They could also find me out on my business website is 636advisors.com. And I have a website for the book, which is dontbedumb.expert, that's out there so people could learn more about it.

Jim James:

Okay. So Robert Towle joining me from Radford in Virginia. Thank you so much today for joining me on The UnNoticed Show. Congratulations on your amazing success with your book.

Robert Towle:

Thank you, Jim. Really appreciate the support. Thank you.

Jim James:

More than welcome. Thank you very much, everybody for listening to this episode of The UnNoticed Show and I will, of course, put Robert's details in the show notes. And until we meet again, I wish you the best of health, stay safe. And as Robert says, actually, you can do anything if you put that Cape of invincibility around you, but do look carefully before you leave off the building.