Virtuous Cycle & Interview with Jim Copacino
So we're gonna talk about expertise I have a special guest for you in just a moment, but before we moved to that, I want teo talk a little bit about the expertise where it comes from and your power uh, referrals come from expertise. Ex expertise reduces your anxiety because you feel confident in your expertise so you can access for the one hundred thousand or you can ask for the power cord or you can simply asked for time to have a conversation your experiences from childhood matter because they were the beginning of your expertise and also the things that you must guard against recognition, small and large, build your expertise and to do all of that I've always believed in building a virtuous cycle, so we're gonna talk a little bit about the virtuous cycle. This is an idea that I've used my entire professional life, and it came from, uh, lack of work, frankly not having enough to do so let me walk you through the virtuous cycle, which, by the way, is an economist term and it's a good ...
thing and it's the opposite of a vicious cycle, something my mother used to say all the time to me you're in a vicious cycle, she would say, so this is a virtuous cycle, so step one in the virtuous cycle is you do the work that you love you do the work that you love, you've trained for it, you've built your life for it, you love doing it, you're completely engaged in it, and and it gives you huge pleasure, and you make money from doing it and you gain respect in the world. And but from doing that work, you gain all kinds of incites and stories you gain observations about how you work, helps people, you gain observations about the kinds of industries and people you work for, you gain insights and observations about how to connect in the particular world that you work in, you gain all kinds of valuable insights. You also gain case studies that substantiate your expertise, but the most important thing I've always felt is these insights, because these insights can be turned into stories and the stories as we can see number three, there are what we use to communicate with prospects, so we talked to people we give talks, we do public relations activities, all of our outbound messaging is in the form of stories that are based on the insights that we've developed from the work that we do. So the first half of this cycle, the one in the two is about doing the work and then understanding why it's valuable, the three and the four are about marketing and sales. Using the outbound messages you've gained from your work to reach out to people and number four, what happens from that is people call you and when people call you guess what you're in charge because they're asking you to do something for them. And when somebody asked for something, that means you're expected to ask for something in return, reciprocity, it's very simple, and it completely takes you out of that anxious mode of trying to sell your work, because all you have to do is respond to their inquiry and develop our relationship, and I have a white board meeting or whatever, but use that leverage from that inbound call, maintaining your behavior in such a way. So you keep yourself in this position of power and experience and expertise, and you get the work on your own terms. One of the problems that creatives have classically is because we love the work and we love doing the work we get all absorbed in the work, and then we don't do the other parts of that cycle. We don't do the reflecting on what did we learn beyond just doing the job? And we don't reflect on how do we make a good story out of it and we don't send it to anyone, and so then we don't have any inbound calls, and then we don't have enough work. And the sort of sight vicious cycle of super busy while we have a project and then not enough to do is all too common and that's why out of the five thousand created firms in the city of london I think it's something like five thousand I might be exaggerating a little bit I'm sort of given to exaggeration sometimes only a few of them have more than like five or ten employees most of them are individuals and that's because they are feast and famine do the work scramble around show their portfolio tried to get another job kind of after the fact and they don't build a systematic virtuous cycle so this is the secret to success and I've used up my whole life and it works great ah one of my former employees who actually will be a guest here on wednesday devin liddell had this pin to his wall in his in his cubicle last time I visited him which was pretty cute I've talked about this many times so the principle the virtuous cycle builds your expertise that's what it does it builds your expertise so now we're going to introduce gym casino thank you pleasure to see you guys to be here thank you for coming out here and jim is uh cofounder of courtesy no food chicago correct and it is a seattle advertising agency yes and it is noted for doing some of the most creative work in town and has been for a long time my place got you fooled anyway d'oh and I asked him to come and when I think of jim have known him for a long time when I think of jim I think of him as one of those people who's just a natural, creative and always has been and and and because of my focus on how we develop early in our lives and we begin to develop our expertise early in our lives we heard with sara that she started when she was four years old when she first identified those photographs as being inspirational for the rest of her life, I asked jim when when he first had his first sort of picture of you know where he was going and he turned told me a similar story as well and so I and so I'd like you to tell that story if you're sure andi thought about it a little bit since well we'll get you you know who knows who knows how the human mind works and how how we develop? I think intuitively some of us just grow up drawn to something and I think science is still trying to figure out why that happens, but you know, some some of us are drawn to to science someone's were joined to math sums were drawn to plants and flowers and for some reason really from from the earliest recollections I can have I just was fascinated by the written and spoken word I just loved words I love the way they fit together, they're like a bunch of legos. I felt like that you could step together and all kinds of fascinating ways, so I knew early on that I would, uh, do something that involved writing or communicating in some fashion. In fact, one little side story when I was a junior in high school, I dropped chemistry to take typing that's before the personal computer, anything, you know. So I was just learning to type on a ibm selectric typewriter, and the guidance counselor called me and said, jim, I think you're making a terrible mistake, you know, college is like to see people with a full science sequence and you're going to take chemistry next year, you're not going to take physics and, you know, this may hurt your chances to get into a good school, and I said, you may be right, but I know that I'm going to use typing a lot more than I could use physics or chemistry, so, you know, there was just that that instinct that ahead, so there was there was that then I, you know, like a lot of us, I was very interested in popular culture love, love, tv, love radio of movies uh and then finally you know, I grew up in the sixties and that was sort of the golden age of first golden age of advertising so advertising was going through a huge change with agencies like doyle dane burn back carl alley and they were pioneering new and interesting and creative ways to to talk to consumers and have a relationship with consumers so that was an impact you know, I could see that advertising was was more than a kind of dreary science of marketing that it could be really part of popular culture and be an entertainment medium. So I think all those things uh almost rivers ran together color what I wanted to do I was an english major and college just because I was curious but I always knew I'd end up wanting to do something with writing and then ended ended up in an advertising agency. Yeah. And, uh, didn't you tell me something about writing in the car with your mom? It was really struck a chord. Oh, yes. All right. Yeah. I just I was probably six years old or something like that and seven years old, I got my first library card and I just remember walking the library, seeing all these books and being really excited really aroused by that and picked out a couple of books and just went home and read them all probably not well enough but just wanted to get through so I could get back to the library and get a few more books I remember that first book has to remember that cover was suddenly called the trumpeter of krakow I don't know what a trumpeter was I didn't know where crack out was but just seemed like a cool book and at thirty three good stuff inside there so it was the excitement of mr holmes almost like opening a gift yeah wonderful and the commercials so I I'm not a sports fan never have been um and but you do the advertising for the seattle mariners right? And uh the I just got a major dose of your mariners commercials because I was show judge for a local show and you'd entered you'd entered a bunch of these mariners spots and I'm watching these spots and I'm like, I'm like totally loving this silliness and this and this the mariners being captured with with, you know completely not about baseball it was and I thought and I just found it so appealing and it could you talk a little bit about why you why you didn't, you know, show guys sliding into home plate and hitting the ball into the end of the crowds and, you know, classic heroic baseball stuff yeah that's that's a good question and you know, you were kind enough to introduce myself my agency is highly creative I appreciate that, but I really think we're more problem solvers and we work with clients to solve their business problems and we use imagination as a business tool to help them achieve their objectives and that's that's fun to try to figure you solve that puzzle. So in the case of the mariners, you know major league baseball is a proposition where a team plays eighty one home games case is safeco field they have forty five thousand seats there, so they have an inventory of four million seats to filter and when the team isn't playing well, a zit hasn't been that's an even more difficult proposition, so we recognize that people who grew up in love and truly are passionate about baseball are going to go uh they're going to go because they like the game, but that only applies to a small percentage of the general population. So it's just a matter of positioning baseball is entertainment and it's only part of a larger thing that the mariners do because if you've been to a game in safeco field, you know yeah there's a game going on and sometimes it's a good game sometimes it's not, but they always provide an entertainment experience through music through food, through the seed out in the pen through promotions, so this is just a way to say air working concept is uh, entertaining experience brought to you by good guys who care about the community because professional athletes let's face it they have it's a mixed bag you know these air young guys with a lot of money that always behave properly and but the mariners take a lot of pride in being a good community citizen having their players out in the community so part of it is just sort of looking beyond the peeking behind the curtain of the of there they're being professional athletes and showing some personality showing him having some fun putting him in these these comedic situations and breaking down the barrier between the fan and the the and the athlete and trying teo communicate that the mariners are not only about professional baseball but it's a no entertainment experience to me one of the commercials has a baseball player dressed up like an elvis presley impersonator and he's course terrible at it and that is the showing of the vulnerabilities of him makes him feel like not a star baseball player but a human being. I mean, I get it that he's a gifted and talented baseball player but it it shows that he's a human being and it's sort of touches me because I like the fact that he's both a really, really good professional baseball player I love people who have really achieved and also he's like me he's keeping me silly and not particularly good at something and here he was sort of dressed up in this clownish thing and he wasn't even particularly comfortable with that kind of was like going along with it because you must have been his arm or something l and there is a method to that madness that's felix hernandez was one of the best pitchers in baseball these nicknamed the king some of you may know that so we took the king of rock n roll in the hay from felix and put it together and did an elvis thing and he's such a great sport he enjoyed it yeah yeah yeah but it goes back to well you said it you're using imagination to make business connections so the imagination is really acknowledging the power of the creative mind that's you know, in your team you know your group and how that expertise is applied to a particular business problems. This is a terrific example of a well developed expertise using creativity as a base acknowledging it proclaiming it in fact we had a question from russ last segment I think it was early on about whether or not we should even describe ourselves as creative whether that was appropriate and these guys are describing themselves as being an imaginative and to me that spells creativity and that is where the power comes from in service of business and service a business yeah and again I think american culture in general, in american business in particular discounts the power of imagination, the power of creativity, power of surprise to really solve business problems and that's why they need people like us to go in and say, you know, because it's, you know clients have difficult jobs constantly under pressure to perform and deliver results and so forth, and they tend to get into ruts they tend to get a little bit myopic. I think that clients would would acknowledge that, yes. So it's. Not that they need clowns at the circus, but they need people who understand, uh, that when you touch human emotions that's, when you motivate people and that's, when you persuade and that's when you inspire people, you know, one definition I like about advertising I guess I like it because I am rented it. Eyes is that it's applied empathy, applied empathy in other words, write that down everybody to communicate with someone you have to, uh, feel their pain, try to understand their lives, try to walk in their shoes and try to present is it to themselves, hopefully in an honest and, uh straightforward, not straightforward, but in an honest, authentic way ah, product or service or experience that will help them in their lives that will, you know, functionally or emotionally improve their lives so that, you know, the best advertising advice I ever got came from someone who had nothing to do with the advertising. Maya angelou, who recently died, the poet in the novelist, said, and I hope I don't mangle this this quote, but it was I may not remember what you said, but I'll never forget how you made me feel, and I think in american business, a lot of times, we worry about what we say. We worry about information, and we don't think is much about inspiration, so I think if you can combine those two things, you have a chance to be successful and fundamentally it's all about feeling, isn't it? Yes, it all comes down to feeling everything does feelings, rule, and, uh, when we want to reach out and touch someone and or a client of ours wants to read out, reach out and touch someone they need teo, they need to use the skills of people who are good at making that connection that's critically important, yes. And, um, and so the value that we bring is, in fact, the sensitivity that comes from the traits that we have as creative way are more sense that if we are more, wei have more difficulty with our emotions, and we use our emotions powerfully as well, right? They could be our enemy as well that's why? I know you've talked about some of that and in this sequence, but but I think that's true but there's also a responsibility we just can't come in and say, gee, because I'm a sensitive feeling person I therefore uh you know by definition on more qualified than you are to solve this problem, I think you have to show respect and understanding for the client's business and for their problems and for their needs and you know, I often think of creative problem solving is is a venn diagram you know you've got two circles and you've got your agenda what you want to do is a creative person you want to do work that's admired by your peers certainly you want to do work that's that's going to drive the client's business but you wanted to be artistic you want to be aesthetic you want to be beautiful, you wanted to be emotional and then the client has a whole set of needs that often are separate from that and there's usually an intersection, sometimes a paper thin intersection between those two world where you can accommodate what you know is going to be successful as is emotional, empathetic, funny, charming, the attractive advertising and solved clan's problems at the same time it doesn't always happen, but when you can do that everybody's happy and do you mind if I ask a question really quickly while we're on that topic when you're talking about solving people's problems and going in prepared, how much research do you do on a potential client before you meet with them to negotiate? And how do you do that? Research? What is it that you're looking at to figure out what their problems are that you want to solve? Yeah, well, generally, it's a siri's of meetings with a client uh, so it's not as if you have to go in with the answer the first time you meet her the first time you make a proposal, but it's a it's a great question. And there ah, it's the answer is a little easier than it was maybe twenty years ago, because now there's so much information available available to us online to research companies to read annual reports to, uh, if you're lucky, find interviews with with the, you know, the leaders of the company who talk about their challenges and their needs and their goals. So, uh, again, you just try to learn as much as you can. You talk to people who might work for that company, I think it's just, you know, ted and I talked about this last week when we got together for for coffee, he he asked what do you look what trade you look for in people who come to work for for us and it's the first answer is always curiosity just people keep asking why why why? Why over and over again you just have this kind of insatiable desire to learn about a company about a process about a technology s o I think that curiosity comes in you know it's it's less of a processes as it is just kind of a human need to know and uh so I don't know if that's a direct answer to your question but I think you just stuffed your head with this much as you can and then then when you meet with the prospect you kind of filter through it and you know it just ask them what your pain points what what what are you doing? Well, what do you doing poorly. How do you think? Uh in our case marketing communications can be useful to you love that and it's funny I've seen a lot of parallels with dating and just interpersonal relationships where it's you know, people like you if you asked questions about them so do ted do you think that this process of interviewing them asking questions, trying to find out about them do you think that that helps to sell you as the right solution to their problem? I wish I knew that when I was dating I would have been so much better thank you me too. Uh yes what was the question way think about dating I'm so far it's just the question of whether that process of showing interest in their problems instead of going in and acting like a know it all like a lot of people want to feel like they need to go in and solve all the problems but going in and actually asking questions what are you from what you see no we have learned that acting like a know it all doesn't work very well right jim and uh and of course I had to learn that the hard way I don't know about jim I think kim's much quicker than I had to learn it the hard way and I tried early on in fact, max and I had a little exchange on that same subject this morning, but but we're hard wired as men were trained from birth to be john wayne types are we're trained to be build muscles and be strong and have all the answers and of course we don't you know we don't and having all the answers and I don't even have the muscles you know, some of us anyway. And so um uh, you quickly learn if you have if you if you were a good observer of your own behavior, you quickly learned that being a know it all doesn't worked very well and you learn toe ask, although I really like your previous remarks about authority and establishing authority and creating a track record and being in control. But I think you know, being authoritative doesn't mean that you don't care, right or that you are curious, so you can you can, you know, be in control, but it'll be curious and write and say, I don't know all the answers, but when I when we get a little more context, I'm confident that with our skills will be able to solve your your problem. So I think, it's, that nice combination of authority and max curiosity. So my question is, would this be like if we have a white board meeting, is this a great time? Tohave have those questions ready? Tow? Oh, yes, that's. The whole point of the white board meeting is what gets you access to the answer's firsthand. Okay, we did it way. Did a skit on having a planning meeting with a client and getting paid for it prior to even get in business is a plant pays your some small feet. To establish you know value yeah, well, yes and in some level of commitment and then you go in and you spend half a day or three hours or whatever's appropriate and you scope out together in mutual uh and and determine what's the best way to go about this so that when you do then put together how you're going to approach it is based on some real and you learn a great deal about the the individual personalities process too don't you enjoy? Sometimes you learn that maybe we're not a good fit that's right that's a very valuable exercise and uh uh I'm gonna talk about this a little bit later tomorrow I think that's the difference between issues and interests and one of the things that jim is hinting at is uncovering the the the interests of the client beyond the basic issues the bish issues would be uh what's the media by going to be how much money what's the schedule how many ads are we planning or some sort of very specific measurable things those air issues interests are how will this affect the company going forward? How will this affect you in your role at the company? Are there people inside the organization who think this is a great idea? Are there people who feel threatened by this underlying interests are very important to uncover and a whiteboard session or a pre meeting session I can help you to uncover those yeah no, I think that's that's very astute it reminds me of uh an anecdote several years ago we were working on the alaska airlines business you know, we had a client and this is a happy circumstance where we had a client and we had a session like you're describing but it became apparent that uh and he was a brilliant marketing person he wanted the advertising to make him and his company famous he didn't say it but he really wanted you know and agency those were the words you love to hear it leased the thie attitude you love to be around so uh so we went back and said, you know, we think we can really push the envelope with this client he seems to have a real high appetite for uh for you know, not risk so much is just doing something highly visible and what we did was a serious of commercials that really went international acclaim and uh mainly because you not because we're so talented because this client really opened the door and it became clear that partly through his own ego and partly through the fact that he believed it would be good for the company right uh he wasn't doing this just for his own ego certainly that was a part of it right? Fine that's fine yeah we want people to personally invest in this exactly and it worked it worked it worked. It was was that during the alaska's expansion time it was they were moving from yes, just the west coast was it yes, exactly. Expanding up down the west coast is overrun with starting open new routes and it was also a time when airlines really began to cut back on their service drastically in alaska held the line for a long time on service they really differentiated themselves on service so it opened up the opportunity for us to do oh gosh, about forty or fifty commercials about hapless travelers stuck on miserable flight you know, with all kinds of circumstances yeah, skinny guys, great skin against terror remember that terrible food, you know, and make fun of we even we even had one where the bad airline installed a pay toilet on the phone and I paid toilet on the plane and, you know, gets guys running around asking for change for a dollar because he had to go to the bathroom and actually years later, I think it was ryanair toyed with the idea of putting pay toilets in the bathroom so it makes perfect sense fiction became truth, but it was but what was great again? That was that empathy thing, you know, and it's that we weren't saying necessarily it you'll never have terrible experience out of last year lease but that we we feel your pain we understand what you go through I try to make your fear your next flight uh not too painful so you've used the words empathy, imagination, creativity, curiosity care those air and probably some others that I didn't get there all that air all emotional terms and I wondered do you use that same a list of words when you're talking to a client I probably do I'm not conscious of it right? But again back to the premise that people will remember how they feel about you more than what you say uh you do try to touch those emotions you try to give people you know when we do our briefs are planning briefs we like to answer the question not what do you want the advertising to say but how do you want people to feel once they've been explode the clothes you want people to feel boy that is a great question add that to the list of questions so whether it's whether it's a logo whether it's a commercial writer it's a photograph you know how do you want people to feel once they've experienced that you're what you created? I had kind of one topic that was a couple of different people were asking about elwood's my nickname a few other people were discussing said so since we have to add guys on stage how do you define personal branding and how did they say suggest we incorporate our personal brand in negotiation also, just how do you define brand? They said hearing these to talk about personal branding and its impact on negotiations would be invaluable. I would love to hear you guys have to say, well, great brands are authentic. In other words, you could only you could only manufacture so much about a brand or a product or service at the end of the day, it is what it is, and if it tastes good that's great if it tastes a lousy, no matter how much branding you put around, people are only going to buy it once, so, you know, I think a brand is just a kind of an organized expression of of your values and as a person or whether you're doing a marketing campaign. So, you know, I've tried to be, you know, when it's, when you go through the adolescence of your career, you try to be like the people who you admire or some of the heroes in your business, you tried sometimes to be arrogant, you try to be the funniest guy in the room. If you try to be the smartest guy in the room, you know, you're trying all these different persona, and then, you know, you sort of come to a point of maturity, I think, in your curry realized I am who I am so let me be the best me that I could be but let it be me you know and you have high purpose you have values it's not that you surrendered a mediocrity but you realize in a white why should I try to act like a tough guy when I'm not a tough guy? Why should I try to act like uninterested jewel when I'm not an intellectual, let me just try to figure out what I am and just have that come through and people I could find if they don't there's other people who conducted so I can see you being funny but were you trying to be a tough guy for a while? Yeah, I tried I tried that, you know is creative director, you know, try to be harsh and and you know, well, you know, because I'd read the guy you know, about these creative directors who beat people up and made yeah made him work all weekend, I just found I couldn't do that, you know, that it's just the way I am that to try to encourage people felt more comfortable for me than to try to intimidate them, yes, so that didn't last very long because people saw through it and I try to be scary and they'd laugh at me so that was that was short lived, you know, uh, but does it doesn't mean you don't have high standards, and it doesn't mean you can't tell people that you don't like their work, but you say it in a way that encourages him. You tell him you can do better than this. This is beneath you. You're you're a talented person, you know, as opposed to what's wrong with you. How did you ever get a job in this business? You don't know all the negative stuff. So I hope the person who asked the question can see the personal brand being demonstrated here, because this is jim cole pacino. And this is the way he's always been as faras I as long as I've known him and he's, honest he's sincere, he says what he thinks, and he's clearly very creative and really understands how these things work. So he's a real professional at it? Yes. And it's a nice guy. I mean, you know, like I say, nice guys finish first. Here he is. Well, if you think that time that's what you said earlier about vulnerability, being your authentic self is sometimes it requires a certain amount of vulnerability and being willing. Tio, put yourself out there and have people either accept or reject you for you. Yeah, yeah, so he's athletic. Yeah, exactly, that's, what the personal brand is all about, so I don't think you could make it up. I think you are what you are. I think it was gradual marks, or somebody said that the key is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made very good. That was great, jim, thank you so much, really appreciate it. Thank you for coming. Thank you.