On our latest episode of the GoWP Digital Agency Owners Podcast, we welcome Chris Lema, coach and business strategist. Join us as we discuss how he shapes narratives with the bridge framework, uses rubrics to deliver value, and much more.
Read the transcript:
Morayo: [00:00:00] Welcome everyone to the GoWP digital agency owners podcast, where we interrogate our colleagues in the WordPress community to find out the truth of their talents and tricks of their trade. I’m Morayo Orija, GoWP’s director of creative and services.
Joanne: [00:00:16] And I’m Joanne Torres. I am GoWP marketing manager. And before we get started, I would like to say a couple of words about GoWP in case anyone isn’t fully familiar with us, at GoWP we create happiness for digital agencies and help them become more profitable. Whether it’s joining in our super valuable weekly happiness hour calls, or if you’re just looking to grow your team with a developer, a copywriter, a designer, or a project manager, we got you covered.
We also have services like case study services, blogging, website maintenance, content edits, or page builds. So you can completely outsource that to our team.
Morayo: [00:00:57] So, Joanne, would you be so kind as to tell the listeners where they can learn more about GoWP and our helpful services?
Joanne: [00:01:02] Absolutely. They can go to gowp.com or any of our social media channels. So GoWP support on Twitter and GoWP everywhere else. So Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Yeah. Sign up anywhere there and get all of the updates of what’s going on. And now let’s take it away to welcome our guest. Morayo.
Morayo: [00:01:29] Today’s guest is actually more than a friend and partner of GoWP. He’s kind of like our uncle. He’s our wise uncle, you know, who always wants to know where you’re right. You’ve applied to college, or if you’re getting the best savings rates, the very learned uncle, Chris Lema is the general manager of Learndash at Liquid web, but we all know, he knows he does so much more.
He’s a blogger public speaker, author, product strategist, and business coach. His Amazon author profile says he helps companies leverage WordPress and helps WordPress companies find leverage. For more than 20 years, Chris has developed and managed high performing teams to build software products, particularly SAS products in a variety of B2B vertical markets.
So in layman’s terms, he helps great teams create even greater products. He’s even spent the last 10 years coaching startups on product development and marketing strategies, but of all of his skills and titles. My personal favorite is Chris Lema, the quintessential writer and storyteller. Then if you’ve ever worked with him, you know that he’s the master of story and frameworks.
And I think that’s where we’ll start today with frameworks and welcome. Welcome, Chris,
Chris: [00:02:40] It is great to be here. That was a super long intro. Wow. I’m like, that’s a lot of stuff. And I also am like, I think I need to go back and update some of those pieces, but all good.
Joanne: [00:02:51] We like to be thorough.
Chris: [00:02:52] Yeah. Yeah. You went lots of places to pull that together.
Morayo: [00:02:55] You lived a long life, my friend,
Chris: [00:02:58] Yes. It’s true.
Morayo: [00:03:00] And we’re glad that your life has brought you here with us this morning.
Chris: [00:03:03] I am thrilled to be.
Morayo: [00:03:06] So, yeah, I thought we’d start talking about what a lot of us know you best for is your instruction and your frameworks. But I wanted to frame this discussion. There was a film that I actually don’t think I’ve really ever seen in its entirety.
It’s from the nineties, it’s the Gwyneth Paltrow film. Don’t even know who the CoStar is, but it’s so the film is sliding doors.
Chris: [00:03:28] I love that movie.
Morayo: [00:03:29] Seeing it? Okay, so you correct me if I’m wrong on the plot, because I really I’ve seen parts of it. But I don’t think I’ve seen it all, but you know, essentially it examines, you know, what, what parallel, twists and turns our lives could all take just based on one choice, one different choice, how our fates can change by it.
And if our fate is even something that one can change, And so, there, you know, when we look at you and you know, that long intro that I did as you referenced it and tease me about one of the things that remains constant is that element of storytelling. And if you look at different careers lots of other careers have frameworks and storytelling at their heart as well.
So I’m just curious, is there a parallel world, if we are on the set of sliding doors and they’re, and they’re writing the script now, is there a parallel world where Chris Lema, isn’t all of those amazing things that I just listed, but he’s instead pastor Chris or tenured professor, Lema, or any other similar careers that you considered in your early days
Chris: [00:04:30] Yeah. So actually you know when you talk to, and it’s less these days, because there’s less singers and there’s more like how they construct a musical artist, but in the old days, right. In the eighties and nineties, which is not really old, but in the eighties and nineties.
And before that, when you met someone who was a, a famous musician a vocalist, right. You talk to Whitney Houston and you interview her and you say, how’d you get your start? She would be like, why I sang in church. Right. And you talk to someone else. And they’re like, oh, I sang in church. And right.
Like there was this whole series of vocalists, right. Vocal artists who became famous in the pop scene in the song singer songwriter space, who, when you went backwards and you ask them, they said, why? I sang in church And the reason is because they didn’t let five and six and eight year olds sing at a bar.
Right. Or sing anywhere else. Like the place where you could sing every Sunday was church. And for me, telling stories, I could speak at a school function. I think you know, one of the first times I spoke in front of people. I was like six or seven and it was a school board meeting and I was one of the speakers.
Right. But At school itself, right. There would be moments to speak and you’d get opportunities to speak for the valedictorian thing or the graduation thing. Or like you raise your hand at different moments to speak. But the place where I spoke the most, right after high school while I was in college and after college was in church, I would write sermons and I’d say four fifths of the sermons I wrote other pastors would preach.
Right. I wrote them and then I would go here’s the curriculum for the six weeks. And we go, here’s the six speak, you know, the, the, the six talks and they would tweak them and make them their own. I mean, I don’t take anything away from them, but they’re gifted. My gift mix. Might’ve been more focused on caring for people, whatever it wasn’t necessarily public speaking.
And I would craft the stories and be like, oh, and I would write for different pastors, which meant the tone of voice, the word use, how you approach a story for one person might be different from another. In my head, I would say, this is kind of like the writers at SNL, right. They may never be seen.
They may never, you know, whatever, but then, they had to write the jokes or the skids. So I wrote a lot of sermons and I would get on stage probably once every four or five weeks. And so when you do that over years you get a lot of experience interacting with audiences, right?
And so it wouldn’t be hard in my head to imagine being a pastor, I decided pretty early on, right that while I loved volunteering in that capacity, that the same skills that I had used in a church and the same skills I’d used at the YMCA paid more in software. And so I was like, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go that way.
Morayo: [00:07:19] In this world and this life, Chris, it
Chris: [00:07:21] In this life cause sliding doors, there’s somewhere else where I’m sitting in a church. And then when I told my wife was, Hey, when I get done with this whole thing, right. When I’m done working with software companies and all that I already have a master’s degree. I’m like, maybe I go back and get a PhD or maybe they’ll let me just do with a master’s degree, be a lecturer on a college campus, right.
A lecturer, get to hang out with young kids and get to speak and, and all that. So I think you nailed it. I think the two options that you brought up are exactly the ones that have been top of mind. I think the software world when I started which was like 94 I didn’t know that software would eat the world or take over everything in 94.
I thought, well, I’ll run it this for a little bit and then we’ll see what happens next. And it just turns out. Software hasn’t ever stopped and it’s taken over everything. And so my background and my experience has been aligned with the way the world has moved.
Morayo: [00:08:15] We’ll roll credits. Like that’s, that’s the way that story was written. That’s that’s amazing. And it’s interesting to think that, so you were a bonafide youth pastor in a sense, you
Chris: [00:08:24] I was a, I was a high, I was a volunteer high school pastor. I was a volunteer college pastor. So I spoke on at UC Berkeley as part of their university and spoke there several times over. And then I was a volunteer teaching pastor in two or three different church plants mostly on non-denominational.
So you get the kind of broadest storytelling applicability, because these were like, you know 30 minutes sermons and 20 minutes of music, you know, it’s a talk in a rock concert and you whip them up together and you’re like, great. I’ll write the stuff. And then I’ll ask for this song to lead into me, or I’ll ask for this song to lead out and let’s go put on a production, right?
Morayo: [00:09:02] That’s awesome. Witnessed you not be able to help someone that had an agency challenge, but if that moment never comes, you can always pray for them.
Chris: [00:09:10] Yes. That’s right. That’s exactly
Morayo: [00:09:12] Help you, but there’s the Lord. One of the, you even talking about the people that are behind the scenes, even the GoWP team members that you don’t get to interact with, you know, often if at all that you, that you never see, they know your name.
Well, they know the frameworks the one that’s most popular among our team is the bridge framework. In fact, when you get hired with a GoWP, that’s assigned reading from very beginning. So for the listeners that aren’t familiar with the bridge framework, what it is and how you use it as an instructional for companies that you work with? Can you. just describe it, explain it, you know, a quick Mike. Yeah. give away everything that you’re
Chris: [00:09:52] Give away all my secrets, the people paying for it. Give it for free. Yes. For, for you. And only for you.
Joanne: [00:09:58] Well, it has to be a 92nd. I am. Let me, let me pull up the timer. And when I say go
Chris: [00:10:07] Oh, my gosh. We’re going to time me. That’s that’s that’s even harder.
Morayo: [00:10:11] Just, so you don’t give it all away,
Joanne: [00:10:13] Yeah, yeah. Or are you comfortable with that?
Chris: [00:10:16] Yeah. Here we go. Tell me when you’re ready.
Joanne: [00:10:19] Okay. Let me pull up 90 seconds. Oh, I have no, not 90 minutes. My bad. Oh, goodness. These. Okay.
Morayo: [00:10:30] People can purchase Chris, his explanation of the framework for 90 minutes, just go to his website and you can.
Joanne: [00:10:35] Hunter Rosette. Alright. And 90 seconds, 1, 2, 3, go.
Chris: [00:10:45] All right. The bridge framework is a way that helps people understand how to shape their narrative. Most of us have a product. And when we go to sell that product, we start with looking from the inside out. We’re like, Hey, here’s my product. How do I share it to you? And that’s the wrong way to do it.
People will like your why they’ll like your motivation. You know, when they have time for it. But most people don’t have time for it. They are stuck in a river. They are stuck trying to get across the river. They have likely already tried to get over the river. They’ve tried to walk across, swim across.
They’ve tried to pay someone. They can take them on a boat across and in every way it’s failed. And when you connect with their pain, when you understand where they’ve been, and you’re standing on the other side of the riverbank going, Hey, I’m not better than you. I’m not smarter than you, but I know how to get across this river.
It’s out of the way, but there’s a bridge. And if you go a mile down the river, you’ll get to the bridge, you can cross it. And if you’re trying to head up to the store at the top of the hill, I’ll wait for you. And what we do is we highlight destination. People don’t wake up saying, I want a bridge. They wake up understanding.
They want to get somewhere the top of the hill, the store that’s there. People have a destination, people have a strategy around how to get there. And then people face encumbrances challenges, pains, and frustrations. And when they do that’s, when we can stand there and say, I’m not better than you, I’m not smarter than you, but I know how to get across the bridge.
I know where to find it and how to get across it. And when we put our product in that position, then we can help people get to where they’re trying to go.
Joanne: [00:12:10] That was perfect. It was
Chris: [00:12:12] I think that was what, in my inner monologue, 85, 87 seconds
Joanne: [00:12:17] No, your sense of timing, honestly, I’m shocked. It’s incredible impeccable. And not only that for a moment there, I felt like I was watching a YouTube video. That’s just like at two X and two times fast. Yeah, that was awesome. I just want to reiterate that about the bridge framework, it has helped us just make better decisions in terms of building webinars, landing pages that convert, and overall it informs our messaging in such a powerful way.
So if anyone is looking for a framework to accurately tell a story and get people to convert essentially, or to sign up to whatever it is that you’re selling, the bridge framework is excellent. And you had a little taste of what that is, obviously. That was, yeah, that was awesome. Thank you so much.
Chris: [00:13:13] Normally I use more minutes, but what I tell people when I tell public speakers, right? When I’m, when I’m talking to them, I’m like, listen, you may have prepared 45 minutes. I have been in the situation over and over again. When I’m walking. To the stage where someone says, Hey, we’re running a little bit.
Can you shave five minutes off? Can you shave 10 minutes off? Right. And they’re not asking you to do less of what you were paid to do or what you’ve been asked to do. They’re just asking you to do it in less time. They don’t feel like they’re saying, Hey, by the way, take your major point and throw it away.
They’re just saying I need to compress it. And so one of the ways you structure your content is so that you can go, oh, I can take this story out. And it still delivers the value. And so you have to be ready, right? To tell whatever story you’re telling. Can you do it in two minutes? Can you do it in five minutes?
Can you do it in 10 minutes? Can you do it in 20 minutes? Can you do it in 40 minutes? And what I’ll tell you is doing it in five minutes or 10 minutes is way harder than 40. You got all the time in the world, right? So 90 seconds. Yeah, that’s a little extreme, but you have to be prepared to do it.
Morayo: [00:14:17] And that’s a beautiful segue to the next point that I wanted to explore with you. One of the first blog articles. I think I wrote for GoWP was about creating the perfect elevator speech and it.
was our pitch. And it was based off of a conversation that you and Jennifer Bourn. Maybe a third. I know I quoted Robert Jacobi also from Cloud waste in that article too.
But it was that information that you shared with other agency owners during the GoWP happiness hour about taking advantage of those moments when maybe not necessarily when you are public speaking or perhaps but when you have a captive audience. A potential client and you want to connect with them and you want to engage, but you don’t want to over pitch who you are or what you do.
And I feel like the bridge framework, especially for those agency owners who are out there, who recognize the importance of networking and speaking, and presenting, but hate public speaking and networking. I think the bridge framework is the perfect anchor for someone like that. But I know that you’ve also advised that when to use the bridge framework in relations with clients or potential clients, you don’t want to pitch the bridge itself and you don’t want to pitch too soon.
Do you have, I don’t know if that’s a clear question, but is there a way that you, for someone who’s like, Yeah. the bridge, that’s a great idea. I’d like to use that, like to incorporate it, but how can you tell them how they can use it effectively?
Chris: [00:15:46] So, if you were to take a stopwatch and clock, how much time I spent describing the bridge in that 90 seconds that we did, right? Or 87 seconds, whatever it was. Right. In that 90 seconds that we did, you will notice that I barely spent any time on the bridge. Right? I think I said, you, the bridge is out of the way and you can get to it and you cross it.
And I said, the bridge is your product. And no one wakes up thinking they want the bridge. Right. Those are the three times I mentioned bridge. And in those three times it was a femtosecond. Right. So when you add it all up, you’re like at a 90 seconds, he talked about the bridge three seconds. The bridge framework spends most of its time, talking about pain, talking about challenge, talking about how you tried to get across the river.
I tried to walk across the water, got to here. I tried to swim across and move too fast. I tried to pay guy my last 10 bucks and he took off on the boat and I never got across. We use these examples and we spend time agitating the pain so that someone feels like. We see them that we get them. And then standing on the other side of the bridge saying, Hey, I’m not better than you.
I’m smarter than you. They’re like, I’m willing to listen because you see me. Most of the time we think marketing is the effort to be seen, right? We think of marketing and the paradigm of, I got to get the world to see me and see my product and see my offerings. And if you’re an agency owner, you spend all your time figuring out how to pitch yourself so people can see you.
And that’s the exact opposite of what you need to do. Real solid, effective marketing is about highlighting that you see them, you see the prospect that the prospect feels seen because then the prospect will more willingly and more easily approach you because you see them compared to all the other vendors who are so busy pointing at themselves, right.
That no one got seen. So if I’m in a bar or I’m at a conference in the network track, if I’m in a hallway, it doesn’t matter where I am or elevator. I want to spend time on the pain. I want to spend time on the river and the roadblocks, because then people will say, oh my gosh, you’ve been where I’ve been like, you get me.
And then they will ask more questions. We’ve all been in the situation where you say, Hey, what do you do? And they’re like, I sell insurance or, I’m a travel guide or I’m a business coach. It doesn’t matter what the answer, but it’s so flat. It’s so boring, right. That you’re like, I don’t really have a second question to ask you.
We’ve all been in those situations where they go on and on about themselves. And you’re like, I don’t even remember what question I asked you, but now I’m figuring out how to get out of here. Right. But imagine if you said, someone’s like, oh, what do you do? Well I built this particular set of strategies for million dollar membership sites, membership sites that are earning a million dollars or more.
And they have a unique set of problems. And I built some strategies to help them grow.
Well, tell me more about that. Do those strategies work for someone who isn’t a membership site? What if I have an e-commerce site? What if I have this, that/, wait, it has to be million. What if it’s half a million or are there strategies that work for millionaires million dollar membership sites that work for million dollar e-commerce site.
Like you want to tease the fact that yeah. You know, where the bridge is and the bridge, you don’t want to sell the bridge to people standing right in front of a bridge. You want to sell the bridge from the bridge a mile off scene, so you can’t see it. And then you’re like, yeah, I know how to get there.
Right. I know where it is. And I can tell you how to use it. And so when you’re doing that elevator pitch, right, can you help someone else feel like you get their world, right? You feel like you see them and you understand their problems. And so it means that your model may change. Right? If I get introduced to five different people at a party and each of them do something different, my intro of what I do will likely be different for each one of them.
Right. Because what I’m trying to do is figure out how to connect my story to their story, rather than just repeating my line over and over, hoping that someone will find it entertaining.
Morayo: [00:19:33] Awesome. Awesome explanation. No no more questions. Your honor
Joanne: [00:19:40] No follow-ups on that.
Morayo: [00:19:41] I’m good. The defense rests. I don’t know that.
Joanne: [00:19:45] Well, okay. That was so fascinating. I have so many questions around how you curate experiences, but we’ll talk about that a little bit further down the line. Because I’m very fascinated by how now that you just said that your pitch will be different for each kind of person that you meet.
And I’ve seen that pattern in many places. So I will talk about that a little bit further down the line, but right now we want to focus on your influences, like taking a couple of steps back before just getting to the past, Chris Lema before we got the Chris Lema we know now, so we did a little snooping on your LinkedIn page and we see you follow a couple of leaders, such as bill gates, which is not really surprising if you’re in the tech world.
We’ve heard you referenced stand up comedians, late night talk shows and a wide range of leaders, which to us we were very into the culture pop culture. So that really resonates with us. So what person alive or dead would you be surprised to learn influences you and what specifically do they teach you?
Chris: [00:20:56] So someone live or dead who you would be surprised has influenced me. His name is Lewis James Lipton. He was the interviewer of a TV show. He was also the Dean of the actor’s studio drama school. But he was a interviewer on inside the actors studio. It was a show. And he was inspired by Bernard Peabo.
He would tell you every time, because he had, at the end of his interview, he would ask these questions. But he had all these students in the room and he would invite an actor, a well-known actor that you knew. Right. And he’d sit there and he just asked him questions. And the thing I loved most about it was, man, he’d done his research, right?
Like when you said we did our research, I start shaking because I’m like, oh my God, if you ask me who Mrs. Abel is, and, and how she had an impact on me, I’m going to be toast. Cause I’m like, oh my God, I’m going to start crying. Cause that’s what he would do. He’d be like, so Chris, what was it about Mrs. Abel to change your life?
And I’m like, oh my God, that was my fifth grade teacher. How do you know that? How did you know? Right. And she, and then Mrs. Sharp and that, and so you’re like, what? But he had. All this research and he would, he would probe in right. And ask these questions. But even as he was interviewing someone, right, he knew the right places to really dig in and say, why.
Right. Right. At this moment where you’re like, so then I chose this movie and you think the actor is on his way to telling one story and Lipton would cut in and be like, why? So I picked this movie, you know, why? And Clint Eastwood is not ready for the why question. Cause Glen east was about to tell you some reason about the story about the movie.
And then he’s like, what? And then he’s like, well, actually the reason I chose to do that movie was because, and that’s a way more interesting interview than the standard story Clint’s going to tell everybody else. Right. So I watched every single episode. And I kept going, you know, like inside the actual studio is the best TV on the planet.
Right. I got to watch it. Right. And so he definitely impacted how I thought about engaging. Other people thought about conversations and interviews. I have in the years, since I first watched the show, I’ve done lots of watching, right. Paying attention to people and what, and what they do and how they do it in the space that I’m in.
And so eventually I will show up to someone and I will say, Hey, it’s great to meet you. My name’s good. They’re like, I know who you are. I’m like, well, I just want to know. I just want you to know, I know who you are. In fact, you gave a talk five years ago in Chicago, you had this slide, it was a little kid holding a fist.
Right. And I was, you know, it was one of those memes, but you open it and you talk about the hospital and this guy who we’ve never physically met, it’s like, are you kidding me? You were in that audience. You watched that. Like you’ve known who I am for five years. Oh yeah. And then you did this and then you did it.
And I think there is nothing more respectful, nothing that gives someone a stronger sense of being seen. Then when you can articulate the fact that you have been watching that you’ve been paying attention, that you know who they are and in the business of helping people, other people see others, right.
I think Lipton is a model in one of the best. So that’s that long answer to that very short question, but I love the question cause it’s a great opportunity to talk about James Lipton and he is dead. I didn’t realize this. Right. But he died in the middle of a 2020. And so I was talking about Lipton last year to someone and I’m like, I wonder what he’s up to now.
And I’m like, oh, nothing. Right. Nothing. And I’m like, oh, that’s a bummer.
Morayo: [00:24:36] Yeah, he was a great one for sure
Joanne: [00:24:38] Just a quick follow-up question. Is it because of empathy? Is it because of a business wherein? Why are you so fascinated by digging
Chris: [00:24:47] Well, I will tell you, I, you know, and you know, this already, right? For me, everything is about story. I don’t build product without story. I don’t do marketing without story. I don’t build a team without story. If you want to know how Pepsi started fighting against Coca-Cola or you want to know how Avis sat in second place and got their entire team mobilized to do well, its story.
If you want to talk about you know, how hotels motivate their staff or Disneyland motivates her staff at every shift turnover it’s story, right? Narrative sits at the core of everything. And so for me, watching a master who knows how to pull out the best stories from people is one of the best.
That’s why I lived as, at the top of my list.
Joanne: [00:25:34] But you also happen to be really funny. Do you think humor is a necessarily skill for effective storytelling or is that just more in a
Chris: [00:25:45] Yeah, I think so. I think I think some of the most interesting and influential comedians can make you laugh, even in the middle of telling you a really painful story. And it’s interesting how they do that, right? Like you’re digging through the craft. It’s not. I mean, I watched a comedian in DC years ago where every line was a punchline.
I had never seen that done before. Right. He said something, we laughed. He said the follow-up we laughed again. He said the fall he laughed, but he wasn’t telling a story. He was literally just throwing one line after another. And he had crafted this routine that was 127 laugh lines. And it was funny.
Like he did a really good job, but that’s not my normal comedy. Right. I like listening to someone who’s going to walk through and tell a story. What we try to do here in the Lema house. Right. What I, I try and do all the time is what we call closing the loop or bring it back around. Right. So you make a joke or you make a comment about someone or you take a jab, right.
Whenever say something that is sarcastic and mean to my daughter at the top of this thing, and we’re having this discussion and then can you bring it back around, right? Can you use the same line you open with, to close with? It’s what, you know, some of the best comedians do.
And I try and do it all the time. Right. Because it helps close the loop. It helps define beginning and end. Right? When you go to improv school, which I’ve never been to, but when you go to improv school, what you learn is that where you close off the skit is what makes the thing funny or not.
Right. And so learning, right. That was enough, that was good chop right there, right. Editing is the hallmark of making something good and funny. So I think humor is a big part of it. I think humor on its own is like a guy with 127 laugh lines being, take it or leave it humor in service of the narrative. Humor connected in then becomes really powerful, right?
Because there’s some stories and some things that are so hard to talk about that if you don’t bring a line of humor in the middle of it, if you don’t connect up and close the loops later people just, people just don’t know, okay. Like what do I do with this? Right. We, we started at the top of the show talking about.
The context of when I was a teaching pastor when I was finishing up, when I was moving on and just becoming a regular member of the church, we had a young man who was one of the youth pastors give a, give a talk, right? It was a Sunday night. I will never forget it. My wife will never forget it.
We will joke about it for the rest of our lives. Because he started on a down note like this is the night that my girlfriend broke up with me. And then for the next 47 minutes, way too long for a sermon, it just got worse and worse and worse. His girlfriend broke up with him to be with his best friend.
And then his mom left the house and then he ran out of power in the house, like it just, and the whole time, the public speaker in me and the community in me is like, Where are you going? Like, there is like, unless an angel from heaven shows up and says, fear, not right. Like this story is dead. And the, the entire audience, the congregation was like with done with, right.
Like how do we get out of this room? It was horrible. And then of course at the end, he’s like, how’d I do. And I’m like, well, there’s nowhere to go, but up. Right. But like, even if you’re trying to make a point out of something serious or hard, you got to edit, you got, gotta get to it and get done, but you also need to bring a little bit of humor so that we have that release moment, relaxed moment, that breath in the space.
Because if you just keep going downhill, eventually you’re just like, oh God, get me out. How do I leave? Right.
Morayo: [00:29:23] Absolutely. And you’re Right.
The great comedians, they nail the callbacks and they know when to end their routines. And you, as an audience member, you look back and you’re like, I can’t believe this journey. You just took me on, you know, and you hit me with some deep stuff, but I laughed along yet.
The great Stewart. Well, do it. Excellent. What, speaking of narrative and humor, I guess, we’ve been through a lot as a nation and a world the last two years and finding. It’s been a strong narrative and we struggle to find the bright spots, and the humor, but there has been, many people have made discoveries about themselves and their careers during this time.
And a lot of time for self-reflection. One of the topics that I’m really fascinated in is the great resignation and all of the conversations around that topic. What is the cost? What is it really? Why are people leaving? Where are their jobs? Where are they going? There are a lot of theories out there.
And I just read an economist’s article a few days ago, I’ve forgotten the exact numbers, but the millions of workers out there that we as a nation, have to coax back into the workplace and, and the strategy to get there, but recently on another podcast by James Laws. So you said as a friend of yours you both were speaking about the great resignation and something that you said caught my attention.
You were saying, Chris, that there’s a segment of people leaving their current jobs or leaving the workforce altogether because they feel unfulfilled in their current position, partly because they don’t see the purpose and value that they are bringing to their company. I think one of the lines that you said is that they think if a monkey could do what they do and still get the accolades, what’s the point in them doing it.
Right. It recently, well, I guess a few months ago you worked with a few members on our team to develop rubrics for the new teams that we’ve been hiring. And and then you and I, and Brad explore that again about a week ago, two weeks ago. My rubric is not good as you know it’s funny. That’s been a really tough exercise for me, but very eyeopening.
And about the way I was looking at what a rubric is and how I maybe was looking at it wrong. My only experience with rubrics in a professional sense was when I was a teaching artist in a classroom with young students in writing. And it was, you know, there was a different, it was a different environment and you’re just preparing them to write well for their fourth grade, you know, right.
State writing test. But when well, when it comes to professional teams, I realize it can really be a great tool. As an agency owner to say, is my team, are they still checked in? Are they still motivated? But instead of the way, I was looking at it on a one to five scale, all of my team has to get to five.
If we don’t all get to. Our department is sunk. We’re not doing, I’m not doing what I’m doing, what I’m supposed to do. As a manager, getting, showing my team members the pathway to score the five. And you showed me that’s the wrong way to think about our rubric. Can you address that? You can talk about it much more eloquently than I can.
Chris: [00:32:26] I think. The goal of a rubric is to deliver value on both sides of the coin, right? So the employee who’s being shown the rubric and the leader who is using the rubric, you want both people that benefit from it, right? If it’s only for the employee, then they’re going to think the same way that you thought, which is I got to get to five.
Like I only get paid the most if I get to five and you’re like, no, no, no, no, no. You know, I’m going to design the rubric so that everybody is doing well at a three, right? If you go to a four as a leader, I should be thinking about, oh, they’re pushing past the confines of this role. They’re moving above and beyond.
And that’s going to mean if I don’t put them in a new role that hasn’t another new level three, right? They’re going to get bored. Most companies lose. Fours and fives. If we score everybody on a one to five and we say three is delivering value that the job was designed to deliver, right. Companies lose fours and fives, ones, and twos never leave.
They’re like, ha, you’re paying me. I’m not going anywhere. Right. But ones and twos never leave threes, right. Are happy until they have to spend their entire job with ones and twos. In which case they’re like, what am I doing here? Right. If that guy, that bozo is making the same money I’m making and I’m doing all of my work and all of theirs, I should leave.
But for the most part, ones and twos don’t leave, three’s is where you want to keep them. Well, you gotta be worried about as the fours and fives, right? Cause the fours and fives, they bring particular talents to the scenario and then you’re not leveraging it. And when you first brought a four or five, when you first brought them into the job and they had to use those skills to set up systems or do things, they were thrilled because they were fulfilled because they were doing things that no one else could do.
And you recognize that they recognize that we’re all happy, but then the job became more of a, keep it moving, keep it going, keep the trains on tracks. That’s the three. And that’s no problem. Except your fours and fives are like, that’s not for me. I’m bored. So what do they do? They go get a job somewhere else.
And you come alongside as a leader and you pat them on the back and you give them an award and you stand in front of a group of people. And you’re like, he wrote a memo that had full sentences and you’re like are you serious? Like you, you’re like that. How has that the award?
Right. And so fours and fives. Feel unfulfilled in that context, fours and fives will leave. Right? They’ll find another place. Another challenge. I have worked at LiquidWeb for five years and I started as a VP of product where we had no product, nothing for managed WordPress, nothing for manageable commerce.
I designed those products. I developed those products. I built the teams to craft those products and I shaped how we took them to market. Then we bought a company called Nexus. We had to move the products over the Nexus, and I helped us think through what are the next features that a Nexus product line could bring for management commerce.
We did a performance monitoring and we did automated acceptance tests. It’s great. And then, we were slowing down and we were going to go do something else that didn’t really require me. And so I’m sitting there going, I don’t know, is it my time? Is it time to go? Is it time to move on? Thankfully, the leadership there was like, well, wait, let’s get you buying companies.
We know you can add value here. And so we went and bought a whole bunch of companies and the last one we bought LearnDash, they were like do you have a course, an educator background. Do you want to run it? We may not have bought LearnDash if I wasn’t in the room because we had someone to delete it.
And I went, yeah, new challenge, new problems, new stuff. Of course, the moment I took it, they’re like, Hey, what about this? What about this? Are we gonna fix this and that? And you would think, why, why are you jumping up? But that’s the best part of my day where you’re like, oh, you have challenges because after some months, right, I get on a call, my boss.
He goes, you know what we should do. We should look at that. And I go, I read it here it is. Here’s the data. Here’s a, he’s like, yeah, I should’ve known right. You’re on it. Fours and fives. Right? Need management to keep challenging them. So, yes, it’s important in rubric to show people. Here’s what it would take to get to four or five.
Don’t make it black box. Don’t make it like, oh, the only way you can get into those levels is if you’re my favorite and if you’re not my favorite, then there’s no way to do it. Right. That’s the bias we see in most orgs. And you don’t want to do that. You want to be transparent. These are the skills and it’s binary and you either do it or don’t.
And now you’re a four year or five, but the moment we realized that our employees are getting the fours and fives, we got to go change the role and push them back down to a two or three. Right. And I put people that are fours and fives, and they’ve gotten really comfortable being four. I put them in a new role where there are two and they’re like, I hate this.
And I go really hate this. Or like only just kind of a little bit hate it. And they’re like, no, no, no, I’ll figure it out. I’m like, okay, that’s what I thought. And then there were three and then therefore again, right, because high achievers, high performers are constantly pushing to get back to high performance.
Our job as leaders, right. Is to create a context where they can thrive. And if you don’t do that, then they’ll move on.
Morayo: [00:37:32] Right. They’ll talk with their feet. I think
Chris: [00:37:34] Yep. They’ll vote with their feet.
Morayo: [00:37:36] And that was a lesson for me that it’s not static. And as you know, as I work with our team members, it’s how can I challenge them? And so that was a great lesson. Thank you again for helping me with the rubric.
That’s still a work in progress. We have had, you know, when we also talk about motivation, the agency owners are also part of this consideration. One of the topics that comes up frequently in these podcast interviews. And on the, the information that we get from new members to the digital agency owners group.
We have agency owners who are like, I want to niche down. I don’t know how to do it. And I think we were talking to a few weeks ago and she talked about the early days of her agency and they taking her five years to niche down to know how to do it in a way that was right for her. So do you have any insight for how an agency can pair down can niche to do it in a way that’s profitable for them, but also that’s fulfilling for them and what their goals are as an owner?
Chris: [00:38:36] Yeah. I mean, I think it does take a lot of work. I don’t know that it has to take five years, but it isn’t going to happen in five days. It takes work because you’re not just randomly picking a niche and saying, I’m going to focus on this. What you’re really doing is looking at your customer base and breaking them apart into lots of different segments.
And then understanding what was it about this segment that your business and your personality and your value system, what made this alignment happen? And if you were to take, you know, all your customers and break them out into small sector, You would find that there’s a couple of segments that are more populated than others, right?
That you have more customers in a segment than others. And when you do that, you’ll start asking, well, why, right? Why is it that you know, hotel owners seem to get what I’m talking about, better than others? Or why is it that startups tech software, SAS, startup owners seem to get what I’m talking about, better than others?
Or why is it that nonprofits that are missional in nature seem to understand what I’m talking about, better than others. And you’ll discover. It’s not just your words. It’s not just your message. It’s your message. It’s how you price. It’s how you position. It’s how you articulate goals. It’s how you set up projects.
All those things have an alignment to a micro-segment better than others. So then you get to ask yourself, well are there other micro-segments that value all of these pieces too, and you’ll find two or three and you go great. Let’s niche down into these two or three and use our messaging and use our approach.
I know people who say, I won’t take a down payment, I will just start on a monthly basis. And here’s why I do that. I have this conviction, I’ve worked in this other on that side of the table and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And there are others who are like you don’t pay me 50%. We’re not starting this project.
Two people who do maybe the same thing. We both build websites and they run agency and they work with a lot of different customers and similar customers. And they have two different value systems, two different approaches. I know one guy who says we keep all the code in our github in our repository, and then you get it after you pay.
I know another one who says, no, you set up the github and we code against yours the whole time. We never hold your code hostage to different approaches. When the customers are the same kind of customers and the agencies, the same kind of agencies yet the internal values, the approaches that these agencies take are completely opposite.
Well, what you’re going to discover is that one of these approaches connects better with certain kinds of segments and this other approach connects with other segments. So figuring out the kinds of customers that work best with you and that you work best with, and that you’re interested in, we’ll help you niche down, but it’s going to take work, right.
And you’re going to have to do the work, and then you’re gonna have to keep testing it and seeing, you know, what are we doing? What did we even do by accident? Simply because that’s the way I always work. I never thought about it any other way. What are we doing by accident that we should do on purpose?
Right? And then once you start doing it on purpose, you’ll start seeing customers. Self-select. Out and in, right. Cause you just announced it on your website. We’ll never keep your code hostage. We work on your up puzzlers and they’re like, yeah, that’s it. I’m signing up with you because I’ve been burned too many times with guys who are like, no, now I have the, now I have your code hostage and we’re getting to the end and now I want to change the price.
Right. And so I don’t like that stuff. And so you’ll find the kinds of customers that you work with more and more as you start being more intentional about who you serve and how you do it.
Joanne: [00:42:20] Speaking about. Being intentional of who you serve and being intentional of how you present yourself. Something you’re very intentional about is your conference, CaboPress and breaking the mold of conference retreats. And it’s a highly curated conference slash retreat. So for listeners CaboPress is Chris’s annual business conference in Mexico and Baja, California.
It’s a unique experience. It’s intimate and it’s for leaders and applications are required and vetted kind of like our GoWP, copywriters and developers, for example. So I have a question around how you present this conference. So what was the catalyst for the, An Orthodox method of presenting this conference.
Chris: [00:43:11] So I had been to a conference in Chicago. I had gone in at say eight in the morning. And the first session was at 8:30 and I took like three pages of notes. I had so many good ideas. This is going to be great. And then there was another talk at 9:30 and another 10:30, another 11:30, and then we had lunch and then there was a two o’clock and a three o’clock and a four o’clock and a five o’clock.
And by the time I was done at five, I think I skipped the last session. I looked at my buddy and I’m like, I’m, I’m done. I’m tanked. You want to, you want to get to dinner early? He’s like, sure. We left. I took that, that folder with all the notes and I tossed it in a closet I was done, right. I’d spent all this money to go to this event and I was wiped out.
I’d been in a room where people had talked at me for hours and hours and hours, and even the bright ideas I had at 8:30 or nine in the morning, they had been choked out by all the other ideas and all the other initiatives and all the other things at the end. And even as you’re listening to these ideas, you’re thinking I have a follow-up question.
Right. But I have no way to ask that follow-up question because they’re just onto the next point and the point after that. And it’s in one of those, you know, hotel ballrooms where there’s no windows and you just, you lose track of time. And I was done so a week or two later, it was family vacation time.
And we were at Cabo, my favorite place on earth. And I’m laying in the pool, I’m hanging out with my wife. And I said, you know, what, if I ran to a conference, I do it here. I do it here. And I do it in this pool, like right here. She’s like you do a conference in the pool. I’m like, yeah, I like. The thing is my coaching was by that point I’d been doing for you, right?
My coaching is fundamentally at its core about taking something you’re doing wrong and helping you do it. Right. But in order to tell someone they’re doing something wrong, you have to bring all their defenses down. Because if you just look at someone and be like, you’re bad and wrong, and they’re like, nah, I don’t want to change anything.
All our defenses go up. So I’m looking at this five star resort in Cabo and I’m like, Melissa, this would be the place like I’d hang out here. And I would just bring the walls down, they’d relax. And then I could tell them how to do it. And it wouldn’t be one-on-one right. Like, you know how you get to a point in coaching where you’re like I don’t have any more hours.
Right? Like I can’t scale this. And so this conference would be an extension of that and, and it wouldn’t just have to meet. I can bring other people, we can have conversations in the pool. We’ll do the thing in the pool, the outdoors. And by the way, we’ll do two sessions and then lunch. And that’s it. No overwhelm, you know like my, and by the way, their conversations, they’re not talks. So if you have a question, when someone says you should do this for your market automation, and someone says, Hey, I have a question, you ask the question. Right. And so you dig into it. So, that’s how I spawned the idea.
We ran it the first year and I had no curation. I knew I would do all the sessions. I would, I would lead all the sessions and lead all the conversations. But I did bring a couple of people to be hosts with me. Right. And so I knew I got four smart friends who will be great. And then I just said, anyone who buys a ticket can come.
Right? Like it just whatever. And one of the people that bought a ticket the first year laid on the lounge chair the whole time and never came to a session. And I was like, I was bothered. Right. They came to lunch and then they’re like, Ooh, I’m tired. I’m going to go get a nap. Tired didn’t you take a nap all morning, right?
Like it was crazy. And then another person just kept doing this whole, like, I wanna, I’m a million dollar business. I want to go to 2 million, but every time we gave them a suggestion, have you thought about this or they didn’t wanna change anything? And I’m like, Nope, I need to do something different.
So I implemented the application process for the various, you know, second year. And from then I have been really stringent on who comes and also who leads sessions. And it takes me about six weeks to background check without official background check. I’m not running government background checks, but to dig through people’s tweets and Facebook and their blog posts.
And then if you don’t have that, I call other people. If you put logos on your website, like I’ve helped these businesses, I’ll call those businesses. Cause I know people there and be like, you ever worked with this vendor, how they do that? Like, I grab a bunch of data that helps me know whether or not you’re ready to come in.
I say no to some people that then come back and say, push back, like why no, I’m willing to do the work. Right. And so you, you have more conversation. But it’s a highly curated base of people that come. It’s also highly curated hosts and the net result is it works, right? People walk away going, oh, I’m more willing to do a partnership with them.
I’m willing to do a deal with them or I’m willing to do some co-promotion with them because I’ve met them. I know them. They’re really good. Now in every class, every alumni of CobaPress there’s one or two people that am like, nah, I’m not minding them back. Right. That was a mess. But there’s a lot of people that I think, Ooh, I want to invite back, but you just can’t right.
To keep the event at 50 or 60 people we have now had more than 400, maybe 450 people attend. And, and if you’re going to keep alumni to say 25, you’re picking 25 people out of 450, right? Like that’s, that’s its own challenge. Right. So but yeah, that’s how we got there.
Morayo: [00:48:24] And it works. You said it works, it does work. And you have a great reputation to show that. I, and speaking of your reputation yeah. You had the reputation of being a very busy man. So I know we’re cutting close on time, but there are two questions that I just have to get out today. And Joanne, the next question.
And then the question about the children. I really want to, I want it in the future. I really would love to hear Chris’s response to that. So this next round, you, we didn’t give you a heads up on this, Chris, but you did a great job earlier with the 90 second explanation of the bridge framework this next round.
The next question is a quick flash round. Everybody who knows you and knows your style knows that when Chris Lema is relaxing, there’s usually a cigar in his hand. So the next question that I have for you is just a rapid response. You don’t have to think about it. I’m going to give you two names and these are all individuals who are famous, alive and dead.
I think actually I think they’re all dead, but anyway, they’re famous people who are known for their cigars. So just your reaction in a flash. Who basically, who resonates with you the most first one? Winston churchill, Groucho Marx.
Chris: [00:49:33] Churchill. He put a safety pin, a T pin in his end of the cigar. So it would Nash Nash, Nash, Nash. And yet as he’s walking around, you got aids who are running with a little plate underneath and they didn’t know that the t-pin was in there holding it. And so they’re all like, ah, and he’s just having a blast while he’s smoking.
And that’s my kind of guy still funny, different than Groucho, but I loved Churchill yeah.
Morayo: [00:49:56] Very Churchill that he would do that. Next Thomas Edison, Sigmund Freud,
Chris: [00:50:01] Oh, wow. Edison, because he focused on experimentation. Try and try and try again. I only need to make it work once. I think everything, everything is about experimentation, so yeah, that’s where I go.
Morayo: [00:50:14] Tony soprano Al Capone?
Chris: [00:50:16] Oh, wow. I,
Joanne: [00:50:18] Oh, my God, we did it. Morayo.
Chris: [00:50:19] I don’t, yeah. I don’t know if I can answer this while being recorded. Yeah. So I think Al Capone, cause he’s real and Tony soprano is a character.
Morayo: [00:50:27] Peter Falk, AKA Colombo for listeners who don’t know Peter Falk or Archie bunker.
Chris: [00:50:33] Oh, easily Peter Falk. He’s you know, he has a narrative arc in everything he’s doing and he’s like one more question. Right? And you’re like, wait, where’s this going? Right. So, yeah, totally.
Morayo: [00:50:43] Next Mark Twain, Alfred Hitchcock,
Chris: [00:50:48] Hitchcock
Morayo: [00:50:48] and last general George S. Patton or babe Ruth.
Chris: [00:50:52] Patton every time. If you haven’t seen the movie Patton, which is a super long movie, and most people don’t watch long movies anymore. It is one of the best flicks out there and it really digs into his character. And you know what he’s about? He got him brought in a little bit of controversy when he was a general.
But you watch like how he, you know takes care of the Pearl gripped pistols how he prays at night for weather, how he stands and leads that team Patton every single time.
Morayo: [00:51:19] General Patton. And I believe that’s the George C. Scott version, I
Chris: [00:51:22] Yes.
George C. Scott Yup.
Morayo: [00:51:25] Awesome. And last question, Joanne, do you want to hit Chris with the family?
Joanne: [00:51:31] Yeah. Yeah. So you have two teenagers after all of the things you’ve told them over the years, whether they truly heard you in the moment or not, what is one lesson or story that you hope that they hold on tight to their, for the rest of their lives?
Chris: [00:51:49] Well, I know it stuck, but not in the way I intended, but I think it will still bear fruit. My daughter was five or six and she said, dad, I have a business idea. You know, we are business people here in the house, so that’s not shocking. And she’s wise beyond her years. And so she’s five or six and she says, dad, maybe six or seven, but she says, dad I have a great business idea.
I’m going to make a newspaper and make it with cartoons of topics of around the neighborhood. And then I’m gonna sell it to the neighbors and I, without missing a beat, I said, that’s the stupidest idea. And she’s like what I’m like, first of all, newspapers are dying, right? So like there’s no way you’re going to sell people on newspapers.
Second of all, you don’t know what’s going on in the neighborhood. And third of all, you really going to create common shifts more than once. Like you’re going to do it the next week. And the week after that, like you can’t set yourself up for something where you’re going to fail. It’s a bad idea. And I ended by saying, it’s my job to make sure.
And I do this with my customers too, to make sure that I kill your bad ideas fast so you have enough space to invest in your good ideas. You come up with a good idea. I’ll be there to back you all the way, but that’s a bad one and you need to kill it quickly. Now she was six. She’s now 16, she’s graduating from high school.
She’s been accepted early acceptance to Houston, university of Houston. She’s going to go to school next year and she’s on her way to being a woman. And she still says, dad, remember when you crushed my soul and told me that I could, that newspaper was a bad idea. So I know she’s remembered it.
Right. But what I hope she remembers from it right? Is. Not every idea is a good one. And we have to run our ideas through filters and figure out which things are worth investing in which things aren’t. And her dad will be there to help her with that for some period of time. But eventually she’s going to have to do it on her own.
And it’s the most critical thing she can do to be a success. Is she needs more at bats. She needs more tries, but she only wants to try on the good ideas. She needs a filter to kill the bad ones quick.
Morayo: [00:53:57] And that’s why you are an awesome father to her and GoWP’s. Awesome. Learned uncle. Thank you so much. Call back. see my call back with the bass.
Chris: [00:54:09] I see close. Perfect.
Joanne: [00:54:12] That was, that was, that was fantastic. Morayo great job,
Morayo: [00:54:16] No, thanks Chris. And Joanne, it was wonderful conversation. And if you, for listeners, if you’d like to know more about Chris, you can read more about his many services at chrislemma.com.
Joanne: [00:54:27] Yes. Chris, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate everything you do. Whether it’s when you join us in the happiness hours or so graciously joining us today for recording this podcast. Any closing notes? I think that was fantastic.
Chris: [00:54:47] It was my pleasure. And anytime you want to chat, I’m happy to it’s why I hang out on the, GoWP Facebook group in the, in the Friday Hangouts, because it’s a great time to connect with your audience, a great time to connect with leaders in the NC space. And it’s the place other than this Podcast where you get access to me and ask questions for free instead of paying money. So I highly recommend if you’re an agency owner that you check out our Friday afternoon stuff. And if not, you can find me at chrisman.com. You can also find me on Twitter @chrislema.
Morayo: [00:55:19] Thank you so much, Chris.
Joanne: [00:55:21] Thank you so much to everyone for joining us. Don’t forget to like and subscribe and you can get this podcast. And every other episode of the GoWP, digital agency owners podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. And just as a quick reminder, at GoWP, we want to help you become more profitable, whether it’s by listening to our podcasts like this one, or joining in our weekly happiness hours on Fridays viewing informative webinars, hosted by our friends.
For example, like Chris Lema in the WordPress community. And of course, by growing your team with our skilled developers, copywriters designers or project managers go to gowp.com to read more about our services and to schedule a call. Thank you so much. We’ll see you all.