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Building a Business from Book to Exit | Michael Bungay Stanier

Building a Business from Book to Exit | Michael Bungay Stanier

Removing yourself to derisk your thought leadership business.

An interview with Michael Bungay Stanier about building an ecosystem from a book and ultimately allowing that business the space to thrive in your absence.

Thought leading is a busy life! You write books, travel for keynote speaking, network with other experts and create lots of content.
However, ithat means your business is limited to your personal time!
So, what can you do to help your content sell itself?

Our guest today has excelled at everything “thought leadership,” including the ability to remove himself from the day to day of a business he built. Michael Bungay Stainer is the best-selling author of The Coaching Habit, a renowned keynote speaker, and Founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that provides training to enterprise companies.

With Michael’s newest book How to Work with (Almost) Anyone: Five Questions for Building the Best Possible Relationships having just hit the shelf we start our conversation discussing the phases of a book launch and how marketing a book is more than marketing just the book. He shares how a book can become the gateway to your larger ecosystem. Michael gives the pros and cons of traditional and hybrid publishing as well as why you need to treat your book like starting a business, giving it at least 2 – 3 years to flourish and grow.

In addition to being an author Michael knows the keynote speaking side of the business sharing how at the best of times focusing on speaking can be lucrative, ending with standing ovations and nice hotel rooms. However it can also mean hundreds of days on the road, airport delays, and fatigue. We learn the criteria Michael uses for saying Yes to a possible gig and how speaking can fit into your business model.

Books and speaking are powerful tools for spreading thought leadership but how can your business go on without you writing and speaking? As the Founder of Box of Crayons, Michael ensured the company benefitted from his best-selling books and reputation, but also ensured the sales training could stand without him. He shares both the B2B and B2C strategy that is allowing him to work 1 hour a month for Box of Crayons without the company falling apart in his absence.

This episode is a master class on everything a thought leader needs to know to ensure not only the success of their personal brand, but the company they someday will leave behind.

Three Key Takeaways:

  • It is really hard to write a book. Except compared to marketing a book. Its really hard to market a book… except compared to getting people to read a book.
  • Hybrid publishing means you are the executive editor of your book. You get to call it what you want and give it the look and feel you want.
  • As time goes on you need to watch the market and see if your target avatars have changed. When they do you may need to update your content and offers to accommodate their growing needs.

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.



Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome. This is Peter Winick. I’m the founder and CEO at Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on the LinkedIn Live extension of the podcast, which is leveraging thought leadership. I’m really excited about today. Today my guest is NBC, but I can pronounce it or I have properly pronounced his name, which is Michael Bungay Stanier.

Michael Bungay Stainer Perfect.

Peter Winick And a multi award winning author. So his books have sold over a million copies. His last book, before the most current, was the Coaching Habit, which has become, you know, a standard in the industry at these standard. His newest is How to Work with Almost Anyone, which is phenomenal. He has been happily married for 30 years, so that’s an accomplishment.

Michael Bungay Stainer Thank you.

Peter Winick He’s been a Rhodes scholar. He’s raised 40 – up to $400,000 for Malaria No More. And he’s -.

Michael Bungay Stainer I did that as a collab book with Seth Godin. And that year where he did where he did imprint books and I two projects I’m really proud of, we kind of figured out a way to partner with Amazon to take all the money from book sales into donations to support buying mosquito nets.

Peter Winick Yeah, that’s cool.

Michael Bungay Stainer Yeah.

Peter Winick So. So let’s dive in. This is not your first rodeo, as they say, and you were not chatting a little bit earlier. You are sort of on the tail end of the craziness of the launch phase. But tell us about because you and I were just having this interesting conversation. I want to stop it so we can have it here about what your how you think about a book launch in terms of phase one, phase two, etc.? Because I think.

Michael Bungay Stainer So. The starting point for me is like it is really hard to write a book set compared to marketing a book. It’s really hard to market a book except compared to trying to get two people read a book.

Peter Winick So what do we even try to get them to read it? Let’s even talk about that. We write them with them. I don’t know anyone that has been pounding the drum saying, and I know that I’ve gotten everyone to read it because that that’s a whole different level.

Michael Bungay Stainer You know, that that is a whole different topic. And I’ll just say that, you know, as a design principle I have, I always try and go, What’s the shortest book I can write? That’s still the most useful because my goal is to get people to the end of the book. So I’m constantly trying to take stuff out of the book so that there’s fewer excuses to stop reading. But you’re right. So I’m six weeks after the book launched, and before that, I’d probably spent three or four months thinking about worrying about preparing for a book launch. And I’m balancing two tensions, Peter. One is I want to make a splash. I want people to know that I’ve arrived. I want it to be a thing. And at the same time, I don’t want to be seduced into thinking that the book launch is everything. The book launch is just the start of something. And one of the ways that I.

Peter Winick Stay there a minute because I think there’s this tension around the industry, if you will, the publishing industry, the PR folks, the book launch folks, whatever, all have good intent, but they have limited bandwidth. Right. So they typically look at a book launch as a month or two before planning, getting ready to three months and then on to the next thing. And with a book like the Coaching Habit that’s now seven years old, you’re still getting sales every week from it. You’re still getting inbound interest from it. It’s still building your brand. That’s right. And nobody really cares when they get that book today and say, Oh, let me look and see. That was written in 2000. It doesn’t matter right now. I think that’s a big shift that authors need to make in their minds.

Michael Bungay Stainer Well, I, I hold this perspective, which is certainly if you go with a traditional publisher, they’re like, we’re done and dusted after six weeks. We’ve got other books to write and produce and publish and launch. You’re on your own and in many ways you are always on your own. So that’s helpful to know, which is only one person really cares about this book and it’s you, the author. And what I think of somebody told me the other day, it really rang true for me, which is it only takes 2 to 3 years to get a business up and running, really going. Your book could be a business. Certainly the people who are listening to us, who are thinking about thought leadership, not just as a book, but as an ecosystem of stuff, it’s done. This is part of a book. You should be touring this book for 2 to 3 years. This seed first got planted with me when I talked to David Allen, the guy who wrote Getting Things Done.

Peter Winick Yeah.

Michael Bungay Stainer 20 years ago he wrote that book and I spoke to him, I guess in like three or four years after that. And he said, Look, my book has sold more books each subsequent year from the from the launch year. I was like, what a great goal that is. Yes, let’s just have a big splash of a launch. But to sell more in year two that I didn’t year one more in year three than I did in year two.

Peter Winick That is still in most nonfiction business. Books in this market do sell more year two than year one. Nobody talks about that because what we want is this immediate gratification, this dopamine hit. We want to go on Amazon and say at 233 on a Tuesday afternoon, I am number whatever and what category. But I think the true test is that book should be a marathon, not a sprint. I mean, I’m make copies of In Search of Excellence good do great books that have just made an impression on me and nobody ever says, Oh, that’s so dated, right?

Michael Bungay Stainer Oh, yeah. So I think often in book sale, you have that kind of peak on that kind of launch week or so, and then there’s a dip and then and then sometimes people abandon their book. They’re like, okay, I’m on to the next thing or I’m tired and exhausted. And often that is the death of the book. But I think that the authors that get to thrive in thought leadership are the ones who go, Great, okay, the dip happens and then I’m going back to find the book level, and I’m doing that through a more consistent, steady drumbeat of ongoing marketing. So my team, for instance, in two weeks time, so two months after launch we’re doing a re gathering and then we’re like, okay, what are we excited about? What’s landed? What are people actually picking up about this book and what does that tell us about the next phase of marketing, which is going to do it for a year and then after a year we’re going to stop again and then we’re going, now what are we learning? And now what should we be doing?

Peter Winick And now who was you there? So when you talk about marketing, I just want to double click on that, right? When you say marketing, yes. At first blush, that means marketing of the book. What are we doing that’s working? What’s not working? Who’s it resonating with? What are the patterns, etc., etc.. But the other piece in marketing a book, you’re not just marketing a book, right? So the book should be the beginning for many people because you’ve been at this game a while. This is an ongoing part of the relationship that your followers have with you. That’s right. For many other people, this is the first time they’ve been introduced with you. So now they’re going through your back catalog as well as Box of crayons, all the products and services to talk about sort of what that marketing really means. It’s not that $20 or $25 that the book sells for per say.

Michael Bungay Stainer Well, it depends on what your business model is, but for me, a book should always be a gateway to an ecosystem. Yes. And you know, I a hybrid published my book through the company called Page two. You know, Jesse Chris, I’m one of the founders. And part of what I love about working with Jesse is it effectively means that I’m the executive editor of my own book, which means that I get to not only call it what I want and have it look and feel like I one day, but I get to put calls to action throughout the book, the ones that serve me most. So, you know, in this new book, a third of the way through, there’s a call to action and say, Hey, would you do me a favor and would you write a review on Amazon? Because in the early days, getting to a certain critical mass of reviews is really helpful for a book. But there’s also all sorts of QR codes and reasons for people to come to the website to get the free stuff. So I get to introduce them to me. I get their email address so that they’re on my list and then I can move them through a nurturing sequence to encourage them to be part of my world. And for some of them to give me some more money so I can say different things.

Peter Winick So, you know, I want to talk about the publishing side of this because Page two is phenomenal. I’m a big fan. I’ve worked with a lot of their authors and I love what I see in the team do over there. You could theoretically pick any publisher that you wanted, right? Right. But that’s different because you’ve got the track record to walk into a Simon Schuster or self-publish or whatever and say, I know I’m going to sell within A and B plus or minus. And I’ve spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars developing the brand, etc., etc., etc.. What are the things that people should be thinking about? Because I think people don’t understand that the choice of a publisher is largely a business model, choice number one. Number two, whether you’re like it or not, I love that you said you’re the executive producer from a content standpoint, but what most. Bush is going to tell you as you just earned the title of head of sales and marketing and business development for the book, which might not be a title that you want.

Michael Bungay Stainer Right. So if you go with a traditional publisher, the upside is you’ve got a bunch of people making a book for you. You don’t have to worry about any of the minutia, about how it’s made or how it gets distributed and the like. And if you’re lucky, you’ve got some sort of advance. So you’ve been paid a bit of money upfront and it has cost you anything to do this. The downside of a traditional publisher is you probably don’t have final say on the title, on the look, on the feel and the distribution, on how it’s kind of tagged and coded.

Peter Winick As well as comment. Right. Well, this timing mean these were going sprint like a conceptual term that applies to lots of variables against the book. Yeah.

Michael Bungay Stainer And you also have a business model which means that approximately you own about 10% of a cover price and you’ve got to you’ve got to earn back your advance. And then for every book you sell 20 bucks, you’re going to get two bucks.

Peter Winick So think about that for a minute. I just want to just like put a highlight on that point. If I said to you, Michael, I’ve got a I’ve got a deal. We’re going to be business partners. Right. I’m going to do. You’re going to do all the work you can do the writing, whatever. I’ve got this machine to print it. And I think a good deal would be 9010. You would probably tell me that because you’re Canadian. The polite version of flip off. Right. But yet publishing, you say, Oh, thank you very much. Like, in many instances, it doesn’t make sense for a lot of people.

Michael Bungay Stainer Doesn’t make sense to me to go, Look, I would love to sell more copies of this book, but it’s going to take me time and effort and money to do that. And I only earn two 10% $0.10 on the dollar. It feels like where’s your investment on your share of that book to help drive it? And mostly they’re like, you know, our investment is getting it distributed for you. Well, hey, you’re onto the next thing. Exactly. We’re paying for.

Peter Winick This on Sixth Avenue and on overhead and all this.

Michael Bungay Stainer And honestly, I’ve never met anybody who’s gone. You know, my traditional publisher, they were amazing at marketing my book. Then they’re not that good at marketing books. Yeah. To be fair, I don’t think anybody has locked down and had a really brilliantly market book. It’s a we’re all competing. It’s hard to get people’s attention, but I don’t think publishers have some secret knowledge that they’re not shared with us.

Peter Winick But I want to use that is actually a bridge to the content for a moment. So the subtitle of your book is Five Questions for Building the Best Possible Relationships. Yeah. And my point is, one of the ways that you are brilliant at marketing, not just this book, but your previous books is through the relationships that you have and have developed as well as your reputation in the thought leader community. So how critically important is that that you’ve, you know, you’re in a unique position, that you’ve got lots of friends and we know a lot of same people that are thought leaders, authors, etc., that are actually your best marketing engine.

Michael Bungay Stainer Is certainly one of the key marketing engines I have. And for me, a lot of the pre-work is knocking on doors of people I know a lot or a little and asking for favors. I mean, if you look at this book now on the front pages is a blurb by Brené Brown, who I got to meet before she became, you know, amazing and.

Peter Winick Very well.

Michael Bungay Stainer Known. In fact, she asked me to blurb one of her early books, which just shows you how far she’s gone and how far I’ve gone. And then I’ve got Kim Scott and Amy Anderson and Seth Godin and Liz Wiseman, several big names, but they’re also people who I’ve built relationships up with for ten years. There’s not a single person there who I haven’t known for less than ten years. So.

Peter Winick But. But just I just want to unpack that. It’s not just that their names are sitting on the book. That’s lovely. And in the ancient days of when I used to walk down the aisles of Barnes and Noble with my Starbucks in my hand and look and say, I don’t know who that is, Michael Bungay can’t pronounce his name is, but all these other brilliant people said something. Yeah, the real juice that you get out of it today is when I, Liz Wiseman or Brené Brown. Then promotes it to their followers because people already curated an audience that has a much higher propensity to buy when their person says, Check out what my friend Michael did.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right. So you’re trying to find hubs of influence to sort of say this person’s worth doing. So, you know, as an example, I reached out to Liz a month before the book launch and also to another author, Tasha Urich, who is also brilliant and whose work is enough. And the three of us ran a joint summit together, which is the three of us coming in. And we taught stuff and we each promoted the summit out to our lists. And it meant that one or 2000 people from everybody’s list showed up and registered for the summit. And they got to hear about all of our work and we got a chance to cross-promote each other to our people.

Peter Winick And now the people that were Liz fans that might not have heard of you. Exactly. You’re a trust. Transference. Yeah. Oh, this guy is kind of neat, too. And he’s kind of interesting, too, actually.

Michael Bungay Stainer And I write with Liz’s blessing. And for the people on my list who haven’t heard of cash, Cash arrived with my blessing. And we have fun and know I selected these people because they’re smart, they have a followership so that they’re known and loved by people. Our work is simpatico, so there’s a way that we fit well together and I like to co-create with people. So there’s a sense of shared responsibility around it. I love doing that, but that’s one of the ways I’m like, How do I find people? You might want to hear about my book? And I’m not a big believer that social media by itself does it. Like I’ve seen the numbers and it’s like something grim. Like you sell one book for every 10,000 followers you have. I mean, something like that. It’s.

Peter Winick It’s sad.

Michael Bungay Stainer It’s not an indicator of success, but finding people who can say, I know, Michael, this is a great book. Hey, people read Michael’s book because it’s wonderful. That’s a great endorsement.

Peter Winick Yeah. I also think the in general, the thought leader community is a very generous community. So even and I’ve seen lots of clients and friends that might be, you know, first time authors or whatever reach out to quote, rock stars, tell their story and say, hey, I’ve been a big fan of yours, would love your help or testimonial. You’d be shocked at how generous folks are because they remember like, yeah, like it’s funny that you said you gave Britney a testimonial before she was if she was not the Bernie of Netflix, right?

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right.

Peter Winick And now hard testimonial if we put enough, was probably worth more than the one that you gave in terms of the juice.

Michael Bungay Stainer That I would think so, yeah, I would think that’s true. But yeah, you know, and I get asked all the time by people who know me or don’t know me about whether I do this or just tell you I have a standard reply, which is send me your manuscript. Yeah, I’ll take a look at it. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. So it means that I end up saying no to a good number of people’s books that get sent my way because I’m like, It’s not quite a fit for me. I’m almost always willing to take a look because I’ve done the same. Like I’ve knocked on a bunch of people’s doors and some don’t answer and some answer and say no and some answer and say yes. It’s persistence. It gets you the testimonials.

Peter Winick If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave a five-star review at and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps, as well as at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com forward slash podcast.

Peter Winick So let’s shift for a couple of minutes to business models. We’ve been pretty book centric is it’s topical and I think it’s important whatever you’ve done some one other thing maybe more that I think is really really interesting in that you kind of fired your self at some level or replaced yourself because most thought leaders become the founder and CEO of them Inc. In your case, it was Box of crayons, so you were smart enough to name it after yourself and then you got smart enough to replace yourself.

Michael Bungay Stainer Yeah. So I have two companies and Box of Crayons has a business model which is selling training to enterprise companies, a big companies, Fortune 1000 companies. So our clients like Microsoft and Salesforce and tell us here in Canada and Gucci kind of really significant companies. Yeah, and the book has been critical to the success of that company. You know, I can point to ten books bought by ten people who have each bought in more than $1,000,000 worth of business over time. So more than $10 million worth of business. I just coming from ten books. In fact, in the early days of the book, I kept saying to myself, Remember, Michael, you’re selling coaching programs. You’re not selling books because I make I make more than 10% royalties per book in my hybrid publishing model. But I sell if I selling a program for ten or 15 or $20,000, I have to sell a lot of books to generate the same sort of amount of revenue and profit. So that’s how I work at on the on the corporate side, the B to B side business and then on the B to C side, which is selling to individuals. I have a different model which is like a book leads to an individual course which is like $100 or less or a bit less, depending which then leads to a membership site. You have this idea that membership sites is a great business model for commitment and recurring predictable income. It’s a kind of a moving people along. So there’s a. For people to hang out and do their important work. And that’s the key business model on the B2C side.

Peter Winick So I love how you separate the two. I would say that if we were to spend more time, which we won’t on, okay, let’s drill down on who the Avatars are in the B2B side. We answer that question with a high level of specificity, both demographically and psychographic.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right.

Peter Winick And that’s who you’re writing to, who you’re marketing to. Because, yes, it maybe it’s random ish that the ten books lead to 10 million. But I would also argue that you’re putting your thumb on the scale saying, how do I get the 11th, 12th and 13th buyer? Because not all buyers are created equally that have the ability to spend $1,000,000 on behalf of Oracle or General Electric or whoever it might be.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s true. And at the same time, I would say that, you know, I think in part accelerated by Covid, the profile of that buyer has actually shifted quite a bit. The profile of buying big programs at an enterprise level has shifted quite a bit from let me talk to your sales team to let me figure all of this stuff out and then almost come and place an order. So I know what box of crayons, which I still own, even though it’s now run by a team and I’m not that involved in the day to day, but they’re just going through the process of resetting who their avatars are. What’s interesting is that’s starting a conversation amongst us around do we need to do an update to the coaching, have a walk, right. That it speaks more to this next version of whoever the avatar is that might be for four bucks your crayons.

Peter Winick Right. So that could be a product extension that starts as a version two of the book or things of the coaching, whatever it is.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right. Exactly what we’re playing around with, which is why should we be launching a kind of a different version of the coaching habit? The coaching habit for C-suite executives. The coaching have it for front line employees. Should we be doing that? What would that look like? How would we put it out there in the world? But right, we’re wrestling with all of that at the moment.

Peter Winick But you’re doing that not because you woke up one day and say and said, I think I’m under the coaching habit for sales managers. You’re doing that because you’ve observed patterns after that type of sales. Seven years of the product being out there. They are. You know, we might not have thought of this when I wrote the book, but these newly minted sales leaders or whatever resonate with this more. Let’s make something a little bit more bespoke for them, because there’s a lot of them, and that’s a viable market spot on.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s exactly right.

Peter Winick So let me ask you this, speaking. So everybody wants to be a speaker because it just seems so damn glamorous, right? You get on a plane, you go to Scottsdale, you know, you get paid a ton of money, and in 45 minutes, your day’s work is over and it ends on a standing ovation. Who wouldn’t like that? Yeah. So tell me your experience there.

Michael Bungay Stainer You know, the very best of speaking is exactly like that. You know, you want your fly somewhere nice. You have a crowd that is happy to see you. You speak in a way that feels meaningful and moving and you can see that you’re actually help nudging people in their lives. You get paid really well for your 45 minutes or 75 minutes or 90 minutes or whatever it is. You get to hang out in a nice hotel for a bit and then you fly home. The best of it, it’s amazing. There’s a way that if you make speaking all of what you do, you have to get you’re basically on the road touring a lot. You know, in years past. I had one year where I did like more than 100 gigs in a year, and I was extraordinarily depleted at the end of that year because you also spend a bunch of time on planes, spend a bunch of time in airports, spend a bunch of time watching your delayed plane in an airport, spend a bunch of time in very non glamorous hotels and a bunch of time in front of an audience. Is that that interested in anything that you’ve got to say? So there’s and also you’re like and also I’m just saying the same things over and over and over again. So there’s a way that you can get a little tired of your own jokes, your own voice and your own opinion about everything. So it depends a little bit on your wiring and it depends a little bit on your business model. Like, I have a number of friends who go, I deliver 100 gigs a year. I’m charging somewhere between 30 and $50,000 a gig. So they are making somewhere between, let’s call it 2 to $4 million a year. But these are people who have spent years building a reputation, winning their craft, having a bestselling book and go, This is my favorite thing to do. I love this stuff. I, on the other hand, go, I love speaking and I can I only want to do 20 gigs a year at the very most.

Peter Winick Either a minute. So if you just love it, then do it. You’re basically a performer, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. There’s no better way to make a living than getting up every day going, Well, I’ve got another group of 300 people that I get to share my message with. However, I think what you said is, okay, you got to a point. You said 20 is a good number for me, right? So which one? Every other week or some week, maybe two a week here and then summers or slow or whatever. But you have to have the business model. And this is where we do a lot of work that says, okay, we’re most speakers kind of miss it. From a business model standpoint is a keynote should not be the extent of your relationship with an entity, right? So every speaker has their logo page where we’ve worked with Microsoft and we work with Dallas, whatever, and it’s like, No, you didn’t. You did one speech one time for 45 minutes for the Presidents Club in Hawaii. Big deal. Yeah. The question becomes, do you have the products, the offerings, the services, etc., to further penetrate that enterprise at scale? And we always look at models and strategies that say you should easily be generating 5 to 10 the revenue in non-speaking generated activities. You don’t have a business, you have a practice.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s fantastic because for me I am always trying to de-risk my business. Yes. And one of the ways I de-risk it is getting me out of the way because I am a you know, I’m a flimsy, weak willed, increasingly old person who I’m like, I, I’ve never been reliable.

Peter Winick And that’s going to be your new bio when they know.

Michael Bungay Stainer Exactly.

Peter Winick Were they flimsy.

Michael Bungay Stainer Yeah. So I’m constantly going, look, how am I setting up ways of working so that revenue can come in? It doesn’t depend on my capacity to perform in the moment.

Peter Winick Well, and then here’s a, you know, a captain obvious comment. Nobody has ever bought anybody speaking practice, right? But when you have the things that you talk about earlier subscription based revenue, enterprise client, etc. that is excitable in regardless of.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right.

Peter Winick What you’re doing at the moment.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right. So you know, if you look at box of crayons, if I wanted to sell that, I could probably find a buyer for that. Yeah, that’s not a that’s not a priority for me at the moment because for a lot of different reasons. But it is I initially but now the team in the last number of years has worked really hard to go. This is a really good business and it and it works without Mica’s involvement. Yes. You know, the membership site that I have set up for me, I stopwatch watch the B to C thing. My involvement in that is once a month running a one hour teaching session or a coaching session around that. So we’ve set up structures and a community support. That means that the community leans in on itself and there’s other ways to get kind of stuff about me or stuff that I’ve thought of. But I removed myself from being at the center of that because I don’t want to be at the center of that. And it’s also too risky around that. And part of the idea of discipline that you bring, Peter, is build structures that are about amplifying your IP that generate revenue beyond personality.

Peter Winick Yeah, and I think that’s a key point. The other point I wanted to make is so the membership site requires one Michael hour per month. Now there are other resources that support that feed, that marketing, customer support, technical, whatever. You don’t know anything. I mean, you have to know something about it. But that doesn’t take away from the things that you want to do. You can hire the right people or outsources whoever to put the systems and processes in place to keep that up and running at a high level.

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right. So there is a there’s a small team of to two and a half people involved in keeping that community running. And they set up structures, they create personal interaction. There’s all sorts of just systems that are set up to run in the background. And it means that I like at the last minute I need to go back to Australia next week for two months to help out with my family and stuff. And we looked at the conspiracy, which is what our membership site is called, and Ainslie, who leads that just went great. Here’s how we will remove you from your to what our obligations in August and September. We can do that easily and the whole thing carries on without me. Perfect. Because for me the point of being a thought leader is to find freedom.

Peter Winick Yeah, no, I love that. I love that. Because, you know, there’s this tension between, wow, it’s all about me. That’s sort of that’s good for the ego, that’s good for lots of things. But then there’s the Oh, it’s all about me, right?

Michael Bungay Stainer That’s right.

Peter Winick Being able to do both. So there are parts of your business. So like when you’re going offline to Australia for August number, the part that’s about you is so you’ll turn your speaking business down for those two months, okay. Or do remote or accommodate that way or group or whatever. But everything else doesn’t come to a grinding halt.

Michael Bungay Stainer Just kind of to finish up on the speaking business. I’ll tell you, I have five criteria that I use to decide whether to say yes to a speaking yes. Might be helpful for people. Is it a friend? Is it an a cool location? Is it with a cool company? Is it a big audience of more than a thousand people? Can they pay my full fee? And if they can take two of those five boxes, I’m interested in a conversation with them. And then the overriding thing was, if this was happening and next week, would I say yes to it?

Peter Winick Because I think that’s a great question, because oftentimes we look at our calendars and say, oh, I can’t believe it, 3:00 that I’m talking to that idiot, right. All the.

Michael Bungay Stainer Time. I’m sure who said yes to this. And I’m like, I am the idiot who said yes to this. Right.

Peter Winick But months ago, when you said yes to it, you’re thinking, oh, at some point in the future.

Michael Bungay Stainer Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Yeah. And I’m like, no test that now. So that’s just useful rules of thumb for me to help me kind of get over the pain of saying no to people because the pain in that I feel pain in turning it down because I, you know, I’m like I’m walking away from opportunity and revenue and profile and status, but I’m like, I’ve got the structure there because I’m committed to a bigger thing, which is the freedom to write the next book.

Peter Winick Right. So you but now someone else might have different criteria if they’re earlier in their career saying if they meet my fee. Period. That’s the criteria. If it’s a cool location and they meet the criteria could be whatever is aligned to your life. Right.

Michael Bungay Stainer And the criteria at the start of my business 20 years ago, 22 years ago, was do they have a pulse and do they have a wallet? And I was I wasn’t even fussed about the pulse, quite frankly. I was like, I just need work because I’m hustling and I’m trying to build. I don’t have anything. I don’t have any reputation. So I had a completely different criteria back then.

Peter Winick Yeah, And those criteria evolved as we start to wrap. Let me ask you this. If you were to give some counsel advice, maybe even coaching, to someone who’s, let’s say, where you where you were eight, ten years ago, so up and coming you there. What might it be that you would tell them today? No pressure, but this could be life altering for many people. No pressure.

Michael Bungay Stainer Well, I think part of being a thought leader is it’s not just about your thoughts. It’s about your voice. It’s about how you take ideas and how you bring them into the world. I see a lot of people striving for thought leadership in us, but their content feels kind of the same. Not that interesting and it’s not that different. And so this may be survivor bias because this is kind of how I think about it for me. But I’m like, I’m always interested in going how you different and how you interesting around the opinion that you have. And then I think it’s really helpful to go, Who am I really trying to help here, who I’m really trying to serve? And for me, being mission led around some of this stuff rather than business LED can be really helpful. Like, you know, in this new book, How to Work with almost anyone I’d like. I’m not that motivated by just trying to sell a lot of books, you know, I’ve done that already with the coaching, have it sold a million and some copies of that. But we as a team, we came up with this. The book, this book is the start of a movement to improve 10 million working relationships. And I’m like, That gets me excited. That makes me think about business models and outreach and marketing in a way that I’m like, I’m trying to make the world a better place through the work that I do, not just I’m trying to get known for the work that I do.

Peter Winick Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, I appreciate your time. Appreciate your work, appreciate you.

Michael Bungay Stainer Appreciate you.

Peter Winick All right.

Michael Bungay Stainer Today has been delightful. Thanks for wrestling with this. I love this idea of your commitment to, like elevating thought leadership. So it’s not just about look at me. I’ve got ideas, but it’s like, how do you get with your ideas to make the world a better place?

Peter Winick Good stuff. Thank you.

Peter Winick To learn more about thought leadership leverage, please visit our Web site at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

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