Episode 7: Mentorship is Critical in Your Business, with Stephen Woessner


Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation podcast, one of the top business podcasts. He is the author of three bestselling books including the recently released Profitable Podcasting. He is also a speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.

Hi everyone, this is Colin Sprake with the top-rated small business podcast, MYM Your Business: The Brutal Truth. Today, I have a real special guest with me on board who I’m going to ask some really key questions, so make sure you have a pen and paper handy because when I go to ask these questions. I’m not asking them to be simple. I want these people that we bring on the show to give their expertise, but also to dive deep and also give the brutal truth of how they got to where they got to today, so you can get some really good nuggets of information.

So as you listen to this, if you’re in your car, jogging, what-have-you, make sure that you do take notes and relisten to the shows because I am all about implementation. Remember, knowledge is not power, knowledge is potential power, implementation is power.

So welcome, let’s get rocking and rolling. I have Stephen Woessner with me today, who runs a company called Predictive ROI. They really go out and make people’s lives so much easier around creating the best business podcasts. In fact, here at Make Your Mark, we use the services of Predictive ROI and Stephen and his team, to get our podcast to be one of the top business podcasts today. And of course, they have one of the best business podcasts called Onward Nation. It’s really, really awesome, and I want to welcome Stephen today.

Stephen, give our listeners a little bit about who you are and what’s got you to where you are today.

Well, first of all, thank you very much for the wonderful invitation. I mean it’s a joy, it’s a privilege, it’s an honor to be one of your guests, one of your esteemed guests and I just really, really appreciate it Colin, so thank you.

You’re so welcome.

Oh my gosh. A little bit about me, you mentioned Predictive ROI already, Onward Nation, just some additional context. We have now become one of the top business podcasts, with listeners in 113 countries, 20,000 email subscribers and we’ve had the good fortune of being able to interview some of the most amazing, top business owners in the country, to be able to learn how they think, act and achieve. And we’ve been doing it now for well over two and a half years. I think we’ve aired just shy of 600 episodes and it’s just been a game changer for our business, but also just me personally, being able to hang out with really smart, amazing people like you Colin and others, and so that’s just such a gift.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My grandfather immigrated here from Istanbul, Turkey in 1920. He couldn’t speak the language, had $10 in his pocket, and after 6 years of being in the country, owned his own restaurant, went on to a career of 42 years in the restaurant business. I come from Kent, Ohio. Predictive ROI is my fifth business. Immediately after high school, I spent four years in the Air Force, then went through school and so forth.

Entrepreneurship is in my DNA. It’s part of my roots and so it’s just such a privilege to be able to do what it is we do, every single day, and being able to serve amazing business owners like you and others. What a gift.

Thank you, Stephen, and it is really a gift. I mean, at the end of the day, for our listeners out there, I really wanted them to understand that entrepreneurship takes work. Most people think “I’m going to become an entrepreneur.” Even starting a multi-level marketing company or direct selling business, people think, “I’m going to become rich overnight.”

It takes serious fricking work to be a really good business owner and as we grow and as I’ve grown in my own business, I started to realize there have been some things that I wish I’d known right in the beginning, Stephen. And this is what the challenging part for me is, is that I want our listeners to understand that there are certain things that I’ve learned. You as a great business owner in a long line of entrepreneurs, all the way from 1920, your granddad from Turkey, there are things we wish we’d learned 20 years ago. Maybe 30 years ago.

So I want to get right into this today and ask you if you would like to say, “Here’s the most brutal thing I’ve learned, which I hope no one else who’s listening to this ever does,” maybe some people have done it already, which might be the challenge. But what would be your one piece of key information to say, “I wish I’d never done this and I wish I’d learned this decades ago, because I know I’d be in a different place today.” What would that one massive learning experience be for you Stephen?

Yeah, I think it really revolves around mentorship and mentorship is a really big deal for me, and now I take it so much more seriously than I ever did. It’s probably because I had several really colossal failures that cost me hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, both within Predictive ROI, as well as previous companies.

And it isn’t that I didn’t have access to the right mentorship or that I didn’t have the right opportunity to learn from some of the best of the best. For example, at Predictive here, early on in our business, Darren Hardy, former publisher of Success Magazine, but he was publisher of Success at the time, he was on our Board of Advisors for 12 months. I was in the trenches with him, in person, on phone calls, at events, and working with him just one-on-one in hotel rooms, trying to get stuff done for this event that we were planning at the time. And he gave me great mentorship and great advice, really tactical, and I didn’t do any of it. I didn’t execute.

So when you were talking at the top of the show about how knowledge is not power, it’s based on execution, I have felt that in my wallet to a very deep degree. So here’s one of the best minds in marketing and leadership and time management and a litany of expertise and he’s telling me what I need to do and I don’t do it. Ultimately, it cost me a couple hundred thousand dollars. Really dumb. And so it’s not that I didn’t have the information available, it’s that I didn’t do what you are encouraging your audience to do and that is executed. So mentorship plus action is something I will always, from here on out, put those two ingredients together.

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Always pair mentorship with action. Click To Tweet

I don’t understand why people are like, “I don’t want to spend money on mentorship. I don’t want to invest in mentorship.” You are fricking crazy, if you’re listening to the show thinking that way, because mentorship to me is what you must invest in because people have had the experience already. You hear Stephen here who has bashed his head against the wall and said, “I didn’t take action.”

One of the biggest gurus in this industry, Darren Hardy, you got advice from him, but didn’t take that advice. I know you’re going to really drill into this Stephen, but what would you do differently, in terms of going forward? I know you’re going to say, “I would definitely implement,” but what would you maybe have done differently around any of those relationships, your board of advisers and really around the mentorship. Implementation is one thing, anything else you would let our listeners know, that you would have done differently around the key mentors that you’ve had in your life and continue to have in your life?

I think I can answer that in a couple of different ways, I’m happy to break it down as granular as you’d like to go and as transparent. I believe freely sharing, whether that’s the good stuff or the bad stuff and we really learned with the bad stuff sometimes, and so to get even more specific about Darren. He and I started off our Board of Advisors relationship because I attended one of his events, the high performance forum, two and half days, there was just 23 of us in the room with him and that was exceptional.

Then a couple months later, I was back in San Diego. He and I spent the entire day together, just he and I in a hotel suite, and we’re just kind of mapping out the next level of the business and that was really, really great. And then we got together again a few months later and we shot a video together, where he interviewed me about some of the eight money draining mistakes and the eight money making opportunities, and then through all of that, we had monthly checkpoint calls, as well as email exchanges and that kind of stuff.

It revolved around this event that we had scheduled for January of 2014, called Predictive ROI Live, where literally I guaranteed and rented, or I should say booked, 350 rooms at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Florida. It’s a 425 room hotel, so essentially, I booked the entire hotel for this event. 1,000 room nights, yeah, it was a 2 million dollar operating budget, 2 million dollars.

And so I put it all on the line and I mean it was insane, the amount of risk and so forth. And Darren in a phone call says to me, “You have to be either the gutsiest person I’ve ever met or you might be insane.” And so then the question, the mentorship question he continued to ask me every single time we were together, which was often. He was going to be a speaker at the event, along with Gary Vaynerchuk, who now has one of the top business podcasts in the US, along with Avinash Kaushik from Google, along with Don Yaeger and Scott McCain and myself, of course, and then several others.

Darren would say to me, “Look, I get the fact that this is going to be a cool place and all of that. Why would anyone want to come to this event?” I’m like “What do you mean why would anybody want to come to this event? It’s at the fricking Ritz-Carlton and Gary’s going to be there, you’re going to be there, Don, Scott, me, Avinash.” He’s like, “Oh for Pete’s sake. Do you think that somebody is really going to spend $8,000 to come listen to me?” Meaning him, “Yak about stuff? Why would anybody come?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.” He’s like, “Okay, well that’s dumb. You have to get that figured out.”

And he asked me that question every single time that we were together and I could never answer it. When we opened it up for registration, out of 350 seats, Colin, we sold 3 seats.


Pretty intimate meeting, right?

Extremely intimate.

Exactly, so we had to cancel it, and you know what? The Ritz-Carlton, when you cancel a 2 million dollar event, they go, “All of those hotel rooms that we had reserved, you still have to pay for those.” So $200,000 out the door because I didn’t answer the question that he always asked me. It wasn’t his fault; he asked me every single time that we were together and I never answered the question.

Stephen, that’s what the fascinating part for me is, we have these mentors that ask us those key questions. For me, those key questions are really important. I’ll never forget when I met with one of my mentors here in Vancouver, I actually met him across the border, he was just across the border in Ferndale, Washington.

He met me in a beautiful restaurant out over the water and I got to the meeting around, maybe 15 minutes before he got there, so I got myself comfortable, got the table sorted out, was super excited for my mentorship meeting. His name’s Randy and Randy walks in and he says, “Hey Colin, how’s things going?” I said, “Randy, things are awesome,” and the next question he said to me was, “Are you paying yourself what you want and are you having the time off that you want and are you spending your time with your family that you really, really want?” And I said, “Hell no, Randy.”

And he said, “Well, then things suck in your life. I want you to think about it,” and he walked out of the restaurant. And I said, “Where are you going?” And he said, “You need an hour and a half to think about those three things because things aren’t that fricking awesome. You think about it and phone me in an hour and a half’s time and tell me what decision you’re going to do differently to get those three things happening in your life and stop BSing yourself. Things aren’t that awesome.” I was like, “Wow.”

But that Stephen, that to me is mentorship. Mentorship is not meant to be love, and I hug you and you’re awesome and you’re beautiful and put up with all your BS. Mentorships are meant to be that size 14 shoe with a very pointy toe that fits into most places that people I enjoy. So for me, it’s like sometimes, I always believe that if you were mentoring me or I was mentoring you, we will always love each other, but we don’t always have to like each other. And that’s what true mentorship is. When people get you really thinking about where you’re going, what you’re doing. So I’m a big fan of having great mentors in our lives as well, just like you are, and I have four personal mentors right now that are mentoring me in different areas.

One is mentoring me in health and fitness and another one is mentoring me in systems and processes in the business, and the other one’s mentoring me, sometimes just in mindset. So for me, as you’ve grown and continue to grow Predictive ROI and you continue to move forward, what would you say, in terms of mentorship, are your next steps in mentorship? What are you looking for? Where do you think your biggest weakness is right now in Predictive ROI and are you to bring a mentor in to assist you with that weakness?

Boy, excellent question. Wow, and that just really cuts to the heart of it, doesn’t it? I mean that’s the key, being able to identify weaknesses and then being able to say, “Okay, who has done this really, really well and what can I learn from him or her,” that can plug in this hole, gap, whatever metaphor you want to use. That’s really using mentorship smartly.

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Identify your weaknesses and then find someone who can help. Click To Tweet

So the biggest weakness that we have right now in Predictive ROI, we have 17 people, we’re adding probably 2 or 3 more by the end of this year. So let’s call it 20 by the end of the year, but we’re looking to add about maybe 15 to 18 people by the end of next year. So essentially, we’re essentially doubling in the next 12 months, let’s just call it that.

And and so with that, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort and money investing in our culture. One of my mentors, his name is Colonel Bernard Banks and he recently retired from West Point, but he was in charge of the leadership curriculum at West Point for a number of years. What he said to me was, when I spent some time with him along with some others at West Point for a day last year about 18 months ago, he said to me, “You know what we do with our cadets here? We are responsible for hugging them,” and this is the United States Military Academy, right? So when he says hug, I’m like, “What?”

And he says, “We are responsible to hug and push our cadets. It’s important for our cadets to know, that as their mentors, is that sometimes they need a hug. Not sit by the fire sing Kumbaya, but that we got you. That you’re okay and you’re in a safe place, and then it’s our job to also put on that size-14 boot in this case and sometimes kick them in the rear when they need to be kicked. Hugged when they need to be loved and to know the difference between the two.” I’m like, “Okay.”

So as we continue to grow, we need to look for those opportunities to keep our culture intact and making sure that we hug and push our teammates to continue to grow and develop and mentor each other and be great teammates. So that’s a big challenge for us. We’re aware of it and we just need to, using your word, execute.

Okay, so what is the executable item here? What are you going to be doing that between now and the end of the year, maybe into next year, to maintain the culture. So what kind of mentorship would you be putting in place to make sure that you get to where you need to be?

Excellent, and we just actually realigned our mentorship program, Tuesday, last week, my leadership team and I were in Boston, working specifically on this. First of all, the two most valuable words within Predictive ROI are team and mate. So every single teammate has a mentor assigned and every single teammate meets with his or her mentor, every single week for a mentorship session. So every single day at 8:45 central time, we all dial in and we spend virtual time with one another. We have seven, excuse me, seven different cities across the U.S. where we have full-time employees, and we’re in every single time zone in the U.S.

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The two most important words inside our business are team and mate. Click To Tweet

So because of that, we all dial in, virtually at 8:45 central time, we spend fifteen minutes with each other, so we can visually see one another. And then each week, each teammate meets with his or her mentor for an hour-long mentorship session. I then spend an hour long meeting with my business partner, Erik Jensen, and we spend mentorship both back and forth. He mentors me, I mentor him and then on Thursdays, we all spend two hours together, virtually, where we go through strengths, weaknesses, problems in the business, things that need to be addressed with clients and so forth.

And then each year, because again, we’re virtual, we do two meetups every year. One in La Crosse, Wisconsin and one in Disney World. So La Crosse Wisconsin is in August and then Disney World is in January, where we all physically get together and have a little bit of fun and tackle it. So every single day, in every single week, there is active mentorship going on and it’s hug and push, every single session.

Beautiful man, and so I’m going to dig a little bit deeper into that, because I love this stuff and I know our listeners out there probably thinking, “Wow, Stephen, a lot of time goes into building culture and spending time with mentorship sessions and what-have-you. Where do you find the hours to actually do your work, when you have this happening?”

But the key thing for me is, I want our listeners to understand that if you don’t put these things in place and the mentorship doesn’t happen, then a lot of times, there’s inefficiencies that creep in, poor culture, you get cancers in your business. You only have to have one person that’s a cancer in your business to destroy your entire good team members as well. Just like cancer grows within the body, one cancer cell can make really great cells become cancerous as well.

So, talk to that in terms of the investment of time into mentorship within your own team. How does that translate into dollars for your business, leading to your business being more, more successful? So our listeners out there realize, yes, you need to put the time in to get the rewards out and not just always be thinking if I don’t see you sitting at your desk eight hours a day, then we’re not making money, we’re not being efficient. Let’s talk to that a little bit, in terms of what do you see this investment of time and energy, how does it translate into growing your business and being more successful?

Okay, the first layer, it’s going to sound a little bit flippant. First of all, you ask a very, very good question, and I’ve been asked that same question before by other business owners. And so my initial response is, would anybody ever say, “Wow, Colin, you spend too much time being a dad.” No one would ever walk up to a mom and say, “Man, you spend way too much time being a parent.” And that’s exactly how I look at mentorship. How can I possibly expect that we have a high-performing team, if I don’t invest in them? With not only money and professional development and all of that, but my time.

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You can’t expect to have a high-performing team if you don’t invest in them. Click To Tweet

We constantly see reports and surveys and statistics that the fourth most valuable thing that employees want from you is compensation. The number one thing that your teammates want from you, above anything else, is your time, attention and love. And if you don’t give that to them, then you’re really creating a hunger in your business.

So we all have seen numbers about retention and people leave bosses and how expensive it is to replace somebody. I am a firm believer that if you invest in your culture, not only will you fix the retention problem, but you’ll add dollars to your bottom line, because you don’t have to replace people. Your teammates will truly be teammates, they will back each other, they will work weekends, they will protect one another, they’ll take bullets for each other, they’ll defend each other, and that is a valuable thing.

From an ROI perspective, I look at that as investing in the emotional bank account, because when I go to Louie on my team and I say, “Hey, you know what? Boy, we’re really slammed on this project and we have to get this out and it looks like you might need to work the weekend in order to be able to get that done for our client.” And Louie doesn’t fight me on it, Louie says, “Game on, I’m full of joy. I’ll get it done.”

And the only reason is because we’ve invested so much in the emotional bank account, and when I need to go to a teammate and say, “You know what? Your performance on that last project wasn’t up to your standard. It wasn’t to the client’s standard, it wasn’t up to my standard and I deserve your best, the client deserves your best. You know what? You deserve to do your best. So let’s talk about that.” And then the person on the other end says, “You know what? You’re totally right. I’m going to fix that.”

And it’s only because we’ve invested in culture and the hug and the push, that we’re allowed to have those types of conversations without somebody getting defensive and argumentative or just leaving. So I think mentorship as a leader, is one of our most vital priorities in how we add value into our business and our team.

Wow, that’s great man. I look at it Stephen, from my side too. I mean, a couple of weeks back, one of the episodes, I really spoke about culture and what we’ve created here, even here at Make Your Mark, because I’m a big fan of creating an amazing culture as well and really spending time with the team and assisting the team to that next level. And I think a lot of people don’t realize, for me even in my business, I give every team member, the day they join us as a full-time staff member, they get five weeks of paid leave a year.


And people say to me, “You’re crazy, Colin.” No, I’m not crazy. I know that people need to recharge their batteries. If you don’t recharge your cell phone, of course it doesn’t do anything for you, it becomes dead and useless. Well, the same thing happens with your team. If you don’t allow them to have time off and allow them to have fun while they’re at the office, I mean, I have a cafe at my office that people can go into the cafe and take whatever they want out of the café. It’s there for them to use because sometimes they run out of the house in the morning and they don’t get breakfast. So great, they come to the office, there’s cereal there and whatever they want. Any kind of food or health foods and health snacks as well, that they can then take advantage of, because that creates an amazing culture.

So for those of you listening, just think about, what culture are you creating? Even if you’re just a single solopreneur, as you start out and you start to hire people and get them on board, your culture is really important. Because then you have you staff retention.

In fact, I’m a big believer, Stephen, you might laugh about this as well, people always talk about your customers only remember the experience with you and how you made them feel. Well, that’s okay, I agree with that fully, but those two statements go into every area of your life. They go into your employees at your office, they need to remember the experience that day and how you made them feel at the office.

When they go home, what are they talking around the dinner table about? Are they talking about how much they hate you as a boss or how much they hate the company and how much they’re going to look for another job? Or are they sitting around the dinner table going, “You know what? I love my company, I love my boss,” or not even boss, I don’t like the word boss, “I love the team I work with.” And you know what? I want people at that dinner table to go, “I want to come work for the company you work for,” because then you know you’ve created a great culture. What would you say to that?

I would give you a big Amen to that. That’s 100%. And I think that the companies you have the good fortune of working with and mentoring and that are part of your group in this amazing community that you have built, I think many of them, if not all of them share that same sort of ideal or value system, if you will. Because it’s that important.

Look, you can choose to not do this, right? Speaking to your listeners in your audience. You can choose not to do it, that’s okay, but I’m telling you it is an incontrovertible fact that Gallup studies this every single year, in nearly 70% of your employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged. Meaning that a large chunk of your employees are actually doing subterfuge every day. They’re actually working against you. Your own team. And so not doing what Colin is recommending is silly because the companies that win are the ones who master what you just said, Colin.

Wow man, thank you for that. On a previous episode, a couple of weeks back, we actually spoke about this in detail. If you want to learn more about it, go back to one of our previous episodes and there’s a whole episode just on building amazing culture, and the key things we do here at Make Your Mark. So Stephen, thank you so much for be here today and being with me on this episode.

As we leave today, I know mentorship is really important to you, but if there’s another piece of advice that if I was sitting in front of you and let’s say you were on stage, and there was a big audience, and it was like Stephen, you have one piece of advice to impart upon all of us, because after you’ve given that piece of advice, you will no longer be around to give this advice to us, what would that one piece of advice be, that you would say you’d be crazy not to do this.

And I want it to be outside of mentorship. Just one real nugget that you’d be like, “My goodness, please people,” in business, in life, whatever it is, I don’t care what area of … because remember, our personal life sucks, probably our business sucks too. So really, at the end of the day, what’s that one piece of advice that you’d be like, “I’m burning in my seat as Colin says this,” just give this piece of advice, because if going forward, I would just love to make sure that I don’t make the same mistake or look at things differently. What would that one piece of advice be that you’re like, “It’s the most important piece of advice I’ve learnt in my entire life.”

Well okay, so let’s think about something outside of mentorship. Let’s think about business development, biz dev. I mean, if it’s not on everybody’s radar screen as a business owner, it really should be. Oftentimes, business owners don’t pay attention to biz dev because it’s not a burning pain point until you lose a client, you lose two clients, whatever. A big tax payment comes due and you don’t have the funds and then it’s like, “Oh, holy bananas, I need a new client or two,” or whatever.

And so my biggest piece of like non-mentorship advice would be to create a consistent biz dev program that focuses on your dream 50 prospects. And if you don’t have a list of your dream 50 prospects, then that’s the first place to start, identify a list of the dream 50 companies, the companies you would love to work for, and the person within that company who is your decision-maker — the person who has the approval authority on whatever it is that you provide.

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Create a consistent biz dev program that focuses on your dream 50 prospects. Click To Tweet

Make the dream 50 list and then make it very detailed or granular with a person, first name, last name, email address, all of that, connect with that person on LinkedIn, and then devise your own, what we like to call, the Trojan horse strategy, which is essentially how are you going to connect with that person? Whether that be through a podcast interview, a blog interview, a video interview, a something. It’s not solely about having one of the top business podcasts on iTunes.

What are you going to be able to leverage to use as a way to open the door, to have a private conversation with that person? And then what are you going to do downstream from that thing, that interview, that interaction, that is going to demonstrate your smarts in a value-give way? Not like yak, yak, yak, I’m really, really smart, you should work with me. No. How are you going to add value to that person, maybe over the next 2 to 3 years?

But if you don’t have a biz dev program that is focused on your dream 50 and your competitors do, and they’re also matching with culture and mentorship, that’s going to be a problem.

Absolutely agree with that. Wow, what a great nugget to end off with today, and for me, it’s just been a great, powerful interview with you today because of course, you’re extremely smart at what you’ve done and what you’ve created with all the different businesses over the years, and for our listenership out there, please, take these nuggets from your notes and go out and implement because there’s some key little pieces in here to really get your business to the next level.

So Stephen, it’s been so great having you on this episode today and I really, really cherish the time that we’ve had and the knowledge that you’ve shared. Should people want to connect with you in some way or form, what’s the best way to connect with you, to maybe even to learn a little bit more or just to understand more about what you do? What’s the best way to connect with you, my friend?

Well, thank you for that. If any of your listeners happen to be interested in learning a little bit more about what I just kind of chatted about, they can go to onwardnation.com/FreeChapter and that’ll give them a free chapter out of my latest book. It became a number one new release on Amazon in 18 hours, it was awesome. It’s called Profitable Podcasting. So that’s just a free gift to your listeners. If you want to learn how to create one of the best business podcasts, it’ll definitely help out.

If anybody has any questions, concerns, please know I read and reply to every single email. You can find me at stephen@predictiveroi.com and I’m happy to freely share and answer any questions or concerns that somebody might have. So feel free to hit me up, email, LinkedIn, wherever, and I’m happy to reply.

Wow, thank you so much my friend. It’s been awesome having you on the show and remember, please make sure, listening is one thing, implementation is another thing, so Stephen thank you so much for being on. Thank you everybody for listening and look forward to being on another episode with you really, really soon. And Stephen, go out, be brilliant and you’re making massive changes in this world and for those business owners listening, please go out and change the world as well, through the amazing businesses that we all run together. So once again, thanks a million Stephen for being on the show with me today.

Thank you Colin, I am grateful for the invitation. It was so much fun to be here with you.

Thank you, man.

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