“Leadership comes down to inspiring people to want to be part of what you’re doing. And that comes down to having a story that you’re telling too. They want to be part of that narrative of what you’re trying to do and why.” –Scott Baradell
“Because my parents had views about race and other things that, to me, flew in the face of what felt right to me. And I think it probably led to me being a more of questioning person, which is I think what leads people into journalism a lot of times, questioning the conventional wisdom about things. So a lot of me focusing on southern history, was trying to understand what was making these people tick. Why were they making decisions that hurt other people..” –Scott Baradell
“I think today increasingly you have to have powers of persuasion to be successful.” –Scott Baradell
(On giving critical feedback to others) “Well, I think you can be honest without being hurtful. And I think what it really comes down to, preparation. Mental preparation about how you’re gonna deliver the message in such a way that shows that you’re trying to be protective of their feelings.” –Scott Baradell
The Cheat Sheet:
- Learn why questioning and being inquisitive is a game changer in business
- How to give out critical feedback in business
- What makes a great leader (and why)
- Learn why almost everyone pivots in their career
- Learn how as introvert you can best manage your energy and get your alone time
- How to be an advocate for yourself and why it’s essential for your success
- Why storytelling is a huge corporate advantage you may not be leveraging
- And so much more…
Scroll down more for a summary, show transcription, resources and more.
“I just love my parents, but saw a lot of contradictions and things I disagreed with. And I think that when I went into journalism, I was just into investigative reporting, finding out the truth about things. But honestly, it started with my own family, but you have to come to terms with that. And it has also helped me look at things in a nuanced way, that everything is not pure, good and evil, black and white. People make bad choices for sometimes complex reasons.”
Scott’s been questioning and analyzing things his entire life. It’s what made him a great journalist, blogger, and now agency President and owner. It also leveraged his introverted tendencies to his advantage.
You will really enjoy his candid stories about growing up, his spring break adventure that accelerated his success in journalism, and his breakthroughs/breakdowns in his life.
Listen, learn, laugh, and enjoy this interview with Scott!
Show Full Transcript
Jason Treu: Well, this is Jason Treu. Welcome back to another episodes from Executive Breakthroughs. I have a fantastic guest today, Scott Baradell. He is the CEO of Idea Grove. They are a national PR and marketing firm working with some amazing clients. And Scott has got a fantastic story, worth 30 years of experience working as a journalist on the corporate side, also has his MBA, so he has pretty much all the things covered, and started this agency out from scratch. It was 12 years ago, so he is going to give you a wealth of knowledge where he’s come, a lot of insights that he has. So get ready for a fantastic show. Well, welcome, Scott.
Scott Baradell: Thank you for having me. I hope I can live up to that intro.
Jason Treu: I’m sure that you can. So, I would love to get a little bit of your back story to start off with, to let people know where you came from. You grew up in Virginia?
Scott Baradell: Yeah. I was born in Pensacola, Florida, but moved as a small child to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I grew up there. I went to the University of Virginia. My first journalism job was at a newspaper in Virginia, and then I came down to the Dallas Times Herald, back when that existed. That is what brought me to Dallas back in 1989, I think.
Jason Treu: Did you have a big family? Small family?
Scott Baradell: One older brother, he’s seven years older.
Jason Treu: And both your parents, lived with them?
Scott Baradell: Yes. We were your basic family living suburbs. I think about Virginia Beach and what it was like. It’s kind of a cool place because it’s a tourist town, a military town, fairly laid back, fairly blue collar. So coming to Dallas, it’s a little different. I think that … I grew up in a public school system where kids of every possible economic background were there. It didn’t matter to the great majority of people, at least my friends. None of that mattered to people, in terms of who your friends were, who you hung out with, and things like that.
And so, I think it helped me when I got to Dallas, to be a little immune to some of the obsession with status, which is the stereotype here. But I think any place that you’re at, it’s all about the people you surround yourselves with.
Jason Treu: Yeah. So how did you get in … I know your first foray was in journalism, so how did you get into that? Were you an avid reader growing up? Were you a writer? How did that sort of … I mean, were you on your school newspaper? How did that gen … What was the genesis of that?
Scott Baradell: As a small child, and I’m kind of reliving this through my daughter who’s nine now, because we have a lot in common in terms of what we were like at that age. She likes to draw a lot, and I was always sketching and drawing. And then at a certain point, maybe by junior high or middle school age, I just got more interested in writing. Reading, I was always more interested in current events, news. I was an early reader of the newspaper. I wasn’t a book reader, I never really got into fiction, but I really got into history, non-fiction, Time Magazine.
Jason Treu: Got it.
Scott Baradell: I was one of these kids that was reading Time Magazine every week when it came in the mail, and I just enjoyed writing. And so I guess those interests led to going in the direction of journalism. So I was editor of the high school yearbook, and captain of the debate team. Those kind of … It evolved to that. It came from being interested in what was going on in the world and enjoyed writing.
Jason Treu: Well, you didn’t get a journalism degree, did you?
Scott Baradell: Well, UVA does not have a Journalism major.
Jason Treu: Okay.
Scott Baradell: The journalism classes are all a part of the English Department, so you can get an English major. I actually got a History major. I was in the Honors History program at UVA, which was a very intensive two year program. I studied American Southern History, which is probably not many better places to study that.
Jason Treu: And amazingly, you moved to Dallas. So after studying, … In the south.
Scott Baradell: Well of course, my parents were both from Mississippi. And of course, Virginia was the capital of the confederacy and all of this. I grew up with all of this, going to confederate battle fields and all that. And so, honestly a lot of what drove me in history was trying to understand all this. Because my parents had views about race and other things that, to me, flew in the face of what felt right to me. And I think it probably led to me being a more of questioning person, which is I think what leads people into journalism a lot of times, questioning the conventional wisdom about things. So a lot of me focusing on southern history, was trying to understand what was making these people tick. Why were they making decisions that hurt other people. Things like that.
Jason Treu: It’s interesting to think of how your parents viewpoints shaped what you did and how you looked at some things, and look into this major that you ended up having. Because you could’ve focused on a lot of different areas, and it’s interesting that you chose that.
Scott Baradell: Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all in one way or another, we react and respond to the generation before us. I mean, in most cases, people have the same religion as their parents. They have the same politics as their parents. I mean, this is statistically true.
Jason Treu: Yes.
Scott Baradell: It’s passed on. But in other cases it’s the opposite reaction. You reject. There are a lot of people that are very anti-catholic because they were raised in catholic schools. And then there are people who are very much adherence and their children pass along … But you can have a reaction. In my case, I just love my parents, but saw a lot of contradictions and things I disagreed with. And I think that when I went into journalism, I was just into investigative reporting, finding out the truth about things. But honestly, it started with my own family, but you have to come to terms with that. And it has also helped me look at things in a nuanced way, that everything is not pure, good and evil, black and white. People make bad choices for sometimes complex reasons. Anyway, I think overall, it’s led to me being fairly … I certainly have some strong political views about things, but in terms about how I treat people as individuals, is to be very accepting, I guess. And not to necessarily agree with people about things that I don’t think are correct, but to-
Jason Treu: You’re open to their viewpoints.
Scott Baradell: … to be open to listen.
Jason Treu: And to listen.
Scott Baradell: And so to see what’s happened, that’s one of the reasons why I went into … I’ve enjoyed communications. I think PR, which is where I went to when I went corporate, can and should be a very open, honest, and transparent way to create a dialogue. That’s what I try to do. That’s what I enjoy about it. I hate that we’ve reached a place that, particularly in the political sphere, there’s so much just thoughtless, as in not thinking before you talk, just back and forth where people are not respecting … you can vehemently disagree with someone and still not dehumanize them, which is what happens online today.
Jason Treu: Yes.
Scott Baradell: I think what’s so sad is, I was doing blogging and all this stuff in 2005 and not a lot of people were doing it, and I was part of all this group of people who were like, “This is gonna change things for the better in all these ways.” In other words, these media conglomerates are not the only one who are gonna be controlling the message or this or that. And you look around 12 years later, I think a lot of the negative things that have happened, at least exacerbated by online behavior and social media. I think a lot of instances were unanticipated.
There were a lot of idealists early on who just thought … If you go back to the early days, people are saying, “Well, this is gonna eliminate the need for advertising or all these things. CEOs, don’t get a ghost writer to blog for you because if you’re not blogging yourself and sitting down in front of a blog all day, when you have a billion dollar company to run, you’re not being authentic.” It kind of went from that extreme to where we’ve seen just this incredibly kind of cynical takeover of a lot of what’s happening on line, but there’s still … It’s just like with anything. You pick your places and people-
Jason Treu: There’s cycles and periods and chapters.
Scott Baradell: And also there’s always enough people out there to choose who you want to work with as clients, to choose who you want to work with as colleagues, who you want to hang out with.
Jason Treu: You’ve got to create that environment where you have choice by having abundance by working hard and doing all the things to be a leader in what you’re doing, otherwise you can live in a world of scarcity where then you don’t really have those choices or you don’t perceive you have those choices.
Scott Baradell: Exactly. You have to know what you want. A lot of people don’t. I think that’s reality.
Jason Treu: Because they have to ask the question, because usually people are asking the how question, instead of the why.
Scott Baradell: Right. And a lot of times people will think that they want to get to “C” and they don’t know what “A” and “B” is. “If I have this, then I’ll be happy.” “Well, not necessarily. You can go get that thing, but did it work?” A lot of times, people don’t know. “I know I want this.” Which ultimately, people want to be happy. They want fulfillment. They want to feel like their life has meaning but-
Jason Treu: But also they’re not chasing that. They’re actually not. They’re not chasing, but they’re not actually putting it out there. They’re looking at a material trajectory in order to [crosstalk 00:11:18]
Scott Baradell: Because they’re seeing a relationship between the two.
Jason Treu: Yes. So how did you pick Dallas out of all the places? Because obviously-
Scott Baradell: They gave me a job. That’s why.
Jason Treu: Okay. I guess they-
Scott Baradell: Well, I have a lot of family here. I have family in Dallas and Shreveport. And my parents passed away some time ago, and really almost all my family’s in this area. And a very diverse group, we’ve got some folks who … Some family in Shreveport that have been really prominent in public service in Louisiana and politics. And Dallas family members who are just big, extremely religious families, very conservative and just a big mix of people.
Jason Treu: A melting pot.
Scott Baradell: Yeah. All of which I love dearly and like to be around them and stuff like that. I guess, politically I tend to be a liberal, but it’s never been a problem for me, and I’ve actually always preferred to be in the south in places that were more conservative, because I just like the interchange. I like to have a healthy dialogue. I like to be kept in check. So, I like Dallas a lot, I love it here. I wouldn’t have stayed if I didn’t, but-
Jason Treu: How’d you make the jump from journalism to going to corporate? Because that was the next big jump, so what was your mindset like? Did journalism just run out of steam for you? Did you just not see a path forward? And then, why corporate versus anything else at the time?
Scott Baradell: Well, the truth is I had some real highs in newspaper journalism and some stories that I was really proud of. I love coming up with story ideas, which is the main thing I still do today for clients, is coming up with a story that someone besides them is gonna care about. That could be validated in the media and then that stuff can be used in your marketing too. That’s called [inaudible 00:13:33] leadership. Right?
Jason Treu: Yeah.
Scott Baradell: That’s what we do. I was enjoying that probably from the high school yearbook on, and in journal I’ve loved being that. It didn’t matter to me that I started working night cops and listening to police scanners, because I was coming up with story ideas that were ending up on the front page. I remember one time, I had an idea for doing a story on spring break in South Padre Island. This is when I first got to Dallas. And they were like, “We’re not gonna pay for you to go to South Padre Island.” My friend and I wanted to go anyway, and I said, “Well, okay. That’s fine. I’ll just take this on vacation.”
I went down there and I wanted to do a story about … It was really kind of a mischievous kind of idea to begin with. I wanted to go to some of these areas of debauchery and to talk to people about religion, because part of my beat was I was covering religion for the Times Herald. And I wanted to talk to them about their religious views when they’re in this setting. I’m doing beer pongs and wet T-shirt contests, and everything else. When I first got there, I went to a wet T-shirt contest, and there was a band there. They were something Louie or something and I remember seeing the band there. So I was interviewing people, interviewed the winner of the contest. The whole thing was kind of funny.
And so I was doing it all in a kind of comical vein, and then so the next morning we went to … There was one church, Baptist church on South Padre. I believe it’s called Island Baptist Church. I’m remembering this from 30 years ago, when I was 25. My buddy and I, he seemed mad, “You’re taking me … We’re at South Padre and you’re taking me to church?” So we went to this Island Baptist Church, watched the service. You know what they do in Baptist churches? I was raised Methodist, but I’ve been to the Baptist services so I know. Is at the end of the service, they’ll call people forward if they’re ready to accept Christ. So I’m just sitting there and there’s this guy walking by me in his swimsuit, seriously, and it was the drummer from the band. The drummer from the band, I see him-
Jason Treu: Wow. That is funny.
Scott Baradell: So I interviewed him, and you know what we did? I had to go back because my vacation was over, and I found out that this guy … I had talked to the Pastor of this church, this guy was going to get baptized. They baptized him in the water. The ocean. The gulf. And so I went up there … I wrote the story on the way back. I got there and the city editor’s like, “Okay. First, we’ll pay for your trip.” So they retroactively paid for my vacation and then they paid to send a photographer down there to do a whole photo essay on the baptism in the water. Front page. Sunday paper. Taking up almost 3/4 above the fold. That was … Those moments were priceless. I mean, it felt like such an accomplishment. It was every aspect about it. The creativity. It felt like you were doing a public service. The feeling that you proved someone wrong. That something is interesting even though they thought it wasn’t. That’s what I loved about journalism.
And why I left journalism is that there weren’t enough of those moments ultimately, compared to other things. After the Times Herald closed, the truth is I ended up working for Belo, which owned the Dallas Morning News. They’re the ones that took a wrecker ball to the building of the Dallas Times Herald after they bought it. But the Dallas Morning News didn’t believe in that kind of journalism as the truth. Never has. The Dallas Times Herald took more chances. So what I just described, in a million years, couldn’t have happened at the Dallas Morning News.
And so, I didn’t want to work there. I just thought it was … They had had an editor named Burl Osborne, who was really accomplished, a great guy, but he was … I believed he had come from [inaudible 00:18:09] and was very much a “everything needs to be done a certain way” kind of-
Jason Treu: Got it.
Scott Baradell: And even to they had a strategy that they wanted all their columnists to not be these Mike Royko types that are just out there raging at the machine. They wanted people who were kind of milk toast. Let’s have someone who’s mildly interesting and amusing, but who’s not gonna make waves. That was the strategy. It’s not an offensive to … It’s not a criticism of the individual journalists and columnists because they were asked to do that job. So I didn’t want to work there, I liked Dallas. I didn’t really want to move somewhere else. At that point, this was the beginning of 1992, so I already kind of saw the writing on the wall in terms of where newspapers were going, so I went over to the Dallas Observer and I worked there for a few months. I just didn’t like it. It had been bought by New Times, which ultimately bought Village Voice they’d been the leader in terms of alternative publications but I just felt like nobody was reading it. You know?
Jason Treu: Yes.
Scott Baradell: And it was kind of … I was working really hard on these stories and I thought I had done a couple of my best stories for the Dallas Observer. I thought, the only people reading this are people looking for a restaurant or something to go to, or the people that are already have the same political views. So you’re preaching to the choir, which like I was saying before, that’s not of interest to me. That’s just not of interest to me. I tried to freelance for a little while and honestly ended up in my first corporate job out of needing to eat. So it wasn’t like a conscious transition to meet some higher level goals. It was like, “Gosh, I’m really struggling to enjoy or make enough money being a freelancer.” So I had a friend that had left a position at a financial services firm doing marketing and PR for them. When he left, he put in a good word for me and that’s how I started on the corporate side.
Jason Treu: And obviously you had a lot of skill sets going into that job. And so as you’re doing this job for a while, you get towards the end of it and you realize, “Okay, this isn’t the job for me either.” And what led you then to say, “I need to leave.”
Scott Baradell: To leave corporate altogether?
Jason Treu: Yeah.
Scott Baradell: Well, no. I was in corporate for a long time, so it wasn’t anything that happened in a short period of time. Honestly, the first year and a half at this financial services firm, I just really … I just … You go into journalism, everything that was going on in business, I had never taken a business course. I studied history. I mean I’m just looking at this and it all seemed very absurd. I had no idea why people were working in a corporate setting at all. I mean, I was looking at it like a Dilbert kind of thing. I just did not get it at all. So I had to say, “Do I want to go back to journalism or do I want to find my place here?”
And so after this financial services firm, I went to a company, B2B Tech, called PageNet. Back when there was a paging industry, wireless communications. And they did the infrastructure and that’s where I started to find a place for myself. They sent me to SMU for Business School, which really helped round me out and make me feel more comfortable and understand all the pit … Parts fit together in a business from IT to Accounting, and Finance and being able to speak everyone’s language to some degree. An MBA really helped with that. But after that I went to Belo and I was VP of Corporate Communications there. I worked there for three years. But I just realized that it was I had a chronic challenge with all the pieces coming together in these corporate jobs.
In other words, as I was telling you when we were talking before, I just felt like I just had this moment when I was looking at Belo to another role, all the things that would have to work out. You have to like the industry. You have to like the work you’re gonna do. You have to have a story to tell, in PR anyway, in writing for a company. You have to like your boss. You have to get along with your colleagues. It’s really hard to … it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, to make all of those pieces fit. That’s what I was finding.
Jason Treu: And even if they do fit together at one moment, –
Scott Baradell: They can change.
Jason Treu: They can change. And if one of those pieces changes, it can set everything in a different trajectory and how you view it, which is the challenge of working in a corporate setting.
Scott Baradell: Yeah, or just working for somebody else in general can be like that.
Jason Treu: That’s true.
Scott Baradell: And at PageNet, I was there for six years. They had three very different regimes during that six years, or three different CEOs. And the first CEO, I was enjoying it there. The second CEO, everything changed a lot. I was looking and ended up not taking anything. And then another CEO came in, he’s the one who sent me to get the MBA. It was totally changing, but ultimately yeah, in a sense, a lot of things are in someone else’s hands. And I think why a lot of people end up going out on their own and becoming an entrepreneur is that they want to have more control over those things.
Jason Treu: Did you have any mentors through this period of time in your life? From growing up til where you were at when you decided to leave the corporate setting, did you have any people? Someone that you went to, to get advice from or bounce ideas off of from or were modeling after or something?
Scott Baradell: I don’t think so. I mean, I had known some people that were contractors or freelancers, but no one who would had started an agency or anything. I knew that like, my dad was an architect, but he worked for a small architecture firm, and he would just come home just so exasperated about his boss and stuff. And he was always gonna be like, “I’m gonna buy it out.” I saw that, but he was never able to do that.
Jason Treu: Did that have any effect on you?
Scott Baradell: In retrospect, yeah. He was a very shy person, extremely introverted, painfully so. Very smart and talented as an architect, but he could never sell or some of the other things you need to do in business. So it probably made … I know I’m naturally introverted as well, but-
Jason Treu: You have extroverted tendencies then though, more or do you do it out of-
Scott Baradell: I do it because –
Jason Treu: You have to?
Scott Baradell: I learned to do it because it helped me to get things that I wanted in life, in terms of things that I enjoy doing. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. And early on for example, in corporate jobs, I was a very good writer. I loved writing, but I realized that would only get you so far in a corporate job. You’re setting a low ceiling for yourself. You have to be able to persuade people.
Jason Treu: Do you have any advice for people that are introverted when it comes to things like that? Because a lot of times people that are introverted believe that asking for things, and taking on some extroverted tendencies at times, is really outside their comfort zone and something that they don’t want to do, don’t know how to do. What advice would you give to someone who’s in a situation like that? Who feels like their voice isn’t being heard or they’re not able to really express themselves.
Scott Baradell: Well, I think there’s a difference between being introverted, and being painfully shy or awkwardly shy. Because I’ve been both and I know the difference. The best definition I’ve heard of introvert versus extrovert is that an introvert is someone who, they go to a party or they go network or they go do this, and they can go and do a great job of doing what they’re trying to do in that setting, but when they leave, they’re exhausted. You know?
Jason Treu: Yes.
Scott Baradell: They’re completely exhausted. The extrovert does that and they come out and they’re like, “Well, what do we do next?” Because they were so pumped up, it gave them energy, whereas with an introvert, it takes your energy.
Jason Treu: Yes.
Scott Baradell: I understand that about myself, so I just need time to recharge. One thing that I do every day just about, is I go to lunch by myself, and just recharge. I’ve got four kids. Nine and under. So I’ve got family, business, people have needs, I’m talking to people, and I’m trying to help solve problems and things here. But if I don’t have that time to recharge, then I’m gonna be useless to everyone. I mean, I literally was always the type of person that could spend a whole weekend by myself and have a great time. Just go biking, watch a movie. I was completely fine with that. So to be … I’ve found myself in the situation, which I love, of having a family and this business and everything, I just have to remember that I will not be able to do it, if I don’t-
Jason Treu: The managing you’re time?
Scott Baradell: If I don’t carve out time with myself, –
Jason Treu: Is important. And carve out that time.
Scott Baradell: Like my wife needs to go out with her friends. I’m like, “You do that. I just need to be completely by myself for this period of time or I will have a meltdown.”
Jason Treu: And, it’s communicating with those around you, that you need that. Right?
Scott Baradell: Yeah.
Jason Treu: Not just doing it. It’s also telling people that it’s a requirement for me in my life in order to be successful and happen, is to carve out some time where I have to spend it by myself. Not because I don’t want to be around you, but that’s just who I am.
Scott Baradell: Right. So I would say in terms of being introverted, I would say that you’ve got an agency where most of the people are introverts. You don’t think about it with PR, but you’ve got a lot of people who are really smart and into B2B tech, and then most of our leaders, I would say, are introverts, but they’re not painfully shy. They learn to do what they need to do in business and communications to be effective. That’s a different challenge. So I would say that for someone who’s painfully shy … So I had tremendous fear of speaking where-
Jason Treu: How’d you move beyond that then?
Scott Baradell: First with medication. Seriously. No seriously, I literally … When I started getting asked to speak, back when … Well a little bit when I was at PageNet this wireless had taken off so much, but mostly when I started my blog, I would get asked to speak at events. And it was literally one of those things where your heart is coming out of your chest, you’ve got all of these physical symptoms. You can’t think about anything else. You cannot think straight because of this.
And so, my doctor told me about beta blockers, which are something, these little pills you can take. Propanolol. Tongue twister. It’s generic, it costs $10 at the pharmacy, and so I would just pop one before I spoke. It calms all those physical symptoms and allowed me to, not do great, but at lest be able to think straight so that I could go through it. I’d still be reading too much and all these things that bad speakers do, but at least I could get through it. And then from that point, I think it was repetition to where at a certain point, I didn’t need the beta blockers anymore. I had done it enough that I felt comfortable with it.
So I think ultimately where I’ve … The advice I’d give people, firstly, I’ve sent people to groups like Toastmasters and these kind of groups that will help you. Communispond is a group that I think is still around that I’ve done and had people do training with on speaking and communications and things, but ultimately for me, and why just for me personally, it’s much easier to start a business at this stage in my life rather than earlier, I’m someone who really needs to feel mastery over things before I can speak confidently about them. Not everyone’s like that. I’m not saying that’s ideal. I don’t think you should need that. That’s a pretty high bar. I’m also not saying that I know everything because I’m constantly learning and realizing things I need to learn, but over time, particularly things we do as an agency, I’ve learned a lot. I know a lot. And because of that, it’s been like, “You know a lot of this stuff. Why aren’t you sharing it?”
And particularly when you get out of this corporate setting where you’re going to make a recommendation to the CEO and you’re like, “Oh, is he gonna get mad and fire me or whatever?” I have the freedom, since I’m a consultant or I have an agency, it’s like, “You came to me for advice. And if the advice is what you’re doing is all wrong, and I think it’s a terrible idea what you want to do, and here’s what you need to do and here’s why.” Being in this environment gives me the freedom to do that. I always hated, when I was at corporate side, when I had to head these agencies, it was just like going to the psychologist. The person at the agency, I’d say, “What do you think about this?” They’d say, “What do you think?” It’s like, “What do you think we should do?” “Well, what do you think we should do?” It was always like, “Hmm I’m just gonna tell you what I think is gonna get us our retainer for one more month.” As opposed to, “You know what? I’m gonna tell you what I think is best for you and if you don’t like it, I’m gonna tell you why I think you’re wrong, and if you don’t like it, well, okay.”-
Jason Treu: Isn’t that the glue that builds great relationships-
Scott Baradell: It should be.
Jason Treu: Because it’s a trust. Right?
Scott Baradell: Yeah.
Jason Treu: Because it’s trust and authenticity. Because that’s what people want the most, otherwise, you’re not really giving someone counsel.
Scott Baradell: They say they want it, but some clients don’t want it.
Jason Treu: Well, it’s true.
Scott Baradell: And if clients don’t want it, I’ll do one of two things. We’ll just put some junior people on with the relationship and have them just do some tactical [inaudible 00:33:08] or we’ll cut ties altogether. Because what we do, and what we do as a group with the full breadth of everyone we have here, is we’ve assembled a lot of talented expertise that is being wasted if you’re looking for arms and legs. We charge too much to be arms and legs for anybody. So if you’re not gonna listen to our advice, and by the way, it doesn’t just come off the cuff. We have a methodology and we do lots of research with your buyers, methodology for research within your industry, and of your competitors and it works.
Jason Treu: That builds your clients as raving fans, which then is much easier to get more clients over time because they’re huge advocates for you, especially if someone decides to do a client reference. They’re getting people who are much more excited about you and telling a story, which is way different than someone who’s telling someone else what they want to hear. Right?
Scott Baradell: Yeah. No. Exactly.
Jason Treu: A much more deep, passionate story about someone. And so that actually allows you to be way more successful, and the people here to be able to find their own purpose and their own passion and determination. Because working for people, where that’s something that matters.
Scott Baradell: Right. And if you don’t do it that way, insist on having that higher strategic value, you become a time and materials shop, and you’re putting a low ceiling on what your value is.
Jason Treu: Because you don’t have boundaries.
Scott Baradell: Yeah. I think about what my dad could’ve achieved with all his talents and abilities if he hadn’t been hindered so much by his shyness and-
Jason Treu: Why do you think he didn’t take the steps that you ended up taking? I think that’s important for people because we’re trying to share mastery on here. And your dad was obviously a smart person and he was successful, but where you took shyness and then just took it head on and said, “I don’t want to do this, but I’m gonna do this because I need to.” He didn’t and, in a sense, that was wasted talent.
Scott Baradell: I don’t know. Maybe he just didn’t have … I think it was a different era. I think it’s easier now to self-diagnose an issue, and try to tackle it than it was back like in the 1970s. You didn’t have, I think, the sources of information. Even if –
Jason Treu: You mean a support system?
Scott Baradell: Yeah. I don’t think he did. I think that today if you … Also, I think today, beyond his situation, today, increasingly, you have to have powers of persuasion to be successful at a level beyond what was the case back then. I’ll give you one example, which is one client I worked with early on, when I started, was a historic photography agency out of New York, called Black Star. They brought interesting digression is that Life Magazine, you may recall, was famous for its photojournalism from the 1930s and 1940s. What a lot of people don’t know is this great photojournalism, if you have any of these old Life Magazine coffee table books, there was nothing like that. I mean it was the golden era of photojournalism. Most of that or much of that photography was done by German Jews who had fled Germany. Because the first, the precursor to Life Magazine were some photojournalism magazines and publications that were coming up in Germany, produced by German Jews, and they fled.
They brought that to the U.S. but they couldn’t go to Life Magazine and ask for a job, because they couldn’t speak English. And so, Mike had a client that’s been around since 1935, called Black Star. And they translated, they literally had some businessmen who were Jewish, who could speak German and English, and they were an intermediary.
Jason Treu: Interesting.
Scott Baradell: They were the first big photo agency, and supplying Life Magazine and all the big news outlets back in the day with just great photography. Well, in any case, that has been family owned for decades and decades and decades. Obviously a lot has changed, they’ve gone through different modes, and different ways of just kind of recreating themselves. But back in 2006, I guess one of the execs there was reading my blog and contacted me, and wanted me to create a blog for them. We conceived it as a guest book where photographers would be solicited for write for it.
All of that brings me back to the original point, which was it was a time when all these newspaper photographers who had been in these comfy staff photographer positions, in a matter of two or three years, they all lost their jobs. I mean, newspapers and magazines, they … I mean, staff photographers, that became an endangered species in a very short period of time. All of these photographers are like, “Oh, I just like to take pictures. I don’t want to … I’m not a business person.” Well, suddenly they’re on the street and they’re like, “How do I make a living?” And there was no other job for them. So what this blog ended up being about, principally, was how to make it. In other words, you had to have these powers of persuasion. You had to be … Go become a wedding photographer. How to do that? How to go get business that way or whatever other paths it was gonna require you to not just wait for someone to say, “Here’s your assignment. Go take this picture,” because that model had exploded.
And I just think in general, if you look at sector, by sector, by sector of the economy, whether you’re a writer or whatever you are, you just can’t expect to go find a job somewhere and blend into the woodwork. You have to be an advocate for yourself and often you have to go out and get your own business.
Jason Treu: What would you recommend is like the maybe top couple of things when being persuasive that people would need to keep in mind, or try to master or learn?
Scott Baradell: Well, I think there’s different ways of going about it. I was watching The Founder last night. Have you seen that? The Ray Kroc story.
Jason Treu: Yes.
Scott Baradell: And that’s one way to go about it. Ray Kroc, for those who don’t know, he was very persuasive, right? He was a very dishonest business person. He screwed out –
Jason Treu: MacDonald’s, yeah.
Scott Baradell: He screwed over … Yeah. Ray Kroc was the person who found the original MacDonald’s restaurant, which was created by two brothers, Mack and Jim MacDonald. They came up with this conveyor belt system. None of that had existed before. He came in and took it and as a great salesperson of the time, blew it out. But he ultimately ended up swindling these guys and stealing MacDonald’s and even their name out from under them. They couldn’t even use their own name for the restaurant after that. So it was a story of a kind of a ruthless capitalist, ruthless business person, and he was obviously able to persuade but that doesn’t work for me.
I mean, I feel like you persuade with knowledge and honesty, transparency. I know there’s all kinds of different ways to persuade.
Jason Treu: What do you mean by knowledge? Do you mean you need to master-
Scott Baradell: I mean you need to know what you’re talking about, because people are pretty good about spotting when someone is full of it. Not always, as we’ve learned, but I think that being confident about what you know, honest about what you don’t and just being direct with people but not in a way that’s ever insulting or hurtful or condescending. I don’t know. It’s just kind of a … To me, I didn’t have a magic formula for it. It’s just something that I kind of learned over time. Because I started out in a reporting role where you had to get information out of people, and sometimes it was confrontational. And sometimes, because of the nature of the job, you felt a little manipulative. Those are some things I didn’t really like about being a newspaper reporter.
Anyways, over time, I just found a style that worked for me. But I would say that … What people have told me … Because I end up basically being the salesperson for Idea Grove most of the time. I’ve had help from folks here from time to time but never a full time person that just does that. And I’m not a naturally good salesperson because I’m kind of all over the map. But they sense a natural enthusiasm, so I think you need enthusiasm too. I think people can usually tell when it’s real as opposed to rehearsed or, “I’m just showing this enthusiasm because I’m enthusiastic about getting your money.” No, I’m enthusiastic just about what we’re doing and how it can help you.
Or in our case, since we work in B2B tech and a lot of these industries are very complex, and even people that work at these companies, a lot of times think they’re boring. A lot of times I’ll just start talking with a company and 80% of the conversation will be asking them about them, and I’ll find something in there, or someone else here on the team, finds something in there that is just fascinating to me, and I just start probing on that. And sometimes, it’s just something they just never even thought about. And they realize, “Oh, you’re already doing what you’re saying, you’re gonna do for us, which is to find those compelling stories and narratives and then go blow them out. Go tell people.” That’s just kind of the combination of things.
Jason Treu: Which is key, because being persuasive for you is having knowledge about it, really understanding it. Being able to be honest with people, and then being able to be enthusiastic about it. And all that, underlies, is building trust with someone, so you can really be direct and have a real conversation. I think that’s what they want in business. And I think the other part, which you mentioned is the listing part is so important. That’s what people don’t do because that builds a lot of likeability. And also, people don’t listen because they’re too busy talking and then you can’t really help people because you don’t understand them, where they’re coming from. You can’t show empathy. And in a situation like that, you can do both, because you can pull out the nuggets. That came from all of your history of storytelling, of putting all these stories together, of being inquisitive, so that’s like a natural strength. So if you can get in there and listen, I mean that’s when you shine the most. And you’ve been training your whole life at that point, when you get that level of interaction.
Scott Baradell: Yeah. There’s that whole thing. They talk about people who are not listening, they’re just waiting for their chance to talk. And so, we all fall into that, I’m guilty of it sometimes, everybody is. But it’s something I try to help the kids with because kids naturally do that. A funny thing happened last night and my wife got so mad. Because my daughter, tell on her a little bit. We had our nanny who helps us was going through some stuff. Car trouble and different things. So Mary was going through the whole story with my daughter about this and the car, and then Juliette was listening to all this. She was listening and then she say’s, “Well, am I gonna get to dance practice tomorrow?” Wait a minute. You just got this whole story about all this stuff that nanny’s having to deal with and your response is, “Well, is she gonna take me to dance practice or not?” I think people are like that. You don’t have to be nine to make that mistake.
Jason Treu: Yes.
Scott Baradell: It happens all the time. “Am I getting to dance? What about me?”
Jason Treu: So I want to get back to talking about how you started this agency. Because it’s easy to see you now, big agency, really successful. But you started this basically out of your basement in your house. I mean, you didn’t have any clients to start with. How did this whole genesis come about? And also, it was being an entrepreneur, and how did you figure out that you wanted to do that? Because it didn’t really sound like before, not really been an entrepreneur. I guess in some sense it’s being a journalist. You’re having to investigate and get your foot on the ground but not, isn’t starting a business.
Scott Baradell: Yeah. Honestly the truth is I just kind of fell into a little bit because having not ever worked in an agency, I didn’t know what to expect. What it was like, except for being on the corporate side and having agencies that I worked with. I had an agency in Dallas that was annual report vendor at Belo and did some other kind of work for us, called Eisenberg and Associates. Arthur Eisenberg and Rub Huckels, who later came to work with me at Idea Grove, Amy Miller, who we just brought on as our digital contractor, started off at Eisenberg.
When I left, they were my thread to get started. I didn’t really know how to get started. I just knew I wanted to try something else. I didn’t just want to go in for another corporate job. I decided to try not to look just into … Other things happen. The tail end at Belo, my mom got sick and passed away. So I was in Virginia for over a month just being with her. That’s one of those situations where you take stock, of course.
Jason Treu: Your mortality. You look at your own mortality in a new way.
Scott Baradell: What’s important.
Jason Treu: What’s important.
Scott Baradell: You think about a lot of things.
Jason Treu: What conclusions did you come to? All these things happening at once. Because often it’s a confluence of moments or hitting a rock bottom that starts us on a new trajectory, and a new path. What was going through your head, and what emotions were you feeling?
Scott Baradell: Well, anyone whose mother’s passed away, there’s nothing quite like that. We all go through it at some point. And I think, I guess, you are … It just puts you in a more … Not everyone reacts, obviously, in the same way to everything but it puts you in a more open place to not staying in the same patterns that you’re in or doing the same things you were doing. So, I also didn’t feel like I was ready to. I think when after that, I didn’t feel this urgency, “I have to get a bunch of clients.” Or all of that. Financially, that wasn’t great because I was going through savings.
But I just didn’t feel mentally or emotionally right. I kind of wanted to not be working or … at that point. So it kind of gave me space to think and to do that. I took my time with it a little bit. I let things come to me. That’s kind of been my story in a lot of ways, is letting things come to me. And so, Eisenberg, I told them, “Hey, I’m around.” They knew I did all the writing when we worked together, so they said, “Would you like to be a contract for us? Do some writing?” So, I just wrote for a couple of clients. One those clients, one of those clients, BancTec, which is still around, worked with us off and on for many years. It was bought recently by a company called SourceHOV. They’re a BPO company. They contacted me about doing PR for them because they really liked the … We hadn’t worked before at all, and I didn’t know anybody there, but they really liked the writing that I had done on this project I had done for Eisenberg. That led to my first PR retainer. PR and writing. I was doing PR. Most of my clients I was doing PR and writing-
Jason Treu: And you led with your strength at that time to being copywriting?
Scott Baradell: Right.
Jason Treu: Right. Because it was your strength, so that was actually, naturally a deal. Because you got to show who you were, and express yourself with what the talent you had mastered for a long time.
Scott Baradell: And I tied that to something greater, which was substance. Because one of the things that drove me crazy about agencies, is they didn’t ever learn your business well enough to write about it well. I hated that. I hated that literally every agency that I ever worked with, including some that I really liked and I have good friends from them, but they never were able with their business models or whatever, I always took the writing back myself. I was like, “You go pitch.” Because I didn’t think, it wasn’t up to what it needed to be. And so, the first stake in the ground in terms of what I wanted to do, was I wasn’t gonna take the client if I wasn’t doing their writing. So from BancTec from the beginning, I was doing their PR but I was writing their white papers. I was writing their sales kits. I was doing this for them because I saw how those things fit together. The storytelling, and what you take to the media.
And I think that, it’s never been my favorite thing to pitch to the media, but I always thought everyone talks and thinks, thought who you take to lunch and who you schmooze with. I thought it was about who you go to a story with. I had a lot of relationships in journalism because I was one. But the first time you go to a friend of yours and pitch him a crappy story, they’re gonna feel like you’re taking advantage of them. If you pitch a good story to someone who doesn’t know you, they’re gonna get to know you. That’s what, again, I just led with that, what I like doing.
And then, about that same time, in February 2005, right after I started, I started my blog. And literally within six months, I was getting leads. Business leads through the blog. It would be a little bit here and there. Early clients, I might be getting $2,000 a month from a plastic surgeon or this or that. But little by little, I got up to just a good living where I was making as much or more as my executive job at Belo. Very happy doing that.
I did that for five years. Just working, actually, we had a one and a half story house, and the top half story was my office, so I did that for five years. I just at a certain point decided, “Gosh darn it. I really have enjoyed this but I’m kind of maxed out. I’m spending as many hours as a day that I can doing this and because it’s just me, I’m having to do it all myself. And so, do I want to be doing this in another 10 years? It might get a little boring and I think I kind of topped out in terms of what I can charge for this.” Unless I wanted to take myself to a place of being just some high level consultant, I like doing the work though. I always like doing the work.
So I met with my friend Rob Huckels from Eisenberg days, and we basically partnered up. I brought him in to help me take Idea Grove to the next level where we could open an office and start to hire people and stuff. Because his expertise was in operations and new business development, managing people, and I wanted to focus on the work and the business model.
Jason Treu: Which is a great separation, because a lot of times when people partner, they partner for the wrong reasons and they don’t partner with someone with complimentary strengths. You found someone that actually had the strengths you didn’t have. And then you could focus on yours and he could focus on what he was doing, and then you could end up growing this business successfully. There’s always overlap at some level, but it seems like very little on where your core expertise is going to lie.
Scott Baradell: Right, it’s like those are opportunities that come up that you have to identify and grasp. I don’t know if I hadn’t recognized that … Because he had just gotten out of a job and he was thinking about going out on his own. So I said, “You know what?” As you said, “We’ve got complimentary skills.” I also saw just as I was doing PR and content together, and I’ve always done that, I saw the visual and web design integrated with that. And that was his background from Eisenberg, they were a design firm. That’s where for that integration started it from-
Jason Treu: But it goes with the relationship to. I think-
Scott Baradell: We trusted each other.
Jason Treu: … key piece of that is you’ve got to start building these relationships today because you never know where they’re gonna bear fruit. And it’s sort of like I tell people, “It’s like Johnny Appleseed. You’ve got to lay down a lot of seeds because you don’t know, which one is gonna sprout into a big tree. But at some point, it will.” And that’s what happened, if you hadn’t met him and spent the time with him, that opportunity and having him there wouldn’t have been. Because he wouldn’t have been around or trusted you enough to take that leap of faith in order to deal with you.
Scott Baradell: Right. That’s true. That’s kind of how we got started –
Jason Treu: Did you ever get, take any outside money or is this all bootstrapped?
Scott Baradell: No. I never did. To this day, we’ve never done any outbound marketing of any kind. So we’ve never spent a dollar on advertising or anything. So Idea Grove, you talk about eating our own dog food, every bit of business we’ve ever gotten, has been through referral or through people finding us online. Because we want search, online visibility.
Jason Treu: That’s been either through online marketing/PR however you want to … And non-paid?
Scott Baradell: Well, what happened just by accident, I’d love to say it was all planned. But there was a period of time in 2005-2006 when my blog was pretty popular. It was popular among other PR people and marketers who were blogging at the time, mostly. Just trying out this new thing and kind of feeling the potential of it. So I became really good friends with people like, Todd Defren, who had bought and really blew out Shift Communications that was recently bought last year. Very successful agency and he had come up with this thing that got him on the map about the social media press release, and just different things like that. It was all just kind of Petri dish kind of thing. It was fun but the blog got popular, and as a result, if you start searching for things like Dallas PR firms, Idea Grove just popped up at the top of the list over all the big agencies in town, and I started getting calls.
I knew enough to slap Title Tags on my home page that said, “Dallas PR Firm” but a lot of it just happened from producing content that was getting links. Because we were getting links from Gawker, Huffington Post, Time. I mean, literally, it was early days and the blog was popular.
Jason Treu: What do you think about blogging today?
Scott Baradell: Preferably not only extremely relevant, hyper-relevant. We tell all our clients to get as focused as possible on who you’re going after. You do not have to go with … If someone asked you what your target vertical is, do not say all of them. Pick one. Pick two. Don’t pick six. Because it’s just not gonna work unless you’re a really, really big company with a massive marketing budgeting. So pick your battles, pick where you’re gonna focus and then if you can do things like … It’s really easy to … There are organizations that … I’m not talking about Survey Monkey, I’m talking about organizations that you can do panel surveys to come up with stories that are databased, because there is so much content out there.
The biggest problem with blogging is a bunch of useless crap out there. There’s literally millions of articles and you don’t want to be a part of that. Six tips to blah, blah, blah. Or the three biggest mistakes and how to avoid them. How many times have people seen all these now. Dig into your subject matter in a level of detail where that small group of people, in many cases that’s the case to detect, that are interested in that, will come back. And if you will just invest a little bit in having some original data and some things, to give that content value beyond, “This is what I think.” Then you’ll get traction. I think blogging is very valuable. I would say it’s very difficult with the blog to do what you could do 10 years ago, just because it’s so heavily saturated. What everyone needs to be doing is looking at the next thing.
Jason Treu: And what is the next thing right now for people to do? Especially in B2B communications or technology, where is the next forefront that’s really opening up that people should start looking in, investing in, trying out?
Scott Baradell: Well, I think it’s different for different business. I’ll just give you an example or two. But so for us, overall, I would say that the biggest single change is we integrate visual into everything. When we design some … Whatever we do, our content folks and our creatives, it’s like Lennon/McCartney. It’s words and music and it really has to be collaborative. You really can’t just throw much of the stock images out there. You have to have meaningful imagery, animation, video, that, to connect. Because it’s falling away from words, your words have to be … You have to be very concise in your choice of words and purposeful in a way I don’t think you had to be before in the same way. And so, I think just this kind of embracing all of it to tell your story has been a huge trend.
But I was gonna say the same way that the blogging is saturated, you can say obviously the same thing about email marketing. To use that example, email open rates are not what they used to be. They’re not today on average what they were a year ago. And a year ago they aren’t what they were two years ago. So we have to look at that, that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing email marketing. You just have to realize that as an arrow in your quiver, it’s not as powerful as it was. More and more people are using messaging to communicate rather than email. So, whether that’s … I mean, take your pick from all the different messages from Snapchat to tools for better being used in business, the amount of communications that are happening in that way, versus through email, that’s the shift.
So I think right now, there’s huge opportunity for marketers to figure out how to get in there. Because if you can get in there early before everyone’s figured it out, you’re gonna have that first mover or early mover advantage. And so, I just think that every new thing that comes out, there’s so many. That’s the challenge. You can make a bad choice. That’s why everyone wants to stick to Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. But a lot of companies invested big in Google +, and now they’re thinking, “Why did I invest a lot in Google +” for example.
Well, that’s just part of the deal. I made lots of bad investments. I didn’t have a ton of money to invest, but when I was trying to figure out … I’ll just give you one example. I was very late to Twitter. Using myself, I say very late. I got on in 2008. But for me, I think that’s what it was. All the geeks that were in blogging with me in 2005, I know that most of them were on Twitter a year before I was. I just resisted. “I don’t need another thing.” I also didn’t really like Facebook, because Facebook started behind a wall. I was like, “Well it’s not even searchable. Why do I care about Facebook?” And then of course, as soon as they opened it up to search engines and opened it up to everybody, you’re like, “Wow.” It was instantly the most massive thing. And so there’s things like that, I guess. Compared to most agencies in Dallas we were early on, but I felt late on. Because the people that I was in contact with, were doing all these things.
But they also did, I had people invested a ton of time in things like Second Life. At the time, Second Life, this kind of virtual reality social network, and there were a lot of people. Big influence. So you were like, “This is gonna be the biggest thing.” Donald Trump will be sending his messages through Second Life. Well, it didn’t happen. That never happened. There have been a lot of those. I was a big fan of Digg, which of course went away and now it’s reddit. And at the same time there was another site that was hugely popular at the time. I’m friends with Drew Curtis, the founder, called FARK. It was this community that was male oriented, but this news sharing community. Drew actually ran for Governor of Kentucky, I don’t know, as an Independent. He didn’t do that well, but he was out there. He was a serious candidate. This was a fun site that had a ton of … Have you heard of FARK?
Jason Treu: I don’t think so.
Scott Baradell: It had huge traffic in like … It was a blog before there was a blog. But it was like a different kind of format for a Digg-like community. And as opposed to how a Digg or a reddit was formed … Actually it looked a little like reddit. It’s still out there. He hasn’t changed it much. It’s just in terms relative to what’s out there, he used to be an 800 pound gorilla in that space. So I decided, “you know what?” This was the same time that Twitter was coming up. “I’m going to create a FARK-like community for PR people and creatives and be sharing news of interest through this vehicle and start a community.” And I thought if I could build this community, that would have 10 times the impact that writing a blog was gonna have. Because I saw there were more and more people coming into blogging, and I saw with each blog I’m writing the relative impact was less, so I wanted to do that next thing.
So I invested, for me it was a lot. I invested probably $20,000 in to get this whole thing off the ground. I called it Spin Thicket at the time. It would just be this kind of quirky community but I was really trying to build some scale with it. I had some pretty influential folks who participated here and there. But I realized, “Gosh. It’s so hard to get to a scale with this.” So I really, I tried to create my own social community. Invested a lot of time and effort in it. Abandoned, basically in a lot of ways, the blog, to do that. And it failed. It failed. I had fun with it but I never build scale with it. You’ve got to be willing to try that. I didn’t get down and out about it. I was like, “Crap. I wasted my money but I learned from it.” You can’t always know, so I guess the answer to your question is you have to keep trying stuff.
Jason Treu: It’s trial.
Scott Baradell: I got very involved in Google + and then when I saw, “Hmm. Not best use of my time. Not best use of my clients’ money.” I’ve gone back and forth on things like Cwora. Cwora is one that came on gangbusters. It’s a natural thought leadership platform in social. And at first, it was all gangbusters, but it’s all linked in answers but then the answers went away. And now Cwora’s been able to get very high profile interviews with doing Cwora. It’s emerged. I believe it’s in the top 100 sites in the country now in the terms of visits. It’s something that’s always evolving. I think you need to be fluid in figuring out … Particularly since I have to be a steward of our clients.
Jason Treu: So part of it is really understanding what to do but when to kill it. I was listening and I’ve been listening to entrepreneurs and they say it’s more important, angel investors and VCs, to be able to figure out when to kill something, when then to actually move forward with it. Because the opportunity cost is actually higher-
Scott Baradell: It is. It’s like holding onto a stock. I’ve done that. I’ve had a stock that I kept thinking that I bought it at a point and then it went all the way to zero. I had a stock that went all the way to zero from a pretty good amount.
Jason Treu: I want to switch gears for a second and ask you a last question on leadership. You work with a lot of successful CEOs and other influencers, and have been around a lot of people. What do you think constitutes a great leader versus a good leader? What did they do that really separates them out from the rest? Because I look at a lot of people and try to figure out, “Okay, how can I take … ” one aspect’s taking my leadership ability to the highest level. What things do I need to be thinking about and embodying when I’m doing that. I think you have a pretty unique insight because you’re working with all of these people across a lot of industries for a long period of time, that have been in influential situations. And you’ve seen good, bad and best, and how would you characterize that? What advice would you give? Or things that you see that really stick out from people that are …?
Scott Baradell: Yeah. I guess I would say that you … The best leaders. Well, I think there’s leaders and managers. There’s leadership in terms of being a visionary or being able to make things happen. Understanding how to build a successful business. But leadership in terms of the people side, comes down to inspiring people to want to be part of what you’re doing. And that comes down to having a story that you’re telling too. They want to be part of that narrative of what you’re trying to do and why. Where you came from, and where you’re trying to go. And why something-
Jason Treu: How do you get someone to be a part of that narrative?
Scott Baradell: There’s persuasion. I’m Barrack Obama and I can … I’m the best speaker on the planet, and I can move people to tears with my words and make them feel, “I want to be part of that.” Then there’s that level of persuasion that I think George W. Bush was known to have. He wasn’t a very good speaker but he was known for being really good with people one on one. Really projecting a sincerity and not putting on airs and just being a guy, even though he came from a very wealthy family, a very powerful family, he was that when he was one on one. So forget the politics, different politicians, but both of those skills are incredibly important.
The newspaper I worked at in Virginia was the Lynchburg paper, so I got to know Jerry Falwell a little bit. And Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist Christian leader, he started the whole religious rite during the Reagan era. Hugely. I did stories, sometimes very critical stories about his university, Liberty University, which a lot of kids from Texas who are religious or conservative Baptists will go to, and he was always so nice to me. It didn’t matter what I wrote. And not only that, but everyone I ever talked to or the students at his school … And he at the time had over 10,000 or 20,000 students. I don’t know how many it is now or how much it exactly was then. He remembered all their names. He was one of those people who meets you and then he remembers your name. That builds. That’s a leader. Not everyone has just the capability of doing that.
But if you can balance being able to inspire and connect with people across a group and then take that to the one on one level that carries it through. I’ve seen so many leaders that will say words but when they’re with you they don’t seem to care or take an interest.
Jason Treu: Right. They sit in their office and they don’t walk around and get to know the people so they’re just sitting with their door closed or walking past you and not knowing who the people in the building are really.
Scott Baradell: That’s so meaningful. And I’m terrible … I mean, I’m like someone who’s opposite of Jerry Falwell. I’m terrible with names. I just forget those things. But when I’m face to face with someone, I honestly want to know how they’re doing. I want to know that people are happy here. And so when I think of great leaders that I’ve worked with, I was really, really liked the founder and chairman of PageNet. That ended up being a $1 billion company before they were bought and the paging industry went away of course. That was all in the 1990s. His name was George Parent. He got a lot of … He didn’t want media coverage. We mainly got coverage for the executives and for the company, it’s products. But he mostly got unwanted coverage for building the biggest house in Dallas. He was in D Magazine, all these places, and he didn’t like any of that.
So very wealthy, but you would never know it from talking to him. The kinds of things he would do, that I always remember is here’s a chairman of a $1 billion company and he’ll just walk in the break room while you’re in there. Just ask, what you’re doing, what you’re working on and actually listen and care.
And then things that I did, I made mistakes when I was trying to … I got him a speaking gig one time that involved him. He had to go to Boston, something like that. Speaking at this industry event and he hadn’t done it before, as a company he hadn’t. And when he came back I bumped into him in the halls and asked him how it went. He was saying all kinds of nice things and then he just kind of mentioned or I found out, there’s only about 12 people showed up. In other words, I had booked him at crappy event. It was not the best use of his time. But when he talked to me about it, he didn’t say a word about that. He said, he focused on the fact that, what I was doing and why and the intent behind it, and that he got that. So I don’t know, that stuff goes a long way. You don’t forget that stuff.
When someone tries to micromanage you or is overly critical, I just don’t think those things have ever had a great impact, but I think especially today. You just can’t treat people like that. They won’t take it. They’ll go somewhere else. They’ll go do something else. And before I started Idea Grove, PageNet is longer than I stayed anywhere. I was there six years.
Jason Treu: So how do you give people critical feedback that they need and not be a jerk? What would you do if you saw someone here that was doing something that needed to be corrected or improved upon? How would you give that feedback to that person?
Scott Baradell: Well, I think you can be honest without being hurtful. And I think what it really comes down to, preparation. Mental preparation about how you’re gonna deliver the message in such a way that shows that you’re trying to be protective of their feelings. That you’re not trying to be overly abrupt or that you’re … I think a lot of times it’s the empathy of realizing how would you want to be … How would you want to handle this? I’ve been fired before. I’ve been in situations where I’ve gotten in trouble before, or I’ve … Things were not really going well at work, and I’ve really spent a lot of time thinking about those things. I don’t always do it the right way. Believe me, since I hadn’t managed people in this way before, I made lots of mistakes, and so learning from them has helped me too.
But the bottom line is, I think people should … and the best manners I’ve had, have been people that, I guess, started with the assumption that I had good intent, and that what you’re doing by way of criticism is a way of helping. And if you could take it as that, then it’s a positive for everybody.
Even when we’ve had to terminate people, what I tell people, which I really believe, is just because it’s not working out here does not mean you can’t knock it out of the park somewhere else. We articulate these are the reasons why this just doesn’t seem to be working. These are the things you seem to be really good at. These are the things you want to do. In terms of where we’re going, there’s not an alignment. We’ve talked about in the past, this is the path to get to this place, but it’s not what you want to do. It doesn’t play to your strengths and so it’s probably best to part ways. Or it’s … Or you know what, I know you want a promotion but you’re not ready for it. And it’s not doing you any favors promoting you to a level that you’re not ready for. Here are the things that you need to do.
So I think, empathy, being specific and actually caring about the person and being protective of their feelings, I mean, I don’t think that’s a pansy thing. I think that’s just being human and it’s what people want today in a way that … It didn’t used to be that way but I don’t think that’s … Millennials get a lot of bad breaks. I don’t think millennials want anything that anyone doesn’t want today. I just think that, that’s how the workplace has evolved overall.
And there’s nothing wrong … that’s like people talk about being politically correct. Oh, politically correct, obviously you take everything too far, but really you’re just talking about being sensitive to other people’s feelings. That’s it. It’s not a big thing. Other people don’t see things the way you see, so maybe be inclusive about how you talk about things. Say, “Happy Holidays” because not everybody is celebrating the same holiday. This is not … it shouldn’t be a big wedge political issue because we’re just talking about caring about other people, and caring what they think too. It doesn’t mean what you think doesn’t matter, it just means what they think, matters too.
Jason Treu: And caring is a big element of trust. It’s also when you show that you care, you’re building a deeper trust with someone else, because you show you’re invested inside of them.
Well that’s fantastic. I want to thank you for being on the show. We’ve shared a lot of great insights, a lot of wonderful information that people can take action on and learn from. So how can people connect with you, find more about what you’re doing? I want to send them there and check out all your great work.
Scott Baradell: Well, unfortunately I have a personal site that I haven’t updated in a while, so I’m not even gonna mention that one. But if you go to ideagrove.com, that’s our website. That’s where we’re kind of updating what where doing as an agency. I don’t have a personal platform that I’m using right now. I only have my friends on Facebook. That’s where I … Facebook, Instagram, places like that. But the website, you can always connect with me on LinkedIn. I am active on LinkedIn. Mostly reading, rather than posting.
Jason Treu: We’ll have all those links in the show now, so everyone will have those.
Scott Baradell: I maintain a lot of relationships through LinkedIn, so that’s a good way to connect.
Jason Treu: Wonderful. Well, thanks a lot for being on the show with us today and joining in this great conversation. You can learn more on more podcasts with Executive Breakthroughs. And you can go to my website jasontreu.com. It’s jason t-r-e-u.com/podcasts, and you can see more episodes. So thanks for joining us today.
In This Episode:
- Why most people don’t listen, and how it ultimately can kill your business
- Learn the art of storytelling and how to do it
- Understand why your childhood and past plays a bigger role than you think about who you are today and why you do what you do
- Why sometimes you have to leap without a plan, and trust that it will come together
- What’s true leadership and how can you be the best leader you can be
- How to partner with someone, and to do it for the right reasons
- And more!
“But I think any place that you’re at, it’s all about the people you surround yourselves with.”
“Because it’s trust and authenticity. Because that’s what people want the most, otherwise, you’re not really giving someone counsel.”
“I just felt like I just had this moment when I was looking at Belo to another role, all the things that would have to work out. You have to like the industry. You have to like the work you’re gonna do. You have to have a story to tell, in PR anyway, in writing for a company. You have to like your boss. You have to get along with your colleagues. It’s really hard to … it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, to make all of those pieces fit. That’s what I was finding. And even if they do fit together at one moment, they can change in an instant.”
(One being an introvert) “I understand that about myself, so I just need time to recharge. One thing that I do every day just about, is I go to lunch by myself, and just recharge. Because if I don’t have that time to recharge, then I’m gonna be useless to everyone.”
We react and respond to the generation before us. I mean, in most cases, people have the same religion as their parents. They have the same politics as their parents. I mean, this is statistically true. But in other cases it’s the opposite reaction. You reject. There are a lot of people that are very anti-catholic because they were raised in catholic schools.”
“You have to know what you want. A lot of people don’t. I think that’s reality.”
“I love coming up with story ideas.”
“We ripe for something new in marketing. So I think right now, there’s huge opportunity for marketers to figure out how to get in there. Because if you can get in there early before everyone’s figured it out, you’re gonna have that first mover or early mover advantage.”
“As a small child, and I’m kind of reliving this through my daughter who’s nine now, because we have a lot in common in terms of what we were like at that age. She likes to draw a lot, and I was always sketching and drawing. And then at a certain point, maybe by junior high or middle school age, I just got more interested in writing. Reading, I was always more interested in current events, news. I was an early reader of the newspaper. I wasn’t a book reader, I never really got into fiction, but I really got into history, non-fiction, Time Magazine. I was one of these kids that was reading Time Magazine every week when it came in the mail, and I just enjoyed writing. And so I guess those interests led to going in the direction of journalism. So I was editor of the high school yearbook, and captain of the debate team. Those kind of … It evolved to that. It came from being interested in what was going on in the world and enjoyed writing.”
THANKS, SCOTT BARADELL!
If you enjoyed this session with Scott Baradell, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
- Scott Baradell – LinkedIn bio
- Idea Grove
- Time Life Magazine
- Ray Croc story (on McDonald’s)
- Belo Corporation
- Dallas Observer
- Dallas Morning News
Scott is the founder and president of Idea Grove, an integrated PR and marketing boutique for B2B technology companies. Idea Grove ranked as an Inc. 5000 company in 2015 and 2016.
Before founding Idea Grove as a solo consultancy in 2005, Scott gained significant experience as a communicator and leader at Fortune 1000 companies. Scott served from 2001 to 2004 as vice president of corporate communications for Belo Corp., a diversified media company with 2004 revenues of more than $1.5 billion. Prior to Belo, Scott served as vice president of corporate communications for PageNet, a wireless communications company with 1999 revenues of $1 billion.
Scott also co-founded Brightpod, a venture-funded technology consulting company acquired by InPhonic in 2001.
In addition to his executive experience, Scott, a former senior reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, is a distinguished writer. His writing has earned awards from the International Association of Business Communicators, Texas Public Relations Association, Associated Press Managing Editors of Texas, and Virginia Press Association, among other organizations.
Scott has an MBA from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia. He maintains an APR designation from the Public Relations Society of America.
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Jason Treu is an executive coach. He has "in the trenches experience" helping build a billion dollar company and working with many Fortune 100 companies. He's worked alongside well-known CEOs such as Steve Jobs, Mark Hurd (at HP), Mark Cuban, and many others. Through his coaching, his clients have met industry titans such as Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Peter Diamandis, Chris Anderson, and many others. He's also helped his clients create more than $1 billion dollars in wealth over the past three years and secure seats on influential boards such as TED and xPrize. His bestselling book, Social Wealth, the how-to-guide on building extraordinary business relationships that influence others, has sold more than 45,000 copies. He's been a featured guest on 500+ podcasts, radio and TV shows. Jason has his law degree and masters in communications from Syracuse University