MF 113 : Tom Schwab on Moving Forward with Masterminds, Mentors and Podcasts
Tom Schwab is an entrepreneur, speaker, founder of ‘Interview Valet‘ and author of ‘Podcast Guest Profits: Grow Your Business With a Targeted Interview Strategy‘ Today, Tom will share how masterminds and online connections can move you forward in a big way for your business or career.
Successes at a glance:
Former Naval officer and nuclear power plant engineer.
Built a business from local to national scale using inbound marketing.
2015 featured speaker at INBOUND, presenting for HubSpot.
Founder of Interview Valet, a company that specializes in connecting entrepreneurs and thought leaders to podcasts to help grow their businesses:
Created a highly effective podcast marketing system to turn listeners into leads; using principles of inbound marketing.
Setback failure or time when things fell apart:
Although, Tom started out as a nuclear engineer while in the Navy, as he shares in our conversation, he was always an entrepreneur at heart. However, Tom grew up in a small midwestern town without many entrepreneurial role models. Rather, the mindset was to go to school, get an education, and get a stable job afterward. This led Tom to the Naval Academy and sparked a 20-year career in the military. While Tom loved the Navy, the peak of his career in the 1990s was met w/ the fall of the Soviet Union and a renewed period of peace. As a result, Tom saw a lot of his colleagues’ careers cut short thru no fault of their own.
Tom transitioned into corporate America where he built up a company store distributorship. However, this too was cut short as the company wanted to buy back the store. As Tom candidly reflects, “while this sounds good,” it really meant that they wanted to “cut out the middleman.” This led Tom to make another transition and this time, it was towards his lifelong dream of being an entrepreneur.
Speaking w/ Tom, there is an undeniable enthusiasm and positive energy which includes his outlook on the setbacks that have occurred on his journey. Tom doesn’t look at these events as “failures” bc as he puts it, the word “failure” implies a hard stop. Instead, Tom sees life as successes and lessons. Reframing setbacks into lessons is what keeps Tom going and moving forward:
Important to this is a mindset shift that one of Tom’s mentors shared w/ him: when you hit a roadblock, “thank God that you did” bc the timing is usually ripe for a great lesson.
Case in point: when Tom started his business, he didn’t know about concepts of cash flow. Early on, he hit a point when the accounts receivable didn’t have enough cash to cover payroll! Looking back, Tom is grateful that this road bump and the accompanying lessons happened when they did bc if it had happened two years later, it would have been fatal to his business.
Moving Forward listeners: are business and entrepreneurship hard? Yes. Are there bumps along the way? Absolutely. But what keeps Tom moving forward is the mindset that he will not be stopped on his journey. That’s why he doesn’t use the word “failure.” It’s not easy to do this. We often have emotional, knee-jerk reactions to hitting those bumps in the road. But if you can discipline yourself and have the big picture perspective that there are lessons to help you grow but moreover, that it’s probably better you hit this obstacle now rather than later, then you will continue to move forward and in a big way.
Tom shares this bit of wisdom. Have great mentors in your life. Reframing failure is not easy for many of us. But if you have mentors that can guide you in this journey, ones that you can be transparent and vulnerable w/ then this will be much easier to achieve than doing it alone.
Remember, everyone starts somewhere. No one wrote the definitive guidebook on how to be a parent, a lawyer or an entrepreneur. As one of Tom’s Navy skippers once told him, “we’re making this up as we go along.” If you can remember that, you will not be so hard on yourself when you do stumble along the way.
The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:
As noted, Tom was an entrepreneur at heart but was led thru a long, winding career in the Navy and later, corporate America. Once the company bought out his store, he was essentially “forced” into entrepreneurship. Tom’s only regret is that he didn’t make this move decades earlier. Tom shares that he learned more in his first couple years on his own than he did while in nuclear power school!
The other big “aha” moments have come bc Tom has had great mentors. So how do you find a great mentor? It’s not as hard as it sounds. Tom puts it this way: “if you look for them, you’ll find them.” What does that mean exactly?
First, understand that w/ the age we live in, there’s no excuse for not connecting w/ people. In an era of social media, blogs, and podcasts, you have every channel imaginable to create amazing connections w/ people. Being solitary and ignorant only happens now if you proactively choose it.
Second, Tom shares this invaluable tip. To gain a great mentor, sometimes you have to give something first. Give great value. Tom’s earliest mentors were the people he worked for in high school. What was the secret to gaining great knowledge and wisdom from them? Simple. Work above and beyond expectations at whatever job he was doing. Now, apply this to you. You have skills, expertise, wisdom in areas that are of value, you just may not know it yet. Tom reminds us that “what’s ordinary to you is amazing to other people.” Maybe you’re a great editor, blogger, or copywriter, or perhaps you know Twitter and Instagram really well. Whatever your talent or gift is, it’s a source of value, even if you don’t know or think that it’s that extraordinary.
Third, “be open to ask[ing].” This calls back to Tom’s point about transparency. The worst thing you can do is pretend like you’re perfect and you know all the answers (hint: that’s a straight path to the solitary, ignorance state that we want to avoid). If you’re transparent, even vulnerable, you will gain trust and a truer connection. In contrast, pretending to have all the answers (when we don’t), will ruin people’s trust in you and you will neither receive nor give value.
Finally, the big “aha” moment is just coming to Tom now. It’s funny how we sometimes don’t realize how the pivots we make and the detours in our lives actually connect until much later. For me, I never thought that being a lawyer, actor or corporate trainer was anything more than uber-career wanderlust. It’s only recently, that I see the connective tissue in all of these experiences. Similarly, Tom has only recently started to see how his time working as an engineer, then later in ops management, sales and inbound marketing are all connected in the entrepreneurial stage of his life. Tom also reminds us that the choices we make are as important in understanding what we don’t want to do as much as what we do want to do. Tom knows he never wants to work in corporate America again. He can do just fine w/o working in a company w/ an HR dept, a legal dept and all of the red tape, bureaucracy that comes w/ it. But his time in corporate America provided Tom w/ skills, experiences, and wisdom that he is applying in his own business. Part of this is having the perspective that only comes w/ time. Moving Forward listeners, the most poignant lesson Tom shares is that there really is no overnight success. What looks like instant success may have 7 years of hard work, mistakes, pivots and career detours you never knew about or imagined.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Tom to move forward:
Masterminds: if you are not in one, Tom advises you to get into one! It’s where Tom finds inspiration, ideas, encouragement and a community filled w/ great connections.
Tom’s mastermind tip: you’re not necessarily looking for “like minded” people (you can find that at a bar) but rather people who share similar goals and aspirations. Part of the value of masterminds is that you can get different perspectives and wisdom in areas you may not be strong in.
Remember: you are the average of the people you spend time w/ so surround yourself, intentionally, w/ the people you aspire to be like. Technology makes this really easy!
Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
Rev.com: a transcription service ($1 / min) which Tom uses to transcribe his dictation into text which can then be edited and formatted into great blog posts! Perfect and ideal for those who prefer talking over writing.
How Tom recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
Connecting w/ other people, whether in-person or virtually. This gives Tom perspective and motivation to continue moving forward.
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Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:
Tom would share the worst business advice that he ever got from his grandfather (which in fairness is the only wrong thing that his grandfather ever told him): “choose carefully who you drink with because you can’t choose who you work with.” For Tom’s grandfather, a mechanic in a small town, this was his reality and sound advice. However, in this digital age, that advice no longer holds. You can now choose who your customers are. Consider that the internet gives us access to a billion+ people. You don’t need access to all of them; even a tiny percentage, a sliver of that is a huge customer base. Find those people who are your ideal customers and you’ll find business is a lot more fun, a lot more profitable, and sometimes hard to call it “work!”
Parting wisdom (in a few words):
“Share your brilliance!”