David C. Baker | The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Firms & Agencies Can Grow Today
Smart Business Revolution

David C. Baker is the Principal of ReCourses, Inc. He is an author, speaker, and advisor to entrepreneurial creatives worldwide. He has written five books, three of which focus on the central elements of the business of expertise: positioning, financial management, and leadership. 

David has worked with more than 900 firms, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, NY Times, USA Today, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Forbes, MarketingProfs, Businessweek, and CBS. His most recent book is The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth. He is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and also enjoys photography, teaching motorcycle racing, flying airplanes and helicopters, and custom woodworking.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by David C. Baker, the Principal of ReCourses, Inc., to discuss how companies pivoted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. David talks about the lessons he learned from concentrating on working with a few clients, shares his tips for success, and explains how new media and technology have been impacting businesses. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • David C. Baker talks about the thoughts he had when the pandemic hit in March 2020
  • The changes business owners made due to the pandemic and what the successful companies have been doing 
  • How David helped struggling clients pivot during the pandemic 
  • What David learned from working with a small concentration of clients
  • David explains how hiring, recruitment, and training have been affecting businesses
  • Will working from home impact compensation, and how could new media and technological changes affect business in 2022?
  • What David would talk about if he wrote a new book
  • David discusses his podcast, the peers he respects, and the types of services he provides

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

At Rise25, we’re committed to helping you connect with your Dream 100 referral partners, clients, and strategic partners through our done-for-you podcast solution. 

We’re a professional podcast production agency that makes creating a podcast effortless. Since 2009, our proven system has helped thousands of B2B businesses build strong relationships with referral partners, clients, and audiences without doing the hard work.

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The Rise25 podcasting solution is designed to help you build a profitable podcast. This requires a specific strategy, and we’ve got that down pat. We focus on making sure you have a direct path to ROI, which is the most important component. Plus, our podcast production company takes any heavy lifting of production and distribution off your plate.

We make distribution easy

We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.

Are you considering launching a podcast to acquire partnerships, clients, and referrals? Would you like to work with a podcast agency that wants you to win? 

Contact us now at [email protected] or book a call at rise25.com/bookcall.

Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we asked today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution. John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. Every week I talk to interesting and creative and successful CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies and organizations ranging from Netflix to Kinkos to YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, go check out our archives, lots of great episodes there. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest this week is David C. Baker. He is an author, a speaker, and advisor to entrepreneurial creatives worldwide, written five books, and advised 900 firms. He’s a bit of a slouch, let’s be honest, he noted conferences in 30 different countries, work has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, USA Today, Businessweek, Inc. Magazine. He is based in Nashville, Tennessee. His most recent book is The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth. 

And, you know, David, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. I’m excited to dive into some of these different topics with you. Because, you know, it’s been such a roller coaster ride these last 18 months. We’re recording this in October 2021. And, you know, I want to start with you by going back to March 2020, which is seared in all of our brains, the beginning of the pandemic. And it was such a pivotal turning point for so many entrepreneurial creative firms and agencies. But maybe not the way that they thought it actually turned out to be a positive for, at least for most of those agencies that are doing anything in a digital realm. But what did you think I’d love to climb into your brain and know what you thought when the you know, proverbial Shi T started to hit the fan in March of 2020. What did you, what were you thinking? 

David C. Baker 2:27

Oh, I remember being at a keynoting, a conference in New Orleans with some friends and with my podcast co-host. And this was in February. Nobody was wearing any masks, we kind of heard of things happening in different places. None of us were really worried. But it was kind of an interesting topic. And then we got back and then I went to work in New York City with a client. And the day I was there was the first confirmed case, I got back here. Early March, I worked with a client that flew in here the first confirmed case in the Nashville area. And I remember thinking, Okay, this is kind of serious. I remember sending a text message to my two kids. I didn’t even include my wife or my daughters in law. I just said, Alright, I’ve done some calculations, I think possibly between 102 150,000 People die. But even that seems so surreal. I just couldn’t picture that. And I didn’t want to be embarrassed. And I didn’t want to alarm anybody. So I just sent it to them. I had no idea there would be way more than that. But in March, I was not a very nervous person. But I was nervous. I thought, Well, this has been a fantastic ride. I’ve been doing this for 25 plus years now. And it’s over like this is not the ending I imagine. Because I was in some new country or city every week doing something before this. And of course, everything stopped. And it was six weeks. But I’d been through earlier times where things like this have happened. And I thought oh, this will probably get through or probably figured out then it kept going. And then I was like the last thing I need to be is bored. So I decided to do free webinars for 1000 people at a time just trying to talk them through, talk them off the ledge tell them to not do stupid, stupid stuff. Right.

John Corcoran 4:18

And at that point, did you feel confident talking people off the ledge? Has your confidence been restored?

David C. Baker 4:25

Yes, yes. For the firm’s that were run? Well, absolutely. I expected that about 30% of firms would fail, which was not a good projection, not nearly as it turned out to be a much better year than I was anticipating. But I was very confident in what I was telling them. I wasn’t confident that all of them would make

John Corcoran 4:47

Yeah. And obviously things changed as the situation evolved. And what ended up happening was more companies really realized that they needed to make changes, and they made investments. And what was that, like, take us through, you know, 2020, the spring of 2020, as you started to see companies you’ve worked with start to get busy.

David C. Baker 5:14

Yeah, it was so crazy. Because normally, when you’re advising somebody in a professional setting, or you’re talking to a kid or a friend, you’re saying, you really ought to think about this. And they’re thinking why and you’re saying, well, maybe this will happen, and they’re just looking at, you’re like, Oh, that’s not gonna happen, right. But here, we have the world changing right in front of us. And so it accelerated all of the revisioning that people had to do about their firms. And they had to think about everything. And so I was encouraging them to this, just rip the band aid off, don’t, don’t be hesitant about the deep changes that need to be made. And so almost all of the changes that people made during that time ended up being really good ones that they should have been doing anyway, right? There were a couple of little things that slipped under the radar, like they took a few clients that probably weren’t a great fit, because they felt desperate. But other than that, they were making the kind of decisions they should have made anyway, like the work from home thing, right? You know, most of these firms in this industry, they all work together in the same place. That’s part of the stick. It’s like, how do we be creative work together? That’s part of it. And then when they couldn’t do that, they had to rethink the whole thing. And now all of a sudden, they’re thinking, Oh, maybe this isn’t so bad. So it forced it to compress all the changes at one point. But meanwhile, it compressed all that change in a populace that hated each other. I was terrified. They didn’t trust people. So it was sort of an agonizing year for people in spite of all the great business results that they weren’t necessarily expecting. They were, they were thinking about, you know, it’s like being on vacation forever, but with no ability to go anywhere. And it just wasn’t very good on people’s psyche. So we don’t need any more upheaval for a while, I think we just need time to get used to the good thing, the way things are generally. I mean, it’s not great for not even thinking about all the death. But in terms of the businesses themselves, some businesses are doing really badly, the businesses in the segment that I serve, are doing really well the best they’ve done probably since, I don’t know, seven, eight years, something like

John Corcoran 7:22

that. Wow, amazing. And what is it that let’s focus on the ones that are doing really well? What is it about the decisions that they made, maybe without even anticipating that these are good decisions? But how did they set themselves up for success? If you look back on it now? Was it the fact that they were remote or that they had the ability to be remote? Or was it the fact that they were embracing digital? What were the things that were the underlying themes that made them successful now, I think it

David C. Baker 7:54

starts with the panic that everybody was feeling about new business. And so they didn’t all have the right answers. But they all were listening to them differently. And that forced a lot of firms to realize, Hey, I can’t build a marketing plan. On top of this positioning, this business strategy is too similar to everybody else out here, I’m going to need a different one. So that was a really good benefit of all of this, and the people who are willing to make tough choices, the required courage, and then build a marketing plan on top of it that has a direct connection with the firms that are doing well. I think to a lot of the results, the success comes from not what they did in the pandemic, but what they did before the pandemic in terms of running a business with strong fundamentals. So they had enough of a cash cushion. They had a strong management environment where the people trusted what was happening, and didn’t just discount it right away. And then I think the other area would be service offerings, they instead of just expanding service offerings, they doubled down on the most important ones. And so they transitioned away from traditional towards digital, you see, so many firms, the biggest shift in positioning is towards e-commerce, which obviously has a lot to do with what was happening in the economy at large. So they made a lot of really good decisions. And all of this solves them hung on to people too long. But it’s hard to fault them for something that’s motivated for the right reasons.

John Corcoran 9:27

And I want to ask about that piece. Labor because that’s one of the ripple effects is the labor shortage that a lot of companies are experiencing but before we get to that, I want to ask about companies that did have to pivot because it turns out they were in the wrong niche serving the right wrong client. Tell me where they’re serving restaurants. Or tell me Yeah, or maybe they were doing you know, marketing collateral that goes at conferences or something like that. Um, how did these companies pivot when they pivoted well and what did you advise them for those

David C. Baker 10:02

pivots? Well, the firm’s that were focused very heavily on the areas in the economy that were hit. So like travel, tourism, restaurants, hotels, airlines, they just abandoned that wholesale, and their business and they had to lay off a lot of people, they dropped about half of their revenue. Some of them were able to pivot really quickly away from it, and are even wondering if they should go back to it now that it’s getting stronger there. But there were very, very small percent of firms that were that were that were hit that hard. The ones that were in those spaces, they were devastated. Everybody else pretty much figured out like oh, okay, we’re not doing. We’re not doing the big sales Show in Las Vegas every year. But we still have to have a big sales meeting. Let’s figure out how to do it in other ways. And the revenue came it was just doing different things than they were used to doing.

John Corcoran 10:57

Yeah. And now, how much of this we had a business before utilis was the name of it, which had a client concentration, concentration problems in your words, where you had too much revenue coming from a small concentration of clients. And so you kind of had a, you know, a tough ride there, but put it in your words, what that experience was like, and then how that colored the experience of going through this and advising companies that were experiencing something similar?

David C. Baker 11:31

Yeah. It’s hard for me to think back. And remember, all the good decisions I made in running an earlier business? Couldn’t be that there weren’t many, right?