Do you know that writing is a key element of a brand? Do you know the difference between your personal and business brand? Today, Mary Lou Kayser will actively coach us through activities to help us focus and get clear about what we want next, as we lead our businesses. She is a writing and leadership coach, bestselling author, international podcast host, and the founder of The Book Revolution and the Play Your Position Podcast.
In this episode we discuss:
Josh Fonger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Work the System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems and I’m your host, Josh Fonger. Today we have a special guest. We have Mary Lou Kayser. Mary Lou, help professionals built a better business with the book. She is a writing and leadership coach, best selling author, international podcast host and the founder of The Book Revolution and the Player Position podcast. She loves the Oregon Ducks and spends time at a lake in Maine each summer. She has two children, lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. And I agree, it is quite nice, I use to live there myself. All right, Mary. Well, Mary Lou, I’m excited. I’m got. Podcast. Once you share a little bit about how you started on this journey to being an expert and writing books and coach?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:00:49] Great. Well, first of all, thank you for having me today. Josh, I really like your show. I like the message of work less using systems. So my origin story, ever since I was introduced to reading, I have been a fan of books. And the first time I can still remember distinctly holding a crayon in my hand. And there was just something magical about being able to produce words with my hand and a crayon. When I was five years old, my favorite game to play with my stuffed animals was a teacher and I used to make up tests and and assignments for those stuffed animals. And there was always reading and writing involved. I took to those two particular disciplines all through school. I became an English teacher. I worked at secondary and post-secondary levels for the first iteration of my career. And then, like a lot of people, when the second wave of the Internet started to take off around 2009-2010, I saw what Amazon was doing with self-publishing. And I thought, wow, this is going to change the way we do things for the forever. And I decided to align my passion for teaching and writing and books with a need that I saw in the marketplace. People were wanting to get their books out into the world. People were wanting to express themselves through writing and they didn’t want to go through the traditional publishing process, which can be a fairly lengthy process. And there’s nothing wrong with that process. But for, you know, nimble and agile entrepreneurs who want to get something done fairly quickly. Self-publishing on Amazon is the way to go. And so one thing led to another. And here I am today, twenty nineteen on the cusp of just about ready to launch another client’s book into the world. And it’s it’s just an amazing experience to watch a person go from having an idea or a concept up in their head to having a physical book that they can use not only to grow their business, but to affirm, hey, what I think about matters because no one can ever take a book away from you. That’s what’s really neat is a physical asset. And within that book writing sphere, as you’re talking about in the pre chat, I also work with people who just want to use writing to grow their business because there’s a lot of avenues to use great writing. It doesn’t have to necessarily be in a book. So that’s my story in a nutshell.
Josh Fonger: [00:03:29] Wow. So before we were talking, you mentioned this concept of everything is copy. You don’t mean that literally. So what what do you what do you mean by that; By that?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:03:39] So that’s a wonderful line from one of my literary and filmmaking heroes, the late Nora Ephron. She wrote the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve got mail and her belief was everything is copy. And if you think about it, you’re right. It’s not literally true. But as we’re going about our days and we’re tuned into the people around us, whether you’re spending time online or you’re out at your local coffee shop or lunch place and you’re just engaging with the human experience, everything that’s being fed into you can become material that can be either, you know, you can decide to use it to amplify your brand or your business, or you can say, well, this has nothing to do with what I’m building or creating over here. So what I mean by that, ultimately, Josh, is by becoming more aware of what are people talking about? What are people saying reading the threads of comments when a thought leader like, for example, Gary Vaynerchuk, when he put something out. People respond. And so by looking at words and copy and hearing words and copy, we can. Learn about where it is. What I’m doing fit in to this big picture. Yeah.
Josh Fonger: [00:05:06] So speaking of fitting into the big picture, you know, our audience is business owners and some of them have books. Some of them are thinking about writing books. A lot of them read books. How do you know when it’s time to take that leap? Is there like a certain insight or idea that you really need to have as powerful, or is it just you just decide to do it because you feel like it? Why would someone do this and what is the trigger point?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:05:30] Again, a great question. And I’m a firm believer that the trigger point is when the pain of not having a book becomes greater than the existence of being book lists. OK. So there has to be that point where you just can’t stand it anymore. You’ve got to get what’s in your head, what you’ve been teaching, what you’ve been training on, what your business story is. You’ve got to get it out into the book form. That’s that’s a simple answer.
Josh Fonger: [00:06:06] Yeah. So for some people who are, you know, their speakers or they know their business coaches or should I just for them, I think it makes a really clear sense. But I have some clients of mine who are dentists or orthodox or podiatrists or they’re kind of a medical field or wouldn’t have to be in that field? But they decide to write a book. Those feels like when when does it make sense for them to do it in a business way?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:06:32] Yeah, so a book is a book is something that it’s very personal, whether you’re doing it for business or you’re just doing it because it’s been on your bucket list. I mean, the statistics tell us. Eighty five percent of people say they want to write a book someday. Of that eighty five percent, a very, very small percentage actually follow through with it, because as you know, writing a book is it’s not something you do in a weekend. It’s not something you do in a day. It’s a commitment to a process. And there are a lot of different amazing and rewarding phases within that big project. So. I’m working with the woman I mentioned before who’s about ready to put her book out. This is not a book of, you know, specific self-help principles or her her thought leadership around a perhaps a specific topic like we’ll use your industry. You know what you’re in. Just systems, right? Systemisation. Well, we need. There’s a lot going on around systemisation. There’s a lot going on in the world around technology. And there are people who are truly experts in those fields. So the kind of book that they’re going to write is going to be very different from someone. Say we’ll just say a pediatrician, right, or dentist who may have a really great story, but it doesn’t fit into, you know, an obvious category in the business world. All the more reason to write a book, because, first of all, the end of the day, what we want more than anything else are good stories. OK, there’s a lot of amazing books that just go through. Bullet point, one bullet point to bullet point three. With the books, it really stay with us and feel like an accomplishment. Are the books where we’re telling a story? We’re telling a story about overcoming obstacles. We’re telling our own hero’s journey. Right. Why we were called to do what we do. I believe these days there’s a huge need for really strong stories by professionals who have done something for maybe an entire career or even 20 years. We are our next generation needs. Where are they learning? They need to learn from the stories of people who’ve come before them. So if I’m interested saying dentistry, yeah, I can go to all kinds of Web sites and read pretty generic posts about, you know, here’s this. The courses you need to study and everything. But what about the story of becoming a dentist? You know, that is a very different kind of book and has tremendous value.
Josh Fonger: [00:09:15] So the story of becoming. So this might lend to my next question, a lot of people, maybe you can tell me. People maybe they think they want write about a book; I didn’t realize there’s 85 percent, is a lot, but they feel like if I release a book, maybe no one will read it. It won’t be a bestseller. I’ll be embarrassed. So I should just not do am afraid to do it. Does it matter nowadays if a book is a bestseller or is it no longer relevant?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:09:42] Yeah, I’m I’m in the for anybody listening. Who’s familiar with Seth Godin? I’m in the Seth Godin camp of. All of those lists and those those titles there, those are triggers that make people pay attention, but at the end of the day, it’s not about that. It really isn’t. It’s about the accomplishment. It’s about the fact that you can say, I did this. It’s about the fact that people in your life are going to say, oh, my gosh, you wrote a book that is so incredible. In fact, I just put together a very short book and a friend came over the other day and she she just had a milestone birthday. And as part of her birthday gift, I want to give her a copy of the book. And she looked at and she says, oh, my gosh, Mary Lee, you did this. That’s validating that. There’s something about that. So if somebody is after, you know, bestseller status, there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, it’s a great it’s for some people that’s really important in the grand scheme of things. I think what’s most important is the fact that you can stand tall in the fact that you accomplished something that most people talk a lot about doing and actually never do.
Josh Fonger: [00:10:58] Well, this this will lead to the trail of thoughts. I know you focus a lot on personal brand and kind of building that personal image. So what are the components of the assets that go into building that right impression? If you want to know, manage your impression in the business world. So it is a book of key ingredient to that?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:11:21] It can be. But again, having a book is not it is not essential. It’s a nice to have, although there are some people that are beginning to say that if you are wanting to be a speaker, a top consultant, that a book is a is a must have. So there is a little bit of shift going on. And because self-publishing makes it easier to get a book into the world. I will say you want to make sure your book is quality. It’s important to invest the time into creating a quality book, not just putting anything out there for the sake of putting it out there. But to answer your question about, you know, impression management and personal brand, it starts a personal brand always starts with understanding what value do you offer the world. It’s really all about your value proposition. So businesses have services and products and can and can list. Here’s what my value proposition is. Here’s how I serve my customers. A personal brand is the same way. So whether you’re working for an organization as an employee, you do need to understand what is the value that you bring to the organization? How are you contributing to its growth, to its positive culture, to the overall experience that people have when they show up to that particular brand? If you are a solo practitioner or you’re an online business owner, it’s how are you showing up on the social platforms? What kinds of things are you sharing of other people’s work? Are you posting inspirational content or content that teaches? One of my my favorite online business owners and thought leaders is a man named Ramit Sethi. Some of your listeners may be familiar with him. He wrote, I will teach you to be rich and has built an entire business around that book. And there’s a great example. He started with the book. He actually started with an e-book. And then he wrote that book. And here he is ten years later with a multimillion dollar business. I bring him up in that he talks about we have to give away ninety five percent of our best work. Seth Godin says the same thing. You know, Josh, here you are podcasting. You’re giving away these conversations to your audience. You know, nobody pays for this, but there’s a lot of value to the guests that you bring on who are sharing our perspectives, our insights on what’s going on out there. And that’s all part of of developing a personal brand, is being ready and willing to share your time, your materials, without any expectation for a return. Be a giver, a servant leader. That’s a huge part of personal branding today, especially because we have so many choices now.
Josh Fonger: [00:14:19] Right. Oh, and the tools are so much easier, where it was fifteen years ago, you know, your personal brand might be seen by people within a ten mile radius. And now your personal brand is worldwide. So, OK. Very interesting. Was there a distinction so between personal brand and corporate brands? So if you do have a company with 20, 30 employees, is it important to separate and distinguish the two or your meld them together and make yourself into the brand of the business?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:14:47] Yeah. So a corporate brand, I think of brands like Nike, Apple, Amazon, right. Those have a very distinct people having a feel. I have a media association in their mind. They like them. They don’t like them. They associate certain words with them. You know, a lot of people associate quality and design with Apple, for example, Nike sent a really great job of the whole just do it. You know that tagline from the very get-go, a personal brand versus a corporate brand. Share some similarities at the end of the day. It’s Jeff Bezos said a personal brand is what people say you are when you’re not in the room. And that can be applied to a corporate brand as well. You know, if you’re sitting around happy hour with some friends and you start talking about different brands that you like, people may get into a debate. Is it? Do I like Adidas better? Do I like Nike better? You know, people in the same category here and in Portland, Oregon. There are a lot of independent coffee shops where because Portland as a city has a brand of creativity and a little bit weird. Right. That that’s part of it, too. So everything has a brand today. Cities have a brand. Neighborhoods have a brand. Schools have brands. Obviously, colleges and universities have brands. Corporations have brands. So. Part of showing up in the world, again, whether you’re an employee and you’re working for a brand or you’re an independent and it’s your own thing you’ve got to be thinking about and I’ll circle back to everything is copy is what is that and brand message that you’re sending into the world through the words that you speak, through the videos that you produce, through the posts that you make on social platforms or blog. If you’re a podcaster like you and like me, who are the guests that are coming on? Or if you do independent shows, what is the message that you’re sending? All of that all of that is going into a container called brand personal corporate. There’s just a lot of crossover.
Josh Fonger: [00:16:56] So what would someone do if they’ve never thought about brands? Let’s say they have you know, they have an SEO company. So they just do help companies with SEO or they have a hair salon and just whatever locally. And they never even thought about brand. I just think I just I do that this thing and this is my thing. I do it. What’s the first step? How do they kind of mind this? Stuff out of their brain. Does it actually write it down? or do they?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:17:24] Think so.
Josh Fonger: [00:17:25] Ok.
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:17:25] I think so. I think going through a process of writing down and it starts with a value proposition and and if it’s hard to think of that yourself, think about what do your customers say about you? That’s a great place to go, especially for an established business like the two you just gave as an example. You know, if I’m a hairdresser, you know, I think of my hairdresser. I’ve been going to her for 12 years. Well, what would I say about her if she was looking at doing a bigger push about branding? I would encourage her to ask her customers. Why do you like coming to see me? What is it about my service? You have your choice of. You could go in. I drive an hour from where I live to go see her. It’s not convenient for me, but I am loyal to her because she does an amazing job. She knows me. She knows my hair. She knows exactly what I want. I’m not willing to give that up. So sometimes starting with past clients or current customers with a simple question, what are three things that you value about working with me or. What are three words that you would use to describe my services? And then from there you can start to look for patterns and then out of those patterns can come a value proposition statement. There’s a really great book, Josh. And it’s not here at my desk, but it’s actually called Value Proposition, and it’s put together by an organization called Strategizer. You can get it on Amazon. And it is such an amazing look at how do you create a value proposition for your products or services. And it’s something that when I work with clients and even my book writing clients, we look at a book as a value proposition. So what is the value of this book going to be in the marketplace? We get very clear on that at the front end of the project, because that then dictates how the project is going to be engineered. We all know at the end of the day, there’s gonna be a physical book in their hands, but we got to work backwards from that to what’s actually going to be in that book and why. Why is it going to be out in the world? Who is it going to serve and what value does it bring the same way with the brand?
Josh Fonger: [00:19:46] I really like this idea of value propositions, not something you just sit by yourself in the corner trying to figure out, but you have to go to the market, people who know you. We’ve been working with you to kind of identify that because a lot of times people buy like this pipeline plenty places you get your haircut that would have the same shampoo, that get the same scissors, got the same hair dryers. But there’s something special about the person you go to or the brand you go to. And that’s where I think that’s where a lot of business sense if you want to make a lot more money with what you do. That’s the margin right there as your brand. People are willing to pay a lot more. Once you add that piece in, it’s not just a commodity. And then it’s a brand. And then that’s the X Factor, which which we do that. That’s very interesting. So I know it’s a core part of what you do and when you’re working with your clients has to do with leadership, but not so much that in the corporate sense. Maybe you could share some nuggets of wisdom on that for people who have if you hit a plateau in their life or business, you know, is it a leadership problem that they haven’t gotten beyond that?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:20:58] Absolutely, so when I talk about leadership, I’m talking about self leadership. Everything starts with with with you and not in an egotistical way, but in a universal way. You know, there 7+ billion people on the planet and each one of us is living out a story that is unique to us. And yet there are some universal milestones that we all experience and part of part of that human journey that this is an incredible experience that we’re all having right now at this particular time in the grand scheme of things. You know, it doesn’t matter what your belief system is, is the fact is that if you’re watching this or you’re listening to this right now, you exist. You exist in the world and you’ve got. Some just incredible opportunities to to serve. But where do you start? Right. Well, it’s got you got to go inside. You’ve got to look at who. Who are you? You know, there’s three questions. I just had the good fortune of working with a man named Steven Press Field. Some listeners may know him. He wrote the war of art. He wrote Turning Pro. He wrote, Do the work. The Artist’s Journey. He also has written fiction. The Legend of Bagger Vance was his very first novel, became a hit movie with Matt Damon. And here is a man who he’s like, he’s one of our sages. He’s one of our living sages. And he talks about. That the hardest question any of us has to answer in our life is who am I right? Why am I here? What am I doing? And that’s what I mean when I talk about leadership and it’s daunting. A lot of people just go, oh, my gosh, I don’t even want to go and go down that road because it’s it can be scary. It can be uncomfortable. They’ve never done it before. It doesn’t have to be, though. You can start with something pretty simple. You can just start with again, look to your past for some clues about where have you experienced where and when, if you experienced joy in it, maybe when you were a kid. Sometimes our greatest treasures of our life can be found in those memories of when we were like for me playing teacher with my stuffed animals. Right, or riding your bike. Or maybe you were a kid that built forts. For some people, their childhood wasn’t so great. And so they don’t want to go there. They want to go to maybe their early 20s, right. Where they’d completed maybe a higher education or they’d been out in the workforce. Some may have served in the military, but somewhere along those lines you’ve lived long enough where you can start to find the patterns. And I’m a big believer in patterns and themes. And that’s another thing that, again, when I’m working with people. We talk about what is your life being so far? And sometimes it can start with a song. So I’m just gonna throw this out there to your listeners. You could only pick one song to be your theme song for your life. What would that song be? Another way of thinking of that is if you were going to be speaking on a stage or addressing a crowd. What song would you want playing with? You walked out onto that stage. And that’s a really cool place to start thinking about again. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I here to give? What is the gift of me to give to this world?
Josh Fonger: [00:24:29] Wow, them some deep questions. I was thinking about right now.
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:24:32] I’m a deep person.
Josh Fonger: [00:24:34] Hopefully she doesn’t ask me those questions because I don’t know what I’d say. Well, it’s great, I think, but it’s to not do that is to just kind of squander your life in the public, to seek to go through the motions. And then actually that’s probably why you don’t ever show up and do something big in your life or write a book because you don’t know who you are really. And therefore you’re afraid to share that. And then you just kind of stay boxed up. And the business since, you’re gonna certainly stay plateaued and you’re not going to really get to that next level. Very interesting. So, I know we’re running low on time here. So I want to give you the floor for minute here. So what’s one question that I should have asked you, but didn’t you really want to make sure the audience has a chance to hear?
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:25:18] I feel like we got into some deep territory, which I wasn’t anticipating. Gosh, I guess, you know, I’m just going to dovetail to what we’re just talking about is courage people to, you know, give yourself the gift of time, even if it’s just half an hour in the next couple of days. You know, what do you still want to accomplish? You know, I guess that would be a question that you could you could have asked me is, you know, what’s next? What’s still on ahead? Because I’m certainly not done yet. Right. And you I think you captured really well. The reality for a lot of people is we get comfortable. We get into a lane that we’re familiar with and it’s meeting our basic needs. But we’re still there’s a scratch, right. Or there’s an itch that we haven’t scratched yet. And for some people, it is some kind of creative expression, like writing a book, maybe writing music. I just I was in Nashville a couple weeks ago and I got into a conversation with my Lyft driver. And here’s a guy driving Lyft. He’s a personal trainer and he has a decent business. But what he really wants to do is write music. And he shared with me, he said, you know, I’ve been working on some songs I’m like, keep doing it, keep that dream alive, you know, find find that thing that lights you up, even if it’s even if it’s just an hour a day or 30 minutes a day. You devote that time to something that really makes you feel alive. Then see what happens.
Josh Fonger: [00:26:52] Yeah, that’s great. I mean, as opposed to alternative surfing the Internet or watching TV. I mean.
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:26:58] Or scrolling Instagram for the millionth time. Know. Stop. Go on there once a day or twice a day and then, you know, engage a little bit and then take that 30 minutes for something. Something beautiful and real for you.
Josh Fonger: [00:27:17] Well goood, it’s been very inspiring, Mary Lou. And I want to give everyone a chance to find you. So where people go, if they want to find you, learn more. Possibly even write a book.
Mary Lou Kayser: [00:27:27] Yes. So the website is The Book Revolution dot com. And I’ve got I offer a free 15 minute consultation. Often ends up being an hour, but it’s easy to schedule. There’s no pressure. I love talking with people and just hearing. What are you thinking about? And you know, if I can be of service in any capacity, that’s why I’m here. So The Book Revolution dot com.
Josh Fonger: [00:27:54] All right. Very good. So everyone is listening to this. Watching this make sure to take her up on that offer. I’m sure a lot of fun working in Mary Lou. And she’s obviously a pro at doing this. And everyone who has enjoyed this podcast day to the next week where we will be sharing another podcast with you, another expert like Mary Lou or one of my previous guest or authors? And if you want to get a copy that book right there behind me, go to work the system dot com or you can leave us a review at any site you’re watching this or listening to this and send a copy or a picture of that review to info at work, the system dot com and we’ll be drawing out one name out of a hat every week and we mailing a copy right to your door. Everybody, we will see you next week.
To share the podcasts on social media, note the buttons below.