There are three reasons Matthew is transforming his business from a deliverables based agency to an expertise selling consultancy. We talk about becoming the bottleneck of knowledge, inspirational books and what customers REALLY want. But how is Matthew managing the transformation with this team members? Enjoyed this chat as so many people are worried about their team’s reaction when it comes time to save the business.
“Selling expertise vs hours is the difference between rolling a rock and pushing a rock”
Matthew Stibbe is an entrepreneur, writer, pilot and fully-qualified wine bore. As CEO of Articulate Marketing, he helps ambitious companies grow faster with modern marketing. Matthew is also the founder of Turbine and co-founder of Vincarta.
Max Traylor: Welcome back to a much better Beers with Max. I have Whirlpool from Night Shift Brewing. I'm coming off a few episodes drinking Bud Light Lime, and I couldn't be more disgusted with myself. So, here I am with redemption, ladies and gentlemen, and joining me is Matthew Stibbe. Now, Matthew was unable to get a beer. He has arrived beerless, but not without wit and charm and a glass of wine.
Matthew Stibbe: Well, I don't know. I've definitely got the glass of wine.
Max Traylor: Perfect. What are you drinking?
Matthew Stibbe: I am drinking a glass of 2015 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling, silver label, silver seal. We visited them a couple of years ago, my wife and I, we're wine snobs. And it's on the banks of the river Rhine and it's just beautiful. And this wine is beautiful. So, instead of alcohol free beer, I have beer free alcohol, so cheers.
Max Traylor: Now, this isn't going to be the subject for today's show, but you've got a bit of a wine business, do you not?
Matthew Stibbe: Yes, I do. I co-own with Mirella, my wife, an online wine shop called vincarta.com. We blog about wine and the wineries that we visit, and we're off to Bordeaux tomorrow. Very exciting. We're going to Chateau d'Yquem, which was the ancestral home of Montaigne, the philosopher. As a historian and a wine buff, that's like a twofer for me, so I'm very much looking forward to that trip. But this isn't about wine, so I won't ... I could bore for England about wine, but I'm going to shut up now-
Max Traylor: It's hardly about beer, so yeah. Tell us what you do professionally when you're not selling wine online or visiting the wonderful vineyards of Europe.
Matthew Stibbe: Okay. Well, I am CEO/Founder of Articulate Marketing. We are a 16, going on 18 person marketing agency in the UK. There are no offices at Articulate. So, my lovely colleagues are all over the UK and a couple of them in Europe. So yeah, but that's what I do for day job. And the other things are fun add-ons to that.
Max Traylor: All right. First question, you called yourself an agency.
Matthew Stibbe: Hmm.
Max Traylor: Tell us how you really feel.
Matthew Stibbe: Well, yeah, we've discussed this before and I think the big transformation that we're going through at Articulate, and it's an emotional one as much as a sort of intellectual and a business change, is grappling with this idea of are we an agency, a group of people who do something if we go back to the Latin roots; or, are we a consultancy, a bunch of people who think and advice and consult? And historically, if I go back to the beginning of the agency in 2003, when it was really mostly copywriting and it was only me, I had the view very strongly that we gave advice and thoughts and thinking of nothing and we charged for the execution and I'm sure this will be a familiar theme to your listeners.
And I soldiered on with that for years and built quite a successful business on the back of it. And you know, so we were producing blogs with 60,000 - 70,000 visitors a month and I turned down book contracts in order to concentrate on writing content for my clients. So, agency, agency, agency all the way. And then, in the last year, certainly in the last six months, very poignantly, it's become very clear to me that we really actually have a happier, brighter future if we are adding consulting to the mix of services. So, we've launched a sales enablement consultancy business to support the marketing business. We've launched a website and branding element to support the business and that's much more consultative that copywriting.
And I love the idea that every business has two rooms. They have a delivery room and they have a consulting room. And the idea that we should be encouraging everybody to come in through the consulting room. Notice how I waited until you weren't fiddling with the mixing desk there before I paused.
Max Traylor: Yeah, mixing desk. I was worried because my computer's saying I'm running out of battery and of course it's plugged in. Well yeah, and so, as you shift from ... what's the impetus for doing that? You talking about your having a successful business. Is this a conspiracy theory based on where you think the market's going? Is it based on some experiences that you've had with strategic engagements versus implementation? Because a lot of people are thinking about this. They've read books about the commoditization of implementation services and the demand for strategy and expertise. But not many people do anything about it because it is a very scary transformation. And I hate using the word transformation, but when it means that you're selling something different to different people, I can't think of a more appropriate definition.
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, it's got that scary, "I'm at the top of this mountain and I want to get to the top of that mountain and actually to get there, I've got to go down into the valley and then I've got to go climbing up a new," ... it's all hard work and labor some. You know, I understand that. And it's scary, it's scary. And so, what is driving this thought process, this journey, this exploration, this transformation?
I think on a practical level, I mean, start with the nuts and bolts of a business, there's a very clear feeling that I have, a strong feeling I have that the business has reached a sort of ceiling of doing what we do and had become quite dependent on me for some of the thinking, such that ... there were bottlenecks in the process that I was the valve for. And they tended to be the bits that were what looked like consulting, looked like thinking on behalf of our clients. And so, part of it is this desire to start delegating that kind of work and empowering colleagues to do that in order to be able to scale the business. And in order to develop them.
So, that was the first thing. The second thing was the very strong impact on me of the book Pricing Creativity and the book Win Without Pitching. And just this sort of package of ideas came to me through a workshop that my accountancy firm ran, strangely, about profitability and how to run a profitable agency, profitable company. And just this idea that everyone enters through the strategy room, for example. You build some expertise and you trade of that, that you build differentiation off expertise not off the ability to.
And the third driver is a bit more customer focused. I don't think any of my clients actually wake up in the morning and go, "What we really, really, really need to make a breakthrough in our lives and change our business and be successful so I can retire to a desert island, what we really need for that is a 600-word blog post," right? Nobody wakes up in the morning, nobody wakes up ... nobody on their deathbed wishes they had pushed out more content to their blog, right? I mean, it's ... yeah, sorry, you ...
Max Traylor: I was going to say, but Matthew, a thousand word blog post will change your life.
Matthew Stibbe: Oh, yeah, it'll blow you away. But the revelation, why it took so long to dawn on me, it's shocking really, that actually what they want, they want some positive transformation and there's that dirty word again. They want more customers, they want ... marketing clients want to differentiate themselves in the market. They want to attract higher paying, more loyal, better clients. They want to win without spending so much effort and time competing for that business.
There's a lovely analogy I heard a couple of weeks ago in Dublin from somebody from HubSpot. When you're in the sales business, you can just put an enormous amount of work trying to shift that boulder, trying to move the rock, and it's very heavy and it's sort of stuck, in the ground. If you can reduce the level of friction, it becomes much easier to move. I mean, whether you put wheels on the rock of WD-40 or rollers or something. It just becomes easier to move.
And I think that this transformation from being an agency charging by the hour or charging by the deliverable, to being a consultancy where we get paid for expertise and for making a difference, a bottom line difference for our clients, is the difference between pushing a rock and rolling a rock.
Max Traylor: Now, I've got a note from early on in a previous conversation with you, you're fond of your employees, your team members, and investing in their education as much as in your own. Now, most people that are in the midst of this transformation we'll call it ... that word. Anyway, they worry about the reaction from their team. They've spent years investing in folks that are an implementation team, writers, designers, creatives. How do you think about the impact that this new mindset is going to have on your own team and how do you see them growing into this new identity or not? Do you see your relationship changing or ... yeah, how do you see it in relation to your team members?
Matthew Stibbe: Well, that's perhaps another thing, perhaps a foundational thing for this change, is over the last two years we've gone through the process of certifying as a B Corp. And a B Corp is an external validation audit of your commitment to the environment, to stakeholders, to the local communities and things like that. And part of that, a very strong part of that is how you interact with, how you treat, how to train, develop, nurture your staff. And I think it's been an eye opener for me. I mean, I've never ... you know, I'm an old softy despite pretending to be a lance corporal of industry.
But I've never been a sort of follow of this idea that ... I don't know if you've heard of the mushroom principal of management where you keep your staff in the dark and feed them on-
Max Traylor: Got it.
Matthew Stibbe: ... horse manure. And that's not really where I'm at. But I think I had a little bit of a conscious mis-raising out of the B Corp work, and we're now working towards a UK standard called Investors in People. So, that's very specifically focused on learning and development.
Here's the thing, when we interview people to come work at Articulate, and we're just recruiting now a marketing intern, we get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of applications. And what do they say in their application? I'm a very creative writer, I'm halfway through my novel. I've just finished a degree in English literature. I want to work in somewhere where I can express myself. This need to express, this need to fully actualize yourself as a human being is fundamental to happiness. I think it was Aristotle who said happiness is deploying one's full force along lines of excellence. And then, you take those wonderful, ambitious, bright people, and you're going to put them in a job and say, "Okay, you're going to write four blog posts today." Okay, we get paid to do that, and it can be creative, and it can be very satisfying. But the innermost need of people is to express themselves, is to do something meaningful, make a difference. So, I don't think I'm pushing against a locked door to encourage and to want staff to do that.
The challenge is actually to get myself to shut up and not be like the boss who's coming in toe solve everyone's problems, and the boss who's going to be, "I'm the creative one. I can unlock this," and to just change my role into being one of coaching and development and setting an example and bringing that out of other people. You know, just in case any of my lovely colleagues are listening to this, I know that I've got a journey to go on still all that stuff. And we do still a lot of deliverables and execution work. But the thing that people ask me for, the career progression that people seem to want is, "I want to do more creative work. I want to be able to plan fantastic campaigns for my clients. I want to be able to write ... if we're writing stuff, I want to do something that's really exciting and good and meaningful." And that doesn't come from cramming 5,000 words into a day. It just ... you can't do it.
So, that's kind of a ... I suppose that's all very aspirational. What are we actually doing in practice? I think the Investors in People is a big part of that. I think there's an onus on me that I'm trying to fulfill to set more of an example in terms of leadership and direction for the business. In other words, this is where we need to get to, but how do we get there? Who's going to ... how do we divide up the accountability and responsibility for doing that? Who's going to do what? I can't do it all, I don't want to do it all. I want to be the one person in the company who doesn't have a job, you know? That's hard.
I was struck though, because I'm old. I'm 50. Well, I'm not that old, but I feel old sometimes-
Max Traylor: 50 years young.
Matthew Stibbe: 50 years young. It's the new 30. And you know, the average age in the company apart from me and our chief happiness officer is probably about 26. But I was struck the other day because I'm a huge space nut. The average age of the people in mission control when we landed on the moon, 26. You know, age isn't the thing. I think it's about ambition, and it's about training, and I think it's about harnessing towards a goal. And those are the things that I think are a burden, a challenge, the focus of my time as a manager and a leader. I'm trying very hard now to free up my time to focus on that kind of stuff rather than on delivery.
Max Traylor: Well, you know, I think part of the role of a leader is to expose people to the next step, whether they want to take it or not is up to them. And the most powerful leaders lead by example. They don't sit in the control room, they're on the shuttle. They're doing the dangerous thing, and they're saying, "Come on. Follow me if you like. If not, have fun." But you know, it's a natural next step for the organization.
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah.
Max Traylor: It's a natural step for the organization to go from commoditized implementation work, where supply is increasing and the price you can charge and the mentality from the client, the perceived value is declining because of replaceability. And here you are making this terrifying transformation from doers to thinkers, and monetizing your intellectual property and becoming a consultant in your own right. And you know, if I think back to some of my best employees, some of my best team members, if I had known what the next step was, I might have had a chance to retain my relationship with those folks. I would have driven them to develop their own personal brands, to be attractive for businesses in their own right, and to recognize that it was their knowledge that represents their most powerful contribution, not what their hands can do. Even though when they come out of school and they write their resume, they talk about what their hands can do.
Matthew Stibbe: That's a really interesting observation, and I'm thinking ... it's provoking a couple of thoughts in me. The first one is, is the idea that traditional businesses have treated, and I think this includes "creative" businesses, traditional PR, marketing, advertising, have treated individual members of the team as interchangeable anonymous units of labor-
Max Traylor: People on the assembly line. Assembly line member number four, your job is to put the doorknob on the door.
Matthew Stibbe: Right. So, on some level, I think management has been ... the application of Taylorism, the sort of Ford production line to creative work, and you know, "Fill in your timesheet, do it in this time. Here's the deadline." You do it and then you give it to the copywriter and they do something and you give it to the account director and they do something. I mean, I know at Articulate, we've been really working incredibly hard to break ... we don't do time sheets. We have an app where we track deliverables and output, which for remote working is really important. We don't sit and watch ... I mean, I can't see what my people are doing. So we don't have any ... I don't sit in the middle of a [inaudible 00:17:19] and see what all the different staff are doing. But you know, I know it's still really common in offices. You can't leave the office until your boss goes home because that looks like you're lazy. That's just ridiculous 19th century thinking.
So, moving from that to a model where how could you find that freedom for creativity. How could you say it's your creativity and I might exercise some quality control on that. I might exercise some editorial judgment on that. I might mentor you, I might give you feedback. But not only is it your creativity, but your name is on it. So, there's a bit of accountability, there's a bit of recognition. And I think that's the second thought, which is we still, I think with our clients do our work and sort of give it to them. And then, they pretend it's their word. Quite often we ghost blog, we ghost write, we write websites. We don't sign our websites like Picasso signed his paintings.
On our blog, you know, the content has a byline and it's attributed to people and I think people really appreciate that. However, if you look at Apple, Jony Ive has said he's going to leave and Apple and that's big news. But you'd struggle to think of the next person in Apple who has been a contributor and there's thousands of people who work in the company. So, how do we allow people to take some ownership, some responsibility to sign their work? I think that would be a really interesting thing to be able to do. And I'm sure that a traditional owner/manager of an agency, and I think I'm still in that camp here at this point, I'm not quite sure how I feel about my guys, gals, building their own personal brand and you know splintering off because on some level, working in the company has to be ... I have to make a buck. I mean, if they go off and start their own business, they take the talent with them. And that's a fear I think, perhaps, that I've got to get over because certainly Steve Jobs had no fear of that with Jony Ive, it was like, "Come work for us and we're going to do some amazing things together." And he made it the best place for Jony Ive to do his work, not just an anonymous interchangeable unit of design labor. That's an interesting challenge, it's an interesting challenge-
Max Traylor: I think it's a mindset ... you know, I've got a few reactions. And the first is from a recent interview I did, maybe it was Jim Cathcart hall of fame speaker dude. Anyway, he said that everyone has a personal brand whether you like it or not. And someone's personal brand is either going to add to the collective value of your organization, and a lot of people would argue that professional services organizations are going from an organization that represents value with all these people running the engine room to a collective representation of the value of individuals. So, an agency is only as valuable as the collective value of the personal brands within. But the individuals in your organization, they're either going to represent value to your organization, or they're going to represent risk in that some software company is going to come along and say, "Hey, here's a career path that doesn't exist for you today. Come work for us." And then we're screwed. I've never ... the worst things that ever happened to me running a professional services organizations weren't losing our best customers, it was losing our best employees because that meant the downfall of your focus on the business, and it started to mean that you focus in the business. Anyway, so-
Matthew Stibbe: But that said, if you, me, listeners can build a business that is the best place for the right people to work and people feel like they've got an opportunity to grow and express themselves and be recognized, why would they go somewhere else? And if they do, well, more for them, you know? And I think that's an important reminder for me. It's quite hard sometimes. I mean, I've been running my own business since I was 18. And I've gone through the mushroom principle stage quite a long time ago. And it takes time for habits to change. But I think that's what you have to do. I think that's where we have to go.
Max Traylor: Well, here's a million dollar question Matthew, if the organization really is the culmination of personal brands, and it is the advancement of a millennial's personal brand that will create loyalty and stickiness to you; create long term relationships in a world where millennials change jobs every year, what is the role of the organization? What is the role of you? And my initial reaction is to lead, do what you're doing, pave the way and say, "Guys, this can be done. Here's how, follow me because you won't get this anywhere else. Everywhere else you're going to get a time card, you're going to get a superficial career path and every time you make more money, you're going to be expected to do twice the amount of work. You're going to end up on a deathbed with a heart attack, no passive income, no attractiveness. You're going to start over. This is about making you survivable in the wild."
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, I think that has to be the offer, or has to be part of the offer. I think there's a slight ... I'm really wary of talking about millennials because I think that this need for purpose, this need for belonging, this need for recognition, this need for making a difference, we all have that. I think older generations have had it sort of rather beaten out of them at school and in life and things. And you know, the millennials are the ones that are going to go to the moon, right?
Max Traylor: The millennials saw the lie.
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah. Well, and they have their-
Max Traylor: Okay. So, 2008, me being a ... I hate to admit it, but me being a millennial, in 2008, we saw what we were bred to think fall apart.
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Our entire lives until 2008, was based on find a company that represents safety, right? Organizations, big companies represent safety, they represent a career path. And our parents were dumped on their ass after 40 years of working for these organizations. Their life savings were taken away.
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah
Max Traylor: And now, do we go trust those organizations? What do we do at that point? We start over. We said, "Oh, that makes sense."
Matthew Stibbe: I've always worked for myself, but I have ... my cohort from university all went off into very respectable professions. And the ones that went into business, they've all had to change jobs multiple times. And they all thought they were going into very respectable [inaudible 00:24:38], McKenzie, and they were going to X, Y, Z Corporation, and big names that you've heard of. And they all thought I was taking this huge risk. Well, I'm still working for the same boss. I'm still working for the same ... well, different company because I had the computer games business.
But, I think that you're right. Leadership purposed direction, the opportunity to make a difference and rapid supported directed growth and mentoring, it's not for everybody. I mean, you still, to succeed to do what you're talking about, you still need to be hardworking and clever and insightful and ... it's not going to be everybody who applies can do that. But for the people who can do it, we should be making the best possible environment for that.
And I think that's the challenge, and the opportunity at the same time. But I think this isn't a new insight. I mean, if you go back even to the 50s and there's that famous article by Herzberg in the Harvard Business Review. The things that piss people off are not the things that motivate them, right? You know, hygiene factors like being underpaid relative to your peers, or being mistreated by your boss or feeling like your work is not valued, that's why people leave companies. That's why millennials get bored and so on. The stuff that motivates people, completely different set of things. So, you have to avoid doing the ... you have to avoid sort of messing up the hygiene factors. But you also have to offer the motivators, the things that encourage people and let them grow.
This has reminded me of a really interesting experience that I've had in the last year and a half. We have an amazingly bright ... all my colleagues are fabulous. But we hired one woman as an intern, and she started, and she just made a very good impression and did some great work and then she took on some more responsibility. Then she did some training, then she started doing a little bit of what we call account management internally, so she started looking after one of our blogs and contributing to that. And then, for various reasons, the opportunity came up, and she started managing a small team of people. So, about 14-15 months into her career with Articulate, she is now running a team, dealing with clients, responsible for the Articulate marketing website and blog. And she is about to get a very substantial promotion. She knows this is coming, so it's not going to be a surprise if she listens to this. And you know, the fact that she can go from intern to senior person in the business with all that responsibility very quickly by her raw talent, by her application, by her development, by taking advantage of the opportunity she's given, I think that model, that path, I don't see why you have to wait five years. And we have a saying in England, Buggins' turn, which means you wait for the guy above you to quit or retire, and you get promoted. Sort of civil service mentality. I think a company that can talent spot and promote and develop people quickly is the right thing. Yeah, I don't know if that's a helpful thought. But it's an encouraging one for me anyway.
Max Traylor: Well, what I'm thinking is what makes her so valuable. Same question for you, same question for any agency or consultancy, is what makes her so valuable? Is it what she can do? Or is it what she knows? And it's a rhetorical question, kind of, but the next question after the answer to the rhetorical question is, how do you educate her on that next step? How do you say, "Look, the way that you create an annuity stream, the way you make money without physically being there, the way you retire without stopping your contribution to the world or stopping your ability to make money and provide for your family is to package and monetize this knowledge that you have."
So, here's what you've done, here's what you've acquired over the past year and a half. The question is, what can you do with that knowledge? What can we do with that knowledge together? What's the next step for us together because we could be doing workshops training other people in your position how to know how to do these things. We can create a system. We can write a book. We can license this to other people that don't know how to do this to make a greater contribution to the world without having you fly around the world and do all these things because your body is eventually going to fall apart and then we can't sustain that. Anyway, but-
Matthew Stibbe: Can I answer that question, not on her behalf for her, but on my behalf for my business. There are a couple of things that I feel quite strongly about. Time sheets are evil being one of them and measuring output rather than our inputs is another. So, what I've tried to do to monetize what I know, if you like, is build apps. So, this software development thing, it constantly attracts me, and I guess it's because I spent the first 10 years of my life writing and developing software.
So, we have an app, Pointhub, and we have an app, Turbine, turbinehq.com for doing routine admin, paperwork, reporting of activities. And to try to use that to scale and to build then a brand and to build a movement and share ideas around that. So, we're still giving away the blogs and the content and things for free. But the pivot moment where we sell something is not your model, I think, for come to a webinar, come to a workshop, come to a speech, buy my book. It's buy my app because into the app is distilled something important about ... and something transformational for your business.
On a small scale, we'll help you get rid of paper and paperwork. We'll help you get rid of your time sheets and replace them with something meaningful. But those are small but valuable changes in the world I think.
Max Traylor: Well, they are. I would apply the same mind step to what makes you most valuable. For example, if a client came to you and said, "Why am I going to hire you?" You're not going to say, "Because I can replace time sheets."
Matthew Stibbe: No, but they might sign up for my app. In the light of this conversation, I'm looking back on my early career in marketing, so back in 2003-2004, and I was lucky enough as a dilatant writer who had just sold a computer games business to be approached by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard to write stuff for them. So, I was writing blogs and content. And you know, in 2004, 2005, 2006, content marketing as a concept didn't really exist. It was still brochures and sales collateral. People understood some ideas about thought leadership in an abstract way.
I realized what I actually was saying and why people picked up on this and why it resonated with them wasn't because they wanted 2,000 words of copy about X, Y, and Z. They actually liked the idea of what has now become content marketing, blogging. They haven't ... nobody ... they hadn't ... I started my blog in 2006. This was a new thing to a lot of the people I was talking to. Now everybody does it. Hewlett-Packard has blogs up the wazoo and Microsoft has blogs up the wazoo and goodness knows we've written enough of them.
And the idea was the fuel that propelled the copywriting business. They weren't buying words. They were actually coming to me. I mean, why would Microsoft come to little old Matthew? Because of that idea. And other people have brilliantly gone on and ... look, I mean it's ... it wasn't ... I'm not claiming any originality for any of these ideas. But I was bringing it to them, that idea, that expertise, that insight at that time. Other people have gone off and built huge businesses off that. You only have to look at HubSpot and you know, they've turned the idea and the thought leadership around content marketing into a very big and successful business.
Anyway, so, what is the thing that I'm selling now? It's not is it, blogs and landing pages and CRM implementations and website pages, although that's the currency of it. It's something about helping you move your business forward and make progress-
Max Traylor: It's the idea.
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, it's an idea. So, the challenge for me, I'm sort of inspired by our conversations here. I have this blog, Geek Boss, geekboss.com, and I wonder whether I can contract ... and this is not a plug because I mean I ... it's really a repository of all the stuff I've written about over the last decade that doesn't have a home anywhere else in any of the other businesses. As people have come in, Callum on Turbine and Maddie on Articulate, they've purged out the blog of all the stuff that was Matthew's random jottings. They just go, "We want to unpublish all this stuff." And I wanted to find a home for it. Maybe there's a little mission there to turn that into something, a little bit of a knowledge business or something. Because I think running businesses and leading businesses in a different way is an interesting area to explore, I think now
Max Traylor: Well, you say interesting, most people have a flash of terrified and then don't think about it again. So, what I've found to be the motivator is a strong internal compass. A real understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and usually that means something on the personal level more so than just business aspirations.
So, final question for you is how do you measure progress? You're doing all these things, you're experimenting, you're transforming. But it's in pursuit of something that you call progress, whether that be personal or professional. So, if we were sitting here three years from today looking back, what has to happen in order for you to feel like you have made progress?
Matthew Stibbe: Gosh, that's an existential question isn't it?
Max Traylor: Take your time.
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, that's a deep, deep question.
Max Traylor: Well, it's only people in their cars. They probably have-
Matthew Stibbe: They've got plenty of time, they've got their ... they're sitting on the highway at-
Max Traylor: Yeah, crack another beer listener. This is going to take a while.
Matthew Stibbe: Well, if they're on 280 going through Silicon Valley, they're going to have a lovely view of that lake. So, I think, if I'm horribly honest with myself, I spent a lot of time in the last few months planning spreadsheets, KPI dashboards and things that are all very monetary driven, very commercial and very much about where the business wants to go. And that's a phase you have to go through because you know, no bucks, no buck rogers, right? You have to make the money. But I wonder what would success look like in three years. Here's a dream for you, and I'm literally, this is me in real time thinking about this, why isn't the Geek Boss book number one bestseller on the New York Times Bestseller list? Why isn't that a transformational model for running a business that's going to make a difference for people and going to help people move things forward, create fantastic jobs and opportunities but not undo Taylorism and the Ford production line approach to creativity? Hm, interesting-
Max Traylor: Well, why is that the first thing that you think about? If it was, what would it mean to you?
Matthew Stibbe: If it was for me?
Max Traylor: So, you have this concept. It's now impacting all these people. What does it mean to you?Does it mean you get to hang out at more wineries? Does it mean you get to spend more time with your family? Does it mean sleep better because you're making a bigger contribution to the world? What drives you, what makes your blood pump?
Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, happiness is deploying your full force along lines of excellence, isn't it? So, doing something interesting, making a difference. I'm not interested in fame. I don't think that's terribly exciting. I've known lots of famous people, and I don't think it makes them happier. I am interested in a certain amount of mastery of things. I geek out on stuff. You know, I went and did a pilot's license just for the ... I learned Dutch. That's a crazy ... that has no ... learning to fly is fun, but learning Dutch has ... I was able-
Max Traylor: I've been to the airport, Matthew, it's the most anxiety I've ever felt in my life.
Matthew Stibbe: Part of flying is overcoming anxiety. You only keep the plane in the air by sheer force of willpower. A little known pilot's secret there. But I do like the idea that ... I do take genuine and lasting and deep pride in creating a nice workplace for my colleagues. We have a chief happiness officer, we do the B Corp thing. We're investing in learning development. Probably the most satisfying thing for me professionally is seeing somebody's career develop and seeing one of my colleagues grow into a job.
I think that's very nice. It would be nice to see that scaled up. I've taken a lot of pride in the past at seeing my blog, which has been about copywriting and marketing, that has been very successful. But now, everybody's got a blog about copywriting and marketing, and it's not terribly original. In 2006, it was a new thing. So, maybe something like that would be useful. Well, if I could make a contribution.
I remember once sitting in a monastery and the abbot saying, I asked her this question when I sold my computer games business, in Green Gulch Monastery, just north of San Francisco, and I had a month in San Francisco just sort of trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And I went there for the day and after the various things that they do there, the religious ceremonies, she had a series of questions and answers, and I just naively went, "What should I do with my life?" And she said, "What do you do?" And I said, "Well, I'm a writer." And she said, "Well, write. Build bridges for people. Writers write, bridge builders build. Do whatever it is you do and do it for other people." And then she said, she looked at me, and she said, "Whatever you do, if you do it well, it comes back to you, but shh, don't tell anyone." And now, I've broken that rule by both telling that story and announcing that intention on the podcast.
But I quite like that idea, that's a nice thought. Do some good in the world. Oh, god, that all sounds terribly pious. I think I need to go and get another glass of Riesling. Sorry-
Max Traylor: Yes, please do. You can thank me for the excuse to drink later. Matthew, I've really enjoyed the conversation, and I'm sure the half dozen listeners that are listening have too. And you know, listeners, crack another beer, go ahead, binge on beers with Max, just don't operate any heavy machinery. We'll see you next time and tip your waitress, they work hard. So, that's important. See you.