Entrepreneur Edition with Amy K – Part One
June 17, 2019
In author and business strategist Amy K. Hutchens’ years of personal branding experience, two things ring true: you need to engage in tough conversations in order to grow and you need to know how to tell the right story about your brand. So, where do you start? Find out in Part One of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition.
This is The 19. In 19 minutes or less, game-changing insights from Orange Label, the leading response marketing agency for established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset.
Hi there, this is Rochelle Reiter, agency principal at Orange Label. Today on The 19, we’re thrilled to bring you another installment of our entrepreneur and leadership series, and this time with none other than the incredible speaker, author, and business strategist Amy K Hutchens. Now I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Amy K speak and I’m absolutely blown away by her vivacious energy and profound insights. From communication to culture, leadership to sales, Amy K’s innovative real-world tools streamline and enhance businesses at every level. She has been named Vistage UK’s International Speaker of the Year, and has helped thousands of executives in over ten countries ignite brilliance and generate results.
Rochelle: Amy K, welcome to The 19. We’re so excited to have you.
Amy K: I’m excited to be here, thank you for inviting me.
Rochelle: Amy K, tell us about your background. What led you to become a speaker, an author, a trainer, and a business strategist?
Amy K: One of the things that I think has been a common thread throughout my whole life is teaching and learning. So when I was really little I was playing school with imaginary students. And when that became “so not cool,” I was an intern in high school and actually working in an elementary school classroom. I became an elementary school teacher. Then I became a teacher trainer, and then I became a national speaker. And so, a lot of times people will say “Oh my God, did you ever think you would end up being this entrepreneur, and running your own company?” And twenty some years ago I would have been like “no, never!” But what it is it’s just the evolution of me, continuing to do what I love, which is to teach and to learn.
Rochelle: Oh, that’s awesome. What are your favorite topics to talk about with other business leaders?
Amy K: I spend the majority of my time talking about how hard communication is and how much we struggle with it. And yet one of the things that I sincerely believe and I don’t mean this in any cheesy way, and that is that life is happening one conversation at a time, and the quality of our lives is a direct reflection of the quality of our conversations. And so most of the time, I am working with leaders on the conversations – the tough ones – that they are either attempting, or avoiding every single day.
Rochelle: Are there some common themes that come up? I have to imagine that there are.
Amy K: There are. And you know, some of them are the outward ones that we can all identify with in terms of having the tough conversation around a lack of performance or a lack of productivity, or an unhealthy culture, or mergers and acquisitions, and successfully navigating change or not so much. But then there’s also the much more personal ones that are happening with me, myself, and I. And that doesn’t sound strange when I explain that, you know everyday we are having internal conversations about, are we good enough, and do we know enough and are we creative enough, are we networked enough, do we have enough energy, do we have too much energy, do they like me, do they not, are they judging, are they not. And so, I work a lot with leaders on that internal mindset as well.
Rochelle: Yeah. Let’s talk about personal branding. You mentioned to me in an earlier conversation that we market ourselves in every conversation. Can you elaborate on that point?
Amy K: Absolutely. So in any relationship, whether it’s new or if it’s a friendship or an extended professional or even in our most intimate relationships, we are selling ourselves in every conversation. And when we sell it by our response, now, here’s the difference. We have a reaction first, and we’re all allowed to react. We’re all allowed to be human. We can have shock, we can have envy, we can be jealous, we can be upset, we can be disappointed, we can feel shame. And yet what we do with that is going to define who we are and how that relationship is gonna move forward. So it’s kind of like – kind of a classic example is, maybe you’re in a mastermind group, one of your colleagues comes in and he or she says “Hey I just won this award, you know I’m 40 under 40.” And at first maybe we’re a little bit jealous ,and you know Rochelle, that’s normal. We’re allowed to be a little bit jealous. That’s kind of like a human thing. And it’s just a reflection of our own insecurities, it’s a projection of our own internal state. But here’s what happens. You can either be really self aware, and say, “Okay, that was normal but it’s not who I am. I’m actually really happy for this person.” And then the first words out of your mouth are “Congratulations! Let’s go for drinks, first round’s on me.
Amy K: Or, you’re stuck in that, “I am jealous, and this is not cool, and nobody gave me an award for being 40 under 40. And then you find yourself just emoting venom. And what you’ll end up saying is well, like, that’s not a real award, is it? Didn’t your company pay – didn’t you pay a table to earn that award? And what you realize is that your personal brand is sold in how you respond in each and every conversation.
Rochelle: Yeah. That’s incredible to think about. To think about being aware in every conversation that we have and every response that we have. Because we definitely have a choice.
Amy K: Oh, we totally do. And one of my favorite quotes is by C.S. Lewis. And I mean, I have a ton. But one of them is that “Praise is inner health made audible.” And I think that’s really important when it comes to our personal branding. It’s that one of the things that’s so ubiquitous and so common today is that there’s a tremendous amount of noise and a lot of competition. And we’re all trying to get out there and be distinct and be unique. And what happens is when we think that other people rise, it takes away from our brand. That’s not at all true. The story that we need to have in our own head for our own personal branding is that other people’s success just validates that there’s more room and there’s more opportunity, and their success doesn’t mean that there’s less room for my success.
Rochelle: Right, right it’s almost building each other up.
Amy K: Yes.
Rochelle: How would you define a profitable conversation? As business leaders, how can we make conversations more profitable?
Amy K: You know I think one of the reasons I like to talk about profitable conversations is because the life that we want is on the other side of a tough conversation. And so when we’re avoiding that tough conversation or that difficult conversation, all we do is delay the life that we desire. And so, profitable can be defined, obviously with dollars. There’s bottom lines, this was you know, helpful to me, monetarily. But I think that the definition is so much more expansive when you think about it could be time, it could be energy, it could be relationships mended, boundaries established, problems solved. And so, it really is about taking the time to realize that there is a benefit. There is a payoff to that profitable conversation that we prepped for.
Rochelle: I love you what you said. The life that we want is on the other side of a tough conversation. Do you have any examples of tough conversations that you’ve mentored in a business environment that have led to success and dreams realized?
Amy K: So just last week – I have a new story. I was working with a nineteen-year-old. And she’s got a difficult mom. She really does. And so we were talking about how she can not change her mom, but she can change the way that she plays. She was really nervous about going home. Then I got a text from her over the weekend that they were having a blast. And that’s what you want. I mean that’s the – she was so nervous about going home. She has this difficult relationship. And then two weeks ago I had – this is a cool one, in terms of a business example. So we do these monthly mastermind calls in my program. So I get online and what I love about it, Rochelle, is that I never know what’s gonna happen. Like you can’t prep for this. People show up, they’re in the what we call the “hot seat.” They’re bringing tough conversations. And then we roleplay, we talk about how they can approach it. One of the women shared that she was about to lose a deal. She had a really difficult client, the relationship had not been going well, so I shared a six question process with her to turn this really dicey conversation into a much more profitable one. And not only did she turn the relationship around, but they signed it to extend their relationship with her. So that just shows you that when business leaders take a deep breath, and say look – and I’m serious about this, I am not blowing smoke at our listeners – I am successful. And I am smart. And I know what I’m doing, and this is still going to be a difficult conversation. But even though I know I’m a smart whippersnapper, I’m going to step back and I’m gonna prepare for it and think about my framing, and think about my word choice, and think about my flow. Think about my desire, and really work on facilitating a conversation that’s gonna create an outcome that I desire. Then even though you’re smart, you’re even smarter when you prep because you’re setting yourself up for success.
Rochelle: Right, right. So it’s all about the pre-planning and the intentionality set forth for that conversation.
Amy K: Yeah, and I think it’s kind of a strange way to look at it but when you’ve got a tough conversation on the horizon, you show others a tremendous amount of respect by preparing for it.
Rochelle: Yeah, I agree. Let’s shift over to storytelling. When it comes to self-promotion and creating your brand story, what are some of the best practices brand leaders can follow for storytelling?
Amy K: One of the things I love to do when it comes to storytelling, especially the brand story, is to kind of do a little bit of a jiu-jitsu effect. And that is, just sort of come from a different perspective. You know, a lot of times, brands over the years have been the hero of the story. And I think that the world has really shifted. That brands need to realize that they aren’t the hero. You know, the customer is the hero in the story. And so even when it comes to personal branding. Those brands that are really strong, that are very enticing, that tend to attract a tremendous following, it’s because those leaders realize from a marketing perspective that they have made the customer or the client the hero. So a great example, that’s kind of a little bit more modern day and yet not so new that we won’t all get it is to take an analogy of the Hunger Games. So when you’re looking at telling your own brand story, everybody wants to be Katniss Everdeen. Like everybody wants to be the hero, save the day, be the rescuer. What I’m really trying to get people to understand is that really what you need to do is position yourself as Haymitch. You need to be the wise guy on the side. You need to be the sage. You need to be the one that’s been there and done it, so that you can give all this tremendous wisdom to your client and set your client up for success.
Rochelle: So true, so true. How would you suggest brands uncover their story? Do you have any best practices, or tips or tools for our listeners on how to uncover their story?
Amy K: Yeah, I think it’s focusing on the transformation. And so, it’s really focusing on the problem that you solve, or the conflict that you address. And then how you’re really getting people to happily ever after. So I kind of joke, like in my world we have an online course. Who wants to buy an online course? Nobody. Nobody wakes up in the morning and goes, “Oh, Rochelle, if I could just buy an online course, my life would be…” Nobody does that. It’s kind of the same thing for everybody. Whatever it is that you’re selling, it’s not like people wake up everyday and go “Oh, I just gotta have that!” What they gotta have is the problem that you solve, or the conflict you address. The transformation in their life. So it’s kind of the difference between me saying, “Oh, I gotta just wake up and listen to a podcast today! Like any podcast!” No, that’s not how the brain works. But we do get up and say I need to solve my marketing problem, and then therefore I’m going to listen to this podcast. Or I need to become a better storyteller, and therefore I’m going to listen to this podcast. And so, it’s really saying if you wanna uncover the story, if you really want a recipe, it’s really unpacking the transformation, that happily ever after that you’re providing your folks.
Rochelle: Can you think of any brands that tell a good story?
Amy K: I think a really good story right now, is the brand – and it’s an emerging brand right now – of Mel Robbins. I think that Mel Robbins tells a tremendous brand story along the self-help and her own anxiety. I think another really great brand story is Zappos. I think if you really look at the authenticity that’s coming behind it, and I don’t use that word lightly. I am not a fan of the buzzword, like “go find your authentic voice.” That’s overused. I’m talking about the original definition of the word authenticity. And I think one of the things that happens when it comes to storytelling is that the old days were pretty cheesy, and because there were fewer competitors and there was a lot less noise, sometimes cheesy resonated. Sometimes cheesy worked. I think that today’s consumer, today’s listener, is just far more sophisticated and savvy. And so you really just have to be open, you gotta be honest, you gotta be real. It’s kind of like, if you see online, a lot of times people will Photoshop, and they’ll make everything look perfect. And yeah, that’s a brand. But then you’ll notice the one time that their Instagram story was a little raw, or the post was just a little bit more vulnerable and raw, that was when they went from 100 like or 100 followers to a thousand likes and a thousand followers. People are really appreciating that kind of open, honest, raw, what’s really going on behind the scenes type mentality right now.
Rochelle: Sure. And it happens – it’s when something goes viral. It’s like, that went viral? Well, yeah, because it’s real.
Amy K: Yeah! Exactly.
Rochelle: If you had to share with our listeners one piece of advice about storytelling, what would you say?
Amy K: I think that when it comes to storytelling, you need to hook people with the common human things that we all struggle with. I think that the relatability – I mean part of the reason that I love storytelling both and the articles that I write, the keynotes that I give, is that stories resonate at the most human level. Like before we even had written language we had oral historians. And history was passed down through stories because it resonates. And we can hook people in humor, we can hook people with intrigue, or terrifying things, fear of loss. But I think that at the end of the day when you tell your story, the very first emotion that you want is to show people that life isn’t perfect, life isn’t easy, there isn’t some magical solution. But if you meet them where the struggle is, they’ll get it. It’s real. It’s like instead of saying “ten steps to being an awesome leader,” what I’m often saying is, this is what leaders struggle with, let’s turn it around. And that tends to hook people more.
Rochelle: Amy K, thank you so much for being with us today. I really appreciate your insight on storytelling and personal branding.
Amy K: Thanks for having me, it was a privilege.
Thank you for listening to part one of our interview with Amy K. Be sure to tune in next week to hear Amy K share her thoughts on how to maximize sales in the most authentic way possible.
If you have additional thoughts on this topic, send us an email! You can send questions, comments, and more to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 on iTunes and Google Play, and if you like what you heard today, leave us a review.