Getting piano lessons and baking brownies as a Girl Scout before becoming a passionate softball player, life is a big adventure when you are a kid. But growing up means making decisions for yourself that will affect your family or career. Even though Erin Saxton experienced a number of career crossroads, she knew that parenting and career should be the two things that she should do best. Listen to her stories as an intern for Good Morning America, her journey to becoming a TV producer and the founder of Eleven Communications.
It’s going to be another fun conversation with a dear friend of mine. I’m glad you’re here because the reason I want you to be here is to learn the formula, learn the tips, and the tricks, and the secrets of success that so many people have learned through a lot of blood, sweat and tears that helped them build really successful businesses. Help them grow and be the top person in their industry. Help them make a lot of money and have a lot of free time, and help them become an unshackled owner.
The idea is to build a business rather than just building a glorified job. So many business owners that I meet, they say, “I own a business,” but really, they’re just employed. They’re probably getting less money and working more hours for themselves than they ever would have done for somebody else. There are ways to get out of that rut and to become successful but free. This is what I’ve been doing for 34 years. I’ve met lots of people who understand how to do this or who have certain kinds of skill sets that they can bring to you so that you start to offload the work from you that you’re really not very good at anyway. We want to know what we are great at and what do we suck at. We just need to acknowledge the things that we’re not good at and find great providers, people who play that we have to work at. That’s what you learn as you go down the path to becoming unshackled. We’re going to be talking about some really interesting things that you might want to consider doing to start to really explode your business in a big way. We’re going to talk about that with my guest.
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Career Crossroads; Choosing Purpose Over Plans with Erin Saxton
I’ve got another Erin I’m looking forward to introducing to you. This is Erin Saxton, Founder of eleven Communications. She’s got a great story and has worked with some of the most influential people that are in our media, in the news, and in small business and large business. Erin has been right there in the middle of some of the most critical conversations that have led to household name products and shows and services. I met Erin, it must have been back in 2012 because I was new to this particular event as a speaker and there was this hush that came over the room and they were like, “Erin Saxton’s here. She’s back.” She hadn’t been there for a little bit. I had this really great experience of meeting this powerhouse woman. I was completely blown away by her and for a while, talked her into doing some work to help our business. We’ve remained friends for these years and I love Erin. Erin, I wanted to say welcome to the podcast. I’m glad to have you here.
Aaron, I love you too. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Are you in New Jersey right now?
I’m in New Jersey. I live in Bergen County. I work from wherever my phone and computer are, so I live and work in New Jersey right outside of New York City, not too far away. I’m in and out of the city often.
I was going to ask you about your son because I know that he’s a big deal. You’ve got a son who’s like a kickass hockey player, right?
Yes, he’s very good. There are a lot of great hockey players out there. Eric is definitely a great hockey player.
He’s a solid hockey player and he loves it, right?
He does love it. In fact, we’re leaving for Mississauga, Canada, which is a suburb outside of Toronto. We’re driving up there, as we do a lot. He’ll miss school again but he has tutors and different types of advisors that help him while he’s on the road like this.
The reason I bring it up is because I do see little messages and social media things where you are at some hockey rink in some place. Isn’t it great that, like a lot of parents do, you can help to support your son’s interest in the sport. It seems like as long as I’ve known you, he’s been playing. That you are able still to do all the business stuff that you do because you’ve built a world that’s not dependent on you being at some office, some desk. It’s what you said at the beginning, it’s where your laptop and your phone are. That’s a real blessing. I brought it up even though I didn’t really mean to talk about Eric at all, but I love that you do that. I wondered what else you were doing because it’s certainly hockey season. We’re going to go back in time. We’re not going to go all the way back to DNA, but I’m going to go back pretty far back. You grew up in that area, didn’t you?
I did. I’m a New Jersey girl, born and bred, went to school in Pennsylvania, lived in New York City for a while.
You grew up in New Jersey and your son plays hockey, but your family is a football family?
Yes. My brother is Brian Saxton who used to play for the New York Giants and the Falcons. He went to Boston College for football.
What about your dad? Your dad has got friends that were significant football icons.
My dad is a very well-known retired but he still does a lot of interim superintendent work, superintendent of schools in New Jersey, very well-known. His parents were Willie Randolph from the New York Yankees, and Phil Simms. A lot of the kids that also went through their sports programs, my dad was their superintendent of school. Whether we like it or not, he knows all these people and feels like he’s on a first name basis and can call people and they call him. It’s good. It’s a small world. We’re a pretty well-connected family, I should say, but very grounded and dorky. We’re a dorky, grounded, family.
I think dorky is a good way to tie that up. You grew up there in New Jersey and what did you do as a kid? What were your hobbies? Were you a sports person like your brother? What were you doing?
A nun, Sister Frances, would give me piano lessons every Tuesday and I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” She wouldn’t let me grow my nails. When I wasn’t doing that, I did the Girl Scout brownie thing for a blip in time. My true love was softball and then eventually, field hockey. I played that throughout high school and then that had me looking into colleges. If I’m really going to be honest, what I really, really, really love doing the most, Aaron, was pretending to be a Barker’s Beauty on the Price is Right.
I would put on Public-Access Channel 3 and they would have that pancake breakfast billboard and donate to Toys for Tots and those public service announcements. We’re in the 70s and 80s, so I’m 47, born in 1970, so this is where I’m at. Bob Barker is neutered and then spayed your pets and I love this guy and I thought, “How great would it be if I could be a Barker’s Beauty?” So much so that I scheduled my college classes around The Price is Right. Saying it out loud makes me realize that’s a sickness I think.
I used to stand and model the refrigerators and stoves. I used to take the oven and put the lid down and up all the while the public service announcement was on. I’d put on Channel 3 and then after a while, I thought, “What if I’m on Price is Right and they decide I need to be an entertainment reporter? I need to start learning how to read teleprompters.” I thought, “Coming up October 3rd is the Schuylkill Hill Mountain bed and breakfast pancake dinner.” I would just read it, like “Tickets are welcome. Tricky Tray is only $7 at the door,” just whatever they would say and I’m like, “Mom, how did that sound?” She’s like, “You stumbled over that.” I’d wait for it to loop again and I’d read that slide on the pancake breakfast just so I could really nail it just in case I needed.
It’s interesting how people come into the world that they end up becoming famous for. I would have never seen it that way as reading the public access slides. Erin found something that she loved and she started working on it as a child, started saying, “Somebody’s going to be reading this stuff. Somebody’s going to be a Barker’s Beauty. Why not me?”
I know why. I can answer the why I didn’t end up becoming a Barker’s Beauty. I don’t want to do a spoiler alert, but I found that my love of cheeseburgers was more important than my love of fitting into those little glittery silk outfits.
You thought, “A size 5 is fine, I don’t need to be a size 2.”
I’m like, “Who wants to be a 0 and not eat a cheeseburger?”
You’re playing field hockey and reading the public service announcements to your mom and playing with the appliances in the kitchen, I love that. You go off to school and you said you went to Philadelphia for school?
I went to East Stroudsburg University. It’s a small school in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
What did you study there?
You were set on doing something, whether it was modeling on a game show or reading a teleprompter, you were sure you wanted to do that or did you want to write? Were you a school newspaper writer? Why communications?
There was somebody influential in my life, this older girl, teenager and she was just so cool. We all met somebody like that and it was during the summer going into my eighth grade and I thought, “I want to be just like her. She’s just so cool, she’s confident, she’s grounded, she’s not one of like those stuck-up mean girls. I really wish I could just be like her.” She was going off to college and she’s like, “I need to declare my major.” I said, “What do you want to do? What is that? What does that mean actually?” She’s like, “I’m going to do communications,” and she started naming things that meant something to her. Those items didn’t resonate with me. I asked her some follow-up questions and I realized, “That’s a study. That’s a course I could take.” I went home and my dad’s an educator, so he was right there, I could just talk to him. I realized, it’s not business. It’s not pre-med. It’s communications. Within that field, I can chisel my way through and really decide what I want to do. It didn’t take me long at all to realize I needed to be working at a TV station.
You went to school, you did this and you said, “I want to go to TV.” How did you end up getting involved with television in the first place? I’m six years older than you, I’m 53, and we really grew up in the television generation. TV was what we did. We don’t miss Happy Days. You don’t miss The Cosby Show or whatever you watched those programs. I don’t know if you watched M*A*S*H when it was on. M*A*S*H was one of those shows that you just planned your evening around or whatever some show, like you planned college around Price is Right.
M*A*S*H for me on Sundays, I didn’t like it because the song would make me miss my grandmother who I just left because we had Sunday dinner. When I heard that or the tick of the 60 minutes, just hearing that, I then get a drop in my stomach because I realize it’s almost time for bed and it’s almost time for school. I didn’t really love school. I just didn’t.
You’re in college now or you’re finishing and you decide you’re going to go out and you’re going to swing for the fences. Tell us about that.
While I was in college, I knew I had to do an internship. These days, people do many, many internships. Back then, this is in the early 90s, late 80s, you really just had to land one. My school gave me two choices of available internships. One for The Howard Stern TV show out of Secaucus, which was before he really got on the map, it was his local TV show. Or I could go to a local cable company and do their news, which was only going to be a little better of an upgrade than the slides I was reading when I was a little kid of the public service. We’re really organically reporting the news out of that. Neither of them would have me doing anything major and I just wasn’t sure that even at the age of eighteen, if that felt like a good fit.
I was already self-aware, very intuitive. I’m very intuitive especially when it comes to parenting and my career. Everything else is a crapshoot. When I zone in on those two things, I become almost like a radar, like I get a pit in my stomach if I should not and a ping of excitement if I should. Only once did I go against that and I ruled the day. I got a pit and I thought, “Nope.” I submitted an application to Good Morning America for their internship program in New York City. They had 200 applicants at the time. The interview was, I kid you not, six hours long. Why? Because they have six departments and on these intern interviewing days, they broke it all in and we just were like herded around. We met with each one for an hour or maybe 45 minutes and then you had a little break in between. Six departments, six hours.
My dad drove me in. He sat in the lobby where the receptionist was for six hours, waiting for me to finish my interview. What a great man. The kicker here was they were only taking 25 spots. I thought, “I get this game.” I went, “Bring it on,” and I got one of the spots.
First of all, what was the game?
The game was that’s competitive, this industry is. Up until that moment, I thought I could just sail in. I thought I could just read a prompter or be creative or ad lib and be personable. I’m very bubbly in personality. I guess because they automatically, at my college, were just going to say, “You could go work with this guy Howard Stern or Blue Ridge Cable,” I was ignorant and I thought, “I’ll just get this job.” I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. When I got there, I didn’t even know to be nervous. I rarely get nervous with anything anyway in my life, especially with anything to do with the career thing right from the start because I get these pings. She said, “I need to warn you. We’re only taking 25 of you and I wish you all the best. Don’t leave anything behind. Just be your best, your brightest, show personality. At the end of the day, we take all the names in a big room and all six departments literally do get out for the ones they want. Then the rest, we apologize in advance and we wish you all the best.”
They put the winners up on the board and you were one of them?
We wait for weeks.
The time came, you were going to be an intern at Good Morning America. What did you do at Good Morning America when you first got there?
I was at the research department. At first I wasn’t excited about that because I wanted the movies. I got research and it was the best thing that ever could have happened to me because I learned how to look at a story, to find the facts. I learned how to get all that supporting data and you would hand off these packets to the producers and you’d prep the producers. It really put me on a nice path to eventually become a TV producer.
You’re doing that and then what happens next at ABC?
Then I graduate. I’m interning for the semester or semester and a half and at the time, it goes right into my graduation. I did well there. They hired me as a permanent freelancer, which means I was a temp. The six departments I interviewed, for that summer, I covered vacation time for different staff members. I floated in and helped in whatever admin support role needed. I just floated. It was great because then I got to see the whole show from all the different facets of it, from all the different departments. I heard Barbara Walters’ private production company had an opening. There were only seven people that worked for the whole company and there were a lot of applicants for this one, and I thought, “200 applicants to 25, Lord knows how many people are going to be applying for Barbara Walters and there’s only one spot. I’m going to get it,” and I did.
They interviewed me four, five times and I thought, “What the heck?” It was interesting. She was my first real boss out of college. My legit first boss was Barbara Walters. Who would have thought it? We would do primetime Barbara Walters Specials where people would say that she made them cry. I was traveling the world with Barbara Walters and six other teammates and we’d put on the Oscar Night specials, the Country Music Award, you name it, we did it all. I’ve met so many celebrities, I’ve been in their homes. I got to meet Chris Reeve. It was just he and I in Kessler right after his accident because we were prepping to do an interview and he was in New Jersey up here and so was I. It’s just amazing things that I couldn’t even begin to tell you.
One day, her assistant or secretary was out sick, they asked me to come and cover. It turned out to be my birthday and Barbara’s like, “We need to do something special for your birthday. Let’s order a pizza.” The pizza comes, there’s just sauce, dough and Barbara then announces, “You didn’t want cheese, right?” I’m thinking, “I’m 22 years old. Who doesn’t want cheese at 22 years old on her birthday?” I’m like, “No, this veggie gluten-free whatever we’re calling it in these, this is great.” I loved it and I loved that she did something special for me. The phone rings and it’s Ross Perot. You’ll never know who’s going to call or who you’re going to run into during those times with her, and that’s special.
You go from Barbara Walters Specials, and then what was the next thing in your career?
Then I kept getting promoted. The other six, some people got married, some people moved on, some people had babies, some people didn’t come back, some people did. I moved up my food chain too as pretty much as high as I could go there because the three above me, they weren’t leaving. They were lifers. They’re still there with her. Rosie O’Donnell had called, her producer and asked if I wanted to interview to come to her show. I did. I took that position and I left Barbara.
You go and you’re now a producer of Rosie O’Donnell.
I’m not a producer. I’m a head talent researcher. It’s like an associate producer level. All the things then back in the day that I was doing at Good Morning America, essentially, I was doing this at a much higher, quirkier level with Rosie. When Rosie would say to Meat Loaf, the entertainer, “I found out that you love souvenir spoons that you buy from novelty gifts,” and then there’s one I’d find out that he couldn’t ever get, I was that person. I’d hunt down that spoon. Or if there’s an old-time vintage playbill because we found out somebody else was looking for that, we would find those. There were those beautiful moments and reveals that Rosie was able to do. That’s what really made her show so special.
Not to mention, she had tons of pop culture memorabilia anyway, truly that belonged to her. Most of the time, she was bringing things in truly from her childhood, but then the research department would be on the case for those hard to find quirky things. Everybody knew, like when we go to Rosie, you’re never going to have an interview like that on any other show because we really took our time and we wanted to find that diamond in the rough for that wow factor.
What made Rosie O’Donnell’s program so special was that she wanted to do something to surprise and delight her guest that day. Here’s a wealthy, successful celebrity already but there’s a way to get under their skin, there’s a way to make them go, “How did you know?” It gives not only that entertainer or that guest a great experience, but also everybody watching goes, “Rosie O’Donnell, she’s the bomb.” Right, Erin?
Absolutely. It differentiated her. You always want to do that within your own company. You always need to be different and unique. Not infamous, famous. If you can’t be famous, please don’t be infamous because that’s a flash in the pan.
It’s a great takeaway that we can learn from Erin Saxton’s experience hunting down these unicorns for these guests. Whenever you just do something transactional, in other words, if you say, “Here’s what I’m going to do and here’s the price,” and the person says, “I need that and that price,” and you do it, that’s just a fair transaction. It doesn’t really make an impression on anybody. When you say, “I’m going to do this fair transaction. I’m going to have you on my show and do an interview and promote your record or your movie or whatever, and here’s this spoon, or here’s this thing that adds a little bit of magic to the experience.” Then, it goes from being the transaction to being this once in a lifetime moment. Those prospects or those customers will never forget you. They will always hail your name and say, “You’ve got to go work with that company or you need to go be interviewed on that show. You need to do it because it’s different. They care about you as a guest or as a customer.” It’s a great takeaway from this research that Erin did there. Erin, you went from Rosie to Wall Street Journal?Yes. They had an opening there again as a researching segment producer. I was there for a while and it was great because from doing so much with Rosie and Barbara was so entertainment focused. It was really nice to go to Dow Jones and that side and do a TV show called WBIS. It didn’t last long, maybe a year, a year and a half, but it was lovely. We got to report the business side of things. Really very similarly to what you’re doing on your show, Aaron, like coming up with people like the youngest millionaire, how did he do it, and he just bought a billboard one day and suddenly, he sold it for over a million. They would interview that but it was all financial, transactional, money related but it was an interesting side to that type of story. Again, still giving us that financial business acumen but telling it in a way so it kept us around.
We all want to see these standout stories. You’ve got a call from one of your old mentors?
I did. It’s the weirdest thing. They called a meeting at Dow Jones and they’re like, “Gather around.” I remember, this is business financial people, so nothing is outgoingly, right brain creative, flamboyant. There was none of that, so everyone had a suit on. They’re like, “This is going to be our last week of taping,” and they go through our severance programs and things like that and I’m like, “That’s so sad. This was a great gig.” In TV, nothing is forever. Honestly, you have to just get into that life. My parents still don’t understand that.
They’re like, “Thank you for all your service, you all have been great,” so everyone’s meeting back to the desk and my phone is ringing. I’m thinking, “What should I do?” I answered. Literally, they’re still in clusters talking and it was Bill Geddie, who was Barbara Walters’ executive producer, who was one of the two above me that wasn’t going to go anywhere. I had to leave in order to grow up, so they thought I was older and I could do more responsibility. That’s the thing, you get stuck. People really love you for what you do on that team and sometimes you can’t grow up in front of those people. You don’t always get those chances. Bill Geddie said, “I rely too much on you for what you can do, I can’t give you a promotion because I don’t know how I can do this without you.” I said, “That means I need to leave.” He said, “I know and I’m proud of you for that but I can’t put you in a different spot because I know I’m going to need to still have you do the other thing.” I left and that’s why I went to Rosie and the rest.
Bill called and Barbara Walters was in the background. He said, “We’re putting together a show called The View and we’re wondering if you want to come home.” I said, “As a producer?” Because I left as an associate producer and if we all remember, I had to leave because I wasn’t getting that promotion. He goes, “Yes, Erin, as a producer.” I went, “Fine, I’ll come in. I’ll take it.” I didn’t even asked the salary, I’m like, “Fine, yeah, I’m coming home.” I just came home and I was there for a bunch of seasons. I earned a bunch of Emmy nominations and it was just a great, great time.
Barbara and I hadn’t lost touch through this time, so it was nice to see her regularly though again. At Christmas time, she wrote me a card and she said, “Welcome home.” That choked me up. By now, there are 30, 40, 50 of us on the staff of The View and I was one of the original seven. It was nice to be at full circle but in a hugely, big blowout way as The View. That show is still going on, amazing.
Now there are a bunch of other shows that try to copy it but The View is really the first one, so how cool to be part of these historic experiences. The other little takeaway I love that you just said was that sometimes even if you’re in a good spot, you can’t grow staying in that same company because they become dependent on you being great at what you’re doing and it’s too big of a risk. You have to have the courage to just go ahead and take a risk and leave sometimes. Maybe you’ll come back to that business, maybe you’ll come back to that job, maybe you’ll come back to that industry, or maybe not but you’ve got to get out of the little planter box in order for the roots to go deeper and grow. You’ve got to muster the courage or you are the definition of shackled and you can’t move. Erin, you did all these wonderful things. What would you call the business that you started?
I started a company back then called the Idea Network and it literally was, Aaron, a PR consulting media company. We had so many pitches at The View of people who wanted to be on TV, from publicists to marketing and advertising and independent authors. Everybody wanted to be on the show. I quickly realized that I don’t think they’re watching the show. I thought, “This is impossible that you think this subject matter would be good on our show.” I realized that no one’s paying attention or if they are, they don’t know how to speak the language I need to hear so I can see the vision of why they think or I think they would be good on the show.
I started being able to decode and come up with a bridge that gapped everybody who wants to be in the media and the media. I tested it out a little bit. I finally thought, “You really want to be at Good Morning America, here, call my friend,” in this day and age, no one really does that. I started getting a lot of those types of pitches. I basically started collecting all the letters that I thought, “If I’m collecting this letter, that means they didn’t speak the right language or they didn’t pitch me right.” When I left to start the Idea Network, I reached out to all of these people and that’s how my business was launched and I landed on the cover of PR Week not too far out.
You’ve done all these interesting things. You’ve built businesses, you’ve sold companies, you started eleven Communications, you’ve met with all these famous people and worked with Barbara Walters, started being a producer on The View, these are really the top of the game in that particular genre. That’s as good as it gets. What have you learned through all of this that would be super helpful for people? I want to talk about what are you doing now and how do you take all these things you’ve learned and apply them now to help your business grow and to help your clients? You’re doing a lot to help other people grow.
Thank you. I just feel like the shackled part of it is what I find to be a pitfall. My family, and I’m sure a lot of people listening, whether it’s a spouse, a mom, an aunt, but we have these major loud, loud influencers for better or for worse in our life. My family came from a pensioned, tenured, schooled people. The fact that I, way back, was going to leave that staff of seven to go to this Rosie O’Donnell who really at the time was in movies, no one knew her, my parents thought I was crazy and they asked me not to go. They asked me to stay with Barbara.
We don’t get pensions in this world in my field. I’m not really, I’m not in a union. I’m not on the AD side, the director side of it. I just invite everybody to think what loud influencers do we have in our lives and are we listening to them or are we just obeying them? It’s fine to listen here but at some point, we all need to make our own decisions. I’m lucky because I have that ping, that gut feeling. I think we all do. It’s lovely to talk about my career in a rearview mirror, but I have some dark days here where I’m sitting in my office going, “I’m 47, what have I done?” I think, “What am I going to do and how do I stay motivated? How about those days when you’re an entrepreneur and it’s 3 AM and you don’t know if you can make payroll? What do you do?”
It’s fun to talk for 40 minutes about the joys and the highlights and the peaks of my career. I think when I really grew was when I was in those valleys and I’m vomiting or puffing into a bag. I had a panic attack one day because I wasn’t sure how I was going to make payroll and I didn’t want to let staff go. Those are the moments that I think I grew more than kissing George Clooney or hanging out with whomever. I think because the highs were so high, those took me off-guard at first. Not anymore, but if everyone can just remember that it really is those dips and when you go low, you’re going to go higher faster and you’ll go even higher than your last peak, that works for me. I don’t know if I’m communicating it the best way and I’ve never talked about it, frankly, until now with you.
I just think that it’s great to be enamored by yourself and your career, but that’s not going to pay a bill that’s going to come in the mail today. I just think that we need to always keep building and moving forward and listening to ourselves and not obeying loud influencers that have the best of intentions but don’t really know what they don’t know. I think I’d love to just give people permission to try and do what their gut feeling is telling them to do because I think they can do it.
There are always going to be these voices that say, “Be careful, be safe or whatever,” or there is a tendency to relive your glory days. You’re right, those glory days especially in entertainment, they don’t last very long for most people. Even big, big stars, you look around and you go, “Where did so and so go? I haven’t seen that person that was in every movie or every TV show in a few years.” You find out, they’re living a double life someplace, struggling.
There is this seasonality to stardom, so to speak. You just have to keep reinventing yourself. I just talked to a multibillion dollar company and I said, “If you guys are known for this one product or this one system or service, if you don’t start building out the other branches of what you offer, you are going to hit a cap and it’s going to be too late because the household recognition will be off that one service you offer. Right now, you still have a chance to flush out the others.” So many people want to pick a lane and run in that lane because they’re making money. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to have free steering, no traffic.
The lane may run out. What are you doing now, with all of this experience, with all of this coming of age that you did, with eleven Communications, how have you taken all that and how are you helping businesses like this multibillion dollar company to do whatever they need to do to be successful? You’re not just about who you hung out or you kissed George Clooney or whatever, I’m talking about this all brought you to a place now. What can you tell us that these people can take away with them that will help them be more successful in becoming a good brand, having good marketing?
That’s exactly what I’m doing now. I sold that company I started after The View and I ran that new entity. Then I thought, “I really want to consult. I want to help everybody grow.” People need to grow in different ways, so I went back out on my own and that’s literally what I’m doing. I strongly recommend that people create a marketing plan. Doing PR or pitching the media or tweeting and doing social media, that’s not a marketing plan. I think of marketing as your parent and then the parent has three kids: advertising is the oldest, PR is the middle child and social media is the youngest. I have all my three kids in my marketing plan because without it, you’re not equally parenting.
That doesn’t mean what you do for your company for advertising has to be the same as social media. No. Social media is the baby. The younger they are, we have to watch them more. Social media is our baby. I don’t know what she’s going to be in our family. I don’t know what value but all I know now is if I go and leave the house, you’ve got to bring your baby with you because it’s illegal not to. I feel like it’s this bad business faux pas for anyone to not really try to build their brand and their business and traffic to their website through social media somehow. Facebook Ads and advertising and billboards, you don’t have to do as much of that because that’s your oldest child. My middle child is PR. Still a teenager, still up in everyone’s business, still really caring what other people think, getting people to talk about other people. That’s what my middle girl is all about. Sometimes it bites us in the butt, doesn’t it, but you’ve got to do it.
We know from the news stories we’re hearing lately is how you answer these questions in times of crisis or in positive moments is everything. How then you communicate that through your social media and your whole brand is really important. I really, really, really love to put that all together for people and give them a bird’s eye view of who they are, where they’ve been, where they are now, where they want to go financially, otherwise and just their brand messaging and figure that out for them. I love creating the marketing plans. They can execute it themselves or can have us do it. My joy is just rolling up my sleeves like I would for a segment for Good Morning America and just really diving in and going, “What is unique about you guys?” Because no one’s really creating anything earth-shatteringly new. If you look at all of our services and things like that, it’s an expansion off of probably another great idea.
Yahoo got delisted from Stock Exchange because their revenues are so bad. Everybody thought, “The internet is going to replace traditional newspapers.” It did. Most traditional newspapers have shrunken or sunk. They’ve closed up, but now digital media is too. It’s always a riff-off of something. Now digital news is struggling and everything is at Facebook and Google right now. They’re 99% of the new business and over 85% of the total digital space as far as news or dealing with ads. There is nothing new. When we look at Mark Zuckerberg and you go back and watch The Social Network, just a few years ago, we didn’t know what Facebook was. Facebook and this weird-named company, Google, are now these icons of what used to be the LA Times and New York Post, Washington Post and New York Times. They will eventually fade too in some new technology but it’s still about giving people information that fascinates them that they want to look at. While they’re looking at it, people can advertise next to it. That’s what it’s always about.
By the way, folks, you’re listening to Erin Saxton who has played in the big leagues and has met people and done really cool things. I just want to share a little thing. For almost every single circumstance, getting on The Today Show, getting on Good Morning America, getting interviewed on Ellen or The View or Oprah, for most people that didn’t result in their phone ringing off the hook with lots of sales. It’s the regular, steady engagement with your prospects and holding on to your customers. Elevating your persona because you got featured somewhere, maybe it gives you a leg up over your other competition, but that one appearance doesn’t normally turn into floods of sales. Make sure you’re focusing on the things that really matter and don’t get hung up on this stardom, which as Erin just pointed out, is super fleeting.
Here’s a good analogy I think. In New Jersey, we have the Garden State Parkway and the Turnpike and we all can make fun of it, and then there are these rest stops. Every highway, I’m sure you fill up, get gas, there’s a fast food chain there and coffee. Here’s what I would love everyone to do. Here’s the way I look at a company. They have something to promote. They’re on the highway and they’re speeding. They’re going really fast and they’re booking and they’re booking and they’re like, “We got this,” and then the launch is over, whatever the push is, is over. They pull in to the rest stop and they sit there until the next time they’ve got to get all their big boy pants on and then they’re planning and they’re planning and they’re planning, then they start their car. They’re pulling out of the rest stop and they’re like, “We’re on the road again. We’re pushing it and we’re selling it, we’re selling it,” and then the push is over. Maybe it’s a week, a year, I don’t know. They’re driving as long as they have to and they’re driving fast. They’re done and they pull off at the next rest stop, turn off the car and go get coffee.
Instead of doing that, what I would invite everyone to do is get in your car, start the car, get on the highway, drive, drive the speed limit, do what you need to do and just keep driving. I’m giving you a car that never runs out of gas, by the way. That’s my magic sauce here. I don’t want you to ever pull into a rest stop. You can slow down at the speed limit. I don’t want you to go super slow but when it comes time then to do your ramping up and your push weeks and your sales, push the accelerator then. When it’s done, let up on the gas and go the speed limit. The point is you’re not getting off the highway because what happens to all those businesses that pulled off on the rest stop and stopped their car? All those other cars pass them by. If we’re just on the highway, we’re there, we’re in the game. We are actively in the journey. We are not going to write our book, launch the book, get the distributor, hire the PR person, whatever it is, and then release it three or four months after the shelf life because that’s all you’re looking at for a book, and then you get off the rest stop. You’re now off the rest stop writing your next book. Why? Hire a limo driver, stay on the highway, sit in the backseat and type your next book out, but still do things to promote your current book or your business. Don’t get off the road.
There are a lot of people that it’s always peak, valley, peak, valley, peak, valley and it doesn’t have to be.
Erin, this is what I call the golden keys because we’re talking about becoming unshackled, every one of my guests has those little spy things or cop things where they have little picks that they quickly pick the lock, or they’re magic the way they’re able to crack the safe. I just want to talk to you really quickly and ask you what some of your golden keys might be. Do you have a book that you particularly love that you think people should read to help them as it relates to anything at all? It could be business. It could be marketing. It could be your own book. I just wonder, what book could you recommend that people read if they want to get better at the things that you’re talking about?
I love Jack Canfield’s Success Principles. A lot of times, we can’t get out of our own way and that’s what’s keeping us from being as successful as we can be. I like the way Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer break that down. I like that a lot. I have to read to all these books so sometimes I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.” I think that I like this one because they’re principles. You could be like, “I’m just going to read five today or five this week or five this month, whatever.” There are good breaking points where you can then just focus, work on that and start up again. I’m a big fan of those types of books. Jack and Janet, it’s a good one.
If you guys know, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, they’re the Chicken Soup for the Soul. Jack’s really done a great job with that book and it’s elevated his career. This put him in a whole different level of being a great thought leader for the world. That’s another person you’ve worked with, by the way. Is there a quote that you love or a song lyric that you love that just guides you or gives you strength?
It’s interesting because I think Barbara Walters once said, “You can have everything you want, but you might not be able to have it all at the same time,” or something like that. I’m not always a patient person and sometimes I want things done like yesterday. Being from New Jersey and everything is really fast here, I think anyway, I just want things done fast. I’m reminded of Barbara’s quote a lot because she’s an East Coaster, raised in Miami and now in New York and if that was her mantra, that’s pretty good for mine as well.
Was there a do-over or something in your career where you think, “I wish I hadn’t done that?” We’re trying to give cautionary tales to people to avoid pitfalls.
There are a few people I’ve done business with, signed on as clients or just aligned myself with that I wish I had vetted more. What I realized was I was naïve in many cases when I would transition into a new facet of my business, even as a TV producer. Sometimes I had a rookie personality. You would never know it but inside, I thought, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” and I faked it. I didn’t ask enough questions because I didn’t want to upset the apple card or I didn’t want anyone to be mad at me. I didn’t vet a few things as well as I could have. I never really say should, so I’ll say I could have. Now I try to be comfortable being uncomfortable. If I have to have an uncomfortable conversation so I’m not caught off-guard again, I will do that. Being comfortable being uncomfortable doesn’t last as long as the mess you can get yourself in for not asking the right questions.
Just to piggyback on that, a lot of times, you want to have a business partner, you want to bring somebody into your idea and so on. Especially if you’re short on money, you’ve got a grand and this other person is going to bring in the funding that you need and you’re willing to go 50-50 or do something, if you can’t have really hard conversations with people at the beginning of a relationship, I promise you, it’s going to be a lot tougher when you guys are not getting along. Have the courage to vet the people you want to work with and have difficult conversations about what are our consequences for success and for failure. If you can’t do it upfront, you will not be able to do it effectively when the chips are really down. Erin, any closing wisdom? How can they reach you? How can people get a hold of you if they’d like to, and just any parting words of wisdom?
I’m on Facebook, I’m on LinkedIn. My website is ElevenCommunications.com. Reach out to me there, Erin@ElevenCommunications.com is my email. Text me, call me, smoke signals, anytime I can help you, I would love to try and be able to do that.
Any final words you want to offer or do you feel complete?
I feel complete. I hope they feel complete. I want them to go for it but I also want them to live in reality. Sometimes you have the opposite. You have people who just make all the assumptions that it’s going to work out. I usually do the glass half full myself but be careful of that as well. Just ask really good questions. Just take that extra time, get a plan, ask the right questions and I’m sure success will find you or you will.
Erin, thank you so much for being here. This was a good conversation. It was fun to hear all the stories of Barbara Walters and names that we know. Remember that those things are fleeting. It’s the things that we do every day following tried and true principles, asking hard questions and making plans, carrying out those plans, those are the things that are going to grow your company. Those are the things that are going to help you find real wealth and become an unshackled owner. I look forward to seeing you again here on The Unshackled Owner Podcast.
- Eleven Communications
- Success Principles
- Erin’s LinkedIn
- Erin’s Facebook
- Chicken Soup for the Soul
- Idea Network