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Episode 6

Allen Adamson | Co-founder of Metaforce

How to Shift Ahead Through Change: Interview with Allen Adamson

March 11, 2021 | Justin Gray | No Comments | ,

A noted industry expert in all disciplines of branding, Allen Adamson has worked with consumer and corporate businesses in industries spanning technology, healthcare, financial services, and packaged goods, to name a few. He’s the co-founder of Metaforce – a marketing and product consultancy – and is the author of Shift Ahead, a book on how organizations stay relevant.

In this episode, Justin quizzes Allen on how the best organizations recognize when they need to change  and how they can pull it off. Allen shares common struggles organizations face when attempting to make shifts and how they can stay on the same page as their customers. Allen also identifies which companies made smart moves navigating COVID-19 and breaks down his expectations for “the new normal”.

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3 Key Points:

1. Avoid the pull of gravity and inertia against change. Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t give leaders a free pass to play that same card again and again. Every strategy, every shift, every risk requires fresh eyes. It also calls for being a good listener. When change is coming, avoid the urge to resist it and instead find ways to embrace it.

2. Disruption rarely comes from right in front of you. Allen makes a clever analogy about how companies approach strategy as a game of tennis or a game of golf. When organizations play tennis, they’re constantly focused on what their competitors in front of them are doing, which is why they constantly make reactionary moves. However, when organizations approach strategy like golf, they’re focused on the plans ahead. More importantly, they’re paying attention the terrain – and can see threats coming from all sides.

3. Be intentional about the changes you make. Change doesn’t have to mean complete overhauls of a business. Sometimes it means identifying strengthens and weaknesses, and making tweaks accordingly. Allen suggests finding one or two things organizations do better than their competitors. Focus on where there’s inherent skill and figure out ways to make those things even better. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

2:03 – What does catalyst mean to you?

5:13 – Which companies have successfully navigated the changes brought on by COVID-19?

8:44 – Why do organizations struggle to understand what their customers want?

11:04 – What questions should companies ask their buyers and customers to better serve them?

14:12 – Why is it so hard to make pivots?

19:57 – What are changes B2B organizations can make to drive change?

23:53 – What should organizations know about making implementing change? 

27:22 – What was a catalyst in your life?

32:15 – Lightning round

34:34 – Wrap-Up: Find Allen on LinkedIn.

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Full Transcript

Justin Gray:

Hey, hello, welcome again. You are on the third season of Catalyst now. A lot to talk about in this season, certainly in the wake of COVID-19. So we’re focusing again on innovation, what companies are doing to succeed during these times. And I’m happy to be joined today by Allen Adamson. Allen is a recognized author. He’s a founder and really will just be a great information source for us here as we kick off season three.

 

Justin Gray:

So Allen, you are the co-founder and managing partner over at Metaforce, and you guys describe yourselves as a marketing strategy and activation firm. And then of course you’ve written a couple of books as well: BrandSimple, BrandDigital, 50 Tips From Brands That Lead, and Shift Ahead. So a lot of focus on change. So tell us a little bit about what your typical day-to-day looks like and what Metaforce does.

 

Allen Adamson:

Yeah, change is a constant. The pace of change is accelerating, which makes running a business more and more difficult, which led to the research and writing of Shift Ahead. Because everyone knows you need to change to stay relevant. You don’t want to become your father’s Oldsmobile. But many companies, large and small, struggle to keep up and change. And we did some research and found out why it seems easy in theory, but it’s hard in reality.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. I think you’ll be able to provide a lot of great insight for our listeners about, again, those actionable necessities that really drive change. And certainly we typically think about change as something that’s proactive and that we need to enable our teams to do, but in the wake of COVID, everyone’s been forced to change. And really, you’ve seen organizations come out of that very successfully, and you’ve seen others that have not undergone that pivot quite as nimbly as the rest. So I guess first, before we dive into some of those insights that you deal with every day and certainly what you’ve outlined in your book, the whole series is called Catalyst. What does being a catalyst mean for you?

 

Allen Adamson:

Being a catalyst is being a change agent. It’s being someone or something that can help people change trajectory, do something they ordinarily couldn’t do, coach them to move. So the typical catalyst for business change has been, “Oh, our sales are dropping. Maybe we should do something about it.” And the faster they drop, the more panicked, the stronger the catalyst. And certainly COVID has been… And any disruption is the mother of invention.

 

Allen Adamson:

One of the things we found out in the book, Justin, was that, yeah, like you, like me, most people are more comfortable doing what they did yesterday, today. So they start the day off, they answer some emails, they go and get their coffee. And we have to realize we’re more like in the old show, Frasier, Marty Crane’s dad, we like that same chair. And you need to realize you’re starting in the end zone. You’re starting not really looking to change. You’re starting, loving, and especially if your business is somewhat successful, you’re even more resistant to change. If it’s going well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I did this yesterday. I called three customers. They all bought. Everything’s great. All of a sudden you call three customers and they don’t buy, then you say, well, that’s the catalyst. I need to do something. Oftentimes that’s too late.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah, so, even before we get into how to go about successfully creating a culture of change and remaining nimble, the number one question that I’m certainly getting from our clients and just other folks that I speak to out there is, do you think we’re going to return to normal? And when is that going to be? So I’ll ask the same of you. Do you think that there is a normal hiding around the corner here? Or are we just in a new world?

 

Allen Adamson:

I’ll answer that two ways. One is, who knows?

 

Justin Gray:

Right. Get your crystal ball out.

 

Allen Adamson:

We could all go to CVS tomorrow and get our shot, and go to the most crowded bar we could find and hang out. But everything that I have experienced and read says that we’re not going back to the future. And actually from the book’s research, oftentimes sales go down, things go badly. People say, “Ah, it’s all right, they’ll come back. They always come back.” And so, one of the things I think is human nature is to say, well, this can’t be, this is not good. I’ll go back to… It will go back. So I think the successful companies today are saying, “No, we’re not going to go back to the future. I need to pivot my business in a way that I’ll be successful tomorrow, and not yesterday.”

 

Justin Gray:

So, yeah, let’s talk about a couple of those companies that we’ve seen emerge from COVID as kind of the banner children for successfully navigating these types of situations in these waters. Give me a couple of examples of who you see out there, based on your methodology and how you think about change. Who’s doing this successfully, who are those examples today?

 

Allen Adamson:

A lot of them everyone sees. First of all, some of them are just lucky. They’re in the right place. Amazon didn’t have to do much right to increase their profits, whatever huge amount they just announced. Some of the retailers did a pretty good job of shopping for you and loading your car. But I think the bigger plays are the ones that B2B companies typically got to customers by either sending a sales person out, or going to a conference and meeting them there, or hearing a speaker. And those companies have done a phenomenally big pivot. IBM or Adobe.

 

Allen Adamson:

I was just on the phone with somebody from Adobe and they have these conferences and they invite 500 people from around the world. They did their conference online. They ended up with 21 million people viewing their conference, versus 500. IBM has become a television producer. Every day, IBM is creating content, webinars, one-on-one Zoom calls. So big companies, especially in the B2B world, need to realize that it’s going to be a while till you can go to a conference and meet somebody at a cocktail party to get some business. You need to create some content, and just throwing stuff up is not enough.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. It’s interesting. You bring up events, and early on we saw the folks that quickly, and Adobe is one of those, quickly pivoted into an online format. But they didn’t just bring the content that they were going to do in-person. We’re a pretty big Adobe partner and we were privy to who the speakers were and so on, before they went digital. When they went digital, I think they really leaned into, “Well, now we can get a different caliber of speaker here, right? Like we can bring in folks that typically wouldn’t have joined us in Vegas for that conference.” And I think that drove a lot of that success. But then you also now have that follow-on, that fast follower to where everyone’s doing digital events now and it’s getting a bit stale in that regard. Where, this can’t just be a typical motion. It seems like these cycles are moving more quickly than they ever have before. I mean, companies were run-

 

Allen Adamson:

Exactly. By the time the number two competitor… It’s not just taking your normal salesperson and putting a phone in front of them and doing a Zoom call with a talking head as they ramble on. The bar is going to get higher in terms of… I think when people tune into Zoom calls or business calls now, they’re going to expect to see network television-type of video engagement. And not to say, let me just try to drag my screen and double click and show you this PowerPoint which you couldn’t read on a big screen, and now you’re never going to read on a screen. I think the need to realize that viewing on screen requires, that’s who you are, that’s your brand, and what you say is important, but how you say it and how you bring it to life, is even more important.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. And so the center of those organizations that pivoted quickly seems like they had a really great insight into the audience or the customer that they served. And that tends to be one of those areas that I’m always surprised by, in terms of why do organizations struggle so much with just understanding what their customer, that individual that they serve, what do they want, and meeting that need. You’ve worked with tons of these companies, different shapes, different sizes. Why do you think that’s such a consistent challenge with today’s organizations? And certainly B2B is probably the number one problem child in terms of understanding that buyer. Why is it so difficult to understand what our audience really wants?

 

Allen Adamson:

Well, I think there are two factors. One I mentioned, which is most people just, “Well it worked last year. Let’s do it this year.” There’s an incredible gravity and inertia. The other one is there’s something called, what I characterize as too much tennis playing versus golf playing. I’m bad at both sports, but when I play tennis, one of the objectives is to look at where your opponent is and go hit the ball where they’re not. So you’re incredibly focused on what your competitors are doing, and everything you do is based on how they’re over there, I go over here.

 

Allen Adamson:

When I was in business, when I was at Unilever, we were totally preoccupied with what Proctor was doing, Colgate. And if you’re only watching your direct competitor, if you’re only watching the dry cleaner across the street and they are offering, dry clean one shirt, get one free, oh, I’ll do that too. So I think a lot of business to business companies are myopic. They’re just looking at the two or three competitors right in front of their nose. If you play golf, and I do that badly, yes, you have to watch the person you’re playing with, but you better pay more attention to the terrain and the wind and the ball.

 

Allen Adamson:

And so I think lots of business to business companies just are myopic and are just looking what’s right in front of them. And as everyone knows, your listeners do, you do, most disruption comes from the side or from behind you. Rarely does your number one competitor clean your clock. Sometimes they do, but most often than not, Gillette didn’t get beaten by Schick. It got beaten by Dollar Shave Club. Pepsi’s not that worried about Coke anymore, they’re worried about water and other beverages. So I think the same is true in a B2B situation. Yes, pay attention to your competitors, but try to zoom out a bit. Turn your head. Look at what somebody in a category like you is doing to bring some fresh thinking in.

 

Justin Gray:

That’s great advice. The other aspect that I think organizations really struggle with is, is having those types of conversations with their buyer and with their client, and really understanding their perspective and getting a good feel for, are they serving them in a way that is mission critical. Are they going to be the first line item cut on the budget, or are they going to be something that really is fundamental to the performance of that business. What should organizations be asking of their buyer and their customer? What are some of those key questions that they can really look to, to understand, do I have the right offering today? Am I meeting that offering correctly? And am I avoiding those competitors that I’m not even aware of, as you mentioned?

 

Allen Adamson:

Yeah. And again, it’s common sense. I don’t think your listeners will say, oh my God, I never… But oftentimes, common sense, if I want to get into shape, I know that eating less Twinkies and running more is a good idea. Of course, there’s a big gap between knowing and doing. I think, part of what I’ve learned in other categories is everyone talks about digital and how important it is to have an online presence. The most important thing about digital is to be a good listener. What are people talking about? When you start a meeting, don’t just say, here, I’m here to tell you why I’m the best company for this and here’s what we’ve done and you know. Start a meeting with what’s going on in your business. Tell me, what are your pain points? What keeps you up at night? And I think, never is it more important to be a good observer, because people don’t often tell you this, you have to watch them. And a good listener, and a good… The best salespeople, the best businesses are really great at observing changes in their customers before they even realize, the customers even realize that they’re thinking differently.

 

Allen Adamson:

It sounds incredibly mundane, but watching your customers, even on Zoom, everyone talks about let’s do more Zoom or more online stuff. And if you see what’s going on with kids in school, many of us have kids in school, you realize that while you can maybe sit in a class for 50 minutes and have a teacher running up and down and screaming and writing on the board, that same teacher on a small box on your computer can’t hold your attention for 40 minutes. And the same is true with your customers. You’re going to have to cut to the chase faster, I think.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. You made a good point there in terms of how straightforward and oftentimes how simple the keys to success are here. Certainly in marketing we see the fundamentals of marketing, which largely have fallen a bit by the wayside and been replaced with more technology, more process. What’s the latest channel? Should we be on TikTok? Should we be on the latest, hottest fad in terms of customer engagement? But it really does all come down to those really simple foundational elements. Why is it seemingly so hard to, once we realize that, why is it so hard to shift and make those pivots in today’s business landscape?

 

Allen Adamson:

Yeah. Again, I don’t have an easy answer other than it’s easier to say, “Oh, let’s do something and get something up,” than to really think it through and do something different. It goes back to the best writers are obviously very talented writers, but they’re probably better at editing than writing. And I would encourage all your listeners to realize that we live in a world that most people have attention deficit disorder. You’re doing two things at once. You’re distracted. Everyone’s attention span is getting crushed, and now with COVID, even more-so. And in a world where people aren’t paying that much attention, if you don’t understand what’s on your customer’s mind and get to it fast, they turn the channel in your head. And so, good content is better than more content.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. I think that’s a really critical lesson a lot of organizations have learned in this. We have clients that have had these troves of content that largely have been sitting on the shelves. And then something like COVID comes along and now they’ve got a new message that they need to get out. And a lot of folks just put together one or two really hyper-value-type pieces, and that outperformed all of this stuff that they’d been creating for years.

 

Allen Adamson:

They throw everything against the wall. There’s a mentality I call the check the box mentality in a lot of B2B marketing, which is, “Oh, we’ve got a website, we’re doing some social media. And unfortunately in the world we live in today, average is over. So if you’ve got an okay website and an okay PowerPoint, and you look all right, and you have 12 points on a page, you feel pretty good, but no one shares average. You have an average meal at a restaurant, if you remember what that’s like, you don’t go tell somebody you had an average, you either have a terrible meal and you tell people the waiter spilled hot soup on you, or you had an extraordinary meal. And so I think companies are approaching marketing very much saying, “Oh, we’ve done that. We’ve done that.” But I think there’ll be better served doing fewer things and trying to do them better.

 

Justin Gray:

Right. So you talk a lot about focusing on the marketing element. You talk a lot about how the roles within marketing are changing as well, which is certainly something that we’ve seen in the wake of this. In fact, we’ve seen a big shift towards working more with sales, bringing marketing further into sales, and really even the progression of the CMO into that CRO type of purview in many cases. You’ve talked about how businesses are, they have a lot to do, that’s kind of offset by what we just said in terms of keeping things simple, delivering hyper-value, and just being better at a fewer number of things. But yet, organizations seem to be juggling more than ever. So how do you see successful organizations structuring themselves internally, number one, to succeed, and number two, probably cutting down some of this noise that we’re tackling, and yet being able to execute really well on the stuff that works?

 

Allen Adamson:

Yeah, again, there’s no simple answer to that. I would say two things. One is another phenomenon going on, not only in business to business, but also with consumers, besides I have eight seconds and I’m doing three things and I’m multitasking, besides all that, it’s the notion that the more I’m doing, the more productive I am. If I’m doing three things… And so you have executives getting into, “I’m scheduled between two and one,” filling up their calendar. There is a belief that just doing something shows you’re making progress. So I think part of dealing with disruption and change is to try to set up some time during the day when you don’t over-schedule yourself, when you have some time.

 

Allen Adamson:

I’ve talked to some executives who said, “Look, I keep Friday afternoon on my calendar open, and I want people to come in with new ideas just to talk.” And so part of changing is to take some time. We interviewed a lot of people for Shift Ahead, and one of them was the author or columnist from the New York Times, Tom Friedman, and he wrote a book called Thank You for Being Late, when we spoke to him. And he talked about, he was also very over-scheduled, but his best time was when he was either at an airport, the plane was late, and back in those days as well, and he had a couple hours to just think things through or read something. Or he went to a meeting and he was sitting in the reception area. And so try to create some space, because if you’re going to see things differently, if you’re going to try something new, if you’re just running as fast as you can down the street, you probably are not going to be able to turn your head left and right.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. It’s a good point. There’s always a reason, our most interesting ideas come in the shower, in the car on the way to work. 

 

Allen Adamson:

Create those moments, because no matter how hard you stress about oh my business is this, and how I’m going to do this, yes, you need to solve those problems. But the true companies that are going to pivot through this are not going to just solve the problem, they’re going to look at it in a way to create a new opportunity for themselves.

 

Justin Gray:

Right. So if you were suddenly put in the driver’s seat of a typical B2B organization today, what are some of those big changes that you make immediately to start driving these types of changes?

 

Allen Adamson:

I go back to where I started, less is more. Try to find one or two things that you can do better than your competitors. That’s the other thing. Every company has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone knows what they are. It’s like if I went to a friend of mine and I said, if he’s really smart, but boring and not a funny person, I said, “I’m going to give you a joke book cause I think telling jokes is going to be…” He could read that book and he’s not going to be the life of the party. So every company has that. So as you look at your business, how good is your sales? How good is your marketing? How good is your communication? And don’t try to do something that you’re not good at.

 

Allen Adamson:

Many, many companies that have disappeared have tried to pivot to something that the customer wanted, but they just weren’t good at it. So I think it’s also a time to say, for the people we have right now, what can we really do well, do less of it and focus on what your natural strengths are… I could have taken tennis lessons forever, but I’m never going to be a good tennis player. Companies have certain strengths and weaknesses. Try to focus on the things that you have an inherent skill for now and make them better, rather than get into something that all your competitors are doing, but you really have no one who knows how to do digital.

 

Justin Gray:

So, a lot of what we talked about is again, rooted in foundational concepts, right? Like knowing the buyer, creating great experiences, focusing on what you’re good at. But yet, if you look at the last 10 years in certainly B2B marketing, it’s been hallmarked by innovative technology. We need to digitally transform the operations of our organization. We need marketing automation, we need content platforms, we need sales engagement platforms. What do you think the future of that type of technology innovation, just the influx of tech within marketing and sales, what do you think that looks like for the next two, three years, given the fact that organizations are really kind of pulling back to those foundational areas and focusing on what is high quality and less automated?

 

Allen Adamson:

Yeah. I think a lot of that, unfortunately, has become table stakes. If you don’t have the right digital infrastructure it could be game over. But the belief that just by having the right toys, your marketing is going to magically be as good, I think it’s necessary, but insufficient.

 

Allen Adamson:

So I go back, and maybe it’s from the industry I came from when I started out of business school, I started in the advertising business, I still think one of the strengths for American business and for all business is creativity. Every time you’ve seen somebody get ahead of their competitor, yes, sometimes they’ve had better technology and had a better process. Amazon is probably an example of, they are truly leveraging technology to sell you what you need, before you know you need it. But many, many other players need to play. How else can we be different? Don’t underestimate the power of being creative in how you approach even the most mundane thing. Look at your customer journey, how you talk to them, how they buy from you, about the product experience, and map that journey and say, “Where can I do something special, or different?

 

Justin Gray:

Yep. So, everyone is being forced to embrace change these days. But that also comes with, as we talked about, a good deal of pain. What should organizations know inherently about change as they’re going through these processes? What should they look out for? What are those normal points where maybe businesses get caught up or tripped up in change?

 

Allen Adamson:

Yeah. These are really great questions, Justin. I think part of what happens with change, everyone in business, the more successful you are, the more risk averse you are. And when we did the study of all these companies that couldn’t shift ahead, oftentimes they had a really successful business, they were looking at two options. They both looked pretty good and they couldn’t decide. So they kept on analyzing it. And they kept on noodling it. And so part of it is, if you’re going to make a change, you’re better off to try it, iterate and fail, than you are to sit in the conference room, which happens all and over, like a deer in headlights. Because the answer, you don’t know what’s around the corner. And trying to be exactly sure that if we put all our money in this, it’s going to make a difference.

 

Allen Adamson:

To some extent, when you listen to great entrepreneurs who, whether it’s old time, the founder of FedEx, a lot of these entrepreneurs had no clue what they were doing was right. But they had the guts to say, “All right, what’s the worst that can happen? I lose my house?” But they had that ability. And when we looked at a lot of big companies as part of the book, the top knew they should change, and the bottom new, but inside everyone was nervous. They said, “Well, how am I going to pay for school? How am I…” And so I think part of it, if you decide to change, do it.

 

Allen Adamson:

I was going to share, you asked me for some stories of companies that are interesting. Another one I think it’s going to be interesting is Disney. They just announced this about a month ago that they were going to throw the kitchen sink at Disney+. Take all the money they were investing in the theme parks and really, and the movie business is dying, theaters are dying, and they’re going to double down and win the streaming war with Disney+. Put their movies right on there, instantly released. When they launched Disney+, they went in that direction. They aired the first time, Hamilton, live, and that drove subscriptions. So even a big company like Disney, who is not disappearing, decided to say, I’m not going to put a dollar bet here, a dollar bet here, a dollar bet here, they put all the chips on one thing. And if they’re wrong, it’s going to be very painful for their theme parks and movies. But I think even in a small business, don’t just spread it, give a dollar here, a dollar here, bet $10 on one thing and if it doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t hedge your bets.

 

Justin Gray:

That’s just a great reminder of what we talked about earlier in terms of knowing your audience, knowing your buyer and making those big bets. Because Disney knows their audience is online, especially now. 

 

Allen Adamson:

And they’re not going to go back. They may not go back to the movie theaters or a cruise ship. And if they win the Disney+ war, that will allow them to come back and get into those businesses later on.

 

Justin Gray:

Right. So, one of my big beliefs is that folks that take those big risks, folks that can become catalysts within their own personal lives, their organizations, whatever it happens to be, are oftentimes enabled and have had really interesting catalytic experiences in their own lives, fostered by mentors. So I’m curious who you would look upon as a catalyst, that mentor in your life that maybe has framed some of the things that you have?

 

Allen Adamson:

When I came out of business school, I interviewed a number of companies, and one of them I went to was an ad agency. And I went through the interviews and they asked me, “Do you know how to do target market selection?” And then the other person asked me, do I know how to do research? And I was all ready, and I had all the answers to every type of market segmentation. I was feeling really bullish as young kids do. And then I went to the CEO’s office and the CEO at the time was Ken Roman. He sat me down, big office. I go, “This is it! He’s going to ask me about market research. He’s going to ask me about creative strategy.”

 

Allen Adamson:

And he goes, “All right, Allen, you’ve had a good day. You’ve met with our entire team here. Tell me about the last book you’ve read that you found interesting. Tell me about the last movie you went to see, and why you found it interesting? And then tell me about the last museum you went to.” A deer in a headlight! After I somehow got through that, I don’t remember, I probably told him I read Green Eggs and Ham, which is a Dr. Seuss book. I asked him after a year, I said, “So why do you ask that question?” He goes, “Because our culture, our philosophy here is that we want our people at Ogilvy & Mather to be our clients eyes and ears. We want them to help them see what’s down the road and around the corner. If you have your nose in an email, just reading through facts, and don’t zoom out a bit and help them see what’s going on, especially for advertising, you’re going to…” So he was a mentor to me and early on told me, to be good in business, you have to be good at what you do, but you have to look up and see what’s going on in the world to see where it’s going. Because you can be great at what you’re doing, but if it’s not relevant in the world anymore, you’re going to not have a successful business.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. Great advice. So similarly, has there been a big moment within your career that you feel was catalytic? Obviously, you’ve gone on to co-found companies and to write books. A lot of people just don’t take those opportunities when they come along. Has there been a moment within your career where you felt that kind of tectonic shift, that you feel like is your catalytic moment?

 

Allen Adamson:

I’d go back to that first job. For me it was still catalytic because not only did I learn to pay attention to what was going on around me, but Ogilvy had sort of a philosophy of, at that point of, everything matters. First class business, and how you present yourself to a client, how you do the PowerPoint, how clear it is, are there typing errors, typos? They had a philosophy of excellence that taught me how to sell ideas. Because at the end of the day, when you buy an ad campaign, you can’t drive it around the block. You can’t taste it. You look at a piece of paper with some pictures on it and you have to say, “All right, well I’m going to spend a million dollars and shoot it.”

 

Allen Adamson:

So you have to be able to get somebody to buy into a conceptual idea that they can kick the tires on. And learning that skill early on, especially if you’re in the marketing consulting business or branding business, I’ve been lucky to be a client, even in a big company, you have to take your ideas and you have to get management to understand them and make it happen. And doing that is not, oh, let me, let me just chew your ear off, figuring out how to tell a good story, how to tell your story, how to share your vision of a catalytic skill that helped me throughout my career.

 

Justin Gray:

It’s great. Every time we ask those questions, the answers are never, I learned this hard skill. And yet when folks that come out of college and folks that are early in their career, I find that they are always focused on, I need to know everything about them, I want to learn these new skill sets. I want to be better at creating this thing, creating personas, creating segmentations, whatever it happens to be. And yet that rarely is the real focus of success. It is this license to think larger, think different, and really focus on creating quality over quantity. So it’s strange the consistency that we see in those instances.

 

Allen Adamson:

Easier said than done as you know, right? Because there’s a tendency to want to run faster and try to do everything, and it’s hard to slow down and focus.

 

Justin Gray:

So as we wrap up here, I want to ask a couple of rapid insight questions as we call them. So I’ll hit you with a couple of these, just the first thing that comes to mind. And so if you’re ready, we’ll go ahead and begin.

 

Allen Adamson:

Sure.

 

Justin Gray:

So, first thing, where do you get your news information? Certainly today, it’s hard to know what to trust out there. Where do you look for news?

 

Allen Adamson:

I tend to be somewhat old school. I tend to look at the Wall Street Journal, New York Times. Some of course, online sources. But I try to go to more established sources.

 

Justin Gray:

Yep. Makes sense. What’s your guilty pleasure?

 

Allen Adamson:

Guilty pleasure is, I love brainstorming great ideas and chatting with people about that. But I know that sitting and talking about what if, doesn’t always help a client solve what’s right in front of their nose.

 

Justin Gray:

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

 

Allen Adamson:

Patience. I think to be good, you have to be able to listen. And, the more difficult it is to listen to a client, the more important it is to listen to a client. So I wish I had more patience. Because sometimes just being quiet in a meeting and letting your client talk, and being comfortable with that moment of silence before he or she will tell you what their real problem is, is a real key to success. I wish I was more patient.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. We share that aspiration. And finally, we talked about one of the best jobs that you had. What’s the worst job that you ever had?

 

Allen Adamson:

Probably working with some clients that were not very serious. They were in the beverage business and they just wanted to go party and go out for dinner. And while they were very nice, I didn’t have as much fun as working for more geeky, boring people that were truly committed to trying to do whatever they were doing.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. Client commitment and relationships certainly matters. So as we wrap up here, Allen, if folks want to connect with you, where should they go? What’s the best way to reach out if folks have questions?

 

Allen Adamson:

Probably allen@metaforce.com. Metaforce is a special forces sort of collection of marketing and creative people, and you can find me there.

 

Justin Gray:

That’s a great wrap up here. So again, Allen, thanks for joining us here today. Really insightful. Again, metaforce.com or you can hit Allen up on Twitter as well. I’ll put his link within the comments here and also the link over to his website.

 

Justin Gray:

And Allen, I appreciate the insights, really helpful, really insightful tips about change, and appreciate the stories there as well.

 

Justin Gray:

Yeah. Thanks again for listening on Catalyst. Appreciate everyone’s time today. Of course, you can catch past episodes of Catalyst over at leadmd.com/best-practices. And remember, never miss a chance to be inspired.

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