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Sonia Simone’s Secret to Starting the 1,000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle of Building a Successful Business
2nd June 2016 • The Digital Entrepreneur • Rainmaker Digital LLC
00:00:00 00:28:38

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What is the biggest difference between a perpetually aspiring digital entrepreneur, who has all the ideas in the world … and a successful digital entrepreneur, who actually goes out and gets things done?

Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer and Founding Partner of Rainmaker Digital, says there are two factors; and the first one is the key to getting started with what she refers to as the “1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle” of building a successful business.

In this 25-minute episode, Sonia shares a number of enlightening and empowering thoughts with us, all inspired by the closing keynote she will giving at Digital Commerce Summit this October (Early bird tickets are still available) …

  • Why is focusing on mindset a worthwhile investment of our time and energy?
  • How the mindset of an entrepreneur is more of a skill to be developed than simply an innate talent
  • The biggest difference between wantrepreneurs and successful entrepreneurs
  • How to take the first steps in any daunting project, including launching a business
  • Why successful digital entrepreneurs are those who know how to “venture outside of the shallow end of the pool”
  • ONE essential habit that you can develop right now that will move you forward and get positive momentum building

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The Transcript

Sonia Simone’s Secret to Starting the 1,000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle of Building a Successful Business

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/digitalcommerce. That’s Rainmaker.FM/digitalcommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to another brand new episode of the Digital Entrepreneur. This is episode number 17 of the Digital Entrepreneur. I am your host, Jerod Morris, the VP of Marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I am joined by one of my great work colleagues, one of my good friends, and one of the co-founders of Rainmaker Digital. She is also the chief content officer. A person, a voice, a personality that you know well, Ms. Sonia Simone. Who is also a keynote speaker at the upcoming Digital Commerce Summit. Sonia, how are you doing?

Sonia Simone: I’m good. I’m having a good day, doing my thing.

Jerod Morris: Very good. I definitely appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today. We have a really important topic to talk about which I feel like sometimes we kind of shy away from and feel like we’re wasting time almost if we talk about it, but it really is important. We’re going to get to that in just a second. The reason why you’re going to be talking about that with us is because it’s going to be what your closing keynote is about at Digital Commerce Summit.

Most of you listening have probably heard us talk about Digital Commerce Summit before, but if you haven’t, Digital Commerce Summit is the premier live educational and networking event for people who create and sell digital products and services. That’s the big tag line. More casually, it is our annual event. We’ve put on an annual event now for a couple of years. This is now the new annual event that we are doing in conjunction with Digital Commerce Academy, which we launched toward the end of last year.

So Digital Commerce Summit will really focus on the underlying process behind creating and selling digital goods and services. It’s going to be a great event for networking and also a great event for learning from people like Sonia. People like Brian Clark, Rand Fishkin, Chris Ducker, Chris Lema, and Jeff Walker. A lot of really great people are going to be there sharing their expertise and sharing their insight, and we want to tell you about it because currently the early bird pricing is still available — it’s $795 for a ticket. It will eventually go up to $995, so I wanted to make sure that you had another opportunity to hear about it, another reason to go. Go check out the URL Rainmaker.FM/summit and that will give you more details about it.

Don’t do it quite yet. Listen in, because the best way to get details about this is to actually hear from one of the speakers and hear her talk about one of the things that she’s going to be talking about. That’s what we’re going to talk about with Sonia today. Sonia, your closing keynote — which is going to be on the first day of Digital Commerce Summit — the title of it is “It’s All In Your Head: Developing the Digital Entrepreneur Mindset.”

Why is Focusing on Mindset a Worthwhile Investment of Our Time and Energy?

Jerod Morris: I want to start out by playing devil’s advocate for a minute to kick things off. Isn’t mindset talk just a bunch of frou-frou nonsense? Wouldn’t we be better served by just delving into tried-and-true tactics and rolling up our sleeves and getting to work? Why do we need to worry about mindset?

Sonia Simone: Jerod, I’m shocked and offended you would ask that question. I’m not really shocked and offended. It’s interesting, because in our company that’s actually the real question. Brian Clark will ask me, “Why are we doing this?” The answer really comes out of my experience — particularly at conferences. I think that anybody who’s ever been to a good conference where you get a lot of information, a lot of good things that you can use, you think, “Oh, yeah. I can totally try that. That would work. I’m sure that would work. I’m going to try that out.”

You get so many things that you’re going to implement, and you get home and if you do one thing it’s a miracle. Knowing what to do matters. It is important. You want to be working on things that have the best chance of succeeding for your individual unique combination of topic and skills and strengths and weaknesses. You want tactics. Tactics are very important. But if you do not implement then you don’t get results, there’s no way around it. It’s so easy for us to say, “Yeah, I’m totally going to implement. This time I’m going to implement. It’s not going to be like all those other times when I didn’t implement. This time I’m going to implement.”

Really the point of the talk … First of all, where it’s positioned is at the end of day one. You’ve got a head full of juicy ideas. You’re fired up. You know that some of these things are going to make a material difference. The timing of this is so that you get up and you go back to your room for a half hour before you go out to the party and you do something. You actually implement something. And you really can. In a half hour it’s amazing how much you can get done. It’s about getting the spark while the fire is still burning and using it.

Also learning what’s going to keep you implementing, what’s going to keep that momentum rolling as you move forward. Because we don’t want you to get fired up at the conference, have a wonderful time, go home, and have the same exact thing that you had before the conference. The whole point of the conference is transformation and action. That’s why we’re talking mindset. It’s really about getting yourself to do the things that you know will be beneficial.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, You know what’s so interesting about that? You’ll appreciate this. About 15 minutes ago while I was preparing for our conversation I had this spark of inspiration. I was scrolling through Digital Commerce Summit and I saw the description for my own presentation — which I’m giving on the first day — and it led me to this idea for what my first slide can be and the opening statement that I can make. It just hit me, and I was like, “Oh crap, what should I do with this real quick? Should I open up a Google doc?” I was like, “Let me just pull out a notecard. I already know what I’m going to do with it.”

That’s something that you and I — we went to a conference together back in February, a really transformative conference. One of the things that we learned is this whole notecard idea and this way to capture ideas and organize presentations. It’s great. It’s amazing that that still — it doesn’t just linger on, it literally drives.

I know you do this. I do this. And that has been so much of our inspiration — different tweaks that we want to make to our conference to add to it, to make it better. That’s what a great conference should do, really spit you out — yes, with the tactics and with new strategies. But, like you said, they are pointless if when you fly back home, by the time you land you’ve forgotten about them or if you don’t have the motivation or whatever it takes to actually implement them.

Here we are months later and we’re still doing all this stuff from the conference that we went to. That’s our goal with Digital Commerce Summit, for people to be feeling the same way months, even years after the conference because of what they’ve learned and what they’ve gained in this direction — if they’re really excited to go in it.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, Exactly.

Jerod Morris: You know what else is interesting too? In terms of the structure of the conference, your presentation coming at the end of the first day. It’ll be a really interesting bookend to Rand Fishkin’s opening keynote in which he’s going to share the story of Moz and the many highs and lows along the way, a lot of which were driven by his fluctuating mindset and how that all played into it. I think it will be a really interesting bookend to see one of those presentations at the beginning and then yours at the end. It will be a great way to kick off and end that first day.

Sonia Simone: I agree. It’s going to be interesting.

How the Mindset of an Entrepreneur Is More of a Skill to Be Developed than Simply an Innate Talent

Jerod Morris: Okay, let’s get back to talking about mindset here. How is the mindset of a digital business owner — a digital entrepreneur — a skill rather than an innate talent? And why is that distinction important?

Sonia Simone: I think this comes up a lot for people. There are some people — and typically it’s because there’s something in your background that opened this idea up to you — that will look at a tactic and they’ll say, “That’s a good idea.” And they just sit down and do it. The Gary Vaynerchuk type. That kind of high energy, hyped up, action-oriented, not necessarily … A lot of those people are not great planners and they’re not great long-term strategic people, but they get a lot of stuff done. They throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall and some of it sticks.

I think there’s a belief — and it’s very prevalent, especially in the United States — that that is the kind of person who can own a business. That that is the sort of temperament that business owners have. If you don’t have that temperament in your DNA, then you don’t get to own a business. That that’s the only kind of person who can be a successful business owner. But also that a certain amount of that habit of just sitting down and getting it done — just sit down and knock something out real quickly and see what happens — that that’s always an innate trait and that it’s not something that we can learn. We can learn so much more than we think we can. I love Carol Dweck’s work on fixed mindset versus growth mindset.

A fixed mindset is, “I have a certain set of talents. I have a certain intelligence. I have a certain level of energy and drive. That’s what I’ve got and the degree to which I succeed or fail is based on the cards that I was dealt and we’re done with the conversation.” The growth mindset is, “I can get better at things I’m not good at. I can find workarounds for things that are not strengths. Maybe I can either figure out a creative way to not do them, figure out a creative way to partner, or just get better.” A lot of times we can get better at a lot more things than we think we can.

That growth mindset is a question of realizing it. Maybe just noticing in yourself where you have this fixed mindset comes up — most of us have it about some things — and then reminding yourself that that’s not the only way to think about it. It’s not useful, it doesn’t serve you. It’s really much more a collection of habits than it is your DNA. Some people are by nature a little more optimistic, and some people are definitely by nature more introverted or extroverted. There are things that are innate. But you can work with almost any kind of personality type if you can just figure out a good habit set that suits you. That’s where we’re always talking about how unique every business is, because every business owner is so different.

Jerod Morris: Since I’ve known you I don’t think there’s any topic that I’ve seen you get as worked up about, and I mean that in a good way, passionate about outside of this idea that entrepreneurs are born rather than made. Is that something that you’ve seen over and over again? Where people that we might classify as, “they don’t have the traits to be an entrepreneur,” but they’ve gone on to be successful? Have you seen lots of examples of that happening because people have cultivated the skills and habits to make it happen?

Sonia Simone: I have. I think I get cranky about it because for so many years I totally bought into it. I was never much of a salesperson. I was never any good at it. It always made me feel weird, even when I was a kid selling raffle tickets. I like to joke that I couldn’t sell raffle tickets to my grandmother, mostly because I couldn’t make the call and then I couldn’t close the sale. It seemed kind of weird.

I was held back by it for a long time, and really only was able to resolve it from having my back against the wall because I was in a really difficult economy and jobs were not findable. Then, at the same time, I had been reading Copyblogger as a total fangirl and trying things, and they were working better than I thought they could. I started to see that that limitation maybe was being promulgated by people who didn’t know what they were talking about, so I started looking around.

For every trait that you hear passed around as gospel, “A true entrepreneur must have this trait” — one of them is you have to be able to sell. Well, you really don’t, especially now. You have to be able to persuade, but there’s so many ways to do that. It’s not just about cold calling somebody and talking them into something. There’s lots of ways to persuade. Also decisiveness — that comes right out of Harvard Business School, this notion that you have to be decisive as a business owner. Right or wrong, you just have to decide on something and do it. That’s one of the reasons for so many high-profile crashes and burns with CEOs, because they lead their company right off the cliff. “I made a decision and now we’re going to do it.” Well, your decision was terrible.

The business owner with the highest market cap that I know personally, is like a squirrel who can’t cross the street. This guy changes his mind 28 times a day. It makes his people nuts. It’s not necessarily a strength, but I will tell you that no movement happens in that company that hasn’t been well thought out. He also surrounds himself with people who counterbalance that and make sure that there’s movement and drive. I’ve seen people who are not that smart make great businesses. I’ve seen people who are very introverted and really have no interest in getting themselves to get out there and glad-hand. Glad-hand is a verb only introverts use, right?

I just can’t think of a trait that everybody says, “You can’t be a business owner if you have that trait.” In most cases, I could give you two, three, four, five examples of people I know personally. I’ve become very cranky about gurus who tell you that you can’t based on their experience and based on what they’ve...

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