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The Portfolio Life and Memos on Marketing that Let You Win!
Episode 23313th December 2023 • The HERO Show • Richard W Matthews
00:00:00 01:04:54

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In this episode of The Hero Show, Richard Matthews speaks with Ben Guttmann — seasoned marketer and author of “Simply Put: Why Clear Messages Win―and How to Design Them."

This week, Ben takes us through his unique journey from founding a thriving agency to his role as an educator at Baruch College in New York City.

Together, Richard Matthews and Ben Guttmann explore the concept of a portfolio life, delving into Ben's experiences and insights on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The discussion also delves into crucial aspects of connecting with audiences through the power of simple and effective messaging.

Join the conversation today with host Richard Matthews, AKA The Alchemist together with special guest Ben Guttman as they uncover the nuances of Ben's career trajectory and the valuable lessons learned along the way, providing a wealth of inspiration and knowledge for both aspiring marketers and seasoned professionals alike.


Richard Matthews: [:

or two tools

that you couldn't

live without

to do what you do

something you use

to actually deliver

what you do

something you think

is essential to getting

your job done nowadays

which might be a little

interesting now that

you're in a

portfolio stage of life

Ben Guttmann: notion has been pretty great, actually

I don't feel like I take full

full advantage of it, but

I used evernote for a long time

and it was fine it was okay

but notion is really nice

to be able to kind of put more of

those interesting kind of

database or multimedia things

in a way that Evernote never was great for

so that's become kind of

my internal like knowledge base

if I'm working on the book

if I'm working on teaching

or working on a consulting project

I'm able to have all of those things

documented in the same place

which makes a big difference

and the second one is Webflow

Richard Matthews: [:

Ben Guttmann: Hi, Richard. How are you? Thanks for having me.

Richard Matthews: Awesome. Glad to have you here. I know we were talking a little bit ahead of time. You're calling in from New York. Is that right?

. I'm excited to talk to you [:

Richard Matthews: Yeah, absolutely. For those of you who are following around on my wife and I's travels and our families, we are still in Florida because November is not here yet. We're going to be here till November. And I know in, I was seeing some pictures, some from friends of mine in New York. You guys just got like flooded out there, didn't you?

Ben Guttmann: We got pretty walloped. It was pretty bad. I'm in a neighborhood here that has a little bit higher elevation, so it wasn't too bad, but what was interesting about this was there's a number of neighborhoods in the city that have heard that you know, the word heights in them or something like that or slope and so park slope flooded it because it was.

Lower elevation and like something like Jackson Heights or Brooklyn Heights didn't flood because it's higher up. And it just goes to show that these names weren't just pulled out of thin air. It's something that does relate to the actual topography.

Richard Matthews: That's fun. Yeah, I know. We got to go to New York a couple years ago. It was right after COVID and we didn't get to go into anything because it was all still closed down. So like on our trip around the country, we got to walk through Central Park and take the hike the horses around.

dn't go into the zoo because [:

Ben Guttmann: Well, I do tell people when they come here, the best thing you can do is just walk around. Because that is what is different about New York than everywhere else in the country and most of the places in the world is that you could stand in the middle of it and you can walk an hour in any direction. And it's still a city, you know, there's still shops and bars and restaurants and everything else.

Richard Matthews: My most surprising part about New York was two things. One was everyone in the rest of the country is lying through their teeth about having New York style pizza. Like New York pizza is its own breed. I don't even think you should call it pizza. It's like a heavenly circle food. I don't know.

like the friendliest, nicest [:

And like, we were having a hard time finding a place to park downtown. And some guy just like waved us down. He was like, Hey, if you're trying to get to Central Park this time of day, you need to go three streets over here, two streets down this way and park there. You'll have spot on the left for you.

And I was like, man, they found a place for us to park. And we went to the park with a couple of guys that like ran some big companies or whatever. And we spent the whole afternoon with our kids playing together at the park and they invited us over for dinner. And like, it was just, you know, it is not the New York that is portrayed in movies.

Ben Guttmann: Oh absolutely, alright they put this in the book which is the difference between being kind and being nice. And so being kind is what you really want to go for. Being kind is the, you care about the outcomes, you care about the well being. Of somebody else of the person you're talking to. Being nice is the surface level part.

It's the politeness It's the smile and you know kind of the facade about that and so new yorkers not always nice always kind I actually think that.

Richard Matthews: That's a good way describe that.

Guttmann: Great piece of it.[:

I think that there's plenty of validity to something and, you know, New Haven pizza. I was just in Buffalo recently and Buffalo has their own unique style of pizza. Would I seek it out? I don't know if go out of my way for that, but it's interesting to try.

Richard Matthews: My contention is that they're everywhere in the country, they sell things that they call New York style pizza, and I'm like, that's a lie. That's what it is, a straight lie. I'm like, no, not New York style. You made a flat round pizza that looks like it could have come from New York, but it is not on the same playing field.

ce in Brooklyn is that place [:

And there are some good slice shops now that have become like a thing, but for the most part, when you talk about those two iconic New York foods, it's the same answer that like people in Philly will give you about their cheesesteaks, which is Hey, it's just kind of like the neighborhood place that you like a lot, like every neighborhood has a spot that's like, this is the better one.

This is the not so good one. There's not like the platonic ideal of a slice somewhere or a bagel somewhere.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So what I want to do before we get too far into the interview is go through your introduction real quick. So if you see me looking off over here, I've got your your intro over here. So Ben Guttmann is a marketing and communications expert and author of "Simply Put: Why Clear Messages Win―and How to Design Them".

I think you got a picture of that cover, right? You can show us what it looks like. There you go. Coming out shortly. And he's an experienced marketing executive and educator on a mission to get leaders to more effectively connect by simplifying their message. Ben is former co founder and managing partner at Digital Native Groups, an award winning agency that worked with NFL I Love New York, Comcast, NBC Universal.

Nature Conservancy and many [:

The what's your business like? Who do you serve? What do you do for them?

Ben Guttmann: Yeah, I mean, I appreciate the bio. It gives a good rundown of stuff. So I ran that marketing agency for 10 years. I did that right out of school. It was originally just me and a couple of buddies setting up shop in an old professor's basement where we slapped our logo on the wall and, you know, worked at the local ice cream shop and camera shop and eventually punched our way up to having an office here and having a whole team and working with all these great brands.

ting. That comes out October [:

I'm talking to you on October 4th. So I'm like right in the thick of that, which is really fun. And that's, I mean, anybody who's ever written a book knows that's kind of a long term project that takes you about a year or so from hiring an agent and book proposal to, getting the final thing in your hands.

So that's the big project that I've been working on recently. And I do a number of kind of speaking and training things based off of that, that are beginning to ramp up. I also do some independent consulting and advising as a fractional CMO. I've been doing that for a few clients over the past year.

And I continue to work in kind of some of the tourism stuff that I've been, that we used to specialize in our agency. And then I teach, this is the best thing. I love it so much. I teach marketing at Baruch College here in New York City, which is my alma mater. It's part of the city university of New York.

It's the best engine for social and economical mobility in the country. And it's an excellent school and I love teaching there. Anybody who ever meet that thinks that they want to go teach somewhere. I will hammer it into their head that they should go do it.

Baruch College. Yeah, that's [:

He's got like a portfolio of companies that are doing their things. That's sort of like where you're like, okay, you sell one company. Now you've got a portfolio of things that are happening, which is I don't know, it's like a good goal for an entrepreneur to get to that point where you've got your hands in a few different things and helping companies grow with just some strategy here and there.

Ben Guttmann: It's an interesting kind of phase to go through. Right. So I ran my last company for 10 years and doing anything for 10 years is a long time, it doesn't matter what it is. If it's having a job, if it's being a school, if it's just creating a job, making your own business, 10 years is a long time.

It's a big chapter of your life. And so I've been enjoying for the past year or two. Instead of kind of doing that one big thing, diversifying and doing a few smaller things and I look forward to that for the next year or so. Also, and at some point, things will shift. The pendulum in life will go the other way and say, Hey, you know what?

o, right? But I think as the [:

Richard Matthews: Yeah, I have two thoughts on that. One of them is this we tend to entrepreneurs particularly really look at the whole work life balance as like, Hey, we're trying, we've started a business. We can have work life balance, right? And they have that legal scale thing in their head.

And I always think that's a dumb metaphor, because the reality is it's far closer to if you're gonna have a metaphor for it, a rubber band for like some periods of time, you're really stretching that rubber band and if you want forward momentum, you have to let go. Right. And so it can move forward.

ime to relax a little bit and[:

Ben Guttmann: That is exactly what it is that you can't do like in marketing where I spent all my time, we used to always say marketing is about connecting, you know, culture to business a lot of times, and you can't do that. Unless you have the time to experience the culture, right? Unless you have time to be a user of the world and not just somebody who is trying to sell things into it all the time.

And I think that applies broadly to anybody in entrepreneurial ventures that you need to look at things, you know, look at your own kind of health and wellbeing, obviously, look at your financial wellbeing. And also just be able to kind of like step back from the. You know, looking so deeply at the trees and see the forest, right?

You want to be able to, you know, have a whole understanding of who you are and who the world and what the world is and how you want to fit into it in the next chapter. It's kind of just taking a break, taking beat. And it's not that I'm taking a break, right? I'm working all the time. I'm enjoying all these different things.

But I [:

If I did that right away, it would have been a different experience as it would have as getting this perspective over the past year has been.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, and like, just like to further that, like, particularly in marketing, right? You know, because we're a marketing agency as well, different sort of world than what you were doing. But if you're selling things into the marketplace, as you said, you have to experience life. Like, if, you know, good sex, good food, good friends, good experiences, good, like, if you're not actually, like, living life, how are you going to create products that other people actually want that are busy living life?

So, you know, yeah.

n like the tech universe and [:

If you're not able to have the perspective of, okay, well, this is how a normal person acts. This is what a normal person wants. And the spectrum of normal is absolutely gigantic, right? But it's important for us to step out of our own bubbles a lot of times and to understand, you know, who our audience is.

And that's what I talk about in the book actually a lot too is, but is that I have a little chapter called the enlightened idiot welcoming the enlightened idiot is. The idiot means anybody who's the common man, right? That's where the word comes from. And it's, so it's not a derisive take. And the idea is the enlightened idiot can give us perspective on our messages, can give us pictures on our ideas.

That we can't get ourselves because we're so kind of in our own head a lot of times.

good comic book hero has an [:

Or basically, how did you get to this point?

Ben Guttmann: Now, man, who knows? So the I ran this agency, as I mentioned before, right out, I started right out of school with a couple of buddies and it was largely because. I didn't want to go get a job. And I'm sure a lot of folks in our shoes, a lot of people who are listening will appreciate that is that, you know, we aren't necessarily always built for having a job or at least having a normal job because, you know, either our personalities or talents or experience, whatever it is make it are constitutionally unable to kind of do that.

we can figure something out [:

And we, you know, over the course of a year, again, we slapped a logo on the wall and worked off of folding tables. And you know, there was an inflatable couch on the side of the room and we ran our business there and we did some work with them. They worked with like fortune 500 clients. So we didn't really actually have that much overlap with them because we were a bunch of knuckleheaded 22 year olds, but we started to cut our teeth.

We on the local ice cream shop, I mentioned the camera shop, this little real estate guy and bit by bit, it became something that we could tell the story of ourselves a little bit bigger, a little bit bigger, a little bit bigger. And eventually you start getting this project, which is the medium budget.

ve a team and we have, we're [:

And then that's, you know, that's when I pick up the story, the other part of it, which is that we decided to sell the business. So it was a really fun ride. For me also there's kind of an immense amount of like privilege that I have in terms of, I. Nobody in my family like had a job, like everybody made a job, like going back several generations.

My father is an attorney who has his own small private practice. My grandfather before him came over during the after the war and opened up a couple delis diners here in New York City. His father in Czechoslovakia had a grocery store, you know, before that was a farmer, and he'd gone back.

stance, but it is the subtle [:

Support that you get when you go home for Thanksgiving and nobody is asking you, Hey, so when are you going to stop that silly thing and go get a job? People understand what it's like to make something and they understand what it's like to, you know, have uneven pay periods and all these other things. And that level of kind of quiet support is something that I am always very grateful for.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, that's wonderful. I know my family is not entrepreneurial. And for the first, you know, because I started young, I started my first business at like 13 and convinced my dad to give me a loan. Like, go and buy candy bars wholesale at the local big box store and retail on campus.

And I made like:

er if you got a job. And I'm [:

And it wasn't until just a couple of years ago. Where my family is, they're still like, we don't quite understand what you do, but we're proud of you for whatever it is that you do, whatever the weird stuff is that you have accomplished.

Ben Guttmann: Oh yeah. I mean, the first couple of years. All my friends that went and got jobs that made way more money than we did. Right? And then eventually it starts to even out and then eventually you make more money because you know, that's the nature of building a business.

Richard Matthews: Yeah.

Ben Guttmann: And, you know, once, once you start pulling in your own income that does tend to quiet those voices of, ah, just get a job. And then eventually they turn around saying, I always believed in you. Oh, I always knew it.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, I always knew it.

Ben Guttmann: Always knew it.

Richard Matthews: I always knew you'd be successful, Yeah. And it's true. Like my parents, they very literally always believed me. They're like, listen, I don't understand what you're doing, but if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish it. So it was never a negative thing. It was just a, we're pretty sure you're crazy.

it's not you know, there's a [:

You know, it's not that any, everyone can be a chef. It's that a good chef can come from anywhere, right? Same kind of thing, right? Not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but a good chef or a good entrepreneur can come from anywhere. And that's really where I've ended up on that journey and realize like now it's not that I would wish entrepreneurship on anyone, but it's for the right people.

It's really good. And it's really powerful. And you can change the world or change your own part of it anyways.

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Richard Matthews: And anyways. I've always, liked that

and now, my biggest struggle now, and you probably run into this because you teach, right, is like, how do you tell people like, you know, are, is entrepreneurship right for you?

Ben Guttmann: Oh, I have that opportunity every single semester. So my class is made up of almost exclusively seniors and almost exclusively marketing students. And depending on the semesters, like this semester I have a smaller class but some semesters I have 50 or 70 students and I'm, I will out of that group I will, I, cause I teach on Monday nights.

lives. Some will go to grad [:

But for a large percentage of them, you know, undergrad is it for me so far, it's been the case. And what it's this very weird responsibility to say, okay, this is the moment where you, but once I say class dismissed, you're out of here, you're fine, you're done. And I always tell them this analogy, which is the escalator is up until this moment in their life, you've been basically on an escalator.

Everybody has their own unique challenges. And a lot of my students have incredible biographies. But to simplify it. You're basically going to go from first grade to second grade to third grade unless something really bad happens. You fall off the escalator, you jump off the escalator. You're going to be going up each grade.

tor stops and you're getting [:

And you know, it's daunting because you've never experienced that before. It's always been that there's some sort of quiet momentum pushing behind you. And so that means you can go get a job. That means you can go make a job. I mean, you got to find out what you're, what the hell you want to do with your life, who you want to spend your life with, where you want to spend your life.

All these are real questions that never really came up before for somebody. And I tell people at this moment, just making the soft sales pitch, not so soft sales pitch for entrepreneurship, which is you will never have less burden than you have now, you will never have fewer bills. You will never have a less responsibility in terms of having a spouse or kids or pets or whatever you got to do on average again.

you know, weird kind of self [:

Somebody, you're in the same position as everybody else in a year from now when they look at your resume and they say you're 23 instead of 22 when you graduate. And they look at your resume and they say, Oh, this guy actually tried something. He started an agency, it didn't work. He started a software company, it didn't work.

Whatever it was. And that's the worst case scenario. The best case scenario is, Hey, it worked and it sticks. And you go and you can do something interesting of your life that makes you more fulfilled. And so I always say that it only gets harder in life. As you get older, you're going to have more, you're going to have kids.

You're going to have a spouse. You're going to have pets. You can have a mortgage, your back's going to hurt. All these things are going to be the case. Try something as soon as you can and at least let the kind of market rule it out instead of yourself.

e five other guys and it was [:

Like, and it was just. It was so easy because I had no wife, I had no kids, I had no pets. I had like, the only thing I had to take care of was the cockroaches and I'd have to keep them alive. I was trying to kill them. There was, you know, there's just no responsibilities. So getting, you know, I started my marketing company right out of that.

You know, that's it. Your responsibility is just to yourself. Right? And you're that responsibility to just, to try things and to learn and to fail and to know that you don't have this whole life to support yet. So failure is not a big thing. Not the same as, you know, like now where I've got a wife and four kids and a family and pets and like a whole, you know, in my case, you know, 13 other families whose livelihood is based on whether or not we make payroll this week.

the tongue, which is, but I [:

Because now I'm at the point, you know, I don't know how many years I guess it's been since I graduated that I see a lot of my peers that are saying, Hey, I did the thing that was the seeming escalator. That was the go. And I got a job at some, you know, insurance company or whatever it is. And nothing's wrong with doing that.

But then they look and they're like, they go, is this what it was? Am I supposed to just keep doing this? And so you have a way and COVID. And the past couple of years has definitely been a kick in the butt for a lot of people to look around and say, Am I, is this actually what I want to keep doing?

And the, you know, if you owe it to yourself to answer some of those questions earlier on, instead of kind of taking the easy route.

nsibility to see what you're [:

Ben Guttmann: I love that.

Richard Matthews: Yeah. So I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about your superpowers, right? So every iconic hero has their superpowers, whether that's a fancy flying suit made by their genius intellect or the ability to call down thunder from the sky, or you know, maybe it's their super strength, like superman, but in the real world, heroes have what I call a zone of genius, which is either a skill. That you were born with or skills that set of skills that you developed over the course of your life.

And it's really what sets you apart and allows you to help your people slay their villains, come out on top of their own journeys. And the way I like to frame it is if you look at all the skills you develop over the course of your career, you probably have a common thread that ties all those skills together.

With that framing, what do you think your superpower is in business?

k tools to put them into use [:

And, but the reason I ended up writing it was because so many folks. And I would see this as in my career as a professional, as an educator, as a consumer of the world, that, so many people have such a hard time articulating what it is they want to say and what, why it's important and what's their story, what's their product, what's their cause.

All these things get stuck and like, it might make sense to them. And sometimes it actually doesn't make sense to them, but they want to get it, they want to get it out in the world. And it's the most important thing we do, right? Communication, is the number one cause for divorce, right? It's number one, if bad communication bad communication is number one cause for airline accidents.

Number one cause of healthcare accidents. And so it's important. It's important that we communicate properly. Not this is before you even mentioned the billions of dollars that we spend on advertising doesn't work because it's not connecting.

uestion which kind of drives [:

Once you peel off the lid, it becomes a very deep of a topic and you can go and you can look at the five elements we have and all these different things.

Richard Matthews: I was gonna say, I love that as a superpower because it's the one thing that I constantly preach to my kids. My oldest one is 14. He's actually, his birthday is on the day your book is releasing on October 10th, which is fun.

Ben Guttmann: Ohh, happy birthday.

is clarity of communication. [:

Ben Guttmann: 100% and so many people can't do it. If your son could do it at 14, he's ahead of half the people that I've met that are in the C suite that are two or three or four times his age. That's it's so rare. And because of that, it stands out a lot of times. I also think the, another thing, it was personally, for me, that has been a kind of a complimentary version of that is how you extend that visually. So my functional background is in design. Like I've been a practicing designer for years when I ran my agency, even I was still getting the trenches and do some design. And that is like as weird kind of superpower that I do recommend.

ot being as good as you want [:

And we've done that where we've had like proposals where, oh man, we might not have the qualifications for this project, but other people have bigger portfolios and they've worked with bigger clients and we're just kind of this ragtag group of guys. But you know what, we're going to make a proposal that's going to razzle dazzle them and they're going to, they're going to consider us at least.

And so I would say if anybody is remotely. Has some sort of aptitude towards design to nourish that as much as you can.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, I agree with that. I'm not a designer by trade, but I have cultivated as much as I can. So like we, you know, I designed the first draft of our website for agency and it looks good. Like you wouldn't be sad if you looked at it and be like, Oh, someone was good at this. I now have professional designers on my team and they're working on redrafts for that.

And like watching someone who's actually got like talent for it, as opposed to just trained aptitude is there's, a world's part, but still like you can get a long ways just by learning the aptitude.

designers too, is that's the [:

Richard Matthews: Yeah. And it is, I've also noticed in, because of what we do, we work in podcast agencies, a lot of video and a lot of audio content, a lot of the, you know, the visuals that go along with it the thing that gets the most compliments. And the most like responses back from clients is always the design work.

It doesn't matter how hard any of the other stuff is or how much work goes into it. Doesn't matter. The thing that we get the compliments from is the design work. And so having a good designer pay spades, even if it's just referrals, because they're like, Oh man, design work is great, which means everything must be great.

y puts the effort in to make [:

Richard Matthews: Yeah. I call those unconscious trust signals. The kind things that like the market is going to see and perceive. And they might not be able to tell you why they trust your company more than another. Right? Like someone who knows design and knows what's going on can point to like, oh, you know, everything that Apple has ever put out uses exactly the same font and exactly the same ways, right?

Like they follow consistent design language every single time. So every time you see something from them, you automatically recognize it, right? It's unconscious to press signals. Same kind of thing happens, right? The quality of your videos, the quality of your audio on your podcast, the quality of your design work that comes out, the consistency of all your email signatures from everyone on your team, right?

Those kind of things, you might be able to, you know, the person who's going to buy from you is not going to be able to write down a list of here's the reasons why I do or don't trust you, but they'll make snap and that's where those unconscious trust signals come in. A lot of it has to do with intelligently used design.

t. I love that. I'm going to [:

Richard Matthews: Absolutely. Teach them in class. The more people who know the better so I want to talk about flip side, right? So if your superpower is that clarity of message, the flip side of every superpower is of course the fatal flaw, right? So just like Superman has his kryptonite or Wonder Woman can't remove her bracelets of victory without going mad.

You probably have a flaw, something that's held you back in your business of something you struggled with. For me, it was perfectionism. Right? And I always would like, keep wanting to make things better and like to the point of not shipping. And if you don't ship anything, you've not actually done anything.

You've not provided anyone any value. And so I had to come up with some ways to get over that. And for me, it was like I can take something to 80% and then I have to give it to someone else to actually like finish and hit publish because I'll never hit publish. I could always make it a little bit better.

So I built systems around myself that, you know, take that into account. So I think, but more important for this conversation. Then what the flaw is how have you worked to overcome it so that you know, our listeners might learn a little bit from your experience.

me, I think it is something [:

I have sometimes found myself in situations where I've worked with folks who are just like a different wavelength, right? They want to be maybe slower on something more methodical. They want to be subtler in the way they're communicating or the way that like us as a group or their client, whatever it is maybe more conservative about some of these different tactics.

And I have found, when I've been in these situations, occasionally that my default is to often kind of, you know, kind of, you know, first of all, there's some sort of kind of, you know, conflict at the beginning because of that, but then I, my default is to say, okay, well, you know, let me take a step back. Let me defer to them to be more kind of, you know, again, subtler, slower, conservative, whatever it's going to be. To tone things down to keep the peace, but then I have found that ends up being.


The way I, which I do that because they want to do something else. I realized, look, I want to make sure that I'm not being a total jerk about it, but also like, it's not so much my problem. It's their problem. Right? If you watch the West Wing, have you ever seen the West Wing?

Richard Matthews: A few episodes of it, but I've not watched it religiously or anything.

Ben Guttmann: So I love that show. I guess I'll probably rewatch that at some point, but they have there's a bit in there where the president is on like his reelection campaign and he's having a hard time because of this exact thing.

advisors telling him to kind [:

And eventually they say, well, let Bartlett be Bartlett. And that's the president's name Jed Bartlett. Let Bartlett be Bartlett, like let him loose. Let him like his talent and ability and energy and style are what got him to that position. And by somehow hemming him in doing these other kind of focus group tests or things or whatever, you're just you're taking away the magic from it and not saying, listen, I'm not the president, but nor am I likely going to be.

But I have found that it's better for me often to change the situation to say, okay, let me go to a place where that energy is better used as better appreciated than it is to kind of try to be something that I'm not in there.

how up as who you and to own [:

And that's one of the things that like, I've noticed as like the CEO of my company is that I really have to focus on like, Hey, these are things that I'm not good at. Or that I don't and I have to get those off to other people. And it's like, what do I really like doing that I show up really well at?

And for me it's speaking, it's teaching, it's podcasts. Like I can do those all day, every day and enjoy doing them. And they don't drain me. They energize me and those kinds of things. So the more I do that, the better our companies does. And, but like the more I do project management, like the worst we do, because that is just not okay.

Ben Guttmann: Oh, I think that's a great I love, yeah, it's like, if I'm like, I'm not going to help the person who's really good at the bookkeeping on their stuff, like, I'm not going to be an added value to that, but also then they still let me go out and do the, be the loud mouth somewhere and do my thing. It is about kind of finding the place that works for you.

going to be the way I wants [:

And I know when my wife and I started dating, that was a big piece of it was we didn't play the like text messaging game where you're like waiting for two days to respond to something. Both of us really appreciated that, you know, you text them, you're going to get the response. And that's, I think, emblematic of the way in which I try to carry myself in other.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, I'm the same way with my wife. We actually got married because of that exact reason. Because we were text buddies for, like, five years. And then at some point we were just like, we'd be good together. So we got married. And, you know, 15 years later here we are. So,

Ben Guttmann: That's awesome.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, that's fun. So, all right. Talk a little bit about your common enemy, right? So every superhero has an arch nemesis and it's a thing that you constantly have to fight against in your world and the world of business, it takes a lot of forms, but I want to put it in a context of you know, we could either go with the context of your clients when you ran the marketing agency, or maybe even your students now as you're teaching and it's a mindset or it's a flaw that you're constantly have to fight to overcome.

et them the result that they [:

Ben Guttmann: Well, I think that the book is a good jumping off point there, which is there's a whole chapter that's the crime of complicated. The opposite of simple is complicated. I define it as simple is, you know, over here on this end of the spectrum. Complex is on the other end of the spectrum. Simple and complex are opposites. Complicated is when something is unnecessarily complex. Something that could be simple but is complex.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, so it's as simple as can be. Right? Yeah, it's simple mean that it's complex.

Ben Guttmann: Yeah. Complex, there's lots of things that are complex, right? There's like international diplomacy is complex, like mergers and acquisitions are complex. These things have a lot of pieces and they move around and it's a million different things you have to consider.

n't be complex. So those are [:

When you look at people who use like Lego structures are building mini golf course. There's looking at patterns of square. Every these researchers go through every single different type of model for a study and they find that we have the, our first bias, our first instinct is to add instead of subtract when we're faced with it, when we're faced with a change, the question of a change, and you'll see this in your own daily life, right?

s there's a lot of things in [:

If you're looking for a new job, if you're looking for a new bonus from the board or to get your company's name in the paper more is the way you do that. There's not so much evidence of absence. And it's also a way that we can hide, right? More complicated language, more kind of buzzwords thrown out, more filibustering in your meeting is a way for us to make people feel like they got something, but actually not giving them anything.

Simplicity requires that you're kind of out in the open. You don't have your shields of all the big words and jargon and everything else. And it ends up being a very scary place. Takes a lot of bravery to be simple, but ultimately that's what we want. That's what's effective if you look in the market, if you look in psychology, that's what affected, that's what matters. So by enemies is complicated.

ons why I think human beings [:

Life could be better. Whatever it could be better. And so we're constantly looking at how do we make things better. And a lot of times the way you make it better is by adding something and you know, just because that's not always the case, right? But it's a default sort of case is that it could be better and we can add by adding something to it, you know, I could have more money.

I could have more food. I could have more time. I could have more freedom, right? It's always more. And to realize that sometimes better is not more, but less it's a striking realization. And I remember when I realized that in my business, and you hear this a lot in business about learning how to niche down, and a lot of people think that means like, you know, you have to pick a specific industry to work with or something.

nd we have one offer. It has [:

And that's the only thing that we do. And when I got my business to that point where we were only doing this one thing we've tripled just in the last year, right? Because we're not offering. A lot of things we're offering one thing and that goes back to like, it's just, in that case, the offer is actually fairly complex. There's a lot of things that go into what we do but it's a very simple offer. We do this one thing for our clients. And yeah, simplicity is it's a boon for sure.

Ben Guttmann: There's a famous designer from the 20th century named Dieter Rams, which I don't know if you've heard of him, but.

Richard Matthews: For name.

Ben Guttmann: You know Braun, the company Braun. He was the big designer for them He was the inspiration for Johny Ives and for Steve Jobs on a lot of the Apple products in the past Generation and his whole thing was less but better. You know, less, but better less.

e, of course, of your common [:

Your mission, so to speak.

Ben Guttmann: Well, so it's complicated, not the complexity, right? So that's the kind of nuanced difference. In that domain it's simplicity. It is helping people get to a point in their ideas and in their messaging. That is. So simple that it's like sparkling, right? That it resonates, that you hear it and you go, Oh man, you're okay.

And you change how you act and what you buy and who you vote for and who you donate money to. And all these things, an example outside of business, for instance, was a number of years ago, I went to my dentist and I was having all sorts of problems with my teeth. There were, you know, the Guttmann teeth are not blessed with you know, good enamel or whatever other thing we have.

the most painful periodontal [:

You only have to floss the teeth you want to keep. And that's an example of message that is so salient and empathetic as a speaking in the language that I want to hear it, that it works. When something like, you know, you have to floss below the gum line to prevent plaque buildup, it doesn't work, right? That doesn't connect with me in the same way that the more direct, simple one does.

Richard Matthews: Yeah.

Ben Guttmann: So that's the state that I want to help people get to and that part. And then just to go full circle back to the, if you want to go ahead.

to simplicity or is it both?[:

Ben Guttmann: At bats and iteration certainly help. And I think they're very important piece. In this book talk about kind of five principles to it, to simple messaging. So the first one is beneficial, which is. You know, what's in it for me, right? Like what does it mean?

Yeah, exactly. Second one is focus, trying to telling me one thing or it's just three things in trench coat, you know, Frankenstein message is focus. The third one is salient and so this means that it's coming to your attention, right? It's contrasting. It stands out. And is it different than everything else in the market are able to perceive it? Because it's conscious. How are you different than just how do you or how are you the signal from the noise?

minimal is important because [:

A lot of times folks will think, well, you're simple. You mean shorter, right? You mean the fewest number of words. Fewest number of paragraphs, fewest number of slides. And that's not really it. That might be correlated.

Richard Matthews: Yeah.

Ben Guttmann: Generally, with something that's simpler. But what we're actually optimizing for is friction. If you look at from a usability, a user experience hat that you put that on, that's what we're looking for is how do you eliminate as much friction as possible? We're on, you know, 13 hours of media a day as Americans were hearing thousands and thousands of messages a day.

Every one of those is an opportunity that if you get a little bit of friction in your message, it's an off ramp to go pay attention to something else. So that's what we're optimizing for it in minimal. And you take these all together and the more you can act upon these five principles. The simpler your message is going to be.

ealized is that we have some [:

So I'm not going to take the time to explain all these now, but I'll just give you a few. I'm like, we have one we talked about with audience, which is like buy, borrow, build. And then we'll talk about like, what does buy, borrow, build mean? And then we have something I call the the three A's attention, awareness, and authority.

And so like, we'll talk about how content marketing leads to attention where it's authority, and we'll talk about like, yeah, the three leverage points that come from doing a podcast and, you know, there's time leverage and there's access leverage and there's buyer's journey leverage and like those all end up being simple messages.

Like the people that can like, they can hang the ideas on in their head and then, but it belies sort of like the the complexity of like what you're actually doing. So you have to take the time to sort of explain those things, but even when you have like complex things, you can find like simple frameworks or simple things that you can messaging that can help people just hold on to ideas in their head.

r ability to be creative and [:

And it's exactly the opposite of like, you know, everyone's talking about AI nowadays. AI is doesn't have that skill, the skill that AI has something that humans don't have, which is they can hold all the world's information in their head at one time, right? They the technical term for that is irreducibly complex computation. And so we have like that skillset over on like robots have that skill and human beings have this skill of being able to simplify things and be able to package them up that way. And what you're talking and teaching people how to do is like how to systematically be good at that skill because simplification is, it's a learnable skill.

Ben Guttmann: Absolutely. I love that. That's great. And it's, those things that you mentioned are very tangible and they're the kind of things that will stick.

Got a couple more questions [:

And you know, just like every hero has their awesome gadgets, like batarangs, slingers, laser eyes, etc you know, big magical hammer that can fly with talk about top one or two tools that you couldn't live without to do what you do. It could be anything, notepad. Your calendar, your marketing tools, something you use to actually deliver what you do something you think is essential to getting your job done nowadays, which might be a little interesting now that you're in a portfolio stage of life, but what is, you know, one of your number one tools for what you're doing now? Yeah,

Ben Guttmann: So to get as tactical as possible two notion has been pretty great, actually. I don't feel like I take full advantage of it, but. I used evernote for a long time and it was fine. It was okay. But notion is really nice to be able to kind of put more of those interesting kind of database or multimedia things in a way that Evernote never was great for.

ot of stuff. And because you [:

So that's internal, and I'm sure a lot of folks have used that. It's become very popular in the last few years. And the second one is Webflow. And my agency for years and years, we did all sorts of websites for clients. You know, a lot of WordPress stuff and charge a lot of money for them.

Right? Sometimes it starts, you know, a little bit of money, but eventually you got to charge a lot of money for websites. You know, you're doing these big, complicated projects that have all sorts of moving parts and you know, big brands and a lot of multimedia things, whatever it is. And you would charge, and it would cost a lot of money, take a long time to build those things.

around with these things or [:

So, as a designer, I can go in and I can make a website and not have to bug my developer friends to help me out of anything. Eventually, if you get to the really complicated stuff where you have, you know, different kind of APIs and e commerce things or whatever. Yeah, you kind of want to get off Webflow, but for doing like a blog, doing a like a landing page or something. I have found it to be an incredibly empowering tool especially if you are a designer. You kind of have to be a designer because it's basically a design tool, but yeah.

out of Figma and put it into [:

So, you know, Webflow sounds like it would be a good tool for that. I, we haven't tested it yet though. So we're still going from Figma to like WordPress designs. So, you know, maybe one of these days.

Ben Guttmann: Oh yeah, every year I used to go through and test a whole suite of different software. Just to see if we should change our workflow. And I had Webflow on my on my list and every year I'd go in and try to make a little landing page or something in it. And it got better and better, but it never quite hit the threshold for us to do a real client project in it.

But then after I, we sold the business and I took another look at it. Cause I saw some friends that I knew raving about it. It just hit the critical mass where like everything was good enough and. I mean, if you go to my site, go to, it's all built in Webflow. It's been you know, is it a hundred percent perfect.

There's probably a few things that you can that you wish it had. But if your goal is to say you want your designer to own your website, to own your marketing website, especially that's a tool that lets you do that.

base and you said Notion for [:

If you haven't checked out Obsidian yet, Obsidian, yeah, it allows you to just create and then build structure afterwards. Which almost everything else, Notion included, requires structure first and creation. And it's an interesting sort of like, it's a different way to work, and because you can connect the structure afterwards, it has freed up a lot of my own ability to write in particular.

And I have, I've probably written just in the last six weeks since I started moving my knowledge base stuff into Obsidian, I've probably written 25,000 words or more for newsletters and blogs and other things and video scripts. And I'm like, Oh, it's, there's something about it that has just, it works for me, not saying it'll work for you, but it's worth checking out if you are the kind of nerd, like I am, that wants to have a good work.

know, what's funny is, yeah [:

I'm like, well, I'm writing it on Google docs. And then I eventually, you know, move it over together. And he's like, what are you talking about? Google doc, that's crazy. You got to use this platform, that platform. I was like, dude. When you write a book, go talk to me. Okay. Like it's a lot of, it's whatever tool works for you in the moment.

A lot of people, when they're starting a big project, let the tools get in the way for them instead of just being like creative, the pen and paper, right? Okay. Like whatever's the easiest for you to write the stuff. And so if that is something like obsidian, this like notion excellent, but I always tell people like don't, the tool should empower you. They shouldn't be.

Richard Matthews: Yeah.

Ben Guttmann: Don't, too much time noodling on that.

Richard Matthews: Exactly the reason why I bring it up for people who are listening is because I spent a lot of time playing with tools and realizing that the tool was getting in my way, and Obsidian is the first time that I worked with a tool that the tool just got out of my way.

pulled in everything I have [:

So like if you're like, hey, I want to write about I don't know like podcasting, right? Everything that I've ever written that has the title podcasting in it or has the keyword podcasting in it pops up. And so you can see like, oh, I've already written something about this. And so you can pull them all together and you can end up connecting them together.

It's cool. It's cool.

Ben Guttmann: I'll I'll check it out.

Richard Matthews: Yeah, so one last question for you and it is your guiding principles, right? One of the things that makes heroes heroic is that they live by a code. For instance, Batman never kills his enemies. He only ever brings them to Arkham Asylum. So as we wrap up this interview, I want to talk about top one, maybe two principles that you live your life by when you first, maybe something you wish you had known when you first started out on your own hero's journey.

is don't work with assholes.[:

Richard Matthews: I like that.

Ben Guttmann: That applies to people that you work that work for you, the people that work, you work for, that you work with, that your client, because you spend a lot of time with the people that you work with. And if they're assholes, you eventually become an asshole too.

And it's not where you want to be. There are plenty of great people out there that, you know, that are going to be on your wavelength and you want to find them. There's plenty of clients. If you are dealing with a client, that's being a jerk to you, fire them, you know, and it's a really tough decision a lot of times.

It's your payroll and, you know, and your rent and whatever depends on it, but you're going to be better off because that one client is taking up all this head space for maybe the whole team, maybe just the person's working of them. But every time we fired a client that was a jerk and it wasn't a common thing, right?

nd was more productive after [:

A ship is safe in port, that's not why we build ships. It's, there's always a reason not to do something. There's always a reason to stay home. There's always a reason to kind of take the easy route for something to not ask that person out on a date, to not pitch that client because rejection sucks.

You know, awkwardness is awkward and all these uncomfortable things can happen when you get out there, but you only ever accomplish anything personally, professionally by getting out there and by doing that stuff, you know, it's, we're not built to be comfortable, you know, you want to go do uncomfortable things.

o be the easy route in order [:

Richard Matthews: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. One of the quotes that we have my wife and I painted onto our bathroom wall says one cannot cross the sea simply by standing by the ocean. I remember one of the most important lessons my dad taught me when I was young was you don't wait until you're ready to do something because there's no such thing as being ready, right? The act of doing something is what makes you ready. And so if you want to accomplish something, you have to try, you have to take the risks.

You have to, you know, jump off the cliff and build a parachute on the way down, right? Like that's, you know, the message I try to leave most, especially young entrepreneurs with is, you know, learn to be a parachute builder and actually go out and do something because the reality is most people don't do anything because they're waiting for the stars to align.

They're waiting for something to happen. And reality is you have to go out and make the stars align yourself, right? You have to go and do the thing, like make something happen. So I love that.

Ben Guttmann: Hundred percent.

rview with simple challenge. [:

Who are they? First names are fine. And why do you think they should come share their story here on the hero show? First person that comes to mind for you.

Ben Guttmann: I have couple of folks that I've known. Either I work for them when I was younger or their where client or something I work with. That always impress me because they are in businesses that they don't have any intention being in at some point.

And both of these there's three people that I have in mind and every single one of them basically saw an opportunity. They followed it with GUSTO and they ended up building like a PR agency that focused on something that they had no interest in doing before they built this like business in the medical space that they had no idea what they were doing, but they saw an opportunity and they went after it vigorously.

he doesn't wanna get in the [:

Richard Matthews: Yeah, absolutely. Oh, I don't know what happened to my phone. My video just died, but that's all right. I love that. What we'll do is we'll see about getting those you know, getting an introduction afterwards and sometimes we get a good conversations from those that always say yes, but when they do, they always turn out pretty well.

So last little thing here in comic books, there's always the crowd of people who say they're you know, at the end who are cheering and clapping for their acts of heroism. So as we close what we want to know is where can people find you, right? Where can they light up the bat signal, so to speak?

And more importantly, who are the best types of people to reach out and to, you know, maybe pick up your book or buy your products.


Go check me out, B E N G U T T M A N N. I have to spell it because there's two T's and there's two N's. Everybody always forgets that. Or hit me up on LinkedIn. I'm excited to share a newsletter every week on Tuesday that goes out. I'm excited to share stuff from the book all the time. And if there's anything I can do to help somebody, you know, please never hesitate to reach out.

Richard Matthews: Awesome. Well, we will see about getting the links to the website there in the description for the show and right there in the copy of the book. I'll probably pick it up as soon as it's available because you know, simple method for to connect my life. So love that. And thank you so much for coming on the show for today.

Ben, I really appreciate getting to hear your story and hear your perspective and your today successes. So, do you have any final words of wisdom before I hit this stop record button and we finish this off?

Ben Guttmann: Oh, I mean, thank you so much for having me, Richard. This has been a blast to talk to you. And you know, forward to catching up again soon.






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