Justin welcomes Tim O’Brien, Founder of Rainmaker U. Tim’s specialty is on personal branding, productivity, business development and coaching professionals. Tim discusses the success of Rainmaker U and the importance of investing in your personal brand.
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- Background on Rainmaker U – 2:00
- Tim’s Book: The Power of Personal Branding – 5:45
- The impact of self-talk – 8:04
- How he decided on creating Rainmaker U – 9:20
- Creating study groups to blend coaching and networking – 14:25
- Time management is about making choices so you can be as efficient as possible – 21:20
- Blocking off time to focus skills that will grow your business – 25:00
- Development, promotion and visibility of your brand – 30:00
- Grow you network with your top 100 centers of influence – 37:00
- Box System: Cultivating relationships with your top 30 – 40:40
- Using LinkedIn to network and gain business opportunities – 44:45
- What’s next for Rainmaker U and how to get connected with Tim – 47:30
Connect with Tim O’Brien
Connect with Justin Smith
Justin Smith: Hi, this is Justin Smith. I want to welcome you to Industrial Insights in this episode with Tim O’Brien of Rainmaker U. His specialty is on personal branding, productivity, business development and coaching professionals like commercial real estate brokers, attorneys and CPAs in their professional development. And so if you like investing in yourself, as I’m sure that you do and you’re looking for ways to do better than you did in 2022, I think you’ll find gems and knowledge and actionable advice from Tim. I hope you really enjoy this one and I think you’ll really enjoy Tim’s insight. Thank you.
Justin Smith: As I was doing some research, I saw some stuff about a big Irish Catholic family speaking in prisons and then went through your book and all those were pretty big topics where I was like, okay, that’s a lot to dig into. Where do we begin?
Tim O’Brien: We can begin briefly at the beginning. It’s a funny thing because the trajectory I have is an interesting arc. I got started giving motivational speeches in the California prison system, and I always tell people I was not a prisoner. I was an attorney and part of a program called Volunteers in Parole that matched up lawyers with prisoners one-on-one, not as their counsel because they had separate counsel, but more as a mentor. And I loved it. For some strange reason, I always had an affinity for prison ministry. I even did it when I was practicing law on the East Coast. And so I went to the head of the program, and I said, “Hey, I can put a real program on for these folks. So we actually built a nonprofit called Living at the Peak. And we taught prisoners life skills who were about to be released from prison. And when I say life skills, quite frankly it was a lot of the stuff that I teach my clients in Rainmaker U. The importance of goal setting and having a purpose and branding and, making connections with the right people and surrounding yourself with the right people so that you reintegrate into society, and you can become a productive member of society.
Tim O’Brien: So from there, then I got my first real client that paid me. And then it just built one right on top of the other and to where it brings us here today where our feature program is Rainmaker U. Which is a very simple target and mission, which is teaching professionals how to identify their personal brand and market their brand. So they become the person to see with their target audience. So that’s where we are today.
Justin Smith: What was it like asking the first check writer, “Hey, I’m getting into this new business. I’ve got this program set up, I’m excited about it. Is this something you would pay for? Is this a need that you have?” What was that like? That’s always the leap of faith.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, it’s funny because my first client, I had to pay them the prison system to let me do the program. I bought all the supplies and made a donation. Not as a quid pro quo, but to just get me in there. So I actually leveraged, my first client was a client I actually paid to let me develop my skillset or get my sea legs. And then I pivoted and the first client I got was as a result of a cold call. And so I didn’t volunteer that it was a non-paying client. I just talked about the results we were able to get. We had a number of meetings. And I will tell you, it’s a funny thing because it got to a point where we finally had lunch at the Jonathan Club, and I looked at the person and I said,” so are we doing business?” And he said, “I think so.” And I said, “okay.” And then, that program, I will tell you also was the first program I was paid for. So there was a little bit of take your leap of faith, and your net will appear, right. You got to make your move before you’re ready and things will work out. And so I knew I was good at what I could do, but I never officially did it. So it was a lot of learning on the fly, quite frankly just like being a trial lawyer, that’s where I used to be. You have to try your first case, you have to fly your first plane, and so there’s part of it where it’s time. And so I did that and then we got that client, and I was like, I could do this.
Tim O’Brien: Barbara Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush’s wife used to have a saying that she had to do things twice before she knew she could do it. And I remember that she said the first time I did it okay. And I wanted to do it again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. After that I knew I could do it. And so then I just built on that.
Justin Smith: This is not a fluke. I love it. And the book writing happened in between.
Tim O’Brien: It happened simultaneously. I come from a big Irish Catholic family of eight brothers and sisters, and 29 nieces and nephews. We have a wonderful family. Probably the greatest gift my parents gave us when they passed away, we became closer. So they had built those bonds, because I know there’s sometimes families that are large and get dispersed and don’t have a connection with each other over the years, but we actually stayed close with each other. Now there’s a great book called Peaks and Valleys, and it’s by the guy who wrote Who Moved My Cheese. He talks about the Heart Monitor, and he says, look, life is like a heart monitor. If it’s flat and things are safe and things are good, you’re dead. But if you’re alive, there’s a lot of peaks and valleys. So growing up in the big Irish Catholic family, there were a lot of peaks and valleys, and I felt there were a lot of lessons that could be learned. And so it was more of a biography about my family. It was a hundred stories about different lessons that I learned growing up in a big Irish Catholic family. And then Justin, what I did was, I picked my brand and I often tell people this, you pick your brand, but you spend the rest of your life living into it. A lot of people are attracted, and they think branding is sexy and I’m going to pick my brand and that’s going to take care of it.
Tim O’Brien: The truth of the matter is, picking the brand is the easy part. It’s building the brand. That’s the hard part. And that’s why so few people actually ever build a great brand. So I picked the brand and then I knew that in order to build that brand I had to credential myself and position myself as an authority. And long before social media, one of the key things you did was writing a book. So I wrote, The Power of Personal Branding. Positioning yourself as the person to see with your target audience. And because I needed that authority, and then I wrote articles on that, and I did speak on that, and eventually I established myself as a personal branding expert in the context of building your business.
Justin Smith: I didn’t realize a hundred life lessons. I could only imagine putting that together and thinking through what parts are illustrative and which parts help you then build your brand. Yeah. But without many brothers and sisters, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn lessons, I’m sure.
Tim O’Brien: Oh, a lot. A lot. And there was a lot of failure. People will see us doing this podcast and you have this podcast, you have a thriving commercial real estate practice, and I have a thriving coaching business. And always tell people I’m very transparent and a lot of it was trial and error. It was like watching hotdogs being made. The one difference was I stayed the course. I’m downtown at my office and as I was walking over here, there’s a gigantic wreath on front of one of the buildings the Samoa Bank building, and it’s a gigantic wreath and it says the word believe. And I took a photo of it, and I thought to myself, why does it have to be only at Christmas time? This is the theme that everybody should have 12 months out of the year, believe self-belief. All your success starts with self-belief.
Justin Smith: Yeah, I’m sure you get into self-talk and self-talk is a major challenge. Maybe that one’s as old as time, but I’m sure having a home in your program. So maybe if you could help understand addressing some of the modern challenges, like how’d you come about coming up with a framework for what’s helpful and what’s teachable and what can you package in coming up with your program and your format. I’m sure that’s never ending. And so it’s interesting to see where we are at today with the modern version.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, and if I could just comment briefly on the self-talk because it’s so powerful. It’s this little thing on our shoulder. We wake up in the morning and what’s the first thing that says to us,” oh my gosh the recession is coming. The recession is coming.” And we start to doubt ourselves. 77% of the average person’s self-talk is negative. So to be aware there’s a great book called The Untethered Soul that I would recommend everybody get. It talks about how essentially our self-talk is the way we process outside experiences. Our observations, and then we bring it in. So imagine if you could quiet your self-talk not to zero your negative self, but just quieter to 50%. The dramatic impact you would have. There’s a cousin to that, which is called, overthink. And studies show that the average person overthinks at least one hour a day.
Tim O’Brien: For example, in the context of social media, should I or shouldn’t I post? Post it as long as you’re not posting anything unethical, illegal, or immoral, the worst that could happen is nothing. That’s the worst that can happen is nobody comments, nobody says anything. But the good news about that is you just get started. Tying it back into my program is, as I said I made a decision a long time ago. I graduated from Georgetown Law School, and I did not want to be a motivational speaker. I love motivational speaking. I love motivating people, but I didn’t want that to be the core of my business for one simple reason. In order to be successful and make a lot of money in that space, you have to travel around the country. And I didn’t want to be on the road. You’re almost like corporate entertainment. So I didn’t want to be on the road a hundred days out of the year, 150 days out of the year. I wanted to have a family and I wanted to be home most of the time for my family.
Tim O’Brien: So what I decided was I wanted to build a coaching program. And it was funny, I remember exactly where I was. I was in the Jonathan Club, and I was walking in the parking lot, and I said, should I build a program on leadership, or should I build a program on business development? And I thought to myself, everybody wants information on business development. And I chose in that moment, and I’ll never forget it. I love telling this story. So I was dating my wife, Patricia and we were in Hawaii. And for anybody who is familiar with Maui, as you drive from the Kaanapali area to the hotel, there’s that Circle K gas station and you’ll know it. Everybody knows who’s familiar with it. There’s that Circle K gas station and we were pulling out of the Circle K gas station. And my girlfriend, again, now is my wife. I said, I’m going to build this program Rainmaker U. And she said, “who do you think should be in it?” And I said, ” I think if you want to be president of the United States, you should be in it because it’s all about building a brand.” It’s all about messaging and I was going on and she’s like that’s fantastic. She goes, “when are you going to start?” And it was September that we were in Hawaii, and I said, “we’re going to start in November 9th.” She’s like “awesome. How many people do you have in the program?” And I said, “none.” And she was like, ” okay.” And I remember, I’m a big Irish Catholic family. I’m gritty. And so my attitude was by hooker by crook. I was going to build that program. And the first class we had was nine people. And it’s a funny thing how the universe rewards you or if you’re a faithful person, God rewards you. And what happens is things just materialize. And we eventually build that program in person into over 400 people. And I will tell you one of the pivotal parts of building that program was identifying key centers of influence. I could list on one hand, the five pivotal people who were direct or indirect influencers that helped me grow that program exponentially.
Tim O’Brien: And so I ran that program for years and it was a lot of fun. And I will tell you when you are in like a financial advisory service or you’re in commercial insurance services, one of the benefits you have is you basically take the information, and you do all the work for the client. The challenge for being a coach is I can teach you what you need to know, but at the end of the day you have to do the work.
Justin Smith: Not everybody’s ready to understand that and to say, okay, got it. This is helpful, but this isn’t you telling me what to do. It’s you are helping me tell me what to do.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, and so you have to be careful about being a really good salesperson and getting people into your program because they do want to excel, but they don’t want to do the work to excel. So then what happened was Covid hit, and I had always wanted to modernize my program, and I felt that the time was right to make it a digital program. And so what I did was I created a hybrid program, Rainmaker U same content. But what I did was I digitized all of the classes that I used to teach in person. It was a yearlong coaching program and once a quarter we would meet at the Jonathan Club in person, and then for 90 days you would go away and work on your material.
Tim O’Brien: The challenge with that was life got in the way, people got lazy, the best of intentions get derailed, all those sorts of things. And so with Covid, I said, okay, I’m going to digitize this. So what I did was I took the content that I taught live, and I turned it into videos and worksheets. So for example, session A that you would come to at the Jonathan Club is now 15 videos, 10 minutes each with related worksheets. But I didn’t want to leave my people hanging. I have monthly coaching calls in between for three reasons: (1) answer questions, (2) soft accountability or hard accountability, whatever people want. And I do want people to implement the content, so it gives me an opportunity to help implement the content with folks. So unlike when we did it live, you didn’t have the monthly coaching. Now you get the monthly coaching that compliments. So the implementation goes up. But I will tell you, Justin and I have the same challenges. I bring people in who have the best of intentions. Personal branding’s a sexy concept, right. Everybody wants to build a brand. Everybody wants to build a brand. Everybody wants a great network. Everybody wants to be dynamic at maintaining contact. They are fun things. And what happens is people fade.
Justin Smith: The good part of it are fun things and the results can be fun things.
Tim O’Brien: Listen, I will tell you right now that in my mind, the best job in the world is to be a salesperson. Because number one, if you can sell, you’ll never be unemployed. You’ll always be able to care for yourself and your family. Number two is, if you can sell, you can do something that most people can’t because 90% of all sales result in rejection, 90%. Think about it. If you’re a baseball player and you bat at 10%, you’re cut. If you’re a basketball player and you shoot 10% from the field, you’re cut. If you’re a quarterback and you complete 10% of your passes, you’re cut. But if you can hang in there for 10% in sales, you’re in the sales Hall of fame. And so what I really love about it is it’s about becoming a professional friendship developer. That’s what you’re after with people who are interesting, that people who are centers of influence, people who can pull you up, people who can advance or accelerate your career. And that’s what we do. And that’s what’s so exciting about it.
Justin Smith: Yeah, the centers of influence, that’s its whole other ball. I love it.
Tim O’Brien: The other thing we do because we wanted to build something. And thank you for giving me a chance to share a little more detail. We want to build something unique. And so what we did was we have built out study groups. For example, we have an Orange County study group, and we have a West Side study group. We have a downtown LA study group. We’re working on launching the San Diego Study group and the NorCal Study Group. So by being in our program, it’s not just a coaching program. It’s not just a networking program. It’s both a coaching and networking together. So we want people who are interested in coaching, we want people who are $250,000 or more a year. We want people that have a sense of urgency. That’s the most important thing. I’ll take somebody with $150,000 a year with a sense of urgency over somebody with a half a million bucks who’s just looking to get in and get some referrals any day.
Justin Smith: All day long. Yeah, the study group then you get to coach each other and what’s working for each other and what isn’t and what are the challenges, and you’re giving it from your peers is a whole other perspective.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, and I facilitate those too. So you get additional coaching. And also there is a networking component, like underlying it when we come together, we network with each other, and then 75% of the meeting, or 60% of the meeting is substantive discussion. And at the end of it, we pair people up for purposes of networking and generating business. We keep track of the referrals, and we keep track of the monetization. We’ve had 113 referrals for $1.1 million in revenue. So we want it to be really accountability based, creating this exclusivity. So people are like, “Hey, how do I get in that group?” I’m sorry, your seats already taken. That’s what we’re trying to create. There’s enough of those people in LA, we won’t water down our curated membership just to get head count.
Justin Smith: Yeah, it’s a dynamic community. When you think of who are the main people within this community? So business development can be in many different industries. So how do you figure out the industry?
Tim O’Brien: Very simple, I go back to a technique that Northwestern Mutual used, which they would write down a long list of the kind of people they would want to meet, and then they would visit with you and after they sold you insurance, they say do you know anybody in any of these industries? So what I did was I thought about what is a good group, like what would be a good diversity group? And diversity from industry diversity to reflecting the workforce today of men, women, people of color, not just for purposes of woke. This is about production, but we do want our group to reflect the workforce, right. And so what I did was I identified and the people who I think are great networkers, who seem to have a network that others can plug into, I identify those. And then when I do with the members, once I get that core group is I give that to the members and I say, “start to think of people in your network who fit into these categories.” So really, it’s a curated membership in terms of the quality of the people, but also the diversity of the membership.
Justin Smith: Yeah, I love the exercise of having everyone go through their own centers of influence and thinking where their own referrals come from and their past experience, and then thinking through the, like the common themes and to just have a new lens where you now recognize those people where ordinarily you may have just been going about your business.
Tim O’Brien: Think about this Justin, suppose I say, okay, we need a trust and estates lawyer in this group and let’s say you bring in a trust and estates lawyer. Now there’s you and your trust in estate’s lawyer. The groups are 35, no larger. You now have 33 people who are focused on your business.
Justin Smith: Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t need that? Yeah. Who doesn’t need more of that? We all do.
Tim O’Brien: And the benefit of that also is you are curating the person you are bringing in because you’re not going to bring anybody who’s going to embarrass you. And you want to impress your colleagues and you want people to say, Hey, that’s not a weak link. That’s an awesome addition to the group.
Justin Smith: We appreciate what you’ve done for the group.
Tim O’Brien: So that’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’re excited about. We launched in January 2021 and we’re over 250 people in the community which is pretty exciting.
Justin Smith: Yeah, it’s so powerful to have that community around you. You’re surrounded by all these powerful people, Tim. Think of your community and who you’re surrounding yourself from. How cool is that of who you get to spend your time with and reinforced and being reinforced by it.
Tim O’Brien: Without a question. I think to myself, and I share with my wife, Patricia, I said how exciting it is the caliber of the people who are in my network. How flattered I am. And also how energizing and have dinner with these people, socialize with these people, call them up, ask them for referrals. Ask them for help. It’s very intoxicating.
Justin Smith: If we can get into some of the weeds of these are the challenges that business development people face. I had written down time management, which is never ending. Oh man, I can go back to that one every year, every month, every week and there’s always room for improvement. The branding part means something different to everybody. And then the networking we’ve gone through some of that, but I’m sure there’s more. And then this box system, I remember you and I had gone over a call talking about Chris about it. Maybe we can expand that a little bit. Who to call, when to call, what you’re talking about and where you can add value. And so those are all challenges where you have an infinite number of possibilities and you’ve really got to have a framework and context and a strategy and then boil it down into the tactics. It’s interesting to think of in the coach’s mindset, how you identify those and how you add thinking tools and frameworks for them.
Tim O’Brien: The word I was going to say, you just said it for me, is framework. Whenever I work with my clients, I say to them all the time, I take 100% credit, 100% credit for 1% and that’s focus. I create the framework and the focus. I’ve done it long enough that I know it works. And I have had equally as number or maybe more that it didn’t work. But I know now at this point, it’s not that it didn’t work because the system is flawed. And by the way, I didn’t invent it. So it’s not like I feel rejected if you know it didn’t work. If you apply yourself, it’s happened I’ve seen it too many times with too many successful people. It works right. It works regardless of where you are in your career. I work with people who are multimillionaires. I’ve worked with people, like I said, who were $200,000. One guy I worked with was making $70,000 a year, and my friend said, take a chance on him. And I said, ah, 70,000. He said, trust me, the guy’s a go-getter. He was selling pagers. He was the number four guy in his company. For those of you who don’t remember pagers, we all carry pagers back in the day. And he was the number four guy in his company and today it was at the wrong platform. So in Rainmaker U, I introduced him to an owner of a surplus life insurance company. And he’s making several million a year now and so it’s the right platform. See, he was willing to practice the right success habits and now he’s got the right platform. He puts the two together.
Tim O’Brien: But I speak first about time management, if you don’t mind, and this is important. Yeah. I was having a conversation with an extraordinarily successful financial advisor yesterday, has his own wealth management firm. Has well over $500 million of assets under management moving towards a billion dollars. Very successful. Newport Beach. And we’re going back and forth about time management and one of the things I said to him was, look, everybody has the same amount of time in the day. 1,440 minutes, time management is about choice. That’s all it is. For example, when you and I start out we’ll take any client because we’re starting out, but there’s a certain point in time where we have to take our foot off first base to steal second base, and we have to pass up on that smaller client. And we might even have to be willing to give that smaller client away because there’s a better Justin Smith coming up who can serve them properly. So what people have to understand is it’s about choice. There’s no magic, no Maxwell smart shoe phone, no Google algorithm. It’s identical for everybody. But I will also add to this is this myth of you don’t have to work hard. It’s about working smarter. I’m a believer in that, but I don’t know people who work two hours a day and are multimillionaires. I just don’t, if you think the people in Silicon Valley invent an app and then they sit back and they collect all their money, you’re kidding yourself. If you don’t think the guys at the top at Google are working hard, long hours, you’re kidding yourself. And so it’s a combination of working smart on the right centers of influence, working smart on the right, on the business activities, so you can be as efficient as possible and have the most impact. But it all comes back to choice, and you have to start to give up to get up and that’s hard.
Justin Smith: You give up first.
Tim O’Brien: You have to, and you have to trust that void is there. I tell people. For example, I’ll say to them, “Hey, look what do you think all of a sudden you’re going to become dumb? Or you think you’re all of a thing going to forget everything you ever learned.” No, we only become smarter. We only become more skilled. We only become more well known. You have to trust that brief void will be filled by better opportunity, if that makes.
Justin Smith: Yeah, that’s also part of the creativity, like a needing time to create and that being something that you can free yourself up for. So how do you then go about coming up with those priorities of choices or thinking through the balance of the time in and the centers of influence?
Tim O’Brien: I built this concept called the productivity funnel. And the productivity funnel is a tool that basically is an inverted pyramid, which is annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. And at the core of it is why the annual, quarterly, and monthly goals are important is because they’re strategic. So you don’t want to try to think strategically during the course of the day, because you’ll never do it. You’re too busy. You’ve got to think strategically before the game begins. Because when the game begins, it’s all about being tactical. So for example, the big game changer for me is the weekly priority worksheet with that I divide into on the business and in the business. And so I identify all of the on the business activities that are going to help me grow my business.
Tim O’Brien: So I was at a conference, and it was a great conference and there was a hundred people there, was largely digital marketing folks. People who had way more experience in the space than I did. And one of the exercises, there were a hundred people, we broke up into 10 tables of 10 people. We went around the table, and everybody came up with the latest business development idea that was most instrumental in their business. And then the table voted on the best one and somebody got up and shared it. And most of the people got up and said things like, I ran a Facebook campaign and made $400,000 and things way over my head. The last table, the guy got up and said, “here’s what we decided figure out the number one thing that will drive your business the most and then block all four hours a day to work on that.” And I tell you, when I heard that Justin, and I was like, that’s genius. That’s genius. It’s genius.
Justin Smith: That’s where it’s at. Yeah.
Tim O’Brien: So maybe it’s not four hours, maybe it’s starting off at a half hour a day. But the concept is there. I call it designated hitter skills because on average, the highest paid position in baseball is the designated hitter. So I tell people, figure out your designated hitter skills, the three to five skills, that if you do these, you will grow your business. That’s on the business. And then in the business are all the things that prepare you to be on the business. It could be your expense reports, it could be organizing your lists. So for you, for example, you getting the businesses on the business, once you get it and you’re interacting back and forth with the other broker on redlining that’s in the business. It’s no more on the business. You’re not growing the business. You’re executing the business. So if I get a keynote speech, I secure it. Writing the speech is in the business, delivery of the speeches on the business. And so then what I try to do is I try to select one to three things that I work on, on the business every day and one to three that I work in the business every day. And so I take my annual goals literally and I shrink them down on a daily basis. And I decide I’m going to work these three things. I want to execute on the business. These three things I want to execute in the business. And that just keeps me going in terms of the time management.
Justin Smith: Yeah. can be flexible for each person’s unique way that they drive in because everyone’s got their own strengths and their own personality types and tools and everything.
Tim O’Brien: Of course.
Justin Smith: And then you schedule it, I got to imagine and figure out how to do that versus leaving some time for creativity.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, so what I do is before the week begins, I look, and I block off that time and I try to block off as much time as I can every day. So at a minimum, I’ll block off an hour a day, but if I can get more than an hour a day, I’ll block off two hours a day. And I will try to block that off, and I will do it five days during the course of the week, and I’ll work on my business.
Justin Smith: In a week at a time, right? Not the reoccurring calendar meeting that goes on for eternity. Every week is its own time to have the right cadence with some rigidity and some flexibility.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah. So for example, this past Wednesday and past Thursday. Wednesday, I had a half a day seminar that I was doing in San Diego. The time that I devoted on the business was after that was over. Then I had a full day Rainmaker U workshop for a client in-house. And at the end of that, I stopped before driving home to San Diego. From San Diego to Pasadena, I stopped at the Starbucks, and I worked on the business just for an hour. So making the time, having the discipline, and you have to have the flexibility based on your schedule, but you have to make the commitment. You can’t say, “oh, I’m busy.” Everybody’s busy. Look, suppose you’re a lawyer, I get it. You got to do the law work but there are people that started out exactly like you that have massive books of business. Why? Because they did all of the work they were supposed to, but they did a little bit extra every day. And eventually what happened with this got bigger and this got smaller and it’s about discipline.
Justin Smith: Yeah, that’s like if you don’t work out, you don’t eat, then you’re like, okay, I’m going to make sure I get my workout in.
Tim O’Brien: It’s exactly right. It’s exactly the same. Exactly the same.
Justin Smith: I love it. You can never get too much of that. It’s the consistency, right. To keep it into 52 weeks a year and hitting 52 out of 52, at least to get that part right probably is 80% of what moves the needle. Personal branding, where do we start there? Is it with identifying our strengths? I got to imagine.
Tim O’Brien: It is the essence of everything that I do and from my mind for all of us, because it’s the most important asset we have because it’s the only asset we can control. So for example, going into 2023, you can’t control if employees are going to come back to work. You can’t control disloyal clients. You can’t control banks that have put pens down because they’re scared. You can’t control any of that. But what you can control is the development and promotion and visibility of your brand.
Justin Smith: It’s a beautiful thing.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, it is. And it’s the most fun part. What do people like to talk about the most themselves. So I have a client, Anthony Mark Yulis, and I remember in 2008, he’s a residential real estate broker in the Palisade. And you can imagine how things were going. And we were in our Rainmaker U class in person, and he said, look, here’s the way I look at it guys as long as the GDP’s not zero, I’m going to get something out of the GDP. That’s how you have to look at it. You got to, Greg Schiano, the coach of Rutgers chop wood, just chop wood and chop wood. But under the core of all of that is your brand, right. And your brand is the word or phrase you want people to think of when they think of you. And everybody has a brand, it’s either positive, negative, or neutral. So for example, in your business you can say,” Hey Tim, I’m not going to use that prospecting technique you taught me because it doesn’t really apply to me, or it’s doesn’t really jive with who I am as a person.” That’s fine. And you can do that with impunity. But if you say, “I’m going to be lazy about my brand, or I don’t really care about the brand, or I think the brand is baloney.” People will brand you for you. That’s the deal. In one quarter, one second people make up their mind about you, good or bad. That’s it like that. Bang.
Justin Smith: I like that guy.
Tim O’Brien: I like that guy. I don’t like that guy. Why? I don’t know. I don’t know why. I like that guy. Why? I love his energy reminds me of somebody myself or whatever the case may be. And so the core of the program is getting clarity on that word or phrase. I can’t tell you how many people (A) never address that. (B) how many people talk about it, go through the program and don’t do a bloody thing with it. Because the truth of the matter is selecting the brand is easy. I can help you select your brand in 30 minutes, very easy. Asking you the right questions. But then it’s about building personal brand equity where you build this reputation that precedes you. For example, I tell people, look at building your brand like real estate. You buy a home, presumably it’s worth the price that you pay for it, right. Once you pay that price, you do things to improve it. You do big ticket items, bathrooms, kitchen, landscaping, bang, huge pop. Okay. Maybe it’s physical fitness, maybe it’s you associate with a different company. Maybe suddenly you’re on time. Your manners are impeccable. The way you dress. You take care of those obvious things. But then the lifetime journey, what turns that house into real value is the baseboards, the crown molding, the mantle over the fireplace, the painting of the rooms. Each one of those by themselves but collectively add huge value. Add huge value. In my house right now, we’re going through the process of replacing all of our windows and we made the decision, we went with Anderson, and we could have gone with one version, which was less expensive, or we could have gone with the more expensive version. And I was tempting to go with the less expensive version because ah, is it good enough? But we didn’t and I’m so glad we didn’t, because I said to my wife, “man, what value we’re adding to the house because of just these windows.” And that’s how you build a brand.
Justin Smith: That’s funny. If you use that example of what you experienced after you’ve made that decision and it’s done. It’s hard to know what value that was going to add but once you’ve done it, going back and thinking of it any other way seems like a ridiculous. Like of course you wouldn’t do that.
Tim O’Brien: So I tell people listen, if you want to DM me on my LinkedIn, I have this 99 brand equity strategies and I’ll send it to you. And it’s things from shaking hands to your elevator pitch, to your body posture, to your smile. Like nothing is too small. It’s not all about big ticket items. It’s all about consistency. Pick your brand and live into it.
Justin Smith: It reminds me of the etiquette playbook. Some of those things are just like things, you got to make sure you have polished and that’s maybe part of what Polish is.
Tim O’Brien: Justin, it’s a bullseye. It’s a great analogy.
Justin Smith: It’s funny we will rank personal brands of people we experience as our own team thing. Just as we’re exploring and learning ourselves and thinking of what positive, neutral, or negative experience we have with people. And so oftentimes it will be a reflection of other brokers that we deal with. And then we’ll just come up with What is their style or what is their brand? And think out loud with that and use that. You have those interactions all the time and you have your favorites, and you have people that have things that are more desirable or not in an interaction and over the course of a project. And so we’re always like calling them out by name or I’m making names for different things just to bring light to them. And it always ends up making you think about how is it that I’m representing myself and presenting myself to the world and what’s it means to them. And how is that helping make commerce happen or making the relationship better or making there be more trust. And it’s been a fun exercise and you think of how many people make an effort and how many people aren’t thinking very much about that. I could see there’d be plenty of room for improvement or everybody could use that.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, and you’re right. And think about the competitive advantage it gives you because most people aren’t doing it. That’s what I keep driving home. If you want to succeed in 2023 and beyond, do the things that other people aren’t willing to do. Make that choice to build your brand. Look, when I give a keynote speech, I always try to wrap the audience with a little bit of humor, but it’s a true story. Men’s Health Magazine wanted to do a survey. They want to know how many men thought they were good looking, and so they pulled their subscribers.
Justin Smith: 110%.
Tim O’Brien: No, it gets better. So they gave them three options not good looking, good looking, very good looking. And shockingly, 80% of all men don’t think they’re good looking, which was shocking. They think they’re very good looking. And people think it’s a joke, but it’s not a joke. That’s what I mean about self-awareness. Let me ask you a question, are 80% of people’s brands great? No. You are better off discovering now if there’s something wrong with your brand.
Tim O’Brien: Like your health, you want your bad news fast and as early as possible,
Tim O’Brien: And so in our live program in Rainmaker U we used to do this exercise in the branding section. We would have 20 people in a class live. So let’s say you were in that class, and there would be index cards, three by five folded over and it would say Justin Smith on 20 of them, you would keep one and everybody in the room would get one card. They didn’t know you because these are people from different industries and who didn’t know each other. Yeah. So everybody had everybody else’s card. And I asked everybody, write down the word or phrase that comes to mind when you think of Justin. So then I gave you back your 19 cards from other people who didn’t know you had no agenda. And you would not believe how it just scared the Jesus out of people. How powerful. It might have been the single best exercise to be in that program with $7,500 for the year. $7,500 could have translated into a million dollars because you weren’t getting business otherwise. You know what I mean?
Justin Smith: Yeah, and a more objective way to bring back feedback, or maybe not objective, but like unbiased. I could see that really be powerful. And getting that honest feedback is hard to do too.
Tim O’Brien: Including I, nobody likes to hear bad news. I received an email from a guy the other day. I reached out to him and told him about our program, and he wrote back an email that was really, shocking and basically said, I don’t like you. And he was a client of mine. I don’t like you and take me off your list and I want to share that with you because again, everybody thinks because we’re successful that everything’s perfect and everything’s great. No, I’m human just like you. I’m a work in progress just like you. I got it and it really hurt my feelings. And so I wrote back, and I said, hey, I’m surprised by your email I consider you to be a friend. I respect everything you’ve been able to do. Could you share with me what I did that might have upset your feelings because I’d like to apologize. Because I literally had no idea. And he never responded but it took me a while to get over it. And I got over it and it wasn’t the end of the world. I got over it. But nevertheless, I don’t like constructive feedback that’s negative either. I would’ve liked him to have responded so I could have known if I misbehaved or did something that hurt him. But I didn’t get that feedback. Look, I wish I could claim credit for this great statement or this great question, but Grant Cardone said, “do you like everybody?” And of course the answer’s no. Then why do you care if everybody likes you? And it’s such a powerful statement. Choose your brand, act in alignment with it. Be moral. You’re not perfect. Be ethical. You’re not perfect. Be lawful. You’re not perfect. But strive for it. Don’t be ruled by it. And then just let the chips fall where they may. And that’s what your brain’s going to end up being. And you’re going to find, if you work hard enough at it and you try as hard as you can to be moral, ethical, and lawful, you’re not going to be perfect. There are times when you’re going to cut corners. You’re human, right. But overall, you’re going to have a lot more people like you than not like you. And that’s what you’re after when it comes to branding.
Justin Smith: Yeah, I love it. I feel like I’ve learned something about the biz and gone to church at the same time. But that’s what working on yourself is, right. That’s what that’s all about. And so this is going to translate into your time and your brand, and then you got to direct it. Is this the box system?
Tim O’Brien: No, our third quarter is you got to build your network. Here’s the business development formula. End of story. Clarity of message, tell your story to your network and grow your network and drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. That is the sales model. So now you and I are talking about the third, which is the network, right. You’ve got a brand. You’ve got clarity of message with your brand and your elevator pitch. Now you go out and tell your story to your network, and you want to grow your network. And you don’t want to be the best person in your network. Your objective is to build what I call your top 100. You want to build your top 100 centers of influence. Now, they could be people who are clients, they could be people who lead you to clients. They could be best friends. They could be people who are interesting, the brain surgeon over at UCLA. Your life is as interesting as is your network. And so the idea here is to build that top 100 and you want to tell your story to that network. If there’s one thing, I can get you to do in 2023, it’s say yes. Say yes. If you have nothing to do, say yes, I’ll go. If you have nothing to do, say yes, I’ll co-sponsor. If you have nothing to do, say yes, I’ll have breakfast. Get out there, tell your story to your network. And so that’s the third quarter of the system. So you’ve got your plan, your time management, your productivity funnel, you’ve got your brand but without taking your brand out to your network, it’s like having a Rolls-Royce in your garage. Get your brand out there. Tell your story to your marketplace. Share it. Like for example, I try to have 40 pull me up meetings a quarter. I just want to sit with you and say,” Hey Justin, tell me what you’re doing. I want to tell you what I’m doing. Can we help each other?” That’s what my game plan is. Or networking events, when you go to a bar mitzvah, or you go to a christening, or you go to an alumni association event. You don’t have to work the room. I’m fairly shy unless I know people, but I try to come away with at least two or three cards of people who I know that I want to try to continue a relationship with. And so I’m constantly trying to add people. So if I go through my database or I challenge you to go through your database, Justin, at 5,000 people, I just did this yesterday with that really successful financial advisor and he came up with 37 and I was like, fantastic. I’m wondering if that’s a little high, but now what your mission is to come up with one new person a month? Be deliberate. If you build this and you have this amazing network that people that are cheering for you and you’re cheering for them and you’re connecting them, and they’re connecting you, right. You’re going to make it. You’re going to be successful.
Justin Smith: Being deliberate. Yeah, I could see why that’s an operative word.
Tim O’Brien: So you’re intentional about your plan, you’re intentional about your brand, you’re intentional about your network. And then I pivot to the box system. And the box system is all about your elite. 30. I categorize them to blue, green, and white. Blue is my blue chip, green is the next tier, and then the white. And I take from my database of 5,000 people and I shrug it down to my top 30. And again, with the criteria that I give you, you’re not going to have 30 at the beginning, which is great. And you’re not going to have eight blues, which is great. And the reason I say it’s great is because look at how successful you’ve been without being as intentional as you can be. The average person needs to hear your message six to eight times to remember you. So what do you have in place to cultivate those relationships? 80% of all sales are made after the fifth contact. What are you doing to stay in touch with those people because if you’re not doing that, you’re going to get crushed. You are going to get crushed and you’re going to be relegated to accepting whatever you get.
Tim O’Brien: So the idea is it’s a system. It’s a system. That’s the whole idea. It’s then the system is planning, branding, building your network, cultivating. And so it never ends. So like our Rainmaker you community that we’re building, I want people to be in it for 30 years because every quarter we drop new content on planning or on branding, or on networking, or on cultivating relationships. And you’re part of your study group and you want to own that plaintiff lawyer seat in that study group. And the whole idea is that wow, this is an incredible experience, is that this keeps me constantly fresh and on offense and thinking intentionally about growing my business. I’m getting this coaching and I’m getting exposure to other high level people in my network. And so that’s the idea behind it.
Justin Smith: Yeah, a thing that I struggle with a little bit is the challenge of when you have your network and what your network produces versus when you are targeting what you’re going after. And then they don’t already trust you and know you and you’re searching for pain points. And like in business development, I always think there’s 10 different ways that the world turns, and you have those being the two ends of the spectrum. Yeah. And so when you’re thinking through from the warmest to the warm, to the coldest of the cold. How do you think of that in the box system? And then centers of influence is one of those. Chris on our team, he has to reach out to a lot of people he doesn’t know. And he’s in a very tight segment of where he’s focused on. And how does that fit into the framework?
Tim O’Brien: Fits in beautifully because to me, I have two parallel boxes. One is my center of influence box, and one is my prospecting box. And so my prospecting, a good example is trying to build out our downtown LA chapter for our study group. We have 12 people. We want to go to 35. So what I did was I made my list of the different classes or professions that I wanted to add to it, trust and estate’s lawyers. And so now what I’m doing is I’m doing cold outreach working through LinkedIn. And I’m reaching out to these people just like Chris is. So it’s a combination of the two. But to launch Rainmaker U in 2021, I went to my box. And I said, Justin, assuming you were in my box, I’ve got this new platform, love to visit with you. And between people saying, hey, I want my people in it. Or people saying, hey, I know some people. Or I’ve got some ideas for you. That’s what launched Rainmaker U as we have it now. The network that I had built. Now what takes it to the next level are the caliber of the people in the program that refer other people to the program. The caliber of the people in the study groups refer other people into the study groups. And so I’m really doing a Wishbone. The Wishbone is centers of influence marketing and cold prospecting, just like Chris does. And God willing, you get to the point where you build pull because that’s what the person to see is all about. Right Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m in push mode. I get up every day and I push. Occasionally I’ll get a pull, this guy reaches out, I heard about you. I would love to. Bang.
Justin Smith: It’s a wonderful thing.
Tim O’Brien: So it happens a lot more. There’s 800 million people on LinkedIn. 1% of the people post regularly. So I’m very big on LinkedIn and so I get a lot of outreaches from LinkedIn of people who are cold, but they have been warmed up by my content. So I’ve been able to monetize my posts through LinkedIn.
Justin Smith: No, I love it. I know I see it and it resonates with me. And it’s the right community. I would think for everybody that’s looking for this type of help and improvement in their game.
Tim O’Brien: Anybody who’s not on LinkedIn and is a professional, you’re missing a massive opportunity. It’s a 24/7 networking event. And so if you get people who are like, oh, you are posting too much. Ignore them, they’re missing the boat. Facebook and Instagram, we missed that. Now, in order for you to get traffic on that it has to be sponsored. You don’t have to sponsor on LinkedIn to get your traffic. But if you don’t stay with it and you don’t go in it like a machine, you’re going to end up missing out. You want to build your tribe, your followers by posting if you can every day. LinkedIn recommends 20 days a month to post.
Justin Smith: It’s just trying to come up with your 20 and what’s important in your own formula. I love spending time on that and figuring that out of what’s the right cadence of which types of materials and how does it help people versus just like a self-promotion. That’s its own conversation for another day perhaps.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, just briefly what you should figure out or we should figure out. Like for me, Monday’s productivity strategic planning, Tuesday’s branding, Wednesday is networking, Thursday is the box system or cultivating relationships and Friday is motivation and Saturday and Sunday are a little bit of both.
Justin Smith: Boom boom. I love it. Those are like your five themes.
Tim O’Brien: Then you don’t have to go what am I going to do today? Even though you have to think a little bit about productivity. And still, if you’re only thinking productivity, you can go on Google. Productivity ideas. Bang. You come up with something
Justin Smith: That’s the easy part, once you’ve already got your theme going of just what’s the practical part to your life that day.
Tim O’Brien: People today should be using LinkedIn and blocking off time to market and network on LinkedIn just like you do block off time for cold calling. That’s the kind of tool it is.
Justin Smith: There’s conversations out there, there’s real learning and there’s real connections without a doubt.
Tim O’Brien: Are you interacting with your followers? Are you interacting with the people that are connecting with you? Are you interacting with the people that viewed your profile? Are you interacting with the people that make comments? Are you interacting with the people that react to your posts? All of that stuff. Or are you just a one-way street? Are you just putting up your posts and waiting for everybody to come to you? Or are you building community?
Justin Smith: Yeah, that’s the billboard versus dialogue and conversational.
Tim O’Brien: There you go. Fantastic metaphor. Fantastic. That’s exactly what it is.
Justin Smith: I was going to ask you about growth and what’s next, but I think you’ve hit some of that on San Diego is what’s next. LA at a greater scale is what’s next. Are there any other things that you wanted to highlight or how people reach out to you is probably helpful too.
Tim O’Brien: Yeah, that would be great. Number one, our mission is to build the number one business development community in America. That’s it, that’s what we want and we’re starting here in Southern California. Our membership, as I said, is very curated. You have to earn $250,000 or more a year. You have to have a sense of urgency, business development responsibilities, and embrace coaching. Those are important components because if you’re just a networker, you really won’t fit into your study group. So if people want to reach out, I would love to hear from them. They can go to our website, which is RainmakerU.net, or they can just email me directly at tob@thepersonalbranding group.com.
Justin Smith: What if you’re in Atlanta or Pennsylvania or Minnesota?
Tim O’Brien: That’s the beautiful part of our program is that we have people in New York, we have people in Arizona. I have a guy in Minnesota. We have people in Texas. So one of the nice things about it is that our program is national, because remember the learning is digital. So you have your session A, B, C, and D. Our videos with worksheets and the monthly group coaching calls are via Zoom. So I got people from Nashville, Tennessee, I’ve got people from New Jersey. At this point probably have people from, I think 15 states. That’s what one of the exciting things about digitizing it. I have a group in Washington DC and what we want to do is see if we can put together a study group in Washington DC. So we’ve got six, and when we get a core group of 10, then we launch. Because then everybody in the group can bring in people and we build it that way. So that’s what our mission is. Our mission is to build out the study group. We’ve got the coaching part down pat. Whether you like it or not, let’s say you end up not liking it, but we’ve got that coaching model down pat. What we want to do is build out our clusters of these study groups because this is what really creates additional value for people.
Justin Smith: That is the scale part. I love what you’re doing out there, Tim. I appreciate you spending time with me and going on this journey just unpacking each part of it because it’s a challenge that we all face. And Rainmaker, what a great name. I love it. Because that’s where it’s at of trying to make it happen. And so focusing on what are the most positive impacts you can have and the best investments you can make in yourself. And so I love that you’ve taken the time and an effort and made it your business to help people transform themselves. That’s powerful and I appreciate that.
Tim O’Brien: Thank you. And I appreciate you having me on very much Justin, really do appreciate it.
Justin Smith: I want to thank you for joining me on this episode. And if you liked what you heard, please drop me a note at email@example.com or text me (949)400-4786 and let me know if there’s any follow up you would like. If you have any guests or anyone, you’d like to hear interviewed or see on the show, let me know. I’m always looking for new exciting guests and look forward to connecting with you. Thank you.