015: How to Become Credible in the Eyes of Your Clients

015: How to Become Credible in the Eyes of Your Clients

015: How to Become Credible in the Eyes of Your Clients

by Frank Wagner

What’s the most effective way to get the attention of a potential client and gain a sterling reputation? In this interview, my guest Frank Wagner explains two powerful things you can do to gain credibility and build trust. Frank is an expert on developing strong relationships that span decades. He’s been Marshall Goldsmith’s business partner for more than 30 years and created the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching program.

You’ll discover:

  • How Marshall Goldsmith acquired a client who was about the hire a competitor
  • The benefits of building relationships with the people important to your client
  • The 2 critical elements you must use to establish a strong connection with decision-makers
  • Why discovering how to be useful to others is a good business strategy

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Connect with Frank


Read the Transcription

Hi, welcome to another episode of strong for performance, a wonderful podcast for coaches and consultants. I’m your host Meredith Bell, and with me today is a very special guest, someone I admire and enjoy so much. Frank Wagner, welcome frank.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Meredith.

Well, Frank is special for many reasons. For one thing, he’s just a heck of a nice guy. His work is so relevant to the audience of this podcast. Frank has had his own consulting and coaching practice now for more than 30 years, right? Was it 1986?

I started my current business model. Before that though, I was in other businesses in the field.

Oh yes. I didn’t mean you started your career 1986. And then you created the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder centered coaching approach and program and you run the certification for that, right?

That’s correct.

Frank and Marshall go back to graduate school and we won’t say how many decades ago that was, let’s just say they’ve known each other, been friends and been colleagues for a long time. And Frank is just remarkable in so many ways as a coach, as a relationship builder and that’s really what I want to focus on in our conversation today. Frank it’s almost like magic, how you develop these strong relationships with lots of people.

Thank you for that.

It’s an important thing to be aware of and to be good at, you know to be successful based upon our relationships. So I think it’s a very good topic for us to talk about.

Well and I think it’s interesting from two perspectives because one, you’re good at building these relationships so that you don’t do any outside business development at all anymore. You’ve got clients coming to you based on what you’ve done for others in the past, but also the relationship-building from the perspective of what your teaching leaders you work with them. So we can look at it from both angles because the folks that are listening to this program have that same situation where they are themselves for their own business, needing to develop strong relationships but also they are working with leaders to help them in some of the same areas you are. Let’s think for a minute and back up with the leaders that you work with. What are some of the things that you see them struggling with when it comes to developing strong relationships?

I know, this is the big elephant in the room. It’s time. They get caught up in everything that they need to do to be successful and don’t develop enough bandwidth to spend the time to build relationships with people. And because of the relationship building isn’t specific work. I’m born an American, but I wasn’t an American because I’ve always kind of looked at things this way more like the rest of the world looks at things. Typically in the U.S., when you get down to business, it’s all kind of the art of the deal, and it’s all about, if I’m logical, I’ll get business and I’ll get work.

So you’re talking about work. Well, in most of the world, people don’t want to work with you until they have a relationship with you. They got to know you, they got to like you and they got to trust you. So it’s funny how you go into other parts of the world. My last trip a couple of months ago was to Moscow in Russia. They want to socialize and get to know you before you get down to the business stuff. Most cultures are wired that way. When they say the Americans aren’t wired that way, they get a bad press overseas because of that. They jumped too quickly into deal-making and business issues and those kinds of things before they have cemented a relationship with somebody. And although that’s a stereotype. There are plenty of US business people who do a fabulous job at this.

So, I’m not thinking that Americans are bad at this. It’s that we’re generally not as good as many other cultures as a generality.

So how do you help leaders that you’re working with to start paying more attention to the relationship-building aspect?

Well, again, there are two things. Sometimes people don’t spend a lot of time on it because they don’t know how to do it. So when people shy away from things they don’t have the confidence to do a good job at, they’ll focus on the things they’re good at. I mean the first thing is to kind of get a framework for, okay, what does this relationship-building need? If I’m going to go out and build relationships. And then after that, it’s carving out the time to do it. Spending the time, you mentioned my good friend and I’m so lucky that I do have a relationship with him and that’s Marshall Goldsmith.

Marshall is an amazing relationship builder. And in fact a lot of his success as a coach was he would coach somebody and when they were done coaching, he would then start inviting them to these dinners and he basically would put together a dinner typically at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan in New York City, and he would invite all these prior clients in his and they would just kind of get to know each other.

Later on in Marshall’s life, he would be telling the story about some guy who calls up Marshall and said, look, I’m trying to decide between you and this other person as a coach. And Marshall says, well, to be honest with you, that other guy’s a better coach than me. You know, you should hire him, he says, I just want to say one thing before you make your decision. And that is, if I coach you, you’ll start getting invited to these dinners and in these dinners, you will meet Alan Raleigh, CEO of Ford Motor Company, you’ll meet Dr. Jim Kim, president of World Bank, your choice. Guess who the person hired his coach, Marshall, right?

So, I mean a lot of people in psychology that the social psychologists were the first people that really kind of cracked the code on power. Power is your influence potential and Raven and French came up with this great list of faces of power. Now there are other lists, too, and this is a classic one and one of the power bases between what’s considered personal power and positional power is something called connection power, which is really, your relationships with some people are very powerful because of their connections.

Then you ask, how do I do it? That’s to be the biggest. I think that’s what we should probably talk about here is how do you build relationships?

So that is a great intro to the next question I wanted to ask you because I know you’re so skilled at this yourself. You just gave Marshall as a good example, but let’s focus on you from your own experience. How do you build a good relationship? What are some of the elements?

First of all, just as a kind of a backdrop, the one thing to me is, you have to make choices on who you’re going to build relationships with. And I’ll start with an example. I used to teach this class on ethics at a Jesuit University. Marshall and I got our start as academics before we became leadership development consultants and did training and before we became coaches, and I had to study ethics and come up with a good class. And my favorite part of this class, eventually, in fact, when I left teaching and joined Marshall as a business partner, the dean of our business school asked me if he could do this exercise. You’re asking my permission?  I’m leaving, so you can do whichever you want to do. It was ethics on lobbying and the students had to lobby with me for a grade and this grade was, I had to make it meaningful.

So one-third of their final grade in my class was based on this lobbying exercise and, only a third of the groups could get A’s, only a third to get B’s. So a third of the class was going to get a C or lower grade. And this is also in the era where there’s grade inflation where everyone thought, they were concerned that the minimum of B in terms of their grade. I would assign them randomly to a team. It was a team exercise. Students would go nuts. They’d come up and ask me, what do I do? I said, lobby with me for your grade. I’d give no advice that we had a timeframe. It was over about six weeks. They had to do this.

Well, I just want to tell you about the group that got the highest score I ever gave in terms of a grade was a student group and these were 20-year-olds. They understood relationship building. What they did is I get a great invitation to go out for dinner cruise and included was my wife. So we’d go down to Marina del Ray in the Los Angeles area. We get on this boat that’s owned by the father of one of these students. We’ve got these six students that are just doting over us. We’ve got white tablecloths, we have this fabulous dinner, they play our music from the 60s and we’d come home you know to the sunset over the Pacific Ocean under the darkness and see the lights of the Marina.

Okay, well now I’m grading at the end of this assignment I am grading the students. My wife comes into my home office, looks over my shoulder and says, what are you doing? I said I’m grading papers. She looks down at the list. She sees the six names of the students and the people she remembered. She says, what grade are they getting? What grade do you think they go? They got an A+.

So what’s the moral of the story? Almost no students ever did this in their groups, including my wife in the lobbying. See, sometimes the people you want to build relations are not your eventual target. It’s the people that are very connected to the people you ultimately want to influence in the situation. So you know, the first order of business is: Don’t wait until you need a relationship to build it. Start Day One. Now we get into, okay, what are the kinds of the key elements of relationship building? Well, think about it from the standpoint of the person you’re trying to build your relationship with. There are two things that I think are critical. At least it’s the things I focus on.

And the two things are; become incredible in their eyes. So you’ve got to establish credibility. And the second thing is being helpful to them. And by the way, you don’t determine whether you’re credible or not. They do. You don’t determine whether you’re helpful to them. They do in the situation. Let’s talk about credibility first. Okay. Well people do it wrong. And that with this Kaizen is selling. My business partner Chris Coffey, he was a consummate salesman. I am not, I’m a relationship builder. Chris can sell, and when you’re business partners, he’s the guy that I went into business with in 1986. We’re still business partners today in 2019. I know this goes back quite a ways. He decided to take a course in strategic selling. Now he takes his course and the people that taught strategic selling, when they were done with the course, I asked him, would you teach the course?

I mean, so this just kind of tells you how good he is, right? You have to get to teach the course just so he can learn it more. And this was a course that had a foundation on a basic principle, which is kind of counterintuitive, at least in terms of how people behave. And the counterintuitive nature of this is, and this was a course on how to sell the senior executives. And here’s the choice. The question is asked, why will a senior executive buy from you? And here are the two choices: they buy from you because of what they know about you or they buy from you based on what they think you know about them. Now as I say this, most people get the right answer yet it’s not what they do. They do the wrong answer. They think they’ve got to sell their product or service explicitly explains stakeholders or coaching, you know, explain whatever I’m teaching people, such as situational leadership. So it’s all about me explaining to you what you need. No. Senior executives buy based on what they think you know about them. So your credibility is based upon: how much do they feel you’ve listened and learned from them?

I remember years ago when I used to teach this class, the mother of my son-in-law lived in a place in a valley, a horse country, east of Santa Barbara in California. I was over there for dinner when our first grandson had just been born and he is now 26 years old. And this was 26 years ago at Christmas time. We’re at this dinner and just family, except that there’s one invited guest. It was a guy who was courting this woman. She was now divorced. The guy walks in the door as soon as we walked into, I recognized him. He was an actor and his name was John Forsythe. He was the voice of Charlie’s Angels, the original Charlie’s Angels.

He ended up sitting down next to me for dinner. So I’m doing my small talk, with him and he’s really into horses. When he asked what I did, I described it briefly, and he says, well, you know who Monty Roberts is? I said, no. He says, well, why don’t you, Robertson is kind of famous in the valley here. He’s also a person who people even think he’s a saint or a god or he’s a devil and he’s a villain. He wrote a book called The Man Who Listens to Horses. And the reason why we also got into this is I asked John, What’s your favorite work? He goes, well, most of my work was pretty bad, but as you probably know, I have a good voice.

And my favorite work I ever did were documentaries. He did a documentary on Monty Roberts’ book. The Man Who Listens to Horses. Now classically in the world – this isn’t just in the wild west – how you train the horse was to break its spirit. and Monty Roberts had a different way of training wild horses called joining up. And see, a lot of people don’t realize, it’s almost like they’ve got like they’re breaking down a client or a prospect. They’re almost like the classic horse breeders as opposed to joining up with them.

Let’s talk about the distinction between those tow. What does one look like versus the other?

There’s a dramatic shift in how you act, and then what they experience with you. So your job is to learn, learn their lingo, learn their situations. I’m right now probably most current example of me getting worked from relationship building is I’m working for one of the major entertainment companies in the United States and I’m coaching 10 senior executives. Most of them have titles like President, CEO, or Chairman of a line of business in this entertainment company. I didn’t sell this work. I was brought in to do this work. I’m being brought in by another consultant who’s a best bestselling author and I developed a relationship with him. And when this came up, he thought about me and asked me if I’d be willing to do this. And I said, yes. With this organization, I had to learn a lot about the entertainment industry fast. So I took my time. I read everything up about this organization, and they are right now in the throes of a potential merger.

And guess what? I did my due diligence. So when I’m talking to people and they say, well, you don’t understand our situation, Frank, there’s so much uncertainty here. I said, well, I can throw out just a couple of words and they go, Oh, you get it right. That’s doing your homework.

How do you get credible in the eyes of others? One is demonstrating you know the world they live in and, they know you didn’t just know this from instinct. You did some due diligence and worked to earn the right to be talking to them is.

And the second thing is and this is one I really like… What a lot of people try to do is come across – because they feel their credibility is based on expertise. So I’ve got to come across like I know everything, come across as a know-it-all and l I can do that or I know about this or I know that.

I’ll go to another client I had many years ago. It was an actually the only other client I have ever had in the entertainment industry. It was a studio called Rhythm and Hughes. It was the third-largest special effects studio in Hollywood. And again, I had some young guys who had gone through the training I did at UCLA and they wanted me to come in and do internal work in the company. So they spearheaded me at the end of the door. I go in to meet the founder, president, CEO of this special effects studio. As I walk in, and this is in the 1980s I walk in and there’s a whole stack of books behind this guy’s credentials. So I’d take a quick gander. It’s called The Dynamics of Software Development. Now, this is all before what we have now in the way they make movies where everything is digital. You almost don’t even need live sets anymore to do anything.

This was back in the day where I walked into this office, install the room where they had little models like they’re having a big ship. It’s a physical model of a ship, right? But when I walked in, I saw it. I said you know, again, I guess this world is going digital, isn’t it? To the guy. And he looks up at me and this was like a mousy looking kind of nerd. He looks up at me and he goes, uh, oh, you’re the leadership guy. I said, yes. He goes, you probably know the book. I’m going, no, no, no, no. You misunderstand me. I know leadership. I know nothing about computers and all that stuff. He goes, no, no, this is the leadership book.

Everyone in my organization shows any sign of leadership. Could I get a copy? So he hands me a copy. It was written by a guy named Jim McCarthy. Based on his experiences at Microsoft. Now, Microsoft has also been a client mine over time. Most people will have had some experience with Microsoft as a user. I’ll go back to the days when you know, their operating systems, a big buggy that’s being kind. And, most people would say, don’t buy the first release of anything. Microsoft publishes, let them get the bugs out of it. And Jim McCarthy was considered to be a person who sold his soul to the devil because he needs somebody who’s not humanly possible. He developed a product called visual c plus. Plus he was given a budget. He was given a timeframe.

He did it with less than the money assigned to him for his budget. He came in under budget, he came in ahead of schedule and it was probably the only product in the history of Microsoft up to that point in time that came out perfect for people that that’s impossible. Cause remember Microsoft, nothing came out on time. They had more money than God. So everyone didn’t worry about it. It was just standard practice. Here’s McCarthy doing something that said, people, said it was impossible. So he writes a book called that name as a software developer. Well, I’m going to just tell you one story out of that book, which I use around establishing credibility. It was a phrase I’ve never heard of before. Lucid ignorance, my layman’s term is willing to admit what you don’t know. It doesn’t hurt your credibility. It builds your credibility. I’ll go back and Marshall Goldsmith, I’m Marshall Countless Times in front of the group. You guys ask a question. He doesn’t know the answers. I don’t know the answer. That question right isn’t trying to pretend like he knows the answer. We’ll see in software development, the big problem, McCarthy points on the book, it’s all about leadership and influence and working together and collaborating. It’s that most people don’t understand ahead of time where they don’t know about the software project. So to be on his team you had to demonstrate and use an ignorance. He prized a person on his team more who didn’t know something and admitted they didn’t know it. As opposed to somebody who knows something. And by the way, by hiring people like that, they came in under budget and schedule a perfect product on that thing. So you know the whole idea is what is your self-confidence to admit you don’t know something and almost look for an opportunity. You say I don’t know, something in your relationship building with people, you lose credibility, you gain credibility. Do you have other stuff? If you stop and think about it, it a logic, it makes sense. But intuitively we do the opposite in the way we are. Right.

I think that’s such a good point because when we’re in a situation where we’re meeting with a potential client and they may be considering other people to work with, you feel like you’re under the microscope being evaluated. You’ve got to prove yourself and we get as you’re saying, the mistaken assumption that we have to show, we really are the expert by telling, telling, telling, and trying to impress and instead the impression happens when you demonstrate curiosity, ask questions and readily admit when you don’t know something. Because then as I’m listening to, I’m thinking of that allows you to learn and then tell you things that allow them to shine. So instead of you shining, they get to shine and people feel better when they feel that they’ve been heard and understood. Is that what you’re suggesting for establishing creditability?

I hadn’t thought about bringing this up. I remember I said Microsoft has been a client of mine. One goes back over a decade. I coached the chief technology officer at Microsoft. He had a chief of staff. This guy was scary. In three years of working there, I never saw the guy in anything but black jeans and a black tee-shirt with a crew cut hair. He was from South African. He was part of seal team. I mean this guy was chiseled military. One day I was talking to my client by their door and I said something and I saw this guy who was walking towards us. He turns around like in a Miljard proceeding and walks back, comes back and hands me a book.

And it was called something like the 26 rules of power. I can remember the actual title, it’s a big orange book. And it was a book of stories, real-life stories. And some of them were kind of negative about the downside of power while some are very positive. And one of the stories was about Machiavelli in Renaissance Italy. Machiavelli was an artist, so he was reliant on benefactors to pay. And one of his benefactors was the mayor of Solaris. And one day, Michaelangelo is working on some big statue and carving out, you know, a marvelous creation. Maybe it was David, I don’t know, but it was up on a higher platform. He was up there doing this thing. So Larry comes in and says, um, he gives a critique of Machiavelli and this guy’s a mayor.

What does he know about art? And he goes, the nose, it’s too big on this pepper on the space. So what does Machiavelli do? He doesn’t say, shut up. I’m an expert. You know, I’m going to be famous. You’re not. People are never going to know your name. They’re all going to know my name. You know, he didn’t do any of that. When he goes, he goes, oh, thank you. And he ends up picking up some very subtle, he picks up some dust of, of any and he’s got this chisel and he hits the Hammer on the chisel. As he hits, he lets go there and so looks like he’s carving some of this stuff off of the nose and then they stopped it after because of how does that look? Oh, that’s perfect.

And the whole point is, don’t try to prove the other person wrong and you right when you do things So that whole mindset helps other people shine in what you’re doing. And remember this all-around what I talk about, the key on that is thinking about having a plan for establishing your credibility. The second key part, the other hand in terms of relationship-building is, is helping others. And I mean I’m not telling anything and if people don’t know, but again, if you look at the universal nature of this in, in Chinese, there’s a term called. I think I’m pronouncing it correctly. Oh, I won’t claim to be. If you actually want to, right now if you pick up your phone and you went to like Google translate and you put in that word in Chinese and asked for, the English translation would come out as human feelings, but that doesn’t really capture the essence of it is basically the understanding that there is a human dimension to all human interaction and it really ties into the concept, the universal concept of reciprocity.

That was, you helped me, I’ll help you, it plays out, there’s no culture where reciprocity is not alive and well yet in the Asian cultures, it’s up there because you do something in China of benefit to another person. It’s like a debt gets created, the other person owes a debt to you. You’ll never be written down. It’s a matter of guilt and or saving face if you don’t repay. And they may go down generations within families and forth repaid and say, say they’re the lunatic fringe of this stuff, but it still plays out in the United States. It’s still a place about in western Europe, it still plays out in South America. This whole concept, of helping each other. So you know, would you want to be is about way countless people ask me because I’ve helped them. Frank, what can I do to help you?

And I always appreciate them saying that rarely do I have something to give them to help me right now. But see not the problem when you’re building a new relationship, this is not only part of your due diligence of understanding their situation, their world or challenges or whatnot, it’s where can they use some help that you can provide some help to them. And then in the course of the conversation, I’m suggesting, hey, if you need some out there, here, I think I can do something for you. And by the way, sometimes you’re helping somebody just connecting them to another person. Right?

Yes. And I think that’s an important distinction to make because there are so many ways that you can help someone and be of service to them without feeling like it’s got to be tied to the services or products that you offer. There’s just human to the human connection where if you’re paying attention, you’ll hear them express a concern or interest or something where you could say, oh, I know someone who can do that or I know a book or some resource that can be helpful to you. And I think a really good, indicator of how helpful you’ve been is exactly the response you’ve gotten from some of the people you’ve helped. What can I do for you? I have that often happen in some of the calls that I have where I’ve listened, I’ve asked questions, I’ve come up with some ideas or some resources that they could use that have nothing to do with our products, but something that I think would help them. And you’re right, it’s a universal desire to reciprocate. Whether they do it or not is not usually whether they can reciprocate, it doesn’t matter. It’s the goodwill that you’re putting out there in the sense of, you know, that phrase servant leader is kind of overused, but that’s really what you’re, you’re getting at here is how can I be of service to you?

Yeah. And so you hit completely hitting the point. Meredith, see some people that don’t do it as well. I mean they look like they’re practicing what we’re talking about here yet they are strictly tying their help to reciprocity. If I do this, you’ve got to return the favor. It’s much more a function of I’m just doing this from the genuine spirit of helpfulness and you know, without an expectation of something in return and that goodwill does play out in is very likely to come back. I mean I’ll come back immediately and maybe coming back years later, right. In terms of what you’re doing. And again, so it was one of my people that I read about who I’d never met the guy. I have read his material cause we got him Hans Selye we help guide my philosophy.

And how shall you be not well known? He, although we all benefit from his work, he was the one in the medical field who cracked the code on stressThey must have known this in ancient times about stress and how it can be debilitating to people. And it’s a negative thing and it can cause all kinds of problems if you’re under too much stress. Well when he was first proposing this, especially the American medical community racially ready to run for 10 years and because he didn’t, his model was such that, which is by way accepted today is if you’re under stress, it’s got to affect you physically. Don’t do it the same way with every person. So it’s not so science-oriented like A equals B. And that’s why the medical community was so down on him.

Because for some people stress will attack their cardiovascular system. So they’ll have a heart attack. You know, for other people, it will cause their immune system to create cancer. There’s no definite specific wink to missing. Well, show you though. I’ll go going back though. He was born, in eastern Europe and he escaped eastern Europe under a rail car with his family. They migrated to Canada and that’s where even then all of this work and then he started writing and he’s considered the father of stress. Some people refer to him as, as the Einstein of medicine as you, I mean the guy who did really well, but his philosophy in life, he got from his father. His father was the local doctor in the town he grew up in and his father would basically give medical treatment to those who could pay. You could get medical treatment and those who couldn’t pay, you didn’t expect payment.

But this is what said. It’s funny, every morning he opened the front door, there was like a bottle of milk there or some part of the eggs there. You know, the people that couldn’t pay him, right? So his philosophy was, I’m looking out for your living. Give me the title first. Altruistic egoism, altruistic egotism, that means to be altruistic and be egotistical at the same time. They’re almost like opposites. So his description of that was looking out for yourself by being necessary to others, thus earning their goodwill. I changed it ever so slightly for the mind. You know, I changed it from looking after yourself by being useful to others. I didn’t say necessary, just being useful to others. Investment in your goodwill. And I think that’s a great model of you take certain gestalt and what it means in terms of relationship building.

That’s a wonderful way to summarize it as we kind of wrap up here because you’ve shared so many really good nuggets. And I think one of the key things I’d love the listeners to leave with and think about is how am I positioning myself so I’m credible? What are the things that I’m doing that increase the perception of credibility on the part of the person I’m talking to, not my own? Trying to establish my credibility and then this whole thing of being helpful, use of service to others without looking for an immediate payback, right. That you just trust the process of giving is going to all work out for everybody because people sense that. I think that’s an important takeaway also in wrapping up is people sense when you’re being genuine and when you’re implementing a technique, trying to be a particular way at the moment, but it doesn’t resonate right with them. And what you’re talking about is a way of being that is being fully present with them and being focused on them. So the sense that you care. I mean to me it’s all about them. The credibility you have with them and their perception of your service to them it’s all about them feeling like whether you care or not.

Yeah. Most of us are, aren’t gifted enough to fake it. So you know, most people can see yet some can’t. But even those, again, it’s a waste of their time cause you know, they came across a genuine, they came across as caring. They can’t, they will not pull that off forever or realizing what they’re dealing with and the other person they should have done. And then you make all that investment in that relationship, you know, you’re never going to have it in the future with that person. So you know, Andy, it’ll affect your reputation and they talk about you to others. So you know, the only way to do it. As you said, it’s kind of a state of being about how you approach things and it’s like where are your principles and how are you operating around those principles? For me, I’ve never been like my why you can talk to anyone in my family, right? Wagner is not a salesman and not a sales guy. I can’t sell anything. And he ever tries and he never proactively goes out and sells anything. Yet I’ve had a good life because I’ve got a very small network of relationships that’s worked for me.

Well, and it goes to show there are different ways of selling in terms of I should say a different way of getting business. And when you deliver the way you consistently deliver, you build up a fan base of people that are delighted to refer you, introduce you, contract with you to serve because they trust you, they trust that you’re going to deliver what you say you can do. And so you’ve built up that reputation. So I guess that’s another question to leave people with: How can you build up your reputation so other people want to introduce you to other clients, other opportunities because of the value you delivered for them? That’s the real question, in terms of building a business.

You used the term fan base. Well, let’s see. I’m your fan base, Meredith. But to answer the question, I’ll tell you another very instrumental person when Chris Coffey and I went into business back in ‘86. He had a kind of a somehow distant relative in his family, a guy named Frank Grisanti. Now if you check him out online, he was a guy who was on the cover of Fortune magazine, he was called the corporate doctor. He basically invented leveraged buyouts. He was a titan of consultants. People would’ve loved to work for him because if you worked for him, you’d always be a millionaire often after the first deal you were involved in. And Frank had a set of rules and we adopted those rules for our little company. His first rule. And this ties back into, you know, our relationship building and what I said about picking who you built relationships. He said, only do business with people at your level of integrity.

The second thing is I only accept work you’re fully qualified to perform. So that ties to your reputation. You may need the work and so you take work that you’re personally qualified to perform and guess what you do. Okay. But does that make give you a sterling reputation? No. Did it pay your mortgage for a while? Yes. So these are easy principles to understand that aren’t necessarily easy to implement. A key other part of what he was showing his rules was: Don’t be a pig.

What he means by that is don’t be greedy. If you come across as greedy, that becomes part of your reputation. So if you can implement his rules right now… only do business at your level of integrity. Only accept work you’re fully qualified to do. Know the rules of the business you’re dealing with. And then don’t be a pig. Smart people and you just say, I can use that. So I mean, Frank Wagner is sort of like mashing together of principles and Hans Selye, Frank Grisanti, Marshall Goldsmith, you know, all the good people I’ve been around.

Well, Frank, you just are a synthesizer of information. You have all these wonderful decades of experience is, and, and it’s why I always enjoy our conversations because you integrate diverse pieces of information and different experiences and brings them together in a very cohesive way. That to me has formed a system for you that works extremely well in the whole relationship building area. And you’ve demonstrated that so beautifully during our conversation today. And I just want to thank you for joining me on my podcast and sharing your wisdom, experience, and insights with my audience.

My pleasure, Meredith. Thank you. Your welcome.