with Stephen Colon
Part of being a business owner is embracing the fact that you will experience painful moments and, at times, mess up. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is going to be correct 100 percent of the time. What’s important is learning from those mistakes and applying what you’ve learned to avoid the same problems in the future and bounce back from failure. Stephen Colon, of Knucklehead Podcast, is joining us today to talk about resilience, great tips for overcoming failures and facing the difficult things in business head-on. To listen to the full episode, please visit our website or subscribe to the Cultivating Business Growth Podcast.
What we cover in this episode:
- 00:55 – Introduction to Stephen Cohen
- 02:18 – The beginning of Knucklehead Podcast
- 06:51 – How to be resilient
- 15:01 – Figuring it out
- 23:21 – “Don’t be beta”
- 34:34 – Do the hard things
Introduction to Stephen Cohen
Stephen Colon may just be the most dangerous person in podcasting. He has more than 13 years of professional leadership and sales development experience and over 8 years of experience in small business ownership working with companies on change management, engagement, and strategic alignment to business objectives. He now owns and operates a podcast production agency, known as Knucklehead Media Group, as well as hosts their flagship show, Knucklehead Podcast. We are grateful to have Stephen, and all his expertise, join our podcast today.
The beginning of Knucklehead Podcast
When mistakes are made, don’t try to hide it. Own what happened and move forward. People are human. As the owner of your company, you may think you are supposed to have all of the answers and when you don’t, you get embarrassed. Stephen, who sometimes refers to himself as Chief Knucklehead, said this topic is precisely his motivation for starting the Knucklehead Podcast.
Stephen talked to us about the challenges he faced as a young developing sales rep. He wanted to know how to be relatable to his buyers, manage up the chain of command, and position others for success based on his actions. When seeking information to help him answer these questions, he was advised to follow particular programs, sets of rules, and methodologies. This advice didn’t sit well with him. He told us bluntly, which we appreciate very much, “Consultants really rubbed me the wrong way over the course of my sales career.” He wanted upfront and honest information from people who’d gone through similar experiences, but he wasn’t getting that, which was frustrating. That frustration eventually led to his podcast, where he is now able to talk about business realities that can actually help people. Stephen explained, “Our thoughts were, why wouldn’t we want to disseminate a bunch of information about what people have screwed up along the way because we need to be human and relatable to other people who are interested in us.”
How to be resilient
We’ve been talking lately about common mistakes we see as virtual CFOs, how to avoid mistakes, decision-making in business, and getting over the fear of making mistakes. The reality is that we will make mistakes. When that happens, you can’t dwell on that though. As a leader, you must pick yourself up and find resilience. On the Knucklehead Media Group homepage, you’ll find the phrase, “Stop letting mistakes prevent you from doing something great.” We asked Stephen to talk to us about that and share some of his personal entrepreneurial experiences that led him to the place of appreciating his mistakes.
Stephen gave us an example through the podcasting, new media, and content creation lens platforms that change all the time. “Digital marketing agencies are almost complaining about the changes that Facebook and Instagram and other social media platforms have on their paid media efficacy. They’re having a difficult time getting ahead of where you’re going to get the most value for your dollar. If you have paid media, where you’re trying to convert new or cold audience members or try to pinpoint your custom audience based on all these different attributes, and somebody on the other side is constantly changing the algorithm, your service offering starts to lose some of its value.” Paying attention to these signs within your industry is so important so you can find opportunities when they arise.
What seems to be a challenge may not be
Stephen noted that upwards of 90 percent of the content that exists in the Apple Podcast directory has less than 10 episodes. It’s inflated from 150,000 to just under a million podcasts. The volume available to listeners may lead some to think, “Okay, well, if there’s that many shows, then obviously nobody’s going to pay attention to me.” In Stephen’s opinion, people shouldn’t think that way. That mindset isn’t accurate. He continued, “There is a misunderstanding where people think they need to convert this vast audience, as opposed to focusing on a smaller audience. With a smaller audience, you can speak directly to their realities and provide significant value. Hone in on the right people, the audience you really want your services to be targeted toward.”
Figuring it out
We asked Stephen, why are mistakes so important to embrace? He responded, “If you’re running a business and things are going well, that’s great. But, it’s only a matter of time before something goes awry. There’s this tendency to be reactive to what people project, as opposed to what’s truly taking place. This is another reason we proceeded with a podcast production centered on what you’ve screwed up. That in itself is relatable, regardless of the business or industry.”
Trial and error – finding your audience
In speaking for what Knucklehead Media did, Stephen shared, “we entered into an agreement at the beginning of 2020 with a new client in a new market that we hadn’t worked with before. What they needed was a digital asset, a podcast.” He went on to explain that they could leverage pieces of that show to go distribute across other social media channels. This garners attention and potentially converts a new audience at a different rate than what you would by using a cold email or similar. They discovered that they needed to be onsite. Stephen elaborated, “We actually needed to be physically there capturing information from behind the scenes. Things like COVID impacted our business to where we weren’t able to be onsite so we had to pivot to come up with the next best thing. Over the course of the discovery of what the next best thing was, we found out that our core service offering wasn’t even something that existed at the beginning of 2020.” Their core service was a podcast and they were able to see the need for post-production services, editing, fine-tuning, text overlays, and creative consistency.
Maximizing your time
A common sentiment among small to mid-sized business owners is that there’s so much information and data everywhere that they don’t know where to go. It takes some trial and error when it comes to data and content creation as well, in the podcast production industry. We asked Stephen to give us some tips on how they have focused their time and attention on what really works for their clients.
“We had a client that had no presence on a professional social media network. So, we created a show that helped our client. The podcast episode featured experts that came in to talk to him so he could develop a relationship with their product or service offering. The content recorded during the interview did a few things that benefitted his business. “ Stephen then highlighted four areas that improved greatly because of focused efforts on content, more specifically a digital asset in the form of a podcast.
- It helped them create a micro content library that could be distributed across social media to help build up a professional network
- It helped establish real relationships with the people who are coming in and guesting on the show
- It created, and grew, an audience for him
- It created this network of trusted advisors that were vetted
By focusing efforts in one area, they were able to utilize one asset in multiple ways for a multi-dimensional approach. Stephen went on to explain, “That’s what I meant by having a network and then an actual convertible component to his new product. He leveraged his digital asset to go out and create an alternate revenue stream for his business.”
“Don’t be beta”
Stephen and his colleagues at Knucklehead have a saying, “Don’t be beta.” We asked him to talk to us about that phrase.
Most people don’t hear the saying “Don’t be a beta,” in a corporate setting. At Knucklehead, it is common because that phrase causes you to pause and think. We asked him about how it started and he explained, “A Hollywood reporter came out with a magazine cover in 2018, and it was ‘The Accomplishment of the Beta Male.’ Essentially, the message was regarding the fact that in today’s climate, if you’re not willing to talk politics, business, or finances, in some cases you’re going to lose who you’re trying to talk to. This magazine cover was a parody. They were trying to be funny and get people’s attention.” Stephen saw something else other than parody in that article though. “When we saw it, we thought we had an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, if you’re a top performer, otherwise characterized as an alpha (male or female), you probably exercise characteristics of discipline, core habits, have established goals, and you’ve probably missed some goals along the way.’” They took that and spun it a bit to create this fun way of calling out the top performers. Rather than beating our chests with the alpha mentality, they approach it instead by saying “No, no. Just don’t be beta.”
They then started putting “Don’t be a beta” on tee shirts and their audience loved the mindset and the saying. Then, in true marketing and business development fashion, to leverage some of the tools that folks use on social media, they started putting hashtag #dontbebeta on everything. Now, if someone comes across that hashtag, they are then redirected to the Knucklehead website. What they’ve found is, no matter who you are, when you hear “Don’t be a beta”, people want to know the meaning which is to continue to strive for the best, don’t let your mistakes get you down. Be resilient. Don’t just stay down when you get kicked down. Get up, don’t be beta. We know you’re going to screw up; you’re going to get punched in the mouth. If you try to avoid mistakes and failure, you’re only going to get what you’ve avoided. Be willing to take the blows and take the setbacks. Start small to get some wins and once you’ve created momentum in whatever it is that you’re going for, your posture changes. You start to gain traction.
Do the hard things
One of the many great Knucklehead Podcasts was episode #15, which featured Tim Kennedy. During the interview, Tim related growth (professional and personal) to working out. We’ve talked about physical strength correlating with mental strength in previous episodes, but one of the things Tim shared was that muscles grow when they tear. You have to break them down to build them up. Many times, we have to push ourselves to do hard things because that’s when we see growth.
We asked Stephen what he does in order to do the hard things and what he suggests for others. He explained, many times he’s scared to take risks. “I’m a creature of habit. I like to do things that are comfortable and that are easy. So, whenever I’m doing something that’s comfortable there’s also this frequency that gets generated in my mind. Conversely, there’s also this mindset or this feeling that gets generated whenever I start to do things that are outside of my comfort zone. I call them ‘sweaty palm moments’ and it’s where I start to feel anxiety. Those sweaty palm moments are calling an existing client that there’s a problem with, to explore whether or not there’s an opportunity to grow. Cold calling is an example of something that nobody likes to do in sales, but everybody needs to do it in order to go grow your business.”
He went on to discuss how he pushes himself physically, “I referenced Brazilian jiu-jitsu a little bit earlier to go back to the physical side. Doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I’d just started rolling myself, which is awesome, but it’s terrifying to have somebody who’s twice your body weight on top of you trying to choke you out. It doesn’t really sound like it’s super attractive, but at the same time, it forces you to realize that nobody else is going to come and save you. You have to be able to learn and apply a different skill.”
By putting yourself in uncomfortable situations that force your body and brain out of their comfort zone, you push yourself to think critically and overcome the discomfort. Similarly to cold calling, you have to learn a different skill in order to go and grow in whatever your intended goal is. Typically, if you’re stretching yourself physically, what you’ve done is you’ve trained your mind to go and take risks. You figure out a way to professionally get yourself out of that sweaty palm moment, to have that continuous improvement, getting 1 percent better every day.
We were happy to welcome Stephen Colon, of the Knucklehead Media Group, to our show today. His podcast invites business owners to share their missteps in business with listeners to break down the walls and mystery around how business owners bounce back from failure to find success. It’s not all roses and rainbows. There is a struggle. It takes grit and resilience and that’s exactly what we talk about in today’s episode. Stephen shares some personal experiences and tips for those looking to push themselves in their business and take the risks necessary for growth.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Knucklehead Media Group
- Knucklehead Podcast
- Knucklehead Podcast episode #96 – Nurturing Your Business Back to Health featuring Jami Johnson
- Knucklehead Podcast episode #15 – Green Beret, Ranger Up Founder, and UFC Fighter Tim Kennedy