Published DateAuthorDan Sullivan and Shannon Waller
Everyone in the world has been dealing with major economic shifts, and it would be a mistake to start assuming that things are going to get back to what’s familiar, or what you might consider “normal.” In this episode, Dan Sullivan and Shannon Waller discuss how things are going to continue to change for decades and what it all means for entrepreneurs.
Here's some of what you'll learn in this episode:
Why a recent major shift should have happened back when the Soviet Union collapsed.
How entrepreneurs can use COVID as an example of the kind of thing they’ll have to get used to.
Why countries now need to have the supply chain for anything economically crucial contained within their own country.
How keeping quiet about your business can grow your opportunity.
Why Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. will increasingly become a single economic unit.
A useful question to ask your best clients, regardless of their industry.
With no future: Clients will sit on their money when they don’t see that they have a future.
Entrepreneurial opportunity: There’s so much friction in the world right now, and that means entrepreneurial opportunity.
Lost ground: By the first year of the pandemic, the economy of virtually every country had lost ground.
Disruption after disruption: Entrepreneurs have to prepare themselves for 25 years of disruption after disruption because that’s what’s being predicted will happen.
If rules change: If the rules are constantly changing, you don’t have the same capability and confidence about the future.
What normal means: One definition of normal is going back to the way things were.
Working on itself: The U.S. is going to be working on itself now instead of helping and supporting other countries.
Really shot ahead: Some industries, including financial and residential real estate, really shot ahead during the pandemic.
Have to realize: Everyone who isn’t an entrepreneur is going to be experiencing high levels of anxiety and worry, which is something entrepreneurs have to realize.
The main business: The main business for entrepreneurs over the next 25 years is to continually help other people create a new future for their particular business and to constantly reinforce them.
Shannon Waller: Hi, Shannon Waller here and welcome to Inside Strategic Coach with Dan Sullivan. Dan, we were just talking about the context that you pay attention to with regard to entrepreneurs. And you said something I found incredibly intriguing as usual, which is you said you always pay attention to the general economic situation, the environment that entrepreneurs are in. And I wanted to talk today about, because things are changing, things are looking a lot more uncertain. There's lots of predictions coming out there. So I'd love to get your take on what is the current economic situation that entrepreneurs need to pay attention to, and how can they be successful? How can they win in this current economic climate?
Dan Sullivan: I remember when we were about halfway through COVID, so this would be the middle of 2021, through it in the sense of lockdowns and everybody operating by Zoom rather than in-person meetings. And I had everybody identify all the progress that they had made, and a theme kept emerging in the room. And we said, someone asked the question, “How long before we get back to normal?” And it was really, really interesting. Normal mean, in my mind, sort of mean that you're going back to the way things were. And then there was a discussion. People agreed that things had really changed, had already changed during the period of the first year of the pandemic and lockdowns. And that there was still more change ahead. And a lot of this had to do with the economy because in virtually every country, the economy had lost ground.
It had enormous negative impact on some of the entrepreneurs because of their particular industries and in others they had shot way ahead. Financial really shot ahead. Real estate, residential real estate really shot ahead. And so I said, you've all been through other things like this, 07 to 09, the subprime meltdown in the United States. That was a huge disruption. But I said, I want you to entertain something. And that is what if the next 25 years starting right now is just nonstop disruption, after disruption, after disruption, because that's what I'm reading is going to happen. Because we kind of lived in the post second World War era that logically should have stopped when the Soviet Union collapsed because the whole setup of the world, which the United States basically protected, and in a certain sense they financed, the United States financed the first truly global economy. They provided money, they provided markets, they provided protection of all transportation in the world, their military did, and the Navy especially.
And starting around 1991, 1992, the whole purpose for that post-war setup was so that the United States didn't have to fight a European war against the Soviet Union. So, where the Soviets created an Iron Curtain to keep all their countries in, the United States and all their allies created a prosperity curtain surrounding the Soviet Union, where everybody outside of the Soviet Union, their economies went up. They were doing things that they had never been able to do before. The trade was enormous. But the US didn't do this for economic reasons. They did it for security reasons. They just didn't want to have another war, especially in Europe with the Soviet Union. But in 1991, the Soviet Union quit. They just stopped. They didn't even ask anyone's permission, they just stopped. And it was such a good deal for all the other countries. The other countries basically ignored that the reasons for the deal were over.
And China was one of the big countries that just took advantage of it. They just took massive advantage of it. But every country in the world did because they were given free access to American finance. First of all, they were all protected by the US military, and there was just unlimited amounts of capital, unlimited amounts of marketing, unlimited amounts of technology. But for the last 20 years, the US has been thinking this over and saying, we just don't want to do this anymore. More or less to put it in a single sentence, they're cutting the rest of the world free and saying, you're okay, you're on your own now. You've had your childhood, you've gone through your teens, and now you're an adult. So act like an adult. And you can see it happening. And American politics is really about how fast this is going to happen.
But the US is going to come back, essentially, and work on itself now. And there was a lot of industries that were more or less abandoned in the United States because it was easier to ship the cost of manufacturing and the jobs over to other seas. And that's all over now. And it's a unique period in human history. And it's now over, but it's been kind of crumbling over the last 20, 30 years. Thirty years it's been since the Soviets collapsed. And COVID speeded up the process of the collapse because it interrupted all the supply chains out in the world. Not only the United States but other countries are coming to the conclusion anything that's crucial to your economy, you got to have the supply chains in your country. The manufacturing has to be in your country. So more and more it becomes the United States, Canada, and Mexico as a single economic unit. Okay.
And I've given Strategic Coach entrepreneurs books to read. One great one, Peter Zeihan is the thinker in the world who I think has the greatest take on everything that's happening. It's awe inspiring, actually, how specific he is about things changing. So be thankful you're an entrepreneur because if you were working for a large corporation, you just have zero job security right now because all the corporations have to shift. And that notion of employment security is a thing of the past. There's no employment security, even CEOs, there's no employment security. So everything in the world is changing right now. Every industry is shifting; every business is shifting. If this settles down in 25 years, I'd be surprised. So just use COVID as an example of what you have to get used to.
Shannon Waller: That's a big thought for a lot of people because if your business got started in the last 25 to 30 years, you were used to a certain type of reality. And then you may think, “Okay, I had to get through this lockdown period. Now I can kind of go back to some of the things I'm familiar with.” And what you're saying is don't get comfortable, don't get used to that. It's going to be changing for a long time forward.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. And actually it's created so many problems. We just did a podcast on friction. There's so much friction in the world right now that's entrepreneurial opportunity.
Shannon Waller: Okay. So Dan, tell me more about that because-- And I do think entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to, you actually used this term in our last podcast too: alert, curious, responsive, and resourceful. I'm super intrigued. How does this work?
Dan Sullivan: Well, one of the big things, people lose confidence when they lose their future. Okay. If you have a future that's predictable, you can have growing capability and confidence because it seems like, oh, business is a game that you can get better and better at playing. But if they're changing the rules to the game all the time, you don't have that same capability and confidence. So if you're an entrepreneur, you have to realize that everybody who is not another entrepreneur—and some of them that are—but everybody who's not an entrepreneur out in the world is going to be going through a high level of anxiety and worry. And they don't have their own thinking ability to actually create a new future for themselves. So I would say is that the main business for entrepreneurs over the next 25 years is to continually help other people create a new future for their particular specialty, for their particular business, and constantly reinforce them.
Because in Strategic Coach, entrepreneurs do this every 90 days. And I've got clients who've been doing this every 90 days for 30 years. So they know how to adjust. They're very flexible, they're very, very alert. And I said, “So you’re kind of taken care of. I mean, you have to spend time every day adjusting yourself and expanding your capabilities, but you’re kind of okay.” It's the world outside of the entrepreneurial world where things are dire, things are fraught with dangers, and they're real dangers. I mean, these are not imagined dangers. These are real dangers. That's why the politics is so hectic right now because politics is actually downstream from economics. Yeah.
Shannon Waller: I like that: Politics is downstream from economics.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, how money is made determines what kind of politics you can have and who gets the money. Politicians act as though they're in control, but they aren't. They're totally at the mercy of changes in economics, and they don't have any control over the factors. I mean, they can try to slow things down or try to control things, but I don't think politicians really have it. And the really smart ones are plugging into the changing economic world, and they're adjusting their thinking, and they're adjusting their policies and the programs that they have. But my feeling is entrepreneurs are free agents. So you can zero in on just a particular area out in the marketplace that's going through constant disruption and you can be an absolutely enormous hero to other people to actually help them think this through.
I can speak from experience here because the agreement that put the post-world, the global economy in place happened when I was six weeks old. I was born six weeks before, it's called the Bretton Woods Agreement—took place in New Hampshire, big old, great luxury hotel in New Hampshire, in the United States. And that agreement, and everybody except the combatants—Germany wasn't in it because they were the enemy, and Italy wasn't in it, and then Japan wasn't in it, and the Soviet Union wasn't in it. But the United States immediately offered it to everybody. They actually offered it to the Soviet Union, and they turned the deal down because being part of a worldwide team wasn't really their objective. Being in control of the world was their objective. So they didn't play well with others.
Shannon Waller: Still don't.
Dan Sullivan: So anyway, that's my take on it. So what we have is a method for doing this in Coach. And I've used it previously in various other downturns, and when there's economic emergency of some sort going on. And you just pick your top 20 clients or customers, and you have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with them. So it's your dime. You're paying for the meeting. And the goal, when you have the meeting, is that you don't say anything about yourself, you don't say anything about your company, and you don't say anything about your products. Instead, you ask a question, “If we were having this conversation a year from now,” because years are really important right now. So I say, “If we were having this conversation, and it was a year from now, and we're having the conversation, and you're looking back over the 12 months back to today, what has to happen in your business and personally for you to feel happy with your progress over the next 12 months?” Okay.
And I have to tell you, you're the only person in the world who's actually doing this with them. So you're the only person who is giving them your full attention and you're just listening. And this is the first time that they will have to actually say what's on their mind right now. You can take notes, tell them you'd like to take notes so you can feed back their answer to them. And you say, for example, “What dangers do you have right now that have to be eliminated 12 months from now? What opportunities do you have that you need to capture over the next 12 months? And what strengths do you have that you need to maximize?” Okay. And you just have this conversation and you just keep asking them questions.
I find generally if they set aside an hour for the conversation, the client, the other person, some time during the hour, will phone their scheduling secretary and said, “Free me up for another hour; I'm in a conversation.” And the reason is they instantly know that this is maybe the only opportunity that they're going to get to actually put together a plan, a new plan, which creates a new future for them.
Shannon Waller: And Dan, does this work across, if you sell products or distribute products and services, does it work across all industries?
Dan Sullivan: Yeah, because it's not about the industry, it's about the person. It’s how is this person looking at the world?
Shannon Waller: Also, this is where, I love what you said to come in, don't talk about you, don't talk about your business, don't talk about your product, services. Your point here is just to listen. Do you also reflect back to them what you're hearing?
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. No. And then you go back and there's a letter that we have that you actually write, it just recounts. And they don't remember saying any of these things because when you're really answering a question, and you're really looking at your experience, you're not conscious of the words that you use. Okay. And so you reflect it. And all the Strategic Coach entrepreneurs who do this are amazed at how much business starts flowing during that next year. Okay. And people say, “Well, where was the money?” I said, “Well, the money was there. They were just sitting on it because they didn't have a future.” So they aren't purchasing anything, they're not investing in anything. They're just stuck. They're paralyzed. Okay. And what your hour of conversation and letting them express what's going to happen over the next 12 months did, they got to create a new future. The reason why they were sitting on their money is because they had no future. You just allowed them to create a new future.
Shannon Waller: It's deceptively simple and incredibly effective. And just to speak on the letter for a moment, because I do this process as well, and it's amazing. People are like, “How did you know that?” And I'm like, “Well, you told me.” It's really kind of fun.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah.
Shannon Waller: So it's true. They really don't remember. The other thing is, Dan, it's like you're getting such incredible intel. You're getting food for your own business and for your value creation.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. And you do. I mean, it's two hours, and if you do it with 20 people over a quarter, it's 40 hours plus the follow up, maybe 50 hours, 50 or 60 hours. But it's the most useful thing you can do during that quarter for your business, and it’s totally the most important two hours for them. So it's just pure value creation. Okay. And everybody who's done it reported back to me, “Oh, I thought this was going to be a really bad quarter, but it's turned out to be a really good quarter because things are flowing.” And then these people that you talk to tell other people and say, “You got to really spend some time with this person.” And so it turns into one of the biggest marketing breakthroughs that any entrepreneur can have. But you have to keep your mouth shut. As long as you don't talk about yourself, you don't talk about your product, you don't talk about your solutions. The opportunity just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Shannon Waller: Well, this is so powerful, Dan, because when things get uncertain, some people respond by withdrawing or pushing harder at selling. And what you're talking about is an approach where you connect personally, you increase confidence in terms of relationship, you help people get really clear in their thinking. And it's not about you.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. You prove in a very deep way who you actually are to the other person. You're not just a salesperson. You're not just somebody who's looking for their money.
Shannon Waller: You prove who you are and you prove who you're about.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah.
Shannon Waller: Because when it's not about you, it's about them. And that's essentially what a lot of people want to know: Are you about you or are you about me? There's a generosity to that conversation—we call it The D.O.S. Conversation in the Program—but there's a generosity to that. You're giving, you're listening, you're reflecting back, you're giving them their future, as you talked about.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. And the interesting thing is that there's a build-up of knowledge and wisdom on your part. If you do one, you're a lot smarter. If you do 10 of them, you're 10 times smarter. I mean, you can reflect in the next conversation, the knowledge that you've extracted from the previous conversation. So by the time you've done 20, you're probably the biggest expert on where the economy is going of any entrepreneur.
Shannon Waller: For your clientele. And what some of our clients have done is then they've shared that, and then they attract in even more people. It's like, here's what's happening in our corner of the world. And then they become the hub, which is an incredible, become an expert in what those dangers, opportunities, and strengths areas are. And then people want to know more and they're like, “Oh, I might have that one, too.” It's an incredible amount of such valuable information that you can contribute to other people.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. Plus your own confidence is way up because you know you're creating massive value. And I think one of the things that discourages entrepreneurs is they have no confidence if they can't sell something.
Shannon Waller: Yes. Yes.
Dan Sullivan: But you are selling something. You're selling people on a new future and all the money you could possibly ever have comes from people having bigger futures, having a future period, but having a bigger future. Yeah. I mean, it's counter-intuitive because, “I sell office supplies. Why shouldn’t I be asking these questions about office supplies?” And I said, “Because office supplies are just a way that you prove that you're valuable. But you having this conversation proves that you're 10 times more valuable than the person thought.”
Shannon Waller: Yeah.
Dan Sullivan: You become a person, not just a professional. You become a real person.
Shannon Waller: Who cares about the other real person on the other side of the table. Yeah.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah.
Shannon Waller: I love this, Dan, and thank you. Because I think a lot of people are in that kind of uncertain state with so much changing, and this is a tried-and-true process that absolutely works.
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. This goes back 25 years.
Shannon Waller: And the point about without a future, people aren't going to buy you.
Dan Sullivan: No.
Shannon Waller: And recognize that you can actually effect. You don't have to wait for someone to figure out what their future is. Just through this questioning process and questions, as we mentioned last podcast, you don't know the answer to until they tell you. But then they know and you know, and then you can help them, enable them to accomplish that future, and all sorts of new possibilities and freedoms open up that weren't there before. So thank you. This is a fabulous context and a great strategy for economic stability in your world when the greater world is a little bit more tumultuous.
Dan Sullivan: Well, and my last point I'd like is that entrepreneurs should master this skill right now because my sense of the world is going to be 25 years of unpredictable disruptions. So if you get really, really good at this right now, it'll just grow in importance and impact over the next 25 years.