119. Hero – Tim Pollard, Founder and CEO at Oratium Transcript
I actually care about solving their problems. If I can go into a company and after working with us, fix their messaging and now they’re selling is more effective. I really get excited about that. So when I say passionate at two levels, I think passionate about helping other people solve their problems. And passionate about what you do.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights zeroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market, instead, we focus on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why today we have a hero episode and I’m excited to have back with us, Tim Pollard. And you may remember Tim from Mastering Communication in a Virtual World where he unpacks so much wisdom and knowledge for us. So we asked him to come back to join us, to share his personal story.
Again, he’s the CEO of Oratium and he’s worked with companies like Disney, Cisco. IBM, LinkedIn, it goes on and on. It’s got two wonderful books to compelling communicator mastering the moment. And Tim welcome. How are you doing today?
I am doing well. Thank you very much. It’s fun to be back with you guys.
Absolutely. Enjoy it. Enjoy the first conversation so much, and we love to get these hero episodes going, Tim, with just telling us a little bit about your journey.
Sure. Well, I hate the word hero. I’m not a hero. I’m just a guy that gets up in the morning and tries to do a good job and be a good dad and a good husband.
And I hope that’s not a hero that ought to be what we all aspire to.
Well that’s a hero in my books, Tim, so you’re off to a good start.
Well that’s kind, it is interesting these questions that got me to reflect a little bit. I mean, I think my journey is interesting in the sense that I’ve always been obsessed by communication.
Why does it work when it works? Why does it not work when it doesn’t work? Why does so many people communicate so poorly, even though it’s just so important and, I think that that’s always been buzzing around like a sub routine in my mind. So I’ve always been working on, always worked on my communication, skills and practices.
So I think that’s, that’s kind of the first part of it. It’s just been like a splinter in my mind to quote the matrix, you know? Um, I think the second interesting thing is for, for about a dozen years, I worked for a major. Consulting slash research firm. And one of the things we did was these big sort of strategy studies.
And then my job was to turn the research into a presentation for our members that would often be heads of sales, heads of marketing, even CEOs. And we would put together, you know, four or five, six hour presentations full day meetings. If it could be a sense of that, these were actually scripted, but that was for reasons I won’t get into, but these were 38- 39,000 word script. So these were huge things. And at the time, you know, these kinds of presentations violated everything that people taught you about presentations. I mean, you’ve been taught you can’t hold someone’s attention for more than 15 minutes. And, and so you had this enormous gap between what we were told in theory was possible and what we would try to do.
So I think that really drove me even deeper into the question. Well, is it possible. To communicate effectively, you know, over a really long period. And that eventually got me to perhaps the third piece of what I think became the most important part of everything that I’ve done is, is finally getting to the realization that the key to communication is the brain it’s all to do with the brain.
The brain loves certain kinds of information and will attach very well to it. And the brain hates other types of information and we’ll detach very quickly. So for example, you might say, well, you can’t hold someone’s attention for more than 20 minutes. And that’s common page one chapter, one of most books on communication.
But let me ask you a question. I’ll actually will ask you this question. Certainly I’ll ask this in a class if we teach it live, what’s the longest you’ve ever binged watch something? How many hours?
Not for me personally, not that long. I just, I don’t, I don’t have that much of attention span.
Yeah. And that’s, , well, that’s the question though. For most people sheepishly, they’ll go, Oh, three or four hours. You have six episodes of Big Bang Theory or Brooklyn Nine-Nine that’s three hours right there. And then there are people who will go, , 18 hours. The conventional wisdom that people have short attention spans actually turns out not to be true.
Most people have binge watched things for multiple hours. And what you realize is when communication structured the right way, when it’s doing something that the audience likes or wants to engage with, it’s perfectly possible to engage with them. So, the last decade of my journey has really been about trying to understand how the brain works and understand how, if you tie communication to the way the brain works, you can be very, very successful.
And that led me to all kinds of interesting places, understanding Shakespeare, understanding stand-ups comedy, there’s little rules, little nuggets it’s to do with communication that show up in all kinds of weird and interesting places. Why do we remember Shakespeare? When we don’t really remember any other authors from the middle ages and it’s often to do with the way he wrote being so well aligned with how the brain likes its information.
People don’t really realize that. The reason Shakespeare’s sticky is he wrote in a brain sticky way. Just really interesting. So I think I’m just a curious person and by, you know, vacuuming up all these weird, random disconnected things and putting them together in one place. That’s how we ended up with a model for communications that really worked. It’s been sort of a lifelong journey. And I don’t think it’ll ever end because just as I thought we were finished, then COVID happened and now we’ve got to figure it all out, all over again for a virtual world, which is what we talked about last time.
Yeah. I’m curious with COVID and impact, you know, how has that impacted your business and how are you guys pivoting and the requests know the requests changing from the market that you typically serve?
Yeah. I think like a lot of people, I would, I would say we saw three eras. That era one when COVID hit, which was sort of March till June, we just, that was just, zombie apocalypse, right? People are in shock, everything’s shut down. Like, what is this? I mean, is everyone going to be dead in six months?
You know, is it World War Z or something like that? Then I think the second period was interesting. It was like, okay, everyone isn’t going to die. We just have to wait until things get back to normal. And that was sort of may through August.
And then I think the real second big change happened, which was, we’re not going back to normal. This is the world we’re going to be in at least through. The full rollout of a vaccine, of course, back in August, 2020, there was really no knowledge of when the vaccine would happen. Obviously we know more now, um, and people realize this is actually the new normal.
If you look at I think they’re already. Several indicators that COVID did not change the future of sales or industry or communication. It accelerated the future that was already coming. There’s very few companies are going to go back to most of their meetings being live. They’re going to stay virtual.
We see this already large retailers talking this way, industrial buyers and so on and so forth. So, we took a pretty big hit in the zombie apocalypse because people just stopped doing anything, then there was a bit of a wait and see moment when people said, well, we, I mean, people were saying to us, we don’t think we need to train our people in virtual selling.
We’ll just wait for the world to come back to life. And then right, almost, almost at the same time, it actually started right around July 4th and then onwards. Then the phones just started ringing like this is, this is the new normal, isn’t it like? Yep. This is the new normal. You need to figure out how to sell virtually.
So we rolled out our, you know, mastering the, the virtual sales conversation resource late summer. And actually our business took off. I mean, we, in, in early 2021, this will probably be the best quarter we’ve ever had, and it’s all built out this, mostly the consulting and the e-learning around designing and delivering the virtual sales conversation because people have now realized this is the new reality we’re going to have to deal with. Um, It’s still going to be a virtual world from a business standpoint, almost certainly.
Now speak to that a little bit further. A lot of people, when they think of sales, that they have certain perceptions in their mind. And now it’s shifted to, you know, virtual sales and virtual engagements. There are myths out there around the virtual world that maybe aren’t accurate or something you’d like to debunk. Is there anything around that you’d like to speak to?
I think there’s a general historical misunderstanding of sales. The people think of sales and all you need to be as I, the phrase I just despise, you know, the gift of the gab, you know, just a really smooth slick talker.
Yeah. And I think there’s a horrible caricature of sort of the used car salesman. And even today those people exist and they’re really sleazy and that’s not what sales is. Great salespeople are thoughtful, they prepare well, they plan, they never waste a good customer conversation. There’s good data that shows over-performing salespeople, are people who overweight pre-call prep. Smart people, they understand their customer. They think through their customer’s problem, they think through how what they do solves the problem of the customer. Not just show up and talk about features and benefits.
So I’ve always thought sales a very intellectual, thoughtful profession. It does have a social dynamic that is interesting. I think that. The social dynamic that you would layer onto that skillset is this, we talked about this on the first conversation, right? The ability to read how a customer is responding to your conversation and adjust to it.
I think that is a very distinct part of sales. You can be a great HR exec. You could be a great IT exec and not need that skill, but in sales, there’s this complex dance, this complex dynamic between buyer and seller. So you take all of those attributes of smarts, thoughtfulness, intentionality, preparation, those are keys in sales.
And then add to that a strong, social IQ, that’s I think what sales is about and it’s as far from the cheesy new car salesman, as you can possibly be. Then, the final thing is what happens to that in the virtual world? I think to that, you have to add a certain intentionality and mastery to the virtual environment.
So like we said, somebody who was even very, very good at sales, if they just breeze up to their laptop, turn on the camera and think that they can do all the same things they used to do. There are a hundred percent wrong and I would point people back to that first conversation. There were very practical, simple things they can do, like where you have your laptop and what time of the day to have your meeting right down to some much deeper things. How do you structure the conversation? How do you design questions to draw the customer out? So I think there’s an intentionality around adapting to the virtual world, which would be the new skill that I would now overlay to my traditional thinking of what great salespeople.
I love sales people. They have such a hard job to do. And it is so complex and it interweaves so many skills other professionals don’t have to have, I’m not saying it’s harder than other professional jobs, but it’s a complex tapestry of skills. And I have more respect for salespeople than almost any other profession because add to that, these are guys who are willing to take a target is a men and women who are willing to put a target on their back and say, I will hit that target or die trying. , there’s nobody, I love more than sales, but you pull it in and you take that skillset. Now you add the ability to work in a socially sterile environment. It’s just fascinating to me.
How about, you know, speak to the, the, the listener out there to maybe they’re, they’re early in their career. They’re considering a career in sales and they want to come in, you know, you have a, so much insight here, any advice for, for what they should do, particularly now that things have changed so much?
I mean, firstly, I think it’s what I just said. I think if you look considering a job in sales there are certain things you have to be comfortable carrying a target, and you have those great moments of, of elation and triumph when you land a deal or, or hit your number.
And then there are moments of challenge when you’re climbing a tough hill. And I don’t think dentistry has that. I mean, I think, I think that you’ve got a certain amount of, , courage that goes into that. I do think if I’m considering a career in sales, I need to ask the question not do I have the gift of the gab? Am I a great communicator? But much more, am I thoughtful? Am I willing to do the prep? Am I willing to think about this customer before I walk in, rather than the classic gunslinger motif, you know, walking in, “Hey, you know, how’s it going and looking for the low hanging fruit.” So I think there are, , Understanding sales and say, am I well fitted to that?
I think a lot of people have benefited to sales and they realize because they misunderstand what it is. They think it’s all about being a good talker, which it’s not. I think the other thing, as well as you would want to make sure that you are passionate and I think passionate the two levels, I mean, actually passionate about meeting people getting to know them, learning how to solve their problems ,or passionate about solving their problems. When I meet with new clients, I am so passionate.
I actually care about solving their problems. If I can go into a company and after working with us, fix their messaging and now they’re selling is more effective. I really get excited about that. So when I say passionate at two levels, I think passionate about helping other people solve their problems. And passionate about what you do. I mean, I, you know, I don’t sell lawn sprinklers, but I doubt I would be especially passionate about helping people have a greener lawn.
Now you might be passionate about that. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. It just wouldn’t necessarily get me up in the morning, but I’m incredibly passionate about helping people be more effective in their sales, helping small companies grow. You know, we’ll have a lot of small companies come to us.
We help them fix their selling, particularly their sales messaging. And those companies are now on a better trajectory. And that really gets me up in the morning or a client as big as IBM or Cisco where we can meaningfully move the needle. So I think if you’re not passionate about something, do something else, go work with dolphins, you know, figure out how to grow better vegetables, or go work for a nonprofit than drill Wells in Africa.
But to anyone, regardless of age or stage or sales, it’s like, if you’re not passionate about what you do, you only get one life and you don’t get any do-overs. So be passionate about what you do, be excited about it. And if it means taking some risks, then take some risks, but if you’re not passionate about what you do really, there’s no point, in doing it.
I mean, speak to that passion. When you’re in those moments where you’re feeling like you are doing the work that you were called to do, you know, what are you doing specifically, when you’re finding yourself the most fulfillment, what are you doing in those moments?
You know, it’s interesting.
Some of the most fulfilling moments for me and obviously landing a deal, it’s a great thing. You know, I’ll have a conversation it’s a web based conversation. This is for big deal with a Fortune 100 company and they are. They place their trust in you at the end of this, like, “Hey, we really want to work with you guys. We think you can help us.” That itself is just a wonderful moment where, you know, they put their trust in you and you you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve. And obviously for me being a CEO of a small company, that that means I can continue to make payroll and I can provide 20 families with a job and benefits.
And so there’s a lot of reward in that. I think the intellectual reward for me often is actually fixing somebody’s messaging. You know, it’s done more virtually now than it used to be, but you’ll have a client. And they sort of know what problem they solve for the customer. And they sort of understand their own value prop, but they get, they get tripped up around becoming too center oriented.
They get tripped up around talking too much about themselves. Um, they, they get tripped up about getting into sort of features and functions rather than really understanding articulating value. And you sit down with them and you hear them talk, and then you, there’s this lovely moment for us where we say, look, I think it’s this right? This is the customer problem. This is what’s causing it. This is how it’s then manifesting. And this is how it’s hurting them. And then this is how you solve this problem for them. And this is why your solution is better than anyone else. And they look at you and go, “How did you do that? How did you do that?”
And I said, “Well, often it’s just an odd gift of what I would call synthesis,” which is, I heard you talk enough about the customer and I heard you talk about your solution. Eventually I was able to put it together into a story, and that’s just an unusual gift that some people have, perhaps it can be learned because we teach our customers to do it all the time.
I remember, actually we built a safest schools message for a technology company. So there’s a technology company that, , has a lot of different technologies, they can have cameras in school yards. They can have a direct connection using AI that if a camera picks up like an image of a gun, for example, it can detect that image using artificial intelligence, not having somebody see it, and it can automatically send a signal to law enforcement. There’s no human interaction. This is so cool. And they just, they just didn’t know how to tell the story. And, and when we sat down with them and said, well, this is how you would tell that story.
That to me is like, it’s like a rush. You mentioned the word flow and I’m familiar with that book that sort of, when you’re in that point of optimum flow and they go, “wow, that’s really good.” And then you go away and you finish the message and you take it out to different school districts. And lo and behold, it really, really works.
And that’s just a great moment. I get excited about fixing people’s messaging or help them design an amazing Ted Talk or design how they’re going to tackle a job, interview. Those things just get me up in the morning cause that’s my passion.
Very cool. Very cool. Let’s , take a, , turn off the career and talk a little bit outside of work. So anything you enjoy doing for a hobby?
Yeah, I have a lot of hobbies actually. I live in Montana, so I am a pretty serious fly fisherman. I hike and I camp and I fly fish. I’m pretty good at that. I tend to be, try and be good at the things I care about like a lot of people and I’m, you know, I’m solid tennis player and, , I like wind surfing also. If you Google windsurfing in Montana, you don’t really get any hits, but if you have a wetsuit and you’re willing to get cold, that can be good. So, you know, I’m sort of eclectic. I like to cook and, and other things, and I, I love biking. I mountain bike. I think I get bored doing one thing. So I kind of keep I keep cycling between things. So I’ll, I’ll leave golf alone for a while, then I’ll come back and I’ll golf again. So, right now it’s sort of biking, tennis and fly fishing is sort of my main things.
So it’s a lot, a lot of activities. So are you doing a lot of, you know, what forms of exercising with bike or is it more just pleasure, leisure riding, things like that?
It’s a bit of everything. I, I, I find those things, , clean up my hard drive a little bit. They allow me to relax. I’ll go to the gym as often as I can. I’m pretty good with that, but, but I like biking and being on the outdoors, getting the exercise and, and the experience. And I have four kids that keep me pretty busy and a pretty active church life that keeps me busy. That’s all changed on the, the virtual environment, but I do stay fairly busy. It’s like a lot of people.
No doubt. I mean, that, that leads right into, you know, we love to hear about our families of our heroes and, and through these conversations, anything you’d like to share about your family with us?
You know, I’ve just been very blessed with a great family. We, , my wife and I had our 30 year wedding anniversary last June, which was a complete catastrophe. It was great. So we were meant to go on this big trip to go to South America where we actually do, , there’s a nonprofit there that we work with. We were going to visit them. So that didn’t happen.
So we ended up going to Glacier National Park, almost a seven hour drive. And as we show up, they close the park because there was too much COVID on the Native American reservation. So we drive seven hours and as we turn away, from the park, which is closed. I didn’t even know they could close national parks.
We get a phone call from our daughter and our dog was dying. So we sort of did a face time with our beloved Rugby, our chocolate lab. So I had the world’s worst 30th wedding anniversary. So we’re going to try and do a do over in 2021. I’m not quite sure how that’s gonna work. And then just four great kids, all doing their own thing.
One of my sons in relief work, humanitarian work. My, one of my daughters works for us doing a lot of marketing and product development, and then a son doing finance and then a daughter in college doing , biology and zoology and ethology, study of animal behavior. So pretty eclectic group of kids.
Wow. So is everybody pretty local or on that, that side of the country or spread out?
Yeah, pretty spread out Rose is in San Diego. Fergus is in Bozeman, whereas I’m in Billings, that’s a couple of hours away. Angus was in Bangladesh working with the Rohingya that he went to Yemen um, working with refugee camps there. He’s now working in Flagstaff, supporting Navajo nations, , COVID relief efforts. So he’s doing some great humanitarian work.
Oh, that’s great. That is, thank you so much for sharing, you know, about your family. We love, we love to hear about that on our episodes here. And, , in anything that you consume, like podcasts, YouTube, books, I know you have two wonderful books, you have yourself, but that you think our listeners may find value in.
Yeah, it’s pretty eclectic. I mean, I love Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, but he goes back and looks at the things that have happened in history and why we don’t understand them the way we thought we did. So I think that’s quite brilliant. I like Planet Money it’s very interesting just about how the economics of the world work, which is good.
Um, I’m pretty big reader. I’ve read some great books. , I love a guy called Alain de Botton. I think he’s the most brilliant writer. He’s very much of a philosopher. Is that in fact, a philosophy is English actually is a Swiss descent, I believe. Um, but he wrote a book called the art of travel, um, it’s about why we travel and what it does for us in all souls. And it it’s a book you can read about one page at a time, and then you have to sort of lie down in a dark room. So it’s just, it’s a book I tend to recommend to everybody. And he, his writing is really beautiful, I think, um, really makes you think.
And so I just, I I’ve re-read that book a lot of times, I like all of his books though. Um, he’s got a great book about work and, and fulfillment from work called status anxiety. And that’s a great book also.
Okay, great. Well, thank you for sharing that information with us. And we started doing a fun thing, Tim. Hopefully you enjoy this. Just we call it the lightning round. Just a bunch of random silly questions just to get our listeners know a little bit more about you. So if you’re willing to play we’ll, , we’ll go through that.
Yeah, sure. What you’re going to get, whether you can use it on air, but I’ll try it.
Well, very good. We’ll start, we’ll start a softballs. Any favorite food?
I’m English. So Indian food. Yeah. Indian food in England is to die for. It’s almost impossible to get amazing Indian food in the States. It’s just not a specialty here, but it’s so nuanced and interesting that I, if I go to England I’ll eat the Curry every single night, which is not always the nicest for people who are hosting me, but it’s a great thing.
I hear you. I hear you. It’s threw me off of that one. So, , how about shows or movies in any, any personal favorites?
Yeah, it’s funny. I’m 59 years old, so I fit that demographic of guys that study World War II like I have to take a test on it. Um, I love the movie Das Boot, it’s a long movie about a German U-boat in World War II and, , movies like the Battle of Britain and an amazing movie called the Dambusters. So I think those are favorites. I share a real passion for the movie Dodgeball with my son Fergus. Occasionally he and I will just get into a text war, naming lines from the movie Dodgeball. But, um, I think my number one favorite would be Das Boot.
By the way, a movie came out a couple of years ago, last year, called Midway and everyone’s anticipation of it, would it be really Hollywood? And it wouldn’t be historically accurate. I think it turned out that it was incredibly accurate to what really happened historically. And it was beautifully made. Very good film. So I really enjoyed that actually.
Yeah. My wife, she’s, she’s a big into the history and that was one film that stood out to her. So the accuracy of what happened there. So I’m with you all the way. So how about pets?
Pets. Yeah, so we, , we have dogs, , but they keep dying, um, , partly natural causes, but not usually we, we, one was hit by a car that was really sad. And then we had this lovely young, big black Labrador, the big dog, a hundred pounds fit as a butcher’s dog, I mean, amazingly fit. And he was bit by a rattlesnake and died in Montana, which was very unusual.
We have a cat now, and this, great story. This cat just showed up under our deck, totally emaciated. Like the vet said she was maybe two or three days away from dying and she now owns us. This cat called Marmite. This cat just owns us. And she’s actually curled up on a blanket right next to me right now. She’s, she’s looking at me because this podcast is just a big distraction to her sleep. I sort of simultaneously love cats and dogs, which is a bit unusual, but both.
There you go. How about vacation destinations anywhere you and your wife would like to go?
Well, not Glacier. Um, You know, I, I think we get our most fun out of just wandering around old cities. When we were younger, you know, we loved the beach with our kids and Florida and Disney and all of that, but right now, you know, wandering around. Copenhagen or Amsterdam sitting out drinking a beer is probably the thing we most miss about not being able to travel and what we’ll get back to later.
I don’t know. I just love the kind of the history and the architecture and the slower pace. We do less activity stuff now, and that’s drinking beer by a canal in Amsterdam as an activity.
Well, that leads to the last question of the lightening round. So favorite adult beverage?
Oh, okay. I’m very specific on this one. It it’s scotch, but it’s not any scotch. It has to be an Islay single malt scotch. So there’s one little Island of Scotland called Islay why it’s pronounced Isla and the, this is the Island that smokes it’s barley over burning peat.
And so that’s the scotches that have that really smoky flavor. It’s kind of an acquired taste. You love it, or you hate it. And I finally started falling in love with it a couple of years ago, and it’s, it’s almost literally all I drink now. And if you, if you really come to appreciate it, it’s I could take an hour drinking, just a tiny glass because the flavors are so interesting and so complex. And the one you want is the Lagavulin 16 year old, it’s you, you could spend all night just trying to identify all the flavors in there, a tiny teaspoon of water in that glass. And that just beats out everything else, you know, I’ll drink my beer and whatever, but, but, , that’s, that’s the drink of champions I think.
So I was going to ask you say you drank that neat? You said with just a little bit of water?
Yeah, you, you should never drink scotch neat. Never. People think, Oh, it’s more manly to drink at neat. No, that’s actually not what you do. You have to put a little bit of water in to release the oils and actually release the flavor. If you look at the scotch and put one teaspoon of water and look at the glass, what happens? It’s amazing.
And that will actually release the flavors properly. Um, so you should always do that. Now, if you want to mix it with Coke or soda water, and it’d be by guests, but then go buy a $5 bottle of scotch from the gas station, right. It’s not worth spending $75 on a bottle and then mixing it with, with, you know, with Coke. That’s what Jack Daniels is for. Not to insult, not to insult bourbon lovers. Bourbon is great as well, by the way. Good bourbon straight as well, but I’m sort of a, an Islay single-malt guy.
Okay. Very good. Well, that was a fun lightning round. We got to definitely know a little bit more about you, Tim. Thank you for playing along.
Not at all.
This has been, this has been great we love to learn more about you. And we always wrap up EECO Asks Why with the why, where we speak to the passion. So, you know, Tim if someone was to come up to you and wants to know what your personal why is, what would that be?
That’s a very interesting question, because that’s a very philosophical question. I’m going to answer that in an odd way. There’s a verse in the Bible, which is very dear to me that says, one day, if all works out right, we get to meet with God and, and he’s going to say a couple of things, one of two things to you, or one of several things, and the Bible says, to certain people he’ll just say, “Hey, well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your rest.”
And I kind of want to make sure that’s how it ends for me. So if you want a serious question and you want a serious answer, you know, I love scotch and one day I want God to say to me, well done good and faithful servant.
There you go. That is a wonderful answer. And I, I second that with you, Tim, all the way. I hope I hear those words myself, so good. This has been wonderful. And, and again, for our listeners, we’ll link all of Tim’s information, all his resources in the show notes, you can check that out, please go check out his information. Buy his material buy his books. They’re wonderful. I just finished reading them, both myself and Tim thank you again for taking so much time with this on EECO Asks Why.
Not at all. It was really fun talking to you guys. I think you’re doing a great thing here. Providing good equipping resources to your members. So keep up the good work we all do well when we try and get smarter. So you’re, you’re helping that.