Building Tony Robbins’ Business Before He Was Famous

Joining me is a man who helped Tony Robbins build his seminar business, back when Robbins was an unknown with a lot of debt, but even more ambition. Michael Hutchison was an early Robbins Research International trainer and sales manager. I invited him to talk about how helped grow that company.

Since then, Hutch has written the book Speaking Mastery: The 7 Keys to Delivering High-Impact Presentations. He’s also the founder of an upcoming business called Immersive, software that works with your company’s CRM to deliver the right sales coaching to each employee.

Michael Hutchison

Michael Hutchison

Speaking Mastery

Michael Hutchison coauthored the book Speaking Mastery which offers readers the seven keys to delivering high impact presentations. He’s also the founder of an upcoming business called Immersive, software that works with your company’s CRM to deliver the right sales coaching to each employee.

 

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Three messages before we get started. First, you might have noticed that many sites are using video. Here it is on Snapengage.com right underneath the free trial button) to increase conversions. Here it is on freelancer.com. What do you do if you want to try video on your site but you don’t have the production capabilities in house? Well, you go to revolution-productions.com and talk to them about having your custom video created. That’s the company that created the two videos I showed you and many, many others as you can see on their portfolio site.

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Finally, if you need a lawyer, who do you turn to? Well, of course, I’m going to say Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law because I’ve been friends with him for years and he’s been sponsoring me for months and months. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out what Jason, Neil Patel, and many entrepreneurs who you trust have to say. They all say the same thing: “Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law is the lawyer you turn to, especially if you’re a start-up tech entrepreneur.” Walker Corporate Law. Here’s your program.

Hi, everyone. I’m Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How do you grow a seminar business which has an audience of hundreds of people to one that draws in thousands? Joining me is a man that helped Tony Robbins build his seminar business. Michael Hutchison was an early Robbins Research Institute trainer and sales manager. I invited him to talk about how he helped grow that company. Since then, Hutch, as he’s often called, has written a book titled, “Speaking Mastery: Seven Keys To Delivering High-Impact Presentations.” He’s also the co-founder of an upcoming start-up called Immersive. It delivers software that works with your company’s CRM to deliver the right coaching to each employee. Hutch, welcome.

Michael: Thank you, Andrew. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: So, how many people were at Robbin’s Research Institute when you worked there?

Michael: There were about a dozen of us. We were in small office in Torrey Pines up in La Jolla, California. I think it’s important to point out that at the time the company was in massive debt. We were about $750,000 in debt and in a need to really turn things around and really right the ship that we were on.

Andrew: You really have. How do you get to $750,000 in debt in a seminar business.

Michael: It’s very easy. You have to spend a lot of money to get what I call “bums in seats”, and if you don’t get passed that break-even point it will happen. Many of the seminars that we were putting on were over in Hawaii. So, the expense of putting on, at the time, these certification programs and flying speakers in was great. We spent so much money but did not have the attendees to catch up with the amount of expenses. It’s very easy to get yourself behind.

Andrew: I see. Why was it important to go to Hawaii or to get big, expensive seminar locations instead of going smaller and then building up as you could fill up. What was the philosophy behind that?

Michael: Well, we started with a program called The Mind Revolution Weekend, and that was one of the transformations that I suggested that Robbins make was the audience that we had, while great people, loving people, couldn’t replicate the message that Tony wanted to get out. I suggested that we go from a weekend program called Mind Revolution into a one-day sales and business program so that by going in and approaching the business community that we could make an impact and get a larger number of attendees into the program.

So, the idea was, in the beginning before I got there, was that Tony did this Mind Revolution seminar, a three day weekend which included the very famous fire walk experience. I said, “Great program, but let’s take things back and let’s do just a one day business program. Let’s increase the profitability of those events and then let’s change that Mind Revolution weekend to something that models after the brand of his book called at the time Unlimited Power.

So, two things took place; we started doing one day business seminars and we approached the business market with Tony’s message, and then we’d change the weekend program from Mind Revolution to the Unlimited Power weekend. We still did the Hawaii program, Andrew. It was still a draw. It was a great destination, but once we built that funnel up on the front end so it had a greater number of attendees then the larger programs became very profitable. In fact, the seminar that I helped co-create with Tony called Life Mastery is still the flagship for the organization today.

Andrew: OK. I want to understand how you guys grew it and then move on to talk about what you’ve done since then, the companies you’ve been involved with, the book you wrote. But, let’s give people a sneak preview. Where was the business at the time you left? How big was it?

Michael: It was a private company, but the business at the time was close to 50 million in revenues and several hundred employees. So, it grew into a good size, medium size business if you will.

Andrew: Over what period of time? 750,000 in debt to roughly 50 million in revenue over what period of time?

Michael: About seven years. From roughly 1987 to about 1994, and then I stayed on and consulted through 1995.

Andrew: All right. Let’s find out how you did it. By the way, let me make a quick observation here. Something interesting happened when we did the pre-interview. You explain things by making references to Bradford & Reed, the greeting card business.

You said, “Andrew, you need to have passion and really immerse yourself in what you’re doing. Like when you, for example, Andrew, were in the greeting card business.” I said, “That’s so interesting.” You might have even noticed that I looked up in a different way when I said that, and you knew where I was in Washington D.C.

There are some people who still think I’m an Argentino or I’m in California who I’ve known and talked to for years. They just aren’t as aware. Tell me about that because it worked with me. It made me feel a greater connection to you, a person who I’m supposed to be a little tough on to get as much information as possible. You softened me up and made me like you more. I want to know how you did that so I can do it to other people. Tell me about that process.

Michael: Well, I simply asked your assistant, Andrea, who’s very capable and very efficient, she’s outstanding and a great asset to you and your organization, where you were located. It was important to me to try and meet you. When I learned you were in D.C. I was actually bummed out because I spent a lot of time out there. I’m on the alumni board at Georgetown University, my alma mater, so I was hoping to have the opportunity to meet with you. Then I simply did what you do, every day I’m sure, and I looked up and read up on you as much as possible. I was very impressed with the work that you did.

I love this story about the way that you created the name for your business and you created it bigger than what it was. That’s a great message I think that Tony Robbins teaches is to be truthful with yourself. See things as they are, not to see things better, but to see things the way you want them to be. Then make a decision as to what you’re willing to do to make them the way that you want them, and that’s obviously what you’ve done in your business.

Andrew: Thank you. It goes a long way. For some reason I kept thinking, “Did I put it up on twitter? Did I put it up here? Is it there?” I didn’t even think that I could have just talked to one of my people here. Of course, the company that you’re talking about is Bradford & Reed, the business my kid brother and I started right out of school, and we picked the name Bradford & Reed because we thought it sounded bigger and more impressive than what we really are and we expected people to take our phone calls more quickly with that kind of a name.

You really have done your homework. I’m learning the importance of doing that. I kept thinking it was important at one point, but now that I’m connected to you on twitter, who cares about these little things? Now I understand why it’s important. I went a long way with me and I want to do that with other people.

Let’s learn what else you did. There was a process that you guys went through that you and I talked about in the pre-interview that got people to come to the seminars. It started all the way back from who you recruited to be sales people. Can you tell my audience where you found the people who worked in the organization?

Michael: Absolutely. So, the first thing that I want to point out is that I was very blessed and very fortunate to have seven or eight years with Tony Robbins. He’s just a phenomenal speaker and a gentleman committed to his craft. I would say that he’s probably the best speaker that I’ve had the fortune of meeting. I’ve met with lots and lots of speakers over the last many years.

Tony is so passionate and committed to what he’s doing. I often share something about him that very many people know. It’s that in seven plus years with him, Andrew, I only saw the guy yawn one time. One time did I see him yawn, and I had been with him where he had not slept for a couple days then came out onstage and spoke and still delivered an excellent presentation.

So, I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due, and we’re very fortunate to work with Tony. The type of people that we attracted were people that wanted to take themselves or perhaps their families to the next level. They had received value from Tony’s program and then made application to come on board and work with us. To this day I’m very fortunate to have some of my best friends who have gone on to become excellent speakers today, people who have traveled around the world delivering content and training material to some of the biggest corporate audiences.

The people that we had would apply. I typically always interviewed them and had them stand up during the interview. So, what I wanted to see is, as you an I did in this pre-interview, how they would come across. Would people find them credible? Would they find them believable? Did they have an authentic story to tell? Could they build that trust? Could they build that report with people in a very short period of time? That’s what we were trying to do with Tony’s seminars was give a snippet, just a short form snacklet, if you will, of what having gone to Tony’s full day program would be like.

If we could come in and we could teach a skill and leave value and give them something that was contextual to their work day and something that was relevant to them making a result that could help them to either increase their income or become more productive. Then that person would typically sign up for a seminar.

Andrew: So, you took people who had all ready gone through the program. I understand the importance of that because they’re passionate. They understand the product and they’re part of the team. How do you take someone from the audience and make them into a sales person or an employee of any kind? Do you have help wanted signs at the event? Do you start handing out job applications with people’s graduation certificates?

Michael: A lot of it was referral and word of mouth. I was recruited into the business by my very best friend and dear friend, Tom McCarthy who’s a terrific speaker today. Tom teaches clients such as Cisco around the world in the areas such as corporate development and leadership. Tom recruited me, and there was just Tom and I in the very beginning.

I’ll never forget; he and I went to Dallas, Texas where we stayed in the Hilton hotel off LBJ Freeway and we were fighting over the phone to be able to make outbound telephone calls to try and schedule meetings for us to get in front of a decision maker to have us come in and speak. So, the first people that we brought on board were referrals. Then we developed the referral system and then we expanded it. We put some job wanted ads online and people came to us that way. But, for the most part people would just come to us at the seminar and ask at the back of the room who they would need to speak to to come on board. They would be referred to me and I would typically follow up and schedule an interview.

Andrew: I see. Was it all commission based or was there a salary too at that point?

Michael: At that time, in the early days, everybody was on a draw. Everybody was on a draw with expenses being paid. We typically provided for apartments. We flew people in. We provided them with phones. Because we were a start up we’d bootleg. We did trades, Andrew, for everything. We traded for apartments. We traded for rental cars. We traded for cell phones. We traded for print advertising.

Andrew: You give us print ads and we’ll train your people. You give us a car rental and we’ll train your people. That’s the process.

Michael: Absolutely. In the beginning, because we didn’t have much money to spend, everything was on a barter system, and our guys were really good at working out trading for not only everything I’ve mentioned, but for health clubs. You name it, we traded for it.

Andrew: I love sales and I love sales people. One thing you told me before the interview was that you talked to sales departments. Tell my audience about that process.

Michael: Do you remember the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell?

Andrew: Yup.

Michael: So, the message of that book was what? That people got to a point of prominence by typically investing or immersing themselves in their craft for at least 10,000 hours, and that’s what our reps did. They went out and they just knocked on doors. They knocked on everybody from financial services to insurance companies. I’ll never forget the very first call I made was on a metropolitan life business and I was turned down, but through persistence I was able to get in front of this group eventually. So, they knocked on all the doors of people that had a sales force.

Andrew: You mean literally taking an office building, like maybe the MetLife building in New York, and going up and down the floors, knocking on doors, seeing if there’s an opportunity to talk?

Michael: That’s correct.

Andrew: That’s what it was?

Michael: Absolutely. But, we had two types of reps, we had those that were comfortable scheduling meetings over the phone, and then other reps that were more comfortable being out face to face.

Andrew: I see. So there would be telemarketers, people who are comfortable on the phone, calling up all the local insurance businesses and brokerage businesses, anyone that would have a sales team.

Michael: Right. In the early days, Andrew, that was me. That was myself and the people that I recruited to come on board. This is before we started a telemarketing group.

Andrew: So before you went to New York you would start working the phones, looking around for the people who had sales teams. To do what, what were you going to do at those sales meetings?

Michael: The key was two things. One, to build a repertoire with that decision maker. Two, to find out if they had a regularly scheduled meeting. Typically most sales groups get together on a Monday or a Friday or Saturday morning. And the idea was to come in, and our pitch was Andrew, we’re going to come in and add value, we’re going to teach a skill and if you’re people are encouraged to take action and continue their education with a value they received from the program that we put on, they may be encouraged to go to Tony’s one day program. We were sincere, we had to deliver, we had to give value, we had to teach something in a very short period of time.

Andrew: So what did you teach?

Michael: In a sales environment we taught how to build repertoire with people in a very short period of time. Just as I attempted to do with you, I try to find out, I had the respect to find out as much about you as I could in a short period of time. I wanted to find out what might be important to you, I wanted to find out how, if anything, I could do to add value to what you were doing. So the key was to make that connection, to phone the decision maker, talk to that sales leader and just have a conversation. Not make a pitch, not doing anything scripted, but figure out how can I make a measurable contribution into what this person is doing on a day to day basis.

Andrew: OK. Let me break down the process so far. First there’s the sales call. Then there, which is tough to get the meeting, then you get the meeting, where you walk into a room full of sales people in their weekly meeting, and you teach. So, let’s break it down and understand how you did each process. The sales call, you’ve got a stranger at the other end of the phone, you’re a stranger to them who is about to, who knows what, they’re worried you might sell them something, waste their time etc. How do you convince that person to have you in to talk to their sales department?

Michael: Well back then there weren’t as many seminar businesses there are today. I think sales leaders probably get bombarded with a number of seminar companies that are trying to get into those meetings, and back in those days, there weren’t as many. And not as many people knew Tony Robins, in fact I joked with you in the pre-call and I said, “If I had a dollar for everybody who said Tony who, both he and I would be very wealthy today. The idea was to come in, and with sincerity, find out what were some of the issues, and problems. If I can come in and share a skill that would help you to solve that problem, then there was repertoire that took place.

The call would take place, I build that bond or repertoire with somebody over the phone, and just trying to schedule that time that they regularly meet, and then I would also schedule what we called a “boss talk”. So if the meeting was Friday morning at 9:00, then I would come in at 8:00. And I would usually bring, maybe coffee, or I bring muffins or donuts, or anything that would separate me with all the other people that were coming in to see that sales leader for that particular week. I would just sit down with them and find out what’s working, what’s not working. What are your top reps doing? Tony taught, what I thought was invaluable, which is this whole idea of modeling. And I know something about you as well, in the book that you read “Think and Grow Rich”, and “Think and Grow Rich” is just about modeling.

What the great industrialists did in their time. Who the top entrepreneurs, who are the top chiefs of industry, and what did they do specifically to build their business. And we would ask questions along those lines of the sales leaders that we met. What were the beliefs as to what it took to succeed in their line of business. And we try to model those belief systems, and then we try to find out what strategies of the top producers. Those reps who were excelling, they were achieving quota consistently, what were they doing day to day, specifically, that enabled them to be the top producer in the office.

We wanted to find out what we could model, what could we delegate, what could we share with the office. And then we just found out, what was the energy, what was the effort that they put into it to create that result and the whole idea of modeling, Andrew, is not that you become somebody else, but you find out, what are the beliefs, what is the strategy. If you said to me, “Michael, I can create the best chocolate cake,” I would say, “Then I just need to find out the recipe.” In particular, I’d just need to understand the syntax, the order in which you put those ingredients. And that’s what we did when we sat down with the sales leaders, we attempted to model. We attempted to find out, in a short period of time, what made that sales leader tick, and what made those top producers tick, and how we could duplicate that and sprinkle that dust over the rest of the office so that everybody could have outstanding results.

Andrew: In the time that you were there to sell, you got to interview the salespeople who were doing well and pull their best ideas and then teach it in a sales meeting?

Michael: No, we would interview the sales leader in advance, find all that out in this pre-talk conversation, typically about half an hour to 1 hour before the scheduled meeting, and then when we got up in front of the group we shared some of what we found during that particular interview. That science, if you will, thank you for taking the time to script that out, that was the secret sauce that made it all work, was to come in and find out what made the sales leader tick, how important psychology was to him or her, and to attempt to replicate that for the rest of the office.

Andrew: The next thing I’m wondering is, how do you win over an audience of salespeople? I remember I volunteered to teach Dale Carnegie after Bradford and Reed. I went in and there was a roomful of people who signed up to take Dale Carnegie’s twelve-week course. Their company was paying for it, they even get college credits for taking it. They had every reason to be there, and no reason not to like it, and still the instructor had to win them over and show them that he really could change their lives. That first session that he spent with them was all about proving himself to them by showing them some results that they could use tomorrow morning. That was a whole skill unto itself, that he kept working on. What about you, how did you do that? How do you win them over and give them something that makes them feel like, “Yeah, later in the day, and tomorrow, I’m going to be able to see results because of what Hutch taught me.”

Michael: In the beginning, Andrew, I was very shy, very introverted. When I graduated from Georgetown University I went to work for Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems, and I started out as a corporate recruiter. I wasn’t actually in sales. I didn’t have a technical background. For me it was the idea of getting out there, putting myself in a place of fear, putting myself in a place of pain. The idea of knocking on doors and speaking with strangers and getting up in front of groups of people to make a presentation, it scared me tremendously. I still get those jitters today.

Yet that was the win I sought to accomplish. I did it by massive failure. I did it by making lots of mistakes. But I think, when you’re in front of people, they will understand your sincerity. I think people will detect that. They’ll understand and make a decision about your authenticity in a very short period of time. I think that’s very important. If that sense of confidence comes out when you meet somebody for the very first time, I think that’s very effective. Also you’ve got to be authentic in the value that you want to deliver.

And the Dale Carnegie is probably one of the best courses in the world. That reputation, that brand speaks for itself. Even so, you as a speaker have got to tell a story about how it affected you. If I read correctly, you actually volunteered in the beginning. You weren’t getting paid to teach the Dale Carnegie course. There was a reason for it. What was that reason, if I might ask you? What was the reason that you wanted to teach?

Andrew: I wanted to teach because of the impact that it had on my life. I saw that I was being a jerk, and I thought that that was the way to succeed in business because that’s what I thought I saw in business. I was living the role models that movies show me for how business people are, which is rude and pushy and demanding, and that didn’t work for me when I was in business. The first job that I got at Bear Stearns showed me how much that failed. I said, “I need to turn myself around.” I picked up the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, I read it, and I actually saw results immediately. Everything changed, because it showed me how other people were thinking. I said, “I’ve got to take the course,” which I did, and when I had free time, I went back and volunteered to teach it to other people to share that with them.

Michael: Absolutely. The idea, as I understood it, was, much like the people who came to the Robbins program, that people created a result, they made transformation in lives, they were inspired, to take more of this material on, and I think there’s a great saying “that to teach is to know” and so obviously you absorb it to the point that you wanted to share it with others. And so, that’s the way many people came to our programs as well.

Andrew: I see. So what you’re saying is one of the things that you do is that you tell the story of how it changed your life. And if other people can see what you used to be, and what you are now as a result of this training, they’re much more likely to be open to it.

Michael: Sure. Absolutely.

Andrew: What else do you do, in order to win people over, especially the skeptics?

Michael: Well, I mean, I just think you need to be who you are. Right? I think, my guess would be you are attempting to be a hard ass or a bad ass, was not who you were. So that comes back to a very important part of what I wrote about in my book called “Speaking Mastery”. And that is you have to get clear as to who your personal best identity is. What is your identity, what is your identity as a speaker, what is your identity as an interviewer? And so, for me, that identity is something that you aspire to. Again, who do you see when you think of the best interviewers? Who do you see when you think of the best speakers in the world?

For me, my references were a handful. I was first asked to speak for my church when I was in the fifth grade. And I actually got up to read, and so, I think about that reference that I have in my life. I mentioned to you in the pre-interview, my father. My father was a military officer, my dad like me, was very quiet, very introvert. If I were to sit down next to my father, and I didn’t initiate conversation, Andrew, nothing would be said. What’s interesting though, is that when my father got up to speak in front of others, and my father, for example, spoke at his change of command ceremony, as a military officer, as a pilot. My dad totally transformed, he changed, and it was something that I never knew before. And so that for me, became a very strong reference point for my own identity.

Then when I was working for Ross Perot electronic data systems, I happened to work for a guy by the name of Paul Chiapparone. And if you remember the book “On Wings of Eagles” Paul was actually one of the guys that was taken hostage in Iran and Tehran. Ross Perot went over and rescued and pulled him out. And I met Paul, and in meeting Paul, he was probably the sharpest CEO that I’ve ever worked for. And confidence just oozed from every pore in his body and when he had a conversation and he looked at you, Andrew, there was nobody else in the room. So that became a very strong reference in terms of my identity. I’ve also had the good fortune, as I mentioned, meeting lots of speakers and meeting, for example President Clinton. Clinton was much like Paul Chiapparone. When you met President Clinton, there was nobody else in that room that mattered; he looked you right in the eyes.

In fact I met him at a receiving line, and even as he was moving to talk to somebody else he still kept his eyes on me the entire time, and that made an impressionable moment. So that whole idea of your personal best identity, is something that I think is very important in terms of coming across to be an outstanding speaker and influence people from the front of the room.

Andrew: All right. I’m writing down questions to come back and ask you in a moment when I turn my attention to how you speak better, especially with some of the mistakes I’ve made here, and the way I present to myself I’d like to get your input on how I could fix that, and how people in my audience, whoever experienced it could fix it too. But there are a couple more notes here about your previous experience selling seminars. One of them that I wanted to ask you about is the rotary club. You were telling me how clubs like the rotary club helped spread the word. Can you tell my audience?

Michael: Well, so again, we were just knocking on doors and in the early days we would go to anybody that had an audience, just to hone our skills. We would go and knock on civic organizations, Kiwanis International, rotary clubs, network marketing meetings, tip meetings. Anybody that had more than two people, we would volunteer to come out and give a presentation. And at that point it was quantity over quality. Because our belief system was that with quantity, quality was going to take place.

Andrew: What do you mean by that?

Michael: Well just this whole idea of immersion, to become a master, to take yourself from one level to the next. You’ve got to put the time in, you’ve got to practice, you’ve got to conduct the interviews and put yourself out there. And again, I often ask people, “Would you rather have quantity or would you rather have quality?” And for me, the answer was always quantity because my belief was the more that I did, the more that I spoke, the more interviews that I conducted, the better that I was going to be. One of the gentlemen that endorsed my book handed out the Heisman Trophy. A fellow by the name of Jim Corcoran. He said it as well, and he’s handed out the Heisman Trophy several times.

He said, Hutch, every time I do it, every time I get better with delivering that message.

Andrew: You know, that’s true. At first, when I was terrible on being on camera, and I feel like today is not one of my best days, to be honest. But when I was not very good, I said what do I do, do I do one a month and in between just work on how to get better, or should I just focus on everyday for that month doing another and another and another. And I realized that if I just kept doing it over and over again, a lot of the insecurities that I have in my head would just drop. And I naturally get a little bit better, and if I did it over and over again, one day I would realize what isn’t going right in doing an interview and then try to fix it the next day and maybe get a little better the next day, still. And the quantity delivers its own quality and that’s what I found here.

I can understand as a speaker, if you go and speak in front of as many different groups as you can, you naturally will get better, you’ll learn, you’ll try, you’ll test, you’ll get results and keep improving.

Michael: That’s absolutely correct. So there’s just a couple of suggestions, if you’re open to them, is that clearly there have been times, for example, when I would give a presentation and say “Man, I was on, I absolutely delivered.” And there are other times when I do a presentation I say, “Man, I can’t believe I just did that, or can’t believe I just said that.”

And so there are times that we’re at the peak of our game. And I think it’s important to identify that, to get real clear as to what that identity is. Andrew, what is the identity that you want to have? What is the legacy? You created Mixergy to create a legacy, you want to create an identity for yourself and I think it’s really important that your audience and yourself, be clear as to who that person is, what is that identity. And what are the references, what are the times that I’ve conducted outstanding interviews, and try and put yourself back into that place.

Andrew: I’m circling identity, because now I think that might be the third time that I wrote a note to come back and talk to you about it. Let me stick with this for a minute, with these groups. I remember, after Bradford and Reid, I went and checked out as many of these groups as possible, the Kiwanis group, the Rotary Club, the Toastmasters Club, any group of people, like you said, two or more, I would go in on them. Because there was times when these groups would help businesses like yours, by giving them a forum to sell to a large community, would help the community get to know each other, and I felt like there needed to be an online equivalent to that.

And so far there really hasn’t been, you can speak to a show, to a small interview show, smaller than mine, of maybe 300 people, and have ten times more people listen to you than you might have had as a rotary club. But it won’t have a tenth of the impact, you won’t have as many sales, you won’t have as many people remembering your name the next day. So that doesn’t work, how do we take that old world sales platform and duplicate it online, or that old world community and duplicate it online and allow ourselves to get all the online benefits of scale and growth and simplicity of you don’t have to get up and go to a meeting when it’s online.

Michael: I think the key thing that I learned in the seminar world was that urgency is what enabled people to make decisions. And so by being in front of people you create urgency. If there’s a pending event, so there was a time for people to make a decision about signing up for that particular event and there was always urgency and scarcity that needed to come across.

But I think whatever venue, whatever medium, online or offline, those two powerful methodologies of creating influence, that urgency and scarcity have to be present. But you’re spot on, the need to be able to duplicate that online, I haven’t seen it either. Even today, one of my friends Harrv Echter [sp], who has a seminar business called Pink Potential, still adopts and uses this old time sales methodology of going out and having sales reps go out and meet people. Tony Robbins still does it today, you can’t get away from it. But how do you create it online, I haven’t seen it to the scale of profitability, maybe that will be a business that you and I put our heads together on. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do also with Emmerce [sp].

Andrew: I wonder how we can do it. But I think you’ve nailed it with those two things, scarcity and urgency. That I guess, it’s not so much the platform, the platform is there, but if you’re on it, if you can find an urgent reason for people to take action right now, on a limited opportunity and their much more likely to take it. And actually, another things is we need to have a clear goal with it. Often when I go in and I do an interview with someone who has 300 people in their audience, I’m there just to kind of practice and just to give back, because so many people have done interviews here, but I think I need to have a specific goal. What do I want the audience to do afterwards.

Maybe it’s to go to a specific web page, and maybe on that web page there is a limited opportunity that has an expiration date on it, and that can help me gauge whether my interview is going well based on how many people are going to that page and taking whatever action there is. All right, you’ve planted the thought in my head. And I do think there’s room to do something bigger still, I just don’t know what that is, at least I’ve gotten something actionable out of that.

The final piece here that I wrote is just Tony being on infomercials helped you guys out a lot.

Michael: Oh, it was huge. At one point, Tony was on the air every hour, 24 hours a day. And I would always laugh when people would come up to me and say “gosh I saw Tony’s show” and I said, “Well, you realize it is a commercial. You realize we’re selling something on that show.” And people wouldn’t necessarily get that, but the direct response and his partners, Bill Guthy and Greg Renker at Guthy/Renker Corporation, are creme de la creme, are the best in the world, and knocked it out of the park with personal power in all of the other shows that they’ve done together.

And so that was a huge win for us, and I was in a very fortunate position, that as a result of that show I was the recipient of thousands and thousands of leads that we were able to convert into the seminars.

Andrew: I see. So as soon as he was on, it seems he became a celebrity and people knew you and the brand you represent. He knew him and the brand you were representing, Hutch.

Michael: Right. And here’s a story that your audience may find interesting. The way that the show came about was Tony was a testimonial, for a direct response show that Bill and Greg did back in the early days called “Think and Grow Rich”, that Fran Tarkington, the famed Hall of Fame pro football quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, hosted. And when they did focus groups as to why people bought, people said it was because of Tony’s testimonial. And so, thus the show was put together.

They grabbed Tony, they put Fran together as the host and they created personal power and again it became one of the more successful direct response TV shows today.

Andrew: You know I’ve got to remember that when someone asks me to do something small. If a small testimonial like that, if you give it your energy and you do a great job on a testimonial, just something that most of us just throw away, you can do a great job at it and have your whole life turn around as a result of it, it shows we need to pay attention to the little things in life and give them more energy and attention and care about the way we do them.

Michael: You’re right. I often say that every time you get up to speak, Andrew, there’s two audiences. There’s the audience that’s in front of you, you are my audience, I’m your audience today. And then there’s the viewing audience, but there’s also the audience that may be behind us. It may be our peers or colleagues, it may be our friends. And I often speak for the people that are behind me, because those are the people that I wouldn’t want to disappoint. It is important to think about those two audiences every time you get up to speak. You never know who’s going to be in your audience, you never know what effect, by getting up and opening your mouth may have.

Andrew: So that brings me to the second thing I want to talk to you about in this interview. Which is how to improve our speaking. There are a few times in this interview, I don’t know if it’s because you’re an expert and I’m a little nervous about not living up to what you’ve seen others do, or what you’re capable of, or maybe I’m just having an off day. I caught myself rambling in questions instead of just asking clear questions. What do you do when you find yourself in what should be a sentence, but when you find yourself communicating something that should be expressed in a sentence, then it goes on to a paragraph. Then you see another paragraph and you go “whoa, now I’m confused about what I was supposed to do.” How do you fix that? We’ve all gotten there.

Michael: Oh, absolutely, Andrew, and it happens to me also. So you don’t need to apologize about it. I think it’s important what you said in the beginning you just have to have a clear outcome, you want to be very clear as to what it is that you want to get across. You want to be concise with the questions you’re asking. And often I say, you know, less is more. The idea of an interview is to get the other person talking, so I just think as quickly as you can get those questions out.

Andrew: What happens when you don’t? Even as an interviewee, you might have a simple idea to express and you catch yourself not expressing it right and you get caught in loops in where you’re correcting what you said before and going off track. And before you know it, you don’t even understand what you’re saying, you have to bring it home somehow and clarify it and give people value for the time they invested in listening to your rambling, for the rambling part. What do you in that situation, how do we fix it?

Michael: Well I say there are three keys. One is to get clear as to that identity, have something that reminds you of who that identity is. Your identity as an interview should be clear, concise, direct, personable, to the point that’s the identity. But if you find yourself having that internal dialogue, then sometimes you just have to stop it. And it may be as simple as imagining a stop sign in your minds eye, you know, that third eye that just says stop, relax and breath and smile and get it clear, and get yourself back into a centered state, where you are confident and relaxed.

And then maybe just saying something kind of crazy just to interrupt that thought pattern. It’s similar to if you’ve ever gone to, for example, a bad movie. Anybody been to a bad movie before Andrew?

Andrew: Too many.

Michael: Yeah, and would you go back?

Andrew: No.

Michael: No, so you just have to stop. You’ve got to stop, you’ve got to scratch the record, you’ve got to stop that dialogue, that internal conversation that’s going on in your head that allows you to create that mess up, and just stop it. A simple thing is to stop, or relax or just smile and get yourself back on track.

Andrew: You know one tactic that I use, and this happened to me over the weekend, I was having a conversation with someone I found myself getting lost in the answer or part of the conversation. I stopped, and I acknowledged it. I said that has got to be one of the most convoluted things I’ve said all night, let me try to clarify. Then I go into the clarification. Does that come across as weakness when you’re doing it onstage and when you’re in a conversation with someone that you respect?

Michael: Absolutely not. I think it makes you real, I think it makes you more authentic, more credible. I think it’s also important that people have to realize that when you’re speaking, or when you’re interviewing It’s not about you, Andrew. It’s not about you as speaker, it’s about your guest, it’s about your audience. And it’s about having intensity, it’s not about you. You mentioned that you may mess up, I don’t detect it, I don’t see that convoluted message, and it’s probably because we’re such perfectionists. We want to come across as sharply or as crisply as we can, but you know our audience doesn’t see it. So you’ve just got to relax, it’s not about you, but to admit it and to be vulnerable to the mistakes that you make, I think, make you more credible than who we are.

Andrew: The other thing we kept talking about was identity. Here’s the first thing I wrote down. You have to know what your identity as a speaker, and I underlined identity as a speaker. What do you mean by that?

Michael: Well, again, for me that identity is, “who am I when I’m at my very best, who am I when I deliver an outstanding message. Who am I as an outstanding interviewer, what did I say, what did I do to prepare.” I put myself back into that mental state, where I was at my very best. Or for me, I make pictures in my mind, Andrew. I get a picture, for example, my father, as I’ve mentioned, in this change of command ceremony, I get a picture of JFK asking the question, ask not. I get a picture of Martin Luther King, on top of the Lincoln monument, delivering his “I have a dream speech.

And so for me, it’s about putting myself into that place and actually closing my eyes, and getting a picture of what is the identity that I want to have to come across. Who would I be, how would I come across, how would I breed, how would I look in front of that audience. And that is just a little tidbit, a little exercise that I do every time I get up and speak. I get this picture in my mind, before I ever go on stage.

Andrew: I see. So, if I were going to deliver a presentation and I wanted to do a good job at it, I might think back, who was I when I did a really good job, when I gave a strong speech, when I convinced people to think the way I thought or to be persuaded by my message. I put myself back in that state, and then visualize the kinds of people who represent who I want to be when I’m delivering that speech.

Michael: Sure. Or, go back and watch some of the videos, the interviews where you thought “man, I was on, I delivered, and you know what, people loved who I was.”

Andrew: Isn’t there sometimes like something about us in that moment, that we can’t dissect from the outside, that even if we were going back and reliving it, we couldn’t figure out what it was. It could be just, you know, some days, I have a dog, nothing in my dogs life really changes from day to day. The economy doesn’t impact him, he eats the exact same food, he doesn’t have someone break up with him, or lose money in his business. But some days I can see he’s a little more grouchier than others, he needs to be by himself. So aren’t there some days when we’re giving a presentation when nothing is different about the way we’re doing things, we just happen to be in those great moments. And other days we happen to be in the grouchy or insecure moments and to think what did I do in the good day is to go back and look for evidence that doesn’t really exist.

Michael: Absolutely. But it doesn’t prevent us from still preparing. So identity is apart of it. The other is what I call “thinking the best thoughts” and I often ask people, “Do you talk to yourself, do you have a conversation with yourself?”

Andrew: All the time, yeah.

Michael: All the time, yeah. And like me, sometimes you have multiple conversations, which is a real problem. And the key is to figure out what is that dialogue that I’m having. And so, what I’ve discovered, at least about myself is that before I get up to speak I often just say a small prayer, I just do a quick incantation and I say to myself that my gift is my speaking, and my message is my contribution to others. And I just say that to myself, and so there may be times, Andrew, when we have this but it doesn’t neglect the opportunity that we have to prepare and to shape the way that we want things to happen. In other words, we’re not victims of what was going on at the time, but we can actually choose the thoughts that we think, but we can choose the thoughts that we think and we can choose the emotions that we feel. I do think that is a choice that we have.

Andrew: I see. Right. Even changing what that internal dialogue is about changes my day. Even shutting out those thoughts of questioning how I’ll perform and thinking about something else changes the way that I perform. Thinking about all the times that I did well instead of letting my mind go back and forth about all the things that could go wrong. I’m actually doing this symbol here. That’s the way it feels and that’s the way it is. Even stopping that is a huge help. One other tip.

Michael: Well, the idea of questions. You mentioned the dog, but let’s give an example of the dog. Somebody could look at a dog and see the dog is warm, loving, cuddly, furry somebody that I snuggle up to and hold, and other people could look at the dog and have a totally different reference, a totally different representation to them.

They could think of biting, rabies, having to get a shot, and all the vicious things that somebody could associate to this poor little dog. I happen to be just like you and have a very positive association to dogs as a best friend. But, the whole idea is that we choose those thoughts. We choose those way that we represent those thoughts and emotions in our mind and, again, we can choose those and make changes at our will.

Andrew: I’ve taken up a lot of your time all ready, including the pre interview. I want to make sure that first I thank you and second that I give people a way to follow up with you. What’s a good way to follow up? First, they should get the book. Let me say that so that you don’t even have to. I want to recommend the book here. Actually, I haven’t gotten the book yet. Now I’m lost in my own head again. I shouldn’t say, as I’m telling people about your book, I haven’t gotten the book. I’m trying to be overly honest here. Why don’t I leave it to you?

Michael: I would just say first of all, I’m honored to have the opportunity to meet with you. You’ve obviously created outstanding results, and the thing I admire about you is you built the business with your brother. I built the business called Hutch Brothers with my younger brother, David, a speaking training business. I wrote this book called, “Speaking Mastery: Seven Keys to Delivering High Impact Presentations.” If people would pick that book up that would be terrific. They can also follow me on Twitter at @michaelhutch.

I am building an online training business. That website is ImmersiveTraining.com. The site’s not up. We hope to have a launch here by November 11th, 2011 and then go live with it in the new year. It’s an honor to have this time to meet with you and I’ve enjoyed the time. Thank you.

Andrew: I’m going to thank you. I’m going to go back and relisten to this interview because I think you’ve given me a bunch of tips that I now need to be aware of. It really is a challenge to speak. There’s so much benefit to doing it right.

You get to connect with people who you never meet one on one. You get to get your message out there and really see impact, but at the same time it’s kind of a frightening experience. Once I say something I can’t take it back. I have to figure out now how to resolve it in real time. It’s a real challenge.

You’ve helped me here in this interview. I really appreciate that. I’m looking forward to learning more from you, partially from relistening to this, partially from checking out your book and from checking out the website. I appreciate you coming here to do this interview with me.

Michael: Thank you, Andrew. Keep up the great work. I support the work that you’re doing, and I look forward to meeting you personally.

Andrew: I do, too. Thank you all for watching. I hope you guys connect with Hutch. Let me know when you have. Thank you.


11 thoughts on “Building Tony Robbins’ Business Before He Was Famous – with Michael Hutchison

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Michael, thanks for the inspiring interview… I still have my Personal Power tapes even though I don’t have a tape cassette player!

    I just tried to purchase your book, but there doesn’t seem to be a Kindle edition. Are there plans to release a Kindle edition?

  2. I bought that big collection too. (But mine were on CD.) I still have the ripped version on my computer.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Powerful interview!
    I love Personal Power too.

    great interview about repetition and how to improve speaking.

    thanks

  4. Jesse says:

    Fantastic interview, there were both insightful questions and answers. 

    Thanks for leaving in the mention to self doubt Andrew, it makes you that much easier to empathize, understand and look up to.

    Cheers

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hey Andrew…..this one brings to mind a well-worn copy of “Awaken The Giant Within” complete with a stretched to the max binding that has to do a motivational “yes clap!” each time I pick up the book just so it doesn’t give up on holding together the book’s pages and the overflow of homemade page markers mushed therein. And wearing out a set of “tape cassettes” of Personal Power…..and attending live seminars….and…..building a team and a dream based on all that was synthesized from Tony Robbins’ instruction. *happy sigh*

    One question for you. Well…two. Is it meaningful to you that your regular listeners are aware of the status, process, and progress you employ as you determine future goals and milestones for Mixergy? Perhaps not (though falling back on, “even I don’t know that yet” is a copout and quite different than establishing that sharing the plan even if it’s day one of figuring it out is decidedly NOT important to you), but if such transparent synching with your most loyal fans is indeed something you value…..to what extent to do you feel that you’ve succeeded in consistently maintaining a state of successful sharing?

    Thank you for all you do and deliver for us.

    CHEERS!

    David

  6. I’ve been setting goals one month at a time. Last month my goal way systemizing everything at Mixergy. To be honest, I missed that goal, so October has become systems month too.
    Next month’s goal will probably be to track everything on the site. I want to know where my audience is coming from and why they do what they do on the site.

  7. Ann says:

    Andrew: if I find myself getting self-conscious (read: nervous) about a speaking gig, I remind myself that it’s not about me. When I remember that it’s all about changing the lives of my audience, I click right back into place. It restores my focus to the right center of attention. The question I enter with is: What does this specific group of people need from me? It’s about being exquisitely attentive to what they need and then delivering it. Works every time. (I had a particularly rocking event yesterday. Happy dance.)

  8. PaulMagee says:

    Great interview Andrew and Michael. Packed full of great advice. Appreciate it.

    Paul.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I never actually knew that Tony’s course was called Personal Power but I think that it may be a good indicator of how powerful it is that it’s number 1 on the world famous Action! List! – with “get off heroin” coming in at number 3:

    http://www.foundmagazine.com/find/472

    That list just got a whole lot funnier when I found out what “Personal Power” actually means :)

    I really enjoyed this interview – some great tips on speaking and sales (2 things which I’m sensibly scared of and correspondingly bad at) but one question I’d really like to ask: has anyone here actually going through the Tony Robbins programs? Any recommendations?

  10. Mike McMahon says:

    I read Tony Robbins first book Unlimited Power over twenty years ago. The ability to develop rapport and being able to read people were extremely helpful. Michael comments about getting into “state” before delivering a key presentation is on the button.

    People who work Tony Robbins have a clear passion for making a difference in people lives. Check out Chet Holmes who is currently working with¬†Tony on Business Breakthroughs. Chet’s book The Ulitmate Sales Machine will open your eyes,

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