Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Social Pulse Podcast, Ep. 4


It’s not uncommon for business owners to routinely have to grapple with their demons, challenges, like impostor syndrome, which sit between us and our better angels. That’s especially true for people like influencers and marketing agency owners who live and work in circles where their colleagues and counterparts are highly visible.

How do we know our own worth, both as a person as an agency? How do we deal with impostor syndrome in an industry filled with larger than life personalities to compete with? That’s what George B. Thomas is here to help us answer in this summary of the fourth episode of Social Pulse Podcast.

You can listen to the entire episode below: (Or read on for a quick summary.)

George helps companies streamline and grow by using the right HubSpot CRM, marketing, sales, service operations, and CMS tools. He’s a vault of valuable information, tactics, and strategies with a record breaking 35+ HubSpot Academy certifications. George’s true passion is being a catalyst for growth and helping others be inspired, educated, and willing to work hard to achieve unlimited success.  

Embracing who you are

Mike: I couldn’t think of anyone better to have on the show for this kind of a topic. And I know you’ve previously worked with talking about larger-than-life personalities and people like Marcus Sheridan. You have been a long time HubSpot expert and advocate. What made you want to start Sidekick Strategies, and what specific services are you currently offering?

George: The idea of starting Sidekick Strategies has been something that I didn’t think that I would ever do, because going from working with Marcus Sheridan, who obviously has number-one energy, had me feeling like I was number-two energy. Then working for Remington Begg at Impulse Creative, which is again one of the most technical shops, people just knew that he was like the number one tech HubSpot guy in there. Felt like I had second second player energy. A good Robin to a Batman, if you will.

When I did leave agency life, I was just gonna go out and be a solopreneur and do a little bit of HubSpot coaching, do a little bit of HubSpot implementation, maybe get couple clients, but the brand that I had built inside of these agencies, I don’t think I fully understood the power of. So for about the first year and a half, I tried to be a solopreneur, and the universe just kept smacking me in my face. And I realized when you have a team of ten, you’re no longer a solopreneur, and we should probably show up as who we are.

That’s when we decided to go ahead and get a DBA. Let’s go ahead and create Sidekick Strategies. Let’s build the website. Let’s show people now what we are doing or what we have been doing, because, by the way, if you go to the George B. Thomas LLC website, you’d literally see that it was about HubSpot training, HubSpot implementation, HubSpot onboarding, etc.

But we were doing so many other things, like video editing, podcast editing, content creation, and social media posting for those clients that originally signed on with monthly retainers dealing with HubSpot and HubSpot CMS or CRM implementation items. We realized the world doesn’t even know all the things that we’re doing. I’m not even going to list all the services we were doing.

And I’m not talking about your granddaddy’s SEO stuff. I’m going to talk about, “Hey, if you’ve been creating content, but it’s just not getting you the lift that you thought it would, then we have a set of eyes, a set of strategies in the understanding of what to do with it. You’ve got to make it really be impactful for conversation starting, conversion optimization, things like that.”

All these services? We are showing up as an agency.

I now wake up and go, “Oh. I am an agency owner.” And so I’m ready to live in that world, ready to try to build it in a way so it’s the most human and helpful and happy agency possible on the planet.

Regular people as heroes

Mike: Your new website is just full of heroes. And suddenly they’re these “normal-looking” people who are poised to become heroes. What inspired that?

George: Yeah. And it’s a little bit of a journey, but you’re right, Mike.

Actually, it’s very humbling the fact that you paid attention to the HubHeroes podcast and that we had these superheroes created for the hosts, as well as any guest that we would have on the show. I would ask them what their favorite superheros were, and then we would get them cartooned, and we would send it over to them as a gift for being a guest on the podcast. There was always kind of this superhero theme. To be honest with you, part of it was because I’m just a Marvel and DC nerd. Meaning I love comics and movies, and that’s just part of fundamentally who I am. A lot of the tribe or community surrounding are nerds like me, they like comics like me, and it’s different too. But it’s different in a way that it’s not over the top. That’s the one thing is I wanted it to be professionally fun, but not childish.

We started creating these characters, and that was for the HubHeroes podcast back when it was just georgebthomas.com and creating value for the HubSpot community. And when we went in to start to build Sidekick Strategies, one of the things that kept bringing in my brain was I want there to be this comic book feel. I want there to be this superhero, the hero of your organization, and so one of the things that we say quite a bit is we help people become the HubHeroes that their organization needs to streamline processes and drive revenue. And that’s fundamentally part that we’ve bolted on to the historical, happy, helpful, humble human is this fact that now we’re creating heroes in the business landscape with what we do and what we teach.

Again, we wanted it to be professional but have this comic book hero vibe, wanted everybody to realize that they probably don’t understand who they actually can be or who they’re on a journey to become, but they could be the Clark Kent, right? They could be the Bruce Wayne. They could be this kind of incognito hero, whether it’s marketing, sales, service, rev ops in their organization. And we’re there to be the catalyst to help unlock those superpowers for them.

Feeling like an imposter

Mike: Most of our agency audience share that their number one challenge is growing and scaling their agency. And while there are a lot of external factors that impact that, I think one of the key internal factors is being able to visualize ourselves as a hero as a success in that role, and the many ways we hold ourselves back from that.

The first is imposter syndrome. “I can’t possibly be a Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, and we’re doubting that we’re smart enough or creative enough offer clients the kind of agency services that deserve, and we want to pay top dollar for.” Well, I’m sure you’ve probably never ever struggled with this. If you had, how would you have worked to overcome it?

George: Let’s be honest here. I am a normal human being. I have dealt with imposter syndrome. I have had, historically, a set of limiting beliefs.

Listen, I think it’s important for the listeners to understand … When I was three years old, I lived in a one room log cabin in Lincoln, Montana, with no running water, and we would bathe in the stream. At ten years old, I was riding a pony to a one-room schoolhouse. There was no internet. There was no mobile devices. There wasn’t the world that we live in now. By the age of seventeen, I was a high school dropout because I had a math teacher who told me I would never amount anything.

So it’s not surprising that I got to the point in my life where I was feeling like I was always going to be a great number two to a great number one because I had just these limiting beliefs. I read the book by Gay Hendrixs, the Big Leap, and it was probably the jumping off point for me where I realized I had to get past this.

I had transformed myself into something that I didn’t even pay attention how far I had gone. And on my whiteboard, I have right behind me the words: You’ve come a long way since 2013.

I started paying attention to and documenting who I’ve actually become versus who I was and what I’m adding to the world versus what I was always taking from the world.

And I just want people to realize that you have this power inside of you.

You can unlock the abilities that you thought you would never have, and it all has to do with training your own brain, creating your own belief structures, making sure you have your own core values.

And what’s funny is when you believe in yourself, when you have these core values, when you train your brain, especially as an agency owner, then you’re able to know truly who you are and how you want to show up and how you expect those that you bring on board to also show up.

Many agency owners and agencies find it hard to scale

George: I, humbly, would say I have the opposite problem. It has been hard not to scale. Meaning there has been so many humans who have wanted to come and work with us and get us to help them, and be in our circle of influence. Not based off because we’re the best, not based off because we’re the biggest, but based off the fact that we start with the human first.

It’s all about the relationship, and it’s about actually caring about their success more than our success. There’s some real hard things that you have to decide in your belief structure and in your core values of things you always want to do or never do or how you’ll always show up for the client.

This is how far we’re willing to go. And so for us, while there’s a pretty decent profit margin and while we’ve probably been bringing in more revenue than we ever expected, it’s never been about having a profit margin and bringing in revenue.

It’s just about how can we help the humans? How can we help the humans be the best that they can be? How can we turn these humans into the HubHeroes of the organization? How can we add value to humans that might not even be able to pay us right now? But in the future, will they be able to? Who knows? But going on basic principles again of “you reap what you sow” and knowing that every day we’re gonna sow a little value into the world, that’s how you get into this weird, magical place where you’re like, “I can’t not say that we’re an agency because the universe has made us be an agency.”

Mike: What advice do you have for agency owners along these lines?

George: I can give you tidbits of information that I’ve been able to learn or grab from other places and input into my life, like how I mentioned the Big Leap book or things that I learned from Marcus and Remington along the way. But, to answer your question, I was watching a YouTube video, and it’s a guy named Chris Doe, who is pretty big on YouTube and has an agency. In a YouTube video, I honestly couldn’t tell you what the entire video was about, but he said these words. And for some reason, it felt like somebody just punched me in my forehead and dropped these words in my brain, and I couldn’t let go of them. And he said, “Don’t sell what you can do. Sell what the world can do.”

And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” Like, I’m all about relationships. Over the last twelve years, I’ve built this credible network that is humbling and yet powerful. But if I were to start this agency and provide a service that somebody wants to get, I could actually always tag somebody in to come along for the ride.

And then that’s when this kind of epiphany happened. With Sidekick Strategies, we can collect our Justice League, our Avengers. We can have people who are either part of the organization or contractors of the organization that are paid advertising experts, graphic design experts. But again, it only works if you have the right people in the right seats, either on your bus or in places that you can pull your bus into. It’s based on this thing of, “Hey, I’m actually going to sell what the world can do and not necessarily what I can do,” because so many of us limit ourselves, limit our growth, limit our future, based on what we believe is possible through us.

But if you just flip that switch and go, “Well, I’m smart enough to at least run the trains and get them where they need to go, then all of these other people can be the mechanics of the trains and the driver of the trains and the announcers of the trains.”

That was eye -opening to me, this idea that it doesn’t just have to be me. It can be a group of people that are bringing this to fruition. And so that’s my advice. If you’re sitting here, wondering why can’t you scale or how could you scale, and you’ve been hitting a roadblock, remember you don’t necessarily have to sell what you can do, but you can sell what the world can do.

Mike: Terrific advice. I love that you worked in more Marvel and DC references. That’s fantastic.

Resources for growth

For the challenges that we’ve talked about, you’ve mentioned a couple books and YouTube channels, which are fantastic. That’s a great lead into what I’m going to ask: What are the kinds of resources and channels that you’re turning to for help and support and information today?

George: The podcast app of choice for me is Pocket Casts. I have probably 20+ podcasts that I tune into. The funny thing is I’ve noticed that they change based on the direction that I’m going in. Right now, I’m listening about how to build an agency, how to streamline an agency, how to optimize processes, and more podcasts than I’ve probably ever had in my podcast app in my life, but that’s because that’s where my brain is going.

Same thing with YouTube. I’ve watched more click-up tutorials and business processes videos than I ever have in my life over the last kind of six to eight months, as we were building out Sidekick Strategies and getting ready to launch it to the world. But also there’s just these little veins of information. Obviously, any AI podcast because I’m super nerding out on AI and what you can do with it.

By the way, all the Clark Kent comic-style graphics are AI-generated graphics, because we can literally teach the AI what we want it to look like, be like, and feel like. And that’s how we’re creating all of the graphics for the Sidekick Strategies website. All these nerd segments allow me to get one percent better each and every day at the layer of things that I want to get better at. (By the way, if people haven’t heard of a T-shaped marketer, the idea is that there is a line of things that you might want to be good at, but then there’s a line across, making a T shape, that you need to be great at.)

For me, there’s this line of content creation AI podcasting editing, but then there’s this deep vein in HubSpot CRM, CMS, and business implementation inside of those.

So, I’m always paying attention to that with podcasts, definitely YouTube channels.

Invest in yourself

George: Another big thing that some people struggle with, but that I think is really, really important, is investing in yourself. I’ll say in two ways, actually. Investing in yourself is understanding your Audible library could actually compete against your Netflix watchlist. And what I mean by that is there’s a mindset that we can go after that is education over entertainment. Deciding to spend time listening to audiobooks or reading books if you like to read. (For me, I like to listen to audiobooks. I like to be jotting notes down as I’m listening. Sometimes I like to even be like walking or or on a plane or a train or going somewhere.)

But always listening and feeding your brain information.

But then the second piece that I’m going to say is getting a group of people who are like-minded, heading in similar directions, and making sure that there is a time that you’re hanging out. For me, one of the smartest things that I did when I left agency life is that I started being part of what at that point was the Evolve men’s group, or Evolve leadership group every Tuesday. They have people who are trying to live in the world where maybe the oxygen is a little bit higher, maybe we’re at higher elevations, maybe we’re on a journey that is less traveled. I love to be able to have those humans to bounce ideas off, to have those humans where they can feed into you and you can feed into them. It really does come back to being a designer around the circle that you have around you, as far as the humans in the room go. There are so many lessons that I learned from them that are just in-the-moment things they’ll say, things that might not have actually been heard if I wasn’t in that space at that time.

Again, get your set of podcasts, get your set of YouTube channels, get your Audible account up to where it needs to be, and then make sure you have the right humans in the room so that you can bounce these ideas off and feed into each other.

Mike: Such powerful advice.

You’re in a group with other peers and colleagues who are in different areas or perhaps different businesses, but you’re all on that same journey in one way or another. And you can help each other and feed off each other and be able to step into a group like that and help others. That’s probably one of the most powerful things you’ll do.

It’s not about what you can get from them. It’s about how you’re going to help them, and you’ll grow so much more as an individual. And I loved your point about paying attention to what we’re consuming. I saw a recent Instagram post where they were talking about active consumption vs. passive consumption. And when we just turn on Netflix, we’re just consuming whatever it is. We’re fed. But if we can (not all the time, because we still like our Marvel movies) but some of the time, replace that with a deliberate Audible book or a podcast or something along those lines. That’s fantastic.

I did want to ask you a quick follow-up.

Who are some of those specific agency resources and the podcasters you’re following these days?

George: Let me cheat and go through my list. Agency Journey is one of the podcasts that I pay attention to. Agency Unfiltered. (Although there’s a bunch of great archived episodes on that, but the person who was running it did just leave the organization that they worked at. So I don’t know what’s gonna happen with that one.) Definitely things like the Modern Marketing engine. Can’t go without saying Social Media Examiner, with Michael Stelzner. I mean, he’s the boss. Marketing Made Simple is another good one. Duct Tape Marketing, too. Then there’s the Evolve Leadership podcast.

As for the YouTube channels, I watch Nick Nimmin, and I’m always paying attention to him, because we’re rooted in doing video and YouTube stuff for us and for our clients. Pat Flynn, because he talks about some podcasting stuff here and there and even where you can align podcasting and some AI tools.

Again, the pond is so, so big. Here would be my advice, because sure I can give you these shout-outs to my watering hole, but the advice I would give everybody on this is to take a minute, sit at a base of a tree with a notepad, and think about what you’re good at that you want to become great at and what is it that you’re weak at that you might want to get stronger? And so then what I do is figure out what percentage I want to spend my time becoming great at the thing that I’m always good at and how much of my time plugging in the pieces that would make me better in where my weak spot work. Believe it or not, at one point in time, I didn’t even know how to start a podcast. At one point in time, I didn’t know how to edit video. One point in time, I didn’t even know how to design or develop a website, but it was always just an aggressive quest on learning the thing that I could plug in next to creating what might be a masterpiece over time.

Be patient with yourself, be kind with yourself, understand that this is a journey. It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. And you are going to mess up. But just know that when I think about messing up, to me, it’s not that I failed. It’s that I learned how not to do that again. Next time, we’ll do it better.

How do you currently measure the business impact of social media for your clients?

George: It’s funny because I don’t necessarily think that I think about social media, like most other people think about social media, meaning most and and and I might be able to say this around a lot of the efforts that we put forth.

To be honest with you, so many people are hyper-focused on optimizing every percentage rate out of every thing they do for every minute of the day. When I look at social media, there’s a couple things that I’m trying to do there. I’ll tell you a couple of things and I’m going to tell you a hidden secret, by the way, about my social media feeds.

I’m always trying to add value. How do you measure that? How is it providing ROI?

I look at the amount of conversations that it strikes up, maybe not even on the social media channels.

Does somebody look at one of my posts and then I get an email, and we’re having a conversation? Do they all of a sudden hit me up in one of the Slack channels that I’m in or one of the Slack community channels that I’m in, and all of a sudden we’re having a conversation? Did they leave a comment on the post? How many likes did it get? Why did it get that many likes? Like, what did I do? What did I say?

Always listen or pay attention to why the things are happening on social. A lot of organizations will just post a Manic Monday post or Teach Them Tuesday, Winning Wednesday, no matter what. There might not have been no dang wins on Wednesday, but it’s a Winning Wednesday post! It’s too structured, too scheduled. Meanwhile, a lot of what we do is in the moment and is just having conversations, but there is a base layer of what we know. We put out HubHeroes on Tuesday, so we’re going to share new episodes. We know we’re going to put out beyond our default.

So, there is a little bit of structure and scheduling in there, but there’s more of freedom with it and being human with it.

And I gave you some very high level metrics, but the other thing that we’re paying attention to is where we can see where the traffic comes from for our websites.

A little secret that I’ve shared with several people behind the scenes is that for the first seven to eight months, the most trafficked part of our site or what was sending our site traffic was social media.

Because we didn’t have any SEO.

We had some referrals, but it wasn’t even close. How many people are getting this site? Still to this day, by the way, it’s a neck-and-neck race between the SEO stuff we’ve created and the social media presence and community that we have.

Mike: I thank you for sharing that that that detail about going into the weeds, because that is what we need to be able to do as agency owners on behalf of clients or social managers.

If we’re working in this space, we do, at the end of the day, need to be able to demonstrate that impact that we’re having on the business, because it’s there, and it’s real, and it’s tangible. Just know how to do it.

In Conclusion

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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Social Pulse Podcast, Ep. 4


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