Podcast

Episode: 6 |
Robbie Kellman Baxter:
The Membership Economy:
Episode
6

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Robbie Kellman Baxter

The Membership Economy

Show Notes

Robbie Kellman Baxter served as a consultant to Netflix when all they did was mail out DVDs. That experience got Robbie thinking deeply about a new emerging business model.  She developed these ideas over a period of nine years before publishing in 2015 her book The Membership Economy: Find Your Superusers, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue.

In our discussion, Robbie goes into some detail of how the book came about, how she promoted the book, and how it transformed her practice from more traditional consulting projects to work that is more advisory in nature .  She has made an investment in becoming a thought leader, and it has paid off: Robbie is regularly invited to give keynote speeches and she has clients who’ve read the book reaching out asking for her help.  You can learn more about her work by reading her book, the membership economy, and by checking out her website: peninsula strategies.com

Robbie studied at Harvard College and Stanford Business School, and started her consulting career at Booz Allen. She has been running her own consulting firm, Peninsula Strategies, since 2001, so she has been a successful independent professional for 16 years.

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Will Bachman: Hey there podcast listeners. Welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex the world’s first global community of top-tier independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman.

Our guest today is Robbie Kellman Baxter. Robbie studied at Harvard College and Stanford Business School and started her consulting career at Booz Allen. She’s been running her own consulting firm, Peninsula Strategies, since 2001 so she has been a successful independent professional for 16 years. She started serving Netflix over a decade ago when all they were doing was putting DVDs in the mail. That experience got Robbie thinking deeply about a new emerging business model. She developed these ideas over a period Of 9 years before publishing, in 2015, her book The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue. In our discussion, Robbie goes into some detail of how the book came about, how she promoted the book, and how it has transformed her practice for more traditional consulting projects to work that is much more advisory in nature and a lot more fun. She’s made an investment in becoming a thought leader and it has paid off Robbie is regularly invited to give keynote speeches and she has clients approaching her. Clients that have read the book and are asking for help. You can learn more about her work by reading the book of course The Membership Economy and by checking out her website peninsulastrategies.com. 

I was inspired by a conversation and I hope you are as well.

Robbie it is fantastic having you on the show thank you so much for joining.

Robbie Baxter: It’s a pleasure to be here Will. 

Will Bachman: Robbie I have your book in front of me The Membership Economy and I love this book. I think it’s so fascinating how he economy is changing and you kind of nailed a new paradigm for it. So I definitely want to talk about that some and it sounds like the genesis of that partly was some of your work with Netflix. I’d love to hear about some of that early work and what led to the book.

Robbie Baxter: Absolutely so like, probably a lot of people listening, I started my career as a big firm strategy consultant and then after business school I went into the tech industry because I was living in Silicon Valley for several years in product marketing and then when I went out on my own I was sort of doing like a mix of those two things. So strategy consulting specifically with tech but I didn’t have much more of a specialty than that and about a year into it I started working with Netflix. And I fell in love with the business model and nobody else really was focused on that kind of Netflix approach. I loved their focus on doing one thing well. I loved that they have a recurring Revenue model. I love that they were using behavioral data to continuously improve the member experience and as I was really enjoying working with Netflix, all of these people started calling and saying, “Hey we want to be the Netflix of news, music, books, software, whatever. What is it that they’re doing and how can we replicate that, or leverage that, or apply that in our own industries?”

So, for the next several years I really focused in on, you know, first I was calling subscription businesses and then premium services businesses, and pretty much anything that has elements of what I’ve come to call membership. Subscription, online community, and anything that’s built around this idea of having a long-term formal relationship with the customer.

Will Bachman: You mentioned earlier that a lot of companies wanted to be the Netflix of XYZ. Where there any that you felt weird kind of ridiculous like the Netflix of I don’t know?

Robbie Baxter: Dental pain management solutions for example.

Will Bachman: Okay.

Robbie Baxter: I mean at the time I was like, “I can’t believe that I’m doing this.” But they were really thinking about this long term relationship with the dentists and also thinking about the long-term relationship with the end customer who would say you know what for as long as I have dental needs I want to make sure that the products and services that my dentist is using have of my comfort in mind. In this particular case I learned a little something about that space and lots of dentists go with the $1 solution instead of the $5 solutions which results in a needle instead of a gel in your mouth. So you think about that and you’re like wow, I would like to have a forever transaction with the gel and not the needle.

Will Bachman: Yeah I mean dentist is actually a pretty good example. I mean what if you had as many visits as you want to the dentist in terms of cleanings right? Which would

Robbie Baxter: Yeah absolutely. But this was the pain management product. This was the product company because you’re absolutely right. Anything that is a professional service whether it’s a medical service or legal service or consulting service lend itself well to a membership model because most of the time when somebody wants advice one time they probably want the comfort of having that in advisor in their corner every time those kinds of issues come up on an ongoing basis.

Will Bachman: Right well, let’s get back to the book. So talk to me about how the book came about and you know a lot of consultants think man should I write a book? I’d love to hear what the whole process was like. Not so much the content but what was the process like of deciding to write the book, of writing it, of getting it picked up by a publisher. Tell us about that story.

Robbie Baxter: Yeah, absolutely so I’m a pretty cautious analytical person which I think is probably because of lots of consultants. I like to have lots of information. I like to be confident of my decision. And for about 10 years I was thinking about writing a book on this topic. I worked with Netflix. My second client was Zoomerang which is now part of Survey Monkey and by the third client which was an online payroll space I said there is a book here. This is something that nobody else is talking about. This is really ,really interesting to me. I could spend a year just thinking about nothing but how to you frame this.

But it took me another I think eight years before I wrote the book because I wanted it to be good and I wanted to be sure that I had a good framework and I wanted to kind of make sure that I had everything just right and in this case waiting ended up being lucky because the timing was really good when the book ended up being released because it was a topic that was kind of cresting or kind of a crescendoing as it launched. That was lucky.  So that was kind of the Genesis of the book and it took me a year. From the time I signed the contract with McGraw-Hill I had 9 months to write the book and then it was another 5 or 6 months before they released it.

Will Bachman: So you get the contract first and then you write the book?  Tell us a little bit about the practicalities of that for consultant or an independent professional who has that book in them like you did but what’s the steps to go through?

Robbie Baxter: Yes so it’s interesting when you write fiction you actually write the manuscript and then you shop it around. But when you write a business book you just have to write a book proposal and then you shop that around with or without an agent helping you. And once you have an agreement then you start writing and you have a deadline. So what I would advise people if you have an idea for a book write the proposal which is actually pretty easy you just need a chapter outline, an executive summary, the most important part is the marketing section. Who’s going to buy it, and why, and how are you going to be able to promote it? So do you have a platform? Do you have contacts? If you say well I have this big client and they’ve already indicated that they’ll buy a copy for every employee that really matters to the publishers because they know they have a built-in audience with the book and that your relationships will help sell it. So they’re not on the hook to do all the marketing by themselves. 

So you put together that proposal I would guess if you have an idea like you said floating around in your head that you’re thinking about you could probably do the proposal in a couple of weeks. It’s not particularly on risk.

Will Bachman: Can you talk about what your marketing section was like? Did you have a client that was going to buy a thousand copies? How did you market it?

Robbie Baxter: I didn’t. So what I did in my section is, first of all, I talked about the communities that I was part of. So consulting communities, alumni, I was very involved in my college alumni association, my business school alumni association, and I’ve spoken at both places. I talked about some other kind of professional groups where I had a roll. These are all groups that have already said they’d like me to speak. I went to people that I think of as friendly’s. Either clients and colleagues and got, kind of, the equivalent of book jacket blurbs but about me as opposed to about the books. So “Robbie is an expert on membership.” As opposed to “Robbie’s book on membership economy is great.” And so I put those in. You kind of have some freedom on what to write. I had a big Twitter following already, relatively speaking. I think I have about eight thousand people following me on Twitter and I talked about different places where I would speak. That was pretty much it. 

If I had advice for people I would say if you’re thinking about writing a book you should do as much speaking as you can within and outside of organizations. Inside your clients and also in industry associations and other places and if you’re an employee and you haven’t stepped out on your own yet, what I remember from being an employee was that there were always a lot of opportunities to speak to the media. Oh and that was the other thing. I had a lot of media mentions because I had been proactively doing that for several years. Reading journalist inquiries for subject matter experts and answering the ones that were kind of on my topic. So I had some good quotes. 

When you’re in a company the PR team is always looking for people to speak, and to write, and to be quoted, and people never have time but you can actually build your personal brand that way so that when you do step out and run your own business and certainly when you want to write a book you have all of that already kind of at your disposal. You’re speaking from a bigger platform.

Will Bachman: On those journalist inquiries and how you got quoted David Fields mentions this the website HARO, help a reporter out. How did you go about that? Did you approach journalist proactively directly or how did you end up getting quoted?

Robbie Baxter: Yes so HARO is good and the other one is I think it’s called ProfNet. And I like that one better you have to pay for that one. I think it’s like $100 a month. Something like that. But there’s fewer people on it and I’ve gotten a much better hit rate on it as well. And I’ve been New York Times, CNN. I think I was in Consumer Reports and I was in, yeah I’ve got some really good coverage. And I kind of go in and out of doing it. You’re supposed to do it consistently all the time. But for me what I found is I would do it for like 6 months and then I get really busy and I’ll pause my membership and then I’ll come back. That’s what I’ve been doing for several years.

Will Bachman: Interesting. So it wasn’t so much about trying to find the reporter who covers the beat of the Netflix beat and reaching out directly it was more just really just responding on PropNet what’s the main thing or?

Robbie Baxter: That’s what I did. Some of them came back and followed up but for my topic, because membership crosses so many industries, there aren’t really journalist that cover the subscription beat or the membership beat. They cover tech or they cover media or they cover retail or they cover particular region or a particular company size. For me, personally, that was a little trickier.

Will Bachman: Any tips on when you respond to those on ProfNet or HARO, any tips on how to stand out and get quoted?

Robbie Baxter: Yeah, I think being really specific in your response and certainly being prompt but also being specific. Like giving them bullet points. Giving them quotable lines. Telling them they can quote anything in the email. So for example, if you said “I’m looking for independent consultants we can talk about how to get quoted in the media.” I’d say “My name is Robbie Baxter. Here’s a little bio on me. There’s three great ways that you can get quoted in the media number one number two and number three.” And then I give an example. I’d say “For me one of the best moments was when I was quoted in The New York Times for saying this about this company.”  And so then they can say “Robbie Baxter of Menlo Park says she was quoted …”  and so making that really easy. 

I always include my picture. I sometimes include a visual. When I wrote the book I have a lot of process visuals about how I think about membership or how I think of subscriptions or when to use free verses when to make your members pay. So I’ll often those and give them permission to use it if they want because if they find that they have space then they’ve got it. But those are the main things. And I always tell them they can call me. I give them my mobile phone tell them to call at their convenience or we can set up a time.

Will Bachman: Great. That’s fascinating. I love that guidance. I’ll start incorporating it myself.

Robbie Baxter: Oh good.

Will Bachman: On the book itself, tell us a little bit about the benefits of having written it. How has it worked out? I mean was it worth the effort and in what ways?

Robbie Baxter: Yeah absolutely. I told you it took me a long time to really commit to writing the book. And I interviewed a whole bunch of other business consultants, solo practitioners, like me and ask them hey you wrote this book what was the process like and what has the payoff been? And there seems to me to be two kinds of experiences that people had. And I’m making big generalizations here but one of them was this idea of you just need to write a book. You just need to write a book. There’s nothing new under the sun just write something. don’t belabor it too much. Just get it out there. Be able to say I have a book. Be able to give the book out. Use it as a 1 lb business card. Even if nobody buys the book it’s just a lot more about your point of view that you can give to somebody when you need them. So that you’re more memorable, so that your book is sitting on their desk and they might remember you. That kind of thing. 

And some of those books honestly Will, like I’m a big reader, I love to read, so if somebody I know right the book I almost always read it. I really do. I buy the book, I read it, and I was amazed that, some of the books, I thought, were pretty bad. Like they say stuff that’s been said before, you can tell that it hadn’t been carefully edited, things like run-on sentences or the same words used twice, things like that. That are just basic blocking and tackling of writing. Not a good framework things don’t quite hold together. And I think to myself, wow I like this person that wrote it and I respect them but this book actually makes me, maybe, I still like them and respect them but I’m like, huh, that wasn’t a very good book. I’m surprised. I would have expected better from them. 

And then the other kind of book is the kind of book that somebody puts a ton of effort into and you’re like, wow this is really good. I wish I had written this. This is smart. Even if it’s a topic like leadership or general business growth strategies which you know there’s thousands of books on those topics but you’re like that’s a different way of framing it. That’s really interesting. I’m going to remember that. Those books are harder to write and when it came time for me to write the book I said I have to write a book that I’m proud of that when people like you that I respect and that I might have business interactions with that I care what you think that when you read it you say wow this is pretty interesting actually as opposed to well it’s not very good but you know I still think she’s pretty smart and pretty nice and a pretty good person. 

So anyway, that was a little side note about the different kinds of books but I’m a big fan of riding the good book. If you got it in you. Because it takes a lot of effort but then it can really catapult your career so for me I put a tremendous amount of effort into the book and one of my friend, colleague, advisor, peer network people, said to me. If this book’s really important to you and you really want it to be good put yourself out there and do your best and I did that. I spent money on different kinds of editors and writing experts to help me be a better writer. I spent a lot of time writing I got through chapter 5 and decided it wasn’t flowing the way I wanted it to and I started it over. 

Will Bachman: Oh my gosh.

Robbie Baxter: Which was painful. I mean really painful right? That was April. We got back from spring break I started the book. I signed the contract December 31st. My vision was that I was going to do two chapters a month or a chapter a month. I think it was a chapter a month. I got the chapter 5 out of, I think it was going to be 9 chapters and I was like I don’t have anything else to say I’ve written myself into a cul-de-sac and I started over. So I really worked hard and it’s been worth it. 

So, since the book has come out I have key noted at really dozens of conferences. I’ve been on radio. I’ve been interviewed by dozens of podcasters. I’ve done a bunch of webinars with big companies as they’re featured guest. I’ve gotten clients all over the world who called because they read my book or they read an article about my book or they heard a podcast interview of me about the book. So it’s really changed my brand it used to be that the people that new me and hired me knew me personally or new a friend client Pier and or one or two degrees of separation. Where as now I have clients in Sweden and Columbia and Asia and Birmingham, Alabama and Northern Michigan and really places where I honestly didn’t know a soul.

Will Bachman: That is an amazing story. To how much you’ve been proactive about getting the book out there once it was written? Did you send it to potential clients or do you have someone doing that for you or is it once you set it out there it was like hey good luck book?

Robbie Baxter: It was not good luck book. It was this is my number one priority for the next 6 months. So the book came out. It was supposed to come out in March. It came out in February. So word to the wise, most of the time the books come out before the publisher tells you they’re gonna come out so be ready and I said I’m going to spend six months where the first thing I do everyday is think about my marketing strategy. You know I have one of these Excel workbooks and there’s like 10 sheets and ones about events and one’s about podcast and ones about articles I could write and ones about my tweets. I had all these things and I researched the people the publications that would be interested in this I found out who the editor was or who the journalist was that I thought might be interested and what my point of entry was. I sent inquiries out. When the book came out. 

I sent out, well my publisher said I could send a list over a people that high thought might either buy books in bulk or who might write about me or have me as a guest. And so I think they sent out like a hundred copies to people that I have suggested and then I think I probably sent out right away another hundred copies that I mailed out myself. And then I had somebody actually tactically packing it up but I made the list. I figured it out. I wrote the inserted little note. I put the sticky in and then I did some book parties. I think I did three parties. I gave away books to, except for the book party that was in the bookstore, I gave away books to everybody who came. I gave a book to every person that I quoted or interviewed for the book. I sent a book to every client pretty much that I’ve ever had. I’ve treated this book like a business card in addition to treating it like a marketing tool.

Will Bachman: A little bit beyond the one pound  business card wow that [crosstalk 00:20:57]

Robbie Baxter: Well yeah. Totally. Well cause I think one pound business card idea it’s like nobody orders your business card. Nobody says I’d like to get your business card because I’m interested in your information. And so that’s how I think of the book. I have friends and colleagues who have written books where no one really buys the book but they bring it everywhere and kind of give them out like candy. You go to a prospect and you bring five copies. You go to a networking meeting and you bring copies to give to the people that you talk to and when you meet somebody on the airplane you get their business card and you follow up with a copy of your book. And you just get books out to every single person that you’ve met. And then I know other people  who have fought like 500 copies, lets say, of their own book, made a list of all of their target prospects and then every week they be sent out maybe 10 or 20 with personal note kind of like sending out your business card right. Like “Hi I’m interested in talking to you here’s why I can help you.” That’s what I think of is like being the one pound business card. 

The other side is, what I found that I didn’t really count on but I hoped, for was people call and say “Hi, I’m the general manager of this division at blah de blah big company and my team has actually been reading your book and we were wondering if you ever did speeches inside companies and what that might cost.” Or “We’re wondering if you consult and how that might work and if you might be willing to come out and work with us as we transition from a transactional business model to a subscription. Or a subscription business model to a membership or we have a membership model but we don’t use customer success very well and we’re wondering if you could come out to talk to us about it or help us with it or advise as we make this transition?” So, that’s the part that I wasn’t expecting.

Will Bachman: Yeah well those are beautiful cost to get. Could you maybe take some and talk a little about the types of projects that you’re doing now?

Robbie Baxter: Yeah absolutely. So before, like when Netflix or Survey Monkey or Yahoo or clients that I have before, what I was mostly doing or what I did through Booz Allen consulting projects. I always think of those as like go, no-go, yes, no, give us an answer kind of projects that take 12 weeks and involve spreadsheets and PowerPoints and interviews and you know that kind of a project. And you come to the conclusion and say yes you should enter this market and here’s all the proof. Or no you should not enter this Market and here’s all the proof. Or if you’re going to enter the market these are the things you need to do to be successful and here’s the proof. And now my work is much more advisory. 

So in a lot of cases they know they want to do this and I’m helping them to figure out how to do it or I’m advising them as they get to the go no-go decision. So the way I think about it is when we do big firm consulting let’s say, a big team comes in and the buyer, the client is kind of reactive. They say okay here’s the problem, here’s the objectives, you go off and come back with an answer, and if you need anything from me let me know right? If you need to interview people, if you need access to our data if you need feedback from me, I will expect that from you. And this new approach is kind of flipped on its head Where they’re pulling together the story and they’re pulling together the research and I’m advising them to make sure that they’re thinking about the important things the membership.

So for example I have one client and one of the things that they’re thinking really hard about is whether they should have a free offering. So they have a paid subscription and they want to know should we have a free subscription. And so I’m a guiding them on the questions they need to ask and the logic that needs to be there to justify a free offering and so we’re looking at all the different possibilities and then kind of approving them or canceling them out one by one until we have an answer.

Will Bachman: What’s kind of the range of questions that you’d be doing that advising on? So you mentioned one about should we offer free offering. What would some of the other questions that you would be helping to advise on?

Robbie Baxter: Should we go from a transactional model where people buy things kind of either pay as you go or pay to own it outright, to either subscription or membership model where they get access to something. Basically they’re paying on a monthly basis or making a commitment to be a member. And so it could be anything from should we do that or not? Yes or no? Or it can be we’ve decided. I mean this is been a funny thing that I’ve learned is that a lot of companies will say that we’ve decided we need to move to a subscription model because subscription models get better evaluations, recurring revenue, more data on the customer whatever the reason is. And then they come to me and say how do we bundle features? How do we price it? How do we launch it? And usually I’ll ask them to step back and say, you know, a subscription is just a tool what are you trying to accomplish with this particular tool and is the right tool? 

So that’s the kind of bigger question. Any kind of company that has content, you think about music, video, news, books, games, whatever. In any of those things you have an option to have a subscription. You have an option to join and be a member. Create your own content and you have an option to just be anonymous and buy it. So in a lot of cases I’m helping them navigate those different options and figure out what makes sense for their customers.

Will Bachman: I love that example of how you help reframe that that one question to step back. What are some other examples of ways that you see clients that are going down one path and maybe sort of without thinking it through and what are the kinds of questions that you think people should be asking first?

Robbie Baxter: I’m a big believer in kind of being customer-centric and when I give my speeches I’ll often show this slide of a venn diagram. And one circle is what’s in it for the customer and the other one is what’s in it for us and I point out you want to be in the middle where I feel like I’m making good money and I’m doing good work and they feel like they’re getting tremendous value and both of us feel good about it right? That’s what you want. And I think a lot of companies kind of to go backwards. Either they’ll say we need a subscription model so that we can get money every month because we need recurring revenue because our revenue stream is not predictable enough and you’ll say yeah but why would your customer want that? And they’re like, well yeah but the customers just going to do it because that’s what we’re going to offer. 

So I think a lot of times they don’t really walk through what would be in it for the customer and end subscription models that’s always important. I mean any business should be thinking about what’s in it for the customers but in a subscription model where it takes off in several periods before you start making a profit, if you get the wrong people to join and then cancel or you get the right people to join and they realize that they’re not getting a very good deal and then they cancel you end up losing money on every customer. And so it’s really important that you know when a new person joins that they’re going to stay long enough to be profitable and if you want to get to that point you have to know that customer is and you have to know what value they’re going to get to the point to where you’re pretty confident. 

Like when I work with Netflix and this is public information but they educated Wall Street to look at their retention number as the single most important metric because most of the time you’re encouraging Wall Street to look at your acquisitions new customers year-over-year, new stores, news footprints, new this new that. But in the membership model retention matters at as much as if not more. And a lot of companies are really financially focused so they do all the numbers and they say things like, well let’s see if people today pay $50 per transaction and they average 1 and 1/2 transactions per year and we have $100 per year subscription that means that we’re making $25 more per customer. So we should do that. And the question if they’re not asking is would anybody switch? Is it a better deal to get the subscription then to get one and a half products per year? Does that make sense?

Will Bachman: No sure like who would do it?

Robbie Baxter: But it’s amazing that they don’t ask. Well what customer, like,  would will buy that? Would Will say instead of buying two books a year from the bookstore he would like to have access to a library of books that is 25 miles from his house. And you’d say well gosh I can’t imagine that Will is going to drive 25 miles every few weeks to get a book from the library even if it’s cheaper than buying two books. I just don’t see that happening. That’s the kind of logic that’s just missing at a lot of companies.

Will Bachman: So Robbie I wanted to get back to one thing and you said earlier which is that your practice has shifted from more traditional consulting project work to more advisory and could you paint a picture of what that looks like in practice?

Robbie Baxter: Yes so the way that project look when my work is more advisory is there’s a combination of work days or workshops where I come into the office and we go through some of the big areas that they’ve been working on or think about and periodic meetings. But I’m playing more of the roll let’s say of a, if I think about traditional consulting, the partner on the team who says okay let’s see where we are. What do you have right now? Let’s look at the story. And then they ask questions and look for gaps and maybe give a little bit of framework for the team to say okay you know what we haven’t really thought at all about segmentation of the market or we haven’t really thought at all. I’m sure that a board or an exact team would ask about this and we haven’t thought about it. So that’s really important to add in here. I do that roll now. And instead of me having my own team of project leads and associates those rolls are being filled by employees of the company. 

Will Bachman: I’m sure you thought about doing that. What caused you to decide to stick to more of the partner level roll of going in at the advisory versus you probably had opportunities to hire some associates and engagement managers and run teams. Why have you decided to go with the more advisory type of service?

Robbie Baxter: So there’s two reasons. The first is I honestly believe it’s in the client’s best interest because if they do the work themselves they’re gonna use it and if I have a team do it off site then I’m really dependent on them buying into it at the presentation and kind of taking our outside advice. I’ve noticed a big change and when I work in this way I see the implementations happening in a much more active and engage way because by the time they were working with me they’ve already committed internal team. People are working on it. People are thinking about it. People are translating the idea into the kind of messy reality of the going concern of the organization. So that’s the biggest reason. 

I always try to sink like what’s the best customers best interest? What’s in my client’s best interest? If this were my company or my sister’s company how would I best help them? 

And then the other reason is that I never wanted to have a big firm. I’ve always wanted to be to really focus on being kind of a subject matter expert as opposed to being a manager of teams.

Will Bachman: And then this approach allows you to do that and maybe in some ways it’s also less stress so you’re not trying to manage a team.

Robbie Baxter: That’s exactly it. I do not want the stress of managing a big team so that being said I don’t want to go into the company and be a contract manager. I’ve done that. I’ve done interim CMO jobs where I’m  physically inside the company sitting at a desk and managing people who have jobs and doing progress reviews and some cases. That’s not a role that I enjoy as much as really focusing on strategy.

Will Bachman: Let’s turn to a topic of how and independent professionals that are listening my apply your insights to their own practices. As opposed to helping their clients sorts of these things, you get some examples in your book like the nail salon set up a membership program. What about independent professionals do you have some thoughts around that?

Robbie Baxter: Yeah, absolutely. When you think about the work you do, if you think about it as what are you solving for them what objective are you helping them to achieve and is that something that’s for a point in time or is that an ongoing need that they have? So let’s say that you are a subject matter expert on retail for example. You can come into a retailer and help them think about their omni-channel strategy or something because you have expertise and you’ve worked with lots of different retailers and you can bring it and do the project for them but that’s a moment in time. You can write reports or do surveys and research and syndicate that research to your members and have lots of retailers that are members that get access to your research or your point of view or your white papers. You can hols events. I’ve seen a lot of consultants in the last 5 years, independent consultants, put together their own conferences or summits or mastermind groups where they bring together people from different companies that have the same problem and the same issues. 

So one big scale example is last year, I guess, I spoke at Brian and Company’s NPS forum. So they have senior customer success person or person that runs the retail organization or the support organization and I know they do big Consulting projects around NPS but they also have this ongoing community that meets periodically and brings in different experts. Thought leaders, practitioners, and they actually are building relationships among themselves like trusted relationships across companies. And from an outsider’s perspective, they’re taking the consulting relationship which is often very transactional. You come in to do a project and then you leave and then a year later they call you for a different project and you’re kind of smoothing it out and having thins more of drum beat cadence to your interactions with them and actually building community where you’re the umbrella bringing together that community.

Will Bachman: So building relationships even among current or potential clients.

Robbie Baxter: Yeah. Exactly.

Will Bachman: And by the way. NPS. What’s?

Robbie Baxter: It’s net promoter score. 

Will Bachman: Ah there we go. 

Robbie Baxter: Fred Reichhield, who I think is a partner at Brain, really kind of set the tone  for this idea of a net promoter score. It’s a very simple calculation that basically asks everybody who uses your product or service, would you recommend this? And the people who would promote you get a high score and if they would not promote you then it’s neutral and they would detract, say something bad about you they’re a detractor and so there’s a little simple calculation. And the idea is that one metric can serve to guide an entire organization and a lot of organizations have spent millions of dollars to build out that net promoter system throughout their organization where they track that number and then they ask for supporting information from the detractors and then they fix those things. And they look at the promoters and they try to find other people like those promoters and it becomes a core guiding principle.

Will Bachman: Thanks for bringing me up to speed on that one. You mentioned earlier that after the book came out that you had this daily routine where the first thing that you were thinking about every day was, how am I my marketing the book today? Could you talk about what your daily routine looks like now? In particular do you have a morning routine things that you always try to knock out first thing in the day?

Robbie Baxter: So I wish that I could say yes I’m very disciplined Will but I’m not as discipline as I’d like to be. What I do on my best day is I get up early. I meditate for 15 minutes. I do my sort of family routine. Breakfast and then my daughter walks to school my other daughters in college but my son I still drive to school. Then I go to the gym and then my head is really clear and then I sit down and I have from the night before the three most important things I have to get done. And I bang through those and then I do anything else that I have time to do is gravy. So checking email and you know anything else is gravy. So 5 o’clock the day before or 4 o’clock  or 6 o’clock or whatever I kind of clock out I try to say, tomorrow if I get these three things done it will be a successful day and anything else is gravy.

Will Bachman: That’s really interesting I think I’ve heard other very successful people doing this Josh Waitzken then comes to min. How long have you been doing that habit of the night before coming up with three most important things for the next day and what kind of benefits do you see from that of practice from doing it the night before?

Robbie Baxter: So I’ve been doing it since I was writing the book where I would say tomorrow I’m going to write this section of the book. I’m going to email these 10 people and ask them if I can interview them and I’m going to whatever the third thing was. I’m going to take care of my client. That’s probably what it was. I still have clients and still had a job. So that was when I started it and what I noticed was it was very comforting to me. Like it was a good closing ritual to say okay I don’t have to do these things but I know what I’m going to do tomorrow so I don’t have that feeling of a thousand things floating in my head all night that I need to do. I’ve already looked at my list and said these three things if I do them tomorrow I don’t have to worry that I’m letting any balls drop. I think it’s really helpful that night so I can really turn off and go be with my family or friends or kind of recover from the day and then in the morning I know what I need to do. And kind of somehow over the course of the night I I settle in and get focused on it.

So if I say like right now I’m working on some courses but I’m developing for lynda.com. And so the way that works is you write the script and then when all the scripts are written and approved then you go down to Santa Barbara to their studios and you film them and so the night before I’m going to write I’ll say I’m going to write. You know, like I’m working on a customer success one, so I’m going to write about my scaling your customer success practice. That’s one script that I have to write and then I’m going to write the script on how other trends play into the current obsession with customer success. So I had those in the back of my mind so the next morning like some ideas have percolated and I’m ready to go.

Will Bachman: It’s kind of like your brain is working on it overnight a bit as well.

Robbie Baxter: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Will Bachman: I’m interested at how many successful people are doing some kind of mindfulness practice. Could you talk a little bit about your meditation practice? How long you been doing it and what approach you take?

Robbie Baxter: So I’ve been doing pretty vigorous yoga practice since my second daughter was born. So she’s 16 and pretty much for 15 years I went 3 times a week to yoga. Never less than twice a week. And sometimes four or five times a week. So I’ve been doing the yoga for 15 years and the Bikram Yoga that I do is kind of very meditative because you do the same thing and every practice for 90 minutes. It’s exactly the same wherever you go in the world every single time. 

And when I don’t do that I do 10 or 15 minutes. I don’t do it very long. And I kind of set a low bar but of just quieting the mind like a breathing practice. Breathe in hold it. Breathe in for 4, hold it for 4, breath out for 4, Hold it out for 4 and J to just let the thoughts float away. So it’s just something that works for me and I find that when I do that in the morning I feel like I’m at the top of my game. It’s not like oh I’ve meditated and now I’m at the top of my game. But those days tend to be good days. At the end of the day I might make a note what’s this a good day it’s like yeah it was a good day. I felt really happy all day. I banged out my work I had a big meeting you know. So I found that it does lead to a lot of other good things I don’t know why it does that but it does.

Will Bachman: And I hear that from so many people. That’s kind of reinforcing that message. I love your book. Are there any other books that you’re often recommending to folks?

Robbie Baxter: Yeah lots of books. One that really love, that I just read is Radical Candor by 10 Kim Malone Scott. I think the tag is how to be a kick-ass boss. As somebody who’s not anyone’s boss but does a lot of communicating and has a lot of relationships with clients and colleagues and so on, I think it’s a fantastic book to just think in a different way about how to give feedback in a really direct way with empathy. So that’s one that I think is really great. A book that I wish I had written is Free by Chris Andersen. A brief history of radical price. That’s great book about pricing and how to think about free and premium and free trial which are all things that I think are especially important right now. And Groundswell which I love. Which is all about how communities work and how word-of-mouth works and how some people are lurkers and other people are create the contents and the different roles that people play in a community and getting a message out. Those are three books that I found really useful that I recommend all the time.

Will Bachman: Fantastic. Those are three books that I’ll admit I have not read but they all sound fascinating. So I will add them to my shelf. They sound good. I see your times coming up her. For Folks that wanted to obviously they can read your book get it on anywhere where fine books are so sold. Membership Economy but if they wanted to get in touch with you for potentially a consult or speaking engagement what’s the best way to find you and get in touch?

Robbie Baxter: So my email address is on the last page of the book rbaxter@peninsulastrategies.com. You can go to membershipeconomy.com or you can go to my Consulting side a peninsulastrategies.com. I’m really easy to find just google Robbie Kelman Baxter you should be able to find me.

Will Bachman: Fantastic will Robbie thank you so much for joining I really enjoyed our conversation. I learned a ton and it was just so fantastic.

Robbie Baxter: Oh so nice of you to say. It was fun to talk to you Will.

Will Bachman: Thanks for listening to this episode of unleash the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top-tier independent management consultants. The mission of Umbrex is to create opportunities for independent management consultants to meet share lessons learned and collaborate. I’d love to get your feedback in hear any questions that you like to see us answer on this show. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com. That’s U-M-B-R-E-X dot com. 

If you found anything on the show helpful it will be a real gift if you would let a friend know about the show and take a minute to leave review on iTunes Google play or Stitcher and if you subscribe our show will get delivered to your device every Monday. Our audio engineer is Dave Nelson. Our theme song was composed by Gary Nebaur and I’m your host will Bachman. Thanks for listening. 

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