Friday Interview: Peter Shankman, Adventurist and Entrepreneur
Posted on May 2, 2014
Typical Peter Shankman tweet: “For the love of all that is good…Stop telling people to ‘like’ you. Do REAL THINGS that make them LIKE YOU.” Shankman has made a name for himself for doing real (and sometimes totally wacky) things and inspiring people all over the globe to look at their brands and businesses in radically new ways. He’s started companies, written books and basically inspired people to be nicer, better and braver in their pursuits. I caught up with him briefly by phone this week, while he was waiting to hop a flight to Atlanta for one of his typically busy weeks. Here some excerpts from our conversation:
You’ve built an interesting career for yourself with four simple words: How can I help? Case in point: Your start-up Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which connected reporters like me with sources from all walks of life. Why is it difficult for brands and businesses to see the power of just helping someone to the best of their ability? And how are you helping them reconnect with the lost art of customer service with your new consultancy Shankman/Honig?
I think the key here is that some companies don’t realize that customers will give them more money if they don’t feel like they’re being sold to and if they feel helped. When people go out of their way to do little things for someone else, that’s huge…You have to think of the little things you can do to be decent. They’re so simple and the simple act of a smile can do a lot. I mean, think about how you’d like to be treated, or how you’d like your mother to be treated.
I have four rules for success with customers. They are:
1. Be transparent. If you screw up, own it and move on.
2. Be relevant. Give your customers what they want, how they want it and they will become invested.
3. Be brief. We don’t have tons of time in this world.
4. Stay connected. When you’re connected with customers, you’re front of mind, so they’ll go straight to you.
You started your first business poking fun at the movie “Titanic.” Your “It Sank. Get Over It” t-shirts made enough money to start your first company. You’ve masterminded or advised several other companies since then. How are you using that experience to help other entrepreneurs grow their businesses in your ShankMinds series? What sort of wisdom or guidance do entrepreneurs need most right now?
Entrepreneurs need to understand that the end customer needs to be the result. When you do all of these great things, like focusing on what the customer wants and what are they looking for and how you can make their life better, then everything falls into place.
You know, people came to this country looking for a better life and they wanted to have the freedom to build what they wanted in the way they wanted. When customers come to your store looking for something that can better their lives, giving it to them guarantees that they’ll stay.
With Shankminds, CEOs, entrepreneurs and small business owners spend a day looking at new ways they can take their businesses to the next level. They network with other people like them, who face the same challenges they face and who can help them come up with new ways to communicate, chat and do business. Because the thing is they can often be too busy to see what’s coming up ahead. Talking to other people can help you do that.
You’re a big skydiver, marathon runner and jack of all daredevil trades. How have these pursuits made you a better businessman? And why is it so important for entrepreneurs to eat their fears when they’re following their passion?
I believe that in a given day, I’m three bad mistakes in a row away from being a junkie in the streets. Doing things like starting a business give me the focus to do the right things. When we get afraid to do things we look toward things to satisfy us and those things aren’t always good. So it’s good to eat your fear, with things like starting a business or skydiving, for example.
You’re working on your fourth book now. Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s about?
It’s called Zombie Loyalists and it’s about having such amazing customer service that you’re able to turn your customers into zombies that will bring more customers to your store again and again and again. It’ll come out in Spring of 2015 with Palgrave Macmillan.
Now that you’re a new parent, how do you balance your business concerns with family life? What has been the most exciting or surprising thing for you about becoming a dad?
It’s family first, really. I still travel as much as I used to do, but I make sure that I do what I can to get home sooner. I’m more focused on how I can be home and present for my family.
One of the most surprising things about being a parent is watching how this kid reacts to me. I remember screaming at someone on the phone one day and to her I was just some loud guy with a red face. She thought it was funny. So it was a good reminder for me that there are some things that you just have to let go.
What else do you have on tap for 2014 and beyond?
It’s really all about having fun. I’m having fun right now.