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Stan Phelps, Founder,

As a professional speaker and author on the subject of marketing, Stan Phelps knows how to tell great stories - and this interview is no different! Take a moment to grab a coffee and read about the serendipitous conversation that led Stan to where he is today, plus his thoughts on what 51% of a marketer's time should be spent doing.

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

My journey as a professional speaker began in 2008. I started writing a blog called 9 INCH marketing. Nothing personal (unfortunately) with that title - those nine inches refer to the average distance between the stem of your brain and the top of your heart. The journey from the brain to the heart of your customer is the longest and hardest nine inches in marketing.

In that first year, I blogged about 50 different marketing-related topics. I was searching for what I thought would be a game-changer in marketing and business. During that year, I experienced a "moment of truth" in New York City that changed my life and focus. It was a summer evening, and I was with a work colleague, Brad. We were at a trendy New York rooftop bar - one of those places in Manhattan where a bottle of beer is 15 bucks.

We were waiting to meet a few people before heading over to a networking event. I noticed an older gentleman sitting on his own across from us. As the minutes passed, it became obvious that he was waiting for someone. After half an hour passed, I decided to strike up a conversation.

I leaned in and jokingly asked the man, "Do you know that we spend 10 per cent of our life waiting?".

I assured him I knew this was true because I once had read it on the internet. We laughed and then started talking about the etiquette of waiting. I stressed the importance of being on time. Right then, the old man shook his head and said something I'll never forget:

"There is no such thing as being on time. In fact, being on time is a myth," he said.

Wait a second, I thought. I've been on time before. He waved his finger at me Dikembe Mutombo style and asserted, "No. Being on time is a fallacy. In life, you are either early...or you are late. No one is ever on time."

This was a complete paradigm shift for me. I went home that night and started thinking about how this applies to business. My mind immediately linked this to marketing and meeting customer expectations. I've always believed that the idea of simply meeting expectations was a surefire recipe for disaster. It almost guarantees you will fall short.

I walked away from that brief conversation with a new conviction. Too much attention was being placed on awareness and acquisition in marketing. I believed that successful businesses would need to find the "little things" to maximize the customer experience. This conviction would lead to my first book Purple Goldfish, and I began getting asked to speak. In 2012 I made the jump to be a full-time author and professional speaker.

What kind of work does your role involve?

I work with organizations that want to increase loyalty, drive sales, and promote positive word-of-mouth by creating differentiated experiences. As an author, keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator, my in-person and virtual programs stand out in a sea of sameness because I model my own message of differentiated experience (DX).

I leverage my unique collection of more than 5,000 case studies on customer, employee, and brand experience to engage audiences with practical ideas that inspire action.

What gets you excited about your industry?

I love the world of professional speaking. I get the opportunity to challenge audiences to think differently. Helping them explore new opportunities to be more successful in tomorrow's changing world. My goal is to empower audiences to take action that delivers bottom-line results.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The best advice I've received was to "never complain." My mentor reasoned with me, "Your friends don't need to hear it... and your enemies won't believe it."

How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?

I serve as a board member and mentor as part of the Carolinas Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?

Each year I attend "INFLUENCE," the annual conference for the National Speakers Association. I also read books and listen to podcasts.

What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?

One of the most challenging projects was my first book. For some reason, I decided to crowdsource 1,001 examples as part of the writing process. I should have taken the advice that someone once gave me about cross-country skiing. They said, "If you ever decide to try cross-country skiing, you should probably start with a small country!" It took me over two years to collect over 1,000 case studies.

You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

Probably step outside of the office more and look down more often.

How do you switch off after a day at work?

I like to get out and walk and play golf. Mark Twain once referred to golf as "a good walk spoiled," but I find it is a great way to switch off.

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

My background and what I speak about is marketing. My one wish would be for marketers to focus at least 51% of their time, effort, and resources on the experience they provide for customers... instead of focusing on interrupting prospects.

What book or podcast should everyone know about?

One of my favourite books is "Uncommon Service" by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss.

How should people connect with you?

[Editor's Note: If you're in marketing, you need to take a look at this article on what you can learn from Korean TV Dramas]

**Ever wondered what kind of leader you are? Take our free quiz to find out.


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