Why do people say one thing and do another? What really drives behavior?
How does the brain actually work – and how can we best communicate with it? What does that mean for companies?
Melina Palmer, host of The Brainy Business Podcast, has dedicated her career to seeking answers to these questions for herself and her clients.
The first individual to graduate from the University of Washington’s Global Honors Program with a degree in business, her senior thesis was presented at the Association of Consumer Research Symposium in Hyderabad, India.
A lifelong learner, she went on to pursue a Master’s in Behavioral Economics from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology conducting a research project on improving savings behaviors using simple nudges. A Filene i3 alumna, she loves to bring innovative practices to organizations and help bring BE concepts from academia into application.
At The Brainy Business, Melina works with companies and entrepreneurs to understand the small changes that can make a big difference in product programs, pricing, change initiatives, branding, internal communication, and marketing messages “brain friendly” to increase engagement and ROI.
Where is your business located?
Where did the idea for your business come from?
When I started my master's, I quickly realized there were two huge gaps in the field of behavioral economics - 1) the field was incredibly academic, so concepts stopped with the learning and did not translate into applicable steps, meaning and 2) people do not know about it or why it is so incredibly important in their businesses!
I found myself uniquely able to talk about these concepts in a way people can understand and apply, making their messaging more brain friendly and having huge results on their efforts (often for very small changes)!
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
I check my podcast stats! I am super obsessed with the number of downloads because it is so exciting to see who is listening, where they are from, which episodes have the most downloads...maybe it will get to be boring at some point, but I hope not!
I love that people are receiving the information and sharing it and hungry for more, so checking those stats is something I do several times throughout the day. Maybe I'll go check now... ;)
What does your work day look like and how do you maximize your productivity?
My work day is currently a bit of a hodge podge. I am working toward a more set schedule of when I take virtual strategy calls, when I am planning/recording episodes or working on my business, but things are pretty volatile at this moment. Because I just shifted the brand and am in the midst of a new website and generating interest in the podcast (and wrapping up my master's) I am having to be flexible. I typically set a list of the items I need to get done and prioritize that and go through in order as best I can (trying to not get too distracted by things like podcast stats and social media sharing).
How do you bring your great business ideas to the world to serve your clients?
The number one way is with The Brainy Business podcast. New episodes come out every Friday and there is a lot of social sharing around that - gaining followers, likers, listeners, subscribers, etc. I also do a lot of public speaking around the country, which helps gain exposure as well.
What is one trend in business that excites you?
People starting to learn about behavioral economics! The field is so amazing and important. To me, the brain is really the last frontier - there is so much we are learning every day, and by applying those lessons into business messaging? We are going to be able to have so much more impact in business and I can't wait to see how it all turns out.
What is one strategy that helped you grow your business?
Networking and being genuinely interested in people/friendly. When I started my business, it was 100% on referrals - and it ran that way for several years. Now that I have the podcast, there are some people who are finding me through that, but I would still say 90%+ of my business comes from people I know and have met at networking events or when I am speaking at conferences.
I recently had a conference in Arkansas reach out to book me because of a referral from a conference I spoke at in Ohio, and a marketing agency on the east coast who wants to bring me in for special projects with their clients - based on a referral from someone who heard me speak at a credit union conference in San Francisco.
You never know who you are going to meet, and how things will come together, but I have found being genuinely interested in people, not always selling them things, and being passionate about what you do pays dividends you can't even begin to imagine.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In a previous business, I started the company with a partner and there were a lot of verbal agreements. Let's just say that did not end in an ideal situation - get everything in writing and signed. Seriously.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to this community?
I have always said I think places where you get your oil changed should have a manicurist on staff or next door (or perhaps a massage place) so you can get your nails done while the oil is being changed on the car. They take about the same amount of time and it is much better than watching whatever boring thing they have playing in the lobby.
What is the best $100 you have recently spent? on What? Why?
My podcast microphone. It plugs into my computer via USB and it makes the sound so much better than it would be otherwise. Having a professional sounding podcast (I use the mic for live videos and virtual strategy sessions with clients as well) is so key. If people were to tune into the podcast and it had feedback or had an amateur vibe I know their subconscious brain would shut down quickly - I don't want that to keep people from hearing the message they really need.
What is one piece of software or app that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I love Stormboard. it is a virtual bulletin board you can share with other people and use live, it has all sorts of templates for different types of strategy planning, and it is super awesome. I use it with clients and for my own business and would recommend checking it out. You essentially have a bunch of post it notes you can move around the board, color code and link together - you can also include videos or photos. It is pretty cool for virtual work.
What is the best business book you have read? Why?
A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger. It is all about the importance of asking good questions and how innovation comes out of the pursuit of the right question instead of just trying to find the right answer. I recommend it to everyone (and even dedicated episode 4 of the podcast to its learnings) - and the bonus is it is fun and engaging to read or listen to (I am a fan of audiobooks myself).
What is your favorite quote?
It's a song lyric, and it actually inspired the original name of my business.
"I'm through accepting limits 'cause someone says they're so.
I think I'll try defying gravity." - Wicked (The Musical)
Who inspires you in business and why?
So many to choose from! I am going to go with Ellen Degeneres because she has built such an amazing brand and helps so many people by being herself (even when it cost her career for a long time). I find her story to be incredibly inspiring and I love her humor. You can tell she loves what she does and she really cares about people, and she is all about living your truth while spreading joy, which I love and aspire to do as well.
What are your thoughts on work-life balance?
It is a constant struggle. As with anything, I think it needs to be looked at through a wider lens. It can't be about each day or minute, but it needs to be about the whole picture. I have a huge vision for this business and I am so excited to see what it can become, but it will involve a lot of travel and demands on my time. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who gets it and is with me every step of the way. We talk and plan a lot, and know that me traveling means I will not be home every night, I can't always be here for bedtime with the littles and I might need to work through a weekend, but when things are important, they will be on my calendar and I will not miss them. My dad is a pilot, and he was gone a lot when I was a kid, but it was normal to me. Sure, there were soccer games or outings he was not there for, but it doesn't matter. There is not one important event - not one ballet recital or vocal performance - where he was not there. He made it to all the important things, and I knew that took effort, and that was how the balance was achieved. This is what I want in work life balance - an amazing business I am proud of, and a family who knows I love and care about them.
What are the 3 business lessons you’ve learned so far?
1) Do what you love and make sure the passion shines through.
2) Always have contracts.
3) Any limits you see are self-imposed. You can do and build and be anything, and the opportunities are so much bigger than you realize.
What is your workspace like?
Messier than I would like it to be! It is full of research papers and books to use as references in the podcast (or for schoolwork) and all the stuff I need for videos and podcasting (special light for video, microphone, iPhone tripod).
All the "stuff" is white and gold (my desk is beautiful with two gold stripes along it, I ADORE It). And, I have a gold octopus that always sits on the corner of the desk. I got it before starting the business full time because an octopus is my favorite animal and it is a nice reminder.
I also now have my purple brain around...which needs some sort of stand or podium so he can be more prominent in videos and things in the future.
Last thing you do at the end of your work day?
Cross things off my to do list, make sure there are no big task items I missed, follow up emails, and prioritize for tomorrow. And, of course, check podcast downloads - ha!
What is the one thing you can't leave home without?
My phone. Cliche, yes, but it is truly a must. I also pretty much always have business cards because I never know who I will meet and want to share the podcast with.
What superpower would you love to have to use for good?
I wish I could communicate fluently in any language (human or animal). I would like to be able to know I could talk to anyone wherever I am and always pick the right word, read hieroglyphics or old ancient languages, know what a dog is really thinking so I can help connect more people along with the past and present...that would be really great.
Number of unread emails right now?
Anything else you want to add?
When in doubt, Dr. Seuss knows best. I love his quotes and find them incredibly inspirational and motivating, so I will leave you with one:
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
How can other entrepreneurs connect with you?
Podcast: The Brainy Business
If you are reading this and are interested in being featured in the Truth Telling from the Trenches series - apply here.