Truth Telling From The Trenches With America's Expert Talker and Sports Broadcaster Jen Mueller
Jen Mueller, is rarely at a loss for words. She pursued a career in sports broadcasting after repeated comments of “talks too much” from teachers and family members.
An 18-year sports broadcasting veteran, Jen currently serves as the Seattle Seahawks sideline radio reporter. She is also part of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team on ROOT Sports.
In addition to her work on the sidelines, Jen launched Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and teaches business professionals how to improve communication skills and leverage sports fandom in business. Jen’s third book, The Influential Conversationalist was published in October 2017. The book outlines ways to demonstrate leadership potential in daily interactions.
Where is your business located?
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Several years ago I was approached by a group of women at KPMG who wanted shortcuts on how to make sports useful for them at work. They had witnessed their male counterparts entertaining potential clients at sporting events, seen those potential clients become clients and discovered their male counterparts were making more money and more influential inside the company as a result of bringing in these new clients. The women who approached me were every bit as talented, but they were unsure of the sports connection.
I was asked to present material that would help the women who were already sports fans leverage that fandom in conversations and client meets, as well as, provide ways for the non-sports fans to get up to speed in an efficient and practical way.
As I developed the content for that first presentation I realized it wasn't just this group of women who could benefit from the material. Nor was it just women who could use ways to make sports useful in their work environment. That realization sparked Talk Sporty to Me, the first of my three books and a different way to view business communication.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Smell the coffee. I am a morning person and I love getting up and hearing the coffee pot kick on. I wait until I can start to smell the coffee before I get out of bed and then I'm off and running for the day.
I've had the same morning routine for about 20 years and it includes getting my workout in, having a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper (or at least a couple articles from the sports page.)
What does your work day look like and how do you maximize your productivity?
Because Talk Sporty to Me is a side-hustle compared to my full-time job as a sports broadcaster most of my business activities take place at the very beginning and very end of the day.
I usually sit down at my computer about 7:30am send emails on my to-do list and write what ever blog posts, presentation materials or client articles that need completing. I'm most creative first thing in the morning and if I don't capitalize on the hours between 7:30-11am I'll be struggling to find the creativity and inspiration I need to create content.
I go into the TV station at different times depending on the sports season (baseball versus football) but usually switch gears around 11:00am. During the baseball season I'm often covering games until 10 or 11pm.
I've found the key to maximizing productivity is blocking time for specific activities and not putting things off.
When you work in television you have no idea what the next day will bring like breaking news, equipment issues, or a last minute schedule change. I try never to put something off that can be done today. That goes for my job as a sports broadcaster and as a business owner. I've learned that just doing the things I'm supposed to do adds to my producitivty because I'm less stressed and not as worried about how I'm going to get it all done.
When I block time on my calendar I keep like with like. As in, I'm not bouncing back and forth between subject matter or activities. For example, I have time blocked specifically to write my blog and then time blocked specifically to write presentation notes. I'm not trying to multitask with multiple documents open on my desktop.
Also, I note exactly how long that block of time lasts when I'm writing up my to-do list for the day.
How do you bring your great business ideas to the world to serve your clients?
As I've mentioned, I like to write and I'm good at creating content. Many of my ideas were first presented in one of my books which then become the basis for my keynote presentations and trainings.
What is one trend in business that excites you?
I'm excited at the number of people taking control of their career choices. As in recognizing that it's unlikely you'll work for the same company for 20+ years, planning for what comes next and knowing it might be a non-traditional career path. I've seen many people in the broadcasting industry get displaced and now there's a great awareness that you need to make a plan for what's next. I'm inspired when I see people finding ways their skillset correlates to other jobs and industries that become their next big opportunity.
What is one strategy that helped you grow your business?
Being consistent. It sounds simple, but it's really challenging, especially in the early days when I didn't have a whole lot of support and no one was clamoring for what I did.
I've learned that takes at least six years to become established in a community to the point where people can't remember that community without you. It takes a commitment to consistently showing up.
I have posted a weekly conversation starters blog post every Monday for 9 years. It doesn't matter how many people looked at that post in the first one to two or even eight years. Yes, there's good content. Yes, it's beneficial content. But more importantly it shows that I am willing to show up every single week. And showing that you're in it for the long haul develops trust, rapport and has helped grow my business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have had plenty of failures and I'm sure there are many more to come, but what sticks out most to me is the amount of money I spent in the first couple years of the business. I thought I needed all sorts of "stuff" that I didn't really need, and the thing I did need - a website - is what I skimped paying on and ended up having it redone and spending twice as much on getting it right.
Overcoming those early failures was a matter of realizing two things:
1. I had no money in the bank account to spend. In addition when I got my tax returns back I realized I'd also spent $30,000 that could have gone into a savings account somewhere.
2. There was no shortcut. I couldn't hire people to make me successful. I couldn't take a bazillion classes and become rich overnight.
There is no substitute for time spent diving into your business
and just working at it.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to this community?
Showcase your skills by taking advantage of a conversation loophole. When someone asks, "How are you?" instead of responding. "Fine." "Good." or "Great! Thanks for asking!" Insert a response like this, "I'm great because I just brought a new client on board after several weeks of discussions." or "I'm fantastic after speaking to a great group of ladies at a leadership conference today."
I call them success statements and it's a natural way to showcase your skills, talents and accomplishments in conversations we have every day - without bragging.
What is the best $100 you have recently spent? on What? Why?
I hate to say shoes, but I'm going to say it anyway. It's not that I'm such a fashionista that I love shoes, it's that I'm on my feet all day walking around baseball parks or football practices and I need "practical heels" that can be dressed up or down, walked in and stood on for several hours at a time. I found a great pair at Nordstrom Rack and my feet are happy!
What is one piece of software or app that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I am a frequent user of Trello which is a storyboard type program. It great for organizing my blog and newsletter content and seeing my editorial calendar. I've got everything I need in one place and it saves me a lot of time in knowing what I'm writing about and when it needs to be posted.
What is the best business book you have read? Why?
I enjoy anything by Malcolm Gladwell because he causes me to look at problems and problem solving differently. I particularly enjoyed "Outliers" and his concept of the 10,000 hour rule which is when you put in 10,000 hours at anything you can become an expert.
It goes back to realizing there's no shortcut to success and knowing that if I'm willing to work hard I can get to where I want to go.
What is your favorite quote?
"Every job is a portrait of the person who did it.
Autograph your work with excellence."
I don't know who it's attributed to, but it came out of a devotional book I received in college and it's stuck with me ever since.
Who inspires you in business and why?
My father retired as a CEO a couple years ago, but still holds a few leadership positions. As a kid, I didn't always understand his decisions, demeanor or stress level, but looking back I realize how hard he was working to get into a management role and how great he was at being present for family time.
The way he processes information is incredible and I really enjoy when he walks through his decision-making process with me.
I'd be hard-pressed to ever match what he's accomplished in his career, but I'm inspired by watching what he's done, how respected he is and how he treats others.
What are your thoughts on work-life balance?
I don't think there is such a thing. I frequently remind people there are seasons in life. Right now it is my season to work. This opportunity won't always be here. As a sports broadcaster I won't get to be on TV until I'm 55 or 60. That's not the way it works. In my business, I can't wait until I leave TV before I decide to start working hard at building a business.
Now is my season to work.
It's caused some tension at home because if you ask my husband all I do is work, but we have set some boundaries on time that we spend together. Saturday mornings are our time given that I work most weekend nights and when I'm home in the evening, I don't work on the computer when we're having dinner and relaxing together.
What are the 3 business lessons you’ve learned so far?
1. You can't be afraid of the numbers. I often joke that I went into journalism because I don't do numbers. Unfortunately that attitude led to poor spending decisions early in my business. It also leads to uncomfortable conversations when I'm tracking results now, but if you want your business to grow you have to know the numbers and not be afraid to dive in.
2. Consistency counts. You're not going to be an overnight success. No one is. Commit to showing up and being consistent with your efforts, whatever those efforts include and you'll grow a business that's sustainable.
3. I don't want to have employees. I've watched Shark Tank, I've talked to people who have to hire and fire employees. I want to run a successful business, but I do not want to be responsible for full-time employees. At first I thought that meant I wasn't a real business woman, now I realize it's just a different way of looking at what I want my business to become.
What is your workspace like?
Usually neat and tidy, unless I'm just starting a project. I like to see words on paper, so I print off a lot of notes and use sticky notes to organize my thoughts.
It's not uncommon for me to have 3-4 neat and tidy piles of paper around my desk while I'm in the middle of a creative writing binge.
In general, however, I keep my desktop clear, but my pens and paper at the ready.
Last thing you do at the end of your work day?
At the end of my workday I make a list of everything that needs to be done the following day. The list also notes what time I will be doing the task so I can stay on track and be productive.
If my workday ends after a late sporting event, I get the coffee ready for the morning and set the timer on the coffee pot right before I go upstairs.
What is the one thing you can't leave home without?
My cell phone is an obvious choice as I have no phone numbers memorized. Outside of that, I carry snacks with me every where I go. Perhaps it's being in TV and working goofy hours, but I am always tossing snacks into my bag.
What superpower would you love to have to use for good?
I used to want more hours in the day so I could get more done, then I took a flight back from Japan and with the time change you end up "repeating" the same day. I've never been so exhausted in my entire life.
Now I'd like to be able to turn water into wine. I'd always be the life of the party and I'd save money on my wine expenses. :)
Number of unread emails right now?
Anything else you want to add?
My only other piece of advice is this - Superheroes don't get promoted. It's the rock stars who get celebrated.
Here's what I mean - if you're trying to do it all in your business and you pride yourself on being a super hero, you are ultimately going to be the one that limits your success. You can't do it all. You will run yourself into the ground. I know you've got the skills to be a super hero but that's not the point. The super hero who saved the day doesn't get promoted, they don't even get to send an invoice for services rendered.
Rock stars, on the other hand, get to show up and be celebrated every single time they take the stage. And you know what they do every time they take the stage? The same show they did the night before, and the month before and in some cases, years before.
Commit to being a rock star. Show up and be celebrated for who you are in your business. Ask for help when needed and know that you're not in it alone.
How can other entrepreneurs connect with you?
Website: Talk Sporty To Me - sign up for weekly conversation starters!
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