B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1719 · 6 months ago

Professional Freedom Isn’t a Pipe Dream, with Chris Walker


In this replay episode, we catch up with Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, and he explains how realizing he already had professional freedom transformed his career.

What we talked about:

  • What professional freedom is and how to claim it for yourself
  • The fear you need to overcome to branch out
  • How to get support from leadership at your workplace

Conversations from the front lines of marketing. This is be to be growth. Hey friends, welcome in and excited today because it's Friday, which means we're sharing a throwback episode a and our feature conversation today is called professional freedom. Isn't a pipe dream. With Mr Chris Walker over from refined labs, great chat actually around just our personal, you know, kind of professional development and finding that level of autonomy that I know so many of us seek, even if you're not a founder or CEO, which many of us, you know, obviously aren't as a marketing show. But I know a lot of us desire that, that sort of freedom, and today's conversation is going to go there. Think it's one that many of us will grab something from. So love that that Chris shared his journey and that we can clean things from it. Okay, to housekeeping things before I send us to the featured conversation. First is I want to say thank you to everyone who's participated in our be tob growth audience survey. Takes less than five minutes. If you haven't filled it out yet, we would love to hear from you. Just go to be tob growth podcom and this helps us continue to get better, figure out what your liking about the show things. We can shift, change, morph and evolve. And again it's quick thing. Will send you twenty five as our way of saying thanks so much for participating and we're going to be drawing. You know, one lucky participants going to win two hundred and fifty dollars coming up real soon. Give you some some summer shopping spree money. So again, beatby growth podcom takes less than five minutes and we'd love to hear from you. Second quick thing is that we are in the process of figuring out the next stage of our segment. So we've been doing this thing Monday, Wednesday, Friday where we'd bring like a show and tell peace and I loved doing that. The last month or so, Dan just had a baby and emily's been on vacation. It's summertime, you know, you know how it is. So we're going to have some sort of show and Tel segment type stuff coming up that we're iterating on. But don't want you to just think that we tried it and now it's just disappeared into thin air. Some new format is coming and we're thinking about many things as we kind of go into to q three, which is shocking to say that here at sweet fish were jump it into q three. Anyway. All right, let's dive in. Today the throwback featured conversation. Professional Freedom isn't a pipe dream. With Chris Walker, enjoy as you build the skills, you build confidence in yourself and when you have the confidence that ends up leading to the ability to realize the freedom in the professional world. Well, welcome everybody to the Hashtag sale series on BB growth. I'm your shiny boy co host, Patrick Downs, and today I'm massively excited to be joined by Chris Walker, the CEO of refine labs. Today we're talking about professional freedom and an eagles somewhere crying out in the distance, and I have titled Today's Episode Independence Cast Day. I hope that plans. Probably not, but but, Chris, I would appreciate if you could not make fun of that and please have some Cordr Patrick, what's up? Man, really happy to be here. I am a happy panda doc customer. So was good too could be to be invited here. And and yeah, I mean I I have been an entrepreneur all my life. That was locked in a job running side hustles for the first half of my career and now feel very lucky, on the topic of professional freedom,...

...to be free to control my own destiny, to control my own compensation, to control the things that I do based on my core values, not on the values of other people that are have a higher title than me in an organization, to be creative and innovate and do things that I believe in the might not be accepted inside of companies. And so, for all those reasons, I just feel like in a really great place. It's not for everyone. Not everyone would be successful in a situation like this. A lot of people are a lot better employees and they are owners or entrepreneurs or full freelancers or however you want to look at it, which is fine as long as you recognize what's most important for you. And so that's a little little context. I appreciate that. And I was Ting through your post again and at one point you said I am free, like it came out of nowhere, like could just burst from the night. I was wondering if that happened while you were still working somewhere and you came to the conclusion that I actually do have control over actions and what I do, or if it was when you actually take go out on your own. Yeah, so it's been a it was a long progression. It will be. It will be a long progression for most people unless it's a very natural thing, which is you probably don't need to listen to this podcast. And so for me, at like twenty three, I always knew that I wanted to run my own business and work for myself. I was building e commerce stores in my bedroom at two in the morning on Saturday night and going to my job during the day because I like doing those things. At the beginning of my career I had a lot of student debt from a really good college that I went to that I'm grateful for, but I took on debt to do that. I wasn't in a financial position to make that leap. I also think, as I reflect on it, that I didn't have the skills that I needed in order to to do what I'm doing today. It required time. The first step in doing that was when I was around twenty seven years old, where I was in a job that I had reached a point where I wasn't enjoying it anymore. I was stuck. I couldn't innovate, all the things that I love to do. I wasn't able to do, which got me frustrated, and I think a lot of this will resonate with a lot of people, which is that I eventually looked at myself and I was like, why am I staying in this job that I don't like? I do not need to do this. I'm in control of this situation, and so if I'm in control and I'm accountable to this, I can either suck it up and continue to go to this job that I don't like and try and figure out if there's a way that I can change what's happening inside of that job to reflect to make me more happy, or if I'm not able to do that, I have the freedom to leave. Either freedom to leave, I have the freedom to go get another job, I have a freedom to go start my own company, I have the freedom to do anything that I want. I think a lot of people and I experienced this early in my career. It's like I didn't feel like I had that choice. I felt like I was stuck, and so it takes a lot of like time and skill development and confidence building and professional development to be in a position where you can, but you can get there. Everyone can. Did the realization happen before you had developed the skills and then you went head first into developing them even further? Was it kind of at the same time? So when I when I left that job, actually went into another one, and that change was the beginning process of me figuring out that I'm just not built to work for somebody else. I'm just not. I need the ability to do things that a lot of people think are dumb. Like I'm say this a lot, a lot of people will resonate. If I worked for somebody else, they would have shut down my linkedin in August of two thousand and nineteen before any of this happened.

And that's just the way it is and that's how so I need that space to do the things that I believe in that most people don't believe in at the time. And it's just a it's one, commit to whatever you're trying to do, if it's to work for yourself, it's to get better, it's to get a promotion, commit to it, do the things to build the skills that you need to be successful, and then, three, just go for it. But as you build the skills, you build confidence in yourself and when you have the confidence, that ends up leading to the ability to realize the freedom and the professional world. At least that's how it happened for me. Yeah, I hope that more people start realizing that, because a lot of people kind to me specifically about Linkedin, and almost every single person I've interviewed has been incredibly anxious before we started about like Hey, can you not ask questions about this? I don't want to talk about this, like I'm talking to like an a, this actor or something right there. That worried. I'm sure you runner that all the time, but I used to feel that way and then I just stopped giving a shit and I started posting stuff that like resonate with me and I got lucky enough that my company didn't care. But the reality is, though, that people do right. I mean I've never been in a situation where I've been reprimanded, but if you heard of situations like that, for sure, like whether you are reprimanded or because of the culture of the organization, you don't even post to have the opportunity to be reprimanded. I think most people fall into that position where it's just not not viewed in the right way from a company standpoint. Like for me to work in a company and then post about all the dumb shit that I see companies do would probably get me fired. Right. It's just the truth, and so I think a lot of people working companies where that type of behavior is frowned upon. Yeah, I mean even I did a like a session for my team on Linkedin and almost every single person said they felt like they couldn't be there their true self. Yes, on social media, it's true. Do you think people like in leadership positions have an advantage there, though, or it's like, all right, maybe they can do it, but people, and I see row maybe can't. I think at the surface I could understand why people would think that way, but I think if you look really deep it's not any different. I think it's more about the person that's the marketing manager how they subjectively feel and that prevents them from posting. But I think if you had two people that were posting the same stuff and the only difference was that their seniority was different, I actually don't think that it would be viewed differently from an internal perspective. From an external perspective, there's a different story, but internally, I'm not sure if any of my employees are listening to this. Please start posting steward shit. I'm likenke then to test his theory. Yeah, let's see what happens. It would be interesting. Yeah, I still be the clip to it like it's everything. So I was curious as well. On a point from your post. You had said that there were some decisions being made that did not align with your values and that you felt like you would have the ability to speak up about that. Is that something you did while you're working for other people? Yeah, whether they I mean, the most obvious one that comes to mind for me is in companies that do things that are in their best interest, knowingly not in the best interest of their customers, in order to hit their own goals, which does not align with the way that I see the world, and so I think that, if you think about it, there's a million permutations of something like that that could happen in the company that doesn't align with either values or strategic vision. Like I recognize it, a lot of people don't have the strategic vision that I have for and how I see the world. But, like my my vision is very much so misaligned with...

...a majority of venture back companies, and so it would be hard for me to continue to support an organization that doesn't align with the way I see the world. And so that's kind of like the realization that took me a pretty long time to get to, but that's where I am now. What does it sound like to start speaking up against that? Like if somebody did feel that land, and a lot of people do, but they don't say anything like. Is there a good way to go about that, to actually a net change? Yeah, I mean the easiest two ways that I've found to enact change in in an organization is the most the most important one is to remove your subjective opinion and put it in speaking in the words of a customer. And so if you want to get something done, like we should build this product, or we should do this instead, or we should adjust our pricing model, then I would run a non bias survey to customers. Non Bias mean you don't ask leading questions so that they tell you the answer that you want, like a real survey or qualitative or anything, and then go back to executive and say, Hey, I know you wanted to do x, Y and Z with the product, but here's what customers say. What do you think about that? So that's one that's one way that I found that work for all. The second thing is to back it up with just objective data, and so an example of that might be, you know, I know that we want to continue to generate all these leads we've been running. We've been doing this content syndication for the past thirty six months. We've gotten a hundred thousand leads from it. We've spent this much money. Fifty dollars a lead. So we spent whatever that is, five million dollars or something, if I can do the math in my head, and we got this much revenue and like the math, that doesn't seem to make sense to me. I'm thinking that we might want to take some of the money that we're doing over here that's non productive and move it to something like this. What do you think about that? And those are a couple ways that I think are good ways to approach it and not. What we're doing is dumb. You guys are not going in the right direction. I don't feel like that is the right way to approach it. And so yeah, those are some of the things that I've figured out more strategic and eloquent things, ways to approach it then when I was younger, because I know a couple people that feel the same way that, but they probably spend most of their time on that topic like scribbling it in a notebook or plotting revenge inside of their head. It's, instead of doing something about it. Well, why do you think that fear exist? Is it mostly just like I don't want to be a homeless person and that that doesn't exist in a capitalist society, or is there something greater there? I think it's hard to see all of the options when you're so narrowed in. Right, like when I was in some of those companies, one I had bills to pay, so I like couldn't lose my job, right. So even the idea of putting yourself in a position where you might is scary for people. And so it just goes back to the framework at the beginning. Commit build skills. Once you have the skills, you realize that the world is abundant, that if this company decided to fire you could go and get a job at a hundred other companies, or you could immediately go and take three contract roles and make twice as much money as you are in this one company, working part time. Like both of those things are more than possible. And so when you have those options, it then all empowers you to be more direct. That's the way that I've found that it works. And then the last thing that I'm thinking about is, like, when I was challenging the views, I took myself out of my role and I put myself in the what if I was the advisor to the CEO? What would I tell them then? And so it was always thinking of the best interest of the customer and the company, not about...

...what was in the best interest for me. And so when if you can remove that element as best you can and feel true to that, then what you're saying is the right thing to say. And yes, there will be instances where you're in the wrong company and you get fired for that and, to be honest, you wanted to get fired. If you get fired for doing that, it's actually a good thing. That's hard to see sometimes. It's like it's a hard thing to in art, but I agree. I mean, I think people limit themselves a lot. Thing that the word dust. I like. I'm just this. People wouldn't want to hear from me. I hear that all the time and I talked about Linkedin. Really, there's nothing I could say that someone else wouldn't say. I don't have any value to add. It's so common and some of the people saying that or that from the brightest people I know. And I'm like you talking about exactly what were you thinking when you were saying stuff like that? Like what was it coming from? Logic or was it just fear? Who's just like, look at this, I guy, Dave Garrehard. He's getting a million, ten million views on every post. Like there's so many people out here posting I'm not bringing anything new to the table. It's all bullshit. It's all bullshit. You tell yourself not to do something, it's just excuses, and so I've started to frame it in a different way in my mind. So, like every critical decision I've made in the last twelve months, I was scared because it was it was a critical decision because it was paving new ground in my life or my career. And when you're thinking about doing it, it's scary and then once you do it it's not scary. And so that's and it's if I had not made. There's probably like three or four key ones. By not made those decisions, I really don't feel like where I would be where I am today. Well, were those key decisions? The one that really sticks out into my in my mind is I had this thislike real feeling that if come an he stopped building stupid trade show booths and started doing field marketing events. But the field marketing event was an event to create content and bring value to the audience, not to drive leads that you could cold call them the next day. Then you could build an event. You could divide fifty people and you could have a thought leader there, you could interview them, you could take q Anda, you would make a ninety minute video and then the video asset becomes the value of the event, not the people that that show up. And so that was my theory. And then if a company was spending a million dollars on a trade show, then what if they, instead of doing a million dollars a year on trade shows, they only did three hundred and they spent the seven hundred doing these events, one a week across the country, and they would if they did one a week across the country, then they would theoretically have fifty two long form video assets they could then break down and create a ton of content. And so my my objective was to do one to understand what it what it was like. I needed it, to taste it so that and also to show the companies that I work for what good looks like. Instead of doing this, you could do this. Here's what the output is, here's what the Roy is, here's how you distribute the content, here's what to do, here's how much it's going to cost. Go get it done. And and so I had every I had everything I needed to do the event and Jock for on, which we did in January, which was amazing, and I had everything that I needed to make the decision. I knew how much the event was going to cost. I knew how much it was going to cost a fly the videographers there. I knew how much the video of editing was going to cost. On you, how much the food was going to cost. I had all in front of me. was like a Twelvezero bill and I was like, what if I say yes to this and then nobody shows up? It would be a huge waste. It would be a waste of money, I would embarrass myself in front of Josh, telling myself all these stupid things, and then it was sitting on my desk and one day I was just like fuck it, like we're doing this and I just in. It just came down to commit and then go and get it done, and forty...

...people showed up. We created an awesome video. It gave me the confidence to do the next one with Justin wells the next month and we would have done one in San Francisco and Austin, in Toronto and Boston and Chicago if this hadn't happened. We had them all lined up. That had to get canceled. And so, like now I'm ready to go and do those things that I was at one point scared to do. And I knew, I know for sure that the twelvezero spent drove in enormous sorrow. I and so first time I ever noticed you was that video with Josh. Know what it is? Yeah, I remember seeing because I love Josh, and I was like, Oh, who's this guy sitting next to him? Is Very nice hair. I should check them out. And so that, I mean, that is like the the key point, if a company's listening, to think about whether the idea of doing their trade show booth that a hundred fifty people stumble by when they're looking for coffee, versus doing something like that was someone that has fiftyzero followers in the exact target market. The year going after and doing the event and getting exposure to the people that already follow them and elevating your brand to where their brand is like. There's so many strategic reasons for the twelvezero investment to do the video and the whole event that I just find to be a better like event strategy. So that was one. That was one point when I was I had all the stuff, I was scared to make a decision. Made the decision. It turned out amazing. If it didn't turn out amazing, I would have learned a bunch of Shit. And so either way, like I think we even myself a very guilty of this, telling stories in your head that prevent you from moving forward. And that was when you're on your own. Right when you made that decision I had, I was me and one other person and the company. Yeah, so do you think you would have made that decision if you were like the head of marketing somewhere without a phone? I would have made the decision, whether or not I would have been allowed to make the decision as a different story, which is fascinating if you think about the head of marketing not being able to make that decision. It's fascinating, but it's true. And so I just when I think about some of these things, it's really interesting to frame it up like if you're the head of marketing, if it was your money, would you spend it? If it was your hundred thousand dollars, that you're building out that booth at the industry conference and you need to have a positive R why, to put food on the table for your family and send your kids to college, would you still put that hundred thousand dollars in that trade show? Would you do something different? I'm really curious because I would have to say that ninety nine point nine percent of people would not spend a hundred thousand dollars of their own money on that event and expect a Positi of Ury. Yet when it's not their own money, they love doing it. It's also just things that have been done in the past. They're just like repeating. You don't fired for building a trade a booth at a trade show for the one that you've been going for for the past twenty years. You don't get fired for doing all of the stuff that's accepted. DOING ABM to make it set to your organization feel like you're doing something innovative. But the paradox there's like all those things became standard because someone tried something new with the first place. So it's just such strange thinking. It's bizarre, man, but I'm glad that I saw you in that video. Yeah, that was like, Oh man, I was like Travis Kickers Walker. I like that guy. Jody was really smart shit that night he did. Yeah, he's a smart guy. It's funny when you put a camera at smart people, like a content comes out. Yeah, man. And so, like the thesis on this is you could go around to every city. There's a there's a Josh Broun, not exactly Josh Brown, but there's someone like Josh Brown and every in every major city, and you go around and collect that. Dave Gerhart and Boston, which is one that I have on the docket that would love to make happen. You know some peeple, someone in Austin, Texas. So when in Toronto, those are to get back to the original point, that's like one time where I felt felt scared to make a decision. That wasn't very scary, just like, just like posting the first time...

...on Linkedin. Yeah, guys, just post on like then. Just do it. I'm telling you, nothing bad's going to happen. Might actually so to end with scared in the audience. I think that's a good place. Chris, is there anything that you want to plug here on the plugs out, so if you liked what you're heard on this podcast or on this one, we host podcast called the stated Demanda and there's forty episodes up there. We're putting three to five up every week for people that are looking for a forward thinking, unique way to approach the man JEM and think about marketing. Would highly recommend that you check that out. There's a ton of different content types, a lot of detailed, both strategic and deep tactical work going on there. So I'd recommend that you check it out. I gotta check out the PODCAST. Honestly, that's going to be what I did this weekend. I think right on. I appreciate you being here, man, I really really do be. Tob growth is brought to you by the team at sweet fish media. Here at sweetfish, we produce podcast for some of the most innovative brands in the world and we help them turn those podcasts into Microvideos linkedin content, blog post and more. We're on a mission to produce every leader's favorite show. Want more information, visit Sweet Fish Mediacom.

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