Week 11 – Neil Godin

Neil Godin

Neil Godin, "The Turnaround Guy"

About 3 years ago, I used to go to a great monthly networking group called “No B.S. in Vancouver.”  The group is now defunct but what I really liked about the group is that they would bring in different business leaders to talk to us about their business successes.  That is where I met Neil Godin.  I remember him telling us stories about when he became “the turnaround guy’ during the recession in the 1980’s.  More recently Neil joined forces with Jonathan Christian (week 2) to start up a day social media challenge.  I have never met anyone who has Neil’s energy.  I guess it comes from his passion to help people.

Who is Neil Godin?

“Well, going back to my early history, I was raised I Maillardville, a little village in Coquitlam.  It was the only French Canadian community west of the Rocky Mountains.

“I’ll never forget, one day (when he was 10 years old) my brother and I were rolling around in front of our house and a car screeched to a halt across the ditch from our yard.  This fellow got out of the car and jumped our ditch.  He ran over to us and grabbed us by the scruff of our necks and said ‘that’s not how you roll.”  This was Neil’s first introduction to gymnastics.  Within 4 years, he became a Canadian gymnastics champion.  This story had more to do with his business than you would expect.  “All the schools around Coquitlam started doing gym and fitness in night classes.  I got into teaching when I was 14 years and I am still teaching today.”

“In high school I became president of the student council.  I certainly wasn’t the usual student.  I was an artist and a poet in high school.  Instead of going to university on a gymnastic scholarship, I was determined to go to art school which I did in Montreal.”

Then I asked him to tell me a bit about when he started his business.  He chuckled and told me  “It’s a long and twisted road.  I got out of art school in Montréal and came back to British Columbia.  I opened a teaching gallery in West Vancouver.  It was called The Village Art Centre.  It was a monumental failure and a tremendous success.  It was a teaching gallery so we had artists exhibiting but I also taught night classes and kids’ classes on the weekends.  It was a fabulous experience but I couldn’t make a living at it.  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do.  I was a writer.  Not a trained writer but an actual writer.  I decided that I would go into the newspaper business.”  With no formal training in writing, he convinced the managing editor of the Colonial Newspaper, Bill Hambly to let him write for them for free.  Neil became quite good reporter so after 4 months of writing for free, he convinced Hambly to give him a paid position.  Neil worked his way up from the lowest paid reporter to being the automotive editor, youth editor and business editor just to name a few.  When Neil started to get successful, he started working with a young fellow to help him get into the newspaper business.  After 5 years, Neil decided that it was time to move on.  He said to Bill Hambly,  “If I finish up on Friday, we have a bit of a party and (my young helper) sits in my chair on Monday, you wouldn’t even see a difference.  He agreed and that’s exactly what happened.  Richard Murray is still in the business today.  He’s the senior editor of the Vancouver Sun newspaper.  That’s when I hung up my shingle and started to become where I am today.”

On to the questions…

Raj Thandhi from Fronte and Sentre Communication asks; 

What is the one must read book for someone just starting their business? 

“You gave me a heads up that you were going to ask me that so I thought about it long and hard and I have to be honest with you.  It’s my book.  It’s called Selling in the (Comfort) Zone.  You want to be in the zone, which means being really tuned into the person that you are working with but it’s go to be in the comfort zone.  In other words your comfort and your prospects comfort.  If people would read my book and you really take the principles and practices to heart, you are unstoppable.  It’s loaded with everything that I have learned so far. ”

Alan Brown of Second Level Communications asks; 

How important is Social Media to your business and why? 

“Social media is gaining in importance almost daily.  For example the new developments at Google Plus make it a really valuable tool for just about any business.  Some people argue that a lot of businesses are really successful  aren’t touching social media.  And that is still true, but why not give yourself a competitive advantage?”

Jason NitroMan of Nitro Lube asks 

Was money the motivator to start your business?
If not, what was?

“No doubt, money was a motivator.  I was doing so well (at my side marketing business) that I couldn’t imagine staying in the newspaper business.  I had gone to the top of the payroll heap after starting at the very bottom.  And I was starting to feel like I have done it all.  I get antsy, so I really feel it was time to move on.  The money was part of it.  I’ve never been really wealthy but I like to be comfortable, to be flexible, to be able to do things.  I loathe financial anxiety.  So when I started, money was a motivator but not so much now.  Something happened with that recession back in the 80’s”

In Conclusion…

My time with Neil was really informative and entertaining.  He is a great coach and a wonderful person.  I wish I could share with you all the stories that he with me but unfortunately I just can’t.  If you ever get the opportunity to meet with Neil, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity.  Thank you Neil


About KevenMcTaggart
I own a small business called Anything on a Clock. I started Anything on a Clock in 2007 when my son was about a year old.

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