Posts by: Laurie Ruettimann


The first season of Let’s Fix Work is wrapping up because I’m having gallbladder surgery. We’ve had some fabulous guests, including Scott Stratten of UnMarketing. Here’s the show if you missed it. The transcript is below.

Laurie: Hi everybody, welcome to, “Let’s Fix Work”. I’m Laurie Ruettimann. I’m really glad you’re here for today’s first episode with a guest. It’s a pretty exciting milestone in my life, although, I’m sure you’re busy with your job, and your crappy career, but I couldn’t be more pleased to talk to Scott Stratten today. I don’t know if you know him, you could find him anywhere on the internet under the moniker UnMarketing. But Scott and his wife, Allison, are on a mission, to get rid of mediocrity in marketing.

It’s interesting, it’s an interesting mission, but, you know, I don’t really care about that. I wanted to talk to Scott because he really hated work, it was broken for him, and his solution was to burn it all down and build it back up. In today’s conversation, we talked about Scott’s origin story. He offers advice on how you can burn it down and build it all back up again, and then finally, we just talk about work and life, and being decent human beings, and I think it’s a pretty good conversation.

What I think is also very interesting, is that Scott was so willing to be part of my origin story, my reinvention on this platform, and we had never met in real life. We’ve known of one another for over a decade, but we have never had a conversation until today. And I think you’ll see that prove out at some point, but I hope you enjoy this, and I’m really looking forward to your feedback, and I’ll be back at the end to wrap things up.

Female: Work is broken, so is the way you think about it. Host Laurie Ruettimann is breaking things down, so you can put them back together and make work something you can enjoy, let’s fix work together. With the, “Let’s Fix Work” podcast, here’s Laurie.

Laurie: Hey everybody, I’d like to welcome Scott Stratten, to the “Let’s Fix Work” podcast. Hello Scott, how are you?

Scott: I am fantastic, and the only caveat for this whole interview is I just don’t work. It’s gonna be a weird, weird thing for people, but I’m highly unemployable.

Laurie: That’s all right, that makes two of us, kindred spirits, that’s right. So, I have a history in my life of burning things down and building it back up, and I feel like your origin story is similar to mine. Some people hate work like I do, and dream of burning it all down and building it back up. And I thought maybe you could tell us a little bit about who you are, and how you came to be.

Scott: Sure. For me, it’s been a, you know, barely made it out of high school and barely made it out of college, but I could speak in front of a room, so that got me through it. I could wing it with the best of them, and I never got nervous, which is not a skill, it’s a missing synapse in my brain that, you know, it says, “Crap your pants, when you get off there,” but I used it to my advantage. Early on I knew two things, when I was 12 years old, I wanted to be a speaker, which is rare for a 12-year-old, to want to be able to be a speaker on stage.

I just saw Les Brown on TV and I’m like, “I want to do that, you know. You can go to yell at people and then go home, how do I do that?” And I realized part of that was gonna be training, training is the paid side of that type of stuff, and you get to talk to people. I knew I wanted to do that, but I also knew that training was under HR usually, and so, I also knew I loved, at the time, people, and sticking up for what’s right. You know, human rights or Employment Standards and all, that really meant a lot to me.

For my 16th birthday for Christmas, I asked for a textbook on the Employment Standards Act in Canada, and yeah, right? I got issues.

Laurie: Pretty nerdy, yeah. Yeah, right

Scott: Right, very nerdy I was, and so I went to college. I went to Sheridan College, which is just down the street from me now, for Human Resources, and, you know, I was late to class, but I would stay after class and talk to the professor about issues in HR and they’re just like, “What is this guy doing?” I went into the field, I graduated from Sheridan with HR. I was at Goodwill Toronto’s head office. I was an HR generalist, and I had to get out of it because I realized I didn’t like it at all, and I realized that HR, at least where I was, wasn’t about the people, it was about management and what they wanted.

Laurie: Did you ever feel as if there were an opportunity where you could have stepped in and made HR more employee-focused?

Scott: Absolutely.

Laurie: Was there any opportunity at all for you?

Scott: No. No. I wanted… I said I could make this better, and it was just nope, you will do what you’re told, you know. I remember we caught an employee stealing from the cash register at one of our stores, and you’re stealing from Goodwill, like, you know, you’re going straight to hell for this and…

Laurie: Or you’re super hard up and sad.

Scott: Right, right, either way, it’s a problem. And so, the manager called me and we split half the stores in Ontario, so I was half of them and my colleague was the other half and this is my store. She says, “What do I do?” I said,” Oh, we’re gonna terminate her,” you know, zero tolerance itself, but what people don’t realize is Goodwill here was unionized, the Teamsters Union. We had to go to arbitration and I drove to a, you know, three hours away, and did arbitration in some Ramada Inn somewhere, and the whole day we’re in it, my boss was there and I was there, and I’m totally… I had witnesses, I have the cash registers tape, I had everything.

At the end of the day, the lawyer for the Teamsters came up to us and said, “All right, 5,000 and she walks.” I’m like, “If she pays us 5,000, it doesn’t even cover our legal fees.” He looks at me and goes, “No, you moron, you pay her 5,000, she’ll drop the grievance and she’ll quit.” I’m like, “Not on your life,” and my boss said, “Do it.” And I turned to her I said, “What are you talking about?” She says, “Do you wanna go to our president of a non-profit and tell why we had to spend an extra $20,000 in legal fees and you could have settled it for $5,000?” and I’m like, “It’s the principle.”

She looks at me and goes, “There’s no such thing.”

Laurie: Wow. That is depressing.

Scott: And that’s when I knew, I couldn’t do it do what I wanna do, and that’s…I wasn’t in there to be a yes-man. I was there to affect change and make people want to work there even more, and that just wasn’t gonna happen. I went and looked for openings, and I knew I had to leave by that point, and I lasted two years and then I looked for a training job, and I got the job as a national sales training manager for a packaging company. I flew around North America, training people how to sell bubble wrap. I’m like, “If you think what you sell is hard…”

Laurie: Yeah, yeah , yeah. I’m an HR blogger, I know what I sell is hard, but bubble wrap is harder. How do you sell bubble wrap, like any tips?

Scott: I sold air, yeah. So I ran two-day trading schools on this crap, like, I was 16 hours of content.

Laurie: Wow.

Scott: Like, if you think you can fill time, you got nothing on me. I did that for two years and then Owen, who’s now 16, was about to be born, and I went to the president who called me Chris, for I don’t know why. And I sat down, I said, “I’m not gonna do this job. I’m not gonna fly around all the time over weekends to save the company money and all this, and then come in 5to work 40 hours a week. I’m a trainer, there’s only so much I can do in the office and I’ll keep doing this.” We had just won an award for the industry, like, it was going great, and I said, “My son’s being born next week, and I am not gonna be doing this.”

And he said, “I don’t think we’re ready for the telecommuting stuff, Scott,” so Chris…becoming Chris, I think, at the time and then…

Laurie: Wow, yeah, yeah.

Scott: And I said, “Okay, well, I’m done,” and I quit, and I had 64 cents in the bank, which is not an advisable cushion level for that.

Laurie: Wait, can I ask a clarifying question?

Scott: Yeah.

Laurie: Sixty-four cents in the bank and your son’s about to be born?

Scott: Yes.

Laurie: Okay, all right, so then what happens, because you just burned it all down, right?

Scott: Oh, yeah, so I burned it… So I had four months of parental leave that we have here in Canada and then that was it, and I said, “I’m not doing this anymore,” I wasn’t gonna be the absentee father, bringing home the bacon, but on the road and I didn’t want to. And Owen was born, and then… So when he was born…I was building up, I was already starting to get a roster of training clients. I would be the training company and…

Laurie: Oh, is that the dream, you’re gonna be the trainer for the stars?

Scott: Yeah, I was gonna have my own training company, and it was gonna be HR training, it was gonna be diversity training and all this stuff, and I knew there was a need for it, and then 9/11 hit, and I lost the three training clients that I had already started and much more obviously, so much more minimal than obviously what happened, but everybody was affected by it. It was just like, “Okay, you’re starting again, again.” And so I just started thinking, “Okay, what am I gonna do?” I made some viral stuff online, it blew up, which made me into an immediate keynote speaker, because of these motivational videos I made, they were slideshows, they’re terrible, but they worked at the time.

Laurie: Yeah, and what year is this? Because the internet was horrible back then.

Scott: Oh, God, yeah, this is 2002, 2003. Like, it was Flash-based and not all browsers even had Flash installed and we had a pre-loading screen with a circle going around.

Laurie: The good old days.

Scott: But it got big in the HR circles, so I started getting phone calls. I got one from Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort that said, “We don’t know who you are, but my boss says you have to come speak to us, so just send us an invoice.”

Laurie: All right.

Scott: Okay.

Laurie: The business is born, that’s amazing.

Scott: Yeah, so it blew up, and I started making the videos for other people and other speakers, and then I ended up making one for Les Brown, who I saw on stage, and I ended up speaking at his event.

Laurie: Can you tell our audience who Les Brown is, and what he means to you?

Scott: Les Brown is one of the top motivational speakers out there, he’s like The Godfather of motivational speaking, and although I’m not a motivational speaker, per se, he’s one of the epitome of speaking. This passion on stage, his drive on stage is just something that I’ve always admired. It went from me watching him on TV when I was 12, to standing on stage with him at his event, you know, way down the road. And at the time when I was graduating, I was part of the HR Association here, Ontario, and I was on the committee to book speakers, so I saw the other side of the table of the industry, and I was the speaker chaperone and stuff.

And then fast-forward, six years ago, I’m the keynote at that event.

Laurie: Amazing.

Scott: Its 5,000 HR people in the audience, and it was just like, “What?” you know, it was so cool.

Laurie: Comes full circle, yeah.

Scott: Yeah, and so now you get to where I am now, which is I ran the agency for seven, eight years of viral videos. And then recession hit, nobody was in the market for overpriced, glorified slideshows anymore, and I had zero business, and I just said, “What is this Twitter thing, what’s this Twitter thing? Let me try this, see how it goes.” Because I’ve always been about community and the online community and what that could do, and so I just started going nuts on Twitter. In January 2009, I tweeted 7,000 times in a month and I went from a 1,000 followers to 10,000 followers, and realized there’s something here.

And like anything in business, it’s all a combination of luck, timing, and skill.

Laurie: That’s right.

Scott: And I blew up, and I always knew if you want to make enough noise, people will come to you, and I’m good at making noise. The publisher who I earlier approached and said, “Why haven’t you written a book yet?” And I said, “Why haven’t you offered me a book deal yet?” And they said, “Touché.” And I started writing on marketing, and it was a train wreck of 40,000 terrible words, and Alison came along, who I met on Twitter, and we were talking at the time on BlackBerry Messenger, on BBM, and I said, “I’m screwed. This book’s due in a week and I got…it’s terrible,” and she says, “Let me a have you look,” and little do I know, she’s a phenomenal writer.

And she turned it into 60,000 beautiful words, and I sent a tweet in January of 2010 to my followers, and said, “The book is coming out in September, who wants me to come to their City on the on book tour? Pre-order 100 books, fly me there, and put me up and I’ll do it.” It was a speaking tour not a book tour. All these social media clubs did it, and American Marketing Association’s did it. The reason why you had to find me there and put me up, is I had no money.

Laurie: Yeah, I see this being still, yeah, all right.

Scott: I was dumb and I didn’t save, I didn’t market, I didn’t do anything and like I had nothing, and then I literally haven’t…after… So 30 cities signed up for it, 1 tweet.

Laurie: Okay, 1 tweet, 30 cities.

Scott: Thirty cities, half of those cities the people that put their hand up had never run an event in their life.

Laurie: Wow.

Scott: But they wanted to support the book and me, and honestly, no exaggeration, I haven’t stopped speaking since then. I’ve done 380 keynotes since then, it’s all I do now, for a living, I stopped consulting six seven years ago, I burned that down, because I hate it. I hate… I… I…

Laurie: Tell me what you hate about consulting, because I have killed my consulting business, mostly because I can’t stand to be around mediocre people, and I want more control over my day, so how about you?

Scott: Yeah, that’s… There you go. I was tired of helping other people’s businesses and them not doing anything with it.

Laurie: Yeah, they don’t deserve it.

Scott: No, and you know, back in those viral-video days and so when I was doing consulting then, we made one company $3.5 million in a week, over and above what they were making, so we increase the revenue which was the same as their annual revenue.

Laurie: Oh, my God.

Scott: And we got on a call the next week, so I was doing business consulting with them, and part of that was a weekly check-in call. And after that happens, they get on the call and they’re like, “Great, what’s next?” I’m like, “You should be sending me a check, for the next 10 years and never talk to me.”

Laurie: Yeah, yeah , you should be the new CEO.

Scott: Yeah, I just… And it was that, it was the home run every week, it was exhausting, and I just didn’t… I didn’t like it. I like it now, because I’m on stage and they can’t talk back to me. You know what I mean? I just…

Laurie: Every keynoter’s secret fantasy, that’s right. Yeah, that is.

Scott: That is it. It’s a perfect life, I can yell what I think and then have no accountability, it’s glorious.

Laurie: So, you know, I hear this in you, this drive to be up on stage, to speak, to perform, but we’re in a weird state in our economy, where I don’t know, the rug is gonna get pulled out at any given time. At least, we feel that way here in America, many of us do. The thing that has been so special about this bubble, is that it’s pulled a lot of people forward, and we’ve all become performers, and artists, and creators, but eventually, it’s gonna end. What are you doing to make sure that you’re ahead of it, or do you not worry about it? Are you so secure that it’s no big deal?

Scott: Yeah, I…

Laurie: You’re gonna figure it out?

Scott: Yeah, and that’s the thing, is for me, like, I don’t have this endless drive, if that makes sense. I don’t have an endless drive for growth. I’m not that guy that’s like, we do…we are at this point, and let’s keep driving, let’s keep looking at all these things, and create new silos in our company, we can do the training stuff now, I can franchise the unmarketing name, I can do that. It’s not what I wanna do. And I just know that where I’m at now in business, if we took a 50% hit, we’re still fine. And like, you know, I don’t…

Laurie: Wait, are you fine, because you now have a life partner, who can also manage your finances a little bit like me, is that part of what’s going on here?

Scott: That’s a part of it, but it’s also that it’s doing so well. That I’m at a point in the career that I’m not naive enough to think that a recession type thing can’t happen again, but I also know that certain things and certain conferences will always go. That they were going in 2008, 2007, 2009 and, you know, we pull in a million dollars a year keynote speaking. I don’t know how much more I need, you know, and if we made a half million a year, I’d still be laughing and smiling. And…

Laurie: Right.

Scott: I have no want to do other, I don’t have a want to do more, and I’m living my dream. I’m living my dream from when I was 12 years old. And when I’m home, the kids get home from school… Like right here. I’m sitting in our front library of the house we bought, because of what we built.

And this is coming from somebody flying around on a prepaid credit card in 2010, to try to make a book tour stop, to now. To be living a dream is one thing, to realize you’re in it is another, and that, to me, is bliss, and I love this. People are like, “Well, you’re on the road, you do 60, 70 keynotes a year.” I might be on the road 150 days a year, but I’m home for 200 days of the year, and I’m home. I’m not working, I’m not consulting. I’m home all summer. Like, it’s glorious, and I don’t have that want to build more that would get in the way of that.

Laurie: I love it. You fixed work and your origin story is such a good lesson for people, about taking a risk and not being afraid to burn it down, to build it all back up. When we come back from a break, we’re gonna get lessons, and tips, and takeaways for our listeners. How does that sound Scott?

Scott: Let’s do it.

Laurie: All right, we’ll be right back.

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Laurie: Hey everybody, welcome back to the “Let’s Fix Work” podcast. I’m Laurie Ruettimann, with my guest, Scott Stratten. And for those of you who don’t know me and don’t know my history, I have never met Scott Stratten or had a conversation with him in real life. Scott, thanks so much for taking a risk, and trusting that I’m not some idiot or some moron who’s just wasting your time. That’s perfect, I appreciate that.

Scott: Oh, we’ve done our research, don’t worry. Only one idiot on this interview and that would be me.

Laurie: Well, thank you, you’re kind to say that, so, you know, there are people who are listening, who dream of just killing their career and starting over, and maybe they don’t want to be a keynote speaker, maybe they want to open up a frozen yogurt store or a cupcake shop. What advice do you have for people who are stuck at work, and what’s one way that they can start to gain momentum without lighting a match.

Scott: Right. I think one of the things is sometimes, what you think is the answer may not be the answer as well. I do…I am all the power to people who want to just burn it down and then go open that frozen yogurt stand, as long as you don’t call it Froyo, you know, that would be good. But…

Laurie: Is that your professional marketing advice right there?

Scott: It…100%, we put it in books, please don’t use it. It may all… It’s what is creating the frustration? What are you not getting fulfillment because of? Because sometimes, it’s not the fact of working or burning it down, it sometimes is there’s another issue. I want people to understand that sometimes, it could be issues at home, it could be issues with a certain team member or a boss, but burning it down which I did and I would do again in a heartbeat, is also very permanent. And so, you want to make sure that what I’m… If I’m not doing my calling, then I need to go do it, okay, but I would not advise any responsible human or adult to do it with 64 cents in the bank, that was dumb, that was irresponsible of me. But it also made me have no safety net, it made me work my ass off, to you know, get to where I needed to go.

Sometimes, what I did though before I burnt it down, I was already building the company, I had that, as we call it now, the side hustle, right? I was already building it and that was… So, when I did leave, I had immediately a entirely full business coaching/consulting game going, because I had built the following already, so when I left I had a… Because the hardest thing to do to me is building momentum, is building that platform up, that’s what takes the time. If you can build that starting, before you take the leap, you’re writing a blog, you’re creating a social media presence, whatever that’s gonna be, then when you do leap, there’s already people standing there to catch you, versus leaping and then and saying, okay…because then you’re rushed, then you’re panicked, and you can’t build community in a panic.

You can’t build it in a rush and that’s… Because I don’t think doing your own thing is for everybody. I don’t think…

Laurie: No, I don’t think so either.

Scott: I don’t think being an entrepreneur is for everybody. I think people like the idea of it somewhat, because they don’t like their boss, but being your own boss isn’t a treat either. I had that old great line, which is, “Entrepreneurs are the only people who would work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 for somebody else,” right? It’s just…

Laurie: It’s a great quote, yeah.

Scott: That’s what it means and that’s… I joke that I don’t work, and Allison gets mad at me for saying that, and she’s like, “You know, you never stop,” and my brain never stops doing stuff. It never stops reading, and consuming, and creating, but it’s not work, for me, and that’s really the skill and the dream, right? To find something you’re so passionate about, you’d do it for free, and then you make money doing it.

Laurie: Is that the dream, because I was a writer as a hobby while I was working in human resources, I was secretly blogging while working at Pfizer and I turned my hobby into my career, and now I’m fucking tired, you know, and it…

Scott: But there’s a danger.

Laurie: Yeah, exactly, exactly, so you burn out on your hobby.

Scott: You’re passionate about it, because you’re passionate. And so, we have that right now with our two oldest kids, we have five kids combined together with Alice and I, we had a merger a few years ago. It’s more of a hostile takeover and…

Laurie: Yeah [inaudible 00:22:32] you.

Scott: Yeah, we let a few kids go due to redundancy, but…

Laurie: Yeah, of course, right.

Scott: The danger here so… Our two oldest are both into music producing, they don’t stop. They’re just… So, our own sixteen year old upstairs just gets home from school, makes music every day, it’s the past year, I mean, he’s made 200 songs. Like, he just doesn’t stop. And Aiden, our oldest, is at college right now from Music Industry Arts, this is what he wants to go into. And I was talking to Owen the younger one and I said, “You love it now, and I fully supported you.” My background is from the music industry too, so I’m proud of it and I love it, but I said, “Understand the passion or a hobby, once it turns into a business, can feel different.”

Laurie: Yeah, absolutely.

Scott: Like, you’re making a song and you’re selling a beat to somebody once in a month and you got a hundred bucks, you’re like, “Nice,” and I’m like, and that’s great, but when you got to pay rent, and you got to do stuff that you don’t want to do to make that money, it sometimes can hurt the passion.

Laurie: That’s right, that’s right.

Scott: And it removes the passion from the equation, and then you’re like, I used to like this, you know.

Laurie: Have you given them any advice on how to find some balance with that. Is there any advice?

Scott: Well, part of it is just giving the advice that a parent gives, as good it doesn’t get listened to, you know, and that’s just how the game is. But the other part of it, is also introducing them to people in the field already to give the same advice that they’ll actually listen to. It’s like me going to do a keynote somewhere, and I’ll just parrot what one of the VPs said, and everybody’s like, “Yes,” and the VP’s like, “What? I’ve been saying that for a year.”

Laurie: Well, you learned how to do that from consulting, I think, there are some of that too.

Scott: Exactly. Exactly. You know, you’ll leave the company, come back as a consultant, now they’re listening to you, you know, and they pay you more, and that’s where… I always told him about, you know, it’s hard for me to tell anybody anything because I quit, you know, it’s with…when anyway…when he was born I had sixty cents and so it’s just like, you know

Laurie: The moral authority isn’t there.

Scott: Yeah, I don’t have that high ground to come down from. I don’t have the GPA or the transcript from college to say, “You need to do this.” I am a bad example, but what I said to him is, sometimes your passion doesn’t have to be the full-time job, sometimes your passion is always going to be your side gig, sometimes your passion is no longer passionate about it, and that’s okay. And our job as your parents is to try to get you into a school after high school that allows you to then still have avenues and opportunities, and not make that sound like me saying, “There’s no future in this.”

Laurie: That’s right.

Scott: Or “There’s no money in music,” because there isn’t, but the point is…there’s also no money in speaking.

Laurie: Yeah, there’s no money anywhere, right? I mean…

Scott: Right, right, it’s just us sitting there and like, “Oh, just take that money.” It’s just…

Laurie: No.

Scott: It rewards those who work, and if you have the… The self-drive has to be the thing that keeps pushing it. If I can get him to the point where I’m trying to get him to go into business in general first at college, and then go into the specialized music industry program, because until he can be self-sustaining, you’re gonna have to work for somebody else. And that means you might be getting coffee, or this, but if you have on your resume, it says, “I have a marketing degree or diploma,” you are more valuable to that music label that you wanna have your own one day and same as me.

I never wanted to be working for somebody, but I went to do it because I had to make money to keep living, and then my life span was just a lot shorter.

Laurie: Oh, my God, though, Scott you sound like such a dad, it’s unbelievable.

Scott: Yeah, weird, right? It’s…

Laurie: Yeah, it really it’s awesome and it’s I bet an interesting perspective to have, because you can probably think back on your own parental experiences and remember rolling your eyes, right?

Scott: Yeah, and my mom is also great at the fact that she just let me be Scott, and that was… And Alison even exponentially is even great at that as well, where she treats the kids as individuals and lets them be themselves. I wasn’t good at that as a parent, you know, my job as a parent was I said this and you just do it because I said so. And after meeting Alison and us moving in and getting married, and, you know, blending the families, it’s just like I’ve learned. I’ve learned that one of the best tools you can help…you can guide your children, but just let them be them. And I remember my mom telling stories of me just walking by puddles, and just stopping and sitting down and just kinda playing with a puddle. And then my brother would get furious at soccer games, because I’d be just pulling grass up instead of playing, and he was intense about it. And she just tells people, she’s like, “That’s just Scott being Scott.”

Laurie: I love it, that’s really great.

Scott: And today, I’m still Scott being Scott.

Laurie: Well, super inspiring Scott, and thank you for being my very first guest, on the “Let’s Fix Work” podcast. Why don’t you tell everybody where they can find you as if they don’t know?

Scott: Yeah, that’s right. If you can’t find me, you’re not looking hard enough. It’s Unmarketing kinda everything, so just you look that up on all the platforms, and on the podcasts is what the business show for the Fed Up that Allison and I do every week together.

Laurie: Yeah, are you going anywhere fun this year, taking a big vacation? Let’s talk about something just to wrap it up, that’s not work related.

Scott: Tomorrow, we head to Disney and we’re going on our fifth annual Disney cruise, tomorrow.

Laurie: Amazing.

Scott: I am so jacked up.

Laurie: I hope you don’t do any work, no work.

Scott: Zero.

Laurie: Perfect.

Scott: Phone is go into the safe, shipping barks, and that’s it.

Laurie: Oh, man, that’s the way to fix work by not doing any at all.

Scott: Yep.

Laurie: All right dude, well thanks so much for your time today, and everybody go find Scott Stratten at Scott, thanks again.

Scott: Oh, thank you.

Laurie: Hey everybody, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Scott Stratten just as much as I did. God, that guy is interesting, and laid back and cool. You can hear it in his voice. He’s got command of that conversation. And while it’s true, that he’s done over 300 podcast episodes of his own, and he’s a professional keynote speaker, and I’m very, very new at this, you can definitely hear expertise, gravitas, leadership in his voice. And as I was listening to him, I was thinking about how many of you at work step over yourselves like I did on that podcast, you say too many words, you speak too quickly, you’re real eager to get in on a conversation.

Scott is not like that, he’s not leaning in, he’s saying what he needs to say, and he’s sitting back in his chair. If you could mimic anybody in terms of your communication style, go mimic Scott Stratten, he’s amazing. I’d like to thank Scott for his time today. You can follow him everywhere by following the moniker UnMarketing, and I’d like to thank Megan and Audra on my production crew, and thank you for your time. We’ll see you next time on “Let’s Fix Work.”

Female: If you’re ready to make a real change in your workplace, start today by subscribing to this podcast, and help us get the word out by leaving a review.


This post is sponsored by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Working in HR, we often forget that wellbeing isn’t just about losing weight and feeling good about yourself. It’s about caring for your body, mind, and spirit to enhance and improve the quality of your life. And although the world is on a wellbeing kick, data still shows that most workers aren’t getting enough sleep.

That includes HR professionals.

I’m passionate about helping people get to bed at a decent hour, so here’s what I want you to do. Take your eyes off the computer screen right now. Look to your left, look to your right. One of you is tired, and it’s dangerous. Over 37 percent of are workers sleep-deprived and an estimated 13 percent of workplace injuries are attributed to sleep problems.

Working late nights might impress your CHRO or VP of Human Resources, but limiting your sleep can lead to trouble making decisions, solving problems and controlling your emotions. The cognitive and motor performance impairments caused by sleep deprivation can be comparable to drinking alcohol, which explains why so many HR departments are fraught with drama.

When you don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, there can be severe consequences. Sleep-deprived workers have a higher rate of presenteeism, so you show up to work but don’t function at your best. You will have trouble concentrating and making decisions. You also will struggle to think creatively and problem-solve with your colleagues in other departments. And you’ll make mistakes due to carelessness and exhaustion.

Productivity is impacted, too.

I don’t generally care about how much money a company loses on its employees, but the National Safety Council reports that fatigued workers cost employers anywhere from $1,200 to $3,100 per employee in declining job performance each year, while sleepy workers are estimated to cost employers $136 billion a year in health-related lost productivity.

Employers are wasting money on sleep-deprived workers when they could spend money on training and salary adjustments.

How do you fix this?

I’m eager to partner with The American Academy of Sleep Medicine to urge HR professionals to create a workplace climate that values the importance of sleep. How do you change your culture? Some companies limit after-hour email use. Other companies have aggressive PTO programs and prompt you to use your benefits through a series of incentives and rewards.

In whatever way you approach this topic, be creative. Don’t make this an HR initiative. Get your safety committee or site leadership team involved, ask your workers for input, and do whatever it takes to help your employees get enough sleep to improve the quality of their lives.

Be a force for good at work. Isn’t that what HR is all about?


I think internet holidays like “National Mental Health Day” are essential, but I want to celebrate the day after National Mental Health Day because it’s in the quiet, dark moments — when there’s no fanfare, pageantry or hashtag — when people suffer.

What’s National Mental Health Day All About?

I’m here for memes and tweets and inspirational photos shared by Instagram Growth Services that encourage everybody to seek help and live their fullest lives. But now what? 

What do we do today, October 11th, when we return to our mobile devices, and the loneliness seeps back into our lives? Where do we go today if we’re feeling disconnected, depressed or, god forbid, suicidal?

Well, maybe we go back to our feeds and take advantage of all the mental health resources that were shared yesterday. Or perhaps we develop courage and reach out to our friends who said, hey, I’m here for you.

But what I fear is that National Mental Health Day is another collective moment where we think we’re helping but we’re not. Like when we put lead in milk and fed it to babies — or when we thought it was okay to cure a cold with cocaine — we’re using a device to address a problem that causes more harm than good.

What’s the Alternative?

I’m not saying a day of awareness is pointless. I’m just saying that maybe we ought to think a little harder about health outcomes before we jump on the internet — a failing social experiment that’s doing us more harm than good — and preach to no one in particular that “you matter” and “you should ask for help.”

Who are you talking to? Who do you think is listening? Aren’t you just talking to the vast tundra of your subconscious?

In answering those questions — and also reviewing your old Facebook posts, gaming history, YouTube posts, tweets, IG stories, snaps, WhatsApp messages, or even your old AOL history — you might find you’re talking to yourself about your well-being and asking for help while trying to help others.

How Do I Commit to Improved Mental Health?

So, if you are committed to National Mental Health Day, make it count. Put yourself first, take control of your time, and be your own best advocate. Stop talking to no one in particular on the internet and see a counselor, therapist, advisor, mentor, psychiatrist, or social worker. If you feel fine, great. Be a friend to someone in the real world who needs you.

Mental health improves and lives are saved because awareness turns to action. If you believe in National Mental Health Day, make every day — including the day after — a moment where you take a stand against the detachment and isolation that’s crept into our culture. And I think it starts by putting down your phone.


Several years ago, I was at a party where a drunk man fell into my breasts. 

(Wait, let me back up and start this again.)

Several years ago, I was at an HR conference looking pretty fly for a woman in her late 30s. As a marathoner and a pilates enthusiast, I was training for a series of important events. Not only could I lift my weight and run over 20 miles with little notice, but I could also do pull-ups and push-ups for days. I was solid.

So, I was seated in a chair around a tiny table at a hotel lounge with several HR girlfriends when a lecherous dude came up from behind to “whisper in my ear” and say hello.

Has that happened to you? Some dude thinks it’s okay to invade your personal space and surprise you?

As I turned my head to figure out who’s crept up behind me, my hair got caught in this drunk HR dude’s tiepin. As I tried to untangle myself from his shirt, his face went into my breasts. Even though I’m strong, I struggled to push him off. His drink spilled on my dress.

The surrounding women gasped. And he laughed. A lot. And he never apologized. Tried to “talk it off” and pretend as if nothing happened with his eyes locked right on my breasts. It was so gross. What could I do? I was really embarrassed, but the damage was done.

Later that night, his only female coworker pulled me aside by an elevator and “apolo-splains” that he’s been drinking — they’ve all been drinking — and it was just an accident. 

Sure, it was an accident. I was there, I know what happened. I didn’t make a big deal out of what happened but said, “It’s not your job to apologize for his behavior.”

But, a few months later, I was banned from doing work at his organization. Blackballed out of nowhere because my brand contradicts his organization’s values. The message to vendors and partners was clear: companies who do business with both of us must choose because they can’t do business with his organization if they attach my name.

And I’m like — is this happening?

You bet it fucking did.

Now, maybe the two things aren’t connected, him falling into my boobs and me being blackballed. But that’s the thing about being a victim of aggressive male behavior, there is no explanation. None of it makes sense. All of it is punitive. And I’ve lost thousands of dollars in opportunities since that night because I didn’t just laugh it off and go with the flow.

Am I bitter? Yes and no. It’s been a while. Whenever I think about it, which isn’t often, I just pray for him in my atheist way and hope he doesn’t act like that with other women. What else can I do? That money is gone, and my name was sullied. Can I get a lawyer? Who do I sue? The patriarchy?

That’s the thing about being a woman, you learn to let this shit go.

But there’s a postscript to this anecdote. Eventually, the drunk HR dude left his job. You know where he went to work? The Trump administration. Of course he did. And it’s not like anybody called me and asked for a reference. No background check dug deep enough to find out if this little HR man was a vindictive, petty jerk.

So, here’s what I want you to know: I speak from a place of truth when I tell you that existing HR teams and associations can’t solve the problem of sexual harassment at work because they are the problem. They’ve been perpetuating and defending toxic workplaces from the start. These HR men who want to improve your company’s culture and fix work? They are jokesters and frauds, part of the same cultural phenomenon that created hostile work environments.

To fix work, all areas of HR must reflect upon on its complicity and acknowledge its level of guilt. Is that possible? Can HR departments and associations change? Sure, but I won’t hold my breath. When push comes to shove, one of the most influential HR professionals in the country was complicit in a campaign to stop me from earning a living after he fell into my breasts at an industry event. Nobody from his former company — not even the people who saw what happened — said a word.

Then he got a job in the Trump administration.

If that’s how HR works, you can count me out. I’m here for a new HR, but what’s being sold to us by hegemonic corporate interests isn’t it.


Do you know the difference between wellness and wellbeing?

Wellness refers to physical health. When your employer talks about wellness, they want you to quit smoking and lose weight to bring down health insurance costs. You know what brings down health insurance costs? Better regulation of health insurance companies and medical providers. But, no, you have to lose five pounds and give up donuts. That’s wellness.

Wellbeing is more holistic and is used to talk about life experiences and feelings. Employers bucket wellbeing into three different categories: physical, emotional, and financial. Your company still wants to lower costs, but there’s a move to cost-per-employee as well as revenue-per-employee to engagement scores.

If you’re happy in those three buckets — and making “good choices” as defined by industry experts who understand healthy outcomes — you’ll make your company more money. If you’re not satisfied with life, your employer won’t be as profitable.

So, how do companies measure things like happiness and engagement?

Well, some employers partner with solution providers to send out surveys and then respond to the data. It’s programmatic and sometimes assumes the outcomes, or, at the very least, has a list of solutions for different scenarios.

Other employers will hire technology companies and look at your calendar — yes, your daily schedule — and try to understand what you’re doing with your day. Then they’ll swoop in with personalized recommendations on meeting with your manager more, finding a mentor, asking for feedback from your colleagues, getting more exercise, doing more meditation, taking a digital detox, or even recommendations for PTO.

And still other employers will use wearables like your badge to see if you’re stationary or getting up and moving around during the day. Google pioneered this with their cafeterias. They would monitor who was eating where, and they’d open and close lunch stations to encourage connectivity between different groups of workers. Wearables help employers monitor physical activity in a bunch of new ways. Now, your company wants you to get up and move around because sitting is the new smoking.

So, I’m here to postulate a new theory about wellness and wellbeing. The difference between the two is how the two are measured. Wellness is self-reported, and wellbeing is surveilled and diagnosed.

Employers are over employee engagement surveys and wellness programs because those are reactionary and, honestly, a lagging indicator of an organization’s wellbeing. They want to surveil you, diagnose you, and treat you before you even know what’s wrong. We live in a world of cameras, sensors, and data tracking tools. Pull everything together, and you get a predictive picture of what’s going right — and what could go wrong — with the biggest line-item expense in your budget.

Welcome to the era of employee wellbeing. Your company loves you and cares about you. And they’re watching your every move to prove it.


How do you future-proof your business or career? Are robots taking over all our jobs? On the show today is Alexandra Levit, an author, speaker, influencer, and futurist. Alexandra helps us understand how leaders and employees can prepare to become more successful in 5-15 years time. Will you be in on the next big trend? Alexandra believes the future will be a project-based business.

Who is Alexandra Levit? She started her corporate journey back in 1998. She wrote a book called, “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College,” and taught young professionals how to succeed in Corporate America. That was when she realized how Human Resources would have a much more strategic function in the 21st century.

As a futurist, Alexandra analyzes and makes predictions on how businesses can be successful 5-15 years into the future. The goal is to prepare these companies and their employees for better, more meaningful careers in the future workplace.

  • Alexandra wrote, “Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future.”She discusses how people shouldn’t be fearful of the future of work. According to Alexandra, there’s going to be a lot more meaningful work opportunities for people, and that’s something to look forward to. We also have to embrace how some aspects of our jobs will become automated because it’s a GOOD thing. When robots do the boring work, we’ll be able to focus more on functions that rely on the human touch – like empathy and intuition.

    In terms of fixing work, Alexandra believes that there’s a need to set boundaries for personal and professional life. Technology has allowed us to be “on” 24/7. It lets us connect 24/7, but it also makes us think about work 24/7. We check our phones for emails and get more work done because it’s great to be productive, but this is also the fastest way to get burned out. Instead of trying to outwork technology, we should focus our efforts on cultivating skills that match tasks reliant on human intelligence – leave the repetitive stuff to the machines.

    You might need a mind shift when it comes to starting your career if you want to make sure you are future-proofed. Ask yourself: “What are customers asking for that I can become an expert in and deliver consistently?” Let the answer be your guide. Another cause for concern is how the project-based workforce still has corporate-driven benefits. Alexandra talks about the tension this topic stirs and how corporate structure must change in order for it to stay relevant in the market.

    Futurists are thought leaders that make predictions based on current trends. Their forward thinking is invaluable for employers and employees because they can strategize ahead of time. Doesn’t it sound like a good idea to create systems to make the transition as smooth as possible? Change is coming whether we like it or not, we might as well be ready for it.

    FREE Financial Wellness Telesummit

    Make plans to attend the free Financial Wellness Telesummit, where HR Pros will discover how to alleviate the negative effects of financial stress on employees and businesses. Learn how to develop benefits, address employee concerns, and how to recruit top talent. It’s coming up October 16-18. Register for this FREE event today!

    Alexandra Levit




    Humanity Works

    They Don’t Teach Corporate in College

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    Employees aren’t that complicated. If they’re happy, they stay. If they’re unhappy, they leave. When women and minorities are leaving Corporate America in droves, the problem is obvious: these underrepresented groups aren’t happy. What’s causing the mass exodus and what, if anything, are we doing about it? Jose Pinero, the CEO of Latino Leadership Performance, talks about the importance of understanding and implementing cultural visibility, as well as how inclusion and diversity strategies boost workforce productivity and engagement.

    • Jose Pinero is a Fortune 100 business coach, speaker, and author. With over 20 years of corporate experience, Jose has seen the disparity within the ranks of organizations. Women and minorities aren’t able to climb the corporate ladder, something he’s seen again and again. Jose has made it his mission to empower these groups of people, to help them become successful leaders, and to improve visibility, inclusion, and diversity in corporate hierarchy.
    • What is Jose’s take on work being broken? He starts by saying how everyone wants the same thing: to live fulfilling lives. But it’s difficult to achieve this if you’re working in an environment that disconnects you from everybody else. Work is broken because organizations have discouraged employees from being their authentic selves. By denying people the right to be themselves, we deny them the opportunity to put in their best effort.
    • In his article, Why are Latinos leaving Corporate America?, Jose shares how it’s not only Latinos who are leaving Corporate America in droves. Women and other minorities are marching out too. There are a variety of factors that force these talents to leave, and some of them might surprise you. The article is a great read and will shed a lot of light on the problem, especially since it’s becoming more difficult for companies to find great talent.

    We got down to the heart of the problem next, and Jose shares three reasons why he believes that minorities and women aren’t happy in Corporate America.

    • Lack of high-level role models. When people don’t see themselves represented within the corporate hierarchy, they end up feeling discouraged. They will question whether the job is a fit for them, and if they’re in the right place to begin with. It’s either, “There’s nobody there that looks like me,” or “There are too few of us who can make it there.”
    • Lack of sponsorship and mentors. The idea of the Lone Champion is a myth. Nobody gets to where they are without any degree of support. Everybody needs somebody to help them understand how things work. How do we expect people to do their best and become better when we don’t give them the opportunity to learn from the best? No one wants to be in an environment where they do not feel supported or valued.
    • Cultural blind spots. People have different communication styles. If we want to bridge the gap in our cultures, we have to be more understanding of how our employees tend to communicate. When managers lack this understanding, the disconnect becomes even greater.
    • Laurie and Jose touch on how multicultural marketing works and how it supports underrepresented communities by getting them involved. They talk about how businesses have the social responsibility to contribute to society. After all, there’s always room to make money AND still make a difference in the world.

    FREE Financial Wellness Telesummit

    Make plans to attend the free Financial Wellness Telesummit, where HR Pros will discover how to alleviate the negative effect of financial stress on employees and business. Learn how to develop benefits, address employee concerns, and how to recruit top talent. It’s coming up October 16-18. Register for this FREE event today!

    Jose Pinero

    Latino Leadership

    The Cultivation Company

    Mucho Success




    Why are Latinos Leaving Corporate America?


    What do you do if you work in HR, but you’re miserable? That’s a question I answer multiple times every week. 

    While I’m not the VP of HR for America’s HR professionals, it sometimes feels that way. Many of you are discontented, sorrowful and suffering. You’re under-appreciated and exhausted. And I wonder — if you feel this way, how do your employees feel? Work sucks for you. How can you make it better for yourself and your colleagues? 

    Well, I think the key to reinvigorating your career is to redefine the paradigm of HR and do human resources for yourself.

    The first new pillar of HR is embracing a healthy dose of risk-taking. A strong HR department encourages entrepreneurship and innovation while managing risk. It’s not about “design thinking” or “risk-based thinking” — although those are fine buzzwords — but it’s as simple as giving yourself and your colleagues the room to try new things and make mistakes. And the first principle of being an entrepreneur and an innovator is simple: you have to try.

    It’s curious how HR leaders are often students of high-performing cultures but still shy away from new ideas in their organizations. These are HR professionals who idolize daring executives but can’t work the “courage muscle” and take a risk. 

    Believe it or not, personal rejection is good for the creative soul. I’m not saying you should get turned down once a day, but you’re not trying hard enough — for yourself and your company — if you don’t hear the word “no” at least once a week.

    If you live and breathe, you learn. That’s why the second pillar of great HR is to create a department that’s obsessed with continuous learning. I’m not referring to programmatic activities that can be documented, measured, tested and incorporated into an employee record management system; however, those are important objectives for some jobs. I’m talking about the learning that comes from being curious, pursuing new ideas to their conclusions, and trying something new and failing.

    So we’re back to the first principle. If you champion and promote risk-taking within HR, you’re modeling a culture of learning for your company. And if you’re learning while working in HR, you won’t be miserable.

    The third pillar is that the modern HR department must be community managers. It means we oversee the terms and conditions in which people interact with one another. We must create a climate of goodwill and support, and we should strive to overcome biases and prejudices across the enterprise. 

    Community managers, unlike HR managers, don’t tolerate racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, xenophobia or indecent language. They’re like the idyllic version of umpires and will call balls and strikes without bias. And they’ll support members of the group who feel disparaged, defamed, or depreciated.

    But to be community managers, HR must be the change we wish to see in the world. You can’t tolerate leaders who are sarcastic, egotistic, hostile, anti-worker, anti-ACA, anti-gay, or even anti-immigration. And it means taking a stand and fighting for your community when your common values are compromised. The good news is that if you defend your community, they’ll have your back when you’re on the ropes. And that’s how you fix work as a whole, by realizing you’re all in it together.

    The fourth pillar of HR is all about the money. We must become compensation stewards and manage the salary practices that go up and down the ladder of power. Unfortunately, many HR professionals don’t make a ton of money, and, on top of it, they don’t have access to discussions where decisions are made about salaries, merit pools, and bonuses. That sucks and is definitely hard on the heart.

    All is not lost, though. You can work on your education, get promoted, and develop your executive influence skills to get into the mix and share your thoughts and affect change. This is a long-term play, but use your career and proximity to power to fix this system. Do it for yourself, and you’ll fix it for others.

    Finally, HR could change the nature of work by being guardians of the overall employee experience. That means putting our well-being first — not as martyrs, but as people with complex lives and families and hobbies and interests — and creating boundaries between work and life.

    Just to clarify, there’s a difference between balance and boundaries. Work-life balance is the lie companies tell you so you’ll take your laptop home with you and multi-task after you feed the kids dinner and turn on the TV. Boundaries are lines you draw so that your family time after dinner isn’t compromised by work.

    Guard your time — have a healthy private life full of movement and joy and laughter and love — and you’ll fix work by prioritizing what’s important and keeping your career in perspective. 

    So, here’s my advice for HR professionals: take a few more risks, focus on learning something new, be a community manager, be a steward of fair compensation practices, and invest in your well-being. If you did those five things in 2019, you’d fix work for yourself and your entire company. And people might love HR, again, including you.


    To be HR, you have to do HR for yourself.

    I will always believe in this principle. It’s so core and critical to my life’s philosophy that, when I wasn’t practicing the programs and policies of HR in my daily experience, I left my job.

    My principle doesn’t just apply to individual practitioners and leaders. It applies to recruiters, sourcers, vendors, and technologists. If you’re not practicing the best principles of human resources in your own life and company, you have no business being in the business of HR.

    The business of human resources if five-fold: we encourage entrepreneurship and innovation while managing risk; we champion and promote continuous learning for the enterprise; we are community managers, which means we oversee the terms and conditions in which people interact with one another; we are compensation stewards and manage the practices that go up and down the ladder of power; and we are wellbeing agents who are guardians of the overall employee experience.

    That’s your new paradigm for HR, by the way, and, while it’s not revolutionary, it starts with making sure that you do HR for you.

    • If you can’t take risks at work or feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job with little opportunity for growth, you’re not doing HR. You’re wasting your days and the time of other employees around you.

    • If you work in a disrespectful environment where pay equity is a joke and prestige is hoarded at the top — and you’ve tried and failed to make a difference — I’m sorry, but you’re failing in HR.

    • And imagine how your employees feel if you are depleted, exhausted or financially insecure.

    Do you want to be an HR professional? Do you want to sell HR technology? You must do HR for yourself, your team, and the employees around you.

    There is no other way.

    *Tomorrow I’ll write about what to do if you’re not doing HR for yourself.


    If you work in HR and have a Twitter or Facebook account, stop what you’re doing and thank John Jorgensen. He’s the godfather of the modern day HR movement, an early adopter, and someone who deserves your admiration and recognition.

    John was an HR director before the Great Recession. Over the past ten years, he’s weathered the storm by doubling down on his personal development and leveraging his role as a SHRM volunteer to push a new generation of human resources professionals to embrace social media and connectivity.

    Long story short, HR professionals used to hate being on social media. They were hostile to connecting with one another, they made fun of early adopters, and they were hesitant to develop personal brands. John was like — Knock it off. This technology is going to change the world. If I can see the promise, you can come around.

    John was also instrumental in the development of my speaking career. While the world saw me as a snotty blogger, John treated me like a true professional. He invited me to participate in ILSHRM activities and used his reputation to clear a path for me at SHRM National.

    I can’t say enough nice things about John Jorgensen, and, because today is the opening day of SHRM18, it’s also John Jorgensen Day. Activities include being kind to John, thanking him for his volunteerism, and offering to buy him a drink or dinner if you’re in Oakbrook Terrace, IL.

    John Jorgensen makes HR better, and he helped make connecting with other HR professionals easier. He’s not the kind of guy who toots his own horn, but he’s an essential part of the story behind the transformation of human resources.

    I love and appreciate what John has done for our community, and I hope you do, too.

    H A P P Y J O H N J O R G E N S E N D A Y

    Have a great conference, John!

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