Ep6 – The Relationships and Influence Edition with Warren Cass
James chats with Warren Cass, an entrepreneur with 25 years of running his own businesses, he has experienced huge success and tasted the bitter pill of failure. All of these lessons and stories are shared when he speaks…. Always from the heart!
Warren is straight talking with a no nonsense presentation style. His passion for business shows, especially when he talks about relationships, influence & marketing.
At heart Warren is a geek, someone who loves to figure out why and how things work, he firmly believes we live in times of significant change, and to stay ahead of the curve, we need to understand the game.
Warren is also a father of two beautiful young adults and a husband. His passions include skiing, chilling out with his guitar and listening to dusty old vinyl records.
James Nathan: 00:54 Hello and welcome to the only one business show with me, your host James Nathan. This week I’ve got a fantastic guest in the studio for you and I hope you’re going to really enjoy the conversation we have. He’s one of those rare people that inspires while he entertains and informs. He’s been an entrepreneur for 25 years, running his own businesses and he’s experienced huge success as well as tasted the bitter pill of failure. All of those lessons he loves to share. He’s very straight talking with a passion for business which shows, especially when he talks about relationships, influence and marketing. At heart he’s a geek, which is something a lot of us have started to accepted ourselves I guess, but he’s someone who loves to figure out why and how things work and firmly believes we’re living in times of significant change and to stay ahead of the curve you need to understand the game.
James Nathan: 01:42 We’re going to certainly be interested to find out what he means there. Father of a couple of beautiful adults and also a husband, he has a passion, well, he has lots of passions which include skiing, chilling out with his old guitar and playing dusty vinyl records. He’s also a long suffering West Ham Fan, but he asks us not to hold that against him. Please welcome to the studio. Warren Cass. Warren, How are you?
Warren Cass: 02:03 I’m fantastic and thank you for having me, James.
James Nathan: 02:06 It’s an absolute pleasure. And where are you today? Are in Britain, or are you traveling.
Warren Cass: 02:11 I’m the Cotswolds in my house. I’ve got a week of catch up in the office, which is rare and appreciated.
James Nathan: 02:18 Lovely. I’m, you know, those weeks don’t come very often, but they’re very nice, aren’t they?
Warren Cass: 02:22 Having been out for about two and a half weeks, it makes a really nice change.
James Nathan: 02:27 I’m sure it does. Two beautiful daughters, a husband, a couple of guitars and some vinyl records. That sounds like a very, very easy and nice life. What are you playing? What’s on the turntable at the moment?
Warren Cass: 02:40 Oh crikey…. Live In the Heart of the City by Whitesnake was the last thing…
James Nathan: 02:47 I thought you were going to tell we had something kind of folky but, but not in anyway.
Warren Cass: 02:52 No, it’s old school.
James Nathan: 02:54 Lovely. Cause we were talking earlier and you mentioned that, you know, an older…. You’ve got a lovely acoustic guitar, and then you talk about Whitesnake. So you never know what you’re gonna find out from people. Significant times of significant change. Warren, what do you mean by that?
Warren Cass: 03:09 Well, if you think about, in fact, I’ll refer back to the subject. I talk on them, the books that I wrote. The two biggest books on influence ever to be written were How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Influence and the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. And both of those books were written in the 1930s and 1980s respectively, before the whole digital age internet came along. And when I say terms of significant change, I mean in every conceivable aspect, technology, population, demographic, environment. We are living in really quite interesting times of change and it kind of impacts everything that we do.
James Nathan: 03:52 You mentioned influence and obviously two very well known books there. And I guess the third most influence or influential influence book must be yours then. Is that fair?
Warren Cass: 04:04 I think it’s early days. We’ll see, it’d be nice. I mean there’s a lot of great books on the topic, but those are the two biggest that have stayed the test of time and had an impact, but they were written pre technology, you know, pre-internet. Anyway, and whilst the fundamental principles remain the same of course with all the demographic change that we have, it’s the first time, for example, we’ve ever had five generations in the workforce. And each demographic, each age demographic has a completely unique experience with technology. You know, those of us who were not classed as millennials we’re very much digital nomads, whereas the rest are digital natives and they really you know, they’re born with technology. They instinctively and intuitively use it for connecting and doing all of the usual communication things that we all do. So there’s a difference in our, you know, application. There’s a difference in how we adopt and adapt to change. And that’s kind of what I’m talking about.
James Nathan: 05:17 It’s interesting. While you were talking there, I was thinking of back in the old days when my dad bought a VCR for the first time. And you know, every time you went to program the thing, he got the instruction manual out. And he was fascinated by the fact that me and my brother knew how to just program it without checking out how to do it. And I was just wondering what he might’ve thought of my kids when, you know, the first thing they do is open up YouTube and look for whatever they need to do. And you know, my, my son who’s a is 12, taught himself to play Bohemian Rhapsody on the piano by watching a YouTube video. And that kind of thing to them is just, well, why wouldn’t you have that?
Warren Cass: 05:53 Yeah. You mentioned the guitar earlier on. I’ve got to say, even for myself, I’ve been playing guitar now for probably close to 30 years and there was always one song, which was my arch enemy. The one that I really wanted to learn to play as fast as the original, which was Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right by Bob Dylan. And it’s a really, really fast intricate pick. And I just couldn’t get it from the sheet music or from the tablature. And it was actually YouTube that finally allowed me to crack that song.
James Nathan: 06:25 Fantastic. No, I find that myself, I’ve played probably about the same length of time as you, although I started off in a thrash band, so it wasn’t really properly guitar. But it’s amazing what you can learn and that, that fits into so much in our lives, doesn’t it? Especially in business, people are learning at a much faster rate, but is influence changing, is that has how we influence and persuade different to how it was?
Warren Cass: 06:50 So fundamentally when face to face, probably not, with the exception that all of those different demographics and different age groups just have different experiences. And one of the biggest things, which I think is lacked by any kind of psychometric test or any preconceived ideas about how people might be, it’s understanding context, understanding individual people’s context. You know, the different influences they’ve had throughout their lives of course would be parents, teachers and colleagues, et cetera. But when when their social conditioning from a really young age involves technology to there’s, there’s just a different context. There’s a different attitude to many things, from consumerism, to politics, to life, love, marriage, all of the above. The world has changed. And for me, the biggest part of communication is taking the time to really understand the person you’re talking to. Communication is never about you. It’s always about who you’re talking to. If you want to be effective.
James Nathan: 08:00 Absolutely. You know, I remember someone once saying to me very early on in my career, you know, communication is… the meaning of communication is the response that you get. And I remember thinking to myself, bloody hell, that’s clever, isn’t it? But it’s not it’s just true. When you look at relationships and communication, though has it changed, you know, with the five generations that you mentioned in the workplace? I hear a lot of people talking to me about, you know, we need to work this way for millennials. We need to change the way we operate so that they get it, or what have you. Does it work the other way as well?
Warren Cass: 08:35 Does it work the other way? Yeah. Well, again, it comes down to context of, I mean touching on the millennials point that you just made. Knowing that recruitment is a place where you spend a lot of time. What’s quite interesting about the trend with millennials and work is the fact millennials are very much connected to a sense or a need for purpose. So when they’re looking for careers a purpose is top of the agenda actually, you know, above many of the other things that would have traditionally made, or helped you make a decision about whether you took a job or not. And I personally believe that the battle for talent in the future is going to be around organizations being really connected to their values and being able to articulate that to potential candidates. So they feel that, you know, what they’re coming to do is actually a worthwhile vocation for them.
Warren Cass: 09:30 So it’s interesting times. I think the stats for the US were only 7% of millennials work for Fortune 500 companies, only 7%. They instead prefer to work for small business owners where they’re connected to the why of the organization or they’re starting their own businesses so they can do something which they find meaningful. And so that’s just one aspect of how the workplace may have changed.
James Nathan: 09:57 It fascinates me because I actually…. My personal view is that that millennials are, or younger generation should I say, cause I think it mixes across to the next generations as well, is that they’re more in tune with those thoughts. It’s not that those weren’t there before, it’s just that they were much more, they are more obvious and more important, but businesses don’t tend to understand their values as well as they should. The number of companies I talk to who, when you ask what the core values of the business are, say to you, oh, we’ve got them here they are, where are they Mavis? Can you get those out for me? And suddenly they produce five words, which actually don’t mean much. They just sound like they should be the values of the business.
Warren Cass: 10:38 Yeah, it’s lip service. It’s, you know, we’ve got something on a wall, which hopefully you’ll read and might resonate with you, but we don’t actually live and breathe it. And what like is the examples of people who live and breathe them. In fact, I’ve got a different friend, who I won’t name, but his organizations, couple of million turn over organization and he has his values on the wall. However as a quite a modest man running, you know, a growing business when he moved moved home with his wife he had come into work the next day and it was a company wide meeting and one of the staff said, has your new home got a swimming pool? Now he basically lied because he wanted to be modest and you know, and be relatable. So he said, no, it hasn’t. But what are the values on the wall of the organization was transparency and honesty. So on his drive home that evening, he was beating himself up. The very first thing he did the next day was call everybody into a meeting room and and confess that he’d lied to the day before. Goodness. And here are the reasons for it, but, you know, nonetheless, this is one of company values. And what was interesting about that is that from that point onwards, all of the staff had permission to live the values because the example that had been set by the men at the top was you know, these values hold true. And that was an uncomfortable thing for him to do. But it gave everybody permission to live and breathe the values. And as an organization, they do very, very well. So having a record year, because they live their values and their customers relate to that.
James Nathan: 12:21 Fantastic! I know lots of businesses talk about this. Well, there’s businesses who try to talk about this a lot, but how does a business get to the heart of that, how do they get to the real core values of their business? Because I’ll give an example. I’ve got a big client in London who were bought out by US business. And one of the first things that happened was that you know, they changed all the branding and what have you, the colours of the furniture and all the superficial stuff, but then these values appeared on the wall. They were the values of the US parent. And the British business just looked at them and kind of laughed and went oh yeah, whatever. How does a business get to the heart of their core values? How do you discover what they really are?
Warren Cass: 13:08 Well, we’re not in my area of expertise. However, I do know that you’ve had a previous guest who does this brilliantly. So shout out to Barnaby Wynter, who I know has been on the show. And the way I know Barnaby does it is he spends…. The priority, first thing he’ll do when working with any client, but it’s a really in depth workshop involving all of the staff to kind of find their values of the organization as a whole identifies with and then it’s built collaboratively around everybody in the organization. Rather than just being somebody saying, look, this is what I think we should stand for. This is what will look good on a marketing brochure. So, you know, put it on the wall and pretend we do that. It is lip service unless it’s proactively pursued.
James Nathan: 14:02 Well, and what are the trends you’re seeing at the moment? What are the current trends in business that you see changing and how are they going to continue to develop?
Warren Cass: 14:10 Well, the most significant change that I’m seeing right now which I really welcome and so do most. And that’s organizations becoming a little bit more heart connected. So the old terms of business to business or business to consumer kind of out the window. It’s, it’s now H2H, human to human. And a few people talk about this, but it’s about people connecting with people, people doing business with people. Quite often on stage, I ask an audience, particularly if it’s a small business owner audience, you know, who considers themselves to be a sales person. And you might get, you know, 20% of the audience put their hands in the air. And for me, you know, if you’re running a small business and you don’t consider yourself a sales person, the chances are you’ve got an expensive hobby. What I quite often try to get an audience to think about is that, you know, most of us still think selling is the 20th century version of it.
Warren Cass: 15:09 You know, the shiny suit and jamming feet in doorways, etc. But selling today is, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s about finding solutions for people. It’s about having the integrity to walk away. If you’re not the right solution, it’s very much relationship driven and it’s packed with integrity. And, if you’re that type of organization, you stand a really good chance of succeeding, providing obviously the other ingredients, like having a good product or service in the first place is there. But today even big corporate brands on social media now you can see it’s actually individuals expressing a bit of personality. Okay, it does bit a few on the back side when they perhaps relax a little too much. But but it is about human to human relationships.
James Nathan: 15:57 And when you talk about what we used to call consultative selling, I guess, it’s not changed at all. It’s just that I think you can’t get away with the really kind of crappy way that people used to sell or, you know, the sell and runaway kind of mentality that some of the businesses used to have. And you know, everything is… you mentioned social media there, everything is so obvious. It’s so out there, you know, if someone does something that doesn’t delight you it will go out online and people will see it. You know, there’s an interesting rise that I’m seeing at the moment, well, its not just at the moment, it’s continuing of things like TripAdvisor. And in the recruitment world, there’s a site called Glassdoor, which is the same kind of thing. And you know, people like to moan on there, they don’t like to particularly say how wonderful things are. But if you’re not happy it’s very easy to tell the world about it. And businesses have got to be very clever particularly maintaining their relationships but also their reputation with that kind of stuff.
Warren Cass: 17:10 So brilliant point. And, and one of firmly agree with that. We are living in an age of due diligence. Everybody is using sites like TripAdvisor or LinkedIn testimonials or whatever it might be just to check the social proof of any organization. So having strategies in place to ensure that, you know, you’re managing your reputation properly is essential. And you know, you’re right, people are either motivated to say really, really good things or really, really bad things. Apathy tends not to motivate people to take the time to go and feed back a review. So even having strategies for that is a good place to be. But interestingly, I think the age of social proof is one part of that. But another part of that is things like the diversity we find ourselves now the, the cross fertilization of cultures, is also having an impact.
Warren Cass: 18:14 One example actually the Chinese have a concept called Guanshi. Guanshi is about if you’re gonna do business significant business with somebody, then what you do is you, you meet, bring families together and make sure values are aligned before you pursue the business route. That’s just one example of how different cultures are making us a little bit more heart connected than the kind of, you know, the ruthless way business was done in the eighties, nineties, et cetera. So it’s a different world now where we, we’ve got so many different influences in the way we do things, and technology’s a big part of that of course. That it’s making everybody a little bit more accountable. You cannot hide. If you are delivering bad service, it’s certainly not for long. Because the Internet will shout about it. And you’ll be found out.
James Nathan: 19:13 Are we going back to the 1950s in that way then? Because when you mentioned the Chinese concept of bringing families together, you know, I think of 1950s where, you know, someone might bring the prospective client home for dinner, that kind of stuff, which used to get done a lot or meals out where you know the husbands and wives would all be together. Is that something that’s renewing? Because it seems like it’s certainly something that disappeared through the eighties and nineties.
Warren Cass: 19:45 No, I don’t think that’s ever gone away and may have migrated to the golf course or something along those lines, but, you know, when you’re doing a significant amount of business with people, then you do get to know them over a period of time. And, we’ve always done business with people we like. That makes business just a little bit more fun. In fact, you know, it’s quite a luxury position today because you can actually choose not to work with people that you don’t have a value alignment with or simply just don’t click with you, don’t have rapport with, so we can be choosy too. You know, and of course a lot of people won’t even meet the clients they’re working with today. In the gig economy, you can be taking clients from all over the world without ever having to meet them, but you’re probably still looking for some sort of connection on social media or through your other interactions. So again, you know, this is all part of the change that started talking about at the front of the show. The world has changed beyond all recognition and we have to adapt and we have to understand now what people are measuring us with, what the barometer is.
James Nathan: 21:00 One of the things you mentioned there was the ability to decide whether you want to work with a business based on information you can find out about them. You know, and there’s been good examples in the press recently of countries making political decisions about their population and how that then affects businesses attached to those countries. You know, the one I’m thinking about at the moment is Brunei and the Dorchester Group which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei and people saying, well, they wouldn’t stay in one of these hotels now. Those sort of things can have a massive impact very, very quickly. Where previously I guess it would have taken a lot longer to happen. You also mentioned service there and how that, that’s affected by things. As the world speeds and continues to change. How does service get effected?
Warren Cass: 21:50 Well, I think service has no choice but to improve and be personalized and you know, we have a trend towards the experiential…. creating experiences for people and making whatever product or service you have more of an experience for the customer. In fact, some recent research showed that…. we keep hopping back to this millennial term, which I think millennials loathe as much as, as older generations. And especially as the term millennial kind of encompasses several legacy demographics in itself.
James Nathan: 22:29 What’s the definition?
Warren Cass: 22:31 So a millennial is somebody born after 1980 but they are kind of subsets of that too. But the reason why I think it’s important is I think for younger generations it’s important to know what makes the older people they’ll interact with day to day tick.
Warren Cass: 22:49 What motivates them to make the decisions and to communicate the same in the way that they do and vice versa. You know, it’s a two way street. It’s about understanding first and foremost. But anyway, this research around experiential basically said there were a few trends that were leading the charge, but given a hypothetical situation of an additional hundred pounds in your hand, 78% of millennials would choose to spend it on an experience than an item, than a thing. Where if think about the kind of materialistic sort of times of the 70s, 80s, 90s, perhaps that would’ve been a different choice. The 78% would rather spend it on an experience. And the primary driver for that, the number one reason was in order to have social interactions away from social media. So they’re craving that kind of human connection.
Warren Cass: 23:46 And the second trend was because of a desire for a new perspective, to learn something new. So for a lot of businesses, when you’re thinking about your service, your proposition, the more experiencial you can be with your clients, the chances are you’re going to motivate positive feedback and loyalty and recommendation and referral just because you’ve created more of an experience from it. I’ve recently traveled to Australia and Singapore airport was, was the place I come back through. Now, Singapore airport has won airport of the year internationally for I think something like six or seven years consistently and what they’ve done is absolutely fantastic. They’ve realized that actually, nobody really likes traveling particularly long haul. So the more they can do to create an experience when you’re in the airport and killing time for however many hours your stop over is, the better for them.
Warren Cass: 24:44 So they’ve got a number of parks, Butterfly Gardens, they’ve got a cinema. If you’re in Singapore airport for more than two and a half hours, they’ve got an open, open top bus tour of the city….. kids play areas, massage chairs, you know, they’ve really taken the time to create an experience while you wait. And there’s kind of the old Disney principle, you know, entertain people while they queue and my thing is for most organizations is what can you do to kind of adopt that thinking into your own business?
James Nathan: 25:22 There’s so much we can learn from these businesses, I know Disney’s a bit of a cliche. But I absolutely love it. I think there’s….. I tell a story of going to Disney a couple of years ago where I was at a conference and I woke up very early because of the five hour different time difference. And I went for a jog around the lake and one of the things I saw at the corner of my, I thought, well that looks a bit weird. It looks like people are messing with the plants. When I got closer to them, they were dusting it. And you know, their level of detail is so great. They dust plants in the evening. So that when you turn up, they look perfect.
Warren Cass: 25:57 I don’t know what your’e talking about, we do that in our own garden, don’t you dust your plants?
James Nathan: 26:04 [laughs] Do you know, I’m looking out the window at the moment and thinking it’s such a grey or bloody awful day of, of not sure of dusting is going to make them any better. But, you know, when businesses go that far, no wonder they become cliches. And there’s so much we can learn from them.
James Nathan: 26:20 Right back when we started to talk, you talked about businesses tuning into their values and that actually the majority of the bigger businesses don’t do that. But then if you look at some of the real success stories, of the last while businesses like Google and Amazon, they are extraordinarily tuned into that stuff. And there’s a lot we can learn from them.
Warren Cass: 26:44 Absolutely. But they are data-driven businesses, so they are really trying to understand trends and behaviours and patterns in order to be relevant. And you know, as much as many of us don’t particularly like the amount of information that some of these brands are collecting about us, we could all learn something about improving our services based on exactly what people want. What are the trends, the patterns and the behaviours. You know, what are the things that demonstrate to a customer that you understand who they are. I mean, the reason why they want their data is because they want to present them with more opportunities to buy on things that they know they’re already interested in. Age Old advertising. So that, you know, what can we do for our customers just by taking a bit of time to understand them better. Simple principles really isn’t it?
James Nathan: 27:40 Obviously those big data businesses are one thing. If you think about the businesses that you interact with Warren, who would you hold out as a kind of shining example of someone who’s communicating really well with their client base and their employee base. And doing a great job.
Warren Cass: 27:58 Well one, which I really admire at the moment is Intuit and the stuff that they’re doing for their audience and first of all their product is amazing.
James Nathan: 28:07 So that’s accounting software?
Warren Cass: 28:10 Yeah, it’s QuickBooks. I was thrilled to be part of their London event recently, which was just a fabulous event with some amazing speakers and a huge audience of both accountants and small business owners. But this is a brand who’s really taken time to understand their audience and understand how to add more value and, and create experiences for them. That’s exactly what that particular day was. In fact it was two days. But it was an experience bringing people together and building relationships. And what surprised me was just how approachable many of the key people in the organization were. They were actively part of the event engaged with and having conversations with, you know, not sitting and watching from the corners, which you can often find at these events. Their sleeves were rolled off and they were stuck in with everybody else. So it was just, just one example of a brand that I think is wonderful.
James Nathan: 29:11 What I think it’s really interesting about that is, you know, the product that they produce is something that I guess we need. It’s not something that you would choose to have if you didn’t have to do accountancy, you wouldn’t do it. Or most people wouldn’t do it, although I’m an accountant, so I can probably tell you I would still would, but it’s not necessarily a sexy product in that way. Although, you know, they are finding ways of making it exciting for people, which is wonderful.
Warren Cass: 29:38 You know, obviously again, another area of the way we’re living in times of great change, I mean for the accountancy professional alone, the old compliance work, which they used to do week in, week out and get paid for is now just completely commoditized. It’s all digitized. It’s the touch of a button stuff. So as a profession, they’ve got to reinvent themselves in order to be relevant to the audience that they serve. It’s got to be more service based. It’s gotta be adding more value. It’s gotta be based on relationships. So it’s a profession that’s going through a lot of change. But what’s good about the Intuit product, QuickBooks is that it, you know, and I’m sure that there are other products that are doing the same thing, but it’s the whole intuitive nature of making life easy for you.
Warren Cass: 30:25 As much as most of us, you know, running small businesses loath the setting down and doing our expenses and the invoicing and you know, banking and everything else that goes with it. When you have something that makes that job really, really easy and yet still gives you all of your kind of management data and information so you can make more informed decisions, that does start to become really quite exciting. You know, I was as resistant to everybody else for cloud accounting and having to do stuff myself. But then when you see just how easy it is it was a whole new experience.
James Nathan: 31:06 And that leaves us at a point where it’s probably good to ask you the big question. Warren, what’s the one thing that you’d love people to take away? The, the, the golden nugget that you could leave the listeners with today that can help them change their business and make it better?
Warren Cass: 31:21 So the one thing I would leave people with is a kind of a summary of the conversation we’ve just had James, which is that the world has changed beyond all recognition and it’s specifically changed within different niches and industries too. If you are running your own business, one of the best favours that you can do for yourself is to become a student of that change and to keep one eye on it all times. We’ve already mentioned Google. And an example I like to use from stages, that prior to the internet and prior to Google hitting the scenes, there was one brand that dominated search across the planet and that was the yellow pages. And they were active in multiple continents, head offices in Texas and Reading in the UK. And they absolutely dominated search. But there was nobody in the organization with one eye on the future thinking what’s this thing called the internet and how’s it going to impact our business?
Warren Cass: 32:18 And I just firmly believe that for most small businesses today and large businesses alike, being a student of change is probably the best thing they can do for themselves regularly typing into Google or YouTube search and asking the question, what does the future hold in x, x, x equals your professional niche. That would be the first thing. And then the second, I know you said one thing, but it still relates to change and that’s the change around the behaviours in which we communicate. You need to stay on top of that and stay relevant to your customers by knowing how they engage.
James Nathan: 32:54 Absolutely. Fantastic thoughts, Warren. Thank you so, so much. It’s been lovely chatting with you and thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule.
Warren Cass: 33:02 My pleasure to be here, James. Thanks for having me.