Going from being unnoticed and an underdog to being published and noticed seems like a hard path to take. But our guest this episode, Curtis Jenkins, a business coach, Author, Keynote Speaker, made it sound really easy through becoming significant and being persistent.
Curtis also shares how he realised his purpose to become significant by helping businesses succeed, the bumps and experiences he's had before he became successful himself, and some tips for entrepreneurs on how they could turn their visions into reality.
Get Otter with 1-month FREE Pro Lite
Generate rich notes for meetings, interviews, lectures, and other important voice conversations.
Graphic design toolbox - Visme
Create visual brand experiences for your business whether you are a pro designer or a total novice.
Build responsive quizzes
Generate higher quality, higher converting leads
Vidyard - Use Video In Your Emails
Vidyard is the easiest way to record and send videos that build personal
Post-production, transcript and show notes by XCD Virtual Assistants
The UnNoticed Entrepreneur is produced in the UK by the EASTWEST Public Relations Group.
Hello, and welcome to this episode of The Unnoticed Entrepreneur with me, Jim James. And today we are going to North Philly in America to talk to Curtis Jenkins. And we'll talk about how you can go from being an underdog to being published, from being a business employee to being a business owner. And how he's overcome so many obstacles to build a personal brand. Curtis, thank you for coming with me on the show.Curtis Jenkins:
Hey Jim, it's my pleasure. My pleasure to be here.Jim James:
You know, Curtis, you've got a wonderful backstory, and as you know, I love to share how entrepreneurs can get noticed. Just tell us a little bit about you, and then we're going to talk about what you wanted to do in terms of building a brand and how you've done that.Curtis Jenkins:
Sure. I'll start off saying, I was somewhat born an entrepreneur, but more so a teacher. It's anything that I've learned, anything that I have, I wanted to teach others. But more importantly, I wanted to teach the people that I grew up with, came up in a pretty tough working-class neighborhood. And anytime I learned something, I wanted to teach it. And so I've tried my hand at several ways to do that when I was helping people with their taxes and creating Jenkins Financial, all the way to the small business owner who is still trying to grow. And then I'm helping them grow through everything that I've learned.Jim James:
So look, and I love that mission that you've got about helping bring everybody along on the journey with you, Curtis, as well. And let's just do that. Let's just talk then a little bit about where have you been trying to get to in terms of building your own brand? Let's, first of all, start with the vision for where you wanted to get to.Curtis Jenkins:
Sure. And when you talk about vision, I love that. So, think about this from success to significance. And I'm trying to be more significant. If I am able to help small businesses, which employ roughly 99% of the workforce in the world, then I'm going to make an impact. And so as I, myself, going through learning how to build a business by working in corporate and helping big businesses with growing, I learned some of the secrets of what they do, how they develop strategies, how they develop plans, and execute on those plans and then becoming myself a Project Manager from a software developer. I got to see how things became from a vision to being real. So I took all those elements and decided, "Hey, I can also do this and help small businesses do this with these processes." They don't have the money that the big businesses have. They don't have the staffing, they don't have a lot of the things that a big business has an advantage of. But they do, if you structure them right, they can become successful and make their visions a reality. So that's what I've decided and that's what I've learned about myself first, and then learned that I can help others. As it relates to branding, you know, I wanted to brand myself as being the person that can do that because I've had the experience, I think I have a great temperament and attitude, and that's all I need. That and some persistence, and if I can transfer that to other entrepreneurs, I mean, I think I can help other entrepreneurs be successful.Jim James:
Curtis, I love that. And of course, the mission for my show as well is to help entrepreneurs to brand and get noticed with Gorilla Marketing, because so many clients of my PR firm are big companies, and it's the smaller businesses that really need our help. So it's a great mission, but as we all know that it's not necessarily so easy to just go from one place to another. Do you want to tell us on that journey to becoming an authority and a known sort of support for entrepreneurs? What are some of the obstacles that you've faced from a marketing perspective? And how have you solved those?Curtis Jenkins:
Well, the first thing I learned is I didn't know anything about marketing myself. Marketing at the time, I thought, and the internet came around, so first it would be going out and getting all this stationary, and getting your logos, and everything matching, and just looking good. But that didn't translate into any new business. Along come the internet, and there's social media, and all these other things to marketing. And I thought, "Oh, I just need to get a social media page." I didn't know anything about marketing. So I ended up speaking to several marketing firms and then, through one referral, I actually hired this marketing firm who sat down with me to help me understand how to create a brand strategy. And then, pretty much, I just follow what they tell me to do because my skill is in organization, bringing people together, and driving outcomes, but marketing was not my skill. So you've got to bring somebody along that has that skill and they're going to teach you how to do that.Jim James:
Curtis, you're absolutely right. And that's a step that many people are kind of anxious about as well though, kind of, outsourcing that. Can you just tell us what were some of the criteria that you used to make the decision about which was the right agency? Because if you tell yourself to the wrong one, you can lose both time and money, can't you?Curtis Jenkins:
Yeah, so it was a couple of criteria. The first one was, "Let me see who you've marketed it, and let me see how you market it, and then let me talk to them about their outcomes." And so I got to go through part of that journey on understanding, "Hey, if they did this for these folks, and these folks are being well sought after, then they can do that for me." Part of the criteria too was look, funds are limited, okay? So I need to compare how much you cost versus how much the other person costs. It wasn't just the amount of money going out, it was how can you create a return for me that's bigger than the other person? So if I paid a certain amount and I got a certain return, what's that percentage? And so I landed on a firm that I thought would make me more popular and help me brand. And I'm the type of person that will listen to what you tell me if you're the expert, right? I'll at least try it. But, you know, am I getting the most return for the money that's going out? Because money's a scarce resource, especially for entrepreneurs.Jim James:
When you say ROI, you know, obviously everyone loves the idea of getting an investment dollar back, but most agencies will tell you that they can't guarantee the return, Curtis. So, how did you too reconcile, you know, that? Because, you know, brand building takes time. As an agency, you know, myself, I've had clients and had to explain that building a brand is not the same as direct sales. So, how do you come to an agreement, understanding, and a place of trust with the agency about what that meant?Curtis Jenkins:
So the first contract we had, they asked me, "What do I consider successful as an outcome?" So if we are able to do these three things, or four things, or five things, then would you consider us successful. So we laid that out. And it started off with the number of podcasts that they can get me on. It started off also with the number of I got hooked up with Forbes, for example, to be a writer. And how many articles I could pump out. it also came up with how much social media that they were going to perform. And so we created metrics around certain things that would get me out there. And when we got through the contract and the timing, and you know, we had a couple bumps, but those metrics helped me see that we can continue to do it. And so then it's a continual relationship. And now, what's the next level, and then what's the next level.Jim James:
Good. It sounds like you've got some great results there, especially if you're getting into Forbes. It's not easy to be a contributor too. You mentioned a couple of bumps. As you know, on the show I like to find out what's going well, but also what's not gone well, because that's often where we do the most learning. What bumps did you hit, if you don't mind to share. And how did you smooth them out?Curtis Jenkins:
So my entrepreneurial bumps. The first bump when I created my first company. My mission was to teach people how to do their own taxes. And I found out I wasn't getting the mission. I was trying to solve a problem that people didn't have. They wanted something else. All they wanted was more money in their taxes. They didn't want to learn how to do taxes. So, that didn't go well. Then I had a company where part of my management consulting company would source for other businesses. Well, when there was an issue that happened with the primary company, they froze all contracts, and I was a hundred grand in because I didn't have the money. It was a big company, they could take that hit. So I had to take my 401k to save myself and my own personal reputation and brand. Now, subsequently, later down the road, through a lawsuit that I couldn't afford to fight, it was a class action lawsuit. So I got some of that back, but that was painful. And then as it related to working with the team and a couple of bumps, you know, I would say that you've got to be clear on what an outcome is because if you're thinking you're going one way and they're going another way, that could be a big problem. And I think that was one of my issues, is that what I thought I was getting and what I got was not the right thing. And so we had to reconcile that. Go back and look at the contract and then write that wrong. So you're going to have bumps. Nothing's going to be linear, but you've got to keep going.Jim James:
Well, I think you've mentioned a key point there about having some written agreements, because often there becomes, on both sides, a discrepancy between an expectation and the ability to deliver as well, especially with agencies and entrepreneurs haven't used them before. Now you've written a book, "Vision to Reality." And so far you've made this sound like a textbook case of building a personal brand. Take us through the journey then of building out the book, because now you've got the book, plainly, that's a key part of your personal brand. How have you done that? And what issues have you faced on the way?Curtis Jenkins:
So, when I worked with this marketing team, they interviewed me about the book. Well, prior to writing this book, I had written another book, self-published. It was called "The Only Job Search Book You'll Ever Need." So I was writing about my career and the issues that I had with the career, and the obstacles. And again, I want to teach others how to overcome obstacles. So I thought I was going to write the second book, right? How to basically grow in your career and become an executive. But as they interview me, they talk more about, you know, asking me questions that led me to sort of my management consulting side, and how I helped entrepreneurs starting off, helping my friends, and then coming up with this process, and they say, "Wait, that's the book you need to write." So we agreed. They signed up, I signed on with them with a ghost writer, and we had a deadline. And so we got this book. They shopped it around. I got my first publishing deal, and I was happy. However, when I was reading a book, working with the ghost writer, it didn't sound like me. And I didn't want people that knew me to read that book and say, "That's not Curtis." So I missed my publishing deadline by a year because I had to rewrite it, and I had to rewrite it to make it sound like me. And the original title of the book actually changed as well because I joined the business accelerator group. And I joined that group because I wanted to understand what other businesses went through, but as a group, we can help each other. A couple of things happened. The title of the book changed, "Vision to Reality: Stop Working, Start Living," because I wanted to make it more relevant. I needed new glasses, and I got these glasses, and they became a great personal brand. So the title of the, I mean, you'll see though on the cover of the book, the same glasses. So this became my, my new brand and people loved it.Jim James:
Yeah, looks great. Looks very cool.Curtis Jenkins:
And so, it wasn't a straightforward journey. I had to keep going back and massaging, refining. And so now I have the book. And I'm so excited and happy that I have it. But again, it was not a linear journey. It was many nights and weekends that I had to give up.Jim James:
Curtis, when you say that the book didn't sound like you when it was written by the ghost writer. What do you mean? Because many people think that having a ghost writer can be the solution if you are not naturally an author, so just take us through that. When you say, it didn't sound like you, just briefly, what did you find was missing?Curtis Jenkins:
The way that I talk, I know how I talk. So if I read something that sounds like somebody else, in my mind, I start to picture someone else. But when I read my own writing, I can only picture me. And so if people knew me, people that know me, they would read it and immediately say, "Curtis, what were you thinking?" Or "Who was this person? Because this is not you." And so we all have our own styles. And you've got to get other people to read what you write to help you understand that. Because it wasn't just me that picked that up, it was other friends that I asked, "Hey, read this and tell me what you think."Jim James:
So sort of being authentic in terms of voice was really a key part of your personal range or about the glasses. Now you're building out your personal brand because you're going to be sort of almost exiting your full-time job, Curtis. What would you say would be, if you like, a key takeaway as you've been building your own personal brand and the business around the coaching? Is there a key takeaway that you think you could share with fellow unnoticed entrepreneurs?Curtis Jenkins:
Well, you know, one of the things I always say is business is a team sport, and the key takeaway for me is that, you heard me mention, I got somebody to help me with marketing. The other is, as a business coach, I hired a business coach because there could be blind spots. And one of the things for me was learning that my conversations when I'm meeting a perspective client, it was more about what I offer and less about what their problems were. And so I had to learn how to talk to people to find out more about them because it's not about me, and it's not about my product, or about my service, it's really about the person that I'm trying to serve. And that was a big switch there, and I needed somebody to help me understand that. You know, just, because I think I got a great widget here doesn't mean that, you know, everybody wants it. So I would implore other entrepreneurs to really think about how you leverage others to help you get where you're going and make sure you're working with somebody that understands what your problems are and where you're trying to go. So you really need to articulate what your outcome should be.Jim James:
Curtis, wonderful. So going from vision to reality takes, as you say, some focus, and it sounds as though teamwork but also persistence. Curtis, is it the case that, apart from those one or two speed bumps as an entrepreneur, would you say that everything you've tried has been pretty seamless or have you had to sort of get yourself up off the floor a couple times?Curtis Jenkins:
Nothing that I've tried has been seamless. Everything has had some bumps. And you know what I think what for me, being a trained Professional Project Manager, you learn how to look risk right in the face and keep going, right? And you learn how to be creative. And you have to think, first of all, for yourself, you have to develop some good habits, right? I like that the saying, "People don't decide their futures, they decide their habits. And their habits decide their futures." And so, I've lost a lot of money in some of the things that I've done, and you would think I would just want to just stop, and just work, find a good job. You know, your parents tell you, "Find yourself a good job," but that's part of the excitement of the journey, but you've got to be willing to stay persistent. You got to be willing to learn, you know, this thing in project management, lessons learned. But more importantly, lessons apply. Just because you learned it you don't need it. You got to apply those lessons and keep building. And when you do that, you find yourself creating these new muscles, these new mental muscles that you go, you just, you know, you grow. And it's almost like, you know, when you have children versus grandchildren. Your children, you know, you've got white carpet in the house, they spill a red juice on it, and you lose your mind, "Oh my God." Whereas when your grandchildren do it, you go, "Oh, we'll just clean it up."Jim James:
I love that analogy. I had to say, luckily I'm not quite old enough to have grandchildren, or I think I am, but I started my family a bit later in life. Goodness. I love that analogy and the idea of persistence. If people want to find out more about you over there in Philadelphia, how can they find more about Curtis Jenkins?Curtis Jenkins:
Sure. I would start off with my website, www.cljassoc.com. If you start there, it'll branch you out to other places. But I would say, connect with me on LinkedIn and my social, Curtis L. Jenkins. You'll find me on Instagram and Facebook at @TheCurtisJenkins. And you'll find me, you know, pretty much, my book in bookstores where books are sold, especially amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.Jim James:
Curtis, look, it's really impressive what you've managed to build. And I love, you know, the humility of recognising what you don't know, finding the partners and trusting them to help you work on those to grow from, as you say, your vision into reality. Thank you so much for joining me and my fellow entrepreneurs on The Unnoticed Entrepreneur Show today.Curtis Jenkins:
Thank you for having me. I appreciate being a guest on this show. This is an amazing show. I love the premise and I think, that people will love it.Jim James:
Curtis, you're too kind, and thanks for going through with me a site change to format as well today, which I'm sure people will have noticed a slightly different format, which I'm experimenting to try and make this more of a storytelling show so we can, you know, connect and resonate with fellow entrepreneurs. And make it a little less tactical, a little bit more emotional. So, I think that hopefully it will make the show more engaging. If you've enjoyed this, please do share it with the fellow entrepreneurs. Rate it if you can. And as you've heard from Curtis, you know, keep on communicating, keep on trying, and keep on listening to me and my amazing guests. Thanks for joining me, Jim James, on this episode of The Unnoticed Entrepreneur.