Neil’s Background at a Glance
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Neil is a former business journalist and is president of Neil Godin International Inc., a business consulting, training and publishing firm. Neil is unique in that he works with both sides of the training equation: Business development (training in marketing, sales and service), and ‘people development’ (training in leadership and team building; communication, and conflict prevention and resolution).
Speaking with insight and humor
As a speaker Neil has addressed more than 300,000 people from coast to coast in Canada and the US. His most popular topic is ‘Welcome to the Future,’ an entertaining and insightful look at the future of work (and life) in the post-industrial era. He conducts professional development workshops for teachers and educators on the same theme – highlighting the knowledge, skills and attributes our children need as they emerge into this challenging and exciting new era (emphasizing self-determination and self-management, leadership, teamwork, communication, critical and creative thinking, problem solving, programming literacy, and project management, coupled with the willingness and ability to engage in lifelong learning).
Training programs that are innovative and effective
While many of his training clients are larger companies and organizations (his client list includes The Royal Bank, Telus, Ford, Shell, McDonalds, Subway, KPMG, Dun & Bradstreet, BC Hydro and other large organizations) he works mainly with small to mid-size companies and organizations of all kinds.
As a professional development trainer he is responsible for a number of innovations including the sales and service training program, ‘Relationship Banking,’ conducted for the Royal Bank, with components replicated by financial institutions around the world. As a contract trainer with Telus for a number of years, he wrote and delivered three ground breaking leadership training programs, including ‘Turning Corporate Strategy into Results,’ a program that aligns executive planning with front line coaching by managers, and the actual day-to-day performance of people in the field. He has also conducted customer service programs for BC Hydro Engineering and many other clients.
Conflict prevention (and resolution) skills are emphasized
In terms of “people skills,” Neil is trained in conflict resolution, mediation, facilitation, and interpersonal communication, and holds a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the Justice Institute of BC’s Centre for Conflict Resolution.
Now ‘The Back Story’
Neil’s life underwent a dramatic shift during the 1980’s when North America and most of the world suffered through the greatest recession since The Great Depression of the 1930’s. We’ll let Neil tell the story…
“As the recession deepened, a government agency asked me and a colleague, Bill Gibson, if we would develop and deliver a traveling seminar on ‘How to Recession-proof Your Business.’ Yes, we would, we said, and we did. Bill and I both worked as media relations and advertising consultants at the time – we had no idea how to ‘recession-proof’ a business, but we loved a challenge and in seven days of intense days of brainstorming we put together a content-rich three-hour presentation, and we traveled that seminar show across the continent for almost three years – telling business owners how to use fast-acting, low-cost ‘guerrilla marketing’ to drum up business; how to use cutting edge selling skills to close the business they drummed up – and how to use bleeding edge customer service to keep those customers coming back, and get them referring others. We did the seminar using stand-up comedy – doing really funny role plays on how ‘not’ to handle customer price inquiries on the telephone, for example, and how to get everybody in the business selling, by enabling and motivating everyone – including customers – to act as informal members of the company’s extended sales and marketing team.
We packed the halls – and had a ball
“We encouraged service and support people to act as sales ambassadors, looking for and acting on opportunities to mention new possibilities to established customers – and acting on business opportunities that turn up when meeting people socially. We had a ball. It was show biz. We packed people into legion halls and fairgrounds and local theatres and got rave reviews from the media. And our ‘show’ was effective. We received hundreds of phone calls from participants telling us how they used ideas we presented to make an immediate difference in their business. Often, as we settled into our seats on a flight to the next city, we would look at each other and say, ‘Imagine getting paid to do this.’ Wow.
Things turned serious
“There was a serious side to the story as well. Right from the start people would come out of the audience and ask if we worked with companies in trouble (and during this recession there were a lot of companies in trouble). No, neither of us had ever worked with a business facing bankruptcy. Bill had a background in broadcast sales and served clients as a media advertising consultant; my background was in newspaper journalism and I served my clients with media relations consulting, and marketing advice (helping them decide ‘what’ to develop and publicize, not just ‘how’ to earn media and public attention). Our clients at the time were a mix of smaller companies and several large organizations – all doing well despite the recession.
“The next question we were often asked: ‘Would you visit our store (or dental office, small factory or computer service business, etc.), before leaving town, and give us some ideas?’ Our answer: ‘Of course.’ And we did this again and again, at no charge, as a way of delivering added value in the cities and towns we visited. Because we were objective (and our heads were full of creative ideas thanks to the recession-proofing seminar), we were able to help many of these companies achieve an almost immediate turn-around – just by peppering them with ideas in a one-hour tour of their business. I loved doing this. It was exciting, often exhilarating work that actually produced results.
Here’s a ‘quick turnaround’ example:
“The scene: A family shoe store in a small mining and forestry town. Going under. Owner deeply distressed, saying he was about to lose his house as well as the business. We toured the store.
Hmm. ‘I see you have lots and lots of work books – but you’re light on sneakers,’ I said.
He answered, ‘Yes, we cater to miners and loggers and truckers, so we’ve got to have everything they need, in all their sizes.’
‘Are you selling any?’ I asked.
‘No,’ he said, ‘Just about everybody’s laid off because of the recession.’
He added, ‘And I’m not selling sneakers either, because I can’t afford to bring in the styles and selection people want.’
‘Just a thought,’ I offered (with a smile), “Why not sell off the work boots at fire sale prices,’ and load up on sneakers?’
“When we got back to Vancouver two weeks later, there was a note from him saying, ‘My recession was in the boots department. My turnaround is already underway. Thanks, you guys!’
Suddenly, we became ‘the turnaround guys’
“Then things turned really serious. A national bank we were working with asked if we would go in and have a look at one of their clients – a real estate development company that was going under. The bank planned to call their loans and shut them down, but the vice president we were dealing with thought it would demonstrate good corporate citizenship if they sent us in first, just to see if there was anything we could do to help.
“The company, owned by three builders, had 100 building lots to sell, and hadn’t sold a lot in the previous six months. We went in and spent three days with them – and they sold out the entire development over the following three months – at the very bottom of the recession. The bank was amazed. So were we. And while this may sound odd, it was actually very easy to help them get those results. We brainstormed dozens and dozens of ideas with them. We taught them how to use guerilla marketing. We showed them how to ‘sell without selling,’ and we helped them get started on executing a detailed and time-lined plan of action that we developed along the way. And the rest, as they say, was history.
I loved this work and carried it on
“Naturally, the bank asked if we would carry on, and take on more assignments. My colleague and life long friend, Bill Gibson, said ‘no,’ as he had his sights set on developing his practice as a world class speaker (which he did, working from his headquarters in South Africa, and speaking and training around the globe) – but I said ‘yes,’ and went on to do more than a hundred of these turnarounds. Today, I still take on the occasional case, but most of my clients are healthy companies looking to take their business or organization to the next level.
A word about ‘the human connection’ in my work
“Clients often ask me about the unusual scope of my coaching and speaking practice – covering both business development and ‘people development.’ The reason for branching out this way was simple necessity – when working with people in crisis, I found it very difficult to help them focus their time and energy on getting things moving. Instead, their focus, again and again, was aimed at finding fault – playing what I call the victim game (“We wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for: The government, or union, or cut-throat fly-by-night competitors…or unmotivated staff…or the bank…creditors, the weather, etc., etc.”).
Prepared for this work or not, I found myself counseling people in how to avoid unnecessary and destructive conflict; coaching them in how to ‘attack the problem, not the person’ when mistakes are made; how to correct a person without demoralizing criticism (we couldn’t afford to have anyone demoralized by criticism, no matter how justified it may have seemed). How taking responsibility for our part of any problem literally sets us free (free of the blame game and the victim game – free to go after the problem instead of the person…free to think creatively, instead of wasting mental and emotional energy blaming one ‘villain’ or another. And, of course, I began facilitating people in conflict situations, whether fully equipped to do so or not.
It was time for formal learning
“While I studied interpersonal communication and conflict resolution, and attended a lot of seminars, I thought it was time that I obtained formal training, so I completed a certificate program offered by the Center for Conflict Resolution at the Justice Institute of BC. This was the most exciting and enjoyable learning of my life (so far). Today, I continue to build on what I learned at the center, mainly by exploring the lesser known territory of conflict ‘prevention.’ In my personal ‘self-work’ and my coaching, I’m now working actively on a ‘Big Idea’ – the idea that most conflict can be predicted – and prevented – if we have the necessary insights and skills.
“If you’re interested in how this big idea could apply to your business or organization – whether in terms of leadership and team building, or sales and service, I welcome you to call, and I look forward to talking with you about the possibilities.
A word about my obsessive focus on service…
“When I started doing turnarounds, I almost immediately became obsessed with service quality. I knew that work had to be done flawlessly, and when it wasn’t, the company needed to recover flawlessly. Every aspect of the customer experience had to be envisioned and carefully engineered. Quality of work; quality of service; quality of deportment and presentation of people – everything – had to be designed to attract customers through word of mouth, and keep new customers coming back and referring their friends. I describe this level of genuinely exceptional customer service as ‘the last competitive advantage in business’ because it can’t be easily copied by competitors – and I carry that obsession with me to this day.
A word about my approach to marketing and sales
“In terms of marketing and sales, these companies in crisis always had to double their sales (or more) almost immediately, so we had to find fast-acting, low-cost ways to build their business. The marketing strategies we developed were (and still are) designed ‘to do far more with much less.’ And our sales training (originally spearheaded by Bill Gibson, who was the most effective salesperson I have ever known or studied), was designed to turn salespeople into ‘trusted advisors’ who closed sales naturally, by simply helping prospective clients to buy what would serve them best. My sales training still takes this helping, ‘trusted advisor’ approach. Instead of the usual training in how to ‘handle’ objections, for example, we teach interviewing and listening skills that help salespeople understand what their prospective clients truly need, fear and wish for, at the deepest levels. Rarely, for example, is a ‘price’ objection the real underlying concern.
“There isn’t a day that I don’t draw upon what we learned in those exciting times.
And the learning never ends – because the times are still exciting.”