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Episode 17

Ditch the How with Dan Sullivan

The next book in our summer of reading it by the brilliant, kind, and curious founder of Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan! In this episode, Dan and I speak about everything from the great information in Who Not How, to the importance of knowing what your unique ability is, to why Dan says he is going to live to be 156.

They told me it was impossible. “Dan Sullivan works with celebrities. He works with rockstars. There’s no way you will get to speak with him,” they said. But I didn’t give up, and to my surprise, the next thing I knew I had confirmation that Dan was actually happy to speak with me!

That said, I am so excited for you to hear this episode of She Talks Business. Thanks for listening!

What’s in This Episode

  • Why you need a WHO to help you get things done
  • The truth about procrastination
  • How to find your WHO and what to do when you find the wrong ones
  • Why being in charge actually requires you to give others control
  • Dan’s view on teamwork and technology as multipliers
  • Harnessing your unique ability

What To Do Next

  1. Join Thought Readers and connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs in this popular book club for business owners.
  2. Subscribe to receive this podcast and regular weekly strategies to grow and shape your business. You’ll also be the first to know about upcoming courses, programs and exclusive LIVE training.
  3. Connect on InstagramFacebook or LinkedIn and share your insights from the show.
  4. Sign up to be notified when I run the next Roadmap Workshop.

Where to Find Dan Sullivan

Up Next

Next week, tune in to episode 18 of She Talks Business as I speak with Allan Dib and discuss his book, 1-Page Marketing Plan.

Books Mentioned in this Episode

Episode Transcript

Download The PDF Transcript


Lisa Larter (00:01):
Welcome to, She Talks Business. If you’re an entrepreneur, business owner or aspiring mogul, chances are you want to learn more about marketing and mastering and monetizing your business. She Talks Business is where you’ll learn all of that and more. My name is Lisa Larter and I’m an entrepreneur, high school dropout, wiener dog enthusiast and your host. Let’s get started.

Lisa (00:00:24):
Hello, hello, hello and welcome back to She Talks Business. So I have a funny story to tell you about Dan Sullivan. So Dan Sullivan, I’ve known about Dan Sullivan for a long time. He’s the founder of Strategic Coach. I have all kinds of clients and friends and colleagues that have done work with Dan Sullivan. And I picked up a book, I forget where I saw it, but it was called Who Not How and it was written by Dan Sullivan and Hardy, Benjamin Hardy I think is the name. Sorry, Ben Hardy, I don’t mean to, I’m not familiar with you the way I’m familiar with Dan and I know you actually wrote most of the book so I hear, if not all of the book.

Lisa (00:01:04):
Anyways, back to my story. So I reached out to my trusty network and I said to some of these people, “Hey, I’m using Dan Sullivan’s book for my Thought Readers community. I would love to interview him. Do you think you could do an introduction?” And I get, “No. Dan works with celebrities, Dan works with rock stars, Dan’s not going to do an interview with you. Dan has gatekeepers. There’s no way you’re going to get to talk to Dan Sullivan. Dan is, he’s not accessible.”

Lisa (00:01:35):
So of course, when people tell me stuff like that, I don’t know what it does to you, I don’t know if it makes you go, “All right. Well, I might as well give up on that idea,” or if it makes you go, “Oh yeah, watch me.” But that’s what happens to me. It makes me go, “Oh yeah, watch me. I am going to get to Dan Sullivan.” And so sure enough, I just kept going and the next thing you know I have a confirmation that Dan would love to do this interview with me. And then the next thing you know Dan wants to actually come on the Zoom call before everyone else so that he can get to know me. And then everybody leaves the meeting and Dan stays on and he talks to me for another 30 minutes about business.

Lisa (00:02:14):
It was the best thing that has happened to me in my business in a long time because he is such a nice guy and he is so smart and he’s so curious and he’s so excited about life. So you’re going to love this conversation with him. It’s fantastic. And his book Who Not How, so I read that book in November of 2020 and when I read the book I went, “You know, this is my problem. I don’t have a podcast because I don’t have a who. I don’t have a new book because I don’t have a who.” And so I really started looking at the things that I wanted to get done in my business through the lens of who can help me instead of how.

Lisa (00:02:57):
And I showed it to my executive assistant Michelle because she became my podcast who. And even today, she messages me, “Don’t forget to do this for the podcast.” She has such ownership over the show and I love that. And then I reached out to Alan Weiss and said, “Hey, would you ever consider writing a book with me?”, because I knew he was a who that would propel me forward and he did. Our book is now written and the first draft of the manuscript is with the publisher. And the year’s not over yet. So again, insights coupled with action can be transformative in your life and business. This is why I read, this is why I lead Thought Readers because when you read together and you share your insights, they compound and you can encourage each other to do great things.

Lisa (00:03:52):
So if you’re interested in reading with us, you can check out And if you love this episode with Dan Sullivan, I highly, highly, highly encourage you to buy Who Not How. I read it in a weekend. It is a fantastic, fantastic book. Enjoy.

Lisa (00:04:10):
So welcome everyone. I am so excited to have Dan Sullivan here with us today. And Dan, I didn’t want to tell you this earlier but our community of 70 some people voted your book our most favorite book of 2020.
Dan (00:04:29):
Oh, thank you.

Lisa (00:04:30):
This book was just, it was outstanding. And so I am humbly sitting here today to tell you that I love your book and I love the concept and I am a little bit ashamed of some of the big goals that I set as a result of your book because I read this book and I thought, “I can do anything. All I need is the right who.”

Lisa (00:04:54):
And when I look back at some of the things that I had set out to do as a result of reading the book, my progress has been really bad. I’m glad you’re here and I’m looking forward to asking you a bunch of questions about the book in an effort to help all of us learn and grow in our business.

Dan (00:05:15):
Yeah. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I was born talking so I like to talk. One way that I often do to talk to people about Who Not How is actually have them do a history lesson going back as far as you want in your life and you say, “I learned a lot of hows,” all of us do in the course of growing up and school and being in various types of employment so we learn various hows.

Dan (00:05:51):
But I said what I’d like you to do is not think about your past in terms of all the hows you learned but the particular whos who were just crucial at certain jumping points. And for me the biggest one was really my mother. I was telling Lisa before we came on, I’m from Ohio originally and I grew up in farm country in Ohio so we had a produce farm. And those of you who are familiar with western Ontario, Point Pelee where if you go directly south it was about 40 miles south of Point Pelee on the other side, big amusement park there. Cedar Point is a big Lake Erie amusement park but I grew up on a farm. I’m the fifth child in a family of seven children. But both my parents were fifth children, my mother was fifth of seven, my father was fifth of nine.

Dan (00:06:57):
And looking back, I feel that the two of them, my mom and dad, really knew how to raise one of their children which was the fifth one. And so I talked with them a lot and there are big age differences so it was me basically with my parents for quite a number of years. I think my mother saw herself in me and she gave me all sorts of insights that I don’t hear my siblings talking about, I have a sister and five brothers still. The big thing was to really be useful to other people. She said, “The way you get along in life is figure out what other people want and then see if you can be useful in helping them.”

Dan (00:07:52):
But I didn’t like school at all. I had had six years on the farm and then they put me in a desk and I came home and she knew I wasn’t happy and she says, “You’re going to school to learn how to read because once you know how to read, you can go anywhere with your mind.” She said, “Your teachers are only teaching you what they’re taught,” but she said, “if you read, you’ll teach yourself.” So I got a lot of really good push early in life and I think my mother, first of all, I think she’d really be proud of how I’ve turned out. But I look at my life as a series of whos, there’s probably about between, when I was a teenager and today, there’s probably about 10 really big whos in my life who I collaborated with and where they were going and where I was going was parallel to each other.

Dan (00:08:47):
So we talk a lot about that in the book and the biggest thing I can say about the book in my belief in Who Not How is I didn’t write a word of the book. The book is written by Ben Hardy and we were on a podcast this morning with Ben and with Tucker Max who did the book contract with us, so everything. I said before the book started, I said, “For the readers to really take this concept seriously, we have to demonstrate the Who Not How concept.” In other words, the book itself has to. So Ben wrote it. He’s a really great writer and Tucker’s a great book strategist and Hay House is a great publisher. That’s pretty well the whole point about it.

Dan (00:09:38):
Now back to you, Lisa, with your goals. Okay. There’s a bit of a tyranny to goals. And what I mean by that, your goal is actually a picture that you have of yourself in the future is the way I describe it. And that who in the future is better than you are. In other words, the reason why you have the goal is because something’s bigger and better. And then that you in the future turns around and starts telling you what to do, “Now, do this and do this and do this,” and you say, “I don’t know how to do any of this.” And says, “Come on, come on. Grow like I did.” So you’ve got a future you talking to a present you and it’s delegating all sorts of things to you and you don’t know how to do it.

Dan (00:10:29):
Two things out of that. One is that’s why people procrastinate is because you want to get there what the goal is and you want to be the person that you see in the future but you don’t know how. If you knew how, you’d be there. So you procrastinate. And I’m a great believer that procrastination is wisdom, it’s a form of wisdom and it comes from your entire life of what you’re good at and what you aren’t good at and your procrastination is telling you, “The goal’s great, I don’t think you’re the one to do it.” And that’s where you go to who. Who can help you? And that’s where the idea came from. It was actually a man by the name of Dean Jackson, he actually dropped the words on me so I acknowledge him right at the beginning so that’s it.

Lisa (00:11:24):
How did you learn how to do that as you were scaling your own business? Because the Strategic Coach of today is not the same Strategic Coach it was 20 years ago. So if you look back on your business, how did you learn how to step up and find the right whos and the second part of my question is what did you do when you found the wrong whos? How did you change things when you had found what you thought was the right who but it was apparent to you that it wasn’t the right who later on?

Dan (00:12:02):
I’ll start with the wrong one, that was my first marriage.

Lisa (00:12:05):

Dan (00:12:11):
I acknowledge this that if I hadn’t met Babs Smith, who’s my partner, she’s my wife and my partner, none of what has been created over the last … We met in ’82 and we got married in ’86 and then around ’87 we started putting the company together. But she’s the number one who in my life. We both have the same goal, we’re intensely interested in entrepreneur. She was an entrepreneur when I met her. And she said, “You got really good ideas,” but she said, “you’re doing so much that just keeps you busy and tied down.” She said, “I’ll create teams that actually can do that.” We have 115 team members in Coach and Babs runs the whole company. I have nothing to do with the management of the company.

Dan (00:13:12):
I’m really good at the one thing I do, I can come up with new ideas. I can put them into book form, I can put them in audio form, video form. I can put them into workshop form. And she pretty well had me pegged back in the ’80s and she said, “You just can’t be doing all this stuff. We got to find other people to do all that.” I’m telling you what, the part that I’m proudest about is that I didn’t resist her.

Lisa (00:13:44):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s one of those things where it takes time to make time. And when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t … I look at the, what is it? The impact filter? And I look at that tool and I think, “Wow, in theory that’s so amazing.” And then I read what you say about clarity and I think, “How do I get more clear about what I need from people?” And then the next question I have is, “How do I find time to find people to help me make time?” And so it feels like it’s a never ending cycle of challenges to move from the how to the who. Do you have any insights on the best first step?

Dan (00:14:34):
Yeah. We have another book. I write a book every quarter so they’re small books. Here, I’ll actually show you what the Who Not How book looked like. It’s this thick and it’s Who Not How and I created this about probably six months before this project started. So the structure of the book that you read is actually based on the structure, and I write one of these every quarter and I have a 10-person team that helps me. It takes me about 40 hours, 40 hours a quarter. I’m just starting another one tomorrow so this’ll be for June and July.

Dan (00:15:19):
So part of it is, and I’ll just tell you what I’ve discovered in doing this because I was a rugged individual like a lot of entrepreneurs are. But I had to decide if I didn’t care who did things and I was just really, really committed to the end result and I said, “I’ll do my part of it and I’ll even take direction.” So for example, I have Eleanora as a manager. I have about six managers and they manage the different parts of my life and Eleanora lays out the schedule, she lays out what has to be done, and then I’m directed to do this. So I’m one of the most managed people you’ll ever find. And I have different parts of my work and I’m just told this is when you show up. I don’t even keep my schedule, other people keep my schedule like Eleanora will coordinate, I have a main scheduler for myself and Babs, Eleanora works with that.

Dan (00:16:29):
And then I have new workshop materials, I have a person who manages that and they tell me what to do. So here’s the thing that’s interesting. I like being in charge but you can only be in charge if you give other people control. So I just like making that distinction. Being in charge is that you’re working on the things that you really love and you’re passionate about them, but all the activities that are required to get to there have to be managed by other people. And I’m not a manager, I don’t have management capabilities.

Dan (00:17:08):
Babs is great at creating teams and she’s managed too. She’s managed by other people so that’s the closest I can say. I’m just told what to do all day.

Lisa (00:17:21):
Can you give us an example outside of your marriage of a who that was the wrong who in your business and how you recovered from that? Or what changes you made to get the right who?

Dan (00:17:32):
Yeah. I think that early, we started in 1989, so I think in the early ’90s there were attempts to get, I call them project managers. My life is mainly a series of projects. I had some that just didn’t work. It was probably a combination of me not being real good at telling them what I really wanted and them not being really good at telling me how to go about it and everything like that. It’s like all the dates you had when you were a teenager that you’re really happy today that they didn’t work out.

Lisa (00:18:15):

Dan (00:18:18):
Whew, that was close. You have to be willing to have a lot of trial and error in it. And it costs money. You’re writing checks for this. But for example, Eleanora we’ve been working together, how long now, Eleanora? Twelve, 2012, 2013?

Eleanora (00:18:35):

Dan (00:18:43):
So we coach about, when we’re full strength, which we aren’t right now because of COVID but when we’re at full strength our client base is 2500 to 3,000. We took a real hit in the middle of last year. Now, we’re growing back. So I would suspect probably this time next year we’ll be back to full strength with a number of clients.

Dan (00:19:11):
So we have levels. We have three levels of the coaching program and you have to do the first before you get to the second, you have to do the second before you get to the third. I’m gradually creating a third level and two years from now I won’t be coaching anyone at the second level. So we put a date on the calendar and I was just starting to sketch out this third level about eight years ago and we were in Chicago and I was showing people. And what I do when I’m coaching entrepreneurs, I put up on the screen how I’m thinking about it. I’m going to tell you how I’m thinking about it.

Dan (00:19:52):
The thinking process, Who Not How would be a thinking process. I said, “I’m going to show you how I’m thinking about it and then you can ask me questions how I’m thinking about it. Just use the thinking process for your own thinking.” And then they’d talk to each other. So anyway, I put up this thing and I said, “I need an overall manager who just manages this third level of how we create this surge level of how we market the third level.” And that was late one afternoon. The next morning Eleanora who she was managing the one-day conference she says, “I’m applying for that job.” And I said, “You’re on.”

Dan (00:20:34):
So I’m going to go back to a question you had, Lisa. How do you find them? They find you. The way that they find you is you commit yourself to something you want without knowing you have the means to actually get there.

Lisa (00:20:50):
So talk more about-

Dan (00:20:51):
So why I committed that we’re going to have this program and I laid it out for everyone but I need a particular who, who will be the overall manager right from the start of this project. Well, I never told Eleanora that in person, I didn’t really even think about it. But she came up to me and she said, “Everything you want to do, I like doing that so I’ll be your manager.”

Dan (00:21:15):
So one of the things and we have another book, how I got on this topic, we have a book that’s called The 4C’s. I tell you what the third C is and the fourth C. The third C is capability. So you have a capability. And the fourth C is confidence. So when people set goals, you say, “Well, you’re not moving towards that goal.” And says, “Well, I don’t the capability yet.” I said, “Well, hmm, so you’re going to wait until you have the capability before you have the goal?” And they said, “Yeah, yeah. I want to feel capable.” I said, “Well, is that the way things have worked in your life so far that you had the capability before you set the goal?’ ‘Well, I mean I have the confidence.'” Confidence is the fourth C.
Dan (00:22:03):
And I said, “How long do you think you’re going to have to wait before you get the capability and the confidence to set the goal and pursue the goal?” They say, “Well, I don’t know.’ ‘It could be a long wait and would it? How are you going to get the capability and the confidence in the meantime so that you can pursue the goal?’ ‘I guess I’ll have to go to school or I’ll have to do something.'” And I said, “Well, why don’t you just commit to the goal without having the capability and the confidence?” They said, “What do you mean?” I says, “Well, you’re committed so people will notice, you could talk to people. I’m really committed to this goal, I don’t know how I’m going to get there but I’m really committed to this goal.’ ‘Do you know anybody you think could help me?'” And to commit without the capability and confidence requires the second C which is courage.

Dan (00:22:59):
Courage. You have to be courageous. And everybody’s got, I can take anybody through their life and we can easily find 10 times in their life where they just committed to something and then they required courage for a while and then all of a sudden they noticed the capability developed and the confidence built. So the first thing we have to do in making any kind of progress in life, we have to commit to it which means that we pick a date in the calendar because our brain really understands deadlines. And then we have to put a measurement there.

Lisa (00:23:36):
How far out do you typically plan these things? Because you’re already planning your 78th birthday party.

Dan (00:23:43):
Yes, I am. Yep, yep. I am, yeah. Well, you get better at it. I do it a lot and I’ve been at it for a long time so I think it’s a skill that you get … But I tell you, here’s an example and this is where I’m really a coach to a lot of the entrepreneurs. And I’m just going to use an example of we have a really brilliant doctor out of New York. He’s in my third program and he’s created a technology for surgeons. He’s a plastic surgeon, facial plastic surgeon, that basically, don’t ask me how he does it because this is the magic of what he does, but he takes an organ like the inner ear which actually is endangered by plastic surgery because there’s nerves in your face and if you hit one of those nerves you can go deaf in your ear and the side of your face could be paralyzed.

Dan (00:24:43):
So a long time ago, he went through medical school and all the visualizations of the organs they were just pictures in a book and that was 25 years ago. And today, they’re still just pictures in the book. They’ve made no progress. So what he does he creates the visual reality where you have the goggles on. You put on the goggles and you’re in a room as big as an auditorium, that’s your inner ear and you can walk around and you point the beam at it and it says what it is. And there’s about 25 different parts of the inner ear, all of them crucial. So what he wants to do is go through the entire body and take each organ inside of the veins, inside of the heart and everything else so doctors who are surgeons can walk around and they have video that tells them what they’re looking at and why this is important so they have a feel for what they’re doing.

Dan (00:25:50):
Anyway, it’s spectacular. He’s a genius and he’s really great. So already he’s got technology companies, he’s got large universities, medical schools asking for it and he’s not moving. So I said, “What’s not moving?” He says, “Things aren’t right yet.” And I says, “Not right yet.” So I started talking a little bit more and I said, “This is going to be worth a lot of money, isn’t it?” He says, “Oh, hundreds of millions.” I says, “So is there somebody in your life that you don’t want to split a hundred million dollars with?” And he says, “Yes.” And I said, “How long have you known this?” And he said, “20 years.” And I said, “If it’s three years from now and you haven’t done anything, is that okay with you?” And he says, “No.’ ‘How about two years, you haven’t done anything, is that okay with you?’ ‘No.'” I got him down a year, six months. I said, “90 days.” He said, “90 days.”

Dan (00:26:52):
His marriage hadn’t been working for 20 years but… I’ve had women come to me with exactly the same issue. And my sense is having the right who in your life is really important and not just in business, it’s important everywhere. But you have to say … They’re attracted to you not because you’re looking for them, they’re attracted to you because you’re after something big.

Dan (00:27:23):
So that’s how I met Babs. I had this notion of coaching and I have a tool called The Strategy Circle, which I created in 1982. And she ran a business, she was a nutritionist, a really top-notch massage therapist. And one day I said, “I’ll show you how to think about the future of your business.” I knew her about a year we were friendly, we weren’t going out together or anything like that. So I walked her through for about two hours. I asked her questions and we plotted it out and everything she wanted was down on a sheet of paper like the impact filter in the book. She got finished and she says, “Wow,” she said, “this is really going to be big.” I thought she was talking about her business and I said, “Oh, you mean your business?” She says, “No, what you’re doing is going to be really, really big. It’s going to be really, really big. It’s just going to be really, really big.”

Dan (00:28:18):
And then about a year and a half later she said to me, she said, “I’m kind of tired of doing what I’m doing. Why don’t we get together to do it?” So my sense is that the commitment you have to make is you have to tell people what you want before you find the whos who will actually help you. And that’s all walks of life. Business is just part of life.

Lisa (00:28:44):
Can you talk to us about multipliers? So my dear friend Christine Kane spent a number of years working with you. She speaks very, very highly of you.

Dan (00:28:56):
I can picture as you say her name, yeah.

Lisa (00:28:59):
Yes. So I asked her, “What should I ask Dan about?” And she said, “Dan’s really big on multipliers.” And I think that sometimes the challenge when it comes to finding a who is for someone to be able to look at maybe the multiplier impact of having that who. So let’s take COVID as an example. There are a lot of small businesses that have been impacted financially because of COVID and so they don’t have the resources that they once had and so there’s a bit of scarcity around investing resources in a who but if they were looking at it through a multiplier lens, then maybe it would make more sense. Can you share what your perspective is on multipliers and how they fit into the “Who Not How” concept?

Dan (00:29:52):
Yeah. I think the two main multipliers I think in any area of life especially right where we’re living now is teamwork and technology. Teamwork by its very nature is a multiplier that if you put three great people together, you get a result that’s a lot bigger than what three individuals can do. I think it’s why sports are popular, entertainment is popular because just all teamwork.

Dan (00:30:28):
I was in theater for about five years in my 20s and theater is just all complete teamwork, both front stage and backstage, it’s just all teamwork. And anything that’s any good in the world that lasts for a long time, it’s not because of one individual, it’s because of a great amount of teamwork. The big change that I think has really happened certainly within my lifetime so I was born in the last year of the second world war, so it was about a year before the war ended. And if I look at the ’40s, the 50s, and I have pretty good memories of childhood, I can remember a lot that went on in childhood, what’s really been amazing is just how the technology that can multiply teamwork has grown so much.

Dan (00:31:22):
And actually technology is just teamwork that has been proven over and over again so much with people that you can make it automated. The whole point is that don’t have people doing things that are repetitious, have machinery do things that repetitious so that human beings can do new things. The best explanation is the Four Seasons hotel which started right in Toronto 50 years ago and they have this great line, they said, “Systematize the predictable so that you can humanize the exceptional.”

Lisa (00:32:07):
I love that.

Dan (00:32:07):
And what they mean is that anything that’s predictable try to make it automatic so that humans are freed up that if you have exceptional things happen then you can, only humans can humanize things.
Dan (00:32:24):
I was at a conference last week where they have robots and they’re creepy. They have robots that look like people and they talk and I said, and there’s this one from New Zealand, Samantha and she’s one of the creepiest individuals I’ve ever seen in my life. And I said, “Oh no Sam, you ain’t coming anywhere near me,” but humans named Samantha. I’m okay with humans so I don’t like having machines talk to me. So my sense is that each of you has a unique ability.

Dan (00:33:01):
So in Strategic Coach, we have a whole series of tests that people take and there’s outside tests and we have our own inside tests. And my belief is that every person has an area that has two qualities to it, you’re really good at it and you love doing it. Two things, it’s like the perfect fit, it’s like you doing this. The only thing about it is that we’re not taught this, we’re not taught this growing up. I think looking back, I think, my mother was pretty good. I thought she was pretty good but she wasn’t really good with my other siblings but she was really good for me and she knew that you just let Dan loose and you give him a loose set of rules and he’ll take care of himself and he won’t cause trouble.

Dan (00:34:05):
So everyone who works for Strategic Coach comes in and we do extensive testing with them. And what we say is, “Here’s the deal. You have a unique ability. Now because of your previous experience, you probably suspect what that is but you haven’t gotten a lot of reinforcement with it. So you’re going to have to do what we hired you to do but that’s only for a while. And then as you start taking the tests and we’re going to make it so that more and more that what you do inside the company is just really what you love doing it and you’re really good at it. So you have to take this real seriously because if we take your unique ability more seriously then you take your unique ability, it’s not going to work. And the other thing is once you got good at your unique ability, you have to be good at teamwork with other people’s unique ability.” And that’s for all of us. I said everybody in the company, Babs, Dan, and everybody else who were just focused on what we love doing and what we’re really good at but we’re also good at teamwork with other people.

Dan (00:35:20):
We have 115 in the company and 70 of them have been with us for more than 10 years.

Lisa (00:35:26):

Dan (00:35:27):
And I think we have close to 30 who have been with us more than 20 years because once you lock into that unique ability, life’s good.

Lisa (00:35:41):
And do you do that with the people that hire Strategic Coach, they coach with Strategic Coach? Do you help them do that inside of their organizations?

Dan (00:35:52):
Yeah. We have programs where we show how to do that. There’s one great test, it’s an online test that you can do. It’s called Kolbe, K-O-L-B-E, Kathy Kolbe out of Phoenix. She lives in Phoenix. We do that long before people are hired so when people inquire about working at Strategic Coach, you say, “Well, you have to do the Kolbe test and there’s some other test.” That’s not part of my role in the Coach so I don’t know the full extent of it.

Dan (00:36:28):
But Eleanora, I think you’re pretty well about 95%.

Eleanora (00:36:35):
Yep. Yeah, I think so. I know what my unique ability is and I bring on team members that are better than me at doing things and I’ll bring them in when I need them-

Lisa (00:36:46):
What is your unique ability?

Eleanora (00:36:49):
I’m really good at strategic planning and organizing and then my other strength is looking at the end result and figuring out what the Plan B is in case there’s any obstacles that come our way. So planning and being strategic about the way we do things is my realm.

Dan (00:37:06):
Yeah. Eleanora, for example, handled the entire working with Ben and Tucker who were the two book creators of Getting It All Creative and she organized all the marketing, the launch, and everything else. I don’t think I was involved for an hour in any of that stuff.

Eleanora (00:37:29):
Maybe 15 minutes when I updated you.
Dan (00:37:33):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lisa (00:37:33):
That’s great.

Dan (00:37:37):
But she’s actually a very good salesperson if you line up the person that needs to be sold to. She won’t go out and find the people to sell to but if you present them, Eleanora is a very good salesperson. We discovered that over the years that she’s actually very good. If you give her people who are prepared to be sold to, she can really sell. And terrific at details, I’m not good at details. She thinks things through, puts together excellent plans. And I just depend upon it. I wouldn’t arm wrestle with Eleanora’s organization and implementation.

Lisa (00:38:23):
So I find your business model fascinating in the sense that you, Dan, you are a big draw in your business. Dan Sullivan is the brand around Strategic Coach but when you go to Strategic Coach you have all of these other coaches that work with people. And when I first started asking a few people that I know that know you, when I put the commitment out there that I really wanted to interview you for this community, I can tell you that probably the first five people that I talked to told me there was no way I would ever get you to participate in one of these conversations, that it would be somebody on your team, and these are the people on your team it would likely be.
Lisa (00:39:14):
So my question for you is how did you go from it being you to having this team that could coach and retain people for the numbers of years that people work with you without working directly with you?

Dan (00:39:33):
Yeah. Well, there’s about, I think there’s we know five because we get together for dinners. But there’s probably about 10 of the individuals in the company who on a repeated quarterly basis would be working with me. But I’m just like anyone else, I have a particular unique ability that I’m focused on and I’m in teamwork with the other people who need to do it. And so if you looked at how my life is run, it’s no different from anybody else’s life. And the company Babs operates that way. Eleanora operates that way. She’s got all sorts of team connections that I don’t really know about.

Dan (00:40:16):
So if you just think of each individual as sort of the center of their own universe, but they only get to be there if they have really focused on their unique ability. And then there’s these connections that go out, it’s a network. It’s not a pyramid. For example, when we’re back in the office which we will be sometime I hope in 2021, so we have a main office in Toronto and we have a main office in Chicago and we have about, I think, probably around 75, 80 in our Toronto staff and then we have about 20 in Chicago. And I don’t have an office, I haven’t had an office for 30 years. But we do have a café for each of the buildings. I like cafes so I’ll be in there so I just take a table in the café and people are going about their business or getting their lunches or coffee. Other people are having meetings in the café.

Dan (00:41:33):
There’s just an understood rule that if it looks like Dan’s working on something, don’t bother him but if he’s just sitting there, just pondering, you can go up and you can talk to him. And I like it because I don’t like being cooped up in an office and I like having big space. I grew up in a big family and there’s lots of noise going on so I’m pretty used to that and everything. But if you took a picture of what I do and how I do it and you followed me around for a month, and then you took a picture of how other people operate and followed them around for a month, their picture and my picture look exactly the same.
Lisa (00:42:11):
They would look exactly the same?

Dan (00:42:14):
Yeah, look exactly the same. Every person in the company has exactly the same structure for their job. That is you have your unique ability and it’s focused on results, it produces some sort of result in the company and you’re in a unique ability teamwork with other people.

Dan (00:42:34):
So we’ve kept the structure’s the same for everybody but in terms of … I bring in the most money of anybody in the company. I bring in a lot and that counts. That counts. But I will tell you this we have 16 other coaches and I’ve never seen one of my coaches coach.

Lisa (00:43:01):

Dan (00:43:02):
Never been in the room when one of the other coaches is coaching. And that was so that they weren’t looking to be okay with me, I wanted them to be okay with the people that they were coaching. And if you have two coaches in a room at the same time, it screws things up.

Lisa (00:43:26):
Who do you work with today? Who are the people that are being coached by you?

Dan (00:43:30):
Yeah. I have about 500, 500 and they have all been through the first level of the program. They’re in the second level of the program. I have 32 clients who will be coming back this year for their 30th year. They’ve come back every quarter for 30 years. I like things that last a long time.

Lisa (00:43:51):
So tell me what that looks like. You say the first year, second year, and then quarterly, is it an ongoing just renewal people come in every year and they just continue to move forward?
Dan (00:44:04):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And people go out, they come back in.

Lisa (00:44:08):
And someone told me that you have to go through level one and level two with someone else before you can-

Dan (00:44:13):
They have to go through level one with someone else for two years and they can come to me and then two years from now, I will only be at level three. So I put deadlines on the calendar. I commit. And right now I don’t have another coach who can take over for me. But everybody’s going to start feeling the pressure because when we hit the deadline, I’m not going to be coaching so there’s going to be some scrambling, I think.

Dan (00:44:42):
About the middle of this year, people say, “Who’s going to be the other coach besides Dan?” And I said, “Gee, I haven’t the foggiest idea how that’s going to happen.”

Lisa (00:44:52):

Dan (00:44:53):

Lisa (00:44:53):
So is that on your, I think it’s called a DOSS? Is that on your DOSS radar? Is that a danger that you’re not going to be coaching as much in the future?

Dan (00:45:06):
No, no. It’s a danger for the rest of the company if they don’t get a coach in to replace me.

Lisa (00:45:12):

Dan (00:45:16):
I think it’ll start getting urgent around June, because they have 18 months. There’s two or three candidates, not like there’s nobody out there but it just hasn’t … But I’m not the one who’s going to train them, I’m not the one who’s going to manage them. It’s going to be other people who do that. I’ll be called in to have conversations.

Lisa (00:45:39):
So right now, I’m just trying to understand because I don’t completely understand, right now are you saying that if someone were to come into your organization today, they basically will never have the opportunity to work with you? Is that true?
Dan (00:45:53):
Yep. If they do a year in the first level, they can jump to the second level. And if they do a year in the second level, they can jump to the third level.

Lisa (00:46:00):

Dan (00:46:01):
Okay. So know that that’s-

Lisa (00:46:06):
So if I started hypothetically today-

Dan (00:46:07):
But I do have people who’ve been 25 years inside Strategic Coach, 100 quarters, and they’ve never met me.

Lisa (00:46:13):

Dan (00:46:14):
They’ve never met me. It happens. I’ve been noticing it’s happening a little bit recently. I remember I went to a conference somewhere and I was one of the first two people in the room and there was another person sitting there so I went and sat down next to him and I says, “Hi. I’m Dan Sullivan.” He says, “I know who you are.” And he says, “I’ve been in your program for 18 years,” and he was a big deal. He was really a big deal, first time I had ever met him.

Lisa (00:46:44):
I guess that depends on how you’re introduced to Strategic Coach. If you’re introduced to Strategic Coach, but you’re not introduced to Dan, then your experience might be a little bit different in terms of what your expectations are in terms of this is the coaching roster, these are the people. I would-

Dan (00:47:07):
These are great questions, by the way.

Lisa (00:47:09):
Oh, thanks.

Dan (00:47:11):
I tell you a decision that I came to and Babs and I together came in the ’80s when we were starting, we were just starting to talk about, because I was a one-on-one coach for my first 15 years. I just coached people. I would make house calls. There’s one client we’ve had who’s been in for 31 years already and somebody said, “How long have you been here?” His name’s Rob. He says, “Rob, how long have you been in Coach?” And he says, “Well, let’s just put it this way. Dan came to my office to sell me.” So a long time ago, it was a long time ago.

Dan (00:47:52):
But this coaching stuff, I was one of the, probably in the business, I was one of the first ones in the ’70s. I started in ’74 and it was tough back then because you had to explain what a coach was. There were sports coaches and the arts world, entertainment world, there were coaches and everything else. But coaching in the business, that really wasn’t there and took a long time. It took probably a good 10 years from when we started where you didn’t have to explain what the activity was let alone whether you were any good at it.

Dan (00:48:33):
But what had happened was self-improvement coaching. There had been a lot of self-improvement coaching and that’s a very American thing. It really started in the States in the ’50s, ’50s, ’60s. Nightingale-Conant was a big company, Earl Nightingale, and then you had Maxwell Maltz actually one of the first great self-improvement coaches was a plastic surgeon from New York City by the name of Maxwell Maltz. And you read his stuff today and it’s as good now as it was 70 years ago. And he’s the one whose emphasis on mindset, you had to have good mindset. And he said, “I used to change people’s faces but they look in the mirror and see the same person.” And he said, “I’d make them look beautiful but they look in the mirror and they’d still see ugly because the ugly was, on the outside they were beautiful but on the inside they were still ugly.”

Lisa (00:49:31):
Didn’t he write the book about beware the way you talk to yourself, something like that?

Dan (00:49:36):
Psycho Cybernetics.

Lisa (00:49:38):
Yes, that’s right. That’s exactly what it is, yes.

Dan (00:49:40):
Napoleon Hill was another. And I have to tell you that virtually all the others that are out there now if you trace back where their stream came from, it came from a big river of five or six people back in the 1940’s, 1950’s. But they were superstars. I don’t see myself as a superstar so I said, “You have to make a choice. There’s a fork in the road. You’re either going to base this on a personality or you’re going to base it on a system.” And we said, “We’re going to create a system. There will be other coaches that coach this system and there will be people who never, I’m never their coach and that’s okay.” We’ve done better than the personality based coaching companies because somebody has a big name and then they have what they call coaches but people are showing up for the big person. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want it to be about my personality.

Dan (00:50:46):
There’s a set of ideas here and if you do the ideas, the ideas will work for you.
Lisa (00:50:52):
So everybody and their dog is a coach today. The coaching industry-

Dan (00:50:57):
I have to tell you, I think it’s the biggest business of the 21st century. I think coaching, every kind of coaching, I think the biggest change you’re going to see is in the healthcare medical system.

Lisa (00:51:12):
In terms of coaching?

Dan (00:51:13):

Lisa (00:51:14):
How so?

Dan (00:51:15):
Well, first of all, genetically they’ll be able to custom design all sorts of things for you that aren’t true for other people. More and more, Babs and I both have complete genetic mapping of our bodies and therefore off the shelf really doesn’t work for a lot of what we have. And I think you’re going to see within the next five or 10, it’ll happen in the States first because they don’t really have a healthcare system in the States. They have a million different healthcare systems which aren’t linked with each other. And it’s the coaches who are going to do the linking, I think.

Lisa (00:51:55):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan (00:51:57):
We operate in two systems so we have OHIP here and then in Chicago we have another system but it doesn’t go any further than Chicago, the system we’re in. So I think coaching is based on your goals. You have goals I’ll help you think through how to get to your results.

Lisa (00:52:20):
What is your unique ability as a coach?
Dan (00:52:23):
I think I have three. One is when people are talking I see what they’re talking as almost like it’s a movie. I’m actually watching a movie when they’re telling me what’s happening and I can meet them 25 years later and I’ll play back the movie. It’s not photographic memory, I really pick up on dramatic moments that people have had in their lives and I remember them.

Dan (00:52:52):
The other thing is that I’m really great at asking you a question that neither of us has the answer to. So it generates a conversation. The other thing is I’m a really good artist to actually take ideas and put them. So every one of these books, it all starts with graphics that are my graphics. I think-

Lisa (00:53:18):
You’re able to draw your ideas in a way that’ll make it easy.

Dan (00:53:21):
I see ideas graphically, yeah. I see ideas graphically. But I can meet somebody that I saw him for an hour 25 years ago and we’ll sit down and he’ll say, like your Christine Kane, your friend, I can see her right in front of me. I can picture myself talking with her in the workshop and, tell her it’s about time for her to get back in.

Lisa (00:53:45):
I will. I will. She’s gone through a lot of change in the last year but I will tell her.

Dan (00:53:53):
She was tough. She’s a real tough person.

Lisa (00:53:54):

Dan (00:53:55):
You can tell she was really tough but too tough to get help in some situations.

Lisa (00:54:00):
Yeah. I think we all are.

Dan (00:54:03):
Yeah, yeah.

Lisa (00:54:03):
So we have a couple minutes left. Can you just maybe tell us a little bit about the Strategic Coach? And Eleanora, if you’re better at explaining this, I don’t know, but I would like to know I saw you wrote some stuff in the chat box but obviously when you wrote this book your goal was-

Dan (00:54:24):
To get people in the program.

Lisa (00:54:24):
… for 500 people to come to the program. And I’m one of those people who has skirted the program for probably a decade and I’d like to just better understand who and what is Strategic Coach-

Dan (00:54:38):
Yeah. Well, it’s strictly entrepreneurs. Everybody’s an entrepreneur. You have to have an incorporated company. Revenue Canada and the IRS have to think that you’re entrepreneur too so that’s one of my tests. You want to go bigger. We don’t do people just starting out because we have income requirements and everything else. And you can’t be adverse to learning in a community because it’s all done in workshops. The smallest would be probably about 20, the biggest would be about 50.

Dan (00:55:22):
What we do is we have more than 100 thinking processes but the big jump for me over the last two years is that “Who Not How”, I think, even though we were at this for 28 years before we got the idea. “Who Not How” is right in the center. If you get “Who Not How”, then there’s 100 different ways of taking “Who Not How” and applying it to different parts. How you manage your time, what’s the best kind of money for you, how much do you want, what are your relationships like 360 degrees, how long do you want to live? Big one. That’s the first question when people come into the program. Write down the age at which you’re going to die, first thing. They’re sitting in their seat and I say, “Well, I got a question for you, just write it down. At what age are you planning to die?” And everybody’s got an answer.

Dan (00:56:19):
And I said, “Okay.” Then I’ll get a person, I’ll get Lisa, she looks like she’ll be good, I’ll get her and I’ll say, “Lisa, you say you think you’re going to live to 85.”

Lisa (00:56:35):
Oh, I think I’m going to live to 100.

Dan (00:56:37):
100, okay. Let’s talk about 99. You’re 99 years old. How are you physically?

Lisa (00:56:46):
I’m physically fit.

Dan (00:56:46):
Physically fit. Okay. That’s good.

Lisa (00:56:50):
I’m still able to move around.

Dan (00:56:51):
Mentally, mentally how are you?

Lisa (00:56:54):
I’m healthy and strong. I read books and I read the paper and I engage with people. I’m great.

Dan (00:57:01):
Great. Okay. Financially how are you?

Lisa (00:57:05):
I’m very healthy.

Dan (00:57:07):

Lisa (00:57:08):
I have lots of money in the bank and I don’t worry about money.

Dan (00:57:11):
Okay. Relationship wise, how are your relationships?

Lisa (00:57:16):
They’re good. I sense that my husband has passed on before me but I still have strong friends and relationships around me.

Dan (00:57:26):
Lots of them?

Lisa (00:57:26):
Lots of them.

Dan (00:57:27):
Okay. And at 99 looking back at your whole life, what kind of life do you think you’ve led up until now?

Lisa (00:57:37):
I think I’ve led a good life. I think I’ve made a difference in people’s lives and I think I’ve accomplished a lot of things that I didn’t think were possible and it’s been a pretty remarkable life.

Dan (00:57:49):
Good. Okay. So let me just feed this back to you. You’re physically really fit, lots of energy. You have lots of interests, your mind really works, you read, you discuss, you talk. In terms of your finances, no worries, got plenty of money, got really great supportive relationships and you think you’ve lived a great life up until now. Is that right?

Lisa (00:58:12):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan (00:58:14):
Okay. So being that way at 99, what do you think the chances are you’d die at 100?

Lisa (00:58:20):
Probably wouldn’t, would I?

Dan (00:58:20):
Think it might be more than 100?

Lisa (00:58:20):
It might be more.

Dan (00:58:24):
How much more?

Lisa (00:58:26):
Well, with advances in medicine, maybe I could make it to 110, 120.

Dan (00:58:33):
Which? Ten or 20?

Lisa (00:58:36):
121, that’s the number that comes to my head. It sounds crazy to say it out loud.

Dan (00:58:42):
That took seven minutes and I just bought you 21 more years.

Lisa (00:58:45):
There you go.

Dan (00:58:48):
Now people laugh but the moment they’ve done this exercise, and there’s writing that goes along with it and they have to talk it over with people. Every time they think about how long they’re going to live, it used to be 100, now it’s 121. And immediately their presence starts changing. They change how they eat, they change how they exercise, they start really, really looking am I doing the right things and everything else. You just change that one number, everything else changes.

Lisa (00:59:16):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan (00:59:17):
So mine’s 156. Tell you why. So around 1987, I was noticing that the year 2000 was bigger than the normal end of a century because it was also the end of a millennium. So that only happens once every thousand years. So you got something that only happens once every 100 years and something happened and same thing.

Dan (00:59:48):
So they were doing a lot of interview with older people. I was watching on television and they were interviewing lots and lots of people about all the things that had happened, and these were people who had been born in the year 1990, so they were 87 years old now. And just amazing, amazing number of changes that had gone through their life. And I was sitting there and I said, “Boy, it would really have been neat to be born in the first year of a century and live 100 years until the end of the century.”

Dan (01:00:30):
So I was sitting there and I said, “I got screwed. I was born in ’44 so I missed the first 44 years of the century so I’ll just take the 56 from the 20th century and I’ll just add 100 for the next century so it would make it 156.” So that was 1987 so I’ve been at this for 33 years now and at first what I did is I kept it to myself for about five years. And I said, “I wonder if every time I think about how long I’m going to live the new number comes into my head.”

Dan (01:01:03):
My parents are good. Both my parents lived into their 80s and we have good genes. I have three siblings who are in their 80s right now so we got good genes. And then after about five years, I noticed I was exercising more and I actually looked healthier in 1992 than I did in ’87 and I looked far, far healthier, I’ll be 77 in May and I look far, far healthier at 77 than I was at 47. And the reason is every time I think of my lifetime I say, “I have so much time left.” And most 77 year olds don’t, they think they’re running out of time.
Dan (01:01:49):
And so we wrote a book. Eleanora, why don’t we just, how big’s your group?

Eleanora (01:01:55):
There’s I think 72 people.

Dan (01:01:59):
Why don’t we get 72 copies of My Plan for Living to 156 and send them to you? It’s one of the little books. We’ll send those little books. And it’s got nice video with it. It’s got nice audio with it and everything else. So what I’m planning for to age 100, I got a big goal on age 100, is just colossally bigger than anything that I’ve had in the first 77 years. And Babs is right there with me. She’s seven years younger and she’s going to be at 149 when I beam up at 156 and everything like that.

Dan (01:02:36):
But I tell you, last week we spent two days listening to the latest doctors from Harvard, MIT, and everything else talking about it. For those who want it, age reversal is going to be here. It’s already here in some forms. And I think probably within 20 years if you decide you want to live a long time, the means will be there to support you but you’d have to have the goal to do it. It’s going to cause enormous social and political havoc.

Lisa (01:03:08):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan (01:03:10):
But in the United States, there’s 86,000 over 100 right now, 86,000 people over 100.

Lisa (01:03:16):
Wow. I didn’t know that.

Dan (01:03:17):
Yeah. And the average 100 year old is a lot healthier than the average 90 year old.

Lisa (01:03:23):
Crazy. It’s funny that you say that because my grandmothers both lived quite long and I have a much healthier lifestyle and I’ve always believed that I would live to be more than 100. And I used to work for TELUS and I worked for TELUS during 9/11 and I used to fly to Toronto from Ottawa every single week. And I can remember after 9/11 being a little bit nervous when I started flying again because of what had happened. And then I remember this voice in my head just basically saying, “You don’t have to worry because you’re going to live to be more than 100.” It’s just not even reasonable to be afraid because you’re not going to die, you’re going to be around until at least 100.

Dan (01:04:07):
I just have a motto of not giving death any assistance. I don’t have to give death, death’s been around a long time, knows its unique ability, knows what it’s doing. I don’t have to give death any assistance. So I’m pretty good.

Dan (01:04:21):
And Babs and I live very healthy life, we exercise every day, everything. People say, “Well, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.” And I say, “Well, not me. I’m gone.” But I’m approaching it like I have lots of time left. I’m one of eight billion and everyone’s got a different idea.

Lisa (01:04:45):
That’s great. It makes me optimistic that I have lots of time to learn more from you.

Dan (01:04:50):
Yeah. I tell you, I think my own sense is that I think things are probably 10 more years of real turmoil and then I think things are going to start settling down.

Lisa (01:05:00):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, I want to be respectful of your time. We’re five minutes over.

Dan (01:05:04):
Yep. Yep. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Lisa (01:05:07):
It was fantastic and thank you so, so much for your time. Thank you, Eleanora, for everything you did.

Dan (01:05:13):
We’ll get the books out to you. And I will tell you this and you might want to write this down, just last thing. There’s five things that will encourage your body to keep living, there’s five things. Number one, you’re not running out of friends. The biggest thing is friendship. I think friendship is the thing that encourages living more than anything else.

Dan (01:05:39):
Second thing is that money’s not a problem because you don’t want to be dependent, if you’re dependent on other people. Number three is that you have a purpose. In other words, that there’s something out in the world that you’re working on with other people and that’s really important to you. And number four is that you have novelty. Novelty means that new things still excite you and even new bad things still excite you. It’s good, novelty can come in good and bad forms. And the fifth one is really interesting is that you’re proud of who you used to be. You can’t use the future to escape from your past.

Dan (01:06:31):
There’s people who want to walk on Mars because then their daddy will be proud of them. Then daddy will be proud of me when I walk on Mars. And I said, “Don’t make it about that.”

Lisa (01:06:47):
Yeah. Yeah, don’t make it about other people’s opinion of you.

Dan (01:06:50):
Yeah. Yeah.

Lisa (01:06:51):
Absolutely. Well thank you, you have been extremely generous, extremely helpful. It has been a huge delight to have this conversation with you. I feel like it was definitely a blessing in my life so thank you very, very much for being here and doing this.
Dan (01:07:08):
I’ll give you a tip for the future. It was an accident this time but I’ll give you a tip for the future. If you want to interview me on the major book that I’ve come out with that year you’ll get me.

Lisa (01:07:21):
All right. Sounds good.

Dan (01:07:23):
Yeah. Next year it’s called The Gap in the Game.

Lisa (01:07:26):
Awesome. When does it come out?

Dan (01:07:28):
October. Every October for 10 years we’re going to have a new major book out.

Lisa (01:07:34):
All right. Thank you. I will look for it.

Dan (01:07:37):
And I’m not going to write a word of anyone of the 10.

Lisa (01:07:40):
Awesome. That’s great.

Dan (01:07:42):
Thanks a lot. Great to see you.

Lisa (01:07:43):
Thank you.

Eleanora (01:07:47):
Thank you.

Dan (01:07:47):
See you next year.
Lisa (01:07:48):
Yeah. See you next time for sure. All right. Thanks Dan.

Eleanora (01:07:52):
Thank you.

Lisa (01:07:53):
Thank you. Bye.

Dan (01:07:56):
Okay. Bye.

Lisa (01:07:56):

Lisa Larter (01:07:58):
Thank you for joining me for this episode of She Talks Business. If you enjoyed the show, you know the drill, leave us a review, tell someone about it and join the conversation on social media. Thanks for listening and until next time remember, done is always better than perfect.

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Lisa Larter

Founder and CEO of the Lisa Larter Group, master strategist, author, speaker, podcast host, social media expert, consultant, and business coach. Lisa inspires entrepreneurs and business owners to see the possibilities for their organizations when it comes to strategy. She uncomplicates modern marketing and creates (and implements) strategies for businesses that are guaranteed to increase visibility, inbound leads, and revenue.

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