With the arrival of the new year comes the perfect time for a fresh start and setting new goals. The bigger question now is: what are the best ways to reach those goals? In this episode, Penny Zenker invites a guest who has the answer. Multi-passionate entrepreneur Robbie Samuels is here to share strategies for effective goal setting and achieving desired outcomes. He gives us insights into his 12-week Sprint model, where he emphasizes the importance of reflective moments and intentional breaks during the four-week intervals. The conversation also dives into topics like setting major and minor goals, the significance of assessing progress, and the value of aligning goals with personal and business values. Gain valuable insights into optimizing productivity and achieving success this new year. Let Robbie show you how your goals are closer than you think!
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Sprinting Towards Success: Best Strategies To Reaching Your Goals With Robbie Samuels
We’re going to talk about how we’re going to get the year started so that we can make effective goals and more importantly, reach our goals more effectively. Who needs that? I’m excited to talk with Robbie Samuels. I loved what he said when I spoke to him earlier. He’s a multi-passionate entrepreneur. You might see him come back for another topic, but this is one of his passions. Robbie has been recognized as a networking expert by NPR, PCMA, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Inc. He is an expert in virtual event design by JDC events.
As an event design consultant and executive Zoom producer, he helps organizations overcome common virtual event mistakes to increase engagement and sales. That’s what we’re going to talk about next time. We’ll be anxious to see that from him. He’s an award-winning author of three books that have collectively received over 655 star reviews. Now, if those of you don’t know, that’s impressive.
On the third anniversary of COVID-19, bringing all in-person events to a screeching halt, he published Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events, which won a Gold Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Since 2016, he has hosted the On The Schmooze podcast, and since March 2020, #NoMoreBadZoom Virtual Happy Hour. That would be a good thing. Please join me in welcoming from his home in the Philadelphia suburbs, which is where I am as well, TEDx, speaker and HBR contributor Robbie Samuels.
Thanks for having me on. Thanks, Penny.
It’s great to have you here. I love the expression multi-passionate entrepreneur, which struck me as fun and accurate. For many entrepreneurs that’s squirrel, we can make an excuse as to why we get pulled in so many different directions.
There’s a lot that I am known for and I have a specific ideal client and offer for each one of those areas, but I haven’t let go of my previous levels of expertise as I’ve developed new ones. What we’re going to talk about is content from my experience as a business growth strategy coach, and specifically content from my second book, Small List, Big Results: Launch a Successful Offer No Matter the Size of Your Email List.
We do build on the experience that we have and then be able to offer it at another level. I’ll get into our main topic, but a lot of entrepreneurs have struggled with that. How do I clearly present myself when I have so much more to offer? It seems like let’s say “I’m the Zoom guy.” Does that feel uncomfortable when people say, “You’re the Zoom guy?”
In some context, that is how I’m known and it’s fine. I’m also known as the book launch guy, the 12-week sprint guy, and the networking guy. For a while, that went away because networking was something we did in person and stopped doing in person. In 2023, NPR reached out to me about that and my TEDx. In 2024, on the Amazon podcast, this small business reached out to have me on. I guess that content hasn’t completely gone away. It’s coming back.
That work is an accumulation of all that we’ve done in the world. A lot of the clients that I work with for my coaching practice tend to be entrepreneurial women in their 50s and beyond who are looking to grow their impacted income through a new revenue stream. I will say, parenthetically, a few good men. I work with some people who are less than 50, people of all genders. What has happened for the women I’ve attracted is they have this level of knowledge they’ve acquired through hard work over 20 or 30 years, and they’re ready to offer it in some new form that in that sense is new to them. They’re starting to feel a little nervous about the marketing, the tech, strategy, self-promotion, or sales. Who knows?
There are a gazillion things that make them feel like a novice for the first time in a long time. What I’m always leaning into is your network is the folks that will start buying from you. No matter the size of your email list and how big or small, your network is always bigger. That’s the premise for my second book. It is how you build an audience before you try to sell something. In that book, I talk about the difference between quarterly goal-setting and 12-week sprints. I started thinking about that when I thought about the content of your show.
It is important to talk about the best ways to reach our goals. What is the difference there between quarterly planning and 12-week sprints?
On the face of it, this seems like one of those word problems that wasn’t written quite right. I’ve asked this in large groups and had people write their answers in chat. Most often I will see people writing one week. It’s not quite that, but you’re onto something. For me, the difference is quarterly goal setting, which was how I started building my business. I’m a firm believer in not just setting yearly goals but having shorter-term milestones to reach, or else how do you know at any point during the year, whether you’re on track? If you get to the end of the year and you haven’t hit your goal, you don’t know whether it was a lack of effort, poor strategy, or poor execution. You don’t know where to begin to examine that.
You’re not focused on the drivers. If you just set a goal and for me, the quarterly goals are, and I’m anxious to hear, I’ve had my thoughts about sprints and whatnot. To me, it’s about what’s driving the results and making sure that you’re focused on that. That may need to change because I believe that the shorter the periods, and for me quarterly might feel a bit long. It’s about these check-ins. I call them reset moments. These check-ins help us to reset. Are we on the right track? Are we focused on the right things? It’s those shorter-term milestones that you said that help us with that.
Three months is about the right amount of time to see progress on something, to be able to see a result or to hope to see some result. The downside to quarterly goal setting is that there’s no downtime in between quarters. Anytime you take away from all that effort to meet whatever is particularly the goal, or the objective in front of you, whether it’s time to learn something unrelated, it’s time to take care of yourself or someone else, or it’s time to just take a break. You feel like you’re taking your foot off the gas as opposed to rallying forward.
As opposed to being intentional. I love that. That’s the built-in reset moment, just to use my language. That permits you to take a break to focus on other things like you said. I love that. I never thought of it like that. I had a different thought that the difference was something different.
For me is that at the end of the 12-week sprint, there are certain activities we focus on for each of these four weeks. Now you’re not taking 4 weeks off every 12 weeks. You’re still working. You might even spend that first week or so wrapping up where you were working on the previous 12 weeks. If you’re close to wrapping something up, you might be finishing that up. You’re also playing catch up in the rest of your business, your life, and your job.
The first week though, you’re going to set some time aside to reflect and assess. Take an hour, take half a day, depending on how intense the project was by yourself, with a team, with an accountability partner, with a coach, or with a mentor. Sit down and have an honest reflection, an assessment of what was the original major or minor goals. My thought is to have 1 or 2 major and 1 or 2 minor goals. The difference for me is a minor goal is a piece of a bigger project usually. If you pick your minor goals right, it sets your goals later on in the year or next year to be a little easier.
If you were working on a new website, a minor goal might be to get new headshots. The following 12 weeks rewrote some copy and the following 12 weeks you hired somebody to pull it all together and do the redesign. You’ve already pulled some pieces together. That’s how of the minor goals, where a major goal requires more effort and will have more bang for your effort. It’ll have a better outcome.
The first week is reflect and assess. Week two is to relax and rejuvenate and take some time off, whether that is an afternoon nap or a whole week off. It depends on where you are in life and what else is going on. Plotting out that time off at the beginning of the year. One of the things I do is map out time off. If you follow, starting in January, and again, you can start this twelve weeks at any point, but if you started this in January, it would be April, August, and December as the months in between sprints. By the way, a sprint could start sooner than four weeks. If you wanted to do this in a week and a half or something, you could move quicker.
The third week is just-in-case learning. Just-in-case learning is different from just-in-time learning. Just-in-time learning is the learning you do that’s related to the goal that you’re focusing on during the twelve weeks. ChatGPT shows up and you’re like, “I want to learn about that. Crypto that seems exciting.” All the things that seem exciting but don’t seem quite adjacent don’t seem that related to your project, save those for this week. Unabashedly consume replays, podcasts, and books. Just dive into a topic, geek out on it, and have so much fun.
Sometimes those ideas seep into your project and might help you create an innovation, but you don’t want to distract yourself when you’re on that goal timeline. Lastly, in the fourth week, you set aside some time and do some strategic reset, which is where you take everything that you gathered from your reflecting and assessing. You are still thinking about these projects when you have your time off. Some things will come to you during that period whatever new things you’re learning about. You sit down by yourself, with an accountability partner, a coach, or a mentor, and you set your goals for the following 12 weeks, which will be based on what happened in the first 12-week sprint.
You’re not setting out for quarterly goals and it ram rotting through the year, you’re seeing what worked. Part of my success over the years, and the reason I am a multi-passionate entrepreneur and a successful one at that is that I’ve been able to pressure test ideas quickly, and then if it’s doesn’t take hold quickly enough, I’ve able to shift and try something new. The things that work I keep doing, I’ll put in a certain amount of effort for a while, and at some point, the effort is not as great, but the money is still coming in. I go and I put the effort into new things and I pressure test new ideas. Just having this sprint model has helped me innovate and be more nimble and responsive to what’s happening in the world.
I like it. I still want to challenge though that I feel, and I’m sorry, this is what I do in this show I might challenge you a little bit, is I feel like three months is a long time to wait to have a formal reflective process that a lot can go wrong in three months. You can miss the mark. Maybe it requires a reset because we’re in a faster-paced environment. The markets are changing. If you waited a whole quarter for implementing AI or something like that, or it slipped by you for two quarters or a year, you’d be trying to catch up for a long time as opposed to creating your competitive advantage by maybe learning monthly or more often. Does that make sense? Do you feel that’s still relevant or would you say maybe it needs an upgrade?
I couple this with OKRs when I’m coaching people which are Objectives and Key Results. We can tell weekly whether or not the particular actions that we’re taking are moving us forward or not. There’s reflection built-in.
You’re not waiting once a quarter to reflect.
You’re reviewing as you go. I will tell you for instance that in 2018, I spent three months trying to get the second version of a coaching program off the ground. I had done a pilot and in three months I had hundreds of people check out the landing page and no one pressed the button to book a call. I had other calls coming in, and emails asking to pick my brain about this or this. By having that 12-week mark, I was able to stop pushing and go, “What’s going on here?”
I got these six calls. I have 250 people looking at my landing page. I went and talked to a coach, I rebranded my offer, I understood my market better, I went back to the people who had reached out to me, they ended up being my pilot folks, and I moved on. If I hadn’t had that moment of the line in the sand, I might’ve just kept pressing forward with a belief that I needed to try harder. Get more eyeballs or something. It’s good to measure as you’re going, but I feel like there’s a moment where you have to say, “Is the ladder leaning on the right wall still? Is this the thing I want to keep doing?”
I’ll tell you, ChatGPT showed up when I was writing my third book. I did not stop writing my third book to learn about ChatGPT because that would’ve blown me up. I figured out since then what specific things I can use ChatGPT for. What are specific use cases? I have not become a global expert on AI or ChatGPT, some people jumped into that. I’m not trying to do that. Other people have filled that spot. When Zoom became the thing, I jumped in with both feet and I became known as the Zoom guy. If it’s aligned, sometimes things shift for you, but it’s better to understand where you’re going. Serendipity happens and you can see it. Sometimes unexpected things will happen like AI or Zoom or whatever it might be.
I knew at the time that Zoom happened, my whole purpose in life was teaching people that events are about content and connection. The fact that the medium had changed did not change my philosophy. Now we have to figure out how to make that reality in a virtual space. How do we make content and connection meaningful when we’re on Zoom? My direction didn’t change, the medium changed, but I built on what I had previously been successful at.
I just think that this guards against noble obstacles and shiny objects that can pull us in sixteen directions. If we’re not getting enough traction at the end of twelve weeks, that is a good reason to pause. I’m often pressure testing in even less time than that. I went to a conference over the summer and by the end of the month, I was like, “I’m not going to sell to that market quickly. It’s a long-term game.” I went, “Got it.”
I agree with you that these reflection points are essential to keep us on track and make sure we’re staying up with the things that make sense for us to stay up with and having space to also be ready for the future and so forth. What I’m also hearing and what I would agree with is that it depends on the circumstance and what it is as to how long you might want to wait for reflection. You can have that quarterly that’s already fixed in.
As you go along, there may be some things for that particular pressure testing, it only needed a month so that you can also identify those maybe on the fly or as that particular thing comes up to identify what are the right pressure points or reflection points for this particular thing that I’m looking at. Stats for your website, it makes sense that you want to give it a little bit more time. The key is to step back when you’re setting those goals, and setting that sprint is to identify what are the best reflection points. Is it just the quarter or are there other ones that should be in there?Be open to the next thing. If I had just stayed glued to that, I may have missed the next opportunity that came my way. Click To Tweet
Just to remember, it’s not quarterly because it’s not based on the calendar year. What I’ll also say, Penny, is that I’ve gotten better at tuning into whether or not something is taking flight or not. I have gotten better at reflecting and assessing those moments wherein I had drawn the line of the sand. There’s now a muscle that I have around this. I went into that particular audience knowing that it was probably not going to be easy, but thinking I’ve been not trying this. Here’s the opportunity to try selling it to corporate which has not been my thing.
I was like, “This is the right time and right place to do that. Made some traction. Realized that while there’s no resistance, it’s just a long game and I can keep having some effort on the side around this, but if I want to add another $150,000 to my business, this is not the fastest way to do it.” I kept staying open to the next thing. Now if I had just stayed glued to that, I may have missed the next opportunity that came my way. You’re getting better at understanding. My word of the year for 2024 is ease. I came up with it in October. I feel like I’ve been practicing it ever since. For me, if it’s not just happening then I’m like, “I’m looking for the flow state for how my business is running.”
This time went super-fast. Tell me what didn’t I ask you that you feel like the audience needs to know about the sprint process?
I detailed it in my book and if you go to SmallListBigResults.com, you’ll be able to download all the bonus content, which includes worksheets and workbooks. One of which details these four weeks in between and demonstrates to the calendar how that might look. A book also goes into specific steps to discover likely prospects and likely referral partners within your existing network. If you are a salesperson, obviously that would be very helpful for you as a business owner. If you’re just trying to think about how to more thoughtfully investigate or prioritize who in your network you might want to stay in touch with next year or in the coming year, then this would be useful. It’s an interesting exercise, whether it’s your LinkedIn list, your phone contacts, or whatever it might be. There are a lot of great resources at that link.
Thank you. You already gave us where to go to find out more information about you. Is there anything else that you wanted to share before we shut down?
This has been a great space for this conversation. I don’t often get a chance to talk with someone else who knows so much about it. Thank you for that.
My pleasure. It’s always fun and I’m always learning something new as well. Thank you for being here. Thank you all for being here because you are always learning something new and this is a fresh way to look at how you’re approaching your year. It’s not quarterly, it’s in these 12-week sprints and it’s giving you a clear structure as to how you’re going to reflect and re-energize. That is a good period, you’re on a sprint. You do get tired and maybe your creativity wanes, and that gives you a chance to learn something new and then set forth and realign in your next 12-week sprint.
That’s what you guys get to do. Go ahead and download that book, make sure that you download all the resources with it, and make sure you contact Robbie as well. I’m sure you can LinkedIn with him and find him in all the social channels and they’ll all be connected to here as well. We’ll see you in the next episode.
- Robbie Samuels
- Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events
- On The Schmooze
- #NoMoreBadZoom Virtual Happy Hour
- Small List, Big Results: Launch a Successful Offer No Matter the Size of Your Email List
About Robbie Samuels
Robbie Samuels is an event design consultant and executive Zoom producer recognized as a networking expert by NPR, PCMA, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Lifehacker, and Inc., and an expert in virtual event design by JDC Events. He is a Certified Virtual Convener and Certified Virtual Presenter. His event clients are national and statewide organizations, including Feeding America and California WIC Association.
He is the award-winning author of three books that have collectively received over 650 Amazon reviews and reached #1 Best Seller in 29 paid categories in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia:
- “Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events,” (which won a Gold award from the Nonfiction Authors Association)
- “Small List, Big Results: Launch a Successful Offer No Matter the Size of Your Email List,”
- “Croissants vs. Bagels: Strategic, Effective, and Inclusive Networking at Conferences.”
He is a professional speaker, TEDx speaker, HBR contributor, host of On the Schmooze podcast and #NoMoreBadZoom Virtual Happy Hours.
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