Listen to the full interview here ( 32:02 minutes)
Hello world, welcome to discover your talent. Do what you love. Number 292. I’m creator and host, Don Hutcheson. Everyday I interview someone from around the world who has discovered his talents to do work he loves, to create a life of success, satisfaction, and freedom. Tom had completed four years at the US Naval Academy, an outstanding education paid for in full by Uncle Sam then in his senior year. He was surprised to find out that he wasn’t physically qualified to be in the military at all. Today, I’m delighted to bring you our featured guest, Tom Schwab. Welcome Tom. Thank you, Dan. I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you, sir. Tom, are you using your talents doing work that you love like no other time in my life? Yes. Beautiful answer. In this noisy digital world, business leaders are continually bombarded with the newest must have tools to reach their goals. As a navy veteran and an inbound marketing engineer.
How I’m Schwab has a refreshingly different approach. He focuses on time, proven strategies in supercharges them. With today’s free tools, an author, speaker, and teacher Tom Helps you get more traffic, leads and raving customer fans by being interviewed on podcasts. Well, Tom, once a wonderful summary of your career to date, take the floor and talk about what you’re working on now that has you engaged and excited, if you will. Sure, my path only makes sense in the rear view mirror looking back, but it’s amazing how it’s brought me to where I am right now and I feel like for the first time in my life I am using my talents to the ultimate end to the fullest. You know, every little bit of experience that I had and what we’re doing right now is working with people to amplify their messages, to get their marketing message out there to to connect with people that could be ideal customers with them and we’re helping them do this with modern tools and modern technology.
Just like we’re doing right here. Don being a podcast guest, getting out there and telling their message, getting that know, like and trust. And if people relate with that, then they can take the next step and become visitors to a site, become leads to them or even become customers. And it’s just a, a great technology and it’s a fun way to, to connect with so many different people even as I sit here in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Yeah, it’s amazing what we talked about in our pre interview, the, uh, the trailblazers that, uh, at hubspot on this inbound marketing thing that started what in the late, uh, I don’t know, 2007, 2008 when they saw the shift from outbound to inbound. That was ethical when I read it to say the least, right? Oh, very much so. And I as, as new as it was, it also made sense to probably our grandparents.
You know, nobody likes to be sold. That idea of marketing being, Don, I’ve got something to sell to you and I’m going to interrupt your favorite show, interrupt your song. All the rest of that. Nobody likes to be sold, but everybody is going to the Internet to solve a problem. And those people that can help them and serve them. And help them solve a problem. They’re the ones that get that know, like, and trust that build the relationship. And really that’s, you know, that’s how you build a company, that’s how you built it 100 years ago and it’s going to be how you build it 100 years from now is by helping people. I love your description of raving customer fans because Gosh, when you can do that for folks and you’re just, you give, give, give and inventive solutions and put resources to bear against somebody’s problems.
I mean they are profoundly indebted to you and that was great. A great bond grows there. And that’s the thing is that today it’s never been easier to sell something online, but it’s never been harder to build a build a brand or build a company, right? If you want to sell something, just go on Amazon or Ebay and sell it for one penny cheaper than the next guy and it’s a race to the bottom and you’ll be able to do that. But you might sell it one time, but they, they’re not going to remember who you are. There won’t be any, any brand or you know, you’ll be chasing a transaction, not building a company. So I think it’s really a, a longterm view to look at it and saying, how can I help these people, what can I help with them and just focus on them all the time.
And you look at every great company that’s ever been out there, you know now or 100 years ago, and that’s how they built it. Well, you couldn’t be more right. And with all the courses that we’ve taken over the last six years, we’ve learned from great lessons, from really good people, but there’s a part of it that it’s given country. You know, there’s a part of it. Let’s have these funnels that have 10 different pieces that if you turned down this, then you’ll buy that. And then if you buy this then you’ll do the, you know what I’m saying? And it’s, it’s funnels are fine, but if it’s based on value and not just on sort of trickery, I think it’s a thousand times more powerful, very much solid. All of us have more and more powerful tools now. And some of the tools are free, but I always say that tools amplify your creativity and knowledge or lack thereof, you know, for example, I can take a chainsaw and a buddy of mine had an artist come in and carve a dead tree and he had a beautiful eagle in net.
Well, that amplified the artist’s creativity. Uh, I could take a chainsaw and I almost did about a year ago and it slipped while I was cutting wood and almost took my leg off. And I look at that and say, that’s not the tool, it’s the knowledge, it’s the artistry of the user. And I think too often now we just look and say, okay, what’s this new new tool that’s going to change my world? And really, if you don’t have a good understanding of what you’re trying to do, your strategy, who you’re trying to serve and, and how it can help them, or you can do a lot of damage with a modern tool, you can turn, you know, email nurturing into spam really quick,
man, what an elegant metaphor. That’s a beautiful metaphor. Thank you for sharing that. Well, as we’ve discussed, everyone’s life journey is composed of a series of turning points, some call them passages, and at these times they’re really important times. We’re faced with obstacles and opportunities and choices that drive us forward to the next period of our lives. So take us back in the backstory of Tom Schwab and as far back as you want to go and talk about the people and events that have shaped you.
Don. I, I love this because the older I get, the more sense it seems to make. And I was a, uh, a midwestern kid. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My world went from as far west as the Mississippi River and as far east as Indiana. And it was a small world, but I had the opportunity to go to the United States Naval Academy. And I just love that because for the first time in my life I got to be exposed to so many different people. So many different cultures and ideas. You know, I went from being 17 years old and not being really any more than 200 miles from my house to come back a year later and I’d been around the world and I just loved that because I’m, I’m a natural learner and a okay,
forgive me, I can’t, I can’t let you get back to this because most people can’t make it into the US naval academy. How did you do that, brother? I mean, listen, listen, we just had somebody on that had made it into the air force academy and they were something like, I don’t know how many thousands of candidates and I’m sure for the Naval Academy it’s the same thing. What did you, what I mean, it’s very impressive. What did you do to earn that? How did you plan for that? What did you study? How did you, how did you
pull that off? Because, you know, I, I can’t say that it was totally intentional. The idea didn’t come into my mind till my sophomore year in high school and I’d always worked hard at school and you know, uh, at sports, I really enjoyed those, but it wasn’t until sophomore year in high school and I saw all my buddies that were coming back from college and uh, you know, they were going back to flip burgers and this one gentleman I knew a kid at that time had gone to one of the academies and he came back and he’d been around the world, done all these fun things. It came back for a few weeks. And as I was talking to him, I found out that his education was paid for. So I’m like, this sounds like a really good idea. So at that time I didn’t know how hard it was to get into the service academies.
So I applied. I did everything. And by the grace of God I got in and I honestly say it was the grace of God because it wasn’t until senior year that I found out that, uh, I wasn’t physically qualified to be in the military. I, I, I have no depth perception. Oh my gosh, and they didn’t find that out. It was on, it was on the forums. It was on my entire record, but they didn’t see it until my senior year. And uh, as soon as I found that out, you know, you can imagine I had this feeling of dread and they said, no, we’ve invested four to education in you, but you’ll get a waiver, but you’ll never go to see. You’ll never do anything like that. And as things would turn out there, well, the needs of the navy were such as that they needed nuclear power engineers. Uh, so I got another waiver on that and was able to, to be A. I’m on the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln and it was the, at the time it was the newest and finest aircraft carrier. Uh, now it’s only the finest, uh, but, uh, that was just a great experience there. And, um, I always say that was a pivotable pivotal point in my life because it amazed me that they could take something as complicated as a nuclear power and nuclear reactors and they could teach young men to operate that. You got to,
what’s the word when they let you go ahead, even though you’ve got a shortcoming, you said you had no depth perception but they waived that lets you stay in the academy and that, but then as far as they say you’ll never go to see, but then they needed you. So they waived it again to let you go for the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Exactly. I mean that doesn’t happen very often. Well I don’t imagine so I was looking back and say that’s, that’s my God story because it wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for that. What was it? What was it like
when you say you did the nuclear power, when did you do actually as a young graduate and what were you on insulin? I don’t know how that works.
Yep. I was an ensign when I started and um, went through six months of nuclear power school in Orlando. Now it’s actually down there in your neck of the woods and I’m in South Carolina, but did six months there and that did six months of training on a shore based nuclear reactor up near Saratoga Springs, New York, and then went to the ship and that that time it was under construction and Newport News, but we were the ones that were in charge of operating the reactor and it was amazing and this is scary now at times when I think about it. The average age of somebody operating a nuclear reactor in the navy is right around 22 or 23 and you know, they’re great motivated people, but it’s not that they’re nuclear engineers is that they have been trained and they’ve been systems put in place that they follow.
And it’s really just amazing how they could take somebody that, you know, the vast majority of the people were high school educated, very smart young men, but they learned the system and they were able to do it reproducibly. I’m effectively safely. And that’s always been the way that I look at at life now is that, you know, there’s problems to be solved, their systems through remade, there’s things to be optimized. And so even though I’m not an engineering, I’m in marketing and entrepreneurship, I still look at, at life through those, those glasses have we can, we can make this system work. I like that a lot. How did you, how did you progress, how long did you stay? What were the that you are? Sure. So we started in a, it was a surface warfare officer, so I got to drive the ship also, um, start it, started out as an engineer and was in charge of one of the two nuclear power plants when I was on watch.
And then from there, um, you know, with training, I got to be engineered officer of the watch. So at that time I was in charge of both of them and so I had two officers reporting to me and then each one of them had about 20 guys on watch that we’re doing at. So I always say that was the best job in the world because when I was on watch, the only person I really had to, to answer to a was the skipper. So it was great and you know, I had a great experience. Uh, we went over to a Desert Storm, desert shield and on the way back, uh, I got to do the job that I would be doing on my next tour. So 10 years, 10 years later I’d be doing this job, but I got to do it now because they were short.
So I got to do it for a couple of months and it was a blast and I really enjoyed that. But as it was, I had gotten married, I had two small kids. It was putting a great stress on, on my family. And the other thing is anybody’s old enough to remember in 1991 piece broke out. Nobody remembers that. But yeah, the Soviet Union collapsed. And with that it was a, it was a bad time to be in the service in some ways. Similar to now where you’ve got lots of great people that were doing great jobs that had done wonderful things, but because of no fault of their own, you know, that company, that industry has downsized and now there’s not as much opportunity. So at that point I looked at it and you know, I’d always thought, okay, I’ll make it a career in the navy.
All I’ve gotta do is put in those 20 or 30 years. But I looked at it and thought, no, I’ve done here what I, I need to, what I want to, and it’s time to pivot and go onto the next chapter of my life. So that’s when I left and went into corporate America. And how long had you been in the navy up to that time? At that time it had been at the academy for four years and then active duty five years. So I was, I was a lieutenant at that time and if I would’ve stayed in a, I would have made lieutenant commander. Excellent. So what was the thinking behind your move into the corporate world? As awful as it sounds at that time, I was looking at it and it’s going from how can you go from one secure job or wants to secure industry to another and you know, I’ve grown up in the midwest and that was sort of that idea of you find a job that you can stay with for the rest of your life, be loyal to that company, grow in it, and uh, and everything will be fine.
And you know, I thought I had that in the military and wow, you know, the Cold War ended and that changed a lot of that. So I think at that time, you know, I was really looking for what’s the next safe thing to do. And to me that was, you know, corporate America and a while I did that, I enjoyed it. I went from engineering to operations to distribution and then went out to sales and marketing and sales management. So I loved it. And I was at, I was growing in the roles, I was selling to orthopedic surgeons, I was working with hospitals, uh, doing a lot of fun things and it brought me to Kalamazoo and I’ll still remember getting off the plane in Kalamazoo. Insane. It was a snowy February day and I said, well, I’ll live here for awhile, but I’m not going to die here because I did.
I didn’t want my world to get small again. But you know, now it’s 20 some years later and I still live here. Don’t necessarily know if I want to die here. But with technology I can be connected with so many people here. Oh Man. It’s endless. What industry captured your imagination after the native? How did you do the research on that and what, uh, what naturally drew you with your skills and abilities and interests? You know, what really touched me was the medical device industry at that time. My father in law had had two hip replacements and I think three knee replacements to, on one side, of course. And I was just amazed at what they were doing. And it seemed like it was a great way to use my engineering background, got me out and amongst people I realized really early that I didn’t want to be an engineer.
Um, while I respect them while I like them, I, I couldn’t imagine myself just sitting in a desk working on problems like that, that would have been like solitary confinement for me. So I really wanted to get out in the field and do things like that. And uh, to me that was just a, an emerging field and a way to learn something totally new. And you said you got on, you didn’t start out in the marketing and sales side and you did operations and things. What would you describe it as? I did, I started out in engineering, then went to operations and uh, then went to distribution and I went through those very quickly and I realized that I felt like I was on a great big ship that everybody I knew in town either worked in that building or lived near me. Um, you know, sat sat in front of me or behind me at church and I just, I wanted to see more of it.
The world was getting too small in that building, so that’s when I looked and thought, boy, it would be great to go out and to sell and to, uh, to be going to two different accounts, different hospitals, meeting different people. And that’s where I really, I really thrived. Yeah, isn’t that amazing? I mean, it’s such a gift that you had with an engineering background in operations and distribution, you know, everybody can’t make that shift over into marketing. That’s a whole different skillset. I mean that’s big time, different skillset and especially at that time people were telling me, no, you can’t go to from, from inside to outside. You can’t go from engineering to sales that those two things don’t work. And once again, it’s sort of like when you asked me how I got into the academy while I think I was too stupid to know that it was hard to do.
Um, so I just went out and did it. And when the company in the fortune 500 company I was working for at the time told me, no, you can’t do that. I sort of took it as a challenge. So I went and sold for a, a, a small, small competitor for about 18 months. And when they found out, oh, he can do that, then they hired me back. That was really smart. Very, very smart. So what happened next in the story? Sure. Well, with that, you know, I, I had great success, I enjoyed what I was doing and I had gone on and went back to school to get my Mba in marketing. And one of the things I really loved is everything that I was learning. And uh, with that I had the opportunity to have my own show, which is something that I’d always wanted to do his own my own business.
So he had the opportunity to get a distributor ship for the, uh, the state of Michigan and built up a sales team, really loved what I was doing and working very hard with it. Have a great success. But it sort of reminded me, you know, history repeats itself well in 1992, the military was hit really hard by, by the economy and what happened in the world, events there and well, when the recession hit in 2008, you know, the manufacturer said, well, we want to cut out the middlemen, which made a whole lot of sense until you look in the mirror, don and realize, hey, I looked like the middleman. So with that, uh, the company was, was very good to me. They, they said that they’d buy the distributor ship back, um, or I could miss quota the next year and they take the distributor ship back. And uh, it’s one of those where I asked him, well, what’s quota? And they’re like, you don’t want to know.
So it, it really gave us, you know, I, I looked at it as like from one sort of stable opportunity to another. And one of the things I realized is that where my stability had always come from was my talents, my skills, what I could offer to accompany or a customer. And so when I looked at that, I thought, well, what can I offer right now? No, we’d sold back this distributor ship, but we had a sideline business that was doing well for people. It was doing good for people. I was renting out these um, knee scooters for people that couldn’t bear weight and couldn’t bear crutches. And I, and I thought, well, could we take this business from a regional player here in Michigan and could we, could we build this off nationally? And as we had talked about, that was about 2008, 2009 when I just read a book by a two smart guys from mit on inbound marketing.
And I listened to that and I talked to the company and said, Hey, is anybody ever done this for ecommerce? Has any, it doesn’t work for that. And once again they said, well, nobody’s ever really tried it for that. And I’m like, well, it seems like it should be able to be done. So we focused on that for about three years and really built our company up from a regional player to a national leader. And once again, learned a lot while we were doing it. And, uh, I think I, I learned more in that first three years of doing online marketing, online sales and online company than I did at any other time in my life. And I’d even say compared to a nuclear power, I learned more in those three years. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for sharing this. So the details of your amazing journey, what do you think, Tom, about the statistics that are shared around the world, about the surveys that go on regularly now?
It’s millions of people when asked every year and a half or so, are you using the best of who you are and your skills or are able to do what you do best everyday? The majority of people say no. Uh, what is that about? I think that’s disheartening. I think that’s one of the most sad statistics out there. Um, I think we all have to look at ourselves as we’re independent contractors. Even if you work for a company and we only get one one time on this earth, we only give one one chance to make an impact and really to live our lives and we all have individual talents and I think now we all have the tools to use those talents in any way we want. You can connect with your audience, you can connect with your customers. Just because you live in Kalamazoo, Michigan largely doesn’t mean that you can’t do something anymore.
Know you can get the knowledge. Because if you’re ignorant today, ignorance is a choice. And the access to people is unprecedented. You know, you think of, we’re talking over skype right now. You, you couldn’t have bought this as a big company 10 or 12 years ago for what we now have for free. This is stuff of the jetsons and uh, and we have it for free. So you can do so many things. And I just encourage people that to go out there and use their talents because job security doesn’t come from your employer. It comes from your customers and being able to add value to them. And right now the probably the missing link is how do I connect with those customers and there’s some great ways to do that also. Yes, precisely. Precisely. So what have been the most palpable benefits to you and you’re alive from chiseling out your, uh, your own career path, taking the road less traveled and, uh, being where you are today on the most palpable benefits.
Don Is my happiness and my excitement on looking into the future. Um, you know, I don’t think I will ever retire and I don’t know what I would retire to. I’m, I’m having so much fun in what I’m doing right now. If I hit the lottery tomorrow, I’d wake up and I do the same thing just because it’s so much fun. And I think once you work in that in your talents, it’s not so much work anymore. Now there’s a book called the big leap and he talks about working in your zone of competency or zone of or your zone of genius. And I think when you start working in that zone of genius where you’re really using your talents, boy, that’s when time flies, when you’re having fun doing things and you can’t imagine ever just stopping doing them.
Yeah, I love that. I love what the highly successful, highly at the University of Chicago wrote about in his book called flow. Did you ever read that book flow? I have not. Right? It’s a great book. And what he talks about is just what you’re talking about when you’re in your, your sweet spot, when you’re using your talents and in alignment with your skills and values and personal style, all those things. It’s just, it’s like time stands still because you’re so conscious, you know, you’re so into it and your, your anxiety level is lower and everything is, you know, it’s like Michael Jordan playing basketball, you know, it’s just, it just, it just goes. It goes. So take, take 60 seconds, just 60 short seconds. And tell our listeners what you would suggest if you were coaching them, whether they’re 18 heading off into the work world or looking at retirement at whatever age they are are in mid career. What would you say to them about finding out their best strategy for who they are and what they do best? What would you say? Sixty seconds.
Sure. Look at where he had been the most happiest, where you’ve pleased people the most. Don’t think of a job title as much as a service that you’ve provided to them. And I think throughout your life you’ll just see a reoccurring pattern and that recurring pattern is your talents.
Yeah, that’s perfect. Those 12 seconds it couldn’t, it couldn’t be better. No, I love it. I think that’s right on target. So, um, talk about any resources that you like that you could recommend. Any, any books or films or poems or anything that have inspired you along the way?
Oh sure. Um, uh, the first thing when you talk about resources out there, I think in understanding your talents and understanding the world, you got to understand yourself first and in every, every job interview I ever had or gave someone I was more interested in what they knew about themselves than I was, what they knew about the company. And so I think, uh, any problem you have to solve, you can’t solve the rest of the world’s problem. You can only solve and work on yourself. So I think that introspective nature out there can really help people and there’s some things that are out there that are free or almost free. Some of the ones that, that I love. Or like the disc profiles. I remember taking one and I’m giving it to my wife and showing her and saying, what do you think of this?
And she read it through and she’s like, I spent three years trying to figure out, figure you out. I should’ve just given you the profile. And I would have known it from the beginning. There’s another one by the Gallup organization called strength finders. And I love that one. And they not will give you your top five talents, but I also think it’s important you can, you can buy the extended version, don’t rank you on your entire 34 talents. And I think that’s really important because when I did that years and years ago, it really struck me that some of those things that, and they don’t call them non talents, but things that aren’t gifted in those ones in the bottom of the bottom five of the 34, it just struck me and I’m like, I would never want to have those. You know, I can’t imagine wanting those talents.
But thank God there are people that do. And realizing that a, as a, as a, a old chief in the navy one time told me is he said their mom didn’t change them in the first 18 years of life. You won’t either. So I, I as I’ve always remembered that as an employer, as a, as a coach, as a mentor, that people are who they are and you need to understand that and to work to their strengths, not to fix the weaknesses. So if I was given advice to anybody, don’t focus on what somebody else is doing, don’t, don’t try to copy what Bill Gates is doing, you’ll never, you’ll never be able to do it. Figure out who you are and what you have individually to do and to offer the world and who you want to work with and who you want to work for. Um, because that’s, that’s where you’re going to make people happy and they will make you happy. Perfect. What do you see going forward in the next handful of years since you’re never going to retire?
Doing more, uh, more fun things and interesting things with people that, uh, that inspire me. I think that I look at it as the base that any of us have up to this point you build on at that next decade of your life and you should be almost doubling every decade of your life. So what do you have to compete on as a 50 year old compared to a 20 year old? Well, you got an extra 30 years of experience and you should be using that. So after I look at life is that, you know, a double form your from being a 20 year old to a 30 year old and the same thing from 30 to 40. So, uh, I think it’s amazing and the only way you stop that is if you stop learning. Here’s an easy one. What would you do differently if you had it to do over, if anything?
Sure, I would, I would put my pride aside and um, and admit that I didn’t know things. I think that that held, held me back early on. Um, and you know, everybody knows that you’re not perfect. You know, everybody knows that, uh, that we’re all fallible human beings. And even the smartest person in the world only knows a little bit, a fraction of a percentage. So the truly smart people, the truly people that, that really get ahead are the ones that acknowledge that and say, Don, I don’t know this. Could you help me? Yes. And most people out there want to help you. And especially now with the Internet boy, you can reach out to people, you can ask them, you can, you can partner with them. And I, I think I held my self back quite often just by my pride of wanting to look. Perfect.
Well that’s honest, that’s very honest. Well Tom Schwab, what a great pleasure being with you today. Thank you for sharing the highlights of your amazing journey. And I know that listeners around the world have learned many lessons that will help them on theirs. How do those listeners connect with you?
Sure, Dan, I’m always thrilled to, to connect with people. Um, I’m the only time, Schwab and all of Kalamazoo. I’m on linkedin there. Uh, so I really believe what’s ordinary to you is amazing to me. So if I can be of any service to you, you can connect with me there. Our company is interview Valet. We’ve set up a special page just for the listeners here. If you go to interview valet.com, forward slash talent. Uh, we’ve got a bunch of resources there to help you connect with your ideal listener. You know, marketing at its core is just starting a conversation with somebody that could be an ideal customer and really, as you’ve seen here, there’s no better way to do that. Then, you know, talking to a podcast host and getting interviewed on podcasts, it’s the funnest way to do marketing that I’ve ever seen.
I could not agree more. I think you’re right. Listeners know you can go to discover your talent podcast.com to our podcast show notes page and find the highlights of this fine interview along with these links. So it’s an easy one, two step. I want to thank listeners across the world. Thank you for joining us today as every day, and if you like interviews like this, go to our website and subscribe. It’s all free. You can also subscribe on itunes and stitcher. In closing, every one of us is born with unique talents and gifts. We do not learn them. We cannot ignore them. They’re just a part of who we are, our DNA. Whenever we discover them and use them in our lives and careers, we do not merely survive. We thrive in every way possible. Until next time, all my best and whatever you do have fun out there today.