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Gene Moran on How His Book Transformed His Business

Dec 30, 2020

Gene Moran on How His Book Transformed His Business

Gene Moran has helped myriad clients navigate the murky waters of federal sales. As the Founder and President of Capitol Integration and an active duty Navy Captain, Gene has established himself as an expert who consistently brings agility, creativity and results to companies of all sizes: small startup firms, prime and sub-prime contractors, and large multi-billion dollar public enterprises. He is a proven Navy Financial Manager, designated Joint Specialty Officer and was just named one of top lobbyists of 2020 by the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics,

But to me, he's much more than that; he's a client who I'm thrilled to call a friend. We published his #1 Amazon bestselling book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales, last year and are publishing his second book next year. Why is he doing two books, you ask? Well, you won't have to ask once you listen to this episode.  


Anna David:                  00:00                Oh, well, Gene, thank you so much for doing this.

Gene:                           00:04                It's my pleasure, glad to be here.

Anna David:                  00:06                I don't pick favorites, but you're my favorite client. Any client who's listening. You're a favorite too, but we're just not talking right now.

Gene:                           00:17                Only Anna could get away with that.

Anna David:                  00:20                What's special about us chatting today is that you got, literally an award today already from the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics. Can we talk about that?

Gene:                           00:33                We can. It's just amazing timing. It was a peer recognition award you know, by lobbyists of lobbyists. I refer to myself as a government relations advisor, but it's always nice to be acknowledged by peers for the work that I get to do with clients that are just great to work with. Thanks for mentioning it.

Anna David:                  00:57                Well, and this, I have a self-serving question that probably isn't relevant, do you think your book had anything to do with that award? Probably not, huh?

Gene:                           01:07                Actually, actually, yes, because a part of the criteria I learned was how have I helped innovate within the field? And one way that they viewed my innovative effort was that I wrote a book that made the process of Washington more approachable for clients, companies who aren't living in the Washington area. So many of my clients are from all over the country and different parts of the globe and they don't have that regular access and understanding of the process. And so, this book was a way to make it more approachable and that was our goal at the beginning. And it had a secondary effect for us.

Anna David:                  01:56                Yeah. Just more frosting coming all the time. So, let's talk about your decision to write a book. I am pretty sure it came from being in the Alan Weiss community. Is that right?

Gene:                           02:10                He certainly is somebody who has had a major influence on how I have organized my business and thought about my business. And after reading his material, participating in his events, it became clear to me that I was not fully appreciating the degree of expertise that I could bring to the field. And it didn't take me long to accept that, yeah, I have enough material that's original that I can package in a different way. And I got a little professional help to do that.

Anna David:                  02:50                Well. Yeah. And I think everybody should know that if you have at least a decade in your field, you have a lot to teach people, probably even if you have less time. Gene and I are lucky enough to have a lot more time than that in our respective fields. But I, you know, and I remember at the event that we met at, but didn't meet at, which is to say we were both there, but didn't connect until afterwards really. I remember it began with Alan taking out a whiteboard and saying, going around the room and saying, how did you hear of me originally? And 99% of the people said it was from his books. Do you remember that?

Gene:                           03:30                Absolutely. That was an eye opener probably 25 people in attendance at a workshop about how to work on your business. And that was a clear message from a very, very diverse audience, that books tell a story.

Anna David:                  03:49                And we should say 25 hands out of probably 35. It wasn't like this was some huge workshop. It was a, I don't know, I'm terrible with numbers, Gene. I know you're really good with numbers.

Gene:                           04:00                No, no, no, no. You're right. I can stick with the 99% because that's where it was. This, this was a focused group, but an extremely diverse group meeting in New York City. And there was no doubt everyone had come to him because of a book or a book referral.

Anna David:                  04:16                And interestingly, I found out about his book by listening to a podcast, I was listening to a business podcast. I listened to all the time, I was on a hike and I just said, who is this man? He's sharing truths in a way that I've never heard someone talk before he really got my attention with Napoleon Hill was full of it. He was the worst, you know, when every other entrepreneur always talks about Napoleon Hill, anyway point is, I remember you saying when we first talked, you wrote it so that I think the expression you used, so that you could be in the public square. Was it something like that?

Gene:                           04:52                Correct. And you know, that's a concept that I think people in any business need to just embrace. I was a little slow to embrace it. The fact is if you are in business, people are evaluating you long before you meet them. Or even if you've been referred to them, they've checked you out pretty well before you have your first conversation, you may be 30% through a sales qualification process before you had that first conversation. And so, one's presence in the public square, what do you look like all the time? What's your body of work? Do you have books? Are you on social media? Do you write articles? That sort of stuff matters and it adds up to how people evaluate one's professionalism, capabilities, body of work in today's society.

Anna David:                  05:50                Yeah. And I think one of the misperceptions about books is that you have to sell a million copies for that to be true, and it is not true. So not true, you know I know you, well, first of all, let's go back to this first book. You got professional help from someone who already worked with you in terms of the writing process, what was the writing process like? Did you follow a structure? How did you do it?

Gene:                           06:14                Well, I wouldn't encourage everyone to follow my model. I sort of just went at it from an outline that I had been using to brief clients with. And I had a very bright intern working with me who was between college at Georgetown and starting law school at Boston College. And she was a gifted writer and I would give her bursts of my product and she would try to clean it up for me. And we went back and forth doing this. My wife and I were actually, on our boat in The Bahamas while I was doing some of this. And in a matter of a few months, we got what I thought was a pretty good manuscript. And then I connected with another person at Alan Weiss's community Dan Janell, who is a gifted editor in his own right. And former newspaper person. And he looked at it and said, yeah, you might need a little developmental work here. And he helped me sort of formulate it a little differently, put a creative title to it that we continued to improve. But then I got to a point where I was like, okay, now, we think we have a product, but how do I get it to market? And that was where the magic of Anna David came in.

Anna David:                  07:34                That's where I came in. What were you going to do before you met me? Were you going to find a cover designer and do this uploading yourself? What were you, what was your plan?

Gene:                           07:44                So, yeah, like many people who try to do their own marketing. I thought that, yeah, this Kindle Publishing through Amazon that doesn't look too difficult. I knew people that had done it. Some people make it look very easy, and I'm sure in some ways it is people described it. You can go to Fiverr and get someone to do your cover and get an ISBN. And suddenly I came to recognize that, wow, this is a lot of cobbling together, and it's going to take more time and effort than I really want to put into this. I don't get that cathartic experience from the whole writing, and putting a book together. Some people do, but I'd rather focus on my work and hobbies and have the book just come to life. So, when you and I were fortunate enough to run into one another after the New York event, that was where I recognized, Hey, I just found somebody who can take this across the finish line for me. And that's pretty much what happened.

Anna David:                  08:49                Yeah. I will say, technically, you could say it is easy to do the Kindle Publishing because you could, you can create a cover on Amazon. You can create a layout, but the difference between doing it right. And doing it, you know, doing it and doing it well is mammoth. And I know because I had to learn first-hand. So, yes, so we published this book, it became number one in its categories. We were all very happy. And then what happened next? How did you market it? How did you use it to attract clients all of that?

Gene:                           09:30                Well, I wish I could fully describe the magic nature of what unfolded, but it seemed that my existing organic network definitely latched onto the idea that I had a book. You know, the congratulations start to flow the just the noise level and the like, I guess the social media impressions rise considerably. And suddenly my network, I think, was viewing me in a different way. Oh, wow. Look at this. I didn't know he did that. Or I didn't know he had it in him. And referrals start to come in at a different pace and of a different quality pretty much immediately, I would say within the first quarter, I knew, wow, this, this was really a smart move. And I hadn't really thought it through like that. Prior to that happening, you know, embarking on a book, seemed like a smart idea, if nothing else, it was another piece of professional credentialing, but the activity and the sort of the flywheel effect definitely kicked in fairly quickly for me.

Anna David:                  10:49                Did you have to do anything? Did you mail out copies or did it just happen organically?

Gene:                           10:55                I had not done a big mailing, others I understand do that fairly regularly. My, the nature of my work is that I don't have a big client turnover and I don't look to attract a huge number of clients in any given year. I just, I have sort of steady growth of a small number of clients. So, my whole client acquisition mindset may be a little different than others. So, I have not pushed that too, too much. Somebody asks, you know, I'm happy to sign them and give them away. I've made them available for free on some occasions. When I speak at events or, you know, pre COVID certainly make reference to it. And you can see that, you know, people go to the website and download it.

Anna David:                  11:55                And so, I'm really glad you mentioned this higher quality of client. It attracts because I think any entrepreneur spends a lot of time, maybe you found a way to avoid this, speaking to people who are not the right client or agreeing to work with somebody who's not the right client. And a book is an excellent weeding out process because you get to show kind of the quality of your work. Do you know what I'm saying?

Gene:                           12:23                Absolutely. you know my business is about helping companies connect to the Washington process. The very large companies, excuse me, have a full-time Washington presence, smaller companies, medium sized companies don't necessarily have that. And some just don't have the bandwidth to support that sort of support. So, I can be that bridge to them to help them in the DC space. That doesn't mean that everybody is ready to work the DC environment. And so, there are some companies that are, you know, you watch Shark Tank, you see, you know, Hey, you're not quite ready for us, so we're not quite ready for you, that exists I think in many businesses, it does exist in my business. So, I am always looking for companies who are ready to make that step increase in activity and sales to the government help their, you know, improve their own government positioning. And that requires a company of a certain sustainability and cash flow and to cut through its quality they need to be ready to go work with me.

Anna David:                  13:38                Yeah. I think also a thing for me was, well, what you start to notice, ironically, is the people who are trying to, and this is kind of off topic, haggle the price are often the people who are going to be the most difficult. And then the people with this abundant mentality who are just like, okay, great. Let's just do this are the ones who end up being a joy to work with. And I will say, I remember when I told you the price, you just go, I'm still standing. Like you didn't, you know, you weren't like what? But so, okay. And so then let's talk about, then you decided, Hey, this was so great. I want to work from the beginning with Launch Pad. Was that partially you know, I'm imagining it took a lot of your time to write that book on your own. Would you be able to estimate how many hours it took you?

Gene:                           14:37                I really have never tried to put a number to it. Let's just say I made the go decision in April of 2019. I remember this well, I was at an Alan Weiss event and I came of it and saying, what am I waiting for? And within months, you and I were talking, so we published in October. So that was six months. So back up some of these developmental back and forth efforts you know, to get to a manuscript, it was probably four months of commitment. You know, I'm still, I do still work and you know, that's the full-time job. So it was, you know, months of effort, some people pour years into a book, I've come to recognize that there are faster ways to do it and, and less labor intensive ways to do it.

Anna David:                  15:31                Well, you did. That's pretty fast, what you're describing. When somebody says they're working on a book for years, I go, Oh, God, not because they've wasted the time, but because the book is probably in disastrous shape, because it just suggests that they've been writing without a structure and just kind of changing and all those things that not just take a long time, but really make the process fixing more difficult. Do you know what I mean?

Gene:                           15:59                So for anybody out there who questions, their ability to write, I'm a great example of somebody who is not a naturally gifted writer. In fact, I recall Dan Janell coming back to me saying, we've got to get rid of this passive voice. And I didn't even know what he was talking about. Dan, how do I identify that? And he rattles off these words that are, they just glare at him. He can't even stand that. They jump off the page out at him as passive voice. Now I've finally, and coming to recognize what that really means and why it's so boring to read that way. We do tend to speak that way often. And that was part of my problem. But you know, having some professional eyes help work through that sort of thing you know, makes it much more readable or enjoyable for the reader to actually read the book. So some of those people I'm going to get back to your topic here of self publishing.

                                    17:04                I've observed many, many colleagues who have been counseled to go with a professional publisher, go with a commercial publisher, not professional commercial publisher. And they wait forever. They wait 18 months using an agent or multiple agents, and they go to 50 publishing houses to try to get published in there. They're just waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. We went from start to published to number one in six months, such that it was having an effect on my business within months after that publication date. And I've shared this story with many people who are clinging to this idea that you have to have an expensive literary agent that's working the publishing houses for you. If your goal is to have a book that will help your business, my experience with this book is that that's a lot of wasted time that you don't have to waste.

Anna David:                  18:04                I know. And you have generously sent me probably 10 people who I've talked to, who have not been convinced of that. And it's, I think it's this. And I get it. It's like that dream that they know the statistics are really bad for selling a book, but they think they're going to be the exception. And they just, you know, and they say things because I talk to these people all the time. Whenever I talk to someone who says that, I'll circle back once I've, you know, sort of gotten the agent and publisher, I know they're never publishing a book. I know it. And they'll say things like I want to be sent on tour. This was pre COVID. I don't know, personally any writers who the publisher sent on tour. I know a lot who arranged their own tours and they say, I want to get my book in bookstores. And that, you know, getting published traditionally doesn't mean that I find it easier to get my book in bookstores now. I got this new one in Barnes and noble by walking in and chatting with someone who worked there. I wasn't even trying.

Gene:                           19:06                Well, that's the magic of Anna David right there. You bring this infectious enthusiasm to your work that people can't ignore. And so they want to be a part of that.

Anna David:                  19:18                You see how to become one of my favorite clients. You just have to say things like that. Now, you're too classy a guy to talk numbers, but how much money would you say this book has made you? I mean, I guess percentage wise in terms of new clients and all of that, I mean, I'm imagining the actual book sales. We all tend to make a couple hundred bucks, like not a lot, but what about in terms of new clients and business?

Gene:                           19:45                Yeah, it's not the book sales. It's the access to clients and landing business from by leveraging the book. We are now 13 months from our publication date. It's November, 2020. And that number is between 35 and 40% higher business revenue, 35 to 40% higher than pre-book. How much of that is the book? Some significant piece of it has something to do with the book. I can't tell you the exact makeup.

Anna David:                  20:23                I mean, and that's the thing about books. It's also the thing about podcasts. People say, how much does it show off your business? And it's impossible to quantify because it's not a number that adds up. You just know it adds to your legitimacy. I will point out to anybody who's doing mad calculations. He mentioned having a boat in The Bahamas, so we know he was already doing pretty well. So 35% is probably a significant number. That's all I'm saying.

Gene:                           20:51                So I get asked regularly, Hey, is it worth the price that you pay to do these things, have an editor, have somebody do the publishing for you? To me it was an absolute, no brainer. And, you know, we can talk about our follow on projects if you'd like, and, you know, those decisions were quite easy for me to make as a result.

Anna David:                  21:16                Yeah. I mean, so then we signed up you know, to do a monthly retainer with you where, you know, and we're figuring out what it is, but we got blog posts and speakers you know, packets and these things together, and we're in regular communication. So it becomes, I think if you're smart, a relationship, and then of course, we're releasing your next book in 2020, and we're helping you write it, 2021. I told you I'm not going to work.

Gene:                           21:47                So the, I lost my train of thought there, sorry.

Anna David:                  21:54                That we decided to keep working together.

Gene:                           21:57                Yes. So we're here's something that you know, maybe listeners would gravitate to. I mentioned your infectious enthusiasm. You are also in a very different bubble, so to speak, then I am in, and I think this election showed us we are all sort of in bubbles. We work in different areas. We self-select our news in different ways. We, we are coming at things from a different perspective. As we speak today, I live in Florida, but my work effort is focused on Washington DC. My being outside of the DC area, 90% of the year helps me have perspective. You being in Los Angeles have a completely different perspective on things about how people consume information about how I'm perceived in a marketplace. And so, yes, we have a retainer relationship that has some flexibility to it because there's different things that come up about what I might need help with, or want perspective on. Sometimes it's about how to write something in short order, a blog post, how to reposition for speaking opportunities. These things don't just naturally happen where people show up on programs of associations to be a speaker, or be a panelist. There's somebody in the background helping make those things happen. Anna is on my team to help make those things happen. And you know, it takes that load off of me and it's a very, very minor price to pay to have that sort of higher caliber support.

Anna David:                  23:40                Cool. Love it. Love it. Yeah. I mean, obviously I love it. I do think that's another misperception is that people think we'll have a book, so speakers or, you know, speakers, agencies and bookers are going to come knocking down my door. Nope, Nope. You got to make it happen.

Gene:                           23:59                I happen to know personally and I'm sure many people listening do too. I know personally many of the people that are political pundits on the major cable channels they are not there by accident. They're there because they want to be there many are there because they're paid to be there and they have aggressively positioned themselves to be there. It's the same in speaking opportunities throughout the country, whether it's in an industry association sort of event, or if you're invited into maybe a prospect or another business setting, those things it's rarely just by power of your own personal brand. There has to be some effort on one's part to do that. I sort of left off the second part of our follow on work about the second book that you alluded to seeing the success of the pitching the big top, how to master the three ring circus of federal sales. That convinced me that that's not my only message that I can share and that I would like to tell.

                                    25:11                And I would like more people to know about, but you know, me, I'm a fairly reserved person. These things don't just you know, come out when somebody interacts with me. But I recognized that my prior military experience, my corporate experience, my now entrepreneurial experience working in Washington, there's a through line there that many people might be able to relate to about transitions in life and opening up to different opportunities. And so I knew that had book potential, but I didn't want to sit down at the computer and type it out. So you have another way to do that. And you know, that appeals to me and I'm excited to do it. And I know goodness will come from it. I don't know exactly what that will look like, but you have to be willing to move in that direction toward these big goals and amazingly good things come.

Anna David:                  26:12                Yes. And I don't want this to sound like one long commercial for Launch Pad. I want it, I want more people to understand what a book can do for your business and to see how possible it is, and to see that, you know, frankly you know, well, I got a good college education. It's my fault. I squandered it a little bit, but this is sort of the new college degree. Do you want to go get another degree or do you want to be considered an expert with a book and no matter how you do that, this will help you. No matter what business you're in. That's what I think. So, Gene, this has been a delight, unsurprisingly, is there anything else you'd like to add before we wrap up?

Gene:                           27:01                I wasn't expecting that one for the close Anna, I have to say, I really enjoy working with you. I use the word enthusiasm a lot. You bring a lot of energy that I get energy from. I love working with people that are like this. I love working with clients that bring that kind of energy. It makes the work that much more pleasant. This has been great experience for me. I certainly not thought twice about embarking on a book and as we've discussed moving onto more. So I look forward to a long relationship.

Anna David:                  27:37                Well, thank you. Thank you. And thank you. Anybody who is listening, I hope you are super motivated from this story. And I will see you next week slash talk to you next week. Thanks. Bye. 


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