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Episode 305: Why Book Sales Don't Matter with Matt George

Apr 01, 2020

Matt George is the kindest man alive.

Don't believe me? Well, consider this. The Peoria, Illinois-based writer, speaker and CEO of the Children’s Home Association of Illinois is the former Executive Director of the Hult Center for Healthy Living and the former President and CEO of Youth Farm, which later merged with Children’s Home in 2007, under his leadership.

In addition to his work at Children’s Home, Matt helps raise funds for local nonprofits, including Neighborhood House, The Hult Center for Healthy Living, Crimestoppers and more.

But I know a lot more than Matt's resume. That's because my company published his #1 bestselling memoir/business book NonProfit Game Plan and so I had a front-row seat on his journey from behind-the-scenes rainmaker to public face. 

In this episode, we discussed how a mentor played a crucial role in this transition, the way his book has changed his entire career and why he doesn't track book sales, among many other topics.


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Anna David:                  00:01                So Matt, a pleasure to have you be the very first episode that I record in my studio.

Matt George:                00:07                I love the studio. Can't wait to be there.

Anna David:                  00:10                You're going to be here recording your audio book. The sound I hope is, is Epic. Now, so what is fascinating not, is not just that you are the kindest man that I've ever dealt with. That's fascinating. But how we came to work together and how as a result I had a front row seat as you built your platform and built towards your lodge. So let's talk about, I want to talk about that, but I also want to talk about how you basically decided I'm going to get out there and I'm going to tell my story and you targeted one specific man who told you how to do it. So let's talk about that.

Matt George:                00:49                Okay. Yeah. So, Kevin Harrington original shark on Shark Tank and inventor of the infomercial. I saw him at a conference and the short of it is I tracked him down afterwards. You know, everybody has escape routes. And he had just made a joke about how he goes into hotel rooms and he's waiting for somebody to jump out of the closet or out from under his bed and, and pitch him on something. And I thought that was funny. And so he went out one way at the conference and there was really only one way out. And this conference was in Las Vegas and real long escalators. And so I waited by the escalator and there he comes walking around the corner, and I said to him, Kevin, I'm not here to pitch you. I don't want money. I run a children's home. And what happened in about two seconds, it actually changed my life. He said, I'll call you, give me two hours, I'll call you. And I thought, Oh boy, he's going to blow me off.

                                    01:52                And exactly, two hours later I get a call and he knew all about me. He did his homework on the plane. He pulled nine nineties from my nonprofits. He knew what our budget was. He knew that I worked with NFL coaches. And all these baseball hall of fame guys, and really just was a cool experience. And then he ended the call with what do you want? And I said, I need a mentor. I have a lot of mentors. I truly believe in them. Mentors have actually changed my life and helped put me in the position that I'm in now, but I need somebody on a national or worldwide scale. And he said, well, if you're serious, come down to Florida and come on this date, this time. And we'll see. And so I did. And, he said, you're going to write a book. And I went, you got to be kidding me. And that was back just in March of 2019 and here we are 12 months later. And I launched the book, with a lot of your help in January. And it's just been a ride ever since. So, and he still, he checked on me today. And so he, we probably talked five or six times a week. And it's just, yeah, I mean he's, he wants to make sure that I tell the story and he wants to make sure and see the success of the book. And it's just been such a fun experience

Anna David:                  03:34                That kind of makes me want to cry. I don't know why. It's just not what you would expect at all. And I know him, I know what a nice, genuine guy he is, but I also know how busy he is.

Matt George:                03:48                He's very busy. He's called me before from Dubai. He says, man, I'm sorry, I'm in Switzerland. I'm in China. I'm in. And I'm, he calls me at any time. He texts me if he has an idea, he'll text me at midnight and, I'll look and I'll go, Oh, that is an unbelievable idea. And then I'm one of these guys who implements things. Like if he gives me a contact or an idea, I don't sit and really think about it. I'm like, this is a chance of a lifetime. And I act on it. And it's really helped. And he did tell me, he goes, I'm a busy man. Do not waste my time. I need you to go all in, I'll go all in with you if you go all in with me. And I got to open up for him with a speech kicking off the book in Orlando. And there's more to come.

Anna David:                  04:39                And I will say too, you know, Kevin has referred several people to me and he has never done what he sees. So he referred you to me, you and I spoke. And then Kevin basically called me afterwards and was like, Oh, you're doing this. Yeah, my guy, you got to make it work. And so we moved forward and you really are, you know, what's great about you is that you are determined and you were determined in the kindest way. Because we did a lot. You asked for things and you did it in such a kind way that it actually taught me more about how to do that. How to speak up and say I need this? And so tell me how, how I'm going to get it.

Matt George:                05:29                Yeah, that's funny. I appreciate you saying that. I mean, being a fundraiser at heart. I'm not afraid to make the ask. But here's what's, it's kind of funny. I say this in some of my speeches. I'm probably told no more times in a week than the average person can take. And it never bothers me. I mean, it really doesn't, I just expect it actually, and then I pursue the yeses even if there's only two or three a week, but I probably make 50 asks a week.

Anna David:                  06:05                Yeah. There are some personalities that can do that. I couldn't take it. And I put myself out there a lot, but I couldn't take all the no's.

Matt George:                06:14                You do put yourself out there.

Anna David:                  06:16                Yeah. But it's interesting and I don't want to make it like a male female thing, but you know, I know I have male friends who are just completely fine picking up the call and giving them the phone and hearing no. And maybe I can just do it over email or something like that, but I can't, I can't, my psyche can't take it. My fragile, fragile, self esteem. But, okay. And so let's talk, you went from pretty much thoroughly on Googleable, not entirely, but to having a platform on a national level. Let's talk about how you strategically built that and how would the role that played in the book release?

Matt George:                06:50                Yeah. Well part of it was really just trying to come up with a plan and a plan that actually had some action items tied to it. I mean, I think a lot of times people have goals and, but the goals, you can procrastinate so easily on these goals. And so what I did is I ended up having about 150 to 200 different goals. And one of the first ones was, is to get my hometown involved and bought in before I even went out further. Because if the people who cared for me and knew me didn't support me, then it was going to be really hard to do it in LA or Chicago or Miami or whatever. And so, that was the first step. And so I have a few mentors here that actually helped me with that part of it. Kevin helped. And then I went to our mayor here in Peoria, Illinois. And I said, here's what I'm doing and this is about community. Even though I'm going to be the spokesperson for this, this really is about community. And he said, I'm all in. What do you need? And I took those goals and gave them to him. And so it was everything from his state of the city, which had 850 people here in Peoria tent. I was highlighted, I was featured my book, he let me have a book signing after his, this is his show.

                                    08:16                And so we've got video and we've got pictures doing that. And all my donors and all of the people that tied to the children's home that I run, they were all there and they sat there and said, what an opportunity for children's home, but what an opportunity for our community. And so I'm a true believer no matter how big the community you, where you live. I mean, use LA as an example. It's your job, Anna, to take care of that community. It is a lot of peoples efforts to take care of the communities you're in. And that's the approach that I took. And that's really what kind of steamrolled all these other types of conversations because I just did something, a TV interview in Michigan and you think, well, what do they care? Well, they care because it's community and that compassion piece I think is very important. When you look at Kevin and the shark mentality, you only see that cut throat. I'm there for the dollar's and all of that. But really there is a heart and there is a compassion piece that is huge to business in general.

Anna David:                  09:28                And so when you decided to basically get your city behind your launch, what did you, you went to the Mayor, what else did you do?

Matt George:                09:41                Well, I went to the top 15 corporations in town and I gave them a little sneak peek of what I was doing and I said I needed their back. And so, I had the launch on the 15th of January and that book launch had the CEO of Caterpillar inc and they, we had the CEOs of the hospitals and the CEOs, and these are people why it's important to have the CEOs is because you have that corporate backing and those employees are really tied to boards and the boards are tied to community. And so I knew once had the corporate piece that the bigger thought was then I can go and do the grassroots neighborhood piece. And you know, Kevin told me something that was interesting. And I do this anyway. I'm a true believer that even though, I run an agency, everyone in my opinion needs to win because if I can't raise money for the person next door, which isn't typical, but I do it every weekend I'm doing it tomorrow, that then those kids will hit the street or those cancer survivors aren't going to have some sort of treatment or holistic approach or whatever it may be. It could be the boys and girls club. And they all, all of these groups have to talk because it's the same people in the communities. And so that's where it started. And once we started doing that, I started doing, I got an interview in telling that piece in Michigan, and then Indianapolis, and then I went to Phoenix and then to Vegas and then to Orlando. And it's just starting. I'm doing some keynotes this summer and one of the groups is the thousand people from all over. And it's an accounting firm. It's not a nonprofit because it does, it goes back to people and it goes back to community. And I truly believe that I'll stand by that for the rest of my life, no matter what. I've always felt that.

Anna David:                  11:48                And so what are the actual, if somebody wanted to follow in your stead and take actual steps you're taking, you know, you're having launched this speaking career, do you reach out and send copies of your book? What do you do and how does the book play into it?

Matt George:                12:02                Yeah, so one of the things that I did is I ended up, I purchased 500 copies of my own book and I've already handed them out. What I, what I've done locally is I have helped book signings and I haven't charged what I say is, make donations to the children's home. And so it's really, I've gotten in the hands of people, just in this area, I've probably gotten about a thousand books in people's hands. And so that's just locally. But then when I went to Orlando, I had, it was so funny. I had carry on luggage. I can barely even roll it. And I, it was 100% filled with books. And so the lady next to me that was on the airplane, I started talking to her and she was from Dayton, Ohio. She got a copy and I just started handing out copies, and really what it's, I've had two or three people already email me. I had somebody from Cleveland, Ohio, email me and they want me to hire me to come and talk to their United way there. And so there's, I think there's an approach that you can take. You can take a, I guess a cheaper approach and maybe try to do it by emails and try to worry about book sales. I mean, I don't think I've really even looked at how many books I've sold. I kind of don't care. I just really want to get the word out. And I think getting the word out is the most important thing. I sent press releases to people that probably don't care. Everything that you can think of from a branding standpoint. I left a book in the airport. I was in Las Vegas. I'm sitting in a lounge at the hotel and I handed out books. And then what was funny is I took books with me to dinner and I had one of my daughters with me and I had her carry these books. And so if a celebrity walked by, there was an athlete that walked by and I said, Hey, he's an all pro football player. And I said, champ, I said that I want to show you what I, what I've done my book. He didn't know me. And I said, do you mind holding the book up and everything? And he goes, it's for kids, right?

                                                            And I go, yeah, I run a children's, I run a children's home and you know, then, and then I take that and I post it on Instagram and Facebook and all the other social media that you can, and I really hit it hard. And so it's, I think my LinkedIn has gone from 2000 followers to maybe seven or eight, just in about three or four weeks. And the same with Facebook. I think I'm getting close to tapping out of how many, so called friends you can have. And, but it's those types of things. And then I found lists of people that had done interviews before and I found all these different, so I'm emailing snippets of my book to different markets. So in Indianapolis I found a media list and I ended up sending 12 to 15 emails to that list alone. And I think if you have that goal of doing that once a day, twice a day, and doing something every day to promote yourself and promote the book, in the end I think I've, I love doing these podcasts. I've never done one until about four weeks ago, and I think I've done 10 now. And so it's things like that that are awesome.

Anna David:                  15:51                I mean, I think you are so smart to not worry about the book sales to understand that it is about what you, what you can do in terms of the influence with having a book compared to what? Selling a book and making $5 on each. It's so, I'm so happy when people just organically understand that. But is that something, some having a mentor like Kevin sort of taught you or did you just know that?

Matt George:                16:19                Well, you know, just promoting events that I've done in the past, in my career I've put on 250 plus events and fundraisers and things and so I understand the value of brand, but it was always for the brand of what the cause was or what the mission was. What I figured out with Kevin is that, and you, is that the book is an Avenue to have me be the brand, which in turn my agency, Children's Home actually reaps the benefits from. My dad said something so funny. My dad goes, how many books have you sold? And I go, I haven't even looked. And he goes, well, it's not like you're John Grisham or something. And it's true. I mean, let's be real. My goal isn't to try to sell as many books as Nelson Demill or anything like that. That's not the goal. The goal is to spread the word of what we ended up writing about and what change we can make to better our community.

Anna David:                  17:30                Yeah. I mean, sorry, John Grisham, I think you're helping a lot more people than he is. So, if you had to give your top tips for a launch, three top tips to make a book successful, what would they be? Uh-Oh, Oh, you went away.