065 | How to Be Unique In Today’s World | The Art of Creating Distinction | Scott McKain

Welcome to this inspiring interview with Scott McKain, a world-renowned keynote speaker, mentor, business coach, and a leader. 

Scott McKain has worked with many big companies such as Apple, Cisco, SAP, BMW, etc. He has been reviewed by CISCO as “We have booked leading speakers in the world, but Scott McKain received the highest evaluation in the history of the company.” One of his unique books called ‘Create Distinction’ teaches organizations how to create distinction in a competitive marketplace so that you can stand out and be unique.


We are honored to have you here with us, Scott. 

It’s a pleasure to be here Manuj. Thank you so much for having me. And it’s just an honor to be a part of this. So thank you again. 


Awesome. So now, you know you have had a tremendous career. Why don’t you give us some highlights of you know how you got started? I know, you accomplished a lot, even at a very young age. So can you just quickly give you give us a, you know, an overview of your journey and, and how it all came about. 

I appreciate that. I grew up in a very rural community. It’s Crothers Ville, Indiana and it’s a small town, just north of Louisville, Kentucky, in the United States in and my family owned the one little grocery store in CrothersVille. So, you know, talk about bootstrapping that’s certainly what we did. You know, my dad saved mom and dad were able to buy their own business and I worked in the grocery store as a kid I, I got involved in a student organization in the United States called FFA, which at that time stood for Future Farmers of America but its agriculture is changing now. Just FFA, those initials. And that’s that was my leadership training, it gave me the opportunity to learn about how to give a speech and about how to lead an organization and about entrepreneurship, in fact, because every member has to have some type of experience program where you grow your own little enterprise and grow your own little business. And so that that was just a life-changing experience for me. So, through those opportunities, I rose to state and national author’s organization, which afforded me the opportunity to meet successful business people who were the contributors, right to support this youth program. And it put me around other entrepreneurs who had started with very little resources and had managed to create a business that was successful in those respects. And so I learned from them and you know, I took a couple of jobs did some work, but decided, boy, I, my heart was as an entrepreneur, my heart was in building my own little business. And so I basically started with nothing and began a business as a professional speaker, and then grew that into writing books into consulting, coaching. So it’s, it’s been exactly what you talked about on your podcast about how do you begin with very little money? And what do you do to build a successful business? When you don’t come from wealth or when you don’t come from a situation where you have, you know, large investors. It really, to me in so many ways, and I know, we’ll talk about this more, but it really comes down to, you know, how do you create an experience that your customers want to repeat? When you start with very few customers, you better make sure they like what you do. They’re willing to spend more for it the next time and that they want to continue a relationship with you. So that’s, that’s really been the key for me. And you’ve mentioned some of the clients that we’ve been fortunate enough to have in our company over the last several years, and it’s just been an extraordinary experience, but it really came back to, you know, a very few small customers that repeated their business and gave us the chance to grow.


 Awesome. That’s great. Now, one of the things that I think you’ve been humbled, you skipped over some details as I read about you, by age 21, you met the president of the United States in the Oval Office. So, I mean, that’s a tremendous accomplishment. So tell us a little bit about that experience. How did that happen? 

Well, it happened because of the first time I met the person hadn’t because the student organization, the President had invited the leaders of the student organization to meet with him as President Ford. And just to talk about, you know, what were young people feeling in the United States and what I think we see it all the time. I mean, nothing is changed. We see it in the media to this day, is to those who complain or those who protest or those who get upset, you know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease kind of thing. They get the notoriety and what the President wanted to do was to be around people who were trying to do it in a positive manner and look forward and invest in themselves and invest in their country and invest in their business. And that’s why we got that opportunity. I was fortunate to be selected for that. But I got to tell you, it is all inspiring. It is the opportunity I’ve met President Ford of it, President Carter, I met President Reagan, President Bush and so it’s just been in any of those circumstances that were the incredible thing too, is the later many years later, I was invited to speak at the White House and President Bush was in the was in the audience when I had the chance to talk there. So it’s just all inspiring. It’s incredible. But the other thing that reminds you is that sometimes these figures everything from a president it to a prime minister to a, you know, a business leader, a business icon? We’re all human. We’re all people. And it’s it really, it’s inspiring and humbling at the same time, right. And I think that’s one of the things that we always have to remember as we’re building and growing our own small businesses is that you know, there’s nothing magical about the people that have achieved these positions. It’s that they have found what works. And in I’ve got a buddy Larry Winget and Larry’s phrase is, you know, you find what’s unique about you, and you exploit it for the good of all. And, and he always makes sure to say and I really buying into this, that the word exploit kind of has a bad connotation, but the exploit doesn’t necessarily mean something bad if you find something good, and you find a way to develop that and to grow that then what you’re really doing is exploiting that trade to take you that do the best that you can for and if we do it for the good of all, then it’s amazing what we can accomplish when we help other people get what they want. 


That’s so true. It’s so true. I mean, yeah, I mean, even these stories are very inspirational. And, you know, you being in this situation, I’m sure, it was tremendous, you know, are very out of the world experience. So, you know, congratulations on that early, early success. Now, I know that you talk about creating a distinction. So you know, that’s one of the core teachings that I gathered from you, from your books from your work. Tell us a little bit about that. So how do you create a distinction? What are the benefits of creating this distinction? 

One of the things I learned in it, it’s funny, you know, because so much of what I talk about really reflects even back to what I learned in the family grocery store many years ago. So there are principles of business even though we have undergone extraordinary technological changes and generational changes, there are some of the things that still go back to the very basic things that are critical. And so part of what I researched and part of what I’ve had to learn through growing my business and in situations personally that I was in, is the customers don’t just pick us, customers pick us instead of the myriad of alternatives that are out there in today’s marketplace. So what we have to do is to find a way to stand out from our competition so that we become the more attractive alternative. So then I started researching Why do some groups stand out and others don’t you know, what, what’s the key to being unique in the marketplace, it really came down to what I call the four cornerstones of distinction, the four things that businesses even individual professionals can do to stand out. And, and the four cornerstones are clarity, creativity, communication, customer experience, focus for just a moment on each of those clarity means that we’re we are crystal clear not only about what we are but what we are not. One of the problems when you’re bootstrapping a business and when you’re just getting started, is we want to be all things to all people many times I think that’s a natural human tendency is we don’t want to say no to anybody, because any business is a good business, we don’t lose anybody’s business. And so when we try to be all things to all people, we dilute the very thing that might make a stand out to the competition. If we think about the extraordinarily successful businesses, that we can say, Oh, this is why they are unique. This is why they stand out. It’s just amazing to me that we see this around us all the time. But yet we often don’t apply it to our own business because we don’t want to say no to anybody. So clarity means you not only are crystal clear about what you are, you’ve also precisely defined what you are not in many of us don’t do that and in the early stages, or as we’re building our business, but the second one is creativity, we’ve got to do something innovative, we can’t just be a carbon copy of our competition, there has to be some twist to it something unique, something a little special about it that that draws the attention of customers. The third is, is communication. And what I found there is that the distinctive professionals, the distinctive small businesses, there’s some kind of story. There’s some kind of narrative that catches the attention, whether it’s, you know, you just started in a garage, which could apply everybody to HP to Apple to, you know, even Walt Disney drawing cartoons. Yeah. But whatever it is about the story of the origin of your business, or perhaps a narrative about how a customer benefited or their life or business grew or changed or got more profitable because they dealt with you. The distinctive organizations are able to communicate through a compelling story through a compelling narrative. And finally, the customer experience focus is that distinctive businesses are really concerned with how it feels to be our customer. How does it feel to be your employee? What are the experiences that we are creating in the marketplace? Because at the end of the day, customers want to repeat the experiences that they’ve enjoyed it are compelling. And if it’s not enjoyable or compelling, why wouldn’t we buy from Amazon? Or why wouldn’t we buy from your competition? So the distinctive organizations focus on the clarity, the creativity, the communication, the customer experience, focus that can make a difference? You know,


That’s so true. Very well said. Now, you know, in many ways, you know, these things are its sort of straightforward, right? Like, this is not rocket science. But I think the devil is in the details so, you know, when you sit down with any leader, any entrepreneur, and you need to focus on these four tenets. Do you have any framework? Do you have any processes that you follow to get them through this and sort of reached the level of clarity and reach a level of communication that is ideal for them? 

That’s a great question. And by the way, I could not agree more with that, you know, it’s easy to say these are the four. And the problem is how does it work for my business? Right? And not only that but then how do I go out and execute it? Because as you say, I mean, it’s, it’s in the details of creating the plan for your business. And it’s in the execution in the marketplace that really occurs. Yeah, there’s a process for each one. With clarity. We work with them on what I call a high concept. The high concept is a short phrase, we talked about elevator speech is people don’t be able to listen to elevator speeches anymore. You’ve got to have it defined very precisely, whether you use it as a marketing tool or just internally in I know talk about big businesses here. But the only reason I do that is that they’re universal is something that everybody understands. It’s true in small businesses as well. But for example, Southwest Airlines in the United States is founded on cheap, safe and fun. So not only is it inexpensive, but also it’s an extraordinarily safe airline, they put a focus on that. But then lastly, they put a focus on making it fun, right and creating a more enjoyable experience than what you have as a passenger elsewhere. Domino’s Pizza was founded with the phrase your pizza 30 minutes now they’ve they backed off at 30 minutes because of safety concerns. But at the at their beginning, it was up sent 30 minutes, which meant we’re not just a pizza business, we’re a delivery business and we have to focus on how do we get our systems that are processed in line so that the pizza gets to you faster and hotter than the competition. Those things that made them unique. We could go through any business. You know, Steve Jobs saying our goal or products that are insanely great, right? So it was the imaging and the design and every even down to the box was going to be it just felt different to open a box from Apple than it would from any of their competition. So it’s finding that so we go through and try to help each professional or each small organization create this six-second phrase that you can say this is what business is about. What we tend to do is to create a mission statement, which tries to cobble together everything that we do, and it’s not compelling the customers. I don’t care about whether or not you enhance shareholder value or I don’t care about whether or not you, you know, meet the needs of a diverse guy. What I want is my pizza for 30 minutes. I mean, I think it’s important. It’s kind of a little bit of a different discussion, but not really. I think, you know, the Simon cynics book but starting with why I think is great in terms of the internal thinking that we entrepreneurs must-have. However, however, I also think it creates a problem because our customers aren’t going to buy our why they’re going to buy our HOW. If I take my car to you to get fixed, and it’s not fixed properly, as a customer, I don’t care that you have a great why I need your how, as a mechanic to get the job done. Right. And so what I’m trying to focus on clarity is not just the why not just why you’re doing what you’re doing. But to your point earlier, how do you deliver it? How you get it done? How do you make the process work?  With creativity, we do an exercise that basically I learned from watching how movies are created. And what we want as we go see a good movie is it as weird as this phrase sound is derivative but different. In other words, if if you look at Star Wars, or you go back and look at it what, you know, what was called the western? So the 1960s, the storyline is very much the same. It’s just the George Lucas put it in outer space, rather than in the Old West, right? But the story of the good guy and the bad guys the forest, yeah, using the force, the, you know, all of the things about that were very derivative of earlier works, it’s just that he had the brilliant idea to put it in, in outer space, you know, if it’s your time. So we as the audience, we, we don’t want it so different, that it feels foreign and totally unfamiliar and all that. But at the same time, we want a little twist on it. So we try to work with groups in terms of how you kind of creative innovation is you think in terms of how do we take away people know and then put a little twist on it. In terms of communication we help with a narrative we go through a storytelling process of the three-act formula of telling a story. And how do you define your story quickly on that the three-act storytelling formula is Act One is you introduce characters in conflict. So if we think about any movie that we that let’s use an old one taken remember taken with Liam Nelson. So in the beginning, his daughter is kidnapped, right? And we know that he’s a divorced dad. He’s trying to be connected with his daughter and he loves his daughter very much now she’s kidnapped Okay, so we meet the characters, and now there’s a conflict the daughter has been kidnapped. We the audience want to know what happens next. The second is the search for resolution. It’s all the things that he did second x always the longest, the three. It’s all the things he did to try to rescue his daughter. And the third is the heroic resolution of the conflict. He saves his daughter from the kidnappers and reunites with her and the bond between father and daughter is better than it’s ever been. Here’s our problem in business. We start our stories in Act Two, we typically want to tell the customer all the things that we’re going to do to solve their problem. Before we’ve gone through the process of intensifying the conflict, and talking about all the different alternatives that are out there in the market, before we get to the heroic resolution, that makes the customer goes, ‘Oh, wow, yes, except you’re the one I want to do business with.’ If we don’t have a compelling Act One, we don’t care what the resolution is. So the process that we work our clients through is how do you know, how do you create a more compelling Act One, how do you intensify the characters and intensify the conflict? How do you get part of the other thing is the audience wants to see themselves in that situation? Right? I mean, any dad wants the thing I would do for my daughter what Liam Nelson did for his daughter. We know we can’t right but we identify with the Father that cares so much for the family. Right. So because we identify with that, then we are interested in where it goes. And so what we have to do is we create our own stories for our business is how do we get customers to identify with us? Or to identify with the challenges that other customers, you know, their prospect, how do we get themselves to see themselves as customers? So we work through that process. And finally, the customer experience focus. We have trademarked and for a long time, the term ultimate customer experience in the United States. And so we talked about what is that ultimate experience? And what are the specific steps? You know, it really gets down to saying if everything went exactly right, yeah, what would that be? And it’s obviously different for every business out there. But so many of us and I think that’s why podcasts like yours are so important because we get so busy doing what we do. Suddenly we have time to think about what we do, and you have listeners that that are listening to this podcast as they’re driving into open their stores or driving into their businesses or on their way home or, or whatever. And, and we have to, we have to think about these things. And I know my dad was the grocery store, he was so busy with the grocery store, there was so little time to think about, well, how do we separate ourselves from the competition? Or what do we do to differentiate or how do we do these things? And, you know, the word podcast those days, and that’s why I think the mission that you’re on is so important because you know, it would be great to have a business we’re cash flow and initial funding and all that was no problem. But most of us, most of us do have problems with that, right? We got to pay the bills this month, what you know, what are we going to do and those are things that are the challenges we get so busy being busy, that we don’t step back and think Okay, so what customer would I say no to? Because I need to focus so intently on my clarity, what am I doing that’s, that is so different out there yet familiar to customers that they would go, ‘Wow, we love how you do it, but you do it differently than the other people that are dry cleaners or that are, you know, gas stations or grocery stores or whatever’. How do we tell that story in ways that people go, ‘Wow, that’s who we want to do business with.’ And then when they do business with you, how do you deliver the customer experience? So not only do they repeat their business, but they become our advocates in the marketplace? Telling others about us? It’s, it’s all incredibly critical.


That’s great. That’s so well put together. Thank you so much for sharing it and then I completely agree, you know, we get so busy doing our own processes are running our own chores and tasks. We forget about you know, this sort of human to human touch and try to understand what people want and what space they are in what you know why mind frame they are in. And so I think all the steps that you’re pointing towards this is sort of recreating that human connection between the business and the customers. Right? 

It will and it goes back to you were kind enough to mention what the good folks at Cisco said. And it really goes back to that even if our business is software, even if our business is being a partner, you know, retailing and selling, you know, devices that they can get a million other places. It gets back to exactly what you just said in terms of the personal connectivity and the humanity of it. And, and I think sometimes we get so I don’t know, taken by or overwhelmed by or connected to the technology that we forget about the human element. And without that, you know, a long time ago, John Naisbitt in the book ‘Megatrends’ said, the more we become high tech, the more that we will desire high touch. And I don’t think there’s anything true or ever spoken. And we see that so much today. In that, yes, you may have, you know, great software, but if, for example, if I don’t know the story of how it would work for my business, then why would I become a user? Yeah, we have to continue to focus on that aspect of it, to help us in these technologically driven times. 


Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. I mean, as a social media is becoming part of our lives, I think, more and more, it’s evident people want authenticity on social media, and so the trend is exactly how you put it like, you know, the more technologically advanced we are becoming. We inherently are demanding that authenticity because we miss it, I think. Yeah. All right. Great. Now, you obviously have this all this knowledge, all this experience. How do you correlate that with whatever we are teaching in educational institutions? Where do you think the education system is going? Is it providing enough for us to prepare for the future? Or is there something lacking there?

Definitely I think there’s something lacking and I’m really glad you asked that because you know, it’s interesting few years back I spoke to a group of surgeons It was a global conference for group of surgeons and I was the first non-doctor you know, non-surgeon to have ever addressed the group and so you know, after the program is over, and it went very well and they were very kind of me so the programs over and we’re a bunch of us just stand around talking afterward. And they said something to me, I’ve never forgotten they said it many universities it is possible to get your, your medical degree to be an intern to be a resident and never take a course on bedside manner. Never, never take a course on the patient experience. But yet, we know that the reason, in the United States in particular, that malpractice suits are filed is not because of medical errors, much as it is the patient felt the doctor didn’t care. If in AIG and other insurers have stepped forward, and I mean, that’s, that’s a well-known instance in, the healthcare community. But, but then I thought, well, let’s, take it the next step. And I did a little bit of research and I found that in many institutions, you can get an MBA and never take a course on the customer experience, which to me is the same situation is that what we are doing are developing and training business leaders, business consultants, engineers, and what we are doing is not teaching them about how to create a better customer experience. What business succeeds without customers? What business succeeds without pleasing and helping customers? And if we don’t have that, I don’t know how a business survives yet we are educating and training people how to read balance sheets, and p&l statements and what EBIT die is and the technical aspects of the business without teaching them the human side of it. And I think that’s part of where we have to change in our educational approach is to make certain that we have taught them and help educate them in the human side and the important role that it plays in every business. 


Yeah, well, that’s a great thought. And I think things are changing slowly, you know, with all the new mediums available to us. You know, people can get information outside of their educational system as well. Yes. So hopefully, all this will sort of feedback into the cycle and, you know, our educational universities will evolve eventually. On that thought. Thank you so much, Scott, for being with us and sharing all your knowledge and wisdom. Now before I let you go, can you tell us how people can reach out to you and get in touch with you? 

Oh, thanks very kind of you. I appreciate you asking. All my books, ‘create distinction’ my latest book ‘iconic’. They’re all available obviously on Amazon or other retailers. So my last name, by the way, is spelled MCKAIN little bit unique, different spelling, but just look it up on Amazon, Scott MCKAIN. My websites to Scott McCain calm. I have a podcast, it’s just a short daily message, about five to 10 minutes. It’s ‘Project Distinct’. And it’s everywhere that podcasts like this are available. So through any of that way they can, you know, they could drag me down and see what I’m doing and on. We have another website called distinction nation, and there’s a lot of free resources there. In fact, there’s a 14-day audio program that you can download on what it takes to create personal distinction. So I want to provide a lot of free resource sources for entrepreneurs to be able to access information on what does it take to stand out in the marketplace? So, distinctionnation.com ‘project distinct’ is the podcast. And sottmckain.com is the website they can find. 

No, I will definitely add those links into the show notes so that, you know, people can reach out to easily. So thank you so much, once again. It has been a tremendous experience talking to you. Thank you so much

It’s been my honor and privilege to be with you and I look forward to the chance to talk again and to meet personally sometime in the future as well. Thanks. Thanks for the opportunity. 


Sounds good. Sounds good. Thank you so much. 


Links & Mentions From This Episode:

Scott’s Website: https://scottmckain.com

TetraNoodle consulting services: https://bootstraptechstartup.com

TetraNoodle professional training: https://courses.tetranoodle.com


Love the show? 

Subscribe, rate, review, and share!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *