The Description of the Small Business War Stories Podcast goes like this.
“Small businesses are the soul of America. This is where they tell their stories. We want to showcase how our stories bind us; how America is more united than it sometimes feels.”
Small Business War Stories is a weekly 30-45 minute show recorded in person with small business owners and operators. We discuss different topics and get the triumphs, struggles, and funny stories from our guests’ everyday lives.
During the month of April, 2017, Pablo drove with his six-month old puppy Muddy Waggers, his guitar, and his podcasting equipment. He covered 3,800 miles and recorded 32 podcast episodes with small business owners throughout the heart of America.
It was great. It was everything you would think it would be. It was exhilarating, very interesting, at times exhausting. You get a lot of perspectives by actually sitting down with people in their environment. I did another trip in October, which was also another 4,000 miles and 31 episodes through the Rocky Mountains. And, the perspective you get…it’s one thing to record remotely and talk to somebody on the phone or Skype, but to actually sit down and smell the sense on their environment, like look at it and feel the textures, and be in the environment that they’re in – that makes a big difference! I think of understanding their struggles and triumphs ….That’s really exciting to me!
ALEXANDER LAURIN: He covered thirty eight hundred miles and recorded 32 podcast episodes with small businesses owners here at the heart of America. Wow, that's amazing Pablo. What was that like?
PABLO FUENTES: It was great. It was everything you would think it would be. It was exhilarating, very interesting, at times exhausting. You get a lot of perspectives by actually sitting down with people in their environment. I did another trip in October, which was also another 4,000 miles and 31 episodes through the Rocky Mountains. And, the perspective you get…it's one thing to record remotely and talk to somebody on the phone or Skype, but to actually sit down and smell the sense on their environment, like look at it and feel the textures, and be in the environment that they’re in - that makes a big difference! I think of understanding their struggles and triumphs ….That's really exciting to me!
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Yes, it sounds like you're taking podcasting almost to a new level. Podcasting alone is already really fun thing to do. It's exciting on its own, right? But then you're adding that sort of excitement to it and it just seems like, to me, it seems like you've taken it up a notch. Tell me with the frustrations that come with. For you mentioned frustration, what it has to do with the technical aspects of all these interviews?
PABLO FUENTES: No, no the technical aspects. I mean I have refined my rig quite a few times, couple times I started as we were mentioning before this through with a USB Mic. Then I went to an audio interface, and now I have a handheld recorder with a mic so I have that part pretty down. I think the most frustrating part for the first American tour was every day I think I covered, that was three weeks and I think that was like 18 cities or something like that. I was almost every day picking up, moving, driving, interviewing people, picking up, driving, moving and I had my guitar, had my dog, dog crate in my bags, so it's like three trips every day to load three trips to unload into a new house. The second tour of America that I did, I did just as many shows I just spent a little bit more time in each location. So I didn't have to unpack every single day.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Why did you do this?
PABLO FUENTES: To get stories. For me the, am a CEO and founder of a company called Proven that helps small business hire. Also, we have a 50,000 monthly reader that helps small businesses with their many different challenges they have in their lives. It's one thing to say you care about small business, it's another to actually get your car and go listen to the stories. And go meet people and shake their hands and get their perspective and for me like that, you can't buy that reality, that authenticity that come with actually showing up. So, that's why I did it.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: In the description of your show, we want to showcase how our stories bind us. How America's is more united than it sometimes feels. Did you really get that during these two years?
PABLO FUENTES: Yes, absolutely I mean when you actually meet people face to face regardless of what are their belief or political persuasions or way of living may be. The challenges that people have in everyday basis. I actually remark their patterns. They're remarkable similar and I think that as a nation at times we feel more divided than we actually are. The reality of travelling to the South of America we see a lot of people they have challenges. I think a life full of challenges does exist. You're lucky if you live a life where you get to choose your challenges. And, a lot of these people are making a difference in their local communities and doing great. I think there's definitely a theme of unity that's found.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: The small business work stories podcast, so when I look at that title in my impressions, is your talking to a lot of small business owners that really had to persevere. They had to go through some difficult times to get to their success is that really an accurate statement?
PABLO FUENTES: Yes, absolutely. It takes a lot to get outside of the well grease skit of society and like the things people expect you to do and set out on your own. You have to be, as a small business owner myself there are many times when you have to suspend disbelief and belief that something is going to work. As human beings, we have a lot of doubts at times. You ask yourself, am I the cautionary tale, am I fighting windmills? At the same time, there's the myth of the overnight success where people see something that's become really popular or really successful and really a lot of years, blood and tears have gone into that. I think it's really powerful to highlight how all of that work pays off and how people are pursuing their passions.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: And on your shows have you talked about your own wars stories?
PABLO FUENTES: I try; the show is about our guests. It's not about like a promotional thing. Like oh yes, you know at the beginning I mentioned my company for 30 seconds. Because it's sponsors to podcast. But I only bring in my own experience so far if it's relevant so if somebody says 'I got to do this, or I can deal with this kind of problem' if it triggers something in my experience that's authentic to that conversation I'll share it. But I don't go in with an agenda of I got to mention proven X numbers of times or at all.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Yes, absolutely. When you create this podcast I know you proven sponsoring the show proven you are the founder and CEO of the company. But did you also think, well this is a really great content marketing strategy for my business?
PABLO FUENTES: Absolutely, we offer service for small business, hiring services. We offer content for small businesses at our blog at Blog.Proven.com, so certainly it ties together. But I think there's a way to do it when you do like genuine storytelling. I am not really directly plug in my business am sharing some story and we talking and I am writing a book right now about all the experiences you and I were talking before we start recording. It's the same thing there, am not going in and making it a commercial for my company. But, absolutely we have 50,000 monthly readers to our blog. We have proven my company have no salespeople so all of our new customers come in through organic search. We absolutely care about providing valuable content telling good stories and then obviously there is a business there. It's a business that helps people and it provides a product and a service and we'll charge for it.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Pablo, I’m visualizing you in the car with muddy loggers and am visualizing you interviewing all these people and all these wonderful conversations that you're having and I guess you're a business owner. You're a podcaster but during that whole process and time did you feel more than that? Like, I don't know like a journalist or a broadcaster. Did you feel a little bit more?
PABLO FUENTES: Yes, I feel like a storyteller, I’m a songwriter, I’m a blues musician. I’m coming out with a record and yes its many ways. It has a lot of parallels to song writing.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: And also listening.
PABLO FUENTES: Yes, absolutely I definitely feel like a journalist somebody who's collecting important stories. We’re a generation that I don't want to say locks storytellers because clearly there are some but could always use more, more people to share stories. For me sitting in that room with those people is a way for me. Over time if you listen to some of my early episodes. I was not a great interviewer, I mean I was enthusiastic but I said 'yup', ‘ha ha ha ha' way too much. Which is something we all do. Yes, absolutely I feel like somebody people will tell their stories and when I step into that room am able to help them find their voice and I feel fortunate to be in a position where I can help people to share their stories and then share a little bit of mine as well.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Did you have a favourite moment from either of those two tours
PABLO FUENTES: Yes, there were some powerful moments. I walked into a coffee shop, a re-emerging neighbourhood in Detroit and this woman Alisha George I remember she looked at me and she was overwhelmed by the presence of all, she said the energy of all the people I've spoken to. I was about halfway through my first tour and it was a really powerful moment. And then I shared I was a songwriter and Blues musician I shared with her and some of the artist who was there at the coffee shop at the time. A song that written and people joined in and like it was a really powerful moment of sharing a moment through music and through story and yes that's definitely one of the thumbs for me.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Awesome and while you've been conducting all these interviews, have you found that you yourself have become a better business person?
PABLO FUENTES: Absolutely I've learned so many things, so many tips and I think that the upcoming book that am writing shares lot of valuable nuggets there of things that I’ve learned. Absolutely you can always pick up more. Either specific tactics or just general ways to do things that can be helpful.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: How did you learn about podcasting; did you teach yourself or did you have a mentor? If you had a mentor, would you like to pay homage to that person?
PABLO FUENTES: There are few people who helped me early on to figure out the setup. There is a woman name Blair Badserge, who has a podcast. Whose name her podcast name is sketchy at the moment, has to do with animals. This week is animals, she works at a zoo. And, I should look her up and know the name of her podcast but she helps me with initial set up. Then, from there have been a few folks I met at a podcast movement conference that were in radio, who are very helpful and very friendly in giving me feedbacks, listened to different aspects of my show. So, yes absolutely. It takes a village, but at the same time, you have to also be critical of yourself and listen to your own shows and figure out ways to consistently improve.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Did you think about podcasting for a while before you executed?
PABLO FUENTES: No, maybe a month or two.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: That's pretty good. Some people I hear a year, two years.
PABLO FUENTES: Well great artist ship, right. So that's something great falsie like it have to be perfect. You just have to put it out there. And you have to put it out there knowing that a year from now you're going to be embarrassed by what you did. If I listen to my first episode I think it's a good episode but I've become a lot better. And hopefully, continue to improve if I listen to my episodes from today a year from now. I'll be like 'oh yeah that needed work' so, that decides it's a constant process.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: You're an artist Pablo, do you consider podcasting an art form?
PABLO FUENTES: I think it can be if you approach it the right way. I think certainly if you take care of your craft and like I said constantly improve in finding ways to be better, I always define you know guests or resonate with your audience it definitely can be. If you look at it like a chore, something you have to do, something you're not inspired to do but rather feel like it's an obligation. I think just the position with art it's harder to find. But it definitely can be for sure.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Do you get a lot of happiness through podcasting?
PABLO FUENTES: Yes, I get happiness through stories. Going back to the singer-songwriter thing, I love stories. And sharing stories, and listening to stories. To me, the meanings of life have basically boiled down to writing and making and listening o good stories. And try not to screw people along the way, and podcasting is right down the middle of fairway as life goes absolutely.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: What do you struggle with?
PABLO FUENTES: What do I struggle with?
ALEXANDER LAURIN: With podcasting?
PABLO FUENTES: Audience growth, our audience is growing slowly but surely but also there is so many podcasts out there. There’s so many discovery and like finding your audience can be challenging. I think that something a lot of folks of whom I've met in the podcasting world struggle with as well. I think a lot of it, you just got to keep putting in the work and putting in great work and continuing to do things that pay off in the long run. But maybe don't pay off in a week to week basis.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Are your podcast has a great name. I love the name of your podcast.
PABLO FUENTES: Thank you. It’s somewhat polarizing, few people love it like you do. And then there been a couple of potential guests who were like who war I don't want to be associated with anything that has to do with war. So, yes everybody comes at things with their own angle and their own stories. They bring their life experience to it.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Do you have any advice for someone who's have the idea of starting a podcast. Do you have any advice for that person?
PABLO FUENTES: yes, I was talking to my book editor today. There’s a lot of podcasts that last two months. You probably know better what's the average length of a released length of a podcast that's a new podcast?
ALEXANDER LAURIN: I think I've heard about the same, two or three months. People would just let it go, if they don't make it go past that.
PABLO: So you know it takes a lot longer than that. I am at a year now, and it hasn't like explosively taken off. It continues to grow slowly and surely. But, you have to do it for the art of it for the love of it. And you have to have a good solid passion or something. It doesn't have to be anything monumental. Like podcast movement, people talk about. Somebody who has podcast about chameleons or something like that. And their interest’s groups are pretty much anything. But, it's going to take a lot longer than you think to quote on quote find success in the way that you think of success in the beginning. Your friends are not going to care about your podcast unless you start a podcast about chameleons and a hundred percent of your face book friends are chameleon lovers. There's going to be like 5 people that listen to your podcast who are your friends. And that's ok, that's not indictment of their friendship you just need to find your niche and your audience. Yes, it's going to take a lot longer, it's going to be a lot harder but if that doesn't discourage you then absolutely go do it. I've heard from many people the first 5 podcasts are super exciting. Are you going to be that excited after the 45th and 95th? So that's where like the myth of overnight success ten years in the making comes up.
ALEXANDER LAURIN: Whatever you set podcasting on make sure you really like it. Because if you're going to do it, you might do it for years and years so you have to maintain your love for whatever you’re podcasting on.
PABLO: maybe you do only want to do six months of podcasting and that's like your body of work. And if that's what you want to do great. But if you want to be around for five-ten years and after three months you're not seeing the engagement, you're only seeing a dozen people listening to your podcast and that makes you stop. It's probably not what you need to be doing.
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