C-Suite Radio


John Wessinger


John Wessinger founded PLAN | MARKET | SELL which is built from his fifteen years of experience working within the healthcare and retail industries. He has helped to build market leaders and contributed to the success of billion-dollar brands within global organizations. As a marketing and sales strategist, John solves complex business challenges and relieves pain points within organizations. He works with business leadership and collaborates with sales and marketing teams to design initiatives that challenge the status quo and the way companies do business. He is the author of Ride The Wave: How to Embrace Change and Create a Powerful New Relationship with Risk.




I am here with John Wessinger who is the Founder of PLAN | MARKET | SELL which was built from his fifteen years of experience working within the healthcare and retail industries. He’s helped to build market leaders and contributed to the success of billion-dollar brands within global organizations. As a marketing and sales strategist, John solves complex business challenges and relieves pain points within organizations. His work with business leaders and collaboration with sales and marketing teams have designed initiatives that challenge the status quo and the way companies do business. He’s also the author of Ride the Wave: How to Embrace Change and Create a Powerful New Relationship with Risk. It’s nice to have you here, John.

Thanks for having me, Diane. I appreciate it.

First of all, are you a surfer? What is your background with the riding the wave thing? I want to get some background on you.

I live in Minneapolis. We’re landlocked here. There’s not a lot of ocean. There’s no surfing at all. I grew up playing the traditional sports like soccer, baseball, and basketball. I’ve always been athletic, but I always was interested in sports like snowboarding and skateboarding. I did some wakeboarding at my cabin with my brother growing up, and that morphed into wake surfing, which is relatively new within the last ten or fifteen years. That’s the only way for people that live where I live in the country to experience surfing in a smaller scale. I have done some wake surfing and I felt confident that I could try to surf in the ocean. What I write about in the book is how I created this opportunity to go ocean surfing in Malibu for the first time. I had a challenging experience. It was not as easy as I thought. Once you get in the ocean, there’s a whole new set of conditions and dynamics that I didn’t anticipate. I had this interesting experience where I failed on a massive scale and lived to tell about it. That’s where the surfing comes from.

I’m relating the paddle boarding. You look out there and they’re paddle boarding away. You get one tiny little wave and you’re gone.

It’s a different experience than of sitting on the beach and watching people. You don’t realize how far people are out there in the water and then how big the waves are. Even if they’re waist high waves, there’s a lot of power and force behind that. It was a unique, crazy experience and I’m glad I did it. It’s a challenging sport.

You’re tying in the risk with what you deal with riding the wave, what we deal with risk within the workplace. You say risk is universal. What led to your interest in writing this book?

I started the “ride the wave” idea as a workshop that I was doing with clients and customers. I set it up as a way to do an informal discussion about some of the changes and challenges that were happening within business, within sales and marketing, and used my surf story as a way to get into a conversation about business and talking about how I went to Malibu, had the surf experience, how I failed miserably and some of the challenges that I’ve faced. Then how I used those experience to apply them to business and how I use the experience that was outside of the professional world to shine a new light on some of the things that I was experiencing within the working world, embracing change, thinking about my skills, and how I would improve those and progress those. Then thinking about how I was exploring risk or how I wasn’t exploring risk and how I was avoiding it. I use that story within this workshop to break the ice a little bit with clients and use it as a way to get them to talk about some of the challenges they were facing and they’re experiencing. I used this workshop for a while.

I had a neighbor that was an author and we sat down one day and compared notes and talked about our different workshops that we were doing and our presentations. He had written a couple books. This was work in a book format. You could expand on some of your concepts and ideas and turn this into a book that you could use in conjunction with the workshop you were doing. I never thought about writing a book. I never thought about being an author, but it made a lot of sense at the time. I took the workshop as the framework and added in some additional content, and go through the book, talking about here’s how the surfer would approach change or risk or progressing their skills. Then there’s how we can use that within business and use the book to walk people through that process that are experiencing some challenge, whether it’s in business and using it in their own personal lives, too. It’s a universal theme, risk. Everybody is experiencing change right now. Everybody’s trying to figure out how to stay relevant. There are a lot of risks involved with doing things that are new or trying to improve upon yourself professionally. That’s where it started and where it came from.

You’ve had success with that. I was looking at some of the awards you’ve won from the Axiom Business Book Award, Book Excellence Award in different categories in sales and marketing. You’ve got all these different accolades that is pretty impressive. You weren’t even intending to write a book initially.  What’s the biggest surprise that you had with the book success? Did you know that it would be this thing that so many people could relate to?

I intended to be for sales and marketing people. In my previous work experience, we would have meetings where we would do a quarterly plan of action meetings. A speaker would come in and we would get the book that the speaker had written or was talking about, and we use it as a way for inspiration and motivation. When I conceived the book, that’s how I approached it. I thought, “This would be a great book for sales teams or marketing teams and executives and  organizations to motivate people to talk about what’s happening and get pumped up to go out and sell and market their products and services.” I didn’t anticipate this other group of people who were outside of the professional world. My aunt, read it and she’s a physical therapist. She loved it. She thought it was great and she identified with the change and with risk. I’ve talked to people who are in human resources or talent management. They’re trying to figure out ways to motivate and inspire their employees.

Even though there are a lot of tactical sales and marketing and a process, there are concepts that everyone can relate to about change and risks. I’ve seen the success with winning some awards within those specific categories within sales and marketing, but also hearing from people that totally connects with the idea of change and trying to do something different within their own lives.  I never anticipated that. The cool surprising part is hearing from somebody. I connected with a guy that I haven’t talked to from high school. I haven’t seen him in twenty plus years and he bought my book and reached out to me on Facebook. He’s a real estate agent and connected with some of the concepts in it. That is the surprising part. It’s been cool to have a bigger thing come through in addition to having the recognition within the areas that I was going for.

You mentioned motivation and inspiration. In my work, I’m researching curiosity and all of that is the same thing. It will fall over into different areas. You think you’re helping leaders or employees or whatever, but it reaches a lot of people. It’s very hard for people to embrace change or to develop curiosity or to be motivated. Some folks are across the board rich people like Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for example. He mentioned being proactive was the first habit. When we’re talking about embracing change, how important is it to be proactive?

It’s really important. I don’t know if I use proactive within the book, but that’s a better way to describe it, talking about embracing change. You have to be proactive. You have to be willing to seek out those opportunities to challenge yourself. That’s where that more proactive mindset would come in, in terms of trying to figure out what’s the way that I can challenge myself professionally. Is there something that is a blind spot for me that I’m avoiding because I haven’t put myself in that position yet because there’s some risk or there’s some fear there? It’s proactively putting yourself in a position where you’re getting built into those conditions. You’re trying to understand where you stand from skills and mindset perspective, and then try to figure out, “Am I a proactively willing to take on this risk? Am I accepting the consequences of either a positive outcome or maybe a bad outcome where I fail?  Am I willing to accept that as part of that process?”

Being proactive is the first thing that you need to do to. Try to seek that out. For me, being proactive within surfing was the thing that spurred this on for me and got me to think about what I was not doing with the business that I had tried within surfing, and why I wasn’t doing those things within business. Someone else that I had connected with about the book, their surfing example was flying. They were flying airplanes. That completely freaks me out. I couldn’t imagine taking off and landing an airplane. That’s completely insane. They said that going into the ocean was scary for them. Being proactive, whether it’s within business or your personal life, trying to find this thing that’s going to stir up some change is important. You’re hitting right on the head about being proactive is probably that first step towards doing something new.

We used that word a lot just because I teach a lot of business courses that deal with change. It’s such an important thing to be ahead of the curve, being aware of what’s coming, to have a lot of foresight is another word that we drop a lot in business courses. I’m interested in that choice of “riding the wave.” When you talk about the wave, what do you mean by the wave and what do you mean about adopting a progression-based mindset? How do you see those things?

The analogy of the wave is part of it. I talked about my three principles, but then the bigger idea about the wave that I’ve heard people grasped on to is that wave could represent change for somebody like a wave of changes coming through. It’s like, “Am I going to hop on this wave of change or am I going to try to ride this change or am I going to sit this one out?” Part of the wave analogy is picking your wave, being smart enough to be in the condition and recognize, “Is this an opportunity for me and am I willing to jump on and try to surf this wave and that representation of change?” The wave also represents business opportunities and trying to be in the conditions to catch that next wave of whatever it is. If it’s an opportunity with a new customer, a new product, the right timing of catching that wave, you need to be out there. You need to be in the water. You need to be in the condition. If you’re going to do either one of those, if you’re going to try to change what you’re doing, if you’re going to capitalize on an opportunity, you need to be in the conditions in order to do both of those things. The progression-based mindset then fits in there afterwards where you rode the wave, you’ve caught your wave, or you’re getting repeat success on riding it. Then it’s like, “We’ve ridden the wave. Now what are we going to do next? How are we going to progress what we’ve already done?” For surfers, they talk about progression within their sport.

They talk about building on top of skills that they’ve already developed. The whole sport is built on doing new things and riding the wave longer, doing a new trick, catching it and doing these aerial maneuvers and stuff, and riding bigger waves. That’s what the whole sport is built around. Whereas in business, we tend to have fixed mindsets about our skills where it’s not about progression, it’s about, “I know how to do two to three things and this is what I do well. I’m going to focus on my strengths.” That’s important for people to focus on their strengths, but they also want to think about how they’re progressing those strengths and how they’re adapting them and modifying them to fit what’s changing within a market or within business conditions. The wave and the progression-based mindset go together. You have to catch the wave and you have to ride it. Then you have to figure out, “I’m good at riding the wave. Now what am I going to do that’s better?” Some of the points that you’ve made and a lot of work that you do, it’s like you’re an expert on riding the wave, but you need to change in order to get better. What are you going to do? What’s your motivation? How are you going to be proactive? How are you going to change your mind-set about where you are? What are you going to do next that’s different? That’s how those two work together.

You mentioned three principles. Can you list the three to make it clearer in a row what they are?

The three principles are embracing the conditions. The idea was that surfers are always out in the water, even if there’s not a wave coming. They’re always in position. They’re in the lineup. They’re always waiting for the next wave to pop over the horizon. Within business, we tend to wait on the shore. We’re hanging out, waiting for the waves to come in before we get into the condition. That idea with that first principle is embracing it and being out there and being in a position to catch a wave. The second principle is the progression-based mindset, which is always thinking about how you’re building your skills. Surfers tend to think about their skills as a progression. They don’t rest on one particular trick or one skill. They’re always trying to build and progress.

Within business, we have these fixed mindsets where we do one thing and we do that thing really well. That’s how we focus, not thinking about how we can progressively get better at that thing or how we want to adapt to match up what’s changing in our markets. Then the third principle is exploring risk. In the book, I talk about using risk as a compass and how surfers use risk to get better. It’s tied into progression a little bit where you need to take on more risk in order to get better at your sport. You’re always trying to ride a bigger wave or surf longer on the wave or do different tricks. Within business, we’re very risk averse. There’s whole disciplines within business that is built on risk aversion. We need to think about risk differently and think about it more like the surfers do and explore that because there are opportunities there. The idea is to use each one of those three principles in a process to go through and figure out what are the conditions like, what are we going to do, and then what’s the risk and how do we minimize that risk before we go out and do these things, and working through those three principles together as a process to find new success.

Can we create our own wave? Did Uber create a wave?  You have a background in healthcare. I’ve worked in pharmaceutical sales for years and have worked in retail and some of the stuff you talk about that you’ve had for experience.  I’ve seen some of these industries completely overhauled. How do we create our own wave or is that possible?

When you use the Uber example, it’s a disruptive thing that comes in that definitely creates a new wave. There’s ways where you can go into maybe a market or an industry and area where things would be calm and there aren’t any waves. You come in and you do something different that connects with the customer in a different way or provides a different value to them that they weren’t receiving before. That can help build your wave. The book and what I’m doing with that and me trying to build my own wave with my book and using that as a way to talk about my business or talk about my principles. Everyone who is within business, either as an entrepreneur or working inside an organization, should think about how they’re creating their own wave. I’ve heard people talk about, “What’s your wave that you’re building? What’s your platform?” All those things could represent waves and trying to figure out like what is the thing that you do really well that will connect with customers or potential clients?

For you, you’ve done a fantastic job with your podcast, interview with Forbes and all these marketers. Your wave is doing these interviews and the podcast. I would bet that you have a ton of momentum for that. For me, it’s my book. Now I’m approaching a year and I’m thinking, “What’s my next wave? What do I have to do next after this? Should I do a second book or do I need to take my own advice and do something different, whether it be doing a podcast or doing some videos or trying to figure out what my next thing is to build momentum?” You’re exactly right. That’s a great way to think about how we’re creating our own momentum. There’s a natural momentum in markets, and that’s where I’m using that message of capitalizing on change. If things aren’t changing, maybe there’s a way that you can do it yourself and create that momentum in markets by doing what  you’re saying and  creating that own wave.

You brought up a lot of interesting things and you mentioned platform. You can tell people who have written books where you hear that word. I remember writing my first book. All you hear about is platform. You go around and you look at what you need to do to get your message out. You got to build your platform, that one wave. You’ve got to create this book. Like you said, it leads to other things. You had the workshop first, but some of them do workshops after and then maybe a mastermind of some sort, a different type of thing, and certification training maybe to become whatever. You’re trying to get people to learn from your books. There’s just so many directions when you start writing and doing things.

Sometimes there’s all these little waves that knocks you off your paddle board, but it’s fun to have a lot of new things.  I’ve met a lot of cool people on my show. I had Naveen Jain who’s the billionaire behind Viome and Moon Express. I’ve talked to him about some of the stuff that we’ve talked about here. He goes into industries to see what he can do to reinvent them. If he doesn’t know anything about them, he’ll learn it from scratch. What do you think about going into a new thing that you have no background and no knowledge about and starting from scratch? Do you think fresh eyes can be helpful?

Absolutely. That’s one of my selling points that I try to use with customers or clients, especially if they’re not in retail or they’re not in healthcare, and trying to sell that as a way to come in and have a different background or a different perspective. I’ve worked with manufacturing clients, with real estate, biotech, and they were completely different products. They were different industries. I had no knowledge of anything related to manufacturing. They liked the idea of somebody coming in with a different background or a different experience. Part of what I’m trying to offer is using things that were successful within retail or were successful within healthcare and trying to apply some of those ideas or those concepts into a different industry or a different market. A lot of times it’s new for people and they’re like, “This is crazy.”

When you talk about things like analytics and messaging and how you’re opening customers, small manufacturing company has never thought about messaging and consistency of messaging and how to open so many. Those things are new. There are opportunities where you can bring your background and experience and apply it to a new situation and it creates this new context or this new dynamic. That is powerful. If you have the ability or the financial means or the access to get into new markets, that’s a great way to make change. It’s definitely risky. I’m listening to you talk about this person who does that. That is the perfect example of somebody who’s breaking change and risk and has that mindset of “I can come in and apply what I know and use these principles and find success even though I’m not one of the industry mavens or whatever it is.”

You don’t have to unlearn things. You don’t come in with your bad habits. It’s like trying to take golf lessons. It’s better to start from scratch than to try to unlearn sometimes things you’ve learned from the past. He’s an interesting guy in that respect. There’s so much that we can learn from people who have accepted the risk involved of going into these. One thing he did say to me, he says it’s easier to run a billion-dollar company than a million-dollar company.  I’ll have to take his word for that. Once you get to a certain point, you’ve learned a lot of things and that you don’t have to run the minutiae of little things. You have the higher-level understanding. A lot of people would love to get to that area. All this mindset that you’re talking about is so critical to everybody’s success. I hope a lot of people take the chance to read your book, Ride the Wave: How to Embrace Change and Create a Powerful New Relationship with Risk, because we all need to create a new positive relationship with risk. How could they find out more about you and your book?

My book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and also Itasca Books.  I also have books on my website, which is I’m on Twitter. My handle is @PlanMarketSell, and then on Facebook. People can connect with me on LinkedIn as well.

John, this has been fun. I enjoyed having you on the show.

Thank you. I appreciate your time.

You’re welcome.

About John Wessinger

TTL 197| Business LeadershipJohn Wessinger founded LATERALUS built from his 15 years of experience working within the healthcare and retail industries. He has helped to build market leaders and contributed to the success of billion-dollar brands within global organizations. As a marketing and sales strategist, John solves complex business challenges and relieves pain points within organizations. He works with business leadership and collaborates with sales and marketing teams to design initiatives that challenge the status quo and the way companies do business. He is the author of Ride The Wave: How to Embrace change and Create a Powerful New Relationship with Risk. 

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