Interview With Jim Stovall
Brad Post, Create the Movement
Dominick Montgomery, Create the Movement
Jim Stovall, guest
Brad Post, host, Create the Movement: Welcome to Create the Movement podcast. This is Brad Post. I’m sitting with Dominick Montgomery, our Chief Marketing Officer here. And I also have the honor of introducing our special guest today. He’s a mentor of mine, author of 30 books, seven, working on your seventh movie. Right, Jim? Jim Stovall, here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jim, how are you doing today?
Jim Stovall: Great. And it’s wonderful to talk to you.
B: Great. Well, I know you and I meet monthly. And, I’m just excited to be a part. You usually give me a book to read, and I read it.
B: You’re still reading a book a day? Or, listening to a book a day?
J: Yeah, I read a book everyday. And, I am, it’s embarrassing to tell your audience, as a blind person myself, when I could read with my eyes, I don’t know that I ever read a whole book cover to cover. I thought I was going to be a professional football player. And I was on my way to doing that when I was diagnosed with losing my sight. But now, as blind person, with the new audio technology and being able to speed up the digital audiobooks, I read a book everyday. And it’s been really transformational for me.
B: One thing, Jim, that’s always impressed me, just your daily routine. I know people ask you that a lot. Could you kind of run through your daily routine?
J: Well, I get up ridiculously early. I get up everyday at four.
J: And it’s not like I. We just lost Dominick over here. He didn’t, he thought the only four was the one in the afternoon.
J: There’s this other one. But, no, I get up early. And it’s not like I suffer or set the alarm. That’s when I wake up. And then, I read generally read a book between then and the time I go to work. And then, my wife and I spend an hour together. Quiet time and just kind of going over the day, and talking about different things. And that’s kind of how I get started in the morning. And then, here in my office, people always wonder, “What do I do?” I run a television network, but I do five things: I do movies, television, books, speeches, and my columns. And I always envision it like a four-sided pyramid with the point on the top, and the point is whatever I’m doing at any given moment. But it needs to support, and be supported, by the other four. So, if I’m making a movie, it’s going to be based on a book I wrote. I’m going to be promoting it on TV. I’m going to write a column about it. And you’re going to hear it in my speeches. And, so, everything supports, and is supported, by everything else I do.
D: So, you are a marketing company?
J: Yeah, I mean my products do market, you know, the old misnomer that ‘it sells itself.’ You know? I believe that if you set it up right, it does. Because that’s the difference between sales and marketing. Sales is I call you. Marketing is you call me. And I always like it when my phone rings, and that’s a totally different relationship.
B: And that’s, I really like that. So, it’s just five things that you focus on?
B: You just wake up at four-am to do it? Right?
J: Yeah. And, you know, I do my financial transactions at four. I am the only financial investment broker in the world, that he’s in the office at four.
J: So, we do the Asia thing, and everything else. Yeah, it’s just where I am. And in a way I feel like I’m cheating the world. You know? I get several hours to do what I do that other people don’t.
B: A couple of other things I wanted to, just kind of mention, Jim. One thing I like about you, too, and this is how you and I originally met, was just your authenticity. In everyone one of your books, I think, you give out your email. Your phone number, and say, “Call me.”
J: Yeah, I have 10 million books in print, and my phone and/or my email address are in all of them. And I return all the calls or emails. And it’s been a great thing for me because I get to connect with my readers around the world.
B: And you do all that with a staff of six, correct?
J: Yeah. I based my model off of something Steven Spielberg did – he has nine people that work for him.
J: And, you know, there are times we will gear up. I mean, when we make movies, we made a movie last summer. When we started there were the six of us, and then we added a couple. After two or three months, it started growing, we were up to 400 people working on the movie. And then, it dwindles down, and back to our group. And I like that. I don’t like finding things for people to do. I like finding people for things we need done.
J: And it’s a really different model.
B: That’s good.
J: Otherwise, you’re feeding your company instead of your company feeding you.
D: Right. So, these 400 people, do you make them wake up at four-am?
J: No, I do not. Although, you know, anybody who ever thinks the movie industry’s glamourous they, I have not seen an industry where they work that many 12-hour days.
J: And, six days a week is standard, and a lot of sets go to seven, but six is kind of the industry standard. It’s amazing how hard those people work. And anybody who thinks movies are glamorous when they’re being made has never been there when they’re making one. It is the most boring, tedious thing you can imagine.
B: And you’ve actually played a role in several of your movies, right Jim?
J: I have played in all of my movies, until this last one, ‘The Ultimate Legacy.’ I was the limo driver in all of my movies. Something to me just made sense about having the blind guy drive the limo.
J: Actually, when I made my very first my very first movie, ‘The Ultimate Gift’, the producer wanted me to play a role in the movie. He had been to Vegas to see one of my stage events where I spoke to a convention, and he said, “We’d like you to play a part.” And, you know, I told them, “I’ll play anything, but a blind guy.” And he said, “Pick a role out the script.” And I said, “Well, okay, there it is. I know we’re not going to have a blind limo driver. And they guy’s only got one line. I cannot mess that up.”
But in this last film we had, Raquel Welch was in the film. And we got this limousine, they’re only two of them in the world, handmade by Rolls Royce. One was made for the Queen of England. One was Prince Charles’s. And one of them was touring America in a car show, and we asked if we could borrow it. And they were will too, based on getting photos with Raquel Welch in their car.
J: So, we did it. But, the bottom was, here’s this multi-million dollar car, and Raquel Welch in the back, and then they immediately decided Jim ain’t going to be the limo driver! So, I turned into your friendly bartender for that film.
B: That right!
J: And, so, I served hour after hour, while we we’re shooting the bar scene, I served lemonade and iced tea. That was my whole role.
B: All right. Kind of coming back to the company that you built. One thing that I’ve always like about the way you’ve built your culture is you believe in paying your people well. Right? And not getting a bunch of hirelings making minimum wage, but getting the right people around you.
J: No. I mean, I have the best people in the industry. When you came into my office you were greeted at the front desk by a young lady who has worked in the film and television business in London and Paris. And very adept at what she does. And writes scripts for national TV. And she also works at the front desk and covers all of that for me. And, they’re all the best at what they do. And it’s not just the money. I engage them in other ways. I find out what matters to them. Beth, the young lady you met out front, she rescues dogs from the pound, and rehabilitates them. Well, that’s her passion. I put her dog in one of my films. Cooper has his own Facebook page now. The dog’s famous. It’s a huge deal for her.
B: Got to meet him last time.
J: I dictate all my books to Dorothy. I have 30 books, and I don’t know how to type. I dictate everything. Dorothy’s mother passed away several years ago , and among her effects she left behind, they found that she had written poetry throughout her life. They weren’t even aware of this.
D: Oh, wow.
J: It is amazingly well written. Her name was Joy, Dorothy’s mother’s name was Joy. I wrote a book called ‘Discovering Joy.’ Put all of her mom’s poetry in it, and I wrote a commentary around it. Kelly, in the next office, handles all of my marketing. She’s a singer and songwriter and always wanted to pursue that. But she’s got to make a living, so she works for me. But she’s had songs in everyone of our movies., albums to go along with them. And for our last film, she was in the final cut for Academy Award for Best Song in an Original Motion Picture.
D: That’s amazing.
J: So, these are people that I find out what matters to them, and I connect them to me. You know, I’ve had people come in here and tell me, “Wow! You have the greatest staff, and I’m going to hire them away.” And I just always just welcome them. “Try it. Try it, see how that works for you.”
B: Right. That’s what I love. That’s what we’re looking at building our company culture on. Just building a team that is loyal.
J: And people you like. I mean, if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you got to eliminate the ‘jerk factor.’
J: I mean, I wanted to work with jerks I’d go back to corporate America or Wall Street, where I used to work. I like working with people I like.
J: Otherwise, I’m not going to come here everyday.
D: Right. Right.
B: Jim, what would you say is one of the most important things you think you’ve learned on just leadership and leading people?
J: You have to earn the right to be the leader. Saying, “I’m in charge,” is the most bogus statement of ever. And, the dumbest question you’ll ever ask anybody is, “Do you understand?” Everybody that ever misunderstood everything thought they understood it.
J: That’s the misunderstanding. Don’t ask people, “Do you understand?” Ask, “What do you understand?” And, then, if you’re in charge, if you’re a leader, try to ask more questions, and shut up and listen more. I was selected as Entrepreneur of the Year. And the Wall Street Journal sent someone in here to spend a week with me, and shadow me here and downstairs in our studio. And I don’t think he meant it that way, but when he left he paid me greatest compliment. He said, “If I didn’t know you were in charge, I wouldn’t realize you were in charge here.” He said, “All you do everyday is walk around and ask everybody, ‘How are you doing? How can I help’” And I said, “That’s what I do.” That’s kind of what I do.
B: And, then, you’ve also won some, quite a few other awards. Right? You want to
J: We’ve gotten an Emmy Award, a Media Access Award, and a Top Script Writing Award from the Writers’ Foundation of America, and Entrepreneur of Year from the White House. And, I say those because it promotes the work that we do and celebrates the people that work here. Like I said, I write books I can’t read that are made into movies I can’t see. And, obviously, I have a team here that makes that happen. I’ve travelled around the world and speak, and I couldn’t leave this this building without one of my people helping me. So, I’m very cognizant of the fact that this is a team, and they deserve those honors.
B: Right. Right. Good. Well, Jim, I was talking about new projects, and you know, there’s some things you can and can’t say, but what’s on the horizon for you right now?
J: And with the Harry Potter. Every time a new movie came out, you we’re starting over. You began with the audience you had at the last film.
J: And you built from there.
B: Right. I will be man enough to say I did tear up in ‘One Season of Hope.’
B: But, yeah, I liked how it tied into Harry Truman. Had the statute out in front of the school.
J: Well, thank you.
B: The coach would go and talk to the statue in the morning.
J: I’ll be honest. I dictated that book two years ago. And when I dictate, I’ll write a couple of pages. Dorothy reads it back to me. And I’m done. I never see it again.
J: So, they did an audiobook on that, and I had never read the whole book. Flying on a flight back from Charlotte to Tulsa I put it on the headset, and I listened to my own book, and I teared up.
J: The flight attendant asked I was okay, and I was explaining how bad the allergies were in North Carolina.
J: Horrible allergies they have over there.
B: Yes. Exactly. And it was a good read. Easy to read.
J: Thank you.
B: So, absolutely. I’m looking forward to ‘Will to Win.’ And Will Rogers is here locally. Or was local.
J: Yeah, we’re working with the curator of the museum. You know, with all these projects. You know? I worked with The National Archives in Washington, and The Harry Truman library on the first book. And then we’re working with The Will Rogers Museum and Memorial on the second. Because, you know, you don’t want to make a mistake in a book like that. Or, at least, if you do, you want to have somebody to blame it on. So, at least, I call The National Archives, you know? So, we want to make them fun and interesting. But, you know, also you learn a little something.
B: Right. Right.
D: I have a question: is this where you thought you’d end up?
J: Dominick, I thought I was going to be a pro-football player, and was diagnosed I was going to loose my site. I’d never read a book. I didn’t know anything. I mean, I grew up in a time and place where if you could play football you’d didn’t have to do anything else. And I was an All-American; thought I was headed to the to NFL. And in a routine physical, to go play another season of football, I was diagnosed with this condition that caused me to be blind. So, the thought of being here was as foreign to me as going to the moon. I never could have imagined that. No, no, this, is people who knew – one of my high school teachers showed up, out on the West Coast, at one of my book signings. And I could hear her, and I know this was like Mrs. Barnes my biology teacher. And, so, I’m signing her book, and I said, “Are you surprised I wrote a book?” And she said, “Jim, I surprised you ever read a book.” She said, “This is the most amazing thing I ever hear of.” And I said, “It’s amazing to me too.” It really, really is.
B: I can remember you telling me this story, Jim, when you first went to your dad and you were hoping he’d give you money, or what not.
B: And he introduced you to your mentor.
J: My mentor Lee Braxton, yeah.
J: And that changed my life. Mr. Braxton, I talk about him quite a bit in my book ‘The Millionaire Map.’ But Mr. Braxton had a third-grade education, had to quit school during the Great Depression to go to work, support his family. Working in a bicycle-repair shop he made 10 million dollars during the Depression. Gave nine million of it to charity, and worked the rest of his life for a non-profit. And he taught me most of what I learned about business.
B: And he had you read the book ‘Think and Grow Rich?’
J: That was the first one, yeah. Except for my books. No, if you ask world leaders and successful people, “Name one book that you would recommend more than ‘Think and Grow Rich.’ And Napoleon Hill was a phenomena. I have done a number of books for The Napoleon Hill Foundation. They have a national Napoleon Hill Day every year. I will be the keynote speaker there, this October, at the University of Virginia.
B: Oh, awesome.
J: He was phenomenal, not because of what he did. Hill as a very young man in his early twenties, went to Andrew Carnegie, who owned U.S. Steel, and said, “I want to know how to be a wealthy, successful businessman.” And he said, “Well, I’m going to allow you to create the science of success.” And Carnegie introduced Napoleon Hill to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and a hundred of those kind of people. And over a 10 or 12 year period he wrote ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and then his other books that came out after that. So, Hill was an explorer, a scientist, whatever you want to call it, in his field was success. He was genius. And I did not know, until I was actually doing a book for The Napoleon Hill Foundation, that the president of The Hill Foundation read it, and I talked about my mentor Lee Braxton in it. And he said, “Did you know that they were best friends? And your mentor, Lee Braxton, spoke at Napoleon Hill’s funeral. He did his eulogy.”
J: So, I contacted my mentor, Lee Braxton’s daughter, I got to go through some of his files. And I found all these letters from Napoleon Hill, back and forth, to Lee Braxton. And those will go into a book I’m doing, another Homecoming Historical, called ‘Top of the Hill: The Life and Times of Napoleon Hill.’ So, yeah, amazing connections you find when you just dig a little bit.
B: If I remember correctly, when you first read ‘Think and Grow Rich’, read the first two chapters, and then you wanted to meet with Lee, and he told you to read the whole book? Right?
J: He was not a kind, cordial man. And he, I was a college student, and he was quite elderly. And had never mentored anybody, and only did this as a favor to my father, I think more than anything. And he said, “Read this book and come back.” So, about three days latter, I was so excited I’d read three chapters and I’m back. And I said, “I have some questions.” He said, “Did you read that whole book?” And I said, “No, sir.” He just turned to his wife and said, “Norma, show Jim out. He’ll come back, if and when, he ever reads the rest of that book.” And he wasn’t like one of your school teachers that you could fake it. He said, “Did you read that whole book?” And I said, “Yes, sir.” And he would ask you, “Boy, you’d better know this.” Or, he’ll kick you out again.
B: One other question, too, I had Jim. One thing I’ve always been impressed about is kind of your generosity. Just being open, people being able to call you. I think I get a thank you note every time we meet. How did you establish that generosity?
J: Well, so many people have done it for me. I mean, when you look at my books. My very first book Robert Schuller endorsed it, and helped me with a publisher. Dennis Waitley wrote the forward. And, I mean, people like Ted Turner, and Steve Forbes, and Donald Trump, and a lot of great movie stars have been in my movies. You know, people on the road, like Zig Ziglar, and Tony Robbins, and great, great people. So, when people like that help you, and other people reach out to you, there’s no way I can pay them back. So, the only way I can pay them back is to try to do the same for other people.
B: Pay it forward.
J: Right. And you know, there’s this theory you never do anything you don’t get paid for. That came from Lee Braxton. He said, “Quit worrying about where and how much you’re going to get paid. And just create value.” He said, “You want to make money – the only people who make money work at a mint. They print Dollars for the American government.” He said, “Everybody has to earn money. And the only way you earn money is by creating value in the lives of other people. Create the value, and don’t worry about when and how you’re going to get paid. Just create value, and wait for it to come your way.” And it truly, truly does when you just go out there and allow that value. And, you know, I get paid a ridiculous amount of money to make a speech. I get paid more for an hour on stage than a family of four will make in a year in Oklahoma. And, you know, I take that seriously. So, I do a speech for free for every one I get paid for. And you think, “Wow. You’re giving up half your income.” Yeah, that was my intent. But it’s so amazing, here we are in early 2016, I started 2015 at the Ritz-Carlton in Maui spending several days on the beach. And getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to speak to a multi-national corporation. And I had no idea why they’d hired me. So, when I was leaving, I asked their CEO, “What prompted you to hire me to come here?” And he said, “Well, I’d never heard of you.” But he said, “My third grade, my granddaughter in the third grade told me you came to her school and you were cool. So, I thought, I’d better check you out. And I found out you were pretty cool. And that’s why you’re here.”
So, you know, sometimes when you try to give, you know, if you create value it comes back. You can’t out-give the universe.
B: All right. Well, you have anything else Dominck?
D: I don’t. It was just a pleasure to sit here.
J: Well, Dominck, Brad, always a pleasure. Always a thrill. I appreciate guys that do what you do. Help people with technology. People like me that are absolutely clueless. And the only thing I’ve learned from you guys about technology is to confirm that I am clueless. So, I stay out it, and work with people like you who help me.
J: And that’s what other people need to do. I mean, I create content; I know something. But everybody that knows something needs to know you guys so they can get it out there, and, you know, make it work for other people.
B: Absolutely. Well, thank you Jim for your time.
D: Thank you so much.
B: It’s an honor.
J: Thank you both.