“Hey Frankie, we need to start a podcast.”
I love podcasts. I listen on flights, on morning runs, in my truck, and throughout the day in my office. Last summer, I got started on the 2Bobs podcast and binged my way through a dozen episodes.
Here were two dudes chopping it up about their various experiences in business. It was tactical but entertaining. Episodes had a purpose and the hosts were clearly having fun. Then a thought entered my mind, “I could do that.”
And I knew exactly who I wanted to work with. Frank Cava is a close friend with an impressive resume. He worked his way up within a Fortune 500 company, led large teams, left corporate America, and started several successful businesses.
His path is similar to mine yet remarkably different. We worked at the same company for more than a decade. He runs a residential real estate business with 25+ employees while I focus on commercial real estate.
Frank is an executive coach and partner for a successful mastermind group. I coach through online programs, writing, and consulting. We have partnered on multi-million dollar capital raises.
Personally, we share a love for sports, red wine, hot meals, Las Vegas trips, movies from the 80s and 90s, and I routinely take Frank’s money in fantasy football (he’s terrible but always pays on time).
Frank and I listen to the same podcasts and frequently talk about different angles we might have tried if we were hosting. It was time to quit guessing and start a podcast.
I fired an email to big Frank and listed eight compelling reasons he should chase this windmill with me. Knowing Frank had a toddler and a growing list of projects, I had to anticipate potential objections. These were my reasons for starting a podcast:
- Fun: Who hasn’t dreamed of hosting a TV or radio show? Frank and I tend to put a high priority on projects that seem fun.
- Marketing: Our businesses rely heavily on our personal brands. What better way to showcase who we are than a podcast format?
- Challenge: We’ve accomplished plenty in the first half of our careers but nothing like this. Life is about climbing new mountains, not sitting atop the same ones.
- Impact: One thing we gave up when we left corporate America was a never-ending supply of talented people to develop. A podcast is an opportunity to help thousands of people and that matters to us.
- Personal Growth: Technology passes all of us by if we don’t make a conscious effort to be uncomfortable. With this podcast, we get lost, stuck, and frustrated on a daily basis. And that’s a good thing.
- Technology: We live two hours apart but that hardly matters. We have the means to easily record from two different places.
- 1 + 1 = 3: With some partners, you just know that your combined forces will lead to something special.
- Money: This may or may not make money. Hell, we’ve finished 15 episodes and still aren’t sure how people make money on podcasts. But it might, and wouldn’t that be cool?
I fired off my “Hey Frankie” email and had his answer the next morning:
“Hey buddy, I’ve slept on this. I’ve got some ideas but I’m in. Let’s toggle between management, sales, big companies, and startups. I want to speak to small businesses and motivated people who want to move up the ladder. But generally, I love it. Let’s start a podcast”
Boom. That was easy.
So we bought microphones and started recording the next week, right? Not exactly. That email exchange took place in August of 2019. I don’t have any record of us talking about a podcast again until July of 2020.
Why? Well, Fall baseball season was starting, Frank had a toddler, we did a big real estate deal in December, a pandemic happened. You know, the yoosh.
These are bullshit excuses that mask the real problems.
Starting Is Hard
So many of my ideas end up abandoned in a sad junkyard in my mind. In recent years, the base of that junkyard is built on ideas for books I didn’t start. I have a list of more than 100 titles with loose outlines and exactly zero published books.
I could point to the time commitment. Writing is a hobby for me, not a profession. I make money on real estate, training programs, advisory services, and raising capital. I love to write but it is ancillary to what I do for a living.
But if I can write for an hour every morning, why can’t I write a book? Time is just an excuse.
I could also point to the technical differences between writing a book and writing for a newsletter or articles for Forbes. Filling a book with 100,000 words and writing a 300-word blog post are entirely different things. But this is just a matter of learning how to create an outline. After all, once the frame of the house is built, everything else follows.
If creating an outline is a learned activity, I need only to find a teacher to show me how. There are hundreds of good online courses on this. Then it is just a matter of writing 1,000 words for 100 days and I have a book. So, its not a lack of knowledge holding me back.
So what’s the real reason? My book might suck. I might invest six months of my life and $50,000 to publish a book that no one reads. And God that would suck. Like any dream, it can’t be deflated if I never try.
Was this in play with our idea of creating a podcast? Of course. Frank and I have never done anything like this. We’ve both presented hundreds of times and are perfectly comfortable on a stage. But neither of us spends much time on camera.
There were certainly delays because of ignorance. We had no idea where to start and what it took to build a podcast. But we could pay for someone to show us the technical aspects.
Speaking for myself, this was a big jump because it threatened a brand I spent 25 years building as an executive and careful investor. In my head, I knew that a podcast would start incredibly slow and that it had a high chance of failing. Was I willing to accept public scrutiny? Would the excitement of the challenge be worth the trouble?
Starting is always the hardest part. I find that mindset and psychology delay my progress much more than a lack of knowledge. In our case, we did the best thing you can do when tackling a major endeavor.
We took one small step.
After much hemming and hawing, we set up a Zoom call to hash it out. This turned out to be our first critical step. Once it went on our calendars, we couldn’t ignore it anymore.
We agreed to listen to several of our favorite podcasts and write down all the things we admired about those shows. This bit of homework made us prepare seriously. I didn’t want to be the dope who showed up unprepared while Frank read off pages of notes.
We recorded that initial call for posterity. I spent the first 15 minutes making fun of Frank’s tank top and the next 45 minutes framing out this project.
If your podcast is just an idea, here are some questions we answered from that first agenda:
- What is the name of our podcast?
- Who is our target audience?
- What niche are we filling?
- What problems will we help people solve?
- Who will handle administrative work?
- What is off-limits?
- What are our core values?
- When can we record our first show?
- What roles will we play?
- Do we have the right equipment?
- What are some potential shows?
- What is the first step we can take to start a podcast?
We didn’t answer every question perfectly on this call, but we worked out enough details to schedule the next call. Again we agreed to do more homework and come prepared to fill in the blanks on the remaining questions.
Coming up with a name was more work than it needed to be. We somehow spent five minutes trying to piece together our names like “Brangelina” and even had a finalist of “Cava Math,” which is horrendously stupid.
“That May or May Not Have Happened” was my personal favorite. Frank used this line on more than one occasion to get me out of trouble. It is cheeky and makes me laugh but ultimately too benign to generate serious interest.
For a brief moment, “Business Bro’s” took the spotlight. Not because it is good, but because it is absurd, boorish, and surprisingly on brand. It’s not a surprise that Frank’s wife Eli came up with it.
Thankfully, we slept on Eli’s suggestion and went with “Let Me Speak To A Manager,” which also came from Frank’s wife. Clearly, she is the brains of that operation. The name is a tongue-in-cheek poke at what someone might say in a restaurant and exactly what the show is all about.
After watching the recording of our founding Zoom call, a light went on. Why don’t we record the first episode on Zoom for practice?
I owned a studio microphone and an HD webcam as I record training programs for 5on4 Group. That work also gives me experience with lighting, and we got Frank set up with similar gear.
I prefer a Yeti Blue microphone and a Logitech C922 Pro HD Stream Cam. We use basic studio umbrella lighting and keep the lighting in the rest of the room at a minimum (I close the shades and turn off the overhead lights).
For less than $250, you can acquire all the equipment you need to get started, assuming you own a laptop. But none of this matters without a legit logo. Everyone knows that.
“My beard is not that bushy.”
There is no aspect of this podcast that wasted more time than our logo. We found a freelance caricature artist with solid reviews on Upwork and talked with him about our podcast’s vibe.
We asked him to sketch something out on the irreverent side as we’re not interested in building a brand that feels corporate. Our artist, Rob, is a school teacher in Tennesee by day and does this work for fun in the evenings.
It started off rough.
The first draft made me look like I was a foot taller than Frank with John Kerry’s head. We couldn’t start a podcast with a logo that made me look like a Neanderthal. I sent him some polite comments, and back came the second draft. I was now smaller but still wasn’t sure whose face was on my body.
This went on for 3-4 more sketches. At some point, while ranting to Frank, he politely interjected, “I’m glad you’re focused on getting your face perfect but are we going to address my nose looking like a d!@k?”
This tripped another floodgate where we had to erase the hair from Frank’s arms, trim his bushy beard, and make his face look more like, well, Frank. After eight revisions, all that was left was to make our hairlines look more like they did ten years ago. He patiently obliged, and we had our logo.
Amazingly, Rob’s fee for dealing with two prima donna’s was only $200. We gave him a $70 tip for our diva behavior. Rob was fun to work with, patient, and I would recommend him to anyone. You can email me if you want his contact information.
Just Start Filming
The beauty of this project is how ancillary it is to both of us. A podcast is something you do in addition to your regular responsibilities. It isn’t a startup, and it’s not a company. It’s a fun project.
So there is no reason to waste hours building perfect outlines. The only way to learn how to produce a podcast is to practice. I had an outline for an episode about dealing with toxic people at work and emailed it to Frank. He responded with his thoughts and a few stories.
We jumped on a Zoom call and started preparing, but a word on Zoom if I may. We find a way to dicker it up every week for being such a simple software platform. We rarely get into the room without someone emailing and saying, “Where are you?” We’re like two grandparents who can’t figure out how to turn on FaceTime on a new iPhone.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to develop a decent outline for each episode. We prepare for at least as long as we record. We type out the notes, place them in the order we want to flow, and add stories that we want to share to make each point.
This outline keeps us on track. We estimate how long each episode will last, and Frank signals me if the show is running long.
It worked from the very first episode. Frank and I recorded the “Bad Apples” podcast, and we kept the entire segment without cuts. From an editing perspective, I clap just before we start, and when the episode is “finished.” After clapping to close the first episode, we broke into big grins, and Frank waved his ham-fist at the screen as he does after finishing a bone-in ribeye.
That first episode went well enough where we decided to go back-to-back. We switched shirts to make it appear as if we recorded on separate days, I clapped, and we were off to episode 2.
Finding a Rhythm
Wednesday mornings became our regular podcast time. We had an initial list of episode topics but often called audibles when Frank sees something I wrote that he is dealing with in his business.
We spend the first hour of our Wednesday call working on the outline, and then we record. In the first month, we recorded six episodes at roughly an hour per episode.
I have a talented video editor in Bosnia that I originally found on Upwork. We’ve worked together for nearly two years, and he has played a big role in getting us this far.
I save the Zoom recording and send him the video file along with a Word document highlighting the timestamps of the 10-15 best moments. Each of those short segments gets a name, and my editor creates marketing content based on that direction.
For instance, Frank and I might opine about the importance of connecting with people from 15:25 to 17:15. I highlight those bookmarks and our editor makes a two-minute marketing clip with the title of “The Problem With Emulating Famous Coaches.” Finding the time stamps typically takes me about twice the time it takes to record. This is what that finished clip looks like:
These will be used for social media to create awareness. We have over 150 of these short segments ready to start sharing now that we have launched the podcast. Also, our editor created a short intro and exit pop for each video, along with a Call to Action. Ours is a simple, “Follow our podcast,” and I trust this will improve with time.
We spend roughly $100 per podcast, including captions added to each video. If you have even rudimentary video editing skills and free time, you can save this money. Frank and I have no interest in doing this work, which would violate our “Must be fun” rule.
Establishing a Basecamp
We created a simple website after purchasing the domain name of www.letmespeaktoamanagerpodcast.com and uploaded our first 6 episodes to the home page. We chose a simple design with a logo, our episodes, and a short bio on each of us. You don’t need a fancy website to start a podcast.
We submitted our podcast for approval from Apple. That process took a week, and we started with our first six episodes. The website was not a big expense as we had help from our company marketing firms. There are plenty of templates at SquareSpace that you can use for minimal investment. But if you need help, a website shouldn’t cost you more than $1,000 to $2,000 on Upwork.
We plan to use a podcast-specific marketing firm to help us manage the release of each podcast. This firm will create a blog post from each episode’s transcription, which helps Google share our website with people who search for key terms found often in our episodes. I estimate that this firm will cost another $500/month, though you could type up your show notes without help if you had the time.
You’ll also need to decide if you can support enough content to produce without interview guests. This saves us a ton of time as we spend no time worrying about scheduling a third person to interview.
Done Is Better Than Perfect
Could you start a podcast for much less money than we spent? For sure. If you are on a tight budget, teach yourself how to edit and be prepared to write your own blog posts.
Is it perfect? Hell no. But those who strive for perfection rarely start. Frank and I believe in this so much that one of our first episodes is titled “Done Is Better Than Perfect.” Starting a podcast is a perfect example of creating something new by taking one step at a time.
After starting in July, we probably each have 100 hours into this project. Had this not been so much fun, we would have quit long ago. But like any new venture, getting through the discovery period is the hardest. The best way to start a podcast is to take the easiest first step. Then a second, third, and so on.
Once you start creating, everything will come into place. Do you have to crawl through some muck to get to your launch? Of course. What’s worth doing that doesn’t require some grinding? But even if you don’t hit that finish line, you’ll still have a fun cartoon keepsake for your troubles.
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