I am here with my good friend, Steve Sims, who has literally achieved more in a very short span of his life than many of us will achieve. In all of ours. Steve is the master of making things happen and today we’ll take a look at just how he gets it done.
Adam: To give you a summary of a few of the things this man has done. He managed to get two of his friends married by the Pope. He got the Pope to officiate the wedding, and then a couple of his other friends felt like having a little bit of a meal. So he turned the museum that houses the Statue of David into a restaurant for two for the night. Then he got Andre Belli to serenade them while they ate. I am joined by none other than Steve Sims. Steve, how are you doing?
Steve: Just to correct you, it was actually six people that I did the dinner for. So it was a chocolate block restaurant table, but we set up a table of six at the feet of Michelangelo’s David. I remember because I thought it’d be funny to see how far I could take this and I thought to myself, you’re in a museum, it’s really quiet.
So I said to the client, “Hey, I’m going to get a local entertainer, a serenader.” He was like, “Oh, that’s great!” Then during the event, I was like, “Oh, can I get him in to sing for you?” And they were like, “yeah, bring him in.” So I walked in with Andrea Bocelli and his fiance dropped a spoon or something. Now when you are in a room full of marble, that thing echoes for about 45 minutes. It was the funniest, like clang! It was just a funny night.
Adam: I love it. Yeah, so sorry about the exaggeration, six people. So you’ve got more than two friends. Steve, I’m super excited to have you here, obviously, you’re the author of the book, Blue Fishing. Basically, you are capable of making pretty much anything happen. I mean, that’s your superpower.
What is the secret to making things happen?
Steve: Actually my superpower is the stupidity of not being scared of it. They always say that when you write a book, it’s traumatic therapy because you start analyzing what you do and kind of realize that other people don’t.
When I was writing the book, I realized that I was never doing fantastical things. I just wasn’t scared of pushing and a lot of the time I would do things and then go, how did they do that? How did I manage to do this for Guns and Roses? This with Elon Musk? This with Branson? And I realized it was because I wasn’t scared.
My wife always says I’m a 55-year-old, five-year-old. As kids, we’re not scared, are we? You introduce your three-year-old to the Pope and your three-year-old’s going to go, “yeah, a man in a dress”, he’s going to say something stupid. Everyone just giggled because of the naivety, the transparency, the authentic nature of it, it’s just childlike, but there’s no fear.
So with me, I was stupid enough to actually go for these things and stupid enough to ask for these things, and I got them. That was my superpower, knowing, and achieving the amazing by not being terrified in the first place,
Adam: All right. So there’s so much I want to go over with you, so many different things. I’d love to talk about the very beginning though. If you wouldn’t mind sharing the story of how you got the Pope to marry you, and based on that, can I have him come over and make me breakfast? Those are two things I’d like.
Steve: Well, apparently there’s a big hoo-ha about them visiting personal people’s bedrooms. But I dunno, we won’t go into that.
Adam: Are you sure? I’m pretty- no, whatever.
How to get the Pope to officiate a wedding
Steve: You know, the funny thing is, to give you a quick answer to the first question, how did you get it to happen? I asked. It’s just, simplicity is where most people bail. You see, here’s the dumb thing you say to someone, “Hey if you could do anything on a planet, what would it be?”
I asked. It’s just, simplicity is where most people bail.
They’ll give you an answer. “Oh, I’d get a hot tub with all the Hawaiian Tropic models or I’d take a plane and I’d fly off and do this, or I’d play piano with Sir Elton John”
They would tell you what they want and then nine times out of 10 spend the next five minutes telling you, even though you didn’t ask, telling you why it could never happen.
They’d go, “Oh, I’d like to do this, Mr. Well, but I can’t play the piano.” They talked themselves out of even trying. People spend more effort and energy on telling people why it can’t be done than focusing on why it should.
I was challenged with, “Hey, I’d love to get married in the Vatican.” Who’s in the Vatican? It’s the bloke dress. Let’s see if he could be part of it. So quite simply, if you want to get in touch with the Vatican, first of all, speak to the church because they’re kind of connected, and then speak to someone in Italy.
I phoned up a bunch of people and of course, it gets easier over the years, but they always say, how do you get on the roof? You climb a ladder. So my relationships are those ones with the ladder, I can get higher with the more ones I got.
So I was phoning people in Italy going, “Hey, I was thinking about doing this. Do you know anyone connected with the Vatican?” “No, I don’t. No, I don’t. Oh, I don’t, but I know Lui does and I know Francesco does.” All of a sudden you start expanding the network and you get closer and closer and closer by just asking. In the end, someone says, I actually look after that. What do you want? What do you need? Why are you trying to do this? And you get that.
So it’s just constantly asking like an annoying little five-year-old that wants a lollipop before dinner until you get the person. Then the skillset transfers from trying to locate that person to try and to engage them.
You see, the easiest way to get people with money to walk away from you is to try to purchase them.
You see, the easiest way to get people with money to walk away from you is to try to purchase them. I remember I was with Elton John, and someone went up to him and said, “Hey, it’s good to see you.” It was his LA Oscar party. We worked together for eight years. So the person was like, “oh, it’s really good to be here.” You know, being very polite, which he isn’t always, he’s quiet.
And he was like, oh yeah, it’s good for you to be here. Thanks for coming along.” Then the person went, “Hey, I’m having this party. How much would it cost me to get you to come to my party?” And he just turned around and went, “I’m busy” and walked away.
Now he hadn’t even mentioned the date. But Elton didn’t want to be a prostitute. So if you want people with money and power and connection to walk away from you, try to create a transaction with them and see them run. When you want people to get involved in what you want, you’ve got to bring something to the party, you’ve got to bring a reason.
When you want people to get involved in what you want, you’ve got to bring something to the party, you’ve got to bring a reason.
With me, I was saying to them “Hey, I want to create the most amazing experience, and I want you to be part of that experience.” I wanted them to buy into my dream before they invoiced me, and that’s what I did. I got them to want to be part of this amazingly creative day. Then they invoiced me accordingly.
How to meet people and make an impression
Steve: I walk into the bar and I ignore you. You ignore me. We don’t know each other. I walk to the end of the bar order, my old-fashioned, and I stand over there and Roland who I know you love and respect, digs you in the ribs and goes, you see that guy over there? That’s Steve Sims, he’s worked with Elton John, the Pope, Musk, that guy’s a big deal now, what do you want to do?
Adam: Oh, now I want to go meet you obviously. Right?
Steve: You see the difference is not the wording, but the source.
Steve: I realized very early on, I was a bad source to introduce how brilliant I was. If I got somebody else to do it then it was magical. I could have rattled around with my connections and gone, “Hey, gimme Bocelli’s phone number.” I would’ve had an uphill battle.
Steve: But if someone who he respects contacts, then I ride in on that credibility. Now we’d never met each other. Prior to me speaking at your event in San Diego or Epic. We’d never met each other, but let’s be blunt. I had a hair of credibility with you before we spoke because Roland had brought me in and you had tremendous respect for Roland.
Steve: So the beautiful thing is if you can get other people to introduce you and we’ve all got these profiles, we’re always a couple of degrees away from somebody. But if you can get them to introduce you, you ride in by saving yourself, such a conversation based on the credibility that you ride in on. That’s how I managed to get Bocelli and the Academia to do it.
Adam: You’re such a genius, Steve. I’m mind blown. I love it, and everyone listening, you have to pay attention. I want to share now, I’m nowhere near where Steve is in life, but I’ve got a little trick too. If you’re sitting here and you’re like, I don’t know anyone though. If I phone up everyone on my phone, I’m going to end up talking to my Nan if I’m lucky and she doesn’t always answer the phone, right? If you’re in that situation, I’ll tell you and Steve, maybe you’ll appreciate it.
When I want to get connected to somebody and they’re not the super-wealthy, but they’re somewhat experienced and I can’t afford them. If they’re out of my budget, but they are available in a transaction. I wanted to work with the number one advertising copywriter in the world, and he charges a hundred grand a day to work with him. I didn’t have a hundred grand to throw at him back then, but I wanted to ask him a few pieces of information about advertising when I was learning business and marketing.
So I sent him a message and the message said, “I am a huge fan of your work. I have read….” And I listed all the things I’d read. I was like, “I really love your work, and I had a dream to hire you, but there is no way in this world I would dare offer you less than your worth. I’ve looked at my bank savings and I can afford seven minutes of your time. I would like to pay your full rate for exactly seven minutes. That way I’m honoring what you are truly worth, and during that time, I will only ask you two questions. Only the second one, if we’ve got time after your answer on the first one,”
He was like, absolutely, I accept. Here’s where you make the payment link. That’s why I bought seven minutes of this guy’s time. Get on the phone with him. He was blown away that I was going to honor his fee because no one at my level could hire someone at his level and yet I’d done it. We were on the phone for two hours. We were laughing and joking. We got on so well that he invited me to two different advertising gigs where he went on as if I were an assistant to him on the first one. I didn’t get paid on the second one that was $40,000 for a day of being his assistant, helping him write.
He was impressed, anyway, today I can just pick up the phone and call the guy. He doesn’t charge me by the minute but I love that because I wanted to give the people listening. I know sometimes when you hear someone who is exceptional and Steve is, we’re talking A-class exceptional. There’s a book that illustrates what Steve did, which is, Influenced by Cialdini, it’s the power of reciprocity. Steve is leading with such a high valued offer that the person feels they have to give something in return. They feel like, “How can I help you?” because you sold everything for them. Every problem I had.
So I love this, Steve. It’s so good, and with that being said, now’s a great time to tweak slightly. Now, you’re doing branding and marketing, which sounds magical because you’re going from life experiences to helping people turn their companies around. I’ll be honest with you, Steve, despite the fact that we’ve shared drinks and laughs and chats as friends, I’ve never heard you teach anything about branding and marketing. I’ve only ever heard your amazing story, so I don’t know anything that you know about this either. I am as eager as everyone listening to learn. I know nothing about business, let’s imagine that. Go for it. Branding and marketing. Steve, what do I need to know?
Steve: What do you know about me?
Adam: That’s a great question. I know that you can make anything happen. I know that your Rolodex is larger than most people’s phone books. I know that you’re from east London. You’re an amazing father. I know that I don’t want to get in a fight with you or your son for that matter, I know that you like motorcycles and you wrote a book called Blue Fishing.
Steve: So how bad is that for branding for someone saying that I’ve never spoken about branding?
Adam: It’s terrible, it’s absolutely terrible. But that’s because I know you. Here’s the thing, I have seen you mention that you’re working on marketing and branding. But what’s fascinating for me and why I want to talk about this is, and I’ll use a little bit of my own knowledge at this point, what I do know is that you’ve branded yourself as the person that can make anything happen.
You’ve branded yourself as someone who can get access to anyone, can achieve, and do anything. And that right there, from an outsider’s perspective, it’s like when you brand yourself as someone who can do anything, you could literally tell me that you’ve moved into making gold. I’d be like, well, I’m going to learn about it because I believe you’re good at it because you could do anything.
So if you told me, I’m the expert at helping people find new countries, I’m like, I’m sure. How many new ones are we going to find next week? I would just believe you. Which, I think from an outside space, I think it’s genius the way you at least have branded yourself historically.
Steve: I think what it was, it was a revelation to me. So for 25 years, doing all of these amazing things for amazing clients, bearing in mind I’m not a social butterfly. The only reason I did these wonderful things with amazing people was, quite similarly, just like your example, I would have that attention for a conversation to quite simply ask them questions and I wanted to hang around with rich people. How could I hang around with rich people when I wasn’t rich?
Solve one of our problems and that would give me an hour over lunch to interview them. So that’s what I was doing, I was basically podcasting people before podcasts came out, I was learning all of these things. As I was learning these things, I was learning how wealthy people behaved. If you remember back in the nineties, when you were dealing with wealthy clients, you became British. No matter where you were on the planet, people said “Good afternoon sir, it’s an honor to have you.” Do you remember that?
Now you look at someone that’s a billionaire from Silicon Valley, they got ripped up jeans, they’re walking around with different colored socks on, and they almost look homeless in Malibu. It’s a different way people have moved. I was working with some of the biggest brands on the planet, Tiffany, Piche, Ferrari, and some of the biggest events on the planet, Elton John, Ferrari, Formula One, New York fashion week, the Kentucky Derby, and the Grammys.
I worked for the biggest events on the planet and some of the biggest luxury brands in the world, and the first thing that came as a revelation was they were talking to the wannabe rich. The way they were talking and the way they were caught within that marketing, they win the mission and the demographic they were wanting.
So I was looking at it almost like the King’s clothes going, why are you doing that? “Oh, that’s how you entice the rich.” No, it ain’t. It’s how you entice those that pretend to be rich! If you want to get the rich people in here, then close the event to a third of the amount of people that you’ve been selling it to and put the price up four times, filtered to get the right kind of people in the room.
I started throwing those suggestions in rooms and they were like, “oh my God, never thought oh that,” I was like, really? Because I had the luck of not being raised in that world, to learn the mundane things that everyone was always doing. We’ve all been in there and gone, “How old do you market?” We market like this. “Why?” Because that’s how we’ve done it for 20 years, and we all know that.
Branding is what people say about you when you’ve left a room. Marketing is what you say about yourself.
Nothing we do today is the same as it was a year ago, let alone 20 years ago. So I started focusing on what people are doing. I started paying attention and people are really good at marketing themselves and branding. What we end up doing is marketing confusion. Now, Branding is what people say about you when you’ve left a room. Marketing is what you say about yourself.
I gave the example of that when I went into the bar and I introduced myself to you. It was verbatim what I did and what I’m good at and what I’m qualified at. But the delivery was now, I asked you about me and you gave me a very engaging bullet point on who I was that would have anybody in the bar wanting to buy me a drink and enter a conversation.
So in effect, I’ve done a phenomenal job of branding myself because you repeated it exactly how I wanted you to. So you think you don’t know anything about how I do marketing branding, but you are proof I’m good at it. The thing about branding in today’s world is you brand first and you market second. To brand something, you’ve got to remove any element of confusion of who you are and you’ve got to focus on not authenticity, but on transparency.
You need to be impossible to misunderstand who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. Make it easy for the other person to be able to make a decision as to whether or not they want to be in your sandpit. We noticed so many people spent a lot of time getting articulate copy, lovely flow, and great funnels when it wasn’t them. It wasn’t what they quarterly believed.
What we ended up doing was we ended up talking to big brands like Cartier, and Tiffany going you’re kind of confusing people, aren’t you? You’re kind of removing it. Why don’t we get back to the story? So that’s what we started doing, we started working for influencers, authors, and I’ll be blunt.
I’m amazed at some of the people that I’ve got to work with that are very high profile, but how they got there makes me scratch my head and go, “you’ve spent 10 years confusing people. Let’s get rid of that.” They’ve quadrupled because now they’re impossible to misunderstand. That’s what we do within Sims Media. We take the confusion out of how you put yourself forward and you can’t stand out by first fitting in, and that’s what we do.
Adam: I love it. What’s a good practical step somebody can take to try? Because I know this, from working with business owners, they’ll be like, “I don’t know who I am or I don’t know what people say about me when I leave a room.” Or there are some that say, “I do know what they say about me,” but it’s not true.
Steve: They’re the first two things to find out how you’re coming across. Let’s play a game, if me, you and Roland are going out for dinner on Saturday night and I phone you up and it’s at your house. And I say, “Adam, I know we’re all getting together on Saturday, but I got my friend Robert and Robert and I’ve known since school days, and believe it or not, he’s in Austin. Can I bring him along?”
Are going to be nice because you know me? You’ll be like, yeah, you can. How tempted would you be to look me up on social media and look up Robert that’s actually coming to your party on Saturday? You know, we have the ability to do it now. So before Robert’s even shown up, if you had the time, you’d be able to find out quite a bit about Robert before we even showed up.
Maybe you’re not sure which Robert it is. So you’re looking at two Roberts and then one turns up and you go, oh, that guy, he’s an author and he is into muscle cars, I know a bit about… You’ve got all this information. It’s almost like Tindering them before they’ve turned up. So what you should do first of all is first pour yourself a stiff drink and Google yourself. See how you show up to others and see if you agree with it. Nine times out of 10, you won’t, but hey, who’s in charge of that?
Then the second thing, and this always makes me laugh, this can’t be done on the phone. It can’t be done on a tablet. It has to be done on a laptop or a desktop because you need a large screen. You need to open up multiple browsers and you need to open up every one of your social profiles. You have LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, and any social profile you open up and then look at them and go, “Am I the same person on all of them?”
Because you go on LinkedIn and you stood there, you’ve got a suit on and a tie. You’re leaning up against a library of books. You’ve never read the books and you’ve got a pipe and you are very business. Then you go over to Facebook and you are in a hot tub where you share off a mai tai and its Girl’s Gone Wild.
Have you noticed how Apple and Nike are exactly the same person, tone, community, and statement on every single social club? They don’t change. But for you, for some reason said, you’ve got to be professional on LinkedIn and funny as “F” on Facebook. All of a sudden people have come up with their own ideas of what you have to be. The first thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to be impossible to misunderstand. You’ve got to be the same person on LinkedIn. I remember on LinkedIn, someone said to me, you can’t have a profile picture of you drinking an old fashion.
Adam: That’s not going to go well.
Steve: Yeah. They said that to me and I went, but I like drinking old-fashioneds. But LinkedIn’s no place for that. Why does no one on LinkedIn like drinking old-fashioneds? I actually had fun going through this long thread. In the end, they just told me to P off and they ran away. But the point is I don’t want to confuse anyone. Can you imagine what it’d be like if I had a profile picture of me with a cup of coffee, with a little pinky out? It would confuse people! So I want to make sure that the person you see is the person you get to hear, validated by the person you get to meet.
So in branding, how you show up is the first thing that you have to control. If you want to be a podcast guest, here’s a little tip for you and it couldn’t get any easier and freer than this. If you want to do more podcasts in your social profile, write the word, “amazing podcast guests.” I have that on my LinkedIn profile. I have “speaker” because I’m a speaker. I have “coach” because I’m a coach and I literally have “awesome or amazing podcast guests.”
I hear people I’ve never met before going, “oh, I heard about you on Adam’s and I looked at your life, do I have a podcast? Would you be on my podcast?” “Yeah, are you alive? Yeah. Then I’ll do your podcast.” and I do that podcast. So you’ve got to take it down to a stupidly simple level of, first of all, analyzing how you show up then when you are concise with that and only then do you start looking at distribution and marketing. But first of all, brand who you are first.
Adam: I love this, Steve. I think that’s a perfect place to move into the end of this. Where I, first of all, want to ask you all of our guests at the very end, would you mind saying smart businesses, and then what should they do? What should a smart business do in your mind?
Steve: Smart businesses, focus on the solution they provide for the client rather than how pretty they look in the video.
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- Steve D Sims
- Sims Media
- Elton John
- Formula One
- New York fashion week
- Kentucky Derby
- Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen
- Silicon Valley
- Andrea Bocelli
- Roland Frasier
- The Pope
- Elon Musk
- Michelangelo’s David
- Buckingham Palace
- Windsor Castle
- Queen of England
- Edgar Allen Poe
- East London
- Brad Pitt
- Guns and Roses
- Richard Branson
- Henry Sims