“Smile, be the first to say hello, and learn people’s names.”
Josh Womack is the Co-Founder and Head Writer of Laugh Staff, where he writes hilarious wedding speeches. He’s also a contributor to Thrive Global, Crain’s Cleveland Business and FHM.
Where did the idea for Laugh Staff come from?
I started doing stand-up back in 2007 when a former supervisor told me I was a lackluster intern, but had a good sense of humor. It’s amazing where a backhanded compliment will take you in life!
I took a comedy workshop in Cleveland and then was off to the races of performing in coffee shops, bars, and eventually, real comedy clubs.
Laugh Staff emerged from a conversation I had with a fellow stand-up named Cameron Amigo. Many of our friends were getting married at the time and the speeches were less than memorable.
Cameron got to pinch-hit for a best man in the summer of 2012 and the next day he called me with this question:
“What if these nervous best men and maid of honor could good get great content from real, working comedians?
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
To maximize the day I write first thing in the morning. My brain energy usually has a full tank if I’ve slept well and have eaten a good breakfast. As the morning goes, the day goes.
Usually I’ll write from 9-11 or 11:30 and then eat and try and sneak in a workout around 1 or 2 pm. After that I’ll come back and write for no more than 30-45 minutes and then deal with emails.
I block 9-10:30 a.m. on my calendar everyday for writing. Routines are crucial to churn creative work on a consistent basis.
Evenings I spend with my girlfriend and typically don’t open my computer.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is core to our business. People hire us because they either:
• Hate writing
• Don’t know where to start
• Want to save time and stress
It’s our job to bring that content to life by searching for the nugget of funny in every story. A comedian looks at the world a little differently and that’s what we do with the speeches we write. We’re speechwriters, but we’re also thought organizers.
My goal in with every speech is to have the customer smile throughout reading it and LOL at least once or twice.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I wouldn’t say this a trend, but more of a platform: The power of Twitter.
I heard a quote a long time ago that still holds true to this day:
“Facebook is everyone you went to high school with. Twitter is everyone you wish you went to high school with.”
The Twitter community is very supportive of startups, comedians and journalists – all 3 which are crucial to our success. The trend of social communities coming together to help each other out is always exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Focus. The ability to concentrate on something for 40-50 minutes without distraction is vital. Whether it’s writing a speech or running on the treadmill, if I can get in almost an hour of interrupted, deliberate work I feel like the battle has been won.
One way I approach the week is to have a goal of 150 minutes of cardio. Divided into 7 days it’s just a little over 20 minutes a day. When I can knock out 25-30 minutes on Monday, I feel like I’m off to a great start for the week.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Smile, be the first to say hello, and learn people’s names. Likability and being able to get along with people is important. You’ll learn skills throughout your career, but in order to use them, people have to like you to hire you.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Saying no is a great thing. Some things you can’t get out of, but time is a finite resource so don’t waste it with hour-long status meetings. Rest is just as important as productivity so play the long game.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Prioritize reading. I read in the bathtub (not a great visual, I know) every morning. It’s usually non-fiction or articles I print off at work the day before.
There’s a ton of great information out there and I try to soak up as much as I can.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Responsiveness and over communicating. Sorry, that’s two!
When people hire us to write a speech they’re taking a chance on us. We realize that. They’re hoping we’re funny and that we’re able to capture their voice.
Providing a human element to a service business goes a long way. I compliment customers on the information the provide, tell them when they should expect their speech – and then deliver it sooner rather than later.
“Hi John, great information here. I’ll send you draft by noon tomorrow.”
For me, noon actually means 10 a.m. It’s a pleasant surprise in the business world when a service provider not only delivers, but delivers sooner than expected.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At the time about four years ago I viewed not getting into an accelerator as a failure. I overcame it by believing in our product, knowing we were in it for the long haul. As long as we wrote funny speeches in a timely manner I knew we’d keep pushing forward.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A platform that allows people to network based on what and whom they’re trying to reach. A smarter LinkedIn.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Spent close to $400 to see Guns N Roses in October. A band I’ve always wanted to see and glad I did!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Slack helps us stay on track. We just downloaded it and it’s been really east to use!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
‘Selling the Invisible’ by Harry Beckwith. It came out in 1997, but has great insight into what goes into marketing and retaining customers in a service business.
One of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Sell hope and integrity.”
What is your favorite quote?
“You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are – Tom Rath
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.