At the office, I try to allocate my time to fit my priorities: 30, 30, 30. That means about 30 percent goes toward talent development and coaching, with another 30 percent going toward client work and about 30 percent more allocated to building the business for the future.
Michael Maslansky, the CEO of maslansky + partners, used to think he could win any debate by gathering the facts and arguing them passionately. It turns out that influence doesn’t work that way. Through decades of research, Michael has developed a new approach to persuasion, built on emotion, storytelling, and a precise use of language.
His language strategy firm is built on the idea that “it’s not what you say that matters; it’s what your audience hears.” And he brings this perspective to many of the world’s leading companies as he helps them address a wide range of strategic challenges. Whether they are selling products in crowded marketplaces, trying to rebuild trust in their brands, or changing public opinion on important issues, Michael helps his clients find the right language to achieve their objectives.
His work has taken his team to more than 20 countries to tackle challenges in food, healthcare, finance, technology, energy, and more. He was named among the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business by Trust Across America, is the author of “The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics,” and is a frequent commentator on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.
Michael has written a book, jumped out of a plane, and run a marathon — so at least those boxes are checked. When he isn’t working, he’s with his wife and their two kids in New York City.
Where did the idea for maslansky + partners come from?
Our firm, maslansky + partners, was born out of Ross Perot’s presidential campaign. We were a political consulting firm led by Frank Luntz, my former partner. We became the first firm to focus on how we could impact policy debates by thinking strategically about the use of language. Over the years, we shifted our focus to the business challenges companies face and how many of them are really communication challenges in disguise. Those are the puzzles we like to solve.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I have two types of typical days: home and away. My wife and I both work (a lot), and being home means trying to do my part to get two kids started for the day. At the office, I try to allocate my time to fit my priorities: 30, 30, 30. That means about 30 percent goes toward talent development and coaching, with another 30 percent going toward client work and about 30 percent more allocated to building the business for the future. My schedule is color-coded so I can quickly see whether I am in balance or not. When I’m away, all bets are off.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I look for ways to get my team to embrace the ideas as their own, build on them, and work to make them a reality. I found that pushing an idea uphill alone is much tougher than getting others to help.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Innovation in education. There is so much waste in education right now. Technology will make it possible for anyone — anywhere — to efficiently and affordably get education and training. When that happens, we will see huge leaps in living standards and productivity.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I started regular meetings with small groups of people across my whole team. There are no agendas, just time to discuss what’s on their minds. It helps me learn what’s happening in my organization, vet ideas, and teach what I know, and it really energizes me to engage outside the daily rush.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
In the early part of my career, I was a mergers and acquisitions attorney at an incredible New York law firm. I was there for three years, but I think I worked the equivalent of 10. I learned I didn’t want to practice law. More importantly, I learned to work my ass off and to hire the smartest people I could find — and that in law, as in life, words matter.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken my seventh-grade computer programming class a lot more seriously.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Revisit your assumptions. The world is changing too quickly. Just because something didn’t work a year ago doesn’t mean it won’t work today. And if it’s working today, chances are it won’t work five years from now. If you aren’t evolving, your business is probably dying.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
It’s very simple: Do whatever it takes for the client, period. In a professional services business, no other strategy matters more. When our clients call, we help first and figure out the business implications second. Pretty much without exception, it means our clients bring us back or bring us in when they move to new companies.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was the president of MarketResearch.com, we closed on our first round of VC funding one week before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. We went from dreams of massive growth to trying to make our money last as long as possible. We survived by making tough decisions quickly on costs and by staying focused on the things that were working instead of dwelling on what wasn’t.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Why can’t I find the five restaurants my close friends recommend now? Why can’t I see a list of books recommended by real friends? “Like” buttons from 500 “friends” don’t help me find the info I want from people I trust. That’s what I want: a recommendation engine from close friends for close friends.
What is the best $100 you recently spent, and why?
Luci inflatable solar lanterns. These things are amazing. They’re designed to give kids in developing countries reading light, but you can use them anywhere. I love them for camping with my kids.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Waze is flat-out the most helpful app in my life. I never question it. Dashlane saves me endless hours and frustration trying to remember passwords. Sonos has allowed me to finally have a working sound system at home. Instapaper lets me access the content I want to read wherever I am. And Gogo’s Wi-Fi ensures that I am never disconnected.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
Aside from mine? Right now, I’m in the middle of Arthur Brooks’ “The Conservative Heart.” Politics has become so extreme and ossified — we need more thinkers like Brooks, who is trying to reframe the political conversation in more positive and less demagogic ways.