Scott DiGiammarino - CEO and Founder of Reel Potential

[quote style=”boxed”]Call someone who believes in you, when you’re having a bad day or bad moment.[/quote]

Scott DiGiammarino is the CEO and founder of Reel Potential. For the past 25 years, Scott was a senior executive for Ameriprise Financial (formerly American Express Financial Advisors). In that time, he had record-breaking results on a consistent basis, including bringing his organization from worst to first in his first 12 months. During his tenure, he had best-in-class production, retention, profitability, leadership development and employee survey scores. Scott has achieved many awards during his career, including Leader of the Decade, the Premier Performer, and the prestigious Diamond Ring. Scott’s passion is helping people maximize their true potential. He’s also dedicated his entire career to the development of leaders throughout the financial services industry. Finally, Scott is an in-demand, key-note speaker. And he uses licensed movie clips to support his messages.

When Scott came into his new role in 1992, he had 31 employees. He thought it would be an easy job to grow, given that everybody was in one office. But as his scope expanded to more than 200 offices, he realized that he’d have to get creative in order to continue to add value, and in doing so, get the best efforts from every employee he had on a day-to-day basis. There were massive changes in the workplace at the time: shortened attention spans, new technology, different learning styles based on different generations, and a widening gap between the top 20% and everybody else. On top of all of this, he was asked to do more with less, and the demands on his time became overwhelming.

He had to find an innovative way to communicate, engage and inspire his troops. And, he had to make it short, entertaining and memorable. One of Scott’s principles is that he believes if you help people develop from a personal perspective, they will flourish in all aspects of life, including business. So, Scott decided to use his love for movies as a way to engaging his employees on a daily basis. Once a day, he chose a theme (courage, perseverance, teamwork, hope, and integrity were just a few of them). He then showed a movie clip that pertained to the theme and followed up with questions about people’s personal experiences with the themes. The stories were incredible. And he found that the experience not only lifted the spirits of his organization, but also helped them make better, principle-based decisions–especially when the boss wasn’t around, because they could remember the clip. Scott’s success was so vast, that he decided to build a turn-key system for other companies. He started Reel Potential in 2009.

His mission is to use Hollywood movie clips and the best of the web to help business leaders inspire, engage, and communicate to employees and students worldwide.

What are you working on right now?

  1. Originally, I was the one who our clients came to when they wanted themed clips. It was a little overwhelming and not an efficient process. So we’re finalizing a detailed taxonomy project where we’ll have our meta tagged clips available for search by our clients.
  2. We’re finalizing our new marketing plan so we can let the world know about our capabilities.
  3. We’re developing a unique, compelling and memorable experience for our clients.
  4. We’re negotiating with potential partners who are seeking cutting-edge solutions for their institutional and government clients.

Where did the idea for Reel Potential come from?

I worked at American Express as a senior executive for 25 years. When I got to the Washington DC region, we were ranked #173 out of 176. It was quite a turn around project. We cleaned house as we shared our vision, our strategy, our tactics, and our principles. And in exactly one year, we went from #173 to #1. The challenge was how to maintain that success over time, especially with rapid growth. In a six year period, we grew to more than 200 offices throughout the region.

I found that in order to make an impact, we needed to help people grow personally, so we could get their best efforts professionally, even in a decentralized organization. My leadership team put together a list of characteristics and principles that we wanted in an ideal employee. Then, we had to figure out how to convey those principles in a memorable manner. In other words, I didn’t want to have to keep repeating myself.

The idea came from the fact that I’m a major movie guy. I have more than 700 DVDs at my house. And I found that short, strategic movie clips, packaged and delivered in a certain way, could make a major difference in the lives of people.

So on an ongoing basis, we’d send out an email that said, “Today’s theme is courage. The movie clip you’re about to see is [Thelma and Louise]. The movie is about [XYZ], and in this specific scene [I’d explain what was going on]. As you’re watching, I’d like you to think about the most courageous moment in your life, and also think about a time where you wish you were more courageous. Feel free to shoot me an email regarding your story.

I’d get 200+ stories per week. And, with the permission of the writers, I’d share the most compelling stories with everyone else. It was incredible! We ended up with best-in-class results for more than two decades, receiving the #1 employee engagement and leadership impact scores in the nation, year after year. I was asked to share our systems throughout the organization, and we got similar results.

Long story short, I saw how using clips could impact people, and in 2009, I decided to start Reel Potential. It was the greatest business decision of my life!

What does your typical day look like?

There’s no ordinary day. Sometimes I’m up at 3:00 a.m. and then back to bed at 2:00 a.m. But for the most part I:

  1. Network and speak as much as I can
  2. Do product demonstrations to CEOs, CMOs, and heads of HR, and brainstorm about how our clients can use our unique, one-of-a-kind asset (movie clips)
  3. Watch movies and find great moments that we can capture and share

How do you bring ideas to life?

We’re building a product that enables our clients to create the Reel Potential experience themselves. It takes five, simple steps on their computer:

  1. Select a theme from our inventory (or create your own.) Themes include: courage, ethics, decision-making, etc.
  2. Decide who will be the celebrity host. Could be me, you, a VIP, an important employee, etc. They can film themselves, or have us do it for them.
  3. Select a movie clip that you’d like from our searchable database.
  4. Decide what you want to do at the end of the clip (journal entries or surveys).
  5. Click a button, and the entire experience comes together and is ready for deployment to a target and segmented audience.

Then, we’ll provide detailed analytics showing:

  1. The impact of the experience
  2. For how long a viewer will remember the message
  3. What it made the viewer think and fee
  4. What specific action steps they’ll take as a result of their experience

It’s great for ROI!

What’s one trend that really excites you?

IBM came out with a study which showed that to be a successful CEO going forward, the #1 attribute that you need most is creativity. The reason I love this is that if today’s leaders keep doing what they’ve always done, then the world is in big trouble. So instead they’re counting on new, fresh ideas from hungry, smart and aggressive entrepreneurs.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I started out as a financial advisor right out of college. It was a 100% commissioned job. My father was not happy at all! He said, “I paid [$X] for you to graduate from business school so you could take a job that doesn’t offer a salary or benefits?!” But I knew I could do it.

I became very proficient at seminars and cold-calling, back in the mid 80s. But the biggest things I learned were:

  1. Keep doing the things that others are unwilling to do
  2. It’s all about the “Hustle 101”
  3. Treat every client as if (s)he’s your family–assuming you like your family!!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would:

  1. Go to Hollywood
  2. Work on Wall Street
  3. Play baseball for the Boston Red Sox!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

  1. Maintain relentless follow through
  2. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you
  3. Call someone who believes in you, when you’re having a bad day or bad moment

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

For 25 years, I had a huge staff that I could delegate tasks to. I was known as, “The King of Finding the Right Person.” You know, someone who I could rely on to get something done, in the most proficient manner. My staff used to make fun of me for that. When I left, I realized that I had to do everything myself including: scanning, PowerPoints, faxing, ordering supplies, invoicing, etc. I was absolutely clueless about how to do those things. Truth be told, it one day took me more than three hours to figure out how to scan one piece of paper. I have a whole new respect for my old team!

I overcame some of the stuff by calling friends and taking notes. I begged them to teach me as if I were four years old (I got that one from the movie Philadelphia.) So, above my scanner, there are step-by-step directions about how to do use the machine. It’s too funny!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I don’t know if you’ve seen the most recent YouTube stats, but some of the highlights state:

  1. There are more than 4 million views a day
  2. In 2011, there were more than 1 trillion views
  3. More than 3 billion hours of YouTube content is watched each month

The growth of that site is astonishing. Combine those statistics with the fact that people tune you out after only 17 seconds, and you realize, quickly, that the world wants to get information in a short, entertaining and memorable manner. If you haven’t incorporated short videos into your organization, I’m afraid you’re missing the boat.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Almost every organization has an 80/20% rule, where 80% of the production is done by the top 20% of the people. But what about the rest of the people? Did you ever wonder what would happen if we could somehow motivate and inspire the other 80%, so that they gave their very best each and every day? If we could just get them to believe in themselves. If we could somehow breathe life into them to let them realize that they haven’t even come close to tapping into their true potential!

Reel Potential was built for the mass majority–the 80%! I’ve seen first-hand how ordinary people can do extraordinary things, if they had a system that helps them believe and dream again. So back to the question… I’m setting out to change the world with my business. You see, I believe that if you help people get what they want and need personally, then you’ll get their best efforts professionally!

Tell us a secret.

  1. I love Sweet Tarts and buttered popcorn.
  2. I cry at movies.
  3. Will never pass up a hot stone massage.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Facebook. I love to stay in touch with old friends who I haven’t seen in years.
  2. Email. What’s not to love about getting 200+ per day?
  3. IMDB. I love studying about movies and their details (behind the scenes/trivia/did you know?)

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Go get Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior and Inspiring Action by Rohit Bhargava. It just came out and is #1 on a number of outlets, and #7 on the NY Times best-selling list. Plus, Reel Potential is featured in Chapter two! We’re a difference-maker!

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

That’s easy…

  1. Tony Robbins. Nothing but positive stuff comes out of his mouth!
  2. OMG FACTS. I love little nuggets of fun facts and information.
  3. Ken Blanchard. He’s got great leadership tips
  4. Boston Globe Sports. It’s for the ultimate Boston sports fan like me!

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

We hosted a pool party at the house the other night. My wife has four, really close friends with whom she spends time. She always comes home in a great mood after they go out. I always wondered what they did, and I finally found out at this party, because the husbands were invited. To watch the girls bust on one another was a sight to behold. It was a total rag-fest. Classic!

Who is your hero?

At this time in my life, my real heroes are my two daughters, Amanda and Emma. One is a junior at the University of Miami and the other is a junior in high school. I’m just amazed at how they’ve grown up. I love watching them make decisions. I love watching them learn. I’ll never forget when they were kids, and I’d show them a movie clip which we’d discuss over dinner (or at least I’d try to make that happen). One of my favorites was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There’s a great scene where the dwarfs are singing, “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go.” So, at dinner, I wanted to talk to the girls about the concepts of teamwork and being positive. The reaction I got was, “Dad, you’re such a loser! The lovely things an 8- and 4-year-old say… LOL! But, it’s wonderful to watch some of those lessons come to life today. I couldn’t be more impressed than I am with my two heroes.

Why did you leave a fantastic job with a Fortune 50 company, with 25+ years of great results, to found a startup in a B2B space, especially when you were used to B2C?

I got an email one day from one of my employees. She told me that one of our messages saved her daughter’s life. Her daughter was 16 years old and addicted to drugs. She moved out of the house and was rarely seen by her family. One day, her mother, who was my employee, sent one of our clips to her daughter. It was about communication. The end result was that the message was so positive, her daughter agreed to move back home and to start seeking help. And today she’s never been happier or healthier. Talk about a “wow” moment! I thought, “If Reel Potential can make that type of impact on one person, can you imagine what it could do for the world?”

How did you negotiate the impossible with the Hollywood studios?

This was one of the biggest challenges of my career, but the honest answer is simple: through 9.5 years of begging!

Seriously, both the studios and I wanted to make something happen. We knew the concept had unlimited potential, but we needed to find a creative way to make everyone comfortable. We’ve built a great relationship and a true partnership with Hollywood. They love us being their exclusive B2B partner for clips. Together, we can do incredible things!


Scott DiGiammarino on Linkedin: Scott DiGiammarino
Reel Potential on Twitter: @reel_potential
Scott DiGiammarino on Facebook: Scott DiGiammarino
Reel Potential’s Website:
Scott DiGiammarino’s Email: [email protected]
Phone: 703-433-1226