Have you ever been to a networking event and witnessed someone truly working the room with such ease that it left you feeling envious? How about just wishing you were better at starting up conversations with people in general?
With the right tools you can learn how to leverage the power of social dynamics and psychology and use this to gain the respect of your peers, win friends, excel at networking and maybe even get the girl of your dreams.
Jordan Harbinger started a career as a lawyer before becoming a social dynamics expert. He is the owner and co-founder of The Art of Charm, a dating and relationships coaching company and the co-host of Pickup Podcast, a relationship advice and social dynamics talk show.
(This is part one of a two part-interview).
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Rich: Hey everybody this is Rich Brooks of The Marketing Agents Podcast, and today I’m here with Jordan Harbinger. Jordan has always had an affinity for social influence, interpersonal dynamics and social engineering, helping private companies test the security of their communications systems and working with law enforcement agencies before he was even old enough to drive.
But that’s not the interesting part of his bio, at least not to me. Jordan has actually spent several years abroad in Europe in the developing world including South Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGO’s overseas, travelled through war zones and been kidnapped – twice. Which is one more time than me. No, actually, that’s two more times than me. Math throws me off.
So anyways, he’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is his ability to talk his way into and out of just about any type of situation. He is the head of Art Of Charm, a website podcast blog that is dedicated to helping ordinary guys become extraordinary gentleman. Jordan, thanks for coming on the show today.
Jordan: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it, man.
Rich: Alright, so we actually got connected through our mutual friend, Pat Flynn, who had spoken at the Agents Of Change Conference and he said that we should talk. Of course I was a little bit upset to see that you also were using the AOC acronym and probably crushing me because of that. How did AOC start? How did your Art Of Charm start as a business?
Jordan: I was a lawyer on Wall Street. Well, I actually was a in law school and I had an internship at a really cool Wall Street firm, or so I thought. Everybody was working their tail off and I remember everybody saying how their mentors were so cool, and my mentor was never there. One day I brought this girl up to my office to show off and it was 1:00 in the morning on a Saturday night and I thought it would be so cool and no one was going to be there. I walk in and all the lights are on and almost every senior level person is in their office working and I was like, “Oh my god, we’ve got to get out of here”, because I didn’t want them to tell me to stick around and work.
So I went home and the next week I asked somebody what was going on and why people were their working. He goes, “Man, we’re always there on Saturdays late, it doesn’t matter if there’s a deal or not.” He kind of explained that they bill in 6-minute increments and so our highest level of value for this firm is billing hours. And I was like, “Whoa, wait a minute, that’s a cold shower.” So it doesn’t get better as a senior level associate, that’s just what they tell you because junior level associates are not in the office at midnight on Saturday. And the partners are going to collectively not tell anyone and advertise that fact when they’re trying to recruit people into the company.
So I thought this was terrible, and I still didn’t see my mentor around. So I remember being like, “Hey, listen, my mentor is never around, what’s the deal?” And they said, “Oh Dave? He makes more money than all the partners, he’s the man.” And I though it didn’t make any sense. If everyone else is in the office at 1:00 in the morning, and Dave’s not even there at 1:00 pm on a Wednesday, how is this guy making more money than everybody else? Does he just work from home?
So Dave took me out for coffee one day and said, “Ask me anything.” So I said, “How come you’re never in the office and yet everybody said you make more money than everybody else? Do you just work from home?” And he said, “No, I really don’t care about my billable hours bonus, I bring in business for the firm, that’s mostly where I make my money.” And I said.”How the heck do you do that?” Now this is a guy from Brooklyn with a tan, so I thought maybe he was born into money, or his dad owned the firm, I didn’t know what the secret sauce was.
He explained that since he was out doing Jiu Jitsu, playing golf, doing charity events, hanging out playing squash – whatever it was – that was more important. Because if you bill $600-$800/hour as a senior lawyer, than your highest level of value for that firm is in the office, billing. However, if you can get a $1m legal deal by doing 100 hour of work – and by work I mean racquetball, charity cruise, dinners, volunteering, golf – to make a friendship with somebody who’s in a decision making position, well that’s a lot more money than you would normally bill for that hour. So it doesn’t break down quite the same as certain obvious factors, but the truth is that most people can work really hard and sacrifice their whole life for a company, but most people cannot generate business for a company. So it comes down to people skills. So that changed the way that I looked at work forever, and I decided that if I’m going to get to the top of this legal Wall Street game, I need to have my people skills rocking.
Rich: Alright, so basically you discovered that his unfair advantage is just the ability to connect with people, which then brought in the business?
Jordan: Yeah, he brought in the business. So his whole skillset was hanging out and networking business. It’s all the same to them, as long as the firm is competent. People do business with people they like and trust. So if you find somebody that’s not going to screw up a deal, choose the guy you hang out with all the time, drinking, playing golf with and doing Jiu Jitsu or whatever. If you’re an investment banker, you’re not going to go to the yellow pages to find a law firm that can handle a deal like that, you’re going to go to your boy who you know for the past couple of years.
Rich: Alright, so you discover that his charming personality is really what makes all the difference. So how did that then take you to the next stage?
Jordan: Well what I did was I started working on the networking skills that I would need at the law firm. I started to really run into a wall because I actually didn’t know what networking skills I needed to bring in business to the law firm. There’s no manual for this, really. I remember taking a class at Michigan called, Law Firms and Legal Careers, and a lot of what was in this little, tiny book had to do with networking, and it went over my head a lot. I wasn’t really interested and I didn’t really get it at that time and it sort of predated this.
So I went back and read that, and I went back and I looked at Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People, and I got somewhere. But I realized there had to be more to the story that was kind of like a secret sauce. And I started actively working on these deals and I started going out by myself to try to make networking friends and connections. Because I realized that if I just hung out with the same crowd of people in law school or work all of time, that I would never meet new people.
So I forced myself outside the comfort zone, and that’s when I really realized I had no idea how to start conversations with people and make friends.
Rich: Alright, so how did you overcome that then?
Jordan: Well, I started to do ridiculous things and split test things, like any good scientist would.
Rich: Wait, you split tested things in the real world?
Rich: Alright, I want to hear about this.
Jordan: Here’s a good example. This isn’t even a split test, this is more of a stunt, but it worked really well. I bought a kangaroo suit that didn’t have a face cover. So the whole body was kangaroo and the whole head was exposed. And I wore that to the top, fancy places that I could get into surprisingly, most places didn’t care, they just thought it was funny. And here’s the reason behind that, you can’t hide in the corner if you’re wearing a kangaroo suit.
Rich: That’s certainly true. The tail would get in the way.
Jordan: It does, you physically can’t even get into the corner because you’re getting propelled outwards with your tail. So imagine if you’re standing there in the corner, if you’re feeling a little bit of anxiety and you’re out by yourself, if you stand in the corner holding your drink up to your chest you look anxious as heck but you feel safe. If you’re out by yourself and you’re in a kangaroo suit trying to do that, people are looking at you so much, that it’s actually less awkward to start talking with people. And to be frank, people are going to start talking to you so much that you don’t have a choice but to interact.
So I did that for about a month. This was years ago. And so what I learned from that is if people can start a conversation with me, and not hiding is actually less awkward than trying to hide, then I broke myself of that habit. I was able to break myself of the “let’s hide and not be seen” habit, because I was unable to do it when I had the suit on.
Rich: So how did you get the kangaroo off your back? How did you go from having the kangaroo suit to saying, “I can do this without the kangaroo suit”? Was it a big shift when you walked out there wearing your regular clothes?
Jordan: No, it wasn’t. Less people started talking with me, but at that point I was so used to interacting with pretty much everyone that walked by me that it had become a habit. So now I was talking with pretty much everyone, and a lot of times people would chat with me and go, “Oh, you’re the guy that always used to have that kangaroo suit. What do you do?”
So I had a lot of that interest with regulars, and then since I knew a lot of the regulars, anybody who was not a regular I could easily talk to. Because it was like I was around 20 people that I knew and 5 that I didn’t. And so I felt like I kind of owned the place.
Rich: Alright, so you’re feeling confident . And we all know that confidence breeds confidence. And I could actually talk to you for hours about this, because I am literally the guy – well, right now I put on my own marketing events so I’m out in the community and am fairly well known in this small area of Portland, Maine.
Jordan: So you’re a big deal around here. Is that what you’re trying to say?
Rich: I would never, ever steal a quote from somebody else where they might hear it. But when I was growing up in highschool, I was a ghost, nobody saw me, nobody knew me. I actually would have one lunch a week where I would grab 2 packages of Peggy Lawton cookies and go sit in the boy’s room because none of my friends had the same lunch. That is how unbelievably different I was back when I was a kid to now.
And I actually learned some confidence through taking sales classes and realizing that “no” has nothing to do with you, it has to do with them. And that completely changed my outlook on life. But I’m curious now to know how you went from saying you’re going to learn some of these tricks, to realizing there was a market for this, that people would be more than happy to pay for the recipe to the secret sauce?
Jordan: I’m still sort of absorbing the “no has more to do with them”, I love that. I’ve literally never heard that, I’ve never taken a sales class in my life. I shouldn’t say that, I’ve taken really bad sales classes but never a good one where I learned something like that.
Rich: I don’t know that I actually got that from a sales class, and I know this is supposed to be your interview, but I remember when I was doing medical sales and it was kind of all around the same time where my boss said, “You’ve just got to keep making those calls, you’ve just got to go into those places.” And sure enough he was right. Ad at the same time I also remembered we shared this call with a big, cigar chomping guy and a beautiful girl walked by and he said, “Why didn’t you talk to her?” And I’m like, “What would I possibly have to say? And if I did, she was going to say no when I ask her for a date.” And he said, “You gotta go, you ask 10 girls who are above the rim for you, one of them is either going to be coming off a bad relationship or thinks you’re really cute or has poor vision, and she’s going to say yes and that’s all you need.”
Jordan: So this guy sounds like a scumbag, but he had kind of the right idea.
Rich: He was a total scumbag and it was actually a changing moment in my life because I really never had any confidence around women. I wouldn’t say that that was the tipping point, but if there was a series of tipping points, that was one of the highlights. One I obviously remember.
Jordan: I can just envision this guy that looks like Boss Hogg from Duke Of Hazzard telling you how to meet girls. But anyway, not to embarrass you on your own show. So you asked how we came to take this and turn it into something that is now a business.
Rich: Yeah, How did you know people wanted it, and how did you start to create basically a business around teaching people how to be charming?
Jordan: Its kind of random, because what I was doing was going out a ton by myself and I remember I couldn’t shut up about the networking and body language and nonverbal communication secrets that I’d been studying and then applying and finding out what worked and what didn’t. And all my friends were sick of hearing about it and I started to realize that it was more fun to talk to girls than it was to just talk to random people. Although, that wasn’t entirely true, it was 10% more fun and it started to yield a lot of results which I hadn’t expected. I didn’t think that running around and trying to figure out how to network was going to get me a bunch of dates. I just thought I was going to get a job that I liked or something.
And I did get job offers, but I also got offers for other things that were more apropo conversationally for a 24 year old guy. And so on my birthday I was out with a friend and his roommate – who I didn’t necessarily get along with, he was pretty quiet – and my friend goes, “Yeah man, you talk this big game about how you know how to network and meet people, and I don’t see anything. Let’s see this skillset in action.” So I started walking around – being a dancing monkey – and I started walking around the bar and talking with people and these really cute girls were like, “Why don’t you guys come sit with us. It’s your birthday, let us buy you drinks.” And my friends were like, “Wait a minute, what just happened?” They asked them if I knew them, because they could believe that that actually happened. Walking around and meeting women at bars was something we heard about happening and that’s why we showed up to bars, but we had never actually done it.
Jordan: So my friend thought that was amazing, and we went out every time I was home for my birthday and we did this and it was life changing for all of us. And his roommate – who is now my business partner – was like, “ Hey listen, so I’ve got some ideas on how to tweak this process and I have a lot of experience with the opposite sex.” So we started comparing notes and I started teaching him how to start conversations and network with people, and he started teaching me how humans think and persuasion skills and things like that and he was really missing that piece that I was missing.
So he and I started comparing notes and talking about his and people would either overhear our conversations or people would notice us and say, “Listen guys, you never wait in line, you never pay for drinks, I’ve seen you get free food, I’ve seen the chef come out with cookie plates after the kitchen has closed for you and the girls you’re sitting with, who are you? Do you own this place, what’s the deal?” And we just felt like Batman. Because it was like we don’t even necessarily know, but we’re doing this stuff and it’s working like crazy.
So we started deconstructing it and a lot of the guys were like, “Listen, I’ll buy you dinner, I’ll buy you guys drinks, I just want to hang out with you and see this stuff in action up close, and you tell me what you’re doing.” So every night we’d have a group of 3-4 guys that would just sort of shadow us and foot the bill. And they were like, “You guys need to write a book.” And I said, “Listen, I’m studying for the bar exam, I’m not writing a book. AJ (my business partner) is a cancer biologist, he’s not writing a book. We’re reading and writing too much already.”
So podcasting at that point was very new, and we bought some microphones and AJ read about it on some blog and we started a show, and that’s what we’ve been doing the past 8 years. Now before we get into modern day, you’re still wondering “where’s the beef?”, how are you making money, how is that possible?
Rich: Well that’s definitely part of it. I’m also interested, have you been doing the Art Of Charm podcast for 8 years?
Rich: It’s so funny because I got into podcasting at the beginning and I kind of got out of it and in the last couple years I’ve gotten back in. I think I discovered you one time because I was at the front of the iTunes store and there’s your logo as one of the featured podcasts of the week. So I was just thinking you’re some sort of overnight sensation. But you’re an overnight sensation 8 years in the making.
Jordan: Yeah. There’s been many times where some overnight sensation has gotten a feature in the display case and you’re like, “Look at this schmuck, he starts a podcast 3 months ago and it’s in the display case.” I’ve never gotten an iTunes feature and I want to punch this guy in the neck. And after I started getting iTunes features I was like, “Oh, this is great but it’s really more of an ego thing, I think we’re good on that.” It was funny because it;s like, I’ve been doing this for 7 years and I didn’t get featured and you’ve been here for 7 days and there you are, I hate you. So there was plenty of that.
But the way we actually started to monetize is eventually free food and drinks was all fine and good, but we thought, “Well wait a minute, we’re doing this podcast that’s starting to get popular, people are asking us for coaching, people are flying in to hang out with us and we’re not charging them. Why don’t we just make a nominal fee of $50-$100 an hour?” And they were paying that for skype coaching, so we did $100 for in person and $50 for skype, and we said we aren’t coaches or experts. But guys that had been to “real coaches and experts” were like, “No, no, no. You guys are delivering much more than a lot of these other poseurs are. We had “imposter syndrome”, bg time.
But at this point, we had been working on this for a year or two, and so we started to charge. And eventually we started getting high-end clients that were bankers and things, and they were like, “Listen, you guys are way too cheap. I just gave you two grand for a weekend and I turned around and made about $85,000 the month after using a large part of the skills that you guys taught me You’re way too cheap.” So we started to work on a live curriculum and we raised our prices.
We had one guy that changed the business paradigm for us – he was a magician of all things – he said, “Listen, I’m coming to New York because I want to perform in Times Square, I assume I’m going to make around $15,000 that month, I’ll give you $5,000 if I can stay with you and you guys show me some of the stuff you’re talking about on the podcast.” And I thought that sounded like a great deal, what could possibly go wrong. Well, a lot of things did, but let’s focus on the positive.
So I told this story on my show and dozens of guys said, “Wait a minute, that’s an option? I can fly out and hang out with you guys in person?” But I was a first year associate on Wall Street, I can’t hang out with you all day. So I hired coaches and we started running these programs out of my apartment on Wall Street and they were really successful. And here we are in LA doing the same thing every week, full time, full team.
Rich: Wow, so that’s a pretty amazing story about how you got all this. And the podcast seems to be – since you didn’t want to write – about how you connected with everybody. It’s a pretty amazing story, and also it seems like the podcast was the #1 way that you were using to build an audience for Art Of Charm?
Jordan: Yeah, it was. Yeah, it absolutely was. And it was something that we didn’t really see happening, we had no idea that was going to be something that built an audience. The podcast was just us, sort of being too lazy to blog. Which, nobody blogs now really, and podcasting is huge. That was just luck in a lot of ways.
- Find more information about Jordan and the Art Of Charm on his website.
- Follow Jordan on Twitter and Facebook.
- Listen to Jordan’s podcast, The Art Of Charm.
- See Rich speak at Social Media Marketing World in March.
- See Rich speak at NMX in April. (Discount code: AOCRich)