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Gair is an inspiring figure. He makes you want to get up and achieve something. As good a speaker as I’ve ever heard.
Gene Simmons, founder of KISS
You’ve heard the expression: When one door slams in your face, another door swings wide open? That certainly rings true for Gair Maxwell, a Canadian who had a thriving career as a broadcast journalist, only to have those opportunities abruptly slam shut, leaving Maxwell jobless, directionless and humiliated while standing in the unemployment line.
Scott Fitzgerald once proclaimed: “There are no second acts in American lives,” which might be true, but Maxwell is Canadian and he rebounded from that abrupt career closure by turning himself into a sought-after, global branding expert.
International keynote speaker and author Gair Maxwell is a recognized authority on helping organizations create iconic, “larger-than-life” brands that attract legions of customers and top talent.
Gair has presented his business strategies in over 33 U.S. states, 10 Canadian provinces, the UK, Europe, Mexico, and Latin America; revealing his unconventional, yet compelling business strategies.
His many accomplishments, rewards, and accolades include:
- “Speaker of the Year” Award by TEC Canada in 2012
- Over 400 presentations with Vistage International – the world’s largest CEO Peer Advisory Group
- Author of “NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS”, available through Amazon.com
- Associate Faculty at the world-famous Wizard Academy in Austin, TX
Delivering 80-90 presentations every year with global representation from speaker bureaus in Canada, Mexico, and Los Angeles, Gair has worked with some of the world’s most dynamic organizations, including: The Apple Specialist Marketing Group, Caterpillar, NAPA, Vistage, TEC, and Virginia Tech. Gair has shared conference stages with some of the biggest business icons such as Sir Richard Branson and Gene Simmons.
Gair’s focus is helping organizations create naturally magnetic brands that attract legions of customers and top talent – without having to use any “pushy” sales or marketing tactics.
In December of 2018, Gair kindly agreed to answer probing questions posed by Tera Nester-Jenkins.
With helping organizations create iconic, “larger-than-life” brands who would you say is your ideal audience?
Well, my ideal audience is anyone who’s dead serious about punching way above their weight class no matter what category they’re competing in.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with thousands and thousands of business owners, small to medium-sized companies, bigger corporations, and even small mom and pop operations. If there is one commonality, one driving force, is this expressed intent to create differentiation. My audience is anyone who actually recognizes the value in creating differentiation but also sees there might be a process involved in actually standing and out being separate and apart from everyone else.
After someone has attended one of your keynote speaking events or workshops what is the one thing you hope they walk away with?
I hope they walk away with that they can ditch six-plus decades of product focused, pitch driven, boilerplate marketing. They don’t have to do things the way things have been done before…
I always like to say the worst day in any business owner’s life in the 20th century was the day the Yellow Pages guy showed up. Why? Because you knew deep down the Yellow Pages guy had you. He had you locked in a corner – you were in the biggest headlock you can imagine. There was no escape. And the only question from that meeting that happened every year like clockwork wasn’t whether you were going to cut a check but the size of your check that the Yellow Pages dude was walking away with.
We live in a whole new world now where there are no gatekeepers, there are no king makers. We have platforms and technologies that allow us to build brands and connect with whoever we want all over the world. People who share similar interests and similar values and that never was possible in the 20th century.
It was dominated by the media industrial complex. I know this very well. I worked inside it for 20 years as a broadcast journalist and so what we have now is this unfettered freedom, if you will, to be our own media and create a brand online and off that defy what no one could have even dreamt about back in the last century.
What inspires you to inspire others?
There’s a story I can date back to May 21, 1999. Picture this terror. I’ve got a two-decade career in a high profile position as the guy on the morning show. I’ve got my own TV show. I am a newscaster. I’m a sportscaster. I did over a thousand games of pro hockey play by play. I was known in my part of Eastern Canada as a prominent public figure. I was the kind of guy who got phone calls returned and VIP country club memberships for free. And then on May 20, that career is terminated in two sentences on company letterhead: I had 15 minutes to gather my stuff, leave the building.
Within a week. I was broke, busted, no severance, on the unemployment line. News of the dismissal was plastered on the front page of the only paper in town.
I share that because I think everyone’s got their rock bottom story – their version of the rock bottom story. And to me, the rock bottom story is universally applicable.
But the bigger question is always: what happens next? How do you bounce back? For me, I had no way of knowing it at the time, but I fell into the world of soft skills, business training and it took several years before I met the one person, the one company, the one CEO who was going to fundamentally alter the entire course of my professional career and even a part of life.
Because he was the guy who was willing to engage in doing something that not everyone was going to do. And it’s a real national success story – one of Canada’s greatest small business success stories. It still continues to flourish and so: right place, right time.
I’ve been very privileged to see one of my great friends totally redefined as business category, by creating massive differentiation through the power of story.
I’m the guy who came from the unemployment line and I’ve been involved in stories like Canada’s “Huggable Car Dealer” – I transcend what everyone thinks about with respect to marketing and branding and creating differentiation.
What can I say? It’s been unbelievable experience knowing how much the power of a great story can open doors, opportunities. That is what inspires me to share with others.
You have been on top and have been considered an International Keynote Speaker & Author for more than 10 years. What do you feel is the secret to your evolving success?
Oh, I love that question. That’s a great question because I think the secret – whether for me or anyone – is how do you fuse that which is timeless to that, which is timely.
“How do you create longevity and sustainability – a long-term brand strategy and a long-term vision in a short-term world?”
We are creatures of habit. And the biggest habit of them all started about 400,000 years ago. There is a researcher from the University of Utah named Polly Wiessner who figured out when storytelling went mainstream. Dr. Wiessner researched ancient hunter gatherer societies that have not changed. She’s spent time in the jungles of Botswana and Congo and New Guinea, observing societies that escaped all forms of modernism.
Think about hunter/gatherer societies. What did they do before fire went mainstream? They all went back to the cave. Their day was done. So when fire went mainstream – not when it was invented but when it went mainstream -that’s when storytelling, rituals, dance began – all those things that people love to do to entertain themselves. That’s when it really started to happen.
So think about 400,000 years ago – our ancestors gathered around campfires and engaged in and enjoyed storytelling. And now 400,000 years later we sit around at night and we binge-watch Netflix. Which leads me to believe that no matter how much technology changes there will always be the innate, powerful urge for humans to enjoy each other’s stories. That will never change.
You have done more than 400 presentations with Vistage International – the world’s largest CEO Peer Advisory Group – The say your presentations are packed with real-life stories and benefit from decades of “in-the-trenches” business experience – Can you briefly share one of those real-life stories and benefits?
The greatest story is my signature story that I referred to briefly: It’s the story of the guy who was in the worst business category in the world when it comes to public perception. Nothing slides down the greasy totem pole of credibility further than the used car lot. Just the way it is. No one dreams about working at a used car lot. No one wants their kids or grandkids to work at a used car lot. And yet the guy I met in 2002 when he only had five employees when he was only doing about one and a half million a year in annual sales. Well, that guy now stands on a single location that’s five and a half acres. Employs 38 people and in 2017 they did $42 million dollars in business.
A flashpoint is when we changed the story in September of 2006 and he became known as “Canada’s huggable car dealer.” And the best way to describe it is if Walt Disney imagined a used car lot, this is what it would look like. So at Jim Gilbert’s, there were hundreds of teddy bears. He’s got the mascots, he’s got the merry go round out front. He’s got the nature trail to go walk your dog. There’s the children’s book that’s been written. I could go on and on and on with all of the different things that Jim at Dawna Gilbert did to bring the story to life. Well, over time it went from telling the story to actually living it.
It’s not just a story about creating differentiation – significance. It’s a story about reinventing what’s possible. It’s a story about stretching one’s imagination. More importantly, it’s a story that speaks to the power of when you actually know who you are beyond the products and services you sell.
So, I hear that you have a new book in the works! Do you care to give us a sneak peek, maybe share the title and brief description about your book?
It’s called Big Little Legends. How everyday people build irresistible brands. We are finalizing the manuscript so I don’t want to be premature with it or anything like that. What we’re doing is making the connection between the lineups: Lineups for Apple, lineups for Disney, lineups to go see the Mona Lisa, right? Well, what do those lineups have in common with the lineups of a certain fish market in Seattle or a certain coffee shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans or the lineups of a certain hamburger stand on a northern Ontario highway. What Big Little Legends is about is explaining why you don’t have to be a huge company with massive marketing budgets to have a huge impact with your brand.
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Tera Jenkins is a Best Selling Author, host of Business Innovators Radio and contributor to Small Business Trendsetters and Business Innovators Magazine covering Influencers, Innovators and Trendsetters in Business, Health, Finance, and Personal Development.