What every B2B CEO can learn from Trevor Noah, Tony Hawk and Mad Men

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They may seem like business professionals with disparate interests, but comedian Trevor Noah, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and athlete Tony Hawk all understand what it takes to succeed as entrepreneurs.The July 30 keynote panel – dubbed “Finding your fan base” – began Day 3 at Sage Summit, in New Orleans, where B2Bnn was live to provide in-depth coverage.Moderated by Gabrielle Boko, Executive VP, global marketing, at Sage, the panel discussed a range of concerns that pertain to B2B CEOs, such as giving and taking feedback, using social media, and the keys to reaching one’s goals.

Weiner, the American writer, director and producer behind the award-winning Mad Men, encouraged entrepreneurs to listen to those they respect.

“When someone amazing gives you feedback, you don’t want to be pompous and say ‘no thanks,’” he said.

On that topic, Noah, who is taking over from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, said, “Know the difference between criticism and hating,” and attend to the criticism.

Tony Hawk at the Sage Summit in New Orleans. Photo by Dave Gordon
Tony Hawk at the Sage Summit in New Orleans. Photo by Dave Gordon

Hawk, a profession skateboarder, actor and philanthropist, chimed in: “I learned to block out the noise of the haters.”

Instead, he advocated surrounding “yourself with people you trust whose opinion you value… Not just because they’re good at their job but because they are actually in line with your ideals and with your direction… if you trust them implicitly it’s going to be exactly how you see it.”

On the topic of social media, Noah explained that it is no longer necessary to “peddle your wares” as was once the norm for stand-up comedians. Today, he said, Snapchat and YouTube have allowed more access to more fans – and advised that CEOs can utilize those same tools.

(Read the B2Bnn Snapchat primer here).

“Twitter and Facebook helps you market yourself. Your fan base can come from different pockets of space. Social media gives you a direct link to your fan base, to your customer. You might know how many people interact with you, but there’s far more out there who know about you because of social media,” said Noah.

In what many might perceive as surprising, but helpful piece of advice, Noah added that the pursuit of excellence isn’t always pragmatic or productive. “Consistency is more important than excellence. You can’t be excellent all the time but you can be consistently great.”

Additionally, when asked by Boko to offer advice to B2B CEOs, Noah replied: “Trust your hard work, years of excitement and experience” that will launch your goals.

“Give a hundred per cent, give your product a hundred per cent. Use social media as a tool to hear what your customers have to say,” added Noah.

Noah then asked Weiner whether it was more prudent to aim for the widest possible audience or niche, to which Weiner responded “the more specific, identifiable, the audience, the better.”

Weiner’s own advice to CEOs to increase their customer following? “Be your own fan, trust your risks and trust people will find you.”

As for Hawk, his pithy advice was “follow your passions, challenge yourself.”

Reportage and photo by Dave Gordon. Photo above showing Trevor Noah (left) and Mathew Weiner.

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