You don’t have to be a comedian to make your show fun and engaging to your audience. Today’s guest is a prime example of that. Jake Harrell, aka The Funniest Lean Guy, is a co-host of edutainment show, A Quality Podcast. In this episode, Tracy Hazzard chats with Jake to talk about how he engages with his audience and builds community within the space. It’s all about interaction. Tune in as Tracy breaks down Jake’s binge factor and what makes his show stand out.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Bringing Out The Fun And Growth To Create Quality Edutainment Show With Jake Harrell Of A Quality Podcast
I am bringing you another manufacturing guy and an interesting niche down episode but this one’s a little bit playful. That’s the word I want to use for it. We’ve got Jake Harrell here. He is the host of A Quality Podcast. He’s also known as The Funniest Lean Guy. That sounded weird. When I was given him in an introduction, I was like, “I’m going to look this up.” He said to look him up on LinkedIn in which he’s The Funniest Lean Guy. I very quickly realized as I was looking this out. I thought it was going to be some comedian or something that I was going to be interviewing here.
It turns out he’s a lean manufacturing expert and an engineer who likes to talk engineering. It’s one of those funny models of people who benefit from having this title going along with them because there are so many out there in the marketplace. He set himself apart as the funniest lean guy. Here’s what he says about himself, which was funny in and of itself so I wanted to set you up with that.
He says, “If you’re reading this, most likely, I know what you’re thinking. Some variety of the following, funniest lean guy, huh? The Lady Gaga of lean, excuse me? Let me try and share some perspective on why the brand, the man and the method exist in the first place. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I constantly look for ways to relate to people while one thing almost everybody loves is a good laugh. As I continue to churn you toward putting lean into the world, I had a crazy thought. Why not connect the two?” This is what he wrote to me.
You can see why I had to have him on the show. This is the position of someone who knows who they are. When you know who you are and you’re putting that out in the world, your podcast is going to be good. There’s got to be something for that. He does A Quality Podcast with his best buddy. It’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them. I want you to know more about it but not only that.
I wanted to let you know that he has started a podcast that is a buddy show that niche down a specific topic. That’s making all the difference as to why this show is bingeable here and not only some general talk show or buddy show that you’re vicariously looking in on it. This show has interesting things that you can learn. It has debate and discussion. It brings the funniest lean guy.
Jake, thanks for joining me. It seems our paths have crossed a couple of times. We have Rena in common, who I love, Better Call Daddy and Felipe. I didn’t know when Rena introduced us that I was going to be talking to another engineering manufacturing guy. You talk lean manufacturing and I’m very sure that we’re not going to talk lean manufacturing on this show but I love that that’s the impetus for the conversation in your show. What made you and your cohost John start the show?
He is my BFF and in another life, I would have married him but that’s not how life worked out. My wife told me no. In 2019, he moved halfway across the country. On the last day, he was here and showed up at my house with one of those little stands you could put your phone on. He’s like, “We’re going to record right on your couch and this is going to be our excuse to stay in touch.”
Ever since then, we’ve used it for exactly that. It’s more about us and who we bring on. Sometimes, you’ll hear us attacking each other, having more fun, back and forth and even we’d bring home. It was a great way for us to act like we were at a bar, getting to know people casually but on camera for the world.
That’s such a great personal reason but you’re still putting great information and interesting things out in the world.
I find some way to weave both in. I call it edutainment. We want you to learn something but still laugh the whole way.
You’re known as The Funniest Lean Guy, which is pretty interesting. I’m looking that up on YouTube and you end up with some odd combinations of things. Let me tell you. It takes a little while to find you but when I typed that into LinkedIn, there’s no problem. I found it and you’re all set there but on YouTube, not so much. It’s a little dicey out there.
YouTube is pretty fresh for us. I didn’t know what I was doing on LinkedIn. It happened to blow up and go that route but lean is very serious and I’m very not in most of my content. I’m slowly taking over that world once in a while.
In case the audience doesn’t know, let’s at least define lean manufacturing.You learn public speaking by doing it really terribly first. Click To Tweet
I forget your audience isn’t full of industrial engineers.
It’s not. I have a bit of an industrial design background so it’s not like it’s a term I haven’t heard before. I worked for Malcolm Baldrige’s award-winning companies so we’ve been through six Sigma but it’s all of that gobbledygook that I was talking with Felipe, our engineering guy. He was throwing out three-letter acronyms left and right. Define lean for us.
Lean is a set of tools, topics and philosophies that act as a cohesive approach to how you can engage all stakeholders within a business. That’s your customers, employees and board all at once. It’s focusing on growing that pie rather than taking a bigger slice of that pie for yourself. You are trying to engineer a win-win-win environment. Ironically, I met Felipe and we were also BFFs if you weren’t aware.
I wasn’t aware of that because we were introduced differently.
Every handful of weeks, we’re on LinkedIn Live. Our relationship started with us starting a chat on LinkedIn and arguing with one another about a couple of these TLAs. We have opposite views like, “This is not how this works.” We decided to do the nerdiest thing and that was to hold a debate on LinkedIn Live. We did the debates and while doing it, we had more fun riffing off of it together and on camera than we even did on pursuing our point.
We’ve managed to find a middle ground and a place we could agree. That’s part of a series we call Change Makers in which we pick highly debated topics. We make it fun. We’ll attack one another like, “Your hair looks dumb.” We’ll then dive into who agrees with what and who disagrees and get the audience engaged. It’s a lot of fun.
You’ve been doing a lot of lives. I want to dive into that. Are you doing A Quality Podcast Live or something different when you do it like the Change Makers Live?
We did the Change Maker Live for about six episodes thus far. Prior to that, I was a little all over the place because I was just joining the live world. I bring on notable people like Mark Graban, Bob Emiliani and anybody who’s dumb enough to say yes to old Jake. We’ll do a LinkedIn live about what they want the focus to be because I got a pretty good audience reach in the space and learn PDCA as we move forward. That is live-only. In our A Quality Podcast, we record one every week and it’s fully edited. It takes away all the offensive stuff I say that’s not allowed to make it out in the camera.
What have you learned doing the lives versus the recording?
The number one lesson if I was only going to pick one is I constantly get asked, “Where did you learn public speaking?” If you want to know where I learned that, it’s by doing it here 100 times. We hopped on before you hit record like, “You need to change that setting on your mic.” Immediately, it’s the first thing. There’s something I can learn, get better, adjust and figure out. If you hear the first one, I’m talking like a mouthful. That part of me was like, “I want to delete it,” but the other part is like, “No, I want people to have the courage to hit that record button, get their stuff out in our world and figure out PDCA from there. Until one day, we can all be the Tracy Hazzards of the world.”
Continuous improvement is a part of your model of business.
It’s a great way to leave all your mistakes on the table.
You’re like, “I’m going to give myself permission to continually improve,” instead of having to be perfect from day one. Your audience is forgiving. That’s the great part about it. If they find you and they start listening, they’ll keep going for a while. If it doesn’t improve, they get upset. They send you messages. Have you started getting reach out from your audience?
I do all the time. You can find me on other podcasts more so than you can find ours. On every one of them somebody said, “You should do this and consider this. Buy these lights and this thing in the background.” I don’t know what I’m doing. I know I don’t look like it at all but I am a Hillbilly Country Boy from the middle of nowhere. I don’t own a camera before this. Everything I can learn is great.
It’s working out for you. Your camera is great. For those of you who are reading, he’s got a great camera going on. We’ve got a clear picture here, which is good for you. It’s even good for LinkedIn Live. What have you learned from LinkedIn Lives though? You’re headed into that 10,000-follower mark, which is a big deal. A lot of people get stuck around 5,000. That’s their thing. That next level of 10,000 is hard to achieve. What do you think you’ve been doing that’s working for you there?
It’s going to come as a surprise to people who are sitting at home but you have to put in a lot of effort. It’s not like, “I said the right funny thing and there are 10,000 people following me.” It takes effort. Three-phase approach, I engage with everybody on my feed. I’m constantly cleaning up my feed. If you don’t podcast or lean, then I’m not going to meet you because that’s what my two groups are. If you are in that group, I’m going to engage with everything you do and get notified. LinkedIn tells me when you put out what you do. I’m going to do whatever I can to create value for you because if I do that, you’re not going to hesitate to create value for me.Why would I care if I’ve got 10,000 people that don’t engage with what we do? Click To Tweet
I love that you’re engaging and focusing on that audience. Too often, people want to hit that 10,000 mark and not discern at all.
I want my people. Why would I care if I’ve got 10,000 people that don’t engage with what we do? It’s done well as nerdy. If you look at my stats, it’s relatively small on the podcast. We probably have 100 people that consistently engage with everything. Everyone who’s come on the show is in this tight circle where we text each other outside of LinkedIn or DM, “What are your thoughts about this?” We’ll jump into different things. I have a nice little community growing with nerdy people who also want to laugh.
You were a novice over on YouTube but you’ve been posting everything over to YouTube. What have you found so difficult over there to navigate?
There’s a little bit of an impasse where I started LinkedIn undeliverable. I’m not trying to hit 10,000 and get 1 million people to see me and sell my business. None of that. I got to be funny in myself from the get-go and build people that wanted to know Jake, be around Jake or me be around them. On YouTube when we flipped over to that, we weren’t reaching out to anybody. We recorded because it’s something we enjoy.
We didn’t care if one person didn’t see. Who cares? It was my hour with John for me to do whatever we were going to do. Sometimes I’ll attack him for his clothing, I’ll call him old or whatever the argument ends up being about. It was for us more than it was for the world. As it’s gone, we’re like, “This does need to be a thing for our world. We need to change our approach a little bit and put a little more effort into that outreach.”
The reality is that you’re right. You made that distinction over there. YouTube is all about selling something, whether it’s influenced, hawking the products or making money off of ads. If you’re not selling something, it’s hard to be over on YouTube. It doesn’t have that same nurturing community environment. It’s not so easy to get commenting going and engagement happening. People more passively watch on YouTube instead. Hopefully, people are going to find your show and come listen to the podcast or come find you on LinkedIn from it so at least there’s that.
One person on earth that’s waiting off is like, “Where can I get a funny guy that’s also talking about engineering?” They’re going to stumble across me and we’re going to be in our nice tight little community. I’m okay with that.
It’s going to get you some speaking engagements. It works for Felipe all the time. He’s always making them.
We do end up booking quite a bit of, “I’ll go speak for a class, do a team building, do something motivational or go have fun.” I got into almost as much comedy stuff, which I wasn’t focused on comedy. I was only trying to make the engineering stuff less boring than it is. That’s why we did what we did. It’s worked both ways so I’m not going to complain.
Let’s talk a little bit about the things that we always talk about and that is engaging, getting audience and all of these three questions that I ask everybody. The first thing is about great guests. You have some interesting guests that nobody has ever heard of outside of the lean world. Within your world, I’m assuming, they’re at least somewhat recognizable topics that they’re talking about. How do you choose a guest and bring guests on? Are you doing that or is John doing the heavy lifting?
That is a fun part about our tiny little community. We don’t do a whole lot of outreach. The inbound lead is more than sufficient for the people. The weird three-layered small segment of lean people who want to talk, funny, consulting or some such is a small niche for me but they managed to find me. We’ve got the next days booked with people we’re going to either bring back or bring on.
I’ve got a relationship with about the biggest players in the space. Our most hard-hitting episode is of late Mark Graban. You may or may not know that gentleman but he is the biggest name in healthcare continuous improvement in the country. Who does not get bigger than Mark Graban? He is somebody I’ve looked up to for a decade and I managed to get him on the show. I fanboyed the entire episode but you couldn’t tell that I was up to it if you ever give it a listen.
That’s so much fun that you’re getting to find a guest that you would want to hear from and you want to ask questions of because it makes more engaging content at the end of the day. From that though, you have to be thinking about increasing the audience in some way, shape or form. You have a tribe but you still want a bigger one. How do you do that? Do you do any outreach? Do you ask your audience?
I’m very grateful that my LinkedIn reach has grown. My run rate for 2022 is 1.5 million impressions. There are going to be people that see me on LinkedIn and interact. I make it a point that once a day, I hop on LinkedIn, looked by lean six Sigma and the new people I haven’t connected with, I try to connect with five in many ways. It’s personal outreach like, “How are you doing? Here’s what I’m up to. I love to have you in the circle.” When I post, I make sure I add all the value I can to everybody that engages and interacts.
I scroll through my feed. Say I got 100 comments in 1 day, I’ll make it a point and go comment at least 100 times on people’s stuff. I’ll scroll through and whether it’s 30 minutes or 2 hours depending on how good my stuff did, I’m going to give that much back to the community or more to let me interact with what you’re doing.
Since my brand is funny and very specific, people are generally out there posting meaningful things about a said topic. I’ll take exactly what they’re posting about like agreeing with their principal and direction but make it funny, work it into a post and include them. People love that level of thoughtfulness put into what it is we’re doing and it’s been great.People love that level of thoughtfulness put into what it is you’re doing. Click To Tweet
This is such a good point that you point out. I want the audience to know this. What you’re saying is that you’re consistently posting on LinkedIn daily, which makes a difference right there. That’s a part of a formula. It’s no different than what I say here on podcasting that if you’re consistent and constant about it, you’re going to be better off. That’s working for you.
You then have the engagement piece. First off, you have an engaged audience who’s already making comments, to begin with, which is important. If you have an audience that is not that engaged or doesn’t care, then they’re not going to comment. You have nothing to work with. You’ve got something to work with but then you’re working it.
By commenting back and forth, liking it and resharing this information, you’re creating the exact environment that LinkedIn wants to reward. That’s why you’re hitting that 1.5 million impressions. You’re getting that because you’re doing exactly what LinkedIn wants you to do. You’re staying within the platform and following all the steps of the things that they love because it creates a better LinkedIn environment, an environment for you and those followers and audience for you. You built that win-win-win right in the LinkedIn process already.
I can’t reiterate enough for the audience that on the outbound side, reach out to people you don’t know. Be consistent and diligent with that. The only way you’re ever going to expand beyond your inner circle is if you interact with people you don’t know. If you spent your life interacting with people you know, you wouldn’t be where you are.
You get to have your cohost best friend and then go explore everybody else. I love it.
If I’m drunk on video, shooting or saying something I shouldn’t, I get to be me. I don’t have to have a brand that’s me posturing something that I’m not or wearing a suit and acting fancy on LinkedIn. I get to be me, which is the coolest part of all of it.
The last question that I usually ask everybody on this piece of it is about monetization. You aren’t doing the show for that purpose but it sounds to me that some things have come your way like speaking engagements and other things. It sounds to me that monetization comes to you anyway.
I started with picking an agenda for 2022. I was like, “I do need an agenda and don’t spuriously go into the world.” Mine is, “I want you to Google Jake Harrell Lean,” and the entire first page is me. I don’t care if it’s an episode or if it’s me speaking at another thing. That was my goal for 2022. That’s what I’ve set out to do one way or another. I don’t care if it was paid or unpaid. The world is going to know Jake one way or the other.
What are you going to do with that?
That’s going to be the 2023 topic, how do I capitalize on that appropriately?
Here’s the thing. I usually analyze everyone’s binge factor at some point in the show. I’m going to do yours and John’s because it’s John’s show too, A Quality Podcast. Here’s the thing that’s so different about your show, which is what creates that bingeable factor for you. The topic is not something you necessarily think you’re going to want to listen to for 1 hour but because you have the interplay of the 3 of you, your guests and the 2 of you going on, you feel like you’re in mid-conversation.
You’re getting let in into the inside jokes and still laughing even though you don’t feel like you’re that outsider in the inside joke world. You bring the funny to it. I don’t know if you’re as conscious of it as the effect of it but you are bringing in your audience. You don’t say that out to them. You feel like you’re talking within the conversation but somewhere, you’re conscious of the fact that someone’s listening. You bring them into the fold, on the joke and the topic. That round of bringing them in makes them want to come back for more because they feel like they belong.
That’s the dream there. Thank you very much for saying that out loud.
There are so many things about podcasting that people find daunting. You’ve got an engineering background. I don’t think too much of it. It could have been overwhelming but was there any part of it that made you feel daunted or uncomfortable?
The best part of all of it is the uncomfortable zone. I’m not doing any of the editing, the posting or the management. With some of the key things that we need to PDCA around, my best friend, cohost John Thacker is doing all of that. It’s hard to have something that I’m a part of that I don’t touch, feel, micromanage and beat to death with what I want to do.
How come you’re not job splitting here?Just hit record. You can’t get past those until you actually do it. Click To Tweet
You don’t say that out loud. John is going to read this. I’m very grateful.
John’s like, “I’m happy to hand over the work.” Jake’s like, “No, I’m good.” I love it. That’s so true. You do have to let go of it when you’re not responsible for it. I have a whole editing team because that’s what Podetize is, a whole editing company. At some point, I had to let go but there are some things that you don’t want to let go of. What don’t you want to let go of? What do you want to make sure that you’re always a part of?
My favorite part of every weekend is we have a post-show phone call where we’ll talk about 100 things. There’s always something I feel. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the audience has a different opinion. It was either too dry or I ramble on too long and I’m like, “Cut that minute out of there.” Every time we get on a call, there’s one of them and I know exactly where it is. I’m like, “Get rid of this. Get this out of here.” I don’t know that if somebody else was editing the show, they would necessarily catch what I don’t like about myself in the way that I talk, present or what I went over.
That’s so true. I have all these clients. If they listened to their show, they’ve cut way more than our editors do because you can’t know if this is important or not. It’s you being you and it’s part of the charm of the show. We’re our hardest editors. Probably, we’re too big a critic of our stuff that our audience probably likes. We don’t know.
In 2020, I was nowhere on LinkedIn. I have a couple of hundred followers before I took off doing what I was doing. I had two of my biggest problems. I was afraid to project what I thought because of fear of retribution. Number two, I still generally hate being on camera. I said, “Jake has got to get out of his comfort zone. He’s got to get uncomfortable if he wants a chance to do any of this.” I put myself on camera every stinking week for the last years to get it out there.
I love that John came up with this idea. You’ve thrown out an acronym multiple times, PDCA. What does that mean? I’m going to get my audience to say, “Define this for me.”
Plan Do Check Act. It’s the basic scientific process.
I’m assuming that you had a plan that you do check and act on every time you sit down to record. Do you have a protocol that you do or a checklist system? Do you like, “We’re winging it and going all for it?”
When you book the show through the Calendly link, you get a couple of questions. What’s the central theme? Is there anything you want to promote? That’s pretty much it. When we connect before we hit record, we tell you it’s fully edited. You fart, burp, laugh and say something you don’t want out in the world. Let us know so we can remove it. We hit record and make it a regular conversation. Some of them suck. Some of them are great. All of them have me in it. Take it as you will.
What advice do you have for other people out there who are sitting on the fence scale, not getting off of it and starting their podcast?
Hit record. If you think that it’s too bad or the quality is not going to be there, I encourage you to read my first episode. It’s my chunky butt on my couch at home. There’s nothing special about anything. I’m way too nervous and not myself. I’m like, “One of the things we’re talking about here is.” Something I would never do in my living room. Hit record because you can’t get past those until you do it.
Thank you so much, Jake. I appreciate you coming to the show. I look forward to checking out everything that you have on LinkedIn because I need to go deeper dive into it. I found you on LinkedIn and we’ve been connected since. I got to dive deeper into what you’re doing over there. I’m going to check that out. Is there any place else that we should check you out besides YouTube and LinkedIn?
If you click on my LinkedIn, I share a social media link from Linktree that’s got everything I do, touch, feel and I’m a part of.
What I’m going to recommend to the audience here is to do Jake a favor. Google him first, Jake Harrell Lean, instead of clicking through the link. Let’s see what happens and how he’s doing. Let’s check on him because you never know when people might be reading this episode. It could be years from now so let’s see if he achieved his goal.
There’s a singer whose name is Jacob Harrell. He’s a rap artist. When you search Jake Harrel, you get him. I’m not going to be a rap artist anytime soon but it’s going to happen. I have to do it at some point.
That is so funny that you say that because there’s another Tracy Hazzard with two Zs like me and I beat her on Spotify. You do enough episodes of podcasts and you’ll beat them even where they should play. You think you should never be the rap artist on Spotify but once you do, you know you made it. Jacob Harrell, watch out. Jake, thank you so much for joining us. A Quality Podcast airs every week with Jake Harrell and John Thacker. It is an interesting show if you’re interested in lean manufacturing but it is a more interesting show to go check out the dynamic of how things work over there.
Thank you very much for that.
I told you it was going to be fun and funny. We had a lot of energy. You can see how exciting Jake is and how much it goes to play with how he’s able to connect and communicate with about anyone. Whether you’re seeing them engage on his show with his cohost, you’re having them engage here with me as a guest on my show or he’s engaging on LinkedIn in the commenting and his LinkedIn Live, he’s engaging with people.
While he’s doing that in a fun and funny way, it’s not out of reach for all of you too. We don’t have to be stand-up comedians to have fun and that’s a big difference. I want you to learn from that. Go check out A Quality Podcast and see how it is. Listen to some of the more recent episodes because they’re a little rough in the beginning. If you want to see that contrast of growth, check out one of his first shows and then one of the ends. See that contrast between how he’s going. I love the growth model and that he was so eager to learn. Not only that but before the interview, we were getting his microphone dialed in and he’s an engineer.
It’s because his environment wasn’t ideal for the microphone type that he had. We were trying to remove some more echoes from the environment. Afterwards, we were talking about some things that they might do better on their show. Being open to that learning is what’s approaching here in my show and approaching podcasting as a continual learning and continuous improvement process, which Jake knows well because that’s what lean manufacturing is all about, continuous improvement, continually changing, collaboration and making all of those things work.
When he’s collaborating with me and improving his show, it’s going to benefit more people as it goes forward. That’s what I want for you here. Be open. Come try and audit. Go and get your podcast audited through our system. It’s Podetize.com/Audit. It’s super easy. Go to Podetize and get an audit of your show but come here and be open to the ideas that you’re knowing on each show.
How might you change things? What might you fix and adjust that is going to make your show that much better? Don’t take it on all at once. Don’t take it as criticism and critique of where you are. Take it as input. When you take it as input and you roll it into something you’re going to improve on, you’re going to be improving yourself, improving your show and making a win-win-win for everyone involved as what Jake Harrell recommends in A Quality Podcast.
Thanks for reading and taking Jake’s ideas and his advice. I love that you’re showing up because I can see it. We are getting you as a binge audience. I appreciate that. If there’s anything we can do for you, any topic we can cover or any type of episode we haven’t reached out to yet, reach out to us and let us know. Engage with us anywhere you would like to like on social media, our rate and review or our website. Go anywhere because you can reach us in all of those places. TheBingeFactor.com is especially where you can find all those places.
Reach out to us and let us know what you’re looking for because I want to be here for you and make this the biggest win for you and your show possible. If you don’t have a show yet, get going. Get recording. I’m looking forward to seeing you on the podcast listings in the future. I’ll be back next time with another podcaster for us to learn from.
- A Quality Podcast
- LinkedIn – Jake Harrell
- YouTube – A Quality Podcast
- Felipe Engineer – Past Episode
- Mark Graban – Past Episode on A Quality Podcast
- Bob Emiliani – Past Episode on A Quality Podcast
- John Thacker
- First Episode – Past Episode on A Quality Podcast
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