178: Build Your Business on LinkedIn with Seth Farbman

Seth Farbman is the Chairman and President of VStock Transfer, a stock transfer agent providing best-in-class services combined with a cost-savings structure and personalized customer service. We discuss the fastest way to build your business on LinkedIn, the role of a stock transfer agency, and why you must understand your customer’s needs to be successful in business. 

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Build Your Business on LinkedIn with Seth Farbman

Our guest is Seth Farbman, the chairman and president of V-Stock Transfer, a stock transfer agent providing a unique combination of 24-7 online access and proactive, energetic and personalized customer service. Seth, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Steve. It is a pleasure to be here and I appreciate you having me.

Great to have you here. You have an interesting and quite unique business, that at least on this show we have not come across. So I’m very curious about several things, but let’s start with your entrepreneurial journey, including your three exits and starting your companies with the V and stuff like that. So share with us, how did you get here?

I guess it’s been a journey. I feel like I just started yesterday sometimes and I hope we have a long way to go, but it has been a journey over 20, 25 years. I started off as a, as a securities attorney and really sort of always, I wouldn’t say always, not since a young child, but certainly at a law school, had a bug, or the DNA for business, for entrepreneurship. And a couple years at a law school, I had my own firm, but the first business venture was called Vintage Filings. And Steve, what that was, an SEC Edgar filing company, and the great story where I slept on my couch for six months and I ate pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but that was in 02, and between 02 and 07, we were able to grow it to about 4,000 public companies and had our first exit, sold the company to PR Newswire.

I had tried some other different outside of public company work that didn’t end so well. So not every story is golden. And one was in the weight loss business, one was in the apparel business, I lost my shirt. And I ended up going back to the corporate compliance world and had a company called V Corp, which we sold to a Walters Klor after a few years and a company called Vcheck Global, which was backgrounds and due diligence, which we sold to a private equity firm called Sunstone Private Equity a couple years ago. So all that really is a segue to my main gig now is I run V Stock Transfer and we are a stock transfer agency. We work with about 800 publicly traded companies listed on NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange, OTC Markets. And that’s sort of where I am today and the role that I sit in.

That’s fantastic. So let’s switch gears here and talk about the framework that you bring into the show. And you called it the lose the argument, but win the deal, or lose the argument and win the deal framework. Can you explain to me what that means and how do you actually win the deal when you lose the argument?

Yeah, I mean, I think we started speaking about that where you reach a certain point, whether it’s in business or in sales, and I can’t say that it’s the philosophy of everyone, but at some point, I just decided that I don’t want to be that type of business person who is twisting arms, who’s being uber aggressive, and who is just forcing my solution down the throat of somebody whether they need it or not. And I’m not looking to argue with someone. So my philosophy is I’m going to present the value that I bring to the table, the services that we offer, how I think that I could help you for what you’re trying to accomplish, and if you recognize that and we can continue the conversation, that would be great, but I just, I don’t want to spend the time and the effort trying to convince you of something that you may not ever recognize that you need or want. So that’s sort of the philosophy behind it.

Don't spend time and effort trying to convince someone of something that they may not ever recognize that they need or want. Click To Tweet

And you also had kind of a process, so we talked about this idea that you need to understand the need of the other person and to consider the fate of your product that you have and how you craft some relevant stories to be of the desire in the listener. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Sure, you know, I learned that lesson by chance probably about 16, 17 years ago now. I ended up at an Inc. 5000, so they had several of the companies that joined, and I heard a presentation from Tony Hsieh. So for those of you that don’t know, he was the CEO of Zappos, and he was obsessed with customer service. But the thing that I took away from that presentation was he had this line about the definition of happiness, and happiness And happiness means different things to different people. So from my perspective, if I’m speaking to a client or a prospect, I wanna listen, what is their definition of happiness? So if I’m speaking to the CEO of a publicly traded company, his definition of happiness may be, how are you gonna help me grow the business? But the general counsel, his definition of happiness is, are you going to help keep me safe and compliant and under the guise of a regulation? And yet again, when I speak to the CFO, he may not care about the compliance so much, he’ll be like, okay, my definition of happiness is are you saving me money? So you have to listen to what is it that’s going to make each person happy, and then, I don’t want to say craft your story, because it sounds like you’re making it up, but present your story so that you are going to fit into their definition of happiness. And that’s really what I’ve tried to do, and I try to listen to the needs of the clients and prospects and people that we work with.

Listen to what is it that's going to make each person happy Click To Tweet

That makes perfect sense, and you see so many people who have a product, and they believe in their product, and they focus on how great it is and they just want to transmit this enchantment that they have about this product. But if that is not something that the customer needs or they think of their problem from a different angle that you’re not describing, then it’s going to find a deaf ear. So just to elaborate on that.

It’s a good point, Steve. Meaning, I’m not saying to just get in, get out, and not try to advocate for yourself or explain the value. For example, one of the other things that I am very focused on is LinkedIn because I think it’s an amazing tool both for businesses and public companies. So if I’m speaking to a CEO and his original thought process is, oh, I have no need for that, you could just walk away or you can present the situation and explain why for a public company to be on LinkedIn and present their ticker symbol and their mission statement. As long as you’re presenting the value, explain why they need a transfer agent, why they need this widget, why they need this gadget, explain that in a way that they’re gonna appreciate it. I think that will create a bond for a relationship and then that’s how businesses get done.

You need to build the trust and then people will be more inclined to do business with you, right? I also read this quote some time ago that actually I heard Dan Kennedy, who is a small business guru, he’s still around, he’s getting a little bit less active now, but he used to say that if I am 100% convinced that you will benefit from my product, there’s a 100% chance that I can sell it to you because I just transmit this conviction to you.

And to the degree that I’m not 100% convinced, there’s gonna be a commensurately lower chance of me being able to sell you on this. So people actually feel your conviction, your belief in what you have, and it’s gonna be very attractive to them because it’s authentic. All right, so let’s talk about your business, V Stock Transfer. So what the heck is a stock transfer agency? I’ve never heard of one and why do we need one? Do we not get the shares in our account?

Yeah, I’m going to make you feel better, Steve, because you’re not alone. It’s the kind of business that unless you’re running a public company or you’re active in the capital markets, you wouldn’t know or want to know what it is. But for those people who are investors in the public markets, we play an interesting role. On the one hand, we’re the low guys on the totem pole, right, I mean, you’ve got the investment bankers and you’ve got the lawyers and they get all the fame and the glory versus a transfer agent. However, a transfer agent, our main role is to handle the stock registry.

And so we are that window between the shareholders and the company. So first of all, it’s nice that it’s required under regulation so that’s a step in the right direction for me but the real value the way I look at it is that we have two clients to take care of. One is the company itself so the CEO, the board of directors, the management team and they say jump we say how high because we have to process their requests but we also have the shareholder so the average shareholder who calls up, we have a staff of about 40 people here in the office, the average layman who calls up and says, I lost my stock certificate, or I wanna break up my stocks to my 15 grandkids.

All that day-to-day security activity is done by a trans-agent, and that’s what we do. I will point out, and you raise a very insightful distinction between electronic certificates and physical certificates. So, surprisingly in today’s modern technology age, we still issue a tremendous number of physical certificates. I think we’re the largest user of FedEx in our neighborhood or zip code area because although most people are comfortable with technology, you still come across those companies, private or before the IPO, where they feel, if my investors are giving me money, I want to give them a physical certificate that they can touch, feel, hold, stick in the drawer, and make sure that they’re comfortable with their investment. So we still do a lot of both.

This is crazy. I am 25, exactly 25 years ago, I was involved, I was working for a major commercial bank in Central Europe and my job was to arrange originate bond issues by corporations and banks. And at that time, I already couldn’t understand why people would want a paper certificate. It was a major headache to have to print this stuff and to find the printer that would fit the bill and then go to the regulators to approve it. It was a major headache, no one understood it at the time. That was 25 years ago exactly, 1998, and this is still the case. That’s mind-boggling.

Absolutely. It’s still the case.

So, let’s talk about a different topic. It’s seemingly unrelated, but I’d like to raise it because you have been really active on LinkedIn, and you’re kind of a LinkedIn guru on LinkedIn. And I was wondering if you could share with us a little bit about LinkedIn and how it evolves and how you mentioned that it is making conferences redundant to some extent. Is this the case and and why that is the case and how is you know, what is the role LinkedIn play in business?

It’s a good question and I think that to take a step back from a marketing standpoint, I believe that if every company would look at themselves as a media business first and then as what they do secondary, it would help them tell their story better. So you’re a media company first and you’re a law firm second or a media company first and an accounting firm second, a media company, and then a chair manufacturer second. The first part has to be a media company because it’s all about the storytelling and getting people to understand what it is that you’re offering, why they wanna do business with you.

And I feel like in today’s environment, we’re in a very visual world. And so through some of the platforms, and I can’t speak about Facebook or Instagram, I’m not so active there, but on LinkedIn with 30,000 followers and 25,000 connections, I feel that if it’s leveraged properly, and I’ve helped a lot of people figure that out, it really gives you a chance to, first of all, connect to the right audience, as well as to organically get your story and your messaging to that audience. And I think that a lot of people don’t spend enough time giving it the credit that it needs, because especially with the ability to target the audience, in other words, you spoke about the redundancy of conferences, in my mind, I’ve seen so many companies spend tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands a year in conferences.

And that’s to go to a conference, fly out there, set up a booth, take out the business card, and maybe you’ll meet 10, 20, 30 people over the course of a day or two, and then you follow up. With LinkedIn, I say that you can give a TED Talks or attend a conference five days a week, and you can meet 30 people a day with very specific targets and titles and geographic locations. So I think if it’s leveraged properly, it’s a great opportunity to grow any business in any industry.

Okay, so I hear you. So, how can we leverage, how can I leverage LinkedIn, for example, for my coaching and publishing business, what could I be doing to make my LinkedIn page work for me better?

Just some off the cuff suggestions that apply to most people, myself included. We live in a very visual world, as I mentioned. If you and I met today for the first time and we were going out to lunch and I didn’t know much about you, probably the first thing I’d do is after lunch is I would Google your name and what comes up is your LinkedIn profile. So if it’s dynamic and energetic and there’s a banner and it explains what you do, I was like, oh, this guy’s a thought leader in this category. He’s done books and podcasts. Sure, I want to connect with him and get to know how to develop this relationship.

If somebody goes to that same name and nothing comes up or it’s empty or it’s generic, I don’t know, is the person real, are they successful, do I want to work with them? So the cosmetics is important, even though it’s simple, it’s important. And the other thing is that I don’t think people do enough of providing industry value. So a company can only post so many times a day, a week, a month about how great they are and how cost effective they are and how amazing their product or services are. But in between that, you can sprinkle in things that your audience will appreciate.

So you can post an article from Forbes or from the Journal about how podcasts are the best thing to occupy executive times. And people can post articles or create graphics that show the statistics of how many people are listening to podcasts and benefiting from it. So by showing your audience the industry value, organically, without even trying, you sort of become that thought leader in that space and in that category without having to pay for a conference or for banner advertising. It’s just something that happens through osmosis.

Okay, so that’s very useful. So basically use the platform to share industry information, share thought leadership, get the word out on concepts that interest people and attract people. That makes a lot of sense. Now, what if I have a corporate page and I have my own personal page? How should I mix and match? What should I post on my personal page? What should I post on my corporate page?

It’s a very unique question because some people think that it’s either or and I’m a big believer in that you should be doing both. The distinction, and not too many people know this, and I think it would be helpful for your listeners to note the difference is that on the corporate page, first of all, people are doing business with a logo, and very often they’d rather do business with the face of the company. So that’s why it’s important for the CEO or the CFO or management to have the personal page active as well.

People are doing business with a logo, and very often they'd rather do business with the face of the company. Click To Tweet

But on the corporate page, what you’re trying to do is post amazing things that are going to attract followers, versus on the individual page, you have the ability to be proactive and to connect with a very specific audience that you want. So for example, if you want to connect with, if you have a med tech company and you want to connect with CEOs of hospitals, or if you have an eSports company and you want to connect with professional athletes, you can be very targeted on the personal page, but on the corporate page, it’s a follower, it’s not a connection. And so that’s probably one of the main differences, but I think it’s important to have both because people want to just see that overall presence.

And what should be the purpose of the corporate page then? So if the purpose of the page is to connect with people, what’s the purpose of the corporate page?

I think both of them overall is to provide a space of content and information. So for example, I’ll give the distinction might be on the corporate page you might post something about a conference that you’re attending or a product launch or a meeting that you just had versus on the personal page, it could be a quote from the CEO. It could be the CEO attended a meeting with a picture of that person or of him presenting a speech at a conference. So it’s got a slight distinction, but one of them is a little bit more personalized to show that this CEO is active, he knows his stuff, and he’s out there, and he’s offering value, maybe some personal thoughts, get to know him, and the corporate is just very sort of traditional type of information.

So, the way I’m hearing this is that the corporate page is all about the industry, about what’s happening in the industry, what’s happening in thought leadership around the industry, its concepts, its ideas. And the personal page is much more the personal experience of the CEO, if that’s a CEO or the executive, and how they connect with the industry and what happens to them because people like to perhaps follow individuals and they want to know how they live and what they do.

The corporate page is all about the industry, about what's happening in the industry, what's happening in thought leadership around the industry, its concepts, its ideas. Click To Tweet

Yeah, exactly.

That’s how that’s specific stuff. So if people would like to learn more about your LinkedIn work, what can they do? How can they find you? How can they connect with you? And yeah, and if they have some stocks to transfer, although maybe it’s with you, right? Yeah. And they’re going to find you as well there.

No, that would be great. So on the stock transfer side, it’s vstocktransfer.com. My email is seth.vstocktransfer.com. I’m always excited to learn about new ideas, new businesses, new startups, happy to mentor or give some insights if I have anything to offer. So I’m always happy to get emails from people and to connect. So yeah, you could just Seth Farbman, Google LinkedIn, and I’ll hopefully if I’m doing my job correctly, my profile will pop up and then we can connect and go from there.

Well, Seth, thank you very much. You have some really good insights around LinkedIn and about this idea of not ramming down the throat of the buyer, your product, but listen to them and figure out how you can help them and yeah, if you can use your product to help them, that’s even better. So thank you for coming and sharing this and to those of you listening out there, don’t forget to check us out on YouTube because the YouTube page is growing. We have every podcast is on a video as well. So come and check us out and engage with us there as well. Thank you for listening.


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