How To Look Fear in the Eye and Give It the Finger the Sales Lion Style

So you want to make change in your industry, do you? And you want to be branded as well, right? Oh, and let me guess, you want to be viewed as a consumer voice and advocate, correct? Well I hate to tell you, but you’re lying to yourself.

That’s right, you’re lying.

You don’t really want to make the change, build the brand, and become the voice. If you did, you wouldn’t allow fear to rule all your marketing and content decisions. You wouldn’t allow it to muzzle your voice when you know something to be true.

My Rumble with the Status Quo

Before I got into teaching people how to market and brand their business, I owned a swimming pool company. Yep, that’s right, I was (and still partially am) the pool guy. And the pool industry is one that has an entrenched ‘good ‘ol boy’ network. Get out of line and say anything contrary to the status quo, and you’ll get called out, in a major way. (This rule applies to most industries and niches I’ve found.)

For about 6 years in the industry I sat back. I watched. And eventually I became sick of it. Finally, I realized I had stuff to say, and so I said it.

Without going into much detail (view the whole story here), I wrote the first eBook in my industry that rated swimming pool manufacturers, and it lead to a huge counter attack from the ‘good ‘ol boys’.

I also started writing everything I could about swimming pools, products, construction, etc—the good, the bad, and the ugly. My business partners and I tackled subjects that no one wanted to talk about.

And we never lived in the world of gray—it was only black and white for us. We pushed the status quo to extremes, and with it, the push-back was great.

Over the past three years, I’ve received multiple letters from lawyers telling me to remove blog posts I’ve written (I have since come to learn most letters from lawyers are bluffs). I’ve been under constant attack in the forums from other swimming pool ‘professionals’. I’ve had many fake online persona attack me personally. Heck, I’ve even had entire websites developed around the idea of smearing my name.

And no, I’m not exaggerating for a second here. This is what happens when you challenge the status quo, folks. This is what happens when you notice things aren’t right in your industry and you actually have the guts and stones to say/do something about it.

Is It Worth It?

So when you say you really want to induce change and become branded as a consumer voice, understand what this means. Understand that if you have thin skin, you better run quickly the other way. Just put your head down and follow the rest of the drones in your field.

But remember this my friends, and I’m not trying to sound cliché here at all. If the truth is on your side, you have nothing to worry about. That’s right, if ‘truth’ is your guiding voice of reason in all your decision making, then you will end up on top.

I guess you’re wondering how it all turned out for me. Well, to put if briefly.

I have the most popular swimming pool website in the world right now. I get more traffic on my site than companies who do over 100 million dollars a year in sales achieve. Every day during the summer I get emails from around the world from people asking for help and guidance with their swimming pool.

I’ve spoken around the country to different groups within the industry. During a time when the economy has destroyed many pool companies, mine has thrived. And all of this has happened because my business partners and I have not been afraid to share our thoughts with the world.

So is it easy?

No, heck no. And that’s why I’m writing this. I don’t want to paint this pretty picture of a rainbow and a pot of gold. It’s an arduous road being a leader in any field—a heretic as Seth Godin would say.

It is clearly not for the weak and fearful. But this much I can assure you—

The results will be worth it. Change will occur. Your brand will explode. And you will be that voice.

Do you have it in you?

Marcus Sheridan

Marcus is a fixture in the online world. He writes passionately about all things inbound and content marketing, small business, and life success principles.

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  • Anonymous

    Hey Marcus

    I think in any business endeavour it’s a sign that you’re truly onto something when you generate opposition. Polarizing your audience is a good thing – the people who like your message won’t just like it, they’ll love it. And the people who don’t like it – they’re never going to become clients anyway. So polarizing them is a way of splitting them from your tribe so you don’t waste creative energy on them.

    The Lawyer Thing. Here’s a true story. My offline business is that I run a band that plays at weddings and corporate events and charity balls, that sort of thing. Society level. (Shame we’re not playing today at THE wedding). About three years ago we played at a wedding – and about three days after the event I got an email telling me that our stage lights had burnt a hole in the marquee company’s star cloth.

    I said…hmmmmm, and asked for images to prove it. Said images were emailed back a couple of days later. Along with a bill for around £1200 plus VAT. (So around £1400). And also along with a note that if I didn’t pay within 7 days that small claims court action would commence to recover the damage. Unknown to the marquee guy the real MISTER Wolfe (i.e. my dad) is a lighting engineer. (In fact he was the head of the team that designed, developed and invented the tungsten halogen lightbulb for cars – point is, he knows his shit.)

    So I phoned him and asked him about it. Showed him the ‘evidence.’ He basically siad they were trying it on, it wasn’t possible for the lights we had to burn the kind of holes in their star cloth (also a flame retardent fabric). So I emailed the guy back and said we weren’t responsible.

    Get an email back saying the ‘evidence’ has gone into secured, court approved storage. Which is an additional £500 on the bill. And £20 a day. Yada yada yada.

    So I emailed back. And said: we’re not responsible. We won’t communicate further. If you wish to proceed then we’ll see you in the small claims court. And never heard from them again. He was trying it on. If I didn’t have expert advice (Thanks Dad!) then I’d probably have ‘folded’ and paid out.

    I think people need to know that as long as you’re not slandering (or is it libelling them)) then when you encounter opposition you will find people who try and use lawyers to scare you/shut you up/shut you down. It’s a tool that ‘bullies’ resort to because they are often afraid of the truth.

    Great post.


    • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

      Great story Paul, really great actually. The perfect example of what some lawyers will do. I’m serious when I say I have found most are simply bullies. Utterly ridiculous. Good for you for standing up and also having someone in your corner.

      Enjoy the wild weekend in your neck of the woods Paul 😉


    • Bill Dorman

      Great story; make a post out of it………..:)

  • John Falchetto

    Funny you mention the Good old boy network, yes it’s in every industry.

    I agree with Paul you know you are on to something when they start rising up against you and complaining that you are wrong and calling you names.

    Let the lawyers scream, let the good old boys whine, actually the more they do it the more it means you are on the right path.

    Fear is good, fear is what keeps us alive and on track. Hey if you don’t have knots in your stomach before hitting publish, starting a new project or speaking at a conference, there is a serious problem.

    Keep fear next to you and make sure you have lunch with her everyday. She teaches me tons.

    • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

      Keep fear next to you and make sure you have lunch with her everyday. She teaches me tons.

      Best line I’ve read on the web all week John. Love it man.

      When it comes down to it, if no one complains against you, you’re not making a difference.

      Keep living in knots JF, appreciate you bud and have a wonderful weekend. 🙂


    • Dino Dogan

      Def true. I got a taste of it when I started the motorcycle social network. Its everywhere.

    • Bill Dorman

      Good ol’ boy network in just about every industry. It’s usually the people who have ‘made’ it don’t want change and don’t want competition. That’s why it gets nasty at times when you are shaking up their world.

      There is even a hint of it in the social media arena but not much. For the most part people are willing to play it forward and help others as they have been helped. However, I see a few of the big boys are somewhat territorial and cliquish but I guess they’ve earned; just remember where you came from, right?

  • Elena Patrice

    Ah Marcus THIS is why I follow you and THIS is why I like you … “And we never lived in the world of gray—it was only black and white for us.” I’m so with you on this and my, my if more people would pay attention to this; things would be different no doubt! I speak this all the time to people in business and in life about “not living in the gray” and how essential this is! I teach my child this and she gets it! I’m so thankful to see you write this!!

    Another pearl of wisdom you offer is about “truth being on your side” … YES!! Jason Skyward writes beautifully about this as well. Interestingly you can go through life fearlessly when you know truth is on your side because you don’t have to worry about being “found out” (even though some of us just need to gain a little more courage to bust out ;)).

    It’s people like you Marcus that don’t lead others astray making them think it’s “easy peasy”; and you know the value of effort. It makes us want to get down and get our hands dirty with you because we’re in this together. I feel and witness a movement happening and it’s fascinating to watch this happen in the blogosphere. You and Danny and Jason and Gini (and many others) are the leaders and it’s a privilege to learn from each of you!

    Thanks for this great post Marcus … always a pleasure! Have a safe, faboo weekend!

    Much kindness,


    • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

      Elena, wow, this comment I think made my day. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how people would take this post, as it was very strong and direct (including Dino’s funny title he gave it) and not very touchy-feely at all. Notwithstanding, it’s the essence of reality in my opinion, and everyone, myself included, needs encouraging words to push the envelope and say/do things as they should be.

      You’re such a kind person and consistent support Elena. I’m thrilled I’ve gotten to know you better over this past month.

      Have a great weekend as well!!!


      • Elena Patrice

        The title did me stop for a second, BUT … then I knew it was Dino’s blog so … 🙂 (A bit of trivia – my child is named Eve Aslan Patrice. You should definitely appreciate her middle name! 😉 Every time I see your avatar, it makes me think of it. Lions are very relevant and symbolic to me!)

        • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

          ‘Aslan’?? Seriously?? That is SO awesome Elena!! I’m pumped!

    • Bill Dorman

      Well said Elena.

      If we can cut through the stuff and just see it like it is we will all be better off.

  • Keith Bloemendaal

    Hey Marcus, coming from a similar background (I sold the fences to put around the pools) I know exactly what you are talking about here… There was NO ONE in my area blogging for any construction related industries, let alone the fence industry. I decided it was the way to go, and I worked my ass off to make it happen, 18 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week during my off season to write, write, comment, comment, research, research, rinse and repeat… months I did that and suddenly Google rewarded me with top honors for all my keywords… I had taken over organic searches locally!

    Hell no it wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding….

    BTW, I get letters from attorneys too, had to remove products from one of my sites because I infringed someones trademark (wasn’t aware of it) and am starting over now…

    • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

      Boy do you and I have a lot in common Keith. Find ‘content’ guys in blue collar industries like ours is very, very rare. Huge props to you for working your tail off and pushing the limits. As you said, Google likes the people that pay the prices. 🙂

      Have a great weekend and thanks for the comment.


  • Mike Meikle

    Great post Marcus. I’ve been lurking the in background since we connected over on Davina’s blog (3hats). I added the two plugins you recommended (CommentLuv & RelyMe). Plus, I’ll make sure to add some spice to my posts. It’s very easy to get pedantic when you write about business and IT topics 🙂
    Thank you for the advice sir!

    • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

      Hi Mike, a pleasure, yeah, that Davina is something, isn’t she? Did you see her post from yesterday? It was incredibly well done.

      Glad you liked the two plugins. They make all the difference in terms of community.

      Keep pushing the envelope my friend.


    • dissertation proposal

      wanted to say almost the same) really helpful article) thanks a lot!

  • Christina Crowe

    “The results will be worth it. Change will occur. Your brand will explode. And you will be that voice.” – Wow, Marcus. Way to go! I love the ending. 😉

    Heck, I love the whole piece! You really nailed it here. I just want to say that your progress has been REMARKABLE, both in the swimming pool industry and on The Sales Lion. I feel honored to call you a friend. 🙂


  • Stan Faryna

    Heck, I finished your blog post thinking about what kind of pool I might like to have at the castle. That’s the castle I build after winning a super lottery, mind you. But, honestly, I did think about the pool. And if I win the lottery, I’m headed for your site.

    Who’s Davina?

    It’s heartening to hear your story, Marcus. We all need the good guy to win – every now and then. Otherwise, hope is lost and cynicism crawls into the marrow of our bones. I’m glad that you are that good guy and I look forward to reading more of your posts.


    My latest yardwork:

    • Bill Dorman

      Davina? I think she is a bayou bengal tiger…………:)

  • Sheila Atwood


    More and more we are becoming a society that afraid to rock the boat, a society that is afraid to think outside the box.

    My sister’s company installs playground equipment. She told me just a few days ago that there are schools that are considering removing playgrounds. They figure that recess time should be more structured and the time spent toward getting better test scores. This is not a new idea but one that looks like its actually taking form.

    Oh my! what would happen if our kids enjoyed play. Or had time to be creative. What would happen if they did not fit into those testing molds that someone has set up? They might become those arduous leaders, the ones that can push forward and make things happen. That would be a sad day wouldn’t it?

  • Christian Hollingsworth

    Thank you for continually being an inspiration Marcus. This was a great post. Loved your real life examples and application of how we can improve our voice – and stand for truth.

    I think about our lives, and the buildup not sharing truth has. The effect can quickly take its toll. If you work in an industry for years, and have thoughts and feelings you’ve been harboring that are “counter” to the norm; you’ll feel stressed, eaten and overworked. It’s really important to get those feelings out – and be a brighter example.

  • Mark Harai

    Hi Marcus! This is a great article on the realities of building a great business.

    This stood out in my mind the most: “When you notice things aren’t right in your industry and you actually have the guts and stones to say/do something about it.”

    There is a big shortage of this in the world of business. That’s why there are so many either mediocre businesses or failing ones… guts and stones are a rare commodity and the only one thing that’s a must to change an industry, a community or the world for that matter.

    Cheers Marcus!

  • Bill Dorman

    Great story Marcus; it’s a little different than the one you told on the 37th guest post you had this weekend……….but I think you are getting the story down pretty good now……..:).

    That’s definitely the hard and unpopular route. Most don’t want to shake the boat and just go with the flow. Bravo to you for standing up for your beliefs and having the conviction to see it through. That might have a little bit to do to your success……..

    I’m running into you everywhere; hopefully you are now getting paid a nickel a letter instead of a penny.

    You still da man until I hear otherwise and I probably still won’t believe them. Best of luck to you.

  • Jens P. Berget

    Hi Marcus,

    This was weird. I was reading the post, and I thought it was written by Dino, then it hit me that I already know this story 🙂

    I never get tired of reading it. It’s amazing how one person can build the most popular swimming pool website in the world.

    If I ever get a lot of money (I doubt that it will ever happen), I’ll hire you to come to Norway and help me install a swimming pool. That would be awesome. But, I would need one inside, because it’s way too cold to have one outside 🙂

    Thanks agin for sharing your story, as I said I never get tired of it, it’s pure inspiration.

    – Jens

  • Agnes Cheek

    In my line of work with my team, we have consistently been ahead of the curve, sometimes by years in addressing issues backed up by people’s own words, documentation, astute observations, and the ability to look at history and connect the dots. The result of that has often been that we become the target for backlash rather than the ones who are causing the problems to begin with. We have had those who do everything to belittle and undermine our efforts, assassinate our character, and question our credibility, rather than find solutions. The thing that has always worked for us is the truth. People know the truth when they hear it and when you are doing something that is real and from a place of honesty and humanity, people respond to that well and they will naturally gravitate to that. The more of us that choose to continue to move forward together with
    honesty, conviction of our ideals and the courage to do right by others,
    the more we allow the unlimited potential that is there to manifest
    as goals and as action.
    Did I mention that I do talk radio for a living? 😉