Melinda Wittstock of Podopolo: “Why Perfectionism is Really Fear Tied In a Pretty Bow”
Perfectionism is Fear Tied in a Pretty Bow: Women in business are prone to perfectionism and it stands in the way of success. There is a big difference between mastery and perfectionism. I had to learn the hard way that simply toiling to make it perfect is a dead-end. Business is about relationships and it is best to co-create with your customers and enable them to have a voice in your business.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda Wittstock. Melinda Wittstock is the CEO and founder of Podopolo, the world’s first socially-interactive and gamified podcasting network. A serial entrepreneur who has built 4 businesses in media, mobile, and tech to 7- and 8- figure success, Melinda hosts “Wings of Inspired Business” named by Entrepreneur Magazine as #8 of 20 of the top business podcasts for 2020. Also an award-winning journalist and TV anchor for the BBC, ABC News, Financial Times and Times of London, Melinda also helps business owners and entrepreneurs launch magnetic and profitable podcasts.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Melinda! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My grandmother was the first to diagnose it: “You’re disruptive!” she said, after I’d returned home, almost 6, with a fistful of dollars I’d earned pre-selling my “show” door-to-door with my black lab. Entrepreneurship has always been in my DNA, and as a five-time serial entrepreneur, I like nothing better than to “disrupt” an industry with innovation that provides unprecedented value and solves real problems for real people.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was “forest bathing” by a beautiful babbling brook with the lead investor of my previous company Verifeed when he suddenly said, “you’re doing the wrong thing”.
Verifeed was a “social intelligence” business that helped people find their customers and influencers via our algorithms and technology which parsed social media conversations. It was a tough sell despite the immense value we were offering and I wasn’t really enjoying it. I’d been toiling out of obligation to my investors and he gave me permission to align with my true purpose and my true talents as a visionary at the intersection of content, connection, and community.
These insights triggered the next phase of significant personal and spiritual growth and lead me to innovate Podopolo, the world’s first socially-interactive and gamified podcasting network, where I am in perfect alignment with my purpose and drawing on everything I have proven in my previous businesses to “disrupt” the fastest growing media sector by putting power (and money) into the hands of content creators, enabling them to grow, engage and monetize their communities, and reward those communities via a gamification platform that puts free products and services into their hands.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure it was a “mistake” per se — it was funny. Back when I was running my political news agency Capitol News Connection, I was a new mom. The business launched when Sydney was only 6 weeks old. In the first year, I was doing everything: Reporting stories, running payroll, raising money, closing customers, training journalists, all of it. In the US Capitol Building, I had my reporter kit in one shoulder bag (microphone, recorder, camera, notebook) and in another black bag, my breast pumping kit. I had to pump every two hours. One day after reporting 14 stories, landing 7 new clients, and much more, I was ending the day interviewing Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State. I was so tired I pulled out my breast pump funnel thinking it was my microphone and pointed it at the Senator. I had no idea why she was laughing!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Nothing feels better than to have innovated something that elicits profound thanks from your customers for solving their challenges and problems.
Podcasting is the fastest growing media, with 123 million Americans listening more than 6 hours a week, and yet 85% of podcasters don’t make money from podcasting. Whether distributed on Apple, Spotify or any of the other platforms, most struggle to be discovered, let alone engage their listeners in a social media community or monetize their content. Advertisers and sponsors tend only to invest in podcasts that have 10,000+ downloads an episode, something only 2% of podcasters achieve by virtue of their niche appeal. Insufficient listening data prevents podcasters from knowing who is listening or how they are listening, and lack of data also keeps most advertisers away from the medium. Listeners and viewers meanwhile have no meaningful way to interact with their favorite hosts or other listeners.
We’re changing the game at Podopolo, with a fully socially-interactive and gamified experience for listeners and viewers, who discover great podcasts, engage with hosts and each other, and unlock rewards and benefits as they share, comment, recommend, and put learning into action to enhance their lives and transform the world with mission driven initiatives. As they do that, podcasters learn a great deal about who is listening — and our back-end artificial intelligence engine goes to work to understand audiences so that we can place topically-relevant and mission aligned sponsorship and advertising (on-air and on-app) on even the smallest audiences because we can prove to an advertiser that the audience is engaged daily and pre-qualified for the advertisers offer. We take the guesswork out of advertising delivering unprecedented ROI for brands and businesses wanting to interact with highly engaged and motivated listeners and viewers.
So back to those “thanks.” Podcasters thank us, advertisers thank us, and consumers are thanking us as we grow downloads and daily active use on this brand new mobile network and platform.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Podopolo is the world’s first socially interactive and gamified podcasting network. I founded it because 85% of podcasters don’t earn any money from their content, even the best struggling to be discovered and engage communities, even though podcasting is the fastest-growing media. On Podopolo, podcasters unlock growing shares of advertising and sponsor revenue as well as earnings from our premium paywall as listeners and viewers discover and share their favorite podcasts, and they earn valuable rewards and cool products as they engage with hosts and each other, put learning into action to enhance lives, and join world-changing initiatives. And for the first time podcasters have access to deep audience intelligence that allows us to monetize even small audiences: We take the “guesswork” out of advertising because we can match brands and businesses to targeted pre-qualified audiences. Everyone wins: consumers, podcasters, and advertisers.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Set the vision and mission. Set your team up for success and make sure the right people are in the right seats. Make sure your team is truly diverse — in perspective, talent, race, gender, sexual orientation and experience — and aligned on values and mission. Make sure they have the resources and training they need to succeed. And then out of the way. No one wants to be micromanaged!
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Don’t be the bottleneck. One of the hardest things for women founders is to let go. We’ve birthed a baby and we feel protective of it. We’re also prone to try to “do it all” and just because we’re wired in a way that enables us to work all parts of the process doesn’t mean we should. It is vital for women entrepreneurs to develop “ask for help” and “delegation” muscles, and be open to receiving. We all tend to be good at giving — often over-giving until we have nothing left in the tank — and neglect to receive.
It’s also vital you put standard operating procedures and systems in place. Perfect something, and then rinse and repeat and make sure everyone knows how it’s done. That said, always be open to iterating and innovating, and create open channels of communication that make your team comfortable and confident in communicating new and improved ways of doing things.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I believe success comes to those who are curious and constantly open to learning. Having mentors, coaches, and participating in Masterminds has been vital to me along the way. Always seek out the person who has successfully done what you are trying to do!
Personally the person who has had the biggest impact on my life in recent years is Steve Little, CEO and Founder of Zero Limits Ventures. Steve works with founders like me to discover what’s truly driving the valuation growth in your business. He’s a serial entrepreneur who has sold 6 of his own businesses for 9-figure sums, and helped countless other founders get to exit with very high multiples. Steve is my lead investor and Board Chairman now with Podopolo and it was Steve who mentored me to get into true alignment and double down on my unique strengths, insights and talents.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My podcast Wings of Inspired Business is a “give-forward” to women entrepreneurs worldwide. It is the podcast I wish I’d had coming up as a 5-time serial entrepreneur. Our listeners learn from women with 7-, 8- and 9-figure businesses how to manifest the confidence, capital and connections they need to succeed as female founders. Every episode is a masterclass in all aspects of growing and scaling a business — from the right mindset and self-care through to specific business strategies and tactics. In launching this podcast I have created millions of dollars of value in the 500+ women I have promoted on the show because I believe women are stronger and soar higher when we fly together. That’s why our hashtag is #LiftAsWeClimb. I am catalyzing an abundance ecosystem where women mentor, promote, buy from, and invest in each other.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Live in Flow and Inspiration: Some years back I threw out all my “to-do” lists. Instead I created “intentions lists” and focused not so much on the doing or the “how” but instead on the result I wanted to manifest. That opened the door to seeing new paths to get to where I wanted to be. My “intentions list” has now morphed into an “inspiration list” and I let my morning meditations guide me to the inspired action on the items that will have the highest impact and leverage, in other words, inspiration guides my intentions as well as what I “do”. The other part of inspiration of course is acting on it — immediately. Magic happens when you do this.
- Perfectionism is Fear tied in a Pretty Bow: Women in business are prone to perfectionism and it stands in the way of success. There is a big difference between mastery and perfectionism. I had to learn the hard way that simply toiling to make it perfect is a dead-end. Business is about relationships and it is best to co-create with your customers and enable them to have a voice in your business.
- Self Care is Vital: Women need to look after themselves! I’ve learned that hustle and grind actually slows me down because it depletes me. The more I have learned to create space for myself — to meditate, take long walks with my dog Auggie, have a calming bath, get a weekly massage and spa time (pre-Covid), connect deeply with family members and friends, and such, the more I accomplish!
- Pay Yourself First: Women founders often underpay themselves. Sure, in the beginning you need to find funds to hire people, and you must. Remember too the company wouldn’t exist but for you and your time is valuable.
- Hire Your Weaknesses so You Can Double Down on Your Strengths: We are at our best when we’re doing the things we are here in an earthsuit right now to do. Focus on the things you love, the things you’re best at, and delegate the rest. Too many women try to do everything. One of my mentors took me through an exercise once: He asked me what my hourly rate would be if I was landing a major strategic client or investor who would add millions to the business, or hiring a team member who would create a whole new revenue line. “Is it $100, $1,000, $10,000 an hour?” he asked. “Now what would you pay a cleaner or a VA or someone to fix a broken link?” In effect you are robbing your own company if you do those tasks when someone can do it less expensively than you. Value your time!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Podopolo! At Podopolo we are committed to donating or investing 10% of our earnings each year to charities and mission-driven / minority-owned businesses doing good for the world. And in our gamification engine on the Podopolo app, we also feature quests and challenges that address the UN Global Goals and issues like racial and LGTBQ diversity and women’s empowerment and encourage podcasters to engage their listeners around such activities. We are a media company — and more than that we are a “consciousness company” and we believe entrepreneurs have the power and responsibility to use their businesses for social good.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When the lesson is learned, the experience is no longer necessary.”
All you have to do is look at someone’s circumstance to know what they truly believe in their subconscious. We are all driven by the stories and beliefs we’ve concocted as small children, and we need to release these limiting blocks from our subconscious to succeed. I have learned over the years that whenever I’ve been “triggered” by something and felt emotions of anger, fear, anxiety or sadness, it is an opportunity to release the belief that attracted those feelings. I simply let it go. There are profound lessons in each of these experiences, something a situation or a challenge is showing us about ourselves. Use these challenges, failures, blocks as lessons and again, when the lesson is learned, the experience is no longer necessary.” Success is all about mindset.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia
Sara Blakely, Spanx
Stuart Garvie, CEO GroupM
Mark Read, CEO WPP
Ben Horowitz / Marc Andreesen
How can our readers connect with you on social media?