Samantha Riley | How to Monetize Your Knowledge and Experience

“Thought leader” is a big buzzword these days. But Samantha Riley goes beyond the hype and gives her coaching clients actionable steps they can take to expand their influence in their niche and make themselves more valuable… which means more income.

Becoming a thought leader means you’re no longer the best-kept secret… you’re the go-to for potential clients seeking the services you offer because you stand out from the crowd. And it’s not enough to simply be good at what you do, says Samantha. You have to make sure the right people know it.

If “tooting your own horn” makes you uncomfortable, Samantha has a remedy.

We take a deep dive into that topic, the other things you must do to become a thought leader, and more, including… 

  • How to figure what you want your life to look like – and how to make it happen
  • 3 parts of effective positioning to build your brand
  • The KEEP Method for determining what makes you unique
  • Creating a roadmap for business success – and where you must start
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon and today we’ve got a dynamite interview for you. Coming to you all the way from the other side of the world from Down Under, I’ve got Samantha Riley today. Samantha has built multiple businesses over the past 25 years. She grew her first seven-figure business before she was 30. I feel like an underachiever at this point. But that’s okay, Samantha. We’ll get through it. She was able to leverage herself out of her bricks and mortar businesses and now she works less than 10 hours per week, which I think a lot of us want to get to. She’s replicated her process to build an online coaching business and really has done some amazing things. Just so excited that we’re here. This is take two of our interview. Samantha, so welcome to the Unstoppable CEO. I’m glad you’re here.

Samantha Riley: Thanks so much, Steve really, really excited to be here and to chat with you and to share, hopefully, some gold with your audience.

Steve: Absolutely. Now that you’ve humbled me for what I did in my early career because you built a seven-figure business before you’re 30, give everybody a little bit of background. I mean, other than the fact that you were mega-successful early on, how did you do that? And then how did you get to this stage of your career? Give us some context.

How Samantha Got to This Stage In Her Career

Samantha: Well, isn’t it funny, like when you hear the cliff notes version, it sounds so impressive, but it didn’t feel that impressive at the time. Before you get to the million-dollar business, there’s lots of sleepless nights and there’s lots of times where you can’t afford to put food on the table. You know, when you’re hustling and grinding. So, you know, it does sound impressive like that. But in actual fact, you know, me and my then-husband opened our business at 20 years old. We had two little kids and we worked really, really hard. We worked a lot of hours to get to that point. So it, you know, it did take off really quite well. We did own those businesses for almost 20 years. So we had a dance studio and we had a couple of retail stores that over that 20 years, you know, we just sort of rolled into these businesses. But then when it was about, yeah, the 20-year mark, we’ve been married for 20 years and then I got divorced, lost the businesses and started again. Which, again, also sounds like a bad thing but it actually wasn’t. It was the catalyst for where I am now and to be able to pull all that information out of my head and turn it into something that can help others.

Steve: Now, when you did that restart, is that your current business, or was that a business before? Okay, so that was to start your current business.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, like all good entrepreneurial stories, it’s not a real straight line from A to B. So I did get into the coaching industry. But it was in the health and wellness space. And what I used to do was run retreats for people to, you know, run their mindset around their fitness, around their nutrition. And a big part of this was creating a life you love and being in a good place. And obviously, we spend a lot of our hours every day in our job or in our business, whatever our expertise is. And what was coming up more than anything was people weren’t happy in their jobs and they were constantly saying to me, how did you start your businesses? How do you run your businesses? And I had more business coaching clients than health clients very, very quickly. So it was a small transition. But yeah, I went into coaching business. And that’s my passion. I realized pretty early on that was the thing that got me excited, that when I was talking about business, it was way more exciting for me than talking about health.

Steve: You know, it’s funny you talk about the fact that it was in a straight line. When we look at all of these stories from the outside, it’s so easy to tell ourselves that, you know, like your bio, you know, oh, you built your first seven-figure business before you were 30. Wow, it must have just happened like that, because we can read it like that, you know? And I think that’s, it’s the same way when you’re building a business. So I mean, you’ve sort of gone on this winding road to get to, you know, the current iteration of your business. And I don’t know what it is, like, we all have that experience. I’ve talked about, you know, 150 plus entrepreneurs on the podcast, everybody has that same story. Nobody took a straight line. And yet, when we look at what’s written about the entrepreneurial journey, most often in books and things like that, and then, you know, in the latest online promotion, everybody wants to depict it as though it were the straight line. But I think that takes away so much from it. It takes away all the learning

Samantha: Never the straight line. And the other thing to that is that, and I’m absolutely certain that you found this with all of the amazing people that you’ve interviewed, the other piece to that is when the success comes, whatever that success looks like, it’s usually at a back to the wall moment. It’s not usually at a time where it’s everything’s happy. Usually something happens that pushes you to get through the next, you know, thing that’s holding you back. And that’s usually the time that you push forward. I certainly found that with people I’ve interviewed on my podcast that every time, at a moment where there was something that was, they had their backs to the wall or something really major happened in their life.

Steve: Don’t you hate that? I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if it just happened when everything was great? But you have to get pushed to the brink almost, you know, to really make those huge breakthroughs. So tell us a little bit about what you do with your clients now. Kind of give us the overview of how you work with businesses. I know you’re big in trying to get them out of being the, you know, the best-kept secret in their market. And I’d love to dive into how you do that.

Samantha: Absolutely. So I work with experts, and I help them to develop their thought leadership. The people that I work with have been working in their expertise for usually, you know, 20, 30, 40 years and they know so much stuff but they find it really difficult to explain what they do. And they find it really difficult to extract that IP, that information out of their head because they just know so much. It’s just all in there and they don’t even realize what or how they do what they do because it comes too naturally to them. These people are usually the world’s best-kept secret because they’re so focused on working in their expertise. And as you would know, there’s a lot of marketing that happens behind getting that name or that brand out there. So how I work with my clients is to help them to develop that thought leadership, to really come out so that they’re seen, they’re heard, they’re known as the expert or the thought leader in the industry.

Steve: So I think that the key there that I heard is that you’re dealing with experts, right? But a lot of times, they’re so close to it. You know, they have trouble figuring out how to communicate to the rest of the world what they really know. As you work with them, is there a particular technique or a way that you’re able to extract what’s really valuable in their expertise and repackage it for, you know, for their market?

You Can’t Read the Label From Inside the Jar

Samantha: Totally. So what, and just going back, I have a saying and I want to share it because I think that this helps people when they’re beating themselves up because they don’t, you know, they can’t get this thing out of your head, and it’s that you can’t read the label from inside the jar. And I always say that to my clients. Don’t panic, you can’t read the label from inside the jar. Just breathe. We’re here to help you. So I think that’s helped a lot of people. So I wanted to share that. But as for being able to create a brand or a methodology, or and a methodology, I should say, we need to be able to pull together different pieces of what you know, to create something that’s unique. And I often talk about, or it is, I talk about it as the KEEP method. And when I talk about that, it’s about what is going to keep you getting out of bed every day. Because it doesn’t matter how much we know, there are some things we enjoy to do, and there’s some things we don’t For example, I know how to reconcile my accounts. It will not get me out of bed every day. In actual fact, if that’s all I did, I wouldn’t get out of bed every day. I hate reconciling my accounts. So we need to start to extract the bit that keeps us motivated, that keeps us getting out of bed. So the KEEP principle, the first piece is your knowledge. So your knowledge is what you have delivered for your career. So it could be your university degree, it could be the job that you’ve been in. But it’s the overarching idea of what it is you do. So it’s, you know, it’s the job description, I guess. The second E, so we’ve got the KEEP, K the E, is your expertise. So what is it that is the genius zone in what you do? What is the eight or nine or 10 out of 10 in what you do? So this is usually the thing that the other people in the office come to you for and say, Hey, can you do this thing because it comes very easily to you? And in actual fact, it comes so easily to you that it normally surprises you that other people can’t do this thing. So that’s the second piece. What is, you know, when you really drill down. The second E is experience. So this is your life experiences that could give you another layer to what it is that you do. So things like having a divorce or losing a large amount of weight or a major health crisis. So it’s something that gives you a completely different take on what it is you do, because these things can start to uncover who it is that we want to work with. So for example, one of my clients is a bookkeeper. And she has a story about when her husband passed away and they didn’t have a will and she had no access to funds and, you know, their accounts weren’t in order. And for six months, she really struggled to live. So we can start to understand how these life experiences really change our knowledge and expertise and give them a deeper understanding. And the P in the KEEP principle is your passions. So your passions sometimes will give you a bit of an insight into who your target market is, who you really love to work with. Or your passions might be little pieces that you can pull out to give you a unique methodology a certain feel for your brand. So for example, I’m an extensor, so a lot of my methodologies I’ll talk about the, you know, my dance background and use them as metaphors. Or your passions could just bring an extra little depth into your branding. So, you know, that’s maybe stories that you talk about or share or it might be, you know, colors or how a brand might look or sound. And when you bring all of these things together, your knowledge, expertise, experience and passions, you create a niche that is deep and that brand is unique to you, rather than just to being an accountant or an attorney, that’s the same as all the other ones.

Steve: It occurs to me that people who are in expertise-based businesses are experiencing commoditization now. Not necessarily for the first time, but I think it’s really beginning to affect a lot of them more than it has in the past. I’m hearing that more and more, you know, from professionals who, you know, previously they were fairly well protected from that. And they’re looking for ways to differentiate and they’re in professions where they haven’t had to market, they haven’t had to sell, you know, much in the past. And in some, it’s even somewhat frowned upon, you know, because it, you know, it appears to be unprofessional. So, how do you help people kind of make that transition so that they, you know, they need to stand out. And, but I think there’s a big mindset shift there for a lot of folks because they want to, you know, they want to stand out. They want to promote themselves. But I know at the same time, a lot of them are a little bit reserved and they don’t want to sort of toot their own horn.

No Need to Gloat, Simply Share Your Expertise

Samantha: You’re right. And I think that we see this more in the people who are true experts that they don’t want to toot their own horn. And this is where you need to be really understanding of the type of person you are. So some people, and you’re right, some people, just will not cross the line here. They’re like, I’ve never had to build a brand, I don’t see the point of doing this. And that’s fine. That’s completely fine. But I think a lot more people are starting to understand that more now than ever, we’re in a p2p market where we’re doing business people to people, person to person. We’re not necessarily doing as much business with a big brand like we used to back in the, you know, the 60s and the 70s, with the fancy you know, plaque on the wall. That was normal to do that then, but not so much now because we are in a world where there’s, where it’s so noisy, there’s so many people around. I think there’s something with we’ve got 2 million bits of information coming to us per second. So we need to cut through really, really quickly. So, you know, I think the first thing that people need to understand is that they are the business, that we are the business of ourselves. We are, you know, you’re the business of Steve Gordon, I’m the business of Samantha Riley. And people learn our name, they get to get a feeling of what we are. So a really good way of starting off to really build this brand rather than tooting your horn is just to share your expertise because for some people that aren’t used to being on social media or creating content, just even getting that information out of their head on to a blog or talking on a podcast like this is a really, really great start. And as you start to speak more about what it is you do, you start to talk more about case studies, you start to talk more about the stories in your life, it will just automatically share without necessarily, as you say, tooting your own horn. By sharing our case studies and our stories, we’re not tooting our horn, but we’re helping people to experience what we know in a different frame or a different light. And I think that that’s a lot easier. And in actual fact, you know, if you come across someone that does toot their horn all the time, chances are they’re not the people that you want to do business with. You know, all of us can think of someone that’s just constantly shouting on social media about how good they are. They’re generally not people that we love to do business with anyway.

Steve: No. So how do you recommend experts begin to, you know, build that brand and then kind of portray that out in the world? When you’re working with your clients, how do they then go and implement it?

Samantha: Absolutely. So we go back to that KEEP principle and start to brain dump all of their different areas in each of those different four boxes that, you know, the knowledge, the expertise, the experience, the passions, and start to play around with what all of that brain dump looks like. Start to think about stories from your life, or, you know, I was talking about case studies, things that have happened to you. And I, what I do is put these little stories, I’ll post-it notes and start to have a look and extract this information because there’s probably things that you did, you know, 20 years ago that are quite relevant to share that you’ve completely forgotten about. So really good places to start to get these stories out of your head. So, you know, if you’re, actually I’ll give you a great example. So of the things I have been able to do is scale myself out of my business I’m only working 10 hours a week. So what I did was start to write down all of the stories that I could share on how to do that, you know? Could be from the story that my very first job was in McDonald’s and I understood that everything had systems. Or I could talk about the time that I realized that I needed to have staff and I had to let go of the jobs. So there’s all these different stories that I can pull at different times to talk about that same topic. So I think that’s a really good place to start is to get as much information out of your head and start to write or share those stories.

Steve: Yeah, I love that. I see so many people get stuck with the blank page. So they know that they need to, you know, publish and share their expertise. They, you know, forget the format. I mean, it could be social media, your website where you’re writing articles, magazines, could be anywhere. That’s not what, it’s not where that holds people up. It’s what do I have to say. And I think even for a lot of people who are experts, a lot of times you take for granted what you know.

Samantha: I would say 99.9% of the time,

Steve: Right. Yeah. But I love this approach, though. because really what you’re saying is take a little time, you know, and here I’m giving you these four boxes to put things in. And it’s funny because I’ve just found that there’s something magical, like the brain, if given a box on a sheet of paper, you know, and it’s got the four little lines, the brain works to fill that box with whatever it thinks should go in that box. Whereas same sheet of paper without the lines, forget about it.

Samantha: Yeah, that’s so true. Absolutely.

Steve: So you’ve given people kind of a simple way to break this down and start to catalog their own expertise. Which it sounds so simple when you hear it, but for a lot of people, I think that’s a major leap forward because now they’re not staring at the blank page. They now have a roadmap. I mean, if you actually sit down and go through what Samantha’s just described, you’ve got kind of a blueprint for taking your expertise out to the world. Which I love when people can simplify something down, which you’ve really done. So once they go through that, once they go through that process, what do you recommend that they do next?

Discovering Your Niche and Your Own Personal Methodologies

Samantha: Yeah, so of course, that’s the beginning. That’s really figuring out who your niche is, or your niche. And that starts to help you to pull your methodologies together. I think that anyone that wants to be a thought leader needs to have their own methodologies to share. The next thing that I really like people to, so there’s three main parts to building your positioning. So where you’re positioned in the marketplace or where the market perceives you to be positioned. The second part of building your expert business is leverage. And the third part is profile. So really making sure that you stand out. So in, so that figuring out your niche sits in the positioning piece. So in your positioning, you’ve got your niche, you’ve got your branding, your methodologies. So what is it that you’re teaching? This is where your content fits. So you can see how we just pulled together that, those four areas to start to understand how are you going to create that content. And the last piece in your positioning is your program. So what is it that you’re selling, essentially? And how does that fit together? So, you know, with your speaking or your online programs, or your workshops or your trainings, whatever that is. Because obviously, we’re a business, we need to be making money. So all of that comes into your positioning. Then the second area is leverage. And this is something that I’m really passionate about because I think a lot of people that have expert businesses try to get going and think that they need to do it all themselves. And it’s absolutely not the case. So there’s two parts to leverage. The first part is leveraging your knowledge. So how can you deliver to as many people as possible. So that’s, you know, via webinars or podcasts or workshops, so that one to many principle. But the second part of leverage is your team. You need to have people that can help you because if you can climb a mountain on your own, it’s not a very big mountain. So what I mean by that is you need other people that are bringing their expertise into your business so that you can shine and do what you’re doing. And that’s a big part of scaling too. You know, you can’t do everything on your own. So you’ve got your positioning, you’ve got your leverage. And then the third piece is your profile. So how are you showing up and in what capacity? So a really great way to build your profile is leveraging media. It’s leveraging your audience. So doing partnerships to bring your, to have your profile shown in other people’s audiences or networks. It’s about becoming a published author so that your methodology that you worked in, you know, right at the beginning is published and people start to learn what it is you do. It’s about speaking on stages. So it’s really about becoming the, you know, the go-to expert in your industry. So when you break down those three areas of your positioning, how you’re going to leverage that, and your profile, you know, touching on all three of those areas is how you can build a solid expert business.

Steve: Yeah, and I think for a lot of people, it’s hard to bring all of those pieces together. And I think as you said at the beginning, you can’t read the label from inside the jar. So, you know, it’s very difficult, sometimes, I think for people to see how it all fits together for them. It’s one thing to look at the examples, and there are plenty of examples out there of people who’ve been successful at it. And, you know, and then what I see a lot is people try and copycat things. And the, I don’t know if you’ve run into this before or not, but a lot of times I think, you know, when, because you’re the expert, right? And we’re also tied up in the, in our own expertise. It’s very hard to copy somebody else’s methods exactly. You’ve got to make it yours. There’s got to be room in there for your personality. So as you’re working with people, are there particular ways that you have them sort of infuse their own personality into it?

Understand Your Life Goals To Understand Your Business Goals

Samantha: Yeah, totally. And again, it’s really understanding your expertise, your passions, and using those to come into your methodologies. I guess the foundation for everything for, before you do any of this is, and this may sound a little weird because it’s actually got nothing to do with your business at all. The very first thing I actually get my clients to do is to really understand for themselves what they want their life to look like. Do they, because they may want to be living on the road and traveling. They may want to be living in a, you know, a multimillion-dollar house and work for, you know, work all day. They might be a mom or a dad that wants to only work when their children are at school. Now, wherever, that may sound strange, but until you understand what you want your life to look like, it’s very difficult to create what that business needs to look like. You know, if you’re a mom that wants to stay home with your children from 10 to three, then creating a big speaking business isn’t going to have you happy. And you’re not going to be successful because you self-sabotage. You know, if you have, if you want to be on the road traveling, and, you know, I know that we can’t at the moment, but at some stage, all of our borders will open up again, and we’ll be traveling. You know, creating a business model where you don’t have a team is going to be pretty tricky because you’ll always be working and you’ll never be able to go see the sights or mix with the locals. So you really need to get very, very clear on what you want your life to look like at the beginning, then start subbing in, you know what we talked about before, the KEEP principle, and from there, then you’re creating this hybrid model. And, you know, you were talking about not copying other people and I think that that’s what all of us at some stage or another, I know it’s not just me that has done it in the past, but we start to think, oh, that person that’s successful over there, they’re, you know, they do ABCD in their business, and then you start to do it and it feels wrong and it doesn’t flow and it feels like there’s a lot of friction there. So once you understand how you want your life to look, it’s very easy to bring those business pieces together. Understanding who you need on your team, what your programs need to look like, how your media needs to look for, you know, where you need to show up to create the specific business that you want. So I think that sitting down and working through like, is a really, really important piece of it before you get going. I know in my first business, I didn’t do this and it meant that I did sabotage myself in different areas of my business. And I know I’ve come across a lot of my clients that have done the same thing in the past. So it’s really important to understand, you know, why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Steve: Absolutely, I, you know, without that, you know, kind of bigger picture direction, it’s, I think it’s very difficult to really sustain any of it and to get any kind of consistent progress. So, Sam, this has been fantastic. I know you’re up really early to be here and do this interview. Where can people find out more about you and the good work that you’re doing?

Samantha: Yeah, so you can find me at So there you’ll find my podcast, which is Thought Leaders Business Lab. And have a look around. And there’s all sorts of resources there for all of the things that we’ve talked about today.

Steve: Fantastic. Well, thanks again for being here and sharing your wisdom. It’s been awesome. And can’t wait till we connect again.

Samantha: Thanks, Steve.

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