For the last ten years, Robert Ribciuc has been working as the Managing Partner of EBITDA Catalyst, helping clients accelerate growth in key valuation metrics. He has a BA in Math and Economics from Harvard and an MBA from Chicago Booth School of Business.
In this episode, Robert shares some of his insights on how to deal with different kinds of people in the industry, be it personal or online.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Why you have to check out today’s podcast:
- Get tips on how you could recover and avoid “falls” in your life
- Learn how to give feedback and criticisms in a nice, positive manner
- Discover some lesser-known tricks/hints about how the LinkedIn algorithm works
“If enough people notice those behaviors in you, that are all about you – selfish, self-promoting, etc., most of the time, when a comment like that is posted, nobody replies or gives any acknowledgment to that kind of comment, and you can just hear in that wall of silence all the people who are mentally walking away from this person just like you described.”
– Robert Ribciuc
01:37 – Pre-recording conversation about the pricing community and the different kind of people in the industry
07:10 – How to deal with people who self-aggrandize
11:46 – The recipe for avoiding the next “thud” in your life
17:06 – Why everyone avoids people who are negative, selfish, and self-promoting
20:42 – Why many people are reluctant to give feedback or criticism
23:24 – How to give feedback in a positive and helpful tone
24:31 – Some helpful LinkedIn tips/hints from Mark Stiving
29:04 – (When posting something) Add something positive to the conversation instead of demeaning the author
30:19 – Connect with Robert Ribciuc
“Sometimes, pressure brings these behaviors that you and I may be chuckling at and promise ourselves we’re not going to be like that.” – Robert Ribciuc
“If you remove this artificial constraint we placed on ourselves, like, ‘I got to grow this fast’ or ‘I got to be on this trajectory’ or ‘I got to reach this amount of money’ or whatever, and you just let that balancing act, and rest on what makes you feel most whole and contributing to the world, maybe that’s a recipe for avoiding the next thud in your life.” – Robert Ribciuc
People / Resources Mentioned:
- Savvy Self-Promotion (HBR article): https://hbr.org/2021/05/savvy-self-promotion
- Unreasonable Hospitality: The remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect: https://www.amazon.com/Unreasonable-Hospitality-Remarkable-Giving-People/dp/0593418573
- Richard Bliss: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bliss
Connect with Robert Ribciuc:
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ribciuc/
- Email: [email protected]
Connect with Mark Stiving:
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stiving/
- Email: [email protected]
Full Interview Transcript
(Note: This transcript was created with an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)
If enough people notice those behaviors in you, that are all about you – selfish, self-promoting, etc., most of the time, when a comment like that is posted, nobody replies or gives any acknowledgment to that kind of comment, and you can just hear in that wall of silence all the people who are mentally walking away from this person just like you described.
Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the friendly relationship between them. I’m Mark Stiving, and today, our guest is Robert Ribciuc; and here are three things you’d want to know about Robert before we start. He has a BA in Math and Economics from Harvard – I love saying Harvard that way; an MBA from Chicago Booth – I assume that was very quantitative; and for the last ten years, he’s been Managing Partner of EBITDA Catalyst. Welcome, Robert.
Thanks for having me, Mark. Pleasure to see you again. You brought back recollections of my first appearance or I think Harvard came up before. Thanks.
I don’t have many people from Harvard on the podcast. I don’t know why.
I’m not going to second guess it.
Okay, so you are here for a second time, and so, I’m not going to bother asking the question “how did you get into pricing”, which is one of my favorite questions, but we can go back and listen to it from a previous podcast.
But before we hit record, you and I were talking just about the pricing community and what goes on in the community, and in particular, what goes on in social media. And let’s talk about LinkedIn, because it’s the only social media site that I use; I don’t know about you. But with ten years as a Managing Partner in a consulting firm, I’m guessing that you use LinkedIn to build a brand, generate business, just like I do. And before we started, you paid me this huge compliment, and my ego got so amazingly big that I said, “Oh, you got to say this on the podcast.” So, let’s pretend like you haven’t given it to me before and go ahead, give it to me.
Well, anybody listening, don’t believe everything you’re saying. I don’t think Mark’s ego ever gets that big, and that’s one of the wonderful things about knowing you, having you as a mentor and a friend.
And really, I think what our pre-record conversation was about you just watch and witness a lot of behaviors, a lot of different people, some of whom you have met, some of whom you have never met, and dialogs or interventions happen out in social media for everyone to see. And it took me back to a conversation some years ago with someone who had been in pricing for a while, was kind of on his way out, and he was kind of saying, “Hey, I really like pricing, but I really don’t like some of the people in pricing.” And at the time, I was kind of new and I was wide-eyed and loving everyone and reaching out, and so I was like, “Oh my gosh, what do you mean?” But over time, I’ve accumulated some of my own examples where you came in just as such a refreshing contrast.
So, for example, you and I both are critical minds. We sometimes see something online that we agree with, sometimes we seriously disagree, and sometimes we find it perhaps even distasteful. And there was one situation where you saw something in one of my posts, you thought it was a mistake, and you did what I would have done, which is you sent me a kind of direct message and you were like, “Hey, I think you got this wrong and I think it’s this way.” And that’s how professional colleagues, peers, mentor-mentee – whatever you want to characterize the relationship – ideally should interact when it’s sort of praise in public, criticize in private or corrective feedback in private. And that refreshed for me how privileged I am to know some of the good people in pricing, and you have been one of the good people who has been just a mentor and a friend and I want to thank you for that. And then we were kind of joking about the contrast with some other behaviors that you see where there’s some people who feel such a pressure to sell.
Wait, Robert, before you go to the next step, I just want to point out I was right, okay? Now go ahead.
Absolutely, and that gave me the opportunity to say “You are absolutely right,” which was quick and painless. We all sometimes, in between feeding children and thinking about five different posts, can get something wrong, and give me the opportunity to correct it on the public domain and so forth. So that’s wonderful, and that’s how honest intellectual conversation should occur, even when it’s within the public domain.
But yeah, we have other cases where people are in such a hurry to self-promote that they even see someone else’s mistake or someone else’s post that they did nothing to create or do the work for as an opportunity to basically free-ride or aggrandize themselves. And so, whether it’s a guy who leaves comments like, “Well, I wrote the book on this topic…” contributing absolutely nothing to the post that you just spent hours or whatever to create or whether it’s a guy who takes something he disagrees with and instead of coming to you, he’s never met you, he’s never talked to you instead of coming to you and be like, “Hey, what did you mean? I’m thinking this might be wrong, but I want to understand the context…” They go and put a post on their own website where they take apart what they think you mean, and they’re wrong, by the way, they misunderstood in the first place. And so, we, unfortunately, have some behaviors like that.
I think it’s going to be an interesting dynamic because the pricing community had an opportunity to grow enormously in visibility, arguably in its own perception of its importance over the last couple of years we’ve had, that have been very pricing-heavy, ears with opportunity, and so forth. I think that also created a lot of people who came into the community, put the shingle out, and may feel a lot of pressure to find their opportunity and grow and find clients. And so, sometimes, pressure brings these behaviors that you and I may be chuckling at and promise ourselves we’re not going to be like that.
Yes. There are so many directions I want to take this conversation, but the first thing I would toss out is I love to make fun of myself, but I will tell you, in all honesty – total truthfulness, I used to be a complete asshole. And I would have been one of those people self-aggrandizing or I would have been one of those people criticizing you in public because, man, let me tell you how smart I really am, right? And I understand it completely, what’s going on. And part of the issue, I believe, is that we, as pricing people, we get into pricing because it’s numbers, it’s math; we can be logical about it. And we happen to be the people who aren’t socially at the top of the line – let’s put it that way, at least for me. I’ve worked really hard my entire life to try to be socially acceptable in certain places. So, I get it completely.
That’s both really thoughtful and self-aware, and I would say the same thing. I think as we come in as younger people with our credentials, accomplishments, but also having internalized other people’s expectations, other people’s hopes and dreams about who we should be, perhaps too much, we come in with that pressure, and a lot of times, it translates into this sort of competitive like “If the focus is not on me, if the attention and the preeminent argument is not about me, then I’m not succeeding and I’m letting people down; I’m not on my path.”
And I think, for those of us who either have events in our life that, sometimes, you need to fall with a thud and really hurt yourself to get the message that you are maybe on the wrong path or you’re trying to climb too fast, too recklessly, or whatever. Other times, it’s over time, elf-awareness, the beauty of friendships and mentorships where someone is in a position to tap you on the shoulder and say like, “Woah, that’s a bit too much, too fast.”
And I think, what you’re describing, I would put myself in the same place as a young person, back to your joke about Harvard and all these being the person from your country who makes it in on a full scholarship and being put on national TV and all those types of things. Things can go to your head. But I think just as importantly, how we were raised, things in our childhood, things in our own mental health can add up and create those types of pressures where all of the sudden, that focus on self and going somewhere fast is at the detriment of other people.
This brings me to when we had all this exchange about self-promotion and so forth. At some point, as I was trying to think about what’s the gracious way to deal with people who constantly seem to self-promote, for example, in comments on my own posts or catch a free ride every time or whatever. And so, I literally was like I’m humble enough; let me look for some other people’s advice.
I Googled something and I came up with this HBR article that is from an HBR professor. It’s called “Savvy Self-Promotion”, and it ends with this really interesting paragraph that goes to what you described, what I described about both of ourselves, younger selves, and maybe still applies to some of these people who do similar things out there. It goes like this; it says “One last and crucial point: If you find yourself constantly fighting the urge to brag, ask yourself why you feel the need. Everybody loves praise, but are you overly dependent on it? Not intrinsically motivated enough? Feeling undervalued in your profession? If so, why? The answers to those questions may prompt deeper self-reflection, which could bring you far more personal benefit than self-promotion ever will.” And I think both what you shared about your early life and the work you’ve had to do, and I went through a similar path. I think I was a much less connected human and self-aware human 20 years ago. And, you know, when you start understanding the why and what’s driving you, you’re also starting to become aware of the effects that might have on other people; and I think that happens.
Yeah, I’m going to start to shift this in a slightly different direction, if that’s okay. And by the way, let me tell you, I had two major falls in my life. And I can tell you that they changed the way I thought; they changed the way I behaved. And so, I often think it takes these catastrophic events before we say, “Okay, now, I need to do something different. I need to be someone different.” And maybe someday I’ll tell those stories, or maybe I’ve already told them here at some point in time.
But after one of my last fall, which was from 2008, I would say, one of the things that I did was I joined Toastmasters, I joined the National Speakers Association. And two things I want to share is that when I saw Darren Lacroix and Craig Valentine get up and give these speeches, give these talks and teach us Toastmasters how to be better speakers – and it was an hour of some of the most amazing content you’ve ever seen in your life – and I sat back and I asked, “So, why would they do this? Why would they give this away for free? It’s incredible.” And the idea is that the more they give away, the more people need more of what they know. They have weeks’ worth of content, and they just gave me an hour. So what? And I took that to say, “How can I give away as much as I possibly can?” And so, that’s why I blog every week. I do these podcasts constantly, and it’s just because I want to give to as many people as I can. It’s fun. It’s easy. And once you start doing it, it feels great. It really does.
So, that was the first point I wanted to make. And then the second point I want to make, which is that I’m a member of the National Speakers Association. And NSA was founded around the principle of “We don’t compete with each other; we want to grow the pie”. And so, how can we, as speakers, all grow the pie? And I personally take that attitude into my pricing world. How can we personally grow the pie? Because there’s no way I can serve every client. I don’t even want to do what most people want me to do.
So, I just think it’s really about “How do we help each other?” and “How do we help the industry?” and “How do we grow the pie?”
Correct. And absolutely, I think different people find different ways. I should say, of the subset of people that adopt that mentality – which is not everyone – And I think whether it takes the public speaking, which you also shared with me earlier in our relationship, and I know it’s somewhere where I could grow, and get much better; I don’t think I’m a particularly great public speaker as I stand here today. Lots of room to improve.
But I think that, you know, just this morning, for me, there are other paths like teaching. I was on the phone with a major business school here in Minnesota about the teaching role that I could do as a part time. We have our workshops that, sometimes they don’t even necessarily have to be like, “I think you are very strategic” and that there’s that point about the giving that comes around, right? Because it’s weaved into what you do and people want more of it, right? And that’s absolutely savvy and smart to do as part of your business development. And for me, I even take it a step further where there are certain things where I have no expectation that something will necessarily come back, and this person wants more of me, or something like that. And we call that mission-driven pricing. We touched on it a little bit in our previous conversation.
And so, whether it’s like teaching, speaking and so forth, I think in a more loose way that these things have a way of coming back, most importantly in what you described, which is feeling great and finding that center where there’s a balance and you’re a giver more than you’re a taker in this world. Some investment banker that I knew early in my career used to say “There are cookie makers and cookie takers. Which one will you be?” So, if we spend enough time doing those kinds of things, at the end of the day, back to the people with the urge to self-promote, and an urge to get somewhere fast, and all those types of things, if you remove this artificial constraint we placed on ourselves, like, “I got to grow this fast” or “I got to be on this trajectory” or “I got to reach this amount of money” or whatever, and you just let that balancing act, and rest on what makes you feel most whole and contributing to the world, maybe that’s a recipe for avoiding the next “thud” in your life when that trajectory, for reasons that you don’t control, and none of us control, all of that stuff around us that maybe doesn’t go according to plans.
I would even argue that when you do too much self-promotion, you slow down your progress. It doesn’t help. I practically live on LinkedIn. I’m on there a lot every single day.
And by the way, I’ll share some LinkedIn tips if you guys want to hear them here in just a few minutes.
I want to.
Okay. But I can tell, when I read comments on someone else’s post, that there was someone commenting and was a total dick about it, it registers in my mind. It’s like, “Okay, this person is not a nice person”. And so, I’ve now registered that and I know the people I like hanging out with and the people I don’t like hanging out with.
One of my many philosophies in life is that I don’t judge anybody. You get to do whatever you want to do. I just get to decide if I want to hang out with you or not.
And you just nailed it. Like, back to that paragraph from the HBR professor, “Feeling undervalued in your profession? If so, why?” And I think you just described it like if enough people notice those behaviors of you that are all about you, selfish, self-promoting, etc., most of the time when a comment like that is posted, nobody replies or gives any acknowledgment to that kind of comment. And you can just hear in that wall of silence all the people who are mentally walking away from this person just like you described.
I had one guy – this was a while ago – who would post on most of my posts and it was like an advertisement for his company. Now, he was a sales VP or sales director or something like that. And I never, ever responded. And eventually, I just sent him a DM saying, “You realize you’re making your own company look bad when you do this, right?” And he stopped.
Yeah. I have some thoughts on that, you know. So first of all, I learned that in LinkedIn, as the owner of your own post, you have the ability to remove people’s comments, right? And what I found in this HBR article, I was in this mindset like, “What’s the right thing for me to do?”, not for me, that this person is annoying – but for the rest of my readers who are going to spend a few of their moments in a negative experience and so on and so forth. Like, “Do I just remove him? Do I completely ignore and fail to acknowledge?”, and so forth. I think, if the person is, I don’t know, some person in a southeastern Asian country with very limited opportunities, and posting about his SEO service or something like that. But at least that’s a position where your mind tries to make some accommodations, like “Maybe the scarcity of opportunity to this person is a place of hunger, where judgment is ‘doesn’t have the feedback, doesn’t know’”. And so, you close your eyes and say, “Okay, whatever”.
But when it’s from someone who you don’t expect to have any of those problems and should know better, I think you’re exactly right. I think, at some point, the real service you want one more than I would have, is ignoring and giving no feedback – probably send some message to that person. But at some point, somebody might actually help them by just letting them know, “Look, I don’t think you’re helping anyone appreciate who you are with this kind of comment.”
The sad thing is, when I was in Toastmasters and I was in Toastmasters for ten years or something, and one of the things we do in Toastmasters meetings is we give feedback to a speech.
You convinced me to go, so now I know.
Are you in a Toastmasters group?
Yeah, I’m in, so I can say more about it. But yes, the feedback is a huge part of this one.
And I became so good at giving feedback and it was always, “How do I help the speaker get better?” It’s never “How do I look smart when I do my evaluation?”
And when you get that mindset, and when I see somebody that I think I can help, even when they don’t ask me for help, sometimes I give feedback and I probably shouldn’t.
But I think that you’re hitting on something interesting there. That behavior is actually so rare – when someone takes that interest in making other people better. To go out of their way and take that risk to give that feedback. It’s because as a society, we are just so passive-aggressive and we just don’t say, and would rather avoid the risk of conflict or whatever. And so, this person, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy because it’s so rare, they might misinterpret it. So, that risk of “Why you, of all people, tell me this?” rather than, “Wow, here’s the one person in a million that’s actually communicated with me about this.” And I happened to read one of the too many books that I read lately, a completely unrelated topic, but it’s called “Unreasonable Hospitality”. And it’s written by this world-famous chef who ran, I think it’s 11 Madison Park in New York, it was the number one restaurant in the world.
Sorry, he’s not a chef. He’s the business owner, the business manager.
And he talks about giving feedback and criticism and praise. I actually listened to that segment in the audio book. I had my family, my daughter and my wife because I thought it was instructive for us. And he was saying that, “Giving praise is this and that. But giving criticism is actually an investment, because this person is taking a risk, right? It’s taking the risk of being misunderstood, rejected, pushed back.
And so, I wish we would be in a position in our community where more of us would reach out and say, “Hey, you sounded like a self-promoting, pompous whatever. And the only reason I’m reaching out is I care about you. And if you care to have a relationship, I’m interested.”
I think that’s great.
I have way too many life philosophies, but I’m going to share one since you just brought up this concept of feedback. And again, I guess I brought it up, but you piled on. There’s a really good way to give feedback. If I tell you what you did wrong, that sounds really negative and critical. If I tell you what you could do better next time, that sounds really positive and helpful. So, just for everybody, if you’re going to give feedback, think about putting it in future tense, not in past tense. And it makes a huge difference.
I love that. I was going to say, unless it’s a factual dispute, like 2 + 2 = 6, the case in which it was like the mistake you graciously helped me correct in one of my posts, you just tell the person, “I think two plus two equals four.” Now, not in the future.
Well, what I didn’t do was I didn’t say “You messed up”. What I said was, “I think this is wrong”.
Yeah, exactly right.
And so, it wasn’t about you.
Okay, I promised a couple of LinkedIn hints. Let me give you two LinkedIn hints, if that’s okay. I follow a gentleman named Richard Bliss a lot, and he’s a LinkedIn expert. He does a ton of research on what works on LinkedIn, and what doesn’t work on LinkedIn. And two of the things he recommends that I do as well as I possibly can: Number one, when you post something, don’t post anything else for a period of time. He usually recommends a day, and the reason for that is the moment you post the second thing, LinkedIn stops promoting the first thing. So, let the post ride so that more people can see it. You know that LinkedIn only shows your post to a small percentage of your followers. And the more people respond to it, talk about it, the more followers you get exposed to. So, post once and then sit for a day, don’t do anything else, and then you can post a second time.
I have a question about that. There may be other people in the audience who have somewhat similar situations. So, when you have multiple posting entities, you have your individual profile, you have a company page, potentially of a newsletter. I used to post from one of those and then share on the others and so forth. But I did notice, to your point about the algorithm and so forth, sometimes one of those gets a lot of exposure. But if you re-posted on to other profiles, one of the re-posts gets next to zero exposure. It’s as if LinkedIn says, “Oh, this is identical content.” Even though you may have posted it in a group, or your newsletter, or something like that. So, anything you’ve learned about managing those multiple feeds and what works?
I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe next time I talk to Richard, I’ll ask him.
Well, please let me know because I’m still figuring it out. And if anybody listens to this and knows the answer, please reach out to me.
The second one I want to give everybody, and I just started doing this a few months ago and it has made a tremendous difference, is I try really hard to make two comments on other people’s content every single day. And LinkedIn cares about engagement. They’re not there to sell you ads as much as they’re there to get you engaged with content. And so, it isn’t just posting content, it is engaging with other people’s content. And so, if you are out there listening and you see me posting on your content, it’s because you’re one of the people I read. And every day, I say to myself, “Is there something I could say about that?” And I do. I post something. I try to post two things every day. I’m sorry. I try to comment on two people’s other posts every day.
Now, there’s a rule about posting. And it’s something like seven words. It only counts if it’s at least seven words long. So, don’t say “awesome”, “great post”, “good idea”. I mean, you could say that. It’s fine. It just doesn’t count in LinkedIn considering you a conversationalist. And so, try to write a real sentence and a real thought and get a conversation going. That’s what LinkedIn wants, and when we give it to them, they reward us. Each one of us has something called a “social selling index”; and the social selling index, it is an indicator of what percentage of your content they’re going to share with how many people. And so, the higher your social selling indexes, the higher they will reward you with exposure of your content.
Well, I knew some things about the algorithms and so forth. I assumed there was some sort of score for the person overall, because every one of your customers has a score if you’re a sophisticated company like LinkedIn, Microsoft, etc.. But yeah, I think you made it more real for me. I think on the seven words long, I just think, there’s people out there that like literally copy paste, “great post” or have some administrative assistant do that or things like that. And you know, you’re always going to have some way of trying to fake the algorithm, but LinkedIn probably tries to cut that off with the seven words. So, thanks for sharing. That’s great.
Yeah, no worries. And back to the thing we started with at the very beginning. When I’m posting, and I’m going to recommend every single person out there do this, please. When I’m posting, I try to figure out, “Is there something I can add to the conversation?”, not demean the author, not disagree with the author per se. But if I do disagree, I’ll ask it as a question. “Hey, have you thought of it this way?” Or “I usually think of it this way, that seems like it’s like your point this way”, and so it’s always a positive “How can I add to the conversation?”
So, you’re saying I’m not going to get a comment from you that says “I wrote the book on this.”
Alright. Well, one of my big worries for today is cancel, so, thanks.
I posted on one of yours recently, Robert, and I think I said something nice. I always say something nice, so.
Yeah, exactly. Well, I’m appreciative of the feedback, whether it’s nice or a “Hey, you’ve got some things to learn, young man.” That’s equally appreciated.
All right. Let’s go ahead and wrap this up, Robert. Thank you so much for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that?
We talked about LinkedIn, obviously. I’m out there. Our website is ebitdacatalyst.com. And of course, if you’ve been following our LinkedIn activity, we launched our newsletter, the Pricing Power Clarity Newsletter, and I hope to use that as a vehicle to be more consistent and grow the audience. So, please look that up under the Ebitda Catalyst LinkedIn profile as well.
Yup. And you can subscribe to those on LinkedIn, which is really powerful. I know I get yours. I am a subscriber to your newsletter on LinkedIn.
Goodness, what’s coming next?
So, to our listeners, thank you so much for your time. If you enjoyed this, would you please leave us a rating and a review? You can get instructions on how to leave a rating or review because it’s so freakin’ hard to figure out. Go to ratethispodcast.com/impactpricing and they’ll help you figure out how to do it on your player.
And then finally, I got a phenomenal recommendation from one of my clients recently. It’s a little long, but I really would love to read it to you because it just makes me feel happy. And that’s from Fede de la Balze, and he wrote it on LinkedIn, so you could find it in my LinkedIn recommendations.
“Mark has been a fantastic partner to Pacific Lake and of the search fund entrepreneurs he’s worked with. There are three things in particular that have made him impactful. First, he’s a natural and talented educator. Pricing is a team sport that requires many stakeholders to be involved for success. Mark’s top-notch abilities as an educator and communicator make it easier to get everyone on the same page. It also means he can host education boot camps for larger groups. These are very high ROI. Second, the depth of his experience in pricing means that he can quickly hone in on the important question to ask or topic to address. This means that Mark can have an impact in just a few conversations with the company. This makes him very valuable, and as we can connect Mark with companies that seem to have pricing opportunities, he’ll quickly help them identify the opportunity they have and come up with next steps. Finally – and by the way, this is my favorite one – Mark loves pricing, loves educating, and loves coaching companies. He’s doing what he loves and because of that, he does it with passion and energy.”
All I could say is, Thank you, Fede. That was amazing. I’m actually tingling up my spine reading it out loud.
Finally, if you have any questions or comments about the podcast or pricing in general, feel free to email me at [email protected]. Now, go make an impact.
Tags: Accelerate Your Subscription Business, ask a pricing expert, pricing metrics, pricing strategy