Tony: This is Tony Winyard and you’re listening to Episode 6 of Exceeding Expectations.
On today’s episode, I speak with Lee Smith, a multi- talented magician. But, that’s not all he does. Today on Exceeding Expectations, I’m sitting here with Lee Smith. Lee is a magician, an emcee, a speaker and millions of other things. So what are the other things that you do?
Lee: I try not to label myself as some jack of all trades, but I guess that’s how comes across to some people. But, by trade, I’m actually a magician. From being a magician, it has allowed me to branch out into many other things, you would say.
Lee: So the magic is the foundations of what I do. But, I know this is all about exceeding expectations. I’ve always exceeded everything I’ve done as a magician. I’ve always set my goals really high. By setting my goals high, the magic has taken me into motivational speaking, into training, into working with exhibitions for trade shows, and corporates. It’s taken me many different routes, which I’m sure will come up later on. I also run a step system program. I’ve got a book out from STEP and it stands for The Steps Towards Extraordinary Potential. I’ve got out with my business partner, Spencer Wood, and we also run a business training and motivational seminar called The Step System, which stands for Steps Towards Extraordinary Potential.
Tony: We’ll put some links in the show notes about how people can find your book. Is there a website?
Lee: Yeah. We’ve got a website which at the moment is step which is just S-T-E-P, which is sort of Step Training. The name may change. If you google Step Training System, or Lee Smith or Spencer Wood, you’ll find our material. The book is called STEP.
Tony: Okay. So, you started off as a magician. What age were you when you started?
Lee: I actually was a really late starter. I’ve always been one of these people that gives 110% to everything I do. I went for a number of hobbies and never really settled on anything. I got good a lot of things but never settled on one. I found magic and it really was a hobby that turned into a career.
Tony: You say you found magic. How do you find magic?
Lee: It’s a very long story which I’m not going to bore you with. That’s a whole podcast on its own. What happened was, I was actually about 18 at the time, it’s a really, really late start for a magician. Most start when they were kids. So, I had an average interest in magic as kids do and never really took it any further. Then, when I was 18, I was actually… it’s like fate. I was in a bookstore with a friend of mine. There was a book on the wrong shelf and the book was called 101 Amazing Card Tricks.
That same day, I’d actually bought, I don’t know if anyone remembers these, I bought a pack of see through playing cards. Remember them? They’re like back in the sort of like 90s. They were these cards you could pick up and they were see through playing cards, [inaudible 2:48] drinks spill on them. They were like almost waterproof. I happened to pick a pack of these cards and I saw this book and in [inaudible 2:53] £1.99 and I was like ‘Oh, it’s like fate. It was in the wrong place on the wrong shelf.’ I bought a pack of playing cards so I’ll buy this book. I just learned a few tricks, just out this book, for a bit of fun. I was doing it in the pubs and bars and got hooked on it. I soon realised that it was a good way to meet ladies and to meet people. People thought it was cool. [Inaudible 3:15]. So, next thing I know, I was this local, amateur going around the pubs doing tricks and that’s how it started.
Tony: Wow. So that then morphed into doing weddings?
Lee: Yeah. What happened was, obviously there was a period of time where I did more and more magic. I was actually a carpenter by trade. I started doing magic as a hobby on the site for the lads, and just for the people I met when I was just working around for a bit of fun. I cut a long story short here. I ended up running a pub. I was running a pub for a friend of mine and moved to Malaga. While running this pub, I ended up just doing magic Friday nights at the bar. I soon works out that if I could, I guess I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial. I’ve always wanted to push myself. I thought well, the pub would be a great platform to push my magic. We meet a lot of customers. So, I employed good barmaids and good restaurant managers and literally just run magic shows.
Then, eventually Charles Wells, who run this pub eventually caught wind that there was some weird magician guy at one of their that pubs. Everyone was talking about it. He’s doing all these tricks on Friday nights and on weeknights. They sent down what they call their spies, which I never knew that that had even been in. About a week later, apparently they went back to the office and said ‘You’ve got to come to see this guy. He’s like really good. It’s really fun.’
So yeah, they pulled me out of the pub in the end and started paying me to go around all of their restaurants and bars. Within a very short space of time, I was giving out my own business cards and meeting clients and getting off do private parties. Over a while, that manifested into different events. Yeah, a few years later, of course, it’s turned into a career. That’s how it is. It’s been a long process. It’s like everything. It takes a long time to get it off the ground, especially when it’s something you built yourself. But yeah, over the last few years, I’ve been doing weddings. I say weddings are a big part of my business as are corporates. But, I started doing a few weddings here and there and that turned into more and then word of mouth. Before you knew, it was full time.
Tony: So would you approach a wedding different to a corporate event? How would they differ?
Lee: Very different because a wedding is always more personal. A wedding for me is always somebody’s big day, they’re special day. Everyone is there for the same thing, of course. But a corporate event, often half the guests don’t want to be there. It could be a product launch. It could be just a corporate event where they go to meet team members. It’s a different challenge because at a corporate event, you have to work a bit harder to kind of warm the crowd up as a magician, because you’re like this extra that’s just rocked into this venue and then they don’t want to be there. So, you have to work a lot harder to engage people. But, you’ll soon find that they actually love it. Once the magician start showing them, they see then that this is actually a really good fun. [inaudible 5:41]
Whereas with wedding, of course, people are really in a good mood straight away. Weddings, without a doubt, are the easiest part of my business because they’re already in a good mood. People just want to be entertained. It’s what they’re there for. So, you just turn up and do your thing.
Tony: You mentioned to me, beforehand, when we were chatting about how you liked to amaze your customers. I’m guessing from what you’re saying there, it’s much easier to do that for a wedding than for a corporate event, right?
Lee: Yeah, definitely. I like to amaze. Practically everybody gets the same show, the same experience. I worked out very quickly that if you work really hard, and you do an exceptional job, every time you go out, I mean, I built my business on just doing a good job. But, even when I wasn’t charging in the early days, I would just go out and perform, perform, perform. Just blow people away. Give them an experience that they’ve never had before. Yeah, you could just see people’s brains just kind of go ‘what is going on here?’ This guy [inaudible 6:33] nothing, he’s just come and showed us this. Yes and we’re never going to forget. The next thing you know, they’re telling other people and that’s what I worked out very quickly. That’s how you do well in business. You must create an experience so powerful that people don’t ever forget it.
Tony: So, what would you say people’s expectations of a magician are at a wedding? How would you over deliver that?
Lee: They’re probably very low when you first look at it. Most people when [inaudible 6:59] For instance, I say ‘Hi. I’m Lee, your magician.“ I know they’re thinking one thing at this point, and that’s ‘come on magic boy. What you got? What you gonna do?’ But, I think as soon as you start performing, and having fun with them, and showing them some really visual, really powerful magic, you’ve got them engaged. As soon as you’ve got them engaged, it’s creating an atmosphere. Now, I’ve got everyone talking, they’re getting to know each other. I’m able to pull them together and create an atmosphere like they’ve never seen before and just generally break the ice.
A magician is not just the magician. When I sell my service to a bride or groom, I don’t serve a magician. I sell them the perfect wedding day. I sell them the experience. I say look, ‘Take the magic away. What I’m going to be doing is providing you with an unforgettable experience on your day. Not only that, I’m going to allow you to go off and relax and enjoy yourself while I entertain you guests. You can go and just do what you need to do and not worry about everyone standing around a loose end or bored. That’s the last thing they want.
So, all of a sudden, your over delivering. You’re not just the magician. You’re their wedding solution. You’re the person that they need to make their day a success. That’s what I sell. I don’t sell them the magic. If they picked up the phone, and I’ve been recommended to them, they already know who I am. They already know what I do so I don’t need to sell that. So, I just sell them the perfect wedding experience. That’s what I do. I do that in corporate as well.
No matter what environment I’m in, my goal is to create an experience I’ve never had before, something they will go away and talk about the rest of their lives. The person that books me is going to get the credit for that not me. That’s the key. It’s understanding that mentality sometimes. I do this talk and it’s one of the talks I do, is called Don’t Sell your Product, because we know what the product is if they contacted you. You don’t need to sell your product. Obviously, people need to know what your product is and what it does and what the benefit and the solution is. Once they know that, don’t sell it. Sell the experience it provides. That’s the key.
The magic is a very visual tool. There’s something I like doing in my talk, and this hopefully will explain what it is I’m trying to get at here. A lot of people say to me, “How have you done what you’ve done as a magician?’ I am an extra at the end of the day like the DJ yourself and the business varies. You are an extra at the end of the day. They don’t have to have it. They can have something else. They can have a band. You have to make yourself an essential.
So one of the things I do when I talk to people, I talk about making your product essential and making it stand out. So if I go into, people say ‘Why are you so busy?’ ‘How did you build up all this work in all these different industries?’ The message is simple. As I go into a room, I perform magic. I provide them with an experience that they’ve never seen before. I leave them wanting more. I leave them telling everybody else about it. I leave them with a business card.
So I said ‘Look, I can look at a corporate client site and say ‘How many times have you done that recently with your product?’ The answer is nearly always none. Why not? You need to take your product out there. You need to deliver it to more people. You need to create a want for it. You need to let people know what it does. You need to get them talking about it, so they want more. It’s not rocket science, but we don’t do this. So, I’m like an essentially a walking networking tool [inaudible 9:58] business cards. You’ve got to deliver every time.
Tony: So, you mentioned that you’ve also you added master of ceremonies to your service, some, how many was it? Few years ago?
Lee: Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago. Again, it comes from seeing a gap in the market. I used to work with a lot of Toastmasters. Toastmasters are brilliant and if people want Toastmaster, I recommend them to get one. But, when people don’t want one or they can’t afford one….
Tony: There’s a few people who are listening from other countries who may not know what a Toastmaster is
Lee: Yes, yes, yes. So a Toastmaster or an MC, a master ceremonies is someone that will host a wedding or an event and keeps things flowing. But a lot of the time, at a wedding especially here in the UK, the venue’s would do it. It’s very flat, should we say? I saw this gap in the market where often I was booked for like two or three slots to perform then there was nothing happening in between. There was a Toastmaster or the venue was announcing the bride and groom into the room or it was [inaudible 10:53] just wasn’t done very well or very efficiently.
I thought I might add this on because I’m a big believer in you must continue to add value. No matter what it is you do, you add value, add value, add value. You’ve got to be completely different from everybody else in your field. If you want to be top of the game, you’ve got to be one step ahead or 10 steps ahead, and you’ve got to add value. So I thought, well, they can’t afford a Toastmaster or they haven’t got one or the venue we’re going to do it, why not offer a service because I’ve seen a million people do it. I knew how to do it. I’ve had some experience at this point of hosting conferences and doing emceeing other events and product launches.
So I thought well, I’ll add it to the wedding business. So, I now essentially becoming a wedding solutions working for the downtime. I can perform for the gap so the bride and groom can relax. Now. I can announce them into the room. I can announce the speeches. I can help the cake cutting and you become like this whole day solution for them. The crowd really want to. That for me again is all about exceeding expectations. They pick up the phone, they think they want a magician. They come off the phone, they’ve now potentially got magician, a Toastmaster, an MC, a host, that’s going to create the perfect wedding day. That’s what it’s all about. You want them to put the phone down or email you and then go away and say ‘you’re not gonna believe what this guy does. This is not something we want any more. This is now something we have to have. You’ve created that need.
Tony: So, I guess a lot of wedding couples, when a first contact you, they just simply, as you say they’re just looking for magician. You’ve gone through the process of meeting them and they brought you in and you’ve done the wedding. After the wedding, what kind of feedback do you receive?
Lee: I mean, it’s always phenomenal. I don’t mean it in an arrogant way. But I mean, please go on my website. I’ve got a Facebook page and just have a look on Lee Smith, the magician Facebook page and just go through recent comments. It’s just full of like letters, emails, just the feedback always… I think you just have a look. It’s just always the same. It’s just always the same thing though. So this is important, because it’s always ‘thank you for making our day,’ ‘truly unbelievable. Everyone’s been talking about it ever since’ or ‘people are still talking about it now,’ ‘the way you handled the MC was phenomenal everything just went smoothly.’ That’s what I want to hear. The fact that most of them come back at some point with that kind of same feedback, it means I’m doing what I need to be doing. So, I’m always looking for the next thing I can add to it.
Tony: So, are there any things that you would say that you would do that would be very different to another magician that would exceed your clients expectations?
Lee: I don’t think there’s many other magicians offering any other service anyway. Most magicians would just turn up and do tricks. It’s kind of about the magic. It’s about them. I think for me, it’s just literally, it’s more of an understanding that it’s not about me or the tricks. It’s about them. That is already enough to get a bride and groom to go ‘This is the guy we need to book. He’s not just a magician.’ I think that’s the key. Most magicians wouldn’t even think about adding an upsell or an extra. They probably wouldn’t offer a full day. I offer a full day package with the bride and groom from start to finish. Not from the start, but the start of the actual day. I wouldn’t be there for the ceremony or the getting ready, that may get weird.
Tony: When you meet with couples when they are interested in booking you, at that point, are there things that you know you want to do for them that you don’t mention? So there are some surprises? How do you go about that?
Lee: Definitely. I will always offer them three main packages. I can do two to three hours, I can do a full day and I can do a full day with your bells and singing, dancing, whatever you want to call the package. I think mine used to be like silver, gold and diamond. I have changed them recently. But yeah, I normally just talk about all the things that I can do for them and do it in stages. So, it’s building and building and building.
So the first thing I would do is talk about the photos and drinks reception. Then, I might touch on what we call the pain, so…they might not even have thought about what that pain might be on the day. Of course, the pain for the bride and groom is them having guests standing around bored and complaining or hungry and nothing to do. So, I’ll go ‘you can go off and relax and enjoy yourself while I entertain your guests for the photos and drinks. That should be enough to make them want that package there and then. Then I can say, ‘oh, you might get tables that are waiting for food or certain tables might finish before others and then there’s that waiting again. They haven’t eaten yet. So wouldn’t it be nice for the magician to be going around the tables between the courses?
Then I might add a layer for the evening reception as well. I say ‘Well, sometimes what happens is because remember, we do this all the time as well. They don’t know these things so you have to educate them. I say, ‘there might be guests turning up before you’re ready for the evening guests. Speeches might be going on, they’re turning up and there’s nowhere for them to go. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have someone to meet and greet them and perform for them direct? Then maybe sort of performance for the daytime guests again and gel them together with the evening guests.
Now, all of a sudden, what you’ve really done here is you’ve sold a full day. They’re kind of going, ‘Well, yeah. We have to have all that. I didn’t think about that. That’s amazing. Thank you.’ [Inaudible 15:45] and then I’m going to add this service work into it MC as well, if you haven’t got a Toastmaster or an MC. Actually it takes the pressure off the venue because then the venue can relax, and then they don’t have to worry about it and it’s going to help them. They can be more efficient with the food. So just adding value and adding layers, what you’ve really done here now is sold them a full day experience, which is what I really wanted from before. So, I do it in stages, and I’ll keep up selling anything on the fence also like no pressure. Book whatever you want to book but I can also add this, and add this and you keep adding things. I can do a personalised trick for you.
Tony: At the meeting, you mentioned these different things that you can do for them. But, then on the day, what is it that you do that you haven’t mentioned in the meeting?
Lee: I might brand something up for them; make it really personal. So, I do like lots of different tricks, which is hard to explain without seeing the magic that I do. But. I do it with things appearing in their hands, I may get something engraved so it’s got their wedding date on it. I do tricks themed around the day. I might get the whole audience to think of random numbers and put those numbers into a calculator that’s borrowed, then they’ll hit equals, and eventually, that will come back to the head table. The number will come out as a random number on the calculator but actually, it will end up being the couple’s wedding date. So everything’s very relevant to the day and all about them.
So again, it’s making everything about them and their day and just making it so unforgettable, you just build on it. Everything you can think of, I’m big on goal setting. So, I was like how can I exceed everything I’m doing now? How can I create more? How can I make more up sells, more things I can offer people. I mind map. If you don’t know what mind mapping is, just google mind mapping. I mind map out ideas and upsells. I will go away and spend weeks doing that. I’ll never perfect it and I’ll always add more or just create all these ideas. Rather than just thinking about it and say ‘okay, well, that would be nice,’ I’ll actually go and do it. I’ll try out a wedding. I’ll offer it to somebody. If it goes down really well, this is something I’m going to use in future go forward.
So, they’ll always be things that I just turn up on the day that I didn’t tell them about and I just do it. So, they go away and say ‘we knew we were getting all this but he did this. He did that, he did this. He gave us this.’ I might get all the guests to sign a playing card, and that can become a message on there. I can do a trick with the signed deck that’s got all the guests names on that. At the end of the wedding, I give that deck to the bride and groom and they all have messages on them from all of the guests. It’s like a guest book, but self-contained, and you’ve done something really amazing with it. Then, you give it to them as a souvenir. It’s so powerful.
Tony: Was there a moment when your mind-set changed? You realised by giving them an even better experience, that made it a better day for them. How did that kind of process come about?
Lee: I think it just happened over time if I’m being honest. I just understood that if I wanted to be busy with what I did, I had to keep doing it. So, there wasn’t like an actual shift. It was just the more I did, the better I got at it. I was trained by a guy called Trevor Liley. I wanted to learn more about business and how to be more efficient with people and how to create more, for the want of a word. So, that was the mind-set shift meeting him because he basically taught me to stop selling my product and sell everything as a solution. So no matter what you do, we say just add value and exceed people’s expectations, whether it be a wedding or in a corporate scenario. Just by taking that approach alone, forgetting weddings for a moment, that has allowed me to go into corporates, an offer like magic as a product launch. I set myself a goal to launch a global product using magic.
Actually, it’s an impossible task. But, because of the way I sold it, because I sold it to lots of different companies in different ways, eventually somebody bit and we ended up launching a global product in 2016 using magic, because we set ourselves a goal to do that. But, they would never book that if it didn’t exceed what they needed it to do. So, we went away, I say we because I’ve got my business partner, Spencer Wood. We created a really engaging presentation, the company love the idea, pitched and they booked it. We went away for three months on a huge climb that most of you probably will have heard of, and launched their products for the three months. It was amazing.
But, that’s all done by understanding how that works. Seeing that in the corporate work so well, again, just reinforces why I should be doing it at my private events. I think the fact that I helped so many people doing exhibitions and trade shows, I helped so many corporate clients, I had a moment of clarity where I think ‘why am I spending all this time and effort creating all this stuff for these companies?’ Which I continue to do, but I could be doing it within my own business.
So, I started going away and creating the same sort of ideas and mentality for myself, like I said, for other people. Even for private parties, people call me. I don’t want to just turn up and do a few tricks. I don’t want to be known as just a magician. In our training, we call it the ‘the’ You’ve got to be ‘the’ magician, ‘the’ DJ, ‘the’ florist, ‘the’ presenter, the one that everybody goes straight to, because they know you exceed every single time. So become the ‘the,’ is what we call it. So it’s very important.
Lee: From the sounds of all you said, by having the mind-set of realising you give an amazing experience to your customer, it gives you more pleasure in what you’re doing. It gives them a better time.
Lee: It’s much more rewarding. Give them a better day and you’ll just get better at your job. I think you’ve got to think big. My biggest advice to any listener, anyone I speak to, when they say, ‘How you done some of the things that you’ve done?’ I say ‘because I think big.’ You’ve got to think bigger because I realise that nothing is unachievable. I’ve got lifetime goals, I have monthly goals. By thinking big, it allows you to do so much more. No matter what line of business you are in, you have to have the mind-set and the mind-set is everything. We call it pregame.
No matter what area I get involved with, my pregame have to be right. So I’ve got to think how, let’s say for instance, I’m going to take a random, lets just say I’m going to do more conferences. I’m not going to think on a small scale here. I’m not going to think ‘Well, how can I get into my local community centres and start hosting their conferences? I’m thinking how can I get on stage, televised globally worldwide, and become the host for the world’s biggest conference. That’s what I’m going for. Whether I hit it or not, is a different matter. I’m guaranteed that I’ll fall way further when I go for that. You end up with some kind of huge job out of it. Even if it’s not even directly linked, you’ll end up with a journey of colour, go outside the box, go around the outside. A lot of things like that have come because to hit my goals, they are so ridiculous, you can’t hit them in the normal ways. You have to think outside the box. So, that leads on to much bigger things within those depths.
Tony: On that whole kind of mind-set thing, some of the realisations you’ve had. Are there any books along the way or anything else that’s kind of helped that process?
Lee: Believe it or not, I’m not a big reader. I’ve struggled with reading and writing. I can read and write, of course but I’ve never been a massive, massive reader. But, I’m big on audio. So I will take a book and I will read a book…
Tony: Like an audiobook.
Lee: Yeah, an audio book. But I will read books as well. I’m not saying I don’t read but I don’t read much. From my business partner and other entrepreneurs I hang around with, just read hundreds of books. He says , “You’ve got to read this book.’ I say, ‘I’d love to, but that’s going to be a struggle for me because I’ve already got one on the go and it takes me a long time to read one book. So, I will just go get it on audio and no matter where I go, in the car, on the train, walking about nearly constantly, pretty much 24-7 absorbed in motivational audio.
Tony: Any of those that stood out?
Lee: There’s quite a few actually. I’m a big fan of Grant Cardone.
Tony: Oh, so 10X. I was thinking about it.
Lee: Yeah, 10X is one of the golden ones. Also, check out Sell or be Sold. I like a lot of the well known speakers, a lot of smaller speakers I know as well. I’m quite lucky that I’m hanging around with a lot of very influential people. I changed my …one book I read was all about removing negativity. So, hopefully I’ll put in the notes. I’ll get back to you on it, you put it in the notes in the text. But yeah, that was really good. So I removed a lot of the negativity from my life and even negative people, even people I didn’t want to have to remove. But, as you remove your circle, you start networking with a more influential circle of people, things just happen. Things just, it’s like the law of attraction, things just get better for you. Another book there is The Secret, that’s a good one.
Tony: We’ve almost come to the end but before we finish, is there anything, any tips you would give to people listening, who want to succeed in their business and want to go further in their business, any tips that you would give?
Lee: The biggest tip I give anybody is power to just think bigger and don’t stop. Even if you don’t hit your goal right away, there’s that whole thing where you can, can hit a million walls, and eventually you’ll break them down. It’s like, just keep going. Just think big and keep going. Don’t ever get disheartened when things don’t work. I’ve got more things that haven’t worked than things that have worked. But the ones that have worked have been phenomenal and opened up doors that were never there before.
So, my biggest advice is always think big. Keep going. You never know where that’s going to go. But, don’t stop going around the outside as well. So no matter what goal you’re going for, always look at new avenues to hit it and open up new doors. The more doors you open, the more opportunities that will arise. But don’t confuse yourself. One of the mistakes I’ve made and don’t want to do this either is open up too many doors so you don’t know where you’re going. So every once in a while just sit back and see it’s not working, always focus on the thing that’s working. Continue to go for that goal. Then, as soon as you get a bit of success with something else, keep going for that one as well. Eventually you’ll get there. I promise you.
Tony: Lee, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you. I look forward to meeting you again sometime.
Lee: Thank you very much.
Tony: Episode 7 is next week and we talked with Katrina Otter, former UK Wedding Planner of the Year, and how a muddy field lead to an incredible situation. Thank you for listening. Please do subscribe and it will be fantastic if you could leave a review on iTunes. Do remember please get in touch if you know of anyone who you feel should be on this show because they really do over deliver to their clients.