1723 – How to Write a Great Short Business Book with Mike Ulmer

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the Writer, Publisher & Journalist of Catapult Bookwriting, Mike Ulmer.

Ulmer wide

Mike's journey from sports journalism to business storytelling is a fascinating one. After spending three decades in sports journalism, he transitioned into the business world.

He noticed a common thread among many people he interacted with in the business network – they struggled to tell their stories or present themselves effectively. This observation led him to develop a formula for writing great business books and assisting others in their writing endeavors.

Mike attributes much of his success to networking and word-of-mouth referrals. He believes that writing a book should be an enjoyable and adventurous process, and that every book is a journey of self-discovery. His book, “Show and Tell Writing,” serves as a guide for those embarking on the book-writing process.

According to Mike, a great business book should have three key elements: a compelling proposition, a meaningful backstory, and practical tips for readers to apply the information. He also advocates for brevity, suggesting that 20,000 words are sufficient to convey a great story and provide valuable advice.

He encourages authors to challenge themselves to write just 200 words a day over 100 days, resulting in a 20,000-word book. This would typically translate to around 100-130 pages, depending on factors such as font size and visuals.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Mike Ulmer's background in sports journalism and transition into the business world
  • The development of a formula for writing great business books and helping others succeed in writing
  • The importance of networking and word-of-mouth referrals in Mike's success
  • The concept of writing a book as a fun and adventurous journey of self-discovery
  • Coaching and guidance offered by Mike to aspiring authors
  • The book “Show and Tell Writing” as a guide for the book-writing process
  • The importance of a compelling proposition, meaningful backstory, and practical tips in a great business book
  • Mike's advocacy for brevity in book length, suggesting 20,000 words as sufficient
  • The power of storytelling and finding exceptional stories within ourselves
  • The significance of listening and asking the right questions to uncover profound truths in someone's life

About Mike Ulmer:

Mike Ulmer is a seasoned journalist with 30 years of experience, specializing in helping clients craft compelling business narratives through the medium of books.

Mike Ulmer has conducted over 10,000 interviews and written books on diverse topics, from digital marketing and millennials to sports like basketball and hockey, specifically the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. His expertise also extends to subjects such as writing, entrepreneurship, Canada, Inuksuks, horses, and medicine.

Mike has profiled legendary athletes like Michael Jordan, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Serena Williams, Sidney Crosby, and Mario Lemieux. His extensive sports coverage includes events like the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup finals.

Notably, he served as the in-house writer for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the organization behind major sports teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, and Toronto Marlies.

About Catapult Bookwriting:

Catapult Bookwriting specializes in assisting individuals in crafting and sharing their essential business narratives. With a focus on long-lasting impact, they provide comprehensive services to transform these stories into thought-provoking books.

These books serve as powerful tools, enhancing thought leadership and brand authority while also acting as guiding stars for social media strategies. Catapult Book writing distinguishes itself by creating concise yet impactful books, typically spanning 120-150 pages, ensuring that the message is communicated effectively and efficiently.

Additionally, they cater to the do-it-yourself crowd by offering a variety of helpful tools and resources, making the book writing process accessible to a wide range of clients, aiming to establish a lasting presence in their respective industries.

Tweetable Moments:

03:25 – “Every book is an adventure if you wrote the book you thought you were going to write you wrote the wrong book.”

11:28 – ‘When you find that profound truth, that's generally something you have to give up, but when you find it, it's magical.'

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Catapult Bookwriting at

Check out Catapult Bookwriting on LinkedIn at

Check out Mike Ulmer on LinkedIn at

Check out Mike Ulmer on Twitter at

Check out Mike Ulmer on Instagram at

Check out Mike Ulmer on Facebook at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. Mike Ulmer. Mike, you are found on the web at Mike Ulmer. You are an author and you are a coach. Your book is called Show and Tell Writing a great Short Business book about how to write a great short business book. I like it, it's very meta. It's great.

Josh (00:01:18) - Mike, thank you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mike (00:01:20) - Oh my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Josh (00:01:22) - Also, we were kind of sharing a bit about our shared backgrounds in journalism, but I'd love to maybe just kind of have you do some table setting for us right now and kind of explain the work that you do, who you work with and the impact you have in the world.

Mike (00:01:34) - So one of the things I did with journalism is that I did it for 30 years. I saw the world. Great gig, I loved it. And sports journalism is particularly good because you can write anything. Because my sister was a technical writer, she took things that were very technical and made them simple. I was a sportswriter. I took things that were very simple and made them sound complicated. It was a great career. I did it for 30 years, but then I moved into business and I found a lot. I moved into BNI Business Network International, and I found a lot of all of the people I spoke to had no idea what their stories were and no ideas how to present them.

Mike (00:02:08) - So I spent a number of years sort of breaking down what the formula is, how you do it, and how you can help people. And that formula really is easily grasped and easily done. It's a little hard to write your own book, but it's certainly not impossible. And I love to see people succeed. But if they if they want some help, want some coaching, want to know what those elements are that really make the book? Well, I can do that too.

Josh (00:02:29) - Yeah. Mike, you sounded like you kind of grew your claim to fame or you kind of really grew your independent work through networking. Can you maybe share a little bit more about that process and why that was a great fit for what you do?

Mike (00:02:45) - Yeah, that's very true. My work is very personal. It really involves a lot of bit of soul searching, really, for my clients and for the people that I'm dealing with. Generally, what happens is networking is great because the experience is so fun for the person to write the book or to be involved in the book, that they pass it along.

Mike (00:03:03) - You know, that's always a good sign in your business when you get word of mouth business, that's really a great sign. I think most of our clients have been sort of people that love the process, because the process is. Josh so crazy fun. And really everyone is an adventure. Every book is an adventure. If you wrote the book you thought you were going to write, you wrote the wrong book.

Josh (00:03:25) - Explain more.

Mike (00:03:26) - Sure, because every book is a process. You're discovering things about yourself that you really hadn't thought about. You are seeing people who were influential in your life, who you really hadn't given consideration. You do some research and you see how there are new trends in the business, how you may not have thought them out. I ask you what the one thing that you know that nobody else knows and why that's important, and then you start putting it in your media so that evolution is really part of the gig. I tell people that, look, I'm going to I'm going to charge you $25,000 for clarity, and I'm going to throw the book in for free.

Josh (00:04:01) - Okay, so tell me more about your book.

Mike (00:04:05) - Oh sure, my show and tell writing. And it's really a guide to people who want to take this process on. So really the thing that I talk about is there are three elements of every great business book. There's a proposition, and that's what turns your head when you're walking by the airport kiosk. Like four hour workweek. Great proposition. Who wouldn't want to read a book about the four hour workweek or 5000 hours time management for mortals? Or, you know, thinking grow rich? All these are great ideas and they're based on a principle. So if you understand that principle, you've got what I call the hook. And that's really, really important. But if I come up with a principle and I haven't walked the miles, Josh, if I haven't done the things that brought me to that principle, the reader isn't going to accept my principles. So the backstory is the second element, and that's really essential. The back story not only speaks to your principles, but it also speaks to you journey.

Mike (00:04:54) - It also speaks to really who you are. And those are the commonalities we all have in our lives. We all had parents. We all had good things, bad things, tragic things, wonderful things. We all join the Navy, saw a guy who changed our life in journalism. That's your story. And and a lot of people have very similar stories. And the third thing is tips. You really have to give people a lot, a lot of tips to sort of take the information you've given them and utilize it. Can I give you an example?

Josh (00:05:18) - Yeah. Please do.

Mike (00:05:20) - Sure. So most people if you were a financial planner in the US, people have an adversity to paying taxes, especially inheritance taxes, because you figure you've earned it. Why are you giving it to the government? And so if you were a financial planner and I've talked to financial planners, they come in and they have client after client after client who wants to hide their money, who wants to make somebody else a beneficiary, who shouldn't be the beneficiary, who wants somebody to execute their will, who shouldn't be, who gives their money to the poorest person because their incomes are the worst, ignoring the fact that those are the people who absolutely shouldn't have their money.

Mike (00:05:53) - Right? And so they destroy people, destroy their families every, every day. Because you know as well as I, Josh, when you put money on the table and their family, crazy stuff happens. So if you were advising people and you knew this one piece of information, this would make your business. And here's the one piece of information for someone who does this business. What do you think the percentage of people that pay inheritance tax in the US is? Give me a number.

Josh (00:06:19) - I don't have no idea. 20. So it's so outside of something I even even considered. Sure.

Mike (00:06:25) - The percentage of people who paid inheritance tax in the US is 0.5%.

Josh (00:06:30) - Oh my gosh.

Mike (00:06:32) - Almost nobody pays it. And if you do pay it, you can afford it. But people wrecked their families for a tax that they're never going to have to pay. Now, if you were in that business and you wrote a book about that, don't wreck your family for a tax you're never going to have to pay.

Mike (00:06:48) - People would buy that book. So you have that proposition that's so important that drives everything you're doing that one piece of knowledge. So I could ask anyone, what is the one thing? If you were at a party and someone asked you, Josh, what is the one thing that people don't know about your business? It might be any number of things. It might be that you record these things wearing shorts, for all I know. But what is the one thing that people don't know about your business? That's the proposition.

Josh (00:07:15) - Yeah, I love that. That's really good. And, you know, one thing obviously is you point out in the title of your book we're not talking about, you know, Atlas Shrugged here, you know, 1072 pages. No. Not necessary. Why tell me more about brevity and why that might be a helpful strategy for someone's next book.

Mike (00:07:36) - So the act of brevity is so important. 20,000 words. That's plenty. Man. If you can't say it in 20,000 words, hang up your pen.

Mike (00:07:43) - You know it's. People do not want to write books. Read books that have 5060, as you say, Atlas Shrugged, 50, 60,000 words. You can absolutely tell a great story and give lots of advice and give enough backstory to really qualify what you're saying in 20,000 words. And that's all our books are, 20,000 words. There's a lot of lists, advice, practical stuff, but 20,000 words we stop.

Josh (00:08:09) - That's amazing. I just did a blog article that was 3000 words. I am nearly one sixth, one seventh of the way there, I know.

Mike (00:08:19) - So if you did 200 words, which is nothing, that's your laundry list. If you did it. We like to challenge people to do it over 100 days. If you did just 200 words a day, that's 20,000 words.

Josh (00:08:30) - Approximately. How many pages is that?

Mike (00:08:32) - About 150. But it's a little bit like how long is the piece of rope? Because. Yeah, right. It really depends on a lot of things pictures, your font size, that sort of thing.

Josh (00:08:41) - But I'm just trying to visualize what this looks like. So you're saying about 20,000 words. You kind of beef up into about 100 pages or so.

Mike (00:08:49) - Oh yeah, 100. Probably 120, 130.

Josh (00:08:52) - No kidding. I feel like I've been making this way too hard in terms of like, a book is just being this elusive thing. Can you tell me more, Mike? Like how you work with your clients? Like what? That. Coaching looks like.

Mike (00:09:05) - Oh, that's really thank you for asking that question. That's really the best part of the gig. And like you, Josh, we were both journalists. So we love the moment of connection. And people will tell you, as you know, anything, if they feel that they can trust you and they have to sense a genuine regard and concern and even love for them. My dad is version of walking. Your dog was taking the dog, going to a gravel road and then slowly driving away. Nutty, nutty, nutty stuff, right? Dogs were never hurt, but it's crazy stuff.

Mike (00:09:35) - But when I was a kid and I saw people walking their dogs with a leash, I thought to myself, wow, those those poor people can't afford a car. That's a slight exaggeration, that story. But it's not an exaggeration about my dad, who was a bit of a loon. What is normal to you is really, really not normal to anybody else. So if I told that story, the person would say, what? But people have this amazing backgrounds, educational backgrounds, stories have changed their lives. You have one. When you met a great journalist, stories that changed their lives. But because it's their lives, it's not exceptional to them. But like the story of my dad and the dog, it's extremely exceptional to any listener. So my job is to listen to you and find out the things that are exceptional that you may not recognize as being exceptional. And then my job is also to plumb a little bit. So I did this great book with this great entrepreneur named Ron Foxcroft.

Mike (00:10:29) - Every time you hear a whistle, it's Ron's whistle. And he's sporting event for everything. He's a local guy, invented it. Amazing story. And I was just finishing up with Ron and I said, I noticed you don't drink. And he said, no, I don't drink. I said, who was the alcoholic in your family? And he said, it was my dad. He came home every week and would beat us, and my dad stopped drinking. But as a young man, I decided I was never going to be that guy. And he also had a habit of saying, could have, would have, should have. He was one of those guys who settled for something short of his dream. And I decided with the drinking and with his attitude, I'm never going to be that guy. Well, he would not have volunteered that had I not asked. And so when you have someone doing the asking, you get a level of truthfulness and vulnerability that the person reading that senses. And when you offer that to them, it's the real reciprocity.

Mike (00:11:28) - If I'm open and honest to you, Josh, then you're going to be as a buyer, as a reader, open. You're going to reciprocate because that's how human beings are. So when you find that thing about the person, remember, this was a tertiary story about Ron. It wasn't a story about his dad's drinking, the books about a whistle. But when you find that profound truth, how many of us have had that situation? How many knows someone in that situation, how how Ron used that situation to better himself. When you find that profound truth, that's generally something you have to give up. People have to give it up. But when you find it, it's magical.

Josh (00:12:03) - Yeah. Mike, your website is Mike I see that you offer 15 minute consults. What usually happens in that consultation call?

Mike (00:12:14) - Well, it's a little bit of a cheat because people call me and they and they want to know if they have a story. And to be honest, Josh, everyone has a story.

Josh (00:12:23) - So I believe.

Mike (00:12:24) - That finding out whether that person has a story, it's about finding out whether that person is comfortable telling it, and it's about trying to win the person's confidence. Because, as you know, writing a book is just crazy, crazy great today because most people won't even read your book. The fact that you have a book and you have your face on the cover, and by the way, always put your face on the cover even. If you have a book buys you so much credibility, it makes you a thought leader. Everything. It pivots your your social media. It's so powerful. So everyone should have one and everyone has a great story.

Josh (00:13:00) - Yeah. Wow, that's really interesting that you said put your face on the cover. Why tell me more a little bit more about that. Because I notice you do that with all of you. The books that you have listened to, folks that you've worked with, I see it, yeah, yeah.

Mike (00:13:12) - Oh, because you're the face of your business.

Mike (00:13:14) - If you want to leverage this into speaking, for example, why would you not have your face on the cover so people can see you? Also, when you put your face in the business, it's not just a title, it's you. You're putting yourself out there and you would not believe how difficult sometimes it is to get people to put their face on their book, because they don't feel they're entitled to have a book with their face on it. And that's really the germ that I try to get at because they are entitled. And so when you say, oh, I don't want to put my face in a book, really what you're saying is I don't like my looks. I don't think I can project what I believe. I'm too shy. And really what you're doing is you're believing crap that other people said about you, that you don't have a message, that your face isn't worthy, that your message isn't worthy. And so that's why I asked people to put their face on the book, and they almost always do.

Josh (00:14:03) - Very, very smart a mike Ulmer. Again, you're an author. Your book is called Show and Tell Writing a great short business book about how to write a great short business book. See what I do. Love it. Yeah. And your website, Mike Ulmer. There's a big button right there. Wouldn't you know it? Your face is also on your website as well as a cover of your book I'm going to do. What are you going to do? This? You know, that one little tip right there because we if we think about what are your goals, like what do you want to get out of the book? I think most of us, especially of business professionals, know that the far bigger prize in a book is the authority that it gives you, and what you can do with the book. It's not all of the fabulous riches you're going to make from the sale of the book. It's a door opener. It's a conversation starter, so why not? I mean, this is what I recommend for people with their websites.

Josh (00:14:55) - It's like, listen, everything is human to human. If I go to your website, I want to get to know you. I want to get to know the people. I want to get to know your customers. It's all about human. I love that one little tip, Mike. That and thank you so much for the work that you do. Your book, by the way, is available on Amazon and everywhere else, and you've got an audiobook version of it as well.

Mike (00:15:17) - Yes, if just for the people that want to listen to me for an hour straight. Oh, you lucky souls.

Josh (00:15:22) - Huh? Well. Good deal.

Mike (00:15:26) - My wife won't listen to me for an hour straight, so if anyone picks it up. God bless you.

Josh (00:15:31) - Yeah, I just downloaded the the Kindle book right now. Can't wait to get into it. Mike Ulmer, thank you so much for joining us.

Mike (00:15:38) - Uh, Josh, thank you for having me. I had a great time.

Josh (00:15:46) - Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show.

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