Episode #13 – Dave Carroll from the United Breaks Guitar Stories

Dave Carroll

Dave Carroll, United Breaks Guitar Story

In this episode number 13 of the InnovaBuzz podcast, Dave Carroll from the United Breaks Guitar Stories and DaveCarrolMusic.com explains to me why he thinks his video went viral and how it lead to him becoming a passionate, public advocate for great customer service. Listen to the interview to learn what Dave shared with us on the podcast.

Listen to the Podcast

Watch the Video

Today I’m going to give away a copy Dave’s book United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media. Leave a comment under the video and tell us the what you think are the trends in being able to communicate more effectively, being a better story-teller, cutting through the noise.

Show Highlights

Some of the highlights of this episode include:

  • After a very frustrating experience with United Airways customer service, Dave recorded and posted three music videos to You Tube, that went viral and had an enormous impact on both United Airways customer service as well as gained Dave attention as an advocate of great customer service.
  • Using social media, individuals have the power to generate conversations that can affect the brand of a big company. Your brand is nothing more than the sum of the conversations being had about you.
  • With social media, individuals have the power to generate conversations that can affect the brand.
  • Social media gives consumers a greater voice and at the same time making businesses focus on the idea of a 2 way conversation and being a better listener.
  • If you want to cut through the noise in a digital environment where everybody’s so overwhelmed with information, the way to reach them is to do it with story – telling.
  • All businesses are in the story-telling business, whether they like it or not!
  • Dave’s philosophy is that it’s not about the money, it’s about the principal – he demonstrated that in the United Breaks Guitars experience and has since turned that into a passion to educate businesses about why good customer service is important.
  • Whatever you are doing – enjoy the process and journey of getting there. Success usually follows!

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Dave’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Watch the interview to get the full scoop.

  • #1 thing to be innovative – believing in yourself is number one – try the unique ideas that you have. And do what you love – be passionate about it. Surround yourself with innovators.
  • Best thing for new ideas – walk through every door that’s been opened, and be prepared to take chances.
  • Favourite tool for innovation – eSpeakers software tool
  • Keep project / client on track – stay focused, be consistent and constantly vigilant.
  • Differentiate – Story-telling – every story is worth being told. When telling a story you have to speak from the heart to the heart of the person you are speaking to – put the listener in the driver seat of your experience and let them experience it for themselves.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Dave via Tw itter (@DaveCarroll) or at dave@davecarrollmusic.com or davecarrollmusic.com

Suggested Guest

Dave suggested I interview branding expert Dorie Clarke, author of Reinventing You, on a future podcast. So, Dorie, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast!

Competition Hint

Hint: to enter the competition, leave a comment under this video and and tell us the what you think are the trends in being able to communicate more effectively, being a better story-teller, cutting through the noise.


Full Transcript

Click to Read…


Jürgen:  ​In this first episode of 2015, I’ve got a very special guest for you – it was my absolute privilege to interview Dave Carroll, of United Breaks Guitars fame – Dave is a musician, a professional speaker, a passionate consumer advocate and an all round nice guy. And he very generously shared his time with us, gave us an insight into what drives him – his passion, what he learned from the United Breaks Guitars experience and how that changed his life.

Like many people, Dave had a bad experience with an airline – in his case United Airlines caused damage to his prized guitar. As so many airlines did (perhaps still do?) in such situations, United gave Dave the run-around and took no responsibility for the damage. After nine months of frustrating attempts to get a claim processed with United, and the unwavering response of a firm and consistent “no!”, Dave composed 3 songs and recorded music videos to describe the experience. He posted those videos on You Tube, they went viral in a matter of weeks and fueled one of the greatest customer service complaint campaigns ever.

The story of United Breaks Guitars demonstrated that in today’s world of social media, each consumer has a voice and the power to influence change. Of course, as a result of the experience, Dave’s life changed in a dramatic way – in today’s interview, Dave shares some of the story together with the lessons for customer service in the age of social media.

This week’s innovation tip comes from one of the things that Dave tells us in the interview, which is that we are all story tellers – in fact, Dave says we are all in the story telling business! The tip is: Tell Your Story – What drives you in business, why are you in business, how do you help your clients. Tell the story in a compelling way, use tools such as social media, your blog, video, images and of course, if you have musical talent, present it in song, like Dave did. The important thing, though, is tell your story in an a way to engage your audience. Don’t just sell to them! And further than that – LISTEN to your customers, they too are all story tellers and have a story. Find out what their story is and what drives them. So keep innovating by focusing on story telling.

Before we meet Dave, a quick competition announcement – this week’s competition prize is sponsored by Innovabiz – where we help smart, innovative business owners save time and money and grow their business by making their website achieve more.

The prize is a copy Dave’s book United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media. Dave tells his story in this book, but more than that, he shares insights for anyone in a business, about what social technology means to you today. Stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that competition prize later on in the interview.

Let’s now get into the Innovation Hive and get the Buzz from Dave Carroll.


Jürgen: Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz and I’m really excited to have here with me today in this episode of the Innovabiz podcast, all the way from Halifax in Canada, Dave Carroll, who’s a singer songwriter and an award winner singer songwriter, a professional speaker and author and a passionate consumer advocate. You’ll probably know of Dave Carroll from the United Breaks Guitar Stories. We’ll hear a lot more about that today. Welcome to the podcast Dave. It’s a real pleasure to have you here.

Dave: Thank you Jürgen, it’s a pleasure to talk to you from Canada.

Jürgen: Yeah. What’s the weather like over there now?

Dave: We had a snowstorm yesterday. I actually posted a video on YouTube yesterday of my frustrations of the snowplows, how they were plowing in front of my house. These are the things I’m dealing with here in Canada today.

Jürgen: Yeah, we watched that on the television and we think, how romantic is it when you see people out throwing snowballs and building snowmen. You forget about having to clean up the snow and make it safe for everyone.

Dave: Yeah. There’s a price to pay for all of that.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s right. For those people that may not know and I would imagine there’s not very many of them, Dave did have a full time career as a musician as a singer songwriter, with his brother, in the band Sons of Maxwell and had a bit of an experience with United and this led to the United Breaks Guitars trilogy, which was a song and set of videos, 3 videos that Dave put on YouTube. The first one, I looked the other day and it’s had over 14 million hits. I’m not sure if that’s this year, but it certainly, I think it got 10 million in the space of a few months. It went absolutely viral. Then, the whole story after that, of course what happened and the response of United to the incident and the response of many others as well is fascinating. We’ll learn a lot more about that.

Before we learn about Dave’s story though, I’m going to announce today’s competition. I’m going to give away a copy of the book that Dave wrote, which, not only outlines the story that we’ll learn a little bit more about today, but also talks about the whole phenomenon and how the power of one voice in today’s world of social media can actually make a big difference and bring about some pretty significant change. We’ll learn a little bit about that today. Stay tuned later on in the interview and you’ll learn how to enter the draw to win that prize.

Dave, before we learn more about the whole story of United Breaks Guitars and what happened when you put together the 3 songs and the videos, let’s take it back to your childhood. What were your ambitions? What did you want to be when you grew up?

Dave: I remember being, I think was 3 or 4 years old, and my parents had given me a tool set with plastic screwdrivers and fake handles. I would flip the screwdriver over and use it as a microphone because I envisioned myself singing my own original songs to people and I had envisioned that they really liked my original songs too. It was the whole package dream. Low and behold, all those years later, when I was 20 I ended up becoming a musician at University. I picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play before the internet was there to show you how to do instruction. It’s turned into a career.

Jürgen: Yeah. That’s fascinating. You knew very early on that music was your passion. Even though your parents perhaps were trying to send you a message there, you turned it around.

Dave: Yeah, they were hoping for a carpenter maybe.

Jürgen: When the United Breaks Guitars started, tell us a little bit about that. You were basically touring with the band?

Dave: Yeah. My brother Don and I have been in a band, we still continue to play in a band called Sons of Maxwell, named after our dad Max. We were traveling in March 31st, 2008 with United Airlines from Halifax to the US and we were going to go play in Nebraska, right in the dead center of America. We landed in Chicago to de-plane and a woman looking outside the plane says, “Oh my God, they’re throwing guitars outside.” It turned out that my Taylor guitar that I had bought for 3,500 dollars, when I really didn’t have 3,500 dollars, was really badly damaged. It set off this really frustrating customer service maze. 9 months later after continually trying to phone and email people I heard from one customer service rep, and she told me that because I didn’t open a claim within 24 hours that the damage to my guitar was not going to be compensated or they weren’t going to take any responsibility.

I decided at that point to do something else. My something else, as a musician, was to do something that never feels like work, which is writing songs. That’s what I did.

Jürgen: Yeah. You basically posted 3 … It was over a course of a period right? The first one you posted on YouTube and it turned out to be phenomenal success in terms of the reach and the response to it. Tell us a little bit more about that. What was the response to the video and what happened at United and what did Taylor guitars do? I think that’s fascinating. Also, the other thing I found fascinating, because I was following this from very early on, that the parodies that then came up were also quite humorous, but sending a very powerful message.

Dave: Right. You’re right. There are 3 videos. They came out in secession in just over a year and a year and a quarter maybe. My goal was to do all 3 videos in one year and in combination of the 3 I would get 1 million hits was my goal. The first one has been the workhorse by far. I put it up on a Monday in July, on July 6th. By Friday of that week it had hit a million and then 2 million on Sunday and then 3 million the week after. In that first year I think it had hit maybe 10 million. This was at a time when getting a million hits, it was newsworthy. People would talk about it on the news and now it’s seems like there are videos of forgettable quality but they’re really interesting to watch one time, that have 30 million hits. At the time, it was a big deal to get 1 million hits and it was just the start of social media.

This was one of the early examples that was doing well of someone taking social media and using it for something other than showing their cat flushing the toilet, it started to have implications across business. The implications that came out fairly early on was through the BBC and the Economist were the first people to talk about it. They said in September of 2009 that my video was responsible for a 10% market cap drop for United, which amounted to a 180 million dollar loss on paper- whether that was completely attributed to the video or not. I don’t know if it’s really relevant or not, it’s because it was really a question about branding. If your brand is nothing more than the sum of the conversations being had about you, then that is true. If everyone believed it then that’s the truth.

If four rooms around the world started lighting up referring to this video because all of a sudden one customer really did have the ability to affect your brand and detract for it. No longer could you pump enough money into an ad agency to come out and have a message they would control.

Jürgen: Yeah. That’s a great message. Your brand is the sum of the conversations you have. Now with social media, individuals have the power to generate conversations that can affect the brand.

Dave: Exactly. The tourism industry for sure – TripAdvisor has more power than many people’s individual websites because of course your message on your website is going to talk about all the things you do well, but TripAdvisor maybe, maybe not, it’s what people trust at least, is going to give you the straight poop on what really goes on at your party. You have to care about those conversations. What I find the video led some momentum to, and all 3 of them. As you said, all 3 videos are up and they all tell a story and an aspect of the story, but the 1st one has been the workhorse.

What I found is it was kind of transformational because it started giving people some attention – who wouldn’t have had it otherwise. It’s empowering the customer. Giving people a voice that didn’t believe they had it. It’s also making businesses focus on the idea of a 2 way conversation now and being a better listener. It’s really affected enterprise all over the place.

Jürgen: Yeah. It’s a fascinating story and it’s well worth reading the book for those that haven’t already done so. Tell us then, a little bit, what did that lead for you in terms of opportunities? You kind of … I don’t know whether you were a passionate consumer advocate beforehand but you certainly have become one now. You’re a sought after speaker of talking about that topic.

Dave: You’re right. Before this I was an advocate to a degree, where I would stand up for myself or that kind of a thing. I never spoke before this. My first speaking even came a few months after my first video went viral in those first weeks. It’s been a baptism of fire and my life has been completely transformed in the last 5 and a bit years since this. I’ve gone from being exclusively an independent singer songwriter in a band from Canada to most of my efforts these days are in the speaking world going around sharing this story and watching it develop.

Every year this story develops more and I learn more about it. I meet interesting people like yourself – who’ve maybe studied this in one way or another and bring a perspective that I hadn’t considered before. In many ways I think I’ve been in a 5 year Ph.D in customer service. I started travel around the world speaking literally anywhere there’s an internet connection, it’s possible I might do a speaking event somewhere. I’ve written a book, which you mentioned, and I’m involved in 3 business startups, 2 techs and a training program. The training program is all about story telling.

I’m developing a program called the 5 Stories Workshop that convinces people and hopefully persuades them that story telling is more important than ever. If you want to cut through the noise in a digital environment where everybody’s so overwhelmed with information that the way to reach them is to do it with story – telling. Right here in Halifax there’s a company called Life Raft that is involved in social media monitoring. They’ve taken listening to a whole new level. It’s directed mostly at law enforcement in education and education especially with the bullying. I don’t know down there if it’s a big issue but-

Jürgen: Yeah it definitely is. Yeah.

Dave: This is an opportunity for people to listen for people that might be calling out for help that might not say it at home. It’s a powerful tool that way and for law enforcement as well. Then, in Australia I’m involved with a company called Flamingo. Flamingo is being directed and the CEO is Doctor Katrina Wallis from Sydney, a great friend of mine and s researcher in the customer service space. She’s involved in the co-creation space – where companies are now understanding that their customers have a lot of feedback to offer. She’s created a software tool that allows companies to put it in with their CRM and have an exchange of ideas and allow consumers to choose the products they want and their information on their terms. It’s empowering stuff.

Jürgen: Okay. There are some fascinating opportunities here definitely. I was going to jump in on the first one, the story telling coaching. I think there’s a huge need for that one. All 3 of those opportunities sound really fascinating. Yes, bullying is an issue here that gets talked about. That’s one of the risks of social media that it’s very easy to … What’s the right word? It’s very easy to bully somebody or say bad things. It’s almost a little bit anonymous. I know we have a person in our network here who is a very big advocate about responsible use of social media and talking about bullying, particularly for children and education in schools. The software tool for the CRM sounds fascinating as well.

Reputation management is one of the big things that I talk to my clients about. Particularly things like you mentioned, TripAd where people will have a look at the reviews and if you don’t own that as a business owner in terms of what are people saying about you, how do you respond to that and also, how do you actively get all the people that have good experiences with you to actually post reviews there as well so there’s a balanced view on those review sites. That’s something I’m really keen to follow up on as well.

Dave: One of the things I’ve noticed and I’ve been putting a lot of effort into is to make sure all the things I’m doing point back at each other. It can get a little overwhelming if we’re off in all directions. Being so passionate about storytelling and what’s happened to me with my story. If anything, my story shows that everyone has a story to tell and if you’re creative, your story can jump out. If businesses understand that now all their customers are story tellers, that they’re in the story telling business whether they like it or not, then you need to be able to capture all of this sentiment and all of these stories and make some use of it. You need tools to do that. All these things I’m involved with actually do dovetail nicely into each other.

Jürgen: Yeah, it does seem like a really good fit. I guess, it’s the whole experience and what you’ve made of it is opening up all of these possibilities. You probably get a lot that you say no to I imagine.

Dave: I do. I have to think about those things a lot too. I like to make sure that it’s within my wheelhouse or my integrity is not in question for doing some of the things I get asked to do. When the video went viral, probably within a month, I got a call one night. I was sitting right here in this spot and I got a call from a guy from China. It was bad reception and he had poor English skills. He says, “Mr. Carroll, I really respect what you’re doing with this video and I want to hire you to do a video for me.” I said, “What’s this about?” He said, “My wife’s having an affair with a restaurateur from Las Vegas and I want you to expose it.”

Jürgen: That’s great.

Dave: I can’t take them all.

Jürgen: Yeah. Is there something that worries you or frustrates you and keeps you awake at night about all the things you have on?

Dave: Well because I’m still kind of an independent guy, I have some people who help me but I don’t have a full time team of people working for me. One of the things I worry about is time management, making sure I’m giving myself enough to the things that are important to me and especially my family. I’ve got two boys now, five and two, and I want to make sure that’s happening. Aside from that, the things I would concern myself with are I know I have a platform, I know … They say, “Dance with the one that bring you.” Know that being an advocate and caring about other people on the consumer side is what brought me here. I want to make sure I’m never in a position where I’m not looking out for other people, other consumers now. I believe you can be a successful business person and care about consumers. There’s a perfect connection but I don’t ever want to be in a position where I’ve sold out in the eyes of people and that it’s not just a perception that I actually did. I don’t want to be in that position.

Jürgen: Yeah that’s great. Making sure you’re walking the talk all the time.

Dave: I had an offer from a major airline in competition with United and they were doing a new route to Hong Kong. They wanted to enlist me to fly on the plane in business class and experience the city. They were going to start it from Chicago to really understand it and have this great experience. I thought, “I’ll write a song that brings out the essence of your best qualities.” They kind of wanted me to take a shot at United. Rather than elevate themselves they wanted to put the competition down. I didn’t want to be involved in that. It’s was kind of easy to say no but at the same time they were offering to pay me to do that sort of thing. I was half tempted for a second but you got to say no to some things.

Jürgen: Yeah. You had a bad experience with United, but there was, over time, they did respond in a positive way eventually, which is probably a good idea to point that out.

Dave: They kind of did. They got back to me. We talked on the same day it hit a million, 5 days after I put the video up. At that time one thing I noticed they didn’t do is they didn’t use the words “I’m sorry.” They used the words, “I’m regretful.” I suspected there might have been a lawyer in the room, I think I was on speaker phone and I think there was a lawyer directing them. Especially in the United States, saying you’re sorry implies guilt and it implies responsibility. They were more guarded and I was aware of that. They offered 1,200 in flight vouchers, which is what I had asked for. That’s what it cost to repair the guitar ultimately and after that 400 in cash for some reason. They said, “We’re not doing this because you have a viral video, we would do this for any customer.” I questioned whether that was true but I was also aware that there were thousands of people who were emailing me and many of them were saying, “Please don’t take the money. They’re going to be offering you something and you’re doing something good for customers.” I was also aware that everybody that made this video, this first one that was going viral, cost 150 dollars because everybody donated their time and effort.

They believed in the idea so I wasn’t about to take the money at that point, so I said “No.”

Jürgen: Yeah. That’s a really great part of that whole story. It’s not about the money, it’s about the principal and you turned that into a passion to educate people about why good customer service is important. Not just for courtesy and keeping your clients happy but it’s good business, isn’t it?

Dave: It is for sure. I say to customers too, you have to be reasonable in what you’re asking for. It’s not how to take a company down. I didn’t make these videos until … I didn’t write the first song until after 9 months and the video came out 7 months after that. There was a lot of opportunity to make this right and my first reaction wasn’t to assassinate their brand.

Jürgen: Yeah. That’s a really good point as well. Were you active on social media before this happened? When did you discover that? Was that your baptism of fire as well?

Dave: It was pretty much my baptism of fire. I had been on Facebook. I had 400 Facebook friends. When I put the video up on Monday, July 6th, I sent out 2 messages. This was the glory days of Facebook where you could send 1 message to everybody’s direct inbox and they would get it as a private message. I sent one message to all my friends saying “United broke my guitar. Watch this video.” I sent one message to everybody in my Outlook Express email and that was about 300 people. I say that’s the last 2 times I’ve ever really asked anybody to watch the video. It went viral from there.

That was pretty much the extent of my social media. Sons of Maxwell had one of the earlier interactive websites. There were threads you could have a conversation with people. You couldn’t see anybody but we were right on that quite early. When the video went viral somebody signed me up for a Twitter account, my assistant Johanna. I was tweeting before I knew what it was. I was against the word tweet. I thought it sounded silly and I was resentful that I had to stop at 140 characters. I’m glad she did because there’s a zillion Dave Carrolls in the world and I’m @DaveCarroll. I was the first Dave Carroll to get in. That’s the best one of my main social media accomplishments.

Jürgen: Yeah. It’s often hard to find people that have names that are fairly common.

Dave: Yeah.

Jürgen: That’s great. Did you see any risk in this kind of approach? Generally I ask my guests what do they see as the risks or the opportunity costs involved in being on the edge of innovation.

Dave: The risks were, I was aware that there could be a risk about saying something about a brand and being sued for it. I sent the lyrics to a lawyer and they had a look at them and they said, “Is everything here you’re saying true and accurate?” I said “It was.” They said, “You should be fine especially in the United States where satire is your right.” I was as relatively assured as you can be that they wouldn’t sue me or they couldn’t sue me for that. Aside from that, that’s the beauty of social media is that whereas before it might have taken a lot of money to make a video like that or how would you get it out, distribution. The opportunity cost of spending a day together to make this video for 150 dollars and then posting it to YouTube one night and going to bed and starting a media frenzy, it’s so easy to do if you have a message that cuts through. It’s really about creativity, but not so laborious anymore to create a message.

Jürgen: Yeah. It looked like everybody was having a ball on that video too.

Dave: We all had a great time. You can see that there were some edit points where people had started to laugh and they had to go to something else. There was no one being overly critical. If you watch the 3 Amigos, I call them behind me, a lot of times they’re not even singing the right words. There was no 2nd takes and they were hearing the song for the first time that day.

Jürgen: Yeah. It’s quite inspiring in many ways. As I say, it clearly looks like everybody’s having fun, even the people playing the United hostesses.

Dave: Yeah, for sure. I guess that was one of my biggest lessons too. The fun didn’t start at the point of the video. It started on the day I decided to write the song. That was 7 months earlier. I remember laughing while I was writing these things. I’m a visual person so I was seeing some of the things that ended up being the video while I was doing that. I instantly felt empowered. If I did one thing wisely throughout this entire process is that I understood that it was a process and I was able to enjoy each thing along the way from the writing, to the song, to making the video, to making the recording, to then making the little plane that goes across the screen. That took 4 hours to make that. The whole thing was a lot of fun.

When we finished shooting the video that day I left thinking that it didn’t matter if anybody ever watched this video because you could see the fun we had. That alone was worth it and empowering. I tell people to always enjoy the process – not in terms of making a viral video, which you can’t even do anyway. People talk about it like it’s ordering a hamburger, just make a viral video. It’s less about the count than it is about the process of how you get there.

Jürgen: Yeah. That’s another really important message isn’t it? I think it’s applicable across the board in anything you do. Enjoy the process, enjoy the journey and the results often turn out better if you focused less on the end, trying to achieve that viral video status rather than enjoying the process. Sure, have a goal, but enjoy the process of getting there.

Dave: Yeah.

Jürgen: All right. If you had a magic wand that you could fix one thing about everything you’re doing in your business and in all your entrepreneurial endeavors, what would that be?

Dave: If I could do something like that I would … Getting the message out – It never ends as the challenge today. When I was in Australia I went to a tech startup. There were big companies there as well. It was a conference of some kind. Around the edges, that’s where the small startups were and I think there was 150 of them. Each one of them felt like they had the answer to whatever they had built. It’s hard … It’s a very noisy environment. I’m involved in some businesses that I believe have real value, that make the world better in some way and I want people to know about them. It’s, how do you get the message out, how do you get people’s attention. That’s what I focus on.

If I had a magic wand, everyone would be using my stuff. They’d be getting a CD for their efforts as well. I’ll throw in a free CD if they join.

Jürgen: Okay – excellent. There’s an incentive. The part of that is telling a good story to get the message out, isn’t it? Which comes back to one of your initiatives.

Dave: Yeah, it is. It’s so important. With the 5 Stories Work Shop that we’re working on, we approach it with the idea that there are 5 perspectives. There’s that parable of the blind man and the elephant, or blind men and the elephant. Where, an elephant comes into a village and there’s 5 blind men that go out and they each take a different position around the elephant touching it in a certain spot but no one of them can identify what it is. One thinks that the tail is rope and the other thinks that the leg is a pillar. It’s only when the 5 perspectives come together that they see what they actually have.

With a business or organizations, they should understand that there’s 5 perspectives. It’s not just the company’s story of telling people when they started and how they do things. There are certain perspectives that leaders can use, certain stories within the company. The employees are story tellers. When they go home every night and they talk to their friends and family, what they say about what it’s like to work at that place is going to affect people’s interest in doing business with them. Of course there’s the customer perspective. Every customer is a story teller.

I think if you own a business where customers are coming into your door, you should consider them story tellers and say we just had 50 story tellers in here today and it changes your perspective. Finally, the 5th story is the where are we going story because that’s the one that people want to know what they can expect from you going forward.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s a fascinating approach. That’s a good analogy too – bringing all the perspectives together to form a more accurate picture.

Dave: That ties in with what I was saying about the company Life Raft – whether it’s this company or any company. Monitoring social media with all those different perspectives and if you buy into the idea that other perspectives matter as well then you need to be a great listener and you can’t wait for the stories to pop up. You have to proactively go out and listen to them and engage in the conversations as well.

Jürgen: Yeah that’s a great message. This might sound like a silly question because it sounds like you’re enjoying everything you’re doing but how do you stay balanced? What do you do when you’re not working on Dave Carroll enterprises?

Dave: Music has always been my passion so it’s the thing that relaxes me the most and it’s the thing that keeps me most excited. When I’m alone, I like to just play around. I haven’t been doing as much writing as I wanted to in the last 2 or 3 years so I’m doing some creative projects. I’m being hired now to write songs for organizations and companies that want the best essence of who they are rather. It’s kind of working but for me it’s relaxing at the same time.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s your hobby almost – your passion. Do you still perform?

Dave: I do. I still play with my brother Don in Sons of Maxwell. Christmas is a busier time for us but we have a couple of Christmas recordings. We do more touring and performing in November, December than we do at other points in the year now. He’s also a full time firefighter so he had started doing that just before the video went viral. He’s got a career and we meet for music things. I also play, I’ve got a couple of CD’s of my own and I perform all over the place wherever I go.

Jürgen: Okay. We’ll have a link to Dave’s website there. I’m sure they’re all listed there. I didn’t actually go to the music page when I was researching this but I have seen a lot of them in the past.

Dave: Thank you.

Jürgen: Yeah. You’ve told us a little bit about what you’re currently working on. I think it’s time to move on to what we call The Buzz, which is our innovation round. There’s about 5 or 6 questions we ask you to help the audience understand what’s involved in somebody that’s leading the way in innovated endeavors and what advice would they give. First question there is, what do you think is the number 1 thing anyone needs to do to be more innovative?

Dave: I think possibly believing in yourself number 1. Sometimes you tend to follow the ideas of other people because you think somebody has a better answer than yourself. The true innovators are the people that got a hair brained idea that nobody else has thought of yet, and you do it. In terms of United Breaks Guitars, all the things I’m really grateful to be doing now were a result of me doing something that no other musician I knew would do, which is to write a silly song, put all that effort into it and to have a message about bad customer service. Most people would focus on, they’d be chasing radio, is where the money is. So, it’s a radio single.

I did something else and did it because I loved it, which I guess is my 2nd point. Be passionate about it. If you’re passionate about it – it doesn’t really matter if it’s successful or not. You will have enjoyed that process we talked about. I think true innovators are pulled by this desire to do something unique and they get a charge out of that. Enjoying the process, you might not be successful every time but when you do hit a home run it usually goes quite a distance.

Jürgen: That’s great advice. Believe in yourself and have passion about what you’re going to do or don’t do it if you’re not passionate about it is perhaps the other way of putting that.

Dave: I’d say probably to associate with like-minded people as well. Innovators and people that are doing things that aren’t conventional. You can be brought down by conventional thinking. There’s a lot of that around but there’s also innovative thinkers who love and support the idea of doing something unique and it’s probably important to spend as much time with those people as possible.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s great advice as well. I recently had the pleasure, I don’t know if you know of the Beach-Worth Bakery here in Victoria and the guy that founded that now is a public speaker. He’s a real unique Australian character. He parodies himself in a lot of ways as well. He has a lot of messages around customer service. One of the things he says is don’t let the dream takers steal your dream. It’s about believing in yourself and associating with positive people, like you say.

Dave: Yeah. It’s amazing.

Jürgen: Yeah. I also usually ask; what’s the best thing you’ve done to develop new ideas but I guess you’ve probably answered that question but I’ll throw it back at you anyway.

Dave: I guess the simple answer is I’ve walked through every door that’s been opened. Sometimes people have an opportunity and they 2nd guess whether they’re qualified to do it. What I’ve discovered is almost everybody in a position in leadership and authority, if you’ve got them in a room and they were being completely honest, they would tell you that they always feel like frauds or they don’t feel like they have all the answers. I’m no different than that. My entire life has been filled with experiences where I didn’t know what I was going to do. Just walking through, and the times I did take the chances, I always landed on my feet somehow and was better for it. I’ve never regretted taking chances.

I think if you want to take a little bit of risk, they say the biggest risk is to take no risk at all. When I’ve had these opportunities, there’s a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t have done them and if I listen to that conventional thinking, I wouldn’t have and no one would believe me. I’m in a position now were I’m doing things and offering value where I can and associating with people who know a lot more than I do in the areas where I’m weak. That’s why I think those things will be successful and why people should associate with like-minded people.

Jürgen: That’s all great advice. Walk through the open doors of opportunity. Don’t turn away. Do you have any systems or tools that you use to keep yourself on track?

Dave: In terms of the speaking, I use a software tool called E-Speakers. It’s just a very simple program, probably difficult for them to make, but simply it’s a great tool to keep everything in line and it prods you with reminders to do things and access to other organizations – again, the like-minded people, that sort of thing. I use that tool a lot. It’s how I know where I’m going to be. In terms of some really high tech innovative tool, not really. My whole business, my life is simple in a lot of ways where I do the simple things consistently and keep walking through the open doors.

Jürgen: Okay. That’s fine, great. How do you see the best way to keep projects on track – things you’re doing?

Dave: I think consistent hard work has never hurt. By staying focused. I think don’t let your eye get taken off the ball. Stay with what you know and you’ll do well consistently. Make sure every time you do output something that it’s the same quality. Consistency is important. Just constant vigilance. That’s what it’s about.

Jürgen: Constant vigilance. Yeah, that’s good. Okay. Finally, what’s the number one thing anyone can do to differentiate themselves?

Dave: Again, story telling is where that would come in and believing that your story is unique enough to be told. You just have to be a little bit more creative in how you do that. That expression of story-telling could be that if you’re a roboticist, then what kind of robot would you build that would be different than somebody else’s? If you want to stand out you have to be creative. When you’re telling a story you have to speak from the heart to the heart of the person you’re talking to. If you’re a business and you’re talking about your features and the price, anybody can match that. When you’re talking about your why and your purpose and your passions about why you do that, there are other people who will feel that, and that’s what you want.

You don’t want people to hear what you’re saying and you want them to feel it. That’s the difference in story telling between good story telling and bad story telling. That’s how you stand out is by appealing to the deeper heart level stuff that allows people to put themselves in the driver seat of your experience and experience for themselves. That’s a skill.

Jürgen: Yeah. That’s great advice. I think that’s probably one of the key things or key success factors of the United Breaks Guitars stories because you actually succeeded in doing that.

Dave: Again, I didn’t know that any of that was going to happen. I couldn’t have predicted it but I did care about all the details. I cared as a songwriter that I didn’t sit down and say, “No one is paying me for this so I’m not going to try on this song.” I used my 20 years of experience as a songwriter to come up with a formula that would hopefully grab people’s attention in a busy line environment for 4 1/2 minutes. I used a song template and my structure, the same type of songs I would use in a bar when I notice there’s great people in this bar and I want to get their attention. There were certain songs that made people pay attention more than others. I used that tempo and those hooks.

I cared about that and I invited people to be part of the project who care about what they do. The band and the video company, they all care about the quality of the work that’s associated to their name. As a result, all those components came together and we had a really solid product.

Jürgen: That’s all great advice. It’s great to analyze the process in hindsight when it all comes together like that and try to replicate that in the future.

Dave: Replicating is harder than I wish to do, but sometimes you hit it right and it’s definitely worth going back and seeing what did I do right here and what elements were successful and replicate that. Control what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t control.

Jürgen: Yeah. Okay, great. What’s the future for Dave Carroll?

Dave: Right now my plate’s pretty full with these opportunities. I continue, as I say, to love the speaking, love traveling around and sharing the crux of the story but also the effects and the implications around it. Every year I’m learning something new and there’s something else to discuss and explore with it. It’s a great metaphor for a lot of things. I’m also really passionate about helping other people to become better story tellers themselves. That’s probably one of the things I’m most passionate about these days. I’m looking forward to exploring that and helping other people believe in themselves and know that what they’re doing matters.

Jürgen: All right. That’s great. Thanks Dave. I want to come back to our competition. As I said earlier, the prize today is a copy of Dave’s book, United Breaks Guitars. That’s the story of how the power of one voice in today’s world of social media can influence change in a profound way that improves things for a lot of people. What we’d like you to do to enter the draw for that prize is leave us a comment. I’ll let Dave explain what we’d like to hear from you.

Dave: I’m always interested, as I said to Jürgen before we stared the podcast, that I’m interested in knowing the trends and learning as I go along as well too. I’m interested in hearing from people as to what you think the trends are in terms of customers and everybody else being able to communicate more effectively, to get their message out and become a better story teller. How do you cut through the noise? What techniques do you use? What tools do you have? What’s the future look like in that regard for you?

Jürgen: Okay, great. Thanks for that. There you go. Leave your comments under the video and I’ll get Dave to come back in a few weeks time, have a look and award that prize. Is that okay?

Dave: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Jürgen: Okay, that’s great. Finally, what’s the number one piece of advice you’d give any business owner that wants to be a leader in their field and be innovative and particularly have good relationships with their customers?

Dave: Congruency is one of the most important aspects I think of getting back to the 5 stories, all these different perspectives, however you want to look at it. You can tell a story about who you are, but it has to be congruent with how you act and how you see other people. I’ve said before that if you own a company and you’re having a talk with your sales staff, if a customer were in the room, would you change your story that you’re talking to the sales people? It shouldn’t. You should be empowering your sales people in how to sell more effectively but it shouldn’t be at the expense of customers. Your stories should definitely be congruent and there’s a lot of strength in that. Then, everything is perfectly aligned, much more strong and enduring and long lasting if you’re walking the talk and being congruent.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s great advice. We’ve recently started sharing our project management system and our total access to the project for the client actually having them come in and seeing what conversations are happening within the system where the staff working on it will say, “We don’t have this content” or “This bits not working real well.” They actually have the opportunity to see what’s happening and building the background. It’s very much like, it’s online, but it’s very much like that online conversation that we have. It’s obviously got to be the same then with the customer in the room because now we have them in the projects.

Dave: I think one of my main messages when I’m talking is that you and I and everyone in the world are completely connected with one another in a fundamental way. Not everybody realizes that or embraces that as a possibility. If you really want to be a leader that has an organization that lasts and is relevant tomorrow, then maybe believing in this idea that we’re connected could transform your business. You’ll automatically care about a customer you never met before as you would your best friend or somebody else. You will see yourself in all of these people and caring about everybody else is a way to build relationships and trust and cohesiveness within your organization.

Jürgen: Yeah. That’s great advice. All right. Where can people reach out to say thank you for all that you shared with us and the time you spent with us today, Dave?

Dave: If people want to go to my website, it’s davecarrollmusic.com. My email is dave@davecarrollmusic.com. The website is where everything Dave Carroll is related. There’s 4 doors there if you want any one aspect of music or the speaking or whatever. It all comes back to me and I’d love to hear from anybody interested in chatting.

Jürgen: Okay, that’s great. We’ll post all the links underneath the podcast post so that people can follow those through. Finally Dave, who would you like to see me interview on a future Innovabiz Podcast, and why?

Dave: I think … I’m part of a speaker’s exchange and there’s a small number of speakers and we get together once a month just talk about the like-mindedness again. What we’ve been up to, have we heard any new great ideas, how we can help each other. There’s a great speaker in that group called Dori Clarke. She’s a branding expert and she’s traveling the world talking about branding and we talk about some of the same things but she’s got her own style and goes off in her own direction. She’d be a great person to talk to and well worth your time.

Jürgen: Okay, all right. Dori, look out for an invitation from me to the Innovabiz podcast, courtesy of Dave Carroll.

Dave: I’ll tell her that you’re not so scary and it was worth it.

Jürgen: Yeah, okay. Dave, this has been absolutely fascinating. It’s been an absolute privilege to have you here. I was really stoked when I saw you respond to our invitation and it’s lived up to my expectations. I’ve been really excited and I’m sure the audience – are going to love this interview. Thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Dave: Thanks Jürgen and thanks for everybody who’s watching.

Jürgen: All right. Bye.

Dave: See you.


I hope you enjoyed meeting Dave as much as I enjoyed interviewing him on the podcast.

It was a real priveledge to have Dave on the podcast and to be able to present his insights to you – he was very generous with his time and shared a lot. The story of United Breaks Guitars has always been an inspiration to me and it’s fantastic to share the insights of Dave’s brainchild with you as well as learning about the many opportunities that experience has opened for Dave and initiatives he has underway.

Of course, you can subscribe to this Podcast via iTunes or Stitcher, so that you’ll never miss a future episode.

All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/davecarroll, that is D-A-V-E-C-A-R-R-O-L-L, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/davecarroll for all of the links and everything we spoke about in this episode. Remember, leave your comments underneath the video for your chance to win a copy of Dave’s book United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media.

Leave a comment under the video and tell us what you think are the trends in being able to communicate more effectively, being a better story-teller, cutting through the noise. I’ll get Dave to swing by in a few weeks and award that prize to the entry he likes best.

Dave suggested I interview branding expert Dorie Clarke, author of Reinventing You, on a future podcast. So, Dorie, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast!

If you like these podcast episodes, head over to iTunes and give us a five star review. It really does help to get more listeners and to share this information with a bigger audience. And I really do want to share these gems, that people so generously share with us on the podcast with as many people as I can.

So, Until next time.

Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!

Listen to the Podcast

Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  


  1. Innovabiz on February 20, 2015 at 08:44

    iRespectOnline – here you are

  2. Innovabiz on February 20, 2015 at 08:44

    iRespectOnline – here you are

  3. Gin McInneny on April 15, 2015 at 11:37

    Great interview with an awesome message. Thanks.

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