Meet Scott Johnston (Part 2)

A Discussion With Scott Johnston, Principal, Strategist & Facilitator

Learn more about this introspective copywriter-turned-principal

In the final part of our interview with Scott Johnston, SMPS learns more about this introspective copywriter-turned-principal. Johnston shares what he’s thankful for, just in time for Thanksgiving, and the advice he’d give to his teenage self.

Have you had a mentor and, if so, who is it? How has that person changed your life?
My mom, Karen, has been a great inspiration. Watching Karen build her business and now joining together and starting to carry what she built forward has really changed my life. She is often approached on the street by someone she coached 1/ or 20 years ago. They tell her how much of a difference the training made and how they were able to take their career to the next level. How cool is that?

Separately, my dad was also a tremendous inspiration (he and my mom divorced when I was 8). He passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2005. As the primary caregiver, I saw how devastating the disease can be. He was a true gentleman and taught me perseverance in the face of adversity.

Kelly, my wife of 13 years, has been my biggest supporter and 100% behind me through it all—my dad’s decline and death, starting our family, and my recent career change. She’s also an amazing painter who I am pretty sure will be famous someday.

What qualities do you think a person should have to be a great leader?
A big part of all our training is looking at the situation from the client’s perspective. The ability to truly step into someone else’s shoes and understand not just what they want but why they want it is something I believe any great leader needs.Even if we disagree, understanding where someone is coming from enables me to make decisions that are fair for both of us, not just me.

What skills do you think are needed to be a successful marketer or business developer?
As Seth Godin puts it, the ability to be a lynchpin. In this world of fake buzz, click-bait, and cookie-cutter core values, the people who are valued are not the box checkers but the boat rockers. As we say in our coaching, “All the architects/engineers/contractors going to this interview are qualified. What’s your special sauce?”

What advice would you give your teenage self?
I wish I had taken more risks. Not climbing cliffs or racing cars but trying new things and experiences. I did a year-long student exchange in Belgium during college and it really opened my eyes to the world. I came back much more open to trying new things and wish it had happened sooner.

Since we’re close to Thanksgiving, can you tell us something you’re grateful for?
Family is cliché, but I really would not be where I am today without them.


Scott Johnston, principal|strategist & facilitator at Johnston Training Group, can be reached at If you’d like to be part of An SMPS Conversation, reach out to Linda Smolkin, content specialist, at

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