In the first of a two-part series, SMPS sits down with Scott Johnston, principal at Johnston Training Group. Johnston, who started his career as a copywriter, talks about his current role, his favorite part of the job, and the best advice he’s ever received.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a principal, strategist & facilitator at Johnston Training Group (JTG). Most of our clients are A/E/C firms in the greater Seattle area. I live on Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride west of Seattle. I’m married, and we have two kids who are 11 and 8. In between work and kid activities, I enjoy soccer, cycling, and cheering for the Seahawks.
Tell us about your career and current role.
My career up until mid-2014 was as a marketing copywriter. While I was developing my marketing chops over the last two decades, my mother Karen built JTG. She has helped thousands of technical professionals develop presentation skills, interview effectively as part of a team, and develop business based on building relationships.
As I watched Karen build her business, I never thought I would be a part of it. By 2013, I was a senior copywriter and looking for ways to do more than just create marketing copy. I decided to try to teach the people I worked with how to improve their writing—both the skills and the process. I borrowed the active learning methodology Karen uses at JTG and found it worked incredibly well. I also enjoyed helping people do the writing part of their job faster and better. I was hooked and realized that was what I wanted to do.
I approached my mom about joining the business. She was shocked and never had any idea I was interested. We agreed to try it out for six months. I developed a program called Strategic Writing to help JTG clients improve their writing—usually for proposals. It was a hit and soon I was facilitating presentation skills and interview coaching too. I won the very first project I coached and knew this is what I was meant to do.
At some point, I decided that being good was not good enough. I wanted to do something I could put my heart and soul into with the goal of being great.
What is a typical day like?
Most days are spent working directly with clients, either training or performing assessments as part of preparation. JTG’s training is customized for each client so the assessments are critical. In between is filled with meetings, running the business, and the time I make for my family.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I describe it as “helping people release their inner genius.” The technical professionals we work with—mostly architects, engineers, and contractors—are such talented people. But, sometimes they need help preparing for presentations and interviews. Helping people express their inner genius and how it can solve problems is incredibly rewarding.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
It came out of a book I read called Good to Great by Jim Collins. Toward the end of my copywriter career, I realized that while I was a good marketing writer, it wasn’t my passion. And if it wasn’t my passion, I would never be great. At some point, I decided that being good was not good enough. I wanted to do something I could put my heart and soul into with the goal of being great.
Scott Johnston, principal|strategist & facilitator at Johnston Training Group, can be reached at [email protected]. If you’d like to be part of An SMPS Conversation, reach out to Linda Smolkin, content specialist, at [email protected].