Phillip Stutts Challenges Business Execs to Use Change to Their Advantage


Six years ago, Phillip Stutts was diagnosed with Achalasia, a rare and degenerative autoimmune disease that disables the esophagus, eventually making eating impossible.

For years, he took doctors at their word when they said the disease was incurable, that it could be slowed, perhaps, but not stopped. He took prescription medicines as recommended despite knowing that they have been linked to dementia as a side effect.

He was, as he writes in Fire Them Now, a “bystander to his own disease,” paralyzed by fear. That is, until he was told that a feeding tube was an inevitability that he should plan for. Life, as he knew it was on the line and Stutts, would be passive no longer.

Today, he is confident that “we will find a cure. I am going to cure my incurable disease.”

As a product of relentless online networking, Stutts was introduced to an Achalasia researcher at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and he is now poised to become a “clinical trial of one.” The treatment will involve an injection of stem cells into the esophagus in hopes that the treatment will regenerate muscles and nerves.

For Stutts, a business and political marketer who lives in South Walton County, Achalasia is to him as change is to many CEOs around the country.

“They know that disruptions are coming, and they don’t know how the marketing world works anymore, but they are choosing to bury their heads in the sand,” Stutts said Thursday in an interview conducted at the Henderson Beach Resort in Destin where he hosted a meet-and-greet.

“The CEO who operates from his gut and wants to continue doing the same things that made him successful in the first place years ago — the world doesn’t work that way today,” Stutts said.

With his book, Stutts is trying to rattle executives much as he was disturbed by the prospect of a feeding tube.

“They need to know that they can win in a world of disruptions by reversing their fears and taking charge,” he said.

A key step can be hiring the right marketing firm. Stutts finds that too many businesses enter into long-term contracts with marketers who place their own interests above those of their clients.

Customers recognize that they need help navigating today’s marketing environment and, “all of a sudden you have an unbreakable long-term contract. The agency’s campaign may not work, but the customer is left holding the bag.”

Fire Them Now (Lioncrest Publishing, 2018) is largely about avoiding such pitfalls.  Stutts lists “You Must Sign a Long-term Contract” as Lie #1 among seven he says marketers often sell.

“Some agencies even demand an upfront signing bonus for the ‘privilege’ of hiring them,” he writes. “That’s bulls—.”     

Many businesses, meanwhile, need to change their outlook. Fundamentally, he writes, “It’s about switching your primary question from ‘Why don’t my customers want my amazing product or service?’ to ‘What do my customers want?’”

That consideration, Stutts stresses, is important in both politics and business.

As to politics, how does a man with more than 20 years of election campaign experience handicap Florida’s marquee races?  

“Had Gwen Graham won on the Democratic side, she easily would have defeated (Ron) DeSantis,” Stutts said. “But now in (Andrew) Gillum and DeSantis, you have two candidates for governor operating at the poles, and DeSantis has a chance.”

In the race for a U.S. Senate seat, Stutts expects Rick Scott to prevail over incumbent Bill Nelson.

“Practically speaking, Scott has unlimited money,” Stutts said, “and Nelson is having a hard time getting out of his own way.”        

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