Swire Ho, The Small Business Show Podcast

Swire Ho migrated to Los Angeles in 1996. He’s a proud Chinese American who speaks Cantonese, Mandarin and English. He trained as a sound engineer working at recording studios and entertainment agencies.  Before he started his own firm in 2003 in Los Angeles. If having one business wasn’t enough, he decided to launch a second business focused on producing promotional products. His business earned him the coveted SCORE award in 2009 for small business success. His business finally grew so popular that he decided to sell his production company and focus exclusively on the promotional product industry.

Topics we covered:

  • Pivoting into Podcasting
  • Transforming Podcasting into the Ultimate free networking platform
  • Striking a balance between business and podcasting
  • Why podcasting is the ultimate credibility builder

This episode is brought to you by “Podcast Accelerator Challenge“. I’ve been using podcasting as a powerful business growing tool for years. Nothing is more powerful than podcasting for help businesses grow. If you’re tired of playing roulette with your ad dollars and frustrated with algorithms constantly changing on social media platforms, the only thing that has changed about podcasting is the popularity of the platform.

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Select Links from the Episode:

Show Notes:

  • From recording engineer to promo packaging industry leader (01:53)
  • How Swire turned podcasting into a powerful networking tool (02:56)
  • Learning by trial and error so other businesses don’t have to (04:22)
  • How to target your ideal client with podcasting (05:32)
  • Why asking the right questions are key (07:45)
  • How Swire grew to be a promo product industry leader (10:05)
  • Holding back on his perfectionism (11:31) 
  • The key to balancing podcasting and business (15:21)
  • How Swire was published by an industry leading magazine thanks to his podcast (16:28)
  • The secret to connecting with your dream clients (19:51)
  • Saving thousands in advertising through free promotion (20:48)
  • The process of content creation (22:40)
  • What you need to avoid pod fade (25:31)


Cliff Duvernois: Hey there, world changers and welcome back for another episode of Entrepreneurs on Podcasting. Today’s guest is the classic American success story. And I love these stories. He migrated to Los Angeles in 1996. He’s a proud Chinese American who speaks Cantonese, Mandarin and English. He trained as a sound engineer working at recording studios and entertainment agency.

Before he started his own firm in 2003 in Los Angeles. If having one business wasn’t enough, he decided to launch a second business focus on producing promotional products. His business earned him the coveted SCORE award in 2009 for small business success. 

And his business finally grew so popular that he decided to sell his production company and focus exclusively on promotional product industry. Please welcome to the show, the host of the Small Business Show, Swire Ho. Swire, how are you? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Good. How are you doing Cliff? Thank you so much for the warm introduction.

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah, it’s great. Like I said, I love hearing these stories about immigrants that come to the U S and they’re just a huge success. You know, I absolutely love hearing those stories and I definitely want to talk about that a little bit more. First, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about what your business is. 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: What the first business that I starts is kind of related to the recording industry. You know, I came here one of the being in the music entertainment industry, but I don’t really play any instruments. So it became a recording engineer and in 2003, I started a company that we produce CD and DVDs. If you’re old enough to remember those, it was very popular back then.

 So naturally there are a lot of entertainment company in LA, so we do CDs, DVDs for them. What we specialize in doing is actually, not the ones that you see in a jewel case and the DVD box, we actually do custom packaging. We do those boxes. We do those custom foldout. So we actually, earned a name for ourselves to become, the custom packaging, the print expert on the packaging side.

Cliff Duvernois: Most people wouldn’t think that getting into promotional products and having a podcast. Yeah. Something that just doesn’t fit, but you launched a podcast and you’re doing really well. So first off, what made you decide to start a podcast in the first place? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: It’s just fun. You know, something that, something that I, I know a lot of people started their podcasts, you know, during the pandemic, I actually started, about three months before the pandemic. And then I actually carry all my gear, traveling to the guests business and we actually sit down and talk. It was a lot of

it’s very time consuming. It would take me sometimes three hours just to set up and then, you know, to break stuff down. So I think, you know, going online, like what were you doing right now? It’s actually easier. So I think in the beginning of it was fun. I wanted to talk to people that I, intrigues me, expert in, in their industry.

So along the way I found that I love networking. I can use the podcast to network with a lot of individual that are smarter than what I do. And especially I want to reach out to topics that I know nothing about, and then, get those experts on, using, the podcast format and to see if I can learn something from them.

Cliff Duvernois: Great. You know, you’re talking about networking, you’re talking about a tool and I love this because this is actually a very good, uh, another benefit of it is using it to learn. Right. I don’t know much about this topic, so let me go find an expert, bring them onto the show and talk to them. Love that.

Now for the podcasting part, we talk about networking. How does this fit in with promotional products or is this, or is the podcast something else? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: I started it as something else, really to learn about, things that I I’m interested about. And also because I started the business, it was learned through trial and error. I wish there are as many podcasts as we have now, learning how to do business. So I, I especially want to go back because like, how do you set up for cooperation. How do you do your bookkeeping? How do you do digital marketing? All this stuff. Didn’t learn it. Trial and error. Right? 

So, um, I especially wanted to try to give back right to my effort, to, if you kind of go through the podcasts that I’ve done, you you’re probably at the right place. Then if you would just go in and like me, you stumble on a lot of walls and, you know, and you learn it the hard way.

Cliff Duvernois: it seems to be the curse of the entrepreneur that we have to bump our heads against the wall and do everything wrong and really struggled before we finally figured out how to do something. Right. And then of course, somebody comes along and says, Hey, why didn’t you just do it like this? And you’re like, ah, why didn’t anybody tell me?

So I love your approach to that. What has, what does podcasting now done for your business? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Wait in a different ways. And since I’m a salesperson, I’ll, I’ll let you know the result for the salesperson kind of a point of view. With a podcast and, you had to kind of develop yourself and then you, you can, I, I’m not selling myself on the podcast. I never talk about my product. You know, none of the topics right now are promotional product related, but what I can do right now is when I reach out to let’s say a bigger company.

So instead of me trying to sell it, do you need promotional product? Now I would say in research, I have a really interested question. Do want to get interview for your chief marketing officer? Which is, my ideal client. Uh, would he, or she be willing to go onto the show? I’ve asked this type of questions, a for them. 

So the chances for me going through those stories a lot, a lot higher than if I just call them, during my sales call. Not in the sales intent, but really to connect them, to ask them the right question. And then, I know that at the end they asked you while you asking a lot of good questions.

So what do you do? And then it opened up. So my conversation to tell them a little bit about, what we do, and I’m able to connect with a lot more people than I would normally would, without the podcast.

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah, I absolutely love it because the, the one thing you got to keep in mind of course, is, when you start a podcast, you, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk says, you gotta become a media company, right? You gotta think of yourself as a media company first. And because of that, because you’ve developed the platform, because you have, an audience, having a podcast is a great natural way for you to be able to reach out to somebody and say, Hey, I’d like to talk. Without the sales pitch, without trying to come up with that 30 second elevator pitch or whatever it is and how people hanging up on you on the phone and all this other stuff. It’s a great way for you to have a conversation like you said with your ideal client. I’d like to talk to your chief marketing officer or whatever it is. It’s really great.

I want to ask you a question. So when you’re talking about using it, to build that network, what was it that gave you the idea to use that in the first place?

It’s just something you naturally develop. Did you read it somewhere? Did somebody say, Hey, did you ever think about your podcasts like this? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: I’m actually working on it. Now, I I’m working with a sales coach and then, you know, once he knows that I’m serious and do it because a lot of people, sometimes they do like five episodes and it’s done, right. There’s no more podcasts, but then he sees that I’m doing it about two years now. So we actually now developing newer strategy.

So he said that, you spend a time, editing the show, finding the guest doing all the pre-interview at these, you spending. I spent up to three to five hours for each episode. Why not make something out from it? So now we actually developing questions. Uh, so I would ask at the end, since I have my guests on for, 45 minutes, can I take 30 seconds?

Now it’s 30 seconds commercial, of your time to tell you a little bit more about what I’m looking for this year if you can help me. So obviously after our conversation, I asked him a good question. I, I study on my guests and then they’re willing to give me that 30 seconds. Normally, if I call CMO , uh, 30 second please. No.

And then they’ll hang up. And then, so now I’m actually developing on my, selflessness. I will call it, you know, for my business, how I can actually connect with them for the next step. Maybe the CMO was happy and there are other people within their department that actually purchase what I do. So if I let them know these are something that I do, or if I know that there’s no immediate connection in business, I would say, I’m looking for, uh, HR professional that actually do, team retention program.

You know, I have something for that. My company I’ll look to see how they are, able to build their culture continuously while everyone is working remotely. Do you have some, someone like that? So they actually find me the next guest in their rolodex. So I think I’m getting better and better of asking the right question because at the end, how good your podcast is, is how, how good the questions are.

Cliff Duvernois: I think that’s absolutely critical as is, you know, when you’re doing your podcast, no matter what format you’re in, making sure that you’re asking the questions, that’s getting the right answers to provide value to your listeners. So, yeah, I absolutely agree with that. One question.

I do want to go back on is what made you decide to get into the promotional product industry in the first place? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Well, we doing CD and DVD replication. So let’s for example, I’m a session with a minister, an album. We did the CD for them. They are going on tour. And they asked, we wanted to sell merchandise when we’re gonna sell t-shirts hats things that, to carry along, when we go on tour, do you do something like that?

So we just said, yes. And then also, uh, young company, they, they have the premiere, they have the red carpet that their give back. Right. So they also asked, can you guys help with, with a custom gift bag, things like that. So we somehow get into that business and we actually really liked the business because the item will be different every single time. But then at the end, the angle is still people wanted to put their logos on some kind of promotion, some kind of campaign. and this is a industry in my opinion, that will probably never go away, uh, compared to the CD DVD business.

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah, I absolutely agree on that one. And I gotta, I gotta go back cause I find this absolutely funny, and this is just a recurring theme. When I talk to entrepreneurs as a lot of the times, you have to jump into something. And try it out before you find out that you actually really like it and you really love it. 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Yes.

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Kind of like what you were talking about there, they just say, Hey, do you do this? And you’re like, uh, yeah. And then you figured it out now. You’re going absolutely gangbusters. Cool, love that absolute story. When you got into podcasting, what was one of your biggest struggles? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: I think it’s both, both you can think of as a advantage and also with disadvantage, because I was trained as a recording engineer. I think I’m even on rusty. I’m still better than a lot of podcasts out there that try to edit themselves. But then also the disadvantages, I know. What I’m doing, I’m spending too much time on it.

So I don’t do a pocket podcast is not my main business. Right. If I’m a professional podcast host and you know, I could spend a lot of time, so I have to find a balance. You know, I’d like to get good sound. I have to, uh, want to get good production value, but then not to the point that is becoming my full-time job.

So I think the initial struggle was, you know, I, I know too much that I want to do too much.

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah. And to be honest, I, I gotta share this with you. When I first started my very first podcast way back in the day it was because of sound engineers like you, that made me think that I had to be at that level. And I can’t tell you how many YouTube videos I watched, like garage band was. You know how to, use the compressor and noise gate and all of that other stuff.

Cause I was in my head 110% condensed that I had to do this to get that super, super high quality out there. But what I found interesting was that when I started backing off, I would do like a minimal instead of the maximum that people still listen to the. They didn’t disappear.

So it was, for me, it was an iterative process. Like you talk about advantage And disadvantages. I knew how to do it. I was making it really complicated on myself. But when I was took a step back and said, you know, do I really need to do this? Like you said, podcasting is not the full-time job.

Right. We’re not podcasters. We’re entrepreneurs with a podcast. Right. So that’s a very big difference there.

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Yeah. And then if you, if it, it has to sound decent, right. You know, don’t, don’t, don’t get me wrong. I want to be, sound decent. And then if you, a good thing to, to know if you guys put on your headphones and listen to a podcast let’s say Conan O’Brien, I really. The production value in Kono Brian’s podcast.

He sounded really good because he’s been in TV hosts for a long time. So listen to her podcast and compared to the sound level of, if you have a podcast to your podcasts, don’t change the volume. How does this sound, how, uh, Broadcast level. So somehow you need to have these be your high level, because I think one of the most common error I would call it for podcasts is the level is way too low.

So you have to crank it all the way up. And then, but if you listen to like radio broadcast or a professional sounding podcast, there are the different levels. So if you just wanted to fix one thing, got to affect your level.

Cliff Duvernois: You’re right. And, uh, one thing that comes to mind is because I listened to a lot of podcasts even before I have people on my podcast here. And one of the things that I hear a lot of when you talk about volume is like, for instance, the introductory music is super, super loud. And then the, the voice of the host comes on and it’s really, really quiet.

So it’s like I have to crank the volume way down. And also I think it’s just dead space. And then when I turned my volume up on my car to like, for. Then I could finally start to hear the host speak, right? So it’s, you know, it’s two different levels. So I completely agree with what you’re saying there, there has to be, a balance between, editing your podcast so it, it sounds good. And you know, people can clearly hear what it is that you’re saying, you know, versus just. whatever Willy nilly and thrown it out the door. Thank you for pointing that out. 

Now, when you were talking before about, advantage versus disadvantage, right. And spending a lot of time, editing your podcast episode, what did you do to overcome that obstacle?

Or what are some questions that you ask yourself to kind of do that mental interrupt, so you don’t spend 20 hours editing a single episode. 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Just like what we, how I approach the business. I become more efficient. So I. You know, if you’ve used a computer, then you know what they’re at? There are presets, there are parameters that I set, you know, I really took the time to do it. So every time that I know that if I run through those perimeters, with those effects, for example, I know I have decent sound. So maybe sometime I’ll go in and fix if someone, something didn’t turn out.

Right. But then I know that by having. Settings available that will ensure to me to have at least a above average sound quality. So I think as an entrepreneur, standpoint, this is good enough. It’s just like how I approach the business. You know, that if you have certain elements involved as a project, then you know that the project is going well.

But then if you’re, let’s say if you’re missing something or if you are not able to get what you need it to do his job, then you know that you need to pay more attention to, the work or for example, in our case,

Cliff Duvernois: Nice. Love it. With regards to podcasting. Why don’t you share with us what one of your biggest successes is? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: I was able to. Pitch one of our industry leading magazine in promotional product to write an article in the exact topic. How do you start a podcast for business and, and why. The question is more about the why, because all the nuts and bolts, if you have certain resources, you could actually hire someone to do it, but then with Dell, figure out the why.

You’re starting a podcast. It’s not going to go so far. You might get the initial hunch to do maybe five to 10 episodes, but then if this is not something that we really want to do and you can connect with, then it’s not, going to go very far. So I think by able to look at the opportunity.

I’m using podcasts is kind of my credibility builder. I would call it. So for example, when you work with client, if you’re a business, they will ask you whoever you work with, right. Who are your clients? So then they expect you to throw some big names, something that kind of, they are relate to and agree to.

And by having the podcast, when I reach out you know what I. People who are at higher social status than I do. I’m able to use the podcast and I’m not just nobody. I have this podcast and it this year, hopefully I’ll be over a hundred episodes. So that gives really the credibility.

It’s not just a new podcast, I’ve actually have interview a lot of guests, a lot of different experts. And then if you have the conversation with me, then maybe I could help you, take you to your next level too. So I think it’s just another way for, for me to put, my credibility, to, into my business.

Cliff Duvernois: I want to go back and talk about something here, because I. I love both of those things. Right? You were able to pitch a magazine and get an article published as well as the angle of having it be a credibility builder for you. 

What I would like to do is I’d like to go back and talk about, the article you got published in the magazine, because some of these, these magazines out there are getting, millions of eyeballs on their content every single month. So just having the honor of getting published is absolutely huge. 

Now you mentioned before you said, you know, because you had a podcast, you were able to pitch to a magazine. Walk us through that process. How did you reach out to them?

How did you phrase it? Did you send them the podcast ahead of time? Or, what was that like? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Well, if you, if you have been doing podcasts for a while, then obviously you had the right setup, you had the right mindset. You get over that, the sound of your own voice, because the first time you listened to the sound of your own voice in your speakers for. Unique experience.

Right? So, you know, We, we got over that. So I actually just wrote an email to the editor. I said, I’ve been doing that. I think that will benefit, the reader from the magazine. They actually have a podcast. I actually invite myself to be as a guest, you know, to talk about that exact topic.

And then just said, why don’t you write an article for us? And I think I have developed a relationship with the editor. So they actually asked me to, comment, you know, sometimes they have a questions that you’re looking for answers. They’re actually reach out to me. I love that opportunity. So, because.

And editor for a magazine, they were constantly looking for information. They can’t do it all by themselves. So hopefully I’ll be on their good side. So whenever that’s something that I might be off value, they’ll reach out to me and I can quote on magazine. So imagine how your business will appear to versus your competitor.

If you get constant quotes on industry magazines..

Cliff Duvernois: No. That’s absolutely brilliant. You said, and I want to go back and kinda kind of point this out for our audience is it’s not just a matter of having guests on your podcast, but also being a guest on other people’s podcasts. Because like you said, podcasting is. And I don’t know how many times podcasting is like the ultimate built relationship building tool.

Right. And it’s not just a one-way street. It’s not like, oh mom, I’m going to have people on my podcast and build a relationship. You can be a guest on other people’s podcasts as well. And that, once again, it’s just another way to, develop a relationship, which in your case, by talking to the editor, they were like, Hey, why don’t you write an article for us?

And we’ll publish it. And you’re like, okay, 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Yeah, it’s free promotion. You know, how much do you spend to be on the magazine now they’re asking me for it. So it’s, yeah, it’s a time commitment, right. To come up with good information. But then, I’m able to network with them again. And then I, I know them first name basis, so we actually, I will send them idea just to pitch them for the next article.

So if they take it, I write articles for magazines, as long as, as many times I say, want me.

Cliff Duvernois: Right. Exactly. And because you have these great guests on your podcast, especially about topics you don’t know about you now almost have this, this infinite well of knowledge, right? From all these other podcasts, guests that you’re having on your show, to be able to create, you know, cause you’re learning things.

So you’re able to take. And convey it into writing to be able to just keep producing really great, great high quality content, because like you said, you’ve got, you’re getting access to some really smart people out there who, just know, something like how to incorporate. Leverage their strengths, bring them onto your podcast, talk to them and then be able to go out and write articles around it.

Because I think I want to keep in mind is, and you said this before about continually writing articles is that, we have to understand that these magazines, these publications, they’re all the time looking for content. All the time. Right? It’s not something where they can go a week or 30 days without publishing new content.

They need new content all the time. Right. They cause they want those millions of eyeballs on their stuff so they can charge advertisers and in all this other stuff. That’s absolutely brilliant. Now I do want to explore this just a little bit when it comes to, it comes to writing these articles, what is kind of like a framework that you use to, to write good article. 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: I’m a hobo writer. I’ll admit it on, on your show, but then why my approach is, my daughter, my daughter is 12. She’s an excellent writer, so I can’t do what she does. And she just have very good structure, a lot of good paragraph. Good grammars. I’ve I can write it off back grammars. Bad spelling.

But then what I do is I put a lot of bullet points, whatever I can think of about that topic. I stopped writing bullet points, as many as I can. And then I’ll go back the next day. I’ll write a little bit more underneath the bullet point, or if I think that bullet point is not relevant to the article I’ll deleted at all.

So that’s how I’m able to build a structure. So obviously I asked him to edit it for me. Uh, uh, my daughter, right? So then, you know, it becomes, worthy, to be on a magazine. But then I think for me, I comes with idea first and then within those idea, what else can you say about that bullet point?

So that’s kind of how I approached to do writing that article.

Cliff Duvernois: right. And I think that’s absolutely, that’s absolutely brilliant that you’re, you know, that you’re able to do that kudos to your daughter. I know my writing could stand a little bit of TLC myself, so it’s good that you’ve kind of got that in your family because that really helps you out. Plus it makes her a part of the process. 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Yeah. She, she, she liked that she likes writing, you know, so she wants to be an editor or a journalist. So you analysis help daddy

Cliff Duvernois: nice, nice love that. For the entrepreneur, that’s out there probably has a, you know, they have a podcast, they might be struggling with it right now. What would be like one piece of advice or a couple pieces of advice that, that you would give them. 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: I think Cliff, you asked me that question in the beginning, you asked Neil, why are you doing that? So the first question that you want to ask, if you are struggling with podcast you know, assuming that you’ve been running that f or a little bit. That’s why did you start it in the first place? Do you really have reason to continue it?

So you can say no, you know, you could tell yourself no, then you move on. But if you say yes, why did you start it? What are the reasons you want to do it? And if you’re like me, You want to start thinking about how can it benefit your business? For me, because I’m a sales person. I develop all this sales strategies to have more conversation.

You know, my, my goal for podcasts is to have more conversation with people. When I have more conversations with people as a salesperson. I know when the right fit comes in. When my ideal client comes along. I already have the procedure to ask the follow-up questions, to prompt them, to see if we should go into the next conversation, which will be a prospecting call.

So initially I do start out as a podcast, but then if they’re interested, then we move on to the next meeting, which we talk about business. So think of it like this way, if you own your business, are there other goals that you think your guests might be able to help you, are there other benefits, if you connect with certain level of guests that are able to grow your business. 

So maybe there are ways that do that and build your own questions. So then when you finish a good interview with the guest. Take maybe two minutes of their time and ask them if I could tell you a little bit about what I’m up to, what I’m doing right now to see if we’re able to connect.

So I think that at least that conversation, will keep you motivated for doing a podcast because these are new conversation that you normally might not able to have. If you don’t have, if you’re not doing your podcast.

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah, exactly. And I love that you bring that up because, because taking a step back from what you just talking about, it’s really about keeping in mind the big picture, right around the podcast. It’s just not about producing an episode. So you could hear yourself on your car speakers. Well, first off, it’s the why, right?

Why am I doing this? What’s my primary, driver behind this? What’s the focus behind this? What am I ultimately trying to achieve? But the second thing is, is taken, taken into account that big strategy about how you can use a podcast for your business and use it effectively. 

Love of love, uh, both of those points. So with that being said, if somebody is listening to your podcast and they’re like, yeah, I want to follow a Swire online. I want to check out his podcast. I want to see what he’s doing. What’s the best way for them to connect with you? 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Thank you Cliff. I go by Swire Ho hashtag the promo guy. So if anyone wants to Google me, just do that. I’m the only one with that acronym. Uh, and I’m also on LinkedIn for active on LinkedIn. So find me Swire Ho on LinkedIn. Name of my podcast is the Small Business Show. Uh, it’s on all of the major podcasting platform.

And if you want to talk business, then you can go to my website at goruta promo.com

Cliff Duvernois: And for our audience, we will have all those links in the show notes down below, including the article that’s Swire written about how to start a podcast. I’m actually looking forward to reading that myself. So anyways, Swire, it’s been great having you on the podcast today. Thank you very much.

I learned a lot and yeah, once again. Thank you. 

Swire Ho, The Small Business Show: Thank You, Cliff.

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