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Nancie McDonnell RuderNancie McDonnell Ruder is the Founder and CEO of Noetic Consultants, a marketing and leadership consulting firm providing B2B and B2C companies resources to create authentic brands. Nancie has over 20 years of experience in marketing strategy, branding, training, and consumer research. Since launching her company in 2002, she has provided guidance for household names including Nike, AT&T, SC Johnson, and the Walt Disney Company. Nancie is the creator of the Noetic art and science assessment and author of How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights: What is Still True, More True, & Newly True.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Nancie McDonnell Ruder shares Noetic’s mission — and what differentiates it from competitors
  • How Nancie founded Noetic and built the company’s impressive client base
  • What are the significant turning points in Noetic’s history?
  • Nancie reflects on the mistakes she made when launching Noetic
  • How Nancie became an adjunct professor and what she enjoys most about that role
  • Nancie discusses her book — and why she created the art and science assessment
  • Nancie shares her daily rituals

In this episode…

Entrepreneurialism is an appealing business venture for creative thinkers and innovators — although not every idea is successful. Launching a business requires a strong work ethic, a unique marketing strategy, and defined core values that drive your company’s mission forward. In a saturated market, how can you create a successful business model unique from its competitors?

When Nancie McDonnell Ruder launched her marketing company, she didn’t realize how beneficial core values would be to her brand’s success. Nevertheless, when the company encountered adversity, its core values kept its team focused on the company’s mission. If your company doesn’t have a set of defined core values, you must make it a top priority — it will serve you well in uncertain times.

In this episode of the Top Business Leaders Show, Chad Franzen welcomes Nancie McDonnell Ruder, Founder and CEO of Noetic Consultants, to discuss launching her company and how it differentiates from competitors. Nancie talks about Noetic’s journey, mistakes made, and turning points for the business. She also shares how she became an adjunct professor, her experience writing a book, and her daily routines.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show Powered by Rise25 Media, we feature top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world.

Chad Franzen 0:14

Chad Franzen here co-host of the Top Business Leaders Show where we feature CEOs, entrepreneurs and top leaders in the business world. This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses reach their dream relationships and connect with more clients referrals and strategic partnerships and get ROI through done for you podcasts. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships, there’s no better way to do it than to profile the people and companies you admire on your own podcast. To learn more, go to or email us at Nancie McDonnell Ruder is an executive coach, leadership advisor and marketing consultant with more than 25 years of experience. She began her career at the Leo Burnett company, and in 2002, founded Noetic Consultants working with clients such as Samsung, Pepsi, Nike, Marriott, the Mayo Clinic and discovery Incorporated. Nancie serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, her undergraduate alma mater, and is the creator of Noetic art and science assessment, as well as the author of the book, How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights. She’s an active member of chief and Vistage, and has served on various nonprofit boards. Nancie, thanks so much for joining me today. Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. Hey, as we get started here, you founded Noetic Consultants more than 20 years ago, tell me more about it and kind of give me just kind of a broad view of who you guys are what you guys do?

Nancie McDonnell Ruder 1:49

Sure, I always like to say, because it’s been 20 years, I don’t want people doing the math on that. So I started when I was 10 years old. Of course, of course.

Right wonder child. So Noetic is a consultancy. In the marketing space. There’s a lot of, you know, different offerings out there. As a consultancy, we do marketing and leadership consulting. So we’re not an agency, we don’t do external brand expression, you know, advertising or PR out in the market space. Rather, we do consumer research, brand strategy, training and executive coaching. So we’re really in the scaling up in the behind the scenes, we like to say we strengthen brands, and we strengthen the people that build the brands. And we do this in both b2b and b2c. So we’re working to really create that strength from the inside out in an effort to help companies really accelerate their growth, build their internal marketing strength, so that those external efforts, both you know, inside the organization, culturally, and skill wise, and then externally, so, services wise, we do both qualitative and quantitative research, we do a lot of audience definition. All kinds of branding, whether that’s architecture, brand positioning, rebranding, refining, branding, and then in training and coaching, coaching is one to one. And then training is one to many, and we do both live and virtual in that space. So, you know, that can be a full curriculum that we deliver virtually, because when teams are geographically dispersed, or we do a lot of in person as well.

Chad Franzen 3:40

Tell me about your, the values and approach that Noetic kind of takes. And maybe what differentiates you from that standpoint?

Nancie McDonnell Ruder 3:48

Yeah, I do think that our values are a really key point of our distinction. It really drives how we work more than what we offer, because our values which we just take really seriously, we talk about them all the time, you know, daily, if not weekly, and it’s something that guides how we behave, it’s how we think and we behave with clients. It’s how we think and behave with one another. So I won’t list them all for you. There are seven, I’ll just, I’ll just talk about one or two. Dynamic positivity is one and this is around, not dynamic. Positivity, like everything’s fine when it’s not. But really rolling up our sleeves and being constructive at all times with one another with our clients getting really curious about challenges as opposed to you know, ever spiraling down the rabbit hole and people are, you know, stressed out about the complex challenges, we really need to be constructive problem solvers. And we do look at the glass half full and stay curious about the opportunities. The second one I’ll mention, which really is kind of like the value that stands above all the other ones is helping kindness first. And what that’s about is being really helpful and kind to one another and in the market. So we do a lot of informal helping and supporting of all the people in our network, we do that because we believe that it’s good to do, it puts just really good karma out into the world, we also have seen that it’s good for business, you know, so many times, when we got the work that we do, it’s through warm referrals, and repeat customers who come back who really appreciate how constructive we are. I would also say from a distinction standpoint, which of course, like you know, that’s the business we’re in, we’re helping organizations figure out their distinction. Our particular mix of services is rather distinct, you will find consultancies that do, you know, just research or do research and brand, it’s rare, if the if I don’t know that I’ve seen it, to have the combination of the research brand, and then the training component, so around the the people and the brands together. And the reason why we have that is it really was born of clients looking to us toward being equipped. So you know, it’s not just good enough to have those good answers strategically, but how will you deploy it within the organization and get everybody on board so that everyone can be authentically living the brand, because they really understand to their core, what the brand is truly about, and they’re embodying it. So I think in terms of like our service offering, and how we go about building brands, and the people themselves around those brands is, is a big part of our distinction.

Chad Franzen 6:50

Is that training always been a part of Noetic? I mean, if I were Yeah,

Nancie McDonnell Ruder 6:55

great question. No, no. So in our, in our 21 years, it, it came about about 10 12 years ago, okay. And it’s something that we, you know, we kept getting asked, and so we, you know, we we got trained in, in training, and we had done it in, I would say an informal manner, because we always had done a lot of facilitation. But it was increasingly becoming obvious to me that it was something that people were looking to us for. And so we went and got that expertise, and then launched it,

Chad Franzen 7:29

you know, if I were young and starting a company, and we had this specialty, and then like, the clients wanted me to teach them my specialty, I guess I might be a little threatened by that, or something, you know, like, like, like, your lack of knowledge is my job security. But you found that to be the opposite.

Nancie McDonnell Ruder 7:44

I think that it is a delicate balance. At times, I often will say to clients, and we always have to, like feel out whether or not they understand why we’re there. You know, I often will say to clients, we are here to inspire, educate and equip where you need it and not where you don’t. So when, when an outside partner gets brought in, in our case, at least, so to speak for myself, it’s usually some combination of, you know, we don’t have might have the skill set you have, but we don’t have the bandwidth to do the work. Or we don’t have the skill set. And we want you to help us, you know, get it. And sometimes it’s just having that third party objectivity, like I can’t, as the leader do this work. I need someone who can come in and bring best practices from other organizations. And sometimes it’s a combination of the both, but I will tell you to your question, I we have had moments over the years that you can tell when a person feels threatened, like, Are you here to get me fired? Or are you here and it’s going to make me look bad. And when those moments happen, we really tried to address it. Head on, but very empathetically, and help them understand that that is absolutely not why we’re there. We’re there to equip and empower them, and to help them where they need and not where they don’t. And usually when you have that pointed conversation, people are taken aback, but they tend to believe you because you are addressing it head on. Like maybe you would be more vague about it if you were there to you know, displace them. So that does happen sometimes.

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