Joe Saul-Sehy, who gave financial advice as Average Joe Money, wanted to host a great financial podcast, so he listened around and found the best of the best. After reading Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist, he decided to steal his way to success. Kleon advises taking great ideas and spinning them into your own "art." The idea worked, the podcast, Stacking Benjamins, just won the Plutus award for best financial podcast of 2014.

Here's what Saul-Sehy and his co-host (the Other Guy or OG) stole, and how he spun this into his own podcast.

From Car Talk: Saul-Sehy said, "I love Car Talk. I don't learn anything about automobiles, but I love it. I don't feel smarter listening to it, but it's an approachable way to get into this. What a great opportunity for a podcast. Create this show that is ostensibly about money, but it's us having a relaxed conversation about cash. We also stole the end credits from them, and end with the line 'All the people responsible have been sacked.'"

From Stephen Colbert: Colbert opens fast and gets right into the show. Saul-Sehy and OG do the same thing.

From Absolutely Mindy: Saul-Sehy's kids enjoy an XM kids show where a grounded Mindy does a nationwide satellite show from her bedroom with a hairbrush. Stacking Benjamins left the bedroom and instead broadcasts from "Joe's mom's basement." Their regulars fit around this narrative. Doug is "mom's neighbor" who brings the mail, PK sleeps by the furnace, and when they do a round-table, Saul-Sehy calls everyone on "dad's shortwave." Guests join in the fun, complaining about the lack of lighting, or the need to fix a broken step.

From top film podcast Filmspotting: He stole their idea of "segments" to split the show into a magazine instead of just a single interview or topic. This way, Saul-Sehy says, if someone doesn't like a particular guest, they can simply fast forward 3 minutes instead of turning the whole podcast off.

From video game podcasts called Gamers With Jobs and The Major Nelson Show: Saul-Sehy stole the idea of a round-table discussion with top financial bloggers and some guests who rotate in and out and the idea of a hidden track at the end of the show. At the end, Joe and OG discuss films and sometimes television. Not at all related to finance, but interesting.

From business podcast Marketing Over Coffee: He stole the idea of adding headlines to the top of the show to give us a current events edge.

Stacking Benjamins didn't just appear in perfected form. Saul-Sehy and OG had a website called The Free Financial Advisor, so they started with a podcast based on that, called "The Worst of the Free Financial Advisor." Saul-Sehy says, "We decided to do the show. We planned for failure. We knew that we wouldn't get it right at first. We didn't know crap about podcasting. Knowing we would have 13 episodes, we will create this baby who is doomed to die, and we're going to get all the kinks out. In hindsight, we were brilliant. We could be dorky because no one was listening, and we felt like we could experiment."

As expected, the first show had little success, but that was okay, because the whole point was that by failing, they'd learn how to succeed.

They added a bunch of regular contributors including Paula Pant from Afford Anything, Greg McFarland from Control Your Cash, Len Penzo from LenPenzo.com, PK from Don't Quit Your Day Job, and me, Suzanne Lucas as the Evil HR Lady.

With a great team, great stolen material and numerous practice episodes under their belts, they rebranded as Stacking Benjamins and watched the numbers start to climb. The Plutus award helped land a sponsor, and gave a big bump in listeners. A year ago they were at 9,800 downloads in January and this January they are on target to hit 65,000 downloads. Saul-Sehy says they'll be profitable by year end.

Plans for the future? Saul-Sehy and OG are planning classes, target towards their key audience (educated women), making and selling some dorky t-shirts, and continuing to increase their listeners.

The best part, he says, is that while he spun others ideas into his own show, anyone listening "won't hear any of those inspirations in the show....they fit together in a way that is our own voice."

Maybe you should consider stealing your way to success. Just make sure you spin it into your own voice.

Published on: Jan 26, 2015