Leadership in Action

eoleadershipinaction

Presenting EO Boston‘s Leadership in Action! Host Mark Stiles talks to local entrepreneurs who are just starting out and those who have never stopped. Listen to their struggles and triumphs as leaders in their businesses and what advice they wish they could tell their younger selves! read less
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Episodes

Reflecting On A Year Of Presidency - Lisa Vitale - Leadership in Action- Episode #61
Jun 6 2023
Reflecting On A Year Of Presidency - Lisa Vitale - Leadership in Action- Episode #61
Joining us this week on Leadership In Action is a marketing maven with over 20 years of strategy experience. She has been an EO member for 10 years, and is the outgoing president of EO Boston. Welcome to the show, President of SimplyDirect, Lisa Vitale! Lisa sits down with host Mark Stiles to share her experiences as chapter president and the ways EO has helped her. Lisa dives into the importance of setting business boundaries, the nuances of running a business with your spouse, and the misconceptions of business ownership.  Takeaways:As an entrepreneur, it’s important to talk to others about the problems you are facing. However, if you’re only talking to your spouse, it can become very insular. Groups like EO provide entrepreneurs with a chance to learn from the experience of others. When your spouse is also a business partner, it’s crucial to establish business boundaries. You need to allow creativity and collaboration while at the same time preventing yourselves from stepping on each other's toes. As the president of EO, you gain some additional experiences and skills. For Lisa, it meant growing as a leader, learning how to run a non profit organization, and discovering how to coach other presidents and leaders. EO provides a network of information, and creates a space where it is ok to ask tough questions. Forums, meetings, and presentations offer excellent opportunities to talk about the concerns you are facing in your business. From the outside, running a business looks easy, as if all the pieces will automatically fall into place. In reality, as a business owner, you are responsible for figuring out all of the operations aspects of the business. Networks like EO offer a valuable resource for referrals. If for example you need accounting services, you can ask for referrals from other EO members in your industry. This provides you with quality help that understands the nuances of your industry. Links: Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimplyDIRECT_Co LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-vitale-a820b53/ Website: https://simplydirect.com/ Email: lvb@simplydirect.com Quote of the Show“I needed to talk to other entrepreneurs because being an entrepreneur can be pretty lonely.” - Lisa VitaleShout Outs:Jeff Plakans: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffplakans/ Ways to Tune In:Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action
It’s All About Relationships - Greg Cuoco - Leadership in Action- Episode #60
May 16 2023
It’s All About Relationships - Greg Cuoco - Leadership in Action- Episode #60
Sharing his journey on this week’s episode of Leadership In Action is a local entrepreneur who takes pride in a job well done. With a knack for entrepreneurship, he started his first landscaping company in his early teens. Welcome to the show, Chief Executive Officer at The Difference Landscapes, Greg Cuoco! Host Mark Stiles interviews Greg to learn about how he got started as an entrepreneur, the importance of transparency with employees, and what the future of the landscaping industry holds.      Takeaways: For Greg, starting a business meant the freedom to control the direction and growth in a way that he wanted to. When Greg was looking to make a switch, his background in landscaping made owning a landscaping company a promising venture. Buying a company has advantages, but finding the right company is a full time job. To successfully find one to buy, you need to build strong relationships with business owners, so when it comes time to sell, you’re the first person on their mind. Landscaping offers many benefits for potential business owners. With a contract based clientele, you build up a steady stream of recurring revenue. Landscaping is also recession resistant, as most residential clients will continue paying for services. When starting or buying a business, it’s important to play to your strengths. If you’re great at sales, you want a team that can excel operationally. Establish a role that lets you utilize your skills, and enable your team to fill in your weak areas. To build a strong roster of employees, you need to focus on building relationships and being transparent. Don’t sell dreams. It won’t take an employee long to realize it was a false bill of goods, and to start looking elsewhere for employment. When looking for an industry to purchase a business in, trades based industries are rife with opportunities. There are many owners who are looking to retire, but few of their kids want to take over. Because of this dynamic, there are many trades businesses available. AI is revolutionizing businesses, and landscaping is no exception. For landscaping, AI could calculate a quote, and send a potential customer a personalized outreach at the click of a button.      Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregorycuoco/ Website: https://thedifferencelandscapes.com/      Quote of the Show “Ultimately what it comes down to is relationships.” - Greg Cuoco Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/MK-sbxwxlX8   Transcript:   Mark: Hey folks. Welcome back to Leadership In Action, your Boston Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization local podcast. I am really excited today to talk about some forward thinking trades, especially the landscaping trade and where that is going in the future. Today's guest is a local entrepreneur. Who takes pride in a job well done. He started his first landscaping company in his early teens. He's a leadership legend who knows how to motivate teams and drive effective results. He's the Chief Executive Officer at The Difference Landscapes. Please welcome Greg Cuoco. Welcome to the show. Greg. Greg: Thank you. Appreciate the introduction. Mark: Let's go right into it. Why did you start your business? Greg: Yeah, so I've always had the, uh, entrepreneurial bl bug in me ever since I was a kid. Um, always looking for ways to, um, make money. Um, I started my first landscaping company just in my neighborhood. One of my, um, neighbors actually approached me. Uh, they needed some landscaping, uh, and some snow shoveling done. So, uh, it just started from there. I did a great job. Word of mouth, got out, ended up doing my whole neighborhood. Uh, then I went to college and, you know, was on the track to go, you know, corporate. I was in corporate for a while, but, I was never a yes man. Um, I never kind of just went with the flow. I've, I've always wanted to have more. Um, and I always was trying to, uh, strive for the best and make everything, um, The best it possibly could, and definitely ruffled some feathers with some of my input, uh, at some of those, uh, meetings that, that, that were done. And, you know, I just wasn't succeeding in the corporate life and I was, I was always kinda knocking my head against the wall of why it wasn't working out. Um, and I actually got fired from every single job that I've had, uh, in corporate. And I kinda went back to the drawing board and figured out, you know, I don't think this is right for me. Um, and I didn't want to have, uh, something else in control of my destiny and my growth. And so I ended up looking for, um, a business to start and I said, Hey, you know what worked for the past of me? And it was, it was landscaping. And so I was, you know, going around. I just, I would just talk to entrepreneurs and. Basically asked him what was the best way to go about this. And I ended up running into a family friend. He owns several bars in Boston. Um, and cuz that was another thing I wanted to do too, is potentially to open up a, a, a bar as well. So like, talking to him and he was telling me, Hey, why, why would you wanna start something? Why don't you buy something? And a light bulb really went off in my head, you know, because the. Hardest thing is, is the time it takes to build something up. And a lot of people, they're, you know, a 10 night, a 10 year overnight success. Uh, and, and it takes a lot of time to build that. And so that's the one thing, you know, we all have, is a limited amount of time. So I actually end up looking at buying a company. And so I just networked like crazy cuz a lot of these businesses aren't advertised for sale because they're scared they're gonna lose their customers, they're gonna lose their employees. So it's all, you know, hard knock, knocking on doors. Um, cold calling, networking, uh, old fashioned grip, um, because they're not, a lot of these companies aren't advertised. So I went down that route, uh, ended up finding, um, uh, someone who's looking to get out of the business. Ended up talking to him and, you know, we had a, a connection, um, for, you know, our, our drive and determination and I ended up buying it from him. And that's, that's been, uh, the story since. Mark: So there's, there's your, there's your, um, buy process, overnight success. Tell us about the journey there. How many different. Companies that you talked to, how did you approach them and how did you find your way to this person willing to sell? Greg: Yeah, it took me probably about two years to find, find the right company. Uh, I mean, I, buying a company is a full-time job in itself. You really gotta get upriver. There are sites such as bis, buy, sell, that you can go on. Uh, a lot of those deals have already been shopped around before and it's kind of the leftovers that are there. Um, but what I did is I actually would cold call business brokers. Um, I would call, um, investment bankers and just I had my pitch of, Hey, you know, my name is Greg. Um, you know, I'm an entrepreneur. I've started other, uh, various businesses before. I had a, a background in software sales. Um, so I just would hit the phones. I would go to networking events. I would go to business broker events and just try to establish myself and create those, um, relationships. Cause ultimately what it comes down to is relationships. Getting to know people so that when an opportunity comes across their desks, that you're the first one in mind when something comes across their desk. So, um, that's what I did as I just reached out. I called everyone that I could. And then eventually, you know, I got approached with, Hey, I think I have the perfect, perfect deal for you. You should really check this out and look into it. And that's when I, um, ended up, you know, driving up to, uh, Portsmouth in the Portsmouth area. Um, ended up meeting with, uh, the seller and it took about. Probably six to eight months to actually close a deal. Um, and it was, uh, uh, intense negotiations back and forth, but uh, we actually ended up, we ended up closing it and um, now it's been almost four years since then. Mark: Wow. So the perfect deal. So this person calls you and says the perfect deal. What were the specifics, the metrics that you were looking for? Greg: So recurring revenue is king because you don't wanna, like a roofing company, roofing companies make great money. Um, but you're, you eat what you kill. I didn't want to have to keep on, um, hunting and eating what I kill. So I wanted something with recurring revenue. I. Um, you know, contracts, um, was around for a long period of time, so this company was around for about 17 years, um, and didn't have a dense, um, customer concentration. Uh, and landscaping is perfect cuz it's recession resistant too. So I wanted the most probable success of, uh, the highest chance of success. And with landscaping, it's, it's pretty res, recess and resistant. And I wanted to build my track record to then go out and buy other companies and, and that's actually what I'm in the process of now, is I have my operations manager, which I am grooming, uh, to then be absentee and, and buy other companies as well. Mark: That's really cool. So that's why you chose the industry of landscaping, but specifically, what was the perfect package that somebody brought to you that this person in, in, what'd you say? It was Portsmouth area. Greg: Yep. The Portsmouth area. Mark: in the Portsmouth area that said this is, this is the business that you wanna buy. What was it about the client base, the regional nature of it? Employees? Like what was what? What checked the boxes? Greg: So the biggest thing is it's kind of like, um, Gina Wickman in Traction. There's the, uh, visionary and there's the implementer. Um, I see myself more as a visionary, so I set the vision. I. I get people to buy into it. I help, uh, grow them to achieve their goals. I, I help the team, um, try to make sure everyone's rowing in the, the same, the same, um, direction. So what I really wanted is I was strong in sales. Um, I wasn't the strongest and I'm not the strongest in operations. So I wanted to have a company that already had a built out management team so I could come in. And more or less, uh, feed, feed the Beast. So I wanted to go out, I wanted to focus on sales, um, and recruiting of personnel, and then have the operations team take over the day-to-day and grow from there. So I wanted something that had that, uh, uh, that presence, uh, already in place. Mark: So now that you're out seeking other companies similar to that, what are the, what are the metrics like? What is the multiplier of that annual recurring revenue target? Greg: So I, I want a company that's doing at least 2 million in ebitda. Um, and I try to get it under five times multiple of ebitda. Um, and you know, it, it's, it's tough because, um, with like assets, I want it be asset light, um, and, and scale more scalable. That's, that's probably the one downfall of the landscaping industry is that it's very tough to get. People to that want to continue to work in this industry. Um, you know, it's, it's, it's very tough to, to find those people and to scale it up, um, because it is very geographic specific. Mark: So how do you find those people? Because that was one of your, you're the visionary, you are the sales team, but you were also talking about recruiting contributors, right? Greg: Correct. So I think the biggest thing with recruiting and attracting personnel, a lot of it's word of mouth. And my number one core value is partnerships. I like to have a partnership and relationship, with people, whether it's customers, the employees, vendors. I like to have a partnership that's win-win. Everyone leaves the table better off than when they sat down and. I don't sell dreams and I tell people, upfront, you know what the expectations are, what it looks like. There's a lot of people that. Will sell a dream to someone to try to get them, in their company. And it doesn't take long to realize that it was just a, false bill of goods. So what I do is I'm very transparent. I tell them, you know what this looks like, I don't sell, uh, a, a, a dream. And I've actually had a lot of employees, um, leave the company. And come back because, uh, don't ex excuse the pun, but you know, the grass is greener where you water and fertilize it. So people will leave, they'll be sold as false bill of goods with another company and, uh, come back and, you know, realize how good they had it. Um, I, I keep my word, um, when I say something, I do it and, you know, it's all about that relationship and, um, having that mutual understanding. I, I've had employees that have. Had phenomenal opportunities and they've stayed with the company, um, because, you know, I'm loyal to them, they're loyal to me. Um, and it's been a really good relationship, uh, in that aspect. Mark: So how are you running your businesses differently than the models you were stuck in, in the corporate world that weren't fits? Greg: So I've had good bosses and I've had bad bosses, so, It's really not a us versus them kind of model leadership model. Um, I believe in a servant leadership model. So the org chart is flipped upside down. So I'm actually at the bottom and I serve. The employees and the employees serve the customers. So everything kind of comes full circle. So it all takes care of itself. But I, I, I would say that every single one of my employees is more talented at their job than I would be at their specific role. So I am just the one organizing it all, having everyone come together, believe in that vision, believe that we're all going the same direction, believe we all have the same goals. Motivate them, and that's how you make magic happen. Mark: Did you experience any servant leaders while you were. Coming up. Greg: I experienced one or two. Um, but I, I, I, the majority of the leaders and bosses that I've had before were more, I. Do this because I say so then, um, more ask you to do it, um, with them, you know, uh, it's, it's a team. You know, we're all on the same team here. We all win together, we all lose together, and that's what I firmly believe in. Mark: So where did you learn that primarily? I mean, I heard you mention traction, right? Traction's amazing. But where did you really immerse into the servant leadership? Was it always in you? Greg: So I've always had leadership capabilities, uh, was the captain of the hockey team back in high school. Um, but also I've always just had the entrepreneurial bug and itch. It's definitely a different d n a and I've always been attracted and, um, compelled to other entrepreneurs and I would meet other entrepreneurs and I was just fascinated and. What they were doing, I would ask them, Hey, can I shadow you for a day and just watch what you do, um, and see, hey, is this really right for me or not? Because it is, it is tough. It is really hard. There's a lot of sacrifice involved, but it is one of the most fulfilling things that you can do in my personal experience. So, Mark: what is that though? What is that it that? That that you're talking about, what is that shared d n a that you're connecting with with other entrepreneurs? Greg: We're just wired different, we think so different. I, I, I, I don't know how to explain it, but it's just that you think your perspective of life and how you see life is just so different. So I, I would gravitate to these individuals and I. Shadow them and kind of just sit back, watch and learn of how they did things and what made them so successful. And the people that were really successful, you know, treated others with respect, um, and had that partnership team mentality. Mark: I love it. You're gonna love EO it. You know, it is a group of curious people seeking freedom. Um, lot of, lot of shared experiences to be had. Let's talk about the future of landscaping. Are you primarily residential? Commercial? A little mix. Greg: I'm 80% commercial, uh, 20% residential. Um, so we do commercial and high end, high end residential. Mark: got it. So you've mentioned being in software sales. How are you utilizing software, ai, web three, maybe smart contracts? Are you doing those yet? Greg: Not smart contracts yet, but AI is definitely taking over. Uh, and, and you'd be foolish not to incorporate it in your business in some way, shape, or form. What I would like to do with AI from just the start, and you know, this is probably just scratching, uh, scratching the surface is. Getting, uh, an area that I want to break into and, you know, sending people a quote saying, Hey, this is the quote of us servicing your property. Um, because the, the biggest. Thing that, that, um, uh, the expense is the time of sending someone out to do a quote to go and give someone a price. So I would love to incorporate ai, um, in giving people quotes, saying in a, in a mailer and saying, Hey, this is what we can do, uh, in service your property for, for, for the year. Mark: And you could figure that out simply using. Software that's available now, bringing it together and figuring out the square foot is the time, the intricacies, the level of difficulty where it is regionally with your headquarters and boom, here's a firm quote, we don't even need to meet. Greg: Correct. Yeah. We, we use Google Maps as it is right now for, um, probably the majority of our properties just measuring out the square footage. Um, but we're still manually doing it. So how do we incorporate AI that we can almost send unsolicited, uh, quotes to people and get them on board to then be a customer? Mark: It's pretty enticing. You know, if you're sitting back and you, you, you know what your line item is on landscaping, and then this postcard comes in and it's a lot less than that. It's a, it's at minimum a phone call. Right. Greg: Absolutely. Mark: That's brilliant. What about robotics? Tell me about what you see with robotics and landscaping. Greg: Yeah, that's another initiative that we have. Um, it's funny because I was at one of my initial EO dinners and I always sit next to an individual that had a robotics company and I was talking to him, uh, about what his niche was and he's done. Um, Uh, facilities. He's done manufacturing plants. He's worked with nasa, he's worked with the government diffusing, uh, mines, uh, and bombs. And so I, I spoke to him, I said, you know, what's your niche? And he told me he's done a bunch of various contract work, but he doesn't really have a niche. And I was telling him, You know, you should really get into robotics. You know, there was a McDonald's actually in Texas that recently went fully robotic, um, and got rid of all their employees. And then, and from what I've heard so far, it's doing Fanta fantastic and Mark: all of the employees. Greg: Yeah, so I, I, I'm assuming they have cleaners that maybe come in, you know, once a week. But it's a fully robotics, uh, fully robotic McDonald's in Texas. Um, because the same thing is, you know, peop it's very hard to find people in the labor industry and it's only gonna get worse. And that's what we're trying to figure out is, you know, how do we, how do we, uh, almost kind of preemptively. Uh, get down the path of getting the work done and doing work when people really aren't getting into the industry. People don't really want to do labor anymore, so, um, how can we do more with what we have? Even using the current people that we do have? How do we do more? It's not about replacing them, it's about doing more as well. Mark: That's really interesting, and I know this conversation, uh, petrifies people immensely, right? So AI robotics eliminating humans, but if you look at it and you shift that paradigm and you, and you push them up, the knowledge. Base, baseline. You know, it gives them the opportunity to do other things, I suppose. But let me ask you this, what about the influx of, um, immigrants, migrant workers, folks coming from south of the border? You know, are they gonna step in in the meantime before the robotics are available? Greg: It seems to be, um, the short-term solution for now. Um, you know, send them, send 'em up to New Hampshire. I'll, I'll, I'll take 'em. You know, I, I haven't really seen, uh, many around here, but, um, It's, I think robotics, uh, it's gonna be a must, um, because like I said, people just don't want to do these types of jobs. Um, but Mark: is that? Greg: it's tough. It's, it's a tough way to, to, um, you know, and it's not, it's just not for everyone. I, I. think that it's almost looked down upon, um, some of these jobs. Um, and the funny part is, I mean, you can make some good money, but you know, would you, you know, rather be, um, you know, a, a, a lawyer or an accountant, um, or a landscaper, even if you make the same amount of money. It's kind of that status, um, uh, Mark: I don't know. So I've been identified as a lawyer for a long time and I, friends who are close to me know that. I have a passion for landscaping. So, you know, that's an interesting conversation. But more so, you know, there is a knowledge-based requirement, right? So you have people who don't know the language, you know, so they're gonna be limited in what they can do here. However, you know. What about the people who. Simply aren't working like is I see what you're saying. But at the same token, it used to be that it was honorable to roll up your sleeves and work really hard for an honest wage and go home and take care of your family. Like did Covid really affect our world that much or was this already a slippery slope? Greg: Yeah, I think it's been going on for a while. I mean, I, I. Got pushed into college. I, I actually didn't wanna go to college. Um, my parents pushed me to go because it's that, it's that safety net that everyone has. Um, but with it getting, you know, so expensive, um, I don't know if it's even, uh, that's a totally different conversation. Um, but yeah, Mark: a must have. Greg: a abs absolutely. But it's, it's kind of funny because especially where I've been out, um, you know, I'm approaching. 10 years that I've been outta college and you know, people that have done corporate because they've been kind of told to by their parents, um, or they just had a mountain of. College debt, they're starting to just say, Hey, you know what? Screw this. Life is short. I'm gonna do what I want to do. Um, and I've actually noticed that a lot with a lot of the, uh, people that I've known from colleges. They're actually getting out of their corporate jobs and they're doing other stuff that's more fulfilling, um, and stuff that they've always wanted to do. But the, the pressure to go into corporate, um, and do the nine to five was, I guess a, a, a burden that they've always complied with. Mark: Be born, work hard, get good grades, go to a good school, get a job, get a pension, retire, die, do that In that success. Greg: exactly. Follow the script. Mark: I don't think so. I don't think so. No. So we spoke, uh, briefly, um, off of the recording about your North Stars, your. Bhag, right? The big hairy, audacious gold of of creating a franchise model. Tell us a little bit about that. Greg: Yeah, so that's another initiative that, you know, we're looking into, um, is kind of spinning it off into a contractor, um, subcontractor based model. Like I said, you know, you gotta be creative with the labor market today. It is a fierce competition for talent and. Anything that you can do to get a leg up will will definitely help. So one thing that we've been looking into is essentially having people being subcontractors. So you get paid for the amount of properties that you service. So if you decide to do, you know, 20 properties in one day, you get 20 times the amount of money. Then if you just did one or two, um, so. You know, we've been looking at leasing out equipment to individuals, um, having them get paid per property and it incentivizes both parties because they make more money the more property they service. And so will, will we. Um, so, and then also they'd be, you know, have essentially their own small entity, their own small business. And it, it would be a win-win all the way around and they wouldn't get paid unless the, the work was done. Well, so the customer wins too because, you know, they're not getting paid unless there's, there's good work done. So there's all d different creative strategies we're ki trying to come up with before it's too late because, uh, the writing is kind of on the wall that I, I don't think it's going to, the labor market is going to get any better. I only think it's gonna get worse. Mark: I love it. So those folks listening to this who are thinking about going to college, but maybe a landscape employee model doesn't work in your home domain, if you will. But buying in, right, not having to start it up. The, the, the franchise model has always been really interesting to me because success is based on the processes and the procedures. And without those, it's really hard to succeed. And for this person coming up and says, you know, college isn't for me, I'm not really into that $200,000 anchor holding me down cuz. Why am I doing that? You know, here's an opportunity. Buy in. Probably have some financing. Get 'em up and running and fly, birdie, fly. You've got your own business now. Really, truly. It's not kind of like it is. Greg: Yeah, I, I think the apprentice model ship should honestly come back. Not enough people are getting into the trades. Um, there's just a wave of baby boomers that are looking for, um, an exit plan and a lot of their kids don't want to take over their businesses. So if you're willing to get in the trades, you're willing to get your hands dirty for a couple years. You know, there are individuals out there that want someone that was like them, you know, 30, 40 years ago that they can pass down their business to, um, and take it over. And then also give them that exit, uh, the monetary exit so they can go to Florida. So there's different routes that can be taken. It's not, you know, just one route. And I think people need to really, um, start being creative. Mark: Yeah, it, I, I couldn't agree more. And that was one of the questions I had for you when you acquired that landscaping business. I mean, it wasn't a, a letter out to the client saying, Hey, new owner, check 'em out. Good guy. They phase that in. How does, how does that process work? And I mean, that could obviously be utilized in so many different ways. Greg: Do you mean like letting the customers Mark: Yeah. Did he, did your seller hang on for a little while? Greg: So we had a a year transition, um, to make sure everything went smoothly. Um, and like they say, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Um, I only have three employees, uh, still left that were, uh, of the original company because there's different cultures, there's different leadership styles, um, you know, people, um, Don't like change. Um, so people were, you know, either they, they went on their own or they didn't grow with the company. Um, and you know, there is, there is a big change that happens whenever, uh, a company is transitioning hands, um, different cultures, different leadership MO models. So there is a big, a big change. But he, he stood sit around for about a year to make sure the transition went smoothly. Um, and then he went sailing off into the sunset. Um, originally I didn't let the customers know because I didn't wanna rock the boat. Um, and I wanted to make sure that I was securely. In there because, you know, when you first take over a company, it's like drinking from the fire hydrant. Um, it's just so much going on that, you know, I was working seven days a week and if there was an eighth day, I would've worked that too. Um, and eventually that, you know, obviously went down. Um, but when everything's just so new that there's just so much going on, I mean, you're getting. Placed right into a sprint, um, right from the beginning. So, um, it definitely was really good. I couldn't have asked for a, a better result and, um, you know, we've been just growing it and taking it further from here. It's been, uh, a tremendous ride. Mark: And what was the capture rate? How many How many stuck? Greg: So, um, I don't have the exact data on, on, like when they fell off. Um, but like I said, there's only three left from, Mark: No. Clients. Clients, Greg: oh clients. Um, actually the client, the client retention rate was actually really good. But the problem was, is that the first four months of owning the company, covid hit So a lot of people Yeah, it was, it was, it was fantastic. It was like, yeah, I just bought, I bought this company and then Covid hit four months later, Mark: oh my goodness. Greg: That's the life of entrepreneurship. But I, the biggest problem was it wasn't the loss of customers, it was more them scaling back services. So everyone freaked out. Um, especially with people not working in the office. They're like, Hey, you know, we don't need the property looking pristine. We're gonna cut back. That was the. Mark: gonna, we're we're gonna be home. We can do Greg: Yeah. Yeah. But it was like a shift. It was a shift from the commercial to the residential because people were home and people wanted to enjoy their backyards. They didn't have anywhere to go. Mark: And the commercial was like, no one's coming in. We can, we can do it half the amount of time. Wow, that's really interesting. Well, I'm sure that was an amazing story Greg: Oh, oh yeah. Mark: gonna be able to shoot. Greg: It was a blast. Yeah, it was a blast, but it was just, it was just a pivot, you know? And you gotta be able to pivot and move fast, uh, because you know, it can, it can happen quick where, you know, you can get yourself in trouble. So, Mark: Did you look at the contract to see if there was any acts of God, uh, provisions in there that you could get out of it and unwind the deal? Greg: you know, um, You don't know what you, what you don't know. And um, cause I was 27 when I bought the company as my, I mean, I've never bought a company before. This is my first company. I, I didn't know what I was doing. Um, but I mean, I learned a ton. I know what to, to do now. I mean, like, one thing for instance is, um, I got really lucky because, When there, there has to be a, uh, transferability clause in the contract. So when you sell a company, um, there has to, the, the contract has to be reassign to the new person buying it, otherwise they can just get outta the contract. Luckily that, um, no customer really was like, Hey, I wanna get outta my contract. You know, there's new ownership, so then this is not an enforceable contract. So I was, I was really lucky in that. But there is a lot of other aspects that. You know, I just learned, um, that I wish I knew before I bought it, but the way I figured it is no matter what issue I come across, if I just double down and work harder, I can get through of any issue that I have. And that's pretty much what I did, is I just put my head down and just grip my way through it. Mark: I love that. I love that. So you'll be more prepared for the next acquisition. For sure. Greg: Oh, absolutely. Mark: Hey, so what are you, um, what are you hoping to get outta eo? Why'd you join eo? Greg: yeah. Um, it's all about relationships. So you know, you are the five, uh, closest people, um, in your network. Uh, your network is your net worth. I really love how entrepreneurs are always kind of pushing the barriers. They do fun stuff. They always are looking for what's next. They're constantly looking to be the best at whatever they do. Um, and I just really enjoy hanging around with other entrepreneurs. Uh, it's always fascinating conversations. They're always, you know, into the next crazy thing. I, I, I don't think that I've ever had a dull conversation with an entrepreneur, so I'm really looking to just build relationships. Um, And lifelong friends, um, potentially business partners and kind of just see where, where the journey takes me. Mark: I love it. I love it. While you're going to get. At a lot of shared experiences, you're not gonna get any advice from an EO member, but you'll get shared experiences and those you can build on. And I'm sure you're gonna help a lot of folks with some of your experiences too. And, you know, where we we win or learn, right? Is how, how that saying goes, Hey, so Greg, someone wants to connect with you. What is the best way? And uh, where can they find you? Greg: So LinkedIn will be the best way to find me. So it's Gregory Cuoco, c u o c o, with the difference landscapes. So you can find me there, just drop me a message. I'm always, um, willing and wanting to connect with other entrepreneurs and you know, if you're maybe looking to buy a business. Um, have a business to sell. Um, I'm open to having a conversation and, and helping out anyone, uh, any way I can. I, I was helped when I was, uh, looking for advice and it's not easy to find information on this kind of stuff. So if anyone's, uh, looking to connect, uh, always happy to have a conversation with someone. Mark: Very cool, very cool. And EO members. When you see Greg, let 'em know. You heard or or saw the podcast. Greg, thank you. Thank you for joining. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being vulnerable and explaining your story for us Greg: Appreciate being on here. It's been a been an honor. Mark: Well, folks. Thank you. This has been another amazing episode of Leadership in Action. If you learn something today, share it with somebody. If you laughed, share it with somebody. If there's a question you had hoped I would ask, let me know. I'm always looking to get better too. Have a great week, everybody.
The Value Of Vulnerability - Melissa Clayton - Leadership in Action- Episode #59
Mar 21 2023
The Value Of Vulnerability - Melissa Clayton - Leadership in Action- Episode #59
Today’s guest on Leadership In Action is an experienced founder with a demonstrated history of working in the luxury goods and jewelry industry. She’s been on Shark Tank, was recently recognized as a Entreprenista 100 award winner, and had her business listed on the INC 5000 list for 2022. Joining us today is CEO and Founder of Tiny Tags, Melissa Clayton! Host Mark Stiles sits down with Melissa to dive deep into the background of who she is, and what motivated her to start Tiny Tags. In this episode we’ll cover why you don’t need to work 100 hours a week, the importance of being vulnerable, and what it takes to get on Shark Tank.     Takeaways: To be an entrepreneur, you do not need to work 100 hours a week. While starting a business is hard work, it is important to make sure you are not overworking, and that you still have time for friends, family, and hobbies. Tiny Tags was founded to provide mothers with personalized jewelry. Their lineup features pieces with your children's names, birthdate, and birth time on them. These allow you to keep the things that matter most to you close. If you want to connect with your customers, you need to be vulnerable, regardless of your business. For a brand like Tiny Tags whose business is celebrating motherhood, an inauthentic approach would turn customers away. While Melissa grew up in an entrepreneurial household, her main driver for Tiny Tags were the connections she made with other moms. As an entrepreneur, it’s ok to be protective of your brand. While outside influences or potential investors may want you to pivot or expand services, it’s ok to stay true to where your business currently lies. While keeping prices low to appeal to customers may be your initial strategy, you need to be conscious of the business’ needs as well. Your product may be incredibly affordable, but without enough profit to cover costs, you won't have a successful business.  When running a business, you need to factor in how certain business decisions will affect your time. While growing to the next level means more business and better profits, it also means more work and less time at home.      Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-clayton-817b568/ Website: https://tinytags.com/ Website: https://www.thematte.com/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tinytags/ Email: Melissa@tinytags.com  Quote of the Show “I'm not trying to be authentic. I'm just being me.” - Melissa  Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/WdodKPcCSeA   Transcript: Mark Stiles: Hey folks. Welcome back to Leadership In Action, your Boston Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization podcast today's. We are very excited to have with us. She is an entrepreneur, inventor, and leader in the luxury goods and jewelry industry. She comes from an accounting background. She's included on a list of Inc. 5,000 fastest growing companies this year. That's nationwide folks. She was a semi-finalist in the ERs and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018. She is the founder of the, Matt has a patent and because of that was featured on NBC's Today Show and wait for it. Shark Tank in April of 2020. She's the founder and c e o of Tiny Tags. You've probably heard of it. Meryl Streep wears it. Please welcome Melissa Clayton. Welcome to the show, Melissa.  Melissa Clayton: Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.  Mark Stiles: You ready to get right into it? Let's do it. All right. Like every episode, we start with the same question. What is a common misconception about leadership and or being an entrepreneur? Melissa  Melissa Clayton: for me, my experience is that the misconception is that you have to work a hundred hours a week being an entrepreneur. And I think for leadership that you can't be vulnerable. I think that has changed a lot. When I think of my days in corporate America, there was definitely like a wall between leadership, it felt, and the team, and I feel like that is no longer the case. And that's definitely more my.  style  Mark Stiles: So on the Instagram where the in influencers are grind, grind, grind, you gotta work a hundred hours a week. You gotta go, go, go. That's not necessarily true all the time.  Melissa Clayton: For me, and I think that speaks a lot to my value system. I think if you were to do a deep dive into my childhood and my father being an entrepreneur and working insane amount of hours, and I knew that was not the journey that I wanted. So for me, and like everything, there's a give and take and there's a trade off. And for me that was, I wasn't gonna work a hundred hours of work, work a hundred hours a week because my value, I think, My time is more precious to me than anything else.  Mark Stiles: I love that. I love that. Tell me, tell me more about vulnerability. I'm very curious, your thoughts on vulnerability.  Melissa Clayton: I think, you know, I've heard it's called the New Superpower. Umm a big fan of Brene Brown and. For me being vulnerable, you know, and it's also speaks to the business that I am in. Our whole entire business of Tiny Tags is centered around celebrating children. Uh, every woman's unique journey of motherhood. And if you are not vulnerable there, you're just not gonna connect with your audience. And so much for tiny tags for me. And I think what has led to our. is my own personal journey. Very much what Tiny Tags is is a lot of my own personal story. And I think what me sharing that has allowed me to connect with our community and they're, you know, the word authentic is thrown around so much. Um, and I'm authentic without trying to be, I'm not trying to be authentic. I'm just being me. And I think that's, Yeah. So I think that has, um, allowed me to connect with our audience and our community on a much deeper level.  Mark Stiles: I love it. I'm not trying to be authentic. I am authentic. I'm being authentic. By being authentic. I'm just being me, . I love it. I love it because it's, it's what people connect with. Tell us about Tiny Tags, because I'm not truly familiar with the concept and the mission and values and all of.  Melissa Clayton: Sure. I'll give you the quick version cuz I've been around for a while. Um, as, as you said, I used to be a cpa. I was, um, I loved business. I love accounting. I did not like crunching numbers all day. And I never thought I'd be a stay at-home mom. Never thought I'd quit my job. I grew up with my father. It was like, you don't depend on anyone, you take care of yourself. Um, and then I had our fir first son and I decided to quit my. and kind of always never being someone that sits still. I wanted, I had my son and I really just was like this new mom beaming with pride and joy and wanting something to celebrate him and let everyone know that I was this new mom. So I had seen some moms wearing necklaces with their kids' names on it, and I was like, I can make those. So this is over 16 years ago. Um, Google was not what it was, and I basically came up with this. I found a handset, started making them my own, and very organically for like five years I was ma I started making jewelry and there's a backstory I'll tell you later, but, um, so I started doing that. Then we were living on the west coast at the time, we moved back east. Um, and lucky for me, Rhode Island and um, Southern Massachusetts has huge history of jewelry making and we started to outsource all our jewelry manufacturing and around probably seven years ago, after a series of listening to different books and what have you, and reading different books, really decided to focus on just. So tiny tags we make now, um, absolutely gorgeous, fine, personalized jewelry just for moms, really focusing on moms wearing their kids' names. We can do back en raving with their birthdays, their birth times, um, and really talking about the gift of a child, um, you know, I don't wanna, I can go on and on, but it's really, um, it's about motherhood, it's about children. It's about remembering what matters in life and yeah. I, I believe that our community, you know, you hold your tiny tags when those days where you think, oh my gosh, all this noise matters in life. And it's this very centering piece. It's still is for me, after all these years of, um, of what matters in life. Mark Stiles: Wow. . Okay, now I know what tag e tags is all about , and I'm fully in. I love it. I love the the visual of what holding, what really matters, right there it is. Yeah. When I'm anxious or I'm nervous or something is causing distress, or I think, how am I gonna get through this? Boom. I love that. I love it. So tell us about the journey. How did you grow from, you know, this Google wasn't what it was. I mean, how did you start selling. .  Melissa Clayton: So really the first, you know, five years, six years, it was just sort of that very cliche like mom on the kitchen counter. Mm-hmm. . I was never someone that, um, you know, my, my me time when my kids were younger, when my husband came home from work is I wanted to work on the business. Um, and I instant. What drew me to the business, not only did I think I grew up with this entrepreneurial bug for sure, was the connections I was making with moms. A lot of transactions were happening through email and phone in the beginning. And the first necklace I made, probably the first or second was for a mom that lost her child, and her name is Reggie. Um, her son was Aiden and she impacted me and she still does. I'm still friends with her on Facebook. I got to meet her in person and. Her and I became, well, we were living on the West coast and her and I became like email buddies and she was sharing her grief with me. And no one, unless you've been through that, I think. And I truly understand that sort of grief. Um, and that connection just made me, it, it tapped into something and it made me always on a different level. I. , um, appreciate my own child. Um, her son and my son Tyler, were the same age. So when I would talk my son in and I, I was always thinking of Aiden and, and Reggie that she didn't get this. So it's was, it just impacted my whole, how I viewed motherhood every day with my kids when it's easy to be like, oh my gosh, the kids are, you know, doing this and. To always think of Reggie, like, you know what, she would do anything to pick up a sweatshirt. She do anything to deal with a screaming kid. Um, so that really impacted me and my journey and really what tiny tags became, um, because of that early interaction. Mark Stiles: Wow. Wow. So the values, the missions are, are really, really, Wow. So where's Tiny tags now? Help us understand where you're at now and where you're going. Maybe the North Star.  Melissa Clayton: Yep. So we started, you know, I said the first, you know, five, six years, really small. Um, the last six, seven years we've had amazing growth. And it's been, I mean, you know, my husband joined six years ago and that was a pivotal moment, um, where I really begged him. I said, quit your job. He was also in a cpa. And I said, I really feel like if you take all the operations and finance off often my plate and. Focus on sales and marketing. I can really make something of this, of this business. Um, so where we are today, we are a team of eight. We're down by three people. Um, all our jewelry's made in Rhode Island in Massachusetts. So we have amazing business partners that, um, help us produce our jewelry and we sell online. And then we also sell in Nordstrom, we sell Pottery Barn. Um, I'm not allowed to say, but we have a huge, um, third party event happening on April 6th, um, that I think will really bring our business to whole, their level. So it's this bespoke collection for major retailers. So we're really excited about that. Um, and we just wanna continue to grow. I feel like we can be a hundred million dollar business. I. You know, we've never taken outside money. It's not to say that I wouldn't, um, I think right now, when my kids were young, I want to control my time, but you know, they're in high school now. I could see, um, you know, in the next few years wanting to take it to the next level cause I'll have more time. So.  Mark Stiles: Wow. Wow. I love that a hundred million. I love that goal. So I have to ask you, strictly curious, hope all of the listeners are equally. Shark Tank. Yeah. Give, give us the play by play. Like behind the scenes, everything. Melissa Clayton: So the other part, I have this invention, so I'll give the quick backstory. I've always had a small bathroom, um, apartments in Boston, hair dryer. If you're a woman out there or if you're a man, have wa having watched your wife or girlfriend get ready hair dryer on the toilet bowl, makeup around the edges of the sink falls in the sink on the floor. And I said, there has to be an easier way. And came up with the idea of something that would go over your sink to create a counter. Um, my husband and my father-in-law, who is a very handy, um, engineer type brain, they came up with this fold and we came up with this six panel contraption with this fold leather, and it basically folds, um, up to the size of an iPad, but when it unfolds, it lays over pretty much any sink. Um, and we call it the mat, m a t t e. And I applied for Shark Tank, uh, 2016, made it to the second round. Didn't get it reapplied in 2019. We filmed in 2020 and aired last 2021. Um, and it was during Covid. I had a quarantine for nine days in Vegas, which for someone like me is. A huge deal breaker. Originally I was like, I can't do it. Um, they said that, you know, it's really good combinations. So when filmed, obviously it was incredibly nerve wracking. We did a deal on tv. Um, it did not happen in real life. Um, interesting. So we did a deal with Lori on TV and then things did not pan out, um, after the show, um, ended. So, but it was amazing. It was amazing. Really  Mark Stiles: interesting. So that air. in April of 2021. Yes. Yes. So we could probably search. Search that up folks. I can't wait to go back and watch that. So this is, this is not tiny tags. You didn't bring tiny tags to Shark Tank. You brought this invention, this separate, distinct invention. Yes. Tell us about  Melissa Clayton: that. Yeah, I didn't, I I really, and they're, they're very adamant on the show that if you're gonna go on there, you really have to wanna make a deal. Yeah. And I feel like I'm just too protective of teddy tags. I know the first thing an investor would say is, you have to go after the bridal market. You have to go after the dads. There's all these other markets you can get into. And Tony tags is just too, um, close to my heart right now. Um, and I wouldn't wanna share it with,  Mark Stiles: I love it. The riches, the riches are in the niches I've heard before, so yes, stay focused on that. Well, that's, that's really interesting. Let's talk about you as a kid. You started to talk about your father. Your father worked a lot of hours. What was he doing?  Melissa Clayton: My dad had three, I think it is soft, uh, software companies growing up. Um, very successful entrepreneur and just passionate, beyond passionate. Um, my husband will always say, I've never met anyone like your dad, Wow. So, um, and I, and I love it. I grew up stepping envelopes. I grew up going to the office cleaning. You know, you're not gonna pay for a janitor when you first start out. So my sister and I were the janitors. We stuffed the ve. We went to trade shows. So very much grew up, um, watching my husbands, my, my, excuse me, my dad grow his businesses. So,  Mark Stiles: so when and where  Melissa Clayton: was that? That was in Massachusetts and that was one in the eighties, I guess, you know, in the, in the time of like Wang, um, you know, deck all those old school computer companies. Um, my part of that era.  Mark Stiles: So early, early adopting software. Sales company. Yeah. Entrepreneur.  Melissa Clayton: Yep. Absolutely. Mark Stiles: But worked a lot. You saw that and said, I need more balance than that.  Melissa Clayton: Yes. And I think, you know, I, my mom lived in New York, so I grew up with my dad, which I think is always unusual, especially in that time. Um, and I think when I became a mom, I, I never, was never someone that dreamt about being a mom, to be quite frank. And I think that's probably a little bit, as my mother, my view of motherhood is probably pretty skewed. Then I had my son and I have an aunt that I've always looked up to, and she said to me, you either pay now or you pay later when it comes to kids, like if you're not there, um, you know, kids need a parent. And I, it's kind of a little bit, and not that it has to be the mom, but, or the, or. It doesn't have to be the mom, but I do think kids need a parent to show up. And I think seeing, and my dad did his best, you know, but you know, when, when my son was born, my dad brought the computer into the hospital room and I'm like, okay, enough is enough You know? And I just remember him calling my dad, are you coming home from work? And I mean, and listen, I understand he had to do that his entire life was banking on the business. Um, and I, you know, at the time he didn't have a choice, right? He was a single dad where I feel. My husband and I, you know, we felt like, you know, when I did, when he, when when I quit work, he worked, and then when I was like, okay, let me take a go at Tiny Tax, he quit his job. So, you know, we, there's a little bit more balance in n now than there probably was back then that both people had the opportunity to make money. Um, so anyway, so yeah. Did I lose answer the question? So, yeah, you totally, you  Mark Stiles: totally, you totally did. And you know, it brings me to like a whole nother. Rabbit hole completely is, you know, you learn from people, you learn the good from people, but then you learn, you know, I don't really wanna do that. Like, that didn't look fun. So, you know, I'm, I'm not looking to do that. So tell me about your husband joining. That's really exciting. Family Biz now.  Melissa Clayton: Yeah, it's been amazing. Um, you know, and I'm always really transparent also, it was really probably the biggest struggle in our marriage. We married 20, 21 years this May. Um, and we're definitely best friends. It was always, I, I always felt like I was somebody when people said that marriages work. I was like, what are you talking about? This is like easy peasy. Um, and when we started to work together with Covid, It was like, okay, wow, this is a lot of time together. Um, but I'm really proud of us that we've really worked through those bumps and I feel like we're stronger on the other side and there's no one else I'd rather grow the business with because I trust him more than anyone. Um, so he does the all operations finance, he's our C F O and we are. Truly probably perfect partners because I am shoot from the hip super doing 20 things at a time and he's very methodical, very thoughtful. So when I like, oh gosh, we gotta do this, and I kind of gravitate to the next shiny object, he's great at sort of pulling me back, making me think it through, making me take that pause. So, um, so yeah, so it's been. ,  Mark Stiles: so you don't find a lot of accountant, sales and marketing, you know, combo. How did you find yourself studying accounting when you were a.  Melissa Clayton: Um, well I was a philosophy major undergrad. That might answer a lot. . Ok. Um, I loved religion. I went to UMass Amherst and my dad was like, they didn't have theology as a major. My dad's like, well do philosophy. And I was like, okay. And I really did love philosophy. I loved like why are we here? All that stuff. I'm still love all that like karoli stuff. Um, and. So I, I was working, I graduated UMass during, during the recession, was working at a bank and my dad was like, okay, you gotta do something. Went to Northeastern at night for business school and loved accounting cuz it was the language of business. So they had a great program where you basically got an MS in accounting in MBA in 18 months. And I did an internship at Coopers and Library, got a job offer and then I went to work for pwc. But you know, you do AU audit and tax. Um, and that was pretty boring. And I said I knew I needed to break out. Um, so I was like, maybe I can sell financial software. That was my. Thought so then I worked at Oracle, um, and then I had Tyler, and then I quit . And then I sort of, you know, I think I always say I fell into the jury business, but now when I think of what it has meant to me, I don't think it was an accident, um, that someone that whose mother struggled to show up is now in the business of celebrating children, connecting with mothers. I'm like, that's not a co. So,  Mark Stiles: no, and I've, I, I was watching that thread come together too, and it must really give you an amazing amount of purpose. Um, by the way, I may have been in one of those philosophy classes out in here. At the same time, , I, on the other hand, didn't really enjoy the philosophy class. I was like taking it and wondering why am I here ? But now as I grow and become wiser, I mean, I read the stoics every. Right. So it's really, yeah, interesting how we can evolve. But you bring up such an interesting point of, of the trajectory in life, right? So where something takes you, and we find that a lot in conversations with folks, is, you know, there's a moment in time that was pivotal enough that I went the direction that I went. And it sounds like having Tyler. was that moment in time, you know, you didn't see yourself necessarily as a stay-at-home mom. Maybe thinking, okay, what's the next move? Right? So I'm gonna stay home for X amount of weeks and then I'm gonna fill in the blank and then, yep. Boom.  Melissa Clayton: Yeah, I think, and I'm like, I can't cry. Here is, um, You know, when the whole time I was pregnant with Tyler, I, and he was gonna go to daycare. And it's not to say that daycare is a bad choice or anything. Um, I never thought once about that I would fall in love with him. Like I never thought about loving him. I actually, like, I remember. Mike and I were married for two years. I'm like, well, I guess we have kids now. That's what you do , because but I was never someone that wanted thought about being a mom. And I think probably it was a lot because of my own motherhood. My own mom is, I didn't, um, I didn't have, I didn't have a baby shower cuz I was like, I don't wanna celebrate this. Like, this is just gonna be something that's gonna happen and I'm gonna move on. Um, and I think once I, when I did have Tyler and something kicked in, it was, um, , it made me understood my, it, it brought up so much because it made me think about my own mother and her struggles and it was like, wow. I know she loved me, but then for her not to show up, it's, you realize, and, and that's where, where, what county tags is today. I learned my mother not showing up, had to do about her, not me. Um, and when you realize that moms have to love themselves first, then you could show up for your child. And that's where my mother's, um, her pain came from is never loving herself. And I see now her, her not showing. Was because she actually probably thought that was best for us. She, they're better off with their dad because I'm not able to show up for them. Um, so anyway.  Mark Stiles: So this is that vulnerability thing you were talking about, . Yes. Yeah. But sometimes I,  Melissa Clayton: but I'm not a very good crier and talker, so I, I need to be able to not cry.  Mark Stiles: I knew this was gonna be a great episode, and thank you for that. One of the things I've learned at. As a member of EO is vulnerability. I always struggled with vulnerability and it truly is the superpower. And you get into these forums, these groups within, within the chapter, and you know, it's, it's sacred, it's confidential, and you're talking with people who share. An understanding of what you're going through as a business owner, leader, entrepreneur, that sometimes we feel like we're on islands. Yeah. And like, I am fish outta water. I don't even know who to talk to about this. And that's the beauty of, uh, eo. So how do we get you, how do we get you in? What's it gonna take? Let me see. What would, what would, uh, shark Tank say? Um, so funny. So that's interesting too about Shark Tank. You know, you think those deals are deals, but you know, it's, we're not signing contracts on tv. Right. We got more negotiating to do probably. Right.  Melissa Clayton: Yeah. And I'll tell you one little tidbit that, and now it's been so long, no one's gonna come after me is, so that's a limitation. Is that, so Lori's, um, people called me, you know, we talked to them after the show aired, and then we, no one, we didn't, we sent them all the paperwork and then we didn't hear from anyone, and I think it was truly an error on their part. Two days before the show airs, they call and they're like, Hey, we're not gonna do the dl, but by the way, you should raise your prices. I was like, I think I said on TV that it was 24 90. And he is like, you have no business at 24 99. You've gotta raise it at 34 99. I'm like, you want me to raise it $10? And he's like, yep, you'll be fine. Some people complain, but who cares about them? You need to ra. And he was right. Um, so we did, we raised our prices to 34 99 the day before it aired, which was crazy for us. .  Mark Stiles: Huh? So you pitched it at 24 99 and then it aired and it was 34 99. The next,  Melissa Clayton: next day, 34 99. Yep. But he was right. We didn't have a business at 24 99, um, to build a profit. Right. Yeah. We, the shipping costs, everything. He's like, you need to, you need to raise your prices. So we did. And I, we, and we never turned it. We never reduced them. We stayed at 34 99.  Mark Stiles: Would they have done the deal at 34 90? I don't know,  Melissa Clayton: you know, in their, in their, um, credit it, the mat is a product, not a business. So I understood why they did, they walked away.  Mark Stiles: But an interesting product, like I see that as a amazing product. Right. I've, I know your visual was perfect. I've seen that. I've seen, yeah, the hair dryer and the makeup and the sink and the, where do I.  Melissa Clayton: Right. Um, in all honesty, I, because I, I try to do both at once and I can't, so yeah. The, the, the mat truly is run by my 18 year old son. He sh it sell, we sell it on Amazon, we sell it on the website. Um, and I would love some crazy enthusiastic person to come along and be like, Hey, let me really work at this because it is an amazing product. I use mine every single day. Um, the people that get it, get it. Um, and the people that you know, they use it every single day and it is ripe. I mean, last year we did 200 grand and we didn't do anything. It literally just sat on. And through the algorithm, um, that's my son's job. He sends it into Amazon and it ships and every now and then someone will TikTok it and will have crazy sales. Um, but it's a shame that we're not doing more with it, to be honest.  Mark Stiles: what do you do outside of work and, and family and stuff? Like, what are your outside passion?  Melissa Clayton: I'm working on them. Um, I. I am trying to cook more and my, I have three boys in high school that all play sports, so I'm trying to make better meals for them. I feel like I have three years. The new joke in the family is, I'm like, when you bring home your college friends and you're gonna say, oh, my mom makes. X, Y, and Z and I'm working on what that meal's gonna be. Uh, I mean, I cook every night, but it's like the chicken, the sausage is sort of boring. Um, but I play tennis. I've been trying, I do a lot of yoga. Um, I was proud of myself. I went to yoga last night actually. So really working to stay physical. I know the, how important that is to feel good. And I like to read a li I I tried. We just went away on vacation and I'm in the bookstore at the, at the airport. I'm like, just buy, uh, uh, a fiction book. Don't buy a business book. And I bought the business book, but that's okay. ,  Mark Stiles: but that excites you, right? So I I'm the same way my wife says the same thing. Can't you just check out and read non, you know, something that's. Business. Right? Something fiction. And I'm like, but I enjoy this. Like, I enjoy absorbing something new. Um, the Art of Impossible was the latest one. I tend, I tend to listen. I'm an Audible guy, which is why I love podcast so much, but The Art of Impossible, I listened to you recently and it was, it was Mindblowing. Oh, really? Okay. Yeah. The Art of Impossible. So Melissa, most importantly, how can someone who wants to connect with you reach out and connect with. Melissa Clayton: Uh, well, they can email me. I love sharing my emails, Melissa tiny tags.com. Um, LinkedIn obviously. And then as far as Tiny tags, our website is tiny tags.com. Um, and our Instagram is at Tiny Tags. My personal Instagram is at Melissa Clayton. I should know my own Instagram handle. , um, barely email is the best as well as, uh, LinkedIn. Mark Stiles: Uh, Liam and the team at Ringmaster, we'll, we'll put those in the show notes for you all. So don't freak out if you're walking your dog or you're running or, or what have you. Um, you can punch right through on the, on the show notes. Melissa, thank you very much. Thank you for sharing sh being vulnerable and, and having an amazing conversation with me. Melissa Clayton: Thank you. I certainly appreciate it, mark.  Mark Stiles: Well, folks, that's, that's, I hope you learned something. If you did. If you laughed, if you cried, share this with somebody. Let them know about Melissa and we'll see everybody next time. This has been another amazing episode of Leadership in Action, your Boston chapter of EOS podcast. See you soon.
All You Need Is An Idea - Jon Radoff - Leadership in Action- Episode #58
Mar 7 2023
All You Need Is An Idea - Jon Radoff - Leadership in Action- Episode #58
Today's guest on Leadership In Action is an entrepreneur, innovator, and leader in his industry who fights for the game makers of the world. As a game developer, he created one of the first commercial Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Joining the show today is an EO Boston member of 5 years, CEO of Beamable, Jon Radoff. Jon joins host Mark Stiles to talk about what it takes to get a business started, the value of customer feedback, and what visiting Everest base camp is like.     Takeaways: You don’t need to be special to be an entrepreneur. All you need is an idea and the drive to take it and run with it. It’s ok to pivot. Your original idea doesn’t need to be what your product looks like for the rest of the business. As you meet others, and bring on new perspectives, your idea will evolve and change.While those who criticize your new idea may seem demoralizing, their feedback can provide ways to improve. They might point out something technical that hasn’t been solved yet, or tell you about a customer type you weren't aware of.Entrepreneurship can be a perseverance game. Sometimes you will need to stick with your idea for a long time before the market is ready for it. While this will slow you down, it doesn’t mean game over. Sometimes the business needs to be built before the idea. If you have grand ideas of how your product will fit into the future, you need to start by selling the thing consumers will buy now. AI tools are something that every entrepreneur should keep an eye out for over the next few years. As new, more powerful tools emerge, they will empower you to try new ideas with lower costs and less risk.As AI becomes more prevalent, it will shift the types of skill sets that are needed to be successful. Instead of being a specialist on a given topic or process, establishing a well rounded skill set will line you up for success.     Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonradoff/  Twitter: https://twitter.com/jradoff  Company website: https://beamable.com/  Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Radoff  Medium: https://jradoff.medium.com/   Quote of the Show “We're all in the business of serving customers.” - Jon Radoff Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/h4OCqARffMQ  Transcript: Mark Stiles: Hey folks. Welcome back to Leadership and Action, your Boston Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization podcast. Today's guest. Is an entrepreneur or innovator and leader in his industry. He fights for the game makers of the world and is responsible for creating one of the first M O RPGs, massively multiplayer online role playing games is what that stands for. He's been an EO member for five years. He also publishes a blog called Building the Metaverse, c e O of Beam Able. John Rador.  Jon Radoff: Welcome to the show. Hey Mark. How are you? Thanks for having me doing  Mark Stiles: well. Question number one, what is the common misconception about leadership running a business and or being an entrepreneur?  Jon Radoff: Go. To me, it's the idea that you have to be some kind of special person to be an entrepreneur. Let me zoom back the camera lens though, my purpose in life as far as business is concerned is just multiplying creativity through the world. That's what I've done through some of the game businesses I've made, through the technology company I have through the website creation tech company that I started years ago. Everything was about just allowing people to be more creative and just get online, make stuff, express themselves, because I think that's just. such At the core of what it is to be human entrepreneurship is creativity. It's about how to come up with ideas and business models and marketing methods and channels and just put it, together, try things and, make something new, right? Like entrepreneurship is fundamentally to me about like making something new, harnessing business and organizations of people to do that. So, you know, I was very lucky in. Respect as a kid that I would have all these crazy ideas when I was like a teenager and I'd tell my parents what I want to do. Both my parents always encouraged me. They never said, oh, you can't do that. Like, bad idea. Go, go focus on like your math problem so you can end up, uh, getting into a decent college. I did get into a decent college, which I've then subsequently dropped out of. But um, they always encouraged me just to, to go run with my ideas. So if you didn't hear that in your life so far, I guess my message to you is, You know, run with the idea. You can do it. Like if you want to try making a business, it doesn't require anything special beyond the idea that you've identified a problem that has to be solved in the world. And if you can go help people solve that problem. , apply your creativity to it. It, it's a, it's a great life.  Mark Stiles: You know, so many thoughts are firing through my head right now with what you're saying there. Uh, with respect to, you know, who can be and who thinks they can be. But talking about your parents, I think is such a vital, vital component to it because how many people in that creative stage of their life get muzzled down and they say, no, no, no. get into a good school, get a good job, get a pension, retire and die .  Jon Radoff: Wow. This, this talk just took a, a damn path. But, um, yeah, I, I think everybody needs, uh, set of cheerleaders in your life. Yeah. So for me growing up, it was my parents, um, . I had a circle of friends that were really into what I was doing, so they were too. And then I did stuff that was completely insane. I dropped outta college, I started an online games business. Like talk about something that, like in the nineties must have sounded like completely absurd idea, but I knew. that there was a group of people who would really be into what I was gonna make and they weren't happy with the kinds of alternatives that they could play, and I knew that I was capable of doing it. So there was, that said a huge number of things. I didn't know I was 19 when I did this. I didn't know. A lot about the world, about people, about business, but you know, bus business is something where you can learn as you go too, especially when you're an entrepreneur. So I would just say go for it. Like it. The key thing is knowing what you want to do, knowing that there's some problem that you're gonna go try to solve. That's within the scope of the kinds of problems that you can solve, and then you can build a business around it. But, but  isn't  Mark Stiles: it interesting where you saw the problem, like, this was a problem for you, therefore it must be a problem for other people and I'm gonna solve it for everybody. Jon Radoff: Well, so here's, here's the, even the other story around how this business was created. So I met my future wife in an online game, so Oh, cool. We were playing this game together while I was. Actually the summer before I even went to college, and then I was in college, so I met her. We were playing it together and we came up with a lot of ideas just playing that game. Having played it together and played with other people, Hey, we could build a better version of the thing that we're playing, and we knew everyone was playing the game. We knew what a better game would look like. So then we had this crazy idea that I'd drop outta college, we'd move in together, we'd start working on this thing, and six months later we had a game. Then people started playing it. What was the game? It was called Legends of Future Past, and Imagine taking. Like a Renaissance fair and transporting it to a magical planet far away where it's a Renaissance fair because everybody gets to kind of act in, act out a role, and stories are emerging around you and there's always people to participate with. And we would have live what we call game masters, who would go on, take on roles and they would entertain you as you interacted with them inside the game. And this  Mark Stiles: was in the nineties, it  Jon Radoff: was.  Mark Stiles: Wow. I mean, the internet was barely a thing at that point.  Jon Radoff: The internet really just got off the ground. Around 92 I guess, was, was where you could actually first start to do commercial applications on the internet. And we were there right in the beginning and the game ran for the whole decade. Wow. It was a great little lifestyle business for me and Angela and my wife while, while we did that in the nineties, and introduced me to a whole lot of other things and, and while I was doing that, came up with other ideas, came up with, you know, doing more stuff around the internet basically. Then I came up with this idea called epr, which was if you were, well, when people first started making websites, , they were also very technical. You needed to know H T M L and like, so you had like what I used to call the world's most expensive typing pool where these IT guys, these programmers were getting paid to do like programming and highly technical stuff and they'd take like a press release from their marketing department and they, they'd rewrite it in H T M L. It's kind of crazy, just, it was literally like the world's most expensive typing pool, so it needed software to automate the process. So, you know, I, I think one idea leads to another was I started with a game, but we were on the internet. We were learning about all the things people were doing on the internet because our customers were there and they were doing internet stuff. And we started to learn about other stuff that people were compelled by, like the worldwide web and how to bring that to them. So that's another thing, like sometimes your. That you end up with is not always the idea that you start with, right? The game kept running, but we ended up having a bigger idea, which was building this whole web technology for web content creation and. That's just another reason why I super encourage people to just deploy your creativity and start working on something, because even if that's not the greatest idea in the world, don't worry about that. Like you're gonna engage with so many interesting problems and you're gonna meet people and talk to people along the way. You might have that aha moment, which is like, . Okay. My original idea, that was interesting to me, but now I've discovered the thing that's interesting to like tons of other people, and that's where you're gonna create a scalable business  Mark Stiles: that's really interesting. And it's, and it brings up a, a point where you, you hear entrepreneurs say all the time, you know, we're building the plane on the runway , you know, and we're hoping it goes well, but we can also, you know, lack of a better term. I, I don't love this term, but pivot, right? So we see an opportunity in a different direction. Wow. You know, but it's also hard to leave that initial idea, right? You, you kind of get married to it and, and you hold onto it sometimes longer, longer than you  Jon Radoff: should. Well, there's pivoting completely away from your idea. Like maybe you started out making a plane and you've discovered that what the world really needs is electric scooters or something, and that's like totally different or. Maybe there's pivots within the original idea, so you're still making the plane, but you're making planes that carry two people instead of 200 people or something. Right? So y y I think you just have to kind of figure out things based on what do you learn along the way about your market? What do people really care about if the market's telling you that? , um, the market is limited. We'll, think of it that way for your original idea. We, you have, you have a lot of choices. At that point, you could abandon the idea and just do something completely different. You could say, Hey, this is a limited market. . I'm not gonna go do the thing where I go raise a bunch of money from venture capitalists to try to turn this into a billion dollar company, but it's gonna be a great business for me. Maybe I'm gonna make a business that's a few million dollars a year. $10 million a year is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, those are some amazing businesses with great sustainability behind it. Or you could say, look, . I don't wanna have a million dollar business. You live once and I wanna make a billion dollar business, and even if I fail, who cares? Like I tried. Like that's fine too. Then you may have to go with a completely different idea. But it all comes down to exploring the problem space and being, being curious and humble, I think. Right? Because anytime we go and try to tackle problems that people haven't solved before, , there's a lot of learning that you're gonna have to do, and you have to have a willingness to set aside some of those original assumptions that you might have made in a, in approaching a business. Well, it's  Mark Stiles: the unknowns too, right? You're kind of market making, right? So you are out there on an island doing things that are not customary. People will say, you're crazy. Why are you doing that? Don't do that. That's never been done before. It'll never. Unless you have parents like John had.  Jon Radoff: Well, so there's going to, if you're lucky, you'll have the people already cheerleading you, right? If you are not lucky yet, that's a good thing to spend some time on find, find some peers who actually you can look up to. . I think that's one of the things that's great about eo by the way, just to plug us as EO members here, like you do hang out with your peers. You are there with other entrepreneurs tackling super hard problems in their life, their family, their business. So like to me that. Peer group is something that challenges me to, to always improve and do better. So that's, that's like just one solution though. Like, there's a lot of ways you can build your peer group of people, but hang out with people that do the stuff you want to do is, is one message, but at the opposite extreme of that, in your entrepreneurial journey, if it's anything like mine, a ton of people will tell you that your idea is lousy along the way and you can't do it. And here's all the reason it failed. Guess what? Like every new idea was a bad idea until it was a good idea. Right? Like so they're not like telling you anything really interesting with that? No. They might tell you a few things to be that you might pay attention to. Maybe they'll tell you something about a kind of customer you didn't know. Maybe they'll tell you something technical about the problem that people have tried to work on before and it's super hard to solve. Those are good things to. , but don't focus on the naysayers. Focus on your idea and being open to learning, right? And the learning is gonna happen across a high, a whole wide range of people, the cheerleaders, the naysayers, but more importantly, your target customer, right? In, if we're in business, like the fundamental thing that's true of every single business that exists is we're all, we're all in the business of serving customers. So go find the people who you think should be your customer and talk to them, their feedback you should listen to. Um, because, and if they tell you they don't like it, either you gotta pivot to something else or maybe you're talking to the wrong kind of customer. Right? So those are, those are some paths that you can consider.  Mark Stiles: But again, how far do you go down that path of No, no. Everyone else is wrong. I'm right. I know I'm right. Everyone else is wrong. Who? Everybody who's giving me this negative. Clearly doesn't understand it. You know, at what point do you say, Hmm, maybe I'm may,  Jon Radoff: maybe I am wrong. Yeah, I mean, and sometimes it's just timing. Yeah. Like right now, um, you know, some of what I'm known for is like all this content that I created around the metaverse and the future that we're going to on the internet. So just within the last two years, like there's been some incredible innovation around artificial intelligence, for example. based on these underlying technologies that frankly are not new. The core aspects of the technology languished in academia and little research labs really for decades, some of the stuff goes back to the nineties. Part of it was that we didn't have. The computation that could scale up as big as we have today to, to work on these problems. But a big part of it was also just people didn't fully believe in it. But that said, there were people that stuck with it for years and years and years, and now those people have created. incredible business. This is incredible science. They're doing stuff like open ai, they're working at Facebook, meta building stuff. They're working at startups, making some of, maybe you've heard about some of this generative technology that makes art for you off of mm-hmm. , um, algorithms that have been created, like all that stuff actually took years and years and years to create. All along the way, tons of those people were being told that your idea will never. and they understood things about it that no one else did, and they kept with it and stuck with it. So I'm sure that along the way some people just gave up and they're like, I'm gonna do something else cause it's taking too long. That is a reality of this. Like sometimes entrepreneurship is a perseverance game, right? You gotta stick with things for a long time before the market is ready for you, for whatever reason. Right.  Mark Stiles: Especially when you're out in front of it. Right. You're, I always use the analogy of you're out in front of the fastball, you know, you're, you're way out in front and people aren't quite there yet. The general population doesn't see what you are  Jon Radoff: seeing yet. So, yeah. So sometimes the pivot that you can make is one where you know what the long term is gonna look like. Maybe the long term for you is, you can see it 10 years. The road. It's a technology that's coming up or a market that's emerging, but it's gonna take time. Now, your challenge is, well, that's really hard to stick around for 10 years. So what is the business that you can create to start? Generating the growth engine so that you can invest money along the way and you'll be there ahead of everybody else ready to attack the problem. But you've, you're building a business through the process of that. So I think timing is important in business. If the market's not ready and it's not ready, or if you just can't find the customers that wanna buy it yet, yeah, that's gonna slow you down. That doesn't mean game over though. That just means maybe you gotta think about the way to fund. , the realization of that vision over time. Mark Stiles: That's an interesting, uh, way of looking at it. Right. So, you know, sometimes the entrepreneur is saying, not 10 years, this is gonna happen in two years on, you know, autonomous cars. You know, I told my 11 year old son, don't worry about learning how to drive. You're not, you're not gonna drive you you cars. You're gonna jump in the backseat and the car is gonna drive you where you want to go. No, dad, I wanna learn how to drive. You know, not necessarily a realistic, um, Uh, timeline, but yet in the entrepreneur's mind, it's like, why not? We're, we have all the technology, we just have to get some of the bugs out. And it could be two years, you know, and you have to wait, but talking about that process, right? Build a business within the process. So slow down to speed up, right? So go back to like, how are we gonna get there? Are there business opportunities? in that journey to get where I see it, but other people might not see it or embrace it or are willing to accept that as a  Jon Radoff: reality yet. Yeah, I mean, exactly. I mean, look at, look at the growth of a company like, like Facebook, right? Right. So if. If Mark had started with virtual reality as his go to market because he saw that as the end game and he just focused on that, it would've been a much slower growth path. along the way. So he focused on just getting people online and connected with each other in a so social ecosystem and being able to share content, sort of the much more immediate foundation that could lead to something like that over time. And then in parallel to that, you know, years after he started Facebook, someone else started. Oculus, the technology that became their vr and he bought it and he was able to integrate it into it. And now he's working towards this metaverse vision of bringing the social technology and realtime interaction and immersive 3D spaces and, and bringing it all together. That said, it's still gonna be a long path. Like they, they get a lot of criticism actually because he's burning so many r and d dollars chasing this dream. Um, you know, there's the Wall Street. Interpretation of that, which is, yeah, wall Street probably would appreciate it if he just threw more profit up on the quarterlies right now. Um, but I personally admire his willingness to plow through it and say, no, I've got this vision. It's gonna be important. It's gonna be transformative for the world, and we're gonna invest in it and we're gonna get there. You know, they've got the capital to do it. There are. One of the biggest cash machines that's ever been created at Facebook, so they can invest in that long-term opportunity. Similar to like, you could look at another business like Amazon, like for years and years, Amazon got all this critique, like, oh, they're reinvesting so much of their money back in r and d. Are they ever gonna make a profit? Well, we know how that story kind of turned out. Like they ended up being super profitable again, one of the biggest cash machines ever created because of that relentless focus on the customer that they had. Um, but I think it comes down to like, if you've got grand visions of where you think the world ought to be or could be. Then you have to start with the thing that people are gonna buy now to fund the growth that gets you there. And if it's something that people will buy now that's gonna be hypergrowth really fast and be billions of dollars, then venture capitalists will fund that. If it's a smaller scale or it's less certain, you may just have to find something smaller that you can get behind to grow. In the sooner timeframe for me at Deemable, I have this vision of just enabling and empowering creativity through the world so that it, it's what I call the direct from Imagination era, where if you can think about it, you can speak. You know, worlds into existence on your computer screen. Worlds will be created like game worlds, immersive experiences, educational experiences. Anything that you could imagine will just leap onto the screen because you're able to articulate it and then even work with like an AI to explain it. That's gonna take some time to get to that. Like that's, that's a big vision. But also so many of the pieces for that don't exist yet and people may or may not even be ready for that. So we started at more of a foundational level, which is there is this submarket. In the market of all people who would like to be more creative, which is professional game makers. It's a about a 300 billion a year market when you add together game making and online ads and games and, and all the hardware for games. So it's a. Pretty large business that people just need technology to make their life easier. So we've identified pieces that we make, almost like a check the box kind of thing. You can provision it online and it speeds up your development process. You don't need to know like how to code a server for your game. You can just run with it. And now you spend all your time on the creative aspects of game making instead of the more technical aspects. So that. Something we still, you know, are working towards building, but it's a more of a foundational level towards this massively transformative opportunity of like 10 Xing the creativity through the world. So  Mark Stiles: if you can say it, if you can see it , you can make it happen. And you're sharing this vision on your blog building the metaverse.  Jon Radoff: Yeah, I d I did, uh, I do publish on building the Metaverse, and I just published a, a little deck, starts with this premise computer. Make me anything, right? Like, so if anyone has watched Star Trek out there. Yeah. If you remember Star Trek, the next generation, it had this thing called the Holodeck on it, and they could walk into the holodeck and they didn't need to program the holodeck so much as they just spoke whatever they wanted. Into existence, and they could go off on adventures or they could go in training modules, they could run simulations. That's the future we're going to, and people need to be able to just speak that into existence. So I, I just published a deck kind of for the Star Trek fans out there to go and learn about many of the technologies that are now converging together to, to make so much of that possible.  Mark Stiles: It's so cool that some of these sci-fi creators back years ago. Visualize some of this, and now we're actually saying this is a reality. I mean, the iPhone, the watches, all of these things. I mean, I remember, uh, watching Tom Selleck in the eighties doing an advertisement about talking into, into the watch, and you know, here we are. , but you're not afraid to talk about it either. Got it. Right here. Yeah. There you go. There you go. But you're not afraid to talk about it. And I think that's an important piece of it is, you know, oh my God, John is crazy. Listen to this crazy talk he's talking about and that it's really not, when you're, talk about digging into a little bit of the artificial intelligence that's out there right now. I mean you, you touched on it with open ai, but chat G P T is really mind blowing, right.  Jon Radoff: Yes. Well, so I've studied this stuff and learned so much about it. What I'm able to do when I write about it is, is just sort of br, you know, bring I guess, a certain amount of authority to it, because I understand how the technology works. I'm not. I'm not writing science fiction stories just right orally telling a vision of a future we might get to someday. I think this is also an entrepreneurial story, not just a writing story, but like having a idea of how you can get from point A to point B is actually pretty important. Like visions are great, but. You know, the in between part, while you're gonna figure out so much of it along the way, and I'm definitely encouraging people just to, to jump in and start the learning process. You do have to start, start formulating some core ideas about what gets you there. It's like Elon Musk with the Tesla, right? Like. You know, he had this multi-step plan. It was gonna start with like the Roadster and like this really super high performance luxury vehicle. They figure out a lot of problems from it. And then eventually they'd get to a vehicle that would be cost competitive to every, you know, mid-range vehicle that, that most people would buy in America. Um, but he. Start with that. Right? Because that was just a technological possibility. That said he understood physics and the engineering of it, and he understood from a first per principles perspective that there were basic problems you can solve around energy and energy density, and if you could just kind of solve for those kind of problems. And there were, there's no like, Like profound physical limitations in the world that stop you from doing it, then you can do it. So when I talk about Holodeck and the metaverse, and using these generative AI technologies, I've invested a lot of time in really understanding them at a fundamental level, knowing what their capabilities are, understanding the research. So that comes across there. And if you're gonna be in a technical domain, you know, I think there's. , there's kind of two main kinds of founders. There's the, as they've said, there's the, there's the hacker and, and the hustler. I, I probably lean more hacker in my mentality because I really understand how to build these things and I understand the engineering behind them. But understanding customers and how to reach them super well, um, is another. Persona that I think can do really, really well with technology startups. You know, I most entrepreneurs are some blend of both. It's not like a hundred percent in one or the other. I'm, I'm probably like a, uh, you know, 60 40 or something because I, I also spend a lot of time talking to customers and trying to understand markets and how they intersect with tech. You know, get, I'd say get in deep, like, understand things. That's maybe just another lesson for people in your creative journey as an entrepreneur. Uh, be detail oriented, , get in there and know everything that makes it work. Uh, that'll become a superpower. Right?  Mark Stiles: So let's talk about AI a little bit. Like where are we and, and where do you see a realistic 3, 5, 10 year  Jon Radoff: outlook? Well, AI is gonna, is going to be capable of doing an astonishing number of tasks that humans currently do. The rate of progress that's going on is exponential. The thing that's driving behind that is a massive increase in the amount of computational capability that is out there, both up in the cloud and supercomputers, but also on your, your devices. So the top 500 super computing clusters in the world. add up to, it's, I, I'm gonna have to use some technical terms here, but 20 exif flops of computation. Um, that's, that's a lot of computer cycles anyway. Mm-hmm. look up exif flop if you wanna know how much that is later. But Apple last year shipped. You know, at least 50 times that in the form of phones to people, that's called a zeta flop, right? So there's a lot more computation today than you can imagine just in phones. And that's because they shipped it with these things called neural engines, which are a allow able to run. Artificial intelligence, algorithms, what they call inference within the, within the device itself. You can even train small models on it. And what that means is we're pushing out artificial intelligence capabilities pervasively through the world, and you actually need that for a lot of applications. Like right now, when you use chat G P T, that's a giant model running up in the cloud. You access it with a web browser, meaning. The inference is all being kind of self-contained in the cloud and you're just accessing an interface to it. But actually those artificial intelligence capabilities, so many of them are gonna actually be right in the computers. You use your desktop computer, your device, and that's gonna open up a whole bunch of additional capabilities. So the compute is, is just wildly exponential. In the last two years we've. So much compute capability of the world that everything before 2020 is like a rounding error. When we look another five years forward, what we have right now will be a rounding error to the level of compute that we have in just a few short years. So that computation is something that's just happening. It's not quite a law of physics, but you can just look at the exponential curve and it's gonna happen Like there, there's not really a big question of it. So behind that, AI is able to have what they call more and more emergent capabilities. The bigger the models are or the more refined the models are. So on top of that compute, you're gonna have a huge number of applic of AI applications that can do more and more meaningful work. So sometimes people critique chat, G P T, for example, because they go in and play with it. Maybe it got something wrong. . Take a step back though. Like who cares? Like yes. It gets things wrong right now. Number one, people are obsessed with it because it's a really amazing toy. Like if that's all it was, if they wanted to ship a toy, they could make a big business out of shipping this AI conversationalist toy to people. But within a very short period of time, we're going from. The technology that powers that to a new model that's called G P T four, right? And that's gonna be far more powerful. What they found is the bigger these models are, the more capabilities they have. So like the earlier versions couldn't really do math at all. Like you'd give it a math problem in text and it wouldn't even understand how to add two small numbers together. With the current versions, actually you can do some basic arithmetic functions. Still gets things wrong sometimes. It gets currently certain logical things wrong that it can't understand well in the next generation, I bet you that a lot of those logical problems that you pose to it are gonna, um, be handled much better. And there's just gonna be other types of algorithms, different approaches to training, different models. So all of this stuff is just exponential and it's the compute. The number of scientists working on it and studying it has gone up exponentially. The amount of dollars from r and d is going up exponentially, so you know, 10 years from now the world is gonna look very different and we as humans are not very good at conceptualizing exponential growth curves. We're pretty good at linear stuff. . You know, if things go up a little bit like a staircase, over time we get that. But this isn't a staircase. This is gonna be capabilities that are gonna blow us away in, you know, just this year there will be amazing things. Next year they'll be exponentially more amazing things, but computers will be capable of doing so much of what we do right now, and that is gonna free. People to do other things, right? So I'm an optimist. I think that, uh, it means that we'll have a lot more time to pursue our creativity, to put things together to solve harder and harder problems. I think actually robots are gonna be one of the slower things to come because solving all the things that we evolved to do really well in the environment of the world is actually still a super hard problem. I think we'll eventually get there, by the way, but that'll be a slower. . So, yeah, it's, it's totally transformative. Um, and it's gonna allow smaller teams, even the individual person, to do much greater things than you can even imagine right now. Because that person who has the idea, say, we talked earlier about like everyone telling you how bad your idea is along the, along your entrepreneurial. Well, that's only a problem insofar as it costs a lot of money and you have to put these teams together to go and help you solve that problem. But what if you have the idea in the future and you can assemble far fewer humans, plus a bunch of AI to augment your team and fulfill all these hard domains that would normally have required far more capital and people means that we're. Dramatically increase the scope of problems that entrepreneurs can solve. And I think that's super exciting for the next decade.  Mark Stiles: It is. It's extremely exciting and I know a lot of people are really afraid of it. Um, but your explanation is really helpful and I hope people, it lands with people. If you were coaching or advising a junior in high school, senior in high school, what to be thinking about to study and to really. Ingrained with looking forward to the future. What, what, what kind of, uh, what kind of specific knowledge would you recommend them to try  Jon Radoff: to gather? Well, two things. Uh, I'll give a specific example and then a broader, um, thesis on it. So I do think that. Artificial intelligence is, is such a transformative technology. Absolutely everyone from people who have been business in business for decades down to, you know, not even the high school student, the the tween who's just starting to think about what they want to do with their life. You do have to understand. The impact that artificial intelligence is gonna have in that. Now, that may mean that maybe you'll work in artificial intelligence or machine learning and figure out how to apply those tools to a problem that you really care about. Um, or maybe you'll even work on the underlying algorithms, like you want to go into computer science and figure out the next. You know, set of AI algorithms that are, that are gonna power problem solving that, that we can't currently do effectively. But either way, like artificial intelligence is gonna be a tool that people need. Like, could you imagine not using a computer today in most businesses, like almost every business uses a computer of some kind, even if that. computer is like this phone, right? Like we call them phones, but they're really just pocket computers. Uh, and they're incredibly powerful, right? Much more powerful than even any desktop computer that we had just a generation or two ago. Um, so you need to understand how artificial intelligence is gonna impact that. And, and unfortunately, I don't think that our educational institutions are actually that good at. like training people for things that change at this kind of an exponential rate. So my message to anyone who in
Staying Grounded - Evan Welch - Leadership in Action- Episode #57
Feb 21 2023
Staying Grounded - Evan Welch - Leadership in Action- Episode #57
On this episode of Leadership in Action, we are joined by a financial mastermind and member of almost 10 years. He has 25 years of experience as an investment fiduciary and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, and more. Starring on the show this week is Partner, Chief Investment Officer at Antaeus Wealth Advisors, LLC, Evan Welch. Mark and Evan take this opportunity to discuss what it means to be an effective leader, some of the challenges of being a wealth advisor, and how to get started coaching youth hockey.  Takeaways: A common misconception about entrepreneurs is that they are selfish. A good leader puts their team and employees first. Making your employees feel appreciated is a key component of retaining your employees. Sustainable employee practices establish long term employee retention. How you treat your employees affects how customers enjoy the experience at your business. Your customers can often subconsciously pick up on if your employees are enjoying their job, and that association will affect your customers enjoyment. Many investment professionals have moved into the RIA space. RIA’s don’t work on commission, and are held to a legal liability. The combination of those factors make your clients feel more comfortable. Technical skills are not enough to run a business alone. Joining a network like EO can help teach you business skills to augment your current knowledge. A good leader needs to help their employees understand the why behind the business. Knowing the why will motivate your employees, and provide them with a better sense of direction.      Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/evanpwelch1/ Website: http://www.antaeuswealth.com/  Quote of the Show “An entrepreneur can not do a good job if they don't have a good team behind them because you can't build a business all by yourself.” - Evan Welch Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/MUtQY_l1aL4      Transcript: Mark Stiles: Hey folks. Welcome back to Leadership In Action, your Boston chapter of EOS podcast. Today's guest, a financial mastermind. He has 25 years experience as an investment fiduciary. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal Investors Business Daily and Bloomberg, just to name a. Partner, chief Investment Officer at NTAs Wealth Advisors L L C. Please meet Evan Welch.  Evan Welch: Hi everybody. How you Ben? I'm great. I'm great. Well, I'm excited for 2023.  Mark Stiles: Awesome. You ready for the question? I'm ready. What is a common misconception about leadership running a business and or being an entrepreneur? Go  Evan Welch: so. I think a common misconception about leadership and business owners and entrepreneurs is that they are selfish. Um, particularly among those who are not business owners or entrepreneurs. Um, I think that, you know, a good leader puts their team first, puts their employees first, and those are the firms that that really thrive because frankly, a good leader and a good business owner and an entrepreneur, Do a good job if they don't have a, a, a good team behind them because you can't build a business all by yourself. It's pretty hard. And, you know, I think a good leader is curious and they help their employees understand the why behind the business. I know we've all heard about that with Apple and some other companies, not just, you know, here's what we do, but, you know, why do we do this? Like, what's the, what's the North Star? Uh, and, and I think frankly, you know, the. The media is easy to beat up, but when you look at the larger companies out there, maybe you know, entrepreneur 2.0, you know, a lot of CEOs, right, are, are put in, are seen in the media as selfish, you know, stock options, their stock, their compensation as opposed to the company. And you know, obviously a hundred thousand employee companies. A little bit different than most entrepreneurial businesses, but I think that that is a common misconception. Um, a lot of rank and file. Um, Feel or or believe, and I think it's, it's often incorrect.  Mark Stiles: Often incorrect, but it is correct in a lot of situations still here in the 2023. Evan Welch: Yes. I mean, but I think there are, I think there are selfish people of all jobs. Right? Right. And, and there are certainly, you know, most entrepreneurs. Pretty motivated people or else they wouldn't take the risk. Um, they're, you know, they're going to be pretty self-motivated typically, and, and maybe a little bit self-focused. Um, but the entrepreneurs that I've met through many, many years who are successful, are in amazing people. And, and, you know, yes, they're leaders and go get it. And, you know, they, they're, they're self-starters, if you will, but they're not selfish.  Mark Stiles: It, it's a really interesting conversation cuz it gets so deep. Right? So, you know, we can go down the path of culture and the evolution of business and where people were in the 1980s and nineties. Where, where, what, what was the motivation? You know, what was the perception? What were you striving for as a business owner, right? Like there was a certain perception that you had to carry with. the suit, the really expensive suit and shoes and expensive watch and you know, that perception was part of the job. It's, it's interesting when you see that gap kind of closing in a little bit too, right? Between ownership and contributors. Somebody on this podcast actually referred to as contributors and I was, I loved it. You know, cuz I al I always hate that, you know, when someone's like, oh, he is my boss, or I work for, it's like, no, no, no. , we're in this together. You, we work with right. We work together for a common purpose and goal. But, um, but it wasn't that long ago that that was something that was almost being taught. Right.  Evan Welch: Absolutely. Um, and, and, and I think, you know, part of that is probably the pandemic. You know, that's part of it. And, and as you mentioned, I mean, things seem to be. Slightly less formal, I guess. Um, and you know, I think, I think with what's happened also in the last couple years with the pandemic, I think a lot of business owners have realized how key their employees are. Mm-hmm. not just having them on, you know, as a part of the team and, and, and participating and engaged, but, but actually having them. , right? When, when, obviously a lot of businesses are run predominantly virtual and online. Um, but I also think it's, it's, it's rec, it's helped people understand how important those interactions are with their team and how much their team really brings to the table. Um, and of course then we have the, you know, the, the more. I guess global, national changes that we've seen with, you know, labor getting more involved and more active and, um, all of that as well. And, you know, I I, one of the things I heard that was great when we were, you know, I was talking, this was, this is totally from a financial background, I think I was talking to some of one of the big investment houses or BIT or banks and they said, well, COVID was a, was a turning point where the minimum wage worker who was doing 70 hours a week at Applebee's or. you know, job like that said, I'm not doing this anymore. It's just not worth  Mark Stiles: it. It's not worth it and I'm not being appreciated enough. I went into a coffee shop, um, right around the holidays and, you know, everybody's in that spirit of giving and, and, and this, this coffee shop, for some reason you had to actually tell them you were gonna tip them before you ordered so they, the system wasn't updated. I'm like, can you please get your ownership to update this so that we can. Appreciate what you're doing. I walked in there on December 23rd and there was a sign on there that said, we are open December 24th, 6:00 AM to two, December 25th, 6:00 AM to two, December 31st, 6:00 AM to two, January 1st, 6:00 AM and they were proud of that. But then I see how they're treating their people and it's like this is not a long-term sustainable business model At. .  Evan Welch: Yeah. I mean, I, I, yeah, I, we, you know, we certainly, uh, we were not working on Christmas , no. Uh, Christmas Day and, and, uh, yeah, I mean, I, I, at this point, I mean, I'm so used to just tipping. It seems like, as you mentioned, it seems bizarre when there's not a, you know, an opt out to tip as opposed to an opt-in. Mark Stiles: But it's amazing to see a business these days. And you mentioned Covid, right? Coming out of Covid. How important. Humans simply showing up, you know, for a job, how they could continue to, to treat them that way. And it's, you know, it's refreshing to know that, you know, those are actually the outliers now, the anomalies, you see that and you're like, whoa. I actually took a picture of the sign. I didn't know why I was taking a picture of it, but I, I took a picture of it because it was, it, it hit me so hard that it's like pe you're making people come in, but yet everybody. Who wants a cup of coffee on those days could actually make it at home. They could sit back and say, I don't need to go to that coffee shop and make certain that somebody is away from their family making me a cup of coffee. You know? But the owner, it's very shortsighted and, and it's like, I'm gonna be the one that's open. Well, there's other factors involved here. There's collateral damage when you, when you market that. Right?  Evan Welch: Absolutely. Yeah, I think we, we go to coffee houses for the experience. That's a big part of it. Yeah. And if the employees there are not happy. You're gonna feel that, and I dunno about you, but I've been to many coffee houses and it, it could be some of the national chains or it could be a local place and you can tell when the employees are enjoying your job. Right. And it just feels, it just feels more comfortable. Like when, when I do business travel and I go to a coffee shop and I find a place that's got that kind of energy, you know, it, it, I don't know, it just, it just even makes me more productive when I'm sitting in there. Isn't amazing what  Mark Stiles: you're talking about. It's contagious. It's a contagion. Right. So it's like, but I don't want to go back there if I don't feel good about it. Right. So it's, it's very shortsighted. Tell me what anthes means. Anus wealth advisors.  Evan Welch: So, Anthes uh, is, is the name of a mythological Greek giant. And what happened was a bunch of us formed this firm and at the end of 2010, and we, we were coming, we were all coming from large publicly traded organizations where most of us cut our teeth and we wanted to start,  our own business, right? And, and doing it the right way and building it from the ground up as opposed to trying to fit into some large company's model. Um, and ultimately the way we came with NTAs is a large part of what we do is, is financial planning. And what I mean by that is we help people. Kind of stay focused and grounded and nudges them in the right direction because there's so much out there, whether it's, you know, the markets or taxes or stuff happening in the news, um, things happen in their lives, you know, people getting sick or divorced or whatever may be happening. And so the way the, the, the myth about Anthes was, the way he kept his strength was by staying grounded. So if you actually, if he actually was removed from the earth, he got weak quickly. And so our, the analogy for us is that if we can keep our clients ground, and focused on what they can control, then the rest of it will work out, you know, regardless of what happens in the markets and so forth. And they will get to where they're trying to go and they will not run outta money, hopefully. And they will, you know, reach financial independence, which I think is the goal for most people. And, uh, the, the irony of it though, is if you read about Anthes. He actually wasn't a very good or nice person. Uh, or nice God if you re if you read about it. Um, but we still think the analogy really is sound and, and it's a lot of, of what we do.  Mark Stiles: What's the difference between an R I A and A C F P or some other financial advisor?  Evan Welch: So an r a a a registered investment advisor is registered with either the, uh, security exchange commission on a national level or, um, with the state and registered investment advisors. They're, they are fee only, so they cannot charge commissions and so forth. They have a fiduciary standard, which a lot of people hear, which in plain. For you as an attorney and for doctors and other people in those, in those advisory roles is you have to put the needs in interest of your client or your patient first at all times. Um, and of course confidentiality and all that, but that, but that, that, that's regardless. So that's what a registered investment advisor is. Um, a certified financial planner or c f cfp, that's a, what we call a designation. So that's not actually a license to practice. Investing or planning, but it's someone who goes to typically an 18 month program and learns a lot about the basics of financial planning. So think tax estate planning, insurance, investment management, cash flow, retirement planning, all that kind of stuff, and how to. , um, build, you know, from, from a, from a client comes to you and how to take all their information, synthesize it, you know, into an analysis based on their goals, and provide them with objective, unbiased advice on what steps to take to, to achieve their goals. And so that's what, you know, the C F P is definitely one of the. Probably most respected designations in our quote unquote industry because it's so focused on putting the client in the middle, in the center of the center of the engagement. And, uh, and it's, it's based on these, these principles and also CFPs like a lot of, you know, like being an attorney. you know, you need to have a clean record because if you don't, they're gonna pull it from you. Right? So there's a lot of reason. It doesn't mean that there aren't good advisors who aren't CFPs. I mean that that's not true at all. But if someone has a cfp, it's usually a good sign.  Mark Stiles: So it's almost like a degree where an R I A is a license. Evan Welch: Yeah. And r and r AA is actually the, is actually the a a, a company that's, that's, that's registered. And so what Aass have it, if you wanna get real technical Yeah. Are irs, which are investment advisor representatives. So those are the individuals you interact with who work at an r a, they're the ones giving you the advice under that. that umbrella. And this goes into securities laws in the 1930s, and it gets a little, we could, we could dive very deep and um, I'm sure, I'm sure well, I of course, I curious.  Mark Stiles: I'm, I'm curious, so of course, I assume the listener is curious, but what I'm always curious about is when you, you talked to an r a and we're bound to act in the best interest of our client, and you sit back and you're like, isn't everybody, aren't all advisors, but. Evan Welch: No, I mean, there's, you know, I mean, I, I look, I, I believe it's difficult to regulate ethics. I mean, I think, I think just like your friends and people you do business with, you know, you do business, you're gonna, some people are gonna do the right thing and others will not. When, if, if it's in their best interest and if, if, if they can get away with it. That all being said, an r a a, um, there was actually legal liability. Um, and, and so it's, you see a lot less. of that. Um, that being said, I mean, remember Bernie Madoff and that wasn't r i a, he wasn't being regulated very well, so, so one could say he was the regulators, but he wasn't r aa.  Mark Stiles: It makes a lot of sense, right? I mean, it, it makes total sense. And it's funny you bring up Bernie Madoff. I, um, recently. Watched that limited mini-series that came out on Netflix. Anyone listening, highly encourage it. Really well done, really well explained, really, um, a really interesting look at human nature, right? They saw him as a god-like figure, like they're not gonna look at that guy. Margolis from Boston, I think. Yes. Who kept whistle blowing, kept sending in, this is not right, this isn't right. It can't be right. And they're like, not Bernie. Bernie started the Nasdaq, not, you know, so it's, it's really interesting that, that that monster, but they did a really good job with it. So I, I definitely would encourage checking it out, but, um, I, I can't imagine again, you, you think it could never happen again, but I can't imagine that it could happen the way it happened  Evan Welch: with, uh, I think it would be, I think it would be much harder today. But look, there's been Ponzi schemes since Yeah, the guy Ponzi probably before. . Right. And it's not just in finance, it's in all sorts of industries. Um, and, you know, there are, there are bad actors and that, you know, that's why we need regulation. And unfortunately the, the, the lion share of those of us who are ethical and do it's right. you know, we have to deal with a lot of regulation, right? Which I think is necessary to protect all of us. Um, and also to protect the financial system in itself. Um, but you know, just like, just like being a doctor and attorney, I just keep going back to those two cuz they're highly regulated. Um, it, it can be a little frustrating sometimes, um, dealing with all the regulation. Cuz sometimes you're saying, well, we're already doing all this, you know, and why wouldn't we? But you know, it is what it. ,  Mark Stiles: right? Do no harm. Act ly best interest of your client, right? Mm-hmm. like that should be a, a stamp of every adult. , right? As you pass into adulthood, as childhood, right? Mm-hmm. , this is the staff that you receive. But you're right, there's bad actors. They're everywhere. What motivates them? You know, I always say those people who are doing the, um, the hacking into the computers and the malware and, and the ransomware, it's like, ugh, they're so smart. It would be great if they actually did something for humanity, you know, instead of, uh, for their own self-interests. Evan Welch: Yes, they are. Uh, they are definitely, uh, it's frustrating and, and look at all the security and all the dual authentica authentication we have to deal with and changing passwords and all that. And that's all. Because if there weren't any bad actors, bad hackers, we wouldn't have to do any of that. I know,  Mark Stiles: I just heard, let this morning LifeLock got hacked. Right. I mean, LifeLock, you know, they're gonna actually go after the big ones just to send a message. Right. So let me ask you about eo. How long have you been a member at E.  Evan Welch: I've been, I've been in, you know, we were trying to figure this out the other day. Um, I, I, I think, um, I'd have to look it up to be exact, but, but it's, it's close to a decade now. Yeah. Um, it might be, it might be eight years or nine years, but, but we're, it's, we're getting, it's getting up there. It's, you know, time is, time is flying. Oh,  Mark Stiles: yeah. So fast. So how has it helped you?  Evan Welch: Oh, it's, it's been amazing. I mean, I'm, I'm a big cheerleader for eo. I mean, I think it's one of the best decisions I ever made. Actually, one of my business partners, he was a member before I was, and, and, and. Kind of recommended it to me. And back then the reason why was, you know, I'm, I, I, I'm so technical. I historically been so technical in my job. I love to manage, manage money, build portfolios. I love financial planning, but I wasn't very good at running a business. Um, and you know, I was one of those kind of. entrepreneurs who had trouble delegating and so forth. And it really helped me start to look at how to be a better, you know, business owner and leader as we were. We started the podcast talking about, and, but, but what has actually happened is, you know, one of my favorite experiences that it went to Global University, that was in New York, and I'll never forget, there were, think about 1100 entrepreneurs there. over 800 of them were not Americans. And just getting exposed to these business, you know, leaders from all over the world and countries that these days, with all the stuff going on in the world and Covid and wars probably can't even interact with these people right now and their perspectives. And it just made me realize how many blind spots I have just from growing up in America. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, I'm very grateful to be in America. But it made me recognize, um, how much that has impacted me. So some of these global universities have been great. The speakers are amazing. Um, I've been to EO Nerve, which I think is fantastic. Uh, I'm probably gonna go this year as well. That's been very helpful. I've gone to chapter events over the years. The last few years it's been more difficult because, as we talked about earlier, I've got three daughters who are very active in sports, and now that they're older, , you know, it's not in the town, it's all over the place. So, um, it's been a little harder for me to engage in some of those, but I do plan to go to more as they get older. Um, and lastly of course, um, you know, the forum itself and the skills that I've developed and the trust and the friendship, and I'm just a happier person because, you know, once a month I'm basically, and we, we interact a lot more than that, but once a month we're formally putting our personal 5% out there and our professional 5%. And, you know, I'm managing through life and, and I just, it's therapeutic to me, you know? Yeah. I, I honestly think it's one of the best things they ever did, and, and I did, by the way, have to cut out a couple things to make EO because of course. , you know, for a forum to work well, it's gotta be a, you know, other than your family, like one of the biggest priorities, like, you don't miss forum and, you know, we have an amazing forum. So yeah, I'm a, I'm a big cheerleader and I know part of that is just, I have a great forum, but that's because we've worked hard at it and people are committed.  Mark Stiles: You know, I, I agree with you. And it's, it's that, um, you know, as a business owner, even if you have partners, um, you're kind of on an island. , you know, so you look around and you're like, who do I talk to about this? Right? Who doesn't have a financial stake in this question that I have, right? Who doesn't have an emotional, uh, reaction to this question that I have. And, um, I found that in eo, both in the forum and as I get to know a lot of the, uh, local Boston members and, and like you said, nerv was great. So you're going to Tampa. Yeah,  Evan Welch: that's the plan. I, I, I, I'm actually pushing to get our, our whole forum to go, uh, cause we do a, a retreat and then a mini retreat and, and we're hoping to, I'm hoping to get that com you know, one of those combined into that. Cuz I think we went to Charleston before Covid, I think it was 19. And, uh, it was, I thought it was phenomenal. I was very impressed. And, um, some of the speakers and, and, and also of course just the Interac. and even with EO Boston, I mean, because like I mentioned, like I haven't gotten to a ton of events here, and I ended up spending so much time with members in our chapter down there, and it was great. And of course, everyone's more relaxed because they're not at home and you know, they're unplugged. So. Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I'm really hoping to go this year and I, I think it's quite likely I will.  Mark Stiles: so help me understand how you found your way into owning your own business. Like, give us the journey there. So, outta school, I'm gonna be a financial advisor. Here we go. Game on. Well,  Evan Welch: so I, I mean, I guess scroll back a little bit. Yeah, scroll  Mark Stiles: back as far as you want.  Evan Welch: Yeah. So I, so investing, you know, I started investing as a teenager. Um, I just was fascinated by it. And, you know, I started, you know, I opened a brokerage account at one of the wire houses when I was 12. Uh, and, uh, bought some shares of Coca-Cola and ge, actually, I remember specifically. And, um, back then it was pretty expensive to buy stocks, and. that got me first kind of, you know, piqued my interest in this space. Um, and then, um, I had some really amazing internships in, in college. One in Europe and, and one in Boston. Uh, which, which, which helped refine that. But, but I actually, when I graduated from college, um, I was going to open a carwash down in Atlanta, Georgia, with two of my buddies from growing up. And we were trying to basically, you know, elevate from. What you think of a carwash to a very high end experience. And my, we, we, we even worked at car washes around Atlanta and pretended that we were, had no other options. And I think, you know, um, some of the owners were a little like, why are these guys working here, kind of thing. And with all due respect, people work at Carwashes and, but you know, we were literally doing, like, I was out there like drying the cars and, and that kind of thing. Doing your due  Mark Stiles: diligence, right. Doing the  Evan Welch: due diligence, doing due diligence, learning, you know, learning the business. Yeah. And learning, you know, the, how the employees and how they work. And ultimately I just, I just wanted to go into investment management and financial planning so bad and, and I was very close to going to Wall Street. But then I had an interview in Atlanta that I love with this firm that was more of a financial planning boutique. And that's kind of where I started. And one of the three of us, um, one of my good friends, he did end up starting this carwash. It was extremely successful. They opened a few of, Um, and he eventually sold out of it and, and he's, he now lives down in Florida, but it actually was a, was a resounding success. And they, they opened it next to a, uh, Ferrari dealership in Atlanta, outside of Atlanta, Georgia was the first one and, um, did very well. Um, but I, of course, you know, took a different route and, you know, and I, yeah, so, so here we are.  Mark Stiles: Well, it's interesting because, you know, you had the idea, you, you dug in, you knew, you knew it would. But you chase the passion and that I love, like, you, you were like, okay, I could make money at this. I bet I can. I mean, in fact, I know I can. I've already done the proforma, I've done the spreadsheet, I have processed, we have, uh, we understand, you know, the assets and all of that, but. , you know, ever since I was 12, I just love me that stock market So how you can't do that Now, Mike, I have a 15 year old who's, who's working to, you know, get a Robinhood account open. I'm like, mm-hmm. I don't think so. I think they wait till you're 18 now, right? Mm-hmm. , like, there's some, there's some, uh, big barriers to entry now, I hope.  Evan Welch: Well, you know, it, you know, the gamification, as we say of investing is a slippery  Mark Stiles: slope. so, well, let me ask you this. You know, we started to talk, uh, earlier about your kids. Tell me about some of the private life. So you've got eo, you've got your business, you've, you've got your successes. Tell me about the rest of the balance.  Evan Welch: Well, you know, I, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm a pretty active person, like a lot of entrepreneurs. I guess if there's a stereotype, um, I. Play a lot of, I play a lot of, I play hockey, play ice hockey. I coach ice hockey. Um, I coach a few teams and, um, you know, I, I, I, I cycle ride my, you know, ride my bike. I, I, I swim. I'm, I love to snow ski. That's a big passion of mine. As is traveling. Um, actually I'm going to Austria in a week to go skiing. Nice. So that's a, that's, that's a big focus. And, you know, COVID was hard for me. You know, I, I also love to be in the air. I'm actually, um, almost got my pilot license when I was 28 and I'm 48 now. And the deal my wife and I made was when I'm 50, got my pilot license because she's convinced that something's gonna go bad. And, you know, the kids are getting older, nothing's gonna go bad. But you know, that, that was the deal we made and. Yeah, so, so I. What else? I, uh, grew up originally from Belmont, Massachusetts, but I actually grew up in Connecticut, cuz we moved there when I was five. My father transferred from Mass General to a hospital down in Connecticut. And then I went to a, a, a prep school in Connecticut and then ended up at Colgate in upstate New York. And, uh, I loved the snow, but you know, it was pretty gray up there. And I said one. This weather's awful. And I was thinking about moving to New York or Boston, and then my buddy kind of said, Hey, Atlanta's up and coming. And I actually had gone to the Olympics in 96, so I graduated college in 97. And I said, all right, well why not? Like, let's, let's go down there. And, and, and that's how we ended up down there. Um, then, uh, fast forward nine 11 happened and some other things, and I kind of woke up and said, what am I doing in Georgia? And I moved back to Boston in oh two and. You know, met my wife at a bar a few months later and the rest is history, so I love it. Yeah. Tell me about coaching. I can tell you a lot more, but,  Mark Stiles: well, tell me about coaching because I, that was one of my, my big, uh, needs is, you know, my business part of, you know, owning your own business. You know, people, we have the. The, the myth busting that we talk about, you know, what perceptions are and all, but the reality of it is, is you control a lot, right? So I decided I was gonna move my office to the town. That we are raising our kids in so that I could be at any field at any time, whether that was good for my kids or they'll be seeking a lot of therapy in the future for my, my coaching extravaganzas. Um, time will tell, but that was super important to me. But it was really interesting to me. to watch, you know, the youth of that time. Right. So we're going back 10 years up until, I think the last, last whistle I blew was probably three years ago. But also like the, the dynamics between the parents who all think everyone's gonna be a division one athlete, or a professional or Olympian or what have you. How is it these days? Is that tempering are people, is that starting to finally, pendulum starting to swing back to normalcy yet, or.  Evan Welch: I mean, I think it, I, I think a lot of it depends on, , you know, what, what kind of league you're in and, and what the age of the child and, and, and so forth. I mean, uh, part of it of course just depends on the personality of the parent, right. Um, you know, I'm co you know, so, so I'm coaching, I'm coaching ice hockey. I, I coached soccer when I coach, coached all three of my girls in soccer when they were very young, like think third grade and below. Yep. Uh, which I really enjoyed. Um, I w I w I'm not a huge soccer player. I, I mean, I played. . But in high school I played a different fall sport. Um, and, and in college as well, I played, I actually played water polo, um, at a pretty competitive level. Cool. But I, I wanted to, you know, I wanted to spend more time with my girls because I, I just, you know, and, and once you coach one of 'em, you feel like you need to coach 'em all. And I ended up, it ended up being very rewarding because now I do you of course interact, you know, get to know people in your, where whatever town you're in, um, , I loved seeing the girls. And by the girls, I mean all of them not Yes, my daughters, um, go from maybe being timid and nervous or distracted or whatever to being. , you know, pretty good athletes. And then seeing them go out to travel and club sports and things like that. Some of them now are, you know, playing at a varsity level in high school. And so it's, um, that was really rewarding. But, you know, ice hockey, I just have a love for, a love for the sport. So, you know, just being, it's not work for me. Being on the ice. I love it. And, you know, again, same thing. Um, Love seeing the kids get better and better. And as they get bigger it's, you know, they start to, they start to challenge you and which is meaning on the ice, which is fun. And um, as far as the parents, you know, again, like the soccer was, Pretty easy peasy because I wasn't once, once they went to travel and, and club, I just handed that off. I didn't, I didn't wanna be part of that. And, uh, you know, I was just watching their, watching the games like any other parent. And then the, um, although I must say I've enjoyed interaction with a lot of the parents who made a lot of friends and with hockey, you know, I lo I love the, the parents in our hockey community. I mean, they're, they're generally pretty down to earth. I mean, you definitely get, um, you know, a couple parents who. , you know, maybe think that their kids' entire college is gonna be based on. Athletic prowess and you know, I mean, it's not for me to say, but you know, I mean, you know, the percentages, , there's a lot of competition and uh, and certainly in, in, in hockey. I love the sport, but you do get, you do get some rough folks, you know, at some of the games. And we've had, we've had some games. In some towns where it's gotten a little ugly in terms of the fans or the parents. Um, I mean, I think you get that with all sports, but hockey's pretty notorious for it. And  Mark Stiles: why do you think that is? Why do you, why do you think it comes from hockey? Is it, is it so deep rooted in the culture of professional hockey where they used to drop the gloves and fight? Like is it that barbaric and that.  Evan Welch: I, I, I think that's part of it. I think the culture of hockey, but I think anyone who plays hockey knows this. I mean, it's, it's a game of, it's a game of, of speed, uh, and intensity and, um, you know, and of course there is, you know, it's very physical and so, you know, when you're on the ice, most people, uh, or a lot of parents who. whose kids play hockey. They played hockey just like any sport. Yeah. I mean, if, you know, if you loved tennis, it's pretty likely that your child's gonna be exposed to that at a young age or you love golf or whatever. And I think a lot of these parents like me, you know, especially if they played at higher levels, you know, it, it, it's a rough sport and there's a lot of talking under the breath. And you know, I was, you probably know when you, when when you're, um, you get out of when, when you get out of breath and you're. you know, you're, you're, you're pumping on all cylinders and you're tired and you've got, you know, all those chemicals in your body. I mean, you. , you can get angry pretty quickly. It's almost, you know, it's, um, it's kinda like being hungry and having someone goad you. Right. And I, so I think that's, I think that's part of it as well. But, but the sport in itself is, you know, it's just ne it, it's, it's of course less dirty than it used to be. I mean, there's a lot less fighting anyone who watches, you know, professional level hockey. I mean, we will see that, uh, I mean the, they have purposely gotten rid of a lot of that, which I think is good for the game. But it's still, it's still a chippy rough game. And you still, you still have that. But I would, I would actually argue that it's getting better. , uh, you know, than what it used to be. And certainly what I remember as a kid, it's, you know, you still, obviously, if you go to an NHL game and people have a few too many drinks, , but you could see that at a, you know, an N B A game and N F L game as well, right? Mm-hmm. . So  Mark Stiles: yeah, hopefully the parents aren't having a few too, and they're smashing the, the glass to get the physicality up to a higher level, right? Yeah. So I was always kind of, um, taken aback, you know, at some of the reactions and some of the behaviors, but it was really an interesting. You know, an interesting study in humanity too, as a coach, and it was super, super rewarding because I think it actually was more than, you know, obviously more than your kid, more than the team, but it, that community piece of it, like when you could get. Parents and families to band together. One of the things we always say is, if we keep the, if we could keep the parents happy, then the kids are gonna be happy because they're gonna drive to the game with a positive, uh, attitude about it, and they're gonna be supportive and all that. Really, like, there's so much more there. That's a, that's a show in and of itself, I think. But I agree. So how do you, how do you do hockey and.  Evan Welch: Well, so the skiing, so the skiing is, you know, it's, it's a little tough. It's funny, I was talking to one of my buddies about this who was a hockey player growing up with me, and he basically chose, he is like, he loves to ski and he is like, you know, so his, his daughters are race, you know, so he's up and from on every weekend. and what, you know, what, what we do as a family generally is part of what
The Future Of Franchising - Ben Crosbie - Leadership in Action- Episode #56
Feb 7 2023
The Future Of Franchising - Ben Crosbie - Leadership in Action- Episode #56
On this episode of Leadership In Action, we are joined by a franchising force to be reckoned with. He’s a new EO member who leverages his  experience and knowledge of franchising, real estate, fitness, and business to create game changing businesses. Welcome to the show, CEO of The DRIPBaR Ben Crosbie. Host extraordinaire Mark Stiles sits down with Ben to learn about his experience as an entrepreneur, the future of franchising, and how Ben is taking The DRIPBaR to the next level.      Takeaways: One of the biggest misconceptions about being an entrepreneur is that it is inherently easy, and that you can become an overnight success.While success doesn’t happen overnight, franchising is a great way to increase the speed and scale of a business much faster than you normally would. As a franchisor, identifying personal overlap with non competing franchises can provide insight into areas for potential markets. Areas with a high concentration of those franchises likely have a high concentration of your target demographic.Dripbar has taken a “semi-absentee” approach rather than a traditional owner operator approach. While you will still need to spend a few hours a week at a drip bar, much of the work is set up to be done remotely for owners. A franchise doesn’t need to be a stand alone physical location. In Dripbar’s case, they have found success inside or adjacent to a health and fitness club, physical therapy office, or multi unit developments.One challenge with franchising is the different legislation of different areas. International markets, and even different states can have different legal requirements of your franchise. With multiple locations, it is important to dot your i’s and cross your t’sThe use of AI and automation has allowed Dripbar to revamp their franchisee lead process. By automating the early touch points they are able to filter through potential clients more easily, and reduce needed person hours.      Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-crosbie-85a59a7/ Website: https://www.thedripbar.com/  Quote of the Show “Replication is key” - Ben Crosbie Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/UW7fsOqOOO0   Transcript: Mark Stiles: folks. Welcome back to another episode of Leadership in Action, your Boston Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization podcast. Today's guest is an entrepreneurial powerhouse, a franchise veteran, an entrepreneur who leverages his experience and knowledge of franchising real estate, fitness, and business to create game changing businesses.   He's a brand new member of EO Boston Chapter. And he is the c e o of Drip bar. Please meet Ben Crosby. Welcome to the show, Ben.    Ben Crosbie: Perfect. Thank you very much. Mark,    Mark Stiles: you ready to be here? Here comes question number one. All right. What is the common misconception about leadership running a business and or being an entrepreneur?   Go?    Ben Crosbie: Sure. That's a great question. Um, really to me, the, biggest misconception is that, you're an overnight success in that. It's easy. very few people can, truly recognize, unless you're an entrepreneur and you've done it, how much time and energy it takes for you to, just make your first dollar and then continue to grow the business until it becomes, what everybody hopes that it becomes profitable and successful.   So the overnight success, the, long hours, the focus, the unrecognition Along the way, the path and the journey. A lot of times it's the best part of it, most stressful part of it, and least recognized I'd say.    Mark Stiles: Rolling up your sleeves for 10 years and, uh, disappearing from the entire world and then showing up as a success.   That's not overnight. ,    Ben Crosbie: that was the some of the first advice that I got from my first C F O who said, you know, in five years from now, don't be upset. When somebody asks you how you became an overnight success, you'll become the most obnoxious question you'll ever be asked. And, uh, he was right. He was 100%.   Mark Stiles: Well, how do you fast track that success? So, I mean, it's obviously not gonna be overnight, but is there other ways of fast tracking it?    Ben Crosbie: Uh, once you start getting experience or being part of a group and getting mentors to really, uh, get over the initial hurdles? Um, it's just dedication, really understanding your business, uh, if you're bootstrapping and doing it on your own.   I mean, it could take a little longer, but being able to, to have capital, hiring the right people, getting the staff in place. Um, but one thing that I've found is franchising is a great way to, uh, Increased speed and scale of a business, uh, a lot sooner than you normally would. Sometimes you could franchise businesses when there's just one location, short proof of concept.   It's really developing the, the, the business opportunity to be able to bring it to market.    Mark Stiles: Well, let's dig into that a little bit, you know, cuz I was hoping that we would go there with this and I was kind of leading you that way with the fast track, right? But, . So one concept that works, why recreate the wheel?   Right? Why go back and try to figure out what that person did? Why not collaborate with that person? Right? Yeah,    Ben Crosbie: absolutely. If, if the person, the operating partner, typically spent a lot of time in energy really developing the, the standards, uh, the operational manuals, the speed to market. The tech, the technique of franchising, it can bring in a whole level of experience, uh, and, and systems.   That can simply be replicated in order to bring the business to scale that much faster. Replication is key. Replication just through education, finding the right franchisees, uh, giving them the playbook to execute on it, but then having a franchisor that's constantly looking on ways to improve from a wider.   A lot of times franchisees are in the mud, they're in their location. They're really, really hyper-focused on the performance of their one location. The benefit of having a franchisor is somebody that's taken a step back and being able to look ahead at whatever might be coming down the pipe. It might be legal, it might be rules, regulations in an industry.   Uh, it could be, uh, new marketing advertising strategies. Uh, A bunch of new technologies that could create a more efficient process. Uh, so really this, that, that's the best way, in my opinion, to really efficiently grow a business and hit success earlier. .    Mark Stiles: Well, there you go. Right. So overnight success, a lot of people may never find success because they have these, these, uh, blind spots, right?   Maybe it's marketing. Mm-hmm. , maybe it's process, maybe it's customer service. Help me understand. Alright, so let's talk about Drip bar for an example. So, sure. How does, how does that,    Ben Crosbie: How does Drip bar work? So, drip Bar is a brick and mortar location. It's a thousand to 1500 square feet. That's our traditional, uh, box.   They're in markets wherever you see a Starbucks Massage Envy, orange Theory. Uh, we do IV supplements, IV nutrition. Uh, people look at it as an emerging brand. An emerging industry. However, the industry has been around for 25 plus years. Just been very highly fragmented, full of mom and pop shops. Overnight success.   Overnight success. Exactly, exactly. So I've been able to take a lot of that, um, historical data that's available to, to, uh, Really learn the industry and identify where it's where it's headed. Um, but yeah, we do IV supplementation to improve cellular health of our clients. We do lifestyle trips for people that are healthy.   We also do, uh, health support drips for those that have preexisting conditions like cancer, heart disease, dementia, and such. . So, uh, yeah, it's, uh, currently a robust business model. We have 43 locations, uh, open, and we're opening one to two a week for the foreseeable future. That's    Mark Stiles: fantastic. So you mentioned a couple of other brands that you, I wouldn't say you follow them, but is there a, is there a demographic report that, you know, orange Theory, Starbucks Drip Bar are utilizing to say, okay, here's where our customer base, here's where our demographics.   Ben Crosbie: Uh, yeah, and we, we use those as lookalike audiences. Yeah. Uh, our persona client is male, female, 25 plus average household income over 75,000, but really focused on health and wellness. Um, and we see the drip bar as really the first process of somebody wanting to live a long, healthy life. It starts with your cells.   So by giving your body a cellular health environment that's positive, that's that's put together correctly, then you could get better workouts. You eat better. You want to be more proactive in your overall health and wellness. And that's why we really, uh, push it. Drip bar is where you get your    Mark Stiles: cellular health.   How early in the early adopter curve do you think you are right now    Ben Crosbie: with this? Yeah, so I think the industry as a whole is probably three to 5% of market penetration. I've been able to, again, like, like I said in the beginning, be able to take a step back, but also from my past experience in the health club.   I see the IV industry as what the health club industry was 25, 30 years ago. Highly fragmented, no true sophisticated franchise opportunities. And then franchising came in. You had plaintiff fitness that really, uh, grew the big box opportunity. You had curves that did the, you know, very simple studio models and then the fitness industry in.   Total started fragmenting and creating very unique opportunities like orange theory and spinning classes and yoga classes and M M A and all of these verticals by taking that experience. I'm developing the drip bar to be able to go into all of the various verticals in, um, one fell swoop from the beginning.   So we won't have that level of fragmentation. We'll have brand continuity in traditional locations. We can integrate into health clubs, doctor, dentist, chiropractic, physical therapy offices, uh, hotels. We have a very strong mandate to go and get into airports, uh, throughout the us. So we want the drip bar to be the brand of the IV vitamin therapy industry.   So that, and make it very accessible to people.    Mark Stiles: So what is the initial. from both the folks that are utilizing the services and like the medical community, for example.    Ben Crosbie: So I'll say positive, uh, you know, we have a very high recurring, uh, amount of. Science, we are membership based. Yeah. Uh, so we do do memberships, uh, but we also do packages, programs, and one-offs.   Uh, a we have a high recurring, uh, revenue because of the membership, but also even before. , we added memberships. We had a very high recurring nature of clients coming to the drip bar at least once or twice a month. Um, the medical community I see as being, uh, acceptable to this. They're, they're, uh, we have lots of doctors.   We have national medical directors, we have local medical directors. We have a whole r and d. That is based on not just functional medicine, but also we have oncologists and p d, uh, consultants that are all participating in this because this is a natural way to stay healthy, but also it is a natural way to create a parallel treatment, uh, a parallel program of care, uh, for clients.   Have cancer, right? Uh, high dose vitamin C has been studied a lot. Uh, it's shown to kill cancer cells, but it's also shown to help clients that are going through chemotherapy and clients that are in remission. So much to the point that we are. Uh, towards probably the end of this year, we're gonna be integrated into a regional cancer center, um, in their chemo section, uh, chemotherapy section of the business because doctors definitely at this specific location, uh, recognize the value of high dose vitamin    Mark Stiles: C.   Now, the big question, the big elephant, is the insurance industry recognizing you all, yet    Ben Crosbie: they are not, and that is, interesting opportunity for the cancer centers because the owners of the hospitals don't know how to monetize this. Yeah. Because you can't charge insurance for vitamin C, uh, from what I've been told.   Um, but the owners can monetize it by charging us rent. So we will, uh, you know, happily go inside. Hospitals, we'll happily pay rent in order to help the clients, cuz that's right where the clients are that we would love to help.    Mark Stiles: That's really interesting. It's, and it's, it's disheartening at the same, uh, time with the insurance.   But I guess like any early adoption, you have to work through these things, right? There's no overnight success, as you mentioned , but it seems to me. Like proactive medical care, right? So yeah. Insurance companies, you know, quit being reactive and spending on, you know, the broken people and let's, let's keep people really healthy along the way.   And you'll probably save a lot more money in the end.    Ben Crosbie: Yeah. Yeah. We want to be proactive, uh, you know, cellular health, right? So for. However long I've been in the fitness industry, call to action was going to offices and saying, we can reduce your insurance cost. Come and work out. People that work out don't get as sick.   Right. This is just another twist to it by saying people that get drips get sick less, uh, but also they. Can do drips for increasing energy, increasing your immune system, increasing the collagen in your skin. And there, there are so many different opportunities on our menu to, uh, help clients.    Mark Stiles: Well, me personally, I feel that one of my biggest Achilles heels is my lack of hydration.   I get to two o'clock. Three o'clock in the afternoon, I start to feel dry and, you know, yeah. You start to get this fog or the headache, and I know I didn't drink enough water today. I did not. Mm-hmm. and I've been, you know, utilizing, um, what is it, liquid IV or the drip, which I thought you might have been affiliated with Drip, but yeah.   Yeah. Spin it around, get it 10 times and, and, and it, it, it, it's such a different feeling to dehydrated versus dehydrated. You would. that this would be, uh, this would be on the radar with the insurance companies a little bit more.    Ben Crosbie: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's, it's. Not insurance based medicine. Yeah. Uh, you know, we're, we're, we're proactively, we'd like to stay far away from insurance.   Yeah. We don't want to get into the whole political landscape of insurance and, and, um, you know, I, is it covered? Is it not? Uh, it's the easiest for our client just to be a member of the drip. ,    Mark Stiles: right. And pay out of pocket and be part of the f I mean, is this the beginning of a fountain of youth kind of, uh, transition as well for    Ben Crosbie: them?   Yeah. Yeah. There, there's definitely longevity aspects to it. You feel so much better. I know I, whenever I do it, I feel so much better. Even when I'm coming down with the cold, I'll go and get either a shield or a flu fighter and. My cold will miraculously disappear. . So is that a menu and living in New England?   It's, is that    Mark Stiles: a menu? It's important. Are those, are those, um, menu type items that you're talking about? The shield you could go in and say, okay, I'm ready for a shield. How does it work? How does it, how does the consumer facing it?   I, I assume it's appointment.    Ben Crosbie: Uh, well, yeah, no, it's appointment, but it's also walk-in. Okay. So you can walk in. We have a, uh, full menu. We have 16 lifestyle drips like the jet set are for those to travel a lot pre and postop for those dealing with surgery. , um, our number one drip to date has been, uh, the power pack for energy, mental clarity and focus.   Uh, but over the past year two with Covid, it's been the shield to boost your immune system to fight off the common cold and viruses. Uh, but we also have a flu fighter, so if you're actively, you know, cold, your nose is running, your head is clogged, it's a. Cocktail, uh, that you could do. Uh, we have, um, time machines.   We do n A d, which is a big, uh, drip that is gaining more and more popularity in order to increase, uh, mitochondrial function. I mean, I've had people that, uh, you know, drive with their reading glasses. Right, and then they did an n a D drip and they didn't use their reading glasses anymore for at least, you know, the next week or so.   So it's just the, the, the ways that people notice it. Sometimes you notice it right away. Sometimes it's more of a progressive thing that after you do, uh, you know, on a weekly basis or monthly basis, then you notice a significant change. And then, as I said, we have the health support drips, like high dose vitamin C for clients with cancer.   Mark Stiles: Well, it makes so much sense. I mean, the science is, we are made up primarily of water. And when we start to lose our water, we're probably not going to be at our. Potential.    Ben Crosbie: Right? Correct. And when you're eating all the foods that we currently have, uh, you know, processed lots of, uh, preservatives, even if you're vegan, you know, and vegetarian or you know, you, you only meat, you know, you're on, on those diets.   Uh, are always opportunities in order to balance your, uh, nutrient profile, your vitamin profile in finding that right mix is what provides someone with the appropriate cellular health to function at a high level.    Mark Stiles: Huh? So who are most of your franchisees owner operator? No,    Ben Crosbie: some are. Uh, but we've built the business model to be semi-absentee.   Cool. Uh, you don't need to be a doctor or nurse to own it. Uh, I own one, uh, in Foxboro, Massachusetts. I'm there. Two or three hours a week. Um, honestly, at least an hour of it is me getting a drip just hanging out. But, uh, so there are benefits , but yeah, it's, it's, uh, semi absentee. We've built all of the, uh, tools for you to be able to manage it remotely, uh, as needed to toggle, you know, marketing, advertising, spend appropriate.   Mark Stiles: So who actually operates Do you need, do you need a nurse to do the    Ben Crosbie: injection? Yep. Yeah. On an hourly basis, we only have two, uh, full-time equivalents, one being a front desk, one being a nurse. An RN is our corporate standard    Mark Stiles: rn. It doesn't have to be a a nurse practitioner. That's really    Ben Crosbie: interesting. So in some states you need an np,    Mark Stiles: So Ben, that's really interesting. I would've thought the barrier to entry would've been higher where you needed to have some sort of medical ownership or some sort of licensure.   Uh,    Ben Crosbie: yeah. So in some states, uh, the corporate practice of medicine mandates that a doctor owns it. Got it. But there is, uh, paperwork and legal documentation in the corporate practice of medicine states for the doctors to own it, in the franchisees to manage. . Um, so we are approved and registered in all 50 states.   Uh, we're opening in, I'd say 38 to 40 of those states, uh, by the end of next year, um, if not more. We're even opening, uh, Alaska. We're opening in Hawaii. Uh, , you know, so, so outside of the continental US we're, we're building, um, we have some stuff going throughout New England all the way through the coast out to, uh, California.   So really excited.    Mark Stiles: Is there a minimum requirement for amount of commitment? You know, uh, or could someone simply say, I want to do one shop or    Ben Crosbie: one? Yeah, so we do a lot of single unit franchise. Owners now, um, to date, we have recently started getting quite a bit of multi-unit developers that are doing 2, 3, 5, even 10 units, uh, at a time.   So this is turning into a fast growing, uh, business franchise opportunity. Uh, so, you know, just grabbing the bull by the horns and letting    Mark Stiles: it happen. Let it ride so that, so that thousand to 1500 square foot ideal scenario, you're actually evolving into. Okay? Maybe that we're not gonna be stuck with that.   We're gonna actually give opportunities for other creative sites.    Ben Crosbie: Definitely, yeah. Uh, we're doing really well inside a health club. Yeah, we're doing really well inside, uh, a physical therapy and a chiropractic, uh, separate business, separate, uh, locations. But, uh, yeah, it's, it's going quite well. .    Mark Stiles: That's awesome.   I love hearing that. What about exclusivity for area? Do you have, uh, a, a diameter that you circle around the location? Yeah, we,    Ben Crosbie: we do a three mile protected radius or 150,000 people with no overlap. Um, such as, You know, in, in, outside of Massachusetts, in the, in the suburbs, we're doing three miles all day.   Uh, once we go to Manhattan, we actually have one being opened on, uh, I think it's 44th and Madison, they're not gonna have a protected radius. Uh, we'll have one on, you know, every other corner in, in Manhattan. So you think. .    Mark Stiles: Yes. So you could see that you could visualize the future. Help me under, help me see that.   Ben Crosbie: Hey, if you're an entrepreneur, you better be able to visualize that. I especially,    Mark Stiles: even if it doesn't make sense at the time, well that's even, that's even the key to it. So share, share with me the vision. Share with me 3, 5, 10 years.    Ben Crosbie: Yeah. So to me this is a global franchise opportunity that's following the footsteps of Starbucks, massage nv, orange Theory.   Uh, in the US we'll cross a thousand units. Um, we're already, as I said, going to Canada. We're looking into Europe right now, specifically the uk we're looking into the G C C as well. We have partners there. . Um, so this is a global opportunity and we're taking a very diligent, uh, diligent steps in how we're growing it.   Uh, we're growing it from the foundation out, so we have a robust research and development team that's focused on safety. And I've hired more attorneys than I've ever hired in my life, by, uh, by doing the drip bar. It has been. Very uncomfortable at times, but, uh,    Mark Stiles: all good though. I can, I can appreciate that.   I can appreciate that. But so you see a thousand in continental US or, or the 50 states in a very short period of time?    Ben Crosbie: Yeah, because we'll be at, we're at 43 now. We'll be at a hundred locations in Q3 this year. Without doing any more development, no more unique deals, uh, scaling through health clubs, airport spas, hotels will give us, you know, three to four other verticals that are gonna be able to grow in parallel with their own section departments.   Um, so how are you getting the    Mark Stiles: word    Ben Crosbie: out? I just talked to everybody. And,    Mark Stiles: and, and people are starting to come to you and saying, I've heard about this. I need to understand more about this. Definitely, but    Ben Crosbie: also, Franchising. Franchising is definitely the vehicle for speed to market and scale. I work with, uh, consultants, broker groups.   We have a very robust, uh, organic, uh, pipe. Uh, through our marketing and advertising, we've created a, uh, Artificial, uh, like an AI bots that have gone out and, uh, brought us a lot of clients just to go to the website, learn about it, and we have a whole automated sequence, uh, you know, like a, an educational funnel, uh, with various call actions along the way in order to really educate clients before I, uh, get on a phone call with.   Mark Stiles: Right. I love that. Right. So you're almost like vetting them out and determining their commitment before you even waste vocals. I love    Ben Crosbie: that. Yeah. It's, it's, it's really the only way, uh, with the volume that we're seeing. I bet, uh, we have to do a lot of pre-screening. In franchising, it typically takes one, uh, it takes a hundred leads in order to close one deal.   Um, we're a drip bar right now. We're about instead of a hundred to one, we're around 15 to 20 to one. Wow. Um, so, you know, I think it speaks to how the franchise development has created the educational path, but also I think Drip Bar is in a unique. Position right now where there's so many people that are, uh, interested in franchising, but they want a unique value proposition that, uh, that is new current people say on trend.   But I don't like thinking that this is trendy. I think this is what Botox was five years ago, when. , nobody wanted to say, oh, I don't, I don't know what Botox is. Yeah. You know, it was hidden under the veil a lot like, you know, lash lounges and these other franchises that have become mainstays in any plaza where you see a Whole Foods.   Right. Right. Are is the next evolution of that scale? So help me,    Mark Stiles: help me visualize the process for somebody who, who signs the contract and says, let's do this. Like, what does day one look like? Is there a, is there a boot camp? Uh, it,    Ben Crosbie: there are various boot camps at the development stages, uh, because it is a brick and mortar.   Most people, well, a lot of times, first, Franchisees sometimes come in with the, uh, the misconception that as soon as they sign a franchise agreement, they're gonna start opening a location right where they have to find real estate first. So we start with a welcome call. We introduce them to our real estate team.   The real estate team will then, uh, help them find. Locations, negotiate locations, secure the sites. We do a lot of, uh, work in the pre-lease phase of things to make sure that clients are signing the right lease and signing a lease that we as a franchisor would be comfortable signing. Um, but then once they're there, then we have, uh, our onsite, our onboarding, uh, coordinators that.   Bring them through the whole architectural phase. The whole, uh, construction phase, uh, when they're about 90 days away from opening, they're assigned a launch coordinator, which is their drip bar concierge, to bring them through every facet, signing up for the website, signing up for the p o s, signing up for the app, getting everything turned on, making sure that they have their medical director, their hr, their payroll.   Um, in bringing them all the way through the sequence concurrently, they're also introduced to the sales and development side, which are gonna start the pre-sale campaigns, marketing, advertising, and development, so that when they open. They already have memberships. They already have revenue. They have all of their staff.   All of their staff is trained also before they open, we go to every location with our nurses to train their nurses and them as owners on site. So everyone's very comfortable in their own environment. We have continuing education. We have a whole, our university, which, uh, franchisees can go to in order to build, uh, their fund of knowledge, but also we use it as a depository of all, uh, articles and, uh, content, copy collateral for their marketing, advertising and such.   That's really cool.    Mark Stiles: That's really cool. So how did you, let's, let's go back in time. You said that you were in the fitness industry. Is, was that the natural progression into this?    Ben Crosbie: Uh, yes. So, um,   I graduated college as an athletic trainer and a sports nutritionist. Okay. Um, I was a personal trainer for a little while in Boston, uh, and then I opened up my own line of health clubs, and then back in 2016, uh, 1516, I secured the global rights to the brand tapout and created Tapout Fitness. Um, it's a, it was a, well it currently is an m m A fitness center.   Yes. Uh, I sold over 500 locations, 11 international countries, and I exited that in January of 2019.   Uh, I started going to the drip bar in 2017, just naturally. Well, because of Tapout, I traveled to Vegas a lot, but naturally because of health clubs and fitness and nutrition, I just had a sense that IV vitamin therapy was logical. So whenever I'd travel to Vegas or wherever, I'd go and get a drip. Wasn't getting sick, I was traveling easier, I had more energy.   When you're growing, going cross country, you know, you get the jet lag, you get the parties in Vegas, you get all that stuff right. And the drips just made, made it feel better. Right? Uh, after I sold tap out, I went to the original, uh, founders of the, of the first location. And I said, Hey, I wanna franchise this business.   Let me see the numbers. Uh, so looked at the numbers, really, uh, it made strong financial sense, but also the mission that I felt was there. I thought I could leverage my franchise experience, bring it to market, and then just help. Lots of people a lot quicker than, you know, doing another fitness center or another franchise or whatnot.   I felt that it was a very smart opportunity to be able to scale and it needed to meet the masses. So franchise that business, brought it to market. Um, I bought a a hundred percent of it, um, back in 2021. Just exited all the partners and now we're. . Um, and I was just able through a relationship, but I met, um, Kevin Harrington, uh, one of the, well, One of the first people in eo, um, and met him, he was in and around the IV industry, uh, for about the past five years.   Met him, talked to him through the vision and, and where we were, and he chose to take a, uh, an investment and join the drip bar team. So Kevin Harrington's, now my. .    Mark Stiles: I love it. And, and you know, it's so, uh, refreshing because you know, you practice what you preach, right? You're talking about, you know, you're doing the weekly drip, which I think is, is amazing and I, I can't wait to dig into that a little bit.   But the, um, sure. The fact that you didn't create this and then franchise it out, you actually. Thought like an A franchisee went to an established idea and said, let's franchise this idea as opposed to. Let's figure this out and copy it and do a better job. Let's take what we have and let's accelerate.   That's, uh, that's pretty cool. I, I wouldn't have guessed that. I would've said, yeah, you know, this person was through the health and fitness saw and opportunity created what he knows for processes and mm-hmm. . And, uh, all the strategies associated with what he is done before. And then he creates, and he, he does it.   But you, you were, you were accelerated already by some other partners. Yeah. How was the, um, how was that exit? Were they very pleased?    Ben Crosbie: Yeah, they should be, but you never know, right? You ne you never know, you know? Um, yeah. And I, I was somebody, well, I am somebody which is kind of funny. I personally hate needle.   Okay. Don't like needles. Never want one. But I do at IV every week. I own the drip bar, obviously, and I open up my own drip bar. Um, and it's just because it works. Um, so yeah, just really excited to bring this, uh, to the, to the mass market, which we're doing right now.    Mark Stiles: I love it. So you don't like needles, but yet you're gonna stick a needle every week because of how Wonderful.   Because it. Yeah. What's in the, what's in the power pack? ,    Ben Crosbie: uh, power pack's. Got a bunch of different ingredients. Uh, God, I could look it up for you if you'd like, but I try being non-medical. Yeah. I try not to, uh, get too into the weeds on the medical side of things, but, you know, in this, um, we proactively market all the ingredients in every I.   um, none of it is proprietary, right? Uh, it's vitamins, right? You, you can't, uh, copyright vitamin C and B12 and carnitine and, uh, a l a and all of those things. So, you know, all of the ingredients are, uh, accessible. Uh, we proactively educate clients into every ingredient that's in the bag, and also why we put those ingredients in the bag to create the therapeutic effect that we market as that various strip.   Mark Stiles: So you mentioned hiring a bunch of attorneys. What is, um, what, what's your big, what's your, what's your big fear? What are you, what are you hedging against? Like what's, what's, what keeps you up at night with this, this model?    Ben Crosbie: Um, Uh, now nothing. Uh, which is, which is kind of strange, right? So I have, uh, business attorneys, real estate attorneys, franchise attorneys, um, You always need litigation and so on.   Attorneys, medical attorneys, because every state has its own corporate practice, a medicine state and regulations. Um, so we are very proactive but also, , anybody in the IV industry, that's like the no-brainer. You know, this is medical. You break the skin with a needle. What is the, you know, medical rules and regulations, right?   The industry as a whole, however, is somewhat ignoring the pharmacological side of things. So I also have a pharma. That is constantly looking at the ever-changing, uh, you know, landscape of the, uh, compounding pharmacy industry. So we've taken a new approach where we mix every ingredient and every. Drip fresh for every client.   We don't get these pre-mixed from a compounding pharmacy. We don't store 'em in a freezer or refrigerator or, you know, they're not pre-mixed outside of a hood on a, on a countertop. That's where the competition does it. Uh, we do it all in a sterile hood. It's like an incubator that you put your hands in.   Uh, and we source all of the raw materials directly from the various 5 0 3 A and b pharmac. Huh.    Mark Stiles: That's really interesting. So you, so, so there is a secondary market for this. There is a competition you say that is, it's not really following protocols. Yeah,    Ben Crosbie: there's. There's, as I said in the beginning, it's highly fragmented, full of mom and pop shops.   There have been IV places that are incorporated into nail studios. Nail salons, right? It just not the clean environment that this type of offering should be within. Huh? There was one closed in a barber shop. people try it anywhere. ,    Mark Stiles: right. So how do you separate yourself from that? How does Trip Bar get up on that pedestal and, and scream out loud?   Yeah. Or different.    Ben Crosbie: Well, marketing, advertising and scale. You know, continually, uh, beating the drum as to who drip bar is. Um, uh, we're focused on IV vitamin therapy. That's our primary focus, that's our driver of what we wake up with every day. Um, just to continually, uh, give the safest, uh, IV therapy that the industry can als, can offer, uh, in a very nice, modern medical environment.   Um, and just market, advertise brand scale, and give the client a really good experience every time that they come in for a drip. .    Mark Stiles: Hmm. This has been truly, uh, eye-opening and, and fascinating. I've, I've done a little bit of research and spoke to some people on regenerative medicine. This kind of sounds like that not quite, uh, to the extent when you start entering stem cells into the conversation.   Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely. But yeah, it's that progress, it's that journey going towards like, why let's. intelligently about our bodies, right? Let's talk about this processed food. Let's talk about how we're exercising or not exercising, but most importantly, which has been ignored, at least for me personally, is the hydration component.   I, I think it's brilliant and I, I, I wish you the best of luck. I think you're gonna have tremendous success, and I thank you for coming in here and sharing all of the information and knowledge that you have around. .    Ben Crosbie: My pleasure. Anytime, mark. Thank you for your time. Well,    Mark Stiles: let me ask you this, the most important question, folks, pay attention, get your pen out.   How do people get in touch with you if they wanna
Education And A Good Sense Of Humor - Sandra Batakis - Leadership in Action- Episode #55
Jan 24 2023
Education And A Good Sense Of Humor - Sandra Batakis - Leadership in Action- Episode #55
Welcome back to another episode of Leadership In Action! Joining the show this week is an IT visionary who started her journey into Information Technology over 20 years ago. Providing both consulting and training, she has over 200 video based courses available for purchase worldwide. Please welcome to the show, Founder and CEO of Sandra Network, Sandra Batakis. Host Mark Stiles sits down with Sandra to learn about the importance of having an easily communicable name, using education and humor to handle conversations with clients, and Sandra’s gardening setup in Maine. Takeaways: Many people are drawn to being an entrepreneur because you “get to make your own schedule”. You do get to make your own schedule, but that schedule revolves around running a business.A lot of people view being an entrepreneur as not having a boss. While you don’t have a traditional manager, both your customers and employees end up being your boss as you have to meet their needs.It is important to make sure your company name is easily communicable, and that people can spell it and find it easily. When you face business challenges, it is tempting to first go to your spouse or friends for advice. While they may be great listeners, and incredibly caring, if they don’t run businesses their advice may fall a little short.Imposter syndrome is more common than you may think. Those same feelings of inability can provide a powerful tool to help you identify areas to learn more about. Despite strides made to improve the gender gap, networking IT still remains a heavily male dominated field.Having recorded educational content provides value in multiple ways. That content can be used as a marketing tool, but it can also be used as an onboarding tool when implementing new processes at a client of yours.      Links:  Twitter: https://twitter.com/SandraNetwork LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandranetwork/ Website: https://sandranetwork.com/  Quote of the Show “Anyone who thinks they are permanently on top, is wrong.” - Sandra Batakis Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/9UhnUYBv8ew     Transcript: Mark Stiles: hey folks. Welcome back to Leadership in Action. This is your Boston chapter of EOS podcast. Today's. Is an IT visionary. She started her journey into information technology over 28 years ago, providing both consulting and training. She has 200 video-based courses available for purchase worldwide. In 1999, she started her own company with the goal to combine great IT support with user functionality. She's been neo member for under one year. She's the founder and c e O of Sandra Network. Please meet Sandra Patak. Welcome to the show, Sandra. Sandra Batakis: Thanks, mark. Glad to be here.  Mark Stiles: Cool. You ready to get right into it? Sure. Let's go. What is a common misconception about leader? Running a business and or being an entrepreneur to you?  Sandra Batakis: Ah, that's easy. Uh, that it is easy, actually. I guess that is a misconception, , um, that I get to make my own schedule and I seem to have endless vacation time ,  Mark Stiles: so it's easy at the top. Look at me at the top, I'm at the top. I'm doing it all.  Sandra Batakis: Absolutely. I stroll in and out what I want, you know, there's, there's no one above me to tell me what to. And, uh, I guess that's pretty wrong, right? Well, so  Mark Stiles: tell me the reality of it. .  Sandra Batakis: Well, you know, the reality is I might not make it in the office till, you know, 10, but I've been up since five hitting it, you know, and, and sometimes I'm hitting it cuz I'm on the treadmill trying to clear my head and sometimes I've cranking out emails at, you know, 5:15 AM and um, there's, there's a lot to it. And you know, when you're an entrepreneur they think it's great cuz you don't have a boss. But, uh, I have more bosses than. Right. All my customers are bosses. I consider my employees bosses. You know, I have to account for them. I have to provide them a good working environment. You know, I can, I can fire them, but they can fire me by deciding to go somewhere else. So I think the, the concept of I have no bosses the furthest from the reality, uh, in this world, that's  Mark Stiles: a really interesting concept as having. , the employees. Your team members are your boss too. I, I like that. I like that a lot. So tell us about your company a little bit. The name of it is interesting. Sandra Network. How did you come up with such a  Sandra Batakis: creative name? Yeah. Well, you know, when I first started, I didn't really know what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I became s JB Enterprises. Yeah. Well, s JB Enterprises is nothing about what we do, and I spent my entire life going. S s as in Sam. B as in boy, J like S like no one could get the letters. And ekkos at s jb was an impossibility. Um, so I decided to rename my company literally over my email address because it just wasn't flowing. It just didn't position us. Um, and after a lot of soul searching, one day I looked down and realized that we do security. and administration and networking and data and remote assistance. And as an acronym, that's spelled Sandra. So Sandra is what we do. It happens to also be my name, but it's what we do.  Mark Stiles: I love it. I love it. I love, love, love that. So tell us, and for  Sandra Batakis: the record, my email address, sandra@sandrawork.com. I never have to spell it anymore. I don't have to sound out letters. People remember. it worked ,  Mark Stiles: and there's real meaning behind it, which is really, really cool. Tell us about Sandra Network. Like what do you all do at the Sandra Network?  Sandra Batakis: Well, we, uh, we fixed things. How's that? So I like it. I try to be a very white glove IT support, you know, there's a lot of IT companies out there. Um, there's a place for all of us. You know, you get the little guys that do the home computers. You get the big guys that do the Fortune 500, 5,000 node. You know, there, there's really a lot of play space. But what I consider white glove IT support is. , a lot of security, a lot of handholding. We do virtually everything for our clients from their hardware and software to networking, um, all the things, right? But because of the client base, we also, you know, really have to look at the whole thing because our companies can be anywhere from 10 till, let's say 200. and that means they don't have a full-time IT person like we are the only people that understand. So it's, it's really our responsibility to not just reset passwords, but to really give them a foundational IT support experience so they know that they just can log in and can work and they don't have to worry about, what am I forgetting? Um, and that's really what we're all about. You know, I mean, granted we do the, uh, the standard desktop support, right? And that's what the users see. They have a problem. They call us, they need a password reset, they call us, but behind the scenes we're doing a whole lot more.  Mark Stiles: So you're an outsourced department for that company basically? Exactly. . So you're giving them guidance. What are we looking at over the next 24 months? We're right here at the beginning of 2023. What are the, what, what should companies of that size be thinking about security?  Sandra Batakis: Yeah, I mean, it's so bad out there. Um, I always say running an IT company. My little analogy, right, um, is like having 2000 children in New York. with money hanging out of their pockets unsupervised. Wow. That's what it feels like to run an IT company. Um, things are getting hacked, left and right, left and right. Um, I am always at security conferences. You know, the decisions I made for, um, my company and my, my customers this year may not be the best idea next year, you know, because technologies change and securities change and methods of attack change and it's, uh, you know, the. 24 months is really a, a complete lockdown, uh, you know, big, uh, password vault company where it saves all your passwords and you just need your, your master password. And they're the best of the best. Um, they just had two major security breaches, you know, and, uh, that's leaving all of us to. not change a password, but going in and changing 300 of them So it's, uh, it, it, it's an interesting world to be in and I think if anyone is looking at anything, you know, people are wondering what computer they should buy, that's almost irrelevant. Uh, most computers out there will handle most tasks. It's really, where's my data? And is it secure? That's, that's gotta be everyone's focus. Mark Stiles: and how do you keep folks comfortable with that  Sandra Batakis: education and a good sense of humor? Yeah. You know, there's, uh, and there's only so much you can do. I mean, sadly I can, I can have discussions with my customers and say, you need to do this and it's gonna cost you this. And they say, well, we don't wanna spend this. and sometimes they just, they just really don't understand, you know? And that's, that's the probably the, the toughest part of my job is saying, you, you have to understand this. Like, I'm, uh, I tell my customers I'm a lousy salesperson. If they tell you, you need it, you need it. I'm not selling you anything. You need it , right? That's, that's the challenge. And,  Mark Stiles: you know, where does your liability lay when they simply don't take your advice? I mean, do you end up having to fire clients?  Sandra Batakis: I have, I've fired many clients. Mm-hmm. many clients,  Mark Stiles: I would imagine, because that would keep me up at night. If, you know, you knew that there was potential for breach and they simply weren't taking on your advice, that's not a good partnership. You know, you're not doing what you're being asked to do.  Sandra Batakis: And you know, the, the challenges, and I guess back to. The things that people don't think of. It's such a liability focused world we live in, sadly, right? That, you know, it used to be that I offer people something and they say no, and that was the end of it. Um, now I send them a quote and I make them say no. Like I make them actually decline the quote because I need some documentation. God forbid they say, you never offered. . Right. And you know, you hate to think that's the world we live in, but, but it is, and it's a, it's a challenge.  Mark Stiles: Yeah. Cuz what's gonna happen if they get breached? Right. They're gonna look for every potential person to be responsible as possible. Yeah. So the insurances are getting pretty, uh, intense too. We've, we've seen a, a huge increase in the types of policies we're buying, but also in the restrictions that they're, they're placing on us. ,  Sandra Batakis: you know, I'll have conversations with clients and I'll say, you know, you, you need, let's say two-factor authentication, right? We've all been annoyed by that. It pings your cell phone, you put in a code or some form of equivalent, and I've had clients who are um, don't want it. I'm like, you, you gotta have it. Because honestly, if you get breached and you don't have it, and you should have had it, the insurance company's not gonna pay you. Like the, I have cyber insurance. Doesn't cover it. They don't wanna pay either. So they're, they're looking for loopholes and  Mark Stiles: they're probably representing to the insurance company that they're utilizing two factor authentication. Right. Or multifactor authentication. So they're gonna breach their own contract right then and there. Sandra Batakis: Right. Although, you know, an interesting story, uh, you wanna talk about keeping me up at night and I guess I take things personally and I. absorb them, right? Mm-hmm. , there was, uh, a potential customer and uh, you know, we went to many meetings and everything was positive and their IT company wasn't what they wanted it to be, and I did a security audit on them. which I do all the time, and it just scours the network. And I found that there was no two factor anywhere and there was nothing encrypted. And you know, there were all these things. I think the report was like 97 pages long. Wow. Of all of the things wrong in their network. And of course me, I'm like, okay, so I'm in the, the other IT company is out and he came back and he. I talked to my IT guy, he said he'd do better and that none of that was important. Oh, how important was that? Now I want you to guess. more than critical. Now take one. Guess what industry this particular prospect was in? I don't know. Finance, insurance. Oh, they've sold cyber insurance. Really? They absolutely. Mark Stiles: cobbler's kid doesn't have shoes,  Sandra Batakis: right? Yep. So when I say, you know, some people just, they just don't understand the importance of it, you know? Um, it's scary that they're like this, this person that sells cyber insurance doesn't understand that when they get compromised and from looking at their network, they will, that they're not gonna be covered. Mark Stiles: Right. Wow. That's fascinating. Yeah. So as an entrepreneur, you know, who do you share with? Who do you share your fears and, and, uh, reservations and future plans with,  Sandra Batakis: you know, uh, what a great time to ask that question. My new EO forum, um, thank God for them. Right, because I've never had a place. You know, I try to talk to my husband. He's an intelligent man, but he doesn't see things the way I do. He doesn't run an IT company, you know, he works for a big company. And follows the rules. Right. Um, and you can't share with your employees. And, you know, I have so many friends and I'm so fortunate to have a great support group, but they don't run companies. They're not entrepreneurs, so they, they can't, it's just not good, a good ground. Um, so  Mark Stiles: tell me how the forums become valuable  Sandra Batakis: for you. The forum's been amazing and. . You know, for me, one of my first form experiences as you're just trying to figure it all out, is I had one particular problem in the office I was trying to solve, and it was keeping me up at night. The anxiety was high, like I just, I couldn't figure out the resolution for this. And they said, well, next week, we'll, we'll put you on board and we'll, we'll discuss it. And it was amazing because by my second forum meeting, just listening to all the areas, , the answer became very clear to me. And, and that's no longer an issue. Um, so it really has become super valuable. And, you know, I sometimes have imposter syndrome, like, ah, what am I gonna give to them? And then at the end of a forum meetings, you're like, oh, okay, this is good. You know, it's almost like it, it takes you a while to get out of the mentality that you're the only one in this head with those issues. And I  Mark Stiles: love, or I, I love the fact that it's a shared experience. Right. I'm not gonna give you advice, Sandra, but I'm gonna explain a situation that happened with me that's kind of similar to what you're going through. Yeah. But can we talk about the imposter syndrome a little bit more? Do you feel that, do you feel that anywhere else beyond the, um, the forum? Like, do you experience like days where you're like, Hmm, who do I think I. ,  Sandra Batakis: you know, almost every day. Yeah. And I, I think that's human. Yeah, right. I would like to say, gee, I'm a rockstar and I know it, and you know, I guess I do know it, like I work hard and I, I do well by people and whether it's personal or, or business, but I, I just think it's human for every single day to at least have a moment where you go. I need to know more about this, or maybe I'm not as great as I thought I was, or, um, but I think that's healthy. I think it's humbling, you know, I think, um, anyone who thinks they're permanently on top is wrong.  Mark Stiles: So you see it as kind of a positive, right? It keeps you hungry for knowledge. It keeps you working hard to find that perfection as opposed to correct. a negative that's gonna cripple you and say, I can't go into this meeting with this client because I'm not  Sandra Batakis: worthy. I'm not worthy. I don't know enough about that. I should've learned more about their business. I should, I should've. I should've. I don't. But instead of that crippling me, I take that as, take a deep breath, step aside. reorder your brain cells, do that extra research. Yeah. Um, and you know, there have been many, many times that, um, in my career, I mean, I guess it'd be normal to say, you know, I sit in an interview with somebody and it could be an employment interview where they're coming to me for a job, or maybe I'm meeting with a potential client and the first time someone sits across from the table from me and says, I know everyth. There's not anything I don't know, and I can't count the amount of time. Right. No, I'm, I'm the best at that. I've immediately taking you off . Like, you are not the best because no one's the best. Right. You know, we all, we all have something else to know.  Mark Stiles: Do you run into that a lot in your, uh, in  Sandra Batakis: your world? I do. I do. I think my favorite line, um, is I know a lot about computers, Really, I, I was totally saying, dude, that's a bad sentence. That's just a bad sentence. .  Mark Stiles: Right. Let's start there. Let's go back to, let's start there. This drunken white book. So tell me, how did you, how did you get into this space in the first place?  Sandra Batakis: You want the long of the short version? Well, we've got  Mark Stiles: time. I think folks want  Sandra Batakis: to hear. Well, there are two paths. So there's one path that led me to it, and there's another path that led me to owning a company. Love it. So the path that led me to it, I think is more entertaining. than anything cool. But I like to tell it because anyone who's new in their career, who's trying to figure out their career, who has kids who were freaking out over what they should study in college, I like the story because hopefully it'll be relevant. Um, I grew up in small town Maine and small town New Hampshire, and it was a pretty sheltered life back then. Right. So, , it came time to, to do something. I, I wasn't, I didn't know what there, what there was to do, but I did know that I'd worked retail quite a bit. Um, I was an assistant manager at the Gap by my senior year in high school. Cool. And I thought, oh, I'll study fashion cuz I didn't know what else to study. So I went to school for fashion. Now once, you know, I'm a very well dressed geek . That's what I was telling you. I went to Burette school for fashion merchandising in Boston and I was gonna be a buyer, you know, for some company. And I really liked the gap. So that was my inspiration. And when I did the interview, um, they said, well, you know, you gotta go to the executive training program to get there. But it just closed. It's not available for another year. And I'll still remember the name, the HR manager, Jean Fellon, I haven't talked to. 30 plus years, which is hard to believe cuz I'm only 27. . Love it. Um, she said You'll be good at that, but I really think you'll be a good trainer. Would you mind being an in-store trainer and working in HR while we wait for the executive training program to open? And in that very sentence, I can still remember the sentence. I can almost see what she's wearing. That was what changed the. Interesting because I learned that I was very good at training people. I enjoyed it. I could somehow connect to them. Um, and it was a great experience. But back to being bored, you know, people say, well, how does this work? And I'm thinking, I don't know, there's like a wire. Remember the big cash registers? They were like, yeah. You know, small car, big . Yes. Um, and I was like, how does all that data go down the. , where's it go? Like how do people know? It's so like it. It was fascinating to me. Cool. And I left there and I worked for a software company and then I traveled the company or traveled the country teaching software. Um, so I realized, uh, also at that moment that I hate the fashion industry. interesting. I could care less.  Mark Stiles: Isn't it wild how the, isn't it wild how you just follow the leaf in the wind and let it take you where it may?  Sandra Batakis: I would rather be in my bean boots up in Maine, in front of a campfire, like I am so far removed from carrying what the next fashion. That's awesome.  Mark Stiles: So they took you to the right place though, which was first software and then from software. Yeah.  Sandra Batakis: Yeah. So the next story is, uh, I spent a couple of years, um, training and traveling the country. I was teaching, I think it was close to 200 classes. Wow. And you know, 200 classes is, you know, intro intermediate in advance of program, a intro, intermediate answer of program B, you know, um, and I was doing well. And you know, back then people were just getting their first computers on the desk. Wow. You know, like not everyone had one. Can you imagine there was a time ? Yes, I can. . I remember spending three months at Fleet Bank in Rochester, New York, putting computers on people's desks and teaching 'em what a mouse was and they were clicking in mid-air and, but, um, The long and the short of it is, you know, we'd get Evaluat evaluated every day in paper. And on a score one to 10, my average eval was a 9.9. Nice. And, uh, I was already bored. Like I needed to follow that wire and figure out the rest of the stuff. Like word perfect was great, but there's enough is enough, right. And I went to the. And, uh, I said, well, you know, Dan, I, I love doing this. I love training, but I'm bored and I really wanna get into networking. And at the time we had two male instructors and they were teaching networking. And again, we're way back at the beginning of networking, like two cables and two computers. And he said to me, in all seriousness, he said, you're doing great just where you are. Why don't you leave that for the boys? What. Yep, that that  Mark Stiles: actually what year? What year? What year are we talking about? Is this before y2k?  Sandra Batakis: Ah, yeah. So this must have been 95 ish. I  Mark Stiles: gotta do some math that for the boys. So was it a male dominated industry?  Sandra Batakis: It, well, you know, it still is. Okay. It still is, I hate to say, but back then, you know, there were a lot of female instructors, but they. , they were teaching the word processing in the Excel, like you didn't see 'em in the technical realm teaching programming or back then advanced DOS was considered technical, which is kind of funny. Yeah. Um, Novell just came out with their networking product. We still had Dell Landman, um, um, digital Landman deck lineman. I can't even say it all anymore. So the bottom line is, um, There just weren't a lot of women in the technical space and leave it for the boys. They're doing just fine. Was like didn't sit well. No, no, it really didn't. I was like, and the good news is, you know, there's a lot of woman warriors out there and there should be Yeah. Right. Fighting to get up there. But it didn't even occur to me that that was part of the issue cuz it didn't even occur to me that I wasn't capable. Like I just wasn't brought up that way. I wasn't brought up in male female. Leave that for the boys. Yeah. So, I mean, I did what, you know, every other timid woman in the world would do. I've never been called timid by the way. Um, I quit. Nice. and I went somewhere else and I got all sorts of engineering degrees and M C S E and Nobel certifications, and I spent the next few years teaching engineering, you know, how to put these networks together. How much sharp  Mark Stiles: elbows did you have to throw around at that point? Was there still the concept of, eh, this is kind of a boys.  Sandra Batakis: You know, there wasn't as much with the boys game, but what I found interesting is in teaching the classes, because I knew it, my evals were good. So I was no longer questioned there. Um, there weren't a lot of women in the classes themselves. There just weren't. Why do you think that is? Um, I don't know. I really don't know. , they were just all then in the classes. I mean, it, it, it wasn't that they weren't invited or not allowed or you know, there's a woman teaching the class, but they just weren't there. Mark Stiles: And you say the industry is still short on women leaders? Absolutely.  Sandra Batakis: I would love to see more women in networking in it. You know, as an employer I would love to have a staff of female engineers, not female only, but like to have a mix, but they don't. Why do you think that is? I don't know. I don't know. Um, you know, I've, I, historically, most of my engineers are men, and that's not because I choose it, it's because there's no, there are no resumes. That's really interesting and it baffles me. Interesting.  Mark Stiles: That's really interesting. So it sounds like there's a huge passion of, of teaching. Tell me about your 200 video based courses. I saw that in the intro and was like, whoa. That's, that's a lot of to content.  Sandra Batakis: Yeah. . What I started to do is when I was traveling the country teaching Mcsc courses and MCSE is just your Microsoft certified systems engineer? Yeah, I think they've redone the acronyms a few times, but I don't, I don't keep up my certs anymore cuz I've got a company to run. . Yeah. So, um, so as I started teaching them, I was contacted by a company who produces training video. And they wanted me to do, you know, one quick training video and they were given my name. So I went in and that was successful and it ended up that I ended up spending 50% of my time in a recording studio. Recording all of these and you know, I've got some of the easy one day type courses, but I also did in an entire MCSE track, which was everything from networking 1 0 1 to the architecture, to security, to building the servers that give us email to, and they're all in there. And I would go in and I would film all those courses. So one of each one of those courses about a 40, 40 hour. . Wow. Some of them might be a little, they might be 24 hours, but collectively there's 18 of them that make up. Um, The whole MCSE program. So you've got all the application training out there, you've got all the MCSE based training, um, they're still out there selling 'em, they're still being used in different places. And, uh, recently I went back into the studio on my own accord. Mm-hmm. and I recorded all the Microsoft 365 courses. Cool. And I wrote 'em and I wrote them as I thought my customers would wanna consume.  Mark Stiles: So you're, you're creating the content for your consumers to help educate the consumer themselves, right? Whether they listen to it or not, that's up to them, right? It's up to them. , but you're delivering it. Are you able to monetize those?  Sandra Batakis: I do. And I don't. Um, if I had more time back to the entrepreneur's issues, right? Yeah. Like how many places can you, can you go? Yeah. Technically, if someone wanted to buy them from us, they absolutely could. They're out there. You could. Um, what I do, just because I like to take care of my customers, is if we are managing your office 365 tenants, right? And that's part of our responsibility to, to take care of that for you. I send the training to all of their employees so that they can take it, you know, because for me to successfully support a company with it, I think that we have to have some sort. education, you know? Yeah. I don't sell you a tool and walk away. I wanna make sure that, yeah, your employees have this, but they should know how to use it. Like it helps everybody , right.  Mark Stiles: Open the curtain up. Right. Let's open the knowledge for everybody. Right. We, we tend to do that in my business too, like educate the consumer so that the. Experience is better, right? Why hide things, right? I see that with some IT people as the, they're magicians, right? So we're gonna keep all of the secret recipes and we're gonna throw some pixie dust at you, and you're gonna be in awe, right? I love the fact that you're sharing with the, with the clients. That's, I love that. That's more of an experiential selling and an experiential relationship than. than that vendor vdi, which I always say the V word is such an awful, awful word. We like partnerships. Not vendor vdi.  Sandra Batakis: Vendor vdi. No. You know, I meet with all my customers on a regular basis. You know, some of them it's weekly, some of them it's quarterly. Let's just, how are things going for you? How are things going for us? I look at all the help desk tickets. Gee, it looks like everyone's calling about this. Why don't we have a conversation? helping your users understand this, you know? Yeah. Um, I'm bringing on a new customer. We're in the middle of onboarding them right now, and they've been paying for 365 for years, but the company that sold it to 'em just sold it to 'em, set up their email and walked away. it's like, and they have two servers co-located, which means they're basically renting the servers for a lot of money every month. And I looked at the servers and I looked at the 365 and I said, you don't even need these. , you just need to know the tools that you're paying for. Ah, just put this here.  Mark Stiles: You must see that a lot when you're, I see it all the time when taking over new relationships. How do you find those new relationships? How do they find you?  Sandra Batakis: You know, I do a ton of marketing, which I can say is highly unsuccessful. cute. Do you track it? I do track it. Um, but really it's a lot of networking. You know, a lot of my business comes in from relationships. Uh, I'd love to say that my marketing team is killing it and it's bringing in all these great leads. Uh, I am the marketing team. Hmm. The challenge of being an entrepreneur. I'm also the janitor, um, . So today I put away snacks in the snack room. So, you know, , the glory is endless. I  Mark Stiles: love it. So tell me, Sandra, when you're not working and, and helping clients, what do you do for.  Sandra Batakis: I guess my, my two favorites, uh, I'm a huge gardener for one. Cool. Huge. Uh, so in the summer I've got this big raised bed garden. I'm building a new greenhouse. Uh, but in the winter, uh, much to my husband's dismay, I just bought this giant hydroponic gardening system. cool. And it's on a light schedule that lights up the whole house like a spaceship. And, uh, until the plants grow, it just looks like a bunch of PVC tubes. So he's relatively unimpressed at the decor. But, uh, that's my first passion. Um, and the other thing is really anything Maine, you know, I, uh, I'm, I'm here in the Boston area and I can dress up and go to work like the rest of them, but I'm a secret redneck and I love it. And I'm in Maine in my, my bean boots and my flannel, and I love to cook, so I'll bring the best of all the foods and the best bourbon and the best wine. And I sit in the woods in the middle of nowhere. And enjoy it.  Mark Stiles: Secret, secret, redneck. I love it. I love that. So country music, little whiskey. What else we got all  Sandra Batakis: the way through it. It's bizarre. It's all there. It's all there. I love it. I have uh, I have a couple four-wheelers. One of them is effectually called the Mom Mobile. So the mom mobile, I love it. . So, uh, I'm in there with a dog. I have a, uh, 80 pounds Cian Siberian Husky, and he goes everywhere with me. So, uh, I'm here to say that my four-wheeler can hold, uh, a couple women, two bottles of wine and a husky. Oh, that  Mark Stiles: is, that is so much fun. That is so much fun. Sandra, I appreciate you sharing your stories with us. It's, uh, it's enlightening. Um, let me ask you this though. Sure. Where's the future of it? Are we seeing blockchain anywhere in the security piece?  Sandra Batakis: Absolutely. And, you know, I would like to say it's gonna be blockchain, it's gonna be this, it's gonna be that, but I think that security changes almost every single day. Mm. , you know, the unbelievable, perfect security answer yesterday isn't working today. Right. So it's hard to be that specific and anyone who is completely specific is kinda like telling me, you know, everything. Yeah. I don't think that's the case. Uh, you know, I spend my career. Security. Studying the patches, studying the software tools, studying. Uh, I've got peer groups outside of eo that's all MSPs. We all do the exact same thing and we meet in the boardroom once a month. Cool. And we talk about stuff and you know, it's like, wow, this is the greatest tool. We've gotta do this. And then, wow. Okay. So that was compromised. Let's think about it again. So security layer. It's not blockchain, it's just, it's layers upon layers upon layers of making sure everything is set.  Mark Stiles: I love it. It's gotta be a constant dance, I would imagine.  Sandra Batakis: It is. It's a crazy dance. No one likes to see the dance .  Mark Stiles: No. So you protect them from it. You protect them from you. Protect them  Sandra Batakis: from it. I love it. Yeah. You know, again, security, blockchain. Um, , there are so many levels of security that I could send you a 10 page document on. Just all the different things that you have to look at for your network alone. Right? And each one of those things change by the day. So it's, you know, not antivirus, it's not encryption, it's not, it's all of them. Does  Mark Stiles: blockchain solve  Sandra Batakis: for that though? It can. It can. And you know, I don't like answering that question specifically because it's not the full answer. Right. And I'm careful to say, is it important? Yes. Is it the answer? Not at all. It's like someone's saying antivirus is the answer. Yeah. My computer's protected. That's, that's, yes. It is in one layer. .  Mark Stiles: That makes sense. So Sandra, if someone were to want to connect with you or maybe work with you, how would they best get in touch with. .  Sandra Batakis: Well, as we now know, my email address is very, very easy. at sandra sandra network.com. Love it. Um, and if you want a little sense of it, education and entertainment, cuz I try not to make it so dry. Uh, we have obviously a website of sandra network.com, but we have uh, Facebook page, you can find me on LinkedIn and we try to post some content up there with some little security tips and trick. all with the same  Mark Stiles: handle. Sandra  Sandra Batakis: network, all with the same handle with Sandra network.  Mark Stiles: That makes it easy, right? So go to any place you would seek somebody and punch in Sandra network. You heard it? You got it. Well Sandra, thank you for sharing and thank you for being willing to come on the show and tell your story because it's an important one and I wanna, I wanna applaud you and and let you know how gracious we are and how much we appreciate you  Sandra Batakis: doing. Well, I appreciate talking to you. It's been fun, folks.  Mark Stiles: Thank you. This has been another exciting episode of Leadership in Action. Hopefully you learned something, you laughed a little bit, and you wanna share it with somebody because maybe you thought of somebody and go ahead and forward it or post it right to your social platforms and re-share it for the. We would really appreciate that. Again, Sandra, thank you for joining our EO Boston Chapter podcast called Leadership and Action. Thank you very much, folks. We'll see you next time.
Beyond The Views - Sam Ryan - Leadership in Action- Episode #54
Jan 10 2023
Beyond The Views - Sam Ryan - Leadership in Action- Episode #54
It’s no secret that there are many influencers who promote entrepreneurship on social media, but are they promoting an accurate picture? Today’s guest would disagree. He’s an entrepreneur with a strong technical background in web development who founded a brand to help make building a creative team easier. Welcome to the show CEO of Flocksy, Sam Ryan. In this episode, Sam clears up misconceptions about entrepreneurship, shares his background, and tells us where he likes to travel when he isn’t busy running a business. Takeaways: Many people have the misconception that being an entrepreneur is inherently fun and glorious work that will have you driving ferraris and sitting on the beach. In reality, it takes time and effort, and is often slower paced than most expect.Influencers on TikTok or Instagram tend to advertise strategies that are about making money quickly, rather than ones that establish strong business foundations. Flocksy was created to consolidate outsourced creative work. Instead of needing to utilize different sourcing sites and having difficulty finding creatives, Flocksy provides a one stop shop for finding vetted quality creatives.When you’re an entrepreneur, outsiders won’t fully understand the nuances of running your own business. Having a network of entrepreneurs to rely on for guidance and feedback is a valuable tool for those who are new to the space.When you first start being an entrepreneur, growth is much slower than expected. You may be balancing a day job, which would require you to work on your business in your free time. While getting a business from 0 to a million is difficult, scaling it presents an even larger challenge. Figuring out how to be a leader, hiring team members, and establishing the necessary functions of a company all present unique challenges.     Links:  Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/actuallysamryan LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samrjyan/ Website: https://flocksy.com/  Quote of the Show “I want to create things that help other people.” - Sam Ryan Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/9BHV0PN0hro      Transcript: Mark Stiles: Hey folks. Today's guest is a traveler. He's an investor, a developer, and a blockchain enthusiast. He's an entrepreneur with a strong technical background in web.   He founded a brand to help make building a creative team easier, He's the c e O at Foxy. Please welcome Sam Ryan. Sam, welcome to the show,    Sam Ryan: man. Thank you, mark for having me. I am excited.    Mark Stiles: Cool. Well, let's get right into it. What is a common misconception about leadership running a business and or being an entrepreneur?   That was a    Sam Ryan: great question. So I would have to say, um, I think that a lot of people think that it's a really fun and glorious job. Something that you get a lot of attention. Um, they know it's hard work, but you see people driving around in Lamborghini, so Porsche and they have big houses. And especially with like the whole crypto, uh, faith that happened.   A lot of those people fell into the entrepreneur area. Um, you can think FTX stuff like that, just money going all over the place and people are like, oh, these people are sitting in The Bahamas making a lot of, uh, money doing nothing. Um, that does happen for a few people and I think they're the lucky people, especially when crypto is involved.   But for the majority of entre entrepreneurs and leaders, uh, leaders, , when you talk to them, they're probably not gonna explain exactly what's going on, but you are working on a lot. Um, so when I first started, uh, flui, um, yeah, I had a bunch of friends and they were all in the, they were professionals work nine to five.   Um, and I was the working my full-time job. And then I was also working at nights coding marketing, doing a whole bunch of different jobs and. , you have to learn stuff constantly and a lot of times if you're working a regular job, um, it's you. , do that again and again. And you slowly advance your career. You are changing every 20 minutes.   What? Like something you're learning something new. Um, so I think that's step one. And then step two is scaling up a company. It's way more difficult than most people, uh, can imagine. Like getting the company from zero to a million. It's really difficult. But actually scaling it up, getting a team in place, making it so you get to the next.   That is incredibly hard. Um, so that is where you learn a whole bunch of new things, especially leadership, I would think. I think the, uh, entrepreneur is the first step, um, where you are working by yourself with a small group of people. Then that switches over to where you are leading a whole company and people are looking up to you to make those decisions.   Um, you have to pick the right people to work directly with you. You have to make sure they're picking the right people. So again, you're learning everything over. So, uh, yeah, to sum it up, I think it's a lot more work and a lot more difficult than most people think. And you do have those pluses. You do sometimes make a lot of money.   You have your own schedule. But yeah, it's different than most people would think.    Mark Stiles: So Instagram influencer, taking a picture with a Ferrari, you know, no one is, is in that uh, room with the paper stacked up coding, taking pictures. Look at me, I'm an    Sam Ryan: entrepreneur. Yes, ex. Exactly. And especially when you're trying to grow a company that is scalable, it's really easy to start, I wouldn't say easy, but it's different to start a company and.   make Some bucks right away, make some money, but actually making a foundation that can hold like firm as it grows. That isn't gonna be on Instagram, that's not gonna be on TikTok. That's a whole different set of skills than a lot of stuff you see on Instagram. and I would go as far to say that a lot of people you do see, um, if you think of like the king of Instagram, um, liver King, all different people that over social media, right?   um, they're working way harder than you think. it looks like they're just walking around taking a ten second video. That ten second video probably took them all day planning it out. So I do think that even those influencers are putting in a lot more effort and trying to make it look easy, because that's part of the persona, but putting a lot more effort than you realize.   Mark Stiles: Yeah. And I always find that interesting, the whole influencer, uh, space, because, you know, I understand that it's, it's a marketing platform, but you know what, what is it really? I mean, they're, they're, they're showing ease of process. They're showing ease. They're really, they're just splashing marketing, right?   I mean, that's all they're doing. That's not, I mean, they're an entrepreneur because they're a marketing entrepreneur, right? Mm-hmm. , but you know, they're not. Entrepreneur in the sense of building, and, uh, I guess they are. I guess they are. Mm-hmm. , let me, uh, let me backpedal that one. But making it look easy is, uh, is something that always kinda bothered me.   It's like, let's, let's have some influencers posting. Look at, look at us at Flaxie, and we're coding into the night, you know? And. You know, be real about it because I think it puts a lot of, uh, misconceptions in people's heads, like you said, um, where, you know, all I have to do is, is go down to the town hall and, and file a doing business as, and boom.   Mm-hmm. , I'm gonna make millions of dollars. Fascinating. So, Floy, let's talk about it. You started out while working for a company and then, and then you started, uh, building something on the. After your 40 hour, nine to five?    Sam Ryan: Exactly. So it actually, uh, was another company that my brother and I had going. It was Hatch Wise, so I was working with him on that full-time.   Um, and then started working on Foxy on the side, so that would take up my evenings and everything. Um, I went to school for development, computer science, um, at the SUNY University of Morrisville. Um, so got my four year degree there and I, uh, wanted to create, so. New that could help people. Um, and in my space with Hatch wise and talking to a lot of people, I saw a need for creative services that were affordable and you, you got team members that were vetted.   Um, so basically what. Flexy is, just to jump back for a second, um, we provide a team of creatives that work on video editing, um, illustrations, copywriting, um, all the stuff you kind of need to get your marketing done. And before that was all scattered all over the place. You go to Upwork, you go to freelance.com, um, and you have to find the different, um, places to hire and then maybe go on TRS Slack to work with them.   So what we created was, Platform that actually connects, does everything. It's, uh, Trello combined with Upwork free, uh, fiber, all that. We find the talent for you, and then you just pay one flat fee a month. And so I saw a big need for that, and it w it hit a nerve with people and people loved it and it took off, uh, started in 2016.   Wow. So,    Mark Stiles: so are you a virtual assistant aggregate.    Sam Ryan: Yeah, you could look at it like that. So it's half software because what our software does is you start a project and we form a team for you. So you like have this, every time you start a project, you see the same team members you're working with. You can delegate the task to them.   If it's video editing, let's say you want to edit a podcast or something, you'd be like, okay, can you. , edit this. They get used to you, your brand, all of that. Um, so that's the software aspect of it. And then we do the vetting. We do the, we find the people for you, um, and we connect them with you based on like a profile you fill out when you sign up.   Mark Stiles: So they become part of your team in essence, and you start to trust them and start to give them more, more business and so on and so forth. Exactly. Cool. Cool. So how many, um, are actual in Fox.    Sam Ryan: So we have like over a hundred like creatives, team members that you work with. Um, and then we have a full staff of marketing people, developers, all that.   And that's another 30, 40    Mark Stiles: people. And you're the c e o. So you know, it gets kind of lonely at the top. Who do you, who do you share with? So    Sam Ryan: I work directly, uh, with my two brothers who join me, uh, George and Charles. Um, so they're, they're kind of the people I go to and I, um, I talk to, to like throw ideas around and everything.   The, uh, honestly the only issue I've had with that is we're all kind of working together on the same product, so you only can toss around ideas and stuff so much. So, um, that's when I began, uh, like looking for different. Different, uh, platforms and different, like, ways of connecting. Um, and that's when I found EO and I kind of like, uh, was it, so actually a friend of mine recommended it.   Uh, he works at different company. He's been using EO for a long time and he, uh, was. Said, Hey, I was talking to him about these frustrations and he was like, Hey, it sounds like you need eo. They, it changed my life, honestly. Um, this is him saying it, and he was like, uh, I would not have been able to get my company.   His company's making 20, 30 million a year except for eo. and that was like, this is so cool. So, um, I looked into it more. I've been going back and forth and I'm joining in January. So super excited about that. Super excited to be able to talk to other people that are working in different fields and not have to feel like I'm being marketed to.   And so what Russ was telling me and what different, um, people talk, I found other people that have used EO two and they kind of explained like if you go to any of those meetups and stuff and you. They'll always be that person handing out business cards. That person that's like, buy my service, buy my product.   And you feel like it's very transactional and you can talk, but everybody else wants to talk. And I have a lot of knowledge on my side, um, that I want to give to people, but I also need to learn stuff too. So I'm looking for more of a friendship, a community, and less of being sold here. So that's the main reason I'm excited, uh, to join EO and continue advancing my.   So what were some    Mark Stiles: of the questions that you were asking your friend Russ? He's not in a Boston Chapter EO member, right?    Sam Ryan: No, he's, he's in Austin, Texas. Okay. Um, yeah, so basically I was just going over like it, put it this way, if you're talking to people around you that a professional job, you say the company makes 10 million a year, they're just blown away and they're like, this is so great, but.   they don't understand that you have to pay people all the different difficulties That's financing. You don't come away with that much money. Um, that's just one example. The other example is they don't understand why you can't go out, hang out, why your weekends are busy, um, why you're constantly like trying to learn new things and like, uh, figure out where the next step is for your company.   And being able to talk to somebody that is in the same boat as me would be really helpful. So that's kind of just going over that type of stuff    Mark Stiles: with. without being sold to. I love that because that is exactly what EO offers, right? It's that vulnerability sharing of experiences and not having that awkward, this person wants something from me, they want a deal outta me or what have you.   Um, exactly. So, so let me ask you this. How did you find your way into this space where you're, you know, where you felt that there's a, there's a, a need to be solved,    Sam Ryan: so, In the beginning, like growing up, I always liked inventing, so I like would I create things all the time? I liked the creating new things, um, coming up with new ideas and that was kind of like when I was a young kid, that was why I invented myself.   Like some like, uh, inventor, like creating cool things. Um, and then I realized as I got older that was probably not like a super viable way of living. Like it. , very difficult to be an inventor, and I did like coding a lot. And I was like, wait, I can create a lot of things online. I can create new businesses.   I can create things that add value to people's lives. So that, like throughout all of college, I tried different ideas and I talked to a lot of different people. And then, like I said, in the in, um, when I, in 2016, when Foxy first came around, the idea is because a lot of people needed that and it could help solve somebody's problem, and it was like, okay, this is exactly what I wanna do.   Like this kind of helps me wake up in the morning and get excited, is that I'm actually changing a bunch of people's lives. And we've be, we've had people that, like we did a trade show in 2016. We still have people that have been with us that whole time, that whole journey. And that's just exciting.   Seeing those people, their, their businesses have grown because of us. Um, and it's, it's a trickle effect. You're helping people grow who are helping people grow. And um, that's kind of what makes me wake up in the morning and gets me excited and got me into the space.    Mark Stiles: I love it. And it's, and you said it's a monthly fee.   So is this based on a, a monthly recurring revenue    Sam Ryan: model? Yep. It's a SaaS product, so it's basically every month, uh, you pay either 4 95, 9 99 or uh, 1495, and you get access to the teams and the different levels of basically how much work you can get done and the different teams you have access to.    Mark Stiles: Got it.   So you pay a fee to be part of the team, and then you pay per project. Is that, is that how it works?    Sam Ryan: No, you, you just pay that one fee and that covers everything. All the projects,    Mark Stiles: everyth. . Got it. Wow. So that seems like a pretty cool deal. Um, so let me ask you this. You started coding as a kid. Mm-hmm. . Did you teach yourself how to do    Sam Ryan: that?   Yep, I got, it was a big Python book in the beginning and then PHP and my sequel, and it was just giddy on a computer and like trying simple websites. I think the first website I created was a simple HTML and CSS website, like blog type thing. Um, and then like got more involved in WordPress and stuff, but I realized like the power of backing coding and that's kind of what I focused on, computer science, um, and going like that throughout college.   It was, uh, pretty funny though because I did teach myself coding, so I knew pretty much a lot of what there was with like how to code websites and stuff. So a lot of the reason I went to college was just so I could get the full round experience of everything else, including Cody, and make sure, um, I was.   Moving forward with my Korean stuff, no matter what I did. But I'd be in the class. I could like throw up a website, not to both, but like really quickly and they'd like want this whole semester. And so I'd end up like going up and telling the class how to kind of do what they were doing and show them the hacks and stuff because the professors were like, they, they knew what they were talking about, but they definitely had more of a like a semester type.   Like this is gonna take a whole. Three, four months. And I'm like, no, you can do this in like two days if you do this, this, and this. So it was a lot of fun. Um, but it definitely helps to like teach yourself and, uh, get    Mark Stiles: ahead of it. That's, that's, uh, that's pretty interesting. So you're in class, they give an assignment that's gonna take the whole semester and you're done in two days.   Teach, helping teach the class. What did the , what did the professor say?    Sam Ryan: So the professors, sometimes they wouldn't like it because it, there were hacks around it and stuff too. So let's say word fest, they were, they weren't quite sure how word. , um, what like worked and stuff. So they might be like, create this website.   Be like, you know, you can download WordPress and throw up a theme and make this website look amazing in like two hours, right? And then they'd be like, wait, no, we want you to code it from scratch. That was one part of it. But the other part was definitely like just kind of showing them the hacks and stuff newer.   Newer technologies, um, like the different css, how you can import different css, bootstrap with a great one. Like, oh wait, bootstrap exists. You don't have to code everything from scratch. So, and with that they really appreciate it. Wouldn't it be like, okay, here's some hacks to help you get a website up and going really fast.   That's still customizable. That's pretty    Mark Stiles: cool. That's pretty cool. So as you were a kid coding, did you realize that you wanted to be an entrepreneur or did you not realize what, what was out? So I knew I    Sam Ryan: wanted to create my own business. Yeah. Um, I actually for a time, my brother and I, uh, started a small engine repair shop and that was when I was like 14.   Um, so for like a year and a half we did that and we like, were making a lot of money and it was like really, I mean, for me being 14, I was like, this is amazing. Yeah. Like you can actually create something. People use that. So I would say about like, when I was like 14, 15, that's when I really realized, okay, I wanna actually be an entrepreneur.   I want to, um, create things that help other people, help businesses. And I always wanna be at the forefront of like, what's new, what's up and coming? Hence the whole blockchain, ai, crypto, all    Mark Stiles: that. Well, let's talk about that. So this, so that's a hobby of yours right? At this point, blockchain and crypto Yep.   And all that. Tell us about it. Where do you see that going?    Sam Ryan: So with, uh, the, so with crypto, I'll divide up into two different parts. Okay. Because there's crypto, which is Bitcoin, and then you have all the different smaller currencies. Um, and with that, I think that like there are a lot of people that vested, whether it's Dodge Coin or the different cryptocurrencies, and that is more of just a risky kind of bet in my opinion.   I do think Bitcoin is the future for transactions, for actually making, um, for currency exchange. It cuts out the middleman completely and then going with the whole middleman and banking, I think U Atium is the next. Big thing when it comes to disrupting, um, an entire, uh, ecosystem. And if you think about it right now, there are middlemen everywhere.   Um, whether it's in banking, finances, insurance, um, real estate, um, energy, all that. There's somebody that's making some money for literally doing nothing but connecting you. And they also can shut you off at any point. So they can just delete the records and like, think about banking like you actually.   They have their own computers and stuff storing info, but like there's no actual way of confirming that this is actually true. Like they could delete everything that would be gone. Um, with the, with U Atium and the whole blockchain, what it does is it creates, um, uh, record of everything. Think of like a ledger, basically an online ledger so you can keep track of every single thing that's ever happened.   And nobody can delete it. Nobody can get rid of it, and it's there forever. So like, I think a use case would be, um, with banking, you could have the transactions of what people are spending, but you could also see what they're spending when they're spending. Um, you could do it for like, uh, energy. Um, one, one thing that I saw the other day that I thought was pretty interesting is, um, shell is.   going to be implementing it to help them trade oil. So like keep track of where, where the oil is going and stuff. Um, and then I think it was, we talked about, uh, briefly, but about like real estate agents using it, um, and. to help list property or to help with the seller fees, like figuring out who gets what and all that.   But like if you think of a database that's online that keeps track of every single thing that no one man has any, um, or one person has any, um, direct control over, then it can literally disrupt any area, um, that we have.    Mark Stiles: Right. . So you said Shell Oil is already starting to use, is it, are they using the smart contracts?   Is that what it is? Yeah, so that they can, they can track everything within seconds and, and understand what their, what their users are using. Oh, that's, that's pretty interesting. Yeah. I went to a conference, uh, web three conference and it was pretty eye-opening. When you say it could disrupt virtually any industry, I tend to agree with you.   here we are still in web two. What do you think it's it's gonna take to kind of move, move    Sam Ryan: that needle? That's a good question. So I think there are a couple things in play. Um, I think one is it's going to take a generational shift. I think you have a lot of younger people that are getting into professional jobs that are making like, why aren't we using this?   Why, what is happening here? And we still have a lot of, uh, people that just have no idea what it is in powerful positions that making those decisions. So I think it is just gonna take time, just like anything to get used to it. Think of how long it took for web two to take over there. There were still industries that just refused to use it while they had like old computers and then all of a sudden people figured it out, um, and they were like, wow, this is.   this is great. But a lot of that with younger people moving into those positions, millennials and stuff like that, I think that millennials definitely have a good understanding of this. I think Gen Z has even a broader understanding and they're ready to adapt faster. Um, and that goes with ai, virtual reality, um, everything.   I, I, you need that generation to come in. Um, and that's one aspect. And the second would be you need it to get competitive. You need other companies to start using. show how much money it can make them or save them, and then everybody else just, that's how the We work. Everybody else is gonna be like, I need to make money too.   So if you have like, um, Another one was MetLife. They're using it to help people track, uh, insur. Like if somebody dies, you can track and see if you know that per, uh, if, if that person had insurance basically. So that's still early stages, but they're planning on using that. But let's say that does make them have a competitive advantage then.   You're gonna have all the other insurance agencies quickly start using it too. So you need to show that can help you make more money and scale up, um, and save money too.    Mark Stiles: Right. It's interesting. One of the big takeaways, there was a bunch of takeaways that I had. It was actually a web three and real estate, right?   Where they come together. Um, but one of the big takeaways was, remember 1994 when people were first talking about the internet and they all thought it was a fad and it was just a passing trend. Well, that's kind of where we are with web three, but where, where you're going with it is, is very similar to one of the takeaways is that we need to do it together, right?   It needs, it's a collaborative effect, right? So everybody, um, together needs to kind of rise up and go on chain, right? So, um, I see big disruptions in the future. Um, I see my industry being completely disrupted. I see banking industries being completely disrupted because why not? Right? If you can trust where it's coming from.   One of the things I was thinking about while I was there was the mortgage industry, right? This is debt financed, right? Why not? Equity financed, right? Mm-hmm. , why not fractional ownership where it's crowdfunded? I mean, there's already crowdfunding starting to happen, um, in, you know, in the fiat currency space.   But you know, why not have an equity funded through chain where everybody can realize I'm gonna invest $500 at 5% return. Well, I'm gonna invest $500,000 at 5% return. aggregated together and boom, you've got a mortgage for somebody to buy a home with, right? And then they make their payments back through smart contracts.   It's really, mm-hmm. really interesting. And it, it just feels very blue sky right now, which is, which is exciting, uh, for, you know, change agents and people who enjoy that kind of stuff. So, do you see your space going into that world, going on chain?    Sam Ryan: So I'm not sure with Flui, um, if we'd go on the chain, not quite sure what direction that would look like.   Um, I do think that cryptocurrency is something we would accept, or I definitely like, uh, Bitcoin, um, different cryptocurrencies we would accept. So on the currency side of things, yes, definitely that is going to be a part of, uh, what we. Do. Um, but with the blockchain side, I don't think foxy directly. Um, but there have been interesting ideas of like, uh, product that you could make.   Um, so for example, when somebody has a design, um, you could put that on when somebody creates a design, let's say. For a client, a custom logo, custom mascot, you could put that on the blockchain as an N F T or something and then they would have ownership for that forever if you could, uh, make that into a product or something.   I think that is definitely something interesting that clients would be like, okay, I got this really nice mascot created. Now everybody knows it's mine for eternity to    Mark Stiles: basically, Had, did you dip your toes into NFTs or what, what they referred to as digital collectibles? Uh, when I was done. No .    Sam Ryan: Why not? It was a Okay.   So it was just a little too risky. Um, so honestly, I think it's, So unexplored at this point, and it is still a little foreign to me. I'm still digging into it, but like, it doesn't seem like the safest bet. I mean, I think it was Justin Bieber's. Um, this is after the fact, but still it, his keep off at 1.5. It went for 69 k.   Um, a board ape just went for like 400 bucks. I think the minimum was 60 K back in the day. Um, so I think. Really all over the place. Um, and so I'm, I'm kind of waiting for it to level out a little bit. Yeah, I do think that what's happened though, um, you saw the whole thing that happened with ftx, right? Oh yeah.   Um, and Sam Bankman Freight, and I think this is a, if you think.com boom back in 2000, I think this is kind of making people realize you can't just throw money at something. You have to get people who are putting money into something. Um, from a business standpoint, understanding what they're putting money into, right.   before we had so much money going around and it was so overhyped and it was such a cool thing. I'm hoping that after this it becomes less cool and more, Hey, how does this actually help us? Yeah. And you already see Chase and stuff working on their, uh, their coin. Um, China has their coin that they're using, so there's a lot of people that.   Taking it really seriously. I just think there was a lot of money thrown around at stuff that people didn't know what they were throwing it at.    Mark Stiles: Right. Frenzy without any substance. Right. That's the, that's the, uh, marker of a, of a crashing, uh, space. And uh, I think we saw that firsthand. Tell me, tell me, so that, that's a, that's a hobby, that's a passion.   What else are you passionate? .    Sam Ryan: So passionate about being outside. Um, I love boxing. Um, love, exercise, working out, running. Um, pretty much anytime I can. . I love my job. I love doing what I do, but if I can get away, get outside, get physical exercise in, um, I, I'm all for it because it helps make everything up.   It helps not just be glued to the computer. Um, so going outside, um, working out, stuff like that. Um, investing I like just in investing. Um, and then, yeah, uh, Bloy takes up a lot of time. So that's how much travel. You do    Mark Stiles: some travel.    Sam Ryan: Yeah. Um, I love traveling, so, but that I kept from work with me, which was nice.   But, um, last year I went over to Amsterdam in Iceland, um, and that was after the pandemic and it was first time to Iceland. That was one of those places that. Completely blew my mind away. I was not expecting it to be as cool as it was, but, um, yeah, I, I love getting out of the country. Um, did two road trips across the United States.   Um, the first one was five years ago, and then during Covid, me and my fiance, we got in, um, a car and just drove across the country. Um, both of us worked, um, on our computers and we were going for a month. We just went up the, uh, out west and skied all the different mountains and stuff. So that was really,    Mark Stiles: I love it.   I, I love stories about that. When and during Covid, a lot of people did very similar, similar things. So let me ask you this. Someone wants to get in touch with you, get involved with Foxy. How do they best reach you?    Sam Ryan: So Twitter, um, and LinkedIn are the two best ways of reaching out to me. Um, and then you could always, uh, reach out to me at my    Mark Stiles: email as.   Got it. And what's the, what's the ha uh, handles for Twitter and for LinkedIn and then what's your email?    Sam Ryan: So my email is, um, sam foxy.com. So feel free to email me at any point. It might take a little bit to get back to you, but I definitely will. Um, and then Sam Ryan, uh, for Twitter and LinkedIn.    Mark Stiles: Got it, got it.   Cool. So Boston, you heard it. You're gonna see, uh, Sam here shortly at some of the events. Go up and say hi. Let him know you heard this and, and, uh, look forward to digging a little bit deeper. Sam, I really appreciate you coming on the show and, and sharing with us. And you know, I'm a, I'm an web three enthusiasts too, so I really got a, got a charge out of it as well.   So, but thank you. I appreciate you very much. Thank    Sam Ryan: you for having me on. Mark and I, I really enjoyed this. The whole conversation was great, but it's always great. Talk about web three, um, blockchain, all that type of stuff. So really great talking to you about that. Uh, yeah, and let me know if you ever wanna talk about it more.   Very cool.    Mark Stiles: Well, I'll be seeing you at some events. Yep, absolutely folks, thank you so much for listening. That is it everyone, if you learned something today or you laughed, , you want to dig a little bit deeper into Web three? Tell somebody about this, share this podcast. Maybe we'll get some more conversations going about it.   Thanks again, Sam. Thank you, mark. Have a great day. And this has been another exciting episode of Leadership in Action. We will see you next time.
Growth By Acquisition - James Evans - Leadership in Action- Episode #53
Dec 27 2022
Growth By Acquisition - James Evans - Leadership in Action- Episode #53
Today’s guest is a local entrepreneur who comes from a financing and consulting background. He’s a landscaping legend, and the kind of leader that rolls up his sleeves and gets it done. James Evans is the CEO of Jim’s Landscaping, and Principal at Gladstone Capital LLC. Host extraordinaire Mark Stiles interviews James to learn more about his background, hear James’s tips for entrepreneurs, and explore the challenges of running a successful landscaping company.  Takeaways: You don’t need to quit your day job to start a business. Having a steady source of income removes risk, and can make financing your business easier. When you take on a side project while still holding a job, it is important to be transparent with your employer. Establish boundaries, and communicate clearly what your plans are.As an entrepreneur, you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Things go wrong, and it’s important to be able to adapt.Landscaping companies offer a unique opportunity for acquisition. Many owners are looking to retire, but there are not many people looking to take up the mantle. These situations offer an easy way to acquire a business that is already running smoothly.The ability to prioritize is important when you run your own business. You will be tasked with overseeing all aspects of the company but you will only have so much time to devote. When starting a new landscaping company, growth can be slow and costly. Each employee will require tools and transportation, which can add up quickly.When James acquired his landscaping company, he put a high focus on elevating customer service. He makes sure that a human always picks up the phone, that emails are responded to quickly, and has updated payment processes allowing customers to pay with credit cards.     Links:  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jimslandscapingma/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/glad_cap LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-r-evans/ Website: https://jimslandscaping.com/ Website: https://gladcap.com/  Quote of the Show “What's dangerous is never taking a shot at something.” - James Evans Book Recommendation: Jim Koch - Quench Your Own Thirst Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/PX2QwErbhq8
Entrepreneurial Elegance - Pedro Nuñez - Leadership in Action - Episode #52
Dec 13 2022
Entrepreneurial Elegance - Pedro Nuñez - Leadership in Action - Episode #52
He’s an entrepreneur and business owner who uses his experiences to drive solutions for his customers. His company was featured in Inc. Magazine’s Inc 5000 for 2020 and 2021, and was named a member of the MSP 501 in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Pedro Nuñez is President & CEO at IT Management Solutions, and this week’s guest. Join host Mark Stiles on this episode of Leadership In Action as he interviews Pedro to learn about his background, the IT landscape, and the importance of visualizing your goals.  Takeaways: Anyone can be an entrepreneur, but not everyone can be a leader. Anyone can open a business, but it requires a specific set of skills to convince people to follow your directions.Everyone needs an end goal. If you don’t know what you are working towards, getting there is going to be a lot more difficult. As a leader, your tone sets the ceiling for the rest of the organization. If you set your own goals low, you limit the capacity of your employees.While tracking all the small details can be time consuming, it allows you to provide highly detailed and accurate offerings to customers.The biggest threat to small businesses right now is cyber security.While recessions are worrying, the best plan a business can have is to set clear goals and push towards them.While many IT companies are solely focused on what they can fix for clients, the most successful ones are those that want to help clients increase revenue, mitigate risk, and help their clients achieve their goals.      Links:  Twitter: https://twitter.com/itmsolutions LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pedronunez13/ Website: https://www.itsupportboston.us/  Quote of the Show “You don’t need to be talented, you need to be consistent and disciplined.” - Pedro Nuñez Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/p_xCEqiwcf8
Winter Is Coming - Jonathan Crandall - Leadership in Action- Episode #51
Nov 22 2022
Winter Is Coming - Jonathan Crandall - Leadership in Action- Episode #51
He’s an entrepreneur and visionary who has been working in the landscape and snow and ice management field for over 20 years. He's a leader, a longtime member of EO Boston previously serving as president. Please welcome Founder and Chief Visionary of JC Grounds Management Jonathan Crandall to the show. Mark Stiles interviews Jonathan to learn more about the reality of entrepreneurship, the importance of hiring for core values, and how to hike all of NH’s 4000 footers.  Takeaways:  People think that being an entrepreneur means you are your own boss. While you may not have a manager, you are still held accountable by your customers and your employees.Success can come after starting a business. It is important to not be dissuaded when it isn’t immediate.While growing a business is not without its pains, growth creates opportunities to refine your processes and bring in outside perspectives.As an entrepreneur it may be intimidating to talk to others in your industry. While they might seem like competition, many of them are willing to lend a helping hand or provide advice.Your passion for your work matters less than how much you get along with your coworkers. At the end of the day it isn’t what you are doing, it’s who you are doing it with. You have a responsibility to take care of your business, but you also have a responsibility to take care of yourself! Don’t let your business negatively affect your health.One of the most important skills you can have in your professional and personal life is the ability to communicate and understand others perspectives.     Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-crandall/ Website: https://www.jcgrounds.com/  Quote of the Show “I realized it wasn’t what I was doing here, it was the people I was with.” - Jonathan Crandall Book Recommendation: The E-Myth Revisited - Michael Gerber Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/xgFHRLAX1EY
Fixing Your Finances - Cal Wilder - Leadership in Action- Episode #50
Nov 8 2022
Fixing Your Finances - Cal Wilder - Leadership in Action- Episode #50
On this episode of Leadership In Action, we talk to a financial mastermind who is an expert at effectively balancing accounting needs, reporting priorities, operational requirements, and budget constraints. Cal Wilder has been an EO Member for 9 years, is the author of the book “The Financial Operating System”, and is the Founder and CEO at SmartBooks. Cal joins Host Mark Stiles to chat about the challenges of entrepreneurship, how to focus on the financial metrics that matter most, and Cal’s tips for Triathalons. Takeaways:  Bigger isn’t always better. As an entrepreneur, don’t endlessly chase growth despite the costs.As a business owner, finances can be stressful. The first step in taking control of your finances is to identify why you own and run a business.When thinking about financial metrics, keep it simple. While it can be tempting to track everything at once, managing a scorecard with 25 different metrics will quickly become overwhelming.As an entrepreneur, it's natural to want to work on and improve every aspect of your business. Focus on the things that are most important to you, and prioritize your efforts.Small businesses have the advantage of being able to adapt and change more quickly than larger businesses.You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many frameworks on how to run a business, find one that works for you, and follow it. Entrepreneurs and business owners tend to have slightly different financial outlooks. Entrepreneurs follow where their progress takes them, business owners have a clearer picture of financial goals.     Links:  Twitter: https://twitter.com/smartbookscorp LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/calvinwilder/ Website: https://smartbooks.com/ Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Financial-Operating-System-Empowering-Business/dp/B086Y4TLGG/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+financial+operating+system&qid=1587085586&sr=8-1  Quote of the Show “We think that to be successful means scaling a business exponentially.” - Cal Wilder Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/0XmJKpuaIFs
The Cost Of Opportunity - Ryan Sullivan - Leadership in Action - Episode #49
Oct 25 2022
The Cost Of Opportunity - Ryan Sullivan - Leadership in Action - Episode #49
This week’s guest is a new member of EO who is passionate about data and using it to help organizations improve their performance. Ryan Sullivan is Principal at Collectiv, and the guest on this week’s episode of Leadership In Action. Ryan joins Mark to discuss the value of data integration, Ryan’s tips for starting a business, and his experiences skydiving.   Takeaways:  As an entrepreneur, you don’t need to have every step of the next 5 years planned out before you get started. Great is the enemy of good. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection stop you from getting started with solutions that are good. Automated data reporting is a lower-effort way to use technology that will still result in a significant amount of hours freed up in your schedule.To be a successful consultant requires more than technical skill alone. Effective communication of the technology to all skill levels goes hand in hand with your ability to implement those skills. It’s essential to know how to educate people on the systems you implement. If other people can’t take full ownership, you will remain tied to that project. As an entrepreneur, you need to develop an ear to hear when something is bothering someone, their pain points, or hearing that there is a gap that could be filled. Many businesses have not yet realized the opportunities that data processing may afford them.     Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanmuldoonsullivan/ Website: https://gocollectiv.com/  Quote of the Show “What makes an entrepreneur, it's that person who has the courage and the idea to take that first step.” - Ryan Sullivan Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/BZfjR9ZF4HA
Open Doors and Open Communication - Christian Magel - Leadership in Action- Episode #48
Oct 13 2022
Open Doors and Open Communication - Christian Magel - Leadership in Action- Episode #48
Today’s guest is an entrepreneurial change agent who has co-founded and founded several startups resulting in three successful exits. He’s been a member of EO Boston since 2016. Christian Magel is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder Of Venture Lane Studio. Christian and Mark chat about the best way to find your employee’s strengths and weaknesses, how to create a culture of openness, and where to find a good oyster.      Takeaways:  As an entrepreneur, it’s not all about yourself. Showing vulnerability opens many gates to great leadership.While you may feel like you need to lead, and everything is on your shoulders, teamwork will always create a more successful environment. Each employee will have different strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes. By promoting open communication, employees can find areas in which they can assist others with their dislikes.As an entrepreneur, you should be looking to hire people to “put yourself out of work”. Instead of managing 8 different jobs by yourself, find the people who can take those responsibilities from you, thus freeing up your time. As the leader of an organization, your employees will mimic your behavior. Leading with openness will create a more open and communicative environment.As a startup, being part of an incubator helps with the early, metric-driven stages of being a startup. Startups are expected to have issues. It’s not about if it works or not, it’s about how quickly you can come to the realization that it’s not working.     Quote of the Show “I follow the philosophy I need to fire myself.” - Christian Magel Links:  Twitter: https://twitter.com/christianmagel?s=20&t=sgO84muW8czDErpmgIDi2g LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christian-magel/ Website: https://theventurelane.com/  Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/SmTGa_XDQLw
Starting With People - MB Gustitus - Leadership in Action- Episode #47
Sep 27 2022
Starting With People - MB Gustitus - Leadership in Action- Episode #47
Today's guest is a leadership legend. She has three decades of experience in leadership, sales management, coaching, speaking, and training. She led her real estate team to achieve over half a billion dollars in annual sales volume. MaryBeth Gustitus is the founder, president, and CEO of MILE 1 Performance Coaching. MB sits down with host Mark Stiles this week to help entrepreneurs understand how to find their blindspots, and discuss tips to ensure the right fit for employees.     Takeaways: Many entrepreneurs get caught up in a self-imposed restriction that they are the only ones who can do what they are doing. Thinking this way can prevent you from utilizing outside experience and viewpoints. The first step in transitioning to a role with more administrative responsibility is to have awareness of your inclination to want to hold on to the work you are doing. Most entrepreneurs get into their business for freedom, but can quickly find themselves in a situation where they are tied up with responsibility. While optimism, excitement for change, and creativity are necessary traits of any successful entrepreneur, it is essential to not let those same traits become blind spots. When building a successful team, start with your strengths and weaknesses. Put yourself in an area you will succeed in, and hire people who will succeed in the areas where you need support.While behavioral assessments can be a valuable tool, the results need to be validated and explained, and should also be plotted in the larger context of the entire team. A result alone doesn’t determine how good of a fit someone is.When you are faced with a challenge or limit you have three options, accept the limitations, quit, or rise above and figure out how to excel.      Links:  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marybeth-gustitus-32484723/ Website: https://www.marybethgustitus.com/ Cell: 603-305-3552Email: MBMile1@gmail.com  Quote of the Show “If we don't master the art of lead generation, we don't have any customers.” - MB Gustitus Book Recommendation: The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick LencioniCash Flow Quadrant - Robert Kiyosaki Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/FXs-E6UIkZI
Engaging With Your Employees - Jeff Plakans - Leadership in Action- Episode # 46
Sep 14 2022
Engaging With Your Employees - Jeff Plakans - Leadership in Action- Episode # 46
Today’s guest is someone who is going to be an integral part of this podcast. He’s the MarComm Chair for EO Boston. He has deep industry knowledge of all things payroll and is an expert in running very successful service bureaus. Jeff Plakans is the Founder and President of Commonwealth Payroll & HR. Jeff joins host Mark Stiles to discuss some misconceptions about entrepreneurship, why employee retention should be a main focus for businesses, and how the covid pandemic shifted the world of payroll and hr.      Takeaways: People assume entrepreneurs go into business knowing everything they need to. In reality, many find themselves faced with challenges they have never encountered before.  While many people use the phrase “fake it til you make it”, open communication and honesty are a much better strategy when dealing with new problems. Many entrepreneurs find direction for their company from the product or service they want to offer. As a business grows, leaders must also focus on the needs and aspirations of their employeesCompanies need to put in a strong effort to retain their employees. There are 2 open positions for every unemployed person and the world of hiring is more competitive than before.Covid caused many employees to reconsider the culture and habits built around work. Many employees have revisited the time they would spend commuting and time away from family. With remote work becoming more common, tax situations became much more complicated. If you have employees in 10 different states, you have 10 different sets of tax rules you need to follow. When implementing or upgrading hr systems, it’s essential to consider how your use of technology will be perceived by potential employees      Links:  Twitter: https://twitter.com/commpayhr LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffplakans/ Website: https://www.commpayhr.com/      Quote of the Show “Culture comes from the employees and what they make of their days in the office, and their relationships, both to the organization and to each other.” - Jeff Plakans Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/XYuotaBw6Cc
Creating Customer Connections - Casey Cheshire - Leadership in Action- Episode #45
Aug 19 2022
Creating Customer Connections - Casey Cheshire - Leadership in Action- Episode #45
Today's guest is a member of EO who has spent time on the board. He's a speaker, a thought leader, a marketeer, and an unbelievable human being. He hosts the “Hard Corps Marketing Show” podcast, and is the now previous host of EO Boston’s podcast “Leadership In Action”. Casey Cheshire, Founder and CEO of Ringmaster Conversational Marketing, joins new host Mark Stiles to hand Mark the torch of Podcast Host. Casey talks with Mark about why talking to your customers is so important, how podcasting can serve as a valuable tool for CEOs to connect with their customers, and how growing companies may end up more isolated from their customers’ needs.      Takeaways: Leadership Myth: “You don’t need to talk to your customers”. You need to talk to your customers to truly understand their needs and intentions. As your business scales and you become more insulated from the customer interactions, it becomes harder to hear what your customer is actually saying. The CEO should always be an advocate for the customer. Podcasting is a great way to talk to your customer. Having the CEO of a company interview their current and potential customers provides valuable insight into their issues and needs.The process for booking guests on your show should be genuine and authentic. Avoid automation, pick your key clients, and interact with them as a person. A private slack channel for your podcast guests is a great way to build community with your ideal clients. The podcast process should wow your guests and make them feel special. The guest should feel like they have been selected to be a guest on 60 minutes, not on the end of a spam call.      Quote of the Show “As the leader, when you start finding your own vision getting weaker and weaker, you just don't feel as passionate about it.” - Casey Cheshire     Links:  Twitter: https://twitter.com/caseychesh?lang=en LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caseycheshire/ Website: https://ringmaster.com/ Podcast: https://creatingthegreatestshow.podbean.com/ Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-hard-corps-marketing-show/id1338838763 Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Marketing-Automation-Unleashed-Strategic-Growth/dp/1599327384 Ways to Tune In: Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leadership-in-action/id1585042233 Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2t4Ksk4TwmZ6MSfAHXGkJI Stitcher - https://www.stitcher.com/show/leadership-in-action Google Play - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubGVhZGVyc2hpcGluYWN0aW9uLmxpdmUvZmVlZC54bWw Amazon Music - https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4263fd02-8c9b-495e-bd31-2e5aef21ff6b/leadership-in-action YouTube - https://youtu.be/2RV86jL4ndw