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Emily Jillette is a mom of two, wife, producer, and philanthropist. She has been involved in philanthropic work from her home in Las Vegas and continues to be an active local voice and contributor to many important charities and groups.

When she’s not busy with producing great film and TV work, she’s also heavily involved in the continued success of her family which includes her husband Penn Jillette whom folks may know from the longest running magic show in Las Vegas, Penn and Teller.

We discuss the power of doing good, how to choose where you can be effective with both time and money for charitable giving, and how she and her family have maintained a busy and happy life while balancing a very busy public schedule and still staying involved.

Emily is also a marathon finisher and puzzle afficianado. It was a real pleasure to share time and I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!

Here are the charitable organizations that were mentioned in the podcast:

Tyler Robinson Foundation

Opportunity Village

My Possibilities

Connect with Emily on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/emilyjillette

Drop a comment below if you want to be connected via email to Emily

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Hey, everybody, this is Emily Jillette. I am coming to you from Las Vegas, where I am a philanthropist, a mom and a seven handicap. But I dress like a scratch player. And you’re listening to the Disco Posse podcast.

You’re listening to. Today’s Capozzi. All right, so I love professional broadcasters and creators, is that, you know, how to do this stuff on a dime and producer and mom and golfer and everything and philanthropist Emily Jillette. Thank you very much for joining us today. This is going to be one of the most fun ones I’ve had in a while, because, number one, I’m super interested in the stuff you’re doing. And I’ve got a as they would says the young folks would say, mad respect for for what you do in the world.

And also, it’s just going to be fun because you’re such a fantastic conversationalist. So go on. We’re in for a good time or everything. So thank you for joining. If anybody, for whatever reason, is new to you, if you want to do a quick intro and tell us about yourself, and then we’ll get into what I describe as, interestingly, quiet philanthropy. And we’ve I know we’ve talked about the fact that quiet maybe doesn’t belong in the way you do it.

But I’ll explain a little context when we get to that.

OK, well, I did mention my passion for golf, which comes up very early in most conversations, only, only outshining the fact that I ran the New York City Marathon twice. But other than that, I am a mom and a wife and I’ll just say it right out. My husband’s name is Penn Jillette and he is the latter half of Penn and Teller, a long standing magic duo, longest running show in Vegas. Anyway, so I have two kids, teenagers who have survived the pandemic and born and raised in Las Vegas, where I moved 18 years ago.

I have my husband. I met my husband on a job I used to produce golf commercials. And Vegas is the greatest place to shoot golf commercials because clients love to come here. And we never have rainy days which are so expensive in production it never rains here. And so, yeah, I met him here. I can tell you later. Now if you care how and and we got married and had kids within like two or three years and have been here for 18 years.

And I love Vegas. I think I would love Vegas even if I weren’t married and had kids here. But because I love shows and community and restaurants and golf. But add to it my incredible husband and family and friends and I’m where I’m supposed to be.

It’s it’s a perfect place when it’s funny because you also spend a lot of time in another place well known for food and theater. Of course, you you do spend time in New York as well, but attitudinally different than Las Vegas as far as just the way that people walk in the sidewalk. Well, the fact that when one side they’re usually carrying four foot tall glasses with giant straws made of palm trees in them and on the other side, they’re probably shoving you out of the way because they’re trying to get to work faster for whatever reason.

Yeah, yeah.

But the the interesting thing, when I look and for people to try and look at this as funny as I as a researcher and like, let me find out, make sure I know all I can about Emily before we get in. You also go by your Emily Zoltán on your production credits, which is always interesting because then I’ve got to do a double search. You’re surprisingly light on outside information, you know, especially given that you have a fairly public life.

You are very good about keeping this beautiful balance of, like, showing the stuff that you want to and not getting dragged into other areas, which is probably not easy given that you’ve got a fairly public facing life.

Well, I can honestly say that was not a concerted effort. I consider myself a rather vocal on social media and a little less so over the past few months as I detox from the Trump. Well, we lived through, but he could have taken to edit that out.

The I don’t normally vote for you. I can if we really want.

Oh, no, I’m loud and proud on that. But I didn’t know if you didn’t want to alienate your viewers. I don’t mind. I mean, I could I can say like three good things about Trump if you want about it anyway. So as far as my credits go, you know, I’m in a thing called the DGA, the Directors Guild, and most of my credits that are creditable, like on IMDB or before I joined, so.

I don’t I don’t know why there are no I mean, nothing’s on my TV, I don’t populate it, but I actually work on 17 features and tons of TV shows and commercials and whatever. As far as other things out there, I’m sure there is. Did you find stuff like participation in charity, events like that?

That is one thing. And of course, this is why I mean, I’ve I’ve sort of followed your story via a lot of Penn interviews, actually, on various themes on law and Howard Stern. And so I I’m an avid listener to talk radio, even though as a Canadian, I would be like basically like underground radio, like listening to these like syndicated replays of all these long form talk shows. Yeah. And I was always interested in, you know, when he talked about his philanthropic work.

And then that led me to do sort of strange amounts of research about that. And it led me to you. And I realized that you have a lot that you’re doing. And then I also got found out that we have a common friend, Missy Young, who is such an amazing human. I can’t talk enough about how great Missy is. It is so, so cool. And when I talked to Missy, I was like she mentioned that she was on on a board of directors for one of the charities with you.

And I thought, all right, if I can ask that favor, can I can I get can you phone a friend for me? And here we are, which is kind of cool.

I’m honored because, I mean, in a in a town full of incredible women, I’m lucky just to know them. I’m really not top of the list. I’m going to pass on to some good ones after me. But yeah, I mean, the cool thing is, is that I got into philanthropy, which is something you’re really interested in talking about. Right. I don’t want to go off on a tangent.

Yeah, no, that was the big thing because that’s the if I’ll say and I talked about this this idea, this theme of like quiet philanthropy and interestingly quiet in that you’re very involved, but you’re not like most I’ll say this is a I want to be careful how I say this. I’m not saying most of you what a lot of people who have public faces tend to have way more selfies about their charities than the people that the charities are arguing to.

And I don’t want to detract from people that are doing work. And that’s maybe that’s just the way that they know how to bring attention to it. But when I look at what you do, all I see is the people you affect, not you doing it. You immediately pass through the all the cheers to the people that are doing it, like when it comes to Opportunity Village and all these things, it’s always like, these are the amazing people.

I’m just here beside them. It’s it’s such a rarity in people that are have an opportunity to really bring themselves as the center. And the first thing you do is you slide out of the camera and say, no, no, they’re they’re the cool people.

Well, I really appreciate that. I assure you, it hasn’t been a concert ever a concerted effort. And I actually don’t mind being on camera and talking. I’m thrilled to be here. I mean, like you might be pretending my jokes are funny and my family doesn’t do that. I’ll be great. But thank you. That’s really nice. I hope it I hope it stays that way. But so I originally got into philanthropy more than just the casual donation along my lifeline because of Penn.

And that’s because twofold, when I moved here and became his wife, it took a couple years to I mean, I am a very confident, strong minded person, but it took a couple of years to adjust to being Mrs. Jack. Yeah. Yeah. Because very much up figuratively and literally, literally in the shadows of such a large personality. And after a couple of years of you know that and a little bit of a princess life, I sort of stopped working for a minute and and just enjoyed our newfound love and marriage.

I was like, all right, I gotta to get back to something. But I’m probably not going back to full on six day a week production. So Barbara Molaskey and Robin Greenspun, who are the most incredible women of Las Vegas, I mean, there’s a list of them, but those two almost make you tear up. They’re so amazing. They invited me to an event at Robin’s house for Opportunity Village where I was blown away. I think there I think I wasn’t even aware that there were that these underground communities that just power force powerhouse, which is it powerhouse and help all these charities, that it can’t be done without it.

And it’s kind of odd that I didn’t know about it because I’ve been a libertarian for long before that actual meeting and espouse this idea that private citizens would replace things and help those who are now being helped so much by government programs. And I just didn’t realize it. But it might have been an indication of where I was living, which was central Florida. And I was a civilian, for lack of a better word. I’m a civilian now, but you know what I mean for.

Yeah. And so I was enthralled and I just went at it full speed. And then Pen, who is in his heart the most generous person on the planet, isn’t actually very social. And that’s because he gets a lot of a lot of attention. And if he opens his heart and his energy all day to everybody, there’ll be nothing left for him or his family or even his work. So he’s a little guarded with all that. So I was able to work so well with him, for lack of a better term, capitalize on his presence and sort of be the tap dancer next to him, you know?

So we’ll go to something and and and somebody to talk to us for like 15 minutes and they’ll walk away and can only talk for 15 minutes. It’s so amazing. But if you watch if you TiVo the scene, you would see that I talked to 14 of them like that. So it was a really, really good teamwork. And then once I got into it, it just, you know, charity begets charity and people start calling you and say, hey, do you want to do this or this?

And I used to say yes to everything, almost everything, everything that aligned with my my objectives and morals. But now I limit it to about four main charities a year with the occasional donation or appearance at something else. But because each of the charities has an event, the events take up a lot of time and and preparation. And so I just stick to four, which I can name or that name at any point that you like.

We’ll tell you what I’d love to er any, any advertisement I can, you know, and bring attention to, to what you’re working on. So definitely I’d love to hear you know who, who are you’re for that you’re really active with right now.

Well let’s sprinkle it throughout our time so it does commercial right now. So the first and foremost is Tyler Robinson Foundation and hashtags like Cancer Drag that’s happening.

I love that shirt. That is the best for people that it’s funny because this goes back to format’s. We’ve got the audio that goes out for people to get the video. So I get a definitely a snapshot that because that is a fantastic shirt. And I say this is a guy who’s wearing a fantastic shirt because I, I got my own shirt joint. I got it. I love it. Slay cancer with dragons.

Let’s pretend that there’s a reason for that. And this is the Imagine Dragons charity, and they are a big US based band, world famous worldwide. Now, if you don’t know the Imagine Dragons where you’ve been and so briefly, they were doing the concert as the Imagine Dragons and they got a like a Facebook message back early when people used to read their messages. And it was from a brother who was like, my brother’s dying of cancer. All it does is listen to your music is going to be at the he’s going to be at your concert tonight, which was like two hundred people in a dove bar, you know, and and Dan Reynolds, the lead singer, you read the message and during the show, he called them out and they, like, sang a song together.

And it became very emotional, like you should look for the video and it it inspired them to start the Tyler Robinson Foundation that was named of. And he went into remission and then he actually eventually passed. And so they started it in his name. And it is become an incredible organization which helps families with the out-of-pocket expenses that none of us even realize exist. You know, if I have two children and one of them has cancer, I’m so glad that they don’t.

But I would rather lose myself as an example, the amount of money it takes to go to the appointments, go to the specialist, get child care for the other kid, customize the room if they need, you know, disability help. All these things that pop up, those aren’t covered by insurance and they will deplete a family’s bank account, morale and energy. And Tyler Robinson Foundation raises money to offset those costs.

Wow. That’s yeah, that’s the incredible thing. It’s like it’s not even the first order effect of of what’s happening. It’s that the stuff that’s just a family fighting. Together, especially, you’ve got multiple kids. I mean, goodness gracious. Especially the last 18 months where the world is vastly different than we’d ever imagined it could be, and people can barely keep their day jobs up because they have kids at home and all this stuff. So it’s I’ve got I got four kids, so I know the deal on what it takes to do that.

And if anything is thrown off for a day, most people are like, I’m out. I said, I can’t do this. It’s really, really hard to shift the schedule. And if you suddenly have to put attention as much needed to a child or of an elderly relative, your wife, your husband, partner, anybody, and, you know, you do it right. And that like, we would throw ourselves at it if we could.

But then we’re stuck making this choice of how do I pay the mortgage or rent or do I spend time with my loved one? Yep. It’s a choice we shouldn’t have to make.

Yeah. And that’s what they do. And I’m not correcting you. But I will clarify that Tyler Robinson helps families with pediatric patients. Right.

Very specific. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

And they and they really help. We have an annual event and we have some of the families come and talk about their experiences. And I mean, everybody says this, but literally not a dry eye in the house. You just you’re so grateful that you can help them and. Grateful that you are not experiencing it personally, I don’t at that point.

That’s that’s it. You know, it’s that that that’s I mean, even when when I do like nerd tech presentations, the first thing I do is like infuse a real story. And it’s like the best thing in the world when someone like you see them, they’re like. Chris, there’s a lot of air coming in here, you know, like like it’s like this is stuff that actually matters, you know, like, oh, you by the way, we do this other thing and it’s neat and whatever, but like, why the hell are we doing all the stuff we do, you know?

Oh yeah. Because humans matter and let’s let’s do some amazing stuff together.

And so I will add, because this is a this is like I don’t know, I always feel this and people don’t talk about it that much, but I think they talk about it. I’m not trying to be special. I try to help as much as I can. It’s kind of talking about how, but just because I hope someday someone helps me that way if I’m right.

Yeah, no, no. And that’s that’s really the thing of it. And it’s unfortunately rare, right? It’s hard to it’s hard for people to see that chance to be able to go outside. I mean, my one of the most amazing stories is for folks that as a marathoner, you may know is from the triathlon world, Dick and Ricky Hoyt, who are a famous father son duo, and they’ve run Ironman. And the stories that Dacoit was they had their son had a challenging birth cord, got wrapped around the neck, ended up with cerebral palsy.

And they said, what do you do? So they go to the doctor. And this is years ago. And they said, well, your best bet is to put him in continuous care and then hope that he can have, you know, a somewhat decent life there. And he says he’s like, no, no, no, that’s not what we’re going to do. It’s not how we do things. Right. So he was a military man.

He says we’ll work our life around this. And they did these things. And and he said, like the first words that he spoke because he they got this the computer that they could actually, like, use the letters on the computer. And, you know, what are the first things he’s going to spell out on this computer? And they put all this everything they could into this. And this is going to be dad is going be mom, whatever.

And it was go Bruins. Yeah. And he goes a Boston guy does this classic like Boston guy. I’ll tell you about my son Ricky. And and it was amazing. He says then he he went and he took them in like he would run with them. And he’s like, we would take him for a walk and take him for a run. And he says, what do you do? You like that? And he says, Dad, when I run with you, it feels like I’m running.

And so he became he started running like five K’s and ten k’s and marathons. And next thing you know, they’re doing Ironman triathlons together. And he had an adapted bike and he would pull them on a raft for the swim. And it’s just it’s incredible. And I tell people, like, if you watch this video of him, like introducing this story, you aren’t crying at the end. You don’t have a soul because. Oh, but it’s like as a parent, you know, you’re like, I’d throw anything away for your kids and and then to do it for your peer group, like for somebody who you’re not even directly connected.

Like, it’s it’s incredible. So, yeah, that’s the stuff that I really get. I get I love it. Right.

Yes. You have set up the perfect Segway. So I will just tell you that another foundation that I work for at Penn and I have done a lot that is called Opportunity Village and has a similar provenance, if you will, of its creation, which was Linda Smith had a severely handicapped son and I believe they were Canadian, forgive me, or anybody else if I get his details wrong. But I believe words like throwaway child were used and they just wanted to, you know, put them in an institution and walk away like they didn’t even talk about.

An integrated life with that that level of care. But anyway, Linda was like, nope, not going to happen. His name’s Christopher and he recently passed away, but after, like, 35 years. And so I don’t think she actually started Opportunity Village. I think she found them and created the the incredible foundation that it is today, although she has also moved on. I just want to make sure I don’t say something to people that’s not right.

Emily, let the opportunity village is. Akin to the Go Bruins statement, which is to say, it takes Handey, it takes intellectually and physically disabled people and teaches them whatever their level of capability is, what I call life or vocational skills. So from the simple list, like, here’s how you pour a glass of water if you have that capability to. Here’s how you take a bus. Here’s how you go to the bathroom. Here’s how you go grocery shopping and here’s how you get a job.

And it is a it’s a paradoxical goal, which is to teach them independence that’s integrated into the real world. And it’s fabulous. Everybody there is called a VIP and everybody has a job and everybody has a paycheck. So everybody feels self-worth and value. And the amazing thing is that they have been so embraced by the biggest hospitality community. So tasks as simple as they have like assembly line up there at their two facilities where they might just be putting like a plastic silverware, napkins into one of those world things or collating papers for a conference or they found it was an incredible opportunity to have a huge shredding business because what’s the whatever is shredding business.

But also at the community, they are working in the hotels, working in the restaurants, working everywhere. And it’s an amazing thing that we love working template for it on Celebrity Apprentice. And I would like to say to help balance my other comment that Trump was ten years ago a wonderful host and a fantastic game show host. And I support his career in game shows.

Anyway, I hope that was that was one of my first introductions to Opportunity Village was through through that show. And and yeah, that was the whole thing of like, how can we give people literally an opportunity, right. To actually have something that they they can do and they feel the contribution they get results from. And it’s not exploitative or exploitative. Exploitative. I don’t know. I’m not sure what the word is. I’m not perfect, but I’m Canadian, so it’s a weird word.

You got to have a small list of words and read and write, but don’t pronounce.

And that’s one of them. Yeah, I if I do the weirdest and this is my nerd bits coming in for a second, I say the word infrastructure about 11 times a day at a minimum, and I write it all the time and I spell it and say it poorly every time I for whatever reason it’s my kryptonite of of words. It’s yeah. Thank goodness for auto. Correct.

But well, I also want to add because as I mentioned, Barbara and and Robin, but there was a guy there named Michael Thomas who also became a very close friend. And if you happen to be in Texas, he moved and started his own new and improved opportunities called My Possibilities. And Wow is doing is magical. So check it out. My possibilities.

Now, this is the the the very interesting thing about this, when you put yourself towards this stuff in more than just. A donation. It’s a real investment in the people behind it. How do you how do you find the ones that you know, that your contribution is going to have a meaningful impact? Because that’s what I find a lot of people don’t get involved with in much more than, you know, maybe small charitable giving because they’re unsure that what they’re doing actually impacts something.

Yeah, I am not sure I have a delineated process. I think that certainly I read about it right away and find out what they do. And I might go to a meeting or two. Typically when I’m invited to help a charity or work with a charity, it starts out with an event, you know, like, oh, we’re putting together a committee for this event. Can you be on the committee? And I’ll do that. And there’s a lot of gut feeling that goes into it, you know, and the people who are associated with it, for example, Mr.

Young’s a gold star. If Missy’s on the board, I don’t have to do any of the work because she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t. Yeah, a small aside, but I like to mention it because of my personal position, which is I generally don’t do anything that’s religious related only because I’m not I’m not against religion helping people. But I, I really like to walk the walk that it’s people who help people. And I just want to show that that’s important to me.

There’s enough that I can choose from my parameters that I can be extremely philanthropic with and be inclusive. So there’s that. I look for fun. I mean, we could set way right into the Shriners Hospitals for Children. There you go. I work on a PGA event, which is golf and philanthropy together.

It’s like the is the absolute culmination of everything you did in my whole life, that inside the ropes, that is the help that I can’t even hide how much I appreciate the fun and benefit I get from it. That being said, Shriners Hospitals for Children has been around most people’s whole life. They are amazing. They make, you know, the neuro skeletal diseases and burn victims, children, I believe mostly, but zero dollars medically to a family.

And they educate physicians and do research. And they are just I mean, the most in my heart, the most generous organization I work with. I mean, they have nothing on their mind except people. I guess the other ones do, too. That didn’t come out right.

But know but it’s it if you think of it as well, it’s one of those it’s very rare that you find a group that really survived decades of evolution and in the world in themselves, like when we walk when you drive into towns, at least I’m fairly sure US towns are the same way. I’m a fresh new resident of the United States, but driving a little Canadian towns, you’d come in and there’d be the like, welcome to Bradford and it would have like the Lions Club and all these different things.

And that was the what the heck do those people do? Like the Optimist club like, oh, that sounds like a happy bunch. I don’t know what they actually did. They were, in effect, a lot of these things. And then the Shriners, we knew them from the little goofy in town parades, and they were the big guys driving little tiny cars with a fez hat on, which I didn’t know. They’re the only place I’ve ever understood what a fez that is.

I don’t even know why it’s called a fez head. But, hey, that was that was my Schriner experience. And I find out that they’re doing this incredible stuff behind the scenes and now ultimately is is has given an incredible amount to so many families across North America.

It’s amazing. It truly is. And then, you know, they have like golfers come out at the tournament who are handicapped, but handi capable, like, it’s amazing. So I’ve been with them for maybe five or six years. And that and to to go back to how did I get involved with them? Well, that was a layup for golf, but coincidentally at my golf club. So it’s a perfect fit and its presence is felt there all year.

There’s other events all the time, but that’s their big golf event. And I don’t know, I encourage everybody to to come out to the golf tournament. We have we have one of the best spectator viewing tournaments on tour right now.

The thing comes up is people even just go over what we’ve just talked about and they will start to look in their own personal schedule and not find a lot of time where they feel like they can squeeze it in. So I’m. Curious both is I mean, you’ve got an incredible, you know, history in what you do with your production work and like just keeping those cats herded is one thing. You’ve obviously you’ve got your own family. You’ve got everything that’s going on with except with boys Penn and his work and then this incredible community of magicians and performers that you’re always you know, it’s it’s so neat to see how this comes.

Right. Like, I’ve got my nerd people and like, we’ve got our little like, you know, like sort of cliques of like little pods of people that you’re like, oh, that’s like Scott Lowe. And they’re like famous people, Kelsey Hightower. And people have no idea outside of my circle who these people are. But the same way they’d be like, oh, my God, like this is I’m going to see Puff the Magic Dragon.

And, you know, I know these people. And so it’s kind of it’s tough to fit it in. So how do you like doing so much? Just keep the wheels on the bus.

Well. I thrive on being busy, like relaxing is not a thing that I do and not much anyway, a jigsaw puzzle. You know, I do a competitive jigsaw puzzle and that’s that’s my relaxation of my minute.

OK, OK, guys, second, we’re going to puzzle that with the second. OK, so I didn’t even know there was a thing called competitive jigsaw puzzle. Tell me about I don’t mean to take you off your your thought process, but that’s like this is I think we’ve got a new podcast on our hands alone here.

Well, I think that’s such a thing. I just dropped out actually the world championships because they’re in Spain in September and I’m just not ready to do all that right now. Travel. But and I’ve never been to the world championships. This is only the second one. But it’s it’s it’s not a qualifying type sport. If you want to play, you can play so that. But I’m just obsessed with puzzles like I have to go in right now.

And I’m not speaking in hyperbole when I tell you I’m never not working on a puzzle. There is always a puzzle going. And I’ve always loved jigsaw puzzles. And it even ramped up to obsession before before pandemic. But Pandemic set it like like a bad habit.

I would say this is like being trapped in a store for cigarets and deciding that maybe I’ll pick up smoking again.

Yeah. And there was quite the shortage of jigsaw puzzles during. Oh, endemic.

I mean, there was a run on puzzles, apparently on puzzles.

So my favorite puzzles are called Liberty. And they’re they’re they’re laser cut wooden puzzles, very high end and gorgeous and artistic and, you know, used just log on and buy one. It got up to like a sixty five day wait for the right to order one. Wow. I know I gamed the system a little and I was ordered under different names, but I started a Liberty puzzle group and we would just ship them around to everybody and do that so that we all got all buying and sharing and everything.

But the competition stuff is done, at least the ones I meant with Robin’s Burgers, which are a high end cardboard jigsaw puzzle, which are super fun. And I love them and I’ve done almost everyone they’ve ever made. But once you move on to the wood once, they’re not as great. So don’t touch the wood puzzles till you’re ready to eat.

It will break you from that point forward. You’re like, no, it’s wooder wood or nothing.

Yeah, but but part of that is just to talk about my business and like that’s not even my favorite kind of puzzle, my favorite and puzzles of cryptic and it’s a sort of Wordplay type crossword puzzle. And I probably do those two hours a day, but I do with a partner on the phone because each puzzle takes so much brainpower to solve. So we just work on it together. But that’s my favorite cryptics. But anyway, back to the busy, you know, as a former producer.

And so everything I do is very scheduled and and and thought out ahead because I used to say that if I’m a good producer, I’ll do nothing the day of the shoot. That means I’ve foreseen every problem and that’s never happened. It’s a pipe dream, but fine. But that’s the goal. So like when I’m thinking about how things are going, I am planning it out and I’m solving the problem, setting up alternatives and backups and everything. And that keeps you busy.

And then whenever there is a problem, I love it. It’s a challenge for me to solve. So I guess that’s part of how I keep busy.

I’m like, I’ve got a similar mental style where like every time that I, I feel I’m constantly overwhelmed with things to do and a backlog of stuff. And then the moment all of a sudden like three meetings cancel and you like I have this whole afternoon with nothing scheduled. The first thing I find is nine hours of work to cram into the three hour block that I had. Like, it’s but I the moment that I stop. I become free to explore my own thought and like so when I cycle, I, I would do moderate distance cycling and and and I run because I used to go to I traveled a lot.

So it’s hard to carry a bike everywhere you go. So I started running all over the place. So every time I go to a show, I do morning run groups every morning so that it also keeps people from going out and drinking until 4:00 in the morning because they know they got to get their ass up and go for a run with me in the morning in the Vegas heat, which is super fun. Right. So I’d be, you know, camped out at the Bellagio Fountain every morning at six thirty, you know, waiting.

And the next thing I was like 30, 40 people that are coming up. And we would go up the strip, go to the sign, come back, like, just make it a big thing. And it was fun. But the moment that I’m disconnected, forcibly disconnected, it’s the most creative time. And and then I get back and I’m like, got to write this stuff down. I got to like, got to capture this. But it’s hard when you’re doing these continuous sort of frenetic, always fitting other things in to get that freedom of thought time.

How do you. That’s my policy. Is that right? That’s my personal time. Yeah. The puzzle time is it’s meditative. I am paying attention. You have to pay attention to the puzzle. But there’s there is some autopilot to it particularly. Everybody hates turning over and sorting. And that’s that’s my jam. You know, I just lost the best part.


I used to be the guy that would always count the cash every time when when I worked at a retail store, I’m like, I got this in this, like certain coins hang hold my beer back.

Like now I know my my my mom said that I joined production because I like spreadsheets, lists, sharpies and highlighters. And so I just made plans and lists and organized. Have you ever tried a floatation tank sensory deprivation.

No. And it’s funny, I’ve thought about this just because I think it would be incredible. But I’m also like weirdly claustrophobic. I did like tough mudders and stuff. I’m one of the things that drove me nuts. But I did it. It scared the hell out of me was going into like an underwater tube where you have literally, like, just your mouth and your like your cheeks are above water as you’re, like crawling backwards through, like a gutter tube.

I would. And you do that for like fifteen feet. And all you have is these like four spots where they’re basically like blow holes thing. It’s horrifying, so horrifying.

And a little more out of your control. I think if you got in one of these pods and convinced yourself eleven times that you can open it or you can press the button or a person you trust the most is sitting outside and be able to allay that fear because it’s truly amazing when you take away the sound, the site smells, what will I find? There is a little bit of smell, but also the water is like a few degrees cooler than your body.

So the heat you give off mitigates it and you stop feeling the difference between your skin in the water. Well, I mean, I can’t quote studies on this, but your mind refuses to be so on to be so idle. And there’s visual hallucinations if you sort of allow them to close your eyes. But but the creativity is insane and you might love it. And I started doing it. I don’t know if you found in your Google stock, I mean, research that I studied dolphin communication in Hawaii and and so floatation tanks were sort of made popular and developed a lot by John Lilly Johnson, who was my idol, albeit a bit.

But those are the best idols to have. I think the only because I was a youth, because I grew up in the time and the only early introduction to these sensory deprivation tanks was like my fear, which was it was a William Hurt movie and one that he he was in as a not ultra, I think altered states, I think was not it.

That is that is about Gellatly and his work. I mean that. Oh wow. OK, yeah, yeah, yeah.

There you go. So this is the the oddities of connective tissue of the world. This is like Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency played it in real life, that everything is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.

Did you ever watch that British show connections?

No. No. Oh, no. I’ve got no. I got stuff to watch.

Write this one down because this is this show was like thirty years old and I still watch on YouTube sometimes. And it’s like this British guy and. He’ll take a Sharpie and then he’ll take a steam engine and he’ll show not only are they connected, but they wouldn’t it one wouldn’t exist without the other. Like they were showing like an integral connection between their development. And your mind is blown because it’s justified. Like you, you know, just take his word for it.

Fascinating show. Fascinating.

So that’s the stuff that I dig into. My biggest thing lately is I really struggle with finding, like nutritional content to take in. It’s so easy to get, like, pulled into the infinite scroll of of things. And I know I just feel my brain just going in bad directions because I and I realize why. I just I just say, like, that’s it. I claim to do list bankruptcy, email bankruptcy. I just like, shut it, delete it all.

And I’m like, I’m going to do something. I find an amazing documentary and I tell you, well, here you go. Another fundamental interconnectedness thing, one of my my favorite ones that I watch, not too much not too long ago, harder to find now. It’s for whatever reason, I love streaming, except that stuff goes away on streaming with gamblers.

Ballard, thank you.

Beautifully done. And Johnny Thompson is somebody who people really have no idea how much he gave to the world into the magic community and and to an incredible a terrible loss, of course, in twenty nineteen. It’s been two years over two years now.

But but let me interject that his incredible partner, wife and yes. That broad wife, Pam. Yeah. Passed away last week also.

Oh, no. Oh my.

Yes. Was that super sad. She’s wonderful. She had her friends, family and dogs around her and and she did say she was ready to go. Wow. So I told Penn that they’re editing the season right now, fulness, and they should just do a single card in the beginning that announces the Tomassoni and Company reunion tour, you know, but no, that was fun. And I think you’re thanking me because I was a producer on that, but I was really just a facilitator to the the idea and the talent and the passion was from my husband.

And I just helped because of my experience and access.

Well, and that’s but that really, truly is the story of the importance of what we through philanthropy, through work, through what we give to our families, the unseen, like what people like they if they look in in Johnny’s his own public history of what he did for as a as a performer, not realizing how much he did as a creator for other magicians. And obviously he was very close to to Penn and Teller. And in designing with them and and being a consultant and, you know, being a producer, you know, you’re trying to sort of like push away of like, no, no, no.

Is there me like, well, no, this is this is what makes it incredible. Is that the the name or the face on the box of the movie back when there were boxes for movies at least, is often not the one that really you know, they’re the ones that sell the story, I guess. But the story’s created and told like Tim’s Vermeer was another fantastic example that was Teller’s work. And oh, God, I could I could watch that weekly.

Yeah. It’s such an amazing story.

That’s a roller coaster mystery. It’s I love that movie so much. I, I it’s I have like three favorite documentaries in the world and that’s one of them.

All right. Now I got to hear the other two I will give was valid, but the documentary I love so much that I always tell people to watch super hard to find. You might find a pound VHS, but it does happen to be on YouTube. And I just lie to myself and say that the creator said it was OK. So I watched it. Yeah, but it’s called the other final and it. You’ve seen it.

I have not. So now I am done. This is why writing this down here, I’m writing this down.

Watch tonight and then text me what you think. But in the way that. Gemas valid is not just about magic, and non magicians can enjoy it, and Tim’s Vermeer is definitely not just for artists or historians. This movie takes place in the world of soccer. And I hate soccer, so I know. Well, it’s a guy that decided to create a final on the day of the World Cup for the two lowest ranked teams in FIFA. And so it was a competition between Monserrat and Butan at the time.

Oh, and the the the hard work and willpower and humanity to bring together a, you know, Hurricane Island with a mountainside village that doesn’t talk to people and get them to play soccer together to find that crossover of humanity. I just loved it so much. I can’t stand it.

That is wild. Yeah. That’s what I what I enjoy about these. And even like the stories we’ve talked about, you know, like when you when you unlock the real like what’s behind all that stuff, like it just sort of pulls you in. That’s why these things are fantastic to watch and share, you know, in in even what we do in in business. You know, I always say to people like they’re like, I’m not in I’m not in sales.

I’m like, well, everybody’s in sales. Like, we’re we’re ultimately all responsible for for some kind of impact on what we do. And, you know, while I may not be the guy that’s going to go into town footing the bill and telling the story and chasing down the CEOs, doing whatever. The fact that you can be a part of it and help people throughout this whole group, it’s that’s what I love is the impact of it.

And then when you see somebody else tell these stories in beautiful ways, it’s such a such a magical feeling when you go through storytelling, watching somebody else’s storytelling, that must be. So as an EP and as a producer like you’ve got an interesting split of the like just keeping the wheels on the bus, but also ensuring that the story ultimately is being parlayed and told in the way that’s. To the core of why the project had started.

Yes, and that would hold more true for an MP who originated the project at two to realize their vision, but most projects, if not all, that have been brought on to have been to help others. So I’m really fighting for them to get their vision and not inserting mine. So I don’t always agree with everything that’s done. But that’s that’s not my job. And and I’ve been proven nearly unanimously that they were right anyway. So I don’t.

Except for Werner Herzog. Yeah, I, I, I just don’t get it. I, I love incredible filmmakers and like he’s, he is amazing in his ability to do his thing. Yeah. Every time I’m halfway through one of them I’m just like I’m not quite sure what I’m what I’m enjoying here. It’s interesting, it’s an interesting character.

But can I return to two points because I wrote. Yes, I would. To forget to follow up on them, which is early on in our discussion, you talked about like people who take selfies and maybe, ah, have other reasons, additional reasons for why they do work. I have absolutely no problem with that and I encourage everyone to do it. If we all did things the same way, we wouldn’t get it all done. I am so fine with people who they want to add a gold star to their Facebook page or they want to be seen with a celebrity or they want a tax deduction.

If you are, you know, what was his name? Sheldon Adelson. I’m not a huge fan.

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

And there’s so much money because you want that kind of accolade. Bravo. I’ll take your money. I’ll take your time. I’ll take your notoriety. And I think that if you’re going to shame that spectrum or let’s not say shame, but minimize it or write, rewrite the narrative, then then then you could do it to the guy who just, you know, gives five dollars a month out of his paycheck and say, you’re not doing enough or whatever.

We have to accept all charity for what somebody has to give because it’s not mandatory. It’s what we do because we want to. So I applaud anybody in any way who gives to any charity.

It is an interesting conundrum right now, especially, you know, especially we get say like. So obviously, Sheldon Adelson is a polarizing figure as far as, you know, some of the you know, some of the history and what he’s done in business. But like you said, then, he had this sort of philanthropic side of of himself. We talked obviously about forty five and we and pre and post right where where people fit in. And this is what really I struggle with of, you know, we have to look for we can’t let the one portion of somebodies existence define the rest of their existence because we have to be able to either surpass or forgive or, you know, and and maybe not maybe just say like, OK, you know, or compartmentalize.

Right. Or just I mean, of course, is exception exceptions. We’re not we’re not interested in, like, supporting murderers doing charity. You know what. But but everybody’s got things that do not appeal to everybody else. And, you know, I am very vocal about this council culture stuff lately. I’m sensitive. I try to be politically correct. But it’s it’s to me we’re in this, like, overreaction period where you can say or do one thing.

Seventeen years ago and all of a sudden all the work you’re doing now means nothing. It’s it’s right to me. And I’m hoping that that rubber bands back and leaves a legacy of sensitivity and a calmer place for us to all treat each other. But we have to stop canceling people from the states that are mistakes. I’m not talking about egregious crimes. I’m not saying let’s let Harvey back in. You know, I’m talking about the of it is it is tough.

And you even like the first thing before you even begin the statement is like you got to make sure you’re getting the right guardrails on how you say it, because it is their tough subjects to talk about. But it’s like I mean, I tell people I know it’s a bit of a deep topic, but like read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and you’ll learn about when when good wasn’t good enough. And, you know, they just kept taking away the edges and by taking away the edges, meaning affected because causing genocide, like they they said, yeah, you’re rich.

So we can’t let that happen. Yeah. Like your principles. Cool. OK, but then once they’re gone. Now, the top earners are now rich and those are the farmers and OK, let’s stop doing that one. And then suddenly millions die in the Ukraine because there’s no food for a decade. I mean, look, obviously, that’s an extreme case, but it it played out. And that’s why I always, like you said, let’s not let the egregious stuff be accepted.

But there’s people that make mistakes and let’s let’s try and put the right context. And context can be timing. It can be especially just what’s wrapped around it. Like if you take out one single sentence out of this podcast, I’m going down for, I’m sure for some reason something I said somewhere it’s troublesome. The fact that I mentioned the Gulag Archipelago is probably going to be the one that takes me out. But I, I said it’s a historical thing that, you know, we I often look like we have to look at history so that we don’t make the mistakes of it again by suddenly taking an Etch A Sketch and shaking off everything that’s twenty two years and older.

I mean, I could get with get around maybe getting some of the 80s music off my my memory list. It’s all good, but hey, that’s just me.

I get it agreed of course on all of that. And then the other point I want to hit because I don’t know when you’re going to cut me off is when you talk about, you know, getting started, how do you find what works for you and everything? Right. And then I sort of got off on a tangent that people have approached me, so I’m not out actively seeking. So I’m in, like, letting a. You know, marinate in my mind when I think about it, and I think that two things that I want to say about it.

One is. Unless you are the only person in this world, you know, somebody who has a disease or is maybe has been homeless or has an alcohol problem or something that is connected with the charity, and if you can tap into your compassion and love for that person, you might want to work with something in that area, because that way it’ll feel more personal to you. It’ll feel let it’ll feel connected. So it’s just a suggestion that isn’t something I’ve actually done, except one would argue nothing.

But I would look for something that hits closer to home so that you can feel like you’re making a difference in the world and maybe your own life also. But what I also want to say is that, you know, like if you’re having a shitty day and you go for a run that you do not want to go on, you just feel better after nobody ever regretted exercising or running. We’re all coming out of this like, incredible time of solitude.

And I just think that helping others is going to help the giver more than it ever has before. And coming back to the world and life is hard for you. And you’re like, I have less time than ever. I have to work two jobs now just to make sure you need the feel good of giving more than anybody. And you’ve got to if you find that time, you know, we all we all know how to make time for the things that are most important to us.

You’ll find the time because it’s so rewarding.

It’s beautiful, you know, it’s something that I hope that we take what we just experienced and find lessons in it. Yeah, nobody would like to experience what we’ve gone through and continue to go through, nor would we want to go through what we talked about with, know families who have children who you face, medical challenges that you’d never imagine until you experience it. And if you can do something as we go back to the world where we open up and we get to hug again, we get to do these things.

It’s it’s going to feel special and I want people to like, don’t forget that I just grab that moment.

Yeah. And I think about back again about Barbara and Robin, who took me by the hand and let me in. You can give out my email to somebody in Vegas and they want to do charity work of any level a week, an hour, a year or full time or whatever. You give them my email. I will help them.

That’s amazing. Now, the the interesting thing, of course, is when we look at we sort of you touched on it before this sensation that you’re not giving enough. And like, how do you how do you coach people through, you know, like I said, just the small things, even if they’re not directly doing it. Fine, somebody else is doing it and give them the day off. Like, give your workers an opportunity to spend time.

It doesn’t even need to be like a company giving money. You can be like empower your your your community to say like, who wants to do something? Let’s all pool together and make sure that that can happen, right? Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, examples. You could come be a be quiet person at the golf tournament for a day and you’ll just stand there and you know, the learning curve is three minutes to play. You know, when the golf score, you hold it up in a play and then you’re helping. You’re absolutely I, I mean, more than help. And I can’t even overstate I can’t even overstate how volunteer, like physical work manning all these events is is everything.

They don’t happen without it. Yeah. The big checks come, but there’s no checks to give to it. There’s no better write another order. So you could do that or you could you could find out which homeless shelters except food and bake some cakes. You can you know, you can do the lay up, which is helping on Thanksgiving or Christmas. And I don’t roll my eyes at that. That’s just that’s a good starting point. But there tends to be more than enough people on those days.

Right. So do it on a different day. I don’t know what else. Probably manning the phones. It’s something you can do.

Yeah. That was remember, that was like the whole thing was like the you know, the telephone banks would be lit up and you’d have these sort of like I grew up of course, through the seventies and eighties and it was like watching like, oh yeah, there’s Burt Reynolds and you know, and Lonnie Anderson on the phones taking calls. But truthfully, they’re they’re just holding the phone to their ears and hundreds of people in another room that are actually taking the calls.

So I know another one. That’s great. It’s a smaller a smaller organization that I’ve worked with. But if you can take it on to tutor or mentor underprivileged children, that is something that is is almost an exponential speed, because as you create create sounds so manhandled, as you help people develop and become educated, then you are really helping them become meaningful members of the community and having children who they teach the importance of education, who become in the workforce.

And it’s just a cascading benefit. And so if you have a very busy job and you have no time for charity work, maybe you could mentor a child and teach him how to we develop this product or whatever, and it’ll make all the difference in the world. You that’s the thing. You don’t know what’s going to be the turning point when it comes to education. You just have to spark somebody into understanding, loving education. And you don’t know if that comes from your bus driver or teacher, your uncle.

No, and that and that’s it, right, and I can say that charity happens in small ways every day, even just by the way that we behave in our community and the way that we embrace people’s differences and look for I remembered I was sitting on a bus on the way to work one day and there was a guy who was sitting in the in the bus. And this is like pre phone days. You literally like this. People were in books and like looking around the room.

I’ve always been a bit of a people watcher and I saw this guy and he had a metal arm like his it was a prosthetic arm. And it was like sort of the three claw, like basic sort of prosthetic arm. And I watched the way people reacted to him and he was just sitting there quietly looking one hand and wearing an Iron Man jacket, sitting with this metal arm and everybody on the bus that got on or off. The first thing they stared at was his arm.

And it’s funny. And I thought then I saw one guy get on and he did what I did. And the first thing he did was he stared at his jacket and he didn’t think that this guy has a really tough life because he has to get through every day with one arm. He looked at him and he said. That motherfucker ran an Iron Man. What’s your excuse?

Yeah, exactly, and in small ways, right? So an hour a day thing, we can give a small check just encouraging other people to partake you proselytizing. Anything we can do, I think is a powerful opportunity.

You want to hear a simple little charitable thing that I do that has turned out to be so fine, which is you could download an app called Be My Eyes and your entered into a pool of people who get face time, random face time calls from blind people. And they’re and they’re like, I can’t see what this says. And they face time and show you. And you read to them what I’ve got. I’ve done like two hours of going through a blind guy’s mail with him and figuring out what bills need to be paid.

And you inevitably just talk to them and make human connection and and you really feel that you help them. And in the beginning, I have to tell you, it’s like, how do I know they’re really blind? And I was like, well, why don’t you pretend they’re blind just to have a face time? I don’t know why I thought that, but I’m just admitting it here publicly. So but they are because I talk to them forever and that’s charity that’s helping.

And it’s such a small commitment that you could do like sitting on your patio, feed my eyes, and then it’s fun and meeting people all over the world that, you know, I love. I think it’s all over the country. You would never end doing crazy little tests for them. I love it.

That’s incredible. Yeah. And that’s that’s what I love, where we can take take technology and do stuff with it, you know, I mean, I suppose goodness to all the folks that do other things, you know that. And what’s interesting to it, like I said, just to go back to we talked about obviously Sheldon Adelson was a name we picked, but there are many folks that are you know, it’s a tough world right now. When people make a lot of money, they like the word billionaire gets thrown at them, like as if it’s a it’s a bad word right now.

Because we may disagree with some of the statements they made, so therefore now it’s a pejorative, you know, like, oh, that darn billionaire hit. But if I do look at the positive, what they do is they’ve created opportunity for a lot of folks, wealth, employment, whether they’re directly giving to charity. So there are there are things that people do and that say that’s just like it doesn’t always show. It’s not something we wear as a badge that says, yep, I gave X hours a week.

It’s the quiet stuff that happens behind. And it happens, like you said, pick up your phone. You can be someone’s eyes. That’s pretty important.

Yeah, it’s really nice. No, you’re right. I know billionaires get a bad rap. You can imagine I don’t have a problem with billionaires. You know, everybody tries to pay as little tax as possible. So you might have a problem with tax laws, but you don’t actually have a problem with what they’re doing, if you’re honest.

Yeah, well, the the this is the the thing that we have now is that I think people will come out of everything that we got through in the last while we come together and we’ll hopefully be appreciative. I know I’m appreciative that you spent your time with me today. This is this really cool. I could do this all day long, but I would I would steal your very valuable time from somewhere else. That very much deserves it. Emily.

Oh, you’re very kind to me. And I appreciate it so much. I, I think you’ve made me out to be a little better than I am. But thanks to you and my oldest daughter’s name is Emily as well. So it’s it was kismet that we we pulled this together.

So does she have a middle name, Jordan.

So not as exciting as your kids names. So this is always a funny one, I’m sure. I also wanted to try not to have the same, like nine questions that everybody asks you at the start of everything. So your kids are funny names like, no, no.

Is there nobody? OK, OK, but ask your nine questions.

I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you what. Here’s the one that will test you in the closing. What’s the thing, the worst thing that’s ever happened to you that you’re the most thankful for?

Wow. We should given me time to study on that on. That is so tough, I feel like I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to like health issues and life issues, so. You know, it’s a little cliche, but I think it’s true, I’m not going to pinpoint one exact thing, but I will tell you that any job I didn’t get, I was a freelance full time or even the worst breakup’s I ever had that feel like I could never be happy again.

Absolutely. Just allowed the space for the next best thing to have the next thing to happen, which was clearly better. And you look back and go, what what was. What was I so upset about? But and it makes me feel especially fortunate when I really can’t even come up with a horrible thing that happened to me. Yeah.

I don’t think that’s that’s actually really kind of one of the the joys of the reaction is because you’re your first thought is whatever it is, I’m going to I’m going to be in the optimist club around this thing. Right. Like it’s getting through. It is difficult. Yeah. Especially when you look back retrospectively, I think of all those times and you’re just like. I’ve always had the ability to see that there’s something else that’s out there that’s keeping you keeping your feet on these on the ground and keeping the heart pumping.

And it’s hard, you know, when you’re in the midst of some experience, you know, years like this is it? You know, I can’t I can’t take this anymore.

Exactly. Exactly. But you actually learn because those times used to break me and now, you know, not almost break me. And now if I’m, like, having the worst time with something, I can just go, like, I felt this bad before and it just passes. You make it better.

You know, one thing that and I apologize. I’m stealing your overtime on this one here.

I’m fine.

I’m I’m one of the things that a friend of mine I’ve always had sort of a stoic approach to things, which apparently is kind of people get really frustrated by stoicism in the idea that you kind of like you look at things that are out of your control and you realize that you can’t affect them and you have to embrace that they’re out of your control and thus they occur, good or bad. And I always think of my lifestyle. I don’t like to be praised because it immediately raises my level of normalcy to the point where now everything is a trough.

And so I don’t like the lows and I don’t like the highs. I kind of like to shave off the edges. If I were to look at it as a as a sine wave, that’s my my my way of dealing with it. I remembered sitting as like I was like 18 and I had an acoustic guitar. We were playing with a friend of mine and we’re at a party and this is like the morning. It’s like 7:00 in the morning.

We’re still going right. And we’re just sitting around the table and the dog runs by and hits the edge of the guitar. It turns around, drops on its back, the neck snaps right off of it. And like, this is the guitar that I spent three paychecks on. And like this is I love this guitar and I just turn. And I was like, oh, man, I picked it up. And I was like. It’s going to be hard to fix, and I sat down and continued on the conversation and the guy beside me was like.

Aren’t you going to freak out right now? And I was like, nothing I could have done other than put it in a different spot. Could it change the moment that just happened? Yeah, I said so. Yeah, I’ll figure that out later. Yeah. And it really was a weird thing that but then other times I will like be carrying a plate with a cup on it and I’ll say to myself, I shouldn’t do this because I might drop the cup and the cup falls off and all that goes through my head is of course it did you nothing.

I’m like you’re just like immediately take it to the darkest place. Like, how does that same person drop an eight hundred dollar guitar and go, huh. That kind of sucks. I’m, I’m torn. It’s the the mind still takes you in in difficult places sometimes even the smallest chance I get it. Well, I don’t know what else to tell you I. I want to tell you how I met Penn and I’ll kind of finish up with that one because I’m channeling if my mother were in the room, she’s not dead.

She’s out there. That when I was in Vegas and I was working on a commercial and I had a free night and I I was like, oh, I’ll go see Penn and Teller because I saw them off Broadway in the 80s. They’re fun. Like, it was not a dedicated fan, but I’ve always liked puzzles and magic and that kind of thing. And I had recently, prior to that moment, seen the pilot show bullshit, if you’re familiar with it.



And and I was like, oh, that’s so great. I’m going to get in. I’m going to get in line to talk to him because, you know, I’ve never really seen pro science, biased entertainment. You know, like, it was it was incredible that she made the show for me. So I have to go talk to him and thank him. And by the time I get to the front of the line, I asked him out and he said yes.

And that was eighteen and a half years ago. And many people marvel at that story. And my mother would tell you that’s how Emily’s been our whole life. She’s not afraid of No. And so I’m proud of that. I think that’s what I do, is I embrace, embrace experience and just give it a try.

That’s amazing. Yeah, since the earthquakes are the classic, if you’re always my favorite story of people who are like all this exciting news of like, how did you choose the three of clubs to be this? Like, is it especially meaningful like that? It’s just it looks easy to find on camera back, but it’s such a I still laugh when I see a magician use that as their classic forrest card. I’m like, all right, that’s a there’s the throw back a little bit of a I don’t know how to to Penn and Teller.

Have you ever seen or done the the Senate trick? Is it set up? Is that the word. Yeah. With the cemetery. No. Talking about no. Tell me about this a little. You’ll I’ll send you a link or you can do it but there’s a it didn’t like live on Saturday Night Live or some show but it still exists. Now you you do have to learn how to force the three clubs, but you you do a trick and then at night.

Yes. And of course the three clubs look at the card in the back and the dinner and then you find the card and it’s the wrong card and you didn’t get it right. Not all right. Whatever I got to keep practicing is only works if you happen to be going to Forest Hills or whatever cemetery it is in L.A. But you go there and you’re walking along when you’re talking. And there’s a I believe the word is Senate rap. I just can’t remember it as a tenet.

It’s not centigrams, etc.. And there’s two of them. There’s one of four cells and there’s one in my backyard. And it says Penn and Teller. It’s and it’s like it’s like raised Brauns. And it has a picture of a three of clubs and it says, is this your card? You’ve done the trick to somebody, bring them there. And then you’re like, there come.

It’s really fun. That is awesome. Well, Emily Jillette, for folks that want to find you and they should wear and I’ll have links as well to all the charities that we talked about. And I’ll encourage people to go. And I’ll tell you what my my I ask everybody to find somebody who would love to come on. And I it would be neat. I would love one day to have have have Penn on and share his some of his story.

But I know he’s got the show is back on. You’re traveling, you got a lot going on so but I make sure that I would, I’m going to do it without it. But you know, we’ll make sure that money gets to Opportunity Village to support them anyways. And I’m going to make sure that I I donate a couple of months of my revenue from here to to them just because they they do fantastic stuff. And so if I’ve got a bounty of luck, I should use that in a way that can help others.

Thank you so much.

Thank you. But most importantly, how do we find you? Because you’re the. Well, he may be the louder, taller one. You are an incredible person. And yeah, you deserve the attention that you maybe don’t get enough of.

I get so much attention. I don’t know what you want me to give. Like I. Is it stupid to give people my email or give them an alternate email. I mean I’m on Facebook but I don’t generally like just random except why isn’t my computer working. My my I think about out of batteries. I can’t find my other. I mean do you want me to say an email.

I don’t know what to do. You could just give it. You will only tell you what we’ll put it in the show notes. Just make sure for folks that they want to find it. Of course they can follow you on Twitter as one spot.

Twitter. Yes.

And and of course, keep track your heading to do some new production work. You got stuff in post-production. You are you are busy. So we’ll make sure that we follow the projects that you’re working on.

Oh, thank you so much. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Any time. And I was certainly connect you with other philanthropic women.

Yeah. You you mentioned some fantastic names. I would love to to feature them and share their stories. It’s it’s been a very real joy to spend time with you. Emily Jillette, thank you very much.

And that was the Disco Posse podcast.

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Chris Hull is the Co-Founder and CPO at Otus. Otus is the first edtech platform to centralize learning management, assessment, and data for educators, students, and families. Chris was also named a “20 To Watch” Educational Technology Leader by the National School Boards Association.

Our conversation spreads across both the challenges of education, remote teaching, empowering students and teachers alike, and how Chris became an effective founder and CPO (Chief Product Officer) by leveraging learning and a great team.

Check out Otus here: https://otus.com/ 

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chull9/ 

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Chris, thank you very much for joining us. I’ve really, really loved the idea of the problem that you and the team at Otus are solving. And I really want to kind of go at two interesting angles of our discussion. One is, of course, what’s the problem that’s being solved? How are you doing it? And kind of like, why is this an important piece and your place in the industry?

And also is a CPO, right? The chief product officer is an interesting title and it’ll be neat to go into the background of what led you to that role. So anyways, before we jump in, for folks that are new to you, Chris, if you want to give a quick intro to yourself and Otus and then we’ll start diving into the story.

Definitely. So I was a former seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher. I was really focused on helping my kids learn to the best of their ability. And I was really honing in on that problem. How do you maximize learning for each kid? I would have about one hundred and fifty students every year, and I started to use technology as a tool to help me do that and a variety of ways using. Online applications, finding ways to have my kids become more engaged, and I was lucky enough to be a coauthor to a grant that brought one device to every kid in 2010.

And I thought that providing every student a device would completely change my life and education and really allow me to impact every single student. However, upon the rollout of the one to one device initiative, I quickly learned I was pretty naive back then. I still am naive. I was pretty naive back then because it quickly became apparent that technology can actually expose inefficiencies within a system or a process. And that is what happened. I quickly learned that there were inefficiencies between collecting data, getting information about kids, we call it, articulating data from one teacher to the next or from one grade to the next.

There was inefficiency there and there was no system that really allowed the teacher to understand or get to know kids in a way that was really powerful and efficient. So I was lucky enough with two other co-founders to start OTUS. And we really focus on providing the tools to help teach, which is again facilitating, learning, giving activities, connecting to content grade, which is the ability to measure learning, understanding what a kid is able to do and what a kid needs to grow and get better at Analise, which is the ability to take information that might exist outside your classroom.

It could be national assessments. It could be passions or interests or things that may be the were found out by a teacher from a year or two ago. Analyze all this in a single place and then plan, which is our final thing we helped do, which is really to monitor the progress on initiatives such as like skill building or behavior or civics, or if you want students to be good kids, being able to monitor their progress while they’re in your district.

So with that, we have a platform that really focuses on the efficiency of the student teacher relationship and then also transparency for families and administrators into the world of their students. At the administrative level, we really can aggregate the data to look at cohorts. So a group of kids and then four families. Again, I have four kids who are very young. If I ask them how school’s going, they’ll tell me, fine. If I ask them what they’ve learned, they’ll tell me stuff.

If I had high school students, they probably might use different four letter words that tell me how things are going. But really we focus on a platform that is able to provide a comprehensive understanding of how a kid is doing. And by having that information about one kid, we can also aggregate that to the groups of kids so that if we need to find trends or things going on and we do that providing the tools to teach, grade, analyze and plan.

So the thing that really stands out to me about this story and, you know, the problem solving is a real disconnect sometimes. And when we talk about like I’m I’m from the startup world and from the business world and we talk about customers. Right. And when you’ve got a system and the first thing to do is identify this customer and in effect, it’s it’s your student because they have a customer journey from K to 12 and you’re their progression follows them through that versus I’d say a lot of the problem, like you talked about, like even in person learning and the general school programs is there’s not clean hands, there’s not transparency of the journey from that that child.

Like we we go to the paper copy and but like you said then it doesn’t go to the parents, then it doesn’t get shared between administrators. We can’t really use data to drive a positive progression for that student. And I love that. But like you said, the digital experience can add this now. All of a sudden you’re like, oh, I can see that literally and agreed to this child, struggled with this thing. And then we formed a plan so that in grade six, they’re in the right spot where they need to be.

But right now, I feel sometimes that teachers are basically looking at getting through their year with their class and once the class is gone, that’s kind of the end of the program sometimes.

Yeah, I think you hit on some key things, right, if we look at the the product world, if we look at something like JIRA or a CRM or I know I’m jumping around, but the idea is those systems are trying to provide insight into what’s actually happening. If we look at some of our eses and why do we use JIRA when we’re using Djura so we can track projects, we can see how things are going, we can identify obstacles.

I think one of the key things I’ve learned is many of the best practices that are happening in product are what really happen in the classroom to it’s one of the reasons that the the jump from the classroom to the CPO role has actually been less bumpy than I would have thought. Because you want to know you want to identify things early. If there is a blocker, you know, typical stand up. What did you work on yesterday? What are you working on today?

What blockers do you have? That same approach works with students like what’s your blocker now? Sometimes a blocker can be for a child. Maybe they’re struggling to get to school on time. Maybe there’s something going on at home. You know, it’s not always like why I’m struggling to understand who the answer the basic question of who is this article about now? Sometimes it’s more than that. Maybe they’re hungry. Maybe there are things going on, but there is the same thing can happen and product where you’re trying to identify is there a blocker and the processor in the system?

And this is where in an organization we have several product teams for our delivery side of the house. Well, if there is one blocker we have one of our teams is called the assessment team. And if they all of a sudden encounter a blocker, we unblock them, we solve it. It would be a failure of our organization to not share that solution with the other product teams. Right? Oh, this is how we unlock. We have this problem.

We are struggling with a PR. We’re struggling with something around that. And it’s like, oh, this is how we unblocked it. The same thing happens in the classroom. Everything, unfortunately, can be very siloed where if I’m a teacher and all of a sudden I have a student who’s struggling with. Complex text or maybe struggling to get engaged in a school if all of a sudden have a solution. It would be great to note that solutions so that if the student or another student ever encounters it again, we kind of have that in our back pocket.

And education does this in a really great way. I’m not saying it doesn’t. There are things called like places, but so much of the student information is siloed that it doesn’t carry on. And again, if we look at I mentioned earlier, like a CRM, like a Salesforce or any other one out there, we have things about the client. Right. So if all of a sudden our main contact is really into football, let’s go soccer.

You might mention that, hey, a great way to get them to open up and talk about soccer or hey, they really enjoy this type of food. All of a sudden it’s like those hints can be like to send a thank you note. They really like coffee and they really enjoy this brand. It’s like those secret things that you can put into a CRM or, hey, this is where they’re at in their process. It really helps continue the handoff within an organization so that you’re able to really maximize what’s happening for each person and client, customer, user.

They’re all the same, right? You’re in you’re engaging in interacting with someone and you’re trying to help them be successful. And that’s what we want to do for students. We want to help them be successful in their goals. And to me, that’s really learning how to critically read, write and think, having them become successful and what they’re passionate about.

Well, the advantage you get to when we systematize this process is that you can take the system and you can scale it outwards, right? You can now introduce it to other areas. I think the other challenge we’ve always got, especially, you know, we’ve got I’m Canadian originally. I’m living in the United States and we’ve got, you know, massive populations over massive geographies that act fundamentally different based on a variety of different scenarios. So they don’t tend to bring systems between them.

But meanwhile, they may actually have a ton of similarities that they could like, just say, OK, let’s just worry about the edge cases, but you can identify the cases if they’ve never seen outside their bubble. So you’ve you’ve really hit on a ton of interesting things. And it’s funny your language. You’re for an educator. You’ve got you sound like a great software developer. You’ve really seem to have tapped into both sides. And this is why, obviously the CPO is a great fit.

Now, when did you sort of decide that tech was a way to solve this problem, Chris, in the specific area that you wanted to hack into?

Yes. So I always thought I’m not the greatest technologist. It’s one of those things I’m constantly learning. I have an amazing team. I have a product manager, Zach, who is absolutely incredible, helping me learn along the way. Same with our CTO, Cory. They’ve really been amazing to help me learn because. There are these parallels, but to me, I was always a technologist in the way that I always wanted to become more efficient. I would sometimes say I always wanted to find the hack because trying to grade one hundred and fifty students papers is just really time consuming.

How can I save time but still do a good job? So I always looked at technology as a way to help me become more efficient, and that could be something like we’re going to use a platform to be able to better track something or to be able to better monitor something, or it could just be like we used to on our first. Technology we added to the classroom was actually first generation iPads, and we had a really simple problem, which was.

How do you put an iPad on a desk and how do you do that with twenty five students so that it’s not just laying flat? Well, my colleague, the other quote, the coauthor of the grant, came up with a great idea. And to me, this is always like a symbol of what technology can be. He took to doorstops that were like the triangles, and he created this little desk and we had a couple of pieces of wood, we had a wood shop, we could cut them all of a sudden.

Twenty five sets of doorstops created little stands on everybody’s desk. And now all of a sudden, they were the right angle. You could kind of type on them. And all of a sudden that was a source of technology. We took triangles at a certain slope and now we have these little stands for everybody’s desk and they could be movable. You could, like, tilt them a certain way. They were really great. Now, that was like, again, a piece of technology that helped do the job.

And one of the things I think has always been a lesson I’ve learned is if you’re just using technology for technology sake, you’re losing sight of what you’re really trying to do. That actually happened to us when we first rolled out our iPads in our classrooms. It became all about like, hey, look at this cool technology. And we were logging in to 15, 20 different applications and we’re logging into these applications. And it’s like we lost sight of our goal, our priority, which is helping learning.

And so I really like to look at technology not as what’s the latest and greatest, but what is going to help us do our priority or our goal or objective better. And I’ve been lucky enough to. Learn some of those things that have helped me in the from the classroom to the CPO about building a culture, setting a North Star or an objective, and then letting people really get there on their own, not by themselves with a guide, but not always giving them all the answers, because I have found that when a team is able to.

Discover and craft their own solutions, they have more ownership in them, and that ownership autonomy really allows them to thrive and succeed versus them going, oh, here is our process. I have to do it, and now it’s like harder to iterate on it. I really think the best, the best solutions allow for iterations because no one is going to nail it perfectly the first time.

And it’s very interesting, too, because, like you said, we seem to think like, oh, we’ll put an iPad in every student’s hand and that will that will be the solution. Like, no, that’s like saying cloud computing is the solution for business. Like it’s a path to the solution. The actual solution is how you leverage the tool, how you use it. And all of a sudden you’re you’ve got five browser tabs, two applications.

And in fact, you’re degrading the experience because now this child has you know, we’re really exposing attention, challenges and our acerbity on the right spot when we’re looking at. But it’s very easy for, like you said, for us to say technology for technology’s sake. And it’s it’s tough sometimes to be able to step back. And I guess we call it sort of the curse of knowledge that when you’re a power user of something, you just think like, oh, well, I use my iPad all the time.

It’s my I get on a plane, I have my book, I have my email, I have my three things that I need. So therefore, anybody could be handed an iPad on a plane and it’ll be productive for a three hour plane trip. And that’s actually not the case, but very, very easy for us to lose, especially with kids like because their iPad, when they go home, is a different, fundamentally different experience for what that iPad services.

So to suddenly give it a use case and a box around how you’re going to use this tool, it’s a it’s a really interesting and tough challenge.

Yeah, I think that’s where you have to have the clear objectives, right, and I, I know your audience is much more on the product side, but I always have found to be quite the the buzz word with certain people, like certain people, like I don’t like it. And I always have come to if you have a bad process and you try to put it into, juries are just going to make that worse. It’s going to expose all those bad things.

And that’s why a lot of people will tell you when you start with Djura, it’s always better to start super simple and then build it out over time instead of trying to overengineer it. And I think the same situation comes with the iPad. If all of a sudden we use your analogy about the plane, if you all of a sudden or let’s take the iPad and give it to a student, if you let the student decide what’s on their iPad, I’ll tell you what they’re going to put on it.

They’re going to put some really fun games that are going to be highly entertaining, but very distracting to learning. And if you kind of give that carte blanche out there, it’s like, oh, OK. But if you work with the kid and you say, OK, I think even games on the iPad are OK, I would sometimes have in my classroom I taught all the way until twenty eighteen. I would tell my students if they were productive, if they were productive, for we had 40 minute periods oftentimes if they were productive during the week on Friday, the last five to ten minutes of the final day, we would watch a funny video which I had reasons for doing, that there were students submitted.

So I kind of got to know the kids in a fun way. And then also I would let the kids sometimes on their iPad, take five minutes, play a game performance. That’s that’s OK. But again, the goal has to be clear. Like this is not the purpose of it. But yeah, you can have a game, but download the download the right books, make sure you have the right tools that allow you to like what you focused on.

We did a lot of writing, so we did a lot of Google Google Docs, but it really becomes interesting without that clear goal. Yeah, I’m going to use it for what I’m interested in and then that can really take you in a lot of different directions and cause yeah. You give somebody something for their plane trip. Hey, use this on your plane. Well, they might play solitaire all the entire time. They’re not getting that productivity right.

But they used it. That’s really by defining what the goal is, is really helpful.

Yeah, well, it’s funny you mentioned Jeeralang. That’s a classic thing we bump into is that the tool doesn’t solve the problem. Like, yeah, it’s like saying like running doesn’t cause any problems. It finds them right. Like if you’ve got something it will immediately surface when you do certain things. And like I said, applying a workflow tool like a JIRA, a ServiceNow or something like that, even any automation process is I’m a I’m a king of of hating being doing the same thing repeatedly.

So I’m lazy in the greatest way because I want to automate as much as I can. But immediately, once you have to, like, systematized that thing, it makes you stop and say, OK, what do I actually do? And you realize, like when I say I’m just going to go and grab this file and put it up on the server and that’s it, then it gets read by the system. You’re right. It’s like, oh, now I save it, I export it.

I add some stuff to the end. I do a search and think, oh, wow. And now all of a sudden you’re like, it’s good to visit because it allows you to say, do I need to do it at this stage? And sometimes you go to real first principles and say, like, well, what are we actually trying to achieve? Student needs to get content. Content is here. We need to measure the effectiveness of how they get it and how they use it.

But it’s hard because. Look, of any system that’s got Whalsay legacy as the coded system right intact, we always talk about legacy systems. How much more legacy and effect is our education system and not legacy is bad. But I mean, legacy is really just it’s been evolving very slowly for a long time. So it probably was even more challenging to suddenly come in and say. I’m going to put some questions to how we’ve been doing it for a couple of hundred years.

Yeah, I think that you get you hit on something where I think legacy is sometimes seen as bad, but it actually just become such a I sometimes referred to this will seem like a really bad comparison, but it’s kind of like the Titanic, which now legacy has that really bad. But in some ways it’s so big and it’s just been added onto so much, it’s really hard to turn it and become very navigable. It’s hard to move it around.

And one of the things with learning, teaching and learning needs to be more agile and not as waterfall approach because things change. And this is where I think one of the things that OTUS does help with and not trying to be on the sales soapbox too much. But one of the things that has happened in education is for administrators and the people who are kind of managing all of this. Their feedback loop is really long, it can be almost a full year where it’s like, oh, this is how we’re doing, this is how it’s going, and it’s almost like a full year passes like this is how third grade what what are we going to do differently for third grade next year?

And what Otus is trying to do is we’re trying to provide the tools all in a single place. We’re trying to collect the information efficiently and in the background to teachers. And students are just doing their thing of teaching and learning. But because we’re collecting that information and making it transparent to all the stakeholders, we want to shorten that infinity loop. We want to basically that feedback loop. I call it an infinity loop, the feedback loop. We want to shorten it because if all of a sudden we have these goals and we’re monitoring them regularly, all of a sudden you’re able to measure, you’re able to build, you’re able to adaptable.

And that is what other industries have done. So effectively, the idea is the waterfall approach. Why was that so problematic? Well, by the time it actually went out, things changed, things adopted. You misread something you weren’t able to iterate as you went. And when we get to this more agile approach or this approach where we’re able to do things in shorter, you don’t want to release once every year. Right. You want to release as quickly as you can.

Now, some people could debate how often is good for the user, but that, like the idea is once a year is not often enough. And in education, it would be great not to over measure. I don’t want to test a kid every single day, but observation, observations or measurement. So if I am adapting and iterating and able to tweak what I’m doing on a daily or weekly basis, that’s really where your best teachers are at because they’re able to find where the kids that find out what those obstacles are, find those blockers, adapt and then continue to see improvement over time.

And if we can get schools to. Be able to help students that way, but it also one of the things I think OTUS also helps do is it helps with the professional development. We had talked a while earlier in the conversation about how. If let’s look at a product, if you’re a product leader, you’re a team or a program manager and you’re trying to solve something, your toolkit has to be like so big to solve every problem out there.

The same thing happens with teaching. But if we’re able to pinpoint what a problem is, hey, students are struggling, multiplying fractions. OK, we have a very specific problem, multiplying fractions. It’s hard. What are things that we can do to help with that specific goal? Well, now, when I’m giving professional development to the teacher, how do I make the learning of multiplying fractions more fun and happening faster? And the same thing goes like if all of a sudden in the product world, if we’re struggling with the collaboration between you and developers and we want them to be more collaborative so that.

Are you are you are you X components are being built better. OK, that’s a very specific problem that we can figure out. How do we increase the collaboration when building out a component between a developer and you? X Well oh let’s do pair programing or let’s have we added a column to our job board where we call it UTI so that it’s actually being checked for that. And one of those things that happens is like, OK, now you can solve this specific problem because it’s not, hey, we’re having inefficiencies with our delivery.

Well, what is the inefficiency? What is so when you’re able to pinpoint it, you’re able to better solve the problem, but you’re also better able to collaborate and also build out that toolkit so that it’s not just all these general uses or general ideas.

You’re the teacher I wish that I had. It’s it really comes through No. One, Chris, the passion of the way that you’re approaching the problem, plus the fact that you’re able to see beyond. Like I said, you’re the the phrasing that you use, the description of the challenges and the solutions. Like you you you may not feel that you’re as comfortable necessarily on the technology side, but you’re fantastic compared to a lot of folks that I find that being able to bridge between, like understanding the problem and living the real lived experience and then bringing that across and then building a solution for it, you’ve really, really crossed that that river beautifully and that you can still see both sides of it effectively.

And that’s it’s a rarity because quite often we have just purely like systems thinkers and then we hand them user stories and we hand them things and and it comes back as the old even like the waterfall. Project Management was the classic joke. Right. They’d show the like the little eight, you know, caption cartoon. And it was like what the user asked for and what the user wanted. Know what the project manager thought it was, what the developer thought it was.

And it was like a swing. This all the kid wanted was a tree swing. And it’s like all these different iterations. In the end, it was just like a piece of wood laying on the ground with a rope hanging from a tree. It’s it’s really interesting that you really, really understand both sides of the experience. So how did that come to be? Like I said, because your background is is obviously an education and you’ve got a really and your education wouldn’t tell me that you’re a solid on the on the tech side as you are.

Yeah, I think that it comes from. I appreciate the kind compliments, it’s sometimes hard to hear, but I do try to understand what I do well and what I don’t. And one of the things that I have found is I was a political science and world religions major. I really enjoy learning how systems and processes work and how they impact the individuals involved and also understanding where you best fit into the puzzle. And so. I am pretty good at seeing the ninety thousand foot view I can I can really see it.

I can set I can understand what the market is doing. You mentioned, you know, the tree swing. You know, one of the things that we’ve been talking about is not always doing exactly what the customer wants, but instead we really like to bring out what are the problems that are causing something to occur. And the question that I always like to come back to, it’s a broken record for me, but it’s what is more difficult than it should be.

And so really focusing on the problem. But what I really learned is that the details do matter and building out a team to kind of complement those. So like our product manager, Zacky, is, he’s got the best he’s the best at details that I’ve ever come across and having him work with me and then also working with we have a great UX team and we’ve identified some of these key things like UX is essential. You know, the technology literacy in education really spans the gamut.

It just is huge. Like you have students who are amazingly tech savvy, like they can figure stuff out. But there are some teachers. I had to help install apps on their iPhone and there are others that could do anything way better than me. So it’s like understanding what is going to be needed, building out these specifications, but then also really relying on the people who are experts like our CTO. Corey is incredible. He helped. He helped really another startup in education really have the good core and skeleton and understanding that we have team lead.

So we have team leaders across the board. We have one for assessment, one for all of us. We have all these people who have these expertize that I don’t know, we have one of our our alums lead. His name’s Colt. He’s he was a great experience and internationalization. I can understand what the term is like. Oh, OK. We got to internationalize Otus. We’ve got to localize the product. Like, I can understand the high level, but.

Implementing it, I that’s not going to be my strength now, setting the vision of why we want to internationalize, we want Otus to be able to be understood again efficiently for all stakeholders. Well, there’s a very diverse group of families out there, and it’s important that education can be hard enough to understand when it’s in your non-native language. Let’s bring as much as we can into their native language. Let’s help this all stakeholders get onto the same page that fits our vision.

Then you hire the people who know it and then you build in the structure to allow them to do it and. I think that I’m constantly trying to learn, and I think it’s been amazing to have the team at Otus really helped me do that and they really are the experts. One of the things that I often will say is. Otus’s in education technology, which is also often referred to as EdTech. And I really don’t like that term as much, because I think ADTECH often means you’re short changing one or both either tools are super like, wow, the technologies really knew what they’re doing.

This is so impressive. But they didn’t get the educator point of view or to be the opposite, where it’s like, oh, man, the educators clearly. We’re helping develop this, but then they won’t be as stable or scalable or all of a sudden it’s like man who designed their UI, UX like it’s like one of those things where I really want us to embrace the skill set of both. We have about a third of our employees are former educators.

I want them to have a voice and that educator voice, but also with people who aren’t educators but are parents or family members. OK, what would you need from the system in that situation? And also the technologies? How do we build scalable solutions? How do we have data portability? How do we have security, all of those things? I’m not going to be able to speak to other than OK, that’s important. Let’s make sure we take the time to do it.

And I think it’s understanding what you are able to do and understand where you might have room to grow and then finding those people who can teach you and taking the moment and the time. I guess it’s more than a single moment because learning for me takes a lot longer than it probably should. I really have to have conversations, ask questions that are sometimes. Pretty silly, you know, it was one of those things just today we were working on some of our load testing in terms of next year, and we came up into a situation where it’s very technical for why it wasn’t giving us like the same results as we expected, and it was why.

And then I had to ask like two or three very clarifying questions because we were using a small subset of accounts to extrapolate over. Right. Taking a thousand accounts and make reusing them ten thousand times. Well, that caused our systems going to react differently when the same thousand users are signing it all the time instead of it being fifty thousand four hundred thousand unique users. Well, there was a technical reason for that. I looked a little silly as I asked my questions, but again, it’s being willing to know and the team knows that I’m in it for the right reasons and they’re willing to help me learn and then it clarifies it.

And now next time it’ll make sense. And it’s one of its venturing out. I like to say risking failure while striving to be your best. Striving to be my best. But I was risking failure and asking a question that I probably should have been able to figure out.

It’s it is good to have the humility to bring that question to the room, though, and this is something that we often struggle with. This is a human tendency of like, well, I’ve got to I think this is going to be a dumb question. So you hang on to it. And in fact, sometimes it’s people. Oh, OK. Well, actually, now that we say that right, we’ve we’ve reused a thousand accounts. It’s going to perform differently than if we took ten thousand because there’s a diversity of life.

So there are genuine reasons why that needs to be brought up sometimes. And the good thing is the comfort among the peer group and the team in being able to say it’s OK. Right. We often have this thing of culture as we talk about in team culture is the success in culture is the ability to feel like you can fail and you can fail with this group and be comfortable that it’s a learning experience, not a punishment experience. It’s it’s something that, you know, when you choose your co-founders and your team, you have to stuff you find out in practice.


Right, right. I think that’s where a culture like that’s the biggest parallel to me that really has opened my eyes is that is what a teacher does, right? They’re building a culture of learning with their students so that. You need them to be able to ask questions. Can I work with seventh and eighth graders like they’re not going to know the history of all that’s going on? That’s that’s not they haven’t had the opportunity yet. But you have to build a culture of understanding, a culture of community where they can ask that.

You know, I always had I had three guiding principles that I use everywhere from for my own kids to Otus to to my classroom, which where, you know, respect, honesty and then strive to be your best while risking failure. Those were the three. And it’s been interesting because that same culture building is exactly what happens on product teams or in. Specific components and we use teams a lot, we have product teams, but then we have platform teams, so it’s sometimes use of teams.

When I’m talking to external folks, it makes me sound a little little team happy. But the idea is like the UX team needs to be able to collaborate with the front end team and the back end team and our data team. But they also have to be one group on our product team, which is like assessment where we have multiple members on. And it’s like that type of camaraderie and that problem solving, the open problem solving and communication only occurs with the right culture.

And it’s the the culture thing is interesting, especially in the classroom, too, because, you know, in business, we’ve people generally have a long view of how they’re going to fit, you know, in the in the educational system. Well, let’s say you’ve got twenty five kids and one teacher. They’re basically looking to just survive nine months together. And because there will be a brand new cohort, a brand new selection, a brand new pool.

So the culture has to be discovered, evolved and then sort of measured for success and hopefully capped off with, you know, everybody feeling good about how they what they took away from that nine month experience into the following year so that when they see that teacher in the hall, they’re like, oh, hey, Mrs. Johnson, you know, hey, Mr. Hall, how’s it going? You know, versus like, oh, boy, I missed your whole last year is driving me crazy is a real he was a real hard nut around math.

You know, it. So culture is it’s very interesting that in the education system. It’s as a as an educator and then as a somebody who’s bringing in systems into that seeing that experience, then ultimately probably play out in data. Right. What data have you seen now through OTUS that’s kind of taught you lessons about that, the real in classroom experience.

Yeah, I think that I think data, you know, sometimes a four letter word, but information, right, is when you really are able to pull information, you really find that there are connections or correlations between things that are happening and, you know, behavior and attendance and engagement really do impact learning and. Having a teacher able to focus in on a couple of very specific things you need to get better at can really drive great improvement and that improvement can really be seen across the board.

And the data can really show that where if you have a. A teacher who does a really good job of driving engagement, really getting the buy in, and then you can put in the work to do learning, because to learn is an action that requires effort and that that effort is important. And so when you can really get to that real crux of learning and let’s say you really have been able to identify the main point in informational text. You’ll see those benefits in in science and social studies and all of these different areas, and it’s such a cascading effect where you’re really building these essential building blocks that really can impact their entire performance throughout the day.

It can even impact their performance and physical education if you’re able to understand informational text. Well, now, when you’re being asked to learn the rules of a new game, you’re able to pull out the main points to such a better degree. It really has been amazing to see how the data really does show that and it’s not always easy and I think there are successes. I also think the data shows that it’s not this like straight line. It’s not even like that in the other spaces of technology where you want that hockey stick approach.

That’s not that’s not what happens in education in some ways. A lot of times it’s like two steps forward, one step back because. Kids are just complicated. They’re just really something that takes time to be able to unlock and then for them it’s almost like, oh man, I had two great days and then you’re trying to replicate it. Well, now some a little different was something said on recess with something set on the playground. Did something happen at home that they if they were on a sports team, did something happen there?

And so. It really is one of those things that when we can. Collect more comprehensive information, we can pinpoint when they need something. Maybe it’s just a conversation, maybe it’s just. One on one time, maybe, I’d say we just got like today is a rough day, we got to be a little bit calmer or more understanding empathetic today. That was the word I was looking for, empathetic. I think the information can provide those insights.

And I think that we’ve seen when you really are monitoring things, you can you can get better overall growth, even though day in, day out, it might be a little bit more. Two steps forward, one step back. But if you’re monitoring it, you’re able to really identify. We’ve got to step back. We’ve got to really push forward now. Whereas in the past, you might all of a sudden only be looking at something data wise every three to six months, and then you might have missed something that could have been uncovered.

When just like many software or applications or whatever it is, you’ve you’ve got the consumer, the people that are actually involved in it, the people that ultimately buy it, and we talk about the user persona, the economic buyer persona. We’ve got the in the consumer maybe that, you know, the educator and then ultimately the student. So. How do you how do you bring those personas together and make sure that they’re all kind of in agreement on what you’re measuring?

Because I I know one of the challenges we’ve often had in education is this idea of like standardized testing, like, well, this is it’s a very distinctive and regional unique thing, but it’s not really. But there are enough idiosyncrasies and oddities and differences. Maybe it’s better a better way to describe it. So when you bring anything, that’s a system. Like, how do you where do you find the resistance’s maybe in people taking it on?

Yeah, I think this is where we’ve really we have an amazing client success team and they really work very closely with our districts. Because they’re the they’re the people making these decisions, we have a really flexible platform that can measure. What a district would like to measure, it’s very adaptable, so we really work with the districts to make sure they’ve identified what you want to measure. Let’s define them, let’s expand on them, let’s make sure they’re explained well, and then our system can then go in and do that and.

Because of that approach, I really think that we’re able to. Have the client feel success at the end of the day, our clients are the districts, but the districts are serving students and teachers and families. So that’s why we kind of need to incorporate it. But we’re there to that. We’re the tool to support the district initiatives. We are the tool of the district. The data is the districts, and because of that, we need to make sure that we are accountable to what their goals are.

And that really comes through a really great process we have of discovery of what are you looking to measure? What are your end goals? How do we get your path there? And we’re really shaping that customer journey with them because of how adaptable our system is. But it really does cause some challenges because it can be moving. Education right now is going through a huge transformation. The pandemic is one reason, but also there is this call for. Accountability and standards and these common assessments and this common movement and maximizing learning and districts are figuring out how to get there on their own in each person’s implementations, different depending on the state and federal situation they’re in.

But it has caused a couple of curveballs to be thrown because all of a sudden the district, we could have a plan in place and then halfway through the we need to change and adapt and pivot and then say, OK, we’ll pivot. But we might not be collecting. We might not have been collecting C, not because Otus can’t collect A, B and C, but because they weren’t inputting the data for A, B and C, so therefore we don’t.

So it gets into these things where it really does take careful planning, careful conversations, and really it’s exciting to be able to do it. But it is a learning process has been it’s been a great opportunity for me to talk to districts, our team. We have an amazing former superintendent who leads our team. His name’s Phil. He does a great job, his entire team does, to have these conversations. And one of the things we really believe in is we want conversations to happen as often as possible.

I’ll join them. Oftentimes we have a UX researcher who joins them to collect so that we can kind of identify trends that are taking place. That kind of I think I loosely answered your question, but that is the challenge is districts are currently. Providing what is their path forward and there is some changes on the way because educational administration is going undergoing change this past year for superintendents across the country, it is a very difficult one. I don’t think they were in a no win situation because they had constantly changing CDC guidelines.

They had constantly changing what are we supposed to do with the pandemic? And they were unable to focus as heavily as I would hope on learning, but because they had to focus on the safety and security and the well-being of their staff and their students. But it was one of those things that it’s too often the case that schools are unable to focus on the learning and they’re instead being distracted by things that are that are the administrative tasks that are important but are not the core, the priority that I think schools should serve, which is helping maximize learning for every kid.

And that really is the goodness gracious like of all things that we faced as a society in the last 18 months has tested us in ways that I hope that we gather solid lessons from it. And and it’s like I obviously anybody would would give up any lesson to not have had the experience. Don’t never of course, this isn’t a trade off that we ever wanted to make. But when faced with a and a trade off that we didn’t have a choice and know being suddenly remote.

I’ve been a remote worker for years. And somebody said like, oh, this is this is must be what it’s like to work remotely. I’m like, no, very different. Right. Like suddenly remote is not a remote work experience that you you interact differently. Hybrid is different. As we then go back to now bringing education into a combination of I think by September, hopefully we’ll have stabilized and everybody will be back in the classroom. But like, let’s leverage what we learned about the digital experience and how we can empower kids through some remote tools.

Because when I was a kid, I was in grade, you know, I was in grade school and when I went into high school, I got mono. Right. And this is like the classic thing. I, I missed a lot of school because I wasn’t able to go. And I lost an entire year of school because I missed enough education days and there was no remote learning. So that was it there. Just like you’ve missed too many days and so you have to lose your year.

So I lost a bunch of courses and then I went back kind of grudgingly and got my my last year done in one semester because we just switched over to semesters. And it was so now I think if I’ve got these tools, I’ve got ways that we can measure the health of their home experience and hopefully bring it into the system. But we can empower every kid to be successful for that year and beyond, right?

And I think that’s the thing. Right. And I I really am reflecting on my comment, like educators have done such an incredible job this year. But the task they were they were faced with was so. So daunting, I’m actually the superintendent of my students district, my sorry, my kids, my my kids district is also where I taught he actually hired me. They also use OTUS. It was one of those things we’re talking to him like the challenges he was facing between there would be a CDC announcement at like noon.

Then the mayor of Chicago would make an announcement or the governor of Illinois would make an announcement like 90 minutes later. And he was then tasked a minute after all of that. Well, what are you going to do? And I’m like, he just got like a bucket of information. How is he supposed to process check with X, Y, Z? But now he’s being asked, like, what’s what’s the reaction? It’s like to have to do that in real time.

Like educators and superintendents, they were they were facing problems that I don’t think anybody could have ever foreseen. So they had so much time and energy focused on the health and safety of everybody that. In some ways, education, like the learning, took a step back and it’s like, OK, how are we going to address? Because you made some good points, right? Like Bono or or kids who need to be home, like, well, now you can do things.

I don’t think it’s good to be doing them. And endlessly. I think there is a huge place for human connection, for being a person, for collaborating. Again, I have very young kids. My oldest is seven. I think it’s really important to understand, you know, but it’s also one of those things where. I would teach again, 7th and 8th grade, I had 40 minute periods and I would tell my you know, I tell people it’s like.

Teaching and learning is not happening all 40 minutes every day week, you know, five days a week, 40 minutes a day, that’s not all we’re doing. We’re doing connections. We’re doing culture building. We might be doing. Icebreakers, we have to get to know each other, we have to do that culture building, we have to I enjoyed going on some tangents if it’s going to help develop critical thinking skills. And it was one of those things where with everything being on Zoom, it’s like, OK, what are the expectations?

You know, it was one of those things that is very fascinating to me. And if we can really focus on the learning, I really think we can take things away that were we faced during the pandemic.

And that experience of being remote and on video, it’s especially for the durations that you’ve got to do it like I’m I before we were all remote, I had a great experience because I knew at a sort of slot my meetings and you had to do stuff. And then what happened was when everybody was suddenly remote, they had this unfortunate feeling that they had to fill this time like that. They had to do all these meetings, that they were doing ad hoc and schedule them and schedule them an hour long.

And so all of a sudden, we’re all on Zoom’s together. And look, there’s a huge like we got through it together because we were able to stay connected and do things. But it’s cognitively tiring to be looking at a panel of people for hours at a time. It’s we need to be able to, like, put the lid down on the laptop, sometimes walk around like, well, you got to do that. The whole fun of the hallway track at a conference is that you are going from one place to another and you’re like, you know what, I’m going to be late for this one because I just bumped into this person in the hallway that didn’t exist anymore.

Right. And it’s really, really tough. That’s why I hope we can find this sort of hybrid experience. And now, like, look at what you’re doing. You have now the ability through what you’re doing with Otus to take these measurements with this cohort for the coming years so we can actually then see what the the the downstream benefit are like, what was good and what may be challenges come up relative to previous cohorts, right?

Yeah, that’s inside of like what’s the impact going to be? I think it’s you also hit on some really big points, right? I think we we dealt with this at Otus. You know, the idea of. Yeah, I’m going to schedule an hour meeting. Well, I feel like if you schedule an hour meeting, at first you felt like you had to take the hour meeting, right. Whatever length of time you put the meeting, you just somehow drag it out.

And it’s like, OK, let’s schedule twenty five minute meetings. Let’s or. Let’s not meet let’s see what we can do asynchronously, and I think that’s where we are now, a remote company, and it’s been it’s been an interesting transition. And I think we’re getting better and better where it’s like, OK, we don’t we can do more impromptu things or we can just have, like we call them, hangouts where it’s like drop in if you would like.

But there is no pressure and or no video for a couple of days because you have videos. I used to be pretty good, I’m not I used to be pretty good at reading a room, you know, I did a lot of teaching. I think that’s one of the things you learn really well. You know, again, I had six classes, twenty five kids apiece. So I would be forty minutes a day, six times I would have to read the room.

I felt like I was pretty good at it. I can never read a Zoome room to save my life. I can’t avoid you. I have no idea how it’s going. And so I think that’s really where we can learn. I think teachers, they say like, I don’t know how you could connect with students to the same degree, because I used to tell people I loved holding the door open both for my classroom, but also at Otus, where it’s like that two minute conversation that time in two minutes, that twenty second conversation going in and out of a room.

That’s how you can really bond. Or it’s like that that that side comment you can make where it’s like, I don’t want to announce this to the entire class or the entire resume. I just want to have a little back and forth, you know, how is your kid doing? Or I know you play golf. How’s that going? It’s like, hey, what what’s the latest? It’s like those little tidbits that I don’t think you want to put everybody on public blast.

That’s like a that’s the difference between an icebreaker. We’re all here. Let’s all answer an ice breaker. It’s not the same as like, hey, let’s have like a little side huddle. I used to do that with my my students all the time. Like, we’re going to the side hall. We’re going to talk for two minutes. How’s it going? It’s like such a different energy and connection that is fostered that way. And it’s really something that I really going back to school for students is going to be important.

I think that the engagement was really hard this year in terms of being invested in what was happening for all students. Some are able to some are self-motivated. Some are able to go in there. And I got this. But the idea is, what about for the students who need that nudge or need that connection to be able to push faster? And I think it’s also happening in the workplace. It’s just we’re in we’re in store for some interesting change coming up here.

The the one thing that you bring up, too, is that those holiday conversations and the door opening conversations, especially with students, even if we say like, OK, the Zoome room is for X, right? We’re going to talk about something for an hour. You know, the subject matter. You know the agenda. Sometimes you can slip in and hey, how’s it going. But there’s twenty two people on the on the room with you so it’s harder to have those conversations.

So what do you do. You take it to Slack Wall or the chat area like. Well no, because they especially for students, they need to know that if you say like hey, you know, I know you’ve been struggling like you just sort of catch them in the hallway. You know, if you need any help, just feel you you know, you can come and talk to me or the team and they may at that moment open up or they may come and see you after class.

But they’re less likely to go into the chat area on software to have that open conversation, because there’s always a sense that what I’m saying is being recorded or seen or like and you don’t type like you talk. So it’s you don’t see that. All right.

I think the one example that really comes to mind is I used to always try to pay attention where it’s like, oh, you have a big dance recital, you have a big competition or an art show. You could just be like, oh, how’d it go this weekend? They didn’t have to always say anything. You might just see this like this kind of downward glance or it’s like, oh, that probably didn’t go great. Or you might see the smile of, like, all mad.

It must have went really well. It’s like you miss that and it’s like you don’t want to put it on blast because it’s like. You miss that, right? It’s like, oh, how the Arko go if they just like, take that pause and they’re that momentary, like their shoulders go down and it’s like, oh, man, like like tell me about it. Or it’s like you might have that like they might, but I’m on a slacker on a chat.

Good. It’s like, oh well they’re telling me right then it’s like you’re losing that moment where it’s like how’d it go. And then you could read it and then it’s OK, I’m going to put a pin in that, like maybe there isn’t that opportunity to dove in deep, but maybe the following day it’s like I know it didn’t seem like your art show as well. Do you want to take a minute after class and just talk it out?

It’s like it’s impossible to do that with some of the technologies and that and that’s just unfortunate. It’s no one’s fault. But that’s one of the reasons that I think. In the K-12 experience, it’s why. I really don’t think remote is going to be feasible forever, and I think it was it was a good solution for the situation we were in that was unfortunate and again, a global pandemic. But in really in order to maximize learning, we need to be able to have those connections be built to really be able to unlock that.

And students. And I think that comes from the teacher student relationship. And that’s that’s the piece that to me. Where that’s what I focused a lot of my time on when I was in the classroom, I really wanted to get to know my students. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch with several of them, even after I’ve left education and they’re now out of college. It’s like makes me feel very old. But the idea is like that type of connection, it allows them to achieve great things.

And I really. That was what Otus was built to do. It was built to be able to create this collection of information so that you could get to that moment of connection sooner. It’s not going to be done by the system itself. Otus isn’t going to have this machine learning that’s going to unlock every kid for you. But the idea is it’s going to have information to give you a jumpstart on this kid, really into soccer or this kid is all about, damn.

So this kid’s all about Archos or hey, this one’s all about music. Oh, cool. Like that gives me a head instead of me fishing, trying to figure it out. It gives me a head, gives me a jumpstart. And that’s that really can be a huge way to get the connection going.

These are the signals that, like you said, there’s a lot of non-verbal stuff, there’s a lot of things that we experience acutely through the year that you don’t necessarily pass on because it’s like but just like a CRM, you say like, oh, I just found out this guy’s got his kids are going to Brown next year. And, you know, it’s like, see, you you put those things in there and then it becomes a talking point, a reminder later on.

And although it’s in the context of like warming the sales relationship, what it really is, is building a relationship and creating that comfort. One thing that’s interesting that I’ve you is I’m not sure how to even measure it right now that we’ve gone through Zoom and we’re doing digital platforms, there’s a real power of the democratization of it, right. That everybody’s kind of got the same access. We everybody is from the chest up. Right. Like, that’s kind of our view of the world.

But it also takes away things. Because if I were to stand next to you, Chris, I happen to know that you’re a rather tall gentleman. So but you and I looked like we’re about the same height. In fact, I’m a couple inches taller than you on camera. But that doesn’t come through when we’re digital. Right. And one of the fellows I work with, I worked with him for four months through this experience, and I helped him with onboarding things.

And then they showed I saw his picture on LinkedIn and it was the first time I’d ever seen him from the above or below the shoulders. And he mentioned that he was a veteran. And then I found out that he had lost his legs from the middle of his thigh down in in battle. And like that, I don’t know that it’s like plus or minus that that wasn’t discovered. But that’s a very unique and distinct thing that he and I actually had great conversation.

But after the fact. But like, I never would have found that out until I because I only see him from the shoulders up like that. Just it’s a very weird experience now, like especially students. Same thing is like we probably open up opportunity with students, which is positive, but then we take away some of that uniqueness that we can really, like, bring in like nurture and bring into every year as they go through the learning journey.

And I think, as you said, it’s just a it’s a very small glimpse into the world when you’re only doing a zoom as you might, I’m six, seven. I don’t think anybody on this would have any idea that our idea is like there are things that make people unique, that your story about the veteran is very touching and the idea of like that’s who it is. But students express themselves and so many unique ways. And I actually just ran into a former student who’s going to college and he was actually making money being a he was working for Dauda.

Or maybe he was just delivering pizzas for Malnati’s, we eat a lot of Malnati’s cheddar, that is my former coach Malnati, but he was we were talking it was funny because he came up and I came up to my he didn’t know it was me. Like, I thought it could be you because of the name. I’m like, he’s like, oh my. I’m like, how are you doing? In seventh grade he wear shorts every day.

Shorts. He wore the same athletic. It was either blue or black shorts every day, one or the other. And it was funny because he goes, how did that all the way through high school I was like, I’m like, well now you’re pants. It’s like now I’m an adult. And I was laughing because it was like such a small, unique moment. Right. But it was like that perception was like that’s what he wore. There are other people like, you know, I had students who would love to draw one of the things I did for my.

From my classroom was I actually painted my desks with whiteboard paint one year because I really believe that, like doodling and drawing and I had a couple students who. They just would draw the most amazing they just were amazing artists, and it was like I would never have noticed that if were on a zoom, right. Like I would I would never have caught what I’m doing, you know, drawing down here, doing. And it’s like those are the connections that really can unlock that next level.

And I feel like I’m a broken record here, but that’s really how you can. Pushed through the difficulty that can happen, the obstacles, the Blocher’s, you can push through that when you get to know somebody.

And really this is why, like I said, I, I when I saw you come up as a guest, I thought, this is it. You can I’m passionate about the potential for technology to affect human life in some small way every day. Right. That’s I do mentoring. I do lots of things. And I’m using, you know, tech where possible to augment that. And the fact that you’ve literally said I’m going to throw we’re going to throw this awful K-12 experience towards this and measure effectively to empower kids and empower education, then this is something that it’s a long tale to write as a founder.

Sometimes this is not a quick win. So for a lot of folks that are looking like every founder story doesn’t have to be the hockey stick of, you know, I grabbed crabbiness some seed and jumped into a serious AI and I went to 10 million. And we’re like, I wish we can affect human lives in incredible ways by doing this stuff. And this is where technology is such a such an enabler. And I really applaud what you’re doing.

No, I appreciate it. It’s definitely it was hard to leave the classroom, but I definitely do feel like I’m still having an impact on helping teachers do. They’re the most amazing job. I just have so much admiration and and. Just praise for them for what they do on a daily basis, and same with parasite families. I like to say families who are helping with kids are just they’re doing the most difficult task. I’m often at wit’s end with my four, but.

Well, that’s and it’s that’s the thing is we no one’s perfect all the time. Right. And that’s why we can use these things to, like you said, every every kid, every student, every teacher, principal, character, anybody who’s involved in the educational system, they are they can hit those moments. We’re like we’re going to be a little different for the next couple of days because something happened. And the fact that you can take that and sort of bring it through the experience and then because sometimes it’s longer form, right?

Death in the family, you discover something about about a child that’s very positive. That was kind of a hidden treat. And now you can bring that to that next level for them to help them on either side of how it goes. One thing that’s interesting and I know is, of course, you’ve got the the the privacy badges. Like, we didn’t go deep into this and we don’t have to necessarily, but like the data that you’ve got to gather.

I’m curious, Chris, was there any resistance challenges around the fact that you have to be able to collect a certain amount of of potentially personal data as part of this process?

Yeah, so one of the things that was interesting about the whole what data are we going to collect? That’s where, you know, to our previous point in the conversation, that’s where the districts are really deciding. And it’s not our data and it’s really the district’s data and it’s being collected somewhere. So why wouldn’t we collect it in a single place and by collecting stuff that’s already been collected? We haven’t had that. That obstacle has not been as high.

It’s like, why are you collecting this? Well, you already were collecting it. Now we’re going to put it into a place that’s more visible and more transparent. So that’s been helpful. But it does get in conversations. There’s some data that people don’t want to put into because we do believe in. And when I say visibility, it’s visibility to people who have permission to see it. So it’s not just like everyone in the world can see it, but there is this idea of like.

It starts the conversation that’s really important, one of the mistakes I made was I thought everybody would want to be very transparent. I think that one of the things that really can unlock real growth is getting everybody on the same page with the same information. But I think there is. A process to get there. They want to start and say, let’s start with this, let’s problem solve that amount of data. Now let’s get to the next level.

And so we have districts who’ve been with us for several years. They’ve unlocked so much through the time. But it’s also something that’s a progression. You don’t want to just overflow people with like reams and reams of data. So that’s been a conversation. What’s going to be helpful? What’s going to help you problem solve? And we can grow with you. We can grow with you and help you achieve what you want to do.

It’s it is the the good thing is at this point in sort of society’s understanding, I think we’ve like you said, this is data that’s being collected elsewhere anyways. We’re just bringing it and and looking for signals within it to get positive benefit. So I think especially at this range, you know, K to 12 is such an ideal spot where so much growth and learning can happen, the more we can do to speed and empower that. I think very rare cases where people wouldn’t want to know that their data is being held somewhere.

Like you said, it’s it’s not that it’s not being held anywhere. It’s always been somewhere.

And we put we we take it we have we’re part of the data privacy pledges and we would take that very seriously. We want to treat data with the utmost respect and we try to do we try to be on the cutting edge of everything to make it as secure as possible.

Well, you’re on the cutting edge of something fantastic, Chris, it’s been a real pleasure to share time with you and for folks, of course, we’ll have links in the show notes if they want to find out more. So Otus’s ot us dot com. And if anybody wants to reach out to you directly, Chris, and have a chat, what’s the best way that they could do that?

LinkedIn is probably the best way I’m on LinkedIn. Also, my email is pretty easy to figure out. It’s Chris Chris at Otus dot com and I definitely welcome the opportunity to continue learning and appreciate the conversation today. Eric, it’s been absolutely wonderful. You have a terrific podcast. I’ve been lucky enough to subscribe in preparation for this, and you do it well.

Thank you very much. I appreciate that. There you go, folks. This is it. You just learn some incredible lessons, Chris. It’s been a real pleasure.

Thank you very much.

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Check out Vcinity here: https://vcinity.io 

Follow Noemi on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/greyzdn

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Sponsored by our friends at Veeam Software! Make sure to click here and get the latest and greatest data protection platform for everything from containers to your cloud!

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Michelle Seiler Tucker is a #1 bestselling author and leading authority on buying, selling, fixing, and growing businesses.  Michelle joined forces on her new book, Exit Rich, with Sharon Lechter, finance expert and co-author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, to create a must-have guide for all business owners – whether they’re gearing up to sell a business now or just starting to build out their company – to sell for huge profits in the future.

We explore tons of solid lessons in buidling and growing a successful business, the reasons the market data you think you know are wrong, and so much that is needed as real truths in business for startups and major organizations everywhere. Thank you Michelle for sharing so much great info! 

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Follow Michell on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MSeilerTucker 

Check out Michelle’s website for more info here:  https://seilertucker.com

TRANSCRIPT – Powered by HappyScribe

You’ve brought a lot of great information to the market. You’ve got a recent book called Exit Rich. We got a lot of stuff we’ll talk about. So with that, Michelle, do you want to give yourself a quick a quick bio to folks that are brand new to you? And then we’ll talk about the book and in your background, what brought you to write it?


All right, so I’m not sure what you want me to say on my M&A mergers and acquisitions, Michelle Seiler-Tucker been in business for best selling companies a little over 20 years. I personally sell 500 businesses. My team has.

So my myself and my team have sort of a thousand companies and we’ve done thousands upon thousands of valuations. I also specialize in buying, selling, fixing, growing companies. So I’ll buy businesses, flip them. I partner with business owners, investing my time, energy effort and capital and resources to put business owners on a bill to sell program. And like I said, what we really specialize in doing is fixing businesses because eight out of 10 businesses will sell, according to Steve Forbes.

And so we fix businesses, we grow them. We put them on a bill to sell model and we merge businesses and sell businesses.

So that’s what we do at any given time. On five to 10 businesses, I’m actually building to sell.

Now, that obviously has come from you’ve effectively built a strong system around what it is you need to do to be successful in this.

I’m curious, Michelle, what was the background that brought you to to taking this on as a as a task in your first time show? And I forgot to mention, I’m an author of three books.

That’s right. Yeah. Not just one book. Of course, it’s a rich the most is one we’ll talk about, but we’ll talk about the others as well. You’ve got it. You’re very prolific. What brought you into being in the business of buying business and mergers and acquisitions? Michelle.

So I’ve always been an entrepreneur of all many different companies, even from a very young age. And I did go into franchise sales, franchise development and franchise consulting and sold hundreds and hundreds of franchises.

But I kept having lots of buyers ask me for existing businesses and how many existing businesses, because I was selling new franchises and I was actually partners in different franchise laws and equity partner. Then I decided, you know, there’s so many buyers out here for good existing businesses versus new startup franchises that I should start my mergers and acquisitions firm. And that’s really how I got started.

Now, the you talked about being an early entrepreneur, what actually gave you the the entrepreneurial bug? Was it because I’m imagining you? Probably that’s something we we develop, but we learn about often quite early in our lives.

Yeah. I don’t say there’s anything that gave me I didn’t really grow up in a family of entrepreneurs. My dad had a couple of businesses. He wasn’t really I wouldn’t say he was very successful, but he had a few businesses. Other than that, I didn’t really grow up with entrepreneurs.

I just knew from early on that I didn’t like to be told what to do and I want to do my own thing, march to the beat of my own drum. And I just knew I always knew I wanted to be my own boss, I guess.

Yeah. My favorite thing is founders often described themselves as unemployable just because it’s like they they know what they want to achieve and they certainly are. They can’t take direction in order to get to it. So, yeah, I mean, we still got to be employed by our clients, right? Our clients. Employers don’t we don’t listen to our clients and don’t follow our client’s instructions. Sometimes we can become unemployed very easily. So rather, you want to be employed or be told what to do.

Even if you own your own boss, you still are answering to somebody.

Now, when you were working through in the franchise area, you know, which is developed on the idea of using a systematic approach. When did when did you sort of see that as an opportunity to go outside and bring that systematic approach than to, as you said, like existing businesses? And I’m curious that that first one or the first few that you you decided to take on.

What I’m sorry, what systematic approach are you referring to, or just like when do you when did you see how you could take the practices that you had learned from working in the franchise and then bring this that sort of those methodologies to an existing business?

Yeah, so it’s extremely different. And if you’re not familiar with it or most people aren’t, it’s very different. I mean, becoming a partner with a new franchise or a franchise or and doing a franchise sales franchise development, franchise consulting is extremely different than selling existing businesses and fixing and growing and going to sell existing businesses. There’s really very little similarity. The only similarity is maybe in the existing franchises or because existing franchises are really has to operate on what I call the six P’s, the six P’s that we talk about in my book, Exit Reg, if they don’t build a vault, a solid foundation of solid infrastructure on the six PS, they’re not going to they’re not going to be sustainable.

They’re not going to be able to scale. They’re not going to be able to stay in business for very long. So there are some similarities there. As far as the main franchise corporation, as far as selling new franchises, new franchises is completely different than selling existing businesses is really zero similarities because for a new franchise, for new franchise, we’re looking for the franchisee or qualifying the franchisee in a financial capacity and our skill sets. We need to do that with existing businesses.

You qualify buyers on their financial capacity and their skill sets. But with a new franchise, we’re also really strongly looking at demographics and what we should place. This new franchise, you know, where they want strip mall location, we should put it in, you know, and then we’re helping them hire their people and we’re hiring. We’re helping them really based our business and start their business on what I call the Steve six PS with an existing business that we have the location already have the people in place.

Right. They already have and are operating on many of the six figures, maybe not all, but some of them. So there are some similarities, like I said, in a franchise or type of it. But as far as our new franchises, compared to existing businesses, it’s completely different.

When you saw the and the opportunity to affect somebodies growth and, you know, help, as you said, like to build towards sale, you know what what was what’s exciting to you about seeing that? You know, obviously there’s a there’s both a business and a people impact. I mean, I’d love to hear, you know, what what drew you to be able to bring people through that journey to prepare them for sale?

You mean for existing or for different existing? What prepared me, I think it’s already many different companies in many different verticals sitting behind a desk knowing what works, what doesn’t, you know, really figuring out. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the six PS or the six PS and they they you know, it’s a foundation that you really need in every vertical regardless. And I think that’s kind of what prepared me to seeing what works, what doesn’t work.

And, you know, most business owners, a lot of business owners are not sellable. Like I said before, 80 percent of businesses don’t sell. And the reasons for those are all similar. It’s not necessarily make the same mistakes over and over and over again.

And so that’s, you know, spending 20, 20 plus years in the trenches is selling franchises and then selling businesses.

I think all of that is what prepared me, not to mention my own company is that I’ve done I’ve operated.

And that’s the the interesting thing. As you said, a lot of it’s repeatable things that you see.

And but for those business builders and owners, I think the tough part is they’re so they’re they’re very sort of myopic in their view. They can’t see outside of their own set of of running the organization. It’s probably and this is why they need, you know, you to come in and say, look, I’m I’m looking into what you’re doing and I’ve seen this play out and it’s not going to play out well. Right.

What’s the what’s the reception when you begin to consult through that process and have to kind of show people the works of the challenges that they’re facing?

So some are open to change and some are not. I always say you can only grow the business as much as you can grow the owner. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the show. Marcus Lemonis The profits on CNBC, but he gives them clear instructions of what to do and what to change, and they all push back. I don’t think anybody just takes it and does it. Nobody really follows his lead and his instructions, even though he’s really clearly the expert.

And same thing with me. I’m clearly an expert at what I do, you know. So, yeah, we get a lot of pushback because, again, they’re entrepreneurs. They don’t want to be told what to do. They don’t want to answer to anybody and, you know, like us. And it’s tough because you’re right. I mean, they don’t see things when you’re in your fog, it’s foggy and you really need an outsider’s perspective, you know, to to help really read the warning signs and keep you out of the danger zone.

But business owners have to be willing to listen. They have to be willing to, you know, get advice from experts, somebody who’s been on the road before.

And they have to be willing to to change and make change. And some are. Some aren’t. You know, I’ve I’ve sat in meetings and told business owners, don’t tell your employees that you’re selling your business, and the next thing to do is turn around, tell their employees. And then I wonder why 50 percent of the workforce quit sooner.

So it’s just.

Is it just business owners want to do things their own way, so it’s really our job to to try to get the business owners to understand that this is for your own good. This is for your protection. This is to help protect your company and help maximize your value. And that’s what we do. You know, we we don’t go in and force things. We do it from a educational perspective versus just trying to slam something down their throat.

And luckily, you’ve got the believability because you’ve got proof in execution, right, and I think that will hope that that helps those those founders to at least trust.

But like you said, there’s a there’s the psychology of the founder.

They’re there.

They’re pretty sure they’ve got the right idea in the market.

Just isn’t ready versus.

Yeah, maybe you need to meet in the middle with the markets. Right?

I mean, put yourself in their shoes. You know, if you’re running your business and the day to day doing all this stuff and somebody comes out and says, you’re doing everything wrong, the first thing you’re going to do is push back. That’s right.

So you don’t want to go in there pushing because then you’re going to automatically get pushed back.

So you want to really go in there and and look at all the things that they’re doing. Right. And highlight all the things that they’re doing right. And then come in and bring in the areas of opportunity to where they can really affect change and growth.

When you raised it earlier already, you talked about it like we have to listen to our clients and ultimately our customers, right. And it’s that is something that quite often it’s also it’s a dichotomy of the founder that they have to be very like they have to be aiming towards a vision that strong, you know, a mission that’s that’s big quite often. And it’s a weird thing of like they have to listen to the market, but they also have to create a market sometimes.

So when when you’re working with founders, like, how do you kind of merge the reality of the market that they’re facing and yet help them to make maintain their original vision? Is and or is it possible? I’m just curious in in how that’s played out in some of the examples you’ve gone through.

How do I help? I’m trying to understand your question.


So like when because like a founders vision is often built on like we are preparing the world for what it doesn’t know it needs, like they did when he came back to Apple.

Right. But it’s a tough thing when you have to they have to survive in order to execute that vision. And how do you bring the reality of market economics and survival to still staying on the path to executing those big visions?

Well, you know, I tell you, I don’t know how much research you’ve done on the business landscape in the United States, and I think I’m going to take a few minutes to educate. But when I wrote my very first book, Sell Your Business, for what it’s worth in 2013 and did the research back then. Ninety five percent of all startups from one to five years will go out of business. Right. Right. So when I wrote Exit Rich in twenty nineteen, twenty twenty before the pandemic occurred and did the exact same research, I learned the business landscape has actually flip flopped.

It’s only 30 percent now of startups that will go out of business. Those one to five years are not at great risk anymore. Only 30 percent, which is good news to Startup Nation. However. On a twenty seven point six million companies, those businesses have been in business ten years or longer. Seventy seven zero percent will go out of business.

It used to be, if you’re in business five, 10, 15, 20 years, you’re in business for the long haul. Not anymore.

The longer you’re in business, the more you’re at risk of going out of business. Now, you’ve heard about the big public companies, Toys R US being in business. Seventy five years goes out of business.

Steinmark, been in business forever, goes out of business. Pier one, Montgomery Wards is in trouble. J.C. Penney’s is in trouble. Jeanne-Marie goes out of business. Godiva chocolate closes down fifteen hundred locations. GNC closes down nine hundred locations. You know, Blockbuster went out of business because I saw Netflix. I saw the writing on the wall that opportunity by Netflix. And they did nothing, nothing at all and end up going out of business.

That’s the big public companies.

What you’re not hearing about, all because the media doesn’t talk about it. All the private companies on every street corner, in every town, in every state across our great nation, these business owners are all going out of business. They’re exiting poor, not rich. Like my book says, they’re selling for pennies on the dollar. They’re closing our business and many of them are filing bankruptcy. And they’re losing not just our business assets, but the person wants us to because most business owners pierce that corporate bell.

So why is that? Why is that? Well, I’ll tell you why that is the number one reason why the business landscape has changed and flip flopped before the pandemic is because business owners stopped doing one thing. They stopped doing a lot of things.

But the biggest thing is lack of aim.

Aim is always innovate and market, always innovate and market. And many of these business owners get stuck and their ideas of the way they started their business. And they want to do things the way they’ve always done them. You’re either growing or dying. There is no in between growing or dying like Blockbuster did nothing different. Toys R US did nothing different in seventy five years. So business owners have to continue to innovate. If you don’t innovate, you will die.

If you don’t innovate and market, you will die. So to answer your question, I educate business owners on, OK, this is how you started your business. This is the basis of your innovation, but you haven’t done anything new in 20 years.

And here’s the bottom line.

Consumers don’t purchase products and services the way they used to. Whoever makes it easier for the consumer to do business with is a company that’s going to win.

Amazon is winning because Amazon.

Amazon doesn’t really innovate. Think about it, what does Amazon do they make it so easy for the consumer to purchase products, you can practically buy anything, including a horse, and have it delivered to your house in two days.

So not only do you have to innovate, you have to go back to the consumer and ask the consumer, what do you need? What do you want? How can I make it easier for you to do business with our company? Business owners stop innovating, they stop marketing, and most importantly, they stop asking the customer, the client, the consumer, what do you need? What do you want? Or be preemptive and figure out what they want, what they need, like Steve Jobs did.

Here’s the other thing. If you’ve been in business 20, 30, 40 years, your customers are probably aging out, right? You’ve done nothing new and nothing innovative in which to keep those consumers doing business with you.

But more importantly than that, going after the other generations, Generation X millennials.

Right, yeah, now this is interesting and like the statistics you talked about, like there’s a definite a total inversion and unfortunately people are still hung on the metrics they remember they know the stats of yet 95 percent plus of startups will fail. We still quote those numbers.

So it’s it’s wrong, right?

This is this is the horrifying thing about, you know, in the same way people always say you never get fired for buying IBM. I know 11 people that have been fired for buying IBM. It’s because in the end, the week we take this kind of like withI sort of stat that we can have and it outlives its reality, so. What’s missing, Michelle, because you’re you’re in front of the stuff all the time, like how is the how is the market and definitely the media, you know, not grabbing on to this story and talking about it because it’s a huge opportunity for folks to get started.

And that’s what’s so shocking to me, too. I’ve had this conversation with my publicist. Why isn’t the media talking about this job? And he’s like, because it’s not big news. Toys R US is big news.

Kmart goes out of business.

Big news, Godiva closing everything on location is big news. But the private company now has one location that’s been in business for 20 years. Who cares? Media doesn’t care. It’s not big news for them. And so nobody’s really talking about this stuff. That’s why I wrote Exit Rich. That’s why I wanted to start the conversation.

That’s why I wanted to really help as many people as I can. You know, I’ve been on over to on a podcast in the last month or two so that I can get the message out there that so many businesses are failing. And these are the reasons are valid. I mean, small businesses, the backbone of our economy. There’s thirty point two million businesses in the United States employing over half the US workforce. If we lose small business in the United States, we lose jobs, we lose jobs, lose spending power.

You’re spending power. More businesses shut down. It’s a domino effect. You lose even more jobs.

So if we don’t get behind small business, help small business owners, help entrepreneurs, stay successful, build a sustainable business that’s scalable, that is sellable, one day you’re going to have more and more and more bankruptcies, I mean, over more bankruptcies and twenty nineteen even before the pandemic than in any other year.

Well, and that’s that’s always the the interesting thing, and of course, through the course of the pandemic, the world has been shaken up and and it’s hard for us to measure, you know, when the effects will be felt. But this is an, again, interesting that you brought up. Right. Like the bankruptcy said, ridden, but had risen to incredible levels, pre pandemic. So this was already in play.

And people don’t see that.

They just look and say, oh, well, of course, bankruptcy went up.

We’ve been in a global pandemic like, no, no.

This was the the writing was already on the wall.

Yeah. All these statistics have, according to you, is right before a pandemic is even more gloom and doom now. But I mean, you do have more and more businesses have started up in twenty, twenty than any year before.

And some of these startups are really doing well. And like I said, startups only have a 30 percent risk of going out of business. Now, the big difference between startups now and startups before the pandemic are a lot of these entrepreneurs are solving problems.

And they’re not just opening up another coffee shop on a block where you already got six coffee shops or another ice cream ice cream store on a street when you already got 10 other ice cream stores.

They’re actually solving problems or doing online, you know, open up e-commerce businesses, manufacturing, online businesses.

You know, they’re really solving problems. And that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. It’s not just about over another ice cream store and cannibalize in the marketplace. It’s about going out and figuring out what the problem is and then coming up with a solution. That’s what entrepreneurial ism is all about.

It if you look at today, you know, the the the the needs to build a start up and sort of the the capital impact of so different than than they were when, like a 10 year old business, even especially 20 year old business. Right. To to build a company today is, you know, an online process. And, you know, it’s you know, how exciting is it to like what we’ve got ahead of us right now, Michelle?

Like, you can just you can come up with an idea, you can build a business and you can be online before the day is done. Yeah, it’s so exciting because, you know, when I started, gosh, when an online bubble start, what year was that?

The first one. Right. The two thousand and one dotcom one.

Yeah. Yeah. Nowadays is so much easier to start a business. I was talking to a gentleman in Australia yesterday. I was actually on his podcast and he’s like, oh, it’s so easy to start a business. I think he’s got like one hundred online businesses and it really costs you nothing.

And you don’t necessarily have to have employees or assets or inventory. I mean, you can pretty much start an online business without investing too much and be really successful. Now, turning around and trying to sell that online business might be another thing. If you don’t have the solid infrastructure and you don’t have the business built on what I call the six PS, then you might not be able to maximize value. But anybody really. There’s not anybody. Let me not say anybody any you know, somebody who has that entrepreneurial spirit, really, it’s much easier now to start a business than it’s ever been before.

And I think, you know, again, the bottom line is look around us, figure there’s opportunity everywhere, you know? But unfortunately, there’s also people walking around like zombies that they’re not really, you know, conscious and not really looking at things and and thinking about things about what can I do, how can I solve this problem?

And some of the best entrepreneurs in the world are the ones who solve the biggest problems.

And entrepreneurship breeds entrepreneurship, like, you know, I have a coffee shop store, right leg, an online coffee company that I built on Shopify. So because you.

Yeah, because so because the people who built Shopify solved a problem that needed to be solved. And as a result, it allows me to solve a problem that needs to be solved. Right. And and like I somebody wrote a tweet the other day and it was it’s it was unfortunate the way that the response was. They said, look, you can start a business today for under 500 dollars like that. And it’s a wondrous time to be able to do this.

And a lot of people like replied back in a really negative sort of sense of like, this is not true. You know, I’m like and I I didn’t even want to get in the conversation like, no, I legitimately started a business for seventy dollars and it has immediately become profitable. So it’s and it is totally possible to do this stuff, which is why I’m excited. But I’m curious on your thought, Michelle. Where do we need to bring this, like, is this something that we’re missing in education, like in like getting people to recognize that this is a new way of building society and, like, opportunity?

Yeah, I want to address up to two ways. I’ve had many of these online companies come to me.

One was a coffee company and not yours.

And now they’re not for sale yet.

But the problem is with some of these online, a lot of these online businesses is they don’t have any infrastructure.

They don’t have any people, you know, and if you go to my six PS, which I think we should, that’s in my book and to educate your listeners, you know, the number one is people.

And this this coffee company and people that have subcontractors and they didn’t want to let their subcontractors, independent contractors, I’m sorry, independent contractors go along with the business because I want to keep those independent contractors for the next on line business.

So that’s a problem when you’re building a business, any business, whether it’s online sales, business, brick and mortar, you got to have an infrastructure if you don’t build it with an infrastructure. Number one, how sustainable are you really going to be? And can you scale? And more importantly, can you sell and maximize value?

Yes, maybe you can sell to somebody else who wants an online business and are going to work that business as their job. But you’re never really going to be able to maximize value because you don’t have people you don’t really have the infrastructure of what a business really operates upon. And so you’re really never going to maximize value. So all businesses SACE online, brick and mortar, all businesses need to really follow the infrastructure that I talk about in my book, Rich.

That, to answer your question is where do we educate these people?

I think it starts in school.

You know, it needs to start in school. I’m educating my daughter. You know that you want to make money. You don’t just go work for money. Let’s get creative. Let’s get entrepreneurial. That entrepreneurial spirit. What can you do? Well, you got all these toys sitting in the attic. Why don’t we box up those toys and sell them?

Yeah, we can sell them or, you know, we can donate them. But anyway, we really got to get our kids thinking about entrepreneurship early on. And I’m not sure if I’m answering your question, but, you know, I’m actually interviewing Indoctrinated Cobain later today. And he is president of Lazy Boy, I think Panera Bread Company and about a bunch of other companies. And he’s also president, my high point university. And the Virginia campaign has probably got one of the only schools that I feel really teaches entrepreneurship, has business, has classes where they teach you how to go out there and start a business by business.

You know, what business ownership, what business entrepreneurship is all about how to go out and solve problems. And I think it just starts as our kids are little to start teaching them. Kind of like Richard I bought out by Robert Kazuki, you know, just really teaching our kids to think differently. It’s all about really thinking differently.

Well, and even the the opportunity today, like you talked about before, like this is this is an incredible world that we can do things in a different way, even if we look at some of the sort of the even rich dad, poor dad as example, effectively needs a new addition because the world has adjusted. Right. There’s other folks that are, like we call it, the new rich writers. Yeah, it’s we didn’t hear there was no Bitcoin back there.

That’s right. Russia for Florida was right. And, you know, I’m so fortunate that Sharon Lechter, who coauthored which Jeb fought out with Robert Kiyosaki as my coauthor for my book, Exit Rich, because Sharon Lectors, a New York Times best selling author, five times from a shepherd, plus a CPA financial literacy expert and adviser to many different presidents.

And she teaches financial literacy as well. But, yeah, they need another version because there’s there was no online back then. Know there was no Bitcoin back then.

There there were there were not a lot of things. It’s so much easier now, I believe, to become an entrepreneur than ever before.

And even if we look at it like great books, like Built to Last, which were used as effectively like a tome of describing the potential for for taking on a blue ocean strategy in an opportunity. Well, if you look at almost every one of those stories effectively turned over and they’ve actually shed that portion of the business in order to survive. So that built to last wasn’t built to last because the world adjusted, you know, no offense to course, Jim Collins and the folks that did it, it was at a point in time, if you take the context, it was right.

But we have to adjust context to availability of the world today. Right. Right.

So let’s you talked about the the the peace, right, so having six method people is number one, if you don’t mind, Michel, let’s kind of brush through what the what the six message.

And I spent a little bit of time on people because this is where a lot of e commerce businesses, online companies, are getting it wrong. You know, and you got to you don’t look, you don’t build a business, you build people and people build a business. Right.

If you want a business that’s going to be sustainable, scalable and one day sellable, you do have to have the people in your organization. And a lot of online businesses have independent contractors, but they love their independent contractors, so they want to keep up its makeup. So the next new, you know, business that they’re building.

So you really have to have that people component. You always say that entrepreneurs. And that’s one reason, you know, that that coffee shop, they wanted a lot of money and the coffee business, not coffee shop, coffee business, they wanted a lot of money for it, but they had no solid infrastructure. And it’s only been in business for a few years. So there really wasn’t much history there. Does that make sense? Yeah, no.

We’re talking about how an exit, which is all about business as a sustainable business, as scalable so people is huge. You know, a lot of entrepreneurs, they want to do everything themselves. They want to control everything. And I always say you can’t grow unless you let go of the control. So entrepreneurs really need to focus on their strengths, how the weaknesses. But the biggest thing is put the right people in the right seats. And if you are building a business to sell and not just run your business to pocket as much money as you possibly can, then build that solid infrastructure and then the people you really need to ask the question who you know, who handles customer service, marketing, legal, accounting, manufacturing, distribution, environmental, etc.

. The list goes on and on.

The clue, Eric, is that you should never be next to the WHO because you really want to build the business without you. A lot of these online these online businesses, e-commerce businesses, they don’t have any people, right? They don’t. And that makes it very, very, very difficult. A harder to sell because the buyers who are going to pay the money that these e-commerce businesses want because they want a multiple of their EBITA, which is understandable, but but the buyers are not going to run that business.

So you have to have the people in place that been running the business are going to continue to run the business and you can’t just take your people with you and leave the business people because now you have no business. Does that make sense? Absolutely.

And it’s it’s I’m very close to this as I look at like, how do I build this for scale? And you can see how the trap is easy to fall into of like, look, I can just do more stuff and subcontract it out and I can hire people off up work. I can do whatever. Yeah, but that doesn’t build sustainability and it ultimately doesn’t build long term value in what like measurable, you know, sellable value even as measurable growth value.

It’s it’s it may look like it’s working because the graph seems to be going up into the right. But the moment you break the system, the moment you slow down or change. Everything can go in the wrong direction, right, and then let’s say you have independent contractors and subcontractors, Eric, and you’re paying them this, but then the buyer says, I really like the business. I like what you do, but we need to have employees.

Employees are going to cause this.

So that’s going to automatically subtract from Ebola, which is already differential taxes, depreciation and amortization. And that’s going to lower your sales price immediately because buyers pay a multiple of EBITA. So you really got I don’t care if it’s an online business. I don’t care what kind of business it is. You got to build the infrastructure, you know, and that’s why so many of these e-commerce businesses are not selling. Or if they are selling, we’re not selling for maximum value.

I could sell them for a lot more if I had a solid infrastructure in place.

That makes sense.

Absolutely now and this is a good lesson for folks, and I’m always amazed, too, when you look at the like you look at these different sized companies and different e-commerce businesses, you have to very much use that lens to look at how they grew to the point where they’re at today.

Because, you know, look, Facebook has grown with independent contractors and subcontractors actually giving Google has gone with independent contractors and subcontractors. You know, Facebook does have companies that they contract with that have the employees employ the employees, but they still have people, you know what I mean? And I still have a bunch of subcontractors and independent contractors that come and go. So any of these businesses you look at, they have a foundation, they have an infrastructure.

So people is number one.

Number two, because here’s the bottom line, too. If it’s just the owner, like in this coffee business that really was just the owner, they wanted to take everybody else with them, you know, and buyers and buyers don’t want a job. And so really, that really is a job. And many business owners, instead of creating a business, they’ve created a glorified job and wants to go to work at every day versus a business actually works for them.

So people’s number one product is number two.

So product is your industry, your product. It is your service. You have to ask, is my industry product service on the way up all the way out?

Meaning to. Do you have an Amazon at the prime of your game or do you have a blockbuster and you’re about to go bust? And so product is huge. You know, there’s a lot of industries that were dying before covid that are now crushing and vice versa, those industries before Kova that were killing it and dying.

So I always tell my clients to ask these three transformational questions during product because remember, 70 percent of businesses are going out of business, have to be in business 10 years because they stop innovating. In order to innovate under product, ask yourself these three questions from a one. What business are you in this in the 90s, is that some sense, what business, what we had and I said, what?

Booksellers will fulfill book orders. And then Amazon said, this is a question your own or your listeners, not your owners. Your listeners are asking, what is your core competency? What do we do really, really well, better than everybody else. What is there a USB or unique selling proposition? And Amazon said. We do fulfillment better than everybody else. So then the third obvious question is, what business should we be in? Should an Amazon said we need to be in a government business, not just for selling boats, were selling everything for everybody.

Now, Amazon is not really a huge, innovative company, are they? What have they made? What have they innovated?

It’s it’s there are things, but in effect, they’ve basically they just they took on processes that nobody else wanted to take on, processes that nobody else took took on. They figured out what they were really good at, which was fullfillment. They’re not out there making the widgets. They’re not manufacturing and widgets. They’re not creating, you know, the next the next best cell phone. They’re not out there creating.

They’re out there fulfilling what everybody else creates. Yes or no.

Right. Yeah.

You know, those transformational questions is really what transformed Amazon from a small bookseller to a multibillion dollar worldwide conglomerate that they are today. You know, my good friend Jeff Hoffman was standing in the airport line to try to to get his boarding pass so he could board his plane. This was decades ago. And he said he waited almost two hours to get to the agent to hand in this little, teeny thin piece of paper so he could get on the plane and just said, I just missed my plane, has handed me a piece of paper and Jeff went out and created the airport kiosk.

The kiosks approach your boarding passes so you don’t have to wait in line and miss your plane. That’s innovation. But as in the case of Amazon, you don’t always have to be the creator. You and now Amazon is the creative fulfillment, right, because they do it better than everybody else, but that’s what that’s what the essence is back in the 90s. What do we do so well is that we do that and that’s how they got so big.

So all business owners really should go back and ask themselves three questions. I don’t care what vertical you’re in, e-commerce businesses. You know, ask yourself, what business am I in, what I do really well, better than everybody else on my business, should we be? In some sense?

It does. It does. And then it’s interesting that they’re there. It always sounds simple, but it’s a very difficult, introspective thing for a business owner to do to really evaluate what’s the actual business where we’re in and what’s the thing that we can do. Right. And it really it really is. And a lot of times, Eric, you have to have an outsider’s perspective, because, like I said, when you’re in your fog, it’s foggy.

And a lot of business owners are transactional versus transformational. They’re are working in the business in the day to day, putting out fires constantly that they don’t really have time to sit there and think about what this is. I am what I do really, really well. And did you ever watch your movie, The Founder, based upon the McDonald’s?

Yes. Yeah, yeah. It was Michael. Michael Keaton was the star that we had. Really, really good. Good movie.

You remember when Michael Caine and Ray Kroc was in the bank trying to borrow money? Because he had already taken a mortgage out on his personal house, right?

He wasn’t making any money.

And it makes you like I’m like a legend. More money. He walks out and then a gentleman that followed him out of his name, he said, What business are you in?

And I said, I’m in the restaurant business right now. All right. What business are you? And he finally said, you need to be in the real estate business. You are not in the restaurant business, not in a hamburger business. You have to be in a real estate business. You have to buy the land, build the buildings, listen to the franchisees or franchisees are not compliant. You avoid our franchise agreement and you get another franchisee in there.

And then these franchisees are paying you rent. Those questions right there is what got Ray Kroc to have the leverage over the McDonald brothers to basically take the company away from them. But is the reason why McDonald’s is the largest holding company, real estate holding company in the world? So a lot of times you get a very a very valid point, Eric, is that. It’s hard for a business owner to have the infrastructure to do that themselves. You’ve got to have an outsider’s perspective like Ray Kroc that require would have never figure that out on his own.

And the interesting thing, too, and we look like let’s take the the greater story out of it, but like in general, so the like that business effectively was became what McDonald’s was, not what it was built from because they couldn’t answer those three questions. I don’t think like they they didn’t have the vision to do this bigger thing versus now, Ray, through this also third party help was able to really see what the future of the growing business is, which is and it’s funny, like brothers, the two brothers did not want to let go of the control and will never grow without letting go of the control.

The reason is that they tried to have multiple locations, but they wanted to control everything and then they all fell apart. So they’re like, OK, we’re just going to focus on our one restaurant, but you got to let go of the control. You got to get good people. You got to get good integrators. You go back to the people. You don’t build the business. You know, people may the business right. Got the right people.


I can’t do it all by himself. Right. So the therapy is processes, and I can still use a founder movie based to illustrate processes, you know, because back in the 50s, most business owners get this wrong. Most business owners design the processes around their own agenda, not around the customer experience.

MacDonald brothers back in the 1950s said, We want to build a fast food restaurant. We want our processes to be centered around, be designed with the customer experience in mind. So do you remember when when the McDonald brothers went out to the empty tennis courts? That’s right. Employees to talk through it all on a tennis court. How their employees moving around, bumping into each other. One of the McDonald brothers was on a ladder, really orchestrating how they move and kept redesigning it until they really had a symphony of systems and processes designed with the customer experience in mind.

The customer experience the McDonald’s brothers came up with, as we want our customers to experience great tasting food.

That’s hot, fast, 30 seconds or less. Even of those processes were designed back in the 50s and tweaked along the way, you can eat at a McDonald’s anywhere in the world and really get the same experience. Yeah, right.

Have you ever dealt with a company? We have to talk to three people, four people, 10 people to tell them the exact same story of your problem to try to get some resolve. Banks are notorious for this. Pharmacies, retail, social media companies are notorious for this, that they are not designing the processes with the customer experience in mind. They’re designing customers to alienate US and business. And here’s the bottom line, if you don’t create raving fans, then your competition will.

And you’re not going to create raving fans by having broken processes not designed with the customer experience in mind, so processes must be designed with the customer experience in mind and must be productive, efficient. And they must be well documented policy and procedure menus, McDonald’s can fire somebody on the front line and hire somebody within 30 minutes, have them working because they have S.O.P checklist is easy to follow, understand and implement. So you’ve got to have this policy procedure manuals as a checklist, employee handbooks, non competes, you know, all the documentation.

You never sell the business with all this documentation. Plus you need it to scale. You’ve got to have these processes to scale. So the fafi and this is the highest value driver, Eric, so businesses have it even under a million dollars? Well, typically sell for one the four times multiple. Probably one to three, more like it, just as well over a million dollars in EBITA, which could go for four or five and up. However, the more proprietary assets you have, so the fourth is proprietary, the more proprietary assets you have, synergies you have, the more we can sell your company for a get you a much higher value.

There’s six pillars to proprietary. No one is branding the mobile brand and your company as and what I can sell it for as long as your brand is relevant in the mind of the consumers. Is Blockbuster relevant in the mind of consumers is anybody can pay money for blockbuster brand. Now, because they went bust, raising them, their most valuable brand in the world is, do you know, the biggest brand, the most valuable brand in the world is?

That’s a good question. I mean, it’s funny, I’m looking at a Nike square in the back, there’s an example of someone that jumps to mind. But I mean, they’re not wearing a top 10, but they’re not the most valuable. Yeah. Oh, boy, we’ve mentioned it several times on the show today.

Oh, my, it would be our friends at Amazon.

Apple. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I look at a MacBook and an iPhone and they all surrounded by Apple devices. They’re actually such a part of it. I wouldn’t think of going outside, but it’s funny that is that is hugely a brand impact, right?

It is. I mean, the brand alone is worth two hundred fifty five billion dollars billion. That’s just a brand. That’s not the assets. Demitri Cash. Well, real estate receivables, that’s just the brand alone. So build your brand. And then the other thing is trademarks. Trademark your company name. You know, trademark your slogan, your trademarked exit, rich.

Yeah, you know, trademark your podcast.

But here’s the big mistake the business owners make when trademarking. They go and they get a trademark for the state that they’re setting up the business up there in California. They start a business in California and get a California trademark, but then they go to GoDaddy. They make sure they get that dotcom, but they never check the federal database to make sure that that name is available. Right. And I’ve seen clients in business for years and all of a sudden receive assistance, this letter, and they have to stop using that company name.

And, you know, I’ve seen clients hiring attorneys with lots of money and ended up losing. So go spend fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars and protect your proprietary stuff. You know, and even products are not just your name and slogans and what’s unique to you, even products and have clients. His business for selling the 50 to 60 million dollar range. They have 12 different products. Each one has a different federal trademark.

Each one is exclusive to Wal-Mart, exclusive to Target, exclusive to different retail chains. So TJX will pay more money when buyers are five different types of buyers. When buyers look at buying businesses, they look at synergies. What synergies? It’s going to catapult my current business to the next level. They’re buying synergise. Patents are huge, if you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, every single shark always ask. Get a patent on that, do you have a patent pending?

Do you have a utility patent? In fact, offers are contingent upon patterns of business for 18 million dollars. And that business was was not really making money, but they had 18 hands on drugs or another one. That’s really big manufacturing contracts, distribution contracts. There’s another thing about e-commerce business.

It’s online businesses.

They don’t have people. Some of them have processes, it’s iffy. Most of them never, ever have contracts like coffee cup I was selling at a manufacturing company, no contracts as somebody else making their coffee. No contract.

You know, you really need those contracts. So you have protection. And the buyer buying the business knows that this manufacturing relationship can continue on. This distribution company can continue on. Does that make sense?

Drugs are huge. You know, vendor contracts, distribution, manufacturing, any type of exclusive contracts. Franchise owners who have franchise contracts are really valuable. Client contracts are extremely valuable because buyers want to make sure that there’s revenue coming into the business, especially the contracts. And e-commerce businesses are good at this, getting a subscription model for reoccurring revenue. And when you have reoccurring revenue, I will pay a higher multiple for subscription models. Here’s a caveat to contracts.

I have never met a business owner in over 20 years that actually has the transferability language in their contract that says this contract is transferable to the new entity.

Oh, OK.

And about ninety nine and about ninety ninety nine percent of all sales in the United States are asset sales, not stock sales. And so if your buyer refuses to do a stock sell and your and your clients refuse to do consent to transfer, your job can fall apart. So you need to make sure you have that transferability language. The other thing is database’s Facebook page, 19 billion dollars for WhatsApp and WhatsApp was hemorrhaging.

Yeah, they were not they were not profitable on that.

They are not profitable. And they were hemorrhaging, but they had a billion users. So they had a synergy that Facebook wanted to buy. Facebook knew they can monetize in order. Why that investment?

Celebrity endorsements are big. You know, if you look at rooms to go, who’s a celebrity there, Cindy Crawford. Have you ever seen her in any of the furniture company? No. And then we have a client who’s got products endorsed by Oprah. Well, Oprah is like the queen of everything.

So strategics, who have some more products, will pay more money for that Oprah relationship because, you know, it’s all about relationship capital because they want to get their products in front of Oprah. Same thing with radio personalities like Glenn Beck. Know the cake product show.

Yeah, these these celebrities and radio personalities can only endorse one vertical at a time. Otherwise they lose credibility. Jennifer Aniston’s face is all over Aveeno. You don’t see her face on any other skincare line, right? And then e-commerce businesses back to my e-commerce businesses, when they have the top positions on Wayfair, it’s Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Monan that shoots up in price because as prime real estate, the strategics want to get their products and those placements.

That makes sense.

Yeah, the new real estate is placement on page and in research results now instead of just physical location in the town.

Absolutely. Probably even more valuable than physical location in the town. That’s where that’s where consumers are shifting to, because most consumers, you know, because of Amazon, whoever makes it easier for the consumer to do business is it companies is going to want Amazon wins because they make it so easy. But the pandemic has also changed the way consumers purchase products and services now. Wal-Mart and Target did not have a membership in a program where you can order online and to deliver groceries to your doorstep is because Amazon acquired Whole Foods and Whole Foods has that program.

You know, the interesting thing, too, and like you talked about the you know this, every business is now a global business in effect. And what we try to be like those these brands are are no longer like the reach is not limited, but nor is the they have to effectively go beyond their streetcorner. You know, it’s it’s almost a responsibility as a business to be able to go, yeah, there is no limit anymore where you can do business.

The limit is right here in your mind.

FFP, I’m sorry, go ahead.

Yeah, no, sorry, I just realized I, I wanted to double check because I know we talked about so we’re five peas in.

And first of all, like I say, Michel, this is incredible.

Like, this is if anybody hasn’t already started writing this down, number one, they’re going to buy the book. And if they don’t, I’ll buy the bloody book for them. They need to write a fantastic book.

But like you are, you are sharing a ton of really, really strong lessons here. And I want to thank you as we’re going through this, because it’s it’s it’s a rare treat to have somebody that can really be, as you know, informed and share as much, even though, you know, obviously there’s a lot more that’s in the book than just simply listing out what we’re talking about here.

Right. Thank you, Eric. And so the fifth is patrons, patrons is your customer base. And most businesses follow the 80 20 rule where 80 percent of their business comes from 20 percent of their clients.

And you’ve got to be very careful on customer concentration. What you really want is customer diversification and e-commerce businesses get in trouble doing this as well on. Coffee company Dow is talking about ninety nine point nine percent of all the sales came from Amazon. What happens if the relationship with Amazon fails? Then they just lost their entire business, so it’s not just, you know, customers that you have customer concentration and it’s also the marketing channel that you’re using. And if all of your sales are through Amazon now, I know there’s a lot of Amazon sellers out there that only sell on Amazon.

And that’s OK, but it’s risky when I looks at that they’re going to want to mitigate the risk because what happens if Amazon decides? Not to do business with you, right, or Amazon decides to get in the business you’re in and effectively evacuate that channel for you now. Right, exactly.

So you should always be diversified in your client base and how you get clients. So if you’re getting all your clients from Amazon, I’d be very careful. You need to have multiple concurrent resources like your own website, you know, like maybe Etsy or something else. You have to have sufficient resources course being in the grocery store, et cetera. So anyway, this is customer concentration we want. So I’ll just give you a quick case study.

We had a business or manufacturing business we were selling that has 70 percent, 60, 47 percent of the revenue tied up in the BP contract. We appraise this company for nine point eight million.

We had over five hundred and fifty buyers.

We narrowed it down to 12, Alawi’s a lot of intense. Every single letter of intent had a condition in there that if you lose BP, then we’re not paying you. This isn’t this and that’s because we’re going to mitigate the risk.


However, we found a strategic that very similar products and services in a strategic. Didn’t care about the risk because the reward for them was far. Greater on the upside, because they’ve been trying to get their products and services into BP for decades and never could get their feet in Utah, it’s like, oh, this is perfect. We’re in there with this company we just acquired. Now we can get our other products and services in there.

Does that make sense?

Yeah, they were willing to pay 15 million for a company that was a price for nine point eight. Fifty million for 70 percent of the business, which is one hundred and twenty six percent more than that price price for the company for 70 percent. So we can sell a business with customer concentration. It just makes it much more difficult. We have to find a buyer of a needle in a haystack type of situation.

Yeah, that was a real unexpected value, but it’s an important one. It’s it’s hard to match those. But and also as well, like you talked about before, like the the outside view in is the only way in which they will discover that, because if they are simply looking at their own internal channel, that’s all they can be focused on. How do they possibly seek out a buyer who’s looking for a bidirectional access to the channel and sees a greater value than they even realize they’ve got?

So that’s and sometimes it doesn’t always work out. I think we had we had a media marketing company that were selling 10, 15 million range. They have five clients are only five, and they’re in the process. They lost two of the five. And the reason they have five is because of were casinos that cater to casinos and in marketing for the casinos.

It was so such a risky business because casinos will do the math. They bring on a new, you know, a new agent that makes the decisions and they will do the math and say, oh, we can do this in-house cheaper. And the marketing company. So they lost two clients out of the five. The revenues dropped in half or even have dropped in and they were no longer sellable. I ended up having to merge with another media and advertising marketing company.

So it doesn’t always work. How do you want to make sure you have customer diversification? And then the last piece, the most important thing, all entrepreneurs is profits. And I was like, Michelle, where do you put this last? The reason for profits last is because of that lack of profits is never the problem. Lack of profits is never the problem if you’re not making money. Lack of profits is not the problem.

It’s a symptom.

And the operating on one of the other types of clients that come the mail is that much of a profit problem. I’m like, no, you have a people problem or no, you have a process problem. You don’t have lack of profits is not a problem. It’s a symptom.

If you are running your business on all five PS, I can promise you you’re going to make money.

What’s that was a great example of never far from profit, they were as far from profit as you can get while still be considered in a business worth buying. But they had of the other five fees and majority of what was needed to bring value to their buyer. Right. That’s incredible.

That’s the sixth phrase. That’s your infrastructure. And you can see there’s infrastructure on the six fees. I can work for e-commerce businesses, right? Yeah.

Yeah. When it’s and it’s amazing. Like you said, it’s these practices apply to brick and mortar. They apply to e-commerce. They apply to locals to global site there.

It’s that’s right.

The methods play out and the importance is you have to just look at the overall methodology and make sure it all comes together. So like with that, I know, Michelle, we we’re coming up to time. And this has been fantastic. So Exit Rich is I highly recommend people people need to get this. If you’re at all involved in business, even if you’re not thinking today that you’re building towards exit, we have to understand we all are right.

The viability and sustainability is maybe your exit, maybe it’s your own personal exit. Are you creating something that’s sustainable to be worthwhile to the next person that’s going to take it over? Even if it’s not necessarily a sale, it could be the next CEO.

So we’ll have links to get get the book and Eric and I tell everybody the value that they get paid by the state.

Absolutely. That would be fantastic. Yeah.

And I’m sure your listeners want to hear about the extra gold nuggets, extra value we’re offering.

I like this even better.

So it’s so Rich launches in June towards the end of June. And Steve Forbes has endorsed the red state as a gold mine for entrepreneurs, as most entrepreneurs live way too much money on the table when they’re selling their business. Kevin Harington original Shark on Shark Tank wrote the foreword lectures my coauthor. So you don’t have to wait till June to read exit rate. You can go to exit. Which book?

Dotcom now for twenty four dollars and seventy nine cents, which is less than Amazon.

We will email you to digital download so you can start reading today. We will send the hardcover to your doorstep to anybody in the United States for no additional shipping cost.

We will give you a lifetime membership into the book club where there’s video content and made doing transformational questions and talking about strategies and techniques and doing deep dives in all these different things that I teach over the last 20 years, plus documents, documents to run a business necessary business. We have simple employee handbooks, not Kupets or charge licensing procedure manuals. We also have sample letter of intent. Purchase agreements, due diligence, checklist, closing documents, all of these are there not just for review, but you can download the templates and start using them.

If you want your attorney to try to recreate all these documents would cost you over thirty thousand dollars and all available to you just for buying the book at twenty four dollars and 79 cents.

Plus, we’ll give you a 30 day membership into Club CLS, which is an entrepreneur mastermind that we started to really help business owners build that sustainable, scalable and when already sellable business so they too can get rich. And that’s an rich book.

Dotcom, if there’s if you if you got twenty four, seventy nine to spend, which everybody does, then go, go there.

Yeah. Because if you’re going to McDonald’s save you save the burgers by the book.

Save the Quarter Pounder with cheese.

I can probably say I was lucky enough and thank you to your team actually sent a preview and I read it. It’s fantastically written, beautiful lessons. Like you said, you and Sharon did a great job and coauthoring this and like the book alone, well worth the value that that’s attached on that cover price. But the fact that you go far beyond it with what you’re giving and sharing, I really appreciate it. So, yeah, definitely folks do do go there and get the rich book.

This is this is a must have. And like I said, it’s it’s a manual that everybody doesn’t even realize they need until they start to read it. And don’t don’t wait until you’re looking to sell before you start to try and look backwards at what you needed to do along the way. It’s it’s like a manual for success.

So thank you for for bringing this to market.

Thank you. Thank you for having me. Eric has been an absolute pleasure. My main website, if anybody wants to contact me, Michell at SeilerTucker.com and then https://ExitRichBook.com.

Excellent. Yeah, I’ll make sure I got links to the show, notes. Michelle Seiler-Tucker, this has been an absolute pleasure and thank you so much. I appreciate it. And I wish you all the best. With the official launch in June. I’m looking forward to my hard copy cover arriving at my doorstep so I can put it on the bookshelf, but I’ll read it from end to end in the meantime anyways in advance, because it’s it’s an absolute must read for sure.

Thanks very much.

Thank you, Eric. It’s been a pleasure.