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Sponsored by the Shift Group – Shift Group is turning athletes into sales professionals. Is your company looking to hire driven, competitive former athletes? Shift Group not only offers a large pool of diverse sales candidates from entry level to leadership – they help early stage companies in developing their hiring strategy, interview process and build strong sales cultures that attract the best talent for early stage companies.
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JR Butler is the Founder and CEO of Shift Group. This is an episode filled with lessons on what it takes to commit to building yourself, your team, and your business. JR is an inspiration and I can’t wait to have him back on to dive into more of his story and the work he is doing with Shift Group.
Check out Shift Group at https://shiftgroup.io and big thanks to JR on the launch of our new partnership to help amplify what he and the Shift Group team are doing to help empower elite athletes with the tools to succeed in technology startups as growing sales leaders.
Make sure to check out our big announcement on the partnership with Shift Group too!
Transcript powered by Happy Scribe
Alright, everybody, welcome to the DiscoPosse podcast. My name is Eric Wright. I’m gonna be your host. And this is a particularly special episode because we get to welcome a brand new partner to the show. This is a brand new sponsorship and I’m so super proud and I wanted to make sure that I used the opportunity to share it within fact, the very guest who I’m hosting today was JR Butler, who is the CEO and founder of Shift Group. So without really leaking the whole story, it’s fantastic. No, seriously, it’s good. You’ve got to listen to this. JR is a really fantastic human. He and his team are doing really neat stuff around helping folks transition from elite sports into elite sales leadership, including setting them up with training and teaching them. It is amazing. So, hey, let’s just get right to the good stuff here because I want to say that this week’s episode of the DiscoPosse Podcast is brought to you by Shift Group. Shift Group is turning athletes into sales professionals. Is your company looking to hire driven, competitive former athletes or considering how to architect a go-to market that can scale efficiently and effectively?
Shift Group not only offers a large pool of diverse sales candidates from entry-level to leadership, but they help early-stage startup companies in developing their hiring strategy, interview process, and build strong sales cultures that attract the best talent for early-stage startups. Reach out to the Shift Group over at shiftgroup.io or drop an email right to JR. He’s JR@shiftgroup.io
They specialize in identifying the best talent in the market that works with you to create a culture of resiliency, focus, discipline, coachability, competitiveness, and work ethic. That’s cool. I’m a fan, definitely of what JR and the team are doing. And speaking of sponsors, of course, all of them, who would we be without supporting our amazing friends over at Veeam Software? If you want to check out everything you need for your data protection needs while you’re building your fantastic sales organization, make sure that you head on over to vee.am/discoposse. They’ve got a lot of amazing stuff coming up. They’ve got VeeamOn. They’ve got all sorts of live events that you’re going to be seeing the Veeam booth at. Do check it out. Go to vee.am/discoposse.
All right, now let’s get to the fun stuff. This is JR Butler of the Shift Group on the DiscoPosse podcast.
Hey, this is JR Butler. I’m the CEO and founder of Shift Group, and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.
I’m waiting for the day that we could put this together, JR. And life is happening fast in really interesting ways, but it’s like slow and fast. Thank you very much for jumping on because I’ve always thought there’s going to be a time when you and I could jump on mic together and really talk about the stuff that you’ve always done as like a practice and as methods that I’ve seen you put into play. And now to see that you went even further and now you’re building a business around it. So this is fantastic. So for folks that are new to you, JR, because I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bunch of time with you in my life. And if you want to give a quick bio and an intro, and then we’re going to jump in, we’re going to talk about the Shift group and what it’s all about.
Absolutely, Eric. I grew up in the Worcester, Massachusetts area. Grew up in athletics, played football, hockey, baseball, big hockey family. My father was a high school hockey coach for 30 years. So that was my destiny. I got to play in a hometown college, division one. Both my brothers played division one. And then I got right into tech right after school. Was lucky enough to grow up on the technology belt in Massachusetts. So I was surrounded by it and ended up at an EMC VMware cisco reseller right out of school. So most people start on the product side. I was lucky enough to start on the partner side and then spend about seven years there. And then like you, was lucky enough to come across a small little company in Boston called VM Turbo at the time.
It’s cool, I love it.
And I joined it as a sales rep for New England. And the rest is history. I was there for six years in change. Got to grow with the company. When I joined, it was less than 50 employees, I believe. We were in the Burlington office, and then I spent a lot of time running commercial teams. Then I was lucky enough to move into enterprise. And then my last role there, before I left, Eric, I was doing the strategy and operations gig, and then I got an opportunity to do even earlier stage company as a chief revenue officer for the last two years and change. So I got to partner with a technical founder and help him really shape his go-to-market, his messaging, his sales process, all the things that I really enjoy doing and helping them start to build a team. And then got inspiration to start Shift Group, which we can get into today. And that’s kind of where I’m at. We just officially launched the company last week. But we’ve been kind of doing some stuff in stealth. So we’ve got some really good success stories and testimonials. So we got to go to market with a lot of different wins.
And now we’re focused on what I’ve been focusing on my whole career, which is scaling the business. Now, the only difference now is it’s my business.
Congratulations. It’s earned and deserved the opportunity. And I also know that this is the start line of the marathon. People always say that when you hear funding announcements or people that are founding a company, people are like that’s awesome. Congratulations. And at the same time, I know, I know what it means. This is the hard yard start now. And in fact, they already started because the announcement is never the beginning of the work. It’s the beginning of the publicity that it’s on. And it’s impressive to watch the process that you build up. And it’s funny when I look at our own time that we shared together, you have a unique ability to deliver both on just, like, doing the thing, as well as building the process around doing the thing. And it’s rare. A lot of people are really like, they can go out, they can sell, they press flesh, they do their relationship sale. They can do a lot of those things. They know that experience, and they can do it every day. They grind it out, and they know that this quarter has got to be bigger than last quarter, and it’s a tough thing.
I got a massive respect for people that are in quota-carrying sales. But they often struggle with, like, you got to put the stuff in Salesforce. You got to build a team. You got to make sure you’re doing your look ahead. You got to make sure, like, all the stuff that you got to do, they almost like, that gets in the way of them doing what they’re doing sometimes. And you split that line. And then on the other side of it, too, you got the sales Ops and the process builders who are like, only the sales people would do what we asked them to do. We could get better visibility into future bookings. And you’re trying to build a business. So to split that line, it’s a real sort of unicorn type of rarity.
Yeah. I think a lot of people don’t realize that there is a difference between being in the business and being on the business. That’s kind of how I describe what you’re talking about. And I think it’s really critical to be able to do both, especially as a CEO, as a founder, like, especially when you’re small. Right. You are the face of the company in most cases, but you’re also the one that has to go and execute. So it’s something that I’ve always paid attention to, and I’m kind of building it in to my operational cadence, and I always have been able to do that where even as a sales rep, process was so critical for me and for me to be successful. And process is about your cadence, how you operate, your daily schedule. Maybe it comes from being an athlete my whole life, but the way that I’ve always kind of made sure to balance the two is by blocking off time for both. Right. You just have to make time to take a step back and think about strategy and think about process, but then you also have to make time to go out and execute it.
So that’s kind of how I’ve always done it in my head is by literally blocking time for both in my weekly, monthly, quarterly schedule. You know what I mean?
Well, now you get the interesting add on of being wholly and solely responsible for the outcome, in a sense. Right? The CEO is always the CRO at the beginning. And it’s an interesting mix. And I’ve worked like I’m an advisor to another startup and watching this thing where literally like, technical founder, two technical advisors, two developers, and going to market in really big, like B2B. But big B, like really big B sales. And it’s wild. It’s a very David versus Goliath. And this split of being a CEO, building strategy, building a product at the same time, being a technical founder and watching that, like, how do you go in and then pitch. But then build and then even just looking at raw sales, I learned from you – live the other side, get on the phone, figure out that I read Jeb Blunt and I followed these folks that are leaders. And I learned about golden hours and I learned about what it takes to make this machine work. And like you said, you just got to be fanatical. I don’t feel like working out today, but that ice is waiting. And if I don’t work out, then there’s no choice, right. It means that tomorrow is going to be a worse day. Today is a bad day, but tomorrow will be worse if I don’t do what I need to do today.
Absolutely. It can get hard because you want to be focused on the strategy and the vision. But the best way to build the strategy and the vision is like what you said, it’s going out and having those conversations, asking those questions. Not losing customers, but people telling you like, hey, this is interesting, but it’s not quite there yet. I’m not ready to invest with you as a customer. I think that’s where you learn the most. Even as a technical founder, I’ve always believed and I think we experienced it an amazing example at Turbo, where the best founders build companies to solve the problems that they faced. Right. Which is a great thing. But the challenge with that is sometimes that problem shows up in a different way to different people. So as a founder, when you’re building something to solve your own problem, you have to also be able to take a step back and figure out how other people view that problem. Right. And the best way to do that is conversations. And I think those founders that do that end up building amazing companies when they’re solving their own problem because they’re passionate about it, but also being self aware enough to understand, like, okay, how do other people think about this and how do they want to solve it and then building a product to kind of meet the market essentially, you know what I mean?
Yes, it’s a very interesting balance. The Innovator’s dilemma is one of those sort of off quoted things that this idea, they get sort of like locked into vision and forgetting to then take feedback. And that feedback loop of getting out, getting in conversations. And it’s a weird thing, too. You also have to create business. And I remember even someone you’ll know, of course, Schmuel Krieger, who’s the founder of one of the founding team at then VM Turbo and then Turbonomic. We’re at an event one time, and everybody from sales was coming back from it was like VM World or something. And they’re like, yeah, I just had a great conversation with this person. Yeah, we’re having really great conversations. Hey, how’s your day going? Yeah, we’re having really good conversation. He finally just goes, guys, time out, time out, time out. You don’t build a business on conversations. You build it on deals, stop having conversations. And it was this funny thing of like, the conversation isn’t the outcome, the business is the outcome. What did the conversation do to further your path towards that outcome? And sometimes we get lost. And now as a founder, you’ll be intimately aware of being able to put that into action.
And you got the skin in the game, which is a very important and respectful thing that you’re doing to make sure that you’re responsible for the outcome.
Yeah. A very smart guy once told me to build a great company. The vision has to be clear and the execution has to be obvious. Do you know who told me that, Eric? Hopefully you remember that conversation a few years ago. So, yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Conversations are critical, but what’s the outcome of that conversation and what is the next step? Right. That’s really what it comes down to in terms of getting to that kind of golden nugget of revenue is moving the ball forward in those conversations to the next step to an eventual, like, investment in your product. Right. And it happens in different ways at different companies. And I’m figuring that out at Shift Group. That’s what I’ve kind of done my whole career is figured out how do these conversations have to play out in order to get to the outcome that I want? And then you can start to shape the conversations, ask the right questions, and then position your solution to the problem the right way. And those conversations are important, but the next steps are the most important part of it, for sure.
Yeah. This is the interesting thing. We’ve sort of talked a bit about this idea of splitting the line between being in the business and being on the business. The idea of understanding the personality it takes to go out and be on the ice, out on the fields, wherever it is on the mountain, probably wearing my UBC shirt. My oldest daughter is at UBC, and she was eight in Canadian nationals for snowboard freestyle. So slope style rather. And watching that what it takes to make that happen and fitting it in when no one’s paying. You really just saying, like I care so much about this that I’m willing to throw myself on it. And so there’s this dedication that’s required in athletics. But then when you move over to sales, it’s like you start to see them align. And so let’s talk about Shift Group. What’s the founding premise and the vision that made you bring Shift Group to the market?
I’m sure a lot of founders say this, but I honestly believe, Eric, that this was my destiny to start this company. My entire first 23 years of my life was dedicated to athletics, mainly hockey, playing at the division one level. I wanted to play professional hockey. So everything I did in my entire life was about that, right? You’re right. You don’t get paid for it. I think any young hockey player, you’re not playing hockey to make millions of dollars. You just want to be on that big stage with the big names and the money comes with that, of course, but that’s really not what it’s about. But when it’s gone, when you dedicate and your daughter’s going to go through this experience someday, when your sport is over, when you don’t have that anymore, it’s not unlike losing a loved one. It’s something that you wake up thinking about every morning. You think about it before you go to bed, and then just one day it’s gone. So that transition for me was very hard. I remember it well. I struggled with it. I struggled in a really personal way. I went to some pretty dark places and honestly, I didn’t really come out of that dark place until I realized that just because I wasn’t a professional hockey player doesn’t mean I’m not a professional.
So it was probably honestly a few years into my career before I kind of had that epiphany that I wanted to be a professional salesperson. And when I made that decision, I got a lot of the things that I missed when I was a hockey player. Right. The dedication, the growth, the competition, getting better every single day at something and working on something that athletes need that in their life. So the first reason I started the company is because I wish somebody explained that to me when I was 23 years old. Right. Like that. So I want to just get in front of these athletes and I want them to know that, one, they’re super marketable because of what they’ve been through. And two, this transition doesn’t have to be a hard one. It can be smooth. The second reason is my experience, honestly at Turbo and then at Pillar trying to hire salespeople. Right. It’s really hard to interview somebody and know that they’re resilient and they can handle rejection. To know that competition motivates them, to know that they’re going to do the work and they have the work ethic to do the work, to know that they’re coachable. Right. Like, that’s so important. Early on in a career, you’ve got to be able to take constructive criticism and not take it personally. And then you’ve got to have a growth mindset. Like you can’t be a fixed person that doesn’t think you can get better at something, that doesn’t take feedback. And I kind of consider intellectual curiosity as part of growth mindset that doesn’t necessarily show up like that in sports. But I think in sports you’re working on weaknesses constantly. And I think that’s how intellectual curiosity will show up in sales because you’re going to have a lot of weaknesses at first, like everything is going to be a weakness. So when I thought about those days when we were really building a Turbo and hiring hundreds of BTRS a quarter, I think about that’s what I was looking for in our candidates. And I know as a former athlete, as a coach, as somebody who grew up in a house with a coach and two brothers that went on to play Division One and a brother that played in the NHL in the Olympics, athletes at that level, like your daughter’s level, they have all those things they have to you don’t get to that level without resiliency, competitiveness, coachability, work ethic and a growth mindset.
So the second reason I started the company is because I want to find folks like me seven years ago at Turbo, looking for those people that’s all I have in my candidate pool is those types of people. And honestly, Eric, and I think you’ll appreciate this the most is, I’m a first generation College graduate. Right. And when you grow up in a certain way, there are certain limiting beliefs on what’s available to you. Okay. So the third reason I started the company is because I just want kids like me when I was 23 to realize there’s this industry and technology where if you’re willing to work hard and you’re willing to be coachable, you can have incredible success and whatever that means to you, whether it’s financial, whether it’s leadership, whether not everybody’s going to get to be part of a company that exits for $2 billion. Right. But the reality is if you try and you go and build that, there’s going to be things in your life that you can accomplish that you never thought possible. So I want kids like me that were sociology majors with minors in art history and sign language.
I didn’t have a computer when I was in College. It’s a different time than now. And now I’ve been selling technology for 15 years, and I’m actually pretty good at it. I’m actually pretty technical because I’ve done the work and I’ve been intellectually curious. So I want people to know about this industry like non technical people. Right. Probably less folks in your audience who really get excited about it. But I believe that you can kind of come into it a little later in life in your 20’s and you can get excited about it. And the opportunity is amazing. Like, if you look at the numbers, the tech industry is two times larger in GDP than the financial services and insurance industry, right? When I tell people that they’re like, no way. I’m like, what do you think the financial services and insurance industry is running on? They’re running on technology and that’s only going to grow. You see this amazing. It’s a buzzword we talk about a lot, right? Digital transformation. But it’s true, right? Like software is truly eating the world. And the engineers, the developers, those people are critical. They’re critical for this to continue.
But just as critical are guys and girls like me that have the type of personalities and the type of resiliency and ability to handle rejection, to bring all these amazing technologies to market. So just honestly, it’s helping athletes transition, helping companies find great candidates, and making sure that people are aware of this industry and what it can afford you as a human being. That’s why I started the company.
It’s a beautiful proof in the execution in your own life. We see a lot of folks that have this opportunity. And I love your line, right? I don’t have to be a professional hockey player to be a professional. That’s the mindset built in a similar way too. There’s like coaches and often, excuse me, many really amazing coaches that were not really amazing athletes, but they had a skill that was understanding the business, understanding what’s required to build a team, to create a strategy on field, off field, and be able to do this and then be able to motivate people, be able to understand the human aspect. Really true. Like, they’re basically therapists and behavioral psychologists that are able to drive people. In athletics, I find it’s a very different thing. Like, the military is often used as the thing that we define as success in business is often related to military. We use military references all the time. And I’m on the other side. Like, I’m always using athletic references and cycling references because it’s much more meaningful to me, having never had exposure to the military personally. And I have a huge respect, obviously, and to all those that serve and give that as they dedicate their lives to that. It’s amazing.
But I was on the other side of it. I was much more like I wanted to have no format, no machine, and I wanted to be able to create something where it didn’t exist. And I’m not an athlete, which is hilarious because I ride a bike far more than most people would think is normal, but far less than anybody that I think of as a cyclist. So I have this interesting bar. So I’ll be really good. When I was in cycling on a team, when I was living way back in Vancouver, BC, and riding up mountains when people are riding down them. It was me. It was the challenge. It was the idea that the moment it points up on the Hill, people just say, this isn’t a ride I want to be on. And I’m like, all right, let’s do it. Get on my wheel. And it was less about me completing the task, but more about when I rode in a team. I never planned to finish a race. My whole goal was to ruin the day for most of that field. So that the guy behind me who’s on my team that I know is going to finish the race can sit in my wind and then take it.
Right? So I could do the best that I could do. I wasn’t going to be the guy on the podium. I never even wanted to be it. I wanted to make sure that my team got there, and that was my dedication. So in a way, like some of that military stuff came through and that I was willing to sacrifice myself for the greater good. And I enjoyed it. You don’t show up in the roles for great finishing times, but there’s an honor in doing that and the same thing. So in athletics, when you take that into business, it is really that you’re not the star. The customer is the star. That’s the story you’re exposing. That’s the thing you’re bringing out. And you’ve always really personified that ability to do that.
Yeah. One of the really fun things about this business, Eric, is I get to plant the seeds of how I view sales to kids that are really just starting to get into it. And I think mindset and the way you view selling is really critical for a foundation for your career. We have an LMS that these kids go through training with us. And when we talk about the role of a salesperson, we’re not talking about haunting people or being pushy or anything like that. We’re really about the thing that I explained to these guys is software exists to solve problems. That’s it. That’s why people don’t buy software, because it’s cool. They buy software because it solves a problem. And your job as a salesperson is to identify that problem in your customer. And sometimes you have to help them identify that problem. Right.
I think the best companies in the world solve problems that customers don’t realize they have. So being able to pull that problem out of a customer and be really smart about how you do that is critical. You can’t tell somebody that they have a problem. You have to help them get there themselves. So we teach that. We teach making sure that once you solve that problem, you then have to tie it to their business, to their role, and really understanding how does the problem show up for them. Right. And then as a salesperson, you should be spending most of your time. Once the person agrees with you that they have the problem and you’ve identified it in a way that they can understand it for their industry, their company, and their role. Your job is to help them with them, partner with them, capture the value of solving that problem. If you do those three things, you identify the problem, you make it relevant to them, and you help them document the value of solving it, then the sales will come, right? Then comes all the qualifications and negotiation and et cetera. But if you’re just coming in and forcing something on somebody because you believe it and they don’t really that’s why salespeople have a bad sometimes can get a bad rap.
Right? you’ve got to come from the customer’s perspective. And I love that I get to release these salespeople into the wild with that mindset. I hope that I’m building, like a small part of a generation of sellers that are really customer centric people. And I’m super excited to watch them in their career and grow and see how that foundation helps them in their success as salespeople.
The high-performance mindset translates to other things. It’s just like even fantastic sales teams and salespeople, the thing they sell can change what they’ve got is the mindset. So you throw whatever it is at it, right? So people always joke, Michael Jordan was a really bad baseball player. Now he was not an MLB level. Like he was MLB level, but he was a decent MLB player. He was not the best player. People kind of railed on MJ like, look at that, he’s a garbage baseball player. You realize he’s playing in the elite of the elite. The guy that finishes last at the Tour de France still better than any other rider that I’m ever going to ride with in my life. And he’s going to finish like 7 hours behind the guy in first place. The women’s Tour de France. I remember this thing when I was living in BC. I used to ride and I was lucky. There’s a lot of pro cyclists out there. Really an elite level cyclists that aren’t even pro, they’re neo pro. So they’ll be category two, category one, top level amateur athletes. So maybe getting a little bit of sponsorship or like a little bit of sort of basically a stipend for riding a bike.
And I rode with the giant women’s road team on a training ride. I just happened to be out on a ride and they’re really great because they kind of let those people jump on the train. Right? So you’re out there and there are ten of them. And there was me and one other guy that were just out random ride on a Sunday morning and we end up on this big. Like, they were doing interval loops. They were doing really, really wild stuff. And hearing their coach with them saying, like, if you don’t feel like you’re going to throw up, you’re not pushing hard enough. And it was like, oh, yeah, no problem. I got that feeling. Right. So I was riding with female athletes and could barely hang on. And people don’t get that. It’s like men, women, elite, top level athlete versus a really good amateur. Whatever it is, they’re at a level that is different and they’re willing to do stuff that gets them there and pushes them beyond it. And this idea of sort of like being better than yesterday, whatever, it’s going to be like that mindset. You’re going to be sick one day.
You’re going to train all year for an Iron Man, and then three days before you get the flu and it’s over. And to be able to still get out there and do it like finish 438th just because you got to know that you got through it and then knowing that next year I’m going to do it, I got to keep going. You get back on the bike, you get back out on the field, you do whatever it takes. I love that mindset. I wish I had it. I wish I had more of it. But you can spot it in people.
Yeah, well, I mean, Eric, no offense, but you do have it. It’s showing up in your tech career. Right. You’re constantly learning, you’re constantly growing, you’re constantly trying to understand things. I mean, the fact that you’ve read Jeff Blunt is all I need to know about your hunger for getting better and understanding the industry as a whole. Right. Seeing both sides of it as a technical person, really diving into that sales, that marketing side. You’ve definitely shown that. But I couldn’t agree more. And that’s why that’s one of the reasons I think this is going to be a special business is the same reason Turbo was. The same reason I think Pillar is going to be is because of the product. Right. The product that we bring to market are they’re elite human beings. It’s not easy to have a division one College decide to pay for your entire education. You had to be a special person. And yes, of course, there’s natural talent. Right. I think I have some natural talent and sales in terms of just talking to people, being an extrovert, all those types of things. But there’s a lot of work that goes into refining that.
And I think a lot of it for me, I grew up around it. Right. With a coach as a father, with a little brother who from day one, I asked my dad what he knew my brother was going to play in the NHL, and he said he knew when he was seven. But that said my brother was in the driveway with me every summer shooting pucks, running sprints in our street in front of our house. Yes, he was great, but he wanted to be better. And it showed up every day and I think that’s one of the reasons I think I’m excited about this company the same way I was excited about Turbo and Pillars because I know that our product is unique, our product just happens to be people this time, but these are really special people.
And if you think about now again, having gone through being in a growth startup, being on the outside, on the customer side of the world, like just watching the industry and learning how it works, and I worked in finance and insurance companies for a long time I worked for a chemical company, an explosive company, which is kind of cool, and the first thing I did was I learned the business because then the technology mattered more to me, like understanding what the reason I was doing what I was doing and that allowed me to map and understand and then when I got to Turbo, it was the same thing I’m like, I’m going to stay out of the sales side because I want to learn the customer story and then very quickly I realize we’re all in sales and that’s a weird thing that a lot of people struggle with, especially technologists, where you kind of get in this thing of like, no, no, you know, I’m not in sales, like, well, in a sense, we all are, we are always telling the story, we’re always carrying the vision with us and you may not be quoted carrying, but you’re ultimately responsible and in a weird way, like marketing teams are some of the unsung heroes Often I don’t say that just because I work in a marketing team, these folks will have the same paycheck if you do 40 million or 4 million, but their goal is to get the people that will get you to 40 million what they need to get to 40 million, right?
And as a quota carrying rep, there’s a massive responsibility because generally your base is base and your upside is self imposed. So there’s a very different responsibility, and then there’s understanding and respecting the reason why each of us has that responsibility and that upside. So as a marketing team, I know, like, hey, I don’t have to grind it out every day for 720 days to make a deal happen, right? But I also know there’s a thing that I’m doing where I will be compensated more if I head towards this thing and it’s like changing roles. So it’s a very interesting thing of crossing the boundary of what you do to understanding and empathizing with what others do, and I think that’s what makes it good at understanding the customer story too, is that you can say like, hey, I’m here to sell technology, but what’s your day look like? What’s the thing that bugs you every day and you get them, they’re like, oh, man, you wouldn’t believe I got this goofy thing that really just drives me nuts and you’re like, oh, yeah, tell me about it. I’m really curious. Like, how do you think you can fix that?
I don’t know. Now all of a sudden you’re like Ricky Romo. You’re like, no, I’m not going to show you this. I’m not going to show you this real estate. Like, it’s not really for you. And next thing you know, you’re putting their hand on a pen and that pen is going on to a contract.
Yeah, absolutely. Not to overdo the sports analogies, but it is a lot like sports and that everybody has a role. Right. And I think athletes understand that inherently. Like, just because you’re not the one throwing the touchdown or scoring the goal, the part that you play, even if it’s not a great hockey player. Right. In college, my role was a locker room guy. Like, I was there to keep it light in the locker room, make sure everybody was still having fun, making sure the boys were all getting together. Those types of. But that’s a critical role in a team. And marketing plays a huge role in finance and the partner team. And you look at we used to have this diagram at Turbo that I would use with my team, where the customer was the center, the account executive was kind of around the customer. And then outside of that was this whole organization. And how are you going to use the executives? How are you going to use the marketing team? How are you going to use sales operations? If you don’t bring everybody into a deal to help that customer and the customer doesn’t end up moving forward, that’s on you. Like, you didn’t do your job of getting the whole team involved. We talked about get everybody on the boat so that nobody’s on shore. If the boat sinks, you don’t want someone onshore pointing at you and blaming you. Get them on the boat. So if the boat sinks, you know, you did everything. And I think marketing is critical to that. And everybody really is, honestly and everybody’s selling really honest to God. Yeah. I think you’re right on.
Like, this is your go to market is what you’re doing today. Right. Obviously, you’re bringing elite people into organizations because of their capabilities. And then you’re giving them the tools they need to map it to the business and deliver what that business needs. You’re giving them a framework, you’re giving them what they need. That’s their playbook. And they literally will know a playbook. Right. We talked about that. There’s a reason we call it a playbook because it is learning. Just like a great MMA person isn’t about the first punch they throw. It’s about the 7th punch they know they’re going to get in when that guy throws the first one, because I’m going to come around the left and then I’m going to go under and then I’m going to pull them back and I’m going to get him on his heels. And we’re going to get close to the fence. They are looking at the 7th hit, not the first one, not the second, not the third. Like, they know the playbook and they’ve run it through and they Spar and they practice. Because when you know that that’s the thing. That’s the deal closing that, you know, is the 7th hit.
But there’s a lot of stuff that’s going to happen in between and it may not go right. The third punch may lead to you falling on your ass. And that means you’re like, all right, what’s the next play? Like immediately thinking, okay, what do I do? What do I learn from what just happened? Adjust, pivot, get ready, re approach, assess. And that mentality comes through. So you get those elite players that can come in. But then beyond this, I’ve been lucky enough to work with you on bulletproof sales. Right. Taking that and making it a framework that maybe can be shared beyond just the direct people you’re affecting. There’s a reason why I got books like Legacy by James Care, you know, talking about the All Blacks and their mentality and why the winners sweep the sheds and while the team goes to celebrate and learning about that coaching mentality that you coach. Like, I coached little kids when my older kids were younger and I was like, my little kids, I’m coaching them all the time. Right. I got four kids. You have to learn a lot about listening and coaching and going through this.
But even teaching other parents, you don’t coach from the sideline, you coach from the practice pitch. The sideline is where you just remind them to do the play they already know how to do. So you can create that framework, and then it goes far beyond just the athletes you can directly affect, which is kind of cool.
Yeah, it’s very cool. And to steal from my friend John Kaplan at Force Management. Right. It’s about you practice to the point where you’re audible ready. That’s really what you’re describing. Right. Because you want to get to that 7th punch, but you might not. So if you don’t, you just got to be ready for it. And the only way to be ready for it is practice. That’s it. That’s all you can do is just work on it. Work on it, work on it. And then when the game gets there, just go play. Just go execute. And you’ll be ready. If you did the work, you’ll be ready. Right. And we see that all the time with great sales people all the time.
Now, the challenge in the early stage startups, especially hiring early, bringing somebody in that’s got that elite mindset, but is then willing to grind it out. And I think that’s really where the perfect pairing comes with the folks that you have in your roster, is that they’re going to be willing to do some uncomfortable shit for a long time before there’s a payoff versus like, I’ve seen it at business after business. We experienced it directly. When you and I worked at Turbo, you bring in people they’re like, yeah, they work for, like, a $5 billion company. So obviously they know how to run a $5 billion sales team. And you’re like, that’s all they know how to run. They don’t know how to run a $40 million sales team and get them to 5 billion. They’re way later. They’re great, fantastic people, but they can’t build the machine. They just get on the machine and they make sure it stays on. And they do work. That’s impressive, but they’re not going to be able to get in early because they come in the first thing they think is, all right, Where’s my $2 million budget? Where’s my event team? Where’s my swag supply? They know how to do good stuff, but you walk in, you’re like, I used to always tell people, okay, so imagine your greatest vision for what you want to execute. And now imagine you have no money and no people to do it. Now, how do we get this done?
Yes, it definitely takes a different mindset, a different personality. Listen, as big as Turbo got while I was there, I think we crossed the 600 Mark. That’s the biggest company I’ve ever worked for, right? So I don’t even know what it’s like to work at a big company. Right? I don’t know that I would fit. And listen, there’s something to be said about that skill set. Like you said, that’s still a special skill set to be able to take something that’s large and keep the machine running the way it is. And there’s something to be said about what I think I have, which is being able to work with some constraints and help build something into that. So it’s two very different things. And you’re absolutely right. I think our candidates have amazing mindsets when it comes to building and growth. We talk about being gritty all the time. I call it having jam. You either have jam or you don’t. And if you got jam, you can get into those situations where it’s going to be a long path to the outcome that you want, but you’ve got to enjoy the process. And I think our candidates enjoy that process of building more so than probably most people.
And again, I think that’s why it seems obvious now in looking at you putting it together. But it took the vision and having the belief that this can happen, and it needs to happen much more than it can happen, because everything is like, oh, yeah, I got a whole lot of ideas, and I got 55 domain names in AWS just in case. But there you go, no further than me buying a domain name and sitting on that second for $12 a year. The difference is that you took this and you said, we’re ready and we’re going to do this. And I love this idea. Like, I use rocketry references all the time. It’s like stage one, stage two Rockets, they’re going to get dropped off. And that is the building phase. That is like, what gets you to orbit is this incredible, like, thrust. Knowing that at the moment they hit that altitude, they’re like, that’s it it’s gone. And that stage one has did its job. And you know what you’re going to do? You’re going to strap that bad boy onto the next rocket and you’re going to do it again. And that’s why those purpose built players that will get uncomfortable once they hit that altitude, they’re like, you know, it was weird at first when I saw it happen, but I was enthralled by watching it occur where you see people are like, it’s getting a bit big here. Like, there’s 22 sales people. This is not big. Like, for me, man, I’m like, zero to 5 million. Once you hit a revenue number, they’re like, I got to go.
That’s such a good analogy, man. I’m stealing that. I’ll give you credit twice, but then it’s mine. That’s an awesome analogy.
That’s one of my favorite things, by the way. I’ve stolen that and I give you credit twice. Every time. That’s my favorite. I’m stealing that line. I’m going to give you credit twice, but then it’s mine. That’s such a JR ism. I always love that.
Now, making the jump and finding the team to build shift group. Let’s talk about the people behind it.
Yeah. So I have two full time guys already, and they’re both athletes, former athletes, one’s a hockey guy. I think the reason he’s good is because I found him at a time, like, when I originally talked to him, he was looking to make the jump into Tech. And then I started telling him what I’m building. And he’s like, man, I would really like to do that. I want to help guys like me. Right. And he’s phenomenal because he’s going through or has gone through that same transition very recently after playing professional hockey. My other guy is awesome. He was a College football coach for over a decade, and he was at a very big program at Michigan State as the recruiting coordinator. So he’s been helping kids go into that transition from high school to College. And the difference between high school football and a division one level, like Michigan State, is that’s like going from amateur to pro big time. Right? So I think as I build up my team, those types of experiences that these guys have had are going to be really critical because I do believe you have to have some passion about helping somebody in order to make this work, because obviously, I’m not a five and one C three. Right? But at the end of the day, my only goal is to help somebody find something they love, help a company, find a candidate they love and help them in that way. The money will come when you help people, right. So I need to find guys and girls that are really passionate about helping people. And I think with the two that I’ve started with, I have that and they’re my models now. Right. That’s what I want to build off of. And so that’s kind of how I think we’re going to grow the business is, continuing to bring in people like that. That’s going to be critical.
And I guess that’s the ideal thing, J. I could do this all day and we’re going to come back. You and I will take a bit more about sort of the background because I didn’t want to crunch it in and just make it 10 minutes of the story. I want to really like bring Shift Group to the front, but your own story and a lot of the stuff that makes this obvious is cool. And that’s a really neat back story that deserves more time. But what do people do if they want to get in touch and become part of the Shift Group?
Absolutely. For sure. Our big focus right now is finding some more companies. We’ve done a good job before launching the company, building partnerships with athletic departments, players associations, teams. Now we’re looking to grow where we can put these elite athletes. So if anybody’s looking for great people, they can find us at shiftgroup.io is the website, and they can reach out directly to me JR@shiftgroup.io
I think they should know when reaching out to me that I’ve been in their seat. I know exactly where they’re at. I’ve seen companies from pre-series A to series A, and then obviously with turbo from A to exit. So I’ve been through it all, and I know what they need. And I just want to help them. So yeah, JR@shifgroup.io is a perfect way to contact me, Eric.
There you go. If you’re in a venture, this is the team you want building you team. So get on it. JR, thank you very much. This has been amazing and I wish you all the best, and I know that’s nothing more than me yelling from the sideline because I know you already got the playbook. So I’m just making sure that the playbook works. I’m glad to be on the sideline and watch it occur.
Eric, so good to catch up, man. Great to see you. Thank you so much for having me. This was an awesome conversation. I appreciate you.
There you go folks, JR Butler! Get in touch.