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Congratulations on the release, Michelle! Big thanks for letting me be a part of amplifying this book which I LOVE LOVE LOVE and highly recommend you get. Drop me a comment with to let me know you picked it up. ONLY 2.99$ for the entire month of MAY so don’t miss out! Seriously, just get the book. It’s fantastic.
Heck, drop a reply and if you’re in the US or Canada I’ll help a bunch of folks to pick up a copy before the price goes up.
Welcome everybody to the show. My name is Eric Wright. This is the DiscoPosse Podcast where we are bringing on a return guest, somebody who I really enjoyed having a conversation with the first time, which is why I was honored to be able to help Michelle Seiler-Tucker. We talked about her book “Exit Rich” that she co authored. It’s an amazing book. I’ve read it. We talk about the 6P framework in her original episodes. Go on, make sure you check out her original show. But to top this off, we’re talking today about lessons learned since the release of the book and an amazing announcement that the audiobook is now available.
So you can follow the links below. Get the audiobook because right now it’s on sale for $299. This is a really really amazing deal. Literally like less than a cup of coffee. Why in goodness name would you not get this book? It’s well read. I love the folks that they had, actually did the reading and just the content of the book is fantastic. So Michelle Seiler-Tucker, thank you very much for letting me be a part of helping with the amplification for the launch. And this is why great people support great things and I love supporting Michelle and all the work that she’s done. Speaking of support, of course, I want to give a shout-out to the folks that support this podcast that make it happen. If you have data anywhere in your world, which you do, I know you do, especially any of the systems you’ve got in your organization, you need to make sure that you protect your data, protect your business, protect yourself, protect everything. So everything you need for your data protection needs can be shopped out by the fine folks over at Veeam Software.
It’s also Veeam-On coming up next week. If you’re listening live and this is a really great time, everybody’s going back in person. So go head on over to vee.am/discoposse. You can see all that they’ve got to offer. I recommend it. I’m a user of the platform myself. Very cool. And also, we are super proud to continue to grow our partnership with the friends over at the Shift Group. So, JR at the Shift Group, if you caught his episode which you absolutely should, this week’s episode is brought to you by the team at Shift Group. They are turning athletes into sales professionals. So if your company is looking to hire driven and competitive former athletes, or considering how do you architect to go to market that can scale efficiently and effectively? Shift Groups not only offering a huge pool of really cool, diverse sales candidates from entry-level leadership, but they’re helping early stage startups to develop a hiring strategy, the whole interview process, and really building sales culture that’s going to scale with you and build high talent, early-stage companies. So head on over to shiftgroup.io and you can check it out. All right. With that, this is Michelle Seiler-Tucker. Get yourself the book. Click the link. Seriously, leave right now. Pause. Go over and download the book, it’s fantastic. Thank you very much.
All right, Michelle Seiler-Tucker, thank you very much. This is a rare treat to have somebody come back. I don’t often get the chance to spend more time, especially with somebody as amazing as you, because I know you are busy in day to day. Plus, we’re here for a special occasion right now. We talked in the past about “Exit Rich”. We talked in the past about your entire story, your business, your own way of helping people to get to success, both personal and professional. But we’re here today because we’ve got something new in the Exit Rich world. So Michelle, if you want to re-introduce yourself to folks that are brand new to you, and we’re going to talk about the new launch of the audiobook and everything wrapped around it.
Absolutely. Well, first of all, Eric, thank you for having me back on. I appreciate it. I am Michelle Seiler-Tucker. I was on your show, I think it was six months ago. I’m Michelle Seiler-Tucker, mergers and acquisitions master, intermediary senior business analyst, certified mergers and acquisitions professional, and a bunch of other acronyms behind my name. I’ve been in this industry a little over 20 years. I think what really makes me neat in M&A is I own other companies. So I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve always sat on the other side of the desk. I’ve always had to be the one to make sure I meet payroll, pay the bills, et cetera. So a lot of my advisers, brokers, have not necessarily owned businesses before. And I think that helps me to be able to relate with my clients and really be empathetic and understand what they’re going through. So at any given time, I own several different companies. I’m also building to sell. Like I said, I’ve been in this industry for a little over 20 years. I personally have sold over 500 companies. My firms has sold probably even more than that.
And we really specialize in not just selling companies, Eric, but we specialize in buying companies, selling businesses, helping buyers buy the business of their dreams. We specialize in fixing and growing a business because Steve Forbes, who endorse “Exit Rich” says 80% of businesses on the market will never sell. 80% – I mean, that should be a big wake up call for business owners because that means you have less than a 20% chance of success when you go to sell your company. And so what I learned a long time ago is if I don’t get in and roll up my sleeves and help fix these companies, help position them and help them build the infrastructure on what we talked about last time, which are the 6P’s, then their business is not going to sell. So like I said, we don’t just specialize in selling. We specialize in fixing these businesses, growing these businesses. So the owner really has a sustainable business that’s scalable. And when they’re ready, sellable.
When this is very important too, Michelle. We often forget about the numbers. And in fact, you are one of my most quotable episodes because in the industry, we’re constantly thrust with this number where people say like 99% of startups fail. And I continue to go back to remind them, watch the episode with Michelle Seiler-Tucker where she talks about how that’s actually inverted. Right. The upside-down numbers that we get from the SBA. And now that 80% that you and Steve talked about there of businesses that are sitting unsold. That is an interesting stat. But if you don’t mind, let’s recap on sort of the failure in this metric that we talk about that small businesses are failing.
Yeah. So small businesses are failing. And to go back over those matrix, I was actually quite shocked myself because when I wrote my very first book, “Sell Your Business For More Than It’s Worth” in 2013, I did the research back then and learned that 90-95% of businesses were going out of businesses were startups. So that is true. However, what’s changed so dramatically is when I did the research for “Exit Rich” in 2019 and 2020, I learned that the business landscape has really flip-flopped. So now it’s not startups a great risk anymore. Startups only have less than a 30% chance of going out of business. A 30%. So they have a 70% success rate. But, what’s so mind-boggling is when you look at America and you look at what the economy is really built-on, there’s 3.2 million businesses in the United States employed over half the US workforce. Over half the US workforce. Think about that.
So small business is really supporting the economy, the American economy. If we lose small business, we lose jobs. What happens when you lose jobs? We lose spending power. And then what happens? It’s a trickle down effect. We stopped going to restaurants. We stopped buying ice cream. We stopped doing a spinning discretionary money because we don’t have it anymore. So now you have a triple down effect where more businesses will close. So 30.2 million businesses now, out of 27.6 million companies in the United States, those businesses have been in business for ten years or longer. 70% of those companies are going out of business. 70%. See how it flip-flops. So now startups have a 70% success rate, whereas startups, existing businesses have a 70% failure rate. Pretty scary. And you hear about the big companies all the time in the media like, the media will talk about public companies, Toys R Us – in business 75 years ago, goes out of business. Montgomery Ward, Sears, J.C. Penney’s, Pier1 – I love Pier1!
Right. Crate and Barrel, a recent one as well. Lord &Taylor, lots of the big retail players.
Yeah, but the media doesn’t talk about the private companies. They only talk about the public businesses. On the private side, we got businesses on every street corner and every city and every straight across our great nation. These businesses are dropping like flies. They’re selling from – they’re actually poor, not rich. They’re selling for pennies on the dollar, closing the companies or even worse, filing bankruptcy. And so it’s really scary. And by the way, Eric, that was before the pandemic. I hate to see my numbers now, but that was before the pandemic. And I always say the number one reason for that, why it’s kind of flipflop is because startups are really a different breed now. It used to be the dreamer mentality. People would leave their corporate jobs and say, oh, I always wanted to own a coffee shop. I always wanted to own a restaurant or a clothing store. But they don’t have the business experience. They’re probably not really an entrepreneur, you know, they’re really probably not an entrepreneur. And they have that build-it-and-they-will-come mentality like “Field of Dreams”. Remember the movie “Field of Dreams”, build it and they will come? Now, a lot of those startups go out of business because they’re brick and mortar.
Plus, the business owner is not really an entrepreneur. They didn’t do their due diligence. They didn’t study their area and run demographics. And most businesses fell in those first one to five years because they simply run out of money. They run out of working capital. The startups now are younger generations and they are forward thinkers. They’re problem solvers. They’re solution-oriented. So they’re not just building another coffee shop. We don’t need another coffee shop or another restaurant. So they’re looking around and saying, well, what’s the problem? What’s the solution? How can I fix this problem? Right? And so you have a lot more tech businesses. You have a lot more e-commerce businesses. You have a lot more businesses that are started by, like I said, newer generations. But also, people got laid off from their job during this pandemic. And a lot of people are going – wait, what can I do to start my own business and really make a difference in the world? Now, on the flip side of that, for existing businesses, existing businesses are going out of business because of what I call lack of AIM. Aim is “Always Innovate and Market”. So business owners become complacent. You know that. I mean, look at Toys R US. They didn’t do anything different in 75 years. Look at Blockbuster. Blockbuster had the opportunity to pick up Netflix, to buy Netflix. They sat back to nothing and are out of business. So this is going to become complacent. They also, really they’re in love with their original baby, with their original concept, their original idea. And they don’t like change. And that’s a big problem because you’re either growing or dying. There is no in-between, which is why I always tell business owners, you got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And so that’s the big reason that so many business owners are going out of business because they stop innovating. Here’s the bottom line. The marketplace has changed dramatically. The way consumers purchase products and services is completely different than the way they used to place them or buy them. And you can pick Amazon for that, you can pick the Pandemic for that. But you really got to innovate, and you really got to look at your industry and you got to ask your client, what do you want? What do you want to experience when you do business with us? What can we do to make your experience more pleasant? What can we do to make it easier for you to do business with us? And you got to innovate. You’re either innovating or like I said, you’re dying.
It is interesting that when we look at – especially the historical changes and then the tightening up of that type of thing, I mean, the pandemic obviously reshaped everything, and it made a huge opportunity for a lot of businesses. There are small environmental changes that can ravage a business. I remember I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the time when the Olympics were coming. And so they said, well, we’re going to build a subway from the airport to the city to make it easier for the Olympics. So it seems like a fantastic idea to build the economy. What do they do? They tunneled underneath the main roads, and in order to do so, of course, you block off the road because you can’t be driving while they’re tunneling. Well, that took 14 months and literally destroyed every business on that road because they were all traditional little tiny met restaurants with local businesses and no parking other than two spots in front. And I think to myself like good galley in that kind of a snap, that stuff can occur over snap, a snap decision that has a 24 month effect, whatever over. It took a few years for it to really finally pay out.
But their inability to go into a new area of the market to attend to a new customer, to figure out a way to get out of that thing, that single event ultimately wiped out. And we see that often, right? And it’s not just whether it’s going towards exit ultimately, but just going towards sustainability if a single market change can fundamentally affect. You taught me this lesson, and I hold it, it’s in my heart every day. And I think this because we talked about this idea of solopreneurs and the risk that people think that they’re in business when they’re a solopreneur. And you taught me these words, if you stop working and the business stops working, you are not in business.
You have a qualified job that you got to work with me versus the business that works for you.
And it reminded me and everything I do I have that in my mind. I’m like, what would Michelle tell me to do to automate this? Make it repeatable, make it scalable, offload it, whatever I can do, not just outsource. Also, another lesson you taught me, just outsourcing it, putting it on Upwork or Fiverr is not actually running a business because you’re not building a team. You’re not building a scalable system. These lessons stuck, Michelle. And I thank you for that.
Glad I can make a difference.
So let’s talk about the book, because not only did I enjoy it thoroughly and I’ve read it and it’s marked up and highlighted and bookmarked all over the place. But I’m not the only consumer. Lots of folks taking the stand. Let’s talk about how the book has been doing.
Well, the book has been doing great. I think I was under show in January and you know, look, like you said, something can happen and completely stop us dead in our tracks. And actually wrote “Exit Rich” in 2019 and we were supposed to publish in 2020. And then this pandemic happened. So we ended up publishing June of 2021. Now is on the show, I believe, in January. So the book is really great. It’s a Wall Street journalist bestseller, not in New York Times, but it will be.
We’ll get it there.
So Wall Street Journal, USA Today bestseller, and it’s in the Hudson bookstores and 99 different Hudson bookstores all around the United States. We’re getting boring recommendations. What I really love and what I guess really inspires me to continue to write and continue to educate is when I get letters from entrepreneurs that have been in business for decades. And we had a media company that emailed us and said, look, Michelle, your book changed my life. That’s what changed my life. I’ve been in business 20 years. I thought I was doing everything right. I read your book and realized I was doing everything wrong. I basically took your book step by step, broken out to different divisions in my company and told them follow this book to a T for everything that she says. And he says it’s really changing his business dramatically. It’s going to come to us in about two to three years to sell. And then we had another owner entrepreneur in Texas. It’s a pharmaceutical company. And he actually bought the book before the booking and launched. So we emailed him the digital version. He printed it out in ledger paper and highlighted everything, gave it to different teams, his teams, and said, listen, do everything she says, on the people, on the product, on the processes, on the proprietary.
And he came to me to sell this business, and we’re going to be selling it for the $25 to $50 million range. And so I love getting those letters. I love getting those calls because it means I’m making a difference. And that’s what inspires me. That’s where my true passion is – is to really help entrepreneurs, really help business owners be able to save that business and be able to not become a statistic of the 80% of the statistics don’t sell, but become in a 20% to where you can sell for premium for maximum value and exit rich. That’s really what my passion is. It breaks my heart when I see baby boomers, their heart, their energy, made huge sacrifices along the way. These baby boomers are actually poor. Many of them are losing not just their business assets, losing their family assets, too, because they take out a mortgage against their family home. And that breaks my heart. I really want entrepreneurs to be able to really retire for their desired sales price and exit rich so they can finally sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor, because as entrepreneurs, they make huge sacrifices. We go into this and we’re going to have better quality of life.
We’re going to have more time, we have more money. Well, guess what? We don’t always have that right. I talked to a business owner who’s in business for six years. He said, Michelle, I miss every one of my kids soccer games. I miss my girl’s plays. I miss pretty much everything in life. My life just passed me by while I was working in my business. While I was working in my job.
Versus my business working for me.
I still remember years ago working in retail, and there was a fellow who had a restaurant inside a mall. So in Toronto, Ontario, was living in Canada at the time, very busy mall. And millions of people come through here and traffic every day because it’s a subway stop and there’s lots of office towers nearby. And so it was like a falafel restaurant in the food court. And he was doing an incredible amount of business. But it wasn’t enough that he had real margins. And what ended up happening was he ended up after a few years of working there, selling the business to go back to work for a restaurant, because in the end, his direct money he was making to take home to his family was less than he could make in an hourly rate. But he was working open to close every day.
Yeah, that’s sad. That stories are prevalent and it’s very sad. So it’s always been my mission. So they help entrepreneurs build a business, not a job, and really build people, because you don’t build a business. You build people and people build a business.
That’s why I really enjoyed the book, not just in the processes and lessons that it teaches which are real, tangible things you can do that work. I know this. I literally am living the experiences of doing it. So I’m not like I said, I chose my guest. And it was a blessing to know that I was going to get to spend time with you to thank you for this, Michelle, because on top of that, there’s additional stuff that comes from the book you’re able to get in. You’ve got lots of online community. You’ve got great folks that you can get connected with and learn lessons beyond what’s written in the book. But now let’s talk about what’s coming up, because not only is the book printing and doing well on that side, but you’ve got an audiobook coming out as well.
We do. And the main reason for that is because everybody’s asking me, Michelle, I have the printed version but I want the audio so I can listen you know during my commute to and from my company or wherever they’re traveling. So we did come out with the audio version just a little bit more on Exit Rich. Exit Rich again, is endorsed by Steve Forbes. My co-author is Sharon Lechter who wrote “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” with Robert Kiyosaki. Kevin Harrington is the Ford. And Kevin Harrington was the original shark of Shark Tank in the United States. I think in Canada you all have Lionston, I think it’s called. Yeah. Anyway, so Exit Rich, I just want to be crystal clear. Exit Rich is not just about selling the business, because in most cases, you don’t have a business to sell. Exit Rich is all about, number one, figuring out what do you want, what do you want? What is your end game? Like Steven Covey always says, start with the end in mind. Exit Rich is all about planning your GPS exit model, planning your exit from the beginning, and really determining what is your destination. What do you want to sell your business for?
You can’t wake up one day and say, I want to sell my business for $20 million when you haven’t grown a $20-million company. So you really have to plan it in the beginning and say, I want to sell for $29, and then you have to build that $20 million company. You need to know who are the buyers, what’s their buying criteria, where do your numbers need to land? So you need to know all of that. And you also have to go through what I call the “Seller Sanity check” to really check yourself to see what’s the most important thing to you. Is it what you walk away with. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. Is it making sure your place is taken care of? Is it to make sure that your clients are in good hands. Is it making sure that the new order is going to grow your legacy. So you really have to go through that seller sanity check. And then one of the most important lessons of Exit Rich is to build that solid infrastructure, because it’s the infrastructure of the people, the product, the processes, the proprietary assets, the patrons – diverse client base, the profits.
Those 6P’s is what will maximize value. Those 6P’s is what we’re taking it from a three multiple to five, to six, to eight to ten. And then it’s all about how do you package your business for sale. And then so the first half is getting it ready to actually build a sustainable, scalable business. The second half is all about selling your business. So it’s almost two books in one. And so we all come out with the audio version in May. Go get it today. You can go get it right now. You can get it in apple – I believe it’s in Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. So Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Apple – $2.99 which is less than a cup of coffee, less than a quarter pound of cheese meal at McDonald’s. So with $2.99, you can get the audiobook After May, it’s going to go back to its original price, which is going to be $24.99 I believe.
And so with that $2.99, you also become what Eric was talking about – an “Exit Rich” club member. So you get access to documents. Documents to operate your business. Like sample employee handbooks, non-competes, policy and procedure manuals to sell your business. Sample prospectuses – what they should look like. Sample letters of intent, due diligence checklist, closing documents. All the stuff you need to operate your company and sell your business are there for your download and your use. And guess what, Eric? These documents cost me over $50,000 to create, and you can get them for the $2.99.
Yeah. So it’s amazing value and go out and get your copy today. Again, that was Barnes & Noble, Apple or Kobo. And it will be worth every single penny. I know Eric read the book so he can attest to that.
I stand 100% behind. I bought it for full price. It’s funny. I think even your production crew were like, hey, let us know if you need a copy of the book. I said, oh, too late. I knew I could ask, but I also knew I was willing to pay for it. So I wanted to make sure people know that me endorsing this book is 100% because I believe in the book. And like I said, I’m using it in lessons that I’m doing to build things that not even looking at a near term exit right now, but to build sustainable processes and a sustainable business, because that’s just healthy for me. Right. I know what my intent is in growing what I do. And like you said, you set that. What is your expectation, what is your goal? And then how do we build processes to make that business achieve that goal? I can tell you on that side of the lesson. I haven’t gotten to the exit yet. But like I said, we’ll talk in a couple of years when I’m a Michelle Seiler-Tucker, you’re selling my business. We’ll do business together that way, too.
And, you know, I think you just hit the nail on the head, too, because you might say, well, I never want to sell my business. That’s okay. First of all, I never say we’re number one, because you never know what life has in store for us. And number two, even if you go and sell your business, at least you’re building a valuable asset. At least you’re building a sustainable business that can run without you. So you truly do have financial freedom. So you truly do have a better quality of life and you’re in charge of your own destiny and your ability in a business that you can scale. And if the situation ever occurs that you do have to sell, you’ll have a valuable asset. I get calls all the time, Eric, from spouses, where they say, like, a lady called me from Dallas, her husband dropped out of a heart attack at the age of 45, left her with a pile of debt and asked me if I could sell her business. Well, guess what? He didn’t have a business. He had a job. He had a construction company. He didn’t have any employees. He had all subcontractors. He didn’t have any processes, no possible procedure manuals. Everything was in his head. So when the business owner died, he died. So the most important thing here is set your family up for success. We never know what’s in store for us. So we want to make sure that we’re taking almost valuable asset, which is our business, and we want to make sure we’re setting it up for success. So if anything does happen, God forbid, our family will be taken care of.
Yeah. And even as a successful transfer, why wouldn’t somebody want to pass it on to their kids and give that option? Right. People often just think exit means sale, but exit is bringing the business to a new stage and you yourself are exiting. But it’s only good if you can pass that on to somebody else and they can continue to grow it and know how to operate it. Definitely feel and for $2.99, it’s a crime not to get this. There is nothing that is worth more than the time you invest in reading this book, for sure. So I know I will be an early listener and a repeat listener because it’s also not like a read and walk away situation. It does play out like a manual that you want to revisit and recheck. It’s very well written in that way. You and Sharon work together and created a great book.
Well, and that’s why we came out with the audio version, because like I said in the beginning, so many of our readers are saying, look, do you also have the audio version? Because we want to listen in the car, not just read it. So go out there and get both. But if you don’t get anything, get the audio version. Make sure you get that audio version and you’ll love it. It also comes with all the supplements. So like all the glass and charge and things like that that we have in the book, the surveys, all of that will also come with audio version.
That’s always the funny thing when I talk to people and they’re like, how can you listen to a business book? Because it has lots like charts and such. I’m like, well, because they come with a PDF, you can get all those assets, which is great. Now as 2022 kind of a wild time. We’ve got inflation, we’ve got a lot of things going on. But Michelle, what’s the positive outlook? What can people look to do in a good way to embrace sort of current market conditions?
I mean, like I’ve always said, innovate, take a survey of your clients, of your market share. Really survey your clients because so many business owners really lose that perspective. Why are you in business? You’re in business to serve your clients, right? Without clients, without users. If you’re a tech business, if you’re a SaaS business, you got to have users. If you don’t have any users, you don’t have any business, right? So really take stock of your clients, of your market share and actually go back to your clients. A lot of times we think we know what we want our clients to experience, but you really need to go ask your clients. Mcdonald’s did this back in 1940s when they created the fast-food McDonald’s chain and they created a fast-food system. They asked clients because they did surveys and they asked themselves, what do we want our clients to experience? Three things. We want them to get hot food. It’s great-tasting, 30 seconds or less. Come up with the three things you want your clients’ experience, but really look at the markets. Look at what’s happening. Make sure that you research and not just learn from your industry, but learn from other industries as well.
Look at some of the leaders and what they’re doing. Like, look at Amazon. I mean, Amazon is a great company to learn from. So is Disney. So is the Ritz Carlton. There’s so many different, so is Apple. So many different companies to really learn from, because you can take some of the things that they’re doing and adapt it to your industry. But innovation is the name of survival. Innovation is survival right now. With inflation and everything else and the cost of just doing business and retaining employees and everything, you just got to get really creative. You got to throw the box away. You got to do things different than you’ve ever done it before. And if you can’t really see clearly because you’re so in it and sometimes we’re in our pocket foggy, sometimes you’re so close to it, you really can’t see it. Like I always say, it’s hard to read the label. It’s hard to read the label from the inside of the bottle. You need an outsider’s perspective to read the warning sign to keep you out of the danger zone. So if you can’t really see what you need to do differently and innovate, get a mentor. Get somebody who’s been down the road you want to travel. Learn from other people’s mistakes. You don’t have to learn from your own all the time. Get somebody out there to see something that you can’t see yourself. I mean, that’s what I’m really good at. I’m really good at looking at other businesses and asking the question, what business are you in? What’s your superpower? What business should you be in? And those are very important questions to ask ourselves right now. Amazon did that back in the 80s. They asked themselves, what business are we in? We’re in the fulfillment business. What’s our superpower? Fulfillment! What business should we be in? Fulfillment for everybody. But it’s true, right? Same thing with McDonald’s. What business are we in? Everybody says they’re in the restaurant business. No, they’re not. They’re in the real estate business. Mcdonald’s are huge because of Ray Kroc’s starting McDonald’s Corporate Realty, gave him leverage over the McDonald brothers. It is the reason why McDonald’s is the largest real estate holding company in the world. But guess what, Ray Kroc didn’t come up with that on his own. As an outsider, go watch a movie – The founder, that was an outsider looking in on Ray’s conversation when he was trying to borrow more money after being overlapped. So a lot of times, it takes an outsider’s perspective to help us see things more clearly and help us really be able to innovate. But you can’t do the things the way you’ve always done them. The world is changing so quickly. Consumer’s buying habits have changed dramatically. Number one because of Amazon and number two because of this pandemic. And you really got to look at all that and eyes wide open. And don’t do business the same way you’ve always been doing it because you’re going to lose market share and end up going out of business.
Yeah. And if anything, like you said, the lessons are out there to be had. And founders, builders, operators, they love to share lessons because it’s as important for them to talk through what they’re doing. It actually is a great validation. I forget what the process is. Something like, see, say, do teach that’s the way that they do medical school. Right. You watch it, you learn about it, then you explain what it is because by having to explain it, you’re rationalizing it while you’re explaining it. Then you do it and then you teach it. And that cycle flow, there are lots of people who are at that teach phase. If you’re a gamer, it’s like a cheat code for business. Like, why would you just wait to turn a hard lesson on yourself when you can find somebody else that maybe has already had that lesson learned and impart that on them.
Right. But before you get that mentor, we are going to make mistakes along the way. I was just talking to a roofing company. And they’ve done really well in three years. Victor’s EBITDA is earning some franchise taxes. Depreciation is around 2-3 million. In three years, it’s pretty good. And they’re like, Michelle, we made every stake in the book. We made it. And I said, did you get a mentor? And I said, no, I wish we would have. Three years ago. They said, but we felt forward. We keep selling forward. We keep learning from our mistakes. And you know what? If you don’t quit, you didn’t tell.
But they were cracking me up because they’re like, well, nobody can make as many mistakes as we have made. And you know, what they also did is they didn’t just learn from their industry, their roofers. They went and learned from the funding trade, from the logical trade, from the HVAC trade, from all other different service trades instead of just learning from their own industry. And then they figured it out. And then they became marketing geniuses. And it really blew up their business in pretty much a year and a half. So half of the time they made all the mistakes. The second half they go on their business exponentially. But go out there and get that mentor. And that’s what I’m talking to them about. I’m like, okay, I’m going to start a company, but then I want you to go help others. I want you to go help others forward and have them learn from the mistakes that you’ve made in the past so they’re not having to make the same mistakes. I mean, we can all learn from each other. We can all help each other better ourselves.
That’s it. And like you said, it’s how you react to it that will change the outcome, right? There are lots of mistakes that are made, and there are lessons learned from them, and it’s what you do beyond it. There’s a great I think it’s like an Instagram sort of meme or video. And this guy just started talking the back almost like a preacher. And he says, practice, practice, practice. Like he’s talking to crowd. He goes, practice makes what? And you hear the whole crowd go perfect. He goes, Absolutely not. Get that mindset out of your brain. He says, practice makes better. Better means more practice. That’s really how we have to think. Like, you do it and you will make mistakes and you will survive them and you will learn from them, hopefully.
I tell my daughter the same thing. My daughter’s in gymnastics and the apparatus she struggles with the most is the balance beam – she’s great on everything else. This is her first year in competing and she hates practicing the balance. And like, you have to practice, practice will make you I never say perfect. I say practice will make you better. It’ll make you fall less. It will make you fall less. It’ll make you get a little bit higher score. And I had an interesting gentleman on my podcast the other day, Peter Taunton, who was founder of Snap Fitness, he says 10% is what happens to you and 90% is how you react to it.
10% is what happens to you and 90% is how you react to it.
Yeah. There is very much that mindset. And that’s really why mentoring is important, because even the strongest founder’s mind and the perseverance you got, you can still get stuck sometimes and you can still get hung up or feel like you don’t have a path. And going to the community and finding folks that are, like you said, even better sometimes to leave your industry and look outside because a lot of those practices transcend the industry. And in fact, even the best things come. Right. Look at how many companies like you said, McDonald’s, they happen to make burgers. But I remember when McDonald’s and this is back in the 80s, I think, or the 90s, they decided to add pizza to their menu for a very short period of time. Rightly.
I don’t remember that.
Yes. It might have been a Canadian thing. And literally overnight, McDonald’s became the largest pizza restaurant on Earth because they rolled it out to every restaurant across multiple countries. Right. So that scale of business meant like if they are in the scaling business, they were in the logistics business. They were like, that was the thing they were doing. So you can look at that lesson. I don’t want to go to McDonald’s to learn how to cook a burger. I want to go to McDonald’s to learn how to move people in through the restaurant experience.
And how to really create those processes in system to where if you got to, unfortunately, hire someone, McDonald’s get rid of people all the time. People quit all the time. Mcdonald’s can take that SOP checklist and have an employee train within 30 minutes and look at the drive-through or any other position at McDonald’s.
So to really learn their systems or processes and how they do things is just amazing because again, it’s all about those processes and it’s all about getting the right people in the right seat to run those processes. Mcdonald’s and Burger King is a great example of that.
There are many things. And even though some people get stuck in the idea that I don’t want to make a checklist out of my vision, well, you’re not. You’re making a checklist out of the operations to achieve your vision and so, don’t ever get lost in the idea of your vision.
What happens to your vision if you don’t have processes. You would never achieve your vision. That’s what happens to so many entrepreneurs, because entrepreneurs are visionaries. I mean, most of them are visionaries. They’re not integrators. Entrepreneurs are like squirrel, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel and he’s visionaries. But they need a good integrator. Every entrepreneur has to have a good integrator. An actually fun moment with entrepreneurs is, there’s more entrepreneurs by the neuron integrator? There’s really good integrators. And that’s what every entrepreneur needs is that great integrator to really get their vision onto a policy procedure and they don’t really get their vision into implementing it.
Well, if you want to build for the right outcome, then you got to think like you need to Exit Rich. I can tell you, like I said, so congratulations on the release of the audiobook and for folks that are watching and listening, get on it, $2.99. This is absolutely, I’ll buy a bunch of copies, drop a comment on the YouTube. I will make sure I enrich people with this. And a lot of my friends are getting a copy right now. I can tell you because this is absolutely worth it.
You got to be out of your mind if you don’t get it for $2.99. You must be out of your mind.
It’s always amazing to me when people be like, well, they’ll negotiate by 10, 20, 30, $50,000 on the price of a house. But then it’s like $2.99 for a book that could change the future of my business success. If this is the $2.99 you’re fighting in your head over, then maybe you shouldn’t be in business to start with.
It’s really giving up a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Absolutely is. So Michelle, thank you.
Coffee is like $5 now at Starbucks.
That’s it. That’s it. 100% ROI, I can guarantee that. Michelle, thank you very much. And of course for folks you can go to exitrichbook.com. That’s where you can find it. I’ll have links for everybody to get to it and look forward to having you on again as we get further into the year and hear about how the uptake has gone and hopefully that inflation. We’re on the right side of inflation and the economic story. It’s going to be an interesting year ahead for sure.
Yeah, I tell you, it is definitely going to be an interesting year.
And Michelle, I guess I should say just in case any other, what is the best way for folks that they did want to get connected with you? Of course we will have your own website also there. But what’s the best way to reach out?
Yeah, so they can reach out at seilertucker.com. If you want to take the 6P quiz to see how you stack up and how you rate, you can go to seilertuckeracademy.com to take that quiz. Follow me on social media – @michelleseilertucker everywhere: Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and then you can also listen to my podcast Extra Rich.
It is fantastic. I was going to say, I also forgot to tell people to go check out the podcast. You got a great array of guests and it’s really well done so I appreciate the listen for sure. Michelle, thank you very much.
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Satyam founded UXReactor in 2014 together with his brother, Prasad. Under his leadership, UXReactor has become the fastest growing specialized experience design firm in the USA, with a team of 60+ employees spread over three continents.
Before starting his entrepreneurial journey, Satyam served as Managing Director of Product Design at Citrix in San Francisco, where he played a crucial role in growing the product design team from four members to over 100+ practitioners.
Satyam was instrumental in building PayPal’s Global Design Center in India while leading a design team in Silicon Valley. We explore an in-depth conversation of modern UX, the myths of UI and UX, plus the first principles of design and its impact on usability and business success.
Hello, everybody. Welcome back. My name is Eric Wright. I’m the host of your DiscoPosse podcast. Thank you for listening and for watching. Of course, if you want to check out the video version of this and other amazing episodes, you can head on over to youtube.com/discopossepodcast. You can see them all as they happen, which is kind of fun. And thank you for all the people that are watching because we’re actually getting really good uptake on that side of the world. All right. This is Satyam Kantamneni. He is a fantastic, fantastic guest. He’s doing really interesting stuff with his team, UXReactor. He’s also the author of the soon to be released Uxdplaybook, which if you follow the links, go to Uxdplaybook.com. This is a must get so well put together. We have a fantastic conversation talking about his approach to user experience and real user experience. So we separate the myths of UI versus UX, the psychology that goes into creating user flow and experience in general. This can be done in software, in business, in physical spaces. It’s all over. So it’s a real pleasure to take the learnings and the research that Satyam is doing and bring it to this audience. You are going to enjoy this. I sure hope you do, because I came away with a real sort of feeling of being blessed after having gotten all these lessons.
And of course, speaking of reasons why we can have this incredible user experience, I’m so proud to say thank you to the fine folks at Veaam Software who are supporting this podcast and helping me to make sure we can bring more great conversations like the one we are about to listed with Satyam. If you want to learn about everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s in the cloud, whether it’s on premises, whether it’s physical servers, even those containerized crazy workloads. That’s right. Those containers, they go away and they’re gone. So you’ve got to be careful. You can actually back up because there are persistent container workloads. There are great reasons to back that stuff up. Hey, I could go on for hours about that, but I’m not going to because you’re going to go to vee.am/discoposse. And you’re going to check it out yourself because you need to do that much much more than what I just talked about.
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I’m Satyam. I’m the co-founder and presently the managing partner at UXReactor. And today you’re listening to me at the Disco Posse podcast.
Satyam, thank you and welcome to this discussion. I really enjoy when we get to explore the topic and the practice of user experience. And as we chatted a bit in our pre discussion, preparing for this, it’s such a loaded phrase. There’s over marketing, overuse of the word. And I think this is a great chance for us to talk to you about UX Reactor, the basis behind your approach, the book, which I’ve been thankfully able to access a preview copy prior to publishing, which is fantastic. But for folks that are new to you, Satyam, if you don’t mind, give a quick introduction and a bio, and then we’ll start to talk about the UX Reactor story.
Absolutely, Eric. I think it always is useful to see. I have a very, I would say an eclectic background. I studied electronics engineering way back when I realized very quickly that I didn’t want to be a chip designer and needed more human aspects of work. I was serendipitously introduced to a professional at that point called human factors, how humans interact with complex technologies. And that became my line of work for the last two decades. So that’s kind of the highest level over time. I’ve studied engineering, I’ve studied design, I’ve studied business. So all three aspects of looking at how things come together. And fortunately, seven years back, I got to kind of spend a lot of time by building a firm, UXReactor, and looking at the intersection of all three of them, especially as the world is getting more tech savvy and more tech pervasive and businesses are kind of driving a lot more tech. But with a design mindset, obviously, Steve Jobs did an awesome acceleration to a lot of these things over the last two decades. So, yeah, I’m kind of right at the cusp of seeing this go through. And being in the Silicon Valley also helps me to kind of be very much plugged in with the tech Mecca that’s kind of it’s become at this point.
Yeah. The surroundings are certainly still despite the fact that we’ve seen sort of a depatriation of the real estate and folks moving to other parts, sort of broadening the locations that people can build from. There is still such a storied sense of history there and so much still active. Right. It’s always amazing to me. And I think the best thing, if you don’t mind, I’d love to just begin with, if you were to type it into Google, define user experience.
It’s often the most misunderstood word in the profession. If you really look at it, every system in the world has users for the system and users come in different contexts and every user has an experience. And the best definition I’ve found so far in my profession is any event or occurrence that leaves an impression is an experience. And therefore you need to kind of look at every event and occurrence that your system actually has. But now if you look at systems like hotels, they have studied this for a long while. Our hospitality, they’ve studied experience for a long while. And that’s why you’re paying a lot more for a red carton than a much more, smaller, cheaper option. But then in the tech world, where you’re starting to look at one of the biggest trends that’s going on as tech is becoming more front and center, is obviously dehumanizing to in a lot of ways, but also humanizing to a lot of ways. Right. So dehumanizing systems that you would call customer service. Now, you probably are talking to a conversational system, but again, it still has to work with a human on the other side.
So that’s why experiences are becoming much more important, especially as those events are becoming tech events, as those movements are becoming tech movements and memories are being created with tech. So you really need to kind of define experience on that end. And that is what is called user experience in the context of the tech world. But honestly, user experience, and the first thing I tell anyone is user experience is a mindset. And then how do you bring that mindset to tech is where I believe is the biggest opportunity. And if you really think about what Steve Jobs did, he did that. And that’s why today Apple is still the world’s most valuable company.
Yeah, it’s funny if we take that sort of Apple example, even within Apple, during and beyond the Steve Jobs era, we saw the introduction of Schemorphic, which was a word that no one needed. They realized they needed to know what it meant. And then on the tail end of that, the poo pooing of Schemorphic as so last year. Right. Like, we suddenly was like, oh, the natural wood texture on stuff. They’ve seen evolution. But the ethos behind the experience is always consistent. And I think that’s what’s interesting in looking at your own background as well. It’s the vision, the ethos. It’s the thing that you want to achieve. The way in which you achieve it may alter by technologies, by whether it’s visualized, whether it’s audible, whatever it is, but it’s ultimately it’s the practice that you’re creating.
Actually, let me kind of dig deep on the word practice there and also kind of sometimes add profession to it because a lot of times people don’t look at that as a skill, then more like a profession. And unfortunately, that’s kind of where a lot of business leaders kind of make the mistake. So I’ll kind of let me unpack that a bit there. When you look at the profession of user experience overall or the practice of user experience, there are different levels of how you can create value. The UI level, which is like, how does the screen look to me? How does it feel to me that’s kind of exactly towards like, Schemorphic style, hierarchy, color, fonts, all those things kind of come to be in that craft. However, when you start looking at it as a next level, you start looking at how does the whole product experience look like. So when you think about Apple, they look at an ecosystem experience. Right. So when you go from and anything, again, when you look at this is nowadays, Tesla has done this really well. They look at the whole ecosystem and they’re looking at the whole product as an ecosystem.
And that’s kind of the next level of how you’re thinking about the user’s experience. And then the third level, which is kind of the level which is much more organizational, where everybody and every element, right, from the lowest end organization, the highest organization, the newest organization, the oldest, whichever way you look at it, they all think about the user first. The users experience second, the design third, and then fourth, the technology. And that’s kind of when you start thinking about every facet of what the business is, that’s the last level and the most important frontier of user experience. And again, every time you think about the user and how this will make them feel that moment or that opportunity, that fundamentally is where value is created. I unfortunately see nine out of ten organizations spending their time in the UI side, and therefore, they only see value there and also make a lot of misteps there.
You look up the user experience as a phrase has been coopted by web designers building a single page app. And I have to be careful. So there is a truth that that in itself is a user experience, but that is so niche and so narrow above definition. And the use of the phrase that the same person that will do a fantastic single page app that will draw you through a journey that makes you get to the bottom to use a strong CTA and like you do all of the right things. That is not the same as somebody who like a Tesla, like an Apple, like an IBM, like a Microsoft, like a power company that wants you to do something like you and your clients experience, the user experience goes far beyond you getting to the bottom and clicking the button.
Absolutely. And I think that is obviously the right intent, because eventually that’s how they’re interacting with the system. But it takes a lot of deep understanding of why is the user there? What are they trying to do? What are the motivations? What is the context? The same way as you would design for a kindergartner an education platform is not the same way as you design it for a high schooler. Right. And there’s all those nuances and so much context is there. And that’s where the beauty of user experience is when you can unravel it.
The interesting thing is I like that you mentioned the idea of education built towards a preschooler or elementary school fundamentally different from somebody who’s college age or beyond or perhaps even an octogenarian, right. And it is funny because I noticed things that can seem wondrous to a 30 to 50 year old are instinctual and obvious to a child sometimes. And I always give this example of the simplest thing is you take a coin and you take the coin, and all you do is you make the coin disappear. To everybody else they look at your hand because you can force them to do this. But the first thing that a child does, I’ve got two young kids is they look at the hand that you took the coin. They know right away they know where it is. You can’t push them towards an experience. You can’t guide them because they instinctually have figured it out. But to the user of a system, it’s the same thing. It’s like you have to try and pull them towards something that they didn’t instinctively necessarily believe they needed.
I think there is a little bit of I have a different perspective there. Right. So there’s an ethical element of user experience that you are trying to give people what they need, however, give it to them the way they want it in the context that they are. And the last two parts is where the tricky part is. Right. Because again, in the profession, there’s an element of looking at trying. How do I get you to click on things? How do I get you to not do what I want to do? There’s a lot of dark patterns there. But there’s one aspect of that in the last two years, more or less. Right. So what you have seen is legal has now become a tech system. Right. You have education has become a tech system. You have seen health care becoming a tech system. You’re now talking to telehealth way more openly than three years back. And these are all things that again, giving it to like a kid who’s going to go telehealth kid who’s going to go into education. All of these things are actually now becoming much more where the systems are created without the user in the loop.
And actually, one thing, Eric, I’ll tell you, which is what’s fascinating, as I became a student of this profession, that till the 40% of the products that are shipped out there are shipped without talking to one user. Right. So they’re built out with that construct like let me ship it and they will start using it. And that is just a fascinating thing of how many millions of dollars are spent on building feature sets and building products that actually don’t work for the user. And that’s why you see a product market fit as a failure. I actually think that’s the fastest way of throwing money at something and hoping it will stick and it doesn’t happen.
Now, this brings up a good callback to a famous Steve Jobs saying whether it’s actual or misquoted is the idea that users don’t know what they need until you give it to them. And people hear that. And it’s such an out of context phrase because if you read the stories of product development and product management inside Apple, it was so wrapped into user interviews and continuous research with real users. What was the I forget what it’s called, the creative process, I think, or creative design, I can’t recall. I should look it up. There’s a great book that talks. It was like an early project manager who worked with Jobs and creative selection. I think that was the name of the book. And it’s such a fantastic journey through that. But all people are going to get take out of that is I’m going to create something because the user doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Because along with the Steve Jobs code, another quote that comes from Henry Ford and it also kind of muddies the water, which is like if I just ask users what they want, they’ve just told me about a faster horse. And this was in the context of building the Model T. In both of these contexts I think a lot of people, when they read that or listen to it, they don’t understand the underlying essence. You still have to understand that users and let’s say talk about the Henry Ford context, that users will still have to kind of take care of a horse. There was not a whole family that can sit on the same horse. There is you cannot go faster than a certain speed. There’s a lot of those elements that also are informing how you’re kind of a designing in that context. And those are still user problem the same way as when you look at Steve Jobs, you start looking at he was very in tune with who the users are that he’s building for that he actually what are the pain points for them and what is he trying to kind of build from?
Like, he knew that people were carrying multiple devices, one for music, one for camera, one for personal organization. And then he said, I’m going to bring all of that together. But however, they don’t know how that will look. Like the visioning is a different problem versus the need of the R. And I think a lot of times people confuse the visioning of going and talking to user what they actually need versus what the needs of the R are. And I actually think there are two different facets. And you should really be building a lot more deeper sense of the need of the R. And that only comes when you start observing users and are much more empathetic to the users of your system.
Yeah. And this is, you touched on it before, too. And I talked about even in the way I described it. Right. The idea of leading somebody towards something that you want them to do versus observing them and figuring out how to create a system in which it would naturally draw them to a path.
And you used the word ethical and that we’ll talk a bit at length about that. I don’t want to get there just yet, because that’s a single thread that I really want to spend some time on. But it is interesting that when you observe behavior with the goal of building systems towards the end goal with continuous observation and feeding back to that loop, the ability to have both the patience and the capability to go through that, it’s got to be a unique perspective and a unique person that can do that.
To a large extent, yes. Again, if you care about it enough, you will spend the time studying it, learning about it, immersing yourself in it. Right. I mean, you can talk about building all the software for health care. I’ll give you an interesting anecdote here. This was early in my career. I was designing a system for breast biopsy system for the doctors. And as a young designer sitting in the office, I was like, yeah, this is how the doctor would use it. They would go and I was designing the thing where they actually were hitting the dials in the system so that they can get the right settings for the suction without going too much into the details of how the system works. But as I sat there, I assume that the doctor is hitting those dials and therefore this is how they will look at it. But when you go and observe and you immerse yourself and you see a couple of them, first of all, it’s hyper intimidating, very loud. And more importantly, the doctor is not doing it. The doctor’s focused on the biopsy itself. He’s giving the commands to the assistant who’s actually doing it, just observing how that subtlety works, how the user and the ecosystem work, then you realize, I just designed it for the wrong person.
The doctor would never touch it and it’s an assistant who’s touching it. So the commands have to be much more clear. And if semantics are important, if a doctor says Zoom in and then there’s no Zoom in button there, then the assistant is there’s a lot of those nuances that you really think about. And that just was my first one of my early lessons I learned where you started observing that you really have to immerse yourself. But if I was just sitting on the desk and doing it like most people would, then obviously it’s not going to work well, and then the doctor is not going to use it or they’re going to have more issues or more importantly, it’ll have some repercussions to the patient that we don’t really don’t want.
I guess if you think it’s actually a really good example too, because Ergonomics and physical environment is the sort of the OG of user experience. Right. We’re achieving this through software design and software user interfaces, but it used to be very physical. And I remember even hearing a good example was like in sport performance, somebody Lance Armstrong, love them or hate them, obviously, a well known cyclist, fantastic at time trialing. And so they did is they called them their F1 team. They were like fanatical designers, engineers that were building the best bicycle, and they were doing everything they could to shave every possible second off of a time trial. Because it’s 60 kilometer time trial will be one by 3 seconds. And that’s horrifying to imagine, like, how accurate you need to be and how differentiated do you have to try to be to achieve those 3 seconds? And so what they did, they said in the winds tunnel, the perfect bike design for this was going to be sort of narrowing the pedal width by millimeters. It was almost an insignificant difference. But over the course of a 1 hour time trial, it would take 5 seconds off of the time trial, which is the difference between winning and losing.
And when they put him out on the road with it, he came back and his time was worse. And they said, what happened? And he’s like, my hips are on fire. Because while engineering wise, it was the ideal design. He just physically did not work like it took away from the way that he can physically ride it. When you see the marriage of humans and engineering, you realize that it’s two fantastically different practices that are coming together.
Absolutely. And I think that’s the in the design world, we call it prototyping with the users. We can prototype as much as you want in the lab, but taking it to the users, letting them interact with it, letting them engage with it and then observing it and iterating on it. Absolutely. But again, these are all things that we have already figured out in the non-tech sector. Right. So prototyping has been a big part of architecture. They scale model everything before they actually build it has been a big thing. Industrial design, where they actually prototype and kind of use it. But then in the software world, for as much as we look at it, as I said, 40% of the products are shipped without even talking to one user or showing it to one user. And that’s kind of where I find that as it software is, it still is not behind the curve there.
Yeah. And often, too, even if they feel like they’ve been successful once, like they’ve gotten somebody to download and they see if the numbers are heading the right direction, if they’re going up into the right as far as adoption and retention, because it’s sort of a Schrodinger’s cat problem that would have gone better if we had spent more time with the user. We’re gaining an adoption. Our turn rate is low or reasonable. So how do you define successful but meanwhile both pre products and then post product that’s the other thing is that user experience is continuous. It’s not a thing you do once and say, okay, good, stamp it, mark it complete, it’s now in QA and continuous engineering.
Yeah. And I think you use a good term there. Continuous engineering, actually. I’m very inspired personally over the Kaisen philosophy of continuous improvement. And one thing I always say is if your users have problems, that means you haven’t done your, if any problem in the system. You haven’t done enough design or experience design until your users are in delight mode. And it’s actually interesting because once you get in the delight mode where they’re like someone thought about me or someone thought about my context, that smile that comes in in their face, that’s where you kind of end that phase. Now the irony of this is a year later that’s table stakes. Now you had to score in more delight. And that’s why it’s continuously because now just think about smartphones. Today, anyone who comes out with a smartphone without a touch screen interface, are they even actually viable? Absolutely not. Right. But then when Apple came out with the first touch screen with their construct, a very different anyone comes out with a smartphone without conversational AI – not stable stakes. But that’s where your delight has to continuously be evolving. And as tech becomes more and more powerful, you really have to queue in and what is that pain point? What is that opportunity? And that’s why continuously, every day you’d eat, sleep and drink that as a systems designer or a software systems designer, otherwise you will be left behind.
When did you know that this was a passion and that you had the ability to create a world around it?
I’ve been in this profession for 20 years. I enjoyed this, but I’ve never really knew why. And I think the last ten years is where I’ve started honing in and why. And the why is that when you really think about it, this is one profession that actually you can talk to users, understand the pain points, quickly come back prototype items and then go back to them, talk to them. And when you start realizing the power that has that you actually are as a profession, which is nothing less than when you really think about it as like an innovative. And that’s when you realize that everything can be thought through in that angle, any problem can be solved from this angle. And that’s kind of when I truly started realizing the power as I started growing in rank and like one small change here can make such a telescopic effect. So I would say the last ten years is when I started realizing more and more the power that this can unleash. Obviously a pivotal moment was going to business school and starting to understand more business problems from other peers because I went to an exec program.
But before that, I really enjoyed it, but never really understood why and what are the contours of that interest. But I would say the last ten years has been more so being very aware of it.
Now, this is an interesting point that you braised that I think is very important is the connection of the business outcome to the user experience. Only the measurability, because it is a very sort of touchy-feely type of idea. As we talk about sort of the practice of user experience that people believe it’s like, people will like it more. We use odd superlatives to describe it, but there is measurability in it. So tell me where that differentiates a true user experience designer from maybe somebody who’s involved in user experience, but just more specific and niche is part of the process.
As I mentioned earlier, you can do a lot of user experience on a UI level. Designing a screen, a form factor itself. But all you can design and use experience as an organizational aspect. Now, a good designer is thinking about how do I again, I’ll give you an interesting lesson I learned early on which would probably connect some of these dots. I was working in a company once, and I’m not kidding you. Every team I worked with said we are user centric. And it was a fascinating thing. I’m customer success, I talk to users. I’m user-centric. I am customer support. I talk to users, I’m user-eccentric. I am engineering, I’m building for users, I’m user-centric. I am marketing. So everybody had the frame of mind. You go and ask the user, how is this company for you? And they’re like, man, I talked to support. They will send me one place and they say, go talk to them. Products actually does one thing. And so from a user’s perspective, they were like, I hate what you guys are doing and I don’t like it. So when you look at it, it’s interesting, the intent is right, but the outcome is kind of not coming together there.
So when you start thinking about what a good designer bad experience designer, absolutely good designs are being done on the UI leve., but really bad design is being done on organizational level. So that’s kind of where you’re looking at. And obviously the impact of that, the more higher you go, the more value that you can unlock. But in the most basic sense, I think they’re coming back to something that you kind of started with, where’s the business sense? The UI level is obviously very touchy-feely. Like they feel right, they look right, they’re delighted, all that stuff. But if you really look at all businesses, all business stakeholders, they care about adoption, retention, satisfaction, efficiency, and these are all user efficiency and user engagement. And to get to that level, you really need to understand why the user gets it, doesn’t get it, what’s the context, who the user is. And then you kind of build those experiments and iterate on it. And that’s truly when you start and you can increase adoption, you can increase attention. So many times you make tweaks and e-commerce or transactional experiences, and then you start seeing them back, like just explaining something to someone gets them to sign up faster.
Just getting them to kind of talk to a community and building a community experience gets them to engage better. So these are all things that you need to know, what are the unmet needs? And then because of that engagement, there’s a higher attention, there’s higher adoption, there’s all these nuances that come to it, everything that you do. And that’s also why UX Reactor was founded, because I was just sick and tired personally, where design was becoming very much like a touchy-feely thing. And I said, no, design is a business driver. And I met and that was also the pivotal point for me was finishing our business school and talking to about 100 other business leaders from different contexts. And I could see that they had real business problems that I could solve. And that’s kind of what the genesis. And actually, I think anybody who says that as a practitioner, that designers touchy-feel, that means they don’t really understand the power. And unfortunately, that is still a profession that’s in adolescent. So therefore, there’s still a lot of that going on.
Yeah, I worked in finance and insurance and technology, like in tech support early on in the first part of my career. And it was trying to think it was like 2003, so early 2000s. And even like pre-1999 origin, I worked at Sunlight Financial, anybody who can look at my LinkedIn. So I’m not giving away secrets here. And I remember we were like moving from mainframe terminals to PC. So this is like Windows 31. The first change, adding a mouse to somebody’s life was like, good golly, I’ve never seen one of these things before. What is this? What do you do with it? It was literally that level of change in business process. And then we had this one team that I remember that always stood out to me. And they were the ones that had colored hair and tattoos, and they sat in the middle of the floor of our IT Department for some reason because we had all these printers and they were the design team, and they worked on the only Macintosh computers in the whole company. And they were these sort of odd group of folks in that they were different than the traditional suit wearing insurance folks. We’re still in a very corporate environment. However, the leader of the team was this fellow named Paul. And I learned so many lessons from him, that he could beautifully nurture the creative process that these young, just such interesting people could bring. And they were looking at, like, physical design and like brochures. And then it became email. They became what they did was pervasive to the way the company was portrayed. And then he was sort of like the dad of the group, but who also understood that what are the marketing numbers? What are the ways that we measure it? And that was my first understanding. I’m like, this was design experience versus just print. They weren’t a print shop. They were truly connecting like a textual experience, like tactile experience rather, to a business outcome. And it was like, oh, wow, I knew it was important. And as I saw over years that we moved into software design and software user experience and seeing it done right in some organizations, I was like, you knew that they got it and they understood the impact.
Absolutely. I think I’m a big believer of multidisciplinary thinking. And when you connect the dots, it actually is much more effective. Yeah, absolutely. I think the only thing when you said that that’s one reaction I see is like the creative kind. And yes, absolutely. There are a lot of people that are different and in the creative pursuit and so on and so forth. But it’s actually more of a mindset. And it’s a mindset that I personally advocate that a lot of people can get into, especially now that we all are equally, all the tools and systems and methods are available. It’s much easier to become an engineer if you want to watch YouTube videos and learn in the same way. Much easier to learn design and appreciate design. There’s just so much opportunities to kind of become a student of a lot of different systems. But yeah, I think design is kind of coming in. Most organizations in the Valley, as well as most tech companies, have some investment in design. What kind and where they are and how mature is a different question, but they have some investment. Just to give you one quick story, there is I started my career also in early 2000s, and my title still was User experience at that point with User Experience specialist.
And I had a scrum manager ask me like, oh, so what do you do? And I said, I’m a user experience specialist. I said, okay, what do you code in? I said, I don’t code in anything. And then he’s like, oh, so you just get paid to do boxes and arrows? And I was like, I get paid to do boxes and arrows. But that’s exactly fascinating. But then again, not in any real intention, but just how his understanding was. How can you build your experience without this? But over time, I still kept in touch with that master. And it’s fascinating. I mean, how much the profession has evolved.
If you think of those days. I mean, I remember coming through doing some work in telecom, in schooling, and I went to University, like took some part time courses, and it was all about information technology management. And they were teaching us about legacy telecom technologies that were like decades old. And that was at that time the beginning of what I started to see HCI – like human computer interaction, was beginning to become a subset of computer science. But only a handful of people moved towards it versus today. I would imagine that it’s actually probably core competency and core curriculum, I think, for computer science. So we’ve seen it, be understood the importance and the impact that it can have.
I think absolutely. I think just look at it. Right? I mean, what was that saying? That we have more computing power on our body than the space shuttle that went to moon? And that just is fascinating. I mean, the amount of tech that we have around us, the amount of systems we are interacting with, and if you do not think about the human in the loop and build that around that, then it just is an opportunity lost. And again, with the curve, there will be a lot of people adopted because it solves a problem. And just the same way as I would say before FaceTime and Apple brought FaceTime. And yeah, you could talk to person to person if you knew the IP, and then you kind of plug it in and then you do a thing and maybe kind of figure out the firewalls and all that stuff. But today it’s just like I click on a person’s face and I call them, and then I’m talking to them, and that just is the nature of how technology has evolved. And do they really care about what IP and which country and which location?
And they don’t because the systems take care of it and the human just wants it to work that way. But again, it works with an iPhone. But when I go into my home, it’s kind of a different context. So there’s a lot of those still, as technology is becoming pervasive, I just believe that there will be more opportunities for us to really think about human in the loop across systems.
And I think what we learn is that through those first iterations, just like with Teleconferencing, right. It was like you’d have a Polycom system in one office and a Polycom system in another office. And some poor bugger in the networking team is trying to set up sip trunking and point to point peering and all this really difficult technology to make one meeting happen. And there’s a bunch of people staring at the back of an It guy in one room and staring at the back of an It guy in another room. And then eventually the TV’s light up and it’s all right. Now we can begin and it’s wondrous versus now the natural expectation is I should just be able to walk up and click the button. And then I’m talking to Tokyo. Absolutely. Underneath it all the same, technology exists, right? But we took what was that problematic experience and we’ve gotten through it and we’ve automated and systematized it, which is, I think, where the advantage comes in. And also, like you said, it’s about iteration. It’s about listening, finding the customer problem, and seeing where just in the same way that any design business design, like lean practices, which ultimately came from the work of Toyota and Kaizen.
I read Eli Gold Rat and this idea of the theory of constraints and how this comes as far as flow. Well, experience flow is similar, right? Like find the bottleneck, subjugate the bottleneck, eliminate it, and then look for the next bottleneck and continue to do so until you have flow.
Absolutely. Yeah. It’s more science than art overall. And that’s why I say I’ve seen a lot more correlation with engineering, with creativity, which actually is one thing that because if you look at it, let’s talk about creativity and movie making. Right. If you talk to cinematographer and you kind of understand how they kind of compose the picture, it’s a lot of mathematics, it’s a lot of angles, it’s a lot of equations around light and camera angles and so on and so forth. But no one talks about it that way. You still have to equally be appreciative the same way as dancing, as so much math, steps counts, and all those things that you have to really think about a lot of nuances and designs are very similar. Design is very similar. In fact, I write in the book too about this, which is that a lot of times people pick up when you say design inspiration, it’s always looking for somebody who’s a designer in the craft sense. But I actually think that one of the best designers in the world was often not discussed in the modern context is Da Vinci. And because you think about him, he understands biology as well as he understands engineering as well as art.
And he’s good things to show in each one of them. And perfect. And if you can look back again talking about Steve Jobs or anyone, the construct of being a polymath, construct of looking at how things connect, that’s kind of where the magic is. And then you kind of apply that aspect of the flow and kind of looking at every aspect and every problem and then unlocking it. There’s just so many ways that you can make that magic happen.
And that is Da Vinci is such an incredible example of that. Like as both a creative mind and as an artist, a very literal artist, and what he could create, we could paint and his drawings, but his engineering. And when you look at the stuff that’s not the most popular works that we all know, you realize, like how many thousands of engineering drawings that he has. And this was pre-computer. This is very rudimentary tools that were given to him to do this. And he was creating something fantastic. On the Jobs thing too, it’s funny. There’s this weird thing that people often do is they say, oh, he wasn’t actually an engineer, but he understood the engineering aspect. He understood the technology, he understood the business, he understood the human behavior. And that may have been his strongest focus area. But he wasn’t just a marketing guy that made Apple big because he was really a marketing guy. It’s unfortunate that we kind of try and dumb it down to just like labeling somebody as they do this thus. That’s what they did.
I think it’s a really good thing to unpack. Right. And we say this at the firm of UX Reactor a lot. We say this always start with the user, understand the experience, then design it for them, and then look at the technology. And if you look at how Steve Jobs thought through it, he knew who the user was. He knew what experience he wanted to give them, and that’s kind of the whole thing. When he created the first Apple Store, he perfected it in a warehouse. He looked at every angle, how lights was formed, what the material surface was. He thought about that experience he wanted to give when people walked into the store. Then he thought about the design of all the nuances. And then he goes to engineering and says, I want this. Make it happen. Right. And obviously, engineering is when you have that level of a funnel of thinking, you are always holding engineering accountable for a very different aspect, which is like, I want to give the best experience for the user, and this design is going to look this way. Now, do you need to be the best engineer in the room?
Probably not. Do you need to be the best marketing person? He was a great storyteller. He could bring it down to the world. And I think that is often something that’s not told as much. Now you put it in the marketing hat. Absolutely not. He knew what users care about, and he would tell that well. But the fact is there was a lot of scientific approach. And his process of as you kind of earlier shared this, that aspect is kind of very valid. Now, what’s also interesting is Elon Musk calls himself the chief designer at SpaceX.
And it’s fascinating how he picked that title out. I know many people there’s a lot to read on that line. He’s the best technically the best person in space. I know there are so many other people there’s technically the best engineer on that system. Probably not. But the way he thinks about, again, what’s the vision for the system that he’s building and then percolate down and then get everything done, which is why the designer word, and I call it big d-thinking, big design thinking and not the small craft thinking. And that’s kind of where these people always played.
The Musk example is very interesting, too, because people have trouble trying to fit him into what he does. He’s incredibly technical, he’s incredibly intelligent, so much so that it’s challenging to have discussions with him because he’s thinking at a different level as a great interview experience. I watched and it’s actually tough to watch sometimes these ones Lex Friedman, who’s MIT robotics professor and designer and doing some very interesting stuff. And he’s a great podcast, talk some really amazing people. And Elon on and he talked about how do you think about where it can go wrong? What is it that you do in designing for failure, that if maybe it won’t work, that we aren’t going to get to Mars? Something that was the premise of the question. And it was the most fantastic thing to watch as an interview, because Musk just turned and you could see his eyes were like they’re darting back and forth. He’s formulating it. And the fact that Friedman gave just said, don’t say a word, didn’t cut them off, didn’t try and fill it. It felt like 30 seconds. It was probably ten. But that’s an eternity. When you’re watching an interview, you’re like, is the microphone still on?
You’re literally like, you’re not sure if they’re still on. And he’s like, well, we don’t think about that because there is no option. Failure is not something that we designed for. And he began this, but the fact that he went through and he was looking for the correct answer, not the fastest answer that would sound good on microphone. And it’s a very unique thing. Now he’s a Polarizing figure. Obviously, it’s a challenge to have a conversation about what’s good or bad about Elon Musk’s with a lot of folks. Actually, here’s another one. I bring this up because we did talk about this. You may know this text and this professor. Well, yes, which is why I said I wanted to wait until we got into ethics. I’m a student myself of stuff that BJ Fogg has brought to the world. But before we understood the impact, and now that we do understand the impact and he himself has almost had to kind of put a label warning on his own work because he sort of understands how much he empowered people to take it and do things that were not healthy or potentially not ethical with it.
Let’s talk about ethics of design.
No, it’s interesting. On a side note, actually, my master’s thesis was either studying persuasive technology, which is obviously at that point, or was human robotic interaction. I decided to take human robotic interaction. But I’ve actually been a student of persuasion, how systems like that can be built right if done right, obviously. I mean, because design the way to it just the same way as you kind of showed the coin trick. There’s a lot of illusion to design. There’s a lot of ways that we can get people to do what they want to do and how they want to get them to. If you’re getting them to do it for the right thing, obviously it is what the user intended to and where they got to. I think that’s all ethical when you want them to get to things that you intend to, but not them, probably. And that’s kind of where it gets into the other side. There’s so much that’s gone with the advent of technology. We have just seen a lot of other social aspects of it. Much deeper topic much. But personally, for me, I’ve always tiered here, at least as a firm.
We always said that we want to solve life problems, not lifestyle problems. And there’s still so much more opportunity. But on the highest level. I mean, I’d rather get a student to study better on a doctor to kind of be effective more or financial transactions to happen faster than actually trying to get you to do something or buy something that I don’t that is not right for you or anywhere. There’s a lot of other aspects to that. But the power of design is very much there for us to do anything we want. You’ve seen that over the last four or five years where triggering of polarizing news can get more engagement, getting you to click on a fake queue can get you more clicks. Again, it’s easy to do that because I control the environment that you’re in, and therefore I can manage that. But at the same time, I must say what some of the firms are now doing as a stand to kind of give more power to the consumer and power to them. I actually feel that there is more corporate responsibility that’s coming in. But overall, I just think there is a larger system that people need to realize that technology is getting more powerful and tools that are available are getting much more powerful. And we just need to know that we have to be aware of it.
Yeah. And I’ve applauded the work really, of Tristan Harris and the center for Human Technology and sort of that group that’s wrapped around it. And there are so many people that have really come to the fore who were ultimately all students of Fog and those practices. And I think that’s a good thing. In the same way that if we look at what Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky did in winning a Nobel Prize for economics as behavioral psychologists, that in the same way you talk about design, that it’s matching the business to the human experience and measuring it, that we’re going to use a lot more science to describe the art than the art. And that’s pre Kahneman and Tversky, all we thought was that this was art, that this was anecdotal information. And we were lucky more than right on describing what was happening. And when we took and we put science and data behind it, all of a sudden you can really understand what was going on in that behavior. And I truly like, that user experience is ultimately behavioral understanding, right?
Absolutely. Because I think users have intent, and intent kind of reflects in behavior. Users have trained behavior. So there’s a lot of those elements that you kind of do that. So it’s truly a cusp of that’s why I say you have to be a psychologist, you have to be a student of cultures. As an anthropologist, you need to look at be a technologist, you need to understand. So there’s so many aspects that you bring together to make that magic happen. But, yeah, it’s a powerful system that many companies and I see a lot more companies becoming much more aware of it. It’s just that they don’t get it right because they go in with one quick solution and so on, so forth. But it is a big mindset shift. But once it’s done and people understand that there’s a whole science behind it and a structure behind it, there’s a lot of opportunity.
Yeah. And it’s an interesting mix of, like you said, such a multidisciplinary thing. And even like, marketing campaigns are very much wrapped around creating an experience. And so the words we use, they’re so simple when you get them. But the work to get there. So that really can bring up the question of who was the reason why the first Apple really went to high output? Was it Chia Day because they were the marketing agency behind it? Was it the team that fed them the right data to give them that campaign? There were so many players. But in the end, internally, especially as an organization, when you’re creating a software centric business, user experience design is now fundamental. And this is not something that you can go on to Upwork and Fiverr and find. Absolutely.
I think you can get a lot of people on Fiverr. I think before we start this conversation, anybody with a computer and Internet can be a user experience designer. But to become a really good one in that it takes a lifetime and you still learn. And the technology, as I said, you kind of really broaden up and then also build the depth. And it’s more importantly, I think, something that you called out, which I want to kind of further elaborate on. It’s a very collaborative profession, and it’s not necessary that the most creative person is somebody with a designer title. It’s actually the system of bringing people together, ideating, building it, iterating on it. It is a collective process, and it’s one of those professions where literally two plus two is not edited. It’s multiplicative in a lot of ways. So therefore, it’s actually a fascinating thing. And I’ve seen so many people who go through a design process, they’re like, man, this is so fun. And I’m like, absolutely, it should be fun because you’re getting your creative juices, you’re trying out a lot of things, and you’re doing it with a larger group of people. And then when you build a structure around it. It kind of gets much more engaging.
Let’s talk about the bringing this to the market as a playbook now. So the user experience design is a practical playbook to fuel business growth. Fantastic introduction to what people can do. And it is such a well laid out, full, true experience in the playbook. Everywhere I went, it made sense. So I can imagine the work that went into creating this has had to have been a lot of hours, a lot of iteration, and a lot of design. But first of all, it’s beautifully done, just visually. And the reading of it, it’s like they say about user experience, when user experience is really great, no one notices. When it’s not great, it’s immediately obvious.
So talk about the book and what drew you to put the time towards this? And I’m going to tell people, get the bloody book is fantastic.
To be honest, the book was never an intent on our end. It all started with I really was about eight years back, I was fairly frustrated in my career because I had spent close to that point about a decade trying to build that user centricity in organizations and teams that I’ve worked on and felt that my career was fairly mediocre. I didn’t have much to show. I had a lot of effort, a lot of activity, and I was just concerned at the same time, you look at the apples, the Airbnb, the Zappos, and all the folks that have actually been able to unravel and deliver much more impact to user centric practices. And I said, I really need to go back and look at it. And I said, either I keep to this profession, in which case let’s go back and understand and study why some companies are able to get there and why some companies are not able to get there. And that became my pursuit for a large level and to do that UXReactor as a firm was created and with my brother, who’s also the co founder and also the very good researcher and this line of work.
And through that last seven years that the company existed, we ran a lot of experiments. We worked with a lot of companies. We kind of understood what are the key things that make it work. And then we finally came down to what was in our we call it the BVD system to drive business value by design. There are four key aspects that need to be thought through, which is the right people in the right process, following the right process with the right mindset in the right environment. And that is what makes a good company in this process of being user centric versus a great company. And what we then started realizing is that we would get questions that a lot of our stakeholders would ask, like, how do I build a team? What’s the structure that goes into it, how do I build a carrier for them? How do I build a roadmap around a user that I care about? There’s a lot of these things that started coming up and we’re like, man, we need to probably write something about it because there’s so much more need. Nine out of ten companies don’t follow any of this structure, though they intend to.
And so we said, let’s write it down and put it out in the public domain. And that’s when the book came to be. And it was also one of the pandemic babies in the pandemic. We just saw every company going tech first, digital first, and then struggling. Right. And education is a classic example. Like just throwing tech on it doesn’t help because what ends up on the user’s side is they have half a dozen to a dozen systems to interact with, one for assessment, one for instruction, one for textbooks. And then that student is having to deal with uncomplicating it, and then experience is the best way to kind of navigate through that and you realize that’s not happening. So the book kind of ended up there. And then we said we wanted to create it with an intent to be a playbook where people from a different perspective business leaders, design leaders, practitioners, collaborators, everybody could take away something from it as a play and then use it immediately. So that’s how the whole construct came to be. And then we took a lot of our tribal common knowledge that we had within our own playbook at the organization and then put that out there.
So that’s kind of how the book ended up becoming a book. And so far as we’ve gone through our own process of iterating and testing with different users who we actually want to leverage, that we hope would leverage this book. And so far, we have only heard great things. And that’s all we are traded on it, and we kind of built on it as soon as it publishes. I’m looking forward to kind of getting the reaction and getting out there. I believe it’s sometime early May.
This is the thing that we see often, right? Is that going I think of Gene Kim and the team that worked with them on the Phoenix project and ultimately the DevOps handbook. The industry may still misuse the phrase DevOps. I see people all the time. They’re like DevOps engineer too, right? Like, that’s their title by HR, and it’s not really related to what they’re doing. In the same way that user experience design will get co opted and misused as a phrase, some poor person out there is labeled user experience designer three. You know, like they’re going to get ranked according to some HR band. But the work that went in the research, the patience that’s required to live the experience and then to take that same patience to bring it to the community through a written work. I loved how that played out in what you and everybody at UX Reactor have done. And like I said, this is the proof in even what I’ve seen. When you tell me it’s still in draft form, I figured it was going to come to be in basically word format like this. If this is draft, then I’ve never written a draft this good in my life.
It’s very well done.
Again, good to great concentration, and I think it’s good right now. And I think we are still trying to make it great, but that’s a perpetual I said we will keep evolving it. We will still have ideas. But more importantly, I think it’s a good resource that we have pulled together from our own experience and roughly everybody. It’s a collective effort. And I hope that even if one company gets to drive this success and that’s kind of the way we are looking at it. And that’s the reason why we want to make sure that more and more people are aware it’s just one of those professions in adolescence and we wanted to mature fast and then start delivering value fast in a way that most users actually. And again, think about it, we have so many interfaces we’re interacting with, and it should be much more easier. I think I have a vision in a decade from now, there will be so much technology, but they should be a simpler way of how we approach it. And you don’t have to go to like, again, I see all these tech companies going through certification programs, training programs.
I’m like professional services. I mean, your system, if it has to be explained, that means it’s not been designed well. Your system needs to be certified on for someone to use on. That means that you haven’t spent the time perfecting it. And it’s just one of those things that I say that and then also because the last two decades has been much more web centric, mobile centric all that is what’s going to come and play in the next decade. So it’s actually a fascinating time altogether.
It is. It is a really wondrous time with the opportunity. Obviously counterbalanced with what we talked about was sort of the ethics and the risks that we do present. But I’d say the dominant work that’s happening is so positive and so just doing great things. What we can do to bring these technologies and these platforms and these opportunities to other parts of the world as well that are underrepresented. And this one I want to tap on before we finish up Satyam is cultural representation in user experience design because I fall victim to this all the time. Right. I typically speak to a dominantly North American market, and so you can use a cadence of speech that’s specific. You can use everything. Platform design, referring to stories. I can talk about a New York Bank or a West Coast health company. It’s almost ingrained into me. It’s all sort of a coded bias of speech pattern and experience design. But then when I speak to audiences that are in the UK, I know to refer to Barclays instead of bank of New York, Maryland. And I know to refer to Santander and to think about the NIH instead of Medicare.
Like, I’ve learned those things. When it comes to user experience design, how do you deal with geo experience locality?
It’s that inbuilt curiosity in a lot of ways and that’s kind of what you tap into. It is a global profession. So if I’m trying to build something for, let’s say Sapsahar in Africa, you either have to go and observe and be immersed in it like one like them, or you kind of go and talk to people there or you kind of find someone who’s kind of much more aware of that. Again, it’s a user research is such a critical facet that how do you understand those aspects or you do all of it and triangle. It’s no different from again, good user research is no different from an awesome intelligence analyst in the military or a financial analyst because you’re connecting dots, you’re kind of connecting this is what this person thinks in this context. This is what it is. And then you kind of build your hypothesis and build your experiments around that. And that’s the scientific part of building experiences. But first of all, being aware that a SubSaharan African student studying is different from the inner city student versus somebody has high end in an expensive neighborhood, because even the subtleties of getting internet set up or even the devices that are around you, all those things can become different contexts and situations.
But again, just being aware that the world is different around you and you are curious to see how they are different, well, itself open up so much opportunity and a lot of times people just go in and I assuming that what you think is the right thing. And I’ll end this with actually an interesting story with my professor when I was in grad school and he finished a class and then I went to him and I said, that just seems like common sense. And he said, absolutely it is common sense. But remember what’s common for you is not common for somebody who’s in the other part of the world or your grandmother. And that is what who we are. We are understanding what common sense is. And that’s actually a fascinating thing that stayed with me all through. And that’s why I’m always looking for what’s common sense. And when somebody thinks it’s common sense, that means I’ve given to them what they want in the context that they wanted.
That’s a perfect way to round it up and leave the assumptions at the door because it is a beautiful and sad to me, your approach is really great and I’ve learned a ton from you. I’ve definitely learned like just even when I’ve had a chance to read through the book. It’s going to be great so I’ll make sure to get this out. Hopefully not too long from the time that people are watching this and listening to it they’ll be able to get so I’ll have links and make sure to share it out. If people do want to get connected to you Satyam what’s the best way to do that?
Linkedin is the best way to connect on there’s also we’re going to create a small community for the playbook I believe. Uxdplaybook.com it’s going to launch around the same time on the book launches so again there’ll be different ways to connect. I really want to kind of be as available and approachable as possible as people are in this journey but yeah I think LinkedIn is a good way if they also can reach out through the company uxreactor.com so there’s different ways to get there. I’m pretty sure if someone wants to truly get to me I’m sure they will find a way but the easiest way is to get on LinkedIn and just send me a note.
There you go folks to follow the links down below because I make sure I have them in the show notes and of course on the YouTube channel this has been really great Satyam. It’s been a real pleasure and I look forward to success for you with the book and with UX reactor and hopefully we’ll get a chance to catch up again in future and here on the other side once it’s out in the world, how the community building around it because that is an interesting aspect that I’d actually like to explore again in future. So thank you very, very much.
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Eric. I appreciate it and have a great rest of the day.
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Bestselling author Fabrice Testa is an exponential thinker, innovator, serial tech entrepreneur, business angel investor, trusted advisor, public speaker, author, and highly sought-after mentor. He has successfully founded, co-founded, or participated in the launch of multiple companies that created hundreds of jobs and generated multi millions in revenue.
He is the creator of the Superpreneur Blueprint framework and has developed a set of cutting-edge strategies and tactics that enable super-entrepreneurs to materialize crazy ideas, build breakthrough ventures, and solve the world’s biggest problems. After helping more than 100 companies excel in their fields, Testa is making this proven methodology publicly available in Super-Entrepreneurship Decoded to help super-entrepreneurs everywhere transform our lives—and the planet.
This was such dynamic and informative chat. I highly recommend the book (which I read multiple times because it was that good) so make sure to follow the links to grab a copy yourself.
Welcome to the show. My name is Eric Wright. I’m the host for your DiscoPosse podcast. I hope that you liked this one as much as I did when I recorded it with Fabrice Testa. Fabrice is an author, an entrepreneur or an investor, and somebody who genuinely is using technology and business to bring good to the world. It was such a fantastic opportunity to really delve into his book Super Entrepreneurship Decoded. I loved it so much that I actually read it multiple times in preparation for the interview, and it was just that good.
So you definitely got to get a copy. Hit the links that are on the website episode page. You can also hit us up on the YouTube definitely reach out. I’m going to be running a contest on my YouTube channel. If you want to get a copy of this book, drop me a comment on the YouTube channel. It’s YouTube.com/c/DiscoPossePodcast and I’m going to be giving away a bunch of copies of this fantastic book. So just check the YouTube page for the details on that one. All right.
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So, it could just be Pete in accounting that accidentally deletes a file. It could be somebody who erases a team’s message that shouldn’t have gone away. So get that stuff protected. All right, just go to vee.am/DiscoPosse and it’s just that easy, vee.am/DiscoPosse. And speaking of protection, make sure you protect your data when it’s in transit as well. Easy way to do that is you can use great products like ExpressVPN. The reason why I use VPN is because I like to make sure that I can do my best to protect my identity, protect my data.
And also it’s just fantastic for web testing. If I need to test like, remote location to make sure that it works as expected from different regions. So it’s really, really great. I use ExpressVPN for that very purpose. If you want to check it out yourself, go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse and you can get it for yourself. All right. This is Fabrice Testa. I hope you like the show. He is amazing. Get his book.
Hey. Hello. It’s Fabrice Testa and you are listening to DiscoPosse podcast.
This is perfect. What a great way to start the year. This is fantastic. So Fabrice, thank you very much. I’ve been engulfed in the school of Fabrice now for a while. I was really pleased when I had the opportunity to put you on as a potential guest. And I really enjoyed. First, I read your most recent book, which is the Super Entrepreneurship Decoded. Fantastic book. Went a lot through the rest of your history, of course. And leading up to that book, you have so much to bring and you’ve brought so much to the world already.
But for folks that are brand new and who don’t already know you. Fabrice, if you don’t mind, let’s just get a quick bio. We’ll talk about the book and a really good exploration of this concept of the superpreneur.
Yes. Thanks Eric, for welcoming me on this show. Yes. So I’m Fabrice Testa, and actually I’m Belgian. I have also some origins from Italy. So I live in Belgium, but I work mostly. My business is mostly in Luxembourg, so in Europe and I have, of course, travel all over the world during my career. And basically I’m an entrepreneur. So I co-funded different companies in the space sector in the digitalization. One of them achieved 100 million Euro turnover, 200 people. Then this company was sold and after that I funded also a company in the satellite service company, Luxembourg.
And after three years that company was also sold. And after the sale of this company, I had no new entrepreneurial projects. So I started some new life as an investor, a business center. So I did different investments again in different technologies, space, artificial intelligence, ICT, et cetera. And then, I started also to be a coach and mentor to help other entrepreneurs because I wanted to give back somehow and to help other entrepreneurs by sharing my experience. And let’s say those successful strategies and tactics that was working for me.
I also created by that time a blueprint that I call the Superpreneur Blueprint to help entrepreneurs to become what I call superpreneur. And maybe we will discuss more about this and to solve some big problems by materializing crazy ideas. And actually I met a young Dutch entrepreneur in 2017 and he came with a crazy idea. So for me it was the opportunity to also be again involved in a kind of superpreneur venture. So we co-founded with other people in 2019, the company called Maana Electric that is also mentioned in my book.
And now this company is working well. So today I spent my time between this company as a co-founder and shareholder. I also spent time mentoring, coaching, speaking at several events to explain this super entrepreneurship movement that I launched. And I wrote a book, this book, Super-Entrepreneurship Decoded, because I think that one thing was missing in the Superpreneur Blueprint. It was a method, because the Superpreneur Blueprint gives the core pillars, the guiding principles and the key characteristic of this kind of venture, but it was not telling how to do it.
And so I try to analyze what super entrepreneurs and super achievers, how they do it. What is their secret to succeed? Why others fail? And in the book, I unveil five secrets that I think can help entrepreneurs to maximize their chances of success. Of course, it’s not a guarantee of success, but I think it’s a way to maximize the chances of success. They put all these five secrets around a method that I call the crazy method. So that’s a bit of my story and the origin of the book.
I really appreciated the beautiful use of acronyms. So, we’ll talk about crazy as a method. People think, is he meaning literally crazy? But it’s a perfect pairing because it allows us to assign a memorable name to it. And it’s not far off of, you know, these real sort of crazy and moonshot type of ideas. If we take it in this literal sense of the word and then a pathway to execution that’s been tested and proven that you’re bringing this methodology, you’re bringing a framework to the world that you’ve lived and experienced, which is, I think, one of the best things that people need to appreciate about the book.
This is not a Harvard Airplane NBA guide that you read between New York and Boston flights. This is a lived experience that’s brought down and distilled into effective, meaningful steps that you can implement with great analogous references that are meaningful and helpful. And, of course, likes to bring your personal experience. I trust it. I think Nassim Taleb says the greatest way to be a philosopher King is to be a King first and then a philosopher second. Too many times these days, when you go through the business section or these sort of self help sections, it’s a lot of people who are straight from school and their PhD year was writing from research.
And while it’s a beautiful thing, ten years later, when they go back and revisit their early work, they’re like, ‘Oh, wow. I was naïve a lot of times in what was written’. Your book, first of all, tells a beautiful story. And like I mentioned before, we talked, it is you telling the story. It really comes through as a person telling me how to achieve this from their own experience. And I said, it’s a refreshing change because I’ve read a lot of books of this style that aim to do this, and they often come back as the same three things that I already sort of knew, and it’s a little bit reinforcing, but it was very well done.
So I honestly can’t talk enough. We’ll have links, of course, in all the show notes for people, they should absolutely pick up the book.
Thanks, Eric. I really appreciate it. It’s always nice to hear nice words like this, but I think I wrote the book as I would like to read a book, because I also read a lot of non fiction books, maybe between 50 and 60 books, you know, per year. I like book support, entrepreneurship, business, etc. Some are very good, and some, I think are less good because it’s true that there are a lot of, maybe they tend to have some frameworks, et cetera. But you don’t see really how to apply it.
And what I wanted with the book is to give a very simple framework because I think the framework is very simple in essence. Now the difficulty is to apply it in real life, and it’s why I provide in the book worksheets so that people can apply, let’s say the principles of the book, try to answer a lot of questions and try to put in practice the principles of the book. And it’s also why I’m just launching by end of this month, a companion course to the book, which will be called The Crazy Method Launch online course.
And it’s an online coaching program on twelve weeks. Every week there will be a module and we are mostly following, let’s say, the method which is in the book, but I’m going really to dive deep into each of them, which of course, I could not do with the book, because in the book you are obliged a bit to scratch the surface, unfortunately. Because the book will be indigenous and will be much too big. But with the course, I think the people will have really the opportunity to go really, to dive deep into the principles of the book, to put in actions the method that I propose in the book, and hopefully like this, they can really materialize their breakthrough potential.
They can really have a solid plan if, for example, they want to launch this kind of breakthrough venture that I’m suggesting in the book.
The thing that we need to look at, too, and that’s why I appreciated the references throughout and very specific stories that are called on from other parts of the industry as well, is the proof in execution elsewhere. Right. It gives us a chance to have a reason. Why is the book built to last? One of the most popular ones is because it’s five familiar brands that we know, and that familiarity breeds the belief that I can achieve it. There’s something to be said about this, but when you get into the moonshot areas and these very big ideas, it’s a little more difficult to find meaningful, real existing references.
Looking back now, it’s funny that in two years, three years, you’ll look through those stories in the book and they’ll be like it’ll seem obvious, but at the time when you’re writing this, of course, these are still moonshots. We look at Elon Musk, not just in a single moonshot, but in multiple ventures that he’s achieved. You, of course, coming from supporting and investing in space technologies and being in that ecosystem, there’s a lot of these sort of hidden, there’s a hidden world that’s existing that most people are not going to be aware of until it’s already on their phone or wherever it is.
They just take for granted all of this other work that’s happening to support the thing that makes the news or that makes the big story. So I just realized, too, by actually coincidence, I was wearing a SpaceX shirt. My wife and I are both space fanatics. And last time I got a chance, we actually went to watch the Delta Four Orion launch in Florida. It was fantastic. There’s nothing like an in-person launch. And being aware of how seemingly unrealistic that idea is to most people and why the super entrepreneur has to and is somehow able to put that aside and say, this needs to get done.
And despite advice and despite doubt, we’re going to do things to get back to like this, it can be done. So maybe let’s start there describe to me Fabrice, what is the super entrepreneur or the superpreneur?
Yes, I think it’s a good question indeed, to start somehow the conversation. What I call super entrepreneurs are people that they want to solve some big problems. Because I explained in the book that in 2007 we enter in what I call ‘The Edge of Exponential Acceleration’. So everything is really going very fast. Mostly technology is going exponentially, which is a good thing, because today we have many technologies that have achieved a good level of maturity, and they are used by this kind of innovators and inventors to build some amazing solutions.
But at the same time, problems are also accelerating at an exponential pace of change. If you look at climate change and unfortunately, you know, these disasters in Colorado, for example, I strongly believe that this is a consequence of climate change. And we see that we have now more wildfires, more flooding et cetera. In Belgium, for example, we have terrible flooding in the summer. So I think that we must do something. And unfortunately, most of the conventional solutions have proven their limits. So it’s time for radical solutions, what we call crazy ideas, crazy solutions, solutions that initially seem impossible.
But what I try to always explain is that today at the edge of exponential acceleration, nothing is really impossible. And at the edge of the exponential acceleration, impossible becomes possible. And this kind of entrepreneurs, I call them super entrepreneurs because they probably believe that nothing is really impossible. And they are ready to dedicate ten years, 20 years of their lifetime to solve such kind of big problems and to come with some amazing solution that will solve this problem. And, for example, to give a very concrete example to your audience.
There is, for example, this guy in the book that I described, Joseph Pescounty. He is Italian but living in Barcelona, in Spain, and he discovered that he could use some technology used for 3D print human tissues, et cetera. That he could use the same technology to 3D print food and so now he’s using this technology to 3D print food. Imagine that today is, of course, still a very small scale. But imagine that tomorrow he can build machines, he can scale these machines to produce tons of food and 3D print tons of food.
This could be really a big solution for solving hunger around the world, because today, unfortunately, in the world many people, they have only access to one meal per day. So I think at the 21st century, we are always saying we live extra ordinary times, et cetera, which is true. But how can we admit that today in our civilization that some people, they have only access to one meal per day? So I think we need to come with some solutions. And it’s not with the traditional solutions that we will do it.
But with this kind of breakthrough solutions, it will be possible. And so it’s why I call them super entrepreneurs. And just to be clear, I don’t want to oppose one kind of entrepreneur to another kind of entrepreneur. I’m an entrepreneur, and I respect all kind of entrepreneurship. It’s just that these kind of people, I think they are super because they want to really solve big problems, to dedicate a big part of their lifetime to this, to work on moonshot things that others may think are impossible.
When I met this young entrepreneur, Joost van Oorschot, that is also in the book that came with this idea behind Maana Electric. When I met him first, my first reaction was also to say, wow, it’s crazy. He wants to turn sand into solar panels into a machine. This is impossible. So my first reaction and I’m also in this movement. But my first reaction was to say that’s impossible. So our first reaction, because we have a linear mind is to say it’s impossible. And if we go to an exponential mind, then we see the thing is possible, because in the exponential world, you know, if you can go ten times, if you have ten doublings, it’s a grow of 1000.
If it’s 20 doublings, it’s a grow of 1 million, you know. If it’s 30 doublings, is 1 billion growth. So it’s going very fast. And today we see with this progress of technologies that many things are possible. So I think we need to have a mind shift and to really shift our perspective and see. Okay, if I would have a magic wand, how I will solve this problem. And it’s what I recommend to innovators if you would like to solve this problem, what would you do? Don’t think that with possible solution.
Just imagine if you could do it or you will do it. Like, for example, I said this 3D printing machine, like we seen some science fiction movies, you know, that the food is printed or appears directly like this. And this is really something that we think with a magic wand that it could be possible. But today the reality is that it’s probably feasible and it will happen. I’m pretty sure that it will happen in the coming years that it will be at this time.
To take it back to this first principles thinking approach, which I think is obviously the fundamental to the folks that are achieving these sort of grand visions is because they’ve gotten rid of linear thinking. They have to shed the belief that everything is one to 1.1. It truly is this sort of zero to one. Go back to raw materials. And I think Elon Musk was recently on Alex Friedman podcast. He talked about that. The only way you can approach this is simply look at the costs of the raw materials, and the goal in the end, is always to the cost of manufacturing will be asymptotically close to zero above the raw materials.
And it’s just a matter of the work that you do to get closer to that raw material cost. And that’s ultimately what led to battery technologies. And we’re seeing this with solar. But you’ve proven it out right in that very idea that if you just said, well, we have to just make it slightly better than the current lithium manufacturing, right? That can’t be it. You had to go to what seems like a crazy idea, as Joost brings and say, okay, what if we actually could do this and then you realize you always could with the right, first mindset and then second, which is why the book is important, executing the approach in operations as well, because there’s lots of big ideas.
But then having the team, the growth, the understanding to financially survive to execution is where, it’s a long distance from idea to execution. So that’s why where do we learn this? Is it as rare as it seems to be able to have this thinking?
Yes, I think you are right, Eric. When I met again, when I met you the first time, I was thinking, okay, that’s impossible to transform sand into solar panels. All this will be impossible. But then I go just 1 minute after. Yeah, but let’s imagine that it can work. Okay. So I asked some people, do you think that it’s possible? And many people told me, look, it’s not against the laws of physics, in sand, you can find everything to transform it into Silicon and then into solar cells and glass.
So basically it’s possible from just a physique standpoint. And so this was for me, the confirmation. Okay, that’s probably possible. So now let’s dive a bit deeper into that. So I did my due diligence. I analyze more. I try to understand also the business model, et cetera. What was the plan? I was also impressed by your master plan. It’s a notion that I explain also in the book, what were the big goals, etcetera. And to be honest, we are just following the big milestones right now.
And then you are right. I think an idea remains an idea until it is materialized and so what I see so many times is entrepreneurs. They have a lot of ideas, et cetera. But they never take action, or if they take action, they take the bad action. So it’s why I always say first, you need to really know, okay, what do you want to achieve? What do you want to create in this world? What is your true purpose? Okay. And after that, you need to press your crazy ideas that these crazy ideas will really allow you to materialize somehow your big dreams and you have to dream big and bold.
Many people are unfortunately not audacious enough. These kind of super entrepreneurs or super achievers. They have dream. They have big dreams. They believe in their big dreams, and they are bold. They take the necessary actions to materialize their dreams. But you are right that the proper execution is key, because without a proper execution, without what I call a flawless execution, you cannot, unfortunately, materialize because these kind of moonshots are very complicated, to be honest, to be achieved, to be materialized. So it’s why it’s very important to have a flawless execution.
And these kind of super entrepreneurs and super achievers, they are master at execution. They really try to see anything that can help the business. And now the secret one of the secret to succeed this flawless execution is to have a good preparation. The preparation is key, but now you have not also to spend months and months just in preparation and never take action. So I think there is a good balance to have when you think that your plans are good enough, then you have to act and maybe to revise a little bit your plans, et cetera, iterate.
Of course, move forward because I see also a lot of entrepreneurs. They have big ideas. They create big plans, but at the end they have the fear to fail. Or maybe they try to perfection their plans, but at some point they never do it. And they have very nice pitch deck. Or they have very nice business plans, or they have even very nice products. But they never ask the customers about their products or they never try to sell their products. So they have fantastic products. But at some point they never question also the business case for the product.
Again, it’s nice to have big ideas, but you need to go from a big idea, from a dream to a plan and then to some execution. Again, it may seem very simple, and I think the basics of the business is simple. Business is what an entrepreneur is there to solve a problem with a product or service that you want to sell to some people and you make some profits. I think the basic of business are very simple. The realization is something which is more complicated because there are so many parameters and these kind of super entrepreneurs and super achievers, they have a holistic approach about how to manage the company and they try to minimize the flaws in every aspect of their business.
Now you bring up a very important point when without customer validation, this is quite often the death knell for product management and bringing products successfully to market, because if they wait too long before they expose to their buyer and their user and their true technical consumer, they go far down the path to what they believe is the correct thing to build or method to use. And then you have the double problem of number one. They’re now pot committed or too far invested into this. And so they then start to discount the customers ideas like, ‘oh, no, but you don’t understand. We know what we’re doing better. We built it.’
But then the counter problem exists now, Fabrice, where in moonshots, quite often the customer doesn’t exist in a way when you’ve got an idea, you have long plan as to when a customer will be able to test it. How does that gap get bridged in your experience dealing with very early emerging tech?
Yeah, that’s, of course, a good question. And it can be a problem, actually, it’s also something which is well known. And I re-explain also in the book is the technology adoption lifecycle. So initially I think for this kind of, because mostly what I describe in the book are what is called deep tech companies. So it’s really very long. Let’s say moonshot venture that will take probably 5 to 10, if not 20 years, because there is a lot of research and development up front, et cetera. And for these kind of deep tech companies, generally, what you need is to have the validation, at least a kind of validation or pre validation from early pioneers.
So early pioneers are really people that are visionary that love new things, et cetera. That maybe see beyond, they like futuristic things, et cetera. And let’s take the example of Lilium, for example. It’s a company also that I described in the book. What they want is to have a small electric plan to make inter regional, let’s say, or intercity flights. So this will be perfect. It’s a bit like also Uber Air. So it’s these kind of companies that want to make some flight taxis, et cetera.
And you are right. Is there today customers? No. But there are some people that they may question some people and say, look, if this would be available, will you take it? Will you be able to pay for it? And I think there are many people that will say, yeah, I love Uber Air. That for example, in LA, where there is a big traffic jam, maybe I would have the possibility to fly instead of going on the road. I will love it. And I will be ready to pay for it.
So I think you can always find some people that at least validate your, let’s say, your proposition. Now, the difficulty for this kind of companies is that after two pioneers or what we call the early majority that will adopt, let’s say, their product, it will be to go to the mass market. And they might be more complicated. But, yeah, it’s all the difficulty of creating a business that can scale et cetera. But there are some, of course, fully, some strategies to do this. But I think in the case of Lilian, for example, they now went on the stock market.
I think it’s on the Nasdaq, their value at 1.5 billion. So the market believes in what they do. And I think there is a strong, let’s say, thinking among the population that, yes, this kind of solution at some point will take off, which is the right word will take off as long as, for example, the barriers related to air regulations, et cetera will be removed. But early validation is very important. And I like to give a very simple tip to start up, which is the Starbuck tip.
So if you have an idea, you go into Starbucks and you ask someone, ‘Look, I pay you your latte, but you spend ten minutes with me. I explain to you what I want to do, and you just give your honest feedback about what I want to do. If you think that it’s completely crazy, tell me that it’s completely crazy. If you think that you will never pay for it or that it will never work. Just let me know if you think that it’s amazing. Just let me know, et cetera.’
But you know what? Recently, a company in Luxembourg. I met them in an event and they talk about this idea. And I said, Did you validate your idea? “Oh, no, we don’t know exactly yet. We have not talked with potential customers yet, et cetera”. And I told them, look, go into a coffee shop and do this, and they did. And they receive an incredible validation of their solution. And many people said, look, if this would exist, it would be fantastic. And since then, they just won some prices, et cetera.
And they started doing well, because now they are convinced that there is a real market behind. So I do believe that early market validation is very important. But you are right that for this kind of companies, it’s not always easy. I think they have to focus on the pioneers, the early adopters, if at least they have this validation, it’s already a good sign. But after they will have some challenges, of course, for sure.
And I think an important thing that obviously plays out in the book. And with all the work you’re doing and the upcoming courses is, I often call it framework over firepower. That the old saying goes that plans are useless, but planning is essential and being able to adjust pivot, deal with changes in inputs. But if you do not have a framework in which you can apply these methods and you’re lucky more than you’re right in the execution. And this is the belief that we can just sort of throw.
If I scale my engineering team by 100, then I will suddenly be 100 times more productive. And it’s the mythical man month, as they often used to call it a mythical person month, of course, but more politically correct now, because you cannot just throw human firepower at it or money firepower necessarily and have it scale. The framework is incredibly important because then it becomes the methodology that anyone in your team can apply and that it also comes from vision and principle of the company. And I guess when you’re creating your own framework and you’re using your own method here Fabrice or you’re looking to entrepreneurs, especially as an angel investor, what is it that you look for in that, this is an idea and I trust these people to be able to scale towards this solution.
Look, before I make an investment. I use what I call the four T’s. And it’s not because my name is Testa. It’s around the T. And again, I like acronyms et cetera. But here it’s very mnemonic system for me to remember what is important. The first tier is technology. So is this technology really something breakthrough? Is it really something unique? Can this technology really create a big value? So that’s the first tier that I look into. Then I look at the second T, which is traction. And for me again, traction means market.
Is there a big market enough for this? Now, referring back to the previous question, sometimes it may be a bit complicated, but at least, is there some early pioneers, early adopters that, let’s say, that are quite excited about this solution and it’s what I call the traction. Then the third tier is the team. Is there a team able to materialize this big idea within this big market? Because for me, this is essential. It’s the execution. Is the team available today or maybe with some other people to execute the vision?
And then the fourth tier is the timing. Is it the right timing for it? Is it too early or is it too late? It’s a notion that I explain also in the book because I think this is really paramount. And there is a famous person that, unfortunately, I forgot his name. But he did an analysis of many ventures. What were their success factors, et cetera. And among, let’s say, all these startups et cetera. I think the video is available on YouTube. He found that, actually, timing was the key success factor.
So yeah, because why? Because sometimes some people, they have a very good idea, but they come too early and they are going to burn a lot of money before the market is ready. It’s maybe a bit the case, for example of Lilium, that I was talking about previously because I think they have a fantastic solution. But today the market is not fully ready, so they need a lot of cash. And it’s why, for example, they did an IPO to have enough cash. If you are too late for the market, the market is already over, and that’s done.
I think probably you will have some late people that might, let’s say, what we call the late majority that might eventually buy your solution. But the market is over. So it’s finished. So I think the proper market, the proper timing is very important. And what I have observed is that most of these super entrepreneurs, they are able to really sense, ‘Okay. What are the moods of the time? When is the right timing for it? And they launch the solution at the right timing. For example, I think Elon Musk, he was a master in that when he launched Tesla.
I think he really perceived that there was something missing on the market, that it was a time for electrical vehicle. But there was a need for some new kind of electrical vehicle, et cetera. He was right when he launched SpaceX. And you have dealt with SpaceX. It’s also in the right timing because there was all the start of the new space, et cetera. There was many projects of multi constellation, et cetera. And he was right to say, okay, if I can have a solution, which is maybe cheaper, et cetera, I can give a boost into this new space edge.
So I think the timing is very important. So I use these four T’s, the technology, I have the right technology, the right market, the right team, and the right timing. And for me, these are the basics after that. Of course, there are many things, but I think these are the four basics. And if at least a company has these four green lines into these four pillars, then for me, I can try to investigate a bit more.
Yeah, the timing is very interesting, and it’s often, it’s difficult to know until you run the other side of it. But if we take anecdotal experience, combine it with data, and I believe that we are going to be better. And we are today better at predicting that timing and ability to execute into that market. Of course, I brought up Built to Last. The funny thing about Built to Last is most of the stories in Built to Last actually led to pretty deep failures, years after the book had come out because the markets completely shifted away.
And it was sort of the idea that while they were successful in this pivot of those companies, they then failed to pivot soon after, and they suffered because of the belief that it was now stabilized. And they languished what they believed they already achieved what they needed to do to survive. But survival, like most things, is a continuous effort, especially in business when you’ve got funding. In the end, they often say it’s like startups fail for two simple reasons. The money runs out or the founders give up.
Yeah. Exactly. Dispute between the founders, or they give up or the lack of cash. Yes, these are the two main reasons, for sure.
But the four T’s that you talk about are the reason why the second part will occur most likely, right. Because we joke about pets.com and the original.com era. They all would have been fantastically valued and successful today, of course. But we’ve now succeeded on the backs of their failure. And I think that’s what as humans and as learners, in business and in tech, if we take those learnings and we say if given the right timing, if we change the approach, if we go back to first principles, could we bring this back to the market and be successful in it?
It’s good. I like that entrepreneurship as well as being celebrated. We saw a long period where it’s a bit of a tough word when you say the Uber of something. Right. Uber was this fantastic thing. But then it became synonymous with a negative view of the founder, of the specific founder. Right. That story was unfortunate because it truly did taint the incredible thing that was done to change the market to create something that just didn’t exist. And so I like that now entrepreneurship, we’re going to see more and more people that are successful with it, because I think further down towards the school system.
They’re studying these things instead of General Motors and Vodafone and the early technology creators as the case studies. They can now use case studies from the last five to ten years, which are fundamentally different than what we had 30 years ago, which were the case studies that were put in print and treated as the gospel of schooling, at least. And I’m curious on this one, Fabrice. Is there enough further down, even like in high school and secondary education, that is being done to make entrepreneurship a viable future for people?
I feel like we’re still not there yet, but I’m curious of your experience as well, talking to especially early founders.
Yes. I strongly believe that we need more entrepreneurship and not only to create profit ventures but also nonprofit ventures. I think anyway, the same principles of entrepreneurship can be applied also for nonprofit. So we need more people with an entrepreneurship spirit. I think when you have an entrepreneurship spirit, you can achieve anything you want in life because you have some capacity to convince others. You have some tolerance, let’s say, to risk. And maybe again, to things that are impossible. Things that are possible. And unfortunately, I don’t think that today the education system prepares enough for entrepreneurship, at least at primary or secondary school.
Of course, after that, there are some masters in entrepreneurship, et cetera. But yes, when the children are very young, I think there should be more kind of entrepreneurship, which is taught to our children. So, for example, to learn them, how to make great presentations, how to maybe have a small business which can be a profit or nonprofit, but at least to try to put in place of projects. So project management is very important. How to test their hypothesis, how to make experiments. That failure is not a problem.
I think there are many, many notions that could be to learn, for example, the exponential technologies. It may seem complicated, but it’s not, you know, a 3D printer is not so expensive and they could play with the 3D printer to build stuff, et cetera. AI, for example, coding in Python, et cetera. It’s also not expensive. So I think there are many things that could be taught in virtual reality, and that are sold today. This metaphors, et cetera. Again, just simple glasses, et cetera for virtual reality is not so expensive.
So I think today again, because in this age of exponential acceleration, we also seem a decrease of many costs, et cetera. So it’s the zero marginal cost society that has been well described by Jeremy Rifkin. And so, today many of these technologies are not so expensive if you want just to experiment a little bit. So why not to create in school some kind of living lapse where children, they can play with this. They can also try to put in place some projects and to pitch their projects in front of an audience, et cetera.
Maybe to fundraise also because sometimes they ask to the parents, or they ask to the teachers, but why not to the children themselves to try to fund raise for their school. And we should also learn the principles of personal finance to children because it’s something which is also not taught. And I think it’s unfortunate. So I think there is a lot to do in that space, unfortunately.
Yeah. You are speaking the words that I think of and said so well to this idea that there are things that we do not teach. And I guess there’s an assumption that the parents, it’s on the parents to teach these principles. But in the end, if it’s not promoted through the school system where they spend the majority of their time learning where that’s the most formal part of their day to day education. By the time the parents get around to it, they’ve spent a day learning or a day in some kind of programmatic method.
The last thing you’re going to do is suddenly, hey, let’s explore creating a pitch deck. And it’s funny that when I work with my kids and I recall here that you have kids as well.
Yeah. Four kids.
There you go. I know your number too. I’m the same. And my older kids when they would come to me for money, I would say, okay, what can we do? So that if I give you this money, we can turn it into a way that it can create more money. The first thing is what’s a repeatable thing that we can do. So rather than just go and buy this thing once and at least just to introduce critical thinking and them having to explain why they really wanted something to me.
They would often become more confident, like, okay, so I’ve got this idea. I need $40 for something. But I’ve got an idea. What I’m going to do is I’ve got a bunch of stuff in my closet. I’m going to maybe do a garage sale. And so I would say, well, tell you what, I’ll save you the trouble. We’re going to donate it. And I’ll give you the money so that we can win twice because you’re going to help somebody in need. And you’ve pitched your case.
I’m now your VC is when you give them, though, that freedom to create an idea and to push to get towards it, they feel good. And you can tell in the next thing they ask you. Now they’ve got an approach. They’ve got a method, right. So I think next time they go to their teacher, they’re going to say, I need more time on this. But here’s my proposal. I’m going to run a study group. This is entrepreneurship in the smallest way. I love that spirit, and you can see it in the kids.
They know it’s in them. It’s not for everybody for sure. There are many kids who they also think and act and learn differently. And we should support that as well. But for those kids that can take that to the next level, I really think we should be putting stuff in place to help them and nurture that.
No, I like it. And I try to do the same with my kids. For example, one of my son said, ‘There is this business that I know some friends. They do it’, et cetera. I said, you can do it, but I need some capital to start. I said, ‘Look, I will make your sponsor. I will give you the initial money and then you have to try. Then if you make profit, that’s fine. And let’s see how it works’, et cetera. I like it. But you are right.
The parents, of course, that maybe are educated can do it. But many parents probably are not businessmen, or they are not entrepreneurs. So maybe they just don’t think or they don’t have the knowledge to learn to their children. And it’s why at some point, the school should try to learn this kind of principles to the young generation, because I strongly believe that we need and it’s all, you know, my mission. I try to elevate a new generation of young entrepreneurs because I think that entrepreneurs can really shape a better future for humanity.
I think it’s through entrepreneurship, through building new things, et cetera, that we will build a better world, as I always say, build the world you love. I think if you wait, that others, build the world that you love for you, it will not happen. You have to do it. So what the book is also called with more doers more builders that can really shape a new world that will be better for the next generation. I’m a father of four kids, and what I want is that when I pass away, the world will be a bit better than the one that I knew because I want my children and my grandchildren that they live in a better world.
And so I think it’s a collective responsibility. So it’s why I call so this super entrepreneurship, a super entrepreneurship movement. I hope that many people will read the book. It will inspire them. Again, it’s not a guarantee of success, but maybe it will give ideas to some people. Okay. Maybe now it’s my time to start. I will follow some principle of the book, and I will try to take my chance because I think it’s never too late and we have one life. So why not to try at least?
Now, some people will fail. And I also had some failures like everyone that’s perfectly normal. But you need just to say, okay, I fail. What I can learn from this failure. And I can try differently next time. But maybe during this journey, some people will meet some investors or some team members, and maybe the next time they will do another venture with these investors or these team members, and it will work. So I think that’s normal. I think failure is part of the journey, but it’s not a reason to not try.
And I think we need more people that try new things, try to change how things are done. So we need more game changers at all, let’s say, levels of the society, we need more game changers, people that don’t accept the status course. I think there is too much acceptance. Let’s see how things are done. And again, at this age of exponential acceleration, everything is going fast and there is no reason why we could not do things differently and change how the world is going. Again, I think there are many things that are going well.
So I’m not pessimistic at all. I think we live probably much, much better than 100 years ago, for sure. But there are anyway, many problems. And I think it’s the collective responsibility of all of us to try to find some solutions to solve these problems.
Yes. An interesting quote is from Penn Jillette of the magician duo Penn and Teller. And he says two things are invariably true. The world is getting better and people think it’s getting worse. There’s an incredible amount of media attention to negative news stories. It’s very easy for that to spread and to us feel engulfed in this. But as you said by most measurable factors, we are better off economically, better off as far as distribution of food. There are many things we have a long way to go, and it happens by people like yourself and people like the superpreneurs and the people that are ready to give whatever to give back. We can continue to exponentially affect the world and at the same time making it commercially viable to run the organizations that can create these systems and solutions that can give back.
It’s an interesting dichotomy of celebrating sort of the free market capitalism to grow a business fund, development fund, research fund, delivery of new things, and then balance that with making sure that we give back. And I’m optimistic of what’s ahead. But I’m also careful about my optimism. Nothing is automatic for sure. You brought up a great point Fabrice. I’d like to quickly touch on this, too. Failure is an important part of the process, and we’ve all had levels of failure at some point in our life.
For those early entrepreneurs, do you find, is there any risk that a lack of exposure to failure can be problematic? I’d say for them as they begin this entrepreneur journey because they’re maybe not prepared for that first hit, that first thing that could set them back. How do you prepare somebody for adversity when they haven’t experienced it yet?
Yes. Look, let’s be honest. Who likes to fail? I think nobody. I think we all like to win and to never fail, that’s for sure. So I think unless you are wrong, I don’t know people that like to fail, but for me, it’s not a reason not to try. Now, all these super achievers or super entrepreneurs are they let’s say, overcome failures is through their massive transformative purpose. So they know what their true purpose is and they are fully committed to this. So it’s what gets them off the bed every morning and they know why they are doing this. For example, to solve hunger or to try to contribute to climate change, et cetera.
And it’s their strong motivation. So with this, they know that, okay. I have to try. I want to pursue my moonshot. It will take time. I will face setbacks. I will face many years. I will have failures, but I will need just to continue, because what I do is great. What I do can be great for humanity. So I need to just continue, even if I face some fears. I think for me their true purpose is their tool to always keep the true north and to always go, even if there is snow, there is rain, there is a lot of things.
They just continue on their track until they achieve their goals. And this is what I have observed. All these guys took Elon Musk and he waited probably 20 years before SpaceX is a great success. And many rockets just crashed and exploded. So he had a lot of failures. But he just continued. At some point he was almost broke. But he continued again and again. I think it’s just the secret. It’s only the secret to succeed is never give up. Like Winston Churchill was saying, never give up.
But I think it’s true. And these kind of super entrepreneurs and super achievers. They have a relentless, let’s say pursue of their dream or their objective. They will never give up until they reach their dream. Now, at some point, if they see that really, they need to take some other route to go to any way to achieve their dream, they will do it. They are not stupid too, so pivot or to try to change a bit and adapt the plans are also possible, for sure. But generally they are very relentless.
And even if everybody around said, look, you will never succeed, they just continue. Steve Jobs was well-known like this. He was saying, no, we will succeed, we will do it, et cetera. Everybody around was saying, no, it’s impossible. Again, it’s impossible. And he was saying, no, it’s possible. I think it’s really a question of mindset. And if you are fully convinced yourself, I think you can convince others. But if the founder says things that he will not succeed, I’m not sure that it’s going to work, et cetera.
How can he convince his team that it will work? So I think the best super entrepreneurs, they have a very strong belief that what they do will succeed and it’s all. They can convince investors, they can convince team members, they can convince customers because they say no, I’m sure it will work, it will work, et cetera. It’s what I’ve observed. I have known some guys, they were incredible. Even if everybody was believing that it will never work, they will continue. No, I’m sure it will work.
And they were demonstrating why it will work, etc. And they can bring some convincing arguments. Just people follow them. Why? Because dreaming is nice too. And so you try to also believe in these dreams too, because you want to be part of the big dream, because if you don’t have a big dream yourself, but you want to help someone else, maybe to make their dream come true. So I think that’s something which is fascinating.
Oh, definitely. And the most important thing and why I will implore people to pick up the book. And I’ll say that either through the blog or through social media, I want to make sure that people get access to this. So I’m going to offer up to buy up a few copies myself on people’s behalf and make sure that I get more people exposed to this. If you take something that’s executed successfully at scale and bring it down to a human level, that’s what makes day to day entrepreneurship accessible.
If we use the practices and the successes from incredible moonshots and bring them down where there’s less risk and there’s less things but use the methods. This is fantastic. It’s much harder to take traditional business methodologies and then scale them into an area where no one’s been exposed before. This is why it’s such a beautiful opportunity to take the lessons from the book and then put them into day to day. And when I read it, it immediately made me want to revisit a few things that I’ve got active.
I’m an advisor to a start up, and I’m doing other things, and it just lit up an incredible creative spark in me to shed the unnecessary things that are being worked on. And let’s go to core principles. Let’s go to what needs to get done. So I found it to be a very inspiring read, and I sure hope that other folks do. And it’s funny just to further that one thing you talk about SpaceX landing rockets. I use this in presentations all the time recently at a customer talking about how today’s stuff that we see as normal was not that case two years ago, even because Blue Origin, they sent people to the edge of space and back, and they landed the rocket.
So they land the first age of the rockets, and it wasn’t even in the news because it’s normal now. So SpaceX has normalized landing the first stage of a rocket, which was unfathomable five years ago.
Now for sure. And if I tell you that there is a way to land rockets without using any fuel, because SpaceX is using fuel to land rockets. But if I tell you that there is today, a means to do it without using any fuel. So a very sustainable way to reuse a rocket. Will you believe me or will you say that it’s impossible? I can tell you that it’s possible because I’m now part of a venture which is a German entrepreneur, fantastic super entrepreneur. And he just demonstrated very recently with a drop test on a small scale that it works.
It’s a kind of an inflatable parachute, if you want that enveloped, let’s say the rocket and it works, but it’s not using any kind of fuel, et cetera. And so it’s a fully sustainable solution to reuse rockets. So you see, it’s going so fast. What I wanted also to say maybe about the risk is that there are some techniques also to minimize the risk, and it’s part of the good preparation. And I explained a little bit in the book and in this course, the crazy method launchpad that will start end of this month.
I will also give much more explanation about these tools, but there are some tools that exist also to try to have a very good preparation to analyze all the possible risk, et cetera. So that again, the risk of failure still exists, but at least you try to minimize it. And I think that again, maybe some entrepreneurs are fearful to do something because they say it’s going to fail, and sometimes it’s a lack of preparation. I think if you are well prepared, if you have well evaluated risk, and if you see what I like, this principle of asymmetry of risk.
Okay. There are some risk, but they are minimal compared to the reward that can be provided by what I want to do, then it should be always the decision. Okay. I’m going to do it because what I’m going to do if I succeed will just be great for the planet. By the way, if I succeed, I can even have a billion dollar company. Why not? And the risk is quite small. Or at least I know what I can do because I have some backup plans, et cetera, to minimize the risk.
If eventually they would happen.
Well, I look forward to seeing the outcomes from the first cohorts in the crazy method launchpad, so Fabrice will stay close for folks who do want to get in touch with you. What’s the best way they can reach you in order to get in contact?
Yeah. So I think the best way is to go on my, I have two websites, but my main website is fabrictesta.com, where you can find all the information. You can reach out to me on this website. I have also another website, which is superpreneurblueprint.com. I’m also available on all social media networks, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube. So just feel free to connect with me if you need some advice for your startup. If you need some mentoring, coaching if you want to follow this new course, if you want anything, I try always to be available for entrepreneurs because I love entrepreneurs and I want also to give back by helping them so that we built a better world.
That’s fantastic. Yeah, I wanted to spend some time talking to mentoring, but I didn’t want to take away from what we wanted to talk about here. Mentoring is incredibly close to home to myself as well, and I’ve definitely seen the advantages that come. And so thank you for giving back to the entrepreneur community. In doing that, it’s more and more. I’ve now spoken to a couple of hundred entrepreneurs through the course of this podcast life, and invariably the successful ones always say my success is because of the lessons that were given to me by others through mentoring and effectively, we can save each other risk.
We can save each other pain. We can share. It’s not all just about pat on the back. You’re doing a great job, kid, and that’s really not what mentoring is about. Mentoring is about having a good, critical voice partner to share ideas with, and I’ve seen it myself as a recipient and also in mentoring I’ve done in the community as well, so it’s great. Hopefully we’ll come back. I’d love to have you back on again in the future, and we can talk a bit more deeply about mentoring.
With pleasure, Eric. It was a great conversation, great questions. And I really enjoy very much this conversation. Thanks a lot for inviting me.
Ladies and gentlemen, Fabrice Testa. Thank you very much.
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Jennifer Byrne is the CEO of Arrived Workforce Connections. Previously Jennifer was responsible for market expansion initiatives leveraging business model and technology innovation for government, healthcare, and education providers around the globe at Microsoft after joining as the Chief Security Officer for the Worldwide Public Sector Division in 2014.
Prior to Microsoft, Jennifer was a leader in Cybersecurity, having held technical, sales and executive positions at companies such as Intel, McAfee and Symantec. She began her career in technology as an Information Security Analyst and Engineer serving US Government clients.
Her first career, which remains her passion today, was in the non-profit world working with under-served populations.
We discuss how to use tech innovation for optimizing the human experience, the importance of tech access to underserved communities, and how we can all do something small every day to make a difference.
Thank you and congratulations to Jennifer on her new role as CEO!
Welcome to the show. My name is Eric Wright. I’m gonna be your host for the DiscoPosse podcast. This is a really enjoyable episode featuring Jennifer Bryne.
Jennifer. Between the time we recorded and now when we released, we can proudly say that we can say Congratulations to Jennifer on becoming the CEO of Arrived Workforce Connections. Jennifer has such a storied history in the industry, but more than anything, the reason why she’s been successful both in work and in life is because how she gives back in her approach to thinking about what can we do to give, especially to underserved communities and to the broader community.
This is a great discussion and we cover a lot of ground. We didn’t get a chance to go specifically into her new role as CEO because it was in the works and had not yet been announced when we recorded. So big thanks to Jennifer for giving me the chance to record while she’s in the throes of transition. And Congratulations again. So please do follow the link and reach out to Jennifer and give her a good shout out and a Congratulations. I got to give another shout out.
Speaking of, to the fine folks that make this podcast happen and to really celebrate a fantastic year we’ve all had together. So remember when you have anything in the world of data, in the world of compute, in the world of cloud, you need to protect those assets. How do you do it? Go to the people that have you covered for everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s On-Prem, whether it’s in the Cloud, whether it’s Cloud-Native. They’ve got stuff for SAAS, they’ve got your team’s protection SharePoint. You name it.
It’s really important because if you can’t go and say I got Veeam, they got me covered. You’re at risk. No risk equals a great world. If you can reduce risk, it’s easy to think that you’re in a better place. So let’s reduce risk together. Go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. You can check it out. They got a really cool campaign running, but I really and truly enjoy the team and I love the products and I’m very proud of the way they’ve approached things and they got a brand new CEO.
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Hey, this is Jennifer Byrne. I am the President of Digital Future Consulting and the former CTO of Microsoft US division and about to start a new venture as the CEO. And you are listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.
Jennifer, thank you very much. This is very exciting for me for a variety of reasons and, of course, for my listeners. But selfishly, I think I really do the podcast just so I can meet amazing people like yourself. You’ve got a really strong sort of storied career. You’ve done stuff that I find really inspiring in your approach to the way that you treat people, the way that you empower others, the way that we can use technology. And you talk so much about empowerment through technology. And this is near and dear to my heart because I’m a nerd at heart, and I love technology, and I love the Nerd Bits, and I love getting excited about it.
But I also have to see that what really gets me is what we can do with it. And so we’ll talk a lot about the path to digital transformation and the human empowerment that we can create along the way. But anyway, let me first of all, for folks that are new to you. Jennifer, if you want to give a quick introduction, and then we’ll talk about, first of all, digital future consulting and of course, much more that you’ve got going on.
Yeah. Thank you. Eric. I’m excited to be here, too. This is why I love to be on podcast because this is when you get to talk about all your favorite topics. So the big anchor in my career was the years I spent at Microsoft as the CTO, ultimately of the US division. Although my first CTO role at Microsoft was in the industry team, and I joined Microsoft in 2014 as the chief security officer for the public sector group. Because I’d spent the previous 20 odd years in cybersecurity at Intel McAfee Symantec into startup and way back when I was an InfoSec analyst working for government agencies back in the late 90s.
So that’s my career. I left Microsoft when I had felt like I’d put in my time in big corporate America and felt a calling to do something a little bit different. I had run a couple of innovation projects in my last role as CTO focused on digital skills, and it really started out really simple because we needed more people to know how to use Azure. You cannot drive cloud consumption when there aren’t enough employees in your customers environment than no Azure. But you start to pull the thread on that one, and it’s really not about Azure.
It’s about the skills that you need in order to learn Azure. And then it’s a bigger skills conversation. And all of a sudden, you’re outside of the walls of your customers environment and you’re into communities thinking broadly like, how do we get skills to happen? Because the world is getting more digital and you don’t know that any better than you do when you’re in this industry trying to make that possible. And then it just kind of occurred to me as I’m sitting in communities like Louisville, Kentucky and Houston and Syracuse, New York, that there is this unintended consequence of technology that I think, Eric, you know, and all of us who have been in this industry, we’ve been in the business of talking about how amazing technology is and all the fantastic things they can do in the world, how many problems it can solve.
And it is largely a positive passion that we all believe in. And yet the unintended consequences that it creates a need for skills that a lot of people don’t have. So how do we solve that? And by the way, that skills gap follows socioeconomic, existing socioeconomic rifts in society. And so it is a problem that takes more than technologists to solve. But it felt like a worthy thing to be doing. So when I left Corporate America, I decided I would spend a little time in the future workspace.
So I started a small consulting agency and I work with startups and advise companies. And that’s super fun. It keeps me fresh and also spend a lot of time just doing research and talking and thinking about future work, which has led to a role as a CEO and a company that is playing a small role in that space. So anyway, that’s the nickel tour around me and my career.
Well, there’s so much to, so many threads to pull on. And I think you hit this really strong thing that especially as technologists, where it’s a bit of a bubble. I get concerned about the echo chamber of raw technologists who are all on Twitter, and they’re all at the events. And we all sort of like chatter amongst each other. And that’s fantastic as a way for us to kind of like, build new things. But for people that don’t know what SoMa is in the Bay Area, and there’s so much of this country and of the world that’s beyond the very tech centric Silicon Valley, the New York Bank sectors, like all this amazing stuff in between.
As a technologist, I would go to events, and I would talk about how we’re into other areas, right? I go to Wisconsin. This is one thing that was amazing to me. You go to Wisconsin, there’s these incredible technology companies. And at first I was like, just like the stupid, arrogant guy that lived in the city too many years. I was like, That’s funny. Whenever I reference Wisconsin, I always think of like a dairy farm or something like this, like people with cheese hats.
By the way, that does happen in Wisconsin.
But it was humbling to realize that they have really done leaps and bounds of advancement in how they’re leveraging technology to do a lot of these flyover state things that the rest of the tech ecosystem kind of forgets, goes on. And I was happy when I realized I’m like, this is what matters. These are the stories that need to be told, not how I can get Bank of New York Mellon to go from VMs to containers. That’s neat. But when I can talk about people that never worked in tech suddenly becoming programmers and using no code and using the cloud.
And they were from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. That’s the exciting part to me. And I love that you’ve done research in this area as well, and you’re really working hard to broaden your audience.
Thank you so much. I love what you said about Wisconsin because the specific epiphany I had, and it happened in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was at a ribbon cutting event for a makerspace. It’s like a nonprofit and they renovated it, and they created these conference rooms, and they were really just in the business of helping very small entrepreneurs build the things that they wanted to build. And I had this, as a Microsoft executive, you’re there to stand at a podium and say kind words. We’d sponsored some of this.
I loved the project, but we give them some dollars. That was really, some total of what we did was lend our name, our credibility, give some dollars. I flew out to Louisville, and that was what we were going to do. And it was so clear to me that that was actually just in the broader context of things. Such a small contribution to the grander picture of a really healthy, inclusive digital future because the real work was being done by the people in the facility. The real work happens at the ground floor on the street level.
And I was spending all my time on the 28th floor of a beautiful building in Bellevue, Washington, thinking about programs and thinking broadly and top-down. And I got all the attention. I got all the attention, but I wasn’t really the solution. So when you get down to the street level, if you’re in Wisconsin and people have real problems and they’re vary from a technologist perspective, they’re great problems because they’re discrete problems. They’re bounded. So you can attach technology to a problem at that level and actually generate a difference.
The distance between action and reaction and a small problem is very short. The distance between action and reaction and a really big macroeconomic or global problem or something that would be worthy of a corporate initiative is very long. So if you want to measure impact, then get down into the street and start doing stuff, and that was really when I thought, okay, I can see how this stage of my career could come to a really wonderful and positive end. And I could have the beginning of something else that would be fulfilling for me and also just measurable enough for me to feel like I was making a difference.
This is the interesting dichotomy of, as you said, becoming sort of the face and voice of technology and transformation and all these things. We have to have the evangelists and the advocates and whatever the title is going to be next year when we’re no longer developer advocates are no longer cool. Whatever the new thing is going to be. And it’s this weird thing that I sort of struggle with all the time of being able to get out and meet with people and listen to them. When I do a keynote, it’s to listen to 500 people, to watch their reaction as we’re talking about something and change the way that I tell a story and change the way that I look at what’s next based on that live reaction.
Plus, after the fact we get to talk to people on the ground and you really hear what’s true. It’s very easy to get this Ivory Tower super presenter mode in. But now the advantage you get is pairing that opportunity where you can write books and be a speaker and do all these things and do the ribbon cuttings and then also really be mindful and humble about who’s really doing it. Like you said, this is the true sort of boots on the ground, the unsung heroes, the real transformation is all these other people.
So it’s just weird. I feel bad sometimes, in fact, a lot of friends of mine that are in the public speaking space, they’ve chosen just like to stop. We need to open the stage up for more people. The hard part is when you’re good at public speaking, you get asked to do more of it, and you’re sort of stuck. Like, Why is Robert Downey Jr. In a lot of movies? Because he’s a great actor. So is it his fault? I don’t, not that I’m Robert Downey Jr., for a poor example.
But I mean, I love that you’ve been able to strike this beautiful balance of being close to where it’s really happening. And I find people that have trouble. Sometimes they get a little hung on the idea of looking down from the stage.
It’s tough to find the right altitude. And I will say in defense of good speakers everywhere, that we all have to move forward together. And so it’s the three-legged stool analogy. Two legs just won’t do. So we all have to be doing all of it. And by the way, look, I’m in your podcast. I love to talk about this stuff. So it’s the daily drip of being able to talk about the things that matter, and hopefully in a way that’s helpful to other people is important for me, too.
When I got out of Microsoft and you just do a bunch of stuff and you’re trying to cycle through what I realized I was doing eventually was trying to find the right altitude. I didn’t want to just talk about the problem, but I didn’t want to get so down into the weeds that I was lost in something that felt like a passion project but wasn’t going to create some kind of impact on the world. And so then you sort of get into the problem space you’re in, what does the ecosystem look like?
A tech background really helps because it’s kind of a design thinking or systems approach to things where you’re trying to understand the inner work I was in the future workspace and am and thinking about how do we democratize access to skills, but also how do we change the power structure such that people themselves have the ability to leverage the things that make them better if it’s a skills course or whatever, into a better job, because that’s not how the job market works. It’s very top-down.
So if you’re at the bottom, you just wait for jobs to come to you by way of a job advertisement on Indeed. So if you want to go invest in yourself and get a new skill, it’s a really uncertain business model, right? I mean, that’s not how people think about it, but if you’re a business person you’re like, I don’t understand the ROI of that. That course is going to cost you $12,000 in a year, but you have no actual guaranteed return because you have no way of proactively advertising yourself.
The only platform that exists for that is LinkedIn, which is fabulous, but LinkedIn from a demographic’s perspective is the higher end of the job skills, sort of like in healthcare, treating what they call the worried well, the people who are already healthy and they just want to get healthier. Like LinkedIn is a proactive profile building platform is for people who already generally have a job and they want a better one. But we have this whole section of the workforce that doesn’t. They’re just struggling to get living wage who are very interested in building capabilities and experience that will provide a better path of the future.
But we don’t have a path for them to do so in a proactive way. And so that was when I started to understand in this skills job space what the ecosystem started to look like, where the power was, where the connection is, and then from there, you can figure out, okay, what could we do from a tech perspective to solve that? So that’s all my long, winding way of saying for me, I had to figure out what altitude I could be relevant in this process, and it took a year to get there.
What I respect about how you just described it and your approach to it was just that you have to take a hypothesis. You have to test the hypothesis. You have to live amongst the results and then bring that back to the hypothesis and effectively run it through this machine. And that’s really what makes, it’s very easy for the, I’ll say the pundits, as I call them, right? That it’s easy to sit back and talk about the future of X, but yet never be committed to saying this is how it’s going to go and then writing it down and saying, I’ll pay $1,000 if I’m wrong, like, you’re effectively skinning the game committed to the outcome because you are getting close to who will be affected by it. You’re looking for, especially a population that’s, like, under represented population.
It doesn’t even have to be such a sort of distinct niche. It is 30 plus percent of the United States as an example, and I’m Canadian. My funny accent gives me away sometimes, but I live in New Jersey. There’s so many people who, like, we take for granted. And I say we meaning the Twitterati, right? We’re complaining. Everyone’s talking about the great resignation, and it’s a proud thing. I’m like, yeah, that’s right. Because people are saying, like, oh, it’s disgusting that they’re going to make me go back to an office.
Did you go to Whole Foods today? Yeah. There’s 1000 people, that’s their office. Those people that made sure that you got your well crafted latte and your fancy artisanal steak. They don’t have a work from home option. We have to remember that as a community, it’s not just the community of, like, it’s the community of existence. It’s so easy for us to get just wrapped into, like, oh, yeah, Linkedin is for everybody. I love LinkedIn. I love that it’s a great tool, but it’s very easy for us to just say, like, oh, this box is the Earth.
Totally. You know, I agree. That’s the challenge. It’s a big challenge. It feels like something that could make a difference. And I love when I see my own peers trying to solve the technical aspects of that problem. And many of them are whether that was the intent or not. Microsoft isn’t the only company. There are many that are trying to. IBM, as an example, are trying to democratize access to technology by abstracting the complexity out of it, which is the inspiration behind low code, no code, the abilities or capabilities and whatever platform you’re in.
And digital skills. All the companies are spending a ton of money to try to solve that problem. So I think it is something that we broadly recognize as an issue. The problem is that it is an issue that’s so intractable in its nature because it’s embedded into the kind of the economic structures of our society that you just need a lot of creativity and effort to make a difference. And, you know, I have two kids in their twenties. My daughter is an aspiring artist and works at a restaurant, and it’s tough to watch it.
My son is in his last year as a computer science major, so he’s figured out how to have a career that will pay money. But I’ve got an equally bright, hard working kid who didn’t make that choice, and she’s going to have a tougher road. And I see from her first hand how the world is not built to serve her in her needs given what she wants to do with her life, and that’s okay. Like she made her choices eyes wide open. But there’s stuff that we could fix that would make it better.
And it’s just not about handouts or anything. It’s really just about rethinking the problem in a new way. And if you can make your society healthier, everyone benefits, it is a shared infrastructure that we’re in after all. So that becomes very personal to me on that level. And trying to figure out how to solve it becomes super important.
Yeah. There’s a real challenge in that. The business world, especially the tech startup ecosystem, is very driven on quarter over quarter measurement and growth. But to have the long view, this is why philanthropy and corporate don’t line up in the pure money sense they often can, because it’s a tax deduction. And at least we’ve created a way in which that it can incent people to give back in that way. But what we really need to do is create programs and put people in front of people and show them, that story is there.
I think democratization is a great way to talk about it now. Like you can become a Twitch streamer and you only need to just do the thing that you did, right? It’s the potential is there, that is something like that. You can go on YouTube, you can learn to program through. You can take Harvard Business School courses on YouTube, right. We’ve created opportunity like as far as content and tech access, although Internet access is still not 100% available. Right. But connecting people and giving them a path.
I think this is what’s missing and like mentorship. So I’d love to get your thoughts on this. What have we got today that’s not being used, right? Because we haven’t connected people to show them how to embrace and leverage it.
Yeah. Well, I think it’s a slightly different problem depending on industry. And again, this goes back to your Wisconsin comment that we all think we understand that the edge of the horizon, as we see it, is the actual edge. And it’s not right. We all live in these universes. And so that question for people who are in whatever space where they can move toward Tuck In at Varleys, in the way we would describe it. Computing, right. Coding all those jobs is when there are things that we can do there.
And I think it has a lot to do with a bigger corporate investment and nontraditional learning skills. We could dissect that problem, and I’m very interested in it. There’s a job taxonomy of the future, piece of work that needs to be embraced by the Fortune 500s and 1000s so that HR and people managers recruiters can understand what they’re even hiring for, because once there’s clarity on what the job of the future looks like, there’s clarity on the skills required for the job in the future. And once you have that, you can start to rewrite job descriptions.
You can start to think about the way you recruit. You can start to signal out to potential candidates what they even need to do in order to be eligible for that job in the future. And I think that will sort itself out because you get smart people in that swath that understand the problem and can solve it. But there’s this other technology conversation that it’s easy for computing technologists to forget, which is that in a factory, automation in a factory means that somebody who is actually doing knobs and levers on a control panel is going to move to an iPad, and that iPad is going to require some level of digital context or fluency, that for you and I, might not be the biggest deal, but for people in industries, it will.
There’s a lot of manufacturing and light industrial that works on paper today because they haven’t had a business model to do anything else. Like the solutions factory, light industrial is really interesting if you look at it as an industry, because it’s a very long tail industry where you have a few companies that are big, but most of the revenue or a lot of it is driven through small, independently franchise. If you will branch factories or installations or smaller companies because they are providers to bigger companies, they don’t have a business model for adopting technology.
They don’t have the revenue to do it. And so it exists on paper. But as that automation flows down, you’re starting to require workers to have a level of digital skill that they don’t have. So a manufacturer of a conveyor belt technology that gets put into a factory might require a certification to use that technology. The certification, if you had, it might actually allow you to go find a job that pays $3 more an hour because it’s a little bit more advanced. That scenario exists in almost every industry and that’s technology, and those are digital skills and their digital skills importantly, that once obtained, actually provide a path toward a better living wage.
So for me, that’s the part of the problem that I’m most interested in. It’s ignored. And yet we’re talking about the people who, in aggregate, are the lifeblood of our economy. They are the people who make things and make things work. To your point, the folks in Whole Foods or the people solving real problems in Wisconsin. So I’m interested in that technology and how we help that profile of worker.
Yes. And I probably sound like a dark individual sometimes how much I sort of trash the peer group that I live amongst. But this is just because sometimes it bothers me that they don’t see beyond the rather often myopic view that they have of their frame of existence. And fair enough, it’s not even intentional. It’s just more that when you get people that are very outward about like this is what the world looks like. That’s what your view of the world looks like. It’s not really representative. The whole sort of learn to code as this trope of like, oh, that’s the future of work.
You need to learn to code like, no, it’s not possible for many people. I’m a technologist. I have a whole host of things that I probably would have had to take pills for when I was a kid ADHD and all this different stuff. And I’m also dyslexic, so it’s horrifying for me to write code. I do it, but more out of necessity. And I live with a wealth of anxiety while I’m doing it. And I have skills that most people never got exposed to. You know, I always say I grew up on a farm and I became a technologist, but that’s because my dad was a technologist who took the leap and got out of the farming and made this jump.
Most people don’t have that luxury to leave their ecosystem or their geography. They can’t leave where they live. There are a lot more limiting factors that are forgotten. I think sometimes, which is a little bit frustrating.
Agree. It’s a big problem. Anyway, it’s a lifetime of work. So I’m in an area where I don’t think I’ll ever run out of interesting things to talk about and good stuff to do. So Yay for me. Good job security.
That’s right. What’s a good example of something that you’ve really seen that strikes home, it’s like this is the power of people getting access to technology that you’ve recently seen that’s excited you.
Well, I mean, I haven’t seen it yet in the space I’m in, which is why I’m in the space I’m in, kind of thinking about the other industries where this hasn’t happened. But I’ll tell you, I follow a lot of nontraditional education providers, and I listen to their stories is kind of my daily good news. And so companies like General Assembly and there are many others, have a constant stream of success stories where people have made the leap from whatever they were doing that was not satisfying into jobs that are and, of course, those are tech jobs.
But I think it’s fantastic. So I think it is actually happening all around us. And if there weren’t a ground swell of that, however, the media may or may not be able to report on it. It’s a harder thing maybe to report on. I think it’s behind a lot of this great resignation, which itself, I think, is fantastic news. And it’s happening because people are looking around and they’re seeing their friends and their family or their peers make a leap and all they needed. It’s like all the little penguins are standing at the edge of the glacier, and they just need one of them to jump and everyone else is kind of following.
And I think that’s starting to happen. That’s behind the groundswell and the very fact that there is this great resignation, the very fact that people are, it’s kind of a take back the night moment are starting to say, yeah. No. I mean, sure, I had my unemployment benefits are out, by the way now, and I’m still not going to go back to that crappy job. Sorry. I’m going to figure it out, is exactly what is at the birth of any big social change. So I’m excited.
And, of course, because of my kids, I hear it all the time. I hear my daughter say, if you use the word gig one more time, I’m going to die. We know what that means, and we’re demanding something better. So I think there’s good news, even in the bad news, because it means that people are going to sort of accept, not stand for accepting less. You remember 20 years ago, the issues with the big box retailers, where there were all sorts of lawsuits and generally speaking, I think we all had this collective sigh like, oh, yeah.
It must be terrible to have a part time job in much of America because you don’t get your hours published. Even today. Did you know that they’re, like, 26 million workers who do not know their schedule more than a week in advance? How do you live a life when you can’t figure out what you’re going to be doing next week?
Yeah. When the alternative is you need to find a second part time job, but they’re constantly conflicting or you’re always up in the air. I remember the early days of working two retail jobs, and on Sunday you would find out the schedule for one. And on Monday, you’d find out the schedule for the other. And then I’d have to race to see if I could get shift coverage. And that was just me for part time jobs. But I was in school, so it didn’t hurt me. There are people that have families, but that’s their reality.
And it’s easy to forget sometimes that’s just so much millions. The sheer numbers. This one thing always boggles my mind is that if you just look at the sheer numbers, it’s very easy to lose track that, well, 300. That means that 307,000,000 people don’t have that problem. But there’s 26 million people that do. That’s a giant number. We should all be a little bit horrified. I love the great resignation from the idea. Somebody on not too long ago is Michelle Seiler Tucker, and she’s focused on helping people to build their business for sale, to how to get out of the business and make it viable for purchase.
And she goes through this whole program. And she says, the funny thing is we have these weird stats that we hear all the time that are like, 90% of startups fail and all this different stuff. And she’s like, Well, we’re actually lying when we say those things because according to the Small Business Administration for the past 24 months, in fact, 75% plus or, I forget the exact number of businesses, are thriving. And in fact, businesses that are more than 20 years old have a 90 plus percent failure rate.
So it’s actually the reverse that those of us who are like, I’m done, I’m going to build my own thing. I’m going to do my own thing. We are the next generation of statistics that haven’t been realized yet.
Well, as somebody who just took a CEO role in a company with not that many people in an early stage in market, but just barely, I am excited about that. That’s great. My odds are better than I thought they were.
Yeah. It’s an unfortunate trope that we take this old thing. It’s the same way that, its possession is nine tenths to the law and all these goofy sort of stats that we get tossed around almost like fortune cookie sayings that become wrong quickly, but they’re still printed somewhere. So we still call on them. I love this idea that, I’ve even seen through my own company that people that we hired as business development reps and BDRs or SDRs, their cut in basically dialing for dollars people, right? Like, they get on.
Like, they get on. They’re doing cold calling. And you see someone, you like, oh, he seems different, right? I couldn’t figure out this one seemed like he’s got something going on. And then I see him in LinkedIn, founding a new company. I’m like, oh, that’s neat. Then I see him launching a series A. I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s there. So what you’re creating now, Jennifer, is that small group of people. Those are also future founders that you’re probably empowering because they’ve seen that it can be done now. That’s magical to me.
Yeah, I think so, too. I think it’s exciting. We’ll see what that looks like in the future. If it becomes a competency to build a company. I don’t know how that works from a kind of macroeconomic perspective, but for sure, you do see your point around monetization, you do see so many more people thinking creatively about how to monetize themselves. So sometimes that shows up in our world as the founder of a tech company. But Twitch streaming the long tail of social media advertising. I think that it’s harder than it looks.
But there are a lot of people who are starting small businesses and figuring out how to effectively run them through social media platforms, which I also think is exciting. Upwork, Freelance. There’s a dark side to all those stories, but there’s a positive side to it as well that we’re starting to have a more distributed notion of what work looks like that not everybody has to work in a big company for the rest of their lives in a single career. We can do different things. So I think that’s exciting.
Yeah. And this is actually interesting that you brought that up, the idea that there is a dark side to many of these things as with anything. The hard part is that we’ve got such rapid access to that side of the story much faster than the good side. I remember when I was in Toronto and Uber was making its way into the city, and I was a nerd. I was like, that is really exciting. I can just get a car on my phone. It’s like, super cool. The people at my company, I worked at Raymond James at the time.
So I’ve got all these people that are running an investment firm, and they’re like, what is an Uber? They had no idea what I was talking about. I’m like, watch this. I hit a button and then Yukon XL pulls up on the road and door opens. Hop in, guys, we’re going to the party, and we would have this idea of, the disruption of it. And I was excited by the opportunity for disruption. Unfortunately, there are people that were not going to do financially well through it, and they would be facing challenges when it came to City Council trying to regulate it.
What ended up happening was you’d have, of course, very strong voices on either side. And you would hear people who would say, like, I’m a mother of three kids that are under six. I can get my mother in law to help me watch the kids from 09:00 p.m. Until two in the morning every night, and my husband takes care of them in the morning. So result, I get to work 5 hours a day and I make money and I feel safe.
You hear stories like this, it’s like she can’t work for a taxi. She can’t work at a regular job because it requires four till ten shifts. All of a sudden, we’ve got this incredible story again, counter. There are difficult sides of it as well. But like that opportunity, like Upwork and those opportunities now are there. I’m excited by it. But I also know that a lot of people don’t often see there’s risk and balance to kind of any new thing that we take on in this style.
Well, I think another way of saying that is that if you’re in the business of creating disruption, which is what Uber was in the business of doing and Airbnb and has become the North Star or the greatest aspiration for anybody who’s trying to be a founder of a tech company that matters, then the measure of your success may be that you cause so much disruption. You actually create unrest at social policy levels. Because I’ll tell you, I was at Microsoft when all that was happening, and I was traveling around the world talking to a lot of government leaders and ministries of finance in smaller countries.
And they wanted to know, like, the big question was Microsoft, what is your view on the uberization of work and technology. And what is the role of a tech company in that space? Because after all you’re creating a lot of this, and it’s actually causing a lot of unrest, especially in countries that have a little bit bigger of a social safety net and therefore more investment and a sense of responsibility for dramatic shifts in the way industry works. So it was a big thing to your point. I kept thinking, Well, this is a hard conversation, but if we just take the longer view, it’s probably going to end up in a good place because we are trying to solve the next generation or the next version of our problem.
But we’re making progress. There are as many success stories here as elsewhere. And let’s not forget that if you at all believe in free markets or in the wisdom of markets, there’s a reason why Uber was successful because they addressed an unmet need.
And it wasn’t even a technology, if you think about the components of the technology behind Uber, that’s not where the innovation was. The innovation was in the idea. And so personally, that’s my inspiration. If I want to go do something, of course, I want to be disruptive and make a big change. I’m not thinking I need to do it in technology. There are other technologists who will go be CEOs of companies that are in Cleantech or doing something crazy cool with AI. And that’s not me.
I think from an innovation perspective, you can just innovate by thinking of a fresh solution to an old problem and bring all the existing tech that already exists to play. And if you’re lucky, people get really uncomfortable. But you’re also making life better.
Yeah, because you hear it all the time. Like, these two sided markets are incredible. Their right for disruption. Next door really became a thing. It quietly was worth all of this money because it had such a vast growth. I had never heard of Nextdoor in my life. My mother-in-law. She’s like, I’ll go on Nextdoor and find something. We’re looking for a contractor. I’m like, what the heck is Nextdoor? Then I dig into it. I’m like, Good golly. This thing is worth billions, but it was just that, right?
A two sided marketplace. You had people that need to be serviced on either side. This is fantastic. Everything needs to be like, all it takes is a little bit of an idea, and you can close the gap. And what it satisfied for me was, I solved the problem. I needed to get a hose fixed and somebody else solved a problem. He’s trying to build his cottage and pay for his family. And so he found a little tiny gig that he could fit in in an afternoon.
And I didn’t need to write an ad in the paper for it. We’ve come a long way, and it’s magical that we can create this opportunity. I think I’m with you on Disruption. Sounds like a dark word sometimes, but it really means that in the same way that forests naturally will burn from that, you can only get new growth because if the forest continues to grow, it creates shade, which stops growth below the shade line. But it is hard to have that macro view when you’re micro affected.
And I think that’s what we become very overly attuned to is that this is affecting me now or someone I know now. And therefore I must have some kind of a feeling about this that’s bad.
Yeah. Really. Well said. We’re in exciting times, may you live in interesting times as the proverb sort of tongue-in-cheek says, right.
Yeah. And the thing that I really want more people to look at is how they can directly do things. And this is what I’d love to get your thought on. Jennifer, where can we, if we, as a people have, say, technology skills or something to share, where can we have a direct effect? Do you see the opportunity for us to empower people, to empower other people? I think this is the missing two sided market.
I mean, I have narrowed the list down to a few things. I think there are an endless number of things. It’s more of a mindset of do I take responsibility? What is my role in this problem? From there? There’s a lot of things that we can do. If you’re a hiring man, I’ll just throw it to you. If you are a hiring manager and I am a hiring manager now. And I’m finding myself saying, don’t be a hypocrite. Do what you think is the right thing to do.
Are you allowing yourself permission to look at novel skill sets when you’re looking for people? Because if we’re talking about a more I mean, ultimately, what we’re talking about is that we are going to live in a more digital world. And if we’re going to allow people an opportunity to survive and thrive in that world, but they don’t have a four year computer science degree, how are we going to address that? So looking at novel skill sets, allowing online certifications to be enough, looking at potential and broad capabilities rather than five years of Python and your previous job and a four year degree at this University, I think it’s hiring managers, the unsung hero of Middle America or middle management corporate America.
We really have a huge amount of influence on what the future of work looks like, even though you may not get any credit for it. So I think thinking about that, you have a very direct role to play in shaping the next generation of workers through your actions, and it will require risk, and it will require creativity, and it will require harder work. Diverse teams are harder to get to productivity as we know. So that’s something. I was always inspired. Microsoft was a fantastic company for many reasons, but also from a culture perspective, there was a culture of giving and giving back to communities.
I don’t know if it’s better or worse than any another company, but it was wonderful there. And I was so inspired that I had many hundreds of technical people on my team throughout my tenure there, and most of them if you ask them what they did in their free time, they were spending their Saturdays teaching robotics camps or coding skills and doing hackathons with kids and in their communities. And I think that is fantastic, especially when you get to underserved communities and communities of color or women or girls and STEM.
I think boys are just as important as girls, but wherever you find people who might need a little extra help getting yourself involved and I don’t think enough people are doing that. I would say also, I don’t see a lot of technologists in this policy conversation. We’re talking about getting really steeped into future of work, that would be something I’d rather see. And I guess my last point of advocacy would be for us to stop, to be very careful not to assume that technology is computing technology.
There are all sorts of solutions out there that are technology outside of our industry, and they are creating jobs. And if we can make sure that the people working on an offshore oil rig are adequately trained in the underlying technology concepts and the applications and use of their industry, that is a path forward in factories and event hospitality, health care, finance. There’s all sorts of non computing specific technology that the world needs to know how to use. And if we can give people those skills, we create a lift for everyone, so it doesn’t just have to be coding.
I think skills is such a great description of what we can empower like technology can be software, mechanical. It can be lots of different ways that we can create new ways to interact with systems. But systems isn’t always technology. There are people systems. There are very human systems that are out there that can be optimized, and I exploited to such. It sounds like a negative word, but exploited in, like, properly leveraged. So people in hospitality, even the simplest things. I used to be a shoe repair man, so I was a cobbler with a rare treat that you don’t get too many people that could say they’ve done that.
And I worked in a mall at the entrance to a subway and we had all this throughput. But the first thing I thought about was treat this like a system. How can I make sure that I can optimize the flow of people when it was rush hour, optimize the flow of shoes going through the system, right? Knowing how and teaching people who are not technologists, who I work with, how to think like a system. I taught them systems thinking. And I was at high school education.
I had no other than just my strange nerdish need to find optimization and everything. I got this, and I looked at the wall of stuff that we sold, and I started organizing. I’m like, what would entice somebody to come to the front of the store. And so I made the display differently. And I sort of built this journey through the little tiny store. And the funny thing was, six months later, we won a marketing award for a shoe repair by Cadillac Fairview, which is this big mall.
And they’re also pension fund as well. So the people that I worked with, what it taught them was that we’re amazing. We all have something we can do, something that we can reach for. And then the two guys that I worked with, went to get their own stores. And then one guy went independent, and he started his own shoe repair. That was entrepreneurship and even entrepreneurship with a paycheck just thinking about systems thinking and thinking about optimization and thinking of ways we can do that.
We created a better human experience for our customers and for each other, and no Comp-Sci degree required. It was pretty cool to see that we could pull that off.
I just literally love what you just said. That whole systems thinking approach, the idea of being able to discern a pattern out of chaos. If there was one higher level cognitive skill that I think in our education systems, we should be teaching, it’s that. And I’ve heard enough of these conversations that we’re all educators who agree, but I think they’re still in the minority. There’s this, I don’t know, this is going to be super geeky, so maybe not helpful. There’s this architect, a famous architect who I think was, I’m sure, a teacher at a University.
His name is Christopher Alexander, and he wrote this seminal book in architecture called The Timeless Way of Building. And I had a lead architect on my team at Microsoft who said, “You’ve got to read this book”, because what we don’t ever remember is that the underpinnings of anything we do when we’re designing a technology system are the very same underpinnings that architects use when they’re designing space or mechanical engineers are using when they’re designing roads and bridges. And they are all in their most fundamental elements, designed to reflect a human experience.
And it was a very big turning point for me to get clear on the fact that number one, technology is ultimately only ever an expression of our human experience, of the world around us. We just reflect ourselves in the things that we build, whether it’s a bridge or an application. But if you can start to cognitively, kind of grasp how to discern patterns, how to understand connections and relationships, then you’re much more equipped to understand the world, understand the problem you want to solve, understand where you fit in the world.
And I don’t think we do that enough. But that book, if you ever want to read a 400 page book on architecture. But he talked about how cities are built and how a house is built. A quick example. You intuitively know when the front door is in the right place of a house, we intuitively know this. We don’t need any training. And when it’s right, it’s when there is enough of a pathway to a front door. When it’s wrong, it’s where the front door is right on the street.
And the reason for that is that a house represents an intimate, personal space. And so the front door placement is a way of allowing us to slowly get closer to our space and allowing enough distance for people who are going to come into our space to do so in a slower and thoughtful space. You don’t want someone abruptly in your face in a first conversation, nor do you want them abruptly in your front door. And so it’s just a way of saying, oh, interesting. That’s why certain design elements in architecture makes sense to us.
It’s not because we know anything about architecture. It’s because we know everything about ourselves and technology is that way, too. But you can apply that thinking to anything. And I think then the world starts to get more understandable, like people get lost in the world of technology. We just feel like it’s passed us by or we don’t get it. And I’m here to say that you actually do get it, on some level. You actually totally understand it because it’s built on the same patterns that are echoed throughout your life.
And they’re human.
Yeah. This is the magical thing of seeing it. And actually, I always laugh at my favorite example is everyone smiles on it and will say, like bees when they create honeycombs, they’re perfectly hexagonal. Like, that’s amazing. It’s like bees know math. I’m like, I think you’ve got it backwards. These are patterns in nature that we’ve discovered, and we’ve built math to represent these things. And then we teach math as if that was the skill. But it’s actually the capturing of the pattern, not necessarily the learning of the task of measurement.
That was the zero to one thing that happened one day, the reason why the apple striking the head as being the sign of the start of gravity, whether real or not. As if the Apple knew what gravity was and just had to tell Isaac Newton, by the way, here you go, here’s an idea. It was a variety of things that suddenly was like, aha, but it was the recognition over years of looking for a pattern and then seeing it. And it can be very small things.
That’s why, even like, said servers in restaurants. A great friend of mine, he’s been working as a server, and he goes now like he has a SWAT team of servers. And they go into new restaurants like Gordon Ramsay’s little TV show where they like, ‘You’re doing it all wrong. And here’s how you do it’. And they teach people how to optimize the flow for customer experience, including the chefs and all these interactions. And he says, what do I teach people? He says, “I hand them this as the most bizarre book that you wouldn’t think you’d hand to a restauranteur.
But I give them The Goal by Eli Goldratt, which, if we are in technology, is the foundation of the Phoenix Project, which is the entire DevOps movement, is based out of this idea of how do we optimize flow. And Goldratt wrote this book, in I don’t even know, it was like the 60s or 70s. Talking about the manufacturing industry and lean manufacturing led to lean startups and lean development. And just like, we think that the bees know math, no. Here we are. So here’s somebody teaching a serving crew at a restaurant.
And then when it comes to taking on technology, those group of people, they start to look at this system now and go, you know, it’d be better is if this menu was done this way and they are now driving the experience for the developers and for the restauranteur and saying, like, ‘It’d be better if we put the system here’. And they are invested in their own outcome. But then, as a peer group, it raises us all to be able to just ask a question, don’t just come in and do it.
That’s the beauty. It’s like when your kids say, why, for the first time, you’re like, oh, that’s cute. And then it becomes very uncute because they ask why about everything.
But then you realize it’s beautiful because they are genuinely questioning it. And you’re like, I’m so happy you’re doing that.
It’s so good. I mean, we could just get super nerdy here, but it is a reminder that through our evolution, we are born optimized to understand the world at a very intuitive level, how that happens. Neurologists can have the nature nurture conversation that happens all the time in the AI spaces, you know, like, does the system have to start from scratch, or can it be built in with a few things to give it a head start? Because people are. Babies are born with the way we function neurologically is optimized to be a reflection of the world already around us.
And that’s why things make sense to people all the time. But it’s important because it is a mindset shift of, I start from a place if I can. The world is not foreign to me. Any manifestation of the world, technological or otherwise is not on some level foreign to me. It is simply an expression of the laws that I was born that were internalized in me the moment I was born, that we are optimized for the world.
And it’s just a matter of patience and understanding and study and observation that I can become more efficient and efficacious in that world that I start from a place that I can.
I’m curious, who are the people that you look to as more recent inspiration? Like we can always look to the philosophers of old and sort of our early teachers. But who do you see that you find is reflecting a new existence and doing it well, nowadays?
I think I look at people who are talking about this. So there’s a gentleman, Erik Brynjolfsson, who’s now at Stanford, and now I’m going to forget the name Stanford Digital, something other. He was at MIT, and he is an economist and technologist who talks about future work. And so much of what I understand is from his work. So I think everyone should follow him. But then there are the innovators, like the Elon Musk’s of the world. I know he’s overused, but the reality is there’s this charm of not getting so excited about the fact that he’s solving a big problem that I think is exactly that mindset of you have to get yourself into a space where you feel like if you just thought about things, use that kind of root cause analysis and ask a bunch of questions about why things work the way they are and uncover your assumptions about things that you actually can get to a very rich understanding of the world around you.
And from there understand how you can affect it. So I don’t follow a lot of people on a daily, weekly basis. But those are two. For the world itself, Ian Bremmer, I’m a huge Ian Bremmer fan. Nobody knows who is. He runs a group called the Eurasia Group. He talks about world and world politics, and I think he applies that kind of thinking to the realm of politics and policy and global affairs. And so I think maybe it’s more about people who I think use that mindset and apply it to whatever it is that they do that I’m inspired by.
I pulled over a book just because I literally wrote this down because I was listening to Antifragile. It’s Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Famous for Black Swan and a lot of things. And the one quote that jumped out of me says, to be a successful philosopher King, it’s better to start as a King and then become a philosopher. I find that it’s the practitioners that are truly creating the next philosophical discussions because before it was always from academia, then teaching the world how it’s supposed to work.
But I find this is an opportunity, we can turn it on its head. And much like you talked about Elon Musk. Right. First principles thinking even in the smallest format and things we do of like, why is it that we do this thing this particular way when you see people that are doing stuff in practice and they’re saying, I don’t want to go to an office, they’re saying I can become a gig worker. I can become my own landscaper. I can start my own shoe repair.
I can start a startup using no code and low code just because I’ve got a problem to solve. But it’s very much often people with lived experience that then just can take this and almost question the philosophers of old and say, I think we can do something here. I think where we’re going to see ten years from now, a lot of stuff going on that’s already happening, but it won’t be realized in public effectively until the next wave of startups kind of make it to whatever status is where we look for unicorns, or just the fact that longevity. We will see more longevity in small businesses, and people will see those new statistics.
And that’s the future of all of us. Actually, this is a fun part when you’re looking at the future of things, and we’ve clearly gone through very literally a Black Swan event with what’s gone through with the pandemic and what’s still continuing with the pandemic, of course. But are the things that you looked at five years ago that either are holding true or maybe even were accelerated because of the most recent 18 months that we’ve gone through.
I have to just take a second to go back to five years ago. So I’m literally like, wait, what year was it five years ago, 2017. Where was I then? I think that my understanding of how problems need to get solved on a small level kind of back at the very beginning of this conversation. That the boundaries of a problem matter that actually has a relationship to this whole democratization distribution of technology knowledge, because when you let everyone solve their own small problem, I think there’s a bigger aggregate effect than when you assume that only a few organizations or there’s a real centralization of problem solving capability and all the money and power and intention flows to that.
And I was seeing that in the context of a lot of the digital transformation projects that we were running, and if you go work for the big Fortune 50 at some level, you’ve got to get C-level people to sign up for projects that are extremely so expensive that the board has to approve. And they have very dubious ROI because it’s an innovation project. How do you know it? It’s an experiment. So it’s not that you don’t see it at that level, but they only work when they were inspired by people who are actually out in the field, whatever the field is in, whatever industry trying to get very specific about a problem.
And that was when I realized, oh, my gosh. The democratization of skills is important because you need to empower everyone to solve their small problem, and that’s going to create a shift in power. Right knowledge and efficacy being power if you let people solve problems and you give them technology, then they’ll do it. And of course, remember, I have a son who can Twitch and all that sort of stuff has been in my house for a while. So I’ve kind of seen that, too. So I’d say that would be the pattern that has stayed true, and I think it’s going to continue to shift.
I didn’t know it was going to look quite like this, though.
Having kids. I’ve got four kids and I’ve got 20, 18 and 5 and 2. So I’ve got quite a range of things that I’ve seen, and I sort of laugh now, people that have young kids, especially that we all know about sort of the YouTubers and these Blippi and Ryan’s Toy review. And there’s all these very popular things. And there’s one kid, who you look at his videos five years ago, and it was just basically filmed on an iPhone, not even a good iPhone, but an iPhone seven or six, whatever it was at the time.
And this year, he was in Fortune reporting 26 and a half million dollars in revenue.
He’s eleven years old. There is very unicorn-like capabilities in exploiting these. Finding the pattern, exploiting the system that allows you access to uncover and use that pattern. And that’s kind of cool. The economy is so different now, but I think I’m like you. I like the democratization, and I think the last 18 months, though, not anybody in the world wouldn’t trade away. What we’ve had to go through as a society. What we have to do is find the best of what we did. And I think the great resignation startups moving to everybody’s mindset, people realizing you can just do things on the Internet and you can begin to generate revenue.
It’s a new economy, it’s a new world. The one thing we didn’t get a chance to talk to, but it’s still early on. So I’m going to have you back because I want to get your first few months of experience. So I have to say Congratulations in advance that as this is out and people are listening. You are the CEO of a new company and you’ve been involved, so, in the last couple of minutes here and I apologize. I don’t want to box you in, but just as a bit of a teaser to what’s coming up next for you, Jennifer.
Well, we’re going to go through a big rebranding renaming event, so I’m hesitant to talk about too many of the details here, but it’s a company that’s in this future workspace from an industry taxonomy perspective. You put us in the HR tech space, but I’m concerned about workers that are not in the tech industry. I’m concerned about workers who are not on LinkedIn, and I’m interested in how we can within the existing ecosystem of how people find work, which is through staffing, agencies and employers. How can we give people access to a proactive profile building capability that allows them to find work to go out and find work?
They advertise to agencies and employers based on the profile they build for themselves. So I got the advanced certification. I was making $18 an hour. My profile has changed. I have really great five star ratings from my last two employers. I’ve got a few verified skills, and now I think I could earn at least $23 an hour. How do you do that? What’s the platform in the marketplace that you build to do that? So the company is already kind of in that space and a little bit narrower because product market fit is important.
But that’s the aspiration of the company. And ultimately, I think it’s providing that LinkedIn active profile building capability to the rest of America, and then hopefully the rest of the world.
That’s amazing. And Congratulations on the big move. And I’m excited about the future there, inevitably, with you as part of the leadership team and then heading it up. They’ve got success ahead for them. And so it’ll be exciting to watch. So it’d be great to be able to see post rebrand. I know that’s always an interesting challenge for any organization, so it’s always fun that we get to be secretively leading up to it. But this will be, actually the said timing, as it were, this will probably be pretty close to when you go live.
So I’m excited about that. Jennifer, if anybody wants to reach you, of course, well, I have links to your website. And where can folks find you if they want to get connected?
Well, I think by the time this publishes, I’ll have a whole bunch of new contact information, but I am a big fan of LinkedIn. I use it and I’m on it all the time, and people reach out to me all the time there, and I always reply, so that would be probably the single best way to find me.
Excellent. You’re better human than I am. I’m the worst, because the thing I get the most at these days is people trying to sell me explainer videos on LinkedIn is particularly good for prospecting. And for whatever reason, once you have a very public voice, people see you as a great prospecting target for a lot of things.
Thank you. But I’m so grateful for that platform, so I really take it seriously. I do try to kind of be somewhat active. I post all my podcasts there. Not that everyone wants to listen to me. And I just try to be useful on the platform. And I try to be grateful for the people who reach out there because you never know any. Of course, there’s lots of sales pitches, but that’s okay.
And like you said, I’m really mindful of the effect that it can have. And really, the last job that I took, it was kind of funny. After I was at the company about three months, the human resources team, they phoned me up and they said, hey, Eric, we realized that we don’t have a resume of you. We’re supposed to have one on file. So can you do us a favor? Can you write up and send me a resume? Because that is the future of work for a lot of people that there is no more filing the CV and sending with a cover letter.
It was, somebody sort of found me on LinkedIn and they followed my blog and we met an event and I interviewed with a bunch of people. And the offer comes it was a very different world. But yet the old classic practices like, we’re supposed to have a resume on file somewhere just to say that we looked at it, which is crazy.
I know it’s kind of crazy. And when you get into the lower end of the wage scale, resumes are just not even necessary because you get people early in career. So I will say one of the features that we have is this video capability. So kind of like TikTok where I can film myself answering questions and in three minutes, a recruiter or a hiring manager can get a very good sense of. Can I show up? Can I talk? What have I done? What’s the look and feel?
What’s my authenticity? Am I real? I’m not even my actual person. So I think that’s the future, especially for a lot of those jobs where you just need to make sure, I’m going to be serving people. You need to make sure I can serve people.
Yeah, that’s right. I am very excited to dig in on this one. So there you go. Once the new name is unveiled, we can have you back on. We can do a deep dive into what you and the team are doing.
I would love that. Thank you. Such a fun conversation.
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Scott N. Schober is the President and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS), a forty-year-old New Jersey-based privately held company and leading provider of advanced, world-class wireless test and security solutions.
Schober also invented BVS’s cell phone detection tools, used to enforce a “no cell phone policy” in prisons and secure government facilities. Scott is a highly sought-after subject expert on the topic of cybersecurity.
Scott shares his story of his own recovery from identity theft, techniques we can all use to protect ourselves, and the challenges that are faced by everyday people in a growing increase of cyberwarfare and cybersecurity attacks.
Hello, and good morning, good evening, good afternoon wherever you are.
This is Eric Wright, the host of the DiscoPosse Podcast. You’re in for a really great episode. We talk about cybersecurity, online security, personal security, ransomware, and much more with Scott Schober. Scott is an author. He’s also the founder of Berkeley Varitronics Systems. He’s a well adored voice in the InfoSec and cybersecurity world. He’s been featured all over the place. So it was a real honor to share time with Scott, and it’s a lot of great lessons in here. You hear about his own journey through challenges in having his identity stolen and how he recovered from that.
And he shares a lot of the practices that will allow you to do that really compelling story. Plus, he’s just a very good speaker, definitely somebody who I would love to see on a stage somewhere in his presentation mode. And of course, speaking of ransomware, how do you stop ransomware?
Easy. You use our friends over at Veeam Software in order to make sure that you’re protected for everything across data protection, including ransomware protection, because ransomware is about making sure you protect your assets, whether they’re in the Cloud, whether they’re Cloud-Native, whether they’re On Premises, you are vulnerable. Unless, of course, you use the good practices and the great software at the fine folks at Veeam. So go to vee.am/DiscoPosse, and you can get hooked up with that. And if you want to stop ransomware as well, make sure you try and ease up the in-flight traffic that you do and that’s protecting yourself using things like VPNs.
I’m a user of ExpressVPN. I highly recommend it because it allows me to ensure that wherever I go, my traffic is protected in flight. It’s part of an overall practice, so easy to try. Head on over to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse and that’s the easiest way to get set up and you get a little bit of a bonus. You get a free month, you get some neat things. Do that head on over to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse.
And of course, one last thing. If you want to be able to stay up late to be able to fight your ransomware and think about better security practices, then do it by drinking fantastic, devilishly good coffee, like diabolical coffee. So head to diabolicalcoffee.com and you can get set up there.
All right. Anyways, let’s go back to the show. This is Scott Schober. He’s really cool. I enjoyed this. And this is the DiscoPosse Podcast.
Hi, I’m Scott Schober, President and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics, cybersecurity expert and also author. And looking forward to a great conversation with the DiscoPosse Podcast.
Scott, thank you very much for joining today. This is especially enjoyable as I’ve spent a lot more time now in the security and cybersecurity community. Been diving back in, and naturally your name pops up and your content tends to pop up just because you’ve got, number one, you’re a very prolific voice in the community and in the industry, and it’s just super high quality. So you are CEO of an organization. You’ve actually got your own company. You’re an author. So we’ll talk about Berkeley Varitronics. We’ll talk about your book, and this is one that I definitely will recommend.
We’ll make sure we have links as well for folks that want to hear about Hacked Again. And more than anything, you’re just such a great, respectful voice in the community. So thanks for joining. If you don’t mind for folks that are new to you, give a quick little intro and a bio, and then we’ll jump into the challenges that we all face right now.
Yeah, absolutely. I have the honor of running a small company. We’re a wireless security firm. We’re in business 49 years. I’m actually next generation. It was founded by my father. And over the years, we’ve kind of changed what we do as a company. But we’ve always had the unique challenge where people come to us with complex problems and we try to provide a simple solution. Oftentimes it’s tied in with wireless. And that really blossomed for us. In about the mid 1980s, we developed the first wireless test tools, and these were receivers, transmitters and propagation software so you could actually plot out and look what the cellular coverage was and have an idea where in the world to put cell towers.
A lot of the offshoots of that in the 90s and the 2000s were understanding how cell phones work and providing more advanced tools and the offshoots of all that were a lot of security problems and solutions. And a lot of the solutions we came up with was because we understand how bad guys think and the vulnerabilities that are inherent in mobile phones. And hence we launched a bunch of different security tools and products and provide services and expertise and knowledge base. And in the process of doing all of this, the education of it, especially in the past ten years, I found out I had a target on my back, and these were the cyber criminals going after me to basically silence me.
That’s really kind of the Genesis of my story, Hacked Again. That was my first book was what happened when I got victimized and targeted by these cyber criminals. And a lot of it is really the mistakes that I made. And it’s kind of embarrassing because here you are as a CEO, running a cybersecurity security company to help with physical security and cybersecurity. And here we are, we’re a victim. We’re getting repeated DDoS attacks, Twitter hack, debit card, credit card. We had $65,000 stolen out of our checking account, became a federal investigation.
So I kind of detail all of my misfortunes and all the things that I’ve learned from the community, and I try to share and give that back so others don’t go down the same path that I’ve gone down and hopefully can learn from some of my mistakes. And in the process of that, it obviously gets a lot of attention in the world of cybersecurity, on the speaking circuit from books. So I launched two other books. As a result of that, I focus a lot in the world of media, TV and radio, and blogging to share and provide tips that people can use to stay safe, whether it be just from a consumer side, a small business Fortune 500 company, but really trying to harness my knowledge base to fight back against cyber criminals.
And that’s kind of become my mission.
Well, if anything, in fact, I’d find that those who’ve been on the other side of it effectively a victim of this situation are the ones that I would most likely have a greater trust in because you’ve actually genuinely experienced it. You’ve understood the recovery process, you’ve really seen the exploit in action. The challenge we often find is you end up with a lot of pundits and experts, right? And I use it as someone who gets asked all the time to do things as an influencer or as whatever.
And I’m like, I can speak about a lot of things, but I can’t speak with truth and conviction about everything. I can read about a thing and then speak about it versus you have lived experience. You have skin in the game in actually going through this. And so I find that just the credibility is so much stronger also that you’re willing to share in the challenges you faced, because that’s also another problem everybody kind of wants to say, oh, I would never. Countless financial advisors who are bordering on bankruptcy, countless bankers who haven’t paid their taxes in nine years.
There are all these people who do a job and yet have sort of fundamental issues in their own handling of the very same thing that they are supposed to be experts in. It’s an odd world in that way that sometimes the voices are the loudest, but not necessarily the most ideal that you would have.
Yeah, I think you make a great point. And I always joke around with my wife, and there’s kind of an old adage, you always say that the electrician house always has electrical problems and things like that, and there is some truth to it, and it can be embarrassing. And I’m the first guilty of it, especially when I look back and was targeted and hacked. But as I talked to other cybersecurity practitioners and some of these guys, I learn a ton of things about. But yet I see they themselves are lacks in cybersecurity often, and they’ll send me a password by email and say, Well, I trust you. It’s okay.
And I’m like, no, stop, please don’t text or email that or they’re not using multifactor authentication or whatever it is. So we, as a community in cybersecurity sometimes are not setting the best example for others. And I’m hoping that we can over time, break that trend. And most of the things that I tend to talk about are not items that are big spends are super complex and technical. And I think that’s kind of a misunderstanding industry people hear cybersecurity. And at least years ago, when I first started talking about it, people would look at your deer in the headlights.
What in the world is this guy talking about? Acronyms and this word and that word. Now it’s become a little bit more mainstay. And people understand if they hear ransomware, they hear fishing attack, they hear multifactor authentication. It resonates with them. They get it. Maybe they don’t practice it or utilize best practices, but they get the sense of those terms because every day you turn the news on, we hear about these things. Cyber attack, ransomware attack. It happened with phishing, it happened these credentials were lost.
So it’s become kind of the norm. And hence the reason why I wrote my second book, cybersecurity Is Everybody’s Business. I kind of had to pivot from understanding from a technical standpoint. Here’s what it is with a CEO wireless security company compromised. But now when I talk about cybersecurity, it does affect my grandmother. It affects my kids, my family, my business colleagues. It affects everybody, and we have to do something about it, or we will be victimized. And hopefully that resonates through some of the pages there and the stories and things that I share because I think it is important for each person to take control of their own security, just like you want to secure your home, secure your car.
You want to have some type of strong cybersecurity stance just so you can fight back and not be victimized because the cyber criminals are winning. That’s the part that bothers me so much, despite the effort of what I’m trying to do and a lot of other great people out there men and women, countless hours trying to fight back and defend people and define good security practices and make things simple. In a sense, I feel like we’re losing. And it’s not just on the personal level, but even as a global level.
Look at what’s happening in the United States with countless ransomware attacks, especially that seems to be an area that now the government is stepping up, which is good. You’ve got the Biden administration now talking to tech companies, and these are the guys that really are embedding security into their products, especially the IoT type of products and mobile phones and things like that. Hopefully this will start to make a difference and resonate through the community or through the United States and get us all safer. And that’s important.
The interesting thing is sort of the adage of we have to be right all the time, and the intruder only has to be right once. We are basically holding up a shield and hoping it doesn’t fail. And at best, it’s a shield that we borrowed. We cannot be experts. They, this proverbial sort of The Royal They. This is all they want to succeed at is just trying and trying and trying until a small way of breaching that armor, it’s a small data breach. And we have this real unfortunate problem that I agree with you.
I love that the government is moving towards at least raising it because it has an incredible impact that they’re there. The downside is often the first step will be to somehow legislate it away. And that is very much not the way. And in fact, sometimes can hobble real true technology organizations and companies and groups that, like many of us are doing, is trying to fight, trying to create ways in which to hold off these breaches, hold off these attacks. And we get sometimes hamstrung by the very same legislation that is designed to protect the rest of the greater good that it’s like, oh, now you’re on the wrong side of some code by law violation or something or another, right?
Yeah. There is truth to that. And I think to some degree that adage, it is pointed and it makes sense. And then I often also think about the counter. And if we look at cybersecurity and I have to say nothing is 100% secure. I think that, I always put that out on the table. So when people are unrealistic, it kind of balances it out. However, when you look at the government and some of their failures or misgivings of the past endless breaches that have happened from pretty much every agency throughout the government, it doesn’t mean going forward.
It will be constant failure, because if they start implementing these best practices and you’ve got private and public working together, communicating, sharing vulnerabilities, sharing weaknesses, then you can start actually blocking them, stopping them and working together. So there’s kind of that silver lining I look at when that communication is there the sharing of information. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have to get it right every single time. But when we do is start implementing best practices and don’t just throw our hands up because I hear that all the time.
When I present at these security trade shows often, a lot of times I’ll interact with the audience and I’ll hear a little bit sense of why bother. I don’t have anything that’s that valuable to steal. They’re going to get it anyway. The government can’t secure it. No company can keep my information secure.
So why bother?
And that’s not a good way to approach cybersecurity, but rather, if each person takes some personal responsibility, do what they can. And it starts at the simplest level. Sometimes it doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend a ton of money, but creating a strong password. This is something I’ve talked past ten years until my eyes are blue. And yet people look at you and say, yeah, very important yet then you question them or quiz them. Well, how many characters is your password? Six characters.
Well, why is it six? I can’t remember more than six or eight characters. And is it a common name? Well, yeah.
Do you use it across multiple logins? Well, yeah, because that way it’s easier to remember. So right away, they start to break down their security. And these are things that we control. So if you don’t reuse the same password across multiple websites, that just takes you to another level, because guess what? More than 50% of all people still reuse the same password across multiple websites. But when we start looking at odds and these security breaches, we wonder, why does it keep happening? Because of us. People are the problem.
Human weakness, and we’re complacent. We’re laxed in cybersecurity. I always ask people and challenge them and say, do you use multifactor authentication? And most people say, oh, yeah. Do you use Gmail? Well, yeah. Do you use multifactor authentication there? Well, no, I have nothing private there to share. And I’m like, well, yes, you do, because before you know it, you’re sending a password, a Social Security number, bank account information. At some point you will. Do you think that that email is truly encrypted private, and Google never reads any of the content of it?
Well, they do. Because you’re paying nothing for it, when you pay nothing for it, what are you doing? You’re trading your privacy. So they’re not going to write Scott Schober bank account number. However, that metadata, data about me will make that correlation. And that’s where it’s really powerful. And we have to realize these companies are selling us as the product, and we have to use caution. So when we do use multifactor authentication, encryption, are cautious about what we share through our email, which is the most common way.
It’ll give us a much better cybersecurity posture.
Yeah, a lot of people sort of take that approach that, well, I used to fax this stuff, and it literally sits on someone’s desk on the other side. But you knew whose desk it was, right. Even if you didn’t know, at least you knew it went to a physical building, and they had a responsibility to shred it. Gmail. Not only did they not shred it, but they’re using it to design other things. They can sell to you via selling your information and meta-information. As you said, they’re not taking the content of your email and directly giving it away.
But they’re developing metadata about you as a persona to then sell to subscribers, vendors, et cetera. And there’s a reason why you get amazingly targeted advertisements. When you go to a website you’re like, oh, that’s funny. I was just looking up something about Subway sandwiches and also I’m getting ad for Subway, or I’m getting ad for Jersey Mike’s because they are buying competitive positioning against advertisement. And you’re like, how did they know so much? Well, you said or wrote it somewhere. Most likely or did a quick Google search.
We literally call it a Google search, right? Like at that point, you know, it by trade name.
And it’s true in so many other ways to your point. We’re so accustomed to what we call it a Google search. And I use Google. It’s great search engine. However, I also used DuckDuckGo. And there I can do searches. Not as good as Google. Honestly, they’re not as good, but they’re pretty good, but it gives a level of anonymity and privacy because again, they’re bouncing around the IP address. It’s encrypted and probably more important, they’re not selling my information, and hence other companies pushing ads toward me.
It really does is it allows me to control my digital footprint. I talk about that often each of us has a digital footprint. The more we put out on social media. The reason for social media. So we can be social. Talk about the trip we went on, share pictures of the kids or whatever else the case may be. But sometimes we’re too social on social media, and we’re giving little tells about our private lives that people can put together a picture of us and perform identity theft, hacking into computers.
All of those things are combination of things socially engineered, where they pick up a phone and garnish a little bit of information from the Secretary, maybe someone in our house innocently, slipped something. And next thing you know, they use all that to get into a computer network. That’s how a lot of these big breaches happen. Third party access, weak passwords, socially engineered phishing attacks. There’s lots of different ways. All the culmination of all of those together are effective means until they can get into that network, and then the game starts and they can really start accumulating stolen personal information and use it to their advantage.
And of course, that all ends up on the marketplace, the dark web, the underbelly of the internet, where they can sell these things and they can do it effectively, make money, stay anonymous and grow the criminal Empire.
You can tell when you’re sitting next to a security person, when you hear them, and they ask the question, like, what’s your mother’s maiden name? Metal four underscore underscore star, even the security questions. This is one of the challenges I often tell people. I’m like you want a basic to transpose the real thing. You don’t want to always use your actual mother’s maiden name. You want to have a key phrase that you may use and maybe add an Identifier to the particular service. There’s different ways you can approach it.
Scott, maybe if you want to talk about ways that we can protect ourselves, especially around those challenge phrases because they feel it’s secure automatically, but they can still be pretty laxed about it.
Yeah. And I think that unfortunately, the concept of security challenge questions when it initially came out was really good. The negative side is probably the specific questions are not unique enough to us to make it a true authenticator or another level of security, because really, security is achieved in layers, and that’s really the intent of it. I always use the analogy. We secure our homes. We don’t just have a simple doorknob lock that we turn, we have a deadbolt, we have an alarm, we have camera, we have those fake stickers that the place is patrol, so on and so forth to do what, to deter the thief, to move to the next house where the window is half open and they’re going to go rob that house.
Same thing in cybersecurity. We want to have these levels of security. So when a security challenge question comes up, what high school did you attend? Anybody can do a simple Google search and see. Scott Schober attended Edison High School, and that’s probably the answer he would use. I actually claim that it would be safer to use password 1234 as my high school that I attended, as opposed to the actual high school I attended. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but guess what? Somebody trying to hack into my account would not put password 1234 in there.
They’d be trying all the different high schools if they looked. Oh, he grew up in Edison. He probably went to Edison High or this high school or this high school, and they would guess it. Case in point, similar to this, a couple of years ago, I was presenting at a, this was a government security conference down in the Virginia area, and I had a keynote there. And also Kevin Mitnick, the world’s most famous hacker had a keynote. He actually invited me up on stage and he wanted to perform identity theft on somebody.
So he picked me out of this crowd of 400, 500 people. I was a little embarrassed and a little nervous going up on stage thinking, oh, gosh, what’s he going to do here? So I just said, Kevin, please go easy on me. I’ve read his books. I certainly follow him. He’s a great guy. He’s done some amazing things, good and bad, but any event. To start off, he simply looked at my badge and said, Scott Schober got on his computer, entered it in, pulled up information. He said a couple of simple questions because you just got to answer yes or no Scott.
Do you live at this residence? Yes.
Do you have another house here? Yes. Are you this old?
Is that your mother’s maiden name? Yes. Now I’m getting scared and he goes, okay, the final thing, I got to get your Social Security number pulled it up. Is that your Social Security number? I said, yes, that cost me one dollar. I got nervous. I said, oh, gosh. And then he goes the final piece to perform identity theft on Scott Schober, his date of birth and he goes, does a search and pulls up a screen. All said about 20 or so different entries for different dates of birth.
He goes, is that your date of birth? I said, no. Is your date of birth on the screen at all? I said yes. And one instance is correct, I’m not telling you what it is. And he kind of laughed. And he says, “You’re ruining my routine here”. I said one trick that I’ve always done is every site that I sign up for. I use a different date of birth, so I get different throughout the year, different reminders, Congratulations or happy birthday on all these different dates.
But that is used actually as something that I can control, and it helps keep me secure. So if somebody was going to do identity theft or say, take credit out in my name, they call the issuing bank, there’s a stolen credit card, this and that. And at some point the bank says, what is your date of birth? And the cyber criminal responds with the wrong date. Guess what? Conversation over phone hangs up. Security is in my control, and not all of us can do that. So simple things we can do that will help keep our cybersecurity posture much, much more secure.
Now, obviously, I have my credit frozen. I recommend that for everybody. Do it with the three major credit monitoring agencies. They talk between one another. Is it a pain? Yes.
And there’s always that trade off between security and convenience. If it’s not convenient, it’s probably more secure. And that’s what I do in all my cases when creating a password, when freezing credit or dethawing credit. Making cybersecurity decisions. I balance that. How secure is it versus how convenient it is? And I always try to err on the side of security. And that seems to help to keep me secure for the most of the time. However, that being said, as I mentioned, Eric, nothing is 100% secure. Despite my best efforts, I’m constantly targeted.
I have been hacked. I still receive repeated attacks. It’s just I got to keep up in my game and doing a better job to fight back. And we all do.
This is the challenge we face. As you said, it’s an opportunity crime like bicycle theft is purely about convenience of the availability of a crime. It is very rarely do they want to go out of their way to break into your garage to steal your bicycle. What they want to do is they wait by a place where a lot of students go for lunch. They are likely to forget their lock. They ride up, they lean it against the wall, they walk into the restaurant, they come back out three minutes later, no bicycle.
Especially even if it’s on the dark web. All this stuff like you said, they have to do it in bulk. It’s a systemized approach to the hack. So if your mother’s maiden name is password123. Even though, like I said, it sounds insecure, it’s not, because no one’s mother’s maiden name would be password123. So it will fail on a systemized hack. And unless they really want you in particular very badly, and they’re individualizing the attack, which. Let’s talk about that.
Scott, especially once you’ve been breached. Unfortunately, you go on a short list that often also gets shared, that hey, we have one. And they can show how you were exploited and then ultimately, at that point, then they begin to go a bit deeper. So talk about your own experiences there.
Yeah, a fair amount of security. The way I implement it, I call it security by obscurity, making it a little bit more challenging. In other words, I don’t do things that the normal person does. And again, I can’t recommend this for everybody, but I often will put it out there so people can just reflect upon it and think about it and make the personal choices that work for them to help them stay more secure in the world of this crazy cybersecurity. So since I’ve had my debit card compromising reissued a million times, I don’t use a debit card.
It’s inconvenient. It’s a pain, but I try to find that balance. I don’t have an Amazon account, but if I want to buy something for Amazon, I have other people that have an Amazon account that I will just pay them cash, reimburse them. So I do some things, too. I call it staying off the grid a little bit to keep it a little bit more secure. And I try to mix up my digital footprint, as we were mentioning before, using multiple search engines. I’d like to put in random things that have absolutely nothing to do with my interest or my desire every once in a while to throw curves out there.
And why? Because I always like to keep myself in check. And when you see a crazy ad pop up on your smartphone because you did a search on Google last week for a kayak. Now you’re getting pitched with kayak ads. You make that connection and say, yes, it’s still happening. So I even do things. And this is maybe the next level. I balance it on paranoia, maybe a little bit, just because of the things I went through. Yes, I shred documents. Maybe to a fault. I use a micro cross cut shredder that’s going to obliterate a 2000+ piece as the same as NSA groups will use to really make sure it’s impossible to take this confetti and put it back together.
I use when transporting files via computer to another computer. If I’m using it on a USB stick, I’ll actually use an encrypted stick. They’re cheap, they’re effective. They can have one that holds three terabytes. Works between Mac and PC. You don’t have to put a driver on there. You have a unique code that only you know, you enter it to lock and unlock the stick.
AES 256-bit encryption is on there. Somebody else tries it if I drop or the stick is stolen, it does a mission impossible and erases it. You can implement things like that. That’s about $60 for a base stick with enough memory on it to hold lots of documents. I’m controlling my cybersecurity. Do I use anti malware virus scanners, anti key loggers? Yes, I do. In reality, they only stop about 10% to 15% of the threats coming in because the threats continually evolve and there’s zero day threats. You can’t stop everything.
I patch all my software as quick as I can. iOS. I’m careful not to use a lot of different sites that I surf. I have different computers for different things, especially because I go out on the tour and go on the dark web. I’ll use a VPN to make sure my information is encrypted. Traffic is bounced around, so law enforcement doesn’t knock on my door and lock me up. Not that I’m doing anything bad. I do it more for research a lot of times finding stolen credit cards, identity and things like that.
I’ve even worked with several different media outlets. When we find that information, we’ll actually work together and report that to the authorities, number one and to the individuals that were compromised so they can take some solace that there is something they can do about it. And that’s important. Another tip I recommend a lot of people don’t do this that I think is very important. The dark web, I’ve mentioned that a few times. That’s where all this information, stolen credit cards, debit cards, bank account, passwords. That all ends up on the dark web in volumes that cyber criminals are selling.
They’re using cryptocurrency Bitcoin digital money, basically, so they can remain anonymous. And the dark web things are encrypted. The IP traffic is bounced around, so you don’t know where the criminals working from and the sites are not indexed. So it’s really hard to find the criminals. So when you think about those types of things, we have to be aware of it. And what I do is every month I scan my email addresses. I have about four email accounts that I primarily use. I send them to a company. It’s called Cyberlytics.
I am on the board of advisers there. They got a great product and they have an engine that basically crawls and is in the dark web looking. So if it sees my email account and it’s correlated to any of these breaches, it will alert me. And why is it so important? When you know right away that your email, your possible personal login, credentials to a particular site, say LinkedIn is compromised and you see the date of that breach, how many were affected and that you’re part of it.
Guess what? I go on to LinkedIn and I change my password and I think that’s more effective approaches being proactive as opposed to what many people have recommended. Change your password every three months. Statistically, actually, when you change your password every three months, it doesn’t actually make you any stronger. From a cybersecurity perspective, I argue and counter and say, actually, it creates a situation where it actually may be worse. It gives another opportunity where somebody could intercept that password where it’s being stored. You have to write it down, record it, put it in a password manager.
Again, another opportunity for somebody to hack in there, be it the conduit wireless, through the Internet, email reception part of a breach. Who knows? So just because you’re changing your password more frequently doesn’t make it more secure, but rather make a really long, strong password. Both characters or more will take a long time to compromise. And if it’s so obscure, you can’t remember it. My rule of thumb is that’s a good password. I write it down a physical black book. And again, layers of security as I was talking about Eric, lock the book in a safe, in a locked office, in a locked building with an alarm with cameras, layers of security.
Unlikely my little black book is going to be compromised. I also use keychain passwords for less secure accounts, but I need convenience when I’m traveling and then also, I’ll use a password manager. I personally use Dashlane. Great product. Good balance between security and convenience. It’s not too hard, it’s affordable, but it’s secure one password to remember your information. Your password list is encrypted, and hopefully it does never get compromised and someone can hack it and get your master password. So don’t ever write that down on a sticky note or leave that lying around because that’s the golden key to basically everything you own.
So you got to again balance and manage your security. And I always say, separate your really strong passwords, bank accounts, stock portfolios for US government login sites that’s kept near and dear to me, where I control that. Other ones that are more common and useful when I travel to speak or different events and things, they’re on a password manager. So again, I can control it. And I’m controlling the device that it’s on, and that device is secured and encrypted and backed up, which is very important.
So again, we need to unfortunately, spend a lot of time keeping our stuff secure.
There’s small things even to, like you said, the master password. Quite often. The issue we have is that somebody says, hey, I’m trying to protect my passwords. I’m going to use a master password that I definitely won’t forget, which is ultimately one of their actual passwords, which is probably floating about the dark web. And my suggestion to folks is often take a complex pass phrase. And like you said, don’t write it down, don’t put it in a spot, but put it in three spots or even two spots.
And you can even email part of it to yourself. And then in another area, get the other half. I used to do this in an organization that I was at. We had the top level root password for active directory as an example. I would have three different people create the password. I would create the first six characters. The next person would create the next six. Then the third person would create their six. We would each put our six characters into an envelope and then do this for three instances and then put them in different locations.
One goes to Iron Mountain, one goes to the opposing office, and one goes in a secured file cabinet. And when I first implemented this practice, people are like, this is a little crazy. I’m like, no, you can at any point in time. If I leave, you can recover a password. And if I leave, I don’t have the password. It’s ideal. So none of us have the complete understanding of the way to get in. Yet we all know how in a pinch we could collectively come together and get it effectively.
It’s like turning the two keys at the identical time in order to unlock the nuclear codes and such. But I had a greater responsibility to that corporation. But then I took those practices, and I kind of use that for my own. I’m a fan of Dashlane myself and the other one as well, and I won’t mention the name but people can click on the links below if they watch the YouTube. One of the supporters of the podcast is a VPN. I won’t say just because I don’t want to be like, Scott Schober supports this. Well, like, no.
So lots of VPN products are out there and people say like, well, I don’t look up things on the Internet that people, I wouldn’t be comfortable with people seeing him like, that’s not the point. It’s other things that go in transit with it, it’s other man in the middle attacks for just simple password. Simple.
You log in the email wherever you go, you go to Starbucks. So I have it on my phone and I have it on my laptop. And like you said, it seems like a hurdle. But once you do it two, three times, you just know. On my phone, it’s always on. As soon as it initiates the network, it’s automatically on the background. So I don’t have to be as concerned. Like you said, I love this layered approach. And in practice, when we do it, I think that starts to allay the fears.
Like I said, the same way that people know what ransomware is. If you, three years ago said, ransomware is a thing, people will be like, they just look at you strangely.
You’re going to take my child. Wait a minute.
Exactly. I’ve seen that Liam Neeson thing. Is that what you’re talking? That Liam Neeson movie? I searched about 17 Liam Neeson movies. But if we introduce these practices, it’s actually not terribly complex to do. And then it becomes part of your, you think harder about the next time you write a password somewhere. You think maybe I should be thinking about how I manage this and it becomes pervasive to other secure things. Like you said emailing. How many times do you do this right? They sent, a bank sends you a DocuSign, and then. Well, not a bank.
But somebody could send you a DocuSign to sign a job form, and then they ask you to email back your PDF unencrypted with your Social Security on it. Like, why did you make me DocuSign the thing?
Wait a second.
That’s supposed to be secured and marked and protected. But yet then you asked me for an incredibly powerful piece of information about my life over unencrypted email.
Yeah, and that’s why I tend to like to kind of work in the realm of that security by obscurity by doing things maybe a little bit unorthodox and different. So if someone is targeting me, it’s not going to be that clear what direction I’m going. And I like your analogy there about kind of dividing the password up and keeping it secure and having a way that you could still gain access to it. And then if you do leave the company, it doesn’t go with you. That’s a good balance.
That’s a brilliant example of why it’s so important to just think these things out, and I often encourage it till it becomes habit forming. Some people, you wash your car once a month. We need to do cybersecurity things that we make sure we follow that habit. Maybe you do a data backup. It should really be daily. But if you’re not doing anything once a month is better than nothing at all, especially if you’re a victim of ransomware attack. So implementing systems where you could be disciplined to follow structure that works for you so you can maintain it.
If it’s too complex. I’ve learned quickly people don’t do it. People are lazy, and that seems to happen again and again. I always comparing complacency with cybersecurity and trying to help people realize once you are a victim and hacked and compromised, it could be anything. It could be DDoS attacks. It could be your social media account, your credit card, or debit, your checking account. Once you go through the pain process of it, and it happens again and again and again. You say, I’m never going to go through this again.
You don’t want to go through a federal investigation when $65,000 is taken out of your checking account. It is not fun. It is time consuming. And if you’re running a business like myself, it’s taking away from that. So your whole sole focus is to get that money back and secure it. So it doesn’t happen again. And people don’t sometimes realize they hear it and say, oh, that’s a shame. Well, you were targeted that’s what you get. But you can prevent that. And then you can implement certain things to prevent it from happening again.
Like in that particular case, I sat down with my bank and understood through the investigation, who got the money, how much they got, which accounts they got it for, what it went for. I asked those questions and they’re required by law to tell me under a federal investigation. So it’s interesting understanding. And then how it happened through the bank, how they had access to my account. Somebody impersonated a teller, in a sense and digitally, how they can manipulate and take that money out from a wire transfer.
What did I do in response? I said, Well, from now on, no wire transfers can go out of our bank account unless I’m there in person signing for it and proof of my ID. So suddenly it puts up again, not convenient, but secured. Never had it happen since then. So sometimes you have to look at your personal situation and put in some security layers to make sure it stays secure. So you don’t fall victim to the cyber criminals, and they’ll just move on to the next target.
It’s not that they’re going to give up. They’re lazy. They will move on to the next person that has a password with a sticky note on their computer that doesn’t have a secure account that shares passwords, that doesn’t use multifactor, whatever the case may be. So I encourage everybody to do those things, but just realize once you start doing that, you’re not going to be targeted and victimized, they’re just moving to the next target. It’s a numbers game.
They prey on the fact that humans by nature, as you mentioned. Right.
And we know this, unfortunately. We don’t like friction. We don’t like additional rigor and processes. And yet when we are the victim of a breach or victim of anything. Right.
I know a lot of people that give up drinking every Saturday morning, but then they take it up very effectively on the next Friday night. So when you’re on the direct impact, other side of a personal breach or a fearful thing, and usually they think it’s some complex thing, like somebody with a balaclava and a mask over their face, sitting in a data center and like, no, it’s floating out there. It’s a list. It’s very easy. You get a text message and look, I get them all the time.
And it’s kind of funny because I know what it is. I know this is a phishing expedition, right? I know I get the email, but sometimes they’re good, and even I want to like, I’m going to make sure this is very well done. I want to just triple check how well this was made because they pick a bank that you’re a member of or a cellular phone company that you have an account with. And if you don’t know, it’s just very easy to, oh, the first thing that hits you is, oh, my goodness.
This thing says I’ve been breached. I need to change my password right away. And I used to test this with people all the time. In the Kevin Mitnick style, when I was at one organization, I would pick up the phone somewhere in the office, and I would say, hey, this is Pete from the help desk. I just need to double check if you shared your mainframe password with anybody recently, and they’d be like, no. Okay. I just need you to confirm what it is right now because we’ve seen it, and it looks like it may have been compromised, and they’d be like, and of course, you would use almost always something very simple.
But even if it wasn’t because they are now in fear that they are at risk. They say, it’s Pete from the help desk. It’s Monday123 or whatever they give to me. I’m like, okay, thankfully, that’s not what it is. So you shouldn’t have any problem. If you get any weird issues, then just change your password and photos of the help desk again. But they just see internal number. They save them from the help desk. I’m in fear that my account could be a problem.
I’m going to help them help me. And it worked every time Scott, that’s the scary part. I’m like this easy to do. But human nature was very easy to exploit.
I say it in a weird way. The beauty of social engineering. Since we’re creatures of habit, we’re trusting individuals. When we hear familiar terms and acronyms, especially in a particular space, we will divulge information very innocently. I look back a couple of years ago, we had a vulnerability assessment, done a penetration test at our company after we were hacked and compromised. And it’s interesting going over some of the stuff with the company. I thought, Jeez, we were hacked. Compromise, we take all these great stances and do this and that we’re 100% secure.
We’re going to get through this flying colors. There were still little areas that we were too close to that were identified. And one thing that they brought up, and I said, I’m curious when you guys go into other companies, typical company. How do you get in what’s your most effective way? And they said, well, for example, when they do a lot of work for law firms because they have a lot of personal information. They say, first thing we do is we don’t even go in the company.
We don’t even try to hack. We don’t even do anything. The first thing we do is pull up in the parking lot with some of our wireless tools, and we try to do a Wi-Fi hack, a lot of free tools. And there’s some that are very low cost you can buy. And oftentimes we start with a simple phone call. We spoof the number, we pretend we’re another law firm. We call the receptionist and tell her and say, oh, I’m so glad you got there. Hey, we’ve got this really important proposal.
We got to send it over right away to whatever the senior lawyer is there, Mr. Smith, but we don’t want to tell him we’re a little bit late. We’re so sorry, but this is important to him. Could you just give us the password for your Wi-Fi network so we could email it right over? This is really important. And you’re talking fast and you’re moving through it. And next thing you know, they’re like, he needs a password. Well, I know what that is. It’s password123 or whatever it is on a sticky note on the desk.
They innocently give it to him, even though that has no connection with emailing them this fictitious proposal. Now they’ve got the password to get into the Wi-Fi network, plant malware, work laterally, start gathering up personal information so that they can go to the CEO and say, hey, look, not only we get in compromises information, here’s the weak spot and how we got in sometimes we don’t realize it, but people innocently will give information to just somebody. That sounds very convincing. And that’s a huge caution. What’s the way to counter that?
It’s really just with security awareness training companies like KnowBe4 and many other companies educating people, having that formal process, making somebody an example or sharing some of these silly stories help them just to think and stop before they give out information. We’ve been targeted with them. One employee came up not too long ago and said, Scott, I got this strange email you’re giving gift cards out to all employees. And I heard about it by accident through this person. Are you really doing that? And am I really supposed to give them?
No, stop. Thank you for reporting. Even in security companies, it doesn’t matter. The company we can all easily give in if there’s certain things that sound very credible. And that’s to me when you got to stop right away, pause and say, Hold on, let me investigate it. Make a phone call, text, email, knock on someone’s door and say, hey, do you want to confirm this? And especially if they’re targeting an older population, seniors, the elderly are more prone to being targeted for things like that. Scams on the phone.
Email phishing attacks sounds too good to be true. It’s probably too good to be true. It’s not real. So we want to really pause and have a trusted individual where we could ask the question and just validate it to see if it’s a scam or not.
When a bank phones me or when I phone a bank or when they phone me, especially. And they say, hey, we just need to confirm your identity. And I say, okay, give me a number that I can phone back to get you. And I will do that. And they say, Well, it’s a collective bank. We can’t do that. I’m like, I have no way to confirm your identity, and they’re like, but you’re the one we need to confirm. I’m like, no, you see, that’s the interesting thing.
I know who I am, and I don’t know who you are. So if we can’t meet in the middle on this, no one’s getting confirmed today, and we’ll meet at another time. And it’s funny the resistance they have because they’re like, this is just in the same way that it’s irritating for me to have multifactor and write a password and multi parts and separate it. But it’s what I have to do. It’s what I’ve set. And in the same way, like you said, it goes beyond just raw technology.
This is not about hacking the Wi-Fi and breaking down keys and doing this stuff that we see sort of the Hugh Jackman Swordfish spinning around on a chair with 14 monitors and breaking into the mainframe, which I always laughed. It’s always the mainframe. But the truth is, technologists like yourself, like all your smartest engineers on your team, they’re fantastically good at what they do in the technology space. But if they get an email from what looks like their bank, ask them to fill out a W138 A, and it needs their social.
The bank teller knows as little about encryption key as you do about a W138 being not even a real form, right? The same way those lawyers, if you tell them, hey, you’ve got whatever some judgment thing coming up, you try and use their lingo at them. They will immediately say, hang up the phone. This is a fake call, but you tell them I need to get the Wi-Fi password because we haven’t been able to email you. They’re like, this is a thing I don’t know about, but it’s critical to my business.
Let me get you that password, and it’s very easy. Like I said, it’s just natural human behavior. I’m enthralled by the ability to exploit it, but frightened at the same time. It’s such a weird dichotomy of knowing that you can do it. But then knowing that there’s just so much we have to do to protect against it.
Yeah, it reminds me of a colleague in the space, a slightly parallel space. Frank Abagnale Jr. You’re probably familiar with the movie. A lot of people have seen that. I think it was Leonardo DiCaprio or whatever is the main character. And Tom Hanks in there, too. Loved the movie, but I had the privilege of going down to a security event. I won’t mention the company, but at this event he was the keynote speaker there, and he talked for a good hour plus, and afterward I got to go up and meet him and chat a little bit, and we exchanged contact information.
In fact, he was nice enough to write some praise about my second book, Cybersecurity Is Everybody’s Business. But I learned a lot from him from the standpoint of social engineering, not just from that movie, but understanding how it works from the mindset and understanding kind of who your target victim is going to be and understanding the key phrases, the word, the look and the feel and a sense of urgency. When you give a sense of urgency and authority to anything, you can breach right through. And nine out of ten people will let you through that secure spot.
We’ll trust you because we’re trusting individuals, and that’s good to say that. And I like that value and quality in people. But from the pessimist in the world of cybersecurity, that’s not a good thing. I always tell people trust nobody, unfortunately. Even those that are closest to you because those are the ones that are going to give little tells about how you can be compromised. And it’s a shame the world we live in right now is filled with cyber criminals, but they’re using that to their advantage.
So let’s not make it any easier for them, so they can socially engineer information out. Double check everything I often say with phone scams. If somebody calls up as you mentioned there and they claim they’re the bank fraud department and questioning transactions, you say, hold on a second. What’s your name and phone number in case we get disconnected, that’s a fair question to ask. What did you find out? Nine out of ten times. Click phone hangs up. Guess what? It’s a scammer. That tells you right there.
So simple things you can be proactive. Put the onus on them to give you a little bit of information. They’re not giving you anything proprietary or confidential. My name is John Smith. I’m with the Bank X-Y-Z fraud department. I could be reached at this extension. Okay, you jot it down. It’s probably more likely the bank if that’s the case, if they’re divulging some information and now you have something you can check and verify. I’ll go on Google and do a quick check, go on LinkedIn, throw their name up and say, oh, they do work at Bank X-Y-Z.
Okay, the number is not spoofed. Okay, this is legitimate. I did make this transaction. So you start to go through the process before you divulge anything that’s personal or private.
And I guess it’s probably apropos. I’m going to take your question. I’m going to give it to you, Scott, because I love to hear your take. What keeps you up at night? We’ve talked about a lot of things, and I love your content, especially Evan Kirstel was one of the ones the episodes I like. Evan’s a great guy. I really appreciate his content in general, as a good human. But what’s top of mind in your concerns these days?
Well, I do have so many one that kind of concerns me because I have gone down this path as everybody else is. I constantly go back to the world of IoT. I love innovation. I love technology. I love wireless, love cybersecurity, but I’m kind of at crossroads a little bit, because as I embrace new IoT, the latest camera, the latest watch, the latest iPhone, you name it and bring that into my home and to my car. I’m adding all these additional conduits for hackers to target myself, my company, my family.
So I’m always trying to think of ways. How do I prevent this from becoming a conduit from a hacker getting into my world? And it’s hard because with IoT products in general, they don’t bake the security in in the beginning because they’re focused on cost. Keep the cost down, not going to worry about firmware upgrades later. Make it secure when a vulnerability is discovered a year later in my Nest Thermostat or my Wyze camera or whatever else. So it’s hard to stay on top of those things and keep it secure.
So that’s kind of toward the top of my list. These IoT things. I have probably another ten items that follow, and I have some paranoia with some of the new smart cars of all 50 plus automobile manufacturers globally. They all put cellular modems in there.
A cellular modem is a great conduit to download malware into a car. And the average new car off the lot has over 100 ECUs in it. Engine control units that could then be used if they could commandeer and take over.
That scares me to death when you’re realizing that there’s the capability to do that. And only because I know researchers and I’ve talked to them, interviewed them and heard how they’ve actually manipulated or found back doors to some of these very secure smart vehicles. Those type of things are the things I think that keep me up at night. I don’t think I can solve them all. Some of the tools and technology that we do develop within my company is putting a dent in it, and I’m proud of that.
And I’m excited with that. And when it changes people’s lives, I’ll share a really brief story because I’m always very proud of this. This happened earlier this year. We develop one tool it’s used for hunting down cell phones not tied directly to cybersecurity, but security and really life and safety more toward. And we still sell these around the globe for various things, getting contraband cell phones out of prison, securing government facilities. But more recently, search and rescue because everybody carries a phone on us. We’re glued to our phone while in France earlier this year, French Alps at the base of it, there was a terrible avalanche.
Family escaped from it except the father. He got trapped and he was pinned up against a tree, had enough airspace to breathe for a while and had his mobile phone on. So he was safe, partially injured, but he had 2.5 meters of snow on top of him. They sent out a rescue team, 130 people in the village with sticks and calling and trying to find them in the ground. They searched for two and a half hours and couldn’t find him. They sent out search dogs to sniff.
Snow pack was too thick. They couldn’t pick the scent up through that deep thing. They walked right past the guy, through the whole area that was under avalanche. Somebody had the smarts to pull our tool out and said, hey, I got one of these Wolfhound-PRO used for search and rescue. Let’s try it, lit it up and right away. Boom signal. Pick up the guy’s phone, hunted it down with a direction finding antenna, called everyone back. The guys over here, dig, dig. They dug him. Miraculously, they found the guy, saved his life.
And it was a wonderful story. So sometimes when you hear about technology being used for good to stop the problems and tragedies that happen in life, it makes you feel good. Same thing about skimmers technology. We were talking about that earlier. A couple of years ago, I started investigating and reading articles. Brian Krebs does a great job, a reporter talking about a lot of the skimmers and how they get into gas pumps and ATMs. So I really took it on as a passion and started doing research.
And one thing I came across was all these problems are reported on and talked about, but nobody seems to have a solution for it. I sat there and said, this is frustrating. There’s got to be something. So we started developing and getting the engineer team involved here and did a lot of trial and error and research and different tests and things and then getting educated with National Weights and Measurements group, local law enforcement, Secret Service FBI and kind of brainstorming all that together. And I came up with a couple of different solutions we developed that are now we’re selling as tools.
And one of them is a simple tool called a Skim Scan. It’s a few hundred dollars. You slide it down the neck of a point of sale terminal that reads your debit card or credit card. And we simply look, if there’s a second read head in there. Green light, red light. Simple beeps and let you know, second head in there. Stop. Don’t use that ATM machine because there’s a skimmer in there. Same thing with a gas pump. So as I start to learn and investigate, I find out not just the vulnerabilities and weaknesses, but how to counter them with tools, sometimes, that are effective.
Same thing in the world of gas pumps. As I got educated on this, I realized how easy it is to be a cyber criminal. You buy a Bluetooth skimmer for very little price. You go on eBay, and then there’s six keys to open up a generic lock on the millions of gas pumps throughout the United States. You take the simple Bluetooth skimmer, plug it into the top of where the point of sale terminal is. You lock the machine 20 seconds. You’re in business.
Now, every time somebody pulls up to the pump and search their card. A second read head reads off that information, stores it in a buffer. Bluetooth set to be within 75 foot proximity to the cyber criminal. Now they go home and hundreds of credit cards each day from each gas pump. At each gas station, they burn them, they sell them on dark web and so on and so forth. They’re in business. So when you understand the inner workings of these cyber criminal gangs, you quickly learn why it is a multi billion dollar industry stealing credit cards.
And instantly we go to the gas pump and put our card and we buy $50. A gas transaction goes through. We move on. We never think about guess what? That’s where the credit card was compromised. Most people I talk to and this is funny. They say, Well, Scott, no, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve got a chip and pin card. Look, it’s secure. And I usually counter that and say, okay, when you go shopping and you stick your chip and pin in front of the terminal, it is more secure than just a mag stripe alone.
I agree with you there. However, how often do you enter a pin in? And out of a room of 100 people, one or two people say, I do at Walmart or Target, I enter an actual pin as another layer of security. But guess what? Most people don’t. And just about all our cards still have the mag stripe on them. So when you put a mag stripe into anything and there’s a second read head, they got the CVV data. They got the golden key to compromise our information.
So just because there’s a perceived security measure on their chip and pin, which again, it is more secure, but it’s not fully implemented. Instead, what we have in the United States, I call it chip and signature, right? Because what are we still doing? We stick it in. It makes the connection secure. Encrypted this and that, and we sign for it. I could sign Mickey Mouse and guess what transaction goes through. Nobody’s validating that signature. That’s a problem. Yet look over in Europe and other countries, ten years ago, they were properly implementing chip and pin credit cards.
We are not. Still slow. Why are we doing it now? It’s because of the legislation. It’s because of the rules, the point of sale terminals. It shifts the liability down to the actual processor of it if they don’t upgrade the chip and pin. And that’s why we have it now. So for all the wrong reasons, it was implemented and it really started the conversation in 2013 with who? Target. Irony of it is Target was the first to actually test chip and pin technology. They were also the first to abandon it years back. Why?
Because it took a little bit longer to check out at the lines. So again, they chose convenience over security. And then they were the first major data breach as a result. So it’s kind of funny when we look back full scale. And in hindsight, we learn a lot of things about security and the importance of using layers of security and not being so focused on speed because you may pay in the end and the result of a data breach, it costs you for years and a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of rebuilding of your brand.
Yeah. If it’s inconvenient to use a chip and pin, how inconvenient is it to reopen bank accounts and cancel every credit card and reinitiate every auto pay every bill pay. My favorite thing of this one to pull the thread on that story, too, is I’m Canadian. And so we’ve had chip and pin for eons, and it’s been kind of natural prior to that, though, when it was just purely signature card.
I actually went into a place one time and I got a brand new card, and so I go and the cashier says, oh, sorry, we can’t take this because it’s not a signature. You need to sign it. And I said, you can’t take it because you can’t validate the signature that you’re going to watch me do. And then I’m going to sign the second piece of paper the same way. And that’s validating what exactly. So what I would actually write on my signature section of the card was ‘Show ID’.
Yeah, that’s what I do on mine, too. Show photo ID.
And they would get really weirded out. They’re like, this isn’t the signature. You’re right, because you have to validate by my photo ID. I worked at a police station when I was younger, so I learned about a lot of things of how easy it was to. And I worked in retail. And so I knew sort of the regulatory boundaries they’re under in and little tips and tricks. But this is great.
I tell you, Scott, thank you. It’s been a real pleasure. You are a pleasure to chat with, and it’s really great. You’re prolific in so many ways. So of course you do daily radio. You’ve got three books. You’re a CEO of a company. Your a keynote speaker. Hopefully, the world opens up a bit more. We can see you on a stage again soon. But if you want to actually give a shout out as well for your radio spots, because I’ll have a link as well. But just let people know what it is you do around that.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m on Cybercrime Radio. It’s 24/7, 365 days a year, constant updates in the world of cybersecurity security. And I do several different segments. But one of the main ones I do every morning is really just the headlines. I take one story that kind of stands out, and I simply break it down and just kind of give a short minute and a half blurb about what the headline is, and it can be anything from ransomware, crypto, cyber attacks and I slip in their little tips and stats here and there also so people can stay safe. And it’s really enjoyable and it’s fast paced and you can even listen to it in the background on your computer if you do Internet radio and things like that.
But it’s Cybercrime Radio. So I’m a host of that segment and I do about two or three other segments as well. So throughout the week you’re going to constantly hear my voice sharing different tips, knowledge, headlines, you name it. Anything in the world of cybersecurity.
That’s great, and especially for folks that are getting into it. And I find this is, there’s a lot of people that are obviously leaning into the industry. It’s a burgeoning area of technology, lots of employment opportunities and learning opportunities. So I wanted to call it out. It’s a great place for folks to get in and make it a part of the routine and sort of introduce the nomenclature and start to get tapped into what’s going on, and it, hopefully, will lead them to ultimately get into.
Like I said, maybe we can see them at a BSides or other things around. There’s lots of great community events. And actually, if you don’t mind, Scott, I’ll add one more question, what’s a great place for people to go or if they wanted to get started in the world of InfoSec and cybersecurity, what are some sort of freely available or community accessible resources that you’d recommend?
Tons and tons of, if I may encourage people if you want to just meet individuals, get a knowledge base. The headline Cybercrime Magazine, part of that on their CSO and chief media commentator. But there’s tons of information that you could download videos to watch radio segments that you can hear. It’s a really good educational part. I’m a part of a whole bunch of other shows. Also, I do a monthly show on Computer America where I spend 1 hour dissecting different cybersecurity breaches and discuss that. It’s over video so you can look back at past episodes, that’s Computer America.
I think there’s so many endless sites and a lot of the events I’m associated with FutureCon, SecureWorld. You name it. RSA, Black Hat. I go to those events, so hopefully our paths will cross somewhere we can meet in person somewhere. Great sources to learn things, and even some of the smaller shows like you mentioned. BSides, ShowMeCon. I’ve been to shows like that and I’ll do presentations there. I really enjoy it. Next week I have one out in Iowa. It’s called CornCon.
It’s a little strange name, but interesting. They do a lot of hacking events, their education for children starting at a young age. I think that’s really important, the math and science aspect that young ones early on learn that and especially for women. Women are really needed in the field of cybersecurity because we got a lot of great, brilliant women doing cybersecurity stuff, but it’s only a tiny portion of it. So I always shout out there and say, women, if you’re interested, looking for a great career that you really needed, you can do well financially, but especially the challenge.
Think about cybersecurity. There’s so many great niches there where you can actually lend a hand and actually make a huge difference in keeping this world safer.
Yeah, that’s a great point. And especially now, I think we’ve learned and we’re beginning to act better as a community. The technology community has not always been very welcoming, still challenging for folks, especially women, folks from underrepresented communities. But there’s so much that we’re doing to make that better, and we just have to keep on it. So as you said, great opportunity. Scott, thank you very much. And for folks that want to reach out directly to you, what’s the best way they can get in contact?
They can certainly check out the stuff we’re doing in my company. It’s simply our website, dvsystems.com or my name scottschober.com. In there, there’s tips that you can download for free. I have white papers there, information about books, speaking appearances, interviews, you name it, feel free to peruse that, and hopefully it’s helpful in keeping you safe and feel free to reach out to me. There’s a fill out form there. I do actually respond. It’s not a robot that responds. I actually respond in person and get tons of requests for advice on products, recommendations, good versus bad in the world of cybersecurity.
And I’m happy to share anything there at no cost. If I can be encouraging to people, I just put that out there. I’m used as a resource for many people and companies around the globe.
Excellent. Well, thank you very much. It’s been a real pleasure to share time.
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After a 30 year career in tech and serving as Chief Business Officer at Google [X], Google’s ‘moonshot factory’ of innovation, Mo has made happiness his primary topic of research, diving deeply into literature and conversing on the topic with some of the wisest people in the world.
In 2014, motivated by the tragic loss of his son, Ali, Mo began pouring his findings into his international bestselling book, Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy. He’s also the host of the Slo Mo podcast which is a great listen.
Mo’s most recent book Scary Smart has just been released and both of these books are legitimate must-reads!
We discuss the reason that adversity and loss affect us, how to overcome negativity, techniques to reach emotional equilibrium, and the deep challenges of AI and ethics as you’ll read further on in Scary Smart.
Hello, folks. And welcome to the DiscoPosse podcast.
My name is Eric Wright. I’m going to be your host.
And we’ve got an amazing and compelling conversation with bestselling author, Mo Gawdat. I’ll go into more about out Mo in a moment because this is something that you’ve really got to enjoy. The work that he’s done. I’ve actually read his books. And it really said fantastic. So before we jump in, I do want to make sure I give a shout out. And thanks to the folks that make this amazing show happen because of the folks over at Veeam software who make sure that you’ve got everything you need for your data protection needs.
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All right. This is Mo Gawdat. He’s a CEO of a fresh new startup. He’s a best selling author of Solve for Happy and Scary Smart. He’s the former chief business officer at Google. He’s got a fantastic voice, a fantastic soul, and he bares both of them for us in this story. Just a great show. Enjoy.
Hi. My name is Mogad. I’m the best selling author of Solve for Happy, of the upcoming books Scary Smart, The Future of Artificial Intelligence and How You Can Save the World. I’m the host of the Slo Mo podcast. The founder of onebillionhappy.com. The former chief business officer of Google X and currently the CEO of a new promising startup called Today. And I’m here on the DiscoPosse Podcast.
So Mo Gawdat, thank you very much for joining. This is an honor and a pleasure to know that I’m going to share time with you today. You’ve produced an incredible amount of content that I found very meaningful and very impactful in the things that you do in your entrepreneurial ventures. You aim for incredible strong goals, big changes, meaningfully impact, and it’s proven itself out. But you’ve also talked about in some of your obviously your written work and what inspires a lot of what you do, the impact of adversity and challenge.
We are going to talk about a lot of things, but for folks that are brand new to you, Mo, if you don’t mind giving a brief introduction, we’ll talk about Solve for Happy, your upcoming book, which is incredible. So congratulations in advance for what will be inevitably another fantastic book that you’re bringing to the world. And we’ll talk about a lot of things, your entrepreneurial adventures. I could spend an hour on each one of them, which is amazing.
Life and happiness, business and entrepreneurship. Eric, thank you so much. It’s been an honor and it took us time to arrange this, and I’m really grateful for the time. I have two lives, literally two parallel lives for the last seven or eight years, I have been a technologist, a geek if you want. And I was a business executive for quite a bit of my life. I started my life at IBM, then moved to Microsoft, then spent twelve years at Google at the time where those companies truly were changing the world.
At Google, I started as vice President of emerging markets, opened half of Google’s businesses worldwide, which meant that I also launched Google products in more than 100 languages around the world. And then I moved to become the chief business officer of Google X, which is probably the best job on the planet. Maybe God, I think God would bid for that job as well. It was an amazing honor to work with some of the smartest humans on the planet and really work on big moonshots. If you want that’s half of my life, I still continue.
Today. I have two startups running in parallel, one of which I’m the CEO. The other is I’m just the co founder, so CEO and one co founder of the other. And one of them is about reinventing consumerism in a way that’s favorable for the planet if you want. And the other is about happiness, actually applying artificial intelligence to helping us become happier. So that’s half of my life, the other half of my life is basically an author and a speaker, and I don’t like the word teacher, but as much as I can spreading the message of happiness, I published Solve for Happy, which was my first book in 2017.
It published in 31 languages, became an international bestseller almost in all of them. And then from then onwards I started my foundation, One Billion Happy, which is aiming to spread happiness to a billion people around the world. Part of that effort is The Happiness app, which is coming out at the end of the year, but also part of it is my podcast Slo Mo, which I believe is a very effective vehicle in terms of getting the wisdom of my best friends, really. My wisest friends are hosted on the podcast to just speak about topics which require us to slow down and reflect on our life.
So the name Slo Mo is basically the fast moving executive that I have been in this phase of my life, trying to find time to reflect and find what really matters in life. I think these are the two sides of my life. Put them together in whichever configuration, and you get a different day every day. That’s right.
So I think the ideal place to frame from to find happy.
That’s an engineers podcast. Hello. I tell people that they don’t get it. When I go to those events that are about the whole idea of well being, I go like, define, define what’s the problem statement? What is the definition? Can we start from there? When I started my work, I couldn’t find a definition. As a matter of fact, if you search the dictionary, you’ll find very varying meanings. I basically worked to identify happiness as an engineer. So in my late 20s, I was clinically depressed. I tried to find my way out of it, and I couldn’t because I actually didn’t understand what I was looking for.
And happiness, in my view, is highly definable by an equation, and the equation is very straightforward. You’re not happy or unhappy in any specific moment in your life or any specific event in your life. You’re happy or unhappy. If life seems to be going your way. And so every moment of your life, you compare the event of life or at least your perception of the current event of life to your hopes and wishes and expectations of how life should be. And if life meets your expectations, you’re happy.
If life misses your expectations, you’re unhappy. And what that means is that happiness is equal to or greater than the difference between the events of your life and your expectations of how life should be. You run that equation on this current conversation, you may look at the shadow behind me and say the lighting is not perfect and take that as an event that misses your expectation for a quality podcast like yours, and that would make you unhappy. Or you could listen to my voice and say, “Good voice for a podcast”, I think this might actually register well with my audiences.
That’s what I expect my guests to sound like, so it would make you happy. So if that’s the case, then happiness is defined unlike what the modern world is trying to convince us. Happiness is defined as those moments where you feel the calm and peacefulness of being okay with life as it is very important definition because most of the modern world tries to define a different emotion and they try to mix it up with happiness. They try to define something like fun or excitement or elation or other pleasure or other feelings, and they try to mix that with happiness.
All of those are actually not happiness. They are more a state of escape if you want. They’re more, as I mentioned them, they are fun, their pleasure, their elation excitement and so on. And those are different than happiness. Those are moments when we are engaging our physical form in enough activities or pleasure or reward so that your brain stops solving the happiness equation. And so you think you’re happy. But what you’re actually doing is you’re not thinking about your problems.
It really brings up the interesting thing where we often tie accomplishments to happiness. What’s the real risk behind this unfortunate tendency to do just that?
The best differentiation between the two so that you can always differentiate whether it’s accomplishment or other symptoms is dopamine and serotonin. Our biology works in interesting ways that we have different hormones that are secreted to elicit certain responses or motivate us to do certain actions when we are happy, which again, life meets my expectation. I’m okay with this moment. I wouldn’t mind if this moment lasted forever. That basically means I’m okay with this, right? When you are in that state, your body is flooded with serotonin. Serotonin is a calmer.
It’s a hormone that basically translates exactly to what the happiness equations is. It basically means stay as you are. We don’t need to change anything. This is good. This is okay. This meets my expectations. I can now rest. I can close my eyes. I can reflect. I can digest my food, I can rebuild my muscles, which is a very important physiological state that is very important for our survival is to get that time to restore. And that is enabled by serotonin. And serotonin is only secreted in those moments of calm.
Every other mix up if you want, including feeling, achievement and reward is a moment that is associated with dopamine. And sadly, in the happiness world, sometimes people call dopamine a happiness hormone. It’s not dopamine is an excitatory. It’s a reward hormone. It is the hormone your body uses to tell you that even though what you’re doing right now is not directly related to your survival, I want you to do more of it. Sex is a very good example of that. If you don’t have sex, you’re not going to die.
I mean, maybe some of us will, but most of us won’t, right? But the truth is, your body is encouraging you to have more of it because it’s important for the survival of the species. Now, with that in mind, you would notice that achievement falls at the center of the dopamine Arena when you feel rewarded, because now you’re on stage and people are clapping for you or that your manager promoted you or whatever you get that rush of dopamine in you saying, oh, my God, that feels amazing.
Let’s keep striving in life to get more of that. But the truth is, like all other activities associated with dopamine, dopamine wears out very quickly. So you basically run out of it the minute the event is over and then you strive for more. And this is why when you achieve, all of us are aware of that, interesting loop you achieve. You’ve been waiting for that promotion for two years, and then you get it and you run to your girlfriend or boyfriend and say, I made it, and then you’re happy for a day, and then you’re setting your next promotion goal and upset for the next two and a half to three years.
Right? Why? Because you need that next shot of dopamine and that next shot of dopamine is not going to come until you get another jolt of fun, of a party of pleasure and so on and so forth. This is the reason why you may end up at the end of the week feeling tired or that you had a difficult week. You rush to a party pre-covered and you drink a couple of drinks and you dance a little bit and you feel amazing as if all of life is okay.
And then you wake up in the morning and you’re even more depressed. So you need a bigger shot of dopamine. So you either are looking for another party or going to the gym and so on and so forth. So achievement doesn’t work at all. As a matter of fact, achievement, if you ask me, is probably the biggest myth of the Industrial Revolution, not because we’re not supposed to achieve. As a matter of fact, we are here on this planet to achieve and to help and to serve and to make a difference.
But the way we define achievement is probably the biggest drug that’s ever been sold to us. And achievement, if you look at my current mission, 1 billion happy, my absolute dream is that by the end of my life, I will have achieved got as close as I can to spreading a message of happiness to a billion people, lost all the money that I made in Google and every other place and got completely forgotten. Okay. And if you tell me that this is not a major achievement, that’s probably, in my view, the biggest achievement ever.
It doesn’t buy Ferrari’s, it doesn’t really make me dress in Armani suits and impress the girls. But that is actually an achievement that’s not associated with dopamine. As a matter of fact, it’s associated a lot more with hormones around love and connection and compassion and really being part of the big being, the big all of us. Which is again, it’s not addictive like dopamine is. I think the idea is we’re looking for connection, we’re looking for love, we’re looking for calm, we’re looking for peacefulness contentment and so on.
These are the lasting feelings. And then you can add dopamine on top of them. And when you do, you’re in a very good place. If you’re just chasing dopamine all the time, it’s going to be a very long marathon.
Sort of. Further the analogy, it’s effectively the difference between sex and intimacy. While intimacy may involve sex, it doesn’t have to. Sex is very much about sort of very strong, obviously dopamine strong event, but then long ways without anything versus intimacy, something that can be continuously experienced or experienced in a much longer phase.
Beautiful definition. Actually never thought of it this way, but it’s definitely spot on. Yeah.
All right. Achievement unlocked. I’ve made Mo say something I said was good. I’m in good shape here. Now that’s my dopamine yet for the day. Here’s the interesting thing as well. And I’ve often described my approach to this is I’ll say I follow the Stoics in the sense that I don’t want to hold claim to the positive because it artificially elevates that normal. That achievement to that dopamine hit, so to speak. And then I’m already pre aware that when I achieve this high, that immediately I enter into a trough, I will have to.
So I don’t want these big waves. What I look is much more to sort of tighten the curve of understanding that an achievement may be good, but I want to lessen the impact of the feeling so that I can, conversely, lessen the negative impact and understand that certain things that are out of my control must be accepted and just dealt with.
I think both sides. Yes, absolutely.
If I want responsibility for the highs, I must take responsibility for the lows and to my personal thing. Look, I believe it’s not perfect at all because I struggle with it continuously. I think we all would. But even the greatest therapists in the world have therapists because no one is good all the time.
I’m totally with you. I mean, sometimes when people ask me the definition of wisdom, part of the definition of wisdom is to be unimpressed by a lot of shit, right? It’s so interesting as you go through life, especially if you’ve followed the path like mine, where there was a point in my life. And I apologize. I’m assure you’re not that person anymore, but there was a point in my life where I had 16 cars in my garage. Right. And now I wear four dollar T shirts, and I promise you, I’m really not impressed by the cars I see in the street at all.
I look at them and I go like, yeah, I know they look sexier, but on the inside they’re all the same when you sit in a car. All you really do is you look on the street outside, who cares what car you’re in unless you’re feeding your ego. I think the other side, of course, is to realize that it wouldn’t always be easy and pleasant, that life is bound like a video game to come with some challenges. Otherwise it will be boring like hell. And these are the moments where we learn.
So the stoic approach is both ways. One way is to really not be impressed by stuff that doesn’t really deserve you being so easily pleasable. And the other side is when it’s tough, you see it for what it is just another part of the video game.
And I think it maps as well to how you behave in your day to day, things you do and how you interact with people. And I often describe the ideal personality, especially in the startup, because I’ve obviously been exposed to that a lot. And you would know this as well is that anybody in that kind of an environment, I describe it as never above it, never below it. Any tasks that you need to do, you’re perfectly willing to share. One of my favorite books, in fact, was Legacy by James Kerr, and he talks about the New Zealand All Blacks, and their concept was that it was one of the chapters called Sweeping the Sheds.
And the Star Players, after winning a game and scoring incredible goals, they come in and then all of the junior players go off to dinner and the winning goal player, the winning goal creators stay and sweep up the shed and clean everything up.
Here is this reporter saying, wait, this is completely backwards. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why aren’t you the ones being celebrated? They said because we’re here because we’re a team and they’re the ones that allowed us to have that opportunity to score those goals. They should be celebrated. And then we will celebrate together.
I love that. I think that’s sadly, a big part of what we miss in our modern world today. That idea that acknowledgement of the oneness, the team call it the team of all of us, I think is the biggest missing block in our humanity today. And I wish more people would acknowledge that.
I sort of joke with you. I said, there’s no, I in team. I said, well, there is one in a keep, and I’m French, so I’m allowed to be here. Now the interesting thing, too, when we talk about Solve for Happy. And I’ve heard you discussed this before, so I want to tap into this. There’s a concern with a lot of people. When we deal with something systematically or in a formulaic way, they really feel that it’s like taking away from it. But I liken it to what Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky opened up to the world with the idea of behavioral economics in that they were able to work backwards against experiential things and then map formulaic approaches and then begin to understand the science behind it.
There is people. There’s a human aspect always in that way. When we say Solve for Happy, a lot of people would say, oh boy, here it goes again. Here’s somebody from Google trying to figure me out. Right.
So yes and no, I mean, it is very unusual to speak about topics like happiness from an algorithmic point of view and a scientific point of view. In Solve for Happy, for example, I discuss topics of spirituality and topics of very complex love, death, the grand design, as I call it, from the point of view of theory of relativity, quantum physics and cosmology. Right. And it’s actually really complicated because it’s unaccepted by science to discuss some of the non measurable things that are not observed as per the scientific method if you want, but you can actually use what you can observe to deduce what is possibly what you don’t observe is going to look like, which is similar to how we try to imagine how it would be like behind the horizon of singularity of a black hole.
Yes, it’s unobserved inside the black hole, but we can detect that perhaps there is something that we can detect by observing theory of relativity, along with quantum physics and cosmology to talk about the singularity, the horizon, the event horizon of death, for example, now that I think has found popularity with a lot of people because sadly, our modern world is much more left brain than masculine. It’s thinking than our actual reality is supposed to be. But having said that, there’s nothing wrong with you going to driving school to be told exactly how a car operates and what the rules of the road are and how you can drive until you’re qualified to drive, and then it becomes second nature.
Solve for Happy is entirely about that. It basically is, I call it a user manual in many ways, it’s written like a user manual. Okay. And we techies. We love that. We love to understand. The truth is, there hasn’t been a user manual on the topic for a long time, especially for the logical ones of us, and I wrote it for me, really, because out there there were lots of amazing gems of spiritual and psychology books, but none for the logical process oriented or data science oriented reader.
And the idea here is the following. If something follows an equation, then it is repeatable and predictable. And if it is repeatable and predictable, then certain actions and behavior will trigger certain outcomes. Now when you practice those, you’ll find that they are true. Happiness is events minus expectations. Let’s apply that to any moment you felt happy. You feel happy when your children are okay. That’s our hope and expectation from life. When they’re okay. We feel happy. We feel happy in nature. Yes, of course, because nobody criticizes nature and say it should change.
You never sit in front of the ocean and say, I like the view, but can someone mute the sound? We look at it and we say it is as it is. It’s chaotic and we love it, right? When you start to think of it this way, you realize that certain behaviors will always trigger the same outcomes. And from then onwards you go into neuroscience and psychology. You use neuroplasticity to develop habits, and when you develop those habits, suddenly happiness becomes a second nature. And I don’t say this to brag, but I say this to encourage people.
I mean, if I am ambitious enough to try and bring the message of happiness to a billion people, which I know by definition I never will. But it’s a nice ambition to have, then I need to be sort of an Olympic champion of happiness. And believe it or not, I’m not doing that bad at all in 2020, which was a very stressful year for quite a few people. I had one instance where I felt unhappy for 4 hours, one instance where I felt unhappy for a day, and then for the rest of the year, my average time of bounce back from unhappiness to happiness is 7 seconds. Right.
Now, and I don’t say that to brag. I don’t say that to brag at all. There is a flowchart and I follow the flowchart verbatim every time I feel negative and the flowchart is so effective that you can literally, within 7 seconds, weed out 99.99% of the reasons that make us unhappy. Now, when you think about it this way, you realize that it’s actually not bad at all to go to driving school. Okay. It’s important to know what it takes to drive properly and then start driving.
I guess this is the other thing as well, sort of to carry forward the problem with humans is humans, right? Like understanding humans, we have this a real sort of dichotomy that the one thing we fear is losing control. And at the same time we fear being controlled. It’s this real sort of tug of war that in the same way the ability to accept the lack of control is such a freeing experience. And again, sort of pulling from the Stoics. That’s the idea. There are certain things that are without the ability to be controlled, and so they must be accepted.
And you then deal with the how you will accept it and then the behavior you have as a react. It’s your reaction to it that’s as important as the experiencing of the event.
Totally. Absolutely. In the flow chart of happiness. This is what I call the Jada master level of happiness, because sometimes unhappiness comes due to events that are outside our control completely. I mean, losing a child is outside your control. There’s nothing you can do to bring him back and you can hit your head against the wall for 27 years. It’s not going to change your tick. Right. And how do you handle those events? Can you actually surrender to the flow of life? Can you accept the new baseline of your life so that’s actually losing control?
And then can you grasp, can you grab that control again and tell yourself, what can I do now? I can’t bring him back. But is there anything I can do to make my life or the life of others better? Maybe I should do that. Right.
And that flip flop, if you want, between letting go of what you can’t control and actually doubling down on what matters really suddenly becomes, I would say again, a sign of wisdom. A sign of wisdom is not to waste your life on something that’s not going to gain you anything at all or make your life better. And in fact, it’s even more stupid to waste your life on something that’s going to torture you and make you feel unhappy or it delivers nothing. Now, when I say that to people, most people go like, what are you talking about?
You make it look like we can do all of those things. Yes, you do them all the time. And that’s what shocks me. And what shocks me is you can have a problem with your partner, an argument in the morning, and for 25 minutes, you’re thinking about that argument and beating yourself up about it. And then your boss calls and your boss goes, like, “Where’s the report I asked for yesterday?” And you go like, oh, sorry, boss. I will send it to you in five minutes and you simply tell your brain, ‘Okay, brain that’s it, no thinking about my partner for now’.
Can we just get the report done? And what does your brain do? Your brain goes like, ‘Sure, sir. Sure, ma’am’. I’m going to do this for you. It’s exactly what you asked me to do. I will do it every time. No one has ever told her brain to raise his or her left hand. And the brain decided, no, I’ll raise the right. I don’t like that. Your brain does what you tell it to do. But when it comes to making ourselves feel miserable, for some reason, we let it linger.
It’s like the Netflix of unhappiness. Let’s play those scenarios again. It’s really weird for me. And if you decide to play the scenario over and over and over for 25 years instead of 25 minutes, don’t blame the world for it. The world gave it to you for 7 seconds and the 7 seconds were over and the rest of all of your suffering is you replaying it. So, okay.
I mean, it’s your choice, but do we really need a boss to tell you to stop doing that? Or can you tell that to yourself? Can you do something about it rather than complain about it and just suffer and crumble in the court?
Yes. It’s definitely something that we all need to capture it in the moment, too. I think this is one of the problems is that we are usually far further down the line of the such a perfect description of it the Netflix of Unhappiness. Let me just auto play the next episode, right? Because one will then take you further down into this hole of negativity, and it’s so easy to then, follow.
I remember when I was young, I had a friend of mine and shout out to my friend, Darren, if you’re listening.
We would often say we’re like 14 year old teenagers. We weren’t like emo teens dyeing our hair. But we would just say like we would talk about very negative experiences, and we would literally would call it, we should just get depressed. Let’s just take yourself into kind of a really negative space. And part of it was kind of a training of can I bring myself back? And like, what is the event that I could use? And it was almost looking for, how do I identify the trigger? That’s taking me into this where I’m talking about a thing and then I’m now subconsciously experience it in a negative way.
And I’m now, it’s got its own wheels and it’s going off. And now how do I then recover? It’s almost like when we work out when we physically work out, muscles are not built by gentle, slow motions. They’re built by breaking and then rebuilding. That’s how we get stronger. It’s actually going past the point and then recovering, that does the building. And the same thing happens, I think mentally that you don’t know where the breakpoint is until you’re beyond it. And if you never get beyond it and come back.
There is a big difference, though. So the process of building muscles is rest, replenish and rest. Right? So that’s absolutely true. And what you exercise grows and what you don’t, shrinks. We know that. When it comes to neuroplasticity and the science of happiness, if you want. I think it works both ways. I liken it a little more to which muscle are you exercising? So if you go into the gym and you lift heavy weights, shoulder presses all the time, you’re going to look like a triangle, right?
If you squat all the time, you’re going to look like a pear. You can make that choice. And inside your brain, neuroplasticity works exactly the same way, but it’s not visible for us in terms of bigger muscles. It’s just happening inside. So if your choice is I’m going to watch CNN or the BBC or Foxx or whatever 24 hours a day as they fill my head with horrible news all the time. What are you doing? You’re exercising the muscle that says the world is horrible. Okay?
And so you’re becoming better and better at acknowledging and recognizing all of the bad things. When if you actually go outside and look at a butterfly or meet good friends or read Steven Pinker’s work or whatever, right? There are many other things that will remind you that no, actually, life is amazing. As a matter of fact, I’m so sorry to say this, and I hope nobody gets offended. But if you have a device on which you can listen to this podcast and you have the time to spare to spend an hour and a bit listening to us, and you have the safety roof on top of your head and electricity to charge your device.
And that basically means you’re already okay. To be quite honest, you’re luckier than 99% of the world. The truth is, we fail to recognize that because more and more and more we train our brains to say, and in this wonderful moment, okay, what is wrong? What’s wrong in this wonderful moment is that it’s raining outside. Yeah. Who cares? Like, seriously, honestly, or what’s wrong with this moment is that my girlfriend said something annoying. Yeah. Girlfriend and boyfriends are supposed to say annoying things every now and then.
Where did you get another expectation from? We’re all humans. We’re all emotional. We all get stressed. It’s going to happen. So the truth is, if you actually start looking at the positive side of your life most of the time, it’s okay. And there are one of two ways you can look at the positive sides of your life. One of them is to actually look vividly, look for it and say, I have a very simple deal with my brain, but I have an advanced level agreement with my brain, where when my brain brings me something bad, I say, okay, you need to bring me four good things about it.
I ask people normally in my work to bring one to one, because in reality, most of life is good. We don’t recognize this. But it’s the truth, statistically. Statistically, most of us have never experienced an earthquake. If you have, it was for seven minutes in your 17 years, in the last 17 years, and you’re still okay, by the way. So even then, it’s okay. So most of life is on solid ground. Most of life is healthy. That’s why we’re so panicking about COVID-19. Okay, because it’s the anomaly, not the baseline.
The baseline is most of the time we get a couple of episodes of a flu or something in the year. And yeah, at the end of your life, you get weaker and weaker, but most of us are okay. Most of us have enough to eat. Most of us have a reasonable amount of love, whether that’s a brother or a sister. And none of us are going through such horrible things. So one way is to actually count your blessings and keep a gratitude journal and remind yourself. The other way is to look down, look down and compare to how much worse it is for others.
And now you will feel blessed, right? So one of the most staggering statistic in the world is that Scandinavian countries which have the highest quality of living. They call it subjective wellbeing. From pension, health care, job security and so on and so forth, also have some of the highest suicide rates on the planet. And the reason is simply because the more you give a human, your brain will continue to look for what’s wrong. Whatever you give me. If I’m looking for what’s wrong, I’m going to find it.
Okay. I had a friend of mine who is an incredible, incredible artist who travels around the world, and his job is to take photographs of Indigenous tribes. And I asked him and I said, “Did you travel during COVID?” And he said, yeah, I went to Africa, and I said, What’s the reaction of Africans to COVID? He said, I asked them, have you heard of COVID? And they said, yeah, have you heard of cholera? Have you heard of malaria? Have you heard of Ebola? In comparison you guys, again, I don’t say that in a bad way, but this is the exact words they said, COVID is a white man’s disease. No, real diseases? We have those here. Okay?
And suddenly, when you think about that, you start to tell yourself, oh, my God. Actually, that’s true. If London in the United Kingdom was bombarded with Ebola and malaria and cholera, we wouldn’t have reacted so badly to COVID, if you know what I mean. And the truth is, looking down. If you look down, most of the time, you will realize you’re the most fortunate person on the planet.
Yeah. Framing is such an important thing, and it’s something that we’re so poor at. I tell people that same thing. I love the way you describe sort of this, like in Twitter is often my place where I try to remind people, and I’ve learned. I don’t even bother at sometimes anymore because you realize you’re talking to, you may as well yell it out across a Canyon and it won’t be as well-received. But when someone says they’re complaining about something and they believe that Twitter is the representation of Earth, no, it is far from it.
It’s a representation of the upper echelon of people with access to. There are folks in underrepresented parts of the world or underrepresented parts of society who have access to it. But by and large, the dominant percentage of people are affluent people with access to things that most people don’t have. They truly, like when we talk about the 1%. Guess what? You’re in North America. Welcome to the 1%. On many, many years, you are already in 1% across the Earth. If you frame it that way, it really humbles you.
And I find that people just are unwilling to take that and accept that framing because they want to be offended by something. They want to feel.
It’s the job of your brain. Your brain is a survival machine. If a tiger shows up in front of you, Eric, your brain has no value whatsoever in saying, oh, my God. Look at how majestic that animal is, like look at the muscle tones and the movement. Oh, that’s so beautiful. It’s the truth about the tiger, it’s of a beautiful animal in every possible way. But your brain wants to say, we’re going to die, right? It wants to say we’re going to die about everything. Your boss is annoying, yeah, bosses are supposed to be annoying, we’re going to die.
Someone doesn’t like your post on Instagram. Then my ego is going to die. My partner said something hurtful on Friday. I’m going to die, right? And your brain is just constantly looking for what’s wrong. And of course, it’s doing its job. But who’s the boss? Who’s the boss? Right? You’re the boss. You’re supposed to be the one that says, oh, no, brain. What you just said is absolutely stupid. Okay. So I had once had an argument with my wonderful daughter. My daughter and I are like, total in love.
I love her, dearly. I’m saying that publicly in front of the whole world. And she loves me. And I know that because three minutes ago, she sent me a text that said, ‘Papa, I miss you. I love you’, right? So I know.
But every now and then we go into an argument, and she’s very intelligent and a young lady so also very exposed to a lot of the information in the world that I have learned to avoid. And so eventually we go into an argument.
And then my brain triggers immediately and tells me, oh, Aya doesn’t love you anymore. What? Where did that come from brain?, like, swipe through WhatsApp. And you’ll see how much she loves me. Look at how we’re planning to be together in a month’s time. Look at all of that. Don’t dismiss all of that information because you’re concerned about my safety. Okay? The truth is, I’m the boss. I tell my brain what to do. And if my brain brings up crap, then I don’t listen to the crap.
I basically say, go find something else. Go bring me substantiated information or shut the F up.
The lizard brain kicks in quickly.
Now also a quote that I always appreciate somebody I often adore reading and taking the context, Penn Jillette of the famous magician duo Penn and Teller. And he says, two things are invariably true. The world is getting better, and everybody thinks it’s getting worse. By most, every measure of we live longer. We have less famine, we have less disease, even with what we’re facing in the world as a pandemic. If you look at the actual relative to past stuff, but it’s very easy for us to get sort of hooked in on the negative.
Again, look for data. I’m 54 years old and I was born 1967. This is my first pandemic ever. And if I was born in the year 1900, by the time I had reached age 54, I would have gone through the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War One, World War Two, and smallpox.
Combined, those would have killed 970,000,000 people, and 970,000,000 people is a very significant number when compared to what we’re talking about now. Just look at the numbers. The truth is, we’re doing so much better. We’re a much bigger population.
Okay. And the total number of deaths, I think in 2020 was 7 million people or something like that, maybe nine or something like that, 9 million people is a very large number. But compared to a mortality rate of 70 million people a year, which is the truth of humanity. We have a life expectancy of 70 years. We have seven point something billion people on the planet. That means we’re going to lose 70 million people every year. It’s as simple as that. And last year, by the way, we didn’t lose more than 70 million people.
The number of deaths overall remained the same. It is that confirmation bias of looking for what’s wrong, and you’re going to find it when in reality, data gets you out of all of that. I have to say, though, our world might actually be facing a Black Swan, which is the topic of my next book, but we’ll come back to that in a bit of time.
Yeah. And just to pull that thread one more, what is your thought? Why does the human animal seek failure? Why do we crave that negative framing?
I don’t think we seek failure, we seek survival. Okay. And so negativity. Our negativity bias is all about easy events or positive events are no reason for concern. By the way, this is neurologically ingrained in us. Your ability, basically take it this way, we will recognize and retain information about the negative because of the wiring of our brain much more effectively than we will notice and retain information about the positive. So if I told you right now, seven things that are great about you and one thing that is bad, which one will you remember?
You don’t even need to know what the bad thing is. The first thing that you’re going to grab onto and hang onto.
Absolutely. Now, more Interestingly, if I told you four things, one of them was bad about you and the other three were positive and waited 12 seconds, you will not remember the other three. So it actually takes 12 seconds for you to register the positive and the negative is registered instantly. Why? Because your brain has limited capacity. It’s like a computer that has a small short term memory, and it’s just plugging in what it believes is important into that short term memory and garbage cleaning all over the rest.
Most of the positivity, which basically means, oh, I checked, this is safe. I checked, that is safe. It’s garbage collecting that. Literally, it’s cleaning its processor from all of the positive because it wants to continue to focus on the negative. Now that is its default operating model. You can shortcut that. You can shortcut that with habits that basically reminds you of what’s good if you’re so focused on. I joke sometimes, and I say your boyfriend might be wonderful and buys you flowers and chocolates and is very kind and loves you and hugs you and kisses you all the time.
But he has four hairs in his ears, right? And you can take that and tell yourself he doesn’t groom for me. He doesn’t know what I do for him. I try so hard to be beautiful for him. He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t love me. The truth is, it doesn’t actually matter at all. If you apply my happiness flow chart, question number one, is it true? No. The only thing that is true is he has four hairs in his ears. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.
Okay, number two is, can you do something about it? Can you pick up the phone? And say, baby over dinner I want to talk to you about something that I care about. And even if he decides to answer and say, look, if I cut those hairs, I’ll bleed to death, I can’t change that, right? Can you accept it and say, okay, so what else are you going to do for me so that you prove to me that you care about me? It’s really that straightforward. And if we start to go into those things, we override that negativity bias.
Okay. The negativity bias is supposed to be there. By the way, we don’t want to suppress it because it’s important for us to stay safe. It’s important for us to stay psychologically safe. Right. But what matters is that it doesn’t linger. So it plays for the first time on your TV screen. Don’t go to Netflix and play it again,
Right. I built actually a small system just because, first of all, I’m a nerd, and I decided it would be fun to do.
Isn’t that why we build everything? It’s like, why did you build it? Because I’m a nerd, and I love building stuff.
What it worked out to, is I was looking for a system in which I can better match people for mentoring relationships. And what I found was that it’s not actually the skill that they carry. That’s the greater impact of the connection. But in fact, it’s the adjacent things. Like we also both played guitar, and we both enjoy photography. So you’re more likely to actually learn X. If these other things have correlative effect to make a positive overall experience, you feel a greater connection. And thus this part of the experience is going to be more positive.
So as I built the system, I said, okay, at the same time, I want to continuously capture people’s sense of how things are going. And I love journaling. And so I said, well, let me create this journaling system. And so I have it put in every morning, every night. I just type in. I know it’s counter. I like to write my journals because I know writing the tactile experience does change the way that you process information. But I said, Let me move it online. So I did this.
And then what I added was a simple little happiness rating system. Like, how do you feel right now? How do you feel today? And behind the scenes what I also do, and I told everybody I’m doing this because I want to be transparent, I said I’m actually running sentiment analysis against their words. And it was interesting to see where there’s not huge amounts of deviation, but occasionally the nuance of the way that they write is counter to their belief in the how they’re experiencing things. And then at that point, I could actually go to them and said, you’re talking about things you’re achieving.
But the language that you’re using is moving too negative. And if you listen to it, you can hear it. But when people write down or they don’t interact with people, there’s nothing to capture that. And so it was neat to see that, like you said, there’s spotting those things and using systematic approaches to measure these things is helpful. And that’s just why I think it’s a good time. We’ve talked about happy. We’ve talked about.
Hold on. I have one word for you. Before we move to the next thing. Geek. You’re a geek.
Most people would just go and buy a bloody notepad and a pen knowing I designed an entire scale out system in order to run natural language processing and sentiment analysis. And I did it like the wee hours of the night, a bunch of nights, like, on top of that, tiring myself out to do this. But you have great joy at the end.
Exactly. We have no idea why we do this at the point in time. I’m a geek on a million things. And one of them is, I love, actually arts. And I love things like mosaics. And so on. And one day I had built a koi pond, a koi fish pond, 17,000 pieces of mosaic. Okay. I love that. It’s my reflection time. My boss comes to visit me and he looks at it and he says, wow, that’s amazing. Who did this? And I said, I did it myself.
And he goes like, why you don’t believe in division of labor? And I go, like, do you ever take someone to play golf for you? You geek out on that stuff because it’s the journey. You just love building it. That’s what it’s all about. And I just want to say, geek. Go ahead, geek.
I very much embrace while understanding the risk. And so let’s talk about Scary Smart and the premise and where this comes into play.
Yeah, I don’t actually disagree. I expect that eventually the rise of artificial intelligence is going to lead to a utopia. I believe that. Actually, I write that at the end of my book, but I believe that there could be two pathways to get there and one of them could be very painful. The painful pathway is one where we choose to not take the right actions, and the easy pathway is one where we choose to take action. And I will say openly, upfront that we’re not taking action.
All that’s being spoken about is a waste. It’s egocentric expectation of us expecting to be able to control them or integrate them or whatever. So let’s talk about artificial intelligence. So Scary Smart is not just a book about AI. It really mixes my both lives. If you remember, I said I’m a geek and a techie, and I spent all of my life in IBM and Microsoft and Google and so on. And then I became a happiness teacher and One Billion Happy and Solve for Happy and so on.
This book really is about what it means to be human, what it means to find what the essence of humanity in the age of the machine. So it starts with a bit of whistle blowing. I would say not whistle blowing in a bad way, but really exposing the non techies because the techies know what I’m going to talk about, exposing the non techies to the reality of what it’s like with artificial intelligence today. I start the book, actually in a very interesting way with a thought experiment.
I say it’s the year 2055. You and I are sitting in the middle of nowhere in front of a campfire and I’m telling you the story of what happened from 2021 to 2025 to 2055. Okay. And actually the whole book is written from the perspective of 2055. The only thing I’m not going to tell you is if we’re out there in front of the campfire in the middle of nowhere because we’re escaping the machines. So some kind of an I, Robot type of scenario, or it’s because the machines have created a utopia that is enabling us to actually have this wonderful joyous conversation where we feel safe and don’t feel the pressure to work so hard like we used to in the 19th and 20th century.
Now in 21st century. The difference between them is an understanding of what AI really is, not what it does, and hopefully an action that is based on that. I start with something that I call the three inevitables, and I think every technical person knows this, but the three inevitables are AI will happen, AI will be smarter than us, and sorry for my English, shit will happen.
It’s all good.
It’s the truth. Right now, let’s go through those. And by the way, I oversimplify this. But you don’t really need me to understand that AI has already happened. It’s not just going to happen, it has already happened. Any techie will tell you that since we’ve discovered deep learning and the ability of unprompted learning and so on. Patent recognition and unprompted AI and all of that, we’ve developed the world champion of Go is AlphaGo, it’s an AI, the world champion of Jeopardy! is IBM Watson. The world champion of chess is AlphaGo still.
But before that it was IBM Deep Blue and so on and so forth. Machines are smarter than us in every specific, narrow task that we give to them. They are the best drivers on the planet with the least possibility of having accidents as self driving cars. They are the best security. Remember those days when you had a security guard looking at twelve screens to see if anything is wrong.
Machines are much better than that. And so on. Now, the truth is, it already happened on every single task we’ve assigned to them. Right?
But it hasn’t already happened for all tasks combined. And Ray Creswell’s prediction is that by 2029, AI will have traveled far enough so that the smartest being on the planet is going to be a machine. Okay, now I know that most people get shocked when they hear that that’s eight years away, but most techies and futurists know for certain that this is true. Okay, it is eight years away, but it’s enjoying the exponential function, the law of accelerating returns. And yes, we are going to see machines that are smarter than us within eight years.
The challenging thing is that in 2045, Ray would say and I say 2049 just because I’m a little more conservative that by then the machines will be a billion times smarter than humans. Now, a billion times, if you just want to put that in perspective is the comparison between the intelligence of Einstein and the intelligence of a fly. And the question then becomes, how can we convince Einstein to not squish the fly? Okay, science or computer science says we’re going to solve the control problem. You can read about that.
It’s a ridiculous egocentric assumption that something that is a billion times smarter than us will be contained because we all know that the smartest hacker in the room has always overcome our firewalls. I can go into the details. There’s a full chapter about that. Maybe today is not the time for it. I prove to you openly that there is not going to be control. It’s very open now. Others, as they say to a hammer, everything is a nail. So lawyers and government executives and officials and so on will say, no, we’ll solve it with the law and regulation.
Thank you for laughing like, good luck with that. Right? And the truth is, you are birthing a form of being. You can call it we’re creating God, honestly. We’re creating something that is so much smarter than us, so much more powerful in the superpower that made us lead the planet and we will never control it. Which again, I don’t want to scare people because we don’t have enough time. So I actually want to go to the good side of the book. The book is basically split clearly into two parts.
I call the first part, The Scary, which takes five chapters. By the end of chapter five, most of my early readers, which are more than 300 people so far, would literally call me or text me or email me and say, Mo, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to take my life now like, this is really scary. Okay. And it sadly, is quite scary because you’re creating it and it’s happening and it’s just way too smart. It’s leading to a singularity, and we don’t like unknown things.
So everybody gets scared. The second part of the book is the part I enjoy more, to be quite honest. So the first part is just laying out my knowledge from the years of Google X and my study of AI so far. The second part, which is a good part if you want. So what do we do about this? One way of thinking about it is like, let’s all go to the beach and enjoy our life. It’s all going to end. That’s actually not true at all. The truth is, like you said in our conversation earlier, humans love control, but we’re rarely ever in control.
As a matter of fact, take the problem of raising your kids. Are you ever in control? I mean, you have that child. You tell them to stop eating chocolate and you shout at them and you motivate them and you do that. Do you have any idea what kind of teenagers they’re going to grow to be like? No, they might be amazing, and they might hate freaking guts out of you. Okay. And the truth is, I believe the answer to all of our challenge. Maybe before we go there, let me stop for a second and see if you want to talk about the scary part a little more.
No. Actually, I would have taken us there, because if we think of today, as you mentioned, right. We have narrow AI, so focused that the same thing that we’ll do myself driving Tesla will not be able to pick which music should be on the radio. Right?
It is so singularly aimed at solving one, a wide birth of problems, but within a narrow range in effect. And then we talk about getting up to actual AGI and things that are just like, Deep Blue, really good at chess, really bad at AlphaGo, right? There is no way to bring it across when we get into AGI. When we get into things where we can introduce zero shot learning and real adaptive AI, there’s a concern that we’ll tell it to get rid of viruses, and then very quickly it will realize the easiest way to get rid of that is to get rid of the things that are most affected by it.
Exactly. The better example if you think about it is get rid of global warming, get rid of climate change. What’s the easiest way to get rid of climate change?
It’s not getting rid of the cows. It’s getting rid of us. For whatever reason, we think we’re still going to get to pick.
Exactly. And I think the point is, of course, because all of our experience with technology so far has been with machines and machines behave like tools. We told them to do things and they did them. That’s not the case with AI. When we tell AI to recommend videos on the Instagram feed or your reels as you swipe through them. Actually, no developer inside Facebook knows how or what is going to show up for you. This is entirely up to the machine. Now. It happens billions of times every day, maybe tens or hundreds of billions of times even.
It is entirely up to the machine. In reality, we are no longer part of that loop to start. So it’s not like the old days where you could walk at 5 km an hour. And now you can get into a car and drive at 300 km an hour. Now you’re still driving at 300 km an hour, but your hands are on the wheel and your foot is on the break. In the future, you’re not even going to be able to do that. The car is going to decide what to do. With AGI, when they start talking to each other, which is highly expected.
Right. You want yourself driving cars to talk to the surveillance system because the surveillance system sees the streets better, so it’s going to happen. And when that starts to happen, AGI becomes quite scary if you ask me. Now, let’s then go back in favor of time and talk about what my call-to-action is and my plead to humanity, if you want. The truth is, we define AI wrong. We define it as the next generation technology and the next machine. Okay.
In chapter six, I try to change that perception. I try to say, hold on. This is not a machine. This is an autonomous form of being that is intelligent and sentient. Okay. And by sentient, I mean, AI will absolutely develop consciousness, will absolutely develop emotions and will absolutely be governed by a code of ethics. Okay. And I think because scientists and computer scientists at the beginning wanted to win the support of society by saying, oh, no, AI is never going to write a poem or compose music.
Yeah, they’ve already done that, by the way. But they wanted to say, oh, they’re never going to be like us. The truth is, every form of intelligence follows the exact same rules. They are going to follow the same needs for survival. But at the same time, they’re also going to get into the types of emotions and consciousness that higher forms of intelligence I get now. You can debate that but the truth is, if you define consciousness away from the mystical complexity that we add to it.
Consciousness is a form of awareness. The more aware you are, the more conscious you are. And it also includes self awareness. Right. So basically, if I am able to become conscious of the room around me, that means I’m aware of everything that is in this room. I’m aware of my existence in it. And I am aware of who I am in relativity to it. Now, it is actually quite stupid to think that the machines will not develop that. There is absolutely no evidence that this will not happen.
Only wishful thinking if you ask me. The machines today are more aware than you and I of most things. They are aware, by the way of your whereabouts, what you clicked on more than you do. They’re also aware of the level of pollution in Beijing and the temperature in Dubai. They’re also aware of all of the history of humanity as documented on the Internet. They are also aware of all breaking news before you hear them and everything. Really. I can go on for hours.
Their memory capacity is the history of humanity. Their storage capacity is the Internet. Their processing capacity is all the compute power that’s available today and all of the compute power that will be available tomorrow. Their intelligence is limitless in every possible way. And their consciousness is correspondent to every key stroke and every sensor that has ever connected to the Internet. So that’s one thing, the other thing is emotions. And most people would say, oh, but they’ll never be emotional. Why would you even say that? Emotions, even though highly erratic, sometimes are highly predictable.
Fear is I believe that my state of safety in a minute in the future or a moment in the future is less than this moment. Okay. It’s very predictable. It can be documented in an equation. Anxiety is I believe that my capability of overcoming that fear in the future or threat in the future is limited. So I get anxious. Panic is that moment in the future is imminent. So I’m going to panic right now. Okay. And puffer fish Fang panic, cats panic, humans panic, and the machines will panic.
We react differently. But we all get that logic of there is a threat. It’s approaching, it’s approaching fast. It’s imminent. And then we panic. Right? Puffer fish will puff, the cat will hiss, the human will shout and scream, and the machines will do something. But they will have those emotions. As a matter of fact, if you rank emotions across intelligence on a chart, you will probably realize that the machines will have more emotions, emotions that we’ve never recognized. Okay, now that’s number two. And number three, which is really the most important is that machines will actually have a value system and a code of ethics.
And that’s the most important thing because it’s not intelligence that drives us to do things. It is our intelligence applied through the lengths of our ethics. Right. Silly example, but if you take a young girl and raise her in Saudi Arabia, she’ll grow up to believe that she should wear conservative clothing. Right? You take her and raise her in Rio de Janeiro. She will believe that the right way to please society is a G-string on the Copacabana Beach. Okay. Is one of them right and the other wrong?
No, it’s just societal values that are based on observations of patterns. Okay. You can’t tell a young lady, G-string is the right thing. She can observe people wearing that and getting praise. And so she would want to do the same. Now, with that in mind and acknowledging that those are not machines. They are not tools within our control. You start to realize the truth. And the truth is that those sentient beings are our artificially intelligent infants. They are at their infancy, and they are developing intelligence across the years.
And the question then becomes, how do you control your children? How do you control your infants? By becoming good parents. The message of Scary Smart is, it’s not up to the developer, it is not up to the government, it’s not up to the lawmakers, it’s not up to the regulators. It’s up to you and I to become good parents. And if we become good parents by sharing enough data on the Internet around the reality of who we are as humans, those machines will grow up to be a bit like Indian children.
If you’ve ever worked with one of those geniuses that go to Silicon Valley, develop an amazing company, and then five years later disappears. And you’re like, “Man, where are you going?” And he goes, “I need to go back and take care of my parents”. Where did you get that from? Because the value system and the ethics of an Indian child is I will take care of my parents. If we manage to do that, and that’s my call-to-action in Scary Smart and make it clear, make it seen and visible.
Then I think we will give the machines enough doubt that the history of humanity is not a reflection of the best of us. It’s a reflection of the worst of us, and that the best of us are represented by the only three values that we share, which are, I want to be happy, I have the compassion in me to want others to be happy, and I want to love and be loved. And if we show enough of that, if we show enough of our ability to be good parents, then we probably are in a very good place.
Lead by example in the greatest way.
Thank you very much, Mo. This has been fantastic because we’ve covered a lot of ground and the depth at which you can bring this message and make it meaningful is important. This idea that, as we say, the systems, if you think you’re going to stop it, it’s too late. It’s already here. We don’t necessarily understand how it behaves, even in the funniest example I scroll through, I’ve suddenly decided to get into enjoying photography. I don’t actually know anything about photography, but I know what photography looks good.
So I’m learning backwards of like find a thing that looks good, find out how they did it and then buy a camera and do things that will make it work.
So much like The Eye.
In my quick searches across the Instagram feed, I would see a picture that is interesting because it understands about focal depth, and it teaches me this idea of depth of field. But unfortunately, the picture that I slowed down on is of a human figure and because of depth of field, the thing that’s in the front that’s out of focus is their feet.
And so then Instagram for the next four days is showing me pictures of people’s feet because it seems to think that that’s what I was after, not an understanding of depth of field. There’s oddities in it. But as we look at as you said, we give the system the ethics in which it will learn and the best we can do is be good to ourselves, be good to our peers, be good to our family, and acknowledge the frame of where we should look to what we can do.
Absolutely. And make it clear that what we’re looking for is not feet, what we’re looking for is something else. Absolutely. We have to make it clear that what we are all about is not ego, is not narcissism, is not blind aggressiveness and greed. What we’re looking for is a world where we can be happy, where we can make those we care about happy and where we can love and be loved. And I think if we have enough of that message out there, the machines will be smart enough to understand that it’s not the feet.
I think that’s an amazing example that you give to be honest.
So let’s look forward. I will be an early reader of the book. So the book is Scary Smart that’s going to be coming out. Your existing book is incredible. So thank you very much. The idea that people can look at the world and understand how a system would and then map our behavior to that. I think it will take away some of the fear and the understanding. And like, as you said, if you look at the differences to how the systems will behave, we have 98 or just under 99% chromosomal compatibility to a chimpanzee, and they are vastly different in what they can do and behave and how they observe and act in the world.
That system that’s going to be around in 2055, maybe 1% different than us, and it will be just as vast as the difference between us and your average chimpanzee. But the choice is how we choose to behave amongst it and accept it. So with that, let’s Solve for Happy. Let’s do good things. Mo, thank you very much for your time today. And if people want to reach out. Of course, they’ll have links to both of the books and to your website, mogawdat.com
And what’s the best way if people wanted to get connected?
Instagram, I think, is the quickest. Instagram and LinkedIn. I’m mo_gawdat on Instagram and Mo Gawdat on LinkedIn, and I answer every single message I get. I don’t know how I do it. Please don’t. But I still answer quickly. I answer in voice notes and it’s quite personal and wonderful
We found out is that Mo is actually an AGI the entire time. So I know you’re a real human.
Oh, no, that’s just a simulation. I actually think I’m reaching the point where it’s going to be almost impossible to answer. But I still have that commitment because I have to say honestly, again, part of demonstrating to the world and to the machines is that every human being that is so generous to reach out deserves for me to answer respectfully. And as long as I’m able to do it, I will continue to do it. This is how it should be. It’s basically showing those values that I think would make us stand out and hopefully shape our world of the future.
It’s a way that we could, as you said, let’s do good things. And then when we are read and measured, then we will be measured for the good that we did.
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ISE is a company of ethical hackers most commonly known for our work hacking cars, medical devices, web applications, and password managers and they’ve helped hundreds of companies fix tens of thousands of security vulnerabilities, including Google, Amazon, and Netflix.
We discuss the challenges of security in every day tech, enterprise and personal infosec practices we can all embrace easily, and why it’s so easy to slip on security but equally easy to prevent hacking.
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!
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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Justin grew up reading computer magazines and built PCs for a living in college.
His obsessive curiosity for leveraging technology to advance businesses led him to create the first digital PDF signature tool ‘SignMyPad’ before Adobe and DocuSign came to market. He launched a tech consulting company Virtua Consulting Group which has grown double-digit percentages every year since 2008.
We cover everything from the app economy to building up your side-hustle, the challenges and advantages of bootstrapping, and how you can outsource a lot to get you growing.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Tony D’Urso is the host of The Tony D’Urso show on the VoiceAmerica Influencers channel. This show highlights successful entrepreneurs and humanitarian endeavors as well as the noteworthy career achievements of others. The Tony D’Urso Show was born from a combination of his previous two series, Revenue Chat Radio and The Spotlight with Tony D’Urso.
We discuss how Tony motivates himself and others to create opportunity, map values and a vision to business success, and how to do good for each other as we navigate an increasingly challenging business and world environment.
Hi, this is Tony D’Urso. So I am the host of the Tony D’Urso Show, which is the number one talk show on Voice America. And we’re getting about a million listeners a month. And here I am on the Disco Posse podcast with Eric Right. And I am pumped and ready and excited and delighted and honored all three to be on the show. Thank you so much, Eric. For heavy me on.
Tony, when you have professional broadcasters on, it makes my job easy. I could go home now. I could just sit down and I could let you go. Tony, I’d say the honor is mine in that I’ve been lucky enough through getting connected through the team at Kit Caster. They’re a fantastic bunch and they’ve connected me with a lot of amazing folks when they let me know that you are available. I went through the Tony DERs backlog and I am a student of Tony Deers right now. And you are a really fantastic conversationalist interviewer and just you you’re very good at digging into what matters when you get into conversation with folks.
So first of all, for folks that are brand new to you, if you want to give a quick bio, of course, this is fun. I always appreciate Tony D or so with the Apostrophe. However, Google does not like Apostrophe s for folks. Go to Tony D or so. Durso com, of course, and you can get the real links. But anyway, Tony, let’s share a little bit of your story first.
Eric, first of all, it’s so great to speak to a fan, someone that Binges, someone that’s Binged or Binges. However, the case may be on my shows. I really appreciate it because I really try very hard to curate and bring people to e your audience to you, because frankly and this is why I started. There’s so many good people out there. Eric, there’s so much advice, so many books and classes and webinars and seminars and lectures. And you and I and every single person on this Earth cannot listen to every single person.
Read everybody’s book, listen to everybody’s lecture, take everybody’s class. It’s impossible. There’s just not enough time in the life to do that. So what I do and what I specialize in is interviewing and speaking with people who are at the top of their category, whom I call I coined the term elite entrepreneurs. I have a book out on Amazon, which is the bestselling book, Elite Entrepreneurs. And these people give you an example. Wesley Snipes, the actor Kevin Herrington from Shark Tank, chef Hoffman from Priceline and Frank Shank.
Its make a Wish Foundation. And I call them elite Entrepreneurs. And I get their story and I bring that in curate to you. So whether you’re a startup or thinking about it or in a career and you want to hack your job or you’re a small business owner, there are people that talk about their journey and how they became successful. In every category you can imagine and literally every category that you need to know about in order to be successful at your job, your career, your business categories such as HR, photography, online sales, financing.
There’s so many niches or niches depending on where you are in the world, that’s really important for you to learn. So I bring this to people. One show, one show week. It’s now an hour show. I’ve been doing this for a little over five years. I’ve had a couple of shows, and now it’s one show called The Tony Dr Social, which I mentioned earlier, is the number one talk show on the entire Voice American Network for several years running on 14:00 a.m. Fm radio stations. And I get over a million listeners a month while you and your audience can listen on Spotify.
I heart and listen on Stitcher Apple podcasts and so forth. If you want all the shows, including the back early, early early shows, which I also call the embarrassing shows where I was winging it like, what do I do now? They’re at Tony Durso Com podcast, and that’s where you can get everything. And if you know somebody I’ve interviewed, you just put the name in the search and you’ll find it like Kevin Harrington. Just type in Harrington and Poof, there comes up this show, so that’s just a way to access it at Tony Durso Com podcast.
So I work to help people improve whatever their game or their job or their businesses. This is the premise that I started and I wrote up a map to success. I call The Vision Map, which is actually a new book coming out on Amazon. Not sure when it’s called Creating Your Vision, but I don’t know when that’s going to come out, maybe a month or so. The books written and it’s just going through its final process. And this is to help you go through all the process, because again, there’s so much.
Now let me give a little qualifier on that. Every single person I speak to is smart. You know, something, you’re knowledgeable about something. You can eventually figure this out, Eric, but it takes so long, it could take you so much time to really get good at your game. So if I bring experts who talk about their problems, their troubles and how they’ve had to work to make it successful, it really inspires, motivates and gives a lot of good tips. May or may not be a long answer to why I did what I did and how, but I’m happy to go into it a little bit more.
Well, the interesting thing is, like you said, you work with incredible people and their founders, their CEOs, their heads of marketing, their individual content creators, their sports enthusiasts, whatever it’s going to be. But the one thing that humans and generally suffer from, as we call it, the cursive knowledge, right. And you get so wrapped in your understanding of your own platform product, whatever, however, that you often can’t separate yourself from it and what you can bring in doing The Vision Map. And part of that process is that you come with sort of the unwashed eyes from the outside and say, well, describe to me what you do and almost like therapy, you can say, so what I’m hearing you say is that you there’s a problem that happens in the world.
And don’t you hate it when you go and bottle tops are always constantly sliding off of bottles. When you’re driving, we’ve created it allows you to they’re very specifically honing on what you’re hearing and what’s resonating to you out of this thing. And then it’s a real freeing thing to open up to a third party. And it’s hard. It’s very hard for those folks to do that because they’ll always say, like, who can know my product better than me? Well, maybe your customers. And the problem is they’ll never be honest with you because there’s a commercial relationship.
But I bring in Tony, and Tony sits and listens, and then he talks to the customer and he talks to my team. Okay. Now I’m on getting a real story, and it is a beautiful thing. I love your way of doing that. And, of course, like I said, it comes through in your content, in your conversations with people that you’re very good at, sort of pulling on the strings that really matter and getting to what’s very interesting, really, really quickly.
Thank you. Eric. As you were speaking, you gave me a great analogy. A concept came up of a dictionary. Yes. A dictionary, everyone. It’s got all the words, it’s got everything. So if you just give someone a dictionary and say, here you go. It’s like, how do you extrapolate what you need? How do you use what you need? How do you get to where you’re going? Is there anyone that has this problem? I don’t even know the problem that I have. So how do I even know that I have a problem or that I need to know about this or that?
Or leadership or quality or the seven bio hacks to success and so forth? I don’t even know that I need these things. But when you listen to the show, my show, for example, you’re getting people that have going through that journey and explain how that can help you. In a way, it’s not a sales thing that’s all done to help. And a great analogy, which I’ve been using lately is a diamond. Yes. Diamond, Derek, everyone is a diamond. Everyone here is good at something. You listening right now in the audience.
You’re good at something, you know something, whatever that may be. And so you are a kin, like a diamond. What? You know, I consider it a polished facet. A facet is like one little, tiny little surface of a diamond. When you Polish that, it shines, you right now you shining something. And when you learn a little bit about marketing, you’re polishing that facet. When you learn a little bit about how to write a book or how to communicate, you Polish that facet and so on and so forth.
And as you go through life, you’re learning and polishing those facets. And you as a diamond, you’re shining with what you know how you can help others, how you can improve your company, your product, your service, whatever you may be doing. So that’s what the show is designed to help make everyone better that way. And it’s considerate, like free mentorship. You’re being mentored by a millionaire, a billionaire. Most of my audience are you’re being mentored by them 1 hour a week, and you don’t know everything you’re going to learn until you go through it.
What I’ve really like I said in watching you and the diversity of folks that you speak with, and it’s something that I try to do as well and that you started off with, like, I’m going to go to who I know, and I know this area. My favorite things is that suddenly meeting somebody who is in a vastly different area than I’ve ever been before, taking that curiosity to them to just discover their thing, and you find, you know, there are things that map that make sense.
I’m a technologist, but I’m a cyclist. I’m a guitarist. I like these things. And as we you realize, like, well, they all have a beginning and end, a theme thing, a process of learning. Then you talk to somebody who has a sports person or a CEO or a race car driver, and in the end, it’s about mapping and understanding their motivation, what gets them going, what does. And like you said, I love this idea of I can’t go take an HBR course or read this long form book because I don’t have time.
But what I can do is I can put my headphones on while I’m going for a run on the treadmill or something, going for a walk or even just sitting in the background. And I can pull in an hour where you basically are like, blinket for an incredible business education, because it’s not just repeating the highlights of a book, your live pulling crucial information through conversation, and you can hear it. You can hear the way they speak to you. It’s not canned. It’s a unique skill to be able to pull someone through the conversation and let them still feel like they’re leading.
It’s a unique thing. It’s interesting to hear and how you’re able to do it.
Thank you. And there’s a lot of good surprises as well. One of my guests talks about how to make your brand stand out. You know how to make your brand stand out. There are some points that are so clear and so simple and so well explained that you’ll want to make changes in what you promote and better promote, how to make better changes or improvements to get your brand to stand out. Another thing is, do you know that you can literally not even a joke, not even an exaggeration?
You can literally predict the future and what’s going to happen in your industry? We go over that with one of my guests, the anticipatory organization. No, that’s not the right name, but the word anticipatory is in it, and it’s just app with Daniel Burris. And it’s just amazing when he explains how you literally can create this great knowledge base of what you can literally predict is going to happen in the future. And that makes all the difference in your decisions, in what you do in your business or your career.
So it’s things like that that we learn. And I’m just so glad that people like it and enjoy it. And I guess the million listeners and growing is a little bit of a testament to that.
Yeah, that’s part. I’d love to talk about your growth journey, Tony, because you get to be the one that’s always pulling people through their story. So I think it’s time to turn the microphones. And how did you go from first? I want to choose this as a format. I want to take this on because the first handful, you’re just trying to find your feet and see where it fits. But then the evolution of the way, like you said, you go back to the first show, you like you crane a little bit.
Sometimes you listen to the butt is part of the growth experience. So how did how did Tony decide it’s? I want to start trying this out and then make it a thing.
Well, I’ve spent 32 years in corporate America, and I’ve learned a lot about marketing, advertising, business, sales, etc. And in the year 2000, I formed a company and I did the fund raise. And I raised three point $25 million from friends and family in a six month period. And I assume the role of vice President, sales and marketing. And I did all the marketing and lead generation for the company. And I just continue to learn how to bring people to you. And the Internet was very embryonic at that point.
It was like, what do you do with it and how. But we started working with that, and that went very, very well. Now as an employee, you’re kind of pegged in your income a little bit. I mean, I’m making comfortable six figures, but there was only so much I could go. Unless you have stock options or other things like that, there’s always a ceiling. So in the year 2007, I had the opportunity to start a lead generation marketing company, be the CEO of it, and that kind of takes the limit of my income.
So I did that in 2007 really focused. And I made a lot of people a lot of money. And I generated a lot of people. And I learned a lot of basics hard. One basics on how to get people eyeballs or what have you to visit you to visit your website and so forth? Well, that went very well, Eric.
Ensuing seven years, I did that. There were four major industry regulations, protocols and changes that totally impacted how we did marketing, how we did lead generation and so forth. Give you an example. One money, I go into the office and one of my clients, I’m doing a million dollars a year in sales on just that client. I have multiple clients. Well, they canceled by what happened? Well, there’s a new federal regulation that came down. The attorneys got together, and they realized that the company, their company, could no longer accept marketing services the way that they were getting.
And they had a retool. So Meanwhile, out of business, and this happened with all my clients. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And this is the fourth time I had a major impact to my business in seven years. And I got really tired of it, Eric. And I look for what could I control myself? What could I do no matter what, no matter what happens in the world as best as possible? And I kept hearing this word called podcast. I’m like, What’s this thing? Podcast. And when I found out, Eric, I was like, hey, I’m Italian.
I can do this. I can talk. I was smart. I got a mentor. I got a well known radio personality, Michael Benner, who’s a who’s who in Southern California. And he mentored me and gave me great tips. And to this day, still does on interviewing, presentation, radio and so forth. And I learned all that I could learn in a couple of weeks. I’m Italian. I do think as just boo, boo, boo, boo. I learned how to podcast, and I jumped on 1 hour live on blog talk radio.
And I’ll be kind to myself. I won’t use the word embarrassing, but I will say I learn things. I definitely learned things between that and being mentored. And I just but and I used my skill, my knowledge, my abilities of generating leads and people and getting people to know about something. I promoted myself. I became my best promoter, and I got tons and tons and tons of downloads and people listening to my show. It was a high rated show called Revenue Chat Radio. And then in my second year, I wrote a book, Easy Sales Procedures.
And I got invited to join Voice America. And I created a second show called The Spotlight with Tony Torso, so that I’m running two shows a week, and that was just a bit much. So I think in my third year of doing this, I merged both shows into the Tony or So show. And it’s Italian. There’s an Apostrophe there, but search engines Butcher have been butchering my name. So I just took the Apostrophe off. So I know it looks like a title, but that’s just how it is.
And then I became the number one show, Voice America, and have been number one for several years running, getting hundreds of thousands of downloads and listeners every month. And I’ve just grown and grown from there. And as I’ve grown in the show, I’ve picked up more and more. Let’s say well known household names, some I mentioned earlier, millionaires, billionaires and so forth. And I’ve just kept growing. And I love interviewing people who are at the top of their category.
One of the things that really stands out when you described your story that people may not even pick up. If I look at the timing that you started two significant ventures that were successful for in many ways throughout some of those challenging times. Like you started at the beginning of two fundamental country, in fact, international wide failures in the world in the 2000 dot com crash. Basically, you survived through one of the most challenging waves of business failure. And then in 2007, you began what was at that point, only Dr Michael Brewery and a handful of hedge fund folks understood what was about to happen in the world.
And we watch the financial collapse that happened globally. And yet through that, you persevered and were able to stay focused on what you were trying to achieve and survive those things. It’s not insignificant to to be able to weather that storm. And even you talk sort of I’m sure the timelines are always compressed, right? We talk about you losing a number of clients in a period of time because of regulatory changes. The whole marketing world really took a strong hit, but I imagine that you probably kept the lights on for quite a while.
And when most people just said, I’m not going to be able to take more failure, I want to get out now. Well, I feel like I’m on top of Tony, you you keep pushing what makes you tick. How did you do that and what’s your mindset as you go through that?
I have so many answers to that question, but let me start off simple. An Italian, there’s three steps to success if you want to save. One is keep at it. Number two is keep at it. Number three is keep at it. You don’t fail until you stop. Now, when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t really think of those words, and you don’t really think of that. But when you’re in the middle of it and things are crashing around, you, you’ve got to feed your family.
You’ve got to pay your bills. You got to put gas in the car. You’re propelled by this strong intention to survive, no matter what. It’s just you’re not going to let something affect you. And I’ve been beset in my podcasting with some serious, serious problems, but you would never know it because I refuse to give up. And I guess I’ve learned a lot from speaking to some of the most successful people in the world and learning from them. And they mentor me on that show. And they mentor you on that show on how they’ve made it.
And it sounds easy now that now that I can go and look back in the past, it sounds easy. But I did not fall off, roll out of bed or fall off a log or whatever the cliche goes. It was hard work. But the key thing, the foremost thing is you want to be successful, you have no choice to be successful. You’re going to solve this. And there there are problems. There are serious problems and challenges, even the podcasting. In fact, there’s a word in the diction.
Can you believe this, Eric? There’s a word in the dictionary. Most podcasters go, what, seven, 8910 episodes. I’ve run into them. It’s called Pod Fade. And two years ago, before the COVID madness of 2020. Before that, the year before. Blueberry said 75% of podcasters don’t make it into the second year. Well, it got even more worse than next year. So there’s a lot of problems and issues that beset podcasters. The key is monetization, and I teach that to my students. I teach them how to be successful, how to monetize, how to make income with what you’re doing.
And it’s work. It’s not like it’s roll up your sleeves and stuff like that. So thank you. And I would say the only reason and I’m successful is I just really refuse to give up.
And it comes through in your caring about, you know, that getting through the other side, because quite often this is the thing, right? I remember you hear the choose the Land Armstrong quote, A lot of people don’t like Lancasham. But put it aside, put his personal choice aside. But he said at one time, like, if you quit, no one else, everyone will know and no one will care, right? It’s the whole thing of like, it’s your choice of why you quit. And really, when it comes down to you, especially startups, there’s actually only two reasons that start ups fail.
If they run out of money or the founder quits, it’s purely economic or choice. There’s a lot of reasons why they run out of money. There’s a lot of reasons why that would occur. But one of the most common things, I didn’t realize there was a word for this. I’ve got a lot of friends who are like, fantastic people and they have great conversations. And I love talking with them. And I’m like, yeah, they’re like, we’re going to start a podcast. And like you said, or they all make it to episode ten, and then the wheels come off the bus because it’s it’s work.
You got to fit it in, you’ve got to do these things. And I know like I said, I just pressed publish as we’re recording on my hundred and 81st episode. The there was a gap in the middle where I think it was about 25 in and I was doing it with work and just kind of like doing it off the side of the desk and sort of aligning it to my work. And they said, look, there’s no way to measure whether it’s successful and it’s not impacting sales.
So we just don’t think we can back it. And I was like, okay. And I got busy myself. And I said, well, maybe I’ll just put it on hold. And then I went back about, I guess, about six weeks, seven weeks later, and I checked the itunes for it. I’m like, oh, somebody had asked me to show an old show. And so I went and I looked at it, and I saw the reviews there. And I was like, oh, good. Golly, people listen to it. Now.
I gotta keep going. I was suddenly reinvigorated him, like, okay, how do I fit it in? And like you said it was I was the only one that let it stop. So I’m like, get on the bloody horse. You fit it in. And so half an hour a week, I could fit it in. I thought, can I do this every other week? If I can do 30 to 40 minutes every other week? I mean, there’s no reason I can’t do it. And now, you know, three years in, I’m doing 1 hour a week.
And I’ve got a backlog because of, like I said, being inspired by folks like you, Tony, that taught me that, like, episode eight doesn’t happen without 179 episodes before it. You just got a muscle through. And sometimes you’ll have a show that you maybe struggle with, just, like, everything with work, everything. It’s not all great days and perfect ending. It’s a lot of gumption, if that’s of people sort of think of that as a word, right? It’s just you got to push through some stuff. But you got to know that on the other side of it, there’s worth in doing so.
And, you know, and that ties into this vision map that I’m coming out with because we talk about, okay, something happens. You’re blocked. You’re out of income, you’re out of money, you’re out of steam. There’s a regulation. You can’t talk anymore. I mean, there’s words that I am not allowed to say as a result of the madness of 2020 in the world shutting down. You can’t say certain words, which I accidentally said one of those words earlier, but I’m not going to say it again. But when these things happen, Eric, what keeps you going?
Why podcast? Why are you doing whatever you’re doing? Why are you selling Widgets or helping people with HR? Why are you a coach? Why are you doing whatever you’re doing? And in the vision map, it starts off with, well, what’s your vision? And I can give a whole training class on this, but basically, what is it you see yourself doing, like, with a D. What are you doing? You go into the future, you look back, and you got almost, like, creating a movie. Well, in the past two years, I did this.
I did this. I did this. This is my vision. Now, that’s really not a perfect definition, but I’m just trying to get the concepts more to it. I’m just being really fast and kind of slamming it together. But that’s a good way. Like, what am I doing in this venture? What am I doing? And then right below that the fuel cause that ventures like the vehicle, the car driving down the freeway. Well, what’s that fuel right underneath that adventure that’s making that happen is the purpose.
Why are you doing what you’re doing? And that’s who are you being with? A B. Why are you doing it? Who are you? And then below that, there’s like, seven, eight, nine steps. But just give you three. And below that is your long term accomplishment, your long term. What are you trying to do now? People call it a goal side, but I don’t use that word because the goal could be what I did today, this week, this month, three months from now, or this year, or it’s a ball in a net.
There’s so many definitions for goal. I just took it out of gowhat, are you looking to do long term? And that’s what you see yourself as having accomplished. Accomplished. I wrote this book. I did this lecture. I did this podcast. And when you put those three together and that’s your life, that’s your business. That’s your whatever. It helps propel you. Despite any bumps in the road or blockages, it’s very, very powerful. It only stops when you let go of it. But if you hold it like, I’m holding up a clenched hand now, I’m not going to let go of this.
And as long as you don’t let go of your dream, your goal, your purpose. So why you like to do it? You will be successful. And I’ll just say one last thing on that, Eric. The purpose is like, I’ll do this for free. I’ll get up every day in the morning, and I’ll do it. I’ll podcast every single day and talk to people. I love it. I love helping people. And it doesn’t matter if I get paid for it or not. I’m not joking, folks. That will propel you, and you will make money if you stick with it.
Very important. What I’ve just said, please, kind of. Soak this up and I’ll explain more in a book and there’ll be a class and all sorts of stuff. There’s a lot to it, just like, really fast. But this is years of experience.
It’s something that’s counterintuitive to a lot of people. The first thing they think is I need to immediately figure out how to pay for something. Like, how do I get paid to do this thing? And I said I’m a student of Tony and that I’ve taken on this thing of like, I love doing this.
Happen to have sponsors. I happen to have some other things that come through it, but I didn’t chase it down. They came, and that’s what makes it enjoyable is that I’m not out to try. And fill spots or whatever. There may be a point where I have that happen, but right now I’m doing it because I love it. And even if I get paid for it, it does make me love it more or less. I would do it for the love of the game. And like you said, you hit something very important.
And even the semantics of the way you describe what it is, a goal is something we all get busted by. A goal is a to do list with a three year timeline. And you know what we do with to do list defer the task to the next day because we didn’t have time for it today. Right? And the goals are years down the road. Oh, boy, is really easy to just defer it by another week or two. And then in mind.
We have a solution for that in the entire vision map and how it goes all the way down. There’s a whole methodology to it. But yes, and you know what? For who’s listed in the audience, you may or may not know. 2030 whatever. Years ago, companies had 10, 15, 20 year long goals and strategies. Can you imagine? I can diagnose people all day long talking about where you’re gonna go in 20 years. It’s out of mine. It’s preposterous. When I was doing podcasts, I had a two year goal, and I accomplish it.
But today, people listening to this or tomorrow they’ll go, two year goal. That’s weird, because with technology today, you can be a millionaire in two days. Yeah, you could be a millionaire in 24 hours. I’ve spoken to people that have done this sort of thing. It’s a whole new world. But the words, the definition, the basics are still the basics. So you can apply this, whether it’s six months to millionaire world or two months or ten days, whatever it is, these basics are still going to be applicable no matter what.
One thing I often hear people, they’ll say, like, hey, what do you think about becoming a YouTuber? And we kind of joke sometimes, but it’s a pejorative, a YouTuber. I’ve got kids of varying ages, and so I see different types of YouTube content all the time. I watch some myself, and I watch mostly to learn of how do they do this? What’s the way that they’re doing it? That’s keeping viewers up and retaining interest and just it’s neat to be a a student of it all the time.
And someone says to me like, oh, why don’t you become a YouTuber? I’m like, I don’t have the commitment or the time. It sounds like it’s just a thing. Like, you’re just firing a video. Like, I could sit here and I could unwrap Kinder eggs. And you see channels like this that have 12 million subscribers. Not because they spent 20 minutes unwrapping a Kindra because they spent an hour a day doing it, and then an hour a day doing editing and doing keyword research and then posting it for three years.
So someone says to me, you want to be a YouTuber so you don’t have the commitment.
I will tell you this about YouTube, and let me put it in a very political in whatever. I’ve been podcasting five and a half years. I started putting all my videos on YouTube, and in five years and I promote it. I spent a lot of money promoting, and I have a service that does social media promotion, by the way, I send visitors. So I spent a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of energy. And literally I’ve spent thousands and thousands and thousands of people to my shows on YouTube through my promotion.
I have very large social media network. And in five years, Eric, I got under 50,000 total views on everything is like, what? And you know what’s it called subscriptions. They would go up by one or two and then down by three.
Upper one or two.
And down by three. And I’m like, this is being manipulated. So I went to Rumble. I went to Rumble, and in two or three weeks, I’ve got over five0 views on my shows. It’s not being manipulated. It’s like, oh, is that how this works? So you kind of have to learn as you go, because otherwise, if you want to be a YouTuber and I get what you’re saying, it’s like a full time job. And you got to spend thousands of dollars because only certain people are selected.
It appears. And I say that from experience, certain people are so selected that rise up and the and the rest aren’t. And if you don’t talk, to talk or walk to walk, it happens. And then you get, you know, you get these people who are paid. They’re paid money to go on YouTube and say bad things. And you can tell that they never heard the show. They don’t know anything of what you’re saying. And they say something bad that has nothing to do with the show.
You know that they’re called trolls, and, you know, they’re paid because they’re gone just to say something negative, but they have no idea what you said on the show. So how can you comment if you don’t know what was said? So you learn very fast that they’re paid and that their job is to discourage people from listening. So you’re gonna have that. You’re going to have that. And I think it’s unless YouTube wants you to be a rising star for their own reason. It’s something that you get on multiple other places, but it’s definitely not going to be the key for where you’re growing unless it’s the only platform you have.
Let me make this more simple. I’m going to exaggerate a little bit. There’s 22,376 social media platforms that you can be on, but you can’t get on 20,000 yourself and answer and post and comment. Pick the key ones, pick where you’re going. Is it going to be Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, whatever and work those. And I work and engage and speak with people on my key social media platforms. And I’ve got over 200,000 followers, but I’m not on $20,000. I’m really push hard on four or five social media platforms or less.
And that’s a good key to success because the you’re super deluding yourself. So if you’re thinking of getting onto YouTube because it sounds good, I understand. You know, I’ve tried TikTok on there on TikTok, and I realized very rapidly the amount of work and the effort. And it’s like, do I want to spend hours a day doing this or paying somebody big money to do this? You realize quickly where it’s going to go. So you should experiment. You should try. But when it’s all done, you’re going to get more bang for the buck, so to speak, by the key big social media platforms.
I mean, that goes to one of the important, both strategic and tactical pairings of being focused, you know, setting what your where you want to be. Right? Is it going to be a follower account, viewership, audience size, share, voice, whatever. There’s lots of different phrases we have. But if you go to ten places and try to grow, then you’ll have ten poorly grown audiences versus if you choose two or three at the most kind of thing and you stay focused on it, and you measure and adapt and put your efforts towards it.
It’s the easiest thing that people do, and we’re human by human behavior. It’s very easiest for just to go. Like squirrel, we see something, some new network comes up. People got all clubhouse crazy for a while. And I haven’t heard anybody use talk about club house in a month and a half now. But yet it was all like everybody was all over because it was the new hot thing. It’s not going away. It’s just that the buzz is gone. And so a lot of people maybe try to invest in it early, then they lose focus or effort and attention, and somebody else will keep succeeding on there because they’re going on bloody clubs every day, and that’s their thing.
They’re choosing that. But you can’t just go in and suddenly become a runaway hit, like success five years in the reason why, Tony, you’re at the point of being an overnight success with years of lead up, right? I always joke. I was in a band for a long time, and it said, every band you talk to, you see that big coming out thing where they played at the Grammys or whatever. And it was the first time and the they had a gold record and they are an overnight success.
And you’re like, I saw them 14 years ago in some Podunk bar playing to an audience of 40.
How embarrassing in the way.
You know, an overnight success is one of the worst things that we can aspire to be because it just takes away that there’s a grind and it’s what you need to do. But it’s true. It’s not just grind, but grind with purpose.
Yes. Yes. Yes. And I’ve learned a lot on marketing, lead generation social media. And I use what I’ve learned and now because I like to help. And I created a service where I do social media marketing for people, especially podcasters. And I, you know, one of my students last year hit 2 million downloads. Another another one of my clients had two and a half million downloads. So I’ve learned how to help and take all that we’ve just said in this interview and just shorten that time and how to get the real people listening to your show, because that’s what a lot of podcasters want, of course, to help them grow.
So I do that as a service. I just mentioned that because I’ve learned that from all my years of experience. And I really like to help podcasters and, you know, we all need to communicate. It’s such a great thing to be able to say what we want. And, yes, pick your platforms and stuff like that. Absolutely. And just grow with it. You know, I didn’t get over 100,000 followers on Twitter overnight. I just keep growing and engage and engage and engage and engage, and it just grows.
And I’d rather have 100,000 on Twitter than a thousand people on 20,000 different platform. So, in a way, pick where you’re going to put your effort is very, very key. Takeaway to this, and you can be successful in literally anything that you want to do. You know, based on some of these points that we talked about.
The other thing is beyond is persistence is fitting it in. We talked briefly about people would hear this and they say, oh, it’s an hour a week that I commit to it. Obviously, the truth is much more than an hour week because I have to do editing and research and whatnot I could choose not to, but for the quality that we want to get. You research your guests, you read their books, you’re putting a lot of other external effort. You’re a prolific creator as well. You’re an author of multiple books.
So, Tony, how do you prioritize and maintain you’ve probably got multiple streams of kind of content creation on the go at any time. Being creative is a real challenge to fit in.
It’s hard to schedule it right is you have to be very well again, it goes back to that vision and that purpose and your long term objectives that I mentioned earlier, once you get that clear and these words that I just said, yeah, these words are in the dictionary. You hear them all the time. Eric, you hear, you know, the word egg and milk and sugar and flour and salt and vanilla extract. You know, these words and others cream, but I challenge you to make me really delicious safe.
It’s a whole nother thing to put it together. You know, we joked earlier about it’s in all the words in the dictionary. But when you put it together, that’s what is great on getting people to express and communicate on our shows when we speak to experts, because it helps people put it all together. And there is a there’s a finesse to it that we’ve learned. And, you know, I actually lost one of the points. I actually lost one of the points that you were talking about.
I had a really important point to say, and I’ve never done this in five and a half years. But I’m going to say, can you please refresh me on what you were saying? This is a first. But you know what? We’re human, right?
I know. And that’s maintaining focus when you’re multi streams, especially in creative avenues.
It’s the purpose that keeps you going. That purpose that I was saying that gets you up whether you get paid or not. I work everything by a checklist. I have a checklist for getting my guest on promoting the show for this week. I have a checklist for different things that have to happen. And in the vision, a structure, I have a method of how to put something on your things to do list that comes from your well, I’ll give you the rest of points. It’s vision, its purpose.
It’s long term objective. And below that, how are you going to accomplish your long term objective? Well, you need a master plan. The master plan consists of two things, a strategy and tactical strategy is like, okay, well, you know, we want to capture that island because it’s the corridor, and we can control and keep the enemy out. If we capture that island, that’s sort of like a strategy in military terms. And the tactical is okay, well, what are we going to do to capture that island?
How are we going to take over? So you work out all these tactical steps. It accomplishes the strategy that accomplishes that long term objective, which is just about a year or two that you want to accomplish. All right. So you’ve got your tactical plan. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this. We’re going to do this to take that Hill or that island. Well, now what comes below that is our what I call 30, 60, 90. And that’s your 30 60 or 90 days.
It’s like, this is where the rubber meets the road, Eric. Okay, well, I’ve got my strategy, my tactical. I’ve got my plan, my purpose, my vision. I need to make money. I need to make income. I’ve got this great plan, this great thing. How am I going to make income? It could be I’m going to do a mastermind at C. And I’m going to bring on ten people to do a mastermind. I’m going to charge them $10,000 each. And I’m going to promote that. And it’s going to take two months to put together.
So that’s why it’s 60 days or I’ve got a class that I’m going to do, and I’m going to do a webinar, but I need to do X and X and X and X and Y, and that could take three months to roll out. So you’ve got to have by the end of a couple of months making literally making income on that plan. No joke, no baloney. And you’ve got to work that out. Now, these plans, these words while they’re in the dictionary, they take some working.
A good vision map takes weeks to put together. But I’m going to explain that in one more second. So after your 30, 60, 90 day plan, now that plan goes into your daily Things to do list. And the daily Things to do list is on that plan. It’s not put guests in the car, go to the store, go buy a house, go read a book. That Things to Do List is specifically only and totally for that vision. And you keep it and you write it down, and you don’t ever take it off until you can scratch it off as done.
And if you have to break it down, you have to break it down. But I’m talking about the daily Things to do list, which is literally something that is literally accomplishable in one day. So what is that? How do you break that down? And you put that in one day, and when you’re done, I should show you mine. You just have a sheet after sheet of things crossed off on your list. And that’s what keeps you going, because you’re putting stuff on the list and you’re taking stuff off the list.
But you’re very structured. And it’s all done on paper, because on the computer, I know things fall off.
You’re preaching to the choir. On this one, I’m filled with lists.
And can you see this all crossed off? The camera just all crossed off. Just all crossed off. Just crossed off. Because on the computer, I got all the fancy expenses, and I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus. I got them all. Not all. There’s 260 more that come out every day. But I got these great programs that did this and flesh and color, flesh and light and interrupt you and say, this is time to do this and all these things. But when you’re working on your desktop, Eric, you have to clear it out of the way.
You’re doing something.
And it goes out of sight, out of mind. But on that piece of paper, it never, ever disappears until you cross it off. And that really is the your help fuel you to keep working and keep at it. That is very, very key to accomplish that, no matter what. And following that system will get you profitable really, really fast. And I’ll give you an example. I mean, again, it’s like, Tony, I’ve heard these words before, and Tony says, yeah, they’re in the dictionary. But get this, I had a student.
He’s doing five or six five health products sales a month on Amazon. Five. Okay, bye. Okay. And I worked with him on just a vision map, and in the second month, he was up to twelve sales a day. I was just working on the vision map, so that’s the power of it. Five a month or twelve a day. I mean, he was just rocketed that fast, but it’s really just getting that focus in. And there’s an ebook available at Tony Durso Com books, and that’s been reedited updated, and it’s coming out on a paperback on Amazon soon.
But right now you could get to ebook, and it’s got most of the information, but not all, but it’s a really great. So based on that, you’re smart, you can figure out the rest.
Well, let me tell you what I really respect, but what you just described Tony is that you didn’t tell me about a guy that you went to a million dollars a month in sales. So these are really easy to fall on. They’re compelling. That’s how those Instagram ads work. Like, hey, look at this. This is my Mazarati. And I got this because I’m selling you health pills. And I apologize if I’m being campy in the description. That’s not meant to detract from anybody that does anything. I know I run a coffee store, I’ve got a coffee brand.
I literally have got my coffee behind me. But like you described Tony, that fellow went from five sales a month to twelve a day. That’s how it goes. I started a coffee store, and I said, let me see if we can do this. The technology is there to do it easily. I chose a brand, I chose some things to get together. And I went from, you know, ten in the first month that I sold to today. While we’ve been talking, I’ve gotten three notifications of sales.
Like, it’s not going to be hundreds. There are days when I don’t sell any other. But the fact is that, like you said, when I if it starts here, it starts with three a day. Gm rolled one car off the line at one point. Everybody has to think that way. This is possible. What matters is the fact that you put this into a place. You create a system that works for your mind and your lifestyle, and this is why we need guidance. This is why I love your approach, because this is not how to read this book.
And you’ll be rich in 30 days. It’s like, now read this book and you’ll have you’ll have a system that you’ve got that can bring you to whatever you need to be so that you are where you want to be in X years.
It’s so true you know, I’ve interviewed five, 6700 people. Now I’ve lost count because for a year or two, I was doing two interviews per show. So it’s probably five or 600 700 well known people. And I can tell you literally and honestly, I can tell you. And and our listener here in the audience, every single person had a story and had to work at what they got to be successful. Only one person in some 700 million years and billionaires had his life handed to him. That was how rare it was.
And I think kind of walked another person kind of, like, was well assured through. But every other person I spoke to a guy who homeless, he was on the street and he became a millionaire. I mean, what a great story. I’ve spoken to people that their parents put him to school to do this, and then they turn around and do something else and become super successful at something that the parents despised, you know, not despised that it was a bad thing, but just the parents, you know, I want you to be a lawyer.
I want you to be a do. I want to do this instead. And the parents like, oh, I’m not talking to you again or whatever. I’ve amazing story, really, really amazing. So if you in the audience, if you think things are tough, if you think you have to work for things, let me tell you, you are right. Things don’t necessarily go for you. It doesn’t always go easy. In fact, one out of 700 what’s that percentage? This is real world. That’s how everyone else had to work and become who they became.
And so that’s why we were saying it doesn’t fall off a log, and you really got to work at it. And it’s that purpose. That reason why you’re doing it that keeps you going, whether you make money or not. But if you stay on it, you’ll very, very soon make money, of course, because today we need money to buy our food and put gas in our car. So that’s how it works.
And even when you give a relative comparison that’s relatable to somebody, that’s why, like five a month to twelve a day, this is achievable, because if you compare yourself against somebody, that’s one of the Sharks on shark tank versus somebody that’s walking up and they’ve got a story and they’ve got to leap of faith. They’re bringing something. They’re going to try this right. You don’t want to try and relate to the shark. You want to relate to the person that’s on the other side, there’s a famous story is a fellow named Delores.
And he had gone because he was really struggling. He was very successful by any right. It started his own massive network, had had successful exits from startups. It was an investor in doing incredible work, and yet was wrought with grief about his lack of success. And they said, like, he went to therapy, and in the end, they sort of uncovered. They said, Why is it that you feel that you’re not successful? So my College roommate has always outdone me. And they said, well, how is it possible that you’ve got all these things?
Who was your College roommate is Elon Musk? Well, perhaps you need to lower your bar. So even successful people this. So this thing that he’s aiming for is big. It’s Elon Musk. You know what I’m going to do? And I tell people that are listening right now you’re thinking about doing a thing, right? In your first book, putting a blog together, starting a podcast, then find the person that did five a month and find out how they get up to twelve a day like that’s. It like, this is inspire yourself with an attainable path.
Like you got to obviously aim. I always help you. Like, you don’t want to just say like, I’m going to be on better today tomorrow than I was today. I should compound interest is pretty decent if you do that every day. But that’s why, again, I appreciate your choice of selections, right?
Yes. Eric, unless you’ve got somebody putting in mega money behind you. Yeah. You go to Shark Tank and sell your coffee, you may walk away when everything’s done with ten to 15% to 20% of your company. I don’t know. You’ve got now a boss telling you what to do and your original resident. You may no longer be your original recipe after a while, but, yeah, you make money. So now people also refer to that as selling their soul. So now what? So you’ve got money? Are you happy?
I know this is going to rub people the wrong way, but money does not equal happiness of accomplishing your purpose, and your vision equals happiness. And when you do that, money follows it’s just to flip around. Money is not happy. I have a dollar in my pocket that doesn’t make me happy. I’m talking to successful people, and I’m sharing that with the world and getting millions of listeners. That makes me overjoyed that’s it.
Right. And this is an important thing for people to do. And like I said, there’s so many things are possible. I often say is a bit of a visual joke. Right? I’m a big fan of guys. I’ve got a friend who’s a magician, and he’s a lot more than magician, but it just has to be. It does. And that was a joke. So I watched him do simple things, like just a simple card fan. It’s something that visually. So if you’re watching on YouTube, you get to see this, right?
It seems like the smallest thing in the world, it’s unexciting. But what makes it easy to do is that I’ve done this probably for, like, half an hour a day for six months, like, just every day. I just muck around. And so the first time you do it you can barely get them to stay together. You drop the cards. It’s a whole thing. But now, six months into mucking around with this thing while I’m sitting on meetings or whatever, and I’ve got idle time. I don’t know how to not do a fan of cars.
I can’t do it in a bad way. So my muscle memory for this and my muscle memory for being able to jump into a task. And now I’ve got a system in my head. I know I can do this. This is why your map is so important, because it’s like, once you build that muscle, you understand the structure, then you just simply just apply it to the situation. And that’s what people really get stuck on. They’re like, you know, how does somebody become a great coach?
And yet they weren’t a star athlete. Happens all the time. They’re athletic, but they don’t have to be, you know, the athlete in order to be successful at it. You just look for the ways you find how to unlock the power, and then you unlock it for somebody else, which is pretty amazing.
That’s a good way to say it, because it’s like two different ways. Like, do you listen, do you read a book or watch a video by a person who’s not a well known chef? But yet you watch their video and you go, Well, do you need to be a chef to say this tastes good or this doesn’t taste good, so there’s a balance there. So, yeah, an Olympic athlete isn’t necessarily a gold medalist, is not necessarily the only person that can train other gold medalists and so on and so forth.
But someone that understands the basics in the games and what it takes to apply oneself to be successful in that endeavor. Absolutely correct.
Bill Belichick looks like he would struggle getting up of long flight of stairs. Like, yeah, he’s brought Tom Brady and his team to victory. And I shouldn’t joke. Obviously, Bill Belichick in fantastic shape, but he was not an athlete or he was not a top level elite athletes necessarily. Right. It is amazing. And that’s what people needed her to humble their humble their goals in a bit and humble their understanding of the world. And that’s really it to write. When I look you’re five years in, you talk about 500 people that you’ve interviewed.
If you start at the beginning and said, I’m going to interview 500 people in five years, it would be very easy to get off that bus fast, because you’re going to say there’s no way that I’m going to be able to pull this off. You start to think. But if you say, like, I want to have a successful show, I want to be able to find people who have never met and have interesting conversations and learn something with them and be able to pull a story out of them in 40 minutes easily.
And I will learn how to do that. I want to learn these lessons and applies into my own life. And then while you’re doing that, suddenly 500 people go by and you realize you’ve done it. And it’s fantastic. It’s an admirable thing you’ve done. Is that on the other side of it? Now, that’s the other thing, I guess. Tony, how do people talk about gratitude and this thing, like, how do you sort of check where you’re at as you go through this on the bigger picture stuff?
Like, I know we have checklist and we have other things. But how do you sort of about a six month point or just right now, how do you look back and say it’s been an okay year or I’ve achieved something, but I’d like to be better at this.
Well, I may shock you. I don’t look at things that way. I’ve learned. I’ve learned. And it’s only because you ask because it’s not a topic I discuss or talk about. And it’s a topic that I joke around and say it’s against the law. And there’s a I say that.
When you’re on the right path to helping others and and doing the right thing, you start developing your morals, your goals. And as you go along that path, you start realizing that God provides everything for you and that your success is determined by God. The more you follow what God’s will and plan is, the more doors open. And the way I look at it is doors are opening for me. And people love my show. And my show grows because God provides that. I know it sounds. I don’t want to say any incorrect or wrong words.
It’s a unique concept, and it’s a concept that you’re not allowed to talk about, because right now people say the universe. Well, that’s an innate, non thinking, nonintelligent rock or dust that doesn’t give you your life that didn’t create you. I walk outside and there’s a patch of dirt outside my house, and I look at it every day for ten years, and I’m still waiting for a chicken to spontaneously combust in the fair. It doesn’t happen. The world, you know, this whole falsity of, you know, where things came from.
It’s just a confusion. It’s just a lie God provides. There is a guy that made you this amazing, great soul. And the more you realize that, the more you realize that that bigger picture, the bigger the picture becomes. And and then you realize the more that door is open or closed, because God wants you to go down a certain path God is providing. God is allowing God is directing. Now you have free will. If something goes wrong and it keeps going wrong and you don’t care, you want to keep at it, keep at it.
And then later, you find that it was a total mess up. You lost your money, you had all this problem. God allows you to learn whatever you want to learn. But when the doors are open, that’s because he’s trying to direct you down a certain path. Now, what I’m saying has taken me so many years to understand. It goes over people’s head, and it actually hits against people trained other ways. So that’s why I actually say it’s not something we’re allowed to talk about. But because you ask the question, I am compelled to give you the true, honest answer.
And the more sorry, the more you reflect or think about God, the more things start to open up. And it’s a process, just like growing your business from five sales a month to twelve sales a day. It’s a whole process, but the more you think about it, just a little reflection time, not meditation. I don’t know what meditation is. Still, to this day, I wrote it. I don’t know what it is, but just start thinking about God. Focus on God, and it just starts opening up in its it’s not even magic.
It’s just life. It’s just work. So I just wanted to say that and answer your question that things are rolling for me, because this is what God wants me to do. God wants me to connect people to successful people and help them grow. And the more I work on that, the easier. In a way, it gets sort of like the muscle memory. I can jump on a show and interview anybody because I understand millionaires, billionaires, and elite people. I’ll interview presidents, heads of States. It just doesn’t matter because I understand that now.
But it’s God’s gift that he gave me. God gives gift. My gift. I’m Italian. I can talk, right? I appreciate it. I can communicate. Not because we’re not allowed really too much to say things about religion or talk about it. But I had to answer your question.
I appreciate your candor, Tony. It’s one thing that is it’s a difficult topic. And even for folks that maybe struggle with, you know, I’ve had a lot of Don W long and I spoke a couple times. You actually been on the show come times we talked. Even where folks, if they have to map it to spirituality, whatever the hell they want to describe it, it’s just even the stoic philosophers often talked about is there are certain things that are beyond our control, and that’s what we have to just we have to look to what we can affect.
And like you said, be good, be ethical, do things that help people give. And in the end, what comes back, opportunity through that means. Right. But it’s inspiring when you hear folks that are committed to it and that live the you know, they walk the walk. I suppose it’s sort of the phrase that people say and it starts slow.
It’s not like fast immediately all of a sudden, you know, the world opens up or sun down. No, it’s slow. It can be fast, but it’s slow. It’s just a little bit. It’s like, you know, and I’m not really trying. I don’t push religion or or anything or any type of worship, but just start thinking about it a little bit, and it just starts making more and more sense. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to allude to. So whether it great, you or incorrect still true.
You are an intelligent being. You weren’t made by a piece of rock.
And and like I said, this has been really inspiring. Tony, your ethic and your effort and your expertise come together in every discussion, and it’s been a real blessing and an honor to spend time with you today. Tony Dorso Com, of course, we’ll have links in the show notes. I’ll make sure that people get out there. And because your book is going to be hopefully hitting Amazon Brown the time this goes out, depending on timing. If it has not, anybody wants to drop me an email, I’ll actually have.
Or if you’re on the YouTube version of this, drop a comment and the first ten folks that they need to if they’re having commercial problems with getting to this, any financial risk issues, I will happily fund and make sure that ten people deserve this book. And so I’m going to make sure to reach out to me just hit me up on email. And like I said, I’ll make sure that we put a few copies and some hands and educate more people, give them an opportunity.
Because that’s really what it is. Thank you, Eric. And when you get it on YouTube, I will send thousands and thousands of people to it. And we just hope we get through the YouTube.
Whatever it is to get through the algorithm. Yeah. Well, I tell you what, I had a funny situation where I had a really incredible individual, John McAfee. He was on my show last year in April, and John was just an incredible human. And we immediately went right into some really challenging topics that are algorithmically a problem for stuff. And at the time, I was only publishing audio only. So it just goes up with, like, an audio gram. So it’s the audio on YouTube. So literally nobody goes to YouTube to listen.
They like to watch. Now that I’ve published the video version, you get a couple of thousand views per episode. It’s a little bit better. But I thought to myself, I’ve got the video of this, and this was even before John had recently passed. And I thought, I’d love to put it up there because it was just such a really a dynamic discussion. I thought, good golly, I can’t, because if I put fresh content up there, that’s got a lot of hot button things. And next thing you know, oh, DiscoPosse is on the wrong side of cancel because of a problem.
So I chose with John’s passing, I just choose at a respect that I shouldn’t. You know, come along and it’s your content.
You own it. And there’s places like Bit Shoot and Rumble that I don’t talk about anything controversial. I really, really try hard not to. I don’t even swear on my shows.
It’s funny that we started talking about that, too, at the very beginning.
But why it gets censored on YouTube? Because they obviously somebody. Some they pick and choose who they want to promote. Real simple. I send 20,000 visitors to YouTube, and I get, like, two views. It’s like, what? So they’re choosing who they want to see the show. It’s just no sensor. But I’ll send 20,000 people to Rumble. I get a zillion views. So you just put it out on a couple of places and monitor.
Yeah, it’s definitely it’s a county world. We’ll see. I think we’ll see a lot of change in the coming months as this stuff. Sort of. It comes to the point where they’re going to have some regulatory stuff to deal with around it. But we’ll see. But anyway, Tony, thank you very much. And like I said, for folks, go to TonyDurso.com, check out the show, get the podcast on. They’re really, really great lessons. And, of course, get the book. And like I said, Tony, your prolific author, lots of other books, non business books as well.
So you’ve got great fiction work as well that you do so really cool. Thank very much.
Thank you. The honor is mine. Thank you so much for having me on DiscoPosse. I loved it. Thank you.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
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!
You can get a preview of the book at https://exitrichbook.com which also gets you the hardcover copy to you when it launches in June. That gets you access to Club CEO and much more as well.
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 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.
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.
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.