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Donna Loughlin is the Founder of LMGPR known for her work with futurists and innovators. She has launched more than 500 companies taking them from stealth to market leaders since forming her agency in 2002.

She is also the host of BeforeItHappened, a leading narrative podcast featuring visionaries and the moments, events, and realizations that inspired them to change our lives for the better.

Donna and I talk about the origins of her story, how PR has fundamentally changed, and how roots in Silicon Valley are still strong and rich with lessons we can carry to the future of science and technology.

Check out Donna’s podcast Before it Happened here: https://www.beforeithappened.com/

Visit LMGPR here: https://www.lmgpr.com/ 

Transcript powered by HappyScribe

Welcome everybody to the show. This is Eric Wright. I’m the host for your DiscoPosse podcast. Thank you for listening, watching. Oh, that’s right. If you are listening now and you want to see this in video action, you can head on over to YouTube.Com/discopossepodcast and you can see it all as it happened, which was really cool. Nice new element for the listening podcast if you want to see the viewer side of it all. This is a great episode featuring Donna Laughlin, who is the founder of LMGPR, and she’s also the voice behind the “Before It Happened” podcast.

Donna is a fantastic storyteller. Fantastic, as she describes it, the PR SheDevil. Super cool. We get into the background to that, her own history in Silicon Valley. What drew her to the industry? Really, really enjoyable. And I think of the people in the industry that I know, do such a great job that I would trust my company to them. Donna is one of those folks, so she’s really really got a good sense of how to draw fantastic stories out of the human experience, especially with really wild like, way out of the curve technology companies. So, go check her out.

But in the meantime, speaking of checking out companies that are super cool, that I really adore, I want to give a shout out to the folks that do support this podcast, including a friend over at Veeam Software. They’ve got some really neat stuff going on, so you’ve got to check out new landing page. All you got to do is go to Vee.Am/discoposse. You will love what you see there. Very cool. Everything you need for your data protection needs, regardless of whether it’s on Prem in the cloud, cloud native wow and SAS stuff, even stuff like Microsoft Teams and your Office 365 and more coming. So you got to get over there and check it out. Definitely worthwhile. Vee.Am/discoposse. And when you talk about other things around, protecting yourself, protecting your identity, protecting your data in transit, I recommend that you should use a VPN, as do I. So if you want to try one out, I do recommend using ExpressVPN. I’m a customer. If you want to go, it’s very easy to do, go to tryexpressvpn.com/discoposse. And that’s an easy way to get hooked up there and make sure you protect yourself because there’s a lot of bad stuff going on out in the world.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy a fantastic, tasty, delicious diabolical coffee. Go to Diabolicalcoffee.com and caffeinate your way to goodness. All right. This is Donna Laughlin. Enjoy the show.

Hi, everyone. This is Donna Laughlin from Silicon Valley, and this is the DiscoPosse Podcast. I’m the host of “Before It Happened”, and I’m a known for in the Silicon Valley as sometimes the PR SheDevil.

I love it. The PR SheDevil is officially the best title ever. So people always say they want to have founder beside the name, I’d say PR SheDevil is way cooler than founder. So, Donna, thank you very much for joining. I’m excited by the chance to chat today.

Yeah, absolutely. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you.

This is a beautiful thing where I love when you read a book and you’re interested in that book, and then that book references another book that you’ve already read, and then, you know, you’re like, this is it. I’m in my perfect space. When your name came to me as a potential guest, Donna, it was that moment where I said, wait a second. Storyteller, podcaster, Silicon Valley. This could be my last podcast. I have officially hit the perfect guest. So you’ve got a fantastic background in what you bring to the world. You have an amazing, I love your podcast style. So Donna, if you want to introduce yourself to the viewers and listeners, and then we’re going to jump into what the PR SheDevil does. And of course, we’ll talk about your podcast and much more.

The SheDevil is a little bit naughty, but a whole lot nice. For the last 20 years, I’ve had my PR agency called LMGPR, which stands for Leadership, Momentum and Growth, which is ultimately what I do working with emerging tech companies. Oftentimes there are two guys and a cat or two gals and a dog, and they have a great idea and looking to bring a company to market. Other times, the product is much further along and they’re gearing up for funding or for even an IPO. My role in collaborating with them is very hands on in developing the core messaging, the narrative to bring a product to market and not just the product, but also the company. And that means the texture and the fabric of who are the visionaries behind the company. And that’s what really ignites me. And that’s what my podcast is about, too, is the visionaries in the future that they imagine.

Well, in your intro, which I love, just beautifully well-produced, and I love that style. I’m sort of the free forum. It does not have time or capability to edit in such a beautiful way. But your idea of “Before It Happened” to the moment you really know how to go through this discussion and then pin down the thing that sometimes people don’t even realize. That’s actually the thing. It’s what makes a great author. If you read Steven Pressfield and you read about this whole style of PR and playwriting and screenwriting and everything and storytelling, it’s like that pinpoint moment that then you wrap in this fantastic, the run up, the conflict, like it’s all fundamentals. It seems effortless in the way you do it, which I know that means it’s absolutely not.

Do you remember when you were a child and you would be a story out, whether it be at school or with your parents or your grandparents, and you would sit in a circle and so ultimately was what I really wanted to achieve with “Before It Happened” was that, opportunity where you have this up close and personal kind of story time with somebody who’s actually changing how we live and work. And to do that, I couldn’t do a straight interview. I wanted to do kind of a narrative style. I’m a former news reporter, and so I would go out and interview, and I would come back and report. And so it is a slightly longer process, but the goal is to create something that is a little bit of a gift back to these individuals that have worked super hard in undaunting hours. And whether it is raising funding or finding, getting the patents approved and all the things that they do. I’m just in awe that this unstoppable spirit that we know that the entrepreneur has. But in my scenario, it’s these big idea creators. And I’m not a tinkerer. I’m more of a thinker. And I sit back and I look at in all respect and saying, wow, we can actually do this. We can drive an electric car. We can have a smart device in our home, and we can charge our vehicle to home with an electric motorcycle. All these things just are enchanting to me.

I think the key to any of the success of these technologies and these platforms and these websites, whatever they are, any business, is really about making it matter to the prospective customer. And when you’re the creator, when you’re the innovator, it’s very difficult to be that focused on it. They probably shouldn’t be. In fact, they should be like, I know amazing engineers who are creating fantastic systems, and they probably wouldn’t pass a touring test. I would never want to put them in charge of the website or the marketing or understanding the customer story and being able to emote that. And that’s really what it is. It’s not just writing down what we do. It is making someone care about what we’re going to achieve together and empowering them. It’s the hero’s journey. It’s all this stuff. And when paired with a great technology and being able to give them that capability to find their story, it needs to come from outside, I think, because when you’re close to it, when you’re inside, they can’t possibly be thinking that way. Like, it’s too hard, you’re way too introspective, and you have to be, to be this fanatical founder’s mindset of like, the world is wrong I’m gonna solve it this way.

Yeah. Well, too often I’ve experienced what I call ego engineering, which is my own term. There’s ego engineering, and then there’s innovation. There are true innovators that imagine the most amazing products and concepts that sometimes don’t even go to market. And then I’ve met over the years others who have a me-too product that’s not even a challenger product that have egos that are bigger than the sum of its parts. And those products usually don’t go very far. And those are typically not the ones that I work with. But in the land of unicorns, we see a lot of them. And I’m not going to name any, but we just know what’s the kind of the fashion anistas of the time. I really look for the acorns that ultimately can grow to be these majestic oaks, right. You’ve got to start some someplaceplace. And so to me, the unicorns. Unicorns are great. We all need them for financial purposes, and oftentimes we chase the unicorn, but planting seeds and developing something from scratch. Before a unicorn existed, they had to come from someplace. And you get people like, I love Guy Bras and how I built this. It’s one of my favorite podcasts, and it’s many people’s favorite podcasts, but he really profiles the unicorns. And I felt my sweet spot is working and collaborating and on my podcast showcasing the Acorns. In fact, I have an Acorn this week that’s actually going to IPO. That’s really exciting to see a company go from in the last seven years going from zero to hero.

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it, to see it come to fruition. Because it’s not a winning game. A lot of the statistics are not in favor of the business succeeding. There’s a lot of headwinds. There’s a lot of stuff. In looking back, what draws you to be able to coach them through that journey and bring them through that journey?

It really starts with listening. And so often we don’t listen and we respond, which is just human nature. It has nothing to do with being a reporter or in marketing. But, really listening and being able to extract the content. So when I first started out in my career, I would go out with another reporter. And his number one thing with me was, “watch me”. Don’t say anything. Just watch me. Watch me in action. And so that was his way of teaching me kind of the ropes of listening and being able to collect. Because the more you listen, I think the more people talk. And so it’s very important when I’m abstracting information from a scientist, an engineer, founders of a new product or company, and it’s really listening, but helping them also rediscover what they might have forgotten because they’ve been so busy on developing the product and meeting patent deadlines or getting funding. And so going back to that discovery phase, the same way I described sitting down and having a story hour is I literally take them to a process. What is a self discovery process, of going back to the roots of why do they even set out to create the product? What is their vision? And so oftentimes the company mission statement when the company is forging ahead. But if we go back to what was the vision that you had? Was there a dream? Was there a problem that you were solving? Was there a moment that you realized that you wanted to create a carbon footprint, energy saving, operational building device, which is a mouthful or an electric motorcycle or an electric tractor. Like, what really happened? And so really going through that discovery process and reigniting them as well to like, wow, you know what? I actually imagine you’re using a Disney word, but something that nobody else had. But, what is the problem? And then what is the solution to that problem? And really taking them back to that root? Because oftentimes they get so tangled up and all the other intricacies of things, they forget what their original origin was.

Yeah. And I think that the vision and the mission, the only people that can carry that so strongly are often the founding team, as much as you can create those early disciples, the first ten employees, the first 20 employees, even later on down the road, the folks that really built the idea, then they built the product to deliver the idea. The idea is still in them. But most people beyond that are product builders, not idea. Like, they’re not necessarily attached to the idea strongly. And this is where you have this funny thing. There’s like, a great book called The Founders Mentality. I think it’s by Bane and Company. They’re Boston based.

Great book. Read it.

Yeah. So, at my company’s engineering kickoff, I noticed we were in this weird sort of struggle of like where product was diverging from vision and we were struggling with where we were. Well, capital. Everything was going well, but you could tell there was tension in – should we build a feature or should we go back to the core? And I really saw this pull. So I showed it to our founder. And then when I got to the engineering kickoff, it was the most warm feeling I’ve ever had in my body and my mind as I walked in and I saw 200 seats, each with a copy of The Founders Mentality sitting on it.


Because what we wanted to get to was this. Remember why we’re here. What we’re doing now is important, but what’s more important is why we are doing it. And it really allowed everybody to go back to the core of what was the reason we did this. And ten years, twelve years at any company’s age, it’s like having a teenager. They’re suddenly, like, forgetting that they were the kid that wore a Pokemon costume at age six and they want to be their own thing. And you realize you can’t forget your upbringing, you can’t forget what got you here.

I’ve been to some meetings where grown people wearing Pokemon costumes and hanging onto the dream.

That’s it. I love this idea of making sure that people stay true to that, because also that comes with culture, too, right? Like, culture is the way they behave when you’re not looking. It’s not the thing written behind the desk at the front, by the elevator.

Yeah. I was just going to say that. And also they know that founders’ passion does dictate culture, and as companies grow, sometimes they lose sight of that. So years ago, I was fortunate to work with Sun Microsystems and might not be a company a lot of people know, but it was a really innovative company back in the networking boom. And Sun had a building that was full of security experts that I was kind of told not to go to. It was literally because there was one company, but there was like these different think tanks under the Corporation. And so I was working with the corporate group, but I would wander around because I was like, oh, there’s distinguished engineers in each one of these groups. I wonder what they’re working on. Excuse me, they’re a little bit naughty. The curiosity seeker ended up finding out about the security group, which was amazing. And in that group, there are all these. And this is in the 90s. So this is before cybersecurity really took off. And I’m, like, poking around and I find out how the hardware group is actually creating something insecurity. The software group is creating something insecurity, but they don’t talk to each other. So I ended up kind of propelling and shaping, but ultimately became a security symposium, which brought them both the hardware and the software and a bunch of industry experts together. And being able to Daisy change the network, that’s just kind of indicative to the types of things I do on an ongoing basis is looking at who’s in your network and how do you actually get to reach your goal faster. So we had an analyst, and there was an investor’s day and all the who’s who and security over the years that as cybersecurity continued to grow and become part of the mainstream and the standard. I was fortunate to work with a company that ultimately came out of the basement of that building, and I didn’t know it until I went and sat down with the founders, and I found out we had a common connection. He was one of the top security innovators that was in the basement that I wasn’t allowed to go to. And that company recently was acquired, went through IPO and then acquired by McAfee. So looking back at that, where the company was, the vision of what they wanted to be and the roots that they had is exactly kind of that exploration process that I was describing.

If you put six people in the room, you have six different backgrounds, six different journeys, six different educational levels. Some could have completed College, some could have a PhD, others might have been high school graduates. Regional cultural differences on all those components are basically the makings of a great narrative recipe and is looking at all those components, and that’s indicative of the Silicon Valley. That’s very tried and true to other regions in the United States. But I think when you look at the entrepreneurial spirit. The entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t have any boundaries, really. It doesn’t have a gender. It doesn’t have an IQ. Well, maybe it has an IQ, but it doesn’t have a lot of things. It’s like really for the fearless person that really wants to break out of the mold. And one of the things that we keep reading about in the pandemic is people leaving their jobs and starting their own businesses. And I think that’s pretty exciting for the marketplace.

Well, this is the interesting thing, especially now because we hear about the great resignation, and we see things like the jobs numbers, and it’s tough to measure today what’s really going on. In fact, one of my guests I had not too long ago is Michelle Seiler Tucker, and she wrote a book called Exit Rich. She’s written a couple of books, actually, really fantastic person. She specializes in helping businesses to reach a point of growth towards a sale and make sure they can organize the business to be most effective through that process. So one of the things that she talked about is this sort of like false statistic that we all carry around, that 90% of startups fail. Well, in fact, according to the Small Business Administration, it’s actually the inverse, that companies that are larger than ten years old are more likely to fail than one that is in the first five years. So what we’ve been quoting this old statistic, and it carried through a generational change. And now that we’re finally going to catch up and we’re seeing now, of course, people are leaving, they’re realizing the technologies there to start from your desk, you can put together a website.

And so easy to do relative to what it was 30 years ago.

I hire and fire myself pretty frequently. There are days that I just can’t like, I just can’t deal with it. But that also reignites me to think, okay, what can I do better? What can I do smarter? What can I do faster? Do I need to hire people? Do I need to hire a consultant to help out with different gaps? But I’m excited about even in my own small town, and I live in San Jose, California, which is not small. It’s over a million people. But I live in a community, a subset of the community that does have its own little downtown, and it’s a little bit of a village. And I call it the Cotswell, although it’s not quite the Cotswold. But I see some new businesses coming in, and it’s really exciting. We lost some businesses and they’re in the pandemic. But one of the things that I thought was so amazing was the community came together for a children’s bookstore that was owned by two retired school teachers. And it’s a fabulous bookstore called Hugobee’s. And the community came together and helped raise over $200,000 for a bookstore. And Meanwhile, we have restaurants and other businesses that were struggling.

But the bookstore is such a pillar of education and Stem in the future. They have a bookwall for those who can’t afford to buy a book. It’s like give a book, take a book. People donate books. And so it’s just a part of the community. But that was pretty exciting to see in the bookstore is thriving, but they used to do all kinds of book sightings and book and Billings and all those things stopped. But on the same Street, I’m seeing other family based businesses, people that I’ve known in my community that had corporate jobs and a lot of jobs in tech that are opening up restaurants, and they’re opening up champagne bars and opening up kids’ clothing stores. And to me, that’s exciting to see that creativity come back into the community.

It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s like a forest that has suffered in an unexpected fire. But in fact, in a way, by nature’s course, is the best thing that can happen to it because it allows for regrowth. Strong regrowth. Right. And that’s really what I’m hoping is ahead, is that we can see these people that are the next generation where they’re like, yeah, we’ve got a good savings and we’ve always wanted to do this. And it’s just possible now, of course, I was just on with somebody very recently. They’re saying we’re putting together a central, like a meeting place for his company. We aren’t doing a traditional office, but it is literally so cheap to get real estate space now because those folks need money. The REITs are struggling. Everything around real estate is a real challenge right now, so they’re willing to let people come in. So now if you want to get retail space, it’s more accessible than it had been. And then you’re supporting a landlord. It’s a beautiful ecosystem. Watch, rebuild.

Yeah. Well, unfortunately, where I live, we live in some of the most fertile land, which was originally called the land of Hearts Delight and which ultimately became the Silicon Valley at the beginning. And so defense companies were here, then Hewlett Packard, and then later on, Apple and even IBM had a West Coast facility here and stone strewn away from the Facebook and the Google and all these companies, they say the land is fertile and so there’s always growth opportunities. But I laugh about that sometimes. I think, why do we put concrete on some of the most fertile land? And then it’s expensive because a three bedroom, two bath tracked home from the 70s, maybe built 70s, 80s. It’s going for 1.5 million. So I’m obsessed with home and garden. That’s my hobby. And then there’s a great Instagram site called Circa Home Circa. And I look at these beautiful farmhouses and these mid century houses and every place from Colorado to Ohio to Southern States, Alabama, Arkansas, all the way to Florida, and I go, what am I doing here?

I know.

Then I have to stand back and realize, okay, I have a purpose. I have a reason to still be here and not to be hybrid. But I applaud those who can’t be because I still feel that not quite like an Urban Rockwell stuck in a painting. But I still feel that the work that I’m doing is international because my clients are all over the world. But there’s still something kind of majestic and sometimes medicinal about the Valley. There’s a lot of things about it that I would edit out, but I try to select the things that are most compelling. And interestingly enough, I’m within miles from really fertile farmland and I work with an electric tractor company. And so to me, it’s kind of like back to my roots of growing up as a four H kid when the Valley was apricots and cherries and Walnut orchards. In fact, I live on a Walnut Orchard, which used to be a Walnut Orchard. So I think the fruits of the labor of what we choose to advocate as entrepreneurs, whether you’re a hair salon owner or bookstore, children’s bookstore, or you’re starting a tech company, or there’s a couple of kids that live in my town that have created the two brothers. They’re actually two twins and they have a cookie business. And they started during the pandemic because they were home with their extra time what to do. And so now they’re serving their gourmet cookies into restaurants. I think that’s brilliant.

That’s amazing. Yeah. No matter how much you will see the shifting in the makeup of the community and the population, it will still be at its core, what Silicon Valley? A lot of the history of Silicon Valley will continue even as you see more folks sort of decentralize real estate wise. We’ll see other up and coming areas. Austin, of course, is the next one, which is hilarious because then all the people in Austin are like, yeah, keep Austin weird. And they’re like, keep out of Austin like, we’re done. We want to stay weird and you’re not weird enough for a while.

There used to be shuttles daily from Silicon Valley to Austin back in the.com bubble. And so what I heard and speaking to someone, it was in Austin last week reporter is that people are living already 25, 30 miles outside the Tesla area because the housing is shooting up. So they once thought they could go there and get a home in the five to 800 range. And those houses are all been pushed up. So they’re moving out further, which is no different. It’s the ripple effect. But one of the things about change and the pandemic and economies, I mean, I started my business in 2001, which was not the best time to start. It was a great time to start for recruiting because there were a lot of people that were a lot of people on the market.


There were a lot of people that were at home not working but in terms of the economy. But to me it was a great time because either it was going to work or it wasn’t going to work. Being able to kind of stand back and look at the opportunity. We have to be agile and we have to make sure that we’re continuously going through that discovery process. And it’s not a one size fits all entrepreneurial T shirt that we go around wearing. We have a bad economy or we have some form of crisis or maybe there’s a personal crisis, whatever sea of change is happening. We need to be able to paddle out of that really quickly. I think 2020 was like, okay, we got through it. 2021 is like, okay, we got through a little better. We were paddling at 2022. I’d be like, okay, we’re canoeing. We’re going upstream. And I think that’s the part of the continuous kind of entrepreneurial spirit. If one has never owned and operated their own business, and whether it’s part time or full time, it could be at the farmer’s market or it could become an LLC Corporation doesn’t make any difference. You don’t really have a day off. That’s the one thing that people is the Mythbuster, I think, is that people think, oh, you have your own business. I have a friend who calls me constantly. She’s retired now. She’s been retired for quite a while at a nice pot of gold company. And she’s constantly said, let’s do this. And I’m like, it’s Wednesday at three. I’m working. It might be Saturday at three, and I might be working. I think that’s one of the other components. There’s a great book called The Entrepreneurs Faces by John Litman. And John Litman used to be a Wired reporter. He wrote for Mac Week and PC Week and then Mac Week. So he went from the one side to the other side. And then he wrote a bunch of books for IDEO, which is a design firm that was known very well in consumer electronic space, working with Apple and Dill and everybody else. But his book, The Entrepreneurs Faces, is really interesting because he looks at the different types of prototypes of entrepreneurs, and they’re not the obvious. So you’ll find a collaborator or you’ll find the visionary and the leader and all the different parallels. But what I like about it is I found that I’m a little bit of each one of the potential profiles and oftentimes as entrepreneurs. And this is why we need to keep a tribe. And the podcast that you created is really creating a community and a tribe for us to come together and share and collaborate and learn. By the way, listen, his listing is really good for us.

One of the names that comes up very often was the Entrepreneurs Organization. And it is exactly that. There’s like a very specific range. Generally, I think they need to be like 1 million in revenue or there’s a certain floor and a ceiling. So basically, it’s a great place for people that are in sort of this stage of business with that entire purpose. There are community of practice surrounded by people who are in exactly where you’re at, who are living the pain you’re living, and can teach you lessons that you need to learn, and they can share stories and share understanding and learn from each other. And when I talk to people that are members of EO, quite often, it’s their second run because they’ll have a successful exit at their company. And then they’ll start a new start up. In the moment that they hit this range, they go right back because they want to give back to this community. And that’s such a beautiful thing that people rarely see that side of entrepreneurship is that it is not. They think of it as like a lone Wolf, this sort of idea monger strategy creator, somebody that’s going out on their own and they’re a little bit odd.

And they’re going to put together a team like the Bad News Bears, and they’re going to create something that’s going to change the world. But in fact, the moment that you give them an opportunity to sit with another founder builder, anybody, there the excitement level for them to give something to that other person. It’s amazing to watch.

Yeah, that’s one of the things so exciting about accelerator programs that are designed to be a platform to help visionaries and entrepreneurs really think out of the box and push them to discover, is this the product to come to market? And recently I had Johnny Crowder of Cope Notes on my podcast. And one of the things I really liked about him is, yeah, he’s so impressive. He’s under 30, 29 still. And when I was 29, I wasn’t creating a company. I was working in editorial, and I had a great newsroom job. But he created a company out of going back what I was describing, a problem and a need. So he dealt and he continues to deal with his whole life, schizophrenia, ADHD, all types of personal challenges. But he turned that challenge into profit because by creating a platform that would allow him to send a hey, how are you doing today, Eric? I’m feeling really good, but I want some disco music would make me feel so much better. Anyway, he created this whole platform that would allow him to connect with his small group of his own personal community. But he realized going through an accelerated process that potentially could be his business, which he’s now created. And it’s called Cope Notes, and I love it. I subscribe to it. I’ve actually gave it to my daughter as part of her holiday gift. I’ve given it to some of my employees and a couple of my friends because throughout the day you get these little nice life coach kind of Cope Notes. And I was just checking to see if I had one now because I get them throughout the day and they’re inspirational. It’s kind of like that high five in the hallway or the water cooler conversation that we don’t have anymore.

Right. Especially now.

Right. But I just love the fact that you go from a place in his place of like, I don’t know how to deal with this, to like, oh, I bet there’s other people in the market that don’t know how to deal with this. So therefore, going through mentoring and accelerating, and I think that’s what’s great about. And I’ve gone to accelerator discussions throughout the US in different regions. And it’s the same spirit. Doesn’t make any difference in Chicago or if it’s in Austin or it’s in Atlanta, North Carolina, that same hunger and thirst. And I think if we all help each other in that coaching process, because I always tell people, you’re going to have some good days and you’re going to have some bad days, and you’re going to have some in between days and owning your own business.


After 20 years. In fact, when I hit the 20 year anniversary mark, I just thought we were the right smack in the middle of the pandemic. And I don’t think anybody cares. Nobody knew. I do. I remember getting excited and telling some of my friends, they go, that’s nice. You got to have a party. I’m like, well, of course I’m not going to have a party. I said, I’m going to create a video and I’m going to create a podcast. That’s exactly what was really kind of a hallmark for me was, okay, I have 20 years of working and building and bringing companies and products to market. I had some stories that were not part of necessarily my business, but I’ve been carrying around in my back pocket great people that I met that weren’t my clients, that were in my network that had amazing stories, and then other people outside my network, as over time, it blossoms to that way. And to me, that’s really exciting, because that just means that there’s so much creativity and talent that’s out there that you and I bringing these types of discussions to market will hopefully excite somebody to go out and do something different.

Yeah, I applaud your format as well, because I really adore. I like well-produced podcasts. Like, I like tattoos. They’re amazing to look at, and I just don’t have the stomach to do it myself. So the moment I turned the first one on, I was like, it’s just like an NBC, ABC. It’s just beautifully done. It immediately draws you in. You did such a great job of putting a perfect hook, letting you in, and then the story plays out. And when you hear that, it’s so easy to listen to and just immerse yourself in. And it’s admirable because very few people have the ability to ask questions and lead a conversation that will fit back into that format. So you know that you have to think about how it’s going to work so that it’s the most compelling way to consume it. And it’s such a weird thing. And I’m nerding out a little bit harder than most people would just because I listen to so many different styles. I’ve listened to short form and I’m long form conversational because I hate editing.

Yeah, editing is an art of itself. When I first sat down and made a list, I said, well, if I do a podcast, which ultimately is going to write a book. And then I realized if I write a book, I’m going to be spending a lot of time by myself with a deadline, I’ll get to that. I’ve edited like 80 books in my career, but my book, yeah, it could wait. I’m going to do a podcast. But then I started looking at all the platforms, the turnkey platforms in the market, and then do it yourself, this and that. And I tried a few. I already record something to hear my voice. That’s great. But now how do I edit it? And what if I actually don’t want to do more of a narrative? Because being a former journalist, I like the narrative documentary style. And so even as a child, I could watch uncountless of film strips or video reels. And my father would get things from universities within Stanford and Berkeley and Santa Clara University. The libraries would get rid of things and he would bring them home because I would just kind of geek out on all these science and nature type of content.

So I love science and technology, and I love the deconstructing of things. I would say I’m kind of a weird girl. I like the sound of a piston engine. I love the smell of printer’s ink. I also like lavender and cinnamon. But I tell behind my father going to the local Metro airport to going to car shows and going to rock exhibits and all these things that science fairs and competing in science fairs. And those are the things that as a kid, four H working, doing four H projects as well. And I wanted the episodes to be a little bit like a science fair. Not everybody is a scientist or an innovator. I have book authors that cover those markets. And I also have a few episodes out. I have a formerly homeless teenager turned Baker extraordinaire and inspiration for generations of teens that we want off the street. That’s just an extraordinary story. So sometimes we just want to profile these amazing people. But that innovation of change in society, the ability to actually change, not just the light switch, but breathing light into other people’s life by facilitating change. And to me, that is that before it happened.

Like, what happened? Why did you become homeless? How did that happen? And how is that now changing the way your career, how your career is now able to change the lives of others. So ultimate before it happened Moment has multiple places that can reside, not just in the technologies. And that’s what I said. I could do a really geeky nerdy show and just have all the chic, geek hair. But I had other people that I had met, and I kind of look at it as being the hybrid world we work in. But it’s like a universal community is that when you start appealing the layers and you find these people and you find out really why they exist, and not only that they exist, but they’re eliminating their lives and changing people’s lives. And so I have said no a lot to people that solicit me for the show. And I’m sure you have to. And I’m like, well, I’m not really here to sell product as much as it is to ignite people, to maybe get out and do something different, like volunteer at the local senior center or this is a funny one.

New fire station coming into my town. I know I shouldn’t be so excited, but literally, it’s a beautiful fire station. It’s less than a quarter mile from me. And they painted this wonderful mural on the outside. And I told my daughter, I think I’m going to make cookies for the firemen. And she just says, mom, that’s kind of weird. I said, they’re in our community. I take pride in that. And I think that’s one of the things that we’ve all, in retrospect of the last couple of years of reconnecting with the simple things. Firemen have a really exhausting and important job in our community. It’s not a job I could do, but the fact that they’re doing that job allows me to be home safe and hopefully safer in my home, doing what I like to do. I think they deserve the cookies. And the funny thing is, I’m not even a Baker, so I might have to have somebody else make this cookie.

There’s a film called January Man as a film, a movie, whatever. I also date myself by the fact that I call them film still. And one of the lines from it, it was just this class thing is trying to explain to his fellow trying to explain to his girlfriend, like, you don’t understand. You will never understand me. He says, I run into effing burning buildings when other people are running out. That is what I do. I’m a fireman. And just like that, trying to explain and realizing the weight and the severity that they carry as a job. And it’s like, this is not just a volunteer gig to get some hours and some pay, like you’re signing up for something. I’m with you. I applaud all the folks that do that job because it’s not an easy one. It’s a high risk.

It is. And I fly. I used to go flying with my father when I was a kid and sit on crate boxes or books or whatever he can put on the plane. And then during the pandemic, I actually start spending more time at the airport. And one of the things I loved about it is there was some very small professional career and a very small hobbyist of women pilots so surrounded by men. And I see a woman at the airport, oh, it must be a good day. There’s a woman at the airport. Seldom do you see women at the airport. Usually they’re passengers. But I learned so much from their stories. Former commercial pilots, former military, former rescue Rangers, every type of you can imagine and listening to them and learning their stories and just amazing. And now the little travel that I do, I was just up in British Columbia and I went to CES in Las Vegas. I always had to peek into the cockpit because the little planes that I fly, the little Cessna 152, 172 Beechcraft, there’s still a lot going on. You cannot have ADHD and fly a plane.

Exactly. There’s a lot of gears and pulleys.

I have some amazing friends. And most of them, I would say the entrepreneur, I might get in trouble, but some of the deepest, sharpest kind of futurists that I work with, they all bet they have ADHD. The celebrity ones, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, first thing they would admit. But they’re also so wicked brilliant. Like, you can jump out of the plane, but you can’t fly the plane. Right. And so I learned a lot of discovery and the flying, because when you look at the cockpit and you see all the steam dials and all the buttons and you’re not quite sure where to start, it’s very indicative to the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s like, where do I get started? And there is a process. When you fly a plane, you do need to know where to start. But when you’re an entrepreneur, I don’t think there really is a right or wrong answer of where you start. You can start just with the plan. I know people that start with a really detailed business plan. I know the people that my plan was on a napkin. I literally was on a napkin. And I just thought, but I have a friend who had told me three years before, you need to do this.

And I laughed and I said, no, maybe someday. And then when I actually saw the crack open in the window to bolt and leave the corporate world and create my own business, I never looked back. Do you think there’s a right where to start when you want to bolt out?

No. In fact, the small plane is probably the greatest analogy to it. Even more, it’s more like getting into the small plane, whereas somebody goes, have a good flight, Dr. Jones, you know, there’s a rough start ahead, but there’s no option. Actually, one of the most amazing podcast and interview moments I recently saw, it was Elon Musk was on the Lex Friedman podcast. And this is an interview skill that I show this moment to people and people think I’m an idiot because I keep saying you have to check this moment out. And it’s 30 seconds of silence. I said, do you understand? This is the moment he asks him. He says, Elon, what do you think about when you think about what can go wrong and why you shouldn’t, why you won’t be able to make it to Mars, and why we won’t be able to do something? And just the beauty of the silence. And he says, I can’t, I don’t there is no it’s just effort. We’ll get it done. But to give him the moment to just like air that out and sit in silence, it was beautiful. And that’s when you think about, should I do this?

You run it through your head and then you go, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t.

The thing I think is most interesting about Elon, and I’ve never met him. I’ve heard him speak. I’ve been in with maybe 50ft of him. He’s a lot taller than I thought he would be. That was one observation.

Yeah, it is funny. You normally see them just in pictures and realize he’s a gigantic fellow.

Yeah. Well, I don’t think Elon actually, he’s genuine to who he is and he doesn’t care. And so he’s going to go to Mars if he chooses to go to Mars and thinks that he’s done with Solver X and he’s done for Tesla. And I just kind of stand back. I worked years ago on one of his first projects, which was a digital media kind of platform, and it failed, but a lot of entrepreneurial things fail. And so you just keep on going. But I think he generally works on things that he’s passionate and believes in because you can’t have that much success and not believe in it. You just can’t go back to that core. And it’s like, well, what is that Core we all hear the stories about as a kid, he stood out and he was different. And I bet he was. He was probably that kid you didn’t want to sit behind because he’d probably pull your pigtails or something. But I think it’s interesting that I had a conversation a few weeks ago with the President of SETI, which is the center for Extraterrestrial. And it’s really interesting the stuff that they do and they have very high caliber scientists that are working to better our future by looking at the unobvious.

And I think that’s one of the things that scientists do. They don’t look at the obvious. They look at the unobvious. So where do we actually have things like in the ocean or in space or on Mars? These are the people that found the two new moons. They found the new species of crab a few years ago. And I think it’s really interesting that we have so much untapped in the universe is that there’s a race to go to other places, but there’s so much that we still have to discover here.


And I love to go to space because I would just like to experience that. But when I recently watched the movie “Don’t Look Up”, I thought I was curious about that type of stuff when I was a kid. When looking back at all the different moon launches and now we go to the moon, it’s like, oh, yeah, we went to the moon. I went and got a gallon of milk. But there was a time. And so I love the movie “Hidden Figures”, because that movie brought out a story of the going to the moon that we had heard before the back end story. And that’s the type of stuff that personally, again, excites me because everybody has a story. And when I was in College, we were told not to write our obituary as a journalism project, which is quite common. We were told to write our manifesto. And I thought that was great because that meant that we had to have a conviction to something, not what nice things people are going to say about us. And I would like people to say nice things about me someday. But I think ultimately it’s like, what do you stand for?

And what’s that conviction and that driving force that made you make a decision at some point that you’re chosen to do this? And that’s what I feel about my podcast is like, it started out as an idea and it’s kind of grown. And I have this amazing team that I work with. I have a writer that collaborates and crafts the narrative. And I have a producer. My daughter would say, mom, you’re a little high maintenance. And I’m like, yeah, you know, this was going to be done in the home office, and now I actually have a team. And then my social team, it’s evolved. But I feel that I have a personal, personal consciousness. And like, I’m going to say I want to give back to each one of my guests something that they’re going to feel good, that is going to be a historical document, almost like the old Encyclopedia Britannicas. Have anybody remember those? And my father would never invest in those. He says, that’s a waste of money. They’re going to be outdated in a few years. You’re going to be able to get everything online. My father would say that. And I’m like, but what’s online?

I had a typewriter. And so I forget my neighbor’s old editions, which is funny.

Yeah. You get the previous editions. You’re reading old things that don’t exist or that have been undiscovered.

Do you remember when things like Lexus Nexus was like new technology?


And I went to College, undergraduate and graduate school without Google. Most of the millennials went without Google. Gen X’s, no google. Baby boomers, definitely no. So how did we survive? I think we survived and our creativity and our unstoppable curiosity and whether people are conscious that we have it, it’s there. You just have to untap it.

Yeah. And I’ll say to bring together the value of what you do, we can talk all day about what Elon does and SpaceX does. And there’s fantastic things that get done. But in fact, what brings it to the most ears and eyes and makes them care about it to the point where they would make it successful. There was a Netflix documentary about the group of four who were like normies. Right. Just traditional citizens who were citizen space Flyers now. And so citizen astronaut suddenly has this story behind it. And it brought excitement to what was being done in the same way that hidden figures. If it had been done when it happened, imagine how much further the space race would be if we had that.

Yeah. Well, and I think that’s the importance of Stem education. I’m a huge advocate of Stem education. And I don’t know, I think growing up, we always had it, and then we took a bunch of stuff out of it, and particularly public schools started reducing programs, and maybe private schools had more programs than others, but we took so much out. It’s kind of like the food industry. Right. We’re going to take all the organic good stuff out and we’re going to put in all this homogenized substitute things, and then the taste goes away. And then we found out they’re bad or worse for our health, and then the original purity of a product. And I think that’s been the same thing with education and Stem education is that when I grew up, literally, I was told that there was boys math and there was girls. They had gender. Math. Math has a gender? And so I was thirsty and hungry to go in the harder math. But I was always told, I don’t need that. And I’ve talked to so many people that experience that as well. But because I was an honors student, I always bullied my way over to the boys math forgiven.

And then that’s changed, obviously. And I was really happy to see my daughter in school. Never had to deal with that. But we have a shortage of Stem professionals and particularly women. And so we can get kids excited about science and technology and engineering and the arts, because I think when you have a deep technical background, but you also have appreciation for arts and understanding of how the two intersect. Industrial designers working together with engineers have to work very similar to storytelling. They have to look and listen and then go apply. And I think it’s interesting how mechanical engineers and industrial engineers work together to create these ideas and bring them to market and particularly consumer electronics. We have to inspire kids to have that curiosity.

It’s a creative process. It’s an amazing thing. It’s funny. Looking back to my own. So when I was in high school, I took business English, which was like and typing. It was basically the idea that you would learn how to write a memorandum, and it was like learning traditional office lingo. And it was funny. I was born in 72, so this was at a point when I was in typing class, we were on IBM Selectric Typewriters, and it was me and 29 female students. And I was the weird one because at the time, it was seen as, like, working towards administrative work, and it was generally seen as focused on traditionally female roles. I was the odd one out, but then five years later, it was 50 50.

We placed a week girls.

I know it was like heaven, one of the 29 at a target rich environment, but five years later, it evened out. And in other areas we still struggle and we have to. But I love this idea of, like, teach creativity as part of technology and empower them through that story, and they realize it’s a beautiful pairing of things. And so I have to applaud that you do it so well. Definitely a book in you, and I would love to read it. I’m cheating by listening to your podcast and getting the little snippets along the way.

Yeah, well, I’m kind of stuck in the middle of my book. Like, I was describing the bookings. I think I know what it’s going to be. I just need to find a discipline to sit down and do it and think once I do it, then I won’t look back. But I want to comment on your typing. So my mother said, Typing will be one of the best skills you ever have. And I’m like, Mom, I don’t want to type. I don’t want to learn to type. I’m not going to have a typing job. She said, you want to work in the newsroom, you better know how to type. She was right. And so I took typing in summer school because I didn’t want it to interfere with my regular academics. So I learned to type 125 up to 150 words a minute without error, because that ultimately got me the job interview that I could go in for because it used to be a typing test. There’s no keyboarding test anymore. And I know in editorial they don’t ask you to take a test, but it gave me that entry point to working in the newsroom.

And to be able the faster you type, the more stories you had given to you to set up in the word processor to then go to production. And then eventually I go, this is where I get a little naughty. I said, the she devil can be a little bit naughty. I would actually edit things where I would type and make them sound better, only without approval. So when you finally get that call to go into the managing Editor’s office because you’ve been known to be changing copy. But the much appreciated, thinking out of the box desire to do that was appreciated and got me promoted out of what I call the editorial pool, which is ultimately the secretarial pool, which was male and female, but predominantly female people just typing away. And yes, I feel very proud about that. That was a little bit of my naughtiness that got me to the next level. But I think one of the things that is fascinating about technology is now on my phone. I could literally write up a Press release, a pitch, do a presentation, pretty much my mobile office. And in the hybrid world, we have access to content 24 by seven, constantly.

I wake up and I try not to look straight at the world news because it’s a little bit disturbing, particularly today things I’ve seen, and I go, this is not how I want to wake up. I wake up to my lemon tree, literally. And I look at that, and sometimes there’s no lemons. But right now it’s prolifically, full of lemons. And I say, oh, life gives you lemons, right? You go to make lemonade. So it’s very symbolic. There’s no happy accident. I have a lemon tree there. But no two days are alike. And I think that’s the great thing about what I’ve chosen. My career is as a news reporter. No two days were like in public relations. No two days are alike. No two clients are alike. And that’s the kind of a common thread that I’ve seen is having that constant curiosity means I’m going to have a lot of diversity.

What’s given you success so far. And as a consumer of your stories, I gotta say, Donna, you do it well. That’s a magical thing, isn’t it? One quote I get, and although he’s somewhat obviously a controversial figure these days, but I enjoy some of the quotes as Dr. Jordan Peterson. And he says that creative people often create an incredible amount of value, rarely for themselves. And when you think of that pool, of how much creativity was in that pool and how few of them will exit that pool, it is amazing. So you deservedly made it outside of the pool. And I could say anybody that gets to work with you is doing well and will no doubt be pleased with the outcome. It’s been a real pleasure to share time with you, and I will definitely make sure that we’re going to have links to your podcast and to everything about you. What’s the best way if people do want to get a hold of you, Donna, how do they do that?

There’s a couple of ways. Probably my easiest business way is LinkedIn. It’s just Donna Loughlin and that’s L-O-U-G-H-L-I-N. “beforeithappenedshow” on Instagram and beforeithappened.com for the podcast. And my email is Donna@lmgpr.com, and you can use any of those avenues to get a hold of me and I’d be delighted to chat, mentor or share stories or if you think that you are a candidate for the show absolutely email me as well.

Well, I definitely think we got some folks that we can send your way and like I said maybe one day I’ll be lucky and I’ll be a founder myself and I’ll have a story to share and I’ll be there and it would be a pleasure to be on your show. So beautifully done. So congratulations on continued work that’s going on there.

Oh, thank you. Now do we get your disco music?

I know sadly there’s very little disco in my life. The hilarious thing is my name came from so I’m old enough that email is new, right? You and I remember those days. Potentially you remember when email started and I would move from place to place when I lived in Toronto. And every time I would move you would get to a location that didn’t have the same service provider. So we have to go from Bell to Rogers same as AT&T Verizon and every time I would move they would give you a new email address and it was like @rogers.com I was like, oh@bell.com and I moved back to a place that had Rogers I was like, perfect I’ll be Ericwright@rogers.com again. They’d be like, oh no, that one’s taken. No, I know it was my email address. They’re like, oh well you can’t reuse the email. No, it’s mine. And that was like AOL was beginning and so what I finally did was I bit the bullet and I was in a bunch of different bands and one of the bands I was in called the discoposse. We did extremely heavy versions of disco songs and it was kind of fun and so I thought I’m going to use that as my email domain because no one will take that.

It’s an awesome name. Well, my favorite disco song was the BeeGees’ “Staying Alive” the last couple of years. So I think that was a good one for all of us to dance to. Dancing into it. Well, thank you so much for having me, Eric, as a guest. Hopefully I’ve ignited some curiosities and people to do something great.

Most definitely. Most definitely. Thank you very much.

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.

Sponsored by the 4-Step Guide to Delivering Extraordinary Software Demos that Win DealsClick here and because we had such good response we have opened it up to make the eBook and Audiobook more accessible by offering it all for only 5$

Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing

Does your startup need strategic technical content? The team at GTM Delta delivers SEO-optimized, compelling content that connects your company with technical users to help grow your credibility, and your pipeline.

Need Podcast gear? We are partnered up with Podcast Gear Pro to share tips, gear ideas and much more. Check it out at PodcastGearPro.com.

Jesson Bradshaw is the CEO of Energy Ogre, an electricity management company that uses proprietary systems to ensure its customers are always getting the best prices on their energy electricity.

More than what he does day-to-day leading the team at Energy Ogre (https://energyogre.com), Jesson has a wealth of knowledge on energy production, technology, and our impact on the earth. This was a really enjoyble and informative discusison.

Check out Energy Ogre here: https://energyogre.com

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.

Sponsored by the 4-Step Guide to Delivering Extraordinary Software Demos that Win DealsClick here and because we had such good response we have opened it up to make the eBook and Audiobook more accessible by offering it all for only 5$

Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing

Does your startup need strategic technical content? The team at GTM Delta delivers SEO-optimized, compelling content that connects your company with technical users to help grow your credibility, and your pipeline.

Need Podcast gear? We are partnered up with Podcast Gear Pro to share tips, gear ideas and much more. Check it out at PodcastGearPro.com.

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!

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

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.

So let’s celebrate this together. So go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. And while you’re protecting, make sure you protect your data in transit as well. If you’re not using a VPN, you definitely need to think about why this is so important. We’re in a dangerous world. Let’s make sure we reduce the risk exposure when you’re surfing the Internet. Whether it’s out in the world or even at home, go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse. You can check out ExpressVPN. I’m a user. I’m a customer. I really like it. So go check it out.

Oh, yeah. And buy Diabolical Coffee. All right. Enjoy the show.

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.

Right. Yeah.

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.

So true.

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.

Great. Thank you very much.

Alright. Thanks, Eric.

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Kison Patel is the Founder and CEO of DealRoom, a project management software for complex financial transactions. Kison has over a decade of experience as an M&A advisor and developed DealRoom after experiencing first-hand a number of deep-seated, industry-wide inefficiencies and challenges.

We cover a ton of really great lessons on the productizing of process and how Kison has scaled teams and culture. If you’re a founder or anyone in a startup, these are solid lessons and Kison was a real pleasure to chat with.

Plus check out his podcast, book, and more at https://kisonpatel.com/ 

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Good morning, everybody or afternoon, wherever you are, whatever time it is you listen to this. This is the DiscoPosse podcast and you’re in for a treat because you’ve got Kison Patel from M&A Science. Kison is also a podcaster, a great content creator and somebody who really has a mindful approach to his sharing of information and really wants to help people. So this is a great discussion around the process of founding his original ideas and productizing them working with the team. We talk about culture. It’s a really great, wide ranging discussion.

In order to make great discussions like this happen, I do have to, of course, give you a shout out. And that is you all make this happen. We just blew past 100,000 views on the YouTube channel, so make sure you go check that out. And of course, who else makes this possible is our fine friends who support the podcast, including everything you need for your data protection needs from the friends at Veeam Software. I’m a fan because I’m actually using their platform myself for protecting my own real production data have done for a long time and worked with a ton of people in the community.

So if you want to really think about protecting your assets, we’ve got ransomware that’s running wild and rampant. So let’s get rid of the risk by bringing Veeam into the rescue. So easy to do, you can head over to vee.am/DiscoPosse. Takes you right to a perfect landing page. And I’ve also got a really great campaign still running. So head on over there. Again, vee.am/DiscoPosse, nice and easy. And when it comes to protecting things, it’s number one protect your data whether it’s at rest or in flight.

And if you’re somebody who does travel, even though we don’t do much of it lately, you want to make sure that even when you’re at home and when you’re on other people’s networks, you want to protect it by using a VPN. This is important because number one, gets control over your data in flight, protects it. And secondly, it also can do things like prevent unnecessary ads, perhaps even like this one from getting through. So it’s easy to do. All you got to do is go to tryexpressvpn/DiscoPosse.

I’m a customer and I definitely endorse how it is important. Plus, I use it for web testing, which is really cool. You can actually choose your location. You can test for latency and see what the response is from different parts of the world. And while you’re doing that, of course, don’t forget to grab a nice tasty devilishly good cup of coffee from diabolicalcoffee.com. We have some wicked cool mugs. So go check it out.

All right.

This is Kison Patel. I hope you enjoy the show.

I’m Kison Patel with M&A Science, and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.

Thank you very much. This is going to be an area where we can cover a lot of exciting ground. You’re doing work through both the product side with what you’ve done with DealRoom, you’ve got more product work that you’ve done. You’re doing work on the actual activity of mergers and acquisition. You’ve got a huge important and stored background in that. And you are a prolific creator of contents both through, you’ve got your podcast, you’ve got video work that you’re doing, and thankfully, I get to share some video time with you, which is great.

And you’ve written a book. You are busy. You’ve got a great voice, not just on the microphone, but literally. I love the way that you bring content to this world. So with that, if you want to give a quick intro for folks that are new to you and we’ll talk about what you’re doing with M&A science and with DealRoom and much more.

Happy to. My name is Kison Patel and I come from a background doing M&A advisory. I did it for about ten years. Working originally with private owners of small businesses to buy, sell and then grew in the career to work with corporates on similar transactions at larger scale. Then the recession happened around 0607. We did a lot of reflection, found that out myself and aspiring to get into the software space, got involved with a start up that didn’t work out. But what it led me to was an understanding and the way that software engineers would use project management software to manage building software.

And then I took that inspiration and started the company DealRoom a bit later in 2012 as project management software for mergers and acquisitions. Then learn shortly after there’s a whole bunch of things that you need to learn that come along with it in terms of how to build software, properly build a good software, how to get market fit, how to really develop a go-to market and then rebuild your software for scale. Because once you start getting customers, you realize that little thing you originally built with wasn’t really built or stood up for scale.

So it was a lot of fun experience. I was really fortunate in that journey. A friend of mine in marketing was, hey, man, you should do a podcast. And I was like, what the hell is a podcast? Don’t worry about it, you’re the next big thing. And that was probably the best market advice I ever received. We started podcasting about five years ago with a podcast called M&A Science. I think the one thing is, I was fortunate enough to have a good marketing team that was really good at repurposing content.

We would take transcripts of these interviews, write blogs, eBooks, and then recently published our second book. And then that evolved into doing online events, which evolved into owning and operating an online school for M&A. So now we have a few different business lines today, back in a nutshell.

Yeah, well, this is what’s really sort of the key story when you talk about successful startups, and I’ve seen it. I’m lucky at the point that this will go out. We’re just past 200 episodes. So I’ve talked to a lot of founders and you’ve seen this consistency in the success is often taking real lived experience and then translating it into productizing and creating products that very genuinely map to experience that you’ve brought to that company. And it can be through as a technical founder or as a business lead founder and finding a technical co founder because of your really strong background in M&A, and then your willingness to bring it in the open through podcasting, people often say, like, Well, you’re giving all this stuff away. Why would I buy the book?

Well, I’ve read the book.

It’s fantastic, right? It’s a great read. Secondly, it’s a way to kind of continue to go back and reference like, okay, where am I at it? You hear about sort of The Magic Box principle as another popular book and the idea of where you are in the acquisition process. But then when it comes to DealRoom, I like this. You’ve brought together two important things. One, you brought business to a technical platform, and at the same time, you brought development learnings through that previous startup to how you are going to build and scale DealRoom.

So I really want to find where those two things came together. When did you know it was working, that it was going to bring these two things together, or what were those first few months in defining what DealRoom would be?

Okay. So this is a really good question here. When I look at where we’re at today and where we first started is very different. And I wouldn’t say the attribution success was so much of our M&A experience. That’s what got the foot in the door. And I would attribute 10% of our success today from that. The other 90% comes from being obsessed, being extremely, that’s our competitive edge is that we obsess over M&A. We can talk about it nonstop within our own organization. I’m constantly encouraging team members to learn about M&A, to be able to speak about it, understand the specific pain points challenges.

When we look at those early days, the problem you have when you come from the background and the industry is you bring a lot of assumptions with you. So with the experience that I worked in to, primarily worked in hospitality and small financial institutions, the experience I had in those markets is what I based a lot of the assumptions and how we should build a product and take it to market. And you’ll find out at some point either, ideally, sooner than later, that you’re wrong about a lot of those things.

And then the right thing to do is build the feedback loop really go through a process where you can validate your pain points that your problems you’re solving for. That’s a whole process of its own to be able to do that in an unbiased way because one, it’s our idea. We have some entitlement around it, and we tend to ask people for feedback that know us and they want to be nice and encourage us to follow and chase dreams and things of that sort. But that’s not what we want.

We want to identify who the cohort of customers are and we get the unbiased feedback on what are the key problems that you’re facing and understand how I see it and if it aligns. We went through that process about going through the first few months. We started with an idea of building a marketplace for M&A. We thought, here’s the lifecycle of deals. We’re going to start off with the very front end. Where do you find deals? How do buyers and sellers connect? And that’s where we found out we’re wrong about a lot of things.

We put this marketplace together. In the first year, Eric, we operated it. We had about 200 deals listed and 1200 users and realized we just build a sophisticated dumpster for deals. It wasn’t going to go very far. And it was at that time we realized we need to go back to the drawing board and step back because it was the typical thing as the founder, where you have ideas, you make an outline with what they call feature creep. You build this massive outline with 100 different features you wanted to do.

Then you’re like, all right, let’s start with the top and start building this front end stuff. We went back and took more. I think if you Google customer development interviews, there’s a lot of articles about it, and it kind of walks you through how do you validate the problem that you’re solving for. When we went through that exercise, and the goal for us was to do 40 of these interviews to really validate what we’re doing. And we realized one, finding deals wasn’t the biggest problem for the customers that we were looking to work with.

It was more on the management side. There was a lot around how do you get deals through the process, coordinate with so many different people and drive efficiency. It wasn’t so much managing the front end to find the deal, it was really managing everything in between, so close. So we shifted our focus and went through a whole other series of challenges because we focused on one market and had a lot of uphill challenges where we didn’t understand the competitive market, the legacy technology they were using, their sales model. A lot of whining and dining.

They’re just very relationship driven, and we’re trying to go to market as a light touch technology solution that wasn’t happening. You’re not competing against late dinners and nights out at the nightclub, ball game tickets with funny market.

There’s ‘no dinner at Nobu’ option on the checklist of buttons you can click, right?

Yeah. Like a free dinner with it. So it took us a little while we probably got into year two, three and realized our early adopters were actually corporates, we shifted our focus and started working with corporates back then, and our product evolved as you work with customers and continue the feedback loop where we started solving for the integration challenges after they buy a company need to integrate it. And now we’re more recently doing the pipeline management on the front end. And when I look at the product today, very little of it is from my original ideas, very little of it.

It’s 95% from customers. Or maybe there’s some little insight we got from engineers and problem solving. But, yeah, I don’t know, when I look at these companies or aspiring entrepreneurs today, it’s so much of what I emphasize is really assuring that you’re validating the problem you’re solving for and continue that feedback loop as you start modeling out solutions, even early mockups and keep getting feedback. And it allows you to show people you’ve committed to it. Identify your early customers, more importantly, give validation. So if you do go to market and raise money, there’s so much evidence that you’ve done to validate that.

Hey, I got this idea and I’ve talked to so many people. This is what I’ve learned. You know how to speak the industry language better, better speak on the problem you’re solving and how you’re going about solving it.

When you read every founding story of a company, it’s always like, this is chapter four, and it’s the pivot, right? And it’s funny that chapter one is about the founder. Chapter two is about how the cofounders meet and chapter three, this is where it was. It started in a Starbucks in San Francisco or Pete’s Coffee, I guess, is probably the more common thing. Or in Chicago, I’m not sure what the local favorite coffee joint is, but then chapter four is we realized we had to pivot, and it sounds like a shift in a timeline, like it happened on a weekend, but it’s a grueling process to be able to evaluate and make sure that you’re doing the right thing through that process.

When you began it, Kison, versus when you are on the other side of it. Where would the perception deviate from how long and how challenging that process would be to pivot into what your market approach was?

Good question. I think I remember asking a friend for advice about marketing, and he said, I don’t want you spending a dollar in marketing. I want you to go back to the drawing board because I don’t think your business model is where it needs to be to put marketing money into it. And he challenged me to go back and really validate the problems that we’re solving for. So it took some time because we really went back to the drawing board and did it in a different way.

We got out of the drawing room and went out and started talking to people, went through a whole series of interviews. I was fortunate I had interns that summer, so I had some extra help. And it’s nice when you have two people doing the interview, one person really focus on asking the questions.


And important to learn how to go about it because you want to approach it. Two things. One is being dumb, where you put away your assumptions, assume you’re wrong, assume you know nothing, so be dumb.

And then two, be curious. I think sometimes we get a little, we ask a question and move on to the next question. But that’s not being curious. Being curious is really getting in there. Like, why is that happening? Why do you have that problem? Well, why did so and so do that and digging in to really identify some root causes. I think that going through that and then being patient where you can know that, I’m not going to have a couple of conversations and change my mind or go make a big decision, like pivoting the company, but that we can make a commitment.

At the time, we committed to doing 40 of these interviews, and that’s what really led us to see a pattern from these different interviews. Then we started realizing that we needed to shift and focus in the area that matters most to the people we’re looking to sell to.

It’s a real challenging period, and especially in a founder’s life, because, like I said, you have a hypothesis and down the road, eventually, the hypothesis may not be, it’s not that it was wrong. It was just that in order to go to market, there may be something else. There’s a hidden treasure amongst the hypothesis that’s the actual marketable productized thing that you can bring. But it’s such a weird thing when someone just asks you that bold question of like, what if you just actually talk to somebody and found out whether they actually need to solve this problem.

Actually, ironically enough, in a merger with two large companies. At that time, I worked at Sunlight Financial and we were merging with Clarica, and I got brought into, they’re like, one of those, like, they tap you on the shoulder. Can you come over here and I need you to sign this paper and we’re just going to bring you in and chat with a few people. And I was one of the technologists that was in the architecture team, and we were suddenly in a room with these people like, oh, these are all these senior architects from this other organization.

Not hard to put together what’s about to happen? And so we were, as you said, right, bringing our assumptions, bringing our sort of bravado to, like, I know how to do this. And then after a couple of days, we actually brought in a fellow from Microsoft, and he was this young kid. When you say that, I’m like, I’m an older gentleman. I could say young kid proudly, he’s about 26 years old, and he was from the consulting services, and he walks in and literally, it’s like he walks in, puts his jacket down.

He looks at the diagram. He’s like, what are you trying to achieve here? So we need to bring these two directories together. And he just says, what if we just created the third directory and actually just got rid of these two altogether and just bring them up. And the brashness of that approach, like immediately, we were like, you’re torn because you’re like, I don’t like that I’ve got to give up what we just did. But you’re like, he’s probably right. And that’s what it was just like the fact that that question got asked by a third party allowed us to be free in accepting it.

And that’s what’s really hard to separate yourself from because you bring the hypothesis, you bring the team the idea, and then somebody comes from outside. And it’s such a beautiful moment when you’re like, you’re right. I should really think about this for a second.

True. You never asked too many questions.

No. And that’s it. And through that moment, I’ll say, right, you’ve been an M&A advisor for a long time. So how did it feel that all of a sudden you had probably been the person that would bring that question to many people, and all of a sudden it was being asked of you. What was that feeling like?

It’s so different now, coming from background, when you work with clients, you advise them on transactions, represent them as buyers, represent the sellers. So today we are a company that’s based on products around education and technology. So I feel like we’re the closest resemblance is to the people selling the picks and shovels to the gold miners during the rush days. We’re seeing a lot of increasing activity around M&A, a lot of interest around it. And different even, new sectors, even smaller companies are starting to think about acquisitions earlier.

For us, we provide a lot of educational resources around best practices. How do you go about doing this in a way that doesn’t disrupt the business so much that a lot of people get pissed off and quit and you lose a lot of value when that happens. And instead, keep everybody motivated and align so you can hit the goals that you originally planned with doing the acquisition. To, also the other technology part of our practice is setting up, which is now a lifecycle management solution that we can take all these.

A lot of times, there are companies using a bunch of Excel trackers and a lot of communications, primarily through email, and we’ll set it up in a nice stack. So there’s a single database to run your pipeline, run your diligence management, coordinate with all the folks you need to both internally, externally, enable good collaboration and also preparation for those integration activities and use that same environment so you can run and actually execute integration, and you don’t have any delays with team members having to relearn all this stuff.

They learned about the company already, and that’s been another great part in working with organizations and setting that up. And today, now we’re working with larger multinational companies like BP, Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health, Emerson. But it’s very different from going from one end where you work on a smaller transaction where you’re very hands on. You’re in the middle of the deal, directly, working with the client, the lawyers and really hands on making sure the deal gets through. Now to be on the other side, we got to work with the team, but we don’t have all the intensity or pressure that we do.

And I enjoy the problem solving part of it because you’re dealing with more, which you’re familiar with, Eric. With technical challenges combined with directories and things of that sort. And for us, we get to do it on more of the logistics through the whole process. So we don’t get into a lot of the technical integrity of the challenges with integrating companies. But it’s fun. I definitely like what we do now. I like the fact that we can come up with an idea or a way to solve a problem and scale it out, get it in front of a lot of people.

Well, that brings in the perfect sort of question around scaling. And you’ve talked in the past as a founder, sort of the right time to scale, which is probably one of the most common mistakes that people do. It’s this idea of like, going, when is the MVP ready? And that’s another one I hear all the time. People are like, if you think it’s ready, you waited too long. And also the challenge of, you’ve talked in the past about people that build for scale when they haven’t even gone to market.

And when you developed your platform, did you find that sweet spot where those things needed to line up?

I remember for us, a pivotal moment was when we had our site crashing almost every day and we had paying customers. I remember specifically, we had a 200 million dollar deal we’re managing, and it was so hectic and chaotic because they’re trusting us with managing a significant transaction. Our site keeps crashing. Bugs are popping up, and that was the point we knew, we need to build for scale. We ended up bringing in a CTO that helped re-architect, rebuild the product to follow a microservices architecture, build a team that knew how to write code for scale.

Now, it’s funny if we look back at that. I mean, remember, even Twitter was sort of famous in the early days for what they called the Fail Whale, right? And it would be down for hours at a time. Quite sometimes it was actually down for a couple of days at a time. They had active people they were bringing into this platform and it just couldn’t keep up. And it would just go down. Back then, there was no, is it down or is it just me.com, right? People just sort of generally accept it.

But now it’s funny if you launch DealRoom right now, and you had suffered that kind of an outage, the risk would be, I think, much different, the level of acceptance of people on the dependence of software and availability of that software. It’s integral. Now, what do you think if you had that sort of challenged moment right now, what would it look like to your customers and keeping them?

You know, that’s an interesting thing, because you see this thing happened in the market where companies can get hacked into, and nowadays you got to be prepared. It could be anything. Could be one employee fall for a phishing scheme and the same password everywhere. Now you’re very vulnerable. It’s a challenge of its own. It’s a challenge of its own to really manage. I think if we had to deal with it today, we’d have a lot of calls, but I think you’d rebound over it. If you look at all these organizations, like Solar Winds, some of these other firms, we have a big one with what was it, not AOL, Yahoo. That was Right-Media acquisition.

They had a big breach they had announced.

That’s right. Yeah. Worst possible time, right?

Yeah, it is. But like with the solar winds, it created a lot of awareness. I feel like it made it tougher for the startups out there that are working with large companies. Now they’re getting more scrutinized in terms of how they’re handling their security. But in terms of them, they definitely, like, bounce back. And the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad press. The older I get, the more I believe in that. You think about the news with Robin Hood and everything recently, and I’m like, unbuy their IPO.

I’m like, no, that’s all good. It doesn’t matter. It just got their name out there. And everyone in the world has heard of Robinhood. Now you can always take the bad character and become good. We’ve seen Microsoft go through it’s cycle in terms of how the market looked at it, and now they’ve completely turned it around. But as long as you’re in the news, you keep building brand equity. I think we would probably explode with our support if we had something like that to happen, but you’d recover from it.

I’m knocking on a lot of wood to make sure.

Let’s talk about going beyond product one. So you have DealRoom. You are doing a lot around the education and you’re wrapping stuff around it with M&A science, which is really cool. We’ll get into that. Actually, I’m really excited about that area. Then you sort of solve one problem, then you say, okay, well, now we’ve got to effectively build this. Everybody has a data room, right? We’ve gotten this problem solved with managing the flow of the diligence in the transaction. And so you’ve got other products that you’re developing.

So let’s talk about the rest of the portfolio.

Yeah, we have books. We look at them as products. We wrote a book called Agile M&A. It’s a fun book. The whole trend right now in software is taking Agile and making it as complex as you can with scaled Agile frameworks and things of that sort. And we did the opposite. We took the idea of Agile and dummied it down so even a high school kid could understand it. Since that’s where we got to make it for our finance folks to quickly understand as well. And the origination of it, too, was a lot of the things I noticed our own engineers were doing.

I kept correlating to my M&A experience and thought we should have done this. We should have managed diligence this way. This would have been way more efficient, made a lot more sense. I started blogging about it. I don’t think to this day, a single person has read those blogs, but it led me to interviewing Google and Atlassian where those ideas were validated. I brought up some of those examples and they’re like, yeah, we’re actually doing that. A lot of it stemming from the engineering culture.


That was a good wake up call that gave me inspiration, motivation to write a book, and try to put a case study behind it.

Then I remember, Christina, at Atlassian was like, don’t just write a book, make it a framework and look at our team plays. We took a lot of inspiration from Atlassian’s team plays and built around the idea of having game plans and plays and have actually encouraged practitioners in the industry to write their own little techniques. That was the bigger problem. Like even going back to starting the podcast. The idea of starting a podcast in our industry wasn’t simply to get talk time. It was aligning it with a mission where we noticed in working with these corporations, there was a lack of standardization.

All these large companies were working with had a very unique way of doing M&A, and that’s where we realized the bigger problem was the fragmentation of the industry. Everybody’s essentially working in a silo. It’s not like accounting or law, where there’s a lot of common bodies to reference and standardization. M&A didn’t have that. It’s just all Wild West. Everybody’s got their own way of doing it. And that led to the idea of, can we find what actually works? Can we throw some signs here and find where the proven techniques are, identify them, have some evidence around this.

With M&A, it’s difficult. It’s not quantitative. We’re not transferring currency, and we analyze a bunch of quantitative data. Instead, we do qualitative interviews, just like we were doing with those discovery to validate the problems we’re solving and how we’re going about the problems we’re trying to solve for and how we go about solving them. Now, it was about can we take that same approach? And we’re already learning so much around this, but interview practitioners in the industry and enable them to share their lessons learned and doing the same approach.

We’re doing a series of these interviews and identifying the patterns to really understand what are the key challenges practitioners face? How have they overcome them and what actually works? Do we see a specific way that actually works? That’s what started this whole series of building content for M&A based off of those interviews, but then creating dedicated resources to build more structured content like the courses and things of that sort.

This is the beauty of your approach is that you continue in the true Agile fashion, right? As we look for what’s the next thing? The OG sort of Waterfall approach of stuff. We’ve seen it fail in every possible angle of both business and technology. It’s been successful despite itself, I think, there’s really the truth of that early project management world. But nowadays, it’s really fantastic that you can see it come into play. We talk about Gene Kim as sort of one of the greatest voices around early movements with DevOps.

But he says I took everything from Deming and from Goldratt. I just took manufacturing stuff and then brought in here Eric Ries. Of course, Lean Startup is about based on lean manufacturing. Their human behaviors, that when you unlock the science behind it, you realize that you can have opinionated approaches to things and you see it play out in the M&A space. There are sector specific things that have to be fairly opinionated for regulatory reasons and such. But generally, like I said, there’s a playbook.

There are things that are in there, and then you can find the wiggle room around that we as humans, we almost don’t want that to be that simple. I guess it’s kind of a funny. It’s a dichotomy of the human system is that we’re like, it can’t be this easy. There’s no way.

Yeah, there’s some real truth to that. Well, humans tend to complicate everything beyond. There’s a lot of stuff out there. When you look at best practices and look at Agile, all these techniques, there’s too much out there. I think that’s what makes it challenging is there are so many things you can look at and whatever vertical, whatever industry or function you’re in. But ultimately, one common element that really drives success is a culture of continuous improvement. We mentioned Lean. I think that was my favorite part of Lean.

They used a Japanese term Kaizen, which is a word that translates to good change. But in reference to lean management, it’s continuous improvement. My youngest son actually named Kaizen because my wife had a dispute with giving my name. So somehow the compromise was Kaizen. So I was reading a book on lean management at the time. But if it’s one thing I could drive in any organization to create value is continuous improvement as a culture becoming change-oriented. Too many companies get stagnant. It just happens. It can happen in startups in various ways.

But the more you can continuously drive, to continuously influence continuous improvement, you really get something good there. That’s where we keep adding new products. We’re identifying new problems, creating new solutions, pushing ourselves to improve on all fronts. But I think that’s the one common thing that really drives a successful organization is that culture. Or if you’re in that situation, and you work in a larger entity. There is a lot of stagnant pieces that need to be awoken and revitalized with that kind of approach. And you reformat the culture and still that change-oriented values.

When it comes to doing something like this that has a financial impact, sometimes with it, is there additional responsibility that you feel in the rigor that you have to apply to the software development process and the way you run your teams because it’s dealing with sensitive financial transactions in the end, and especially when it comes to stuff like firm room where you’re dealing with really true regulatory public information. This is one that often separates people. The moment they say, like the more we have to touch money, stop developing your software because it’s a dangerous game.

Yeah, it is. There’s a lot. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could waste a lot of money, which I learned the hard way. You can waste a lot of money quickly and have nothing to show. That’s why I’m a big believer in taking the light rapid prototyping in the beginning, to really validate what you have and then have this clear expectation you’re going to rebuild what you stood up in order to have it ready for scale. That part is definitely one component of it.

I think thinking back the biggest challenge was balancing that with the security nature. Like you mentioned today, it’s a never ending thing. Every year, we’re dumping more and more money into security, dealing with adding more certifications. It’s all the SOC 2 Pen-Test, whatever other certifications more we grow as a company, we just reinvest into that front, I think especially it makes it easier now being all virtual. Then you just reallocate office expenses into your digital infrastructure, which includes security. Early years was extremely difficult. It takes about three years to really get security nailed down.

Looking back out of it, there are some deals we’ve done on the platform that we should not have been doing. We just did not have things set up the way they should have. It really takes. There’s two parts. There’s infrastructure and how you have that set up, and then there’s your actual application. What are you doing for us? Because the nature was managing highly sensitive information. We had to learn. What are the key things that help with that automating watermark so if a document does get out, you can trace it back to who leaked it out and making sure you have a really rigorous audit trail, which isn’t common in software, that every single click or interaction is tracked and logged and auditable and tamper proof at that.

There’s a lot of little things, and then you have to learn how to build that stuff. It just was a challenge of its own to really create those kind of functionality that, it’s truly secure. Like I said, you start getting things, but security is a roadmap like that thing, it’s a never ending roadmap.

For sure.

And you got to keep updating it and prioritizing it. Work with external teams to help you find out where you should be prioritizing.

You can’t treat security like a juice cleanse. This is not a thing that you just throw developers and a couple of weekends, like you said, it’s an evolving thing, especially as we see new compliance frameworks that come in new regulatory things that we got to be prepared for. But it’s funny when you say the early days, there were stuff where the systems may not necessarily today stand up where you were four years ago on this stuff. But the funny thing is, it was being done with paper being passed across tables in the past.

The irony is the rigor that we’re held to in systems technology is far greater than the failed human to human interactions of literally people talking in open hotel lobbies about a potential deal. And meanwhile, you’ve got people from some hedge fund just sending all their interns to walk around the base of every Shangri-La to see if they can find out what’s going on in the world.

Yeah, that’s so true.

Now the next piece is the idea of giving good information away and guiding through the community. And the result, whether even planned or unplanned, often of like, actually eventually leads to bringing business. And I think this is a beautiful thing. I love that you’ve got such a great education opportunity in what you’re doing, and you’re doing it through blogs and you’re doing it through your Academy. And then you probably will find by bringing this real good education to the world that those people will be like, hey, we’re about to go through a deal.

I think I know where I want to go. The folks that taught me how to do this. It’s an interesting move in business that you can educate first, and then business often comes as a result. How has that played out in how you’ve done work with the Academy?

Eric, if you’re going to build a startup today, that’s software focus, a part of your strategy should be building a media company within your company. It’s becoming a must because that’s allowed us to really position ourselves as a credible resource, trust our brand and allowed us to dominate over competitors. We have competitors bigger than us, and we’re out ranking them in Global Alexa ranking. We’re getting better speakers at our events at our podcast. We’re more in-tune with the community, and that’s the biggest driver of it is the fact that we’re running a media company within our organization.

We’re 30 people in the business now, and our marketing function is ten, in full stack. We got everything in house editors, podcast editors, video editors. We got multiple writers, full time designer just for marketing.

It is such a perfect phrase. I’m going to steal that totally from you. I love this idea that the media really is such an important part and we miss it because like I said, number one, it gets your voice out there. It allows you to create this beautiful narrative through storytelling. And that’s why the way that you write is beautiful because it’s like reading a conversation. And it’s not quite often, especially in technical companies. They treat it like technical writing, not like technical marketing, and their different things than new ones.

But technical writing is like manual creation, very distinct flow, very machine- like in the idea that simplified to the point, no fluff. But then technical marketing is show something technically, show something that’s detailed and in this case, the M&A, is the tech, the function behind it, but make people care about what they’re reading so that they stay through to the end. And like I said, I’m a fan of your content because the style of the writers that you’ve got has shown that I want to get to the last paragraph every time.

That’s great. I’m glad. I definitely got a great marketing team that drives a lot of that.

Now in going to the M&A side and your background when it goes right, it’s easy to recreate history on how it went right when it goes wrong. It’s really tough for us to visit that, but when it does go right and go wrong, how do you use your retrospective view to go to the Agile format to look back on a deal? Wherever it went and really bring that and try and find data and signal amongst what happened to then influence the way you would approach it the next time.

For us, we’re not hands on. We’re not in there engaging with the actual employees of the company that’s getting acquired. But we do spend a lot of time with the companies we work with, really understanding how their deals are going. Where do they see value getting leaked and what are the outcomes then going backwards and understanding what were some of the causes around that? I’ll tell you, this is the fun part to get into this. When we see M&A go wrong, it’s because of the people.

It is not financial or somebody screwed up the model. People having problems, communication problems, accountability problems. That’s the reason why you’ll see billion dollar deals get screwed up. We see deals where they did it for 5 billion a year later, they’re writing it down to 1 billion. A lot of value lost. Probably a lot of people left that company. I hate tattling on some of it because I don’t want to throw our own clients out of the bus. But we’ve seen it where they’ve bought a business unit for $3 billion and had a lot of aspiration on new products that they were going to introduce.

A year later, the whole executive team left frustrated with the way the integration was handled, and they end up writing down that business a year later for 1.3 billion. And five years later, there’s no innovation coming out of there.


What would have been probably a company that was on it’s up-and-up could have been a 510 billion dollars company today or greater, but it’s gone. It’s just going to be a small little thing that’s in a stagnant state and will probably stay there. So such a critical thing as the people experience.

And I would say the lesson learned from doing 100 of these M&A focused podcast is all about the people, align it from the very beginning. No surprises. What you have planned and what you’re going to do with that company you’re acquiring. Put that front and center. Put it to the point where there’s clarity and crystallization on what the final state is going to look like when both companies come and merge together and bring down the front. So both executives, the buying executive and the selling executives, CEOs, are aligned around it.

That’s one. That’s what that division is going to look like. From there, they can start developing a go-to-market outline and understand what that’s going to look like. I think the other thing is for those two CEOs to understand values. A lot of the problems when we talk about people conflicts and frustration are because of culture clash. We’ve seen a lot of examples of that. If you can align around that early, the way to really root it is by getting clarity on each organization’s values, then getting a sense of, hey, How’s this going to work?

Your organization has a very rigid, top down management approach. We’re a flat, believe in Agile empowerment and have our folks running their own show. How is this going to work together? And we may not want to fully integrate, maybe we can still work together but keep some of that level of independence and be open and clear about it, that it is a different culture and it’s not going to just integrate together. That stuff gets lost out the window. And I think of you grooting it by values allows you to really align.

When you do build a story and have the communication publicly to the employees, the customers, the vendors on this big event that’s going to happen. That’s going to create a lot of change and why it’s happening and then also, like, validating it. In addition to that story, we also see why we’re going to get along and can really articulate it well. And that’s an important thing. Thinking about the events that happen after you close a lot of change management, the largest amount of change management organization is going to go through.

There’s a nice narrative and everybody’s aligned around the rationale for the deal. And there’s a good story on, hey, this is actually exciting, and I want to be part of this like, heck, yeah, there’s opportunity for growth out of this. If this comes together and the organizations create the value that they see by combining these entities and creating a better solution for customers to be happier and acquire more customers. This is a great thing. And now I see what they’re doing, I want to be part of it. When you’re left in the dark and all you’re dealing with your own fear and uncertainty because you’re just like, oh, this acquisition is happening.

I know what that means. They’re going to want to cut costs.


And I know there’s not room for two lead PMS in this team or whatnot, so that fear, uncertainty, doubt sinks in and I’m going to start looking for another job. I haven’t even heard the news yet, but I’m already out there. It all comes back to the people. If you can manage the people experience from the very beginning, make it engaging. The other thing I think often doesn’t get done in M&A is a reverse diligence.

You’re doing diligence to understand if the company is worth paying for and the risk of it. But at the same time, you should be encouraging them to do diligence on your organization so they understand how it’s going to fit in as you complete the acquisition and be able to ask some of those questions, be able to get clarity, make them part of that understanding earlier. I think that empathy at the end of the day, if you can look across and we talk about curious earlier, but really spend the time to understand people are frustrated and you can see in their face.

You can always start when you interact or meet somebody and I’m doing a lot of this on video, but you could tell if they’re happy, having a good day, you’re having a bad day, something’s up, you have something you want to talk about, you can see it. And if you lean in with that, people tend to open up and really sends them out. Like, get a good understanding and some things you got to put out there and just put yourself in their view and get a sense of what are they thinking. Saying, hey, you’re probably dealing with a lot of change and a lot of extra work right now and then they’ll tell you like, yes, I am.

No, I’m not. Just by listening. That’s like, the most important thing. I think M&A, we get so much caught up in a plan and driving top down management, pushing to change. But at the end of the day, people are dumb. They know what they’re doing. You just got to level up with them. If you can take or flip the 80 20 ratio around and spend that time just to listen and understand, you’ll get a sense, you’ll know, you’ll know what they’re concerned about, you’ll know where their heads at, if they’re motivated, if they have a clear understanding about what’s going on, if they’re committed or not, until you have that, there’s no point in talking at people.

It’s really wild, and that carries into every part of our interaction with people. Right? Even when I’m in front of analysts all the time and in customer situations. And there’s a great book called The Coaching Habit, which is one of my favorite ones. I use it a lot for leadership, and it starts with the simplest things. The first thing you ask is what’s on your mind and give them the chance to immediately convey. And then the favorite thing is the second question is called the awe question, A-W-E, and what else?

Because they’ll always have a canned response and then you say, and what else? So I’ll do this even in situations where they ask about your technology, like, how are you better than or different than X or whatever? And I’m like, well, what’s the thing that really excites you about that platform that you’re talking about? And they go through? And I don’t even have to ask the ‘and what else’ question sometimes because as they’re talking up this thing to be like, you know what I really wish it would do.

And it’s like being in the therapy session. It’s so fantastic versus if I had gone in and like you said, just treated it like a diligence exercise of like, you’ve asked me these questions, I will show you the technical comparisons. If I throw data at it, I can give it all the context I want, but in the end, just be humans to each other. Like, it’s so amazing the impact it has. And at the end of that experience, especially when you’re dealing with M&A like, the amount of uncertainty, it can have a profound effect, not just on the direct human impact, but the actual value of the organization that they’re buying in the end.

Because like you said, if you have a lot of uncertainty, it creates certainty. People who are certain that they’re going to get out before they find out what’s happening. They’d rather control the outcome. He said, I don’t know the outcome yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to end this way. So I’m leaving. I see it happen all the time, especially as startups get sort of consumed. When I was at SunLife, it was a 5000 person organization that was buying a 5000 person organization. They were on the buy side of the transaction.

They were the end name and the brand would be attached to it. But it was literally mashing two ships together, and the leadership exchange was very interesting because then you would have all these people underneath. They’re trying to work out the org chart, and it wasn’t obvious who was going to do it in the end. And it’s a really weird experience, because by all matters of science, it should just, it works. Right. We know we’ve got the org chart here, the org chart here. Perfect.

Grow the business. Do this. Follow the details. Profit. Us humans get in the way of that.

I had an interview with one of the HR leaders who’s in a Global HR role at the time, Sallie Cunningham. And she said it best, where a happy workforce generates more income.

But to go to what you and the team are doing both through being able to educate on here’s the process that you’re involved in, right? Here’s how you can take best practice and bring it in there. And then it gives you the confidence that the platforms that you’ve created are built on these foundations of, like, these people know what they’re doing. So it gives us real credence. You’ve got skin in the game. You’ve lived the life before you came to start the company. It’s this beautiful flow.

And like you said, the truth is, I’ve heard you say it before. It’s like Excel is probably the number one software tool in the world for everything under the sun. And it doesn’t need to be that way. So when you show people that there’s a better way to do this, it creates that happiness that Sallie talked about, it creates the comfort that, hey, we’re using a system that’s built by people that understand what we’re going through, and it lets them focus on the matter at hand, which is retaining their culture through a merger.

And there’s very few schools on that, unfortunately.

No, there isn’t. And it’s interesting because they’re talking about changes amongst us behavior and the way we work together and think about which really stems to a lot of core leadership skills. And then the other piece, we talked about the technological solutions. A lot of people are fast to adopt, slow to adopt. That’s a whole area we didn’t really talk much about when we talked about the startup cycle, where there’s a lot of ideation going to market, getting the market fit and all these things you have to do to really prepare to have a product you can take to market.

But the distribution model, that’s actually the hardest thing to get. Right. You’ve seen it. We’ve seen it so many times where it’s the best product, but they didn’t have the best distribution model. And we’ve seen it where the lagging product actually ends up being the winner because they had a better distribution model.

Look, I’ll say this. This is my opinion and my opinion, alone, right? Microsoft has a lot of bad products, right? But yet they’re out there all over the place. I say this as running a lot of Microsoft organizations over based organizations over time. It was hilarious that we used to joke in the early days of like, well, they don’t have better products, they have better marketing. But it really was, they had better distribution. They had ways in which and it didn’t even make sense if you looked at it by the data. Right?

If you were selling Microsoft software, you made, like, one point on the deal. There was no margins, there was no way to discount it. You were literally just a pass through to write down the contract. You were papering the deal, and then you would try to hopefully wrap services around it. So by all measures of how it should go, it shouldn’t have worked. And yet they became dominant because they solved a specific problem. And then they marketed it so beautifully and created a distribution channel to make it easy to consume and get.

And that was truly it. And now, with the ability to digitally adopt most products, distribution is really different. Right? So on that basis, Kison, what’s the distribution solution? What’s the thing that you saw as your way to differentiate in distributing a platform today?

That’s the whole thing to figure out. We talked about validating your idea, validating the solution. When you’re validating your solution, you should be validating your go-to market. Really understand how is this customer, how their channels to learn about new products, get information? Who do they actually trust and understand where you should spend the time to find their influence? I think that comes in shapes as an ongoing partly, I think there’s other drivers with the startup where you start off with one view on what you’re solving.

And as you explore the market, you’ll find different areas you want to focus on. For us, we started with smaller M&A deals in the beginning, and as we now work on with the larger companies, we’re working and know that, hey, if it’s a larger company, they’re going to have bigger problems. And it’s interesting to solve bigger problems. And inherently, you get compensated better for solving bigger problems. So you sort of shift the model and start going upstream. And we went dramatically. We went from $100 a month self service solution to now. We’re selling enterprise anywhere from $30 to $150,000 annual subscriptions, so vastly different.

But I think that’s one big part is understanding that. What problem are you solving for? What market and what’s the value of it? A lot of people are familiar with that. You typically tend to go lower than you actually should. We learn that, too? We’ve been bumping our prices up every year since we started the company, and it’s always been the best where everything is always net positive results. We end up getting more clients and selling more.

There’s just so much truth to that perception of how you price your solution. You price it higher, they value it more. They’re more likely to use it, make sure they get value out of it. Or if you give it away, nobody cares. They’ll just throw it away and never use it. There’s the pricing model part. But then there’s a huge part around the language, how you talk about the product, how you position it. There’s so much that goes into it. I got to give a lot of credit to the marketing folks out there.

That’s not easy. There’s a lot of in-depth psychology to learn, and it’s a never ending learning thing. How do you pull that language you learn when talking to people about their problems and solutions? Pull it up front and really make it part of your website content, the things that people interact, the way their part of your brand. And there’s a lot to really think about. And then it all ties back together. I think your values tied back to there in your organization, because when you think about distributing your product, a lot falls to the customer experience and your values drive parts of that.

And they’re the pillars of the customer experience that you’re putting out there. So how is your team aligned around what they’re committed to on values that then transposes over to customer experience, and that turn lends into your distribution model. And one thing, where one of core key first value is responsiveness. We manage confidentiality and we could be working on a billion dollar deal and not even know it. So we just treat everything like a high sensitive billion dollar transaction, and they’re extremely responsive throughout the company.

That’s one thing. But now that goes over to the customer experience that goes into our distribution model. When you reach out to any of our sales team, interact with them. That’s the one thing I want you to be very, immediately understand, that they’re responsive. When we’re done at the meeting, you should get a nice summary follow up, and they should be prompt. They’re not going to wait around where these guys go. That’s a big thing. That’s part of our values that then comes out when it comes to customer experience that affects your distribution.

That very much is how people interacting with you, what perception they’re getting, especially if they’re going through competitive process and evaluating benchmarking against competitors.

So this brings a good question of how did you scale your culture through the changes in your go to market?

I don’t know if it’s scaling culture. The culture shifts quite a bit when you think about a company and you start with just two people and you’re like, okay, I’m going to think and design. You’re going to build and you influence each other right there, just like you see it when you have a partnership and then you add people and it’s so critical in the beginning. And I really wish I put a lot more thought and emphasis on the culture when making early hiring decisions and made that the primary driver.

Then followed by the capabilities. Sometimes if there’s a trade off, you’re going to work with somebody in a unique role and they’re going to be, maybe, quirky, and that’s just what it is. And that’s fine. But are we aligned on values? Are we committed to this? The responsiveness of him. Picking on an example, when we go through an interview process today, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for, how long does it take for them to follow up this interview and how well of a follow up did they do?

Attention to detail is another value in our company. So we want to see how well they wrote the follow up. Do they say, thank you. Nice meeting you. Or did they really summarize the key things we talked about? And we have one candidate, knew the values we talked about because we review them in the interview process and articulated why they would fit and be aligned with those values. It’s like done. Perfect. So when it comes to scaling it, I didn’t think of the one thing I didn’t understand, I thought it was a soft, fluffy thing.

You just put on your about page to get some warm, fuzzy feeling for some website visitor. But no, they’re really real. When you think about envision, your success and where you want to go and you reverse engineer that, it should boil down to those core values. And then you build off of those core values. When you hire people, you make sure they’re 100% aligned and let that be your leading driver to make your hiring decisions. And that’s probably how you scale your culture out.

It’s doing it like, think about the envision. Where do you want to be? How do you imagine the company operating and reverse it? Get commitment from other current team members. You have work with them as a workshop and say, hey, I really want to do this right. I want to have these core values that we all can stand for, and we make this part and we do it. First interview, you’re going to hear the core values. Second interview, you’re going to hear about core values. Final interview, you hear about core values. And it’s just constantly there, but it’s just reinforcing it saying, hey, this is what our expectations are.

I don’t want you to go through this process and find out there’s culture fit. We want you interview multiple people and get a sense of the culture. But this is what we align. We’re committed to these core values, and we want to make sure that reflects and that you’re a fit for it. If you’re not the person that’s ultra responsive in attention to detail, then maybe this isn’t going to be the right fit. Let’s talk about that. You can be missing. I don’t have attention to detail.

Maybe you have one of the values, you may be a little behind and that’s fine. Let’s see where you’re at with the rest of the organization.

Yes, it’s not just the message that’s written behind the reception desk. Culture is how they behave when you’re not looking, right? And if you’re not willing to go right to that, right? And like I said, approach it early and nearly higher. And it’s funny I used the phrase scaling culture, and I like that you sort of said, it’s not really scaling. It is an adaptive process. And I love that you’ve been able to be curious on that. In that you’ve accepted that, yes, some stuff happened.

It’s like we figured it out, but just the fact that you’ve assessed it that way. You’ve never said, like, well, here’s the original values we had, and some people deviated like, no, we’ve adapted as a company as we change. This is what builds successful culture is the willingness to listen as much as to send them a link to the corporate values page on the website.

If I were to go back and do it again, I would have introduced core values earlier much earlier and would have evolved them, too. I think as a company, all those things will evolve. Those things. The way you talk about yourself, those things will evolve. I think one key thing is try to get your positioning down early. That’s the most critical thing. We went and positioned ourselves to sell directly against the legacy competitors that were data rooms, and that pinned us down and probably stunted a lot of our ability to have this detailed positioning that we are different from them.

We’re a lifecycle management solutions, what we really evolved and shaped it to. I think if we had that positioning earlier, it would have helped the market understand where we actually sit that’s different than what they’re used to.


But I think I’ve seen that where companies, because even within, you’re in a big category, you can still carve out a niche and saying, all right, whatever, we’ve done all the organic stuff now, it’s like diapers, but organic diapers. We do custom printed diapers. That’s kind of our thing is like, the customized baby.

I don’t know, but you know what I mean?

It’s artisanally crafted. Whatever. There’s some other moniker you attach it to.

You can get that early also. I feel like it took us a little while. We were kind of battling with data room, data room plus project management jumping around with different positioning. So some of those things. Marketing team is critical again here, but get the heads together, kind of put together all the learnings and really come up with something that there’s a good commitment behind.

Yeah. And I love again the curiosity of the process and the willingness to go back and look at what went right and what could have been done differently and then letting that influence your future decisions and accepting that, yeah. It’s funny we made these mistakes early on versus most people are like, no, we’re here because we’re here and it’s very easy in that human behavior to just say, we’ve been right, the market’s been wrong.

We talk about continuous improvement, that’s the thing that’s creating that culture. I think one key thing is encouraging people to face those things is the criticism. Yes, we want positive criticism, but sometimes I don’t have time for that shit. I don’t have time to sit there and tell you the good and make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

The good sandwich. We’re like, I really appreciate how this is going. And you’re like, oh, no, here it comes.

Let me just go straight to it. But I think one key thing is brief. Occasionally, you have to brief the team. Like, look, I want to give you direct feedback, because objectively, if I can help you get better, the team gets better. And I think that’s one part, is you got to preface it. You got to mention it here and there. Remind people because they do take that communication of personal business and fuse it together. You need to remind them to consciously split that up. Put personal out to the side and take the business context I’m providing to you.

I’d say that’s one piece of it. There’s another, losing my thought on this one. We had the..

What’s it? Go ahead.

But this, Ray Dalio, really kind of became prominent in this idea of, like, the radical transparency and radical candor. And it’s funny, I’ve actually interviewed a few people that have worked there and they’re like, yeah, it’s radical. Candor is not a good thing because some people just think it’s a license to be an asshole. But there’s a way in which people have taken that fundamental and been able to say, like, you can still be empathetic but give truth and transparency. And it is about don’t dance around it. I could sit here and I could tell you, you’re doing great in your job.

You’ve had a great few months. All you’re doing is just setting them up to wait for this hammer moment versus you say, one thing we want to sort of solve right now, there’s a problem that’s been happening. And so I want to find out what’s the right way we can work together and we can get this fixed because, like, things are going well, we’ve got lots of great stuff. What can we do to fix this particular thing? Just make that the focus. Don’t try and hide it amongst a compliment sandwich.

Yeah. I think making sure there’s a ‘why’ attached is another big thing, that’s very much in conjunction with this. You get the criticism, but there’s got to be clarity on why. Like, hey, we’re doing this to specifically improve this. Other thing, anything you put in there, you should have a why to it. I teach my kids early when they start learning how to say thank you and sorry. It’s like, don’t just say thank you and sorry, because they’re very transactional words that have no meaning to it. I need you to add some meaning to it.

Tell me why. Thank you. Why? For what? And they think about it. And I remember we always go to restaurants, and it was, thank you for the great service. And thank you for the recommendations. My daughter would go to the grocery store check out. Thank you for being so quick. Thank you for the conversation. Add some context to it. Sorry for what? Sorry for bumping into you. Sorry I lost your umbrella. And same thing in the workplace. You’re going to ask somebody to do something. Add a why to it.

Make sure there’s some clarity on why. And a lot of times, people, nobody wants to be told what to do. So can you look at something and frame it as a problem and invite them into the conversation, has appeared to solve the problem? Hey, the bathroom is super dirty. Go clean it. It’s like, how can we keep this bathroom clean? Well, maybe I’ll put this reminder to myself and I’ll make sure it gets done. Okay, great. You don’t have to tell people what to do. I think if you identify it, frame it as a problem, invite them in through a question, then it creates this nice lateral positioning that you both work together to solve it.

And more likely, they’ll know what they need to step up. And they’ll own it, too, because they presented the idea, right?

Yeah, it’s the involvement of it. Boy, oh boy. I can say the folks that work with you and for you, Kison are a lucky bunch. But I really respect your approach, the platform and the education you bring. So we’ll definitely make sure we point folks to.

Let’s talk about how easy it is to be a hypocrite too. Because that’s a whole thing of its own. Everybody’s on a soapbox with some great things to preach. But the reality is it’s extremely difficult not to be a hypocrite.

It’s hard. Yeah, that’s it. There’s a real difficulty in taking the tenets and making them practices. It’s very easy for us to point to the wall. Look at the culture statements. Culture statement says we do this and you’re like. But transparency with confidentiality is an interesting line, too, because you want to be transparent. But be careful. There are certain things we absolutely cannot cross a line of transparency on. And it’s a human challenge to make sure we build a separation. I get asked all the time. Even if you go into analyst or specific customer situations and you say, look, we sign nondisclosures walking into this room.

Of course we did. But if you say you mentioned a customer name that you’re not supposed to mention outside of this room, they’re humans. They’re going to go to the next person and say, yeah, these guys are selling to X. There’s a point of making sure that you can understand that human behavior. And like you said, creating accountability and eliminating hypocrisy. It’s a challenge because we’re always forced to split the line. And as a leader, unfortunately, as the founder, as the head of the company, you sometimes have to make very difficult decisions that may seem at the moment to be hypocritical or antithetical to the values.

But there are legitimate, immediate things that need to be solved that require hard decisions. I can tell that you would approach it in a way, saying like, there’s the why I don’t like what we have to do right now, but here’s why we have to do it.

It’s creating a framework. It’s creating a communication framework that evolves into decision making framework and having your team aligned around it so that if you’re not around, things will carry on. They’ll know that there’s a flow for the way they communicate, the way they bring up the problems, the way they make decisions on how to solve them.

We need a framework for life. So I’ll look for that. That’ll be the next book, Kison’s framework for family success. My two year old daughter. She is so funny. She’ll run into something. She’ll just be running around and she smash into my legs. She goes, Sorry, Daddy. She doesn’t even almost know why she does it. But she knows, like, I bumped into you. I should say, sorry. So cute. And then, like I said, when they get older, you want them to add the context to it.

I think about four or five years old, get them to start doing it then. And you’ll be surprised. I remember going to a fine dining restaurant. My daughter, she was only seven years old, and when we’re checking out, she told the server, Andy, thank you so much for the great service and the recommendations you made. And the woman at the table next to ours just, like, cracked her head, whiplash, like, oh, my God. And she’s just like, how do I get my son to do that?

It’s funny. And it’s something that’s just good because then they can build off of it. A lot of the Ray Dalio principles are great. I actually read Ray Dalio’s principles to my daughter when she was seven. Obviously was way above the reading level. I’m done with Harry Potter. I actually want to read this. It actually does the job. It gets you right to sleep. This will be great, but it led to a lot of good conversations. When we talk about open minded versus closed minded, how do you establish these goals and build milestones to it?

And I started doing it with her ever since then. Just say, let’s talk about these goals. What are you trying to do? Well, if you’re trying to do that, what do you need to do? How much time do you need to spend towards those goals to make sure you go in that path? Let’s start thinking about what are we doing? Between once your taking up your time between proactively using and reactively using your brain and these little nuance things. It’s fun. It’s really good. That’s what actually led to the personal podcast.

We didn’t talk about that at all, but I started this year. It’s called BossMove, where I interview influencers about what are their top three principles for success and leadership.


We can collaborate on that, but we do a little workshop, so imagine the audience are high school kids because you can’t come out and do the Gary V, be empathetic, be vulnerable.


Like, no. What does that mean to a high school kid? You got to really break it down into some practical how tos. And it’s a fun, challenging interview, because when you start thinking about it, you’re getting into a lot of details about what is the mindset component there.

How do you take that thinking and build it into a real behavioral pattern that becomes a part of you. It’s a fun interview.

That is wild. Yeah. I’ll definitely have to pour over that one. And that’s when I’ll recommend. I’ll make sure I get links as well as part of the show notes. There you go, there’s Ray Dalio and his authoring team. They need principles for teens. Principles for. It would be great to have principles for the five year old range. There’s definitely the ability to take that almost like parables and like, Aeop’s Fables sort of took this idea of stories and made them accessible. But they really were truly telling these big, bold, almost biblical type of things.

But then they just made it about bunnies and turtles.

I’m hoping because we have the model in M&A science where we’ll extract what we learn and write up plays. And there the step by step how tos. And we started drafting it pretty early in moves for this BossMove podcast, you learn this life lesson and do a write up. How do you turn into a practical how to? And one day, I’d love to see it evolving into something like Khan Academy, where here’s the free public school that teaches you the life lessons that you don’t learn in school.

There you go. I’m holding you to it. We’ll be back in a year with Kison to announce the moves.

The Boss Academy.

That’s it. I love it. Excellent. Well, Kison, thank you very much. And for folks that did want to get connected with you, what’s kind of the best way that they can do that?

If you want to learn M&A. We have over 350 published pieces of content. You name it. We got it. It’s on mascience.com. If you like to connect with myself, I’m always on LinkedIn. Just Kison, K-I-S-O-N, Patel.

That’s it. I love it. Well, thank you very much. And yeah, I definitely recommend people get in there and take in this content. It’s fantastic. We’ll have links to the podcast as well. And yeah, now listen to BossMoves. Go do it right now. Go click that button.

My principle is discipline. You have to have discipline to be committed. So if you’re interested in M&A, you want to learn. Check it out. I love your style. I think you did a great job interviewing. I enjoyed this conversation, Eric.

Great. Thank you very much.

Looking forward to following you and seeing who’s up next in your podcast.

Maybe I’ll be lucky and I’ll be able to get on the Moves podcast. That will be my new goal. Is be valuable enough to make it on the BossMoves.

Yeah, let me know. You can start thinking, what are your top three principles? I think that’s a good one. We talk about what lends to values. You got organizational values. But do you have values personally? And are there certain principles that shape those values? And then is that something common you have with your partner? I don’t know, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on your principles pretty soon.

All right. Mark the calendar kids, will be on that one. Great. Thank you very much.

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Specializing in strategic planning for multi-location and franchise SEO campaigns, Steve Wiideman, of Wiideman Consulting Group, considers himself a scientist and practitioner of local and eCommerce search engine optimization and paid search advertising.

Wiideman has played a role in the inbound successes of brands that have included Disney, Linksys, Belkin, Public Storage, Honda,Technicolor, Skechers, Meineke Car Care Centers, Applebee’s, IHOP, Dole, and others, with emphasis on strategy, planning and campaign oversight.

Check out Wiideman Consulting Group here: https://www.wiideman.com/ 

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Thank you so much for a great conversation, Steve!

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome to another episode of the DiscoPosse podcast. You’re listening to a conversation with Steve Wiideman. Steve is the founder of the Wedding Consulting Group.

He’s got super crazy good knowledge about SEO content marketing, how to get found. He gets so much great education on this and lots to cover.

But I want to give a huge thanks, of course, to you for listening. We just flew past a whole bunch of new milestones here at the podcast. You can, of course, follow us on YouTube.

If you go to youtube.com/DiscoPossePodcast, you can see the episodes now the same day they launch, if you want to watch. It’s kind of cool. I’m a real fan.

And obviously we’re getting viewership tells you, that a few people like both the video and the audio side. So thank you very much for listening and watching now. And of course, a huge thank you as well to all the fine folks that make this podcast possible. When it comes to protecting you and your data, you got nowhere to go but the folks at Veeam who have everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s on premises, whether it’s in the cloud, whether it’s Cloud-Native with their cast and platform, whether it’s things like Teams and Office 365, everything you need needs to be protected.

And they’ve got everything around orchestrator and recovery. So it’s not just about protecting, but recovering backups are only good if you can recover the bloody backups anyways, go check it out. They are over at vee.am/DiscoPosee. Easiest way to find them.

They’ve got a really cool campaign going right now. So go head over there now go to vee.am/DiscoPosee.

And as well as backing up your data and protecting it that way, make sure you protect it in flight, in transit wherever you are. The best thing you can do for your privacy and protection is to use a VPN. Look, there’s weird stuff that goes on out there. There’s lots of data that’s being captured and also just stuff that you don’t want. Those little ad pop ups that are flying all over the place. A good way to prevent that and save you from getting your data stolen is go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse.

I’m a user of ExpressVPN. Also really good for user testing. If you’re testing from remote locations, you can actually choose your location. Great way to do stuff for web testing.

And of course, one last thing better than anything. Start your day with diabolical coffee. Go to diabolicalcoffee.com.

All right. This is Steve Wheatmann. Enjoy the show.

Hi, this is Steve Wiideman. I am the founder of Wiideman Consulting Group, an adjunct professor at two different universities here in California and the author of SEO Strategy and Skills. And you’re on the DiscoPosse podcast.

Now, this is the fun part because I also made the critical error up front, Steve, that I mispronounced your name right out of the gate, which is probably like, the worst thing you could do. So thank you, Steve, for joining. Yeah, it’s always the trick, too. When there’s two Is next to each other in a text. You’re never sure. Like when you type something into Google, it’s always like, I think you meant wide, man. I’m like, no, it’s Wiideman. It is Wiideman.

You know in high school, I was Wildman, and in the army, my peers just called me Weed because it was shorter and easier and lazier. But, yeah, it’s all the things. But the W-I-I is like the game system, right? You call it the Wii. So if you associate it with Nintendo, you have Wiideman.

So the chat today, we’re going to cover a lot of really interesting ground because we’re in a digital cornucopia. And as such, you want to make sure that you’re eating from the right side of the funnel. When you’re trying to make sure that your content, your voice, your persona, your company gets to people in a meaningful way. This is one of the things that everybody struggles with and whether it’s just somebody they’ve got a little side hustle and they’re looking to up their game. They’ve got a Shopify store, perhaps a coffee company as one would have as well.

It’s a really seemingly black box world to a lot of folks who are just trying to figure out how to get an idea to the market, and they probably aren’t able to really fund a strong SEO person. So just, like many things, we kind of go it alone, and as a result, they learn bad habits. It’s like I’m going to learn how to swing a golf club, and I’m going to learn how to swing it badly. And then when I go to try and learn how to do it properly, it’s going to be really hard to unlearn the bad things I’ve learned.

Anyway, I’m excited about the chance to chat and learn from you. You’ve got a lot going on. So, Steve, if you want to give a intro to you, we’ll talk about Wiidman Consulting. We’ll talk about the work you’ve done, your courses, everything and get into the fun stuff.

Absolutely. I’m just a digital marketing nerd, like the rest of us. Been in the game 22 years. Started as a freelancer, I got to work from some exciting companies like Disney. I ran the paid and organic for Disneyland.com and Adventures by Disney back in the 2000s. I left the corporate and agency world in 2010, decided to be a family man, be closer to home and see if I could develop my own business and went through that scary entrepreneurial transition. And fortunately because I was already freelancing, I had some existing work that could carry over into that so I had a bit of a handicap.

And having worked for Disney also made it a little bit easier to get new clients. But yeah, so since 2010, I’ve been helping multi location brands like Public Storage and myNike and Skechers and E-commerce brands also Sketchers and Bob’s Watches and some other really fun companies. Belkin and Linksys to develop a strategy to make sure that they’re appearing more often in search results, not just in Google, but in Bing, in some cases YouTube and Amazon as well, and to develop a strategy and cadence to make sure that we’re continuously growing and improving our visibility and search.

A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to look back at what my dream was ten years ago, and it was to teach, and I’m like, Wow, I’m getting close to that ten year Mark. I better get out there and start doing it. So I started doing some adjunct teaching for certificate programs at UC San Diego and Cal State Fullerton and even at the community College here in Fullerton. So I’ve enjoyed that process. I’ve kind of curated my own content to create our little Academy of search that we created to help business owners that are struggling with figuring out what’s in that black box.

So we’ve sort of uncovered everything that a business needs to do to create a plan, whether they do it themselves or whether they hire someone to do it. At least they know the what of what needs to happen, and they let the resources manage. The how. So that’s been an exciting journey. About a year ago, I got tagged to help write a textbook for Stukent and support the courseware building for certificate programs. So not only will you get to read some really organized SEO content with the textbook, but you’ll also get some cool courseware and lecture slides.

So if you’re a teacher and you want to teach SEO, talk to the folks at Stukent, ask them about the SEO textbook if it’s something you’re interested in teaching. And then you have the vision for us for the next year or two is really just to continue developing courses and programs that allow us to scale outside of just being on the phone, consulting with clients and we’ll see how it goes. But the journey has been great. I get to hang out with cool people like you and talk search and geek out on nerdy technical web design topics and have some fun.

Well, this is the fun thing now that it’s becoming part of curriculum. It’s such a great thing, because quite often I remember taking, like I was already in tech, and I said, Well, I better have a high school education. I sort of snuck into tech at the timing. You and I actually came into tech around the same time frame. So I was finding myself suddenly working at Sun Life Financial doing desktop support and then working up the server support and then really launched up into it.

You were playing Oregon Trail and Odell Lake on your Apple II, just like me.

So I had this, like, sort of getting through there. And I said, I better go back and actually back up. The luck of getting into the hotness of tech in the late 90s because nobody had accreditation. There was no course for doing what we were doing. There was no Windows support, no Vale support in universities. So I said, while you went to Ryerson University in Toronto, and I started taking a certificate program, but they were teaching stuff like old networking that was long since dead. And I work day to day at Sun Life.

We have some of the oldest systems on Earth, and they’re newer than the stuff that we’re learning in this textbook.


It really taught me that, like, the fundamentals that make it through as part of curricula do not get updated very often because it’s hard to keep up. You can’t just keep swinging with the latest moves and fads. So there’s always this gap. So now it’s great to see that, like, true digital marketing and SEO, and it’s making it there where people can learn this instead of just getting out to the world and having to find a peer that can say, all right, come, let’s sit down. I’m going to give you a fire hose of information over the next couple of hours.

Yeah, that’s unfortunate. And it happens more often than not even in the contract that we have right now with Stukent. We’re required to update that book every year now. So I’m like, maybe we should update it every six now, let’s just do every year. But it’s tempting because Google just made a round of four updates just over the last couple of months. So it’s so dynamic and changing the results look different every year. They’re moving things around, adding new features and elements. You’re seeing videos now with the different time sections in the search results in a web search, not a video search.

So, yeah, it’s a very dynamic field to be in, and any information from three years ago should be scrutinized for sure.

It is interesting to see that shift is like I go to look for something I had the other day. How do I drain my dishwasher when it hasn’t drained properly and you just type in. How do I drain this model of dishwasher? And it comes up in the first result. it is like four minutes and 17 seconds into a 22 minute video from some rando who just posted this thing. It has literally like, 117 views, like this isn’t even, like viral videos that are getting indexed, but it somehow said, like, at this mark, you got what you want, and I clicked it and they’re like, by golly, I just learned how to do this.

And what an incredible opportunity for emerging brands that are trying to build trust and credibility and drive remarketing. We did this in public storage. We actually created twelve different videos similar to what you’re mentioning, like how tos such as how to store impact glassware, how to move your refrigerator, how to store a piano. All these tough questions that people were asking. So we got with a local college and got a fun little team of sort of not necessarily amateur, but in training. Folks help us with this really creative, funny videos.

We created pages for them, and we were able to see $0.01 cost per views on YouTube and other video networks because nobody was really using that kind of upper funnel content to build brand awareness. Like you said, it’s your common Joe’s video that’s showing up, not these branded videos that could have a little bit better production quality and benefit from a paid element to that. Instead of just being organic, they could augment that with paid and organic and have double visibility. So for cheap, because there’s not a lot of competition for that type of content.

So I’m with you. I think there’s a huge opportunity for every business to take a look at and look beyond that lower funnel myopic view that we have around just get customers to, let’s build a brand. Let’s get people to know about us and how we work and what to do. Let’s provide as much helpful content as we can possibly come up with and optimize it so it shows up in universal web search results, in Google Video Search, in YouTube, and Image Search. Just make sure that all those elements of this content we plan to create are optimized so that they can be found.

And I see a lot of business owners that are just like, I just want customers. I don’t want to waste any money on anything that’s not going to drive immediate customers. And it’s like, well, this content is going to drive a ton of customers for you in two to three years from now. If you can have the patience to build that foundation, it’s going to drive a lot of brand visibility and trust. It’s going to help with your remarketing and your marketing automation process. And you’re going to generate a lot of business.

But you’ve got to get over it. You’ve got to decide, I’m going to create really good helpful content. I’m going to use tools like AnswerThePublic or SEMrush’s question filter or Conductor Searchlights buyer journey phase tool to find some of those opportunities, map them out in a big list and then just start chipping away at it. But I’m glad you brought that up, because that’s amazing that some guy with 117 views was able to displace brands that have millions of dollars of budget and they’re not even paying attention.

Yeah, when this is the company that makes the bloody dishwasher didn’t even show up in any of the searches like that.

The bigger the brand, the less of the branded type marketing they do. We’re doing that right now, and I don’t want to put them on Blast, but both Applebee’s and IHOP, neither of them have a blog. Neither of them have content marketing. You could use a site operator in Google, site:applebees.com, site:ihop.com. And all you’re going to find are menus, news releases about new items and specials and promos. But no how to, where to, why to recipes. None of that. In fact, some of the branded questions that people ask about those brands, if you just search for them, that show up in the questions people ask, they don’t even have content for.

So other websites are getting their branded traffic. So we’re working through a plan right now to address the branded first so that somebody does do a search for anything that includes our name, that we’ve got a page of content that answers it or a section of content on a page that answers it. And then we’re going to go into some of those non branded opportunities. So you’re right. You hit it on the nail. The larger the brands, the less resources they put into digital because they don’t think they need them.

My boss at Disney said that he said we don’t need SEO, we’re Disney. None of our pages are showing up in Google search results because you have one page with a big Flash feature on it. And Flash can’t be crawled by search engines. And there’s no pages for all these different, travel to Ireland, family travel to China type pages. So it’s convincing stakeholders that the brand itself isn’t powerful enough to be number one for search terms that we need to augment our digital marketing strategy to include really well, keyword rich, optimized content.

The funny thing. Yeah. There you go. So somebody searches out for an Apple-tini, and they’re going to get some mommy blogger with, like, how to make an Apple-tini at home because they are 100% aiming at, like, question and answer content, recipe stuff, menu stuff, especially every industry has its own struggle in the end. Like you said, Disney, in effect, is fighting property management and travel sites who are saying, like, get to Disney, stay at Disney. They’re going to own that, like the behavior of the person is not to go to Disney.com and work backwards, they’re going to Google or go to their search engine of choice and say, “When’s the cheapest time to go to Disney?”

Like finding Disney blogs and so forth. And none of the actual Disney owned content. It’s incredible.

Well, and this really, there’s two key areas that I want to drill in on. Number one, you mentioned it in the early part. There is patience. So the patience of SEO, what’s the formula to understanding the path to success in SEO? And obviously, what we’re saying is not the ultimate like, do this thing and it works every time. But what has worked because it is a moving target. It’s not just keyword stuffing. And then showing up in Google the next day, there is a path. that’s a lengthy one, but it has a long and beautiful thick tail on it.

Right. I think it’s a two part question. Part one is setting expectations of what’s involved and how long it takes. The second part of it is building that strategy you mentioned so that you’re not just doing SEO, but you’re following a prioritized roadmap of areas to focus on. So the first part, and having so many years of experience in it, I’ve had to get better and better and better at it, is setting expectations. As we do start to work on a single page to get that single page to show up in search results.

The first thing we want to make sure that we’re doing is addressing the needs of what the visitors looking for. So we look at those top ten results that already appear for the keywords that you’re thinking about optimizing for, and we look for themes. What are they showing? What are they displaying? What are the questions that we see in the People Also Ask section. What are the related keywords that are used in the search results? What other search terms of those pages receiving traffic from to help us to create an outline of how that page could be written, that’s the first part, is getting those top keywords where they need to be.

So that initial crawl when Googlebot and Bingbot are crawling your website, they find those search terms and they go, okay, I’m going to test this page for those words because I saw them emphasized in the title, in the heading or in subheadings. Once they’ve done that, that keyword part, that keyword component is almost a mute point. It’s not about that keyword anymore. Once they’ve already identified those words and they’ve cued you up to see how your page performs and their results for those words. Now it gets into that second phase.

So let’s just say that content itself. Once it gets on the website and Google can crawl from your home page through your navigation links to get to that page. It’s not just orphaned in a place where they can’t get to it. They get to that page, it gets indexed, and now you’re on page. I don’t know, three, maybe within three months, you find yourself at the end of page two of the search results. Now they’re going to look at off page factors. They’re going to look at what they find across the Internet about your brand and how it correlates to those keywords or other people across the Internet using those words when they’re searching for you.

Are they searching for your brand and those words and those words in your brand? Are they just searching for your brand? So getting people to search for you in correlation to those search terms and getting crawlers to find the search terms that you want to rank for adjacent to your brand name. And of course, the obvious links to your page. PageRank that Larry Page created back in the late 90s was what drove Google in the first place. They said we don’t want to just use what’s on your website.

We want to use what other websites are saying about your website and your content. So if you go out there and do a little bit of research and you find who’s linking to those top pages, you look for creative ways to get other industry websites to share your content and link back to that page. And there’s this nice pattern of links coming in over time. Think of a line chart and you’ve got this. Over time, more and more links coming to this page. Google is going to recognize that.

And we’re going to say now, we’re on the tipping edge of page two, page three. Those links help us move up to page one. Now we’re at the number ten spot on page one. Within about six, seven months or so, we see ourselves on page one at the bottom. How do we get to the top? How do we get to that number one spot? That number one spot is the issue that a lot of SEO agencies get fired during that period because the clients just don’t have the patience.

You said I was going to be number one for this keyword. Spend six months. Forget it. I’m done. There’s this trust factor. Those pages that already rank, a lot of them have ranked for that keyword for years and proven to Google through their history that they’ve been good results. You can’t just make one of them go away. There’s only ten, right. You have to earn your way there. So the links help you, the content helps you. But what’s going to help you move up to that number one spot is how users respond to your page.

Let’s say in a search result, Google has 100,000 searches a month happening for a certain search term, and your page has been on page two and page three is now on page one. They’re going to show you higher and more often, we’ll just say 10,000 times out of that 100,000 times and they trust it like, hey, it’s actually performing really well when I display it. Now I’m going to display it 50,000 times out of 100,000 searches. Now I’m going to display it 75,000 times. So you start to show up more often and more higher as they begin to trust that people are clicking on and staying on your website.

So the action item here is to pay attention to the user behavior signals of getting people to want to click your listing because it stands out because it’s got rich results or thumbnail next to it or star results or questions and answers that are attributed to that particular page, maybe even in some industries, getting creative and using emojis and call-to-actions and titles and descriptions. And then once they do, click on your listing because that’s the goal, right? With user behaviors, get them to click you more often.

Don’t just call your friends and say, click on my listing because it’s not sustainable and it doesn’t follow that lying pattern of behavior over time. It’s going to raise a flag if you have it all of a sudden and then drops. It’s making sure that it’s a natural, organic thing, not trying to get in the search results. Then they get to your page. If they go back to the search results and choose a competing listing, then Google starts to infer in being that maybe that listing wasn’t very helpful and they start to demote you over time.

So how do we get them to stay? We get them to stay by using common web design best practices, mobile web design best practices, and maybe following some hints from Google’s guidelines. So we’re going to pay attention to things like security and using a valid SSL. Privacy, is there a link to Privacy Policy? Is it updated? Is there an updated date? We’re going to pay attention to accessibility because some of our users have impairments, we’re going to really focus in on our mobile user experience. Do we have a floating call to action so that we know the users know what they should be clicking on without having to flick the page up and down to find a button somewhere?

Did we make it usable for them? Can they search our website? Can they call us? Can they verify that we’re a real business and trust our site without having to go back and do a search for your brand name? Plus the word reviews. So all of those things play a component and it could take up to a year or more. And it’s really funny how often we look at our results for a single page that we created and what happens at that one year point? If the keyword is, we’ll just say medium in terms of competitiveness, right?

It’s somewhere in the middle range. Right at that one year, our little line chart that’s been growing slowly suddenly turns into a hockey stick, right around one year. It’s really interesting, and that hockey stick just kind of continues for the next part of the following year. It’s really exciting for a competitive search term that could be two to three years as long as every month you’re chipping away and having better, more helpful content, earning more links and mentions off your website and continuing to test different ways to get more people to click on your listing when they see it in the search results.

If you’re focusing on those three things every month, even for a competitive keyword, like credit card or online casino or whatever, you could see yourself on the first page or higher within three years. But that’s the expectation, right? That’s the thing that business owners typically don’t have the patience for. But then you look back. You’re like, man, if I would have done this ten years ago.

That’s right.

If I would have done this last year. I’d be in hockey stick right now. I’d have my best December ever if I would have done this a year ago.

And that’s the mentality I’d love to have business owners be thinking about next year when they remember this podcast and go, damn, I should have just, it went by so fast, I should have just done it.

As the proverb goes. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is now planning to do things. And look, I’ve been a victim of this myself of like, yeah, I should build a content plan, and then you get behind. And then you spend more time doing the planning than just carving out content. But you look at, especially when you get into the areas of capturing inbound content and affiliate marketing processes, it’s exciting to watch that world, because the whole thing is just, like, just keep consistently putting content out that’s going to eventually get in there.

And I’ve seen the conversions where all of a sudden I’m like, oh, wow. You go from showing up in no searches to showing up in searches, but no click throughs, then showing up in searches with click throughs. And then, like you said, all of a sudden there’s this thing and you’re like, this random page that looks like it should have just sat there and gone away is suddenly getting some heat. And then, conversely, I actually bought an existing domain that had a lot of traffic and sort of let me try the other side. Game the system.

So I actually started taking the original inbound URLs, which are now four-folding because the site had been gone and I was moving them to other pages, and I was getting click through, and I was actually seeing results. But then I let that site wane in the activity and the content for, like, six months. And I go back and the hockey stick turned down because it’s a consistency game. It’s doing all of these things together. But it’s hard to explain to people, especially in an organization they say like, I work at flood dergulon.

No one could possibly know more about Flug dergullian than I do, or we do. So of course, they’re going to end up on our website. And I would tell them, like, when you search plug dergullian, the first thing that comes up is your competitor, and it’s a paid ad. So, Congratulations, you’ve got a competitor who wants to own you, but guess what. You’re a target for them, and they’re winning, right?

Yeah. That happens more often than not. And the second part of that story, that expectations is important because it gives you a better picture of how long it takes. But the second part is, what you mentioned is, actually having a plan. And one of the things I tried to do when I started teaching at Cal State Fullerton and started kind of borrowing some of my own content to create our own little simple training program was to try to fold in the specific audits and the specific strategies that you need to follow to be successful in search for all the things we just mentioned, the keyword research element and building out what that content map should look like and how the pages should be optimized the off page visibility features you just mentioned broken links.

We recovered somewhere close to 5000 broken links for one of our restaurant chains that had 15 different URLs for this promo they ran every year. And they four-folded every year. There was Veteran and .gov and these other big websites that were linking to these pages that are no longer there. We finally helped them create a permanent URL, redirected all 15 of those and recovered thousands of really helpful links that Google is going to use when they’re scoring our site, holistically. But, yeah, having that plan.

So we put all our templates in there, the same templates we use for those brands I mentioned. So if you wanted to do a technical audit and follow the 72 different things we recommend looking at from page speed and accessibility and all those things we mentioned, they’re all in there with a little video on how to do it and the Google developer link that you’ll need when your webmaster comes back and says your SEO person doesn’t know what they’re talking about and you can say, Well, it’s not them, it’s Google. Here’s the link.

And they’re like, Fine, I’ll just do it. Developers and SEO don’t always play well together. That’s the component. I wouldn’t jump into SEO cold. I would definitely start with a strategy, map out all those URLs you already have on your website, put them in a Google sheet, and then go column by column on different SEO focal points, such as titles and headings and image names and page names. How many internal links from other pages on my website do I have pointing to that page?

And what words do I use in those links to help the search engines as they’re crawling? Sort of define what those pages are about before they even get to them. So I would start there. Build that strategy, get that tech audit squared away, get your content and keyword research ready to rock in a Google sheet somewhere or in a project management system. Figure out where you need to be getting links, where competitors have them. Get some creative ideas going on ways that you can build links by getting other influencers and subject matter experts involved in that content process so that they feel somewhat obligated to participate in the visibility of that content.

And then lastly, get a baseline report going. So that in a year from now, when you’re like, hey, check out how great my organic traffic is going and how well we’re doing with our SEO. Well, great. Where do we start? I don’t know. We didn’t create a baseline report. I don’t know, but we’re doing really good. So it’s good to have that and pay attention to it for sure.

Let’s get into the fun. What are the myths and truths of Core Web Vitals? I’ve struggled with this one because I sort of have a poke at the folks at Google. God bless the folks at Google. But they drive me a little nutty sometimes because they’ll have something like they introduce this idea of Core Web Vitals and the idea that you’re going to get effectively deranged based on the performance of your page. And then the bitter irony of it is that the blog that Google wrote on their developer site about Core Web Vitals doesn’t pass Core Web Vitals.

I know we were laughing about that, too. Some of my students were doing that, and I’m like, you guys are brilliant. That’s so funny that you use the actual site. And we did the same thing on the accessibility for the ADA Accessibility Guidelines doesn’t pass ADA Accessibility Guidelines. So much for, practice what we preach, right?

Yeah. So the thing I really want to separate for people is a guide. It’s a factor, but it’s not literally like you fail CWV and you’re off Google. That’s my hypothesis. So correct my people that are not smart and they listen to me.

I always try to focus on being principle based, and the principles we’ve already talked about, right? Is be relevant to the search term that someone’s searching for be visible off the website and be helpful when they do find you in the search results. And when they do get to your page. Like we said before, if you’re nurturing those three areas, you’re probably going to be affecting your Core Web Vitals in the process because you’re trying to make your page faster and better over time. So I would say if you’re still focusing on those three things, you’re going to worry less about little things like a Core Web Vital or one of the many tools that you could use to sort of test or audit your website.

But I know John Mueller made a point about this recently at Google. He said that it’s more than a tie breaker. My first thought about it was just one of those tie breaker things where if our content is just as good and our links and visibility off the website are just as good and our click-through rates are equal, then they’re going to choose the one that loads faster for mobile users and looks better for mobile users as a tie breaker. But he came back and said, no, it’s more than that.

And then the conspiracy started coming in from my peers, right. And they’re not always wrong. One conspiracy theory is that Google is trying to save some money. And if websites are faster to crawl and to navigate to and to collect data about that, it’s going to save their servers a bit of money and having to wait for things to load and to render assets that take a long time, like images. So they want to make the Internet a faster place. And with 60% to 80% of your users being on mobile devices. For our restaurant chains, 84% of them are mobile devices.

It makes sense that they’re continuously pushing us to provide faster and better user experiences for mobile users. They’ve been telling us about that since the early 2010s. They started putting information out about it in 2014, and we saw the Pivot in 2014 from more people going on mobile than on desktop. So it just makes sense. It’s a natural evolution of how we want to improve experiences overall for users, not just for Google, but for our visitors. And if you haven’t, since 2014, been working to provide a better mobile experience, that’s not Google, giving you a penalty that’s you being somewhat ignorant to the fact that your users care about their mobile experience.

You want to tell people, like, ‘When’s the last time you waited until you got home to search for something?’ No, you’re standing outside of the store and you’re looking at a chair and you Google, how much is this chair at Target or wherever? And of course, that’s the pattern of usage. It’s funny. Like you said, we’ve got this dichotomy that there’s better bandwidth, faster networks. And we obviously are putting more rich content in there, but it’s counter to what you would imagine. You would think that with the level of streaming capability we’ve got with all of the work we can do that now is when Adobe Flash should be taking off, because the ability to do really high res, rich media experiences should be there.

But because it is client side versus service side processing. There’s a lot of other reasons where we’re moving towards. And also searchability. Right? Like if I put that up there, it’s an effective black box even putting myself like I’ve use Vimeo.


So I use Vimeo for hosting a lot of content that I have on a couple of different websites. I’ve got because I can sort of control the end user experience better. But then realizing, Dang it, I’m getting just ravaged on searchability because I’m not doing the right things versus if I put it on YouTube, it’s like auto chaptering for me. It’s doing a lot of really neat things that now, I’m like, okay.

Yeah. Exactly. They’re huge boosts for potential. So I’ve got to merge with the way the systems are moving versus the way I would like to run my operation.

Right. Yeah. But just big picture wise. Like we talked about, if you have a strategy and you’re paying attention to those principles that we know are going to help our visibility. And I have to tell you, these marketing students that I’ve been working with, I think I’ve taught probably close to 400. Now they are dying to get practice for free. A lot of them. So if you feel constrained, like you mentioned earlier, Eric, like all these things I want to do. I want to do my content map, but if you let go and you delegate to somebody who’s really interested in learning digital marketing, like one of these students, thousands of students across the country that you could talk to that are in digital marketing certificate programs.

Reach out to the teachers and say, hey, you have any students that want to volunteer and do some SEO work for us? You have the teacher is going to be a guide. I never recommend a student go to a client and not stay to some degree to make sure that they’re doing a good job and that they have what they need because I want to see them successful. So not only do you get the student, most time, you also get the professor. So something to think about if you are kind of feeling overwhelmed, like, hey, there’s a lot of stuff here.

I just want to run my business. I don’t want to have to do all this digital marketing stuff. I suggest talking to a digital marketing student and seeing if they can get involved. Have them take a course that’s holistic across everything that we do in search, whether it’s our Academy of Search site or a LinkedIn Search Academy or a Yoast Academy or Distilled SEO Academy, there’s all these different certificate programs that are available that go through the gamut. Ours, by the way, if your listeners want to stick our $600 course for free, just use my handle SEO Steve, and I’m happy to give them that opportunity to kick the tires.

And all I ask is that you give me some feedback and let me know what you think and what you’d like to see changed or improved. But just go to Academy of Search. Use SEO Steve or send your marketing intern or marketing student to that course and then have them contact me if they want a second set of eyes or anyone on the team here.

Nice. Well, thank you for that. I’ll definitely do what I can to load people into there because I think this is like you said, it’s a rich opportunity there. It often feels like joke. You’d go to the community mailbox, and on one side of the mailbox that says, ‘Lost Dog’ with missing part of right ear, answers to Lucky, whatever it’s going to be. Then you go on the other side and just says, ‘Found Dog’ with no collar or missing part of ear. And you’re like, literally there’s on opposite sides of the same box.

But if we just connected you two folks together, we could do some pretty incredible things. And there are students who, they want to get real world implementation and stuff. And you may find your next employee as a result. Right?

That’s our team. They started as interns here, some of them five years ago, and now they’re creative directors. Now they’re web analytics experts. It’s just giving them a chance. One of the reasons I like this idea versus hiring a veteran. I don’t want to beat myself up since I’ve got 23 odd years of experience is that the students aren’t ingrained with practices that are outdated. They’re not going to do something that isn’t really beneficial to SEO. They’re using fresh content, and they’re thinking in today’s world, they’re not going back to 2002. 2003 and reading ebooks.

So there’s an advantage, not to show this my peers. But I can tell you that.

You mean my Sam’s Publishing guide for SEO from 2004 is no longer valid.

My ebooks, too, are floating around out there. And when I see one, I’m like, hey, why don’t I give you the updated version of that or whatever? So yeah, I think that’s an advantage that you’ll have over some of the competitors who are working with some older SEO folks that aren’t staying up to date with trends and tests that could be ran to improve search-in today’s search results. Right. So lots of opportunity there and lots of students that would die to have a chance to work for free for you just to get their hands dirty.

Because in effect, these folks are most likely the next economy. Right?

Like this. As we look at today, we’ve gone through, like, just such a, I don’t even know how to describe what the world has experienced in the past 18 to 24 months now. Bizarre is an understatement of just how unexpected so many things are. And as we see people looking at this kind of, the great resignation as they’re calling it, because they really want to control their outcomes. And there’s potential to do this. And these are the ideal folks that they can start a true digital-only organization company, product, blog, whatever it is.

When I started in blogging, it was never done with the intent of running it as a business. I did it because I was just some goofball assistant man who kept bumping into weird problems. And so I’m like, I’m just going to write this down because it forces me to document it. And then the first time I saw this little boost of like, this is a tiny little post on how to fix one specific thing with VMware virtualization. And so I’m like, okay, so I just kept writing these things.

I kept writing these effectively, like, how to articles and how to fix this thing. And next thing you know, you’ve got 40,000 views a month just because I wrote down what I was doing once in a while.

It wasn’t even purposeful or intentional.

You’re documenting your own resolutions to problems you’re finding. I love it.

Yeah. And then I was like, okay, now what if I was actually purposeful with this? Then I met a lot of folks who went that really to the next level. And they’re like, I’m going to begin looking for the questions that need to be answered, and they effectively, were able to go completely independent because they just said, I’m going to do this. I’m going to go with the advertising route. At that point, it was potential. So it’s really interesting. And we’re now at that new point where you can make this foray into a self starting world.

It’s got to be done with purpose. It’s got to be done with a plan. And hopefully, as the side hustle economy, it’s not just about GaryVee yelling at you that you’re not working hard enough. It is truly about the opportunity of, if I just took a couple of hours a week and I always tell people, like, I posted this the other day as a joke on Twitter. Everybody keeps telling me they don’t have time for a side hustle. I said I found it, and I sent a screenshot of the screen time part of your iPhone.

Like, if you took an hour off of social media or off of something and just wrote something down, answered a question, found a way to engage a world that you don’t even realize it’s out there. Next thing you know, with purpose and with intent and schooling. Right. So there it is. You go and you get involved in the Academy and just take that and put it into action. It’s such a beautiful opportunity for so many people right now, for sure.

I know a lot of my students, even people who have been to my meet up groups over the years, have developed businesses, in some cases, just selling technical SEO audits. Like, hey, do you want to know what’s wrong with your website and why it’s not showing up in search results? For $500 or whatever, I can run an audit and tell you. And then they outsource the outreach to local businesses like the Philippines. Then they outsource the actual audit work to the Philippines, and all they have to do is the quality assurance.

And it’s like, how much money you’re making a month right now. One guy is like, I’m making $8,000 a month selling $500 audits. I’m like, oh, my God, what am I doing wrong? I can retire. There’s so much to be made in this industry because it is like you mention, like, a black box. And starting with an audit gives clients a plan. Here’s what you need to work on and whether you hire a developer to do it or bring someone at house or work with an agency, at least you know what needs to be done and let them worry about the how.

The path to here. It’s interesting. Like you said, I’m going to counterpoint your point earlier. You said it’s good to grab somebody who’s kind of fresh eyes, right? That they’ve got no, how it’s already been done, baked in. How do you make the path from OpenVMS to SEO specialist? You’ve got a lot of history, a lot of stuff that you’ve had to be very good at and then shake as you move into the next thing. So you progressively became new in a lot of things. So, Steve, how do you make that jump?

A lot of late nights in the beginning, not long term. I get home at a normal time now, but there’s a time where I worked a lot of late nights. I volunteered. That was the biggest thing. Like, hey, can I do your website for you? Hey, can I be your SEO person and do some SEO stuff for you? Because I’m playing around with all this knowledge that I’m learning. I’m really interested in it, but I don’t want to get paid to do something when I don’t have a lot of experience.

So can I just do it for you for free? Help your DJ business, your local locksmith business, or your florist business? Can I do some work for you for free to get some experience? I did that as a freelance while I was working full time at IBM and just got more and more passionate about it. I went back to school. Like you’d mentioned, I got a degree in ebusiness management, where I got to touch all the different areas of digital marketing, from setting up the server on Windows and Apache to learning about how databases work to graphic design and web design and user experience, and then project management, pulling all those things together into a project plan.

So the freelance hours up till two in the morning, sometimes no sleep, just digging in and getting my hands dirty with it, to building processes on how to get better at it. Each time I did it, I was like, all right, I’m not going to do that mistake again. I’m going to put that into a process and then eventually going back to school and deciding this is what I want to do as a career. That was the transition for me. Was one, acknowledging that I had a passion for something that wasn’t running bash jobs on an open BMS system to something that was really fascinating to me, which is the Web.

And you don’t have to go through all of that again, because those of us who’ve already been through it for you have created lists and guides and helpful training programs so that you don’t have to go through that journey. So I would start there. One of the things that we do here at Wiideman, is every morning, when we’re getting our morning coffee, we spend 10,20 minutes reading through our Feedly account, Feedly, F-E-E-D-L-Y. And after the call today Eric, I’ll actually share a link to the file that I use, and it’ll give you basically a newspaper of what’s going on in digital marketing today.

I like to look at the news feeds first from Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal Marketing Land, all of those. What’s happening right now in the industry first. And then below that, it’ll be blog feeds from some of my favorites authors on topics such as local SEO and multi location search, e commerce, usability and conversion rate optimization. All of those are bucketed into their own little groups. So whatever you’re interested in, you can view it that way. And every morning, we sort of sharpen the saw and we find what’s being talked about in those industries.

And as you start doing that, you start finding rabbit holes and you dig into them and you learn. So every day you’re learning for 10 to 20 minutes while you’re getting into the office. And it’s a great way to start the day, because now you’re thinking about what you learned throughout the day and getting smarter and better at digital marketing.

And just as a practice of life, it’s such a great way to do it right. Enrich your mind first and your body with a little tasty coffee. Nothing wrong with that. I like that. This is definitely putting it into passion. And I’m always seeing the interesting, again, sort of split of people that say, follow your passion is the best thing or the worst thing you can do, but it’s follow your passion towards a viable future. And I really think that’s the thing that you’ve done. It wasn’t just like, oh, I’m really excited about reading websites or learning about the thing.

You probably had a plan of, like, I want to be able to do this and have this be the thing that I do. And it gives you that sort of very purposeful outcome. And it gives you a bit of a goal setting process to head towards something.

Yeah. You become kind of like a futurist. You start to think about where things are going to go. And if I were to start today and I was brand new and really curious about this SEO thing, I think where I might start is becoming a voice search expert. I think I would start by sort of coining myself as a Google assistant or an Alexa voice search expert, and I would start mastering the different areas that you want to focus on, from voice to text APIs with Google to playing with the Google Action console and Alexa Skills consoles, getting into those and really kicking the tires around how people are using voice search.

With 180 voice search devices going out every minute now to different homes and offices, it’s going to be the next evolution of how we search as we start to untether ourselves from our mobile devices. So I think if I was going to start today, I would learn the basics of SEO, but I think I would focus my energy around things that are to come, such as voice search. When I got into it and I decided I want to be in digital marketing. It was because I had this idea that all businesses would be online someday and all businesses would have a website.

And I’m glad that came to fruition. Because of it, I’ve created a career.

The old famous Gretzky line of, you skate where the puck is going, not where it is now, right? And there’s a certain element you have to be able to make sure that you could do a thing that’s viable financially for today. And I think this is where people often get sort of stuck. They’re thinking about SEO. They’re thinking about their website. They’re thinking about a few different things, and they either think, it’s too early to think about SEO. I just launched this company. We just came out of stealth.

It’s too early to think about SEO. Alternatively, they say, Well, there really is no SEO because Google keeps changing the rules and changing the game unpack those two myths.

Sure. Well, the latter is leveraging your paid search data. Right? So if you’re unconvinced about SEO, look at your paid search insights at what search terms are actually converting and what placements in your display targeting are generating business for you. And have that be where you start. Start with your own data from what you learn and using the paid search side of search to augment what you’re doing on the organic side. That way you’re optimizing around what’s actually converting not necessarily what’s driving the most traffic. So I think a data driven SEO strategy can not only make sure that you’re driving the right visitors to the website based on how you’re optimizing, but it can reduce your costs on the page search side, because now because you’ve edited your web pages that you’re sending traffic to from paid ads, they’re going to give you better ad relevancy scores.

They’re going to give you better landing page scores, because now your keywords and your ads match the copy and the words that are used on the page itself. So I think that’s one myth of, organic doesn’t work anymore, it’s just paid. And if you believe that, then start using paid and leverage the data to create a better organic strategy. And either way, you’re going to see better results in paid. And I think the other part is you mentioned there’s a lot of myths, I think with search. Just getting started with it, it can be like you said, overwhelming like a black box a little bit.

I think what I’ve noticed successful business owners do is they reach out to somebody who’s a seasoned consultant and get a score. Ask, how am I doing in this area? I do email marketing as part of our business. How’s my email marketing doing on a one to ten scale? Hey, SEO person, can you take a look at my overall SEO and give me a score from one to ten? How am I doing?

How much can I improve? I’m doing some paid search. Hey, paid search expert who used to work for Google. Could you take a look at my Google ads and my Bing ads and my Facebook ads and give me a score? How optimized? How much more could I be doing? How much better could I be doing, go to the experts, spend the 250 for an hour of their time and get them to put you on the right path of where you could be improving. And maybe depending on your budget, you only do that once every six months.

Hey, help me recalibrate. How am I doing compared to six months ago when we talked, I did those things you mentioned. It looks like I’m getting better traction. What can I do next? Just do a little bit at a time if it helps you. But don’t try to figure it out yourself. If you’re overwhelmed by it, go to somebody who’s a seasoned expert on it, have them build a roadmap for you, at least get you started. So that way you don’t feel like you’re just winging it.

This really is the thing, too. And also I tell people all the time. Don’t ask the people that work at your company how your company is doing on visibility. Like it’s the way that people who don’t know about you are refining you that I did an email campaign for an organization that I’m an advisor to. And it’s hilarious. The only people that don’t open the bloody emails are the ones that have the domain name of the company. I’m trying to sort of say, we’re doing this really neat thing.

And in the end, I realized, well, all that matters is that the people that are prospective customers are making it all the way through this customer journey and their conversion ratios are lining up. The fact that I can’t get the sales people to read the bloody emails because they’re already sort of bought in and it’s captive audience. They’re not my target audience, really. But it’s hard for us because we look and we’ll say you’re going to come into our organization. They’re going to say, hey, this is Steve.

Steve is going to tell us how we can do our SEO, and then that person is going to go and the head of sales is like, no, the way we do this is we grind it out on the street. I remember having this funny, not an argument, but sort of an interesting back and forth conversation with somebody one time. And he said, in the end, marketing sales greater than marketing when it comes to business drivers and business growth.

Interesting. Okay.

And I said, Well, it’s funny, I said. It’s actually got to be a plus, not a greater than. And in fact, without marketing, there’s nothing to sell.


And I said, I’m just curious, how do you think that that salesperson gets the prospective customer list? And he says, by hitting the streets. And I said, how do you think he got the addresses to go to? It’s email list. It’s Pixel tracking. It’s customer journeys. It’s all of these things. But depending on your, I’ll say your sort of anecdotal experience, it’s very easy for people to lose sight of. It’s a group of things that come together beautifully. Certainly, you can’t just shed your sales team and be 100% successful with just a bunch of landing pages.

But put these things together and think about it as a machine. And I think that’s kind of where you need to be.

I think we might have actually found a benefit of this whole great resignation, too. Some of those folks that were furloughed and aren’t coming back, we hope, are those that are sort of tied into their old ways. And some of the new people that are going to be coming in are going to look at things and go, why were you doing things like this? Hopefully, some of those smart new people are going to come in and help reinvent the way that we approach everything in sales and marketing.

And I’m already seeing that. And many of the enterprise brands that we’ve been working with over the last couple of months have brought in new people that are interested in being involved in MarTech that have questions. And that’s amazing, because now we have buy in. Now we have a partner and we’re not trying to consistently convince our clients of why we need to do something. They’ve got these new people that aren’t set in their ways that want to know, why are we doing this? Ask me why eight times in a conversation.

And I know you’re somebody who I want to work with. Anyway.

The way we do things, what I do think that we’ve gained as a benefit was that every organization that said there’s no, sorry, you can’t work from home. It’s going to break up the team dynamic, and we will be ineffective as an organization because of that. Well, you all learned some hard lessons and we adapted. It was bought by choice for sure. And I would gladly trade everything away to go back to the angry office worker lifestyle, just to know that we could avoid what we’ve all gone through as a society.

However, the fact that you immediately went back to first principles like, okay, everybody’s working from home, how do we keep them connected? How do we make sure that we rapidly responded? And then we kept waiting new things would happen. And we’d have to go back again to sort of very Socratic first principles approaches to things over and over again. And when you start with a company, the first thing they do is they say, What’s your 30-60-90? What’s your 180? At 90? It just is like, no, we should always have a 30-60-90.

We should always be questioning and rethinking and looking at what’s out there, going to your feed late in the morning and seeing what’s happening in the world. Adjust your day, your week as a result. Like, life is a series of sprints, not a well planned marathon that goes with it.

Yeah. I think a lot of us that are in dynamic industries like SEO, really feed off of new things, new apps. We nerd out over different ways to try things. Hey, let’s try this Agile process. Let’s try this new project management system. Let’s switch from the spreadsheet program thing that we’re using, and let’s experiment with some templates in Google sites since we’re already on Google workspace, and we’re constantly open to the idea of testing new things for the appointment betterment. And that mindset of let’s see how we can do better this week than we did last week.

Let’s see how we can do better. Like you said, 20-60-90. I think it’s something that creates an amazing culture. I think people who don’t fit into those cultures, working from home especially, will find their way out quickly on their own because they’ll see everybody else engaging in conversations on Slack and in projects that we’re working on. They’ll see them interact and be part of our weekly meetings and discussions and those that are quiet, those that don’t participate, those that kind of do their own thing, those that, like habits and routines and not interested in trying new things.

They are going to be part of that great resignation or find an older type business to work in. That isn’t as exciting and vibrant as what we do in digital marketing.

Yeah, the opportunity is incredible for folks that want to grab onto it. And by no means, there’s obviously a lot of people that this type of thing is tough to wrap your head around. It’s the idea of going it alone or whatever. It’s certainly not for everybody, but in the same way that, there’s people that have a thirst or they need a little nudge. Oh, wait a second. You mean I can go and I can say, SEO Steve, and I got a free course. All right. Let me give this a whirl, right?

Like, just give them that little nudge and make sure that we can do this. And that’s what I have a huge respect for your approach to it, Steve, because that is right. We’re blessed that we are able to do these things. And then when we do a little bit of a give back, like you say, next thing you know, that person that took that free course is like, hey, I’ve actually started my own little mini agency, and I see that you’ve got a job posting. That’s where it all comes together.

Or even just making a connection. And you don’t have to be the one that gets the direct benefit. But you connect to people that need each other, a business and a platform, for example. And they remember that the platforms will come back and say, you’ve send a lot of business at our direction. We want to do something, give back to you. And next thing, you get some free marketing and get invited to some fun events. So it’s great. It all kind of plays together when you give and you don’t expect anything back I think the universe recognizes that and reward you down the road.

Yeah. The most rewarding, monetarily rewarding things, have been things that I gave away for a long time with never thinking about what’s the outcome to this. It was purely just it. I wrote a little ebook. I’m like, all right, let me try this. I was that guy. I saw a neat thing on Instagram. I’m like, okay, let me give this a whirl. And it was actually a company called SamCart. My shout out to those folks, they’re really slick. They had a really great, I want to be a student of how they did it, like, how they pulled people through, because I’m like, I know that this works.

So I want to see how this machine works. And it was worth the $300 for me just to see it in action. I was like, okay, so this is it. I got to do something with this now. I sort of joke. I said I rage road a book in a weekend. I was like, I’ve spent $300. I need to do something about this. So I wrote a book in a weekend and then used another company that they recommended called Beacon, and I had it done up in a PDF in, like, a day and a half.


And I put it out there, and it got just gentle. Every once in a while, people would pick it up. But it was just for me to test the process. And what it did was I went with that immediate thought. I went to my meeting from the marketing team at work, and we’re like, hey, we’ve got some new campaign we’re running. And I was like, you know what you need? Let’s try and do a landing page with basically a seven step flow. And I took this, like, SamCart methodology.

And by golly, it worked. Right? And like I said, I work with you and we do things. And next you know, I’m like, okay. So Steve says we should try this. I’m like, let’s just pick this page, do this, do these things, run this checklist and the fact that you’re excited to give it a whirl. And then what happens now? Many, many months later. I’m like, over a year in it’s like, I’ve sold a couple of 100 copies of this book without ever having to go back and revisit it.

And it’s great because then people now will come back and they’re like, wait a second. I think you wrote a book that I read, and it’s fun, because then those are people that you can do other things with. And that’s really the connection that I wanted. I’d rather give the book away. And so I literally just dropped it to $5. I’m like, I don’t care about making money out of this. I just wanted to pay for my annual membership. I’m done.

I actually had somebody go to one of my meetup groups in the 2000s when I was still SEO Steve, as kind of a brand who actually had me sign my first ebook, the Four Layers of the SEO model. And I’m like, I think you don’t get the idea of why it’s called an ebook, but okay, I signed it. I drove 50 miles from North LA to come hang out with you. And I’m like, awesome, good to have you. Can you sign my ebook? And it’s just an ebook.

It’s so weird. Yeah, that was strange. But the fact that you write something that people find value in, whether it’s a blog post, an ebook, or even a textbook gives you that sense of posterity. I’ve left something behind the people that will help them on their journey to get either where I am today or hopefully even above that.

Yeah, that’s what it is. So there you go. So you’re doing, number one, congratulations. Just in what you do on a daily basis as a company, you’re doing well, you’ve taken the right approach. And like I said, we could probably spend 4 hours nerding out about everything from OpenVMS and all the craziness we went through. It’s hilarious. That, like when I started, and this is just my last little closer. When I started at SunLife, all of the people that I worked with were like, AVP of system unit or whatever it was.

There were VPs and AVPs. And I would say, like, how did you get here? Well, they all worked there for 23 years, and they started in, like, the print shop. And it was like they literally were mailroom people that were now VPs. I’m like, this is like that Secret To My Success movie with Michael Keaton.

He took some shortcuts. Let’s be fair.

That’s right, he did. But here we are. And then 15 years later, I said I had a good friend of mine who worked in the mailroom, at the company that I worked at. And it was like, all I could think of is, you know where this guy is going to be in 23 years, he’s going to be the senior mailroom guy. He won’t be the AVP of a business unit. It’s a fundamentally different organizational style. And we don’t do that sort of progression through. But what you can do is you can take a skill and then apply it to maybe inside a business unit, and then maybe you go to a competitor, and then maybe you end up coming back.

And this sort of leapfrog effect now is possible. And nowadays, maybe you just do this a couple of hours a night and three nights a week. And you don’t have to worry about leaving your job. You just keep your job. And then next thing you know, this thing’s generating 30% of your income. And you’re like, okay, if I did it more, than you can.

And now you have a choice. And that’s the best feeling in the world is knowing that you know what? I don’t have to be here. I’m making enough money with the other things that I’ve been doing with my free time, that I can leave here and get a couple more of those other clients and do this full time if I want to. So sometimes it’s not just about the job. It’s about having control over your choices. And so many people feel imprisoned. If I leave this, I don’t know if I can get another job somewhere.

I don’t know if I can get my job back or if I’m going to be paid the same, or if I’m going to retain my seniorities and so forth. So they’re so worried after working that many years for a company that they feel entrapped. And I think it’s reasonable to feel that way. But there’s enough people who’ve survived. That if you believe in yourself, enough like you said, start doing it on your free time, prove to yourself that you can do it. And if you still like your day job and you want to keep it great.

But at least now you know that you don’t need that job. You can be more confident with your boss and your manager and make bigger decisions. And if they fire you, you’ve got something on the side that you can fall back on.

It is a great potential for many people. All right. And I hope that we can see more and more folks to reach out. If you want to find out about this kind of stuff, people are always, I do appreciate it. I would get a lot of good emails from folks who are like, hey, listen to this episode. I’m curious, and we get to dig in on stuff, and we’ve actually helped a few people take on new careers. And on that note, Steve, what’s the best way for people to reach you if they wanted to get in touch?

Sure. I’m SEO Steve everywhere. We also have the guys on my team, folks on my team that if you just want to ask a day to day question just Wiideman everywhere. W-I-I-D-E-M-A-N. We love to help small businesses. We do a lot of free work to try to give back. So if there’s a question we can answer, why isn’t my page ranking? Why is this competitor beating me?

Ask us. We’d love to help you, so hopefully we’ll see you on social media. SEO Steve or Wiidemen. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to hang out with you, Eric.

This was a lot of fun. I could go all day. Sadly, I’ve got another meeting. Still got that day job, so I got to. Thank you very much, Steve.

Thank you.