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Buu Lam is a Community Evangelist at F5 supporting the growing DevCentral community. Beyond just the day to day work Buu does with F5, he’s a fantastic content creator and someone who embodies the value of customer and people first.

We cover a lot of what he has done in the transition from architect to SE to evangelist plus a deep dive into his video and audio rig! Make sure to subscribe to Buu’s channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtVH…

Plus check out what he and the team are doing on the F5 DevCentral channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtVH…

p.s. he has one of the best LinkedIn profiles ever because you can read it like a story. Seriously, check it out here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/buulam/

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Alright. Welcome everybody to the DiscoPosse Podcast. My name is Eric Wright. I’m going to be your host, and this is a fantastic conversation featuring Buu Lam. Buu is a community evangelist at F5 DevCentral. He’s also a budding YouTuber, somebody who’s taught me a lot about that side of the world. And just a fantastic human who I really enjoyed knowing professionally and now being able to spend time on the podcast so kind of really cool way in how we had been connected for a long time. You’re going to enjoy the show. I know I certainly had a really great time. Plus, he unpacks some of what he does in his equipment and really just approaching the technology community side and his own personal history that brought him there. Super cool. So, you’re really going to take this one. And I do have to of course, give a big thanks and a shout out to the folks that do make this podcast possible, including the amazing folks over at Veeam Software. And I say this because, hey, it’s that time of year – you’re doing your taxes, and you’re probably thinking, Am I protected? Well, make sure you’re protected in every side of the world, including your data protection, everything you need to cover your data center assets, your cloud assets, your SAAS assets. I guess they’re Saassets. Anyways, you wanted to check it out, go to vee.am/discoposse. It’s that simple. And you can check out everything they’ve got, whether it’s physical servers, cloud servers, even cloud native stuff. Hey, just because you got it running on Kubernetes doesn’t mean it’s safe. There’s a lot of persistent cloud native applications out there. As there should be.

All right, go check it out. So again, go to vee.am/discoposse and you can see what they’ve got to offer. I stand behind it because I legitimately use the platform and really, it’s truly saved my backside a bunch of times. Of course, while you’re saving your assets, make sure you enjoy just an absolutely stunning, devilishly good cup of coffee that you can get from the very own diabolicalcoffee.com. We got some really cool things. We got some shirts, we got mugs. We got fantastic coffee. And of course, we’ve got just building small business. I definitely recommend it. I’m also the co-owner. So, hey, let’s be honest, I can do full transparency there. Speaking of full transparency, let’s get right to the transparent goodness. This is Buu Lam from the DiscoPosse Podcast.

Hey, everyone, my name is Buu. I’m a community evangelist with F5 Dev Central, and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse Podcast.

The fun part, Buu, I’ve been taking in your content for a while, so it is a true honor and a pleasure to share a microphone with you for a podcast because we have a fun history, personal history that, thanks to the LinkedIn world, stayed connected. And I suddenly started seeing some really neat, dynamic, good video stuff coming up in my feed. And more and more, I saw kind of what you were doing. I then saw you doing videos about what you’re doing, and those videos got better. And I was like, Buu is on something. This is it. I love your progression to what you’ve been doing.

Thank you.

It’s cool. So I’m super happy to, we’re going to nerd out a bit on tech, which is natural for us to do. But I’m also excited about what you and the F5 team are doing. So for folks that are new to you, if you don’t mind, give a quick bio and an introduction about what you’re doing with F5.

Yeah, sure. Well, first of all, I got to say thanks for having me on because I’ve been watching your content as well, and it’s been really cool to see somebody deliver this type of content in this level of quality for such a long time as well. I think a lot of folks, I don’t call myself that unique right now, although maybe I am a little bit, but there’s a lot of people putting out really good quality content now. But dating back a couple of years, you know, you’ve been doing this for a while now, putting out great quality content. So I’m honored to be here. If I were to dial it back, maybe our history. I used to work at a reseller here in Vancouver, British Columbia, and I was a network security consultant there. And at that reseller I met a younger Eric Wright, who is a really great guy. And we got to look at a few things with your organization. And that was way back in the late 2000s at that point and early part of my career. So I finished school around 2004-2005 and got my first job in IT at that point. I learned a bunch of stuff, but that company ended up getting bought out by even bigger company. And then I moved on to do the whole consulting thing through a reseller. So I was doing that for a number of years. I was always in the network security space. And then in 2011, I moved to F5, which is where I am now. And my story at F5 is pretty basic, actually. I started as a sales engineer, and up until last year I was a sales engineer for ten years, working with the same sales rep, covering the same territory, almost exactly the same territory throughout those years, with a couple of spots of covering for turnover here and there for other territories as well. But I did that job for ten years covering F5 products, talking to a number of folks within British Columbia about F5 products. And just last year moved over to the DevCentral team, which is F5’s user community, which is really important to F5. We dedicate a number of folks to working on building that community relationship with everybody. And as part of that, we’ve been doing a lot of live streaming and video work.

But I was actually doing that prior to joining the team, and I was doing that for my customers. And I was doing that because of the pandemic. Everybody was at home. And I was like, okay, I got to keep engaged with my territory. And so we couldn’t have user groups anymore. We actually, at the start of the pandemic, had to cancel our user groups. So I was like, okay, well, let’s just do some of this stuff on video. And then, yeah, like you said, started making videos. And I looked back on my YouTube channel that I had started at that time, and I thought they were okay videos at the time. Now I look back, I’m like, cringing over time, keep putting out content, it gets better. And then eventually this role with the DevCentral community, they had a head count open after there was a bit of a shuffle there, and I was able to join the team and kind of do this at a level for the broader F5 just to help out with these efforts here. So that’s my background. If that’s enough info for you.

That’s awesome. And it’s funny that the progression to evangelist. I started to cheat the system when I came to then VM Turbo and became Turbonomic. I was working out on the West Coast for a few years. I moved back to Toronto, still working for the same firm, but I was blogging. And then through that piece of it, that was kind of the first layer of me just finding a problem, sharing a problem similar to what you’re doing now with that conversion of user group to a video format. And then in doing that, you’re like, oh, what if I just did more than just like, wait till I bumped into a problem to write about the problem and the solution? So I then started proactively building content and proactively reviewing stuff and getting involved. Next, you find yourself at an event and you’re sitting at a blogger table and you’re thinking about it more purposefully. And from there, then when I got the gig at Turbo, I got hired as the evangelist. And at the time, that was kind of now they call it developer advocacy or whatever, right? Like, we the idea was being not in sales, not in marketing, sort of spanning both the understanding of it, but really being in the customers world. In the seat of the consumer of your product. And having that honest outside voice to bring into it.

So that’s really what I was lucky enough to have that background in my blog. And it led me to that first gig again. So let’s map to what you’re doing and why I really dig the way you do this, Buu, is that you’ve always got the mind of the consumer, the user – like you’ve always been very human centric in your approach to technology, and your storytelling is really great. So this makes it easy to take in. And you’ve got a great delivery. So it’s a surprisingly rare thing to have both a creative mind and ability, as well as a strong technical capability. It is sort of a unicorn type of personality, which is good. And I’m glad that you’re finding a really great home in your role at F5, because it’s deserved. Because you’ve got a lot to bring, and it’s tough to find those gigs sometimes that gives you that freedom to be creative, but also you got to really get deep into the text sometimes.

Well, it is funny that you use the word unicorn. My boss would say that he has a team of unicorns, and we’re finding that out now because there’s an open head count on our team. We’ve got a couple of folks that are lined up and look like we’ll hopefully have someone pretty quick here. But yeah, to find somebody who wants to jump in technically, who is somebody who cares for community, that’s a huge part of it, like, really understanding the needs of others and being there to serve, as opposed to trying to serve yourself. And then also be someone who’s willing to jump in front of the camera at a moment’s notice and just be out there for everybody or somebody who can write and somebody who can produce videos as well. When I thought about it, I was like, I’m just kind of adding little bits and pieces onto my existing role. But now that we’re actually looking for that role, I’m like, oh, my goodness, how am we going to find this person like that? How many of these people exist? Because I thought there was a whole bunch of me, but it turns out there wasn’t.

You’ve broken the mold.

Right.

And it’s funny that I think even in today, like, literally today compared to what it was even two years ago, especially, like, pre-pandemic. YouTuber was a pejorative. Like, it was just like, you want to be a YouTuber? What does that even mean? Now you say “YouTuber”, and everybody can name multi-millionaire personalities. They may still kind of dislike that it exists, but they know it. It’s more name brand. Right. Back when we met, I remembered seeing this video of a guy who was someone with a camera was filming him, and he was going around and taking a bicycle, and he was stealing bicycles in New York City. And every one he would do, would start by getting on a bike and then just riding in a way and watching the reaction of people around it, and there’s no reaction. Right. Then he would get on one and he would, like, mess with the lock and then ride away. No reaction. There was one where there was, like, a cop standing right beside it, and then he was sitting there, like, with a Hacksaw sawing through this lock. And then somebody came over. The caption was, oh, finally someone is going to call me out. But instead the guy didn’t call him out. He said, you know, you should do you should be cutting the chain, not the lock. The chain is easier to cut. And so the guy basically held it for him while he cut it. Then he got on the bike and rode away. Well, that was Casey Neistat.

It’s hilarious.

It was like filmed on goodness knows what, like super early stage camera was. But he was doing these viral YouTube films before YouTube was even a thing. Like it was a brand new platform. And now I look years later and people are going to the Casey Neistat film class right now, which is a brand new thing that’s offered through monthly stuff like that and that influence. Now it’s there like we’ve got so much around us that has upped the game where if I don’t do a video that feels like it should go on YouTube and get paid for, I feel like I’m letting myself down.

Well, the hilarious thing is quite literally two and a half years ago at this point, I’ve told my kids, YouTube is not a career. Don’t get your hopes up that you are going to be on YouTube and actually make money doing this. That’s like a one in a billion shot to do anything like that. Lo and behold, pandemic hits. I’m on video all the time now and have pretty much set up a YouTube studio in my office. I’m like, I’m eating crow at this point. That’s okay. I will always admit when I’m wrong, even to my kids, especially to my kids. And so lesson learned. They saw the future before I did.

Well, I think the good lesson that we get out of it too, and I even tried it. I understand why when you say they’ve surveyed kids and like primary, elementary school kids and the top jobs used to be like doctor, fireman, whatever. Right. And then now the top job in almost every country they pulled in was YouTuber. But just like saying doctor, it’s no different. They see somebody that has a great earning potential. That’s why people became, when you’re a kid, you want to be a doctor because you think a doctor makes a bunch of money and they drive nice cars, not because they’re healing humans.

Right.

It’s really more about the importance of the job. So a YouTuber to that kid is an important thing. It has financial benefits. Never realizing that to get there is a grind.

Absolutely.

Even if you get a viral, if I got one video that went to a million views, the next video would go to 1000. Right. Nothing is guaranteed. You’ve got to grind it out for years and years. Even this podcast, this will be like a 216th episode. That’s 216 weeks of content. And I feel like I’m just figuring it out.

Your persistence is amazing to me to just keep pushing out content, especially like, for us in a similar space, looking for tech content, which isn’t, I’ll admit, it’s not always the most interesting thing to us. It’s interesting, and that’s why we do it. But to an audience, I think from an audience, how do I keep this interesting for them? How do I make this, maybe something hasn’t come out in weeks and nothing new like Hot and Shiny is out there to talk about? How do I keep putting out something that will interest them? And for you to do it for 216 weeks in a row is very commendable.

There was a gap in the middle where I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. Somewhere around. I think that’s why everybody I know, I got a lot of fantastic friends who are our peers in the industry. Right. And everybody had a podcast. And then about episode 11-15, the wheels come off the bus because it’s like easy just to grab your friends. We all have the same friends, so we all get on each other’s podcasts. It’s like having a party. But at some point, you have to actually seek out the subject. You have to seek out something new and be curious about it in that process. And that was really the differentiating thing was my sort of blind willingness to keep on pushing when there’s no listeners and no feedback. But I think, just like you, what we start to do is you translate what you do in true human interaction and learn to do it with a camera where even this, like, I’m actually looking into a lens. I’ve learned how to do this. Instead of looking down the screen so that you see the top of my forehead and me eyes pointing down, I have to learn to engage the camera. And so I do it for demos, and I started doing live streams. And your stuff is fantastic. I love your streams because it’s a different pace, it’s a different cadence.

But you keep the energy level like it flows. It’s not just as you can see, we’re going to go through you click on here, you hit F5, create content that you would like to sit down and watch. Maybe it sounds too just like, easy to say that, but that really is my approach to it. And again, to your credit, you’ve nailed that. And heck, I learned from you on a daily basis these days.

Thanks. One of the things I do, too, is think about the why. Why did I start this? Or why do I keep doing this? And my why at the start of the pandemic was maybe it wasn’t true, but I thought, you know what? My customers, they’re missing out on their user group, which was always a great time. Like, we would get as many people together. We’d sit down in a restaurant, and that was actually like a safe time for the customers. We’d be in meetings with customers. And yeah, we have a point to that meeting. We’re usually either catching up and then showing them our latest wares and seeing what they want to do. But the user group was like, oh, you’ve already bought the stuff. I don’t need to sell you anything now. So I get to talk to you in a safe place and say, okay, here’s the stuff that you bought. Here’s all the cool things that other people are doing with it. Let’s chat about that. And then hopefully that strengthens our relationship. And so that cancels, and we don’t have that anymore. And so I’m like, maybe I won’t go as far to say maybe they miss me, but maybe we’re missing this interaction now.

So how do we still maintain that interaction? So I always thought about that every week. My Monday morning ones, when I was doing it in territory, they were always like, ten minutes of actually talking about F5 stuff, maybe five minutes of talking about F5 stuff, maybe zero minutes of talking about F5 stuff. And otherwise it was like me and Daryl catching up on our weekends, because that’s usually something that we would do. Actually, every Monday morning, we just kind of chat about how our weekends went. So we chat about our weekends. We usually have a guest on, chat about what they’re up to. And then we’d actually just bring up current events, and they might be technology related, but not necessarily F5 related. And it was just like chat with folks. We just kept doing that, and it’s just trying to stay connected with folks and kind of left the business stuff to actual meetings. But that kept me going for a while.

I think the really good thing, especially when you look at that advocacy role and Evangelism role, it’s genuinely about being a peer to the people who are using products. Listening to them and giving them, like you said, a safe place where they can share ups and downs. And quite often you’d have, like, two peers in our group who would be like, We’ve got this weird thing we’re trying to do. We’ve got, like, a multi site configuration, and I’ve got this weird Edge site, and I don’t know what to do. They’re like, oh, yeah, we have the same thing. We’ve got one place that’s up, we’ve got one remote site that’s way out of the way. And this is the gear we use. This is our configuration. And you’re like, oh, Holy Moly. Like, they’re educating each other through real experience. And that’s so much more genuine than even read the manual or even a blog sometimes. Because quite often we have to create scenarios that will let us tell a story. And I do my best to try and always make sure it’s a realistic scenario. But every once in a while, you’re talking about a feature that no one’s actually used in real life, and you’re trying to be this is a really cool thing we can do and no one’s done it. But please tell us if it works.

But we made it so you can do it.

It’s like I would say, show me a successful spanning tree implementation and I’ll show you a network that went down on the weekend because it never goes right. It’s always the second run that that works.

Yeah, for sure. One of the recent things I did was document building my Intel Nuck ESX server, and it has nothing to do with F5 stuff. I’m like, hey, somebody’s going to do this at home. My scenario was that I have this old lab gear, ten years old now at this point. 4 years worth of lab gear that is super loud, consuming so much power, I’m sure. And like, okay, I got to consolidate this down. Took six months to get an intel knock with chip shortages, supply chain issues and whatnot. So I got the thing. I’m like, okay, I could install this in, like, an hour and be done. Or I could spend a week documenting this whole thing and putting together all the steps and doing a write up and stuff. And it’s going to benefit the community. It’s not part of F5, but it’s going to benefit the community. So I’m going to do that. And luckily, my boss gives us the freedom to say, you know what, if it’s going to benefit the users, then just do it. It doesn’t have to be about F5 stuff necessarily. If it’s going to help them, it’ll help us eventually.

Yeah, that’s been done.

As a management team. That’s a really good insight into the value that you can bring by sharing non-product knowledge. Because really what you’re creating is we always talk about this, like the trusted advisor, which is what such a loaded overuse. It’s like saying, you’re customer centric. Of course you’re customer-centric, everybody’s customer-centric. Yeah. But this idea of the trusted advisor, if all you do is go in and pitch the current availability of the product and the features that you’ve got coming up, that’s not really what you’re doing. By creating a listening space, by creating a collaborative relationship where you talk about things that are not related to your product, then what happens is they get that build up of trust and they’re like, yeah, Buu helped me out with this other thing. It was like, that’s really cool. I mean, I can’t dozens of times, probably hundreds at this point, I’ve ended up talking with people about, like, weird VMware configurations and OpenStack stuff and all these completely non product thing. But then when it suddenly comes up and they’re like, oh, actually, I got a quick question about your product. And now they’re free to ask.

They’re directing the conversation and they trust my answer because they know I actually kind of know what I’m doing. I ran a real environment so they build up that trust with you. And the same thing for your side, right? You design stuff at scale and they don’t see that sometimes. When you just come in, you’re like, oh, yeah, I’m an SE for F5. You’re like, But I’ve got ten years designing at scale systems. You don’t always get a chance to share that story, but when you do, then they’re like, oh, yeah, Buu is pretty cool. He knows what he’s doing.

You know what one thing I think about too, is? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of friends in technology. Like my personal friends before I ever got into IT, I have like one friend. Well, I mean, I used to work with them, so that’s how we’re connected through technology. But otherwise I don’t have friends in the IT space. And working at a vendor for a sales engineer, everybody’s your customer, too. And so my technology friends actually end up being their form through my customer relationships and many of my previous customers from before. I have a whole bunch of them that are actually personal friends now, but I think about it that way too. I’m like these people I’m building these relationships with. I don’t want to make them empty relationships. And I don’t have technology friends outside of work. So I’m going to make technology friends through all the people I get to connect with now. So that’s been a really cool part of community.

When you’ve got really cool stuff. So you and the team just came off of F5 Velocity. Nothing worse than somebody misses the name. And it was like Announcements galore, which is like my favorite time of year, right? It’s like you come off of company kick off and then you’ve got lots of product and community announcements. So you must be in like relieved now. You probably have the last twelve weeks were loaded with prep work. How does it feel now to be on the other side of that?

It’s a breath of fresh air. More than twelve weeks. Like, we made this acquisition of a company called Voltera just over a year ago at this point. And with F5 we often historically, when we make an acquisition, we’re a little bit quiet about it up front because we try to get a lot of integration stuff done first before we present something to a customer. And I think part of that reason is because F5 has been such a solid brand for what our foundational business is. We’re known for uptime and reliability. And so for us to take in a company and just shoot it out the door and say, hey, you guys start using this stuff, we got to slow things down a little bit because people trust us and we can’t break that trust. And so for months and months and months now, there’s a bunch of stuff that’s being worked on that I knew about, that I’ve been testing, getting trained up on and whatnot. And so all of this is sitting under your hat for months, and you can’t wait to tell people about it. And so, yes, when the 15th came around and all the press releases came out and all the stuff that now that I report into marketing now, even though I don’t consider myself a marketer, but so many people on our broader marketing team, we’re working really hard on getting everything ready.

And then to just kind of see 08:00 a.m. Pacific time, 08:00 A.m., everything just dropped. And it was kind of go go. As far as all the news and announcements, it was just like, this is awesome. It’s out there. Now I get to talk about it. The real work actually begins now. All this prep work happening now, the real work begins. But yeah, it’s been really exciting to drop new products. That Volterra stuff has become F5 distributed cloud. And so we’re able to kind of venture off into a new space for F5, where we were traditionally either in a data center or in a cloud data center. And now we can actually run compute in our data centers now that are spread out around the world. We can take those resources and we can run what’s called a customer edge, and we can run that into whatever their data centers might be or an intel knock, if you will. And then the first platform that we’ve got or the first service on that platform is a web service, which is Web application API protection, kind of the evolution of a Waft service. So that came out as well, which F5 has always had a strong pedigree in that space to deliver this on the new platform, tons of really great stuff that we’re able to share with everybody.

And then on top of that, being part of the community team, when I joined the community team, the biggest thing that we were working on was actually a new community platform as well. We moved on to kind of a best in breed community platform where everybody can get great rich interaction on there. And that was just consuming a lot of our time as well. Mainly my coworker leaf was just heads down, banging away at that, and he got it done in a big way and really delivered on a fantastic platform. And so that was being announced this week as well, which was a big relief for us to get to share that as well. So, yeah, this week was a lot of stuff just coming to a head. And on top of that, getting to interact with our customers because it was a virtual event. But we created lots of ways for customers to still get peer to peer and also kind of casual interaction with the Five folks as well. And so we were doing a lot of that office hours and whatnot. And yeah, it’s Friday now. Everything was kind of buttoned up yesterday and yeah, we’re all pretty relieved. But now the real work begins now.

Two things that are important. Number one, I always laugh at the joys of choosing acronyms that are going to line up. And whenever I think of Web API protection, Cardi B wrecked that acronym for us. There’s so many acronyms that we end up having to toss around. But functionally, it’s really really slick what you’re doing. And the idea of edge implementations again, sometimes an overloaded phrase. We talk about edge, but we’re seeing real implementations where real compute power that’s moving into that edge tier, and it’s finally accessible and it’s common as far as deployment patterns. It’s no longer the experimental big places with these massive diverse networks, you can see like everyday mid market, even SMBs have the opportunity to use this stuff and it’s easily accessible versus it seemed experimental probably not too many years ago.

Yeah. I mean, you’re probably seeing a lot of this as well. And especially if I don’t know how much you’re part of the IBM side of IBM and the Red Hat side of IBM. But like OpenShift, Kubernetes, those types of workloads now have enabled this huge expansion into those types of architectures now. So it’s really cool to see.  It’s like, even in that respect, all those architectures kind of came to a head. They kind of have met at this point now where we have modern application architecture and we have edge infrastructure architectures, and now we’re going to see the value of that over the next few years.

For sure. Yeah. It’s funny because I remember VMware a couple of years ago, they started to talk about obviously we’ve got Vsphere on NUC. So like MicroPC implementations. And it was always sort of seemingly limited because of memory limitations on the hardware stack and the massive footprint that a traditional little VMware data center, virtual data center would run. And then they talked about moving it down to a Raspberry Pi. And there was this weird moment where I saw the split in people who saw the future versus people who were thinking, I’ve been a VMware admin for a long time. They said, what kind of a VM can you run on a Raspberry Pi? Because there’s not enough memory to run a good sized VM. That’s because there won’t be VMs in this world. But what they’re showing is that the underlay that they can manage. Right. And that’s what Red Hat does with satellites. So it’s like just poke these endpoints all over the place. They run Kubernetes, they run OpenShift and then just use satellite to manage them all. Very simple, lightweight phone home stuff. But now you can run it. We used to joke about how you’re going to run an OS on a router. Like, no, you’re not. OS are huge. Not anymore.

Yeah, it’s super neat to see.

What’s the thing that kind of really made you jump up when you saw it coming that you now can share. Obviously, the community platform is huge because the interactivity is neat. But on the product side, is there something where you just want to take every customer and say, you got to check this out?

Yeah, well, definitely for the web application API protection stuff is that, I don’t expect you to have configured an F5 waft before. But let’s just say sometimes you have to go through a bit of training in order to get everything kind of dialed in properly on that. And credit to my customers before. Like, I had so many customers who put in the effort to do that, to learn the platform and to get really good at configuring their waft and did it well. But it was an investment in time to go learn what all the buttons and knobs were, to be able to turn on the different protections, to tune it for their applications, to work with the application teams, to actually learn or get a swagger file, get all the APIs if the application team even documented or created swagger file in the first place. And so all that work is like nobody’s going to be out of a job, but your job is going to become a whole lot easier operationally and it’s going to become more strategic than it is operational now.  Waff admins are going to move to something like this and be able to spend their time focused on do I have all the policies in place now that I’ve got protection upfront that I can configure really quickly?

Now let’s spread that out. Now, let’s get more applications under this because it’s easy to do. Everybody can trust it. It’s easy to architect into the application. It’s all automatable so we can make it part of the CI/CD pipeline now so that the application developers aren’t kind of reacting after something has been deployed. Maybe they can start testing this out behind there during development phase. So, yeah, I’m really excited to see this just move at such a greater pace than it was before. Sometimes we would sell a waft to a customer and we’d revisit in six months and they’d have maybe they’d have it enabled, but not in blocking mode. Maybe a year later they’d have it in blocking mode. Now people are going to be that much further along in that journey.

It’s interesting because how do you develop a user experience flow when there’s very few users who are ready for that type of implementation? So to the credit of the team, it’s like getting out there, spending the effort, letting people try it out, learning from how they’re using it. It’s often that whole thing of customers don’t ask you how your product works. They tell you how your product works. I’ve got engineers all the time and they’ll say, like, I don’t understand, like no one’s using this. Like, if you put in analytics on the platform, they’re like, I don’t understand why they don’t use this flow or the screen or this wizard. I’m like, because that’s not how they use the product. Ask them how they use the product and then they go, oh, okay. So the wizard should emulate the active implementation, not how you believe the product should be consumed. And it’s tough, especially with the complexity of doing that kind of API interactivity. Or like I said, on the back end, sometimes the developers don’t even think about self documenting APIs. If it isn’t self documenting, it isn’t getting made. Right.

Those are my favorite meetings too, was to bring a product manager out to speak with customers. And it was awesome because we could put the product manager in front of the customer. Like, see, that’s what they’re saying. I’m not just parroting lies to you. Like, they’re actually saying that they use it in this way. So hopefully this kind of helps and it has every single time, it’s always able to help shape the product. So for any folks out there who has a vendor who wants to bring a product manager to come see you, please take those meetings for the benefit of your product, because that shapes how the product comes out.

If you think organizationally, the one thing I wish we had was as an SE, you are a quota carrying person for the company. So you’ve got different commitments. You obviously, there’s greater upside opportunity in doing that. You also, you’re better at it in that you are really thinking true customer value and customer relationship. But some people don’t. They just think, I got to nail my quota at this quarter. But then on the back end, so in the developer advocacy and in the product management, there’s no quota attached. But I almost think, like, a customer meeting should be we should have quotas of true customer interactions as part of it to make sure that you’re out there and listening and learning.

Yeah, it’s an interesting thing to try to measure, actually, that’s something that we have been discussing internally. How do you measure the effectiveness of community? And there have been attempts at doing that. One company that we work with has a metric that takes a whole bunch of stuff off of our platform to give us an idea. But that’s just based off of the platform, really. For me, when I was a sales engineer for ten years, we always looked at it from a long term perspective. Like, you see sales reps and SEs that kind of bounce around different gigs. Maybe they spent two years here or three years here and they go from place to place. We were never like that for us. Yes, we have a quota and we’re trying to make commission, but at the same time, I will 100%, ten out of ten times I will value a customer relationship and my reputation and my brand over what F5 is trying to sell. Like, if there’s something that is going to damage my relationship with that customer, it’s not worth it for me because I’d have to look them in the face and say – you know what, that product that you bought there, we sold it to you because there was some sort of bonus or something for selling that. It feels terrible to do something like that. And I know I’m not saying that every vendor out there is slimy and is going to do stuff like that. There’s lots of great folks that have great reputation just like we did as well. But there are a couple out there that are going to try to do things that only benefit them, and that’s just not the best way to do business, in my opinion.

Yeah, for sure. And especially coming from the consumer side, I had a very different lens when it came to going to my team and saying, hey, this is how you should approach the situation. And I would sit on sales calls, and it was funny you mentioned my favorite phrase that I used a lot earlier is like, hey, look, I’m not in marketing. I was working for the marketing team. But my easy one on the calls was always like, hey, I’m not in sales. Like, if you buy this, if you buy $8 million worth of this, I get exactly the same paycheck next month. So I’m not vested in the success other than I want the company to do well. But my goal is to make sure you’re having a good experience and you’re actually getting value out of what we’re doing. So it gives them a bit of a disarming thing where they say like, oh, okay. So if Eric’s saying something, he most likely is genuine in his belief in it, versus I got a Spiff that’s making sure that I can buy my kids an extra motorized car this quarter because I got a bonus.

Yeah, exactly. Nice to be out of that space. At this point. We weren’t always out there just trying to make our quota and sell the spiffs. But at the same time, you have this number that is very daunting every quarter to hit. Moving on to not having that number has been nice and truly get to say, you know what? We’re just here to interact with the community and tell you about things that you can do with your product and help you out.

Yeah, certainly. I have an incredible respect for folks that do have to, as they call it, carry a bag. Right. That actually are quota carrying reps, sales engineers and systems engineers, and whatever the title is, the responsibility is to carefully land the line between customer happiness and family and wealth happiness at the same time. So I’ve always said I enjoy being on a call when it goes well and it turns into a deal. But boy, do I ever not want the responsibility to create that? It’s a big difference versus just being there when it happens, actually creating that business, it’s a huge responsibility.

Well, and one more thing to add to that is also shareholder expectations as well. And so I think about it this way. Like every quarter our numbers get reported. That revenue number that directly maps to the number that I brought in, I would bring in for the company as well. So you’re also serving the shareholders, which in a roundabout way, if you’re investing in your 401K or your RRSPs and you probably have an index, you’re probably investing in tech companies anyways. And so there’s this weird loop of like, hey, I have an interest in your company doing well as well, just kind of indirectly, because my retirement is actually based on tech stock.

Yeah, it is funny, especially that responsibility, too, is for the company layer, because you hit a great number, you have a great year or a great quarter. Well, guess what happens to that number next quarter, right? It goes up and there’s never a quota where you’re like, you know what? You did 4 million last year. Why don’t you do three and a half this year? Once you just dial it back, always four and a half, 5 million, whatever you do, then there’s the stretch goal, and there’s a mentality and a capability that’s attached to that role and that personality. Remember when there was like a real estate boom? I worked in an insurance, I worked in tech at an insurance company. And a bunch of my help desk reps all left, literally like 5 out of 15 help desk reps all quit because they took that like three weeks to get your real estate license course. But this was in like ’99. All you had to do was get someone to say, hey, I’ll let you represent me. By the time you’re signing the Inc on the MLS, it was sold. They didn’t have to market.

They didn’t have to advertise. They didn’t have to hold an open house. Houses sold themselves. So everybody got into real estate. And then in 2001, they were all going, hey, you guys still need any help with those people? Because they realized they weren’t salespeople. They were just standing beside the sale. Really in the end.

A little bit like that now.

Yeah. Things about especially goodness gracious, BC Vancouver. I remember buying. So I bought a condo in October of 2008. Which everybody would tell you was the dumbest thing you could ever have done. But I was lucky in that I worked in a financial services firm, and I had a pretty good insight into how I believed we were at the bottom. And I was both knowledgeable and lucky, and it worked out to be right. But real estate in the Vancouver area especially is punitively expensive. So the prices were coming down, and I was like, all right, I’m going to lock this one in and I hope it stays and it stayed flat for quite a while. But then it did go back up, which is kind of nice.

Yeah. Wild times there.

And you’re surrounded by water, mountains, bears, and just pure unusable real estate. So there’s nowhere to go but vertical or into the mountains. And it’s really amazing to think there’s no wonder the prices are going up because there’s no choice. Although now they’ve got this thing about the foreign real estate tax and occupancy limitations. So I think that traditionally there’s a strong amount of outside investment that was coming in into Vancouver, especially downtown, that all of a sudden they’re like, wait a minute, we’re going to start charging you annual taxes because you’re not living here. Then those investments started to dry up.

Yeah. Although if you think about it, it’s a safe spot for them to put their money. And if the city is going to charge you 2%, but the asset is rising 25% year on year, then you can have your 2%. I’ll take the other 20%.

Go ahead and take it. Now, the other thing I said when we talk about, hey, I’m not in marketing, right? And I remembered saying this to we had done an event and I went to VM World and it was kind of like, this is my backyard, right? I’m surrounded by my nerd friends and I was a blogger. So it was like people at one point they asked me like, are you from San Francisco? Because, you know, a lot of people here. I’m like, no, we’re like Carney’s. We go from town to town. It’s just the VM world is my friends. Just so happens they’re all here. But at one point, I remember talking to my chief marketing officer and she was amazing. Gita was somebody who taught me so much. And I said something about how I get kind of trusted in these conversations because I get to say like, hey, I’m not in marketing. And she’s like, hey. No, no, it’s not a bad thing. But to the technologist who’s going to talk with me, they want to know I’m a fellow technologist. And even in her reaction remind me, I’m like, oh, yeah, it is a weird thing when I work for marketing, but I’m not in marketing. And I learned very quickly kind of the respect of that knowledge that my team brought to what they do and that I was really on that train just helping in another area. But like that, recognizing the skill of that marketing team, what they do, I started to dig in and community and stuff like this. So I’m curious Buu, your experience as you made that transition, what was your path to kind of getting familiar with what they do on a day to day basis?

Yeah. I still feel like I don’t know what half of my broader marketing team does. And I’m slowly learning because I’ll book 15 minutes. We can’t meet in person, so I’ll do a virtual coffee with them and just kind of get an idea of what they do. But it has been interesting that in sales we kind of expected, hey, a product comes out, there’s all these materials and things that are all prepped for it. So now I actually see how the sausage is made, and I know the person that actually made that document that you use, that made that reference architecture that shaped how the product is actually positioned in the market. Because they can do a whole bunch of stuff, but we want it to you know, we think we have the best angle if we kind of take this route with the product. So it has been interesting to look at it from this perspective, and I really appreciate that so many of my broader teammates in marketing really value my opinion on lots of stuff as well when it comes to what the stuff is doing out in the real world, if you will. And that’s been fun to be able to contribute back to them.

But also I kind of feel like I actually get to give back to my former teammates in the form of being their advocate and getting that message across. There’s lots of other people that do that as well. I’m not taking away from anybody. There’s lots of people in marketing who are able to kind of feed in from that side, but I’m just an extra voice that’s able to put in on that. But it has been, I’ve cleared up some misconceptions on the marketing side as to what they think about sales and on the sales side as well, cleared up some misconceptions of what they think about marketing. I would say there’s far more people that move from marketing to sales, it seems like, than from sales to marketing. And so I’m hopefully filling in some of that gap there. But yeah, it’s been quite a change to have these teammates.

I’ve talked to a few people and coached a couple of people who’ve made your similar transition. And like I said, there’s a financial impact. We don’t want to say that’s the reason we do what we do. But you are moving to a point where if you have a great year, it will look the same as if you have a moderate year. But in a point where you have commission in addition to salary, you could get attached to a monstrous deal and you get a potentially life changing level of income increase over time in those situations. And so to take that off the table, a really strong somebody like you who could do and did do very well, obviously in the duration you sat in sales engineering, for you to step back and say, hey, I’m cool with this. It shows how committed you are to that role, and it’s not the money that kept you on either side. It’s like I did this company. I dig the customer experience. I want to bring those two things together. I got a big respect for being able to do that.

Yeah. You know what, I’ve gotten into these. I was on another podcast a few months back, actually, and we got into this conversation and I’d been an SE for ten years and we had many successful years. And I would give the advice to any SE – don’t blow all your money. Invest your money wisely. If you happen to live in a place like Vancouver and invest in real estate, that’s what I did. And later on, when the time comes, you don’t have to do things necessarily for the money. And you can do things because you have a passion for it and want to pursue it. And hopefully I’ve seen folks who get their first gig as an SE and they go lease a big BMW right away because they’ve got some sort of compensation plan for a vehicle or whatever it might be. And then, hey, you know what? That lease, it’s going to feel a lot longer than it is when you’re going through that. And if you have some pretty bad years, you’re still stuck with that, stuck with that car. So, yeah, if I can give any advice to an SE that might be listening to this is don’t blow all your paychecks.

Yeah. Don’t let your lifestyle adjust to your current income because things can switch

Absolutely.

Now on the creator side, as I’ve learned too, when somebody starts to do something, it’s generally they’ve dabbled. Right. And the one thing I did discover once I saw your content you were doing on LinkedIn, and I really liked the style you were doing. And I’ve seen the adaptation. It’s funny even, some of your more recent have gone from a video to a Vlog. You really have done the story setting, you’re doing J cuts. You’re doing stuff that’s very specific to a true filmmaker storytelling style. And then when I did a quick look a few months back, I was like, oh, I’ve got to find the rest of your YouTube videos. I found another Buu Lam channel featuring a whole bunch of really cool stuff about cycling. And I was like, oh, Buu has been at this for a while in this side of it. And now you’re coming up on the other side. So what brought you to initially want to strap a camera on something and then tell a story?

You know what, the funny thing is that if you kind of look back at the dates my personal YouTube channel was actually, I don’t want to disappoint my followers over on the personal channel, but that was totally an experiment. And you can kind of tell if you look at the earliest videos on there. I was trying to figure out what kind of stories can I tell on here? And I hit a mountain biking, actually, if folks want to laugh. I made something videos about my air fryer. I was pretty excited about my air fryer, actually. The gym I go to, there’s a bunch of folks who had picked up air fryers. It made meal prep super easy. So I was like, I got to get an air fryer, too. Got an air fryer. I was trying to think of, hey, what kind of video can I make to try to experiment with creating something? And I was like, I just got this air fryer. I’ll make a video air frying, and it hit really big on YouTube. And that’s how I started to learn about the algorithm and nailing in on certain subjects and stuff and kind of editing so that people don’t get too bored on the videos as well.

That subject wasn’t really of interest to me, so it didn’t really last very long. I did one other one, and that one did well as far as views went as well. And then I transitioned to mountain biking. I just got a mountain bike. And both of my sons were getting into mountain biking as well. I got this new bike, so let me make a video about a bike. It’s about a product so I can show that off. And then that video did really well. And so I did another video about my son’s mountain bike. That video did really well. And like, okay, I guess I’ll just do these mountain bike videos. And so I just started doing them, and then was able to incorporate story to them, looking at places that we’re going with them and things that we’re discovering because we’re totally new to mountain biking. I have no place, no way I should be calling myself a mountain bike influencer by any means. However, it was just fun seeing people interact with me on there and kind of trust what I was saying when I was actually just discovering things as I went along.

But that’s the origin of that channel and trying to learn it. And you’ll actually notice, like, I got to a point where I hit my goal was, what would it take to actually make a YouTube channel that could make money? And everything that I read was like, oh, it’s going to take two years to do this. You’re going to have to make a video every week or two videos a week, and then you’re going to get to that point. And I was like, okay, let’s just figure this out. Is it going to happen like that? And then I kind of figured out, okay, if I make a video kind of like this, a lot of people watch it, and that increases my subscriber base. So I just did it over and over and over again. And you’ll notice I kind of hit about 1000 subscribers. And then it started to slow down because then I kind of hit my goal. And then at that point, I was like, okay, now I can take everything I learned and then just transition that to work and then start doing that from a work perspective. But before that, I mean, I would just tinker around with cameras and stuff anyways, not full blown cameras, but just like my phone, and then take a video of the kids, but try to make a little bit more interesting, add some music to it.

Nothing too crazy or anything like that. And the kids enjoyed that. They like watching that. My kids would make videos as well, so that would be cool. I could just hand over footage to them. And my oldest really loves making videos, so he can work on that kind of stuff. And so, yeah, I just kind of started from home videos documenting what the kids are doing. And then we have nice memories for family videos and then kind of progressing from there to, hey, I’m making videos for my customers because we can’t do user groups. Let’s do that. And then kind of taking a bit of a detour and saying, okay, the YouTube thing could grow. So let’s learn the YouTube stuff, algorithms and how to make videos on there, and then kind of come back to work and say, okay, I’ve learned all this stuff now I can apply it to work and then work on developing this for customers now.

And this is the interesting thing of, like, you generally have to take in a lot of knowledge. Like, you’re learning about the algorithm, you’re watching other successful creators, who did you kind of watch what’s in your subscription list as far as people that you watch regularly?

You know what it’s like all people from Toronto. It’s like Peter McKinnon, Maddie, Chris Howe, Lizzie Pierce, guy that does all the camera reviews undone. Like those ones I could fill with the stuff that they release. I could fill a week’s worth of utilities.

There’s no shortage of content. It just by those creators alone, right?

Yeah. Then there’s a few other ones. There’s a guy named Potato Jet who I don’t even watch his camera videos anymore. He has, like, a Vlog channel, and he’s just such a funny, hyper guy. So I like just watching him. And then I like watching Casey Neistat. You mentioned Casey Neistat. I like watching him for, like, story composition and how he weaves things together in such a way that it just feels like he’s just documenting what’s happening. But you can tell from the shots that he sets up. You had to have set up that shot and thought about it and rehearsed it, or maybe not rehearsed it, but it’s ready to go to do that. So he’s super clever, and I like watching that and kind of now that I watch it from the lens of reverse engineering, it’s interesting to see.

Yeah, I forget which one it was. It was one of the videos he did about two weeks ago. Three weeks ago. And I was like, there’s a man who’s just watching a little nice stat. Like, it was funny. You had the nice, sort of low beats intro. And like, I’d have stuff that I’ve had to learn. I had no idea what any of this stuff even mean. I bought a camera, and I’m an idiot. So I purposefully bought a camera that’s really, like, manual. I wanted to somehow make it hard on myself so that I would have to figure it out. And I’m also a little bit different. So I thought, let me go. My wife has Nikon gear, and so she has this hardened rule. She says, Are you a photographer or do you have cannons? She jokes all the time that she’s like, no Canon allowed in our house. We’re a Nikon family. My father in law is a Nikon user. So I’m like, I wanted to get into videography, though, not photography. And so, like, Nikon, all I read is about is overheating and maybe they don’t do good 4K and a bunch of different stuff.

So I thought, it’s basically Sony. And she says, like, Why don’t you look there’s this other Blackmagic is another option. And so I was like, Sony and Black Magic. I went out to Twitter poll, and I was like, hey, what should I do? And everybody was like, definitely go with the Sony. I was like, oh, man, I’m going to be counterculture and get the manual camera. So I went with a Black Magic Pocket 4K. So Pocket 4K. Super fun. Great, but no stabilization. So that’s kind of a drag. No auto focus. Also kind of a drag. But for the shots that I’m doing, I like manual pull focus. I like that kind of thing. If I were to get a second camera, I probably may add a Sony to the group if I were to get a second one, just because it would be fun to have a different style. But I really dig it. And then I got to thank you, Buu, because I just put it out Raw. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m, like, just messing with settings. I don’t know what an ISO is. I don’t know what any of the stuff.

So I just dial in what looks decent. And you poked a quick comment into one of the videos like, hey, looks like, are you recording in raw or whatever? Yeah, totally. That’s what I’m doing. There’s no luts, there’s no post editing. I’m just like recording publishing. And you reached out and we chatted on Twitter and said I was like. And you offered you like, hey, dude, let me send me some material. I’d love to take a try a color correction. And that spurred me to go, he’s right, I should learn this stuff. So I took a little extra time and learned about color grading, and still obviously no idea what I’m doing. But thanks to you, it got better. And this is like, so I’ve learned how to add a lot to the streaming camera because that’s the other problem. I would do post processing and it was fine. But the way the platform I use for the podcast, both of us are on here. So I can’t apply a lot to the video because it would screw up your video. So I was still basically shooting raw half the screen. So anyway, I went way deep for camera nerds on this one. But talk about your gear because I’d actually love to hear what kind of kit you’re using.

Yeah, my kit is pretty – I’m staring at it right now. That’s why I’m not looking at you. But I think my kit is done at this point. I wouldn’t call it dialed in, but I think I’m done because I don’t know what else I can add to it. Everybody asks me about the mic, which if you’re into mic, you probably all recognize the shirt SM7B from podcast, from Joe Rogan. And this goes into an audio interface called PreSonus io 24, which is like relatively new. It’s a smaller one. Presonus does really big high end gear and this is kind of like a nice one that can just sit on your desktop. And I use that for the audio delay. Actually, this goes into something called a cloud lifter. These mics are not powered and so it uses a cloud lifter to give it a bit of boost. And then that goes into it goes XLR from there into the cloud lifter, cloud lifter, XLR into the PreSonus and then it gets additional gain from there, but it also gets an audio delay from there. I have an ATM mini for my HDMI switcher.

It has audio delay in it, but I was having some issues with my ATM mini in that. I think it was overheating and actually shutting down randomly and so I couldn’t trust it anymore. I went down this path of trying to get off of there and ended up with this audio interface instead. I actually had a different one that didn’t have an audio delay and I should back up. For anybody who’s listening right now and wondering why this guy keeps talking about audio delay. It’s because people will find out if you were to get into more of a higher end camera, audio signals reach your computer faster than a video signal will, and so you need to compensate for that with a bit of delay. ATM mini has an audio delay function in it. So I could actually plug this mic through an XLR output into a three and a half mil Jack on the back and then take advantage of the audio delay. However, because of unreliability – unreliability to the point where I had to RM the thing and to pay shipping and stuff like that, I’m used to like it products or enterprise It products where it’s like that’s all part of your warranty, man. We’ll send you way bills, we’ll send you boxes and everything goes like, just send it to this dress. Like, okay, are you going to send me anything? No.

Make sure you fill the customers form, right?

Yeah. Fill out the custom forms. Make sure you put in your own padding into the box, and we’ll get you a replacement. So anyways, I still like my ATM mini, but I didn’t like the unreliability of it. My ATM mini has a USBC out for webcam input, but I actually use the HDMI out and go into a Cam Link 4K just because I find that the color depth is a little bit reduced. It’s compressed over the webcam out, and so it’s uncompressed if you go at the HDMI out into a Cam link. So I do that. So I have four inputs on there. I have this camera. I had a B Cam setup before when I would actually do, like, overhead shots if I was whiteboarding for a customer. I don’t really do that so much anymore. So I don’t have that connected anymore. And then I have my laptop has an HDMI out that goes into another input on there. And then I have a Raspberry Pi, and it’s not configured right now, but I had a Raspberry Pi that could actually play preloaded videos on there. And so some of the streams I was playing with this, like, adding in stuff through switching of the ATM, and I could do overlays, or I could just take over the video altogether.

I don’t do it so much anymore because it requires, like, setting everything up. I should also say I’ll get into my camera for a second. I didn’t know any of this. I learned all of this from two people, Robin and Eric, who I work with at F5, who are gear nerds far more than I am. And they got me started on this path, and then kind of got me started, and then they’re like, okay, you’re on your own now. And then I went and did all this other.

Like, giving the kids the first cigarette and just saying, Here you go, by the way. You’re going to feel weird tomorrow morning, but here’s a place where you can buy more.

First one is free. And then they’ve unleashed this whole thing on me. So getting to my camera, I have a Sony A 6400, and that’s on a 16 millimeter Sigma Prime lens. It’s a 1.4 prime lens on there. I have two cameras, actually. I have an A 6600 Sony a 66 600 as well, with a few different lenses. And then I have a teleprompter with a 7-inch field monitor hooked up to it. And so right now, the reason why I look into the camera is because I have the screen for you.

Nice.

So I’m actually looking at myself, and you both on the same screen on here.

And you know what? You just wrecked my weekend, dude. Because now I got to go set this kit up because I have the problem where I’ve got literally the laptop is sitting underneath my camera because of. Yeah, I used the field monitor and that was pretty good. And I’ve got a small prompter, but then the problem was it wouldn’t get the output. So I needed the whole screen. And I was like, now I know you’ve given me my solution for this, which is awesome.

Yeah, you can grab a field monitor. I would not recommend the one that I have, so I’m not going to name it because I got burning from it. So it’s on all day. And I’ve got like ghosting on the image, unfortunately. So I’m kind of disappointed. I don’t know. I’ll get another one eventually. It’s okay for doing this, but I was kind of disappointed that it did that on me. Yeah, I’ve got a big video light. Sorry, go ahead.

Yes, I say I was going to check. Now, your lighting is really, really nicely done. So what’s your lighting setup?

Yeah, I have the video light is a Godox SL60, so it’s not a super powerful light, but like, it’s almost on full blast right now. But it’s good enough for this setting. I’ve got a huge 48 inch dome attached to it, so that would be like the sun basically hitting me. It spread the light out so that’s why it’s kind of big and soft. I played with different sizes, but bigger is better. Bigger closer, but softer is better. Yeah. And then I’ve got a couple of LED panels back there. They have soft boxes on them as well. So it’s not like harsh light hitting the walls. And then I actually turn off my lights in my office. I have overhead lights, but I actually turn that off because then it throws everything off. And I actually kind of just like this moodier. Yeah.

It’s funny. I should double check because I’m going into overtime with you. Hopefully you’re okay. Just to show you an example of that’s, my backlighting that I’ve got is from these GBM. It’s like a five, six, five Ford or whatever. If you go on to Amazon and say, buy me the LED lighting, that’s what you get. And I’ve got one over top of me, which is it is a pretty hard, harsh light that is coming down. And that’s what I was thinking about is like softbox or something. Because for the backlight, it’s one thing because it’s not in the frame, but this one, it really does shine a bit bright. It’s not too bad. I can take some stuff in the post, but I’m learning. And then the other one, of course, is the fun part is when you take out, it’s amazing what a difference is once you actually take out the backlights, it’s like surprising. Just like little tiny things of putting the neon and how much it can change the way the background looks. I’ve always been surprised by a little bit here, a little bit there, you experiment and you get your space set up.

But once you dial it in and once you know it’s consistent, I practically can put, like, gaffer tape down. And I know where my tripod has got to get set up. It’s a standing desk, but I’ve got a drafting chair for it. This way I can stand if I want to, but generally I’m sitting more than I’m standing these days.

Yeah. When you talk about the little details, it’s funny how when you start working on this, I didn’t notice any of those details. And I’m like, why would people add these little bits and pieces here? I don’t notice it whatsoever. And then you start doing it and you’re like, oh, you want a little light back there? Could actually help out. A little splash of color. I don’t have anything in the background there because I just paralyzed by analysis. By paralysis. Like, I keep thinking about, oh, what do I want it to look like back there? And I have thought about it for months and still haven’t decided. I don’t want to commit to anything. And it’s still kind of blank back there. But yeah, all these little things that you don’t really think about until you start doing it.

I remember seeing somebody. They did a breakdown, and I forget who it was. So great folks to watch for this is Peter McKinnon obviously. Maddie Happy Teppo, his brother, his twin brother, which is hard. Make sure you have to look at the channel to figure out which one you’re watching. Although Maddie sounds Canadian, Teppo sounds finished. You can definitely tell that Maddie’s been in Canada for a long time. And as you said, Lizzie Pierce, she’s also really solid on tips. But I saw somebody and they talked about their background, and they’re like, I like the natural light look, but I also don’t like the inconsistency of natural light. So that the window reflection that you see back there, and you see the frame of a window. He says, just a second. And he turns it off, and it’s an LED light with a fake window frame in front of it to put it on the wall as if it was window light. I was like, you magnificent bastard. It looks like you’re in a beautifully lit room, but then you know it’s exactly the same every time, all times of day, which is kind of stuff again, you don’t think about until you’re doing it.

And you’re like, oh, naturally, it sucks.

And then it’s like, 01:00 A.m.. And you’re like, how did I get to the point in my life where I’ve spent 4 hours watching videos on lighting? Here we are.

Amen to that. But it’s good. And so, like I said, as far as what’s possible, I always tell people, and you said it before, but I look back at my first step. I was like, you almost think like, maybe I should take it down. But you’re like, no, I look at YouTubers, filmmakers, you still have their old stuff up there, right? You know, you see Mr. Beast in his bedroom on iPhone 4, counting saying PewDiePie 100,000 times. He doesn’t take that down because he’s going to do 26 million views on his next video. It’s like it’s part of what got you here. So I’m not aiming for 26 million views. I’d be happy if I got 2600 consistent views. But it’s part of the learning process, and I kind of respect people that leave it up.

Yeah, it’s paying respect to the process. I would say it’s almost like lying to people. Not a lot of people ever started amazing right away. Maybe some folks that went to school or something, and then the first thing that they published was a project that they worked really hard on. Maybe that was really good. But outside of that scenario, everybody went through this journey. So it’d be disingenuous to not show a journey to other folks as well. I’m sure everybody just respects that you put the time in, and if they want to do the same, then they could just follow the journey as well. And they can see all the little improvements you made every video.

Yeah. I once read about somebody last time like, how do you get that really cool, like slightly out of focus, virtual background. It’s easy. A $3,000 camera and a real background. That’s how. I don’t recommend this is the path to do it.

Yeah. But they’re like, software could do it. And you’re like, but it’s a little different. So spend the $3,000.

Yeah. How jv am I, I still make the mistake. I’ll have so many ones where I’m like, oh, you’ll do a video and you’re like this, and you’re like, dang it. You’re like, scrap that one. Especially with manual focus. There’s no leeway. And I’ve done them where I’m like, I’ve got focus assist on my field monitor, but I still have to literally like, there is an auto focus on the software. So if I tap a button, it will find it. But it’s not continuous autofocus. Sometimes because the background is pretty full, probably more than it should be. It sometimes grabs another thing, and all of a sudden it puts me in front of it instead of being the focal point. So I’ll make mistakes like that, but I don’t mind. And I think people like you and a lot of other folks that jump in, they’re like, hey, this is really cool and, like, really good constructive thing, like advice on how to do stuff, and we all learn from each other.

I guess that kind of brings us back around to talking about community. People are genuinely interested in helping out other people. And as long as you figure out ways to gather those people together, you get great things out of it.

Well, in the end, what really does button this up perfectly is that many years later,  here we are completely different origin for both of us. And we will do this again. Right. Because I believe in you, I trust you. And whatever your email address happens to be, I know that your integrity carries to wherever you go. And this learning process and this community, it transcends the vendor names. And also just even inside a vendor, technology evolves. Right? I was a VMware guy for a long time, but before that, I was the Microsoft PowerShell guy and then I was the OpenStack guy and then I was the Cloud guy and I’m the Kubernetes guy. I’m like, I’m the same guy.

Already here about the OpenStack stint that you did.

Yeah, it was like an emo phase. We all did that. But it is proof that in this industry, we all find each other again. And the fun part is you see the genuineness and what people do and what they bring to it. I will have obviously links to your channel and people should connect with you on LinkedIn and see the really great content you create. It’s been an honor to be on this side of the camera. And like I said, now I got to go Amazon out. I got to get my field monitor teleprompter cheap. This is fantastic. How did I not think of that before?

Well, I appreciate you having me on. For me, it’s an honor to be on here and I appreciate all the free content that you put out there that helps the community as well. And hopefully these conversations, hopefully mine provides some value to folks, but it wouldn’t be possible without a platform like yours to share it on. So I appreciate you.

Thank you very much. Yeah. And for folks, if they do want to get connected with you, I guess I said LinkedIn and what’s the best way if folks wanted to track you down, Buu?

Yeah, LinkedIn is a great one. I think I’m the one with the most amount of followers under the name Buu Lam. But if there is another Buu Lam out there that has more followers than me on LinkedIn, then I’m coming for them. Otherwise you can reach me on Twitter, which is @buulam, and then over on the DevCentral Community, which is now called community.f5.com. It used to be DevCentral.f5.com but we’ve renamed it to community to kind of help reflect what it really is. So, yeah, between those three or if you Google me, I’m pretty sure I’m one of the top search results on there. So no matter what, you should be able to find me.

The funny thing is it was about a year ago, I think I was going through and I found a bunch of old business cards because I finally moved all the rest of my gear from Toronto down to New Jersey and I had this old school and it’s like my Microsoft contacts from when I was at sunlight it was like all the stuff goes way back and I had your business card in my homeless business cards. So there’s like a handful of people I was like here’s somebody that someday down the road this dude’s smart, I’m going to have to learn from him. And it is funny that we do end up reconnecting through different ways but it’s really cool to see that. Yeah man, you’re doing neat stuff so there you go. Get involved in the community. This is where the fun is.

Very cool.

Awesome. Thanks, Buu!

Thank you.

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Randy Crabtree is co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, plus a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.

His approach to helping businesses and entrepreneurs with getting the most out of the business tax system has been also augmented by his own mission to deliver a personal story of health and wealth that we all need to learn from.

Check out Randy’s podcast, the Unique CPA here: https://tri-merit.com/podcasts/

Get in touch with Tri-Merit at their website here: https://tri-merit.com/

Thank you for an inspiring and enjoyable conversation, Randy!

Transcript powered by HappyScribe

Welcome, everybody, to the podcast. My name is Eric Wright. I’m gonna be your host for the DiscoPosse podcast this week featuring Randy Crabtree. Randy is a fantastic human who is also a fantastic accountant, a fantastic podcaster, and somebody who’s got an incredible story that will talk to you at your heart about what we need to value both and what we can do for each other, for ourselves. And he is beyond just being the unique CPA, which is also the name of this podcast. He and his team at Tri-Merit are doing really great stuff to empower businesses to get the most out of their tax situation, which, hey, we’re in the throes of it right now. Tax time is kind of not a friendly time for a lot of folks. It’s part of what we got to do. But how do you make sure you’re getting the best of the best out of that? So you can go check out Randy’s team at try-merit.com for that. Of course, check out the show notes. We got lots of stuff around Randy and, of course, links to his podcast as well. Speaking of links and things that don’t need to be as bad as they are, what happens if you lose your data?

Don’t worry. As long as you got Veeam to protect your backside and your backup, then you are in good shape. At least you’re in better shape than you are with anybody else. So I got to give a shout out to the fine folks at Veeam Software who make this podcast possible. And if you want to check out what they’re doing, go to vee.am/discoposse. They’ll help you out whether it’s data center stuff, whether it’s on premises, whether it’s physical service, whether it’s your cloud, it’s your things like Teams and Microsoft Office 365. You have to back all that stuff up. And most importantly, you have to be able to get it back. The backup is only good if you can recover it. And also completely orchestrated, protected recovery scenarios for business continuity. They cover you from soup to nuts or from end to end, or Coke to Pepsi. Whatever you want to say, they got you covered. So go check it out. Go to vee.am/discoposse. And of course, if you want to make sure that you’re awake and aware while that’s going on. Plus, enjoy some of the most devilishly good brew. You can head on over to Diabolicalcoffee.com and you can enjoy a fresh roasted cup. In fact, it’s fresh roasted the moment you order or not long after. So we only roast when you order. Get on it. Go to diabolicalcoffee.com. All right. This is Randy Crabtree. Enjoy.

This is Randy Crabtree, co founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tech Services and host of the unique CPA podcast. And you’re listening to the Disco Posse podcast.

Like a pro. This is how I can tell you’ve got professional podcasters that are on microphone because you are ready for this. So, Randy, thank you so much for the chance to chat today. This is something that I know especially for a ton of my listeners. Well, it’s timely with the kind of part of the year that we’re heading into taxes become top of mind. They’re often bottom of priority, but top of mind. And in the way that we’ve seen the world shift in the last couple of years, I can imagine that you’ve seen an incredible amount of change in your industry. But for folks that are brand new to you, Randy, let’s have you do a quick intro, and then we’re going to talk about Tri-Merit, your podcast and congratulations on getting noticed, as it should be. And we’re going to talk a lot about what you’re doing for the world.

Sure. Like I said at the beginning, we’re specialty tax service. Tri-Merit. We deal with really specific parts of the tax code. Actually, tax season for me is not a busy time because I’m normally out educating CPAs on certain aspects of the tax code. But we deal with big things like R&D tax credit, you know, technology, big user of the R&D tax credit. So that’s something that was how we started the business. Over the years, we branched into six other services. A big one that didn’t exist a year ago is employee retention credit that we’ve been doing a lot of work on now as well. But that’s our background. My background is I am a CPA. I actually came out of public accounting. I was one of those generalists that was just doing in and out accounting and taxes. I liked it, was not a huge passion. I found a passion in specialty tax. So the last 15 years has been just an awesome ride. And I don’t see an end any time soon.

But that’s really amazing to see too, that we – I think every industry has this idea of the sort of the early generalist days. And then when you find your niche, your specific thing that you can become passionate about and ultimately then translate to hitting this new target. You know, demographic target market, like ultimately building a specialty practice, that’s really great. And then it lets you just like put all your focus. I really would love to just jump right into the exploration of what is the last two years look like for you? Especially you talked about employee retention credit, like, this stuff didn’t exist two years ago. So it’s probably been a wild ride on your side.

It has been it’s been a wild ride, obviously, for everybody. It’s been specifically wild for at least in my circles – CPAs and the IRS and us. Because everything that’s happened in the last two years from an incentive standpoint, runs through the CPA firm, runs through the IRS. And we’ve touched on that as well. It’s been crazy. CPAs in general have had a non-stop, they’re going on the third year of non-stop tax season just because of all these things that have come out over the last couple of years. You mentioned the one I mentioned as well, employee retention credit. This has been huge for businesses. It has been affected by the pandemic. It’s been able to put a lot of the money back into businesses. At some point help them survive, at some point help them thrive even. But it’s been a really important tool to help businesses that have been affected by the pandemic get through the last two years. And honestly, for us, it’s been an unbelievable ride because this thing didn’t exist two years ago. And now last year and this year will most likely be our highest revenue generating product and probably not the year after, but at least over a two year period, it’ll probably be the biggest revenue generator for us.

So it’s been interesting.

It tells you that the interest that came from the tax system in understanding that we needed to solve this problem, I’d say by regulatory and tax ratings, it was a pretty rapid response. Like this stuff does not move fast. So for us to be able to move fast at many levels of government, look, I’m not saying the government, the sloth image. Obviously, we can sort of poke and joke about some of that stuff, but it is just because of the regulatory environments that they’re wrapped inside. It is difficult to make things move quickly and be responsive. But it feels like, I think this is a good sign that hopefully the system is ready to help people succeed.

Yeah. And this is interesting. It’s an interesting part of the whole looking at tax in general over the life of tax, which is a long life right now. The last two years we’ve seen things happen at a – and it’s not just tax, but everywhere, but happen at this meteoric pace. It’s just unbelievable. And so a lot of these changes, and this has gone through two regimes at president as well. And so it’s kind of continuing on. It wasn’t like, okay, one’s against and one is for it, we’re going to fight about this. People agreed let’s move forward. And it started in March of 2020 when they planned retention credit itself. That’s where it was defined. I can go deep into it. You can direct me there if you want to at some point, but that’s when it’s defined. And then it’s gone through three additional pieces of legislation that have either changed it, enhanced it, affected it, and it just continues go. Not only from a standpoint is it meteoric pace, but it’s meteoric pace and all the changes just keeping up with it. Just trying to because tax code comes out, I get excited about tax code. Other people might not. So I apologize. But this is an interesting area. Tax code comes out. Congress rates something. They’re not tax attorneys, CPAs, they just say, here’s what we need to do. Now, we need to start interpreting that, putting that up against tax code, putting it up against IRS information or documentation that comes out explaining it. And so for me it’s just been a fun, weird word, but fun ride for really the last year and a half, digging deep into this and seeing how we can help businesses with it. So yeah, it’s been really interesting.

It does show right in just the way you describe it, that this is what we need. This is what allows you to stand out amongst the industry and what you’re doing because you have to have that passion just like anybody that looks for opportunity, not just for you, but every client you’ve got. You’re effectively opening the door to the industry because a lot of people do not understand that this stuff exists. They maybe go to, I’m sorry I got to mention, I don’t mean to trash on H&R block, but it’s like that was it right? The moment you can file a tax return, you have no idea how to file a tax return. You go to your local tax shop and the little stand up H&R block or whatever the local tax firms are. They’re not passionate about taxes. They’re just minimum amount in, minimum amount of pain and collect $35 per term kind of thing.

Yeah, it’s a weird area. What you just said is how I got interested in tax. I did not graduated as an accounting degree. I was computer science degree actually, which is more in line with I think your audience probably. Although that’s 37 years ago. So that’s passed me by quite a bit. But I’ve got that background. But the year my wife and I got married, which is 35 years ago now, I started to do our tax return and just like might be a little bit steep to say fell in love with taxes but really enjoy digging into that. And it was a passion for a while, kind of became a little bit of a more of work than a passion as I was doing this for years because traditionally CPAs have had crazy hours during tax season and every business can have an area where there’s crazy hours, but there was crazy hours. And for me this crazy hours just started dragging on and on. But when you mentioned before passion, when I actually merged my firm in with another firm and then started the specialty firm, I talk about passion all the time now.

I talk about passion, how it is for me. I talk about how this changed everything, how I look at everything, how I look at business in general. I talk about this all the time to different groups. In fact, I was on a talking with a gentleman just this morning where we just talked about this whole doing a self-evaluation of yourself, determining your strengths, determining your passions, using that to help you in a business setting and going forward. So for me, the specialty tax became this huge passion. Believe me, if you turned off your mic now and let me talk for 2 hours, I would do it. So we bet I’ll stop there and we’ll see what direction you want to go.

That is the thing. That’s what I love you. I sort of joke you described. This is Randy. He’s forgotten more about taxes then you’ll never know. Right. Like you get those sort of those things. But it’s not about amount of knowledge or time in the system or even dollars per hour that you can ultimately earn. It is what you do and your choice to chase knowledge and turn knowledge into opportunity, not just for you but for your client base. Which led to the business growing, which led to the opportunity to merge those firms which gives you that sort of leg up. You are a founder. Like you are ultimately the same as the very clients that you serve because you’ve looked for that opportunity and have seen, rightly so, an upside as a result of doing that.

Yeah. And it’s funny when you see that opportunity because I get that a lot. People say, well because I’ve started multiple businesses, I’ve had my CPA thing. But opportunity is something that you said, you searched it out. I don’t really search it out. It just comes to you and everybody has opportunity to come to them. It’s in front of them every single day. There’s an opportunity there. It’s just the difference between I guess an entrepreneur and someone. And there’s nothing special about being an entrepreneur. You either do it or you don’t like it. If you don’t like it, you don’t. It’s not like you’re better because you start a business. It’s just you’re somebody that sees the opportunity and then acts on it. But that’s not for everybody. But for me, that’s been a passion. And then when I put that together with the passion for what I do now is really education and speaking events and writing articles and talking to people like Eric Wright, which I am thrilled to be able to do that. Putting those together and you can create something pretty special.

I would posit that your comp sci degree isn’t that far off of what you’re doing right now. In a way that you probably seek or discover systems inside or methods inside systems. And ultimately in doing so, you can exploit them and exploit it in a positive way, sounds like a negative thing, but really truly see that. Heck, look at the way that economics has gone in the past three decades or more. Really in the shift that we had behavioral psychologists who would define the future of market economies with stuff like the work that happened with Daniel Conneman and Amos Tuberski who are winning the Nobel Prize for economics. But they’re behavioral psychologists. Right. So in the same way that you may be doing, you may be a CPA by the designation on the business card but your method and approach were discovered in other ways. And you went down the comp-sci road and you said, okay, here’s another systematic thing that I can do, but I can really do it well.

Yeah, and it’s interesting you say that, because in my mind, I don’t see blow charts and systems and paths and all that. I see something I like doing, and this is something. But when I look at it, I’m like, okay, yeah, I see this now. I do do that because I analyze things, and then I see the next step, and then I see the next step and I don’t see the big picture, I don’t think right away. But what I found is five years ago, and I’m going all over the place, Eric. So you rein me in anytime you this is perfect. So five years ago, I basically stepped down as manager partner of our firm. And it was a passion thing. And there was other reasons as well. One, I had a traumatic event in my life that made me re-look at things. I had a stroke eight years ago. We can talk about that anytime you want, too. So I saw that and changed my role from magic partner, which in hindsight, I realized I wasn’t good at because I’m not an implementer. I come up with ideas. I see I can generate new business. I can come up with a path, but I can’t implement that. I can probably, but I have no passion. And after my stroke, I realized I want to concentrate on things that I enjoy. And I did a whole self-evaluation. Look at things that I’m good at, you know. I realized after 30, well honestly, my first business was at 16. So I look back and for 43 years, I realized I was not really good at running the business. I was good at coming up with ideas and growing the business and all that. But the whole day to day, systematic approach of this is what we need to do and here’s the processes to put in place to get to the here and here’s the team’s make up and how we do it. I just don’t enjoy that. And what I found after this self-evaluation is, it took a while, but I looked and said, if I’m honest with myself, that is not a strong suit of mine. And honestly, I don’t like it. So why am I doing this? And then looking at the things I like, which I mentioned before, is education. Looking at a new tax law that just came into existence two years ago, and being known now is like the expert in the country on this stuff and looking at it and being able to share your knowledge, that’s another big thing with me. Share your knowledge. Don’t keep it hidden. Share it. Let teach people. Let them know what’s there. At some point they’ll know, well, you’re the expert. I need to come to you to do it. You don’t have to sell. You just have to be a good person out there sharing what you’ve got. So looking at that whole re-evaluation and passion and that changed my role in the business. And in the last five years, we’ve got an 800% increase in revenue, partly because I’ll give him credit. A big part is because the process is my partner put in place to really take us to the next level. But in reality, it’s also me getting out there and educating people and explaining and letting them know that there’s these opportunities for tax savings. And that combination for us has been outstanding.

It really is the important thing for any growing company, especially once you hit a point of like stability in business, at least in revenues, you need a COO or a chief of staff. Somebody who really is focused on the processes and they’re good at that. And I’m with you, like every year I have to do my sort of employment self-assessment. And every year I say, yeah, it’s that time of year again where we say, Eric should be doing more stuff around long term project management given his seniority. It seems like this is one area that we don’t leverage and some where he struggles a bit. And like I’m 49 years old, I’ve had the same self-assessment since I was 25. And every year they say let’s find a big project for Eric to lead out and then it will go precisely as well as the last 22 of them.

Which I’m sure is great. Yes.

But it’s like to be given that freedom to explore your strength. I’m glad that I’m here today with you, Randy, because you are on the right side of a major health event. Right. That’s a big thing. And the one thing that I wish we would do better as humans, I wish we could find that passion and that drive and that reason without the triggering.

Yeah. So we mentioned before that I go out and I speak a lot. And so my speech, my webinars, my things have always been on tax topics. And I started writing articles for accounting magazines the last year, year and a half. And some of it’s been taxed, but more of it’s just been I wrote an article about hiring individuals with disabilities, which is a passion of mine because I’m very fortunate. I came out of my stroke with a 100% recovery. Physically, I don’t have any deficits, which I think the number is. And I might be wrong on this, although I should know this. I’m also President of an organization called Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other. So I should know the numbers, but I think it’s only 8% of us come out fully without any kind of deficit. I’m very fortunate about that. I forgot where I was going Eric.

But this is the idea that you can take that and turn it into a thing that empowers you to get out in the world. And it’s that whole thing of, especially it’s just like the human behavior is so bizarre that we like work, work to a point where you can eventually enjoy the fruits of your labors. By the time you get to do them, your health is degraded, your ability – it’s so upside down sometimes.

I always had a mindset of I’m not going to wait until retirement to enjoy things. So even though I had the stroke, it wasn’t like this is going to change how I look at life. I mentally had issues for five years. Mental health was an issue for me. Physically, it was fine. Mental health was an issue for five years. But I always had that mindset of enjoy life. Work’s one thing, family, life, all that, it’s another thing. Doesn’t mean they can’t be combined too. And that’s a huge thing that I like talking about is that I’m not the tax expert. I am the dad, I am the hiker. I’m the craft beer enthusiast. I’m the whatever else. Being the tax expert doesn’t define who I am. All these other things do. And so we try to bring that into business as well. Is everybody in our firm is not their job. That’s not who they are at all. They’re good at it. They enjoy it, I’m hoping for the most part, we want people to enjoy it. But the stroke didn’t make me change that way. But it did help me re-evaluate what my role in the business was and make sure that I was having more fun in the role that I was doing and using my strengths rather than trying to increase my weaknesses and make them better.

I think that’s in my mind, this is my opinion. I think that’s crap. But if you are your weaknesses, there are weaknesses for a reason. You don’t have any passion. You don’t like it. It’s that you’re not good at it. Why force yourself to be good at that? Look at yourself and say, okay, this is what I’m good at. I’m good at this. I should concentrate on this. I’m good at that. I enjoy this. How do I do those things? And for me, making that change that was triggered by the stroke to enjoy things more in business. Five years ago, I would have told you, I’m going to force myself to work three more years, and then I’m done. After this change, I can’t imagine stopping. I’m having way too much fun. And honestly, I’m really good at what I do because I enjoy it.

The interesting thing too, especially when it’s like health related, where we see those events. I even see it in work context all the time where you tell somebody, like, I need to take a couple of days off, you’re like, okay, let’s make sure we work around your schedule. Do you like it’s always immediately saying, like, how do we fit your vacation into your work schedule? But if I say, hey, I’m run down and I got to head to the doctor. People are like, no problem. Clear your calendar. What do you need help with? We got it. I’m like, God damn it, why can’t we do that every day? I tell people all the time, just take a day. Just say, like, I got to tap out and just say, just call it. Just shut the calendar down. I don’t care how full it is. Tell those people I’ve got something I got to deal with at home. And they’re like, no problem. We should all have that want to do that. And that passion to do that at every day.

That’s what we feel we have in our company is here’s what you need to do. You know what you need to do. Do it whenever you want. If you want to work at two in the morning because you want to be with your kids all day, do it at two in the morning. We just implemented this year unlimited PTO. We know our people are very good at knowing what they need to get done and when they need to get it done. And like me personally, the last two months I’ve just been on the road working. We have plenty of people that do that. They’re just Nomads, they go wherever. We’ve pretty much had a virtual office from the beginning 15 years ago. It’s just the nature of our business. I feel are living that within the business. I guess I would say that the people with internally would say that as well. I try to talk to everybody as much as I can just to talk about things that aren’t work related, which I think is important as well. But I would think that people are happy. Well, I know people are happy working here and enjoy the freedom that they have with the way we set things up.

And on the health side, too, having seen your bio picture and seeing the real picture here, you definitely prioritize health. You look thinner than your bio picture, which is kind of fun. You talked about hiking. You talked about introducing that. How important is that lifestyle? And especially in the work sense, too, where how do you as a team promote each other, staying healthy in every aspect?

Yeah. Well, for me personally, I hate that bio picture I have because I think I look fat in that as well. And I still feel that way. Actually, when I had my stroke eight years ago, it was three months after I won a fitness contest. So fitness has always been an important thing to me. Working out, probably my entire life has been working out serious in the gym. Workout started in 2003. Before that, it was just basketball every day. That was my workout, basketball every single day. And so for me, it’s always important. In fact, my goal, I’m sitting in a hotel in Tukumkari, New Mexico, right now. I’m not sure the right way to say it. As soon as you and I are done, I’m heading down to the gym and getting on the elliptical for a half hour. So yeah, we talk about that all the time, take time to do whatever you want. And that goes back to again. So I have a friend and I mentioned him a lot of times on podcast. I’m on John Garrett. I don’t know if you ever heard of John’s name, but he wrote this book called “What’s your and?” Okay, I felt I lived what you’re and before I met John, but after I met John, now I have a definition of it, what it is. And I kind of mentioned this earlier, it’s not your job doesn’t define you. Your passion is outside of work. You define you. And so that’s what we try to tell people in the business as well. And if exercise is one of it and hopefully it is, prioritize that you can work your schedule around it. And that’s our goal is to make everybody make sure that they’re doing the things they enjoy and work will be one of those things as well. If they have the freedom to do whatever they want.

It really does breed the sense of comfort that that’s a priority as a team and that gives people the ability to embrace it. I remember working. I had a good friend of mine, we became good friends through work and he had done marathons. Then he did Iron Man and we had a deal that our company worked with a gym that was right in the adjacent building and we worked in tech. Right. So we’re working crazy hours all the time. We’re constantly working nights and weekends. And it’s not a lifestyle conducive to health. No. And we got this deal through work where this gym, which was normally like $130 a month, we could get it for $20 a month. And when we found out we got this deal, there was like twelve of us on the team. We sit down in our team meeting. He says, I’m telling every single one of you, I don’t care if you only go there once a month, once a week, whatever it is. He says you have unlimited time to go to the gym, book 1 hour of overtime to pay for it, and sign up today. And all, every single one of us signed up.

There were three folks on the team who had never even they wouldn’t have gone to the gym unless it was on the way to the food court. Okay, sure. Let me give this a try. And next thing you know, six, seven months later, these folks who had never thought about even adding a health regimen or a fitness regimen into their life were now focused on it and getting in there every morning saying no can’t do lunch meeting. I got to go over, I’ve got Pilates class, I’ve got a jump on the elliptical and do whatever, and it became a core of their day. It was so fantastic to see that.

For me, I just feel so much better after working out. And that helps me work. I’m sure it helps everybody work. Your mind is better, your body is better, everything feels better. You have more energy. And working out doesn’t drain you out, at least for me, it gives you energy. And so I guess if you look at it selfishly, as a business owner, it’s going to make people more productive. That’s not the reason to do it. But I think there is a side benefit. And just like what you said, we moved into a new office three or four years ago. Pandemic time. I don’t know anymore what time frame is kind of a blur now. Exactly. But one of the keys was we wanted to have a gym in the office and they were just building it. And I haven’t been to the office. I honestly haven’t been to the office in a year and a half, probably at least. But I was talking to someone there just yesterday and he said, yeah, the gym has been done for a while. He says it’s awesome. Two locker rooms and it’s just part of our fee for renting the space we’re in.

And then most of our people are on the road. Pandemic obviously changed that, but we’re getting on the road again and we have a gym in every hotel we’re at. So getting to a gym shouldn’t be an issue. And really, I tried to talk about exercise and working out as much as I can because I think it’s important.

In going out and doing speaking opportunities. And now with the podcast, let’s talk about taking this passion to the audience now and being able to evangelize. This is such a unique time versus 20 years ago, even ten years ago maybe, where now you can grab a microphone, you can publish, you can get it out there and you have a growing audience and you’re being recognized rightly so for your ability to share this fantastic ways of both storytelling and really bringing important information to the community.

Yeah. This is one reason things have gotten so exciting for me in business, because I get to go out and talk all the time. But yeah, it’s funny because for years I’ve been out doing CPA, continuing professional education for CPA firms. And I’d be out traveling and doing that inside of a firm or at a CPA association event. Occasionally at like a tech event or a manufacturing event. But most of the time we’re working with CPAs, they bring us to their clients. So I was always able to do that. Pandemic when it hit, I’m like, what am I going to do? How am I going to be able to get in front of all these people? And the first few webinars on Zoom or whatever, go to the webinar, go to meeting. Whatever I was on, it was like, yeah, it’s just not the same. There’s no interaction with me in the audience, but I just started thinking about it. The mindset was they’re there, I’m going to talk, they’re still there and I can hear them and they can see me. When I present, I try to have a conversation just never scripted. I have slides that I’m going through, but there’s never a script.

Every single one is different. And I’d like to get the questions typed in. So that has been huge. And in fact, at this point in time, I almost think that I’ve probably had a bigger impact on the industry in the last two years than I had prior. I probably educated 30,000 CPAs on the employee retention credit over the last year and a half. There’s no way I would have done that traveling. So it was pretty interesting to have that change. Now I like still the audience and being up front and seeing their reaction, but this is going to be a blend going forward. That’s been nice. And then in the last year and a half, I started concentrating more on the writing articles, which traveling – I probably would have put that to the side because I probably would have been on planes and I actually work on planes more than I used to pre-pandemic, which I never used to do. So doing that too. But now I’m writing the articles. The podcast has really started right after, right before the Pandemic. I’ve been able to concentrate more on that. So it’s weird how the pandemic changed all that and what I thought would be for the worst.

I think a hybrid approach going forward is going to really work out well. To be able to be out there and impact what’s going on in the industry has been a lot of fun and a lot more able to do that the way it’s gone the last two years.

It’s a funny thing that I get asked quite often, but they’re like, oh, you go to events and you do keynotes and whatever, and they say it must be great. Like you like to talk, I like to collaborate. And when I do a keynote, I’ve described it to people as listening to 500 people at a time and the fact that you’re watching reactions and little things in the audience and it steers. So I’ve never been good at scripting. Partly because I think I just don’t have the capability. Whether I have a poor wrote memory, there’s a lot of things I have dyslexia. So that also really kind of cuts into me reading and talking at the same time. I just can’t do it and I’ve become very adaptive, but mostly in having conversations. That’s why I love the podcast, because then you can do it and you also do it in the mind of 500s, a thousand people watching you. You begin to think like that, like you, I’m able to carry that imprint and that memory of those experiences into these types of conversations, which is so fun, and I enjoy it. That’s why I like your style.

Your delivery is so fantastic because you’re just you’re at home. It’s like you’re sitting next to a conversation. You’d love to slow down. If you were sitting at a table and somebody next to you was having a conversation, you’d be like leaning over a little bit watching. You just want to hear it.

Yes. No, I agree. And what you said about the scripted – we’ve all seen boring presentations and they’re the scripted ones, almost always. The conversations out of the way. And that’s why I said I try to act as if I’m having a conversation with the audience, even on webinars when I’m not. And you just said it as well. And I think that mindset is huge because nobody wants to be read to unless it’s an audio book. Other than that, I don’t want to be read to.

When they do corporate big events, especially when they’re doing stage events, and it’s so painful because they’re great people and they’re basically put up there and it looks like a grade six play about the origin of Thanksgiving. It’s like, so, Peter, how exciting is this year now that we’re going to be able to do this? That’s a great question, Eric. They’ve pre-configured the scripted, witty repartee. And the only thing that’s missing is like when someone says, I think that’s a great idea, exits towards the left. Like they are like line for line range. It’s painful because you talk to these people like you’re a human. You can have a conversation. Just take away the script.

Exactly. Because even on podcast, you’ll hear this where it’s okay, I’m going to ask question one. Okay, tell me about the service you’re working on right now. And then boom, the answer. And at the end of the answer, let’s say somebody says, yeah, but it’s been tough for the last couple of days because my dog died. All right, well, tell us about this. I mean, you can’t go, I’m so sorry to hear that. What kind of dog? It’s like, oh, no, I got question, too. Your dog doesn’t matter to me now, Tax, question two is how are you getting the service out to your clients? I mean, that script just bothers me so much, having a human connection interaction. And like you just said, that conversation, if you’re having it back and forth and someone hears it, they’re going to lean in that’s perfect way to explain that. Eric, you are really good at this.

Misspent youth of watching great conversations. The one thing that is really neat about your approach and you hear it and everything you say is you are so outly focused on other people’s positivity. It’s incredible. You talk about your team, you talk about empowering people, teaching everything you’re doing as selfish as it deserves to be because you deserve to be able to enjoy the benefits and stuff. It’s like the moment you feel 10%, you want to give 90% away. I really get the sense that community and sharing has been a strong part of your life. It is.

And it’s funny because I don’t think of it that way, but it keeps coming up in conversation where people say what you said. So apparently it shows through. But as I mentioned at the beginning, a little bit. I started my first business at 16, partly because I didn’t want to work for anybody else. I ended up after graduation, went and worked as a computer programmer for about a year. That failed. And then really, it was the business I was at. It was just we did nothing. But then I thought, hey, I should go out and sell, because people I know that are selling are making a lot of money. And I went out and tried to sell, and I was awful at it because it was formulaic. Tell me that word I’m trying to say. Formula. Formula trick. Yeah, there you go. There’s a formula to it. And there was like no passion. It was food and it was fun, but it wasn’t even really fun. I wasn’t good at it, but I learned from both those things. I learned a lot. And then I decided to go back to school full time to be a CPA.

This is a long answer to what we’re just talking about. I’ll get to a point here in a second. So then I went back got enough hours in graduate school to take the CPA exam, did that. And that’s where I started thinking after I went to work for a firm, which was a great firm, I really enjoyed the two partners I was working for there. But I started thinking about things that as an employee, I don’t like this or I don’t like that. And I started writing these things down, thinking, okay, someday I’m going to have my own firm. And when I do, here’s how I want to do it, so that people enjoy working here. So I think that mindset, whether I consciously think about it going forward or not, that was developed 30 plus years ago when I started working in public accounting, because I just saw things, not that these people, I really liked working for them, but as an employee, you see things different as an employer. And I wanted to make sure when I was an employer, I would think about the employee first and not anything else. So that was my goal, whether I’ve accomplished it or not.

You can ask the people that work at Tri-Merit, but I feel we’ve done a pretty good job.

I often hear people describe, especially early entrepreneurs. They say, I was unemployable like, you always sort of saw a hole and just being part of someone else’s system, you really get that early taste of, hey, I kind of want to be responsible for the outcome, and especially at 16. I imagine even then that probably wasn’t the first time, you probably thought about it even earlier, as if that was the first time you executed on it.

Probably I’m the oldest, too, so I’m sure being the oldest of four siblings makes it in reality, I’m the oldest of 20 cousins that all lived right around each other, I mean, within blocks. So I think that probably had something to do with it as well, that you’re kind of the leader of the sibling/cousins gang, so that probably had something to do with it as well.

Well, Interestingly, by a common trait of the oldest is actually they’re the most sort of conservative and less lights need to take risk. You’re often the closest to the parents, because if you look at the behavior patterns that you observe are of people who are 20 to 25 years older than you say in the time frame that you and I were raised, right. Now it’s 45 years. It’s a longer gap between the first child and the parents, but then your next sibling, their model of interaction is following you, who is two years difference or a closer age. So they tend to be more free and more they think differently versus your model of behavior tends to be much more mature. But yet you’ve got that really good, rare mix of that responsibility, as well as the sort of sense of freedom that you give to yourself.

Yes, I think you’re right on. And you got my brother to a T, too, when you explain the second. So definitely different. We’re very close family overall, which is nice, but each of us has a separate personality, and I never really looked into that whole 1st, 2nd, 3rd, whatever traits. I know a little bit of it, but yeah, I could see the oldest not being the risk taker. When I look at business, I don’t see the risk. So maybe there’s just a gene missing in me or something, which can be a problem because I always just see the positive. Hey, there’s an opportunity here. Let’s do it. I guess in the back of my mind, I know there’s a chance for failure, but it doesn’t demotivate me. And that’s the difference between entrepreneurs and non entrepreneurs in my mind as they see the risk first, not the opportunity first. And I think you need to see the risk. It’s just I’m not really good at seeing that risk. And for me, overall, it’s worked out. There’s been wins, there’s been losses. But I’m on a big winning streak right now, so I’m enjoying it from a fun standpoint and a business standpoint.

But part of it is you talked before about setting yourself up to be positioned against a team, a partner, somebody who else can pick up that piece that you know that you’re not going to be the best at. Like why in goodness name would I spend? If it’s 50% of my time but 80% of my mental effort to do this task, then why in goodness name, if we afford ourselves the ability to staff somebody to do this, by God, get them in that role and let them be fantastic at it, and then let me be fantastic. So it’s funny that there is a difference between an entrepreneur and a visionary. Sometimes an entrepreneur is just like somebody who’s willing to go it on their own because they kind of want to manage the process. But visionary is somebody that’s like you. And I said, not just like you, you are a visionary. And that you’re saying, I’m going to go with this crazy idea, I’m going to go with this big idea, and I’m going to see if this can work. And then you find, you hypothesize, you bring it out, you test it, and then you look for people that can help you to bring that vision into a reality, which is exciting.

Yeah. It took me a long time to realize that was my strength. I just thought it was as an entrepreneur, you’re supposed to do everything in my mind. It took a long time to figure that out. But when I did, I mean, when I look back to five years ago, when I stepped out as a major partner and my partner took over and I had mentally fought that, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. Man, I should have done it years ago. In reality, at the time, it was perfect. I wouldn’t have changed anything. But he is so good at the managing of the business part of things. He is so good at the implement. He is so good at the processes. He is so good at all that. Where I have no desire to do any of that and really never looked at myself internally to realize I had no desire to do that. It’s just something I wouldn’t pay attention to getting that team approach. One thing I tell people, because everybody says influencer, I don’t influence anything. People, I guess, just like to talk to me about certain things, and they’ll ask me about just business in general and what I’ve learned. And I’ll be 60 in a couple of months. So I’ve learned a lot over the years. It took me a long time to implement what I learned. But the biggest thing is and you just mentioned it, and this is the point – is fill those your gaps in with other people’s strengths. And even if you’re just starting a business and you mentioned this as well, and I tell people all the time, let’s say you’re starting a restaurant. You’re doing that because you’re passionate for food. I’m sure that’s why. That’s one reason. Let’s assume that’s your passion is food and developing recipes and seeing people enjoy what you’ve done. Your passion isn’t bookkeeping. Your passion isn’t HR. Your passion isn’t tax returns. Your passion isn’t getting the technology set up in your business. That’s not your passion. I’m sure it could be. But in most cases and so fill in those gaps, whether it’s employees, if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford an employee, find someone that fills those strengths that you don’t have. If it isn’t, you can outsource just about anything. Whether it’s a part time CFO, HR obviously, services tech huge. You can outsource anything in there.

And in reality it’s not. People will say, well, it’s going to cost too much. In reality, you’re going to make more by doing it. Because now you can concentrate on the thing that’s really going to make your business shine. Concentrate on HR is not what personally is going to make your business shine. Your passion for creating these recipes is what’s going to make your business shine. Now find someone else that could do those other things. So I agree with you completely. That’s the way to look at things and not something I always did. But it’s almost 60 now. I have for about the last five or six years.

We’ve luckily developed enough hindsight and figured out. You can see it in advance. You mentioned before about the idea of the timing of the change where you left the managing partner role. And it’s funny when it happens, you have that weird moment where you’re like, why didn’t I do this earlier? But I like that you recognize that there was every reason why you didn’t, right? I often say to myself, what would I say to myself, what would you say to 20 year old you? And I give all sorts of advice to a 20 year old me. And do you know what 20 year old me would say to me, shut up, old man. I got it.

Exactly. That’s true. That’s true. I want to address something you just said because I think this is important. I had a little resistance to change in that role from managing partner. And looking back, why would I have that resistance? And it’s because I felt that was my identity in reality. That’s what I probably look back. That’s what I thought. My identity is made your partner of this pretty significant specialty tax firm. And so if I’m not that, who am I? What am I? Do I just become a partner in a firm that now is somebody else’s firm? And it’s a weird mindset, but that’s probably what I was thinking. Look back at that now and where I am today, this identity I have today, it’s just, one – if you look at ego wise, I’m more recognized today than I was back then. I’m pretty well known in our industry. I guess that’s the ego end of things. But it’s an identity that I just enjoy so much more than that identity i thought what I had to be before, I did not have to be that. Looking back now.

The world deserves you, Randy. We deserve the passion that you can bring to that larger audience. Right. It’s so amazing to see when those two things come together because there are a lot of folks who never need to go outside of inside the organization, and that’s a fantastic function and role that’s ideal for those folks. Not everybody wants to get out and be able to talk to a larger community. Some people don’t like to share things. They’re very introverted. I still have sort of weird split sometimes where I’m an extrovert by profession, but an introvert by nature. I’m a cyclist, I’m a runner. I like being very introspective. I like alone time, and it gives me free thought, deep work. But I also like collaboration and these sort of things. But every once in a while I’ll hit a point where I’m like, all right, time to tap out. I got to go for a walk. You go to a big conference. And every night I used to purposefully stay with my hotel far away from the conference center so that it would be like, oh, sorry, guys, I got to go because I got to go change. So I’ll see you guys back at dinner, knowing that it was like put in ear noise canceling headphones. I’d go sort of like detach for a bit and then reenergize and come back to it.

And look at you now. You’re this podcast host of Top 1%. Is that what I heard?

That is nuts. Yeah. Thank you. I know.

That’s great. Obviously, it’s not the introvert part of things. It’s just the passion. You have a passion for this. I say passion all the time. And people get sick of me saying, but you have passion, you enjoy this, you can tell you enjoy this. And it’s not that group setting of the conference that maybe was a struggle to try to have these conversations that are talking about whatever, not something that’s exciting. And now you get to direct wherever you want this to go, and you enjoy it the same way from that standpoint. Growing up, I was the shy kid. That’s what I was known as. Look, in my mind, I always thought, well, I’m not shy. Just if it’s important, I’m going to say it. There’s nothing important to say. I wasn’t a small talk guy or anything like that. And I remember thinking that from a young age. As a side note, I hate the labeling thing like that because I still know I was labeled as shy. And in reality, I wasn’t. It’s just the way I was. So I hate that. When my kids were growing up, if somebody was trying to label them, I would get mad.

So we can talk about that forever. So I was able to just shake it, in fact, to a point where my third grade teacher sent me to speech therapy because she thought I couldn’t speak. I mean, it was that level. But it was more of a if it’s not important, why do I want to discuss it? Which I think has helped a lot today, because when I’m doing webinars, I mean, I have to make sure that I have the answers because people, not one, look at me as an expert. And if I don’t have an answer, I’m getting everybody on the team to start researching this. We need to find this out. And with tax code, like we said, the beginning with tax code the last two years, there’s a lot of unanswered questions with this stuff. And we’ve been the first to release information on some of this stuff often. In fact, last month we did a webinar where there was two key issues with R&D tax credits and some changes that occurred that I had a webinar the next day at 11AM. At 5pm there were two answers that we didn’t have. And this is brand new information, but I figure the answers exist. We have to dig into tax code. We have to find this. So I got about five people and myself starting to research this. At 1:30 in the morning, I get an email from this one guy who was brilliant, John Capril. He just knows all the tax code inside and out. And John Seagraves as well, he does. I’m going to call people out in the firm. These guys are great researchers. And he sends me an email where he found an answer. Well, I didn’t see his email. I woke up at 4:30, and I’m researching because I can’t go to this webinar and not answer this. I could ignore it. I don’t want to ignore it. I want to be able to tell everybody this is how it is. And I could have ignored it. And then I found it. Then I saw his email and it we meshed. I’m like, okay, he’s agreeing, I’m agreeing. We have it. We have important information now. This is exciting. This is important. And then going back to eight year old me, it’s as important to say, I’m going to say it now. I’m not shy. I just want to make sure it’s important. And so I think that even though it was a label that probably I look back and wish I didn’t have, it made a big difference in my life going forward. So it’s probably a blessing.

Yeah. It’s so funny that shy used to be the, there’s a difference between shy and quiet. But when we were kids, that was a thing. You’re just like, oh, they’re the shy kids or whatever. And there were people who were very extroverted and they wanted to be wanted to be heard. I prefer to have something important to bring to the room. And there’s an interesting combination, too. I used to joke with people. I’d say I never ask a question that I don’t already know the answer to. I research in my head long before I ever will because I don’t want to be caught out. I kind of just want to make sure that I’m going down the right road. So you take it in. And I used to be a people watcher. It’s still one of my favorite things. When I go to airports, I just put in, like, music or I’ll have an audiobook sometimes, but I just to watch the behaviors and the way the people interact. And it makes me a much better presenter because I can do that in audiences. And then doing that so much in person translated to the webinar platform where I know how to sort of I shouldn’t say control, but it’s like I know how to manage people’s attention appropriately, where you bring things down and that’s a very important thing. But what we really want to do is we want to get into it, and you can bring them up and down. People always talk about this thing. They’re like, there’s this thing in the middle of a webinar. They call it the attention hammock. I’m like, not mine, kid. No attention hammocks anywhere. No room for that.

Yeah. I said this one thing often, and it sounds negative. I don’t mean it like this but, by observing I think what you do is you help people make the decisions you want them to make a little bit. It sounds weird, but it’s more than that because you educate them to the point where you’re directing them their knowledge, and then you help them to come up with that solution that they’re looking for, whatever that is. But examples of this that I’ve done, I’ve been wanting to be part of a few boards in the past, and I don’t ask anybody to ask me, but I somehow get it to a point where, okay, yeah. And it’s education. I’m educating on things that I am passionate about that I like. And then they start thinking, oh, you know what, Randy? Would be great to be involved in this. So I never asked to be on these I want to be on. And then just by letting them know things, they ask you. So I think to make that not sound like a negative thing, because it very well could be like you’re manipulating people. That’s not it. It’s just getting to a point where you’re helping them make a decision.

One thing I’d love to get your thoughts on, because a lot of folks that have your capabilities and have the voice you’ve got and are out there very publicly, we hear a lot. We talk about imposter syndrome. I have a PhD in imposter syndrome. Every once in a while, it just sort of just rolls in hard. I even joke. I said, I don’t know if I deserve to have imposter syndrome, the ultimate imposter syndrome. But it’s like, is there ever that side of things, Randy, where you have self doubt that maybe doesn’t come out necessarily.

So I probably used to have that. I don’t feel I do anymore because I’ve been out there so much, and I know people in our industry because the biggest thing I have that I enjoy the most is education. Education comes through the podcast, it comes through the webinars, it comes through the articles, it comes through even just, not even just, but being interviewed on other people’s podcasts. And I feel I’m prepared for that. And I think I, in my mind, know it as well as anybody. I know imposter syndrome is big in tech. I’ve heard that a lot. It’s just because I’m guessing it’s an ever changing profession. There’s always something new and you feel like you can’t keep up with it. With tax, is it new? Yeah, obviously there’s new stuff, but I have the freedom to dig into that pretty quickly when something new that is at least going to affect us comes out. So I never thought about it, but I don’t think I have the imposter syndrome. I think I used to for sure, and not even in business. I think it was more growing up. I mean, this is almost not imposter syndrome. It’s more just confidence. I was really good basketball player. The head coach of our basketball team asked me to play on the team, and in my mind, I wasn’t good enough. So I wouldn’t do it. And I look back and I go, that was dumb. So it was a confidence. But I wouldn’t change anything. Where I am today, I don’t want to be anywhere else. And if I did something different over the last 59 years, I’d be in a different spot. And this is the spot I want to be.

I think that’s another thing that comes through in so much of what you say, Randy. You talk about entrepreneurship as often being risk management and risk awareness, and you talk about being not sort of focused on risk, but having that optimism, having that thing is your ability to also shed regret or sort of avoid regret. I often think there are many things I wish I had taken a different path with, because I understand intellectually there probably would have been a route around it. But I also looked at certain things happen for reasons, and I have to accept it because I can only change what I can and I can only change what’s ahead, not what’s behind. So what’s your view on regret management, I guess, is what I would call it.

Exactly what you said now. So for the longest time, there’s things I regretted. The basketball, and that’s why I brought that up. Still probably because it’s probably still in the back of my mind. I love basketball. I played basketball probably more than anybody has. I played so many games and regret it for a while, not playing. But I’ve got over that again just because I want to be where I am today. I try not to regret anything. Everything that I’ve done has changed me has made me better. I was a computer programmer. Is that where I ended up? No. Do I still use skills that I learned in that? I’m sure I do. I was in sales. I was not good at it. I didn’t have passion for it, but I wasn’t good at it. I sell all the time now. I don’t sell. I educate, but really, I’m selling with education. I learned something back then and that do I regret that I didn’t go into public accounting straight out of school? No. Because without those two things, I wouldn’t be who I am today. You have to learn from it. But I don’t look backwards. I look forward and I know I take the skills I learned backwards. I take those education experiences and use them today. But I can’t change that. I can only look and see. I can affect tomorrow. I can’t affect yesterday.

Another important thing that we hear about, and I participated myself all the time. They have communities of practice and entrepreneurship organization EOS, a popular one for entrepreneurs. They’re at a certain phase of the organization. So you’re basically surrounding yourself with people with a common purpose and a common experience. But the community practice I want to focus on, Randy, you talked about stroke recovery and survivorship that experience far outside of. So there’s probably all walks of life of people that come in there. But how important is that in your continuous look back on that moment and that experience in your own life?

So I’m fortunate that I can look back on that and not like think I wish my stroke never happened. And the only reason I can sit in that situation is because I fully recovered and I’m in the position I am today. There are so many stroke survivors that are struggling daily with a loss of half of their body, loss of ability to speak, loss of ability just to communicate in general. I feel selfish saying that looking back, that probably was a positive impact on me. I have a hard time saying that because there’s 92% of the people that have stroke that probably can’t. Well, even if you have some deficit. I’ve talked to people look back at it and say, yes, this was the shape who I am today, and I’m okay with that or good with that. For me, it’s hard to say positive experience because it wasn’t. But did it make me who I am today, and am I grateful for that? Yes, I’m grateful for that. And because of that, I give back to the organization that helped me, which is stroke survivors empowering each other. That is when you have a stroke and I’m going to go into stroke here for a few minutes, if you don’t mind.

Yeah, absolutely. When I have the stroke and when everybody has a stroke and I’m sure everybody has similar mindset is what just happened? Why did this happen? Is it going to happen again, what do I do next? And in that situation, I was looking back because you’re like, why is a big part of it? And you have a stroke, you’re in the hospital, they release you, and that’s it. They release you. There’s not much else that happens. It’s like, now you’re on your own. You got to go figure out what to do. They give you some pamphlets. They say there’s a survivor.

I’m sure you’ve had a stroke pamphlet. Thank you.

Right. And they’ll tell you there’s a survivor group that meets once a month at the hospital and which is all great. The community of somebody that’s gone through what you’ve gone is extremely important to be part of that. But for me it was and I was 51 at the time. And this is a misconception. But in my mind it was okay, this is going to be a bunch of 80 year olds in this group, and I’m not going to connect with them because I’m 51 now. I know after the fact that I’m not special in being 51 when I had it. We have a group called Young Survivors. We have a bunch of people, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 years old that have strokes. So stroke happens at any age. It’s not just somebody who’s 80, 90 years old. But I was looking for this community that would know what I went through and be able to answer me. A doctor can say this, a nurse can say this, but somebody has a stroke, I’m going to talk to. So I was fortunate to know a few people who know people with strokes. I started talking to them, and that was great.

I felt at least I was getting answers from them, but they still wanted more. So I found this organization called Stroke Survivors are Part of each other. And it was based in Illinois, where I am, where I live, I’m not there today, but where I live. And I called them actually, I think I sent an email and they called me and they reached out to me and I’m like, this is unbelievable. They’re calling me and they talk to me about a group they had called Survivor to Survivor, Telephone Support Group. When you talk to somebody who’s a survivor, they’re going to communicate you with you. They’re going to call you monthly. They’re going to ask how you’re doing. If I did have deficits, they’re going to talk to you about how you start to use the bus or how you start to set up your home so that you can function if you lose the side of your body. A lot of times people lose one side of your body, the ability to use it. How do you just put toothpaste down a toothbrush now and then brush your teeth? I mean, things like that that they were able to communicate.

And so they actually, the three leaders of that organization set up a meeting to get together with me. And I was like, this is amazing the support that they have. And so from that I told them they helped me tremendously. I still had three or four years of dealing with mental health issues after that. But they got me down the right path. And because of that, I started to want to give back. And so I would do a little fundraiser here and there. I would do things. And then they asked me to be on the board. And at the first board meeting, I look around and the President was just about to not just about she just said, I’m going to step down. And I looked everybody’s faces and I didn’t see anybody saying, I’m going to step up. It’s a great group, but everybody has different skills. And I’m like, I’m going to be the next President, aren’t I? And then about a month later, that’s what happened. But it’s been great to give back. It’s a great organization. It was an experience that I do not wish on anybody to have stroke, but it has shaped where I am today. And for that, I’m grateful.

Well, I’m glad that we have you here today, and I’m glad you’re on the other side of that event and that you give back to your community. And Randy, it’s been a real pleasure. I thank you so much for I think we didn’t talk too much about taxes, so it may seem like a disappointment from quite often what you’re talking about.

Eric, this is what I want to talk about. I can talk taxes all day. If I can share something to help somebody in business that has nothing to do with taxes or even personally, I want to do that. And I might be have a big ego thinking I can help somebody, but hopefully something I say does make a difference to somebody.

Well, I’m absolutely sure that you help people in some way every day, and I appreciate spending the time today. So, Randy, if people do want to reach out and get a hold of you and find out more, what’s the best way they can do that?

So I will go to our website, which is Tri-Merit (T-R-I- Merit.com) there’s “About Us” page link to my information there. You can go to LinkedIn. Apparently I’m going to be on TikTok soon and other things. I’m going to be recording, like one or two minute updates on different things. But go to the website. That’s the best place to start and you can get to anything else from there.

Can you imagine that many years ago saying to yourself, like, yeah, I’m going to be doing 92nd social media hits where people do crazy dances. It’s a fun world. And I’m glad that we can all evolve to really fun stuff together. And thanks again, Randy. It’s been a real pleasure.

Thank you, Eric. I enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure where that we were going with this. But. It was awesome. Thank you much.

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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.

Wow.

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.

Yeah.

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.

Yes.

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.

Right.

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?

Right.

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.