entrepreneurship

Talk-Commerce Andrew Buehler

Smoke, Sizzle, and Success: Andrew Buehler’s Recipe for Building Urban Smokehouse

From Private Equity to Pitmaster: The Urban Smokehouse Story

The Birth of a Barbecue Brand

Hello, fellow food enthusiasts and entrepreneurial spirits! I’m Brent Peterson, your host at “Talk Commerce,” where we dive into the stories behind successful businesses and the passionate individuals who drive them. Today, I’m thrilled to share with you a remarkable journey from the financial world to the flavorful realm of barbecue. Join me as we explore the entrepreneurial path of Andrew Buehler, CEO of Urban Smokehouse, and the strategic decisions that have shaped his venture into a sizzling success.

The Spark That Ignited a Barbecue Revolution

Andrew Buehler’s story is one of passion pivoting into profession. As a former competitive swimmer with a zest for water sports, Andrew’s love for food and cooking always simmered in the background. But it wasn’t until the world was gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic that he took a deep dive into self-reflection and decided to leave his career in private equity to pursue his true calling—barbecue.

Urban Smokehouse emerged as a bootstrapped, 100% self-funded venture, aiming to deliver the authentic experience of low and slow barbecue to doorsteps across the nation. Andrew’s vision was clear: provide high-quality, precooked barbecue foods that are vacuum-sealed and shipped on dry ice, making it effortless for customers to enjoy without the need for a smoker or hours of preparation.

Overcoming the Heat: Challenges and Triumphs

Building Urban Smokehouse was no walk in the park. Andrew faced the daunting task of crowdfunding, a strategic move to gauge market fit and generate interest without significant upfront costs. He candidly shared the differences between pitching to institutional investors and crowdfunding backers, emphasizing the product’s appeal and market fit as crucial in the latter.

Shipping perishable products presented another set of challenges. Andrew tackled these head-on, using dry ice and meticulously planning logistics to ensure products reached customers in perfect condition, regardless of location or climate.

Leveraging Strengths and Expert Partnerships

Andrew’s mantra for scaling Urban Smokehouse effectively was to focus on his strengths and outsource other areas to experts. By partnering with a top-notch distribution center in Wisconsin, he could concentrate on what he does best—creating mouthwatering barbecue—while leaving tasks like pick and pack to those with the right expertise.

A Vision for Growth and Differentiation

Urban Smokehouse isn’t just about the meats; it’s about creating a full barbecue experience. Andrew’s vision includes expanding the product line to include various proteins, sides, barbecue sauces, and even venturing into retail and corporate gifting channels. He understands the importance of building a brand directly with the end customer and has strategically focused on direct-to-consumer sales before branching out.

In a market teeming with competition, Urban Smokehouse stands out by prioritizing quality and employing savvy marketing tactics. Andrew emphasizes customer acquisition and advocacy, using strategies like free samples, referral programs, and rewards to build a loyal customer base.

Setting the Table for Success

Andrew’s goals are as ambitious as they are clear: reach 5 to 10 million in annual revenue within the next 12 to 18 months. He approaches product expansion with caution, relying on sales volume and customer feedback to guide new additions. Quality, health accolades, and customer satisfaction remain at the forefront of Urban Smokehouse’s growth strategy.

Join the Barbecue Movement

As we wrapped up our conversation, Andrew extended an invitation to all listeners to visit Urban Smokehouse’s website and social media platforms. There, you can explore their delicious offerings and follow the brand’s journey.

Final Thoughts

My talk with Andrew Buehler was more than just a peek into the barbecue business; it was a masterclass in strategic entrepreneurship. His story is a testament to the power of following one’s passion and the importance of making calculated, customer-focused decisions in business.

Thank you for joining me on this flavorful adventure. Until next time, keep the fires of your passions burning and the wheels of commerce turning!

Exit Interviews Can Be Helpful to a Company Because

Exit Interviews Can Be Helpful to a Company Because…

Exit interviews are a crucial tool for companies to gain insights into the experiences and perceptions of their departing employees. While it may be tempting to view these interviews as a formality or a way to check a box, the truth is that they can offer valuable information that can help improve the company’s culture, processes, and employee retention rates.

By conducting exit interviews, companies can better understand why employees are leaving and identify areas for improvement that may have gone unnoticed. In this way, exit interviews can be a powerful tool for companies to stay ahead of the curve and ensure they provide their employees with the best possible work environment.

Exit Interviews Expose the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Your Company's Reputation

The Shocking Truth: Exit Interviews Expose the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Your Company’s Reputation!

Many companies underestimate the power of exit interviews, despite their crucial role in shaping an organization’s reputation. An exit interview is a vital conversation between a departing employee and their employer, offering a unique chance to obtain invaluable insights into the employee’s reasons for leaving and any concerns they faced during their time at the company.

This process also allows the departing employee to give an honest assessment of the company’s culture, management, and overall experience. A well-executed exit interview can significantly enhance a company’s reputation, while a poorly handled one can have the opposite effect. In this blog post, we delve into the impact of exit interviews on your company’s reputation and why every employer should give this process the attention it deserves.

Talk-Commerce Tiffany Uman

Are You a Toxic Boss with Tiffany Uman

We often hear about toxic workplaces, but what about toxic bosses? As a boss or leader, your behavior and actions can significantly impact your team’s productivity, morale, and overall well-being. But how do you know if you’re a toxic boss? And more importantly, how can you fix it?

In this episode, we will dive deep into the signs and characteristics of a toxic boss. We will discuss the effects of toxic leadership on employees and the organization as a whole. We will also provide practical tips and strategies for improving your leadership style and creating a healthy work environment for your team.

Whether you’re a new or experienced leader, or just starting out this episode is a must-listen. So, grab a pen and paper, and let’s get started on the journey to becoming a better boss!

TalkCommerce-Ad-TiffUman-1
Workplace Essentials Workshop

Highlights

Tiffany is a career strategy coach and a former Fortune 500 senior director, and she is passionate about giving back and paying it forward so others don’t have to feel alone in their career. She spends a lot of time with her family and enjoys the quality moments they have together.

Tiffany: When it comes to people’s confidence and the way they value themselves, we wanna be really clear about which ones need to be taken very seriously and which ones probably need some adjustment in strategy and action steps that can actually make a current situation a lot better.

Tiffany: I think subjectivity versus objectivity is really important. Subjectivity leads to a lot of room for interpretation. Moving towards the objective is what’s going to get the best buy-in, especially when we are working with more challenging bosses or managers.

Brent: I know one thing, and it’s that everybody should have a number.

Tiffany: I agree, and I think that key performance indicators are really essential to help you track your own progression as well.

When you don’t have a proper baseline to go off of, it’s much easier to move the goalpost and say you didn’t achieve this, and you don’t know what you’re supposed to achieve. It’s still subjective and surface level, and so it leads to stagnation and frustration for the employee. It’s not actually quantifiable enough in the feedback or metric driven.

If your manager or boss tends to stay very surface level in their answers, try to get more specificity. If they use a condescending tone, try to explain why you don’t understand what they’re trying to say.

Tiffany: When a manager doesn’t make it clear what they want, the employee feels bad and insecure. To counter this, the manager should explain what they want and how they want it done, and the employee should be able to see the other side of the coin.

Brent: I can relate to the fact that sometimes I’m a visionary in assuming that everybody else understands what I would like out of something, and then I get frustrated in the fact that they didn’t understand what I wanted to get out of it.

Brent and Tiffany discuss how to motivate people to achieve their goals, including writing out, creating clear goals, and making sure that everybody is tracking them. They also discuss the importance of sharing the vision and why their involvement in the vision is so critical.

Tiffany: Managing expectations is about knowing what the vision means for you and your colleagues, and mobilizing your people in the right way.

Tiffany: It doesn’t always have to be you that gives those action steps, it could be a collaborative effort. It could be like, this is the vision that I want us to achieve, let’s talk about some strategy.

Brent: When something goes wrong with a client’s website, a boss can either help or hinder the situation. I was a very poor crisis boss, and I try to avoid “shoulding” on people. When in a crisis, you as the leader should be looking at the solution, let’s work together to find ways to move past this and be proactive. This means having processes in place, and different types of mechanisms that will help should things end up going sour.

In those actual moments when it happens, you want to be able to motivate your team and stay calm and level-headed. Try to look at the crisis from an objective point of view and act on the things you can control.

Tiffany: I think the most important thing is to get people’s involvement, without falling into a dictatorship of you gotta do this, or you should do this, or why don’t you do that. And then you as a leader have to take responsibility for it if it goes wrong.

When a leader says you should do this, and it didn’t work. Then the person who did it screws up, and suddenly we’ve thrown them under the bus for doing it wrong, I think as a leader you must take on that responsibility and then not shift the blame to anybody else.

Tiffany: A lot of companies and teams almost discount that importance where it’s okay, just to move on to the next thing. We don’t actually analyze enough what went wrong that led to that crisis. But taking ownership as the leader, as the boss honestly brings more respect than anything else.

Brent: We talk about having a feedback loop and having the ability for employees to talk to their boss. One lady said her boss would give her 30 minutes every other week to bitch and complain.

Tiffany: I definitely think leaders should lead by example, and encourage others to do the same. However, it’s important to be cautious when using openness to share and vent, especially with senior leaders who are often important decision-makers around internal movement.

If employees get the sense that you can speak about people in a certain way, they will feel more comfortable sharing. But I think there is a reason why a lot of companies don’t necessarily have those types of platforms available.

Brent: To fill out the surveys, right?

Tiffany: To learn more about them, to know something a little bit about them, to understand how they think things might play out in this current work setting.

I think anonymity as you said, is really important. It’s not the type of thing that changes overnight, but the baby steps that are going to help people feel more open to sharing feedback.

Tiffany: HR is normally the person that employees feel comfortable going to with any sort of complaint, but it depends on the type of organizational culture. If you have a complaint, bring it forward, but pair it with a solution. This helps them already get the ball rolling, and it becomes much more collaborative and well-received at the end of HR.

Tiffany: Maybe it’s worth considering versus seeing it just as negativity coming to their door, and I’m part of a community where often people have a complaint about the community without a solution.

Tiffany: It’s so easy for people to complain about something, but they’re the last to share a solution. I think that is a skill that needs to be developed.

Tiffany: Strength for you in the workplace especially, and as you grow and are exposed to senior leaders as well, they’re going to expect that of you. Take ownership of what can be done to be improved.

Tiffany: When people feel heard and understood, they start speaking with you at a different level of understanding than something that’s more authoritative alone in nature. This helps whatever strategies, and recommendations elements you bring forward to be so much better received.

Tiffany: Take the time to understand so that when you bring forward suggestions and solutions, you’re already integrating those pain points. This will help build up a lot of trust and a lot of rapport faster.

Tiffany: A little bit of anticipation factor as well as the realization that if we don’t actually fix this, it can lead to X, Y, Z. So it’s your responsibility to bring those points forward in those conversations, to help resolve it, to help move things in the right direction.

Employee turnover has been a big thing in the last couple of years. Is there a way through exit interviews or other ways to figure out why are people leaving?

Tiffany suggests that when you’re onboarding team members, really take the time to understand what motivates them, and what gets them excited to come to work, and then help them do work that feeds into that direction, you’ll have a lot less turnover.

Tiffany: You constantly have conversations with them. If there are tough times in the organization, check in with them regularly, help them feel supported, and let them know that you’re there with them and that they’re not alone.

Tiffany: Maybe a different opportunity came their way that they were so passionate about, and perhaps the progress they were seeing internally wasn’t what they wanted. But by having these types of conversations more actively, you can avoid this situation.

Tiffany: I think the employee review process should cover a little of that, but I don’t limit it to that. Having a more continuous dialogue with your team is another aspect that I’m a big believer in, and that might be a reflection of your boss.

If your boss doesn’t understand your job, it is your responsibility to build your own track record and bring forward the evolution that you are showcasing in your role. It could be impromptu, pre-prep for a certain eval, or something that you are prompting more in an ongoing way.

Brent: Communicate in a way that helps them to understand.

Tiffany: Show them the importance of certain elements of your work and why it plays into the bigger picture, and they understand at least the value that you play. One approach is to write things out for them, or share something more visually that they can follow along with you, and that helps them see the scope of the complexity that something takes or the level of diligence that’s required.

Tiffany is hosting a Free Workplace Essentials workshop that will help you navigate workplace dynamics fairly effectively and activate your most successful self. If you’re open to joining again, the workshop is on March 22nd at 12:00 PM EST.

Brent: I have a lot of different free resources as well, Tiffany. One of them is a LinkedIn learning course, a nano course all around answering common interview questions, and if people want a little bit of one-on-one action time with me in terms of a workshop.

Transcript

[00:03:54] Brent: Welcome to Talk Commerce. Today I have Tiffany Uman. Tiffany is a career coach. Tiffany, go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us about your day-to-day role and maybe one of your passions in life. 

[00:04:05] Tiffany: Sure. Thanks so much for having me, Brent. Really happy to be here. So I am a career strategy coach. I focus on empowering high achievers.

[00:04:14] Tiffany: To become the top 1% in their career, really fast, track their success and start becoming very much fast tracked in their promotions, raises, job opportunities, and ultimately filling in a lot of the gaps that school never teaches us. Formerly from becoming a career strategy coach, I was a former Fortune 500 senior director in the Fortune 500 space, so a lot of firsthand learnings.

[00:04:40] Tiffany: Fuel into my coaching practice today, and I’m very passionate about giving back and paying it forward so others don’t have to feel alone in their career. And what it takes to really become that top 1% something that I am, I’m really passionate about. I’d say definitely my family when I’m not working, I’m definitely spending a lot of time with them and soaking up the quality moments that we have together brings a lot of light into my life.

[00:05:03] Tiffany: So I, I’m definitely prioritizing that more and more. 

[00:05:07] Brent: That’s awesome. So we met because one of my employees sent me a link that you had done an Instagram link and I thought it was very good. 

[00:05:16] Brent: But but we did want to talk about bad bosses and I thought I guess I was a little bit encouraged that an employee would send me something about a bad boss tell us some of the toxicity that can come with bad bosses. 

[00:05:30] Tiffany: Oh yes. Unfortunately it’s a little bit too prevalent.

[00:05:34] Tiffany: I’ve heard a lot of horror stories over the last few years alone, and I’ve definitely experienced some very challenging moments myself. I’ve had great bosses, I’ve had not so great bosses, and I really feel for people going through some of those darker moments because it can really take a toll, to your point, Brent, it can impact your confidence, your self-esteem, your self.

[00:05:56] Tiffany: How you view your capabilities and what your abilities are. And I think bad bosses, toxic bosses, that word is thrown a lot around a lot, and there is a really important distinction around, a true toxicity driven boss versus maybe just having. A clash of leadership style versus what you need as an employee to be best supported.

[00:06:17] Tiffany: So that is a really important distinction because when it’s really talking about people’s confidence and the way they value themselves, we wanna be really clear about, which ones need to be taken very seriously, especially when it comes to wellbeing and mental health, and which ones probably need some adjustment in strategy and action steps that can actually make a current situation a lot.

[00:06:39] Tiffany: Better. But we see things from, micromanagement to nepotism, to favoritism, to down, talking to, throwing under the bus, not looking out for your best interest as their employee really yelling at you or just being really mean and embarrassing in, in many work moments.

[00:06:59] Tiffany: The list goes on. There could be also very unethical behavior. I’ve certainly. Supported quite a few of my clients with those types of really unfortunate circumstances around harassment. Things that have taken a turn, for the worst in those moments. So I never want anybody to feel alone going through that because there is hope, there is light at the end of this, but often we need that kind of support in an objective way to help you get to the other.

[00:07:25] Brent: Yeah. You bring up a lot of good points about the how you interact with your subordinates and how your subordinates theoretically should interact with you as the boss. . I know that laughter in the workplaces of value and we talked about. The free joke project, which I completely forgot when we did our interest.

[00:07:44] Brent: So waiting up front. Yeah, I’m sorry. We’re gonna pause. Take 30 seconds and I’m gonna tell you a joke. And we decided if this joke should be toxic or not. So it could be the toxic joke project and I don’t have any toxic jokes. They’re all dad jokes, I apologize. We’re just gonna take 30 seconds.

[00:08:00] Brent: I’m gonna tell you the joke. All you have to do is tell me if you feel that joke should be free, or if someday we should charge for it. And it’s an easy one. Okay? We had a contest at work for the best neckwear. It was a tie. . Yeah I agree. We had to get it out of the way cause, but up bum . Yes.

[00:08:21] Brent: Yeah. I’m sorry. I like it. Delivery was a very poor on that one. Alright, so let’s, it’s okay. I like 

[00:08:26] Tiffany: it. It’s clever. I don’t see anything particularly wrong with that joke. . 

[00:08:31] Brent: Yeah. Yeah, it’s I won’t make any more. I was gonna make a bunch of puns cuz I’m also good at that, but I 

[00:08:36] Tiffany: won’t do that.

[00:08:36] Tiffany: Yeah I was saying that’s a good pun. a good play on words for sure. . 

[00:08:40] Brent: Alright let’s just talk with let’s come back to the toxic boss and talk about how. You mentioned throwing under the bus. You mentioned not supporting you playing favoritism. , a lot of those things really work against having a great team.

[00:08:57] Brent: And Oh yeah. I know that I’ve been in situations where somebody leaves and then all of a sudden that person is the worst person in the world. Or if there’s somebody that you know is in a company and you as the boss are saying bad things about that person . Talk a little bit about the differences between.

[00:09:15] Brent: say subjective things you’re saying about somebody and being objective in terms of how you would like to that person to improve. Oh 

[00:09:24] Tiffany: yeah. I think the subjectivity versus objectivity is a really important one because, subjectivity leads a lot of room for interpretation. What’s really actionable there?

[00:09:34] Tiffany: What is actually founded in something that has some weight to it? When it comes to whether it’s feedback, whether it’s improving in a certain situation, I definitely tend to recommend moving towards objective because that’s what’s gonna get the best buy-in. It doesn’t seem like it’s emotionally driven.

[00:09:53] Tiffany: It doesn’t seem like it’s just based off of feeling, but rather something that’s going to help move the situation. Forward, and I think that’s really important, especially when we are working with more challenging bosses or managers. You don’t wanna stay in that emotional subjective. Likely going to backfire.

[00:10:10] Tiffany: We need to be able to move into more of an objective lens and dialogue that’s going to help your case and at least put some cards on your side to see if this is a relationship that’s worth, that’s able to be improved and salvaged. . 

[00:10:24] Brent: Yeah, I know one thing. So I’m a big believer in EOS entrepreneurial operating system, and in that framework we have a scorecard that, and the kind of the rule is, or not the rule, but best practice is that everybody should have a number.

[00:10:37] Brent: And a lot of people look at that. Maybe employees would look at that as saying, Hey, I’m only a number. . But I think that, that gives you an objective way of measuring your perform. and it also gives your boss a way of saying, Hey, here’s some objectives that we would like to achieve. Here’s the data that helps us to determine if we’re being successful in that or not.

[00:10:56] Brent: . And it doesn’t have to necessarily be bad. It could be something that points to something else that says, I wasn’t able to achieve my number because of blah, blah, blah, or, but I think it’s a great starting point to have something concrete to look at, to measure how well you’re 

[00:11:11] Tiffany: doing. . Oh, a hundred percent.

[00:11:13] Tiffany: Yeah. Key performance indicators are really essential. Otherwise, how can you hold yourself accountable? Your boss can’t really hold you accountable otherwise and these are really critical to help you track your own progression as well. If goals, objectives are very surface level, are very qualitative only, it’s going to lead to a little bit of messy waters ahead.

[00:11:34] Tiffany: I can say it like that because you don’t really have a proper baseline to go off of. To your point, Brent, when you’ve got those numbers, when you’ve got those types of metrics, To use as a bit of a guideline. Now you know what your targets are and now you know what kind of room you have for improvement and you can use that to your advantage if you’re, really intentional and strategic about it.

[00:11:56] Brent: Yeah. And I think you as an employee are more comfortable when you know where the playing field is and the goalpost isn’t getting moved. Oh, yeah. In the subjectivity. And when it’s subjective, it’s much easier to move the goalpost and say you didn’t achieve this. . . And you don’t know what you’re supposed to achieve.

[00:12:12] Tiffany: Exactly. Exactly. I’ve seen it a lot, right? I’ve seen it happen a lot where, someone will have a conversation with their boss. They’ll say, yeah, you’re on your way to your next step. We just need to see this. They work on that and it’s such a surface level type of thing. So they think they’re doing what they need to do, and then sure enough, they have another conversation a little while later and their boss throws in something else in the mix being like, no we also still need you to do this.

[00:12:36] Tiffany: And it’s still very subjective and surface level, and so it leads you to stay in your positions a lot longer than needed. It creates a lot of stagnation and frustration for the employee because they’re trying to follow suit on what feedback they’re being given. But the issue there is that it’s not actually quantifiable enough in the feedback or metric driven that will allow them to have a better sense of accountability to drive their progression forward as well.

[00:13:03] Tiffany: So if you have a manager or a boss who just tends to stay very surface level in their answers giving you a little bit of direction, but not enough that you can really sink your teeth into, that’s likely a, a big watch out that you wanna try to get more specificity. , what 

[00:13:19] Brent: about when you consistently hear your boss say, I was very clear in what I was trying to say, and, but nobody is clear in what they’re trying to say.

[00:13:31] Brent: , how from and this is, I suppose more for the for the manager or the boss to help them understand why they’re not clear. . Yeah. Just I’m a big proponent of simply putting it in writing and saying, this is what we’re trying to do. Yeah. Rather than just stating it. , and.

[00:13:49] Brent: Look, comment on that. I’m so clear that, why don’t you understand 

[00:13:52] Tiffany: what I’m saying? Oh, yeah. And it could also depend on the tone, right? Are they using like a condescending tone on top of it when they’re telling you that of I was very clear in what I said. I don’t understand why you don’t get it.

[00:14:02] Tiffany: Like that again is really making the employee feel very bad and insecure in that moment of, okay, maybe I am missing something, maybe. Me when it could absolutely be the onus of the manager, but they’re projecting that onto their employees as if they’re doing something wrong. But the big thing here is a lot of managers, because they are so distant from the day-to-day work or the execution, let’s say that their team is handling, they might say something, thinking that it is super clear, but there’s other flares to this, other facets to it that they don’t have as.

[00:14:33] Tiffany: They don’t have as much connection to anymore. So for them it sounds very obvious what they’re asking, but the employee who’s the one that’s actually doing it is hang on a second. That’s actually not very clear, because in order to do what I think you’re asking, it actually involves X, Y, Z and you’re not mentioning X, Y, Z.

[00:14:50] Tiffany: So a good way to counter that is the employees, to help them see the other side of that coin, right? You could of course, give them feedback on maybe how they’re actually delivering. The message if that’s where the issue lies. But if it’s more around a disconnect between what they think they’re sharing with you and what actually needs to get done, you need to be able to close that gap of saying, I understand.

[00:15:13] Tiffany: That you want us to work towards, fill in the blank. In order to do that though, there is a piece that you haven’t mentioned, and I believe that’s where the confusion is coming from. And then share more around that part so they understand where you’re coming from, and you could find a middle ground to move forward more effectively than stay in this limbo state of confusion and disarray.

[00:15:34] Brent: Yeah, I can relate to the fact that so I’m in a visionary and oftentimes there’s 4 million things going in my head, and I’m assuming that everybody else understands what I would like out of something, right? Yeah. And that assumption is not met because they’re not doing it. And then I get frustrated.

[00:15:52] Brent: , I’m gonna use past tenses because I’m hoping I’m doing better. I would get frustrated in the fact that they didn’t understand what I wanted to get out of it, even though. They should have, I, put me putting some projection or whatever that on the other person is often a problem in the sense that I’m, my expectation is, you know everything I know, right?

[00:16:13] Brent: Yeah. And that you can just go ahead and do it, and I don’t have to give you much direction. All you have to do is do it. Yeah. And then if you don’t. , I’ll get a little bit frustrated in that. And yeah, it, for me it’s vis I’m very visible. When I’m frustrated. You can see it right. On Zoom even. Yeah.

[00:16:28] Brent: Again I think it probably comes down to writing it out and creating some clear goals. Yeah. And making sure that everybody’s tracking those. Yeah, that’s 

[00:16:37] Tiffany: a big part of it. And I would also add to manage, expect. There’s nothing wrong with being visionary. I think that’s what’s really gonna inspire people, especially if you’re really passionate about it and you’re sharing it in a way where they could feel your excitement.

[00:16:50] Tiffany: They can feel like this could be something amazing that they get to be a part of, but to really get their buy-in. Yes. It’s part around sharing the vision. , but also, why their involvement in that vision is so critical. And to help break down more of the action steps that’s gonna help deliver on that.

[00:17:06] Tiffany: And that’s what I mean by managing expectations, because it’s one thing to get the vision, but then, okay, what does that actually mean for me as this particular employer? What does that mean for my colleague who’s also working on this? And it will help you as that manager and the leader to know that you’re mobilizing your people in the right way.

[00:17:22] Tiffany: And it doesn’t always have to be you. Necessarily being the one giving those action steps. It could be like a collaborative effort. It could be like, Hey, this is the vision that, I want us to achieve. Let’s have a conversation around some strategy that will help us get there, or some goals that will help be be good milestone indicators.

[00:17:40] Tiffany: Towards the end outcome, as an example. So there’s ways of doing it that makes it a little bit more tangible without taking away you as a visionary, because that’s probably what makes you and what can make someone really a great boss and leader. 

[00:17:54] Brent: I want to talk a little bit about crisis and how a boss can either help or hinder in a crisis.

[00:18:02] Brent: And I’m gonna again, share my own personal experience on how. I can now look back and see. I was a very poor crisis boss. When something happens and, let’s just say in the software, in industry, something is going wrong with the client’s website and you as the boss are were disconnected from the day-to-day actions of whatever is happening in that project.

[00:18:28] Brent: You’re asked to come in to try to help and solve something. And I used to, and I’m I’m hoping I don’t do this anymore, but I used to immediately start doing the shoulds. And in EO Entrepreneurs’ organization, we have this thing called we don’t should on anybody. We try to share our own experience rather than shoulding on people.

[00:18:46] Brent: And as I look back at my, myself, my previous self, in the last 10 years, even I can remember how many times that I entered a stressful time. And instead of being a good coach or a mentor or in somebody to try to help somebody move forward, I started saying, I’m so disappointed in this team. I, you should have done this.

[00:19:10] Brent: Why didn’t we do that? When, at that time of crisis, you as the leader should be looking at, and I just used the word, should I should have been doing things. , let’s find the solution. Let’s work together to find ways to move past this or whatever. Yeah. To talk a little bit about how a leader can come in and either be a hindrance or a big asset in that type of situation.

[00:19:32] Tiffany: It’s such a great point, Brent. There’s a few things that come to mind. I’ll say, as a starting point when it comes to crisis manage. being proactive is going to help so much. What I mean by this is you almost wanna be ready for the crisis before it even happens. You don’t want to necessarily be in crisis mode to start coming up with strategy backup plans and spread the team a little bit thin when they’re already likely a little bit stressed about what’s going on.

[00:20:00] Tiffany: So that level of anticipation as a leader and a boss can be really helpful of, know. When times are good, that’s actually a good time to have things in place, have processes different types of mechanisms that will help should things, end up going sour a little bit later on.

[00:20:17] Tiffany: But in those actual moments when it happens, I the key is obviously, You wanna be able to still motivate your team during that time of challenge because that’s where a lot of their light can shine through of how they rise above in a very difficult occasion. And yes, I’m with you on the should.

[00:20:35] Tiffany: It’s sometimes tempting to say of you should just do this, or, why didn’t we think of that and get a little bit accusatory, but that’s probably very counterproductive in those moments. When the crisis is happening, obviously trying to stay calm and levelheaded and more solution focused and really putting on that problem solver hat is going to be key because that’s gonna show that you’re leading by example of saying, okay, look, let’s, bring our heads together.

[00:20:58] Tiffany: This is obviously not an ideal situation, but getting overly stressed and worked up is probably only gonna make matters worse. So let’s, try to keep calm and look at this from as an objective. Point of view as possible. What are things that are in our control that we can actually action right now?

[00:21:15] Tiffany: And then get people’s involvement so they feel okay, I have a voice in this. I am being valued in what my contributions are without it falling into a little bit of that dictatorship of you gotta do this, or you should do this, or, why don’t you do that? And that’s will probably make them feel even worse in an already very difficult situation.

[00:21:33] Brent: Yeah. And I, there is a balance there because I can think of, I maybe I’ve swayed sometimes the opposite direction where all I’m doing is sharing my experience and hoping that somebody gleans something off of that. Where sometimes in a crisis you do need a leader that says, go this way. Do these things.

[00:21:52] Brent: Let’s just, let’s head down this. and then it’s of course on me as the leader to take responsibility for it. I think that’s the second part of that is , you as a leader, say, here’s the direction we’re gonna take. We’re gonna solve it this way, and I’m taking responsibility. If it goes wrong, right?

[00:22:07] Brent: Oh, yeah. Because the other side to that is, if you as a leader say You should do this, and that should didn’t work, and then the person who did it screws up and then suddenly, like you said earlier, we’ve thrown them under the bus for doing it wrong. . I think as a leader, absolutely. Taking it taking on that responsibility and then not shifting the blame to anybody else.

[00:22:29] Brent: At the end of the day, you as the owner or the ceo, are ultimately responsible for everything that happens. . Yeah. And certainly a one off or a two off could be your team, but a three off, a four off and a 10 off is usually a management problem or a leadership problem. 

[00:22:46] Tiffany: It’s so true. It’s so true.

[00:22:48] Tiffany: Being able to take that ownership. And that’s a really great way to inspire your team as well if they can see that, hey, Brent is, not afraid to say, this was the wrong decision, or, maybe we should have taken a different direction. Often those postmortem learnings are just as important as the learnings throughout the process.

[00:23:05] Tiffany: And a lot of, companies and teams almost discount that importance where it’s okay, just onto the next thing. Or we don’t actually analyze enough what went wrong that led to that crisis. We can prevent it happening another time. So tho those elements are really important because there’s a lot of gold that can come from those types of learnings and retrospective on, what might have happened and how to serve up differently moving forward.

[00:23:30] Tiffany: But taking the ownership as the leader, as the boss honestly brings a lot more respect than anything else. If you are the type of boss that’s gonna just blame it on your team. Shame on you as the boss because you’re still their boss and you let that happen. So it’s just gonna backfire either way if you try to almost brush it onto your team members, when at the end of the day, you’re the one that made the decision.

[00:23:51] Tiffany: You’re the one that helped guided things in that way, and you have to take some level of responsibility if not a full part of that responsibility. 

[00:24:00] Brent: We talk you talk about having a feedback loop and having an ability for. The having a safe place for employees to be able to talk to their boss.

[00:24:11] Brent: I, I did an interview a couple of months ago where a lady who was a VP said that her, the owner of the company would give her 30 minutes every other week to simply bitch and complain about what’s wrong at work without any feedback. No problem solving, just listening. How would you recommend a, an owner open up that channel and make people feel comfortable doing that?

[00:24:42] Tiffany: Definitely leading by example. If they can show that, they’re open to doing it and encourage others to do it, that. It starts there because this is something that trickles down from leadership. I love that example because I don’t think we see enough companies doing that there.

[00:24:56] Tiffany: There’s always kind of two sides to that coin too, right? As much as we might feel, okay, there’s an openness to share and vent, it’s also sometimes begs the question, will this somehow backfire or will this get back to someone? You don’t wanna necessarily use that opening as a way to bash other people or throw your boss under the bus or, say really bad things about other individuals, because I think that’s just a testament to your character as well, and how you wanna present yourself in a professional setting.

[00:25:24] Tiffany: I don’t think there’s anything wrong though about fostering a feedback culture around. Weights that things can be improved, maybe around more processes, inefficiencies, things like that. But I could see a little bit of delicacy in how open people are in those settings, especially with senior leaders who are often important decision makers around internal movement.

[00:25:45] Tiffany: If they get the sense that, you can speak about people in a certain way. So the intention is good because of course, Employees are thinking this and they wanna be able to create that environment where they feel comfortable sharing. But I think there’s a reason why a lot of companies don’t necessarily have those types of platforms available because of.

[00:26:04] Tiffany: Will people truly be as transparent? Maybe yes, maybe no. A lot of organizations choose to have more of these anonymous surveys where they can actually collect information and get a better sense of where problems are and where people feel more comfortable sharing because it is anonymous. So if there is an a anonym anonymity to the type of platform and sharing that will probably help go a long way in the openness of what people are willing to share.

[00:26:29] Brent: Yeah. We used a system called Office Vibe that allow you, that allowed you to put in anonymous feedback and there was a number of questions that came out every week. Yeah. I found when I was managing it, I found it hard to often get everybody or main, make sure everybody stayed engaged in it, if we had a hundred people, you would slowly see that engagement rate drop down unless you went back and encourage people to.

[00:26:55] Brent: To fill out the surveys, right? Yeah. I can also share that six months ago I started doing the ask me anything you want and nobody took me up on it. I’ll correct myself. I think out of six months, in about 200 meetings, I probably had had three people who just had that, who wanted to use that 15 minutes to vent.

[00:27:19] Brent: Yeah. And most of the time people wanted to just tell me about their jobs and Yeah. My, I was trying, my goal was to learn more about them, and I would steer them towards how is your family, how many kids do you have? Blah, blah, blah. Cause you, at some point you can’t know everybody on the team, that and I was trying to just know something a little bit about somebody. I can see that. . Yeah, I can I see where you’re saying, I, I can definitely understand what you’re saying about it could get off the rails. 

[00:27:47] Tiffany: It can, and it might not even be anything to do with you as an example, Brent.

[00:27:51] Tiffany: It could be maybe a past experience that they had that didn’t play out very well. So now they’ve got a bit of a guard up. Of how things might play out in this current work setting, as an example. So it’s always good to come from a place. I think the anonymity, like you said, is really important.

[00:28:06] Tiffany: There’s gonna be the people who choose to take you up on it, who are really eager to fill feedback. Others that might feel like I don’t feel like if I say anything, it’s gonna change anything. So I’m just not gonna say anything at all, which is a little unfortunate, but that’s probably being trickled down by the leadership that’s making them feel that their voice doesn’t matter and that’s a bigger problem.

[00:28:25] Tiffany: So there, there’s different nuances here to play into all of this, but I am still a very big advocate of trying to foster feedback in a way that will work for a specific individual. Company’s culture because that’s where it starts. The more that this becomes second nature, the more that it becomes a habit is going to help, employees really feel a lot more comfortable sharing.

[00:28:45] Tiffany: And this is something that, I had done and been part of in my corporate work. And it, it made a big changes in a good way of allowing people to feel more open to share feedback, whereas prior, it wasn’t something that was actively welcome. So it’s not the type of thing that changes overnight, but the baby steps that.

[00:29:02] Tiffany: If it’s something that is, walking the walk and talking the talk from a leadership standpoint with time, it will move things in the right direction. 

[00:29:11] Brent: Is the HR person that person who should be open to listening to any sort of complaint? Is there somebody in the company that anybody should feel comfortable with?

[00:29:22] Brent: If they have some huge concern or gripe? 

[00:29:27] Tiffany: Technically, yes. HR is normally that entity that will do that and be that, that sounding board. Will that always be the case? Not necessarily. I’ve certainly heard and seen a lot of stories where HR wasn’t necessarily the one that helped in that situation, but I’ve seen situations where they absolutely have.

[00:29:48] Tiffany: So I, I think it really depends on the type of organizational culture. But generally, because a HR plays a pretty pivotal role in, employee development and growth and enablement internally, they normally are quite a good. Type of department to get on your side and bring these types of topics forward.

[00:30:07] Tiffany: Especially if you’re bringing it in a way where there’s opportunity for improvement. It’s not just coming to complaint. I think that’s could be a really big pet peeve for someone in HR where they’re just hearing complaint after complaint, but no solutions. So I’m a big believer of, okay, if you have a complaint, bring it forward.

[00:30:25] Tiffany: but pair it with an with a solution, help them already get the ball rolling. You’re, if you’re the one feeling this particular challenge, you probably also have a sense of what can change to make it better, and at least bring that part to the conversation as well. So it becomes much more collaborative and well received on the end of HR to say, okay, you know what?

[00:30:45] Tiffany: They actually have a good point. Maybe, that’s something that is worth considering versus seeing it just as negativity coming to 

[00:30:51] Brent: their door. . Yeah. And I’m that applies to almost every situation in life. And I’m part of a community or a bunch of, a number of communities, and oftentimes people in the Comu community have a complaint about the community without a solution.

[00:31:06] Brent: And for me, that’s, that is you’re gonna complain about this, but you don’t have anything that you would like to add to it. It’s kinda like you want to chisel it down, but you don’t want to Oh, yeah. Help 

[00:31:17] Tiffany: repair it. So easy for people to do that. You’re so right, Brendan. All, I think we could all relate in with people in our lives who are very quick to complain about something, to bring something down, that yet they’re the last person that will actually share a solution, right?

[00:31:32] Tiffany: It’s okay, what are you gonna do about it? And then their face goes blank, right? They’re not ready for that, but they’re ready to openly share what’s not working. So I think that is definitely a skill that needs to be developed. But adopting that problem solving mindset is a real.

[00:31:48] Tiffany: Strength for you in the workplace especially, and as you grow and be and are more exposed with senior leaders as well, they’re gonna expect that of you, right? They’re gonna expect that it’s not just about bringing problems forward. You have to be already taking some ownership on what can be done to be improved.

[00:32:05] Brent: How about the word empathy? As a leader, how important is that? 

[00:32:10] Tiffany: Oh my gosh, friends, huge. Huge. I can tell you I am a huge advocate of empathy. Especially in leadership styles it really moves mountains. It’s definitely not as prominent as it should be, and is something that can make mountains move like in a beautiful way in a workplace setting.

[00:32:32] Tiffany: When people feel heard and understood and really identified with you, you start speaking with them in such a different level of understanding than something that’s more authoritative alone in nature. When people feel like they are on the same page, that you are understanding where they’re coming from and really listening with them to understand them, it’s going to help whatever strategies, recommendations elements that you bring forward to be so much better received because it’s coming from a place of really tapping into those insights, right?

[00:33:05] Tiffany: I say this, as like a new boss as an example. If you’re starting on a team, Whether as a first time people manager or just a new boss on a team, take the time to really speak with your team members, understand where are the pain points, where are things that have been challenges for them?

[00:33:20] Tiffany: Really take that time to understand so that when you bring forward suggestions and solutions, you’re already integrating those pain points so that they’re gonna be like, oh my gosh, where was this strategy, a year ago or six months ago? And it’s going to help build up a lot of trust and a lot of rapport a lot faster.

[00:33:39] Tiffany: So I’m huge believer in empathy as a very effective leadership style and integrated in how you manage your teams for success. 

[00:33:49] Brent: You’ve mentioned, take the time to speak and listen. What if, so as an employee, what if you are in a meeting? and your boss is telling you the same thing that, that to solve a problem that’s been happening for a year, let’s say, or two years or something like that, and then he or she starts discounting the problem saying, it’s not really a problem, let’s just sweep it under the rug and move on.

[00:34:16] Tiffany: Oh yes. In those moments, it’s really key to. Let them know that it’s not something that should be discounted. That could be done by sharing facts or data as to maybe the gravity of keeping that unresolved. It could be showing that this has already created quite a few consequences on the business results.

[00:34:36] Tiffany: It could also be sharing, if we don’t actually fix this, it can lead to X, y, Z. So a little bit of that anticipation factor as well. But also because sometimes they might not realize, How significant of an issue it is they might be, again, at a bit more of a bird’s eye view. So I’m like, oh, it’s not really as much of a problem, or we probably don’t need to fix that.

[00:34:56] Tiffany: But by not fixing that, it’s gonna create a much. Much worse ripple effect that will then bite them afterwards. So as the employee, maybe even as the manager of that team, it really is your responsibility to bring those points forward in those conversations, to help resolve it, to help move things in the right direction.

[00:35:15] Tiffany: Help them understand that by making a change here, there’s actually a big benefit in doing that and here’s why. And help them see what that is, versus just leaving it untouched and hoping for the best, which will probably really work against them. 

[00:35:31] Brent: The employee turnover has been such a big thing now in the last couple years.

[00:35:35] Brent: Yeah. And it’s only gotten worse if you’ve consistently had ploy turnover or. You’re seeing it more and more. Is there a way through exit interviews or other ways to figure out why are people leaving? And if they’re if they’re there for a year, if you can, I know you, you pointed out to data and I’m a firm believer in data.

[00:35:57] Brent: Yeah. If you can determine they’re there for six months and then they leave or they’re there for a year, then they leave and nobody else has ever been here longer than two years, is what is the issue there? Where can we try to dig in and figure out. And try to solve that employee turnover 

[00:36:11] Tiffany: problem.

[00:36:12] Tiffany: Yeah, it’s a great point, Brent. I’m not a opposed to exit interviews, but I do believe that they’re a little bit too late in the game. That’s the point where they’ve already made their decision to leave and we’re not early enough in the process to avoid getting to that point. A much more important thing to do would be almost like, Intro interviews and I don’t treat it that way with my clients, but it’s more around, when you’re onboarding team members, when you’re welcoming new people, really take the time to understand what motivates them, what gets them excited to come to work.

[00:36:46] Tiffany: Really, again, empathy, understand, identify with your employees because if you know that very early on and you are helping them do work and have a role that feeds into that directly you’re gonna have a lot less turnover. I can tell you, I, I was case in point of this with my teams, I had hardly any turnover.

[00:37:05] Tiffany: The only turnover I had was people moving on to different teams because they were getting promoted, which was more of a reflection of their progress they were making. There’s something to be said about really taking the time to understand. What drives your team members so that you constantly have a pulse and it’s not just a one-time thing.

[00:37:21] Tiffany: You constantly have conversations. Check in with them. Be in touch with them. See if you’re recognizing changes in their behavior that might prompt something about their happiness level, their motivation level. Don’t just ignore it. And be like, ah, it’s probably just tough times right now. If there’s tough times in the organization, that’s all the more important to check in with them regularly, help them feel supported, help them know that you’re there with them, that they’re not alone.

[00:37:46] Tiffany: And that’s going to help alleviate a lot of need for exit interviews because there won’t be so many people leaving the organization. They’re gonna feel really well taken care of. Of course, there’s always gonna be circumstances that what might leave someone to leave could be personal circumstances.

[00:37:59] Tiffany: Maybe it’s, a different opportunity that came their way that. They really just were so passionate about, and perhaps the progress they were seeing internally wasn’t what they wanted. But I guarantee by having these types of conversations more actively, it’s going to get to the root of the situation before waiting till exit interviews and this entire exodus of, turnover of what’s happening, what is going on here?

[00:38:23] Tiffany: Ole didn’t realize, oh, there’s probably things we should have been doing. Earlier on in our onboarding or follow through with employee development, that would’ve avoided us being in this situation. 

[00:38:34] Brent: The employee review process should cover a little of that, do you think? 

[00:38:39] Tiffany: It definitely should. But I don’t limit it to that.

[00:38:42] Tiffany: I think, performance reviews is one aspect that I’m a big believer in. Having more continuous dialogue to really check in with your team and help guide them and make sure they’re on track with their goals and helping to be a champion. Obviously, coming to the beginning part of our conversation, if you have a really bad boss or a toxic boss, they might not be so supportive in that, and that might be a reflection of.

[00:39:05] Tiffany: Them as a leader, but also possibly for you to move to a different team or maybe find a different type of organization that will enable really effective managers versus ones that are driving talent out the door. But it’s definitely something that plays into performance reviews and evaluations that goes beyond that.

[00:39:22] Tiffany: If it’s a really good boss, they’re gonna take the time to have more conversations and make sure that their team feels really motivated at all times. , 

[00:39:32] Brent: do you recommend as an employee pressing for interim reviews and maybe some kind of pre-performance check in with your immediate supervisor to make sure you’re on track?

[00:39:45] Brent:

[00:39:45] Tiffany: do. Yes, I do. And it doesn’t even have to be anything formal. , it could be pretty informal. Just check in. And again, as the employee, this is your responsibility to build your own track record and bring forward the evolution that you’re showcasing in your role. You don’t wanna just rely on your boss to just know everything that you’re doing because they, they probably don’t, and you don’t wanna miss.

[00:40:08] Tiffany: Those golden moments to share, how much that you’ve advanced or progressed in a certain way. So having those continuity of conversations is really important. And it could definitely be impromptu, pre prep for a certain eval or something that you’re prompting more in an ongoing way that your boss and you can really discuss together.

[00:40:28] Brent: All right. One last topic cuz I know we’re going along here, but let’s just say your boss doesn’t understand your job. and you are working hard to figure out what are the key points that I need to communicate to show that I’m doing my job. And you feel as though you, maybe you’re not appreciated in what you’re doing because they don’t understand it and you can’t.

[00:40:52] Brent: Communicate in a way that helps them to understand 

[00:40:56] Tiffany: it. Yeah. Yeah, that’s an excellent point. There’s a couple things. I think obviously there’s a gap there in their understanding of the roles. So finding those opportunities of filling them in on maybe the complexity of the work that you’re managing or that.

[00:41:12] Tiffany: things wouldn’t get done without you doing X, Y, Z, and showing like really the importance of certain elements of your work and why it plays into the bigger picture, that could be one way to get their attention without even needing to understand every single detail. They understand at least the value that you play in the work that you do.

[00:41:30] Tiffany: That’s one approach that you can take. Another is to also almost lay it out for them. You said it earlier, writing things out maybe. Sharing something more visually that they can follow along with you, and you can really walk them through, a little bit of the scope of the complexity that something takes or the level of diligence that’s required, or the amount of stakeholders that might be involved on a certain project, and that this is something that you’re really leading and owning in your work to get to that end outcome.

[00:41:58] Tiffany: So sometimes visual support can help them see it a lot more clearly. and allow you to then pair that with the value that you’re bringing in those tasks and projects as well. . 

[00:42:09] Brent: And that’s great. And I have so many more questions, but I think we’re gonna have to , we’re gonna have to round it out here.

[00:42:14] Brent: Tiffany, as we close out the podcast, I give everybody an opportunity to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like to plug. What would you like to plug today? . 

[00:42:22] Tiffany: Thanks Fred. I love how you coined this the joke and the shameless pluck. If anybody is interested and it’s timely with the topic of today.

[00:42:30] Tiffany: Next week on March 22nd, I’m actually hosting a Free Workplace Essentials workshop. It’s a very exciting workshop, a 60 minute event that is going to help you navigate workplace dynamics fairly effectively and activate your most successful. You. There’s a lot of things that school never teaches us.

[00:42:48] Tiffany: A lot of what Brent and I talked about today fall into that camp as well. And I’d love to really be there. Fill in those gaps and set you up for so much success in the workplace, because that’s the foundation of inevitable success for you, and we wanna get those things right. So yes, if you’re open to joining again, it’s March 22nd at 12:00 PM e s t.

[00:43:09] Brent: Awesome. So you have just, I’m gonna commit, cuz my podcast comes out every Tuesday. So this will be, I’m gonna make this one come out on the 21st of March. Oh, . And so we’ll get it live by then. And I will put all the contact information in the show notes as well. Okay. And maybe I’ll write something as a blog post in advance if you wanna send it.

[00:43:30] Brent: And we can direct you some people your way. 

[00:43:32] Tiffany: Oh, I appreciate that. And I have a lot of different free resources as well, Brent. I just published a new free LinkedIn learning course as well, a nano course all around answering common interview questions. So that is readily available, but if people want a little bit one, one-on-one action time with me in terms of a workshop.

[00:43:51] Tiffany: It’d be great to see them join us there as well. And, 

[00:43:54] Brent: One last question. Are you Canadian? I am. All right, good. So I got my accent right? Yes. Still . I had a Canadian yesterday as well. So where are you calling 

[00:44:03] Tiffany: in from? I’m from Montreal. 

[00:44:05] Brent: Oh, wow. Okay. Excellent. Yes. Good. Tiffany, this has been so enjoyable.

[00:44:09] Brent: I had another topic I wanted to talk about. It was the fluffy pancake versus the crepe. Or you, either you spread somebody so thin that it’s, loose and flavor or versus the oven pancake where everything is all rich and inside and you have plenty of space to work Anyways, maybe it’ll be a new topic we can do in the future.

[00:44:27] Tiffany: I love it. Brent, thank you so much for having me. This was a lot of 

[00:44:30] Brent: fun. Thank you. 

Mastering Workplace Dynamics for Maximum Success

Rise to the Top: Mastering Workplace Dynamics for Maximum Success

Having the necessary skills and qualifications is not enough to succeed in your career. You also need to understand the intricacies of workplace dynamics and learn how to master them.

Talk-Commerce Roman Kuzub

Life Goes on While Working in a War Zone with Roman Kuzub

What is your perception of life in a war zone? Most of us can’t imagine what it is like to work in conditions where air raid sirens are normal. We’ve interviewed Roman Kuzub with Default Value agency on his team, their work, and life in a warzone.

What you will learn

  • Roman Kuzub is the CEO of Default Value, located in Ukraine. He is passionate about making things work easier and saving people time for something.
  • Roman: I wanted to mention the team because I was surprised by their behavior. We have 80 people in our company. I considered moving the company somewhere safe, but only 5% of employees decided to do so.
  • Roman: The whole team decided to stay in Cherkasy and started working remotely when we didn’t have enough experience with this. They did a great job and saved the workload, so I wanted to mention it.
  • Roman says that his team has come together and that the war has become normal for them. However, he took several rides to Kyiv. 
  • Roman: We stay here because we have relatives, we have families, and we want to be closer to them because each day can bring anything, actually. But we don’t feel it’s a huge problem with our physical situation. It’s more about our mental state. It’s a difficult thing. Because it’s been a year of war, and you always expect a rocket in your city. It drives you crazy a bit.
  • Roman: I’m proud of my clients because nobody ran from us or moved the project outside Ukraine. And actually, I got spammed with different proposals to help the army or move the company to Germany. 
  • Brent: Europe and the US have been united in supporting Ukraine and helping you as a country and you as people. What was your sort of leadership journey? Did you have any struggles coping with anything in particular? And I think you’ll come out stronger at the end of this. 
  • Roman: I almost don’t remember March of 2022, but I know I filmed 10 to 12 videos for my team and customers that month, ensuring they know what is happening, where we are, and what we are doing. 
  • Roman: I struggled to gather the team because they were spread in different places, but that’s my job. For me personally, the challenge is always about being positive when you see that everything is not that bright. 
  • Roman: It was extra hard at least the first half of the year, but hopefully, family helped, the team, my closest teammates helped me to do this, and we are still functioning. We currently work at our office, but most of the team works remotely.
  • Roman: It started before the invasion because we had the COVID-19 experience. But now we ask people if we should move to a fully remote company type. More than 90% of employees said they’re waiting for the end of the war to return to the office because they lack personal communication and struggle to work just from home.
  • Brent: I wanted to ask why Ukraine is so strong regarding Magento and e-commerce.
  • Roman: The roots of Magento are here in Ukraine and in Belarus, as far as I remember. We have guys who were working in a core team development, the Magento 1, for about 15 years, and they are still here. They know the DNA of the system.
  • Roman: The second part is more about the attitude to work and being honest with the clients. You should trust your partner to do your project. When you work with agencies from other countries, and they don’t deliver the project. And when you come to Ukraine to work with the agency that does while being bombed, you understand these guys are serious. And that’s about the commitments. 
  • Roman: That’s about something how work should be done, and here we have those attitudes. We can work with businesses in Europe and USA because when we are talking about something, we are serious about it. 
  • Brent: Tell us about Default Value.
  • Roman: We do end-to-end development and help businesses grow not only by delivering the projects.
  • Roman: Our company is built by two really cool developers. We are a family-type company, we communicate freely, and there’s no such huge hierarchy here or very tough processes or something like that. 
  • Roman: What sold this company to me is a totally honest approach towards customers and employees. We communicate clearly. Even when we are fucked up, sorry, we come and say, “We’re fucked up and need to solve this.” That’s the DNA of the company. That’s something that really makes us stand out. And it makes it difficult for me to find managers who can maintain such an approach.
  • Brent: Roman, what are your plans when the war is over? Will you have a big celebration? Can you see that day?
  • Roman: I can see that day. I want to build an international company and visit different places. 
  • Roman: I want to stay here, and I definitely want to help my country to succeed. I understand that most people watching this podcast are not from Ukraine, so please push your politicians to support Ukraine, and don’t get tired because the war is not over and is not even close to the end.
What are some common mistakes made by startup leaders

What are some common mistakes made by startup leaders?

Starting a new business can be a thrilling and challenging experience, where success or failure is often determined by the decisions made by the startup leader. Unfortunately, many startup leaders make common mistakes that can significantly impact the success of their businesses.

Talk-Commerce-Rick Elmore

What are you doing to build loyalty with Rick Elmore

One of the most effective strategies for building customer loyalty is sending handwritten notes. Handwritten notes show care and attention that any other medium cannot match. Handwritten notes are a powerful way to make a personal connection and can be used to thank your client for their business.

Handwritten notes can be sent as a thank you after a purchase, to celebrate a milestone, or to show appreciation for being a loyal client. The personal touch of a handwritten note will make your client feel like they are being acknowledged and valued.

Rick Elmore shows how to build loyalty and show appreciation to clients by connecting with them personally.

What you will learn

  • Rick Elmore is the founder and CEO of Simply Noted. He played college and professional sports, and then went on to work in corporate medical device sales and marketing until he had an itch that he just couldn’t scratch with what he was doing then.
  • Rick enjoys being outdoors and is training for a half marathon. He enjoys doing physical activity and has a three and a five-year-old now.
  • Quote from RickWhen I was in my sales career, it was really hard to stand out from the crowd, especially in the corporate world where there’s always a competitor in everything that you do. So I started writing handwritten notes to my customers to try and get their attention.
  • Quote from RickWhen I was doing my MBA class, my professor said that handwritten notes still work. I had a classmate of mine and myself that got to work and sent out 500 handwritten notes that were written by a pen plotter and had a phenomenal response rate.
  • Rick founded simply noted full-time and has been doing that for the last four and a half years. It’s a powerful tool that can be used in just so many different facets of business, not just sales.
  • Brent: I’ve had conversations with other entrepreneurs who say that handwritten notes are a lost art. One famous guy in the Twin Cities sends out 30 thank-you notes a day.
  • Ricks notest that they are a handwritten notes platform that helps companies automate sending thank you or handwritten thank you notes to their customers. By doing so, their customer lifetime value goes up; they’re gonna be happier, they’re gonna re-refer their friends, and they’re gonna write better reviews.
  • Rick: We’ve invested over $850,000 in the last almost two years developing our own handwriting robot. It’s a real three-access, a pantry-based system that’s auto-fed, and it helps realtors, mortgage professionals, e-commerce businesses, politicians, and nonprofits, to either automate it or scale it.
  • You can create your own handwriting style using our software, and we have a portfolio of about 900 handwriting styles. If you’re a person of influence, we can create a handwriting style for you, but there is a cost associated with that.
  • Rick describes the technology that goes into creating a genuine handwritten note, and how it compares to an e at the beginning of a word versus an e at the end of a word.
  • Rick: Our handwriting engine is Mach machine Learning right now, and it completely varies every single time it writes. So if you put a hundred custom messages into our handwriting software and you wrote out a hundred notes, it’s literally gonna look at 100% different every single time it’s written.
  • The real way to tell if it’s actually pen written or not is the smudge test. We actually built our own pen and developed a weighted pen insert, so when our motor lifts it, it actually lifts the pen, but when it goes down, it has a downward force.
  • Rick explains how his pen works and how he gets a nice little pen and dation plus it’s ink, so it’s gonna smear. However, people are starting to understand that this is a service that is out there and that simply noted is a good product. Rick: I’ve heard that getting handwritten notes has helped other companies get a better response rate on campaigns and outreach. Brent: First handwritten notes have a 99% open rate.
  • If you’re thinking about doing direct mail and you’re doing print, you might as well just throw seven out of every $10 in the trash, cuz it’s not gonna do anything. But if you can retain 5% more each year, you can grow your business.
  • When it comes down to it, it’s about building deeper relationships with your clients. If you have deeper, more loyal relationships, they’re gonna stick around, refer their friends and write better reviews, which really is gonna help you grow your business.
  • Rick: We have a luxury jewelry brand that uses us for customer complaints, but they don’t apologize to the customer. Instead, they automate the message and send hundreds of notes a week.
  • Brent: It’s interesting on the customer complaint, cuz it’s a little bit of a risk, especially if you automate it too much. Rick: I don’t know, I think you want to keep it super generic and give them the opportunity to reach back out to you.
  • Rick: If you’re trying to get super custom, give them the option to contact you again and talk.
  • Brent: I’ve heard that you can overdo handwritten notes, so we recommend sending them three to four times a year at the most, at least once or twice a year. Rick: You still gotta do everything else, too, like email, phone calls, social, etc.
  • Rick: We help you build that strong relationship on an automatic or scaled, you know, level, and we recommend sending something that is as personalized as possible, but short and sweet, because these clients have seven second attention spans.
  • Rick suggests sending three or four sentences, and putting yourself on the receiving end of the message. This is much more impactful than a thank you upsell, hard close, 150 word message, where they’re gonna start skim reading if you don’t have their attention within three seconds.
  • Rick: If you are gonna use email for sales or marketing, you gotta include three things: who you are, what company you’re with, what you can do for them, and how can you make their life better.
  • Rick: We’re primarily focused on helping companies do it, but we still want to help average realtors or mortgage professionals send a card. They can send their first card free so they can see what it’s like, touch it, get it in their mail.
  • Rick: I think it’s Rafiki, and his handwriting is terrible. He says he’ll send a handwritten note or two a day, but he’ll still use our system because his handwriting is so terrible. Rick Elmore’s handwriting style is not enjoyable to read, so he doesn’t want it on the website.
  • Rick says that customers should focus on the relationship rather than the product going into quarter one or just throughout for 2023. He wants to keep the people that have worked with him two years ago or last year. Rick says to get in front of clients early on every single year to get their loyalty stuck to you and your brand.
  • Rick says to stay in front of your clients, do something that others aren’t doing, and get their trust and loyalty. This will help you stay on top of mind 24 7 and get them 100% on your ship every single year.
  • Rick: I think that personal touch is a great way to stand out from the noise of generic social media and generic email. I used a podcasting service that sent me a video thanking me for being a client. Rick and Brent discuss using Zoom to record personal little video responses, and Brent gives everybody a chance to do a shameless plug.
  • Rick: If you go to our website and fill out the business page, we’ll send you a nice sample kit with writing samples, brochures, case studies, handwriting styles, um, basically everything. And usually what happens is that three to six months later a light bulb goes off and they contact us.

Transcript

[00:03:07] Brent: All right. Welcome to this episode, oft Commerce. Today I have Rick Elmore. Rick Elmore is the founder and c e o of simply noted Rick. Go ahead, introduce yourself. Tell us your day-to-day role and maybe one of your passions in life. 

[00:03:23] Rick: Yeah, so, um, my name is Rick Elmore. I’m the owner of Simply Noted, um, it, that is a handwritten notes platform.

[00:03:29] Rick: We, we’ll kind of dive into what that is later, but my background is in athletics. I played college and professional sports. Played at the University of Arizona, which was a three year starter for Mike Stoops and then was drafted in 2010 in the NFL draft. Um, after that, um, was in corporate medical device sales and marketing.

[00:03:48] Rick: First year was Rookie of the year. Next, uh, six years was either top 1% or top five rep in the company. And then 2017 came around. I had an itch that I just couldn’t scratch with what I was doing then. So I went back and did my MBA and, and uh, that’s where the idea for simply Noted began. 

[00:04:06] Brent: That’s awesome.

[00:04:07] Brent: Um, and, um, so passion is still athletics are. playing football still. 

[00:04:14] Rick: Yeah. Oh yeah. I guess, yeah. Then, uh, my passions, you know, I’m a, an avid outdoorsman. Uh, I have a three and a five year old now, so I have to be a lot more calculated, um, in what I do with my time off. You know, I, I can’t do those three and four day adventures anymore, so I have to be a little bit, uh, you know, what’s closer to home.

[00:04:32] Rick: But yeah, I would say, you know, I’m doing a, a half marathon this upcoming weekend, so I, I still try to do a lot of physical activity. That’s what I enjoy doing most outside of work. 

[00:04:42] Brent: Awesome. That’s great. Um, I, I warned you in the green room that, uh, we’re doing this free joke project and you agreed to participate.

[00:04:50] Brent: So I’m just gonna tell you a joke and you can tell me if that joke should remain free or if we could charge for it. And, um, I’m just gonna preempt today that the joke I have found, I’m gonna guarantee your kids are gonna love or at some point. But anyways, here we go. Yesterday my doctor told me my chronic diarrhea is inherited.

[00:05:13] Brent: Runs in the family. 

[00:05:17] Rick: I would say that’s a good dad joke, but , let’s keep that one free . Yeah. 

[00:05:22] Brent: I, I, I agree with you. So . Yeah. Um, alright, so, uh, simply noted, you know, I’m, I’m a big, I’m a big believer in, in handwritten notes. Tell me a little bit about it. 

[00:05:34] Rick: Yeah, so, um, you know, when I was in my sales career, , you know, it was really hard, especially in the corporate, um, like infrastructure seemed to really stand out and, and be different because, you know, in the corporate world there’s always a competitor actually in everything that you do.

[00:05:52] Rick: There’s always competition. There’s a different option. Um, all the customers are being, you know, pulled in every direction by every vendor to try to get their attention. And when I was doing in my MBA class, I had a marketing professor, I was just talking about like success rates and market. and, um, everything was super marginal.

[00:06:11] Rick: Everything was like low single digit percentage, you know, email, cold call, print, direct mail, um, knocking on doors. And I had a professor that said handwritten notes, guys, like at the end, at the end of the lecture, he said, kind of half jokingly said, Hey guys, you know what still works is a good old fashioned handwritten note.

[00:06:28] Rick: Um, it gets opened almost 100% of the time, says it’s actually 99% and there’s just nothing like it. I don’t think he knew what he was doing then because the light bulb started going off and, uh, I had a classmate of mine and myself we got to work. We, uh, worked with the mailing house here in Phoenix, Arizona, flew some technology and from South America, China, and basically it was a pen potter.

[00:06:53] Rick: I, where’s that? I have a, usually have a pen plotter in here to show you. But, um, sent out some really bad handwritten notes that were written by this pen plotter. Uh, it took us about a month to write out 500 of them, and, uh, just had a phenomenal response rate. Just, you know, as a salesperson, having a client call you back.

[00:07:13] Rick: Right. That, that’s a big deal. And, um, what we really noticed, , you know, how powerful they can be, how powerful of a tool. It can be used in just so many other different facets of business, not just sales, um, you know, client retention, um, relationship building, you know, booking appointments, um, saying top of mind.

[00:07:34] Rick: You know, there’s just a bunch of ways that you can use this tool in a, in very valuable ways. But for me, what sparked the idea was outreach, booking appointments, and closing. So, um, had tremendous success in 2017 doing that 2018 and then, you know, the business kind of just grew organically in 2019. We founded, uh, simply noted full-time, and uh, that’s what we’ve been doing for the last four and a half years.

[00:07:58] Rick: That’s awesome. 

[00:07:58] Brent: Yeah, I, I definitely have had conversations with other entrepreneurs and business owners who, uh, especially people that are in an older generation who say, mm-hmm. , that, uh, that’s a lost art, is the, um, is a handwritten note. Um, I, I remember sitting through a meeting or a, you know, a panel with one of the, um, one of the more famous guys in the Twin Cities who had said, Uh, he picks 30 people a day out of his sales.

[00:08:29] Brent: He had a retail and he would send them a handwritten thank you note mm-hmm. , and he would hand write every single one of them. So, uh, I, I, I can certainly appreciate it. And, and so tell us a little bit about your system and how you’re not asking actually everybody to hand write it, like you mentioned 

[00:08:48] Rick: plotters and stuff.

[00:08:49] Rick: Yeah, so what’s simply noted as is we’re a handwritten notes platform. We help companies either automate it, so think of like a new client signs up. We can automate sending a thank you or handwritten thank you note or say it’s, um, after their fifth purchase we can set up some type of trigger using Zap.

[00:09:05] Rick: You’re an API integration of Web Hook. Um, once they hit that milestone to think then, or an anniversary or a birthday, um, we really like. , you know, kind of consult our clients on the relationship side of building, um, these hand uh, sending these notes on a relationship purpose because you know, they’re going, they’re gonna stick around a lot longer.

[00:09:26] Rick: The lifetime value’s gonna go up, they’re gonna be happier. They’re gonna re refer their friends, they’re gonna write better reviews. So we think, you know, the tool of sending a handwritten note should just be simply to thank somebody, um, because just saying thank you, it’s worth its weight in gold. Um, it’s gonna come back to you tenfold over.

[00:09:41] Rick: Um, it just takes time. Um, and all good things do take time. So simply noted. Helps you automate it or scale it. So, um, if you need to send one, if you have all the stuff we always tell our clients, like if you have handwritten notes or notes in your desk and you wanna send one-offs, um, we tell you to do it because, you know, there’s just nothing like a handwritten note from you, but, Just a tiny little speck below that’s simply noted.

[00:10:07] Rick: Everything we do is real genuine pen written. Um, we’ve invested over $850,000 in the last almost two years developing our own handwriting robot. Um, it’s a real. Three access, uh, you know, left, right up, down, uh, forward backwards, you know, three access, pantry based system that’s auto fed. Um, we’ve developed our own handwriting engine, our own software, our own mechanics.

[00:10:31] Rick: It’s, it’s pretty, it’s pretty awesome. Software integrations. So, yeah, so simply known as just a platform that helps, you know, realtors, mortgage professionals, e-commerce businesses, um, politicians, nonprofits, to either automate it or. . 

[00:10:48] Brent: Yeah. That’s awesome. I, I know that we’ve, I’ve talked to other people who’ve done something similar and so you, you have the ability to mimic somebody else’s handwriting and or use a general hand write handwriting to send the 

[00:11:02] Rick: note.

[00:11:03] Rick: Yeah, so we have about 32. Last time we checked 32 handwriting styles available on the website. Um, we have about a portfolio of about 900 handwriting styles. Um, it really becomes analysis paralysis, like if you like, start looking at tons and tons of these handwriting styles. Um, if you’re a person of influence where like, you know, your stuff’s gonna end up online, um, you, you’re a public figure and you want to do your own handwriting style, we absolutely can do that.

[00:11:32] Rick: Um, most people. because there’s a cost associated with that. But we don’t just create a font, we create a handwriting style. And what that means is like we’re actually pulling out like the characteristics of how you write, you know, You like when you write like, like the natural spacing, the kering, you know, of what an A next to a B looks like, an A next to a, you know, a c I mean, everything is like pulled out, you know, ligature styles.

[00:11:58] Rick: What do two T’s look like next to each other? Do you loop ’em? Do you connect ’em? You know, it’s what’s an e at the beginning of a word look like versus an e at the end of a word. I mean, it’s lit. It’s, it’s, it’s pretty intense. You know, the, what has gone into creating, uh, a genuine handwritten note.

[00:12:15] Rick: There’s tons of technology on the, on the back end that allows us to send a simple hand handwritten note on the front end. So it’s, it’s pretty, um, spectacular. 

[00:12:25] Brent: Um, I know ma, machine learning is such a, um, a buzzword right now. Uh, how does machine learning kind of play into this? And does it, and 

[00:12:35] Rick: so our soft, yeah.

[00:12:36] Rick: So it’s, I mean, I would say our, our handwriting engine is Mach machine Learning right now. Um, it completely varies every single time it writes. Um, I wouldn’t say that it’s, it’s a true, smart, like machine learning, but what it does is it, Constantly varies. Every single handwritten note. So if you plugged a hundred custom messages, you know, into our handwriting software and you wrote out a hundred notes and you put ’em all next to each other, it’s literally gonna look at, look 100% different every single time it’s written.

[00:13:05] Rick: So, um, we put a lot of thought in, in research and development to making sure that they look as real as possible. Cuz if not, I mean, there’s really no purpose of our, our service if you know the notes that we are. Don’t look the most authentic. 

[00:13:22] Brent: Yeah, I, I can say that I’ve gotten many realtor email or, uh, physical letters that is, that are clearly just printed out on a printer and mm-hmm.

[00:13:31] Brent: and have some font that, that sort of ties together some cursive . 

[00:13:35] Rick: Yeah. Um, Yeah, so the real way of telling that is the smudge test. You just lick your finger and just like try to smudge the ink. Um, a laser printed hand, like a laser printed font will not smudge, but like, since these are real pens, um, we actually had to build our own pen.

[00:13:50] Rick: Um, we can dive into because we write so many notes, but, um, . If you actually write it with a real pen and you try to smudge it, the will smear. So that’s like the number one way to tell if it’s actually pen written or not. 

[00:14:03] Brent: And you have some kind of, uh, it, it does a little indent on the paper as well. 

[00:14:07] Rick: Yep, yep.

[00:14:08] Rick: And that was another reason, you know, we had to develop room technology. So those actually drop machines. All they have is little lift motor and there’s no downward pressure force. So we actually, we did a weighted pen. Um, we actually developed this pen. Um, we developed our own pen insert. We’re writing capacity, so when our motor lifts it, it actually lifts the pen, but when it goes down, we actually have a right, like a downward force on it.

[00:14:33] Rick: So we actually have a, a spring force that actually pushes the pen into the paper as well. So, um, so you’re gonna get that nice little pen and dation plus it’s ink, so it’s gonna smear. So it really, it’s gonna be really hard, you know, I mean, you really, really have to try to. Some type of, you know, um, woody pattern in these when there, there isn’t, but.

[00:14:55] Rick: That’s, yeah. 

[00:14:57] Brent: Have you ever had anybody ask for Mount Blanc Black blue Ink? 

[00:15:01] Rick: Yeah, when we were like first getting started. That was really funny. Like the early customers would ask for like that crazy stuff. But no more, I think people are starting to understand that, you know, this is a service that is out there.

[00:15:12] Rick: Um, You know, there are a couple competitors out there. There’s really only maybe two serious players in this space. Um, but, uh, yeah, I think, you know, businesses now just want, you know, something that’s easy to use, efficient, um, authentic, a good product. And that’s what we’re trying to do for our clients that we here at simply noted.

[00:15:34] Rick: Do you 

[00:15:34] Brent: have some numbers that you could share that show sort of the uptick, uh, on, at the end of a sales cycle or response rate? I, I’ve heard that, you know, getting handwritten note has helped other companies, uh, get a better response rate on campaigns and. And, and just 

[00:15:49] Rick: outreach. Yeah. Well, first handwritten notes have a 99% open rate.

[00:15:55] Rick: That’s a 300% improvement over print mail. Um, so if you’re thinking about doing direct mail and you’re doing print, you might as well just throw seven out of every $10 in the trash, cuz it’s not gonna do anything. Um, this was actually an American Express study, but they found out that just, you know, this is a client, you know, a client experience, um, study.

[00:16:16] Rick: American Express did, but just a simple 5% improvement in client retention will increase profits year over year by 25 to 95%. They did that on business accounts, but just retaining 5% more each year is gonna help you grow your business or grow your sales by 25 to 95% year over year. For me, I mean, that makes complete sense.

[00:16:36] Rick: If we were able to, you know, keep our current business clients, you know, year over year, um, especially, you know, our, our larger accounts, it would be easier to grow your business. So that makes total sense. Um, also, there’s, you know, customers who feel appreciated, you know, five, they’re five times more likely to make a repeat purchase.

[00:16:53] Rick: So just saying thank you. You’re gonna increase your like repeat purchases from your clients, repeat business by 500%. That was also American Express study as well. So really when it comes down to, it’s like just building deeper relationships with your clients because when you have deeper, more loyal relationships, they’re gonna stick around.

[00:17:12] Rick: You know, they’re gonna refer their friends and they’re gonna write better reviews, which really is gonna help you grow your business. And that’s what we’re really trying to do. Um, yeah. Yeah, I’d say those are some good stats with simply. 

[00:17:24] Brent: Do you have some, um, sort of, you don’t have to say any client names, but, uh, any examples of situations, maybe retail or e-commerce or even just regular B2B type of outreach that have been very successful?

[00:17:40] Rick: Yeah, so we work with a luxury hat brand. Um, what they do is when somebody tries like their. Discounted hat. What they’ll do is they’ll automate a, um, handwritten note with a discount code to try their more expensive hat. So they’re trying to upsell them. So, I mean, they’ve been doing that for over a year.

[00:17:59] Rick: So I think if it was working, they, I mean, if it wasn’t working, they wouldn’t keep doing it. So that’s kind of a cool, unique, um, uh, kind of use case that we’ve seen in the e-com. Also, um, it’s, we have a, a luxury, um, uh, jewelry brand. And it’s really funny. It’s like, you know, their average sale probably is $3,000 or more, but what they use us for is when they get a customer complaint.

[00:18:26] Rick: So we see the, you know, somebody who didn’t have a good experience. We see that message get automated all the time. Um, it’s a global, global company and you know, they’re sending hundreds of notes a week. Um, but you would think, you know, , um, you know, using something like that to just apologize and get them back on board to, you know, get them to like the brand more, um, to try to get that loyalty back.

[00:18:50] Rick: Um, so yeah, we’ve seen them for upselling. We’ve seen them for saying sorry, to try to, you know, earn their trust back. So, yeah, there’s a bunch of ways to use it. 

[00:18:58] Brent: That’s interesting on the customer complaint, cuz it, it is a little bit of a risk, especially if you automate it too much. Is that something worse?

[00:19:05] Brent: Somebody would actually write out, hand write, not handwriting super, but type. I type it out and then it comes to your engine and then gets mailed out. 

[00:19:13] Rick: Yeah. I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t know. I, I think in something like that, you want to keep it super generic, you know, and give them the opportunity to reach back out to you.

[00:19:22] Rick: Um, that’s what this brand does. , um, they just say that they’re really sorry, you know, they’re apologizing for that experience. If you wanna talk, I’d love to talk to you more about it. And they put their a contact number for them so it actually looks, you know, as authentic as possible. They’re trying to be authentic, they’re trying to fix it.

[00:19:37] Rick: I think if you’re trying to get super custom and it’s just like a, um, a use case just to send it and forget it, I wouldn’t say that’s the best case. But if you’re giving them the option to then further contact you again and talk. The authenticity of something like that is, is something that’s extremely powerful.

[00:19:56] Brent: Um, I’ve heard. You can overdo handwritten notes as well, like the, it is something that should be spaced out over time and like, if, if you’re tagging somebody at the end of an e-commerce, uh, sale and you don’t wanna send ’em an handwritten note every week saying, Hey, thanks 

[00:20:13] Rick: for this. No, well, I mean, we would love it if, you know , I can’t send, you know, hundreds to each of their clients.

[00:20:20] Rick: But, um, yeah, we, we try to recommend to our, our, our businesses, you know, three to four times a year at the most, um, at least once or twice a year. You know, we’re in the holidays right now, so it’s our busiest time of the year. That’s when most of our businesses are using us. Um, but I would say, you know, maybe thank you for a purchase, maybe a birthday or an anniversary of a purchase, and then a holiday.

[00:20:42] Rick: You know, just stay top of mind, you know, simply note as just another tool in the belt. That’s what we try to tell ’em as well. You still gotta do everything else. You still gotta have great customer service or great product, email, you know, phone calls, social, I mean, you gotta have all the other elements to build a successful business.

[00:20:56] Rick: It’s just, What we do is help you just build that strong relationship on an automatic or scaled, you know, level. 

[00:21:05] Brent: Um, on the, um, on that, on that experience part and scale, I should say, um, our customers seeing some kind of, uh, um, or, or I should say, are merchants seeing a better uptick when it’s a little bit personalized or.

[00:21:27] Brent: Uh, are, is it, is it still effective if you’re sending out a nice note with a thank you and, and the person’s name at the end? 

[00:21:36] Rick: Well, we always recommend to, uh, personalize it. Um, that’s the power of all the technologies that’s out there right now. Um, you know, using platforms like Zapier, integr, Matt Mat, um, or make, you know, whatever they are now, um, integrate, you know, you can pull information automatically from your software and personalize.

[00:21:56] Rick: The message as much as possible. Um, we definitely don’t recommend just putting a generic message on there cuz it kind of, it can come off as impersonal. Um, when the product that we are trying to provide is a very high level touch personal. So, um, We would absolutely recommend sending something that is as personalized as possible, but short and sweet, you know, these, your clients have seven second attention spans.

[00:22:21] Rick: Three or four sentences. Respect their time. Don’t send them, you know, two paragraphs of a message. It’s just not real or authentic. Um, you know, try to put yourself in their shoes. Be on the receiving end of this. What would you like to receive? . You know, maybe a simple Thank you. We appreciate you so much.

[00:22:38] Rick: You know, you know, please let us know if we can do anything for you. You know, short, sweet to the point is gonna be much more impactful than a thank you upsell, hard close , you know, 150 word message where they’re gonna, you know, if you don’t, if they don’t. You know, I was just listening to a podcast yesterday actually, about something.

[00:22:57] Rick: If you don’t have them hooked within three seconds, they just start skim reading. Like if you don’t have their attention within that first sentence, you know, I was trying to listen to podcasts about developing stronger messaging, and there’s like within three seconds, if you don’t have ’em, they just start, they just start skim reading.

[00:23:11] Rick: So again, short and sweet to the point is what, uh, works the best, but make sure it’s personalized to them. . 

[00:23:17] Brent: And how about hooks in that message to get them to do some action? Is there, is there something in there that you’d, that sometimes you’d like them to do? Or is it some, is it just a, Hey, thanks for, for your 

[00:23:29] Rick: customer?

[00:23:30] Rick: So my, my background’s in sales and marketing, so I’m, we use it to, to grow our business. Um, um, But what I always try to tell people is just say thank you, but if you are gonna use it for like a sales or marketing tool to book more appointments or close more deals, I always say there’s three things you gotta include so you know who you are.

[00:23:52] Rick: Make a quick introduction, one sentence, who you are, what company you’re with. Um, you know, what’s your value proposition? So number two, like what, how can you help them? How are you gonna make their life better? And then just simple, make an ass, you know, um, can we get on the call? You know, can we buy you lunch?

[00:24:08] Rick: Something like that. Just really quick. And to the point, respect their time. If they’re interested, you know, they’ll call you back. But yeah, I would say make an introduction, value proposition, you know, and then they can. , 

[00:24:22] Brent: is there a crossover into the personal space? You know, sending birthday cards and Christmas cards and things like that?

[00:24:27] Brent: Are you primarily 

[00:24:29] Rick: commercial? So our website, simply noted.com, can send just one card for any reason. Um, but that our website was built on purpose. We had to the API first company. Um, so all of our orders, you know, they do go through our website, but they use software to. Um, but if anybody, you know, wants to go in and send a quick birthday card or a holiday card, um, you can do that on our website.

[00:24:57] Rick: Um, but we’re primarily focused on helping companies, um, do it because they have the technology and the resources put in place, you know, to leverage a system like this. But we still want to help, you know. Average realtor or mortgage professional, or just anybody who wants to send a card. It’s actually a good reason for a lot of people to just try us out as well.

[00:25:19] Rick: You know, they want to try before they buy, so they’ll go on there and we allow them to send their first card free so they can send it, see what it’s like, touch it, get it in their mail. Um, yeah. 

[00:25:30] Brent: Excellent. Um, do you have a font that is can’t read? So if my, nobody can read my handwriting. So do you have it so they’ll know that, Hey, this is coming from Brent, so Definit.

[00:25:41] Brent: I can’t even read it. . 

[00:25:43] Rick: Yeah. So, um, yeah, I think it’s Rafiki. It’s kind of like a, a doctor’s, I would call it scratch. I mean, it’s super dis disgusting. It’s really hard to read. But, um, I mean, I, you know, I’ll send a handwritten note or two a day just to, you know, people stay in touch or thank them for something they’ve done for me recently, and I’ll still use our system because, you know, if I wrote it, it, it, my handwriting is so terrible that I, I, I’ll write it out and then I’ll try to read ’em.

[00:26:13] Rick: Like, this is just terrible on the. Like, this isn’t even a nice reading experience. Like I’d rather use that handwriting style that we have on our website and put our message in online just to send one or two , because I just, my handwriting is terrible. So, um, there’s just something like that too. I’m trying to put myself in the recipient shoes as well.

[00:26:33] Rick: It’s like, do they wanna read my chicken scratch or they want to have some, you know, handwriting style that does. Like a handwriting style, but it’s actually enjoyable to read cuz mine like will literally hurt your eyes. . . It would be a lot. Sweet. So we can’t go, what is that? Yeah, 

[00:26:48] Brent: we can’t go onto the website and pick the Rick Elmore font.

[00:26:52] Rick: No, no, that, that will never be on the website cuz I don’t think anybody would choose it. 

[00:26:57] Brent: Um, if you had one nugget that you think. Customers should do going into quarter one or just throughout for 2023. What, what do you think is something that people could be doing in both customer experience and uh, and communication?

[00:27:13] Rick: So I would, what do you, you know, there’s a hundred different. You know, competitors to every service, it doesn’t matter. You know, we live in 2022, almost 2023. Um, competition’s so fierce across the board in everything that we do. Um, so what I try to do with my clients is give them 10 times more value, um, and appreciation.

[00:27:35] Rick: So no matter what, you know, they’re gonna be loyal to us, um, because I know they have the ability to go out there and, and shop around and try other people. So what I try to do is just focus on that relationship because I know our product is gonna get better and it’s always going to be improving. But I want the people that have worked with us two years ago or last year to stay with us and come with us and help us.

[00:27:57] Rick: So I would say, you know, early on every single year is somehow get in front of your clients. It doesn’t matter if you’re gonna pick up the phone and call them and thank them for what they did for you last year. Um, do something to engage them in a way. that you’re getting their loyalty stuck to you and your brand.

[00:28:14] Rick: Like what are you doing, um, to build that loyalty on a consistent basis. Because, you know, like I, I’m, I’m a big tech guy and I have, you know, tech brands that I like to follow, but you know, there’s different options, but. I do have one brand that always somehow gets my attention and, um, they’re really good at staying on, on top of, on staying on top of mind.

[00:28:37] Rick: And actually, they, they called me after my last purchase and said, Hey, we saw you like you’re on your seventh purchase. Thank you so much. Like, that’s impactful. You know, what are you doing to stay in front, um, of your clients? Um, because you know that attention span, especially with ads and social and digital, um, it’s really.

[00:28:56] Rick: You know, to stay top of mind 24 7 when everybody, including your competitors, are fighting for that space. So I would say definitely figure out a way to, to get that trust, get that loyalty, you know, get them, you know, 100% on your, on your ship. Every single year. 

[00:29:13] Brent: Yeah, I mean, that’s a really good point.

[00:29:15] Brent: There’s so much noise out there nowadays and, and making sure that, uh, you’re kind of going above the fray. You have to do something that others aren’t doing. And I think that personal touch be it, be it a personal phone call or, uh, handwritten note is such a great way of making sure that you’re up above what everybody else is doing and trying to stay out of that noise of generic social media and generic email.

[00:29:40] Rick: um, Rick, somebody, you know Yeah, go ahead. I have another little nugget here. Somebody. I use a podcasting service, you know, to help us, um, with our outreach. And the owner of this company gave me a phone call and I didn’t answer cuz I didn’t know how it was. And then what he did was recorded a message on Zoom.

[00:29:59] Rick: Just thanking me for being a client on his platform. And he sent me an email and saying, Hey, just sent you this message. Just wanted to, whatever. And it was a video, like a three minute video thanking me of being a client, like , like, am I gonna be loyal to him or go try some different service? You know? So that was a cool, cool way.

[00:30:17] Rick: Somebody just got my attention recently as well. And that takes two or three minutes. You know, it’s really easy to do, you know, on a computer nowadays, everybody knows how to use Zoom and, and do that recording. 

[00:30:27] Brent: Yeah, I think Vineyard is a great tool to use just to give those personal little video responses.

[00:30:33] Brent: Um, Rick, as I close out the podcast, uh, I give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug. You can plug anything you’d like. What would you like to plug today? 

[00:30:44] Rick: Yeah, so what we do is anybody who goes to our website, we’ll actually send them a nice sample kit. So we do a good job of putting together this big 10 by 13 folio, um, with writing samples, brochures, case studies, handwriting styles, um, basically everything.

[00:31:00] Rick: that you, I mean, after four and a half years of doing this, we know what questions people ask and we answer those questions in this sample kit. So if you went to simply noted.com, um, and just go to the business page and you can fill out your information. We’ll send you this nice sample kit. Um, and usually what happens, you know, people request it and then three to six months later, you know, a light bulb goes off and then they’ll contact us.

[00:31:23] Rick: So we highly recommend you just to go to simply no.com and go to the business page and let us send you a free sample. Okay? It’s on us. Um, and yeah, and just see, you know, how great this technology is and simply noted. Really just wants to help automate it and. Um, and you can see how we can do that with this sample kit.

[00:31:44] Brent: That’s awesome. Rick, thanks so much being here today. It’s been a pleasure. 

[00:31:49] Rick: Thank you so much, Brent. It’s great to be here.

Thank you for making it to the end of this episode of Talk Commerce. Please rate this episode wherever you download your podcast. We are actively looking for people to participate in the Free Joke Project. Go to talk hyphen commerce.com and sign up for your free spot on the Free Joke Project. If you are a business, I will do a 32nd elevator.

In the spot to help promote your business. That’s talk hyphen commerce.com.

The Story of Socks, Socks, and More Socks with Mark Cronin

This week on our podcast, we will discuss the incredible story behind John’s Crazy Socks and our mission to spread happiness. We’ll explore how John, who has Down Syndrome, and his dad, Mark, started this business with a simple mission: to spread happiness.

We’ll talk about how their business has grown and evolved over the years and how they have impacted the lives of so many. Additionally, we’ll discuss the importance of inclusion and how John’s Crazy Socks has created a community of acceptance and respect.

Tune in to learn more about this inspiring story and how you can help make a difference!

What you will learn from this podcast

[00:04:22] Mark: dad.

  • Mark is a fan of Bob Dylan and recently embarked on a project to send out a Bob Dylan song of the day.

[00:05:20] John: son, 

  • Mark and I built a website and got a little inventory, and we were bootstrapping. The only marketing we did was set up a Facebook page.
  • Brent wants to get your feedback on a joke before we get into the regular content, so he’s gonna tell you a joke and then you’re gonna tell me a joke after that.

[00:09:33] Brent: Oof

  • Mark: I don’t know if you’ve ever had to participate in a mission statement writing exercise, but it drives everything we do. We’ve created a social enterprise that has both the social and the business purpose, and they feed off of each other.
  • Mark: It’s about giving back, supporting causes, and creating customer experiences. And so we’re spreading happiness.

[00:12:23] Brent: happiness.

  • Brent: Yeah, I’m a big believer in the entrepreneurial operating system, so we do mission statements and we set up our core values.
  • Mark: I’m familiar with E os and we have our five pillars, and everybody knows that, so if you walk around here and you say, what’s the mission, everybody will be able to tell you and they’ll be able to tell you why their job matters.
  • Mark: work. We have to make this a great place to work, and we can start by making sure people know why their job matters.
  • When you buy socks from us, you are helping us employ people with different abilities, give back, and spread happiness. You get a thank you note from John, and on the packing slip, you see the picture of the person who picked your on.
  • Brent: I agree that happiness has to start with the staff and then bring it out to the customers.

[00:15:51] Mark: happiness?

  • Mark: We believe in what we’re doing and we’re committed to making our customers happy, so we go the extra mile for them. We give things away, we refund money, we give a guarantee of happiness, and it’s good business.
  • Mark: We get happy employees, happy customers, and loyal customer. We have a great website, great selection, great products, and great service, so we frequently hear from new customers how surprised they were and how quickly they got their product.
  • Mark: We do better shipping than Amazon and Jeff Bezos over in Amazon, and we do it because we hire people with different abilities.
  • Brent: I think businesses overlook two of the five pillars, the social and the environmental, and also the community. Maybe you could touch a little bit on the community side of it?
  • Mark: we work with people with different abilities, and we make products that celebrate causes and raise money for those causes.

[00:19:39] Mark: You 

  • Mark: Socks raised money for the National Down Syndrome Society. We work with the local schools, we host school tours, we get involved in the local chamber of commerce, and it turns out to be good for business.
  • Brent: I get that, and I volunteer for a running organization that helps incarcerated, formerly incarcerated people start changing their lives through running. The community aspect is even more important than the running part, and you have to make sure that you’re maintaining that and being part of it.
  • Brent: Leaders should always try to serve others rather than getting something from them. Mark: Leaders should work for everybody else and give them what they need to succeed.
  • Mark said we were going to sell crazy socks, and John’s Crazy Socks became somewhat anachronistic, but it’s about the joy and the passion and the energy.
  • Mark: When you get tossed ass over heels, you got your north star, and your values help keep you on track. So when we got hit by a pandemic, we knew we had to take care of our colleagues’ health.
  • Mark: We moved our tours online, we made socks to say thank you to frontline workers, we sold masks to spread happiness, and we made healthcare superhero socks to raise $50,000 for the American Nurses Foundation.
  • Mark founded SOS to spread happiness and started a Facebook live show and a podcast. He says that if you know what you are really, you can adapt no matter what the circumstances are.
  • John and Mark are the owners of johns crazy socks, which makes great socks and helps people with different ability. By buying from them, you’re also helping them spread happiness.
  • Please rate this episode wherever you download your podcast and sign up for the Free Joke Project to help promote your business.

Transcript

[00:03:35] Brent: Welcome to Tak Commerce. Today I have John and Mark Cronan. They are, uh, the founders of the Crazy Sox. Anyways, John and Mark, why don’t you do an introduction Tell me, uh, a little bit about yourselves, one of your passions in life. Correct. Any of my mistakes, and tell me, uh, tell me everything. , you 

[00:03:55] Mark: wanna 

[00:03:55] John: introduce us?

[00:03:56] John: Um, my name is John. This my partner, my dad, mark Aswan. Uh, we are John and our mission is spreading 

[00:04:05] Mark: happiness spread and happiness. So we help bring a little happiness, friends passions. You got a lot of passions here. I do dancing. Is that one of them? I 

[00:04:14] John: can’t sing and I do. Um, I, I dancing and I, um, I I love my 

[00:04:22] Mark: dad.

[00:04:23] Mark: Well, that’s a passion of yours, so, okay, so what’s a passion of mine? Uh, completely non-business related. I am a fan of Bob Dylan. Fan is short for fanatic . Um, so I have recently. Well, not that recently embarked on one of the more absurd projects I’ve ever taken on Kevin’s son. I, I started selling out, sending out a Bob Dylan song of the day.

[00:04:54] Mark: Um, and I do a little write up, you know, but it frequently like a thousand words or so. 

[00:04:59] John: Um, he’s son about, 

[00:05:02] Mark: uh, uh, whatever Bob Dylan song comes to mind that day, and today I’m on day 211. and I suggest to people try to write something for 200 days in a row. ? . 

[00:05:18] Brent: Yeah. It’s not easy. He has 

[00:05:20] John: son, 

[00:05:21] Mark: right? I have sons, yes.

[00:05:23] Mark: What do you want me to say about my sons? He have son and wife. I have a wife too. Yes. I told them I’m talking about one thing. . Come on now. . So Brent wants to know about John’s Crazy Sox. Um, it’s named for you because it was your idea. Give my idea. Um, we started just over six years ago. We just celebrated our six anniversary.

[00:05:50] Mark: Um, born at an necessity. Right. John, you, where were you six years ago? Uh, 

[00:05:55] John: I was at high. . 

[00:05:58] Mark: He was in his last year of school trying to figure out, I’m last year, what do I do next? John has Down Syndrome. There just aren’t a lot of opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. We know you have a lot of entrepreneurs in the audience.

[00:06:12] Mark: John’s a natural entrepreneur. He couldn’t find anything he wanted. He couldn’t find a job. So what’d you say? I want quit. I wanna make one. I’ll make a job. 

[00:06:22] John: What’d you tell me? I told my dad I was gonna be with him. . 

[00:06:27] Mark: So ultimately we just, he suggested we sell socks. We had, he had won these crazy socks his whole life.

[00:06:36] Mark: We said, okay, let’s go test the idea. So we went the lean startup route. We built a website, got a little inventory. We were bootstrapping. Uh, we recently were talking to some students and they said, well, what does bootstrapping. It means you have no money, um, and you gotta make due with what you have. So the only marketing we did was set up a Facebook page.

[00:07:01] Mark: I would take out my cell phone and we made videos. And who was in those videos? I am, 

[00:07:07] John: I’m talking by socks. Socks on my sock. 

[00:07:10] Mark: And we opened on Friday, December 9th, 2016. Yes. Not knowing what to expect. We got 42 orders the first day. , we did home deliveries to people. Most of ’em were local. Um, and after two weeks, after that first month, or really two weeks, um, we had 452 waters and we knew we could, we could grow something today.

[00:07:38] Mark: How many different socks do we have? We 

[00:07:40] John: have 4,000 d. 

[00:07:44] Mark: 4,000 socks, which means John here owns the world’s largest sock store in terms of choice, right? Not, we’re not out selling Walmart and the like, um, but we just celebrate our six anniversary, just shipped our 400000th package. Um, we’ve been able to create 34 jobs.

[00:08:05] Mark: 22 of those are held by people with different abilities and, uh, giving back is a big part of what we do. And, and. We’ve now raised $600,000 for our charity partner. So, uh, uh, things have been good so far. 

[00:08:22] Brent: Yeah. That’s awesome. Um, uh, one of the things that, uh, that I prepped you with in the green room, and I noticed, uh, you, you have the banner in the background that’s spreading happiness.

[00:08:33] Brent: Um, I did say that I was gonna tell you a joke and I wanted to just get your feedback on the joke. So before we get into the regular content, I’m gonna tell you a. and then, uh, you just have to tell me if that joke should be free or not. And then as I understand it, you’re gonna tell me a joke as well after, after I tell you the joke.

[00:08:52] Brent: All right, let’s go Brent. So, um, I’m hoping I’m gonna spread some happiness. Um, alright, here we go. What does a building wear a dress?

[00:09:07] Mark: So you tell jokes like 

[00:09:08] Brent: John ? Yes. 

[00:09:11] Mark: I didn’t, 

[00:09:13] John: ah, I don’t think you can charge for that. 

[00:09:16] Mark: I’m not sure You can give 

[00:09:17] John: that 

[00:09:17] Mark: away. . 

[00:09:19] Brent: Well, we just gave it away. Should. Alright, should we do one more? Okay. All right. I’ll do one more. Since, since that one, that one was so successful. Um, a storm blew away 25% of my roof last.

[00:09:33] Brent: Oof

[00:09:36] Brent: I know. That was a, that was, that was even worse. 

[00:09:41] Mark: That is upon worthy of James Joyce, you know? Yes, absolutely. Do you have a joke you 

[00:09:47] John: want to tell? I do. That’s here. Why? Why is Don wear, why has thunder 

[00:09:54] Mark: wear, why does thunder wear. , why does underwear, underwear. Underwear. Okay. I’m not sure if I get it. You know, , sometimes I think you’re speaking a different language.

[00:10:11] Brent: All right. Let, let’s talk a little bit about spreading happiness. Um, tell us, tell us some of the background of that. And, and, and I mean, I, I can, I am, I’m also a believer in spreading happiness, but tell us a little bit about that. . 

[00:10:27] Mark: Well, we are believers that if you wanna lead an organization, you gotta know what you’re about.

[00:10:37] Mark: You gotta know what your purpose is about. Um, and ours is spreading happiness. And so, and how do you, what do you say are the keys to spreading 

[00:10:46] John: happiness? It’s gratitude for 

[00:10:48] Mark: others. Gratitude and do for others. And that drives through everything we. , um, I don’t know, Brent, if you’ve ever been, if you’ve ever had to participate in a mission statement writing exercise, I, I hope not.

[00:11:03] Mark: You know, you go away and you parse the language and you come back and people put it on the wall and no one pays any attention to it. We talk about this every day, and it drives our decision making. It drives our budget process. And it has to then infuse everything we do. So what we’ve done to make that happen is we’ve created a social enterprise.

[00:11:31] Mark: So it’s a slightly different type of business model. We have both the social and the business purpose, and they feed off of each other. And, and really the, the keys for us, it’s, it’s like John says, it’s have an attitude of gratitude and it’s due for others and for us. That’s really about showing what we can do, what, what people with different abilities can do.

[00:11:57] Mark: It’s about giving back, you know, supporting causes. Um, and it’s about making those connections with our customers, you know, so we’re always looking for relationships, not just transactions. We’re looking to create customer experiences. And so what we do all. our, we’re spreading happiness and our customers are spreading 

[00:12:23] Brent: happiness.

[00:12:25] Brent: Yeah, that’s great. I, I’m a, I’m a big believer in the entrepreneurial operating system, so as, as we do eos, it’s called, we have to do mission statements and we have to set up our core values, so absolutely. I’ve gone through that and I’m a big believer in living and working towards your core values and hiring for your core values.

[00:12:43] Brent: That, that’s awesome. Yes. So, 

[00:12:46] Mark: yes. Yeah, go ahead. It. I’m familiar with E os and you know, we, we gotta know our purpose. We have our five pillars. Um, everybody knows that, you know, if you walk around here and you say, what’s the mission? Everybody will be able to tell you and they’ll be able to tell you why their job matters and connects.

[00:13:07] Brent: Yeah, that’s good. So tell, tell me a little bit about, uh, the happiness part. What is it that, um, just, so what is it that you’re doing to promote happiness and how, and I’m assuming it’s happiness for employees and for customers, 

[00:13:20] Mark: for everybody. Right. Um, it was the old Milton Friedman line that, you know, companies and corporations only had an obligation as shareholders.

[00:13:31] Mark: Uh, we believe in a different, will we have an obligation to our colleagues, to our customers, to the community, to the environment, and to our shareholders. Um, you know, I mentioned the five pillars we have. What’s our, what are our five 

[00:13:48] John: pillars? Um, it’s present in hope. Give me back five prior, uh, five prior.

[00:13:54] John: You can love, make partner and make it clear to 

[00:13:58] Mark: work. So, you know, you ask how you do that happiness. Well, it’s gotta start here. It’s gotta start with our colleagues. We have to make this a great place to work, and we could dive into how we do that, but much of it is about making sure we offer people mission worthy of their commitment, making sure everybody knows why their job matters.

[00:14:19] Mark: Putting people in a position that succeed, recognizing what they do, um, making it personal. We sell online, but we’re always looking to create a personal connection with our customers. It’s, it’s exemplified by our packaging. What, what do you put in every 

[00:14:38] John: package? Every package Get, uh, taken there from me and Candy.

[00:14:43] Mark: So when you buy from us, right? You, you as a customer, you, you’re gonna get great socks. We’ve got 30,005 star reviews. But you are helping us employ people with different abilities. You help us give back. You help us spread happiness that’s embodied in the package. So when you get a package from us, you see John’s smiling face in the outside, you open it up, you get your socks, you get a thank you note from John.

[00:15:12] Mark: On the flip side of that is the story of John’s Crazy Socks. You get a package of candy and on the packing slip you see the picture and the. Of the person who picked your on. So you are not just getting socks, you’re getting this little dose of happiness. Right. That’s, that’s one, that’s one of the ways we do it.

[00:15:36] Brent: That’s good. I’m also a believer in that, uh, happiness has to start with the organization. It has to start with the staff and the staff then bring it out to the customers. It can’t happen the other way around if. A bunch of crabby staff, you’re, you’re never gonna have happy customers. Now how are we gonna 

[00:15:50] John: spread 

[00:15:51] Mark: happiness?

[00:15:51] Mark: Right. And it’s, and it relates, you know, we see it in the way people work here. Um, they believe in what we’re doing and they’re committed. So they go the extra distance for our customers, right? And it, and it frames the relationship. You know, you, you’ve heard the line, the customer is always right. Nonsense.

[00:16:14] Mark: The customer can be dead. , but we’re not in the business of being right. We’re in the business of making that customer happy, so we’ll do anything we can. We, the people that work directly with customers, their, their title is Happiness Creator. They know they can spend 200 hours on any customer for any reason at any.

[00:16:38] Mark: We give things away. We refund money. Um, we give a guarantee, a two year guarantee of happiness. You know, two years you’re happy with the socks. At any point, you’re not, you don’t have, we don’t want your socks back. We’ll make it up to you and, but here’s the thing. Here’s why it’s good business. What do we get out of that?

[00:16:59] Mark: We get happy employees. We get happy customers, we get loyal customer. and our return rate, our refund rate is less than 0.3 of 1%. Right. It’s good business. So they’re great stocks as well. Yeah, you have to, the social mission matters, you know, when people, frequently they want to talk to us about hiring people with different abilities or the giving back, but at its core we have to be at great e-commerce.

[00:17:34] Mark: You gotta have a great website, you gotta have great selection. The products have to be great, and the service has to be great. So we do same day shipping. An order comes in today, it’s going out today. You’re gonna get it right away. We frequently hear from new customers how surprised they were and how quickly they got their product.

[00:17:53] Mark: We do better shipping than Amazon and Jeff Bezos over in Amazon. He’s not putting a thank you note in candy in his packages. Right? It’s. And we do that in part cuz we want to show why it makes business sense to hire people with different abilities. So we’re able to achieve this because of whom we hire.

[00:18:16] Mark: Um, and we want, we want the world to see that. . 

[00:18:19] Brent: Yeah, I, you mentioned the five pillars, and I’m gonna just point out to ’em from that. Often businesses, I, I feel like businesses overlook at least two of them. The social and the environmental. Certainly there’s a lot of businesses that focus on environmental.

[00:18:32] Brent: I think there’s less businesses that’s focus on the social. And then you did, you mentioned community as well. I think a lot of businesses, especially business owners, tend to overlook the community side of it. Maybe you could touch a little bit. On the community side of it. And then, and we, if we have some time, we could talk a little bit about the environmental and the social.

[00:18:53] Brent: So social. Well 

[00:18:54] Mark: let’s talk about community and defining community. So part of our community are working with people with different abilities and so we’ll do that’s important to. So we make products that celebrate causes, raise awareness and raise money for those causes. And we, and, and that also drives our giving back.

[00:19:18] Mark: So in that community, we started by pledging 5% of our earnings to the Special Olympics. And, and why the Special 

[00:19:26] John: Olympics? I, I pick Athlete 

[00:19:29] Mark: John’s been doing Special Olympics for 21. No Special Olympics. There’s no Johns Crazy socks, but, but we have these awareness socks. What was the first awareness sock?

[00:19:39] Mark: You 

[00:19:40] John: created Down Awareness 

[00:19:42] Mark: Socks. And they raised money for the National Down Syndrome Society. So that’s part of the community. What can we do to advocate? What can we do to support them? But there’s also the local community and we’ve gotta be good. And we call it corporate citizens. So we work with the local schools.

[00:20:03] Mark: We host school tours coming through here in work groups. We’ve had more than a thousand students come through here on tours. You, we get involved in the local chamber of commerce. Um, we get involved in our local towns and the local community cuz we have a presence. This is where we live. And I, I think that’s important, uh, that, that you play that role.

[00:20:28] Mark: It comes back to spreading happiness. , what can we do for others? The more we do for others, the better off we are. And then, oh, by the way, it turns out to be good for business because people know us. So they order direct and we, we, we sell to other businesses. So we get companies calling us up because they want custom socks or they want to give packaging services.

[00:20:51] Mark: We offer, or we’ve created a a, uh, a charity fundraising program. Uh, it was great for, for nonprofits and so PTAs and special education PTAs like that. And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sell stuff, but you were asking, you know, why do you do this? Um, that’s why it’s 

[00:21:12] Brent: all of a whole. , you know, I, I get that. Uh, I, I volunteer for a running organization that helps incarcerated, formerly incarcerated people, uh, start changing their lives through running.

[00:21:24] Brent: And one of the things that we’ve noticed is that the community aspect, the fact that you’re talking to somebody and sometimes you’re spending an hour or two hours with them, that that community is even more important than the running part. The running part is just a byproduct of the community. Right. Um, and I, I, I.

[00:21:43] Brent: Y you’re saying you’re, you’re telling the same story that the community is, is maybe as important as the business itself and, and making sure that you’re maintaining that and being part of it. You’re not just sitting there in your own little perch. 

[00:21:58] Mark: No. It’s our, our overall strategy is drive the mission that drives our brand and that drives sales.

[00:22:10] Mark: But it starts with that focus on, on others, you know, on what can we do for others, what can we do for you? If we have that focus, the business will follow and it’s more sustainable. 

[00:22:25] Brent: Um, I I, I just want to key on that. So what can I, what, what can we do for you? I think a lot of times, um, a, a lot of times business leaders often get that back.

[00:22:38] Brent: Especially with their own team, they’re saying to their team, what can you do for me? Right. As a, as a leader, I think the, the trajectory should be, as a leader, you’re always trying to serve others rather than trying to get something from others. It’s, 

[00:22:55] Mark: you know, you talk about servant leadership and if you, if you ask about our role, well, some of our role is to set the vision and the tone in the overall direction, but other.

[00:23:07] Mark: It’s to serve everybody else. I work for everybody else here. My job is to put them in a position to succeed and to give them what they need. Oh man. 

[00:23:20] Brent: That, yeah, I just, 

[00:23:21] Mark: yeah, go ahead. I think that’s the type of leadership we need. It’s, it’s not about self-aggrandizement. It’s not about beating your chest.

[00:23:31] Mark: It’s about what can I do for others because that multipl. The impact. And that’s really what lets us get things done. 

[00:23:41] Brent: Uh, talk, just take a few minutes and talk about just the name John’s Crazy Socks. Where did you come up with the name? I mean, I know John is sitting there. What your name? I’m 

[00:23:53] Mark: John. John. Um, he’s the one who came up with the name.

[00:23:57] Mark: He said, we’re gonna sell crazy socks. John’s Crazy Socks. Um, we have upon occasion, , we thought that a little bit because of negative mental health implications. But in the end, even if it says become somewhat anachronistic, it’s about the joy and the passion and the energy. Um, and it’s John, right? Yeah. Dad, I did suggest Mark’s Murray sauce for Mark Sirius socks, but that was going nowhere.

[00:24:33] Brent: Yeah. Mark Sirius socks doesn’t have the same ring, does it? Um, so if, if you have, um, if you had a little piece of nugget or some kind of advice, I hate the word, we don’t use the word advice usually in entrepreneurship or in our preneur group. We’d like to, we like to say we don’t should on people. We like to share experience.

[00:24:53] Brent: If you could share your experience on helping others understand why those five pillars are so important in your business. Is, is there anything that, that you could offer somebody to get started? 

[00:25:07] Mark: I, I do. I, you have to. I, I, I believe this. You have to know what you are about. You have to know what your purpose is.

[00:25:16] Mark: That becomes your north star and your values help keep you on track. So when you get tossed ass over heels, as you will be, you got your North star, you know where you’re going. Well, here’s a concrete example. So we roll into 2020, and then you may have heard, we get hit by a pandemic, right? It was awful.

[00:25:45] Mark: For our business, it cost us hundreds of thousands of times. What do you do? Well, as long as you know what you are about, you’re gonna be able to steer the weight. . So we knew first we had to take care of our colleagues. We could stay open, but we had to make sure we took care of everybody’s health, particularly because so many of our colleagues were vulnerable.

[00:26:09] Mark: Then you say, okay, how do we adapt to this? Well, we do a lot of speaking engagements. We moved those online. We moved our tours online. Turns out that opened the. . We now have student groups from around the world come and take tours. Um, we make socks. What could we do? Well, we made healthcare superhero socks to say thank you to frontline workers, and those raised over $50,000 to the American Nurses Foundation’s Covid 19 fund, because we knew what we were about.

[00:26:48] Mark: But then you also say, all right, well our mission is spreading happiness. How do we do. In a pandemic. Well, we did something new. We sold mask. But how do you spread happiness? So what do you do every Tuesday 

[00:27:03] John: afternoon? Uh, every Tuesday I hold, I dance, pray every, every Tuesday. Um, Is the time 

[00:27:11] Mark: he hosts an online dance party.

[00:27:13] Mark: Yes. What better way to spread happiness. And we started a Facebook live show. You know, a voter shut down. How can we reach people? How can we share some happiness? And that’s, we still do that. And that’s evolved also, we now have a podcast. Um, so you don’t immediately say you’re a sock company, you should have a dance party.

[00:27:36] Mark: But if you know what you are really. , then you can adapt no matter what the circumstances are. Right? And and for us, yes, we’re the world’s largest sos but at the end of the day, we’re not really a soman. The SOS become the physical manifestation for the mission and the story. 

[00:28:04] Brent: Yeah, I like that. Um, John and Mark, as, as we close out the podcast, they give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like.

[00:28:14] Brent: What would you like to plug today? 

[00:28:17] Mark: Well, where, ask for your support. Where can people find us? 

[00:28:22] John: I’ll go at john’s crazy 

[00:28:24] Mark: socks.com. Johns crazy socks.com. And here’s the thing, if you buy from us, you’re gonna get great sock. You’re gonna get whenever you want because we have such great choice. But more than that, you’re gonna help us hire people with different ability.

[00:28:43] Mark: You’re gonna help us get back and most of all, you’re gonna help us spread happiness. So that’s as shameless as we get. 

[00:28:51] Brent: That’s awesome. Thank you so much. Uh, John and Mark, I will put all these also in the show notes so they can find john’s crazy socks.com as a link as part of the podcast. And it has been a pleasure to speak to you today.

[00:29:06] Mark: Well, thank you very much. 

[00:29:08] John: Thank you so much.

Thank you for making it to the end of this episode of Talk Commerce. Please rate this episode wherever you download your podcast. We are actively looking for people to participate in the Free Joke Project. Go to talk hyphen commerce.com and sign up for your free spot on the Free Joke Project. If you are a business, I will do a 32nd elevator.

In the spot to help promote your business. That’s talk hyphen commerce.com.

How to Create Effective Communication Guidelines That Encourage Open Dialogue

How to Create Effective Communication Guidelines That Encourage Open Dialogue

Communication is key in any organization, and having clear communication guidelines is essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Developing clear communication guidelines can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right information and tools, you can easily craft guidelines that will …

Read more