Tags: heart of business

Heart of Business: Life is Never a Drag for Miz Cracker

Heart of Business: Life is Never a Drag for Miz Cracker

Beyond • August 9, 2019

A few weeks ago, the YouTube algorithm auto-played a video of Miz Cracker giving Queer Eye\'s Antoni Porowski a drag makeover. It left me thinking about the opportunities that being on a show like RuPaul\'s Drag Race opened up for a drag queen\'s career. Then, I remembered I hosted a podcast that asked those very questions to a person who gets to play dress up for a living. Not long after, I had confirmation for an interview in an email signed xoxo Miz Cracker. Reader, let me tell you: Miz Cracker does not disappoint. Fun, witty and thoughtful. We talk about how she got her start in drag, the decision to go on RuPaul\'s Drag Race and what she\'s been up to since. Miz Cracker talks about the importance of building a brand and how social media has changed the game for drag queens. I mean brand building is 90% of what I do. I am on stage for about 10 to 30 minutes a day. I\'ll do two five-minute numbers or I\'ll do a half hour show, at most I\'ll do an hour and 15 minutes show. And the rest of the entire day is thinking about the brand and what I\'m putting out there. A lot of people think that building a brand is about fabricating an image and building it on social media, creating a story. But it really should be sort of turning around to the pile of stuff that is you and shoveling it onto the internet. 00:00 Andy Shore: Alright, so how you doing today? 00:03 Miz Cracker: I\'m doing great. I\'m here in my little studio in the Bronx, which my co-pilot, Katelyn, and I just rented, and it\'s now just our little home where we run everything from. 00:16 AS: Yeah, that\'s exciting. Congrats on finding your own space and moving in there. I guess we can... 00:21 MC: Yeah, it\'s... 00:22 AS: Sorry, go ahead. 00:23 MC: No, it\'s important to have a space, a working space that\'s not your living space, you know what I mean? 00:31 AS: I do, yeah. We both work from home a bit here and there, and it\'s important to be able to have that space so you\'re not just like, \"Oh, I can go get food, or go take a nap, or go do all these other things. The dog is here to play with.\" 00:45 MC: Yeah. 00:45 Daniel Miller: Throw some pants on, shower. [laughter] 00:47 MC: Yeah. 00:50 AS: And so I guess we\'ll get back into having your own space and seeing that real career grow, but I wanna start at the beginning. What made you wanna get into drag in the first place? 01:03 MC: I actually didn\'t want to get into drag at all. [chuckle] I was nagged into it by one of my friends. I was walking home one night, and I ran into this guy who needed help with a bookshelf, and I was like, \"Listen, I\'m gonna help you haul this up to your apartment.\" And when I got to his apartment, it was covered floor-to-ceiling in wigs. And I was like, \"What have I gotten myself into?\" [laughter] And the guy\'s like, \"Well, I actually do drag every Saturday. I do these marches for marriage equality in Times Square. You should join me.\" And I said, \"Sure, maybe,\" as in never. [chuckle] But he lived down the street from me, and he just kept asking every single weekend for six months, so finally I was like, \"Okay, I will try it.\" 01:58 AS: And that\'s, of course, the infamous or famous Bob the Drag Queen? 02:02 MC: That\'s Bob the Drag Queen. And as soon as he put me in makeup, I turned around and looked in the mirror, I was like, \"Oh my god. This is the new thing!\" 02:08 DM: That\'s wonderful. So for some of our listeners, do you mind explaining a little bit what is drag and drag shows? 02:20 MC: Drag shows are a lot of things, but above all, they are people wearing too much, doing too much, [chuckle] in order to entertain queer people and their friends, really. 02:36 DM: Wonderful. I actually... I was just telling Andy, I think the first drag show I went to was in the Keys in Florida. 02:45 MC: Oh wow. 02:45 DM: And yes, I ended up on stage. I don\'t remember anything after that, though, that\'s probably the dangerous part of it, though, [laughter] but it was a lot of fun. 02:54 MC: I\'ve had a few of those as well. Yeah, there\'s... A lot of people have different rules for what drag should be and how it should look, but as long as it\'s too much, I think that\'s drag. Men can do it, women can do it, trans people can do it. There\'s really no laws in the world of drag because it\'s one of the only forms of entertainment that doesn\'t have a NYU program feeding into it, [chuckle] it is just... It\'s its own thing. 03:27 AS: It almost does now, with the whole Drag Race kind of economy that has grown from the show. 03:34 MC: Right, yeah, now there\'s a market that it belongs to, but luckily it still has escaped academics for now. 03:43 AS: Sure. 03:44 MC: Which, who knows. There could be a drag vocational school, [chuckle] drag community college, which would be a great television show on ABC. 03:54 AS: I was just gonna say, I\'d watch that for sure. 03:57 MC: Yeah. 03:58 AS: And so how long after you started doing drag, and getting started, and seeing yourself there for the first time... When did it go from, \"Hey, this is really fun,\" to \"This is what I think I could do for a living\"? 04:11 MC: Well, I actually just had this show with a queen, Brenda Darling, in the Upper West Side. And one night she just was just murdering it, she was just doing such an amazing performance, and she got the standing ovation, and I got mild applause, and I was like, \"This is so rough, [chuckle] every week, to go through this.\" And I was kind of like, \"Listen, I\'ve gotta either quit or really go all out and make this my thing because this middle ground is not doing me any favors, it\'s not doing the audience any favors.\" And that was when the tides turned, which I think was like 2014, 2015. 04:53 AS: Yeah, I think that\'s a good lesson for a lot of people wanting to pursue passions is you gotta go all in on it. 05:00 DM: You can\'t half-ass it, yeah. 05:00 AS: If you\'re gonna do one foot in, you\'re gonna find yourself there being like, \"Yeah, is this it?\" \'cause you\'re not giving it your all anyways. 05:09 MC: And your relationship with drag is like your relationship with any person, you\'re only going to get out of it what you put into it. And you can starve it or feed it, but you\'re not gonna get... And there are exceptions to the rules, of course, but you\'re usually not gonna get more rewards from drag than you make sacrifices. It\'s gonna be about equal. 05:33 DM: Yeah, absolutely. 05:35 AS: And I do content marketing, social media, for a living, and as a nice Jewish boy from the Midwest, I have a hard enough time explaining that to my parents, that that\'s a thing you can do. How did it go over with your family when you told them that this was the thing for you? 05:52 MC: I think my mother was actually in town when I decided to quit my job and do drag full-time, and she was just like, \"You know what, you hate your job so much, I would rather that you were homeless on the streets than doing this job because I really want you to be happy more than anything else. So I don\'t know if drag is gonna be successful for you, but I know that you are going to be happier.\" And I was like, \"Okay, we\'re doing this then. If my mom says I should do it, then let\'s do it.\" 06:24 DM: That\'s wonderful, that\'s... Yeah, having support from family, friends, with something like this, I think that that\'s always one of the most important things. I see you\'re on tour a lot. It seems like beyond being able to get a career from this, drag has allowed you to travel a lot. What are some of the places that you\'ve traveled to, and what are some of your favorites? 06:54 MC: Oh my god, we\'ve been to so many places. I think we\'ve been to 15 countries in the last year. 07:00 DM: Oh wow. 07:00 AS: Wow. 07:01 MC: It\'s not made up. Katelyn is sitting over there like it\'s totally made up, but [chuckle] Brazil, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, I\'m won\'t count the US, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, the UK... Wait, is Scotland part of that or what? They\'re gonna be so mad that I still don\'t know. Portugal, that\'s 13, I think, now. And I\'m sure there\'s just one more. Oh, I\'ve been to Senegal and the Gambia, but not for travel. But yeah, we\'ve been to over a dozen countries. It\'s a lot. 07:42 DM: What\'s been one of your favorite ones, so far? 07:46 MC: I mean, one of my favorite ones, of course, on the small side was Portugal, it\'s... Lisbon was the most beautiful place I\'ve ever been in my entire life. But our favorite place to go is anywhere in the UK and Ireland because they just treat us so well. They treat me so well over there. And every single aspect of a drag show is handled so beautifully, and the audiences are so polite, and kind, and they bring gifts. And it\'s like when you come back to America, it\'s quite a shock because any American listening to this will know, we are a lot to deal with. We just are. [laughter] 08:35 DM: That\'s so funny. Is there... Do you see big differences from country to country in regards to the drag community? 08:42 MC: Oh, you can see differences in the drag community from state to state. If you are in Columbus, Ohio, and you name a pretty drag queen and a comedy drag queen, they will be completely silent for the pretty drag queen and just go wild for the comedy queen. And then if you are in certain parts of New York, they will go nuts for the pretty girl and have nothing to say about the the comedy queen at all. But you could cross the water and go into another part of New York City, and it\'ll be completely opposite. There\'s so many little bubbles, and you kinda have to know where you\'re going. I know what numbers to perform, what songs to perform in different states. I\'m like, \"Well, this is the state for this song, I can\'t do any other, they\'re not gonna hear this one,\" and you just have to be very sensitive to it, and you learn very quickly. 09:41 AS: Yeah, I\'ve heard a lot of comedians talk about that. There\'s always the, \"Local jokes get local work,\" but just knowing what material\'s killing in the clubs in LA, and the second they go on tour and they\'re just getting blank stares, that you gotta be able to read a room, and I guess it\'s incredibly important for you guys, too. 10:00 MC: Right. Just stop and think for a minute about the people that are in that room. You don\'t have to know that much about a city to know jokes about Fendi and Prada on 5th Avenue are not just gonna play as well in San Francisco, or... You know what I mean? It\'s just like it\'s not there, and that\'s not what people live for in San Francisco, it\'s just... It\'s not that hard to do, doesn\'t take rocket science, just go with your gut. But if you... What you do, I find, is I... Whenever I\'m backstage, I\'ll just turn to the other people in the room, I\'ll be like, \"Alright, here we are in Puxaluxie, Alabama, what is the neighborhood that everyone makes fun of?\" And they\'re like, \"Oh, we always make fun of blah-blah-blah-blah neighborhood,\" you\'re like, \"Alright, work.\" You go out on stage, and you\'re like, \"Oh, sir, look at your outfit, where are you from? Blah, blah, blah, neighborhood?\" and everyone\'s like, \"Oh my God, genius!\" It\'s a literally a mad lib fill-in-the-blank joke that I take everywhere, but people live for it. 11:10 AS: Yeah, that\'s great. I don\'t know if you heard of Brody Stevens, that\'s way last year, but he used to be the guy that closed the comedy club, would perform the last hour to the six people still there finishing their drinks. And his entire bit was that he can do all the different places in the Valley, and know the zip codes, and just all over the country, too. If someone\'s in town, he would have some random fact about... Just an encyclopedic knowledge of the randomest things that... Exactly like you\'re saying, connect with anybody for any means necessary. 11:42 MC: Yeah, just know the lingo. 11:45 DM: What would you say are some of your pet peeves when it comes to drag shows in general, and then as a career as well? 11:54 MC: My pet peeves for a drag show? My pet peeves for a drag show... Honestly, for Ru Girls! , we meet our fans at some point during the show. We will go to a little photo area, and get to say hello to everybody, sign a few autographs. It\'s a huge pet peeve for me when that is scheduled to be at the end of the show because I am one of those drag queens that sweats her face off during the show, [chuckle] and I just look like a bedraggled Cocker Spaniel-rodent hybrid, just something pulled out of a drain, and that\'s the picture that they\'re gonna get. [chuckle] So for the bar it makes sense, it\'s an incentive for people to stay for the whole time, but for me, I just hate that. And my big peeve for drag shows in general is when someone performs a song, and then another queen a couple of performances later comes up and does the same song, I\'m like, \"Really? You didn\'t have [chuckle] one other song to do? You had to... We\'re gonna listen to Nicki Minaj Super Bass four times tonight?\" You know what I mean? [chuckle] 13:11 AS: \"Just that confident that yours is gonna be better after the fact?\" 13:14 MC: Right, \"It better be amazing.\" [chuckle] We had this night, we went to a place in LA called Mickey\'s. There were 10 girls, I would say six of them did the same did the same Nicki Minaj song. Six! [chuckle] And you know what, luckily Nicki Minaj is great, so it was fun every time, but still! The principle stays. 13:35 AS: It\'s a lot. So what was the process like for you deciding to go on the show? Was it a no-brainer, or was it something you had to really think about? And then the experience with filming, and how did that change your drag outlook? 13:52 MC: I was really hesitant to even audition for Drag Race because I believe in small rooms. I believe in making in-person contact with the audience when you are a drag queen. And I wasn\'t sure if being part of television was gonna get in the way of that, and if it was gonna make me compromise myself in ways that I couldn\'t predict. So it was a really long process. And finally what it came down to was, \"Listen, I am in my 30s now. We need to be financially stable, and we need to take this to the next level and go all the way, as I already said. Otherwise we may as just well stop.\" So I was like, \"Alright.\" It\'s like if you wanna do something, you wanna do it on the highest level, and I was like, \"Alright, this is the highest level. And if I wanna be true to myself, I gotta do it in that context.\" 14:58 AS: Yeah. And I\'m sure all those things that you did want that you were concerned, you had to know it was gonna open up the opportunity to do those later. Like look at John Mayer did two pop albums, and then got to do whatever he wanted for the rest of his career, whether it\'s... 15:13 MC: Right! 15:14 AS: Touring with the Grateful Dead, or playing with Eric Clapton, or all those things that... We\'re both marketers, so for me, it\'s just like, oh yeah, you take the opportunity that\'s gonna give you the exposure, and then do it on your own terms afterwards. 15:28 MC: I\'m sort of like the John Mayer of drag in that sense. [laughter] 15:31 AS: I\'m here for it. Let\'s start it right now, we\'ll keep spreading it. [laughter] 15:36 MC: But yeah, no, it is true, I do get to do exactly what I want. And I had this Jewish epiphany, which means nervous breakdown, [laughter] and at the end of it, I was just like, \"You know what, I\'m gonna do exactly what I want all the time. I\'m not gonna pay attention to what anyone else is doing because that\'s the only way I\'m gonna be happy.\" So that\'s the way we do things now. 15:57 DM: Yeah, I think that that\'s a really good point. For anybody that says... Sorry, I hear so many people... I think it\'s a good idea to keep an eye out on what the competitors are doing, what other businesses are doing, but if you continuously do that, you\'re always gonna be chasing them and going behind them. If you look inward and start to focus on what you really want, there is no competition to you, and you do your own thing. So yeah, I agree with that full-heartedly. 16:24 AS: Speaking about that, can you tell us a little bit more about American Woman? 16:30 MC: Oh yeah, American Woman, I guess we\'re relaunching the global tour this week. We\'re doing it at a place called Laurie Beechman Theater in New York. And it is about feminism today, and the mistakes that I have made in not supporting women in the way I think they should be supported, especially because I was raised by women, by my mother and my sister, my Drag Race audition tape was made by a woman, my manager and my assistant are both women, 75% of my audience members, when I look off the stage, are women. I owe women everything, and I think I have to stop and think now about some of the stuff that I do that doesn\'t make life easier for the women around me. And I make fun of myself and point out things that we can all do better to make America and the world a better place for women, especially right now when women are coming together and saying, \"It\'s time.\" 17:42 AS: Yeah, that\'s interesting. You say walk a mile in their shoes, and you do [chuckle] that whenever you\'re performing. 17:47 MC: Oh, yeah, yeah. 17:48 AS: And just having... After the explosion of Nanette and Hannah Gadsby last year, and looking at the self-deprecating humor of it all, and the impact that has on yourself and the community, I think that\'s important. 18:00 MC: I watched Nanette while I was preparing for American Woman, and it was really a powerful thing. And I don\'t think everyone has to be perfect when they contribute to the women\'s rights movement that\'s starting to re-emerge and gather momentum right now, but I do think we have a responsibility to do our best to try to contribute. Make mistakes, fix them along the way. 18:29 AS: Yeah, I think especially in the social media culture we have, that it\'s important that it\'s not... To accept that everyone\'s not perfect. And as long as we\'re trying and everyone\'s on the same team, that it\'s okay to have those bumps in the road. 18:42 MC: I think women make a lot of mistakes when it comes to women\'s rights, too, and in the way that they treat each other. And so we can sort of all be on the same page of like, \"Okay, we\'re all struggling to figure out where to go from here, but we all agree that where we are now is not great.\" [chuckle] 19:00 DM: Yeah, most definitely. I think there was a Ted Talk, gosh, I can\'t remember for the life of me, the name of the guy that was talking about it. But he was showing the differences between languages and upbringings from men and women. And languages, for example, in certain countries like in Spanish, bridge is masculine, but in German, it\'s feminine. And when they would ask people to describe in their own language what a bridge looks like, in Spanish, they would say it\'s strong, it\'s this and that. It would be a lot of male words. 19:40 DM: And in German it would be a lot of female ones. Oh, it\'s a beautiful bridge, connecting bridge and so forth. So the the wiring of the language alone was so interesting on how that wasn\'t... The main thing that he was saying \'cause language is much harder to change, but the upbringing, so many parents will encouraged their kids to go on the playground and get hurt. But their daughters, they\'re like, \"No, no, don\'t skin your knees, you\'re a princess, stay here.\" And there is that balance of that pre-wiring is from a very young as a kid and the power that that can have. So yeah, I think the movements that are happening now, it\'s something that it should have happened long time ago, but the power of social media is really allowing communities to spread and to empower women. Definitely. 20:28 MC: Yeah. And to talk about and to talk about things that they haven\'t been able to talk about before, so... 20:32 DM: Exactly. 20:35 AS: So we\'re talking about you being able to have a platform and trying to use that responsibly, going along with that and kind of building your brand as drag has become such a bigger part of the zeitgeist with the popularity of drag race. How much thought do you put into kind of building the brand you have and helping yourself separate from the rest of the crowd? 20:55 MC: I mean brand building is 90% of what I do. I am on stage for about 10 to 30 minutes a day. I\'ll do two five-minute numbers or I\'ll do a half hour show, at most I\'ll do an hour and 15 minutes show. And the rest of the entire day is thinking about the brand and what I\'m putting out there. And it\'s really... A lot of people think that building a brand is about fabricating an image and building it on social media, creating a story. But it really should be sort of turning around to the pile of stuff that is you and shoveling it onto the internet. And by that I mean... 21:45 DM: That\'s a good visual. 21:47 MC: You know what I mean? Kaitlyn and I take the stuff that we do every day, and we take pictures of that so people know what we\'re doing. We don\'t go very often to a photo studio and put me in an outfit that I wouldn\'t normally wear, and a hair that I wouldn\'t normally wear, in lighting that I\'m not normally in, to tell the story of me being someone that I\'m not. We\'re like, \"Okay. I was in drag early today and I was in Boston, so here\'s a picture of me early in drag in Boston by a landmark.\" We try to take a picture of me with a landmark in every city that we go to. And it is not story-telling, it is literally just journalism. It\'s documentarianism. You know what I mean? And I think that\'s... People get everything backwards that you are supposed to create this image and then live towards it, but really you live and then you expose that life to the world. And that\'s... If you try to do it the other way, you will get exhausted. This way is exhausting enough, but that artifice is gonna take up so much of your energy. 23:00 DM: Yeah, if you don\'t absolutely do what you love, you\'re gonna burn out really fast. That\'s yeah... 23:03 AS: And we live in a world... 23:05 MC: Another thing that... Another business, the smartest business thing I ever heard which came from Kaitlyn as far as anyone who is trying to sell an item based on their brand, do not sell something that you would wear or you would use; sell something that your customers will wear or use. And a really good example of that is like if you are a 6\'5, 102-pound model, yes, you would wear a leather bra and panty set out on to the stage. But you can\'t really make that into merchandise for your customers because almost none of them are going to be 6\'5 models. Do you know what I mean? And I see people make this mistake all the time. They\'re like, \"Oh, here\'s something that I would use, I would wear, I\'m gonna sell it, and I\'m gonna put my brand, my logo on it.\" And then the fans come up and they are Americans just regular Americans, not wealthy traveling entertainers and they look at the spread of stuff and they\'re like, \"Where does this fit in my life?\" It\'s backwards. 24:29 DM: Yeah, definitely. I mean like you said, we live in LA and where you\'re always told write what you know. And just as marketers in general, just seeing the importance of being authentic and trying through it like... There\'s so much competition in any market, really, at this point, that the ones that people feel like they can connect with and see who they actually are is who it\'s gonna be. And I think that extra layer of being able to understand your audience, I mean, as marketers, you could be selling a product, but what you\'re really selling is the solution to a problem that someone has and being able to understand from their eyes and do that customer-centric marketing rather than just blasting what you think you need to be putting out there. 25:09 MC: I think authenticity, loving what you do, are such high goals. And if... You have a whole lifetime, you might not get there. But you can definitely start by not lying before you get to authenticity, just don\'t lie. That\'s a good one. And then if you don\'t love what you do, at least do what you do. It\'s very hard for you to create a brand as a drag queen if you don\'t do drag all the time. Does that make sense? 25:44 AS: Yeah. 25:45 MC: So obviously the goals are to be totally authentic with yourself and your audience and to love what you do. But shy of that on a regular human day, just don\'t lie and do your job. You know what I mean? 25:57 AS: Mm-hmm. 25:58 MC: Kaitlyn almost died just now walking into the room. [26:00] ____ wires everywhere. It\'s almost became a one-woman business again. [laughter] 26:08 AS: I\'m glad everyone\'s okay. And kinda continuing on, using all of you and what you\'re doing, you\'ve had two web series that are either Rhymes Or Puns With Jew, and Review With The Jew, and Jewtorials, what went in the decision in including that in what you\'re putting out there? 26:26 MC: When I went into season 10, I was looking at Kaitlyn and I was like, \"I am Jewish. I\'m not gonna let them turn me into the token Jew.\" I\'m not gonna make... I know they wanna make that part of my storyline, but it\'s like... That\'s just a part of me. And then Watching season 10, every time I walk into the room I\'m like, \" Jewie McJew, McJew Jewison. You know? And I was like, \"Oh my god.\" It is a massive part of who I am and I\'m just going to embrace that. And it is really just... I laugh the hardest when I\'m making Jew jokes because I love being a Jew and I think Jews are funny and wonderful people. And so it\'s just... When I put Jew in the title of anything I do, it\'s just kind of like... It just makes me happy, that\'s why. 27:16 AS: Mm-hmm, that\'s great. I think in audiences like there... Especially Jewish audiences, the second they know someone is Jewish will just support that person no matter what. 27:28 MC: Oh absolutely. 27:28 AS: Even growing up, there was like one Jewish player on the Dodgers and I\'m from Chicago, but I knew that because my dad told me every time he was on television. And told me of the Sandy Koufax story all over again \'cause he is just like Jew, he\'s like, \"Well, we\'ve gotta root for what we\'ve got left.\" And it\'s just so funny [27:47] ____. 27:47 MC: Yeah, any time you get together with Jews you\'re like, \"Did you know that so and so was a Jew?\" \"Oh, I didn\'t know that.\" \"Did you know that so and so was a Jew?\" \"Oh, I didn\'t know that.\" \"Did you know that so was... \" \"Oh, I did know that. Yes, I knew he was a Jew because he did this Jewy thing.\" \"Alright.\" \"Well. How are your bowels?\" \"Terrible, let\'s talk about it.\" Like how every Jewish conversation begins. 28:10 AS: Yeah, just Eliot Glazer from Broad City and many other things had Este Haim on his haunting rendition show. They did a whole Jewish music set that just killed the whole room. 28:22 MC: Right. 28:22 AS: I was like, \"Yeah, this plays in LA. It might not play like you said in Ohio so much.\" 28:27 MC: Right, I can\'t wait to release my Klezmer album, which I don\'t know why I didn\'t think of this before, but it\'s gonna be great. And I\'m gonna play Klezmer for Kaitlyn after this so she knows what the hell I\'m talking about. \'Cause I\'ve had to teach her everything about Judaism. [laughter] 28:43 AS: That\'s funny, yeah, I\'m the... 28:44 MC: Doesn\'t play well in DC. 28:45 AS: I\'m definitely the token Jew in our office. 28:48 MC: Good. 28:48 AS: So I get that responsibility as well. 28:51 MC: Yeah. 28:52 AS: And so we\'re talking about doing it and everything that goes into it. Is drag a career that you think has longevity, or do you have plans beyond that? 29:01 MC: I never make any plans for my life in the long term. I sort of do what I wanna do until I\'m not interested in it anymore and then I suddenly stop. So I\'ve never... I think as long as drag allows me to do exactly what I want to do all the time, which is what it\'s allowing me to do right now, I\'m gonna... There\'s no reason I would ever leave it. If ever at any point I find that it\'s constraining me and that I feel that I\'m not totally free, then I could leave. But I just don\'t see that happening. 29:34 DM: That\'s a great feeling. 29:35 AS: Yeah. 29:36 MC: I\'ve never made any plans ever. [chuckle] 29:41 AS: That\'s great, yeah. Our next guest we\'ve got that we\'re interviewing actually later today, his name is Nick Uhas. He was on Big Brother back in the day, but the first time we interviewed with him was like four years ago. And he\'d gone from like a high school wrestler to a professional rollerblader to like crashing a fraternity conference to do networking that landed him on Big Brother, and then was like hosting other shows. And like the whole conversation we had is just kinda picking the path presented to you and being able to do that and see that and accept that where you are is where you\'re supposed to be and kind of go forward from there. 30:15 MC: I came to New York as a poet, and I worked with a number of poets in a group. And we traveled around the country doing readings and performances then I got bored and I quit. And I joined a publishing house and worked my way up to the top as an arts editor and then I was bored of that. And I went into journalism and I wrote for a newspaper for a while and then I was done with that. I took one fundraising course and became a fundraiser for a museum. And then I was like, \"Now I hate fundraising.\" And I was like, \"I think I\'ll do drag.\" And so that it\'s sort of just been like completely 180 turns all the time that led me here. No plan whatsoever. I left Seattle to come to New York because I saw Meryl Streep walking down the street in a movie in New York, and I was like, \"Oh, I wanna do that.\" 31:12 DM: Do what you love to find the people to love. That\'s what [31:16] ____. 31:16 MC: Right, oh exactly. Do what the people you love do. 31:18 DM: There you go. Yeah. This is the question that I had for a little bit earlier, but the conversation kind of strayed it out. But I\'m actually on the computer right now and I can see some of your photos. And I have to say, \"My goodness, the make up, the hair, the dress, everything.\" How long does it normally take to get out... To have that transformation? To be ready like that? 31:44 MC: It takes me about an hour to make a wig. I usually make my wig right before the show. And then about two hours to get in drag, and that\'s including getting in my pads and everything. 32:00 DM: Wow, that\'s... Yeah. I thought it would be more than that. It looks amazing, so yeah. 32:06 MC: Oh, I mean, it used to take me four hours just to put my eyebrows on. But now it\'s a lot easier. 32:17 AS: Great, getting your Malcolm Gladwell 10,000-hours in drag. 32:21 MC: Oh, definitely 10,000 hours at least. [chuckle] 32:26 AS: And in terms of the pictures and everything you talked about, like wanting to show the authentic part, how much has social media and Instagram in general changed the game for drag? 32:41 MC: Let\'s just put it this way: When Lady Bunny was doing drag, it was not a visual art form. [laughter] 32:50 MC: She and the ladies of her time, it was about being in the same room with them and if they could be funny and make you happy while you were there. Never mind the fact that she was just wearing two lashes and a touch of lip gloss under that wig. It took... The makeup did not matter and the outfit could have been vintage, let\'s put it that way. As Jinkx Monsoon put it, a series of unfortunate caftans [laughter] But now social media is a visual... Especially Instagram is a visual medium and it has created an expectation for drag that it will be a powerful visual experience. So that, I think, has created a massive change in drag and also the expectation that thousands of people should know about you, which I don\'t think that the queens like Lady Bunny really anticipated when they were starting drag. You know what I mean? They were not like, \"I\'m gonna be world famous.\" I think they were like, \"I\'m [34:04] ____ gay tonight, girl,\" you know? And that was pretty much it. And things like Sweetie, they were going lip sync in a club and have a really great time and then that was it. They wouldn\'t expect to become a mega star. 34:20 AS: Yeah, now you guys have to be the multi-hyphenates of the look, the make-up, you can dance, the comedy, all of it. It\'s like a lot more. 34:28 MC: Right, but also you have a different breed of people coming into drag. People that wanted to do something for its own sake, art for art\'s sake, those were the kind of queens and the kind of personality types that were flooding into drag in the \'70s and the \'80s because they had no expectations of fame. Now you have people that are thirsty for fame which is a very different personality type, thirsty for fame, thirsty for money, thirsty for recognition. Those flies are being drawn to the tape now, and it has changed the temperature of the water. [laughter] 35:07 AS: I believe that. So what\'s next for you? You said the show is starting back up again and you\'re about to go on to tour? 35:14 MC: I\'m about to go on tour with American Woman, so it\'s gonna start here in New York once again. And then this fall we\'re taking it to New Zealand and Australia and then the UK in January. And then in the spring, we\'re thinking of doing an American tour as well since, you know, that\'s where we\'re from. 35:39 MC: But we\'re spending a full year and a half in the UK if we can. 35:44 AS: It\'s fun. Sure, why not? As you said, follow the path you got. If the opportunity is there, you might as well. 35:50 MC: Yeah, give me a visa and a Visa debit card. [laughter] 35:56 AS: Well, Miz Cracker, I wanna thank you sincerely for spending the time and chatting with us today. Before we say goodbye, let everyone know where they can follow you and find as you go on the tour. 36:08 MC: Absolutely. If you like a visually appealing drag queen, just go to miz_cracker. That\'s miz_racialslur on Instagram and Twitter. And find my YouTube where I have literally 50 hours of video content laboriously made. I watched all 50 of \'em while I was sick the other day. And yeah, get to it. Go to mizcracker.com too, but it\'s just gonna direct you to the good sites, so... [chuckle] 36:42 DM: Awesome. Well, thanks again for joining us. And thanks everyone for listening. We\'ll catch you guys next time. 36:47 MC: Thank you so much, everybody. 36:49 AS: Bye.


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Michael Barber: He Got It From His Mum

Michael Barber: He Got It From His Mum

Beyond • May 24, 2019

We first crossed paths with Michael Barber during not one, but two, sessions and workshops he led at Digital Summit Los Angeles. There, we saw him host a four-hour workshop on email marketing that kept us riveted and again for a workshop on marketing lessons from his mum. We enjoyed him so much we asked for more and invited him to be our guest on the Heart of Business. We talk marketing agencies, what makes great content, the importance of email marketing and more. I think [email marketing is] one of the most under-served, less respected, least sexiest tactics that we have at our disposal, but it\'s one of the most impactful that we have. And I think for many, many years, it has been the one that marketers have just forgotten about and I worry, because it is an owned channel, that not only real people continue to be engaged in, but it drives an incredible ROI when you are very strategic and thoughtful about the campaigns and strategy that you produce around that tactic for your customers. Andy Shore: Hey everybody welcome back to The Heart of Business. I\'m your host, Andy Shore here as always with my co-host Daniel Miller and he\'s not here with me while I\'m recording the intro, but he\'ll be here for the episode, I promise, and we\'ve got an incredible guest. We say that every time, but this guy was so great when I saw him at Digital summit not once but twice that I had to invite him out of the podcast afterwards. We talk about being a marketing firm about email marketing, about creating gory content about speaking also. It\'s awesome things. He\'s a really great... Yes, we had a really good time talking to him. Before we get started, I wanna remind everyone about the Benchmark Starter Plan. If you\'re just getting started with email marketing or your list is small, you can do your email marketing totally free. And what\'s great about Benchmark is that as you graduate into a Pro Plan because email marketing is helping your business grow, all the tools are right there for you, you\'re not gonna have to switch another service, whether it\'s marketing automation, CRM, it\'s all there for you on the Pro Plan Check it out, benchmark email dot com. Let\'s get rolling. AS: So how do you doing today, Michael? Michael Barber: I’m well, just wrapping up, what is... What was a very, very long week, but a good one, so... And my mother is in town for Mother\'s Day. So that makes it even the better … very exciting. AS: Yeah, I\'ll ask you more about her later. I got to see your great session at Digital Summit LA that was all center around her. And I definitely wanna talk to you about that. But… I wanted to talk a little bit about Godfrey and everything you guys do there. MB: Yeah, so Godfrey. We are a team of 90 people we serve, mid-market industrial manufacturers and help champion the world-changing work that they do. It sounds about as un-glamorous, is what it is as an agency that\'s dedicated to B2B industries that are not necessarily the most sexy, but certainly super intriguing and gets to a variety of big initiatives with them to help bring both their products services and ideas to life. AS: Yeah, and you say It\'s not sexy … just reading the copy on your website you never know that I loved… We\'ve been really into the whole story, brand story telling of your marketing and just the line your industry is our purpose. It\'s how we make the world a better place, it\'s like, \"Oh these guys are great, they\'re doing awesome things.” So it\'s both the first gate it\'s just maybe not the sexiest things but we\'re championing that. I mean, it’s great. It\'s all about marketing, you\'re helping people be the heroes that they need to be. MB: Yeah, that\'s absolutely cool about the people that I get to spend my time between 8 and 5. it is that we are all... Not necessarily communication professionals at our core. Or should I say that I never probably... What motivated us to get into the communication space? We were builders, were developers. Some of us have a background in science and engineering, and we just happened to also be good at story telling. And so that provides a really interesting combination of people under one roof that do some pretty incredible things for the team of people that we serve. Daniel Miller: Do you guys have any specific focus? You focus more on branding you focus more on specific marketing channels. MB: Yeah, we are full service. But I will tell you that our bread and butter is strategy is really helping to understand the human truths and insights that we can pluck from better understanding our client\'s customers for 70 years. We\'ve done that. It\'s where clients come back to us we keep the team pretty lean in terms of execution, ally being able to work within all the different tactics or facets of what is a modern day marketing mix, if you will. So, some of our clients, we are executing full-service from PR, all the way through execution elements but for most of our clients, it begins with a strategy initiative, and then grows from there, depending upon what they decide to work with us on our work internally with their own team. AS: That’s awesome. And you mentioned everyone in the team coming from different backgrounds. What led you to Godfrey? MB: This is a really interesting question. I actually was a consultant for Godfrey for a number of years, and then in late 2017, the team there, the ownership team. Stacy and Aaron \"Stacy-wise and Aaron Mitchell at came to me and said, \"Hey we\'d like you to do this more often and work with us on different projects and I said, \"Okay we\'ll look at next year, and see what that looks like. We had a team of three working at the consultancy that I had founded many years ago called Barbara and Hewitt and Stace and Aaron on said No, no, no, we\'d like you to do this full-time here. And I said, “in Lancaster?” because at the time we were based in Southern California and Lancaster Pennsylvania is a very obviously different place than sunny downtown LA, where we were based, and within about a month, we had figured out a structure for how we were gonna combine the teams, and went from there. And I have been in a Lancaster for almost 18 months now. AS: That’s awesome. And what\'s that transition like going from growing your own business and consulting firm to transitioning to not being your own boss all the time? MB: I think the best way to answer this question is sort of why I decided to go from owing to helping a team and that is \"as I truly enjoyed the work I found very quickly within the first two years of owning my own shop that while I loved the work, and I love working with clients and figuring out the nuances and challenges of how they are connecting with their customers and clients. What I hated, and what kept me up at night, and what had me worried was legal, HR, accounting, and while I had two parents who had retired at the time that could help me with those challenges, \'cause they had owned a business for almost 30 years. I just didn\'t love all of the operational side of the business and I wasn\'t good at it, and I also didn\'t wanna grow the agency to a place where I would need to sort of add that operational layer to the team. And so this was just the right decision at the right time. And I love the fact, I loved the ability to work with the team on a day-to-day basis, and that\'s why I have found myself why I think I found myself wanting to make this a reality two years ago, was the ability to come in and continue to do work really did work with a team that I had respected and had the chance to almost date before we got married, so to speak. AS: Yeah, I totally get that, right out of college, I had started a music blog that ended up taking off a little bit and I got to do that for four years and it was amazing and when I started at Benchmark, I kind of balanced both for a little while but having a creative team around me and not having to do all the stuff that stresses me out and everything like that. I mean, it was such a much better experience and also helped me to grow in ways that I probably wouldn\'t have had a note. I\'m sure that would have been its own growth experience but it\'s nice to be around people that push you and inspire you and make you do better work MB: Exactly. As an owner-operator, you are challenged with, How do you split your time where do you invest that time given just how valuable time is these days? And I would just prefer to spend my time in the place that really drives me and excites me. And the good news is I\'ve got two other executives as a part of Godfrey Stacy and Ron who are the other sides of the brain, if you will stay leads the operational side of agency and are leading our account management and strategy teams, so, it\'s really great to have three individuals that split, get to split their time on focus and focus their effort on the teams where they have expertise and the areas that they enjoy working in on a day-to-day basis DM: That is so important. I think a day we were watching, I think it was a TED talk or some like that, and somebody was explaining the value of time and how they were trying to book Richard Branson to give some sort of a talk and they offered him a certain kind of money and they said no, and they came back again, with a higher amount and they said No. And it came back again and he said, \"Hire just kept saying No, and they finally say like, Why do I... This is an absorbent amount of money. Like, why won\'t you take... They said Look, it\'s not part of the three things that I need to do right now. This is what I know to be focused on you. This can be handled by somebody else, but it\'s not me. And just having that resistance of nothing pulling back, nothing taking a way no fame no money, no nothing, but staying so focused. I think that\'s what creates the success. And as a question to some of our listeners, here, I see that the chief creative officer what does that mean for the company, and for what you do with clients? MB: Sure, if you look around, first of all, I think it\'s a completely nebulous and ridiculous title. I just want to preface the answer to this question with that answer. It\'s a very fancy title. We love fancy titles and agencies. I will tell you, you can go look up what Chief Creative Officer means and the industry will look at it as, you own the creative voice of your agency. And that being the strategic and execution aspects of the creative that come out of your shop. I will tell you my role at Godfrey is just to help the 36 people on my team produced the best staff possible and that means one thing. Understanding what is the best thing that individually that those 36 people can contribute and helping make sure that they\'re the ones that are contributing that to all of the ideas to the concepts, to the tactics, and pieces of creative that we\'re bringing to life. I have zero background in creative, I am not a designer by trade, I spend zero amount of time in creative type positions in my 15-year career in this space. And so as a chief creative officer, my role is solely to ensure that they all have the tools and the needs met so that they can produce extremely, amazing, creative, innovative work for our clients. Do I get to play a loose role, and what things look like or how they feel? Sure, I tend to be the Mom test, if you will, the last person that they bring those concepts and ideas too, and I get to say yes, I sometimes say No and they say Yes, but... And they convince me otherwise, but my role is Chief Creative Officer is simply to ensure that 36 people inside that building on my creative team have everything they need, and the process in place and the right people on the engagements on the right clients to make sure we\'re bringing really strategic, the impactful work to our clients and make us the most sought after B2B shop in the world. AS: I. Know that roll all too well. Daniel plays that role for me, he\'s my boss, and he gets to hear my first worst ideas, all the times are the ones I know that I\'m almost pitching just to get a laugh out of him but from those seeds come the actual great ideas that we get to present to other people, and that\'s an important role to have. There is just like that last guard, that is gonna push you to get your best, make sure you have what you need and get the best out of you. It\'s, MB: Hey, worst ideas of the best idea is possible. And that\'s funny that you share that example because our executive creative directors who are near and dear to my heart, Scott Trevaw and Cliff Lewis they celebrate our greatest worst ideas on a regular basis, inside the agency. And what\'s funny is sometimes those really bad ideas are actually end up circulating something or germinating something amongst our team that actually ends up being something that is pitched. We literally just had this happen the other day. We have a new client and this is public knowledge. I\'m not sharing anything that is under NDA or anything, but e-Corp, which is a manufacturer of floors, industrial commercial floors, largely within the athletic space. These are floors you\'d find it and gyms or hotels, or in commercial gyms, big brand gyms and such. We are just going through concept phase with their team, and the way that we produce concepts is a very structured format has a specific process of how do we get to a concept that becomes something they\'ll be pitch in front of a client and Cliff and Scott lead that effort, and we bring disparate groups of people together to help develop those concepts inside the agency that could be a web developer and a copywriter that could be a designer and a strategist. It\'s typically two to three people from different parts, agency and they have a traditional creative brief and we give them them some time to start to turn on their ideas and we use cards to initially come up with what these ideas going to be, and then we all throw them out on the table, we start talking about them. And there happened to be one card sitting on a table, a week ago that literally turned out to be our copywriter in said Jen Marie said. Oh, it\'s the worst idea possible. It\'s X, Y and Z. and Cliff, you could see the light bulb turn. He\'s like that is definitely the worst idea ever. But it could be this. And it ended up becoming a concept that was pitched to the client two days ago, and they picked that concept. So I, the worst, best ideas are often the ones where it\'s celebrating and we do. I think some really interesting thing is to not only make sure that they\'re celebrated, but ensure that they potentially become something tangible because sometimes you can find really good ideas in bad places. DM: Yeah, …too often. So I think you can see the memes online all the time, of client expectations versus their budget kind of thing. How do you guys manage that? I\'m sure we have a lot of listeners that they manage their own clients that I\'m sure we all run into that problem to where client says I want this, this masterpiece build, but have a very small budget. Any tips on how you guys handle that to try to steer that conversation and always meet those expectations? MB: Sure, well, I think the first thing is that you have to be very transparent about what your expectation is an agency or a service provider is to your client, you have to say This is our expectation of the investment you\'re gonna make into our agency and we\'re very explicit about this, we have a number... A spend that we expect our clients to work with us for and we\'re trying to grow them, towards... If you can\'t make that number, you\'re not a fit for us because we have a very specific type of client that we\'re looking for. So I think it\'s about understanding you as the service provider, you as the business what is your ideal client and making sure that that client can meet those expectations. Now, that doesn\'t mean that things aren\'t gonna change in the relationship and that means that we as an agency do have to get creative about how we produce things, but that means we also have to be very transparent of what it takes to produce those things and I think that\'s where coupled with just the disasters that to cure the procurement team has done to the agency-client relationship, but we also, as an agency and as a client didn\'t do a good job of pulling back layers, and providing a little bit of an open promo of What does it cost for certain things to be produced. And so, I listen I can... We could spend all day on the procurement side of the conversation, so I\'m not gonna address that but what I can tell you is that the way that we have handled these sorts of situations when it comes to MS expectations and dollar value is simply to be as transparent as possible. It\'s one of our cultural touch stones. We try and be as transparent, we try and be completely transparent inside organization, we do the same for our clients, so we line item, here\'s why, and here\'s what drives those costs or Here\'s why the investment level is at the level that it is and if a client says listen while we only have this budget, we just have to get very aligned on Well what can we do within that budget? What are the things that can or cannot happen? There\'s no secret RESP... That making that success happen but what makes it easier? What makes the conversations abundantly less stressful is the transparency between the relationship of that client and your customer in this case our agency. DM: I think that\'s the philosophy of life. MB: This is true. This is true. This is very true. AS: We mentioned at the start that I got to see you speak, actually, not once, but twice, at Digital Summit LA. When did the speaking opportunities come into play for you? And is that something you enjoyed doing? MB: I love doing it. And I\'ve said for many years, that if I could afford to live on a teacher\'s salary, I would be a teacher. I love teaching, I love helping people get better at what they do because I was so abundantly lucky, the moment I was lucky from day one, my mom and dad moved to the United States in 1980, and then, promptly four years later had me so I\'m giving away my age at this point, but I I also I even I grew up in one of the greatest public school programs in the world, at was abundantly lucky enough and had parents that could help me go to college, at the University of Arizona and then just stumbled into a job opportunity with a guy, a little known guy at the time. name Jay Baer. And if you\'re not familiar with Jay one of the most well-respected marketers and maybe one of the best guys on the planet in our industry. Hay has written New York Times best-sellers, and just as an absolutely stellar human being. And I would not be where I am in my career and I think in life without the impact of him on my career. But that impact comes purely from a teaching perspective. If you worked for Jay. you understood one rule and that was... You were always a lifelong learner if you\'re not learning your diet. And I think he instilled that in every single one of his team members. And I just love that aspect and I just happened to always end up in a place where I had great leaders that were also teachers and so I take that very seriously and given the other path of me is that I love a very nice lifestyle. I know that I couldn\'t afford at the lifestyle that I enjoy on a teacher\'s salary, so I figure, Hey I can combine the best of those, both worlds by helping people get better at what I know best and also continuing to be able to afford that lifestyle. So the speaking thing really came out of this passion of loving the teaching aspects of the knowledge that I\'ve learned over the past 15 or so years and getting on stage, was just really by no fault of mine a happen-stance where Jay could not make a very small opportunity in Phoenix and just said, \"You should go talk to these people because I can\'t do it and... And you\'re really good at this stuff. So go, go do something on the stage. And I was like, \"Go do something on the state. What am I gonna talk about?” And that was 10 or 11 years ago, and I\'ve been doing it ever since and I just love being on stage and bringing a life, something that is, is equally entertaining, I hope and in forming at the same time. AS: Yeah, I have to give you credit. The reason I was in your email workshop is I\'m a content manager for an email marketing company and it was almost curiosity to the point of how someone gonna get people to sit through four hours of an email presentation, and you excelled the point that I wanted to come see another one of your presentation so I do have to give you compliments there … when you\'re planning for that long of a session, what goes into that planning of How am I gonna carry people\'s attention for this amount of time? MB: Yeah, this is a really structured process, so for me, when you\'re doing a workshop there a couple of key components and that is why does this matter? You always have to start. This is a very like Simon sent driven conversation. You always start with why, because if you don\'t give people a reason to sit there for four hours, they are not going to care. And let me tell you, literally the first thing that you could say that would be the worst possible thing is your own opinion, of why people should stay there. So I you have to back up that why with a global well-known resource or set of research that says this is why you should be spending time here. So the beginnings of that of any workshop for me are all ways setting up that why I then try and mix in. Usually here\'s everything that\'s wrong with what\'s happening with X thing, if you will, and I think you can start to see the pattern because you\'ve sat in that workshop. So start with the Y inject here\'s what\'s wrong, here\'s the problem, the challenge, that we\'re having and then here\'s my view. And here\'s why that new matters? And here\'s all the things you do to get to that view. This is not an unknown sort of framework. This is a very traditional TED-style framework, that\'s just stretched out. Thampson, Webster, who is another delightful, amazing speaker and also the former executive producer at TEDx Cambridge which is one of the most well-respected TEDx in the world. She talks a lot about this framework features of content on stages and it has everything to do with allowing people to understand why does this matter setting the problem of showing the problem than saying Here\'s the solution, and backing that solution up with Here\'s all the items that go with that solution. And so there\'s a very strategic framework to building out that workshop and I use it whether it\'s four hours long or whether it\'s something like that. You saw on your second session in LA, whether it\'s something that\'s 30 to 35 minutes long, yeah. AS: I don\'t know if you got to see a Fishkin’s keynote at the LA but the title is Four Horsemen of the Marketing Apocalypse in the first 20 minutes. Literally made you feel like... Alright, let\'s pack up everything and go home marketing dead, it\'s over, we\'re done exactly and then it\'s just like... But here\'s how you can survive and what\'s gonna be okay or how we got back. So just in terms of creating compelling content bring people in. You mentioned your mom\'s there for Mothers Day now, your entire session was lessons you\'ve learned from her and what other people can take from her where you\'re sitting down to create a session like that, and it\'s something so personal how you work that in. Did you talk to your mom about it? And I mean, just what\'s that ideation process like for you? MB: So I set this is an incredible question, I and I think you guys know the answer is already this comes from story. What makes compelling content is great stories, and I think too often we forget that fact, that is a fact. And I have always approached the work that I do on stage in that way, I try and source stories from my life and then build them into something, a framework, an idea and muddle around them and eventually, hopefully something percolates out of it. And by the way, there\'s been hundreds of ideas that I\'ve starting with stories, and I\'m like, \"Oh this is gonna be great this could be fantastic, I can see it coming to life and as soon as I get put some meat on the book that\'s like \"Oh that just falls flat. So, you\'re gonna throw away a lot of it. A lot of those stories that you start with or that you think are a germination for an idea that you bring to stage. But the mom idea, I think it\'s just something that works incredibly well, because it\'s relatable. My mom... My mom, not only brings the life lessons that provide this I think really nuanced framework to how we can think about customer experiences. But back it up with everything that she does, in life, and so it\'s a very honest, raw framework that she has that she has brought life in any number of life lessons through my life. But again, this comes back to this idea of what makes great content is great stories that serve that content. And so when I think about what\'s gonna come to stage regardless of whether it is a pitch we\'re doing for a client or whether it\'s something that I\'m gonna do in front of a marketing conference, it always starts with just thinking about things that are happening in my life and how that becomes relatable and then how can it be educational, and help people get a better grasp of what you\'re trying to say, or the point that you\'re trying to make and how it can impact the work that they do or the goal that they\'re trying to reach. AS: Yeah, when I first started creating content for benchmark and I\'m writing things like lessons from Game of Thrones or Mad Men, or all these things I definitely got different eye roles and I was like... No, that\'s... That spoonful of sugar that helps the lessons go down. And I mean you\'re using videos or your mom and I mean, teasing jokes and all those things that it certain what you\'re like. Oh, I\'m also learning something, I go. It’s almost surprise attack people with the education, but just like you said, doing the storytelling I\'ve... I think I managed to hone, that a little better. We just had a really fun Email Marketing Lessons from Star Wars, for May. The fourth. MB: Oh, I love that, I love that. AS: Yeah, I got to let my internet out quite a bit. It was about 7-000 words, MB: So it’s got some meat on the bones. AS: Yes, yeah, quite a bit. I was just like, \"Oh man, this one might have gotten away from me, but I\'m here for it. DM: Yeah, I so when it comes down to giving talks is email marketing, something that you normally give talks about or do you tend to vary the subject, depending on... On the different type of event? MB: It’s very by event. I focus solely on customer experience and email just because that\'s where my bread or butter is. Email is just something that\'s been in my life since the start of my career, and I\'m just a sponge for it. I love the tactic. I think it\'s one of the most underserved less respected least sexiest tactics that we have in our disposal, but it is one of the most impactful that we have, and I think for many, many years, it has been the one that people, the marketers have just gone about, and I worry, because it is an own a channel, that not only real people continue to be engaged in, but it drives an incredible ROI, when you are very strategic and thoughtful about the campaigns and strategy that you produce around that tactic for your customers and given the fact that we have the ability to integrate this, our data as organizations, our first party data and all these different tactics, we\'re doing from social and beyond, and content and understanding how we recognize existing and known users, that are coming back to our sites or apps and personalizing that experience. It all comes back to knowing who that individual is and behaviors of that individual is doing around and own piece of data like an email address. And I, over the last couple of years, we\'ve seen this renaissance happen and I just continue to be a huge, huge fan, and so, very often, in my day-to-day life, I\'m more concerned these days, with experience for the organizations and clients that we serve. So typically, I love to talk around those two core ideas experience and email DM: That’s great. So I think you hit something really important. We always tend to say that Your email list is your most valuable asset. Without that you can\'t really bring in sales you can, but it... It\'s one of the underserved most just forgotten about things. And I think it relates to as well, if we think about relationships, the new relationships are the exciting ones like, \"Oh a new sale, a new customer blah blah blah and then you kind of forget about all these other people that already purchased from you that maybe probably had a good experience that one single email can get a large percentage of those people to come back to the store experience new products and services. And I agree with you 100% that a lot of people tend to forget about that or they have it as the thing in their mind like let\'s say everything else up and then let\'s send out the email blast as they like to call it. Hate the word, blast anyway, and we talk it and we compare ourselves now a lot to social media, we tend to see that a lot of businesses do split their time between social media and email marketing. And one thing that we try to highlight here is that your social media list, your 20.000 Likes on Facebook, something happens to them tomorrow, they\'re gone. If you don\'t have that email is You don\'t really own that I\'m gonna say, \"Oh you don\'t really own the email list either the relationship is as far as the subscriber wants it to go if they describe that\'s it, but the power you have with that is, so underserved. And my question to you is, I guess, what do you see beyond that, the most valuable part of the email marketing that you think business is kind of put aside? MB: Oh man, I mean. Let\'s start with the topic that you just sort of chewed off there, which was on social. It just the connection to social itself, largely because we exactly as you said it, you\'re on rented land, when you\'re on social media, right, your likes, your followers, your those individuals that are falling, you across those profiles that\'s rented space. If they go away, they\'re gone now, I think we\'re all being a little bit blasphemous when we say that if they\'re gone, we\'re probably in an era where Facebook and the like, are not going away in a sort of a matter of moments, if you will, especially given just the pervasiveness at least Facebook by itself. I think in other social networks we could probably see that happen, but the connection to social is one of them. The value that you have when you have a relationship with a subscriber with a human being in their inbox and then the ability to connect the behaviors that they\'re doing inside that impact two things that you\'re doing within social is one big opportunity that I think that businesses don\'t understand. We\'re spending an inordinate amount of money on the ecosystem that is Facebook and Google\'s ad ecosystems, right? So Facebook\'s got Instagram app, the whole platform, WhatsApp, deepening that experience in the messenger and more of the private areas of Facebook and then under the ecosystem on Google, you have obviously all of their display media empire, the search Empire, all the retargeting empire Mentos. And he likes right? We can take the... Not only just if we have a relationship with that a subscriber and understand the impact of what they\'re doing or what they may not be doing with our email campaigns and then target them with very specific messaging in those two platforms based on those behaviors. We can also ensure that we are not marketing to people that are already our customers, right? So we\'re spending trillions of dollars a year, on marketing, new customer messaging to people that are already our customers when we could do a really good job of excluding them from those paid promotional messages because we have an understanding of who they are. So just the connection to social and email itself is just one area and of value. The next is just experience with your business and how you can personalize conversations with an individual, like a sales rep or you can customize a personalization aspects, on your digital property is like your app at or your website, right? By understanding and knowing that person is a logged in, logged out user or cookie-ing that you with some sort of tracking right? And then understanding the experience that you bring to life or a known subscriber, is going to be very different because you know the activities that they do in the behaviors that they take. So you can not only have the value from Social, you can also start to deliver an incredible experience with real-time face-to-face conversations with customers when you have that subscriber relationship and the digital experiences that you\'re creating for customers on your website, on your app or these experiences that you may be creating. So the value is so much more than just the relationship inside the inbox. It\'s also about all these different areas that we are seemingly trying to reach potential prospects, but also reach our current customers and make sure that, that conversation or that experience we\'re having with them is timely targeted and relevant and personalized for that individual. DM: I can totally see where you\'re the chosen one to give seminars and talks, and stuff like that. Your answers are complete. Wonderful... Good to hear. I agree, 100% and yeah, thank you for your support towards the email world and sharing that. AS: I was gonna say listening and being like, \"Oh we gotta pull some of these quotes and put a giant mega phone on top of the car Blues Brothers style and just drive around blasting them. But the good thing is, this is a podcast and everyone\'s gonna get to hear it anyways. DM: Something that you mentioned that, I\'m just kind of curious about changing gears completely. Keeping your paid customers your existing customers outside of some paid ads they may want. I know there\'s probably some specific ads especially, it\'s like a first time special like, Hey save 20%, off on your first purchase. You definitely wanna keep your existing customers out. But I\'ve read a lot from Amazon and some other marketing blogs that a lot of companies tend to show the same product, multiple times after the customer buys and that does encourage multiple buys or sharing of that product later on to friends and family. Do you have any experience on that or any take on that? MB: Yeah, I mean it is, it\'s purely I think especially from a sharing angle, I\'m not gonna say that I think the experience of re-targeting, for the sake of getting people to repeat purchase is something that we should be championing, because we are a society that is just driving they want of things and I\'m not a big proponent of that, so personally I would say I hope we\'re not doing that by driving things, but again, we have to run businesses, so I totally get it, and understand that it\'s a tactic that will provide value on this idea of sharing. I think that is an incredible insight. And I\'ve been reading some of those same articles and certainly something to me on is this, the power of word of mouth, and obviously Jay being my former boss and a guy who\'s written a book on this, right? It is second to none, it is the thing that is driving purchase right now. And so, yeah. Is it an interesting tactic to consider for how you drive board of mouth? I think yes, I just hope that we aren\'t making we are intentionally doing something to create that sharing mechanism to hit to create Tenali for that customer to share versus simply trying to drive them to repurchase \'cause I think there are much more smart ways we can be doing that without showing them the same ad that we should be showing to a net new customer. DM: That’s a gold nugget right there I agree, I hate it … I’m it\'s not gonna hate it but it just bothers me seeing the same the... So, that I purchased it makes me show it shows to me that that company was a little bit lazy with their marketing and their segments AS: I think is kind of the idea of the flywheel is almost been like jargon du jour lately, but as that\'s becoming people\'s more focus in terms of their marketing strategies, I think they\'ll learn what to do and not to do, from all of that and where the client is gonna get value from all of it. MB: Yeah and even worse, it not even what\'s hard is when you already are a customer seeing a product or service that you bought before and you do that eye roll motion of why am I seeing this ad? What is even worse is when it\'s a potential coupon or it\'s a promotion or something, and it\'s more than you got off potentially a couple of days ago, or a week ago, or six months ago, right? And we\'re so lazy that we can\'t even exclude customers, that literally just bought our product got less of a discount on that product and now you\'re showing them, if they just would have waited a week, they would have got potentially two times more of it. That those things... I\'m like how do we... How do we get that lazy that that\'s even a thing but it is... So just things that we have to tackle as marketers. DM: Yeah, I was at a conference where we were talking about AB testing pricing pages, and they were talking about the horror stories of pricing page that had huge totally different as something 50% different \'cause they were trying to test pricing out and customers that we\'re seeing both of them, because somebody screwed up in the ads and the email marketing. That is not a fun game for customer service will tell you that a... MB: No, it is not not at all. AS: Well, Michael, I really wanna thank you for spending some time and chat with us day liable marketing \"narain could probably to or up for hours but we won\'t. \'cause you\'re on the east coast, and it\'s Friday, so we just wanna give you a chance to let everyone know where they can find out more about Godfrey, and you yourself. MB: Well first I really appreciate the time and getting to spend a Friday afternoon with you two regardless of if it is Friday, afternoon and we\'re gonna go get drinks after this, but if anybody would like to say Hello, I\'m pretty much at MichaelJ. I am at MichaelJBarber. Pretty much everywhere online, so Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, you can find me by just using those URLS and then ending them with MichaelJBarber. AS: Awesome. If you\'re ever an event that he speak can\'t recommend going to see him enough. Thanks everyone for listening and thanks again to Michael for joining us bye guys.


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Working Five 2 One with Vaibhav Namburi

Working Five 2 One with Vaibhav Namburi

Beyond • May 10, 2019

We love a good story here on the Heart Of Business and Vaibhav Namburi is no difference. He left India for his education and found a career, starting a company, Five 2 One, dedicated to helping people make their dreams come true by creating apps and AI for businesses across the globe. They\'ve even worked with the UN!  This episode is packed with lessons Vaibhav has learned along the way and advice for others looking to pursue their own passions. It\'s one of those things where I\'m building stuff and I\'m like, \'Okay this is very hard. It\'s tough for me, I can\'t figure it out, blah, blah, blah.\' And then you\'re like, \'You know what? You said that the other day, you\'ll figure it out. Even if you don\'t, you will find the right people to help you figure it out.\' 00:00 Andy Shore: How are you doing today, Vaibhav? 00:02 Vaibhav Namburi: Mate, you got my name right. So, well done. I\'m doing bloody bloody well. How about yourself? 00:07 AS: I\'m doing great, thanks. I have to admit, I went to YouTube and watched a couple of videos of you saying it, so that I knew I would say it right? [laughter] I did my homework, and it paid off and I\'m glad. 00:18 VN: Well done. 00:19 AS: But for the listeners who haven\'t done their homework, maybe can you tell us a little bit about 521. 00:24 VN: Sure, for sure. Hey guys, my name is Vaibhav. I commonly go by V. We\'re a product studio-based in Sydney, do a lot of apps, products, and machine learning, and blockchain solutions for people. So we\'ve been lucky enough to work with the likes of the United Nations, with DeVry, PwC, KPMG, News Corp and the big ones and a couple of cool startups as well as global corporations. 00:55 Daniel Miller: Nice. 00:55 AS: And how did you wind up in Australia to begin with? 01:00 VN: Fair enough. I actually had a bit of a globetrotter story. So my dad works for a large corporate, so we moved around eight countries or seven. And I came to Australia about eight years ago, just to do my undergrad. And after that, just started working and ended up here because my sister was actually here before me. I was about to go to the States but then I decided to come here, which I guess paid off in its own way. 01:27 DM: Very nice. So, I\'m actually kind of curious, where did the name 521 come from? 01:35 VN: So, the 521 is originally named Five to One, to help people convert their 5 PM to 1 AM side hustle to their full-time hustle. 01:44 DM: Oh. 01:46 AS: That\'s actually perfect, \'cause when Daniel asked me, I started doing like the Dolly Parton like working Five to One, and that\'s exactly what it is. [laughter] 01:55 VN: You knew exactly what it is. 01:55 AS: So if you need that marketing video, you can have that idea. 01:58 VN: Buddy, thank you so much, I will definitely credit you for that. As anything later you tend to realize that people want to convert side hustles to full-time hustles. We don\'t have the money for it, so I was like, yep, I\'m just gonna stick to corporate. That\'s kind of where all the money comes in. So, happy days, the biggest hypocrite is me. 02:15 DM: Very nice. 02:16 AS: But you are helping people make their dreams come true, that\'s why we are here, I don\'t know how to do business, that\'s amazing. 02:22 VN: It\'s always fun working with the smaller companies, we worked with a couple of first-time founders as well. And it\'s really great seeing their ideas being converted to something on a story board, to something on a design pattern, to something as an app and eventually thousands of users using it. So it\'s always encouraging for ourselves to see people use our products, and more so believe in the founders who we once believed in too. 02:50 DM: That\'s awesome. What would you say is your favorite part of the process of working with a new client? 02:58 VN: I think the favorite part always comes into the first time we have them use the product that we\'ve built, whether that might be in the past two weeks or three weeks. And when they finally see, okay, all these things that we were talking about finally executed. Everyone stays in the idea and I want to do something phase for such a long time, that once that idea that, the thing is actually executed in their hands, they\'re like, Oh wow, this is real, right? This is happening and that\'s when they get super excited. You can see them shine and get really pumped up whether... Even it\'s an SME or if it\'s like a corporate, the second we see that happening and they see that this is in their hands, and they actually get to feel and touch their dream. It\'s always a great feeling and that\'s when you see that they get really pumped in, their marketing stars getting kicked off, they\'re like, Oh yeah, we finally have a cool product, it\'s not just us talking about a bunch of ideas over a couple of drinks. So that\'s always been the exciting path. 03:58 DM: Nice. 03:58 AS: Yeah, definitely, that it\'s great to be a part of people\'s growth process and having those [04:04] ____ awesome. 04:04 VN: For sure. 04:05 DM: Especially those who dream, you know. Like this is a dream that I have, I\'ll love to build this app or this piece of software and then being able to see that in your hands, it\'s going to be a good feeling. Yeah. 04:14 VN: Yeah, exactly. 04:16 AS: With the name of the company, it\'s built in, that you\'re helping people with those side hustles, and that\'s the founding of the company but you\'ve now got clients like PwC and Auto Trader and you\'re working with the UN. So what\'s that growth process like for you that led to being able to net those much bigger clients. 04:36 VN: I wanna say luck and I guess right time at the right place. I got on to this whole LinkedIn game about two and a half years ago when there\'s not a lot of people producing content. And honestly I started rambling crap online and some people actually liked the shit I was saying and coincidentally some of the people who liked what I was saying was like a senior HR manager at PwC. And then he reached out to me saying, Hey we\'re looking to have someone help us out with XYZ, do you and your team wanna come in and help us? And I was a small company at that time, I was like hell yeah, I\'ll do for free if you want me to. But luckily, I didn\'t do it for free, which is a good decision. [laughter] 05:21 VN: I basically met them that way and we did that project which was great. Auto Trader won honestly, I think it\'s kind of what you look at as a long-term sales cycle, right? I caught up with their CTO, who was a great friend Jeremy Gupta, he\'s doing his own thing right now. And it was honestly, I just caught up with him \'cause I wanted to meet people who were doing different things in their career. And when I mean different... It\'s a very broad word? It was... How did you start off doing bio-med science, and now you\'re a CTO of a company, right? That\'s literally was my LinkedIn query search. I wanted to find people with interesting career paths, people... It was more so an attestment to me, to give me confidence and saying that, \"Look, I started with a mechatronics background, and now I\'m in software, don\'t worry, it\'s going to be fine,\" right? 06:11 VN: And I messaged heaps of these people, I don\'t know how many. And Jeremy from Auto Trader was one of them. And he replied back, we caught up, honestly it was like six months in, before we even worked together. But that\'s where I... I talked to [06:26] ____, the person who introduced us about this a lot is, I call it the red button principle is basically be so good at one thing, that when someone\'s built something for you and they have a red button regardless of how much you charge and where in the world you are they trust you so much to be that one specialist that they will call you and have you press that red button, right? Because it\'s just as important. And with us it was the same thing, where we were really good in a couple of things and Jeremy was respectful of that, so he called us in, he\'s like, \"Look we\'re building this massive project Hav and we\'re derivative of Cox automotive in America were a massive company. Can you help us?\" And I was like, \"this is great\" \'cause this is gonna be one of our first few products that is actually gonna be televised in Australian TV. Like people are actually gonna watch ads for it, there\'s gonna be thousands of sign-ups, and that\'s how it happened, It was a long, I wanna call \'sales cycle\', but also at the same time, a genuine relationship that was built over non-agenda-driven coffees, I guess. 07:31 AS: Yeah, No, I think those are two incredible points that I really wanted to emphasize while you were talking about it because I was just at Digital Summit at Los Angeles last month and saw both Randi Zuckerberg and Rand Fishkin. 07:44 VN: Oh yeah. 07:45 AS: Neither one of them would recommend someone start a blog right now, because it\'s just such an oversaturated market. So for you to find a channel where you can more authentically connect with people, it just shows and proves that is effective in today\'s marketing landscape that if you\'re finding a way to connect with people and deliver something that\'s valuable to them, that that\'s really... It\'s gonna take you places, and you\'re a living example of that, that\'s great, but the other part is, I mean everyone at our company, here, always laughs at me because I\'ve got eight weddings a year to go to all over the country and I\'m always traveling and it\'s just Like, \"how do you have so many friends?\" But that\'s what happens when you just are kind to people and you make those genuine connections and if you keep talking base that, sure maybe something will pay off in the long run that you get to do for work, but it\'s those friendships that are gonna grow. I mean the reason we\'re talking today is your... One of your childhood friends who\'s... [chuckle] 08:41 AS: One of our favorite guests that we\'ve had emailed me like, \"Hey you have to talk to my buddy.\" [chuckle] 08:46 AS: That\'s what he said and he wasn\'t lying, but it was just that simple, being like, \"hey man... \" we had a good time talking to him. We had a good time promoting it afterwards together. An hour later he was just like, \"Hey let\'s talk to this guy.\" And I looked into you, and I was just like, \"Oh yeah, we definitely have to tell that story.\" [chuckle] 09:04 VN: [09:04] ____. Sorry, you were saying something. 09:07 DM: No, no, no, all I was gonna say is I think more people need to really look at what they love to do, and shine at doing that because... 09:16 AS: Yeah. 09:16 DM: That\'s how you meet cool people, that you\'re gonna get along with. I think there\'s a lot of people that just do things \'cause they think that that\'s what they\'re supposed to do and they end up with a group of friends they don\'t really care for and all that stuff. 09:27 VN: Yeah. 09:28 DM: Not to get too philosophical today. [chuckle] 09:31 VN: I wanted to add to that thing that you guys were talking about right before is be kind to people for the sake of it. I have shared this story multiple times, on linkedin, YouTube, etcetera, one of my biggest projects... One of the biggest ones we\'ve done actually came through, Honestly, just like you said, being nice to someone. I was at a friend\'s birthday at a club, and I was leaving my coat and there\'s a long line at the coat hanging place, and I was talking to this guy in front of me, he was talking to me about his job and what He does, etcetera, and it was so long ago, it was almost two years ago before I actually worked with that particular client. Turns out that this dude I was talking to at the coat hanging place was best friends with who was gonna be one of my biggest clients. And The nicest thing you wanna hear from a client who is a large project is for his best friend to say, \"Oh, V\'s actually a really nice guy. Out of a pure non-agenda basis. He was generally cool and we spoke and we talked about work and helping each other out.\" and it was one of the things where you try and test a few things right? When you\'re in marketing, you throw a few things methodically on a wall and you see what sticks and then you double down on that process, like the whole Sean Ellis growth hacking process, right? 10:53 VN: And I generally wasn\'t sure. Look, I\'m one of those dudes who... Heavily bullied in school, and I was super shy and you sort of need to step out of that shell and just talk to people sometimes without an agenda, sometimes with an agenda. And this was one of the cases where I always talk to the younger founders that I reach out to who reach out to me and I\'m like, \"look it\'s two minutes, you\'re standing there, you\'re not getting anything out of it. Just say a hi. You don\'t know what might happen.\" right? And this is like a living example where I, without again going too philosophical, is about you never know where opportunity stands and you never know where this person might work, it\'s people buy from people. You can tell me as much as you want that we\'re in the internet age, and it\'s all about online marketing and funnel optimization blah, blah, blah. But people buy from people. It\'s as simple as that, it\'s how it\'s been, it\'s how will always be. 11:44 AS: Yeah, I live in LA. The version of that we hear all the time is, you never know who\'s gonna be your boss on the next project. [laughter] 11:51 AS: So all the... [11:52] ____ podcast things I listen to, yeah, be nice to the PAs they might be directing a movie you\'re in next time. [laughter] 12:00 AS: That\'s the much more superficial version of that, but that applies to every industry is just like... The power of kindness, when you go in... When I came to my interview at benchmark the first person I interacted with was just at a desk setting up a computer, turns out that it was the CEO of the company, and I was truthfully kind to him. Not that I would have been anything else I\'d like to think, but you really never know who it is you talk to or what you said, What\'s serendipity it might lead to. So that\'s a really important lesson. I\'m glad we got a chance to hit on that. What else have you learned in this process in terms of growing and as you\'re working with bigger clients, what kind of challenges came with scaling as you had to learn to do that with a bigger client versus some of the Startups or people still looking for their funding and those sorts of things? 12:52 VN: Sure, I think the biggest challenge I\'ve faced in general I think everyone faces in business is, \"Am I doing this right? There\'s a constant battle between am I doing right, can I grow faster, what am I doing wrong? And it\'s right to have that certain level of pedanticness but at the same time it almost consumes you at sometimes. So it\'s just a learning lesson to realize that look, just people say this a million times and I\'ve said it and I\'m the biggest hypocrite saying that is, stop comparing someone\'s tomorrow with your today, is someone that you\'re seeing that you\'re following blah, blah, blah they have put in hours and hours and hours of work into this so stop getting concerned that you\'re not there yet, right? 13:36 DM: Yeah, correct. 13:36 VN: And the second thing is just learning that it\'s somethings are just unfair, somethings are just fair. And when we started working with the corporates I think or the larger companies I think when you put the word corporate, it becomes very... When we started working with larger companies who were... Who were testing innovation I think the... I wouldn\'t call it challenging is actually great working with them because they understood that working with a smaller company meant we get to be more nimble, we get to be more approachable, we get to try new ideas without having red tape attached to it and you know this is what I find interesting. Whenever I have a project within my own company and I wanna offer it to someone else, I tend to not go for bigger companies, I actually got the smaller ones \'cause to my opposition what I think is smaller guys, the small guys and girls they wanna prove a point which means they\'re gonna do 10 times the job to get that reputation up and going versus someone who\'s got a bit of reputation. Not like who has a reputation wouldn\'t do a good job. They obviously will that\'s why they have that, but it\'s always a chance of passing the baton on to someone who\'s trying to make it. 14:43 VN: So, I think that really helped us also shape ourselves is when we were working with the larger companies, the biggest challenge obviously is just understanding how they operate. They work so differently each company to its completely own self, they work very differently but in the end the promise that you have to sell to anyone or what you need to deliver is look, if I can deliver you a good nights rest, that\'s all you need to worry about and most of these people who are working in executive positions that\'s all they care about. They generally want to do good for their business and they wanna do good for their family and if you can offer both of that and do it in a way where you\'re like, \"Look you need to trust the process, you need to trust us, we do things a little differently mainly because we\'re working in emerging technology, we\'re working in Blockchain, you need to realize that this is not just another random web application that will just be built at it\'s predictable, right? 15:38 AS: Correct. 15:38 VN: These are things that are new and you need to trust us and the last part of that trust comes from them seeing us on LinkedIn or YouTube or Instagram, whatever other million ways I\'m trying to get ourselves pushed out there. They\'re like, cool there\'s familiarity and I understand you because you\'ve obviously spoken to X amount of people, I don\'t understand this arena but I\'m going to trust you and that trust is it takes sometime, I think Jeremy actually said this really well, he\'s like look, I think any relationship when it\'s a client service-based situation is much like a marriage, you\'re going to have a bit of tips and fight but both of you really wanna work together, you wanna make something great happen and you need to realize that any disagreement or any qualms is honestly strengthening the relationship further which was exactly the case with us and Auto Trader was it was not just cool, smooth story from start to end, it was like any relationship, you have some tough times but it\'s how do you react to that tough time that decides how this goes on and I think that was a great example of us. We worked with them for almost one year and we loved working with them, they loved working with us and it was purely for the fact that okay, we have a tough situation, let\'s not just run around and pull our hair which I don\'t have much of, but how do we go ahead and make something happen out of this? And that really, really helped us all. 17:11 DM: Yeah, trust is I think the most important thing of any relationship and once you gain that trust, the sky is the limit. A question for you in regards to... \'cause you not only do you work with big brands but you work on big ideas, big projects. 17:31 VN: Yeah. 17:32 DM: What are some of the... I guess, what\'s some of the secret sauce there on tackling a big challenge especially when it\'s things with artificial intelligence, Blockchain, what are some of the things that you guys go through or I guess... What\'s the word that I\'m looking for? Not strategies but I guess, how do you guys tackle those big ideas? 17:55 VN: Now, you\'ve raised a very good point. It\'s about how do you stay on top and I think the easiest way to answer it is by being a little loose in the head. I came back home at 1:00 o\'clock in the morning and I wanted to do machine learning algorithms it\'s... But honestly I wish I had an answer that didn\'t sound for lack of better words cocky or whatever it\'s generally that. I\'m a nerd, I like building cool stuff, you guys understand this as well right? You are doing excellent things in your business because you are trying to push the forefront of delivery and making cool things happen, it\'s that obsession that you have and I think it starts from the top. My team have always forced me to take a vacation \'cause they consider that okay look, we get that you work hard but if you get sick, then there\'s no money coming in, so do it and chill. But I think it\'s just, it dives back to that story. I actually have a tattoo on my arm, it\'s a bull and I keep telling people that I got this tattoo \'cause it\'s Taurus blah, blah, blah but the reason I actually got it was because I got that at the time where I was like, \"Cool. I\'m gonna put this at the time stamp and every time I look at it, I will want to be like \"Cool, I need to run, I need to go fast because I don\'t wanna be where I was when I got that tattoo.\" It\'s as simple as that and it doesn\'t work that much when it\'s winter \'cause I\'m wearing long sleeves clothes but. 19:21 VN: But the principle is basically that the way we stay and solve big ideas and solve big problems because you face 10 times the challenges when you\'re sitting at the edge of the cube, is understanding that it\'s a very frustrating role and embracing that and realizing that... It\'s one of those things, right? And I\'m pretty sure you guys have both faced this. You\'ve both have faced times in your life where you\'re like, \"Oh shit, this is hard. I can\'t handle this break up. I don\'t know how I\'m gonna do this.\" or someone\'s unfortunately not feeling well or, \"I\'ve broken my leg and I can\'t be a football player anymore.\" But then you moved past that and you\'re here. You two are doing really well right now and you\'re achieving something you wanna achieve. And it\'s just that mindset, you\'re like, \"Okay, back then I thought that was the end of the world but here I am.\" Right? So... 20:09 DM: What\'s that saying? In the end it will all be alright. If it\'s not alright, it\'s \'cause it\'s not the end. 20:14 VN: Exactly right. And it\'s one of those things where if you sort of stumble upon these things that you\'re like, \"Oh yeah, it\'s a cliche because it\'s true.\" Right? So it\'s one of those things where I\'m building stuff and I\'m like, \"Okay this is very hard. It\'s tough for me, I can\'t figure it out, blah, blah, blah.\" And then you\'re like, \"You know what? You said that the other day, you\'ll figure it out. Even if you don\'t, you will find the right people to help you figure it out.\" I think one thing that we all appreciate within our team is we understand that we\'re not the smartest but we strive to be the dumbest in that we want to surround ourselves with the smartest people. That\'s when you\'re doing a good job. When you\'re the smartest it\'s always value down, but when you\'re the dumbest in the room it\'s always value up, right? 20:56 AS: Definitely. Yeah, I love that. I\'ve told the story on the podcast before, but I remember at Coachella a few years ago, it\'s when they did the Tupac hologram on stage and I\'m standing in the middle of this field with 70,000 other people and I\'m thinking about how I\'m gonna turn that into a story to write for our weekly newsletter the next day. 21:16 VN: Exactly. 21:17 AS: And making it about an email marketing lesson. And it just happened with a guest blog I did. They were like... It was about email and event marketing and they had wine and cheese in the graphic, but they hadn\'t written anything about wine and cheese in the post. So they\'re like 10 points if you can somehow work wine and cheese into this [laughter] or if you\'re writing about is email and event marketing. I was just like, \"Oh I can turn anything into email marketing, that\'s just how my noggin works now. 21:42 VN: That\'s it. That\'s it. 21:44 AS: Talking about having that tattoo to remind you of that time that you needed the lesson. Daniel was just working with our offices in India, and did come back sporting some beautiful art on his forearm for a very similar reason. 21:58 DM: Very similar actually, I got Lord Shiva on my forearm. 22:02 VN: Oh yeah? Nice, nice, that\'s awesome, that\'s awesome. It\'s just one of the things, right? Once you\'re in it, you\'re switched on. Like you always see like, cool opportunity, everywhere opportunity. I talk to my friends and client services is tough. It\'s very hard, \'cause what\'s your value prop? Everyone\'s doing the same thing, how do you stand out? And that\'s okay. You\'re right, it is very difficult. But then there\'s two ways to look at it. You can look at a 15-year-old killing it in life and be like, \"Shit, it\'s late.\" or you can look at 15-year-old and who\'s killing it and you\'re like, \"Hell, yeah, I wanna be like them and I\'m pumped by it.\" So you can... I look at the skyline at Sydney every day and I see all these big companies I\'m like, \"One day, one day, one day I\'m gonna knock on their office. One day I\'m gonna knock on their office.\" And that\'s just... It\'s some days you\'re like, \"This is... I can\'t.\" I don\'t know about you guys, but I\'ve spoken to a lot of people, I was like, \"I have a magic number and I\'ve kept a book.\" Every single time I wanted to quit in the first year, and I think it was 45. Like 45 times where I was like, \"You know what? Tell the other team I\'m done. I\'m out of this. I\'ll pay you guys off. I\'m just frustrated, right? I\'m out of here.\" But every single time you look at that book, it\'s one of the things like, \"Okay, remember the time you said you\'re done but now you\'re back here? 23:17 AS: Yeah. 23:18 VN: And you just keep pushing. 23:20 DM: That\'s really cool, that is really cool. There\'s this book called Non-Violent Communication. I highly recommend it to everybody. 23:26 VN: Oh yeah. Please. 23:28 DM: And in that book he talks exactly about kind of what you\'re saying. Like don\'t be jealous of anyone else, be happy for them and have that inspire you to keep going for yourself. And I think I really like that idea of keeping a tally of all the times that you wanted to quit to look back at them like, \"Remember that day. Remember how foolish that would have been.\" That\'s pretty cool. 23:51 VN: Yeah, exactly. 23:55 DM: You work with artificial intelligence and Blockchain. I think a lot of people... I mean, it\'s somewhat new, I guess, for the mainstream. 24:04 AS: It\'s a buzzword. 24:05 DM: Yeah. It\'s a buzzword, that\'s what it is. 24:06 VN: It is, it is, it is, huge buzzwords. 24:08 DM: What I wanna ask you is, what is artificial intelligence for you? 24:13 AS: Awesome, that is a beautiful question. Artificial intelligence to me, is something a bunch of IT geeks came up with to over-charge clients. [laughter] 24:21 DM: I love that answer. 24:23 VN: It is basically that. I read this great article, I\'ll actually share with you guys in an email. And I think I loved what she said. She was I think a data scientist, a massive data scientist at Google and she used the word anthropomorphizing. So I actually had it in front of me \'cause I can\'t... What it basically means \'cause I Googled is making something sound Godly when it\'s actually not. So AI to me is simple. It\'s mimicking human beings, it\'s mimicking decision patterns that human beings would take. Which is what? When I look at something, I go through a recognition pattern. I\'m like, \"Okay, where did I see this before? And what was it when I first saw it? When I first saw it I didn\'t know what it was. Then I was told what it was and now I know what it is, right?\" And it\'s as simple as that. It\'s when you show an algorithm or whatever you call it, a bunch of functions, here is the image, tell me what it is. First it doesn\'t know what it is, then it goes back, and this is the whole word people use training models, right? Then it goes ahead and understands what it kind of is. And then the next time you show it it\'s like, \"Oh yeah, I saw this. You told me what it was. So this is what it actually is.\" And it\'s just that going back, failing, repeating and then realizing this is actually what it is the next time you actually show it. 25:46 VN: That\'s all AI and machine learning is. It\'s telling a function that what it predicted was wrong, so please go back and understand the variables that you used to make this prediction and change the variables around until you get it right. It\'s like almost teaching a function to punish itself until it actually gets it right. [laughter] 26:06 AS: Interesting lesson. 26:07 VN: That\'s basically what it is. It\'s... It is a little hard. Don\'t get me wrong. I find it hard as well. It\'s a very deep topic, but removing the complexity at us, when you actually talk to clients, it\'s like, \"Oh, what is this MLAI, like robots taking over the world?\" In all fairness, it\'s as simple as that is you show them something, they don\'t know what it is, then show it again, and because they remember it from memory, they\'re like, \"Oh yeah, this is what it was. Is that it?\" And you\'re like, \"Yeah, you\'re right. You got it correct.\" And sometimes you get it wrong and you tell it and it punishes itself until it gets it right. 26:40 AS: That\'s cool. Do you ever face an issue when you\'re talking with clients, I mean, sometimes when you\'re with a young, hungry startup, I\'m sure they\'re more familiar with it, but sometimes you face kind of that old guard that is more scared or doesn\'t understand it. Is there a pushback in that when you kind of face those people or do you find them becoming more learning to adapt and accept what\'s coming and especially when you\'re able to break it down and explain it as clearly as you can? 27:07 VN: Yeah. It\'s always... I think people are inclined to familiarity. People love comfort zones. Like it or not, I love comfort zones, but only those... When you\'re growing like, \"Yeah, you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.\" That\'s where you start. We need to get into that mindset, but obviously bigger people don\'t care about that. I think in the end, if you stop selling it in a way that you understand it and you start selling it in a way that they understand it, that\'s all that matters. There\'s always a resistance in any adaptation of a new tool, so if you start telling them, \"Look, if you use this product, genuinely it will make your life easier. This is not about me. Let\'s talk about you. What are the problems you\'re facing right now? What are the issues that is costing you money? How can you do more by doing less?\" That\'s the dream, right? How can you do more by doing less? And this is a solution. Sometimes it\'s not the right solution, so let\'s not do it. Let\'s not just work together for the sake of working together, but sometimes let us actually work together for doing more with less. And it\'s not always a perfect hit, but majority of the time, people actually understand that. If you walk them through the issues that they\'re facing. Do you guys watch Friends, the TV show? 28:26 DM: Yeah. 28:28 VN: Oh, thank God. We\'re best friends now. I love that show and I grew up on that. It\'s basically my depression fix. And you remember that episode where Joey\'s at the gala and he buys a yacht? 28:40 AS: Yes, with Kevin. 28:42 VN: Yeah, and then Rachel\'s kinda like send it off him and she\'s selling it to the second highest bidder, it\'s a great topic on sales and marketing. Rachel never once sold the concept to that dude about how great the actual yacht is. All she did was, she\'s like, \"Envision a picture where you and your wife are traveling on the yacht and then there\'s the wind hitting the hair,\" the little hair that he had, and she sold the dream to him. She sold what it was solving for him. She never showed features. She sold solutions, right? And I think a lot of people get drawn in the fact that, \"Oh cool, look at these 50 features we have.\" No, the client does not care about 50 features, they care about feature number four. Just sell feature number four, and that\'s where what you guys do, which is email prospecting and understanding what clients actually care about and diving really deep on that one thing really makes a difference, which is why, you know, my newfound respect for marketing and marketers over the past two years has honestly just exploded and I\'m learning a lot about it and I\'m trying to learn more and more because what you guys do is have the super power of understanding psychology as skill. And that is just incredible. Some of the things that I learn when I talk to marketers and how they understand people, it\'s incredible. 30:08 DM: For me it\'s been... So I studied Computer Science in college and then halfway through I switched to a Art major. 30:18 VN: Oh, awesome. 30:19 DM: It almost killed me. [chuckle] 30:21 DM: Now the job that I have, I\'m no coder but I understand how to speak to coders, and the artistic side helps me with marketing. So for me, I think it was the best combo that I coulda had because I am able to see the perspective and I\'m curious. I\'m very, very hungry for like, \"What happens if we change this? What\'s the power of this one word?\" And yeah, I just love it. But I think Seth Godin said, going back to what you were saying, a guy going to a hardware store for a drill bit doesn\'t want a drill. He wants a hole in the wall and he doesn\'t want a hole in the wall, he wants a shelf. He doesn\'t want a shelf, he just wants his damn books to be organized. That\'s all he really wants. So understanding that in marketing and being able to tell a story that will relate to that person, that\'s the whole power of it all. 31:18 VN: Perfectly said. It\'s selling that dream, right? This is marketing, correct, the new one, the orange colored book? 31:26 DM: That one, yeah. Yeah, that one. 31:28 AS: I read that through all. [31:34] ____ dream big, has hardware ever stopped a project for you, meaning hardware just wasn\'t there for you to be able to do something? It looks like the battery life or speed or... 31:46 VN: Sure, sure. There\'s always limitations. You always need to work with the bounds of what you have, right? If we didn\'t have that, that would be great. We worked with the United Nations in Devry to solve a big problem for our schools in Tunisia, and it was about delivery of food to people in an efficient way using blockchain for tracking products, etcetera, etcetera. And a large issue that we had over there was the drivers or the people who would move product from one place to the other would not actually have the technology or the phones. We have modern 3G or 4G, but they don\'t have that over there. So yeah, it was an absolute limitation. We\'re like, \"Okay, how do we... 32:28 VN: I have engineering teams and engineers over here with full-scale internet and fast computers. We\'re billing for the modern age, but how do we now scale back and build for people who might still be in the early 2000s or late \'90s. And that\'s where you start really stressed, you start stretching your engineering team and your mindset. This is when you start being like \"Okay how do we be true problem solvers? How do we solve for the client?\" And we\'ve faced that. We definitely faced that and solutions that we came up with was like, \"Okay, we will start doing... An easy way of put-through is [33:04] ____ We\'ll go ahead and basically batch up requests that a user has made when they\'re offline, and the second they get online or get a hint of data, we\'ll just start dispatching these pockets of data to our servers, so they catch on to it. But in today\'s day and age, you\'re like, \"Oh, you\'re pretty much always online. And if you\'re not online, then you can\'t even do anything.\" 33:28 VN: So I was coming up with these cool little things and even so, that\'s where it gets even more fun. If you\'re just doing normal products every day, it tends to be, \"It\'s alright, it\'s great. We made money. Hurrah.\" But how do we go home and be like, \"Oh, you know what we did today? We built something that actually works completely offline and the user thinks it\'s offline, but the second they get online, everything just goes back in.\" And it sounds so easy, and maybe 100 people have done it before, but the fact that you get to do it again, but yourself, gets you even more excited. So, there\'s always limitations in hardware, even when we\'re doing with machine learning algorithms and we\'re trying to train models. We\'re trying to do stuff on... Just FYI, when people say they\'re training models, it\'s just syntax where we got it wrong, and we\'re trying to do it again. [chuckle] That\'s basically all it stands for. 34:20 AS: The positive spin. 34:22 VN: Yeah, yeah the positive spin. It\'s like, when the engineer comes to you and like, \"Hey boss, I\'m re-training the model right now. It\'s not... It\'s basically... Dude, I screwed up. I\'m just gonna do it again and again and again until I figure it out.\" And when you humanize it, it makes it sound cooler. I think Devs are really cool, including myself, are really good at creating black boxes and mystiques around people. I love marketing for the same reason as well. When I didn\'t know much about it, I\'d always go to the marketing team, I\'m like, \"Yeah, so how\'s the QPC and the FPAs and the ABCs and the ZYTs going?\" \'Cause you guys talk a lot in acronyms, right? Yeah, there\'s limitations, but you just need to work around it and if you can\'t work around it, you always need to be very upfront with the client or the customer to let them know that, \"Look, this is not there, we\'re not Google, we don\'t have Google level resources, but we work with what we have, and we build for the future.\" 35:26 AS: Yeah, just talking about working within your limitations and how to adapt to that, I wanna circle back to something you were talking about before, \'cause I think it\'s a really important lesson for our listeners in terms of... You said you like working with the younger company. A lot of times they\'re hungrier, they\'re more passionate. I\'m like, \"Just \'cause someone\'s young or doesn\'t have... Hasn\'t worked with those bigger clients.\" That talent is out there. We\'ve hired freelancers, through Fiverr or Upwork or those sites. And we talked to one guy who were talking about maybe developing a site for Benchmark, who I ended up recommending to another client that I do consulting with. And he\'s now gonna be the CTO of their company because... [laughter] 36:08 VN: Awesome. 36:08 AS: [36:08] ____ We were living up in Alaska and the first conversation that I had with him, I was like, \"I don\'t even know if this guy knows how good and talented he is.\" 36:17 VN: Awesome. 36:18 AS: But I see that and other people see it too. And I think that\'s so important, in like you\'ve kind of approached in two different ways, in this conversation so far, is just, it\'s okay to have the limitations of where you\'re at, whether you\'re a start-up, whether it\'s resources, or the time or the technology. But it\'s adapting and overcoming and finding the tools out there. We have a global marketplace now, where you can find talent and work remotely and do those things that... I just want to hammer that home because I\'ve been thinking you did a really good job of sharing that with people that, just \'cause someone\'s young, they\'re passionate. The passion is there. That\'s oftentimes more exciting \'cause you don\'t get those jaded people that... They\'ve seen it all and don\'t think anything will work, that it\'s a great lesson for people trying to grow those businesses, pursue their passions, is, find the young hungry talent out there. Just \'cause it\'s expensive, doesn\'t always mean it\'s the best and it [37:10] ____ learn to adapt to those limitations. 37:13 VN: Absolutely. I think... Who said this really well? I think Jack Ma said it really well. It\'s one of the many things he\'s... He\'s spoken about it in his conference was, \"When you\'re young, when you\'re in your 20s, work for yourself. Sorry. When you\'re in your 20s, work for a start-up or a big place where you understand process, etc. When you\'re in your 30s, maybe start working for yourself and try figuring things out. When you\'re in your 40s, hire the right people. And then, when you\'re in your 50s, start working for young people because they have the energy, and they have the drive to actually... \" And it\'s so true. I\'m growing old as well, and I realized that soon enough, I start saying, I\'m with friends, I\'m like, \"Oh, he\'s 24, he\'s really young.\" I was like, \"Oh, wait. He\'s young. I\'m old. Never mind.\" [laughter] 38:04 VN: Some people think 24 is old so whoops, I\'ve crossed that part. But it\'s one of those things where, I think you need to embrace your limitations and that\'s the best part, is when you embrace your limitation and you realize, \"I\'m not gonna do everything.\" is when you become really good at resourcing. One of my friends said this really well, \"A CEO is nothing but a great resourcer. You give them a problem to find someone better than them and you to get it done.\" And that\'s what you have to be. A great resourcer is, how do we have budget, how do we find the right people and how the hell do we make this happen. 38:38 AS: Yeah, good point. Absolutely. Well, Vaibhav, I know it\'s the middle of the night for you, so we don\'t wanna keep you too much longer. Before we give you a chance to say the plugs and everything. I do wanna recommend Schitt\'s Creek and Freaks and Geeks, both on Netflix. Those are my pick-me-up shows lately. 38:54 VN: Oh, yeah? Okay. 38:55 DM: They\'re so good. 38:56 AS: They\'re both [38:57] ____ and have just an incredible sweetness to them, too. They\'re just [39:00] ____ so uplifting and nice that they balance those both so well. That [39:05] ____ friends, too. But those are my two more recent ones. It\'s like doing yoga for me, it just sets [39:10] ____ makes me okay. 39:13 DM: I wish they had more seasons of Freaks and Geeks. I cannot believe that there are only... 39:17 AS: There\'s five of Schitt\'s Creek, though. There\'s four on Netflix, a new one will be there soon. I actually just got to see them do a live panel in Austin and it was so fun to see a whole sold-out crowd get excited about Schitt\'s Creek but they\'re both great. Highly recommend those two. 39:31 VN: Awesome. I am gonna watch them. Perfectly, perfectly well said. Thank you, sir. I don\'t think the... [overlapping conversation] 39:38 VN: Sorry, go ahead... No, I was gonna say Australian Netflix is kind of sad. It doesn\'t have a lot of the cool shows that American one has but we\'re in live podcast. I\'m not gonna use words that might put me in trouble. [laughter] 39:53 AS: Did you have any last questions before we go? 39:55 VN: No, this has been a great conversation. Thank you very much... 39:58 AS: Yeah. We appreciate you staying up late and talking to us. Before we say goodbye, let everyone know where they can find out more about 521. 40:06 VN: Absolutely, thank you. Firstly, thank you guys so much. I really, really appreciate the time that you\'ve taken to talk to me. And to [40:12] ____ as well. He\'s an amazing character. Finding me, I think the best place... Nowadays I\'m really active on LinkedIn. It\'s my first name and last name, which is... God bless you if you can figure it out, Vaibhav Namburi. It\'s a shiny bald head, brown dude guy. You\'ll most likely see me at the top search, which is great. And the other places, 521.com.au. Which is, what I\'ve learned, is an SEO nightmare. F-I-V-E, the word, the number two, and the word O-N-E.com.au. If you\'re looking to develop a product, if you\'re looking to talk about machine learning or you just want to chat, like talking to these great guys. I love hearing other people\'s stories. Get in touch. 40:56 AS: Awesome, thanks again, Vaibhav. Thanks everyone for listening and we\'ll catch you guys next time. Take care. 41:02 DM: See you later. 41:02 VN: Thank you. See ya.


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We Hosted Rodney Couch the CEO & Founder of Preferred Hospitality, Inc.

We Hosted Rodney Couch the CEO & Founder of Preferred Hospitality, Inc.

Beyond • February 8, 2019

Rodney Couch doesn\'t just have the typical story of going from the dishwasher in a restaurant to running the whole place. He worked his way from the ground up and found a way to do things differently in the service industry. Now, with transparency on their side, his company Provider is disrupting the contract foodservice industry. Trust is not something easily earned in the environment that we currently live in. Profit is not a bad word, but it does and can be abused by vendors and contractors. People are very suspect. That\'s one of the core initiatives that I have when dealing with customers. We need to earn their trust and that doesn\'t happen overnight. It can happen, and when it does happen, you find yourself in a very collaborative relationship. If you prefer to read, the transcript is posted below: 00:14 Andy Shore: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Heart of Business. I\'m Andy Shore, here, as always, is my trusted co-host, Daniel Miller. 00:19 Daniel Miller: Hello everybody. 00:20 AS: And we have an awesome guest for you today. His name is Rodney Couch, and he is the founder and CEO of several restaurants, contract food service, all sorts of stuff. We did it during our lunch break and I know I was ready to go eat afterwards. We sampled some of their restaurants and they\'re quite good. 00:42 DM: Very, very good. 00:43 AS: And he\'s got a great story and they\'re doing some fun stuff and disrupting the industry. So, we were excited to talk to him. Before we get started, I wanna remind everybody about the Benchmark Starter Plan. For up to 2,000 of your contacts, you do your email marketing totally free, let you get started, start sending those first emails, start building those relationships with those subscribers. Check it out, benchmarkemail.com. Let\'s get rolling. 01:06 AS: So, how you doing today, Rodney? 01:08 Rodney Couch: I\'m great, thank you. And yourself? 01:10 AS: Oh, we\'re doing good, doing good. We\'re recording on a Friday, and happy that that\'s finally here, it\'s been a long week. But we\'ve got you here and we\'re excited to talk to you and hear more about everything you do. So, you\'re the CEO and founder of Preferred Hospitality, can you tell us a little bit about that company? 01:30 RC: Sure, yeah. We started our business back in 1989 with the seafood restaurant called Market Broiler and developed a number of those retail brands across the State of California. We\'ve also started a contract food service division, where we\'ve been serving other clients in mostly the educational sector, with some government and schools and others. And so, that business has grown over the years. And then we also have a chain, or involved in a chain of restaurants called Blue Water Grill where I\'m a general partner and we have eight restaurants throughout Southern California under that brand, mostly at water locations. 02:24 AS: Very cool. And where did you get started in the food service industry? [chuckle] 02:29 RC: Well, I started at the ripe old age of 15 and a half. Back in those days you could get a motorcycle license and get a permit at school that would allow you to work. And so, I took my first job as a dishwasher at a group called Lord Charlies, which was part of the C&C organization. And I really enjoyed working in the restaurant environment, it was much like in athletics, very much a team style environment, and so it just stuck. I stayed in the restaurant business my entire career. 03:14 DM: That\'s great. What do you think are some of the best qualities that one can get from working in the restaurant industry? 03:23 RC: Well, it\'s one of those things that you don\'t get taught in school. In today\'s public school system, most of what you learn is through reading and memorization. And actually in the work environment, particularly in restaurants, what you learn is team or collaboration in solving problems and working together. And that\'s something that, I think, most athletes enjoy. There\'s no one in team, there\'s just the group as a whole that participates to achieve high-end results. And as a leader, that\'s mostly what we do as leaders is organize teams to strategize to best deliver a customer experience, and not something that one person can do in a restaurant or a contract food service environment. We really need to operate with team to get results. 04:28 DM: I worked myself in the restaurant business for many years, and when I first got started at a very young age I never really thought what I could really learn from this and how that can help me later on in life. Going in there I\'m like, \"Oh, I got this job and I gotta wash dishes and clean floors and serve people.\" But like you say, the valuable lessons that that can teach you to work in a team, to be efficient, customer first, there\'s no other place that the customer is first more like in the restaurant business. You screw something up there, they\'re coming to your place to have an experience. So, yeah, I value a lot of what you say about... There\'s a lot of team building in the restaurant business itself. 05:15 RC: I read a restaurant staff from the Restaurant Association that reported that over 50% of the citizens in this country have worked in a restaurant at one point in time or another. And I think that really bodes well for the hospitality that is important in every business. Customer service is essential no matter what type of business you\'re in. I think most of us cut our teeth in the restaurant business, which is the epitome of the intimate fellowship with other people. Sharing a meal is something that we\'ve been doing as Americans for a long time. 05:54 AS: Yeah, absolutely, as people continue to get lost in their phones, that opportunity for social interaction and learning those skills is important. But in prepping for the episode and doing some research, what about that experience you had gained, made you believe that it was possible to go out on your own? 06:14 RC: C&C Organization was where I first cut my teeth, and I was in [06:21] ____. But I went on from there and worked for a number of other restaurant groups, including Red Baron and Taco Bell, a couple others, but I did work for a company called Seafood Broiler, where right out of high school, I was hired in the... And we grew that restaurant group from six restaurants when I joined, to, I think, 32, and that\'s the company that in fact, we did sell to Red Lobster. And during that time... You know, I mean I love my job, I was recognized as one of the the best leaders in the organization, and never thought twice about changing companies or moving on. 07:09 RC: But when the company decided to sell, ACCOR sold to Red Lobster, and it was kind of a turning point for me, where either I could, A, start over and prove myself to the new management team that was operating the restaurants, or it was an opportunity to start fresh and not face that threat again of having somebody buy out the group. And so, the decision was quite clear at the time and so I started looking for opportunities to open my first restaurant, drew up a business plan, raised the capital, and what can I say, that the rest is history. I was fortunate enough that the first restaurant I opened was a success, and that was in October 19th of 1989 and that restaurant is still successful to this day. 08:08 DM: Yeah, that\'s amazing. So just to kind of get a timeframe, that was right around 1988 or so? 08:20 RC: It was October of 1989. October 19th, 1989 was our first day of operations at Market Broiler in Riverside. 08:28 DM: Very interesting. And out of curiosity, has much changed in regards to how you define and set up a location for a restaurant, its menu? For some of our listeners here, that may be wanting to open a restaurant, what\'s been some of the changes from when you\'ve done that, to now, of what it really takes to start a restaurant? 08:57 RC: That\'s funny that you ask that question. A lot\'s changed. 09:02 AS: I\'m sure. 09:02 RC: Simultaneously, some things never change. What doesn\'t change is the value proposition of what a restaurant offers. The ambience, the quality of the food, the service, the cleanliness of the restaurant, the entire value proposition. When it gets to the point of reaching an art, and that\'s when the culinary experience is at its best. People know a great value when they see it. And they through word-of-mouth, flock to a restaurant that provides those things. And typically my experience has been, is when you do a good job, there\'s typically a margin there. 09:54 RC: On the other hand, what\'s changed is the economy of restaurants. And I think the biggest change that I\'ve seen in my career is the moving away of full service, or full service casual restaurants or full service restaurants at large and the shrinking of that marketplace, and the movement towards fast casual restaurants, and the reason is, one is price, it\'s a lot less expensive to operate and the prices at fast casual restaurants that don\'t have full service is more of a value. But second, the hurrying of America, everybody is so busy. The convenience of getting better quality food than you would get in fast food in these fast casual restaurants has really caused an explosion in America of these type of restaurants. 10:57 AS: Yeah. And you\'d add in the Uber Eats and all that, that you can get it delivered to your house while you\'re driving on the way home, it\'s nuts, it really changes the dynamic of the customer and the restaurant experience. 11:11 DM: Yeah, what advice could you give on staying on top of those trends, as Yelp comes into the fold and social media, and all that stuff that plays a role in any businesses, but especially in the food service industry? 11:25 RC: Without speaking to it specifically, I would say that any leader needs to be looking at organizational change as something that they have to accept and adopt. Every organization is constantly changing and the restaurant industry is no exception to that. You have to adopt changes and stay relevant, and if you don\'t, you\'re out of business. 11:55 DM: Yeah, absolutely. And I wanna kinda shift gears a little bit and talk more about provider, \'cause in our research and heard a little bit about what you guys are doing there. I mean, my experience in college, I remember my parents buying me a food plan and going to the cafeteria and they\'d get no refund at the end of the year if I didn\'t use all of the plan. So we\'ve been going to the convenience store that you can use your meal plan for and loading up on cases of water and Gatorade and snacks, and all sorts of things. And there is a McDonald\'s you could use it for that would just be treating friends to food because like I said, it wasn\'t going back to my parents or anything, or who knows where that money was going? And what you guys are doing with your contract food service operation sounds like it\'s looking to change all that. 12:52 RC: Yeah. The Contract Food Service Division was something that I tripped into, if you will. I was a member of the board of directors of a large church in the Riverside market, and there was a movement in the mega church movement to incorporate food service. And so my pastor asked me, \"Hey would you consider running the food service operation here and leading it?\" My first response was, \"No, that\'s not why I go to church, to work. I go to church to worship.\" But after I thought about it, I was really convicted. If not you Rodney, then who? And so I decided that I would lead the charge, and that... But it was important to me to memorialize the contractual agreement in which we were more of a steward over the program as opposed to a contractor. And you might think that that\'s a subtle difference, but to me it\'s not subtle at all. I don\'t think that universities or businesses should be bifurcating the responsibility and letting a contractor determine food prices, food quality, service, operating hours, all of those things that are important; aesthetics, to a well-run food service operation. 14:29 RC: So what I did that was a little bit disruptive is I organized a contract where in collaboration with the leader of this particular church, we, together chose and decided on, what was best practices for that particular business? And things worked out fairly well. We were earning a fee for doing what we know how to do, which is to, well, run restaurants. And the clients that we were serving were getting first class, best of breed restaurant practices. And so, that morphed into a collegiate account called Cal Baptist University, and we were brought on to alter the trajectory of the current food service that was operated by one of the big contract food service companies in America, Sodexo. And so they hired us and I basically deployed the same model for them, and we\'ve seen, over the last 15 years, this university has grown from less than 2000 folks on campus to over 10,000 folks on campus. And the food service budget is 15 times what it was, instead of operating one outlet, we\'re operating nine outlets with three additional outlets coming online in the next year, year and a half. 16:05 RC: And so it\'s just really been an exciting time for me because I get to exercise my gifts and hospitality in a way that helps strategically the university accomplish its long-term goals of attraction of new students and retention of students. And we were fortunate enough this year and in the last few years, to be rated second best in California and I think seventh or eighth best in the country for the type of program that we\'re operating. And all that with the university really controlling the cost of what program they wanna offer. And that\'s just been exciting to be able to serve them and accomplish the things that we\'ve accomplished together, has just been very rewarding for me. 17:02 AS: So to go from zero to hero for an industry that seems like it\'s already pretty well established, what are some of the big differences that your program has versus the others? 17:19 RC: Well, I think one of the differences is clearly the perspective that we bring to large contract food service accounts. In retail, it\'s every guest every time. In the contract arena, that sentiment is not always every guest every time. And so, bringing this retail mentality of just doing a great job with each and every guest, and you\'re only as good as that last meal that you serve, that\'s really structurally helped us in the contract food service arena, because typically in the contract arena, it\'s not operated to the degree that we operate in the retail sector. I think that\'s one of the big differentials for us, is just the level of hospitality service quality that we serve to each and every guest in the contract business. 18:24 DM: That\'s great. And I\'m sure going into this new arena with provider has helped in the other side of the business too, you flex muscles a little differently. Maybe even just in the relationships you have with your vendors. I\'m sure it\'s helped you grow everything just using like I said, flexing new muscles and thinking about things from a slightly different perspective. 18:48 RC: And that\'s probably another point of differentiation. What we\'ve gleaned in this business is that the competitors that we operate with, in the contract arena, they\'re certainly not as transparent with the financial information as our model has proven to be. And so there\'s a lot of learning that takes place with our clients, in terms of what is best practices, what is your actual food cost, what are labor costs? We manage those things in the retail environment because we must, in order to be successful, we have to keep control over each and every cost of operating a restaurant, \'cause there\'s just... There\'s not that much margin in restaurants. 19:44 RC: So when we activate those costs in the contract arena, it delivers the same type of results that we deliver in the retail sector. But again, one of those differences is that not all the large contractors disclose what their real costs are to their clients. So we found that in meeting with new clients, oftentimes the most negotiated part of the discussion is about price. We try to take price out of the equation by building a contract that gives us what we call our stewardship management fee, and then by sharing with 100% traceability and transparency what the costs are, the risk is taken out in regards to price. So we spend majority of our time with our clients talking about best practices, how to achieve strategic results, as opposed to incessantly negotiating price each and every day we serve them. 20:55 DM: Yeah, I think transparency really is one of the strongest tools businesses can have and it\'s way underused because the world we live in today with social media, phone chat, email, they have so much access to your business, for brands to be transparent upfront and with their customers, helps build that trust that is what gets you loyal customers. 21:16 AS: Yeah, I\'ve been reading a lot about how businesses can clarify their company message and how to be customer-centric, and the two main things that they do focus on is people buy not what they think is the best, but what they understand the best, that is gonna solve their problem. So there may be two competing services, one works way better, but the other one explains it better, the person is more likely to buy that one, \'cause they clearly understand what they\'re getting into, the value proposition cost and so forth. And the other main thing was, people don\'t really worry about price, what they\'re worried about is being played. So it seems like you guys have the perfect recipe of setting the customer upfront, being transparent, clear. And by doing that, that shows the success that you\'re having. So, yeah. Congratulations. That\'s awesome. 22:11 RC: Well, thanks. Trust is not something that\'s easily earned in the environment that we currently live in. We\'re a fallen people and so none of us are perfect and so many of us have been abused and taken advantage of, and it\'s certainly like that in the business environment. Profit is not a bad word, but it does and can be abused by vendors and contractors, and so people are very suspect. So that\'s one of the core initiatives that I have when dealing with customers, is that we needed to earn, earn their trust, and that doesn\'t happen overnight, but it can happen. And when it does happen, you find yourself in a very collaborative relationship, all strategically shooting for goals that your client has, in regards to their overall business and their core competence. And while as stewards, we use our core competence to deliver the type of program that best suits their needs. 23:26 AS: Yeah, definitely. And so what\'s next for you, guys? Is it more restaurants and expansion and getting more schools for the contract food service? Is there bigger ideas in the works? 23:38 RC: No, I think it\'s stay on the continuum that we\'re on, operate where we operate best, which is in the hospitality sector, certainly, we want to grow both the retail and contract food service components. We think that it\'s really important to have both. We like cutting the teeth of our leadership in the retail sector, and then moving those leaders into the contract food service arena, where each and every guest experience is extremely important, that\'s working really well for us, and I think it\'s worked for quite a few contract food service companies historically, some of the best have been incubated in the retail sector, where every meal, every time is critical. 24:33 AS: Yeah. I think that\'s great. You guys are clearly on to something and it\'s working, so congratulations and keep up the good work. Wanna thank you for spending time to talk with us today. 24:45 RC: Well, thanks a lot for your time, that was fun. 24:47 AS: Thanks everyone for listening and we\'ll catch you next time, bye guys.


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Illustrating the Career of His Dreams with Armando Veve

Illustrating the Career of His Dreams with Armando Veve

Beyond • October 5, 2018

You don\'t wind up on Forbes 30 Under 30 list by accident. It takes hard work, determination and talent. All three of which Armando Veve has in spades. Armando is a Philadelphia-based artist and illustrator. His work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Wired and many more publications. He\'s also been awarded two gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, which is extra special given that it\'s voted on by his peers. It involves a lot of storytelling. It\'s kind of like I\'m writing. I\'m a writer, but I do it through pictures. We discussed how Armando got his start as an Illustrator, some projects he\'s had along the way and advice he has for wannabe illustrators. We also talked about the opportunities he has for his work to come off the page and into art galleries, which creates a new experience for the viewer. Lastly, Aramando clues us in as to what his future might hold. 2:37 - On what it means to be an illustrator 5:16 - Talking about beginning his career as an illustrator 13:24 - The purpose that print publications still serve 21:30 - When he knew his passion was a viable career option and advice for others looking to do it 27:10 - The New York Times cover story he said no to


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Man’s Best Friend’s Best Friend: Yo! Dog Walker’s Bob Morris

Man’s Best Friend’s Best Friend: Yo! Dog Walker’s Bob Morris

Beyond • August 17, 2018

Imagine coming home from a long day of work to find your dog excited to see you and well rested from a fun adventure with the dog walker … and the dishes piled up in your sink have been cleaned. Bob Morris, founder of Yo! Dog Walker doesn’t do that because he was asked. He does it because he cares and feels like it’s the right thing to do. Coming off a decade of touring around the country and across the globe with his band The Hush Sound, Morris found himself looking for a new adventure. What started as the realization that he could make some extra cash walking a neighbor’s dog along with his own has turned into a thriving business. He hired his friends that were also in and around the music industry to help them get some much-needed income in between gigs. Their creativity put to use in the fun updates they send their clients on walks or overnight stays. I don’t have kids yet, but I have a hard enough time leaving my dog even for a few days. The “pupdates” I receive brighten my day whether I’m out of town or just working a longer-than-usual day. You have to find the things about what you’re passionate about [within the business]. If you work hard and do the thing you don’t want to do for a little while, you can find people to do the parts of your business that are unappealing to you for the right price. 2:45 - Where the idea to start a dog walking business began 14:14 - On learning the business side of things 18:20 - Standing out in a crowded industry 25:50 - Understanding scalability and limits


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Best of the Heart of Business

Best of the Heart of Business

Beyond • August 3, 2018

Well, one week is in the books with our daily (on weekdays) mini-episodes of Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer and Clues for the Clueless CRM Marketer. Now that we have three podcasts, it seemed like as good of a time as any to look back on our original podcast, the Heart Of Business. With a little over 100 episodes released, the Heart Of Business has seen some awesome guests, who are doing (or have done) incredible things. We wanted to honor some of our favorites … and some of yours! The truth is, we’ve enjoyed every single episode we’ve recorded. It’s hard not to when you get to speak with people who are passionate about what they’re doing with their lives. Thanks to everyone who has ever been a guest on the Heart Of Business and all of you who have been listening all these years! Andy’s Favorite Episodes Diamond Dallas Page: Wrestling with a New Yoga Business If I’m being honest, a large part of why this was so special is because of the voicemail that was left for my by DDP himself prior to recording. My junior high self was squealing on the inside about this episode. He did not disappoint. Nick Uhas: Beginnings, Big Brother and Beyond You ask Nick Uhas how he wound up on Big Brother and you first hear about how he started wrestling in Junior High, competitive rollerblading and how he crashed a fraternity leadership summit in Mexico. Somehow, it turns into a story of following the path presented to you and gaining confidence in your strengths. There Is No Shot: ImmunoMatrix with Kasia Sawicka Kasia Sawicka is the Neo of ImmunoMatrix. The one that did what has never been done before. During a college experiment, Kasia stumbled upon a discovery that might have major implications across the globe. Through her findings, she has made a patch that can deliver medications through the skin at a greater rate than was previously thought possible. She\'s got a growing list of awards and accolades that boast the significance of ImmunoMatrix. Daniel’s Favorite Episodes All About.com That Podcast with Neil Vogel Neil Vogel is the CEO of About.com. He talked with us about transforming a brand, chubby babies and content. With Andy on injured reserve, Engineer Claude and Daniel took the reigns for this great listen. Siri, Will You Be On Our Podcast? You\'d think being the voice of Siri could be the coolest thing a person could do. Then you learn that Susan Bennett also toured the world with Roy Orbison. She toured with a guy that was in a band with a Beatle. How cool is that?! The answer is very cool, and Susan Bennett is just that. Learn about the life of a voice actor and singer and how one can be the voice of Siri without even realizing it\'s happening. Energized By Grid Modernization Engineer Tirthak Saha Tirthak Saha is only 26 years old. He\'s been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30, worked with NASA on origami-inspired satellites and won American Electric Power\'s Spark Tank Innovation Challenge. You may not have heard of him yet, but he believes that will change. So do we. Most Downloaded Episodes (Your Favorites!) Drive Change: Social Justice is a Dish Best Served ... Literally It seems more important than ever to tell a story like that of Drive Change. A force for good in our society aimed at improving the lives of its employees, maintaining a conversation on social justice and serving delicious food. Drive Change brings its cause straight to the people taking its food truck, Snowday, on the move with a message. You see, the food truck employs formerly incarcerated young adults and gives them support, on the job training and assistance in achieving the future they desire. Did I mention the food is amazing? I don\'t have to because the awards are piling up ... as are the mentions in every \"best of NY\" list on food trucks. Drive Change co-founder Roy Waterman and his team deserve all the accolades their food has received and more. In a world of hashtag activism, it seems as important as ever to give a platform to the individuals taking action to work for a better tomorrow. 1,810 Seconds with 2-Second Lean\'s Paul Akers Paul Akers had to go to Japan to become fully immersed in Lean culture. Thanks to him, all of us need not leave our desks. To say we were excited to speak to Paul and hear his story is an understatement. His Lean Journey is one of positivity and joy, albeit not with a few bumps along the road. We talked to him about his own company, FastCap, and how they have benefited from implementing Lean. EasilyDo: Stay On Top Of It All Think about all of the things for which you use your smartphone. Calls, email and texting, sure, but what else? You calendar, the internet, social media. Shopping? Transportation? Business? These days the list can go on and on. EasilyDo is like having an assistant that lives in your phone. It integrates with all of the tools you use in your life to stay organized and get things done. We had a great talk on how the tools in your life can be used more efficiently. It\'s something all of us can stand to do. Most Played Episodes (More of Your Favorites!) The Fan Experience with Kevin Browning, Umphrey\'s McGee Not many bands can tour for more than a decade and a half and still bring something new to the table each and every time. Umphrey\'s McGee has delivered unique fan experiences unseen by most others in the music industry. We chat with Kevin Browning, who manages strategy and development for the the band. Listen along and see how you might conjure up some out of the box ideas for your business. Millennials & More with Michael Price Michael Price literally wrote the book on millennials. Hear how his book, What Next? The Millennial’s Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World, came to be and why he felt he was the one to write it. Hear his thoughts on millennials, who they are and what they are capable of. You Can Dance If You Want To ... at Dance With Me Alex Samusevich co-founded Dance With Me Studios with Maksim Chmerkovskiy of Dancing with the Stars. He took a lifelong passion for dance and turned it into a business that also allowed him to share it with others. What started as a conversation about being able to pursue one’s dreams in business and in life that was uplifting and inspirational turned into a look at using what you have, creating great content and doing it all with a DIY approach. Tell Us Your Favorite Do you have a favorite episode that we didn’t include here? Tell us in the comments!


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Really Good Episode with Really Good Emails’ Matt Helbig

Really Good Episode with Really Good Emails’ Matt Helbig

Beyond • July 20, 2018

Spoiler alert: Your hosts of the Heart of Business podcast are really big email nerds. Not surprised? That makes sense. That’s why it was inevitable that we’d invite the folks behind Really Good Emails to join us on the podcast. Matt Helbig did not disappoint us. We talk about what the site is and how it came to be. Matt also offered some intel on the advantages of having a passion project. If you ever wanted to know what email marketing professionals consider to be really good emails and which one makes them cringe, this episode is for you. The number one thing that rings true when we look for emails that we always come back to is that the content serves a customer more than the company. That always kind of holds true with all the different emails. We also looked to the future and discuss what email marketers have to look forward to. 1:12 - What is Really Good Emails and how did it begin? 6:28 - Tips on managing a side hustle 9:14 - How to communicate when your whole team is remote 11:52 - What makes a really good email? 16:20 - What in an email campaign makes them cringe? 21:55 - Matt’s hopes for email marketers 26:21 - Where Matt got started with email marketing


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Introducing Benchmark CRM Director of Product Development Paul Rijnders

Introducing Benchmark CRM Director of Product Development Paul Rijnders

Beyond • July 6, 2018

My office is across the hall from the Director of Product Development for CRM, Paul Rijnders. We talk almost daily and have at least one meeting together every week. However, I still hadn’t had a chance to talk to him about the entire development process for Benchmark CRM. Sure, we heard bits and pieces along the way, but this was a unique opportunity for Daniel and me. You see, Paul is a bit of a unicorn here at Benchmark (except that we feel like we’ve got a few of them). His work ethic, determination and round-the-clock schedule are often marveled at by all of us. So, we had to try and figure out what magic elixir he has that lets him do it all. If you’re curious about CRM, what goes into the development of a new product or how to work with an international team, this episode is for you. A short pencil is better than a long memory any day. That’s where I see CRM coming into play. You may have 100 customers, you may have 10 customers, you may have 1,000 customers. Invariably, you’re going to talk to them and that data that makes up those previous conversations and previous touchpoints all your interactions, your customers are going to expect you to remember that. Even as a person, human to human, they’re going to want you to remember various facts about your life. Or even if they don’t want you to remember that, the fact that you do is going to help your relationship, because they’re going to think, ‘Oh wow. This person cares about me. They know me.’ 2:02 - What is CRM? 7:22 - The importance of good organization of data 10:30 - Going back to the beginning of the development process of Benchmark CRM 15:42 - Keeping around the clock hours with an international development team while having infant twins and another kid at home 21:28 - Communication lessons from working with a remote international team 24:40 - Overcoming challenges in the development process


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Energized By Grid Modernization Engineer Tirthak Saha

Energized By Grid Modernization Engineer Tirthak Saha

Beyond • June 22, 2018

When preparing to interview Tirthak Saha, we saw him say in an interview that he’d once been called “tictac.” However, by the end of the interview with us, he admitted he hoped his work would make him the household name that Elon Musk is today. I gotta say after talking to him for a while, I believe him. Besides being so good at his job as a Grid Modernization Engineer that he was recognized on the Forbes 30 under 30, he proved more than adept at breaking down the jargon-y barriers to entry for understanding what he does. We could have peppered him with questions all day long. At 26, he’s already worked with NASA on satellites inspired by origami, and he is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Innovation Advocacy Network for American Electric Power. Not all heroes wear capes, but if Tirthak did, he would probably pull it off. I’m just very arrogant, right. You have to turn that self-arrogance into something positive. Into what people call drive. My biggest fear, to date actually, is to die without having left a positive legacy. I don’t care if it’s three people or three hundred people talking about me after I die, but I want them to say he left the planet better than he found it. If it is significantly better, that’s even better. It doesn’t matter what the magnitude of the thing I do in my life is. It matters that it’s in the right direction. And when you have that sort of a mindset, you never stop pushing, right? Because you’re always unsure. Have I done enough to be on the right side of the books? 1:50 - What it means to be a Grid Modernization Engineer 6:11 - Innovation through partnerships and cooperation versus competition 14:58 - On how to dream big enough 32:15 - Whether working in his space has left him hopeful or fearful for the future Podcast Transcript 00:02 Andy Shore: Hey everybody! Welcome to the Heart of Business, brought to you by Benchmark. It\'s the business podcast that won\'t make you flatline, where we discuss what pumps life into your company. 00:14 AS: Hey everybody, welcome back to The Heart of Business Podcast. We have a truly impressive guest for you today. His name is Tirthak Saha. He is a grid modernization engineer, and he might just well, save all of us. So we tried not to take too much of his time even though Daniel and I could\'ve talked for hours and hours and picked his brain on all the awesome stuff he\'s working on. Before we get started, I wanna remind everyone about the Benchmark starter plan. For up to 2000 of your contacts, you can do your email marketing totally free. You get all the tools you need to get started, signup forms for your websites, social media, some simple automations to greet your new subscribers that come in through that signup forms and all sorts of great stuff. Check it out, benchmarkemail.com. Let\'s get rolling. 00:58 AS: So how you doing today Tirthak? 01:00 Tirthak Saha: I am doing well. As well as you can do [chuckle] when you\'re living in the Midwest. It’s raining, it\'s been harsh weather. It has been pretty hot and then cloudy and gray. But yeah, other than that, I\'m doing well. 01:13 AS: Yeah, I don\'t miss that life. I\'m Chicago born and raised and went to college at Indiana. So when I saw you\'re in Indiana, I was just like, man, to go from India to Indiana. It\'s just like you skipped over some awesome places here. [chuckle] 01:27 TS: Yeah, the phonetics worked out. You can\'t really ask much more than that. [laughter] 01:33 AS: Absolutely. And one of the things I saw on your website was that you\'re trying to cut through the jargon-y barriers to entry for what you\'re doing. So, you are a grid modernization engineer at American Electric Power. But can you tell us, in ways that we\'ll understand what exactly that means? 01:51 TS: Absolutely, so basically what I do is I get to play around with the latest technology from the electrical, smart grid universe. And I keep a track of what\'s coming up, the latest advances, the latest technologies, and basically I pull different threads and strings together and combine them into projects that will provide the ultimate bang for your buck in terms of making a 21st century electric grid that is more resilient, more reliable and more eco-friendly because the electric grid that you see out there today, most of it was built a century ago. And we really haven\'t seen much change in the energy industry in that regard, just because there was no need for it. It was a pretty good piece of engineering and it did what it was supposed to. There were no demands, so it worked pretty well. Well, up until recently because in the last 10 or 20 years, we have seen a slew of new technologies coming up that we really weren\'t expecting to be viable until let\'s say 2050. 03:12 TS: For example, energy storage, solar wind, all the renewables, electric vehicles are on our roads now. So the grid is failing to support all of this because it is aging, and it doesn\'t really have the capability to incorporate all these new things that people want. So most major utility companies are now looking towards the future and they\'re saying. \"Hey.\" Hey, also stop me if I\'m talking too much, by the way. 03:38 DM: Oh no, you are doing great. This is all incredibly interesting. 03:40 TS: Okay, so most of the utilities are now sitting down at the table and they\'re rolling up their sleeves and they\'re going, \"Well, things are changing, people want different things than what they desired in the last century. So how are we going to recreate the grid?\" And the problem with that is, it has to be done piecemeal. You can\'t really take down the grid for a couple of days, and then bring it back up. So that\'s some of the major challenges that we\'re dealing with, we\'re rethinking and reshaping the electric grid to be able to support the technologies that are coming up today and hopefully for the next century or so. 04:18 AS: Yes, that\'s really interesting. And one thing I think is pretty cool, is that you\'re doing it from within the industry, you see Kodak, all but disappear or see the music industry go through what they have and you\'re doing it from the inside to preempt that happening when someone else just comes in and turns the industry on its ear and you\'re left in the wake. 04:42 TS: Exactly, no, you\'re absolutely on point. I\'m glad that I have a job [chuckle] But beyond that, I have a job because the utility industry has realized, I think, well within time that things are changing and if they don\'t change with this, they are just gonna go down the path of like the cab companies when Uber came or the hotel industry when Airbnb came along. And these are some of the recent examples. So, yeah, it\'s a huge market, it\'s a trillion dollar market and utility companies are sitting up and taking notice of this thing, and they\'re employing people like me all across the country to look into, \"How To Be The Change leaders, rather than the followers?\" 05:27 DM: That\'s excellent. I love that you used a word \"I get to play with.\" It\'s not, \"I\'m working on, I am doing this.\" It\'s I get to play with this, this and that and try to figure that out. It\'s in way that you\'re being electrical engineer, scientist, and mixing this with that, to try to figure out what works. Do you see some of the big tech companies... I can see that from Google and Facebook and many of the other big companies, they\'re pushing part of how we connect online to a totally new level, and it seems like they\'re needing new technologies, themself. Do you guys tend to work together with some of those companies to try to innovate, or how does that work? 06:10 TS: So yeah, there\'s a lot of partnerships. So more relevant example would be the company Tesla, and there in-home energy storage units, and now well they\'ve also come up with the solar roofs. So that\'s a big disruption in our market. For all intents and purposes, if you have the money you put in an energy storage system in your basement, and you put up solar roofs. And voila! You don\'t need the utility anymore. I mean, that\'s what you would think. And there\'s finer points to that, but essentially that\'s the argument, and that\'s the way most of these corporate private entities who are coming into the market now, that\'s how they\'re playing, that\'s how they\'re marketing. 06:53 TS: So what the utility does is they say, \"You know what, why do we need to be competition? We can just join hands, and create something better.\" Some utilities do that better than others. Some utilities are a little behind the curve, and that\'s perfectly fine. But yes, there\'s a lot of partnerships going on, because we have to realize something that what is happening here is innovation. Whether that comes from the private sector, or the public sector, there is a lot of innovation going on. And innovation doesn\'t happen in isolation. Tesla might know something that we don\'t, and we might know something, or have the resources or something that they don\'t. They have the capacity for risk that we don\'t, but we also have the stability that they don\'t. So I think all the large players have identified and realized that we all have to sit down at the table, because we\'re all feeding off of each other, so we have to join hands. So there\'s multiple partnerships like that. 07:51 AS: Yeah, that\'s interesting talking about the need to work together and pool resources or information, but is there the other end of it, where you said, there\'s that competition. I guess the thought that came to mind was like the space race, when everyone was trying to be the first to do something, is there also that part... Do you feel pressure in that. Do you face that? 08:12 TS: Yes. Yes and no. So I\'ll cover the yes part first. Obviously, there\'s the short term competition like, okay, so we hold 10% of the market share for example, company X is coming in, and they\'re gonna take away 2%, that\'s these many dollars, yada, yada. So that\'s just how corporations function. And sure in the short term, we gotta be aware of that. But I think there\'s something very interesting happening in the energy industry, which sets it apart from the space race, or any of the other great innovations in other industries. And that difference is that the definitions of things are changing. 08:53 TS: So let me give you an example. I don\'t think, and this is me personally, talking not as an AEP employee or whatever, but I personally don\'t think that the utility of the future is gonna be a company that provides the electricity. It\'s gonna be almost like a lifestyle company where we manage all the electrical devices that you use. Electricity is becoming more and more distributed, generation is becoming more and more spread out, there\'s microgrids and stuff now. So the whole definition, that whole idea of, okay, here\'s a point, here\'s where the electrons are generated, here\'s how we transmit them over large distances, and here are the customers who get the electrons and then pay for them using money, standardized money, all of that is changing. There\'s so much to talk about, and just as I\'m answering this, I\'m thinking about it. And almost every aspect of the electrical industry is changing, the energy industry is changing. There\'s cryptocurrency coming in where your neighbor might be able to put up solar pounds on his roof and you might be able to get some extra energy off of him, and just pay him using a cryptocurrency transaction. So who is the buyer, who is the seller? What is the market? What exactly constitutes the boundaries of the energy industry? All that is dissolving. 10:18 TS: So, what utilities and bigger companies like Google, Tesla, whoever is in the market to play, what they\'re realizing is that even if there wasn\'t a niche for them in the old market, in the old market what would be competition in the new market, there\'s a lot more space to spread out. So yes, there\'s competition, but we\'re also working towards creating a new ecosystem and everyone\'s finding their own new places. 10:42 DM: That\'s a very interesting perspective. That was actually one of the questions that I had for you, as more and more people tend to put solar panels on, how is that gonna affect? It sounds like you pretty much answered that. But I had a follow up question as well, which is, I grew up in Spain, I spent a lot of years in Spain. And the cultural differences and the political differences are pretty big. And one thing that I noticed is when Tesla really started to grow and their stock just went through the roof, and pretty much almost, I think, one out of 10 people here in California own a Tesla. My friend in Spain is like, \"I really want to but I can\'t afford it.\" And I was like, \"Don\'t worry about it. I\'ll help you ship out, like gas. You don\'t have to worry about. He was like, \"No you don\'t understand. In Spain, they apply an additional tax if you have an electric car if you have solar panels.\" So my question to you, is how, \'cause in the US, it seems like we\'re going towards this green and sharing and helping each other out, but how is that different outside of the US? Are more countries going towards this sharing and caring? Or are more trying to profit from this? 11:55 TS: So that\'s a very interesting question. And there\'s a lot of facets to it. And I do not claim to be knowledgeable about the whole political side of it to the extent where I can make a cogent argument, but just from my experience working with regulatory bodies, just within the United States and back when I was in India. So in India, the energy industry is pretty much controlled by the government, it\'s centralized and over here it is decentralized and it is to a large extent privatized. So let\'s go off of those main differences. So in America, the state of legislation in terms of the new energy economy, has been very, very slow to catch up with it. There\'s a lot of regulations and legislations that are actually holding us back from doing as much solar as we would like to. And I\'m talking about the customer side of it, not necessarily the utilities. Because the utilities frankly, will go where the money is, any big company will. If you allow us to make a decent business case, we\'ll do it. But as far as the green economy and the healthy economy that you\'re talking about in the energy sub-sector the US really isn\'t at the forefront, it is kind of lagging. 13:17 TS: But there are other countries which are lagging much far behind. So by comparison, it looks really good here. Like India. But I will tell you this, this is just my prediction that there\'s a precipice coming, and it\'ll happen in the next 10 years maybe, where there will be a technological jump, where, let\'s say, renewable technology will drop below a certain dollar per kilowatt hour price point. And it will be foolish, it will be very hard to make the argument against it. So what companies are doing is they\'re basically waiting for that to happen, because once that happens, no one\'s gonna make a legislation that prohibits that technology. For example, Spain, the government in Spain, it\'ll be foolish for them to tax that. It\'ll be foolish for them to impose regulations on something that becomes so profitable, that they\'re gonna miss out if they\'re adverse to it. Does that sort of answer your question? 14:25 TS: It does, I just hope that the Spanish governments understand that. They\'ve done a few foolish things throughout the years, but knock on wood. 14:34 TS: Yeah, it\'s basically the technology has to lead the change in that regard, but after a certain point it will become so self evident that government and regulations and laws will catch up immediately. That part won\'t take too much time, is basically what I\'m trying to say. 14:51 DM: Sure, and Dan and I are both such naturally curious persons I think we can keep just peppering you with questions along these lines. But I do wanna circle back and go back in the timeline and I watched a couple of interviews with you and talking about getting started or coming from modest beginnings and I\'m just wondering how you from there or anyone in small-town USA goes from that beginning to doing the things you\'re doing. And how did you dream big enough, or where did that start to get you to this point? 15:22 TS: Again [chuckle] I\'m just very arrogant. I would be sitting at home and I\'m like, \"Man, I don\'t deserve to be here, I deserve to be in some fancy country in a fancy house driving a fancy car.\" But that\'s me as a kid. And I guess everyone has those dreams and things, but I guess at some point, it just turns... You have to turn that self arrogance if you will, into something positive, into what people call drive, maybe. But definitely my biggest fear to date actually, is to die without having left a positive legacy. I don\'t care if it\'s three people or 300 people talking about me after I die, but I want them to say, \"He left the planet better than he found it.\" Which is not something a lot of people can say about their lives you know. 16:25 TS: And yeah, if it is significantly better, that\'s even better. It doesn\'t matter what the magnitude of the thing I do in my life is, it matters that it\'s in the right direction. And when you have that a mindset, I think you never stop pushing, because you\'re always unsure [chuckle] \"Have I done enough to be on the right side of the books?\" I guess that\'s where it comes from. A little bit of arrogance on my end. And, \"Can you do this? Of course, I can do this.\" And a little bit of drive that comes from that. Like, \"Yeah, I have to do all these things before I die.\" 17:07 DM: That\'s very, what\'s the word I\'m looking for? I admire that. I could say, it\'s very impressive, from somebody of your background, taking it for that level to say, \"I deserve better, to then, The world deserve better. And I wanna make sure that I leave this place, I make it better than how I found it.\" That\'s awesome. One other question that I have... 17:29 TS: It\'s like... Sorry to interrupt. It\'s like how they say you need to put on your oxygen mask first, before you can help others in an airplane in those safety briefings. It\'s like that. I was just trying to put my own safety mask on first, and when I did, I realized that that same action can be used to put on oxygen mask on everyone else, so I just kept doing it. 17:54 DM: I think in part, you\'ve answered a little bit of this question, but they say that it takes you at least 10,000 hours to master something. At your young age, how in the world that were you able to find enough time to really master what you do? 18:08 TS: Well, see, that comes from the book Outliers. Is that what you\'re talking about? Okay, well in there, it says pretty clearly that you need 10,000 hours to become an expert, at a master of something. I definitely don\'t [chuckle] think that I\'m there yet, so I don\'t think I\'ve put in 10,000 hours of that. But I\'ve thought about it because I read that book and I found it really interesting. It\'s like, okay, so I have some modicum of success. And then you take away from that, the part that you owe to other people, your family, your friends, the people who have supported you, you take away the parts that are just dumb-luck being in the right place at the right time. Then what\'s left with is still what you build with your hands from the ground up. So how did I do that? I\'m very introspective of these things, so I was thinking about it, and I think what I did right was, in that book, when they\'re talking about 10,000 hours, they\'re talking about developing a specific skill or knowledge around a specific skill for 10,000 hours and then you become a master at it. My skill is not engineering though. So I\'ve identified that. My skill isn\'t engineering. I am definitely not the best engineer in the world. Far from it. I\'m probably in the bottom 20%. 19:31 TS: But what my specific skill set is, is the ability to draw from different sources, sources that... Sources of knowledge that apparently seem disconnected and unrelated, and make something new that adds much more value than what you would have found if you had gone the conventional, traditional way. For example, when I was in school, sorry, high school, I had gone to Japan, and I had seen an origami museum, and that kinda stuck with me. And then when I went to university, Drexel University in Philadelphia, I wrote a paper on how to apply origami mathematics to solar panels on small tiny satellites, so that they can fold and fit inside the satellite. So you would think that they\'re disconnected. But that\'s what I do best. I take disparate, disjoint ideas, and I put them together to create something better. So I have been doing that since childhood, and I think a lot of us do. That\'s what creativity is as a child. Parents watch their kids play and they\'re like, \"I don\'t know what the hell they\'re doing.\" But what they\'re doing is they\'re taking disjointed ideas and trying to put them together. I just never let that go, that\'s all I did, so I just built on that and that I think led to the 10,000 hours, so it wasn\'t 10,000 hours of electrical engineering. 21:02 AS: Sure. 21:03 TS: That\'s just my mode of expression of my skill. 21:07 DM: One of my favorite books is called Your Brain at Work, and in that book, they explain about how it is impossible to come up with something out of nothing, for your brain. Your brain is constantly trying to relate two things and make something out of that. So you\'ve taken that to the next level by trying to exercise that, on the data. That\'s incredible. 21:27 AS: Yeah. And Daniel, a year or so ago went to a leadership or management conference, to bring it back to the company and came back and was talking about, there are the different essential people of every team. And one of those people was the integrator and it\'s kinda not the natural leader, or the best or this or that, but the one that sees the big picture and connects all the dots and brings it all together. It sounds like that\'s kinda what you\'re talking about. 21:53 TS: Yeah, absolutely, that\'s exactly what I was talking about. Yeah. 21:56 AS: That\'s interesting. So you\'d mentioned a little bit about the origami satellite and solar panels that you\'re doing with NASA, and then you wound up at AEP and won their Spark Tank Innovation Challenge, and I saw that\'s a billion dollar investment. Is that a responsibility that weighs on your shoulders? \'cause I got nervous looking at that. 22:21 TS: [chuckle] Alright, so this is gonna be a little bit of a long answer. Are you guys that up for it? 22:24 AS: Yes. 22:25 DM: Okay. Always. 22:25 TS: First of all, let me clarify something. It wasn\'t a billion dollar investment. That was a billion dollar revenue stream, and the citation was... That was a typo or something on the part of Forbes. And I guess it never got changed, I did reach out to them. So anyway, the deed was done so it\'s like, \"Okay.\" So now the background is... When AEP hired me, they had just started thinking about grid modernizations, and what it entails and what the various things that they wanna do in that space. They had just started, right? And I had just gotten out of school, I had just graduated. This is like mid 2016. So then they started... AEP started looking for a grid modernization engineer, or an engineer to lead the charge on that program. So I was, again, dumb luck, I was in the right place at the right time, I interviewed; my boss who is also now a very good friend, he really liked what I had to say and I had, I guess, I had a \"can do\" attitude, because at that point, neither I nor the company really knew what direction we wanted to go in. What was required was a sense of adventure and innovation and... Just the mindset. And obviously, the basic skill set that you would require. 23:55 TS: So they hired me, for two states, Indiana and Michigan. I was, and until very recently was the only guy doing... Actively doing grid modernization and nothing else. So, my portfolio of projects that I built up since I got hired, let\'s say, November 2016, up until now, I\'ve built a five and 10-year plan looking forward up until 2028 for the company for two states, Indiana and Michigan. And it\'s almost 900 million dollars worth of projects if they come to... If they follow the plans that I set out. So I don\'t know the exact number, but it\'s somewhere in that range. So yes, it is a huge responsibility. And for about two years now, I\'ve been carrying it on my shoulders. But we recently, we had an intern who recently joined the team, full time. So, I\'m really happy to have her, someone to blame. [laughter] 25:01 DM: That\'s at the end of the world, right? That\'s funny. Something that... I guess I see energy as a consumer, I\'m not involved with that at all. I think I played with my first... Arduino? You called it, last week and I started to play with little resistors and stuff like that. But one thing I see that has really kinda got left behind was the whole aspect of batteries, from the usage of it, the storage of it and even the throwing away of it. Like, how do we properly dismantle and get rid of a battery without really contaminating? And with so many precipice, I mean those batteries have a pretty large life span, about five to 10 years, but what\'s gonna happen 10 years down the road when we have all of these batteries? Is that something that you influence, or... 26:00 TS: So that\'s a great question first of all. Not a lot of people focus on that rightly as you just said, that solid waste coming from energy resources, it\'s a big, big issue, it\'s not just battery, there\'s also transformers and etcetera. But transformers have the advantage that they\'re made of materials that can just be fully recycled or scrapped and made into something else. With batteries, like you said, it\'s Lithium-ion for the most part and yeah, the recycling isn\'t where it needs to be, so it is a problem. I do not actually work with that arena directly, but I can tell you that in that same Spark Tank competition, a colleague of mine actually brought forth a very good idea of recycling EV batteries and just general utility-grade batteries as well. So, there are people who are working on that problem actively. I\'m not one of them currently, so I can\'t speak to the technical details of that, but that is a big problem. And one of the ways people are trying to solve, it has to be two-part. One has to be to get the recycling methods up to par to prepare for that cliff that you were talking about, ten years from now, what\'s gonna happen to all the Tesla power-walls, for example? And the other part is to invent new kinds of energy storage. So, our idea of energy storage is fairly limited, our concept of energy storage is fairly limited. 27:33 TS: I\'ll give you an example. We hear a battery and we go \"Okay, a cell. With chemicals in it and two plates.\" But did you know that aluminum has the greatest energy density of any material on earth? Just the metal, you don\'t need to any chemicals or anything. So if you strip away the oxidized layer on top of the aluminum and basically you put in water, it releases hydrogen which can then be put into a fuel cell for electricity or you can just burn the hydrogen for fuel, and it\'s a totally green 100 percent renewable process. The only problem is, that stripping away of the barriers, the oxidized barriers very few people have been able to figure out how to do that in an economic way. So recently, I got put in... I was reached out to by a startup in California called Trolysis and they asked me to be kind of their guide, the voluntary advisor kind of position and they\'re doing this. So I was very interested, that\'s why I signed on. Because I really feel like... Like I said before, our definitions have to change of \"What is a battery?\" And, \"What is distributed energy resources? What is the electric grid? Does it have to be point-to-point? Does a battery has to be a single piece of chemicals and anodes and cathodes?\". So yeah, it\'s two-fold. 29:07 DM: That\'s good, it\'s exciting to see. And I like what you said there. We have to think of battery as not as we know it today, but how can we change it entirely? What\'s that new thing? Here is a question for you, is wireless charging going anywhere? [laughter] \'Cause I don\'t feel like... I have a friend that he got the new iPhone and he got a wireless charger to go with it and then he found out that because he has the case, it doesn\'t work and he just gave it to me, he said \"Look, I can\'t use this.\" And I charged and I was like, \"This isn\'t wireless at all, I\'m still connected to the wire.\" Is this an intermediate step to something bigger? 29:47 TS: It definitely is an intermediate step to something bigger and that\'s the case with any fringe technology that you see. So basically, this is a general rule of thumb that I use and it\'s worked out pretty well. Anything that you\'ve heard of in the last five years for the first time, that is obvious... That is always an intermediate step. So, if you hear of a new feature, like some dazzling new feature on a new phone, wait till the next one to buy it. [laughter] 30:19 TS: That\'s what I always say. So it\'s worked out pretty well. Right now I use a Google Pixel 2. That\'s why I didn\'t buy the Google Pixel 1, although I really wanted to. And yeah, it\'s kinda worked out. But anyway, my point being, yes, wireless charging is coming big time. There are certain problems with it that may... We may have to look for other definitions of what wireless charging could look like. There are certain physical limitations to making a wireless charger that is very effective, but it\'s also very small, just because of the physics of it. But there\'s been some research that\'s being carried out as we speak, where they send satellites up into the atmosphere, for example, and these satellites have huge solar panels on them. And up in space, the efficiency of solar panels is much greater because it\'s direct, without the interference from the atmosphere. So they capture all that energy, they convert it into... I forget it. I think it\'s microwave radiation, and they send down those microwave radiation beams down to earth, where they\'re collected by a plate and converted back into electricity. Now, imagine if those plates were put on every home, then, can you imagine a world without wires and poles? That\'s what that would look like... 31:44 AS: That is pretty cool. 31:44 TS: But my point is that to get to that satellite technology, that\'s being, R&Ded right now the first shitty phone charger had to be made. You know what I\'m saying? Like... [laughter] 31:54 DM: Yeah I know exactly what you\'re saying, I\'m experiencing it, I\'ll tell you that. 32:00 TS: Yeah exactly. So yeah, there\'s developments in that space that are being made. Again, I\'m not directly related with it, so I\'m not a subject matter expert, that\'s the limit of my knowledge in that space. But I know people who are working on it directly. 32:15 AS: That\'s interesting. We\'ve got a few more questions for you before we let you go back to saving the world, but just talking about... You obviously have a view of what\'s coming down the pipeline. Does all that make you hopeful or fearful for the future, knowing whatever environmental or resource issues we may be facing now? 32:33 TS: It makes me both, because, I\'ll tell you why. To use one of my favorite quotations, \"We are changing but not fast enough.\" And I hope that the pace picks up, and I hope that the opposition to trying out new things, and the resistance to change wears off a little faster than it is doing so now, but things are changing for the positive. That\'s the good part. They\'re not regressing as such, especially, at least in the technology world, it isn\'t. There\'s a lot of advances being made. In the renewable energy sector, for example, someone recently patented a spray-on solar panel. So that\'s pretty cool. You can apply it anywhere you want now, you don\'t have to be restricted by the shape or space of your roof. So technology is moving in the right direction, I\'m just fearful that it\'s not moving fast enough. And that we need some kind of big, big paradigm-shifting push. That precipice that I was talking about, I think it\'s coming, I hope it comes soon. 33:49 DM: Do you have an intuition as to what that is? Since this is a field that you\'re savvy in, is there something that you feel like is harming the growth or the speed, the most? Is it the political views around it, is it the security, what is it that you feel needs the biggest push? 34:13 TS: Oh man, I\'m gonna say something now, and then like 20, 30 years later, when I\'m on Fox News interviewing with someone, someone is gonna bring this up, and gonna be like, \"Look, you said this.\" But anyway, lemme try. It\'s a very tricky business, trying to predict the future, but... So there\'s two questions I heard in there, and correct me if I\'m wrong. The first question is, which one do I think requires the biggest push, and which part is going to make the biggest push in my opinion, right? 34:46 DM: Mm-hmm. 34:48 TS: Okay. So the one that requires the biggest push is undoubtedly legislation for renewables. There is no doubt in my mind that legislation right now is very regressive, very backwards, and yes there are advances being made, but we\'re still very fearful of change. And there are several reasons for that, some cogent, some not, but we need to make a big, big, big push. We need to have representation from the scientific community in the legislation, in the representatives of who are making the legislations, we need to have more people who know what they\'re doing, especially in the field of technology, to go out there and make their voices heard. We tend to be a very isolated society, the tech world. We talk big, but there\'s very few of us out there actually trying to make change in that political environment. So there\'s that. 35:52 TS: And the thing I think will make the biggest leap forward in terms of technology is storage, energy storage. Because it, by definition almost... Like if I had to bet money on it, by definition almost, the one piece that is holding back other stuff is energy storage. Like, why can\'t you use solar panels at night? Not because the sun isn\'t shining, but because your battery isn\'t large enough to hold all of it and isn\'t cheap enough for the average man to use. So the problem isn\'t the solar panel, the problem is that we don\'t have that battery technology. So I just think if I had to bet money on it, just by definition, I think energy storage needs to be the first one to make a massive shift forward. 36:38 DM: Awesome. Yeah, I was blown away, \'cause our house where I live, they have solar panels on it, and I turn on all the lights at night and my roommate is like, \"Well, man, you\'re just gonna waste... \" I was like, \"No, we got solar panels.\" He was like, \"It\'s night time. They don\'t work.\" I was like, \"Doesn\'t it store energy for the nighttime?\" He was like, \"No, it just uses it all up.\" It blew me away, I had no idea. So yeah, I see that. 37:00 AS: Yeah. That\'s interesting. I want to ask you a little bit about the Futurist Archives. With all this work you\'re doing, you needed another outlet to write? Or was that part of wanting a legacy and putting your name on something? 37:16 TS: Yeah. So I\'ll tell you guys the story of how it got started and... But basically, the motivation behind that is very non-scientific. I wanted to be a writer and an artist when I was growing up. And the arrogant side of me will tell you that I was pretty good at it, too, but don\'t listen to that side of me. [chuckle] So I started that, because I just wanted like a... I wrote things here and there, and I put them in diaries, and I lost them, but then I was having a conversation with my mom actually over Skype and she asked me, \"Hey, so what is this artificial intelligence that I keep hearing all about? What is it? Are they robots?\" I was like... Well... And then I tried explaining it to her and then I realized that I couldn\'t. It\'s a very hard concept to accurately and truthfully depict to someone without making it sound jargony. 38:19 TS: So then I said, \"You know what, mom... Wait till next week, I\'ll write something up and I\'ll send it to you.\" So I wrote something up and I sent it to her, and she got it. So I was like, \"Okay, so there is a need for this.\" I mean, it\'s not like a business idea because there\'s a lot of people doing it, but I just wanna do it, A, for fun because I like writing, it gives me a creative output. And B, if there\'s other people like my mom who want to come onto my site, and read stuff from my perspective that\'s all the much, all the better. But, yeah I essentially started writing it for my mom and then it kind of grew and people liked it, so I just kept writing. I haven\'t written in a while, though, \'cause I\'ve been so busy, so... 39:02 AS: Yeah. And painting too. I just saw some of your art online, it\'s awesome. You say you\'re not arrogant about that, but [chuckle] I think you can afford to be. I enjoyed your blog post and the art was pretty impressive as well. 39:15 TS: I appreciate that, thank you. 39:17 AS: So, we haven\'t talked too much about being on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. What kinda doors has that opened for you since that happened? 39:25 TS: So, like the energy industry is a pretty old one in terms of the average age of people who work inside it and I\'m trying to bring some paradigm shifts to it and to kind of change the way people look at things or change the way people do their jobs. And it\'s always a rough, uphill battle to do that in any industry, but especially in the energy industry, just because they\'ve done things the same way for over 100 years, it\'s all the more difficult. And me being like, what, I just turned 26, right? No one would have listened to me, even if I had all the right ideas. But what this does is, it lends a hell of a lot of credibility to my voice. So it\'s not about specific doors that it opened, it\'s not like you get a cash reward with that or you get access to some secret party, nothing like that. [laughter] It\'s just something to add to your calling card. Like, \"Hey, I\'m Tirthak Saha. I\'m a Forbes 30 Under 30.\" And then people start listening to you, like, \"Okay, he\'s been vetted by someone centrally, so he must know what he\'s talking about. Let\'s hear him out.\" I\'m not saying you have to agree with me, and I\'m not saying I\'m 100% right all the time, but it gives me the chance to talk, at least. 40:51 AS: Yeah, very cool. And you\'ve mentioned Tesla a bunch of times in the conversation. And I think it\'s kind of a natural fit in terms of energy and power and those things. But where does it go to from here? Is your name gonna be the next household name like Elon Musk or are you gonna be the one that does it and changes everything? 41:13 TS: Oh you bet... 41:14 AS: Is that the goal? [laughter] 41:15 TS: Oh you bet. Yeah, absolutely. [chuckle] No... So for personal goals, I tend to not make very long-term goals because life has a habit of kicking me in the shins pretty much every time I\'ve tried to do that. But yeah, yeah. But if in the next five years, I have been able to create a product or an idea or a project that really helps improve the quality of life of people, and at the same time, move our environmental consciousness, and decision-making towards the right direction. I feel like I would have been successful. I\'m not in it for the name or the fame, I don\'t think anyone is. I don\'t think Elon Musk did it to become Elon Musk. That\'s just a side-product of you doing your best work on any given day. The people who actually plan for that actually never make it, so I\'m not planning for it. 42:16 AS: Yeah, I agree, I listen to the You Made It Weird podcast with Pete Holmes all the time. And a recurring theme lately has been just like, if you do it to get into it for the money or the fame, you\'re never gonna last. Like, if you don\'t have that drive if you\'re not hungry, and that just has to be the entire fiber of your being, you\'re never gonna make it to that point anyways. 42:35 TS: Yep, absolutely. An actor doesn\'t become an actor to win the Oscar, he becomes an actor to act, and then if his acting is really good because that\'s what he loves doing, then he gets the Oscar. That\'s a byproduct, not the goal. 42:50 AS: Yes, I agree. 42:50 DM: There\'s the... I think a story that probably you may know about but they don\'t know about, is the Wright brothers. And that there was a competitor to the Wright brothers and his drive was money. And he had a ton of backing, a ton of publicity and when he failed, you would have thought that, when he wasn\'t first, you would have thought that he would have worked with the Wright brothers, he totally threw the whole project out \'cause he wasn\'t first, he didn\'t make the money, he didn\'t care anymore, and that was it. So you can really tell that passion and drive for the better, to change something that you really care about is always gonna go above and beyond what money can do for you. So yeah, that\'s really good. 43:31 TS: Right. Yeah, no, absolutely. You\'re talking about Samuel Langley, right? 43:35 DM: I don\'t even remember his name, that\'s shows how... [laughter] 43:39 TS: Yeah, I think he was like a government paid project. Yeah, you\'re right, his story\'s the one I remember. So I\'m pretty sure it\'s Sam Langley, but yeah, absolutely, you\'re right, you\'re on point. Yeah. 43:52 AS: Well Tirthak, I wanna really thank you for joining us. This has been an incredibly eye-opening and enjoyable conversation and we really liked talking with you and could probably go on for hours if you let us, but we\'ll let you go. Before we say goodbye, I wanna give you a chance to let everyone know where they can find out more about you. 44:10 TS: Yeah, so I really appreciated the chance to be on this podcast, so thank you guys for inviting me. I had a great time actually. And you can find out more about me or my work on tirthaksaha.com. That\'s just my personal website, I do update it once every 50 years. So, be on the lookout for that. But other than that, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I\'m pretty active there. A lot of people reach out to me if they just wanna have a chat or discuss something that they have rolling around in their head, so I\'d be more than happy to do that. 44:48 AS: Awesome, very cool. I wanna thank you again, and before I ask you to help me generate 1.21 gigawatts to get a time machine so I can make 30 before 32... Well, thank you again, thanks everyone for listening and we\'ll catch you next time.  


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