Small Biz Buzz hosts Crystal Heuft and Rob Stevenson are joined by JT Benton, founder and CEO of WorkBook6, who divulged a powerful story on how he left his stable job as an executive to start a small business. After being very judicious with cash flows and investing some of his family’s personal savings, it gave him the freedom to have an individual mindset and be in charge of his own organization. His advice: If you really believe in what you're doing, you'll find a way. Tune in for more.
Derek Harju: 00:00 Howdy, listeners. As we all know, Planet Earth has 7.5 billion people, and 7.4 billion of those people have small businesses. Now, to be fair numbers that size can be hard to envision, and to be even fairer, most of what I just said is entirely made up.
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Derek Harju: 00:47 More business, less work. That's Keap. Just go to keap.com to start your free trial. That's K-E-A-P.com. One more time. That's K-E-A-P.com.
Crystal Heuft: 01:03 Hi, this is Crystal.
Rob Stevenson: 01:04 And I'm Rob.
Crystal Heuft: 01:05 And this is Small Biz Buzz, presented by Keap.
Rob Stevenson: 01:08 Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Welcome to another edition of the Small Biz Buzz. I'm your host, Rob Stevenson.
Crystal Heuft: 01:14 Oh, Lord.
Rob Stevenson: 01:14 And I'm joined today by my other host, the other better host ...
Crystal Heuft: 01:18 Sometimes. Crystal.
Rob Stevenson: 01:19 And today we're joined by a guest, the lovely and talented JT Benton, founder and CEO of WorkBook6.
Rob Stevenson: 01:26 JT, thanks so much for coming today. How are you?
JT: 01:28 I'm great. Thank you so much for having me, Crystal and Rob. Thrilled to be here.
Rob Stevenson: 01:33 Just for the record, it's Rob and Crystal.
JT: 01:36 Okay.
Crystal Heuft: 01:36 Unless you go by who's the best, and then it's Crystal and Rob. It just really depends on how you categorize.
Rob Stevenson: 01:43 That is not untrue. I actually want to jump back into a conversation we were having shortly before we started recording today about coworkers and friends in Disney movies, and we have a very interesting opinion. Crystal, please share us your opinion of Flounder from The Little Mermaid.
Crystal Heuft: 01:59 I just said Flounder is like an amazing sidekick because he was like, "Whatever you need. You want legs? I'm going to stay here in the sea. You go do what you need to do, but I'm here to support you."
Rob Stevenson: 02:08 So Flounder was the yellow and blue fish that was Ariel's friend the entire time.
Crystal Heuft: 02:12 You know it. Ariel's friend. Bestie.
Rob Stevenson: 02:13 Thoughts, JT?
JT: 02:14 Yeah. Would Flounder be analogous in a non-animated movie space like like Turtle from Entourage, like just kind of the-
Rob Stevenson: 02:24 Which one was Turtle?
JT: 02:26 The chubby one who wasn't chubby at the end because he was a celebrity now.
Rob Stevenson: 02:28 Jerry Ferrara. Now he's in great shape.
JT: 02:30 Yeah, he's all ripped up now.
Rob Stevenson: 02:31 No, but he was the glue guy, the guy that just kind of did everything, and, like-
Crystal Heuft: 02:35 That could be similar.
Rob Stevenson: 02:36 I'm not sure I agree that Flounder is the best sidekick. He's not even the best sidekick in his own movie. Sebastian was like, "Look, here are the rules. Let's follow the rules. Okay, you didn't follow the rules, and now you're in trouble. Let's get you out of trouble."
Crystal Heuft: 02:48 Well, this just goes to show the difference of you and I in general.
Rob Stevenson: 02:51 Sure.
Crystal Heuft: 02:51 You like the structure and that's why you kind of move us along here, which is nice. But I tend to like the support. No rules, the boundaries are off. Let's just get supported and feel like we're going where we go, and that's what Flounder did.
Rob Stevenson: 03:07 Yes, that's what Flounder did. So that's a good point, and actually it's a good segue into what we're going to talk about today.
Rob Stevenson: 03:12 So, JT, I mentioned before-
Crystal Heuft: 03:14 I'm not sure how, but I'm sure he'll make sure we get there.
Rob Stevenson: 03:16 He'll get there. Yeah.
Rob Stevenson: 03:18 As I mentioned before, JT Benton is joining us today. He's the founder and CEO of WorkBook6, and WorkBook6 is a strategic partnership marketing ... I would call it agency, but that doesn't describe the expertise that exists inside the company. So I'll leave it to you, JT. Tell us a little bit about what WorkBook6 does, because from a small business perspective, it's like nothing I've ever seen before.
JT: 03:40 All right, thank you.
JT: 03:43 It's actually always a challenge to describe our business because, to your point, there are not many, if any, firms that I know of that do what we do or at least do what we do in the same way that we do. The simplest way to put it is to say we power partnerships, right? We are all about creating a really unique, lasting, and well aligned strategic partnerships, and who we do that for has evolved a bit over time. The bigger picture and the longterm picture of who we do that for, or for whom we do that ... I'm not sure the right way to say it. Rob will probably ...
Crystal Heuft: 04:21 Luckily, it's a podcast, so no one really cares.
JT: 04:23 Sure.
Crystal Heuft: 04:23 So you can just do what feels natural.
JT: 04:25 All right. So the folks that we do this for are large US-based typically enterprises, and they are customer acquisition minded firms, right? They sell a product or service that consumers use every day. We're in a bunch of categories. It was really important to me when we started the company that we be industry agnostic, and so we have clients that range from some of the largest retail organizations in the world; huge personal lines insurance carriers; platform insurance agencies that cover multiple products across multiple regions, and customer types, and that sort of thing; banks; lenders; mortgage companies; online marketplaces. Basically, any enterprise that's got a really scalable national offer, and they're looking to acquire more customers more profitably. That's who we represent.
JT: 05:21 And what we do for them is we target strategic partnerships with entities that have a scalable source of new customers for them. Now, as we've done that, we've also grown to serve the other side of things, which is maybe a company's got a lot of customers, but their relationship with those customers is very finite. They sell a product or service, and they want to round out that offering, and improve relevancy across other categories. And so we'll recruit other products and services that they can market, and sell, and provide to their customers, either as a value-added benefit, or as an additional expense.
Rob Stevenson: 06:01 That's super interesting. And I just want a proviso here. Before JT came in to talk to us today, he did indicate that unfortunately, due to NDAs, we can't name names.
Crystal Heuft: 06:13 He's such a good friend there.
Rob Stevenson: 06:13 So we will dance around, and we will not name names. In fact, he made Crystal and I signed an NDA, and then he made us sign each other's NDA, and then he made me sign mine again in blood. So we can't name names here, but for the record, we're talking about multi-billion-dollar, multinational corporations.
Rob Stevenson: 06:30 And what's fascinating to me is how does a small business exist in that infrastructure? You talk about gigantic companies and the roles that they play. You talk about the shared common target audiences that they work towards. How on earth does somebody sit at home and think, "You know what? I deserve to be in this space. I'm going to be in this space. I'm going to create a category so I can exist in this space."
Crystal Heuft: 06:55 I was actually really excited about this topic. I believe when I asked you what are we talking about, and you slacked back what we're talking about, my first response was, "Ooh." I feel like this is like good to think about, and probably a lot of people are thinking about this, all you entrepreneurs out there. How do you kind of get by with all of these companies that are just huge?
JT: 07:15 Right, right.
Rob Stevenson: 07:17 Is there like an imposter sentiment at some point? Do you feel like, "Do I belong here?" At what point are you sitting at home thinking "This is it. This is the plan."
JT: 07:25 It's a huge, huge question. So let's break it into chunks.
Rob Stevenson: 07:30 Well, it's a half hour show, so let's break it down.
JT: 07:32 Yeah, let's break it into chunks.
JT: 07:33 So the first thing is sort of origin story. I was doing some of this work for a business that's not a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but served multi-billion-dollar enterprises. And I recognized a really interesting unit economic trend within the digital marketing space.
Rob Stevenson: 07:55 What's a unit economic trend?
JT: 07:56 So a unit economic trend, or the one that I specifically recognized in my prior role ... I was the chief revenue officer for an insurance company. This particular company was a marketplace, and we represented the largest property and casualty carriers in the world, right? Or certainly in the United States. And our job was to sell their products and services. We were responsible for the cost and the investment to go acquire those customers, and we made our money based on the longevity of those customers, right? So if a customer bought an insurance policy from a major carrier through our sales organization, and they stayed there for seven years, we recouped seven years worth of commission. Just like your normal insurance agent would.
JT: 08:40 And what I recognized in that business was that it was becoming evermore difficult to scalably acquire customers online profitably.
Rob Stevenson: 08:52 And that's the heart of the unit economic crisis. What a customer's worth versus what you paid to acquire them.
JT: 08:59 Correct.
Crystal Heuft: 09:00 Thank you, Rob. Making sure I keep up to date here.
JT: 09:02 Yeah, so basically, what I was learning or what I learned there was that in order to scalably grow and profitably grow, we had to look well beyond Google and well beyond online lead marketplaces, and-
Rob Stevenson: 09:19 Some of the more common demand gen techniques.
JT: 09:21 Right.
Rob Stevenson: 09:21 Buying ads.
JT: 09:22 Social media, media buys, et cetera.
JT: 09:24 And so what I began to do was look at organizations that had a similar customer base but didn't buy an insurance product from their provider. So that could have been a home security company. Home security customers make a great home insurance customer.
Rob Stevenson: 09:40 That actually makes a ton of sense.
JT: 09:42 Auto dealerships create thousands and thousands of auto insurance customers.
Rob Stevenson: 09:49 That is so interesting. You never think Ford ... Would totally make sense if they sold insurance. I know Tesla has started doing that in the marketplace because there are so many companies that are risk averse at the electric. But, yeah, that's such a curious thing.
JT: 10:02 Right. It is a curious thing, and it's hidden in plain sight. You see it every day. All right. Everywhere you go, you see products and services that are inserted into the funnel or cross-sold that really originate elsewhere. Right? The relationship between the companies that provide those is really interesting to me. I found that fascinating. It was a really cool hack to get around the expense of advertising on Google or Facebook, or buying leads, and that sort of thing.
JT: 10:31 And so I, in my prior role before I started this company, began to do some of this work, began to get pretty successful with it, mostly by necessity. Hadn't done a lot of it before, but I just had to to help this business succeed.
Rob Stevenson: 10:48 And so was it an instance of working for the man, or were you creating a role, or how did that go?
JT: 10:53 Neither. So I was just trying to help one company solve a really big customer acquisition and monetization problem, because that was my job. Started to get good at it, and started to hear from insurance carriers that they were taking notice of the fact that we were actually kind of beating them to new business opportunities, and they were curious as to how that was happening.
Rob Stevenson: 11:19 So you were finding more customers more inexpensive ... I don't want to use the word "cheaply," because we're not talking cheap here. But you were finding more customers more inexpensively than previous models, and all of a sudden everyone's like, how?
JT: 11:31 Right. And more importantly, access to customers which displayed better longevity characteristics.
Rob Stevenson: 11:39 Okay. So the LTV is higher.
JT: 11:40 Right. Right.
Rob Stevenson: 11:42 LTV is lifetime value.
JT: 11:45 Lifetime value. That's right. And so for so many of our clients, the north star is the outcome of dividing the cost of acquiring a customer into the lifetime value, which gives you sort of a profitability outcome.
Rob Stevenson: 11:58 And that unit economic detail that we talked about.
JT: 12:00 Correct, right.
Rob Stevenson: 12:00 Excellent. Now it's making sense.
JT: 12:03 All right, so-
Crystal Heuft: 12:03 I hope everyone brought their calculators today.
JT: 12:07 Listen, I'm nobody's mathematician.
Crystal Heuft: 12:09 But to speak to simplicity, let's break it down. Let's pretend we were writing a Twitter feed right now.
JT: 12:14 Sure.
Crystal Heuft: 12:15 Let's summarize what you just said as a hackable tweet for everyone listening. Something that changed your mind and really moved you forward to this business idea.
JT: 12:25 Sure. I was able to discover that strategic partnerships could deliver the right kinds of customers at better economics. It's a lot of work, and that many of the enterprises that we presently serve and will serve and have served don't have the systems or personnel in place to go scalably approach those and engage them.
Crystal Heuft: 12:53 I love that. See, that's why they invite me here, because on topics like this, it's over my head, so I can just be here to make sure that anyone out there is going to grab the morsel of, nugget of information. Because I think what you're also doing is really you saw a trend, which I think sometimes small business, they get used to doing things the traditional way. And I love tradition. You can ask anyone in my family, I love tradition, but I think what you noticed was a trend, and you were able to look at it from both the traditional and the trend mindset, and really be ahead of a problem. Which I think is something that small businesses really need to start getting a little bit more out there with trends, and finding out how what they do will solve that problem.
JT: 13:36 Totally.
Crystal Heuft: 13:38 So I think that's really impressive actually.
JT: 13:39 So I appreciate you saying that. What I would offer to piggyback on that is, to your original question, how does a small, small company ... We started with two people across the desk from each other, didn't raise any capital, have remained independent in that sense. And I've turned down a lot of inquiries on that front to infuse capital into the business. The way that you do that is you figure out a really compelling problem, and you start to solve it. And if you do that, big companies and small companies will want to work with you because they have a problem. And if you prove that you have a solution, or even that you have a point of view toward a solution, they'll invest.
Crystal Heuft: 14:26 We know we have you at the edge of your seat, but we're going to break and go to Worst Business Ideas in History.
Derek Harju: 14:34 Howdy, folks. I'm Derek Harju.
Dusey Van Dusen: 14:35 And I'm Dusey van Dusen.
Derek Harju: 14:36 And this is Worst Business Ideas in History.
Dusey Van Dusen: 14:38 The show where we look back at some of the most brutal missteps, failures, and flops in consumer history.
Derek Harju: 14:44 And make fun of it.
Dusey Van Dusen: 14:45 But also learn something.
Derek Harju: 14:46 Nope, it says in my contract I don't have to learn.
Dusey Van Dusen: 14:49 Fine. The rest of us will learn something and you can just mock people's misfortune.
Derek Harju: 14:53 Sounds good.
Dusey Van Dusen: 14:55 Welcome to the Worst Business Ideas in History.
Derek Harju: 14:59 Hey, everyone. Welcome again to Worst Business Ideas in History. I'm Derek Harju.
Dusey Van Dusen: 15:03 And this is Dusey van Dusen.
Derek Harju: 15:04 And today, we're going to be talking about the DMC DeLorean.
Dusey Van Dusen: 15:09 This is the Back to the Future car.
Derek Harju: 15:10 Yeah. That's how most people know it is the Back to the Future car. You tell somebody you're like, "Oh, the DeLorean," and they go, "I don't know what you're ..." You go, "The Back to the Future car."
Dusey Van Dusen: 15:18 Yeah. With the flux capacitor.
Derek Harju: 15:20 Yes.
Dusey Van Dusen: 15:20 And the Mr. Fusion.
Derek Harju: 15:23 In the second one, Yes, there was a Mr. Fusion.
Dusey Van Dusen: 15:25 But those weren't actually on the actual car.
Derek Harju: 15:27 No, they weren't. But, fun fact, people that are in a DeLorean clubs, which there are a lot of them apparently, routinely put a flux capacitor in them because they get bombarded by people asking about the flux capacitor. So they just buy one off of Think Geek or something.
Dusey Van Dusen: 15:43 That makes sense. That makes sense.
Derek Harju: 15:45 So the DeLorean is just kind of like a weird cultural touchstone from the 80s. It's very, very rooted in the 80s, and there's a good reason for that. It only existed for two years in the 80s.
Derek Harju: 16:00 The car was originally developed by John DeLorean, as that would make sense.
Dusey Van Dusen: 16:06 There we go.
Derek Harju: 16:06 And there's a lot of people that think they're like, "Oh, this weirdo came out of nowhere and made this car." That's not true at all. The fact is John DeLorean had been a designer and an engineer for GM for a very long time, and was actually on track to be President of GM. Everybody had this guy slated to be the next in line to be President at GM, and he just straight up said, "Nope." He just bailed, took some time off, went and did his own thing, and basically disappeared from public view for a while.
Dusey Van Dusen: 16:41 I also always heard it was a out-of-nowhere story, and I figured he must have just gotten with people who knew how to make cars or something.
Derek Harju: 16:48 Oh, no, no. This guy was absolutely legit. He's responsible for the GTO. He created the GTO. He was with GM for a very long time, and he was kind of a rock star. He was sort of like a Steve Jobs of his day, like a brilliant mind, but very much a rebel, as much as you could be a rebel in that time period.
Derek Harju: 17:11 And so basically he's just like, "I don't want to be President of GM. It's too structured. It's too old school. I won't get to do the kind of exciting designs that I want to do." So he just bailed, and started coming up with his own ideas. And the one that he just absolutely locked on to was the DeLorean, creating his own car.
Dusey Van Dusen: 17:36 Locked onto naming a car after himself, the one named after him.
Derek Harju: 17:41 Now, that's absolutely true. What you can definitely say about this guy is that he had confidence. You see him, and he's always in an impeccable suit. He's got awesome hair for the 80s, meaning it's as huge helmet of dense hair. He married a supermodel who was half his age after he left GM. The guy had no shortage of confidence.
Derek Harju: 18:05 The marching orders that he gave for the car were you can design it however you want, but it has to have a rear engine, and it has to be made of stainless steel, and it has to have gull wing doors. And those were his marching orders. And so after doing some research, he figured out that the best way to start a car company from scratch was to go overseas, to go to Ireland specifically and leverage their tax laws-
Dusey Van Dusen: 18:35 I was going to say it's financial stuff, right? That's why a lot of people go to Ireland.
Derek Harju: 18:38 Oh, absolutely. He needed millions of dollars to start the company. I believe even to open the doors on the factory, he needed something like $2 million in 1986.
Derek Harju: 18:51 Oh, and a quick correction. I said $2 million. I actually meant $200 million.
Dusey Van Dusen: 18:56 Okay. I was going to say. I was going to say $2 million does not sound right at all.
Derek Harju: 19:01 No, $200 million to open the factory. Sorry. Missed the decimal place by two spots. But, regardless, and so-
Dusey Van Dusen: 19:09 That seems like nothing to start a car company nowadays.
Derek Harju: 19:12 Yeah. No, no, no. It's like you can't buy a dealership for that much money.
Derek Harju: 19:18 But he got lots of investors. He got Johnny Carson to invest. He actually got the country of Ireland, because they had no job creation in the country at that time. They were absolutely starving for job creation. And so he's like, "Hey, I'll come. I'll open a plant there. It'll be awesome."
Derek Harju: 19:42 So he goes to open the plant. They literally move a mountain to make up for the landfill that he needed. They re-divert two rivers. The plant opens, and then there's some minor production problems. The first production problem being that at the same time in Ireland, they were having The Troubles, which is the wars between the Protestants and the Catholics. Like the IRA, like daily bombings, people going on hunger strikes. And it actually got so bad that at a certain point they had to build the production calendars around the projected deaths of workers that were on hunger strike.
Dusey Van Dusen: 20:26 Whoa.
Derek Harju: 20:27 Because it happens so routinely that they had to just build it into their business model.
Dusey Van Dusen: 20:32 And on that note, this has been Worst Business Ideas in History.
Derek Harju: 20:37 So there was that. They put it out, huge marketing push. They offered through Am Ex, you could actually put down a deposit on a gold-plated DeLorean. Yeah.
Dusey Van Dusen: 20:52 As if the stainless steel being mandated from on high wasn't enough, you could do a gold plate ... Like anywhere the steel ... Is that what I should be picturing? Like the whole outside?
Derek Harju: 21:03 Every part of the stainless steel body would be gold plated in 24 karat gold, which meant that once you bought that thing, if you got so much as a nick in it, you had to send it back to the factory to be re-plated.
Dusey Van Dusen: 21:14 Just send it to the local paint job that does 24 karat coatings.
Derek Harju: 21:20 Right. So, again, think about this. $85,000 for that particular vehicle in 1986.
Derek Harju: 21:27 Now-
Dusey Van Dusen: 21:28 Wow.
Derek Harju: 21:29 The car comes out. It looks great, but the problem is it looks like a sports car, but it's underpowered. The first batch of cars that were sent just were horrible, horrible productions. They were falling apart. People were having problems with the gull wing doors. The roof was leaking. Just bad press from stem to stern.
Dusey Van Dusen: 21:52 It sounds like he had some very specific ideas about what it needed to be. I'm wondering if those, if those mandates of rear engine and stainless steel ... I know that makes it super heavy ... Started to cause ... If those were design issues that were just set from the beginning instead of worked through with the engineers.
Derek Harju: 22:13 Yeah, well, that's the other part is that the company was bleeding money, so they had to get this thing out immediately. They couldn't sit and prototype this for five years and then launch it. This car needed to hit the mainstream right away. So by the end, they had produced about 7,000 cars, that, by the end, there was a total of 9,000 including the spare parts. So they put out 9,000 of these cars, and within the first year, 2,000 of them get returned to the dealerships.
Dusey Van Dusen: 22:46 Oh, man.
Derek Harju: 22:46 And here's the other part of this. The dealerships themselves, if you wanted to be a DeLorean dealer, you had to invest $25,000 in the company because they needed cash infusions, and they were getting it from anywhere they could.
Dusey Van Dusen: 22:59 People think the preorder on Teslas is weird. That is something.
Derek Harju: 23:05 So the company's bleeding money. There's bad reviews. The next thing to happen that is a real nail in the coffin is John DeLorean gets arrested.
Derek Harju: 23:17 John DeLorean is arrested. He is filmed by the FBI trying to sell them a suitcase full of cocaine. I can't stress that enough. A suitcase full of cocaine.
Dusey Van Dusen: 23:34 This story is even more 80s than I thought it was when we started. This is fantastic.
Derek Harju: 23:40 Unless there's a bulldog riding a skateboard, it doesn't get more 80s than this.
Derek Harju: 23:47 So he's selling cocaine in an attempt to infuse money to his car company. So he's arrested. It's a huge scandal. Then this other stuff starts coming out of he buys the most expensive house in New Jersey at that time in history. He bought the single most expensive piece of real estate in all of New Jersey, and he apparently did it using company money.
Derek Harju: 24:14 So the company folds almost overnight to the point where a lot of people who owned DeLoreans would call into the customer service line and they just basically-
Dusey Van Dusen: 24:25 Just nothing.
Derek Harju: 24:25 Just an empty dial tone.
Derek Harju: 24:28 So, eventually, he's actually found not guilty of cocaine trafficking despite the fact that he's on camera selling a suitcase of cocaine. I can't stress that enough.
Dusey Van Dusen: 24:40 There's a whole story there somewhere.
Derek Harju: 24:42 Yeah, but he's cleared because they charged the FBI with entrapment, and he gets off effectively scot-free. The DeLorean comes out in the movie Back to the Future, but by then-
Dusey Van Dusen: 24:56 So this is after it's closed. You can't buy one, a new one.
Derek Harju: 25:00 At the time that Back to the Future came out, the company was basically in the process of foreclosure.
Dusey Van Dusen: 25:06 Oh, man.
Derek Harju: 25:07 So it was too late. The word was out. People knew that there was this cool car, but they couldn't overcome the bad press. And within two years the company opened and closed. And then after that, another company in Texas basically bought out all of the back stock of the parts, and the company that bought them out is actually the parent company that now owns Big Lots. And so they bought all the leftover DeLorean parts for a song, and then went on to create this sub-business selling these parts to DeLorean collectors, which has turned out to be relatively lucrative.
Derek Harju: 25:45 So the question becomes what can small business owners learn from this?
Dusey Van Dusen: 25:49 Yeah, you read my mind. I was going to say, okay, this is a wild story. Don't sell coke to the FBI. Be aware of megalomaniacs. But how about some real lessons?
Derek Harju: 26:02 Well, I think the first thing that we can take from this is you have to be ready to walk before you run. This was a case of this person had an idea, he was passionate about it, and all of that is great, but he didn't take the time to properly grow his business. He wasn't patient enough to take the time, test the product, let it get to market, test it again, and be prepared to take some losses. And the other thing that this should be huge advocacy for is having working capital on hand. John DeLorean was flying by the seat of his pants from the second he had the idea until the second the company closed. Just trying to shuffle things around from A to B, getting money wherever he could to basically bring life into this dream of his.
Dusey Van Dusen: 26:51 Yeah. I think a lot of time if somebody is thinking of leaving their corporate job and starting a small business, or if you're running a small business, a lot of the advice out there is about not going into debt ever for anything. And I think there's some wisdom there because if you get in over your head with an idea that doesn't take off, that's obviously not great. However, it takes money to grow a business into something, right? So it's a slower, steady approach. And then also looking into your business and saying, "Okay, if I could have this one other employee, or if I could have this solution that would help me do X, Y, and Z, I could grow but I can't afford it right now." I think it can be worthwhile to take some time, and really evaluate your situation, and say, "Can we get some capital in here to take care of these things, and bring in the right people to actually grow the business beyond what it is?"
Dusey Van Dusen: 27:50 It gives you some breathing room and thinking room so you're not running around all the time, Mr. DeLorean, just trying to make ends meet. If you have some brain room in your business to think on your business, and some weight off of your shoulders for just enough time to put those things into place that'll help you grow, that can be a very smart way to go about it.
Derek Harju: 28:19 Right. This has been Worst Business Ideas in History. I've been Derek Harju.
Dusey Van Dusen: 28:22 This is Dusey van Dusen.
Derek Harju: 28:24 And we'll talk to you next time.
Dusey Van Dusen: 28:25 Bye!
Derek Harju: 28:27 Keeping ever expanding client info straight, sending the same emails hundreds of times, scheduling and rescheduling appointments over and over. Who enjoys this nonsense? No one, except my cousin Brent, and Brent is the absolute worst.
Derek Harju: 28:39 Keap is the premier all-in-one CRM. Just head over to keap.com, that's K-E-A-P.com, and start your free trial today. Get the busy work out of the way so you can focus on what's important, and make your small business grow with Keap. Start your free trial at keap.com. That's K-E-A-P.com. More business, less work. That's Keap.
Rob Stevenson: 29:06 You talked a little bit before about how tradition is so important to a lot of small businesses, but one of the things that small businesses are famous for is solving problems first. Being the first to discover a problem, and then going to market, and starting as a one-and-two person Mom and Pop shop, and then, the next thing you know, it explodes.
Rob Stevenson: 29:23 The WorkBook6 story is fascinating to me, and it's got two very distinct components. The what, and that's crazy. We've talked about the unit economics. We've talked about solving problems, and realizing, and having a role kind of ... And I don't want to use the term "inside the machine," but I'm not smart enough to think of a better one. But you were in the industry. You were looking and seeing, and you were working for ...
Rob Stevenson: 29:43 Let's talk about the how. So you're married, couple of kids. Come home from work one day. "Mrs. Benton, I'd like to sit you down for a second. I have an idea." So maybe take us to that point, and let's start talking about where the courage, where the gumption, where the-
Crystal Heuft: 30:02 And hopefully the support, because that's grueling.
Rob Stevenson: 30:04 Yeah. Where did all of this come from? How does it exist?
JT: 30:07 Yeah. It's almost like an emotionally driven response, and there's so much to unpack, but I'll keep it at a high level.
Rob Stevenson: 30:15 Again, half an hour podcast.
JT: 30:16 Yeah, no, I hear you. But you've asked a huge question.
Crystal Heuft: 30:19 That is huge.
JT: 30:21 So the first gumption to start a business and do it this way just comes from the way I was brought up. Both of my parents were entrepreneurs. They both kind of relish in quality of life, and have made great trade-offs that I've seen pay off really well. They're both brilliant people, and could have been executives for big businesses, and traveled the world, but they value time with family. I wasn't getting a lot of time with family in my last role. In fact, I lived in another city-
Rob Stevenson: 30:55 In a corporate world.
JT: 30:55 Yeah.
Rob Stevenson: 30:56 And I don't want to use corporate as like the big bad, but I'm using air quotes for corporate here.
JT: 31:00 Yeah. A venture backed, high pressure, dynamic environment competing with the big ones. And so the first thing was truly I had a personal problem that I needed to solve. I didn't see my kids enough, and I didn't see my wife enough.
JT: 31:17 I also really just kind of felt outside my skin. I was always really good at being an employee and an executive from an external validation point. My reviews were great. I got raises. I was paid well. I was an executive way, way earlier than a lot of people that I went to school with, and that sort of thing. And I was getting all that validation. But in terms of did I like it, was it in my DNA, I'm pretty individual, right? I'm pretty individualistic, I'm pretty unique in that way. And so feeling like I really needed to be in a place where I could kind of use that creativity and that way of thinking to power my business, win, lose or draw, and own those consequences was really important to me.
JT: 32:14 Just it all kind of came to a head, right? There was a really unique opportunity to exit and walk away from the business that I was serving as an executive. And something really needed to happen at home for me to be able to make that transition. And so the biggest place that that gumption and courage came from really was my wife, Jenny. Not from an entrepreneurial background. Mother was a teacher, Dad worked for big companies. Stability is something that she's a big fan of.
Crystal Heuft: 32:53 Me, too. That's my favorite thing. If something can be real stable, I'm happy.
JT: 32:58 Right. So if you ever meet a person like me, run, because I'm like the anti-stable.
Crystal Heuft: 33:04 I don't know. I think people like probably Jenny and myself, I think you almost start really appreciating that in others because you don't have the gumption.
JT: 33:11 It could be a good podcast.
Crystal Heuft: 33:12 When I've talked with Clate-
JT: 33:14 Significant other, right? Yeah.
Crystal Heuft: 33:14 Yeah. Right. But I literally, when I talk to Clate here, and he's talking about how he felt, I'm like thinking to myself, I have never felt like that a day in my life. Like never. But I love that he had, and he also had a problem he was trying to solve for, and I think like it's so cool to have that kind of purpose. So I identify with your wife. I think that's cool. She was supportive. But yeah, I'm the same. I love stability.
JT: 33:39 Yeah. And so the promise was let me get us to stability, and in the process I'm going to create a lot of chaos. Should last a year. Just hang tight.
Crystal Heuft: 33:51 Did it only last a year? I need to know now.
JT: 33:52 Oh, God, no. It lasted for so much longer than a year. It still persists, right? The life of an entrepreneur is never stable.
Crystal Heuft: 34:00 Clate says, yeah, it comes back, and every time you get to a new level, you're solving new problems, and getting to the chaos again. Right?
JT: 34:07 Right. Right. Now, bear in mind, we bootstrapped, right? And so-
Rob Stevenson: 34:11 So what's "bootstrapped?"
JT: 34:12 Bootstrap is to operate without the aid of external capital. So what that really means is the external capital was us. Right? It was being very judicious with cash flows, and also investing some of our personal savings, and some more of our personal savings, and then what was left of our personal savings. That sort of thing. And I can tell you, look, it could've gone the other way lots of times, but it didn't. Right? We kept kicking. We kept kind of winning on a bigger and bigger stage, and impressing larger and larger companies, and gaining larger and larger engagements to the point that we feel really good that we not only have a standalone business, but one that has some really kind of unique commercial traits that make it really valuable.
JT: 35:01 But I think the most credit for that courage really goes to my partner in life, Jenny, who was willing to be patient with me, and then my partner in business, Brett Kaufman, who Rob has met knows, for being courageous to join me in that, right? Because he's a very talented guy. I think either one of us could've had great jobs as executives many times over. Throughout the process of growing this when things were lean and thin and scary, but you just to keep kicking. If you really believe in what you're doing, you'll find a way. You'll find a way.
Crystal Heuft: 35:42 That's great.
Rob Stevenson: 35:43 For a lot of entrepreneurs, those are the entrepreneurial spirit. It lives in and flows through them. It's their lifeblood. And they're not the eight hour days. The 10, the 12, the 16 hour days. They're the ones that turn the lights on in the morning and turn them off at night. How do you cope with that? How do you turn JT off after a long day? How do you relax it and find peace in a world that can not always be peaceful?
JT: 36:10 Yeah, that's a good question. The short answer is I'm only kind of good at it. Right? And anybody who tells you that "I just leave work at the office, and then I go home, and I hug my kids, and do yoga, and do whatever," that's not real. I don't believe them. I don't believe that there's this work/life separation. I think we have lives, and our work is a really meaningful part of it.
JT: 36:45 I worked really, really hard when I worked for other people when I worked for other companies, because I sincerely care. I totally ... Can we cuss on this?
Rob Stevenson: 36:55 Go ahead.
JT: 36:56 Yeah, I totally give ... right? My name is attached to it.
Rob Stevenson: 36:59 Oh, you can't do that one.
JT: 36:59 Okay.
Rob Stevenson: 37:02 There's seven words you can't say.
JT: 37:03 Dammit.
Crystal Heuft: 37:03 That's fine.
Rob Stevenson: 37:04 That's two.
Crystal Heuft: 37:04 Please go on with your profound answer.
JT: 37:06 Awesome. Awesome.
Rob Stevenson: 37:07 Also, when I said what do you do to relax? I was thinking like fishing, but this is a good story. This is a much better story.
JT: 37:12 Right? So, okay. So, so yes, I fish a lot, right?
Rob Stevenson: 37:16 A lot. JT brings a boat to work ...
JT: 37:19 Three out of five days.
Crystal Heuft: 37:22 A boat? Is that "about," or a boat?
JT: 37:24 About. I get it, a Canadian thing. Yeah.
Rob Stevenson: 37:26 JT's like, "Oh, by the way-"
Crystal Heuft: 37:27 I'm not quite sure which it was. I'm being serious.
Rob Stevenson: 37:29 "By the way, it's lunchtime. Who wants to go fishing?" It's like, "Okay, let's go fishing."
JT: 37:35 So I do fish a lot, and I would say if you think about the business that we're in and the work that we do, which is finding targets for our clients, finding out how they like to be communicated, where they interact, and how best to engage them, that sounds a lot like fishing, just in a corporate partnership world.
Rob Stevenson: 37:59 Ooh.
Crystal Heuft: 38:00 Look at this tie back.
Rob Stevenson: 38:01 Allegories. Ooh.
Crystal Heuft: 38:02 He's good, guys. Watch your wallets.
Rob Stevenson: 38:06 He's good, he's good.
JT: 38:07 But you can't always go fishing, right? So we live in the desert. It's hours to do that. And it's a pretty good way to alienate yourself from your family if you do it too much, so be with family-
Crystal Heuft: 38:19 Just ask Scott Peterson. Just kidding.
Rob Stevenson: 38:21 Wow.
Crystal Heuft: 38:21 Sorry. Bad joke.
Rob Stevenson: 38:22 Holy cow.
Crystal Heuft: 38:25 Too much true crime this week. Too much true crime.
JT: 38:26 Yeah. So what I would say is-
Rob Stevenson: 38:27 It does bring it back to the Flounder reference earlier, but-
Crystal Heuft: 38:30 Accidentally.
Rob Stevenson: 38:31 It does.
JT: 38:33 What I would say is for everybody, it's different. For me, I get better by helping other people. So I try to coach my kids' sports teams. I try to engage with other entrepreneurs who are either earlier in their mission or they're struggling with something later in their mission.
Crystal Heuft: 38:51 That's great.
JT: 38:51 And that gives me the opportunity to think in different ways. Sleep's really important. I don't work late at night ever if I can avoid it.
Crystal Heuft: 39:03 Wow. Disciplined.
JT: 39:06 My partner Brett works all hours. Right? He's constant, and that's his release, for me, I just find that the quality of my work really dwindles after I kind of reach an exhaustion point. I try to do something physically active, but not at the gym. Like I mow the lawn, or I'll go like work on something at the house to just get out of my screens a little bit. And I just try to remind myself that progress takes time, that urgency is important, but so is patience.
Crystal Heuft: 39:42 So we're getting ready to wrap up here, but I want to ask ... I know it goes quick, right?
JT: 39:46 So fast, yeah.
Crystal Heuft: 39:47 Probably because we hardly let you finish the sentence, but I hope you felt like you got some stuff out.
JT: 39:52 I did, yeah.
Crystal Heuft: 39:53 But what I want to end with is if you had really one tip for how a small business can make it with these huge conglomerates and huge companies, what would be your tip to get them motivated and keep going?
JT: 40:08 Sure. Well, the first thing you have to do is you have to understand their problems. You have to develop empathy. So my one tip-
Rob Stevenson: 40:16 Can a billion dollar company have empathy, or do I have to have empathy in order to understand their problems?
JT: 40:21 You have to have empathy for them.
Rob Stevenson: 40:23 I see, I see, I see.
JT: 40:24 Okay. Curiosity creates empathy. Empathy is a thing that you have after you understand, so develop a real curiosity, and then deploy that curiosity with a willing partner on the other side. So before you try to sell anything, just try to learn, right? Just listen, ask questions.
Crystal Heuft: 40:42 I love that. That's so important.
Crystal Heuft: 40:44 Well, you guys heard it here first. Curiosity builds empathy.
JT: 40:49 Yeah. It creates empathy.
Crystal Heuft: 40:50 Creates empathy from JT Benton. Thank you for being here.
Rob Stevenson: 40:53 Wait, Curiosity Creates Empathy was the name of my high school bagpipe band.
Crystal Heuft: 40:58 Good. Good way to bring it in.
Rob Stevenson: 40:59 No, it was. It was Curiosity Creates Empathy. Free hugs after each performance.
Crystal Heuft: 41:04 100%. Who wouldn't after a bagpipe performance?
Crystal Heuft: 41:07 Anyways, thank you so much, JT, for being here. We really appreciate your time, and we hope everyone's listening, and got some good nuggets out of that.
JT: 41:16 Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Crystal Heuft: 41:19 Thanks.
Rob Stevenson: 41:20 Thanks.
Derek Harju: 41:22 Thanks for listening to Small Biz Buzz. Please take a second to subscribe to the show and leave a five star rating. It helps keep the show going. And if you need a hand with growing your small business, head over to keap.com, that's K-E-A-P.com, and get started. More business, less work. That's Keap.