How to deal with copycats

I interviewed today’s guest a while back about this brilliant idea he had. The company was called Diamond Candles and my audience of entrepreneurs was blown away with the fact that he was doing a million dollars a month in revenue from fricking candles.

So many people were excited by it that some actually went off and said, “I can do that.”

Justin Winter, the founder, told me it actually hurt his business. We’ll talk about that in the interview.

Today, Justin is the founder of Boostopia, an all-in-one support operations platform. We’ll also talk about why he’s moved away from candles and on to SaaS.

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Justin Winter

Justin Winter

Boostopia

Justin Winter is the founder of Boostopia, an all-in-one support operations platform.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: . Hey there. Freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner and I’ve got a guest on who I interviewed a while back about this brilliant idea that he had. Let me picture this. Imagine you go to buy a candle and you see that one candles ordinary. Nice smells good. Looks good. Everything about it is just what you’d expect from a candle, but the one next to it.

Is a candle that when you burn it down, you’ll end up with a ring that’s hidden inside the candle. And the rain could actually be a diamond ring. That’s valuable. Which one would you pick? Well, many, many, many people picked, uh, the ring that Justin winter created. He had a company called diamond candles. He interviewed with me back in 2013 and blew way my audience of entrepreneurs with the fact that he was doing a million dollars a month in revenue from fricking candles.

And it was bootstrapped. And so many people were excited by it that they listened to the interview. And some actually went off and said, I can make a candle in my living room. I’ve seen you do videos on this. And they actually did that. And yes, they buried, uh, rings inside their candles. And yes, they had this jackpot opportunity of getting a diamond ring and their candles.

Actually, I don’t even know if that was the model. There’s so many different models of copycats that, uh, Justin said it actually hurt his business. And I felt bad about that, but he said, Andrew don’t feel bad. I, I think there was a method. There was a reason why he was doing it. We’ll talk about that in the interview.

He has since left the company, it did better. And then it, and then it suffered a little bit, I think, from all the competitors. And then he went off and said, you know, the big issue that we had, uh, when we were selling candles was customer support. That apparently hired a bunch of customer support. People use spreadsheets to keep track of how they were doing.

He had this big chaos that could have been a lot cleaner if yeah, it didn’t involve spreadsheets and a lot of manual work. And he said, that’s good would be my next mission. I’m going to help companies that have multiple customer support people manage their customer support people and their customer support experiences so that they could have.

A cleaner, easier life, not spend as much on customer support people and actually give their people, their customers a really good experience. So anyway, Justin winter created boosts. Topia is the name of the company. I invited him here to talk about this all in one support platform that will get your, uh, get you better customer experiences.

And I can do this interview. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you’re managing a remote team and you want to keep. Your systems, your processes organized, right? You got to check out train uil.com/mixergy. And the second one you’re ready to hire developers. Go to top talent.com/mixergy. I’ll talk about those later first, Justin.

Good to have here. How high did the revenue go? Hit me.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, at peak we were doing just a little over $21 million a year. So it was, it was a wild ride.

Andrew: When you say $21 million, your bootstrap guy from not like zillionaire origins. Right?

Justin: Yes, definitely not, definitely not.

Andrew: How did your life change when things got good? Let’s talk about the good. Before we get into the bad.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, it was a lot of fun. I mean, it, it really was. We, you know, we definitely do a lot of things wrong, but we did enough things, right. You know, to cover for a world of sins in that way. So. It was a ton of fun, you know, bringing a lot of joy to a lot of people with a fun product, um, and something that was also a heavily gifted product as well.

So, uh, was a ton of fun. It was great to really be in a position to work with a lot of smart people to kind of always be thinking about what’s the next thing we can do to create competitive advantage in the company using the latest and greatest tools and approaches and things like that. So, I,

look back on that time as, kind of my DIY MBA a bit, as, so it was just a phenomenal, very quick compressed learning experience.

we were able to do a lot of good while we were at it and bring a lot of, a lot of joy to a lot of people.

Andrew: I know he was a religious man. Nice guy. I don’t imagine that you went and spent money on hookers and blow, but I gotta believe that you, you enjoyed life on a personal level a little bit. Right? What did you do?

Justin: as a, as a Christian and someone who tries to follow Jesus in every different part of my life, I think, uh, where definitely, you know, as a, as a pretty messed up selfish person, not a perfect person. , you know, it was, uh, challenging at first to, you know, have. Plenty of resources and I definitely did some stupid stuff.

Now. It wasn’t hookers and blow. I thankfully, so, you know, I got some leases on some nice cars. I kind of count my chickens before they hatch kind of thing. Um, so, you know, there’s this just looking back purchases like that, that were silly,

Andrew: What’s the fun car.

Justin: so both for my wife and I, I had a, a Mercedes sedan and then she had a Mercedes SUV kind of like their, uh, like medium sized SUV or

Andrew: What’s that go for? That doesn’t seem like that. Crazy and expense.

Justin: it wasn’t inside for sure.  I mean, we really kept most of the money in the business just to, to push growth. So w we really weren’t, pulling out 20% just living high on the hog either.

So like, we were doing fine. but, uh, so we were definitely comfortable,

Andrew: You were starting to say you also rented something.

Justin: So like, like renting houses for too long, I should have bought a house a long time ago. I just started diversifying buying assets instead of liabilities signing up for liabilities,

Andrew: Got it. All right. I can understand that it would be smarter to own an asset than to rent somebody else’s asset. But I also understand you are running a company pretty quickly. You were distracted. Okay. You also said that you were trying to find a competitive advantage, how, like it does seem like anybody could come up with this idea of putting a ring in a candle.

What did you do that would put a moat around your business?

Justin: my partners in that business who, you know, had invented kind of the, the product innovation, , we definitely had some patents that we ended up  using too. , create some defensibility there. , but a lot of it really was just kind of scaling advantages.

I mean, we, we have, I had at one point and I’m not sure where the number is now, but over a million Facebook fans rights. Um, I think from a branding perspective, we definitely thought very carefully about investing and, I mean, just not looking right. Some Homebrew thing, you know, we want it to be the nicest one.

and. because of how we had set up things like manufacturing, which we managed ourselves, fulfillment and shipping. we reached scale before, obviously anyone else, cause we were the first ones doing it and the differences between kind of our cost of goods and our net contribution margin kind of at peak compared to when we started.

you know, it was nearly half as much, right. Uh, just tapping into economies of scale with different things. So I think, you know, things like that, that

Andrew: You’re saying it gets cheaper to buy rings. If you buy them in bulk, It’s easier to reach an audience if you already have a big audience. Right. And you had a million people, this was back when Facebook would allow you to organically reach your fans. Right. If somebody said that they liked you eventually that started to go away.

I get all that. Let’s get that into the copycats. What did they do? What did you see? You attracting them.

Justin: a lot of really didn’t do that much. We, you know, we started to see so many of them that were, , basically different variations of the word diamond candles. Right. Um, you know, would have the word candles in it and rang or something like that. And what we saw is that, you know, a lot of them, they would, put together, a pretty crappy logo and, , spin up a Shopify site.

And, you know, sometimes we would see ads often times just ad words, type stuff, where people were trying to slip off of our keywords, right. To kind of be this other option. But, we get the list just to kind of be aware of them. We weren’t maybe obsessed with looking at what they were doing.

There were maybe only two out of 20 that were. Actually executing at a high level, both kind of their marketing and advertising strategy. The website was, you can tell if someone was running it, who knew what they were doing, that kind of thing.

Andrew: Did you get a sense of who they were? , was it an organization that had a lot of experience and a lot of Shopify stores up and running, and this was a new product for them.

Justin: there, there was one that was started by, some entrepreneurs that had had prior experiences and, and they, you know, they were performing at a fairly high level. I think they’re still around today. Um, and then there was another group actually that. was actually a startup incubator in investor, that originally wanted to invest in that company.

Uh, and then they turned around a couple of months later after we turned down their really crappy deal. and they decided to copy us. So, uh, that was, that was nice.

Andrew: Accelerated that would invest, but also cop, who are we talking about?

Justin: I don’t know if

Andrew: Can we say, allegedly, you heard that this was a company.

Justin: science inc. Uh, is the name of the group?

Andrew: interesting. Yeah. That’s um, uh, what’s his name? Peter Pham and, uh, um, Mike Jones, his thing out of LA and they’re really good guys. I mean, I mean, really good at execution.

Justin: Yes. Yes. Yeah. So we originally talked to them about investing in the business and they invest in outside organizations and they’ll incubate their own companies. And after us turning down their, pretty low market offer and obviously us sharing a fair amount of detail, , about things, you know, they, you know, we saw a competitor pop up a couple months later and, lo and behold, the domain registration was.

Andrew: Are they still

around?

Justin: they might be, I’m not sure, but, that definitely, uh, you know, definitely plays a very bad taste in our mouth. for sure. We felt that was, arguably a bit unethical,

Andrew: So I know when guests come on here to do interviews, they’re revealing a lot, but they have, they’re intentional about it. We tend to think that entrepreneurs, you luck into this brilliant idea and that’s why they do well. But. It’s not a, why did you do the interview with me?

Justin: At that time, we were beginning the process of serving to raise money from investors. So the idea of garnering business, press and coverage, we felt like, or I guess I felt like strategically would be an asset to that process. So, um, you know, between, you know, that interview with you, there was, you know, maybe a half, a dozen other podcasts, a couple.

Like guest blog posts to type things that we did

Andrew: We’re also big on Cora, which is how one of my listeners found you and introduced me

to you. So that’s what it was. It was you doing. And that’s why a lot of people do interviews with me. They want to get their company out there in front of the business press so that when someone is thinking of investing in them, they have something to go and research and get their perspective.

Or if they’re not even thinking about it, they can come across your company and say, Oh, why aren’t we a part of this business? Why aren’t we talking to them? At least did that

Justin: Definitely. Yeah. So, so yeah, and in many ways it did, um, we, you know, in between that, you know, the other part was definitely a big part of my personal learning process is fairly experiential and that I like talking to other entrepreneurs and learning from them kind of live case study method. So, you know, probably half of the incentive for me was.

No, I also just enjoyed it and I got to meet more and more awesome people. Cause they would hear about me and reach out and just want to talk. And I’m just loved learning about their business and then sharing about what we’re going through. And a lot of good insights in kind of ideas would come from those interactions.

Um, but it did work out on the investor side of things. We went through a process to, uh, you know, raise money from investors and although we didn’t end up. Closing on some money from investors. You know, we definitely had an offer, you know, that we were happy with. Um, uh, we had some priorities change internally that led to, uh, not wanting to go down that route.

Um, but in some way, you know, it, we did accomplish the goal we set out to accomplish in that respect.

Andrew: Okay. Alright. The other thing, yes, I saw competitors and I heard about those after the interview. The other thing that I heard was. This is a lottery. Andrew, the reason they’re doing well is they’re selling lottery. Tickets wrapped in this whole candle story. Someone’s paying a few bucks for a candle with the chance of winning a lot of dollars with the ring.

How did you deal with that?

Justin: Yeah. So still we definitely invested a lot of money in some, uh, some, some counsel to help us navigate the, um, the laws around, uh, what in legal terms is, uh, defined as a. Quote, illegal lottery, uh, in around games of chance. And we basically just got ourselves familiar with what it did and didn’t say, um, and just made sure we were compliant, you know, uh, within all of those rules.

So, uh, you know, Yeah. So, uh, you know, the, a lot of it has to do with things like, uh, so as an example, uh, a raffle, right? So if someone does a fundraiser for some local nonprofit, like a Quantis club or Elks club or something like that, right. Um, one thing that you generally can’t do. Is to, uh, go around and sell something, um, uh, at an exorbitant markup compared to what it normally is, uh, with the chance of potentially winning something of much larger value.

So if you went around selling a stick of gum, that costs $2, but you’re selling it for $200, that same stick of gum. Um, but then you’re saying, Hey, there’s a, you know, one in a million chance you’ll win a million bucks. That is not a legal lottery. Right. Um, that would be an illegal lottery and in most States, so there are things like that.

And for us, really, what we did is that, um, with the candle, um, people were buying the candle that also included what was actually a. Token, uh, quote unquote that had a randomized code on it that people would then go to the websites and enter it to see if they also want something of a higher value. So there was the kind of the $10 retail value level ring in 100%.

Of all of the candles, but then there was this separate token that could also be redeemed for this higher value. So it was highly analogous to kind of the famous McDonald’s monopoly promotion. Right.

Andrew: And then, so the way that you do there is as long as you let people enter for free, by going to the site or mailing in, then you’re okay. That’s the, that’s the big reason that you are able to do this,

Justin: That is, that is one of the primary requirements. Yes.

Andrew: Got it. So any, anyone who wanted to enter could buy, could buy the candle or they could just get a free entry somehow.

And that entry was probably what, uh, uh, send us a card by mail and we’ll do it that way. Got it. You get a lot. I used to do that too. I had a lottery site called grab.com and we were told, just let people enter in by mail. I don’t think we got any by mail.

Justin: Yeah. So we, we definitely did. I think for our demographic, that was, uh, that most enjoyed our products. Um, and this was also about the time when kind of. Quote, unquote mom bloggers and kind of like couponers really started to become a thing. Um, so, so, uh, we definitely did get a lot, I think maybe at peak we may be only got a couple hundred a month.

So it was the kind of thing where, you know, one of us would sit down for an afternoon once a month and then just kind of. You know, manually take all that data, toss it into spreadsheets, you know, upload that spreadsheets to an email tool, you know, email back the randomized codes. And then we were good to go.

We just kept good records and then we were fine.

Andrew: Okay. Did you love this business being in the candle space?

Justin: So I love the business. Um, I also enjoyed the products, um, you know, but I would say certainly, uh, my life goal wasn’t to be a candle man, right?

Andrew: I know there’s some, there’s so many people who’d like goal is to be a candle person, right. They they’re dying to, they’re making it home. They want people to appreciate the art of it. That’s not you, but you like the business part of it, the figuring out that Facebook was going to be the next right.

Justin: Yes. Yes. I love growing things and I love operating things, finding efficiencies in things. Now, you know, I loved, you know, the impact that our products had. You know, it was this vehicle for people to express love and appreciation and bring joy to someone else as a gift and to bring joy into their. Own home.

So, so that was fulfilling in that sense. I think just the candle, the rings just were the vehicle by which that was accomplished for consumers. So, you know, for me, you know, again, a lot of my, you know, I didn’t go to bed, wake up thinking, Oh my gosh, like what’s going to be the latest and greatest fragrance.

You know, on this next product, it was really, you know, how can we get more of a product out into the world? How can we improve the operations to create more margins so we can reinvest back in growth? How can we improve the customer experience? Right. And how can we, we just better please, the customer, right?

Um, w in, you know, if, if a customer, you know, if we find customers, uh, are most likely to like fragrance X, well, awesome. Let’s make it right. Let’s make them happy. Right? Let’s, let’s focus on, on that side of things.

Andrew: I’ve been listening to Scott Adams book. He’s a guy who wrote Dilbert. I think it’s something how to fail your way to success, something like that. And he says that when he was a loan officer, the, his boss used to tell him, do not invest it. Do not. Give loans to people who have a passion for their business who have a passion for the thing that they’re selling.

So those people are not thinking rationally, find someone who found an interesting business model. And they’re excited about that and invest in that boring person, more than the person with passion. That’s where you are. Right. You care more about the business of the business. I

Justin: Yup. Yeah. A hundred percent.

Andrew: Okay. So you were able to build this up.

You are able to do it. Why did you leave? Why didn’t you stick with this?

Justin: Yeah. So I realized at one point that, uh, at around the five year Mark, um, the only thing I had done for a greater period of time in my life, Was elementary school. Right. And so, uh, you know, in having enjoyed the kind of that journey they’re growing very rapidly, I always knew it was only going to be for a time, not a forever kind of thing.

So I think there was some combination of, I felt like I had treated the most impact there that I could. And, uh, in many ways I think the organization would benefit from some different, a different set of eyes. Uh, and then I was also just itching to. Really try to figure out to figure out something else.

And even though at the time I might not have a hundred percent known exactly what that was. I had a kind of a top three list of, you know, one of those things certainly is what became what I’m doing now. But, um, I, I was just ready for something new. I have that entrepreneur kind of add for good and for bad.

Um, it was just ready to, to try and figure out another problem, solve another problem for a lot of people and create an impact.

Andrew: I’m curious about what the top three things are, but first, okay. The U S uh, I love this idea. Do you think there are other businesses like this, where there’s basically a chance based business with a novelty that. I don’t know, I perfect about this was you’d have to really let the candle burn down to see whether you got the ring and you never lost because there’s always something interesting ring, right.

Even if you weren’t crazy about it, he got kids. They’re going to be nuts about the fact that there’s something in there. And if you’ve got friends over this, a discovery element, do you have other businesses like this that you’ve

Justin: Yeah. So one of the really common conversations I had while I was there was, Oh man, it’s so obvious. It’s so genius, you know, could I put a ring in insert product X, right. Or kind of applying it? I think it’s actually a harder. A kind of gap to fill, then it might seem at first glance because like, like you’re saying, so I think the dynamics that made it work was that the price point of the product was an impulse price point.

So it’s $25. Right. Um, the, the, the demographic of that. Underlying product. That candle was one that also heavily overlapped with people who enjoy games of chance, shall we say? Right. Um, and sweepstakes and things like that. Um, and then the anticipation element of it was a big part of the value for a lot of people.

It wasn’t just that there was going to be a ring inside it’s that you had to wait, right. So you’re like, Oh, what’s it going to be? What’s it going to be? Right. So just that, that bill, I think is a lot of the value, uh, for people. Um, and it was also kind of otherwise a commodity product commodity consumer product that was also consumable.

That means repeat, repeat purchases. And then it’s also something which Kindles are one of the top five, most socially acceptable gifts. Um, and, uh, in the United States. So it was an easy like, Oh, I could try it once for myself. I might not maybe want to buy it again for myself. It was fun one time, but I can’t see myself doing this 10 times, but man, this will be a great gift because maybe, maybe I normally buy candles for other people anyway, and I already spend $25.

So why not just do this one? Right. So there, there was kind of a lot of elements at work. So that Venn diagram kind of pinpoint there, um, really super unique and I’ve struggled to find or think through at least anything else that really check all of those boxes. You might get four out of five, but, but not all of them.

Andrew: You think about something like cereal, which people would eat on a regular basis that used to include prizes. Maybe you bring back the prize into healthier cereal, but it’s, it’s still, it’s the closest I could think of, but it’s not the same.

Justin: Yeah. The, the, the Cracker Jack box

Andrew: right? Exactly. Exactly. Then maybe you take it a step higher and you make it into something a little bit more valuable.

They always had some piece of. It wasn’t a great toy, but imagine if you give people the possibility of getting a diamond ran, I get that. Okay. Um, alright. Let me talk about my first sponsor. And then we’ll get back into this interview. My first monster is a company. We called train you all. What they do is they allow you to create training manuals, especially useful.

If you’ve got a remote team, do use training manuals at your team. Justin, do you have a process? What do you put it in?

Justin: Uh, yeah, so, so we largely, for our repeatable processes, we typically use a task management system, um, to, to do that. Um, but uh, we kind of use templates to kind of reproduce them. Uh, but yeah, it’s definitely being able to have it written down and go through things. It’s super important for us.

Andrew: And the ability to also know that, you know what, we’ve made a change to our process. I want everybody who’s gone through this process before. This is what you’re doing. Makes total sense. Just create a checklist. You have a new person coming on board, copy the checklist, give it to them. Right. You have a new process that you’re repeating over and over every time you do copy the checklist.

Do it there, people do this in a sauna. They do this in base camp. They do it, frankly, in any checkup, any old checklist. The problem with that is you have an improvement, a twist to your process. You want to get everybody who’s done the process before to notice that they’ve done the process before and that this new part is there.

If you have this new onboarding way of talking to customers, you want everyone to notice that and check it out and actually. Sign-off yes, I’ve watched this. I’ve learned it. I’ve gotten the new process, those types of things can’t be done with the old checklist systems, which is where training will comes in.

They are designed from the beginning to be this manual for your business to allow you to repeat your best workers best days. So. Whatever it is. It’s ideal. You put it into train, you will, you can then copy it for everyone else, the company. And you’ve got a way of watching to make sure that they’ve actually gone through it and used it.

I think I could talk about this a lot, but the only way for you to really get a sense of how it is is to actually go and try it for yourself. If you’re listening to me. I’ve got an offer for you. That will let you get 30% off, off your first three months with triangle. If you decide to sign up, but to also understand how you can improve your business by systemizing it, especially if you’ve got a remote team, you want them to, I’ll be doing the same thing and to keep improving so that if you’ve got one person, Chicago has made an improvement.

Person in Los Angeles should know that there’s an improvement in the process and get to notice it, get to use it and have whoever’s in charge, know that they’ve both been doing the same thing and that they’re both going through your system. All right, here it is go to train uil.com/mixer to get it.

Training manual is a combination gets you train uil.com/mixergy. I should spell it. T R a I N E a l.com/m I N E R G Y. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. What are the other two ideas? We’re going to spend a lot of time on Hystopia, which is the big idea that you want with that I’d never seen. What are the other two that you had?

Justin: Yeah. So, uh, initially I thought about doing something else in e-commerce, but really kind of made the decision early on that I wanted to make kind of jump ship and move over to software. So kind of those other top two ideas, one of them was an idea, um, in the kind of healthcare. Uh, space with, um, helping, uh, consumers being able to kind of automatically collect and digitize their health records, um, and doing that in such a way where we could incense people to find better deals on different, uh, types of, um, Uh, you know, uh, procedures or, uh, like medical expenses and things like that.

Um, my, my, my wife has a, uh, she’s been battling for about 10 years, a chronic Limus disease. She’s, she’s almost into remission now, but, uh, for us, with all the different doctors and everything going on, um, you know, to have one place, one app on my phone or a desktop app where I can just kind of pull up.

Well, it’s like this timeline of all the visits, all the documents for each of those visits, that’s not really a thing. Uh, and so if, you know, kind of had a creative idea around a cost effective way to basically automatically reach out to, um, the, the place where someone might go for an appointment, whether it’s even just the dentist or something, request those records automatically catalog those.

Um, and then trying to be creative, run a business model around that, but that was the first

Andrew: Kind of like a credit karma for health, right? Credit karma gives you credit score, but constantly tells you based on your credit score, here’s an offer for you, the new credit card, et cetera. And the payoff on those affiliate programs is huge. Yeah. And I’m assuming you notice that. I think in the U S it’s relatively easy to get a doctor to send over medical records.

Right. You just need a system for getting it. Yeah. Okay. And why didn’t you go with that idea?

Justin: Yeah. So I think a concept that’s really resonated with me well, that, that I’ve, I’ve heard in a number of places. It’s kind of this idea of, um, you know, not moving too far away from your prior experience and domain expertise too quickly. So for me, going from software or from a consumer goods product in e-commerce to.

Number one healthcare and number two software, right? Like that, that would have been a pretty big leap for me that I would have needed to have augmented, augmented my skill set with founding partners that would have brought in that expertise. Um, and I obviously ended up landing on with. You know, boost Topia, which we’ll talk about more in a minute.

Um, what’s kind of a club next step. Cause it was, it was the same version. Uh, but it was software. So I think if, you know, after boot soapy, if at some point I wanted to take that next leap, well then going from software to another software, Well, I’ve done that before now, going from B2B SAS to healthcare that’s different, but then that’s only one kind of major change.

So, um, was trying to be wise about how, how quickly I, you know, going from where I am today to a rocket scientist tomorrow, that idea. Right. But there’s probably a set of two or three things in between that. Where if I wanted to be a rocket scientist, I could write, but going from here two there in two seconds, that’s probably unwise,

Andrew: You know what that makes so much sense. And still, I think a lot of people, a lot of entrepreneurs take the bigger leap because they’re burned out on the one thing that they were doing before they want to start absolutely fresh. And they imagine that life on the other side of that is way better. Right.

But in reality, I think they discover that they, that they’re alone again and, and they, and all the tools, all the people, all the things that they acquired before are gone and. That’s a that’s that’s a waste. Okay. Quickly. What’s the second one. The second idea that

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. The second one, uh, software, uh, was actually an idea around, um, the, uh, kind of foster care and adoption, uh, kind of domestic infant adoption kind of markets. Um, I was adopted as an infant myself and what most people don’t realize. Is that infant domestic adoption, the U S typically costs about $40,000.

Um, you know, that’s, that’s less than things like, um, uh, and I’m forget the, uh, kind of the routes of working with doctors, uh, on infertility and kind of rounds of IVF, I think. Yeah. IVF, which can be 60 to $70,000 on average before. And their success if there’s success. Uh, but, um, one of the things that I do have into is I had some friends, you had a adopted, or going through that process.

It was something where I was just curious, you know, why is it so expensive? Right. So, um, as I learned more about that and where all that margin went, it’s a heavily pen and paper kind of thing. Um, most people who work in or I’ve started adoption agencies, um, you know, they’re not business operations, definitely not technology experts.

Right. Uh, they’re they’re making a little to no money. Um, you know, they’re typically nonprofits. So, uh, it was an idea around how can we provide tooling for them to make their job easier. So they spend less time. Um, you know, doing the admin work and more time serving, you know, customers, both the birth mothers and the kind of new forever families.

And in doing that, um, with those efficiencies, I was excited about the idea of, you know, what it happens. If you could bring that cost in the marketplace down from an average of $40,000 to maybe say, $10,000. Right. What would that do for the very large, um, uh, kind of, uh, foster care population in the U S which is extremely large, right.

Um, to get to, to get everyone in a home.

Andrew: And why didn’t you get behind that idea?

Justin: Yeah. So, um, uh, and that’s an idea that’s still, I think about regularly, I think, um, in part that was also a, it felt like that was going to be, um, not as much of a stretch as the other idea, but a bit too far for me. And I didn’t envision a quick. Uh, questions around the business model there with how quick, you know, you could make money doing that.

Um, and based on how I want it to start a couple putting and looking for kind of early stage investors, things like that, um, it, it just, as I started to get feedback and all these ideas for a number of people and kind of processing, you know, what that first six months looked like that first 12 months really felt like.

What I ended up doing was going to be a much better fit for my skillset to date. Um, um, and kind of, to kind of make that transition over to, uh, B2B software, you know, environment versus, you know, that, uh, that other type of application,

Andrew: And what they, from what I understand  came about because of a problem that you had with customer support, when you were selling candles, talk about what that problem looked like back in the day for you.

Justin: Yeah. So I was the first support agent at diamond candles and, uh, you know, sitting there in Gmail first for 10 minutes a day, then 30 minutes a day, then an hour a day. And I became the part time support manager when we hired our first support person and between there to five full time people. And then at peak, a little over 20 full time people over the course of the five years, um, You know, that, that I was there.

Um, it was really, really challenging to first kind of understand why are people even reaching out to us, you know, beyond just an anecdote? Oh, well they have a shipping question. Well, like what kind of shipping question? Right? So it was kind of this big black box. That was one of the main issues. We didn’t understand what was happening, why people were reaching out.

So it was difficult to understand how to eliminate those problems. Uh, in the first place so that people in the future didn’t have those problems. And then as the team size has definitely continued to grow, we were asking questions around, well, how can customer support maybe contributes to our top line?

How can we turn support into something that makes money for companies? And now with multiple people. I’m kind of managing that team, understanding the performance of our different team members, who do we need to be training more? Who are experts on handling different types of issues? Um, what type of team training should you know, what’s our biggest weakness for the entire team?

What type of dream team training should we run? No, this week, all of those questions, we had no idea. Um, and we were using Zendesk, which is a great ticketing system product. Um, but the baked on kind of afterthought reporting that they have really, wasn’t helping us do any of those things. And we ended up kind of the entire job of the support manager, uh, lived in spreadsheets and Google docs. Yeah. So we were doing things like keeping track of, um, you know, why customers are contacting us, um, by kind of manually writing stuff down.

Andrew: every person would have to go in and write after an email, what the thing was about.

Justin: For a time. Yeah. For the course of a couple of weeks, we’re like, well, Hey, we wanna at least get a good sample size. So we kind of made this list and they’d have to go in and kind of check a box. And then we’d kind of get a little bit of a feel for, you know, Hey, the average week,

Andrew: Okay. Yeah, we had something we did that using tags in help scout. It still ends up with you end up with a lot of tags, but you don’t get enough depth from the tags. And then it’s hard to really do much with it. And so I feel like I put all my people through an extra step that was annoying for no benefit that I could show them and say, look, I’m going to ask a lot of you, but here’s what you’re contributing to.

Nothing.

Justin: Right. Yeah. And that, that was our experience. It was even with the examples we had after we were looking at that data, we had kind of reasons for contact or ticket topics, which were things like shipping well for any commerce company that can be a dozen, a

Andrew: Like what, what are some of the problems involved in ship? What’s an example of something you could fix if you knew was a problem in

Justin: Yeah. So, uh, where’s my order, order tracking related questions as an example, that’s something which is super basic and straightforward, that if we really understood how much, how often that was happening, how much time it took our team and based on how much we paid our team, really how much money was that costing us every single month to manually solve that problem, we would have prioritized doing something like, well, man, I don’t know, is there something we can do with the website to provide some type of utilities so people can just check themselves because we knew that manually answering that question was not in and of itself adding any business value.

Andrew: It might actually make sense to hire a developer to code your own shipping tracking system. As, as much as it is out of your, your field of focus, it might be better to do that than to keep having customer support people. Handle it. Got it. And then of course, everyone, who’s not sending in a customer support ticket, who’s benefited by it.

It’s an extra boot for the boost for the business. I see. But you didn’t know, is this a huge problem that our software is not doing enough of? Or is it a small one? Is it taking up a lot of cost or is it just a small distraction? Got it. Okay. And you were trying to do all that in a spreadsheet. How many people did you have.

Justin: Yeah. So, so at peak we had around 20 or so full time people, uh, you know, run the kind of Christmas holiday buying season. Uh, so it was, it was really challenging and, and kind of that insight of being able to not just see how often something was happening, but being able to see the cost really was, you know, that was something that would have unlocked the natural incentives within the business to say, you know, Hey, we’re spending a thousand dollars a month.

Manually fixing this issue. Well, if we can identify a project, let’s say that would cost us $2,000, but we think he’d cut this thing down by 80%. Well, we can do a payback period analysis and then invest in improving the customer experience. Right? So it’s like if we, if we could have articulated things just for ourselves to understand what the opportunities really were, then we would have loved to invest in saving money in the future.

Uh, you know, so. Whether it was systems or whether it was training individual team members. One of the things we found, uh, more anecdotally, because we knew we’d have to kind of look at this, but we had some team members that for different types of questions, they would take, say maybe 10 minutes to answer that question sufficiently or another team member could do it in literally.

Two minutes. So there was very little commonly, a five X 500% differential between the most productive, best performing team member in a particular area and the lowest performing team member. But, but we didn’t ever know it. And even the agents, the team, they didn’t even know that. So being able to finally see that information well, very clearly it’s like, Oh, well, we’ll take this person who clearly needs more training and let’s give them more training.

Andrew: Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking then let’s route the questions to the person who can do a fastest, but that’s, that’s a way, but I, I liked the idea of just training up the people who don’t know. And you also told Ari I’ve been using a lot of the notes that, uh, Ari, our producer sent me on her conversation with you.

You said there were no KPIs and that’s something that hit home with me too. For our customer support, we kept looking for API is the closest we could cut KPIs, key performance indicators. The closest thing we could come to it was after someone asked for for support, we would ask them, can you rate this thumbs up or thumbs down?

And then we’ll use that as an indication. I don’t think that really is, is useful and it’s an extra. It’s an extra, a step for our customer, which I don’t want to do. There’s gotta be something better.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. And, and now most ticketing systems out of the gate, you know, really everyone’s looking at, well, how many conversations did my team have yesterday or last week or last month? So just quantity of conversations, they’re looking at, you know, their quality score, their C-SAT scores. Sometimes the vernacular, some systems will use, which is what you’re talking about.

Um, and then, you know, teams will typically look at well, how, what is our average time to kind of get back to people, right?

Andrew: Right, which is important. I like that.

Justin: Yes. Yeah. So it’s like, it’s not necessarily those things aren’t helpful in some way. It’s that, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg, because if you want to ask a question like, okay, how do we improve these numbers?

Those numbers in and of themselves are insufficient and their ability to guide you towards improving those

Andrew: And all you could do is say, answer faster, get on there quicker. And that’s not, that’s not an answer. It’s like why. Right, right, right.

Justin: Yeah. So, so like what the quality score, right? If, if, if people were able to see, okay, maybe our C-SAT score and it’s actively expressed as a percentage, we’re a hundred percent is perfect. Zero is the worst, and it’s never really possible to get a hundred percent right.

But, um, if companies were able to actually break that out by the topic of why customers are contacting them, they’ll be able to see, Oh, for let’s say order tracking questions. Our C-SAT score average is a 50% where maybe our average is 85%. Okay. If we want to improve the average, what should we do? Well, Let’s find what’s pulling it down.

Right. So now, if I know that that one area is a 50% well as an operations leader, if I’m kind of like the part time manager or a full time manager, I know that, well, I want to dive into those conversations. I want to manually look at them and I want to come up with ideas about how to improve the experience there.

And if I can bring that up to 85%, obviously my average is also going to shoot up. Cause it’s been, you know, bringing it down.

Andrew: Okay. Before you took, before you took that problem and said, I’m going to solve it, I’m going to start a business for you, became a consultant, doing what.

Justin: Yeah. So I started off while I was still working through what I wanted to start next. I said, well, Hey, I’ve, I’ve learned a lot selling candles and I’ve enjoyed that. Uh, let me just kinda take a break from having something, be my own thing. And let me just help other businesses, um, you know, based on the experiences that I’ve had and what I’ve learned.

So, uh, from companies like. Pura Vida bracelets, uh, e-commerce brands like that too. Even some B2B organizations. Um, I basically was a, uh, kind of a growth and operations consultant where I would just have conversations about, Hey, tell me about what’s going on. What’s working. What’s not, you know, I’d give them feedback on, Hey, you actually have really big opportunities here.

And then they would sign me on for, you know, multi month agreements to kind of help with. Moving things that direction. So it was largely helping on strategy and kind of setting the, the new direction in a particular, uh, in a particular area.

Andrew: Was it one area of focus for you?

Justin: Yeah. So, so most typically it was really about how do we sell more stuff? Right. So most of it was, was e-commerce companies at the time. So it would be something where I would holistically come in and kind of analyze. The website, the advertising programs, the marketing programs, email marketing, uh, their product mix, uh, social media, marketing, all of those things.

And I would more or less kind of grade them according to the best practices that I have. I was aware of. And based on my learnings to say, Hey, you are super deficient in this area, right. We should do this to improve this area. And this is the likely benefit. So we should prioritize. Yes. So a lot of people were really just, they didn’t know what to do next.

Right. So someone would come in and say, okay, I know there’s a lot going on here, but really you should focus on these three things. You should use these tools or these agencies to solve those problems. Um, and Hey, this is the potential payoff from doing those things. I mean, that, that was something that, you know, people are always looking for solutions to improve things.

Yes.

Andrew: And did you learn anything? Did you get anything out of it beyond the money?

Justin: Yeah. So it was definitely a valuable experience in that. Uh, I also was able to. Um, you know, really understand what, where I can offer the most value and where my strengths are at and where my weaknesses are at as well. You know, I, I had only had, um, really two, uh, vocational roles before the candle company.

Um, both of which were, were fairly, fairly short, just kind of coming right out of college. So to be able to kind of. Get into the weeds of several of the different companies, um, learn just organizationally how they worked and then, um, just kind of go through the process of consulting with, and selling a customer, um, a potential customer on a solution.

And then also being on the other side of fulfillment and following through, uh, for me, I definitely realized that I, I love the strategy, the problem solving the building, the perfect future state. Uh, but then once that checklist. Of those 30 things has been created for me in my, um, uh, you know, uh, superpower and kryptonite of add.

It was something where man, it, it was hard for me to put myself to work, to just check those things. Off the list. I really enjoyed creating the list. So for me, it was something I knew where if I wanted to continue, continue, uh, I would need to have a team behind me, uh, and, and really where I was kind of sales and kind of solutions on the front end and kind of have that team of focused executionary, um, you know, experts behind me.

Andrew: Didn’t that scare you as a guy who was about to start a company, a software company that you’re much more in the vision. You’re much more in the direction. You’re much more in sending people off, but much less excited about. Following through and getting back in the details of the business.

Justin: So, so actually actually, yeah, the opposite. So I realized that if all of a sudden, um, I was hired as a VP of marketing at, at some more established company, uh, at some level, uh, things would be more established and there’d be less to figure out. So I think for a true kind of startup that isn’t just a small business, but you’re really trying to create a 10 X.

Solution innovation in a market. Um, there’s just so many open ended questions about how to do something, trying to find product market fit and something that really resonates with people that I think, you know, people, you know, at least in certain situations, people like myself without gifting are going to be best equipped.

To figure out. And what does that solution really look like? So I definitely think in that way, I’m a, you know, they’re suited for starting something, but I definitely knew and made sure that, you know, I had a team when I first started, we set up here, there was two other team members with me that they were focused on, um, you know, uh, following through.

Right. And really complementing my weaknesses in that way.

Andrew: Okay, I’ll talk about my second sponsor. And then we’ll get into the first step that you took when you launched this business. My second sponsor is top Tao. You’ve hired developers at this point, right? Justin, have you hired personally, you have, what did you learn about hiring developers? We’ll make that part of the top Cal ad.

Justin: Yeah. So I think for me as a non developer, uh, you know, it’s hard to know what to look for. So it was definitely challenging for me to, uh, to figure that out by myself, I needed to bring, uh, you know, friends around me who were engineers to help me figure out what I was looking for and how to best discern that, and even helping in that interview process.

So as a nontechnical founder, uh, trying to build a software company, it was super important to me that I had outside support and helping me, you know, kind of guide me through that process and selecting who was best for us.

Andrew: And that’s one of the big benefits of talking to top towel. They have gone through the process of. Of interviewing all the people in their, in their database, but also seeing the work that they’ve done for other companies and getting a sense of how they fit in with the company and what companies they’re good with and what companies are not.

So when you Justin, or anyone else out there listening to the sound of my voice needs to hire a developer. You get to talk to a matcher at top pal, talk to them about what you’re looking for and let them do the work of going through their network and finding people. One of the, uh, one of my Twitter followers, Neil, Seth, who I’ve now gotten to know a lot online.

Said, you know, I need to hire someone said, Andrew, I know you just keep talking about how top tells is great for developers, but I need to finance person for a new TA told me private what it was for. He said, top tell, found three people who are great for him to talk to and he can get started with them quickly.

I said, what about Jack Barker? The guy that I’ve worked with. He went back to the top town said, Hey, Andrew says that Jack was amazing. Why don’t you put him on my list, explained why based on his project and on his needs, Jack, wouldn’t be a good fit for him. And it made total sense. Having known Jack for a long time, total, total sense why they wouldn’t recommend him.

That’s the beauty. And by the way, they would’ve made more money recommending Jack because Jack is a high, a high priced high value person. So all that to say, if you need to hire a developer and you need some feedback and you need somebody to help make sure that it will be a good match for you, go to top towle.com/mixergy.

You have nothing to lose because the first thing you’re going to do is talk to a matcher. If they have someone in their network for you or a couple of people, they’ll connect you to them and you could decide whether to hire them or not after you talked to them. And if you don’t like it, you just move on.

All you have to do is go to top tower.com/mixergy. Their excellence is that they limit themselves to the top 3% of developers in their network. And also now finance people to, all you have to do is go to  dot com slash Mixergy. When you go there, you get 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours, in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks.

Think about that. No Rick’s trial period. That’s top tal.com/m I N E R G Y. Top is on top of your head towels and talent, top talent.com/mixergy. What’s the first step you took to start your business, Justin?

Justin: Yeah. So we. Made the decision to, uh, even though we had an acute understanding of the problem that we had had at the candle company, as well as the problem that we also saw a lot of other companies, um, that, uh, we didn’t have a strong enough vision of what the software product would look like. Um, To ask for money from investors, they won and attempt to start to build something.

So instead of just trying to get money and just start building something and see how it goes from there, we decided to start what amounted to a services agency, a really just kind of beginning to manually solve some of these problems. Uh, on a fractional basis for companies. And so in starting that way, we were able to, uh, within the first 30 days, you know, we had someone paying us $3,000 a month.

Right. So, so very quickly we were able to have income, to be able to feed ourselves, uh, and, you know, be able to feed their kids and whatnot. Um, and that was a way for us to kind of get paid, to do very close. Market research. Right. And get close and stay close to the problem in a sustainable way. So we can begin to develop that vision for, okay.

What does that, product’s going to look like. That’s going to be able to solve this problem and not just what is a kind of services, heavy solution look like to begin to solve some of these problems?

Andrew: You told Ari what the revenue was from this. As you called it service style agency. Can you talk about it publicly

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, we at peak, we’re doing, um, we’re at about a million dollar a year run rate. Um, uh, now as we’ve shifted more to software with our model, as we’ve released the product in the last 12 months, we’ve, you know, it’s less than that. Um, but, uh, you know, that was, that was part of the plan. Um, so, so yeah, so we were able to scale up and I think our.

Sales process. In many ways, when we first started, it was heavily a consulting kind of base sale, where we would go through and do an audit and project, the financial savings opportunity someone would have. And if, you know, for example, we thought that we could know we could project that we could save someone $5,000 a month.

Well, we’d ask them for $4,000 a month, right. Because they still come out ahead.

Andrew: How would you save them that much money?

Justin: Yeah. So, uh, companies primarily solve the problem of growing support, demand by throwing more people at the department. They, they are not looking at improving their training, improving their systems, their workflows, the, the website that has those help center articles are not help center articles. So, uh, when most people don’t invest in being those things, um, if they really had the experience that a director or a VP level of support, Um, you know, might have, who might cost a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Uh, they would understand and know that man, there are so many inefficiencies in the way that we are doing the work. And there are so many even just types of conversations that our team is getting, which are so basic and repetitive, that really something like it helps an article would be much better equipped to address.

And it would actually be

Andrew: get that. And, and you know what, and all the software does try to make it easier for you to turn your email responses into help center articles. For the next time somebody has the same question, they just type it in and then. Help center article comes up. The problem is that the email never really comes up cross as something that should be put on the webpage.

Somebody needs to turn that into a help center article. Right. That’s what you’re talking about. And I could, I could understand that. Yeah. You say, you know what, we’re getting more email, let’s just hire one more person we’re growing. We’ve obviously earned the right to hire more. Right. Exactly. And so they go and do it.

And so would you, when you were doing this as a service, say we will sit and write this for you or were you coming? No. What was your answer to that

Justin: Yeah. So, so our answer was, you know, uh, you know, we have a list of best practices for just configuring the ticketing system that you have. Um, Hey, you don’t have a help center. Uh, you should build one, right? And Hey, we can even help you build a custom theme for something like Zendesk

Andrew: Pain. It’s such a, you know what, we’re all talking about how great it is that there’s WordPress, new design elements for WordPress and Shopify does an excellent job of letting you design things, Squarespace, et cetera, all these help center software companies. Make it easy for you to create your own website, essentially for answering customer support questions.

It’s a pain in the butt to change the design of it. It’s a pain in the butt to change the layout. I, I, I get it. And so you, you walked in and wa walk them through how to do that.

Justin: Yes. Yes. The big thing was, and even now with our software, we do have kind of some one-time service kind of onboarding options where we can actually still help people with some of these things, which are within the ticketing system that they already have. But it was something where to simplified if. If any company had to self assess the maturity of their support, operation, their systems, how they run things on a scale from zero to 10, 10 being the most optimized best thing ever.

And zero being, you just turned on a Gmail account, most companies who are starting out, you know, what, even if they just have one person, um, uh, you know, maybe they’re a two, three or four, right? Uh, so the goal would be, Hey, this is what gets you to a seven or eight. And we will help you. Um, I kind of sprint and get a lot of these things done so that you’re at a, you know, a five, six or seven, even within just 30 days to kind of just get it rolling.

But then from then on out, um, our kind of support coaches that we have are going to be these like fractional support leaders. You’re going to have a regular calls with them, right? They’re going to be there to help give you ideas about, Hey, this is what this other company did when they had a similar problem.

And this is the benefit. That they receive, um, working on whatever thing this is. So it’s really about connecting. And like we we’re saying, Hey, no canned responses, macros, you know, some of those things, um, most companies look at those things and it’s like, Oh, well, maybe this would be helpful, but they don’t have a way to.

Kind of communicate the potential cost, the savings of the team, actually using those things. So investing in, in prioritizing time on programs to get yeah. People to use those things is not insignificant. So if people don’t understand and the benefit potential benefit of something, why and how are they going to justify taking people off the front line, you know, for a couple of hours every week to

Andrew: right. You are now press that. You don’t have enough people to answer customer service. And someone tells you, you should create macros and this help center site part of your site, et cetera. Well, I don’t have people to even answer the email. How are you

Justin: Yeah, they’re too. Yeah, they’re too busy right now. Right. You know, nice to have not a need to have, you know,

Andrew: I’ve got the name of the first customer you got. Can I, can I say the name? Okay. It’s a legacy box. It’s a mail in videotape processing service for home movies. I guess you send them your home movies on tape. They digitize it. So you have it on your computer or your phone, et cetera.

Right. You knew them because you were friends with friends with the founder. Okay. I think that much more inbound customer support all that sudden that they need you or were they just, this is a favor to a friend. Let’s just let you have a case

Justin: Yeah, well, I hope it wasn’t a favor to a friend how you want to ask them that. But, uh, no, I think, you know, their situation at the time as best I can recollect was, you know, they had a handful of team members. They weren’t growing very, very rapidly. Right. One of the questions we would ask is, you know, based on your current growth rate, No.

How long is it going to be before you have to hire your next full time support agent? Right. You know, we were able to go in there and kind of understand the maturity of it, their systems, their ticketing systems, what they were doing on the website and kind of audit those things and help point out a lot of the opportunities they had and based on our experience, say, Hey, if you did all these things, These are how the numbers would improve.

So if you invested in fixing these actually, you know, going from four people to five people, if these four people could do 10% more every day, and then you had maybe 20% less of the repetitive tickets come in, you actually don’t need to hire that fifth person. And Hey, how much do you pay for people owe $40,000 a year?

Would it be valuable to you to not have to pay an extra $40,000 a year? Uh, you know, maybe only pay half that, uh, but then as a byproduct, Your customer experience is being improved, know less people have less problems.

Andrew: Did you create their help dot legacy box.com or they had it before.

Justin: So, uh, actually, yeah, we did. Uh, we did. Yeah, I think it’s still based on what it was when, uh, you know, we got to go in for that.

Andrew: It looks really nice. It actually fits in with the rest of the site, but here’s a touch that makes me think Justin was, was playing a part of this. There’s one button that I’ve never seen on anyone else’s help section. It’s a, it’s the only green button on the page. It says track your package. I’m assuming you notice that a lot of people wanted to know where their box was when they were shipping over something valuable.

Justin: Yeah. I think if I can recollect, I don’t recall if that was that specific placement was my idea, but, but I think, yes, the principle at work is for situations where we can provide. To, you know, in whatever business someone is in where we can provide utilities for customers to self serve, to answer a question or solve a problem and they can do so very easily.

And just a couple of seconds, uh, customers would rather do that instead of having to wait, you know, a couple of hours for an email response for us to do it on their behalf. So if one of the top. You know, request types that someone is getting is something like, you know, where’s my order. I’m placing that utility very, very prominently in the customer experience.

So people see that before they see the option to send off a message means you’ll kind of intercept those people, uh, and they will choose the majority of the time to, Oh, well, I can just click a couple buttons and then I get the answer. I don’t have to wait for a reply. Oh, that’s better for me. So let’s do that.

Andrew: And weed. I prefer to do that. I totally get that. Um, I see now how you got that you started targeting other customers like your friend people. Uh, I guess it’s a single founder business, often running the entire business, including support. So there was no body in charge of the support team had five to 10 support employees.

Is that right there? A single founders who were in charge of the support team that they all report to them.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes, uh, typically what we see is companies will have, uh, you know, they’ll have a founder that’s, minging support up until the point. It gets to maybe around 10 to 20 hours a week, sometimes depending on the industry. And then they’ll hire like a part time person or a full time person. So we would, and, and so do we start with companies that have as little as one person at the company.

Doing 30 minutes worth of support every day. And from there, typically companies will not have it. Yeah. A true manager until there’s three or four full time support team members. So between that time it’s an operation leader or a founder who is effectively the fractional support manager. Right. And that might be a half day a week where they’re helping triage complicated issues or something like that.

Yeah. So, you know, a big part of it was just our existing network at the time. And really just, you know, Hey, you know, keeping people happy, making people happy and asking for intros to friends at other companies. Yeah. We definitely started to do some things like kind of cold outbound email based prospecting, uh, to reach out to founders and operations

Andrew: what was your process for that? How would you find the people to reach out to you and sorry.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, no. So we would, uh, we would kind of start with, um, a similar kind of firmographics and technographics so we would look at well, okay. If we’re looking at e-commerce well, let’s only look at companies that are on Shopify, let’s say, and companies that have. Uh, less than 50 employees.

Um, and we’ll kind of start there and then we’ll target people, uh, who are the CEO title or an operations title,

Andrew: I mean, I know that you can go to built with and find Shopify store owners. I know that you can go to LinkedIn to find out how many people are at the company. How do you, is that what you did and how do you connect the two?

Justin: Yeah. So there are a number of utilities out there where you can, uh, basically, um, select those variables, um, and choose those things, both kind of the company details as well as job title related details. And then you can actually. I get their email addresses. So one of the popular ones in where, uh, so there’s, there’s a number of, kind of extensions that can work in conjunction with LinkedIn.

Uh, the one that we are, uh, using more recently here as a company called Apollo, uh, apollo.io. And that is a system where you can kind of find leads, you know, based on company details, uh, job titles, location industries, all that type of

Andrew: Okay. I’m with you now. So far, I see the value of what you’re doing. Forget the fight you told me before we got started. Andrew, I talk a lot in more numbers in you. Andrew are comfortable with because that’s what businesses want. I want to show them that we’re actually improving the bottom line. For me, just the experience that you creating for customers of the business are some of your clients.

That’s a huge one, but it became, it became a, um, what is it? Do you call it a hamster wheel? You called it with RER producer, right? You’re doing this to fund the software, but it became a talk about what that was.

Justin: Yeah. So, so one of the big challenges was that, uh, you know, in starting as a, uh, as a software, uh, it was a service business that wanted to transition over to software. Um, you know, we were in kind of this. Start stop. Um, take your foot off the accelerator, uh, kind of back and forth for a while where, you know, we needed enough money to, uh, pull on a full time software engineering resource and, uh, kind of, and team member, uh, but.

Anytime we would have a focus on getting more customers because it was a service. Um, you know, I was also involved in the service delivery, so Hey, we got three new customers this month. Hey, that’s great. Um, you know, that’s the resources that we need, but then it would just be so busy with all of that new work that.

You know, we could keep the ball rolling to continue to get more resources. And we didn’t want to just start basically growing the kind of agency services side by hiring different types of employees. That would be best for just that. So it was this challenge of kind of going back and forth that we needed to make, you know, be throwing off enough, extra money to be able to hire that next person, but not get so distracted by that,

Andrew: So how did you finally

Justin: that.

Yeah. So, uh, a lot of hard work and, uh, better focusing. I think definitely a challenge for me and the team early on was, uh, okay. What, what is the one thing, you know, as a company we need to do. This week, this month, what’s the one thing that I need to be doing right now. And I think we did a lot of nice to have things, but a lot of not really accredited need to have things that got us closer towards that step.

If God, easy to be satisfied with, or just exhausted at the end of the day with only making that customer happy for that day. Right. So kind of, you know, for people in agency and services land, right? It’s kind of every new call or every new month, it’s a clean slate. You have to prove your worth. So, you know, you, you lay it all out there trying to create value one day and you feel a lot of satisfaction for doing that, but you realize you actually didn’t get one step closer to the goal of building a product, right.

You just made them happy enough to not cancel.

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. And they’re constantly thinking of canceling when you’re charging a few thousand dollars a month and okay. You eventually actually cited question. You had money from your previous business, right?

Justin: Yeah. So

Andrew: You weren’t using that to fund this business. Why not say get out of the software, get out of the service space.

Let’s just put my money into it. I’ll even raise money. Now that I’ve got a reputation.

Justin: Yeah. So definitely there’s a, there’s a part of me, which definitely looks back on that now and says, you know, Hey, would it have made more sense to raise money out of the gate? Um, to, to do that? I think, you know, the, the trade off for us and for any entrepreneur, starting as we effectively skipped a pre-seed, uh, kind of funding round, right from angels and.

Nope, that can typically be, you know, just slow a couple hundred thousand dollars for like a software company, if you’re going that approach. Um, so we, we bypass that dilution, uh, by starting a services company to kind of get things going, but we paid for it in the form of time. Right. Having things take longer.

And so. You know, would have been better back then to just, you know, get right to the software. Now there’s parts of it, which, I mean, we definitely, it learned so much about, you know, the people problems that our market was having because we were doing that job for them. So like now we are our own users,

Andrew: Give me an example. What did you do with it? That, by the way, that seems like a huge upside of all this pain that you must have gone through to learn specifically what com what other companies were going through, because you were feeling their pain. What’s an example of something that you didn’t know, having gone through this yourself with your own business.

Justin: Well, you know, really as, so our kind of support coaching solution, which, uh, you know, vernacular has changed a little bit. And we saw the variation of that today as a, as an add on to our software products. I, um, even just the free, uh, kind of playing level we have now, but we had. Uh, part of the role of that support coach was to, um, support the management team.

The, either the full time support manager, or if it’s a smaller company that operations title with helping them identify, you know, what are the next biggest opportunities for us to. Create more efficiencies to save money or to improve the customer experience so that we make more money. So, so that was the role.

And, and part of that was also just to kind of just be someone that, that support manager can talk to because they would be the most senior support person at their organizations. And, you know, the average organization we worked with, you know, had only one support. Manager. And oftentimes that manager would be, uh, that would have been the first time they’ve ever been a support manager.

So having someone that they can talk to and really vent their frustrations and just really acutely understanding their workflows of what their day to day life looks like, what is working well, what really is horrible. Um, you know, we were there, uh, you know, in some ways still now are there with those people a day to day.

Um, too, because they’re asking us for advice. Hey, like what, like what does everyone else do for a team meeting once a week? Like what do you even talk about? Uh, the one on one meetings. I don’t know. I haven’t done these that long. Am I doing them well? I don’t know. Right. So, so they’re asking for us to say, Oh, Hey look, this is what you do.

Uh, you know, um, what do other eCommerce companies do with how they’re and desk set up is configured? So the workflow is most optimized for the agents to do the most work possible. I don’t know. Right. And we’re there for them.

Andrew: And now you can say that because you’ve done it so many times for other businesses. How many clients did you have as a services company?

Justin: Uh, yeah. So, uh, I want to say it was around, um, 20, 25,

Andrew: Okay. That’s super significant. Alright. You, at some point said, we’re going to bite the bullet. We’re going to say no more services. If you want to work with us, you’re going to hire the software and the people come along with it to create the first version I heard was pain. What happened for alpha?

Justin: Yeah. So, uh, we had a will intentions, unwise and misguided effort to attempt to build kind of that alpha, uh, using some, uh, so our first product being kind of a reporting product to begin to serve as the foundation for the kind of workflow tools we would build on top of that. And we decided to kind of buy this off the shelf kind of white label of bowl, uh, reporting module, um, and then kind of connect it to the underlying data in a ticketing system.

But the, uh, the person who we hired part time to kind of own building, you know, taking that 60% of the way there, thing that we bought. And then getting it the rest of the way. There was a very junior you’re higher, uh, which although they had an advanced degree in statistics, um, and was more of an analyst type role.

Um, it really wasn’t the ideal type of person for using and building on that tool. So it was something where we wasted a lot of cycles and money, uh, going with that approach, um, which looking back was kind of like the, Oh man, a full time software engineer is expensive. So. Maybe is there some halfway kind of solution for this?

And in many ways, looking back the answer was, it would have been better for us to just wait a little bit longer, but then do it the right way, uh, out of the gate.

Andrew: Just wait a little bit longer. So you have enough money to hire the right person right out of the gate, which you eventually, what you did was you partnered up with somebody, brought in a cofounder, launched a software. Today, let’s close it out with this. What does boost Topia do now for anyone who wants to come and work with you?

And I appreciate it. I know we’ve gone over my audience has noticed that when a guest is not really flying, they could tell because the interview is like 30 minutes, right? When I can’t get enough, the interview just lasts way longer than an hour. So I appreciate you giving me even more of your time, but I I’m freaking fascinated by this.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. So, so I mean, I think, you know, so for us, what we’re trying to do is, you know, we, we believe that better teams create better customer experiences and investing in doing that will pay for itself. So instead of just throwing people at the problem, right, you’re really developing better customer experiences and better teams.

So, so we know that most companies are spending around 75 to $100 a month per support team member on tools for them to do their job. Right. The job of a team member is to have those conversations with customers. Um, there’s a huge opportunity for their company, for, you know, the listeners company to, um, also think about how you’re wielding those people and how you’re supporting them.

And instead of those managers, living in spreadsheets and Google docs and, you know, a sauna to keep track of their tasks and this point solution and this point solution, uh, having everything under one roof, Built specifically for support leadership is, is really the future. And that’s, what’s going to help companies create those world-class customer experiences that lead to increase customer retention and save them significant amounts of money as they continue to grow their team.

Andrew: So I come into boost opiate. Right now you have a free plan. I hook in if I were on Zendesk, right. Do you guys work with other platforms yet?

Justin: So, so we have a way lists for our beta for the other platforms, but right now our primary integration is the Zendesk ticketing

Andrew: Okay. So either way I come in we’re help scout. So we should get on your waitlist. I would get a free forever plan. They gave me more tracking, more analytics about, about how my team is currently doing and cost savings projects, right? Pro cost savings projections. If I do what.

Justin: Yeah. So the, the, the, our free forever plan, which we actually just recently introduced the goal is to solve the black box problem of number one, understanding what’s going on. Right. And then number two, we want to overwhelm people with so many opportunities just sitting right under their nose

Andrew: If you do this, you will get the, you will get an

Justin: you will save this much money.

Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: what kind of data, what kind of improvements can you give me? Based on just watching how my people interact with customer support, email.

Justin: Yeah. So one of the things that we do in the product is automatically kind of identify, uh, how much time you could save in a particular area, um, where we’re kind of using your best performing person as the standard. By which everyone else could potentially be at. So if you have, I have three team members and one person’s doing something and only two minutes and everyone else is doing it in a greater than that automatically going to calculate.

Hey, if you were to train those other two people to just be like your best person, how much time would you save per month? And based on how much you pay your team. What’s that value represented in dollars. So really quickly I have a prioritized list of, okay. If I train my team better on this thing, I’d save a thousand a month.

If I did it in this area, I’d save seven 50 a month, et cetera, et cetera.

Andrew: Okay. And you can actually tell in what area the person’s better. Like you can say if I train, if you train Andrea to handle, uh, um, refunds faster. She will be bad, or, you know, that it’s specifically refunds where she’s, where she’s spending the most

Justin: Yes. That’s, that’s the big unlock it’s apples to apples. It’s none of this. Sarah had a hundred conversations. It’s Sarah had 27 conversations yesterday where she did this exact specific thing. So you can really actually begin to compare agents to each other, to find your best performers. And then those that have the opportunity to become like your best performers.

Andrew: And I can understand that with customer support, for example, there’s some people who get hung up on giving refunds because the software for giving refunds is a pain for them. Or there are other people who just get really tripped up by how we do our WordPress user management. So I get all that. Okay. If we go for the next level or one of the higher level plans, the paid plans, essentially, what else is there, what else do you guys do at boost Topia?

Justin: Yeah. So the, the two big, uh, two big things are going to be our kind of advanced insights product has macro reporting or canned responses might be the vernacular your ticketing system uses. But what we found is almost universally, even if a ticketing system. Or kind of help center software does have those kind of canned responses.

They do a really poor job of helping companies understand what value that actually creates and just how often is my team even using this. So, um, our advanced product actually presented us in us literally has no reporting around macros. Um, so we solve that and you can finally see what’s going on and see how, when people use macros in a particular area, this is how it actually affects.

That type of conversation. So it’s five minutes, uh, quicker, and which means which, which represents, you know, $3 in savings every single time. And people only do that 10% of the time, let’s say so I’m going to

Andrew: there’s some people who are not even using macros for situations where macros could be used and you know,

Justin: correct? Yes. Yes.

Andrew: Oh. Okay. And then would you also, would, would you be able to suggest areas where, or actually would you be able to tie in a macro response to a user satisfaction? Are people happier with macro responses than with customized responses or not?

Can

Justin: Yep. Exactly. So we’re, we’re, we’re also pulling in kind of that those customer satisfaction scores and saying, Hey, when someone uses that customer, you know, when they use a macro, how does that affect positively or negatively? That quality score. So, yeah, because, because that’s the checks and balances, right?

Cause you could be faster. But you could be making it worse. We’ve all received that crappy, canned response that didn’t address our question and we’d been pissed. Right. So yeah, we want to provide those tools to managers to really understand what’s happening so they can prioritize what the improve it.

And that’s really what leads to our first workflow product, our goals product. So it’s an based on the OKR methodology objective. Gibbs and key results, most important departments today, if they’re using goals for the entire team or individual team members, you know, they’re keeping track of that again and spreadsheets they’re, Hey, I’m going to have my meeting with Sarah, my next one on one meeting in two weeks, between now and then the two areas of improvement that I’ve asked her to pay extra attention to and to work on is this thing and this thing.

Right. Um, but between now and then. The manager is going to have no idea what’s going on 30 minutes before that meeting, they’re going to hop into the reporting, do all this manual crap, right. To kind of try to discern what’s happening. So, because we’re automatically hooked in to the real time activity data, and real time, we’re able to tell people, you know, Hey, are you on track or off track?

To hit those goals that you’ve set for your team. And then we can help kind of in our goal builder process, when you identify something that you want to improve on, we help you. I kind of automatically calculate well, if I improve this thing by 25%, and if I hit that goal, What would be that savings? Is it worth my time?

Because sometimes it’s not right. Oh, 25% faster in this small area, I’m going to save 30 minutes a month. Well, there’s probably a bigger fish to fry, right? So when people create those goals, we’re going to automatically kind of give them status indicators of, Hey, you’re 25% of the way there. You’re 50% of the way there.

Right. So it really is built to kind of help. Transition managers into being kind of leader coaches, right. Setting goals with them and empowering them to just do their best work.

Andrew: And it’s really hard to do that in customer service. People spend a lot of time coming up with ways to incentivize salespeople, but sales is way easier. Customer service is harder, and if you get it wrong, you incentivize people to just blow off your customers so that they could have a good, uh, A good number for how fast they respond.

And that’s not what we’re looking for now. I get it. I should also say I was looking just to confirm you also work with Shopify gets they have a support feature as part of their software, right? So you guys plug into them.

Justin: Yep. So we’re pulling, we’re pulling in customer order data. Um, so companies can see, Hey, for every hundred people who buy something from me, what percentage of people. Have a question or a particular type of question. So like what, we’ll see examples where companies on the best side of things, but about 10% of people who buy something will end up having a question.

We’ll see some companies where it’ll be a 200% of their order volume. Uh, so and

Andrew: on average are sending two emails per order.

Justin: Right. Yep. Yep. Yeah. Cause they’re, they’re having problems with the experience or shipping or all of those things. So we’re automatically calculating that no more spreadsheets, you know, that’s a number that should. Decrease over time. That’s it. It’s also a good example of one of those more important numbers, right?

Not just those top level KPIs. It’s really basic. But now what is your kind of orders to conversations ratio or your customers to kind of active customers to conversations ratio lower is better. Right. Do you know what that number is? What are you doing this month to make that number lower? Right? That should be a big part of the job of a support leader and operations leader, right?

Because that’s going to have huge effects downstream as the company continues to

Andrew: Justin your previous company, diamond candles so much easier for me to understand that wow moment happened instantly. And I’m sure your orders, your sales, your trajectory was when a faster than it. Then this will go up. But. It took me awhile to understand Boosto BIA, even in preparation for this interview.

Now that I get it, it just seems like a no freaking brainer. And if anything, it feels like your pricing is way too cheap, considering what you’re doing. It does take a while. And I imagine it’s going to take you a lot of time to get for the business, but once you get customers, the business will be impenetrable compared to others because the more customers, the more users you have, the more insights you have for all your future customers and existing customers.

So people stay with you longer. New people come in and get more benefits. Are you raising money for this business is phenomenal company.

Justin: So w we’re actually just starting that process now, um, to raise our full seed round we’ve, we’ve been, uh, already, you know, uh, you know, growing pretty quickly and as our product’s maturing, we’re in a good spot where, you know, we’re, we know we’re onto something, all our support. Leaders and operations teams using the platform, using it multiple times a week and it’s become an indispensable part of their toolkit.

And in many ways we’ve only just started in terms of everything that we’re kind of building out for them to kind of handle all of the different parts of their role. So we’re getting ready to start that process now to, by the end of the year, a raise a full seed round of which the majority of those proceeds will go into continuing to build and develop a product.

Andrew: Can you imagine if somebody has three customer support, people thinking about getting a fourth, the pay you $99 a month to manage them better, to get responses back better for customers, and to see numbers, metrics that show how much you’re improving things by doing this, it makes a ton of sense. There’s a nice upside of when you’re managing customer support people.

A lot of times you sound like a doofus because you’re trying to motivate and encourage, but they, through the fact that you’ve got nothing that you’re just saying, work harder, do more and you feel bad. Alright. The business is it’s called boost Topia. It’s a available boost, topia.com. I’m so appreciative of the extra time that you gave me, because I really felt like I needed it in order to.

Fully grasp viscerally to understand why this is important, why, why you’re devoting your life to it. And I get it. And I, uh, I’m just excited about your business. All right. It’s boost B O O S T O P I a.com boost topia.com. I think the two sponsors who made this interview happen, the first you guys know me by now is a guy who’s talking about the top pal forever.

There’s a reason because so many people who listened to me will go and check out top tout. At the very least. If you’re hiring developers, you should go, Justin, you guys should have this written down somewhere. It’s top towel.com/mixergy. Next time you’re hiring a developer. And if you want to get your team managed well.

Get train. You will. It’s a manual that will actually make sense for managing your people and creating systems that they will actually use. Go try it out right now at  dot com slash Mixergy. Justin. Congratulations is if there’s a winner,

Justin: Thank you, Andrew. I’m glad to be back and be able to catch up with you.

Andrew: you too. Thanks. Bye everyone.

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