Less Annoying CRM

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I remember when I first saw the software that today’s guest created. The fricking name got my attention immediately.

Tyler King is the founder of Less Annoying CRM, a simple CRM built just for small businesses.

The name itself acknowledges and communicates the pain that he’s solving. I want to find out how he did it.

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Tyler King

Tyler King

Less Annoying CRM

Tyler King is the founder of Less Annoying CRM, a simple CRM built just for small businesses.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of real entrepreneurs. Dude, I don’t remember when I first found out about today’s guests, uh, software, but it’s the frickin name that just got my attention immediately here.

It is less annoying. CRM. Think about Tyler King is a founder. He’s here to talk about how he did it talent. Think about what you embedded in that fricking name. First of all, the guts to go long and not give it a name right.

Tyler: Yeah. P people did not, uh, were not, did not like the length of the name when it first came out. It is a bit of a mouthful.

Andrew: Truthfully. I don’t know if I love it either. It doesn’t it’s I don’t know either, but it caught my attention instantly. And do, does it communicate something, number one, you communicate how CRM, the software that we’re supposed to use to manage the people we work with. It’s just crappy and the higher up the organization you go.

I mean, the bigger the organization, the higher, the higher number of people, the worse it is, it’s just awful mess, but you didn’t just do that. You didn’t just point out to them. You’re also saying less annoying. You’re like, acknowledging this thing that I created, that I’m selling to you has annoyance in it, the nerve on you, the guts, to be able to say that, how am I not paying attention?

When you create a software like that?

Tyler: Yeah. People either love it or they hate it. Um, you know, I’m kind of, of the opinion. Like I’d rather 10% of people love me even if the other 90% hate me, but, uh, it’s definitely a polarizing approach.

Andrew: No, no. If you had a ton of money, if you are going after bigger businesses. Absolutely. Yeah. I’d say get rid of the name, but you’re going after small businesses, right? You don’t have funding it’s it makes total sense to take it and just run with that. All right. Tyler is the founder of less annoying CRM. I invited him here to talk about how he built up this company.

And we’re going to talk about it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors, the first few, like what I’m doing, and you want to create something yourself on the internet. I highly recommend that you go host your website on host Gator. And if you use hostgator.com/mixergy, um, you’ll be telling him that I sent you, which is great for me.

And number two, if you want to start selling to your audience, not just advertising to your audience, but also adding a membership component. I highly recommend that you go to memorable. And if you go to member, fool.com/mixergy, they’ll let you try it for free. But I’ll talk about those later first, Tyler.

Good to have you here.

Tyler: Yeah, thanks for having me, Andrew. I, uh, have been following you ever since the very early days, I learned a lot about how to start a business from you.

Andrew: Thanks for listening. Um, was there a question you were afraid that I would ask you or feel like maybe I don’t want to go on because we’re going to do that.

Tyler: Well, I am, you know, I know you always say you, you can say no to answering a question. I’m kind of. I’m wondering what it’s going to be. So I’m looking forward to finding out how you’re going to try to push me

Andrew: Hopefully not. I, I, I just want to understand when with as much depth as possible, not pry into your bank account, having said that last four digits of your social are,

Tyler: Yeah, here we go.

Andrew: what is your, what is your revenue? What do you feel? Comfortable sharing revenue wise.

Tyler: yeah, we’re pretty transparent about all that stuff. So, uh, revenue right now is, uh, 3.2, 6 million error.

Andrew: Wow. Profitable over millions.

Tyler: Yeah. Um, so we’ve kind of been, you know, we’re one of those we’ve been profitable since day one. If you ignore founder salaries and stuff like that. Uh, but yeah, I’d say just in the last year or two, we kind of hit the point from not just profitable, but actually like have a nice financial buffer and, uh, kind of comfortable rather than always right on the edge of profitability.

Andrew: You’ve discovered this because you were supposed to do what so many other, uh, employees at bigger companies do, you were just told to go sign up for Salesforce. Talk about what you found when you were told to go sign up for them.

Tyler: Yeah. So this would have been back in 2008, I think so a while ago. Uh, but yeah, my, you know, my bosses at my last job said, go, go get us set up with Salesforce. We’re gonna use them for the CRM. And, uh, I was just put on a phone call with what I later found out was one of their sales reps. And I just had questions and I was just like, how do you do this?

How do you do that? You know, does it have this feature? Every single question, the answer was, I’m going to have to get back to you on that. Can we talk pricing? And I was like, I don’t even know. I don’t have a credit card. I don’t know. Basically I was just trying to talk to somebody who could help me even understand how to sign up.

I didn’t even know how to get an account and, uh, I just couldn’t do it. And then once I got in. It took a, I spent a month on it trying to get it set up. I have a degree in computer science. I was like, I’m technical. I can figure this out. And after a month I just gave up. I just bailed on it.

Andrew: And didn’t even implement it. Where’d you end up going with?

Tyler: Uh, well this was 2008.

Andrew: Okay.

Tyler: We ended up, it didn’t matter that the company later on African did go with Salesforce. I guess they found someone who understood how it worked, but, uh, we just didn’t have a CRM, uh, for a while after.

Andrew: This was a company where you went to work for them, and then there was layoffs soon afterwards. Right?

Tyler: Yes. So pretty classic venture capital model, where they raised a bunch of money. I was one of the, I think I was employee number eight a year later, they’d hired a up to 25 people. So, you know, pretty fast growth or normal growth for a VC backed company. Uh, and then the normal playbook is you run out of money.

You raise more and you grow even faster. Problem is if, uh, the great recession happens right before you raise that second round, uh, investors don’t really want to give money to startups in that environment. So basically the day after the main stock market crash in 2008, uh, 20 out of the 25 people got laid off from the company.

Andrew: Why were you one of the four

Tyler: Uh, cause I was the cheapest. I think I was the lowest paid employee there or one of the lowest pay. They kept the five cheapest people.

Andrew: What were you, doing?

Tyler: I was a software engineer, but you know, it was one of these companies. 10 people with chief something, officer titles, and then like five of us who actually, you know, we’re doing?

a lot of the work and try fresh out of college.

Andrew: Did I hear right? That even the CEO fired himself, if that’s true,

Tyler: Yeah. So, cause there was a founder, but who, who then fired a D or hired rather a different CEO. So the CEO was not the founder of the company. And when he was like, well obviously the company’s not going to work.

Andrew: uh,

that I’m going

Tyler: of understand from his perspective, like no point in staying.

Andrew: And then since there were four or five people there, you ended up kind of leading the company, you saw this problem and you said, I think I’m going to solve it. Did you solve it internally at this startup? Or did you go off and create less annoying CRM?

Tyler: Yeah. So what happened is, uh, me and my friend, Rick, who also worked there, he’s kind of on the sales side and I’m on the tech side. So we kind of teamed up and, um, we started a new plan there, which was, we sold health benefits, software through health insurance agents. So basically said when a health insurance agent goes to a company to sell them insurance, we said, why don’t you also sell our technology alongside it in order to help do that?

I built a CRM for our insurance, for our insurance agent partners that were reselling our product just to help them sell our product. It turns out they had never heard of a CRM before they thought it was awesome. They were, they were like, I want to be a reseller just so I can use the CRM that you built us.

Um, and that was kind of when I really saw like that I’d already had the bad experience trying to set up Salesforce. And then I was like, oh, apparently building a CRM people actually like. An impossible task. So those two things really combined together.

Andrew: you, uh, what was it about your software that was so helpful for them?

Tyler: I honestly think it’s just that, like, this is going to sound like a platitude, but it’s just that it was simple. And what I mean by that is Salesforce came along and really revolutionized software in 1999, 2000, but they didn’t actually change the product. They just made it available online. That’s what Salesforce did is they took the old CRM model that was only onsite and they made it available over the internet.

Um, but they still have the same model that every CRM company prior to them and had, which is you have to be a fortune 500 company for this to make sense. Um, so really just starting from scratch and saying what a small business needs is, not a quote-unquote CRM. They need a contact manager, they need like something one step above the address book on your phone.

Andrew: Uh, and it has to be shareable with others. And what else does it have to have?

Tyler: Yes. So in the very early days, it was basically a contact list shareable with others and notes. So you could leave notes on contacts. And then I’d say the one other sort of key feature is some sort of a pipeline type of thing. And by that, what I mean is the most common use case is sales, but recruiting any type of process where you’re moving people through steps, you just want to be able to pull up a customer or a lead and see where they are in that process.

Andrew: what is this person? Someone we called? How many people did we call twice and need to follow up with that kind of thing? Yeah, that makes total sense. And the cloud,

it needed to be in the cloud. And we’re talking about 2008 where the cloud was already a thing, but I still remember base camp was telling people it doesn’t matter if you’re on a plane and can’t use a software you’re hardly ever on airplanes.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a place without much internet. Was, was that true for you? I understand for project management, because people who are using base camp are especially back then were often sharing designs, sitting at their desk and working CRM is used on the go.

Tyler: It’s used on the go.

but, um, if you can’t access the CRM, you also probably can’t call your customer. Um, so actually I think there is a lot of work convincing people that the cloud was secure and just that it’s like kind of normalizing it. Uh, I don’t think it really posed all that many practical problems for most people.

The exception being, if you’re like a field sales rep where you’re literally driving from client to client. Um, yeah, probably a more, I mean, it was another five to 10 years before this became popular, but like a mobile based CRM is probably what they would want.

Andrew: Got it. And for you, you weren’t thinking about people who are doing that. You said, great. We can create a simpler CRM, put it online, make it available. SAS model, who was, uh, who are your heroes at the time? Who are the people who are looking at and said, I think we can do something like them.

Tyler: Yeah. So, I mean, most of the modern day heroes weren’t established yet. So you mentioned base camp. They were definitely the, I would say they were the only bootstrapped company I’d even heard of, uh, to be honest in the early days. So I think they’ve got to be my answer.

Andrew: And they were really good about writing and teaching their process and condensing their ideas into simple combative, but clear and sensical messages. Right?

Tyler: Yeah.

I mean, you said at the beginning kind of how bold our name is, and I can’t directly tie that to their ethos, but definitely seeing a company that’s like, you know what? You don’t have to please everyone and all, but now I realize base camp is kind of a loaded topic these days, but like there’s no question that they set the tone for what became the whole bootstrap or movement over the last 10 years.

Andrew: Got it. And so you’re seeing this and you’re saying, I think, I think I could do it. You now decide you’re going to go off on your own and start the software from scratch.

Tyler: Yeah. So yeah, uh, inspired by my experiences at my previous company, but definitely started from scratch and made a more general purpose CRM. Yeah.

Andrew: And it was who you and your brother who are going to develop this together.

Tyler: Yes, that’s correct. So my brother Bracken is, uh, my co-founder here and he’s kind of the server infrastructure backends type person. And I was more of the kind of product design and the front end type of person.

Andrew: How good was that first version that you built in? What was it? Like half a year.

Tyler: Oh, it was terrible. So first of all, our name was less than knowing software at the time because we didn’t think anyone knew what a CRM,

Andrew: Okay.

Tyler: um, turns out while we were, no one knew what a CRM was at the time. Uh, it’s really hard to sell with, uh, like to people who don’t know your product exists. Uh, we chose to have zero colors on the website to emphasize how simple we were.

That was a mistake. We didn’t have a logo. It was just like a gray website with a contact list and put notes on it. It was the most basic thing you could imagine. So yes, it was just absolutely terrible.

Andrew: Yeah. Why was the black and white something that you remember to this day? I actually thought that it was, it was helpful.

Tyler: Um, yeah, I think that. So there’s this concept I’ve learned since then called innovation tokens, which is you have a certain number of tokens that you can use to kind of spend one, if you want to innovate and by innovate, I mean, like do something that is swimming upstream, something that people aren’t used to.

Um, and I think in the early days, one of the mistakes that we made is we tried to innovate on everything. We just tried to think about everything from first principles and we’re just fighting a lot of battles that it’s not that they were a mistake necessarily. It was just a waste of time. Like it didn’t matter.

Andrew: that makes sense. Right? So if, if the software is different and the landing page is different in the way you were writing to us, and the name is different, you just feel so different that I’m not ready to exit reality and enter your world unless you really make a compelling case. Got it. All right. That makes, that makes a lot of sense.

What are the features that you had in that first version? Was it just the standard fields and a note, field and share, and that’s it.

Tyler: Uh, yeah, and we did, we did have a very basic version of that pipeline thing that I mentioned it it’s nowhere near where it.

is today, but, um, yeah, simple pipeline tracking notes and a contact list.

Andrew: The other thing that always stood out for me, in addition to the name was you guys had the ability to just spin up a fully working version of the software, where a lot of other people, I don’t know where you came up with this idea, but it’s great. A lot of other software, you have to create an account.

You have to trust them sometimes with your credit card, you have to then start populating it before you understand how it works. And again, going back to base camp, I tried base camp for project management. So many times I didn’t fully get it. What do I do here? How do I have to create the road? Then learn how to drive on it’s too much with you.

What you guys do at less annoying is you just have this one button that I press, and then. The F the CRM is full. It’s got contacts in it. I can start adding notes and I don’t have to worry about, about it staying there forever. Cause you say throughout, it’s going to disappear. Such a good idea.

Tyler: Yeah. I mean this, I think, well, thank you. I appreciate that. I mean, it’s core to the, when you name yourself less annoying, every single thing you do, you have to say, like, is someone going to be able to email us and be like, ha ha, that wasn’t less annoying. You’re more annoying software. And that kind of drives a lot of what we do.

There’s a lot of discussions like I’m in various startup communities and stuff like that. And people will debate, for example, deep, do you take a credit card at the beginning of the free trial or at the end? And there’s a debate to be had, which one leads to more conversion rates, which one leads to more money.

But if you look at it through the lens of which one’s more or less annoying to customers, there’s no debate like no customers. Like I really wish they’d taken my credit card before I could have seen the product. So I do think it’s a helpful framework, even if it creates a few extra hurdles to get over from a business day.

Andrew: Uh, yeah, I always did wonder you didn’t have my email address. You didn’t have time to follow up with me and say, you might’ve missed this one feature. You have to do it all at once. And if I’m confused, that’s it. You don’t even know that I was confused.

Tyler: Yeah, you’re right. Uh, and we have tested this out we’ve we did some AB test to say, if we don’t have the live demo where you can use it without signing up, versus if you do and stuff like that. And it, it actually does turn out to be good for business also, but, um, it’s uh, yeah, there are trade offs involved for sure.

Andrew: I just tried this other CRM. I’m constantly trying people CRM, because I do feel like this is, there’s a lot of competition in this space, but also there’s a lot of need. And anyway, so I tried this one company CRM I’m getting flooded with email about everyone’s birthday in my address book. I don’t even know these people, but I guess I added them over the years.

And meanwhile though, they are staying top of mind with me. It’s just like, well, who is this person? And then I go and examine it. And unfortunately, I can’t remember what email address I used to create the account. Exactly. And so, or did I use my cell whole big thing anyway, so I guess you lose out on that, but how often do you come back and say, this is what we stand for.

We are not going to AB test everything to death. We’re going to say this, this simplicity, it’s going to be our guiding light and we’ll even lose some business over that.

Tyler: Yeah, it’s pretty it’s, it’s the guiding light for sure. And it’s especially easy to say that now, like the reality is the struggles you face in the early days are very different from the challenges today. And we’re kind of in a position now where, you know, it’s Okay. if we don’t optimize every single little thing.

I think that we do run AB tests on things where I think it makes sense, but it’s, I kind of like life without optimization. If that makes

Andrew: Yeah, I do. I get it completely. All right. And so the first version was launched. How did you get customers?

Tyler: Yeah.

this is where I’m weak. My brother’s weak, uh, you know, w we’re both kind of on the tech product side of it. So the, this is going to be a boring answer, just Google ad words. And it was cheaper back then to advertise on Google. Although I still think the strategy could have worked, which is we just way overpaid.

I mean, it was not profitable what we were doing, but it wasn’t about getting customers. It was about learning and seeing, is there a market for this and is it gonna work? Um, so we were paying probably, I don’t know, a thousand dollars to acquire one customer paying us $10 per month.

Andrew: How much money did you blow on that?

Tyler: Um, probably I wanna say we were maybe, well, I can tell you this in the early days we were getting about one customer, one customer a month.

So I’m guessing we were spending about a thousand dollars a month.

Andrew: All right. It’s not too bad, but wow. That’s a painful way to survive for a few months, right?

Tyler: Yeah. I mean, we, it took a long time, like a lot, like two and a half years before, uh, it was able to pay one person salary.

Andrew: How did you get by on that?

Tyler: So we both worked other jobs. My brother was working a full-time job and then doing less annoying CRM kind of nights and weekends, I was doing 20 hours a week of kind of consulting or freelancing for my previous employer. And then putting, you know, 40 or 60 or however much, however many hours I had towards less annoying.

So I actually think, even though it was a lot of work, it was a lot less stress than a lot of startups are in because there’s no runway, you know, we could keep doing that in theory forever. So we were able to be patient. We were able to say, you know, as long as we add it, one customer a month, like at least it’s moving in the right direction.

Andrew: You know, it was good at promotion is, uh, Steven Allen from less accounting and they had a bunch of less stuff. Right. And at first I thought maybe this is a connection between these two businesses because their whole thing was let’s simplify what? I don’t know them super well, but one thing that I noticed was they didn’t stick with it as much as you did.

They were really good at, at launching really good at thinking through the problem. Really good at promoting it. I think for their accounting thing, they, they created a whole website where all they did was show how many people were complaining about QuickBooks on their site. Right. It was, it was like, it was just scraping Twitter or something.

And it was fascinating and people would write about it and talk about it. But you didn’t have that. You are never even part of the, the, the cool group. They would even do cruises and events and right. And you didn’t do any of it.

Tyler: Yeah there. I mean, I, I later found out there was a whole kind of budding ecosystem of that, like MicroComp and, um, you know, base camp certainly had a following and less accounting and all of these kind of the in-group of people who were not just bootstrapping, but good at talking about it. And we were never particularly good at talking about it.

So I think we were very much just off in our own little world talking to customers and no one else.

Andrew: You know, what Tyler did you actually told our producer? I don’t even like talking to people. I didn’t think of myself as a people person. The only reason you ended up talking to so many customers was you accidentally put your phone number on the site. How did you do that?

Tyler: Yeah. I just kind of was on autopilot. Like when you make a website, it needs a contact page and the contact page, like how do people contact you? I guess, phone an email. So I just put, I got a Google voice number for the business. They’re forwarded to my cell phone and put my email address up there. And I didn’t really think about it.

And then yeah, the first time my phone rang it didn’t occur to me to check, like, is this a business? I just assumed it was a friend or something whose number I didn’t have saved in my phone. So I just picked up and was like, Hey, what’s up? And then it was a customer.

Andrew: I love when I do that. And then customers will say, is it well? Yeah, of course. What, what else did I have to do? Right? This is, uh, right. Let me talk about my first sponsor. And then we’ll continue. You know, what? You get that a lot of other businesses don’t get. It’s nobody, people just understand that you’re going to be charging.

I feel like one of my least favorite words is the word paywall for content, and it kind of connects into my sponsored member full. For some reason, you go to a store, you buy a pack of gum, they charge you. I don’t say they’re putting up a paywall. It’s a, you got to pay in order to get that right. I come to the site, I want to buy my wife a scarf.

It’s not a Shopify paywall. It’s just you pay in order to get the fricking scarf for some reason when it comes to content, everyone says paywall. Well, I think we got to just drop that word or, or more importantly, forget about the word. That’s just kind of dickering around. It’s got quick. We have to drop the idea that when we charge for content, we are pay walling.

People know what we’re doing is we’re giving our business a chance to survive a chance to, to, to grow based on creating something that people care about. Anyway, why does, what does that have to do with number four? We’re now finally, as entrepreneurs start to understand that we should be charging even for content, that there’s opportunities.

We see people who are charging for their newsletters, where to see people charging for their podcasts, their membership, but a lot of them are using these platforms where now they’re dependent on the platform where they’re disconnected from their customers, because the platform is the one that has their customer base.

Listen to people. If you’re thinking about content at all, you should be thinking about charging for something. And you should have a direct connection with your relationship. And that’s where member fall comes in. It is software that will allow independent creators, publishers, educators, podcasters, basically anyone who creates content to sell and to do it in a humane way that allows them to grow, allows their customers to end the in their audience to be the same so that they could care about them.

Just as much as the woman who cut my hair cares about me. And when I came in, right, she didn’t say, Hey, here’s a paywall sit. Here’s some chocolate for your, for your kids who are sitting and watching get haircut. That’s the way we want to be with our audience. That’s the way we want to. You want to be online.

I highly recommend that you go and sign up for member full. It is now owned by Paychex Ariana company. You know, when you love and you trust, they are a great business, great software that will help you grow your content based businesses. Go to  dot com slash Mixergy member, full.com/mixergy, and get to use it right now.

Try it for free. All right. I I’ve always hated paywall. I’ve never ranted about it. Cause I don’t want anyone on my company say, oh man, I pissed Andrew off. Cause I said the word payroll, but maybe I should.

Tyler: It’s a, it’s a good point that I had not heard before.

Andrew: Thank you. All right. Um, pisses me off. All right. Um, you, you start hearing from people. What are you learning when they’re calling you up? What do you learn that you didn’t know?

Tyler: So the most important thing is just how amazed they were that I picked up the phone because like, I mean, I don’t think I’m particularly gregarious now, but I definitely wasn’t then, like, I’d probably handled the phone call about as poorly as you could have. Uh, and they were just thrilled. Like I couldn’t, I couldn’t do anything wrong just by, by virtue of talking to another human, they were like, this is the CRM I’m going with.

It was like

Andrew: Ah, got it. Got it. So it’s not even about understanding the problem. It’s not even about giving them a benefit. The fact that you’re there, that you care that you pay attention makes people feel a closeness to you. It’s almost an unreasonable how much value people place on that,

Tyler: And I don’t blame them. Like the tech industry has done everything they can to dehumanize the, the relationship between, uh, you know, the user and the, the software provider. And so, yeah, just hearing we’re a person and people love asking questions. Like, so tell me about how you started. Tell me about like, questions that don’t help them use the CRM at all, but just learn about us.

They care customers really are hungry for that type of thing.

Andrew: Yeah. I, I totally get it. I find myself choosing software based on who created it, choosing to make purchasing decisions. And I’m not someone who’s like, who’s, who’s buying someone a coffee online or doing the tip jar or anything like that. I’m not here to be your sugar daddy or to, or to help you out.

That way. I am selfish in, in, in, in my purchasing decisions. I have to admit and still they care about me. They show that they’re getting my kids some chocolate. They tell me a little bit about who they are. I feel more trust in them then, uh, And maybe I’m entitled to, but it feels great. And I wish that more entrepreneurs knew it.

A lot of them are not doing interviews, not doing blog posts, not tweet tweeting, or doing anything, not being present. And they’re really missing out on, on some personal contact, not to put down my sponsor, but I fricking love member phone. What they’re doing the founder is not someone who’s out there as much.

And I think he should be. I think people would trust it more when they’re thinking about sub stack and how that lets you charge. If he was out there, they would say, all right, I get him. I understand. I like him. I trust him. Let me try his software.

Tyler: Yeah. Especially in the early days, because you know, it’s always a David and Goliath thing. Like your, your competitors have every advantage when you’re first getting started. So you’ve got to do what you can to stand out. And so you got to ask yourself, what can they do? And they certainly can’t have the founder pick up the phone.

Andrew: I want to know about what else you decided, what else you answered to that question, but first aren’t you doing a podcast now? How’d you go from being this guy who didn’t feel comfortable talking? Am I right? You’re doing a

Tyler: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. So how did you make this transition?

Tyler: Um, yeah, I’d say just over the last couple of years. So the podcast, a startup to last as its name, um, we just hit our 100th episode. So about two years. So about two years ago, I basically decided I wanted more of a community. Um, and I think if I’m, if I can reflect on that a little bit in the early days being a founder is not particularly lonely.

I mean, it is in the sense that you’re the only one or one of a small group of people working at the company, but you don’t have to be particularly protective about like, secretive about what you’re doing as you hire more people. I found that more and more challenges that I was dealing with. I couldn’t talk.

It’s not that I’m trying to be secretive to employees or anything. Other founders might be a better group to talk to then people within my company who are working on a totally different set of problems. Um, and so as we grew and started having more employees, I think is when I started having a hunger for saying, I want to, I want to like go out and be more connected with people running other businesses.

So I got more active on Twitter, start a podcast with Rick, the person I mentioned that I worked with at my last job. Um, and yeah, it’s, it’s, I mean, partially exhausting and I’m sort of like, I don’t want to do more than I’m doing now, but, uh, it’s been really nice having a little more community on the internet.

Andrew: What have you gotten out of being public like that?

Tyler: Uh, one is just a lot of, kind of like Twitter buddies, basically. Um, if you just say stuff that’s not overly self-promotional and hopefully somewhat valuable sometimes. Uh, I think it just like over time it builds up and he used the word trust earlier for me, trust is everything. And if you just, uh, share what you have to say.

You build trust with people. And eventually that turns into real, real relationships. I’ve just got, I mean, it’s a small group of people, but five or 10 people that I didn’t know that?

I know because of the podcast or just being open on Twitter.

Andrew: I find that it helps me in so many, so many ways that I can’t even list it. Like one example is I couldn’t figure out there was an issue with our membership software. When we created it ourselves with such a pain in the butt, I was at a conference. It might’ve been micro compact, so I’m pretty sure it was sitting next to Ruben Gamez of Bidsketch he’s sitting there.

He’s asking me what’s going on. Somehow we get into this one issue. He says, let me take a look and he solves it while we’re listening to a presentation, he gets into the code and he fixes the fricking problem. Now, how else am I going to find somebody who does that? I have to go online and look for somebody hope they know what they’re talking about.

I hope that they care enough about the product, anticipate my needs, and then trust my site to them. That’s

Tyler: Yeah,

Andrew: sense. But it’s hard.

Tyler: I have this experience. The, uh, one of the developers on my team is working on a technology called elastic search, which is not new tech, but it’s new to us. Uh, we just had, we were like, is this, are we doing this right? Like, we’ve never worked with this before. And I just sent out one tweet and like 10, 15 experts at elastic search just reached out to me and were like, Hey, I’ll talk to you.

You send me your questions. And immediately we got our question answered. It’s it’s really valuable to

Andrew: So good. Yeah. And I love when people ask for that stuff and that, and I know it because that’s another opportunity for me to connect with them in an even deeper level. It’s it’s just fantastic. It does take a little bit of work to get things going though. Um, all right. You were saying that you starting to learn from people, things, uh, from phone calls, right.

And that you, um, let’s continue with what else you learned and then we’ll see, what else could you do as a startup? That’s smaller that the bigger guys can compete with, but what did you learn beyond that? They liked?

Tyler: Um, and Yeah.

So let me just talk one more, like a little more about why does it matter that they liked us? I never had any intention of customer service being an important part of the business. As a matter of fact, I explicitly wanted not to have a lot of customer service, but that’s, that’s the thing we learned is like, well, I guess we’re going to invest in having the best customer service in the industry.

Uh, there was a lot of just feature requests, kind of the stuff you’d expect someone calls in and they’re like, you know, this is like, I need this, I need that. Um, and that, that was really great. And actually one of the things that one of the customer conversations that stands out to me is a customer fundamentally changed how I think about software design and I’m a designer.

Um, so I thought I knew what I was doing, but our whole pitch from the beginning was worse than. And everyone says it. No, no. One’s going to be like, oh yeah, we have really complex software. Uh, but a customer called up a bunch of people had been asking, we want a task list. We want a calendar. And we kept saying, no, no, no, we’re all about simplicity.

We’re just a contact list, notes, pipelines. That’s all we’re going to do. Go use Google calendar, go use this task list. And a customer at one point just got fed up with me and was like, listen here, I have 15 tabs open right now. I have my CRM. I have my email. I have my team chat. I have, you know, this and this and this, are you really telling me this is simple.

And that was kind of a light bulb moment for me when it, uh, he explains to me, simplicity is not that the software is easy to use. Simplicity is that my life as a customer is easy and you can. You know, a mobile app, that’s just a blank screen. That’s very simple, but it doesn’t do anything useful for anyone and anyone who chooses to install it.

Their life is more complicated by virtue of having this crappy app on their phone. He basically said you need to be solving our problems and not worrying about whether or not your app is elegant. And that really set us on a new path for kind of what the product was going to be.

Andrew: How do you then know where to draw the line? Because if you are now now creating a calendar and it’s not nearly as good as Google calendar and reminders, and they’re not nearly as good as the, as the task list that comes with the phone and so on  to some degree, it’s just all bad.

Tyler: Yeah. So, I mean, hopefully the goal is to add things that aren’t terrible. Uh, but you’re right. That obviously we don’t have the resources of a Google. I think my trick for this is know who you’re building it for. If you’re building it for everybody. You can’t make a CRM plus calendar plus task list.

That’s better than what’s out there. But if you say, for example, you know what, like I have a friend who runs a business specifically for florists and it’s, it’s a software company, but that sells to florists. And he’s like, I know this industry and yeah, probably his invoicing is not as good as a dedicated invoicing tool, but for florists it’s better.

And so we always took that approach of saying one of the reasons we don’t go after big companies, we don’t sell to the enterprise. We stay really focused on small businesses is because that focus on who we’re building it for, allows us to make the right compromises rather than just being elevator music, which everyone hates.

Andrew: Um, okay, so let’s talk more about what, uh, what happened with the business. You said that you bought ads. You were spending too much money. Eventually you kept tweaking and tweaking and tweaking until it did pay off that the ads were working. What are some of the tweaks that helped you get there?

Tyler: Yeah. If you just kind of visualize the whole funnel from someone clicks an ad, they see a landing page of some sort from there. I don’t know. Maybe they sign up for free trial from there?

You know, they have to get their context and port it just every step of the way. Uh, you know, it’s just all of these little tiny things.

So there’s the marketing side of things. What is our headline? Uh, maybe originally I told you we weren’t using the keyword CRM. Well, we had a really hard time messaging what we were. So as soon as we started calling ourselves less annoying CRM, things got a little bit easier. Um,

Andrew: now wait, but then the problem is you’re competing in a world where there’s so many CRMs, as I said, and a lot of them have a ton of money to throw at this. And now you’re another CRM in that world. How do you compete there?

Tyler: Yeah. So I think you can kind of, uh, what’s the, there’s one of the martial arts, that’s all about using your opponents momentum against them.

Andrew: think it’s jujitsu

apparently, I guess.

Tyler: obviously I’m an expert on, uh,

Andrew: Yeah, I don’t

Tyler: Uh, but basically that type of thing, where one of the things you can assume if you’re in a mature competitive industry and you’re new, you can assume your competitors are going to educate everybody about the, the purpose of your software serves and you can actually piggyback off their marketing.

Um, so that’s what the name less annoying CRM is. Is it saying we’re not going to educate anyone on what a CRM is. Salesforce is doing that after you’ve tried Salesforce and you hated it, come to us and you can cut out multiple steps in the marketing funnel. If you’re just kind of swimming in a bigger competitors way. I think like right now, savvy, Cal is doing this really well where, uh, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but like Calendly is getting everyone aware of the fact that scheduling software is good and then savvy, Cal just coming along and saying, Hey, what if Calendly was a little bit better?

Andrew: I thought they were coming in and saying, what if Calendly was a lot cheaper? This was the AppSumo software, right?

Tyler: Uh, they might’ve done a deal.

Andrew: Oh no, no, no, no. I think you’re right. I you’re right. I think that might be tidy. Cal

is no Kagan’s version savvy, Cal you’re right. They’re saying what if it had all these features that are, uh, like cutting edge first mover type features and kept the simplicity?

Yeah, you’re right.

Tyler: Yeah.

Andrew: I’ve been watching them a lot. Yeah. Yeah. I get what

you’re saying.

Tyler: yeah, it’s not tactical advice. It’s more strategy. But like, if you assume that your competitor is going to alienate people and you go after those alienated people, you’re not, it’s not a head-to-head competition between us and Salesforce.

Andrew: You know what I do see also, uh, again, um, I use SEMrush on their sponsors, so I’ve got this account that I use all the time and I could spy on some of your ads you’re even competing with act. I didn’t even know that act was still around as a CRM.

You’re

Tyler: that? And for people who don’t know, that’s like from the nineties, Maybe even eighties originally, it’s

Andrew: the eighties, they were desktop software.

Yeah. That,

Tyler: we have people who still come, I mean, less than less, you know, as time goes on, but we still have people who are like, well, I’ve got my windows 95 machine with act running on it.

And I, I need to get in the cloud somehow. Uh, there are a lot of people out there, like the tech industry ignores people like That,

But, uh, if you go after they kind of the older crowd, the less tech savvy crowd, there’s a lot of good customers to be headed.

Andrew: How, how much of your time would you say you spent improving your marketing versus building in the early days?

Tyler: Uh, any good entrepreneur would say, I didn’t spend enough time on marketing. I think I just don’t like it, to be honest. Um, I’d say in a typical week, maybe one day was spent on marketing and the rest was spent on product. Um, but the thing is we, we’ve never really figured out marketing. Like th the natural question is w we have 25,000 users.

How did we get them? And I can’t really tell you, like, ads started it, but I guess just word of mouth or whatever. But as long as it was working, I was like, I guess if we just keep making the product better, uh, I can cross my fingers and hope this works.

Andrew: Hey, not even big with content, right? You’re not writing lots of blog posts, teaching people how to manage their contact. None of that.

Tyler: Yeah, we do a little bit here and there. Like I, I just recently started a website called less annoying business where I’m kind of giving more like high level business content. And then we have one marketing person who writes some CRM content, but for an 18 person company to have one marketing person is a, I would say like less than typical.

Andrew: And so then it seems if I had to figure out why you you’re able to grow, it’s improve the product, improve the marketing, and mostly just be around long enough that as long as you don’t churn out your customers from frustration, they’re just going to keep building their cars. Their businesses will build and they’ll grow with you.

They’ll uh, they’ll bring other friends they’ll grow, even if it’s a massive growth. It’s it’s uh, it compounds.

Tyler: Yeah.

I come compounding is the name of the game here. I know a lot of people don’t w wouldn’t be happy running a business for 12 years and being at still just 3 million, I mean, 3 million a year. Sounds great to some people, but other people like you spent 12 years getting there. Um, but the thing is next year it’ll be 15% higher.

And the year after that, it’ll be 15% higher and it just keeps slowly getting bigger.

Andrew: How are you doing 12 years into this? I want to get into the marketing and what you did with the Chrome web store and others. But how do you feel being at this for 12 years?

Tyler: I mean, I I’m very happy and also it’s not, you know, what the plan was, uh, like I don’t think anyone grows up dreaming of working at a CRM software company, but what I’ve found is that the joy isn’t in CRM or any individual aspect of it, the joy is kind of in. I love thinking through problems. I love working with people I respect and you, you know, you can do that at a new company or a 12 year old company.

You can do that, uh, regardless of what market you’re in. So I would have never planned it this way, but I actually kind of love my job today.

Andrew: Do you take a lot of time off? Do you get like a month away where you get to fully disconnect so that it’s all fresh?

Tyler: I haven’t taken that long of a stretch this whole time. I’ve thought about we as a benefit to all employees. We do have a sabbatical, which I have not taken. And I have thought about maybe doing that, but I take, I’d say a normal amount of vacation. We give everybody 30 days a year and that’s how much I take.

Andrew: I’ve done that it’s so helpful, but I have to full, I have to fully appreciate that I’m doing it or else I, I don’t get the benefit of it. If that makes sense.

Tyler: So what’d you do? Cause I, I was actually just thinking about this earlier today and I’m like, I think I would just want to like launch a new product in that month or something. I don’t know what I would do with my time.

Andrew: I need, I do need a thing. That’s going to capture my attention. It has to be something like I’m going to go run a marathon on every continent and I’ll be on Antarctica by the way, for two weeks completely disconnected because there’s no internet or some random thing like that. Where, cause if it’s just take a vacation, I don’t think I could do that unless I fall apart.

Tyler: yeah, like if you got burnout or something, maybe vacations. Right. But I Yeah,

Andrew: Yeah, no, I need a thing. And frankly, even where we, my wife sets us up for vacations on a regular basis. I don’t get a lot of recharge out of that, unless there’s a project that I am doing. If we’re just on the beach, if we’re spending time with friends, it doesn’t do enough spending time with friends. I do that here.

Anyway, I’m going to go see like two people that I, when I, that I interviewed one day, listen in a, in a few hours today for dinner or drinks,

Tyler: Yeah.

Andrew: I don’t need a vacation for that. What I think you’re right. I think we need to find our own thing. That’s our vacation. That’s where the excitement comes in,

Tyler: Yeah, cause, okay. So like what I’m hearing, taking a break, a lot of the advice you hear is for people like assumes burnout. If you’re in,

a high stress, you don’t get at other vacation and that’s one thing, but there’s also a, if you want to do something for like, how long have you been doing Mixergy? Like about the same amount of time. right?

So if you’ve been doing something for 12 years, it’s a different type of break and it’s maybe more to get new experiences and challenges rather than, uh, to unwind.

Andrew: Yeah. There were times when I was exhausted, where a week on the beach, no one bothering me really helpful. Um, but even then I would do long rides and long runs, but I think you’re right. Somebody needs to, re-imagine the vacation for us, for people who need to do that.

Tyler: I will say I’ve sort of, uh, started doing something in the last four or so years where I’ll do little work retreats for maybe two or three weeks, maybe two or three periods that are maybe 10, 10 days a peach, a piece where I’ll fly somewhere. I’ll bring all my computer monitors, my full setup. It’s all about working on less annoying CRM.

But for that week, I say, I’m not dealing with the normal stuff. I’m not managing anybody. I’m not worrying about emails. I’m just going to like code or design or do something that I used to love doing, but I don’t have time to do anymore.

Andrew: Oh, that’s a great idea that it’s just your personal hackathon, almost where everyone leaves you alone. You get to do this one thing, and that makes sense. All right. Let me talk about my second sponsor. And then we’ll get back into this. Imagine somebody Tyler’s listening to us and he goes, you know what? I think I’m going to jump on that idea.

I think there are entrepreneurs who need a different type of vacation. I’m going to find the one thing that’s good. That’s really good for them. Oh, you know what? It is. A lot of people sent, this is an idea for someone to go and run with on hostgator.com/mixergy. My sponsor for hosting websites. Imagine if they said, look, entrepreneurs, they don’t just want a beach vacation.

What? They wanted some kind of activity where they learn, but it needs to be disconnected from work. Because if it’s too close to work, then they’re still at work. What if they put together a we’re going to teach you this one random skill week with five other entrepreneurs where it’s, now this is your space.

We’re going to go to Costa Rica. It’ll be beautiful. It will be a thing. But at the end, you walk away with this one skill. I don’t know what that skill is, but it needs to be that one thing that you’re working on that your mind goes into, that you go back into, into, into newbie mode. What do you think of that?

Tyler: that?

sounds very appealing.

Andrew: I wonder what that skill would be.

It

Tyler: me, I would.

love to, like, I have this concern that I’m getting. I’m like losing touch with new tech. Like I used to be a coder and like I code less and less. So that’s what I would go for is like, catch me up. Give me the last 10 years of tech advancement.

Andrew: Ooh. That’s another thing actually. That’s like what accountants I think will do where they have to go back to school to learn what’s what’s new, right? I think you’re right. There’s some kind of bootcamp for developers, for entrepreneurs where it’s, you’ve been using the same thing. You want to know, what’s new.

We’re going to teach you just this new stuff, but we’re not going to teach it to you like babies, and we’re not going to teach it to you like your life and business depend on it. Just let’s catch up. Here’s what’s new. Here’s how you create oh, two great businesses. Listen to me, people, whether it’s one of these two businesses or anything else, you’re going to need a website in order to tell people about it in order to show people what you’re doing.

Well, if you want to set it up with WordPress, which is a great flexible pro uh, software that will grow with your business. Well, I highly recommend you do what I do, which is go to hostgator.com/mixergy and get HostGator to host it. It’s inexpensive. It just works. They’ve been around forever. And frankly, if you don’t agree with me, I’ve been with them for years.

But if you don’t agree with me and you’re not happy with them, you take your software, you go somewhere else. Who else is going to do that for you? Do it right now. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. I love that. I love the ideas we can kick around in there. All right. Some of the things that you do for marketing and product development include the Chrome web store.

Um, why don’t we talk about that? And then we’ll go through the list that I’ve got here. What’d you do with the Chrome web store?

Tyler: Yeah. So this is since defunct, so I’m not sure who remembers this, but, uh, when the Chrome browser launched shortly after they started the Chrome web store, which is just like a direct, it was like an app store, but just the point into websites. Um, so anyone could get

Andrew: why none of us used it. I thought it would be so great. I wanted Chrome to be in its own operating system. I got my Chromebook and then they said, you can install apps. I said, great. I can take the app no matter what, what hardware I use, take it with me no matter what computer I use. And then I looked and I remember seeing the fricking Huffington post had a Chrome web app.

I said, there’s no way that there’s an app. Let’s see what they did. It’s nothing but a link back to their site. And then I realized people are cheating. This is not real software. It’s just you taking advantage. And then it’s Chrome. The people Google also saying let’s use a Huffington post name to add credibility and ruin the whole thing that we’re going for.

But what did you do with it? You linked out to less annoying CRM and then got customers that way.

Tyler: Yeah. And yeah, it was, there was very limited integration ability, but one thing you could do is when they clicked on it, it could author, like they click install, it could authenticate through their Google account and just, they jumped right into the account. So we were able to make it a pretty seamless process, but otherwise it’s just a bookmark to our website, but you know, there’s all these different marketing channels out there.

And being early to the right one can be huge. Um, my, I helped my mom run a food blog that like, she was a full-time food blogger. She just got on Pinterest at the right time. And you couldn’t do it today. It wouldn’t work.

Andrew: have you been on the wrong platform? Been first in something that you shouldn’t have been?

Tyler: yeah, Well, similarly with Google, we tried the, uh, I forgot what it’s called, like the enterprise, like the Google apps marketplace or something like that, which was similar to the Chrome web store, but way more work, because you had to integrate with the, or G suite, whatever it was

Andrew: yeah, yeah, yeah,

Tyler: we put a lot of effort into that and I think we got one free trial signup from it.

Andrew: yeah. That is a disappointment. Every once in a while, I’ll be in my Google drive and they’ll say you can use their, their marketplace to find a PDF reader or something. And I don’t know, it just doesn’t get me, but the Chrome one store was a success. Right. Even though they shut it down, you ended up with customers, you got to keep for life

Tyler: Yeah, absolutely. For a long time, that was our biggest source of new leads. It was kind of low quality leads in the sense that we had to get a lot more of them. Uh, like the conversion rate was pretty low to paid, but, uh, yeah, I mean, it’s just free people coming in the door every day. So I can’t complain about that.

Andrew: Multi-level marketing company was recommending you.

Tyler: That was another growth channel where, uh, yeah, there’s, you know, 40,000 people in this MLM company, a few kind of, of the lower level people liked us and it started trickling up the chain and, um, Yeah. it’s, you know, they kind of have this net, this whisper network of spreading the word there.

Andrew: And the challenge with that was what happened when, when they decided to make their own.

Tyler: Yes. Exactly. So, uh, we, we had been working with kind of the corporate level of the MLM to they were recommending us, but then they decided to make their own.

CRM and give it for free to everybody, which doesn’t come as a surprise. Honestly, that’s what I would do. But, uh, you know, the theme of all of that, whether it’s the Chrome web store that gets shut down or the partnership with the multi-level marketing company, which eventually goes away.

I said earlier, we haven’t figured out marketing. We’ve had little temporary successes here, there, but we’ve tried, you know, 10 things for every one thing that works. And every one thing that worked stopped working two years later. So it’s just about trying a million different things. And every time something works just saying, well, it’s time to get the next one in place because we know that this is temporary.

Andrew: Uh, yeah, that makes sense. And as you’re building this up, do you find that there’s been a year that’s been with sales were lower than the previous year, or is it always growing.

Tyler: It’s always growing, but the rate of acceleration fluctuates a little. So we’ve, we’ve, uh, really only had two negative months where revenue went down ever. And those were the first two months of the pandemic. Um, other than that, it’s always gone up, but prior to the pandemic, we were growing at like 9% per year.

And now we’re growing at, I think 18% per year. So things have, you know, they slowed down and picked back up again. And that’s happened a few times.

Andrew: I don’t know. I haven’t figured out what less annoying CRM it’s. Who is your customer? I think the, one of the first things that happens when someone sets an account is you say, how do you want us to set it up? Are you a coach? Are you a consultant? Are you a, are you in sales? Right? Do you, I don’t find that a lot of your competitors do that.

And partially it’s because of the way they think about onboarding, but part, but the other reason is they’re focused on one thing, right?

Tyler: Yeah. I’d say they’re the people who came before us, like Salesforce. Are focused on everybody and they, they aren’t niche at all. And then the people who came after us, the CRMs that came after us are in many cases, like industry specific. So it’s a travel agent for CRMs or a travel agent for, uh, sorry, a CRM for travel agents.

Um, yeah, we kind of we’re in this middle zone where our niche was just a small business. That’s too big of a niche now. Like it would not be smart to go after that now, but that was our positioning back in 2009, when it was a much smaller market, what we’ve ended up attracting is basically if you go on g2.com, which is just like a review site with, for lots of companies, including CRM companies, they’ll tell you the top industries for every CRM.

If you look almost every CRM is selling to startups, big tech companies, marketing agencies, those are the top three for every single one. If you look at us, I mean, I haven’t checked in a while, but it’s probably like manufacturing companies, real estate agents, insurance agents, like it’s just kind of traditional old school businesses.

Andrew: Uh, yeah, that makes sense. A lot of the CRMs also go after sales because sales people are constantly looking for software. They’re willing to try. Right. And they have a budget core. But, um, here, you’re waiting

Tyler: People who use the sale, the people who use the CRM are going to be the salespeople at pretty much any company.

Yeah. It depends a lot on what industry they’re in, in terms of like, how do the sales people operate? for example, how much automation do they need? Our customers are not highly automated businesses, whereas a startup is trying to scale everything possible. And we’re not the right fit for that.

Andrew: What do you mean by automation? What’s an example of automation. That’s some in CRM.

Tyler: Yeah. So there’s a few different ones, but like email automation is really popular these days where. Well, actually we do it to our customers. You were saying like, someone signs up for our software, they kind of automatically get an email that’s welcoming to them, to the CRM and stuff like that. And they can get really robust where it’s like, if it’s an e-commerce company, you can say, oh, you clicked on this thing.

We were going to recommend this other thing to you. So it’s kind of like sales, but it’s not coming from a sales person. It’s coming from a computer. Uh, our customers tend to be more artisan in their approach. It’s it’s not trying to turn it into an assembly line. It’s like, I’m going to build a real relationship with another human I’m going to call them or meet them or one way or another interact with them.

And then I’m going to enter a note into the CRM. It’s very, very simple.

Andrew: All right. That makes sense. And then when you can’t pitch it to a specific type of business, what are you doing when you’re communicating with less CRM, less annoying CRM. Isn’t who it’s for?

Tyler: Uh, sorry. You mean like if we’re talking to someone who doesn’t fit in our sweet

Andrew: You know, I think about, I think about Steli FD with close.io, right? He is just like the sales rockstar for the sales PR for this, this group of people who just love doing sales. I see who he’s going after. I see how he talks. I see how he communicates. He’s going to be at a sales conference. He’s going to talk to you like a sales person.

He’s going to be aggressive and in your face, because you love that kind of talk because you’re craving that from your manager, right? He’s going to write a book about how to sell and close call, how to close cold calls and stuff like that. Right? When you have that kind of a clarity on who you’re going after, it makes sense.

The communication methods make sense when less annoying CRM is communicating. Who do you keep in mind? How do you, how do you talk.

Tyler: Uh, it’s a great question. And like, I don’t think I have a great answer here because like, I’m not, Steli like Steli is so much better at this than I am, but I’m just kind of a product person. And so. This is going to be an unsatisfying answer, but I think we’ve just really try to connect with authenticity and just say, Hey, you’ve tried a million CRMs and you hated them.

Like, let’s, let’s use that as the starting point. not going to hate this one, that’s it?

Andrew: no, no, no, I get it. I get it. I get what you’re talking about. The person who was just frustrated by how confusing and distracting the CRM is from their day. No matter whether they’re in real estate or, or manufacturing, they, they may not be the same, but they have the same sensibility, the same problem they want to be communicated with in the same way.

They don’t want all the Zapier integrations on their homepage. They don’t want you to curse at a presentation to them. Right. They want you to say it’s okay. We got you. We’re going to keep this simple.

Tyler: Yeah. And to be honest, I have never heard clothes as a alternative to us.

Andrew: No, no me neither. That’s why I felt comfortable bringing them up

Tyler: yeah.

Andrew: said, he’s not going to turn to get turned off and stop

paying

Tyler: Cause there, there are a lot of people who love Stanley’s approach and like, they just don’t overlap at all with people who like my approach and the world is big. And uh, you know, I guess there’s a certain type of, uh, yeah, I, this is like too much of a stereotype, but like a Midwestern, uh, aesthetic or something like that of just like a blue collar.

Like we’re not a fancy tech company. Just, you can come use this and get back to your

Andrew: Where are you? St. Louis, Missouri, right.

Tyler: Yeah. Although we started in San Francisco, I’m kind of, uh, I’m fake.

Andrew: What were you doing in San Francisco?

Tyler: Uh, I just moved there when we started the company. I didn’t even, I was so stupid. I didn’t even know that’s where all the tech companies were. Um, I just had a friend there and I got there and I was like, oh, okay.

I guess this is the tech industry.

Andrew: I like that you say on your website, here’s our address? Come say, hi, I’ve done that. People do come and say hi, that happened to you.

Tyler: Uh, it’s happened once ever. And they were really mad, not at us, thankfully, but it was a little scary. They came in and they, their boss had just fired them and they used lessening CRM. So we were kind of like, should we keep putting our address on there, but no, just that one time.

Andrew: I had an issue with the receptionist would just send people over to my desk. And if I wasn’t at my desk, like going to the bathroom, going downstairs to Starbucks or something, they would just be in the office. People would leave me messages saying, Andrew, I missed you. Here’s the thing. What kind of store who does that?

If I’m putting my, just because someone says they’re here for me, don’t let them into the office be a little more constrained, but thankfully, nothing, nothing weird has happened. And a lot of good has happened. If anything, people won’t take anything, they drop off a bottle of whiskey. Great. I mean, not

now because I’m not at the office, but it’s

Tyler: And maybe, maybe we should update our footer to say that. Please bring us whiskey.

Andrew: Ooh, no, you know what? You should be. You should be inviting them over for something like, what’s your thing. It’s hard. Whiskey is good because whiskey never spoils. I do enjoy it coming after work. I’ll have a good time having a sip with you. All right. Let’s continue here with the story. Then you did have this one low Mo low point that I wasn’t sure how to bring up this period where, well he’s told our producer a lot of things happen at the same time.

And then the first people also who were working with you are friends, but now you hire people who weren’t friends. And so that fills in another layer of complication. Could talk about that. What was going on?

Tyler: Yeah. Um, so yeah, a lot of things happen, so I’m not sure I’ll say this in the right order, but just from a business standpoint, first of all, in the early days, if things are going well, it’s really easy to convince yourself you’re going to be the next, you know, Google or Salesforce or whatever, because when you only have a hundred dollars in revenue, 10 X-ing that isn’t, I don’t wanna say it’s not hard.

Cause like so many company. Struggle with that. And as did we, it’s hard, but it’s like doable. You can 10 X at that, the size, and you kind of talk yourself into like, we’re just going to keep doing this forever. And eventually it comes, uh, like reality sets in, which is things were going great. We were growing, but expectations that had been set earlier were not being met instead of bling or tripling year over year, we were growing 50% year over year.

And so that was number one. And then in addition to that, like the people we’d hired during the really high growth period who had come on to become billionaires, they’re kind of seeing listen saying, well, I don’t see a path here where I’m going to be a billionaire, you know? And there was some, there was kind of a point of tension and where it’s like, who are we going to be as a company?

And I think that the decision we faced was we could go raise money or. Forget all the less annoying stuff and, you know, start taking credit cards upfront and do all that stuff that we don’t want to do And just try to hustle our way back to that really hypergrowth. Or we could just lean into it and accept our status as kind of a low growth, but still successful business.

And as you can tell, I went with the latter option and that did, uh, I mean, the reality is I kind of like, I bailed on a couple of the early employees who were also both two very good friends of mine by virtue of not trying for the thing that I originally promised them when they came on. So

Andrew: that that’s a hard thing to, to confront? I could see if there’s an outside pressure to, to decide. I could see just slowly going into whichever one feels. Right. But you had to decide, how did you make that decision?

Tyler: W what helped is that, uh, kind of constraint that my brother and I had from the very, very beginning was we were not going to raise money. And the big reason is because like at my last company, I actually think, I always give the advice to, you know, young, like high school or college age people go work somewhere before you start your own company, not to learn anything about how to do things, but to learn what you don’t want.

Everything you hate about that. Go start a company. That’s not that, um, I hated being at the whims of venture capitalists at my last company. And we were just 100% set from day one. We’re not raising any money that helped. Uh, so this goes back to, uh, just having a guiding light, right? There are all these hard decisions and decision fatigue is such a hard thing with being a founder that you’ve got a thousand different things you need to decide if you’re approaching every single one with without first principles, without, you know, this guidance, it’s exhausting and you’re gonna make a lot of mistakes.

So. I think we just followed, well, we’re not raising money. And that kind of made the decision for us.

Andrew: Got it. So we’re not raising money then, and we’re not increasing growth that does still leave an opportunity for why can’t Tyler go to a conference and talk to somebody. Why can’t Tyler then reach out to Jason freed and say, I read your book. It’s not happening fast enough. Why can’t, why, why didn’t Tyler blame himself ended others blame you.

Tyler: I would say I did.

blame myself in the sense that like I was, there’s a difference, I think, between blaming yourself and beating yourself up. Like, I knew that I was not that, you know, I’m the CEO and co-founder, and if the company’s not growing as fast as I want, ultimately that comes down to me.

Absolutely. But also like we were growing 50% year over year, like, and I was happy and I liked my job and the newer people we’d hired were happy. Uh it’s just that we weren’t going to be this thing. We once thought.

Andrew: Hmm. I get that. I feel that sometimes too. And then I wonder if this, like, is this a temporary thing or what the sense of happy where I am. It makes make sense. Maybe I should be pushing for more, but God knows. I’ve said that in past interviews, so maybe I’ll come back, but it it’s, it does feel pretty damn good.

Tyler: Yeah. And something that I think people mistake about this, and I mistook it in the, like, I never wanted to be a billionaire. I don’t know why I ever set that as the goal, but we live in a culture where ambition is equated with financial greed almost. Um, there are ways to be ambitious and to always push yourself and learn and try to have a better impact on the world that don’t necessarily involve the business becoming bigger or whatever.

And we are becoming bigger just slower than we thought. The amount of challenge in my life has not decreased as a result of the slower trajectory. It just means I’m working on other things that I find more satisfying.

Andrew: What’s the most satisfying part of your job.

Tyler: The surprising thing. So I still love product. Um, I just intrinsically love that, but the thing I really didn’t expect was the team building aspect of it. Cause you know, like you said, I don’t, I don’t particularly like dealing with people, talking to people. I don’t like the actual work of being a manager, but the impact you can have on another person by giving them a really great job and helping them grow and be happy and succeed.

It’s very, very hard to have that? level of impact in any other way.

Andrew: do you do that? How do you help them grow and succeed? What’s your, what’s your process?

Tyler: well, we’ve hired almost exclusively entry-level people. Um, so people, you know, fresh out of college or in some cases didn’t go to college. Uh, we’ve have our team of software engineers. Half of them did not know how to code when they started working here.

Uh, so if you just bring people on that are, you know, smart, talented, fun to work with, but. Where they want to be yet. Um, I think like a small business or a startup is just such a great place for them to try new things. You know, you tell me what you want to do, what skills do you want to learn? And, and I’ll just help you get there.

Andrew: And then do you have anything more formal than that? Or is it they’re new? They’re getting to see things, that’s it.

Tyler: That’s a lot of it. Um, I think at a bigger company, you need to systematize everything because you can’t just be like, use your best judgment because there’s no one person’s judgment. I actually think small businesses, uh, tends to over. Everyone wants to act like the big company, but doing so actually remove this goes back to what we said earlier.

You have to do things big companies won’t do. And, um, there, there’s no replacing, being able to sit next to the CEO like

Andrew: And so you’re literally have somebody sit next to your seat next to you. Watch what you’re doing throughout the day.

Tyler: Um, less at one point, literally. Yes. Uh, nowadays it’s more, um, cause you know, we’re 20 people instead of five. So we’re a little closer to the big, bigger company end of the spectrum. But yeah, like every developer, when we’re doing project planning, I’m in the meeting, planning the project with them and helping them.

And I do one-on-ones with every single person at the company at least twice a year and say, you know, what do you like, what skills do you want to learn over the next six months? Or what’s your least favorite thing about the job that we can make better? Or if five years from now, you’re not working here.

Why let me go fix it? Um, so I wouldn’t say I’m amazing at this or anything, but just caring and trying. It is probably enough at this size of company. I think.

Andrew: I think also getting access to see the day-to-day stuff. I think it was Sean Perry, the investor who, who made an offer to an entrepreneur. I forget who it was early in his career. He said, can I just come and sit next to you? I’ll pay you to just sit next to you for a day so I can watch how you do things.

And I get why he would do that because there’s a lot to it. From the big stuff that, that you get to watch, but it’s the small stuff often that has the bigger impact. Like I remember one of the first things I learned on my job in college. That my boss decided to listen to something coming into the office that was more intentional than most people.

He wasn’t just listening to whatever radio podcast show that people are listening to. He went out and he sought these programs that were going to fire him up for the morning. The way that he would take notes on calls, he wasn’t just sitting and talking. He would constantly scribble down notes in a way that organized, that was, or that was organized.

Um, I remember act, I discovered act when I worked for Dale Carnegie and associates, they would have the structure for how to keep track of conversations from people. And I use act for years, and then I just read it not great. Um, but the fact that they would organize their, their, no it’s on people so that they could be, be able to follow up with them even years later, that was really eye-opening right.

It’s those little habits. I think that have a lot of impact. And that’s what you’re saying. People who work for you get to see, and that’s where some of the satisfaction it comes from.

Tyler: Yeah.

I think as people get older, they forget that like you learned everything somewhere and the wisdom and experienced person can impart on an inexperienced person. One hour of time can change a person’s life. Um, something I really love doing, we have, we have this program called the coding fellowship where every summer we bring in about six people who don’t know how to code and teach them to code and help them get into the tech industry.

And the first couple of years, I taught all the lessons myself, since then someone else has taken it over, but I still do. One-on-ones occasionally with the coding fellows. And in one hour, I like, okay, let’s say they’re a freshmen in college. Thinking about majoring in computer science, I can just be like, Hey, did you know that this is how the world works?

Did you know that the tech interview process works this way? It takes like no effort on my part and they didn’t know any of that stuff. It can really change their trajectory. And it’s super rewarding.

Andrew: All right. The website is less annoying CRM and you’ve got a podcast. The podcast is@startuptolast.com. Right?

Tyler: That’s correct.

Andrew: All right. I want to thank two sponsors who made this interview happen? The first, if you need a website hosted, go to hostgator.com/mixergy and this, oh, wait. You’re hosted on trends, Mr. Right.

Tyler: The podcast.

Andrew: podcast. And then you’re just using their website. It looks good.

Tyler: Yeah. They make it easy.

Andrew: They really do. You know what? Justin Jackson, the founder of that company, I’ve just been playing with this where it makes things really easy. Like the fact that he’s got a podcast hosting company whose website does not suck, that’s a huge step forward.

And it’s, it looks so good. I was ready to say, you must have done this on WordPress with some customization. No, you just changed the colors on his

software.

Tyler: minutes.

Andrew: Yeah, it looks fantastic. All right. So if you’re not using transistor and you need a website go to hostgator.com/mixergy, and I do really think that people should be selling content.

Um, and the way to do that is to go to  dot com slash Mixergy. They’ll let you start the, let you start with their software for free, free trial available, right. Hi man. Thanks so much for doing this interview.

Tyler: Yeah. Thanks Andrew. This is fun.

Andrew: Thanks, bye everyone.

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