Zurixx is the definition of a weird, unique, and arcane company. In this episode, COO Andrew Way shares how and why he describes their company as such. According to him, Zurixx still uses old-school marketing methods such as direct mail, radio, and billboards. Andrew also delves into how he got his start in the business world by being employed in the earlier years of Amazon. Andrew has over two decades of marketing, sales, development, client services experience. He lists five lessons he learned from being a COO at Zurixx, in which the most important is paying attention to the customers.
After working with large internationally known brands including Nike, Amazon and multiple innovative education companies, Andrew Way joined Zurixx executive team in 2017. Andrew has many years of marketing, sales, business development, client services and overall revenue operations experience. After playing collegiate soccer, Andrew graduated from the University of Montana in 1997. Andrew’s global experience in North America, Asia, Oceana and Europe allows him to bring a wide skillset to Zurixx’s sales, marketing, services, brand management and corporate communications departments. When Andrew isn’t working, he can be found spending time with his wife and two sons on trails and rivers near his Park City home. Andrew believes in the education Zurixx provides students and the emphasis Zurixx provides on giving back to local communities. He’s also got a wicked sense of humor. Andrew and I go way back. We did some work together years ago. I was coaching your former company. It’s good to have you on the show.
Thanks. It’s good to be here. We do go way back.
The only reason I’m bummed to talk to you is you’re living in Bend, Oregon. I’ve always wanted to go ski there and you were my excuse to go ski and now you’re gone. When did you guys move?
We actually left Bend in 2013. We left not because we wanted to but because I lost a business and a partnership. Upon reflection, it’s the single thing I learned the most from in my business career. We went back to Santa Barbara. I went to grad school in Santa Barbara and my wife is from Santa Barbara. We did a few years there in Santa Barbara where I got to learn from another person. I think a lot of Landon Ray, who is the Founder of Ontraport.
I used to coach Landon.
He is an amazing guy and a brilliant entrepreneur. I learned a lot from him in a short period of time. We found from a family standpoint, we fit there in the mountains. We’d rather live in the mountains and visit the ocean. We moved to Park City. You and I have done Park City together.
That was when we first hung out in person. Tell us about Zurixx so that we understand what Zurixx is and then I want to go backward in time to where you got your experience of becoming a COO.
Everyone thinks that their company is weird and unique. Most people aren’t wrong but they’re not generally weird and unique in the ways that they think they are. You probably know this more than anyone to get the amount of business that you have deep insight into. There’s an 80% overlay on a lot of these things despite the industry. I generally think that Zurixx is a pretty unique business. I say that because there are not a lot of other businesses that have constructed their sales funnel and, to some degree, their marketing funnels like we have. We are a little arcane in that we do a lot of stuff in person. Zurixx itself has little to no brand value if you will and that’s by design. Our brands are education brands that we put out on a front foot and those are all headed by celebrity partners. Part of what makes us unique is that all of our product lines are individual brands headed by a celebrity partner, the degree to which these folks or celebrities are subjective. Everyone has their opinion about whether we are talking about D-List or A-List. To us, they are all A-List. That’s unique.
The way that we sell is that we market fairly traditionally and these days, we’re digital for the most part. We also still send direct mail and we still use the radio. We’re still making that work. We still use billboards and that works. As you might imagine that means we have a heavy attribution engine in the business intelligence group so we know those things work. We put on live events all over the country. People come to this free event and learn more about real estate investing, entrepreneurship or to learn how to take your business to the next level. Our primary brands are businesses. On the business side, we work with two guys from Shark Tank, Robert Herjavec and Daymond John. We’ve been working with Daymond and his team for a few years. We also work with a guy that some people may have heard of, Grant Cardone.
On the real estate side, we work with slight less famous people from the TMZ standpoint. We work with people who are on HGTV primarily. Tarek and Christina from the original Flip or Flop show, Hilary Farr from Love it or List it. We work with those folks and people come out to see their teams. The tip of our sales funnel, the top part, is our free live events where people come out to learn about wealth building. We refer to this internally as disruptive education. We feel like we are out there meeting people’s needs right where they are in the most efficient manner possible. People come in and choose to participate with us and buy more products of the product line after the free event. That education can take many forms. There is one-on-one coaching, group mentoring, lots of boot camps, fast starts and more education. People are our highest valued customer that spent six figures with us.
Are you running all of those sections of the sales funnel or just the frontend, getting them to the event?
Personally, in terms of running operations, I’m running most of it. Our structure is pretty cooperative. There are four of us, three founding partners and there’s me. We tend to team up on things. There are some things that I have primary accountability for. Honestly, that’s how I prefer it. I find the teaming up sometimes a little inefficient. It’s been part of the culture and seemed to work okay. For instance, let’s take marketing. I have 100% accountability for marketing where I have much more a support role with our high-end telesales groups on the backend. I’m involved in all these things. I have 100% accountability for our brand management group. That’s a fairly hefty group here because that’s the group that interacts with our celebrities. We have some people who are rightly concerned about their reputations. We’ve spent enormous amounts of money and other resources on making sure that we enhance their reputations. In terms of client services, PR and corporate communications, that’s all mine as well. It’s sales where we tend to team up.
Do you make all the sales for these companies as well? It’s not just getting them into the events, you actually make the sales for all of that?
Yes, we do everything soup to nuts. We do everything from marketing. We do all the fulfillment of education. There are a couple of places where we have a fulfillment partner. That’s a third-party contractor where they will come and do very specific pieces of education that would be inefficient for us to hold in-house. I’d say 85% of the education fulfillment is done inside the building.
Let’s back up a little bit. Walk us through where you got the skillsets that serve you well as a COO. We’ll talk about how you got involved with Zurixx as well.
In terms of where my skillsets have come from, I’ve had the benefit of dumb luck and great timing. How those two things manifested themselves over the years have been fundamental primary experiences that I didn’t seek out. They happened. Also, relationships with people I did seek out. If I can recognize one thing, it’s someone who is a lot smarter than I am. I love to be mentored, frankly. It’s been nice that after twenty years I’ve been able to turn that around a little bit and give something back, too. The first instance of dumb luck was responding to an ad in April of 1998 for customer service rep openings at Amazon.com.
At that point in Amazon’s evolution, there were a couple of things that people don’t remember. One was all they sold were books. Everything was in Seattle. Our distribution center was right down by the Kingdome. There is no Kingdome anymore. All that stuff is gone. I, being a communications and cultural anthropology major, had just returned from traveling in Southeast Asia. At that point, I was operating at a deficit. I didn’t have any money, I spent it all in Asia. I needed a job. My parents told me I had two weeks. I was welcome to live at the house and eat, do laundry and do all the normal things I would do for two weeks and then I had to be on my own. I’ve been intrigued by Amazon because I’m a book fan. I’ve used Amazon from an internet cafe in Thailand to send my mother and sister birthday and Mother’s Day gifts while I was gone. I was fascinated that I could do that from an internet cafe across the world. They would wrap the present and put a note on it for me and send it directly to my family.
You’ve already used them in ’98?
Yeah. Honestly, it was the first time that the internet seemed anything other than a replacement. I read ESPN.com because I’m a soccer junky, instead of reading the paper. I had gone and gotten directions on MapQuest rather than going and getting a Road Atlas. Assuming they are more efficient and the breadth of information was broader, but only activities and sounds were replacements. Amazon was the first thing that I have seen that you couldn’t do that in any other way. There is no way from Thailand that I could even make a phone call to make this happen. It’s not happening. I was blown away by that. I decided that I want to work there when I ran out of money and at home. What I found very quickly was that I wasn’t qualified to do anything at Amazon. I got down the dumps and gave up after my first try and then I saw this ad in the Seattle Weekly for customer service reps.
Seattle Weekly was the “alternative paper” back in those days. It was a weekly publication that was free. You had to have a four-year degree to do customer service because there was no GUI. If Mr. Herold called and I pick up the phone and he wanted to know where his book was, I couldn’t point and click to say, “I see here it was packed yesterday and picked this morning. It’s on a UPS truck and it will be with you in two days,” like we take for granted now. You had to write an old school UNIX command-line code to interact with the distribution center. It was four or six weeks or something, it was a UNIX command-line coding educational course. You had to have a four-year degree because you had to potentially prove in some manner that you could learn things successfully and then you get a job. My job was $11 an hour. I answered four hours of email and four hours of phones a day. I look at that $11 an hour, I did some loose in the head math and I thought to myself, “I am rich. This is awesome.”
How many employees were with Amazon back then?
I was number 238. That’s how and why I got a job at Amazon. I got to be there in various capacities through June of 2002. I was there for a few years. I found that I loved the customer service work. It was great, wonderful and amazing people.
Please tell me you didn’t sell your stock.
I sold some of it. The Amazon stock has honestly been a bull work against bad decisions my entire adult life. I bought some real estate when I shouldn’t have. It got in my head that I needed to pay cash for graduate school. If I redid that, I’d probably finance on a different way to sort things. I held on to many shares. After I got there, it was public when I got there. The stocks were twelve times after I got on board and so it’s been a fortunate thing. Honestly, I had no idea what a stock option was. If someone had traded my stock options for a $1 more an hour, I would have taken it. I had zero. I grew up in an academic family. We didn’t talk about business so I don’t understand any of this stuff.
Where did you go from there?
After that, I decided early that I had gotten a little too corporate. It was an interesting education. It was 238 place when I started. When I left, it was over 20,000. We’re all over the world. We sold everything under the sun. Oftentimes, people will ask me why I haven’t gone back to get an MBA. Outside of some of the technical finance stuff that I wish I learned earlier. I have one. I watch that and I’m nothing if not an astute observer. It got too big and too corporate for me. It was the first time that I got a sense of what size of business I fit best in. It was the wrong sense ultimately. I knew that I didn’t want to be in a global juggernaut with 20,000 people and the culture has also changed by 2002. We had moved from this collegial startup, “We’re all book nerds,” which is naive, it’s not going to be like that. We’d started to import what I will probably unfairly and generally call the Ivy League MBA crowd. We went from a teamwork-oriented environment and certainly a teamwork achievement environment to a highly competitive environment.
There was a point I was a program manager. I’ll send emails to 400 people. I would spend three hours crafting an email to make sure that it was perfect so that I can get sniped by somebody because I had misspelled a word or I had missed punctuated something. God forbid, I made a fundamental mistake with the information that I was providing. When I was spending three hours on each email, I realized it was time for me to leave. I moved to Santa Barbara. I got a multi-subjects California teaching credential and a title for a couple of years. I took a break as a fifth-grade teacher.
Did you enjoy that? Did you learn from that?
I did, I loved it, and I would go back to it. I don’t know that I will be a classroom teacher, but somehow education and children will be a part of my retirement. Functionally, it didn’t make sense for a while. I got married, we’re living in Santa Barbara County, and I’m making $24,000.
We had the second in command for the Khan Academy on our show. Maybe you will be the next COO over at the Khan Academy.
If they need someone. I heard that one and it was fantastic. That person is single out smarter than I am. If that person resigns, give me a call.
From there, where do you go?
I decided I needed to have what I was referring to in those days as a grown-up job. I needed to be able to make enough money to support the dreams that I have on a personal level. I was curious about affiliate marketing. I went to work brief and my plan was to go there for two years and I went there for ten months. There was one of this company called Commission Junction that was based in Santa Barbara.
I used to use them a long time ago.
I don’t know if they were technically the first, but they were certainly the first of consequence. I became a publisher account manager which meant that I was part of the group that actively manages the top 1% or 2% of affiliates in the network. If you were one of the top affiliates rather than what you start a fund for yourself in the network, I would call you up and say, “I’ve got three offers for you. I’m getting your preferential commission rate so on and so forth. We would thereby be generating more fees to the network, more transactions and more fees for us.”
I got this crash course of internet marketing for about ten months and I work with some people that have gone on to be a Vinny Lingham. Most people know Vinny Lingham. Vinny Lingham is the CEO and Founder of Civic and all these other businesses. He was one of my clients and he was a good research marketer. There are always people at that level who had figured out that either on the side or as the primary career can make a lot of money so I’ve got a deep insight into how they were marketing online. It was awesome. What happened then was another piece of this dumb luck which was I socially met a guy named Eben Pagan. He was living in Santa Monica at that time and he had a business called Double Your Dating. He was selling relationships, how to be more successful with women in dating online via an eBook.
He was David De Angelo. Nobody knew Eben Pagan, nobody at all. He and I started talking. We met through this wonderful woman who was a friend of mine at Commission Junction. Her name is Emily Eberhardt. He’s a cool human being, and then we started talking. He wanted to build up his affiliate program and he wanted some other stuff done and so I went to work for him. We built a successful affiliate program that was great, and then he said, “You’re semi-smart and dumb enough to run through walls, so what’s your next project? What do you want to do?” It was such a cool thing because we’re building a virtual business which I’m sure we weren’t the first. We were certainly one of the first virtual businesses of consequence, even a Skype call that we couldn’t have done this for instance in 2004, 2005. I got to be there on the ground floor where someone who is brilliant like Jeff Bezos and this guy, Eben Pagan, because he was brilliant built their business in the way that no one has ever done it before. I got to see that and be a more integral part of that this time and be on the leadership team. Eben hired smart people in the alumni. These were the Eben Pagan tree of people. It was unbelievable. Both in and out is incredible.
There was Craig that was a copywriter there?
Craig Clements is a friend of mine. He came to us as a student. He read David D’s stuff online and came in. Craig is uniquely intelligent, and he said that there is clearly more going on than some guy in his apartment writing emails to people. This is obviously a business and he wanted to learn how to copy write and that was his thing. He came in and said, “I’ll do absolutely anything you guys want. I’ll sweep.” The only thing is he was very disappointed when we told him we didn’t have an office where he is going to sweep and he will do anything. Eben recognized it, a bit of kindred soul and certainly a monster intellect and Craig came on. He had been eighteen, nineteen years old or something like that when we first started.
That was typical, was it just hiring those A players?
Yeah, Eben has a great nose for talent and then he had this unique way. Eben doesn’t bring a lot of ego to his businesses. If you come in and you can make things happen, it’s all yours. He doesn’t need to be one with the best idea. He doesn’t have to be the one with his name at the bottom of the document. He is wonderful at recognizing talent and then trying them to lose and build an unstructured but contained way. All your potential has the opportunity to come to fruition with the full recognition that there are going to be some mistakes and some breakages. He knew how to contain those mistakes and help people learn from them and certainly not jump away from them. He is one of the most important people both personally and professionally I ever met.
Those are huge leadership lessons to pull for. Was it around the year 2003 or 2004?
For me, it was 2004 to 2005 is when I first started there. By 2007, we had met a few guys. Eben’s original stuff online was the most ripped-off stuff I’ve ever seen, everything from the red text to the fonts and to the spacing. His long-form sales landing page, he was the first one to do it, that I am aware of. No one has an original idea but it is one of the first ones I’ve ever seen.
The big lesson from him where we were talking about investing and where we were spending our money, investing our money. I gave him these stocks and these funds in real estate and I said, “What about you because I’m putting $250,000 a year into events to go meet people and we talk about investing.” He goes, “I’m investing $250,000 into events and I’ll probably generate a $2 million return off of being at those events and meeting the people.” It completely opened my eyes up to Masterminds which I’ve never heard of. I’ve been in EO for years. Now I’m an addict to going to these events. You and I bumped into each other again at War Room. War Room, Genius Network, Strategic Codes, Maverick, Baby Bathwater, 2iC, EO, YPO, Vistage, I’ve been all over the world with these things and what I realize from Eben was my network is my net worth. That’s probably been one of the biggest lessons for you as well.
I remember when he wanted to do events. They were paid events for our customers. He comes and he says, “I’m going to do this thing.” Eben is a great namer of products and events, which is what he has a unique talent in naming things. He said, “I’m going to put on an event that’s going to be called The Green Room.” I immediately go on to operations note, “What are we going to sell? What are the price points? What do we need to get there? What’s the marketing? Who are we looking for?” He was like, “No, you need to settle down. We’re not going to sell anything.” At this point, we started to meet Joe Polish and Frank Kern.
We’re meeting these people that we look up to. When I met Frank Kern, it was like meeting a rock star. We were shocked as they were looking up to us. They thought that what we have was an amazing thing and that was the genesis of all of Eben’s business training. The guru mastermind and the good altitude in that thing was basically guys like Frank, Joe and Dean and other people saying, “You’re running and building a business in the way that no one else has done this before. You’ve got to teach people how to do this” We said, “Okay.”
You know the world is converging when you can use first names. I know you’re talking about Dean Graziosi. You haven’t said his name like, “Joe, Frank and Dean.” I’m like, “I know him. We know him.”
It was crazy and so Eben comes in and he says to crystallize the point that you made about those putting them on this event and soon investing $250,000. To me, to a small-brained guy in the room, I could not fathom why we would spend $250,000 and get no return. He said to me the direct quote I will never forget. He said, “Andrew, there is value beyond measure in being an aggregator. I was like, “The aggregator of what?” He said, “The aggregator of high-quality top class people.” He was absolutely right. We put the first one on the House of Blues in Chicago. I’m in Chicago and I’m still pissed off that we’re spending this money and that there is no direct frontend return from it. We don’t have enough time left in our lives living on this podcast to talk about the various ways in which that paid off 100-fold. That was incredible. I learned an incredibly valuable lesson because I’m not naturally a group joiner or a networking event attender.
Nor am I.
I do it because of the same reasons. I learned how and why they’re valuable.
I did because I saw the value and Eben taught me that lesson and then from there, it massively opened up my expansion. That’s how I met Tim Ferriss. Tim was at my home in Vancouver. Tim and I were sitting and talking and he said, “Have you met Yanik Silver?” I’m like, “What’s the Yanik Silver?” and that’s how I ended up being introduced to Yanik which is how I met you.
I was at that point, it was one of them, also ironically maybe this won’t make a ton of sense. One of the other valuable things that Eben did for me was he kicked me out. He said, “I’m going to change this business. I’m not super interested in the dating stuff anymore whether we’re going to sell some of that.” At this point, he was thinking about putting it all online for free anyway which I think he has done subsequently. Eben is a curious guy. The moment that he is not curious about the business that he is in, it’s over, regardless of revenue and top and bottom line money. He said, “It’s time. You’ve learned all these great stuff at Amazon that we benefited from. You learned all of the stuff here and you have grown. It’s time for you to leave and either go start your own company or run something bigger. It’s time to go on. You don’t have to go tomorrow. I want you to start thinking about it so that you don’t stag me and get bored and resent me at some point.”
These are all where some of the foundational skills that you brought on as a COO at Zurixx. I would love to find out a little bit about Zurixx, but even more beneficial is understanding what the DNA of a COO is made of. Give us a bit of the scope of the size of Zurixx and the size of the organization not saying revenue numbers, but people and how many events. We get a bit of a perspective so we know the skill. I want to go back into more of your background, this resume of what you’ve learned along the way and the skills you bring are the best part of it was going to be the whole podcast anyway, but I think it’s cool.
We are talking about a model and when I was going on how unique we are even though I said that it couldn’t be true before that. We run between 48 and 103 live events a week somewhere in either the US or Canada and those range in size from 14,000 people on Staples Center to six people. We have an event where we sold to a room of six people in Fairbanks, Alaska and some of those, the vast majority are frontend. Two-thirds of those are frontend sales events, but it also includes a third of those which will be these rough numbers, the third of those will be educational fulfillment events too. Those are the things that are going on every week. You might imagine that it is a logistical nightmare. If you don’t manage it well, it’s absolutely a nightmare, let’s put it that way. In terms of the size, I’m sitting here in beautiful Cottonwood Heights, Utah. I live on the road in Park City and we’ve got about 80, 85 people here in our office. This is definitely our headquarter office here in Utah. We also have an office in Dorado, Puerto Rico where we got about another 30, 35 people there. They are filling specific functions out of our Puerto Rico office, and two of our partners are Puerto Rican residents and so they live down there.
What else do you think has made you unique as a COO? You mentioned that you had started the business and then shut it down and you said that was where a lot of your big learning came from. Do you want to get into that?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s the genesis of how you and I met. I was talking about I want to go how Eben told me I should move on and leave the nest if you will. One of the amazing things about him is his generosity of both the material and spiritual generosity. The man is incredible in both of those ways. He did it for other people who left. He offered all of this and he was like, “I believe in you and I’ll invest in your first business. Come up with an idea.” I didn’t have the confidence and I was too fearful of sitting down and try to generate an idea. I was too afraid of failure. I couldn’t do it. I completely locked up.
What I did was start a business and I was too worried about using someone else’s money which I thought so incredibly and highly of. He already has given me so much. I couldn’t receive that gift for whatever reason. I started a business that didn’t require a whole lot of capital and that was basically a consultancy. I called it South Swell Marketing because I was pretty into the South Swell as well in Santa Barbara in those days when we visit from Bend. I had a bunch of different clients and one of my fun clients was this guy named Yanik Silver. He had at that point a great going concern called Surefire Marketing which had been born and is an internet info product business. He also put on what I still think is probably, with apologies to Ryan Perry, the best internet conference ever the Underground. A lot of what the traffic conversion has become came from Yanik and Underground.
We went to Underground 9 or 8 when in DC. It was amazing but the lure and the magic in his performance in the community are amazing.
He is incredible. He owns and runs Maverick at that time and it was called Maverick Business Adventures then and doing a lot of different things going. It suited where my head was at in that time which was how many different businesses can I get inside into. With Yanik alone, I got to see an info product business. I got to see an event business and I got to see a high net worth club business, all of which are valuable models. I also had another client during that time. He is definitely my first. For clarity’s sake, I worked for him only to start with and then built out more clients and I had all of these info product people. That’s the business that I do now.
I used to work with this wonderful guy named Chris Haddad who had a company called Digital Romance. He is a brilliant guy and I learned a lot from him. He was in huge business and he had a few employees. He was doing great but it wasn’t huge. On the other end, I work with Nike Soccer in North America because there were some guys that I had played college soccer with and against the grownup I’m playing with that work there. I got a contract with Nike Soccer North America. That was mind-blowing from a scale standpoint. I built the business through three or four years and ended up selling it which sounds way sexier than it was. I sold like the price for you is super. I was having trouble and I needed a Cameron Herold in my life at that point. I was having trouble figuring out how I was going to scale this thing without killing myself and what amount it to. I don’t have a problem with the time for money business. I have a problem with my time for my business. Everyone wanted my time.
I went to work in partnership with one of my clients out of business. We did well for a couple of years and for various reasons that all came crashing down right after Underground in March 2013. I’ve got feelings about how things went which is probably doing some podcast, but in retrospect. It’s the most valuable lesson, losing a partnership, losing business and losing what a steady dependable ramp to relatively earlier retirement was. Through no faults other than my own upon reflection was the most valuable thing that has ever happened to me in business.
I sit there in April of 2013 and had about $60,000 and we put all of our money into this business and had about $60,000. I had a three-year-old and a six-year-old and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next and it was in a little town like Bend which is a horrible town because you can’t get a job. I was out of entrepreneurial energy and I wanted a job. That’s what took us to Santa Barbara, but in terms of the specific things that I think would be valuable to communicate about what I learned in that failure.
From all of those from the failure and from all the lessons, what do you think has been your DNA as a successful COO in Eben? Give us the top five lessons, the top five things.
From those experiences, I’ve learned a few things. One is to be generous. It’s a little esoteric. I am doing actually great and overly generous with any resource that I have my time primarily. I find much like when having figured out that if you have this value and being the aggregator. There is value in being the mentor. I moved through my mid-40s. I am often the most valuable to people both inside and outside of Zurixx in the mentoring capacity with what I have learned. I never turned that into for-profit coaching business or anything despite the protestations of many of my friends. The value in that has been incredible. Being generous and gentle with the mentoring of the people around you has been something that I probably would have done naturally without those learnings.
I am not naturally a numbers person which is a strange thing to say as a COO. We can probably get into at some point what is a COO. I’ve learned a lot about that from you and in your presentation at Warren which is fantastic by the way, also in our time working together a decade ago. The value that I learned was education. I am a naturally smart, capable and successful person, but there is a lot of danger in that. It is so much harder for someone with my temperament and capabilities to realize what they don’t know. I’m naturally capable of a lot of stuff. Even the stuff I’m bad at, I’m better than a lot of people at it. I can get arrogant about things fast and I miss things fast and so I naturally thought that despite the fact that I barely made it through college algebra. I could understand numbers and that high finance was not that difficult, and what I found was I was right when it came to running a business from a cash standpoint if I want to look at it as a checkbook.
Where I was wrong about was that I had a complete inability to make strategic decisions around how to use money as a resource in a business that wanted to think more than two months out in front of its own nose. I made some decisions that were awful. We all want to know the lifetime value of our customers. You can read Harvard Business Review or Wall Street Journal or you’ll see any Business 101 professor or getting into management school. I’m not going to talk about that. Anyone who doesn’t know the lifetime value of the customer is a total idiot. I agree with that. I also think that if you understand the lifetime value of your customer is semi-useless. You have to understand cashflow velocity to the lifetime value of your customer or you will spend yourself out of business in a hot second. We almost did that at Eben’s company Hot Topic Media.
I’m thankful we got relationships with all our partners and vendors and I got on the phone and said, “We don’t have any money right now. I will pay you but it’s going to be 90 days later. Are you cool with that?” Without fail, everyone said yes and we never did it again. That was a valuable lesson and I had a great handle on the lifetime value but I had zero understanding of the velocity of cashflow. I knew at that point, I had to get some education and training on the strategic use of finance and how that works in a business. That was a big lesson also. I also think that I’ve learned lessons over the years when the business had been on their most successful either been in, running or even own at one point. That is that good sales cover up a lot of problems.
What’s that Dan Kennedy quote? “There is not a problem that exists that a check can’t solve.”
Unfortunately, I haven’t identified the machine that allows me to get a check of the size that I needed at any moment in time. I have to deal with my mistakes and run interference against my own confidence when sales are too good and I’m naturally an upbeat person. I’m positive, but I always check my shoulder if you will when sales are coming along. There is value in times of business where your sales are bad. What it does is the tied receipts and you see where all the rocks are, you see where all the pitfalls maybe, and you see places where you’ve been running inefficiently because your sales have been so good. That was an oxymoronic thing for me to learn. It’s valuable when sales receipt a bit or there is a great book, I forgot the name of it, but it’s about running your business or about preparing your business to sell it and how you want to run lean and all these different things that look great for investors.
It’s so true that when companies go into recession, the ones that come out, they come out way stronger than the ones that don’t come out at all. The ones that survived the recession are much stronger than the ones that failed. What I meant though, they come out a lot stronger than the way they went in. It does force you to get lean, mean, focused and get back to the basics. We get sloppy when there is cash.
There are probably tons of great books, you may have written one, on how to get your business ready to sell. Functionally, we should all be operating our businesses like that every day. You should always be running your business as if you were going to sell it.
What’s the biggest lesson around people in managing and leading?
There’s plenty of favor on this show to my own heart.
This is what it transitioned to on purpose because there’s a lot of great stuff that you can do and share so I’m asking.
I’m good at that. You’ve got people who are good people persons. I’m naturally good at interpersonal relationships. With great sales, unfortunately, cover up a lot of your real problems. If you are naturally good with humans, you naturally assume that you can manage them. It turned out that despite the fact that I’m a fairly well-liked guy and start moving to social circles relatively easy. I had to learn a lot about management. That’s a common mistake when we had infants and I know you had them as well. It was a shocker that somebody had to teach them how to eat. They didn’t know how to eat naturally.
It’s crazy because these human beings you bring in the world, you don’t assume they are fully formed. They are tiny and they are defenseless, but you think they know how to eat, breathe and sleep, it turns out not. It turns out those are skills that have to be taught to all. We have to learn now more than ever we know more about breathing. We have learned how to breathe, we have to learn how to eat, we have to learn how to sleep and the same is true in management. There are some people that probably pay the price from you learning these lessons. These were on people managed by me back in Amazon when I was managing the teams of customer service reps and teams of customer service managers. You don’t naturally know how to manage people. I don’t care how likable or how much of a natural politician you are. You have to learn how to manage people and you have to spend the time.
You have to spend the time to get to know. You don’t have to know everything about all of your employees or all the people in your building. I can’t tell you how worthwhile it is for me to swing by Kevin’s desk here that’s about 50 meters from where I’m sitting. I know that his wife boxes and I think that’s cool. Once a month at least I drop by and I ask a funny question like, “Has anyone punched your wife in the mouth lately?” These kinds of things, so he gets the opportunity to laugh, he gets the opportunity to see that I’m a normal guy. I got the opportunity to show him that I know about and care about his life. I don’t know everything about him.
Do you ever want to give him a gift? Take a look at a friend of mine’s company called the Roots of Fight. They signed licensing deals with all of the top old school athletes. They do all of the merchandising from Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, and all of the big old legends of our parent’s era of sports. They have some cool clothing.
The lesson for me there was I don’t have to know everything about everybody but I should know one thing about each person. The other lesson that I have is the higher you rise in the org chart, the more people you manage. If you think you’re managing the team that’s below you with a function that you are accountable for, you’re wrong. The higher that you rise in the org chart, you are managing in some way even if it’s a day-to-day sense of well-being of everyone underneath you on the org chart.
That’s why our culture in the reverberation of energy that was send-up is so powerful because it reverberates through that entire down line. We have one final word of advice that you would give yourself as a 21-year-old. If you were to think back to when you are starting in your career, want a bit of advice other than don’t spend three hours writing an email. What are some pieces of advice that you would give yourself back then that now you know to be true?
There are so many things. It’s probably true for all of us. There is some selfish stuff I’d buy in the future at Berkshire Hathaway. Maybe invest in Santa Barbara a little earlier. One of the things we’ve talked about and also touching on the things that I think it’s important. Understanding your lifetime value of your customer is almost worthless if you don’t understand the velocity towards that lifetime value and how you get there repetitively every single time. I wished I would have known that earlier. I would have wanted to know that I am an INFJ. I have a weird personality type. I put a lot of stock on these things and I know some think they are crazy. I love Myers-Briggs. I love the Kolbe test. I love the Enneagram. I love all this stuff.
What is your Kolbe profile?
I honestly can’t remember because I haven’t done it since we did it with Yanik. That’s my ticket to the game.
All of the members of our COO Alliance have high first and second numbers. All of their CEOs have high third numbers which are quick starts. They are more fact finders and follow through like systems and asking questions. You’re always the questions guy.
I should go back and take it. The thing that has meant the most to me over the years is this INFJ piece. It’s the advocate personality and it’s relatively rare, but the things that I learned about myself after reading through the advocate personality have been valuable. I wish that I would have known that I was that specific thing. Maybe the advice I would give myself is to go learn about yourself and be honest with yourself about who you are. Also, in business and in life, I would have told myself to stop talking and start listening. Listen more and talk less. In the way that manifested itself over the years in business is no matter how close you think you are, you are never your target audience. I am not my target audience. I know far too much. You are not your target audience because you know far too much, there is no way. The only way that you are going to be able to function and serve your customers is to shut your mouth and let your customers tell you what they want.
It’s like writing a list to Santa Clause when we were kids. We would write a list of all the things that we wanted and we mail it away. Our parents would look at it in the mail and they would buy us all the stuff we listed. How did you know? Listen to our customers and give them what they want. If we listen to our employees and give them what they want, business is pretty simple.
It certainly becomes a lot smoother that way. I wish I would have known that sooner because I thought that I knew. That’s something I will continue and refer back to people like Eben Pagan. This guy Tom Weiland, I worked for at Amazon a couple of times over the years, is now the Global EVP of Customer Service for Amazon. He is a wonderful guy. You, Yanik, Landon Ray, people that I have learned from over the years, they all understood that. Eben and Landon, in a fundamental way understood that they were not their target audience and in fact, Eben would do mental exercises to get his head into a place where he was his prospect.
Andrew Way, the COO from Zurixx, this took an interesting twist, but I love it because there are some great leadership and business insights in this. It was nice to learn to view as the COO which is what this is all about, it’s not supposed to be about the company we run. It’s supposed to be who we are as leaders and what gives us that DNA. I want to thank you for sharing with us.
I enjoyed it. I could have gone on for hours as you know. I appreciate the time.
About Andrew Way
After working with large internationally-known brands, including Nike and Amazon, and multiple innovative education companies Andrew Way joined Zurixx’s executive team in 2017. Andrew has over 20 years of marketing, sales, business development, client services, and overall revenue operations experience. After playing collegiate soccer, Andrew graduated from the University of Montana in 1997. Andrew’s global experience in North America, Asia, Oceana, and Europe allows him to bring a wide skillset to Zurixx’s sales, marketing, services, brand management, and corporate communications departments.
When Andrew isn’t working, he can be found spending time with his wife and two sons on trails and rivers near his Park City home. Andrew believes in the education Zurixx provides students and the emphasis Zurixx places on giving back to local communities. He’s also got a wicked sense of humor…