Find Your Exit | Brian Shimmerlik | Leadership

 

Join us for another episode of the Exit Rich podcast as our special guest, Brian Shimmerlik, drops golden nuggets on entrepreneurship and innovation in the ever-evolving tech landscape. Brian Shimmerlik launched his first company at just 19 years old while at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Upon graduation, he worked in finance at J.P. Morgan, quantifying the firm’s interest rate risk and later valuing Emigrant Bank’s investments in venture capital and hedge funds. In 2011, Brian quit his career in finance and interned for the CEO of Conductor, a NYC-based Search Engine Optimization platform. Brian launched Vengo in 2012 and has led the Company for over a decade, leading all aspects including fundraising, strategy, management, and product. Vengo currently serves as a leading digital out of home media platform operating over 53,000 screens that reach 6 billion audited monthly impressions.

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Leadership, Shark Tank, And Vengo Labs: Inside The Mind Of A Successful Entrepreneur With Brian Shimmerlik

We have a very special guest. His name is Brian Shimmerlik. He launched his first company in 2003 at the age of 19. I love that, Brian, because many entrepreneurs are starting younger and younger now, which is amazing. I think Shark Tank might have a lot to do with that. He started at nineteen out of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business upon graduating with a BA in Finance and Accounting, Brian worked at JP Morgan’s treasury department, quantifying the firm’s interest racial risk, and was then responsible for valuing the bank’s investments in venture capital and hedge funds as well as conducting due diligence. That sounds exciting and fun. Was that fun, Brian?

It was not fun.

It wasn’t fun. Brian doesn’t do that anymore. In 2011, Brian quit his career in finance because he said it wasn’t fun anymore. He stopped doing that and then he did an internship for the CEO of Conductor, a New York City-based search engine optimization platform, which is completely different than what his degree was in Brian launched Vengo. Hope everybody has heard of Vengo. If not, you’re going to read about it.

He launched Vengo in in 2012 and has led the company for over a decade leading all aspects, including fundraising. We should talk about fundraising, strategy management and product. Benco currently serves as a leading digital out-of-home media platform operating over 53,000 screens. That’s a lot. 53,000 screens with 6 billion people every single month. That’s huge. 6 billion audited monthly impressions. Brian received his MBA in Finance and Marketing from NYU earning am merit-based scholarship for his second year. Welcome to the show, Brian.

Thank you so much.

There’s a lot to unpack there. Tell us what were you like as a little boy because you were quite successful wanting a huge conglomerate.

I think I always had it. I was the kid selling lemonade at the end of the street. I cut all of my mother’s flowers in the yard and sold them at the end of the street. She was not thrilled with that.

What did your mom say about that?

She was not thrilled. I always had it. I was selling candy in middle school out of my backpack. I love the hustle. I love business. I love I understanding what people want and how to give it to them.

How did you get that understanding? Did you grow up in a family of entrepreneurs? How were you able to gain that understanding at such a young age?

There is a history there. my grandfather came to the country with a couple of dollars, not speaking English, and 60 years later had his own accounting firm. There’s definitely that thread of entrepreneurship in the genes. Part of it is it just innate, caring about people, paying attention to people and wanting to be self-sufficient and be my own boss.

It sounds like you were encouraged at a young age to be an entrepreneur, whereas many individuals are not encouraged or encouraged, like the Rich Dad Poor Dad book where you go, “You get a good education, you get a job.” Let me ask you real quick. Back in 2019, what was that first business?

Back in 2003, the first business at college was pre-fresh direct, like very early Facebook or the 1.0 internet. I started a grocery delivery service. I was in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan and you had this massive population of people on campus and no high-quality groceries. I worked to connect a grocery store a few miles away with the campus population. It was such a good experience to try and get out there and get some wins but make some huge mistakes and ultimately fail, keep learning and keep going.

Share a little bit of the story as came up with the idea for Vengo Labs. How did you come up with that?

After my career in finance, as I realized, “This is not making me happy. This is not how I want to spend my life,” I went back to business school. My goal was to start something. That was the point. While I am an entrepreneur, I’m also risk averse. I looked at business school as having two years to play around and try to start something. If I fell on my failed miserably, I would still learn something and I would still be better qualified after business school to go and get a good job. I let go of that fear of failure. I was aggressively looking to start something.

The original seed of the concept was I was in New York City and this was almost Uber was just launching.

I was in a New York City taxi and I was like, “This is a great marketing opportunity.” I don’t feel like this is being captured. You had this huge audience traveling around Manhattan all day every day. I came up with the idea that there should be a vending machine inside of the New York City taxi. I started talking to people about it, telling everyone who would listen and I found there was a business plan competition run by the New York City government.

It happened that when I found it, the application was due the next day. I got it done. Out of 270 companies, we took down the whole thing. We got $17,000 of C-capital. Most importantly, we were on the inside cover of the New York Post. We got some attention and traction. I started working on the business and putting together a team from there.

For the audience, what does Vengo do?

Vengo is in the business of digital screens. We connect those digital screens that you would see around the gym, at the office, in the elevator or at the grocery store. We connect them to digital properties. We help using our software source advertising to go on those digital screens. As recently as a few years ago, digital screens were manually fragmented and disconnected, and now we’re help driving the industry forward for them to trade as if they’re on your computer, phone, or connected TV and use technology to power the industry to go forward.

I think you’ve done a pretty good job. It sounds like you guys are the leader in the industry.

One of the biggest in the country by screen count and we’ve grown over the last couple years from a thousand screens to 53,000 screens. We’ve been at this for a long time and there’s been various iterations and pivots. In 2020 we went all in on this pure software monetization play and it’s been extremely successful. It’s the high-margin software business that is growing exponentially.

What made you go from finance to this? I know you said about the taxi cab and everything else, but usually, when people graduate with a Finance degree, they’re typically sticking in the finance. I know your finance background probably helps you run your company, but what made you make that huge switch from finance to marketing?

It was about happiness for me.

Read this, readers.

If it’s not about happiness, what are you doing? What’s it about? I had a very stable, secure, decently financially rewarding job in finance, but I was miserable. I wasn’t happy. I looked around and the people around me weren’t happy. My boss wasn’t happy. His boss wasn’t happy. I didn’t see the path. I had a coming-of-age moment of like, “Is this it? Is this what it’s all about? I felt like I could do better.” That’s what led me to go back to business school and start my career in entrepreneurship because I feel like life is short and you get one shot at it and you need to be doing something where you’re learning, challenged, you’re meeting interesting people and ultimately that drives happiness for you and however you do that for yourself.

Why do you think everybody is miserable there?

I think in a lot of industries it’s you go in and you have to put on this work personality and generally, you’re not incentivized and challenged. I felt that in finance. As I walked in the revolving door, I had to put on my fake work personality. I think that is hard to find happiness when you’re doing that. In the startup world and this new age of Millennials, younger approaching work and what it should be like, the real key is that you need to be able to be yourself and have the same personality that you do at home and at the weekend and integrate all these aspects of yourself. Integrate life and work.

The real key is that you need to be able to be yourself. Share on X

It’s very different than the Baby Boomer’s years when it was all work. They have very little family integration. Baby Boomers are starting to listen more to Gen Zs and maybe the Millennials. Stefan has a question here, “Technology has evolved a lot since I was a kid. I was wondering how long you stay innovative in the landscape. I would imagine it’s always changing.”

It’s constantly changing. Every year it’s changing. Our job is to listen and try to separate the signals from the noise. There are tons of things that get headlines but don’t ultimately have sustainable value to our clients. In our industry, it’s moved rapidly from 2017, essentially 0% of screens out there in the market were connected and trading programmatically or the automation of buying and selling the opportunity to run an ad on a screen.

Find Your Exit | Brian Shimmerlik | Leadership

Leadership: Our job is to listen and to try to separate the signals from the noise.

 

Nowadays, it’s up to about 30% of the market. Each year we’re seeing new features become dynamic and creative. we’ll run campaigns where it’ll pull a sports score and update every time it runs or you could target people based on that it’s raining today and if that is the right fit for your product. Continuing to connect and evolve is a constant thing.

One of the biggest things that stood out to me is that the screens are now in over 27,000 nationwide locations. Is that correct?

No, we’re up to 53,000.

This is outdated information by AI. We need to get this updated. How many locations? 53,000.

We’re one of the biggest networks of screens in the country. We’re in every state and most of the key verticals being airports, colleges, etc.

What strategies did you employ to get this nationwide exposure in all these locations and what year did you guys start?

We started a long time ago back in working on it in business school and then launching our seed round in 2013. We got started deploying vending machines with digital screens. We got over 1,000 out there. It was an expensive and challenging business to scale. We became very good at using our software to monetize the screen. We realized we were doing that for our own network of screens better than anyone else was. The real launching point where it took off is we went around to other media companies and said, “We can help you make money in this new way using our software.” Instead of charging people for the software on a fixed rate, a monthly fee, like most SaaS companies, we said, “We’re going to give you our software.”

It’s like, “I’m going to give you a vending machine.”

It’s exactly the same. We then will go out and we’ll use our technology and our sales team, we have a big human sales team as well. We’ll monetize those networks and keep a percentage of the revenue that we generate for our clients. The ease of saying yes, adoption and creating some tools to make it easy to connect it to our network, our ad server was the driving force of growing quickly over the last couple of years.

You started this company basically in 2013, but you worked on it way before that in business school. I’m sure it hasn’t all been easy. I’m sure you’ve had a lot of bumps in the roads, objectives and challenges you’ve had to overcome.

There have been tons of mistakes and learning experiences. The biggest one builds on what we spoke about, that pivot from a vending machine company to a pure software company. When I was starting out, it was already known that SaaS companies and cloud-based software companies are attractive. It’s how you make money. I am a contrarian I purposely went out and did the exact opposite. I started a hardware business. I thought, “If nobody’s starting hardware businesses, then that’s where I want to be.” While we executed it well, ultimately the financial valuations, scalability, margins, and exit opportunities weren’t there. The investors were right, but it took me learning that for myself to take it to heart and make the move that we did.

Find Your Exit | Brian Shimmerlik | Leadership

Leadership: “If nobody’s starting hardware businesses, then that’s where I want to be.”

 

When you say starting a hardware business, there are hardware businesses everywhere. Can you clarify that?

We were literally deploying these physical assets. The metal has to be bent, it has to be shipped, and someone has to take it to the field, and connect it in. What we’re doing now is we’re leveraging screens that already exist out in the world. We can connect through software as opposed to physically deploying them. That’s been that magic key to unlocking the growth, margin, and exit opportunities.

That was a huge challenge. What other big challenges did you have to overcome?

Everything.

Readers, he said everything and he didn’t quit. He fell forward and not backward because it’s never over until you quit.

We’ve hit every obstacle out there and try to learn from it, adjust, move forward and try to treat each day as if we’re starting fresh. We’re not weighed down by our mistakes in the past. We’re starting fresh with the assets that we have in terms of people, technology, and relationships, and doing what I think is best on a go-forward basis that’s how we’ve drastically changed the company from this network of a thousand vending machines to this monetization layer for digital screens everywhere across the country. Soon we’re launching overseas. It is soon to be around the world.

Did you ever come to a moment where you’re like, “I can’t do this anymore. I give up I can’t handle it?” Did you ever get to that moment like a lot of entrepreneurs do?

Yes, there are tough moments and years. There were times when I would’ve given up for no exit and said, “I’m good.” How did I keep going? It was wanting to control how I spend the rest of my life. I don’t think of it as this company. I think of what I’m doing as the platform for me to continue on. I’m not young. I’m 40 years old, but I look at it as, “What am I going to be doing until hopefully I’m 101?”

You might be planning a big exit. I’m going to send you my book, Exit Rich.

Why did I keep going is I committed to myself to give it everything that I’ve got. When I had those moments where I wanted to quit, I learned how to take care of myself, take a break, clear my head and relax. To me, if you can unplug and relax for 48 hours Saturday, Sunday, no problem. I can come Monday morning, fresh, ready to go. The people have a lot to do with it. I have incredible partners that I’ve been working with since the beginning. If it’s not enough to do it for myself, I want to do it for them and bring them to success.

That’s a big why because it’s not always about you. It’s about figuring out what’s that why that will keep you motivated, in the game and fighting.

I’d like to address Neil’s question because I think this is one of the most important things, fear of failure.

That’s the question. How does a fear of failure play into your business decisions?

Fear of failure or judgment, whoever the voice in your head is telling you, “You’re not good enough. You can’t do it. You should quit. Who do you think you are trying to go outside of the lines and start your own business?” Letting go of that is one of, if not the most important thing that you can do. There’s this famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt that I love. Essentially it’s saying, “Don’t worry about the people in the stands. It’s the person who gets in the ring and is willing to fight, is sweaty and bloody. They are the ones that earn respect. If you are willing to fail then you can accomplish anything.” I embrace that and it couldn’t be more important.

Don't worry about the people in the stands. It's the person who gets in the ring and is willing to fight and is sweaty and is bloody that earn respect. Share on X

What’s his name? The greatest fighter of all time? Muhammad Ali.

The greatest boxer.

Muhammad Ali says, “They can knock you out but they can’t knock you down. You always have to get back up and keep that fight.” Many entrepreneurs quit way too soon. There’s a book out there that one of my very good friends wrote called Three Feet From Gold, where people quit When you’re close to the gold, you got to have grit and you got to stick in there. You have to have a why It’s bigger than yourself. He says, “How have you capitalized on your marketing and finance background into your decisions?”

I’m going to give a maybe unpopular answer. I don’t think it held much. I don’t think you can learn the tools to be a successful entrepreneur in school. It’s just from doing. It’s from the combination of doing testing, learning, trying and relying on mentors who are a little bit ahead of you and can guide you that you trust. Not listening to everyone but picking your spots. That’s why I do think it’s important to start young. There are people in business school who said, “I’m going to pay attention to my classes, and then maybe when later I’ll start a business.” That’s not the entrepreneurial mindset. It is just get out there and learn.

The tools to be a successful entrepreneur in school. It's from the combination of doing, testing, learning, trying, and relying on mentors. Share on X

You have to get out there and do it. Unfortunately, they don’t teach entrepreneurship in school. It’s like when I teach marketing in school, these kids come out and they don’t know anything. They know theory but they don’t know tactical.

They try to teach it in school I think for people like me, it provides a nice platform and launching ground, but in and of itself it doesn’t get it done.

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s a hard road for sure. Lindsay asked, “COVID forced many businesses to adapt. How did you adapt Vengo’s business model during the pandemic and what impact did this have on the company’s growth?”

In our COVID experience, partly we touched on it in terms of the change from vending to media, but we had quite the COVID experience. In 2020, we were about to exit and then our revenue was down 63%.

This is a good teaching point for our readers. The worst time to exit is when you’re down 63%. The worst time to exit is when you’re down at all and your business is trending downward because you’re never going to be able to capitalize on that value.

To take that even further, there were no exit opportunities at any value in the midst of the chaos of COVID being down 63%.

It’s our worst two years ever.

Think about it. Our screens are in colleges, gyms or places. There were no people. If there’s no people, there’s no impressions, there’s no media. We were in a very tough spot. I came here into my office every day and I thought about, “How can I make a little bit of progress today?” It’s the same thing I did when I was first starting. We turned this disastrous situation into a massive benefit. How did we do that? 1) Because it was disrupting to our business, it gave me the opportunity to make some changes.

There were changes that I wanted to see in the business and because of that keep ramping everything pressure, I wasn’t able to make such key fundamental changes. COVID provided the cover for me to do that. It provided me the cover to start over, leverage the great assets that we have and let go of the things that were holding us back. Since then, it’s been rocket ship-type of growth and it’s been much more fun, much higher margin and has totally changed our exit opportunities.

How were you able to stay alive though with a 63% decline?

Now we’re profitable. We don’t rely on anything to stay alive. Controlling our own destiny is huge. In 2020, we were not profitable. We were able to stay alive based on relationships that I had built over the last decades and people who believed that we were going to be successful no matter what. While maybe pure new financial investors, there was no lifeline there. Because of the credibility that we have and the relationships we were able to call in those favors and stay alive. Now we’re off to the races.

Niel, “What is an aspect of entrepreneurship, positive or negative that is often glossed over?”

I could rattle off a bunch.  One is I want to be my own boss, but that doesn’t come with this freedom. It comes with a lot of responsibility. My investors are my bosses. My board is my boss. My partners and team members are my boss. I think that’s something that’s misunderstood.

Being your own boss doesn't come with just freedom, it comes with a lot of responsibility. Share on X

When I was a little girl, I always told my mom, “I would never ever work for anybody because I wanted to be my own boss. I’ve been an entrepreneur like you my entire life.” Now I’m like, “I got all these bosses that didn’t work.”

How personal and gut-wrenching it is when somebody leaves the company, which we’re lucky doesn’t happen here a lot hasn’t happened much since like 2018. When someone leaves the company, it is such a horrible feeling. It is very difficult to let go of work at night on the weekends and engage in other stuff. I’ve gotten better at it over the years. I think that’s something to know like when you’re on the line and it’s you and your responsibility, it’s incredibly gut-wrenching and challenging and not everyone’s willing to go through that.

There’s a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with entrepreneurship. It’s hard to disconnect from that. You do have to answer bosses. Don’t think you’re going to go into it and be your own boss because you’re not. Any other misconceptions that you see out there that entrepreneurs believe?

That is glamorous. We’ve raised a bunch of money. We’ve been on Shark Tank. I still wouldn’t say it’s glamorous. It’s hard work. I was training a new seller, a new salesperson at Vengo. I walked the streets with him. We went from a diner to a deli. If you want to do it right, it’s not glamorous.

A lot of entrepreneurs think, “I can just hire all these people who are smarter than me and walk away.” You can’t do that as an entrepreneur. You need to trust but still verify and inspect what you expect, and still sometimes get in the weeds with your people, to develop those strong team leaders. You mentioned Shark Tank. What year were you on Shark Tank?

2016.

The reason I want to talk about Shark Tank a little bit is because 1) We helped entrepreneurs get on Shark Tank. We helped them know their numbers. because one of the biggest mistakes that business owners make on Shark Tank is they don’t know their numbers. They have an employed evaluation and then they’re laughed off the stage. Tell us a little bit about your experience because did secured a deal with Kevin O’Leary and Lori.

One of the biggest in Shark Tank history. $2 million deal. It was a good experience for us. It got us a ton of attention and awareness. It’s great marketing. When we go in and sell to big brands and agencies, and demand side platforms, they love talking about Shark Tank. It definitely provides a great platform. It takes up a lot of time. I’m happy we did it. It’s a great outcome for us. I do the same thing. I help people who are pairing for it and get them ready to crush it.

It does take a lot of preparation. It’s a lot of hard work. What I love about Shark Tank is there’s no winning or losing because even if you don’t get a deal, the exposure is incredible. I listen to Shark Tank all the time because I’ve been in this industry for many years, but I can’t begin to tell you how many times I call up someone and go, “I saw your customized gift bags on Shark Tank. I want to order 1,000 of them.” I’ve done a lot of deals with Shark Tank entrepreneurs.

Since then, you’ve been able to go out and raise, I think it was over $7 million from famous firms, such as Cherry Tree Investments, Gary Vaynerchuk, Scout Ventures, hip-hop artists and things like that. How are you able to do that? There are many entrepreneurs. They’re like, “If I have working capital or money, how do I do that? How do I raise the capital?” That’s every entrepreneur’s number one question. How were you successful and how did you get some of these heavy hitters?

Raising capital is challenging, time time-consuming and one of the gut-wrenching parts of it. As a hardware company, in our original form, we needed capital and we needed a lot of it, which is one of the reasons it was challenging. The secret to fundraising is credibility. It’s not overselling, but it’s establishing that you are real and believable. If I had one secret to fundraising, it’s as simple as starting early and telling investors that you’re going to go out. Over the next three months you’re going to do X, Y and Z. Come back after three months and say, “Remember how I told you I was going to do that? I did it and here’s what I learned.”

Find Your Exit | Brian Shimmerlik | Leadership

Leadership: The secret to fundraising is credibility. It’s not overselling but it’s establishing.

 

Can you give us a quick example of that, 1 of your 3 things?

Raising our seed round, it was, “I won this competition and I got $17,000. I’m going to turn it into a team and a prototype,” follow up and saying, “I’d love to bring my team by to demo our new prototype.” That differentiates you from 99% of the other things that they see in their email that they don’t take seriously.

What a great approach that is you have to stick to it and make sure you deliver because if you don’t deliver those three months, you have to egg all over your face. How do you know who to target as an ambassador? You got Gary Vaynerchuk, you got some big names out there. Did you already know Gary Vaynerchuk? How do you target these people?

The best way to target them is to be introduced by someone that they respect. When I first started out I thought that was super unfair and elitist. The truth is, I’ve learned that if you are engaged with the space, if you’re passionate about seed-stage startups in New York City, then you should be engaging with that community, knowing other companies, going to events and listening to people talk.

You go to an event and listen to a VC or Venture Capitalist talk, you follow up and say one thoughtful kind thing specific to what they talked about, all of a sudden, you have a relationship. You’re not asking for them to invest. You’re just building relationships. Through the NYC, the NYU community, and the startup community, we networked and tried to help people, tried to follow through on the things that we say, and it kept growing from there.

You hit the nail on the head there because I think one of the biggest mistakes that startup entrepreneurs make is they go put a jugg too quickly. They meet somebody, “This is what I need. Here’s my pitch check.” Instead of building that relationship and getting to know somebody and I love, “Give me three months. This is what we’re going to do. We’ll deliver this in three months.”

A lot of people think that the fundraising is glamorous. It’s not a strategy to success. If you can fund your company through your customers, that’s the way to do it. Keep the equity and save the time. It’s not the answer. It’s something that you may need to do that you shouldn’t want to do.

Back in the days, you might still be fundraising, but were you doing a traditional fundraising, I’ll give you some equity for this traditional fundraising or did you use any type of other tools like a SafeNote or something like that?

We definitely did convertible notes. The safe format for that is fine then we’ve done priced equity then on Shark Tank we did the venture debt. Let’s address some questions here. We got a few.

Let’s go to Hayden, “Your partnership with ViaTouch Media to provide data-driven advertising solutions is intriguing. Can you elaborate on the importance of data in the advertising industry and how you guys like to leverage that?”

Data is important. It’s an interesting situation for the digital out-of-home industry. In some ways, we don’t want too much data. The push on the internet away from cookies and device IDs is benefiting us greatly. We do not collect personal information from the people at our screens. That seems to be a good thing. We use data in a few ways to understand how many people enter our locations. We can tell that based on geofencing, the locations and seeing how many cell phones go in without crossing into personal information.

There are all kinds of partners out there that we work with to look at attribution, footfall studies and how effective are these campaigns, which ties us right into another question from Lindsay about digital at-home is effective. These are real people in real locations. They choose to be in those locations. They generally love those locations.

Lindsay’s question is, “Can you share any success stories of brands that have benefited from advertising on Vengo’s screens?”

We’ve run thousands of campaigns mostly for national brands, big household names like Brooks Running or T-Mobile, even TikTok, Target, etc. For example, if Target are opening a new store, they can type in their ZIP code and we can access the screens that are in the ZIP code surrounding the Target store opening. There are tons of research out there. Some are specific to us and some are general for the industry on how effective this is. Consumers generally like it better than most types of advertising because it doesn’t interrupt them. It doesn’t get in the way. You’re not trying to watch a video and then an ad pops up in your face and blocks you from doing that. We show up along the consumer journey. We’ve personally run some campaigns and we’ve seen a huge lift in sales directly from our screens in grocery stores and in gyms.

Who are the industries that advertise with you? It is primarily B2C.

It is primarily B2C, although we have office locations and there’s some B2B, but it is definitely,a lot of retail, recruiting, telecom and stuff like that. Big national brands.

Step says, “Looking ahead, what are your future plans for Vengo Labs and how do you envision the company’s growth in a digital out-of-home industry?”

We now have enough scale where we want to focus on the monetization side what’s interesting right now is that we are starting to communicate with different types of buyers who have never bought digital at a home before. Maybe they buy connected TV or mobile, but now that our screens are connected as if they’re a website or a phone, we can run pretty much any video content. We’re starting to run, if a connected TV campaign is having trouble hitting their impression goals, they’ll then come to us and that’s opening up like this whole new wave of revenue for at home and it’s super exciting.

Let’s get into some go-to nuggets that you can add to our audience so they can help grow their business as Vengo did. What does leadership mean to you?

My style of leadership is servant leadership. What that means is what we were talking about before is I work for everybody. I work for every client, board member and investor. My job is to help people succeed and to give them the support, resources and tools to succeed. I’m not like a figurehead. I’m not trying to have a glamorous role. I’m trying to help other people.

That’s another mistake that entrepreneurs can make from time to time is to many of them, especially some of my doctor entrepreneurs is, that when you go out the door, they’ll be arrogant. You are not your own boss, believe it or not because if you don’t have clients, you don’t have a business.

High confidence, low ego.

If you don’t have clients or employees, you don’t have a business. Anything else on management and leadership?

Treat people with respect.

One thing we already talked about is how did your exit orientation impact your pivots.

It drove the pivots right after that experience in 2020 of seeing no exit opportunities when we were in trouble, it helped drive everything. Exit is driven by cashflow, margin and growth. I have that in the back of my head with everything we do.

It’s also driven by infrastructure. We talk about that in my book, the six Ps. You have to have the right people and the right seats. The business can’t depend upon the owner because if it does, then you have a glorified job, not a business. You have to have multiple revenue streams and product services that you get paid for. You got to have those processes buttoned up then you’ve got to have those proprietary assets.

Vengo has a lot of proprietary assets, then you’ve got to have those patrons, customer diversification versus customer concentration. In the end, you have to have profits that’s what buyers are buying. They’re buying a business with infrastructure because we get a lot of owners come to us and say, “Can you buy my business?” It’s one, it’s them and maybe 1 or 2 employees. The business can’t operate without them. Where do you see yourself going in the future and exit? I know that you have to be somewhat discreet here.

Now that we control our own destiny, we control our own destiny. We’re open to conversations. We’re having conversations, but it’s no rush because if people aren’t willing to pay what we think the company merits, then we’re like, “No problem. We’ll go out and keep executing, keep growing, and stay in touch.” Controlling our own destiny is such a key step for us getting to that profitability. We came up in the golden age of ramping startups off a cliff. I thought like grow revenue and now all we care about is margin.

There’s also timing in an exit. 2020 was the worst time for you to ever exit. I call that the life cycle of a business. Where does business start? They don’t start making millions. That would be nice. They start an incubator stage and only about 5% will make out an incubator into the infant stage and into the toddler, and then all the way to death because businesses die. We see that every day. It’s always best to sell your business when you’re in your prime because you never know when’s the next COVID or catastrophe. Right? What golden nuggets do you have anything in entrepreneurship and success that you can share with our readers?

Any golden nugget about anything?

Not about anything, but about business, entrepreneurship or your success that they can parlay into their business. because it’s always better to learn from people who are successful versus those who are not.

I’ll hit on something that we haven’t covered yet. I think the people are important. You don’t want to go just find someone that has the skillset that you need. You want to find someone that you have a shared vision with and that you have communication with. I would not be as successful if it wasn’t for my team. The team is essential. The relationships are valuable to me. Invest in the people and treat people with respect.

Is there anything else you’d like to leave our readers with?

No, thanks for the great questions. I enjoyed the conversation. If you have that itch to start something, let go of your fear of failure and go try it. I promise that you will learn something.

You’ve been an excellent guest. Thank you so much for sharing your success story and your failures because it hasn’t all been success. I truly appreciate you being on the show. You’ve been a wealth of information. To all of my audience and followers, thank you so much for tuning into another episode. I know that you’ve got a lot of golden nuggets out of here. This is another show you might want to go back and read. Thank you, Brian.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. Until the next episode.

 

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