At Powderkeg, we believe every entrepreneur has their own personal superpower that makes them great at what they do. Scott Hill’s superpower is being a visionary—that is, being exceptionally capable of seeing opportunities that others can’t and understanding exactly how to prepare so he can seize them when the time is right.
I met Hill at a pivotal time in my life, when I was still a college student in Bloomington, IN, and thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. Hill’s company, PERQ, was in print marketing at the time, and I was so inspired by what he was doing with his business that I committed myself to starting my own company shortly afterward. Hill later transitioned PERQ into the still-fledgling marketing tech space, taking the company in a groundbreaking new direction that has more than paid off in the years since.
In this episode, Hill and I dive deep into what it truly means to be a visionary in business. We discuss some of the challenging tasks that visionary entrepreneurs are likely to undertake—such as developing an innovative product and pivoting their business to accommodate changing markets—as well as how founders can sharpen their own visionary skills (here’s a hint: it’s about practice more than anything else). We even touch on the special power that sharing stories has for entrepreneurs, which is a topic we’re both very passionate about.
I hope this episode provides you with many helpful ideas for developing your own inner visionary. Follow Hill on Twitter @bizgamer for more great insights on being a visionary entrepreneur, and stay tuned to Powderkeg: Igniting Startups for more stories from innovative entrepreneurs, investors and top talent making waves outside Silicon Valley.
In this episode with Scott Hill, you’ll learn:
- What it really means to be a visionary (7:13)
- Tips for developing your skills as a visionary entrepreneur (17:30)
- How to socialize your ideas and work toward a final product (21:00)
- Actionable advice for transitioning your company into the tech space (28:00)
- The power of visualizing the future you want for your business (34:04)
- Why sharing stories is so important for entrepreneurs (39:18)
Please enjoy this conversation with Scott Hill!
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Scott Hill Quotes from This Episode of Powderkeg:
“A lot of people don’t allow themselves to spend time in ‘what could be’.” — @bizgamer on on @PowderkegHQ
“The only idea that’s valuable in business is something that can become commercially viable.” — @bizgamer on on @PowderkegHQ
“Try to put yourself in your intended audience’s shoes as much as you possibly can.” — @bizgamer on on @PowderkegHQ
“The leader’s job is to move the business to an environment where it has a better opportunity for success.” — @bizgamer on on @PowderkegHQ
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Companies and Organizations:
Scott Hill (@bizgamer)
Andy Medley (@andymedley)
Mike Langellier (@MLanj)
Tim Kopp (@tbkopp)
Bill Godfrey (LinkedIn)
Steve Blank (@sgblank)
Napoleon Hill (Website)
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
Mark Cuban (@mcuban)
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you’re looking for someone to give you money, but that probably doesn’t happen. And the first kind of part to it, you want an introduction, or you want their time. Anything other than that is just them being nice. So you want something that they’re having to give up, that is of value, to show that you’re on the right track with your idea. Otherwise, you might as well be getting an opinion from your mom, who’s always going to tell you like, that’s great. Keep it up.
That’s Scott Hill, who’s the executive chairman and co founder of perk that spelled P E. R Q. And perc is a marketing software company based in Indianapolis, Indiana. And in this conversation, we’re going deep on how to generate ideas that eventually become not only innovative, but profitable products. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And this is episode 42 of powderkeg. Igniting startups, a show for tech entrepreneurs, investors and professionals, building disruptive companies from areas decidedly outside of Silicon Valley. Our guest today is executive chairman and co founder of perk, Scott Hill. And perk is a company that’s won so many awards for Best Place to Work and awards like marketing technology company of the year, which is actually really cool, because perk didn’t start as a tech company. In fact, it started as a product and service company that transition into technology. And they are just killing the game right now. So this interview has a lot of actionable advice on how to transition a company into the tech space. But even for existing tech companies, you’re going to learn a lot from this conversation with Scott Hill, we talked about what it really means to be a visionary. And you know, here’s a hint, it’s not something you’re just born with, or something that’s bestowed upon you, there’s a real process to creating product vision and creating vision for a company. So you’re gonna get tips for developing your skills as a visionary entrepreneur, as well as learning a little bit about how to socialize your ideas, and the work towards the final product as well. So that’s just as important as sort of socializing the idea how do you take that and build an actual product. And then we also talk about the power of visualizing the future, and what you want for your business, what you want for your life, and how to actually manifest Yes, I just use that word, manifest it in your life, you’re really going to enjoy this conversation because Scott is a dear friend of mine, longtime mentor, I have learned so much from this guy going all the way back to my college days. So I’ve known this guy, man a decade now. And I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I do. So you’re gonna love this. Scott is the man, let’s get this thing off. But Scott, thanks so much for being here. No problem. We, we I have a ton of questions for you. So it’s gonna be hard for me to stay on point. We got started a little bit late. But I wanted to kind of start by just going way back. I know, you kind of had this entrepreneurial DNA, probably your whole life. Do you remember your first entrepreneurial memory? The first time there was sort of like some Inklings, maybe you didn’t even know it at the time. But that might indicate you are going to be an entrepreneur. Yeah, you
know, I don’t have any of the classic stories of that I was starting a business when I was nine years old, or selling something and making money and doing all that, I definitely looking back and see the parts to where I was always kind of lazy, and good at getting other people to do things. So I can always talk my parents into letting me go do something. And then I was always a person that was kind of organizing games and making the games better as we played them coming up with rules and different ways to be able to make it more enjoyable and fun. But what kind of game we’re not diving in that game. But I definitely had a game that we had a little survivor kind of piece to it, where you put $20 into the pool. And then we’ve had a little kind of Nerf gun kind of game. This is like 14 years old or something. And then the survivor got to keep all the money, or the game never ended. But I had all the money. So I want to seed capital, I was the capital of the business. But really my first entrepreneurial memory was really the kind of when I had the idea of the business I had, knowing that I kind of wanted to go in that direction. But I never really had anything that was like, Oh, this is what I’m gonna go do and make money or had five other ways. I was trying to do something like that until when did the business.
How old? Were you at the time when you had that initial idea for what? Came back? I was 2424 Yeah, that’s pretty young.
Yeah, it was when I look back. Why do you Why were you missing young at the time, honestly, it just seemed like well, you know Life is flashing before you’re gonna do this wait any longer? It’d be silly. Yeah, that’s cool.
That Were you looking for a company to start? Or was it sort of like you saw the opportunity, and you were like, this needs to be a company.
I knew that I had been reading Rockefeller Rockefellers book. And I just thought that that was just amazing what a life you got to live on being able to be totally in control and play this game and make these moves. And at the time, in my career, I was really enjoying some of the moves I was making within the business, but was also starting to run into well, you know, I kind of feel trapped at times wanting to do some of these things. So kind of the, the inspiration of Rockefeller collided with all a sudden seeing an idea, and it was immediately like this is, since I had the idea, it was this is my out, I can go start a business on this. And so pretty much soon as I saw the opportunity, oh, I can do this, I’ve mentally quit my job on the spot, and then started working on getting the business going. And that’s something you can do when you’re 24. And you know, you don’t have some of life’s obligations hadn’t quite found me yet to where it’s like, I wasn’t that far removed from making ramen, you know, ramen, and $100 a month last from college. So I could fall back into making that making that work again, to be able to give myself some runway to be able to get a business going.
That’s awesome. Man. I think there’s a lot of stories I could dive into on that the early days. But the main thing I wanted to get into in this conversation is sort of what I see as one of your superpowers, if not like your most powerful superpower, which is sort of like that visionary, superpower and trait that you have. And clearly here as a CEO perk, has driven a lot of the innovation over the last several years and all the way back to the beginning. It was just a different kind of innovation. And so I’ve talked to you a little bit about this here and there. But it’d be weird if I just like interviewed everyone, we’re grabbing beers or lunch. So I’m gonna use this opportunity to grill you with questions. Is that cool? Yep. All right. And if people have questions here, definitely feel free to ask those questions. I’ll be sending a link to Scott later. So even if we don’t answer here live, please make sure you ask those questions. I’ll be feeding those to Scott to see if he can dive in and maybe provide some context. But also, I’ll be looking and watching here as well, to see if there’s some questions that you guys would like to ask and feel free to share this too. But just go ahead and hit share. And we’re talking to Scott Hill, CEO and co founder of perk. So visionary, you have this ability
and stop you aren’t there yet. So visionary? Yeah, it’s a weird, it’s a weird title. Right? It’s a weird title. So like the stuff that you’re talking about superpower and visionary, I think when people talk about the word visionary, it starts seeming like that there’s some sort of unique kind of thing there that enables somebody to be able to see the future that’s kind of like glorified. And while this person has been successful, they were able to see stuff before. That piece of it, that somebody has tremendous success on because of seeing something that future before other people did, is not something that they were just blessed with. It is a skill that was developed and harnessed and worked on the no different than being a great electrician, or a great plumber. So it is something that there might be some raw capability there. But it only becomes valuable it is continued learn from worked on, processed and made happen. Whereas when we give the word visionary to it, it just seems like something that somebody was lucky enough to be able to work to be able to have and is able to go and have it, it’s something that is continually stripped back strive to be able to get better at. And it takes a lot of work and a lot of mistakes, and being wrong about what you thought you saw, to be able to start getting better at what you end up seeing.
So you don’t see this necessarily as something that’s just like, either you got it or you don’t, I don’t believe so. If there are some traits that are a little bit more like you’re born with a tendency, sure, what are some of those skills that a visionary has? Meaning, you may have already alluded to this a little bit with the sales comment.
So I definitely think that there’s you know, everybody has their unique kind of talents and skill sets that they are born with. But then it’s the cultivating them, that you know, you choose to let some things that you might be better at and go in order to be able to focus on some other strings that you choose to develop. So I think that everybody has a little bit of capability being visionary in them. And then some people might have a capability to be able to become better at it. But it is that work and work and focus on it, nor to be able to get better. But I think having an imagination believe is a dream. Comfort and dreaming. I think a lot of people don’t allow themselves to kind of really spend a lot of time and the what could be it can become terrifying at times because it sets expectations of what could be when sometimes it’s easier to stay. And well this is what really is. And if I think too much about what could be I’ll just become disappointed in what is or it may cause me to have to stretch myself out of my comfort zone in order to be able to take what is and turn it into what could be. And so I think that a lot of times it becomes more comfortable just to stay in what is and I find myself falling at times into that trap as well. So I can
get out of those traps those two in particular the comparing now to what could be and then the was the second one. The second one was
more what is what is compared to what could be Hey, so I, you’re constantly having to push yourself that I believe that you can do anything you set your mind to? What do you want your life and world to look like in the future? And then how much are you spending time and actually truly feeling like, you know the answer to this is what I want my life to look and feel like and then what do I need to do to start working in order to be able to have that happen, as opposed to, this is what my life looks and feels like now. And we’ll find out what it may be five years down the road, we’ll find out what it may be in 10 years, I like to think about what do I want it to feel and look like five or 10 years down the road and live in thinking that kind of term. And then now back up to now and start thinking about what is it that I need to do in order to be able to help make that be possible. And I don’t want that to get confused on saying too much in the future not enjoying the present. But I think that it takes a little bit of both in order to be able to keep reaching, setting goals, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying to find ways in order to make new and exciting things happen. And then when those new exciting things happen, I’m sure I’ll you know, like okay, well, what else can we do from do from here?
Well, in terms of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, do you remember a time during your entrepreneurial journey? Personally, where you encountered a challenge that was sort of like took the breath out of you? And you had to pause for a second and be like, Whoa, like this isn’t just normal business challenge. This is something that could be like a serious problem.
Yeah, sure. The recession. We got out of our seat Daza Yeah, 2008 2009 ish. Yeah, we got our over skis. Before that recession even happened on the business was beyond Andy, my partners in my ability to be able to leave the company.
Give me an idea of what the size of the
90 people at the times when it can kind of gotten to, and we were growing very rapidly. But around 2006 This year, I would say I ceased knowing where the business should go or what it could do. And I got a little bored. And that’s like, as an entrepreneur, if you’re bored within a company that’s doing that, it’s, you’re bored. For one reason, you don’t know where the next level in the game to go is. And I didn’t it was like, Okay, well, now I have all this momentum or growing like crazy. Now, where do I take it? And, you know, we had to go through the recession, you know, unfortunately, was ill time to make that experience painful. But it certainly probably sped up the process of downsizing and house cleaning that took us back down to a core foundation that we then started were starting to build to work from but it was extremely painful to go through that time period. Because really, when you’re going in reverse, there’s no time to be thinking about what’s in front of you in the future. Because you’re constantly having to be looking in the rearview mirror, as you’re because you’re backing up from where you intended you thought you would be.
I want to ask you more questions about that. But But first, I’d love to
talk. Yeah, sounds like a lot of fun. Yeah, it
sounds like a lot of fun. Which means there’s a lot of lessons to be learned. Sure, I know you did the piece around getting bored. It seems like that’s almost like the kryptonite to the visionary and not again, a position of visionary as a superhero. But if that’s your role in the company, it’s almost like boredom is the thing you want to avoid at all cost. Although there may be there are some times as business when a visionary he’s gonna be bored. What’s What’s your kind of position on that?
Yeah, I think the only time I’d say bored, wasn’t I was bored because I was blind. So if your job was to be visionary in that company, and you’re blinded during that time, that’s why it calls in the boardroom is that I couldn’t see or be excited about where the business could go, because I really didn’t know where to take it or what to do. So I had to get to work and try to figure that out. But we also achieved things so fast and beyond what I even could have could have envisioned when we first got it going, probably got a little complacent, you know, just little things may be blinded during that part to it. So but to other counterpoint, there are times when the business has a steady strategy, the founder has put a vision in place where the strategy is working, and you have extreme clarity. At that point, a tendency and a weakness of visionaries can be seen too much opportunity, and so too many places they can go. And it’s that constant of saying, it doesn’t matter what else I might be able to see if we don’t execute what we were intending to do. Now at times, you might have to pivot and adjust a little bit. But that is different than becoming distracted and constantly moving one step forward on 10 Different things versus moving 10 steps forward on one critical thing that you focused on and saying out of everything that I see that we couldn’t do, this is the one thing that we need to go focus on and get done now. And if we do that, then we can start focusing on these other opportunities. And I think that having gone through a little bit this business cycle, enough now, I have enough trust in myself and in the future to know just because I give up on a couple opportunities now to go chase this one. It used to be that fear of but I these are there we could go do it. There’ll be some other opportunities five years down the road when we get this thing built that will be right there as well. An entrepreneur huge Willie is not ever out of ideas that they could go pursue. So what is the one that you’re going to focus in on? And what is the one piece within that idea you need to execute on in order to be able to turn it into reality?
Well, I don’t want to stress that you’ve had here at PARC is having Andy, your co founder, and the guy, you might be called the integrator of sorts of pert to balance out the visionary role that you tend to is certainly a pragmatic. Yeah, he’s a little more pragmatic. Can you talk to me about why, how that’s been helpful, and what some of the challenges have been along the way, as you’ve developed that
relationship, it’s certainly been helpful. And, you know, I was college roommates with Andy. And so we were just talking about a couple days ago to somebody, you know,
get a good Andy.
I’m the messy one, you know, I don’t even have an office because I know it looks like a disaster after a period of time. So I was always the messy one, the scatterbrain, you know, kind of slightly crazy guy. And so our closet that we share it with, we had a walk in closet, because we had the idea to tear down our three separate closets and turn that into a walk in closet, purely. So we can have an awesome aquarium and the wall for our room. And so we’re sharing our closet, and my clothes were just on the floor, which my two roommates just had to get used to just walking over to get to their and Andy’s were like hung up absolutely perfect. Right? I choked together like by the day laid out. And so when it came to time to look actually looking at a business partner, I knew what he was dealing with in his career. And I also knew that okay, at the core, we’ve already he’s already seen the worst of me in terms of organization. And while I really could use somebody as we build this business that likes to hang up their clothes, and stay very organized. So I was looking for that early on. And Andy has continued to develop his skill set, or he has become an amazing person on organizing and organizing a company countability execution, which really, we both over time, we’ve been partners together for like 1617 years now, we have some overlap on skills for sure. But over time, the overlap has even gotten less as it’s enabled us to both go focus in on our core strengths, knowing I can check in with you know, he can check in with me on a couple of things and help make the strategy and the vision kind of piece better. And I can check in with him to help, you know, work on some of the assist him on some of the things but for the most part, we’ve really have developed our strengths and been able to focus on those because we had somebody else that we can rely on to not necessarily have to cover and work on our weakness,
I find this really fascinating because you talk about investing in your core strengths as co founders. What are those strengths? And how do you sharpen the skills of a visionary,
my core strength has always been being able to have a hunch as to what people might need, and then being able to go figure out whether whether that was true. And then figuring out what other people would buy it. And then figuring out how to be able to get it scaled and a process in which other people can that we can hire in can take that concept and communicate it to where it can able to be effectively sold.
And so where do you think that hunch comes from?
So I have yet to find an entrepreneur that comes up with an idea that isn’t somewhat within the environment they’re currently within. So if I do a business plan or pitch contest that’s from college, 75 80% of them will be around how to improve something that was in their high school, their college or some summer job they had, usually ideas for entrepreneurs come from within the company they were working, or from a friend they were speaking to or a hobby. So I think it’s really just putting yourself out within the environment that you’re wanting to spend more time in that you have a passion and being around it. And then if you are an entrepreneur, you will see the opportunity of saying, I think I can make money off of that by providing this and that people will give me money in some form by making that better in their life. And I’d say that piece is one of the parts that I don’t know where that comes from. There’s a lot of skills that have to be sharpened in order to be able to do that more effectively. Being able to have a hunch of I think people would be entertained by this or want to buy this. But I’ve always seemed to have a part of that see where somebody might have something missing or want to be added to their life if they just knew about it. And so then the skill is coming to were finding out how I’m wrong 90% of the time to then focus in on the ones that matter,
the focus and the collection of these thoughts. Do you keep it all in here? Or are you putting those down somewhere?
I’d say that in the earlier part. It is it’s not even really something that you can kind of actually like list out it is a living, breathing thing that continues to just grow and change and adapt as you have an idea and then you start talking to people about it. There is a time that where you want to start actually getting clear around messaging and pitch where you start writing things down and kind of playing around and testing with it.
What does that process look like for you?
On the messaging?
Yeah? Are you writing it down on an iPad? Yeah, or point all
of it to different team members playing around with messaging. And it’s such a miserable time, because it’s like, you know that if you get a half hour with somebody, you could have them be excited about what you’re intending to go do. Only no salespersons ever been successful with a half hour, let me help you understand why you should want this. So figuring out how to boil that down in order to be able to get the right messaging, and it’s always fun for me to talk to entrepreneurs that are in that stage, and to make them feel comfortable, like no, let me hear it, I know, it’s gonna suck. It’s okay practice on me. Because it does take practice to be able to get out on what your head takes a while to communicate. Because as an entrepreneur you’re living and I’ve got 20 different things that could be considering that could end up being able to be something that you would end up valuing. And being able to narrow and figure out how to concisely be able to get that point across. It just nothing but time and time and trial,
How soon is too soon to start socializing an idea.
So I think so my six year old has ideas, right. So I think we got to be careful here on an idea. And then figuring out how to be able to make something the only idea as valuable in business is something that can ended up becoming commercially viable to where you can eventually profit from it, I think one of the best ways is to try to put yourself in your intended audience’s shoes as much as you possibly can. So I find that the more I can understand their role, and their job, I understand and I’m speaking more to b2b, right. So the more I can understand what their position and what they’re held accountable to, and how their performance is measured, and what they go through on a daily basis, and start finding out what their pains are on a piece to it, then I’m going to see and have a better understanding of when I leverage my, my role in my job, or what I’m spending every day improving on how can I figure out to create something that they would pay for, I’ll have some aha moments. And then I will take and be able to start going back to them and start finding out, and why moving more on the right track. And so vetting those ideas within your intended audience becomes theirs, it’s never too early, because you’ll just be talking to them. And at first, I’m just talking like a curious eighth grader, or your eight year old, where you’re just asking questions, and you’re getting information. And then you can start moving into kind of pitching soft, pitching some ideas and letting things kind of roll around. And then eventually, you have to move into, here’s what I’m trying to sell you as if something interesting. So it’s kind of I say, it’s kind of a gradual process from, I’m not even sure what I am trying to do yet, I’m just trying to learn from you. And you take a segment of audience and you learn from them. And then those are impossible to sell to because you’ve already approached them with idea kind of piece to it, it’s hard to get them to see you as having something of value when you started with them where you didn’t have anything. But you keep moving from audience to audience and improving on your pitch to eventually where you’re like, hey, I can now show up cold, or they didn’t even really know me or I was introduced for somebody else. And I was able to deliver a message of value. And it resonated with them. And I was able to move it forward in a way that I can tell on my path to be able to make something to where I’m eventually going to get to cash. And I say that because in the beginning part, you’re looking for someone to give you money, but that probably doesn’t happen. And the first kind of part to it, you want an introduction, or you want their time. Anything other than that is just them being nice. So you want something that they’re having to give up that is of value to show that you’re on the right track with your idea. Otherwise, you might as well be getting an opinion from your mom, who’s always going to tell you like, that’s great. Yeah, keep it up.
What what does that sound like at the end of your sort of pitch or socializing the value proposition? What what does that ask come? Like? How do you make that ask at the end?
So I’m going for the clothes. It just depends on what phase I’m in where I’m going for the clothes, every time we talk about potential cost every time and yeah, and even when it’s before they even consider a potential customer. Just some I’m getting ideas from Can I come back and be able to revisit with you after I have some of this other stuff boiled down to be able to see what your opinion is. I kind of like the people who are a little bit tougher. Who I can tell that kind of sting me a little bit during the process where I can tell like, oh, this person thinks they know everything. Because if I can get any kind of dent with that person, then I know I’ll be more successful and the people who are more open minded. And that’s tough to go through because they make you feel less comfortable. Yeah.
And how do you develop a thicker skin around that,
getting used to it? Having a safety net, it’s certainly easier to be more comfortable with it now knowing that I can mumble under my breath walking out of their office and come back into where I know I’m, you know, I’m the person here right? As a beginning entrepreneur, you just have to believe in yourself and know it’s part of the process to be able to get through. But then you’re asking for the call though is that okay, well, can you would you be interested in being in a first customer trial for us? Yeah. And the easy answer is always them, per se. Yes. So you’re looking for that time component, if they’re not going to give you money, because you’re not in a state of charge for a product, then you need time component. It’s like, okay, well, for a free trial, it requires you to spend six hours with us on a team to be able to be working with it. And I need to members, your team and also be a part of it. If they’re not willing to invest in that piece of it. You’re not. You’re not on the right track. Yeah, if they’re not the right person, and they don’t give you introductions easily, then they’re not sold into that they understand the idea and know who would be the right fit. So you might be able to tell that okay, you’re actually aren’t but do you know of anybody that is? If you’re on the right track with your idea, then somebody should be like, yeah, actually, I do know somebody, you should talk to this person. And then lastly, you’re trying to move it down the cycle to where eventually you have it to where you have proof of concept to where is this something that you would pay for? And then if so, you try to sell it? And then if not, then you move to the free trial, where it’s like, okay, well, we could do this for you. But I also need this from you. And then you keep moving the steps to where eventually you don’t need free trials. And now you’re charging for what it is. And once it’s built, or once you have a case, to be able to be sold,
it seems like these two states like the one state, or like mental state, or mindset of sort of coming up with the idea and just sort of listening and perceiving. And then a state of like being in a state of like seeing the vision, selling it, and maybe still listening a little bit, but it seems like those are kind of two separate mindsets. Do you see those as separate? Or?
Yeah, for sure you’re constantly switching hats into this is my dream state. This is what could be to where now I’m putting on product marketer. Now I’m coming back from my product marketers meeting and put on my product manager hat. And it’s like, okay, now how do I get this put in the place to work, we can work on it to be able to have it to where I can showcase a little bit better, to then be in in salesperson mode. But as an entrepreneur, you’re having to do all of those things to be able to go to market that somebody if it’s not you as the founding entrepreneur, it’s your other partner who is co founder who’s going and doing that. Because if you’re not the one doing that as something that you just can’t hire out in the beginning, if you could hire it out, they’re going to be running and doing their own startup themselves. Now you can bring people who are kind of entrepreneurial tendencies early on, once you have some things kind of put in place if you have the budget to go to hire that person on and work through them to where you can kind of be a part of their meetings or download with them when they get back. But it is a constantly hat shifting kind of piece to go from idea to narrowing it down to be figuring out okay, now I’m trying to be able to move this down the path where eventually I want to be able to hire 10 salespeople to go sell that. That is, you know, especially an entrepreneur in your first kind of startup that that is the job for the first several years continuing to cultivate that.
I’d like to use some real life examples. If you’re cool with that. I know a couple years ago, you went through a big transition, a big shift from a non tech company to a tech company. How did you go through that sort of vision state was that that particular idea, like, all the way back to like idea generation where you like, I gotta figure out how to use technology, or were you sort of like, suddenly take
three years to talk about especially fun. So we went through the recession, I became really depressed, got the first part of just being happy to survive when we got out of it. And all sudden, we started getting positive cash flow again. And I probably went through that too long, where I wasn’t even trying to think about where we could go, it was just first time ever I was entrepreneur, just happy to be where I was yes to hang in there as is. And I got challenged by a couple of talented members on the team, just kind of like, you know, hey, like, where are we going. And that really became apparent to me that, oh, hey, we’re back here, if I’m not setting the course of where we’re gonna go, and people are going to leave because I’m not setting any kind. Of course, we’re where we’re trying to go as a company. And so looking at everything, I knew that we weren’t gonna stay in print marketing, as where we were going to go invest our company. And so I saw the opportunity of taking our skill sets and knowing that marketing technology was still in the wild, wild west of its development. And I well, you know, certainly there’s an opportunity there. One of the biggest messages we’ve learned when Amy and I both went through a Harvard Business School Program was, it’s the leaders job to be able to move the business into an environment where it has a better opportunity for success that a CEO that is operating in a poor industry will end up with a poor reputation, that the industry controls a great deal of your success. So I was like, well, we have to get into this marketing software, and we’ll figure it out from there. So I stood in front of a company, and you know, the first step of anything, you have to kind of start positively sharing and believing and where you’re gonna go. And I said, we’re going to be a marketing technology company. Well,
before you even socialize that idea, like, how did that all come together? Like how did you get in the state of, of getting that future sense? Like, were you in the office doing this or did you take a sabbatical? Cool.
So I mean, it was so, you know, the Harvard Business School, you spent a lot of time learning and thinking, and getting disgusted with your business, and figuring out where it is that you want to go. So I mean, that was probably I mean, I didn’t make a costume quick, that was like, probably an 18 month journey of really kind of being like, this is what we’re gonna go do, and it’s gonna sound silly, it’s gonna sound stupid, and I don’t know, I’m not sure that we’re gonna be able to pull it off. But I have enough faith that if we get in there, we’ll figure out something. And but I do know, staying here isn’t gonna get it done. So let’s at least start marching towards where there’s a better opportunity. And we’ll figure out where to go. How did you
and Andy talk that out before socializing it to the team? Or did you?
Yeah, we definitely always talked about. But definitely, I would say that there’s always been a part to where he he tries to filter my craziness, and then settle on what might be the least crazy that we’re gonna go do. And so we had total buy in with each other on CEU. This is what we’re gonna go do and say, and we had actually literally had practice sessions, where we took a video of how to talk about us being in a marketing technology company, and talk to our team about here’s what you’re going to say, if you’re at, and we remember the jokes. And if you’re at a cocktail party, it was like, Is that what it’s called? We call things cocktail parties anymore. But so in talking about how to message because, you know, here they are selling direct mail and newspaper inserts. But yeah, they’re gonna start saying we’re a marketing tech company. But that led to Michelangelo, we’re taking over the tech point, a CEO role, I had plugged myself into the marketing tech, part of Indianapolis. Mike takes over the tech points, CEO role and really important organization, he very much very much Yes, thank you for filling that in. And so I show up at an event and introduce myself and tell them that we’re a marketing tech company. And we have been trying, you know, developing some things trying anyway. And he says, he’s, that’s great. And then two weeks later, he ends up being the judge for the mirror awards. And he needed one for the marketing tech category. And it was a one judge short, and he happens to know this, like 60 person, you know, founder of a marketing tech company. So he invited me to judge on that. And I had no business being in that room. Sorry, Mike. But I certainly took the invitation. And I was in the same room judging panel with Tim cop, and I’ve exact target CMO at the time. Yep. And Bill Godfrey, who had just sold a primo for a very large sum. And then there was me. So very quickly, I knew to shut up in that process. And but that’s how I got introduced to Bill Godfrey. And then Bill Godfrey became an advisor to us as a company. And then Bill Godfrey became an investor in the company. And we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing without him really kind of helping get us thinking and coach us to the point to where putting some of the ideas and pieces in place, but given access to some talent, and some discipline in order to be able to make it happen. So that was the value of actually taking that stance. And we’re a marketing tech company, before we even were the reward for taking that risk and seeming stupid in front of my own company, as well as feeling awkward out there saying we’re a marketing tech company when 99.999% of our revenue was on marketing.
So the you it was almost like a fake it till you make it absolutely. And put your vision and put yourself there until it sort of manifests.
I mean, I think that every entrepreneur is going to go through a period of self disbelief that they have to convince them on of, I am going to go make this happen when everybody else thinks that’s impossible. And I think don’t know that ever. It still hasn’t changed for me, I’m still putting things out there of where I believe we truly can get done, that I have to suspend reality, to actually feel like that. Yeah, that’s something that actually could be pulled off when everything is actually saying like that, are you sure that really can get done? And sometimes it doesn’t. But it never happens, unless you’re willing to actually be able to put you know, that stake in the ground saying, This is what we’re going to go do and not just kind of on the fringe say like, Well, if that could happen, that would be great.
Are there any people or books that have been extremely influential? In you honing, that sort of visionary skill set? You know, assuming that it is something that can be trained and nurtured? Yeah.
Four Steps to the Epiphany by Mark, mockingly like, from dropping his last name. He’s famous Four Steps to the Epiphany. Steve Blank, Steve Blank. Yeah. Mark, Mark, Steve Blank. Yeah, everyone’s everyone’s Mark. Yeah, that’s probably half the stuff I’ve studied has been stolen from books. So books have been a huge part of making influence. But I’d say that’s the one of the biggest one from a that when I read it was, these are some things that I tend to do. But while here’s actually a stated true discipline that has been taught in a classroom,
biggest takeaway from that book, just that there is a process this
process the process piece to it to where a lot of people think it’s some kind of art, and there is a little bit of art to it, but it’s really a lot of discipline and science of putting yourself and being willing to Have your art go be criticized. Most artists don’t like doing that. It’s like now the art is what it is by itself. And it has meaning because it has meaning to me, that doesn’t work in business, you can have the idea and you can have the concept. But you got to be willing to go through that process of being told your baby’s ugly, in order to come out of it with something that a baby, everybody wants to babysit. I don’t know where I’m going with that. But let’s get metaphors.
Other books or mentors along the way that that we’re
thinking Grow Rich, I think is an awesome book for an entrepreneur, there’s a giveaway. Now, it gets a little weird, the parts in today’s world to read that. So anybody who reads that, no, it’s written like, right after the depression. So it’s good context, as in very, very a man’s world at the time, where money was the only thing that mattered, they just got out of the depression. So when he can take take that element out of it, it was one of the first books really ever written that really kind of talked about the power of visualization, and how important that is to be able to take and have good things happen just by being extremely clear about what you want to have occur in your life.
Okay. Can you talk to me about your visualization process that you’ve honed? Is it something that you can even describe?
Yeah, no, I’m very intentional about it. So I have come this way. Oh, sir. I have a journal I journal in the future. So
what does that mean? You journal, you time travel to the future? They journal? They’re kind of weird,
huh? Yeah. So first of all, I was very specific about writing down what I want to have accomplished by the end of my life, here’s my what my 70s and 80s to feel like that I’m doing what I want my 50s and 60s to feel like and then what I need to accomplish now in my 40s, and satisfy my 40s, to be able to help make that be possible. If you’re 24. That’s good. Yeah, thanks. I tried to dye the beard. So now that I know that I want to have what I want to have accomplished in my 40s. And that’s now it’s like, I need to maximize the value of perk and joy, the rewards of doing that seeing careers growth get developed, being able to see new things come to life and I’m in control of, but here’s what I need to have out of it in order to keep powering the things I want to have happen. And so in order to be able to have what we need to have out of it, it becomes more clear as to what we need to have this take care in the business. So I’ll vary from journaling from 10 years out to five years out to a year out. So the closer I get to where I know, I want this to occur. And it probably take a year or two years out, I’ll start writing a year or two years out, as if it’s already happened. And so in my journal, so present state, I’m writing the writing the present state about the future, but I will be writing in the present state and be putting January 2019, this just happened we were able to cross this threshold and revenue we are now this amount of employees, we were targeted by this potential person to look at wanting to acquire, you know, whatever it may be. And so and I’ll put the date of what’s gonna when I’m writing as if I’m in the present, and then I’ll have sprinkled in there where I’m writing in the current. And I’ll put the date at which I’m writing the current. So it’s always fun. Now I’ve been doing it long enough to go back through it and be able to see like, Wow, you really thought that was going to happen, you couldn’t have been farther off further off from having that be the case. And then there’s times where it’s like, wow, I actually was journaling about that. And that’s kind of what’s what’s taking place. But I think it’s again, it’s a piece of by putting out there, what you want to have happened, the clearer you can have that the easier it seems to be to where the pieces you need, in order for that, to have a chance to turn into reality, seem to find you and become there for you to grasp, than if you don’t get extremely clear about what you’re trying to have accomplished in the future. And that’s where the planning process and you can apply the same thing to business. So Andy teaches a class here to people in here about this visualization and planning things. We’re both very aligned on it, where the same stuff you’re doing in life is the same stuff you’re supposed to be doing. But you’re here doing a business. It’s not the plan, that’s the planning. And in your life and your goals is the same thing. Like what is it that I’m trying to achieve? The mere fact of laying that out and trying to means you’re probably going to be doing a lot better than if you were just drifting on it the same way, if you heard a business was not doing any planning, you probably wouldn’t think that business is probably headed anyone to anywhere to to well. So that’s kind of you know, we try to borrow the same stuff in business and in life and a life and a business.
I really appreciate you sharing that I appreciate you sharing so many stories, that they’re just very clear takeaways, the stories piece to it, you know, you being sort of the person that inspired us at powderkeg to create this stories platform that we’re launching this fall. And being our first beta tester on that has been hugely, hugely helpful and hope we can talk more about that on future episodes. But I am curious to know like why do you think sharing stories, as entrepreneurs or as technologists, is important?
Not sure. So I started writing my notes that I was looking at. I have a three year old and a six year old and it’s like at times they could probably See my job and be like, you seem to just go into this tree house and stay in there for a couple hours. And that really seemed like no, like, I’m actually doing work in there to be able to get the literal tree a literal tree out. So that’s where I like to do a lot of my brainstorm thinking. So like, How can I start documenting the process of what it took to be able to get to the business to this point, and then hopefully beyond. So that way, if anything were to happen to me, or anything great happens to the business, and there’s not something tangible for them to really be able to see what, you know, what are the takeaways they can actually learn from, this is actually what it took to be able to get it to here. And then as I was writing it, it was really like, wow, there’s just, I would love to be able to be reading this about other entrepreneurs that are a stage or two ahead of where I am. Unfortunately, you really just don’t get too many of those stories. And that’s where kind of the idea kind of came from of 99% of entrepreneurs journeys are going to be similar to what I’m going through. We all face the same kind of journey piece to it. But when it actually comes to motivational journeys that entrepreneurs have had, you’re talking about, you know, your Zuckerberg and your Mark Cuban’s, and those are amazing stories. But you know, for 99.9%, it’s kind of like hearing like, oh, well, if you’re trying to get wealthy, you wouldn’t be wanting to read a book about the person to hit the lottery. And so if you’re wanting to be able to learn about the journey of entrepreneurship, reading about these people have achieved at that level, they’re such outliers and to sow hope for it, strive for it. But what can you learn from actually the real journeys of the 99.9% entrepreneurs. And so you know, and mentors, you’re always looking for people who are one step or two steps ahead of you that you can really learn the most from, where they’re not so distant from where you are, that they can relate to you. And you can relate to them, and you can actually propel yourself forward. And then hopefully, you catch up and you find somebody else who’s one, you know, two steps above you. So I think that getting a capability of having founders sharing stories, that means there’s more access to people finding the right founder story, that’s two levels ahead of where they are, that they can really relate to, and learn from, to make them better in their own journey. So that’s kind of how that whole thing kind of got started.
I’m really glad you shared that with us. And I’m excited to get everyone’s feedback, who’s watching the live stream or listening to this? Wherever we end up publishing this. And at the same time, if you have ideas of like, what kinds of things on Scott’s journey you’d like to hear more about, or have more stories on? Definitely leave a drop a comment here. Maybe share this with some other founders and get their feedback, because I know that you’re pretty open to sharing parts of the journey, which I really appreciate. Scott, if people want to find out more about you, or about perk, where should they go?
perk.com would be the best place to learn about our new prq.com. Thank you for that. And that’d be the best place to learn about the company. And my email is s hill at perk. I’m on Twitter, it’s at biz gamer, bi Z gamer. But those be the best places.
Cool. And we’ll link that up here in the comments or show notes or wherever we put this. And I just want to say thanks again, Scott, anything else you want to say or share before we sign off?
You know, entrepreneurships an amazing game. It’s find a way to get yourself into it, and then embrace the challenge. Embrace the opportunity.
Thanks, man. That is it for interview with Scott hill. But it does not have to be the end of the conversation. You can find Scott on Twitter at biz gamer that’s bi Z gamer on Twitter. Make sure you hit him up. Let him know what you learn. Let them know if you have follow up questions. He is someone that is just passionate about entrepreneurship and helping entrepreneurs. So I feel pretty confident he’s going to engage there, check out firstname.lastname@example.org That’s P E. r q.com. It’s an incredible company, and we use their marketing software, as well. And for more stories on entrepreneurs, leaders and professionals outside of Silicon Valley, make sure you give us a little subscribe on iTunes, you can find us at powderkeg.com/itunes. It’s a handy dandy link we created just for you. You want to subscribe there because we have some amazing guests coming up. So please don’t miss that. And while you’re at it, please please, please leave us a review on iTunes. This is how we reach new people. And the positive reviews we’ve already received have helped us dramatically grow our audience for sharing these entrepreneurs stories. And that’s something that is just near and dear to my heart. I know it is for yours as well. So thank you so much. If you’re one of these people that has already left us a review, again, that’s powderkeg.com/itunes If you haven’t subscribed or left a review yet, please check that out. And while I’m on that subject, we’ve got a helpful companion email@example.com You can find show notes for this episode, as well as all of the past articles and interviews and even events. So if you’re interested in events and meeting me in person or maybe some of the rest of the powderkeg community there’s so much cooler than I am. So come on out to one of our powderkeg pitch nights we have them all over the unit headed states right now, although we have our eye on global, but at those pitch nights, you can come and connect with other tech entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals that are just like you, or even maybe a couple steps ahead of you, which, you know, those people can offer quite a bit in terms of helping you grow in your journey. So it’s a great opportunity to get out from behind your computer screens, you know, take those headphones out, come learn about the latest company’s innovation strategies that are just disrupting industries and changing the world. We also live stream those events. So if you can’t make it out in person, or if we’re not in your city yet, you can check us out at facebook.com/powderkeg. We’ve been getting some really awesome feedback from you guys. So thank you for that. But I go to a lot of these powderkeg events myself, I just want to mention that again. So I’d love to catch you there in person if you can make it again, you can learn all about those events, as well as new articles and episodes of powderkeg igniting firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll see you there or we’ll talk to you in the next episode.