Max Yoder is a lifelong learner and trailblazer and he knows that clearly-defined processes empower employees to level-up their quality of work from average to exceptional.
Yoder is the cofounder and CEO of Lessonly, a software platform that lets companies capture internal knowledge, best practices, and team policies as searchable and assignable step-by-step lessons. Lessonly currently helps half a million users from hundreds of companies learn the processes they need to excel in their work.
Yoder shares some of his most valuable insights on team building, team learning, and building a great company culture. Our conversation exposes how feats that look like magic are just processes, why you need to have difficult conversations with your teammates, how to be a great team player, and how to worry less and view challenges as opportunities.
We recorded this episode of Powderkeg with the help of our partners, Edge Media Studios, based in Indianapolis. And Max and I brought a few musical instruments with us to the studio, so make sure you check out the part where Max teaches me one of his latest songs he wrote.
I had a blast recording this episode with Max. He’s a very down-to-earth guy with a great sense of humor who loves helping others succeed, and I’m honored he took the time to chat. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram, and enjoy the episode.
In this episode with Max Yoder, you’ll learn:
- How to approach things that look like magic and turn them into processes (7:25)
- How to be an effective team player (9:22)
- His three best culture tips for small teams (12:40)
- The power of hiring the right teammates (17:58)
- How the right investors will guide your business to success (24:56)
- Why you should stop worrying and view challenges as opportunities (27:00)
Please enjoy this conversation with Max Yoder!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
This episode of Powderkeg is brought to you by DeveloperTown. If you’re a business leader trying to turn a great idea into a product with traction, this is for you.
DeveloperTown works with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies who want to build and launch an app or digital product. They’re able to take the process they use with early stage companies to help big companies move like a startup.
So if you have an idea for a web or mobile app, or need help identifying the great ideas within your company, go to developertown.com/powderkeg.
If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.
Max Yoder Quotes from This Episode of Powderkeg:
“There’s so many things in the world that look like magic, when in reality, they’re a process.” — Max Yoder
“Nobody can perfect anything in a vacuum. It’s all about making sure you get out of the vacuum fast.” — Max Yoder
“When you have vulnerability and appreciation as the bedrocks, you can have candor. If you don’t have those things, candor really feels bad to people.” — Max Yoder
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Companies and Organizations:
Venture Capital Firms:
- Patrick Lencioni
- Conner Burt
- Kristian Andersen
- Nathan Sinsabaugh
- Scott Dorsey
- Mitch Causey
- Corey Kime
- Aaron Milam
- Justin Fite
- Eric Tobias
Did you enjoy this conversation? Thank Max on Twitter!
If you enjoyed this session and have 3 seconds to spare, let Max Yoder know via Twitter by clicking on the link below:
What stood out most to you about what Max shares in this podcast?
For me, it’s how to be an effective team player.
You? Leave a comment below.
To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:
If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and its ranking in iTunes incredibly! Thank you so much!
Hey, I’m Matt Hunckler here back again with another episode of powderkeg igniting startups and this is episode 19 with my good friend Max Yoder, CEO and co founder of lessonly, a pioneer in learning management software. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. I’m the founder and CEO of verge a network of local communities with global reach for tech entrepreneurs, investors and top talent. As my team and I have grown ViRGE over the past seven years, we’ve hosted more than 1000 entrepreneurs at our events around the world. Those founders have gone on to raise more than $500 million in capital collectively, and they’re disrupting industries creating wealth and changing the world. The cool thing is they’re doing it in areas outside of Silicon Valley, which is exactly why we started this podcast. Each guest has their own powderkeg full of raw skills and talents that has ignited their startups and fueled their growth. These are their stories. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram at Hunckler. That’s Hu NCKL. Er, let me know how verge powderkeg. And I can help with your entrepreneurial journey. Make sure you’re subscribing to the podcast on iTunes. You can find us there really appreciate your reviews and subscribe because that’s what helps us reach more people. This week’s episode of Powder Keg is brought to you by developer town develop it down helps enterprise companies move like a startup. I love these guys. We are partners with these guys. We’ve been partnered for years, and corporate innovators often work with developer town to explore software solutions that support their core business needs. By leveraging their user experience working with startups, developer town is able to help companies better understand the viability of potential software solutions, and quickly bring them to market. They’ve created a proven sprint to market process so large enterprises can move like a startup, I highly recommend checking them out. Developer town.com/powderkeg. Again, developer town.com/powderkeg developer town start something. Here’s the part where I get to introduce one of my favorite people in the world. Max Yoder is a good friend of mine. We’ve been friends since he even moved to Indianapolis where we both live today. I think we met in Bloomington Indiana. Yeah, we’re going on a decade. Decade. Yeah, Dan celebrate decade friendship. I like that man. Max, I appreciate you being here because your company lessonly helps companies capture internal knowledge, best practices and team policies as searchable and assignable step by step lessons nailed it. I mean, I literally just quoted that verbatim from your website. So I nailed it. We love lessonly we use it all the time at verge huge fan of the tool. It’s really helped us scale into new cities weren’t eight cities now. Congratulations, which has been powered by lessonly software and what you’ve done with helping bring what over 200,000 learners? We actually just did half a million half million. Yeah, dude, you’re you’re like outdating these numbers. I think that number was from like, November. Yeah, dude, you guys are moving fast. Well, you got more than 60 people on your team now. That’s right. Raise $6 million in capital. Yep. Any other six metrics I should be aware of?
That’s good. That’s good. We just hit the four year mark. So business has been around. We’re going on a half decade, which is cool. Happy birthday. Thank you. Thank you. It’s been a good four years. Yeah.
Well, speaking of birthdays, yes. You just had one I did. And had an announcement to make.
Yes. I proposed to my longtime girlfriend. Her name’s Jess. And she’s now my fiancee. So she said yes. She said yes. Yes, she was planning a surprise birthday party. For me. She did not realize that. We had actually cokes during the planning that surprise birthday party. And the whole idea was get her really focused on the surprise and hiding things from me so that I could actually surprise her with something else, which was the engagement. So the night before the party I proposed to her and she said stop. And then she said yes. And I was glad she just had more than just stop. I think stop was just the immediate reaction of oh my gosh, I’m getting reposted because she had no idea. It was coming. He was great. Are you good at surprises? No, she would No, actually, she said I could never surprise her about four days before I surprised her. She told one of her friends that she could surprise me any day of the week because I have blinders on because I’m focused on the business and but I can never pull one over on her. So that felt very good. One time she told me I wasn’t romantic. So this was my way of like, I was like, no, no, I need to be romantic. I want to do
very badly, like proving people wrong.
Her. I just love her love here. And then she said it was romantic. I was like, oh, that’s that’s a call to action. That’s called Arm Challenge accepted. Yeah, you got it. You got it. So it went great. Thank you. It was a great birthday. Yeah.
Congratulations, man. It was really cool to hear that story. And see everyone gathered here to celebrate your birthday. But also the the announcement of who was my favorite nights, man.
It was so cool. Thank you for coming.
Of course, man. Thanks for the invite. One of the things that I like about you, Max and I wanted to dive right in here is you’ve been passionate about learning and education since I first met you Sure. I mean, you were at you. Still in school. I had just graduated from IU. And I was down there to recruit you. Yep. Which which we successfully worked. Yeah, it worked out. But you had created your own learning path. Yep. Within Indiana University. You got to tell me about that. Why did you decide to chart your own path as opposed to getting a off the shelf
made? Drew, I was lucky enough to learn about the individualized major program, it’s called the imp program at IU it was one of those things were just really good guidance brought me to it because it doesn’t get a lot of publicity around the school. But what it allows you to do is take all at once the classes that you want to take out of every college because you know, University is a series of colleges, and you can go to the College of Arts and Sciences, you can go to the College of Journalism, you can go to the College of Business, and you can pull the classes out that you think are going to create a curriculum that you really want to take, you can give it a name, the only really prereq prerequisite is that you have leaders from each one of those colleges on your advisory board to make sure that you’re picking classes that are actually appropriate. I just didn’t really want to be a business student, I wasn’t really great at finance and accounting. And I really felt I was gonna fall down if I had to spend a lot of time in Excel spreadsheets. And I really wanted to be a liberal arts students. So the goal was, let’s create a liberal arts major that has a business sounding name, that allows me to learn a lot about sociology and psychology and journalism and communications and just kind of get a breadth of knowledge instead of a real depth into any particular subject. It’s just a tough time to pick 1819. I didn’t know what I wanted to specialize in. And I was lucky enough to not have to choose and just see a lot of things. And it was a program that I recommend. Everybody goes out you at least check out. It’s not meant for everybody. But it was great.
It’s good to know it’s an option. Yeah, you bet. I don’t think I knew that was an optional. Yeah, it’s not a problem. Yeah, dude, I love that man. Do you think that sort of style of charting your own path is something that has had implications in the way you’ve grown? lessonly?
Yeah, I think it it certainly helped. It was one of those things where, you know, you kind of get it, you kind of get a major that was mapped out for you. And I think that it just felt pretty restraining. And I also just really didn’t know better. You know, it was like, Hey, this is a neat opportunity. Let’s give it a shot. It wasn’t a master plan. Sure. But when you graduate, and you realize that, oh, my gosh, words matter a lot. And people who see a business, you know, my major was brand management and advertising. They just hadn’t made a lot of assumptions around what I knew. They didn’t ask me like, Hey, do you know these things? Because I would have told them no, but you know, they just kind of assumed a lot about what I was capable of. And they opened up a lot of opportunities for me to just try things that maybe I didn’t have the prerequisite skills for, but could learn on the go, words matter a ton was kind of the end all be all of that of that degree. Because people really don’t dig a whole lot past that title. I wasn’t trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. But I didn’t know anything about business.
And I it was good copywriting man, it clearly served you pretty well. It
served me well. Yeah. And I think ultimately, the thing about forging your own path was just having people around, you had already done that, and seeing how rewarding it was for them. And also seeing that we talked about learning we just talked about, you know how much I enjoy learning, I think the thing I like about learning the most is there’s so many things in the world that look like magic. Yep. When in reality, there are process. If it looks like magic, in order to do it yourself, you have to be the magician. And that’s very hard that takes, it’s impossible for some people, and they feel it’s impossible, so they don’t try. But if we can turn things that look like magic into the processes that they are, then it’s following step by steps to just up your odds with every step of the way. And it makes these things that some people think aren’t available to them. Totally practical. And I think we have a lot of that in the entrepreneurial world where people think they can’t start a company because they don’t know the process. It just looks like magic to them. So they, they just kind of wait on the sidelines, and they’re like, Well, I don’t really understand that magic. So I’m not gonna give it a go. When the reality is, it is not magic, there are a lot of well known processes that you can follow to up your odds of at least getting it off the ground doesn’t mean you’re gonna win. You know, it’s hard as heck to win. But it doesn’t mean that you have a chance. So I like the idea of taking things that look like magic that shouldn’t look like magic and turning them into processes, because that means more people can get on and give them a shot.
Well, now you’re making me wish I had brought a deck of cards, we could have done some magic right now. Nothing
wrong with magic in the in that sense? I just think magic can be pretty alienating.
Well, and even in magic in that sense. Everything is broken down in the process. It’s you just process. The news. Yeah, you’re just not sharing it with anyone? Yeah, well, that’s that’s probably the case in a lot of different processes and a lot of different fields. And so what I love about lessonly, what you guys are doing is that you’re given the tools for people to break down that process. So it doesn’t feel like magic. Yeah.
Because because employees enter a job and they say I want to do great work, they don’t sign up and like, Hey, I kind of want to do this half, they sign up and I’m like, I like to be really good at this job. I want to hit my quota, I want to make sure my CSAT scores are where they need to be, you know, depending what your role is. But the companies and the companies expect them to do great work, but they don’t always do their part as a company to document what great work looks like. You know, we talked about like being a team player a lot. But how many companies actually document what does a team player mean? Like what are the fundamentals of a team player? Because you might think a team player is one thing I might think it’s another thing, and I might think I’m crashing as a team player. And in your mind, you’re like
you define a team player, divided by the
way somebody else does. There’s a guy named Patrick Lencioni. I was trying to define it myself. And I was I took a whole week off work to try to figure out what a team player was because I think we need to we people need to know, right? He had he wrote a book on it. And I read the book and I was like this is great. It’s hunger, humility, people smarts. So having an urge, just do great work. Not not an incessant urge, like there you need to make time for your family. But you need to step up to the plate when it’s when it’d be hungry and be challenged and want more humility just means you’re not overly arrogant and you’re not overly full of self doubt you balance something in the middle. And then people smarts is can you empathize with folks, you know, do you have emotional intelligence? And if you have all those Three things do you tend to be very effective team player, if you don’t have a motion to just know, it’s tough for me, I might say something new that I don’t realize, really bummed you out. And then you don’t want to work with me again, or you don’t want to be open with me next time we’re having a difficult conversation, all these things coming together makes that team player, you lose one of them, and you have some perversion of a team player that can be less than ideal. And nobody’s like nail it and hitting it out of park on all of these, but we need to know what they are. And we need to be working toward improving places where we’re weak. And lessonly isn’t about like that kind of leadership and development. It’s about the process. It’s about like the tactical process of when you come into your job. Here’s how to move this opportunity from, you know, from maybe the negotiation to the proposal stage. Here’s what needs to happen before you do that. It just spelling out documenting that stuff. But in less than least case internally, I thought it was important that people know what a team player wasn’t a lot of companies just don’t, they don’t they don’t spell it out. And then people have to guess, you know what happens when the guests, they get some of her and they get some of it wrong, but they’re doing their best, you know, they’re cobbling together this sub optimal. What they think is this is the picture but it’s not the picture. You know, you got to help them paint. It doesn’t mean you put handcuffs on them. Doesn’t mean you be overly prescriptive. You show them the guardrails, everything within these guardrails, you’re gonna nail it. Anything outside of these guardrails? Not great, you know,
and I want to get I want to get back to what you do as a leader when you get off the guardrails. And when you when you do get it wrong, but I first kind of want to dive into maybe the earlier days of lessonly sure, as a company, not necessarily the product itself, but you’re bringing on some of your early employees or early teammates like Connor. Yep. I imagine you didn’t have a lot of this stuff documented at that point, right? Because you’re a solo founder at that, at that point, operating mostly, as the only person full time Yeah, working on lessonly. How do you get some of these key pieces and parts in place as you’re bringing on your first couple teammates? Or do you?
It’s a great question. I don’t think you I don’t think you do. You there’s not a whole lot. There’s not a whole lot institutional knowledge, when you’re hiring that first person. And you’re you don’t know your market yet. You don’t really know where you’re gonna find success. So we don’t sell to companies like with lessonly. That are that, that that young, it’s just not, it’s not going to help them what they need to be as entrepreneurial and nimble. When you grow a company, you know, past 25, to 35 to 50, you hire a lot more process oriented people where you need to give them what they need, which is what’s the process? Yeah. So when, in the early days, there was some things that were meant to be documented. But man, vast majority of it is just let’s make sure we’re sitting around the same table. Because when you make a decision, and I can see how you handle that, that decision making process, I can then Intuit what the right thing to do is that doesn’t scale though. You know, when Connor comes in, we can intuit all day long, and we know how one another works, and it works great. But you can’t do that past, you know, table, once you go past the date, when multiple rooms, that’s when it gets a lot more important to be direct.
What do you think is important in the culture? early on? Yeah, with teams that are, you know, five or less? Yeah,
three things you have no, you have no time. Time is your you know, you’re running against a clock of, hey, we’re gonna lose money, we’re gonna run out of money. So you got to share before you’re ready, you can’t go in a hole and work on something that you think is going to be the perfect thing, and then come out of that hole three months later, and be like, Hey, I got the perfect thing. And nobody else goes. That’s not what we need right now. You know, I have no fear of the team. Working hard. I have fear of them working hard on the wrong things. So sharing before you’re ready is the value that gets us to making sure that people don’t go in holes and come out later and haven’t wasted a bunch of time. They get feedback early. And they get feedback before they’re ready before they’re comfortable and ready doesn’t mean ready just means they probably are. Maybe feel a little exposed when they share that. Because they know what’s a half baked thought right now. But that’s the time to share it. And to get out in front of people and say, here’s like, I wrote this in 30 minutes. I’m gonna work on it for the next two weeks. But I want your feedback. And if I read it, or somebody else reads it, and they’re like, Hey, this is the right thing. This is awesome. Go go full bore, you’ve shared before you’re ready, you’re working on the right stuff. That’s super important. We can just mitigate a lot of trouble. If we get things out in front of one another quickly and say, What do you think about this getting consensus, nobody can perfect anything in a vacuum. So it’s all about just making sure you get out of a vacuum fast. The next one is having difficult conversations. When you share before you’re ready, somebody’s probably gonna pump the brakes on something that you’re pumped about. That can be hard for people we like to please one another. And we’re generally not taught anywhere in school, how to be direct and have difficult conversations, especially in the Midwest, we were like, just not something a muscle that we flex very often very early in our lives. And we feel like we might be rude if we tell somebody directly but the reality is not being direct with you just means I don’t respect you. When it boils down to it, if I’m not looking at you and saying, Matt, here’s what I think. Honestly, that probably means that I’m hiding something from you. And I don’t actually think you’re worth my actual direct opinion. Or I just don’t invest in you. I don’t think you’re worthwhile to invest in I don’t think that’s cool at all.
Is that something that you had to reframe? Being someone from the Midwest Goshen, Indiana? Yeah. Who was raised with those sort of, you know, maybe direct feedback isn’t the the first route to go or did you Was your family kind of different in that draft feedback was what was
Yeah, great question. My family was not did not cultivate that. Christian Andersen cultivated that in me. I just inserted Nathan since about two guys I worked with at Studio science. I got an internship there after you and I met and those guys we actually met when you were at that internship, yeah, you came in the office. That’s right. And yeah, because that would have been predated when we actually met you. They were just they would look at me and tell me honestly how they felt. And it wasn’t to be rude. I knew they cared about me. They had already established this base level appreciation of Max, we like you having you around. We love the energy you bring the team, we love how curious you are. But that doesn’t mean we’re gonna tell you everything you’re doing is right. And man, did I grow really fast in that environment, when they’d be like, don’t do that. Or here’s a different way to do it. And it wasn’t it didn’t affect it was kind of me down. It felt constructive, because it was constructive. What they had done is said, I appreciate you establish that baseline appreciation. And they showed that they were vulnerable around me. They didn’t just act like hard assets around me all the time they opened up, they were vulnerable. They shared things that were maybe uncomfortable for them that allowed us to be like fighting for one another. I knew and Christian gave me feedback. He cared about me because I was able to be vulnerable with him. And I he knew I appreciated him. And vice versa, when you have vulnerability and appreciation is kind of the bedrock so you can you can have candor, if you don’t have those things. candor really feels bad to people, because they’re like, oh, that person doesn’t like me. That’s why they spoke up.
Well in Christian was actually our first interview we had on the powderkeg podcast, he did an excellent job. He did phenomenally we’ve since upped our audio quality quite a bit, but it’s still come back great content in there. And in episode one, Christian Anderson High alpha with several other people that I’m sure you now consider mentors. You know, guys like Scott Dorsey. Yeah, he’s just a great guy are there? Well, I’m gonna put a pin in the in the mentor thing, because I think there’s probably a third thing that you’re gonna say when Oh, yeah, well, you’re just a small team, I want to make sure we, we tie off that thread
sharing before you’re ready, having difficult conversations and critiquing and love. So that was the last part about that appreciation is making sure that when I’m giving you that critique, you know, it’s not it’s coming from a place of we both want to win. Yep, we both are, we’re on the same team. And we both want to win. And the reason I’m giving you this feedback is because I think it’s going to help us win faster. And I think I don’t want you spinning your wheels and something that isn’t the right thing to spin your wheels on. And you might come back to me and say, Max, I think you’re wrong. I think that is the right thing. We shouldn’t we should have that difficult conversation. But we should do it from a place of I know, you’re not saying this because you want to spite me. And I’m not saying because I want to spite you baseline appreciation and vulnerability, make that possible. So share before you’re ready, have difficult conversations critique in love. That is a virtuous cycle. If you don’t have difficult conversations, people just keep cheering for the red and all they get is great job. Yeah, go, they’re gonna stop, right? Like this is not helpful, I can just give that part. And then if you don’t critique in love, you kind of beat somebody down when they share before they’re ready, they’re gonna stop sharing before they’re ready, they’re gonna go, oh, that sucked. I don’t want to do that. Right. So you create this virtuous cycle if you get if you get them all nailed. And we didn’t know that when we went into it, it was just the natural ebb and flow of kind of our personalities that like allow that to be possible. And we saw that it worked really well. And we said, we can’t lose this so that we institutionalized it, you know, as a as a three of our seven values. Yeah. Which I used to think were just total bowl, and Scott Dorsey said that they were not. And I was like, Well, this guy probably knows something about something. And I eventually he said it enough times is like, you gotta get your values down. And it was a great, great piece of guidance,
taking your magic and turn it into a process. You nailed that script. Well, technically, you nailed it. But I was just repeating what you said,
you’re right. You’re right. I was I was making things, making people into it, when I should have been prescriptive, or prescriptive, more prescriptive. And it wasn’t fair to the team.
Well, you mentioned mentors, like Christian Anderson and Scott Dorsey. Are there other people, whether in person and real life conversations, or particular books, or podcasts, or guiding lights that you had early on in the days of lessonly that have really kind of put you on this trajectory that you’re on right now?
Yeah, so kind of Burt, I mean, he’s the guiding light, he does this company. There’s a lot of people who made this company what it is, Connor does not come in when he comes on, excuse me in work with the, the hunger that he had, and the humility that he had, he just changed the trajectory of the business forever, and never rested on his laurels.
And just for those that don’t know, Connor, sorry, his his role, his role as chief
operating officer, he came on as the first salesperson. Yeah. And he just continues to punch up into new and, you know, incredible. He’s got a lot on his shoulders. And but he continues to carry it very well. And do so with the humility and hunger that I’ve always known him about him. That what really drives me every day is I want to win for the entire team. But you know how hard it is to like we personify companies. If you pick the one person that represents the company, and like Steve Jobs is Apple and Apple is Steve Jobs, that’s easier for our minds to wrap around when we’ve got a personification of an individual instead of Apple is 3000 people or 30,000. People like that’s not it’s not a story. It’s hard to tell a story about 30,000 people it’s a lot easier tell story about one person when I think about the story in my head about what makes me want to win at lessonly it’s I promised a lot to a lot of people but when it really boils down to it, it’s I don’t want to come down and that is my motivator is I know he’s getting up in the morning and getting after it. And me sleeping in is making me feel like a jackass. You know, it makes it makes me feel Wait, it makes me feel rude. Yeah, I love the guy. I don’t want him down. I never want him to look at me and go you didn’t do enough. That is like my greatest fear. So I love having that motivator on the team every day when I can look over and be like he’s gonna get after it. I gotta get after it. And our friendship doesn’t stop us from having difficult conversations doesn’t stop us from you know, sharing before ready doesn’t stop us from doing all the things we need to do. But man, it is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s just having somebody around who your instinct just deeply motivated by
sounds like a great dynamic to have on the team. And as I’ve seen you guys together and collaborate Hitting, you know, mostly in the early days when you guys are working out of your Broad Ripple apartment that was just down the street from my house, you know, I’d pop in and see you guys collaborating from time to time, great energy. And I imagine just had massive impact on how you’ve grown this team to over 60 people now
unreal, and we just couldn’t do it again. And I don’t mean to belabor the point, it’s just like you don’t we didn’t know that was gonna happen. So when people pick their teammates, you know, pick somebody who you want to fight for, and who has proven that they will fight for you. And we just were lucky to fall into that. But it’s the greatest gift you could have when you’re starting a business to have somebody around you like that every day.
Talk to me about how you guys have gone about building this team? Did you build it very intentionally? Or did it just kind of, to your point magically happen and unfold?
Yeah, I mean, we got to we got lucky, a ton. Sure. But that happens a lot. You know, the more you act, the more you get lucky everybody says that I think it’s very true. When it comes to how we build the team is very intentional. I mean, the first two hires after Connor were Mitch kasi and Cory calm we were or fellows together within the single they were fellowship together. So we knew that they were just solid. People, we knew that they were hard workers, we knew that they were kind, we knew that they had a lot of ambition. And we made those hires very slowly, and they sacrifice things to join the team that early and will never, you know, we’ll do everything we can to make that worthwhile for them. And ideally, it already has been, but you know what I mean, it was awesome to see them sacrifice to come aboard. Because that makes us all want to fight really hard for one another. And those people really created a dynamic that was pretty evident when you walked in the room was that we were all very different people. It’s not like a homogenous thing, where we all have the same music, we all have the same books, we all think the same way not at all court is very different for me, which is very different, for me kinda is very different for me. And that is great. But they all had this kind of, they all have the same similar kind of DNA insofar as they were built in a certain way. Whereas like, I just want to get after it. I don’t need the spotlight. And they understand how people work. They understand the dynamics of people. And that’s huge. So anyhow, those guys have the precedent. I’m Erin mile I’m joined next is her first full time engineer, and fit in great, he was our first kind of guy that we didn’t know, which is very scary when you hire somebody, you don’t know. And he did. He was wonderful. That was the thing that was hard for me as we scaled the team is every time we’d go from five to eight and eight to 13 and 13 to 26 I had where you were going to lose that special thing that was that made the company like what I wanted to make up for every day. But the reality was, we were very picky about who we hired, we fired quickly when it didn’t work out. And that didn’t mean the people weren’t good people it just meant that weren’t the right fit for the team. And we I realized that we’re getting stronger. And that was a real exciting thing to know that like we’re at 25. But we’re actually a stronger team than when we’re when we’re eight doesn’t mean that things don’t change, they do change, but you decide if they change for the better, or the worse. You know, I think a lot of people get scared of seeing a culture that is great change because they’re like, Well, I like this. But we can’t stay this way. You know, that’s we didn’t sign up for that. We sign up for high growth, a lot of changes, dynamism that you’ve never seen before. We just need to make it better. Yeah. And that is a choice.
When you talk about that early team with with Cory and Mitch and Connor and you. I love that you point out that you guys were very different people, and had diversity of thought. But to someone from the outside. They’re like, Oh, these guys were all in the fellowship program together or white males. Yeah, that’s
Right. Talk to me about diversity. Is that something you’re thinking about now, as you grow the team? I asked it obviously, knowing that it is something we’ve talked about in the past. Yeah. How are you thinking about diversity? And why is that a priority? Yeah. So
I mean, to be clear, we offered Mitch his job to somebody else before we met Mitch, it was a woman? And she said, No, it wasn’t that we weren’t trying to hire women. It was we just kept getting lazy. I don’t know. She said, No. But we kept trying to hire the best people for the best for the right role. And it just turned out that the people who ended up accepting that we were thrilled about where, for better or worse, white males, we went, as soon as we got our first woman on the team, it was exciting. It’s always exciting to have a change like that. But it was also just so eye opening around how much we were missing. And now, with our leadership team, having the presence of multiple women on our leadership team is huge. You know, we’ve got directors and executives and they comprise our leadership team. And people just bring different perspectives. And we are wired differently. Like, there’s entire books about how absolutely, and it is a very important difference. I think what really happened in the early days was I’m pretty high estrogen. I don’t think I’m a heavy test. I’m not very athletic, very kind of macho dude. I think that helped, you know, bring some of that perspective, but you got to get the real thing, and we got the real thing, and it went swimmingly. And it continues to go swimmingly. And the more we bring in people who have diverse backgrounds, the better it gets, the next thing we need to do is fill that out, we have an independent seat on our board. And my job is to fill that seat with a woman who either comes with technical talent or Leadership and Learning, background, learning and development background or technical background. I just think that’s huge. We got to do it.
Absolutely. Well, and if we can help, of course, obviously happy to help expand the search.
Yeah, open view is doing a great job. I appreciate that. Yeah, great. I’ve just, you know, finding people out there who are just killing and who are great people and who can bring a new perspective to the team. We’ve got a lot of sales and marketing expertise on the board. We need to change you know, we need to bring some dynamism to that.
And you mentioned OpenView, who led the last round of funding Talk to me a little bit about picking investors, because that’s that’s part of the courting process as well, right? I imagine OpenView. And your early, you know, seed investors have huge amount of impact and have their fingerprints all over lessonly
oh my gosh, yeah. And some people, I think it’s important we had to talk to the team about the team is like, so doesn’t mean that there are bosses now. And it’s like, well, no, it means that they have a voice. But it doesn’t mean they are the voice. And it doesn’t mean they want to run the company, like their entire goal is to not run this company that is good for them is the company is running itself. And they don’t need to step in. But it’s kind of something that people don’t know if they’re not in the world of like, what does the VC do? Well, they don’t want to run the business, right? They want to help and be a value add, but they don’t want to be the value, because that’s not what they signed up for.
At least good investors.
Yeah. the right ones. Yeah. I mean, these guys are best in class. They’ve done this many times.
Can you tell me about a time where maybe they helped you level up? Oh, sure. Sure.
beyond the cash, obviously. Yeah.
The cash, cash, cash helps a ton. But when it comes to helping us build a leadership team, like when they invested, we had 17 people? Well, that’s not true. We started the year with 17 people on when they invested in about March of last year 2016, we had about 25. But we didn’t have a very rich leadership team, we had a lot of contributors. And it was really like Connor, myself, Cory, Mitch Aaron. And I’m sure I’m missing some folks in there. But it wasn’t, we didn’t have a whole lot of experience on leadership team, none of us had a whole lot of management experience. So Jim just found it kind of being like, you’re gonna love it. When you bring people in who have seen the movie before? Yeah. Because what they’re gonna be able to do is look at you and go, this is normal, or this is abnormal, because I’ve seen it before. And I need that, because when I see something that doesn’t feel right, my first worry, you know, when I kind of get into my psyche is, oh, is this something we did? Like? Is this a natural thing? Or is this like a mistake that was made because we made bad calls, and to have like Justin fight, join the team as our chief sales officer and go look at me and go normal? I’m like, Heck, yeah, normal, you know, like, it just feels better. It’s like, and then he’s like,
I know, You’ve been there. I know you’ve done that. Yeah. And
he can say, and I got a couple ideas of how we kind of get over this hurdle. Scott Dorsey has done a really good thing for me of just making me look at every challenge as an opportunity instead of a threat. And it sounds very trite. It sounds very like, oh, yeah, that’s a self help book waiting to happen. And it’s probably already been written super betters actually pretty much all about that. But it’s real. You get to frame the problem, how you want to find a problem, you know, somebody I read a quote that said, The problem isn’t the problem. It’s your it’s your perception of the problem, or it’s your attitude about the problem. That’s the problem. challengers are going to come at you, every time they come at Scott, he just does this and he smiles and he’s he’s tackles it. And that’s way better than looking at as a threat where you kind of want to recede back into your cage or cave, and just go to bed. Because you’re like, I don’t want to deal with that. You waste a lot of time worrying in that mindset that you then don’t have that energy that you’ve already wasted on the worry to put into actually solving the problem. You come at it from a challenge mindset, you’re like, I didn’t waste my time worrying. I’m just going to get after it. The easiest way for this to go away is I work on it. You know, and I don’t hide from it. And I know how simple and maybe even lame that sounds if you’ve not tried it, but it took me a long time and then all sudden you just start to default. Yeah, into that mindset. And life gets a lot richer. When that happens. Well, I
have to compliment you, Max, because I’ve known you for a long time through your entrepreneurial journey, or journeys, counting the first venture that you’re a virgin, and grew to a certain point. But this journey that you’ve gone a lot further on with lessonly I feel like I can tell that you worry a whole lot less. Yeah. And you’re just You seem like you’re in flow a lot more than you were in the early days. That
was hard for me. Yeah. I’m a big worrier when
you talk to me about when you’re shifting, because on one end, you’ve got worry. On the other end, you’ve got icy challenges as opportunity. Talk to me about that middle part where you’re like, are recognizing that you’re worrying and that it’s not helpful. Yeah. How would you snap yourself out of that?
Yeah, I mean, I am trying to meditate, because it helps a lot. But normally, it’s really just about talking about the problem or writing the problem down for me, just getting it documented, and realizing that it’s not as threatening as it feels like it is. But I just
when you say talking about it, or you were talking into a recorder by yourself, or people talking to people, yeah, people on your team. Yeah, people
on the team. And you know, I don’t like to burden people on the team with like, my deep, dark worries, because they’ve got a lot on their shoulders already. And it didn’t seem fair to them. But then sometimes I realize how much they appreciate it when, you know, it’s me being vulnerable, and I expect them to be vulnerable, I gotta be vulnerable back at them. So there’s a certain balance of like, Hey, I believe in this place. That doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it. And it’s my job to worry about because I worry about that I work on the problem. So Eric Tobias, who is co founder of lessonly helped me reframe. I said, Eric, I’m really worried about the team growing when we were eight people. And he said, I’m glad you’re worried about it, because you worry about it means you’re gonna work on it. If you weren’t worried about it, I worried you won’t be working on it. But if you’re gonna work on it, you’re probably gonna figure it out, you know, like, you can put enough will into it that you’re gonna get there. And I liked that reframing of worry. So my mind default default story. But the more you practice around, saying, I recognize that I’m worrying right now, and I recognize that there’s not a whole lot of value to it. And I recognize that if there is value to it, I’m only going to uncover it by just working. You know, that’s how I absolve my my worry is I work, and it helps. Now I have to stop working sometimes too. And I make music when I do that. And I spend time with my my fiance. And those are all really great balancing moments for me, but I just really stopped worrying when I start working.
That’s good, man. That’s really good. I’m glad to see it. And I’m glad to hear it. I appreciate that. It’s really impressive what you’ve built and you have so much. I have so much to learn from you. And I think you have a ton to teach. And I was wondering because it actually perfect transition that you mentioned your music. I was wondering if you could teach me a song off the new album.
Yeah, you bet. I will try. I’ve never played this song in full on a ukulele but I’m happy to give it a go. And you’ve got a full full guitar here.
I’ve never played the song in part. You never even touched it. So we’ll be learning together.
Yeah, you bet man. I’d be happy to do you want to just pick up some guitars?
Let’s do it. Alright,
we are doing it live. C, F, C, F C. Oh, that’s nice. We got the mighty nears. So we’re just going to have to see back and forth.
And then I’m going to tell you where we’re gonna go F to G, C, A minor. Again, F G, C, A minor C minor and then just do an F to a G and then back to that interlude F
get there it’s good man. So let’s do after the C A minor There you go. And he’s gonna have to get back to that interview. Have Max it’s nice and simple. You want to try one verse? Please him you can’t you can’t cheat me See ya that was good man. I must have messed up the song but I tried to keep up with the man you got
about two minutes of practice in there.
So you’re a good teacher. Oh, that was fun. What chords I did hit was because you’re good teacher.
Oh, yeah, I just Z F. Yeah, and there’s no vocal warm up there. Please give me just you know,
No, you’re good, man. Give it Yeah. Check out your music. Where are they? Where can they find it?
Max yoder.com None of the new stuffs on there yet but it will be in no time. Awesome. Awesome. There’s a bunch of old stuff but
still stuff. We’ll link it up in the show notes as well as lessonly.com You nailed it awesome man and on on Twitter’s
Twitter’s at max Yoder and it’s at lessonly awesome Instagram to max Yoder and lesson.li. Because we used to have less than that. Otherwise, like our main thing, we can’t get it on Instagram. So we kept we can’t get the lesson in history. And so you didn’t know what the view out of goes. I like the.com Yeah, I like the.com to know, it’s definitely way easier to talk about people used to be like it’s dot li.com Now, not just lessonly.com Now it’s way better.
I like it, man. Well, dude, thank you so much for coming in and sharing your story sharing your music. We’ll have to get back in here. I’ve got another page and a half of questions.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. Take care, bro.
Hey, it’s your host, Matt Hunckler. Here again, I just wanted to remind you real quick that Powder Keg is presented by verge which is a network of local communities. With global reach for tech entrepreneurs, investors, and top talent growing companies beyond Silicon Valley. We have a ton of free resources for starting and growing your business at verge hq.com. We also host several events every month around the country. So check us out and see where we’re at. I would love to link up with you in person. Learn a little bit more about what you’re working on and how we can help. So again, that’s verge hq.com. And of course, you can always find me on Twitter and Instagram at a Hunckler That’s at hunc K, L E R. I appreciate all of your feedback, all the conversation and dialogue there. Thank you so much for continuing to give great feedback, great ideas for future shows. And of course, let me know how I can help. I want to help you. I want to help your business. And I want to help make this podcast better and better. So that again, we’re helping more and more people. The more interviews we do, the more episodes we have. So thanks to everyone who has done that. And of course, thank you. Thank you. Thank you to everyone who has left us a review this past week, and subscribe on iTunes. You can leave us your honest review by using this link powder keg.co/itunes Please give us a subscribe while you’re at it. And we’ll be forever indebted to you. Because it’s your reviews. It’s your subscriptions and your feedback that helps us get better and reach more people to build bigger and better businesses that really matter. Thank you so much for tuning in.