Build Something Small Now
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Build Something Small Now
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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then the piece of advice i would give to aspiring entrepreneurs here is just basically build something small simple real right now get it out the door deliver it and then iterate on top of it like it doesn't need to be perfect now it won't be perfect ever in my opinion um but like being able to get something out the door quickly to validate that idea i think is a lot more important than spending hours and hours making it perfect and potentially never launching it [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups and seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast and i think all our guests are great so it's hard to say that there are another great guest because they're all so great but another great guest on the podcast scott hirsch and as a quick intro to scott um so scott growing up always kind of knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur i loved love tech and technology and was going to high school um and was looking to get a job in high school and looked around and it was a right in the downturn of the economy 2008 2009 couldn't find anything um so decided rather than just give up and not have any job but he'd start his own business which was a tutoring business in high school after uh high school went to college got a business and technology degree graduated did a couple years of web development one of those i think was in japan and then did some work on a sales uh with salesforce platform as a contractor and then got together with a couple friends and started the current business so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast scott thanks so much devin i'm excited to be here absolutely so i gave a quick run through to a much longer journey so let's take us back a bit back in time in uh growing up wanting to be an entrepreneur and loving tech and how your journey got started there yeah i love that thanks so much for that intro yeah so back in high school when i was initially looking for a job of course i went door to door knocked on every restaurant door retail store that i could find trying to find a minimum wage job my expectations weren't very high there but like you hinted out there it was also the downturn in the economy around 0.809 so it's really difficult to find that initial job and so what i kind of took that as an opportunity to reapproach my you know approach to that job search process and then so i decided to start my own little tutoring business there i had some friends in high school that needed extra help and i knew that their parents would be willing to pay for it so just started off with a couple of friends and uh on the evenings after school we go over to the place give them a little bit of help with math or english or something along those lines and then write up a little invoice and then send it off to their parents afterwards no and that that and so just out of curiosity because i mean i think that that's am admirable that you know you're saying hey i can't get a job you know a lot of you know especially you know not putting down this day and age because i think there are a lot of great uh high schoolers and kids and things doing it but it also seems a lot of time just like well i can't find a job no worries you know i'll just continue to you know go along be at home and do other activities but instead you're saying hey let's go let's go start our own business and then do something what made you decide to go on doing tutoring was it just was a great student thought you could teach others or what kind of made you land on tutoring yeah that's a great question i was taking something that i was already good at and helping other kids in the class too right so i was like you know this the teachers would kind of help point me in the right direction and just say like can you help out this other student's having a little bit of trouble so i'd always kind of jump up and say like yeah i can definitely help out so i was a little bit of a stronger student in that sense but it turned into an opportunity to help out in a more professional level there too i think the next kind of step though that i ran into is you know scaling that business out a little bit um so after a certain point i gained a whole bunch of different clients and uh i was you know booked up every day of the week for the most part because the referrals actually kept coming in there's lots of people particularly around exam season and stuff like that that needed some extra help uh so what i did there was like i found another or a couple other really smart students a couple of my friends and then we came on in terms of like partners and so they you know under the same kind of things and when i would have overflow with some of the tutoring clients that i had i'd pass them off to them and then just run their own little thing there too give them all the structure with like oh this is how i you know write invoice this is how i schedule the time this is the expectations for what this you know quote-unquote business actually looks like uh and we got a website set up and we had everything advertised online and then that helped us get a little bit more traffic there too so we managed to scale that up to about like three different partners uh pulling in you know a few thousand dollars a month every every month so that was kind of nice and then uh we ran that for about seven or eight years even all the way through university cool sounds like a pretty good thing and you know saying hey you know first of all i'm thinking i'm good at it which i always think is a good thing but you're also saying you know i always drives me nuts when people say oh just follow your passion and you'll be able to you know you'll never work a day in your life or something cliche like that and it's like we have to follow your passion and that's a good thing but it also has to be something that people are willing to pay you for that it's actually wanted in the marketplace and so i think that sounds like you know that was a good opportunity as you were doing it both in high school and even on the college to be able to use that as a source of income and it sounds like you know build a business event build a reputation so out of pure curiosity then we'll go back to um to your you know what you're doing here what happened after you went to school did you shut it down did you sell it off or what happened to it is because you went to college you got a degree it came out and you know joined the workforce for a period of time but what happened to the tutoring business that you spend seven or eight years with just wound it down for the most part so like i had a couple of other partners i was working with and they were kind of on the same path that i was they were you know finding jobs going to school and it was something that uh they didn't have the time for so we kind of just went down after a certain point but we have all the assets we finished off with all the clients we just kind of said you know at the end of the semester we're going to be wrapping things up really appreciate your business but um here's a referral to a couple of other tutoring businesses that we know and then we just kind of wound it down so i think that it ended up in a good place uh but yeah that's how we close that off always interesting to see where where it goes i was hoping that you sold it off for millions of dollars and then they would just set you up for life but fish are right it's not usually the case but we can always hope but so no so yeah so now you go while you're doing it in college you kind of continue to have that as an income you go get your business and technology degree coming out um and then you know kind of how did you join the workforce where did you go and how did you decide how to get your career kicked off yeah for sure so like i started uh just in web development the first year of work that i did as a web developer was over in japan uh so i found that actually through the university and i was working for a small well actually not technically a small manufacturing company but manufacturing company they turn over about a half a billion dollars in revenue every year uh they make small metal parts so things like little rivets screws pins like if you ever have any fluorescent tubes in your office building or anything like that the little two bronze pins at the end they make those uh they control about eight or ninety percent of the market of those specific kinds of pins so that's the kind of company that i was working for uh so i was working on some internal i.t there specifically in web development capacity and that's where i really cut my teeth around like oh this is something i want to do i really have a passion for technology i can see the business value that pro interesting business applications and web applications can deliver for businesses uh and it was a really cool place to live and learn too so like just living in japan you get to do all the cool stuff you know like eat the sushi and climb mount fuji and see all the sites so that was really neat to do um but then after that i switched into a more of a consulting role for the salesforce platform so i was a full-time staff position i went to work for an agency that did some implementations of salesforce which is a customer relationship management system and it's a very exciting platform now one question before you get into that what made you decide to transition you know you went to did the it worked in japan for a year what made you decide to kind of switch over and do the the contracting position uh with the salesforce platform yeah so the initial web development position was under a one-year contract and just in terms of the work visa situation so that was only set up for a year so a transition was absolutely necessary from that point too but uh it was a really cool opportunity that came up for the salesforce platform all right no makes sense and that is probably a good reason if you don't have a visa and you're no longer legal in the country you probably have to find something else that makes sense so so now you did salesforce you did that as a contract position for a period of time and then i think as you were doing that if i remember right as we talked a little bit before um you also got together with a couple friends and kind of had the idea for the business you guys were are doing now but you kind of had that idea it started out as a side hustle as well so kind of how did you as you were doing that kind of full-time gig with the salesforce contractor how did you get going or how did the current business evolve yeah for sure so i was working for a couple years in that salesforce position and then uh one of my old university friends called me up one day and like hey i have this crazy idea do you want to come like test it out with me it was very uh i'll say like a minimal amount of work to start off with because we just did it off the side of our desk as a part-time basis so it's myself another fellow named stephen rogels and a third guy named javan uh we got together to set this idea and basically the concept was like an always available digital bench of talent that a an employer could pop in at any time and pull somebody into an interview room floor they knew that that talent was pre-interviewed so they had a phone screening and a resume review they were qualified in terms of their resume and then they would also be very responsive for being able to come into that interview too so um we started to test it out on evenings and weekends we sat down and had 100 copies of 100 different people to validate the idea whether those were candidates or employers we put some you know skeleton wire together figured out what the minimum available product was and we started to test out that idea so now you test out the idea and you know i think that's great and one of the things that i see and sometimes it works out but a lot of times people oh i've got this really exciting idea and i'm going to be a millionaire within a year you know or a billionaire now and i'm going to be a you know unicorn in that and so i'm not even going to bother i'm just jumping out of my job and you don't even bother to test it or test out the marketplace or see if people want to buy it sometimes it works out a lot of times it doesn't so i think that there's a lot of times it's a good motivation you know at least initially test it out get that market feedback do that market research why you still have the other job and before you dive into it especially you can see okay this is a worthwhile time or worthwhile thing to make a transition on so it sounds like definitely a smart way to go about that so you go out and say okay got my full-time job doing salesforce contracting working on that platform have this idea go out and test out the marketplace people want it sounds like you know that there's it's not a huge lift in order to get at least a initial or beta or you know a version of it up and going and then how did it go from there you know did you start bringing on clients and start doing it or kind of how did you evolve the business as it started out as a side hustle yeah absolutely um the intention for us was always to bootstrap it from the beginning as well so like we weren't going to go out raise a million dollars have to clear out our jobs and build this big great thing right away um because of the testing that we were doing we managed to exactly like you said bring on a few clients here or there and then as we were building that client list then it slowly became something that we couldn't handle just off the side of our desk it was slow you know creeping across the desk we needed a little bit more space and time to be able to handle that um so it came to a head in the december of 2016 so right at the beginning of 2017 is when we all decided to quit our full-time jobs and take a run at talent marketplace full-time so that's what kind of was the tipping point for us was like it just became a little bit too much work we had too many clients we had enough validation to say we believe in this idea we think it can grow we think it will grow we do see it growing already a little bit um and that gave us the validation that we needed to take the full-time commitment and jump on it to jump on to it no and that uh and i think that that's you know hey we're gonna bootstrap it we're gonna especially for you know platforms or if you're doing a you know the world's next best iphone that's going to be millions of dollars investment it's going to be years of r d and that hard to bootstrap it but i think most people under most circumstances while you want to always jump to hey we just got huge amounts of investor dollars that makes us feel big we have nice office space we have a lot of you know cool things in the office and got all new gear that's great but then you're also giving up a lot of your business and you know whether you're taking on a lot of uh people down the bus on the as partners that you may not want to and there's a lot of strings attached so i always think that you know taking that hey let's see if we can bootstrap but what is that product that we can provide to people that will that we can start to get that revenue in that cash flow and without having to bring on other partners or other people if we're not ready to and so i think that definitely sounds like a good way to do it so now you get busy you know obviously you got busy enough saying okay can't balance this with my full-time job gotta choose one or the other love uh love the side hustles are where our passion's at and it's growing enough that we need to give it a full-time focus you jump over was it a smooth transition jumped over and it was a you know picking up where you left off or did is hey this is different now that it's a full-time gig and i you know i i feel the pressure we have to make enough to support myself and those kind of things or how did that transition go from kind of side hustle to full-time gig yeah and that is that was actually a little bit of a bumpy transition for sure and what i mean by that is when we went on to it full-time honestly we didn't know what we were doing fully the three of us are all first-time founders so it's definitely a learning experience for all of us there but we definitely figured it out really quickly so we knew that from the technology perspective we had to get a beta up and running as quickly as we possibly could our initial like mvp of the product was literally just like an excel spreadsheet with like 30 people in it so that proved out to be good enough for the first like handful of clients but then from there what we ended up doing is we wanted to build an actual like platform piece for it um thankfully from the work that we did previously we had some wireframes that were already set up so with a little bit more help and design and some manipulation i put together some more structured requirements for the system and then we hired a developer to help us build that initial form of the website so basically we outsourced that we put a little bit of money into it a very small amount of money uh and then we got that beta launched so it was about february of 2017 so we managed to turn it around pretty quickly that we actually launched the beta there and then by march and april we start to have a few clients on the platform and by may we had repaid our investment into the platform so that was a pretty quick turnaround to at least like what we call breakeven there um so we're really happy about that piece but then from there on it was really a little bit of a rocky transition a little bit bumpy to figure out exactly what our day-to-day processes were so like we knew that we need to get more candidates on the platform and we needed to get more employers on the platform but it wasn't necessarily super clear to us what the best methods and the process should be for doing that it was a new field for all three of the founders but we definitely figured it out so we had steven hitting the phones every single day hitting up linkedin to make sure that we could try to get some more candidates onto the platform we had kaid going out and you know pounding the pavement on the streets knocking on employers doors to make sure that they get onto the platform then there was me making sure that the platform itself was up to snuff make sure we had the tools and the enablement from the technology side to be able to handle the volume of new folks that were signing up and also to automate the processes that kaede and steven were actually doing as well so that started to get figured out but you know it was it was always interesting learning about where the challenges in the actual process are because it's a very human thing with particularly recruitment and job searching and hiring and it's really interesting to see how technology actually can't solve some of those problems but that in those cases we have an essential human touch that i think is really important there too but yeah there's a little bit of a rocky transition but i think we're humming and han now so it's all it's all good no but you know and i think that oftentimes we want to kind of skip over that rocket stuff because you know you read the book you see the movie you know you watch the show or anything else and this was just like oh yeah we jumped over and it was it was perfect and we just it was you know everything that we ever dreamed of and there was no issues which is never reality not the truth for 99.9 percent of people and yet you know that's kind of where i think that the interesting is and so that's where everybody always kind of feels like what am i doing wrong why am i not having this this new thing where it goes perfectly but there's always i think that transitions where you're having to get things figured out you're having to do it i like the second point you made which is also i am a big proponent of technology we do a lot of automation we do a lot of other things within our business to make things easier but you have to get that balance with the human touch which if you go one way too far one way where it's all human touch and it makes it unmanageable and too time consuming but if you go all technology and you don't have that balance of human touch then it oftentimes doesn't work because people feel like they can't ever talk with somebody or they can't even get answers or they don't know what's going on and they can never get help so i like that you know i think that's always kind of that growing pain of finding that right balance for the different industries so now as you're kind of taking that's to where you're at today you know a little bit of bringing us to the present looking out a bit in the future the next you know six twelve months kind of where do you see things headed where or where you guys have what direction gets going more generally more employers more hires more candidates bigger platform we have some really cool features that are built on the development side right now we're completely revamping the employer profile to give a lot more insights and metrics into the hiring process and the work that the platform and the team is actually doing to help support the employer in their hiring process and we also are implementing a whole bunch of new machine learning algorithms to help with the matching process the writing and ranking candidates and to help speed up the overall process there too uh we are looking at some like resume pricing stuff to help speed up the candidate registration process and make that as seamless as possible as well and that's all like some of the technology stuff that we're building out and i think that's super exciting for sure but um with the vc money that we actually got a little bit earlier this year back in may that's actually helped accelerate our sales and marketing side as well and that's another focus for 2022 too again we want to try to double our revenue for the fourth year in a row i think so we're going to try to ramp up the sales and marketing side there as well so what we're going to be doing to help that along is we're putting on a lot more like digital advertisements we're trying to get on to more of the social media platforms like linkedin and a little bit on facebook too to run some more advertisements there to get people onto the platform uh we are um scaling up the sales team to make sure that we have more you know boots on the ground uh pounding the pavement to see if we can get some more help uh uh sorry help out some more employers with their hiring processes there too so yeah so we are very excited for the next six to twelve months because we're actually filling up the team quite a bit as well as we're scaling up the platform in the past um i think it's the past three months or so like i've hired three new developers and they're all excited and rock and roll and on the platform there too so it's really cool to see the team actually really thriving over the past few months for sure well i said that i think it's a great goal and you know but i like i say more but then it's a let's actually have manageable weight or expectations as far as what does more mean for us and how we're going to get there and what that does and i think that that oftentimes has a increases into a much higher likelihood of success than i'd say oh we just want to do better than we did last year well what does better mean does that mean that you make more money does that mean you bring on more team members does that mean you have more clients and i think that setting those goals and that expectations is a great way to make sure he's successful so well now as we've kind of walked through your journey where you're where you came from where you're at and a little bit of where you're headed um now kind of uh jumping to transitioning over to the two questions i asked at the end of each podcast um we'll jump to those now so the first question i was asked is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made what'd you learn from it the worst business decision that i think ever made was not spending money faster sooner and so what we learned from that was i think early on when again we were transitioning from our previous full-time jobs into town marketplace the first two years there were genuinely like a little bit rocky there and i think part of that reason was because we were all a little bit hesitant because again we were bootstrapped to actually spend our own money to actually scale it up and i don't know if that was necessarily like a hesitation in terms of like believing in the business we definitely believed in the business and the concept and we had the validation to prove that it was there um maybe we didn't have enough quite enough money saved up to feel comfortable to spend that kind of money that we needed and the spending of the money would have been on things like sales and marketing or on things like the development of the product itself um so like i think the worst business decision that we made or i made particularly was not spending on the product sooner and faster and i think that actually kind of put us up put us behind our timelines maybe about a year maybe or so and like yeah looking back on it i would have taken a bigger bet sooner it's always easy like if you had a million dollars investment or something like that it's easy to step on somebody else's money but when it's coming out of your own darn pocket it's kind of hard to make that decision i think no and i think there's a lot of true to it i mean but i mean that's always when you're on the opposite side of the investor saying hey i want this money to be spent well because when you're you know spending it when you're spending other people's money it's always it's kind of like the government it's always easier to spend someone else's money but when it's coming out of your own pocket you're saying well do we really need that or oh we can hold off or is that really and sometimes it's a good it's good to bootstrap it's good to um keep it you know reasonable budget not pull that below the spending but by your same token as you found out you know if you never invest in the company don't reinvest or you don't continue to grow it it can also hamper it because sometimes you're holding off making the decisions or do making the investments you should because you're you know reticent about how much the cost is so i think that's a an easy mistake to make but definitely a good one to learn from second question i always ask is if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or small business would be the one piece of advice you give them one piece of advice i'd give somebody just starting out is build something small and that delivers value right now i think you were hinting on this earlier on but i hear a lot of folks and like sometimes like students or like other aspiring entrepreneurs will come to me and they'll say something wrong well i have this great idea i need to like flesh it out here i'm gonna build this thing over here i need to test it out over there and it's a lot of i'll say busy work that doesn't necessarily deliver direct value very quickly right like our mvp was literally an excel spreadsheet with 30 people and we got in front of an employer and like that delivered real value to a real person they didn't pay for it for the first time around but they came back later and did pay for it um so like the point is and the piece of advice i would give to aspiring entrepreneurs here is just basically build something small simple real right now get it out the door deliver it and then iterate on top of it like it doesn't need to be perfect now it won't be perfect ever in my opinion um but like being able to get something out the door quickly to validate that idea i think is a lot more important than spending hours and hours making it perfect and potentially never launching it no and i think there's a lot of you know and that's i think that's always especially if you're an engineer you have that kind of mindset you're always wanting to build a better there's always another feature you can have there's always something else you can do and you know then you tend to one either you tend to over build or two you you drag it out salon that you kind of lose traction or you lose the momentum and then you're you know you you never never come to fruition because you spent or so long on those activities that you never got to the or actually launching it or otherwise getting it out there so i think that starting small now i'll give my one caveat with i hate the term minimally viable product not that i don't understand the concept but in my mind it always seems like let's put out the crappiest product that nobody's gonna want and just see if they'll pay me for and i don't think that's the spirit of it it's not saying let's put out a crappy product but let's see how let's put out what we think is a good representation we'll put it out as quickly as possible see how it works the marketplace before we do that for more money and more in time and more investment put out that good product that in in your case it was an excel spreadsheet because you could go and you could pitch it but you still did the work you didn't just say hey theoretically and you know in in uh conceptual you know looking at it would you pay for this you say hey we got this product would you need to pay for it or willing to use it and then you get it launched so i think that's a great piece of advice well as we wrap up if people are in the marketplace for talent they want to use you whether they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more the best way to reach out or contact me is just going to www.talentmarketplace.ca um all the information is there otherwise you can always find any of us on linkedin we're pretty easy to find my name again is scott hirsch uh if you punch that into linkedin you look for the one that's under talent marketplace you'll be able to find me all right well i definitely encourage everybody to reach out contact you find out more and uh definitely support you especially if you're the marketplace to hire talent sounds like a great resource so well thank you again scott for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on a podcast we'd love to have you so uh to sign up to be a guest on the show just go to invent it or apply to be on the show you can go to inventiveguest.com and uh and grab some time there to come on the show two more things as listeners one make sure to click subscribe one make sure to share those are always a great way that we can make sure we can share everybody's awesome episodes as many pieces of people as possible so with that thank you again scott for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks devin it's a lot of fun [Music] you