Learn How To Sell

Learn How To Sell

Ilya Brotzky

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs

11/25/2020

Learn How To Sell

Learn how to sell. I think a lot of people who want to start businesses focus on a lot of different things but, they don't actually go out and get customers. I think Mark Cuban said that "sales solves all problems" or something like that. I think that is something that is super underrated. People are a little bit thinking we are in the tech world so we are all on the computer, not really talking to people, we are not going to go out and make a sale. That's the life line of the business. If there is no sales, there's is no revenue, there's no business

 


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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learn how to sell um that would be the biggest thing um i think a lot of a lot of people who want to start businesses uh they focus on a lot of different things but they don't actually go out and get customers um and i think uh i think mark cuban said that sales solves all problems something like that um and i think that's something that's super underrated um people are a little bit maybe thinking that we're in the tech world so we're all behind the computer we're not gonna really talk to people or we're not gonna go out and and make a sale um you know that's that's the lifeline of the business if there's no sales there's no revenue um there's no business [Music] hey everyone this is devon miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's built several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller i p law where we focus on helping startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we have another great guest on the podcast and i'll probably kill it or kill your name but it's ilya bro brotasky any even close the first name was right ilia but last name is brotzky brotsky i i slaughtered it and i apologize but i've never been good at pronouncing eddie dave so don't don't take any offense but i've been called much worse don't worry all right so but ilya so he is an immigrant to the u.s so i think when we talked a little bit before the show left the soviet union and uh when he was about or at about two and a half years of age went over to israel then went to canada um and then as they were i think and you're still in canada is that right yeah yeah i'm basically vancouver i did go to school in the us in upstate new york so i'll spend some time with that journey as we go along but moved all around an immigrant us canada israel soviet union just all over paris got into multi-level marketing when you were younger and so you read a lot of he read a lot of uh multi-level marketing books um and kind of got into business even was a little kid you started to recycle except a lemonade stand then you did uh you did swimming for a while got out of swimming did social welfare programs graduated went to brazil stayed there for four years got into startups created an online course in brazil and then brings you all the way up to van hack which is where you're at today so there's my brief introduction and overview and with that welcome to the podcast thanks so much great to be here so i gave kind of the soup to nuts really quick overview but why don't we jump back into your story a little bit and start at the beginning and tell us a little bit more about your journey for sure um yeah so so you definitely uh hit the nail on the head about the immigration side that's been a huge part of my life and the first memory of my life actually was getting on a train to go from krasnayas to moscow uh and flying getting a flight uh to to to tel aviv and israel um so i really just remember leaving my home country never actually grew up there um so i always knew what it's like to kind of be a foreigner and be the other person the guy who doesn't really understand the language and um in the customs and things like that so i had to adapt and learn quickly and then moved again when i was five uh to canada um you mentioned the mlm stuff for sure that was a big part of my early childhood from kind of five to ten years old my parents did a lot on amway and um at the time i i didn't really know what it was i just knew that we would listen instead of listening to the radio we would listen to these motivational tapes of how to be your own boss and these kind of things and read books like actually this book i still have here with with me how i raise myself from failure to success and selling and you can see that in the virtual background or for those folks online um and just learning and then kind of seeing that hey you know there's there's something else out there other than uh have being a small business that's better than having a job and uh is having your own business and how that could be a way for for you to have control of your life and kind of freedom to do things you want to do um you know the amway thing didn't really work well with my parents and i know there's a lot of kind of preconcept notions about that and i just say it didn't work out for us but i'm sure it has for others um but the really what stuck with me was the education piece and and then also as you mentioned um so what kind of you know in a positive way so don't take it insulting what kind of april reads multi-level marketing books and finds them interesting um well they're not really books about multi-level marketing that's that's the thing it's not really about like how to but but there's it's like life skill books right the magic of thinking big think and grow rich napoleon hill like these are both like worldwide best-selling books um that um you know it's not just the mlm folks i think a lot like i i realize now looking back like a big part of their business actually selling these and kind of making profit on the education which i didn't know i mean i was a six-year-old kid um so for me it was just like instead of i don't know going to watch um power rangers after school i i i you know i did that too but like also in in in addition to that i would kind of read some of these books or uh learn these lessons and you know we had things like rich dad poor dad and all these kind of like just from a young age learning about business and then just that that's been a big part of kind of my childhood and um you know my because my parents they came to canada with nothing right we had two days no language um no money you know it's very kind of like his typical immigrant story um well not so much these days but like back then i guess um like how people come these days uh a lot of i guess skipping had a lot of people we helped bring in canada they come with a six-figure job so it's a little bit different but um the point is that um it's not really mlm books it's it's kind of sales books really sales and marketing books and business books um um so yeah that that's uh i i think like um i you know the mlm stuff has a lot of negative conversations pyramid schemes all those things um but the one positive that i got from it was that you know learning how to work in a team learning how to um yeah just to sell um and like you said from a young age i started like going door-to-door and asking people if i can recycle their bottles of popcans and getting uh you know five cents 10 cents 20 cents 25 cents from from the the from each one and getting a five bucks from a day and was like well i mean five dollars in a day you know as a six-year-old that was exciting to me you know and i i think it's cool and you know so i i kind of just you know what kind of you know six or eight year old read those books but on the other hand i have that's i think it's a great lesson for kids to learn at a young age and one of the things that you know me and my son who is now 10 years old had a thing for just a second um does is he loves to listen so i love to listen to podcasts it's kind of like you know do a podcast but a lot of the way that i learned i don't listen to just you know fanful or other podcasts it's really a lot of information i'll listen to marketing podcasts i listen to business podcasts and everything else and kind of that same way i just like to learn and do startups and small businesses but my son gets into humans now as well and so it's kind of that almost gives me kind of the the newer age version but the same kind of a thing is you know what kind of little kid one of my favorite ones that he likes to listen to i guess two of them are and i'll aside for just half a second is that stores and in american innovations and they're all about you know head-to-head business competitions between the big businesses and american innovations goes to and how they created all of the everything from radar to microwaves to serial to um you know all the different kind of businesses out there and he gets into him and loves them so much they're just as much and so i think it's a really cool trait when the you know parents are involving them and especially if you're an entrepreneur involving your kids and letting them see kind of that business side getting that training from a young age does a ton of good so as they get older they have that skill set and they already have that excitement and drive to do that so with you know with that now getting back to your journey and or going back from my side so you did the multi you know your parents did the multi-level marketing you read some of the books that are associated with that motivational sells books you did that some of things lemonade stand recycling cans growing up and then where did you know where did that now you fast forward to high school or college how did that kind of now play into your journey for sure and i just want to say i completely agree with what you said um and it's so cool to hear um there were a lot of actually tapes as well from from uh that we listened to in the car so it's kind of the modern day version of podcasts or like the old school version of podcast is the cassette tapes right yeah so so fast forward to high school um i was a swimmer growing up like this is age eight competitive swimmer um and i was lucky enough to get into a cornell through a swimming not a scholarship but basically the swim team was a allowed me to kind of um you know my grades weren't like i was in a straight a student but i was i would say a solid b plus but even though like i didn't have the best grades i was able to get into university because of swimming um this muslim teacher kind of uh indicated me there swim coach sorry um and that really changed my life and i moved from from vancouver to ithaca new york um and and kind of spent uh you know my university time my time there and really exposed me to kind of a global student body um to uh you know met people from all over the world and i also started uh doing business um sorry my dad just called me um so started doing uh business um and uh a degree there and and learned of you know about uh marketing and sales and and those kind of things um and that was also kind of a great way to um you know get a practical experience um of how to do business during university no and i think that that's awesome so so you you got in swim scholarship went to university got an education now you're coming out you know did you go to write to your own startup did you do your own business or how did you kind of make that next transition from getting schooling to now getting into the business world yeah so um at the time i graduated right during the financial crisis in 2010 i guess 10 years ago now and um all my friends were going to wall street or consulting or silicon valley and i actually was looking for an international job so i i wanted to do something a little bit different and um i always thought i could always come back home and get a job kind of in in canada or north america um so i got three or three job offers one in india one in china and one in brazil and i had spent a week in brazil doing a volunteer spring break program um which i really enjoyed so then when i got the job in brazil it was also the best paying one and it was exciting because i was at a large mining company a very legitimate company where the other two offers were a little bit more like earlier start startups or not something i was totally interested in um and so i took that one and and that really started my international journey in south america in brazil um so it was really kind of i would say looking back um not what i was thinking i would do after university i didn't think i'd work for a mining company and i only lasted a year and a half there i guess um because i was much more interested in the fact of living in brazil working in brazil then i was interested in specifically the mining mining sector that specific company um but it was a really great experience i learned portuguese i i always joked that i had the best first job ever i lived in a hotel on an island in the beach in brazil um i guess sounds cooler than it was but it was it was really fun uh and and just learned that culture and saw that there was a kind of a burgeoning economy there at the time living on a beach or living on an island by a beach does sound like a pretty cool experience so i guess it sounds cooler but i would be right there with them if it sounds pretty cool yeah yeah especially after the upstate new york winters it was very nice so see now you did that sorry some or had my kids walk in in the background for just a second so i had to tell them to shut the door that i was on a podcast so there you get for the real life experience of of doing that they came to visit my office so there's your 30 second aside but now going back to your journey so you did that you worked on the island you gotta go swimming you gotta have your fun time in brazil stayed there for a period of time so now how did that transition to you know what was the next step of the journey from there yeah so um kind of the next step was that they they sent uh the kind of the the company sent me back to canada to toronto and i was working in the um canadian hq um and i really started realizing that uh it had helped me that i wasn't really enjoying the company i was enjoying the fact that i was in brazil that's when i really kind of um manifested and so i decided to just quit my job in january 2012 um and and started working for a non-profit in the in the slums of rio i had met this lady on the airport of all places she asked me for the time and turned out to be a professor at stanford business school who had a non-profit that she was running in the slums or favelas of rio uh doing data collection um and helping uh consumer goods companies like unilever and johnson johnson understand the market uh sentiment for products like soap and water filters and things that would help benefit the community to have and then also make money for the company so kind of for profit and for good and i was really excited about that um so i went and like you know kind of did the stereotypical millennial thing i guess quit your job and go uh chasing social innovation um and it was really tough but i ended up working out and um uh yes and six months there as a volunteer uh made a pretty big sale actually with a um unilever uh with um and the six-figure six-millimeter sale there uh which was exciting um and then i uh found a startup accelerator in brazil uh in rio that was connecting american uh investors to brazilian startups uh and then long long story but i ended up joining that that as a one of the companies there as a co-founder uh and working kind of in the accelerator learning learning all about the tech world um and that's kind of where i got my first experience with startups in software engineering and the tech scene so now see you make that transition you you know you continue to work for the companies now how does that and now you know i assume and if we miss any steps but now that you that kind of brings you from there you went to where you're at now with van hack is that right yeah yeah so so what had happened there is that um i was working in ed tech so i was working in these online education companies and i was really interested in how you can kind of create content once and it could be listened to or sold many times kind of how we're doing on this podcast right we're going to record this once and then people can listen to it as many times you know there's no limit um and so you see companies like udemy doing a really good job with that and um their their khan academy was kind of bummed they started bubble up at that time um and just there was a lot of kind of these revolutionary ideas and our our thinking was to bring that to brazil and have a kind of a khan academy or you to be skill share of brazil um it ended up working out but what happened was i met a lot of these tech tech professional software developers who were in brazil who asked me about advice to move to canada and i started realizing there's this real need this real hunger for people because um you know brazil is great as a place it is to visit it's not the best place to live um you know we all have images of samba and the beach and soccer but when you're there living day-to-day that you know there's a lot of crime and things like that so uh people you know their life goals is actually to relocate to you to you know some some place like canada or europe or the u.s um and so um a lot of them just already asking me questions like hey like tell me more about what's the job market or how do i move what's the visa process all these things and i started just i had that in the back of my mind or something maybe i can do and when i came back home um i ended up you know started ending up working out it all was kind of a uh it didn't work out the way i wanted to so i actually just went back to canada um and moved back in with my folks with my parents it was a pretty low point in my life and and at that time i started getting a message on facebook from a lot of these people that i met at meetups and events and friends of mine asking me hey i see you you know you post a picture that you're back in canada um tell me more about the market can i get a job et cetera so that was their initial spark for what became van hack so now so you come back in low point of your life you're working you know living out of the parent's basement which hey as again a typical money you have you have the high of the typical millennium and the low and you can filter on and so you know you live you know living in your parents basement trying to see you decide what you're going to do next people are reaching out to you how does that translate into hey i've got an idea for a startup then i'm going to start going on yeah so i i had gotten i started getting these messages and i thought you know there could be something here maybe i can create a course maybe i can teach people how to come to canada learn how to communication how to code maybe i can teach them you know something um so because i had that edtech experience in edtech background before so i i thought you know why don't i just put up a landing page and test the idea out and um i put up a really really badly designed you know full spelling mistakes because it was in portuguese just targeted at brazilian engineers and said hey if you want to learn how to move to canada sign up here and i think like i posted in a few facebook groups and i got like 100 signups in the first day or something like that i remember exactly but it was a lot and then that that really said whoa like that that's something there's something here and i started interviewing and having calls with all the people who signed up anyone who would talk to me i would just get on a call and learn more about them and what they wanted and what they're looking for and what i learned was that they wanted uh career coaching they wanted to learn how to do a resume because you know little things like for us that would be super simple but for them it's you know if for example if i were telling you hey go get a job in japan you probably need to learn about japanese culture and how all those little things work and it's it's a big difference so so there's you know there wasn't a lot of content for software development content but not like english for software developers or interview practice tips for tech talent um so that's what we created and um that was kind of the first uh product that van hack launched um and that and that got us um you know started and started making money people started buying buying the course and i thought holy there's a there's a business here and then december 31st 2015 i quit my job uh and start working on van hack full time okay so quit your job decided hey i'm going to go all in on this i think i can be a good entrepreneur i can get a startup and was it all roses and you you know from the first time you jumped all over did the startup it was everything you thought of was it a hard road easy road middle of the line road or how did that go for you um i mean it was pretty hard i think like there was a lot of challenges in the beginning um things like you know had had some people who were working with me that weren't the best fit and that was really challenging and stressful figuring that out um the technology we didn't really have a technology platform um sales it was almost it was just basically me selling all the time and constant struggle of like here are we gonna pay the bills this month um but but things just kept going like we ended up getting into startup chile and moving to just to kind of move back to south america for six months movement moved to chile and then did a program there and then from there we went to germany and there's a whole story i can go further but but in the early days it was it was really a grind um but there was always something like i don't know anytime i was kind of thinking oh maybe this isn't the right thing something positive would happen so i remember distinctly actually one moment where um i was um like i um my wife and i we were uh we at this point we had moved out of my parents place and we had our own apartment um and we were like man like we're not making enough money like our rent is too high maybe we should look for a place to live that's a little bit cheaper um so we started looking at kind of cheaper apartments and um we went to one place that was just especially really just bad and it was about 400 cheaper per month than than our um than our current location um and um i i remember like leaving that place and just being really depressed and my wife was just like like super upset with me like hey like we really have to move and go to this like terrible terrible place and i was like i don't want to but i don't know like we're just having this discussion and and then and then that that day we had done a webinar uh for fan hack premium where we had um you know talked about the product and we we just did a promotion to get people to to sign up to the van hack course um and then the next morning i woke up and we had i think four or five people who attended the webinar purchased the course and the money that we made was about 400 so basically it was this moment of like whoa like because of this extra income i'm getting at this point i was still working at my job but that extra income would be enough to like be the difference between living in a not like a pretty okay place where we were and like a really terrible place so um that was really great and there was another moment where i remember um i was at costco and and like i got money from from a course and that helped me pay the costco groceries like little things like that uh which now like you know we have 40 employees and you know making millions of dollars in revenue it's a little bit different but at that time it was like the really like small like kind of but super meaningful revenue that this kept us doing no i think some and sometimes that's almost the most fun time now you look at least looking back at the time when you're doing it maybe you know it's a little bit harder you're saying all that is this dead but now you look back and say yeah we've got you know more employees things are going well and successful and then he almost kind of nostalgic for the good old days when hey i remember and it was just me and we were excited when we made 400 and above because that means that we had a little bit extra spending cash and now you look and say we make that in the day type of a thing and yet that excitement is you know it changes and it evolves a little bit so with that you know so now you now you fast forward to today you guys you know you've built a company you have employees you have much a big revenue where you guys take it the next you know six to 12 months where's the road lead for you guys now yeah so um i mean fast forwarding like five years of i guess work uh and kind of where we'll get to where we are um we we had a very interesting year in 2020 as i'm sure everyone did but with us specifically it was our whole business was about relocating developers so we find a developer in brazil for example and relocate them to canada that's our kind of i guess first route but then we've done a lot of relocation from many other countries to europe um and and a lot of remote jobs in the us as well so um i think for now like what kind of what we want to do is basically our goal is to become the largest international tech recruiting company in the world um helping as many developers tech professionals relocate like the most amount of tech professionals real estate uh um out there um and and uh we're also seeing a lot more kind of these demand of work from anywhere so you can find jobs that will help you maybe start working remotely at the beginning then you can move then you can move back and kind of have that flexibility where you can choose where you live and i think that's a really big value proposition that companies can can provide and one that they don't really think about so um yeah just now it's it's more of just execution we have i would say a really solid product um a really good platform companies can come up come in sign up hire people do the whole interview process uh just using the software um and we can you know vet the candidates and understand all that all those things is is really really like before it used to be manual a lot of now it's almost all automated um and and i feel like we just want to get bigger and and get more companies and like to know about that hacking to hire from us and um help change more lives because i think we've kind of um using an analogy we've struck oil and now we just want to keep digging and see how big the you know the well is um and not and not stop and just keep focused folks focused i think a lot of companies uh you know they tend to change their mindset or maybe um look for different things to do for us it's all about staying focused and doing what we do really really really well no and i think that that you know to your point i think sometimes as you get bigger you have a bit more income you start saying oh we should branch out and do these extra 20 things and you know we'll make more revenue and we'll in expanding these verticals and sometimes you lose that and then you lose it to the point that you're no longer you're no longer the company you start out with so i think that you know what you're saying has a lot of merit and you know people can learn from it is you know stick with their niche and you can still grow and make the company better but remember where you're where your business and where your company's at and where you're trying to head and keep to that so let's you know there's a whole bunch more things that we could dive into more fun discussions that we know we never will have time for but now as we get towards the end of the podcast um you know i always ask two questions at the end so we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is um what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it yeah so this one um still kind of rubs the uh you know it gets me today uh but uh the biggest mistake i made was trusting the wrong uh people uh or person uh there was one person that joined our company who was like a personal mentor of mine and someone i really looked up and trusted admired um confiance and would talk to him about you know a lot of different things and um he ended up stealing money from us and caught making a copycat of our business and and uh basically um just was a super unethical person um and and uh that that was really tough and the worst part about that is i didn't even because i trusted him so much i didn't have a contract with him i just kind of said hey like come join us as a consultant we'll pay you and um yeah it was all kind of word of like you know uh by our word um so yeah i would definitely say like don't don't trust people is that much and make sure you have everything in writing and everything kind of in a contract and um you know at the end of the day you can't really control people if they're going to go do an ethical thing so that's you know that the world and welcome to real life um and also kind of is flattering if someone's going to copy your business uh but it's really um uh yeah it was it was really like a sad moment because you know someone that you really admire uh that kind of stabs you in the back that way so yeah that that you know it's okay like there's a big market but um yeah make sure you kind of um don't don't be so quick to trust people no i think that that is a good lesson and it's one that you know it's an easy one to make the mistake in the sense that you know especially if you're trusting individual or you think hey everybody's going to be working just as hard as i am and they're all in it and we're all just trying to get this done together it's one they oftentimes will kind of just you don't anticipate and it's a mistake that you know once you make the mistake you learn from it but it's an easy one to do the first time so now you do the the second question i always ask which is so now if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them um i would say learn how to sell that would be the biggest thing um i think a lot of a lot of people who want to start businesses uh they focus on a lot of different things but they don't actually go out and get customers um and i think uh i think mark cuban said that sales solves all problems something like that um and i think that's something that's super underrated um people are a little bit maybe thinking that we're in the tech world so we're all behind the computer we're not gonna really talk to people or we're not gonna go out and and make a sale um you know um that's that's the lifeline of the business if there's no sales there's no revenue um there's no business i mean i i you can i guess also work in businesses where um kind of like like the facebook or twitter so you have to get really big get millions of users etc but that's also a form there's also a form of selling involved in that too where you have to sell users to sign up for it to your platform um so yeah i would say that's probably the most um like the biggest skill that i i see i would tell people to focus on um because it's the most uh if you can do that if you can learn how to you know bring in 510k a month and you own your destiny and you don't have to go back into investors etc um and when you do go and talk to investors you are much on much more solid ground so yeah go go out and sell abc no i i think that you know regardless of what industry and what you're doing ability to sell and to generate revenue to get customers to bring in that money is one that is a universal skill that everybody needs to and yet sometimes you get so caught up with hey i've got to get the coolest product we've got to get the best platform that you kind of put that on the back border you don't think about that you don't strategize it about it and then you get too far raining says well now we got this really cool product we have no idea how to sell it or even if it's sellable and that people are wanted so i think that's certainly a skill set that people need to incorporate in early on in their company well as people now want to reach out to you they want to use van hack they want to be a customer they want to be an employee they want to be your friend they want to be an investor any or all of the above what's the best way to connect with you yes connect with me it's pretty easy just go to vanhack.com and sign up as a company or as an employer i click on hiring and sign up create a free account so our team will reach out if you want to correct connect with me directly my email is just my first name ilya vanhack.com and i'm also the only person in the world with my name so it's pretty easy to find me on google um and linkedin uh would be the best channel to connect with me well awesome well i definitely encourage everybody to reach out to you connect with you use your service and check you out to learn more well it's been a pleasure elia to have you on the podcast now for those of you that are listeners and uh you have your own journey to tell and you have a a a a fun time to a fun journey to tell we'd love to have you on the podcast so feel free to go to inventive journey uh and free or now i'm becoming tongue tied let me try that one more time so you know if you if you want us to tell your journey come on the podcast feel free to go to inventivejourneyguest.com we'd love to have you on and hear your journey if you're a listener make sure to click subscribe so you can hear all the new episodes and lastly if you ever need help with patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us and we're always here to help well thanks again ilya it's been a pleasure to hear your journey and i wish you the next life of your journey even better than the last thanks evan it was a pleasure you English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded

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