Put In The Time
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Put In The Time
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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first i'd try to make sure they were ready to do it in the first place um you know i don't necessarily take my own counsel uh here but my advice to particularly younger entrepreneurs is you know you got to put in your time you know i mentioned earlier that i considered my 10 years at deloitte an apprenticeship um that's really what it was i i didn't i didn't roll out of bed um you know at 25 and start calypso right i i put in a decade learning the industry developing my own skills um developing a management model and a leadership philosophy that was the foundation of that firm [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 into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the uh founder and ceo of miller ip law where he focused on helping startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com we're always happy to chat now today we've got another great guest on the podcast bill um poston so right poston and uh bill is uh graduated an undergraduate in the middle of the oil bus in the mid-1980s in texas but did graduate and do everything you know everything right quote unquote graduated but there weren't any job prospects so he's figured hey why not why not go do something fun let's go to hawaii and work at resorts for a period of time did that for a little while and then came back to uh texas got an mba worked with deloitte um for a period of time and then left and start i think and started his own thing with the partner business partner they knew from deloitte and then wanted to get into consulting uh or to help people doing consulting and consulting firms with um a lot of the background they had with deloitte and eventually launched what they're doing now which is uh launchbox.com so but that much is a quick introduction welcome on the podcast bill thanks devin glad to be here well glad to have you on so i gave that uh kind of brief or quick walk through of uh of your journey but now take us back a bit in time to graduating in texas with the the oil bust yeah so it all starts uh back at the undergraduate level in texas uh you know i i felt like i had done all the things that you were supposed to do as a college student right i graduated with honors i had a managerial job working in hotels while i was an undergrad i was an officer in student organizations but you know probably somewhat similar to people that were coming out in the great financial crisis or maybe last year the prospects were pretty limited you know i got job offers making less money than i was making in my college job and so um rather than just kind of roll with the the market at the time i just said you know i'm going to go wait this recession out in hawaii so you can call it my working gap year that turned into four and uh turned out to be an amazing experience had a fantastic mentor in the business while i was there met my wife before coming back to texas to to go back to business school so that was a little a fun little aside so and and so four years was a fun little job what made you decide okay i've had enough of a break or i've waited a lo not long enough time i'll go back to texas and get the nba kind of what made the the prompt of that transition a bit i mean i had worked myself into a pretty big job um running an 800 room hotel and at 25 years old could see the top of that industry i mean it wasn't too far from where i was to get to essentially the top of the the hotel business i was probably three steps removed from about as big a job as you can have in that industry and just didn't really see the potential for me to stay there and make it a career all right no definitely makes sense and saying okay i've got to figure out what i'm going to do long term so you go do that and you go back and do the nba and you get that and you know now you're coming out of getting the nba and i think you went to deloitte after that is that right kind of doing was it finance or marketing remind me what you did at delaware i was i was a management consultant at deloitte for 10 years um worked helping our clients improve their product development capabilities um and that really became uh i i consider that to be my apprenticeship right but you go back to school when you don't know what you really want to do with your life and when you graduate from graduate school and you still don't know what you want to do with your life you become a consultant so and i figured that would give me the opportunity to have a diversity of experiences and learn a lot more than i ever could in a classroom and i just fell in love with the lifestyle i mean i fell in love with the the pace i fell in love with the travel the diversity of experiences you know every client every city is a new challenge you're continually learning continually faced with uh with new problems um definitely makes sense and it sounds like it'd be a fun rewarding and kind of a good opportunity to to learn quite a bit and see how others do it and gain that experience and so now you do deloitte and how long did you how long did you work at deloitte for i was there for 10 years so you do delay for 10 years get some good experience get it or get a bit of the lifestyle get a see a lot of things do a lot of things and kind of go through that now what kind of prompted you as you were leaving deloitte to kind of leave there go do your own thing and also pull in one or pull your business partner that you knew from deloitte yeah i mean my one of my six word memoirs is uh big decisions were made for me and i i felt like uh in the wake of the shake up uh in big five management consulting you know if you recall the industry transition where most of the the big integrated accounting and consulting firms separated uh in the wake of enron and worldcom and the sarbanes-oxley legislation deloitte remains an integrated firm and i felt that you know at that time it was uh about as as good an opportunity as any uh to go out and launch our own thing no so make sense and uh so now so now you've got that realization okay kind of the timing's right i'd like to go do my own thing and you know looks or looks exciting good to me now as you're kind of doing that did you have a business in mind did you already have it all lined up did you have no idea and you just figured you go out and do something you're kind of how did you make that transition or kind of decide where you were going to land or where you're going to go as you just shifted to go out on your own no but we had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted to do we started another management consulting firm named calypso and we were doing product development to work for our clients helping them improve their ability to innovate and bring new products to market we you know we were really worried about things like who's going to hire us you know how are we going to get clients who's going to want to work for us how are we going to attract talent those things turned out to be easy i mean we had clients from day one and never had a problem with demand we also never had a problem attracting talent it turned out that all the big things we were worried about we didn't have to worry about those were easy it was all the stuff we didn't know anything about that turned out to be really a major pain know and i just consider that the the administrative burden of launching and running a business right we got to have health insurance you know for us and our employees you know how do you set up a 401k plan who's going to keep the books state tax issues i mean it's just you know a mind-boggling mess of administrative stuff that keeps you out of the market right retards your ability to really focus on growing the firm by recruiting and selling and developing the business yeah no that that definitely makes sense so so now you you get there you kind of hey we have a pretty good road map was it when you were exiting was it or was the your business partner hey already exited have you guys planned it together were you know you'd already kind of or how did that work out that you're saying hey i'd like to pull someone in and and have them and someone to help to get this launched yeah i mean we developed the concept together um he uh had an opportunity to um leave deloitte before me just based on his circumstances and so he went out and started the business and got it up and running probably i think about nine months ahead of me so he was he was there keeping my seat warm no it makes sense so that that makes it nice to have the warm seat that you can just sit down into and uh get to work so so now you do that and then you guys are out on your own you're you're getting you're building it and you mentioned a little bit you know it was a things that you didn't know that you know or the things you had to figure out and you know and then i think everybody hits in there you have to figure out health insurance where are you going to have the building what the rent is going to be who are if you need to hire people where are you going or how are you going to set up payroll how you can do all those janitorial things and everything else and those are all the things you never really think about but to always have to get done but as you're getting that kind of taken care of and done you know how how did things go is you now have the opportunity to go out on your own kind of build things was it a raving success and just took off like wildfire was it a slow growth and kind of how did how did that evolve yeah i mean we with the with the exception of 2009 you know when the whole industry took a step back we were pretty much on a straight line trajectory up and to the right you know we grew the business year over year every single year we're financially successful every single year had phenomenal team and the ability to attract the best people in the industry to to work for it so as i look back on those early days where we were you know working our tails off and going at it seven days a week that's that's the nostalgic view of that is that was the good times right that was the fun building um and and growing this business and what i what i learned about myself is yeah i'm much more in the zone and and much more effective in that starting and growth stage than i am at you know running a mature business no definitely and you know it's interesting because i i think there there is a lot to be said for that and it's you know one of the one of my favorite books not like a lot of books was um it was on that it's called that never works by mark randolph that was the original founder of uh netflix and uh you know it kind of talks about how you know you start out a business and you need a lot of generalists you need a lot of people that are good at doing a lot of different things and wearing multiple hats and kind of doing things and then as the business matures and kind of gets out of the startup grow phase small business and into a larger business then you start to switch over from you know generalists to specialists and how everybody now has their specialized role and oftentimes a person that's great at or having the idea of growing and launching the business is not necessarily the same one that's now going to take the realm as it moves into an operational business and it kind of you know adjusts and transfers from that and it's uh it's interesting how often time that overlays with a lot of businesses is hey i've been great at starting a business it's exciting it's fun and i enjoy it and then as it gets bigger and it gets more operational and it's less of that exciting kind of startup mode how some people make that transition and love it and other people are saying i want to go back to the startups and do the fun stuff again and so it's always kind of that mix-up so now you did that for a period of time you did the you know did it with your business partner and then you got or you transitioned over into the business you're doing now which was where's lunchbox.com was that part of the same business was it with the same business partner did you go out on your own do your own thing or kind of how did you make that transition or adjustment so we we sold calypso uh in 2020 and my business partner stayed with the firm so he's now working same job with calypso but with the acquirer sold that business to rockwell automation at the end of april last year so almost exactly one year ago and the natural thing would be to go do it again right so we spent 16 years building a business we had no money at the start we didn't know what we were doing we had no experience so clearly we can just go do this again now that we actually know what we're doing and have the money to do it but as i thought about it i said why would i just want to start one new firm when i can help other people start firms so the that's really the notion behind the launch box is you know if if it took us 16 years to you know start scale and sell this business with no money and no real experience can we take capital and experience and and strategic know-how and help other people short um you know short-circuit that cycle and start and scale and sell a business in half the time uh and instead of doing it once let's do it 20 times right go find young ambitious entrepreneurs that have a desire to start a professional service firm and give them the freedom and the flexibility and the capital uh to go do that and kind of take the headache away of all that administrative nonsense that i mentioned earlier that that i had to do when we started our firm and just let them go focus on selling delivering and managing their people no and i think that you know that that sound kind of sounds like you know fun and exciting and bolson's in the sense that for the people that are wanting to offload some of that and not have to deal with that you know gives them an opportunity to focus on what they're good at and on the same time it gives you hey i can go and figure do that you work with a lot of businesses have a lot of impact and kind of get in there without rather than do as you mentioned one you can do multiple so that sounds like a fun uh fun arrangement on both sides so as you've as you've launched that and it's been about a year or so or at least since you left a clip so how has it gone has it been fun and rewarding has it been more difficult you know old question is oftentimes when you get into a second startup is that easier harder than what you do you know is it easier the second time is it about the same or kind of how does that turn out so how did that go for you yeah so it's really only been about four months i mean i i i played quite a bit uh in 2020 uh while the world was you know somewhat on hold um but we laid the groundwork for the launch box and you know put the plans in place but really started in earnest in january and we're off to the races we've started three new firms a cyber security consulting firm a marketing consulting firm and more of an advertising agency the three businesses that we've launched so far i'm getting accustomed to working again you know so you know when you go from 80 100 hours a week to 10 hours a week for a year or so getting back to 80 or 100 hours a week requires a little bit of a transition but unlike the first go-round where i was taking out the trash and making the coffee and keeping the books and selling the work and delivering the work uh i now have a luxury of having an amazing team to support me and it's been it's been a tremendous amount of fun um but a tremendous amount of work and um they're they're they're now screaming slow down um we started three firms and you know four months and or less than four months so they would like to let these settle in as they that's their their turn let's let these settle in a bit uh before we do another one um it's a pretty good pace so i don't know that i blame them as far as wanting to at least catch their breath before you jump on to the next one but at the same time that's that's some of the fun of it is to to uh try new things out you know get things up and running do it a different way do the your own way and have a fun time at it so i get both sides of the of the coin so well as we now that kind of brings us up to where you're at today and so now we'll kind of transition a bit to the two questions i always ask about your journey so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it yeah well it's it's it's a perfect transition for my team saying hey let's slow down because you know as i think back on the bad business decisions that i have made over my career um they all are uh a result of wanting to go too fast right they're a result of seeking growth uh in somewhat of an unnatural way at an unnatural pace and maybe probably the the biggest most glaring example of that is when we were running calypso we made a decision to expand into europe early on so we were probably less than 10 million dollars in revenue um you know 30 or 40 people in the united states and we thought it would just be a really brilliant idea to go global um you know we looked at the eu market said yeah it's not it's you know the consulting market is probably two-thirds the size of the united states so let's go tackle it and yeah it's not that we weren't successful there we were successful but the management time and attention and distraction factor associated with trying to tackle what is not a market right it's a few dozen different markets it's just a mistake i mean if all that time and energy would have been much better um used growing the business at home no definitely definitely makes sense and uh you know it's always it's always hard in the sense that you see opportunities and say okay this can be great opportunity it's going to be a great market and sometimes it is and other times it's hey you know it's one where i don't understand the market as well or i have to adapt to it or it takes a lot more time to get you know understanding of it or come up to speed or to adapt to it so it's always one of those as to where to put the focus where to put the effort and where to build and so it's always an interesting one where sometimes it works out sometimes you learn good lessons from it and both times it's fun along the way so it definitely makes sense so now we'll drive to the oh that's learning go ahead learning to say no lesson is one that i keep learning over and over again i just i mean if i could learn to say no uh to more things i'd probably be happier and richer no and i but i think that that's a little bit of a lot of the entrepreneur's dilemma in the sense a lot of times you have a lot of great ideas a lot of things science there look exciting there's a lot of things where you think you can have an impact and make a difference and do it differently and so you oftentimes will have too many things that you oftentimes will want to do or you over commit or you don't say no and it has that drawback in that detriment but you know it's still it's still hard to say no so i definitely get that so now we'll dive to the the second uh question i always ask on the end of the podcast which is if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them i mean first i'd try to make sure they were ready to do it in the first place um you know i don't necessarily take my own counsel here but my advice to particularly younger entrepreneurs is you know you got to put in your time you know i mentioned earlier that i considered my 10 years at deloitte an apprenticeship that's really what it was i didn't i didn't roll out of bed um you know at 25 and start calypso i i put in a decade learning the industry developing my own skills developing a management model and a leadership philosophy that was the foundation of that firm so number one is you know be prepared but then once you leap go fast i mean i i work with a lot of people that um they are never quite ready right the product is never perfect enough um in an innovation we use the concept of minimum viable product and say you know get it out there we're not going to improve it in a conference room or in a laboratory we're going to improve it by making it work and you know fixing it in market no and i think there's a lot of i mean now you don't want to put out the crappiest product you can so you know you always have to balance a minimally viable product with a good product but i always tend to agree that is in the sense that most of the time you're always wanting to be perfect you're wanting to just have this one extra feature make it just a little bit better and improve it here and because it'll make a big impact and yeah you hold it off so for so long then one you're not getting valuable feedback from the market you're not you you know you could go put it out there see how people react and maybe you're way off or maybe you need to adjust things or maybe it's spot on and you could be making money earlier or maybe you get the funds that you can then you know reinvest and do a generation two and three but all of which until you get it out there and you start to overcome those excuses as to why it's not ready to introduce to the marketplace definitely it can hold things back so i think that's a great piece of advice well this is a reminder to the listeners we do also have the bonus question coming up after the normal episode where we'll talk a little bit about intellectual property so for those of you that are interested stay tuned for that but as we wrap up the normal part of the episode if people want to reach out to you they want to learn more about your businesses they want to uh you know pitch you on a business they want to be in a client they want to be a customer they want to be an employee they want to invest in your business they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out or find out more yeah so uh the launchbox.com is the website i'd love to have anybody go there learn more about the business easy to contact us there you can also reach me directly at uh bill thelaunchbox.com awesome well i definitely encourage everybody to reach out make connections and definitely utilize the wealth of knowledge from bill so well as we wrap up um thank you again for coming on bill it's been 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 the podcast we'd love to have you just go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the show two more things as a listener one make sure to click subscribe in your podcast players so you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so you know or others can find it and find the awesome episodes as well last but not least if you haven't had any ques or any help with patents trademarks or anything else or have any questions go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat so with that we it's always kind of a fun place to uh or switch gears a bit and talk a little bit about the area that i you know that i tend to er hopefully have a little bit of expertise and intend to enjoy and drill down on which is intellectual property so with that on the bonus question um i turn it over to you what's your uh or your top your number one intellectual property question so we don't really work much in the area of patents you know and products right but we do invest in brands quite a bit and it's always a bit confusing to me around trademark protections and what actually has to be registered in order to be protected and what level of protection you have simply by claiming it and using uh you know a phrase or a word or a brand or a mark um you know in in public uh yeah we spend a lot of time and money protecting these things but then i often you know have attorneys tell me well you already own it it's already yours just by virtue of using it which begs the question then why the heck do we have to register it go tell those attorneys they need to do a better job explain no i just kidding um there's some true truth so let me back up and answer a part of your first question what you can typically protect with the trademark has anything to do with the brand so that oftentimes falls into name of a company name of a product a logo a catch phrase or something of that nature something that is really people anything that is identifying a source of goods or services in other words they know when they see whatever it is that it's your product or it's your service being offered and in a large sense that's what can be protected with a trademark and so you know there are ones that you know as an example smell of play-doh that's been trademarked in the sense that everybody when they smell play-doh they know they think of play-doh that you know that's a product and you have colors that have been trademarked for different vehicles and sports arenas and different things so it does it kind of goes beyond that so if you're thinking of hey if somebody's associating with this brand when they see it they hear it they smell it whatever they think of our brand you can or generally protect that with a trademark now the second part of the question is more on you know what necessarily what can you protect or you know is it worthwhile to file a trademark so generally they they're right the attorneys that tell you that are right to a degree that inherent in using a trademark you have some what are called common law rights or state law rights and so when you start to use it if if you're the first one to use it for a given category or class of goods and you know for the type of product or service then you have those inherent rights but where it is is is a limited amount of rights based on your geographic location where you're using it so let's say it is an example you start up a business and we'll say it's a local restaurant this is an example and you go to chicago and you start the business and you you know you name it this you start to use it you're the first one to use it and you have the rights to that in that geographic location so in chicago or maybe it's only a few blocks maybe only service a few blocks but whatever that area that you're selling your goods or services to you that's where you own it now the problem is is if somebody comes along and they register the federal trademark or register trademark they are the presumptive owners of all of that using that mark outside of your geographical location meaning yeah you can keep doing it in chicago and keep selling it there but let's say if you ever wanted to expand or you wanted to franchise or you wanted to be a nationwide brand or anything else you're now stuck you're no longer able to expand you're no longer able to go anything and then you can also get in there and then it gets in the question of if you know there's a lot of presumptions that come with the federal trademark of who is using it first and who owns it so then you can also get into what is that geographication who started using it first how are you using it and so while there are some limited inherent rights to just by the fact of using it with common law rights they're pretty limited and most of the time when you get into it it's you know let's say you were a mom-and-pops or a local store but now you get into a point it grows you know expands beyond your wildest dreams in five or ten years and you want a franchise or you want to go sell it or somebody wants to acquire it and now they're saying well yeah do you have this protected well we got common writing and say well those are you know pretty weak and so it has a lot of those drawbacks so in a sense they are right but it's a much more limited set of protections that you have such that a d or for most businesses decreases the value quite a bit of the trademark yep super that's helpful so with that there's the number or answer to your number one intellectual property question if you or any of the audience ever has any other questions as i've already mentioned before just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat and we can go over anything else on your mind with that we'll go ahead and wrap up the podcast thank you again bill for coming on and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks devin you