Provide Unique Value
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Provide Unique Value
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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you know make sure you're scratching an itch that uh you're actually interested in you're not just chasing something um you know it's really competitive out there it's hard enough to start a business so um yeah try to find a place where i mean you're gonna provide some sort of unique value [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure business as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademark 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 um michael wilker mike williams and uh mike went to uh initially went to college to study uh finance 19 and then he graduated and worked for a uh the consulting firm accenture for about three years after which um started a business with a buddy from school doing uh event ticket space and has been doing that for about seven years um started doing um all their after after doing that for about seven years also got into kind of the no code or no code or low code type of automation and building services for a lot of software and for websites and whatnot and then kind of built out a studio around that has been doing that for about two years and then also acted as a role uh cto for a couple different startups so uh plenty to keep busy with and uh with that welcome on the podcast mike hey thanks for having me absolutely so i gave kind of a quick run through of a bit of your journey but uh take us back in time and uh tell us a little bit about uh how teams got uh started for you in college with uh studying finance in it yeah i think you kind of covered all the main points um i was always i actually came in as just a finance major um i was always really interested in finance and investing and just business i always i initially thought i'd end up in uh finance um just because that was kind of what i was interested in um as part of the business school you know your first couple years you take a lot of core classes to kind of you know you take accounting and this and that i took a cis class computer information systems and uh realized that you know i was super interested in it ended up immediately tacking it on as a minor and i eventually bumped that up to a double major once i realized like that was really an itch i wanted to scratch um i was always kind of technical but again i never really thought i'd get into dev or or anything like that but i took it you know took the class and it was pretty clear that i wanted to do that more and lo and behold ended up doing a lot more on that side of things probably with that degree than my finance one although um finance is def in economics definitely something i'm still interested in as more of a hobby yeah and like you said i went to extent we can talk about the accenture and then no code low code stuff but i'll pause yeah and that's what's going to say so you went to school you got the degrees you know you started finance got into the the technical side of things kind of uh ended up gravitating more towards the technical side a bit um now when you graduated you know was accenture you know was that kind of the dream job that's what you always wanted to do that was the job that was offered to you that you know was a good paying or kind of what made you initially go or go down that route of doing consulting accenture yeah i went to um school in kind of central western virginia james madison university for in case anyone's listening um but uh you know two hours from dc which is where i grew up um and you know big consulting presence there you know a lot of government contracting so you know a big uh you know eighty percent especially in the cis side and the business school um tons of just consulting firm you know the big four accounting and um you know accenture and deloitte and all them um i actually happened to with accenture actually didn't recruit full-time on campus i kind of got lucky they had one internship position my junior year and uh i they were hiring just one and i was lucky enough to get it and um so my senior year i actually had a job going into the year which was pretty cool um but yeah so in terms of yeah i never uh you know i didn't really know the difference between all the um consultants and firms and contractors at the time but you know i liked all the people i met there the interview went well and uh that's just kind of where i ended up no it makes sense so now you did that for three years and you and kind of work for there and then how did you guys or what made you kind of decide to go or you know work start working with your buddy from school and get into more of the adventure event ticket space and kind of how did you what made you take that leap from accenture to the next phase of your journey yeah i mean it was kind of random but i always wanted to have my own business really that was uh something there was never any doubt about that um i never knew how i would make that happen but um you know i found an opportunity one of my buddies was kind of involved in a few things needed a you know a co-founder i ended up getting a point where i realized i could go kind of full time on that um so i put in my notice and and that was it didn't have any hard feelings or anything towards accenture or anyone i worked with but um that was my opportunity to go full time uh self-employed and that was probably seven years ago so haven't looked back so now you do that so was it you know was it kind of just on a whim that sounds like a fun thing or were you always wanting to be an entrepreneur always wanting to kind of run more of your own ship or kind of you know because if you're in a century you've probably got a reasonable pay things are going well you've been there for a few years so what was kind of the the tipping point you know as your buddy reached out and kind of what was the motivation or the tipping point say okay i'll i'll pursue that opportunity yeah i mean it wasn't it didn't feel that crazy at the time you know the business we ended up starting it was kind of um it was like cash flow positive from the start it wasn't something we were gonna like give up you know eat ramen for two years or anything like that um so it wasn't all that crazy i knew i could make it work financially and i had some money saved up anyway like you said you know accenture had some uh you know the pay was good and 401k and all that um so it honestly didn't feel that crazy you know a lot of people you know some my mom thought i was a little crazier than i thought but uh yeah i to me it it really didn't feel uh you know it definitely felt like the right move awesome no definitely makes sense so now you you take that leap you say okay got a bit of savings is cash flow positive i wanna try this out so you jump over to it and get into the event ticket space was that a good decision was it a you know company to continue to ramp up and move in the right direction was it one where was bumps and you know bumps and hills along the way did you have to pivot or kind of how did it go as you now get into the world from you know the larger consulting company to being more intricate and running a new hire your own company yeah it was pretty um i mean the event ticket space is very commoditized it's nothing crazy it was uh it was just pretty like high volume low margin kind of stuff we had um like a marketplace it's sharp seed it's actually still running pretty much on autopilot um so that was more of a uh it's it was a good bit different than what i do now because we were just dealing with a lot of like wholesale kind of stuff so only a few big customers we weren't doing as much retail um but anyway don't i i don't necessarily want to like bore anyone with all that but um it was pretty like typical i think we happened to be in event tickets it could have been any like e-commerce business really i imagine would have been a similar lifestyle of just you know operations just managing sales and invoices and pos and um you know again nothing too crazy there but uh was it was a good way to you know get our feet wet again it was just kind of a normal like cash flow business it wasn't anything where we were like raising money or anything like that um and then you know that that was kind of a good way to just get into the groove of you know having to manage uh finances and and all that stuff and um you know it kind of led me here i wanted to do i wasn't doing as much tech as i wanted to um i actually started that's we can obviously transition into this but that's what got me into kind of some of the no code low code stuff was just automating a lot of the processes um you know there were some things that were very monotonous it was just the same thing every day you know in terms of like tracking invoices stuff like that and um and uh you know and like outsourcing some stuff and like project management but um that's what got me into no code low code just as kind of a hobby and a way to automate the business which they're still kind of on autopilot right now and then uh that you know eventually made the move to wanting to scratch that itch more and started doing that more professionally and that's what i'm doing right now with build lab now one question so you know that definitely and it sounds like not putting words in your mouth but that was a bit of a almost a gradual thing where hey we need to automate a few things it'd be nice if i didn't have to do this repetitive uh part of the the business every day so how can we you know off all that or minimize that um and so as you're kind of you know work or testing that out figuring that out how did you did the or did the business shift in that direction did you say hey this is an opportunity for something i'd like to pursue is you know kind of separate from this business or kind of how did you as it just sounds like start to incrementally move into that and say okay now i'd like to do this as a full-time gig um yeah it means the question just how what what made me decide to like jump into that more full-time yeah that's a good way to put it yeah it kind of um yeah again i mean i've kind of always just gone with the flow like it's kind of i've never really had a five-year plan or anything so it just kind of worked out that way and um it was something i had started to dabble with and i started just just to mess around to see what the market was like like i ended up making just a freelance profile and starting to just like work for a few companies i kind of want to see what the demand was like what kind of businesses because i kind of automated i pretty much maxed out like my business i solved i was doing the same stuff every day i kind of solved every problem i needed to solve um again it was kind of an autopilot thing i realized i was kind of maxed out there um but so i wanted to see like some other businesses and and how they were maybe using these tools and um eventually like i always wanted to get into more product stuff and like sass and and do more development but you know it's hard to just think of a sas idea for example off the top of your head so i you really got to see like real problems and get involved in industry so i wanted to do that and freelancing was a good way to do that started just dabbling with that um covet actually ended up hitting which um you know shut like live events there wasn't a live event for like a year and a half so um i realized like that side of the business was on hold obviously so it was just a perfect opportunity to kind of like dive in and um get into more of the dev stuff and then i ended up teaching myself to code so i kind of grew maxed out some of the low code note code stuff got into code kind of used those two in conjunction and kind of what i thought were unique ways that i could help other people with and so now you know transition to building up a little more of a studio and um you know in addition to doing like advisory and consultancy stuff and so that's what i'm doing now and as you're kind of in this out of curiosity with the kind of the event space ticketing business is that one still going are you still active did you step away from it you know kind of as you were saying okay now i want to do this automation i want to do the low code no code type of thing did you step away and put this as your full-time focus or do you still balance between both of those yeah it's i'm definitely step taking some time away i i wanted to try something new anyway again like kobe came and it was just like i mean hey that's a perfect opportunity um luckily i'd kind of already been dabbling so i kind of didn't have i could kind of you know keep cash flow coming and i could kind of ease that transition a little bit it wasn't like as disruptive as it probably would have been but definitely what like a lot more interested in uh what i'm doing now there's so many different problems you know working with other companies as opposed to just having your own company you uh you just get to see so many different problems and and it really broadens your horizons um a little bit and ironically i have one of my clients is in the ticket space so i'm still kind of doing that it's kind of like worlds colliding there no that definitely makes sense very makes sense now you've kind of had covet head you've uh you know kind of you're already dabbling with it now putting a full-time focus and as you put that full-time focus how is it gone has it been one where there's been a demand and need and more things to do than time to do it has been one where it's kind of ebb and flow and you know come and go or kind of as you you know transition yet again how has that gone for you it's definitely going well i mean i could tell the demand was there um there were just a handful of people doing some of the stuff i was doing um and again like that's where i mentioned before you know scratching your own itch like actually being in the weeds is a great way to realize where there's market opportunity you know one of the things we do um build up kind of as like development as one arm and then like automation integration stuff which is more the no code and one thing we do we're partnered with um integromat which is like an automation platform similar to zapier and i mean there's a handful of companies doing integromat consulting so you know we get just a ton of leads that you know there's not i expect this to change but it was just a good really good combination of high demand not as much competition so yeah we get a lot of legion you know more work than i can take i'm like scaling the team up is something that i'm really trying to do um but yeah it's been going well i've made a lot of learned a lot of things experimented with a lot of uh kind of like uh arrangements you know right now we're um we're on the integromat side specifically we do more like monthly kind of ongoing stuff as opposed to just like a one-time job or hourly stuff i kind of realized that it's just a better outcome for both sides if you can have more of this like long-term relationship kind of retainer model than just like in and out on a job you know um which early in my career i'd take like just any work that came in and um you know got kind of a little burnt out realized like i wanted to be more focused but i've gotten into a good place where i have a lot of like you know involved in a lot of really exciting companies and varying degrees we're doing maybe we might just be doing contract work on some of them i'm more of like a consultant fractional cto i'm partnered on on a couple ventures that um you know can't talk about quite yet but hopefully soon so um sounds like i'm all over the place but they're actually really focused like it's all kind of the same um i don't feel like i'm like spreading myself out no it sounds like it's been a good uh good uh transition over for you it's been a good opportunity and something that definitely presents an ability to scale up and continue forward so that's that's awesome so well now we kind of um wrap towards the end of the podcast and we kind of now are caught up to where you're at in your journey i always have two questions i asked at the end of each uh at the end of each episode so we'll jump to those now so the first question i ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it yeah i kind of touched on this a little bit earlier where um i think it was taking work that wasn't great fit or the client fit wasn't there or the work fit um you know early in the in the game i think everyone who does like freelancing con agency work consulting like learns this eventually where um you can't just say yes to all the work that comes in you know i had a few projects that we kind of against my better judgment had had just a bad you know gut feel from the call thought that like maybe it wasn't a great fit you know the scope wasn't very clear the um you know some clients don't necessarily know what they want um they're not necessarily malicious but i've had instances where they weren't really you know didn't they were kind of all over the place with the vision and there was a bunch of scope creep so um yeah i i uh i think taking a few you know luckily there hasn't been too many but a handful of like projects that ended up not being a great fit that i took like against my gut feeling um that unfortunately didn't work out the way i wanted them to you know i always like to take work that i think is you know we can have a really positive outcome on um so i'm sure that's pretty common but that's my answer to that no definitely makes sense so now i'll ask the second question which is now if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup for a small business that'd be the one piece of advice you give them yeah i'm honestly i've answered this before but i don't feel like i'm in a position to give advice like i feel like i've always just done like followed where my interests were and uh it's worked out for me it's really different you know some people again are they might be working for more of like a cash flow kind of lifestyle business some of them might be more of like a ramen startup you know which so it's going to depend a lot but i would say i would use that maybe as my answer is just you know make sure you're scratching an itch that uh you're actually interested in you're not just chasing something um you know it's really competitive out there it's hard enough to start a business so um yeah try to find a place where i mean you're going to provide some sort of unique value and make sure you're interested in it for sure i think and i think that's good advice and one that you know oftentimes you know kind of as almost you mentioned you get into the freelancer independent contractor consulting area and you tend to take kind of anything that comes your way because you're wanting to make sure that you put you know food on the table so to speak and yet oftentimes when you can find that area where you're passionate about you're excited about the lines up with you know every error lines up with you know what you want to do that's where you tend to be the most successful and to thrive i definitely think that's a great piece of advice well as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to be a client they want to be a customer they want to hire you they want to be an investor they want to be an employee they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out connected and find out more build lab.co is the site um.co uh that's a good place to reach out you know i'm on twitter at mike though t-h-o-u-g-h and you know i'm people will dm me on there randomly with just questions or potential work or um i'm open to any of that stuff so um yeah anyone who wants to reach out and just uh you know has a question or needs help or whatever those are those are the two places awesome well i definitely encourage people to reach out connect up and find out more um and certainly uh i appreciate you coming on now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a or come on be a guest and share your journey feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the podcast two more things as listeners um one make sure you click uh or subscribe and your podcast players so you know all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so other people can find out about all of our awesome episodes last but not least if you ever have any questions about patents trademarks or anything else feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat and we're always here to help thank you again mike appreciate the time coming on it's been that's fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last yep thanks a lot devin you