You Don't Know What You Don't Know

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Boris Blum

Devin Miller
The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs

9/23/2020

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You Don't Know What You Don't Know

It comes down to "You don't know what you don't know."

I mean, you have to assume that everything is wrong, and you hope that everything will end up right in the end. From your perspective.

You've developed the business plan, you're hopefully working on what we'd consider a minimally viable product...

 


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.

ai generated transcription

um you know it comes down to you don't know what you don't know i mean you have to assume that everything is wrong and that you hope everything will end up being right at the end from your perspective because you've developed the business plan you you hopefully are working on what we would consider a minimum viable product um you've identified a product market fit but to do these things it's a lot harder than people think sometimes you know it sounds easy and logical but it's a lot harder than people think [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 to seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with patents and trademarks and today on the podcast we have another great episode boris bloom and uh he uh is a bit of a background on him so he spent quite a bit of his uh the beginning of his uh career in the financial service industry so he did that for quite some time grew that gained some success and got some credentials as well as helping some high net worth individuals but then found kind of after working there for quite a period of time that maybe the the services of the folks of the industry weren't uh quite aligning with a lot of what was necessarily best for the clients so we made a bit of a pivot um did some other things for a period of time uh also went into crisis management came out of crisis management did some digital marketing and went back into crisis management so there's a the very brief overview of uh boris but welcome to the podcast boris thank you devin i appreciate you having me and i'm looking forward to our chat today so i gave maybe a very high level or quick overview of a kind of uh a much longer story or much longer journey but maybe if you want to walk everybody through in a bit more detail kind of what your journey is and what brought you to where you're at today sure i spent most of my career really working with entrepreneurs and high net worth business people um and many of these individuals i realized while i was working in the financial services space that the majority of their wealth was really not tied in and financial liquid products like uh stocks and bonds and mutual funds but it was tied up in their business and um you know what the things that they were concerned about were taxes and asset protection and risk mitigation type strategies and so i focused in on those elements um in my practice and as i started to develop these relationships with entrepreneurs i found a real passion for working with these innovative people and the types of uh businesses that they were developing and uh i ended up uh by sure chance out of what happened in the 2008 financial collapse working with business owners around crisis management and it was a phenomenal situation i really enjoyed uh working with these business people and solving their challenges for them and it was a great thing to deal with people have short memories and by 2016. it wasn't really i'm going to jump in just because you you 20 years of your career in like two seconds so we'll dive into that just a bit sure you're in the financial services industry i think when we talked a little bit before about the podcast it was from like 94 to 2010 is that about right that's about right yep until about 2010 yeah so you did that you know what was what 16 plus years and so what was uh you know so obviously you've had the experience had some in the background and then you jumped over to you know what was and they but i think as we talked about before you know 2000 kind of towards the 2010 you figured that you know the maybe the whether it was waking up to the industry or the industry shifting or going in a different direction but what kind of what was the tipping point or what kind of made you to say that you know in 2010 hey i'm going to go do something different yeah no i think it really came down to a cultural thing the industry is all built around products it's built around whether it be insurance products or investment products and i just didn't see myself as a product pusher i wanted to be a problem solver for people i wanted to really get away from the product side of things and so the more i drifted into the space of uh being an investment advisor and set up my own individual riaa and a insurance brokerage company and all these things i kept coming back to the same thing that there were limitations around the products that the industry was building products for average folks and the clients that i had were fairly sophisticated and high net worth and they were looking for something a little different and plus the majority of their wealth was tied up in their businesses it was tied up in other illiquid assets uh which they were much more concerned about especially in 2008 nine and ten time frames uh than they were about the stocks and bond portfolio which was maybe ten percent of their whole net worth so that really was the impetus for me to shift my focus away from financial services traditionally and work with business owners around these challenges and and how i got into crisis management so you so you had a bit of that realization so it said okay you know it feels like the industry is not you know and i don't know don't want to be critical of the industry i think there's a lot of good people in that industry but you're saying as an industry hey a lot of people are really more focusing on the products as opposed to what you know what may make the most sense for the individual so then you know so how did you then say okay with that realization with the desire to change that how did you then you know how did you decide what how did you decide what shift to make or how you're going to adjust or do something different well a lot of it actually just came by by chance it wasn't actually planned out um i had made a shift out of traditional financial services and worked with one of my clients and built what's called a single family office uh to run the financial affairs of his family and i did that for a short period of time and i thought that that was going to be my future i really enjoyed uh working with him and i thought that that's the direction i wanted to go but i realized i was basically uh serving a function for someone else i wasn't building much for myself and i wasn't really focused on uh my passions and i needed to find something and i had a friend of mine who was actually involved in the crisis management turnaround business and he said well this is right up your rally you've got a background in financial products you understand the concepts here and uh everything involved and uh that's what i did i transitioned to give it a shot uh and started doing crisis management and something okay no i think that uh that makes good sense so you're saying you know see you went and did that you had the friend you know you went and worked with for a period of time did that and then you're saying okay you know as we you do that for a period of time but then you said okay now let's go into crisis management so you kind of went from financial services kind of went and worked for a high net worth individual helping them doing some of the planning and other things so then how did you get into how did you make the transition from from you know do your kind of adjacent industry from financial services to helping the friend to then say now i'm going to go into crisis management is that a you know maybe that's a seamless transition but how did you you know kind of say that's where i'm going to go or that's where i'm going to take my you know my efforts well i think it was an obvious transition for me because most of my clients happen to be high net worth business owners and entrepreneurs and they were all struggling with various challenges that related back to uh the financial collapse of 2008. and so um i just started working with them individually on trying to solve some of these things and the more i got involved the more i found a passion for doing this kind of work and just continued on with it and like i said until about 2016 it was a phenomenal ride i really enjoyed what i was doing and working with these entrepreneurs but you know people have short memories and people stopped really focusing on crisis anymore and money was flowing pretty cheap uh you know they've had different money for a long time banks were lending very well and people didn't want to really talk about crisis management as much so i tried transition into digital marketing and e-commerce and other areas that were related to uh sales marketing efforts and helping businesses with those efforts um but uh i really always had a passion for crisis and you know lo and behold here we are we're in the middle of a financial crisis that's uh based on this pandemic that we're experiencing no i that makes use and so so crisis management get maybe help me understand it a bit better so what is crisis management or what do you do because it sounds like far to no not trying to put words in your mouth but if i were to say you know it almost sounds like you really enjoyed and what your bread and butter and what you wanted to do is crisis management that works out well when it's 2008 2009 2010 when people are a lot in crisis mode when people kind of came out of crisis mode then they felt like they didn't need crisis management as much so that kind of opportunity went away and then you know again with uh you know coveting the pandemic it started to come back but maybe again give me an idea of what a quick summary of what crisis management is sure absolutely well crisis management usually revolves around three different things it is the issues that revolve around cash flow which is the obvious one and the other one is people and risk uh those are the three areas that get impacted the most and that's the interplay between those different areas that uh create chaos and struggles for business owners when they're dealing with crisis situations so um the way that crisis management typically evolves is business owners initially don't think that they are in crisis they think that they're going to work the situation out but as things develop and they realize that the basic austerity measures that they might have put in place to cut down expenses and improve their cash flow things like that stop working and now they need to innovate they need to come up with other solutions and that's where uh we really come into play we're very much a strategically focused organization we help the business owner identify what are these real challenges that they have what are some of the resources that they can utilize to get themselves out of the predicament and really create leverage because at the end of the day you have to grow your way out of the situation it's austerity is not going to get you very far no it makes good sense so when you say austerity give me an idea i think i know what the word means but maybe give me a bit of a better understanding what does that mean yeah so i mean basically all crisis situations revolve around um an impairment of cash flow right companies have more expenses going out and income coming in or at least their margins have been compressed significantly and so that stress on the cash flow makes them have to make changes and decisions around how they will deploy their capital and whether they'll continue to invest in the same levels into sales and marketing activity or operations uh whether they are able to sustain the uh level of human resources uh that or human capital i should say that's involved in the organization so layoffs obviously are very common uh when you are in a crisis mode but decisions that need to be made around the people aspects and around the cash flow aspects are really really critical to the long-term success of the organization it's not just about survival it's about thriving and these organizations need to at some point thrive and for that to occur they have to get away from the austerity as i call it which is cutting expenses and cutting um you know everything related basically to the outflow of capital and and a lot of times i don't want it to sound like it's just purely a cash chain cash down situation most of these organizations have a balance sheet issue and what i mean by that is they have capital that they've built up um over the years or they have a mechanism where they have especially with startups of series a funding or maybe they've got an angel investor somebody that's funding that operation and usually when crisis happens it's happening to everybody so their funding tends to basically dry up and that becomes a real real challenge for them so even if their cash flow is significant enough that it can sustain them in the short term [Music] they don't have the runway that they had before and they don't have the capital to be able to really leverage their situation and grow the company the way that they need to and you know obviously if they don't have if they have negative cash flow they have a real problem because they may not survive okay no i i that that makes sense so one question that at slight of tangent but you know i think it's relevant so because we talked you talked about crisis management and you know i assume that you're not the only one that's ever done crisis management but as you kind of you did it in 2008 through 2010 or 2000 you know after that for a period of time and then you went into digital marketing and then you're back in crisis management is that indicative you know so looking now so you do you're kind of focusing on crisis management yet again you know is that is it really that you can only make a career or company around it based on when you know there's a a big upset in the marketplace or when the funding dries up or is it their ability to you know if you're looking at how do i build this startup or what's my next 12 months or 18 months or two years of prospect you know kind of learning your lessons of you know what you've done before and how you've navigated and pivoted is the intent to kind of build a you know a long-term thing is it one where you have to do it on timing or how do you see building a business around that if the market picks up and does well again sure no i think that's a great question and in fact um when i started looking at the current situation trying to identify what the business model be like the first question i posed to myself is what did i do when i did this the first time around in 2010 through 2016 what worked and what didn't work what were the challenges around deploying crisis management and there are a couple challenges that are very significant and i wanted to change that dynamic this time around the first challenge that really makes a lot of difference is the fact that everybody is in crisis at the same time so all of the clients around us are having a certain level of distress and because that is all happening at the same time you have no way to really triage the situation some clients are going to survive and some will thrive and others are going to fail and so from a business standpoint if you're doing consulting one-on-one consulting you obviously need to be working with clients that you can help and that can afford their services and they're going to be in business to pay you um so that is certainly a challenge in some cases so that was one of the things i wanted to change i needed a model that could um really be a triage model and be able to identify which companies were saying or which or not so that is one of the things that the ico and both of these programs are designed to help the business owner identify what are their challenges what are the struggles that they're experiencing today what are resources and tools that they need to get themselves out of this situation and we do this over a period of time so we get to understand what those challenges are and help the business owner and devise a strategy to get out of their car circumstance um so that is the difference that's how we were able to devise this model but uh the other factor that was different i mean we've got just a bit of a slow internet connection so i'm just going to pause it is there anything i think all right so for everybody that's joining back we push pause just uh we're as as everybody if this is uh recorded during the period of the the pandemic or coveted everybody seems to be on the internet and slowly get all down or boggy and so it's getting a bit uh jittery or slow so i think we both have it resolved and we'll uh go back to it and jump back into the conversation but that's it or hence you'll see that there's a bit of a pause there a bit of a reset so you were talking about and just to wind up or rewind just a little bit about you know if you're in a if you're in a if you're in a crisis if there's a crisis across the whole world or across the whole you know the whole you know financial industry or money's drying up on that everybody's going to be thinking of crisis mode but then you're saying hey if i'm going to learn kind of what i did wrong you know learn from my mistakes in the past or how to improve or whatnot what does that look like or how does it you know how do i make a sustainable business so even when that's in you know times that aren't in a financial crisis or the whole world's not kind of falling apart type of thing i can make a sustainable business so maybe if you want to kind of recap or summarize kind of what we're that a bit of that discussion to have and we can pick up from there yeah absolutely so um the whole idea was to create a situation where we could triage the client's circumstance we could really identify what their challenges and issues were and what tools and resources they need to kind of find a way to thrive in this environment what's important to recognize is there are a lot of companies that have been built um in a crisis time frame you know we look at amazon and uber and all of these companies that we know very well today as just incredible success stories a lot of them all came out of a time of crisis and so it's not that crisis is an impediment to companies growing it's just you have to have a strategy to be able to adapt and adjust in that environment but um my belief is that if you can 3x in crisis for example you should be able to 10x when you get out of crisis and that is really the principle behind the programs that we've developed it's all about being able to triage the situation while you're in crisis and put yourself into a position where you can thrive so that the moment the world kind of opens up and things free up you can take advantage of those things and your business is basically on steroids at that point so that is what we try to accomplish with the two levels of programs that we have the level one and level two uh depending what's a fit for the client the other thing that's um different about our approach is that we we don't do one-on-one consulting with companies until they've gone through this process because we come to find out that a lot of them will use the program to self-discover what are their challenges they'll find out for themselves that you know i don't think my company is savable or i don't have the resources or the energy or what it's going to take to make this company thrive in this environment and then we can help them in a different way we have what's called a liquidation team we have a team of people that we can refer them to that can give them in essence a soft landing if that is truly the way that they believe the future looks like for their company but we hope that that's not the case obviously we hope that this is a company that can thrive and find a way to position themselves correctly and that's that's where we come into play because the idea is we can help them devise that strategy we can work with them on an ongoing basis and when the crisis is over that's when you really see the benefits of the work that we've put in okay and maybe if you'd and you're the expert would it a lot of the things that you kind of described there it almost sounds like it's really even when you're not in crisis mode would still have a lot of you know benefits of the company me you know because probably part of the problem is crisis reveals a lot of chinks in the armor right in the sense that you may already have those chings but when the you know when the in when the whole economy is doing well when business is all doing well you know if they get overlooked or they you know they they don't they don't present themselves as an example if you're really bad at cash flow management if you have a whole lot of recounts receivable that you're always waiting to get paid in 60 90 whatever day terms and so now you're always waiting and you don't ever have enough money to plug or to have a cash flow then even times are good you can you can supplement that because you have enough paying clients when times are bad you can't as an example so it seems like a lot of the things that you'd be doing in crisis management almost as you said would be good even if they weren't in crisis people just tend to focus on them when things aren't when you have to because things are going badly enough that now you have to focus on things you already should have is that a fair summary that isn't fair something in fact that's a great um pivot point here because what i find one of the reasons why i really enjoy the crisis consulting field and working with clients that are going through this chaos is because they all come to the same conclusion ultimately as they know that whatever they're doing is not working and they need to change that's the thing that crisis brings to the table it brings this lever of people willing to do what they're uncomfortable doing in a normal time frame so a lot of people um when times are not chaotic when things are normalized and they're just getting by and things are kind of moving right along they're reluctant to make changes big changes changes that are difficult for the organization to absorb changes that may require uh capital that you know they don't want to devote uh or they're afraid to put into the business for certain purposes so there's a variety of reasons why people don't do certain things in their business when things are normal but when crisis happens the realization hits i have to change what i'm doing and that is the difference and that's why i love working in these situations because you don't have that problem people are willing to make changes that they know are necessary to get themselves out once they've made the changes it's kind of like a breath of fresh air you know they're they just start running with it and they see the value in what's going on so how do you last question then i'll jump to my last last questions but made those pivots and that now you're looking okay so how do you build a company around that so how do you help peop crisis reveals that and they know okay now i need to focus on this but how do you kind of position yourself so even when it's not in crisis mode the world's not burning or falling apart around you or everybody's not being laid off and those type of things how do you get people you know clients or customers to realize that they still need your services so um if i understood the question correctly it's it's really two parts in my mind the first is we need to stabilize the situation when the crisis begins and when they when they've come to the realization that this isn't going to change tomorrow this is going to be with us for a while and call it the new normal or whatever you want to call it but this is the new way of them doing business they're going to have to adapt so once that realization sits in we need to stabilize the situation we need to make sure that their cash flow is solid that their people are fully engaged and operating and that any potential risks that may exist in their operation have been addressed so there are always contingency plans that are in place that if something doesn't go as planned which happens often in crisis that they are ready to pivot they're not trying to do it as they go they are prepared to make changes if those changes are necessary so i think that's the first step of the equation and the second part of it is once we've developed a strategy for this and we've tested it we've proven so kind of think about startups in this context right they have to develop a minimum viable product they have to understand what their product market fit is those are all critical elements even for a company that is an established organization they should have that in place so we look at their product portfolio they we look at how they're generating business and developing strategies around marketing all of these things come into play where we've built now a strategy for the future there's a runway for the next 12 months there's a runway for two years three years out and so what happens is something magical the world kind of opens up at some point and they can see how the changes that they've made in crisis are being leveraged at that moment and they can basically turn things on steroids so if um marketing strategies were working you know um well let's say in crisis they're going to work extremely well now that we've gotten out of the crisis and they see the impacts on cash flow instantly and when that magical moment happens that's where they start to really leverage the value of what we've done in terms of the the planning and the strategic focus on uh their business okay no i think that makes good sense so well as we get towards the end of the podcast those are wrapping things up so i always ask two questions so we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is so what was the worst business decision ever made uh that's a good question it actually revolves around um me ignoring what what i'll call the reality of what was happening around me at the time and kind of proceeding full steam ahead with my business and it it's not so much about what was happening to me in the moment because everything was okay with my business directly so i just continued to carry on but um this is usually the worst thing because this is when the bus hits you this is when your assets become your biggest liabilities and in my situation i had a strategic business partner that was funding the operation and so without that capital my business was basically done and uh although we had a solid business and we had solid cash flow my strategic partner was not in the same position and so when that dried up for them they literally overnight turned my business into a hellhole because funding stopped and without that cash flow we couldn't continue the operation um and that that was a huge problem so um for me it's it comes down to the lesson of pay attention to what's going on not just with you but what's around you and make sure that your position just in case things start to impact you that you have a way to pivot out of that okay no i um that that's a good lesson to learn from so now as we jump to the second question i always ask is so what would be the if you're talking to someone that's just getting into startups just getting into small businesses what would be the number one piece of advice you'd give them um you know it comes down to you don't know what you don't know i mean you have to assume that everything is wrong and that you hope everything will end up being right at the end from your perspective because you've developed a business plan you you hopefully are working on what we would consider a minimal viable product um you've identified a product market fit but to do these things it's a lot harder than people think sometimes you know it sounds easy and logical but it's a lot harder than people think and so you got to make sure that you have plenty of runway you have the financing um you've got things lined up and you don't overestimate the value of this product market fit this is something that's really key i mean you have to have the right product market fit and you know a minimum viable product those are the most important things they're more important than being first to market i think what happens with a lot of startups is they're stressed for cash flow they want to get their product out there they need to start making sales and so they rush to get the product to market they want to be first with their idea they want to be first to market with what they've got to offer and sometimes being first is not that important what what's really important is having a solid value offering that the consumer wants because if you don't have the right product market fit and you don't have that minimal viable product really honed in being first to market's not going to help you in fact you know it's like making a first impression right there's no way to make a another good impression if you you failed on the first time right so no i think that that makes good sense and totally agree so well as as or as people want to reach out to you as they want to connect if they want to use your services they want to invest in you they want to ask or pick your brain or anything else so they just want to connect up and find out more information what's the best way to reach out to you what's the best way to connect yeah i would say the best ways is obviously you can always email me it's very easy it's boris b o r i s at my m y dash c e o dot com so just don't forget the dash my ceo.com and it's boris with oner or you can find me on linkedin i'm uh pretty accessible there so do a search and uh hopefully we can connect i'm always glad to talk and share with folks and discuss what we're doing all right well certainly uh for people that are looking for crisis management they're looking for a help and a way out and and or they just want to learn more or connect up with yes certainly encourage them to to reach out and email you so well thank you again boris for coming on it's been fun to hear about your journey and what you guys have going on and how or how you arrived and where you're at today and wish you the next best part of your journey um and for those of you that are have a great journey to tell that would also like to come on the podcast feel free to go to inventivejourneyguest.com and you can apply to be on the podcast and if you're a listener make sure to uh go on click subscribe so you can get notifications when all the new episodes come out and lastly if you ever need any help with the patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law well boris thank you again for coming on it's been a pleasure and we'll uh wish you the next uh a good uh good luck with the next part of your journey devin i appreciate the time and then appreciate you uh going through these questions with me it's been awesome all right have a good [Music] one English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded

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