BRENTON HAYDEN: My pleasure, Jaime.
JAIME TARDY: So let’s sort of talk about you, you are sort of the quintessential serial entrepreneur. You actually have background in business. So tell me, do you think there is a formula for building a business?
BH: A formula sounds so complex. I think I’m a big proponent of planning as guessing and budgeting is temporary. You have to have a plan. I don’t know if it has to be a formula. A formula, to me, sounds complicated and well researched. I think it’s overkill. I think you have to have a plan more than a formula.
JT: So tell us about your planning process.
BH: I like to first identify if it’s red ocean or blue ocean. Are you familiar with that term?
JT: Yes. Tell us about it though because I know there are people that haven’t.
BH: I’ll summarize it in a way that I best understand it. Red ocean is there’s lots of sharks in the water, there’s blood and essentially gives it that red color but that’s slang for calling it a very competitive, a lot of competition, very aggressive competition. It’s a large industry but often a lot of competitors. Blue ocean is perhaps a variation of something. It’s smooth sailing, no sharks in the water meaning limited competition and a lot of times innovation will lead you to blue waters versus red waters.
I’m a big fan of, when I start a business, I like innovation. I want a key differentiator. What’s going to make us different? What’s really going to be our value proposition? Why would somebody choose us over somebody else? That comes back to my plan, you know, what is your key differentiator? What’s your value proposition? How big of a market is it? Who’s going to be your customer? I always start with the who, what, where, when, why and how. Who’s your customer? Where’s your customer? When in their buying process are you going to be involved with them? How are you going to get in front of them and what is your value proposition?
Almost everything starts with a who, what, when, where, how and whys and if you can answer all of those, I believe that that’s a full plan and that’s much of what you need to do to get started. As you get started, it creates new problems which require new who, what, where, when and how. But you don’t have to have it all figured out in the beginning.
JT: I want to dive sort of deeper into that sort of thing but how do you even find the needs? How do you specifically go and go that’s a great idea, I need to get into that market?
BH: I don’t know. I’m assessed with finding needs. My friends and I we go over, have a few beers, they live on Lake Minnetonka and we call it clarity break where we just sit around and talk shop and probably drink one too many beers, but the point is we do it just because we’re kind of just throwing ideas out at each other. What about this? What about that? It’s just a really fun time because we’re always just very open and honest in talking about different ideas that we think.
Somebody pitched me an idea the other day about an iPhone app that would help people in the home buying process. Basically it’s an organizational app. As you go to a property you take pictures, you can take a video with your iPhone, you can put notes in, you can do a voice recorder, you could put this all together and then you can zip it up almost in a file or folder and send it to people that you want second opinions of. Say maybe your husband or wife couldn’t come or your mom or dad couldn’t come or your CPA or your mortgage broker couldn’t come but you could send them this zipped up organized file of the property and what you saw and what you liked about it and the virtual tour and it helps you organize it so that you kind of have it all at your fingertips rather than having to go into your email and look at links, all the pictures, all the links and kind of just organize your buying and/or your selling process.
Essentially, this gentleman was frustrated with his hone buying process and keeping it organized and being able to get opinions from his friends and his family and so he thought of this idea but it doesn’t always have to be a need in the sense of food, water, air and shelter over your head, but it’s a need that some people may want. I’m a big fan of niche markets. I really love dominating small markets, going into a small market and knowing it all versus trying to have a little piece of the pie in a big market – red ocean/blue ocean. I think they said it well on a great show – Shark Tank – you probably watch it, right?
JT: Oh yes.
BH: I love that show and I love Mark Cuban and he said, “I’d rather have 50 percent of a watermelon than 100 percent of the grape.” I looked at that a couple of ways. Obviously he looked at it a different way but I look at it as niche versus large markets. Look at almost any of my businesses, I’m very niche, I’m going after a very specific customer, a very specific demographic and if you remember with my first podcast, I’m very specific on nailing down who my customer is and then targeting them aggressively, adamantly. That’s kind of been my success story is find a tiny group of customers and grabbing all of them.
I’m selling franchises now in my business and a lot of people ask me well how many customers does it take? I ‘m going to be in a population of 2 million people or I’m only going to be in this population of 600,000 people and they compare it to my population here which is like 1.5 million in my market and they say well you’re in a bigger market. I say I only have about 3,000 customers but those 3,000 customers makes my business a multimillion dollar business. You don’t need to have tens of thousands or millions of customers in order to be a successful business. It doesn’t work like that. It’s not always a volume.
JT: I get this question a lot – how do you know if that niche is big enough? So you say 600,000 people well how many of those 600,000 people are actually in your niche? It could be 3,000 just like yours but it might be a lot less. So how do you figure that out?
BH: You never know what’s the right amount of customers you need. I mean you never really know that. But there’s data you can get about how big an industry is. You can drill down on that into different sectors. There’s a great new term that is being thrown around that I’ve adopted but I’ve been using for a long time or the process of crowd sourcing. Ask 100 people. You can actually pay now, I think there’s like Crowd Party or a website now that brings in, they have millions of people signed up that will get paid a dollar to answer a survey and you can go on there and say I want to have 150 people answer this question that are random.
JT: Such a good idea. I didn’t know that existed as far as that went. That’s awesome.
BH: That’s another person, there was a need. People want to poll and survey random people that are all aspects of life and areas and location and they created a website for it. Why use that? I’m going to be using that for one of my new startups – Web Dates – which was a publically traded company we bought not too long ago. I am rebranding it significantly and before I launch it I want to make sure I have what I call MVP – most viable product.
Once I have a viable product that my niche market that I am going after is looking for, I’ll launch it but I am going to be doing several sets of surveys, Q&A and frankly any time anybody will listen to me, I’ll tell them about it and I get their feedback.
JT: Please, let me talk about my stuff. Let me get your feedback.
BH: Whenever they talk about their business I’d like to tell you about this one and what do you think and would you be a customer of this and do you understand the value proposition? Narrow it down to, well even less, it can be a mission statement. Some people say it’s an elevator pitch. I narrow it down to a mission statement and what am I trying to do? My WebDigs mission statement is “Real Estate, Real Savings, Real Simple.”
It has got to be about real estate, it has got to be about saving money in real estate and it has got to be incredibly simple and if you look at my mission statement the way I wrote it, I have five underlines under simple. It has to be the simplest online real estate company as absolutely feasible and that’s my core focus. As I am addressing it, I’m addressing if somebody would use my services and if I can make my market bigger by making it more simple.
You never know. You have to ask around, you have to go with your gut feeling. If it’s too complicated, it usually is. If somebody takes a lot of explaining to do, you have a lot more work to do and you’re not ready to go to market yet. It depends though. At least in the industries that I am in, if you’re a robotic engineer, that’s one thing. But if you’re in an otherwise simple industry and it takes you an hour to explain it to somebody to get their head around it, you’re not ready. You haven’t simplified it enough. You haven’t grabbed a mission statement yet. You haven’t really even understood your business enough to tell others about it that’s why it’s taking you so long.
So you have to be able to fully understand it and have the kinks worked out before you’re ready I think and that’s when you know if you’ve gotten enough feedback, if your confidence has gone up or down as a result. If you’re getting feedback and your confidence is going down in your program, you might not be ready yet. There’s no true true tale sign that you have enough customers or this is how you get as many. The average small business out there is like $250,000.00 annual revenue a year. That’s a significant business that can usually support somebody’s lifestyle.
So if you’re trying to create a million dollar business or $5 million or $10 million business, it’s always feasible but just know even those with million dollar ideas half the time equate to $250,000.00 a year businesses. It’s just your ability to scale your business and grow it and increase your value proposition and reapply dollars. Instead of reapplying it to your pocketbook, reapply it to your business in new ways and that’s something that I’ve always done is in the beginning of a business to almost take nothing from it but give back to it.
JT: So how do you know though? Say you start asking people and how do you know if it’s just your issues in communicating it? Like if your confidence starts going down, is it your issues communicating with it or is it just a really bad idea and you’re not getting good feedback?
BH: It’s probably both and if you’re going to be the CEO or the founder of that company, you need to be the best person to be able to explain it. Sometimes the feedback you hear hurts. It’s disappointing. Sometimes it’s frustrating because you think they don’t understand you have such a great idea. Be detached from the emotional side of it and just hear it for what it is. People are very different. There are very strange, there are very smart people. There are very peculiar people. There are very non-peculiar people but everybody has got a significant opinion and getting that opinion out of somebody or asking them what do you understand? What don’t you understand?
What do you think the real value here is to my business? What do you think my real challenge is? Ask the tough questions. You’ll get a lot of feedback that is ultimately innovation juice I think. It will help you really innovate your business as you’ve heard. You might only hear from one person but that one person said something that perhaps got you on a different thought pattern that you just felt the new idea about that will overcome that objection. Doing a SWOT analysis, what are your own strengths? What are your business’s strengths/weaknesses/opportunities and threats – all those old school methods of analyzing your business are still I think the front and foremost best ways to analyze your business.
JT: See I loved how you sort of do that. You sort of have the background in that whereas some of the entrepreneurs that I talk to are sort of like fly by the seat of their pant, figure out as they go and they’ve learned a ton but don’t really have those sort of core things to go back to and go okay I do a SWOT, I do this, I do this, I do this, the hardcore classic method.
BH: The For Dummies books, you know what I’m talking about? Starting Entrepreneurs for Dummies or Starting a Business for Dummies, they really focus on simplifying things and dumbing it down and bringing it back to the old school ways and explaining them.
JT: That’s awesome that you just recommended that book because that one has not been recommended yet and I haven’t actually read it but I bet it’s a really clear, especially if you’re a beginning business owner, that’s probably a really clear way to go.
BH: I have at least a few of them. I have Marketing Research Kit for Dummies and Search Engine Optimization for Dummies.
JT: I’m so glad you do! A millionaire that has Dummies books.
BH: These are just the two. One I’m doing an online real estate company and I want to determine who my market is for it because it’s all market research. Then because it’s an online company, I know SEO is going to be a big place so I wanted to get back to the basics on some of these things and refresh and these are two books I still need to read yet.
JT: Right over there handy for any time you have to go pick it up.
BH: I have got a nice little library in my office here.
JT: That’s super cool. You can’t turn the camera so we can see it, can we? I’d love to see it.
BH: It would be my big computer here. I don’t think so.
JT: Maybe not. It’s okay./
BH: I don’t have enough cords.
JT: Don’t worry about it. Maybe next time we’ll do a little office view of your whole place. It’s so interesting to sort of see the offices. We’re talking a lot about hardcore analytics and figuring this sort of stuff out. Do you ever go by your gut or is it pretty much all non-emotional, what the market wants, that sort of thing?
BH: Oh yes, my gut has gotten me in a lot of trouble and also got me a lot of positive benefits and gains. I always go with my gut feeling. But I always discuss things with my wife, Ashley. I’m a half glass full type personality and she’s a half glass empty personality. I’m always looking for the positive reinforcement to do something and she’s looking for the things that I’m not necessarily thinking about. So I have my apples and oranges, my ying and my yang that help me, when I get excited about something I usually go to her to try and have her shoot some holes through it.
She’s good at that and she brings up good points and brings me back down to earth. You just got to understand who you are. I get excited about opportunities and may sometimes jump faster into it than probably should and then work my way through it. She’s more of a planner. So having a good consultant, partner, friend, anybody that you can bounce ideas off, perhaps one that’s also successful but in a different way and has a different type of personality and different viewing of things is a really great opportunity to get some valuable feedback from somebody you really trust.
JT: Now do you have mentors or something like that or do you pretty much only have your wife as sort of that or do you have like a mastermind group or mentors or anything that sort of help you with that too?
BH: I don’t really have a mentor, no, not a mentor, not somebody I go to for all things knowing. I’m very independent. I like to do things on my own. I don’t like a lot of business. I don’t have a lot of business partners. I’m usually on my own in all my ventures, but I am not afraid to crowd source, ask a lot of questions of a lot of successful people and get their feedback. I am in entrepreneurship groups. I don’t think I’ll renew this year. I have less need for them now. But in the beginning, you know, this is like my 13th business.
JT: Thirteenth and you’re so young.
BH: I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons just learning things on my own. I’ve really become a great problem solver so I am pretty good at problem solving myself. I went from being shy and unable to go to meetings to now I very rarely have lunch or dinner alone where I love to have a lunch with somebody to network with and have a dinner with a former entrepreneur or entrepreneur and tell them what’s going on in my world, what I’m up to, hear what they are up to and just kind of pulse the market. It takes a lot of work to do that and frankly a lot of money to go out to eat twice a day.
It’s one of the things that I have to tell my wife to do, why I think I’m so well networked and have a lot of great sources of information available to me because I stay well networked in my line of work and in many other lines of work and I have often a lot of opportunities that present themselves to me. So doing that I think can be very healthy to get away from your business but to also crowd source and work on your other entrepreneurial ventures to improve your business.
Every lunch could be also almost like a mentoring session. You can tell them about your problem at hand this week. It’s not often I’ll go sit down and tell them how’s your week? It’s going terrible I’ve had a couple issues I’m dealing with, here’s what they are and they’ll offer their feedback. They’ll tell you what they’ve done in those situations or reinforce your frustration or tell you that you shouldn’t be frustrated with that. It’s business therapy. Lunch is with other entrepreneurs that are going through the same thing.
JT: See that’s awesome. It’s funny because I can see sort of the theme through your whole thing of going I talk to people, I talk to people, I talk to people, I talk to people and sort of everything that you’re going through – business, personal stuff, everything. That seems really cool.
BH: I think people often think the idea is more elaborate than it is when I bring it to them but it isn’t. I give them my 30 second elevator pitch and they think I have got it all worked out but I have nothing worked out other than that elevator. I just keep giving it to people and people keep giving me their feedback or they help me develop it. There’s a couple guys in my company here that whenever I have a great idea I call them up and say you home? I’m going to come over and bring a couple of beers with us and we’ll talk about this idea. But yeah, you’re right, I do communicate it to anybody who will listen to my idea and often ideas go to the grave that way or they make it to my good idea folder or they make it to mainstream.
JT: That’s what I was going to ask you about is sort of roadblocks. So if you’re going through and it might just be that you talk to people, but as you’ve gone through, I mean if you built 13 companies, you’ve gone through a lot. How do you deal with roadblocks and how do you know whether they are legitimate or not? Whether it’s an actual wall that you’re running up against or just something you can climb over?
BH: I usually try to get the roadblocks out of the way before the business is on its way. The roadblocks I encounter are usually growth roadblocks, you know, we need to hire two more people. We need this much more money or this and that and those are always going to be there. I mean, as you grow your business, there are new hurdles and roadblocks you’ve got to go around or jump over. If there is roadblocks in the development process, it depends. Roadblocks to me are big issues. Hurdles to me are just small issues.
I try to, when I go into a business, I do that SWOT analysis. What are our weaknesses? What are our threats here? What if this? What if that? Just try and resolve them. If you can get past them, what is your solution? We have a meeting that we do at Renter’s Warehouse, we call it a Level 10 meeting and it’s basically just a problem solving meeting we hold once a week. Property management, it’s a tough job. We’re a middle man for people and we take the brunt.
JT: Nobody necessarily likes you.
BH: If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, the owner is mad because we’re not doing our job and if the owner doesn’t fix a maintenance request the tenant is mad at us because we’re not getting it done. It’s a tough job. So we have a lot of issues we deal with regularly. We have a meeting that tracks, I want to have a pulse on the business so I have a thing called a scorecard. Everybody in every department has different stats that I need to be reported on once a week and there’s a benchmark of what the stats should be and then you’re going to tell me where you’re at and I can benchmark that to where it should be and where it’s not and I can see if things are going good or bad in a business on a weekly basis.
Then we have a rock review which each 90 days each department or each employee has a set of goals. These aren’t just I want to get 10 customers, these are very challenging goals, like obtainable goals. Every goal you create needs to be a SMART goal. You ever heard that?
JT: Yes, but go ahead. Tell us what it is again just in case.
BH: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely – SMART. So it has to be a 90-day goal. It has to be a SMART goal – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely – and then everybody has got to hit their goals at the end of that 90 days. So there is a pulsing. Are you on or off track of your goals? If you’re on track great, if you stay off track you go to the next level of the meeting called an issue board but IDS – identify, discuss and solve.
So, if you’re off track on your goal to be done by 90 days that means you need some help. So the first part of that IDS is to get our employees back on track to meeting their goals every 90 days and so that’s where we start the IDS session of our meeting. It’s a 45 minute aspect of it. This meeting is 90 minutes; 45 minutes of it is just problem solving. Then after that, any time there are big issues that come up, like we want to lower our prices on high end rental properties, our commissions, we want to reduce our commissions to in exchange increase our volume and give us a competitive advantage in the high end rental market.
So I want to discuss that with my management team so I sent it to our controller who controls that meeting and said put this on the issue board – Renter’s Warehouse Platinum Edition – reducing our fees. After it got past the rocks part, now we’re going to go into hardcore issues. I’ll outsource it with my management team and then we assign it out to who has got tasks or to dos out of that. Prior to all those parts of the meeting, we had a to do which were the to dos that were from the last week. Did you get them done? You present on them and then they get reassigned out if they’re not.
It’s just a really functional meeting but that helps me overcome hurdles and roadblocks. If you think you’re going to overcome every one of them with just planning better or a better business plan, it’s not realistic. You are going to have so many hurdles and roadblocks in front of you every day of your life as an entrepreneur and you got to get over, getting over them quickly and around them quickly, is your key to rapid growth and that’s what I am good at and I look at this process as a key to how we grow a rapid business. You just got to be a great problem solver. If you get overwhelmed by problems and objections.
JT: I was just thinking you’re in the wrong business.
BH: Being an entrepreneur, there is a lot of reasons why people, when they say oh you’re an entrepreneur and they mean it with great respect, is because they know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. Those that say entrepreneur like oh it means you’re unemployed, well they don’t really know the details of being an entrepreneur. Sure sometimes as an entrepreneur you are unemployed, you don’t have many clients, you’re not making any money, but those that are good at it versus not good at it, will tell you the key difference is you’ve got to be a great problem solver.
JT: I love that. It’s funny because I am listening to you and you seem like such a leader. You seem like you know what you’re doing, you’re very confident but a little while ago you said you were shy. So tell me about that transition, if you don’t mind talking about it, because that stuff is huge. A lot of the times, especially when you’re new in business, you come out of the gate you’re like wow, okay, this is kind of huge and you shrink back. So how did you sort of get over some of those hurdles – more hurdles, right, to get over? They weren’t roadblocks, they were hurdles.
BH: Increased confidence. Increase your confidence and the way I did that was celebrate successes at every opportunity. So you got a new customer, you got a great five star review on the internet, you just hired a new employee; celebrate every and all successes, it will keep you from burning out and working those long hours. Celebrate every success, tell everyone about it. You’ve seen my email signature, have you not?
JT: I have. I am trying to remember what it is now, don’t quiz me on it.
BH: My email signature talks about all the cool accolades we’ve gotten as a business.
JT: Oh yeah, it’s like this long. I remember.
BH: I’m not afraid to tell everyone all the things I’m proud about and some people comment oh you have all these things and you’re just a hater. You can go over here and I’ll do business with people over here that will appreciate and respect all the hard work that we’ve got these accolades. So celebrate successes. Any time we do something great we celebrate and it can be a smile, a handshake, it can be a compliment. It can be just telling somebody else but as you do that often enough, you’ll develop a little swagger, a little confidence and people will see that. You’ll feel good about it because you have this.
Keep track of all your successes and build your own resume with it. It’s too often when I hire people I tell them so tell me about some accolades or success moments you’ve had and they can’t think of many. If somebody asked me that, I say how freaking long do you got?
JT: You also have 13 companies that are amazing but yeah everybody has got something.
BH: Yes, everybody has got something, but it doesn’t have to be this world class national award. I’ve hired 51 people. My business has been voted best place to work four times to I have this many customers, I’ve reached these many revenue plateaus. Those are some big ones but they can also be smaller ones. I took a company and grew it from zero to one million in one year. Keep track of every little success you do.
JT: I have to stop, I love how that’s your little success. I grew up from zero to a million in a year. That’s your small success. But, yes, I understand completely exactly what you mean.
BH: It can be very small stuff to just I hired two people, I’ve conducted and developed these many processes. I’ve incorporated a business. I’ve done my own taxes. There are all kinds of little things to do that are successes. You’d be surprised. If you tell somebody you did your own taxes they’d probably be the first one to tell you I don’t do mine.
JT: I do my own too. I’m going like yes, no, yes.
BH: You’d be surprised how people are impressed by just things like that.
JT: I love what you’re saying because it’s about the actions that you’re taking that starts to build your confidence and I believe that wholeheartedly too. As you start, it might seem huge when you look like two years, three years down the road but as you start taking those steps and those actions and doing the stuff, it’s amazing how you can build your confidence. I bet if you were the person back then looking at who you are now, you would never know that you would be the same person.
BH: Yes, I mean I went through different phases where I felt like I was too cocky and now I feel like I’ve gotten back to being more modest. Go through phases of your confidence and how you network. I feel sometimes now I do all, I used to do all my networking at Perkins or Caribou Coffee, right? Now I take all my meetings to the country club. So I changed things where I feel like sometimes I’m exuding the wrong message because we’re doing all my meetings at a private country club.
So I’ve changed things where it changes your networking style. I was very shy but I always wanted to network and work with a lot of people so I put myself out there. I was a great listener and then when they were done telling me all about their business, I would tell them about mine. It’s kind of what all my lunches are about. Tell me about what you’re up to. I’ll tell you about what I am up to and then we part ways and then it takes it from there.
I’ve always had more success doing business with people I created almost a relationship first with and a client relationship second with. I built my business on happy hours, lunches and dinners and I still do that. Today I have a lunch with an attorney, I have a dinner with a landscaper, I have tomorrow dinner with a local radio host, lunch with one of my other attorneys. So every lunch and every dinner is almost with somebody all the time every week in some form of networking or consultation or enhancement of a relationship. I haven’t spoken to you in like two years, let’s go to lunch, let’s catch up, revive/refresh that relationship business or non-business.
JT: See, that’s awesome. Have you ever read the book Never Eat Alone, because what you’re explaining, by Keith Ferrazzi, is exactly that, which I thought it was a weight loss book at first. I was like never eat alone? I don’t get that, but that’s exactly what you’re saying. You’re never eating alone. You’re always eating with someone you can build a relationship with.
JT: Have you read that book?
BH: I haven’t.
JT: You haven’t? That’s exactly what you’re doing.
BH: I only read purpose typically, but I have heard that many times over.
JT: It’s funny, you are already doing it, you don’t need to read the book, right? So tell me some tips on what you do. Like how do you make them fruitful or how do you know because a lot of the times people are like well I am so pressed for time, how can I be driving out to wherever, driving back and making these lunch meetings when you don’t know whether or not they’re going to go anywhere within your business?
BH: You know my favorite book?
JT: Yes, oh yes I do. I interviewed David Heinemeier Hansson on the show, by the way.
BH: Those guys are awesome. They have a chapter in there “Fire the Workaholics.” If you’re working too hard, you’re not doing it right. That’s not to say not to work hard, but you need what I call clarity breaks. If you’re tired, don’t work anymore. If you’re frustrated, stop working. If you’re angry, don’t write anymore emails, don’t do anymore work, your work will always be affected by that. If your project is taking significantly longer than you had anticipated, it is probably time to cancel that project or see if there is something that you’ve got that is an MVP of a viable product.
But how do you find the time? Well you have to take breaks away from your business to be a visionary or innovative. If you’re just stuck working in your business and not on your business, you’re always too busy.
JT: So how many hours, like tell me your day and how many hours a week do you normally work because this sounds great to all those people who are like I’m slogging it out working as hard as I possibly can, it’s good to take a break but how exactly do you do that?
BH: I work 9-6 Monday through Friday.
JT: And no extras?
BH: Not really, no. I’ll shoot an email once or twice in the evening or a couple times on the weekend but no, people have to respect that I too have a personal life and some things can wait, some things can’t. Prioritize them. Is it important? I often am kind of an over communicator. If somebody sends me an email I’ll always send something back, even if it’s a thank you, it’s you’re welcome to great I’ll see you then. All right, I’ll see you then. Just closing it up in my mind, wrapping it up but I do spend, I have usually a coffee with somebody, a lunch with somebody and dinner with somebody most of the time every week. I do like to have dinner with my wife at home.
JT: That’s what I was going to ask, does that 6:00 include dinner with somebody else or is that after?
BH: I’m home by 6:30/7:00 but I don’t take any appointments, I won’t go out and take a 7:30 appointment at night. If somebody wants to have a dinner with me it’s at 5:00/5:30. If you want to have a drink it’s at 4:30 so we have a couple hours. If it’s breakfast you have to have it kind of before the day or near me. Have coffee, well great, let’s have coffee in my neck of the woods so it’s on my way to work so I am not using up my time. If we have lunch, it’s at my country club which is one mile away from my office.
I don’t want to travel all over town. You don’t want to spend your time traveling. Try and get people to come to you or network locally. That’s a good way to get back more time but it’s important to take clarity breaks. We have actually clarity break requirements at Renter’s Warehouse where we have Ms. Pacman table machines that people can play and Frogger.
JT: That’s awesome!
BH: You’re allowed to just kind of get up and go play Ms. Pacman for awhile.
JT: I want one of those over at my office. That would be great.
BH: We just wanted to improve, you know, this is a tough job. It’s very challenging. It’s very stressful. Last week we had what we called customer service day where we felt our customers were just really hard on us for a couple weeks and so we just decided that we were going to take off at 3:00 and go have some cocktails and just do us for a couple hours and talk about, have some fun with our customers, have some fun with us but also just get away from doing the normal.
Reinvigorate the moral, talk about the fact that hey morale seems down, it seems like we’ve been dealing with a lot of complaints, a lot of issues, a lot of stressed out customers, a lot of different issues so let’s make sure we’re re-engergized so we can tackle those. So with that we said we’re going to take off early today. We’re going to have some drinks, maybe one too many and you all get a cab ride home and here’s some food and no work. I’ll take the phones when you get there and from 3:00 to 5:30 today we’re just going to drink beers instead. And that’s what we did.
And then everybody was talking and they’re back – that’s Thursday and Friday – it was a good day, everyone was kind of happy. They got to go home a little early. They got to unwind a little bit instead of having to work that day. Just having some clarity breaks will allow you to actually work smarter and faster than to not and lunches, dinners, coffees all are good for that.
JT: So clarity breaks, do you do anything else or are your networking lunches and stuff, do those count or do you do other clarity breaks like going and playing Pacman?
BH: We do. We do Pacman to lunches to I’ll go shopping in the middle of the day, get a new tie or go look at some cars or just do something. I’ll go to the country club just by myself and have a cocktail or I’ll go to the wine store and pick out some wine. I’ll go home early and just watch a movie. If I am having a really bad day, I usually just leave because I am no good then.
JT: How do you deal with that though knowing all the responsibilities and everything that you have? I mean that’s what a lot of people do, they are like well I have to be here, I have to do this stuff because it’s so urgent and important.
BH: Reevaluate what really is urgent and important but I don’t leave with fires. If there is urgent emergency issues, I deal with that but, after I’ve dealt with it and I’m angry and frustrated by it, all right, I am out of here. I’m going home, tomorrow is a new day and by the time I get home, you know, just watch a movie and I am over it. Then the next day I can go and readdress that. If 24 hours for somebody is not soon enough well then that’s on them. Everybody has a choice of who they want to work with but not everybody else’s emergency is mine.
That’s why I love that book Rework so well. It’s really a different management style. The customer is not usually right but the customer is right but not usually. That’s kind of the way they put it. I didn’t get into business to let my business be dictated by others. So I stay true to the fact that I like my business but if it can be my way. If it’s just I’m going to be working for somebody else essentially then I might as well go work for somebody else and then can check out at 5:00. I’m an entrepreneur, I built this business. If you like it, great. If you don’t, there’s other options for you and Rework does that really well.
They are in the CRM business dominated by Sales Force but yet they have a huge customer base on of the simplest smallest CRMs ever. They just said listen we’re going to build this small little CRM and we think it’s a great product, if you don’t, you don’t have to use it. You can certainly try somebody else but I’m not going to try and make a product that works for everybody because that never works and it ends up being that way or you end up with something like Sales Force which is very intimidating. They say most people only use 11 percent of what Microsoft Excel can do.
JT: I believe that.
BH: You can make a website out of Microsoft Excel, you can but nobody knows how to do it but you can certainly do it. I’ve seen websites that are built out of Excel. You actually make Microsoft Word make jpeg images using HTML code.
JT: Really? I am a geek, I should know this stuff. I don’t even know that.
BH: There’s so many things that these can do that people don’t use. They really cover that well in there about a hot dog stand. Have you read that book?
JT: Yes, I listened to the audio book but it was awhile ago.
BH: Do you remember the hot dog analogy where, think of when you’re starting a business, if you’re going to have a hot dog stand, do you think you can start it with just all the extras – the condiments, the ketchup, the relish, the mustards, the onions, the peppers – or do you think you should probably just start with a hot dog, something that really works for everybody and then you can add some condiments later, if you want, the extras?
I really use that all the time. What’s our hot dog here? What is our most viable product and then launch with that and then let your feedback dictate what condiments you’re going to have. But if you try to say I’m going to start a business, I’ve got 6,000 hot dogs, I’ve got every condiment in the world, you have a significant amount of risk at your hands versus saying I’ve got one hot dog and one only. This is my hot dog, it’s a great hot dog and I’ve got ketchup and mustard, that’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you.
Eventually you can get, maybe enough people are demanding you to have relish. Well then okay I’ll have relish. But if only one person says they want relish and now you’ve got to carry relish for that one person, it doesn’t work. Keep it simple. At least now that more so now I am dealing in technology and technology I’m really obsessed with the word simple and so my mentality has changed a little bit to make things very, very simple and that hot dog analogy really has been beneficial to me. I use that a lot in all planning.
With WebDigs, we’re probably going to launch with just a buyer’s commission sharing program and not our flat fee MLS program yet. And if we do launch with a flat fee MLS program it won’t have the upsell functionality that I want. I’m going to determine what people really want in the upsells. It’s a long story.
JT: I want to go into that. I know we don’t have a ton of time left so we can’t because I was going to ask you about sort of rebranding that. So you bought that and you’re going to go ahead and rebrand it. What made you decide to go ahead and buy something like that?
BH: I love the brand, the brand name of it.
JT: I was going to say you love the brand yet you’re branding, okay, wait.
BH: I’m retooling it. WebDigs was a publically traded real estate company that had traditional full service listing process where you could sell a house with them for like 5 percent and then if you bought a house, this was the old WebDigs, if you bought a house, you could get a percentage of the commission that your buyer’s agent generated. Essentially, it’s a commission sharing program. Buy a house with WebDigs, the agent gets paid and you get paid a percentage of what he gets paid.
So essentially get paid to buy your own house. An agent gets paid 2.7 percent of a $100,000 purchase, that’s a $2,700 commission that the agent makes. Then he may share, at that time they were sharing 50 percent of that commission with their client. So they would get $1,350. Well they were giving too much of the money away in order to stay profitable so they essentially almost went out of business. I went in and bought the whole company, took it all over except for the publically traded aspect of it because I didn’t want to go public. I want to stay private.
So I kept it but I liked what they were doing and I liked the software they developed but it needed some tweaking. One they were giving too much of their money away. That’s why they went out of business and these commission rebate or commission sharing companies they are not very successful on a whole, as of right now. There has been many that have hit the marketplace, many have failed. The biggest one that’s still around is Redfin and they are out of Seattle. They’ve raised a lot of money but they’re not exactly doing awesome.
So we’re taking what Redfin has done well. We’re taking what WebDigs did well and I’m adding a new approach to it and a new service to it and then simplifying it all. So the technology was great but it didn’t work on all browsers. It was complicated. I bought the technology, I stripped down, made it super simple, made it work on all platforms and then made it so it has got to be incredibly simple. For example, WebDigs is going to do three things. It’s going to allow you to buy a house and get a commission rebate when you buy a house with WebDigs.
It’s going to allow you to sell your house but in a for sale by owner way; 94 percent of all homes in the United States are sold using the Multiple Listing Service aka MLS. Well little do a lot of people know, that’s really what’s selling your house. It’s not some agent that’s super connected.
JT: Yes, it’s being on those sites.
BH: It’s such a small percentage that what he does is actually going to sell your home. It’s what the agent does after you’ve got a buyer that is beneficial – the preparing of the paperwork, the negotiation of the contract, bringing it all to closing. That’s really what an agent is getting paid for on the sales side. But, if you think you can do that or perhaps for a lower fee we’ll do that for you, you can list your house with WebDigs for $99.00 a month on the MLS and not have to pay 3 to 6 percent commission anymore.
But then, if you want us to help you with what most agents still need to do for you, it’s a half of a percent at closing. So you could essentially sell your house for a half a percent plus $99.00 a month, if you are a do it yourselfer. Now that’s not everybody, right? It’s very nichy and the Realtors’ Association already hates me.
JT: That’s what I was going to wonder.
BH: I’m going to get a small market. It’s the 24 to 44 year old person is going to be my client and I’m going to market to that person aggressively and well and I’ll have some instructional videos. I’ll have options for them but when you go to WebDigs, the whole website is going to have three pages, that’s it, a total of three pages. When you go there it says, I wish I could show it to you. If you go there, it would be what are you looking to do – buy or sell? That’s the home page. It has nothing else on the home page. You click a button. Are you looking to buy or sell?
Then if you click buy, I’m going to give you three pages of buy stuff and if you click sell, I’m going to give you three pages of sell stuff. It’s going to be in order. The first page is how it works and it’s a one page minimal content with a little video. This is how it works, are you ready to proceed? Step two – enter your property info and then it adds into MLS. It pulls from it and if your listing has already been listed once in the future it will populate all the data so you could list your house in like one minute. Then step three – enter your credit card information for $99.00 a month and you’re done. So we walk you through it and educate.
Now on the buy side about how it works. Welcome to WebDigs. Here’s how it works. Buy any house with WebDigs and get paid 25 percent of whatever they make. Got it? It’s that simple. Go to the next page. It’s a search tool. Here, use our search tool. Add the properties you like to your favorites. When you want to see something you click contact agent and an agent that’s assigned to your profile will get sent a list of the properties you’re interested and he’ll contact you and go and show you those properties. It’s that simple. Ready to go?
Then we bring you the tool to get started and you start using it. The tool is super simple and each page only has three pages. We’re focusing on just what you want to do. It’s all about being simple, but it’s very innovative because one the realtors have been around a long time. They’re the second largest lobbying group in the United States behind the oil industry.
BH: Really. It’s a lot of power there. They’ve been trying to shut this sort of thing down forever and it has even made it to the Supreme Court which then allowed this thing to make it through. So we’re allowed to do this but it’s not without probably most of the agents in the marketplace trying to boycott us.
JT: People are not going to like you.
BH: It’s innovative. It may or may not work but I believe there’s enough demand for it and it’s a play on technology, it’s a play on saving money and in a down economy, if you can make it simple enough to save money, people will do it. I’m banking on that and there’s where I have a lot of research that goes into but my gut is telling me to go forward with it.
JT: I was just going to ask you that exact same thing. I was going to ask you why were you going to jump into a scary market where other people had failed but it seems like that’s exactly why. You just told us, which I think is awesome and it seems like you’re the perfect person to try and do this and you’re okay with people hating you. So that’s good too.
BH: Failure is a good way to learn from someone’s failure, not to run away from it, but you can look at the people who failed that are not doing well and find out what you think their problems are and why they’re not doing very well. I think it has a lot to do with simplicity. They were a technology play. They are trying to get people to understand something that’s unheard of. You have to educate and make it simple to adopt. That’s where when I say I rebranding WebDigs, that’s all I did. It has got to be easy to understand and it has got to be simple to adopt.
JT: You got your market research from all the people that failed. You already know what doesn’t work. That’s awesome. Well I know we don’t have a ton of time so I want to wrap up with the last question. I really appreciate you coming back on, this is awesome.
BH: No problem.
JT: The same question that I always asked and I have already asked you this so maybe you can think of something – what’s one thing, one action step that listeners can take this week to help move them forward towards their goal of a million?
BH: I guess it’s really just to take a step. Actually put yourself out there. I mean another definition of entrepreneur is risk taker, in my opinion. You have got to take some risks. Take some calculated risks. Don’t go crazy. Take some calculated risk. Put yourself out there and those that take risks are usually rewarded. That’s the difference. If you’ve got an idea, you got a plan, tell somebody about it. If they’re still telling you it’s a great idea, keep moving it forward until you hit a roadblock or a hurdle. When you hit it, identify what it is, go back to those same people who got you to this roadblock, discuss it with them and see if they can help you solve to get around it. That’s what I do. Keep moving forward, take chances, believe in yourself, trust your gut but be smart about it.
JT: I love that. I’m going to quote that. That’s awesome, Brenton. Can you tell us a little bit more about how we can find WebDigs and when it’s launching so that way everybody sort of knows or where’s the best place to find you?
BH: We have Renter’s Warehouse. Renter’s Warehouse bought WebDigs. WebDigs, I have four companies – Renter’s Warehouse, then there is three real estate brokerages. There’s one called Pink Blue Real Estate, EFlatFee Real Estate and WebDigs. Pink Blue and EFlatFee are all going to become WebDigs sometime in August. Go to WebDigs.com. There we have a cool startup company that we have help us. It’s called Launch Rock, which is a little tool it puts up there and you can enter your email address and be notified, if people are interested in our product.
Launch Rock is a cool deal where as people subscribe to be notified when the website is coming up, I send out like monthly updates on WebDigs. Hey I’m the founder, I want to tell you what’s up with WebDigs and when we’re coming out. Here’s something that we’re working on. I get people involved and here’s our feedback center, which is a SurveyMonkey.com tool.
JT: What a surprise!
BH: So I use it to get people to subscribe so I can notify them when it’s ready but all at the same time too every month or every couple of weeks I send out an update and with a link to my feedback center, what do you think, what did you think of my update? What do you think we should be doing differently? I get feedback all along the way. But you can go to WebDigs.com, put your email address down and sometime in July, August or September we will be live in Minnesota only to prove our concept and then after that hopefully nationwide.
JT: Everybody go and sign up just to even sort of see the backend of the design of what he’s doing for the launch. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for coming on today, Brenton. I really appreciate it.
BH: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Thanks, Jaime.
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