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Justin Mazeka Vogt – Compounding, Leverage, and Thinking Bigger – Ep.200

This is my 200th episode of Think Like an Owner, and I’ve invited my good friend Justin Mazeka Vogt on for the honors. Justin and his business partner Ed Redden were among the very first to reach out to me when I first started.

Episode Description

This is my 200th episode of Think Like an Owner, and for this special episode I’ve invited my good friend Justin Mazeka Vogt on for the honors. Justin and his business partner Ed Redden were among the very first to reach out to me when I first started the podcast 5 years ago. We’ve discussed this episode’s topics extensively, from thinking bigger to gaining leverage and designing the ideal life for ourselves, all topics Justin is passionate and thoughtful about. We also talk about what they’ve learned building Avuity and providing leverage across their team, not just to themselves as individuals

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Clips From This Episode

Thinking Bigger

Balancing an asynchronous strategy with a sense of urgency

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(00:00:00) – Intro

(00:04:32) – What it means to think bigger and apply it in your career

(00:08:24) – What sticks out to you from everything you learned about Charlie Munger?

(00:10:58) – Building a compounding vision

(00:25:10) – Giving yourself leverage

(00:27:55) – Learnings from Tim Ferriss’ Podcast w/ Sam Corcos

(00:36:48) – What process or part of your every day have you cut because it didn’t benefit the organization?

(00:41:00) – Balancing an asynchronous strategy with a sense of urgency

(00:45:00) – Advice on thinking bigger

(00:50:47) – How Alex sees the Podcast compounding going forward

Alex Bridgeman:  I think you reached out after the fourth, maybe third episode that I’ve ever done back in 2019. I remember because we talked in my first apartment, Michelle and I’s first apartment out of school. And I had like just gotten Air Pods and was testing them out during our call or something. So, we got to know each other a very long time ago and then, for whatever reason, picked it up like maybe six months after that and started chatting more. But anyway, you’ve seen as much of the podcast as probably anybody else to this point.

Justin Vogt:  I like to think that there’s probably only one person that’s listened to more Think Like an Owner than I have and it’s you.

Alex Bridgeman:  You’re well up there. You’ve always had this idea of thinking bigger, which I want to talk about a lot that you’ve talked about for the four years we’ve known each other. And like slowly but surely, I’ve like tried to figure out like, okay, what does that mean? How do you apply it in like meeting people? Or how do you apply it in the podcasts and different roles and search and how you pursue different things? So it’s been a slow progress. But over time, like in the last I think two years, that’s really started to click a lot more for me. But like it clearly clicked for you very early on and very quickly. Was it something that at Stanford you were starting to noodle on, or is this kind of a Bain Capital, before Stanford, something you were developing in your head?

Justin Vogt:  So, it goes back even further than that, I would say. So, one of the uncanny things that I ran into and maybe even frustrated me growing up, I grew up in a really rural kind of farm town in Southern Illinois. And the most successful people in town were actually all of the farmers, the dairy farmers, the land farmers that had passed down land equipment, best practices, etc., for generations at a time. And so not necessarily kind of family business in the sense that we all normally talk about it here, but very much a family business in small town USA. And so, what I’ve noticed from this is like it’s really, really hard to make money in farming in year one or year two or even over like a three year time horizon. But these families that have done this for 50, 100, 150 years in our town, that had picked up the right farmland next to each other, that had picked up the right equipment at the right time, that had been able to like become the reliable hiring groups inside of town, that attracted the family members to stay in the business to keep things going were incredibly successful. They were stalwarts of the town, they sponsored the Little League baseball team, all the quintessential things that you really think about and like had built phenomenal businesses around a farming community. And so that had been stuck in my mind. And then, fast forward 20 something years later to Bain Capital, I’m working in finance, I was working in a lot of distress and special situations lending where everything was incredibly short term minded. Most of the deals we were working on were private equity deals gone south, they were at the end of the fund life, they were at the end of their hold period. And everything we talked about was on kind of a four to five year time horizon. And as I was evaluating what I wanted to do next, that felt in really stark contrast to what I had grown up around with the most successful businesses in town being these multi generation farms. And so, I said, all right, I want to kind of kickstart that for my family as a generational endeavor, that I want to be able to build something over a really long period of time because that’s how things get big. That’s how things get to the point where you can be incredibly proud of, that you can build cultures and teams and impact communities around. So, I want to get to something that is big that has the ability to impact and be a positive influence on a lot of people and then do that over a really long period of time was the primary variable that influenced our thinking about how we decided to go about raising capital and thinking about businesses and structure and all the other fun things.

Alex Bridgeman:  I know that you had a post recently about Charlie Munger being one of the most quoted people at AVUITY, the company you are running now. And of course, Charlie Munger passed away yesterday. What sticks out to you from the Charlie Munger quotes you’ve reviewed or books or speeches you’ve listened to? Is there anything there that influenced this thinking too?

Justin Vogt:  Charlie Munger, two words come to mind. It’s like simplicity and frankness. He has got an incredible way of speaking that is so frank and really just cuts to the heart of an issue, of a topic, what have you. I absolutely adore it. And I’m recognizing on the podcast here, but never say in ten words what you could say in two. And Charlie Munger has an ability to speak in those two words and really drive home a point. But also the simplicity of what he talks about, it’s leave the hard things in the too hard pile and just focus on where you have a distinct advantage. Do that for a really long period of time. I love the quotes around like how do you get rich, it’s like you spend less money than you make, and you try to increase the amount you make. Like, well, you’re absolutely right. And too often, I think we lose track of those really simple pieces of life, of business. And so, if you have a long enough time horizon, which Charlie Munger at 99 and Berkshire Hathaway for many decades had, it’s amazing how far you can go if you just put one foot in front of the other every day. And if you sit here and say, did I spend wisely today, did I make more money today than I spent today, if the answer to that is yes over and over and over again for days at a time, then years and decades at a time, really good things will happen. And learning and seeing, kind of being out there and talking to people and learning what is possible amongst kind of these businesses shows that Charlie’s right, and that is a thing to be believed. And so, it’s a matter of, too often, we all get caught up in the hype of one thing or the other. And if you can just come back to these really simple formulas or really simple quotes that Charlie espouses, it’s tough to stray too far afield from what the true North Star is for you.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, and thinking about that North Star, obviously, we’re really not good at envisioning what compounding looks like over a long period of time. Like we’re just not good. We’re good at predicting linear things, but not compounding. So, like thinking about a vision for your life or business, if you especially want to build something big that lasts a long time, it feels like you could easily undershoot and overshooting might be hard over a given time horizon. How do you think about like building a vision for what you want to do, knowing that compounding kind of sneaks up on you?

Justin Vogt:  It’s keeping the compounding aspect in mind every day that you can, and it should come up. And so, it’s thinking about any given business, but even more so for me, the relationships around that, around the business and around the work we do. I don’t worry so much about overshooting or under shooting if I’m sticking to the Charlie Munger style of advice, which is the really simple frank ways of going about your day. And so, I don’t know, there’s no number out there, there’s no kind of grand vision from a business case, there was a grand vision for a lifestyle that I wanted to create for our family. And so, I’m confident that even though I don’t know what that ultimate end state might be to a number, I know that if I do the right things and if I do the right blocking and tackling every day, we’re going to- like I am confident based upon examples, like Charlie Munger, that we will end up in a really, really good place. And if we stay- if you can sit down at the end of the day and kind of have those simple conversations with yourself of like did today align with my values and my priorities, and if you can consistently say yes to that, like only good things will happen. I don’t know if I or anybody that follows that will end up above or below what is possible, but it’s tough to be too far afield.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah. You run and started Evermore industries with Ed Redden, your partner, with a focus on industrial services and, of course, with AVUITY, your sensor business now. How did you paint kind of the picture for what you wanted Evermore to do knowing that the vision piece is going to be hard to figure out because you don’t know what you’ll buy yet, but you know you want to do these sorts of things, or you want to focus on this industry with these types of companies? How do you kind of put together a mission statement or a vision for Evermore in that early starting period?

Justin Vogt:  So, for Ed and I, it was sitting down with each other and trying to do like what we would consider the hard work. We talked to too many people that are too focused on the easy work, which is the like financial structuring and the legal entities and everything else. Whereas the really hard work is like, what do you want to do? What do you want your day to look like? How would you design your growth as a professional and personal individual over the next 10, 20, 30 years? And so, we spent a lot of time, just the two of us, a couple chairs, and a whiteboard, saying like what is it that you really want to do? And ultimately, that comes back to, like for us, we want to build something that we’re incredibly proud of. Okay. What does it incredibly proud of mean? It means attracting phenomenal people. It means working with individuals with incredibly high integrity with a shared vision for us. It means not being transactional. So that means not necessarily thinking on a three year or five year time horizon. It’s thinking about like relationships that will stand the test of many decades. It’s about working with organizations that are a part of their community, doing the things that may not feel like they’re the right answer for any one given day but you’re confident will compound over time, being active in the university scene of where you work. And it’s all about what would kind of the ideal life look like for us, and it’s like being a successful business person that is helpful to their community, that has built something, that has employed people, that has provided a lot of opportunity, but also did it in a way that you are very proud of that at the end of the day, and people want to come work for you because they know that they will be taken care of, that they have a good home with your business. That’s an endeavor worth pursuing.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, and finding people who are going to support that and align with that as an investor base helps pave some of that way too.

Justin Vogt:  Absolutely. And don’t get me wrong, we didn’t exactly have 100% acceptance rate to a will you invest in an entity that we don’t know what we’re going to buy, we don’t plan on ever giving the capital back, our goal is to compound this for many decades, and like you’re along with us. Our kind of guiding light on financial metrics is value per share. It’s not dividends. It’s not cash flow. We’re trying to build a business here that’s going to take multiple decades. Not exactly everybody invests on that type of time horizon. But the people that do and the people that we found, we found really tight alignment with because they very much viewed the world in the same way we did, which is these things take time. So much of a great like value creation in the financial sense happens in those really far out years, once you have a little bit more confidence in what you’re doing, once you have the reputation, once you have the ability to recruit phenomenal individuals. And like those things don’t stop if kind of you keep your hand to the plough, and so like extending out that time horizon actually works really, really well. And so, there’s a shared set of values and beliefs about how to build a business with the investor base that we ultimately created because it was a self-selecting tool for us. But then I would also argue, we’re spending a lot more time now in the business that we have and some of the things we’re working on, like recruiting individuals to come work with us. And that kind of mission and that ethos, the investor alignment, the continuation of the same theme of what we’re trying to build I hope resonates with individuals. I hope it doesn’t resonate with every individual, though. I hope it resonates really, really strongly with a handful of them. And like those are the people I want to build with. And so, it’s another self selecting tool, just like it is on the investor base. It’s the same exact idea when going out and trying to hire leaders and managers in a business. And so, it should cut across everything we do.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, one belief I have around content is that content helps attract the right people and repel the wrong ones, and sharing your vision, sharing your mission, culture, what you believe in does the same thing.

Justin Vogt:  Sitting behind a computer screen and reading all day is wonderful, but it’s really hard to get people to buy into your mission if you’re not telling people who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re about. And content creation is another phenomenal example of that.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah. And one piece of that with the recruiting, when you think of that compounding over time, especially like look at Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway, like he had that reputation to get on the phone with anybody. And it didn’t used to be that way. Like it became that way over time. But he just kept at it for such a long time. And incredible things happen over time. So, if you keep doing that with recruiting, even just taking recruiting as an example beyond the rest of the business, you’re eventually going to be getting opportunities that fewer and fewer people are going to be having access to.

Justin Vogt:  Absolutely. And for whatever reason, networking has a fairly negative connotation, but networking done well with good intentions is like I spend a lot of my day, a lot of my week networking, which is like I want to meet other people that share a similar view of the world that I do that I want to ultimately work with. Because anytime we go back to kind of any of your conversations, I’ll circle back to the podcast around thinking bigger, like the Joel Peterson episode recently stands out to me, of the habits of effective managers and conscious leadership and different things like that. It’s all about getting other people in the boat that want to row in the same direction as you and being the master of the boat that points the right direction and finds the right people to get on there and pull the oars with you. And you can’t go very far alone; you have to have the other people around you. And so, you need to be out there kind of espousing and showing as well as telling people what you’re about such that you can find that alignment. Because, man, is it really hard to find people if you’re just posting jobs online and hoping for the best. That’s a recipe to do okay in my book, but like if I’m out there in the market actually trying to find the best people, getting the recommendations. My favorite question on this front that I think you’ll really like is, you meet people, and you ask them, hey, when you left that job, who’s the one person at that job that was absolutely phenomenal, that everybody respected, that everybody thought was just the best person at that job, that everybody wanted to work with, that everybody wanted to work for? Who’s that person that stands out? And not everybody has an answer for that. But when you do find that, it’s like, wow, and you start to build a pattern. And you see this, like you ask three or four people in your network about a given organization, they start coming up with that one individual, like I’d really love to work with that lady from two companies ago, she was awesome. If we have that shared value, they’re willing to tell me these things and build the network. And that means that’s a person I want to go meet. And that takes time, that takes trust. And I want to share that trust with people over years and decades.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, that Joel Peterson episode was really fun just to really hammer home that it’s all about people idea, which we hear a lot. But it’s hard to internalize until you’re trying to hire people or building a team and all that. And then you realize, oh, actually, that makes a lot more sense now. It has a stronger ring now. And thinking about holding companies, a lot of folks think it’s capital allocation or what a Berkshire Hathaway looks like. And it feels much more like or at least from my view watching you and Ed, feels more like talent allocation right now at least, like how do you find people? How do you put them in the right spots? How do you continuously recruit and bring people in? It feels much more like a talent piece, which comes back to the all about people idea that Joel talked a lot about.

Justin Vogt:  We have a slide or a conversation topic that we bring up with our board all the time, which is this idea of like financial capital allocation and human capital allocation. And maybe I can go back and look this up, but almost all of our time is spent on the human capital allocation piece. The financial capital allocation piece, like while incredibly difficult and people are incredibly good at, like the value driver for us, particularly at this stage of our business is building a business and a culture that attracts, trains, and retains the best people. Everything else is secondary. If we can get that piece right, I am confident that we will do well. If we don’t get that piece right, the range of outcomes becomes a lot wider and includes a lot more set of outcomes that I don’t care to think all that much about because they’re scary.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah. And thinking about the Charlie Munger concept of keep things simple, I know you listened to the Jeremy Giffon episode on Invest like the Best, all of his ideas were very simple. There was, in talking about hiring people, he said like, I want to hire people who give me energy. And everything else is like secondary, everything comes after that or is downstream of that idea. Keep it simple, very simple idea, that rings true a lot.

Justin Vogt:  I have a fun one for people. I get asked a lot about choosing investors because we ended up with a much smaller tighter knit group of investors than the typical person going out and raising capital for small business acquisitions. And the metric that I really like to give to people is when you see that name pop up on your phone, are you really excited to answer that phone call or not? That can vary over time, if things go well, if things go poorly, etc. But for us, we had the mantra around like we’re only looking for investor advisors. You have to be helpful to the organization. It wouldn’t be fair to have some investor advisors and some just investors that are financial capital along for the ride. And so, kind of the barometer we hold ourselves to, even on our investor base, is like, am I excited when my phone rings and I see a name pop up from our investor base? Because they’ve built a relationship with me that I’m confident that they are here to help and they have kind of the best interest in mind. If yes, that’s a phenomenal investor for us. If no, either, at this point, we need to go and change that relationship in some way, or kind of in the capital raising process, like if no, then it probably isn’t the right fit to work with someone if you’re not excited that the phone rings from them for the next 20, 30 plus years.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, one piece you’ve talked about learning from investors is finding activities that give you leverage and even just leveraging your investors advice or their experience to give you a wider scope for ideas on what to do next. I know you’ve done a lot of stuff to try to give yourself leverage at AVUITY in a bunch of different ways. But when you think of giving yourself leverage through like activities and stuff you do and focus on, what does that mean to you?

Justin Vogt:  So, we are a EOS business. And so, I think about this a lot. For me, leverage and priorities go hand in hand. So, I love the structure that EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, go read the book Traction if you haven’t, I think it’s phenomenal. What it does a very good job of is outlining what are your priorities at any given set of three months. And when you sit down and think about what would make the next three months a phenomenal quarter for us, it’s working on those high leverage items, it’s staying focused on what are the things that really truly move the needle. And everything else is secondary. And so, for us, it’s just- I leave my EOS Traction, we call it My 90, like day framework up literally on my computer every day. Like it has some to-do list items that are hopefully all in service of my rocks for the quarter. But it’s an easy judge of the day. At the end of the day, if I sit down and say, I have those sitting there and I walk away from my computer to go eat dinner, and the question is like, wow, I didn’t do anything today, or my calendar doesn’t reflect my rocks at all, I’m probably not working on high leverage, high priority items. And so, let’s make that incredibly blatantly clear to me because it’s just so unbelievably easy and satisfying to just sit in my email inbox all day and respond to emails and fix these tiny problems with finance or accounting or a small problem with sales or improve one Zapier that we have. Like, those are good tasks, but they’re not solving the big problems for us. And so, you have to take it in steps and everything kind of moves in step functions here. But like getting to that point where you build the systems and process so that hopefully you do any one given task well one time and then don’t have to revisit it or it can be done without me going forward, such that we’re always leveling up the level of projects, the amount of value that I can generate with my time every day, every week, and back to our framework here of one foot in front of the other. Like, let’s just keep doing that every day and try not to get sucked backwards at any given point or for months at a time. And we’ll end up in a really good place if we stay focused on the most important things every quarter for the next, I don’t know, 80 quarters.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, I’m thinking more tactically, that Tim Ferriss episode with the Levels founder you sent me was one of the best episodes I’ve heard on like picking activities to do, scheduling your time, high leverage activities as much as possible, virtual assistants, the whole gambit. What are some things from that episode you’ve taken and started applying just day to day?

Justin Vogt:  Oh, I love it. My next step is his time blocking in his calendar. I haven’t quite made it to that point. I tend to leave empty blocks on my calendar to get work done. But I mean, it’s systems and process. It was fun to where I didn’t know this when I got into that podcast episode, and for anybody that’s listening, it’s the Tim Ferriss episode with the Levels founder, Sam Corcos. I’m sure Alex can leave us a link to it.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, we’ll have Johnny put it in the show notes.

Justin Vogt:  The really nice thing, where I got really lucky there, particularly relative to him, is we have the same software stack between I do everything on Loom whenever possible. Loom videos get translated into Notion standard operating procedures. And then those Notion standard operating procedures are organized and kept nicely in a searchable database, such that anybody on any team can come in and understand how we do any one given task. And so that goes from everything, everything so small as a business card – hey, I just got this business card. Take it from here. And like I do it once of like I’ll record a video, hey, I just took this picture. Here’s the picture. I’m translating it into our CRM. I’m adding all of the details. I had to look up a few other things. It’s all in here. Anytime I add a new business card, I’ll make a note to follow up with that person tomorrow. That way, it’s on my to-do list and I take care of it. Great. Next time, we shorten that cycle so that I don’t have to do all of those steps. All the way to really complicated stuff of like a lot of my board materials are very similar. Great, cool. Let’s record a video and show hey, here’s where I pull this from. Here’s where I pull that. Here’s how I check these things. I want you to check them in the future. And like let’s create some leverage here. That all gets saved in Notion and becomes repeatable and process oriented for our whole team. Yes, we use people overseas. My overseas team is phenomenal. They are incredibly talented people. And I think they do phenomenal work. But I mean, it translates across our whole team. An easy example is like one that I see a lot of companies don’t do is they don’t keep a record of the questions that customers ask them and the answers they give. Easy example for us, like great, I just made a Q&A database. And we CC our overseas team every time anyone in the company answers a question from a client, from a customer, from someone, I don’t care who. If you’re answering a question about how we do business, about our product, something, great, it gets logged in there. And now when we get RFPs as an example, great, we have a whole database that is all searchable. And that RFP we send to our revenue operations team that manages the big Q&A database, it’s searchable, it’s findable. You know what, my salesperson that maybe without this would sit down for 40 hours and write and author all of these different things, now kind of overnight has become an editor of that. They hit forward and say, hey, new RFP, there’s 100 questions. And we’re probably today we bat probably 75, 80% based on our Q&A database, gets filled in, off we go. If the RFPs in our kind of core market, start adding other things on us, we’ve got to create some new content. We’re working on it, we’re getting there. And now all of my salespeople, we work on RFPs almost every week, and the amount of time. So that’s, I don’t know, 10, 20 hours a week per salesperson. That’s probably down to two to three hours a week for our salespeople now, and like our salespeople are doing really well. They get paid really well. I care about their time enormously. I care about my time enormously. I don’t want to answer the same questions twice. Great, let’s let that exist out there in the world. It all comes back to let’s do something really well the first time, make it a repeatable process, and then not have to do it again. My team, particularly at AVUITY, the thing I harp on is I want all of us to be editors, never authors. And like you’re allowed to author something one time. And then after that, anytime something similar comes up, you become an editor. And we’re going to refine that answer, that question, that report, that demo, what have you, the next time and not- I don’t want us to- we don’t need to start from scratch anymore. And that goes across so many things beyond, I’m talking here in examples of managing a sales team, but that touches so many parts of our lives and the Levels founder has made it deeper than I have. But it’s something to emulate and we’re definitely marching in that direction.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, you kind of touched on it there a little bit. But it wasn’t just a matter of giving your- like you don’t think of leverage just as your own time leverage but the leverage that the rest of your team has, which all compounds together into a lot of collective leverage an organization has. I think it’s a unique point. Like it’s not just about you. How do you give this power to the rest of your team too?

Justin Vogt:  Absolutely, and I want everybody to be empowered by that and make it feel like their life is easier. Like we have a growing organization. I love that. Some of the original people have a wealth of knowledge about the product, the organization, what have you. If we have to go back to those same individuals, as we hire, and we’ve doubled the size of the team in the last year, and different things like, if we have to go back to those same original handful of people every time there’s a question because they’re the only ones that hold that knowledge, that’s not what they signed up for. That’s not their job. That’s not what gives them energy in the day. But it is necessary. So great, let’s write it down, let’s keep it organized so that the next three, four, five, ten hires into that team have an ability to sit down and be like, oh, yes, I recognize this, I don’t have to go ask that individual. They’re focused on kind of their top priorities. Learning is my top priority now. But I have access to that in a way that isn’t taking direct out of someone else’s time. And so, it’s one of those things that actually does scale really, really well. Because if you want to run a growing organization, like you’re going to add people, you’re going to add training, you’re an add onboarding. Do it really well one time and then emulate, edit, improve each time. If you go to an SOP in our documents and run it and you don’t go back and improve it or make it better in some way, we missed a little bit there. But man, oh, man, does it help to sit there and say somebody else made a great presentation, and they added three new slides, look at how great those are, we should be able to use those in this team, and nobody operates in a silo.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, I have to imagine that is also awesome for any new hire you’re looking to bring on, like to be able to give them that amount of leverage and show that you care about their time and want to bring that to them, that sends a big message.

Justin Vogt:  Oh, it’s incredibly cultural of I respect you and what you’re good at way too much to have you just need to shadow me around for six months to learn what I do. No way. I’m hiring you because I think you’re better than me at what you’re doing. Great. Let’s get you into that seat as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible. I care enormously. And we compete, we want to win. I don’t want to waste your time. I don’t- If you’re coming to my organization and sitting here and saying like, I’m totally okay twiddling my thumbs half the day or trying to look up this or waiting for a response on a given email, like you’re not a cultural fit. That’s not the way we operate things. And that becomes abundantly clear hopefully from day one, when you sit down, you’re like, here’s your Knowledge Hub, go read it, ask me questions, make improvements. Like, I want you up to speed as quickly as possible so that you can start driving value for yourself, your team, your boss, your direct reports, because sitting around and waiting for things isn’t the culture we want to build.

Alex Bridgeman:  What process or part of your everyday did you cut because it didn’t bring the like organization energy or didn’t give the organization leverage?

Justin Vogt:  Two big changes we’ve made, and I’d say they weren’t even necessarily conscious changes. They were flow throughs of the kind of culture that we were trying to build around documentation and systems thinking, not doing the same task twice. But the two major fallouts I’ve noticed from this are we have had a large increase in asynchronous communication. So example being a salesperson has to answer a bunch of questions, create a deck, what have you. In the past, that would be a meeting, let’s talk through the slides, let’s have a like conversation about what we’re going to present to this client. We don’t need to have that anymore. We have systems and processes, you have templates, you have an ability to see what other people have done already. Great. You can run that through, make it a living document, tag in the people you need to tag in, we will get you comments for it when you can, or you have questions that need to be answered, you may be able to go to the Knowledge Hub. But you may also just be able to send a message to any given team and say like, hey, I know that this exists somewhere, get it back to me when you can. And because you’re not so focused on the actual day to day tasks, you have an ability to have longer timeframes. And you don’t need things urgently. You don’t need to jump on the phone. You don’t need to have a meeting. You can see very quickly, oh, I’m going to have problems with these three things today. Let’s get those out the door. And what’s funny is increase in asynchronous communication, I also think there’s been a material decrease in email exchanges, you would think is also asynchronous, but the reality is we as an organization used to email documents, who knows what, to each other all of the time. Wow, does that get lost in a messy inbox. If you sit down and say like, hey, I want to do this process one time really well, which documents do we need, how do we create checklists, how do we create kind of homes or hubs for projects, then all of a sudden, you don’t have to, you don’t even need to send that email or have that asynchronous communication. You know if you’re working on this project, the document you need, the question you answer is going to go live in this Trello board, this part of the CRM, what have you. Because we do the same thing the same way 98% of the time, great, you can have confidence to go into that and you don’t need to pull in somebody or ask somebody that question over email. And so that communication piece has gone way down, which is interesting. It creates actually less communication in a lot of ways across teams. And so, we’ve probably implemented a few more team wide meetings to kind of keep that bond and that connection, and particularly for like the cross functional teams maybe like our sales and our implementation team, sales go out and sells product, implementation gets it installed and ready to go. Let’s have a higher level conversation about what’s working and what’s not working because instead of in times past where those two teams need to be connected on every project and every change, well, now it’s upload a finished document, okay, you all go, you do lose some of that connection. And we’ve actually probably implemented more meetings, but like we started with a virtually zero meeting culture, and it was all over email. And we’ve probably ticked that up just to kind of keep the connective tissue.

Alex Bridgeman:  Was it Elon the CEO who said that any internal communication is a failure? Was that Elon?

Justin Vogt:  I believe so. And I love that like as a guiding light. Getting to that point is an extremely difficult point. But as far as like shifting your thinking, yeah, if you have to go ask somebody a question, fundamentally, that is a failing in the process and the system of the documentation you have at the moment.

Alex Bridgeman:  So how do you balance that with a sense of urgency? I am generally, like I think I’m an impatient person most of the time. There’s some things I’m impatient on, like sales stuff or like replying. I try to reply more quickly than average. I probably don’t need to reply nearly as quickly to emails. But like if a prospect comes in, they have a certain question, I want to be able to answer it quickly. Or if they need something, like a sample of something, I’d love to be able to put that together quickly. In asynchronous, it seems like at the least the sense that I get when I hear people talk about asynchronous is that time horizons expand, and things take longer, even if like the time you spend on the activity is less, it’ll take longer for that task to get done. Has that been true in your experience? Or is it the opposite?

Justin Vogt:  It is true the first time. Every subsequent time thereafter, maybe the second or third time are still a little bit longer, but for any of the repeatable tasks, absolutely not. It is so much faster to have an asynchronous set of communication. It’d be different if one individual is working in a totally different time zone. But generally speaking, we’re all in the same time zone. And so, now, all of a sudden, when that project comes in, and there are five pieces of that project, sure, you can do all five, but you’ve trained somebody else how to do four of them already. Well, guess what, now all of a sudden, even if it takes that person 20% longer than you to do that slide, we’re working on it at the same time, we’re all getting there together, and we’re going to get better at it each time. So much of business is actually repetitive tasks. We’re doing a lot of the same thing over and over again. When it comes to like the blocking and tackling of the business, great, let’s get that task done by the person that is most ready and most capable to do it, not the person that it happens to land in their inbox of.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, we’ve talked about sales a lot. And probably that’s been our combined focus for the last year or so. But where else in AVUITY do you see this asynchronous having help from virtual assistants and elsewhere, like where do you see that having more impact to?

Justin Vogt:  You’re right; the two of us have both spent more time in sales over the last year. But it generally applies across divisions. So we operate in a very similar fashion across product and engineering. In particular, engineering is a phenomenal place to think about documentation and repeatability and scalability of how you go about things. It’s a similar process of one person goes in there and lays out the framework of what should be done, and we delegate out tasks, we get back together and hopefully have a good finished product. There needs to be clear understandings of what language all of our code is written in, what design principles we have for the front end of different things. And we then push that out to the individuals most closely able to do it. And it requires being hyper organized. I think a lot of what we’re talking about here ultimately just comes back to being different levels of organized. If you’re incredibly disorganized, it’s really hard to push things down through the org chart because no one else knows where to go find it, no one knows how to think like you. If you’re incredibly organized, there is an ability to do that. And so, I have the goal for every part of our organization to be as organized as possible. And the more organized you are, the further we can kind of push down tasks to say, because I’m organized, because I have organized thinking, because I have organized notes, because I have organized SOPs, like somebody else has the ability to really quickly say like, oh, Justin has this written down, and he would do it like this, let’s go and repeat it. And that cuts across everything.

Alex Bridgeman:  Any the last piece of advice that someone gave you along the way on thinking bigger or getting leverage that has stuck with you?

Justin Vogt:  So for me, it’s not so much a single piece of advice but seeing examples. I’m going to turn this a little bit back on you here in a second because you’ve done a phenomenal job now over 200 podcast episodes here. It’s going out and putting yourself out there. I mean, podcasts are one way but also like following up and getting to know the people behind the podcast of we spend a lot of our time in the small business community, but even on this podcast, for me, it was through business school and getting exposure to someone like Joel Peterson, who I know was just on the podcast and you’re talking to the former chairman of JetBlue. It’s talking to Mahesh at Cleo and understanding his journey from low single digit millions in ARR to now we’re talking in the context of nine figures in ARR. It’s talking to the Chenmark folks and understanding their journey and seeing like the impact and understanding what they’ve done and what there is to emulate from them. And so, for me, it’s a lot about exposure and understanding actually what is possible more so than it is a wonderful quote. And when the horizons kind of open or the aperture opens on what is actually within scope, you dare to dream a little bit bigger. But maybe I can- like as you think about your next 10, 20 years, we’re all long term thinkers here, what does thinking bigger mean to you? How does the podcast influence your ability to think beyond directly what’s in front of you?

Alex Bridgeman:  Well, like you, it’s been fun as an ability to meet people who have thought big and give those examples, like that example of this person who’s built a much larger company or done bigger things generally throughout their career. It allows you to think like, okay, someone else has done this. And like it’s not just one person who’s done it. There’s 50 people throughout this person’s world that have done similar things. And so, it must be true that I could do it too. So, what would have to be true for me to be able to go do this and do something bigger. But the leverage and compound you get from a podcast is pretty remarkable, just through the relationships you can build and the time frame as well. Like, we’ve gotten to know each other for four years now. But there’s other people I’m meeting now as a result of relationships like the one we have over a long period of time that can help introduce you to other people. And the podcast episode goes out there and is listened to forever. There’s people who I hear from who they listen to an episode that I did a couple years ago, and they said it’s awesome. It’s helped me do this thing or that thing. So as the podcast grows, I’ll keep seeing those opportunities pop up. So that makes me more excited to keep doing it. Like wow, the type of person you can talk to now because of the podcast is pretty remarkable compared to what it was three years ago. If I just keep doing this and just keep at it for another 5, 10, 20 years, who knows what’s going to happen. A lot of people talk about the podcast rolling up to like a Joe Rogan type podcast, and he, of course, gets millions of downloads and has done a wonderful deal with Spotify for him. But people don’t talk about he did the podcast for like well over a decade and did it multiple episodes a week, several hours each episode, and just did it for such a long time, just like kept at it and didn’t stop doing it, and it became this like gigantic enterprise now. And there’s businesses that he owns as a result of that. So, you see compounding in podcasts and I think it can be fuel for kind of the rest of the things that I do.

Justin Vogt:  I’m 100% certain it will be fuel for other for other things you do. And I will say, I’m one of those people that still goes back to old episodes because I remember this one thing that Trish Higgins talked about three years ago on this podcast, and I want to go back and re-listen to that. It happened to me fairly recently. I think it’s phenomenal scale that’ll be something that lives on for you forever. And hopefully, the process of doing the podcast continues to be fun. And, I mean, I think about that a lot with the work that we’re trying to do, and I see it with you as well, like the compounding only happens if you’re around to see it. And so, you have to enjoy the work so much to be able to continue doing it. And so, it requires an incredible amount of internal reflection to sit there and say like, do I enjoy doing this? Because we can all talk about the wonders of compounding as much as we want, but like if you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to be around long enough to actually watch it happen. And so how do you maintain that joy and that fun in what you’re doing that makes you wake up and hopefully be excited to go to work as many days as is possible and maybe you don’t even view it as work. I mean, where are you at on that journey with the podcast of is it as exciting today as it has been in the past? Tell me more about how you see the podcast compounding.

Alex Bridgeman:  I think the mission and my goal with the podcast has adjusted in the last year. Beforehand, I was much more interested in the acquisition of small companies and how that worked. I feel much more excited today about okay, you’ve got a company, you’re CEO somehow, like either you founded the company or you bought it or you got hired, whatever. Like how are you growing it? What are you doing to grow the business? And so, talking with CEOs who have built large companies, Mahesh being a great recent example, and have been successful at multiple stages or Shikhar Saxena with Milan Laser. There’s just so many different CEOs who’ve been really successful in multiple stages of their company’s growth. And I get a lot of energy talking to those people. It’s the person who’s figured out and been able to be flexible and adapt their role as the company grows, those people are really remarkable and give me a lot of energy. So, I’m trying to study those people more and use the podcast as my way of connecting with more people like that and studying them and sharing some of those lessons with other people who might find them valuable, and hopefully attracting like ambitious CEOs through the podcast as an audience member. So, it’s hopefully a nice flywheel between the guest and audience both benefiting from each other and over time being more of that group that you’re going after, that ambitious CEO type. That’s the goal.

Justin Vogt:  So when you were back doing podcast episode one in a mall on your cell phone, was that podcast one was in the food court?

Alex Bridgeman:  Yes, that was the first one. So, I last March took a chief of staff role with HW Media, which is a search fund backed company run by Clayton Collins. They are a Pacific Lake backed company. And Pacific Lake has this ELP program for kind of chief of staff roles amongst their portfolio companies. And so, I got invited to that program and a lot of our meetups start at their offices, which so happened to be at that same mall. So, each time I go on one of those retreats to Boston and to go to their office, I can like walk by the table that we had that first episode at and know that this is like the full circle moment. The podcast started at that table and now has led to the Chief of Staff ELP program at Pacific Lake and soon to be more things and is now like physically a full circle event now, and that’s really exciting. That feels cool.

Justin Vogt:  Is this the Prudential Center Mall?

Alex Bridgeman:  Yes, yeah. With that Blue Bottle coffee.

Justin Vogt:  Yeah, I’ve walked through that mall every winter day for three years to go to work. I bet I could go figure out which chair you sat in.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, there was a bank that moved too that used to be there. We tried to like use one of their conference rooms for the episode. But they had clients in so they couldn’t let us. But yeah, I can point out the table. It’s still there.

Justin Vogt:  So, from podcast one at a table in the food court of the mall in Boston to 200 episodes in, you were just talking to Joel Peterson and phenomenal roundup of guests, and I’m honored to be guest number 200 here, but where the podcast has compounded and you said we’re about four and a half years in now, is that math about right?

Alex Bridgeman:  We’re about five years in. That shopping mall episode came out December 1st, 2018. So we’ll be at five years on Friday.

Justin Vogt:  Exactly five years in. Sitting at that, this is a leading question, but sitting at that table in the Prudential Center Mall, I have a sneaking suspicion you wouldn’t have guessed it would lead to what it’s led to here.

Alex Bridgeman:  No, no, no idea, let alone that I’d go back to that mall.

Justin Vogt:  So what happens in five years, 200 more podcast episodes? What does Think Like an Owner look like?

Alex Bridgeman:  Oh, man, I hope it’s finding more people at a faster volume. Like that there’s the compounding both in quality and quantity of people finding the episodes, reaching out from them, opportunities presenting as a result. I hope that keeps going. I think that’s the only not quite sure thing but piece of vision that makes the most sense. Trying to build the rest of the world around what a five years later podcast would look like feels quite challenging. But that feels like something that’s achievable. That feels realistic and a place to go that’s exciting.

Justin Vogt:  I love it. I’m confident that that’s the path that you’re on here. And hopefully, in five years, we’re still sitting here talking about how great the compounding has been and we can revisit it again. And I have a sneaking suspicion, as we sit here and talk on a Wednesday evening five years from now, what the podcast turns into you probably can’t actually even imagine today or would seem unfathomable.

Alex Bridgeman:  Yeah, we should do that. I can even send a scheduled email to remind me for us to chat and send it five years from now. So, I’ll do that. And we’ll chat again and review what we thought and if it all worked out, if it all came together the way we thought or very different ways. I’m sure a little bit of both.

Justin Vogt:  I look forward to it. Put it on the calendar now.

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