Rand Fishkin on Moz and the Future of SEO

EFP 176: Rand Fishkin on Moz and the Future of SEO

Justin Cooke Justin Cooke May 3, 2018

Rand Fishkin is an old-school SEO gangster.

Seriously – if you’ve been even partially involved in SEO in the last decade, you’ve likely come across Rand through his blog or his Whiteboard Friday series.

His company went from a mom-and-pop type SEO blog to a $40M+ per year powerhouse over at Moz.com.

And, as it turns out, he’s now leaving the company.

As customers of Moz and having followed his work for so many years, I had to sit down with him to hear the story. We dig into how he scaled Moz into the company it is today, the struggles he went through going from a 7-8 figure business, look at Rand’s views on transparency, and finally take a look at the projects he’s working on next.

I’m really proud of this episode and Rand was extremely open and gracious with his time/knowledge. Hope you like the show as much as I did!

Check Out This Week’s Episode:

Direct Download – Right Click, Save As

Topics Discussed This Week:

  • Scaling & Growth At Moz
  • Looking At The SEO Industry In 2018 And Beyond
  • The Value And Risks With Transparent Businesses
  • New Projects For Rand Fishkin


Spread the Love:

“Build the MVP, iterate and then try and figure out how to scalably, affordably acquire customers.” – Rand – Tweet This!

“I would hire fewer people. I would pay them more and I would expect more of them.” – Rand – Tweet This!

“Transparency breeds trust, that it earns right kinds of customers.” – Rand – Tweet This!

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Are you currently scaling a SaaS company? Have any thoughts on scaling from 7 – 8 or 9 figures? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


Justin:                                   Welcome to the Empire podcast, episode 176. If you run an online business, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of Rand Fishkin from Moz.com. Starting off with the blog SEOmoz Rand was able to take this business from a “mom and pop” content site to a $40 million per year SAS company. Today we sit down with Rand to discuss how he scaled Moz.com to the level he did and why he’s now leaving the company. We also chat about SEO in 2018 and the projects Rand will be working on next. If you’re looking to scale your business to eight figures, I think you’re going to dig this episode. You’ll find the show notes for this @empireflippers.com/Rand. All right, let’s do this.

Speaker 2:                           Sick of listening to entrepreneurial advice from guys with day jobs? You want to hear about the real successes and failures that come with building an online empire? You are not alone. From San Diego to Tokyo, New York to Bangkok. Join thousands of entrepreneurs and investors who are prioritizing wealth and personal freedom over the oppression of an office cubicle. Check out the Empire podcast and now your host, Justin and Joe.

Justin:                                   All right, Joe. So you and I had been fans of SEOmoz, now Moz and Rand Fishkin for a very long time and we’ve followed his SEO journey from way back in the day. One of the things I’ve always loved about Rand is his transparency like he talks very openly and very honestly about where he’s at with his business and the failures and the struggles they’ve gone through, and that’s really inspired part of our journey and part of why we do what we do.

Joe:                                        Yeah. I mean the tool-set that Moz had back in the day was one of the few places that you could go to get an all inclusive sort of SEO look at sites and what was working and along with some good keyword research was a fabulous way to be able to rank sites.

Justin:                                   Yeah. Moz really helped us get our start, along with LongTailPro and Keyword two weeks before that, helped us find niches, find the riches and the niches so to speak, and get our start online. So it was really helpful. And along the way, Rand has built an amazing team and brand in the SEO space. I mean, almost everyone that’s building or running an online business, heard of Moz. How do you do that? How do you get that big?

                                                We want to take Empire Flippers there and we’re growing like crazy, but we’re not as big as they are. And so I’m wondering like, how do we do that as a company and how do our listeners, build these eight, nine figure businesses? That’s what I really want to talk to him about in the show. He’s very open, so he’s willing to dig into these things and these details that most people aren’t.

Joe:                                        Yeah, I think that’s very interesting from our perspective, from a little bit of a selfish way of looking at it. But more than that, I think it gives you something to aspire to. I mean, if he did it, you know it’s not impossible. And there are other people going out there and doing it.

Justin:                                   I like it when people say that, “Well that guy did it. It’s not impossible.” I say that too, but you’re right. I mean like he’s a regular dude, like he’s a regular guy, and you’re going to hear that in this podcast. I mean, it definitely inspires me, I think to grow our business, and I’m hoping to inspire our listeners as well. He also recently left Moz and this is a company that he founded, and it wasn’t on the greatest terms, so I thought it’d be interesting … We gently dug into that a little bit, talked a little bit about his leaving and why he’s leaving. I think that’s interesting, and we’ll discuss that. But I’m also interested in … He built this large company, put a CEO in place, became the founder, has even backed out of that, and he’s starting a few new ventures.

                                                And so, to go from running a fairly large company, growing this company to what it is and then leaving to go start some scrappy startup seems difficult. It seems a little challenging to me. It reminds me of our buddies, Dan and Ian over at Tropical MBA, like what they’re doing next, after they had their e-commerce exit. So I want to ask him about that, and some of the challenges he’s running into in starting a new company after having built the previous company and having all the resources, and the team that he had available and going to not having that, and the challenges that come with that.

Joe:                                        Yeah, I mean the interesting thing I think is, Empire Flippers is such a big part of our identity. I mean, I’m here in Vegas and I’m just looking over at the table. I’ve got Empire Flippers laptop stickers, I’ve got business cards all over the place. I got the Empire Flippers shirt on, I’m about to go down to the conference and talk about that. I mean, it’s got to feel very strange to one day not be promoting that brand anymore.

Justin:                                   Yeah, that’s interesting. The identity piece is important. Yeah, that’s a good point, Joe. I mean, I’m going to get into all that with Rand in the upcoming interview, before we do that though buddy, we got to pay some bills. So let’s talk about our featured listing of the week.

Joe:                                        Yeah, we’re talking about listing number 44373. This is a dropship business. It’s a two site dropshipping business, and you know how much I love packages Justin, so it’s in the apparel area. The site focuses primarily on men’s fashion accessories and it’s heavily reliant on Facebook traffic and Instagram ads. So a lot of social here. The two sites are essentially the same. One of them targets UK traffic and one of them targets more global traffic. So you do have that kind of risk mitigation there. Lot of good stuff here that I think that the sellers set up and the site is making almost $27,500 a month. We have it listed for $767,000.

Justin:                                   Yeah. What I like about this is, some people think, “Oh, dropshipping businesses, that’ll get you $1,000, $2,000, maybe $3,000 a month in profit. But that’s about … There’s just not much to it. You can’t build a real business out of that.” And here’s a three quarter million dollar business built on the back of dropshipping. So anyone who is saying dropshipping is dead, that’s clearly not true.

Joe:                                        Yeah. You know, it’s funny that you should mention that because I just read an article last night, dropshipping is dead, that’s obviously a clickbaity, but the biggest thing they were saying is it’s not dead, but it definitely has become more competitive. And a business like this where, we have it listed where it’s at, I think at $767,000, that’s a nice business that obviously is going to take a lot of money, but it gets you to the top of the mountain right away.

Justin:                                   Yeah, everything gets more competitive, so all business models get more competitive until a new one emerges, but they all get more competitive and that’s one of the reasons I think businesses get more valuable, is with more competition in the space, they’re harder to get started, the businesses that are already out there and making money, have a leg up on the competition that’s trying to start out. All right, let’s dig into the heart of this week’s episode.

Speaker 2:                           Now for the heart of this week’s episode.

Justin:                                   Today, I’m really excited to be talking to Rand Fishkin. Rand Fishkin is the founder of SEOmoz, which later became Moz.com, recently left the company. We’re going to talk about some of the new ventures he has going on. Rand, thanks for coming on the show, man.

Rand Fishkin:                     Justin, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Justin:                                   All right, so you left on not the best terms recently, so I hate to make you do this and go back into Moz in the early days, but it was a big part of your career and what you had going on. I want to talk about scaling businesses. A lot of people in our audience are doing, let’s say low five figures to low six figures a month in revenue and they’re looking to get up to like the seven figure level. Last I read you were doing, or Moz was doing about $40 million a year and you built it up to 23,000 customers. Is that about right?

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, I think Sarah just wrote a blog post … Sarah is the current CEO. She just wrote a blog post in February, maybe March about 2017 year in review and I believe that was $47.5 million dollars in revenue and just about maybe 30,000 to 33,000 paying subscribers.

Justin:                                   That’s an amazing amount of customer and an amazing amount of revenue, but it wasn’t always that way. So there are other podcasts interviews and blog interviews with you talking about your early days and I’m going to link to that so people can get background, if they don’t know who you are. I’m sure most of our audience has heard of you before. But tell me a little bit about, what were some of the like early and middle stage growing pains that you had getting Moz to where it ultimately got?

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, sure. I mean, so we struggled I think most significantly with product and with technology. Marketing was always sort of a strength for the business. And I think that’s because of how we started. I basically built this blog that became popular in the SEO world and got a lot of traction, that turned into a consulting company and then that consulting company, switched its model into software product. By the time we were a software company, we had thousands of people who were perfect customers for our product, visiting our website every day.

                                                And so I think marketing sort of took off on its own and that’s always been a big strength of mine is building stuff that’s interesting and exciting for people and sort of getting into the heads of our customers, heads of our audience and our community and the influencers and amplifiers of those groups, to be able to say, “Gosh, you know, I bet if we build X, everyone will glom onto that.” And I think that’s worked pretty darn well.

Justin:                                   I’ve talked to a lot of people who built the audience first before they really had product market fit, and they build the tribe and they fail and fumble a little bit with delivering a product that resonates with their audience, and eventually you find it. And sometimes it’s because you are very adept at figuring out what they want and like asking them questions and listening to them and sometimes they force your hand and scream until you actually deliver what they need. Why is that such a common success story? It’s not the only one. I mean, some people will build product first and the product is so amazing that it can’t help but be popular. But I hear the other way around the marketing first, the tribe first, and then product very often. Why do you think that is?

Rand Fishkin:                     You are the first person I have literally ever talked to who’s told me they’ve heard that before.

Justin:                                   Really?

Rand Fishkin:                     Oh yeah. No, I think in the sort of Silicon Valley venture backed startup ecosystem of not just the bay area, but obviously that extends up here to Seattle and up and down the west coast and probably most of the east coast too, I think that the mentality is, you build the MVP, iterate, iterate, iterate, and then try and figure out how you scalably, affordably acquire customers. And that has been so drilled into entrepreneurs that I’ve been around that when I say, “Oh, well we sort of did marketing first and built an audience first.” People look at me like I have three heads.

Justin:                                   In bootstrapped world, it seems to be a bit more common.

Rand Fishkin:                     Sure. It makes sense.

Justin:                                   [crosstalk 00:10:49] from WP Curve, you’ve got, the Dynamite Circle guys over at Tropicalmba.com, I mean they tend to build an audience and then plunk around until they finally hit on something that their audience loves.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah. I mean, I think that makes a lot of sense. When you don’t have capital, and you’re not able to sort of hire engineers and spend a bunch of heads down time, months or years building something first, you need to first attract an audience and then oftentimes I think a lot of bootstrappers from my experience, at least will use other forms of revenue generation. Whether that’s affiliate marketing or selling ebooks or whatever it is to that group before they build, something, that software or hardware or physical product, whatever that might be.

Justin:                                   Yeah. Let me ask you some questions about scaling your team of people. You did get up to several hundred people working for Moz, and that’s interesting to us and particularly at Empire Flippers, but also our audience. When you were building out your management team, did you always promote from within? Did you hire outside? What was your thought process there?

Rand Fishkin:                     A combination of the two, but I think reflecting on that experience, especially in the early days, I wish I had done more hiring of more senior experienced, been there, done that folks rather than biasing to the less expensive people that I could afford. And part of that is by circumstance as well. I was a young entrepreneur with not a big network. Moz was growing quickly, but it was not in an exciting space. I think that SEO actually was reviled and hated by most of the software engineering and web development worlds until only the last maybe four or five years when that sentiment has sort of faded and people go, “Oh yeah, that’s just a standard marketing practice. And I get that, that’s something we should all be doing.” I don’t hate everyone who has ever put SEO in their job title or description, but from 2001 until 2013, oh my God.

                                                I mean you mentioned SEO on Hacker News and the down votes just poured in. So that’s definitely a cultural shift, but it was very tough to find those folks. And I think I could have done a much better job of recruiting more senior people, but fewer of them. So a few years ago I was asked to give a presentation at the Business of Software Conference and the organizer said, “Hey Rand, you know what? What I’d really like is what I’d change, what I’d keep the same and what I don’t yet know.” And that was the presentation that I created. And in the things that I would change, what I specifically said was, “I would hire fewer people. I would pay them more, and I would expect more of them.”

Justin:                                   So we had a bias. We’ve always had a bias toward promoting internally. It’s both I think, loyalty towards the team, but also just thinking that we have a unique business, and bringing them up just seems to make more sense, and we’re good at it. We like developing managers and supervisors and it’s good … We think it’s generally good. But we just did like our first big outside hire for a VP position, and it’s fantastic. I think it’ll really help our business, and it was in a position that we couldn’t really just promote from within.

                                                And so you’ve got me thinking about that in terms of like bringing on well-paid senior leadership and not a ton of them. We worked for a company at one point where they had heavy bloat at the top, and they brought in a lot of senior leadership, too much, and it’s a bear for the company in terms of like funding them, but it’s also a lot of chiefs and not a lot of Indians, and that can be a problem too.

Rand Fishkin:                     One thing that I would definitely bias against is saying that the only senior folks that I would hire or promote from within are managers. I think that having senior individual contributors is actually vastly more valuable than having lots of senior people managers. So if you can get very high quality, experienced, been there, done that folks in whatever, engineering, marketing, customer service, onboarding, design, finance, operations. If you can bring experienced high quality people into those roles, I think that can actually be an extraordinary win versus, “Oh yeah, we’ve got this great manager that we brought in from outside.” Now that manager has to go and build their team and craft that culture internally. I don’t always love that, I love when culture comes from the ICs and so does a lot of the initiative and the work and when management can be relatively light.

Justin:                                   Yeah. [crosstalk 00:15:40]-

Rand Fishkin:                     … Which is not to say it’s not necessary.

Justin:                                   Yeah, like content creators.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah. High level creators I think is a wonderful goal-

Justin:                                   Why didn’t you do that? Was it a fear of the added burden of costs? What if they don’t work out? Like it was your …

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah. I think it was every combination and factor. Didn’t have a great network, couldn’t recruit them or a lot of challenges recruiting them. Couldn’t afford to pay and pay up to what other folks were paying for those roles. Didn’t have the reputation to be able to attract them and recruit them, wasn’t in the space that was exciting at the time that those types of folks who are looking at. Definitely did not have the knowledge to know how to find those people or what to look for or even that I needed them. So yeah, it was every kind of ignorance and frustration and inability driving that. No one thing.

Justin:                                   Earlier on in our company, I didn’t put much thought towards culture. In fact, I had thought that culture was beanbags and fussball. And I was like, “You know what, that’s just-“

Rand Fishkin:                     I know, because that’s what the media amplifies. It’s almost like that’s what they want you to think culture is and that’s such BS.

Justin:                                   Yeah, I spent a lot more time thinking about that over the last two years, I’d say as we’ve grown our team and its principles, it’s how you operate as a business. What drives you. It’s not just fussball tables. And can you talk to me a little bit about culture and principles that you developed at Moz? What I’m finding it’s not just you developing them, it’s your team as well. So can you talk to me a little about that?

Rand Fishkin:                     Sure yeah. I mean the way that I view this is that culture flows from core values, and it flows from enforcement of answers to the questions like, who do we hire and why? Who do we promote and why? Who do we put on performance improvement plans and why? And who do we let go and why? And those are really the things that drive culture internally. So if people see that leadership, the CEO or senior leaders or managers are promoting people who produce a high quantity of work and have their sort of butts in seats mentality and put in lots of extra hours, that’s the culture you’re going to get. If people see that management doesn’t care at all, if you work 60 or 80 hours a week, but if you get the thing done that you said you were going to get done, you could work 30, and they’ll promote you, then people will see that, that’s the culture you’re building.

Justin:                                   Yeah. It’s interesting Rand. I come from butts in seats. I come from a work a gazillion hours background. Like that was a culture I was in when I was working with someone else. We’ve transitioned away from that a bit, but I still … Every once in a while I have this thing gnawing at me going, “Why are you so free. Why are you letting people … You need to make sure that they’re working and they account for their hours.” And I have to fight against that.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that the best way to fight against that is just to say, “I don’t care whether this takes you two hours or 20, I hope it takes you two. You promise me you’ll get something done by date X. Great. You miss those dates. Let’s talk about why, is it because you’re not great estimation, it’s because you underestimated how much work would be necessary? Did you commit to something that was way more complicated and what we need to do? Next time is actually make a much smaller piece deliverable early, instead of, ‘Hey, I’m going to build this whole system in a month.'” It’s,-

Justin:                                   [inaudible 00:18:57]. Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, “I’m going to build part one of this system and I’ll be able to demo that to you by Friday.” Great.

Justin:                                   One of the things that we struggle with and are constantly readjusting, and I know others in our audience too as well, is the problem of staying in your lane. Dealing with things that are your responsibility … It’s nice in a company to have people that have a wide range of skillsets and are able to hop it on other things and handle them at the same time. It gets messy when you find two or three people working on the same project or a very similar project when one would suffice. How did you deal with that at Moz with so many people.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, interesting. For some reason we did not encounter that particular challenge too much. I think that might’ve been because of how the teams were structured and organized and because projects were fairly siloed and didn’t have a tremendous amount of overlap. I think we actually experienced the opposite problem where there was a lot of like, “Okay, I finished my piece, throw it over the wall, now it’s your problem.” As opposed to marketers and engineers and designers sort of all working together in collaboration, in which case you probably encounter more of what you described, which is the, “Hey, I’m running the marketing, you’re the engineer. Let’s not step on each other’s toes here.” Which I think can happen.

                                                I’ve seen it a little bit, not too much at Moz, but sometimes in other places. So I think that it depends on how you structure projects and how you structure teams and that’s part of culture too. If you make everything everyone’s job versus you make very solid, independent individual contributions and commitments, the culture of the company, you probably deal with one problem or another. But I think the great thing about our conversation here, Justin, is that, we keep pointing out the flip side, like, “Well, I had this problem. Oh, weird. I never had that problem, but I had the other problem, the problem that comes from doing it the other way.” So there’s no easy one size fits all, this is the perfect path.

                                                That’s why second time, third time, fourth time entrepreneurs are so much better at this and why, very frankly … I’m sure you’ve observed this too. A lot of the folks in their early 20s or even late 20s, and they’re starting their first company and they’re working, those crazy, crazy hours, 60, 80 hour weeks and just banging their heads against the wall. And then you see entrepreneurs who are doing their second or third, their fourth company, they’re in their 50s, they take a lot of vacations, they spend time with their kids. Home life and family life is important to them. But oftentimes they are dramatically out-earning and dramatically out-building those 20 somethings and it’s because they’ve been through this rodeo a few times before.

                                                And you learn. You see that progress and that sort of intellectual aha, “I know that I’m good at doing it this way and that I’m good at hiring people who do it this way, and so this is how I’m going to evolve my company and avoid this problem.”

Justin:                                   I have some friends right now that are in that kind of like a sophomore startup phase where they had sold the company for a nice exit. They have another business that they’re running, but that’s more of like their brand. The guys are at Dynamite Circle, Tropical MBA is their podcast, but they’re struggling a bit trying to find the next thing. And they want it to be big and they have some sense of what they want, but it’s … I think it’s also scary, are you in that boat now where-

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, totally.

Justin:                                   You’re starting SparkToro and you’ve got some other projects you’re working on. Is it scary? Do you have expectations of yourself or do other people have expectations of you that and make it more difficult?

Rand Fishkin:                     There’s a sense of greater pressure, internal pressure as opposed to external pressure. When you raise venture capital, get a pretty high degree of external pressure, but this time around my sort of driving motivation is proving some people wrong. And so, that is a very strong internal motivator for me. But it’s also a lot of pressure, and I know that I will be very vigilant about my activities and how the company goes. But one of the things that I am doing that I think is very different from what I did with Moz is structuring the company to have many different paths to success or to what’s considered success.

                                                So Moz, $47 million a year business grew like 11 or 12% last year, has thousands of customers, I think maybe made something like two or $3 million in profit, which sounds all pretty good. Sounds fine. In the bootstrapped world, that would certainly … I think that would be a rousing success. In the venture backed world, that’s a really frustrating company. A company that you wish would just … you’d have used, not the best euphemism but sort of shit or get off the pot. Like please, please either die and go bankrupt and just stop being a drain on our investor sort of time and resources so we can go put the money towards other things or exit, like get the growth rate up and sell.

Justin:                                   That is crazy, it’s so risky. They want you to be ridiculously risky, even at the size that Moz is today.

Rand Fishkin:                     Well, because this is the model. And I would say actually Moz’s investors are far more low risk tolerant. Yeah, yeah, yeah, than most. But the model just doesn’t work for them if they have companies that look like Moz that sell for … If Moz sold for $100 million, our investors would be pretty disappointed.

Justin:                                   Yeah. Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     Now, my wife and I would be thrilled, like we’d be cheering. It would be fantastic. A lot of Moz’s employees would do well, but you know the investors would be like, “Oh God, well at least that’s off my plate.”

Justin:                                   Yeah, because 2X on their money, it’s not worth their time. They’re looking for-

Rand Fishkin:                     Oh, in the last round … Yeah, the last round was at 90 million pre, so they’d be really scraping it. Yeah, it doesn’t work. The math of venture is such that, you got to get that five to 10X return, hopefully closer to 10X, because what you want is the rest of the companies to just die so that you can go find the 10Xers and put all your energy towards them. Board meetings and entrepreneurs sucking up your time is bad.

Justin:                                   Here’s a big question for you Rand. You start off SEOmoz as a blog, as you, expanded, it grew, you raise money and that’s what you do in the valley, it’s what the industry does. Looking back, would you have done that? Would you have kept the investors out and kept Moz yourself or did it have to take the path that you took?

Rand Fishkin:                     There’s two reasons I’m going to say that I’m glad that Moz raised money. I’m glad that, I raised money once. And one is because to your point, the Silicon Valley Echo Chamber and the culture around tech startups glorifies people who raise money, glorifies entrepreneurs and does a really good job of making many of us, I would even venture to say most of us in the tech field, look at bootstrapped entrepreneurs who may be are making a few million dollars a year, but they’re lifestyle businesses.

Justin:                                   Yeah, I know [crosstalk 00:26:15] lifestyle.

Rand Fishkin:                     And they use that style term pejoratively, which is disgusting and wrong. And I think they do so because that culture needs to maintain this mythology, that brazing institutional funding is the one and only path. Otherwise, it’s sort of like people finding out the emperor has no clothes and that there is this other way, that’s probably right for 95%, 99% of businesses. And so I that because of that messaging, I internalize that so much that even today, if Moz had been bootstrapped and profitable and had done very well financially for me, I would be always wondering, always beating myself up, always thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not a real entrepreneur.” You know what I mean?

Justin:                                   Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     I know myself, I know I would have that mentality. And then the second reason is because, especially with our first round of funding, which was 1.1 million, so quite a small amount, relatively speaking, you know seven. We were able to build something exciting that I don’t think we could have built at all, and we certainly couldn’t have been first to market with, and that was our link index and the product that became open site explorer. And now there’s about to be a new version of that out there. I think it’s out there already in Beta, but-

Justin:                                   Open site, well virtually everyone in our audience is probably-

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, for sure. Like everybody uses domain authority, which was sort of this invention that we had at Moz and yeah, so that product took about 700,000 of that 1.1 to build. It was me, Ben Hendrickson, Nick Earner and this guy Chaz Williams. Funny enough, Ben and Chaz actually, after they left Moz, Ben was at Google for a while and then he and Chaz made their own company. And one of the last products I work on was I actually bought their little company, just the two of them and some tech and had them sort of rebuild the new version of our link index at Moz again. So it was like, band back together. But that experience, that first build, I think we started building that in end of 2007, we launched in October of 2008, and the next month we were profitable. And that growth, that’s what sort of made the company take off and sort of grow to 30 million before we had to raise our next round.

Justin:                                   And the latter rounds.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, those were probably a mistake. I mean, we raised $18 million from Foundry and ignition in 2012.

Justin:                                   Did you have a plan for that money? The 18 million. Did you have it specifically like we’re going to use it for this, we need it for this?

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, yeah, very specific plan, detailed out. A plan, I was super excited about, a plan that our investors who are excited about. Totally stupid, terrible fucking plan, like awful. Like it makes me question how we could have all been so bad at our jobs.

Justin:                                   Is that when you were thinking, bring everything together, like-

Rand Fishkin:                     Yes.

Justin:                                   Yes. Okay, so this is … I’ve read-

Rand Fishkin:                     You remember it, yeah.

Justin:                                   I read what you said about this. So it was, you were going to bring everything in house, an all-in-one software and platform that was for SEOs, content marketers, that was the idea.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yep. Content, social, brand marketers, PR, blah, blah, blah. All these different practices. And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re not going to be siloed anymore. Companies won’t have a PR division, there won’t be PR agencies. There’s just going to be marketing and all the web marketers are to do all these things together because there’s so much [crosstalk 00:29:43].

Justin:                                   The idea sounds good. Like the idea of having everything in one system is good, but the problem and you addressed, was that you can’t be best in breed at every single thing. You just won’t be.

Rand Fishkin:                     No.

Justin:                                   There’s going to be someone that’s working harder than you, that’s thinking harder about a particular problem than you in one sliver of that piece. And you said that yourself, like you personally use software that’s best in breed. You don’t look for all in one solutions. I mean that could have been a sign, but you wouldn’t [inaudible 00:30:10] yourself.

Rand Fishkin:                     And worst of all is that no one in our market, no one that we talked to or interviewed or surveyed said that that was what they were missing. If you ask an SEO, what’s missing? “Well I want better link metrics. I want more coverage, looking for a better keyword research tool.” And what do we build? “Hey, now you can get some social data in your SEOs tool. ‘Man does not what I asked you for.'” And so, of course they’re going to go somewhere else.

Justin:                                   Was that not listening to … How did that happen? Was it not listening to your audience? Was it not thinking through the problem?

Rand Fishkin:                     Oh yeah. I mean, it was pure, unadulterated arrogance. And I think that came from sort of five or six years of doing really, really well at this stuff. I mean, I’m trying to describe … What’s a good way to describe it? I don’t know, like the weird status that comes with being a successful Silicon Valley style entrepreneur, like you get treated in weird ways. I had a crazy experience today. I just saw that Donald Trump made this guy ambassador to a country. I won’t name exactly which one, and I was like, “Holy shit! That guy used to hang out with me all the time, like he’d invite me … God, I haven’t heard from him forever. Oh right, I’m not hot anymore.” I’m not the cool kid that I used to be when Moz was growing 100% year over year and all these venture capitalists were like, “Whoo, interesting. You’ve got something.”

                                                So it’s weird that you get treated that way sort of by valley culture, and then you start to believe that you’re really good at this stuff and then you start to believe that you’re infallible and you get really good at pitching. Get really, really good at telling the story because that’s what venture culture teaches you, the CEO’s job is to tell the story and repeat the story-

Justin:                                   Invest the story and you tailor it to your audience and you … Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah. And so, like you get good at the skills that are sort of told are important for your job and I definitely got good at that. And so I told that story and not only did I believe it, all of these other people believed it, everyone except customers.

Justin:                                   Yeah. Let me ask you Rand, because there’s a point at which you were … I mean, and you’ve done this many times, but you laid out a brutally honest post about your thoughts on taking chips off the table. Taking some cash for yourself and you didn’t have much cash in your bank account at the time, and put this post out there, and a bunch of people like heart to heart were like, “Man, you need to take some money out of the business. What are you doing?” And you were like, “I’d feel bad for the team.” And you had your reasons, and they just went through them in like open letters and just … There were just all over you about that. So I thought that was interesting. Do you think they were right? Should you have taken more cash of the business at that time yourself? They argue that it was irresponsible, that you don’t have any more money in the bank to free yourself. See they were right about that?

Rand Fishkin:                     Absolutely. Yeah, totally. It was one of those really, really dumb and foolish things. Especially, because, again, interesting thing about the model, so when Moz was doing five or $10 million a year, but growing at 100% year over year, there were people who would buy a tiny sliver of my stock, well a small percentage of my stock for a million, a couple million, maybe even four or $5 million that I could have taken off the table. In this transition that I’ve just had, I sort of spent the last year shopping stock around seeing if I could get any buyers and that $47 million is profitable but growing at 11% year over year, not one, could not find a single interested buyer of any kind. I talked to private equity firms and firms that buy private stock, and some of the new market places that have cropped up and some private investors, all these types of folks. And they were like, “Ah, no. Not growing fast enough.”

Justin:                                   Just not excited because it’s not year over year doubling. Yeah, that’s interesting. So we’re at a reverse situation Rand, so we’re … Joe and I, my business partner, we were talking about taking some chips off the table. And we’re like, “Look, let’s just set ourselves up for … We’ll continue to grow it. We’ll sell 20% of the company or something and take some chips off.” We brought this to peers of ours, friends and other entrepreneurs that are successful, are doing well. And they said we were crazy. “You absolutely shouldn’t do that.” They said, “You’re insane. You guys own the company, you’re bootstrapped. Completely giving up any equity for a little bit of cash now at the rate you’re growing is insane.” So we ran into the opposite problem where everyone was telling us we’re crazy for thinking about it. I mean we’re still trying to-

Rand Fishkin:                     What sort of rights would you be giving up?

Justin:                                   Well, Joe and I discussed nothing. Like no board seat, they would have equity, they would get distributions. And that’s it.

Rand Fishkin:                     So let’s say the company becomes insanely profitable. I’m just going to throw out random figures. I have no idea if these are even close to correct. Let’s say you each get $2 million right now.

Justin:                                   Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     And then 10 years from now you would’ve made $100 million over the last decade, but instead you made 80, are you’re going to be crying?

Justin:                                   No.

Rand Fishkin:                     Are going to be really sad? And what if things go the way they’ve gone for me? And you there and you think to yourself, “Holy shit, thank God I have these $2 million-“

Justin:                                   Like [crosstalk 00:35:26] available.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah. Oh my goodness. I mean, I don’t know how-

Justin:                                   So I only read your story-

Rand Fishkin:                     I don’t know how to describe it. If you told me for example, “Hey Rand, you know, we’re also going to have to give up, not just board seat, but they’ll have veto rights on a sale of a company, or they will get their money back times three in any sales situation before we make anything, sort of a participating preferred liquidity preference.” I’d be like, “All right, I’d think much harder about that. I might still go for it, but I think it would be logical to not go for it.” But in the scenario, if you can take that off the table and still maintain, 80% of your interest in the company, still maintain the direction that you want, and the control that you want. Oh my goodness. Yeah, what could be stopping you?

Justin:                                   We’ll revisit that discussion with my business partner? [inaudible 00:36:14]. All right, so let’s shift gears a little bit. I want to talk about transparency because there’s a lot of people in business that talk about transparency and [inaudible 00:36:26] and show that show that they do, but you were doing that a long time ago. That was something that was a part of the business that you built up. Talk to me a little bit about how you view … And then to just give you some background, we’re big fans of that both externally with partners and customers, but also internally with our team too and even in tough situations. Even when things are going well, we view it as really important and we didn’t always. We used to think when worked for other people that absolutely not.

                                                No, that’s a competitive advantage, you don’t want to let your competitors know where you’re at. You don’t want to say what your numbers are because then to some people you look too small and to some people you look too big and what we found is that’s absolutely not true. You look exactly right to the exact right customers. And the right customers are going to find you and it’s going to resonate with them, and they’re going to go, “Yes, I want some of that. Let’s do business together.” And it invites customers that are just right for you. What were some of the values that you found, in being transparent with Moz and with other projects you’ve been involved in?

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, a lot of exactly what you described, that transparency breeds trust, that it earns right kinds of customers, that it’s basically a very inexpensive way of doing great marketing, and it resonates with a lot of people who value authenticity. That being said, my beliefs on transparency have shifted a lot, which is that I think most of what we call transparency today or most of what many businesses call, being transparent is actually just being open about things that help them-

Justin:                                   [inaudible 00:38:02].

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, which really just marketing. It’s an intelligent form, and it’s an interesting form, and it makes for good stories, but it is a form of marketing. What I almost never see is what I would call true transparency, which is vulnerability. So vulnerability is when you essentially say, “Hey, here is this ugly, nasty truth about me or my business that is not going well, that is going to make customers not view us in the best light. But I am still sharing it because my core commitment is real transparency.” And you get different kinds of values out of that. But I have gotten value out of that.

Justin:                                   Well, let’s talk about that. So the hardest things are the things that we found, we got amazing value out of. I’ll give you an example. We got scammed by some people running some credit card fraud. And we didn’t do it right in the moment. In the moment we didn’t talk about it. We waited a couple of weeks until we had come up with a solution and fixed it because obviously we didn’t want to invite more problems too. But we talked about it afterwards and there was no value to us. Like it basically makes us look bad. It makes us look like, we’re idiots. We can get scammed by these guys. There’re holes in our process. What can our customers expect if these guys scammed us, will other people scam them? I couldn’t see a way to make it look good from a marketing perspective.

                                                I said, “Look, I’m going to put this out anyway.” It was super popular in our audience, and I think that’s wise because I didn’t have a marketing angle. I mean, I couldn’t, I was looking for one, I couldn’t find a marketing angle, but I said it’s an interesting story, it will probably resonate with some people either who are worried about it or have gone through that. But we were super popular, like a ton of people we were talking about it, we got a ton of traction for reasons that didn’t really help us, but it did ultimately, like it-

Rand Fishkin:                     Exactly.

Justin:                                   … helped our brand, I think so.

Rand Fishkin:                     Exactly, exactly.

Justin:                                   I thought it would hurt. I thought a lot of people be like, “Oh, you guys are idiots. I’m not doing business with idiots.” But that wasn’t the case.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah. Yeah. I’ve had similar experiences where in fact I’ve been … I think some of my frustrations the last few years are around me desiring to be transparent and vulnerable about negative things and starting having the team be very opposed to that. And it’s a hard thing. I think it’s a question of like, what does a core value mean? Does a core value mean we do this thing because we think it helps the business? In which case, you can’t call that a core value. That’s not what that means. To me, a value is one where you say, “I would do this even if I was confident that it would hurt our business. It would harm revenue and hurt us, because I believe it is more important than money.”

                                                And you can see that a little bit. I think, a good example of that is someone like DuckDuckGo where Gabriel Weinberg says, “Look, yes it is the primary value proposition of this search engine that we, you know, don’t collect and store information, but it absolutely harms the business. We are able to sell less advertising and less high quality advertising and all these things with our search engine. Even though we have hundreds of millions of searches because that’s the model.” And Google basically says, “Well we did away with do no evil, so when we got you. We’re going to profit off of that.” But I think that when you find real values, there’s something exciting and compelling about them. It’s unique. You want to cheer for that team in a different sort of way.

Justin:                                   You found transparency has gotten more difficult as you grew, because now you have your lawyer, now your legal team, now your management team that are like, “Ooh, I don’t …” And you’re checking with them on this, that or the other. And they’re saying, “Oh, can we change it? Can water it down? Can we take the really kind of aggressive stuff out?” And I mean, how did you deal with that and keep true to the idea that transparency is valuable?

Rand Fishkin:                     I mean, in a way it just suffered, it became one of those things that didn’t get the amplification or at least not in the same way. So, for example, you might recall I wrote a blog post about Moz’s layoffs in 2016 and mentioned that … I think that post went up like 60 days after the layoffs when it should have gone up a week or two after layoffs. And, I noted that, “Hey, this has been reviewed by the board and by the executive team,” and all that kind of stuff. And that’s very unusual for me. There are parts that are cut out. Some of those parts, by the way, are in the book. They’re in Lost and Founder, so one of the nice things is, I just took the parts that they didn’t want in there and I figured, “I’ll put them in the book-

Justin:                                   It’s your book, yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     … A few hundred more people will read it.” But at a much less painful time, years later when you can look back and have hindsight. I think that the reality is that you have to decide who you’re willing to compromise with. Are you willing to not make compromises with your team or are you willing to not make compromises with your sort of audience and community who’ve come to know you and trust you and hopefully love you because of the values you’ve espoused? That’s a real hard trade off.

Justin:                                   Yeah, that is tough.

Rand Fishkin:                     I think it’s pretty tough to say like, “Hey look, this product didn’t go well, so I’m just going to be throwing you all under the bus on this blog post, I’m writing.” Yeah, this is a shit thing to sort of say. And there’s ways to soften that blow of course. I mean, I have written a number of times in Moz’s history about things where we’ve struggled and I know for a fact, because I’ve heard them tell me after beer number two or three, that it really hurt those team members feelings or their belief in why they were at the company and whether they should be fighting this hard and that sucks, right?

Justin:                                   That sucks. That’s terrible.

Rand Fishkin:                     And then there’s people who are like, “Hey, I’m in it. That’s what I signed up for. That’s what I want here.” But woof.

Justin:                                   Yeah. It’s tough to think-

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, it’s hard.

Justin:                                   … That through. I mean, I think if people come on board and they know where you’re coming from with that and you’re very upfront and open about your plan to be open and honest with your audience and to lay it all out, warts and all, then the team has to understand that you’re going to do that. They’re not tricked into it. It’s not like … You know what I mean? Like they know what they’re getting into when they come on board. I guess that’s my answer.

Rand Fishkin:                     I mean, you say that, but then when it hits them … It’s different when you like read about, “Oh yeah, Moz had this, challenge a few years ago with this product to make inbound marketing in all in one suite.” That kind of thing. But I don’t think you realize how sensitive you’re going to be to it, when it’s your product or project.

Justin:                                   They put their blood, sweat and tears into this thing, worked really hard and you’re calling it a loser.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah. I mean, hopefully you’re just saying how it is.

Justin:                                   Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that’s-

Rand Fishkin:                     It gets perceived in ways that are really hard.

Justin:                                   A friend of mine had mentioned to me … I think he’s a great entrepreneur, I love the guy. He had mentioned that, “Isn’t transparency just to gimmick, isn’t it just a marketing gimmick?” And I told him no, it’s not really. How would you describe it to get through to someone like that who views it as maybe just a marketing trick or ploy?

Rand Fishkin:                     I would absolutely agree that in the majority of cases when people in companies say that they are being transparent, it is just a marketing gimmick or a ploy. That’s exactly what we’ve talked about. That real transparency is here is this painful hard thing that I’m being vulnerable about, that is hard to talk about that other people wouldn’t and don’t, and I’m putting it out there anyway. And to your point, I can’t see the angle. I can’t see the win here, but here it is. I mean, I wrote about my depression and my wife’s brain tumor and Moz’s layoffs. Like these are not things that doesn’t attract customers. Right?

Justin:                                   No, no.

Rand Fishkin:                     But it does help you feel like you’re part of the journey. It resonates with a certain kind of person who then you know, could become a lifelong friend or ally and maybe that’s more important.

Justin:                                   This is a constant battle too. It’s not like you do it one time and, “Hey, we’re transparent. We talked about this hard thing and it’s done.” You’re like, “Okay, we are a transparent company, now we’ve checked the box and it’s done.” Because it keeps coming up. There are other screw ups and mistakes and horrible things that happen and horrible things that you do and you have to come back to it and say, “How do I talk about this? What do I say about this? Is it going to help me? Even if it’s not going to help me, how do I get this message out?” And it gets harder and harder as you grow.

                                                As you’ve said, when you got legal teams and boards and senior management that want to review and water it down. Interesting. When we started doing this, I felt like a weight was lifted and we could just talk very openly and not have to be secretive, not really to hold back and it felt freeing to some degree. Are there industries or companies where this would not work at all? I mean obviously governments need to keep secrets and they need to. Are there other companies that need to do this? My buddy and I were talking about this, and I was like, “I don’t know. I know that …”

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, there’s a lot of ones with legal obligations. For example, you if I were a public company CEO, I could not say how last week went for the company. That would be totally illegal, my board could sue me and all my investors could sue me and there’s all sorts of layers to that. And I have friends who run public companies, I feel deeply for them because essentially the law restricts them from being transparent. And I think that sucks. I think there’s other kinds of firms as well. So places where there’s not a single person who can be a shot caller, so partnerships, venture capital firms are often partnerships, everyone has to buy in or no one does. A lot of law firms are like that. So yeah, there’s plenty of structures and industries where that doesn’t work.

Justin:                                   For obvious reasons. All right man. Let’s talk about some of the new projects you have going on, Rand. And the first is obviously a book you’ve written called Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World. I know the title. You already mentioned that some of what was going on at Moz, you shared in this book. Who is this book for? Who should read this book?

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, this is really for entrepreneurs and folks who are part of early stage or companies seeking high growth. You and I have had this experience right where you go out to a coffee or a beer with a friend or with someone who’s in the field and you share your experiences really openly and you have that resonant moment where you think, “My God, thanks to hearing this person’s experience, I feel like I’m going to be able to avoid that mistake or I feel like I’m going to have this data point that’s going to help make a team to overcome this problem.”

Justin:                                   Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     And so this book was … Granted, it’s a one sided conversation, but it was really me trying to scale those beers and coffees.

Justin:                                   Who are you? Who are you writing to? Did you have anyone specific in mind? Was there like a friend or another entrepreneur that you were speaking to when you wrote this? Like what was your process?

Rand Fishkin:                     I think in a lot of ways I was trying to speak mostly to just dropped out of college, started Moz, Rand. Where you go back in time and you say, “Gosh, if I had had this book, if I could have read this, I know that all these painful things …” Everything from the taking money off the table to getting too far away from customers and assuming I knew what I was doing, rather than listening to those folks, trying to build lots of different things rather than focusing, investing in growth hacks or trying to find the next big growth hack rather than building a sustainable sort of marketing engine. Everything from pricing to hiring to promotion to building culture to stuff around diversity, stuff around mental health. All of those things are in here.

Justin:                                   Talking about the book, the audio version comes out when? A couple of weeks? End of April.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yep. April 24th.

Justin:                                   Cool. And the book is out now, I’m going to put a link to that in the show notes. Another project you were working on or you were talking about wanting to start was a nonprofit project to make conferences safer for women and men. And we’ve read a lot about that … I haven’t been terribly … Well, I’m not involved in the conference circuit in US, but things have been going a little crazy over there. What’s the deal? I mean, is it really just a shit show for sexual harassment or is it more isolated incidents? What’s going on?

Rand Fishkin:                     Probably a bit of both. I think that the biggest problem that I’ve observed is that there is a certain type of … almost always men who feel like they can use conferences and events as places to sort of be predatory. And that can be in very rare cases, true physical violence and rape, which I’m very sad to say I actually know about a couple of incidents of, it’s just heartbreaking and shitty, down to just crappy comments and sexual innuendo and things that make people feel uncomfortable, such that they really ask themselves, “God, do I want to go through all of that to be able to attend this event.”

Justin:                                   I’ve heard of some of that, like there’s a female entrepreneur and they’re like, “Oh, here’s somebody’s wife or girlfriend. You must be … Who are you here with?” Like that’s-

Rand Fishkin:                     Right and that’s like the lightest form of it, the worst … Well not the worst, but the level above that, which I still see quite a bit is like, “Hey, why don’t you come up to my room and we can discuss where your career is at and how I could help you.” And if I get that invitation or you get that invitation, we can just take it. We don’t have to think about it. We can just be like, “Yeah, sure man, let’s go up to your room. That’d be great. We can talk about [crosstalk 00:51:59]-“

Justin:                                   … Good luck.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, it’s going to be awesome, “Like this is going to be great. I’m going to get to know this powerful important person who has this network and who knows? Maybe they could help introduce me to investors or help get their company on board as a customer. Like, this is awesome. I love it.” And if you’re a woman, you got to think about 10 times before you say yes to that. And it just sucks. Like that is truly career limiting. When I look out in the field and I see like, “Gosh, an equal number of men and women go into web marketing, but then at senior positions, why is it almost all men? What’s going on there? That seems messed up. Oh wait, maybe it’s because you know.”

Justin:                                   Well, I wish we were all in the project. I’d say I fall into the oblivious territory. So I was at a conference in Thailand and I heard some people complaining, like there’s a guy who had brought his wife and him and her were both complaining about how many times she was hit on by some of the other guys there. And I heard some of the other things going on from some of the women that were at the conference. And I was like, “What? I didn’t see any of this. I didn’t know any of this was going on.” And I’m hoping that your project will help for guys like me who just don’t notice. Maybe it was just lack of paying attention, whatever. But hopefully it will speak to us who … I mean, we obviously do want to protect women and men at conferences and don’t want them to feel uncomfortable but just don’t really see it or don’t know what’s going on. So hopefully …

Rand Fishkin:                     I think a lot of it is like don’t know how to help. Before, I heard all these stories it was the same thing. I went to conferences for a decade, built a wonderful career off the back of events for sure and never thought twice about it. Right?

Justin:                                   Yeah.

Rand Fishkin:                     So yeah, absolutely. Want to help with that and want to give some teeth to events such that they can help prevent this kind of shitty behavior.

Justin:                                   And the other thing you’re working on, which is your new venture SparkToro, which is a software company and the ideas influencer in audience intelligence. What’s the plan here? Why this” And where are you at?

Rand Fishkin:                     Sure. Yeah. Well, I am one month in, which means I have most of my taxes in order. I’ve got my accounting set up, I have some very rudimentary stuff but probably still six to nine months away from having a product, but the basic idea is that I just kept seeing over and over this problem that search couldn’t solve, that SEO couldn’t solve, which is essentially that there when you have a product or a service and you’re trying to market it. Many times, the demand for the brand is much bigger than the demand for all the unbranded search combined. I’ll give you an example. So there’s a company here in Seattle that I really like. I’ve been working with the founders a little bit called Crowd Cow and they basically source ethical high quality beef from small ranchers and farms around the US and they’ll ship it to your house in these vacuum sealed packs that you can CV or whatever.

                                                So great product, really cool thing. And I looked the other, a few weeks ago and it was like, I think Crowd Cow, searches for their brand name and this is a tiny brand in the space, were already bigger than all the searches for buy stakes online, buy beef online, buy ribeye or get ribeye delivered or whatever, all that type of search. And I was like, “Geez, they could rank number one for everything and it really wouldn’t move the needle on their business.” What they need is to get in front of more right customers and those right customers hang out in certain places and they listen to certain people and they read certain publications and they listen to podcasts and they go to events and discovering what those places and people in publications are, is a pain in the ass. And that is what I want to try and help solve with SparkToro, being able to say you know …

Justin:                                   You need that Cambridge Analytica data, man.

Rand Fishkin:                     That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. I would like it with no personally identifiable information. Please, but yes.

Justin:                                   Yes, [inaudible 00:56:07]. But no, I get what you’re saying. I want to know where our customers are hanging out in particular like, sellers, I know like entrepreneurs that are building websites, and they’re in communities, I can find them easily. Buyers, that guy, executive in an office that wants to be building his website from the beach in Bali. I don’t know where hangs out. That’s a difficult find for me. So I can see how it would make sense for us. Like where do I find our buyers? Right?

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah.

Justin:                                   So yeah, that makes sense.

Rand Fishkin:                     Right and if you were like, “Okay, I know that a lot of them listen to this podcast or a lot of them follow this person on Twitter, or a lot of them read this blog or go to this event.” Then could you plug that into a system like SparkToro and have it say, “Great people who do this also listen to, read, watch, subscribe to engage with, follow this, this, this, this, this.”

Justin:                                   It might help me out with marketing budgets too where I can assign dollars, a little more strategically in areas that I think at least have a higher chance of success of finding customers.

Rand Fishkin:                     Exactly.

Justin:                                   Cool man. Well, I’m going to be respectful of your time, man. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I think you’ve been very generous with both me and our audience. If they want to reach out, where should they reach you?

Rand Fishkin:                     Best place is on Twitter I’m @randfishkin or you can email me Rand@sparktoro.com.

Justin:                                   Awesome, Rand. Thanks so much.

Rand Fishkin:                     Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Justin:                                   Okay.

Speaker 2:                           You’ve been listening to the Empire podcast now some news and updates.

Justin:                                   All right, Joe, we’re back to talk news and updates. First off, man, let’s talk a little bit about where we’re at. You’re in Vegas right now attending the MicroConf conference and then you’re flying out this week, you’re heading over to New Orleans.

Joe:                                        Yeah. I’m going to be attending the IBBA conference or the Internet Business Brokers Association conference where we will be receiving the award for the top broker of 2017.

Justin:                                   Top broker 2017, it doesn’t sound like a horrible award. How’s MicroConf going? And this is our first time there in Vegas. I know you’ve met some of our customers, and you’ve met some other really cool people in the SaaS space.

Joe:                                        Yeah, awesome conference. Highly recommended. Rob and his wife Sherry put on a great conference and they couldn’t do without their staff. Guys like Mike and Zander who definitely run the show, but they’re running a tight ship, it’s fun, it’s a good crowd, learning a lot and really connecting with some interesting businesses.

Justin:                                   That’s cool, man. You’re having to dress up for these things. We’re talking about this, you’re going to New Orleans and we take the stage, you got a suit, man? You got a suit man? You can’t do the cargo shorts and tee shirts that we do in Southeast Asia, typically.

Joe:                                        Could not do that. No, I did have to buy myself a suit. Not a custom made suit I bought it off the rack because I know I’m only going to wear it like twice and then it probably will just never fit me again. But here in Vegas, I used to be a little more formal in Vegas, but you can even get away with jeans and a tee shirt at events like this. And it’s warm enough that you can probably even do shorts, but-

Justin:                                   Yeah, the [inaudible 00:58:58] is fine, you can get away with that, but like this other kind of like a little stuff here, a little older business manager, you can’t swing it. You can’t swing the shorts and a tee shirt.

Joe:                                        Yeah. And when you’re getting the top award for the whole year, all business brokers, I definitely think you should probably wear a suit.

Justin:                                   I don’t know. I think you should rock it in shorts and a tee shirt, man. Flip flops. I think that’d be so boss, people would be like, “Who hell is this guy?” But, I know, it’s just me. Second bit of news, man we’ve got the Empire Flippers retreat that we hold last few years in September, that’s sold out, so we’re running it again in Thailand in September. We had to rent a third villa for the people that are attending. We limited it to … I don’t, it’s less than 20 people, maybe 15, 16 people, but we’re all sold out and we’re really excited to be heading to that again in September. This is getting really popular, man. I want to keep it small though, which is one of the reasons that we’ve limited the attendance, but we’re talking about doing maybe a conference in the US or something a little larger around the retreat next year. I don’t know, we’ll see. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do there.

Joe:                                        Yeah, we’d love to get some feedback from people about that. I’d love to hear what you have to say about us holding an Empire Flippers conference. Let us know.

Justin:                                   Last thing I want to mention is this is the last week to apply for two positions we have available right now. One is a migration specialist and the other is a business analyst position. We are looking for more people, so you have until the end of the week to apply. If you’ve thought at all about working with us and you want to get more information, I’m going to put links to those in the show notes here. Definitely check out both positions, you will want to apply by the end of this week.

Joe:                                        Yeah, and these are entry level position so you don’t have any sales experience, but you’re a people person, we have a great training program, I will be there to teach you how to sell. We have great leads. It’s a good process to get you into learning how to sell. So don’t be afraid of that. And then on the migration specialist side, you don’t have to be the most technical person in the world. If you’ve ever done a little bit of server management, something like that, we can teach you the rest. So feel free to apply. If it’s a good fit, we’ll make it work.

Justin:                                   Hot money sales training. I like it. Let’s talk about … Casper on Twitter said, “Do you guys have an overview sheet or similar displays where costs are included in the evaluation of an FBA company?” Casper, the truth is that, all businesses are different, and they’re going to have different costs associated. We do have a template that we can share and so I’ll link to that template in the show notes, so you can take a look at it and potentially use it, but part of the value that we provide is going through and detailing the expenses and that’s specific to each business. But you can definitely download the template that will help for your profit loss.

Joe:                                        Yeah, it makes me jealous when people sell widgets, and they’re all the same widget. Unfortunately selling businesses is just not like that. Everybody has a different expense, but the template will give you a good idea of what the basic common expenses are.

Justin:                                   Another question from [inaudible 01:01:48] on Twitter, who said, “When’s the next apprenticeship round?” Right now as we just mentioned, and we have those two businesses available, we’re going to be closing those off. We may at some point this year open it up to a regular hiring process so bringing people on regularly. We would still, I think bringing people on in batches because that’s easiest to train. Just make sense for cultural reasons and other reasons but yeah, right now is the time to apply. We’ve got to the end of the week. Got a nice mentioned over on the Payoneer blog. We did a two part series on selling businesses, I’ll link to that in the show notes. Definitely worth checking out. Yeah, but give them a look. I really like the blog over at Payoneer, and it’s nice to kind of connect with them, and we’ve been working with their marketing team, we’ve got some more stuff coming up.

Joe:                                        Yeah, very cool. Met with the guys over in Manila. Yeah, I love their stuff. Happy, proud of that.

Justin:                                   That’s it for Episode 176, the Empire Podcast. Thanks for sticking with us. We’ll back soon with another show. You can find the show notes for this episode and more @empireflippers.com/Rand and make sure to follow us on Twitter at Empire Flippers. See you next time.

Joe:                                        Bye-bye everybody.

Speaker 2:                           Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Empire podcast with Justin and Joe. Hit up Empireflippers.com for more. That’s empireflippers.com. Thanks for listening.


Leave a comment
  1. Ben says:

    Is this available on Apple Music / iTunes? Dont want to have to manually download each episode weekly.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Ben :-)

      It is on iTunes, just search for the “Empire Flippers Podcast” and you’ll find it! We have tons of episodes in our backlog for you to go through as well. If you like it, we’d love it if you left a review as it helps us to really grow the podcast

      • Ben says:

        :O No idea how I missed it first time! Thanks for making me take a second look :)

        • Greg Elfrink says:

          Haha no worries man! It happens :-)

          Can always leave a 5-star review saying, “That Greg guy they have is super responsive in helping me find this podcast!” :P

          In all seriousness, hope you enjoy the episodes, there’s a lot of value there to unpack!

  2. Viola says:

    Thank you for this honest interview, Rand and Justin. It has been beautiful, insightful and raw. I appreciate your time and transparency, Rand. All the best.

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