August 7, 2015
The big, VC-backed companies (Uber, Twitter, Mint, etc.) get plenty of press and attention but, as an entrepreneur, those companies have never felt “real” to me.
They just don’t have a story I can relate to. I’d much rather talked to a bootstrapped entrepreneur that’s had to be profitable from day one to keep his or her business afloat.
That’s why I was excited to talk to Liam from Time Doctor. In just a few short years, he’s built a growing empire worth well into the 8-figures and he has even bigger plans for the next couple of years. We get into exactly how he got his company off the ground, discuss some of the challenges that come with scaling a growing, bootstrapped business, and then look at what his plans are next.
We got a bit off-topic in this episode – primarily because the discussion was so fascinating. Listen in to find out how we had a near-miss in becoming a competitor to Time Doctor and both or thoughts on the future of tech from an entrepreneurial perspective.
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“Signing up for FREE is very different from someone actually paying for it.” – Liam – Tweet This!
“Techniques that work to get you to 6/7 figures will not get you to 8/9 figures.” – Liam – Tweet This!
“As long as you’ve got enough cash to be comfortable, you’re very, very dangerous.” – Liam – Tweet This!
Thanks to Liam for being so open about his business. Do you have plans to build an 8-figure business? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Justin: Welcome to the Empire Podcast, Episode 143. When you think of eight figure startups, you probably envision pre-revenue startups pitching VCs in Silicon Valley. Today, we’re going to look at a slightly different route, how Liam Martin from Time Doctor bootstrapped his company to eight figures in a few short years. You can find the show notes and all links discussed in this episode at empireflippers.com/timedoctor. All right. Let’s do this.
Speaker 2: Sick of listening to entrepreneurial advice from guys with day jobs? 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 hosts, Justin and Joe.
Justin: One of the things I love in business is talking to other founders, other startups, other bootstrapped entrepreneurs, about their journey as an entrepreneur, how they got started, why they started their business, and kind of what led them to success, right, what got them started on the path towards success.
Today is no exception. We’re talking to Liam from timedoctor.com, who runs a company where basically attracts virtual assistants time and hours, and gives you nice reports at the end of the week, at the end of the month. It’s actually a product that we use internally. It wasn’t the first product we used, but it’s something that we use pretty regularly, right, Joe?
Joe: Yeah, I know. The first product we used was a small product called HiveDesk. I’m not even sure if they’re still around, but definitely was a big upgrade going to something like Time Doctor. I met with Liam here in Manila when they had a Time Doctor meetup, seemed like a great guy. I love the kind of business that they’re running and thought he’d be perfect for the show.
Justin: Yeah, what’s really interesting is that, and I don’t know if we should tell the story now. I might as well, but we were working with HiveDesk, and some of our older listeners will remember maybe the story. But we were working with a company called HiveDesk and you were helping them beta test. You were giving them bug reports, kind of letting them know what was going on. Turns out, after a while, we were paying customers, so when they actually launched, we started paying them. This is back in like 2011, I think.
And then you had a question about their service about something they had, and you reached out and the guy was like, “Oh, no, no. I sold that business.” And you were like, “What? You sold that business? What? What happened? Who did you sell it to? Who do I need to contact?” He gave you their information, then you were like, “Well, how much did you sell it for?” And he said, “Yeah, $3,000.” We were like, “What, $3,000? We’d have paid a hell of a lot more than that.”
I forget what we were paying, it was like 50 bucks a month, or 80 bucks, maybe 100 bucks a month for their service at the time, and they sold it for three grand. I couldn’t believe it. So, it’s just funny how things turn around. Like, that was pre Time Doctor, so that service was out there before their company had even started and got sold for three grand. It’s pretty funny.
Joe: Yeah, I thought they dropped a zero off that price. But they didn’t. Yeah, and it’s amazing what would have happened if we’d been able to buy that business and really concentrate on that going forward. I wonder if the Try BPO, Empire Flippers story would be any different.
Justin: I think it would have been, because you think we’re doing outsourcing company at the time, we probably would have rolled more into the virtual assistant role or really promoted HiveDesk, and we could have been either a competitor of Time Doctor or yeah, something interesting could have happened there. So, I think it would have been a really different path for AdSense Flippers, Empire Flippers, and Try BPO for sure.
Anyway, I just love hearing stories about how real people and businesses get started. A lot of times when you hear about, let’s say, an Uber, or Twitter or whatever, and they have this like meteoric rise, and it almost seems like they just kind of got lucky, they won the raise money lottery. So, they got a ton of money, and they were able to just spend a bunch of money and execute well, but they had to spend a bunch of money and really try to blow up their business.
It feels a little bit like someone that’s just not us, right? It seems like they won the lottery, and then executed really well with a ton of money they got from venture capital firms, and it’s just hard for me to relate to. Whereas a story like Liam’s I get it, right? Like, we’re in the same position and we’re building similar things. So, to hear his story from a guy doing it on his own, where he owns 100% of the company, him and his partner, it’s really fascinating.
Joe: Yeah, I love it too. I get what you’re saying, Justin. These really big companies, it’s so foreign to me. I don’t even know how they go from X to Y.
Justin: Yeah, and you worked for one of those companies at one point. You were, I think, a lower level tech guy, and you kind of moved your way up to a sales engineer for those companies. But you were like on the employee level, right? So you didn’t kind of see all the behind the scenes. You have some experience with them more than I do, it’s still vague to you, and you were a part of it back in what 1999, 2000.
Joe: Yeah, between I think it was ’98 and 2001 I worked in those kind of companies. But yeah, I never had any executive level access besides flying with my VP on the plane or something like that, and drinks after a big sales presentation. But yeah, from an owner standpoint, or top C level kind of guy, definitely smaller businesses make a lot more sense to me.
Justin: I asked Liam before we got into it, I was like, “Look, our audience really likes transparency, they’re really going to want to hear the numbers and go through everything.” And he was totally down for that. So, we’re going to get into all the nitty gritty details in this interview.
Before we do that, though, I’ve got a quick point of order or a note. We have a new podcast launch. So, if you like the Empire Podcast, you might want to check this out. It’s called the Web Equity Show. It’s over at webequityshow.com. I’m actually hosting that with Ace Chapman, who is a customer of ours. He’s also a buddy. We met up with him a few times and he’s absolutely great. We’ve had him on this show a couple of times as well. So, if you want to check it out it is on iTunes, on Stitcher, and if you do dig it, I please encourage you to give us an iTunes review or a Stitcher review. It’ll go a long way to helping us get the word out.
Joe: Two podcasts, man, how are you going to balance it?
Justin: I don’t know, man. I’m working it out, buddy, working it out. All right man, let’s do the featured listing of the week.
Joe: We’re talking about listing 40277 this week. It’s another package, and you know I love packages. So, we’re talking about a package of two AdSense sites in the travel niche, one was created back in May of 2014, the other is relatively new this year. Great in terms of work required, because other than adding content, there’s not much to do here.
The earnings have been fairly steady, a little bit on the increase, so love to see the sort of financial data that this seller has available. I definitely think that this is something someone could run in their free time or if they wanted to grow the site into more of an authority type site, they could do that as well and perhaps take over.
There’s a lot of keywords in the travel niche that you could rank for in long-term and really expand this kind of site. So, we have it listed for just over $68,000 right now, it’s making about $3,200 a month, so if that fits the niche that you like, please look it up.
Justin: That’s a nice package you got there, Joe.
Joe: I’ve been waiting to use that one, huh.
Justin: I was just waiting, man. I wasn’t even listening to what you said, I would just go along. Do you know what I love about this site? I like the fact that this package has a little over $3,000 a month in earnings. That is probably on the lower level, but it’s on the lower level of a job replacement income. For less than $70,000 you can get something that will set you up, you can start traveling, you can start working from home, you can start working from anywhere really, and replace your job with this kind of income. So, I think it’s kind of like on that level, it’s like the lowest level package that is a full on like job replacer, so this is-
Joe: Agreed. Think about this, a 7-Eleven franchise will cost you about $70,000. But you’d have to work there 40 hours a week, week in week out managing the place and maybe getting behind the counter when somebody calls in sick. So, this is the kind of thing that you could have for a couple of hours a week, you can run it just kind of post new content, and then you watch the AdSense money flow in.
Justin: Oh, hell, Joe. If you’re buying a 7-Eleven or you’re buying a gas station or something, I mean, you’re going to be stuck working behind the counter. You’re basically buying yourself a job, and while this might be a bit of a job, it’s also one you can do on the beach in Bali and not at the gas station in Tulsa. So, I think it’s a little bit better off, man. All right, buddy. Let’s get into the heart of this week’s episode.
Speaker 2: Now, for the heart of this week’s episode.
Justin: I’m really excited for this interview today. Today, I’ve got Liam Martin, the founder of both timedoctor.com and staff.com, he has more than 50 employees spread out across 15 different countries, is an expert in building remote teams. He started Time Doctor in 2013, has built it up to a $15 million company. Liam, thanks for coming on the show, man. Appreciate it.
Liam Martin: Thanks for having me. I appreciate you having me on show.
Justin: All right, man. So, let’s talk about this. You know. I’m going to have to get you to brag a little bit. But I kind of want to set the scene of what Time Doctor is. For anyone who doesn’t know Time Doctor is a remote management tool for people to manage their crew that are working elsewhere and make sure they’re logging in and they’re on time. It’s a product that we actually use for our team in the Philippines. We’ve actually had some of our managers use it as kind of a check to make sure they’re using their work appropriately. But tell me where Time Doctor is today.
Liam Martin: Well, we’ve got thousands of users that login every single day, we’ve got a company now that’s very happily in the seven figures in terms of revenue. We just actually put out a report that came out, we had our third year anniversary last March, and we just hit $100 million in remote payments per year. We’re pretty happy with that. Our target is to really hit, in the next three to five years, a billion dollars in payments per year.
So, we’re really focusing on, as you had mentioned before, these long-term working relationships, which we find right now, it’s like, we almost kind of call ourselves sort of the second generation of remote work. The first generation is really project-based. So, you’ll go on to oDesk or Elance and you have a website built.
But what if you want a longer term relationship with your employee, something that is not just going to last a week or two, but it’s a multi month to multi year relationship? That’s what Time Doctor does is it really allows you, empowers you to have all that technology at your fingertips to be able to manage that employee remotely, but at a very small fraction of the cost.
Justin: Yeah, one of the things I love about your story is, I mean, this Time Doctor only started in 2013. We were talking about this before the show, and remember, I told you, I was a little surprised that it’s only been a couple of years now. You told me that you only monetized in 2013, I think you had a bunch of free users before that kind of trying it out, and you were probably doing some beta testing and adjustments.
Liam Martin: Yeah.
Justin: We’re going to get into that actually. I do want to talk about some of the early days. So like, what is it that in 2011 or 2010 or whatever led you to even come up with the idea for Time Doctor? What was the impetus that started this?
Liam Martin: So, my co-founder, Rob, I remember I was at South by Southwest, I was speaking on a panel there, that’s where I was introduced to my co-founder, Rob. And he had this crappy little alpha called Time Doctor that he had called Time Doctor because he’s a medical doctor. So, that’s where we got the name from. He looked at this, he was showing me this app. I was looking at it thinking to myself, “Man, this could have saved my previous business.”
So, my previous business before that was a tutoring company. So, I was teaching kids, mostly premed students on how to pass Bio 1-2, Chem 1-2, Physics 1-2, basically all of the premed prerequisites. It was a great business. We had grown it or I had grown it, I guess, because I had no co-founder, over two years to about 200 different remote tutors in Europe and North America. But one of the fundamental problems that I had was Jimmy, the student, would come to me and say, “You billed me for 10 hours, when in reality, I only worked with my tutor for five hours.”
Liam Martin: And then I’d have to go to the tutor and say, “Hey, did you actually work 10 hours with Jimmy?” And the tutor would say, “Absolutely, I did.” But who is right here? I don’t know. So what I’d end up having to do is refund Jimmy for five hours and pay the tutor for the full 10. That was actually losing me money in that transaction.
Liam Martin: So, as we achieve scale, this was a major problem for me. One of the reasons, one of the ways that I got into remote work was I remember being in my dentist chair, this was probably like, 2010-ish, right after I got out of grad school, and I was working, things were going well, this is my first real business online. So, it was really exciting. I was working 12, 13, 14 hour days, and I chipped one of my teeth, one of my back molars.
So I was in the dentist chair, the dentist is taking a look at my teeth. I said, “Yeah, I chipped one of my back molars. Can you take a look at it, because hot and cold is pretty intense for me.” And then she just sort of looks up at me and she says, “Which one? You’ve chipped like 10 of your teeth.” She said like, “What are you doing, because I’m looking at your X-rays from two years ago to your X-rays today, it looks like your teeth have aged like 20 years within two years.”
We started talking about business and all this kind of stuff. She said, “These are stress fractures. You’re grinding your teeth at night. You need to be able to solve whatever problem you’ve got, or you’re going to have a stroke.” So, I looked at that and I took that as sort of a red flag to say to myself, okay, how can I actually start to automate this business, make it a little bit bigger than I am.
I couldn’t afford a $5,000 a month customer service agent in the United States as an example. But I could definitely afford a $1,000 customer service agent in Southeast Asia. So, that’s what I did, and that’s how I started sort of scaling the business a little bit better. That’s how I started remote work. So, I remember that moment. It was just like crystal clear. It was like, I have to figure out how to solve this problem, or I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.
Justin: So, you were doing remote work, and this is for the tutoring company. You had some experience there. You met Rob at South by Southwest, he had this cool little app, this cool little web app. And you were like, “Wow, okay. I see the problem that solves.” This is back in what, 2011 or something. So he had the idea, he had it kind of in place. How did you decide to start working with him? Did he ask you to come on board? Was it like discussion over time? How did that work?
Liam Martin: Well, I had just, ironically, sold my company during South by Southwest. So, I remember I sold the company. This was actually a separate company. It was a consulting firm, and I got a lot of cash and bought a really big television set, and bought a really, really nice leather couch. I sat on it for about two weeks, and then just was chomping at the bit and just recognized I had to do something else.
So, I called up Rob, and I was like, “Hey that app is kind of cool. It’s an interesting idea.” And he was just using it for his internal team at that point. I’m like, “Well, I’d be very interested in sort of going all in on this with you,” because I had the money to be able to say, okay, you know what, I didn’t have fuck you money. I couldn’t live the rest of my life off that cash. But I could definitely live a few years plus do some investments into Time Doctor to be able to get to that point in which we had a functional beta and we could go to market.
Not a thing happened in between then and now. But it was just a decision that I just said to myself, like, I’ve got to double down on this. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have that same problem, where I’ve got a friend of mine right now that sold his company for an exorbitant amount of money, more money than he’ll ever be able to spend, and he’s now right back into other projects, because he just can’t get off of it. Yes, to keep getting back into the game, I had the same problem. So just sort of from that point forward, we went forward.
Justin: Tell me about your taking it to market. So, he had a cool app, he was using it mostly internally. I’m guessing it wasn’t amazingly customer friendly facing that you needed to do some cleanup there. Like, what was your process for taking it live? Was it three months? Was it two weeks? Was it nine months? How long did it take from you guys sitting down and saying, “Okay, let’s work together to having something that was ready for public consumption”?
Liam Martin: I would say realistically from, and I’ll give you two versions because it’s actually a little bit more of a complex answer, from us being able to bring it to market, I think it probably took about a year, maybe a year, a year and a half to be able to bring it to market, and market meaning people paying for it. We could have done that in half the time, and this is a big problem for people that just start beta apps and give it away for free. Now, that’s really changed with Eric Reese’s books and talking about how if you have a viable product, you just got to get it out there and get people paying for it.
Liam Martin: We had taken about a year and a half, I would say realistically to bring it to market when we could have done it in half the time. Something that was really funny was when we looked at our data, when we went from free beta to basically paid beta, we didn’t call it a beta, but it was a beta, we had looked at our numbers, and we said, okay, about 10% of the users that had signed up for Time Doctor are currently using it now.
But the actual amount of hours tracked has more than doubled. So the people that were paying for it were using it a lot more. And all of a sudden, our customer service tickets, I think they like four to five X’ed, in terms of just people saying, “Hey, there’s a problem here, there’s a problem there.” This is something that new entrepreneurs really have to understand, particularly in tech, which is people will not get angry at you if it’s a free product. They won’t actually tell you what’s wrong. They will tell you what’s wrong once they’re paying for it.
So, that’s the transactional process that you really have to focus on to say to yourself, okay, are my customers actually care about what we’re doing? One of the best ways to be able to understand whether they care about it is if they’re actually paying for that application.
Justin: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, from your perspective, you would have launched in about half the time, maybe even less, and instead of going with the free users, you would have just charged from the get-go. Your reasoning there is because by charging, you get much, much better feedback, you can iterate faster, and ultimately, build what you’re going to build and make it a lot better sooner than you could have with the free users.
Liam Martin: Exactly. So, the free users for us, I think they’re a little bit above worthless, I would say personally. It doesn’t matter what you charge them. Let’s say that your retail price is going to be $1,000 for the software, get them to pay you $1, they will get angry even for that dollar.
Liam Martin: That’s the difference. You just got to get them to open up their credit card. If you can’t actually get them to open up their wallets for you, then you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a big problem, you should stop developing that application immediately.
Justin: And it’s better to know that early, right? I mean, you don’t want to know that a year and a half down the road, you rather know that early on so you can make some adjustments, make some changes, or target a different market because maybe you’re not targeting the right person. Yeah, that makes-
Liam Martin: There’s a lot of guys right now that I call it failure to launch syndrome, and you’ve probably seen this as well, you probably see it a lot with Empire Flippers, actually, which is just these guys that build a little app, but they’re never really all in on it. The reason why they’re all in on it is I think they want to sort of enjoy the … They want to be able to say that they’re an entrepreneur. But in reality, they’ve got a day job, or they’re doing something else. They’re not really all in on this one thing.
If it fails, then they’ve lost that sort of badge to be able to say, “Hey, this is what I’m doing.” You got to get over that, you got to just sort of say, “Okay, I’m going to try, whatever it takes, I’m going to try to get something up and running.” Come up with 10 ideas, and try those over the next year, and see which ones actually stick. Once that one thing sticks, then you can say, “Okay, now I’m going to go out and I’m actually going to do it. I’m going to double down on this particular thing and see how far it can take it.”
Justin: This is born out of experience, because you had this, you had it for free, and you’re looking back going, “Wow, I did that way too long.” What was it for you that kind of kept you from launching earlier, or kept you from charging? Was it like you didn’t want to charge for something that wasn’t perfect? What was the problem? What do you think held you up, and why would you change it going forward if you had to do it again?
Liam Martin: It was probably like, it was me running. My tutoring company was online, so it really wasn’t, I guess, an online tech company.
Liam Martin: But it was very we were using Skype to be able to run these sessions. There was no technology that wasn’t off the shelf that we were using. This was the first technology company that I had co-founded. So, we were both apprehensive about saying, “Oh, is it ready yet? No, there’s all these problems that we’ve got to fix.”
At the end of the day, I remember actually having these conversations with Rob saying, “Okay, we’ve got to just polish up this turd and get it out the door. Like, let’s do something. Let’s start it.” Rob’s on the technology side. I’m on the marketing side. So, we keep those two orbs separate. So I can basically critique what Rob is doing. But at the end of the day, it’s his call as to what he wants to do. That was the trajectory that he chose. So, that’s when we launched.
Justin: I bet there were some fireworks going on back then. You got sales on one side, you got the tech, the nerdy tech guy on the other side, and the fired up sales guy, and there’s some serious battles like, “No, let’s just launch it. Customers need it. You need to make this change. Like, how do you know?” I see that a lot. Tell me like, so your first paid customers came from your free user base, which makes sense, how many converted? Were you surprised by the number of conversions? Was it more than you expected? Was it less than you expected? And when they did convert, how much were you making that first month or two months that you started?
Liam Martin: I think we were doing first month we were doing low five figures MRR first month that we did it, and it started growing from that point. I don’t exactly know the exact number of initial users. But I know for every 10 free users we had, we only had one paying user. That was approximately the ratio. So, that was not … Like to be able to acquire those many users did take a while.
The beauty of it was that we were getting a lot of early traction in those early days. People really loved the application, so we’re getting a lot of people that were signing up for free. But I mean, signing up for free is very, very different from someone actually paying for it, as we mentioned before.
Justin: So, you were getting a lot of press, I think, at that time, too. I think you guys did a really good job of kind of getting your name out there and getting some traction to be able to launch with paid subscribers in the five figures is actually pretty good. And even if you only converted one in 10, which I’d say is pretty good as well, that’s a pretty good launch. So you knew after you started charging your paid users, and you were in the low five figures kind of starting out, you knew you were onto something successful, right?
Liam Martin: Yeah. I mean, so yes, I guess we did. I’m always pretty negative on that kind of stuff. Like we were just talking about Slack beforehand. Okay. I mean, that’s a giant, right? That’s a huge success story.
Justin: Crashing it.
Liam Martin: I would say you’re right. I mean, they’re a multi billion dollar company, and I think they’re two years old as a company, maybe they’re 18 months old. Fantastic piece of software, totally understand the value that it provides, and they have a lot of VC dollars behind them, and they’re executing on that money in a really great way. So, that is a huge success story. I would say, probably, successful tech companies we’re probably in the top 1% realistically, but within that, 1%, there’s a huge variation, right?
Liam Martin: There’s the Slacks, which is the point .0001%s, and I would say we’re the average tech company, no VC money in, just something that and my co founder built together and we’re doing well right now. It’s just for us, as long as we’re really doubling every year, that’s kind of my key metric to say, “Okay, are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing?”
Justin: So, I think it’s interesting that you didn’t raise any money, and I want to know, was that like a conscious decision? Was that a you didn’t know how, or you didn’t think you’d get the money? What was your reasoning there?
Liam Martin: So, there’s a great book called Venture Deals, or maybe it’s Venture Hacks, it’s either Venture Deals or Venture Hacks, and I can’t remember the name of the author, which escapes me. But anyways, great book, Google that, if you’re interested in taking a look at how VC works. The majority of the time, if you’re going to raise venture money, expect to not make any money from that acquisition. Just put that in your head right from the get-go.
If you’re interested in making money from an acquisition, then raising venture funds is probably not in your interest. And there’s a lot of statistics to back that up. But I’ll bring you through actually an anonymous friends of mine’s process. So, he had a $10 million valuation, and someone invested $3 million in this company. It was sold for $15 million. So, all of a sudden, the VC firm takes 30% of that $15 million off the table. So, that’s like $5 million.
Liam Martin: Then he takes the $3 million that they initially invested, and that is also taken back too. People don’t really understand that, is just because a VC firm has gone in on buying 30% of your company, the actual initial investment has to be paid back as well. Now, on top of that, the 20% of employee reserve, which most VC firms require for you to actually hold for your employees, that basically gets sold into those different employees within your company. Or if that buyback doesn’t occur, it goes back to the VC firm. So, at the end of the day between, I think it was three founders, they got like, a million bucks and change.
Justin: Yeah, not amazing.
Liam Martin: So, if they had not raised VC money, they each would have gotten 5 million bucks, which would have been pretty fantastic.
Justin: Yeah, Joe and I are big bootstrap fans, self-funding, not raising funding. That’s kind of our approach, and I think most of our listeners are in the same position. So they’re with it. I just think it’s interesting, because you have, I think, a tech company, like you’re in the space where they just you raise money, that’s what you do, and you guys didn’t. So, that’s kind of interesting. It’s more of the 37 signals kind of we’re going to own it all approach.
Liam Martin: Yeah. The other thing, too, is to be honest with you, if you want to look deep hard inside yourself, if someone gave us $10 million tomorrow, I really wouldn’t know what to do with it. Like, yeah, we could spend a lot more money on advertising. But at scale, if you’re spending $100,000 on Facebook, your return on investment is actually going to be significantly lower than if you’re just purchasing the low-hanging fruit and spending a couple thousand dollars on Facebook.
Justin: That’s so true. Actually, we’re finding that right now that when we scaled up our Facebook marketing, we just were not getting the same ROI on our spend. And so yeah, we could have spent more money, and like if we were in that really competitive space where we had to claw tooth and nail our way to the top, I could see why you would need to do that. Even at a loss, right? Because you’ve raised money, you have to spend it, and you need that traction, you need to beat out the competitor. But from my perspective, I want ROI, I want more money in my pocket. And you’re in the same boat. So yeah, that makes sense.
Liam Martin: Yeah. So, I’ve had a big problem right now, and for any listeners that are out there that are listening to this, if you have worked on paid advertising, and you do a monthly five figure spend, I want to hire you. That is just, you’d be amazed how little those exist. I know that there’s a lot of people that will sell internet marketing courses about how they’re making millions of dollars on Facebook. The vast majority of those are bullshit, at the end of the day, right?
You need to actually … So, we have very clear requirements, as an example, when we’re doing our hiring, for Facebook spend, let’s say, as an example. If you want to be hired on as someone who’s running our Facebook spend, you have to have had experience doing figures monthly spend on Facebook, for a SaaS business, not an eCommerce business. They’re two very different businesses.
The SaaS business, if you’re getting six to 12 months return on investment, so you’re spending, let’s say, $100, and you make that $100 back in 12 months, you’re doing well. I’m right across the street actually from Shopify, which is a huge local success in city up in here, up here in Canada. These guys are doing huge returns on investment, because they just have so much money that they know they can dump it back in, and they’re doing it at scale. It’s a very different ballgame at that point.
But you can’t actually like an eCommerce site, if you’re not making money on that initial sale, it doesn’t work. For SaaS, you have to put in hundreds of thousands of dollars into those types of campaigns before they produce a positive ROI. And until that point, it’s basically statistics and your statistics could be wrong. So it’s a very … You have to sort of, it’s quite interesting how few of those people are there at the very top. I would realistically say top in Facebook firms in North America, you’re looking at under 100 firms that could do that.
Justin: Yeah. Liam, let’s talk about, you were talking about scaling a little bit. Let’s talk about scaling Time Doctor. Now, as you start growing it from five figures, and you started to head up to mid five figures a month, did you start with the end in mind? Did you see kind of like a long-term goal or vision where you wanted to be? Or was more of like we have something, okay, let’s tweak it, adjust it, iterate. We’ve got more feedback, okay, let’s tweak and adjust, or did you start off like you we’re going to build a $500 billion company. Let’s start putting the blocks in place now. Like, which was it? Was it like iteration or was it $500 million company, let’s build the building blocks?
Liam Martin: So, me and Rob have a really good, again, division of labor in that perspective. I look quarterly and he looks five years down the road. So, we look at those two different, so he has a five year vision, and then I do have that same five year vision, but my modus operandi is, how are we going to keep our numbers up and running for the next three months?
Liam Martin: What are we going to do this month? Like, as an example, am I going to do 20 podcasts this month? Maybe that will help numbers. So, let’s do those podcasts and then let’s measure and let’s see what’s happening? Are we going to spend a lot more money on SEO this month? Are we going to punch out a whole bunch of really fantastic content, have it reviewed, get it up and running on the blog and then promote it? Is that going to move the needle for us?
So we have to make those tactical decisions at any one point. We’ve now recognized that there are a lot of techniques that have just scaled out. So that’s something else that we’ve sort of, and we see this actually this trend in a lot of other companies, which is techniques that worked to get you to six, seven figures will not get you to eight to nine figures. That’s something that really people have to understand, which is if you say, “Okay, yeah, this is working right now,” always look for the next thing.
So, we usually like I reserve about 25% of my budget for new avenues of traffic, always trying those avenues of traffic. 90% of the time they fail, but the one out of 10 that succeed, then I can say okay, now I’ve got an extra hundred companies that are signing up every single month through this funnel and it’s profitable. Great, let’s lock that down, and let’s go to the next one.
Justin: I really liked when you say it’s not moving the needle, or when you talk about the fact that what got you there won’t get you to the next place you want to go. We found that to be totally true. When we started our blog, we were commenting other people’s blogs, we were in forums, right. I could do that 80 hours a week right now. And it wouldn’t make a dent in our traffic, it wouldn’t make enough of a difference to matter. We now focus on other things, right? Like kind of the bigger picture stuff.
I think as you scale your business from a marketing perspective, and you’re a marketing guy, you see that, Okay, I need to do things that continue to move the needle. If it’s not making a difference, even if it’s effective and positive and a positive ROI, it doesn’t matter in the long term, because it’s not helping me scale. That’s a really interesting point, I guess.
Let me ask you. So what are the challenges businesses have when they’re scaling? Is trying to determine paying themselves versus reinvesting in the business reinvesting in their team, was that ever an issue for you guys? Did you ever say, “No, let’s take less money when we’re starting off so that we can reinvest,” or was there ever a question of when you should take more out for yourselves? How did you handle that?
Liam Martin: So for us, I didn’t pay myself for the first three years of the business, and that’s a little bit of a disingenuous statement because I had the cash from previous acquisitions to fund my lifestyle right now. But I’ll also tell you that I went from paying myself $100,000 a year to paying myself $40,000 a year during that three year period. I’m now up to the same approximate level that I was at before, but I was paying myself $40,000 a year out of my own savings.
Liam Martin: So, the reason why I did that is because if you really look at the hardcore economics of what’s going on, let’s say you’re doing $50,000 a month in your business. If you’re pulling out $10,000 for yourself, that’s one fifth of your entire budget that’s going to one person, and you have to ask yourself, are you growing the business by 20% every single month?
Liam Martin: If that’s not true, then I wouldn’t do that. Personally for me, right? I can put that money into other people that can move the company fast. So, we made sure to hold off on that as long as humanly possible. I remember I had about $20,000 in my bank account, and I just went to Rob and I was like, “Okay, so I got about 20 grand left in the bank. I’m going to make it six months if I’m lucky. I need to be able to make sure that that company … I need to start paying myself something.”
Liam Martin: We both agreed that that was the point, and it was like, okay, it’s three years later, we had, I think it was like 30 ish people in the company at that point. And it was a survival wage for a little while. Now, we’re up to a bigger point. Now what we do actually is we focus on if the company grows by a certain amount, so like my direct responsibility is, if the company continues to double every single year, then I’ll get an upgrade to what I’m currently being paid, right?
Liam Martin: So, actually, the entire executive team gets that. So, that’s something that I kind of look at and it’s my own personal goal, it’s something that sort of motivates me a little bit more. I just read a great book called Drive recently, which, if you manage a lot of remote employees, great book to really … Sorry, I guess, employees in general, it’s a great book to understand how people work and what really drives them to do what they do in business.
I found for me, the money isn’t necessarily important, it’s just sort of like our goal is realistically, as I said before, to make it to a billion dollars in payments within the next three to five years. If we can do that, then we’d be very, very excited to be able to hit that number. It’s just one of those things that we’ve got to … There’s a lot of things in between now and then to be able to make it to that point.
Justin: Yeah, it’s nice to have those goals, and that’s a lofty one. That’s one that’s really out there. But then you look at all why there are a lot of goalposts in between us actually doing that, and where we are today. So there’s the work that you have to go through. I think it’s great that you do though, set goals for the company, and then reward yourself personally, because me as the cash is nice, but having that goal does personally motivate you. It may personally motivate your executive team to help at those goals, right?
I think that’s interesting. One way you can do it is to take as your company does better, keep your salary low so there’s not a big overhead or burden on the company and take distributions, right? So, you and your partner, or you alone, if you’re a solo founder, you can just take distributions out of the company when you hit certain goals, or whatever.
Liam Martin: Sure.
Justin: I think that’s a way to do it without adding the extra monthly overhead, keeping that low, but being able to take out some profits. Tell me about your hiring process. Like you said, you got to 30 people before you actually started paying yourself. How’d you get those 30 people? Was your first hire like a very, this is going to be my right-hand man type hire? Or was it like, we’re going to hire this guy and see what happens. How did that work out?
Liam Martin: Well, I mean, we’ve got a pretty complex hiring process as it stands today. But this is, again, somewhat of a disingenuous comment. Because we already had probably about, I had some people from my team, Rob had some people from his team, and we just combined those two companies.
Liam Martin: In terms of the employees, I think we had about 10-ish people that were already working under what we were doing when we started. So, that was a good starting point, and we’ve actually got a fantastic HR person that makes it her life goal to be able to find really good people. We focus on making sure that those people are up and running operational, we always hire …
So, we have a goal that we always hire two, we basically hire the top two candidates from any new job posting that we’re putting together, and then we test those two people using Time Doctor. So, a lot of people will look really good on paper, but then they won’t actually look good in a real working condition. We just had an example something like this that happened to us, and I won’t directly name names, but a multiple amount of months ago, where we had one guy that was twice as much as the next top candidate, and he was still better. But what we did is we tested them over a month, and we found that the person that was half the price was actually working a lot harder and was putting out a lot more product per dollar spent than the other guy.
So, we actually found out that the cheaper guy was actually better. But the only way we could have tracked that is we gave both those employees the exact same tasks, and then we track those metrics through Time Doctor to see, okay, what is employee A doing? How much are they putting out versus employee B, and let’s look at their exact metrics and see what they’re doing with their work day.
Justin: So, you guys are pretty ruthless. Basically, you put one new hire against the other. That’s tough man. Joe would appreciate that for sure.
Liam Martin: Yeah. We make it very clear that this is sort of like a one month hiring experiment. They all appreciate that, and they just sort of go for it. We’ve had guys like one of our employees, which we hired for a short amount of time, and then we ended up dropping them was, or maybe not dropping them. I think either, we both made a decision to say that that relationship was over.
It was like, they were top 10 in the Facebook Hackathon. So they run a global hackathon every year, and this guy was in the top 10. He was in a country in Southeast Asia, and he did not want to go to San Francisco. So, in San Francisco, he was going to get paid 200,000 a year to start to be able to work for Facebook, or Apple or Google. He was getting offers from all these companies, but he decided to work with us for a much smaller amount of money, because he was able to work remotely and stay where he wanted to stay, stay with his family, all that type of thing. That was great, that relationship was fantastic for us. He’s actually gone on to start his own tech startup at this point.
Justin: I actually heard you talk on another podcast. You were talking about the benefit of, it’s no longer a question of, am I going to find the best $10 an hour employee in Jacksonville? It’s, can I find the best $10 employee online worldwide when you’re talking about remote work. And one of the benefits is that you’re not stuck locally hiring. The world’s your oyster, so to speak. You have a hiring stage that is the world, and I think that’s pretty interesting.
Liam Martin: It’s such an important point, because like we’ll take you, Justin, are you going to find somebody that can do successfully $100,000 in Facebook ads in Bali? Probably there’s one to two people in Bali that could do that, maybe, right? But if you expand your search globally, then all of a sudden, you have maybe a group of 2,000 candidates that you can choose from. It’s a very different feel, like it’s just … Yeah.
Justin: I was going to say yeah, I think most of our audience is pretty familiar. We are an outsourcing company. We’ve talked a lot about managing virtual assistants and working remotely. So, probably most of our audience is on board with remote work. What I think is interesting, though, is as you start building like management teams that are remote and other things, there are some downsides. We’re going to actually talk about that in a minute. I have another question for you, before we move on, though, more about like scaling Time Doctor. Did you start staff.com? Did you buy the domain? How does that fit in with kind of where you’re going with Time Doctor? What was the deal there?
Liam Martin: So, we had not bought that before, we had bought it after putting together Time Doctor, and staff.com is really we found that there wasn’t a place for employees to be able to provide all of the logistics, all of the information that they needed to put together their remote resume. So, you can go onto platforms like oDesk, or Elance, or Freelancer or 99designs or even Fiverr, if you want, you can go on to all these different platforms.
But maybe you’ve got a really good Fiverr resume, but you don’t have a very good oDesk resume, and you’re just getting started. Staff.com allows the employee to be able to put all of those different resumes in one place. So, we kind of almost call it like a online LinkedIn or sorry, like a remote workers LinkedIn. So we don’t really care where you go after that. For us, it’s just a connection process where we’re saying, okay, we’re going to connect all of these different platforms together, you can look at what they’ve done through all of these different resumes. And then wherever you want to go after that, that’s fine.
We shut a lot of traffic to platforms like Elance and Freelancer, and all those other different types of platforms. For us, at the end of the day, we really just sort of want to, again, connect those remote employees together, and more importantly, our long-term goal is eventually you’ll use our time tracking tech on the back end, which is Time Doctor.
Justin: Okay, so that’s the play is that you’re able to connect from oDesk, Freelancer, even if you don’t have much of a position on let’s say, oDesk. But you’re great on Elance. It’s a way for you to kind of like show, here’s my resume overall, from all these disparate platforms, and it’s also a way for you to introduce Time Doctor to anyone that’s on staff.com. So, that was the play for you.
Liam Martin: Yeah, so if you’re doing a hire through that platform, that’s when we’ll say, “Hey, if you want to track these employees, you can do it through Time Doctor, and you can pay them through Time Doctor, and it’s going to cost you 10 bucks to be able to do that, as opposed to the average $2,000 freelancer, you’re going to be paying two to $300 on those other platforms per month.” So it’s a huge cost savings.
Justin: I actually want to talk to you a little bit about the future of like where you see Time Doctor going. Before we do that, though, one last question about scaling. So, we’re finding that as we get bigger, there are competing interests, there are competing interests on our time, on our efforts, on our energy, and it can be a struggle deciding do I go after this? Do I go after that? I have five opportunities here, we have the time and the ability to go after two of them. Which one do we choose? How do you decide between competing interests or priorities or projects that you have on your plate?
Liam Martin: We have a Google Sheet that I am sort of the controller of, which is marketing experiments. Anyone can add a new marketing experiment to that Google Sheet, but then I prioritize the importance of those different ideas. So, I’m kind of a dictator in that way. So, let’s say I think there are probably 98 different marketing experiments that we have on that doc, and we all come together every month to be able to look at that doc and say to ourselves, okay, what’s the top priority today?
What’s the top priority this month? Is it Liam should do 20 podcasts and see how that works? Is it we should run a road show and go and talk to customers in 50 different cities throughout the world this month, should we be doing that? We look at those different priorities and we debate the pros and cons of each. You have to be able to have somebody who’s the end decision maker. I think that that’s really important before you even start something like this, and we got the idea from a great book. Justin Mares is the guy who wrote it, Traction book, which if you haven’t taken a look at it, for somebody who really … Have you read that?
Justin: Yeah, I’ve read Traction. As a marketing guy, Liam, we’re talking the same language right now, man. I’m totally with you on this. Yes.
Liam Martin: Yeah. So, we put together that doc and we just say, okay, what’s the next priority for this month. As the CMO, I have final say on what’s going to happen next. And Rob, as the CEO allows me to be able to have that because you really can’t … That’s another component with regards to scaling. You cannot … Like the last year and a half has been the journey of me going from an entrepreneur to an executive.
It’s really difficult process, particularly for guys that want to just get down in the nitty gritty and go, where is your time being applied? Are you the person that’s going to manage all those employees? Or, and here’s a deep dark look inside yourself, are you actually the best person to do that job? Maybe you need to assign a CEO that’s not going to do that.
Justin: Did you ever have anything that was just really hard for you to let go of? Was there anything in specific with Time Doctor that was kind of like one of the last things you were like, “No, I can’t give this up,” and then finally did?
Liam Martin: We built a project management system for Time Doctor, Which I don’t know if you’ve been able to play with that, because I can’t remember how long you’ve been with us. But we built a project management system probably put in about, I’d say, 50 grand worth of dev time into that. I remember trying to shop this around to different customers that were already using Time Doctor and saying, “Hey, why don’t you use the project management system?” “Oh, I already use Basecamp. Don’t need it.”
“Okay. But this is free, right? It comes with, you’re already paying for Time Doctor. This is free, right?” “No, I’m already using Basecamp.” “Well, can you just take a look at it?” “No, I’m using Basecamp.” So we kind of looked at that and said to ourselves like, kind of why don’t we start playing with those guys, as opposed to, what I mean by that is integrating with all these guys, as opposed to building out our own project management app.
We’re actually now building out, because the demand has just gotten to the point in which people really need it, we’re building out our own project management system, task management system inside of Time Doctor, but it took three years of trial and error to be able to get to that point in which users are actually starting to use it.
Justin: Yeah, I could see why people would ask you for something like that. You build it, then they don’t want to switch. We use Zendesk for our customer support system. We get asked all the time, why don’t you use something else? There’s so many things that are better, but the hassle of switching your team over is just miserable.
Liam Martin: Absolutely.
Justin: So, me switching from Basecamp to whatever project management software at your work, no. It’s so miserable to switch, and then it’s new from you and if you decide to drop it or something, I’m sure, absolutely not. I wouldn’t want to do that. Over time, if you showed commitment to it and you have to give me a compelling reason to switch over. Now, it can’t be like slightly better, it has to be significantly better. The fact that if you integrate with those other systems that are, let’s say, best in show, I’m much more likely to do it that way, right? So if you integrate with Basecamp, that’d be much more helpful for me, I think.
Liam Martin: That’s exactly what we did, and things went much smoother after that. Ironically, we moved from Zendesk to a competitor called Freshdesk recently, and I wrote a blog post, How Freshdesk Poached Us from Zendesk, and they bent over backwards to get our business. I’ve never had Zendesk come to the office to meet with us. They literally come to the office, they meet with you, they sent a rep from Toronto up here to the Ottawa area, which is about a four to five hour drive. We sat down, and we talked about what they did, and what we do, and all these types of things.
We ended up switching, but then at the end of the blog post, which I got a bit of negative flack for from Freshdesk was, is this application any better? No. My answer was no to that. The real answer was, we’re saving a couple thousand dollars a year, and the software and they were going to handle the entire handover. So, they were going to handle everything and making sure that everything worked properly, all our data moved.
I said, at the end of the day, they’re not actually going to take the market because they fundamentally are just copying what the other guys are doing, and they’re just a little bit cheaper. The moment that someone gets exponentially better, and I even said it in this blog post. I said, I think I was talking to Freshdesk about this. I said, “Listen, something that’s exponentially better is what would move me,” and they’re like, “Well, we are exponentially better.” And I said, “No, exponentially better is software that will answer tickets without a human being.” That’s exponentially better to me.
Justin: I can’t help like, I have to switch to them.
Liam Martin: So I could fire my entire customer service team.
Justin: It’s not like maybe I save a little bit of money, or it’s a little bit better. No, no, like if I don’t switch over, I’m an idiot. Make it that easy, right?
Liam Martin: Exactly. Imagine if there was something that answered all of your customer service tickets, and you had a higher happiness score, then what you’re currently doing with your current team, every customer service ticket employee would be out of business tomorrow. That’s exponentially better. They kind of balk at that. But like that’s coming.
People don’t understand how fast artificial intelligence is moving. If they’re not in that mindset of thinking, again, that five years down the road, their business model really won’t continue on. I actually think that Zendesk will probably, I think they have that mindset, realistically. But anyways, it was a very interesting blog post and exchange that I had with them.
Justin: First, brilliant of you for you to share that with me, I’ll put a link in the show notes, but I just want to read it. It’s pretty interesting. We are with Zendesk and the idea of switching over scares the shit out of us in terms of how to retrain everyone. So, if Freshdesk is actually going to those lengths to help get your team trained, to get them up to speed, and help them move over, that’s smart of them. It’s interesting that they’re just mostly competing on price, though, in terms of value they’re offering. That’s pretty …
Liam Martin: Yeah, I think if you compete on price, you’ll always be following.
Liam Martin: That’s the reality. It’s like, there’s a reason why Salesforce is the behemoth it is today. It’s because the actual application isn’t that good. The advantage of Salesforce and why it dominates that entire market is because they’re able to have amazing onboarding, amazing customer service, and they integrate with absolutely everything.
If you want to buy enterprise level software, like I was just talking to infer.com, which is a fantastic new application to actually track and project which leads are important to you and which ones aren’t. So they use Bayesian algorithms to be able to understand which leads are actually going to make you money and which ones aren’t, which is fantastic. That’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about exponential jumps forward.
Well, I believe the application is $10,000 a year or $20,000 a year if you use Salesforce, and it’s $60,000 a year if you don’t use Salesforce. The reason why is because they’re able to integrate all these different variables directly into Salesforce, and they don’t have to do as much work to set it up.
Liam Martin: So for me, it’s like I might actually buy a $10,000 package of Salesforce to save $40,000 on this other piece of software. That’s how they suck people in.
Justin: That makes sense. Let’s shift gears a little bit. Let’s talk about the future. What is the ultimate goal for Time Doctor? We were talking about this, someone gave me 30, 40, $50 million right now to buy and walk away, now would you do it? But like do you have a three to five year goal with this? Are you looking to get acquired? Are you looking to make this just a nice lifestyle business? Is it something you want to pass on to your kids? Like what are you doing there?
Liam Martin: Well, so I mean, I have some interesting viewpoints just on remote work in general. I don’t think that if you want to get very sort of conspiratorial, I don’t think that there’ll be that much of an industry left in the next 20 years. If I want to look really long-term, a lot of the jobs that we’re currently doing right now remotely can be replaced by a computer probably within the next 20 years.
So customer service agents gone, virtual assistants gone, SEO, maybe you’ve got your top guy, but realistically, it’s a lot of tools. Development, a lot of this software will become much, much easier to be able to develop. So, you’ll need smaller and smaller teams to be able to execute on it. It’s actually a very interesting sociological problem, because I think that you’ll see a huge amount of unemployment probably within the next few decades, and I don’t know how we’re going to deal with it as a society.
So, my perspective is, I would say, I’m not stupid. If someone wanted to offer me a really great multiple, I would take it. That’s not something that I’m going to … And generally in tech if you’re getting three to five X multiple, you’re not doing great. If you’re getting five to seven, you’re doing well. If you’re getting seven to 10, you’re doing fantastic. Well, I would not accept the basic multiples that we get offered on a quite regular basis.
My main goal is to empower people to work wherever they want, whenever they want. So like Justin, you’re in Bali right now. Sounds like you’re enjoying yourself pretty nicely, you’re going to Thailand after that. That’s the type of worker that we want to empower with Time Doctor. A lot of our employees actually work remotely, and they are those sort of digital nomads.
The guy that runs product for us just spent the last four months in Bali, because he could because he had the tool to be able to empower him to do that. For us, we want to stick on that main message, and we’re probably going to see … We definitely have a five year plan. We don’t have a 10 year plan. So for us, and we also know that this industry definitely has a cap, we’ve probably seen this is probably I’d say 100 million to $1 billion industry, realistically.
Liam Martin: We’re currently the market leader in that space, but that can also change very quickly. We need to be able to stay hungry and keep building out that industry as quickly as possible. So, I would say for us like, again, someone comes in and gives me a stupid offer that I can’t say no to, I’ll say yes, absolutely. But I’m having a lot of fun right now. And I really like what we’re doing, I really like the emails that I get from customers saying, “Hey, I was working … Or sorry I was in a shanty town making two to $3 a day and now I’m making three to $400 a month using your software, doing data entry as an example.” That’s really cool.
Justin: I think this is opening up jobs for people in developing countries and makes people in developed countries a little more secure in hiring them, so I think that’s a pretty unique opportunity. I got to back up though and say I love how you started this off saying 20 years from now, my indices is crap. That robots are taking it, man. If you just don’t, you’re kind of like you’re saying that you guys are like the Netflix, you’re kind of the intermediary before whatever’s coming next. So, I think that’s kind of interesting.
Liam Martin: Absolutely. I was talking to a buddy of mine just yesterday. And I don’t know if you know the singularity movement.
Liam Martin: But out of San Francisco talking about how computers will become self-aware by around 2040. I’m a proponent of that. I actually think that that will happen if you look at just the core numbers of what’s happening in terms of processing power. I don’t see how we can escape that.
Elon Musk just recently, I think this past July, did a software update for all of his Tesla’s that makes them self-driving on all highways. Imagine what happens in the next three to four years when they show statistically that having the computer drive you is safer than having a human being do it. Imagine what’s going to happen to the cab industry when I can click on a button and an Uber showing up, that’s 12% of the entire workforce in the United States done.
Justin: They’re showing that right now with Google, Google self-driving cars, like how much safer they are than your average human driver, and you’re right. You’re totally right. When the robots take over and they’re driving Uber, when they’re delivering things, when they’re taking you from here to there, I think it’s going to completely transform things and make things a lot cheaper, a lot of people out of jobs, truck drivers, I think that will really, really change things.
By the way, I’m a Kurzweil fan. I love this future talk and the singularity. I don’t know how sure I am it’s going to happen. I think it’s likely. I think as entrepreneurs though, if you do believe that’s coming, or some version of that’s coming, they really present some unique and interesting possibilities for where you can kind of fit in, like what your niche might be. It’s interesting to hear you talk about it, not just in kind of like philosophical terms, but also in like, where you see remote work going in this somewhat near future that we’re going to be dealing with.
Liam Martin: I think you have to disconnect entrepreneurism from making money. So, there’s a new generation of entrepreneurs, and I think probably, people like Elon Musk are the ones that are sort of the tip of the spear, when I think about what I almost sort of call social responsibility entrepreneurs. They’re building companies and “making a lot of money”, but they’re also just doing stuff that’s really cool, that’s changing the world in a fundamental way.
If you disconnect entrepreneurism from necessarily making a shit load of money, then you sort of get into a really interesting different idea space. I don’t call a hedge fund manager an entrepreneur. I call it a hedge fund manager someone who almost creates zero value in our economy, and they’re not making anything, right? They’re just moving numbers around, and realistically, that’s being done by computers as well.
Liam Martin: Those guys will be out of business very, very soon.
Liam Martin: So, at the end of the day, the people that are creating value in our society are the people that are making things. Those don’t necessarily have to be connected to a monetization point, I actually think, and all of my degrees are in sociology, so I think about this stuff a lot. I don’t know whether currency as it stands today will really be the same that it is right now, 20 years from now. I don’t know whether or not we’ll survive that process.
Because at one point, you’re seeing a process by which things are getting infinitely more efficient and cheaper to be able to produce and deliver to customers, and then on the other hand, the actual jobs that we’re supplying that cost are disappearing. So, you’ve got this interesting give and take where you’re thinking to yourself, okay, if all of the truck drivers and all the taxi drivers are out of business, that’s 12% of the population. But I’ve now the average cost of a car in the United States is $9,000 a year to upkeep it, and gas it, insurance, all that kind of stuff.
Liam Martin: But I can now replace that with an Uber subscription for $100 a month.
Liam Martin: So, I’ve just made eight grand, every single human being in the United States has made eight grand, but 10% of the population has lost their jobs. How are we going to traverse that? I don’t know.
Justin: Yeah, are we not killing the middle class, right? Yeah, it’s interesting.
Liam Martin: Right, exactly.
Justin: I think it’s probably beyond this episode, but yeah.
Liam Martin: Sure.
Justin: It is an interesting problem, but I don’t know man. We’ve got, I think, some big things coming up with all the changes that are happening. Tell me in terms of what Time Doctor is doing, I think, for the next three to five years. You said you have a plan. Is it an exit? I mean, what do you personally want out of Time Doctor?
I know you love talking about remote work, and you love promoting that, because you see it as being the future, at least for the next 10 to 20 years, and there’s a lot of value there. And I think that you like, that’s kind of your message that like personal, and I think for the company like it benefits the company as well. But where do you see yourself, even beyond Time Doctor, still talking about remote work, and where do you see yourself going?
Liam Martin: I’d say probably in the next three to five years, we’re still seeing us build the company. As I said before, if an acquisition event were to occur, and the multiples are right, we would take it immediately. But if you’re building a company to get acquired, you’re not building a successful company. If you’re waiting for that multiple, it’s just not going to happen for you. You have to build the company like you’re never going to get acquired.
For me, I’m in a very dangerous position. Well, dangerous position in terms of me being able to build out the company because we have no venture capital, so I’m getting no pressure to sell. We are operationally profitable, we’re growing quite nicely. And there’s no real sort of, there’s no slowing down so far within our business model. So I kind of like doing this, like I’m going to keep working at this until either something changes or something exponentially more exciting sort of falls into our lap, and we say to ourselves, okay, this is something that we’d like to pursue.
Another thing that we’re always interested in is staff.com, as an example, was an experiment that has its pros and cons to it. But we now have the platform to be able to build other companies on top of our existing companies. So, we could also see this as a way to say you know what, we want to build some kind of new application.
Like, as an example, we were experimenting with being able to do Bitcoin payments and were able to move a Bitcoin from a USD dollar account to a Filipino peso account for about half a percent with all the fees connected to it. So, we looked at this, and we thought to ourselves, man, we could implement this inside of our payments model. And the majority of our customers currently use PayPal to run their payments, that can cost between three to four and a half percent.
Liam Martin: So, we could provide this new product to them at half a percent. We wouldn’t make any money off of it, but it would be really cool to do.
Justin: You should look at Coins.ph. I think they charge 1%, and they’ve already got a user base, and that user base is particularly useful to you, right? I mean, you’ve got some people in the Philippines using Bitcoin, that’s a good group for you.
Liam Martin: Yeah, we integrate with all those partners as well. So, that was part of the experiment for us is to not get too technical, but you need a local exchange on one end, because we don’t have the ability to set up bank accounts and actual local transfers all over the world. So, we were just using the outside technology, if we use our own systems, we could probably get it down to about a quarter of a percent.
But I also just talked to a guy last week that reached out to us and said, “Hey, we’re able to do it for a quarter of a percent. Here’s our business model. This is what we’re doing. We want to integrate with you.” I was like, that’s cool. Imagine being able to get money into your employees’ pockets for a quarter of a percent.
Liam Martin: That’s mind blowing from that’s exponentially better.
Justin: That’s significant value to any Time Doctor users too, right? Like it’s significant value.
Liam Martin: Absolutely, right. And it’s like, I don’t want to make any money off of that. I just want to help that grow. I think that could be a trillion dollar a year transactional business easily, and that excites me, right? So that’s the kind of stuff.
Justin: There’s an interesting company so that we’re actually using with Empire Flippers. First off, we take Bitcoin to buy online businesses, so $200,000 in Bitcoin to buy a business that’s absolutely something we do, which I think is kind of unique, but we’re getting on the Bitcoin bandwagon with bitwage.co, where they allow you to set up your staff and actually pay them via Bitcoin. Another good if you’re into this and looks like you are, it’s kind of buggy. It’s not the best software, but it’s actually pretty interesting. Maybe we’ll take a look at.
Liam Martin: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the company that actually pitched us, which is, yeah, so I think it is.
Justin: That’s funny. Yeah.
Liam Martin: Yeah, that is, yeah.
Justin: We’re working with them now, yeah. It’s cool.
Liam Martin: Yeah, so that’s probably somebody that we should talk to more, because it’s just one of those things that I look at it and think to myself, like, man, they can do that at scale. I don’t know how they’re going to make any money, I have to look into their business model a little bit more. But that’s incredibly powerful as a concept.
So I want to be able to sort of, those are the types of things that I’d love to see grow as a socially responsible entrepreneur. I don’t necessarily care if we make a ton of money off of it, because and I’m not saying we’re an NGO, we’re not, we’re interested in making money like anyone else. But if I had two options, which was, hey, you can have a million dollar a year business and help a million people. Or you can have a zero dollar business or $100,000 business that helps a trillion people or a billion people, I’d choose the billion people every single time. That’s something that as long as you got enough cash to be comfortable, you’re very, very dangerous as a socially responsible entrepreneur.
Justin: Don’t fool me, Liam. I know you’re just thinking about those billion users. That’s really what you’re looking for. You say, “No, I’ll monetize them later.”
Liam Martin: No, I’m not [crosstalk 01:05:14].
Justin: I’m totally teasing. Yeah, yeah.
Liam Martin: You’re absolutely right. Like Google and now it’s in conjunction with Elon Musk, they’re launching 400 satellites next year to be able to provide free 3G internet to everyone on the planet.
Liam Martin: Google knows exactly where their toast is buttered. It’s literally if I can fire up an extra 3 billion people that have to go through our VPN, they’re always going to go to google.com. I just fired up 3 billion extra users that are searching for stuff on Google.
Liam Martin: That’s their end goal, right? And it’s like, that’s a 25 year vision, right? Like, we’re thinking five years ahead, these guys are thinking 25 years ahead. If Google came to me tomorrow and said, “Hey, we want to take Time Doctor, and we want to set it up on our servers, so you have infinite scale, set up everything, but you’re not going to make any money off of it.” I would say, “Yes, absolutely. Take that deal.”
Liam Martin: Because to me, that’s more a interesting journey than making 30, 40 million bucks.
Justin: Well, they did hire Ray Kurzweil. So, I think that they’re thinking along the same lines.
Liam Martin: Yeah.
Justin: Before we wrap this up, let’s talk a little bit about building remote teams and VAs. I mean, one of the things working with Time Doctor is you’ve seen some real winners, right? So you’ve seen people go from five ish, starting out kind of five ish VAs to 100 plus team company. Are there any things that those people have in common? Are there any running themes that they’re doing or things they’re doing in their business that you think can apply elsewhere?
Liam Martin: There are a couple things. I mean, I know that you’ve worked with BPO companies yourself in the past, so you have experienced this little bit of a unique perspective. But I have seen so many, and this is for anyone who’s thinking about setting up a BPO, which is a business process outsourcing company, I have seen so many guys start with two to three employees and go to 100 inside a year, and that is a fantastic, probably million dollar business, realistically.
Now, out of those 100 people, I’d say I probably see a 10th of those go to like two to 300. And then out of the two to 300, I see a 10th of those go to the 1,000 plus mark. So, it’s a very easy company to start, but very difficult to scale. And because you’re dealing with human beings, the fundamental problem is you’re dealing with human beings, there’s all these other issues that connect to it.
So, I would say the best companies, they understand their systems. So process design, they’re basically operational processes databases, that’s it. So, they’re able to say, okay, an Uber customer’s ticket that’s coming in, how can we basically pull value out of answering that ticket in an interesting way? How can we pull out they’re going to charge us X amount, and we know that our costs have to be Y. So let’s figure out how we can systematized that.
Those are the best guys in the industry, and it doesn’t really come down to, at the end of the day, HR, even though a part of it is. It doesn’t come down to hiring, it’s who can fit within that framework of processes the best? Who can build the system and make sure that their employees exist within that system in a very easy way? That’s probably the biggest thing that I see.
Secondarily to that, I see people that are able to really … The small shops, they usually start internally, so they usually have their own office, like continue to scale within an office. So, you’re going to see them move out into remote working relationships. There’s actually a really interesting company right now that’s looking to do this on a grand scale. You probably understand Manila better than most of your listeners right now, to hang around in Manila is horrible.
Liam Martin: It’s going to take you if you’re the average Filipino employee and you’re making 15,000 pesos per month, if you’re working for a BPO, it’s going to take you three hours to get in and three hours to get back on a jeepney, which is not a comfortable existence. It would be much better if you could walk 20 minutes to a small co-working space that would be owned by the BPO, in which you could do work, and you’d have a reliable internet and [inaudible 01:09:21] power. So that’s another interesting model that I see happening now. It’s sort of like split in between.
Justin: Yeah, that makes sense. The problem is powered Wi-Fi, right? Like infrastructure. Like if they can fix the infrastructure problem, I could see that being a big one. You’re totally right, when we were in Davao and we had our outsourcing company and we would ask people, how many jeepneys it will take you to get to the office.
For anyone listening who doesn’t know what a jeepney is, it’s these kind of like colorful old World War II looking jeeps that they paint and do all these things that then they basically act like buses, and so they would have to take three buses to get to the office. Three or more was bad. It would take more than an hour to get to the office and three or less was reasonable. I’m sure Manila is even way worse. The traffic there’s insane. So yeah, if you can get people not having …
Liam Martin: It’s just horrible.
Justin: Like remote remote work for the outsourcing company where they have a lot cheaper for these BPOs too rather than trying to build a Makati, Ortigas, or whatever, which are these central business district areas, in Manila, they can build like in remoter places, and they have the infrastructure, they’d probably prefer to do that. I know the employees would because they’d rather be closer to their families than out further away having to go two, three hours into the office every day. So, yeah, that makes a lot of sense, especially in the Philippines.
Liam Martin: Yeah, so, I mean, those are the two big things that I see. I think that it also just comes down to the actual people that are running it, are they doing it for the right reasons? Do they want to make just lots and lots of money? I find that those guys kind of fall by the wayside. I almost find exclusively the people that are at the top of these organizations, they definitely have an expert that started it, but they’ll have probably one or two central people that are Filipino, that are really sort of running the operations in the background.
So that’s another thing as well that I’ve sort of noticed is the people that really are the decision makers, like the guys that are managing all the employees are usually Filipinos and they’re quite well educated. You really see like I see almost exclusively La Salle graduates running those, that top layer and for anyone that doesn’t know in the Philippines, there’s almost sort of like a class system, caste system. I don’t really want to call it that, but that’s probably the best way that I can give to it.
Justin: That’s the educational institutions. Yeah, that’s …
Liam Martin: Yeah, so there’s these highly educated people, like if you want to get a guy who’s absolutely amazing in the Philippines, get a La Salle graduate. They don’t speak like your average [inaudible 01:11:44] Filipino, they will communicate to you like average Westerner. But then they also can communicate with your average Filipino to be able to get the results that you need. So, that was maybe a little bit of a too in depth assessment. But that’s kind of the politically incorrect, correct way to just sort of or at least my assessment on how those successful companies are growing.
Justin: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think that’s specifically for outsourcing companies, and probably a little too specific for our audience. But I think from having run an outsourcing company and being so familiar with the Philippines, I think what you’re saying is about right. Let’s talk a little bit about who the ideal customer is for Time Doctor.
The ideal customer for the business may not be your average user. I mean, your ideal customer, the ones that make you a lot are the BPOs, are the larger teams, but you have a whole lot of people that have three people, five people on Time Doctor. Is that right?
Liam Martin: Yeah, I mean, so I would say probably the average customer for us is the guys that are running shops of anywhere from five to 20 people. That’s where the majority of our user base comes from. And then on the top end, you’ve got the big guys that are doing hundreds to thousands of seats. Those guys are great. But it’s actually, I almost see those as two separate businesses, at least from a marketing perspective.
Liam Martin: Because really, the guys that want to come in and use our software that are, let’s say, you’ve got five employees, it’s generally going to be a self service experience, like you’re going to sign up, you’re going to put in your credit card details, and then you’re going to add your employees, you’re going to track and you have customer service, all those types of things. But fundamentally, it’s not something that-
Justin: Do yourself.
Liam Martin: To do it yourself type of thing. Yeah, like most SaaS businesses. With the bigger guys, it’s more of an intensive process. But that for us is something that we’ve been doing a pretty good job on making sure that both of those groups are sold to or sort of are marketed to in the right way.
Another thing that we’ve been finding actually is just sort of white walking the tightrope between our customers and our users. So the customers are you, right Justin? You’re the customer, you’re the person that pays for it. But our users are the people that you have on Time.
Justin: That work for us. Yeah.
Liam Martin: Yeah, so like, we’ll do MPS score, and we’ll have some of the best MPS scores in the industry on the customer side, but we’ll have really bad ones on the user side. They don’t want it. Fundamentally, it’s like they don’t want to use that software. So, we make really big strives to be able to make sure that that user experience for the user is as good as humanly possible.
That’s something that we’ve been making changes to over the last year. You can see those changes to our user base sort of occur where the guys are saying, “Yeah, okay, we’re much happier now than we were before. Because we’ve just got a piece of software that is focused on personal productivity instead of monitoring.” That’s something that is really important.
Justin: So, I think it is important, because that’s one of the questions I get. There are some other people that know that we use Time Doctor, and they go God, and this is both on the customer and the user side, the customers go, “I don’t know, man. Justin, it seems really invasive. I don’t want to be a jerk, big brother spying on my employees. I want to trust them to do the right thing.”
I’m sure you get users that go, “I don’t want my boss checking up on my work all the time. It’s just like, I want the freedom to work.” Like, what’s your answer to that? Is it like, we’re going to make this a better productivity tool so that both sides are happy with it? Is that kind of where you’re going with it?
Liam Martin: Yeah, so I kind of give out a manager demo and a user demo. The user demo is saying, “Here’s how you can use this tool to become more productive in your job and empower yourself to become basically a more productive individual, and here’s how you’re going to work through that, here’s the data that you can use yourself to be able to work within your organization.”
On the manager side, I say, “Listen, this software should primarily be used as a management tool, but it’s focused on productivity. So you know, we’re not going to do like, as an example, the stealth installations, there’s a lot of companies that have popped up right now that do stealth installations of their software. Most of Fortune 500 actually has this type of technology on their computer terminal.
So, if you’re working for a Fortune 500 company, when you get those quarterly reviews, and your manager is just sort of looking at you, they have a piece of paper that shows exactly how much time you spent on YouTube and Facebook, and on that crazy porn site that you were hanging out on during your work hours. They have that information. What we do is we say, we really don’t want to do that. We want to focus on you becoming a more productive individual. So, here are your own metrics to be able to empower you to be better.
We just had a customer recently that had a couple dozen sales people, and they’re all using Salesforce. And they tracked, they overlaid the Salesforce data connected to the Time Doctor data, and they were able to figure out based off of activities, what the most productive ratio was for successful sales. So they were able to see, okay, who are our best sales reps and who are our worst sales reps?
Is there anything in common with the best ones versus the worst ones, and they were able to look at that different data and say, oh, wow, okay, by changing these four or five things, and I’m happy to say they increased sales by 20% overall across the board, just by doing that. That’s the type of information that not only helps the business, but helps each individual sales rep within that company.
Justin: So I think Time Doctor is as bad as you make it to be. So, you’re the kind of person that’s going to be, wants to spy on your employees and do all these things. Well, you could do that. But if you don’t want to use it for those purposes, then you don’t.
I mean, we have manager, his name’s Andrew, and he works with the team. But he put himself on Time Doctor as well, just to kind of see what it was like. This is before when he just for early on, he was just kind of taking on the role and the responsibility and he put himself on Time Doctor to kind of test it out so he can see kind of what it’s like. And then he continued on with it, because he thought it was pretty useful for him in terms of tracking what he was working on and what he was doing. And he continued using it as a productivity tool for himself.
Now, he was so responsible for making sure everyone else is doing what they’re doing, if they’re logging when they’re supposed to be at everything. But he stayed on himself, because he found it personally useful, which I thought was kind of interesting.
Liam Martin: I use Time Doctor every single day. I feel like if you’re not using your own product, then you’re in big trouble.
Justin: I use Rescue Time. Are you familiar with Rescue Time?
Liam Martin: Yeah.
Justin: Is that kind of where you’re going? That makes sense.
Liam Martin: It’s more for personal. Yeah, that’s more for personal sort of use, like an always on type of that. But I use Time Doctor to be able to say, “Okay, I’m working a 40 hour workweek, like everyone else, and all 50 plus employees in the company can see my Time Doctor.” So, every single employee can manage me, and see my data, and I’m making that commitment to everyone else to be able to say, okay are you working a 40 hour workweek, because I am. I’m busting my ass.
Justin: That’s pretty cool, man.
Liam Martin: That to me is a commitment issue. Yeah.
Justin: I’m going to do a fact check on this. I guess some of your employees, they’re going to come listen to this podcast, so like, all right now, let’s see what Liam’s up to this week. Let’s see if he’s working now. They’re going to …
Liam Martin: Now, sometimes I’m docking it and I’m not really doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But like the other thing too is that like, they can actually give me a little jab on that too saying, “Hey, why were we only working 20 hours this week?” And then I kind of explain to them that I was really sick. I’ve actually got a cold right now as you do, Justin. I’m trying to fight that.
But like, I think that … So, we even have some founding teams that write into their content, like their founding documents, saying, each founder must work 20 hours per week, or their shares suffer, because, well, maybe you don’t know this, because you’re in a bit of a different situation than those brand new founders. But guys that are just sort of like hacking together something on a startup weekend, all they’ve got is this equity. They have no money and it’s not serious yet. They need to be able to make sure that everyone’s serious and on board, and that’s something …
Justin: There’s no trust, they don’t know each other yet. [inaudible 01:19:58], that makes sense.
Liam Martin: Yeah, so that for me is like, that’s really cool to be able to see guys that are just sort of all pushing forward saying, okay, let’s take this seriously, let’s build this company and make sure that we’re all accountable.
Justin: What I like Liam is that like kind of open and transparent startup movement. So you see companies like Baremetrics opening the books, you see companies like Buffer that are very open. My buddy Dan Norris over at WP Curve does monthly business reports, we do monthly business reports. I think this is kind of along the same lines, and you can use it similarly where everyone from the boss down to the earliest to the latest actually employee is on Time Doctor, and you can see what they’re doing. So I think in terms of like being open and transparent internally, inside your company, I think that’s a really interesting way to use Time Doctor, man.
Liam Martin: Yeah, we’re almost a little too open internally. Like it’s one of those things that I’ll give a monthly income report, put together a YouTube video, show everything that’s happened in the business.
Justin: You do that for the team?
Liam Martin: I do that for the team internally, yeah. For us, it’s like I have to say, some months, it’s like, “Hey, guys, we’re down, we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen next month. What are we going to do next month to be able to get to that same point?” That’s something that really sparks debate and conversation within the organization.
So, it’s something that we’ve looked at, do we actually do this, do we not do this? But we kind of recognize that it’s something that helps people move forward, regardless of whether they’re getting, it’s something that goes above getting a paycheck, so they really understand, okay, how the company’s being built.
Justin: So you didn’t do that, I’m guessing, with previous companies. We haven’t always done that since the first time [inaudible 01:21:36]. What got you doing that with Time Doctor, whereas you didn’t in the past, or?
Liam Martin: It was an issue of scale. I can’t talk to 56 people every day. It’s absolutely impossible.
Justin: No, no, I mean, more just being open about everything, like saying, “Here’s what we made, like here’s …
Liam Martin: I actually got that from Toby who is the CEO and Founder of Shopify, so he’ll do a monthly address to his entire team. And since they’re almost all in the same office, they shoehorn like 400 people into their main receiving hall, and he’ll basically give a monthly address. It’s kept all internal.
They were talking about they just recently IPO’ed and he was talking about the process that went on there. One of the biggest problems that he had with IPO’ing is that he couldn’t tell anybody about it because of just the requirements of an IPO. So, hated not doing it. And then all of a sudden, he just sort of like got up on stage and said, “Okay, so we just announced our IPO. Bam, here it is.” That’s kind of a bomb for everybody in that type of an organization, because he had been so open with them.
Justin: Yeah, so they’re like, “Well, why didn’t you tell us?” It’s like, “I can’t, I couldn’t. I wasn’t able to.” Yeah.
Liam Martin: He could not. Yeah, so it’s very, very cool that they’ve been so open. And for us, it’s like, I’ve been trying to be as open as possible. But at the same time, it’s like sometimes it’s problematic when you say, oh we lost a big client last month as an example, or something like that. Revenue numbers aren’t going to be where they’re supposed to be this month. So, that’s something that you’ve just got to tell everybody, particularly with individuals from the Philippines, you have to make sure to tell them, regardless of whatever happens, they will have a job.
Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Liam Martin: It’s so important with Filipino employees, because they get scared that like, as an example, if there’s some red in your books, you could say, “Okay, well, there’s red in our books, but don’t worry about it, we’re going to make it up next month, everything’s fine. We’ve got more than enough to operate. Like, everything’s going to be just fine.”
Liam Martin: You have to make that clear to them.
Justin: It was so funny. We were recently in Davao meeting with our team in Davao. We spent a month down there, which, by the way, we do this whole workation thing we’ve been doing, like every three to four months, where we get everyone together, either the management team, or we get everyone together down the Philippines, and we work and have some fun together.
I think that really kind of fixes some of the problems you have with remote work, where it’s nice to be together in person with your teammates. You can’t do that with a remote team. But you can every once in a while, if you can do it quarterly or four or five months, I think there’s value in that.
Anyway, we’re there, and Joe was announcing something bad that happened in our company like letting them know, and he had to stop and he put his hands up, he was like, “No, guys, Listen, don’t worry, everyone’s keeping their jobs. We have plenty of money in the bank.” So, there was like the running joke after that, “Oh, can we buy this? Or can we do this trip?” “Yeah, Joe says we have plenty of money. Plenty of money. We can do whatever we want. Sure. We want to take a trip to Tahiti? Let’s go.”
Liam Martin: Yeah, no, that’s not. So, we make that clear. Like we’re not telling anybody how much money we have in the bank as an example, because that would probably be a disaster. We did exactly what you were talking about, we had all the team come to a resort in Cebu and we just rented out the resort for three or four days. And that was great.
But I’m giving these types of I basically gave a speech saying, guys, if we want to scale to the next level for next year, you guys have all got to take individual responsibility. What I mean by individual responsibility, meaning everyone is individually responsible for growing this company and I am at capacity. I cannot do any more than what I’m currently doing. So, it’s your responsibility to be able to come up with new ideas that you can have to be able to build out the business.
It’s very difficult to hammer that into any employee, but particularly someone who is in the Philippines. There are some cultural barriers to get over, where they will not bring you suggestions that they might have thought were fantastic, but they’re just not going to bring it to you. Because they don’t feel like it’s their place to do it. I’m encouraging that as a almost daily activity now.
Justin: That’s great. Honestly, Liam, I’m really enjoying this conversation. We went over and everything and we will have to cut a little bit of it out, but I’d love to have you on again at some point. But we could talk a little bit more about the Philippines and working with Filipino teams and the cultural issues there. It’s fascinating. It’s fun, it’s exciting.
It can be miserable at times. But it’s really, really good stuff. By the way, thank you so much for your time. I think it’s been really interesting. It’s been engaging, and I think helpful for our listeners. I think they’re going to get some value out of this. Is there anything else you want to say before we wrap this up?
Liam Martin: It was great having Joe over to our Time Doctor meetup, and drinking all of our booze, I really appreciated that.
Justin: Yeah. You were saying before the show that you had a bunch of booze for like more people and then it was raining or something, so people didn’t show up. So more booze for you.
Liam Martin: Yeah. There was a tropical storm.
Justin: Joe can definitely be bought with alcohol, you can buy him off with alcohol.
Liam Martin: Oh, yeah, no, we had a ton of fun chatting. And we’re having the same sort of interesting conversations here. So anytime you want to have me back, just let me know. For me, this is something that as you probably do, I think about this all day long. Like, it’s my job, right? So it’s just something that I’m really passionate about. I think that if anyone is passionate about it too, send me a Facebook message, send me a tweet, or whatever it might be, and more than happy to be able to chat with you.
Justin: Awesome, Liam. Thank you so much. Anyone want to check you out, obviously you can go over to timedoctor.com, they can check out your company or staff.com. I’m going to actually link to you. That’s an interesting blog post we talked about before the show, and I’m going to link to some of those in the show notes. So, if someone wants to take a look at those, they can check them out too. Liam, again, thanks so much, man.
Liam Martin: Thank you.
Speaker 2: You’ve been listening to the Empire Podcast. Now, some news and updates.
Justin: All right, buddy. Let’s do some news and updates. First thing is we are back to work. So, we’ve had quite a bit of time off. We’re in Bali and doing a bunch of travel. I’m now settled down here in Bangkok for three weeks. You’re in Manila. We’ve got Andrew in [Ho Chi Minh 01:27:39], and we’ve got Mike heading over to Ho Chi Minh as well. And then Kenny here in Bangkok with me. So we’re all kind of settling in and getting all of our work done. We’ve got quite a bit of work to do. We had our best month ever in June, which was fantastic. And we had a pretty bad month in July. So, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
Joe: Yeah, I’m looking forward to August, I think August will turn it around. I’m looking forward to getting settled in my own new place here in Manila. I just signed a year lease so it’ll be nice to get a home again, and all the creature comforts that I deserve.
Justin: Yeah, it’s funny I read all those threads from the digital nomads and they talk about how much it costs to live here or there. It’s funny, some people were saying you can live in like Chiang Mai for 800 bucks a month. Other people were like, “You’re crazy. Like that’s bottom of the basement kind of living, that is not fantastic.” Talk a little bit about your placement of it. So it’s in the fort. It’s about two grand a month and you had to sign a six month lease. Is that right?
Joe: No, it’s $1,500 a month without any utilities, so depends on how much I guess I spend on electricity and other types of stuff. But yeah, I mean if you have cash, cash talks in the Philippines and you’re able to negotiate down. It was listed for 2,000 a month and I got a discount to 1,500 by paying six months cash up front. That’s pretty significant but that’s what it’s, you know, cash is king right?
Justin: Tell me, so the place you’re in in Manila is one of kind of the nicest areas or nicest sections of Manila. Tell me like how much of that place cost in Manhattan for example.
Joe: Yeah, it’s a two bedroom place, it’s about 90 square meters, so it’s pretty big. It has a balcony, it has a private pool, well pool for the building obviously, infinity pool, it’s a doorman building with a nice reception area, that kind of thing, a gym, basic gym, but all those amenities. That in Manhattan would probably cost close to 10 grand a month.
Justin: Yeah, so you know, that’s a significant savings if you’re paying 1,500 bucks a month versus 10 grand, and it is on that level. I mean, I’ve seen pictures it’s really, really nice. I’m in a similar place here in Bangkok. So, in this really nice community, it’s actually a little too nice. It’s a little stuffy. But I’m here for three weeks. It’s totally modern. It’s a one bedroom, my girlfriend and I got a nice balcony. We’re right next to the Four Seasons here in Bangkok. It’s a really, really nice community, and it’s 1,500 for the three weeks that we’re here.
Now, I bounced around from Airbnbs and service departments. So it’s my price and my quality changes more drastically. We were talking about this before the show and you were just so happy to be getting a place and you were like, I don’t understand how you can do it with all the crazy travel and you’re in different places. I like it though. I get what you’re saying about having kind of your own home, like your own place that’s your home for a while. But I kind of like bouncing around, man. I like the change of scenery.
Joe: Yeah, I just think that gets old for me after a while. But I can tell you one thing that’s really cool about the fort is it’s basically a brand new part of the city. So, it took this undeveloped piece of land in the last 10, 15 years, and everything is new. So, it’s kind of walking through this wonder world of a new city that they’re building out of nowhere. It’s really neat, very, very walkable kind of area of town, as opposed to the rest of Makati or even other parts of Manila. So, I’m looking forward to planting some roots, going to the gym, getting into schedule, that kind of thing again.
Justin: Cool, man. All right, another thing we want to announce is that we have a new listing pages. You might have seen us start to roll this out in the last week or so. We do have some new listing pages, we’d really like to know what you think about it. So, if you like the new listing pages, or don’t like the new listing pages for the websites we have for sale, do let us know in the comments on the show, we’d love to hear from you and get your feedback.
Joe: Yeah, this is the beginning of definitely some big changes for Empire Flippers. Well, maybe some little changes really. We’ll probably do some minor changes to the homepage and marketplace as well to make the UI, UX a little bit easier for new visitors taking some of the feedback and complaints that we got on the new design last year and developing those into some useful changes.
Justin: All right, buddy. Let’s do some listener shouts, also known as the indulgent ego boosting social proof segment. First stop on Twitter, we had Michael said, “Empire Flippers inspired me to get an online escrow service off the ground, rough draft here loadpipe.com.” I was talking to Michael and kind of venting about how there aren’t any escrow companies that are specifically dealing only with websites and online businesses. The escrow companies that are out there deal with cars and trucks and commercial vehicles, and that kind of thing and websites just happened to be one of those things.
Online businesses are trickier, right? Kind of their own unique beast, that’d be great if there was an escrow company out there that did that. So, he wanted to put something together. My concern with that and I really like Michael, so I’m not going to beat him up too much. But I don’t want to use an escrow company just kind of like that’s kind of mashed together. Do you know what I mean?
I don’t want to put money into an escrow company that was made overnight, I want some security there. So that’s, I think, a problem or a challenge for anyone creating an escrow company is they have to have a bunch of money in the bank, they have to be established, there has to be some proof of track record for me to use them.
Joe: Yeah, agreed. I think that’s going to be a major challenge. And then a lot of the licensing, a lot of all that kind of stuff is definitely going to be an uphill battle as well, in terms of dealing with bureaucracy and making sure that you have the right sort of arbitration in place when there is a dispute, but if he could figure it out, then it would be so useful because honestly, that’s something that’s lacking in the business.
Justin: We’ve got another tweet, and this is in response to a blog post we put out where we were asking the question, are websites undervalued? It was a guest post, and Kizi on July 27 said, “Yes, they are better to buy all day long.” I love responses like this, because this is clearly someone that’s in the buy camp. They’re saying, Oh my God, I’m absolutely buying sites. I’m absolutely buying online businesses. These people are silly for selling them off. I can’t believe they’re doing that.
And then the total flip side of that coin are the builders, the builder sellers that say, I can’t believe these chumps are paying $50,000 for a website, or a business that I built in two, three years and only cost me a couple thousand dollars to put together. I can’t believe they’re doing that. Why don’t they just build it themselves?
And so there’s this big kind of misunderstanding between the two sides, which just shows that there’s a marketplace, there’s a need for that and that balance between the two. So, I think messages like that are funny because, yes, I hear what he’s saying. But I totally know the other side where they’re like, what’s he talking about? This guy’s a chump. Why are they paying 50, 100, $150,000 for it? So yeah, that’s our business.
Joe: Yeah, I mean, I hope that disparity continues for years to come.
Justin: We take full advantage of it. That’s how we make our money, for sure, buddy. So let’s talk a little bit about some Zendesk action. We had 84% satisfaction the last seven days, which is not great. We had 16 good feedback with three bad feedback. The good news is, we’ve dropped our reply times down to three and a half hours, because July was a relatively slow month for us in terms of total revenue, I think we were able to really kind of catch up on support tickets. So we’re a lot faster, but our satisfaction wasn’t great.
A lot of these kind of bad satisfaction surveys and feedback that we’re getting are from sellers that were denied. We had a whole rush of those. I know for a three week period or four week period, Joe, where you were just denying a ton of submitted listings, because they were not up to standard. So we’re taking a bit of a hit and that from our customer service partner.
Joe: Yeah, I mean, there’s just nothing we could do there. So the two major complaints always seem to be a, the site sells so quickly before I had a chance to look at it, or b, you made me go through the entire vetting process only to say no. I just don’t have a better solution than how we do it right now. I’ve racked my head around it, I just can’t figure out a solution to it that’s better than the approach that we take.
We’re going to need time to evaluate complex businesses especially and make sure that they fit the Empire Flippers’ check boxes before we list them, and for sites that sell very quickly, we keep money on and for customers that are willing to trust us, and some people do buy blind. So, those are the two major complaints that I think you see, and that you see week to week.
Justin: Yeah, I don’t know that we can fix the ones where the sites are selling too quickly, especially the smaller sites because the market for those are just so huge, right? The one where sellers are complaining and legitimately complaining that why did it take three or four weeks for them to find out that we couldn’t list, that was a legitimate complaint.
The problem was that we were really far behind the vettings. So, we were three, four weeks out on vetting. And we’ve since fixed that. We’re now at one to two weeks for the huge majority of sites. So, that I think will help those sellers that were waiting a long time to be told no. Right now, most of them, if they’re being told no, they’re hearing in a few days, they’re hearing in a week, a week and a half max. So, I think that’s a lot better.
Joe: Yeah, agreed. I guess that’s going to be good. But I still think we’re going to find the sellers that go through the process and get mad because they got denied.
Justin: Yeah, it doesn’t matter. It’s worse if it took four weeks. It’s still not good if it was a week and a half and you’re still being told no, for sure. Last bit of information I wanted to touch on is, I said at the top of the show I’ll mention it again now, we’ve got a brand new podcast. If you want to check it out, it’s called the Web Equity Show. It’s over at webequityshow.com. We are on iTunes and Stitcher for your listening pleasure.
Do check it out. I think you’re going to like this show. It’s all about buying, selling, and investing in websites, very singularly focused unlike Empire Flippers where we like to dance around because that’s just how we roll. That’s it for Episode 143 of the Empire Podcast. Thanks for sticking with us. We’ll be back next week with another show. You can find the show notes for this episode and more at empireflippers.com/timedoctor. See you next week.
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.