Scribe Media has 260 employees, 737 books with almost 200,000 reviews on Amazon, and 20 times the sales they used to have — all because Tucker Max decided to quit being the CEO of his company and hire someone else to do his job.
Tucker Max is the co-founder of Scribe Media, a company that helps people write, publish, and market their books. He has written four New York Times bestsellers, which have sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. He’s recognized as the creator of the literary genre “fratire.” Tucker is also the fourth writer (along with Malcolm Gladwell, Brene Brown, and Michael Lewis) to ever have three books on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list at one time and was nominated for Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2009.
Tune in to this episode to learn more about Tucker Max’s experience of hiring a new CEO to do his job.
Click here to read transcript
[03:09] So Scribe Media, in your own words, why did you create it? And what does it do?
- Well, I had a bunch of entrepreneurs who asked me, told me, “I want to write a book.” And then I would tell them how to write a book. And they’re like, “I don’t want to do that. Can you do it for me?” And I was like, “No,” because it used to be that you’d hire a ghostwriter. And they would write a book that was their version of your words. And so this one woman eventually was like, “No, no, I want you to get my ideas out of my head and my words in my voice, but I don’t want to do any of the rest of the work.” And I was like, “Oh, of course, like a scribe would.” And so you know, like, Plato wrote down all of Socrates and stuff, right?
And so I kind of figured the process out with her. I didn’t think it was gonna work, but ended up working really well. And she referred, like, I’m such an idiot. I would have finished the book with her. And I was like, “Okay, cool.” Like, she paid me. And it was like, just a fun project for me. And she’s like, “What do you want me to tell my friends that you charge?” And I’m like, “Charge for what?” She’s like, “The same service.” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to do this again. Like, no, that’s terrible. One time is fine for me.” And she’s like, “Okay, I’ll just tell them, you charge what you charged me.”
And so she started sending people to me, and I was like, “I had a guy who was working with something else.” I’m like, “Do you want to do this stuff?” And he’s like, “Yes.” And so he started doing the projects and sharing the money with me. And then like, I talked about it on a podcast, and we got like, 10 people sign up and he goes, “Dude, we’ve done a quarter million dollars in sales the last three months. I think you have a business here.” And I’m like,” Oh, yeah, you might be right.”
So now, we’re like six years later, and we have 260 employees. And we’ve done 737 books, I think that of almost 200,000 reviews total on Amazon amongst them, including the best selling memoir, the second best selling memoir, the last decade, other than Michelle Obama’s, David Goggins, and a bunch of others. And it all started because this one was like, “Get my book out of my head.”
[05:24] Yes. Nice work, man. And you don’t even work there anymore.
- Not really. No. It’s the greatest situation ever. No, man, I kept hiring people to do my job that were better than me. A lot of mistakes on the way early. But now pretty much everyone there who’s doing things I used to do is better than me, including the CEO. We have a professional CEO who runs a company, who’s an absolute badass.
It’s so funny, because he doesn’t know—he’ll tell you that he doesn’t know an adverb from a pronoun. And he runs a publishing company and does 10 times better—actually, more. I can tell you exactly how much better. It would be 20x better, because that’s how much more sales we do with him, leading company that we make.
[06:16] So that’s what we’re gonna talk about in this interview, because when you and I met down in Austin, not too terribly long ago, you gave a talk about this. And I got pretty fascinated with it, because I’m a big fan of trying to fire myself from as much stuff as I can as well. I tried that recently. And actually, I had a big failure, which cost me a bunch of money. So obviously, I need to learn some things here. It was a senior hire, and it didn’t go very well. So let’s have you and me and the audience. Learn hopefully, from what you’ve been able to do.
So let’s start with this. Why do you think it’s so important to bring in really experienced leaders? And what gap are they filling that you were struggling to fill on your own?
- Well, so it’s important to bring them in just… If you’re an entrepreneur, your job is to find inefficiencies in the market, places where people need things and businesses aren’t satisfying their needs, and then figure out a way to satisfy that need better than is being met now, or even meet it at all at all, does that mean that at all, or meet it better than the current offset of offerings.
If you’re good at that, you’re probably not good at all of the other skills of running a business. But you might be right. I know some people who are great entrepreneurs who are also great ops people, right. But if you’re a great entrepreneur, I believe you should spend all your time—I don’t think entrepreneuring is a word.
- You should spend all your time doing entrepreneurial work, because that is the highest value work to society. Right? Whereas, it’s much easier to find people that can take an established role. And either do it better than you or improve it, or whatever than it is to set up a company, so to speak, right? It is much harder to find people who can build—who can come up with ideas and push them into existence, than it is people who can run those ideas, once they’re established and scale them.
I think they’re genuinely different skill sets. And if you can be an entrepreneur, you probably should, because that’s… I don’t want to say that’s the hardest thing, it’s just right now it’s the rarest thing. I can imagine a situation reversed, where everyone was coming up with ideas, and no one could scale them and the people who could scale them would make the most money. And they do make a lot.
My CEO owns a big chunk of my company because he’s amazing. He can scale the company. But I feel like it’s sort of, if you try and do everything, you’re gonna do most things poorly. But if you focus on the things you love, and you’re good at, then you’re probably going to be a lot happier, and you’re going to be a lot more successful. And that’s been the case for me.
[09:10] So let’s back up a tiny bit, then. So you started the company, kind of by accident. Referrals led you to you know, that first quarter million in sales in the first three months. And I would assume that you were the CEO until you hired this fellow that you’ve hired. How far did it—just in terms of revenue, because it’s easy to understand, how far did you take it to what was the annual revenue when you basically fired yourself? And then…
- I think we got to a million and a half in the second year. Something like that. Maybe 2 million, somewhere.
[09:45] And that was at the point where you decided, “I’m not the best person for this role anymore because now it’s more about scaling and operations than it is about entrepreneuring,” this new word that you and I have just invented.
- Yes, you know, when you get a go kart and you get it above the speed it’s supposed to go and it starts shimmying and the wheels come off. That’s what happened with our company. Is that like I built a go kart, and it was great. And then we got it going way too fast. And the wheels came off. So we had to bring in a real engineer.
[10:22] Okay. So for another founder or founders that are listening to this right now. And they’re thinking, “Yes, my go karts wobbling like crazy. But I really don’t know what the first step is to find a new captain of the go kart.” Talk us through that. I mean, did the way you did it, did you luck out? Or was it replica replicable to a certain degree?
- Both. So there was definitely an element of luck. But I think there’s an element of luck and chance in almost everything that happens. So what did I do that was replicable? Well, the first thing I had to do was recognize that I was not the person to lead this company, that I was failing at that job, right? Not failing, I just wasn’t doing as good as someone else could do. Right? Like you might be doing. Okay. I see a lot of companies where the founder, the entrepreneur is still the CEO, and they’re like 5 million or 10 million or 20 million, they’re doing okay.
But if they had a baller CEO who knew how to scale the company, they’d be double, triple or 10x, right? And so like that’s the first thing is admitting to yourself, “I’m not the best person for this.”
[11:40] I’m gonna jump in and interrupt you there for a minute. Because I think that that in itself is something that’s really hard for people to do. Did you have a feeling that was like weighing you down? Or whether was there repetitive bits of evidence where you’re like, “Oh, man screwed that up. Oh, man screwed that up.” Like, what made that like—because there’s so much ego involved. And you talked a lot about this, when you’re on stage, there’s so much ego involved in being a founder and the CEO and the leader and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you were able to say, “Maybe I’m not the best guy.”
- Yes. Because the CEO is such a sexy position, right? You’re in charge, you’re the leader. And like a lot of people assume, well if I started it, I have to be the one to lead it, I’ve got to have the sexy position. And I definitely fell into that trap. But the thing—it just became…
Honestly, man, there were two major things. One was, I really didn’t like my life on a day to day basis. I was always angry, stressed, and frustrated. And that’s not how I wanted to live my life. It’s not super enjoyable. And so I knew—when your life is always in a stressful, frustrated, angry position, probably something’s off, right.
And so I—because I’m spending all my time doing things that I didn’t know how to do, or I didn’t like doing. I like starting things and being creative, and all that kind of stuff. I don’t like managing things or managing people. Some people love that. I just don’t. And so I kind of had to realize that I just suffer and realize I was suffering. And my wife had to be like, “Why are you such an asshole all the time? You’re not the dude I’m married.” And I’m like, “Yes, I know that guy. That guy didn’t have a company he was on a run.” And so there was that aspect.
And then then honestly, I kind of had to step back and ask myself, I met him, right? And I realized, “Fuck, man, this is what a baller CEO looks like.” And this is how he acts, and this is what he knows. And I’m just not in that category. And it’s okay. It’s just not who I am. And so then I had to ask myself, “Well, why am I doing this? Is this company about the mission that we purport to serve, which is helping people write and publish a book to share their knowledge and wisdom with the world? Or is it about making me look good?”
It could be about making me look good. And if it is, then I should stay as the CEO, and I should—because you know, I could hire CEO coaches, and I could learn this and I could maybe just hire an ops person and like, I still say, CEO and all that kind of stuff. Because it’s about me looking good, that’s what I should do.
But if it’s about the purpose, if it’s about serving the people we’re serving, and then serving the mission, that I needed to get out of the way. And I need to be in the role where I did the best work, it was the most useful to accompany and let him be in the role where he was the most useful which was running it. And once I framed the question that way, it became so obvious to me that, “Of course I’ve got to get out of this role and get someone else to sit.” So I did.
[15:04] So let me go back to the question that I interrupted you. What portions of the finding of this person do you think can be taught to whoever’s listening to this interview?
- Right? So the first one is, is recognizing that, right seeing it, and then understanding, okay, like, “This is something I need to do and I want to do.” The next thing you’ve got to do and I kind of got lucky here. But the next thing to do is to really understand who it is you’re looking for, and then go find that person. Right? Rarely is that person going to just, you know they’re not knocking on your door be like, “Hey, I think you got a company to scale. I might be helpful.” Even us that didn’t happen like that. I had to—he was—JeVon was a client of ours. But I had to bring this up to him. And I had to vet him and explain it to him, and all that kind of stuff.
And then honestly, truly, a lot of founders had this. I just talked to a guy two days ago, a good friend of mine, who’s in the same… So he called me up and asked me advice about this. And he still had the assumption that the CEO role at his company was sexy, and people should be lining up to take it. And I said, “Dude, let me ask you a question. Describe the person you want to run this.” And he described a badass CEO. And I said, “How many options? Do you think that guy has? For jobs?” And then he said, “Oh, dude, endless. This guy could get almost any job anywhere.” And I said, “Well, why the hell is he gonna work for you?” And he’s like, “Oh, man, he’s real.”
If you don’t step out, look at it from someone else’s perspective, it’s so easy to get lost in all the things that are good about it, or why you think they should like it, or once all that, but you’ve got to look at it from their perspective. This person is a badass, and they have a million options. Why are they gonna take yours? Right? And so you—it’s sales. You got to get into a sales role once you find the person.
Because unless you’re running like Apple, right? You’re not gonna have bad asses knocking down your door begging you for a job because it’s a hard job. Even if you pay them a lot. And even if they even get equity, and they get all the benefits of leadership, it’s still a really, really hard job. And chances are, you’re—as the founder, and probably the person who owns the majority of the company, you’re gonna make the most money. So why is someone gonna come kill themselves for you? Right?
So you got to have a really good company or a good opportunity. And you’ve got to be able to sell the hell out of it to someone who has 50 other things they could do. And if you don’t know why they’re gonna come, like what the argument is, they’re not coming.
[18:00] So did you hire? Sorry, what was his first name again? JeVon. Is that what you said?
[18:06] You were at a million and a half in revenue when you hired him?
- Yes, about a million and a half, two. Yes.
[18:13] Okay. So first question that comes to mind, the pragmatic side of me. And I want to come back to what you just said, but the pragmatic side of me says, well, at a million and a half, you’re not throwing off that much EBITDA, how can you…?
- I know exactly what you’re gonna ask. How the hell did you get that guy?
[18:29] How can you afford someone unless you’re going to give me such a huge chunk of the pie because they’re already rich or whatever.
- So the friggin answer is I am that good of a salesperson. And that’s not untrue. I actually am an amazing salesperson. When I believe in something, and I’m behind it, there’s no better salesman right. That’s only part of the story. The other part of the story is so yes, I painted an amazing picture. I laid out an incredible vision that he really believed in and bought into, and really wanted to be a part of. So I told a story where he was the hero. And he was Luke Skywalker of this company, and I was the Obi-Wan or the Yoda, whatever. And so like, he really wanted that.
And so that was a big opportunity, because he’d been president of another company, but not really the CEO. And he was the one who scaled that, but the founder took all the credit. And so I was over here with a better company, better opportunity, with all this growth in front of us saying, “I’ll step aside for you. I’ll let you be the head, and I’ll let you get the credit.” Right? And so that was very appealing to him.
And then also, he got a good equity chunk right now. It actually started about 10 to 15, 10% with an option to buy five more, and he’s so outperformed that deal but he now owns the same amount that I… We’re both 37 and a half and my other co-founders are 25. And so like, which is fun, because he’s done so good. I mean, we’re literally, we’re well over 50 million in sales now. So like he’s so outperformed any deal. I would much rather have a small piece of a huge pie than a big piece of…
[20:18] 70% of 50 million is like 100% of 9 million.
- Hell yes. And so there’s all there’s that right. And then also, l—what he really wanted, I got to know him really well. And I got to understand who he was, and what did he really want from life. And I realized what he wanted from life. That my company that I started could give it to him, and I could help him along that path, get the things he really wanted. And so I sold him not just the vision of the company, but a vision of his life that he wanted, right? Like he wanted to write a memoir and tell his story. And he wanted to be, not famous, but he wanted to get recognition for the things he’s done.
And he was like, you know, “I’d already done that for myself.” And I’m like, “I can do that for you.” Because like any, like, I can easily show you how to do this. This is what this company does, we can really help you with that. And it was very appealing to him, you know, because like every other opportunity he was looking at was more money than us, we were the lowest paid opportunity. But all those others were just money. Right?
There was a, there was a huge private equity firm that offered him a lot of money to run a software company. But if he did that, he wouldn’t be the star, it would be the head of the private equity firm, right? And he would just be money. He’d be a mercenary, but with us, he’s the hero. He’s the key, you know. And so that was very appealing to him. And so here we are.
[21:56] So the takeaway from that is that this particular individual has a value system where money isn’t necessarily his number one, value recognition. Public recognition is a big, big value. How did you figure that out with certainty before you hired him?People will come in, and they’ll tell you one thing, but then their actions, which speak louder than words will tell you something entirely different after the fact. And then you have a bad hire on your hands because you have a misalignment. How do you avoid that in this or how did you avoid that?
- Yes so what we did, so I brought JeVon on as an advisor to my company first. And so he was in a couple of executive meetings. And dude, he just ran the meetings. And he just took them over. But in a way that was so natural, like, “Oh, of course, you should be running this. He knows way better than me.” And so we worked together for a while. Right? And then there’s another big two other big things we did.
One was I tested him in terms of honesty, right? So there’s a couple ways to do that. One is that I shared a lot of stuff about me and my life, like private, personal, difficult things that aren’t easy to share. But you know, once I got to know him, not like the first time I met him, but it wasn’t like, “Hey, nice to meet you. I’m gonna overshare right now.” It was appropriate, right. But I wanted to see how much he shared back. You know, because I could tell there were stuff he wanted to say or explore. But if someone gets the opportunity in a vulnerable, appropriate situation that doesn’t share back that tells you something about them.
But then the other big thing you can really do, if you want to get to know someone, go travel with them. Right? And I know, it may be hard in the COVID era. But this was years ago, back when people could get on planes, without being weirdos. I forget where we went or what we did, but it was like just a tiny short trip. Because when you go travel with someone, they can’t hide who they are.
[24:11] I always say get drunk with somebody. There’s no way to hide.
- Yes. It’s true. He doesn’t drink though.
[24:22] All right. So now, myself, and some people who are listening to this or thinking, “I love this idea. Maybe I’m not ready yet. But I need to get me and my company ready so that at some point in the next 12, 18, 24 months, I can go out and find myself a CEO so that I can take a step back and be the innovator or the chairman or just a shareholder,” or whatever. What do you need to be doing? And I’ll use me as a guinea pig if you want to. What do I need to be doing in my software company now so that when I get to a couple million dollars a year in revenue that I can go on and do mine and find my guy, assuming that’s what I wanted to do.
- Yes. So I would start right now thinking—first off about who, what type of person you need and who you need to run the company. What skills do they need? Create an avatar. Just like you would in marketing. Who is the avatar CEO? Right? Then I would start really thinking about how you’re going to sell that person. Right? Why are they going to want this, this role? And so have those arguments ready. Know what the counter arguments are? What the weak spots are? Admit them to the person, and then explain why, like, “Hey, listen, we’ve got these things that are challenges. But if you’re the person who say you are, you should be excited about them, and you should be able to overcome them. And here’s why.” Right? So you want the obvious benefits, the counter arguments, and then the counters to the counters, right? And more why those are opportunities?
And then once you have that you have the avatar and you have the sales talk, then it’s just a matter of prospecting. Think of it like sale, honestly, like sales. Build an avatar, build your persuasion in your sales points, and then start prospecting. So I would just start with the people, you know, your network, “Hey, look, I’m looking for this person for this role. Here’s the reason they were gonna love it. Do you know anybody?” and say, “Hey, if you bring me this person, I’m gonna cut you a big ass check.” And then go from there.
One of the best things about recruiters is that they usually work—they only work on commission. So it’s like, they only eat what they kill. So hire three of them, or four of them, whatever. Let them all go out and see. If they get someone in, it’s great, who’s a badass baller CEO, it might cost you 50 or $100,000. But that should be so so so worth it. If you have a multi million dollar software company, and they’re scaling it, and it should be honestly, totally worth it.
[27:26] Let’s talk about—I’m just looking at my notes here. I think the comp plan is what we wanted to talk about next. So you went through an experience with him where you came up with what everybody was happy with, originally. And then later, you tore it all up and read it all. Walk us through that. And with as much specifics as you’re willing to give?
- Well, you mean, like the branding of the company?
[27:53] No, the comp plan.
- Okay. So this is one of those things where you have to know your audience, right. So JeVon, recognition is big for him. And so it’s not just like public recognition, it’s recognition from the people around him. Right. And so as we were about three years in, he had done such an amazing job and you know, gotten, of course, all the accolades and praise for me. But it’s one of those things where this is like, you know, in sports, like when someone really outperforms their contract, if the team’s smart, like the Chiefs did with Mahomes, they come to you way before your next contract expires, and says, “Let’s talk now, and get you signed now.”
And the ones that don’t do that, the people—even though technically, they have every right to do it that way, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The people, a lot of times gets bitter, you know. And it’s like, “Why didn’t you come a little early?” And so I knew we had that situation with JeVon. And so I went to my co-founder. I went to him and said, “Look, we understand the situation you have. You have grossly outperformed this. And so we want to…” We were upfront, “We want to…” Basically what we said, because he was getting still does, like crazy offers every week. And so we’re like, “We know, you can go anywhere, anytime. We want you to not just stay, but we want you to stay forever.”
And so we want to start that conversation and figure out what that would look like and what that would take. Because basically, within reason money is no object. We’ve developed such a great… He’s one of my best friends. And so the three of us had such a great relationship, that it’s like, we can always figure out the money, right? So let’s start to figure out the money and then lock it in and then we don’t ever have to think about that again. And we can just build the company.
Because as I talked to him again, like he wanted to build a massive company, a massive conglomerate, and so we’re like, “We’ll build it here,” you know. And so then we just started that conversation. So I guess the steps were, I asked him a lot what he wanted from life. And it wasn’t just I asked him before we hired him, it was a continuous conversation about what he wants, right, and where he’s going, and how we fit. And then an alignment and obviously he performed, outperformed. And so it’s like, “Okay, how can we help you get what you want, while you continue to help us get what we want?”
The first part of that the very first step is a recognition of the fact that we are together. And I want both of us to win as much as possible. And so let’s discuss, or at least know it’s on the table. That a win win situation. And so it takes time. And dude, it took us a year and a half, to really figure out the final situation. Because he had a lot of other weird emotional issues with money and like, he wanted more equity, but he didn’t want to feel like it was given to him because he kind of came from nothing. And like he had been on welfare as a kid, he hated the shame of that. So it was very important for me to earn it right.
But then at the same time, he wanted to be given the stuff because he felt like he deserved to be good having given to him and I was at one point, I’ll never forget, I was like, “JeVon, you want me to give it to you. But if I give it to you, you’re gonna hate me and be mad at me. What the fuck?” And he goes, “I know, it’s a total contradiction.” But the point is that we talked and actually said, dude, you would not believe that financial gymnastics. But I figured out because we’re both open and honest about what we want. And we understand it’s not just like a light switch thing that we—it’s an evolving conversation.
And so we actually did figure out a financial structure where, where he basically gave a small grant of equity, and then the rest he had to earn, but he didn’t earn it out of “You didn’t pay for it,” he earned it on a future profit share. So like it to him, it felt like he was getting what he deserved. But also nothing was being given to him. And then I got, like, some payment for the equity, but not really market value, but enough that I was pretty happy. And then part of the deal is “Okay, we know we’re tied together for a minimum of a decade. None of the three of us can do anything outside of this company.” Because we all knew what we all wanted. And everything we wanted to do, we can do within the context of the company.
And so let’s go, you know, it was almost like, seriously, it was almost like building a family. Except with a family. It’s like, there’s sex involved. And then you don’t get to pick your kids. So there’s a few different dynamics, right? And you don’t get to pick your in-laws or your wife’s family. This is like building a family. But you get to pick your family. And you’re negotiating it the whole step of the way. So it’s for better and worse.
You have to get it out of your head. For this to work, you have to get out of your head that business and personal and work or business and personal are separate. Because they’re not. Right? They’re deeply integrated. Even if they are separate. They’re like the roots of a plant and the soil of a plant are not the same thing. But for both of them to work, well, they need each other and they go together. So it’s sort of the same thing.
[33:36] Did you have—and this question is coming from the experience that I just went through, we didn’t even make it to three months, when a VP level person who joined had to no longer be on the team, there was a cultural misalignment. It wasn’t the lack of skills. It wasn’t that they weren’t a good person, just culture clash. Did you build any kind of escape hatch for you early on? So that—because you’re going to learn a lot in the first couple of months of working with someone on a day to day in and out basis, that might not have shown up beforehand. Or did you do enough engagement and advise—you have them on your board or as an advisor, I think is what you said to the company beforehand that, were that wasn’t a concern?
- Yes, so I mean, it’s a good question. If you’re hiring—this wasn’t hiring exact position. This was like, when you hire a CEO, man, it’s almost like, at least a level I met for smaller companies where you’re like, not a private equity, you know, where it’s like there’s tens or hundreds of millions and you’re hiring someone with a long track record. It’s that’s more standard hiring process. When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s almost like you’re—what’s a really good comparison? It’s all Almost like dating, you know. It really is. And so, in dating, there isn’t like, you kind of go step by step.
Okay, well, you’re gonna meet for drinks. And then if you’d like, maybe we do dinner. And then maybe we do like a long dinner with something afterwards and dancing. And then we hook up and then you know, there’s like steps to dating, right? And you… So with super high level CEO level that the company style hires, I think you really do need to take it slow, and get to know the person in as many different ways as possible. We went on a trip together so I had him in meetings and all that sort of stuff. Every hire that we’ve ever had, at the executive level now—because we’ve hired a couple of executives, not at his level, but the level beneath him. VP level you want to call it, and those are those people we do the same thing.
We fly them in, we spend a ton of time with them, we go to dinner with them, multiple six, eight people in the company interview. Then people that would be reporting to them, interview them. We try and put them in stressful situations. We try and put them in casual situations there being… We even have—we send drivers, I’m gonna give this secret away. This is an amazing one. So like, we’ll fly someone in. And we have a you know, we’ll say, “Hey, listen, you know, instead of you having to do an Uber, we’ll hire a driver. So just call this number and this time.”
We know who the driver is, like, it’s a guide. So it doesn’t work for us. But it’s the guy we know who we hire for a lot of our stuff. And so he comes in, and he emails the person, right? Because how do they act to service personnel?
[36:44] Are they polite? Or are they dicks? Or what?
- Exactly, right. So like they’re getting eval as soon as they touched down in Boston in ways they don’t even realize, right? Because we do—for high level hires, man, you really, really do need to know the person.
Another way that can work well. I learned this from Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, like Keller Williams real estate. So we do this, this works really well. We ask for referrals, right? And of course, they’re gonna give you people, check them. But if the person has any competence, they’re all going to be good people. Ask those people for the names of other people that knew that person. Right? So like it if I’m checking on you, and you give me an old partner of yours named Bill. I talked to Bill. And Bill loves you, “Oh Trent’s the greatest and Trent shits gold,” and whatever. “Okay, hey, Bill, who’s someone that knew Trent, at least as well as you, that maybe has a different perspective. Doesn’t have to be better or worse, just different?” “Oh, you could talk to Frank and Jim.” “Great”.
Then you start to get the real person, you know, which is funny because I did this. I did this with JeVon. And I found out amazing stuff about him. Like, he never told, but like it was all good. It was like when he was in his mid 30s. He was married to a woman and with—long, long story short. Like she had a kid from another marriage. She got in a serious accident, he adopted her kid and raised that kid and never told me about this.
And like, it’d be like crazy stuff that I was like, what kind of… Another person that he didn’t even introduce me to as a reference told me about how he ran a food bank in his spare time when he was like, the best mortgage sales broker. He would go spend his nights at food banks and like, “Yes, it was pretty amazing. We didn’t know what the hell he was doing. This guy was rich.” And I was like, “What kind of person doesn’t share this?” I thought, right? Well, obviously a humble guy sharing one. But I was like, “Wow, like, I would be telling everybody this.”
[39:03] Yes. No kidding. I would too. All right. We are getting close to running out of time, we’re not gonna get through the rest of all of our questions. Let me just have a look here. I think I’ve asked… Let’s finish up with this one. So obviously, you said this, when you’re on stage, you know what my calendar looks like, now it’s empty. So you’ve got a lot, a lot more free time than you had before. How is your life changed? Do you do any work to do with the company at all? Or are you off doing new projects that require entrepreneuring? Or what does it look like?
- I’m doing both, but within the context of the company. So we’re launching two new things this year. Well actually where I think we’re gonna watch several, but in my purview, I’m building two new things. One is like a memoir sort of program, kind of a new style of memoir program that I’m like creating from scratch or whatever.
And then another is a new sort of publishing arm that’s going to be a little different than what we do. And so I’m leading both of those. And it’s me being the best version of me, I’m kind of off on an island. No one’s bothering me. And when I need shit, I go get help. But otherwise, I just come back with stuff I build. And then we test it and it gets going. And then once it gets to a level that we start hiring people, then it goes over onto JeVon’s plate and he hires those people and scales it.
[40:37] Got it. I love it, because that’s what I enjoy the most as well. And that’s as I’m listening to this as a guest as well as—sorry, as an audience member as well as the host. I’m thinking “Yes, this appeals to me.” So basically, what you’ve said is, you come up with these ideas, you test and you validate these ideas. The ideas, some of them get traction, some of them fail for the ones that fail over the shoulder. See you later. And for the ones that get traction, you’re like, “All right, here team. Scale this. I don’t want to do this anymore, because I’ve already proven that it worked.”
- Exactly, right.
[41:07] That’s a nice life.
- It’s working well. It’s so great too. Our company… It’s so funny, man, the company is doing better than described, the main company’s doing better than it ever has. There’s so many things happening there now, where it’s like, people, some people email me, they’re like, “Hey, like, blah, blah, blah. Your company… I saw this, like, I want to get on the phone and talk about it”. I’m like, “I don’t have any idea what your…” “Amazing video Tell me how you did that?” I’m like, “I haven’t seen it. I don’t know anything about it.”
[41:45] I actually think the best position is not CEO. I think the best position is major shareholder that nobody knows about.
- Yes, capital, right. Owner.
[41:57] One more question. Before we wrap up. How did this impact your staff? So at the time, how many people were on the team when you said, “Hey, everybody, I’m not going to be CEO anymore.” How many were there?
- 12 maybe.
[42:11] And now there’s how many?
[42:14] Okay, so for those 12, are those 12 all still with are mostly still with the company?
- 10 of the 12 have been fired.
[42:26] Okay. Okay,
- Over the first year,JeVon fired 10 of the 12. We didn’t do so well with that.
[42:39] Yes because I was where I was gonna go, but I can’t go there now was what how did this impact the staff and what did they think of the change and so forth? And, and obviously, you know, 10 of the 12 aren’t there anymore. So…
- I’ll tell you this right now. Like I always joke about this. It’s a company split. Like if JeVon and I split, like mommy and daddy split and you asked the kids who they wanted to live with, right? Not only would every single person in the company go with JeVon, and not me. I would go with JeVon. There’s no, no controversy. We all know who we’re following. Yeah.
[43:15] Got it. All right. Well, Tucker, it has been a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you very much for making some time. If anyone wants to get a hold of you to get a book written, or they’ve got some other idea, they want to run by a joint venture or whatever, is there a way for them to get in touch?
- If you want to talk about books, don’t talk to me, because I don’t know. Like I’m not the guy. Go to scribemedia.com. And fill out the console form and you’ll talk to Ricky who’s amazing. She’s better, truly better at that than I am. Anything else, just like hit me up on Facebook or Twitter, or Instagram. Don’t ask me if I want more followers on Instagram because I don’t. You don’t just sell me that. Like I get 50 of those messages a day on Instagram, it’s crazy. Yes, any of the social media things is fine.
[44:04] All right. Thank you very much, everybody for listening. If you haven’t already done so and you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and review it on your favorite podcast listening app. And you can get to the show notes for this episode at brightideas.co/353. Thanks so much for tuning in. Take care. Bye Bye.
Thanks very much for listening to the Bright Ideas podcast. Check us out on the web at brightideas.co.
Tucker Max’s Bright Ideas
- Bring in Experienced Leaders
- You’re Not the Best Person for the Job
- Know Who You’re Looking For
- Make Your Opportunity Appealing
- Vet the Person You’re Hiring
Bring in Experienced Leaders
In this episode, Tucker shares how hiring someone else to be Scribe Media’s CEO led to its success and how other CEOs can replicate what he did.
Tucker broke down why it’s vital to bring in experienced leaders:
- If someone is good at finding needs in the market and figuring out a way to satisfy those needs, they probably won’t be as good at all of the other skills needed to run a business.
- It’s easier to find people that can take established roles to scale the entrepreneur’s ideas.
- He says, “If you try and do everything, you’re going to do most things poorly. But if you focus on the things you love and are good at, then you’re probably going to be a lot happier, and you’re going to be a lot more successful.”
You’re Not the Best Person for the Job
According to Tucker, the first step to finding a new CEO is recognizing that being one might not suit you. First, Tucker came to terms with the fact that someone else could do his job better.
It’s challenging to let go of that position because of ego and how attractive it is, but Tucker realized that he was suffering. He wasn’t enjoying how he spent his time as a CEO, so he asked himself, “Why am I doing this? Is this company about the mission that we purport to serve, or is it about making me look good?”
Tucker then realized that if he valued the company’s mission more than his image, he needed to get out of his role as a CEO and hire someone else.
Know Who You’re Looking For
Tucker emphasized that the company should be actively looking for the CEO — a baller CEO won’t come to you begging for the job. Create an “avatar CEO”: someone who has all the skills to run your company.
Take the time to think about what your company needs. While it might be painful to do so, look at what you’re having a hard time doing when running your business.
Make Your Opportunity Appealing
Finding a CEO is not an easy feat. Once you’ve found a prospective CEO, you have to sell the opportunity by ensuring you have an outstanding company. In Scribe Media’s case, Tucker painted such an amazing vision of the company that JeVon McCormick wanted to be a part of it.
Understand as well that people have different value systems. Scribe Media was JeVon’s lowest-paying option, but what Tucker offered was more than just money.
Vet the Person You’re Hiring
You’re entrusting your entire company to the hands of another person, so you must vet your new hire. Tucker created multiple situations to be sure of JeVon’s intentions and capabilities.
You can’t just take a new hire on at face value. Vet them, both in casual and professional situations. See how they treat other people. Once you know who to look for, take the time to be absolutely sure that the person you find is the real deal. According to Tucker, “It’s almost like dating, you know? It really is. And so, in dating, you kind of go step by step.”
Tucker highlights some other ways of getting to know the person you’re hiring:
- Traveling with someone can help you get to know them.
- Evaluate the person not only in meetings but also in informal events such as dinners, drinks, and dancing.
- Put the prospects in casual situations. Scribe Media would send undercover drivers for candidates and see how they act toward service personnel.
- Make use of referrals.
What Did We Learn from This Episode?
- Bringing in experienced leaders is vital to scale a company.
- Recognizing that you’re not the best person for the job is the first step to letting go of the CEO position.
- Understand who it is you’re looking for before trying to find that person.
- Your ideal CEO will have a million options. Find out what will make them take what you offer.
- Get to know the person you’re hiring by evaluating them in professional and casual situations.
[03:09] Scribe Media
- A lot of people needed scribes—people who put other people’s thoughts into words.
- A woman asked Tucker if he could be her scribe to get a book out without the typical painstaking effort of writing a book.
- Scribe Media now has 260 employees and has done 737 books with almost a total of 200,000 reviews on Amazon.
[05:24] Hiring Someone Else to Be Scribe Media’s CEO
- Tucker kept hiring people who were better than him to do his job.
- Tucker eventually hired a professional CEO who made his business perform 20 times better than when Tucker was in the position.
[06:51] The Importance of Bringing In Experienced Leaders
- If someone is good at finding needs in the market and figuring out a way to satisfy those needs, then they’re probably not good at all of the other skills of running a business.
- Being an entrepreneur is the rarest thing right now.
- It’s easier to find people that can take established roles to scale the entrepreneur’s ideas.
- If you try and do everything, you’re going to do most things poorly.
- You’ll be a lot more successful if you focus on the things you love and are good at.
[09:09] Tucker’s Annual Revenue Before Firing Himself
- Tucker’s company reached $1.5-2 million in their second year.
- He decided that he wasn’t the best person for the role anymore — he needed real, experienced leaders.
[10:22] Step One: You’re Not the Best Person for the Job
- It’s challenging to let go of the position because your ego can get in the way.
- Tucker realized that he was suffering and wasn’t enjoying how he spent his days.
- He valued his company’s mission more than his image, so he needed to get out of his position and hire someone else.
[18:27] Step Two: Understand Who You’re Looking For
- No one’s going to knock on your door and beg for the CEO position. You have to find that person.
- Tucker painted an attractive vision of Scribe Media. JeVon, the new CEO, wanted to be a part of that vision.
- Tucker offered JeVon the opportunity to be the head of Scribe Media and take the credit.
- Scribe Media was JeVon’s lowest-paying opportunity, but he was working for more than just money.
[21:54] Evaluating Your New Hire
- JeVon was first brought in as an advisor but soon started running meetings.
- Tucker tested JeVon’s honesty by taking appropriate opportunities to be vulnerable around JeVon and sharing personal sentiments, and seeing if he would be vulnerable in that situation as well.
- Traveling with someone can also help in getting to know them.
[24:22] What to Do to Find Another CEO
- Create an avatar CEO—think about what type of person you need to run the company.
- Then determine how you’re going to sell to that person.
- Prepare against the counterarguments to your sales pitch.
[27:29] Compensating Your New CEO
- JeVon was outperforming his contract, and the company was scared of losing him because he was still getting offers from other companies.
- Tucker always made sure to know what JeVon wanted.
- After a year and a half, they were able to figure out their final situation.
- They were open and honest about what they wanted and had an evolving conversation about it.
- Business and personal are not separate.
[33:36] Vetting Your New CEO
- Tucker would not only evaluate the prospects in meetings but also in informal events such as dinners, drinks, and dancing,
- They also put the prospects in casual situations. The evaluation begins as soon as the new hire arrives at the airport.
- Make use of referrals/
[39:18] How Tucker’s Life Changed After Giving Up His Job
- Tucker is doing two new projects.
- One is a memoir program. The other is a new publishing arm.
- He’s becoming the best version of himself, and no one bothers him.
Tucker Max is the co-founder of Scribe Media, a company that helps people write, publish and market their books.
He has written four New York Times Best Sellers, which have sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. He’s credited with being the originator of the literary genre, “fratire,” and is only the third writer (after Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis) to ever have three books on the New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List at one time. He was nominated to the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential List in 2009.
He received his BA from the University of Chicago in 1998, and his JD from Duke Law School in 2001. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Veronica and three children.