Trent: Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Bright Ideas Podcast. As always, I’m your host Trent Dyrmsid and I’m here to share the stories of today’s most successful entrepreneurs and more importantly to extract all the best golden nuggets that you can implement in your company. Starting today on the show with me today is a fellow by the name of Casey Gauss. Casey wave. Hello. Casey is the founder and CEO of Viral Launch and Indianapolis based tech company offering innovative software and creative services to Amazon sellers. Casey founded the company in 2014 when he was the ripe age of 21 and he’s gone on to leverage his passion for tech building cool things, learning and helping others through the expansion of the company to over now 60 employees. He continues nose to the grind and his obsession with Amazon market philosophy, helping a growing number of Amazon businesses achieved success in the world’s largest eCommerce space. And I want to add that I actually own an eCommerce business that is a viral launch customer and I absolutely love. So Casey, very welcome to the show.
Casey: Hey man, thanks so much for having me. And yeah, that’s cool that you are actually a customer.
Trent: Absolutely. Have been for a a year or maybe even two years by now. So let’s start off with talking about, your company, the product and some of the key stats that other SAS founders might be interested in. But first in your own words, what does your company do?
Casey: Yeah, so we’ve helped over 10,000 brands drive over $10 billion in sales on Amazon and we, our focus is exclusively on Amazon. We have a suite of tools, software and services to help walk you through kind of each of the different phases. So you’re looking to, Johnny was on for the first time or you’re a major brand looking to understand what markets to go after. We have tools for that. If you are looking to get your catalog on Amazon or get your listings on Amazon, we have tools to help you optimize that listing, make sure it’s SEO optimized and ready to go to drive conversions. And then we also like once you have your product up on Amazon, you need help driving keyword ranking or managing your Amazon advertising. We also have tools and services for that. So we’re really trying to take a broad perspective of this phase.
Trent: When you launched the company in 2014 who is the target customer back then and how has that changed now that we’re in 2019?
Casey: Yeah, that’s a great question. So when we first launched, we were just focused on kind of the SEO side of things in our target customer. Initially it was know third party sellers that someone name was on so far, those who don’t know, you know, about 58% of sales on Amazon come from third parties. And then the other 42% comes from kind of major brands or people selling directly to Amazon. And so our target customer was the third party seller, probably just getting started on Amazon and a little more sophisticated. So people probably doing at least five, $10,000 a month. And now 2019 we, I work with kind of a broader range. So we work with third party sellers, but we also work with first party sellers. So some of these major brands, we have a fortune 100 customer. And so now we have tools that fit, I’m looking to get started on it.
Casey: Amazon segment, which we didn’t have when we first started. Yeah. Tools to help you kind of really actually start getting your first sales. And then for those, you know, million dollar plus sellers, you have some great tools to help you kind of automate some processes, get some data that you need, build up your advertising. And then like I said, the first party sellers as well. So yeah, much broader range of things.
Trent: So these newer, larger customers that have, that have come your way, did you go find them or did they come and find you?
Casey: I’m so far a lot of those brands have come and found us, whether it’s SEO or they’re just looking for a particular solution that we have.
Trent: Okay. And we’ll dive into that a little bit more in the marketing portion of our talk. So I’m not forgetting that I need to move on and cover some of the basics that we promise. What is your pricing model look like?
Casey: So we have a few different pricing models. Our most popular is kind of a self serve pricing model where it’s all feature-based. So if you want access to, so there’s basically eight tools in the Viral Launch launch Pad and if do you want to access to these two tools? You pay this amount. Okay. monthly. It’s a monthly recurring subscription or you can pay annually to save a couple of months basically, and you pay all up front. And so yeah, we just have tiers that give you access to these different tools. There’s one tool, our most recent one, which is our advertising tool. If you have multiple seller accounts, connected to one Amazon account, that you pay an additional fee. Almost all of it is so absurd that you come and pay us. You have a couple of managed services as well as creative services.
Casey: So creative services like photography or to write a listing, you just come pay us. It’s a few different packages that you can get there based on what you want out of it. And then we have a managed services portion as well and recharge that on a per product basis. So for each product that we’re helping to manage, it’s a fee on top of your normal viral ops subscription.
Trent: So on the subscription portion of your business, what does it all boil down to in terms of your average customer is paying an average or how much per month?
Casey: It’s just over a hundred dollars.
Trent: Over a hundred. Okay. And you launched in 2014, right?
Trent: Now was that when you started, cause initially you didn’t have software, did you view or more of a launch and promotion service, is that correct?
Casey: Yeah, I mean it was all minutes through software, but yeah, it was basically a give away platform.
Trent: Okay. And then, these days, obviously the business has evolved a great deal. So how many customers do you have now? And I guess no, you don’t really have a freemium model, so there’s no free customer. We don’t need to delineate between free and paid, do we?
Casey: Yeah, no. So yeah, we don’t share specific customer numbers too, but it’s over 10,000 is what we do share.
Trent: Okay. And are you able to share a MRR or a range of MRR?
Casey: Yeah, the range is we’ve eclipsed the eight figure Mark. So we’re making more than $10 million ARR basically. Okay.
Trent: How about year over year growth rate?
Casey: Year over year growth rates I think is typically been around 200%. So we’ve, we’ve a little more it’s about 200% the last three years. So almost consistently.
Trent: Really. So as you’ve scaled gone up, you’ve managed to maintain that growth rate?
Casey: Yeah, yeah. The big driver there is we’re constantly launching new products. Yes. And so these new products wa I, you know, typically increase the MRR per customer. the art who, and then also opens us up to a little bit of a different segment. So we just launched an advertising tool. Yeah. You know, people that were paying one 90 or $99 a month, now start paying one 99. That also opens up to us to a different segment of customers. So we get a lot of new customers coming in at the same time. It allows us to really continue our growth.
Trent: And that as a customer of yours, that’s one of the things that I’ve actually found quite remarkable is the frenetic, the pace with which you bring new features to market. How the hell do you do that? I mean, how big is your dev team?
Casey: We have 16 engineers. So that’s continuing to grow, but yeah, you know, we’re really focused on continuing to increase the value and to stay on top of the changes of Amazon. I appreciate it.
Trent: So you’re telling me that those 16 people have been responsible for all these new products that I’ve seen come to market in the last 12 months?
Casey: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Trent: That is, you’ve got it. You’ve got something going on right in the development department to be able to, I mean, just your keyword tool. How many folks had to write code for how long to make that product available for sale?
Casey: Yeah. So the keyword tool was.
Trent: Sorry the paper click advertising tool.
Casey: Oh, the PDT tool. Yeah, I mean that was probably so maybe eight developers at least sometimes more for us to really hit some of our key dates, but at least I would say four developers probably six to nine months, at least eight developers for three to four months. So a good amount of time. One strategy if it’s helpful that we’ve taken is we haven’t hired any junior devs. So we’ve almost primarily focus on senior devs. So you know, these are in all of our dev team is here in the U S actually everyone’s in the state of Indiana. so yeah, we’re, we’re hiring people that move fast, really understand things. So there’s not a lot of like training, one person helping call the other person up. We’ve been able to like build a very strong depth team.
Trent: I would imagine that those are all six figure salaries to get, have a little experience.
Casey: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Trent: Okay. In the intro, I’ve read or in your bio read that you had 60 employees, is that still the accurate count?
Casey: It is. I think we just crossed 70.
Trent: How about fundraising? Have you raised money?
Casey: We have, the summer of 2018 so yeah, we were bootstrapped up until, so about 45 people, 50 people or so. And then we raised a little under a million last summer just to get some strategic people on board. And then at the beginning of this year we closed our series A, which was 7.3 million.
Trent: 7.3 million. That’s a big race.
Trent: So you were profitable before you did either of those raises? I’m going to guess.
Casey: Yup. Yeah. We were profitable up until about kind of December of 2018.
Trent: Okay. And cashflow positive at the same time? Or were you burning?
Casey: Yeah, no cash flow positive.
Trent: Okay. So from a strategy perspective, what was the thinking? Why? Why go raise money? Because there’s a whole bunch of, yeah, there’s lots of stories in the Valley about, you know, raising money and CEO’s getting kicked out or getting diluted or owning only 5% when the IPO happens. There’s a lot of negative things that can happen when you’re raised, why’d you do it?
Casey: Yeah, yeah. I mean, all good questions. I actually now looking back wish that I would’ve raced sooner, in know. So the reason we did it is we want her to be able to move faster. We wanted to be able to make some bets. you know, I would say that our biggest strong suit is kind of creativity and innovation in terms of how we think of the Amazon space and how we can bring solutions to our customers.
Casey: And so we wanted to be able to take more of these big bets, but the big bets, you know, come at a cost, you must take five engineers and put them on this new thing that could be really big, but also could be nothing. That’s five engineers that you’re taking away from driving revenue, you know, quarter like this quarter basically. So we wanted to, you know, bring in more money to help us to basically cover some of the lack of growth in some short term areas or lack of growth at the same rate. Yeah. So that we can focus on some more kind of longer term bets. Also it’s very difficult to build. Yeah. An organization that is focused on serving, you know, these non enterprise brands is completely different from an order organization that can serve enterprise brands. I mean our customer service is all in house versus because people want to, I would talk on the phone, we have to go visit our customers and do quarterly business reviews with them.
Casey: And like, so building out a sales team is, you know, different building out a customer success team that I was very capable. These are all expensive things into move organization in from over here where we can serve these, you know, non enterprise brands to being able to serve both is pretty difficult. That takes some time and you have to bring in the right people to do so. I want her to make sure that we had the money to bring in the leadership team and we needed in order to get us there. And so the leadership team a lot of times are a good six figure salaries. And so yeah, wanting to make sure that we were comfortable there also a little bit afraid of what will happen in the event of a downturn in the economy. I don’t, I don’t know how Amazon fares and how Amazon’s pillars fair. Exactly. So just making sure that we have cash, it’s always important.
Trent: So if I read between the lines a little bit in what you’ve just told me, it sounds like you have raised money to fund your ability to move more into the enterprise space and get more of those big brands as customers. And to do that you think you’re going to need a sales team and they’re probably going to be expensive.
Casey: Yup. That’s right. Maybe a reason one or two. And then the second biggest reason is just to be able to accelerate some of our Product innovation, I would say.
Trent: Yup. Okay. And you mentioned in that answer that you wish you would have raised sooner. Now there’s a downside to raising centers. You’re going to get diluted more because you don’t have as much revenue or earnings, sort of key metrics that investors are looking for. So now you have hindsight, your benefit, you say, I wish I would have raised sooner. Why?
Casey: So I think I was very kind of, I think there’s a little bit of an ego side to, you know, I thought it was super cool that we were profitable. 40 something employees and bootstrapped off of a $700 investment. Like we put someone $100 into the business and we were able to get it here. Pretty cool. And you know, being young and being able to do that. but the reason I wished that we would have done it sooner is I wish that we would have accelerated some things sooner. We did make some bets that didn’t exactly pay off, which slowed down some of our short term goals and hurts. It hurts when you invest, you know, call it a few hundred thousand dollars into something at the very least.
Casey: We actually probably invested quite a bit more and then it doesn’t pan out. So like we needed money to be able to fund that. Also fund to say short term and we didn’t focus enough on the short term. I wish that we would have done that. And ultimately for me, you know, this is, you know, Viral Lunch is a lot more about learning. How’d it go? The company and like me personally from kind of, yes, I have less equity. So therefore like, you know, in the event of liquidity, okay, I’ll get less money? This isn’t so much a money play for me as it is like really learning how to build a business and really building something that, you know, I’m proud of and that’s having a significant impact in the world and bringing in money.You know, even diluting myself helps me to do the latter a lot more, which is what I, I care about a lot more. Yeah.
Trent: So for the SAS CEOs self included in this camp who are thinking about, should I raise, should I not raise, when should I raise? If you were to offer some advice on questions to ask yourself or how to think about that or whatever type of wet vise would you give, what would it be?
Casey: My advice would be, you know, it’s easy to feel cool. It depends on who you are. You can feel cool by bootstrapping you mean a company and you know, being very proud of that and you should be, but it’s all, you know, so well people also kind of are enamored by big raises. I think that ultimately as the CEO, you need to focus on hitting the goal. The coolest thing is you’re hitting the goal. That’s it. The wind, right? And you should not let your ego or you’re thinking of temporary pool, short-term cool. Get in the way of helping you hit that goal. And so if that does mean less equity then for you, the coolest thing is hitting that goal and building your resume and everything that you’re going to be able to accomplish by kind of hitting that goal. And I wasn’t as focused on hitting that goal or I thought I could hit that goal if I didn’t and raising money. But the probability of hitting that goal is a lot higher with raising money. For me at least, it’s not the case for everybody.
Trent: So you’ve taken as a series a, you’ve taken venture capital money, professional money into your organization now, is that right?
Casey: Yeah, the money that we took was from a family fund. So it wasn’t like the same as kind of traditional VCs for a number of reasons, which I think has definitely worked in our favor.
Trent: I think actually you and I maybe talked about that when we were talking offline because now that you mentioned family fund, I remember. And so if you didn’t have the option of the family fund, would you have taken the money from venture capitalists knowing that that’s a different beast to get into bed with?
Casey: Yup. We would have again I really want to get to the end goal and I think that some of the VC stuff would have, helped us. yeah, I don’t think that it would have been detrimental. Granted, I’m not in a situation, so I don’t know specifically, I think four. Yeah, we would have, they, you know, our number two pick was a VC fund for us. You know, some other advice. Okay. If it’s helpful for us, we’re in Indianapolis, there’s a lot of people that are very excited about raising money in the Midwest and talking about Midwest funding Midwest and so forth in a lot of kind of pride around that for us. You know, we’ve taken no money from people that are in the Midwest. It’s only been people on the coast because raising money is difficult here. And you know, we were doing 200K a month in revenue, at one point. And there are people here in Indianapolis that were like, you know, concerned and weren’t interested in putting any money into the business after bootstrapping it, you know, I was very turned off, but we have those conversations on the coast and people are like, Oh my gosh. Yeah. You know, we’d love to be a part of this. So it’s very different.
Trent: Yeah, no doubt. It is. All right, we’re going to shift now into part two of our conversation, which is growth strategies. Oh, I got to talk about what marketing and so forth. So again, because your company has been around and, and has really kind of expanded its, it’s target customers, you can give multifaceted answers to these questions. So customer acquisition systems, tell me about what you did initially, how that shifted and what you think you’re going to be doing in the future.
Casey: Yeah. One of my biggest mistakes early on was that, you know, I, I never really focused on marketing or customer acquisition because there were other things, things that I wanted to build. I didn’t feel like we have like the complete product or offering that I wanted to be able to provide, but it was like stuff that was very far out and I felt like I was selling a half solution without those other pieces. So I didn’t want to specifically cell, which was a huge mistake. there’s always things that are good. There’s always going to be things that you want to build or adding to your product. But if you’re really driving value, then you have something to sell. And really selling is about kind of connecting a need for a customer and the value that you’re able to provide. And I just really didn’t understand those things.
Casey: So, yeah, for the first two, three years, we did pretty much kind of no marketing the outside of maybe going to events really. And we were just super lucky that we grew completely organically. We weren’t for the first couple of years, we weren’t writing any blog posts like we were doing pretty much no marketing. It was just all a conversion that’s happening on our site and it was all word of mouth. So for us it was just having a great, the product, a great price. I was very focused on making sure like we were in a very price sensitive market. So as I was constantly making sure that we had better [inaudible] the triangle of the three things that you can do. It’s like price, quality, service. But we were really able to to kind of win on all three. The quality was absolutely there.
Casey: Our price was definitely the lowest and I focus and make sure that we had a really good support team, customer success team, cause that’s what people want it. So we were just able to kill it and there were a few solution providers in this space and so we just won because people loved our service and it’s a very like a high word of mouth kind of market. So we want early days because of that. Now things are quite a bit different. So, you know, in 2018 we really started tapping into influencers in the space, people that are teaching other people how to sell on Amazon and so forth because we knew we had a better product and we could build relationships with the sellers and you want her to base are these influencers, we want to come alongside them to help them be successful in their goals.
Casey: We were able to do that. So influencers even to date have been kind of a big influencers slash partners I would say. I’ve been a, a huge channel for acquisition for us and you know, they remain so, and I think that that will only continue to grow. And then kind of in our space at least, really the key, like the crux of I guess marketing, customer acquisition, customer nurturer, building relationships with customers is his education in our space. People want to know the best tactics for selling on Amazon and want to be successful. And so we really kind of just come alongside them from an education perspective and say, Hey, you need help finding products to sell on Amazon. Well here’s a few different videos for different approaches to do. So, Hey, you want to know the best strategies for ranking or managing your PBC?
Casey: And we come alongside them with education. We do that, we get that in front of people, whether it’s webinars that we’ll do Facebook lives. We’ll just run through some of our tools. I’m going on other podcasts. We have a podcast, which I would say everyone should at least try out. Our podcast is probably our most dedicated, most loyal group of followers. We really try to stay consistent with our podcasts because it’s a great way of me connecting with the audience, if you will, and helping then get some insight into the company. and yeah, I mean the social email and ads are some other strategies that we used to get our education in front of our customers and then work them through the process.
Trent: Okay. So you’re doing content marketing, SEO podcast, video, obviously leveraging social media. And all of that. If you had to pick just one that is the most effective in terms of, I guess lowest cost of customer acquisition, it could be one way of looking at most effective. Or volume of new customers could be another way. What would be your favorite?
Casey: What I would do is I would just put together some really good trainings. Whether it was written or video, and then I would use email just continue to provide that value to art. All right. The email list, the customers, and then I would rely on word of mouth from there to bring more people into that value.
Trent: Okay. Blended cost of customer acquisition. Do you know what that number is off the top of your head?
Casey: I said that we don’t, share.
Trent: So it’s interesting that you say that because I actually just interviewed the guy, the founder of a new company called Sheets and Giggles and he had the same answer. And I said to him, I said, so let’s just assume for sake of argument that it was 75 bucks. How would knowing that number give your competitors an advantage over you? Cause I’m curious, you know, it’s an arbitrary number, but you’re not explaining exactly how you’re getting to that number, which would be is to me the secret sauce.
Casey: Yeah, that’s definitely fair. The reason I’m, I guess traditionally we haven’t shared is just you know, competitors being able to walk that back essentially. We actually do something here and then there’s something on our blog or something and I dunno. So, yeah,
Trent: So you’re fragmented interviews across the internet, they’re going to listen to them all, take really good notes and reverse engineer your strategy.
Casey: Yeah, I know there’s some paranoia in there.
Trent: That’s okay. I’ll let you off the hook. How about this one. How many months to get your money back? [inaudible].
Casey: Usually it’s on transaction.
Trent: First order?
Trent: Excellent. And that was something that this the column from Sheets and Giggles said, he says Trent, I live in a world where I must be profitable. I’m not, I’m not, I live in a world. I run my business, the mindset that we must be profitable on transaction number one, assuming that we’re never ever going to get another transaction, even though we always do get transactions and we have ways of increasing the order value and so forth and so on. Yeah, it was a brilliant interview actually. You probably would quite enjoy it. I’ve all the people I’ve interviewed on my show, I call him one of the brightest by far and I’m talking hundreds of interviews now. Yeah, that’ll be coming out soon. A long lifetime value of a customer. What’s that look like?
Casey: Yeah. We don’t share it on TV either. I would just say kind of on the transaction piece, we’ve gone through stages where we’ve get and we’ve said, okay, you know, we want to spend above, let’s just say, okay, we want to push it to two months. So we’re spending so much to acquire customers that well push it to two months or a month and a half, let’s say. and that’s been great for us. But there’s times where we say, okay, let’s, let’s bring that back because they’re doing a good job in new customer acquisition and let’s make sure that we have cash to do some of these other things.
Trent: Yup. Fair enough. Balancing of priorities and a finite amount of money. Okay. How about churn? What does churn look like for you guys?
Casey: Yeah, we don’t normally share churn. It’s really dependent on who you are, what your objectives are and what tools that you’re using. So churn on, our advertising tool is quite a bit different because typically, you know, someone that that is using their advertising tool, they have a business and they’re looking for assisting solution versus somebody that comes in and they’re just buying some of our research tools. That’s a customer who you’re going to use it to find their next product idea. It’s going to take 30 to 60 days. and then they are gonna spend the next 30 or 90 days basically getting a product and getting it into the States, testing it out, finding the right supplier and so forth. And our tools don’t exactly help with that segment. But then we see those customers come back for the rest of their Amazon journey. Okay. Churn is definitely different. Not who you are and which products.
Trent: Now you’ve talked a lot about the importance of customer service and word of mouth and so forth. So you must have some really great customer success systems. Is there anything can tell us about that?
Casey: We do from, from a pure kind of tools perspective, we doing, so we have Intercom, so we have some SOAs on the customer experience side. Our goal is to have 90% of chats replied to with an eight minutes and usually where about a hundred percent of our chats come in, we are engaging within eight minutes. I think it’s more, it’s closer to four minutes at this point. And then on email, our objective is 80% of emails are applied to within four hours and we’re usually well below that as well. So we also have 24 seven customer support, phone support, I think until 10:00 PM during the weekdays. And I can’t remember 6:00 PM during the weekends. So we’ve invested in a good amount to make sure that our agents are able to talk to you on the phone and it’s all people here that we’re able to get back to you very quickly. There was a time where we launched one of our new tools. We didn’t have someone really owning customer success and we were,
Casey: we would come in and there’d be 400 emails in our inbox that day and we would leave and there’s 300 emails still there. We had five, six people working full time just trying to trend through those emails. That’s disheartening. You know, it’s very difficult. It was very stressful. We didn’t have weekends support, we didn’t have any support. Hmm. So we got to know VP of customer success. Which is really with no more agents, actually we have fewer agents now. We’re able to manage the same amount of volume or higher. But our SOAs is our, you know, eight minutes on chat and four hours on email. So it’s just been incredible.
Trent: How do you enforce the SOA? Do you have real time dashboards on monitors and the bullpen that turned bright red and flashing lights go off when an SOA gets violated or what does it look like?
Casey: We don’t, so we have a whiteboard where we’re posting weekly stats and we’ll post kind of the top agents but the agents themselves right there and Freshdesk because they’re able to see a lot of that information themselves. And then you know, if anyone is kind of exceeding that then our customer experience manager, obviously we’ll talk to them to make sure everything is going well. Then we have kind of C-SAT SOA as well, customer satisfaction SOA as well. So those are big. So Intercom is huge for kind of that chat function and that helps a lot. They also have an answer bot feature where we’ll try to answer the question and I think you pay a dollar per a properly answered question, which is great. So part of it is just getting in front of the customer. So we have apt use and we do use Intercom as well to help people walk through the different features and functionality of the tool. To kind of cut down on that, we do spend a decent amount of dev product time too, solve issues kind of at the root so that instead of just answering these questions on the back end, let’s make it so that customers don’t even have that question. And then thirdly is Full Story. So Full Stories is really cool tool.
Casey: Yeah. It’s basically like DVR for your customers. So basically, you know, I can plug in Trent, I can plug in your email Full Story, then I can watch like, like I’m watching on a TV, your how your mouth is moving in, you navigating through the tools. and so basically if someone comes to us and they say, Hey, there’s a bug here, there’s an issue, we plug in your email, we can look up like that session basically watch what happened. Okay. You know, basically report that to the dev team or we’ll help you walk through the rest of the journey.
Trent: Very nice. I like it. Can you give any color on what type of systems you’re using to reduce customer churn?
Casey: Yup. There’s a few different things. So Intercom obviously to hit people at the right time. So if you do this action, we send a pop up message that says Hey, it looks like you’re having trouble or Hey, it looks like you need help with this. Or Hey, have you done this? I know to really make sure that the customer is engaged in actually getting the value out of the tool, which is great. We use Active Campaign as kind of a nurture tool as well just to make sure that, so Active Campaign is our current email, service provider basically. So anyways, we have, you know, these flows to make sure that you’re constantly getting value. Okay. Constantly engaged with the tools. Just talking with customers and building our relationship is huge for using churn. There’s a tool that we use called ProfitWell.
Casey: So ProfitWell. Part of the churn is just due to credit cards kind of expiring. And so ProfitWell well go through to make sure that that’s not happening or just at the right time as they pitch, they’ll reach out to customers to say, Hey, your credit card is about to expire at this day. in order to continue getting value. Yeah. Update your credit card, which that has actually been very helpful. And then education, I mean just putting up education, doing Facebook lives. So important for helping customers to understand the full value of your tools you launched, new features, new products, engaging with them and providing new education. I would say are the biggest things that we’re doing. Okay.
Trent: Okay, we’re now going to transition into part three, which is all about leadership, people in process. So your company is obviously grown very quickly and congrats. Tip of the hat to you for doing that, how have standard operating procedures played a role in your ability to scale at the rate that you have?
Casey: Yeah, so my natural tendency is not awesome. Like I’m not a process person or my mind just doesn’t work that way. So bringing in the right kind of managers and leaders to make sure that we are getting those things in place that have been crucial. So I gave the example of customer experience where we are getting back to people, you know, 48 hours later and it was just a mess. So our VP customer success coming in and putting SOP in place for how we’re going to kind of walk through that entire process and what tools and systems we’re going to use in order to deliver that actively have been like game changer night and day. I’d say that our customer experience has gone from, and that’s some of the worst to now. Some of the best. Yes. Yeah. Obviously my opinion of best but anyway, you know that that’s been big on the engineering side.
Casey: You know, SOP’s have been big as well just because we were moving so quickly and you know, now at 16 people, everyone’s trying to push new code and so forth and we really needed to get a strong kind of procedure in place to make sure that you know, we’re not stepping on anyone’s toes and high quality code is going out. So for us it’s been crucial. There’s a point where we went from 2012 basically like 50, 60 people and like nine months. And that was like very difficult cause we didn’t have the right systems in place and so we really had to like kind of take a breath after that, that big jump in growth and some things were breaking or not going well and really go back and put some of those SOPs in place and just, yeah.
Trent: All right. And a shameless self plug for those of you who are listening to my show for the first time, that’s the SAS that I own. It’s called Flowster lives at flowstar.app. And as a workflow and process automation tool that my companies could not live without. All right, so speaking of employees, let’s see, we’ve already answered that one. the question of employees that are in engineering versus employees that are in sales and marketing. So just give a percentage for each.
Casey: Yeah. So there’s nine people in sales and marketing, I don’t know the exact percentage and then 16 in the engineering. So sales and marketing, it’s about split. I think there’s five people on sales for people in marketing.
Trent: Okay. So nine and 16 only adds up to 25 and you’ve got 70. Where’s everybody else?
Casey: We have creative services, we have a management team, we have a decent customer success and customer experience team. It didn’t include product on the engineering side, so yeah.
Trent: Okay. Yeah, I forgot about the creative services team and the managed services team. An unusual for a typical SAS company and yeah, I could see how that would take a lot of bodies. So tell me about how you are attracting or finding new employees because having the right people on the bus is obviously pretty darn important.
Casey: Yeah, absolutely. So my natural tendency is to kind of fly under the radar, do my own thing. But recently we’ve been getting some really good press in Indiana. So like, you know, this year I, there’s kind of the tech awards of Indiana. Viral Launch one, one I won one as kind of rising on from your, and so we there’s kind of a story being created about viral launch in the ecosystem here in Indy. So, but we, you know, we’ve been able to attract, we just landed up VP of product and engineering. He was a CTO of a startup here that sold to Salesforce for two and a half billion dollars. So like the fact that Indianapolis is relatively small. There’s not too much going on here. And we’ve been able to start to create a name for ourselves is really helped us get some high level leaders here, which is, is really cool.
Casey: I think your culture speaks a lot, so okay. Helping people better. Looking from the outside in in terms of was this company about what value can not provide. Making sure that that’s crystal clear, but to your customers as well as potential employees is super important. But yeah, I mean local PR, we have a great careers page that I think is doing well for us. Sometimes depending on the role, we’ll use some recruiting agencies so we would go and find some of those senior developers or if we need someone to come lead the marketing team or whatever. We’ve used some agencies as well.
Trent: So there’s a book that I read earlier this year called Vivid Vision. It was written by the COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, which you probably have heard of them. They grew up there from my original hometown Vancouver and have obviously been extremely successful, particularly interesting and valuable in terms of painting that Vivid Vision for over a three year window of time, which I think from a recruiting employees perspective is incredibly important. So if you haven’t read it and you’re like reading business books, maybe put that one on your list.
Trent: Let’s talk a little bit about the interview process. Is there anything special, unique that you’ve learned or required along the way to make the interview process easier, less painful, more effective?
Casey: Yeah, so a good friend of mine, he was here early on at Viral Launch. He has a tool called Qualify. And so basically it automates some of the interview screening process. It’s difficult to kind of connect with someone at the right time, a candidate at the right time or to do it at volume. So qualifies really cool is a really cool tool in terms of streamlining that process. Okay. But outside of that basically, so some things I really think would be valuable to highlight. One, I mean just hiring so difficult definitely made our fair share of mistakes and it’s tough. Okay. We always do the skills based assessment. so it’s so important to do, for instance, veneers to do a cooking test that’s very straight forward. Photographers to do a product photography test is very straight forward. But I think pretty much every role there should be some kind test where you’re able to see their ability to write or if they’re, they need to be focused on creative, their ability to understand and identify good creative versus backyard or whatever it may be.
Casey: There does need to be some kind of skills based assessment. You can really get a feel for that person. One thing that I like to do is for hires that I’m involved in, I will walk into Starbucks. Which is like two blocks away. We’ll grab coffee and we’ll talk. I think getting outside of that typical work environment, so you know, I’m younger, I’m less formal and getting them into a lesson, a formal environment, let’s me see them a little bit more. And you know, you get to learn a lot about the people that complain about having to walk two blocks. The people that are just really let their guard down and start sharing kind of who they are. And sometimes that’s great because you really get to see, wow, this person isn’t amazing fit. Sometimes you see that they’re not an amazing fit. And I think kind of just breaking up that cycle, they’re less nervous. I think it’s very helpful. And then obviously doing reference checks, like you can not, you just should not be hiring without reference checks. And for us, I make sure that I’m at least. So I interview everybody and I am kind of the last stage for a lot of the hires that aren’t well, I don’t really need to be involved in, I think the most important pieces. What happens afterwards though. So I think
Casey: day one you really have to set the tone and you need to be pushing them outside of there a zone of comfort because you need to let them know, Hey, we’re, we’re a company that works hard, we move fast and we’re going to push you to be a better version of yourself. And setting that tone day one is so important because if you’re not ready for them, they come in and you know, they don’t really have that much to do. That’s the tone that you’ve set. And now their expectation is that, you know, they’re going to clock in and they’re going to go through the motions and they’re going to clock out. And then kind of just really setting expectations as well as so important. Cause if you don’t set expectations well, they’re not doing a good job then. You have to go through this entire process of setting expectations, giving them a warning and then if it doesn’t work out, ultimately letting them go right away. You need to set expectations, push them hard and very quickly. You should know this person is going to be an amazing asset. This person is not going to be an amazing asset, which they shouldn’t be a part of the team.
Trent: So are there any systems, are you using like EOS entrepreneurs operating system or the great game of business or open book management or any of the things that are available in the market today that you’re using in the company?
Casey: No, not really. We have our own kind of version of EOS that we use kind of for the leadership team and for performance management. But nothing, nothing specifically out there.
Trent: Okay. All right. Before we get into the five quick facts questions, which will be the end of our time together today. is there anything that I haven’t asked you is that if you were eavesdropping on this conversation, you think, Oh, I was, Trent would have asked Casey whatever.
Casey: Yeah. There’s my favorite question of yours. I mean, not that I can really think of. The hardest thing that I’m really learning now is just making sure that you’re balancing the short term of, you know, driving revenue and growth and staying on top of the market short term as well as the longterm looking ahead and in skating to where the puck is going to be as this a guy on the team would say.
Trent: Wayne Gretzky’s, the guy on the team that said that.
Casey: Yeah. When Wayne Gretzky quote, I think it’s just a great, it’s hard. It’s very difficult to do both.
Trent: Yes, indeed. It is. All right. Five quick facts, short questions, short answers, favorite business book or business books that you are reading right now.
Casey: Favorite book? How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Trent: Oh, nice. Okay. Favorite online tool that you use on an almost everyday or everyday basis to help run a grow your business.
Casey: Google G Suite is amazing. The tool that nobody knows about is called Better Touch Tool. I have a Mac and there’s a lot of shortcut keys and stuff that I have on there to really improve kind of my efficiency as I’m on my laptop.
Trent: So given, so I use a thing called a Text Expander or something like that when, so instead of typing my email over and over and over again, I have like a little three letter thing and then I type that in. It types out the email. Is that, is it like that or does that much, does better touch tool, do something different than that.
Casey: It does something different so you can really customize basically your Mac. So I have my mouse speed set above the normal setting. Yeah. That can just move about very quickly. It’s one thing to add up. For example, switching tabs. So I will sometimes just use my laptop with one hand seconds. Which tabs. I usually have a lot of tabs. If you can set custom keyword shortcuts, you can set custom forklifts on your touch bar on your Mac. So yeah, it’s a lot of kind of usability things that just make me more efficient. You change tabs 200 times a day or whatever, just in the 10 hours that try on your laptop. It adds up.
Trent: Yup. Hours of work per week. And let’s quantify this cause I had somebody that other, they include their time in the gym cause they were thinking about businesses hours per work per week, let’s say hours of work where you’re sitting in front cause we’re knowledge workers sitting in front of your computer or in a meeting or something that’s directly related to work.
Casey: I put down 80. Sometimes it’s actually quite a bit more, which is tough. Almost in that we’re under 80. You know last night I was up til three something. I’m just working.
Trent: Oh my goodness, man. Family situation. I’m guessing you don’t have kids yet.
Casey: No kids yet. That’s intentional. I’m married and so we have a lot of conversations making sure that she gets the time that she needs. Yeah. But she’s super understanding.
Trent: Okay. What do you wish your younger, not that you’re that old yet, but what do you wish your younger self knew? And so we’ll quantify younger self by early twenties way. Well, how old are you now anyway?
Casey: I’m 26. So basically I wish in high school I would have known how hard people were working. And then secondly that you can really do anything that you put your mind to. It’s so cool that things that I’ve seen people accomplished, friends of mine that have been able to accomplish and you don’t have to be the smartest in the, like you just need a combination of right place, right time, right idea and really hard work. I worked hard. I mean, I could have worked a lot harder.
Trent: A funny coming from a guy who works 80 hours a week. I remember the first time I ever saw you was at a conference a couple of years ago. You were on stage and I was onstage after you, and I think I kind of threw you a little bit under the bus for how much you worked and because I didn’t know you or what you’d accomplished. So apologies for that. But I’ll sell you when you have kids. The picture will change.
Casey: Kind of hold off just a little bit.
Trent: Yeah, absolutely. All right. You folks, the company is Viral Launch, the founder is Casey Gauss. The success story is nothing short of phenomenal. Casey, thank you so much for being on the show.
Casey: Thanks so much Trent.