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Bill Svoboda wants you to create ‘experiences worth showing up for,’ because that’s how he turns commodity businesses into consumer experience powerhouses. — BTB #5

Behind the Billboard

(0:00:01) KL: Imagine if you cared just a little more everyday. What would that do for your life? 

(0:00:04) INTRO:

 (0:00:22) You are in for a treat with this interview. I had the opportunity to interview Bill Svoboda. I met Bill when I actually ordered t-shirts from his previous company, Coed Monkey. He’s a speaker and entrepreneur and he’s doing amazing things in this world. Enjoy the interview!

(0:00:39) KL: I am thrilled to have you here today. Every episode I am trying to find something and I am really trying to find greatness in people I am connected to. I love you care more. That is such a big thing in our world today is just showing a little more care. It is not something that costs more money. It is one of those things that those little tiny things can make a huge difference. Today I want to really pick your brain on that you care philosophy that you have but I also want to go back to the beginning. I am always interested in the journey along the way. I think too often we put people on a pedestal and we see where Bill is today but we forget what that looked like at the beginning. I obviously know your story but our listeners don’t, so bring it back in the beginning. I love the beginning of your story.   

(0:01:27) BS: Yeah. It all started fifteen years ago. It started with a bad t-shirt order as a college sophomore. I was placed in charge of ordering t-shirt for my dorm floor. We had the coolest t-shirts the year before. So, there were some big expectations on me. Basically, two weeks later after ordering these shirts we get a box. We open these things up and they were ugly. Everything about it was wrong. I mean everything. The shirt quality. Everything. My roommate, Ryan, goes, “Bill, that is horrible.” Like, he saw the whole thing happen. And he goes, “I think we should start a business.” I was like, “Really? What would we do?” He goes over and shuts our dorm room door. This is 2003. He goes, “Here is what we will do.” And he shuts the door like it is the next Facebook or Google idea. I was naïve enough as a college sophomore, and he was a freshman that I was like, “Lets do it.” I had no idea that launching a little t-shirt company out of my dorm, now fifteen years later, just sold the business so I can focus on another business. But Google ordered from us. Facebook, LinkedIn, everyone finding us on a Google search and the thing I really, over those fifteen years in that business realized was, if I cannot physically meet a customer face to face, I grew the business that way, I better do something to make them want to work with my company again. That is really where I got this Care More idea. The idea of people… they are important. Every single customer is a person. They are not a customer. How do we put humanity back in that sale? How do we treat them with what they deserve? That is kind of my start. Starting a t-shirt company. Everybody wears t-shirts. I met a lot of people over those years.  I mean it was crazy. 

(0:03:06) KL: I love that you talk about the customers and we talk about this a lot too. It is not a number. I think for so long in society we have treated a sale or a product or a service as this is just a number.   

(0:03:18) BS: I look at it like this. As soon as a customer can go around you to complete a transaction, they will. As soon as they can. They might see another company that offers it a little easier or a little cheaper. Can they go around you? Our entire goal in business is to make a wall and to move with that customer. I think care is one of those ways to, and it sounds almost cheesy or too easy, but care allows you to look where the market is going and go, okay, if I want to keep this customer and grow this customer and get more, this is where I want to go to get them to where they want to go. So it is very outward focused in some ways. 

(0:03:53) KL: Yeah. So, back to the dorm room, which, by the way is fascinating that you started a business in a dorm room.  

(0:03:56) BS: Dude, it was not legit. It was illegal. It was illegal. I found out later, you know how they would bring me up like at my college like years later. At the same point, when I was in college, they didn’t like us. It was like, okay, whatever.  

(0:04:10) KL: I just know that when I was in college and I was in a dorm I wasn’t in a position to be running a business. 

(0:04:13) BS: Oh, man. I have stories like… 

(0:04:14) KL: Yeah, so when you talk about the stories… there were obviously some challenges along the way and there were probably moments where you were like, am I going to shut this down? Is it going to work? It is not? What were some pivotal moments if you look back to those early days where things could have went either way?  

(0:04:30) BS: Well, I will tell you when you are like nineteen, twenty, starting a business for us was like we didn’t want to work for someone else. We kind of had the idea, like; if we could get enough money to afford for our girlfriends a ring, then that was kind of a big win for us. For us, it wasn’t really big on how much money we were making because honestly we messed up so much as college kids and we always made it right by customers. If we had to go in the hole on an order because we messed up, that was no sweat because we are going to make that person happy. I think when you start that way by focusing on somebody else and not just your bottom line, we had the margin to be able to do that. We didn’t have any expenses. We were college kids. So, when we grew, and eventually I bought my business partner out in 2006, it was just second nature. What does the customer deserve? As the business grew and we hired people, it became second nature. I developed this thing, the ‘hundred and fifty dollar rule.’ If it costs less than one hundred and fifty bucks to make a customer happy because we messed up for whatever it is, if it is under a hundred and fifty, don’t even tell me. Do it and then tell me later. Because I found sometimes a business owner can be a bottleneck to what a customer really needs. You are crushing it. You are growing. You don’t want to be the bottleneck. You want to empower your people. The ‘hundred and fifty buck’ rule. If it costs less than one hundred and fifty, do it. If it is three hundred, tell me. Okay, do it anyway. 


(0:05:52) KL: So some of the people listening might be concerned. The risk to that, obviously, and you already know what I am going to say, is all of the sudden there is hundred and fifty dollar problem on every single transaction. Right? So, what does that look like on the other side? How did that show up for you?

(0:06:07) BS: You know, we hired the right people as we grew and it became something that wasn’t even really an issue because my DNA and my culture of this is how to business runs. You hire based on that and every system we made supported that scale. It was like, if we had one order out of a hundred where something had happened. Okay, one hundred and fifty. I don’t care. I love it. I remember when started ordering from us. Medium is the Twitter guy’s blogging platform. Huge. They found us on a Google search. The first order they did with us I had this thing of custom chocolates made. Like a whole thing of custom chocolates. 

(0:06:45) KL: Did you bring any with you today? 

(0:06:49) BS: I didn’t bring them! But I had custom M’s made. So dude, I shipped them to San Francisco. If you are an Internet company, you do not get physical mail really. Your vendors do not treat you that way. It is very transactional. I send them this thing. It cost under a hundred bucks with the shipping and the cooling thing. Dude. They flipped out. They were like, “We have never received something like that! Thank you, thank you, thank you.” That was a big turning point in my business where a little thought can change a lot. Just a little more intentionality. I think it is relationships. It is in business. As I transition out of the t-shirt business to my new software business, I would say one of the biggest things I have realized is when you own a software business, in software, if you do stuff like this? It changes the game because software is so transactional. It is a SAS model of twenty bucks a month, fifty, five hundred, a thousand. Whatever you are paying. It is transactional. You don’t even see the founder often. You might get a cheesy email, but if you get something personal. Oh boy. Watch out!

(0:07:56) KL: It is interesting that you say the personal aspect because in our organization and everything I have seen, we forget that there are human beings in involved. To a SAS model, I can go online and I can click on this and get this software. It looks like a number. It looks like a credit card. Here is the revenue. We forget that there is a person behind that. On both sides. The company side and the consumer side. In our organization, it is all about the families that are in our organization and the people that support us. I always try to go a step further. It is not just the individual that is in our organization or the client or past client or person that is referring business to us. It is their family. It is their kids as well. It is their grandkids. It is their nieces or nephews. I love it. This is why we have so much synergy. Once you start to reframe things and it is more about that personal connection, it is less about the product. You mentioned a statement right before we went live about Zappos and what their goal is to take the…

(0:08:38) BS: Yeah! So, when I speak to a lot of places now, it is always like, I give a keynote and I give the whole thing and I started getting these questions about how do I instill this in my employees and in my teammates. It is awesome if we want to give excellent customer service or care and we are a high dollar amount business. Like in real estate, it is a high dollar amount; it is easier to be like, “Hey, you need to have the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton treatment.” It is easier to do that, but if you are working with people who are like ten dollars an hour. Fifteen an hour. Twenty an hour. How do they get to touch what the Ritz Carlton treatment is?  You know what I mean? It is hard. There is a big gap, but that is what people are expecting now. So I came up with this idea, no matter what size business you are. The Zappos Challenge. The Zappos Challenge is this… Do it for your team. Do it for yourself. You are going to buy shoes sometime so just do it. Test it. I would love to hear how you do it, Kris. You get fifty to one hundred fifty dollars to go on Zappos. 

(0:09:46) KL: When you say get it? So people listening right now… 

(0:09:52) BS: So if you are a business owner you are going to give your employees fifty to one hundred and fifty dollars. Or, you are going to give it to yourself. You are going to mark this as a marketing expense, and I will tell you why later. But, basically, fifty to one hundred and fifty bucks. Whatever you can afford. The idea is you want to be able to give people something as, “Hey, you are valuable. You are on the team.” Now, here is what they are going to have to do. Before they get to spend that fifty to one hundred and fifty, they have to do three things. I am going to say Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Just three days. On a Monday, they are going to call Zappos during the business day. They need to be on your clock, not after hours. Show them that you care about this. Three questions about the shoes. They have done their research and they find what shoes they want. Three questions. “Hey, I want to know how they fit.” “Are they true to size?” “Hey, do you have these in black instead of just white?” “Do you have them in a size twelve?” Hey. Question, question, question about the shoes. Before they do this, they are going to write down the questions in a notebook or whatever. They are also going to have in their head what the Zappos experience should be. They have heard the stories. Zappos won like how many years of customer awards? They have the longest phone call recorded ever. Like ten hours and forty three minutes. They are all about that. All about giving you what you deserve. Second day now. It is going to be one question about shoes, three about the culture at Zappos. Why do you work there? Where were you working before? What was the first week like? I heard you heard you drop eggs off of the building.  Hey, I heard about the five hundred dollar quit thing. If you quit in the first x months you get five hundred bucks. Tell you about that. Anything. You are taking notes while this is happening. Third day. Three live chat questions about the shoes. Turn it into an email. Now, here is the big goal of the Zappos Challenge. It is not to get a pair of shoes or just to talk to Zappos employees. It is to figure out how they do what they do and how they do it. If they win award after award, what can we take from that? If they are the standard, how can they get near that or even do better? What we find after doing the Zappos Challenge, I mean it is crazy, Kris. I love that Zappos goes from the product to the person as fast as physically possible. They don’t want to talk about the shoes that you are asking them about. They want to talk about why you want the shoes. What are you doing tonight for fun? I love this one example. There was a story where a company was doing this. The employee doing the Zappos Challenge goes, “Do you have this in a size twelve,” or whatever. The Zappos employee, instead of going like, “Let me look it up,” and giving the answer right away, he starts looking it up and goes, “Do you have any fun plans tonight?” It is just a simple question and it takes it to a human level. “Just cooking dinner.” “Oh, really? I love cooking. What are you cooking?” It became a conversation and those are the things that keep you tied to the company. After you do the Zappos Challenge, what you are going to now have is you are going to have the manager or yourself, you are going to be able to look at this and be like, what did I expect, what did I get? Did it meet this expectation? What could we do now? Another great example is a similar thing and just looking up something. Zappos employee goes, “How warm is it there?” The company happened to be in Minnesota, our home state here, where it is like negative ten here. The Zappos person, who is like in Arizona or Phoenix. I don’t know where there are at. The Zappos person is like, “Dude, it is like ninety here. It is so hot you could bake cookies on the hood of a car.” And this person is like, “Oh, really? It is like negative” whatever here. The Zappos person goes, “I got this great chocolate chip recipe. Do you want me to send it to you?” Like who does that? It is about the person, not the product. As soon as the customer will go around us to complete it they will. Zappos is something where they make it easy on you because they care about you. Every decision is about the customer. Free return. Wear the shoes. If you don’t like them. Return them. I mean who does that?

(0:13:19) KL: Yeah. I love it, man. The product or the service to the person is so smart. You know, there is another part of Zappos that you touched on that you mentioned the word but you didn’t really get into it. That is the culture. That is the culture right? It is easy to say we should take that product and start to connect with them as humans. Talk about chocolate chip cookies. Five hundred dollars if you quit. All of those things, but how do you get culture like that? How did they create that culture?

(0:13:51) BS: Yeah! I mean, your listeners should just go do the Zappos Challenge and ask that question. The Zappos employees tell you. I almost don’t want to give it away, but it is in their training and they will outline it on the phone what they do for their training. This sounds so crazy, and I can’t wait for Zappos to be like “Bill Svoboda,” some day in an email or a Tweet or something, “we need to meet you. Fly over here.” But, it is like, why rewrite what is working? Let your people and let yourself touch what is the best. They spend so much time building culture. So much time. I think it is about… I am blanking on how long, but I think it is like a month to two months on culture. Just culture when you get hired. That is hard to duplicate. 

(0:14:33) KL: It is. The standard is so high. We are talking about this and people are probably like, “Well, what does Zappos have to do with my business?” I have learned over the years now that it has really very little do with the product or service is but it is about how you take care of your people. That is why I was super excited to do this podcast interview with you because there are not enough people talking about the consumer experience and too many people talking about customer service. In our organization customer service is responding to a problem. It is a reactive approach, whereas experience is a proactive. Here is what we want it to feel like for the people. It is the emotion. In too many organizations it is like, we sell houses, you do titles, or we do t-shirts. I love the things that you have shared so far like the chocolates and the things that you are doing to go that extra mile. I think people listening can take so much from this. 

(0:15:26) BS: Here is a big add on to that, because it is not about the t-shirts or the fill in the blank. The cool thing about the Zappos Challenge is this, and I love speaking, my new software is in title. Like land title software, like a pizza tracker for the home close. I love speaking to title companies about this because as you are talking to realtors around the country trying to get them to refer more business over you are talking to them all of the time about title. Opening files. Closing files. This and that.  

(0:15:53) KL: So attractive. 


(0:15:53) BS: So attractive. They know it. They know that it is not exciting. They are looking for something different and I say, imagine though, if your title company did this with your front line people. Now what conversations can you have? You can go to somebody like a Kris Lindahl and say, “Hey, we put our staff through this so you could get better care. This is what you deserve.” Come up with a little credo and be like, “This is what we did with our Zappos Challenge. Here is a picture of our team wearing their shoes. This is what you deserve. If you don’t get this, let me know.” That is a change. You are not talking about the product but what that person wants. The emotion behind it. I just want to go to bed knowing that you are going to take care of what you promised. 

(0:16:32) KL: The title thing has been, I mean it is like real estate. It has been the same way for thirty years. It is fascinating how many organizations don’t want to get better or know how to get better. When you go and do a Zappos Challenge or you go to these places that have set the standard for what service and experience should look like, it can change your entire company. I think about, obviously we have synergy with title because we are in the real estate space and I think about the experiences that I have had at closings at it is sub par at best at almost every single organization. You are doing a beautiful job of like giving that tracker at title business; you are setting those title companies up to have a different level of service. But even on the front side of walking into a lot of these organizations, it does not feel great. It feels like title. 

(0:17:19) BS: What is interesting is I have had an amazing opportunity. I feel so blessed. The people that I am meeting in this industry are like salt to the earth. I have grown in love with this industry and the people here. I have been able to walk into title companies across the country and it blows me away at some of the experience that some of these companies do over the top. Like full bars. It is crazy when a title company chooses to care more about that closing process because you need to walk in, and the buyer or seller is walking in. When they choose to have amazing floors and cool seats. What do you want to drink? Fresh cookies being made. The whole experience made out. It changes the game.

(0:17:58) KL: It changes your mindset about closing on a house. The interesting thing about title or real estate is you really have so many people that are your clients. They are different clients. At title you have your mortgage people, you have your real estate agents, you have got the buyers and sellers and so many channels and avenues of places where you can build your business and it is the same for ours. I always say you never know who is watching. Every move that you make, we are always on stage. You don’t know how you are going to make an impact. Sometimes they never share that you made an impact but it is what they tell everyone when you are not around. They say, “Oh, I would never go to that place because,” of this or because of them or the way that I felt. The more that you are on this journey, and listen; we are continuously trying to improve. I don’t think we will ever get there. It is a constant journey to be the best. We are just trying to be better every single day. But it is hard. It is not easy. Baking fresh cookies might be good, but what if that person that bakes cookies isn’t there? What if we run out of dough? There are so many challenges and it is like, I think what happens is people are so fearful and they never get started. Every step that we take to become better was better than we were the day before and you are further ahead. Earlier we talked about that finish line. When we think of consumer experience or we think about Zappos we think about this amazing experience. We are not going to get there tomorrow but if we are taking steps everyday, people listening can do the Zappos Challenge. Those are steps that you can take today and they are going to help you get there tomorrow. 

(0:19:27) BS: It’s just pushing it a little further every day. 

(0:19:31) KL: It is the tiny hinges that swing big doors. 

(0:19:33) BS: I love it. We have one customer in Texas that her entire business is built on the closing day. Like the experience. It is a celebration. Our software doesn’t necessarily make the closing day better. 

(0:19:46) KL: Not yet.

(0:19:46) BS: Yeah, not yet. Not yet. But her entire focus is… we make her look good up until the closing day and then it is her chance to shine, and she owns it. The Facebook posts that people do after is amazing because you made something worth coming to. You made something worth showing up for. I think in life if more of us business owners, decisions makers, and people in the job decided to make something worth showing up for, like, we have to do this anyway. We might as well do it amazing. Oh man. Oh man. Everyone is looking to be amazed. You wake up in the morning. You put on an outfit because you are hoping to maybe get a complement or you are thinking you want to put your best foot forward. You know? We don’t want to just walk into life. We are all looking to make an impact or else what are we doing? You know? As a business owner, wherever your position is, make it one step better. That is our goal.

(0:20:37) KL: For sure! I love it. It is just that wow service and not many people in the world are focused on that which is why it is the greatest opportunity. It is a huge opportunity because there are so many products and services that provide mediocre service. When I go somewhere and I get great service, I can feel it and I love it. I love it because it is not the norm. When it is way through the roof I am like wow, I can really appreciate what just happened. 

(0:21:04) BS: It ruins you. It ruins you and you can’t imagine your life without it.  

(0:21:07) KL: No. So, I have something that some of the people listening may have heard if they have heard you speak, which you are a phenomenal speaker, is this story about Tom Ford. I don’t want to say anything because I want you to share your story about Tom Ford because everyone wants to hear that.   

(0:21:19) BS: The Tom Ford story. Man, I will tell you. It was a couple years ago and I love that this is becoming something that people like…  

(0:21:28) KL: It is like becoming your identity now.  

(0:21:30) BS: I would love to meet Tom Ford someday maybe if anybody has a connection there.  

(0:21:34) KL: So, two things. He is going to have to go out to Zappos and meet Tom Ford so far. Let’s go help get that done. 

(0:21:39) BS: A couple of years ago I was in the Tom Ford store, the flagship in New York City. I walked in and I had never been in a Tom Ford store before. I walked up the rich mahogany stairs, the big staircase to the men’s section. Walked past the sunglasses and past everything. I found myself in this shoe section. I don’t know if you have ever had it before where you see a pair of shoes that you are like, “I need those.” I am not really a shoe guy, but in that moment I was like, “What are those shoes?” It was a pair of boots. Black. Tom Ford. Chelsea Gianni. Gold buckle on the side. Inch and a half heel. So a little taller of a heel. Just a little. But, oh man. I am looking at these boots and I am standing there and the sales associate comes over to me, and goes, “Sir do you want to try on them on? Do you want to try them on? What size are you?” I’m like, “I am a twelve.” She goes, “Okay.” So she runs back and grabs the pair and puts them on the floor and puts them on my feet. I stand up, and I don’t know if you have ever had this Kris with a pair of shoes, but you stand up and like, these were made for me. 

(0:22:35) KL: They just it perfectly. Do you think that they really fit perfectly or do you think because of the moment you were and the experience did you think that they fit perfectly?

(0:22:45) BS: They fit perfectly. They fit perfectly. So, I am walking around and looking in the mirror and doing the whole thing. I have never felt a pair of shoes on my feet like this. These boots ruined me. I am standing there looking in the mirror and the sales woman gives me a line. She goes, “Sir, do you want me to package them up or do you want to wear them out?” I looked at the price tag and these things were expensive. Most expensive pair of shoes that I had ever seen in person. One thousand nine hundred and ninety dollars. One nine nine zero. I go, “I have to think about it.” I have to think about it. I have to think about it as they are on my feet. I left the store that day thinking about it still. Still thinking about it. Nine months later I am still thinking about it. I am either going to think about these shoes for the rest of my life. The black, Tom Ford, Chelsea Gianni’s with the gold buckle and inch and a half heel or I am going to try to get them. One thousand nine hundred and ninety dollars is a lot of money. Especially for Minnesota shoes. But these boots changed my life. They ruined me. I decide I am going to hop online and I am going to look at and look up the Chelsea Gianni’s and they are sold out in my size. But I am thinking to myself someday I am going to have a kid and I am going to tell the kid keep going and don’t quit kind of thing. I am like, man, if I am going to tell my son or daughter that someday I better not quit right now. So I decide I am going to call the store so I call the store and I get a sales person and I was like, “Excuse me, I was in the store a couple of months ago and I tried on Tom Ford Chelsea Gianni’s with the gold buckle, inch and a half heel, size twelve. I was wondering if you have them still because they are not online.” They are like, “Let me check.” They come back a minute later and they are like, “Sir, sorry those are sold out in the whole country.” I was like, “Oh, okay.” And they go, “But do you want me to check international?” I’m like, “I didn’t know that was an option.” They check international and basically come back a minute later with a strong British accent say, “Sir, I am sorry to tell you those boots are completely sold out. Those were very popular.” Any normal sales person in that moment that I have experienced would have said something like, “Do you want me to find something else?” Not this person. Not this Tom Ford sales person. They go, “Sir, let me ask you a question. Why didn’t you buy those boots the day you were in here?” So good. I am on the phone and I am turning pale. Like, who has the guts to say that? That is so not Minnesota nice. No. I come up with this weak answer and the Tom Ford sales associate goes, “Sir, let me tell you something.” I am like, What? Who says that? Let me tell you something? They go, “Tom Ford’s time is not your time and your time is not Tom Ford’s time. When the time is right for you the time is probably not right for Tom Ford. When the time is right for Tom Ford, the time is probably not right for you. So, I suggest the next time you try on a pair of Tom Ford’s shoes and you like them that you buy them. Immediately.” I was like, “Thank you,” and hang up. Dude. But here was the thing. That moment changed so much in my life. So Tom Ford has this quote. He says, “Marketing is used for hollow products that cannot speak for themselves.” So when a customer walks into a store and tries on a pair of pants, if it doesn’t make their butt look good, they are walking out, not matter how much marketing you did to get them in there. That Tom Ford quote mixed with me touching those Tom Ford boots; I hadn’t seen a Tom Ford ad about these, nothing. I just walked in and tried them on. I couldn’t imagine my life without them. In an instant it was like this quote it snapped out. He doesn’t make pants. He makes pants that make his customer’s butt look good. He doesn’t make boots. He makes boots that ruin you nine months later. I had this epiphany in business. We spend so much of our time in marketing saying, I am the greatest. But if a customer tries it on, do they have that experience? Are we making our customer’s butts look good? Are we ruining them where they are like one thousand nine hundred and ninety dollars for a pair of boots? I am not saying I own a pair of Tom Ford jeans. They are crazy expensive, too. You could buy a seventy-five dollar pair of Levi or a hundred and twenty dollar pair of whatever, or you could get an eight hundred dollar pair of Tom Ford. Why? Because what he did. He cared more. I learned so much about this guy. Those boots are made in a little town in Italy. They take like two months to make. A normal pair of boots is like a day to three days to a week. His are two months on a wooden last pulling the leather. Like, holy cow, I can see why they cost a little more. I think that is what business is looking for. We want people who are so passionate about what they are making that you can brag about it. I heard another story about Tom Ford. I don’t know if you know this but he actually crossbred orchid flowers to make the base of his orchid fragrance. He made his own orchid flower by cross breading them genetically. He is the only person in the world that has access to this flower. Do we care so much about our businesses? It is easy to talk about fashion that way but in real estate do we have that same meticulous nature to say ,“It is not good enough yet.” We are too easy to cross it off and it is done. But, is that the mentality? 

(0:27:45) KL: It becomes almost transactional too. Right? It is like, okay, they bought or sold a house and this or this. They bought a t-shirt. We sent it to them. They got the t-shirt. It doesn’t feel good when you are on the other side of that. That is where I think, as business leaders; we haven’t spent enough time being the consumer of our product or service. 


(0:28:00) BS: That is a good line.  

(0:28:02) KL: I think it is would I love the experience my company is giving today? You know what is interesting? Anytime you have a challenge in the business, we take full responsibility for everything. When someone is super emotional, maybe it is an elevated situation. But the fact that they are emotional about it means that we did something wrong. What I have learned over the years is that most people are not willing to look in the mirror and take the responsibility like, you know what? Maybe they are over more over the top than they should be about this, but they have the right to be upset. Most businesses that I see are like; it is customer’s fault. Always. Almost everywhere. Like wait a second, I ended up in this situation because of the action this business, or that employee or the independent contractor took. That is where you have to get very vulnerable and transparent to your organization and to the families that support you and say, “We are going to own this.” It is exactly what you said earlier with the hundred and fifty dollars. You don’t want to be the bottleneck.  

(0:28:57) BS: Think about this, you go into a really nice car dealership. Let’s say you walk in and I don’t really know what really nice is defined as for you, Kris. But let’s say like Porsche or Maserati or something or like in LA like Lamborghini or whatever. You walk in and the experience they create for you makes to so the only logical decision is to buy that car. They let you touch the steering wheel. They are like, “Here, sit in it! Sit in it!”

(0:29:15) KL: And it is always the upgraded version.   

(0:29:19) BS: Yeah. I remember I was out on a test drive and the guy goes, “I have you in the 2018 here. Once you go in this, you can never look back.” I’m like, “Nuts! You ruined me!” You know? But isn’t that what we should be doing for our customers? Making them go, “I can’t imagine my life without this.” I love that. I love that. 

(0:29:37) KL: It is the best. Here is something I have picked up on all of the stories that you have shared this for. When you have been in that moment, none of them were yes or no questions. Ever. They all put you in a spot of emotion that you couldn’t respond with yes or no. When I think about sales or consultants, whatever your business is I think we are asking too many yes or no questions and we are also answering questions where we don’t know what the answer is going to be. That is a dangerous place to be in business. When you ask a question and you are unsure what the answer is going to be that can create major problems. I love about the stories you are sharing. They are putting you in a moment where you can’t get out. Like, you can’t get out.  

(0:30:18) BS: We had that with CloseSimple where we realized software sales. Enterprise level software. One of the big things we realized over the last few years doing this is when we lead with the price we always lose the customer. Every single time. You lose the customer when you lead with the price. They have to go through it and be like, “I can’t imagine my life without this.” So now we have moved away from… unless the customer asks for pricing, we don’t even ask them. Do you want to know the price? Why? They don’t want to. I know that some sales coaches will be like you have to ask for the sale. My thing is, if a customer doesn’t want it enough to be like, “What is the price?” “What is the cost?” “What are the next steps?” “I want it.” We could ask, like, “Hey, if you want the next steps it would be us getting you a quote and a contract,” but I don’t want to ask them, “Do you want to know the price?” Because then, now I am the one selling to them. No, man. They should feel like this is the only logical decision. The only. 

(0:31:08) KL: Yeah. I love that you brought this up because I think there are a lot of examples I can provide where this has happened in my life and in the business that we run. Too many people are focused on the front-end price and not focused on the impact it is going to make for the bottom line. What is the ROI to give a better experience to their customers? It is way more significant than what the cost of your product is. Your product is really affordable for a title company. 

(0:31:33) BS: I will give you one example. I love this example because as we meet title companies across the company we know a good average size title company. This is a little above average but this is where the belt of America is. This is the bell curve. We have one customer. They do about two hundred deals a month so healthy and they are crushing it. They are doing good they are poised to grow. They get CloseSimple. Three weeks in, the owner, who is one of the Sales front line; she takes screenshots of the text messages and emails that go from CloseSimple with her branding. She goes into a realtor’s office who she is doing zero deals with. Zero. Big zero. He is the guy kind of like you, Kris, on the billboards. He has the magazine ads. Everyone knows him in the city. She walks in and goes, “Look, if you close with my business, we just invested in this thing.  You can get the kind of care and service you deserve. You will get these texts and these emails. No more guessing where title is. Your consumer is also going to get this. Mortgage gets this. She walks out with twenty deals a month. Twenty deals a month. That is a ten percent bump right there. In her city, in her title thing, that is about a fifty thousand dollar premium jump in one meeting.   

(0:32:44) KL: That is amazing. To my point, of which you are totally spot on. How many people are not using your product because of the price? They don’t even have the opportunity to experience that. 

(0:32:54) BS: We haven’t anyone bulk on the price except just yesterday. We had somebody… a start up title company go, “Oh man, we really can’t.” With them we were like we want to help you. We want to help you win. What do we have to do to make you win? There have been enough people in my life that have helped me win that it is like, okay, you are doing zero deals right now and you are banking everything on this new business. You are going to talk about us in a year about how CloseSimple helped you go from zero to twenty-five to fifty to one hundred. I want that. Let me help you win. I will help you.  

(0:33:23) KL: I love that. Everyone that we have interviewed this far is really in a place of gratitude and of giving back. You have been extremely giving. From everything I watch close when we are together you are always willing to give your time and your energy. I love it. With that there is obviously this preparation for your t-shirt company. For your title company. Everyone has some sort of morning routine so I have some questions about what your morning looks like. What does an average day look like for you? How do you get yourself in a mindset where you are constantly giving gratitude?    

(0:33:52) BS: If you know me I am kind of one of those guys that is like what is the new fad for mornings? At one point I was waking up at like four fifteen a.m., and my goal is like three forty five a.m. Like, what am I doing with my life? Getting to the gym and being like what am I doing? Here is what I have kind of settled on. I am not going to bulk up anything and make me sound cooler. I wake up between six thirty and seven in the morning and the first thing I do is brush my teeth and two glasses of water. Drinking two glasses of water is so hard. It is like a labor.

(0:34:26) KL: It is work. I just want to add to that right now. Over the last four months that has been my focus. I have a jug of water here. I drink three of four of those a day. It is really hard to remind yourself to drink enough water especially when the day starts. It is not easy to do. But I think so many people listening are running around so dehydrated. If you are a high performer or you want to be a high performer, running around dehydrated does not optimize your brain, it does not work well. You slam these two things of water and then you are sick. What is next?

(0:34:57) BS: I used to work out in the morning and I have shifted that because if I work out in the morning I just get too stressed waking up early and all of this stuff. Forget the workout in the morning right now. My faith is a big part of my life. I just pray and read my bible, a little devo right away. I love having almost no schedule to that time because I need to get focused on what is most important to me in my life. Pray and just read my bible. If I have something to journal, like random thoughts, put that down. Right after that or during that I get my first espresso of the day. I got a Nespresso machine. Nespresso ruined me.  

(0:35:35) KL: I never drink any of that stuff. Just water. 

(0:35:40) BS: I’m into Nespresso. I get one thing there. I love it. Just put that pod in and that crème on top is just amazing. So, I do that, and then I am all about a healthy breakfast. Usually I do half a bag of Trader Joe’s spinach with four eggs. Four eggs on top with coconut oil or olive oil. So, you just put the olive oil in the pan and the spinach in. It just sinks and turns into nothing. Four eggs on top. It is the easiest breakfast. Put some Sriracha on. Boom there it is. Shower and get dressed and picking my outfit. Seven forty five to eight. Around there. I head out about eight twenty in the morning to the office. Super easy. It depends on the day what I am looking at. It is all about that healthy breakfast. If I can get four eggs and spinach. It is not the best tasting thing, but dude, it is power. I have a snack mid day. Like some nuts or, dude, those RX bars, I think they are called. With three egg whites and whatever it is. You’re like, “Dude, this is good!” They have the new pumpkin spice latte one for the fall.  

(0:36:45) KL: I love that you say new like you are jumping on all of these fads. Like this is the next thing!  

(0:36:47) BS: Oh, man. That is funny. But, that is like my morning routine. On my way into the office I love listening to classical music. I am a big classical guy. 

(0:36:55) KL: What is your favorite?

(0:36:56) BS: I honestly just listen to the NPR Classical. I think it is like 99.5. I love it because I don’t like checking any social media before I hit the road and get to the office. You are in a reaction mode. Emails, I will check that while I am making breakfast so it is just like, hey, what does the day look like? Did somebody cancel this? What is going on? But I am not going to…

(0:37:17) KL: Or did somebody buy something?  

(0:37:18) BS: Yeah! Oh, I got that big deal. But, I don’t like too many in roads into my life. If you limit that, you limit the headache. Instantly, you get that new text message and you are like, “Oh, I have to respond.” You go reaction mode. 

(0:37:32) KL: You do and that has been a significant thing for me. I am not saying I am perfect as I have my fallbacks as well. If you are immediately waking up and looking into your phone, all of the sudden you could be an hour into that thing. You could be deep into it. You clicked on the news article. Clicked on the click bait and next thing you know you are serving everyone’s needs. It is the worst thing even. 

(0:37:49) BS: I turned all social media notifications off my phone. No email notifications. I get calendars and I get text messages and stuff. No social. If someone is going to message me on social I am going to check it when I check it because that is like one more thing that I have to do. It bugs me. I get anxiety when I look at other people’s phones and I am like how do you even order your life? You have a meeting and then someone opens their phone and its like “bing, bing, bing,” Pinterest, Instagram, everything. I’m like how do you expect to function for the next fifteen minutes?

(0:38:20) KL: I know. The mental health side of all of the notifications and all of the things that are happening with the devices right now is really difficult. I really don’t know that I would be able to lead our company at this point if I woke up in the morning and jumped on social media for the first hour. I look back to when that was me and you are really in a tough spot. There are different emotions that come from looking at that stuff. Some are happy. Some are mad. Some are sad. You are in this weird spot of overwhelm. You can get sucked in really quick. It is a really addictive thing.  

(0:38:50) BS: You know one thing? When I talk to younger entrepreneurs what my morning routine is comes in. Everyone has these crazy stories. You read articles and everything and you hear these crazy successful people you hear them talk about what time they wake up and they get this in this in and this in and this in. I am just like, you know what? If there is one thing about Bill I am going to be practical and I am going to be simple. I am just going to be like what works?

(0:39:12) KL: What works for you? Because it is different for everyone, you know? 


(0:39:16) BS: Different for everyone but it is so hard because you have these idols in your life of like that is what that person does and it throws your life out of whack. The think I found? Once of the easiest ways is once I wanted to get my morning routine under my grasp. Just five wins. If I could the night before specify five things I wanted to do before I left my place. Win. That is huge. A good example of a win is you got out of bed when the alarm went off. You got out of bed. There is one win for the morning. Second win is you made your bed. A week ago you weren’t making your bed. 

(0:39:42) KL: We take some of that stuff for granted. There are a lot of people that are sick or ill and can’t even get out of bed.

(0:39:47) BS: Yeah! So that’s two wins. The next is you brushed your teeth; you had two classes of water. You cooked a good breakfast. All of the sudden you start stacking these wins that you are like, you know, three months ago my life didn’t look that way. Now I do these things. You start gaining some momentum and it is kind of like if you are trying to lose weight or add muscle. Once you see progress. I find often that I don’t need a routine. I need to count that I am making a difference and that changes everything. 

(0:40:15) KL: I love the making a difference. The wins are, this has come up on our podcast before. But, those wins and when you really focus on those wins and you highlight those and champion those it released dopamine and you become a better person and you’re in a better spot. It is why in our organization our most successful agents when they are absolutely crushing, it you can feel it. You can literally feel it because they are focused on the wins and it is nonstop. 

(0:40:38) BS: Don’t you just love to be around those people too? Find a way to get around those people. It is intoxicating. I just had lunch with a buddy. He is kind of mentor. He is older than me and in business he is unreal with the stuff he has accomplished. I found myself going, “Look, just talk. Whatever is coming to your mind. Just say stuff because every time I leave after hanging out with you, I am so challenged.” I find that is one that that when you find people in your life, whether that is people at your level or above you or below you that kind of motivates you. Dude tell them. Tell them I really appreciate our time together. Speak into my life. Tell me. Whatever new ideas you are processing, I want to hear it because it gets me going. Our words are so powerful that way and often I just held it in. I wouldn’t have said that kind of thing. I would have been like, that is really cool what you are working on. But when you tell somebody like, “Kris, that is awesome what you are doing. What else are you doing?” Once you open the door to them talking more, it is crazy. That is where the next ideas come. 

(0:41:43) KL: It is so interesting how many successful business leaders that I interview that are students first. That really want to learn. There is something to that. I have been around business leaders that think they have it all figured out and their companies are struggling. It happens every single time. When you think you are the smartest person in the room or you think you have it all figured out, that is a scary place to be. If someone is listening and they are like, “I am super successful. I have got it figured out and I don’t want to change. I don’t want to evolve.” That is a dangerous spot to be in. You should get out, quick, because it can create all kinds of complications. I love your commitment to that curiosity of tell me more. I want to know more. I want to grow.  

(0:42:22) BS: Like, what are you thinking about lately? That is great question. If you feel like you have hit your ceiling. Find someone who is doing something interesting. It doesn’t have to relate to your business. Just tell me about it. They will be an open book because people love talking about themselves. 


(0:42:35) KL: For sure. So, here is another thing that I have for you. So you have the t-shirt business you learned and had a lot of learning opportunities along the way. You then now have this Pizza Tracker for Title but there is also something deeper that is driving you to do all of this. What is at your core? What are your values and why are you doing all of this?

(0:42:55) BS: My dad growing up was influential in this. I have three brothers. Three of us boys. He sat us down and he was like I don’t care if you paint sidewalks when you grow up or you run a successful company. Whatever you do, I just want to know that you are doing what you love. I think one of my biggest drivers is people. I love people so much. If I can interact with people that is a big thing. Another big driver for me, and I have said this before. My faith is a big part of my life. For me personally, I love the idea of Christians in the market place that aren’t cheesy Christians that condemn other, but the Christians that are good people and push other people forward. Like I want to see you win. I think for me, when my faith came alive I couldn’t help but just become a better person. I look at it like it should make me more authentic and more relatable. Somebody that someone is like, “I have to have him in my life because he believed in me when no one else did.” That is really one of the bigger drives for me. Every day… and this might sound cheesy, but every day I want to look just a little more like Jesus did. It is so pure in that fact that if I could just look a little more like Jesus did, I am going to love people better. I am going treat people better. I am going to be a more authentic person. I am going to believe the best in people. I think that is one of my drivers. That is my heart. Right there. 

(0:44:21) KL: The reason I bring that up is that I have had the opportunity and I have been fortunate to be in a lot of different environments and be connected to a lot of aspiring business leaders and successful people. A lot of people are not aligned properly with whatever they believe at the core. They have been chasing another sale. Another product. Another service. They are at this level of success, where on the outside, everyone is thinking, oh they are so successful, yet they are so empty on the inside. I know that people listening could be in any part of what I just described there, but if you are looking to grow your business you really do have to figure out why you are doing it.  

(0:44:58) BS: Something. You have to lay your head on the pillow at night. And you are alone. It doesn’t matter if you have someone next to you. That is the moment when we are all alone. 

(0:45:10) KL: I love that you just said that because when we are growing business and we become a really successful business leader there is a lot of loneliness. We don’t feel like certain people can relate to us. You have had moments in your t-shirt business and your title business and obviously with the speaking you do what, but what do you do in those moments where you feel like you are not relatable? Or you are in a slump? It can get really difficult. I have experienced it as well. 


(0:45:29) BS: You kind of pull yourself together and I love thinking of it like this, if I could zoom outside of my body and look at myself. Just kind of picture, what am I looking like right now? Am I the person I want to be? In those moments, it is easy to kind of go, Man, I need to straighten up and I need to get that smile on my face again. Sometimes I think like we become so self-centered. We think about woe is me. This and that doesn’t line up. This person is crushing it I am not. The social media feeds make us feel that way. Often, I just need to hit pause on life and zoom outside. Am I happy with where I am right now in that moment? Often it is just like distract yourself from that. Like cook. Go cook. Do something. One other thing and this is maybe a little trick. Maybe it will hit somebody who is listening to this. I love having a little cash on the side. Who carries cash anymore? Do you have any cash in your pocket right now? 

(0:46:21) KL: I have a little bit just in case you get in trouble. I can bail you out.  

(0:46:24) BS: What I started doing was realizing in my daily life I am going to run across people who can just use a little help. When I get cash, which isn’t very often. What do I do? I put a ten over there and a twenty there. I will keep it in the car. I will put a one in my pocket in the morning. I look for people. There is one guy. He is in Minneapolis. He just walks the streets. His name is Carl. I love it. He has a shopping cart. He walks by my place every day. I would see him everyday. One day I just walked downstairs and I was like, “Hey, I see you every day. What is your story, man?” We have this fifteen-minute chat. We grew up in the same city, everything. I go, “Hey, let me buy you something. Here” I gave him some. Dude, that ten bucks, twenty bucks changed him. I see him on the street now. I have given him a bunch of clothes. All Carl is trying to do is… he has brain damage because he was a semi professional boxer. He is like, “I can’t hold a job.” I just love to believe in people a little more. I think if you can put five or ten bucks in your pocket. Bless someone at a coffee shop. Have it in your pocket when you see a homeless person. Don’t believe the worst. What are they going to do with it? Just go, “Okay it is on them.” If they do that, fine. It changes you. It is like your shirt says, be generous. You can’t change what to person does with what you bless them with.  

(0:47:34) KL: It is funny you share that because today we had a company event and the parking lot was full at the facility we are at. The valet was quite inexpensive, but it was full and I pulled up to the guy and I said, “I hate to be this person, but our company is inside and I need to get inside and we have an event I know that it says full but could you help?” He kind of looked at me and he thought, you know what? I am full. I can’t do it. Instead he said, “I will figure it out.” When I left I was like, I went to him and I said, “This is for you,” and I have him significantly more money than it was.   

(0:48:07) BS: Way to figure it out, buddy.  


(0:48:10) KL: I wanted to give him that moment. He could have easily said, “No, sorry. We are full. You are going to have to drive out of here,” but he problem solved and made it work. I have always found so many people judge a book by its cover. It is like just what you said earlier. It is all about me. I have been in moments where I have judged other by what I think their appearance looks like on social media, but I don’t actually know who they are and I don’t actually know what they do. It is an opportunity to take those moments and you could have drove right by Carl and never stopped. Bill Svoboda is successful. He sold his t-shirt business. He has his title company. He doesn’t need to stop for Carl. He can keep going. There are so many people in life that don’t stop and don’t make that difference. I wrote this down and I just shared this in our last podcast episode. It has been one of my struggles for a long time. When I am in a moment I wish I would have done something different. When I am in a moment when my brain says, “You should do this.” I don’t want the other side of my brain saying, “No, you shouldn’t.” I need to power though and step through instead of leaving and regretting and saying, “You should have made a biggest impact.” You know?  

(0:49:10) BS: There is always a story that comes from it. There is always a story. That is one of my biggest lessons. Take a risk somewhere. There is going to be a story. You are going to win. You are going to lose. But there is going to be a story. That hopefully helps somebody else too. 

(0:49:24) KL: When you help other people get to where they are going, you end up in a better place as well. If you are in a slump where your mindset isn’t right, go help more people.   

(0:49:36) BS: Five bucks in your pocket. Go find somebody.  

(0:49:39) KL: Even if you don’t have money, go donate your time and your talent. Everyone has unique talents we can give back and make a difference. I have always found where things get a little bit out of whack for me, when I go to help more people, all of the sudden I get back to where I am supposed to be. 


(0:49:51) BS: Isn’t that crazy?

(0:49:55) KL: It is. It is. And it feels good. It isn’t always money. There are different things it could be. It is really why over the years I have become so obsessed with being generous and giving back my time, treasures and talents because I believe that we all have something unique to give and we can all give more and just like you said at the beginning, we can all care more. It is a beautiful place to be in when you can be in a position of gratitude.

(0:50:18) BS: Yeah. It changes the game.

(0:50:20) KL: It does change the game but I think as business leaders we put too much pressure on it being perfect before we can give back. We are so busy trying to figure out what does it need to be to give back. Just step out for the Carl in the world or whoever it is. I am just grateful that you took the time because I think this episode is going to impact so many. For those of you listening, if this has made a huge impact, please just share this episode with others that you know. Maybe those aspiring to be better business leaders or better people. Bill has made an impact in my life. You have been an incredible speaker. I want to wrap up with one final thought that we can leave people with. You have so much to offer, and like I said I am grateful for you being here. If you had to give just a little bit of advise to someone who wants to get to that next level. When I say next level, there could be someone listening right now who runs a really successful business that is a really successful business leader who still wants to get to the next level. I think we always assume that someone who has a really successful business doesn’t want to grow. What advise would you give to someone who is just really trying to get to that next level?

(0:51:22) BS: That is a really good question and I would say could be a good answer is trying something new in terms of getting around someone who doesn’t think like you do. Just try. Risk something. I will give this as a good example. Find somebody who is in a different walk of life than you. Find somebody who is a different business or industry who is crushing it. Reach out to them and be like, “Hey, I have been watching you. Could I buy you…” fill in the blank. A lunch? “I know you are busy. Could I?” Don’t go in there with the sales because you are not going to sell them anything. Just go in and be like, “I have been watching you and  I just want to hear your story.” That is it. Expect nothing of it because you are not going to sell them anything. You are not trying to. You are trying to get a new look at life and they are crushing it. You are crushing it. You are trying to get to the next thing. Listen to them and I guarantee something is going to happen. Something is going to happen. You get a relationship out of it too.  


(0:52:13) KL: That is great advice. I love that you said risk something, but what stuck out with me there is we all have blind spots. Right? So, we get niched in our product or our service or our industry. It is like looking outside your body. Like you said, looking down at thirty thousand feet. We can’t even see what our blind spots are. When we go into other industries, we are like, wow! There is also a lot more that we can be doing in our industry that they are doing in this industry. It is fascinating. Also, inviting someone out and you said, “Buy fill in the blank.” So, Bill loves four eggs and spinach. So I hope everyone reaches out to you on social media and offers to take you to breakfast. 

(0:52:44) BS: I love Starbucks cards more, maybe. 

(0:52:48) KL: Well, send Starbucks cards to Bill on social media. Thank you for being here, man. Thank you to everyone who has supported the Behind the Billboard podcast and for your willingness to share this episode and subscribe to our podcast and leave five star reviews. I am grateful for all of that. So, thanks for tuning in and until next time. We will see you then!  

(0:53:04) BS: See ya.   


(0:53:04) OUTRO

(0:53:21) BS: Do you have any cash in your pocket right now?

(0:53:23) KL: I have a little bit just in cash you get in trouble so I can bail you out.

(End of Audio)