Chris Yates On Pivoting And Profiting During A Pandemic
"I surround myself with others who have already started to take that leap or who are already a few steps ahead"
- Chris Yates
Chris Yates Chris Yates is Founder of Rhodium Weekend and Partner in Cen...
Chris Yates On Pivoting And Profiting During A Pandemic
"I surround myself with others who have already started to take that leap or who are already a few steps ahead" - Chris Yates
Chris Yates Chris Yates is Founder of Rhodium Weekend and Partner in Centurica. Rhodium Weekend is a community of 6 to 8 figure digital business owners and investors. Chris has over a decade of experience acquiring and operating digital businesses. Chris has overseen $150 Million in acquisitions of eCommerce, Content, and SaaS businesses. Centurica specializes in helping entrepreneurs, companies and private equity firms buy online businesses.
This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. Are you a business owner who is wondering how to grow your business, sell it, or both? Perhaps you're wondering how to make your business pandemic-proof? Learn how the strategies to grow and extract the deep wealth from your business.
Enjoy the interview!
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Steve Wells: [00:00:00] This is Steve Wells, and welcome to the sell my business podcast. This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. Are you a business owner who is wondering how to either grow your business, sell it, or both? Or maybe in today's environment, you're wondering how to make your business pandemic proof.
Visit deep wealth.com to find out how you can master the strategies to grow and extract the deep wealth from your business. Visit www.deepwealth.com
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:29] And I'm Jeffrey Feldberg. Welcome. We are delighted to have Chris Yates on the interview today. Chris is the founder of Rhodium weekend and a partner in Centurica.
Chris has over a decade of experience acquiring and operating portfolios of digital businesses and has advised on over $150 million in the acquisitions of eCommerce content and SAS businesses. And most importantly, Chris is a veteran. He's been through the challenging times and he's been through the rolling, booming times.
On today's podcast. Chris shares his insights and his wisdom of not only how you can survive during a challenging time, but how you can thrive.
Steve Wells: [00:01:18] Chris thank you so much for, for being with us. And, this time is a little crazy in that we normally talk mostly about exiting, but, but now in addition to that, we really want to talk, you know, how do we grow our businesses in this environment to maybe, you know, exit in the future.
So my first question is really just about you. How did you get. Involved and interested in what you were doing, and in particularly, kind of the MNA and acquisition and, and all those, areas that you've, you've got a lot of experience in.
Chris Yates: [00:01:50] Yeah. So, I would say in short, the biggest catalyst for me was, you know, back in, let's say 2009, I had a digital marketing agency.
And I was spending [00:02:00] most of my days dealing with employee, client, employee headaches, client headaches. I'm kind of managing expectations of clients and you know, it really always felt like I was building everybody else's businesses and not really building true assets that can operate without me. And kind of fortuitously, I had a former, employer slash mentor of mine who just exited his company and he approached me and said, Chris, I just had an exit.
We got some capital to play with. Really love working with you. what can we do together? Put our heads together and said, Hey, let's go start buying some online businesses and leveraging our skills to, acquire them and operate them.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:02:37] There's one question for you. Steve and I talk a lot about the, the term that's come up with us as we go through this Corona virus pandemic is how do you pandemic proof your business, can you pandemic proof your business? So, if you went back to 2008 2009 and certainly a different type of crisis that that was [00:03:00] there, but you're also doing your digital agency and, and helping businesses get online. if you fast forward to today, there's a lot of business owners who perhaps don't have an online footprint or a very small one.
To dependent proof your business in today's environment, what advice would you give them? How do you begin to think about going online and going digital?
Chris Yates: [00:03:24] You know, my defaults when I have a, a difficult question in business, and this is a difficult question because it's so specific to the situation and the type of business that we're talking about is to start to surround myself with others who have already started to take that leap or who are already a few steps ahead.
Right? And, I believe that. Many problems, if not all problems can be solved with the right network around you. So, I think the first step is to, if you don't have people who you can talk to about this as a need to start to build your network around there. so, and let's say that it was a, a consultant or, [00:04:00] you know, somebody who was running.
Some kind of a small product or retail shop, something like that. You know, the, the clear path is to start by getting some kind of an online presence, getting your website up, starting to establish your social media accounts and, you know, but at the end of the day, that's really just. Like having a business card where the rubber really starts to hit the road is when you can actually build more of a turn your website or whatever marketing channel you're utilizing into a new marketing and sales machine for yourself.
Being able to drive traffic to the website, being able to convert that traffic into prospects and customers, and the way you would go about that obviously would be different for different types of businesses. And I'd be happy to dig in if that's relevant. Yeah, I mean, I would be, I'm interested in a couple of questions there.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:05:00] I want to go back to the, your advisory team. But first, let's stay on the digital, question. So, how do you see someone pivoting if they now haven't been in the digital world? I mean, how do they think about, Lead acquisition and, and not just publish sizing their business, which we, and it can be a website, but how do they get people to the website?
How do they generate leads, in today's digital world?
Chris Yates: [00:05:13] Yeah. So, it starts with kind of deciding, do you have more time or more money? Right now. if you have more time than money, then you have to utilize, techniques and methods that don't require advertising budgets. Essentially what that typically looks like the, if you look at just the weirdest traffic exists in the world right now.
The biggest source of targeted traffic is obviously when you're doing, when people are your customers, your potential customers are searching for what it is that you have to offer. And they most commonly are doing that on Google. So, your target or your goal would be to start creating content that your target audience would be interested in reading and think about what types of things they're going to be searching for and starting to create that content on your website.
[00:06:00] By doing that consistently over time. and, and utilizing a more targeted strategy, finding the keywords that they're researching, finding how, how often those keywords are being researched. And I can talk about the details of that if you'd like, but at the end of the day, it's about creating great content that is, is answering the questions.
Finding where people are kind of in that buying cycle and trying to catch them by getting your site out there in the search engine. So that's the, the, free way to go about it. Right? There are other ways, it might involve, utilizing social media or LinkedIn networking, things that are maybe a little bit more direct, just direct outreach to the exact person you're wanting.
A cold outreach, can be a much more. A quick, but sometimes more painful path. whereas, you know, the, the search engine piece is something that you've got to build consistently over six to 12 months to really start to see significant traction.
Steve Wells: [00:06:56] So I was intrigued when you said developing, [00:07:00] your words, that advisory team, if you're going through tough, difficult time, I mean, look, so people around you, and so I'd be interested, who do you think those people should be specifically. And do you think they are any different than who you might want normally to have a on your advisory team as you are looking to build and develop your company and potentially exit.
Chris Yates: [00:07:22] Yeah. And you know, sometimes I think the word advisory team sometimes has a connotation that it's a formal relationship. I'm not necessarily talking about a very formal relationship. I'm just talking about friends in business. You know, your peer group, your mastermind group, if you will. So that in this situation, what I would suggest is, you know, find businesses that are of the flavor.
Of your type of business, but they are utilizing the internet to drive their business. So, an example of that might be, A consultant who normally gets all of his business through word of mouth, meets another consultant [00:08:00] maybe in a different field. So, there's not a competitive nature there, but he's actually doing his consulting online, utilizing, let's say, a group coaching platform like zoom and delivering his services in a group format digitally.
Not actually having to go and sit next to somebody physically in an office. So, finding somebody like that who's kind of already started to figure that out in a noncompetitive area would be a perfect person. Because, you know, the way I think about it is trying to find people who are a couple steps ahead of you.
You can learn from their mistakes and accelerate your process or your prod, your, your progress, much quicker than, you know, if you just. Do all the mistakes and make all the mistakes on your own. Right? So that's, that's an example of the type of people you'd be looking for, to help you through this transition.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:08:42] And of course, one thing I, I'd like to circle back on that you, you mentioned briefly and maybe we can take a step back and then a step forward because it'd be great to talk about your Rhodium community and what you're hearing in the community these days with, with the, the pandemic that's been going on out there.
[00:09:00] But let's make it personal now. So go back to Oh eight. You're doing the digital marketing thing that you're doing it for yourself. maybe it already mastered it. Maybe you're still learning the ropes out, but it wasn't easy times. back then, either it was, back, back in, in a way. it was just tough.
And like today, it was scary. You don't know what tomorrow's going to bring is, is there going to be a tomorrow people aren't buying and everything, just literally one day to the next seem to freeze. And so a lot of similarities in terms of the mindset of business owners, of, of consumers, of the marketplace.
What did you do for yourself back in, in Oh eight then, and from then and looking back, any lessons learned that had you continue to move forward, but, but not just survive, but to thrive?
Chris Yates: [00:09:50] You know, to be honest, at that point in time, I was still relatively naive. So, and my business wasn't, you know, at a scale that that is, [00:10:00] and as affected at the time, because I was sort of writing a trend, right?
So, if you think about it like this is, if I was a mortgage broker at that time, the trend is very much against me, right? I was in kind of the digital marketing. Small business, going online kind of trend. And, and that was still a growing trend, right? So, even though the. Macro environment was changing.
It didn't feel as scary to me because I was, I was on the good side of the trend. Right? And you can see that replicated or, or, you know, the rhythm of that. Now with, for instance, if you own a survival website right now, you're killing it. Like you're making a lot of money, or you're, if you're selling consumer goods on e-commerce, you're, you're making a lot of money.
However, my friends who are doing the, the travel websites and they're, they're promoting travel stuff. I mean, they're down 80, 90, 100% right now. So, you know, being able to. In my case, recognize that I was, you know, and looking back on it is, I didn't really know it at the time, but I, I got lucky because I was riding a wave that wasn't affected by as much [00:11:00] by the macro environment of what's changing.
So, the question that I think folks can ask themselves now is, you know, in every risk or in every change, there's always opportunity that's created, right? So, it's, it's looking at things instead of like, the, the sky is falling. Like, how can I innovate and how can I. To, the word that we mentioned early on was, was, prior to starting the recording was how can I pivot to take advantage of those opportunities and things like that.
So, so looking at what wave you're riding, are you, are you riding a wave that's on its way down rapidly or are you riding a wave that is benefiting from this, this massive change that we're dealing with.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:11:32] And so it's always, if the wind is behind a your sales or behind your back, that that's, that's an easy, so to your example, you know, if you have a survival website, terrific, you'll, you'll continue doing that and presumably do well.
But what if you don't want w what if you're in the travel industry? What if your, your company is in an industry? Now that is the last thing on people's minds. And we could just go [00:12:00] through a slew of them, but they're certainly there. It's front and center. I mean, the easy thing is to do nothing and you can just give up.
but what's easy and what's right are often two different things. What would be the right thing to do based on your experience? What, what would you do to, to pivot knowing what you know in today's environment?
Chris Yates: [00:12:20] Well, instead of talking about theory, let me just share my personal situation. So, one aspect of what I do is I run in person events.
So, I actually had an in-person event planned for the end of March. They had to cancel because it was in California and the state was locked down. I had planned an in-person event in April. actually, two of them, that I had to cancel because it's in Florida. and I have a much larger in person events.
Plan a plan for late September. So, I, I've, I've actually, you know, in person events are not a good business to be in right now. Right. so where, number one, one thing that I have going for [00:13:00] me in terms of, moves that I've made coming into this is that I have diversity of different types of, businesses that I'm a part of and generate revenue from.
So, not everybody's lucky enough to have that. And I just imagined myself right now, if I, if I only had this event business, you know, what would that mean for me? And I do sort of treat each business individually and, and, and for this one, the way that I'm thinking about it is that this is an excellent opportunity for me to innovate with digital events.
So. For instance, if you, if you boil events down to the, first principles, right? So, what, what is an event? It's, it's two people utilizing voice and sound to communicate with one another, right? and the question is, what is missing when you take that online? Really, it's smell. And it's touch, right?
Those are really the two things that are missing. So why couldn't we get 80 90 even a hundred percent of the value from what's happening in the in person [00:14:00] events and translate that to virtual events? So that's the first piece is think about. First principles of whatever it is that you do, and think about like what is preventing you from replicating that in the, in a digital world.
whether that's, you know, like, I'm, I'm looking at restaurants locally here. They're, they're switching from seating people. To having takeout, right? At the end of the day, it's food going into somebody's mouth. So, first principles haven't changed. It's, it's calories in, calories, of being consumed, right?
It's just how that's happening is, is changing. So, I think that's a helpful piece to start with what you currently have now. Then I think the, the other also as important, if not more important piece, is to think about. How is this an opportunity to innovate and do something new? maybe something that you've had in the back of your mind for, for years and you just haven't had the courage to do it because it would involve.
Disrupting what you're already doing. Right? But there's no better time to disrupt yourself then, I think right now. [00:15:00] so what I'm thinking about in my community is how can I move from, the primary reason people are part of Rhodium is an in-person event to the primary reason people are part of Rhodium is, is for a community.
And the home of that community happens primarily digitally. Right? And what are the things that we, what are some of the things that we can do digitally that actually. Create a better experience for people than, than an in-person event. One example of that is actually, let's call it a hackathon. So actually sitting down and doing work on your websites and things like that, that's really hard to do when you've flown across the country and you don't have your, your team available, you don't have all your tools and resources, but if you're just hopping on a computer that you normally use for work anyway, you have all that available.
Plus, you get the community around you and you can do some of those things. You can actually do real work on your business and, and kind of co-work with people who have experience and can give you recommendations and help you when you're stuck. So, this is an example of how I'm starting to think about, you know, what would life look like if I [00:16:00] couldn't do my event in September, and how can I still make this an amazing experience for the community?
Given the constraints that I'm, that I'm dealing with.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:16:09] And of course, some excellent examples. And on the personal side, thank you for that. We've talked about Rhodium a few times back and forth. Why don't you share with the audience what is Rhodium community? What, what's the Rhodium, event or the conference or the events that you're doing and, and, how you got there and, and, how that's just been helping.
Chris Yates: [00:16:30] I started buying all my businesses back 2009, 2010, built up a portfolio. So that marketing agency that I mentioned, and, got to the point where I had created, what was my goal at the time, which is the Four-hour work week and realize living in Montana, that it's actually very isolating to be doing that.
You're working online, you don't have a lot of people around you. And I was just really craving and I, you know, the people in the offline world, when I tell them what I would do, they think I'm like a domain [00:17:00] squatter or something like that. Like they just totally didn't get it. They didn't speak the same language.
Right? So, I was just looking for people who could have meaningful conversations about this topic of. You know, acquiring and building portfolios of online businesses. And so decided to, you know, just, I'm going to be the one who will bring those people together as a connector and, and started the first event in Vegas in 2012 and I've done it annually since then.
Just growing really through word of mouth and curating the community. So today we're, what we have is roughly about, I don't know, 600 or so people. I've met each person, online through phone calls or Skype calls or zoom calls or whatever, that I invite into the community. So, it's curated. And the typical person owns a business anywhere between, let's say, high six figures and low eight figures in annual revenues, typically in eCommerce content or SAS business.
So, for me, I'm really passionate about connecting people and, and just watching their journey and how they grow over time and making an impact on those people. and, it's been, it's been a lot of fun for me and it's, it's really become a passion for me. So that's, that's the, that's the story on [00:18:00] Rhodium and it's all about getting smart minds in a room and creating a culture where people are willing to share experiences and pay it forward to one another.
Steve Wells: [00:18:08] Great. So, all the people that you, you include in your kind of, your community and people you, you, rub up against in the digital world. I mean, there's some that are good, are successful, and of course everyone is struggling right now and some that aren't. What would you find are some of the characteristics of those companies or people that have been able to?
Really launch out and really make something with their company.
Chris Yates: [00:18:35] And are you asking in like in this particular environment or, how have they got to the point where they're at right now? Really
Steve Wells: [00:18:44] I know it is a tough time, so people do have to pivot and we are talking about that.
But I was curious since you've seen so many smaller companies and you know, have acquired some and then then. They have an objective to grow and maybe they have an objective to exit at some [00:19:00] point. And you've seen some of those success stories and probably some success stories. I was just wondering if, are there any characteristics that you see of those that are doing it right?
Chris Yates: [00:19:10] Yeah. So, I would say. A lot of it boils down to being a really good operator, and having, a certain deep skillset that you're, you're leveraging consistently over and over again. So, I think about some of the more successful people in my community, and I think about, you know, having followed them for now night, roughly nine years.
What have I seen them do consistently over time? It's, they've, they've got a really deep skill set. And the way that they look at every opportunity is how can I leverage that skillset to take advantage of this particular opportunity? So if it's an acquisition as an example, and this person's extremely good at, let's say Google ad words or advertising on Google, he can look at any business that either, like essentially is doing a really bad job at Google advertising and they, he knows that going in, right?
If he buys that business or partners with them or whatever, he can leverage that skillset and take advantage of the value that's just sitting there, right? That, that, you know, the current owner can't take advantage of. It's just because they don't have that skillset. So, it's being able to leverage a, an advantage that you have that might be leadership.
It might be the ability to put people around you in the right seats. It might be a very specific skillset, the ability to sell, you know, some of those types of things have been, I think, consistently. Consistently strong. So, I'd say that's one. And then number two is, I would say within the digital world specifically, if you look at the timeline of even just the last nine years since I've been kind of hosting and doing Rhodium stuff, how much the world has changed.
The consistent thing about those people is they are willing to adapt and they're constantly learning new things. They are willing to be. Learners, experimenters and willing to, to adapt and, you know, pivot to the, bring that word up again, right. [00:21:00] Consistently. you know, I think roughly around nine years ago, Amazon was really just, you know, starting to get its traction.
And now it just sort of like, half of all. I think more than half of all, transactions that are e-commerce related are happening on Amazon now. And that kind of that, that happened within a nine-year period. Right. And the people who are willing to adapt and not, be stuck in their old ways of selling on eBay or whatever, they got to get the benefit of
Riding that wave. things were really real or really easy on Amazon early on. And as it becomes more and more developed, it gets harder and harder. So those who can see an opportunity early, willing to adapt, willing to experiment, take advantage of things when they're hard to do are the ones who tend to benefit for those big waves of change.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:21:40] Of course, some, some terrific points that you've brought up. And certainly, adapting and learning and just keeping that moving forward. And you're also in a unique position.
So, if we leverage off of that with the Centurica, and I hope I'm getting that pronunciation. correct. you're in a unique position, so you've sold the business, but now you're in the position of doing due diligence and, and acquiring a business.
And sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction. So here we are in, in this pandemic, which is just taking the world by storm with the coronavirus. Everything that we know of has, has changed. And it's every day's a new day. And, and it's a new way of, of doing things. some people may not believe this when, when I say this, but it is possible out of this pandemic, out of these terrible times.
As a business owner to figure out how you can help people through your company that down the road, through growth and, following some basic principles. You'll be in a position, maybe not today, but down the road to profit yourself. So normally a deep wealth. We work with business owners who are looking one to grow their company, and when the time is right, so then sell their company.
but you bring the [00:23:00] unique perspective of also buying companies. So. Put yourself in, in the situation where you're now looking at companies that have grown out of this pandemic as a buyer, what characteristics or what telltale signs are you looking for that would have you paid top dollar for as a buyer and then as business owners, we can reverse engineer that and put that into practice starting today, starting right now, what's what, what would that be for you as, as a buyer.
Chris Yates: [00:23:28] So this is sometimes a difficult question for me to answer because the way that I personally do investing into acquisitions might be very different than how I would advise, advise a certain client in their situation. So, some of it will depend upon what their goals are. For me personally, I look for like, let me just put it this way.
I look for unlimited upside and limited downside. In, a situation like this, if you utilize that as a principal, if you look at a benefit or a business that's actually [00:24:00] benefited from the Corona virus, and, and again, I mentioned some as examples. Right now, you're going to see a really big spike in earnings of the business and, and the types of deals that I'm involved in.
Typically. Are based on a multiple of the earnings of the business, right? So, and it's based on kind of the trailing 12 months. So right now, we're, we're a month or two into this and you're going to see a big spike in, in profitability of these businesses in many cases. So, the question is, you know, once this subsides, what's, what's the direction that that business is probably going, going to end up going?
you know, that spike is going to subside along with, as the virus subsides, theoretically, right? Unless something fundamental has changed in the market, the way that consumer behavior has changed. So, an example of that might be the travel industry, right? So right now, they are, they have bottomed out. So,, what you have to have is some kind of a case of what does the future look like for travel in the world, right?
if you are promoting heavy international travel in this [00:25:00] business is really built around, you know, visiting Bali and, you know, South Africa and Argentina and Patagonia, whatever. you know, I think perhaps that type of travel will, will take longer to catch up. Compared to maybe road trip type travel within the U S or within Canada or something like that.
You know, like the, the type of travel that you're doing. So, you have to make a case for like, okay, what happened as the coronavirus gets as worst as possible, this business will also bottom. The question is, could I, could I acquire that business at the bottom and, finance it.
A long enough to wait until it starts to come back. Then my upside after Corona virus is substantially higher. Whereas the first example, was the opposite. You bought a business that's peaking at Corona virus as coronavirus declines now, you know, the only place you can go is down. So, so that me personally, that would be maybe, some, some calculus that I'm doing in my mind now with
What I'd be looking for. you know, for a perfect acquisition might, for a client would be very different depending on who that client is. But generally, the things we're looking for are actually consistency through this change. Some diversity of revenue streams, diversity of traffic. Those are the things that will make a, a, a great business because.
If the macro environment is changing, they've got diversity, let's say. Let's say as an example, just to give you an example, a software tool, a software as a service tool. Really the key thing there is to look at who their clients are. If all of their clients are restaurant tours or gyms or. you know, travel companies or something like that, even though the, the service may not be specifically stated as that.
If you look at who the clients are and how they're going to be affected, obviously that's going to be a much riskier business. But if their clients are of a different flavor or they're really well-diversified, maybe you've got a few gems, but you also have 80% of [00:27:00] other, you know, businesses that are still essential right now.
You know, that's going to be a more attractive business. So, I think, I think the, the, the first key I would say to look at would be, would be diversity in the situation.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:27:11] Well, that, that, that's terrific. And it, it's interesting, the, it seems like the more things change, the more they say the same. And what, when you talk about some of your principles of diversity of revenue, diversity of traffic not being beholden to.
One industry or one customer. In many ways, that's what I like to call and this is how Steve and I run our companies as a cockroach startup. just very, nimble and quick and, following a pure vision, but not relying on any one, one segment. And, and having, a, you know, a rainy-day fund, of, of money cash in the bank that, that you can use and, and other types of survival principles.
And so speaking of survival principles are, are there any principles that you've used either right now with the [00:28:00] Rhodium conference or some or back in the day when you had your digital marketing agency that, that got you through the tougher times to the live long enough to see better days?
Chris Yates: [00:28:11] I would say that if I have a secret sauce, it's relationships to be honest.
And I do things with relationships that no sane person would probably do. Like for instance, I intentionally made Rhodium, capped out at 125 attendees and had I gone down the path of a thousand-person event and a really tried to scale hard there. I'd be looking at a very different situation right now.
Like, I'm on the hook for a good chunk of money with my venue in September, and if I have to cancel, you know, I can, I can weather that storm if I had a thousand-person event, you know, something like that. You figure your costs on that are probably at least, a few hundred to probably four or $500,000 just in contracts.
Say it stayed small and that's benefited me. Right? It's kind of an odd principal, but I've also really focused heavily on things that are really hard for larger companies to, to replicate. So, I'm very hands on when it comes to matchmaking within my events and communities.
Right. but if you have a thousand people. It's very difficult, if not impossible for you to do that same level of matchmaking and curation. I talk to everybody on a phone call for, you know, 30 minutes for every person that I invited in the community. A large person who's trying for scale just can't do that.
So, I think there's, there is an advantage in, doing things that. You know, I think, I can't remember who it was. It said if it was Steve blank or Kevin Kelly or somebody like that, doing the things that don't scale, but actually doing that intentionally within your business in a way to make you more, more able to weather these storms because you don't have the big overhead, you don't have the big risks.
And your building such a close relationship with your customers, your clients, [00:30:00] you know, they almost become like friends. those people are going to have your back. And, you know, it's funny, like I, I did a fundraising, thing where I, and I raised in like a day or two from the community. Like I think it ended up being around 30 days, 30,000 in a couple of days, and then it was like 80,000 within a week.
Right? I got nothing out of it, but it was really just a testament to having that kind of trust. And, an ability for people to just have your back. Right. So I think that's been, if anything, one of my, one of my secret sauce is in terms of, Rhodium and some shirk and the other things that I've done.
Steve Wells: [00:30:34] Chris, what's your goal with Rhodium? I mean, do you have a vision, a direction that you would like to reach or some, some, some, know outcome?
Chris Yates: [00:30:43] Yeah, and I actually, this is, I think this is relevant for everybody who's listening, which is, you know, if you, if you start with what we need as humans, and a simple way to think about it as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you need your basic needs met.
In terms of security and safety and food and [00:31:00] shelter and those kinds of things. You need connection and those kinds of things in. Then at some point, as you grow and you have those things taken care of, you need to take care of those more top-level needs, such as self-actualization and making an impact in the world.
So, what I sought out to do with Rhodium was to create a business that I could see myself owning forever. That would be less of the next Facebook, and more of like, this is a craft for me, right? This is my craft. If you imagine a craftsman building a house versus a builder who's doing it at scale, right?
So, I believe that everybody should have a quote unquote craft or a business that they intend to own forever that meets all, if not all, many of the. Elements of the Maslow's hierarchy of needs for them. So, for me, the way I think about it is, you know, Rhodium allows me to pay, you know, the bills and support my family.
I get to make an impact on people. I get to have community and support. I get all of those levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs met. And then what that frees me up to do is to make bigger [00:32:00] bets with other ventures that I'm doing. So I'm doing some investing and working with some family offices and wealthy people to invest money in, into an online business, acquisitions, those kinds of things.
But that, to me, if that doesn't go well, it's not the end of the world because I have this core that I've built things on. So, for me, it's really, something that allows me to, do what I love and get paid for it as well as make a big impact on people's lives.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:32:25] You know, Chris, you, you're really are a living embodiment of what entrepreneurship is all about.
And in entrepreneurship, particularly now in these times, is getting more and more attention. But when you think about it, you're, you're not in a roundabout way. You're doing what's best for the business. But not first. You're doing it second, you're doing what's best for your audience, for your customer, for your community.
So, with Rhodium as an example, capping it off at 125 people, is that good for your bottom line? Well, you can argue [00:33:00] that that if you had more people, the better for the bottom line. But by making it intimate, by having it deliberately smaller, by losing some opportunity costs, you're actually gaining more.
From what you've shared in terms of loyalty and impact and just developing deep roots with that within your community. And I think that's a just a terrific lesson for the audience to listen to when, when you genuinely help people and you put their needs in front of your own needs, like what you did for us.
It, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even next month. but it does come back and it, it, it helps you get to the next level after you've helped look after everyone else.
Chris Yates: [00:33:43] Yeah. You know, it's funny, I actually, just to double down on what you're saying, I shared a Facebook post, which is, I believe that anybody can get what they want.
All it takes is seven years of giving until it hurts consistently and then saying yes or no. Yes. To the one or two [00:34:00] opportunities that will inevitably come your way. Well, well said.
Steve Wells: [00:34:04] You know, Chris, we talked to a lot of, business, owners that are selling and also people who are buying businesses. And most transactions fail.
When you look at someone who, who's going after took to acquire a business. And when you dig deep and you ask the questions, they go, well, you know, the business owner. Just couldn't let go with a company and it's like they're going to own it forever. Well, you know, they're not, something's got to happen at some point.
They are not going to be around forever or they're going to give it away to their family or employees, or it will just go out of business. But the reason that we hear, and I'm, I'm curious to see if you've seen the same thing, is where the question is going is that their identity is so wrapped up into the business that they can't imagine their lives without the business.
Even though. It probably is best that they do something else in transition. So I was, I'm curious to see if you've seen that same trend in people that, are [00:35:00] looking to, to leave,
Chris Yates: [00:35:02] you know, I have seen, I would say within my community, it's more the exception than the rule, because a lot of people are passionate about.
Building businesses, not about the specific product or service or whatever that they're selling. but there have been some situations in my community where, for instance, somebody started a business with a brother, that brother unfortunately passed away. and you know, he, he had to. Shepherd that business and continue to grow it, you know, given that weight that was there.
Right. I think that was one of those situations where certainly the identity. He had an obligation to have that business succeed because his brother who passed away, their family was still going to benefit from that business.
Right. And, you know, so there's situations like that that I, that I have seen, and I, again, I would say it's more the exception than the rule. [00:36:00] and it is really difficult to, especially with the business like that, for instance, like the one that I'm building where it is somewhat wrapped up in, into me, and I really try hard not to make like me, I am not the business like I am me and the businesses, the business and, and those kinds of things.
So, I think that maybe more common with family. businesses with, businesses that have been around for 20 years and have this amazing story and those kinds of things. Whereas most of the businesses that I am involved in, the people that own in my community, they've been created within the last, let's say, three to five years.
And typically, they own multiple businesses and there's not a major attachment to one or two. So, I don't know that I'd be the best to speak to that, but I definitely have seen it. and, you know, it is. I think you're absolutely right that that is, it is really difficult to separate you from the business, and I can speak from my own personal experience.
The hardest thing for me is to let things go because I, it's really hard for me to say somebody else can do this better, even though maybe they probably could if I just give them a shot.
Steve Wells: [00:37:02] Well, and I think you're probably typical of, of, at least my personal experience with myself and Jeffrey. I mean, even though we've made a lot of money and money, isn't it?
Measuring the business and you've got to have money. It never really is the motivator I have for most people. And not, not all. I mean, like what you get out of the passion and the creativity and the community, and you know, all of that really are seems to me to be the drivers, you know, with most.
Chris Yates: [00:37:28] Sure. Yeah.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:37:30] I'll share a quick story, for, for the listeners, and then I'll ask it in a different way for Chris. But with us, when we started our e-learning company, we had no money. We had no experience, no team, and quite openly, we had no business being in business.
It was our grit and the passion kept us in the game long enough, to figure out how we could genuinely help people. And, you know, long story short, you know, of course you have the, the seven year [00:38:00] rule. We have the 13-year rule.
Thirteen years later we were an “overnight success” and we enjoyed a nine-figure exit that went along with that and are very grateful and fortunate to the team and our customers and the community at, at, at that time.
The next business we started was in healthcare. We had the money, we had the experience, and we had the team. It was the same team that was in the e-learning company. the healthcare company got off to a flying start of seven figures, seven figures of losses in no time flat. And it was a bust.
And so, you asked the question, okay guys, I don't get it. Your e-learning company that should have failed on paper in every way was a success and the healthcare company wasn't. Why? And the short answer is passion. At least for myself, I won't speak for Steve. It was in, in the healthcare company.
How can I feed this ego coming off of this big, nine-figure deal and just make more money and do something even bigger without having the passion, care, and the concern? So as, as we begin to wrap things up, Chris, what one question that, the listeners and myself, would, would love to, to hear is looking back from when you started until now through the challenging times, like we're in right now through the boom times that we've had.
If you can go back and tell your younger self, one, two, maybe three things. what you would either keep on doing, not do it all or do differently on the business side, what, what would that be?
Chris Yates: [00:39:39] You know I would say the most difficult point for me was really stepping into the identity of a leader.
So, if we ever need leaders right now, is the time for those. And, If I could talk to my old, my old self as, you know, [00:40:00] just don't, don't, don't hold back. Like, take your foot off the brakes. you know, you are, you are meant to lead. You just have to find your style of leadership and, you know, that I think, I think that would be.
Yeah. Of the most difficult things that I've been to been through. That's been really a big part of it. So, I think that would be the advice. And I think that's relevant for everybody right now because I think we, as I mentioned, we need, we need leaders right now.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:40:28] Some terrific advice. And as we, and we'll put all of this in in the show notes, if somebody would like to find you in the digital world, where, where should they be going?
Where, where's the best place to find you?
Chris Yates: [00:40:42] I would say either if you are looking to be part of a community, rhodiumweekend.com. And as I mentioned, I meet with everybody that that's interested. So just a apply and you'll have the opportunity to set up a call on my calendar and we can have a chat. Happy to do it.
Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:41:02] Terrific. Well, Steve, as we start to wrap things up, any, any last questions for Chris?
Steve Wells: [00:41:10] No, thank you, Chris. It's a very interesting, and, hopefully we'll be able to, to see you at a Rhodium conference in September and you won't have that issue you've had with the other conferences. Thanks for joining us today.
Chris Yates: [00:41:25] My pleasure. And I'm hoping that as well.