297: David Wachs – Enhancing the Customer Experience with Handwritten Notes
David Wachs Improves the Human Experience using Handwritten Notes
David Wachs was working for a venture capital firm back in 2004-2005 when he got fired by his boss for allegedly losing some stocks. Not having any money left, David moved back to his home in Arizona and started his first company, Cellit, which quickly became a huge success. It was initially a struggle to launch the company at first, but David got over the hump by trusting in himself and working hard, which eventually resulted to the company’s success.
David Wachs (pronounced “Wax”) was born in Albuquerque, NM and raised in Scottsdale, AZ. He is the son of two middle class realtors. He had a typical, wholesome family life, with two involved parents. Having an older and a younger brother, David suffers from classic middle child syndrome.
David was always into business building. Starting when he was 5 years old, David would take his brother’s red wagon, fill it with whatever snacks his mom bought from Price Club, and went door to door selling them. When he didn’t have any snacks to sell, he went door to door with the first aid kit, seeing if any emergencies were going on that a 5-year-old could fix.
After working for a local computer shop after school, David started his first company while in high school. Macrologic Solutions built and sold computers in his community. David then went to the University of Pennsylvania, studied business at Wharton and Computer Science engineering from the school of engineering. While in school, David commuted to New York on Fridays to intern at a venture capital firm.
After college, David worked in consulting, banking, and then for a madman who called himself a venture capitalist. After only a few short months, David was fired, without cause. This became the turning point where David pursued his real passion of starting his own company.
In February of 2005, Cellit Mobile Marketing was born. Cellit created an industry of “mobile CRM”, sending millions of text messages a day on behalf of the nation’s largest brands. David sold the company in 2012, and continued to work for the new owners for 2 years. The day after his contract was up, he started his current venture, Handwrytten. A platform for using robots to write handwritten notes.
David’s proudest legacies are his children and the development of his employees.
David lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife Jenna, his two young children, Mason and Chase, and his two bickering poodles Bernie and Lulu.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“In this day and age when everything is digital, handwritten notes are a novelty.” – Click to Tweet
“Time is valued more than anything else. It takes a lot of time to sit and write a handwritten note.” – Click to Tweet
“The other equivalent of sending a written note is sitting on a meeting where somebody turns over their phone.” – Click to Tweet
“The best time to start a company is always today, because tomorrow you’re going to have more obligations.” – Click to Tweet
“Always get in over your head.” – Click to Tweet
“You can’t grow unless you get into scary territory.” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
David Wachs was working for a venture capital firm back in 2004-2005 when he got fired by his boss for allegedly losing some stocks. Not having any money left, David moved back to his home in Arizona and started his first company, Cellit, which quickly became a huge success. It was initially a struggle to launch the company at first, but David got over the hump by trusting in himself and working hard, which eventually resulted to the company’s success.
Advice for others
Learn to delegate.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Best Leadership Advice
Always get in over your head. Work on the business, don’t work in the business.
Secret to Success
A strong understanding of automating processes.
Best tools in business or life
Links and Resources
Handwrytten website: https://www.handwrytten.com/
David’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidBWachs
David’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidwachs/
Show TranscriptClick to access unedited transcript
Jim Rembach (00:00):
Okay, fast leader Legion today. I’m excited because we have somebody on the show today who we’re going to get into the psychology of the experience that they create and how it could have a significant impact for you both personally and professionally, David Wachs was born in Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and raised in Scottsdale Arizona. He is the son of two middle-class realtors. He had a typical wholesome family life with two involved parents, having an older and younger brother, David suffers from classic middle child syndrome. I’m right there with you. David David was always into business building, even starting when he was five years old, David would take his brother’s red wagon, fill it with whatever snacks his mom bought from the price club and then went door to door selling them. And when he didn’t have any SAC snacks to sell, he went door to door with the first aid kit.
Jim Rembach (00:51):
Seeing if there are any emergencies, five year old can actually help with, uh, after working for a local computer shop after school, David started his first company while in high school, macro logic solutions, they built and sold computers in the community. David then went on to the university of Pennsylvania and studied business at Wharton and computer science engineering from the school of engineering. While in school, David commuted to New York on Fridays to intern at a venture capital firm. After college, David worked in consulting banking and then for a madman who called himself a venture capitalist after only a few short months, David was fired without cause. And this became the turning point where David pursued his real passion of starting his own company. And in February of 2005, sell it, mobile marketing was born, sell. It created an industry of mobile CRM, sending millions of text messages a day on behalf of the nation’s largest brands. And David sold the company in 2012 and continued to work for the new owners for two years. The day after his contract was up, he started his venture or his current venture handwritten a platform for using robots to write handwritten notes. David’s proudest legacy are his children’s are his children and the development of his employees. David lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, Jenna and his two young children, Mason and chase, and his two bickering, poodles, Bernie and Lulu David Wachs. Are you ready to help us get over the hump?
David Wachs (02:22):
I am indeed. Thank you so much for having me on your show, Jim.
Jim Rembach (02:25):
Well, I’m glad you’re here now, given my Legion a little bit about you, but can you share what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better? Yeah.
David Wachs (02:33):
So my current passion actually dates back to my last passion, which was connecting with people. And when I started that company text messaging, wasn’t the spam Fest that it is today and for better or worse, I kind of helped create that spam festival a little bit. Um, we were doing opted in messaging for major brands like toys, R us Abercrombie and Fitch, uh, co uh, Sam’s club, et cetera, all opted in. So we weren’t creating spam, but we were sending a lot of messages to people. Um, but during the time I did that company, which was about nine years from [inaudible], um, the electronic communication just started getting dumped on all of us, between email and Slack and Twitter and Facebook and text messages and all these other forms of communication, uh, Periscope or whatever, you know, there’s all these different things. And I realized what really stands out is a handwritten note.
David Wachs (03:28):
And when I went to sell the cover, when I left the company two years after selling, I started writing handwritten notes to my employees and my customers to thank them for all the work, you know, for the work that my customers gave me and all the work my employees did for me and I, I had the most sincere of intentions, but I’m also, I was also a lazy 30 something at the time I sat down and got through about 15 and my hand cramped up and I lost interest and I started making errors and I just couldn’t get through it. So as much as I wanted to make that personal touch, I just gave up on it after about 15 or 20. And that’s where handwritten comes from, which is my new company. And what handwritten does is we send handwritten notes at scale. So if you want to send one note, you can obviously do that with us, but if you want to send 10,000 notes, that’s what we’re really good for.
David Wachs (04:19):
We build these robots in house. It’s anybody listening to your show if they are ever in Phoenix and there’s not a pandemic going on, I wish, you know, you can always come and see our operations here, but we build robots on one half of the office and assemble them, laser, cut them three D print them, assemble them. And then we move them onto the production floor where they hold a real pen and they write out notes in your handwriting style or one of several handwriting styles available. And, uh, I was saying, as I was joking with you before this, uh, you know, people say hallmark when it’s good enough to send the very best, uh, I know you want to get in here on this show. So let me just say handwritten, when it’s almost good enough to send the very best, because it’s not an actual handwritten note, but the ink smears, it looks fully authentic. And, uh, you know, it’s the next best thing to sending yourself?
Jim Rembach (05:08):
Well, and that’s kind of what I mean. So, and so people can look at the business, what are your website? And they can guess and understanding of that, which is, Hey, yeah, it’s pretty cool. Right. You know, um, however I want to get into the whole humanity of it, right? You talked about part of it, you know, trying to write all these notes and doing something that had great intention has great impact, you know, emotionally, I mean, all of that being so important, and we’re talking about creating an experience for people creating and building a relationship, and you enable that. But what also knowing that for us to really make big impact, you know, we, we can’t just sit down and write 30 notes to all of my re heck 800, if I have a, you know, through the different hierarchies. So tell us a little bit about, you know, what you kind of making that one 80, you went down a digital pass, you pushed down digital path and you’re like, Whoa went too far. That’s pendulum back. You know, what is the impact that you have heard about, and that you have experienced your customers into your own? Probably your own sending of letters has done for people. Uh, well for customers, you know,
David Wachs (06:17):
Handwritten notes are now a novelty. It’s crazy. Um, one of our biggest clients sends vinyl records, also a novelty. And they include a handwritten note with that. But I think in this day and age, when everything is digital, your music is digital. There’s no more records unless you join vinyl or client, your photos are digital. They’re sitting on your phone, you don’t have them framed anymore. I mean you do. But a lot of people don’t, everything is digital. So to have that experience of holding something and thinking somebody put the time into this is very valuable. I think time is valued more than anything else. And it takes a lot of time to sit down a handwritten note or to even visit our website type in your note that potentially takes time. But this notion of you spending the time to do something to impact me, I think adds a lot of value to people.
David Wachs (07:10):
I was in a meeting with a cosmetic brand and the guy said the other equivalent, uh, the gentleman on the other side of the table said the other equivalent of sending a handwritten note these days is sitting in a meeting where somebody turns over their phone. So they can’t look at their phone. They can’t, they can’t read their emails. They can’t look at their text messages as they’re talking to you, they’re engaged with you fully. And that is such a rarity these days. I mean, I have an Apple watch, which I didn’t wear today, but half the time I want to take it off and throw it across the room because it’s just constantly beeping, beeping, beeping. I’ve got beeping on my laptop, beeping on my computer, on, on my phone, beeping on my watch. And it’s just like the attention you want to give somebody is nearly impossible to do.
David Wachs (07:53):
So these handwritten notes we’re doing, they show that at least you’re in their head for a few minutes and you took the time to send them a handwritten note with those handwritten notes. And I’m not trying to get into, um, an advertising spiel here, but we include, you know, we, we include gift cards. And when we work with these gift card vendors that say, Hey, do you want to include a digital gift card? It’s way cheaper. And it can have a huge variety of gift cards and all that I say, no, that’s just not, we’re not a digital gift card company. We want a physical plastic gift card so that when you get that gift card, it, you hold it. And even though you’re just going to go online and type in the number anyway, there’s something about holding that physical thing that people are losing these days.
David Wachs (08:37):
I was talking to a client of mine. I didn’t even know what he did. I thought he was a lawyer based on the company name, but it turns out he’s a piano tuner. So once a year, this gentleman goes into people’s houses and he tunes their piano. And after every piano tuning, he uses our service to them. A handwritten note, he told me that he went into a house recently, I guess he’s serviced their piano at least twice. And the handwritten note he had sent them through our service last year was still stuck to their fridge. Now you’re not going to get that from an email. You’re not going to get that from a text message. You’re not going to get it. You’re probably not going to get it. Maybe sorta from a printed letter that you send them. If you sign it, maybe because people aren’t even doing that anymore, but just describing to somebody or connoting this idea of, Hey, I care about you enough to send a real handwritten note.
David Wachs (09:29):
That’s the goal. Or at least I’m putting some effort into this crazy system that uses robots to send you a handwritten notes that you’ll never even know. That’s, you know, hopefully if we’re doing our job, you’ll never know that’s what we’re doing. At least I’m doing something to show, Hey, I appreciate you. And a lot of people say, Oh well, can I insert this and that? And yes, we do the gift cards, but to me, and we do business cards and stuff. But to me, the gift is the note. The gift is being able to carve out two minutes of your time to get your, your message on paper and say, thank you for what you’ve done or I’m caring about you during this pandemic. Um, and that’s really what, you know, we could talk about what we’re doing with this new nutraceutical company. They’re one of the largest. If you go to like a Walmart or something, you’ll see their product all over their shelves, but, um, their CEO wanted to send a thank you to all their employees, um, that were stuck at home during the pandemic. And, you know, to your point earlier, or, um, he couldn’t, it’s just impossible for him to actually sit down and send a real handwritten note. So he used a service like ours or in our case ours, to, to do this. And, um, I think it’s impactful.
Jim Rembach (10:42):
Well, I mean, so I mean, you say that once you just end with and thinking
David Wachs (10:46):
It’s impactful, you know, I, I would hope so. I’ve devoted six years of my life.
Jim Rembach (10:53):
It obviously is. But I think one of the things that we have to think about is like, you know, what happens if, you know, somebody says, yeah, I thought it was real. And then I came to find out, you know, a robot did it, you know, they’re a risk for us from an authenticity perspective to use a service like yours, no one we will, we want to make the personal connection impact. We want to make a difference. We want to create a memory, what an experience that differentiates. We want that card taped on the refrigerator a year later. We want all of those things, but is there a potential boom ringer back like the LA lash effect, if somebody finds out otherwise, how do we handle that?
David Wachs (11:33):
Uh, yes, there there is. Um, have I, have we seen it at my company? Not that I know of now, one of the problems with our company is it’s not like a digital marketing company where we’re looped in to everything. Once we send that handwritten note, we’re out of the loop and we don’t know what’s going on, but I, that clients like, well, at least they did more than the next guy that did nothing. Or then, you know, just rattled off an email. I mean, they could’ve sent me the same note of thanks in some MailChimp email campaign, but they didn’t, um, you know, so is there an air of an authentic Tenicity to it, you know, perhaps depending on how you look at it. Um, but we haven’t, you know, we haven’t run across that. We do. So the one giveaway that this is in handwritten by you or the sender rather is the postmark comes from Phoenix, Arizona.
David Wachs (12:29):
So it has your return address. It has your note, all that stuff, but because we dumped them in the mail in Phoenix, it has a Phoenix postmark, and we ask people, is that going to be a problem? They say, no, I don’t think so. Realtors are the only people that seem to think it’s a problem. And you know, maybe some of that is there’s such a local influence being a realtor. You know, you are a realtor in your community that I understand. I think also some realtors are just a little ego, ego heavy, and maybe they think that needs to be in, but we really haven’t heard of any backlash as I really think it’s just, Hey, you know, my company, yes. What would we have liked to have actually sent you, um, sent out 10,000 handwritten notes. Absolutely. But if I did that, it wouldn’t be the CEO anyway, I’d hire a bunch of interns to do it. And they’d probably figure that out. Like when Obama, Obama or Trump, sorry, whenever the president sends out his, um, Christmas card every year, it’s always signed by the president, but it’s not actually signed by the president. It’s signed by an auto pen, um, in the president’s handwriting. And that’s been going on for 50 years. And I guess that’s the, the risk is way outweighed by the rewards. I would say, I think,
Jim Rembach (13:42):
I think that’s the point that I want to bring out here is a lot of times what we will do when we start thinking about the employee and the customer experiences, we’ll think about something, creativity, and then we’ll also, then, then we’ll subsequently try to shut it down and then we don’t do anything. Right. Yeah. And what you have done and what you have experienced, you know, is, you know, creating impact for a lot of different people in a lot of different ways that is enduring, just like the piano man, right?
David Wachs (14:13):
Yeah. And it’s just, uh, you know, it’s better than the next guy that sends an email or a text or a Facebook post or whatever it is or nothing, you know, it’s better than nothing I would say, which is a terrible way for me to sell my company. But it is a, you know, having this physical thing now, granted, you know, you could compare us to a print piece, but there’s something about a print piece that just screams and authenticity. If it’s just a slick, thin printed print piece that, you know, took no effort, it’s just, you know, you get them printed 20 cents each at FedEx office and you’re done, but our offering literally stands up on desks. You know, people, it’s a folded card. Usually you pop it on your desk and it sits there. And when we’re doing our selling, we’ll follow up with people if they don’t buy from us, but they’ve requested a sample kit and they’ll say, Oh yeah, I have your sample right here.
David Wachs (15:07):
And that’ll be six months later. So there is that benefit, like the piano tuner guy that people hold onto these. Um, but yes, getting back to your point of inauthenticity. I think people are craving connections. Most people don’t think about it. Um, I know my wife, uh, you know, and this is all her husband does his work robots. We have friends that send us handwritten handwritten notes through my company. They’ll send us thank you notes for gifts or whatever. And my wife will always be, wow, they have beautiful handwriting or, Oh, it’s so nice to say. And I’m like, honey, this was sent by your, you know, by handwritten. So, um, people are just, I think for the most part, so touched that somebody actually took the time to send them a handwritten note. They don’t care, you know, where it came from. At least they took the effort to do that. And they took that mental space to carve out two minutes to do it.
Jim Rembach (16:00):
It’s several times. And I suspect that I have as well. And that’s the, that’s the word effort. And we talk a lot about customer effort when we refer to the customer experience. And we talk about effort in a lot of different ways, even when you start talking about being an employee of an organization, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s a pain to work here. Right. Um, and so when you start thinking about you’re going and creating this, essentially, like I said, the, the, the reverse of what you were doing from a digital perspective, how much did that concept and thought of effort come into play
David Wachs (16:35):
A lot? Um, so when we started and you mentioned there’s some competitors on our website, there was one called bond and bond did a great job at marketing. Uh, they’re no longer in business and that’s a whole nother discussion for where you should spend your R and D dollars. And I can talk about that, um, ad infinitum. But what bond did really well is they said their product is thoughtfulness. Now that is a little highfalutin saying, okay, my product is thoughtfulness, but in a way they are right. You know, it’s that effort, it’s that thoughtfulness of sitting down. And that’s what I was trying before I even created the company when I was at my last one. And I was trying to send a thoughtful note to my actual note, to my employees and to my clients. That’s what I was trying to do is I was trying to show that sincerity, that I was so thankful to my employees for putting up with me and my, at the time, I, I swear I’ve gotten better, but, uh, my ranting and raving that I would on occasion do, and my employee and my clients for trusting in me, uh, you know, and trusting in my old company and building it to what it was and Champaign championing it throughout the entire life cycle.
David Wachs (17:48):
So really did, you know, I could have sent a Harry and David gift basket to each of them or thrown, you know, now, uh, you know, I’ve got a lot of nieces and nephews and what do you do? You go on Amazon, you find the, the gift that’s perfect for them. And you send it that takes no effort. You know, that takes no thoughtfulness. And it comes with a Amazon printed card that shows you just went on Amazon, you didn’t two minutes. You’re done. And I, you know, that’s why, um, now when I try to send gifts, I go to any website other than Amazon. So at least people think, gee, he took some time to Google around and find something that wasn’t Amazon, not Walmart or Amazon. You know, you try to find some little at sea style, custom website that has like, like I’ve been sending out the, and I’m not promoting anybody, but they do these cute little red wagons with books in them.
David Wachs (18:43):
And then they wrap it all up and it’s a present for newborn babies. And it just shows a level of effort. Yes. It’s not my handwritten note. Yes. I didn’t actually collect all those books and put them in that cute little wagon and send it to you. But at least I took some time to not just go on Amazon and click the first thing that pops up when you type in gifts for babies. And it’s really boiled down to that. The bar is so low now with what people, with what people expect you to do that if you go over it just incrementally, it shows that level of effort and thoughtfulness that most people just don’t care about anymore.
Jim Rembach (19:22):
Well, and for me, okay, so just a little bit of background. I, you know, I’ve gone through a whole lot of instruction in courseware on employee engagement. I’m certified in emotional intelligence and you know what you’re talking about for me, as I am hearing you say it is our feeling of being valued. I feel valued. It’s an important retainer and promoter for employees. Like I feel valued by my coworkers and I feel valued by my boss and, and the organization. And the same thing applies with customers because, Hey, we’re all customers. I mean, so it, that feeling valued element when we start thinking about creating an experience is so vital and obviously you’re executing on it. So did you really have an opportunity to potentially go down a different path and you stopped it because of that? I mean, you said something about the whole gift card thing it could have done digital could have done that.
Jim Rembach (20:22):
Go back to the story where a herb Keller, who was the CEO, um, of, um, Southwest airlines. And when somebody brought to them something, um, an idea about serving a chicken salad on one of their major routes. Um, and so herb asked the question, okay, how does that impact our ability to turn the flight around? How does that impact, which, you know, he started going down their core values and what they stood for and stuff, and then they couldn’t answer any positives to any of that. And he said, okay, then we’re not serving any effin chicken.
David Wachs (20:56):
I think curb also said a whole bunch of handwritten notes too. I think he’d send them to a real, real handwritten notes to clients and, you know, frequent flyers and that type of thing. But yeah. Um, so yeah, with gift cards, you know, our biggest competitor is a, well, we don’t know exactly who our competitors are, but, but our biggest competitor, we think laser prints the notes and they look pretty much like they were written in pen and ink, but not, not exactly. And, um, my wife asks and my employees ask and they say, gee, why don’t we do this too, as kind of a lesser priced option? And it’s just, you know, they could go to the competitor and do that. If that’s important to them, you know, I’m trying to create something that’s almost good enough when it’s to send the very best.
David Wachs (21:41):
And to me, that means it has to be written in pen. And it might not take your hand a long time to write the note, but it takes the robot five minutes to write that note. And I think there’s something baked in there. And then, um, you know, people are also saying, well, why don’t you just sell the API, the, um, the ability to create an image of a handwritten note. And then people can just email that image to somebody I’m like that defeats the whole purpose entirely. That’s a cheap end solution. And then other people say, do you do postcards? And my response to postcards as well for one, I would just be, um, going down that path of the absolute cheapest thing. And you know, for us, you know, how much money could we possibly make off a postcard? That’s number one. But number two is, is a postcard.
David Wachs (22:28):
When you get a postcard in the mail from a brand, you kinda like look at it and you toss it for me. And again, this is completely unscientifically based. This is just what David wax thinks. There’s something about that experience of, huh? I got a note from X brand in this odd envelope. I’m now going to stand there at the mailbox. I’m going to wonder what it is for about three nanoseconds, wherever long that those, those new neurons take the fire. And then I’m going to have an experience of opening that envelope. And I think about that we, we, we determined which way to turn the card in the envelope and all that stuff, but there’s something to be said for that experience of between the time you receive it. And between the time you read it, and even that opening of the card in the envelope, there’s something for that whole experience.
David Wachs (23:19):
And you don’t get that with a postcard. So we had a major motel brand that came to us and threw a bunch of money at us to do postcards. And I begrudgingly did it because it fit within their budget, but it defeats the whole purpose. When you get a postcard, you throw it out, you don’t, you don’t save a postcard like you would the gift wrapping of an envelope. I know it sounds cheesy and I’m sorry everybody, but the gift wrapping of an envelope, when you open a handwritten note, there’s something, there is something to that experience that you don’t get when you just flip it over. And then also by the way that postcards been so marked up with barcodes from the post office and schmutz from, from being through the entire, uh, the, the, you know, the feeding system at the poster, it gets to y’all banged up. And it just doesn’t send that same experience of taking the time to open the, the note. So I hear you exactly. And we spend a ton of time thinking about that.
Jim Rembach (24:17):
Well, I mean, for me, as you’re talking, I’m starting to think about, you know, expectation setting, um, and fulfilling those, you know, the, the whole conviction and commitment. I mean, there’s so many elements that you’re talking about that are so vital to creating an employee and customer experience that you can, you know, you’re sitting here and saying, you know, I know this may sound, um, you know, fluffy and this, that, and the other, but it, all of these things you’re talking about are based in deeply rooted in a lot of science and are proven facts. So, um, I’m glad you’re bringing it forth and that we’re having this discussion because hopefully people will walk away and say, Oh, I never really thought about that.
David Wachs (24:56):
Yeah, it’s just right now, um, handwritten envelopes have a three X open rate compared to standard envelopes. And I think it’s probably higher, you know, those, we put our stats deck together six years ago when we were starting the company and nobody’s gotten around to updating it. No, but, but, you know, it’s just, when I, my, the first thing I do when I get the mail out of the mailbox is I take it to the recycling bin and I just start dumping, dumping, dumping. I don’t have time to even open up, you know, 90% of the mail I get. But if a handwritten note is in there that gets pulled out and put aside for opening as do checks, if the occasional check comes in the mail, but, uh, which are handwritten hopefully on the, on the bottom. But, uh, but yeah, there’s something, there’s just something about that experience that when people say, do you want to do postcards? I’m like, Oh, first there’s no money in it. Second of all, it just, it’s just not what we’re, that’s not what we’re about. It’s just, it’s just not what we’re about. So
Jim Rembach (25:55):
Basically you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re seeking and you’re trying to develop and create, um, you know, something that is very inspirational in nature and very memorable. And, you know, we have to stay focused in order to continue to be able to deliver that. And one of the things that we do on the show is we focused on quotes. So is there a quote or two that you liked that you can share?
David Wachs (26:12):
Yes. So this quote has nothing to do with handwritten notes. Uh, when I was in, uh, when I was in college, so going 20 some odd years ago, now I used to be in this group that would bring speakers to campus. So I have had the ability to meet Hillary Clinton and dr. Ruth Westheimer, uh, and, uh, Danny Glover. And there’s all these speakers that we brought to campus, but we brought Conan O’Brien, who is a few years into his career back then. Um, and he, and we actually, the, the group that brought him to campus has the opportunity to spend some extra time with them, kind of one-on-one ish. And, uh, he mentioned in that one on one time, always get in over your head. And here I am, 25 years later or something remembering that quote. And it is, and it’s funny because, uh, before, well, as I was starting my last company, I was dead broke.
David Wachs (27:08):
I was moonlighting, uh, at a guy I met through monster.com. He had his own, uh, his own startup. He was doing what he’s become insanely successful from a hundred fold, more than me, but he, uh, I told him always get in over your head. And then we were both in inc, the inc 500 list one year, and they interviewed both of us and we both gave the same quote and they attributed it to him. And he didn’t know where it came from. And I was saying, well, first of all, that’s not, that’s not your quote. That was mine. I told you that. And second of all, that’s from Conan O’Brien so kudos Dakota, Conan O’Brien. But because the reason I find always getting over your head important is you can’t grow unless you get into scary territory. I think if you’re not getting in over your head, you’re doing what the textbook says or what Google says or what your education says. Um, but if you get in over your head, you’re forcing yourself to grow. You’re taking risks and you’re entering an area of uncertainty that you wouldn’t be in otherwise. And, and I, I find that, um, so valuable for me personally, uh, has nothing to do with what we’re talking about, but I mean, I could pull, open our pitch deck and find some very, uh, advertising friendly quotes about how the value of handwritten notes, but, uh, you know, sincerely, always getting over your head is the one that really hits me.
Jim Rembach (28:33):
And that’s the one I’m looking for. I mean, you know, really for us, when we start talking about improving experience, creating a memory, you know, standing by, you know, your, your convictions. I mean, all of those things are the getting over the head thing that you’re talking about in so many different ways. Now, there are some times when we have done such a thing and it’s created a hump that we have to get over life’s lessons and learning, we all can, you know, find value in. Is there one of those times where you’ve gotten over the hump that you can share?
David Wachs (29:02):
Yes. So I, uh, you, you read it a little in the intro to me, which was, I got fired by a madman back in 2004. Uh, I 2005, um, early, early 2005. Basically, I worked at a venture capital firm in, uh, San Diego, San Diego Metro region. And the guy came into my office one day and he fired me. He blamed some stock transaction on me that I was a lowly. I was the lowest of low at the company. There was no way I could have had anything to do with that, but he needed somebody to blame. He blamed it on me and he fired me and he said, I could come back the company, if I admitted to the huge fault I had done. And I, I wasn’t that stupid. So I didn’t admit. And I was out on my rear end. I’m desperate because I’d taken all my I’d earned some good money.
David Wachs (29:55):
Well, for my age, I had earned some good money before that, but I had taken all of it to pay down school debt because my university was not cheap. So while I didn’t have much school debt, I didn’t have any money in my pocket. And, uh, move back home to Phoenix, Arizona with my head between my legs. And I started, um, sell it. My last company and the trusting in yourself is cheesy as it sounds, it really matters because weeks and months went by of, geez, am I doing the right thing? Am I wasting time? I was broke. I would call into the unemployment line every week. You couldn’t go to a website you had to call in and listen to this horrible recording, which just kind of, um, reaffirmed what a loser you are for being on unemployment. And I’d have to say, yes, I’m looking for work and, you know, so on and so forth.
David Wachs (30:45):
And I would sit there and I’d program and program and program. And I eventually came up with my first company and it was a surprising success. Well, compared to handwritten, it took way less time to get off the ground by an order of three, you know, three times faster than my current company. Um, so it, it took off really quickly and it was great, but I’d still doubted myself. And I doubt myself in handwritten. Um, but you know, there, there, there’s this whole idea of analysis paralysis and you could sit around for forever determining, is it the right time to start this company? Is it the right time to switch jobs? Is it, you know, and you’ll, you’ll just never do it because you’ll be sitting there with your spreadsheets and your a pros cons list forever, and you’ll never get around to it. And, you know, you just have to make that leap and you have to trust in yourself, um, to a point, you know, I know you might have kids or other things that, you know, eventually you can’t do it, but it’s really the best time to start a company has always today because tomorrow you’re gonna have more obligations.
David Wachs (31:48):
So I was, um, lucky enough that my parents and my friends were like, no, this is, you know, keep at it, keep at it. We’ll, you’ll get through it. And two years later I was off the ground without one. So I was very lucky. Um, that would be the, that would really be the experience that did it. But, um, you know, in my house, um, in Phoenix, we recently just planted a bunch of trees in the backyard. Um, and you plant these trees. And the first thing they do is they kind of die. You know, they, they don’t fully die, but, but the roots haven’t taken hold yet. And when you move something and the roots don’t take hold, things look really bad for a couple of weeks or months or whatever. And I keep calling, I keep calling the, um, the tree company asking them, you know, is this okay?
David Wachs (32:38):
And they say, yeah, give it time. It’ll take root. And there’s a lot of analogy to that to making a big change in your life, whether they’re, whether that’s starting a company, changing jobs, moving to a new place, whatever it is, you’ve got to let that idea take root and it will shrank, it will wither for awhile. But if you stick with it long enough, hopefully, you know, in the case of handwritten, it takes a little longer than the first company, but you start seeing new green buds on that tree and, and you, you just have to trust in yourself the,
Jim Rembach (33:09):
Well, I think that definitely fits in with your, with your quote from Conan. I mean, with, I mean, without a doubt. Yeah, very much a truism all the way through. Okay. So, but when I think about, you know, handwritten, you know, what you did was sell it, talking about the, getting past the madman, you know, even when you start talking about not wanting to do the postcards and re begrudgingly and learning from that lesson and all of that, um, I dare to say you probably have some goals that are extremely important to you. Is there one of those that you can share goals? Yes. Um,
David Wachs (33:42):
This is gonna sound really dumb because we are a, we’re a factory. We have a factory floor here that, um, you know, we put these robots on, but my goal would have, would be to have a large warehouse factory with a sign you can see from the freeway that says handwritten right now, right now, we don’t have anything up because we don’t want people breaking in and all that stuff. But I want to be the bigger goal is I want handwritten to be a darling of Phoenix, just like go daddy. A is a darling. A Phoenix GoDaddy is a very big brand here. Motorola is a good darling of Phoenix. I want this company to employ so many people and to have such a good reputation that it’s really kind of seen as a darling of Phoenix. So do I have a measurable, measurable goal there?
David Wachs (34:33):
No, I would just love it to be at such a point where my employees say, Hey, I was telling somebody that I worked at handwritten and they said back to me, I want to work there. I applied there. That’s, that’s really where I want to get, where people really want to work at the company. They see a future, a career path of the company. Um, I mentioned in, or you mentioned in my bio that I said, one of my legacies is development of employees. I mean that, um, we put out an email when COVID hits, that said we’re shutting down for two weeks. And you know, a lot of companies shut down for a couple of weeks. But when I sent that out, I got an email back from one of my old employees that sell it saying, Hey, I saw your email that you’re shutting down.
David Wachs (35:17):
And I just wanted to let you know, I wouldn’t be who I am and he’s no longer, you know, obviously we parted ways he’s in Chicago and gone off and done his thing. I wouldn’t be who I am in my career, if it wasn’t for you and your, and sell it and for what you did. And I’ve seen that a few times, I’ve seen it with some account managers and some programmers and all people at the last company. And I’m seeing it now with my new company. And it is such, it is like raising children. And it’s such a positive aspect of this that I, you know, I just, I just love it. It’s, it’s something I wasn’t expecting. And it’s something I absolutely love.
Jim Rembach (35:57):
Well, I am the fast leader. Legion wishes you the very best. Now, before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor. And even better place to work is an easy to use solution that gives you a continuous diagnostic on employee engagement, along with integrated activities. They want to improve employee engagement and leadership skills and everyone using this award winning solutions guaranteed to create motivated, productive, and loyal employees who have great work relationships with our colleagues and your customers to learn more about an even better place to work visit [inaudible] dot com forward slash better. Alright, here we go. Fast leader Legion. It’s time for the home now. Okay. They hold on as the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust. Yet rapid responses are going to help us move onward and upward faster David Wachs. So you ready to hoedown?
David Wachs (36:43):
I sure hope I am. Yeah.
Jim Rembach (36:45):
So what is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
David Wachs (36:50):
Delegation? I, uh, I don’t know how long of an answer you want, but, uh, I need to be able to delegate more. I’m still doing the bookkeeping. That’s not, that’s not the way a six year old company should be doing.
Jim Rembach (37:02):
And what is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
David Wachs (37:06):
I always get in all over your head. And then, uh, there’s that book by Michael Gerber E-Myth, which has work on the business, don’t work in the business. And as much as I work on the business, I certainly work in the business and I gotta stop doing that.
Jim Rembach (37:19):
And what is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
David Wachs (37:24):
A strong understanding of automating processes and, uh, and learning how to automate stuff with not just handwritten notes, but just marketing funnels, outbound sales funnels, uh, internal processes for employee, whatever it might be. Employees need to take a vacation, setting up systems that automate all that, um, automating processes.
Jim Rembach (37:47):
And what is one of your best tools to helps you lead in business or life
David Wachs (37:53):
Lead in business or life tools? That’s a tough one in business, a tool and actual tool. Zapier. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Zapier. If I didn’t work for zap, if I didn’t work for handwritten, I would work for Zapier. It is incredible and has helped us automate so much of our business and life. I would say my wife, she keeps me on track.
Jim Rembach (38:18):
And what would be one book that you’d recommend to our Legion? And it could be from any genre. You mentioned the E-Myth book. Is there another one?
David Wachs (38:25):
There’s another book it’s called traction by Gino Gino Wickman. Um, who is, uh, the EOS gentlemen. Um, he, he outlines a ton of tools for kind of managing, uh, managing meetings and setting up meetings, structure, creating, uh, guarantees for your business. Um, all sorts of different aspects of setting up a, uh, a, uh, more replicable business. But I would, I would have to always revert to the email that that book was highly influential. It is a simple read it’s about as close to a brochure as you can get. So if any of your listeners or viewers don’t want to read a long book, but they want some real great insight EMF by Michael Gerber.
Jim Rembach (39:10):
Okay. Fast legal engine. You can find links to that. And other bonus information from today’s show, by going to a fast leader.net/david-wachs and wax is actually spelled w a C H S. Okay, David, this is my last hump day hoedown question. Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25, and you can take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you, but you can’t take it all. You can only take one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
David Wachs (39:39):
Uh, I, I said delegation is not my best skill, but it’s a lot better now than it was. So I’d given my 25 year old self that delegation,
Jim Rembach (39:47):
David, I had fun with you today. Can you please share with the fast leader Legion, how they can connect with you?
David Wachs (39:51):
Absolutely. Uh, I’m on Twitter, if it’s, uh, at David B as in boy Wachs, Wach S LinkedIn David Wachs, just search for David racks, wachs handwritten you’re bound to find me. You can always go to handwritten.com, um, or emailDavid@handwritten.com and get me please no spam, but you can, you can email me there as well.
Jim Rembach (40:13):
David Wachs, thank you for sharing your knowledge and the wisdom, the past leave Allegion honors you, and thanks you for helping us get over the hump.