036: Mike Moyer: My wife did not sign up for that
Mike Moyer Show Notes
Mike Moyer started a company while in college and had a successful exit. He went on to graduate school and got a good job and he felt like everything he touched turned to gold. Feeling confident, Mike decided to invest all of his money into a new startup. At the same time he got married, bought a new house and had a baby. And his company failed. Listen to Mike tell his story of how he got over the hump.
Mike always wanted to teach, write books and sail a sailboat. He spent 20 years figuring out what to write about by working in all sorts of businesses ranging from motor home chassis to vacuum cleaners to education technology to fine wine. He spent time as an executive-level manager in small companies, large companies, family companies, public companies and private equity turnarounds. He even started and sold a few companies himself and with partners.
Mike is the founder of Lake Shark Ventures, LLC where he invests in early-stage ventures and provides consulting focused on management and revenue generation. He has been an entrepreneur who has started a number of companies including Bananagraphics, Moondog, Vicarious Communication and Cappex.com.
In addition to his experience as an entrepreneur he has held a number of senior-level marketing positions with companies that sell everything from vacuum cleaners to financial data services to motor home chassis to luxury wine.
Mike has come to learn that most companies share a similar set of problems and that many of these problems can be solved with less work than most people think.
Today Mike teaches people how to solve business problems by applying simple frameworks. He has written a number of books describing these frameworks. Pitch Ninja is a book about a framework for a persuasive presentation. Slicing Pie is a book about a framework for creating a perfect equity split for startup companies. He wrote some other books that cover frameworks for getting into college, capturing leads at trade shows and even becoming a perfect parent.
In addition to his writing, Mike teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Northwestern University’s McCormick School for Engineering. He also consults and invests in early-stage companies.
When he’s not writing or teaching he can often be found sailing on Lake Michigan with his wife and three kids.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“Business is about building wealth and solving problems.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“Happiness is out there but until that day dawns you got to do what you can do.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“The biggest risk is that some will give up and stay.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
Treating people fairly is a key part of making sure people are working together. -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“A start-up represents a time where people are taking personal risk.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“You got to concentrate on getting to revenue.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“You’ve got to keep your family confident in your abilities.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“The older you get…the more you have to lose.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“I always encourage people to try when they have nothing to lose.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“Try early and try often.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“When you get older you realize you have to focus more on the fundamentals.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“I used to get enamored by the idea…now I get enamored by the people.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“Get to revenue as fast as you possibly can.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“Sometimes you’re selling the dream and the dream is enough.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“You can sell the dream of awesomeness.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“Be honest and fair with people throughout your career.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
“Most companies share very similar problems.” -Mike Moyer Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Mike Moyer started a company while in college and had a successful exit. He went on to graduate school and got a good job and he felt like everything he touched turned to gold. Feeling confident, Mike decided to invest all of his money into a new startup. At the same time he got married, bought a new house and had a baby. And his company failed. Listen to Mike tell his story so you can learn how to move onward and upward faster.
Advice for others
Get to revenue as fast as you possibly can.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
My ability to focus on one thing.
Best Leadership Advice Received
Be honest and fair with people throughout your career.
Secret to Success
I do all of my own creative work.
Best tools that helps in business or Life
Being able to understand and recognize patterns and being able to articulate those.
ResourcesClick to access edited transcript
Intro: Welcome to the Fast leader podcast where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader, and now here’s your host customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner Jim Rembach.
“Developing your company’s talent and leadership pipeline can be an overwhelming task but your burden is over with Result pal you can use the power of practice to develop more leader’s faster move onward and upward by going through Resultpal.com/fast and getting a $750 performance package for free.”
Okay, Fast leader legion, you’ll be excited about the guest that I have today because he has a diverse background with a lot of different companies and if you’re one of those folks that wants to jump in and start your own business or improve your business he’s the man for you. Mike Moyer always wanted to teach, write books, and sail a sailboat. He spent 20 years figuring out what to write about by working in all sorts of businesses ranging from motorhome chassis to vacuum cleaners to education technology to fine wine. He spent time as an executive level manager in small companies, large companies, family companies, public companies, and private equity turnaround.
He even started and sold a few companies himself and with partners. During this time he learned that most companies share a similar set of problems and that many of these problems can be solved with less work than most people think. Today Mike teaches people how to solve business problems by applying simple frameworks. He’s written a number of books describing his frameworks. “Pitch Ninja” is a book about a framework for a persuasive presentation. “Slicing Pi” is a book about a framework for creating a perfect equity split for start-up companies. In addition to his writing Mike teaches entrepreneurship in the University of Chicago’s Booth school of business and Northwestern University’s McCormick school for Engineering. He also consults and invests in early-stage companies. When he’s not writing or teaching, he can be found sailing on Lake Michigan with his wife and three kids. Mike Moyer are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Mike Moyer: Absolutely! Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.
Jim Rembach: I’m glad you’re here. I’m so excited. Now I’ve given our Fast leader legion a little bit of information about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we get to know you better?
Mike Moyer: Well like you said, I’m doing what I’ve been wanting to do. For most of my career I write books, I teach, I travel all over the world, I do lectures, and I do seminars and workshops and I’m really enjoying myself. I get a work out in my home. And this summer I spent lots of weeks sleeping on my sailboat and enjoying that time with my family as well, so I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.
Jim Rembach: Now hopefully you weren’t sleeping on that sailboat because of your home remodel.
Mike Moyer: A little bit of that. It’s the only sport you can do while you’re asleep, which is nice.
Jim Rembach: That’s very nice. Okay, so I know with all of these different businesses that you’ve had the opportunity to be either a mentor or participate in found cell, there’s several list of companies that will be able to see on the show notes page that you’ll be able to find at fastleader.net/Mike Moyer. I know you have to find a lot of inspiration to get through the tough times, and actually to inspire to do more, achieve more. In the show we focus on leadership quotes a lot, and those quotes could come from many different sources. And when I say leadership there’s a lot of things that are leadership base that necessarily aren’t from business leaders, but is there a quote for you that kind of stands out as one of those that has helped you through hard times and helps you get over the hump, can you share it with us?
Mike Moyer: Well, sure. I’m a business person. And business is about building wealth and helping people solve problems. One of the things that always comes to my mind is a quote that I’ve always liked, it’s “Money can’t buy happiness but if you have money you can buy a boat and wave at happiness while you sail by” and so that always kept me focused on getting a return on investment from my partners and investors and my employers and always focusing on those things and keeping in the back of your mind that happiness is out there but until that day dawns you got to do what you can do to make a living and do well. I haven’t always been able to do what I wanted to do. I have had to make a living and then like many people and being able to focus, especially in business the start-ups we’re focusing on revenue and focusing on profits helped carry the business forward where so many people feel like maybe there’s some other purpose to it but I think in business we got to make money, solve problems and make money doing it.
Jim Rembach: Definitely, and I know that for a lot of folks that have been part of startups or have actually created startups they often find that when they get to a certain point, they lose some of that feel of that startup and in invigorating energy. So when you think about getting to the point where you can actually have that sailboat and wave at it and be happy, how do you see many organizations being able to get over that hump?
Mike Moyer: Well, the problem you described is very common, this losing interest and wanting to back off that’s an area I’ve done a lot of work in, I have a book about this it’s called “Slicing Pie” it’s a book about equity splits. And one of things I find is that when people don’t feel that they’re being treated fairly or respected properly in the business they begin to disengage in the business in two different ways either they leave the business entirely or one of my partners said once: “The biggest risk is not that someone will give up and quit it’s they’ll give up and stay” and they’ll stay in the company even though they’ve given up and they’ll create a cancer of negativity within the cancer, I’ve seen that happen many time. So, I think it’s the partner relationship and treating people fairly is a key part of making sure that people working together properly. You mentioned the startup phase and then this other phase where it’s not a startup, startup represents the time where people are taking personal risk. They’re risking their personal income, their personal assets, and their personal contributions while the established companies is one with personal risk does not exist, they’re getting paid for everything. During that startup phases it’s critical you treat people fairly otherwise, they’ll lose interest in model or feel disgruntled.
Jim Rembach: Now I am certain that with all that experience you’ve had with all of these different companies that you probably had a hump or two to get over yourself to either impact those particular issues that were talking about here or others. Can you share with us a story where you’ve had a significant learning and it has impact you and made you better after it?
Mike Moyer: When I was in college, I started a company and I had a successful exit after college and graduate school. I did well in graduate school, I got a good job and then I got into business school and I was very high on the horse, I thought I could do anything. All my projects that I’d touch were turning to gold, I was making a lot of money—and people that I worked for, and I went off and started my own company. And I invested all of my money in the startup company and at the same time I got married and bought a house and I had a baby and I was in graduate school and that company failed and I lost all my money. My wife didn’t necessarily sign up for that. When I met her—on all cylinders and things are going really well and I’d really had a major failure.
I was able to—based on that experience, to really focus. We talked early about making money, it really got me focused on getting to revenue and getting to probabilities quick as I could is a good lesson to learn. So I joined another startup company. They’d already been in business for a couple years and within a year I made all my money back. That experience showed me two important things, one you got to concentrate on making money—got to concentrate in getting to revenue you can’t mess around. You will worry about product features and customer service and marketing, branding, all these thing that really didn’t matter, what really matter is getting to revenue. And I also learn that you got to keep your family confident in your abilities, if I’d continue to struggle for years and years and years it was a struggle of luck that I was able to turn it around so quickly but that’s kept my ability to change jobs and start companies and invest my money in ways that makes my families confident that I can do it, so you got to have the support of your family for sure.
Jim Rembach: There’s several things that you shared within that story, and thanks for doing that, that kind of stood out to me, one being is risk and being able to take that risk. When you start referring to a lot of the things associated with problems the startups have and fairness and all of that, a lot of times we either hold onto things or we don’t let go of things. How do you find yourself being able to let go so you can take the risk that we also know is associated with reward? I mean, being somebody who, was a finance or real estate major, I understand the concept between you have to take some risk because the risk is associated with reward otherwise you’re what, your status quo you’re just doing the norm and you’re not going to get the benefit associated with it, how did you make and how do you get over that hump?
Mike Moyer: Well, it’s not ever an easy one to get over. And the older you get and the more assets you acquire and the more mature your family gets, the more you have to lose. Early on in your career you have nothing to lose. When I was in college I could take all kinds of risk, I had nothing to lose. I had no family depending on me, I had no assets, I had no loans, I had no debt, I had no mortgages or credit card payments all I had was me and my wits about me and I felt very powerful because of that. And as I grow older and now I have a boat, and a car, and house, and a mortgage, and insurance, and college savings, all these things weigh you down. I always encourage people to try when they have nothing to lose, and try early, and try often, and be willing to do that. As you get older you realize that you had to focus more on the fundamentals because you can’t have the luxury of too much time.
Jim Rembach: There’s another important point I think you bring up with that, and yes while you’re accumulating all of those but you also had the experiences that you’ve gone through. So I think, I remember one of the foot—I don’t know if it was Lawrence Taylor or was it one of the other football players that said: “Even though as I age while I may have gotten slower I significantly gotten more wiser and understand the game better, so therefore, even though my speed isn’t quite what it used to be I am even more effective today than I ever was”.
Mike Moyer: Absolutely!
Jim Rembach: So do you think that has had an impact with making the right risk because of that experience and how so?
Mike Moyer: Well, I do a lot of small investments in early-stage startup companies and I used to get enamored by the idea behind the company and now I get enamored by the people behind the company. And so, the model that I use for investing allows me to get in the deals extremely quickly without a lot of due diligence. So, if the person isn’t engaged the way I think they should be engaged, I back out immediately and live in my losses. I only invest people I think they can really move things forward because I don’t have the passion for all the ideas anymore more, I want to be kind of the man behind the men behind the men type of thing, so I always look at people whereas before I got enamored by ideas.
Jim Rembach: You bring up another point that a good friend of mine, we had him on as a past guest on the Fast Leader show, Dr. Cliff Hurst. He was doing some work for a while as he referred to it as an entrepreneurial archaeologist or anthropologist and he was saying that there are certain types of characteristics and behaviors of entrepreneurs that essentially give them the propensity to be more successful than others. Have you been able to identify some of those characteristics of folks where you can say that, “Hey, I think I need to stay in this one and maybe give them some support and help or I need, just like you said I need to back out because it’s the person not necessarily the product.”
Mike Moyer: Well there’s three things that I look for. There’s a guy named Bill OLatiff from MIT that lay these things out for me that I think are relevant. The first one is, does the person love what their doing? You have to really love what you’re doing. The second thing, they have to good at it. And the third thing, they have to be willing to do it over the long term. And I’ve seen companies where people really love an idea or a concept but they’re not good at it. So I met a company a while back, they want to make a self-sun tan lotion applicator booth. That was a great idea, they’re beach goers, they love the idea, they’re really excited about it but none of them were engineers, none knew how to build machinery of the vending machine, they have no skills whatsoever on that topic, so they weren’t good at it, so that stopped them from moving forward.
I’ve seen other people who have chosen careers where they loved it and are good at it. I was talking to a financial trader investor who invests in very interesting investment models but they require an incredible amount of time, so he loved it, he was good it but he wasn’t willing to put the time in to make it work and he wasn’t willing to do it over the long term. I’ve seen a lot of people who really cared about the business model but they were good at it and she does a lot with programmer, she don’t really like programming but they really happen to be good at it, so the passion just not there. You got to love it, you got to be good at it, and you got to be willing to do it over the long term. And that is a trifecta that makes a business person successful without those things you’re in trouble. Now, you’re just starting out you may not be good at something, you have to learn those skills in order to become good at it. And sometimes you learn the job but you had to be willing to put the work and you become good at it. So those are the things I look for in entrepreneurs now.
Jim Rembach: So I know for you there’s a lot of advice that you give. I mean, you’re a consultant, you’re an author, but if you were to say that there was one thing for somebody that either has just started business or was thinking about starting a business that you would tell them that one piece of advice, what would it be?
Mike Moyer: Get to revenue as fast as you possibly can. There’s too many companies out there that spend too much time—and getting the revenue is a scary thing to do. You have to ask if it’s producing a value, you got to put yourself out there you got to ask for. Entrepreneurs are avoided like the plague, they’re so scared that they want the product to be perfect, they want their message to be perfect, and they want their market materials to be perfect, every new product sucks, every one of them, their always going to be bad but you got to find somebody willing to buy something to prove to yourself you have a new value.
I was talking to a guy who used my equity model which requires that you trade, you keep track of your time and yet you have been in business over a year and hadn’t gone any sales, so I said let’s look at what you have been spending your time on. He wasn’t spending time on sales, he was spending on customer service, with his beta customers and product development and marketing stuff and he said what about sales, what about this things? And I said they don’t matter, customer service doesn’t matter if you can’t generate sales. Marketing doesn’t—none of it matters, what matters is selling. So, he stopped literally everything he was doing, everything, concentrated on sales and two weeks later he had a partnership with the major agency that saved the company.
So you got to force yourself to get to that revenue point as quickly as you possibly can in your company.
Jim Rembach: I think that’s an excellent point and even for myself I could probably say is, how do you get to monetization and how do you actually keep yourself going forward? There is a lot of fear associated with that thinking that you want to make it perfect and sometimes you just have to let go, get to the point, get to revenue, and get there faster. Now, one of the things that I’ve heard, especially with tech startups is that, there’s this kind of golden number. When you think about number of clients or customers that you have to get so that you become more attractive to investors for example and I’ve always heard that it’s fast to 50, get the 50 fast. I mean what are your thoughts on that?
Mike Moyer: 50 customers fast you mean?
Jim Rembach: Yes. Get to revenue fast, get the 50 customers fast.
Mike Moyer: Well, there’s a sort of this—this is interesting times in a startup’s life where sometime you started your selling the dream and sometimes the dream is enough. So your first starting out you got an idea, you got a team put together, you got some little bit of development and a brand and a logo and you can sell the dream of awesomeness. When your product actually exists now you got to show attraction and depending on 50 customers could be a legitimate number if it’s a big product maybe 2 customers it good enough or 3 customers is good evidence small part of maybe 500. But when you actually have your product, now the standard totally changes because the dream is a reality now. At first, you can raise money on your dream, the second round as you get to raise money in reality.
So you got to be careful because you might need to raise enough money. One of my companies I raised $5 million and all I had was a half written business plan and PowerPoint presentation and we sold a dream that really resonated the people. We raised a lot of money that would enabled us to stay in business even through 2008, without that money we would’ve fail. Now if we had invested a small amount of money to produce our product it wouldn’t have worked because the 2008 where they brought us down, so we would’ve failed at that point but now the company is a going concern because of it. The two major points are, selling the dreams or selling reality. If you’re selling reality what matters more than anything else when reality hits is traction, traction, traction and the magic number 50 sounds as good as anything. As long as you can tell your trajectory you got it before you can sell your dream story and it’s an important distinction.
Jim Rembach: Thanks for sharing that. Now I know you have a lot of oars in the water or maybe sails up in the wind. If you think about all the things that you’re doing right now, what is the one thing that’s currently giving you the most energy and excitement?
Mike Moyer: Well “Slicing Pie” the book about equity splits is a thing that I care most about because I think it is an earth changing idea. It is a radical shift departure from the conventional wisdom that works much better than the conventional wisdom that I believe every startup company in the world, everyone in the world should be using the exact same equity model. It’s a universal framework for dividing of equity and startup companies, no matter where you are on the planet. And traditional models, trade unfairness they create boundary disputes, they take advantage of each other that destroy companies and there’s been no innovation since the dawn of the first invention of the wheel I guess, and equity splits. And I think “Slicing Pie” delivers a some value that’s turn around to anything that people do. That being said startups don’t pay a lot. So my other book focuses on making more money but the “Slicing Pie” is the one that I’ve done the most work on and makes me most excited and most passionate about.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Mike the Fast leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.
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Okay, Mike now we’re moving on to the fast pace part of our show and that’s the—Hump Day Hoedown. The Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast Mike. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us a robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Mike Moyer, are you ready to Hoedown?
Mike Moyer: Let’s try it.
Jim Rembach: Okay. So what do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Mike Moyer: The thing that’s holding on turners back is my ability to focus on one thing. I have 8 different books and different websites and different businesses and different investments and I’m teaching and I’m writing and all this different things. It’s my ability to focus is absolutely what’s holding me back, if I had the guts to focus on one thing I’d be much more successful.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Mike Moyer: The best leadership advice I’ve ever received is…There’s so many things that people have told me over the years. The best leadership advice and it’s trite but it’s hard to know it means until you have some experience, it’s just being honest and fair dealing with people. Being transparent and fair and honest to people throughout your career—it’s always hard to do because sometimes you don’t want to tell the bad news. But that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned and I’ve dedicated piece in my life to making sure that message resonates the people. Because early on in your career you think that competing and hustling means you got to be deceitful in some ways and it doesn’t, you can always be in the up and up and it does make a big difference in how you’re perceived by the community over the long term and how your success rolls out.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Mike Moyer: One of the things that I do that I don’t always recommend to people, in fact I recommend people against it, but one of the thing is I do everything myself. I do have a tech team that helps support my technology stuff, but I write every book, I edit every book, I draw every picture in the book, I design a cover, I do all the work. I design the websites, I shoot the videos, I edit the videos I even learn to play Ukulele so I could play background music. So I do absolutely everything myself creatively on the work that I do and it allows me to move extremely quickly. It also allows me to easily abandon projects that I don’t think that are going to be successful.
So if had a bunch of partners in a project I’d feel obligated to continue. Like for instance I have a book about, it’s called “Tradeshow Samurai” it’s a fantastic book, I love it, people who read it think it’s great but nobody ever buys it, cause no one thinks they have a tradeshow problem. So I don’t feel obligated to spend time working on that book in the same way that I feel obligated working on other books that are more popular. If I had a lot of partners on, I’d feel like I was letting them down if I didn’t put time into doing so and so. That’s usually not the best practice but for me given that I have the ability to do the technology and the video and the writing and all those things I believe it makes me a much more effective on what I do right now.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Mike Moyer: I guess the tool is sort of the skill that I have which is about understanding and recognizing patterns and frameworks and [inaudible 21:47] the things that happen to me to articulate those. I think that we get bogged down. I worked in a lot different industry which was said before and every time I go work for company, every time they say our industry isn’t like other industry we’re unique because of this, it’s true from someone who’s been in that industry exclusively their whole career and they don’t know what it’s like in other industries. What I’ve seen is most company share very similar problems and if you understand what those are and take a step back you can develop a framework that will address the problem completely. So one of the best tools is understanding, building a framework of process a discipline process and applying it consistently, by far, has meant for my success than anything else.
Jim Rembach: What is one book that you would recommend to our listeners? Doesn’t have to be a business book and doesn’t have to be one of your own but is there one that gives you—is a good resource and a good go to, can you share it with us?
Mike Moyer: Yeah, there’s a book, it’s very, very short book by John Barak. John Barak is an oilman from Tulsa, Oklahoma and his book is called “Brock rules for life and leadership” it’s a very, very, very short book and is downloadable as PDF. But he basically wrote a guide for his family, his grandchildren, his children, on what a good leadership meant, what being a person meant. And it’s an excellent very short read but it instill the knowledge that he got throughout his life. He’s extremely successful, not only entrepreneur but also his family. I know most of his family, he’s actually my uncle, so I know most of his family. They’re all very well-adjusted, good people doing good things and I hope myself that I’ll get the same in my life. So that’s a great book to read.
Jim Rembach: Thanks for sharing that Mike, and we’ll make a link to that as well on the show notes page, that you’ll find fastleader.net/Mike Moyer. Okay, Mike this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with it but you can’t take everything you have to choose one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Mike Moyer: The skill and piece of knowledge was the one I described earlier, is my ability to see patterns. And I discover my skill to see patterns early in my career even before I was 25, but I didn’t realize it was important until much later. I remember I ran for student senate in my college and I won. I won with the highest number of votes ever. And the next year I did not win because I didn’t do anything and I was able to see what I done the year before and began to teach other people what I done before, which is a lot of fun. And my company that I had at that time did a lot of creative development and I would guarantee that the people who worked with me would win. And using that pattern I’ve placed every Student Senate President the next four five years because I could guarantee they’d win, but I didn’t realize the power of that ability until much later in my life, recognizing a pattern how it works and how shortcuts to success but I wish I recognized it at that time that’s what I was doing.
Jim Rembach: Mike it was an honor to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you?
Mike Moyer: Well if they want to reach me, mikemoyer.com is my main website, but if you search Mike Moyer online I hopefully, my SEO efforts would bring to the top.
Jim Rembach: Mike, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. The Fast leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
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