Travis Steffen

Robert has a conversation about business growth with Travis Steffen, who has found a passion for taking ideas to profitability and then to exit. He shares the value of building a business with a growth strategy and an exit plan. His success has translated into helping create growth success for others and he shares powerful tips for making that happen

A little bit about Travis...

Today’s guest is a serial founder with 8 successful exits. He's an Inc 500 founder, has been profiled in Forbes, and is a doctoral candidate in marketing with an emphasis in AI. He's a bestselling author and is a growth mentor for the top accelerator programs in Silicon Valley. Currently,Travis Steffen serves as the CEO of GrowthTeam, which trains and places top-quality, fractional Heads of Growth in companies that don't have one, but want more rapid growth.

Check out more of Travis


Instagram: /travissteffen

Twitter: /travissteffen

LinkedIn: /in/tsteffen

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Travis Steffen
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Show Notes

Robert Peterson 0:43
Welcome to the Add valued entrepreneurs podcast, where we're on a mission to end entrepreneurial unhappiness. If you're an entrepreneur with a burning desire to change the world, this podcast is for you. We're here to help you transform your life in business so you can achieve the freedom and fulfillment you crave.

Robert Peterson 1:02
This show is dedicated to entrepreneurs who want more out of their life, more meaning more purpose, and ultimately, more happiness. You deserve it all. And it's possible. I'm your host, Robert Peterson. Pastor turned life coach for business owners. I believe that success without happiness is not true success at all. But there's always hope for those who are willing to take action. Join us every week as we bring you inspiring leaders and messages that will help you on your journey towards success. Thank you for investing your time with us today. Let's get started.

Robert Peterson 1:41
Today's guest is a serial founder with eight successful exits. He's an inc 500 founder has been profiled in Forbes and as a doctoral candidate in marketing with an emphasis in AI. He's a best selling author and is a growth mentor for the top accelerator programs in Silicon Valley. Currently, Travis Stephen serves as the CEO of growth team, which trains in places top quality fractional heads of growth in companies that don't have one. Robert has a conversation about business growth with Travis Stephen, who has found a passion for taking ideas to profitability. And then to exit. He shares the value of building a business with a growth strategy and an exit plan. His success is translated into helping growth create growth success for others, and he shares powerful tips for making that happen. Well, Travis, thank you so much for joining me today. I'm excited to to have this conversation and share your entrepreneurial journey.

Robert Peterson 2:37
Happy beer. So I typically just start each episode with our guests telling us about their entrepreneurial journey and what's led them to the impact they're making today.

Travis Steffan 2:50
Let's see I've been starting scaling and selling technology companies in Silicon Valley in Los Angeles for the last 14 years.

Travis Steffan 3:00
I have been fortunate enough to have sold eight companies in that time period, and have been a part of several other good outcomes as well, as well as some some not so good ones, I don't want to pretend that everything I touches that I touch turns to gold, that's not the case. I just take more swings than most people do. So through that lens, I did not have a business background, when I started, I didn't have any sort of business education of any kind I didn't have any mentors grew up with with basically no money. We were very, very blue collar and in small town, Iowa. And I just found that I wasn't really cut out for the normal, like Java sort of world. And when I discovered that I started to try out other vocations. I got involved in professional online poker, which was great until the US government said that can't happen in the US anymore on April 15 2011, but who's counting? Right?

Travis Steffan 4:04
And so had mixed martial artists and lived in Thailand for a little while and fought there and, and came back and realize this is what am I doing with my life? You know, I'm not really contributing anything to humanity. I'm not lead making an impact or anything like that on the world. And so I got started on my entrepreneurial journey little by little and then realized very quickly, it was very exciting for me. It was really engaging. I actually wanted to learn things I kind of found it in in school, through my first master's degree, which was in exercise physiology and biomechanics, just because I wasn't ready to be done with college at that point in time. And found that, you know, just through entrepreneurship through starting things, it was a really freeing discovery to realize, okay, there's, there's an idea that you can have in your brain and at some point, you can take enough action that this thing can change. course of human history in some meaningful way. And I just thought that that was a really exciting idea. But there weren't a whole heck of a lot of people that looked like me that that. And when I say looked like me, I mean, not a clean cut Ivy League or anything like that, you know, I obviously, uh, you know, look like just any other Joe Schmo in blue collar America. And so found that, that there were other entrepreneurs that had a whole bunch of tattoos and weren't necessarily perfectly well spoken all the time. And that was what I grew up around. So I just gravitated to the mentorship from those folks and was able to move out to Los Angeles, and then up to San Francisco and network a lot along the way, and just kind of failed, and succeeded and failed and succeeded and kind of the graph went up and to the right, I'll be at spiky. And here we are today. You know, I had my last exit last February. And you know, I've been just trying to help other founders win bigger ever since.

Robert Peterson 6:04
Nice. So let's talk about that first business. Let's talk about that first opportunity that you created. I love. I love that. You shared the idea in a mind and bring it to fruition, because so many people don't believe that's possible, right? They get an idea. And then that little voice in their head says, oh, no, that won't work. Oh, no, you can't do that. Oh, no, you've got a beard. You've been to Thailand, you don't know anything. And and so I want you to share not only what you did, but how did you get past that little voice in your head that holds so many people back?

Travis Steffan 6:38
Honestly, I think I was probably too ignorant to have that little voice at that point in time, I think I was I hadn't been beaten down quite as much by life as some people are at their, at the beginning of their, of their journey. And I had never really had a taste of what a steady regular job looked like to be completely candid because I was a collegiate athlete, and then the NCAA rules at the time. I don't know if it's still the case, but prohibited student athletes from having jobs. And, and so I don't believe that's the case anymore, per se. But at this at that point in time, I just had not a whole heck of a lot of options. So I didn't really have much to compare it to. I also found that I maybe had a lot of hubris, and I saw things that other people did. And I was kind of that person that would see that and think I could do that. I can't be that hard. If that guy couldn't figure it out. If that lady can figure it out, I can, I can figure it out as well. That actually ended up being the case, when I saw this reality show, it was on this clothing line tap out and tap out was a big time mixed martial arts clothing brand. And I think today it's the official clothing brand of the WWE because the UFC kind of acts their relationship not too long ago, a couple years back. But at the time, it was the biggest clothing line in the sport. And they were incredibly successful and ended up selling that business eventually, but in so like along the way, they had a whole bunch of little mini documentaries, they had their own reality show, they had a production company, they had all sorts of different things that they were doing. And I saw some of the guys running it. And I was like, these guys remind me of myself or how I see myself they were just they're fans of the sport. They believed in people, they wanted to support people, but they also were completely covered in tattoos and weren't necessarily the the common avatar of what a business person was. And so I just looked at those guys, I was like one day, I'm going to be where those guys are. So I kind of started basically almost a clone of that clothing line. And we at the by the end of it, we were doing equipment, and we were doing apparel. And we would drive around to all the Midwestern fights and sell out of the trunk of my car, sell on on fold out tables, in the crowd, all sorts of different things and just got my first taste of hustling and just being creative and having some grit and making some things happen. And fast forward many years and I actually had the privilege of making friends with and going into business with one of the founders of tap out. So that story came full circle. And was was one of the coolest things that I've thought you know, could never happen in the early days of my journey.

Robert Peterson 9:34
Nice. And so that was your first company in the Midwest and then and then what brought you to California.

Travis Steffan 9:41
So there were a number of companies that came after that, obviously I I know that the the main one that brought me to California actually was a company called workout We are basically a platform for personal trainers to create their own online interactive fitness sites for free and And we would just basically be a marketplace for their fitness programs and so forth, we take a little cut of each sale. And we ended up running that company for five years. But in so doing, I was getting exposure to my business partners had a completely complementary skill set to mine. I had been in school for that particular subject matter and trained guys for the NFL Draft trade, a UFC champion, and those types of things, I was a professional athlete myself. So I was basically taking that knowledge and just digitizing it as much as I could. And, you know, we had millions of views on YouTube before that was a thing that, you know, really was something you could monetize. And, you know, so we were, we basically built that, that site off the backs of search engine optimization, which was a pretty new discipline at the time. And we were able to crack the code to the degree that we were number one on Google for things like exercises or workouts and those types of common terms. So eventually, we became the target for acquisition by a publicly traded company. But along the way, I just learned different ways of of building apps or building websites or building businesses, because I had seen the kinds of ways that my business partner would design something and send it over to a freelance engineer that we found on on various websites at the time, the one we use was Elance. Today, it's called Upwork. And it was a really freeing moment, because I suddenly realized I had the tools and I knew how to build things. I didn't yet know how to actually make them into successful businesses, but I knew that I could take something in my mind and make it real. And that was the biggest and first step for me, you know, on that journey, moving forward was knowing okay, I can, like, I can learn hard things that a lot of people would pay money for. And so that was that, that basically, that business brought me out to Los Angeles. But along the way, you know, it also built me a network, I was able to build other businesses along the way at the same time. So I was multitasking quite a bit, which I would not recommend for most people. But it was something that I was I was doing, and I was in my early and mid 20s. And I was able to kind of live a little bit light as a bootstrapper, bootstrapping several companies at once. You know, so I was, I was living a very frugal lifestyle and pouring every dime that I had into these companies. And piece by piece, you know, we would start them and grow them a little bit and sell them. And over the course of time, I realized that my focus was my biggest currency and was able to get away from the multitasking, but I'm not sure exactly what got me to La on the entrepreneurial side of things, it was just, I think I'd seen entourage the show. And I was like, that looks way more fun than then eastern Iowa. And that's, that's what got me out here inevitably.

Robert Peterson 12:57
So So when did you recognize the power of exit the power of building something and then and then moving on, I think a lot of entrepreneurs hold on to their business and, and feel like it's the only thing they've got.

Travis Steffan 13:12
The very first one that I had was, I had built a I had this idea. This was before Bitcoin, it was before Venmo. And I had this idea that what if you could send money to anybody instantly for free in a secure way where I could basically speak to you and give you a code. And you could input that code into your account. And it would result in a transfer between the two of us. And it was a really interesting idea. And so I played with it a little bit. And we built the technology, again, in the same way that that I had with any other piece at that point where we were mocking things up ourselves, shipping the the instructions to engineers that were offshore a lot of times. But we were so intricate, and what we were asking people to do that all they had to do was follow instructions and it would get built. So that particular one forced me to exit before I knew that that was a thing, just because of the fact that our my attorneys got back to me after the after the technology was actually built and it worked. I could, you know, send anybody money and I wasn't actually sending money, I was basically sending credits. They basically told me, Hey, you're creating a currency here. This does, there's no legal precedent for what you're doing. There's no licensure that we're aware of that will allow you to do this above board, and your name is all over it. So it's gonna be a huge risk for you if you want to actually make something happen with it. In the same way that you know, the person that invented Bitcoin had to be incredibly anonymous early on for that to even exist. So through that lens, you know, I just basically said, Okay, I can either shut down this piece of technology that actually really works, or I can find out if anybody wants to buy it. And I just kind of that popped into my head as I didn't really know what the process was. And I was on a bunch of different networking groups on Facebook at the time. And I just posted to a couple of those and said, Hey, I built this piece of technology. I'm told that there's a lot of financial licensure, I guess, I need to get in order to actually make this be legal, or even change the product. Maybe somebody already is a FinTech professional and wants to acquire this asset. And sure enough, somebody spoke up and we made a transaction happened not too long after that.

Robert Peterson 15:43
Nice. And so obviously, this forced exit opened up the door to this idea that you can build things to sell rather than build things for yourself.

Travis Steffan 15:55
Yeah, and both as well, I mean, the the most successful exits that I've had, and, you know, we've built those companies up. And you know, the, the most recent one I had, I think we had about 100 people at exit and, you know, had eight figures or revenue recurring. And just, you know, as we kind of went through that process, it was very apparent though, when you raise money from venture capital, or raise money from private equity, it's always assumed that you're going to eventually either sell or go public, something has to happen within a specific horizon. That's the thesis of the people who are actually allowing you to grow at an unnatural rate. Before that, the the theory that I had was, I want to build a company until I feel like I'm bored. Or I want to build a company until I feel like I have an idea that consumes my mind. And it was a really undisciplined approach, in hindsight, because there were a lot of moments in time that I should have just continued the process of building what I was building to greater heights, but at the time, I was just, I was doing a lot of different things at once. And if I saw that something had more of a ceiling on it, in terms of its income potential or revenue potential than I expected, when I started it, I just wanted it off my books. And I wanted to start fresh with the new lessons in mind. So I just assembled the playbook over the course of 14 years that just have reused every single time because every one of those exits, you get a non compete for three to five years in that industry. So you kind of have to start fresh elsewhere.

Robert Peterson 17:30
Non competes an interesting topic of late with the FTC stepping in saying we might, you know, eliminate non compete clauses entirely. Yeah, actually.

Travis Steffan 17:43
Well, I think that's more or less been the case, if if you're looking at it through a right to work perspective, the place where they actually are still in probably will remain enforceable is when you're selling a company. Usually, non competes are included in employment contracts, for example, where you might get a job and that employer is afraid that you're going to take their trade secrets and go elsewhere with them. But in so doing, you're also preventing that person from potential employment around an area that they have deeper subject matter expertise than another. And it's, it's really hindering the right to work and the right to go apply for jobs. So in that sense, I think non competes should be eliminated in that area. If you're selling a business, I actually think that they should exist to some degree. Because otherwise I could build up a lot of subject matter expertise, let's say in like a staffing company, for example. And let's say we're staffing. Let's say we're staffing teachers, and I have this like marketplace network of teachers. And this large, complementary business wants to buy it, and I sell it to them. And I turn around the next day, and I use my entire network, and every ounce of everything I have at my disposal to just clone that offering and restart it all over again, and suddenly I'm still competing with them. And like that, to me feels like something that should still continue to exist.

Robert Peterson 19:12
Absolutely. Well, you mentioned your ability to learn and your ability to learn a skill, create, create something, build it up, scale it, obviously reading is is important to you just talked about that, this desire to grow and learn and read and how that's impacted your ability as an entrepreneur.

Travis Steffan 19:36
I don't know if it's a compulsion that I have or if I mean I would far prefer to be one of those people that just wants to lead a simple life. Robert, I honestly I had, my my folks are that way. I have a lot of friends that are that way that just want to lead a simple life. They want to go to work, they want to come home and they want to just relax and do it all over again the next day and they have no compulsion to it leaves some sort of massive ripple effects on the history of humanity. It's a, it's a lot more of a bumpy road. And it can be high paced high stakes, often high stress. But honestly, it's just kind of in my bones, it's in my blood, I don't know any other way to be. It's it's kind of just who I've always been, in some sense. And I don't know that there was a catalyst on what actually transformed me into that state of mind. It was just kind of how I was raised. Being able to, to dive into something that I'm interested in is what I was encouraged to do growing up. Even if it wasn't necessarily something I could monetize. These days. I think though, the, the difference is, it feels a lot more like investing. Right? Early on in life, if I was reading fiction, or if I was diving into some sort, of course, that could teach me something cool. It was fun, you know, and it was it was. If we look at Tony Shay's three types of happiness, and the bottom rung is pleasure, then comes passion, then comes purpose, it was more on the pleasure sets of things, which is a lot more fleeting. But now, it definitely feels like with every ounce of targeted knowledge I'm able to absorb, I'm just a lot more likely and a lot more capable to produce greater outcomes faster in different ways. That won't decay nearly as quickly. And it just is more exciting. It's almost like a real life video game, where you're, you're doing things and your character gets stronger, and you can do more in the video game. So that's kind of how I think about it. And I just try to get as interested as I possibly can and get really curious. I think it's dangerous for people to think that if you read a book, it just equals, you'll make more money. By by reading that book, I usually try to read books or watch courses or, you know, connect with mentors in service to deepening my understanding of the specific methodology that I'm trying to create around just rapidly scaling and selling companies.

Robert Peterson 22:17
All right, top two books you'd recommend to an entrepreneur in the early stages,

Travis Steffan 22:23
early stages, I would say. First and foremost, the to me, the Bible on leadership right now is always Extreme Ownership. I know Jocko has gotten super famous at this point in time. But that was the reason why that one book I thought really shifted my perception of what leadership looks like. And I remember exactly where I was, when I first listened to the audible. I was on a treadmill in 2015, in a basement gym of an apartment that I was living in. And it was just face melting unlock of all the things that I had been doing wrong in all aspects of my life, not just in entrepreneurship. I would say the other one takes a completely 180 degree approach. And I would I would recommend lean customer development by Cindy Alvarez. I'm a huge, huge proponent of this book for early stage entrepreneurs, because I think the the worst thing an early stage entrepreneur can do if they want to. I mean, the, in my opinion, if you were to ask me what the first thing is, I do when I have a new idea, I would say I try to forget it. I try to forget it, because it's my idea. It didn't come from the customers that I'm trying to serve. So Cindy Alvarez mocks up a really objective framework. It's a it's a quick read. But it's a really objective framework of doing structured customer interviews. So what I always tell entrepreneurs like early on, your idea has one job and that's to bring you to the table of entrepreneurship, maybe maybe a secondary one is to get you interested in an industry. But it's not supposed to be instructive in terms of what company to build. It's actually supposed to just get you interested in the customers that would be buying so you can go interview them in a way that doesn't leave the witness that doesn't try to validate a pre existing idea that you have. Instead, it's something that brings them to the table and gets them curious about what pain points people are experiencing, where they're looking for solutions, how valuable it is for them to solve those problems and then it gives them ammo to co create with actual customers. And because of that path, people can reach product market fit or market channel fit or market model fit just a lot faster than they otherwise would if they just stubbornly built their own idea believed that they were some sort of magical visionary, you know, served from the entrepreneurial gods and just kind of stubbornly pursued things until they slowly went broke.

Robert Peterson 25:11
We will be right back after the short break. Are you an entrepreneur who started their business with purpose and passion, only to lose sight of it amidst the daily grind, we understand how frustrating that can be. That's why we're offering free strategy calls to help you gain clarity on the barriers holding you back from achieving your dreams. In just 30 minutes, our experienced coaches will work with you to identify obstacles, and develop strategies for overcoming them. There's no commitment or pressure, just a chance to get some assistance and clarity, human scheduling is easy, simply visit smiling and select a time that works for you. Let's jump on a call and build your business together, it's time for you to add value and achieve your full potential as an entrepreneur. Welcome back, let's get back to more great. That's, it's pretty incredible, the this this getting an idea in your head and then and then perfecting it before you put it out there. And, and getting customer feedback getting feedback from the world about whether or not it's any good.

Travis Steffan 26:18
So yeah, yeah, I think it's, it's, it's very, it's a backwards path. And a lot of people take and I would just say, you know, if anybody wants a huge hack, just forget every idea that you have, find a customer subset with money to spend on solving an important problem. And if they have readily available contact information, that is a win win. And just try to set up as many I mean, the if you have to bribe them with lunch, or something like that, then do it or 100 bucks, but have 20 or 30 of those conversations, do not impose any pre existing ideas that you have on them. Don't listen to your interviews back until you're done with 30 of them, you know, and and then just go back and try to find patterns and figure out how are they describing a problem? Where are they looking for a problem? What problem is it? How valuable is this problem, et cetera, et cetera, follow the path that Sydney Alvarez mocked up in Lean customer development, and it will reveal a faster path to success, I promise.

Robert Peterson 27:18
Yeah, that's, that's incredible, because so many gets stuck in the head, and then the perfectionist side tries to perfect it before they ever put it out there. And the truth is, if you're not willing to experiment, you better be willing to ask your potential customer. So it's, that's, that's pretty powerful. All right. So obviously, scaling, you mentioned, you didn't mention, one of the recommendations is talking about what what is the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when they're struggling to grow their business.

Travis Steffan 27:56
So I think the biggest mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make when they're trying to when they're struggling to grow their business is thinking about things through a linear path. I think, from the perspective of any entrepreneur that has like made any internet searches, they're gonna get retargeted by 1000, different companies that are trying to sell them the greatest, what they say is the greatest thing since sliced bread, which is a very specific methodology, maybe they're driving traffic in a specific way and converting traffic in a specific way in the customer ship. And through that lens, that person is teaching something that they know, and they're marketing it in a way that will get them money. But in terms of positive outcomes, it's all so absurdly dependent on the various details involving any specific business, whether it's the market, the model, the channels, or a product, anything in between. And most companies, or most entrepreneurs skip straight to tactics, and they think that those tactics themselves are the strategy. They believe that okay, well, my strategy for growing this business is just advertising on Facebook and taking all these demos and selling people, right, but it's a linear path that will decay, and it will almost 100% of the time end up in a plateau. And that plateau usually comes before you want it to. So from a growth perspective, the best thing you can do is start with a growth model. And you have to kind of start with with strategy in mind where you have to make sure that the the market, the model, the channel and the product fit, all of them fit each other. You're not just trying to bolt one on later, most of the time people will build a product, they'll say, Okay, well how do we market this? That's way too late. It's way too late to have that conversation. The same thing is true. If you're serving a market that's shrinking, or a market that has been shaken up to the point where they have so many more constraints than then you think they should or if you have a business model that doesn't economically fit the channel that you're optimal. Asking for all these things can completely kill a company before it starts, or at worst case, create a situation where there's just enough traction for the entrepreneur to not move on. And they then are destined to this weird life of scratching and clawing for every single cent for years. And it probably sounds familiar to a lot of people. Because it's a super, super common problem. People don't teach this because most people that are like the gurus out there, they know what they used. And so they think that's the way, right, if you look at any of these agencies that are that are teaching these tactics that are just go in tactics first, you know, they have a vested interest in making you believe that, but like, they're only going to show you the case studies of the 10 or 20% of customers to actually have good outcomes with them, the rest of them will churn and burn. So if you don't start with a growth model that mathematically allows you to plan your business and clearly answers the question, how does this company grow, and you don't match, match that up with a strategy, and then find the tactics that fit inside of it. But at that point, you know exactly why everything exists. And you know, what a good fit needs to be, and you know, to what degree, certain tactics need to perform to fit the overall model. All of those things are things that entrepreneurs should be thinking about otherwise, you know, the main reason that they'll fail to grow is just because they're, they're gambling without knowing they're gambling. And when I say they're gambling, they're, they're saying, let's put all of our eggs into this paid traffic basket, or let's put all of our eggs into this b2c virality basket or this this, like cetera, and closer sales pipeline. Without a strategy, let's just try a bunch of things. And if something works, we'll do more of that and will do less of the other stuff. And it's a, it's a roll of the dice, and there's just a much more deliberate path you can take.

Robert Peterson 31:57
So the deliberate path is developing the growth model, making sure that you have established a strategy first, and then what marketing tactics, what marketing tools fit that growth, strategy.

Travis Steffan 32:10
Marketing is a piece of it. Yeah. So, you know, acquisition is obviously a piece of growth. But you know, within the lens of growth, the foundational element is buyer retention, and the leading indicator of that is engagement. So ensure that you're ensuring that your customers or users are engaged in your product in the way that you think they should, in the way that you're, you've hypothesized that they would be. So detecting what their actual natural usage frequency of the product is. And, you know, being able to have conversations with them as often as possible about why they're, they're behaving the ways that they are. So having a really clear touch point with them as often as possible. And then beyond that, how you're monetizing them is also another huge huge growth lever that often goes underutilized people set their pricing early on and those a stick with it, because it's, it's scary to change it, they're afraid that everyone is just going to cancel in droves in their subscription business, or people just won't buy anymore, because, you know, they're selling a product that other people are selling elsewhere for cheaper, and they've commoditized, and they don't realize it. So through that lens, like being able to view growth is more of a holistic sense. A lot of people mistakenly think that it's marketing, it's not. It's it's actually the way the business grows is yes, bringing more people through the front door. But it's also ensuring that more people can fit inside the building once you bring them through the front door and don't want to leave. And then once they're inside, they're paying you, you know what, what value indicates they should. And as you increase the value over the course of time, the value you're charging also increases as a result. So those things are all true. And those things all need to be paid attention to the foundational metric, though, is buyer retention. So if you have subscription model, that's by far the most important metric for you to solve before you really turn the juice on on your acquisition.

Robert Peterson 34:04
But it was interesting, the price point you mentioned in so many of these decisions entrepreneurs are making in fear rather than intentional plan.

Travis Steffan 34:16
Very true. Yeah. I mean, that's, that describes most of our lives, right? We make most of our decisions based on fear, and not on intentional planning, and how often do we pay the tax for that in life? Right, so. So yeah, at the end of the day, if we're able to create a strategic path, and not think I mean, because oftentimes the biggest changes that entrepreneurs make, they'll make out of financial desperation. And when they make those decisions, they're thinking about things through the long the wrong lens, they're not thinking about how do we add more value to this product? Or how do we capture more value within the customer experience based on the value that we're adding? They're thinking about how can we make money now the other two problems with that One. I mean, there are more than two problems with that. But the two that come to mind are, first and foremost, there are a million ways to make money, right? It's not instructive. It's not deterministic to say, how are we going to do this. So they'll just find a way that doesn't make any sense. And suddenly, you have this cobbled together Frankenstein of a customer journey, because you're just taking random swings. The second one is just things that are a blatant cash grab, things that very clearly don't have value to the customer that relate to the value that they came there for. And through that lens, as well, like customers can smell that a mile away, like they're not going to buy from you because you want their money and you're selling them hard, they're gonna buy it from you, because you're adding something to their life that they can take and transform into more value than their party with. So if you look at it through that lens, all the value you're creating, I like the analogy of a treasure map. Where, if you if I, the easiest sale that I could ever make today for you is if I basically held held up a $20 bill, and I said, Do you want to buy this for $1? Everyone's gonna say yes, right? If I instead, put a degree of separation there, I said, Actually, I'm going to hide this $20 Bill somewhere in this room, you're not going to find it, unless I give you this treasure map to it. And I'm going to sell this treasure map to you for $1. And then I'm gonna be right there with you every step of the way, as you follow it, I'll answer questions. And you know, I'm gonna make sure that you have a lovely experience, while you follow the dots all the way up to X marks the spot. If you can use that metaphor as a way of describing your product experience, your onboarding, like any of those types of things, it's a much easier way to retain and engage with customers, because you're, it's all focused on the value you're leading them by the hands to get rather than the value you're capturing too often. Do we get people in the door as entrepreneurs at companies that we start, and once we have the money from the prospect, we kind of just give them a completely different experience, and they're upset and leave? So that's, that's a that's a huge mistake. And it's going to tank every single business if they do that.

Robert Peterson 37:20
I think I don't know. I feel like Matt is latest little blue check with a for a monthly payment this is feels to me like a cash grab. Because they've charged more than my identity protection for across all systems to secure my identity in a better way.

Travis Steffan 37:39
Yeah, it's an it's an interesting case that one because it's if you're able to buy verification, for example, if they started that feature early on in the process, it would have easily failed, because there's so much indoctrination over the last decade plus, and what those little checkmarks meant, it probably will be a successful cash grab, at least for the next couple of years. Because of the fact there's so much buyer psychology wrapped up in that blue checkmark. If people see that, and they associate it with fame and credibility. It's kind of like the digital footprints of having like letters after your name and your credentials. So if you think about, if someone has like MD after their name, suddenly you can be prescriptive in your advice. And people will just listen to you. I mean, like if I were a doctor, Robert, I could basically if you came and you had some sort of an ailment, I would basically write you a prescription, I would say go to your pharmacy and give this to them and buy it. You would walk past 20 different solutions in the aisles leading up to that pharmacy that would get you the exact same outcome. But because I had those letters after my name, because I had those credentials, you're just going to do exactly what I say?

Robert Peterson 38:55
Well, the worst part, the worst part in my mind is when those doctors say something that's very opinionated, and, and about your body and what what's happening with your body, that your brain hears that message and acts exactly as if what that doctor said is going to come to come to fruition and your brain aligns with whatever opinion that doctors given about how your body's going to react, oh, you're you're gonna feel terrible when you get home today after this shot, or you're you're gonna die in six months. And and people people take that to heart in their mindset gravitates onto that truth because of that white suit. And because of that MD, and those are the most dangerous words in my mind. And I think people need to be freed from that authority and freed from that reality. And if you understand how powerful mindset is you understand how powerful the stories we tell ourselves are and helping people free themselves from that. You're so powerful.

Travis Steffan 39:59
Yeah, it'd be lovely to be able to, like have everyone in the world kind of you take a more objective look at certain things that they're prescribed from any expert, whether it's a doctor or otherwise, because many, many gurus out there that are seen as experts that have these credit, this credibility of the people who previously were able to earn those blue checkmarks. They know what they've seen in their life. And a lot of them have had very narrow paths, very narrow paths to walk, maybe they took a swing and hit one out of their Park, one out of the park in their very first entrepreneurial venture. So they think that they know, the way right. And if you haven't had several at bats, and you haven't struck out a few times, and you haven't, you know, hit a couple home runs along the way. I know I'm using a lot of baseball metaphors, I'm not even a huge baseball fan. It's very strange. Anyway. I think that it's it's dangerous to just blindly accept things. Without getting curious. I think a lot of the smartest people I know, have the strong opinions loosely held frame. I do think there's a lot of utility in having experts that we can lean on. But I also think that there's an overuse of some of that. And I think that it's going to cause a very interesting dynamic with these like for sale blue checkmarks. Because now I think the real interesting thing is going to be how our basic users treated versus ones that just thought it was really dumb to pay $12 A month or 14. So

Robert Peterson 41:31
Right? Well, if it's a marketing expense, most companies just because obviously we're gonna pay 12 bucks a month and get the checkmark because then we have the suppose that authority, you know, at what point at what point in the next three to three years, does the blue checkmark become meaningless? Because well, any moron can buy it?

Travis Steffan 41:50
Yeah, true. I mean, it has to inevitably happen. I don't know if it will happen, you know, quickly or slowly or what but But inevitably, it will no doubt happen that you know, that one particular piece of status will will lose a little steam.

Robert Peterson 42:07
So Travis, what, what has been the biggest challenge for you and in your growth as an entrepreneur?

Travis Steffan 42:14
Well, I would say it's probably one that will feel similar to a lot of other entrepreneurs experiences, is based on everyone that I've chatted with over the years, almost all of us feel like we have a very similar approach to this one thing, and it's feeling as though you should be further along than you are based on the knowledge that you have, and the experience that you've have, no matter who it is almost 100% of the time, there's no I would say 99.9% of the time, people are like, I don't understand why I'm just upset, or I am disappointed that I'm not further along in this journey than I actually am. Because in our minds, we don't necessarily think about all the things that we don't know are the things that will go wrong, it's this very wonderful blueprint that pops up. The other point 1% that I've met, feel that they have no business being as successful as they are. So it's a very interesting dichotomy. I haven't yet met anyone in the middle. The people that that are, you know, feel like they have no business being as successful as they are, are usually people who who know very clearly I was in the right place at the right time. And I'm not really a whole heck of a lot smarter than a lot of the other entrepreneurs that I know, that maybe have 1% of my wealth or something along those lines, right. But it's only people that have had the earth shattering outcomes. You know, and I remember hearing this specific story actually from from Dustin Moskovitz of all people. And, you know, it was I want to say it would have been 2016 Something along those lines. Early 2016 Actually, it was the moment in time, where the people who were still in the inner circle at Facebook, they knew what the outcome of the election was going to be far before election day, just because they saw the effectiveness of, of the advertising on the platform, which was just deterministic, like the degree to which that was occurring. They knew and most of the world did not know. And so it was it was a an interesting period of time and interesting couple of conversations that we had, but I remember in that conversation, him saying, you know, I, I feel that you know, I've been gifted a lot of this success because I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. And all I can do now is just do the best that I can based on what I've learned. And you know, use the this abundance to make the world a better place. Now, most people aren't in that position. Most people have the opposite experience. You know, if you listen to I mean, for me, I know I listen to interviews with like Mark Zuckerberg, and I'll say when I feel like intellectually, you know, we're close. Sir, then, then I thought we were you know, and but what? Oh, and I mean, he'll, if you listen to his interviews, he'll be the first one to say it. He says, like, it shouldn't have been us, like, there are all these factors that should have crushed us. But like, it should not have been us that that came out with this specific sensation. And then by the time people paid attention, it was too late. So, you know, it's a long way of saying, the vast majority of entrepreneurs, especially the ones listening to this will have the same feeling, I feel like I should be further along than I am. And I think that our ability to cope with that belief is a huge factor in what comes next for all of us. Because there are two ways that you can go, you can go up from there, you can go down from there, you can either wallow in that belief, and say, Okay, this is it's just not fair. Right? You know, I feel like I should be running a massive, super huge organization, or whatever it is. Or you can get curious and say what has, you know, not allowed me to develop in the way that I think that I should have and, you know, take really appropriate action, effectively, it's growth hacking yourself, in a lot of ways.

Robert Peterson 46:21
All right, Travis, what do you love to do outside of building, scaling, selling?

Travis Steffan 46:28
Honestly, I'm a, I hate to say it like this, I'm kind of a boring dude, outside of business, I, I give so much of myself to what I do every day, that by the end of most days, I am just exhausted, and I don't want to think I don't want to do anything else. So you know, I'll just go to dinner or, you know, a lot of people will really, really poopoo or talk crap about television. And I watch every Oscar flick every year, you know, because I get really, really inspired by, like, it's just a huge Creative Achievement, whatever one of those people have done. So I it's my favorite form of art to appreciate. And I get really inspired every time I see things like that. So like film, and like kind of any caliber television is also something that I enjoy, because I can get lost in a story, turn the Idea Factory between my ears off for a short period of time. And also in that same way any of my leisure activities provide that same experience, by the way. So you know, going into an escape room, I'm thinking about something else. If I'm getting a massage, I'm not thinking about anything, right? Those those types of things are the things that I really, really love. Some people really in their downtime, maybe like to be around other entrepreneurs and talk about business more Actually, don't I, I'm talking about it all day long. I'm obsessed with it to the degree that it consumes the vast majority of my waking hours. So in the ones where I don't have to focus there, I purposefully won't, because I know that that's a recipe for burnout for me.

Robert Peterson 48:02
Nice. All right, Travis. Typically, we end every episode with our guests sharing their words of wisdom. So Travis, what would your words of wisdom to those entrepreneurs listening be?

Travis Steffan 48:13
Get curious. And definitely don't get married to your own ideas. I would say follow the scientific method as often as you can, doesn't mean just try things and frame them as experiments randomly, it means create a problem statement, create hypotheses that are meant to explain your problem statement, and then go run tests to validate or invalidate those hypotheses that are birthed from your problem statement. And if you dovetail that in with creating a an awesome growth model, fantastic, you know, so all those things should be present in basically every entrepreneurs life, it's more or less, you know, what I do every day, now I help entrepreneurs, build their growth models build their growth strategy, and oftentimes our you know, myself or other people in our organization will actually run their growth teams. And so that's, that's something that I love. I mean, we work with the biggest accelerator programs in Silicon Valley. We work with a lot of different VCs, on doing this with their portfolio companies. And then just growing brands that don't have a current growth team or a great leader on their growth team will come to us and we basically provide that. So we train growth leads, and we place growth leads, sometimes like I'll personally act as a fractional growth lead in certain companies, which is always super, super fun. Because I can just dig into somebody else's pre existing business and just get really fascinated really quickly. So anybody who's interested in growth in general, you know, you're not going to find a whole heck of a lot about us on online at this point, because there's even without a website, there's just more demand than we are able to consume. But folks that reach out to me You know with with some details about their business, some some of them sometimes we opt to work with.

Robert Peterson 50:07
Nice. Well, Travis, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing so much wisdom and an encouragement I think for growing and scaling and exiting businesses.

Travis Steffan 50:17
My pleasure.

Robert Peterson 50:20
Thank you for tuning in to this episode brought to you by the power of intentional decisions that lead to massive action. Those aren't just buzzwords. They're qualities that can help you take control of your life and build a successful business. To support you on this journey, we're offering you our most popular survey help you establish a baseline visit enjoy biz to check it out and take the first steps towards changing your life and we often make things more complicated than they need to be losing sight of what's truly important. This tool will help you refocus on what matters most, so that you can start doing the things you've always wanted to do, like spending quality time with loved ones. And if you enjoyed this episode, please show us some love by liking, subscribing, or leaving a review, but most importantly, share it with someone who needs to hear it. In our next episode, Robert has a casual conversation with author and creator David Donaldson. David has taken his experience in working in a hospital with patients on the spectrum, both verbal and nonverbal, and saw a need for affordable comfort and stimulation type toys. He created a line of dragons that not only met his need, but are the main characters and stories that represent our children. Adults can deal with real life situations.