#45 Why I started 2 SaaS Companies during a Pandemic.

Do you believe in what you’re doing in your business with all your heart? In this episode Ben discusses how 2 passion projects turned into life missions and how those 2 SaaS companies were built from the ground up during the first months of the global pandemic.

Links from the Episode:

  1. Customer Engine (our new text marketing platform).
  2. Social Rotation (our social media scheduling platform)


Episode Transcription:

Hello, loyal Serial Progress Seeker listener. I hope you’ve been doing well. I realize it’s been a little bit since we recorded the last podcast and I apologize. I have been extremely busy with a few projects and I’ve been putting everything I have into them and getting them to a point where I have time to come do this again. This is what we would call a return episode where I’m going to catch you up on what I’ve been doing. I think you’re going to have a good time with it because I’ve got some cool lessons inside and I think you’re going to find sort of where I’m going with my business and my lifestyle during the pandemic, but also setting up for after the pandemic. I think you’re going to find it interesting.

Dear listener, welcome back. I hope you’ve been well since we last spoke and I am excited to get into this pod and a lot of the upcoming topics that we have in upcoming episodes. Without any further ado, let’s do a little bit of an update. Let’s get to know each other again. Let’s dive in and let’s do it.

It’s good to be back and I want to tell you about some things that I’ve been doing during the pandemic and that we actually started before the pandemic started and how we sort of got into building two new companies, two big companies during a very interesting time in all of our lives. What I’m going to talk to you about today is two companies that I built, why we built them, where they came from, and why the pandemic really put them into a spot that I knew I had to push even harder, and so let’s talk about this.

If you followed this podcast for the last 44 episodes or so, then you know kind of how I got started. I got going with my business as a chiropractor and really quickly realized that I had just really created myself a job, not really created a business, and so I got into more online marketing with helping other businesses and realized once again I had created myself a job to help businesses kind of grow with marketing. Not a job that I minded, but it was a job nevertheless. Then, along the way I said, “You know what? It would be cool if I could tell the stories of all of these cool things that we were doing to grow businesses and turn those into products and books and things like that.”

I turned that into a business that was really all about teaching and that blew up, but you get to a point to where you realize, once again, you’ve just created yourself another job, and so a lot of my digital business had a lot to do with me being a salesperson all of the time. Now, I love sales, don’t get me wrong. It’s one of my favorite things to do, but when you’re constantly having to sell to keep things going, it’s not a big deal.

Right around… This is hard to tell. This is interesting. Right around the end of 2018, I had been a part of a partnership. I had invited someone to come into my company to help me grow it and it was good there for a little while, and then it wasn’t good anymore. No fault of anybody I don’t really think, other than the fact that it just was not a relationship that was working anymore. End of 2018, I started the process of ending this partnership, and it took like a whole year to end the partnership, which took me to the end of 2019. Right around November, I knew my partnership with this person was finally going to be worked out and come to an end and everybody was going to have a happy-ish ending, as happy as an ending as you can when you have to end something and not everyone necessarily sees eye to eye at the end, and that’s okay.

We come to the end of it and I realized I don’t want to do what I’m doing anymore. I’d come to a place in my business where I felt like I had taught the majority of everything that I wanted to teach, and a lot of the new things that I was coming up with was me reteaching what I taught before. There’s nothing wrong with that. We helped a lot of people doing that because every time we sell a product or sell a book or write a blog post, even if it’s a rehash or improvement upon an old version, somebody gets helped and I realize that.

I was getting old and so I decided it was time to start looking for sort of the next thing for me, and where I landed on that was something that I had always enjoyed that I had had in the past was software. Instead of just teaching people how to do something, build a tool for them to actually do it. That got me into software as a service, or SaaS. For those of you that are not familiar with SaaS platforms, it’s basically in its best form, at least in my opinion, is when you have a piece of software that someone logs into online and they pay you to use it. They continually pay you, so it’s not something they pay one time. Typically, they pay monthly or every quarter, whatever. There’s a recurring theme to keep using the software that is valuable in their life.

For me, I had taught a lot of things, but the next step for me was to build some tools for people based on the things that I had been teaching for the last two or three years that made it easier. I went looking. I went looking for people. Coming out of a partnership, I didn’t want to be in sort of the place where I was soured on all partnerships because one partnership ended, so I started looking for people that would be a good co-founder for SaaS platforms. I came on two people that I had known for years and really loved and respected. I started talking to them about some projects we could put together.

I want to tell you about these two SaaS platforms, and sort of interwoven into this story is COVID-19 and what everybody had to go through with all of that and what we went through as software builders. Kind of how both of these partnerships worked was I had ideas, they had ideas. I was going to be the marketing arm of the company because I’m sales and marketing. That’s kind of my thing being a teacher, how to use the software, but also gives a lot of feedback into the growth and development of these platforms, too. All of the ideas were shared, but having a touchpoint into what was built was incredibly important to me because there’s a couple of big things that I knew.

I guess you’ve got to understand my history. Over the last few years, what I’ve taught in my business, because this is what I learned way back when I was a chiropractor, is there’s two core things that really grow a business. Number one, you have to let people know that you’re still around every day. In terms of what I’ve taught the last few years is social media’s a great way to do that. Even if you’re not making direct sales from your Facebook page or your Twitter page, letting people know you’re still there when they come to check in is big.

That’s why posting on your social profile, whether you realize it or not, is so big because every single day you’ve got somebody that’s a potential customer coming to your site just to see, “Hey, you’re still there.” Whether they’re an existing customer or a new one, they’re checking in on you, and if the last time you posted was six months ago, does not bode well because they are going to judge what’s going on inside of your business based on what they see on your social profile. For the last, shoot, 10 years, I’ve been teaching people you have to have content on your social media and you have to have a system to do it so it doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day. That was on big thing and I knew that was going to turn into something, and we’ll get into that in a second.

The next thing is building a list and marketing to that list. Most businesses when you first get started, your whole ballgame is, “How am I going to get new customers? What’s the marketing plan to get new customers?” As you go, one of the things you realize is that it’s much cheaper to continue to get your existing customers to come back more often and to spend more with you every time they do come in. Building a list of customers and being able to reach those customers on demand rather than having to put up a billboard or just depend on a Facebook Ad, being able to reach your customers, your best ones on demand, that’s another big thing that I’ve taught for years that’s super important.

When it came time to build a couple of SaaS platforms, each of these partners were different and it was two different companies. One, we decided to build a text marketing platform, and the reason the text marketing platform was so important to me was because specifically I wanted to help out restaurants. Now, this is before the pandemic hit, so you can see where this is going, but I knew a lot of restaurants out there were doing amazing things. They were depending on their location to much and I’ve been seeing this for years. It’s people depending on location too much, depending on how things always worked, word of mouth, and not being aggressive.

With restaurants, what I wanted to do is I really wanted to build a text marketing platform that if somebody came in and they loved your stuff, they could sign up for something, maybe get a coupon. Maybe they just wanted to hear about what was going on, but it would give the restaurant the ability on a slow day to send a text message to a hundred, 500, 5,000 people at once and say, “Hey, we’ve got this special. Come in.” It really takes the model of being in a restaurant and it sort of takes it to the next level.

Of course, the pandemic hits and that becomes something even bigger because let’s say you have to shut down or you have to close your dining room or you’re having limited hours, being able to reach your customers quickly and not just through a social media profile or with an ad is key. That was one of the ideas and something we would build and we called a Customer Engine. That was SaaS platform number one.

SaaS platform number two was something called Social Rotation. Over the last five to 10 years really, I’ve been teaching people, “You got to post on your Facebook page. You got to post on your Twitter.” You have to get social posts out there, but the way that we were using all of these other apps to do this and the way they pulled it off was not my favorite. I wanted to be able to have a social platform that I could sit down and within five to 10 minutes, I could have an entire year’s worth of social content done, whether I was working with a chiropractor or dentist, my own personal brand, whatever, but be able to sit down on a couple hours tops one afternoon and plan your entire social media calendar and have it work and always have something going live for the entire year was big. Nobody was really giving me the tools to do that.

Finally, I tried and tried and I probably tried 10 different social platforms over the years to manage my stuff. I finally decided, “Let’s just build something and do it the way that we want to,” and so Social Rotation was born. These were the things that we did. November 2019, I started thinking about these things and I started establishing things, and as we get into 2020, we start building. Then, March 16th, we’re hearing rumblings of this virus that’s happening and March 16th is when it really starts to hit home.

For those of you that know me, you know I’m a big basketball person and I’m a big NBA person. I remember I was sitting down to watch basketball games the night of the 16th or roundabouts there and I was watching the Utah Jazz getting ready to play because one of my favorite players from Memphis had been traded to Utah a little earlier the season before, so he was now a player there.

I was sitting down to watch it and I remember watching this and a referee runs onto the court, or actually it was doctors run onto the court and talks to the referees. They said, “Hey, one of these players has this.” I remember getting on our Slack channel, and for those of you who don’t know what Slack is, it’s just an internal communication tool that my company uses and a lot of companies use that are mostly online-based. I remember getting on and telling everybody, “Tomorrow, the world’s going to change.” I had a lot of people kind of laugh at me. My company, we’re not a big company, but I had a lot of people like, “Okay, Ben’s being overly dramatic,” but I felt it. I felt that the world was going to shift and, sure enough, the next couple of weeks things were very, very different.

We started down this path that we’ve been on for the last eight months. I remember talking to both of my partners because these are individual companies. I called them both up and we had to have the conversation. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. Should we continue to move forward with building these brand new platforms? That was tough because both with Social Rotation and Customer Engine, they cost a lot of money to build.

There was a lot of money coming out of my pocket, out of my partners’ pockets, for us to build these platforms from the ground up. There was a lot of work that needed to be done. There was a lot of time that needed to be dedicated, and then here we are in the middle of one of the biggest economic uncertainties of our time. Anybody that can see the writing on the wall knew that it was going to get interesting, and here we are. We had to make a decision, and in both companies we decided, we looked at what we had, and we asked ourselves a very simple question. It was this. “Is the world better with Social Rotation in it from a business standpoint? Is this something that’s going to help businesses to get back on their feet?” Yes.

“Is the world better with Customer Engine in the world, our text marketing platform, and the unique ways that we’re going to do text marketing? Is the world better with this in it? Can it help people get back on their feet? Can it help businesses be healthier in the future so that if something like this ever happens again, no matter what happens, they have the ability to adapt to it faster than what we’re seeing right now?” The answer was absolutely yes, and so we kept pushing. Lots and lots of money went into these platforms over the next little bit. It was not comfortable. Not that we didn’t have money saved to do this kind of stuff, but it was not comfortable. On top of that, we had other things that we were doing, other projects at the time and it was scary, but we went through.

What we started seeing… From right now, we launched about three and a half months ago and what we’re seeing is exactly what we thought. We’re seeing businesses start to use both Social Rotation and Customer Engine for the exact reasons that we built them for, which was to not ever be put in the position again where they couldn’t reach their customers on the band. To not ever be put into a position where they had to worry about social posting again so that they would be visible, but they could sit down on a Saturday when they weren’t at work and plan things out.

That’s the thing both with Social Rotation and with Customer Engine. It’s very interesting. With Social Rotation, you could sit down in the afternoon, have your entire year’s worth of social posts, and just because of the unique way that we kind of pulled this off, have everything ready to go for your business. With Customer Engine, you can literally sit down, preplan all of your text marketing a year in advance, and even though someone opted in today so they requested to be on your text list, maybe someone opts in six months from now. Your plan still is in place because you’ve got these posts out there.

What we’ve started to see the last little bit is the vision that we had before the pandemic of, “Can these tools help businesses in a way that no tool out there does sort of what they do? Can it help them in a way that those things can’t?” The answer was yes, but more importantly, once the pandemic started, does that make what we’re doing even more important? Yeah, the answer was absolutely yes.

If I had to come down to a lesson before I get into some of the other stuff, a lesson here is this. If you’re going to do something, do it because you believe in it with all of your heart. Otherwise, when it comes time to sell it, it’s going to be difficult. When I go to say, “Hey, you should sign up for Customer Engine. You should sign up for Social Rotation,” it’s difficult for me to do that if I don’t believe in it a hundred percent. Honestly, if I hadn’t believed in it 110%, we would have never built these things with the things that were going on around us.

I just have to say if you really are thinking right now, “Well, I want to build something,” or, “I want to start a company,” you damn well better believe in it and you better be ready to go. I look around right now, getting out of my businesses that I started here, I look around at a lot of friends that have started businesses during this pandemic because what they were doing kind of went away and they build some amazing things. It’s because they really believed in it. They had a little bit of time. Things were changing, so they had that sort of catalyst to get started and it’s been amazing. I’m going to try to bring on some of these friends in the next little bit on the podcast just to kind of introduce you and tell their stories. That’s thing.

Now, my goals with these platforms are simply this. Our goals are to take these unique ideas because posting on a social media site is not new and having tool schedule it is not new. Having a text marketing platform is not new, but we sat down and looked at everything that existed out there and we were trying to do things a certain way and none of the tools fit what we were trying to do, so we built them. My goals with these platforms are at this point we’ve got them up and live, doing the things that we were doing before in a way that we couldn’t with the existing tools. That’s awesome, but now, we’ve got users within these, too, because we launched them to a beta set of users and we’ve got people every single day that are telling us what they want.

We can’t build every feature that someone wants because it doesn’t fit into the vision of what we’re trying to do, but the powerful thing that I’ve realized is is when you really let smart people come into your stuff and use it, they’ll teach you things that make your platform better if you know how to listen. My goals with these platforms is simply this. In the next little bit, the income that comes in with these platforms is set to completely replace the income that we were making with everything that we were doing before. As I said, the way that I’m doing things is changing and I didn’t want to keep going down the path of teaching the same things over and over again in a different sort of way.

I wanted to have a business that it was even more so what this podcast was started about, which is how to run a really successful business from a backpack. Having SaaS platforms absolutely allows us to do that even more than if I have to be in front of the computer teaching on a webinar all of the time or doing webinars to sell things all of the time. Not that webinars to teach and sell aren’t big parts of these SaaS platforms, but portability.

Just to give you a little behind-the-scenes, since I’ve started these companies, sort of my makeup of how I work has even changed. I have gone even more to a laptop and carrying it around in a backpack and having it be portable. Instead of having to sit in front of a desktop all of the time, that’s big. Right now, I have my laptop sitting in an office where I’m hooked up to a monitor and speakers and all of that, but I have actually set this up in a way where everything’s portable. Even the microphone and the audio interface that I’m using to do this podcast is now designed to sit in a backpack and go with me.

I told you guys way back when we first started this podcast, the journey was based on a mission, and that mission was to take what I had, find the problems in it. We have a multi-million-dollar business, but there are things about it that don’t fit the lifestyle that I want for myself as I grow older. This is sort of been the next step for us and I’ve already seen the results in terms of how we’re running these companies and what we’re getting out of them. That’s been really, really exciting and powerful, and so it’s been fun. It’s been really, really interesting.

What I want to do is this podcast, I’m going to continue to give you a lot of what I’ve been doing in terms of work, lifestyle, those things, business, of course. There’ll always be marketing lessons. I’m going to continue to keep you guys in the loop about Social Rotation, Customer Engine. I told you guys a while back about something called Lead Kit, which had to turn into MeetRoost. We had to rename there and I’ll keep you posted on some of the things that we’re doing with that, but these two core platforms that I’m working on right now, I really believe in them and I’m really having fun with them.

More importantly than anything, and this is something that if anybody wants to know more about this I’d be glad to tell you, I have built a team around these things. The work doesn’t stop if I need to take a break and I think that’s super important and the structure that we’ve built into these companies and these startups, it’s been interesting.

I hope that you’ve pulled some interesting lessons out of that today as I keep telling the story of Social Rotation and Customer Engine and how they’re growing and what we’re doing to grow those, and trust me, I’ll get more specifics. I think there’s a lot of value in teaching that, and even the things that don’t work, there’s a lot of value in that. As we go down those paths, I’m excited to keep you in the loop on those things and hopefully a little more regularly you guys will be hearing from me because of these two platforms because it’s opened up my time to do this. I hope you’ll follow along and ask questions.

One more quick thing I need to talk about before we go, if you have happened upon serialprogressseeker.com in the last little bit, maybe you have been there before, but in the last little bit we have revamped it to fit this podcast more, to be easier to listen to the podcast direct from there if you happen to be sitting on the computer. Of course, you can always listen to us in all of the great places that you listen to podcasts, whether it be Spotify or Apple, Google Podcasts, whatever it is that you happen to use. You can always listen to us there, but also check out serialprogressseeker.com. You can check out, of course, every episode of the podcast with transcriptions and notes, but also there’s a lot of other key extras that we put up there that I think you’ll enjoy, so make sure you go check it out.

All right, that’s it. I will keep you in the loop. These two new SaaS platforms, as I said, they were important when we started coming up and started building them, but when the pandemic really started to hit because they were so focused on local businesses, they became incredibly important to me. I think about back when I was a chiropractor, what would I have needed to help grow my businesses? Digital things, digital tools, these are the ones that I wish I would have had.

I’m going to keep you posted on how those companies are growing, but also how we’re helping small businesses with these tools. I’m going to mess this up a lot. I understand that. I’m going to mess this up a lot and there’s going to be a lot of good things that we do, but a whole lot more bad things. I’m going to try to keep you in the loop on all of those things and transparent with all of that because I think for me, that’s the kind of stuff that I like to listen to and hopefully you do, too.

Okay, so I’m not going to take anymore of your time. I hope you enjoyed listening to the podcast. Thank you so much for being back with me and I look forward to hitting you up with some new cool stuff. I have a bunch of episodes sitting here in front of me planned ready to come out of the door, so stay tuned. I think you’re going to like what I’ve got coming for you and some of the fun stories, the lessons, and a real behind-the-scenes look of how this multi-million-dollar business is growing every single month, even when I screw something up terribly.

All right, I hope you’re good. Make sure that you leave us a review on iTunes. If there’s a specific episode that you liked, let us know. Leave us a star review wherever you happen to be listening. Give us a text review. That’s always very powerful and, just like I said, you can find more at serialprogressseeker.com. All right, Ben Adkins here. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.

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