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People Process Interviews: Jacob Baddsgaard
Episode 720th January 2020 • People Processes • Rhamy Alejeal
00:00:00 00:39:41

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the people processes podcast. I'm your host, Rhamy Alejeal and I am excited today to welcome Jake Baddsgaard.

He is an amazing entrepreneur. After growing one of his first pay-per-click clients from 25 to 250 employees, Jake realized that he had a gift for using Pay-per-Click marketing to drive dramatic business results. To help more companies succeed online. Jake found a disrupted IV advertising, PPC and CRO management agency that has helped hundreds of companies realize unprecedented growth and profitability from online advertising.

Of course, as an HR channel, though we're more interested in that. In the last six years since its founding, disruptive advertising has grown from two employees working in Jake's basement to a flourishing agency with more than 160 employees and a run rate of over 20 million, puts it at number 145 on the 2017 inc 500 list and is listed as one of USA today's best places to work in Salt Lake City in 2019. So we're ecstatic to have you here, Jake. Thanks for coming on.

Thanks for having me, Rhamy.

Well Jake, on a lot of kids don't necessarily dress up as marketing guys and business owners when they're eight years old, you got to tell me, how did you wind up getting into this industry?

You know, you're right. I never did dress up as a marketing agent, right? Well, and how many of our businesses were even around when we were kids, right? Like, this is a whole new world. It's interesting that you asked that question because there's probably a trillion things that happened that ultimately led to where I'm at today. And I look back from the first job I had when I was eight years old. The first business idea I tried to execute on at a young age. Ultimately I would probably almost pin it down to the moment that I experienced in my corporate career. Before going down this entrepreneurial path, which I kind of just had realized, that moment in an annual performance review where I realized I will no longer have the growth as a person. Professionally or financially that I'm looking for from here. It was my moment of either choosing to settle or choosing to move on and, and to create that environment for myself. I would say, that was probably more of the real moment that kind of catapulted me down the path that I'm on. I was realizing that I wasn't gonna find the fulfillment I was looking for in life if I didn't take that chance. Unfortunately, my wife was supportive in that decision.

Yup. A good partner is everything, isn't it? Yeah. Well, you've been in business a while and of course you've grown to a very successful company with a great revenue and good employees. But a lot of our listeners are in an earlier phase of their company. They're still about maybe bridging out on their own or they're part of a larger organization. I think a lot of them kind of get caught up in thinking about what success looks like. But it's the failures along the way that teach us the most. So I always ask my guests to share with us their largest entrepreneurial mistake, failure, really, really, really bad day. And tell us that actual story, like what happened and how'd you feel and how did it come about? And then we'll talk a little bit about what our listeners can learn from it.

Yeah. Well, you know, when you asked that question, I imagined myself holding a scroll with all of the failures that I've had as an entrepreneur and like opening that up, letting it drop to the floor, and it just keeps rolling. Right? It's the hardest thing for every entrepreneur I ask. Yeah. It's hard. It's a journey of ups and downs, but, I want you to think of your worst one.

Well, let's just go ahead and get personal on this one. A lot of this becomes more in focus with a little bit of hindsight in perspective. And what I realized at what probably the biggest failure that I had, and I'll relate this to a specific experience that I went through. The illusion that finding success as an entrepreneur would fill my cup. Filling self value, build my esteem, giving me the success and fulfillment that I was looking for in life that would help me get to some level of easy street with lots of money and would solve all my problems. And finding success with meaning. Yeah. And so when I saw that turned into a failure and how that manifested in my relationship with my wife and with my kids as well, but primarily with my wife. It wasn't until two to three years into the business where we were just at a sink. It felt harder than it needed to be. We found a good marriage counselor that we were working with, because of course, Rhamy, this wasn't my problem. This was my wife's problem.

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll see a counselor if you're all right. Yeah.

And you know, it was really interesting. I'll never forget that moment where we were sitting down together and we'd had some productive sessions and read some good books together and we're making some progress. But, I didn't have that epiphany moment. Until one day we were sitting there and he was asking something about the business and it was doing well and kind of asking some questions and saying, Oh, that's great. Like, what is your business partner? I think about that. I said it wrong and I answered it wrong. And I said, what do you mean? I don't have a business partner. And, and he said, Oh, you don't? And he looked at my wife and he looked back at me and then he just continued on.

The moment where I've got to tell you, it just hit my, my heart, my mind and my soul, like a ton of bricks in realizing that I didn't see my wife as a partner, right. Like not only in the business but in most aspects of life. And it actually had nothing to do with her. It had to do with the insecurities that I had and that I needed to over-inflate the value that I was providing from the business success to justify being controlling or manipulative or not being the type of partner that I needed to be and using the business as any sort of justification to feel better about that. You know. No good story doesn't have some resolution or outcome on that. So that was probably what I wanted to say three years ago.

 I remember driving home from that session and just saying, do you feel like I see you and treat you like an equal and having verbalized the answer that I already knew was true. Just really deciding that I needed to make some personal changes there. And what I will tell you Rhamy is, for our 13th anniversary which was this year, we were just having a weekend getaway. And on the drive up I asked her the same question and said, how do you feel in our relationship? Do you feel like I see you and treat you like an equal? And to have that answer come back and say, yeah, I do. I do feel that way now. And this is by far the best year of our marriage so far. Not a little bit, but like a lot of it. Right. So that was probably the one that I would point to in terms of a failure that became very prominent to me. It helped me to learn and grow as a person and a professional.

Well, I appreciate you sharing that. I've done about 150 interviews and you know, the stories that always touch us are the personal ones. They're the ones that really do matter. My biggest failure is that time, I lost that one account and then I turned around and got it back. It's a story I get every now and again. And I'm like, ah, well you haven't been in business long enough yet. It must be the, you know, the big hit. But man, I appreciate you sharing that. For guys and gals who are out there starting up, what would you think maybe they can learn from your story that they could put in place earlier? It's not later. It's not big. It's able to be headed off, right. An ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure.

Yeah. I think really that comes down to whether as an entrepreneur or in whatever relationships that we have. No one or nothing can fill our cups for us. We can only do that for ourselves. The way that I've found more success is liking who I am and feeling that inner confidence. Independent of how my marriage or business or things are going is identifying those daily routines that helped me to be my best self, which are simple things like, silence, visualizations, affirmations, exercise, reading, and doing religiously. Doing those things on a daily basis that allow me to be the person I want to be each day and to fill my own cup so that I don't show up and have unhealthy expectations in my relationship or from the business or really stretched to have things or people fill my cup for me, which is just they can't do. And it's actually pretty unhealthy to expect that. So I would say that , if we can get our head right there and place the focus and energy that can really get us where we want to go and not go down the path that I did, which was trying to solve it in a way that was never really gonna fix it.

Makes total sense. Well, I appreciate you sharing that. So now that you've been through some of those harder times, your wife is happy with you. Again, your company's kicking butt. What's got you most excited in the next six months or so? What are you doing in your company or personally that's got you getting out of bed and super excited?

Well, let's see. Let's do one of each person. Personally, I am training to run a Boston qualifying time for a marathon 90. So that gets me up early. And so that's going well. As a family, we're actually having our fourth child and our first boy, in November. So that's coming up sooner than I think we realized and then as far as the business is concerned, I am just so passionate about some of the programs that we have put together to focus on helping ourselves. Myself included and people in the company with optional programs to help people develop some of the same skills that we just talked about. And so I've actually put together courses around personal leadership and financial development to teach the skills and to create the accountability systems for people and myself to just be great in those areas. And I have just found so much passion in doing that as a company. We've actually had about 65 already go through the first course of personal leadership development and they have graduated from that one to then go through the financial development course. And it's just so exciting to feel like, Hey, we're here to win at life and business together. And so that's what I'm the most excited about right now.

 I saw on your bio of course you've grown this company hugely and it seems like a lot of that has been from these, perhaps a more personal focus on your employees in that manner by investing or training in the personal development or leadership development as you called it, of your employees. What does that actually look like for your employees? What are they participating in that you feel like and what's from a purely pragmatic standpoint, what's the benefit to the company itself for doing that?

Yeah, so it's a 10 week course and it actually has a $500 enrollment cost. So it costs money optional. It's early at 7:00 AM on Monday mornings. If they graduate the class, they get their $500 back as well as a $500 bonus. If they fail to meet the very strict requirements of the class, they have the opportunity to lose their bonus opportunity and their investments. So one big mistake can cost someone 1000 bucks. So there's just some really strong accountability and skin in the game. Interesting. Have you had anybody fail? Yes.

Oh man. All right. Keep rocking. Yeah.

Many, not many but certainly some people have lost their money or their bonus. Unfortunately, a situation or two where people have not been able to make it through the course but very like one or two out of 16 or something at this point. The first portion of the class is purely based on the book called the miracle morning and just developing those good daily habits.

When you earlier said it's those daily, you know, I could hear you saying savers, I was like, I feel like he's saying lifesavers.

Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. Everyone agrees to start doing that. We also agree to how we can use our phones for the 10-week period, which is for nothing other than GPS texts and phone calls. Then everyone has to show their screen time every week to prove how they did demonstrate with their journal and the readings and quizzes and completing the assignments. The next portion of the class is to change the world by changing yourself, not trying to change other people. And we read the book leadership and self-deception by the Arbinger Institute and work and practice on those principles and everyone gets to choose someone in their life to work on that with. And then the third section of the course is developing a life map and getting a better understanding of where they're at and where they'd like to go to with an action plan of creating what's more commonly referred to as a vision board. But I refer to it as a painted picture and creating, Hey, this is how I see myself three years from now and here's what is a part of my present or past that would hold me back from being that person and then getting after it. Right. And so that's how the course works. And then there's a follow up on accountability group for people that want that ongoing accountability. Where about a third to half the people continue to participate in that just ongoing forever after that.

So how do you get any push-back from employees who are saying, look, this is my business. I mean, I guess you're not requiring enrollment in this year. You're actually optional. Do you feel like there are people who maybe don't participate in that? Who would feel somewhat negative or resentful of it or if you've not really seen that? Let me just ask him. We've got a bunch of people out here.

I'm pondering that I haven't gotten that feedback specifically. I mean clearly there's a lot of people that haven't taken it. That's a good question. I don't even have the answer to that and I should probably look into it.

Yeah. We're often involved in wellness programs. Whether that means mental or counseling kind of wellness programs similar to what you're talking about life skills and development or even physical. Let's get you guys to stop smoking or can we help you? Can we pay for six months of Weight Watchers or something? And there are many people who took advantage of those and probably half are people who were already fit or already mentally exploring those ideas. And half of the people who take advantage of really excited about the opportunity, some fail. So I'll make it through and it does move the needle but then, there's up some portion of most populations who probably need it most, but choose not to participate and they feel somewhat cut out of something like right in the right. Like even as simple as a wellness program, you don't have to participate. If you do, we'll give you Amazon gift cards, something like that. And then they say, well, I'm a working mother or I've got no time to do any workouts. I'm never going to go for a walk. This is ridiculous. Something, you know, there's always an excuse, but there's some push-back to it. You haven't seen that in your company,

With these programs specifically? I did get a little bit of push-back because we have a financial course that at the end of it, they put together a six month budget and if they stick to it, we actually contribute an amount to their goal. But, you have to graduate from the class first. I actually did get some push-back from saying, how can we have to take this class first to do that. And I said, well, because I don't trust people that don't have good daily habits to follow through with a budget. So I want to make sure that we're building, you know, step on step. So I got some push-back there. But with context, it felt like it sun-settled relatively quickly. Aaron liner. So I'll have to look into that a little bit. One of our core values here is extreme ownership.

So if you're recruiting the right view from the beginning, then you won't have that issue. Very interesting. I mean, I don't want to use the word paternalistic because it has a negative connotation, but it's a true involvement in your employee's lives that I think a lot of it happens in 5 men, 10 men, 20 men companies, very few hundred men. Companies really have that level of development and involvement in their employees lives. It's very interesting. So what sort of results have you seen? I mean, how's it gone for the 65 people who've gone through there?

Yeah. You know, it's interesting. I think that it's pretty clear that when people develop these types of traits and habits in their life, that it spills very quickly into business success as well as you might imagine that people that have gone through and graduated from the course and now doing the financial courses. I look in the room and I'm like, these are all my performers in the company. It's pretty natural to see that occurring. Here's the thing, I do it because I love the people I work with and I care about them, but I'm also selfish and I do it for myself because I am not the teacher that has it all figured out. I am the facilitator and a participant of those classes. Everything that we review, I am doing myself. I am being accountable to the class, because I want that accountability in my life and I want those things as well. I do it as much for myself as I do for anyone else and I'm okay with that. I think that also helps it to feel a little bit more authentic because I'm not there to teach something that I figured out. I want, Hey, I've got some experiences I'm going to share and let's figure this out together.

Very interesting. I want to transition a little bit. A lot of our listeners and many of my clients, even in the HR space, are in a position where they've grown an operation or service team, a delivery team, but they're still stuck in the owner as the salesperson. And I know that you have had success in transitioning from that model and I'm wondering what sort of insights you can give us on how to actually make transitioning from that founder or owner based sales team to having a sales team.

 Yeah. A high level response...