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Cultivating Superfans: Tyler Stillman's Strategy for Financial Revival Through Relationship Building
Episode 2627th April 2024 • Business Superfans Podcast • Frederick Dudek (Freddy D)
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Episode 26  Frederick Dudek (Freddy D)

Cultivating Superfans: Tyler Stillman's Strategy for Financial Revival Through Relationship Building

In this episode of the Business Superfans podcast, Tyler Stillman , an accounting consultant, shares his journey from high school to earning an accounting degree and his transformative work with a language communications company. He emphasizes the importance of treating contractors well and the positive impact this has on productivity and profitability. Tyler discusses turning contractors into superfans by changing their pay structure, which led to increased productivity and the company's first positive net income in 2023 after several years in negative net income. His strategies positioned the company for a successful sale in 2024. The episode underscores the significance of relationship-building, accurate financial data, and proper invoicing in business success.

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Transcripts

Freddy D:

Tyler Stillman is a dedicated professional with a background

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in accounting and consulting.

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Starting his career in high school under

the guidance of an inspiring teacher, he

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excelled in future business leadership

and went on to pursue a Bachelor's

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degree in Accounting from A.S.U.

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Tyler's journey led him to a company

specializing in communications,

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where he encountered challenges

with contractor relations.

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Through his initiative and leadership,

Tyler transformed the company's approach

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to contractor management, prioritizing

fair treatment and timely payments.

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His strategic changes not only

improved contractor satisfaction

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but also contributed to a positive

impact on the company's bottom line.

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Tyler's focus on building strong

relationships with contractors and

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customers alike has been key to his

success in turning around businesses

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and positioning them for growth.

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Good morning, Tyler Stillman.

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Welcome to the business superfans podcast!

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How are you today?

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Tyler Stllman: Hey, I'm doing fine.

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How about you?

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Freddy D: I'm doing excellent.

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I'm doing excellent.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself,

how you got started into accounting

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and moved into accounting consulting.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes.

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So as I'm an accountant and

a accounting consultant.

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Basically, I started all the

way back in high school where

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I had an amazing teacher.

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His name was Mr.

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Giddings really brought out myself

and really helped me start my career.

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So basically along with that

in high school, I was a part of

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future business leaders of America.

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Really?

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Wow.

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And I ended up going to the

national competition that.

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For FBLA.

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Freddy D: Wow.

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That's amazing.

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Tyler Stllman: Needless to say I

had huge aspirations after that.

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So I went and got my Bachelor's of Science

in Accounting from ASU, and pretty much

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almost immediately after I got my degree,

I got hired by a company that uses

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specialized contractors in communications.

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Freddy D: Really?

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So tell us about that.

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Tyler Stllman: It was very

rough to say the least.

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When I got in there there

was a lot of weird stuff with

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the books, just, it was off.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Tyler Stllman: And I noticed

that these contractors weren't

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the happiest with the company.

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Freddy D: Really?

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So let's talk about that.

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Because as

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Tyler Stllman: independent contractors

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Freddy D: are also the face of a

business and if they're not happy,

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they're not really promoting the

business and in fact, it's the opposite.

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They're, probably talking neutral

at best of that particular business.

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So let's talk about, what did you do to,

get that turned around at that company?

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Tyler Stllman: Yes.

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So in terms of the contractors,

what I didn't really start

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initiating until around a year in.

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To start treating them better because

the owners were very steadfast in

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their approach and I was completely

brand new to the accounting world.

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But then I started growing a

backbone and I created a a document

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to at least put into writing how

we should treat our contractors.

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Freddy D: I think that's important.

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I don't think that, having that organized

and put into a process, a systemized

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process is very important because

otherwise you're just winging it.

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And winging it doesn't work in the long

time, in the long game, I should say.

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Tyler Stllman: Also, word gets

around because these are very

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specialized contractors, word gets

around in their community that

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you aren't doing good by them.

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So one of the very first things that I

needed to realize to make their lives

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better is to give them a little leeway.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Tyler Stllman: Basically, if something

is out of everyone's control, the

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way that the company used to do it is

that contractor would take the hit.

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Freddy D: that's a short view of the

business because you're not creating

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superfans out of those contractors.

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More importantly, you've got the mindset

that you're doing them a favor versus

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them helping build your business.

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Tyler Stllman: Exactly, and when I

realized that, I realized we need to

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give these contractors a little grace.

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Freddy D: That's huge because these

people are going, one to contributing

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to the business because if you didn't

have these particular contractors

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providing the services that they

provide because of their uniqueness,

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that business is out of business.

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Tyler Stllman: Exactly.

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Freddy D: So the contractors is really

the front of the business and is the

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business, so they should be number one in

the business's eyes as we got to take care

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of our team because no team, no business,

especially in that type of a business,

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which is language communications.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes, very much

beforehand It was always company

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first, contractors, second.

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The viewpoint was we would always try

to pay ourselves before we paid them,

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and I realized after half a year to

a year after I created the documents

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that things needed to change even more.

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They need it because the documents were a

step in the right direction, but then we

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needed to actually make even more changes.

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Freddy D: And what were

some of those changes?

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What were the outcomes of

implementing those changes?

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Tyler Stllman: One of the very first

things that we did was we started

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to pay the interpreters more.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Tyler Stllman: It originally started

it originally started out in a weird

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way where we would pay them a month

after the assignment essentially.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Tyler Stllman: So essentially you

do the first two weeks of the month,

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you'll get paid in the first week of

the next month, that kind of thing

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and while people enjoyed getting paid

more, but there were still contractors

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that we didn't use often that were

still waiting a month to get paid.

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Freddy D: Yeah that's a long time

when, you know, especially independent

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contractors, a few hundred dollars in

today's economy is really important.

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Tyler Stllman: Absolutely.

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Absolutely.

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Freddy D: So how did you start converting

these guys into superfans of you, and

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the services that you were providing to

those contractors, and in turn changing

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the bottom line for that company?

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Tyler Stllman: I became much more involved

and talked to the interpreters myself.

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I subsequently, also started

to do some tech stuff.

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To actually get in the

field with interpreters.

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One of the very last things that I did

for the company before I left was I went

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to a interpretation function and actually

got to see interpretation being done live.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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So you started building relationships

with those contractors that

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started to build trust in, in you

in being able to take care of them.

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And so in turn, they became superfans

of not necessarily the company, but

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of you because you had their back.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes, and I always made

sure to let the independent contractors

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know, I know that things were done

differently in the past, but I am

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stopping the bad stuff now going forward.

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I have your back.

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I'm doing my best for you.

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Freddy D: That made a big transformation

into how the contractors related to you

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and started transforming the image that

the contractors had about the company.

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Because now, the company was more

pro contractors and making , and

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had the mind, and the mindset was

changing that this is our front line.

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We need to take care of the front line

versus be grateful we're giving you a job.

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Tyler Stllman: Exactly, and very

much that improved our bottom line,

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because we had more people willing

to do work, and we had more people

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that wanted to do work with us.

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Freddy D: That's huge right there,

that's monster, because again, they're

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independent contractors, so they

don't have to work for that particular

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company because they can sell their

services to anybody else, but if you

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start treating them like you did.

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With respect and appreciation, if they

get two calls and this is company A and

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this is your company, they're going to

say, you know what, Tyler takes care

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of me, he's got my back, I'm going

to do Tyler, I'm going to go for the

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project that his company's requesting.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes, and one thing I

actually did realize after we made the

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change in pay is we needed to be better.

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We needed to break the mold of

the type of business we was in.

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I decided, you know what these contractors

need to be paid every two weeks and that

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affected our bottom line for a little

bit, because when I decided that we needed

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to make this change, I made it pretty

much immediately with the approval of

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my manager, of course, because we needed

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Freddy D: Sure, and how was that received

by the, these independent contractors?

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Tyler Stllman: We had an independent

contractor actually leave us

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when she found out she would have

to wait a month for her money.

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I got in contact with her saying,

Hey, we actually changed everything.

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Would you be willing to come back to us?

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She said yes, of course I would.

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Essentially you're treating

me like a human now, and so

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she came back to work with us.

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Freddy D: That's important.

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So kudos to you for, bringing

back an independent contractor

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back to that company.

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It's right because employees

were paid bi weekly.

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But you're, you had these independent

contractors, That are dependent

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upon being paid timely, because

again, they're not getting a salary.

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They're getting hourly

wage but, for assignment.

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It's paramount that they get paid timely.

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Tyler Stllman: Exactly, and, of course,

along with that, I made a few minor

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changes, like just changing everyone

to be paid at a minimum of two hours.

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Even if their previous stuff was an hour

minimum for on site stuff, and everyone

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started getting happier with the company.

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Freddy D: You started changing the

culture of the independent contractors.

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In the sense that you were, turning

them into superfans for the company

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because now the company was in turn

respecting them and showing appreciation

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and gratitude by, at a minimum, paying

them timely on a regular basis and

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creating a regularness for the payments.

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Tyler Stllman: Absolutely.

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Freddy D: So how did that affect

the bottom line of the company?

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Let's talk about that.

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Those payments to those independent

contractors affect the bottom

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line compared to when you started

working with that company?

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Where was the bottom line at?

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Tyler Stllman: When I started working at

the company, the bottom line was through

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the floor we had really bad years.

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The prior like three years.

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Freddy D: Negative income,

not positive income.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Tyler Stllman: When we started making

these changes with our workforce,

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our contractors one of the very

first noticeable changes was one, we

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were getting more assignments done.

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So more assignments meant more money

and more money meant more profit and

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more profit It means, went straight up.

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Freddy D: So, let me rephrase that in a

sense that, because now that you started

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paying the contractors on a regular basis,

the contractors were more willing to do

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assignments versus saying, Oh no, I'm not

available and whatever the excuses that

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they had to say, yeah, I'm willing to do

this and the company was able to fulfill

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more assignments, which in turn started

to affect the bottom line from a negative

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net income to, in the time that you were

there to becoming a positive net income.

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Tyler Stllman: Absolutely.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Now, what are the other things that you

did that you found in the books that, also

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affected the income because of the fact

that things were not properly categorized?

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Tyler Stllman: Yes.

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So stuff wasn't properly

categorized, stuff wasn't properly

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done in the proper months.

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So basically we were working

on information that was

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false during, 2022, 2023.

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I made the decision to go through the

books and change as much as I could to

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be more accurate to the proper timelines.

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Freddy D: So by doing that, that

also revealed what the company

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was really doing in revenue.

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In some cases, it was negative, but

overall, once it got fixed, the efforts

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that you put in to fix the books, that's

when all of a sudden you could tell

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and track the income starting to go up.

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Because of the fact of the things that

you put into place, the relationships

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you were building with the contractors,

and more importantly, having

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accurate data, and so how important

is accurate data in tracking that?

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Tyler Stllman: Oh, goodness.

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Accurate data is very important.

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Essentially, you want the books

to tell a story, and when I got

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in there, the books were a choose

your own adventure book backwards.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Tyler Stllman: Essentially and basically,

I went in and edited the books.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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So talk about that.

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So what were some of the things that you

did as a accounting consultant ? What

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are some of the things that you found?

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You don't have to get into all the

details, but what's some of the things

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that you found that were miscategorized

that a small business may do because

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they don't know any better, and that in

turn affects their bottom line, their

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financial statements and everything else.

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And what is it that you would

do or recommend a small business

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to do to make sure that their

financials are properly classified?

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Tyler Stllman: I would review invoices,

mostly invoices and bills, one of the

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main sticking points that I found when

doing my review process, is this bill,

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it was dated, say, February 15th, or

something that was done back in January.

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Basically, a simple way to fix that, so

that it could be categorized properly,

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is to change the date of the invoice

to be in January, while also keeping

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the original due date for the invoice.

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Freddy D: So Tyler, tell us how a

small or entrepreneur type business

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can make sure that their books are

correct and provide a clear picture

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of where their business is at?

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Tyler Stllman: When I was fixing the books

for this company one of the major things

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that I found was that 80 to 90 percent of

the problems were in invoices and billing,

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mostly with having to do with dates.

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Freddy D: So help us understand dates.

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I don't get it.

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What's so important about dates?

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Tyler Stllman: So when, especially in

accrual basis, which is how you track how

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your business is doing one of the major

things is if you accrue your income in

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January, but your say accounting software

recognizes the income being done in

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February, that's not being accurate to

when you realistically got the revenue.

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Of the things that you can

do is backdate an invoice.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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And talk more about that.

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And how does that impact the books?

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Tyler Stllman: Basically, let's say that

you have a thousand dollar invoice that

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you originally recognized in February.

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For income that was generated in

Jan, by backdating the invoice, what

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you accomplish is you recognize that

income in January rather than February.

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What that does is it helps with

the accuracy of your business.

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It helps you recognize this

is when I gained this revenue.

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This is when I gained this bill.

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This is when I gained everything.

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All in the same month.

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Freddy D: So, in turn, properly invoicing

and making sure that the dates match

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when the service was provided, the

books are going to present a much more

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accurate picture of where the business

is at, where it's going, and that can

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have a profound impact for the business.

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Knowing that the data.

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Is accurate, and then it gives them an

idea of, okay I'm doing really good,

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or, wow, I need to make some changes

because I'm going in the wrong direction.

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Tyler Stllman: Absolutely.

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Freddy D: Let's discuss other things that

you did to turned that company from a

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negative income to a positive net income.

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Tyler Stllman: Another thing that I

did was get to know our customers,

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at the very least, their accounting

departments because one, one of the

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major things that the company wasn't

doing correctly was collections.

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Freddy D: Did they have any invoices

that were beyond 30, 60 days?

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Tyler Stllman: They had many invoices.

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Freddy D: So how far, what was the

furthest one that was out there?

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Tyler Stllman: I think that there

was, when I joined, one from:

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Freddy D: Wow.

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So you're talking several years.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes.

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Freddy D: So how'd you rectify that?

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Tyler Stllman: Unfortunately, the

reality of the situation is if it

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is 90 days or over, you're most

likely not getting that money.

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It is entirely possible that you can,

but a lot changes in a year to begin

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with, not to mention three years.

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You need to thoroughly examine

your AR aging and determine

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what's collectible, what's not.

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And then you just need to write it off.

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Because if you're not going, if a lot

of stuff over 90 days is uncollectible,

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not to mention stuff over three years

old, you don't want to carry that,

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you don't want to carry that weight.

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Freddy D: So from a tax basis, it

probably would be better off to just

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write off the stuff that it's okay.

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Anything beyond, let's just say,

six months and there's no chance

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of getting collections after

you've reached out to the company,

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sent letters and everything else.

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You're probably better off from a tax

perspective to write that as bad debt.

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Tyler Stllman: Absolutely.

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Freddy D: So that in turn

makes your books look better.

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Tyler Stllman: Yeah, absolutely.

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Freddy D: Not immediately, but, over

time, it clears them up, I would think.

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Tyler Stllman: Yeah.

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The main issue is, essentially,

you have a blemish, and

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you're not getting rid of it..

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Get rid of the blemishes.

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Freddy D: So what would be a cutoff

time for a small business to say,

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okay, this isn't gonna go on?

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Would you say six months is a fair number?

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Tyler Stllman: Yeah, absolutely.

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Of course it is on a case by case basis

because you can have some customers

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that, that are contractually obligated,

that are still paying different stuff..

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They can pay this one, it's

just that they haven't gone

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through their processes properly.

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So it depends.

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But six months is a good cutoff.

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Freddy D: Okay, now let's go back to,

creating superfans from customers.

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How does that, how does

accounting play into that role?

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Tyler Stllman: Like I said, with

contractors need to be willing to extend

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a little grace to your customers as well.

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Everyone you are dealing with

is human and they make mistakes.

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Freddy D: Okay.

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Tyler Stllman: You need to be willing

to let late fees go, away and you need

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to be willing to let bygones be bygones.

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What that in turn does Is it

shows that your company is

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willing to work with the customer,

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Freddy D: Right.

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That's the important statement right

there because customers can have

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things come up unexpectedly issues that

they've got and they get sidetracked.

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And the fact that you're willing to

work with them because you understand,

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they're a business and you have as

a business have things that come up.

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So the fact that you're

willing to work with them.

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Creates a partnership, which in turn leads

them to start becoming, a brand advocate

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or, as I call them business superfans.

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These guys are okay.

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They're willing to work with us while

we're going through this challenge.

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They start telling other businesses

that, this is a great company and

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you should deal with this company.

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And that's how you start

getting word of mouth going.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes, basically, every

single department needs to work together

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to give the customer the best experience.

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That includes the accounting department.

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Freddy D: It's the same

thing with the contractors.

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If the contractor is being well taken

care of and they're being paid timely,

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as we talked earlier, they start telling

other contractors within that industry,

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that, Hey, this is a great company.

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They take They really take care of us and

so they, that company starts attracting

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more contractors willing to provide their

services for that particular company.

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Tyler Stllman: I, on that same thought,

I do remember hearing a story of

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how we use specialized contractors,

but even within those specialized

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contractors, there is a more like

specialized version of those contractors.

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And the more specialized contractors we

treated the exact same way originally.

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When those changes were made, one

of the big things I remember hearing

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is, hey you guys were originally in

bad faith with these specialized

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contractors, but I've been advocating.

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To let those, to let everyone

know that you have changed.

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There is new management and we

are being treated properly now.

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Freddy D: And that's huge because

that, that in turn is a super fan.

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That's starting to get everybody

else to change the mindset and their

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Thoughts about that particular company.

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And so they start looking at being

more open to dealing with that company.

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It's same thing with a contractor

going to do a particular project

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and they're happy with the company.

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So they're becoming a super fan

saying, Oh yes, I'm with this company.

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It's a great company.

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It provided great service and I'm excited.

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So now they're promoting the company.

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So you've got the independent

contractors becoming your sales force.

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Because they're out there telling, the

client that they're dealing with, oh

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yeah, I love the company, great company

and so now the client feels even better

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that they picked the right company to

provide them the service, and it starts

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to snowball and that's what, as you,

as you alluded to, is that changed the

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net income from a negative income to a

much more positive income, which in turn

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:

change the whole dynamics of the business.

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Tyler Stllman: Yes, absolutely,

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Freddy D: So Tyler, we've talked

about, how you changed the contractors

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pay to in turn, to create them into

superfans, which got them to be willing

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to do more projects for the company.

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More importantly talk positively to

customers, which then reinforced customers

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that they made the right decisions

to request that company services.

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And you've also talked about building

relationship with existing customers to

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turn them into superfans in the sense that

you're willing to work with them through

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their challenges and being flexible.

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So how did this impact the overall

bottom line for the company?

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And what was, where did that lead to?

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Tyler Stllman: So, we ended up

positioning the company in:

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a positive net income for the first

time in three years, which ended up

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positioning the company for sale.

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In 2024, the company was bought

and subsequently my job was done.

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We met our goals, and so I have

gone on to a new venture with

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a new company to help them.

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Freddy D: So that's pretty powerful

statement there that you basically in a

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three year period you turned around a

company with negative income into having

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positive income, which in turn positioned

it to be bought by another company.

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That's, it doesn't happen every day.

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So that's a great accomplishment on

your part, of being able to take a mess,

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in a sense, from what you described,

and turning it into something that was

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attractive to somebody else to acquire.

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Tyler Stllman: What can I say?

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I used to work as a

janitor at a grocery store.

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I'm used to turning messes

into attractiveness.

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Freddy D: That's a great way

to end the show, man, Tyler.

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Pleasure having you on the

Business Superfans Podcast.

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Great advice to businesses.

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So to sum it up, basically a making

sure that your invoices are properly

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invoiced and on the dates paying attention

with billing, same thing with billing,

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making sure that you're billing timely.

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More importantly, making sure that

if you got contractors, you take care

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of them as part of your team, because

they are your team, as well as your

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customers, because no customers,

no business, no team, no business.

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Tyler, Thank you very much for being on

the show, and we'll look forward to having

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you on another episode down the road.

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Tyler Stllman: Hey, thank

you for having me on.

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