Chris Myers is passionate about small businesses and has extensive experience in business optimization, strategy development, financial reporting, and valuation. Prior to founding BodeTree, he played a key role on the strategy team of a Fortune 500 company, provided valuation and financial opinions, and advised numerous small businesses, banks, and credit unions as a consultant and analyst.
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- “Good ideas need good strategy to realize their potential.” ~ Reid Hoffman click to tweet!
- When Chris launched BodeTree, it was so quiet he didn’t even hear crickets. He was QUICKLY able to turn that silence into a steady roar with one change in his business plan. Find out what that was… and more!
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
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John Lee Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply electrified to introduce my guest today, Chris Myers. Chris, are you prepared to ignite?
Chris Myers: I am.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! Chris is passionate about small businesses and has extensive experience in business optimization, strategy development, financing reporting and evaluation. Prior to founding BodeTree, he played a key role on the strategy team of a Fortune 500 company, provided evaluation and financial opinions and advised numerous small businesses, banks and credit unions as a consultant and analyst.
Chris, I’ve given a little overview about what you’ve done. Why don’t you give us a little more about who you are and what you currently do?
Chris Myers: Yes, absolutely. Well, as you mentioned, my background is in strategy and really evaluation. So I kind of went the traditional route. I was a consultant right out of school, and then made the jump to the corporate world, working in strategy for a big company. What was interesting to me is that the problems faced by small businesses and the problems faced by big businesses are really the same problems. The issue is that there are resources available to big businesses that just simply are not at all available to your average mom and pop business, which is really 97% of all companies in the US. Yes, it’s amazing.
So if you’re a Fortune 500 and you want to really think through am I doing the right thing in my business? Am I measuring the right things? There are a host of consultants and software solutions and all sorts of different things that can help you do that. Now, they’re expensive and they’re complicated, and they’re really time-consuming. So your average small business owner can’t spend $50,000.00 or $500,000.00, for that matter, bringing in strategy consultants or something like that.
But at the end of the day, what these guys deliver isn’t that complicated. It’s not out of reach to small business owners. So when I took, and my partner and I took our skills set of really being able to understand financials but present them in a context of strategy and education and decided to create BodeTree to bring the insights of the Fortune 500 to the Fortune 5,000,000 in a way that was easy, fun and most importantly, really affordable.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome stuff. Thank you for sharing that.
Chris Myers: Yes.
John Lee Dumas: So at EntrepreneurOnFire, we like to start every show off with our guest’s favorite success quote. It’s kind of our way of getting the motivational ball rolling and getting our listeners pumped up for the rest of the show. What do you have for us today?
Chris Myers: So my quote is actually from Reid Hoffman, who I’ve had the pleasure to meet once. He is the cofounder of LinkedIn and just a generally brilliant guy. His quote is “good ideas need good strategy to realize their potential.” It’s one that just really, really speaks to me kind of as a strategy geek.
We all have good ideas. We all have things that we’re excited about and we’re passionate about, but so few of us are able to take those ideas and cross the finish line, and actually build something that is a viable, thriving business, or even a viable nonprofit or whatever it is that you’re looking to really get involved with. You have to have solid strategy behind it to ask the right questions, to really think through it in an intellectually honest way and it through to completion.
That’s something that inspires me every day because you can have a great idea and you can be really passionate about it, but it’s a battle. It’s hand to hand combat every single day when you’re building, growing, running and even selling a business. You really have to consistently fall back on a very solid strategy and communicate that strategy to everybody you interact with so that the story that you want to be told is front and center in people’s minds, and you can kind of shepherd that in the direction you want it to go to. So that’s my favorite success quote and it’s probably the best advice I’ve ever been given.
John Lee Dumas: That’s wonderful, and personally knowing about BodeTree and what you guys do, it is just a quote that speaks volumes for your industry. So that was great. Thank you for sharing that. Now, let’s take that success quote down to the ground level and how do you actually apply that quote to your everyday life.
Chris Myers: Yes. Well, it’s funny because we’re dealing with – kind of at the stage where I am with BodeTree – two different types of people. Right? We have our clients, which are just passionate small business owners who have often really felt that strategic thinking is out of their comfort zone and out of reach to them. So it’s a matter of helping them realize that potential and realize what’s available to them. So I spend probably half of my day personally working with them and coaching them and helping them through that.
The other part though is working with our big corporate partners. We’re partners with Intuit, we’re partners with some other big, big organizations that touch small business. It’s really participating in their strategy process to help them understand the potential of those ideas and figure out ways to actually implement them. So that strategic, interconnected thinking is throughout my business life.
Then also, personally, you have to make sure that you are prioritizing things properly and taking a strategic view of your personal life as well. I mean, I have an 18 month old little boy at home and I have to be very careful to make time for him and for my wife and make sure that running BodeTree doesn’t become the end all, be all for me.
So that strategy and really having a clear set of priorities and a very well thought through list of concepts that you really want to focus on and the like is really, really important. Again, that quote kind of helps bring that to the surface and helps me really to keep that a top of mind.
John Lee Dumas: Valuable insight. Thank you for sharing a little bit about your family life. I actually have an 18 month old niece right down the street. She lives a mile away. So I have been there for her the last 18 months, so I know exactly where you’re at in your fatherhood right now as far as what they’re doing at that age. It’s a very exciting time.
Chris Myers: It is, it is.
John Lee Dumas: So let’s transition now into the next topic, which is failure. At EntrepreneurOnFire, we talk about the entrepreneur’s full story, their journey. You’re our spotlighted entrepreneur today, so we’d like to go back and talk about an obstacle or a challenge that you faced in the past and how you reacted to it and how it either assisted or changed your direction in life.
Chris Myers: Yes, yes. Well, I think the biggest challenge that I’ve faced was actually relating to BodeTree and to really starting a business. That was that we invested heavily and rebuilt a fantastic product. A product that I thought would just basically sell itself to people, particularly to business owners.
So we went live with the beta in late 2011 through our partnership with Intuit, and the response wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped. Right? I mean the people who connected with it and really dove into it loved it, but we were having trouble generating the volume, attracting people to actually try out the application.
The challenge I think was to be able to step back for a moment and really be critical of am I messaging this properly, am I communicating with my core market properly and all of that stuff. So it was a very difficult task to be able to do that, especially when you’re so invested in something personally and financially and everything to really say, “Do we need to revisit the way that we are positioning this product?”
Going through that was probably the biggest challenge for me, but what we ended up doing was going back to our customers and really going back to the people that we had built relationships with and who we had actually seen use our product to great success, and ask them to help us define what it is. Ask them to help us define how it’s used by business owners like that. In fact, our tagline, “The finance tool for people who hate finance,” came directly from one of our clients, oddly enough. That was probably the best lesson that I learned, which is listen to the people who are buying your products.
It’s easy, especially for a founder and for somebody’s who’s creating something on their own or with their team, to think that you have all the answers. What we found is that we only have some of the answers, and that the people who come to us, looking to fill a need that they have or looking for assistance in a particular aspect of their business, actually in more cases or more often than not, have a better understanding of how to position your product in the market than you do yourself.
So that’s what we ended up doing. We actually worked with them to completely revamp our site, update our design, change our marketing, change our messaging, and evolve and not be so rigid in our approach. You and I chatted a little bit before we started the interview today about the video on our website that introduces BodeTree and talks about the story.
What we ended up actually doing was taking all that feedback from the clients and crafting an actual little cartoon story around it, which has actually been the best thing for us because now that story of Jill’s awesome ice cream, which anybody who goes to BodeTree.com can see the video right on the homepage. It tells the story of kind of an average entrepreneur, an average business owner, who uses our product to great success and was able to really achieve their goals through it in a way that basically anybody can relate to. We’ve brought that through the demo. So if you see the demo in the application, it’s actually the same one for Jill’s ice cream. We’ve been able to really craft some narrative throughout it, and that has been tremendously successful for us.
So it’s that challenge again of kind of having a predetermined view of how your product or service is going to be perceived in the market, and then having the ability and willingness to really step back and say, “Well, maybe I’m not really approaching this from the right angle,” and being I guess humble enough to ask for help from the people who are actually buying from you so that you really get to the core of what attracted them to you, to your product, to your service, to whatever, and crafting your message around that.
John Lee Dumas: That is so critical, Chris. I mean, just going to your audience and to your clients and just to people that you’re interacting with on a daily basis and asking them what they’re looking for and what their needs are and where their pain level is, is so critical because we all have our ideals in our mind about what we’re trying to create, but again, what we’re really trying to do as business owners is help people.
By going to our customer base, that’s where we’re finding out where the real pains are. When we can adjust as entrepreneurs, that’s what makes our businesses so valuable. So I love that topic when you just chatted about how you now have the tagline from one of your customers. That is just great.
To touch on your explainer video, which we did talk about prior, that is just such a great visual way for people to get onto your website and completely understand what BodeTree is all about, and then relate to it on the level that they see themselves using your application, using BodeTree, and other ways as well.
Like for me, it was an inspiration for EntrepreneurOnFire to go forward and get an explainer video on our website. Now we have that because we know how valuable that can be when people can arrive at a website and not really know what’s going on. They’ve just heard good things. Then in 60 seconds, in 90 seconds of just sitting back and watching an entertaining valuable cartoon clip about our businesses, then they can walk away with a great understanding about how they can relate and apply it to their lives. So I definitely applaud you for that.
Chris Myers: Thank you.
John Lee Dumas: So we’re going to transition now into the next topic, which is the aha moment. Again, we’re really delving into your journey, your story as an entrepreneur. We’ve talked about some challenges and obstacles you faced when you first started BodeTree, and just the kind of reaction that you had, they were different from what you hoped or expected. You definitely touched upon different aha moments that you had during that with that lesson learnt.
Let’s go to a different angle and let’s really pull out a big light bulb moment that you have had at some point in your entrepreneurial journey that really made everything click, and you just said, “Wow! This is something that’s going to resonate so well with my audience, with my clients.”
Chris Myers: Yes, yes. I think the best aha moment I had was actually the genesis of the product itself. That was the most interesting part because it wasn’t as though I was just sitting around one day and my cofounder and I were just kind of talking and said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we did this?” It was really an evolution.
I think my big aha moment in general is that inspiration comes from a lot of small things that happen throughout your career or throughout your life, and kind of culminate in a big idea. Right? So for BodeTree, it really started probably five years ago when I was consulting. I was doing evaluation for a guy who was trying to buy out a partner. We ended up giving him a $50,000.00 bill that he had to tap into his kids’ college fund to pay.
Something about that just bothered me. I just said, “You know, there’s got to be a better way for people like this.” Business owners who don’t really have a huge separation between their personal life and their personal finances and their business finances in life for them to do it, but the solution wasn’t apparent then. That kind of stuck in the back of my mind for a long time.
Then I progressed in my career and I ended up going to a Fortune 500 and was working with McKinsey Consultants who had brought in a big project we had. Working with them, there was a great back and forth and exchange of ideas, there was a lot of talent there, but at the end of the day, I think we had something like a $2 million bill for the work that they did. It’s like, okay. Well, here, these consultants came in and they gave us some great insights and they really helped us with this problem that’s happening, but if you’re not a multibillion dollar company, there’s no way you could afford it. How would it be possible to bring those type of insights and skills to everybody so they’re available?
But again, even at that time, it didn’t fully mash [Unintelligible] and click, and it wasn’t until about probably a year-and-a-half to two years after that, that I saw a news release about Intuit making their data available to third party developers. In that instance, all the things we talked about kind of just came together. I was like, “Wow!”
My cofounder was in the room with me at the time, and we were just like, “You know, I’ve got this idea,” and we talked through all the different stages of it. It came together like, “Oh my gosh! Now, through technology, we’re actually going to be able to bring this type of insights to people at a price point that just never really existed before.” It’s that type of integrated thinking I think that really leads to great aha moments.
So there have been countless additional aha moments as we’ve gone through actually building the business, but it’s just fascinating to me that it’s always little bits of experiences from here or there and little bits of information that come your way that kind of just sit there and marinate. Then there’s a spark, and all of a sudden, everything comes together.
So that was the big one for me. It was the realization that you can kind of draw from those experiences throughout your life, some of them which were contradictory even. Then bring them together in an instant, in a flash, to have this great insight. That’s been obviously the [Unintelligible]. That’s the easy part. Then you got to go through and push it through to actually creating a product. I think that’s really the most exciting thing for me and the most interesting aha moment I’ve ever had.
John Lee Dumas: That was a very specific aha moment. I can just really picture you being in that room and seeing that release by Intuit and really just having that light bulb go off. So that was great. Thank you for being so specific with that. Can you share with us some actions that you took directly after that aha moment?
Chris Myers: Yes, yes. So the first thing that we did after that was to sketch out what our value proposition was going to be. What was going to make us different or what was going to make us unique. Then really start to think about that and not get too caught up in the excitement of that idea.
So what we did was we spent probably a couple of months really thinking through, alright, what do we want to do? What makes us tick and what’s kind of the core of what it is that we are actually looking to deliver to people? What we found was that our core was that we deliver easy, affordable, accessible success to small business owners. What we try to do is really get that tight, really understand what that was going to be, because when you look at all of the great products and amazing services out there, you can boil them all down to a core principle of what they do. Right?
So take Apple computer for example. Apple brings technology to the masses through great design. Then if you look at like Nike, that’s another example. Nike is all about kind of irreverent success and performance. Right? That’s why they chose Michael Jordan back in the day as their big spokesperson with the red shoes on the court that were bare and that type of thing, saying that look, we could be irreverent because we can [Unintelligible] performance.
So we really wanted to be able to step back and say for our [Unintelligible], for our business, what is it that we are flying by? For us, it was easy, affordable, accessible success. So once we got that really kind of front and center in our minds, we then stepped back and said, “Okay. Now let’s take another month or so and think of every single reason why this will fail. Every single reason why we shouldn’t do this.”
Then literally kind of go through it and say, “Okay. Here’s a risk that we’ve identified. It’s one that we can live with, or maybe here’s a risk that I think that’s probably too much for us to live with. So let’s go back to the drawing board and see if we can mitigate that.”
So it was really a three-step process. First, have the idea. Second, get to the core of that idea. Then third, be able to distance yourself just enough so you could go through and really think critically and be intellectually honest about the idea and your value proposition and work through the pros and the cons till we get to a very tight and well-vetted concept before you do anything else, before you start developing, before you start hiring people or anything like that.
That’s what we did. That’s kind of the immediate next step. So I think that we were able to employ that three-step process to great success. It gave us also the framework to go back and revisit things that weren’t working or maybe weren’t working really well. We go through that process again to kind of continuously improve.
John Lee Dumas: You guys were able to find and identify your “USP” early on, your unique selling proposition, which is so valuable for all the reasons you just shared. Chris, have you had an I’ve made it moment yet?
Chris Myers: No. No. And I would probably caution most entrepreneurs to avoid I’ve made it moments, even through kind of the mid stage of their business’s life cycle because – and I’m sure as you know – entrepreneurs are bipolar to a certain extent. Right? They have great days and they have terrible days. Then sometimes one day, the morning can be just in the dumps and you’ll say, “Oh my gosh, things are going terribly,” and then something happens in the afternoon and you’re doing fabulously.
But I’ve met a lot of people who kind of call it a little too soon. They’ll say, “Well, I’ve had success. I’ve hit my traffic benchmarks or I’ve gotten my funding or I’ve gotten my coverage or whatever.” I think that leads to a certain complacency or a certain type of irrational exuberance that can lead to bad decision-making.
So I think what I’ve always advised my team to do, and some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve learned from have employed this as well, and that’s to stay humble [Unintelligible] and stay hungry. Right? As soon as you have said I’ve made it, that’s the time when there’s another new entrepreneur out there who’s coming to eat your lunch. So that’s something that I feel pretty strongly about, it’s just always staying vigilant in that sense.
John Lee Dumas: I love that question because it always evokes such a range of answers from the spotlighted entrepreneur, and you definitely did not disappoint.
So Chris, we’re going to now move into your current business. You’ve talked about BodeTree and what you do for your clients, and it’s very inspiring and valuable things. What’s one thing that’s really exciting you about your business today?
Chris Myers: Yes. That’s a great question. I’m really excited about the fact that we are really starting to be viewed as the direct connect to small business owners as consumers. When you look at accounting software or financial management software, people tend to avoid it. People tend to hate dealing with it because it’s homework. Right? It’s a headache to deal with.
When you look at something like QuickBooks, for example, QuickBooks is a fantastic product. It’s made accounting easy for people. But most people use QuickBooks because they have to. They’ve got to file their taxes at the end of the year, and their accountant says use QuickBooks. So it’s one of those things where it kind of sits in the background for a lot of these business owners. Although there’s some great data that’s stored in there and like a lot of great opportunity hidden inside that, a lot of people don’t get the most out of it simply because they say, “Well, I’m not a finance person or I’m not a numbers person.”
So what BodeTree has been able to do through our partnerships and through our outreach and a lot of the coverage that we’ve received, is become that frontend for people. Basically, to say to you or to anybody, you can access all of these accounting data that’s out there, all of these numbers about your business, and through our product, you can connect directly with those numbers and really tell a story about your business.
Then when you start looking at, for example, our partners like Intuit, this is providing them a tremendous opportunity to connect not with the accountants necessarily, but with the business owners themselves and really go through that.
So I’m excited about kind of the revitalization of finance and accounting software and kind of the democratization of that to tell people that this is available to you. You too can have these Fortune 500 insights in your business and open up those opportunities. So I’m really excited about the traction we’ve been getting and what we’ve been able to do to connect directly with these guys.
John Lee Dumas: Wonderful. We’re reaching about the five minute left mark so we’re going to have to start moving along, but there’s just a couple of questions I have to ask you. If a person approached you on the street today and said, “Chris, in 30 seconds, how do you distinguish BodeTree from say FreshBooks?” What would your answer be?
Chris Myers: Yes. So we are designed to interpret and analyze data for people who not only don’t like numbers, but are afraid of them. So FreshBooks, we don’t view FreshBooks as a competitor. FreshBooks is a partner for us. That’s something we can interact with and synch up with. We’re not about organizing your data. We’re about telling the story that’s hidden in your data.
John Lee Dumas: Beautiful! That says a lot. My second question is where did you get the name BodeTree?
Chris Myers: Good question. So we wanted to be a little bit different, and we didn’t want to be like anybody else that’s My Financial Dashboard or something like that. We wanted a name that we could build a brand around. Then also, something that would stick in people’s minds. Then when we were starting to talk about the merging of strong financial analytics with strategy education, we really kind of started to circle around an enlightened holistic approach to running a business. So one central place where you could come and everything would start to make sense and be interconnected.
It just reminded me of a story in Buddhism where Buddha sought enlightenment for like 15 years. He went to different spiritual leaders and all sorts of different things, but never found it. Then one day he sat under the Bodhi tree. It’s spelled a little bit differently, but he sat under the Bodhi tree, and that was the place where suddenly the universe made sense. Everything was interconnected, everything came together.
So when we kind of looked at our focus of business optimization and enlightened decision-making, we realized, “Hey, we’re the Bodhi tree for small business. We’re the place that everything kind of makes sense and comes together for people.”
So that was the name we chose and it’s our little cenesthetic that helps us kind of market our product and really carve out a unique brand identity.
John Lee Dumas: Perfect. I love the little green Buddha logo. It’s very clever. So Chris, we’re now entering my favorite part of the show, which is the Lighting Round. This is where I provide you with a series of questions, and you come back with mind-blowing and amazing answers.
The first question is what was the number one thing that was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Chris Myers: I think it was complacency. I had been lucky enough at that point in my career to be making a really comfortable salary at a young age, to have a lot of potential to move up in these businesses and these different companies I was at, and you get pretty comfortable pretty quickly.
That’s what’s very scary to say, and then do I want to throw these all away and go start my own business? Ultimately, for me, the answer was yes, but it took a while to get to that point because it’s scary. So I think comfort and complacency is the number one enemy to being able to start your own business.
John Lee Dumas: What is something that’s working for you or BodeTree right now?
Chris Myers: I think what’s really working for both me personally and for BodeTree is the relationship I have with my cofounder and my partner. He and I share voting rights. We make decisions together.
It’s not a structure I think that works for a lot of people, but he and I complement each other with our different skills sets and our perspectives. We have I think a pretty unique way of tackling problems and making decisions, and I can tell you that our back and forth and collaboration has led to some really great ideas and it has helped us avoid what could have potentially been really big pitfalls and stakes. So I’m quite pleased with that and I think it’s something that I would advise anybody, is find the right partner. Find somebody you trust, respect and admire and stick with them.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. If you can find somebody to collaborate with that you do like, respect and admire, that is truly valuable. What is the best business book that you’ve read in the last six months?
Chris Myers: There’s a book called “The Art of the Sale.” I forget the author’s name off the top of my head, but it was a gentleman who actually went through and studied some of the great salespeople around the world from the markets in Morocco to people who were doing the infomercials to great B2B salespeople, and really getting at how do they communicate, how do they really sell like not just the product but the story and the aspiration behind the product?
That is one that I would recommend to anybody. When you look at – and particularly being an entrepreneur – but when you look at business, it’s all sales. You have to be able to communicate and sell people on your vision, your product, your inspiration, your excitement and everything. So being able to see the different sales perspectives from around the globe is pretty exciting. So The Art of the Sale, I would highly recommend that to just about anybody.
John Lee Dumas: Great! That is a wonderful book by Philip Broughton. I will link that up in the show notes so people can check that out.
The last question is my favorite. It’s kind of a tricky one, so take your time, digest it, and then come back at us with an answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning with all the experience, money and knowledge that you currently have today, but everything about your business had completely disappeared, leaving you with essentially a clean slate, which many of our listeners find themselves in right now, what would you do in the next seven days?
Chris Myers: Oh, that is a good question. What I would do is go back to that three step process that I talked about a little bit earlier in our conversation, which is clearly define the problem you’re looking to solve, find what that distinct value proposition is that you’re going to bring to the table, and then spend some time really thinking through the risks and challenges that you’re going to run into. Then really have a clear strategic vision for what you’re looking to accomplish.
If you can accomplish that in seven days, and you have all the experience and everything else that you outlined, you’re going to be in an excellent position to really tackle that problem, and make sure that you can create a solution that the marketplace will readily accept. I think you hit the nail in the head that any of us can wake up and find ourselves in that position at any time. So it’s a very wise or quick move to have a game plan in place and to kind of go through that thought exercise and make sure you have that plan in place for that.
John Lee Dumas: Well, thank you for outlining that, and thank you for joining us today, Chris. You’ve given us some great actionable advice, and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one last piece of guidance, give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Chris Myers: Well, if you’re a small business owner and you’re not a finance person, check out BodeTree.com, and learn a little bit about the finance tool for people who hate finance. We bring Fortune 500 insights to the Fortune 5,000,000 for $24.99 a month. So it’s accessible to anyone and it’s a lot of fun. People will actually enjoy using the product, so check us out.
John Lee Dumas: Wonderful. Thanks again, Chris, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Chris Myers: Thank you