Tim Sinclair worked in radio for 18 years, but he is now the CEO of RINGR, a platform that allows users to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, record the conversation, and have it sound like the two parties were in the same room at the same time.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- $o.88 in the RINGR bank account, not even an approved app, and Tim was heading out to a six-week accelerator program. It was now or never!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- RINGR was accepted by iTunes, and within 30-minutes, the first user error rolled in… Listen to why THIS was an AH-HA moment!
Small Business Resource
- Batterii: An enterprise software platform that uses design thinking principles to empower companies to establish processes for repeatable innovation.
Best Business Book
- Love Tim’s siteDoes by Bob Goff
- RINGR: Lets you connect with virtually anyone on the planet, record your conversation, and instantly download it for editing, playback, and sharing.
- Tim’s email
Tim: I am absolutely ready to go.
John: Yes. Tim worked in radio for 18 years, but is now the CEO of Ringr, a platform that allows users to connect with anyone anywhere in the world, record the conversation, and have it sound like the two parties were in the same room at the same time. Tim, say what's up to Fire Nation, and then share what's going on in your world right now?
Tim: Well, what's up Fire Nation? I'm honored to be here, John thank you for having me on the show. I am knee deep, probably neck deep actually in the world of Ringr, which is the company we started about nine months ago doing just what you said, trying to connect people and record the conversations in ways that sound like they're in the same room at the same time. And so we are incredibly excited about the product, but wow, it is a ton of work, but we're loving every minute of it.
John: Well, I'm excited to talk about that work, and specifically about the journey that got you there. I mean, through radio for 18 years, fascinating, but Tim before we get into any of that jazz, I always start with what I call the one minute mindset. I'm gonna ask you five questions, five insights into your mind my friend. The first one being ideally, what do the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Tim: Well, ideally it's a shower and then caffeine, or caffeine and then a shower. I cannot wake up without one or the other, and certainly both help. And so that is always the start to my day. I do not feel like I am the person I need to be. I was a terrible radio host without caffeine. I learned that in a hurry. So those two things come first, and then I really try to dive into my schedule for the day, and any emails that might have come in overnight. That’s kind of a big thing for me is making sure my email box is clear, and I'm caught up.
And so after my body is woken up with the shower, and my mind is woken up with the caffeine, I jump right into my schedule and get an email taken care of.
John: I'm not into my email quite that early, but I will say – you know, I hear people say they put that email off until midday. I can't do it either. I mean, it's definitely part of my first 80 minutes. It's the reality when you have things that you want to get out, when you have teams that you want to get cranking, it just sometimes it has to happen Fire Nation. Tim, let’s talk about what's your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Tim: I found a lot of them, so choosing the biggest is going to be difficult. I think my lack of business knowledge. I come at entrepreneurship from a very creative end. Working in radio, and it's always just an idea filled environment. And so I've got lots of great ideas, but no so many great ideas on how to execute those great ideas. And so I think my lack of knowledge and focus on the business end has really proven to be a big challenge for me, everything from legal to finance, those things are things I don’t know about, and so I'm trying my best to surround myself with other leaders and other mentors who can help pick up the slack.
John: So what's your biggest strength?
Tim: Communication and vision casting, and being able to communicate an idea in a way that inspires people to do something, and helps them feel something. I don’t necessarily care as much what it makes them feel, whether it's joy or sadness, or anger, or fear, all those emotions inspire action. And so my goal is always to: hey, take what we're doing, share it in a creative an effective way and try to influence people in ways that maybe others can't.
John: I can tell you both of these, the weakness and the strength really kind of resonate with me in a big way because what's so important as we're growing as entrepreneurs and growing our team out Fire Nation, is you need to know exactly where you really are good, and then where you're not good. And then fill in the blanks with a team, you know, with a team that has those strengths, where you have those weaknesses. And Tim, as you're building your team out, you being aware of these things is gonna really help you plug those holes that needs to be plugged. And you have some great habits, but what's a habit that you wish you had?
Tim: This is gonna probably catch some off guard. I wish I was more of a reader.
John: What would have caught me off guard is if you said I wish I smoked. That would have caught me off guard.
Tim: True. I do not. But I don’t read as much as I want to, especially from thought leaders who could help influence my job and my entrepreneurial skills. I just feel like there's a lot to be learned, and that my day is so full of other things that I don’t really sit down and read nearly as much as I want to.
John: You do have a lot of things going on though Tim; I mean that’s for sure. We have Ringr. We have the whole building of a team, and getting that functions in process, but what's the one thing of all these moving parts that has you most fired up today?
Tim: Can I take a departure from any of those things you mentioned?
Tim: Oh, for sure.
Tim: My kids. I got two little boys that are just awesome. They're at the best age because especially guys, when our boys get to be six, seven, eight years old, then they are what we wish we were. They like to play with sports and watch Star Wars, and everything is a fight or a competition, and so that is like the dream of most grown men is to be able to go back there, and now a very reasonable excuse to do so. My two boys are in the thick of that right now, and I just love being able to be a part of their lives, and do things that they consider fun that I haven’t gotten a chance to do in a long long time.
John: Well, enjoy it while you can. I'm not speaking from the experience of after, but I can remember just the awesomeness it was. You know, but then we get to that teenage years and I just know that’s – if I could go back, I mean, I just wish I had kept that relationship up. That’s something that as entrepreneurs we have that opportunity now when we can make that time to really build those forging relationships, it can be very powerful, so best of luck to you, Tim.
Tim: Thank you. It's a great time in their lives and a great time in mine. And when they get to be teenagers I'm sure it will be a different story, but right now I like it.
John: Maybe, maybe not. Tim, we're gonna go to a moment in your journey. And that moment specifically is going to be what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. Really tell us the story of that moment, take us to that place in time, take it away.
Tim: I don't know if it was worst, but it was certainly scariest. And at the time I felt like it was the worst. In December of this past year, I had a couple of opportunities to have our company Ringr join different business accelerator programs. And the choice was very difficult for me. I didn't know where to go. I didn't know what to do. Each side had pros and cons. And I felt like for whatever reason, the one that was farther from my house, the one that was longer in time, that gave less money to the company, was the one I was supposed to take.
And I did. And felt good about it for about 30 minutes and then freaked out that I had made the wrong decision. And I just – I really, really, wrestled with it. And I went over the decision with advisors and said, “Is this what I was supposed to do?” And everybody seemed to reassure me that I had taken the step I needed to. So fast forward three or four weeks, I was packing up everything I had to move 250 miles away from home. And if anybody’s ever submitted an app to the App Store through Apple, you know that that process can take a long time. And our company had submitted in November and now it was late December and I thought for sure we were gonna have a product in the App Store by then.
I thought for sure we were gonna have a number of other things in place, so that when I started at this accelerator program everything would be clicking on all cylinders. And we would be ready to go. We would have users. And we would have money in the bank. So I'm driving away from my house realizing that one, not only has our app not been approved yet and we have no product to speak of, we have no users, we have no forward momentum, but we also have no money. There was 88 cents in the Ringr bank account as I'm pulling away from my house realizing that I'm embarking on an adventure that I don’t know the end of.
And then the doubt and the fear start to creep in of: are you insane? Or are you literally driving farther than your money can take you to start a six month long journey that may not see any investment whatsoever. And there was just this overwhelming sense of maybe I just screwed up bad. Maybe I have – I quit a job of 18 years in radio for no reason. Maybe I'm taking myself away from my boys for six months for no reason. And that while it has turned out totally different than my fears, it has been a wonderful experience, at that moment in time sitting in the car looking at the interstate, it wasn’t pleasant at all.
John: Tim, as entrepreneurs we seem to all get to that point. I mean, I can remember bright as day, and I say bright as day, but it was actually pitch black as night, waking up and just kind of like this gasp of air where I was just terrified of the step that I had taken of quitting my job and starting up this silly little podcast. And just thinking it was just – it seemed so silly at that time of the night. So kind of take us through, Fire Nation, just exactly how you in hindsight perceive that situation, and really the lesson that you want to give and divulge to our listeners right now, who have that on the horizon, or maybe who are experiencing it right now.
Tim: Yeah, looking back hindsight is 20-20. And I had an old boss who used to tell me tragedy plus time equals comedy. And the bigger the tragedy the more time it takes for something to be funny. So I don't know that I'm quite through all the time necessary to look back and laugh because it hasn’t been all that long, but I do know that – as we all do in this line of work so to speak – that risk is required. And a quote I have used personally all the time, I know there are other versions of this, this is sort of my adaptation of it is, “I would rather fail at greatness, then succeed at mediocrity.”
And as I look back, I could have just stayed; I could have just let the status quo be the status quo and been perfectly okay with that. And I probably would have succeeded at that, but I want to live my life in such a way that even if I fail, I'm failing while going big. I am trying to do something great. I'm trying to live out the calling that I feel is on my life. And if that ends in a spectacular disaster, so be it. I would prefer to live in that world, then in one where mediocrity is okay with me.
John: Fortune favors the bold, Fire Nation. And Tim, let’s shift to another story, but this one is an epiphany, an “ah ha” moment, take successful to one of those that you’ve had that you know our listeners are going to resonate with, and again tell us the story, take successful to that moment, and take it away.
Tim: Well, this was about three weeks after the drive to the accelerator program in which I was so scared. We had finally gotten approval for our first app in the App Store, and it was a great day. We had spent months and months in development of this product. And we had a team that had been working hard and had gone through all the bugs, and tried to just get it perfect, and finally it was available on the App Store. And so we were all excited. And I remember we had a little mini conference call while we pushed the button to actually launch the app, so we could sort of celebrate that success.
And I sent out an email a few minutes later to a small email database we had, and was sharing the exciting news that people had been waiting for, that this product was out.
And it wasn’t half an hour later that I get an email from a user who said: hey, just downloaded the app and they had a problem. And I just remember trying to take a step back and going, my how times have changed in the last 30 minutes. We went from being developers and creatives, and being so excited about our product to the uh-oh –
John: Customer support.
Tim: We have to support this thing. And I think for me the takeaway on that is I could have easily looked at the support as it's just – it's a problem. I wish it would go away. But I'm trying to look at those little things, and those little bumps in the road, and every customer support question as another chance at development. I'm not developing a product, now I'm developing a user, a customer, someone who I want to have a relationship with as CEO of my company, and who I want to really feel genuinely connected to our product, even if their first experience had some problems.
And so by shifting my focus from this is just support, and the other part is the fun creative development part. I've really tried to look at it as another development project. I'm going to develop this relationship into one that yeah, maybe there is a problem, maybe there is a hiccup, but ultimately we're gonna get through this. They're going to feel like a part of our team as an early adopter of the product, and in the end we will have developed it into a relationship, and to hopefully a lasting business back and forth between the two parties.
John: There's a phenomenal quote by the founder of LinkedIn, Reed Hoffman, where he goes “If you're not embarrassed by the shipment of your first product, you waited way too long.” And what I think people kind of fail and kind of miss a mark on Tim here is that you have to have your product out there, and you have to have users using it to continue the product development. Like, we think that we need to finish the product development behind the closed doors and then release it to the world, but just like you said, that first customer reaching out to you in 30 minutes and saying: Houston we have a problem, that’s an opportunity for you to develop the product, to make it better every step of the way because you have real people who will raise their hands and say I want this.
I've taken the time to acquire this, now this is a problem I'm having. This is something that I wish was there, or this is something that I love. You're going to be getting all types of feedback, and you can implement that Fire Nation. So get your product, your service, your community, get it out the door and start getting feedback and look at it as continued development. And Tim, break it down for us my friend, what is the one takeaway that you want our listeners, Fire Nation, to walk away with from that epiphany moment in your life?
Tim: Well, I think you hit on it to an extent. I think Seth Godin says, “You know, just ship.” You know, you just got to get it out the door. And you have to have some real world experience trying to use what you’ve created, because if you create something that nobody uses, certainly investors aren’t going to like that. You’re not going to be in business very long. And you don’t want to cater or try to change your vision or your call in life to just fit the masses, but you also don’t want to get yourself into a position where you're trying to help, you're trying to make a difference in this world, and really all you're doing is spending a whole lot of time late at night working on a product that no one is ever gonna use.
John: I love it Tim. So we have some really specific questions I'm gonna be firing at you in a minute here during our Lighting Round. But before we get there, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Tim, welcome to the Lightning Round, where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Tim: I'm ready to go.
John: What was holding yo9u back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Tim: I had tried really throughout my adult life, and even in high school to be entrepreneurial. Back in high school I knew I wanted to study architecture in college, and so I teamed up with a builder in this small town where we lived. And I went and did floor plans for houses that he was building. They were already being built, but the bank needed floor plans, and so I went out, and that was sort of my first foray into business. And I had a number of these throughout my time in radio as well, where I just tried to start little enterprises and see what happened.
And the biggest hurdle that I couldn’t ever overcome was feeling like I needed to do everything myself. I always wanted to boot strap the project, come up with the idea, execute it, market it, and somehow foolishly assume that it was gonna be a big deal someday. And for me a hurdle was getting over myself, it was going: you know what; you don’t have everything you need to be a success. You don’t have, whether it's the smarts, or the money, or the best ideas, or the time to pull this off, you need to bring other people around you who can help. Who are passionate about what you're doing.
Who have some skills and some interests and some time perhaps that I don’t, and work together on something. In junior high and high school I hated group work. I hated it because I just wanted to do it myself. And that sort of spilled over into my entrepreneurial life. And it wasn’t until I realized that I need to bring other people on to the team who had things that I didn’t before I was able to make it work.
John: What's the best advice you’ve ever received?
Tim: It was hard narrowing that down, too. This, I think, is credited to Scott Van Pelt from ESPN. I've heard it in several other places, but he said this, “Treat normal people like superstars, and superstars like normal people.” And for me as an entrepreneur, I think there is so much success that can be found in just how you treat people. And how you treat customers. And how you treat investors. And hoe you treat employees.
And learning how to do that in a way that puts them at ease, makes them feel special, makes them feel valuable, like they're a part of something bigger than themselves is huge. And so this quote from Scott really sort of struck a chord with me.
John: What's a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Tim: We talked about it a little bit earlier, my email and Twitter response to people who are using the product now. I make it a point to respond personally as CEO of the company to everybody who contacts us. If they have taken the time to download the platform, to try it out, to sue it, and to not just throw it away if they have an issue, but actually come and say something or share it with their friends online, I really feel like one of my strengths and a good habit I have is to reach out to them.
And thank them not only for using Ringr, but ask questions, develop dialogue, see if they have any other great ideas that we haven’t thought of yet that we could implement in future releases. And that has already proven to be very very worthwhile and very very valuable. And I'm hoping that I can keep it up absolutely as long as possible.
John: Yeah, we need to humanize these interactions, Fire Nation. You know, there's Hootsuite, there's Buffers, there's all these great things that we can automate to help us out and to take back some of our time, but not by removing the 100 percent human interaction aspect of it, so I love that you do that, Tim. And do you have an internet resource, like an Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Tim: One that I'm just starting to use, but I met the founder recently, is called Batterii. And it's spelled B-A-T-T-E-R-I-I. And what it is it's kind of like a Pinterest for business and an Evernote combined. And so what it allows you to do is using smart phone, PC, tablet, whatever, to capture ideas, thoughts, articles, videos, pictures, and do it remotely, and then have it automatically load to a page that your entire team, and even potential investors and clients can then access. And it organizes it in different pages much like Pinterest would.
And you can cordon off sections for investors to go see certain things, or a client to see certain things you’ve created. A design agency might be able to go take pictures of things that inspire them and then share those with the client all on their Batterii page, as well as you team in whatever business you're working in. It's really a cool product, and they're making some even more significant changes over these next coming months, and I think it's something people will really get a lot out of.
John: If you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Tim: I didn’t choose a business book because I'm assuming so many of the great have already been mentioned. But one from a guy by the name of Bob Goff, called Love Does. And this goes back to the people thing that we've – it's come up several times in our conversation already. And it's the idea that when you treat people a certain way, you get certain results from them. And you don’t treat them that way in order to get results, but when you truly love people, when you truly care about them and treat them in extraordinary radical ways that nobody would think of, it has an impact, and it has a strong impact.
And that emotional connection makes a difference long term, whether they are an investor, or a customer, or an employee, or a family member, love does make a gigantic difference. And when you can show that in unique and surprising and unexpected ways, you might be surprised at the results.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. Who knows maybe even a little Love Does. And Tim, this next question is the last of the Lighting Round, but it's a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world. Identical earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter are taken care of. But all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Tim: Well, given my background in radio, I'm almost positive I would start a podcast.
Tim: I thought you might like that answer. You know, there are lots of great mikes on the market that are reasonably priced, and editing software that you can get for a low monthly price. And of course I would get a hold of Ringr, and use that to record all my interviews. And in the midst of all that, I think I could really put something together that would – because of my background in radio be high quality, make a big difference, and that’s what I would do, for better or for worse, I think it would be a lot of fun.
John: I love it combining the skills and the passions into that zone of genius. And Tim, let’s end today on fire with you sharing just one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Tim: Don’t be afraid to go after what's on your heart, but for this reason. When it comes to real estate I've had a lot of friends who have tried to sell houses for a long long time, and it's been a year, it's been a year and a half, it's been two years. And they're trying to take all sorts of bits and pieces of advice from people as to what would make their house better and what would make it sell? And while all of those people are good intentioned, the perspective of you don’t have to entice every buyer when you're selling a house, you have to entice one.
You have to find the right person to fall in love with your house, and if you can find that one, you’ll get a sale. And when it comes to our businesses, I think there's this innate desire to make what we do appeal to everyone. We feel like we want to, or need to, create something that everybody is going to love. And I guess my encouragement would be, find what it is you're passionate about, find what it is that you're called to do, and then do it really really well. And do it for the audience that is naturally going to gravitate to it. Don’t worry about everybody else.
Don’t worry about all the feedback that you're getting from people who say: oh, you could get so and so if you do this, this, and this. You’ll derail the train very quickly if you try to listen to everybody, and focus on that one, at least that one group of people, and just go after it with all you’ve got. If you want to get a hold of me, it's ringr.com. It’s ringr.com, no E at the end. And [email protected] is the email address.
John: I love everything you’ve been saying today. And I know that Fire Nation is so aware that they are the average of the five people that they spend the most time with. And Fire Nation, you’ve been hanging out with Tim and JLD today, so keep up the heat. And head over eofire.com and just type Tim in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up with everything we've been talking about today, his book recommendation, resource. Of course ringr.com, go directly there, ringr.com, or email Tim, he’s given it out, [email protected] ringr.com.
Say what's up. Say hello from Fire Nation lands. And Tim I want to just thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, and for that we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Tim: I look forward to it. Thanks, John.
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