MODcast Episode 2 – Finding the Werewolf: Data-Driven Storytelling with Lindsay Lyons


Welcome to MODcast, from data-driven marketing agency MODintelechy. On this podcast, we sit down with thought-leaders and innovators across industries to learn how they got to where they are and what marketing strategies helped them along the way.

Scott Thomas:

Welcome to the second installment of Modcast, candid conversations with industry leaders and innovators. On this session, we sit down with thought leaders and innovators across industries to learn how they got where they are and what marketing strategy has helped them along the way. Lindsay Lyons is the VP of Corporate Marketing at Epicor Software. I personally know her from her days at Dell computer, where she learned how to be a professional cat herder and all the while leading their content marketing strategy. Among her many talents she’s especially passionate about content as well as a damn fine leader. She’s a proud graduate of Purdue University, even though Duke basketball is better. And without further ado let’s get started. You’re not going there.

Lindsay Lyons:

No, still not correct.

Scott Thomas:

Not correct. Okay. All right. Well, thanks for joining on this beautiful 100 degree May Day.

Lindsay Lyons:

Yes. Summer is here.

Scott Thomas:

Summer is here. I want to talk a little bit, you and I have talked about this in the past, and maybe we’re just making up words, but talk a little bit about data-driven storytelling. Because I think you’re big on the content world among others. I come more on the data side, we’re both marketers, right? I’ve never really seen those two put together in many ways, either conceptually or otherwise. So, I’m kind of interested in exploring that as a topic to start and then we can take it from there.

Lindsay Lyons:

Sure. So data-driven storytelling is basically how I do what I do and what I always tell people is when you know who your target audience is, you don’t have to guess what they are interested in. You can go out and pull social listening reports, content listening reports, even their SEO and engagement click through email data and see what’s getting them to take the actions that you’re wanting them to take.

And when you connect that with the marketing material that you’ve produced, you can start to see trends of what topics, themes, solutions are getting the most engagement with that target audience. And then through marrying that with your third party listening data and seeing what other themes and topics they’re interested in, you don’t have to guess. You know what’s getting them to engage. If you have the luxury of market research, you can also talk about or start to pull in, again, insight around what’s driving them to even engage with this type of stuff, right?

So, what are the market forces that are happening? Because the data-driven storytelling is all about knowing that the reason people engage with content in the first place is to either solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity. And you just have to figure out what that challenge or opportunity is, and then how your product addresses that and you’re golden.

I’d say the last element, which is also pretty critical, is once you pull that data, you’ll see what form factor or what channel they like to engage with. So is it video? Is it YouTube? Is it infographics? Is it white papers? And so then once you know what you need to say and what you want to say, you can figure out how to say it and it takes the guesswork away.

Scott Thomas:

No, that’s great. This is always my question, right? We go back a ways, right, but was there a point where something clicked for you or has it always been, and I’ll give more context on the data-driven part? Because a lot of times storytelling is seen as a completely different competency than data, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah.

Scott Thomas:

And so, I personally have not seen many professionals other than honestly, yourself, who’s brought those worlds together. And we push it a lot, but I think a lot of it from what we’ve seen is what I call just a lack of comfort. Because usually we’re working with content folks and it’s like, look, I came from a content side, maybe PR, maybe copywriting, right? The kind that come up through the ranks. You mind talking a little bit about that journey to use an overly-used phrase for you?

Lindsay Lyons:

I can give you the exact moment the light bulb came on. I was working on the behaviorally-triggered email program for Dell with you Scott, but you were on the data and kind of the program coding and design side. I was sitting on the content side deciding what content could and should be served up for each of these behavioral triggers. Right? And we had put a bunch of stuff into and it was again very Dell, very technical, very academic. And we started collecting data, looking what was getting clicked on, what was getting engaged with, what was then being re-served to people because of the engagement rates and whatnot. The piece that was beating everything else head and shoulders above the rest was a piece that was actually a highly technical case study about one of our precision workstation machines that was being used by a special effects studio.

But the headline was how to build a better werewolf and kind of dating myself, it was Pinewood Studios. They were using it to do special effects for the werewolves in the movie, Twilight showing how it had the computing power to render this realistic stuff. But because it had that storytelling headline, we had people that were clicking on it that were two and three clicks deep that didn’t come in looking for a workstation, but absolutely wanted to know what that was about. And so, that was when I was like, oh my God, it, it doesn’t matter. People are clicking on this even though they have no intention of buying it because they’re just looking for something to entertain them at some point, but then also to get work done and they’re looking for a good story. So we started to take the approach of really boiling down what we were trying to get across and knowing that the same hammer can’t hit the same nail every time, right?

So, there is a time and a place for technical information. There is a time and a place for speeds and feeds, but it’s not everywhere. And that was the moment that I was like, okay, we need to start testing different approaches, start testing different ways of telling these stories and we’ll start to see trends. And then what that also told me was we don’t have to guess because if we can A/B test this stuff, if we can even A/B test headlines, we’ll know exactly what to do.

Scott Thomas:

Right. So, would you say that some of that had to do with sort of the environment you were in or do you think, and the reason I’m saying this is just think about people kind of coming up in marketing as well, right? Like Dell from a cultural perspective is maybe a little more data driven as an organization than some others, right, in terms of large companies, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah.

Scott Thomas:

Or, you’ve been talking about a little bit on like putting yourself in the right position versus what I would say is also your own natural curiosity, right? Did it take both of those together or where did that magic happen?

Lindsay Lyons:

I think Dell’s culture was always very, very data driven. There was always a necessity to assign some kind of measurement to what you were doing. However, I think again, the light bulb that went off for me was you can marry the art and the science, and it doesn’t have to take the humanity out of what you’re doing. And I think what environment did for me was to see that the science can inform the art and the art will actually influence the result of the science and the data. So, I think it definitely was a product of my environment because honestly, if somebody had come to me and said, don’t worry about the numbers, I probably would have been like, whew. However, I don’t think I would have had the business case to be able to say we need to change the type of content we’re creating. It can’t just be speeds and feeds, it can’t just be product information. We’ve got to tell a story. That data helped me make that case.

Scott Thomas:

No, that’s great. Thank you because that’s always in my head which is what is nature/nurture for lack of a better term. In making that case, do you feel like the data was the linchpin of making that business case at Dell? Or, do you feel like that’s also a product of data plus storytelling to build that business case? And the reason I say that is a lot of people, like if somebody comes up and says, “Hey, we want to do more data driven, storytelling.” You go to the CEO, CMO, right? What does that look like?

Lindsay Lyons:

Well, I think the data is the linchpin, right? Because at the end of the day, if you can prove that you can get better results with better storytelling, no one’s going to argue with better results. No one’s going to say to you, “No, I want to continue to produce crappy stuff that nobody looks at,” rather than just changing up even how we approach it. Storytelling and products material are not mutually exclusive. You can craft a story using basically exactly what you have even by producing the same stuff, but in a different more interesting way. And if you A/B test against what you have versus what you’re proposing, you’ll know exactly if you have a case or not. Right? So, the example I’ll give you is we still produce a ton of case studies, but we changed up exactly how we produce them and took instead of a more technical white paper approach, we took a storytelling approach talking about the situation, the challenge, the action, and the result.

And the case studies that are put together in that way, we just, the salespeople tend to send them out more. They get used anecdotally in sales calls. We have more engagement on the website. And also candidly, the customers that we’ve worked with have given us positive feedback about the experience of telling their story and saying, I really enjoyed that. So, if you pile all of that together and say, even if at the end of the day, the revenue and the pipeline stays the same, but we have people getting more usage and the customers have a positive experience just for the change in strategy of how we’re writing which costs no more, shouldn’t we make that change. I can’t think of a single reason why we would argue against it. So, again, it’s kind of like when you’re building a business case like that and you have all of these data points and you present the case of what is the risk of doing nothing, it becomes very obvious.

Scott Thomas:

Well that’s interesting you say the risk of doing nothing because I think that’s what I hear is that’s part of the pitch, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah.

Scott Thomas:

Because that’s why we see, right. I try to frame it the same as well there’s a risk in doing that. And I was all right, let’s flip that around, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

Right.

Scott Thomas:

The risk in not doing that, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

Right. It’s like, okay, so I was brought into Epicor to stand up a content function and a content practice. Being just a little bit sassy, it’s like, hey, if everything was going really well, you wouldn’t need me. So, not to be a jerk about it, but this is costing you nothing extra, and I’m just telling you it’s a change of approach and these are the results so far. So, to be honest, kind of a no brainer.

Lindsay Lyons:

I’ll tell you the other thing is when I proposed to the CMO that we were going to make this change and I didn’t have any Epicor data to back it up because we hadn’t made the change yet, I was ready to do the pitch and I had pulled industry data and this is what we’re doing. I was like, I think we should get a more storytelling approach, and this is that. And, and she looked at me and she went, “Well, yeah, let’s do it.” And I went, well, I have four more slides of data that I can show you but it’s just, it’s such a no brainer in an industry standard these days that I think it’s relatively low risk. But, by pulling that data you also have a really nice baseline to measure against.

Scott Thomas:

That’s a really good point, if nothing else, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

Yes.

Scott Thomas:

You have a baseline using it for sale purposes. You’re also doing it for a whole number of other reasons.

Lindsay Lyons:

Right.

Scott Thomas:

No, that’s great. I want to take it a slightly stay on the content route, but in slightly different why questioning. It sounds like I’m interrogating you. I want to talk a little bit about snackable content. I want to go through the, I want to say the hype versus reality, right. I don’t know if you can share examples of that.

Scott Thomas:

Because content is expensive, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah.

Scott Thomas:

You hear that in Hollywood. It plays very similar, right? People have champagne wishes in their budget in most cases.

Lindsay Lyons:

Yes.

Scott Thomas:

Can you talk a little bit about the reality of trying to do snackable content in that context?

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah. So, it is hype versus reality in a lot of cases. First of all, the first thing I’ll say is I see people getting really wrapped up in form factors and they’ll come running in the door with their head on fire and say, “I need an infographic.” And it’s like, okay, about what? And it’s like, “I don’t know, but I just need it because people like them.” And it’s like, no, no, no, no, that’s not how this works.

Lindsay Lyons:

So, when you have snackable content, the first thing you need to decide is the piece that you want to break into more pieces, does it have enough information in it to be broken apart? Are they interesting and valuable enough to be broken apart? And can they serve almost as mini advertising or CliffsNotes for a certain section that would make somebody want to go to that anchor piece of content and either fill in a form, a gate or perform some more higher level of commitment in order to get their hands on the full anchor piece of content.

Lindsay Lyons:

If you don’t have enough to make smaller pieces, several smaller pieces, at least two or three, then it’s just a repackaging exercise. It just means that you’re taking this piece and you’re going to make it more palatable for someone to consume.

Lindsay Lyons:

The next thing I see is people say, okay, this white paper has three sections. That means we’re going to make three smaller pieces and I’m going to make an article, an infographic and a social campaign. And it’s like, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t confuse your snackable pieces of content that you need to go out and use to tell your story with the ways that you’re going to reach your audience. So email, social posts, those aren’t the vehicles that you’re going to use to tell your story. The snackable piece is what’s going to do that.

Lindsay Lyons:

And then the last piece of advice I’ll give is there should be connective tissue between each of your snackable pieces and that pillar piece, because they are built off of each other and it’s going … your goal and the whole strategy behind snackable pieces remember was binging. You want people to get lost in how great your content is and consume all of those three smaller pieces and sign up for the bigger piece. Right? Because then you’re like indoctrinating them. If you haven’t built the experience that allows binging, you shot yourself in the foot. Again, I see people who send out that infographic and they’ll maybe embed it in a Marketo email, but then they don’t tell you where to go to get the other related content. And it’s like, okay, thanks for watching. Bye. And you walk away. You’ve just killed half your effort.

Scott Thomas:

Yep. No, that’s great advice. Are there any specific places of pillar content you usually see, like that’s a white paper or like a video case study, kind of the top of the derivative content pyramid. Do you have a go to set of content pieces that you look at, if that makes sense, right, in terms of make snackable, right? Sometimes it’s like, hey, I have a 14-page white paper, right? Yeah, that’s got a lot of content. Let’s use that and we’ll break up three different pieces and …

Lindsay Lyons:

So, the rule of thumb that I always use is if you have a piece of content that someone is highly unlikely to fully engage with on their phone, you need to create a smaller, more consumable piece that will draw them to then consume that larger piece. It could be a white paper that’s only two or three pages, or it could be a really long meaty article.

Lindsay Lyons:

But the reality is, is that most people will, their gateway drug to your content is going to be on their phone. So, you need a version of that information that people can use on their phone. And that’s kind of my rule of thumb. If somebody says to me they have a white paper, I’m like, what are you turning it into? Because if you don’t have enough content in a white paper to turn it into something, it’s just a really long article, which needs to be edited. So, that’s how I think about it. You can turn anything into snackable content, but the first question I would ask is, should you? Who’s going to want to read it?

Scott Thomas:

Right. Well, I’m going to go another route maybe back down some of your international experience, because I think we talked a little bit about content, a little bit about your background. You’ve lived internationally. You worked internationally. What is the most interesting story business or otherwise?

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah, it’s business actually. I was on a business trip, this is in my days at Dell. In one of my roles we were asked to travel around to all of the global field marketing teams and train them with our content strategy that allows for the best of data-driven storytelling, customer focused storytelling, and really helping folks turn that corner from kind of batch and blast marketing to this marketing automation.

Lindsay Lyons:

So, we were sent on the tour to our South American and Central American field marketing teams. And it was 10-day trip with seven flights. So colleague and myself, my boss actually, we flew down, started in Brazil. It was two weeks before the Olympics, so it was a little bit crazy. Not as crazy as I thought it would be. It was very quiet because everyone was on strike. And I was like, oh, this doesn’t bode well for the Olympics.

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah, it was fine. First lesson learned was, hey, guess what, in July in Brazil, it’s winter. And Brazil’s a very large country so the further south you go, the colder it gets. And so instantly caught a cold because we packed for July. Then our next stop was Panama. Hands down the most beautiful place. Absolutely wonderful. Couldn’t recommend it enough. And then our last stop was Mexico City.

Lindsay Lyons:

So, by the time we’d been to Mexico City, we had been on five flights in six days. And so we flew into Mexico City on a Monday and we’d worked all weekend and our directive was, you can take the Monday off because you’ve been working so hard and then you’ll go and you’ll train the team on Tuesday. We were like, okay, great.

Lindsay Lyons:

So, we decide to go sightseeing in the city center and by this time again, absolutely exhausted, not really paying attention the way that you probably should in the city center of Mexico City and went to the Zocalo where there is the ruins of the Aztec city that it sits underneath almost all of Mexico City.

Lindsay Lyons:

Well, all museums in Mexico city are closed on Monday. So we were like, well this is just great. Now, there’s an open air part of the museum where you can kind of look over railings and look into the city ruins. And we’re looking over the city ruins and this guy, very official looking young man with a lanyard and a clipboard came over and said, the museum is closed today. And we were like, yeah, we know. Only afterwards did we realize he was speaking English from the start which, you know.

Lindsay Lyons:

He goes, but it’s okay. We have an extension of the museum just around the corner that you can come and see some of the original ruins underneath in this area. And I was like, I don’t know. Is it free? He’s like, oh yeah, it’s absolutely free. I’m like, okay, let’s go.

Lindsay Lyons:

So, my boss and I also another female bop off down an alleyway where another young guy comes over and is like, “Oh, are you going on this tour?” And they were like, “Yes, we’re about to start it.” So it’s two dudes and us and I’m still well, this is weird, a little bizarre, but it should be fun. So we’re about to walk into this building and the guy with the lanyard turns around and goes, “By the way, when we walk in here, we’re going to have to walk through the store to the back of the building. Don’t talk to anybody and don’t look at anybody or they’ll think you’re going to buy something.” And I was like, oh, this is really weird because the people in the store should know that this is happening if there’s a museum in their basement.

Lindsay Lyons:

So, still not saying anything. Walk back and he’s stopped at the top of the stairs that go into the basement. We get there and I remember thinking to myself, this is a really bad idea. Nobody knows where we are. We’re heading into a basement and we’ve just had to avoid eye contact with anyone who could have given us any kind of help. But, it would be rude to leave because this man seems very enthusiastic about his basement museum.

Lindsay Lyons:

So, then he walks in front of us. There’s like a giant padlock on the door and he unlocks the padlock, of course. And is like, “Hang on, I’m going to get it ready inside.” And I was like, oh, he’s getting it ready. And I look at my, my friend, my boss, and she’s like, and … I was like, what? She was like, no. And then he throws open the door. “Okay, come on.” So we walk in and he goes, “Walk into the middle of the room.” It’s like just a cement basement. He closes the door. There’s no lights on. And she grabs my hand and goes, “If we get murdered, it’s all your fault.

Lindsay Lyons:

Only then was I like, oh my God, we are locked in a basement with no lights on with two dudes in Mexico City and no one knows we’re here. Our phones aren’t working because we’re in a basement and what are we going to do? Well, come to find out, it was a totally legit museum. The reason you were in the basement is because that’s where the original street level of the city was. He was turning on these special lights so that it didn’t fade the murals that were painted on the city walls. But this is after a solid five minutes of us thinking we’re going to be murdered. And it was like murals about the afterlife and this is what the Aztec afterlife was, and this is the road to death and all of this.

Lindsay Lyons:

And I’m like it’s pretty stressful. I’m not really enjoying this, even though I’m a history buff. So, on the way out, he’s like, “I hope you enjoyed it. Please sign our guest book. And this is a new tour, so if you could give us any advice, we’d really appreciate it.” I was like, I would really work on the entry spiel to this museum because it really did feel like we were about to be killed. And he was like, “Oh, that’s so funny.”

Lindsay Lyons:

So, we leave the museum and walking outside and a ton of alarms start going off everywhere. And I was like, oh my God, they found bodies in there or something. And people start running out of the buildings. And my boss looks at me and is like, when the locals look nervous, you should be really, really nervous. And I’m like, yeah, but my nervous bone is worn out. I just mentally fought for my life for about 30 minutes in there. And it turned out it was an earthquake. We didn’t feel the earthquake because we were outside, but the city was about to go on lockdown because there were going to be aftershocks and I was like, we just need to get back to the hotel.

Scott Thomas:

Well, maybe you are trembling at the same vibration rate.

Lindsay Lyons:

Probably, most likely. She was like, “We just have to get out of here.” And so then we went into the office the next day and told everybody what we had done. And they were like, “You do realize that Mexico City has a very high kidnapping rate.” And we were like, huh, good information to have had yesterday.

Scott Thomas:

Yeah. Well right. I mean, you know.

Lindsay Lyons:

We lived. We lived and …

Scott Thomas:

You’re find.

Lindsay Lyons:

And hey, lesson learned. Don’t go into an unmarked basement museum with a guy just because he has a clipboard and he looks very official.

Scott Thomas:

Well, I paid attention, right? The word free seemed to be the hook.

Lindsay Lyons:

The free thing was it. I was like, I’m not going to go to your private, scary basement murder museum and then have to pay for it, so let’s just do that. And then the other thing I learned was anyone can make a lanyard with a laminating machine. So let’s pay attention to that too.

Scott Thomas:

Those are all really good lessons. Those are all, I think people can get a lot from that. Just general personal safety. Yeah. That reminds me last year with my entrepreneurs group, we went to Mexico City because they’re a sister city and there was a big bus that 50 business owners got on. And there was a huge sign that says entrepreneurs here and I was like, boy, this seems like a really good target bus to kidnap.

Lindsay Lyons:

Yes.

Scott Thomas:

Just going to, and we’re not really being very sort of discrete about the whole thing.

Lindsay Lyons:

No. And I will say it was a totally legit thing. And the guy was a very nice guy and it was a really great museum. It was a really great experience, but I was like, I never, I think part of what was so freaky was I never felt in danger. I have been to some truly dodgy areas of the world and where I probably should have been most on my guard I was not because I was like, it’s beautiful and the food’s the best I’ve ever had and the people are lovely. Never entered into the equation.

Scott Thomas:

Well, that’s a theme on now the second show, right? The first show has Brazil, which personally the only country I’ve really been afraid for my life and it’s a lovely country, but I was afraid for my life in Brazil. I’ve been to over 80 countries.

Lindsay Lyons:

We were also in a situation in Brazil where we probably should have been more afraid, but that was the country where I had my really bad cold so I was on cold medicine so I was like, everybody else just tell me. If somebody is on a motorcycle coming up with a gun and we’re stuck in traffic, just tell me when to duck. That was what we were told. They were like, “We can’t get stuck in traffic. If they see you guys there’s robbers that pull up on motorcycles so just give them everything.” And I was like, they’re not having my Tamiflu.

Scott Thomas:

You got to hold the line at somewhere, right?

Lindsay Lyons:

You have to have a bottom line.

Scott Thomas:

Right, right.

Lindsay Lyons:

That was my adventure. I made it out. We flew home, but have to say, could probably point to that museum and tell you guys to go because it was great.

Scott Thomas:

Zocalo, right and …

Lindsay Lyons:

It was in Zocalo and it was the basement of a religious icon shop that sits right behind the cathedral. It was yellow if you want to know, the outside of the building was yellow. But just look for the guy with the lanyard and the clipboard and he’ll take you there for free.

Scott Thomas:

I’m sure it’s fine. Just start with that, right? Follow the lanyard guy.

Lindsay Lyons:

That’s right. Just look like someone who’s really lost and he’ll find you.

Scott Thomas:

Good. Well, I think those that’s better advice than all that content marketing stuff you’re talking about.

Lindsay Lyons:

Absolutely.

Scott Thomas:

Well, Lindsay, thank you. Appreciate all your time. It’s always fun to catch up and make each other laugh and learn a little.

Lindsay Lyons:

Yeah. And thanks for having me. This is my favorite stuff to talk about.

Scott Thomas:

Awesome. Well, thanks again. Enjoy your sunny Texas day. Thanks everyone for joining.

Lindsay Lyons:

Thank you.

 

INTRO

Scott Thomas:
Hello, and welcome to the first episode of MODcast, candid chats with industry innovators and leaders. I’m Scott Thomas, co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of MODintelechy. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with my good friend, client, and industry leader, Brian Peters, who’s also Chief Experience Officer, I stole that from him, at Bucket List Events.

Scott Thomas:
A little bit about Brian, he’s a proud graduate of the University of Texas, where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. Additionally, he’s a member of Entrepreneurs Organization, as well as past President of the Austin EO Chapter. Also, as a part of EO, he’s a graduate of Birthing of Giants program at MIT.

Scott Thomas:
Brian has founded, run, and exited several companies, including his latest endeavor, Bucket List Events. He’s married with one son, that we both hope attends Duke University or at least I do. In his spare time, he enjoys golf and of course travel.

Brian Peters:
Well, thanks for having me.

HOW YOU GOT STARTED

Scott Thomas:
All right. Let’s start out. We were talking a little bit before we started taping, tell me a little bit about how you got started? You started a company called Red Carpet Events in 2004.

Brian Peters:
Red Carpet Tickets.

Scott Thomas:
Tickets, sorry.

Brian Peters:
Primarily it was about event tickets. We had a contract with a company called ClubCorp, they owned golf and dining resorts nationwide. We had an exclusive relationship with them to provide their members with event tickets for everything in their local market, the local college team, the local sports teams, concerts, theater, and that was all from 2004 till about 2015, I guess. We would do anywhere from $10 to $15 million a year in revenue. Anywhere from 10 to 20 employees at any given point in time.

Brian Peters:
Then I sold that business in January of 2015 to a group out of Kentucky actually, and was on an earn-out with him for another year and a half, I guess. (2.44 min)

Scott Thomas:
Just for everyone’s edification, you mind talking a little bit just… You don’t have to talk about the specifics, but the earn-out, I don’t think everyone knows what that is.

Brian Peters:
Fair enough. I went from being the owner of a company to being basically an employee of a company. I was paid well, but I didn’t make the decisions anymore. For a little bit, for a short while, that was liberating. I didn’t have to worry about the next payroll cycle or I didn’t have to worry about much of anything really. I just had to answer the phone if they called me.

Brian Peters:
But, eventually you get the itch back. About a year and a half into a two year earn-out, I approached them and said, there’s this piece of the business that I always enjoyed more than the rest of it. The ticket business, chasing down tickets for a Taylor Swift concert or a Dallas Cowboys game, got be a grind. But, what I always enjoyed was the experience on the ground at a major event. I loved the Olympics. I loved the Masters is my favorite by a wide margin.

Brian Peters:
I loved these experiences where we were on the ground, we met clients face to face instead of shipping them a FedEx envelope with tickets. I approached the company that had bought Red Carpet Tickets, and I said, there’s this piece of the business that I don’t think you can do without me, and I’m leaving when my earn-out is done, but I’d be willing to buy it back from you.

Brian Peters:
It took a six weeks or so to negotiate, but in the end, I bought the tour experience piece of the business back from them. We had a division we called Bucket List Events at the time, and I bought those assets back from them. That was the founding of my Bucket List Events. We incorporated that as its own business in May of 2017.

Scott Thomas:
Thank you, that’s helpful. When that decision was made, was the company that bought the event portion, were they really pay attention to it in your mind? Because you mentioned, hey, you can’t do it without me, or was that when they bought it, did they just leave it, stayed for lack of a better term?

Brian Peters:
They bought Red Carpet Tickets for the ticket piece, and even more so than that the relationship of ClubCorp. They turned around and sold their relationship with ClubCorp to another entity, they made more on that than they’d spent with me acquiring Red Carpet Tickets. They made their money and they were content just to ride out the ticket business.

Brian Peters:
Meanwhile, we were on site for the Rio Olympics. We were on site for the next Masters. It took my team, my old Red Carpet team to fulfill that. They had no experience in fulfilling a hospitality experience on the ground. We were doing the tour business, they were doing the ticket business, and they sold the ClubCorp relationship and made their money.

Brian Peters:
It just seemed natural, I wanted to buy back this piece of the business that I was fulfilling anyway for them, and that I actually enjoyed.

DID YOU KNOW CLUBCORP WOULD BE THE CROWN JEWEL?

Scott Thomas:
Did you know when you sold it, that ClubCorp would be the crown jewel?

Brian Peters:
Oh, absolutely. It was an exclusive contract with… ClubCorp for those who don’t know, they own something like 250 Golf and dining resorts nationwide, about 400,000 members. Average household income, I think is over $200,000. It’s an affluent audience to have exclusive access into. That was the crown jewel. Now, here’s a funny story, after the company in Kentucky bought us, sold ClubCorp relationship to another entity in Atlanta.

Brian Peters:
For two years ClubCorp was with that company in Atlanta called PrimeSport. When their contract was up with PrimeSport, ClubCorp approached me at the next Masters and asked, “Could we please come back? We prefer the way you served the Masters.” Actually, when it’s all said and done My Bucket List Events has the relationship with ClubCorp once again to serve our events.

Scott Thomas:
Nice. When I hear something like that, I’m always interested in the importance of relationships. Everyone says that, but even at a business transaction level, because when I hear that, the relationship survives all those gyrations and who owns what.

Brian Peters:
It’s unbelievable. But yes, it’s the relationships that matter the most. You don’t buy from a company, you buy from a person at a company.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE EVENT?

Scott Thomas:
Yep. You mentioned the Masters. I was going to ask you your favorite event, but I think I know the answer.

Brian Peters:
Right here.

Scott Thomas:
Talk a little bit about that, because I’m always interested in and there’s a lot of discussion on business and passion. Some people are like, “Hey, follow your passion. That will turn into your business.” There’s a counter discussion on well, not every passion should turn into a business.

Brian Peters:
The irony is, in some ways, I founded this business, because I love the Masters so much. The irony is, I’m in Augusta for the entire week, every week of the Masters for the last 21 years, but the business has gotten so large, I get to spend less and less time actually on the golf course because I’ve got so many clients to take care of.

Brian Peters:
But, back to my favorite event, the Masters, more than any other event I could think of has done the best job of maintaining tradition. When you walked out onto the golf course there is no marketing. There’s no billboards, there’s no signage, there’s no hospitality tents, that doesn’t exist. It’s just you’re in the golf course. By the way to get on the golf course you have to leave your cell phone at home. There’s no cell phones on the golf course. You’re disconnected from technology for an entire day on the most beautiful piece of real estate in America. It’s an outer worldly experience.

Brian Peters:
The prices, concessions, sandwiches, ham and cheese on rye, $1.75. You want a beer? $2.25. It’s unbelievable. It’s like you just stepped back into the 1970s.

Scott Thomas:
It’s interesting. That’s great. You see less and less of that. Do you think-

Brian Peters:
You don’t see it anywhere.

Scott Thomas:
Right. The fact that they’re doing that, and they protect the experience so hardcore. What do you see in other events and other areas, is people monetize it. When they try to monetize it, it loses some luster.

MASTERS VS SUPERBOWL

Brian Peters:
The event everybody always points to is the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the antithesis of the Masters in my opinion. You’ve got a totally corporate event. Most of the people… Mind you, most of the people that are at the Super Bowl, got their tickets because they were the top salesperson at their fortune 500 company. They’re not a fan of either team.

Brian Peters:
Most of the people at the Super Bowl don’t care who wins. As far as an NFL football game goes, it’s one of the least exciting to be at because there’s not a home crowd in the stadium. It’s a very sanitized, corporate $15 beers, if you’re lucky experiences. The exact opposite of what the Masters is and tries to protect.

HOW DO YOU STAY AUTHENTIC?

Scott Thomas:
That’s great. I want to talk a little bit about the travel, because I think that speaks to more and more you hear a lot of things about people looking for authentic experiences. I think the irony is, how do things that are authentic, stay authentic? Because things get a little over loved, I’ll give Austin as an example. As something grows, how do you preserve what’s great about it?

Brian Peters:
Exactly. That is a challenge.

Scott Thomas:
Do you target in your business… An example, we went to Pamplona with you guys and had a great experience to the point of Toby literally was watching our two year old. I don’t think most… We’re friends as well, but I don’t think most organizations do that. How do you grow and be authentic, and not sell out? I know that’s a big question, right?

Brian Peters:
Well, there’s a couple of ways I can answer that. One thing I would tell you this is, first off, we only serve the events that we enjoy. I don’t particularly enjoy the Super Bowl. We don’t provide the Super Bowl. We like going to Pamplona for the running of the bulls, which by the way, has been going on in Pamplona for hundreds of years, down the exact same street and they do a good job of protecting their tradition.

Brian Peters:
Same for Oktoberfest in Munich. It’s been going on for hundreds of years, on the same grounds, in the same tents. It’s a very similar experience today as it was 200 years ago. It’s those events we really enjoy the most. We enjoy sharing them with people who are passionate to see them.

ON WORKING REMOTE

Scott Thomas:
No, that’s great. I’m going to switch to a little different tack because I think this is… In your business, you operate largely remotely.

Brian Peters:
We did, not largely, completely.

Scott Thomas:
Completely, right. Can you talk a little bit about that model for lack of a better term? Challenges, upside downside and what your day to day is and what you’ve learned? Will you ever go back? That’s a lot of questions.

Brian Peters:
Well, I used to think we might go back but no longer now. I love it now. For many years, from 2004 to 2015, I believed you had to have an office to have a business. Good grief, I think at the Hill Country Galleria, I was paying $7,000 a month for my space, and it wasn’t big enough. We were looking for more.

Brian Peters:
With Bucket List Events, the initial idea was we’re going to keep our overhead as low as possible. One of the guys that I knew had to work for me lived in Round Rock and one of the girls we wanted to work for us, she lives in Munich, which made it very convenient for Oktoberfest, but she wasn’t going to be commuting to an office in Austin.

Brian Peters:
By design, we had to solve for that. It has been a learning experience, I would say early on, when we were just three people, it was very easy to have a three way conference call and everybody could just talk. As you add a fourth and then a fifth and it goes from there, it became very important for us to figure out the tools to have effective meetings and to have accountability when everyone in your office is remote. Everybody dials in from wherever they are in the world. It is a video conference meeting and we’ve got a very structured agenda setup that we follow.

Brian Peters:
Basically, we start with some good news, we review the numbers for this past week and then everybody’s got an eight minute window to present what they’ve been working on this past week and what they’re working on for the next week. Throughout the entire meeting, throughout those updates, we listen for issues. Anytime an issue comes up, we quickly record that issue down at the bottom of our agenda, and then when the last of the updates is done, we’ve got another 45 minutes or so, to go through the issues one by one. We take whatever issue is the highest priority and address it.

Brian Peters:
Hopefully, the conversation around the issue boils down to action items that make it into somebody’s commitments for the next week. At the end of the meeting, we rate it and offer one suggestion that we could do better to make the next meeting even better. Ever since we switched that model, it’s been phenomenal.

Scott Thomas:
All right. I’m hearing, sounds like some process things. Zoom is technology for videoconferencing, and audio conferencing, screen sharing.

Brian Peters:
We use Zoom, and then we’ve track the agenda and then accountability in a Google document. That’s it. We’d looked at Trello and tried that for a while, it didn’t quite fit. Right now we’re looking at Asana as a possible better tool for us. But we make it work with a Zoom video conference meeting in a Google Doc.

Scott Thomas:
That makes sense. It’s interesting, you say, the remote model, because they say necessity is the mother of invention, because there’s a lot of talk about doing things remotely. It’s another thing if people do it well, or if it’s what I call a side show. Partly you don’t have a choice. You could have an office but Munich and different time zones, hard to get in one place.

USING HUBSPOT FOR CRM

Scott Thomas:
The reason I bring that up in the way that we work together is we see that with clients. There’s a lot of folks that adopt the technology but, if there isn’t a pain point that drives them to use it, a lot of times it doesn’t get used. This leads to, I know you guys use HubSpot for CRM, and other tools.

Brian Peters:
Correct.

Scott Thomas:
Maybe talk a little bit about that. I say that just for context because Salesforce, HubSpot there’s a lot of different tools. It runs the gamut. I would say you guys use it much more than I would say any of our other clients, for the most part. Others may use it, but it’s not core to their business is what I would argue. Maybe talk a little bit about that.

Brian Peters:
I’m a huge HubSpot fan. A few years back, the old company, I started with Salesforce and was paying Salesforce prices. A couple of years later, I was introduced to Zoho which it’s just like Salesforce for half the price. I used Zoho. Somewhere along the way someone said well, HubSpot is the same thing and it’s basically free. No, it’s not, but the CRM portion is.

Brian Peters:
On a whim, I switched HubSpot, just to see and it has been life changing. When we are remote in a remote office, it’s important to keep track of the conversations, not just that I’ve had with a client but that someone else has had with the client. On our fulfillment side, the person who’s delivering an experience at the Masters or at the Tokyo Olympics, needs to be able to quickly pull up a document that the salesperson shared with them, what’s included in their package.

Brian Peters:
HubSpot has allowed us to keep track of our conversations, and view one another’s conversations much more efficiently than we ever had before.

Scott Thomas:
That’s great. Again, I put that, what I hear is, that is driven largely by necessity to get remote. That’s what we see with clients, is even if it’s a top down position, unless they have to use it, everybody’s busy, The CRM is a sideshow. It’s obviously core to your business. What I want to talk about is you’ve also taken to the next level.

Brian Peters:
I have, thanks to you, actually. I actually have to commend you on that. For a long time we used HubSpot, and everything that we did in HubSpot, we did manually. If I had a client ask me for a quote for the Masters or for the Olympics, I had a template that I had written up and I would copy and paste it and press send by. On occasions where we would send out an email blast to all of ClubCorp’s members, I might end up with 1,000 requests for a quote for the Masters in one day.

Brian Peters:
Literally, that is one day’s worth of work to copy and paste and press send on an email, even though the emails already written, it takes a full day to do that. It was a very inefficient system. If there’s one thing above all else that I’ve gotten out of our relationship, it’s the automation of that process, in ways that I never knew were possible, I didn’t know existed.

Brian Peters:
Now, we have the auto response feature set up in HubSpot, where if someone requests information on the Masters, they get an email back from me personally, without me ever pressing send. Then beyond that, they get a follow up email a week later asking them if they have any questions about it. Then a follow up email a week later than that, reminding them that time is running out.

Brian Peters:
The manual labor portion of the CRM experience has been automated, thanks to you and your company, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

Scott Thomas:
I appreciate it. I have a question on that. I don’t know if it’s related to this. You’re an engineer, by training way, way back.

Brian Peters:
Yeah. I can barely remember that.

Scott Thomas:
Right, but I would argue there’s probably a mindset related to that. Meaning, automation and efficiency. I may be characterizing you, I’m a marketer, this is what I do. How do you get other folks who may not be as bought in to buy into CRM and automation? You’re obviously the founder and the owner. But how do you get other folks on the team? Has that been a challenge? Has that been easy? Can you talk maybe a little bit about that?

Brian Peters:
Well, we automate it for them, so there’s no buy in it happens for them whether they bought in or not. In fact, there’s some benefit to that. I have managed large sales teams, significantly large sales teams. There’s always a challenge when you manage salespeople that they all have a different message. They all have something different in their mind and they’re making different promises to their clients. That has been one of the benefits about setting up templates and having auto responses in HubSpot is that I now control the message. This is exactly what’s promised, this is what’s included in a package.

Brian Peters:
No, I’m sorry, we’re not going to have a limo to take you back and forth each day, no matter what you might have heard, this is what’s included in your program. That’s been a big benefit to us.

Scott Thomas:
Not a whole lot of folks getting what I like to call creative. Other people say [crosstalk 00:24:31] especially sales folks, right?

Brian Peters:
There’s sales people that will say anything to close the deal, then it’s much healthier to control the message.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO OUTSOURCE?

Scott Thomas:
That’s good. I want to talk about the decision behind that. Us working together but just in general in your business, because I’m always curious on decision making frameworks or just how it happens. In your business, how do you decide to work with a marketing agency? How do you decide to outsource your software? Do you have a philosophy on what to keep in house, and what to outsource from a partnering standpoint?

Brian Peters:
Well, I think you should do what you’re good at, and outsource the rest. Could I figure out how to do my taxes? Probably, I’m intelligent. But, am I better off hiring a CPA to do that for me? Yes. There is no… What we’re good at is delivering an experience on the ground in major event, that’s who we are. Anything related to delivering that experience, I want to own. But I am not a marketer by trade. That is a skill set I just don’t have. So, I outsource it.

Scott Thomas:
That’s great. The question there is, we interact with lots of different people, but a lot of sales folks, I think, because it’s not like a CPA or a doctor has to go to school for marketing, but largely, it’s learned in the field. How does someone figure out that maybe marketing is not their core competency? Because we’ve seen clients and others, and this is other fields as well, trying to do marketing, or the automation, or what I like to call DIY. They want to go to Home Depot, pick up all the stuff instead of hiring a contractor.

Scott Thomas:
Did you early on try to go to Home Depot for marketing and then figure it out, I’m not good at building a shed, or did you just leap over that process and say, look, I know I don’t want to go to Home Depot and build my marketing just to use an analogy.

Brian Peters:
In all honesty, what you have done, what your company has done to automate HubSpot for us, I didn’t know was possible. I wouldn’t have known to go to Home Depot and buy the parts. I didn’t know it was even possible. You opened up new doors for me.

TELL ME ABOUT THE TIME YOU WENT TO PRISON IN BRAZIL.

Scott: All right. Tell me about your own personal episode of Locked Up Abroad.

Brian Peters:
We had a big program for the Brazil World Cup in 2014, and quite a few clients, a lot of people coming and going, I rented an office space in the top floor of a hotel in Rio de Janeiro. That was our office and I had all my employees there and clients would come to me and pick up and go.

Brian Peters:
Somewhere along the way, some of the local police thought, I wonder what’s going on up there, and they raided our office. It is illegal to sell tickets for sporting events in Brazil for more than face value, that’s a fact. Mind you, all of our clients where they’re picking up tickets that they had purchased in the States a month before, where it’s entirely illegal to sell a ticket for more than face value.

Brian Peters:
But nevertheless, we got raided, four police with guns out and, badges up and guns out, what’s going on in here who’s in charge? I’m in charge, and there’s nothing illegal going on here. I’m not the least bit worried. Well, they rounded up every ticket that they could find in the office, they rounded up all the money that they could find.

Brian Peters:
Mind you, I had a lot of tickets in the office. I still had all the tickets for the finals, and the semifinals, the quarterfinals, the round of 16, the most valuable tickets. Those clients weren’t in town yet, so I’m still holding their tickets for them.

Brian Peters:
Anyway, they round up all the tickets and me, and we’re going to go down to the police station, just figure this all out. I’m thinking okay, this will be a quick bribe and I’ll be on my way home. Well, it was 15 days later before I got out of there. They kept all the cash, they kept about half of the tickets. They gave me some back saying that that was all that they’d recovered. I spent 15 days in the Brazilian prison system.

Scott Thomas:
Wow.

Brian Peters:
Whatever you imagine it to be, it’s probably a little bit worse than that.

Scott Thomas:
Did they put in general population?

Brian Peters:
They put us in a wing of the prison. By the way, the prison was called Bangu B-A-N-G-U. You can google it sometime and you’ll get some pretty graphic pictures that come up on Google of beheadings and riots. It is a very bad place to be. Now, in fairness, they put us in a wing of the prison for trustees, the better prisoners who worked in the prison system.

Brian Peters:
We got two meals a day, and there’s a little hole in the ground as a toilet and we weren’t treated badly. We weren’t treated badly, but it was poor living conditions to say the least.

Scott Thomas:
You were the only one arrested?

Brian Peters:
I raised my hand, and said, I’m in charge, they took me to the police station. At the police station, they talked to the Chief of Police and said, “Look what we’ve uncovered. Look at what we found.” She said, “Were there more people in the office?” The policeman said, “Yes.” She said, “Well, go back and get all of them.” My two most valuable employees were still… When they saw me get taken away, they shut the office down, they set up operations separately and they took all the computers out and shut the office down.

Brian Peters:
But, they were still in the office in the last stage of that process when the police came back. My two most valuable employees who ran operations for the event, also came and spent 15 days in the prison system, which is a testament to how having great people working for you beneath and having good systems. All of our clients, in spite of the fact that all our cash was stolen by the police, half of our tickets were stolen by the police, and the three people running the event were all behind bars. In spite of all that, all of our clients had a positive experience. None of them had anything negative happen. They all got their tickets on time. They all had their transfers, their plane flights, everything worked for the clients.

Brian Peters:
We got very positive reviews from our clients at the end of the event, but the entire operations management team was behind bars for the duration of the event. Here’s the thing about Brazilian prison, I could probably give you 50 guesses and you wouldn’t guess the worst thing about that experience. Mosquitoes. It was unbelievable the mosquito situation in that prison.

Scott Thomas:
Just open air, right? Is that why?

Brian Peters:
You had a 20 foot wall in your cell and then up at the top it was open air. The mosquitoes would come in there, they would line the walls up at the top and then when the lights turned off, they would descend in mass. I remember sleeping with… You’d learn to pull the sheet all the way over your head around you to keep the mosquitoes off of you.

Brian Peters:
I would hold the sheet over… The first night, I held the sheet over my head and my knuckles were exposed to the open air. I had two or three mosquito bites on every knuckle. About halfway through our stay there were some British guys who got arrested the same way and the prison didn’t have any blankets or sheets to give them on their first night. One of the guys had so many mosquito bites his first night that he had to go to the hospital the next day. Head to toe, nothing but mosquito bites. It was unbelievable.

Scott Thomas:
Wow. But no shankings.

Brian Peters:
No, no shankings, but the guy in the cell across from us had killed 23 people to be there.

Scott Thomas:
Wow. Did you talk to him?

Brian Peters:
Oh, yeah. He was a reasonably nice guy. I certainly wasn’t going to say anything to piss him off.

Scott Thomas:
Right? Did he just volunteer that?

Brian Peters:
No, somebody else told us about him.

Scott Thomas:
Wow. That’s a little unsettling.

Brian Peters:
Eventually, the US Embassy, and the US Embassy would come and they’d check on us. Eventually, we were released, we had to hand over our passports to be released, and we weren’t allowed to leave until the trial. That meant… When it was all said and done, I spent six months in Brazil from the time I first got there to then the trial and then waiting for the judge’s verdict. By the way, we were acquitted of everything. In fact, the judge apologized to me for the experience we’d been through. I spent six months in Brazil fighting that battle.

Scott Thomas:
Guilty until proven innocent.

Brian Peters:
Police in Brazil are not paid much. It’s a thing where they all have second jobs. Sort of the way, people talk in the United States about being a schoolteacher, it’s a noble profession, but it doesn’t pay enough. Well, it’s the same for police there. They’re very low paid. They all either have second jobs or when they see an opportunity to squeeze some money out of people, they will.

Brian Peters:
I was very frustrated by that. I told my lawyer, I was like, “Well, I want to fight that. They stole half of my finals tickets and they stole all of my cash. I want that back.” My lawyer told me, “Don’t say anything. That’s how you make the situation much worse.”

Scott Thomas:
Wow. Were you in prison 15 days. Where’d you go out, because you were there six months, where’d you go-

Brian Peters:
I was in prison for 15 days, they let us out pending trial and so we rented an apartment in Copacabana. I had my voice over IP phones and that was my first experience with remote office. I had two key employees with me and a full office full of people back here in Austin. We learned about video conference meetings and I just operated as if I was in the States.

Brian Peters:
There are a number of people on the ticket business who got arrested in 2014, who skipped the country and just left. I knew I needed to come back, and I didn’t want any issues coming back into the country for the Olympics. That’s why I stayed, had the court case, fought it until I won.

Scott Thomas:
Wow. That’s playing the long game.

Brian Peters:
Well, I went back with my head held high in 2016.

Scott Thomas:
Wow. You should have Locked Up Abroad.

Brian Peters:
I would have loved to have been in that show. There’s plenty of interesting prison stories that probably aren’t appropriate for this setting.

Scott Thomas:
Maybe we’ll just start a new podcast called Prison Stories.

Brian Peters:
Locked Up Abroad. Anyway.

Scott Thomas:
That’s awesome. I don’t [inaudible 01:06:49] to talk about that earlier.

Brian Peters:
No worries.

Scott Thomas:
Thanks for sharing it. We’ve talked to little bits and pieces of dinner and stuff, but I was also like, before I go.

Brian Peters:
I don’t mind.

Speaker 3:
That’s an incredible story.

ON BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR

Scott Thomas:
Okay. All right, that’s great. We’re going to talk a little bit about entrepreneurship, take a little different tack, just in general. It’s getting a lot of play right now in general. People talk about it, podcast like this. Can you talk a little about what your favorite part of being an entrepreneur and then maybe your least favorite part? Most people will talk about the least favorite part. It’s usually the upside story.

Brian Peters:
There’s a least favorite part is fairly easy. It’s a lonely place to be being an entrepreneur, there are things that come up that there’s just no one you can talk with. If you’re worried about making payroll, you can’t call in your number one employee and say, “Hey, I’m worried about making payroll this week.” You can’t necessarily talk with your wife about it because she’s worried about are we going to be evicted from our home or foreclosed on our home?

Brian Peters:
It’s lonely, and that’s been the value of the Entrepreneur Organization for me, is being in a peer group of like-minded people. Entrepreneurship, I think the best definition of an entrepreneur I’ve ever heard is that an entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a building and figures out how to build wings on the way down. It’s a personality type. It’s, I can’t work for someone else, I need to do this myself.

Brian Peters:
That’s exciting, it’s liberating. For me, I love growing revenue. I stay up at night figuring out, how are we going to increase revenue? How are we going to sell more? How are we going to make this better so that we sell more? That’s where I get my energy from.

FROM ENGINEERING TO EVENTS

Scott Thomas:
That’s great. Thank you, because a lot of people won’t talk about what I call the downside. I think that entrepreneurship, there’s a lot of upside discussion, especially when the economy is good. Another tack, I talked a little bit about, you got an engineering degree. Now, you’re running an event company. Do you mind talking a little bit about that journey, and maybe it wasn’t much of a journey, but I’m curious to know.

Brian Peters:
I got out of the University of Texas, and I was working for IBM, and then that transitioned into a PC manufacturing company. I was selling PCs to follow that owned a ticket company. Margins on PCs were getting smaller, but the ticket industry was looking more and more interesting because the internet was just coming about and people were trying to figure out how to buy tickets online.

Brian Peters:
There came an opportunity to create this software product to serve the ticket industry. I left the PC industry behind and co-founded a company called Real-Time Ticketing to make software for ticket brokers. I traveled all around the world signing up ticket brokers to use this software product. The key piece of that story is they would invite me into their office… It was an accounting program, basically. We keep track of your inventory and your receivables and payables and whatnot in this program. It allows you to share inventory with one another.

Brian Peters:
What happened for me is it got me invited into the back office of all the major ticket brokers around the country. I got to see the 101 different ways that they run their businesses. Everybody had a different angle to the business, and I got a front row seat to all the different ways. The software company didn’t make it. We got beat by another player in the space, but I had this lesson from being in all these ticket brokers offices about all the different ways to run the business. I said, “I think I’ll give that a try.” In May of 2004, I started Red Carpet Tickets with that experience.

Scott Thomas:
Okay. How did you make that leap? Can you talk about the dynamics, and even just the decision making to jump off the cliff and build the wings, so to speak?

Brian Peters:
Well, I started with one customer, but it was a big one. I had along the way with the software product, we had some VC backing. One of the members in the VC firm said, “What you really need to do is find somebody that can use this software product, who’s not a ticket broker.” I was like, well, it’s a ticket broker software, I don’t get it. But it was like, no, prove that somebody besides a ticket broker could use this software to manage tickets.

Brian Peters:
Well, about that time I joined the Hills of Lakeway Golf Club. In my first newsletter that came from my club was an offer for Spurs tickets, or tickets to the Bass Concert Hall for theater or a concert to the Frank Urban Center. I’m like, “I wonder what this is about.”

Brian Peters:
I went down and I met the woman that was the Membership Director for the Hills Club. She had… Literally, she had a desk drawer with tickets flowing out of it, and she was keeping track of tickets on a little Excel ledger.

Brian Peters:
I said, “Oh, I’ve got a selection for you.” She was interested, but ultimately not the decision makers. She introduced me to the president of ClubCorp back in Dallas office. We had a meeting, turned out we were born in the same hospital in South Texas. We hit it off. He was interested in the software, and he had a need for it, didn’t really have any budget for it. Somewhere along the way, he said, “Look, why don’t you just come run this for us? Why don’t you come manage tickets for ClubCorp nationwide because we’ve got a need here?”

Brian Peters:
That’s where my relationship the ClubCorp started. When the software company, when the writing was on the wall that we weren’t going to win that space, I saw the opportunity to create a company around serving ClubCorp.

Brian Peters:
Well, it’s to recognize luck when it’s in front of you.

Scott Thomas:
Yeah, it’s aligned with what you’re interested in. But there’s some things that, the specifics maybe, I’m going to call luck. I think the directionality is aligned with your passion, which is you were already golfing. You met ClubCorp, so there’s a lot of things that lined up.

Brian Peters:
Exactly.

Scott Thomas:
That’s really interesting. Do you miss, or do you get enough of the technical… Or do you have a desire? You’re an electrical engineer, you started in technology, is what you’re doing with HubSpot, as an example, does that light that part of, I would say your interest level, and you don’t miss starting a software company?

Brian Peters:
No. In all honesty, I didn’t love electrical engineering. I have found that my passion is in taking a company and growing revenue, finding the levers to pull to grow revenue. That’s what motivates me.

Scott Thomas:
That’s great. I think that’s really all from me. Any questions you want to ask me?

Brian Peters:
How are we as a client?

Scott Thomas:
That’s a great question. I shouldn’t say this, but I will.

Brian Peters:
You’re being recorded.

Scott Thomas:
I know. I put them into buckets. You guys, I would say, quickly, uptake, new ideas, faster than a lot. I don’t know if that’s a startup, that’s who you are, right? Because sometimes there’s a lag. You introduce a new idea, generally, the larger the organization, it takes longer, generally the smaller… That’s not always true.

Scott Thomas:
It’s great. It’s very collaborative, I think we introduce. That’s why I say, what is your framework for decision making? Because I think part of the reason you’re seeing the success is also because you uptake some of the new concepts and ideas at a faster pace. There’s a good back and forth in collaboration. I would say there’s a long response, there’s multiple.

Scott Thomas:
I think the fact that you’re also remote, it has forced you to build some different muscles that lends itself to a lot of the work that we do. That’s why I’m saying, by necessity, you have to want a CRM system. Other clients, they know that they should, but they don’t have to. There’s some manual processes, there’s ad hoc things that they can just get by. For me, it’s a joy, honestly, working with you guys, because what we’re passionate about aligns with what you’re passionate about, and what you’re doing in your business. That was a long answer.

Brian Peters:
Yeah, it’s a lot easier to maneuver in a fast motorboat than it is in a cargo ship.

Scott Thomas:
It is, although, again, I would say it’s a general statement. But there’s a lot of smaller companies that the things that we preach about being data driven, there’s certain what I call maturity level, or just the way they’re set up, that just they’re not set up to really uptake, a lot of new concepts and ideas. The same for big companies. There are some bigger companies that move faster because they’re more aligned to a lot of things we do and vice versa. That’s a very wankish way to put it.

Brian Peters:
Awesome. Well, thank you.

Scott Thomas:
Thanks, Brian, for being our guinea pig here.

Brian Peters:
My pleasure.

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