David VS Goliath Podcast – S1 – Episode 32 – Rick West
If you like to spy on people than this episode is for you! Rick West is the founder of Field Agent, an application that pays you to “mystery shop” businesses and provide reports back to their owners and corporate headquarters. And don’t worry…they actually want you spying on them and that’s why you get paid to do it. This is a fun and educational episode that I believe the DVG audience will love.
Adam DeGraide: Coming up today on David Vs Goliath.
Rick West: I’m probably one of the few guests you’ve ever had, Adam, that can pay people cold, hard cash by downloading my app.
Adam DeGraide: Rick did not pay to be on this podcast by the way, people always assume. You’re hanging out with Adam DeGraide, man.
Speaker 3: Welcome to today’s episode of David Vs Goliath, a podcast dedicated to helping small businesses leverage technology to not only help them compete against their large competitors, but win. Your host is currently the CEO of Anthem Business Software, a free Time Inc 500 recipient and a serial entrepreneur with a passion to help small businesses everywhere find, serve, and keep more customers profitably. Please join me in welcoming your host, Adam DeGraide.
Adam DeGraide: Hey everyone. It’s Adam Degraide, from the David Vs Goliath podcast. I hope everyone is having an awesome day. Today we’re going to be interviewing from Field Agent, the CEO and founder, Rick West should be a great interview and be a lot of fun. But before we get to that, today’s episode is brought to you by Anthem Software, where you can find, serve, and keep more customers profitably with their all in one solution of software marketing and consulting, built specifically for small businesses. Take the 122nd tour, it’s a video tour, at anthemsoftware.com.
Adam DeGraide: Also, visit us online at Davidvsgoliathpodcast.com. Then you can apply to be on the podcast and also subscribe to receive updates and newsletters and information for yourself as well too. And you can even ask us a question and shop for mech if you’d like. It’s been a great few weeks here on David Vs Goliath. Last week we interviewed Sook Ridler, fantastic interview. If you didn’t see it, you’ve got to go check it out from My LifeJars, but we’re here with Rick today. It’s going to be great. Let’s get right to it. Rick, welcome to the David Vs Goliath podcast.
Rick West: Man, I am excited to be here. Listen, you’ve hit your Patriot shirt. You’re representing strong. It’s an exciting day for me.
Adam DeGraide: That’s right. That’s right, man. If you don’t love America, you can’t really be on DVG, that’s the way it works, because we’re fighting for the small guy here to take on that giant and win. And as I was reading a little bit on your background, you’ve worked with some giants over the years before you started Field Agent. But before we go to your history, I actually want to start right in, because our listeners love to know, should I spend some time on this interview or not. Tell them a little bit about Field Agent and exactly what you’re doing to help retail?
Rick West: Yeah, a couple things. One, if you are the everyday person that just loves to play around with apps, I’m probably one of the few guests you’ve ever had, Adam, that can pay people cold, hard cash by downloading my app. No badges, you’re never going to be the mayor of Field Agent, real cash coming your way. A mystery shopping engagement app to take photos of stores, et cetera. But where we flip the industry upside down and where we change things is that our marketplace has tools for people to win at retail. So whether you’re trying to figure out pricing at retail, you need a sampling program to happen.
Rick West: You want some ratings and reviews. Our two million strong agents that are out there shopping and engaging every single day can do simple task to complex surveys and we can engage in a way that gives you coverage, cost and speed, unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And whether you’re a one SKU person, that’s just really humping it as hard as they can at retail, or you’re doing something on a eCommerce we could come alongside, or you’re a large multinational with 300 SKUs we can help you as well.
Adam DeGraide: It’s funny. So mystery shopping’s been something that I’ve done for clients over the years. I’ve had a consulting piece of my business for many years in my previous three businesses where we would literally mystery shop their phone process, mystery shop how well they handled leads, looked at their analytics, comparatively speaking to other relatively similar size businesses. And I had a buddy of mine years ago and back in Rhode Island, there’s a subs shop there all over New England called D’Angelo’s Subs. And my buddy’s job, he got paid to eat subs and he was a mystery shopper. So his whole thing was he’d have to go to all the different locations. And as he walked in, you’d have to look around now, he had to not give it away that he’s a mystery shopper. Was he treated friendly? Was X door clean? He had to rate the store based on the scale. So I’m assuming that’s kind of some of the things that you’re doing and you’re empowering multiple people to be agents on behalf of a brand. Am I correct in assuming that, is that kind of what you’ve done?
Rick West: Let me, give you that Adam, the differentiation for us, let’s take your buddy, he should continue to go down that path. If, you want to employ him it makes sense. But now imagine a world instead of sending in Adam or your friend where they see him coming and they call their buddies, “Hey, Adam’s in the market.”
Adam DeGraide: Because, that’s exactly what happened. So, what would happen was, is he would lose routes because they’d get onto him. And then he’d have to shift routes. They’d have to bring in new people. It was a very interesting, this is year. I mean, this I’m dating myself now, Rick, but.
Rick West: It’s still the way it happens today. So, now imagine today with working with Field Agent, instead of sending in Adam or your friend, what if I send in a mother of two with her kids and I’m getting her mystery shopping experience, random person. Here’s the second thing. And I’d love to tell this. This is a great, changing table story. Your buddy knows on a scale of one to 10 as to whether or not the bathroom is clean. If the changing table is clean and if it would meet standards, he’s going to say, it was a eight and a half. He’s going to rate it.
Rick West: Meanwhile, mother of two comes in and she says, no way, I’m putting my kid on that changing table. I’m going to give it a three. So if you are the retailer, which review is more apt to be true. I would argue that the near real time from mother of two gives you that rating of a three or four is more important than I’m at the scale. And so that’s where people are coming along and says, “I get it.” These are everyday people. And it’s my core consumer. It’s not a professional. And that’s where we’re changing the game with ratings and reviews, insights, mystery shopping, changing the game.
Adam DeGraide: I love it, man. I love it because I’ve never run a retail business. I’ve always run like software or SAS businesses. And, but my passion has always been to help small businesses because I’m sure you’re helping big brands. So you’re a small business that can be helping large brands with multiple locations. And I talk about this all the time. Even small businesses need to make sure that they have a process to monitor themselves. How well are they answering the phone? How well are they following up on quotes? All these things are important. And if you’re a small retail location, it’s even important to do it. Does Field Agent help smaller locations with one to five locations? Or is it really built primarily for the bigger shop, the bigger retail?
Rick West: Now the beauty of this, if you guys are listening or watching, this is that Adam is now thrown me the third softball. I mean, this is really good. We haven’t planned this.
Adam DeGraide: I’m not trying to throw you softballs. I’m just asking questions.
Rick West: I did not give him the question. This is the softball. So what we realized over the last couple three years is that we needed to create a marketplace so that a person with one store, one location doesn’t have to hire family and friends, brothers, and sisters to go do some things. They go into our marketplace and we’re all a car at them. You can go in and say, I want one store. And I’m sitting here in, you can be sitting in New Jersey. And he said, yeah, but in Connecticut, I’ve got these two rental properties, two stores, two anything.
Rick West: And I’d like to go have them audited, pictures taken, engaged mystery shop. And you literally go to our marketplace. And we’re the first B2B marketplace that has a cart. So you click, answer a couple of questions, hit, submit, swipe your credit card. And literally $18 later at $9 a pop you’re getting real time data from two locations. So we can handle tens of thousands of locations because of our scale, but for the everyday person that says, yeah, but, I’m like, what are you doing getting in your car. Don’t drive to Connecticut. Let an everyday person. And so we’ve made it really obtainable. And our marketplace says, you don’t have to get on the phone with three sales reps. It doesn’t take three weeks to get this thing figured out. It is click to cart just like you would at Amazon. But this is a B2B service that we productized for the everyday person, single proprietor, all the way up to a multinational.
Adam DeGraide: I love it. And just so the watchers and listeners know, Rick did not pay to be on this podcast, by the way, people always assume that the people that I interview are paying me, no, our sponsors who run ads in our podcast pay me, but our interviewees never pay a dime to be on David versus glad. So, as I think about that software solution, it’s amazing because what you’re doing is you’re empowering the average person to make a few extra bucks by reviewing the places that they would shop at or most likely are nearby anyway. And you’re giving the businesses the ability to get honest, real time feedback, that’s affordable versus having to hire a big company or a bunch of people paying full-time benefits to do that. And then my buddy got found out at a few places, next thing you know he’s all banged up. He’s going to change franchises.
Rick West: Well, but, I’m thinking about the reality of a marketplace. So today you’ve got people listening says, I’ve got a buddy that bought a truck on Vroom. Didn’t talk to anyone, went right to Vroom. Totally looked for the website, clicked on a few things. Whether he paid 20 grand or 50 grand, the point being, he spent a lot of money and today’s world, when you get into services at retail, you’re like, yeah, but I could never spend $9 to go get a review. I think I need to talk to someone. And so that spectrum five years ago was so broad today it’s like, well, of course I can just click to cart. Of course, I can reengage. So not only are we trying to make it available to the masses, what’s more important about this is that we’re going to save you time and engagement. And anything else in today’s SAS world, let the best person win.
Adam DeGraide: So are you doing it? Rick, are you only doing it for retail or are you doing it for service businesses as well?
Rick West: Anything that has public access, if there’s a zip code that someone can shop or get access to, quick serve restaurant, AT & T stores, anything that has public access, we’ve done a couple of venues. We’ve done bars and restaurants.
Adam DeGraide: So, there’s nothing stopping like an insurance office or a car dealer, or?
Rick West: We did a vet clinic recently where they wanted us to go in, ask about services, pick up a couple of cards and say, “Hey, could you do this service?”
Adam DeGraide: That’s great. That’s great. It’s fascinating because you always, I’m always fascinated with how people are taking technology and automating it and trying to make a win, win for everyone. And it’s always a lot of fun. Now, Rick, we’re going to take a quick break from our corporate sponsor. And when we come back, I do want to talk about your work history a little bit. Because, I found that fascinating. And then I want to talk to you about your team. The people that are making it happen over at Field Agent. So hang on, stay tuned. You’re watching the David versus Goliath podcast. I’m your host, Adam DeGraide. This is Rick West from Field Agent. We’ll be right back.
Speaker 3: Anthem Business Software System is designed to specifically help small businesses just like yours, find, serve, and keep more customers profitably. We do this by providing you with the most powerful software automations and marketing services to help your business compete and win in this ever changing digital world. Take a short video tour at anthemsoftware.com.
Adam DeGraide: And we’re back with Rick West, who is bringing sexy back to retail and as far, and if you’re a mystery shopper, if you like to spy on people and want to get paid for it, this sounds like this could be an opportunity for you to hang out. And if you’re a retailer that wants to know how well your locations or your business is really doing this seems like a pretty interesting situation. So now your background, I thought it was interesting. I was reading here in the Lake Great Rush Limba. I don’t know if you remember, I’m a huge Rush.
Rick West: I remember him well.
Adam DeGraide: I’m a huge Rush Limba fan. As you can tell, I’m still a Patriot because of him. Man changed my life. Rush Limba changed my life at the age of 18. I’ll never forget it. I was 18 years old. I was driving around a car, Rhode Island. My buddy kept saying, you’ve got to tune into this guy. I had no interest in politics, no interest in anything. And I put him on. And from that moment I was hooked, became a ditto head. And when he passed on, it was a really sad moment for me. But he was one of the main reasons why not only do I love America, that I valued small business and the principles that make small business and business in general. Capitalism. Great. So it says here that you worked with Proctor Gamble in various assignments in the United States for 16 years. I can’t imagine myself doing anything for 16 years. I’m on my fourth software company, Rick.
Adam DeGraide: I’ve sold three. None of them have lasted longer than eight years for me because I start to glaze over, they get to a certain scale and I start not knowing everybody that’s working in my business and the next thing I’m like, I need to move on. I have to do something different. So I’m truly a serial entrepreneur, but you must have learned a ton working at Proctor and Gamble. Give us a little bit of insight as to what did you do there? And that led you quickly not don’t belabor the point, but quickly from Proctor and Gamble all the way to where you are today.
Rick West: For those people that are listening now that work in the corporate America, there’s a great article that was written some time ago by Dave or John Piper talking about don’t waste your cancer, you got it, you have cancer. My wife’s a breast cancer survivor. And she read the article, says, Rick, this is me. I know I have it. This is going to happen for a period of time. Don’t waste your time. And so I’d encourage folks that in corporate America today do not waste your time. Adam, you and I both know the worst thing you can do is run away from something you need to run to something. And while you’re waiting to run to something, how are you using your time? In my case, starting out in Proctor, I was in supply chain, product supply, which was not cool then, but now everyone wants be in product supply, because everyone’s trying to fix.
Rick West: So started out there, but it was primarily team driven. And so every two to three years, to your point, I had a new assignment. So you spend two or three years, you master that, you move along, get a promotion, move along. And so manufacturing, distribution, technology, I used to do vendor manage inventory. So you played these various roles. Spent time at Cincinnati for 10 years. My wife was also a person who worked at Proctor and she took a spousal leave and I go to Florida for a regional assignment with a customer team. And then through a good friend of mine, Henry Ho was able to go work in Hong Kong for a couple of years and then work in Bangkok. And those three years in Asia were like going back to the wild west. I mean, multinationals were just coming in.
Rick West: This is late nineties. Hong Kong had just gone through the handover back from Britain to China, still wild west. My territory was from Philippines, Korea, Japan, all the way down to New Zealand. I’m traveling all throughout Asia, trying to help locals understand how to work with multinationals. And that was my first real taste of the corporate entrepreneurial experience. Now that being said, I’m old enough Adam to say I was flipping houses with my wife before Chip and Jojo were cool. Before, there was the internet. Before there was YouTube that I had the better home and gardens at.
Adam DeGraide: And you said Chip and Jojo. So I’m assuming that Chip and Jojo is something I should know. Do they flip houses? Is that a show that they actually have?
Rick West: There you go. They flip houses, man. Magnolia, you got to like, it’s called Fixer Upper.
Adam DeGraide: All right, I’m going to have to check it out now. I’m going to have to check it out.
Rick West: Even for this old house would just getting started. The reason I say that is that my wife and I would work corporate jobs during the day and at night we were flipping houses. So we take off our wool suits and put that over there, put on stuff and we’re flipping houses working through real estate. And so that was kind of in our blood. And then you reach a point in corporate America. And again, people that are listening to this, the whole David Goliath thing, you reach a point that you say I’m going to stay and make a career or I’m going to leave before it’s too late.
Rick West: Because you reach a point where you just you’re in there so deep that you may as well stay and get your 30 in. And I knew that wasn’t me, Adam. It was the wrong answer. And so the company was looking for a couple of 1000 volunteers to take separation packages. They wanted to get expatriates, which I wanted Asia out, because we were expensive. We raised our hands along with two other guys from P and G and the four of us used our separation packages as angel money.
Adam DeGraide: That’s awesome.
Rick West: And so we used that and started our first business in the first 10 years of my career, outside of Proctor. At one point in time, I’m managing five LLCs. Shopper marketing company, shopper research company. I got a distributor ship. We had tailgating innovation. I’m managing brands. I mean all kinds of stuff until we got to the conversation where we started Field Agent.
Adam DeGraide: That’s great, man. It’s interesting. You said something business owners need to listen and people right now in the corporate world need to listen. You don’t run for problems. I have always said, there’s two things, Rick, I’m going to give you a little tidbit, little wisdom from Adam Degraide, although, you probably think I’m an idiot, but I think these are the two most profound things you never run from. And people run from them all the time. Number one it’s problems and number two, praise.
Adam DeGraide: People run from praise as much as they run from problems. And if you do that, if someone says, “Hey, that’s awesome.” And you’re like, “No.” Take that in man. If, you’re running a business and a client has a great result. Let that feed you because it’s only a matter of time till someone doesn’t. And you can feed off that. And that gives you energy to run towards the problem. You can’t run away from these things. You got to run at them. That is absolutely the key. Now, when you started Field Agent, was it you by yourself or did you have somebody else that you started it with?
Rick West: Had business partners. So I had two co-founders. One was Henry who I had worked with off and on for like 20, some years at Proctor as well as my original entrepreneurial journey. Another guy’s name was Kelly Miller, which was the tech guy. Now when we launched Field Agent and this is the fun part for us, Adam, this was pre selfie. There was no front facing camera and there’s no video on the phone. So this is early 2009. We had the iPhone 3S, all the business people had blackberries, all the cool kids had a flip phone or a razor.
Adam DeGraide: With a little next tell, can you get me in a subway sub please. Thank you very much.
Rick West: Or you’re playing snake because that’s the game you had. You’re playing snake on there. Little snake goes through. So those days and so we had a really, the iPhone 3S had just come out early 2009 and we’re sitting around a table with a couple partners, couple other folks saying, gosh, I wonder if anyone’s using the phone to capture data inside of a store, the app store had just opened up. The 3S was out two megapixel camera. It was the rage man, two megapixels.
Adam DeGraide: I can’t believe how those pictures were so high quality. You could almost see them.
Rick West: You could almost read the product. So you’re sitting around a table saying, no, no one’s doing it. We waited three more months. Now we’re like June 2009. And no one was using the phone but the business model at the time Adam was to get an app, someone to download the app, to click on an ad. And that was the business model. And so we said, let’s flip it upside down. If we don’t do this, Adam, we’re going to be like those guys that said they invented Instagram, but just didn’t have time. And we’re at a party bragging about how smart we were. And well, we listen, we did Twitter before any of those guys, Elon Musk, they don’t know any, we don’t want to be those guys.
Rick West: So while we’re managing these five companies, we’re working nights and weekends again, and we launched in April 2010, two months before Uber launched, we were the first app in iTunes to pay cash. And the first app you used geolocation and metadata to qualify the pictures and locations of people and realize, oh my gosh, we built this thing to solve a problem for us, the research firm. And as we started to use it more and more of our clients are like, this is a really big idea. And within six months we’ll get rid of all the other companies, lowered our heads and started scaling field agent.
Adam DeGraide: Amen. I got to tell you said something great. And I talk about it here all the time. Hesitancy kills entrepreneurs, it’s action that brings life and it’s funny. I was talking to a couple of them. I met one of my old, my very first employee that I ever hired in my first business. We got together again the other day in Scottsdale, his name is Ted Graf. And matter of fact, I’m showing a picture right now on the podcast of me and Ted Graf. Ted Graf is awesome. He’s amazing graphic designer became my creative director. And we were talking about how we were groundbreaking in that company because this was before inventory was even put online for automotive dealers. We were building applications to do that. But we jokingly said to each other, we used to create these short little films, Rick, comedy films of what it was like to be working in our office and we’d send it to our clients.
Adam DeGraide: And so there were many episodes and we would actually create like a three minute episode of us playing Scrabble or me screaming at somebody during a meeting and we’d send it to our clients and say a little view of what’s going on here at the office. And it was just comedy. It was the original Office. It was before The Office actually happened. I was the Michael Scott character, as you can clearly tell. And it was a lot of fun, but it goes to show you it’s like, you don’t want to be that guy or gal that’s saying to your buddies, I had that idea and did nothing about it because you can’t let the idea die inside of you. You’ve got to get out there and do it. Now, since you start a Field Agent you’ve been around for a while, you’re approaching a hundred employees. Is that correct? Did I read that right?
Rick West: That’s correct. Yeah, we’re at that mid nineties, I should know the exact number. Let’s call it mid nineties with about 15 part-time and five or six interns.
Adam DeGraide: See, my eyes are doing this survey. The largest employee base that I had before I sold, it was 180 employees. It was like, yeah, it’s a big company, man. And but yet it’s still very much a small business, relatively speaking, and everyone’s wired differently. So, and I think that’s important if you’re a watcher and you’re a listener, some people are meant to have big giant companies and others are not meant to have big giant companies. And that’s what makes America and small business in America amazing. Now your team members, how do you find, how do you hire, how do you recruit? How do you train, develop and mentor? Not just good people, but great people to match the culture of your vision.
Rick West: So, a couple things, one, again, you can pull this quote, it came from a guy that was speaking at our church a while ago, but the premise behind of what he was driving about sharing the good news was that he said, listen, I’ll use this. He said, good news. Most often follows the path of relationships. My business acronym of that, or the way I laid out is that I think that success most often follows the speed and depth of relationships. So if, you have a bunch of employees and it’s just transactional. You’re done. And so relationships are so important. And so if you’re in a corporate world, you’re like, well, I have relationships. I said, but those aren’t relationships. Those are just people you work with. And if you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve got three buddies, I’ll look at my relationships when all those are just your best friends, you’ve got to look at the breadth and the depth of relationships around you to really be successful.
Rick West: So when you go from five employees to 10, to 15 to 20, you still have that DNA and that rigor of relationships. That’s number one, really important to have the relationship. The other piece. And it’s just really simple. It’s that concept of teaching people to fish, it’s that aspect of it. And I think the business term, but we all learned in school, if you went to college, was the Peter principal. If you’re not careful, everyone gets elevated to the level of incompetence because you’re not training them. You’re not mentoring, you’re not staying beside of them. You’re just letting them progress. And next thing you know, you’re like, man, you are amazing manager. Now you’re a director. You’re a mess. You’re amazing director. Now I give you a budget and a general manager type role and you struggle again. So we do what we can to help people grow. And again, working through that relationship to make sure they’re prepared for that next level.
Adam DeGraide: Do you have a process to onboard new employees? In other words right now, I’m even trying to create processes right now for Anthem, is the company that I’ve started Anthem Software. And so, I know where it’s going to go size wise, because I’ve done this a few times and I’m trying to figure out how to duplicate myself and try to bring that culture. So once a year we try to get together. We do biweekly meetings or at least once a month, I try to show up and listen to what’s going on to try to get the heartbeat of what’s going on. We’re a small team right now. There’s only a dozen of us or so at this new company, which will eventually be a 150 employees. And but when you’re onboarding people, I found that videos are really important from yourself too. So you don’t have to actually train people. Are you doing anything like that or?
Rick West: Not on the video side, for us all of our employees, 90% of the team members are here in our Northwest Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas office.
Adam DeGraide: Fayetteville.
Rick West: I’ve got a handful of folks across the US. And then we’re in six other countries, but that’s more of a distributor model where we do branded technology and they ran the operation. So it’s a little bit different, but where I get back to the leadership, and this was especially true, Adam, when you get to the 50 people, 75, a hundred, what are you doing as a leader? Not to be a part of a management standup to be a part of a management where you’re listening, but what can you do to insert yourself so that you’re leading and keep keeping people or keeping in front of people the fact that we’re about something bigger than themselves? So a simple example for me is it’s once a month, it’s for an hour, I have a fireside chat. Everyone’s required to come in and kind of just here’s what’s on my heart. Here’s what’s happening with me. Here’s where we’re going as a company. And you got to keep the leadership thing.
Adam DeGraide: That’s nice. That’s really nice. So, everyone’s in your office, so you’re not. See we’re, so since COVID, I had a company that I sold in 2020. And we had about 70 employees at the time. Maybe it was 52 at the time, I think, because of COVID and we were all decentralized. And I really realized that I didn’t need to have an office space. And so when I started this one, we’re all decentralized. And unlike you though, Rick, over the years, it was joke time with Adam at Friday at 10 o’clock for 15 minutes. And then it was building that, but we were all together. Now the world’s changed so much. So I find myself using video more and things to actually help people.
Rick West: Let’s speak to that. Let’s we’re three days in, two days out.
Adam DeGraide: So you are doing a blend?
Rick West: We’re doing a blend. And the requirement is that if you and an individual is in the office on one of those three days in everyone from your team has to be in, so don’t care what days they are. But three days, your team will be together. And the other two days you could be in the office, you could not be that’s okay, whatever you choose to do. I think with things as simple as slack and other things, one practical thing, we do, we have a operations meeting, meets weekly. And the requirement of every update is that every director has to talk about a win at the people level.
Rick West: Because, I don’t get a chance to work with every individual, especially new hires. So they have to give us a success story where a individual won and why they won. Then we go through our numbers and kind of what’s working. What’s not working. And so what I tell our team is when I finish up that meeting, I’ve got 10, 15, 20 people that I’m slacking and writing notes says, “Hey, Adam just talked about you in the meeting today. Thank you for serving our customer well.” And I give a very specific example that allows me not to say in general, good job. Which like, yeah, whatever. I mean, it’s really specific. And slack is the right medium for that because I’m not going to write a personal note anymore.
Adam DeGraide: No, you can’t. You can’t do it. EPLI insurance goes up too much.
Rick West: Every Tuesday that happens. I don’t have to be in front of the individuals and you slack. And then when I see them and say, “Hey.” And they’re like, “Hey, thanks for the note.” “Sure, listen, it was really interesting what you did.” So for a hundred people every week, I get a flavor for 10 to 15 and so culture. And that’s the big thing, Adam, of what we’ve learned with COVID is that we’ve all proven you can do work outside of the office. My argument is that our culture, which is amazing, had a shelf life of about 18 months. In about 19, 20 months, I started to feel the culture begin to erode.
Rick West: And so we needed to have some form of a hybrid to get that culture breathing again, because my biggest concern going forward with any person listening to this isn’t can you get the work done? But when you’re building your organization, you’re building a team and you lead through again, something bigger than someone else and you need that osmosis to happen between leaders. You’ve got to have some face time. It’s not going to happen on Zoom. And I don’t know the answer for it, but I know it’s a hybrid approach.
Adam DeGraide: That’s awesome. And so we got to take another break from another sponsor, but if you’re a watcher and listener and you have right now an office that is actually either doing part in, part out, all in, all out, send me a note at Davidvsgoliathpodcast.com. There’s a button there that said, ask DVG a question. Instead of asking me a question, let me know some of the tricks and tips that you’re using in your office, because we’d love to have that feedback. Rick, this has been awesome. When we get back, we’re going to talk about my favorite subject, which is courage. I hope you’re ready for that, because I’m ready for it. This is Rick West. I’m out of Adam Degraide, your handsome host of the David versus Goliath podcast. Stay tuned for another amazing message from our sponsor we’ll be right back.
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Adam DeGraide: And we’re back for our final segment with a handsome and very articulate and well spoken, Rick West from Field Agent. Rick, this has been fun so far. I talk about how David, the shepherd boy was offered armor from Saul. You mentioned church a few times, so I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the story, David versus Goliath.
Rick West: Yep. Man of faith.
Adam DeGraide: And he is like, “Hey man, I don’t need your armor. I got my little slingshot.” He goes down to the river. He grabs five smooth stones. The Bible says yet only one stone was needed to slay that dragon. And I liken that stone to courage. Because I tell people in business, you need to have plans, the right plans and goals, the right people, the right technology, the right process. Your people are using technology in those tools. And then courage. The courage it takes to start a business, the courage it takes to continue in a business and the courage it takes to win in business. And that’s will be the ultimate thing that slays that giant, that you’re trying to chase and fight after. And when you looked at what happened over the years, all of your experience in Proctor and Gamble to the other companies, and you took that money and you used it, you said it was like angel money.
Adam DeGraide: You could have easily put it in a pocket, invested in the market, but you said, no, I’m going to put it back in the business. That takes courage. So what was the intangible for you that gave you the power to say, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to leave the corporate world. I’m going to roll the dice. I’m going to go for it.” And then part two of that question is once you answer that for yourself, what advice would you give to that man or woman who’s right where you were to help them get over that hump and that fear their uncertainty and their doubt? I’ll turn it over to you now.
Rick West: So a couple things for me at the time I was leaving Asia to come here. We had just finalized the adoption process from adopting a baby girl. I had two birth children, adopting a baby girl. And I can remember we’re getting Sarah, we’re in Guangzhou. We’re in the white swan. We’re looking at this little girl and said, “Well, I don’t have a job. We don’t know where we’re going to live. I don’t have a house. Don’t have a car. Welcome to our family.” And so we’re coming back into The States.
Adam DeGraide: The one thing you did have though, Rick was love.
Rick West: Was love. Absolutely.
Adam DeGraide: And that’s in a lot of cases. Love is all you need. Until, money’s needed. I’m sorry. Keep going.
Rick West: No, it’s good. So, we’re coming into this, back here. We’ve got this great plan. Remember, we’ve got all these corporate guys saying, are you okay? Remember secretly they’re living vicariously through us. They all want to leave too, but no one can. So we make the move we’re going to leave. I can remember it was like 10 days later. We’re finally back here. We’re getting ready for our very first customer call. We have money saved, but we’re staying with some friends in Florida. We’re going to fly through Memphis, go to Orlando. We’re going to go see this client. I’m there with Henry. We get them Memphis on a whatever morning it was. And our flight was canceled to Orlando. We’re like, oh man, no flight attends like, “Hey, not sure if you’re going to reschedule.” Well, we may as well go to a coffee shop and try to figure things out.
Rick West: Adam, we walked into the coffee shop and we saw the second plane hit the world trade center. So we’re in nine days in, zero clients. We’ve left our corporate jobs. I’m telling my father-in-law, I’m not an idiot. I’m leaving the corporate world. I’m going to take care of your daughter and your grandkids. I’m going to be okay. Everything’s going to be fine. It hits the world trade center. I look at Henry and we’re like, we’re in so much trouble. We got to get home. My wife’s back home in the garage, empty boxes, listening to an AM radio. No TV was up. We found a buddy that had a car said, jump in the car. We drove six hours back to Memphis, listening to AM radio on everything that’s happening. And, and I tell that story is that it would’ve been easy for us to quickly go back to Proctor and say, would you bring me back in, worst mistake I’ve ever made. But we knew now I’m not going to use the word calling, but we knew.
Adam DeGraide: You can use the word calling here if you’d want to.
Rick West: But, I mean, but we knew this was the right thing for us to do. We said, we’re going to lower our heads to get this thing done. And so we had to work this really hard times to have the courage, to make things work because I knew I had kind of this underpin over here and maybe I was being told by God, you didn’t need that safety net after all, maybe we were going to bleed that for six months. So you could start a real startup. So that was number one. Number two.
Adam DeGraide: All great startups start like that. Start with your own money. It’s true.
Rick West: Imagine that. So now you can fast forward until about oh ’08, ’09. And have you seen the movie, The Big Short?
Adam DeGraide: Oh yeah, of course.
Rick West: Right here. Me. So now businesses are going great. My family we live a kind of a cap lifestyle and we’re putting money back in the business and we’re living a certain way. And we had a friend that said, “Hey, you guys are building this building because your company’s growing. Why don’t you invest in some Dirt? Why don’t you be a 10% owner over here.” And surprise, surprise Adam. The first developer went down, the second one went down and Rick and Kim are owners of Dirt.
Rick West: And I said, “Whoa. I just wanted to support this little thing.” And they’re like, “No. Remember that thing you signed, you signed that baby. And when you signed that baby, you told us that you now have liability for everything.” Long story short over the next year, trying to work through as Dirt value went from $19 to 18 to 15 to 12 to nine to eight. As our billion valuation went down 20, 30, 50, 50%. We had to file personal bankruptcy. So I’m a guy standing in front of you and we’re going to this bankruptcy court and our attorney’s with us, worked with us for months. And so this guy said, okay, credit card debt? I said zero. He said, okay, car debt? I said zero.
Adam DeGraide: Dirt debt.
Rick West: And he’s like, so why are you here? And she said, let me answer that Rick. She said, because Mr. Business guy over here was kind of chasing the shiny, get rich free thing. And he invested 10% in something he knew nothing about and the guy lowered his head and he said, I understand. So, that second thing of the courage was at that point while we had the personal piece, I still had three companies were running and I still had to have the courage to tell them we’re going to be okay. I was an idiot, but the business is viable, we’re as strong as we’ve ever been.
Rick West: But you had to make that call. Now I’ve got to get my family through it. We thought we’re going to lose our house. My wife’s selling jewelry. I mean, we’re doing everything we can. And so that was a really pivotal time for me personally, to be able to push through, to say, do I really trust in the Lord? Do I really trust in provisions? Do I really believe in the business model or did my savings and other things discontinue to bank me up and make me sure I’m okay. And so that was one of those pivotal moments that my team saw and people in the community saw that I didn’t lose faith, continue to move forward and did things in the right way. And so that was one of those pivotal moments for me as an individual.
Adam DeGraide: I lost about six million bucks in real estate during that time.
Rick West: I’m not going to give you the number, but I’m with you.
Adam DeGraide: So it was not fun, but no, we made it through. And the key is Rick. The key is when the clouds settle, even though you were walking towards the sun and the clouds cover it, just keep walking in that direction because before you know it, the clouds will lift and the sun will shine again. And that’s the key with perseverance. Now, second part of the question was, first of all, that’s a great story. Thank you for sharing that with us. I know it’s not always easy to share those personal stories, but people need to hear them. What advice do you give to somebody who’s gripped with fear right now to help them get over their fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Rick West: If I was looking across the table from them, I want to make the first assumption that they’re not an idiot. Because again, I’ve had some really questionable guys sitting across the table. So I’m talking to the people that are not idiots out there. Remember this being successful is the least of your problems. I mean, you could stumble across success. Being significant is really hard. Being successful. Convince somebody to buy something, make sure your buddies think it’s beautiful. Everyone’s going to tell your baby’s beautiful. You could be successful. No. I’m talking about significance. So, I tell people is that if you’re wanting to leave corporate America, you’re wanting to get started on your own, just leave and get started because you’re going to be successful. Now I’m not saying that your product is going to be a multimillion dollar product. I’m not telling you going to have a hundred people.
Adam DeGraide: You could fail, but you’re moving forward. You’re failing forward.
Rick West: But you’re moving forward. That’s right. And I said, and then what happens to that is through the first one and the second one, the third one, significance, you build relationships. You begin to understand. And you’re like, oh my gosh, I could never go back to that. So don’t define success in these numbers. Get into that significance thing because most people are about a 10 year overnight success story.
Adam DeGraide: A 10 year, overnight.
Rick West: Maybe three year, five year. So don’t worry about success. Look at this significance piece. Now again, I’m not saying do something, just half cocked and just play, but really go down that path. And then the best advice that was given to me said, Rick, I’ll tell you how you know you’ve got the right idea. That’s going to be a significant idea. He said, know this, you’re only as good as you invoice and collect. Everything else is an expensive hobby. So the second thing I tell people is once you’re ready to jump, if you can convince a total stranger to buy X, you’ve got a product or you’ve got a service. If you can’t, it’s just expensive hobby.
Adam DeGraide: You get one, you get 10, you get 10, you can get a hundred, you get a hundred, you get a thousand. If you get a thousand customers, you can get 10,000 customers because it all starts with one. You have to go from not being successful, but having significance in value that you’re bringing to people. That is all really great advice. Rick. Now, have you enjoyed being on the David versus Goliath podcast?
Rick West: It’s a blast.
Adam DeGraide: Of course, it’s a blast. You’re hanging out with Adam Degraide, man.
Rick West: This is beautiful thing man. I’m trying to figure out how to get one of those shirts. Other than that.
Adam DeGraide: You can get these at Buckle B. Another person who I’m giving promotion to, that’s not giving me any money Buckle B. And by the way, a portion of every dollar goes to the military and first responders. It’s a killer brand. So Rick, how can people find you?
Rick West: I’m a LinkedIn guy. The easiest thing to go to LinkedIn and find Rick West at Field Agent. You can DM me. You’d be surprised how quickly I’d actually say, let’s have a conversation. You’ll have my email and stuff down below. But if you’re trying to understand our business model and you want to either make some money from us, find us on iTunes or Google Play. But if you’re really a small business person and you’re trying to decide, do I leave corporate America to go try X? Our business model on marketplace can let you concept test, could let you do some research and let you engage. We really are set up for the entrepreneur that’s just starting, trying to figure things out or the one that has some scale, you really ought to give our marketplace a look. Feel it out. [crosstalk].
Adam DeGraide: Check it out, Fieldagent.net. Rick West, it’s been awesome having you on David versus Goliath. Another amazing episode is in the can here on DVG. That’s why you watch. That’s why you listen. Because crazy man right here brings you some of the best interviews you’ll ever find with some of the smartest and most talented, high paced, high energy, fast growth companies right here on the David versus Goliath podcast. We’ll see you next week. Have a fantastic day.