• Extraordinary-Small-Business-Tom-Kulzer-AWeber

About this Episode

In today’s episode, how Tom Kulzer has grown AWeber from a one-man operation into one of the leading providers of email marketing software in the industry completely free from outside investors? We sat down to take a look at his journey.

Episode Transcript

Tom Kulzer 0:00
Knowing what your own bottlenecks are, and where your own skills gaps are, and whether or not you are the person that is ultimately most equipped to continue to grow your own company.

Angela Giovine 0:15
Pop culture has become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I’m Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast. Today on the show, how Tom Kulzer has grown AWeber from a one man operation into one of the leading providers of email marketing software in the industry.

Angela Giovine 1:01
This episode is brought to you by WP Engine.

Angela Giovine 1:09
When you enter the AWeber headquarters, you might do a double take. This tech company has all the makings of a fun workspace. Game rooms, fitness spaces, red retro British phone booths, unique lounge furniture in bright sunny corners. A chef led cafeteria full of free food that is healthy and delicious. There’s even a slide in the main atrium. No, you’re not in Silicon Valley, you’re in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Did venture capitalists provide funds for the space? Nope. It all started with one man, Tom Kulzer. How did Tom grow from a college student with a side hustle, to business leader and CEO in the email marketing space completely free from outside investors? We sat down to take a look at his journey.

Angela Giovine 2:03
Tom, it’s nice to meet you in person, and thank you for having me here to AWeber.

Tom Kulzer 2:08
Certainly, likewise, thanks for having me.

Angela Giovine 2:10
This is the second time I’ve been here on campus. This is such a great office you put together here. It feels like. I mean, you can totally tell we’re in a tech company here.

Tom Kulzer 2:21
Yeah, it’s pretty cool space.

Angela Giovine 2:22
You’ve got the the chef, the slides, all of the cool living space areas

Tom Kulzer 2:28
Yeah, three chefs, two slides, lots of lots of plants, so lots of cool people.

Angela Giovine 2:33
Lots of bright colors, we’re sitting in a lime green room.

Tom Kulzer 2:37
Very calming, right?

Angela Giovine 2:38
Very calming, very soothing. Not stimulating at all.

Tom Kulzer 2:42
No, not at all.

Angela Giovine 2:43
So you’ve been in this office now for 10 years?

Tom Kulzer 2:47
No, not quite 10 years, probably seven ish, maybe eight. I don’t know time flies. So

Angela Giovine 2:53
And it’s a pretty big office, how many employees you have here?

Tom Kulzer 2:57
There’s about 110 of us-

Angela Giovine 2:59

Tom Kulzer 3:00

Angela Giovine 3:00
So let’s back up AWeber is your baby, you started it as a one man show in what year?

Tom Kulzer 3:06

Angela Giovine 3:06
1998 and give us like a the story behind how you started AWeber?

Tom Kulzer 3:12
Sure. So I graduated high school in 96. So to give you some chronology there, and so I was going to mechanical engineering school at Penn State, switch majors to finance and the process was never really into school that much, just not my thing I like to go and do. And I was selling wireless modems on the side, and-

Angela Giovine 3:33
At state college?

Tom Kulzer 3:34
No, I had changed majors and when I changed majors, I changed school.

Angela Giovine 3:38
Got it.

Tom Kulzer 3:38
I was going to community college in Maryland, I graduated high school outside of Baltimore, but I was selling wireless modems. So this was back when we still had dial up. They weren’t fast, but it was like bleeding edge technology then and during that process, I had developed kind of an email follow up series because I was essentially a salesperson,

Angela Giovine 3:50
and there was no such thing as easy back then. So you had to code it, I’m assuming?

Tom Kulzer 4:01
Yeah, and well, it was just me sending manual emails.

Angela Giovine 4:04
Oh okay.

Tom Kulzer 4:04
And while I was in school, I was like there’s got to be a better way to do this. So I didn’t know any coding and but it was always something that I was kind of interested in. So I taught myself enough Perl code to be able to automate a series of email follow up messages that when somebody inquired when I went to a conference or trade show or something, I would send those out automatically, over a period of a couple of months. And it worked really well. And I ended up sharing it with a bunch of other people were they were also selling the same products in different areas of the country.

Angela Giovine 4:33
Oh okay.

Tom Kulzer 4:33
And over time, it became one of those things where it worked really well for a bunch of us and they would give feedback on what worked and what didn’t, and they would tweak their messages and so forth. And I ended up leaving that company to focus on school because you know, that’s important. Your parents kind of push you for that. And all those people started coming to me and saying, Hey, can I get this email thing that you were doing? And and I was like, Hmm, maybe I can do that, Instead of bustling tables on the side, which is what I was doing, after that. So it was kind of the idea was spurred through that sales process. And then it was just a demand. It was a problem that that existed that there wasn’t any other solution for people were willing to pay for it. I was like, hey, sounds like a good idea. So I took a year off from school. And, you know, 21 years later, I’ve still taken a year off from school.

Angela Giovine 5:21
And what was first product?

Tom Kulzer 5:24
It was a email marketing solution for following up with sales contacts. So when somebody inquired, you could send a series of emails over a course of days and weeks.

Angela Giovine 5:33
So it was it was a software where you could enter the emails that you wanted to.

Tom Kulzer 5:37
It was very early marketing automation,

Angela Giovine 5:39

Tom Kulzer 5:40
which is what most people know of it today. But

Angela Giovine 5:42

Tom Kulzer 5:42
It’s all email marketing automation back in the day.

Angela Giovine 5:45
And how did you pick the name AWeber? I’ve always wondered.

Tom Kulzer 5:47
It was originally automated web assistant, which is a really long company name or even a product name. So it just kind of gotten shortened and through testing and so forth with some other folks that were beta testing the software with me. We just kind of shorthanded called it AWeber.

Angela Giovine 6:05

Tom Kulzer 6:05
because automated web assistant, if you shorten that down, it kind of turns into A Weber Ass.

Angela Giovine 6:10

Tom Kulzer 6:10
And you can’t really name your company that.

Angela Giovine 6:13
No. no you can’t.

Tom Kulzer 6:14
AWeber URL.

Angela Giovine 6:15

Tom Kulzer 6:15
Automated Web Assistant is kind of where it originated from. Which is why the A and the W are capitalized. It’s kind of a little FedEx action as well, because the kerning between the A and the W looks better when they’re both capitalized,

Angela Giovine 6:28

Tom Kulzer 6:28
than when the W is lowercase. It just looks weird when it’s lowercase.

Angela Giovine 6:32
They just the branding people told you, yeah.

Tom Kulzer 6:34
Which was me.

Angela Giovine 6:35
Exactly, exactly, right. To that point, you were on your own as a one man show for how long?

Tom Kulzer 6:43
A two years?

Angela Giovine 6:45
Two years.

Tom Kulzer 6:45
A year and a half, two years.

Angela Giovine 6:46
And would you call that it was like proof of concept that’s when you were really figuring out if this would work or you knew pretty early on?

Tom Kulzer 6:52
No I had, like, 2 thou- I had like 1500 customers almost 2000 customers before I hired our first member.

Angela Giovine 6:58
Wow. I mean how? Yeah, I was going to say, how do you even like serve that many people at one time? That’s-

Tom Kulzer 7:06
So during the day you do customer service,

Angela Giovine 7:08

Tom Kulzer 7:08
and at night you do everything else.

Angela Giovine 7:10
Right, I mean thinking back on that at the time, were you single, no children, and not a lot of constraints on your time.

Tom Kulzer 7:19

Angela Giovine 7:19

Tom Kulzer 7:19
I was competitive cyclist, so I was either riding my bike or I was working

Angela Giovine 7:24
Okay, okay.

Tom Kulzer 7:24
Or sleeping a little bit in the-

Angela Giovine 7:25
Right. So how soon did you know this is gonna work. I’m going to stick with this.

Tom Kulzer 7:31
It’s you know, within that first year, I was like, hey, this is really good. Like I’m probably making more now than I would like often in mechanical engineering job

Angela Giovine 7:41

Tom Kulzer 7:41
finance job at that point. Like I was doing pretty well pretty quickly, especially for like a young 20 something. It just turned into, okay, how do I grow this? What’s the next step? How do you hire somebody? Like that’s scary. Now I’m responsible for somebody else’s livelihood.

Angela Giovine 7:56
Yes, somebody else’s mortgage payments and car payments. That’s not

Tom Kulzer 8:00

Angela Giovine 8:01
something to take lightly for sure. Now, you said you had almost 2000 clients before you hired your first employee. I have to ask like naturally, I would think earlier on, you would have thought I need help, you know, you had people paying you for your product, what stopped you from hiring someone earlier?

Tom Kulzer 8:19
Time, more than anything.

Angela Giovine 8:21

Tom Kulzer 8:21
It was time to train somebody new. And it was also kind of that fear aspect or a little bit of that unknown aspect of like hiring people is like, things that big businesses do. And that sounds complicated.

Angela Giovine 8:33

Tom Kulzer 8:33
That’s scary. And now I’m responsible for somebody else’s livelihood.

Angela Giovine 8:37

Tom Kulzer 8:37
It felt like a bigger commitment than it ultimately turned out to be,

Angela Giovine 8:40

Tom Kulzer 8:41
Ultimately, when I got down to actually doing it, it was a lot easier than I thought it was.

Angela Giovine 8:45

Tom Kulzer 8:45
But it’s kind of that it’s that you know, fear thing in doing anything new. I think most people are fearful of new things. It’s scary.

Angela Giovine 8:52
Hundred percent, fear of the unknown.

Tom Kulzer 8:54
You know, and that’s, you know, even today I talk about fear a lot in what we do here. Because if you’re not a little anxious, if you’re not a little fearful, you’re not growing. If you’re doing the same thing every day, you’re really comfortable. Ultimately, if you’re comfortable, you’re going to expect the same results that you got the day before.

Angela Giovine 9:12

Tom Kulzer 9:13
So if you ultimately want to get better results or different results, you have to do something different than you did the day before, which is scary.

Angela Giovine 9:19
Hundred percent?

Tom Kulzer 9:20
And fearful, it makes a lot of sense when you just say it out loud, but like, I don’t think a lot of people really-

Angela Giovine 9:25
We’re just all wired to just have this fear of failure or that failure as wrong.

Tom Kulzer 9:30

Angela Giovine 9:31
You know, they talk about how you know when two year olds are learning to walk or one year olds are learning to walk, they fall down, they get right back up, they don’t think oh, I fell down, so I guess I should never learn to walk. That doesn’t happen. You have to get up again but somewhere along the line between one and your 20s you its beaten into you that you should not fail and so you have to kind of undo all of that psychology in your head.

Tom Kulzer 9:55

Angela Giovine 9:56
I totally get that, I mean speaking from my point of view, like as a fellow entrepreneur, I’ve tried for myself as a personal goal to try to take bigger swings, because it is so comfortable to just say, I know this works. I’ll do this again and again and again. You’re like, well, I was successful. I was mildly successful. But could I be more successful if I take this big swing? But also, you have to expect that if you take those bigger swings, you’re also going to see a couple failures and that you just have to go into it, knowing that that’s just math. Like that’s probability. That’s the way I work.

Tom Kulzer 10:30
I tell our team and I don’t know if it’s confidence building or not, but like I regularly make the wrong decision. Because I have to make a whole bunch of wrong decisions in order to get to the right decision. Like it’s I don’t have some like, magic wand that I can wave that I’m always right.

Angela Giovine 10:43
Right. The algorithm told me to do this you know.

Tom Kulzer 10:46
My wife would tell me something otherwise that I think, but, you think you’re always right?

Angela Giovine 10:50
Right, right.

Tom Kulzer 10:51
At the time you think you’re right,

Angela Giovine 10:52

Tom Kulzer 10:53
But you’re ultimately going to be wrong an awful lot. And you have to be ready to accept that like, yeah, I’m wrong, I’ll admit I was wrong.

Angela Giovine 10:58
And that’s how you learn.

Tom Kulzer 10:59
Okay, here’s the next thing we’re going to try.

Angela Giovine 11:01
Fail fast and all of that?

Tom Kulzer 11:03

Angela Giovine 11:03
So early on since you started on your own, did you need a lot of capital to start the business? Or was really not that capital intensive?

Tom Kulzer 11:14
Kind of as things grew, it became more capital intensive. But I started on my Penn State credit card that I had at the time, maxed it out and just kind of went from there. And then it was just bootstrapped off of self financing

Angela Giovine 11:27

Tom Kulzer 11:27
Income from the business helped grow the business.

Angela Giovine 11:29
So how long before you gave yourself a paycheck? If you were self financing? Were you always able to pay your self-

Tom Kulzer 11:36
I was like 22 at the time. So it doesn’t cost a whole lot to to live on- you know, I had a roommate, and

Angela Giovine 11:43
Okay, yeah.

Tom Kulzer 11:44
You know, my biggest expense was probably travel for cycling. And I did that with a group of other people. And you know, you pile four dudes in one hotel room and it was you can live cheap at that age

Angela Giovine 11:56
Ramen noodles, McDonald’s all of that.

Tom Kulzer 11:58
Exactly. So none McDonald’s that was that’s not good for cyclists but,

Angela Giovine 12:01
That’s true.

Tom Kulzer 12:03
um, yeah, lots of chicken, lots of noodles.

Angela Giovine 12:05

Tom Kulzer 12:06
It’s not expensive to live.

Angela Giovine 12:07
Not expensive to live, so you were able to pay yourself modestly from the beginning and then

Tom Kulzer 12:12
I survive yeah.

Angela Giovine 12:13
to just plow it back in the business. At what point do you would you say that you started to have like, a vision, meet like for the future of the company versus just like this is working right now?

Tom Kulzer 12:23
That got to be more of a serious concern as I started to have more and more team members, because you, you have to impart that vision to them so that they know like, they have something to believe in, they see a future there, they see growth, and they see the strategy on how it is that you’re going to get from A to B. You know, I I think that that has been more developed over the years. And it’s constantly being refined.

Angela Giovine 12:47
That’s such a skill to have. I mean,

Tom Kulzer 12:50
It’s not a perfect science. And, you know I always like to save them too like, I’ll save what I’ve written down and distributed to the team in what we’ve talked about with the team, and I’ll go back to them and It’s like, Oh, I was right on that. And that and that. And yeah, no, we totally whiffed on this and this and this.

Angela Giovine 13:04
Right. But being just able to map your own enthusiasm and motivation onto another person that is

Tom Kulzer 13:11
Just a big part of growing a team.

Angela Giovine 13:13
Big part of the thing, the team and there’s really, that’s a really hard thing to learn as a leader. I mean, that’s the soft side of it, right? You can hire someone to code, you can hire someone who has bookkeeping experience, or accounting experience, but you can’t teach someone how to think like you.

Tom Kulzer 13:30
So I’d say almost what you’re kind of getting at is is it’s almost that company culture kind of thing. And everybody talks about culture. I like to define company culture as what people do when I’m not here, how they make decisions when I’m not here, and you know, I’m not involved in an awful lot of our decisions these days, which is a good thing. I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t need to be a part of all of those decisions. And that’s part of what helps a company grow and flourish is the ability for others to make those decisions. But I think our company culture and our values are what allow our team members to make the right decision. You know, I talked about this is an analogy that I don’t even remember who. Years ago told me this Know the waterline. And so think of a sailboat, if you get a hole in the sail, and you put some duct tape over it, keep sailing, you know, nothing bad’s going to happen. You get a hole in the side of the boat. Some water might splash in or something like that, but it’s above the waterline, so it’s okay. But if the if the hole is below the waterline, it’s all hands on deck, everybody needs to act quickly and figure out what’s going on there. So like, we talked about those decisions of like, Is that an above the waterline or below the waterline kind of decision? If it’s above the waterline? Go for it, make the decision. But if it’s like if it’s going to potentially sink the ship,

Angela Giovine 14:40
Captain should probably be involved.

Tom Kulzer 14:41
There yeah, we should probably talk about it at a higher level.

Angela Giovine 14:44
Right? Right. I love that, that idea of culture being what people do and act when you’re not around, because that’s how you really know if, if what you’re trying to instill is is happening. What’s happening when mom and dad go out and the babysitter’s here so to speak. That’s really what you’re saying. I love that idea. And I mean, you can tell from just walking around, you know, there’s really a certain culture here that you have cultivated.

Tom Kulzer 15:11
Hopefully, it’s always a work in progress.

Angela Giovine 15:12
Yeah. And it’s really interesting because you are technology and you’re not geographically located in like a technology hub of the country.

Tom Kulzer 15:23
But what makes a technology hub?

Angela Giovine 15:26

Tom Kulzer 15:26
I think it’s just you know, about the attitude and self worth that people bring to see what they’re doing. So I’d say there’s a lot of reasons on why you don’t want to be located in a technology hub, per se. So or at least what most people would think of as technology hub. My dad actually is our CFO,

Angela Giovine 15:44
Oh is he?

Tom Kulzer 15:46
He moved here from San Francisco. He lived in San Francisco for 20 plus years. And he moved here. I don’t know what it is now like four or five years ago, and like, he loves it here compared to living in San Francisco. Like he’ll go on and on now about how how much better it is being here than in San Francisco. So no distance San Francisco, I love visiting.

Angela Giovine 16:07
It’s not about where you are. It’s just the common thought that’s the common construction around what people think. If you’re technology, you have to be in a suit, you have to be in Boston, you have-

Tom Kulzer 16:16
It’s hard to hire great people, wherever you are. So it’s not any easier, even if you are in those hubs, in in my opinion, so.

Angela Giovine 16:23
So your dad is your CFO, but he has not always been your CFO?

Tom Kulzer 16:27

Angela Giovine 16:28
How how long has he been with the business?

Tom Kulzer 16:30
Four five, maybe six years now? So a little bit of part time here and there before that?

Angela Giovine 16:35
Wow. So he was a finance guy?

Tom Kulzer 16:38

Angela Giovine 16:38
He’s always been a finance guy?

Tom Kulzer 16:39
Yeah, he’s always been a finance guy.

Angela Giovine 16:40
When you were 20, and you were starting this business and you have a father who was corporate America. Was he going, son, what are you doing? Why, why why aren’t you getting a job? Or was he more interested in it and excited about it?

Tom Kulzer 16:58
Yeah, he was pretty gung ho for it. So My mom and my dad had previously had a clothing factory.

Angela Giovine 17:04
Oh okay.

Tom Kulzer 17:04
So they were kind of entrepreneurs in their own right

Angela Giovine 17:06
So he was corporate-

Tom Kulzer 17:07
my mom ran that, day to day but he obviously helped.

Angela Giovine 17:11
What kind of clothing factory?

Tom Kulzer 17:13
And it was in a like little Lancaster area

Angela Giovine 17:15
Oh okay.

Tom Kulzer 17:16
and they made mostly like women’s clothes so I was pretty little at that point so I you know, I go and hang out with mom and work in the factory and that sort of stuff in the summers but

Angela Giovine 17:25
So you are preprogrammed?

Tom Kulzer 17:26
So yeah, and my my grandfather on my mom’s side owns a small excavation business, you know, sole proprietor, so he was all you know, and I’ll go spend summers with him as well and go out on a job and drive the backhoes, like what little kid doesn’t want to get to drive the dump trucks and backhoes? It’s still fun as an adult.

Angela Giovine 17:27
Right, right. So you had a family who was supportive of of starting something new going out on your own?

Tom Kulzer 17:49
Yeah, entrepreneurship was not an an unknown thing.

Angela Giovine 17:52
Now, at that time, were your friends kind of going, yeah like Tom’s doing this thing, we’re not we don’t exactly know what it is, but he’s successful, or your friends kind of understood…

Tom Kulzer 18:03
I think most people have friends on on either spectrum of that

Angela Giovine 18:06
Yeah, yeah.

Tom Kulzer 18:07
I have the the geek friends who were like

Angela Giovine 18:08

Tom Kulzer 18:08
that’s so cool. I had other friends who were like, I don’t know, he does something with email.

Angela Giovine 18:14
Right, right. And I find, for me, at least when I was starting like that early mentorship was just so helpful. Because when you’re starting, you know, you’re sort of fragile because it’s new. And there’s a lot of stuff that you’re experiencing, that you’ve never experienced before. It sounds like you had a really supportive family structure. Who else were your mentors early on that helped you really become the leader you are today?

Tom Kulzer 18:38
Super early on. It was just a lot of books.

Angela Giovine 18:41

Tom Kulzer 18:42
A lot of books, a lot of reading a number of years into it. I joined a group of internet entrepreneurs,

Angela Giovine 18:49
Like a mastermind?

Tom Kulzer 18:50
Like kind of a mastermind group. And and then I joined another group that was actually where I was before we met up today.

Angela Giovine 18:56
Oh really? locally, Okay.

Tom Kulzer 18:59
Yeah. Well, it’s an international group, but there’s a local local group,

Angela Giovine 19:03
Oh, okay.

Tom Kulzer 19:03
I meet with eight other business owners locally, every month to kind of commiserate hold each other accountable, push each other and and so forth in it and, you know, really ranges a spectrum of both business stuff. I think most of us join for business mentorship, but ultimately it ends up involving your entire life. You know, and in the business stuff, your family, as well as your own kind of personal well being because it is as an entrepreneur, like it’s all encompassing, and

Angela Giovine 19:33
It really is. So these this mentoring group, it’s like peer mentoring I guess like everyone is a successful business owner kind of thing.

Tom Kulzer 19:40

Angela Giovine 19:41
That’s awesome, and you feel like you’ve gotten a ton out of that.

Tom Kulzer 19:44
Oh, absolutely. Like, you know, if there’s any, like big lesson that I learned kind of early on or that I’ve learned over the years that I wish I did earlier was joining some sort of mastermind group, have other peers that you can commiserate with, you know, just like there’s a line in the movie Saving Private Ryan, where they’re walking through the field, and all the guys are like complaining about different things. And at one point they’re like, hey, Captain, you know, why? Why don’t we ever hear you complaining? And it’s like well, complaints go up, complaints don’t go down the chain of command.

Angela Giovine 19:45

Tom Kulzer 19:45
So it’s like, there’s not really someone in our business here that I like complain to, or the like really air my grievances. I’m really close with our COO. So like, you know, we tend to do that back and forth there, but like, that doesn’t tend to get spread out amongst all the rest of the time, which is a good thing. And that’s part of being a good leader. But it’s nice to have that outlet because like, I don’t want to go home and like, dump all my problems on my wife,

Angela Giovine 20:40

Tom Kulzer 20:41
Because she doesn’t have all the insight of, you know, the personalities and so forth here. And it’s similarly

Angela Giovine 20:47
Context, sure.

Tom Kulzer 20:48
you know, the leadership experience that you know, from the years of running the business, whereas when I go to my mentor group, they get that, because they deal with it everyday themselves, and they have different perspectives on how they’ve solved those issues.

Angela Giovine 21:00
Now, do you find that you said the first one was more focused on digital people, I guess. And then the second one is less so?,

Tom Kulzer 21:07
Yeah, the the first one was basically the all your revenue or the vast majority of revenue needed to come from some sort of online source. So it was a lot of like bloggers and like advertising driven companies were there getting AdWords AdSense kind of income. And then there were others that were like software and, you know, had retail shops and those sort of things online, whereas this group now that I’m a part of, it’s all kinds of different businesses. So your, you know, fast food, real etate’s, book publishing, salon distribution, like you name it. There’s all different kinds of businesses. But at the end of the day, I think one of my biggest takeaways is like we all have vastly different businesses, we have exactly the same problems.

Angela Giovine 21:48
That interesting, that that was my next question is.

Tom Kulzer 21:51
But we all have the exact same kind of problems.

Angela Giovine 21:53
Right, and it it probably gives you even better context because it’s a variety of different businesses. It kind of helps you have a little bit more of an outside perspective that you can bring in something a little more fresh,

Tom Kulzer 22:06
Oh totally.

Angela Giovine 22:06
to apply to the business.

Tom Kulzer 22:08

Angela Giovine 22:08
that’s that’s really interesting.

Tom Kulzer 22:09
everybody has a different background, the way that you would solve a problem is different than the way that I’m going to solve a problem because we have unique perspectives and backgrounds of how we solve those problems before. So being able to kind of compare notes and what the outcome was, did it work? Did it not work? What were the unintended consequences that came because everything has a consequence? Good or bad. So it’s, it’s interesting.

Angela Giovine 22:31
So zero to 2000 customers, how does that happen? How did you grow early on?

Tom Kulzer 22:37
We had had and have continued to this day have an advocate affiliate, basically like a reseller type program, where other businesses that were also our customers at the time, could go and refer our service to other people that they knew and make a commission. You know, offering a unique product that just wasn’t out there anywhere else. You know, it was something that you do a good job, word of mouth advertising it was a big. We have a lot of that word of mouth. Those are probably the two biggest things. I didn’t do a whole lot of like direct advertising back in the day. We do more of that now.

Angela Giovine 23:11
Now, have you found that growth has been steady? Or were there times where it was a surge and then more of a plateau and a surge in a plateau? And what were some big domino moments that helped you grow that you can remember?

Tom Kulzer 23:24
There’s so many like, I could talk for hours about this. Like there’s so many different things like it, whether it’s product features, you know, new innovative products stuff that you’re doing, that drives new customer demands, changes in your pricing and and how you price can drive different, you know, different demands both you know, you can increase prices and lower demand but ultimately be more profitable, or decrease prices, have more demand, they may be less profitable, but ultimately make more because you have the higher demand. So it’s you know, there’s a lot of different things, different team members, like how having different team members in different roles, you know, I don’t do everything anymore. So like having really great folks in marketing or great folks in engineering, that are able to push things along faster, better, you know, cheaper, etc than than we are now, customer service and and ways that we’ve iterated on that over the years from, you know, me doing support, where it was just email and phones to then adding live chat, you know, that bumps up our availability. So our international market expanded when our support hours expanded there or when it was easier for them to get in touch with us because even back then it was, you know, you had to make an international call. And while that sounds kind of ridiculous now to even really contemplate that, as a thing when you’re paying like 75 cents a minute to

Angela Giovine 24:42

Tom Kulzer 24:42
to call somebody.

Angela Giovine 24:43
Sure, sure.

Tom Kulzer 24:43
So it’s not really a thing anymore. So not only are people able to get us online, but they can get us anytime, regardless of where they are.

Angela Giovine 24:51
Do you have people in the office 24 seven?

Tom Kulzer 24:53
Yep, we’re 24 seven operation here.

Angela Giovine 24:55

Tom Kulzer 24:56

Angela Giovine 24:56
So what I think is so interesting about the way you answered that question, about growth is that everything you mentioned, were internal ways that you guys as a team, your members, increased business as opposed to, we went to this, we did this thing out in the market and it spiked our growth or we partnered with this person, we spiked our growth. This is an interesting, I think you’re the first person I’ve had that answered it that way.

Tom Kulzer 25:22
Yeah, it’s kind of a combination of the two though. So like, you know product things, spark customer interests.

Angela Giovine 25:28

Tom Kulzer 25:28
You know, those sorts of things appeal to

Angela Giovine 25:30

Tom Kulzer 25:30
those customers. So that’s going to increase demand there. So it’s, it’s not to say that, you know, but you don’t get one without the other.

Angela Giovine 25:37

Tom Kulzer 25:37
You got to develop the thing that the people then get interested in.

Angela Giovine 25:40
Of course, the product has to be good.

Tom Kulzer 25:41
Yeah, exactly.

Angela Giovine 25:42
It’s just so great to hear like sounds like you’re a very product first company.

Tom Kulzer 25:46
Yeah, we’re definitely-

Angela Giovine 25:47
need the product good, then-

Tom Kulzer 25:48
People generally will follow, yeah.

Angela Giovine 25:50
getting people to fo- to find it, but

Tom Kulzer 25:52

Angela Giovine 25:52
that’s not the case of every business.

Tom Kulzer 25:54
You know, I look at us as like a product and technology company, you know, and helping the people with that product and technology because a technology that people can’t use is kind of useless,

Angela Giovine 26:03

Tom Kulzer 26:03
or don’t know how to use or intimidated to use.

Angela Giovine 26:06

Tom Kulzer 26:06
so making it really accessible,

Angela Giovine 26:07

Tom Kulzer 26:07
which is part of why we have the support that we do, to other companies that are more marketing driven, where their product is maybe like Eh but like everybody knows them, because they spend all the money that we spend on making our product and support better,they spend it on marketing,

Angela Giovine 26:22

Tom Kulzer 26:22
so people know who they are, but the product is maybe kind of like mediocre.

Angela Giovine 26:25
Right, yeah and even before I knew, your company, and I would see it in a very specific area, which is like, people who are in digital marketing- bloggers, and

Tom Kulzer 26:38

Angela Giovine 26:39
And so you got your foothold in with like the super user so to say like the experts who are outwards, I’m saying like you you established a community of really strong believers in your product or service, and then it kind of dissipated and it probably alleviated some of your marketing needs because

Tom Kulzer 26:57

Angela Giovine 26:57
super users are telling people like you’re saying your affiliate program.

Tom Kulzer 27:00
I would say going to conferences earlier than I initially did, If I had to go back in time,

Angela Giovine 27:05

Tom Kulzer 27:05
because a lot of that a lot of like the affiliate program and and just it it’s a people thing at the end of the day, and how do you meet people? You got to go to conferences to meet, shake hands and meet and you know, have a beer in a bar and just get know people. Yeah.

Angela Giovine 27:20
As opposed to speaking at a conference, you’re saying like, if I just shake-

Tom Kulzer 27:23
Oh speaking’s great certainly, but early on, you may not have the you may not have the platform or the cachet, the notoriety to be able to even get a speaking slot.

Angela Giovine 27:32

Tom Kulzer 27:32
You know, that’s even changed over the years. Whereas like, years ago, like I was the one that was going and speaking at conferences, I Oh, I very rarely go to conferences now. Where I’m speaking, I might be in an audience and and moving around, but like, it’s usually our team that’s speaking, because it’s been if more about AWeber as as the brand and as the knowledge source then me personally, it-

Angela Giovine 27:53
That has to be so satisfying.

Tom Kulzer 27:55
Yeah, it is in many ways.

Angela Giovine 27:56
And that conference business has just gotten so big, versus you could be at conference everyday of the week.

Tom Kulzer 28:01
Yeah, exactly. You can spend a small fortune going to conferences.

Angela Giovine 28:04
People do?

Tom Kulzer 28:05
And yeah, definitely. And even today, like we’ll have a booth that some conferences but a lot of conferences we just like hang out in the lobby and the bar at night and buy drinks for people because it’s like that you it’s so much better of a bonding and just you get to know people by hanging out with them for 20 30 minutes and actually have a conversation to understand their business. So that’s most of the reason that I go to conferences these days, is to just learn about other people’s problems, because then I can come back and we can build something to solve it.

Angela Giovine 28:37
Every small business needs a website. That’s not new information. But these days, there are so many easy software options for creating your own website. My personal favorite happens to be WordPress. It’s been around since 2003. And it’s open source which means it’s free, there’s no monthly fee for it and there are literally thousands probably millions of people who can work in and develop on WordPress. Today, 36% of the entire internet is built on WordPress. Everyone, from your neighborhood coffee shop and local restaurant to Rolling Stone, the New York Post to Vogue and even Disney are on WordPress. I’ve hosted my WordPress websites with a number of different companies over the years and I’ve been with WP Engine for a while now. Here are the top three reasons I love WP Engine. First and foremost, my site just works, because at WP Engine, they are 100% dedicated to WordPress websites. That means their servers are configured to optimize performance for WordPress. It just removes so much hassle out of the equation. Number two, they know WordPress. I used to get so frustrated when something would break on my website maybe it was a plugin, or a WordPress update and I’d contact my web host tech support and they’d say, Sorry, we don’t support WordPress. WP Engine makes it simple to create, update and manage any WordPress website. And number three, my personal fave is their 24 hour chat tech support. I have used it countless times. You aren’t talking to a bot you’re talking to a person, and they provide actual real help when you need it. Over chat. So, if you have a WordPress website, or if you’re thinking about moving to one, I highly recommend starting with WP Engine. Listeners of extra ordinary small business can get a special offer. Get 10% off any of their hosting plans now, just head to extra ordinary small business dot com backslash WP Engine and get 10% off hosting. From the masters of WordPress hosting at WP engine that’s extra ordinary small business dot com backslash WP Engine.

Angela Giovine 31:07
Email is like the OG of digital marketing. Right? It’s been around since the internet began, it was before social media, it’s remained important throughout all of this time, despite the fact there are other ways to market digitally, you still need your email game to be on point. So how has your business and your products really how have they changed, like over time? And and also, how do you decide when something is a trend versus like, this is something we need to add in to the product offering?

Tom Kulzer 31:44
Well, there’s layers of questions

Angela Giovine 31:46

Tom Kulzer 31:46
there. You know, as far as like email, and and just its value in the overall marketing ecosystem. It’s interesting to see, you know, back in the day when I started this like, you know, AOL was a big thing.

Angela Giovine 31:59

Tom Kulzer 31:59
And it I was very much a, I call it kind of the walled garden of like you played in the AOL sandbox or you played outside of the sandbox. And social media, in my view is, is very much in the same way like Facebook has become like, what a lot of people especially older folks, understand as the internet is Facebook, like if they don’t get their news on Facebook, they don’t see the news. They don’t go to news web-

Angela Giovine 32:24
You’re so right. I never thought about it in person to AOL.

Tom Kulzer 32:24
And and similarly, like, you know Instagram, and Snapchat and you know all the different platforms that are out there, Twitter, you know, they all have these own little ecosystems and they make it really hard to kind of break out of it in many ways. They want to pull everyone else into it,

Angela Giovine 32:44
Keep you there yeah.

Tom Kulzer 32:44
But once you’re there, they make it really hard to go out. So it’s interesting over time, you know, obviously there was kind of the ramp up for Facebook’s and Twitter’s and those sort of things. And now, a lot of the a lot of the businesses that kind of took all their communication to social platforms are starting to pull back from them and go back to email because they realize like, Hey, I might have a 500 followers or 1000 followers on my Facebook page, but when I post an important thing to them,

Angela Giovine 33:09
Four people see it.

Tom Kulzer 33:10
Yeah, like four people see it because of the algorithms and how it gets prioritized.

Angela Giovine 33:13
Right, and then you can boost it.

Tom Kulzer 33:15
Yeah, and then I can pay a whole lot more still like, you know, looking at it from, from my standpoint, in the email business, it’s like, well, if you have 1000 subscribers, and you know, I I deliver it to 40 of them and say, Well, hey, for this low, low price, we’ll we’ll deliver the rest of them for you. It’s like, that’s not how email works. It’s like you you kind of, not to say that you own the relationships, but like, you have

Angela Giovine 33:38
You on the distribution, yeah.

Tom Kulzer 33:39
You have consents of those people to send the messages to them and send content that they want. And as long as they stay engaged with it, they’re opening and clicking it, you can continue to send that to them, and they’re the ones that are ranking whether or not it goes to their inbox or it goes to their spam folder or it gets filtered to another folder because it’s important enough to save so and and that’s really the only platform that exists out there. And that has continued to exist. And lots of pundants have called for emails imminent demise, there’s more email today, sent today than there was last year, then there was a year before then there was a year before.

Angela Giovine 33:45

Tom Kulzer 33:49
You know, it’s it’s like, who are some of the biggest email senders on the planet? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Angela Giovine 34:22
System messages.

Tom Kulzer 34:23
because because they’re trying to get you back into their platform. And it’s like shockingly, they’re sending the message to the thing that everyone seems to think that they’re killing,

Angela Giovine 34:31

Tom Kulzer 34:32
but it’s not dead in any way, shape or form.

Angela Giovine 34:35
I mean, auto responding was a core part of what you did from the get go. How did you expand on the product and there’s always a trend in terms of what to add

Tom Kulzer 34:47

Angela Giovine 34:47
mix. That has to be a really hard decision, you know, when you have to put an engineering team on it and say, yes, we’re going to commit to adding this type of of tool to our our portfolio. How have you decide it?

Tom Kulzer 35:01
There’s a yeah, there’s there’s definitely a combination of you know, we have a team of 60 odd folks in our engineering and products in kind of UI UX teams. Each has kind of a product owner in their specific areas. You know, it’s listening to our customers, it’s listen to what the customers say they need but also ask a lot of questions to understand why they need it.

Angela Giovine 35:22

Tom Kulzer 35:23
Because the way in which you’re going to solve it is not necessarily the way that they say they like a lot of customers will ask for x feature

Angela Giovine 35:31

Tom Kulzer 35:32
but it’s like, their problem that they actually have can be solved so much better by feature z over here. That we may not have developed or we may already have. You know, most things that customers requests are things we already have, they just solve it in a different way than the customer necessarily knows how. So that’s part of having a great support team to be able to point people in the right direction to those things but I try to like channel a little in our team, try to channel a little Steve Jobs in in the sense of, you know the customer might, you know they have those needs, but they don’t always know the best way to solve them. So sometimes you have to solve it in an innovative way that no one realized that they were actually asking for. Like, no one asked for an iPhone,

Angela Giovine 36:15

Tom Kulzer 36:16
but like,

Angela Giovine 36:17
can’t live without it.

Tom Kulzer 36:18
the prime amount of people’s you know, cold fingers now

Angela Giovine 36:19
Yeah right.

Tom Kulzer 36:21
that that’s you know never gonna happen.

Angela Giovine 36:24
I think it was Ford they said if, if he had listened to other people, he would have invented a faster horse.

Tom Kulzer 36:29
Yeah. So it’s, you know, it’s it’s understanding those needs and and continuing to iterate there. It’s listening to your customers, understand the market dynamics, look at your what your competitors are doing. But don’t just follow them blindly, have a reason for why you’re might be adding something because, you know, in much the same way we talked about earlier, like, I don’t make all the right decisions. Our team doesn’t always make all the right decisions, your competitors are going to make the wrong decisions too. And you don’t want to just blindly follow them down the hole. So understanding why you’re adding something I think is the most important and what the problem is going to solve and what its overall going to add to the business because I can add all kinds of things that would be probably helpful, but would be totally unprofitable, or long term a negative impact on either the business or our customers in some way, because it would allow them to kind of like shoot themselves in the foot. So there’s an element of education on best practices that you have to do for customers in order to kind of continue to innovate there.

Angela Giovine 37:28
So like you were saying, just now about not always making the wrong decisions. I love to talk about people’s failures. Tell me about some failures that you’ve had, where they’ve been maybe learning experiences for you or something good has come out of those failures, or a really bad failure. That’s just bad.

Tom Kulzer 37:48
Yeah, the hardest failures, I think to kind of own up to over time are the ones involving people. You might have hired the wrong person for a role and been you know, and thought that you could like coach them into the role that you ultimately needed, but they were not suited for and ultimately, like making that person really unhappy in the process.

Angela Giovine 38:10
Everyone really unhappy, right?

Tom Kulzer 38:11
Yeah, making everybody like because you’re unhappy, they’re unhappy, people around them are unhappy, like it’s just it’s, it’s a no win situation there, versus figuring out how you can part ways in a way that makes everybody happy. And and everybody can move on to to something that is going to ultimately make them even happier. So I think kind of owning up to those decisions sooner when when we’ve messed those up. I’ve always felt bad when we’ve had to part ways with a team member that was part of the team. I’ve never regretted it, not a not a single person that has left here, have I regretted that they’ve have left or that I’ve asked them to leave or that the team has asked them to leave. I’ve always felt bad, but we always try to make them whole and make sure that everybody’s lands on their you know two feet and moves forward. But I think that’s that’s probably that the people social dynamic of all of that and how that affects your team here now and the team that you’re trying to build. I think there are a number of kind of inflection points that we’ve had throughout the years as far as how the team has grown, you know, the way that you lead a team of one other person, when there’s just two of you, is totally different than the way that you lead 15 or 40 or 100 people. So you kind of have to continually evolve with that, you know, so we’ve definitely made tons of mistakes along that way, you know, as we’ve kind of outgrown, you know, how we’ve communicated with our team or how we may have managed certain departments or whatever over the years where things kind of go sideways, and it takes you a little while to figure out hey, this work totally sideways, and then like, how do we fix that?

Angela Giovine 39:42
Right, right. Have you ever made a hiring decision, where like, before you even hire them something in your gut told you like eh like you just said, like, they might be able to do it, but I’m not sure they can do it. And then it

Tom Kulzer 39:57
Well, so I would say there’s a difference between someone knowing the skills to do a job, or having the personality and like personal fortitude and gumption to learn what’s necessary in order to be successful in a role, because most people that you hire into most roles, don’t know all the things that they need to know,

Angela Giovine 40:16

Tom Kulzer 40:17
in order to be successful in that role,

Angela Giovine 40:18

Tom Kulzer 40:18
but it comes down to kind of the personality dynamics of

Angela Giovine 40:21
The Grit.

Tom Kulzer 40:21
And the grit. And and how much they, how much they want it- yeah. To be able to successful there, As a as a just personal rule for me when I’m hiring somebody, id during an interview process I don’t learn something from that person during that experience, I generally don’t want to hire them because ultimately I want to personally sorround myself with people that are domain experts in what it is that they do. They might not know more about email deliverability

Angela Giovine 40:49

Tom Kulzer 40:49
Or leadership than I do, but they might know a whole lot more about like PR or marketing or customer service than I do. So I like to try to make sure that I’m always learning something. And if I’m not, if I’m not excited to work with somebody, I’m probably not going to hire them. I’ve never had someone where I was like, wow yeah, I think they’d do okay. Like id that’s how I’m approaching to hire, like I don’t hire them these days.

Angela Giovine 41:14

Tom Kulzer 41:14
Back in the day i might have hired them, and it rarely works out.

Angela Giovine 41:17
Right, you’ve learned your, you’ve learned your lesson.

Tom Kulzer 41:19
Yeah, I’ve learned that lesson, so…

Angela Giovine 41:20
Have you been able to really cultivate larger or higher caliber talent pool becoming a better known name?

Tom Kulzer 41:28
Oh absolutely, yeah. That that definitely dr-

Angela Giovine 41:30
That definitely helps future.

Tom Kulzer 41:32
Yeah, absolutely so we hold open houses and that sort of stuff here as well and we have regular repeat folks that like really want to work here and and I’ve interviewed several times for several different roles and maybe just aren’t quite right or just the timing isn’t quite right and their their lives are in the roles that we’ve had open but yeah it’s definitely, you know that’s why we have an email marketing list just for recruiting. That we send there’s several thousand people locally that we communicate with on a regular basis about new roles and so forths. So it’s a great pool to pull from.

Angela Giovine 42:03
What’s one quality or one something somebody does that you’d go that’s not going to work in the AWeber culture? And what’s one thing that somebody would do that you’re like that fits with who who we believe we are?

Tom Kulzer 42:16
I would say just a bias towards action, not being afraid to make mistakes, not not being afraid to like ask a question that you might think is dumb but like there really aren’t any dumb ques- to me the dumb question is the one you don’t ask, because now you’re walking around you have no idea what the answer is

Angela Giovine 42:33

Tom Kulzer 42:34
And you’re like, pretending to know. In which case, you’re just wasting everybody’s time. I try to set the example there and you know kind of have my own embarassing like I don’t know about that someone fill me in.

Angela Giovine 42:45

Tom Kulzer 42:45
On the on the negative side, I would say you know a quality that I would definitely not want is not asking questions, make the the inferous or just kind of being a jerk. You know like,

Angela Giovine 42:58

Tom Kulzer 42:59
I don’t want to work with you if you’re a jerk.

Angela Giovine 42:59
Yeah, honestly you could be the smartest person in the world but if no one can sit in a room with you how can you- yeah.

Tom Kulzer 43:05
Yeah, you could be the greatest software engineer, or the greatest customer- you can’t be a great software or a great customer service future

Angela Giovine 43:12
Right, right. Exactly.

Tom Kulzer 43:14
I’ve never had that we’ve never had that work out.

Angela Giovine 43:16
Yeah, yeah.

Tom Kulzer 43:17
but you know you can’t be a domain expert at something and just be a jerk

Angela Giovine 43:21
Yeah, yeah

Tom Kulzer 43:21
because overall that just drags everybody else down, yeah so..

Angela Giovine 43:25
So as you’ve grown, and we talked about how much you know this is a completely self funded company, boostrapped company, was there ever a moment where you’re like, maybe I should take some funding and just grow much more quickly?

Tom Kulzer 43:38
I don’t think taking outside dollars is in any way holding us back from growing as quickly as we want to. I think that there are there are tradeoffs in taking outside capital, there are tradeoffs in how you grow, because you know, you take let’s call it ten million or a hundred million could the number could be anything. You take ten million dollars from somewhere and there is an expectation to grow, regardless of what the cost is.

Angela Giovine 44:07
Yeah, it’s not charity money.

Tom Kulzer 44:08
There might be, yeah. Like there might be you know there’s obviously monetary cost for spending the ten million that they gave you, and but they expect a return. And the way in which you get that return, may not be within the scope of the values or the you know, the vision of what it is that you want to do for your customers. So I think that there is, there’s a consequence to that obviously. And there’s a you know trade off, some positive some negatives so…

Angela Giovine 44:35
I have to imagine they have come knocking though, I mean you’re-

Tom Kulzer 44:38
Oh I get, I get half a dozen like at least one every day.

Angela Giovine 44:41
Do you even answer them at this point?

Tom Kulzer 44:42

Angela Giovine 44:42

Tom Kulzer 44:43
The vast majority I don’t and a lot of them have filters specifically to go to just off our or jump where it’s just like yeah I’m never taking your money. You know and others that I entertain conversations with but that’s that’s just part or netwowking and that’s part of being a CEO as well.

Angela Giovine 44:56
Sure. It’s like always going on keeping your resume fresh if you hunt a job, like it’s just a good thing to do.

Tom Kulzer 45:01
But I don’t I don’t necessarily look at taking money as you know selling out or as a you know as a method of growth. We’ve done pretty well over the years so like if we need capital infusion like that could come from any number of different places, and I think that there are things that you get out of raising money that even if you ignore all the money, you know I would look at raising money only because of the knowledge based that comes with the money not because of the money.

Angela Giovine 45:30
Smart money, yeah.

Tom Kulzer 45:31
So it’s that and a lot of a lot of firms out there has some really excellent teams that that can come in and really help kind of level your own team up. So there’s there’s a lot of different reasons I think it’s important to consider and at least be having the conversations to know what your options are.

Angela Giovine 45:48

Tom Kulzer 45:49
It’s also really interesting to know and get because everybody that comes to you has their own perspective on your business and has their own strategy on how they will grow it. So understanding what those are can often give you new insights that you might not have seen yourself

Angela Giovine 46;04
Oh that’s a good point.

Tom Kulzer 46:05
So it’s almost kind of like free consulting.

Angela Giovine 46:07
Yeah, I can see that. Yeah, that’s a really good point.

Tom Kulzer 46:09
So you know it’s it can be a time suck and you have to watch what you tell them because also have their bet they might , they might be investing in one of your competitors that hasn’t been made public yet.

Angela Giovine 46:18
Right, right or a new competitor.

Tom Kulzer 46:20
Yeah, you might they might just be pumping you for info so that they can go back and and turn that over to their-

Angela Giovine 46:24
Yeah, have that happened?

Tom Kulzer 46:26
Oh it’s you know I’ve definitely kind of it’s well you have to be careful of what you’d say so you just have to you have to know everybody has their angle, so. Most people in the world I think are generally out there to do good, sometimes their direction of good is not always in the line line with with yours. So,

Angela Giovine 46:47

Tom Kulzer 46:47

Angela Giovine 46:48
So what what is the future for you? What does the future look like in terms of AWeber and your own career?

Tom Kulzer 46:55
Well there’s there’s kind of 2 components there. There kind of AWeber and then there’s me. I don’t necessarily see that there um

Angela Giovine 47:02
Sure, the same.

Tom Kulzer 47:03
You know, exactly the same all the time, or that they’re necessarily like mutually exclusive. You know I think, for AWeber it continue to grow our email marketing automation suite and do the things for our customers to help them communicate with their customers more effectively faster, continue to grow with our own product offering, you know maybe expand into some other kind of ancillary services that are are along supporting of that mission. For me personally, you know I think that there is you know much like I talked about know that kind of growth stages of a company as you go over time. I think that there is and this is something I think not enough founders and entrepreneurs really talk about, expecially publicly is knowing what your own bottlenecks are, and where your own skills gaps are and whether or not you are the person that is ultimately most equipped to continue to grow your own company.

Angela Giovine 47:58
Sure. I mean,

Tom Kulzer 48:00
So and I think that a lot of entrepreneurs especially entrepreneurs that have built the business from nothing themselves.

Angela Giovine 48:06
Yup, that’s what they’re good at.

Tom Kulzer 48:07
Don’t really, yeah that is what they’re good at. and there’s

Angela Giovine 48:10
They’re good at, they’re scrappy, they’re able to

Tom Kulzer 48:12
And there’s a difference between growing a business from nothing and growing a business from 100 or 200 or 300 people and managing day to day. It’s a very different kind of skill set and the problems are different and there’s definitely things that you know I liked really early on, and that I hated really early on,

Angela Giovine 48:31
But even it-

Tom Kulzer 48:31
and the things the I like, yeah and there’s things that I like and there’s things that I don’t.

Angela Giovine 48:34
Right, right.

Tom Kulzer 48:35
There’s things that I miss and things that I

Angela Giovine 48:37
Of course

Tom Kulzer 48:37
definitely don’t miss.

Angela Giovine 48:37
Answering every phone call probably you don’t miss

Tom Kulzer 48:41
Actually, I really enjoyed that because I was more connected to our customers that I know.

Angela Giovine 48:46
Okay, what’s the job that you were most like to give up?

Tom Kulzer 48:50

Angela Giovine 48:51
Bookkeeping, taxes

Tom Kulzer 48:52
Yeah.. That, yeah that’s kind of a drag. I’m not a big, like marketing person,

Angela Giovine 48:57

Tom Kulzer 48:58
I like talking about our solutions but like doing ad campaigns and ad sort of stuffs is just, I want to talk to people about what their problems are.

Angela Giovine 49:06

Tom Kulzer 49:07
and figure out how the thing that we do, can help solve solve their problems

Angela Giovine 49:10
You’re the product guy, okay.

Tom Kulzer 49:12
So I’m I’m very much kind of a product founder. Know kind of going back to what I was saying that the understanding where my own gaps are and whether or not you know what I do on a day to day basis is something that is enjoyable for me. And it is adding the most value for both myself

Angela Giovine 49:27

Tom Kulzer 49:27
as well as the team and the company at large. So I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t don’t always see themselves, they almost always see themselves as the like CEO, as the leader forever.

Angela Giovine 49:38
You are the company they are one-

Tom Kulzer 49:41
I think in many ways that can be kind of short sighted, and holding holding your own company back. I’m very cognizant of that and trying to continue to level up

Angela Giovine 49:49
We’re you always cognizant of that? Or-

Tom Kulzer 49:52
No, no, not at all. That that’s probably been the last like you know 5 6 7 years.

Angela Giovine 49:57
Comes with maturity of

Tom Kulzer 49:59
Yea- yeah.. Kind of getting out there and mentorship group and where you have transparent folks around you that skilled and knowledgeable and know your business well enough and know you well enough to say like hey I think you have a blind spot here, and to point it out to you in a way that’s productive and helpful,

Angela Giovine 50:15

Tom Kulzer 50:15
I think is really key, so that that mentorship group is really helpful. I have kids now, you know have a wife, and figuring out you know I’ve personal obligations and figuring out where I want to spend most of my time, and I definitely make trade offs on one side or the other depending on any given day or week. I think you just have to be cognizant of kind of all those factors and how you’re going to grow and how you’re going to lead into the future , so… I don’t I don’t have a specific path there. I have a couple of paths and a couple of different directions that I may or may not take depending on how things play out.

Angela Giovine 50:50
So.. finish this sentence, I would not be standing here today, if not for

Tom Kulzer 50:56
Our Team.

Angela Giovine 50:57
You’re team, that’s great. And what is one piece of advice that you’d give your 18 year old self?

Tom Kulzer 51:04
Hire sooner and better.

Angela Giovine 51:07
Hire sooner and better

Tom Kulzer 51:09
Yeah, so like up a couple paid grades.

Angela Giovine 51:12
Make the investment earlier.

Tom Kulzer 51:14
Make the investment in in you know more experienced folks you know that that initial like Oh jeez that’s expensive.

Angela Giovine 51:21

Tom Kulzer 51:22
Will almost always turn out to be a good investment. So yeah,

Angela Giovine 51:26
Well thank you for your time, and I’m so happy to meet you and goodluck with everything.

Tom Kulzer 51:32
Likewise, thanks for having me on.

Angela Giovine 51:34
And one more time, thank you and shout out to WP Engine, check them out and get your special offer today, at extraordinary small business dot com backslash WP Engine.

Angela Giovine 51:52
Thanks for listening. For more information about our show and our company, head to extra ordinary small business dot com. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We would be so grateful, If you could help us reach more listeners. All you have to do, is go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcast and rate, review and subscribe. It would mean the world to us. Ratings, reviews, and subscribes are how iTunes decides which podcasts are worth sharing. Help us continue to bring these stories of extraordinary small business owners to the world. By rating, reviewing and subscribing, you’re helping our small business. It’s free and it takes just a minute. Thanks!