October 26, 2022

Episode #53: Austin Hoffman – VIV

Austin Hoffman is the Co-Founder & Head of Product for viv & Prime Legal. He founded viv when he was 24 years old and was recognized in 2021 as a Forbes Next 1000 entrepreneur under the age of 30. Along with his co-founders, he has helped grow the company portfolio of over 1,700 businesses in the last four years.

Viv & Jasper Websites are two companies with the mission of helping small businesses grow and their local communities glow. We enable SMBs to do everything from building a website to accepting payments, managing leads and customers, appointments, online reviews, running SMS campaigns, social media management, business listings, content marketing, multi-channel digital advertising campaigns, and more. Viv does this by enabling over 1,700 SMBs and entrepreneurs to manage and grow their brands from a singular platform.

Transcript

hello this is coach Tim Campsall and I’m your host for the self-made is a myth make a difference together show where we’re talking with successful business owners to hear their stories of the journey to building their business and because we know that success in business is not something that we do on our own we’re taking time to recognize the folks who helped us to excel I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today my guest loves learning about all things Tech and then figuring out how to leverage that to make a difference in this downtime he likes to go on trips and work on his house which apparently he has done for the past two years I believe Without Really knowing what he was doing and figuring it out as he goes so that’s pretty cool and he’s most proud of growing his company to 1700 clients with a young team in a short period of time it’s my pleasure to welcome Austin to the show today hello Austin hey thank you for having me well you are very welcome it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with you today let’s start by having you introduce yourself tell us a little bit of your personal story like where you were born where you live and about your family and hobbies yeah so I’m Austin Hoffman um I’m one of the partners here at Viv I grew up in Jasper Indiana um went to Jasper High School I went to USI which is a local school here in Evansville um pretty much studied everything from marking there and then from there after college went and started my own thing in the marketing world fantastic and so um tell us a little bit about this Tech thing that uh that I mentioned of that you love technology and you love learning about technology give us a little bit more understanding there yeah pretty much since I can remember I’ve always been uh engulf by text so being able to see new things that come out um I always try and figure out how how they work or how they benefit an individual past set um even like yesterday I was reading that we’re going to have new MRI technology even though they’re not in the medical field to pass that but it always interests me of how it can better people’s lives pass that and then also how can we bring some of that technology uh not necessarily in the MRI space but in our marketing world and benefit that to our our clients here at Viv so that’s been able to help me uh progress Viv over the years and and essentially push me into my position which is a partner and head of product so I’m always coming up with new things and stuff that benefit our clients past that wonderful now tell me a little bit about this uh house remodeling project yep so uh I got a house during covid so uh during covid and shut down some things uh I decided that it would be good a good idea to get a fixer-upper and it’s lasted for two years now so I’ve never worked in the construction space I’ve been doing with my dad for the last two years and we’ve kind of just figured everything out and it’s turned into a beautiful home but it’s been a pain yeah in the last last time I was going to ask you if now in hindsight is it still a good idea to have embarked on that journey I think so I I think so I learned a lot I understand how like the complete house Works um just my general uh nature is just trying to figure things out so what better way to do it than figure everything out in the house so that’s awesome well I know who to call now when I have a problem yeah might not get done right away but it’ll get done eventually Austin what’s a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today uh I think that that I’m just ambitious and I get really excited about ideas from there so when I get really excited about the ideas I call them up I I kind of put you to them and talk to them about it and then they’re in their mind it’s got to be like oh here’s another idea coming from Austin I think that they would probably say something along the lines of that awesome so Austin tell us about how the business came about and at what point did you have the confidence you could run your own business yeah so uh the original uh idea of Viv didn’t necessarily come right away so we had another idea uh of a basically a website that was a replica of GoFundMe but it wasn’t the full uh fees and and schedules that GoFundMe puts into the side and we pitched at our College we got like fourth or third or fourth past that I did that with a a buddy named Mark he still works at the company here in viv2 but when we went into it uh we actually got our first investor past that and we really tried to bring um that idea to life and when it came time to build the website past that we met with a local company and they quoted us out 135 000 for the project so um we were kind of frustrated past that we didn’t have the full funding of that and that project kind of died so I kind of kicked it around for the last couple days or the couple days after we got that news and I I was sitting there thinking that there’s no way that a company can spend 5 10 15 25 even 135 000 for just a site in order to get a a site up and running or even existing business can can pay some money like that to get something rolling so we pretty much got a couple guys together and we figured out that hey we can build this for a lot less we can do it a lot better and and from there we signed our first client all the way back in 2015. um we we pretty much from there we’re a website design company so from from uh 2015 2016 we we kept signing clients kept adding on businesses past that then we realized that okay uh businesses need social media marketing they need listings management they need paid advertising so we turn into a full force uh marketing agency past that and then uh pretty much from there we started adding Partners in and and long story short now we have 1700 companies that we manage every single month in any form of marketing that’s fantastic so um just give us a little bit more detail about your company um and more specifically how do you help businesses yeah so uh primarily our focus is on website design so how can we optimize the site completely to turn just a normal visitor into an actual conversion pass set so a lot of people will sit there and they’ll just throw up sites and it’ll be a static site they won’t make any improvements to it they won’t look at the analytics versus we have an entire team here that basically takes care of that so we’ll build a beautiful side we’ll make it into a lead converting machine and then you have a relationship manager past that works with you every single month to grow the actual traffic and convert people on the website to paying customers through through funnels if you’re roofer to to getting a quote for a roof or if you’re a restaurant will basically help you push online orders any way that we can think of to push more people your way that’s pretty much what we cover and then it bleeds into the other things like we have social media teams we have paid advertising teams um we have uh covered like CTV which is the connected TV so running commercials on streaming devices like Hulu Paramount everything past that so really what we do is we just talk to businesses and and we say Okay um what your existing efforts in marketing and then past that uh how can we help and how can we bring them all together Under One Roof that’s the biggest thing too because traditionally you have to hire five ten fifteen different companies to do that stuff yeah fantastic so now that you’ve figured out how to build a website for a lot less did you ever go back to your old idea uh we we rebuilt it for fun but it was too far it was like three years after that that we really like honed in on it yeah but we built different for much less so so I mean we I ca we kicked Marcels back in the day and now we don’t have that funding and realizing that we could have done it if we had a couple years of knowledge in that sure yeah fantastic so um Austin share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it even though maybe you thought that you couldn’t and the impact that person had on you yeah I think that definitely um comes back to my business partner now Alan Noe he’s the president CEO evolve and also a partner in Viv so he pushes us all the time to get into the next forms of technology like e-commerce is a big big push for for merchants nowadays right everyone who wants to sell online they want to do online ordering past sets so being able to develop more complex Inventory management solutions for these retail shops that sync up their point of sale to their inventory online like right now we’re we’re doing inventory sync for 19 000 skus for a client we’re working on a project that I didn’t think that we could handle necessarily right off the bat with uh linking up to 82 warehouses for a certain client to be able to pull inventory from but being able to have somebody pushes into it like that uh Alan know my business partner definitely pushes us to get to that next level of being able to accomplish things that uh businesses might have fantastic so it is great to have um that that person whether it’s internal or external that push us beyond what we think we’re capable of and and have the opportunity to then Look Backwards and go wow look at look at what we were able to do that I know I may not have been willing to do on my own but having somebody else there to nudge us along right yeah yeah you know we always knew that we could do it it’s just allocating time to do it and then just learning really past that so when you have someone that pushes you to to learn to get to the next level it’s you’ll look back on it and wonder why you didn’t do it faster right right yeah Austin what’s your biggest learning as a business owner um definitely uh scaling a business number one um developing a product is is you have to Market test it make sure it’s good to go but definitely scaling so when you scale you have to add the proper team members so hiring you that’s a a threshold you have to get over uh accounting was the threshold that we had to get over right um just pretty much like scaling and accounting and billing and being able to do a legal part of everything was a big hurdle we had to come over to so there fantastic um we know that that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so um share with us uh maybe one of your your biggest challenges over the years and a fellow business owner who came alongside you helped you get through that yeah yeah there’s a there’s two stories I guess I could say by part of that I had a mentor back in the day his name was Rob and Rob really helped me overcome the general questions of of how a business is run and and the fundament fundamentals of business how it should run too and fast forward to now where I have my my partner Alan he’ll be able to help me progress and things too as far as like whenever we first came on with him he had the knowledge of how uh accounting should be run how billing should be run um so we could really focus on being able to develop the products and really hone in on on that component of it too all the way up until like last may we acquired our first company so having someone yeah thank you having someone who’s gone through 16 Acquisitions and helping us pass that then we can he can help us acquire in the future and I got a lot a lot of Knowledge from that uh acquisition too so he’s helped out a lot as far as getting us to where we are today fantastic uh Austin if I asked you to pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for being there for you to help with your business growth who are those three people and how they help you yeah yeah I could I could probably name off 15 to 20 but I’ll try and I’ll try and lower it down so definitely my parents for pushing me to to go after an idea that I really sunk my teeth into and wanted to go after um my early mentors like Rob uh being able to help me with that my first original business partner Logan was a big push of it and also uh Alan’s a big push of it now in our entire team to our entire team is incredibly willing to learn something new and go after it as long as it benefits the clients past that so those are those are just the multiples of people that like I said the 15 plus people that I could probably pay attention to all the time so as we think about the future let’s say over the next three to five years what are the biggest challenges that you see that uh you’re gonna face in getting to the company’s goals and who are the types of people you’re going to need to help you overcome those challenges yep so I think scaling’s definitely um something that we’re gonna have to continue to figure out too right we we went from 700 companies last year to adding a thousand companies this year so being able to lean on our team to pick the right people because people is the biggest thing when you’re running a business right being able to scale like our accounting efforts and Beetle skill our sales teams pass that to go after and uh sign the appropriate businesses probably because we want to actually help people pass that not just sell them a product so being able to train in our new people to to do the right approach with the sales efforts is going to be something that’s challenging and then also breaking into the e-commerce World further and further right so building not only the inventory management solution for that but figuring out how we can market for bigger and bigger companies but also being able to offer those giant uh or bigger company these the same efforts to our smaller to medium-sized businesses is something that we really want to lean on to because we want to get everybody a Fighting Chance in today’s industry against the big dogs like Amazon and eBay and different things like that yeah fair so you mentioned um finding and and uh having the people to be able to scale which is a challenge everybody’s been having right now with the the way that the workforce is so um uh how do you how have you how have you tackled that so far what’s been what successes have you found in in finding the people that you need to be able to so you know it sounds like more than double your business in the last 12 months yeah yeah we uh we again we lean on our team a lot too so like we have a we have General interviews in the beginning to make sure they qualify for the position and stuff too but then we meet as a team and we we say hey we’re thinking about bringing this person into this position we meet with that department first and bring it to the team because we want to have a great culture right yeah but have a great culture make sure that everything’s going to work out whenever they’re there and also that they specialize in the things that we want to be able to provide for our clients in that specific department so leaning on our team a lot to check out the person that might be joining our team and kind of getting me okay at the end of the day has definitely helped us add the right people yeah that’s fantastic a lot of mistakes a lot of people make is that they hire based on skills and experience and don’t check the culture box and then you know when we bring in the wrong people and they don’t gel with our existing culture it can be a nightmare so I like what you’re saying is you know the best practice for everyone listening is you know make sure that folks are a strong cultural fit for your organization first because you can always teach skills you can’t teach cultural fit so you want to you want to vet people so I love that you get your team involved so they can help you with understanding that cultural fit great job yeah yeah thank you I mean the team is everything right so it’s gonna who’s who you’re basically going to battle with when you’re trying to learn new things and sign bigger accounts and do different things past that so I mean we lean on our team for everything so awesome so Jim Rohn said that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you think about that statement uh what advice would you have for business owners who are trying to do it on their own and and you know think that they they have to do everything themselves yeah I would say that um you can definitely approach it and do yourself depending on the industry but if you really want to focus and hone in on your craft past that you want to be able to specialize in it not generalizing everything so being able to have things like um a great accountant right or a great person to do billing so you can focus on what services and products you’re providing or delegating tasks past that so you can again focus on growing the business in your in your craft right so I would say a delegation is definitely something you could you should consider whenever you’re scaling and growing your business past that awesome um one of the things I hear a lot as well but I I can’t afford to hire somebody or you know I don’t want to take the risk so what advice would you have for folks who who have that challenge or or at least have that thinking process yeah we’re training towards a gig economy so there’s plenty of people that will do 1099 work so it fits into your pricing and your schedules past that right so if you know that you need a charge X and you can fit it in and 1099 and out to Y and you should be able to make the margin between that so there’s tons and tons of people online that are willing to work and do the things that you need to do to grow your business too so there’s there’s a plethora of places that you can check out to be able to delegate it and not have one someone on Set uh salary pass that that’s great advice um I love that because as the the challenge that a lot of business owners will think through is well I I don’t have the money to pay someone else but to your point right you don’t if you can hire out to the gig economy you can you can you only have to pay for the services that you need as opposed to putting somebody on you know full time and then the other thing to think about for everyone listening is you know do the cost benefit analysis of hey how much is it to hire or Outsource right and versus how much is your time worth if you were able to get those things off of your plate and and go and get more business right yeah using a fake number right if it’s 25 an hour to hire you know somebody um on a part-time basis versus you can be out getting work that’s 125 dollars an hour right way more beneficial for you to be getting that stuff stuff off your plate and going and getting more business yeah yeah I definitely agree even part-time work has worked out great for us too I mean we have some rock stars on our team that started out part-time in college and now they’ve grown into their positions past that and they learned a lot throughout college and realized that they want to work with us long term so they really dug into it past that so part-time work is a great way to to get exposure to people that might end up being full-time for you I love that I that that’s how I my first hire was a part-time person and um and you know I I was worried well hey who’s going to want to work part-time but they they did and they worked out well and we moved her into full time and we just promoted her and so yeah you don’t don’t talk yourself out or something it doesn’t hurt to ask right be specific on what your company needs and ask for it and you know people will will apply to the role that you ask if they’re interested in it so yeah don’t handcuff Yourself by assuming you you know people are going to want only full-time hours you know yeah I totally agree so Austin last question here if there was something catastrophic that happened in the business who’s the first person that you’d call and what would you want from them the first person I’d probably call would be Alan to let them to know things that are happening but uh but uh we would quickly meet with our entire team and we’d figure it out together so we we all lean on each other for just different aspects I mean just because someone’s in our onboarding department doesn’t mean that they need to be kept away from the social Department we want everyone working as a team towards the objective and visions that we have yeah so I would definitely call my entire team I’d be the first person I call that’s awesome I love I love the the a few times you’ve talked about the fact that you rely on each other you lean on each other and you’ve got a nice culture there I I that’s awesome that you guys can you know share the load and and you know lean on one another when you need to and and that you feel comfortable bringing them all in in you know a fake example like the the catastrophe and be able to talk through it with them all that’s that’s an awesome um place to be yeah I would I wouldn’t say we had a catastrophe recently but whenever we had the first uh the first weeks of shutdowns I mean uh we we signed like 70 to 100 new clients that needed to be online within one month oh wow yeah all of our all of our uh clients calling to do online ordering stuff too so that would be like a kind of contrast we bring everybody in we’ve met every single day and we really came out on top not only for us but our clients passed that I mean even some of them whenever we got together during that moment uh we saved a couple different businesses from shutting down by launching online stores past that so it was a real team effort and that would probably be my actual catastrophe moment but it wasn’t like a huge catastrophe it was just a lot of work at once yeah but what a cool feeling to to know the impact that you’ve had on so many businesses being able to keep them in business that’s pretty cool yeah yeah that’s a great feeling yeah so Austin it it sounds like you’ve been blessed with a number of um incredible people that have helped you along on your your business owner’s Journey if they were all on the show here today what would you want to say to them uh I would just basically say thank you for guiding me uh definitely my my past mentors and and some of the the people I originally started this company with are really sticking their neck out to to help push this business in the beginning even if they’re not with us anymore and it also to our current staff I mean there’s no amount of thank you that you can do past what we’ve accomplished in the last couple years alone so it’s just a hard-working team and I’m really proud of what we’ve all accomplished fantastic well Austin it has been a pleasure speaking with you today and thank you so much for being on the show yeah thank you for having me to everyone who tuned in thanks for listening to the self-made is a missed show with your host coach Tim cancel be sure to help spread this Movement by liking the show and posting about it on your social media and to join our movement go to bemadtogether.com all right folks that’s a wrap make sure to pay it forward and I’ll see you all next time take care