Vince Kozar, Chief Executive Officer of the Phoenix Mercury, stopped by to discuss what it’s like to run a professional sports franchise, and lessons he’s learned along the way. Additionally, hear some tremendous stories, including his trip to the White House to meet the president.
Jonathan Barkl stopped in for a chat about his business, AirGarage. Far and away, our youngest Influencer, Jonathan, 20, is well on his way to a successful business. His cofounder and he recently both dropped out of ASU, where they were on full ride scholarships, to pursue AirGarage. Hear what’s going on with this young entrepreneur.
Abigail Olaya, owner of the Grove, a wedding venue in Phoenix, AZ.
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This podcast features Chance Butler, a financial advisor and entrepreneur from Queen Creek, Arizona.
Chance was born with just a 50% chance of survival, hence the name “Chance.”
Hear his incredible story about how he took a childhook full of illness and staying home from school, and used it to learn investing from his grandfather and turn it into the business he now has today.
MICHAEL HANSON: We are here with Dallin Harris, CEO of Skyhook Interactive media. They are a website builder with some of the biggest clients in the valley. You might have heard of them: Banner Health, City of Phoenix, American Express, Subway, and even the Super Bowl when it was here in Phoenix, which was pretty sweet, tones of others, you get the point. But it’s not just big clients because Dallin and his team actually took me, a very small client back in 2012 when I was starting my own company. And I remembered just being pretty amazed at the fact that this company developer, who’s been producing some really sweet products, was led by this 20 something year old and, so maybe we’ll just start off by talking a little bit about Skyhook in of in itself. What does the company do?
DALLIN HARRIS: Skyhook Interactive is a high-performance web development team. I have to think a little bit about that, because we’ve evolved over the years. When we first got started, we were kind of a “whatever you want to do to pay us to get money,” (laughs) and over time, I think it evolved that, but where we have really fallen into our stride for the past several years is that, that high-end website type of crowd, so —
Just to kind of explain what that means. Our belief, the way we see it is, a website is really the face of a — I wouldn’t say all companies, but most — many companies and it’s pretty important, what your first impression is for people and obviously, in a day and age of the internet, people don’t necessarily come and talk to you or ask you about what your business is or ask your sales team, a lot of times, they do their research online so. That website ends up becoming that first point of contact, that first impression, that they have of your brand, and many times, they come back and interact time and again and, so, that’s what we do. We design and built great websites.
MICHAEL HANSON: So you feel like it kind of replace the storefront?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah. I mean, in certain business model, I would say absolutely, for sure.
MICHAEL HANSON: For sure. So I’m just curious, when you’re looking back at Dallin Harris growing up, did you envision yourself as some successful businessman or entrepreneur or — what did you see?
DALLIN HARRIS: No, definitely not. I mean, I was a computer guy growing up. I was tinkering around, very much the engineer, very much, you know, low on the social skills index a little bit, I think (laughs), but I had a pretty life-changing moment when I was 18.
So growing up, my parents, fantastic, love my family. My dad was very corporate America, you know, get a job, stay with it 20 years kind of attitude. And when I was 18, my family moved away, and I didn’t want to go with them, so I actually ended up staying with some friends of our family, and the father of that family, was an entrepreneur and ran his own business. And it was just enough for me to see — I’ve only been with them for nine months, but it was just enough for me to see that lifestyle, and that difference, for me to go, huh, I don’t have to be corporate America, get a job kind of thing, like, you can do this and I just thought how — you know, he wasn’t wildly successful, but he did pretty well and he had free time, and most importantly, he owned his own destiny. Whatever he made is what he made, and I just — something about that really appealed to me and stuck with me, and gave me enough courage to at least start freelancing and building websites for people kind of on my own and that just kind of grew into Skyhook websites.
MICHAEL HANSON: So what made you make the decision at 18 years old, that I need to NOT move with my parents when they moved across the country?
DALLIN HARRIS: I’d already been accepted to ASU, had friends here, and you know, because of my dad’s job, he was — just happened to move, and I didn’t want to. I had a girlfriend and all that.
My original plan was to move out on my own. I think my parents thought I wasn’t quite ready for that, so they’re like, how about you stay with some family friends of ours? It worked out.
MICHAEL HANSON: So what was it specifically — you mentioned the freedom. What was it specifically that led you to believe, you know what, the corporate route is not going to work for me. I know, even going to college, I know that eventually I’m just going to be an entrepreneur. What did you see in your — I’ll call him your second dad.
DALLIN HARRIS: That’s a good question. I think it was — the word that comes to mind is meritocracy. That’s what I love about entrepreneurship is that, you get out of it what you put into it, and that’s — as I get older, I realize that’s true, even in a normal job, but something about — at that age, and really, still I would say, entrepreneurship is, you know, literally, the only reason I’m not a billionaire, is that I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. It’s not — there is no limiting factor on anything, especially here in this great country, where we have, you know, it’s easy to start a business, access to markets, the technology space. I just — I love knowing that if I’m not getting where I want in life, it’s 100% on me and no one else.
The other thing I think about that really draws me into entrepreneurship, is the impact of opportunity. Again, not the — not to disparage or say anything about folks who takes a more traditional route, because I think there’s plenty to be praised in that and that’s like everybody.
MICHAEL HANSON: You’d be offending most people (laughs).
DALLIN HARRIS: I just — I feel like the opportunity for impact is huge. If I can succeed in creating something that outlives me and those who does good in the world, and grows in scale way beyond what I could ever do with my own two hands, you know, that even more so than the money — the money in entrepreneurship is hit or miss, right? At times during any individual company’s life, and really as a whole, like, some entrepreneurs fail, so. I don’t think you can do it for the money, but I think the opportunity for impact is huge.
MICHAEL HANSON: So you mention that you’re interested in entrepreneurship as you enter college. You don’t start your own company, at least from what I can tell, at 18 years old. In fact, you had a couple jobs beforehand.
DALLIN HARRIS: Yes, so — I don’t want to go too much ’cause I don’t want to talk about it, but I served a mission in my church for two years. It’s a thing all of us, man go through, and it was — that was another pretty transformational part because you get out into the world away from technology, and you start interacting with people, and just kind of missionary kind of context. I learned a lot about —
MICHAEL HANSON: Where did you go?
DALLIN HARRIS: Mexico.
MICHAEL HANSON: Mexico, okay.
DALLIN HARRIS: — I learned a lot about myself, and my, you know, how much I cared about other people and it just kind of pauses [phonetic] down kind of introverted nerd I had been at that point. But — I mean, so I kind of have that going for me.
I learned to be a little bit more extroverted and then in college, you know, I was, I was just literally building websites to pay my way through, I mean, I’m trying to pay tuition. Got pretty good. Got a little more work than I could handle and then I was hiring friends to do little jobs, because it was a little more than I could handle and at some point, I decided to switch my degree to business and I literally remember thinking, “I should start a company, while in business school, so that all these lessons make more sense to me,” like it was my lab.
I still didn’t have the intention of continuing this business, but I’ll form an LLC, why not? I’ll sign an employee contract, why not? And I just — I was kind of learning and using all this as my lab really and I just…
When I kind of graduated, I was like, hey, this thing’s going pretty good. Do I shut it down and go take a job, you know, ’cause I had done — through college, I had done a couple internships at other places, and worked at an agency, worked at a larger tech company and I was like, do I keep going down that path, or start my own thing? I don’t know.
MICHAEL HANSON: Yeah. So kind of the whole time, I mean, the last place that I can see that you worked was InSync. Not the band, right?
DALLIN HARRIS: Not the band, the IT company.
MICHAEL HANSON: All right. That’s going to change this interview a little bit, but that’s fine. So Insync, you were working as a business analyst. The whole time, are you kind of doing the side project?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah.
MICHAEL HANSON: As — okay. And is that taking some of your time, more of your time, how much time you’re spending on this little side project that you believe is eventually going to be your full-time gig?
DALLIN HARRIS: That’s a good question. I mean, I don’t feel like — trying to remember the plan. I have terrible memories, I can’t remember the timeline. I know I was just freelance work all along and even — I believe I had an employee while I was working for someone else, which is kind of weird.
I had a guy who was doing a ton of website work for me and I had hired him, committed that I would send him a certain amount of work while I still had this other job. I think it was — I viewed the job at Insync as an opportunity to make some money, guaranteed money, but to learn some things too, but it was — I always knew that there was a stop light on that, that was just kind of — trying to align the pieces to where I can go full time.
MICHAEL HANSON: So what was the point when you figured, you know what, it’s time to go?
DALLIN HARRIS: One huge plan was when I hired Josh, which — so Josh was a friend of mine from a previous employer and he got —
MICHAEL HANSON: I think I remembered Josh.
DALLIN HARRIS: — Okay. Still with us today, 10 years later — and he was laid off the job that we both had together before and he was like, I’d love to keep doing this freelancing — he was already kind of doing stuff outside of me — I’d love to keep doing this with you full time, can you support me full time, and I thought, oh, gosh, like when I tell those guys, this friend of my like, yes, I can find work for you, that was a pretty solidifying moment.
MICHAEL HANSON: So your friend getting laid off, really put the fire under your butt then?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yep, yep.
MICHAEL HANSON: To kind of make it happened.
DALLIN HARRIS: Yep. That was a big moment and I remember another big moment. When we all graduated and my friend, another friend of mine who was married, his wife was like pressing him to get a job, and it was kind of just like, think you guys going to do something with your little company here or are you going to go get a real job, and we sat down at famous Texas Grill house dinner —
MICHAEL HANSON: There it is.
DALLIN HARRIS: — and said — I think it was three of us. I was basically — well, three of us and our wives and I was basically, put this all on the wives to say I believe we can do this (laughs).
MICHAEL HANSON: The guys are all in (laughs).
DALLIN HARRIS: The guys are all in (laughs). That was my interview with them and after that growth [phonetic] phase, they took a chance and just kind of go from there.
MICHAEL HANSON: Crazy. So Skyhook, the name.
DALLIN HARRIS: Originally, a little-known fact, we were Blacklotus Web Design —
MICHAEL HANSON: Blacklotus, okay.
DALLIN HARRIS: — which was a silly [phonetic] name that I had even in high school when I was doing freelance work. I can’t even remember where that came from. That’s a lie, but we’re not together.
MICHAEL HANSON: (Laughs) no worries.
DALLIN HARRIS: That’s from [inaudible].
MICHAEL HANSON: Oh, wow. Okay, that shows. So you’re a nerd at that time.
DALLIN HARRIS: I’m a nerd, I’m a nerd. But then we found out there’s a thing called trademark law and, you know, someone else already owned the trademark for Blacklotus. We got Cease and Desist about a year in, and — that was fun, it was — you know.
MICHAEL HANSON: Does that mean you’ve kind of arrived when you actually get it — when somebody realizes you’re using their name?
DALLIN HARRIS: I think it is —
MICHAEL HANSON: It’s kind of like that part you’re like, okay, people are noticing us.
DALLIN HARRIS: We’re showing up on someone’s radar.
MICHAEL HANSON: Yeah.
DALLIN HARRIS: So I went to my trademark attorney, I’m like, “we got to fight this,” and he’s like, “you have no money and no case. Do not fight this, just go, pick a different name.” So we did an office poll, we submitted a whole bunch of different names that I felt like —
MICHAEL HANSON: So how many people are here at this point?
DALLIN HARRIS: Probably five, four or five. And we submitted names, kicked them around. Skyhook actually came from Star Wars. One of our guys is a big Star Wars nerd, and just kind of like how it sounded. We liked — you know, told the story, I’m like sky and the internet and the hook thing, what pulls you up and, so we kind of like that. We since found out that there are other interpretations of it; Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s [crosstalk] —
MICHAEL HANSON: That [inaudible], yeah
DALLIN HARRIS: — everyone thinks that one and there’s couple of others, but — yeah, that’s where the name came from.
MICHAEL HANSON: And you guys call yourselves Skyhook Interactive Marketing, not —
DALLIN HARRIS: Skyhook Interactive.
MICHAEL HANSON: Skyhook Interactive?
DALLIN HARRIS: So we’re originally Skyhook Marketing because we were doing a whole bunch marketing services, but as we hung more into the just the website marketing phase, we felt like it’s a little ingenious to call ourselves marketers. We partner with marketing agencies and what we do is obviously a very important part of marketing, but we branded the Skyhook Interactive probably three years ago, maybe four.
MICHAEL HANSON: So you guys working in an office at this point? Just the five of you, you decide you’re going to rebrand …?
DALLIN HARRIS: No. Actually, we put off the office thing for too long, really. We were working out of my house and I think it was one day, we were, you know, we had a conference meeting at my kitchen table and someone was working in the kitchen on a countertop and my wife was in there trying to make food, and she’s just like, you guys get out of here, this is ridiculous.
MICHAEL HANSON: That was the point.
DALLIN HARRIS: We were taking meetings at the house and everything, so…
MICHAEL HANSON: So you remember your first kind of big client? Do you guys feel like you hit a homerun right of the bat? Like, what’s the point when you realized, okay, this — we’ve arrived and we got a chance to do something here.
DALLIN HARRIS: That’s a good question. A few key clients kind of come to mind. One — first, no. Our initial clients were all friends, family, I think — and actually now, people who’re thinking like they were going to get a good deal with these guys, you know. We felt all cool and official like we were throwing big proposals down.
I remember one law firm in particular. I walked in and I gave them this $2500 proposal, and I was like this huge — you know, for me, it was like I can’t believe I’m asking for this much money. I’m sure the — you know, as I get older, I realize now, the principal of the firm is just like this gambler, 2500 bucks, it’s like it was nothing —
MICHAEL HANSON: Like four hours of lawyer time pretty much.
DALLIN HARRIS: Exactly, exactly. There was a lot of that. I’ve heard this phrase, you know, later, but it really captures kind of what we went through. The phrase is, “First you cheap, then you’re busy. Then you’re good, then you’re expensive, then you’re picky.” That’s been — so we were in the cheap phase at that point, which taking on tons and tons of work.
I remember a pretty big moment when we landed text startup, funded text startup of my job chart [phonetic] here in valley. And you know, they had money, they had investors, they had scrutiny [phonetic], you know, and they looked at several different proposals. I remembered feeling, like okay — I don’t remember how big that quote was, probably like 30 or 40 grand. Still not like enormous, but it was like — that was going to be several months of work for us. That was good. The — so Lane Terralever from E.B. Lane, big agency. When they started sending us work, I knew that was pretty big thing ’cause they have a big name, they have big clients. That’s actually where super bowl came from eventually.
MICHAEL HANSON: Oh, okay.
DALLIN HARRIS: So there were a few of those. You know, it was that process of do a good work, get a case study out of it, throw it on our website and the next client that came on, didn’t feel so scared to go at it, ’cause it was like, oh it was good enough for a job [inaudible], good enough for E.B. Lane, you know, and we just kind of copy up on that.
The other thing I’ll say, I cannot say how much getting an office actually helped us, I didn’t realized, but just for legitimacy of being in a physical space was [crosstalk].
MICHAEL HANSON: For sure. I mean, if clients want to visit you, you want to jot a proposal, being in your kitchen, probably is not the —
DALLIN HARRIS: Exactly.
MICHAEL HANSON: By the way, this is taking place in my dining room today, just want to let you guys know (laughs). So tell me about the importance of kind of hiring those first couple of people right of the bat. Were they mostly friends?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah, most friendly friends, which you know, risky, but I thought that’s where you (crosstalk) —
MICHAEL HANSON: Yeah, sure.
DALLIN HARRIS: — it’s like, when you’re first getting started, those are the people you trust. Yeah, scary but not — I remember being a lot more scary before, but then it like never became a problem afterwards. You know, Josh, the first employee hired I was committed to, a consistent paycheck for him and his family. I thought how I was going to do this.
And literally never had a problem. We never missed a payroll. I think part of that thanks to our business model. We’re getting — doing work, we’re getting paid pretty quickly and as long as we don’t totally blow it on our estimates like it’s going to be money to pay for stuff, but our business model didn’t have a lot of startup costs like others. We needed a laptop and a little bit of elbow grease, but … but I do remember that, like okay, I’m committing to do this. In his case — it’s kind of funny, I don’t know if I ever [inaudible]. I didn’t feel as bad because he had been (audio skips), so worst case scenario, if this doesn’t work out, he’s in the same boat he’s in anyway.
MICHAEL HANSON: It’s kind of interesting to think about what might have happened or how much everything would have been delayed had you just kept that job.
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah.
MICHAEL HANSON: You know, it’s kind of interesting. So —
DALLIN HARRIS: Or the name, you know, I was bummed when the Blacklotus thing fell through, but that worked out well for us. I mean, there’s — probably go down a whole pendulum like — but the trials and obstacles that (crosstalk).
MICHAEL HANSON: No, no, that’s what I want to talk about. So, I mean, there’s probably lucky breaks along the way, but was there legitimate moments when you thought I just don’t thinks this is going to work or this is way too difficult or I’m in over my head?
DALLIN HARRIS: You know, I can’t say that there were. I don’t know if that’s just my personality or what, but I don’t ever remember — actually, I can probably could come up with one or two times when I was just like, let me shut this thing down, this is ridiculous.
Here’s the thing about Skyhook business model. It was never, it was never like we would lose money in crater [phonetic], it was more like, we would have to work 80-hour weeks to make ends meet ‘cause you signed client plan and say I’ll do this for 20 grand and you have, guess what, it takes you longer, all you can do is throw more time at it. So it wasn’t ever like, oh, we’re going to lose anything out of this, it was more of just like, our life is hard right now. We’re working 80, 90 hard hour weeks and to really barely make what we could be making in a 40-hour week job, like, what’s the point? There were a couple of those moments.
I brought on a partner probably three years into it, John, and that was huge, blessing, it has been to this day. I mean, having — having somebody you can bounced ideas off and miss context when we talk about. Here’s someone who can buoy you up and say, oh, come on man, it’s going to be okay, like we got this going, we got that going, you know. Nine times out of ten, it’s rare that we’re both on a downside at the same time and we can usually talk each other into it, but there have been moments where the stars aligned and it was like (crosstalk).
MICHAEL HANSON: So what was the idea of bringing on a partner, why did you feel like you needed to do that?
DALLIN HARRIS: You know, John —
MICHAEL HANSON: And what does a partner mean, first of all? Like what is his role in your company, and how does that kind of change the decision making?
DALLIN HARRIS: John started as a graphic designer from college and he just showed a lot of value added, I don’t know how to describe it. Beyond the actual graphic design, he was talking to me about, why we’re invoicing that way, what expectation you have with that client, how is this co-worker feeling? It was just — it was clear that he was going to add value more in just the work in some kind of way.
So I made him my manager kind of as a result of that, but even still, he just — he was ambitious and wanted more. It was kind of — I remember coming up to this point where it was like, look man, I want to make some — look John, I want to make some good money here and I want to keep working with you, but you know, where is this going? So that kind of brought up the partnership conversation.
The logic that went through my head and still really now is, you know, can I do more by myself or without John? I was kind of thinking, I can keep running this by myself, but at what pace would we grow and what would I be missing versus giving some [inaudible] to John and you know, can we grow that much more together.
John is the opposite of me in so many ways. Very right brain creative, very people oriented. I tend to be more passive oriented, get it done, he’s more people oriented. Just a number of those kind of things where it felt like it wasn’t the sort of thing I can buy in an employee, I needed a partner to do so we made the– at first, just a verbal agreement and then in time, solidify that with a legal agreement and I believe it’s been worth it. I mean, I believe that where we’ve grown and what we’ve done has been you know, incalculably better because of that decision.
MICHAEL HANSON: Yeah. So just so somebody’s listening, again they’re not at the point where they’ve actually started anything. They have an idea or something going on, so some young guy or gal listening, they want to start a business. They see the glamour and the fame, and I feel like Instagram kind of promotes this, and it’s cool to be an entrepreneur right now, which is kind of true. I don’t think 30, 40 years ago, it was that cool to be an entrepreneur. You know, you picture the door to door salesman or you picture the guy wearing the same suit seven days in a row or something like that. It just wasn’t the case. What do you think that they really need to look out for if they’re pursuing a dream, kind of like you did?
DALLIN HARRIS: Great question. And I totally agree with you. In fact, when I told my stab [phonetic], my pass [phonetic] for marriage (laughs), that I was planning to be an entrepreneur, it was down to those, like, what does that mean? So main thing to think about when starting a business. I would say that the business model itself is more important than I give it credit for and the idea itself. You’re not going to — I think it’s important to think [phonetic] you’re not going to be right at first. Like originally, we thought we would do all things computer tech oriented. Then we’re kind of a marketing firm, and then we’re like, naw, we’re going to be a web development firm. Even more specifically lately, we kind of like well, maybe we’ll do this higher education thing. Don’t think that your initial view of the whole thing is going to be what it ends up being at the end, but just embrace the idea that overtime you’ll be testing or defining that business model because — I mean, we got lucky in that our first guess at a business model was sustainable and up and didn’t like fail —
MICHAEL HANSON: Which was the website building?
DALLIN HARRIS: Just like — we were even doing tech work for people, email, stuff like that. It was mostly generated direction of websites, but we would take on anything in any industry and it worked well enough that we could stay alive, but it wasn’t a great business and in time, we zeroed in on, okay, who are our best client, what do they have in common, what do we want to start doing less off, how we want to position ourselves, rebrand Skyhook Interactive, those kind of marketing, ditch the service offering and just working — so you’ll hear a lot of us just starting setting up partnership, but just working on the business instead of in the business, you know. Ninety percent of my day, I’m in the business doing what it needs, but I like to take a step back and say work on the business for a second. Should we even keep doing this, should we hire a different person here?
MICHAEL HANSON: Is that hard to find time to do?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yes. You have to — it’s nearly impossible. Even in our scale and I think we’re — you know, we’ve come pretty far, but I have to set aside that time and not touch it. Show a little bit of time each week, be strategic, ’cause otherwise the world wind of entrepreneurship will take all of your available hours. I would say business model is important because — and it evolves and grows.
You want to — It’s kind of cliché I think, but it’s kind of the business market fit, this part really resonates with me. I mean, you trying to find something that you’re good at that, but someone else will pay a lot of money for and it’s a moving target on both sides ’cause you’re trying to find that perfect alignment. There’s a lot of things you’re good at, there’s a lot of things that people will pay for, but where is the overlap that you can lock up and set a business around.
I almost — kind of sometimes I wonder if — where I would be if I didn’t start a business. I don’t know, what I would have, it’s really hard, but that’s fine. I mean, you have your youthful energy and you’re just kind of attacking it and …
Maybe one thing I’ll say is, pretty much any significant risks that you come across, if you think about it a little bit longer, you could find a way to de-risk (phonetic) it a little bit.
MICHAEL HANSON: Can you think of an example?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah.
MICHAEL HANSON: Where you’ve seen that recently?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah. Well, it’s funny ’cause this higher education thing is kind of a good example of it, of us not taking our own advice here. You know, we thought, oh, we’ll start a new thing, we’ll start going after these new clients, which we haven’t done a ton of schools before this all started and we’ll start offering tons of new services that we haven’t done a ton of before. How hard can it be? We’re smart guys, we have a certain amount of success already and, so we’re just going to haul off into it, just the two of us.
And it has been expensive as we learned those lessons and as we evaluate where we’re at now, it’s like, I wish we had brought in a partner who already knew some of this stuff. That’s kind of an expensive decision, but was there some low fidelity testing we could have done? Could we have, you know, maybe just try to land a good university website project and try learn from it before going and advertise we did this because — at the end of the day, we’re going to get it right, but we spent a lot of money that we didn’t expect if we had thought of it more strategically about how to do it.
You hear about people literally before even starting a company, any of the services, throwing some advertising out there saying here are the services available for sale and just see if you can sell one, and then when you actually do sell it, it’s like —
MICHAEL HANSON: Figure it out.
DALLIN HARRIS: — we don’t actually have a company yet, but thank you for proving that you would have brought us. Here’s your money back and its almost just like this raw validation (crosstalk).
MICHAEL HANSON: I will say that I’ve done that before, no doubt about it.
DALLIN HARRIS: I think it’s smart. I mean, it’s — you don’t lie to people, but you’re testing assumption before you go and built.
MICHAEL HANSON: Well, the way I kind of look at it is, you figure out how to make whatever you promised based on the fact that you actually have somebody that’s smart. That’s kind of the way I look at it, but yeah, I understand what you’re saying. The quicker you can beat the market and the quicker you can say ultimately, the better off you’re going to be later on. So is there any failure, speaking of failure, that kind of sticks out to you? Your favorite failure that you remember, kind of growing this business?
DALLIN HARRIS: I mean, colossal failures are a little more rare, but there’s little failures on land and I’ll tell you candidly. I have repeated failures around leadership and people skill side of things. I mean, as I said, I’m kind of engineered to get things done logical by nature and that, you know, that doesn’t work on humans.
I can think of past employees that we’ve had where I’ve been too hard, too direct, too unfair and blinded by my own bias situation where I maybe I come in where, you know, I don’t chew people out, that’s not my style, but I’ve been at least past the grudge of angering people and created instead of what I wanted, which was motivate them to work harder, I created resentment and undermining and discord. I’ve made those mistakes a lot. And learning how to deal with people, because people are different than codes, right? Code does what it’s told and if code doesn’t work, there’s obviously a logical reason why, you know.
MICHAEL HANSON: So you recognize your weakness, which is — by the way, circling in [phonetic] is way more important than having weakness because everybody has weaknesses and it just human nature. How do you navigate those? How do you actually do something about it when you know you, you’re the guy, you’re the leader of this organization? How do you navigate your weaknesses, and I have a follow up question, but I’ll ask you that first.
DALLIN HARRIS: Well, it helps to have a partner, someone who can hold the mirror up. It helps — we have a regular performance interview meeting, one every quarter, not every year as a standard review, but every quarter they can review.
I mean, as ongoing expectation, people gives feedback often anyway, but every quarter — once a quarter, I get feedback from my team. It’s like, here’s what you’re doing well, here’s what you’re not and I set actual goals and I try to work on that. I’ve been super grateful for my team.
You know, I think you can get to demonstrate that you’re open to hearing that because people stop giving feedback pretty quick if it’s clear that you’re just going to do what you want to do anyway. But whenever my team gives me feedback, I try to really take it and internalize it. Must ask follow up question; what are the situation where you see this happening, or what’s your perception, and that helps me to get the feedback from them that I need to know I’m still doing it, it’s been a quarter now, am I getting better at this and even bring them in on ideas of how to navigate it ’cause they’re your blind spot, they’re not — I don’t know I’m doing it. To me, I think I’m doing great.
MICHAEL HANSON: Exactly, yeah.
DALLIN HARRIS: So you got to be able to get someone else to give that to you.
MICHAEL HANSON: How tough is it to receive that feedback?
DALLIN HARRIS: Not tough. Well, there’s always a sting, right, when it’s initially given. I just learn that, that sting, that’s defensive reaction is wrong and I need to take a breath and realize I ask for it. I want to know the truth, I don’t want to have any kind of bad reaction to if they’re going to clam up not share their feedback with me. So you know, take a break, take a walk, do what you have to do. I try to write it down, I try to — I go in that mode of like — almost like a third party where I’m just hearing their evaluation. I’m really trying to understand everything that they’re saying and then take it slow and personalize it for myself.
MICHAEL HANSON: So you talk about your weaknesses. I think you’re able to recognize, for the most part, what your experiences are, what your weaknesses are. I don’t know if you listen to Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s a pretty famous —
DALLIN HARRIS: A little bit, yeah.
MICHAEL HANSON: — entrepreneur, kind of — sort of an evangelist, little out there, but one thing that he talks about and sells is that, you never spend a lot of time on your weaknesses. Focus and double down and triple down and quadruple down on your strengths. What do you think about that? What’s your approach when it comes to managing your strength and weaknesses? Do you go about actually trying to fix your weaknesses or do you just say, you know what, I’m going to focus on everything- I’m good at and sends somebody else in for that [crosstalk]?
DALLIN HARRIS: No, I do try to — it’s a mix of both, right. If you spend all day on your weaknesses, you’re going to be discouraged and, you know, you’re going to start to feel bad about yourself. I think it is important to — when you see an opportunity, you know you can handle it, you know your strength align well, hey coach, put me on, I can handle it, you know. Let me tackle this ’cause I’m really good at this sort of stuff.
John and I have these kinds of conversations all the time here, when a task popped up sitting here in the office; who’s better at that? You’re probably better at that, yeah, let me handle it. So definitely play their strengths, but I don’t know, the weakness thing, to me this maybe gets into a life philosophy, but I think a big part of life is improving and learning and getting better and so, I like taking my weaknesses on a bit. Trying to — if not erase them entirely, at least be aware that they’re there so I can set expectations around them, but I like learning and growing in that way so …
I don’t think I’m on the — I’m not on team ignore your weaknesses altogether. I guess, I’ll say it feels almost anti-collaborative to me. If you’re on a team, people are like hey, you’re doing this thing, it’s like —
MICHAEL HANSON: You just ignore it?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah, just ignore it. I guess if you can work around it, that’s fine. As long as you’re making arrangements for your weaknesses. You know in my case, having John and the — he’s the HR guy —
MICHAEL HANSON: Makes sense.
DALLIN HARRIS: He’s intimately involved and —
MICHAEL HANSON: People person.
DALLIN HARRIS: — he’s the people person. So I may have an opinion, I might want to get better at it, but I’m not going to like give myself that full responsibility because it’s not a great strength of mine.
MICHAEL HANSON: Okay. What about a hero? Do you have somebody you consider an inspiration?
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah. Obviously, Nate Lamb [phonetic], who’s the initial entrepreneur that kind of inspired me.
MICHAEL HANSON: They guy you lived with for nine months.
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah. But I have lots of heroes in different ways. The older I get or the more I press on this path, I think of myself — I wear the title of CEO, but more than ever, it’s not I’m better than everyone else. I think obviously, when I was younger, it was like, I’m the boss, I’m not better than everyone else, but right now, I view it more as that happens to be my skill set. I’m good at big picture thinking and I arrange a team, things like that, so I wear the CEO hat well, but it doesn’t make me any better than the guy who wears the frontline programmer or planner hat. So I got a little bit [inaudible]. What was the question?
MICHAEL HANSON: So I want to know do you have an inspiration? Personal hero.
DALLIN HARRIS: So I would name my co-worker honestly in that a lot. I look at — Ty [phonetic], who works for us. The man is just brilliant when it comes to —
MICHAEL HANSON: He did my sight.
DALLIN HARRIS: Yeah. He can see solutions where others can’t, saves huge amount of work because of it. I think John’s a hero of mine in the way he’s with people, in the way, you know. If I ever run this company by myself, I guarantee it would have like three times the turnover we have.
So I think of heroes that I work with. I think of other entrepreneurs in the valley.
I belong to an organization call the Entrepreneurs Organization, which is like just a multi chapter of business owners and there are some really inspirational people in there. You come to realize that entrepreneurs don’t come from any particular mold. I mean I’ve met entrepreneurs who aren’t very well spoken, who you know, struggle to articulate what they’re saying. I’ve met entrepreneurs who are hard charging visionary, I mean, everything in between. But I have some good —
I tend to be drawn to people who have really worked on themselves and really, who really take time to find their values. I think of people who just have a lot of integrity and patience in business. I can name names, but I’m not to none of these people, but people who have manageable balance, make traditional gender roles work in their home life and still have great kids and great families despite being under immense pressure at work.
I’ve done a lot of introspection as we craft Skyhook values about, you know, what are our products, what are our values (audio skips). Once we came up with Skyhook, think moving on, which is smart people who hustle and have ownership in their work, take criticism without it being personal, things like that. Those kinds of people are people I look up to, people who exemplify.
I have one friend whose just wicked smart, software developer, I really value that. So maybe it don’t make a long answer short. Feel like most people — almost everyone I’ve ever met has something about that is inspiring [inaudible] than not.
MICHAEL HANSON: I love that answer and I love the fact you bring your employees into it too, you know. I think it probably is easy once you grow a company to believe it’s a result of your great vision and your great leadership and your determination, things like that without recognizing the fact that, you know, these aren’t just like soldiers, these are real people that helped to build this thing and partner with you and the fact that you mentioned that, I think you recognized that.
It’s kind of cool to hear you talk about self-awareness just because I feel like most people don’t really have great self-awareness. I don’t really talk to people about, hey, what do you think of me, what do you really think of me? What are my flaws? Tell me ’cause I don’t know, ’cause that’s true. I don’t know. I’m not going to notice that things I’m bad at. I’m actually interested to get the feedback on this broadcast because I know I’m not a great host, but I’m the only person here, so I’m just going to do it, and it’s good to kind of get that feedback to figure out how you can ultimately get better.
DALLIN HARRIS: That’s good that you can say that because I’m not, you know, I was actually thinking what great question is that. You do small things, you show your gift in interesting ways and — I don’t know, the fact that you actually — I wonder how many people start this broadcasting, no one actually done it.
MICHAEL HANSON: Actually, done it? For sure.
DALLIN HARRIS: I think that count.
MICHAEL HANSON: Thank you. So the question — I know you’ve heard this before too. How much of your success, you know, you’ve own your business for almost 10 years, maybe longer if you consider you were kind of in the freelancer. You’re under 35 in Arizona, I’m sure you’ve had some other accolades and things like that, I don’t even know, but how much of that do you contribute to your determination, your intelligence, your hard work, your entrepreneurship capability and how much you contribute to luck?
DALLIN HARRIS: My two options, the team’s determination and your ability. I mean, I don’t know. I feel like — to be completely honest, I do think many times I’ve carry [phonetic] the team. There’s been moments when I run out so discouraged, I probably would have shut down, I didn’t push it forward and I think that’s the job of an entrepreneur.
That’s actually one of the parts I like least about it, when it’s like, things are bad, but I can’t let everyone know that I’m stressed, I just have to power through and show up and do it. It’s hard. So I do give myself some credit there. Especially when it comes to my deals though and lately, I have to give all the credit to my team because they — it’s weird. Having been now a programmer for the better part of the company’s history, I kind of forgotten what it’s even like to be front line customer service and these sorts of things. I mean, I know generally, but I value so much, it’s essential. It’s not even like my team just decides it’s a good idea, and they help outlined how already great it is, it’s the opposite. Like I have to stand at a meeting and facilitate and listen careful, what are they saying will work, what are they saying the challenges they’re running to, ’cause literally all of the good ideas around Skyhook these days come from that meeting.
I try to organize, summarize and write down and see to it that they’re followed up on, but my team’s good ideas making stuff work, I think is the biggest part of our success.
Luck, don’t want to be like ungrateful to the universe, but I’m not sure how much luck has to do with it. Certainly, had some lucky breaks, good clients, but I kind of feel like, kind of feel like if you’re out there working hard and looking for opportunities, they are out there, so yeah, no — I don’t know.
MICHAEL HANSON: Yeah, I think that’s a good approach. I think that’s a good way to look at it too because if you believe that the needle swings too far in luck’s favor, does that really encourage you to keep pressing, you know.
DALLIN HARRIS: I can’t make luck happen, so yeah.
MICHAEL HANSON: Sure. I think — somebody describe it as, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I don’t know who said it, but pretty well stated. So we talked a little bit, right as you walked in, I don’t know if we really go into it, but Imetric [phonetic], what is it?
DALLIN HARRIS: Imetric is new, honestly. It’s still a bit of an experiment. We’re trying to take everything that we’ve learned in 10 years out of running out of generalized website development business and say how could we — if we were to start this again today, what would be different?
One of the biggest thing is zeroing in on some of the industry’s specific expertise. On the one hand, you know, we built websites in every industry and — most industries, and there’s — a lot of things are 80 percent in common from industry to industry. There’s a 20 percent, it doesn’t matter if you have industry specific knowledge and we don’t have that. I mean, we’ve done maybe a dozen, call it a dozen projects maybe in these industries, but it doesn’t compare.
If you’re at school or university, let me put it this way, are you going to hire the firm that has done a dozen schools along with 500 other clients or are you going to hire the people who are like world class at schools and universities. You value a little bit of like see what else is out there, but bottom line is, you start to get — you can add value to new level if you have done a lot of school websites and can say, oh, yeah, just like they did at this university (crosstalk) –.
MICHAEL HANSON: Sure, but what made you actually decide, you know what, universities the school, is what we need to go after?
DALLIN HARRIS: Good question. It was — probably over thought. We started out let’s look at all the people we’ve ever done work for and John and I were literally like —
MICHAEL HANSON: Which is what?
DALLIN HARRIS: Right over 500. Yeah, over 500 sites; law firms, medical practices, adventure tourisms kind of places, just everything and we kind of try to zero in on like with all these people, who do we really enjoy working for and where do we feel like we can do more.
It had to be sophisticated enough industry to where we, you know. We actually took a small look at charter schools and K12 education but we came to find pretty quickly they don’t have money.
So education has always been a thing, it’s one of our values, I think. We love smart people and business partners in particular, both of us [phonetic] have had big involvement in academia and kind of combination of passion and we think we can do this and needs it. Higher ed, as you to get into it, like a lot of governments, pretty behind in bureaucratic. It’s got formation. Like we need it. We need more higher education, so kind of confluence of all those things.
MICHAEL HANSON: So you mentioned kind of the complexity of, I guess, a site like that. Are you looking for something that’s a tougher or a tougher baric [phonetic] of entry and seeing in other industry?
DALLIN HARRIS: There’s a lot to like about higher ed. When we crack on that, we’ll hopefully experience. I mean, baric entry is a big one. You can’t just pick a laptop and compete with it. You can compete with the firm of those higher ed websites, maybe on [inaudible] websites.
There’s a lot of recurring work for enterprise grades, so there’s bigger budgets. It’s more mission driven. I mean, I feel like I’ve loved all of the missions of our clients for the most parts. Some of them are better than others, but higher ed in particular, the world needs more education. There’s probably others that I’m forgetting, but the promise of that is strong. Kind of just got me at this particular moment, get our butts kick. It’s like, it’s harder than we thought sell to big team. Usually I arrange to talk to one customer, now there’s 20 and a committee who decides when the website gets done. Long RFP processes, inhouse talent with pretty significant degrees, so I don’t know, it’s been — well, I guess we’re –that’s where it, it’s baric entry, we’re going through the baric entry right now. So we look forward with faith to the day and time where we can say we own this space, we can move around it.
MICHAEL HANSON: So I want to go back to, you’re 18 years old, you decided I’m going to stay here folks. I’m going to do my own thing. You know, after living with this entrepreneur, I just — it sounds like this is for me. What’s your dad think?
DALLIN HARRIS: I’ve never had anything but support from my parents, at least that they expressed. You know, they probably were thinking, well, he’s young and not married and, you know, probably, you know, a young man can live pretty cheap if he has to, round the needles, whatever —
MICHAEL HANSON: I’m sure you did.
DALLIN HARRIS: — and I did. They probably figure, he’ll learn. I don’t think they were ever like, oh, we want more from you or we want different from you. Maybe it’s not their personality.
MICHAEL HANSON: So what’s next for you? When I interviewed you again in 10 years, Dallin Harris, what are we going to be talking about?
DALLIN HARRIS: That’s a great question. I love business. I love — I don’t know if it’s personal opinion perspective, but like I think for me at least, it’s my vehicle for changing the world.
I think Skyhook is building phenomenal websites. I don’t know if anyone in the valley, maybe even in the region that builds like cooler, better websites so I feel like — although we’re still relatively small, I can feel like we’re putting a real dent in the quality website problem, we’ll call it, in Arizona. We are building good websites that are bringing people together and making a difference for them. I love that.
I feel like I’m learning a lot in the process of building this business and my future would be to start another business, Imetric is kind of a first step in that direction. But I think for me to reach my next level of influence, it would be get involved in [inaudible] businesses, either in a board capacity or investment capacity and businesses is that same kind of general vain using technology to make people’s lives better. I hope when you interview me in 10 years, as I’ve continued this http://skips self-aware.
You said that I strike yourself aware. I hope that I build on that more and address more weaknesses so that I can be a more influential person. That’s the goal, I guess, is to be more influential, more powerful and not like power hungry like kind of way, but in like — I trust my own morals and my own initiatives and the more powerful I can get, the more I can move them — make it better in the universe. So leadership is huge to me. Today, I’m a Skyhook CEO or web development guy, but for my life, I’m a leader. I’m trying to figure out what to get better at, seeing what needs to be done, energizing a group of people to go and do it and then look at after for bigger success.
MICHAEL HANSON: So what’s the reason that a CEO of the website builder would want to be a board member of a tech company?
DALLIN HARRIS: I think you have — so I mean, I look even at my current role, I’m probably really only CEO 20 percent of the time. I mean, there’s not that much CEOing to be done. Also, I’m a sales guy or I’m a relationship manager. I’m hiring, you know, HR kind of person. CEOing, seeing the vision, seeing what’s need to be done, there’s only so much that needs to be done at that.
I think when you get to a board position, and you’re on, say, 10 boards of other companies, you’re giving some really good advice to people who’ve been — CEO who’ve been going influence [phonetic]. So I feel like being able to do that, you get a lot of wisdom, but as a board member, or I would call Angel investor kind of that same kind of category, it’s like instead of me just taking my one company and growing it, I can help 10 companies be bigger because of the wisdom I learned when I was in their role.
MICHAEL HANSON: [Inaudible]. Well anyways, Dallin Harris, CEO of Skyhook Interactive Marketing — Skyhook Interactive. I’m going to take out the marketing. Dallin Harris, CEO of Skyhook Interactive. Thank you so much for stopping by. So at this point, I’m going to just do basic editing, so if there’s anything else you want to mention — one other thing, can I ask about the company itself like how many employees, revenue, things like that?
DALLIN HARRIS: Sure. We are 12 employees, 1.7 million of revenue, somewhere around there. We —
MICHAEL HANSON: I believe that’s up quite a bit from 2012. You’re approaching the [inaudible], that’s how I remembered it.
DALLIN HARRIS: We’ve moved offices I think since then. We’re at S. Stapley now and we got some real solid relationship with agencies who sends us work, we subcontract. it’s almost kind of funny. A big company hires an agency to do some website, a pretty strong likely — in this area, pretty strong likelihood, we were the ones to do it, to build on it. So it’s been — just to go back to what I’m most proud of with the company is, it’s almost like a family. A team of people who love our clients and aren’t afraid to admit when we’re wrong and help each other out. I think it’s a real rewarding place to work. I’m happier I think now than I’ve ever been.
MICHAEL HANSON: Sure.
DALLIN HARRIS: It’s a good balance.
MICHAEL HANSON: Yeah, that’s awesome. Congratulations just in general.
DALLIN HARRIS: Thank you.
MICHAEL HANSON: Since we talk every five years, it’s kind of like the last (laughs), but that’s fun. Anything else you want to mention?
DALLIN HARRIS: Just thank you so much for having me. If anyone out there is listening, I think –I’m an evangelist for entrepreneurship. I think it’s a — in all the many ways you can impact the world, I think starting a business that — if you have that interest and that determination, I think it’s a great way to make the world a better place.
I think we have a shortage of entrepreneurs. I think we have plenty of good ideas, I think we have plenty of money, but I don’t think we have enough people who are willing to take the two and bring it together and take the risk and make the world a better place, so. Actually, no, I should say is, don’t try because entrepreneurs do real great, but the opportunity who succeed are the ones that don’t listen to people who say don’t try. You take your life in your own hands and way you go.
MICHAEL HANSON: How do people contact you if they wanted to?
DALLIN HARRIS: I’m pretty easy to find. Google me Dallin Harris, Skyhook.
This podcast featured Jeff Kunowski, a 29-year old entrepreneur from Phoenix, AZ.
Hear his incredible story, and how he took an idea of “lighting up” the sign-spinners on street corners at night. Now, he’s working with professional sports franchises all over the country and partnering with one of the biggest electronics companies in the world.
This podcast featured Dallin Harris a 32-year old entrepreneur whose company has already created over 500 custom websites for companies like American Express, Lifelock, Blue Media, Banner Health, and even the Super Bowl, when the Super Bowl was in Phoenix.
Hear his incredible story, from starting a company at age 23, and what keeps him so driven today.
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