The D2Z Podcast

Book Launch Insights: The Power of a Gen Z Mindset in Business - 73

September 01, 2023 Brandon Amoroso Season 1 Episode 73
The D2Z Podcast
Book Launch Insights: The Power of a Gen Z Mindset in Business - 73
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Talking with marketing and communications advisor Mark Havenner who has worked with DRINKS and Electriq on thought leadership programs and who has worked on the production of Brandon's upcoming book "Think Z."  We talk about the world of business, fueled by the tenacity and resilience of the youngest generation of leaders. We take you through our journey, peppered with lessons learned and aha moments, as we highlight the significant role of customer retention and the value of deep-rooted relationships in a business's success path.

We discuss the imminent launch of the "Think Z" book, which explores the immense power of the Gen Z mindset in business, what is uncovered in the book, highlights, and the journey of writing it.

Speaker 1:

I'm Brandon Amoroso and this is the D2Z podcast Building and growing your business from a Gen Z perspective. Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in to D2Z, a podcast about using the Gen Z mindset to grow your business. I'm Gen Z Entrepreneur Brandon Amoroso, founder and president of Retention as a Service Agency Electric, and today I'm joined by Mark Havana to actually talk about the upcoming launch of the book that we've been working on for just over a year now and all the trials and tribulations and everything that has gone into that. Thanks for coming on.

Speaker 2:

Happy to be here and, yeah, it's been a journey. It's been a really, really good journey, though I think that there was a lot of things that I learned from your book, and it sounds like there's some things that you learned just by rereading what you put out there. I think it's kind of fun to dive into all that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think it was a good reflection exercise almost because I had to actually think about the past and what was going on in like 2020 or 2021, versus my usual MO which is just always thinking about what is next. But I think what comes next can also be informed by what you've done in the past. It's just it's never been my strong suit looking backwards.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and when you do, you learn things about your journey, because where you were about three, four years ago compared to where you are now I mean, where you were even just starting this book a year ago versus where you are now it's been a hell of a journey.

Speaker 1:

That's definitely true. So much has happened in that time with drinks, with electric I mean scaleless launches at the end of September there's been a lot of. I feel like the past year, year and a half, has been a lot of building and not necessarily a lot of out there in the market, as much more in the background, which I don't like. I prefer being out there, which is what electric primarily was in like 2021, 2022. And so I think the launch and release of the book at the end of this year were sort of going tandem with our products being more out there, whether it's drinks, whether it's scaleless. There's just been a lot of blocking and tackling behind the scenes which needs to get done, but you can start to feel like you're just sort of running in place without seeing actual output in like product out in the market.

Speaker 2:

Well, you feel like you're running in place, but when you look up, you've gone miles.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, hopefully. I mean, that is sort of the crazy part of building a business, and I don't remember which company it was, but they were raising money and they sort of made a joke Like, oh, look at our graph, like it was just a rocket ship from day one, but really, like the first three years was no revenue at all, nothing. And then all of a sudden just everything happened all at once. And I feel like that is very similar to what electric was like. The first two years was a whole lot of, you know, tiny incremental improvements until it really took off. And you sort of see the similar things here with not drinks as a whole but drinks specific. You know Shopify iteration because of all the different stakeholders that are involved, the complexity that goes into it to make sure that it's being done correctly. And then with scaleless, I mean we've bootstrapped building an entire ATS and job board platform with like a quarter million dollars over 18 months and that is in of itself is like a feat to have accomplished. But now it actually gets to go into market and we'll get to see very quickly and start learning very quickly. But you can't just like snap your fingers and do these things like they're. They're big bets, but you know they requires big bets. You can't just I don't think it's possible to, you know start like 30 different businesses in a year and then you're like, oh, this and that this one, you know, seems like it might have traction, let's go in here. I much prefer to just like go really all in on a couple of things and do them very well, and they'll either work or they won't. But we'll see.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, I mean that's how you do it, and I believe that business leaders ought to be builders, you know, as their primary function. I think that if you are leading an organization, your job is really to be building it, building it out, growing it. You know all of that that goes with it. And so I mean you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, even if it's not maybe the rough and tumble in the trenches kind of work that you're used to. Yeah yeah, but do you want to talk about the book? Why a book and what it is? I mean, I think we put out some information about it, but I approached you a while ago about this because I think that, having worked with you now I guess we're going on a couple of years I'm forever shocked, and I'm just shocked at how your culture works and this entire approach to business, which is really hard to articulate, and I attribute it to the Gen Z mindset, which it's almost kind of cheap in Z it, but this idea that you thrive in an environment of uncertainty. You know what to do, just naturally, about that and you know how to foster a culture that is not only a really good culture but also a real resilient one. And I would say that your entire business is built on resiliency, just innately, because you focus on things like customer retention, on creating strong, long lasting relationships and partnerships and building infrastructure to support those partnerships. And I think that was why I wanted you to do a book, because I think that old guys like me in the business world need to pay attention to what your generation is doing in business and the sort of approach to just you know, just positive resilience and nothing topples you and your organization is built in such that it doesn't really matter what the rebelling winds are. It's there and it's strong and it's moving and it's growing. I think that you know we need a lot more of that in the business world, especially now.

Speaker 1:

I think the number one thing is like the team for sure, because a lot of it doesn't happen without you know multiple other people digging in and putting their all into creating something that is like resilient, and it requires people who don't or are comfortable working outside of your defined like constraints. I mean there's people that would prefer here's the nine to five, here's what you do and execute against, and it doesn't really change versus people who want to be challenged with problem solving constantly and iterating at all times. And so I think it just depends on the size of the business and also the industry, and ours lends itself well to those that want to be creative solutioners and sort of problem thinkers, because there's so much development and change and innovation happening all the time that it's a requirement of the job to be able to sort of think quickly on your feet and have the confidence to do things that haven't necessarily been done before, or even if they've been done before, if you haven't done them or don't have an example that you are still comfortable like, just going for it. So it's a little bit more of like a testing mindset, like, oh, let's try this thing, let's test this thing. If it doesn't work, don't matter, let's keep moving type of deal versus being obsessed with like perfection and needing everything to be so unbelievably perfect before it launches or before you iterate through it.

Speaker 2:

You seem really comfortable in that mode and the team that works around you is also very comfortable in that mode. I think that a lot of the success for electric and drinks is because the people are okay with making mistakes and they're okay with moving on and they're okay with innovation. Innovation requires mistakes and just having the safety in your work environment to be able to take risks as a team member and as a leader. I think that's really cool. I think it's really powerful too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think it's necessary to have it's like a two-way street. You have to be able to have team members that are willing to do that, but then you also have to have management or leaders who are comfortable with their team members doing that, which it's like definitely a process building that trust and the ability for them to feel comfortable with that. Because I'd spoken to some new electric team members back in 2021, and they were just talking about how things are so much different at their previous role or position and that they were much more sort of narrowly defined and had a specific scope and you weren't being rewarded for stepping outside of that scope, whereas for us it's sort of the reverse Doing your scope is sort of expected at their minimum, but those that want to step outside of the box and bring suggestions to light that are well thought through and articulated are that's promoted and preferred versus just sort of silently showing up toward checking in, checking out and not necessarily being a meaningful contributor to moving the business forward. You're meaningful in the sense that you're keeping it running, but you're not like taking it to the next level or to where it could be going.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you mentioned in one section of the book, which I think is my favorite part, which is all about team culture and building. It is not about you building the culture, but rather identifying the culture that's growing and fostering it. One of the things you mentioned and that was that it's almost the point of you having team members own their own work function. They're not micromanaged. They have the power, ability, freedom to run the business as they think fits best with their strategic. I mean, obviously you have the overview with your strategy, but really they, your team members, can do what they need to do to get the job done. They have that power, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And for me the nice thing about the book was to reflect on where that also went awry. Because the definitely because, like I knew, oh, you need to delegate, you need to be able to empower your team members, and I almost took that to like an extreme and in some cases it was the wrong person but maybe the right role and they would have. I just needed to, like have a conversation with them around what they actually wanted out of you know their professional career, and for everybody it's not, you know, become a manager or not, you know, start your own business. But I sort of put my, my mindset onto, or projected it onto, everybody else and so I just assumed like, oh yeah, like obviously this person is going to want to manage a team and like run their own paid media department or run their own I don't know the affiliate department or just sort of on down the line, uh, and that was not the case. And then it was interesting to take a look back at you know, let's not do that again for me moving forward with drinks or with scaleless or whatever the next business may be and then also thinking about how you build out, you know career progression paths for those that don't want to transition into management, that want to continue to be, you know, strong individual contributors.

Speaker 2:

Well, we're some, uh, some some other things you've discovered when thinking back on the book and, uh, mistakes and key learnings.

Speaker 1:

I think, uh, there's some interesting stuff around, like the acquisition. Um, because that was obviously the first one that I've had gone through, um and I it all worked out, but there's definitely ways that I'll approach it differently in the future. Um, because I think I got lucky in some sense, and part of going through the book and looking back is, you know, just because something didn't go wrong doesn't mean that it couldn't have, and so I tried to look at most of the things that occurred, um, like, yeah, the acquisition was successful and went and it went through, but you know what, if it didn't and you know, here are these things that you did that you know, if it did not go through, like you would have been actually pretty screwed, and now you'd be looking back at this saying, oh shit, I really shouldn't have done those things. So, um, obviously, hindsight is is 2020, but I still think there's some valuable learning lessons even out of the things that went well, like identifying, then trying to be more self aware of you know, actually kind of got lucky with that thing or with this particular uh initiative that you did, because it could have backfired tremendously on you, and just having that awareness is is half the battle. I think and I was very much so like you know, 20 steps ahead in terms of focusing on things that weren't real yet, and so if the acquisition wouldn't have gone through, it would have just been like, well, shit, now it was just thinking about you know what we were going to be focused on and doing together, and now it's not going to happen. So for one, obviously it's like the waste of time, but it's a mental like having to reshift focus would would be, would have been pretty difficult. Fortunately, I didn't have to do it Like going into, you know, potential acquisition opportunities for for the next businesses will definitely not try and do that. Like it's easy for me to get very over excited about you know, opportunity and and ideas and whatnot, but you know, try and try and tamper, tamper myself. Be cautiously optimistic.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, that emotional fall out can be rough. Yeah, there's a the book also, I mean the whole thing about what is the Gen Z approach to business. I mean it's a big question and there's a chapter kind of addressing each of the points of view that you have around approaching different businesses differently than say, you know I don't want to say older folks, but like you know, legacy businesses, let's say, because I do see some of the crossover with how millennials run business too, just from you know anecdotal relationships that I meant. But what would you say is the Gen Z approach to business as it differs from legacy businesses?

Speaker 1:

You know overarching idea behind it, I think is not being defined by you know, your, your resume or your experience and being expected to you know contribute across the board, no matter who you are. Obviously you know there's it's like a business there's certain people who have more decision making power than than others, but you, for me at least, having everybody like equally input ideas into the business and like the best ideas that you know proved out were rewarded and those that weren't, you know they just didn't work out and it didn't really matter if you were 70 years old or 20 years old or if you went to high school or Y school and there was no really rigid sort of progression or hierarchy. And so I think that has to do with it a lot and just a desire for, like, continual improvement and like questioning the norm, like why, why are we doing things these ways, versus just showing up and doing it.

Speaker 2:

And that came out of experiences that you had right with internships or early work in corporate America.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean I would still do it, but like I knew it wasn't going to actually happen, so it was more like, oh, like, look at the cool little thing that the intern did Wanted to be so much better if we did it this way. Like, ha ha, well, we're not, because we don't. I mean we just we don't give a shit, or we're not incentivized to do so, or I've been doing it this way for 43 years. So why am I going to change now? Like I'm just going to retire next year and sail off into the sunset. So yeah, I would be a terrible employee.

Speaker 2:

Well for some businesses. I think that if more businesses adopted the approaches, we wouldn't have, you know, the worker crisis. People are rebelling against corporate America, they don't? You know we're getting returned to home and you know I'm seeing all of the arguments return to home, return to office from home. I'm seeing all the arguments.

Speaker 1:

I would prefer to be in office At least part time. Obviously, I travel a lot too, so I won't be there all the time, but I think it's good to have a home base, especially like for, for scaleless will be opening up an office in Miami and Parker will be down here, you know, in office with the team. I think that's important, especially when you're building a company in the ground up with drinks. Obviously, this is not, it's not possible at this point, given the size of the team and you know the geographical diversification of it, with me in Florida, zach in Texas, kelly Justin in California, and then we got the big office in California. But, you know, going into next year doing more in person. You know, I don't want to call them retreats because they're not retreats, they're more like working sessions, but getting in person and it's it's just, it's it's fun. I think, like if you don't want to go into the office ever, I would argue it's because you don't actually like your job.

Speaker 2:

Or the people, yeah, or the people.

Speaker 1:

Fine, or you just want to, you know, digital nomad it for six months or whatever, and a footer on the US. I think that that I mean there's a time and a place for that as well, and I feel like you still need a business where maybe they'd let you do that anyways, like, hey, I want to go do this thing for three months, like okay, great, go do it, then coming back eventually. But there's just something about you know, waking up, going into the office, like the office is where the work gets done, and then maybe you end up staying longer and you get to go out and eat with, like your colleagues and, I'd say, most of my friends. Are our work related, which may or may not be a red flag, but the I got. Just I prefer, I prefer that environment and experience. Then, you know, I wake up, I walk to the kitchen, I take Bella out and then I proceed to stare at this damn camera for 10 hours, if not longer. And it's like so so there's not a good avenue for collaboration either, like you can't just grab somebody and say, hey, like let's talk about this or those things just don't don't occur.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, the arguments I'm seeing are really about a really about. For us, like the employees that are wanting to stay home, that are not wanting to go in, that's because they are micromanaged by middle management, whose whole job is to make sure that they are productive, and so this is sort of a press of energy that happens like. But if you're in a culture where everybody's working together. They want to be there. They all have, you know, the same kind of goal and and then it's just strong culture, then it, those things shouldn't matter, like you should want to be in the same room as the people you work with, unless it's a toxic environment. Right, yeah, it goes back to culture.

Speaker 1:

I think, yeah, I guess what are some of the things out of the. What were your biggest takeaways from from the book?

Speaker 2:

Well, culture was big. I think the and we, I think we beat that horse, but the, I thought the journey to. I really enjoyed the beginning, you know, just sort of the journey to from like oh, I'm just doing some work on the side to, oh, I have an office, so I have an employee, and and I love the pace in which it happened and I love how it ended up focusing on one thing like this, that the journey, I think the business story that you, that you tell, is all about, like you know, just making ends meet, building the organization, doing too much, and then like, oh wait, we're actually specialists and then that makes our organization valuable. And there's a, there's a whole journey there that I think if anybody starting up a business should should pay attention to, because that is so. I think, very common among people who start businesses, but the difference between a lot of people who go through this journey versus what what happened with you is that I don't know if it's because it was on accident or not, but you landed, and a very, very good, good spot, you know, in terms of specializing, focusing on retention, which is exactly what the consumer world needs right now. I just love that. I love that whole journey.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I, I really liked you know, getting to look back at it how it feels like it took forever, but it really wasn't that long actually, like three years, right, maybe four. Yeah, yeah, I mean May 2019 to April 2022. I think COVID has to do with a lot of that, like the sort of time war, because it just sort of like was all encompassing.

Speaker 2:

Were there a ha moments during the journey, where I think I was there for one of them, where it was the realization that you're focusing in too many places, so let's just focus on retention. That's just one moment that I know I saw was an aha moment, but can you unpack that? What else happened like that?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think for the aha moments. I think the like, the messaging on the website and just the company itself was a big aha moment, like going to the website and trying to look at it as if I had never heard of electric or wasn't you know running the business, and then sort of being like Holy shit, I really have no idea what we do. And so how was like I was just not going to resonate with anybody else. And then that led into how do we refine our messaging and vision? What is it that we actually do? Which led into what are we actually even really good at? You know, we've been doing a whole lot of different things up until this point and that led to, like you know, the success that we were able to have from early 2021 into 2022. Refine, like realizing the messaging made no sense, fixing it. And then also that led into fixing what we actually do or do not do as a business, like what are we prioritizing?

Speaker 2:

Things like that, yeah, you even cut off entire sections of the business that you don't do anymore. I remember there was a B2B practice. It's not there anymore.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I was like any revenue was revenue, so I was holding on to you know a lot of things that maybe we shouldn't have. But that's what got us to this point. Like, if I did it now, I have different contexts and different, I would say, capabilities and a skill set, so like I'd be fast tracked past those like first two years of learning and figuring it out. But I mean, there still was like opportunity with HubSpot and B2B, like we could have done that. But the writing was on the wall for Ecom and like splitting the team's time between the two wasn't, you know, wasn't a great idea, and I was spending more time in HubSpot and I was doing like other things for the business, so we had to let that go. Like I never really get paid ads off the ground in the way that we wanted to, so you know letting that go as well. But that ultimately led to greater client retention, satisfaction, you know, more opportunity for growth with our tech partners.

Speaker 2:

So I think that- it made electric valuable is what it did, because now you became specialist at a thing that drinks needed, right, and that was what led to the acquisition Drinks wouldn't have bought a generalist.

Speaker 1:

And that was part of the learning process and I sort of luckily fell into, and you know, going through similar exercise now with Scaleless, actually with Parker, and sort of giving him the download of. You know, the things that I learned from Electric along the way is that even if your product could literally be for everybody, like I get, that you're only going to really be selling to one type of business for launch. And so, you know, as opposed to using general, colloquial terms, you should be using, like E-com, specific terms. You should be talking to the E-com brand agency or software provider that you're selling to and how it's going to meaningful, meaningfully impact their lives. Not how it's going to, you know, impact the service like business or how it could impact, you know, the medical business, things like that. That'll come, you know, eventually.

Speaker 2:

But you always build those verticals out. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I think the vertical approach to growth would be the way that I would go about any business now moving forward. It's just easier. Each vertical have its own unique issues and problems that you can work through. Referrals, word of mouth, become more, you know. Accelerated network effects become greater, things like that. So.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and like also, there was a whole chapter on an essentially retention and your approach to DGZ, and I found that that approach can be translated into other businesses, other sectors, other. I've been borrowing and stealing some of your approach for B2B because of acquisition. You know the cost of acquisition is so high. Nobody can afford the advertising required to be competitors. Nobody can afford the. You know the events that you have to go to to show up your competitors, and so the idea of creating more in depth, long-term relationships with clients for B2B is a better strategy than acquisition alone. What do you think about that? I mean, it obviously works for you, the brands that you work with, and I think that the approach is probably being adopted by more and more people. But if you're just giving marketing advice, what are your thoughts on retention as a strategy?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the easiest thing to do is just to think about how would you, would wanna be like, treated and interacted with if you were a customer, which sounds, you know, kind of stupid almost, but like it feels like a lot of brands or businesses don't necessarily put themselves in the shoes of the person that they're servicing and it's really not that complicated. Like and to use like e-commerce as an example. We all interact and engage with, you know, d2c brands and we know what we like and don't like. We like we hate having to call in to cancel stuff. So like, okay, obviously let's not have that. So there's just thinking about it without even looking at data, like what makes sense, like logically what let's test, let's stress, test this with just like some basic human logic around. You know, is this me thinking about it from a business perspective and marketing standpoint, or is this me thinking about it from a you know what would be the optimal customer experience? You know finances, you know tactic strategies aside, just thinking about it as if you're just a regular old person, and I think that that has helped the most. And then reducing friction would be would be the two it's also.

Speaker 2:

It's almost like empathy is the key there, yeah, but what's you know what's the other person feeling, not just with customers, but team members? Maybe there's not enough empathy in the business world.

Speaker 1:

And, at the same time, go through your like business as if you are a customer. Like I've ordered from some brands and like I know, without a doubt, if they had a team member who would just go and place an order on their website and go through the experience that I just went through, they'd be horrified, because it's like even little things like the transactional emails are getting sent as marketing emails so I can unsubscribe from them, and you know all the emails are just can bob you like it's. It's like maybe they're moving too fast so they're not paying enough attention to detail, where all it would take is once a month, go place an order from your own website. You know what's the delivery experience like, what are the email and text communications like. There's no way to replicate that besides just doing it, and I think that's a really important component as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. I'm trying to think it's still fresh as we just went through the man. Well, what was the process like for you? Writing, putting together, putting together a book.

Speaker 1:

I think it was fun. I actually, you know, enjoyed it. It got the content creation sort of brain flowing and then led into other ideas for things that could work on, like LinkedIn or other channels and stuff like that. So I really did, you know, enjoy getting to do it. I am a relatively impatient person, though. So, like, the process of writing a book is long and arduous and I want it to be perfect, and I know it's not going to be perfect and I know we're going to get printed and I'm going to be reading it in a couple months and I'm going to see some sort of comma that was misplaced or something and I'm gonna be like, oh my God, I can't believe that I missed this. That's just, that's just inevitable, no matter how many people I've paid approval to it or whatever I end up or we end up doing here. But yeah, I think it's a good framework too for leading into the next chapter of my life, and I think a lot of it centers around, you know, business, or business events or life events, and that at least helps me compartmentalize, like different aspects or components of my life, and I won't really know what the next chapter is until I'm actually in it. But, like, looking back, I could be like, oh yeah, it's a very distinctive, you know, like two year period of where I was doing x, y and z, and I think as I get older those chapters will get longer.

Speaker 2:

They won't.

Speaker 1:

they won't happen as quickly Because you know I have some that are, like you know, six months long or two years long, none that are like 10 years long, whereas you know scay was, could be like a 10 year chapter, quite literally and not you know, the agency was a three year chapter. Or you know, drinks will see how long that chapter is. Is that, is that a two year chapter? Is that a five year chapter? I don't have the answers to these questions. Well, I continue to live in Miami forever. Like that's a pretty weird. Where your home base is definitely has an impact on chapter. Like when I was like moving from San Diego to here coincided with, you know, business change as well. So it was like different place in addition to different business and a whole bunch of other stuff happening.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, yeah, that's, that's good. I mean it's, it's so cool to have a way, a mechanism for self reflection. I think that's really important in business leadership to to be self aware, and it's hardly a better way to do that than to write a book. So I think you've done your fair share of self reflection. What did? You learn about Brandon on where also?

Speaker 1:

You know, I think the biggest thing I learned is that I am inordinately good at putting pressure on myself Artificial pressure. Nobody else is putting this pressure on me, I'm just putting it on myself. But it's fun.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, who else is going to apply pressure?

Speaker 1:

You know, nobody, and that's that's. I think that's a good component to dig into, for, like the Gen Z mindset as well, like you, have to be able to put responsibility on yourself, not only be, you know, controlled and governed by external responsibility.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, because it's very clear by now all of the external don't know what they're doing. Right, You're on your own.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly. Well, thank you for coming on. I think we've pretty much covered most of the book. I know you know we'll be launching it later this year. So excited for that, I got some homework this week to do. I got all 130 pages on my desk staring at me right now.

Speaker 2:

You gotta finish that cover so that you can put it on social media.

Speaker 1:

Gotta get Bella included in there, yeah. Yeah she's all over it Currently staring at me wondering when I want to take her out, but thank you for coming on For everybody listening. As always, this is Brandon Moroso. You can find me at Brandon Morosocom or electricmarketingcom and I will definitely make sure to let everybody know when the book goes live. And yeah, I think that's it. Yeah, absolutely.

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