On ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast, we have interviewed over 150 leading middle-market CEOs from companies across industries, and the advice and wisdom they have shared with us is unparalleled. We are excited to share some of these insights with you in a new form!
Many of our guests are entrepreneurs, and hearing companies’ origin stories is one of the most interesting parts of hosting ROI’s Into the Corner Office Podcast! There is always more behind the scenes than the met need or the innovative product, however, and that’s why we love to hear the story behind the business on the Into the Corner Office podcast.
Many entrepreneurs start a business simply because they see something that could be done better, or see a need that isn’t being filled by the current offering of products and services. These CEOs are no different!
Jonas Bordo, CEO of Dwellsy, started the company simply because hunting for an apartment can be really tough–searching for things in general used to be “a very clean experience and was very easy to find what you were looking for. I think they’ve pushed it so far in the other direction. Now you have to go to page two or three to find any authentic results,” and apartment hunting is no different. Users were inundated by paid listings or pay-to-play sites and Jonas didn’t think that was good enough. “…we’re the only platform that offers true organic search. There are no paid listings. That’s very intentional. That will always be the case because we just don’t want to junk up the search experience.” That means Dwellsy users can more easily and affordably do an authentic search for an apartment that fits their needs without having to wade through ads and sponsored listings, and makes it easier for property managers to get their listings in front of the right people without having to pay exorbitant fees. Win-win!
That idea of authenticity and building a relationship is something that inspired Victor Ho to found Fivestars. As a consultant with McKinsey working with large brands, Victor saw how sophisticated the tech was that allowed large companies to build those relationships with their customers. “I wanted to be able to democratize the technology we were building for the big guys, but for the little guy.”
Fivestars is a company that exists to “help businesses and communities thrive by turning every transaction into a relationship.” Since many businesses have moved from the in-person space (where it’s easy to form personal relationships) to the online space, “When we look at most small businesses, the reason they struggle today is out of an inability to build relationships with their customers.” Fivestars is tech that allows small business owners to not only know who their customers are but also to send them offers and communicate with them directly, allowing for the formation of those valuable relationships that are how small businesses can compete with the Amazons and McDonald’s of the world.
Building Something Better, Literally
Both Fivestars and Dwellsy deal with the online space, but sometimes filling a need looks a whole lot like manufacturing a physical product that works better than what’s already out there.
Thomas Foster, CEO of Strapworks, started out with one mission: make better straps. A whitewater rafter, Thomas said that in those days, “Most gear was being tied into the raft with ropes, cords, these types of things. Straps were not really a thing at that time. And so I started looking around for a better way. I stumbled upon cam buckles and heavyweight polypropylene webbing and started making black straps.” People loved them, and “Pretty soon everybody’s arguing over whose straps are whose. And that’s when I came across the idea to make different colored straps, basically.”
Simple, but effective.
Tom Dickson, CEO of BlendTec, had a similar idea: he wanted a blender that wouldn’t break. So, he built one. The brilliance in this story is not just a blender that would last for decades, but also how they marketed them. For a long time, BlendTec was mainly in the commercial space, but you might remember the moment when they moved into the retail space: the birth of the “Will It Blend?” YouTube videos. Tom wanted to prove to his customers that BlendTec blenders were of extremely high quality, so he did what any self-respecting inventor would: he tried to break his blenders. On video.
The company had hired a marketing expert to help with marketing since their previous business had been mostly B2B. One day, he showed up and said, “‘What’s this pile of sawdust on the floor?’ And somebody says, ‘Oh, that’s Tom just trying to break blenders and blades and shafts and whatever.’ So he went out and bought some marbles and candles and other things like that,” and they decided to try and blend them. The marketing expert came back to Tom five days later and said “‘Tom, we hit a home run. We have six million views on YouTube.’”
If you are an entrepreneur whose business is growing and you need help building a quality team that you can trust, ROI’s Four Step Solution can help!
We highly recommend listening to these interviews in their entirety because these short snippets simply do not do them justice. You can find the full archive of Into the Corner Office podcast episodes here.