What is an Anti-CRM? With Reuben Swartz of Mimiran


Summary of Episode

#18: Reuben Swartz joins Annaka and Ethan to share his story founding Mimiran, the anti-CRM platform for solo consultants who hate sales. Swartz discusses the importance of finding a niche, how you can leverage your target market to advance your product, and the importance of learning from previous mistakes to continue improving.

About the Guest:

Reuben Swartz is the founder and CEO of Mimiran, a CRM (customer relationship manager) specifically designed for solo consultants. Reuben worked as a consultant himself and wanted a tool for managing clients. Although these tools were abundant for large enterprises, he could not find a tool that met his needs and was made for a one-man team. So, Reuben built the tool himself and created Mimiran. 

Podcast Episode Notes

Reuben’s story creating his own business [1:00]

“There's a right tool for the right situation” so you don’t need to compete with the multimillion dollar companies [3:31]

The power of being authentic rather than mimicking other successful companies in the industry. Focus on helping others rather than selling [5:40]

What is a CRM? [8:48]

Reuben’s anti-CRM is a tool entrepreneurs can use to easily track and manage sales and marketing information [12:10]

Situate yourself in the market so that you can dominate a particular niche [18:45]

If there isn’t a tool out there that does it all, create it yourself [22:40]

Narrowing your target audience and listening to their needs will help you create the best solution for the group you serve [32:35]

Build a feedback loop with your customers to drive changes and establish priorities [35:12]

Attempting to balance a new startup while starting a family [36:16]

Pick an easy problem to solve [41:18]

The decision to work as a one-man team [43:01]

Mimiran is a lifestyle business. Reuben’s family is his number one priority and his business is number two. [46:38]

How is Mimiran funded? You don’t need to be a unicorn business to find success and be happy [46:48]

The danger of prioritizing money and prestige rather than finding joy in the work you do [48:43]

Stop selling and focus on connecting and solving problems with others [51:34]

Talk to the people who are most likely to buy what you are selling. Don’t try to attract everybody [58:02]

Potentially creating a CRM customized for individual niches [1:00:25]

Reubens advice for entrepreneurs “find a niche and become the go-to person in that niche” [1:05:02]

Full Interview Transcript

Annaka: Hello, everyone and welcome to Startup Savants, I'm Annaka.

Ethan: And I'm Ethan.

Annaka: If you're a returning listener, welcome back. And if you're new, this podcast is about the stories behind startups, the founders who run them and the problems they're solving. Today our guest is Reuben Swartz, founder of Mimiran. 

Reuben Swartz is the founder of Mimiran, an anti-CRM CRM, and host of podcast sales for nerds. Hey Reuben, welcome to the show.

Reuben Swartz: Thanks for having me, excited to be here.

Annaka: We're excited to talk to you. I was doing research on your company and just getting excited to get to know you more as a person. And you've been doing this for a while, which we're really looking forward to getting all of your insight. Just to start off, if you could tell us about the history behind Mimiran, how you got started and for those who might not know what a CRM is or in this case, what an anti-CRM is.

Reuben Swartz: All right. Well, that's a lot of questions.

Annaka: It is.

Reuben Swartz: I'll try, remember all of them and answer them in order, but you might have to prompt me if I forget anything. I started out consulting. Well, I actually, I started out as a software person and I would get pulled in to do some implementation work kind of after everything had been decided after the sales team had been through. And then the initial consultants had been in and that there was something really screwed up or hard or broken. I would have to come fix it later. I didn't really necessarily have the best view of sales and like, "They promised what."

And I thought if I could come in at the beginning and help these companies align the strategy and the technology and the business processes, we could maybe work less hard, but get better results. And that was my thesis. And my other thesis was, I was young. I didn't have any responsibilities if I don't start a business now I'll never start one. Let's do this and I'll work half the year and I'll travel half the year. And that traveling half the year part was a big failure, but I did get to go see cool places and see cool things, both for work and for fun. I can't say it was all bad and sure enough, shockingly, maybe my thesis had some validity in the sense that a lot of these giant companies, they waste so much time. The one year study with the $10 million PowerPoint and then the one year $10 million software implementation of some big system. And by the time you get to the end of it, you spend all this money and you did some things, but three reorgs later, did you actually do what you set out to do?

Annaka: Mm-hmm.

Reuben Swartz: And usually the answer was well, partly, but if you wanted to do something, say in a quarter, where you could turn around margins or get sales people selling at higher prices or things like that, me and my team could come in and do that more effectively. That was really fun and interesting. And one of the things that bugged me was I was doing all this stuff. I was helping these super successful companies improve their sales in marketing. And at the same time, my own sales and marketing efforts were pretty abysmal. And eventually I realized that it wasn't because I didn't know anything about sales and marketing. It was because I was trying to do too much what my clients were doing. Like, well, they're the most successful companies in the world. Obviously I should be imitating them, right?

Annaka: Right.

Reuben Swartz: Wrong. If you're starting out, your needs are very, very different from giant company's needs. It doesn't make one right or one wrong. It's like there's a right tool for the right situation. And it can be a great tool in that situation, terrible tool in a different situation. One of the things I realized eventually, and this took me years. And as somebody I had on my podcast said, "Well, it's not like there's a light switch. It's more like a dimmer that you gradually get the realization." Like these guys might have thousands and thousands of sales reps. And two years later, half of them would be gone and that was fine. It was a numbers game. And that the numbers worked. But if you're in business for yourself. Half of you isn't supposed to be gone in two years.

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: You've got to keep doing this. You've got to stand behind what you do. You got to believe in it. You got to be authentic. You got to be true to yourself. And so much of what I did was kind of it wasn't just learning new skills and don't get me wrong, I think sales and marketing, there, there are fields that require a lot of skills and you can always be learning and getting better, but where people go wrong is not that they don't have enough skills it's that they accidentally pick up a bunch of BS and start layering BS on top of what they actually know and what's actually true. For example, I had a website and instead of saying, "Hi, I'm Reuben. I know more about B2B pricing than most everyone on the planet. Call me when you need help with your sales reps doing X, Y, and Z."

I made it look like I was some giant consulting firm. I copied somewhat... Not copied, but I made it look like, here we are with this big firm and we have methodologies and all this BS and anyone who really needed, there are some people who need a giant consulting firm. They weren't fooled by what I was doing. And at the same time, the people who were like, we want to get away from that, we want the small gorilla team. And then they come to the website and it's like, "Oh, geez, these guys look just as boring as everybody else."

I think the first thing is, you’ve got to learn to actually just be who you are. And if you're out there by yourself, don't have an about us page. Have a “Hi, I'm Reuben” page. Let yourself be yourself. And so, sorry. I think I've got off track already, because like I said, this show's going to be about all the dumb things Reuben did that hopefully if you're listening, you don't have to do that's my whole mission. I did so many dumb things. I'm here to try to make it easier for people so you don't have to learn the hard way.

Annaka: Yeah. Learn from Reuben.

Reuben Swartz: One of the things that I realized was I didn't want to imitate somebody else. I had to be me and as an engineer, someone who would get in and problem solve, I would be in these conversations sometimes. And it would be a great conversation and ideas flowing back and forth. They really like me. They like the team. They want to work together, et cetera. But if I was like, "Oh, I'm in a sales meeting, hold on. Where's my sales checklist of questions to ask and whatever." Then all of a sudden it would get really awkward

And no matter what I did. And obviously there are people who can do that just fine. But for me it just didn't work. I'm not saying don't be systematic. I'm saying if I treated it as a chance to help, I was fine. If I treated it as a sales meeting, I was in trouble with my own mental baggage. I said, "Okay, well I'll just not sell anymore. I'll just help people." And suddenly low and behold, as long as I'm talking to the right people, everything's fine. It's like, if you go visit your doctor, hopefully your doctor isn't selling you on the procedure that makes them the most money.

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: Hopefully they’ll just help treating you. And I think as entrepreneurs, we can do something similar, especially if we have a bad feeling about sales and I could kind of go on this track till we run out of recording space. 

Ethan: So, can you explain to us what a CRM is and maybe even what an anti-CRM is?

Reuben Swartz: Sure. So, as I was mentioning, I didn't start out wanting to build a CRM. I was doing consulting and as a software guy, we did end up building, see these proprietary tools, which is a whole other story. But CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. And in fact, when I was getting started, there was this company called Siebel. That was like the big 90s.com enterprise company. If any of y'all are old enough to remember that. And there was this little dinky company called Salesforce.com, which was just getting started and no one was sure if they were crazy or not, right, that's how long ago this was. But the idea was customer relationship management. Let's keep your customer data in one place so that we're organized. And we don't forget what you ordered last month or who we're supposed to call tomorrow and so on.

And at the time, this was kind of like an enterprise thing. Companies were spending millions of dollars, rolling out Siebel to keep track of this customer relationship data. And what I realized was what they were really doing is trying to keep track of their sales reps. The VP of sales wanted to know what his or her sales reps were doing so that they could try to make their numbers. And this kind of goes back to why it's a whole different ball game. Even with all this technology and the law of large numbers and all that you always hear about these big companies missing their forecasts, because it's freaking hard to know the future. And when you're one person and you don't have all of this, you can't do like, well, a bunch of averages, because it's just, you don't necessarily have a ton of historical data because you haven't been in business for decades and you might have pivoted and things are very different after you just signed up a new partner, et cetera.

It's a lot harder to know what the heck's going on when it's just you. Now, the other thing I realized as a consultant, working with these big companies was the sales reps hated these tools, hated them. And when we would go in and would pull data out of Salesforce or other places to try to figure out what was going on as part of our analytical work. And you could tell that, miraculously, all these deals that closed the contact didn't even get created till the week before this multimillion dollar deal got closed.

Ethan: Yep.

Reuben Swartz: Because the sales rep had a spreadsheet where he was keeping track of his own stuff. And then in order to get paid commission, he dropped it in at the last minute into the CRM or they would have call notes called PM. And they were just doing as little as they could to get by. It was almost like a game where the VP was trying to corral everybody. And the reps were trying to fight everybody. And then I would try to use Salesforce myself. And I was like, "Oh, I get it. This is not for me." And don't get me wrong. Salesforce is a tremendous technology, tremendous company. You can customize it to do whatever you want. But usually what the person writing the check for customization wanted was I want to keep track of my sales reps in a way that isn't helpful to them.

Totally different when you are an entrepreneur. And I specifically target independent solo people. Sometimes they have like a VA or a partner or something like that, but they don't have a sales team. They are the delivery person. They are the VP of marketing, the VP of sales and the sales rep. And they're doing this all along with God knows how many other things in their "spare time." Because they really don't like sales and marketing to begin with. We need something that one, does as much work for you as possible. And two, makes it as fun and easy as possible to do the stuff that you really need to do. And that's what I mean by an anti-CRM, because it's not there to punish you or corral you. It's there to enable you and guide you and actually get some stuff done for you because if you're doing it right, this took me forever to realize. If you're doing it right, sales and marketing should feel fun.

Ethan: It should. I agree.

Reuben Swartz: And most people are like, "Ugh." For years I was like, "It's necessary evil. I'm a tough guy. I will slog it out. I will make myself do these things. I will make these calls. I will update the marketing copy on the website. I will go to these networking events. Gotta do it. Okay." And then you do it and you're drained and you're like, "That's awful." And instead should be like, "Hey, this is awesome. I can't wait to share some of my expertise with the people who need it. I can't wait to connect with these people at this thing that 's going to be exciting for everybody. And oh, I have a call coming up with a prospect. Can't wait to help them solve a problem, et cetera." It's just a totally different way of thinking about it. That even for an introverted engineer like me, it's like, "Well now I'm actually energized by all these conversations who knew."

Ethan: Yeah and you hit the nail on the head with the... That the software should do some of the work for you. When several years ago, back in my younger days, I worked at a real estate office as a real estate agent, but I was also good friends with the owner. And I took it on myself to implement a CRM into the company for everyone to use. Famous last words as anybody who's ever played with a CRM should know, we were a fairly low tech company and the different agents and brokers who worked with us were... I'm going to say no tech, this was the group of guys who were... They were an agent on the side and a farmer full time. And all of their business was zipped up in their leather pad that they had with them at all points in time.

When I tried to implement this CRM, here comes this young buck with his computers. This looked like a second job to them. And if this was something that could have been implemented and built to kind of... Not built from the ground up, but something that was expected that like, "Okay, just stop carrying that little notebook and start putting all this stuff in here." It could have worked great, but it didn't, so I totally, totally feel where you're coming from, where it's like, "This tool is great, but I also feel like it is attacking me." So, let's talk about Mimiran. What does Mimiran software do to actually help people who hate selling to sell more effectively and facilitate a better association with being a "Salesperson?"

Reuben Swartz: Sure. Great point. And I guess to talk to your final point first, I think we all can pull up that image of the sleazy used car salesman or somebody we've had a bad experience with. It's just so part of the culture, but we've probably had a lot more great sales experiences that we can't pull up because we don't think of them as sales experiences. We had a problem. We needed to buy some stuff to fix it or some services and somebody helped us buy. Because we all want to buy, but no one wants to be sold.

Annaka: Mm-hmm right.

Reuben Swartz: And so my whole thing is let's make it easy for the right people to buy. And then nothing feels like a sales conversation. We're not trying to drag anybody where they don't want to go. We're helping them get where they want to go. The way the tool does that. Couple things, it does a little differently than a typical CRM. If you show up as sales rep, number 863, it's some big company they're like, "Here's the sales playbook. Here's all our talking points and whatever." When you're in business for yourself, you get to/have to come up with all that yourself. One of the things that I realized was that people didn't have a good view on exactly who they were helping and what they helped them do and how they were different.

And that made it really hard to use the tool to its full potential. I'll get into some of the other capabilities in a second. But if you don't know who you're going after, how are you going to go after them? How are you going to go help them? And so unlike other CRMs, there's like a little Mad Libs tool in there that's like, "Okay, here's my ideal client, here are their characteristics. Here's how we help them. Here's what they do if they don't work with us. And here's how our approach is different." Instead of saying I'm a consultant or something like that, it's going to ask you for your superhero name.

So you are “the” someone. And then it's going to ask you about your origin story. And as you were talking about before we started recording, humans learn by stories. We don't learn by facts and figures and bits and bites. And so many of the people that I work with, they have these amazing stories about why they do what they do, but darn it if they don't want to hide that from everybody. Instead of letting people know that there's a reason that they're there and that's why you relate to them, that's why you trust them to actually fix that kind of problem. So right, you got all that stuff built in there. And from that, it will help you generate.

Here's what my elevator pitch is going to be. Here's what my LinkedIn profile should look like. Here's what the about me page on my website should look like. Here's what the front page of my website's going to look like. Here's some lead magnets, LinkedIn connection requests, et cetera. All stuff that people are doing but if you look at what so many people do, it's all sort of genericized and it doesn't speak to that ideal client. So one of the things that I had to learn the hard way, even though I spent lots of time consulting with people. I know It's always harder when we stare in the mirror, right? I want sales and marketing to be as easy as possible. And if you think about what are the easiest sales, well, it's repeat sales or perfect referrals, things like that, because the person already knows you and has some level of trust. And because they're the exact right fit for you.

So not everybody knows you, but your job in marketing is to attract the people who are the right fit, right? Then everything feels easy. It's if you're a knee doctor and you advertise joint solutions, and you try to convince shoulder patients to have their knees done, that's not going to work well. It sounds absurd, but so many people are out there doing that, instead of saying, I'm the knee doctor, and I'm actually the knee doctor for people who need to get back on their skis or something, right?

Especially when you're an entrepreneur, you can't go after the billion-dollar market right away. You got to start with stepping stones. And I hate when people say," Well, I only need to get 1% of it". No, let's define the tiny sub-segment of the market that you're going to go dominate because you are the 800 pound gorilla in that market. And once you have it could be one customer, right? If there's one perfect customer, go get that customer and then expand it. Cause usually when people complain about sales and marketing it's because they haven't focused enough and they're trying to sell knee operations to shoulder patients. Right. So let's not do that. 

Ethan: Yeah. And shoulder patients don't always need knee surgery. And sometimes in that case, most of the time, they shouldn't have it. It's bad for them. And I'm assuming that that's similar. And a lot of these B2B sales situations.

Reuben Swartz: Absolutely. And well, maybe you could benefit from knee surgery, but no one wants to listen to that pitch. Right? But everyone is out there saying, "Oh, you should do this or you should do that". And yes, there's a million things that conceivably could be good for you as a person or good for your business. But you only have the appetite to take on a certain number at a time. So why waste your time talking to every patient, talk to the new patients. So that whole positioning tool is about helping you situate yourself in the market in the right way so that you're talking to the right people. So then you can go take the lead magnet piece and start helping them before you even have to talk to them. Right? So many people are like, "Well, all my business is word of mouth. My website doesn't get me leads". And that's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there's anything you take away from this, don't ignore your website. It has one job, that's to get you leads.

It doesn't mean that they're going to buy, right? If you're selling complex B2B services, they're not going to buy off your website, but you can turn the visitor to a lead and a lead to a conversation. That's what your website should be doing. And of course, Mimiran has a lead magnet component and a lead capture component that plugs into your site, does a bunch of cool stuff. That if you are a solopreneur or a small service business, it's going to do it much better than HubSpot because it's designed for lower volumes of leads where you need to have a conversation. Right? Again, HubSpot, great company, great technology designed for a different purpose.

Yep. And then what do you do when you actually talk to people? Well, one of the things that drove me nuts about CRMs was, I know I could have someone customize Salesforce to keep track of my referrals, but why is it not keeping track of my referrals? Right? It's such a basic thing for consultative businesses, especially when they're like, "Well, all my business comes from referrals". Okay. Well, can you show me that in your CRM? No. Right? So, back before I ever intended to build a CRM, people were asking me to add to my tool collection and they were like, "Oh, we love getting leads off our website. We love the proposal automation and Mimiran, but we hate the CRM that lives in the middle of all this. Can you just make Mimiran be the CRM?" And I was like, "That's crazy. The world doesn't need another CRM. And if they did, why would I be the one to build it? That's nuts". Right?

But I was like, "Why can't I try?". I'm trying all these different CRMs thinking I'm going to find the one that works for my tribe and things like, I want to track who referred whom and how much business came from that. That seems a pretty basic thing. Why doesn't it just do that for me? And I want to know when I should talk to somebody next. I don't want to have to manually set the next task date, which I can't tell you how many clicks I spent entering that information in Salesforce and I'm pretty OCD. So I usually remember to do it, but sometimes you open up another tab and then you get logged out or whatever, and you don't enter that next task date. Well, what happens? That person falls into the abyss.

Annaka: Yeah. They're gone.

Reuben Swartz: Right? Fortune is in the follow-up and my tool is fighting me and I'm losing some percentage of my pipeline because of... So I'm like, "Well, why doesn't the computer just remember that stuff for me with some sensible defaults that I can override if needed? And so, part of what Mimiran does is you can tag people and based on those tags, they'll say, "You're supposed to talk to these people every seven days, these people, every 60 days, whatever it is". I don't let you go over 365 days because I knew that I would be like, "ah, I can talk to this person every five years".

Ethan: Right. Everyone's got a birthday once a year.

Reuben Swartz: Right.

Ethan: At least that.

Reuben Swartz: They're probably not worth talking to if they're not worth talking to every year. And there's a finite number of people that you can have those kinds of relationships with, but let's do that and let's make it easy. So you can literally click a button, add a recurring meeting to your calendar, make prospecting calls, make partner calls, whatever it is. And then that reminder will pop up. You click start call mode. It takes you to the first one you're supposed to talk to. Click the button, call them, have the conversation. I'll be sitting there like I am now with my headphones in and just "Oh, okay. It's time to talk to Ethan. Great". I can see what we talked about earlier. I can see, "Oh, you referred me to somebody. That's great. I want to mention that". And instead of staring at this list of people knowing I was supposed to talk to all of them, but not sure who I should talk to and you wouldn't believe how much time I wasted thinking I was the only human being on the planet that had that problem. Right? 

And then, I would talk to other people were like, "Yeah, I do that too". And so that was part of what I wanted to do. Just make it easy instead of networking. Just connecting with people, just having fun conversations and knowing that you have a whole bunch of conversations to have. So there's no pressure like, "Oh my gosh, I forgot to call Ethan back. I got to close him this month or I'm hosed for payroll". Right? I've been in that situation and it's no fun, but instead there's a whole bunch of people that are in my market that I enjoy talking to. Some of whom are going to turn into customers, some of whom were not. And there's no stress, there's no tension. I remember the tension in my back when I'd be calling these people and trying to basically sell them knee surgery when they didn't need it. None of that is just connecting with people.

And you enter your notes and you hit save and it sets a next conversation date for you and you move to the next person. And it's actually really fun. I'm an introverted guy. And I'm sort of like, "If this will work for me, it's going to work for anybody".

Annaka: Yeah.

Ethan: Putting the fun back into sales. We appreciate you doing that for us. Let's jump out of CRMs and jump back into your story. What was the moment that you knew that the pivot from consulting to offering this software, what was the moment? What was the transition like? And I mean, you solved your own problem and you've turned it into a successful business. So tell us about that transition.

Reuben Swartz: Well, and again, it's not just a light bulb, that's more of a dimmer switch. So I originally started with the problem of I don't know if and when someone's read my proposals. And I don't know if anyone listening has left or the voicemails like, "Hey, Ethan, just wondering if you got my proposal, let me know if you have any questions.” And you kind of feel like the dorky guy asking the girl to the prom, and like, "She hasn't returned my call. Now if I call her again, am I too desperate? But I don't want to give up". It's an awful feeling. And I had got smart enough that I wouldn't write a proposal until I had a meeting scheduled to review it. But my clients were busy people and that meeting would get rescheduled all the time through nobody's fault. And then I would be back in that loop.

And I thought, if I can just put the proposal in the cloud, then I could actually know when they were reading it. Right? And so I'm like, "Oh, that's interesting". And I wasn't thinking of this as, " Oh, this is a sales tool. This is a CRM component. This is something I'm going to sell to other people". It's literally just like, "I just want to get the project done with as little BS as possible. This seems like it would be helpful". So I try it, I hack something up and I get the little notification and I call the guy, "Hey, Ruben, I'm glad you called. I was just reading your proposal". I'm like, "Oh, this is great already". And I had actually gotten a lot better at writing proposals at this point. So he was like, "Oh this looks great. I want to do this. Just a couple things I want to clarify".

And we discussed exactly a couple word changes. Then he's like, "Send me a new version when you get the chance and I'll be ready to get started". I was like, "Well, if you go back and look, I've made those changes already". And I hadn't really thought of that as something that would be part of it, but it was like, Why not? I'm just here. It's all online. And he's like, "Wow, that's really cool". And I didn't have E-signature then he just clicked the button that said, "I accept this proposal". And away we go, it was five minutes of conversation to get five minutes of work done. So we could get to the project, which was the thing we both cared about. And then I was telling some people about this experience and they're like, "Wow, that's really cool. Can I have that?" And I was like, "I guess so, sure. Why not? That sounds like fun". So I started doing that and it was interesting because I don't know if you or some of the folks listening have read Steve Blank's Four Steps to the Epiphany.

Ethan: I have not read that one.

Reuben Swartz: So this is back in the late nineties kind of before agile startup methodology. He talks a lot about product-market fit and what tends to happen when technical founders build software products and they get too enamored with their product instead of their customer's problem. So I found this book, I was like, "This is obviously the book for me, this is great". And one of the things he says is, "Find people who are trying to solve your problem with spreadsheets who are eager to pay you money to solve a problem". So I was like, "Oh, that's great advice". And of course I completely misconstrued it. And I found several customers that had spreadsheets that were eager to pay me money to take this technology and do stuff with it.

Reuben Swartz: They're like, "This is great, right? This is way more money per customer than selling to little rinky-dink shops like me, these are serious businesses". The problem was that they really needed spreadsheets. Because the thing that was driving them crazy, right? "Oh, we got all these different spreadsheets. They're all completely custom, whatever". Well, as soon as some other scenario came along, they would tell their customers, "Okay, great. We'll calculate it that way", kind of thing. Instead of here's how we do things and here's what the price would be and so on. And so, I got some battle scars from that feeling I didn't actually solve their problem, I did what they asked but it didn't solve their problem. And in fact, these business owners were like, "We need to standardize, we got to standardize. We got to standardize". And then when a customer request would come along, they'd be like, "Well, standardization versus revenue, what are we going to do?".

Ethan: (35:58)

Right. And that's how you, as the developer get whiplash.

Annaka: (36:02)


Reuben Swartz: Right. And so at some point I was like, "Crap". Even though they're paying me for more and more customizations, this just isn't what I need. What I need is people who are like, "Holy crap. I can know when someone's reading my proposal. That's amazing". It turns out there's a bunch of those people. And then, they started saying, "Hey, this is great. The end of my sales cycle is so much easier. I never stress out. It takes me a lot less time to write the proposals. I look professional. I can close them more easily, et cetera". Right?

That used to be a bottleneck for my business. It's no longer a bottleneck. What can I do to get more leads in the front of the door? And so I was like, "Well, I don't know, but I'm the techy guy. So let me go do some research for you guys". And I'm like, "Surely there's a tool out there that they should be using to convert more of their traffic to leads". And obviously, there's tools like HubSpot out there and Salesforce has rudimentary lead capture and so on, but not a great fit for these independent consultants. And what I realized was there's two camps. There's sort of the HubSpot tools for big sales teams, where you got people making calls and calls and calls and the law of large numbers, just things will work out eventually. And you've got eCommerce tools where once you capture the email, you can do marketing automation until somebody clicks add to cart, basically. And those didn't work for my try because one they're not calling all the time. They just don't have time.

And they don't have a high volume of leads. If they get a handful of leads off their website in a month, it'd be ecstatic. Right? If they could convert a couple of those leads into six figure clients, that's all they need. But they have to convert a visitor to a lead. And they have to convert that lead into a conversation. And then I realized well, I've got this way to create content online and share it and let you know when someone's reading it. What if I could let you plug that into your website in a way that I thought was better than most lead capture technology. And let you offer lead magnets and not just one- off proposals. And so, then people said, "Hey, this is really cool. I finally get leads off my website. And then I put them in my spreadsheet, my Salesforce, my Zoho, my whatever, and do all that CRM stuff. And then I put them in Mimiran, when it's time to do the proposal, can you please make Mimiran and do the CRM stuff in the middle?"

And that's when I would say, "No, the world doesn't need another CRM, blah, blah, blah, blah". Right? And again, I'm looking, cause there's got to be one that I can use. And finally, I was like, maybe I should just listen to my customers because I'm tearing my hair out here too. Let's make this an easy way for people to do things. So that's the long-winded multi-step story. It wasn't the flash of insight. One recurring theme here is that it takes me a long time. I have a very thick skull and it takes me a while to absorb what and in retrospect we're totally obvious lessons. And so hopefully by listening to this, you're going to get to short circuit that whole process and not tear as much hair out and not bang your skull against the wall as often.

Annaka: Well, and you had kind of a leg up in that you were kind of in your target audience at that point. You were not only working to find a solution for yourself, but working to find a solution with other people like you. So, kind of niching down might not have been as painful, but it's kind of your dimer moment where it's, "Oh, all of these people are actually benefiting right around me and do almost exactly the same thing". So it makes narrowing your audience down a little bit easier.

Reuben Swartz: Definitely. And I think I still struggled with it, right? Because there were these people trying to give me much bigger amounts of money. There were other people who were really interested and love the technology in sort of adjacent fields. And some of them still use it, but it's a little bit different. It's amazing how little differences kind of accumulate. Both in the way you communicate with people on your website and in person and then the way the tool works. So I think if you don't have to scratch your own itch. Not everyone can scratch their own itch and what they do, but if you can, it's super helpful. And part of it is also just I'm in my tool every day. And so, if a customer says, "Hey Ruben, why doesn't X-Y-Z work the way I think it should or why does it take me more clicks to do this?"

I'm probably like, "Yeah, I know it's been driving me crazy too. I was just waiting to make sure I wasn't the only one". And, those little things will help improve the product quality a lot faster than if you're shipping it off or even if serving it in the cloud to some enterprise company where you're not getting that direct feedback, you're not using it every day. The product can still get better, but there's something about that tight feedback loop when you're using it. And you know exactly what people are talking about. Not just theoretically and intellectually, but viscerally like, "Yeah, why did I have to click three things to get there?"

Annaka: Yeah. This is every user experience nerd. I feel like I say that on every episode, that I'm a user experience nerd, but that feedback loop between creator and consumer or user at that point is invaluable. So we all kind of live for that. And I love that you have... That's the foundation of how your business was built. And so you've been running this for 21 years now. I keep forgetting what year we're actually in, which is a problem.

Ethan: 2036.

Annaka: 2052. Oh my God.

Reuben Swartz: Feels like it.

Annaka: Yeah. And as we mentioned already, you've survived through a lot. You've been through a lot. A lot of things have changed and you also have a family. If I read correctly, you have twins.

Reuben Swartz: That's right.

Annaka: I am a twin.

Reuben Swartz: Oh, all right.

Annaka: Hi. It's instantly bonding, but how was your work-life balance? From the beginning, I know everyone starting a startup is like, "Oh my God, everything's insane. Things kind of balance out". But then you just chucked a family in there too. How did you balance it all?

Reuben Swartz: Poorly, is the short answer.

Annaka: Okay.

Reuben Swartz: So, originally I was going to work a bunch and travel a bunch and then, about a decade after I did, settle down and have kids. And then my wife and I met and fell in love and we had biological reasons to get started maybe a little sooner than I was originally planning. And so when that happened, I was still traveling a bunch and I really liked what I was doing, but I was one of those people who's like, "I'm never going to be that person that's on the road Sunday to Thursday and misses my kids grow up". And then one day I was like, "Why the hell am I on the road missing my kids grow up?" And it was really hard on my wife. She works hard, harder than I do. And we had a nanny, but it was still this is dumb. Why did we work so hard to bring these little kids into the world? It's not like I was out curing cancer or something. I was doing stuff that I enjoyed, but it wasn't worth missing that for.

And so again, recurring theme, poor strategic planning. I was like, "Okay, I'm done traveling". And that made it a lot harder to do what I was trying to do, of course. And I could do a lot of stuff remotely, not as much as you can now. And that made it more possible than it would've been even a decade earlier, but not nearly as nice as it is now where you can do anything anywhere. And so, one of the things that I have to realize is especially now, my kids are going to be gone in relatively short time.

And I think as long as you're not starving, there's sort of a diminishing returns to more money. And so I think it's really important to have enough that you're okay, but having twice as much money, but missing out on time with your kids, that's not really a good trade off for me. And I'm not judging what people are doing or what circumstances anyone finds themselves in. But one of the things that I have tried to do is design my business so that it works. It doesn't work as well as it would work if I was working 80 hours a week, which is totally what I'd be doing if I didn't have kids in the picture. Because I love what I do and it takes a lot of work to do it well. But I'm going to make compromises. And the first place I'm going to do that is basically not investing the time in my business. And obviously that's not a great look if you're trying to go raise venture capital or something like that. It's one of the advantages of just doing it on my own.

But at the same time, I tuck my kids into bed. As I was saying earlier, I just got back from taking my daughter to the orthodontist and there's this endless stream of stuff like that. And then pretty soon it's going to be done and I'm going to miss it, hopefully. And then I'll probably be working 80 hours a week. So I don't think that's a necessarily a great answer, but I think for me, it's helped to have some clarity, even though it's frustrating from the business side, it's tremendously frustrating at times. Because you're like, "Oh, if I could just put in. There were things sometimes that I want to ship a feature or something that I could do in a week. No problem. But it takes me three months because it takes me that long to have the right uninterrupted time. And then of course, during COVID, we got a COVID puppy, I adore her, I call her my VP of human resources. But she takes a ton of work too. Right? And well, what are you going to do? Do you want to have a dog that you would adore and kids that you spend time with? Or do you want to be super successful?

Annaka: You want to spend 80 hours a week? Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: Right.

Annaka: Yeah. Maybe it's a generational thing...

Reuben Swartz: Right.

Annaka: Yeah. And I... Maybe it's a generational thing at this point, I have no idea. But I think the... Yeah, finding that work life balance for you specifically, is really valuable. Someone could tell you, you have to work 80 hours a week to get ahead. But if that doesn't work for you personally, what's the point?

Reuben Swartz: When I think I've done a quasi successful job at having a business that doesn't require my constant intervention, like I was moping around the other day, complaining to a buddy about how I don't have enough time. And it's really frustrating, blah, blah, blah. And he's like, "Ruben, if you worked zero hours next week, will money come in?" I was like, "yeah." And he was like, "well, okay. So give yourself a check mark in the win column.

Ethan: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: Because not everyone can say that. And it may not be as much as you want. It may be a bunch of things that don't happen that should happen. But if you don't work at all next week, money will come in. So that's something. But I think, especially if you are trying to have good work-life balance, one of the things that I would do, if I could go back and do it again, and I'm always screwing this up and making things too complicated. I think I like hard problems. Don't pick a freaking hard problem, pick an easy problem. 

Pick something where it's like, Hey, install this pixel on your website and everything else will happen automatically for you. Not like, "Hey, I'm going to take someone who hates sales and marketing and help them love sales and marketing via software tool." That's a harder problem. That requires more involvement.

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: And I think, especially for people these days who do want to have a business and also have a life, part of that is business design and pick something that is easy to sell and easy to implement without a ton of involvement.

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: I don't know if you guys heard of this tool called BuiltWith...

Ethan: I have. Yep.

Reuben Swartz: Right. It's BuiltWith, builtwith.com. He's basically a guy he's got a scraper that goes and scrapes websites and checks, oh, you know, this person's running HubSpot, this person's running Mailchimp. This person's running Mimiranin, this person, this website's on WordPress or whatever. And then you can buy lists of these technologies with various filtering parameters or whatever. And so, you know, he's got to do a bunch of work. He's got to keep the servers running and all that, but he doesn't have to actually do anything kind of like that. My buddy was saying, if he doesn't do anything this week and he probably isn't doing a whole lot right now, the money comes in because it's all automated. Because he did something that's extremely automatable.

Ethan: You're working for the future. You're not working for right now.

Reuben Swartz: Right.

Annaka: And you are a team of one, correct?

Reuben Swartz: That's right.

Annaka: Was there a choice behind that? Was it just how you prefer to work or has it just kind of always been like that?

Reuben Swartz: I had a small team when I was doing consulting. I started off as just me and I hired some people and that was really fun. It was also really stressful. We probably could do whole other episodes on what not to do with managing a small team. But when I was like, okay, I'm not doing all the traveling consulting, I just had these hangups. I was like, well I feel bad. Like sending other people to travel and like, I'm not going to do it. So like, okay, we're just not going to do things like that anymore. And then I was like, oh, you know, I kind of like not having to make payroll.

Annaka: Also true.

Reuben Swartz: The small consulting business when everyone was billing, it was fantastic. And then when people weren't billing, it was very stressful. And you know, those consulting businesses, especially when you don't have a good steady sales and marketing habit, you have that feast or famine cycle. And so there'd be like elation, stress, elation, stress. And so it was nice just to feel like, okay, I'm just going to have less stormy waters. And then part of it was, I wanted to try to design something that would work well for one person. And I think I didn't do as well as builtwith.com, but I probably could have done worse in other ways.

So it kind of worked out in the middle and it also, for me, I'm someone who, who gets bored if I have, I wish I had a little bit more routine than I have, but I like that I get to talk to customers. I like that I get to talk to prospects and partners and I like that I get to write code. And all of these things come together in a very tight loop. It kind of goes back to that initial seed for me starting my own business, which was, let's bring all these things together in one place so that we can do things more effectively with less effort.

Annaka: That sounds like the theme behind your business right now, like efficiency over bedazzling. And I like the simplicity of it. And I mean, hiring is such a huge piece for a lot of people. And if I probably work better by myself, then delegating is also really difficult for me, cause it's like, I know I could do it in 10 minutes, but I'm going to hand it off to someone that's going to take four days. This is not my team, I'm exaggerating, but like...

Reuben Swartz: Right.

Annaka: It's like, it would be so much easier just for me to do it. So I get where you're coming from.

Reuben Swartz: Yeah. And I think one of the things that I do aim to do is like, I would like to outsource pieces. Like I don't necessarily have to hire a full time employee, but if I can offload pieces of things, then that gives me orders of magnitude worth of scaling without any of the headaches of employees.

Ethan: All right. I feel like I've really been rocking it today with those two and three part questions. So we're going to try it again. See what happens.

Reuben Swartz: I was like, don't go to four please. Please don't go to four.

Ethan: No, I'm going to keep it at three here.

Annaka: It's hard to keep track

Ethan: Is... And they're partially related at least. So, you know, maybe it'll work. In your opinion, is lifestyle business a bad word? And based on that answer is Mimiran a lifestyle business and tacking onto that, how is Mimiran currently funded?

Reuben Swartz: Sure. So I think for me, lifestyle business is not a pejorative term. I think for a lot of people, it is. And I would definitely classify Mimiran as a lifestyle business because my family is priority, number one, and the business is number two. Right? And, to me, that's how I think of it. And so, it's funded from customer operations, right? People paying me money every month or saving two months and going on the annual plan.

But that's basically what funds the business. I think there's a lot of sort of cultural weight from Silicon valley and the Facebooks and the Teslas and the Googles and all that says, "Hey, we got to become a unicorn and a decacorn and a whatever corn" and there's nothing wrong with those types of businesses either, right?

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: Like I'm not saying one's right or one's wrong, but I feel like we overweigh in the general zeitgeist, those types of companies compared to the far more numerous companies that probably actually employ more people and probably have more revenue overall.

Ethan: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: But they're much smaller quote unquote lifestyle businesses. And I think the other thing that's hard is we have kind of worked ourselves into a frenzy as a society, that chasing the next dollar is somehow going to fulfill us. And, you know, once we hit the billion dollar run rate or once we get the Porsche or the whatever, then life is going to be good.

And everyone's in this crazy rat race and people are unhappy and not just because COVID-19 was insane and we were all isolated from each other. I just mean in general, that sort of, I think we've lost sight of what success means. It's like, if we're not the next Zuckerberg or Elon Musk or something, then we must not be living life right. And I think there's something about like, I love that I get up in the morning, even though it's mornings from, I'm like, oh, Barley, that's my dog. Like, can I just sleep for a little bit longer? I care so much about helping my customers and I'm excited to do that. And yeah, it would probably be great if I was helping 10 times more of them, but I have something that gives me meaning in my day.

Ethan: Right.

Reuben Swartz: And I think that's nice. And there's a lot of people who work at big companies and the only thing they really care about is getting the next promotion. Now I shouldn't say that's true of everyone. There are big companies doing great stuff and people who love working for them and they do exciting, awesome things too. I'm just saying, I think we should have what we're doing for work, work for us instead of vice versa.

Annaka: Yeah.

Ethan: Right. And I think you kind of... there's this concept that I've heard recently, a lot of people out there think in the way of do, have, be. In that, if I do extra work, then I will have enough money to buy this car and therefore, I will be happy. But the right way, you know, everybody's different. But I think that the healthier way to think about, you know, just life is be, do, have. Start with the “be.” You know, why would it require you to buy that new car to be happy? Just start with being happy and then work outward from there. You know? So I'm really glad to hear that you're hitting on that. It seems really healthy. Thank you.

Reuben Swartz: Well, and I agree completely and again, I don't have a judgment one way or the other. I just think that people need to do what's right for them and not pretend that they're in a different place. I think there's a reason a lot of these companies are started by young men that don't have families, who think it's fun to work a hundred hours a week with other tech bros or whatever, because that's what they want to do. And there was a time in my life where that would've been really fun for me and it's not now. And that's okay too.

But I think what you said about doing and being and having is so true. And I think people like Elon Musk, who's trying to send people to Mars and change the world to EVs. Like he's doing really interesting stuff and I think that's much more interesting than, you know, he's worth a gazillion dollars and he has a whatever, you know, I don't know what he has, but whatever he wants to buy, I suppose, Twitter, he has Twitter, right?

Annaka: Yeah.

Ethan: Like he's working on it,

Reuben Swartz: You know, do I want to have Twitter? Not really, but you know, different strokes for different folks.

Annaka: I mean, he wants Twitter and I just want one Tesla and then, I think I'll be okay.

Ethan: Two?

Annaka: Oh yeah. Two would be great.

Reuben Swartz: So now you're having, and then being.

Annaka: I would be much happier with a Tesla. So if we go back to kind of the sales piece, there are those of us that cold calling is the worst nightmare. Like if someone was like, okay, your goal today is to sell to 10 people. Here's their number. I would, no. Thank you. I am out. But for those of us that are in that camp, do you have any advice for like how to reframe selling into something that they don't hate?

Reuben Swartz: I mean, I think as someone who has done cold calling I'm with you, I'm out done.

Annaka: Yeah. No, thank you.

Reuben Swartz: And it doesn't mean that it's wrong for everybody, but I think if you hate it, having a job of cold calling is going to just be a recipe for bad results and misery. And here's the thing. I don't think it's necessary because for most of us assuming that you're like running your own business and you're not selling, like, I don't know, random supplies for somebody else that you don't know or care about. But if you are starting your own business, you know a bunch of people already. And I have this conversation with new business people all the time. And like, how many of the people that, you know, know what you're doing?

Now, first of all, do you know what you're doing? And I don't mean like moment to moment, but like, what is your business out there to do in the world? Do you know what that is? And you know, that's where the whole positioning thing comes in. Because it helps to have a good story. But then how many of you, the people that already know, like and trust, you know what you're doing? I'm like, well, I sent them a newsletter.

So anyway, like tell the people that you already know what the heck you're doing. Not just be a newsletter. There's nothing wrong with that. But call them, have an actual conversation. Right?

They may or may not be prospects, but don't sell them, just tell them what you're doing. And if they might be prospects, talk about the market, talk about the problems, get advice.

If they're not, ask who else you should talk to. And before you know it, you're going to have a virtual Rolodex of people that you're going to be talking to and people are going to want to buy, not necessarily all of them, all the time, but I think we squander our greatest resource really, the people that we already know who already like us, who want to support us. Like we get nervous and we don't want to share what we're up to or we feel like we're being salesy. And then we complain that we don't have, excuse me. And we complain that we don't have leads. Right? So start with people you know, and with that and your positioning, you'll be able to add stuff to your website to get new leads.

Reuben Swartz: Talk to them before you know it, you'll have more people than you can talk to.

Annaka: Yeah. It's networking to, I mean, to really, really boil that down into a single word.

Reuben Swartz: And, and I'm going to take an issue with that because one of the things that I hate is networking. But you know what I love is connecting. So like I said, I'm going to stop selling. I'm just going to start helping. I thought I was going to stop networking. And I was just going to connect with people that I like connecting with.

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: Low and behold connecting is actually fun. Networking sucks.

Annaka: Yeah.

Ethan: Sure does.

Annaka: I'm imagining like the hotel ballrooms, like just filled with people and sticky name tags.

Ethan: We're going to a conference in like two weeks and I'm really just going to take this with us. We're going to connect with so many people.

Reuben Swartz: Well those are hard, because at a big conference, you are there to connect with lots of people in a certain place.

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: And there's not, I think that's a great thing. And especially if you have a good story, it can actually go really well. But the thing that, I think the silver lining and one of the silver linings from COVID-19, is having all that go away and having to be more intentional about doing that ourselves. It's like, well, we don't have to wait for a giant conference to go connect with people. We can connect with people on our terms, in a way that we actually like that doesn't involve, you know, stale appetizers in a ballroom of people trying to stab me with business cards. Right? Let's do that.

Annaka: Yeah. And you had, there was something that you wrote in your profile about having the right conversations with the right people. Is that kind of what we're talking about here? It's just like the people that you would already enjoy having a chat with and it just so happens that you can talk business with them as well.

Reuben Swartz: I think that's a big part of it. I think... And if you do these things, right? You connect with the people that you already know, like and trust, right? Some of them are going to, oh, Ruben, you need to talk to Ethan or whatever. Right? That's how we got connected.

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: Somebody was connected to somebody, like there's like a four person chain that I can go look at in my tool and see how we got connected. But it was all like great conversations. And I think the person who kicked it off never paid me a penny, but he was just a good guy to talk to.So, I didn't mind when he popped up as, oh, it's time to talk to so and so again. It's like, “Great. I like talking to this guy.” And good things happen when you do that. And I think the other thing is the right people isn't just, Hey, I like talking to them, right?

Because there's plenty of people that we talk to, at the proverbial pub or whatever, that are not going to drive our business forward and maybe that's why we like talking to him so much. And so that's where having that strong positioning comes in, because I think the other mistake people make is they try to be everyone to everything. Like I'm a doctor. I can cure anything that ails you. Instead of, you know, I help old ladies with knee replacements and I do that day in day out. And we sort of have this evolutionary wiring, I'm convinced, that even though we know that this is dumb, we do it anyway., because we're so scared of scarcity. And so the way that I was able to trick myself out of this, because you know, I was telling clients this all the time. That was no problem. But doing it myself is like, well, first of all, the quote unquote small market is plenty big enough. Right?

Annaka: Yeah.

Reuben Swartz: Like, especially when you're starting out, that small market is more than enough to get you a healthy foothold or probably even just take you wherever you want to go. And then secondly, do I want sales and marketing to be easy or hard? Most people would like it to be easy. And the way to do that is to talk to the people who actually are most likely to want to buy what you are selling, right?

Not by trying to convince everybody under the sun that the Eskimos need ice and so on. And so then you have that strong positioning. And I have this silly acronym called MEGA POSITIONING. It's like the cheesiest marketing acronym in the world, but it helps me remember, kind of how this all fits together and the M is for magnetic. And the big mistake that people make is they want to attract everybody. And you cannot do that. Right? Even if you're Coca-Cola or Nike, you can't attract everybody, but you're not Coca-Cola or Nike, you're trying to attract this tiny sliver of people and the magnet to do the attraction, it's got two poles. It's got the north and the south and they're of equal strength.

So if you want to really attract the right people, you've got to repel the wrong people with equal power. And it's almost like the right people should be like, oh thank goodness. I finally found you.

Ethan: Yep.

Reuben Swartz: And the other people should be like this person's crazy. And people are so worried about turning off the people who don't want to give them any money, who are just going to be a pain in the neck. And if you somehow manage to land them as a customer, it's going to be an even worse problem.

And I'm not saying you should be rude to them, but it's like, why would I be inviting people in? It's like, if I got the spiciest chili in Texas, don't try to sell it to the old English lady who doesn't like spice.

Annaka: Yeah.

Ethan: Yep. I think you might be right there.

Annaka: Like, yeah. It's just not going to work.

Ethan: I want to ask one more question about CRMs, and this is very personal to me since I played this exact game at some point in my past, but I also feel like maybe many, many other people have played this game as well. It seems like every entrepreneur and their grandma has had an idea for a CRM in their particular niche. The difference here between your idea, and everybody else's idea, is that you actually went and built it. So kudos to you. Can you tell us if you see the custom two niche CRM as like a viable business opportunity for almost every niche out there?

Reuben Swartz: Yes. I think that's a great point and I think there are a lot of opportunities to do this. In fact, I was talking to somebody recently who was building a CRM for people who do pool maintenance.

Ethan: Nice.

Reuben Swartz: Right? Because he was doing something like that and it, the tools were terrible and the regular CRMs didn't do it for him. So they built their own. Who would think of that, right? Somebody who is struggling with that day-to-day, just like the way I thought of mine. So I was struggling with it day-to-day. At some point, I suppose, there is a limit. You can't have 8 billion separate people making CRMs, but I think that's probably ... There's going to be a lot more opportunities in these micro niches, and it doesn't necessarily have to be CRMs, right? It could be a CRM, it could be an accounting system. 

It could be, I don't know, websites for dog walkers or whatever, right? If you can find that niche, that's underserved by whatever the prevailing traditional solutions are. And you're like, "The websites for dog walkers don't work because blah, blah, blah, blah." And I've got a solution to it, then that's great. And I think that kind of goes to what we were talking about earlier about how can you target the right people? Because then you can go say, "Hey dog, walkers, you need this." And it's going to be so obvious once they see it. "Oh yeah. That's my website. Isn't working. I need this one, blah, blah, blah, blah." You don't have to go through this big struggle about educating somebody who really just needs the shoulder surgery or whatever. You're talking to somebody who is going to be like, "Yes, that's me right away." I think something else that's important is even within that micro niche, you're probably going to find there's a micro-micro niche.

Ethan: Yes.

Reuben Swartz: Right? Maybe like for a lot of people, the regular website does work for dog walkers, but those people with the Aussie doodles or whatever, they're a problem with the traditional technology and you need this other thing, whatever it might be. And so, keep going, and going, and going, and going until somebody's like, "Yes, finally. That's what I need." And then, if you can figure out how to locate a small market of those people, you've got yourself a niche,

Ethan: Right, yeah. We had our countertops redone not too long ago, and I could see that they were running their business, pretty much their entire business, through QuickBooks. I'm like, "I just don't, I don't understand how you can bend that software so, so much that it does everything you need." So at some point, you have to be just running into things that just straight don't work, like every day. Just like what you said, this sub-niche. 

So, I'm going to dive into this idea super-quick. So, maybe some entrepreneur out there, if you're listening, please do this because there's at least one countertop company in Michigan that needs your help. Maybe you build a CRM for these local contractors and who knows? Maybe you do go super-duper-deep and do it strictly for countertop companies, or maybe you just make it broad enough that it's great for contractors, and maybe build on specific expansions or packs or whatever. I guess I'm talking about video games now. Expansions for pool companies, or for countertop companies, or for companies that move billiards tables. I'm literally just grasping at straws here, but I love that you're endorsing the idea of the not just niche, but micro-niche CRM. So, entrepreneurs out there get some work, come on.

Reuben Swartz: Well, it's funny, you mentioned like the countertop people and folks like that because nominally, a lot of those folks would be in my niche, right? They're solo, or the founder's the person who does all the sales. They're a consultative service business, and I even had some interest from some of them. What I found was that their workflow is very different than the people who call themselves coaches or consultants. Not that one's right or wrong, but it was really hard for me to figure out how to make them do both equally well. I'm like, "Well, which one should I do? I should do the one that I've got paying customers, and that I know personally." Now, if I was a roofer, or I was a countertop person, and I didn't have the consulting background, I would probably flip that around and do it the other way.

Annaka: One of my favorite questions that comes at the end, and that I'm actually really excited to hear from you just based on the other things I've read, and your perspectives on sales, and business, and for being in this for a while, what is your advice for entrepreneurs that are trying to start now?

Reuben Swartz: Well, that's a pretty broad question.

Annaka: I know.

Reuben Swartz: You can tell, I can take a small question and drone on for a while about it. So, we could run out of space for that but I think the main thing is it kind of relates to everything else we've been talking to. Especially what we were just talking about is: find a niche. Find a micro-niche, and go be the 800-pound gorilla in that micro-niche. Don't go compete with everybody in the big market. Define your market. As an entrepreneur, you get to define your market. Define it so that you are the person in it, and it could be I help countertop companies in a certain part of Michigan. I have the best software for them, and I will come out, and drive out there, and set it up, and do in-person trainings and blah, blah, blah, blah. Everything that you would ever need so that I'm the logical choice. I am the Google, or the Nike, or the Starbucks, or whatever, within that micro-niche.

You can always expand it later, you can always say, "Hey, I picked the wrong niche" and shift, but pick one and go deep into it and go solve those problems. That will make everything easier, right? It makes word of mouth easier, it makes referrals easier, it makes your marketing easier, it makes your product easier to build, and so on.

Ethan: Awesome. This has been a lot of fun. We want to ask you one more question then we're going to wrap. What can our listeners do to support Mimiran?

Reuben Swartz: Well, I think first of all, it's not your job to support me, though I would love it if you did. If you are an independent consultant or coach and you're looking to get organized and think that it might be fun to actually have a sales and marketing system that works for you, go check out mimiran@mimiran.com. You can not only sign up for an account, you can also get things like proposal templates, website success checklists, some positioning tools, and so on, to help you with your business, regardless of whether you sign up for the tool. If you'd like this podcast and you're looking for more sales and marketing tips for nerdy people, you might want to check out the Sales for Nerds Podcast.

Ethan: You heard it, go check it out folks. Well, that's going to be it for today's episode of the Startup Savants Podcast. Thanks for stopping in today. Oh, dear listener, we seriously want to thank you for coming along this ride with us, and sharing this podcast with your friends. We can see the difference, and we can feel your support. Our guests, and their businesses, are also feeling the love. That's what they tell us at least, which is a huge win for everyone involved. Please keep up the sharing. We could not appreciate it more. If you feel so inclined, we'll also take a rating on Apple Podcasts. It's a big deal for that almighty algorithm, so we've got to keep feeding that beast for tools, guides, videos, startup stories, and so much more, head over to TRUiC.com. That's TRUiC.com T-R-U-I-C.com. See you, everybody.

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