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Episode 004: Networking in a Post-Covid World

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EP 4: NETWORKING IN A POST-COVID WORLD w/ JARED STEWART

Firetoss Marketing Podcast

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00:00
Today on the podcast, we’re going to talk with Jared Stewart from TribeHouse about networking in a post-covid world. Here we go, not just your average podcast, it’s the slightly above average podcast, brought to you by your favorite marketing team at Firetoss. Here it is your true source for all things digital marketing, the Firetoss Marketing Podcast.

00:32
Tony Passey: Hey, everybody, thank you for joining us for another episode of the Firetoss Marketing Podcast. My name is Tony Passey. I’m the CEO and founder of Firetoss. My co-host today is Toby Eborn, Senior Vice President of Business Development. Toby, I am so excited about what you have planned for us today.

00:51
Toby Eborn: Awesome, we are going to get right into it here and introduce our guest today. Our guest is Jared Stewart, who is the founder of TribeHouse and has been really in the networking and making connections space for over 20 years, really has been a trailblazer and an entrepreneur in an industry that, frankly, didn’t really exist when you started doing this. So, we’re excited to talk about the mechanics and your history and your viewpoints. Because I think it is super valuable as somebody who’s been part of TribeHouse and has participated in the events, I see the value there. I think it’d be a great conversation. So, Jared, welcome to the podcast.

01:30
Jared Stewart: Thanks, guys. Glad to be here.

01:32
Toby: Absolutely.

01:32
Tony: Jared, we’re super glad that you joined us. Thank you for making the drive, the day that we’re actually recording this as a pretty horrible day out there. So, thanks for coming. Thanks for being here. I want to start off just right out the gate and ask you about the entrepreneurial aspects. So, your business is really about networking and connections and we’ll get into that, especially what the heck that looks like in a covid world. But before we even go there, you’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, that’s pretty close to my heart, because I’ve been an entrepreneur for about the exact same amount of time involved in a bunch of different industries. But I feel like where you’ve spent your time, it’s a little harder. There’s a little more to it. Will you tell us about what does that feel like at the other end of 20 years as you look back at this history that you’ve created?

02:25
Jared: Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I love hanging out with you guys. So, I’m happy to be here. Yeah, in terms of entrepreneurship, I think, yeah, it has been about a little over 20 years. I think that people don’t really understand the cost of being an entrepreneur, I’m not even talking just about the financial cost, it’s the emotional drain. It’s just crazy to me, as I look back over the last 20 years, because I think part of it, when I realized I had started a couple of companies and exited, and they weren’t big exits. We’d done ok. But I look at those experiences and the companies that we had closed down that weren’t successful. I tried to analyze, what was the difference between this because I’ve been at this one for over, almost the entire time. 20 We’re almost in our 21st year now. Corporate alliances first, obviously, and then the transition into the new brand with TribeHouse.

I realized something I think you really need to be willing to sacrifice at a level. Again, if you’re just building a better mousetrap, maybe not so much but if you’re really trying to carve out a new idea, new territory where no one’s gone before and blaze that trail, you need to be prepared to, to go through hell and be willing to go through it over and over and over. I remember for almost for 20 years, we’ve never had more than two, three weeks of payroll in the bank. We’ve had almost 100 over 100 investors at different times, we’ve built a really amazing, unique business and it’s been on the backs of all those relationships, all those people that have been a part of our experience for over all these years. So, anyway, I think that’s the number one thing I read about that stat, but 90% of businesses go out of business in the first 5 to 10 years. I know there’s a difference and the SBA has different information for that, somewhere between 50% and 90% over the first five and then by the literally by ninth or 10th. I think it’s down to 10% left.

04:35
Tony: I want to point something out that Jared said that resonates with me having been a business owner this long and will resonate with everybody else who’s done a startup and had employees, but probably goes in one ear and out the other with people that haven’t ever done this. So, if you’re the guy that’s had to write the paycheck, you’ve had to actually do payroll. So, we always as employees, we think about who I’m Getting paid on Friday and we think about, our 2, 3, 4, $5,000 is going to hit our bank. Awesome. But as the entrepreneur, you’re thinking about 40, 50, $60,000, that you’re shelling out for this group, this small group of employees and it’s like you’re running from the devil all the time. I’m specifically talking about in a service-based business, because essentially, that’s what you’re in. You don’t have a product. We productize that service, but you’re not shipping a product, you’re not warehousing, it is not inventory, you’re not fighting the battles that entrepreneurs are fighting and getting product from China right now or from any other country, you’re selling a service. So, in a service business, your cost is really people and it’s a huge expense to pay for people.

I love the way you said it, two or three payrolls in the bank and that’s how a lot of service businesses have to think about it, is how many payrolls do we have to live? Where are we? It’s interesting, because it’s real scary if you’re a new entrepreneur, and then if you’re somebody who’s been through it a few times, you’re like, okay, we got two and a half payrolls, we’re pretty good. Let’s go, what can we do next and then, eventually, as you get more successful, you get more payrolls, we never talked about how much money we have. It’s just how many payrolls are in the bank.

06:21
Jared: My problem is, I keep reinvesting rates, we got millions of dollars into our technology. Now we’re launching a software company in January, we’ve got all these different components of the business, partly because again, where there’s no vision, the people perish, you’ve got to have a vision of where the company’s going and it’s not like if you’re a visionary leader, it’s not just about like said, building a better-balanced mousetrap. It’s about building something unique and different in differentiating yourself inside the market. That’s what I was saying, like 90% of businesses don’t fail 90% of business leaders quit and there’s a big difference, because I’ve quit other businesses before, because I hated them and they weren’t worth my sacrifice. I’m like, look, I’m going to give my life to this. I want it to mean something but the idea that all these organizations are failing, isn’t true, because a committed leader that will not relent does not fail.

07:23
Tony: That’s great. I really love that. So, where your business is focused on connecting people, do you feel like, has it been a big part of your success and your growth with corporate alliances and transitioning to TribeHouse, that your business is literally to find people that can help each other? Has that been a big part of your ability to grow your business, the people that come to you, because they need that same thing, but they have something that they can offer you? Have you tapped into that as a growth strategy for your business as well?

07:56
Jared: Yeah, 100% and culturally, we’re like, hey, it’s we build relationship just because we teach our or our member leaders to do that as well because the biggest opportunities in your life, lots of times come from the least likely of sources, and relationship. Arrogance kills all these opportunities in advance, because you think you know who it is you want to connect with, like a lot of people have in their brain, like if I just can build this relationship with this one person. But in reality, in my experience, that’s not true. It’s usually the person that you discount that you don’t think is the one that’s going to help you that actually ties you into maybe that other opportunity, because on average, people know about 250 people, none of our members are average, they probably know more like 500 to 1000 people and pretty well. So, when you’re building a relationship with that one person authentically for the right reasons, using learn, serve, grow, once they trust you, and they start tapping into their influence, you’ll be shocked what will happen, but people are so transactional and that’s why we don’t like the word networking, because it’s just it feels transactional, we’re trying to build a real relationship with people. When we get people together, we’re trying to get you to really see each other’s humanity. Because once that happens, then not only does the business opportunities unfold, you have all these other personal benefits that are pretty freaking awesome.

09:19
Tony: So, setting up a little question, but based on what you’re saying right here. You’ve built this business, you’ve got all these connections going if you’ve fairly recently moved into TribeHouse and building tribes and the marketing around it, the thought pattern, everything makes a ton of sense and you guys are starting to hit your stride and then covid hit. I’m really interested. What goes through the mind of an entrepreneur, a business owner, that is running a business that is literally face to face connecting people in an economy that everyone went home and hid at a work from home space. So, what did you do?

10:03
Jared: Literally, part of the dream of TribeHouse was the physical facilities. Tribe-House is the location, we’ve got beautiful facilities. Now, if you’ve been down to them, The Foraging and The Fire, these beautiful Hangouts that were our members connect. So, I had signed those leases a couple months before, basically, effectively, this is not cheap space, let’s just put it that way and then literally a month later, we were going to put a full restaurant, inside the facilities as well. We had all this all these plants and everything coming together and you’re right. I just woke up one morning, and I’m like, well, that’s what I’m talking about. What about failure, we should be dead. There’s no question. Everybody was calling me, giving me their condolences. Basically, our obituary had already been formalized and they just made the assumption and problem is, they don’t know me. I had already been steeled over the last 15, 18 years, I’d already gone through hell.

So, I just took that on as another challenge and tried to view it as an opportunity, instead of what is it about this specific challenge that we’ve been prepared for and what advantages are we going to be able to pull from this! I said, well, we have got a lot of relationship capital, there’s a lot of people who don’t need a lot of help. Let’s figure out how to help each other and so, we got aggressive about trying to figure that out. We’ve started thinking about the trade show, we start to think about all these different ways, how can we use, because we had one thing, we had relationship capital, which is the same as capital, it’s just a little bit slower, it’s actually more powerful. But if your organization has a significant amount of relationship capital banked in the bank, then you can pull that, you can start taking withdrawals from that whenever you’re ready in our members. Just first of all, they could have cancelled, and that’s what we were worried about and we probably would have been as determined as I am. I don’t know how we would have survived that they’ll cancel their memberships. We had 10% probably cancel, just because they were going out of business. But 90% of our members just hung with us.

12:19
Tony: Yeah, we’re one of them. When did we sign up? Was it before covid? Was it going into covid?

12:27
Jared: Probably a year before.

12:27
Tony: We were with them for at least since the spring before covid.

12:31
Jared: Yeah.

12:33
Tony: I don’t really remember a moment and this is insightful what you’re saying because I don’t think that we really sat around said, okay, covid, let’s cut some expenses, top of the list, TribeHouse. I don’t think that that was even an issue and it’s to your credit, because you guys sprang into action and became a front runner and a leader at a time that the world needed a leader. I think we had been thrilled to be associated.

13:09
Jared: Yep, it was, in retrospect, as terrible as 2020 was, 2021 has been phenomenal. In 2022, looks ridiculous. So, the prospects coming out of this are really remarkable for our organization. I’m looking at it saying, yeah, that’s probably the best thing that ever happened. But I already learned that lesson that I was willing to sacrifice at any level to make sure we succeeded and that there was always a way, because there’s 300 times before that, where I’m like, there’s no way, there’s no path, I don’t see a path and you just get up the next morning, you say, come hell or high water. We’re figuring this out and you do because at some point, it becomes your baby, like, what would you not do for your child. I have four beautiful daughters and then I have this business. That’s one of my children as well at this point. I’m willing to sacrifice for it. Mostly because it does so much good in the world. I love when you guys are all together in those meetings, and you’re on the two-day retreats and you got 100 people in the room or 200 people in the room or 500 people in the room and there’s all that connecting energy that’s happening. It’s magic for me, I love it and I’m introverted. I actually don’t even like going around events. Sometimes it stresses me out but just hearing the energy of all those people connecting and building relationships that didn’t exist before is beautiful to me.

14:38
Tony: When I think that your resolve and your determination to find a way for TribeHouse to succeed during covid was interpreted by the members of your of TribeHouse as your determination to see them succeed because you guys being able to succeed and stay afloat and grow meant that there was a pathway for them. Those who are participating to also grow and stay connected and because business has to go on, that was the hard thing for a lot of businesses to realize is that yeah, covid happened, businesses shut down, you stayed home, you still have to do work, you still have to move forward and you either find a way to adapt, or you die.

15:19
Jared: Yeah. Well, the thing that kills you is fear and I was afraid, I won’t lie, especially in the beginning. But if you can channel that fear, into focus, and then you can channel that focus into actual faith, and then you can see the path clearly, you wake up, you’re like, oh, we could do this. But if you allow yourself to just flounder and fear, and you stay there for an extended amount of time, you’re screwed and that was the thing. I was like, let’s figure out how to do this effectively, efficiently, and get really dialed in because where other people see trauma and challenge and struggle, over the years, I’ve just been trained to see opportunity because everyone else is going to be running and if you’re there running this way, and I run in this way, then there’s an opportunity for leadership.

16:17
Tony: That’s the problem solver. That’s the entrepreneur, that’s the very special type of person that it takes to lead an organization and not just through the state startup phase, but continually reinventing and reconstructing.

16:33
Toby: Yeah. So, I think that leads me to my next question is, we’ve had this last 18 months, almost two years now of being in a covid situation, and I think, different parts of the country that the response has been very different in parts of the country that it’s a mess and I think we’re fortunate here in Utah, that we’re almost back to business as usual. But from the relationship development side of things, what are the next few years look like for you? Whether it’s TribeHouse or just your vision in general, how do these developing personal relationships spur growth moving forward?

17:09
Jared: Oh, it’s interesting, because I’ve been planting seeds the entire time. We have an embarrassment of riches right now, there’s too many opportunities, TribeHouse can spin up a new company every single day, this year, I’m not kidding. So, just this year, we partnered with Landon Ainge, and Paul Vassa to start Tribe Angels. So, that’s our angel investment network, which is going crazy. It’s been amazing. We’ve already helped fund three local startups. So that’s going really well, we’ve got our build tribe, with for the construction industry and then we’ve also got the technology tribe this launching this year as well. In addition, the Mom Squad, which is our mom’s movement. So, that’s as much there’s like, that’s the weird thing with our business, we can spin up tribes, every tribe is a vertical, because it’s rules, pools and tools, culture tied into physical events that in technology, we knew that from the least at the beginning, I’m like, this is the model.

So, we need to figure out how to do all three, and once we can do all three, now we can spin up tribes basically effectively in new business as quickly as we have access to capital. So, it’s scary at this point, because we dialed it in so much, that the next couple of years to your point could be really amazing. But again, if you don’t survive that cycle of what you’re talking about earlier, if you don’t survive this, none of those seeds ever get planted, they lose their sunshine, they lose their water, and all the other options that you’ve been cultivating for 20 years, could have died during that six, eight months of covid and that’s what kept us, we had to bridge somehow and that’s what helped us bridge.

18:57
Tony: So, let’s talk about Restart for a minute here. Because we’re mentioning Restart Utah. This was an event that you guys put together. Last year, we participated in it. I thought it was outstanding, and you guys decided to bring it back because there was a lot of positive feedback, I assume. So, talk to us a little bit about that. I know it’s coming up and give me a chance to talk about it.

19:13
Jared: Yeah, so, Restart was actually conceived of probably in June or July of covid. So, we’re sitting at home, we’re like, okay, what are we going to do and what the tendency was? If you guys remember football, right, there was this domino effect that was happening. So, the PAC 12 canceled first and then it was big 12 and then the whack and then there were these dominoes and then there was this one domino called the SEC and they said, we’re not going to fall like, just like, no, we’re going to find a solution and then all of a sudden, those dominoes went back this direction. But just imagine what would have happened to football if the SEC domino had fallen, for sure that the whole season would have been canceled. I don’t know what this year would have looked like. But, again, everybody has their different opinions on what should happen, I get that.

I lean towards free markets and opening up and that’s just who I am. I think we deal with risk and challenge. I believe in an individual’s ability to assess that risk and make decisions for themselves, that’s just who I am. So, there’s other people that I know feel that way, almost all of my members, if I’d have a conversation with any of them felt the same way. So, I’m like, well, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re business leaders. Why isn’t there any political will to get us reopened, and part of us because there’s all these dominoes falling in the state in different ways, and people are scared, and they’re like, okay, so what do we need to do? I learned a long time ago how to build a movement and the key is building a core. I knew a lot of relationships, and I had that core. So, I met with 20 of our members. I said, what do you guys think? They said, yeah, let’s do this. So, I said, well, who’s coming because people come to a party, because who else is coming to the party? That’s just how it works, especially people they love and respect. I said, these 20 are coming. So, another 20, these 40 are coming now. Okay, now, the sixth year, you get the idea.

So, we ended up with 200 companies. At the end March of that following March, and we were the first really big event in Utah and had an amazing experience. It was remarkable, and I think helped set the stage for people feeling more comfortable and still being safe and courteous and respectful of other people’s opinions and positions, while at the same time holding, those entrepreneurial and instincts intact. So, we even had that at the end, we had the governor kicking it off but it was a movement. It was a gathering of all this energy. At the end of the day, we had a really remarkable reopening of Utah’s result.

19:14
Toby: Yeah. I remember as I participated, as you walked around, because there’s people that come because they want to go and see all the booths, or all the exhibitors, but the exhibitors make their way around as well and just talk to each other and there’s a lot of “how’s it been?” How have you guys been doing and there was a lot of “man, it’s been rough, but we’ve pulled through, we’re doing this, we’re doing this.” I love that energy that comes from getting back into face-to-face interaction and I know Tony and I were very much of the opinion, like you mentioned earlier that we just wanted to be in front of people. That’s how you grow business, that’s how you get in front of each other.

22:59
Jared: Yeah, it’s also the basic function of human interaction, we can’t not be together and the idea that for a prolonged extended amount of time, that human interaction is going to be minimized or eliminated. I can’t even imagine a world like that. So, that’s why we have the monumental amounts of excess deaths that have nothing to do with covid where we have the suicide rate going crazy, we have the murder rate going insane. There are consequences to our decisions.

I remember the United Nations came out with this thing that said that, remember that hundreds of 1000s, even millions of kids were going to die from the economic impacts of covid. We live in America. So, we don’t know what that looks like. But the economic impact of what happens here will trickle down to starvation for children, we have to start to reconcile all of our decisions and not just look at it through this one narrow lens. societally, some of the decisions we made, I think were horrific. They were the wrong decisions. But I also give people allowances and, and grace and say, hey, it was a tough decision, it was tough for everybody. Everyone’s trying to figure it out but I think you need strong voices on both sides of that argument.

23:32
Tony: With literally no history, there’s no scholarly cases that you can study. There really was nothing you could do to prepare for that and it really was taking counsel from relationships and real time decision making. So the original Restart Utah event that went off was amazing. People loved it; they were happy to attend. What do you feel like is going to be the tone and what do you expect for this next one that’s coming up here very shortly?

25:01
Jared: Yeah, Restart was just literally going to be a one time thing and it wasn’t because I had run some trade shows earlier in my career. I promised myself I would never do it because it’s not fun. It’s a lot of work to get the booth full and then it’s a lot of work to get the actual the hardest part is getting the attendees to a tradeshow. So, 200 people to trade to a booth. But covid that was another blessing actually because we had to create a new model for a trade show, because we were supposed to keep social distance as well. I’m not sure we did 100%, great that, we tried. But so, with the boosts, there’s never been a tradeshow like that, that I’m aware of. Basically, we had 200 companies, one stayed in the booth and one stayed on the outside, and we built a circuit, and every four minutes they would rotate, and then we would keep them socially distance and connect them. So, we’re like, hey, we’re opening. Regardless, we’re going to figure out how to do this.

Well, what happened is, it ended up being a way better experience than a normal tradeshow because normal tradeshow you’re like having random people walk by and you’re offering them a little trinket and not your customers, they’re not the clients, most of the time people you want to connect with. They’re actually in all the other booths. So, we didn’t invite the general public this year, we’re going to do something a little bit different, we’re going to do speed dating, basically that circuit in the mornings. So, we’ll go from eight to one and then from one to four, we’re going to do freestyle and we’ve just started the Music Tribe too. So, we have other local artists coming, there’ll be singing, it’ll be a lounge feeling. We had a lot of VIPs. It’ll be attending for the for the afternoon session and that’ll be more like, hey, just do your thing, enjoy it. Have you experience man, your booth still, but we don’t have the actual formal piece. So, we’re going to combine those two, I think beautiful things together, it should be fun.

26:48
Tony: How many booths do you expect to have?

26:50
Jared: 200. Again, that’s our anticipated number. So, we move to the Draper slopes Event Center, we can only get 200 in there, it’s hard for us to connect that many over two days. So, it’s our limit.

27:07
Tony: Awesome. Well, this is super exciting. I can’t wait to attend the event. I am very thankful again for Jared being here and opening up and sharing some thoughts about entrepreneurialism, talking about you know covid and talking about The Restart Utah. Jared, thank you so much for joining Toby and I.

27:28
Jared: Sure, it’s been my pleasure.

27:29
Toby: Awesome. Thanks, Jared.

27:30
Tony: You bet.

27:31
Jared: Thanks, guys.

27:37
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