All You Have To Do Is Start with Jake Miller
Joe Mills: What are the unique experiences that drive business leaders to keep growing, and how can the lessons learn from those stories? Enable others to do so.
I’m Joe Mills.
Reid Morris: And I’m Reid Morris,
Joe Mills: And together we’re investigating who it takes and the tools to use to build companies and culture.
Reid Morris: Then we’re sharing those stories with you.
This is 1,000 Stories, an original show from Element Three. Okay, Joe, so the next guest coming on the show, Jake Miller. Uh, a guy with really interesting background, a lot of different experiences, but could you set the stage and provide a little bit of context as to where your mind is at, in terms of where to dive into his
Joe Mills: Yeah. Well, Jake and I know each other through like a couple of quick interactions, and then I’ve just been looking at his LinkedIn as a background and whatnot, and what I’m really curious about is he went to school for English and Linguistics,
and then he spent his career in development and now he’s CEO of the Engineered Innovation Group.
and it’s his first time as a CEO of a company, but he’s had leadership roles, co-founder, things of that nature. Um, but the first one where it’s like his brainchild, his real ownership. and I’m interested in a lot of how that journey went from, okay, you’re a liberal arts major and then you’re doing software and you’re very tech engineering oriented.
I’m interested in what that transition was like and why it happened. Another thing that’s interesting too, as we’ve talked to people who found organizations, leader organizations obviously, like you said, he’s been in leadership positions, and in those roles you have impact on company, impact on culture, all those things. But it’s a shift when you are truly ceo, founder. Right. There’s a slight difference there. And how does that show up in his world? Does it show up differently to him? I think it’s kind of an interesting thing to dive into.
yeah, totally. All of that is inside of what I want to get into
Reid Morris: Should be a good combo.So Jake, welcome to those awesome stories, man.
Jake Miller: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Reid Morris: So for a little bit of context for all the listeners out there, Jake is the CEO of the Engineered Innovation Group, and you guys started about a year and a couple months ago, right?
Jake Miller: A year and two weeks ago.
Joe Mills: That’s awesome, man. Congratulations on your first 12 months. It’s something like 95% of small businesses close inside of the first 12 months, I think. Isn’t that the number?
Jake Miller: Something like that.
Joe Mills: One of the things right off the bat that I’m very curious about when I was just going back and doing a little bit of research is that you went to school for English and Linguistics.
And then you’ve been a developer. If you were somebody to say, what’s your background? And you’d probably say development at this point.
I would tell ’em I have a BA in English and Linguistics, but I’ve been a software developer for 18 years.
Jake Miller: I actually started in high school. So I learned cobalt in high school. Okay. Which is crazy. but also the VB six. So I started coding. I actually had a ccna. I was in computer networking before I went into software development. So the reason I switched to an English degree was, Was being taught some of the things I’d already learned.
And so I said, well, let me go do something that’ll help me be a little bit more well-rounded. So let’s go into liberal arts. That’s why I got the degree. and I always thought I would actually continue on and get a PhD in computational linguistics. that has not happened yet, because of the opportunities I’ve had in my career so far.
But, you know, maybe when I retire I’ll go back and do that.
Joe Mills: So was it normal for people in your high school or in your group to be like learning code at that point?
Jake Miller: No. So I was not a traditional student. I was horrible at normal academics. I cannot, to this day, take a multiple choice test. I will fail.
Joe Mills: What do you mean by cannot?
Jake Miller: multiple choice tests, I usually get a d.
Joe Mills: D, really.
Jake Miller: For whatever reason, I overthink the answers or rationalize my way away. I don’t know what it is. I just can’t do it. So that was actually another reason why I wanted to go into English. It’s a lot of writing.
Jake Miller: I was very good at writing. but in high school there was an alternative option for students, which was called Central nine Career center in Greenwood, Indiana. And I decided to go there and they had a computer technology course and it was at your own pace. And so I was able to really learn at my own pace what interested me in computer technology at the time, which was probably the best decision I made for myself, even though I didn’t really realize I was making that decision.
So that’s how I got started. taking us back to high school then, I mean, you start taking multiple choice tests, I don’t know, in middle school?
Joe Mills: choice. Yeah. Yeah. Mm-hmm. , what was the,
Jake Miller: not even before
Joe Mills: that. Yeah. I mean, I, I just can’t, I can’t remember. Well, ISTEP is multiple choice
Jake Miller: yeah.
Joe Mills: A lot of it.
Jake Miller: Horrible ISTEP scores.
Joe Mills: scores. So what was it
Jake Miller: I barely got into college.
I was gonna ask growing up, cuz the school system is really built for one type of learner
Joe Mills: largely, and we’ve actually had a couple conversations with people who are trying to reimagine the education space and making of.
Inroads in that industry. But what was that like for you, going through school and kind of being told by school, like you’re failing, but you probably didn’t feel like you didn’t have a brain that was lively and learning and what was that whole experience like?
Jake Miller: Yeah, that’s a great question.
I think that I was always perceived as a smart kid by even my peers, and I always was. Confused by that cuz I didn’t think I was okay.
Joe Mills: okay and so probably through seventh grade I was doing just fine school as an AB student, but when I started getting into high school, that’s when things really kind of started, falling apart per se,
Jake Miller: So I became a C student. for a lot of other reasons other than just having a different learning style. but that was definitely a big part of it was a different learning style, and I recognized that, which is why Central Nine looked so appealing to me And I still have a passion to this day for folks that learn differently. In fact, I’ve told my spouse on several occasions, I really think the education system is prime for disruption, which you. Kind of interesting thing to say, especially because there’s so much government involvement In the education system, and we see a lot of charter schools and private schools getting some steam now.
But I think with YouTube, Udemy, these online courses that allow people to explore on their own, they will be able to go down the path that they find most curious. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there to open up a new path or a new way to structure the learning environment, or it’s an ongoing thing.
It’s not a spring semester, fall semester, maybe some summer school. I don’t know. I don’t know what it looks like, but I think there’s a code to crack there.
Joe Mills: It’s interesting so Don Wek was on and he founded a startup foundation and he was a teacher for a long time in a high school, and built an innovation class where kids got to pick their own topic and Work on a project on it and really a different style of learning as a whole. There wasn’t like a set curriculum. Yeah. And then we also had, Dr. Kevin Buras on, and he is also working on, really reinventing the educational landscape. And I feel like the mission he is on is around, equalizing the opportunities throughout it.
He went and worked in some really difficult areas in the country. Appalachia, south Chicago, area. are marked by poverty, marked by inequality. and just saw firsthand what the discrepancy between Yeah. Maybe what you find in, well to do parts of Indianapolis versus what other people experience. it’s almost like from my perspective, I know so little about what works there, but just from looking from the outside, it’s like I understand the challenge of a school who has to function. in a really systematic way in order to progress people through it and show that, hey, we should keep getting state funding so that we can keep putting kids through it and whatnot.
But at the same time, there are so many people who don’t learn in this sort of step linear fashion. It’s just a difficult challenge, but I think to your point, that makes it ripe for disruption.
Jake Miller: Yeah, well, I’m not an expert in this field, so I’m talking out of
Joe Mills: Me too.
Jake Miller: But, I do feel like it’s one of those things where you squeeze, a handful of sand and the tighter folks squeeze, the more sand comes through.
And what I mean by that is it seems to me, and again, I’m not an expert in this, that the more and more we try to put constraints on measuring student’s performance and. In standardizing that way we measure people really cuts out a lot of the people that think differently.
Joe Mills: Oh, that’s a good, that’s a good point,
Jake Miller: Yeah.
you know, I don’t have the right answer to that, but there’s a lot of obvious arguments around standardized testing and all of that, which again, I’m not promptly qualified to comment on , but it’s just my intuition. Yeah.
Joe Mills: So, going back, so your AB student get to high school, start becoming a C student, what was the,
Noise around you at that point? Were your parents worried? Were you worried? what was the feeling in that time where you’re like, this is different and it starts to matter? Cuz now I’m starting to look at colleges and my friends are looking at colleges and you can just transport back to that moment and try to remember what that was like.
I think when I moved to the career center, that’s when the light clicked for.
Jake Miller: me. That
That was the path I needed to go. Okay. And because I became an A student.
Joe Mills: Oh, okay.
Jake Miller: Like immediately. And in fact, I graduated top of my class at that school.
Joe Mills: fantastic.
Jake Miller: So I think, proof is in the pudding that that sort of teaching style can work.
how’d you find it?So Central Nine specifically is a school that has nine schools that feed into it, And. , a couple other schools like that in the city, but it’s a program that’s offered to students that want to go do something other than traditional education.
Jake Miller: So they had things like, if you wanna be a firefighter or you want to, be a mechanic. was really a trade school where you could learn their skills and unfortunately they had. Computer technology. Where it started out with hardware, but you gotta learn all the different aspects of technology, hardware, software, networking, and then you could choose that path.
So it was part of the program, which I, you know, kudos to the people Leading that.
Joe Mills: That is amazing. Did the school publicize this? Yeah. Okay. Very cool. So when you are starting to feel like this, the current setup isn’t serving me well, and maybe I need something different.
you figured that out on your own.
it just clicked. my uncle was in technology, in computer networking, I decided, well, I’ll go try this computer thing. , it’ll get me out of the day-to-day rigor that I’m in right now and try it out.
Jake Miller: And it turned out to be great. But yeah, there’s nothing much more interesting than that I suppose,
What led you to go to college then? you probably were actually qualified to do some work right? Outta high school?
Jake Miller: Yeah. Right outta high school, I was writing software for some clients. I had a handful of customers. I was, Young and had no idea what I was doing to try and run a business. But that was my goal, is to run a consulting group. And I was able to pay some bills, did a startup, the first startup that flopped. But I thought, if I have a bachelor’s degree, it opens a lot of other doors as well. So I decided to pursue it and that’s what I did.
Joe Mills: We talk about this first startup. What was the first one?
Jake Miller: There were several. The first one was called Mein Technologies, and it wasn’t a product company. It was a consulting gig, basically writing websites, but backed by databases. So a little bit more advanced of websites product catalogs, that sort of thing.
Joe Mills: was that difficult at where you were? 17, 18 needed
Jake Miller: I was 18 years old and what I wanted to do was, and it was basically an e r P that I wanted to build. I just didn’t know what an E R P was
Joe Mills: Okay. Yeah.
Jake Miller: Uh, so that’s what I was trying to do. And, it was at the dawn of sass.
Joe Mills: Did people react? one of the things that some of the head trash I give myself is like, you’re pretty young to sell consulting. Like, did people give you any of that feedback when you were
Jake Miller: I didn’t have a big enough customer base for people to give me Yeah. I basically had three people that would throw me work, and it was good enough work that I could again, pay for my apartment and go to school.
I mean, define the three, did you just get three yeses and call it a day or like
Jake Miller: No, I tried to expand, but I didn’t have a network. I didn’t. It’s interesting. When I look back to then, if I had the network I had today, those things would be successful. or at least I believe they would because especially with the engineered innovation group, when I left my prior company, I said, I’ve got three months of cash I’m willing to burn.
I had no idea if it was gonna be successful or not. I’m gonna start calling people up and out of necessity, I’m gonna ask people, Hey, do you need these sort of consulting services or innovation services. that I’m trying to provide right now. At the beginning it was just consulting. Fractional CTO work.
Turns out a lot of people needed that. but anyway, back then I didn’t have that luxury,
Joe Mills: Yeah. But you had somewhat built muscle, I imagine, then of being willing to put yourself out there and ask the question.
Jake Miller: I’ve never been a risk averse
Joe Mills: Where do you think that came from?
I think there’s a deep psychological component.
Jake Miller: Having to do some with my family background. I came from a very modest family and I’ve always had this drive to do more. And I think that’s definitely where it came from. And then I pair that with, I am very creative, so I’m also an artist. I do oil painting. not as much as I would love to while trying to start or not trying to while starting A business. But I really think that creativity coupled with the intrinsic motivation that came from my childhood and the encouragement for my parents and the community around me is really what made me the way I am today.
Joe Mills: Yeah, it sounds like you’ve been entrepreneurial for a very long time.
Jake Miller: Oh yeah. I remember in, probably fifth grade wanting to be an entrepreneur and I had no idea what it really meant. Yeah. But I was taught that something that you could do, and I’ve always been that way. In fact, one of my favorite stories is, I decided to start a lemonade stand in the neighborhood and I didn’t wanna work it, so I leased it to the neighbor kid. And not only did I charge him the lease amount, I also took tax. So I was charging this poor kid 5% tax on everything that he made , in conjunction with the lease or the rent payment. I was having to give
Joe Mills: me the fact that you had that thought at probably seven maybe. and you’re like, yes, I’m going to give you the infrastructure. That’s what you lease and then you’re gonna pay me for the revenue that you’re able to make from my
Jake Miller: That’s exactly
Joe Mills: the government. You were the government. Pretty
Jake Miller: early mafia, maybe
Joe Mills: That’s amazing. So, I mean, when you graduated school,When was the next business that you launched?
Jake Miller: So after that, this was also in college and actually my spouse now, my husband and I were involved in the startup together and we met before. But it was called aviso, legal Simple Wear, and we were working with a lawyer. It was his original idea. I was the hands-on coder. Craig, my husband, was the designer and we worked our butts off for that.
But turns out the attorney wasn’t a product person.
The idea of how to build the product itself, the software, the design, it was awesome. It was built on top of SharePoint. It was a really freaking cool product. We built Dropbox before there was Dropbox. It’s one of those things where you’re like, well, heck, if I had realized that that thing itself could be sold, I would’ve done that.
So like the file sync between desktops and such, and this was in 2003.
but anyway, we were able to do that for a couple years. Bootstrap
Joe Mills: And this was in school still?
Jake Miller: Yep. Still in school. actually that may have been more like 2005.
but anyway, that was the next startup. It flopped terribly. Learned lots of lessons. And then I decided, maybe I should go work at a real company and learn a couple things about business. Go do another startup and so I got into Allison Transmission and Yeah.
Exact target. And then that, you know
Joe Mills: that was the enter into the indie tech market with exec Target. That’s where you made a lot of the connections that were. Really, that feels like from the outside, like the epicenter of the indie tech boom. did you know it at the time, what you were involved with?
Jake Miller: I did. When I joined I actually applied at Exec Target, and They had like 40 employees at the time when I interviewed, but I was still in school and I apparently was like a second choice. But I suspect because I was in school, they wanted someone that could be full-time in focus.
and I was applying as an engineer, and didn’t get it. So then for what Pride? Six or seven years later, I applied again. But at that point it was 1500 people, more. Yeah.
Joe Mills: And it was pre-acquisition though then, right? That was correct.
Jake Miller: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I was there about a year before that and so you knew when you got involved, you’re like, this place is, It’s something special.
Joe Mills: When you got in, did you recognize the network that was already there?
Jake Miller: Okay. I Did
Joe Mills: did you notice it while you were there or was it only after that you realized the,
Jake Miller: It was only after.
Joe Mills: Okay.
When did you start seeing that come to life where you were like, oh, look at all these people who I happen to know? Honestly, it
Jake Miller: It wasn’t until I started this company.
**Joe Mills:**Oh, really?
Jake Miller: I didn’t realize I had built a personal brand. I didn’t realize I had a network. and it was out of pure necessity that I realized that had one through outreaching to people after he left saying, Hey, this is what I’m trying to do, getting a lot of support and people introducing me to other people. It was pretty amazing. Moment of realization for me.
Joe Mills: So as you started this one, you had not started one between the product you talked about at school and engineered innovation group, right?
Jake Miller: right. Now I did co-found Meta CX with Scott and Dave Duke. But I was not the brain child , so I was not the
Joe Mills: You were on the founding team, but it wasn’t like you sat down in your house one day and you’re like, this is the thing to do.
Okay. Actually, let’s talk about that. Is that real? like, oh, the epiphany moment of I’m gonna, is it real?
Jake Miller: It is. Well, this time with EIG, I was contemplating what I want to do next, and now I knew I wanted to do something. I didn’t know what it was. And actually, I didn’t even know I wanted to leave medic
Joe Mills: I was gonna ask you that question. What triggered the thought of what I would want to do next?
Jake Miller: next? I mean, I had been in it for four years. We built some really awesome tech, really hard tech. We invented some things that, literally, invented some technology that didn’t exist which was awesome.
And I just loved doing that. And I was just thinking, you know, I want to go do more of. And then also another part to this, I think there’s a lot of entrepreneurial stories. I also just wanted to build something fine.
What was the motivation behind that? because there could be a lot of them, but I’m curious for you, what was it about building your own thing that was driving?
Jake Miller: For me personally, it has been a dream of mine to do that, and I felt like at that point I had learned enough. There’s no such thing as knowing everything, but I had learned enough that I could go do that, and I also knew there were certain ways of structuring a team that I wasn’t able to do there that I wanted to, and so I had a really good, honest conversation with, my co-founders at Mex and I said, you know, I think I want to go do this. And they were very supportive of me, which I appreciate. cuz it’s a fantastic team and it was a hard decision, but it ultimately was the right one for me personally.
Joe Mills: part of, it sounds like you got your confidence back to do it.
Jake Miller: Yeah. It’s so interesting that’s very true. I. this is a moment of vulnerability. So there’s always, at least up to that point in my career, a sense of imposter syndrome. Right. And it was interesting because I was director of engineering at Salesforce Marketing Cloud for marketing
Marketing.so it’s like, what? I don’t know. I, this is a hard
Joe Mills: Yeah, No, actually it’s great. I was just having a conversation on the show with a guy named Marcus Sheridan. He’s a marketer, business owner, a keynote speaker, author. He wrote that they ask you answer book that was like wildly popular in marketing circles. he and I were both talking, about the idea of imposter syndrome, and he’s like, I’ve never.
Jake Miller: Really?
Joe Mills: and I was like, honestly Marcus, I don’t know that I feel it all that much either. And we were like, we need to talk to some people who do. So this is a really nice moment. Cause I would really love to hear just like,
Jake Miller: well, when
Joe Mills: did you start getting it?
Jake Miller: I probably had it my whole life. Honestly. and I think part of it is upon a lot of reflection. I think it comes from knowing, I don’t know, everyth. . And so when I come up with an idea or I’ve had a thought, it’s like I don’t know if I should say that.
I don’t wanna look stupid. I don’t wanna look like, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I a real thing. I, I mean, this sort of stuff really is rooted in, long-term. Psychology,
Joe Mills: But it is super prevalent.
Jake Miller: It
Joe Mills: Marcus and I were saying that we felt weird because we don’t feel it.
Jake Miller: Well, I envy you, . I don’t feel it anymore, actually. I had a breakthrough for sure. Okay. but it took a long time to get there and I think a lot of it really is I needed to do this, and I say on my own, I don’t actually be on my own. it takes a a village to, to build a company, but I had to go do this to prove to myself that I.
That I could build a company, I could build revenue. I won’t go into numbers, but we blew our sales numbers out of the water in year one. it’s phenomenal. And
Joe Mills: especially phenomenal, just given the environment.
I mean, this is year one and then all you hear is recession
Jake Miller: Yeah, it’s
market bad things,
and I think it comes down to quality of work. I think it comes down to there is actually still a need in the market. there’s still a lot of VC money out there that people are trying to figure out how, not just how to spend it, but how can they create things. And we’ve tapped into that concept and found that market, which wasn’t on purpose.
it was accidental to stumble upon that maybe
Jake Miller: serendipitous. Yeah. why do you feel like it was serendipitous?
I don’t know. I felt like so many moments in this past year have been moments of the universe saying things, I’ve gone with the intuition and actually maybe this has played into the imposter syndrome for so long as I didn’t listen to intuition.
Joe Mills: Oh, interesting.
Jake Miller: interesting. And so I would make decisions based on.
Joe Mills: on what
Jake Miller: the logic in my brain what you feel in your gut, and I’ve consciously made the decision to go with intuition.
Joe Mills: That’s a big change.
Jake Miller: It
Joe Mills: Especially for a, an engineer background.
Jake Miller: Yeah.
Joe Mills: you were typically really logical, right?
reasoning things out.
Jake Miller: Yeah. were you consuming content? Were you learning about something that influenced you enough to trust that? Like how did you make that sort of shift?
I think it was just through lots of deep meaningful conversations with people their experiences, and making the jump from a VC back startup,
to a bootstrapped service company.
You have to be willing to make that.
I think it was out of necessity,
Mm-hmm. ,these are deep questions.
I’m super interested in it and you actually just mentioned something really interesting there too. in the software startup world, having, being well funded with venture capital
that’s like the, yep.
Joe Mills: This is the thing we’re supposed to do. And then you were like, I’m. Go to a service company and bootstrap it. Not as sexy.
Jake Miller: No, but there’s a whole lot of pride.
it is kind of funny. I’ve thought about this a lot recently, and this is not a knock at all against funding. I mean, it is the engine of innovation, but you hear a. in the newspapers, about these big funding And that’s fantastic. But you don’t hear, I don’t read the stories about the bootstrap company that, blue Sales goals outta the water. And I’m not just talking about our company, I’m talking about all the other
Joe Mills: you only hear about ’em once. They’re a unicorn.
Jake Miller: That’s right.
And I think that’s unfortunate. I think it’s very unfortunate. Cause there are a lot of stories out there of people that are bootstrapping and they’re working their tails off to not have to dip into, debt or to raise those funds. what are the things that you’ve seen from taking on funding that maybe hamstring a business in ways that aren’t expected I think that with Meta cx, we were very lucky that Scott McCorick was our ceo, bell seasoned, versus a first time founder
that didn’t have the experience. So
Joe Mills: that’s, what does that shield you from?
I just think it one, folks like Scott know how to.
Jake Miller: navigate
A board, they know how to navigate the marketing. They know how to structure a, your finances. They know how to structure a deal. they don’t know everything, but they at least have the experience to draw on.
What I imagine with, and maybe a better way to think about this, is why do I not want
to go outta funding? Yeah, yeah.
Is I want complete controller over the.
want to, I and, and I don’t mean control in a negative, a negative
Yeah. That is not how the business is ran. The leadership team, ask any team member, that’s not our style, but that’s not our style because of the core values we are able to lay out because of the way we do business.
And if I want to go explore, for example, we were toying with.
a, not a
traditional recruiting method, but a apprenticeship program because we hire a lot of people out of coding
Joe Mills: Mm-hmm.
Jake Miller: and I was toying with that. I’m not gonna say a board would say no, but I’d have to go justify Why I wanted to make that investment.
We ultimately decided not to make that investment right now, but I would be concerned, I wouldn’t be able to get to dive deep into some of those concepts and yeah, I think that’s, Valid or not , that could be completely
Joe Mills: Very
very interesting because somebody at some level is gonna have control, right.
I, and so like if you take funding money on, in a sense,
you’re opening the risk of the possibility that the company’s being ran in a direction that actually you maybe wouldn’t love.
Jake Miller: Depends on the partner. And how involved they want to be in relationships that you’re building. So it can run any different direction. Just for me, there’s also a little bit of pride in, we did it without funding.
actually, there’s a lot of
Joe Mills: pride There’s something that you mentioned earlier around like you needed to build this for you To prove it to yourself that you could do it. I I wonder
how many people do that.
Jake Miller: I’m gonna guess a lot.
I think a lot of people aren’t brave enough to say it.
Jake Miller: Oh, really? I owned a gym for a little bit, Uhhuh
Joe Mills: It was about six years, and
I opened it, I never consciously.
I was really opening it, I had verbalized why I was opening it and there was definitely truth in that, but it took a very long time and a lot of introspection. And I worked with Kevin Bailey in Dream Fuel on my own personal development and to unpack real motivation. then it came to light and I was like, oh, that was why I did that.
And it’s incongruent with having a business.
Jake Miller: Yeah. That’s interesting. motivation, what is your motivation? That’s a great question to ask for me. You know, I’ve said this to a lot of people, the money’s not my motivation.
Joe Mills: no. I mean, you can make much more
Jake Miller: Yeah,
Joe Mills: hanging out in a co.
yeah, you don’t leave your shares at Salesforce behind for no
Joe Mills: You don’t
but. I am about building something special. Building a culture, building something to be proud of that people want to be part
Joe Mills: of. mm-hmm.
Jake Miller: And we’re doing that. it blows my mind, honestly. And it’s really been six months cuz I didn’t hire our first full-time employee until, I think it was May of last
Joe Mills: Wow. And you’re at 17,
We’re with five, FTEs open. Headcount
So you’re looking for 25. so essentially six months of hiring to get 25.
yeah. the goal is to double this coming year.
Joe Mills: It’s a lot. this is your first time having to run that
What’s been the bumpies.
Jake Miller: I would say the hardest part has been managing process. because at scale, you know what works with three people doesn’t work with 20. Sure. and it’s the stuff that’s.
you don’t talk about it all the time, but getting the recruiting process down, I’m doing phone screenings still.
I’ve shortened them from half hour phone interviews or video interviews to 10 minute phone screenings, and I’ve come to realize 10 minutes to phone screen still isn’t enough time. So it’s like, man, so we’re hiring a recruiter,
Jake Miller: butdo you have a, VP of talent or an HR
Not right now. our director of operations is doing a lot of that work, but we sort of tag team it while we’re building out our project management, our PMO . So the way I look at it is we’ve got all the leaders in place, and year one was about acquire business at all cost and hire at all cost.
Then year two is about optimiz. So let’s get operational efficiency. we’ll continue to grow the team. We should continue to grow revenue. And this isn’t a lifestyle business. we’re in it for the long haul and growth. But, this coming year’s about, efficiency so that we can increase margin and throw it back into the company to continue to grow.
The people we talk with on this show are ambitious, driven individuals who feel called to create positive outcomes in all aspects of their lives. And as we all know, with that drive comes pressure and stress. And in order to show up and be your best self, it’s extremely important to have a professional at your side who can help you navigate that journey.
So that’s the reason that we’re really excited to be sponsored by Better Help Better Help is the world’s largest therapy service. They have over 25,000 therapists and it’s all online. What’s really great about that is that if you don’t connect with the first therapist that you interact with, it’s super easy to try another, and that allows you to connect with the person that’s best for you.
I think it’s awesome that in this day and age, you can just do it from the comfort of your home. I mean, element three ourselves. In a hybrid environment, and we’ve all become accustomed to this world of doing things that fit your lifestyle. So we love that Better. Help can help do that too. And for listeners of this podcast, you can get 10% off your first month on Better Help by going to Better help.com/ 1000 stories.
Again, that’s better. H e l p.com/ 1000.
Joe Mills: So as we took the turn more into the business, you mentioned you weren’t sure if people would want what the thing you were offering. You’re like, oh, there’s been a ton of demand for it. first how do you describe what you offer?
we help startups build the first version of their product, and maybe more importantly, their product and engineering function.
Joe Mills: Now you work with some larger codes though, as well, right?
like almost like startup functions inside of them. Okay.
but we are very cautious with those organizations to say, so we’re not staff Hog, so we don’t.
Jake Miller: people time. yeah.
we’re, not a conventional outsource, so you don’t give us your requirements.
Then we spit something out. we call ourselves an innovation agency, and so we actually run our own process and people commit into that
because well established, it’s well oiled machine. And so even with the big companies, it’s when they want to run a project more like a startup. , that’s when we work with
cuz part of the thing with these big companies is there’s so much of a tape. And people want to do something to avoid that. And so by creating a innovation group they’re using someone like us, but also pulling some of their team in, you are able to carve off the space that’s needed for people to think outside the box.
do they have trouble putting it back into their business? Cause eventually it has to move back into that environment of like red tape and
Jake Miller: That’s right. we are currently going through that
Joe Mills: Okay.
Jake Miller: We’ve not completed that process with one of these big companies yet cuz we’re
Joe Mills: one of them. Yeah. No, totally, totally.
now with the smaller companies or the startups, we, they’re typically pre-seed or seed round companies.
Jake Miller: and.
This is an important differentiator for us and I’m very proud of it. We do not just build the product, we help with policies and procedures that you need to run a healthy organization or software company to set them up for SOC two and ISO compliance. in their audits that they’re gonna have to have.
We help with interviewing and staffing to help them build up a team. So basically our measure of success with a startup is by the time we transition off, they have a fully functioning software company.
Joe Mills: Oh, interesting. many consultancies, ours included, have a mix of medium long project work with ongoing clients who come back for the same kinds of things over and over.
Is your model to really have almost like an intensive bootcamp of sorts bring you in, build your product, set your company up. Almost graduate out or what’s the model?
Jake Miller: That’s the model. Right now we are adding site reliability and ongoing quality assurance. So we’re building out those functions that these organizations need long term so that we’re able to stay.
and frankly have another
Joe Mills: Well, I was gonna ask you cuz you come from a background of, obviously Salesforce SaaS company, Mex SaaS company, like you come from these recurring revenue.
I feel like it’d almost be impossible for you to not see recurring revenue opportunity inside of what you’re doing.
Jake Miller: Oh, I definitely see it. Yeah. and it’s just been a deliberate approach to where do you start and where do we go next? And now that we are graduating some of these companies, I think, what are the things that I, as a CTO or even as an engineering manager at sales, didn’t like having to take care What are the things, because cuz we think about it as we want our customers to have this mental capacity to think about the top 10% of their innovation. what really matters. It differentiates them as a company. And so if what we are doing is taking that cognitive load off.
and they have the mental space to do that, right? So we’re thinking of what are those things that we can do that are playbook driven really, that we can just take off their plates. Is this how you envisioned the offer being a year ago when you just started it as yourself and for six months for, you hadn’t hired a full-time employee until then?
employee? I would say there was a rough draft. But I didn’t.
that we would one, expand so rapidly, but have it as structured as it
So the way that the leadership team and I are thinking about it is what are all the functions of a software company putting in leadership then to grow those service lines. And so we’re sort of plugging in these services as we grow and alongside our customers.
you mentioned the, like rapid expansion. where’s it breaking
I wouldn’t say it’s breaking. I would say there are stress
Jake Miller: points. Yeah.
Joe Mills: Where are you feeling? I get like sort of bend a little
Jake Miller: you’reagain, I go back to process. I’ll give you a great.
We had a customer even this morning on my, way here when I was at a stoplight, I probably shouldn’t say that.
I glanced down
gonna send you a send me a ticket. Um, and this particular customer sent us a list for qa, things that they wanted to test, and I immediately took a screenshot and sent it to the leadership. Slack channel said this can never.
cannot have customers send us notes of things that as a software company we should just be covering.
And I wasn’t sending it in like a, you know,
Joe Mills: I’m angry
Jake Miller: no. It was more just like a, hey, this is a gap we’ve gotta fill. And so we’re actually going through audit right now of our process and that’s just been hard cuz as we’re going too fast, we’ve not had anyone where we could just sit down and say end to end.
What are the things we
have to have? So that is the most challenging part right now for us, is just keeping up. Making sure we’re hitting all those points that one would expect.
It sort of sounds, there’s so much going on in the business that everybody’s getting sucked in.
Joe Mills: And the ability to work on it is just hard right now.
Jake Miller: That’s right. Yeah, exactly right.
Joe Mills: You know, this first time as CEO of the company,
So every problem becomes your problem. Yeah.
Jake Miller: Yeah. luckily our leadership team is, they’re rock stars. And I don’t have to solve every problem.
Which is wonderful.
Joe Mills: Rare inside of the first year to get that.
we are so lucky to have a team that we have. I couldn’t dream up a better team. we’ve got, Jenny Burton, who’s our director of growth. She’s just been incredible on the marketing side and the sourcing.
Jake Miller: I. , she’s amazing. I can’t say good enough things about her. And then our director of engineering, Pierro, he actually came from a coding academy. He’s a software engineer from Rose Holman, and he’s been in the industry for a very long time, but we specifically hired him because he’s a natural educator and while he does some hands on coding, that type of leadership, which is more nurturing and growth driven has just been incredible. How’d
Joe Mills: you sell people on the vision?
cuz that’s like when you’re bringing in leadership, especially at this stage, I feel like they’re buying you and the future as much as they’re buying the now.
Jake Miller: the now. I think some of it was for some of the folks we hired later on a leadership team, it was about the success we’ve had so
It was more about, I think, curiosity in the values. and probably my background that. Again, I don’t wanna sound egotistical, that’s my Midwest modesty coming out, but I think I know what I’m doing some aspects. Yeah. And I think people get behind that. And, the other one, say our director of operations as my spouse.
Joe Mills: Mm-hmm.
Jake Miller: So that made it a little
Joe Mills: Well, that harder too, though. Doesn.
Jake Miller: Not really. We work
Joe Mills: well. You guys work really
Jake Miller: Yeah. He, the thing is, I did not come from agency land, some consulting early that wasn’t a real agency. He came from a software agency. And operations is not my strong suit, like hands on operations.
I know how process should work. Having me Install. It is not my talent. I can do it. I don’t like doing it. He’s phenomenal. so it was sort of like, we’re gonna have to hire someone or he could just come on board. He decided to come on board, which is great. So it’s just
Well, I guess some of it was, but even Jenny, when she came on board, I did not met her before she reached out to me, just outta curiosity. And on that spot, I was like, will you come work here?
At the time, she’s like, I already have a job. Yeah. You
Joe Mills: like, so does everybody else
Jake Miller: Exactly, exactly. But luckily I was able to convince her and,
Joe Mills: Well, there’s something interesting in your story about just like being willing to go first is a theme that I’ve felt. you feel a pain pointer, you feel a stress signal that you need to change something. All the way back to, oh, I’m not doing as well in school as I was, and there are a litany of reasons for that.
I wonder if this just isn’t set right for me. Oh, I’ll take the jump to do something else. And then I’ll ask people to be in my consulting business at 18. I’ll launch a product in college and I’ll fail. but you kind of kept asking and then it was like, I wanna build this.
I’m just gonna go ask people for business. I’m gonna ask people who I think should work for me to work for me. Like people get very uncomfortable.
The irony here is imposter syndrome, but also just jumping. and I’ve always been the type of person that’s like, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Jake Miller: worst
know, like, I’m gonna grow
Joe Mills: Yeah,
Jake Miller: You So I think that’s the big takeaway is just make a leap and What’s the worst that could
Joe Mills: example? the one that’s in my head is like Tim Ferris’s fear setting exercise where you do the, what’s literally the worst thing that could happen and what’s the cost of that?
Did you do any of that before you jumped to, to build eig?
Jake Miller: No. . I would
Joe Mills: just like inherent trust you have that it’s gonna be okay.
Jake Miller: It goes back to the intuition. it’s either gonna work or not. And I have plenty of things I could go do. I could Go back and be an IC again.
heck, I would love to code every day. I miss it a lot. Every once in a while when there’s a problem, I’m like, I can help with that. And I get on there then I get the code reviews back and
Joe Mills: We’ll call you the next time out of
Jake Miller: Yeah, exactly. it’s a lot of fun. the other day I did some work and I was like, man, I still got it.
it was a good feeling,
Joe Mills: Sort like picking back up the paintbrush. it’s interesting cuz the, take the leap advice is some people just bristle so much at it around, I just can’t, I just can’t. How’d you get the like confidence to.
Jake Miller: I had a friend of mine who is an executive at a big SaaS. and I called her and told her what I was thinking and she listened and at the very end the thing she said was, it sounds like you just need someone to give you permission and I give you permission. That was a very powerful moment. I will never forget cuzjust needed someone else externally to say, it’s okay, you got it.
That’s why I think mentorship is so important, or being an advisor to someone. Cuz sometimes someone just needs to hear some words that they believe in you. And I think there’s a lot of people who have probably built stories in their head around what other people will think or, and normally it’s a couple of people will think it’s spouse, family, it’s best friend, whatever.
Joe Mills: And maybe it’s boss that you love working for or with and you’re like, they’re gonna think I’m bailing. and so they don’t do the thing because they’re fearful of the emotional toll of doing the thing. so Jake, thanks. This was super fun, man. I, I would love to do it again sometime.
Jake Miller: Yeah, sounds good to me. maybe we’ll come down to you. be fun. We’ll it on the road. See the space and whatnot and
Joe Mills: That’d be awesome. Super fun.
Jake Miller: great. Thanks for having me.
Joe Mills: Absolutely.
Okay, Joe, so we just finished up recording with Jake Miller. Super nice guy. it, it was really just great to, to learn more about him and we went a lot of different places, learned a bit more about that sort of unique career path curious about, but what specifically did you really take away from that conversation?
Joe Mills: Yeah. Well, we touched on it towards the end about sort of theme of being willing to ask. I, I think a lot of times I know I do this and I think because I do this, I believe other people likely do it, where you tell yourself this story about what’s going to happen if you.
that is likely completely false.
And Jake has this like real willingness to go first and be like, and just ask people for the thing that he needs instead of trying to like, well, I’m really uncomfortable to ask for this thing. He’s like, no, like I’m here to ask for this, and if you tell me no, it’s okay. I’m just, I’m gonna ask for it. Um, and that was a theme for me that came through.
And then he highlighted it at the end around the like, willingness to take the leap and get the permission.
Joe Mills: And I think those were the two big things that we see come up throughout his story. And he, as he jumped from Mex to do his own thing, and he talked about the motivation to do so, um, just like being willing to jump into that mm-hmm.
Reid Morris: mm-hmm
Joe Mills: and live into the discomfort of it.
Reid Morris: And I feel like we have, not in the same way, but we have experienced that concept of, just being willing to ask in, in different ways. even if we think back to, you know, our, our conversation with Don around not setting your own ceiling, right.
And one of the things that is a layer in that conversation is your own head trash around what will happen if you ask. Versus just having that genuine sort of acceptance of whatever will be, will be, don’t limit yourself and not ask.
Joe Mills: Right. There’s also, there’s two other things that are really coming back around to me. One,
I mean, think back to the very beginning, first season we had the intuition thing over and over again, and him talking about how he just started to trust it and for so long he would try to make decisions that were logic through.
And he talked about how trusting his intuition has allowed him to make. Way better decisions and really be, have like super high impact. It’s just a, it was interesting to see that come back around, especially from somebody with an engineering and like coding background where it is very logic oriented.
And then the other one was, I, I like the message of like, I kind of had to prove it to myself that I could do it. Like I, I do think that’s cool. and maybe it’s just because you can tell with Jake it’s not like I need to make myself the star.
Joe Mills: It’s.
It. I, I’m
I’m I’m curious, there’s a curiosity of am I able to do this? And I want to find out,
Reid Morris: and I think that’s something that both of us are resonate really strongly with, is that sort of mentality of, well, what can I do?
Right? And that shows up in work, but even, I know for both of us, it shows up in fitness and it’s just sort of an interesting mindset. But going back to even what you were talking about before that, of this idea of intuition. You know, you asked like he is a founder of an organization and did he have that moment where it was like a light bulb went off?
Because from the outside of, you know, people who experienced people who are founders of businesses, it is kind of something you’re curious And for him to say, well yes, there was this realization instant that was like, okay, I need to go build this business. It was really interesting because I feel like that is that.
Tipping point of the intuition that we’ve talked about over the course of the show. And I think also speaks to on some level, patience as well, because that didn’t happen for him at 22. Right. The business that he’s working on now and that point that he came to, that happened after a career. I feel like sometimes we get a little bit of impatience of like, well, when am I gonna have that, that light bulb moment.
I’m 27, I’m 31, whatever that is.
Joe Mills: And you think you’re so far along, oh, it’s never gonna happen.
Reid Morris: And yet wait. And that can happen you if you just listen to your intuition. loved it.
What good is learning something if you don't pass it on? You can tap into what we know right now – from trends to proven wins to personal growth – and you don't have to give us a thing.