Jeremy Ames – Guidant, Rollovers As Business Start-Ups (ROBS) & Offshore Talent
Jeremy Ames is the Co-founder and CEO of Guidant Financial, a leading provider of small business financing and administrative support services, including rollovers for business start-ups, 401(k) administration, payroll, HR, accounting, and tax. Previously, he was the Co-founder and CEO of NuWire, an online media company focused on alternative investments. Jeremy has owned three franchise businesses in real estate, personal services, and wellness and was named the National Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Administration in 2007. He is also the incoming president of the Entrepreneurs Organization, Boise Chapter.
Welcome to The Future Is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen, we feature top entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world, those who bring a global mindset and a unique perspective to their life and business. Now, let’s get started with the show.
David Nilssen 0:20
Hi, I’m David Nilssen, I’m the host of the show. The Future Is Borderless was started because I wanted a way to connect with business leaders from around the world who I think embraced a borderless mindset, a place where we could exchange ideas castlight on new innovations, and then even share best practices. We’re not just focused on business issues, but also personal issues. Those are certainly things that affect all business leaders. And I think it’s just exposing some of the opportunities in those areas ultimately will help us be better leaders as we continue to move forward in a rapidly changing world. Now this episode is brought to you by Doxa Talent. Doxa helps businesses source full-time dedicated highly skilled workers from all over the world. And as a result, these companies can scale faster increase margin and improve culture. To learn more about Doxa and how they can help you leverage borderless talent go to doxatalent.com. Alright, I’m actually really excited for today’s show. This is going to be unique one because our guest is someone that I’ve actually been in business with business partners with since 2003, so 19 years. Jeremy Ames is the co-founder and CEO of Guidant Financial, which is a small business services firm that helps approximately 30,000 entrepreneurs put $6 billion to work in small business and franchise establishments in all 50 states. What most people don’t know, though, is that in addition to business financing, they also provide a number of small business services as well. And we’ll dig into that. Now, during the last 20 years, Jeremy was also the co-founder in NuWire Investor, which is an online publisher focused in the alternative asset space. He has owned a three franchise businesses in real estate, personal services, and wellness. So really understands that industry. And also note that in 2007, Jeremy was named the National Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Administration, and he is the incoming president for the Entrepreneurs Organization, Boise Chapter, I want to Jeremy to come on and talk a little bit about his experience at Guidant. And how they’ve transformed their business over the last five years, and where they intend to go in the future. I think it’s a tremendous illustration of how businesses can continue to reassess, and even reinvent their strategy. So with all of that, Jeremy, welcome to the podcast.
Jeremy Ames 2:35
Thanks, it always good to see you.
David Nilssen 2:37
Likewise, now I want to just maybe start by giving our listeners a little bit of a better understanding what Guidant Financial is, and sort of how we serve small business owners.
Jeremy Ames 2:47
Sure, I think of our business in sort of two core components. The first one is we help people who are looking to buy or start a business do that with financing. And the most common thing that we do is help people who have saved up money in retirement funds and an IRA or a 401 K use those funds to make an investment in buying or starting a small company. But we also do SBA loans and some other things. So we can package options together to help people figure out what the best way is to fund a business start or a business purchase. The other part of what we do has really grown over the years in terms of now we have all these businesses that we’ve started, and the common patterns that we’ve seen them support that they need. So we do a host of business services, including 401k, administration, payroll, accounting, tax, HR, a lot of the core things that involve paperwork and government filings and the things that no business owner ever has said they are excited to do.
David Nilssen 3:44
Maybe, and it’s funny, because maybe you could stitch together why all those things make sense, right? That’s a lot of different services. What is it that you’re actually trying to do for the entrepreneur in the grand scheme of things?
Jeremy Ames 3:57
Well, really, it’s built on this belief that no entrepreneur ever said, I want to start a small business because I love paperwork. And I’m super good at. We got started as a business doing 401k administration because we were helping people use retirement funds to start great these businesses. And of course, you have to then take care of those 401 K plans on an annual basis. What we found is that we spent so much of our time chasing our busy customers for information, because we had to get information about employees, we had to get information about investment counts, we had to gather all this data together in order to produce this filing that goes to the IRS and the Department of Labor every year to say what’s happening with this retirement plan. And I guess we just realized at some point, like this problem is never going to get better unless we figure out how to take small business owners out of being in the middle, because they’re not good at it and they don’t like it. And it’s painful every time we had to nag them for what the next piece of information was. And so that led us down the path of where are the places that this information originates and they originate places like payroll they originate with the financials that are being put together for a business. So really what we’ve done is we’ve gone after tackling these hurdles, that we were having our own business, but really aligned around this larger vision that if we can help take some of the administrative burden off a small business owner, they can spend their time on the things that really matter for whether their business is going to be successful things like creating the next great product, or finding that next awesome employee, figuring out how they’re going to get more customers in the door to try their new service.
David Nilssen 5:33
Yeah, it’s funny, I remember when you and I invested in a health and wellness franchise, and this is 15 years after Guidant was started, and maybe a little bit less than that. But I remember when we first started in that, the sort of how I felt reconnected to our client away, because I remember like, oh, yeah, when you’re investing in a smaller business, you know, your chief cook, and bottle washer, and the amount of like, detail work that you’re responsible for is really challenging, because you don’t have the team to delegate all that to. And so, I love what you guys are doing now to sort of take the administrative burden off the clients and let them actually focus on doing things that won’t grow their business, not just saving a few bucks. It’s funny, I do think it’s worth just going back and talking about the creation of Guidant, because I think a lot of people assume that every business was intentionally created, and that there was this perfect business plan with these great assumptions. And everything worked out the way that it was. But Guidant obviously wasn’t that way. You might just sharing sort of the backstory there.
Jeremy Ames 6:32
Sure, I’ll give the Cliff’s Notes version of this. I used to own a real estate business. David, here, your podcast host used to be a real estate developer, and we met started doing some projects together. And on one of the projects we were doing, we had a group of attorneys who said, hey, you should think about using self-directed IRA funds to fund this. And we said, what are you talking about? And we got a very fast education in this whole world of investment options that were available for retirement funds that we had no idea even existed. We ended up getting about two-thirds of the funding from for that project, through our network of people and retirement funds that they wanted to invest in it. And I think we both walked away from that experience saying, there’s something here. Not enough people know about this. And oh, by the way, even if you know about it, it feels super complicated and overwhelming to figure it out. Is there a way that we can make this simpler for people because there are so many cool opportunities out there to take advantage of and when we started the business, it was really focused around helping people do that real estate based assets. And later, as we got deeper in and hired attorneys and dug into more of the stuff, we figured out there was this whole world of things that was happening also on the small business side. And that came to dominate, I think both our passion and you know, what was driving the business success.
David Nilssen 7:53
Yeah, it’s funny, somewhere, I’d have to, if I hadn’t even thought about this before the episode, I would have pulled it out. I still have the literal piece of paper that we drew our initial business plan, and it looks more like a spider web. So certainly not as intentional as most people would think, but worked out. Let’s talk about partnerships for a second, I’ve seen over the years, lots of partnerships that have imploded. But we’ve been partners for 19 years. Given our experience just curious, what advice would you give someone who’s thinking of entering into a partnership, besides, don’t do it.
Jeremy Ames 8:30
Get lucky. So much of it, I think is finding someone who is just a solid human being someone who has integrity and trustworthiness and knows how to battle it out in conflict in a way that’s fair and can maintain the relationship. And I consider our partnership, something I was lucky to fall into. It’s another place where there wasn’t a lot of intentionality. We just sort of met liked each other and started doing projects together. And one thing led to another and next thing we knew we had a pretty large business on our hands that we were trying to scale. So if I was going to give anybody any advice or perspective, it would be, look for values alignment upfront. I think of a partnership the same way I think about my marriage, find someone who wants the same things out of life, and who thinks about the world in the same way in terms of values and everything else you can kind of figure out and work your way through. And I’m grateful for our partnership. And the same way that I’m grateful for my marriage, somebody who for many years has shown the ability to give the benefit of the doubt and be supportive and work through things.
David Nilssen 9:42
Yeah, I think that’s actually really good advice. One of the things that I might add to that is just, I think one thing that has been helpful is having a board of directors to right, there’s a lot of like things that you encounter along the way that none of us have ever gone through. And I think having, just some sage wisdom to tap into on occasion as well helps navigate some of those situations that would have been sticky for others and oftentimes employed partnerships. Let’s think about, back to Guidant for just a second, the business has gone through a lot of evolutions and certainly gone through a lot of challenging situations, particularly external situations. Can you talk a little bit about some of those things that you think had been the most challenging situations and sort of how you responded as a result of them?
Jeremy Ames 10:27
Yeah, and where do I start? I think maybe the biggest one to talk about would be the situation with the IRS that happened in the sort of, 07, 08 timeframe. At that point, they came out with an exploration that they had done of these types of plans that had investments in these small companies. And we knew they had done it with a pretty small sample size, because we weren’t aware of any of our clients that had been through the process. And so we were left with so many more questions than answers in terms of what were they looking at? How representative was this? And it felt like we were sort of staring into a black hole of lack of information. And I think that really spurred us to dig in and try and understand from various parts of the government, like, how are they thinking about this? What was really going on? Could we get some feedback on the practices that we had been working from, that we’re trying to not only address the letter of the law, but also, the spirit of the law that we felt was there. We also made a decision at that point in time to say, we really have to make sure that we’re standing behind all of our customers that we’re serving. And so we made a decision, regardless of what it was gonna cost us to step in and say, hey, if any of our clients get audited, we’re just going to pay for them to have a really good representation for someone who knows this and knows this plan and knows how to talk to the IRS. So our clients don’t end up in this crazy place where they’re trying to explain something they may not even fully understand, because they’re not a CPA or a tax attorney or an accountant. And so I think of that as a really pivotal decision in the history of the company, both sort of principally based and based on what really drove success for us going forward. Because one of the benefits of making that bet on our clients was not just a real guarantee stamp on the service that we offer, it also gave us incredible insight on what really was happening, the services because we did have clients that got audited from time to time, and we did learn where the government was focused, and what kind of things they were tripping up on. And thankfully, you know, we haven’t had any issues with any clients getting in funds disqualified or anything as a result. And I think it’s really because we made that decision early on in the history of the company, not to get involved and get really informed. And obviously, now we’re talking about 10s of 1000s of small businesses later, right. So we’ve been through this many, many times and feel very clear on sort of where the IRS sits and what things we need to navigate. And frankly, that’s the reason we exist as a company, because any random person off the street is not going to be able to go out and figure this out and do it right. It can be pretty complex and feel pretty complex. And our job is to sort of make it easy for these customers to get the added benefit that they’re looking for, which is having a retirement plan that owns a portion of this company that they’re invested in and excited about building.
David Nilssen 10:30
Yeah. I appreciate you sharing that. I’m curious about the strategy, though. And I think this be helpful for people see, you know, you start a business thinking you’re going to do one thing. And that can evolve over time. So do you mind just walking us through a little bit of the evolution of Guidant, like you talked a little bit about, we started in sort of the self-directed IRA space helping with real estate transactions, then we started helping with these rollover for business startups. And then what like, where did it go from there?
Jeremy Ames 13:59
It’s interesting, one of the things that happens is, as you start to dig in with customers, you inevitably find other needs that they have, many of which are unmet. And so one of the things we found pretty early after starting the business was there were a lot of people that wanted to use retirement funds to invest in the small companies. And that wasn’t originally something that we did. But we were getting leads and questions and all these other things. And as you know, we ended up hiring a specialized attorney to come in and say, we know that there are other attorneys out there doing this kind of thing, but we need your help to figure out if we were going to do something like this, what would it look like? And could we put it together in a package that would be simple enough and inexpensive enough to be accessible for small business owners. And that quickly became the part of the business that was growing the fastest. I think part of that was because it was so specific. So specific, what we were doing if you wanted to start a business and you wanted to use retirement funds go here, whereas, real estate, any number of assets out there with that same tax liens and property user, it was a lot fuzzier to find those people. And because it had that 401k business that was associated with it, it created this recurring revenue stream that started to build within the company. And it came to dominate what we did. And as you know, we got to a point where we had to make a decision about how we were going to think about the company going forward and what our identity was going to be because our identity was literally getting split in half while we were trying to communicate with customers what we were, because we’re saying, Hey, you can do interesting things with your retirement funds. But we were seeing the needs of these two different customers, the ones who were doing self-directed investing, and the ones who were running these companies that were taking us in very different directions strategically as a company. And when we did the math of how we would grow each of those lines of business and what it would look like to do that I think the real observation we had is our heart was in the business side period. And so we at that point, made the decision to figure out how to divest the IRA part of what we were doing, so we could really double down on small business owners, and since then, has been the expansion of other financing options we offer and the expansion of all these other business services really stemmed out of saying, hey, we’re gonna build this business, not around this thing that we do, but around this specific customer that we serve. And I think we felt really passionately for a lot of years that these small businesses that are doing half a million to $2 million in revenue, these businesses that your initial investment is maybe 100,000 2 million bucks, they are incredibly underserved. And you do end up with a lot of business owners who are trying to work 12 hats, of which the probably qualified to wear one or two at the end of the day, and they’re just trying to piece together and figure out duct tape everything else together to get to a size and scale where they can start to bring in some people who know how to do some of those things better than them.
David Nilssen 16:51
Yeah, you know what I love about that shift that you’re talking about, at one point, there was really two services. And we were trying to find customers for each one of those. And by making the decision to go all in on entrepreneurship, we really had one customer and then we could build the products and services around that individual that would help them be successful long term. And I think that was a great move. And obviously, it’s paid out very, very well. Let’s talk a little bit about offshoring for a minute, Guidant has invested a lot in what I call building an offshore capability. Can you share a little bit about why you choose to go down that path? And sort of what you’ve learned along the way in doing so?
Jeremy Ames 17:33
Yeah. How much time we got?
David Nilssen 17:37
Jeremy Ames 17:38
Okay. I’ll start with the problem that came up that led us down this particular path, what we were finding because we were based out of the Seattle area when we started the company. And we were pretty centrally located in Bellevue, Washington for any of those who actually know where that is. It’s right across the waterfront, Seattle. But there are lots of people who live north of that and east of that, and west of that, and south of that. And as we were aggregating employees, I think many times we’ve done these heat maps of employees, and they were all over the place. And what we were finding is, as we were growing through the years, where those employees were located, we’re moving further and further away from where the business was located. And it was just because the cost of living in the Seattle area was going up and up and up. And the ability of people who were in administrative or customer service roles to live anywhere near there was going down. And so I think, at the point that we really got aggressive about this, our average commute for a team member that was a frontline team member working with customers was two hours round trip. I mean, maybe that sounds funny, after the Coronavirus pandemic, when a lot of us have commutes that are 30 seconds to get from the bedroom to the office. But at the time, it was a really big deal and a really big detractor for our ability to recruit and retain and even have a good work-life balance for our team members. So we knew we had to do something. And we experimented with a lot of different things. For one in the Seattle area, especially technology, talent has been really expensive for a long time. And so we do if we were going to do more of the things we had in our vision to support our customers with technology, we were going to have to figure out how to expand our technology team without hiring all of our developers in the Seattle area. And so we started looking internationally at where we might do that and what companies we might work with. Simultaneously as we were doing that exploration, we saw that there was an opportunity that we have so much stuff that is back office support. We’re taking data in from clients and somebody’s got to translate it make sure it gets into the right system, where the job satisfaction and the trade or what we were doing with team members in the US was not high and so we also started looking for maybe a company to work with a location where we can find some good back office talent to support our US Space team. And where we landed on those two things was, we started a small technology office in Vietnam, where we had some connections through EO. And we ended up partnering with a BPO company in the Philippines to start a back office team. And I would say two very different experiences. Because in the case of Vietnam, we actually had to go through the process we didn’t find a company to work with, but we knew somebody who was already running the business there. And they walked us through the process of how to set up our own entity and start recruiting team members. And for a time, we sort of co-shared office space with them to get started in off the ground. Whereas in Manila, we worked with an external company, and the experience was very, very different. We scaled that team, probably to 15 people, before we started really running into a lot of pain, it felt like what was happening was, they go try and recruit someone for the role, but they were not looking for necessarily the best person for the role, they were looking for the least expensive resource that was willing to do the work that we were asking for. And then there was not a lot of support after that. So we put those people in place, and then was on us to manage them and do all the things. Well, it turns out, it’s a completely different culture, they have different holidays, they have all sorts of different things that they have to manage and navigate and even like a different way of thinking about the world. And we didn’t really have any support on that front to do it. And so while we were excited about the work that was getting done, we were super hesitant to scale, more support out of that location, knowing that that was going to further beholden us to what we already felt like was a difficult situation. In the meantime, we also ended up expanding an office in the US to another location, which is why I’m in Boise, Idaho today, came out here to open an office because we also knew we were going to need to expand our US-based team. But we needed to do it in a place where the trade that we were making in terms of the compensation versus the cost of living for employees, it was going to be a win-win for everyone. Now, since then, Boise has become significantly more expensive, and actually not a great place to recruit people. So our further evolution of that has been getting better at how to manage a remote experience in a way where we can have a distributed team. So we actually have team members now in 14 different states in three different countries. And that has been a journey to learn how to do that and how to do that well. As you know, since then, we’ve also invested in our own entity in Manila, in order to or in the Philippines in order to start recruiting our own talent and do it in a way that we felt was consistent with creating a great culture, retaining great people and going out and finding the best talent that’s out there. I think what has opened our eyes is we’ve gotten involved in really owning and driving our own ship is that there’s a lot of really great talent all over the world that you can find. And what’s been awesome for our company is how it’s really enhanced what we can do for US-based employees. Our average US-based employee comp has gone up significantly since we’ve gone down this process, because what we’re doing is we’re up-leveling all these roles and training and expertise that our US team is working on. While we’re simultaneously building more and more support that’s being offered through these offshore teams.
David Nilssen 23:43
Yeah, so I want to put a pin in a couple things that you said that I think are really interesting one, I haven’t really spelled out the Doxa story much in this podcast. But Doxa is a Greek term for changing the belief in something Jeremy alluded to a second ago is the fact that we started to build this offshore capability and realize that it wasn’t aligned with our values that there was an opportunity to deliver more value to the people that were working with us, providing them with better equipment, better skills and training, better compensation, better benefits, things of that nature. And we started to build other capabilities like remote management and leveraging things like robotic process automation. And we felt like this is something that needed to be created or should be provided to small businesses and medium-sized businesses in order for them to be competitive long term. And so Guidant actually, and there’s been since an announcement made about this made a strategic investment in Doxa, which is of course what I am now driving and building as well. So that is an important piece that just I guess it’s worth putting a note on. The second thing, though, is a lot of people when they first hear about hiring offshore workers think well, that means that I’m going to be eliminating jobs in the US and that’s not always true and factor Guidant has more people today domestically than they did when they first started offshoring. But what Jeremy said was that as a result of leveraging talent from all over the world, it’s created additional margin to make investments in people and culture. And that has actually been a benefit, not a detractor. So I just wanted to sort of put a pin on a few of those little items there. Now, you also said something was really interesting. And I remember this when the pandemic occurred, everybody got forced out of their office space, and we had office space in Washington and Idaho, and even Vietnam at that time. And I remember we had to go full remote. And we were deciding at that moment, thankfully, unlike a lot of other businesses, our leases, mostly aligned with that time period. And so we have we’re forced to make the decision, do we want to lean into this remote strategy? Or should we go back to that? And so right now, I think about it. And there’s so many people I talked to today that are struggling with like, do I go back to an office? Do I, you know, work in a hybrid environment? Do I go full remote, Guidant decided to lean into a full remote strategy, as did Doxa? Can you talk a little bit about how that’s going? And why ultimately, that decision was made?
Jeremy Ames 26:16
Yeah. I think if you had asked me, would we go fully remote in February of 2020, I would have said you would be smoking crack or something to that extent, because there is no way I would have sign up for that. That being said, we had been moving toward a hybrid solution for a number of years. And partly because we knew that as a smaller employer in the grand scheme of things that we were competing against people who could pay a lot more than we could work the same job. And we were looking at places where we could differentiate and really add value and flexibility was one of them. Right? How can we be a little more flexible to fit within people’s lives and give a little bit more of a hybrid solution to do that within. So fortunately, because of that, when we hit the pandemic, we had a lot of the infrastructure in place to make that transition, even if temporarily, but it was an interesting case study, when we went remote, we were probably working on 15 or 20, different problems associated with how to make this hybrid thing work really well. And when we went fully remote that went down to two problems, of which the biggest one was how do you maintain your culture and this connection with people when you don’t see each other all the time, but the reality was, that problem was already existing anyway, because we have team members in Vietnam and team members of the Philippines. And we’ve had several remote workers around the country. And we had these two offices, where people were in different states. So it was already happening. And we found out pretty quickly that the team loved it. They loved not having to commute, they love being able to give their kids a kiss in the morning and RAM off the school, they love being able to have lunch with their spouse. I mean, these were things that none of us knew we were taking for granted, until this whole thing went down. And so our team was really pushing to say, hey, we don’t want to go back to the office. And you and I had many discussions about this. And I think place where we really what tipped us over the edge is I think if you ask the question, do you believe this is the direction the world is headed? That was an easy answer. Yes. This is the direction the world is headed. This is the way the wave is sort of moving. And we’ve always had a philosophy historically that if the future is headed in a particular direction, like why haven’t hot, let’s just figure out how to sell out to making that thing work. And that’s what we did. We said, hey, let’s jump off this bridge right here and just commit. Yeah, there are going to be challenges in working remote, but we’re going to figure out how to do it and how to do it really, really well. And a great example of this, we just last week had our first annual event, we used to do this every year for 17 years until the pandemic hit, where we’d have an annual event, we’d get everyone together, and we’d have a big dinner and we’d have a speaker and we’d do some other things, right to really build connection and do some learning with the team. We just last week did our first completely distributed event. And it was a real struggle for our team to get on board with that sort of idea. Like we said, we’re committed to being remote, but there was still this thought in the back of people’s heads like oh, no, but we’re going to get everyone together, right? But when you started looking at the cost and the logistics, it was going to be impossible to get 200 People all to the same place at the same time, and not have that be the only major project that we’re doing for a three to six month period of time. And there are just too many things that are important that we need to be working on building and fixing and improving for our customers. So we did it and it went really, really well. I think the best quote I heard at the end of this was from a longtime employee, he’s been with us for 15 years, he said, I was really skeptical that this was going to be a complete waste of my time. And he said I was wrong. You can build connection, you can still have some of the pieces of culture and do it in a distributed way through thoughtful about it. And my big takeaway from that was, we already know this from history, like we can do anything, we can accomplish anything around a particular obstacle or constraint, if we’re really focused on that one thing, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. And so, I’ve talked to people a lot that asked me, I could get our size being remote is still unusual, fully remote anyway. And I know a lot of people, especially in the EO network, they’re really struggling with this, they have half a foot in one and half a foot and the other in terms of in the office, and I heard one of my EO forum mates say, it feels like I’m investing double, because I’m investing and being remote and investing and being in the office. And I’m not doing either of them well.
David Nilssen 31:08
I remember the famous quote, he was like, if you want to take the island, you have to burn the boats. I feel that way about the remote versus in person. I actually think being in person is an advantage to those companies. I also think being fully remote is an advantage to a company when it comes to recruiting. My personal assumption is that most of the struggles that people have with people wanting to be in the office not wanting to be offices, because they were hired under a different expectation. If you’re out hiring now, you’re saying, Hey, we’re a full remote operation, those that want to be fully remote are going to love that. It’s those that were that signed up for an in person experience is very, very different. In a recent board meeting, one of the board members said, hybrid is the most expensive option, because of what you just said, as a company, you have sort of like this Jekyll and Hyde thing going on, you’re investing in both. You’ve got office space you’re paying for that isn’t being fully utilized, and how you deal with teams and load balancing and who’s in and who’s out, like, all that stuff becomes super complicated. But you still are tethered to a specific geography, whereas someone like Guidant can really recruit just about anywhere in the US they want to.
Jeremy Ames 32:17
Yeah, my wife used to have a hybrid vehicle. And I will tell you, hybrid vehicles are the most expensive as well, because you’ve got to maintain everything to run an electrical system, and then everything to run the gas system. As opposed to choosing one and really doing that well.
David Nilssen 32:32
Yeah, time to burn the boat. But let’s close the loop on the offshoring thing. And then I’d like to just move on to a couple other things. So if somebody was coming to you today saying, hey, I’m thinking about the offshoring thing, I’m a little bit of concern, what its going to do culturally, or from a jobs perspective, maybe there’s concerns around who knows what, what advice would you give them in terms of how to get started and how to think about it philosophically?
Jeremy Ames 33:01
I try not to give advice, when I can avoid it, because every business is so different. So I think what I would do is I would share our experience in going down this path. And when I think about our experience going down this path, one of our principles was that we were not going to eliminate any jobs in the US as part of looking at offshoring we were going to look at it as a supplemental and growth opportunity for the business and for the team members on our team. And we communicated that team. And we’ve stayed true to that for years and years and years, as we’ve had teams outside of the US. I think that was really important for our team to understand that because they didn’t quite get the vision at first of how it was going to help them have more advancement opportunities, even though we would tell them, hey, if you’re not doing this data entry every day, then I can train you how to do this thing over here that requires some independent judgment. And that you need to be able to work with customers and translate what they’re really telling you like that’s a high value added thing. That not only puts you in a place where you’re getting stretched to learn more, but where you can grow in advance, and we can afford to pay more because you’re adding more value to the business. For us, the logical place to start was where are those places? Where are the simple places where we have people doing things that if we did the math on the cost per hour for the work that they’re doing, we would say why on earth are you spending any time on that thing? That is an easy, easy place to start. We’ve gotten so far with that. Now in our company, every department has somebody who is essentially an administrative assistant who is supporting them. And it’s because we don’t want our executives who make six figures doing data entry and pulling reports and putting things in a PowerPoint deck if they don’t have to. There’s somebody else who can help support with that, and they could stay focused on what they need to do to build and develop the team and create the strategy and push that forward, then everybody wins. So that’s a good place to start. And then the other thing is just from our experience, it’s super important to choose the right company or partner, when you’re thinking about going offshore. I felt like the first four years that we did this were slightly a waste. Meaning I think if we did the math on it, we would say that the amount of time and effort and energy it took us to manage and deal with the situations was offsetting anything that we were saving on it. So I think if you’re not careful, you can get into that place really quickly. When you’re talking about an offshore resource, especially through another company, you’re talking about two cultures, right? You’re talking about the culture of your business, that you’re sort of embedding them and getting them to participate in. And then the culture of that company, that sort of overseeing them. In many ways. It’s not that different from staffing companies in the US, that might have an employee that’s embedded at a Microsoft or an Amazon or something like that. They’re really operating within two cultures. And you got to find someone who can do that well and who can do that in a way that you feel like is aligned with your business culture as well, because the last thing you want are people who are helping you make filtering decisions to be completely off how you think about values-based approach to your business.
David Nilssen 36:28
Yeah, I love that. Hey, I recently had a guest on the podcast, who talked about the sort of personal transformation, they’ve made a CEO. In this particular definitely talked about how for, you know, 15 years, they were both chief cook, and bottle washer, and they sort of became the bottleneck for their business to be able to grow, and the transformation they made, inevitably help to grow the business. Just curious, how have you I mean, if you were to think back on your 25-year-old self, what advice would you give that person from what you’ve learned and how you’ve evolved over that period of time?
Jeremy Ames 37:05
Yeah, so many things. To start with a couple that come to mind. I think it was Warren Ross down who says this, but not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers, I 100% believe that. I think if you want to evolve as a leader, you have to be investing in yourself. You can do that through books, you can do that through conferences, you can do that through peer-to-peer networks, there are lots of ways to do it. But that’s the biggest way to pay dividends, is invest in things that are constantly challenging you to look at how you’re operating, and how you could operate differently and finding those networks of people who will really push you on the stories, you’re telling yourself about what you think is happening. So that’s key. In terms of how I’ve evolved, I feel like the evolution that I’m in now is when I was in the early stages, you have to wear like 12 hats and do 12 different things. And it made a lot of sense. And then you start to build and scale a team. And pretty soon, you’re delegating a lot of things. But there’s still a lot of stuff that’s not getting done. And so what I found is that I would just grab those things and say, well, I’m going to do that push it forward. Well, turns out, the bigger the business gets, the more disruptive it is, or the founder or CEO to be driving projects, because everybody treats your project like it is the number one priority in the company. Regardless of what you set out in your strategic plan. Everyone treats any feedback you give, as if it’s not just hey, I’m just tossing out some ideas for you to filter through and think about as you produce this product or taking this as he’s telling me, I need to do this, I need to change these two words in my document. And so I think the thing that I have been trying to focus on the last couple years is one, less feedback is helpful at this stage for me, meaning, if you give me a document and asked me to review it, I probably will have 25 things that I could go in and dive in and change. And I used to rewrite people stuff. I know you know what that’s like as well. I don’t rewrite anything now. I just put questions as comments in the thing where I share a perspective or a principle in the side. Because I have to be careful about not taking away someone’s ability to use their own brain and filter through because at this point, my number one job is people development. Like it’s not even decision-making at this point, because the reality is the process and the leaders in the organization are the ones who are making the vast majority of decisions that are happening in the company. My job is to facilitate good decision making and to do that I have to build people up who know how to think and process through the lens of what we stand for as Guidant and that’s harder. And I find that the biggest thing that I struggle with is I see our team members, especially our key leaders, and I can see from time to time different of these leaders are in total overwhelmed, because they have a lot of things they’re trying to navigate. And there’s this part inside of me that just screams out to grab something from this, they all just take this from you, I’ll do it, this will be great. And I know what happens, the second I take it, it’s now my project, it’s no longer helping, I’ve stolen any benefits that come out of that I’ve now stolen the credit for, and any bad things that come out of it, I’ve now given them something that they have to clean up and manage later on, which just creates more. So instead, I have to take that emotion that I’m feeling and turn that into questions. What can I help you say no to? What’s taking your time right now that you don’t think might be worthwhile, or what are meetings we have on the calendar that just aren’t delivering value? And have to help people think about how we can take things away. Everybody always jokes about the government and how it’s excessive and I get it. But every single one of us do this as a small business as well, it is 100 times easier to add something than it is to subtract something. It’s easier to say, oh, we add this thing, we’re gonna get this new benefit. But the reality is, over the last two years, we’ve added these 10 other things. And guess what five of them aren’t really delivering value. We never went back and evaluated which ones weren’t. So we could get rid of the wasteful things and reallocate that towards something that we think might make a bigger difference. So I think that’s the big challenge that I’m trying to go through now is making it less about me and bringing more clarity not to how anything needs to get done. But what the needle is that we need to move and what success looks like. Because I think if I can define that clearly and give ownership to someone of that, and be a little more hands-off about how the good things usually happen. And when bad things happen. It’s usually because there’s a boundary that I didn’t communicate or understand that needs to make its way into our principles or decision-making process or something else. And so I can even be grateful for the things that go sideways, because it’s usually just as a gap that I’ve created by what I haven’t said as expectations.
David Nilssen 42:16
I think there’s a lot of gold in there. I’ll just summarize what I heard, which is be less prescriptive and ask more questions, help people say no, and push more authority and autonomy into the organization. And your job is to facilitate better decision-making across the organization. I love it. I think we’ll end there. I think that’s a great place to stop. We’ve been talking to Jeremy Ames if Guidant Financial, Jeremy, where can people learn more about the work that you’re doing?
Jeremy Ames 42:47
Well, you can go to guidantfinancial.com. And there you can find out all sorts of things about what our customers are doing and what we’re doing and we can help anyone who wants to get started in a small business great. We can help anyone who’s operating a small business who’d be like they’re drowning in paperwork that they have to process with the government. Fantastic. We’d love to help.
David Nilssen 43:07
Awesome again, that was guidantfinancial.com. We’ll put that in the show notes. Jeremy, thanks for being on the podcast.
Jeremy Ames 43:12
Thank you for listening to The Future Is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen. Be sure to click subscribe to future episodes so you can hear from more top entrepreneurs and thought leaders and we’ll see you again next time.