Flip The Switch Episode 47: Ryan Berman
PAT: today on Flip the Switch. We talk with our first ever recurring guest, Mr. Ryan Berman. We touch base about the venture he was just beginning the first time we interviewed him called Sock Problems. And discuss how he has scaled that and what his learnings are so far.
We also talk about his new book, “Return on Courage” which is available for Amazon pre-order now. He is also the founder of several other ventures, all falling under the Courage Brands umbrella. One of which involves one of our favorite companies–you guessed it–Amazon.
Let’s get into it.
01:02 PAT: Are we live on the air?
All right, cool, you guys. So with us today–first ever repeat interview that we have had. Mr. Ryan Berman. Ryan it’s great to have you back.
01:14 RYAN: I must be filling in for somebody. Is that what happened? Who am I filling in for?
01:20 PAT: You’re our first choice. You were our absolute first choice. So the last time that we talked to you, you were launching a couple new endeavors. You talked with us a lot about courage. The idea of establishing the courage identity within your business. Using that as a core driver for success.
I think it’d be really helpful for our listeners to understand what that is. A refresher on that. And what you’ve been up to lately.
01:40 RYAN: Sure. So I believe the last time I was here was 9 months ago.
01:44 PAT: That’s right. Yeah. It was 9 months ago.
01:48 RYAN: The birth of the baby is finally here. 9 months in.
So it’s been a funny journey for me. I–for those of you who are local–I ran a company in town called I.D.E.A. Go ahead and call us “Idea.” We used to say it’s in our name what we do best.
And honestly in 2015 I started writing a book to deviously position that company. And I listened to people way smarter than me, and I talked to like the founder of Domino’s Pizza, and the founder of Method soap and the president of Royal Caribbean and the old VP of marketing Apple. Kind of the big joke is sort of on me. Gave me the courage to fire myself.
And it’s like, “Okay, wait a minute. Well, okay, if I’m going to write a book about courage, you kind of have to live it.” And so I think when we were meeting I was just leaving IDEA. I was leaving–launching Courage brands myself and Courage brands–if you step back and you’re a brand or you’re a marketer, you probably live on a spectrum from a ‘coward” brand, which nobody wants to admit, of course, that they’re a coward brand. And if you’re a coward brand you’re probably sort of on the obsolete side.
All the way up to obsessed about courage brand. Never thought in a million years I’d be a guy with a method. I’m being nice with the guys. Usually I’m swearing there.
But I came out the other side with an actual methodology to teach people how to be a courage brand. And how to actually operationalize courage.
The best way I knew how to test the method was to launch my own courage brands. So the last time I was here, we were just launching Sock Problems.
03:25 PAT: That’s right.
03:27 RYAN: And Sock Problems–I’m saying it like that because Sock is a verb. We’re actually trying to sock problems in the world. With socks. And how cool would that be if we socked a problem?
One of the big “a-ha” moments I’ve had since I was last here was “Oh wow. I’m actually not an expert in socking problems.” but I partnered with people who are. So our sock breast cancer sock goes back to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Or a sock which supports LGBTQ goes back to the Trevor Project. And so on, and so on, and so on. And so what’s very cool is that every time you buy a sock from sock problems, 25% of every purchase goes back to these partners so they can do what they do.
04:03 PAT: Yeah, and I think when we talked about it last too, we tied it back a little bit to the Tom’s model, almost. And it’s almost like cause-based marketing and business. But you’re tying that back more towards courage.
If you could kind of do me a favor and define what that looks like in a company. Because when you hear like, “you’re either a coward brand, or a courage brand.” That definitely sound good to me, but I would like to put a little bit of what does that really mean for me if I’m a business owner, you know?
04:30 RYAN: So telling right now, because I guess for the spirit of… we have a little bit of time here. So imagine my first 60 days studying this concept of courage. And at the time and that idea, I’ve got partners. So every dollar I spend seeing if there’s a something here is a dollar away from one of our clients. I’m interviewing all of these different people, and I’m talking to CEOs, and I’m like, “Tell me about how courageous do you think they are?”
And many be like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. We don’t need to be courageous. We have a plan. We need to be strategic about our plan.”
And they almost replaced the word “courage” with “Impulsive.”
05:06 PAT: Right. And so they didn’t love the word.
And then you look at how most people are compensated in the workplace. If you’re like most, you’re compensated on an annual basis.
05:13 PAT: Yeah. Salary.
05:15 RYAN: Yeah. You’re not rewarded to be courageous. It’s actually the opposite…
05:21 PAT: You’re rewarded to show up every day and do what your job says you’re supposed to do.
05:23 RYAN: Do just enough.
05:24 PAT: Exactly.
05:25 RYAN: Do just enough. Don’t stick your neck out. And if you do, you get a chance to stay in sunny San Diego or wherever. And you don’t have to report back to the real boss–for me it’d be my wife–“Oh, you said something stupid. I was trying to be courageous and now I got us fired and I gotta find a new job.”
So now employees aren’t really rewarded to be courageous. And then interviewing some of the most courageous people on the planet–Jeff Boss, he’s a Navy SEAL, he said to me “I don’t think anything I’ve done is courageous. I see at as the by-product of the purpose I’m pursuing.”
05:55 PAT: That’s poetic.
05:57 RYAN: Pretty heavy. And it’s like, “Okay, he doesn’t think he’s courageous.” So literally I report back to my partners, “I think I just wasted 30 to 50,000 dollars’ worth of time, because nobody likes this word.”
But as I kept going, I realized, “Wow, 52% of the Fortune 500 since 2000 are extinct. We’re going to have 9000 brands rattling on and off the Fortune 500 in the next 6 decades. And so what’s the thing? What is the thing?
06:22 PAT: What is the common denominator there?
06:24 RYAN: And it’s preservation mode. It’s getting stuck in preservation mode. And so now what I’m trying to do is to teach people that courage is not this aimless, reckless thing. That you can train to be courageous.
And courage always starts with knowledge. This was something we did cover, I believe, in the last show. But just to bring it back up.
My definition of courage is very simple. It’s knowledge plus faith plus action. And it has to be all three. So knowledge and faith without action is paralysis. You know what you need to do but for some reason, you just can’t do it.
06:53 PAT: Can’t get over that mental hurdle to do it.
06:55 RYAN: Faith and action without knowledge is reckless.
06:58 PAT: And that’s where a lot of that connotation of the word comes from. Cause people are construing as being just like almost impulsive, like you were saying. And those are the two components that go into that.
07:06 RYAN: And I get it. Even my mom with like, “Oh, that’s courageous.” She means that’s stupid. You shouldn’t do that.
07:13 PAT: (laughing) As nice as a mom can say it.
07:16 RYAN: So to me it’s like, “Okay, this is a big problem.”
And then the faith piece is interesting because knowledge and action without faith, if you don’t feel that thing on the inside, you’re probably working on status quo. So if you’re sort of numb on the inside, you don’t feel the tingles, you’re probably just contributing to the noise–the pollution that’s already out there. And there’s a ton of it.
So it’s gotta be all three. And if I’m a brand, I’m thinking, “Okay, how much knowledge do I have?” You’re never going to have every bit of knowledge you need to make a call, especially if it’s a courageous call. Which is where faith kicks in.
And we’re talking about faith. We’re not talking about religion. We’re talking about intuition and inner belief.
And, you know, as Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” We have to take action. Let’s take action on these ideas. And let’s just call it an experiment. And test, and test, and test. We’re going to fail, but we’ll learn and we’ll keep moving forward.
08:04 PAT: It’s a little bit like the MVP model that you hear about in the lean startup. Where it’s like where the market will tell you best whether or not something’s going to work. But what you need to do is get something out there. Get an idea out there.
And a few of the ideas that you’ve gotten out there and started to iterate on, like Sock Problems, have really come from that notion of courage.
So again, we were talking about Sock Problems earlier, it was just starting as a company 9 months ago. Let’s talk a little bit about that. So it’s been 9 months. What have been some of the biggest successes that you’ve seen in growing that business?
Because we see it all over the place now. Our CEO when he was talking to Ryan before we aired, actually, was wearing a pair of his socks. He didn’t even know that he was coming in today.
08:48 RYAN: Victory!
08:49 PAT: Yeah. And that’s what we needed.
But it’s definitely starting to get that reach, and starting to reach that critical mass. Let’s talk through some of those successes and the wins that we’ve seen.
08:58 RYAN: Yeah, I think it’s important to admit that we’ve got wins, and we’ve got losses. And there’s… if you could go back 9 months, what would I do differently?
There’s certainly places where we could have been better. So I’m actually going to start with the losses.
I think we launched with way too many SKUs out of the gate. We had hunches of what problems would probably moved. And I’m sort of surprised to learn–our Autism sock which is puzzle pieces doesn’t move. Just doesn’t move the way we thought it would move.
And if you asked me of all socks which one would probably move the most, it would have been our autism sock.
09:32 PAT: Really? So you had kind of a hunch about that. And it didn’t end up panning out.
09:36 RYAN: Well, again, I think people love the sock. But remember people are even going to purchase a pair for one of a few reasons. First of all, they’re madly passionate about the cause. So someone in their family does have autism, and as they dig and they realize that, “Oh, this company is pretty cool.” And the design clearly states the sock’s for autism. Why wouldn’t they jump on board and buy that particular pair.
What I’ve learned a little bit is, in autism, when it comes to the actual causes… there’s almost like this autism mafia that exists. Really. You either love Autism Speaks, or you don’t.
10:12 PAT: Yeah. I’ve heard some very polarizing opinions about that actually.
10:15 RYAN: Again, Autism Speaks is not our partner on the sock. Our partner is a company called SARRC out of Arizona, and by the way the way they go about utilizing the dollars is amazing. They have these classes where it’s 4 to 1 of students. 4 kids without autism, and 1 kid with autism at the age of 5. And they’re going to school.
So there’s empathy that’s actually being built. For the kids.
10:36 PAT: Right. From the ground up.
10:37 RYAN: And so kids with autism are just integrated or initiated right away with other kids. And other kids are integrated with kids with autism. So there’s empathy. I call it the “Empathy Project.”
So our money’s going back to them to support them. But on a higher level, it’s a very tricky space. And some people love… where’s the money going?” or SARRC. They haven’t heard of them, because they’re a southwest company. They’re not a main partner.
So that’s one place where I think it’s like, “Oh wow. What could we have done differently out of the gate? Is this the right problem that we should be attempting to sock?
And then I think the other thing is that many parents with kids of autism are like, “We don’t want to sock autism. Autism is a gift. We love our child.”
So you can see where sometimes… if you really think through what the highest level of what the company’s about, you understand what we’re attempting to do. But it’s just being super-thoughtful in every way, in terms of how we get our message out there.
11:35 PAT: Right, because and correct me where I’m wrong too, but these causes that you’re using basically as a means to appeal to people and really strike that personal chord can do so in one of two ways. They can either feel strongly one way or the other about it.
And I think that’s also the benefit of the brand at the same time. It is the kind of double-edged sword of cause based businesses. And correct me if I’m wrong there, but that’s just definitely something that I’m kind of learning just in talking with you about that.
12:01 RYAN: I mean, at the end of the day, it always comes down to intent. What is the intention of our company? How amazing could it be if we did Sock Problems in the world?
12:12 PAT: Yeah, what’s the mission of the company?
12:14 RYAN: Yeah, and so what I ask anyone who’s listening is the intent of our company is to write as many checks back as possible to these partners who are experts and doing what they do. I’m a guy that comes out of marketing. So I understand just enough on how to actually create enough swell where you might consider, “Hey, this is actually a pretty cool product, and I like what they’re doing.”
So I think one of the big negatives out of the gate was just too many SKUs, we’re three owners and one full-time employee trying to figure out a way to be relevant. And there’s only… if you guys have figured out cloning then let me know about it.
12:46 JOE: How many did you guys start with?
12:49 RYAN: 9
12:50 JOE: 9? How many would you have started with knowing now?
12:53 RYAN: 5.
12:54 JOE: 5?
12:55 PAT: Really. Do you think that would have been enough to get you the critical mass? Like, that feedback from the market?
12:59 RYAN: Who knows?
13:00 PAT: Yeah.
13:02 RYAN: I mean I honestly don’t have that answer. I just know that we couldn’t do everything, be everywhere. And so it’s like 3% here, 5% here, 9% here and I think… the good news of having all the SKUs is what a surprise, a guy that understands branding. Our brand looks really strong. I think our message is strong, but the question is now how do we now get the word out of who we are.
Which leads us to some of the positives.
13:26 PAT: Yeah, let’s talk about some of those scaling wins that we’ve seen in the last 9 months too.
13:30 RYAN: There’s a few places where it’s very clear we are moving product and we’re doing what we need to do. The first one is at events. So the minute we’re at an event, here’s how the conversation almost always goes… probably not surprising for a company that’s 9 months old.
Someone comes over to the table, they’re just like… it’s like their lost in a casino. There’s like all these choices, and they don’t know where to start. And I’m like, “Have you heard of us before?”
And almost every time it’s “No.” No one’s heard of us. And I’m like, “We’re called Sock Problems. The whole idea is to sock problems in the world with socks. And each sock takes on a different pressing need in the world.”
“Oh my God. That’s so cool. What’s this…?” And then we go through all the “This is sock breast cancer. And this is sock autism. And this is sock illiteracy.”
And we go through all of them. And we tell them where the money’s going, and how the proceeds go back. Then depending on how personal it is to them… if someone in their family’s coping with breast cancer, or autism, or cancer then the response… it’s sort of reflected in that response.
So we were at Pride here in San Diego with the booth. And the big question we had going in was, “Well, should we just bring our Sock Hate Sock, which goes back to LGBTQ and our Sock Inequality Sock, which goes back to P-flag. I’m actually wearing those right now.
And we’re like, “You know, let’s bring everything. Let’s use this as an opportunity to see how people respond to it.”
And there was no data proving “Oh, we moved 50% of Sock Hate and then 50% of everything else.” It was split all across the board.
100% no one knew us. No one had heard of us yet. And then once they knew us, they’re like, “Oh my Gosh. This is amazing. I’ll take this one, and that one, and this one.”
So to me I think events it’s a very good place for us because you can see the product, and you can feel the product. And we have a great, great product. And I give a ton of credit to my business partner, who’s like the expert operator. And we went across the world to find a place that made a great sock. Cause people still want a really good product here. And I think the fact that Grayson likes it says a lot, cause it sounds like he’s a sock snob.
15:38 PAT: Yeah, he’s a little bit of a merchandise guy for sure.
15:41 RYAN: So we’ve seen a ton of success on the events side.
Another place where we’re seeing success is holiday season. Just Holiday season, I call it our “socking stuffer.” Just preparing for December and being really mindful of that. It’s two-fold there, so you know, not everything can be the $100 gift so we’re kind of in the sweet-spot on the 16 to 20 dollar gift.
And it’s a teaching opportunity. And I think parents are seeing that. And they love the fact that this is going back to a good cause. And there’s a story within the sock. And one of the hashtags we’ve been using is “our socks do more.” Which goes back to the Tom’s story.
I think a lot of people think we’re on the Tom’s model.
We’re actually not on the Tom’s model. The Tom’s model is give one, get one. And it’s worked wonders for them.
If you’re paying attention, Tom’s isn’t charging themselves the same price their charging you. Costs them a few bucks to make their stuff, and same with Babas frankly. So for the donating a pair, it’s maybe a tenth, fifteenth of the cost.
We’re actually giving targeted cash back to the partners. So you actually know where your money goes every time. And you get to decide where that money goes.
16:49 PAT: Awesome.
16:51 RYAN: So that’s the second place where I think we’ve seen a ton of success is Holiday Season.
16:55 PAT: That’s great. And it definitely sounds… to your point about the events, and just getting that data. I think it’s the most invaluable data that you can possibly get. Because on the business side of it, you’re seeing first-hand the intangibles that online data wouldn’t be able to show you. You’re seeing what people think, how their face looks when they’re reacting to interacting with the products. You can make iterations based off of that.
And I think that’s super-smart. And the business model itself, really trying back to that whole courage concept I think is a really interesting angle to take, and is definitely the core of your mission. And that’s something that you’re trying to disperse among business leaders all over the country.
Another thing that you’re going to be doing–and this is actually a little bit of a shameless plug–he has a book that is available for pre-order on Amazon now called “Return on Courage.”
Let’s talk a little bit about that concept again. And just kind of talk about what that book is, and what people would get out of it. Because it definitely sounds like you’re positioning yourself as that thought leader after a lot of laborious research and years and years of talking to people that you say are smarter than you are. Or have more expertise in it.
17:56 RYAN: Yeah, again. So the books called “Return on Courage.” RoC. Which is how I think you can maximize your ROI. And I think any willing business or brand can return on the courage platform. You just have to learn how to do it.
So if I was ever sitting with a client and I think your company and my company are the same. We’re service businesses. And so what I wanted to do was launch an actual product and test the methodology that was in the book. And see, can I actually make my own courage brand. Which is what Sock Problems is, and then I think we talked a little bit about this… what Robin Hood brands is as well. We could probably talk about it a little bit.
Both of these brands are built off of the methodology that’s in the book. Again, I never thought I’d be the guy with a methodology, but the way the book is now written, the front half of the book is how we got here with this amazing word. And I equate it to Emotional Intelligence.
At first, Emotional Intelligence was out there. And nobody really took it seriously. And then Harvard starts writing about it. And then everyone’s like, “Oh, of course. Emotional intelligence is the difference between good leaders and great leaders. Which is what we need.”
And I think if there was a word stock market, I’m buying low on Courage and I’m trying to repair the word. Now more than ever, it’s clear that we need it.
So the back half of the book is the actual courage training. The mid-point of the book is a 3 page chapter called “Break Glass before Emergency.” and the problem is you need to know how to be courageous when you actually need it.
19:23 PAT: Yeah. When you’re in the midst of a crisis situation, or something that is challenging the fundamental essence of what you’re trying to achieve.
19:28 RYAN: What I never thought in a million years was that I would be interviewing Cambridge PhDs and immunologists. And the CEO of a company called NeuroGym, name’s John Asseraf who actually lives here in town.
19:42 PAT: John Asseraf? I’ve listened to him on a couple of podcasts. Really interesting guy. Really smart.
19:47 RYAN: And so the one thing I was most fearful of as a television/radio major was like trying to understand how we’re wired. And that was the “a-ha” moment for me. When was the last time you thought about your central nervous system?
19:59 PAT: I barely ever think about it.
20:01 RYAN: Just yesterday, I was having a cup of coffee. Everyone on my social system…
20:06 PAT: I was having my morning read. I was reading the physician’s desk guide.
20:08 RYAN: And so when you break down these three words–“Central” “Nervous” “System” at the core of you is an operating system that’s designed for your nervous tic. And every decision you make is being run through this filter, and it is designed to keep you safe.
So I was like, “Wow, how do we break that?”
20:26 PAT: Yeah. It goes back to hedging risk as opposed to taking that not necessarily “Leap” of faith, but that calculated move towards courage.
20:34 RYAN: And knowing that we’re designed not to do that. So the experts say that 95% of us are freeze or flight. 5% of us are fight. So let’s say you’re in a room with 100 people. And you now know that 95 of them are stuck in preservation mode. And you’re part of the 5 that are not stuck. You have an opportunity for liberation mode. That is a massive competitive advantage for you. So if I know that 95% of companies are in preservation mode, and we’re all playing off the same playbook, and we’re part of the 5% that are in liberation mode, then that’s a huge advantage for your company.
And so all I’m trying to do is teach companies how to be courageous. And it comes at a price. And I know we covered this last time, but PRICE is my acronym. The PRICE of actually building what I call your central courage system, to combat the realities of your central nervous system.
I won’t give anymore away here, cause it’s like, “Hey, pre-order the book.”
21:28 PAT: Pre-order the book to learn more.
21:29 RYAN: But yeah, you said shameless promotion…
21:31 PAT: Let’s make it shameless.
21:33 RYAN: I just think if you can help people get unstuck, how cool would that be? I’m definitely not hating off of where I came from, but I look at advertising, which gave me the last 20 years of my life, as a little bit of a necessary evil. And between Sock Problems and what I want to do with courageous. And the book, “Return on Courage.” And I’m also launching courageous university in January which’ll be an online platform for leadership teams. That’s my necessary good.
How cool would it be if we actually helped people, give them the tools they need to be successful?
22:03 PAT: That’s a lot to really think on, and a lot of endeavors to be doing all at the same time. How’s the energy level been through all this?
22:12 RYAN: I mean, I think if you’re going to write a book about courage, you kind of have to live it. So I recognize the data point. That I’m in build-mode right now on basically 3 startups. Which I do not recommend.
But my wife’s been pretty cool… we have clarity on what my mission is in terms of like how great would it be if I can do this for a living. And help a lot of people.
So it makes it worthwhile. But yeah, it’s a lot. And it’s just how do I manage my time appropriately and try to make Sock Problems as good as it can be as I’m building toward Courage University. And getting the book out there. And I’m doing a ton of speaking now, so next month I’m talking to the team at Snapchat, which I’m excited about. And Houston next month too. And then I’m here at the Golf Inc. Summit–by far the youngest speaker by like 30 years I think. I’m probably going to get a little backlash for that comment right there.
But I’m excited about just the mission.
23:08 PAT: Yeah. And I think there’s… I feel like in this day and age too, mental health and people’s responsiveness to their own mentality about things is more prevalent than it’s ever been history. I think there’s a couple things that go into that.
One of which being that we have information at our fingertips… we live in the WebMD age where we can say, “Oh, I have these 4 things that cause my anxiety.”
But at the same time, I think there’s a little bit of that introspection that needs to happen and people need to take a look at the core reasons why they are wired the way that they are. And find means to be able to address those.
Because, to your point, if you’re in a leadership position. If you’re running a Fortune 500 company, you owe it to the people that you’re leading to have that fundamental understanding of who you are as a person and how you work. And I think that this just gives people the means to do that, which is great.
23:59 RYAN: I think one of the hardest decisions that I had to make early was who is this book for? Because the methodology, in my opinion, is evergreen. So I think the method works for just about anyone. The number one core value at Courageous is sacrifice. So I kind of have to take my own… let’s follow the values of our own company.
And so the sacrifice that I made is, “You know what? This is for leaders and future leaders of companies. And it’s for anyone who wants to make a meaningful impact inside their company.”
I think having a conversation about “Hey, we need to be more courageous,” is an absurd conversation to just approach your CEO with.
24:42 PAT: Yeah, it sounds a little esoteric. It’s kind of hard to define. Like, “Oh, I’m gonna have a talk with my CEO about being more courageous.”
24:49 RYAN: Even your… there’s all these little universes inside the big universe. So even on your team level, it’s hard to be like, “Hey, we need to be more courageous.”
So what I love most about the book is it’s a very easy way to start this conversation. I recognize that my part in all of this… this process, is to be the beginning of a difficult conversation.
And if you’re talking about courage, what you’re really talking about is change. And like doing the things that are necessary where you can get to a place where you can change the company. Whether it’s the culture of the company. Innovating in the company. Or marketing itself.
25:24 PAT: What do you think called you to that mission?
25:28 RYAN: You know what? I think without clarity early I was just living it and didn’t realize it. And then when you actually step back… cause this is sort of not surprising. When you sit with Eric Ryan who started Method, the first couple times you’re terrified. You’re like, “I don’t want to sound stupid. Am I asking the right questions?”
I’m sure you guys, from your first few podcasts to where you are now. Probably very similar. “I don’t want to sound stupid.”
25:56 PAT: Smile and nod.
25:56 JOE: We had our boss on for the first guest, so that was already like…
26:03 RYAN: Tricky space.
26:02 PAT: Grayson’s the reason that we have an explicit stamp next to our thing on iTunes now.
26:07 RYAN: So by the third time, you interviewed somebody, or you asked them a question, you were like, “They’re really no different than I am. They’re just doing it at the level I wish I was performing at. And so how do I put myself in that position, to do that? To be at that level.
I think Jim Rome said you’re the average of the people you spend the most time with. And I think there’s probably something to that. So the more smart people I surrounded myself with–and I came from smart people, but the next round it was like, “Wow, I’m learning so much.
26:42 PAT: Really took it up a notch.
26:43 RYAN: Yeah. And it just makes me that much better as a marketer, too. Cause the last year I’ve basically been on the hip of entrepreneurs, and Harvard business guys, and just learning how they do it. And then trying to take a little bit of what they have, with a dash of what I have. And bring it forward.
26:57 PAT: That’s awesome. And it seems like what has been the culmination of a lot of that has been a lot of new business ventures. Like we were just touching on.
Let’s talk a little bit about the Robin Hood brands. We talked about this a little bit off the air, but basically you’re starting a few different companies that are like CPG type companies and selling through Amazon exclusively. Is that right?
27:20 RYAN. That’s correct. Again, I would call this under my Courage ventures arm. And to me it’s just can I build actual Courage brands? And if you’re going to build a courage brand, you’re really talking about how relevant is the business? Full-stop. Is the business relevant or is it not?
And you even said when you talked about mental health, if you ask employees what they want, they want to work at companies that have purpose. And this is not a new idea. I can’t imagine this is the first time… mind blown right here on the podcast.
But it’s obvious that that mental health comes from just not moving trinkets. You want to feel like there’s an actual, meaningful reason for coming to work every day.
So our meaningful reason for existing with Robin Hood brands, as per Robin Hood, is what if we give the value back to the people. And how do we eliminate all the meddling middle?
So there’s no celebrity endorsements. All those costs… mark-up costs that happen with retail… all those go away. And we’ve created 8 to 10 different brands underneath the Robin Hood Brands parent company. There’s a few in market now.
Body Good is one of them. Whole idea is good on your body, good on your wallet. It’s training. It’s wellness. If you’re a yoga person you’re going to love it. I really think check it out. Body Good.
Another one is called Burly Bear. It’s for camping and outdoor gear. Cooking sets and hammocks. And the line is no more un”bear”able prices. I’m having a blast with the brands, obviously.
28:42 PAT: It sounds like your loving all the little tag lines and stuff too.
28:47 JOHN: What is it? Burly Bear?
28:48 PAT: John’s a big camper, so he’s probably going to check that out right now.
28:50 RYAN: Try the French Press. Highly recommend the French press.
28:57 JOHN: Do you have any cast-iron?
28:58 RYAN: You’re going to have to go to the website and check it out.
29:00 PAT: There we go.
29:01 RYAN: That’s my way of saying “I think we do.”
29:04 PAT: “We’ll see if we have any in stock.”
29:06 RYAN: And then next week we’re launching Pure Boost. And Pure Boost is an energy supplement and it’s a pure, better boost. There’s no sucralose, there’s no sugar. There’s no crash.
Because we’re getting rid of all of the middle stuff, we can put more into the product and make sure the product is what people want.
And again, no proof that this is going to work at this particular moment. But…
29:29 PAT: MVP model.
29:30 RYAN: MVP model. Let’s not compete with the very best, which is Amazon, right? So let’s let Amazon do what they do. And let’s do what we do, which is make great products, and let the world know about it.
29:39 PAT: Yeah. And we were talking about some pretty interesting statistics as far as where… you’re doing a good job putting yourself where the most people are going to be. Last year 43% of all e-commerce sales happened on Amazon. And you were looking at a number just now that that’s projected to be 49% this year.
29:54 RYAN: Yeah. Pretty much 50%, which is absurd.
29:58 JOE: That’s crazy.
29:59 PAT: And we talked about this a little bit, but why do you think that’s the case for Amazon?
30:02 RYAN: Because it’s just so easy.
30:05 JOE: Shipping.
30:07 RYAN: It’s just so easy for us. It’s so easy. They get that like we want effortless experiences and once they’re baked into our phone, and desktops. And it’s one click, and it’s done and it’s so easy. It just shows up at your house.
And we were talking about what business if Amazon really in, and my theory is… they have a famous line… they’re not competitor obsessed, they’re customer obsessed. And I think that’s code for they’re really in the business of giving you back time.
30:30 JOHN: Yeah, the automation aspects of things seem to… Nobody else does it the way that they do. And that’s to me is the most astounding part of having 49% of all e-commerce sales. And doing something the only way that it’s being done.
30:46 PAT: Yeah, that’s the craziest thing. You’d think that a company would… another online retailer like an Amazon would just come along and strip that model completely. And try to find another unique benefit. I think they’re at the point where they’ve taken up so much market share already, they’re where everybody is. A lot of people don’t want to compete with Amazon.
31:05 RYAN: Well, and again, I think that’s like a recipe for disaster. Like I think you have to understand what Amazon’s best at, and then play to those strengths. And look, we allowed Amazon to come into our house. There’s Alexa every morning, and in my house we were like, “Hey, good morning, Alexa.” It’s like a member of our family. There’s my dog, the kids, and then Alexa.
And Alexa’s literally telling us what the weather is today, or what day it is today. It was national Lefty day last week I believe. Which was great, cause I’m a lefty. “Oh, thank you Alexa.”
31:34 PAT: Big day. Made my morning.
31:40 JOE: “Alexa–order me a cake.”
31:42 RYAN: So all of a sudden that’s the farthest thing from a transactional relationship. It’s more than just a transaction. What I love most about now coming from the world of what I would say “Preference Marketing,” which is really high concept. My theory on really good content–and if anyone’s thinking of how do you position your company?
You do one of two things with your content. You’re either persuading people, or your dissuading people. And people forget about the second one.
I’m like, “Yes, if you put that out there, and I see it? Thank you for reminding me that your product really isn’t for me.”
32:19 PAT: Right. You’re just reinforcing that concept.
32:20 RYAN: Oh, I’ll never buy your stuff. And you’re just dissuading me… that this is for me. And I think that’s the hard part on the content side.
But moving into what I would say is a new universe for me of understanding Amazon… How I love to describe it is you’re in the world’s largest mall. And every day you have a new retail location.
32:41 PAT: Yeah. Oh, 100%.
32:42 RYAN: You’re moving up. You’re moving to the second floor. Maybe you’re on the 44th floor and now you’re on the 36th floor and okay, “tomorrow we’re on the 24th floor.” I don’t believe it’s Search Engine Optimization there. I believe it’s Sale Engine Optimization. And how fast can we put ourselves in a position to make a sale?
So it’s just cool to understand how did this happen? That we’re so comfortable with this company?
33:02 PAT: It’s so funny too, because when you mention that they’re in the business of giving you back time. We live in a day and age now where you can buy back that time. People are paying for that Amazon, one-click checkout. 100 million Prime subscribers. Same way that somebody… Like, I think the example you gave was you can pay… let’s say you don’t like doing laundry. You can pay for a maid to do that for you. And you get the time back. And that’s where that fulfillment comes from.
33:31 RYAN: Yeah, I think that’s the business that Amazon’s in. It’s as simple as that. And they don’t want you to return anything either. For a variety of reasons.
But people that have Amazon, I think they have disposable income and maybe they don’t have disposable time. And this is one way to give you some time back. And then you get to decide how you spend that time. Which is great.
On the flip… Speaking at Snapchat next month. Maybe that’s the flip. There’s an audience with right now doesn’t have disposable income, but probably has disposable time. And they’re trying to figure out how we monetize this arena that we’re playing in. Very opposite.
34:06 PAT: It’s so funny, too. Because you look at a company like Snapchat that was a first mover in that space. Being consistently outperformed and out-innovated by admittedly a giant. Instagram does have a ton of capabilities because of the Facebook… I almost think of it as a holding company–that’s Facebook. The legacy brand.
But I mean, how much do you think that the Courage factor goes into that lack of innovation? Because I know that that’s what you’re… relatively kind of the same topic that you’re talking about.
34:34 RYAN: For Snapchat?
34:36 PAT: For Snapchat.
34:37 RYAN: Well, I think Snapchat, let’s give them some credit. I think they’ve tried to be innovative. They’ve had a couple things that didn’t work, like the glasses clearly didn’t fly.
34:44 PAT: Didn’t pan out. They looked bad.
34:46 RYAN: And they tried to change up the platform a little bit. I give them a ton of credit for trying to figure it out. The one thing Snapchat has going for them–it’s a biggie–is that people… if you’re on the platform, you love their platform. And love is… that’s hard to get to. It’s hard to get to love.
So once you’re at love it’s just keep trying to give people more stuff that they love.
35:08 PAT: Gotta keep delighting them.
35:09 RYAN: Yeah. And that’s where I would start if I were them. And then figure out how innovation plays in that arena.
35:14 PAT: That’s so interesting too because you think about Snapchat, and you look at Amazon and the tweaks that they have made over the last decade have all been in the interest of the consumer experience, kind of like we talked about. Giving you back time. The things that they know you value.
Snapchat, some of the tweaks and things that they made to the UX made it for me harder to navigate. And so I think going back to that point, it’s almost like I felt that I was losing time by using Snapchat instead of Instagram or something else.
35:42 RYAN: Yeah, I mean, again… and I don’t have enough behind the scenes experience with Snapchat to know what they’re intent was. Back to that word.
Amazon’s very, very clear. So even Prime members now with Whole Foods. There’s grab and go. You get curbside groceries.
Again, they’re giving you back time. They understand what they’re selling you is time. And the more time they give you back, the more likely you’ll come back.
For me, I don’t have that level of clarity yet on Snapchat. And clarity is… it’s funny, you talk about what’s new on the courage platform over the 9 months that I was here last. I kind of equate it to the Cs. And the first C is Clarity. Do you really have clarity in what business you’re in?
Especially if you’re trying to scale. If you have multiple offices in multiple places, is everybody beating to the same drum? Is there total clarity in what the mission of the company is?
The second C is Conviction. And I think when you work at a company that has conviction, it makes it easy to wake up in the morning. And when you work at a company that doesn’t have conviction–this is what I was talking about where you’re either make-believers or fake-believers. If you’re a fake believer in your own company, and you’re like rolling your eyes as you go to work every day. You gotta go find something that you believe in. Have conviction for what you’re doing.
Space X is a great example here. There really is no proof that Space X is going to be successful on their mission. But there’s conviction for it, and they do it every single day, and people that work there probably want the story.
Which is a good segue way into the third C which is Cause. What’s the cause? What’s the purpose? And I don’t think purpose is a new word, but when it’s authentic and it’s differential and it’s ownable. And there’s an actual cause for coming to work every day.
And then the 4th C is change. Obviously. If you get the first 3 right, you have an actual shot to like change your culture. Or change your product. Even from an innovation standpoint.
So to me, I found like, “Oh, when it comes to return on courage, it really falls under if you have clarity, if there really is conviction. If everyone believes in the cause. You really have a shot to do something really meaningful that’s different.
37:44 PAT: All right. Well I think that’s a good little place for us to stop. Ryan, thank you again so much for coming on. Looking forward to having you on for a 3rd time.
37:53 RYAN: Wow! Already? You already know you want me to come back?
37:56 JOE: Let’s do next week.
37:57 PAT: Let’s do next week. Yeah, exactly. Ryan thank you so much for coming in.
38:00 RYAN: Thanks guys. I have socks for you by the way, so…
38:03 PAT: Fantastic!
38:04 RYAN: These are the new “Adopt, don’t shop”… actually I think they’re called “Nuts about mutts.” And if you…
38:10 PAT: Into that.
38:12 RYAN: Yeah. So these are yours. They’re awesome, little lovable dogs. And this is the one we partnered on with Kaley Cuoco and Style guru Brad Goreski. For those of you who don’t know Kaley, she’s on The Big Bang Theory.
38:21 PAT: One of the highest paid actors on TV.
38:23 RYAN: Yeah. She’s not struggling. But she’s super-cool and she helped us design these. The money goes back to Paw Works, and they’re kind of jumping off the shelf like hot-cakes. So the fourth one by the way is Celebrity. When we’ve launched off celebrity it’s done really well for us.
But one of you got… who’s taking these?
38:40 PAT: John has a dog, so I feel like he needs them.
38:44 RYAN: Those are yours. That’s Norman, that’s Kaley’s dog by the way. So now you know. Rescue dog.
And then you’re going with the Sock Illiteracy socks here.
38:51 PAT: Perfect.
38:53 RYAN: And these are actually going back local. So these go back to the San Diego council on literacy. Which we love that we actually get to partner with somebody here in town.
39:00 PAT: These are awesome. Thank you so much.
39:04 JOHN: Yeah, these are really, really cool.
39:07 RYAN: Share the love. You know “Care, Wear, Share,” That’s the tagline.
39:10 PAT: Care, wear, share.
Pretty cool interview.
39:15 JOHN: Yeah, I like it. I want him to come back again.
39:18 PAT: Yeah, that’s what I was saying. I want to have him come back, like, periodically in the next couple of years so that we can just measure the success of a couple of those companies and ventures. It’d be cool to bundle that into a story. Bring that great content to our listeners.
39:31 JOHN: And just have him back for weekly updates. Maybe we just do a weekly Ryan show. Something like that.
39:36 PAT: Yeah, definitely. It was great to have him back on the show, though. Like we said, he was our first repeat guest. He actually reached out to us to see if he could come back and fill us in on what had been going on. So that was really cool.
And always a great conversation with him. I know that I always leave those conversations feeling more motivated, and with a little more clarity.
39:53 JOHN: And the socks are dope.
39:54 PAT: Yeah. And his socks are dope. If you guys haven’t checked them out, you have to actually check them out. Sockproblems.com.
All right, you guys. That just about wraps everything up for us on episode 47. Special thank you for Ryan Berman joining us again. We’ll be back again next week with some great content for you guys.
But until that time, this has been Pat Kriedler, John Saunders, Joe Hollerup and Austin Mahaffy signing off.