May 3, 2023

How to Build Million Dollar Agencies with Theo Tabah

How to Build Million Dollar Agencies with Theo Tabah

Today Greg is joined by Late Checkout COO Theo Tabah. In this episode, Greg and Theo talk about the inner workings of Late Checkout.

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Production Team:
Theo Tabah:

0:00 - Intro
3:21 - When to say no to projects
10:05 - Letting your team fail
15:43 - Building culture in a remote team
33:28 - Other companies as role models
37:50 - Theoisms to live by


Greg: Okay, we are live, and this is a special, special where it Happens. Episode we've got a criminally unfollowed guest, Theo Tabba, uh, the man behind the scenes, co-founder, le checkout coo. Uh, everyone's been asking me who the hell's running the show, and, figured I'd bring the man, the myth, the legend on the show.

So welcome.

Theo: What's up? Geez, nice to see you back in Quebec.

Greg: Good to be here.

Theo: The wood stove behind you Cozy.

Greg: Yeah, there's a light fire behind me if you're watching on YouTube. It's, it's nice. And I, I felt like this was the proper setting in order to have this conversation. Um, I wanna just talk about today and, and where we're going and just sort of have a frank conversation about what we're doing well, what we're not doing well, and,

Theo: Here we go.

Greg: and here we go. So, you know, late checkout is a holding company, we're a company that builds companies.

So we've got boring marketing, we've got, you probably need a robot. We've got the late checkout innovation agency, we've got, um, dispatch with a design subscription, et cetera, et cetera. know it's hard to choose a favorite kid, but what project are you most excited about?

Which one of these companies,

Theo: So I think, uh, good question. I'm gonna ask you the same question so you can ruminate on that. As I said, with this, um,

Greg: I don't need to ruminate.

Theo: know, yeah. You've got a favorite child, would you? Yeah, of course you do. Um, so I think it changes actually from like week to week, month to month. today, for example, in the innovation agency, jamming with a bunch of execs from one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

And we were like talking about product design frameworks relating to states of widgets and how the levels of commitment. It was just like, this is awesome. I love doing this. This is like just raw product in the pixels. A lot of fun this month though, the studio, the evolution of the studio and all of those companies that you name dropped, seeing what they've been able to do with a little bit of Greg jet fuel, some like badass operators.

And a really good idea has been next level. So dispatch, seeing the subscriptions grow has been a ton of fun. So last week it was like four new subscriptions. Piling onto what we already had. I was really jazzed about dispatch. We were kind of doing the video for a product hunt launch. You know, shameless

Greg: is dispatch for people who, who, dunno what that is.

Theo: great question. Dispatch is our design subscription service. So what that means is you get access to a team of world class designers for a fixed monthly fee, and essentially you subscribe to this board where you get unlimited design requests and we will fulfill them one after the other for you across graphic design, brand product design, all the way up to animations, illustrations, and beyond.

Greg: Yeah. And you know, the reason we're able to do it for so cheap, even though it's like high-end design, is we use international i e non-US designers and, AI enhanced productivity. And we just sort of, uh, also we have tons of UI kits that we've created. So it's really just leveraging a lot of the stuff that we've built already to make things go faster.

Like I'm a big believer that product studios are the future of building startups, and I want people to leave this conversation with more information around, okay, I was gonna go build a startup, but now I'm gonna build a studio.

Or, Hey, I'm like an executive at this company and I was gonna go build this like one moonshot bet. I'm actually gonna go build like a few of them. So walk us through one project that failed, how you knew and why did it fail.

Theo: Sure. Um, I think a good one that I'll, I'll say is actually there were some indications of success and so even harder to walk away from, but it's a good example nonetheless. And I think coming back to what you want to arm people with, The checklist we've created of what these businesses need to be really helps with understanding, should I go build a studio?

Should I go build a single project or invest in a single product? And if I'm building the studio, what am I building? You have to hire an operator again, ie. If you're serious about it, you need someone to kind of lead. If there's no owner, nothing will get shipped. We wanna make sure that it's a sustainable business in some way, shape or form.

So a path to revenue. Why now has to be strong. There has to be some kind of unfair advantage or reason why we might succeed. And we've had, and you've had an insight around creators and audience being real jet fuel to early adoption, whether that be just to a newsletter at a content play, or whether it be to a service.

So those are a few criteria. One thing that we did try back to your question on what studio project did we start? Really kind of invest in and then decide to pull the plug on. We called it Dash, you remember Dash, Greg, you were in those early calls, man, jamming on Dash. The future, you know, was our oyster.

We were excited. We were gonna change the face of design and hiring for junior designers. We were gonna get them hired and the best ones rising above and getting them hired at the best tech companies in the world. Really cool idea, really cool vision. We did this through design assignments. So you had to come in, you submitted your email, we sent you a design assignment, all the best submissions we would forward and pass along to the best tech companies in our network, and we would try and get you hired. Two problems, maybe three, but let's start with two. One is we promise feedback for every submission. So I know Airbnb, Brian Chesky do things that don't scale. Maybe that's a Y Combinator. We did things that didn't scale, which was giving personalized feedback to every design subscription. Damn. Even with rubrics, even with all of the systems we put in place that did not scale, very personalized, very high touch people loved it, but it didn't scale.

Two, our hypothesis that there were incredible junior designers out there willing to do these assignments good enough to get hired at some of the best tech companies. At least the ones that we got were slightly disproven. No one actually stood out to a degree that we felt really good putting our stamp of approval on.

We had a couple of referrals, a couple people do interviews, which was cool, but at the end of the day, it was a different problem that we were solving. It wasn't actually, our hypothesis was proven false essentially. Uh, and third was revenue. There was just no clear path to revenue with junior designers, folks who were looking to get into the game with essentially not an established career or, or, or job.

They didn't have a ton of income to spend on education, on content. Et cetera, et cetera. And companies, I don't think were willing to pay for access to that talent. So we pulled the plug.

Greg: and it, it became especially true as the market deteriorated, as more and more designers were getting laid off from big tech companies. their willingness to spend money to basically get connected with junior designers became less and less.

Theo: Exactly. Stars aligned. You had a really cool insight early on, which was, Hey, let's at least capture the emails to get the assignment. We had a a version of it where it was just the assignment and every day the assignment would change. We pivoted and made it an email capture. You got the assignment when you submitted your email, so that was cool.

We got thousands of emails and started to work really well. We got high engagement, organic growth, but there was just no path to sustainability and success, so we pulled

Greg: I mean, we, we are kind of like, we're kind of numb to it now, but like, and we shouldn't be where we launch a thing. Thousands of people signed up. Then we had like some of the leading designers in the world tweet out, oh my God, there's this like incredible thing called Dash. We had, you know, the head of design of I think like Netflix or something, you know, tweet, tweet about us, and it got like 700 likes. so I'll take the other side of the argument. The other side of the argument is we ended the project too soon and we could have just pivoted our way to maybe like mid-level or senior or figured that out. Like, why didn't, why didn't we do that?

Theo: So great little saying, super obvious, but saying yes to something means saying no to something else. And I think why we didn't do that is because one, the agency was scaling like crazy and. We were dedicating valuable time, resources, and brain power to a problem that yes, we probably could have cracked, but felt like it was taking precious resources away from something that was really gaining traction and we kind of capitalized on that momentum.

So that was one. Two is, I think on that same, in that same vein there other, like the world is our oyster, right? There are other projects to start, and you were already brewing on a couple of new ones that you had in the hopper, and those were, those were already super interesting

Greg: I think both those were failures, weren't they? Uh,

Theo: well, I wouldn't call 'em failures again.

I, is there failure in product? I don't know if there's definitely learnings, but, uh, yeah. None, neither of them are here with us today. You're right, they're in the graveyard. I dunno how big that graveyard's gonna be in five years, man. But I'm, I'm stoked to check it out.

Greg: I mean, if your graveyard isn't, you know, bigger than your house, then you're doing a, you're doing

Theo: doing it wrong. Exactly. Someone needs to write that up.

Yeah. So I think those are, those were the main reasons, uh, or the main reason why we had to say no, or why we chose to say no to it. Um, and at the time, I, I gotta say, we weren't as kind of refined and pointed about how to do studio well, we didn't have like the operator model down pat.

We didn't have the checklist down pat. Maybe if we'd hired a full-time operator dedicated, you know, tens x tens of thousands of dollars to it and said, let's go solve the problem or figure out how to, we would've kept with it. But I gotta say we were still a little younger in the game.

Greg: If you were to ask me, Greg, what was the hardest part about that project? For me personally, I would say the hardest part was I knew from the get-go that this project was gonna fail and. I was like, this is, there's no, like, I just don't see how this is gonna work, and I just have to be like, you know what?

I'm going to, I'm gonna say my opinion. They're probably not gonna listen to me, and we're gonna do it anyways. And, uh, you know, it happened, but I, I must say, like I was supporting it the whole way through, right? It wasn't like I was like, ah, I want, I secretly want these guys to fail. I think that's a challenge that a lot of leaders and companies have, which is they want to enable their teams to grow and do be their best selves.

But at the same time, like the only way to do that is to fall down and scrape your knee and then, you know, get back up. So, A, do you remember that? and B, how could I have, how could I have handled it differently?

Theo: I do remember that my friend. I do, I do remember those early calls. Thanks for reminding me. I think, uh, you Yeah, but I think you nailed it, right? It's like you embody disagree and commit, you disagreed, but you com and usually that's the other way around. Usually it's the employees disagreeing with execs and committing. It was a cool flip on its head of like you being like, you know what? Like, I don't see it, but like, let's go help. You supported the promotion and distribution of it. You kind of gave your feedback on a weekly basis. You were with it. And I think to your point, like sometimes you just have to show, not tell, and this was a very, bold example or bold way of doing that you allow you, you were able to show employees and folks at late checkout how hard it is.

To stand something up and make something work, especially this type of idea, instead of just telling to build trust and build conviction and build again, I think commitment to late checkout. So it was a cool move and I would say that hasn't changed.

Greg: I think, uh, you know, for those of you not watching on YouTube, I'm wearing a. $14 Costco sweater and, uh, I think I'd be wearing $120, you know, Amdo ray sweater if it wasn't for the dash failure.

Theo: It wasn't for the dash failure exactly. just was on a, in a downward spiral, spent all my money. That's what I had to do.

I want to come back too quickly to what your favorite project is right

Greg: Favorite project right now?

Theo: Yeah.

Greg: I

Theo: skirted away from that one,

Greg: totally. I'll sort of answer that question. I'll give favorite projects right now with runner up. So, favorite project right now, obviously you probably need a Like I'm a, I'm just having so much fun learning about, different AI tools and you probably need a as a free community for people interested in AI and productivity.

And I created it based on a tweet. I was just like, Hey, is anyone else interested in it? Like this sort of thing. And so to, to be at the center of it is really, really cool. And, we're monetizing it via our AI agency and automation agency. We're we actually, I don't know if you know this, the, you, you've got a lot going on, but we, we've sold ads on the newsletter.

Um, so that's cool. Um, and the newsletter's almost, I think it's at 56,000 subscribers in like 50 days, so it's pretty crazy.

Theo: nuts. You know, I found out about the ads. I got a message from Jordan that the, who's helping us run it. Hey, you need stripe info? Got the slack. I was like, okay, what's this? Opened it up. I was like, oh, we're selling ads on the newsletter now. Amazing.

Greg: Love

Theo: Yeah, it was a cool, uh, cool message to open. That's what I mean by day to day.

You're just like, oh man, this is sweet. Another small step. Big win.

Greg: I want to come back to that. I just wanna give my runner up. My runner up is our core lay checkout agency, which basically acts as an innovation agency for, for, I mean, big brands, but also like fast growing startups. You know, you mentioned today that you were sitting in a room with the executives at, you know, a big tech, you know, one of the biggest tech platforms.

, basically building an an innovation agency is kind of a cheat code to meet the most interesting people in the

Theo: A hundred percent.

Not only meet them but work with them, learn from them and build with them, which is like three more vectors that are just insane and could never come true otherwise.

Greg: And it's so cool cuz like they move companies and then they call you up and they're like, Hey Theo, I need, like, I need an app or I need, um, I need something. Right? So it's, it's also fun just seeing and tracking how these people grow. Um, which I think not enough people realize that about agencies.

Like if you get, if you're able to attract like these pretty stellar clients, you end up developing a pretty, pretty sweet Rolodex.

Theo: Yeah, nuts at the client level, i e the company and at the person level, to your point, like you've had folks in your network, which is insane jump from company to company, and now we're getting to work at some of the coolest companies because they're doing their tour. And so I think again, it's just a huge unlock for us to be exposed to all this and then get to learn and build with these folks.

Greg: Going back to Jordan and selling ads, one of the things that. You do really well, I think is, you know, building culture within Holdcos and product studios, and I'm sure that transcends beyond that. One of the channels that we have at late Checkout is the Level Up channel talk to us about how you think about building remote culture for holding companies and product studios with a team that's distributed.

Theo: Yeah, that's definitely the biggest challenge. Um, the distributed fully remote team, which we can talk about us getting together in a couple of weeks. But, um, I think it starts with knowing kind of loosely what culture you want to build and that ladders up to what kind of companies or company you wanna build or the whole code you wanna build.

What's the vision? Why are you doing this? What's your purpose? Go down a layer from that, create the values. To your point about the Level Up channel, that's one of our three values. Be surprisingly thoughtful. Put community first and level up. Those are the three values that kind of guide how we operate on a day-to-day basis.

And when you see, when you see it come out in the work, when you see it come out in how people communicate and when you see it come out and just how people act and the reflexes they develop and you can bucket it into one of those three or all of those three, it's a really inspiring moment. And I think, again, you want to give people the tools to succeed and the kind of guidelines on how to operate, but you don't want to dictate how they should operate.

Again, you want to build culture, not a cult. And so I think for us, having those values and then having people fill them in color in the lines, so to speak, on how those actually show up and manifest has been really dope. And yeah, we have a Level Up channel. We call out people when they do amazing things and it's really cool to see the. Effect of everyone else jumping on and jumping into the kind of action and saying, you know what, this is sick. We see a beautiful prototype or new revenue, or a closed sale or X or Y and it's really cool to, uh, to see the community come together around those wins.

Greg: You mentioned like we are doing like an offsite, we often do these offsites, either fully teamed to get together or just different teams or subsections of teams or different pods. Um, we're doing one in two weeks in Toronto. Like like, why are we doing this?

Like, why, why do we spend thousands of dollars on, Retreats and stuff like that. Why is this a good use of money? I think I remember last year how much we spent on this sort of thing, and it was just bonkers.

It was, it was Ferrari money, you know, like it was crazy. But would we do it again?

I think so. But I'm curious your perspective, why do we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on retreats and bringing people together and that sort of thing?

Theo: When we started late checkout, one of the things you told me was, one, you wanted to build a forever place to work, and two, you just wanted to have fun. And I think like if you just get obsessive over the balance sheet on like every dollar being fully optimized, and I'm not saying this isn't a good use of money, I'll get to that in a second, but if you start to obsess over the balance sheet and every dollar going to direct.

High leverage activities like sales, like marketing, like fulfillment, like operations, and you divest in community and culture and fun. You might build a super successful business, but is it the one that you actually want to build and be a part of? And so I think when you said that, and we tell people that when they join, why are we doing it?

One man, like just to connect and build some community. We are remote, we are alone in our homes and in our offices. You're out and about a little more, but a lot of these folks are just kind of hanging out and haven't ever even met the team. And so let's get together, let's put faces to names in the 3D world and uh, see how folks actually are and kind of stand next to one another, shake hands and have a good time.

So that's one. Two is like, I think on the fun note, just have a good time and some spontaneity when you're together and you're just jamming. You know, usually you join a meeting, it has a start and an end and a very strict end, and you're there to accomplish something. You're there to make a decision.

You're there to, you know, listen and learn in a one-on-one. You're not there to just like see what happens. That's a quote unquote waste of time. Or not a good use of a meeting, but in person, just being able to jam, whiteboard a bit, have a beer, have a glass of wine, have a water, whatever it may be, go for a walk.

The shit that starts to brew and the things that start to happen are really interesting. And I think what comes out of that is like, you can't put a price on that Sometimes it's really, really rich.

Greg: We purposely like, don't even have very strict agendas for these offsites. In 2022, we had two large offsites. One was in Montreal, Canada, and around here actually we also rented a literal chateau, um, for the team. And then we had one in Bali as well in Indonesia. So we, when, when we design our offsites, we think a lot about how can we create these like kind of crazy experiences, with like very little agenda.

Should we be having more of an agenda? Like do you have an agenda for the Toronto thing? Cuz I have like a basic idea what I wanna get out, but I'm, I'm more interested in just hanging out.

Theo: Yeah, totally. I think the memorable moments piece or like these kind of magical experiences is a cool way to frame it. Just something memorable. One thing is like who's gonna be there and what out of that brain trust together, can we kind of ex, not extract, but can we create and produce together?

That's high value. I think strategy, like we did a hackathon last onsite. If you look at last year, we had five teams create five companies. In five days less than it was really in five hours. And that was cool to see. We had working prototypes, we had a couple of really good ideas. None of them turned into companies, but it was a lot of fun just to code and design and collab this time around.

I think very loose agenda. It will be a little bit of strategy around the studio, um, and a little bit of alignment on this agency, which is also my runner up for favorite coasts, uh, or focus areas right now. Uh, again, it's hard to pick a favorite child, but like lots of crazy opportunity there. We're seeing a huge rebo in the last couple of weeks or or few weeks, which is really interesting and uh, I think talking a little bit about that is gonna be worth our while.

Greg: Yeah, It's surprisingly good time to be an agency owner right now because a lot of companies are cutting staff or freezing hiring, but they still need new products and new, new businesses to go out there. So they look at companies like, like our late checkout innovation agency, and they're like, oh, hey, like I get to pay you X dollars and you're gonna ship this thing.

Um, versus I gotta hire 10 people in New York and they're gonna have benefits and I don't know when they're gonna ship it. And so, it is interesting to see this rebo of, you know, product and, agencies right now. I didn't expect it to be honest.

Theo: Yeah, and again, that was kind of one of the catalysts for starting Dispatch was kind of moving down market a little bit. Our Innovation agency's premium, top of its game. The beginning of the year was a lot of people frozen, and so dispatch I think was an elegant solution for a lot of reasons, one of which was to move down market and we saw super high option and, and a great response.

But yeah, I didn't expect it either. I didn't expect it this early. I thought maybe Q3 or four, but to have it early Q2 is really cool.

Greg: how do you know when you're being too conservative or too aggressive? So right now there's tons of talent that's coming online. and I had two, two or three interviews today of candidates that one year ago, two years ago, we would've never had the opportunity to speak to these people. Yet now they're like knocking on our door and a part of me is like, we should hire all these people and we'll figure out things to do.

That's being aggressive. Conservative is being like, We have a ton of services. Business. think about it as build profitable companies and as profit grows, hire more people. How do you think about conservative versus aggressive?

Theo: One, I think is the opportunity and how rare or how. Common. The opportunity is, so when we're looking at a hire that's not a hell yes, that's not a absolutely, we need to hire this role today and they're good. But there may be, again, everyone is unique here. All snowflakes don't, don't worry about that.

That's not what I'm saying. But if the expertise plus the uncertainty feels common, feels like we'll see it again. I think you lean into conservation or being more con, more conservative. If it's a like how are we speaking to this person, their skills, the fit, again, we optimize for fit less about hard skills and soft skills and like where they went to school and where they worked, but more about fit with late checkout and how we roll.

If the fit is like off the charts and they're gonna be a level up to the entire team and they're in a function that isn't something super unique to one of our businesses. Only if all the stars are aligned. To me, it's like a conservative way to be aggressive. Like we have to jump on those opportunities and make, put our best foot forward or make our best offer.

And so I think there's an opportunity factor that goes into it. Another one is just for us knowing what's gonna be like a net positive and a net negative, uh, or a potential net negative. And I don't know if we always have the answer for that, but I think that boils down to are we acting on a short kind of dopamine rush because of recent events or is this like the right move for the long-term business because we are building a very long-term business.

The last thing I might add, aggressive versus conservative. And how do you know is, I think for me there's, there's something about Fit check and what we've created on having people kind of come in and date before we get married. We've developed this system where people can come in and experience the late checkout universe and we can experience them in this very mutually kind of understood way where we do this quote unquote fit check.

And that could last 20 days, it could last two months, it could last 90 days. But what we do is we essentially kind of gauge and temperature check, is this going to be a right long-term fit? And I think with that, we've avoided a ton of bad hires, so to speak, and we've also moved quickly and made a few really good ones.

And so I think the world is changing and slightly shifting to more people being open to those fit checks instead of all or nothing.

Greg: We do something that I don't know if many people do, we call it the nerd in residence. What is the nerd in residence and why do you think it's a huge unlock to building products that people love?

Theo: Yeah, you came up with that term. I think I was calling it a contributor in residence. Lame. I was calling it creator in residence. Lame. Like you came back with Nerd in residence and again, in your marketing svante, um, a way you speak, I think that really hit the nail on the head. So, nerd in residence is essentially someone who's focused on the new project, who's obsessed with it and is thinking about it all the time, loves what they do, and again, it doesn't feel like work to them because they absolutely love it.

And so when you have someone like that on the team, and not only on the team, but sometimes leading the project, We're stacking the deck in our favor to one staff it properly. Two, get insights in Intel to resonate with the community, which is really important to us. And then three, not take a bunch of brain power and energy away from you or I, because we have someone in there thinking about it, feeding us information, and we are able to do what we do best to operate, market, grow, and give kind of strategic recommendations on where to take it.

But the tactics and the obsession is done by the nerd.

Greg: Yeah. One of the big takeaways I think for us and why we developed n Nerd in residence was the late checkout model is very, pick a niche, then niche down even more like go super niche. And when you're creating a product that, might be for, you know, people who drive Volvos, like, you need to hire someone who knows everything about Volvos, right?

Like, who's, been there done that, who's like in the subreddit, who's, you know, goes to meet up. So I think one way to get a unfair advantage is by hiring some of these. Community leaders or just like nerds. Um, and when, and when I say nerd, I mean it in like the most like loving way. Like you and I are both nerds.

You're like a climbing nerd,

Theo: Once upon a time pre-kids. Yeah, absolutely.

Greg: Yeah. I'm a nerd in my own right. Um, maybe even a Volvo nerd.

Theo: Maybe,

Greg: don't wanna give too much info by myself. But, um, I am a part of the

Theo: Yeah, I think nerd in residence is and was, and unlock again, a lot of other studios and innovation labs have entrepreneurs and residents and they hire an entrepreneur who's quote unquote created a company before. But to your point about us and the importance of resonating with the community and being authentic, we can only be nerds in so many things.

Our team can only be nerds in so many things. So when you hire that nerd in residence, I think the unlock is tremendous for what the potential success or outside returns can be.

Greg: One of the things we do is our product managers, the majority of them are designers. It's unusual. Why do we have it structured that way?

Theo: So we are, we believe in the power of design and what design can do for brands and for product. Uh, design is so much more than just how something looks. It's really how it works, how it feels, and how it resonates with the community and how it shows up in the world. Again, if like your personal reputation is your brand, my brand is how people talk about me when I'm not in the room To use a Jeff Bezos quote, scaling that up to a company level, your brand is everything.

It's how people interact with the product, how they talk about you, how they don't talk about you, how they use you, and what they feel when they kind of interact. And so when we hire design centered PMs or kind of PMs who are more rooted in design, we want that design thinking to come through in the product strategy.

We want that design thinking to come through and how we create the products from the ground up. Business strategy is extremely important. I compare with them, we have other folks who are great at that. Again, the kind of nitty gritty on how to go cross-functional. How is this beneficial to the business in big ways?

What are the business models? How do you get to revenue? Those are all key things. But our PMs have that intuition and also have the foundational expertise in design so that they can put forth these product ideas that are just beautiful to look at and resonate with communities right away and resonate with products and clients right away, which is really interesting.

It's such a storytelling weapon and such a product weapon that we, I think will continue to do this. Why do you think we did it?

Greg: it's a culture thing. Like it started off, you know, me and you really prioritize design and we have a, an insanely high bar for, a product. To go out to either, you know, either ourselves or a client. Uh, we run the same design sprint methodology for ourselves as we do for our clients. So, as an example, like you probably need a, go check out that brand.

Like it's, it's not just like another beehive newsletter. It's got like a lot of personality to it and I don't think we would've gotten that brand if, you know, our PMs were not versed in, great design. I was very inspired. I think Snapchat has a similar model where their PMs are product designers, and that's because Evan Spiegel from Snapchat, he is a designer.

So, I love that we kind of have a stance like that and we're kind of like, yeah, like if you're gonna be at late checkout, you need to be spending half your time in Figma.

Theo: Exactly. Have your time in Figma, quarter of your time on design Twitter, and a quarter of your time looking at beautiful products that we've churned out and trying to figure out how to do it, um, and get it done. Absolutely.

Greg: all right, let's shift gears a little bit. tiny recently went public, 850 million valuation. As of today, they are kind of, you know, I'll just put it out there. They're kind of like our bigger older brother, you know, we're Canadian. They're Canadian. We're from the east coast of Canada. They're from the west coast of Canada. a lot of analogies there, but I think we have our, our thesis and they have their thesis.

what, what can we learn from Tiny that we can take back to late checkup?

Theo: One thing I think is like sticking with the problem or sticking with the process. Essentially just sticking with it and seeing through seeing their vision through. So 80% of success is showing up. The other 20% is a mix of a whole bunch of things. And I think what's cool is like how long they've been at this.

It's not a crazy long time, but in startup terms it's, it's like a decade and a half, if I'm not mistaken.

Greg: That's right.

Theo: So for Andrew to kind of stick with this, learn, grow the agency, fail, almost lose it all as he's, as he's mentioned in some stories, continue, really keep his eye on the prize, which was like knowing that let's build metal lab or let's build this agency, build it up, offer quality.

Again, they're design centric as well, which is cool. And then he took on a model that we may adopt in the future. We flirted with it, um, more on the acquisition front than on the building from scratch front. Um, so I think the m and a is, is a, is a cool piece to build your hold co out. I also think grassroots product studio.

Spinning things up with kind of the team that we have is also a really fun route for us right now. And I think we'll stick with it for a bit. But m and a is not, or just acquisitions in general are not off the table. Um, It's admirable what he was able to do to just kind of stick with it and take it from zero to this.

It's really cool to see.

Greg: I remember asking Andrew what advice he has for me, and I was actually up here during the summertime and it's like, basically in the middle of nowhere. The reception is horrible. And I was like, Andrew was one piece of advice you can give to us. And he, he was like, like, it was coming in and out. I was like, oh, and stop incubating, you know?

And I was like, what? And he's like, I don't know why, you know, incubating. I was like, what? He's like, he's like, I'll say it again. And it's like, incubating is way harder than buying. Like if I were you guys, I'd be buying way more. And my response to him was, but I just love building. Like, it's just fun.

It's way more fun and like, we've done some m and a 2022, we did our first m and a and we're gonna be doing more of it in 2023 and and beyond. But I think like, that's a core difference between us and them, which is we just love building so much. They build too. Like they've incubated other stuff, but incubating is a lot of fun.

Theo: Exactly, and that boils down to like why we started this and damn dude, like the day we stopped building and start buying. Cool company. Like it'll get huge. And I have no doubt about that. It's just, is that the company we want to build? Is that the HoldCo we wanna build? And I think we'll never lose the build, we'll never lose the building element of what we do.

We'll never lose the product studio vibe, uh, which is great.

Greg: Are there any other companies that you look up to in terms of seeing what they do and, thinking like, oh, wow, we should be doing more of that.

Theo: I think it's less about companies at this moment and more about people. I think people's stories are more inspiring than company stories at the moment. For me, seeing folks who manage YouTubers, for example, and are like behind the scenes just calculated, dangerous and like masterminds at building empires, but in a different way or creators just going after it, being who they are. Showing up. And again, just putting in the work and taking it from zero to 100 is just really inspiring. And then you can go a layer up to folks who are even bigger, uh, and just doing this on a whole other scale.

Greg: W within our company, you have you're kind of known for theisms, as we call it. and, and some of them you borrow from other people, like I think you borrowed, what was the latest one you said? Dress me slowly. I'm in a hurry. Pretty sure Napoleon said that,

Theo: Correct.

Greg: uh, that murderer. But, uh,

Theo: Yeah, that savage.

Greg: what are two or three theisms you can give to people and, and, and, you know, why do you like those sayings?

Theo: Why I like these sayings is it, it captivates people. Instead of saying, guys, slow down so we can align. Everyone gets on the same page, we agree on where we're going, and then we can move quickly saying like, dress me slowly, I'm in a hurry. People have to be like, I get it.

It's like a great book title. You're like, fuck, I have to read that book. They need to know more. And so they ask and then it resonates and they remember. And so I think the staying power of these sayings holds way more water than the actual substance of them. And so that's why I like to say them because I like to say things to the team hopefully once, maybe a couple of times, but then it sticks almost like a principle so that then when they, they go and build after or they go and operate after, or they go and do things after in the company, they're able to take them with them and help them level up.

So there's quite a few I like. Um, again, very rarely are they mine. They're all things that I've heard. And again, because of their staying power, they've stayed with me. One I heard from, uh, Andy, Mr. Ellwood fences Make Good Neighbors. Absolutely love that. I think it's a textism, if anything. And essentially what it means is like boundaries and clear definition of roles, responsibilities, what's kind of, what am I focusing on?

Where you focusing on ownership. Is actually gonna lead to way more happiness, connectivity, connection, community and success in a company than everyone just guns blazing and figuring it out. So Fences Make Good Neighbors is one that I love. Another one I love is from Tim Ferris, which is how do we win even if we lose, if you can like train the team to think like that and also train yourselves to think like that.

I like to think of like writing. I've started writing this year. It's, you know, it's a great practice to develop, to develop. I'll lose in terms of like, maybe I won't get to a million followers. I don't actually know if that's the goal, but I'm winning by developing this practice and clarifying my thinking.

And so how do you win? Even if you lose is another one I love. There's so many more. You want, you want me to keep going? Like I have them all again. They're just swimming around here. Is there any you wanna

Greg: Give us a couple more.

Theo: one that's maybe less applicable to work that I love is the dose makes the poison. I think this one to me is really all about balance and that everyone is unique. You know, Greg, even living up living it up in Miami, you're probably pretty, pretty good with the sun by now. I haven't seen the sun in six months.

So like, sunshine is good, but then it's bad. And I think for me, the dose makes the poison. If I'm out for 20 minutes, I'm gonna burn to a crisp. You could probably hang all day in the sun. So that applies to many different things and I think even, you know, you can think about it to your soft skills as well, or your hard skills as well.

Like patience. I have a lot of patience. The dose maybe is higher until it becomes poisonous. There's a, there's a threshold and an optimal dose, so to speak, and then you move into poison. Knowing when you hit poison on the things that you do and the things you embody to me is super critical and can really help you out.

So that, that's one. I also just love heaven is a, is a new pair of glasses. Like, that's one of my favorite because it's just, it grounds you to perspective when you're like, holy shit, the world's on fire. This person just left, this one's not showing up. They drop the ball on that. Not that the team does this often, but you know, I'm being a little bit dramatic for, uh, for effect. If you just put on a new pair of glasses, so to speak, and just recontextualize the, it, it really is like a, a pill. It's like magic. It, it goes from chaos to calm and then you can go in and execute and just take it with a smile.

Greg: Dude, I love it. I, I really love it. what was your second one that you said?

Theo: made good neighbors.

Greg: Fences, make good neighbors. Reminds me of a book that I'm reading right now. Um, so it's called Rocket Fuel, the one essential combination that will get you more of what you want from your business by Gino Wickman.

Have you heard about it? So it basically talks about how successful businesses are built on the foundation of two people, the visionary and the integrator, where you're the integrator actually, and I'm the visionary.

Theo: You don't

Greg: The visionary. The visionary is the big picture person, and the integrator is the one who makes things happen.

And it's basically this complimentary relationship. I'm, I haven't finished it, but I do have a few of the rules from that book that I want to share for people. So the five rules for the visionary integrated relationship. Number one, stay on the same page, basically like regular alignment.

Uh, number two, no end runs. Um, so basically avoiding, bypassing managers cuz that interferes in the relationship, uh, effectiveness of the relationship. Uh, number three, integrators break ties. So this is about like delegation to the, you know, lowest person, responsible, uh, integrator, handling day-to-day issues between departments, uh, and the case of disagreement, the integrator.

Decides based on their awareness of priorities, problems, and resources. So that's a great example. We had a disagreement yesterday. I gave you my point of view, but I was just like, all right, like, you know, the priorities and problems, resources better. So I also have a, different point of view than you do, right?

Number four, working in versus on the business. Visionaries should focus on the company while integrators handle day-to-day operations. And then finally, number five, maintain mutual respect. So obviously there must be a high degree of trust that happens between visionary and integrator. Um, what do you think of those?

Theo: Spot on. Sounds like someone wrote the book on it and nailed it. Um, funny. I'm reading Good to Great. again, this is like a perfect example. We're both on our tracks of like leveling up and I think always helpful to reframe or Keep my feet grounded to, to that. And I have a lot to learn from you, and I learn from you every week.

And as the visionary, I don't, I, I think for some companies it's not always clear who wears which hat. And I think for us it was clear from day one and it's made this really easy, uh, not to sound corny, but this has never been hard. Even like our biggest disagreements don't last for more than a few minutes.

And then we move on, uh, as we like to say, onwards with the rocket ship emoji. And then we go, and we've been doing that since literally 2020. Is writing that saying after something happens, not that it happens that often, but when it does and then we roll. And so for me it's always, yeah, a matter of outside and inside.

And I think you're second to none at outside. And I think I'm doing a decent job at inside. And so I think together we are, we're a good pair, man. You and I.

Greg: percent. Hundred percent. let's end with one thing you hate about me and working with me, cuz you, you spend a lot of time with me.

Theo: You think you wanna end on a high note, man? Now you want me to take you down?

Greg: Take me down. Take me down. I mean, roast me.

Theo: okay. I'll save the, like, nice one. You know, when people are like, what's your greatest weakness? I try too hard. Like, I'll save that for the end and

Greg: No, don't even, don't gimme that one. I don't want that one. That one. Save. Save for after the pod. Actually, don't even, don't even,

Theo: not even gonna tell you, man. I'm not even gonna tell you. No, you, that, that one leaves with me. Um, okay. Sometimes you go like Gorilla, c e o on us and just like, go and have something executed on without really like waiting around or planning it.

And that's just because I'm the operator. And so for me, structure helps give me calm and peace. What it does do is get shit done real quick. And so I will give you like hats off to you when you do go gorilla, c e o, things get done, but when you do go gorilla, c e o, sometimes it has downstream effects on what we were working on, the team, et cetera.

So that's one.

Greg: Totally.

Theo: And then another one, I don't

Greg: hey. hey. Ask for one

Theo: no, I got another one. Uh, I don't know if it's a superpower or, or a weakness. Oftentimes the two are pretty, uh, outta juxtaposition for folks, but once your mind is made up, it's really hard to change it.

Greg: Hmm.

that's what my mom told me as as a kid. I, I guess people don't change.

Theo: again, superpower sometimes it's a challenge, but a good one.

Greg: All right. I appreciate it. Listen, it's a, is an honor working with you on a day-to-day basis.

Theo: man. I love it.

Greg: it's, it's the best. There's nothing I'd rather I started off this pod by saying that you're criminally under followed, and again, it's criminal.

I used the word criminal and I don't mean it lightly. Where could people follow you on the internet to get more of your theisms?

Theo: Two places right now. LinkedIn and Twitter, both at theo tabba t h e o t a b a h I dunno about criminally unfollowed the criminal and Theo haven't been used in the same sentence in a long time. But, uh, yeah, I've got some cool stuff to say on culture, community operations and building businesses and, uh, onward.

Greg: Yeah, I think onward. Onward indeed. And, LinkedIn specifically, I think you're, you've been really crushing it on. So I'm just gonna highlight that one for folks. And, uh, if you like this episode, please, please, please, number one, subscribe to the YouTube channel. I'm trying to get our YouTube numbers up and it's so hard.

It's like the hardest thing I've ever done. So, Theo, can you tell, can you tell people who are listening to get to YouTube and subscribe?

Theo: Please do. You're gonna love to look at Greg and I for an hour. We are a pleasure to look at when we talk into our mics with, all of our focus on each other, talking about the coolest stuff about building late checkout, please go to the YouTube subscribe and thank you if you've made it this long.

Thanks for listening to me.

Greg: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. And I, the reason I also care about the, the YouTube subscription, honestly, is we don't have ads on this. We pay out of pocket for this podcast, and it just lets me know that people care. So if you care, vote with your subscription. Thank you so much. That's a wrap, Theo. Come back on you.

You know, people like this episode. Tweet at Theo myself and he'll come back on

Theo: Anytime