Be Resourceful

The Inventive Journey 
Episode #322
Be Resourceful
w/Dan Bauer
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What This Episode Talks About:

Be Resourceful


"Bootstrap. It's incredible what you can think of and come up with limited resources. Giving away equity and bringing in a partner soon. I find that these create more problems than they solve. Getting outside funding. Borrowing heavily to launch a business, I think, is a mistake. Scaling it down to the point that you control it, you don't owe anyone anything makes you very resourceful and creative. I think ultimately you will grow the business faster and bigger that way. So, running lean. Keep all expenses variable. Use contractors, not employees. And delay in-fact avoid partners if you can."



 

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What Is The Inventive Journey?

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.


ai generated transcription

 bootstrap um it's incredible what you can think of and come up with with limited resources um you know giving away equity um bringing in a partner too soon i find that these create more problems than they solve and getting outside funding borrowing heavily to launch a business i think is a mistake scaling it down to the point that you control it you don't owe anyone anything makes you very resourceful and creative and i think ultimately you'll grow the business faster and bigger that way so running lean keep all expenses variable use contractors not employees and delay in fact avoid partners if you can [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur has grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups some small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we've got another great uh guest on the podcast dan bauer and dan was uh going back to high school knew that we wanted to do in high school which was he wanted to go and ever into advertising so had a passion for writing um so he went to ohio university and got a communications and advertising degree and he worked for a firm for about four years then went to work for another firm in hawaii and did that for about 13 years and then moved to the end during that time i think moved to the financial advertising and business side as well and then came to the realization that you are needed a bit more experience and numbers and on the business side so i went and got an mba at harvard business school um then took some uh senior marketing roles at uh citibank and mastercard um and then they wanted him to relocate and he said i don't want to relocate and so he decided that at that point he'd become an engineer so or an engineer an entrepreneur maybe an engineer as well but entrepreneur and uh tried to initially launch a mini mba program found out that that's not necessarily what people were willing to pay for or were looking for i'm so pivoted to more of a career consultant or career path consulting business and launched that as uh launched that been doing it for 20 years and then they an employee offered to buy out the business from them so we sold that in about 2016 and remained on for an advisory role for a bit of time launched a marketing and communications practice after that wanted to pay it forward so it's also been focusing on doing a couple things with entrepreneurship forums and also doing some uh entrepreneurship camps for high school kids so with that much his introduction welcome on the podcast dan thanks so much devin i appreciate it it's funny to hear one's own wife uh compacted into 60 seconds exactly kind of like that you know when you die and you see the light flashing before your eyes you're like yeah that's all everything that i did that's interesting though it's a great journey and i kind of ran through it in a much quicker fashion so why don't we uh unpack it a bit and so tell us kind of how things got started in high school for you and how you always knew you wanted to be in go into advertising which i'll say is not necessarily the the typical thing that high schoolers are thinking about going into so tell us how your journey got started there well early on i realized that uh words were my friends more than numbers and so um writing and uh framing ideas uh creating was really my thing and i enjoyed that a lot and um was exposed to uh my best friend's uncle ran an ad agency uh where i was growing up in cleveland and went to visit him and i just saw it felt the vibe of that place and i said this is where i need to be and so that's what attracted me the agency business my writing ability and planning abilities served me very well there and it was a great run this was a different ad world though this was more the mad men uh era uh and uh the word digital uh was not in existence at that point so i grew out of that decided the client side would be a little more interesting um and uh at that point i had found myself in hawaii where i had been recruited by an agency just jumped over like 20 years or 20 years of time so we're going to jump back just a little bit to dive in so coming out of high school you went to ohio state university or ohio ohio university i was i was i said as soon as i said i'm like wait it's not a ohio state but ohio university and he got your communications and advertising degree which makes sense you know you liked advertising you liked writing saying numbers aren't my my strong suit or at least not my passion and so then you come out of uh come out of school and you worked for a firm for about four years is that right yes an agency in pittsburgh called catch mcleod and grove i started as at the bottom of the ladder uh my office was literally a broom closet that they took the brooms out and put a small desk in there and i just hunkered down and said i'm gonna learn and i'm gonna you know perform and uh and uh make my mark here one day my boss did that so no and i the ironic thing is so i have my son which is now not quite a college university graduate a bit different but he works in one of the very small family businesses and we basically did the same thing we had a small kind of closet um said okay he doesn't need a lot of room he's pretty small and you know he'll just be excited he has his own little office so he we set that up so now you get now so maybe that will be his or circling back after he comes to college you'll have to take back over the same office but um no you did that for four years and say okay you got some great experience kind of worked your way up a bit started from the broom closet now how did you after at the end of the four years say now i'm gonna go to hawaii you know sounds like a great place to go i'm not not disagreeing that it would be a fun trip but kind of what caused that transition from the broom closet working your way up to move into hawaii well sometimes sometimes good things happen to you as opposed to by you and so in this case i had been developed some some mentor mentee relationships in the agency um and uh um confided in my mentor that uh i was looking for a bigger more consumer-oriented advertising experience and i just filed that with him he knew that this was my plan so one day he calls me he says i have a good friend with a larger agency that is looking for somebody like you i'd like to connect you with them and i said sure if you think it's a good opportunity i'll be happy to talk he says by the way it's in hawaii and i'm in pittsburgh at the time in the winter so i said well i'm intrigued um but you know i don't think it's realistic but i'll be happy to talk with him um and that's really what started it i had the conversation we we met i met some of the principals of the agency in new york and then san francisco they made me an offer i said i can't accept it without seeing it they said well we don't fly people to hawaii um you know we've had we've been burned too many times by folks just looking for a free trip so i said okay probably come true to that you know you're saying oh i'll at least entertain it they'll fly me out i'll spend a few days in the hotel you know take a grip of it and so i i i probably get that there there would be the opportunity for a bit of abuse there so go ahead well so i told them you know what i'm serious about this i will pay my own ticket i will fly out there for two days and we'll make a decision and i did and fell in love with it a great agency an incredible experience a boy from the midwest seeing hawaii for the first time uh and so i said all right i'm gonna do this we'll try it for two years i was fairly uh uh i i was 25 i've been married two years and uh my wife you know signed up for it with me and off we went and turned out to be a tremendous move so nothing to lose everything to gain an incredible adventure on a personal and a professional basis i climbed the ranks rapidly and after about six years at the agency then was recruited by the competitor of my client i was first hawaiian bank was my client bank of hawaii was their rival they hired me to run their communications department so i became a client for the first time it was in that experience that i came up against my ignorance frankly my my business depth and rigor were now tested because i'm in a bank now i'm the client i need to understand what businesses the bank is in uh so i can recommend marketing for them so i started to attend some uh executive education programs at cornell uh where was the other one um at uva university virginia taught by graduate professors graduate business professors it blew my mind i was turned on now from a communications background i was really getting exposed to what marketing was all about that planted the seed in my head that i need to get more education i need to come up against back to the numbers the numbers that i had avoided in the high school and undergrad and i need to come face to face with that now with a young family two small boys four and two and a wife who had a great career in hawaii i had to make it count i wasn't going to get this education at anything less than the best and so i applied to i fell in love with the concept of harvard business school and uh explored it and said if i can get in there that would be the place for me and so i did and off we went and relocated from honolulu to boston uh bought a winter coat uh bought a white shirt and a tie and uh and there we were at harvard and turned out to be incredible now one question just that i mean i may have missed or that if you did or my apologies so you know you're saying okay i need to better understand kind of their products and you know the number side my ignorance is finally kind of catching up with me so you say okay took some initial executive classes decided to kind of go full bore and go to harvard you know get the mba now that time were you you know was the employer saying you know great we'll pay for it we'll put your career on hold or you did you do it remotely or kind of how did you know what happened as far as a career side because if on the one hand you're saying hey i need this knowledge in order to be a better employee and to be able to better service the client the other end you're saying i'm going to take a break and you know i won't be around for a while how did the or how did that work with the the the job you had so that my knees were knocking and my palms were sweating when i went as the ceo of the bank and said i've made a big decision i'd love it here this is great but i want to reinvest in myself and so i cut the cord i left a great job in paradise frankly uprooted my family but i had i just had faith i had faith that this place harvard harvard business school getting this mba would open up avenues for me that i could never even put a toe into if i didn't do that so i we liquidated i sold my house packed up the kids and off we went for this adventure just basically i'm on confidence and faith i i knew that i could make the most of it and you know this is like burning the boats you know there was no turning back once i left this first time i'd ever been unemployed by choice at least and uh and i knew that i had to make it count so if you put enough of a bet on it you're gonna you're gonna win and and that's what happened now you say okay you know you take the old cortez line you know burn the ships you're exactly there you're going to do it and you know you don't have you know you've made the decision you don't have any choice so you go into the you know you go get the nba at harvard and you know certainly a good school and and you know from the educational perspective but you know you still have a bit of that uncertainty was it you know you have burned the ships you don't have a decision but you can always say was it a good decision where the ships or should we have sailed back that type of a thing or should i go should i stay in hawaii so as you're coming out of you know out of the getting the nba you know was a good decision and kind of what was the next step from there so it turned the reward the uh the uh you know recognition that this was a good decision came to be during the recruiting season when i uh because i was more experienced than most of my classmates i had a sort of a hybrid profile and so this this appealed to um quite a few companies um i had four job offers coming out of harvard and here's where i got a little bit conservative i decided to go back to the industry that i had left financial services so rather than doing you know mckinsey consulting that sort of thing i said all right i'm going to retrench now where my experience and my profile were the most valuable to the marketplace was in banking and so i accepted an offer by citibank and joined them as vp of national marketing that's what brought me to chicago from boston was to join citibank um it was interesting a very political environment very corporate a lot of turf struggles and i think if i was rethinking my decision to leave hawaii and get the mba it was never really tested at business school but now it started to be tested when i entered this corporate environment assessing is this really for me is this really what i did all this for and so um uh before i could really conclude that i was uh recruited by mastercard uh also in chicago with a great opportunity senior vp of global marketing for their debit business and that was fabulous i love that now i was now i was being rewarded for having the sacrifice and taken the risk of leaving hawaii to do that this was a great job it was a great job until as you said they asked me to relocate now they wanted me to move to new york to westchester and my wife and boys were now you know more entrenched in chicago and i didn't want to do that to them again you know we we've been everywhere we've done everything it was time to settle so that's when the entrepreneurial bug started to get seated in me um and that was my moment of truth now one question and that may definitely make sense now the question is is you know was the entrepreneurial bug it's more of hey i finally have the opportunity to chase a idea that i've always had or is it more of i don't want to move i don't want to go work for someone else and so i'm kind of you know forced into that box not in a bad way because i i love entrepreneurship but was it more of kind of thrust upon you or did you kind of more seek it out yeah good question devin it was really a combination of the two without being soured on the corporate america experience i don't think i would have done it in other words i'd seen the downside of that um you know i i don't want a bad mouth but uh i that ran out of excitement for me my passion was not that anymore and deposit from the positive standpoint this mba education had been so incredibly um you know empowering for me and and invigorating for me that i felt that there was an arena there where i could build an entrepreneurial venture and speak to my passion and leverage that passion so that was really it was the it was the you know enough of corporate america and here's a brand new door that opened that makes my heart beat faster and that was in the education higher education sector so the the the crossover between those two was my marketing and strategy background and i said i can capitalize on that in this education and development sector and create a business and so that's that was the opening to entrepreneurship to me oh and that definitely makes sense now because i as you got into it you know and we chatted a bit before the show you had kind of the idea of a mini mba program or for those that want to get some of that education but don't want to do it as a full-time or a part or nighttime student and you know we're having a bit more condensed and i have to have the near amount of expense as well as you know time commitment so that was the original idea and it sounds like when we talked to you know while it may have been a good idea on paper is one of those that didn't work out in reality and and that one flopped is that right yeah exactly i had everything but customers um great sometimes it's a little bit important very important but uh i i found that throughout my entrepreneurial journey and sometimes the second idea that's the home run you've got to learn by doing the first one and that's what i found so it got me into the marketplace the education marketplace but i realized people wanted the real thing and so uh fortunately um shortly after graduation i had been an interviewer admissions interviewer for harvard business school as an alum i learned a lot about the process what they look for um what the pool of applicants is like and so this was my aha moment i said i will guide people in their careers and their educational choices and enhancing their candidacy so that they have more opportunities and that's what launched my business called the mba exchange um and uh you know that was really the beginning of that hands-on entrepreneurial journey i grew it from myself and a laptop to uh about 75 consultants around the world over the span of 20 years we served about 5 000 young people clients and uh just created a business of which i was extremely proud and could justify my seven day weeks and 18 hour days and loved every minute of it i thought that as soon as you became an entrepreneur you work you know according to television movies you work about one to two hours a week and you get paid millions of dollars that's not the case no i not the case certainly joking on that one but uh you know i think that there is sometimes a disconnect that just because you're following what you love and uh doing your own business doesn't mean that you're not going to work a lot of hours it doesn't always mean that you're going to just have money rain from the sky those things may come and you may be able to get to a point that you can take a little bit of a breather but that's not going to be the beginning and it may not ever come and so you might as well just say hey this is what i love and that's what i want to do so now you're doing that and you did that for you know quite a period of time and you know grew it you had you know quite a few people on the team or you know as uh and it was expanding it and then i think as you mentioned around 2016 you had one of your employees that came and kind of offered to buy out the business and and to take over for you and is that the case yes exactly so this was you know i wasn't necessarily looking for an exit at that point uh maybe a few years short of that but i realized that you know a service business is not easy to sell sometimes and um and the due diligence process of selling a business can be very complex and exhausting and and not fruitful and so this one just this opportunity seemed to me to be the best of both worlds someone i knew liked and trusted who knew liked and trusted me would keep the due diligence process more minimal he knew the business and uh i decided to do that and it also it allowed me to stay with it my ex included several years as an advisor um and chairman and uh this was my baby and i didn't wasn't quite ready to park company with it so that turned out to be the way that i did my my exit in 2016. oh and that that makes sense and you know it is one where service-based businesses are always generally and it is a rule much harder to sell because most of it is still it's based on relationships and the person that's you know the founder and the one that has all the connections and it's been built over a period of time and so it's often very hard to transition that to someone else because as that person leaves that everybody has a relationship with they no longer have that connection and they they tend to look somewhere else and so definitely sounds like hey if we can have someone that's already familiar with the business already been around for a while and then otherwise um can make it much better transition sounds like a great opportunity so now you're saying okay coming out sold the business move to an advisory role now how did you kind of get into the current things what you're doing which is you know doing a marketing communications practice you're also doing entrepreneurship forums and also entrepreneurship camps and so it doesn't sound like you sold the business and just said i'm going to take a break and retire but it sounds like you had a few other things so how did you kind of transition or what made you decide to go in that direction so i retired for a weekend that was pretty much it i had a saturday and a sunday and uh realized that you know business is my my my hobby my passion my network you know i identify with it and uh and wanted to do it i think it probably was that mba education harvard is known for what's called the case study method and rather than a lot of lectures and textbooks students are immersed in hundreds literally hundreds of case studies new ones every day and in the course of a 24-hour period i was immersed in a business given some facts but not complete information and then forced to make a decision what are you going to do so i really got an appetite for this immersion in brand new industries and brand new companies you know framing problems coming up with hypotheses testing them implementing them tweaking them and then moving on to the next situation i found that to be very gratifying for me so consulting was the way to do that i i i'm fascinated by new industries and new companies and so i tapped into my network that i had built over the years and had my first couple of clients and that was really the beginning of it i i haven't had to go out and hunt and gather very much since then i love the doing the work the trust that's built up with clients and again this exposure in this education so by now i've probably worked in probably 40 industries and each one is you know the next one is the one that turns me on the most and so that's what i've been doing is strategy competitive analysis stakeholder interviews you know branding this sort of this sort of thing it's just great now at this chapter of my career um uh again being so such an evangelist for entrepreneurship i wanted to give back and pay forward and all those other cliches and so i did that in a couple of ways one was forming uh forums uh groups of non-competing entrepreneurs uh to engage with each other sort of serve as a personal and professional board of directors so i've done that i'm now splitting my time between chicago and nashville and i did that with two groups in nashville the other thing that i wanted to do as a as a dad and now a grandfather was thinking about the next generations of entrepreneurs and so um i have again i'm an educator a mentor a coach and i decided that a camp summer camp for high school kids to study entrepreneurship and really get hands-on would be the way to do it i assessed that market i found some programs being offered by colleges that were really sort of thinly veiled recruiting opportunities for them to get high school kids to apply to the school and i found some very tech oriented camps that had a narrower window if i was think if i was a high school student thinking about a product or a service business it really wouldn't relate as much to me so i i recruited a couple of great partners a title sponsor of inc magazine which is the bible for entrepreneurs and a wonderful camp company called summer discovery to provide the logistics and a third nonprofit called the network for teaching entrepreneurship to come up with a curriculum and provide certified teachers so i aggregated them and now we're launching this summer a program called inc young entrepreneurs that will be held on four college campuses uh for high school kids i'm really excited about it and uh that'll start at the end of june that's awesome that sounds like it's a you know gratifying way to give back to to continue to participate in a lot of the things that you've ever been excited about for the last part of your career you know all of your career but even more so dive in the last part of it and then um and also uh you know or explore a new opportunity and i had to laugh when you say no startups are my hobby and because that's usually what i i say as well usually when people ask you know i'll give some other you know can try things there are other things i enjoy but by and large usually if i have some free time and my mind tends to wander and ends up wandering back to a new idea or a new startup or something that to do with the current businesses i run so i think that there's definitely that that mindset i'm thinking that you know a lot of the entrepreneurs that watch your podcast they may have kids or neighbors or nieces and nephews in high school age that might be really turned on by this you know we all want to pass this on to our kids uh one of my sons is a is an entrepreneur here and so i think that giving back is very important it's also exposed me to some other educators in entrepreneurship at the university level and i have actually three ceos from shark tank funded companies that are going to be mentors and judges in our program this summer so if anyone's interested in learning about it they can go to uh www.summerdiscovery.com and they'll see details about it there awesome i definitely encourage people to check that out we'll we will uh or mention that again as we wrap up so we'll give enough people an opportunity to hear that again and find out a little bit over there but before we dive to that part and we are we can now as we're kind of at the you know the present day or kind of where your journey is led to up here to where you're at today great time to transition to the two questions i always ask you at the end of podcast about your journey so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it um i think the worst decision i made was just prior to the entrepreneurship journey which was taking a job just because you need a job financial obligations the fear of unemployment um those are very powerful forces in anyone's life they were in mine and so um you know at a point where the uh the current job was not what i had in mind instead of starting that entrepreneurial venture at that point i delayed it one more stop and and i regret that because it became stifling and frustrating to be ready to be an entrepreneur but to not start the effort so i guess taking a job just to have a job is was the worst decision i made i pulled the court on that after a year and then the heavens opened up and i could pursue what i wanted so take the risk bet on yourself you know having the marketplace is the variable rather than the politics and and uh you know uh myopia of uh bosses uh is is not as risky as it may sound and so that's that was my learning moment of in my path no i think that's a great takeaway because you know it's interesting i think that you know i think we're now with coming up on 400 episodes and out of all that there's a lot of different answers that people given but there's a certainly a common theme with a lot of times the biggest mistake people make it's not getting started earlier it's not that you know hey it's not that they necessarily would have been rich beyond their wildest dreams or even that they would have been more successful or anything else it's more of a pay i found i love this it was a great passion of mine i enjoyed it made a big difference in my life now i wish i'd just done that ten years earlier before i went through all the other things that i thought i had to do in order to get here so i think that that's a great takeaway for people to be reminded of second thing is is if you were to talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them okay i was thinking about this and i'm gonna i'm gonna cheat a little bit and give you two one is bootstrap um it's incredible what you can think of and come up with with limited resources um you know giving away equity bringing in a partner too soon i find that these create more problems than they solve and getting outside funding borrowing heavily to launch a business i think is a mistake scaling it down to the point that you control it you don't owe anyone anything makes you very resourceful and creative and i think ultimately you'll grow the business faster and bigger that way so running lean keep all expenses variable use contractors not employees and delay in fact avoid partners if you can alliances are better than than alliances and contractors are better than partners and employees eventually you reach a point where to grow you've got to do that and going kicking and screaming into that is a good way to do it your decisions will be more precise you won't have to look back and say geez i did that too soon i gave away too much of the pie i didn't need to do that so it would be you know bootstrap and scale organically and count on yourself rather than trusting in partners no and i think that there's a lot of truth things i mean i think that people often times they get into it and they think oh i have to have a partner i have to you know have that you know person and that resource in order to be able to grow and i think you hit on two things one is you know i think for some businesses you may not want to scale or have to grow beyond a certain size you may just enjoy being able to find your own thing make your own decisions have a good or a good business good or a good income and it may not be a good opportunity you may not want to bring on those partners because it does change the dynamic and it changes it from hey i can have an idea implement it do my own things try it out you know or set the the business i want to go to hey now i'm accountable to someone and if that's an investor now you have to make a return if that's a partner you have to have a second second person making decisions which can be good things they can also leverage a lot of things but i think that you should go slowly kind of you said kicking and screaming and see do you want that person you really need them and if so wait until you need to get to that point and certainly don't bring them on early because i think that there it changes a lot of the dynamic and can cause a lot of issues with the business so i think that that's definitely absolutely nice the the other one that i want to just hitchhike on that was start with the website a lot of people think well geez i need to form my business structure etc then i'm going to eventually come up with a website i find that starting with a website is a great way to do it don't don't launch the website yet but unless you can craft your value proposition into something tangible start to make promises then you figure out how to fulfill those promises so starting with the website is not a bad way to flesh out a business rather than starting with a rough business plan you'll back into the business plan based on how you go to market so that's a little irreverent but that would be the other advice that i would have oh and i think there's a lot of because when you go through a lot of what you're doing in a website design especially if you do a good job now people sometimes just put up pretty pictures and it doesn't really do but if you do a good job on the website design you have to think about what is your value proposition what is your pricing whose customers and it's going to be a lot of the same thing as you mentioned almost as doing that business plan but one it's a lot a lot of times a lot more fun to have a website that's visible and tangible that you can see but to it also it tends to move it along and make progress and so you kind of hip that a lot of the same things you're doing with business plan but you're not having to sit down and begrudgingly put it on paper and write it out because you're doing that same exercise so i think that's a great great piece of advice yeah well as we wrap up um if people want to reach out to you if they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to go to one of your camps they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more sure so in terms of the camp again young inc young entrepreneurs um that would the details there would be at www.summerdiscovery.com that's our camp partner as far as myself my consulting practice and so on best way to reach me would be at my website which is bauer b-a-u-e-r dash inc inc dot com bower dash inc dot com awesome i definitely encourage people to check out any or all of the above is there's a lot of good resources and you know like i was in high school i wish i could have gone to a camp and did not one that it's just trying to get you to go to the school but as you said a real camp where you can actually get the experience and try it out and see whether you love it and you know i think that that's just it sounds like something pretty exciting so on a lot of fronts i think there's a lot of great great reasons to connect well thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have uh if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show a couple more things to listen make sure to leave a review click subscribe click share because we want to make sure that everybody finds out about all these awesome journeys we also want to make sure to help as many entrepreneurs along their path as we can so go ahead or go ahead and do all the above if you're if you're able to and last but not least you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help thank you again dan for coming on the podcast and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you devin i enjoyed it you







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"Optimizing Launch: Tech or Service Focus?" Founder's Advice For Entrepreneurs w/ Karina Muller

The Inventive FounderEpisode #18Optimizing Launch: Tech or Service Focus?w/ Karina Muller What This Episode Talks About: How To Manage Business & Self One decision I'd reconsider is...

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