Humble Enough to Ask For Help

Humble Enough To Ask For Help

Ray McKenzie

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs


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Humble Enough To Ask For Help

Be humble enough to ask for help. You know?

That's twofold. Being humble and humility goes both ways. So ask people for help. Don't ever think that you know everything. You can always go out to your network and ask people for help. That's the first thing about being humble.

Then the second thing about being humble is: be able to take criticism in terms of what you've built and poking holes at it.


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

ask be be humble enough to ask for help you know and hey well there's it's that's twofold so humble being humble and humility is goes both ways so ask people for help don't ever think that you know everything or there's you know you can always go out to your network and ask people for help it's the first thing of being humble then the second thing of being humble is be able to take criticism in terms of what you've built and people poking holes at it [Music] hey everybody this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey and i am your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that has grown uh several companies uh seven and eight figure businesses as well as uh been the or done uh founded miller ip law that where we focus on helping startups and small businesses and so today on the podcast we have another great guest ray mckenzie and i'll let ray talk a little bit more about himself in just a minute but uh ray is uh the founder of uh starting point that helps customer service management be simplified and also uh he before that he was uh work or he went to bat or san diego state um worked for a few different companies had an offer to do a biocheck company in the bay area and then the company was going to go down in a ball of flames and so he decided to switch paths and do a bunch of whole a whole bunch of exciting things along the way so um with that short introduction welcome on to the podcast ray all right hi devon thank you for having me it's a it's a pleasure to uh talk to you and talk to your audience so i gave a very brief introduction but uh i'm sure didn't you near the amount of justice that it could have so with that why don't you take and uh tell us a little bit about your journey and uh what brought you to where you're at today all right sounds good so thank you for that so i'm from a small town called outwater california um it's in central valley of california near like fresno or so and then i went to san diego state and studied management information systems which is the business side of computers for the most part and then after school uh moved to the bay area in silicon valley or what was what became silicon valley for the most part in the early 2000s and worked with a couple of early stage startups um i joined one early stage startup so you know after the biotech disaster just you know and and a career-changing idea for me um or experience uh moved to another internet infrastructure startup we were wildly successful i was extremely young we took that over the course of the next four years to be from being in the red to being in the black and then we were able to be successfully acquired by a company at not washington dc worked with that company for another four years in various different types of roles um then walked across the street to their competitor who was also in and entered an infrastructure in cyber security and cyber intelligence and then worked with them for another three years and then my wife and i we decided hey you know just for a half a second so you had walking across the street to the competitor one i can't imagine that the current is probably happy but maybe they were you know maybe it was layoffs or the other thing well what made you decide to walk across the street to the competitor um with the with the original company i was with i was part of the executive team of the company that got acquired and so i was the last one to actually leave the company who acquired us and it was more so just career growth it wasn't a layoff it wasn't anything of that nature it was just okay i'm ready to do something new ready to do something a little bit more exciting and a friend of mine contacted me and said hey you know we're we're building something across the street um would you like to come and i was like hey let's let's do it let's let's build something new let's have some fun okay and so uh joined that company uh built that company up in terms of its products and services and support and service delivery and a lot of different worlds uh and then we eventually were either the one number one or number two in our product category of what we were what we were providing companies uh and then over over the course of this time my career spanned anything from support and service professional services account management sales engineering business operations business strategy and you know i got exposure to a lot of different roles at a really young age doing a lot of different funding exciting things and then growing and working with some amazing people um over that time you know i was traveling quite a bit traveling uh i'd say every two weeks somewhere different so san francisco to washington dc somewhere in between there were a lot of different things that i had team members all over the world um probably let it i think the highest amount but gosh i was had a department of 500 full-time head count across the world and so um from there just continuing to look for new challenges and new opportunities um and then my wife and i own at this point we have four kids um our oldest son was starting to play a lot of basketball so we took an opportunity to move to los angeles um a company hired me to do global strategy and service delivery uh and so next thing you know i'm flying from los angeles to belgrade serbia to frankfurter munich to london uh every month i'm going to jump back just a little bit just because you jumped over what it sounds like and so you had and i think you said you have three boys and one girls i don't remember when we talked to three boys three boys one girl yes all right you're just the opposite of me so we got one boy and three girls both of them have their pros and cons with their bad things and uh but at least at least you got a mix of both so or was in the basketball so was it really hey i want to provide a different life for the son want to provide the basketball career and so that's when you moved to l.a was what we talked about or is it you were wanting to a career shift or was it all the above or kind of you know because that seems like you know kudos to you as a father but it just seems like it's a big career jump to move to la to make to provide that opportunity not saying good bad or different but just thought that was an interesting point of a reason for the career shift yeah it was um i'd say the career shift was uh sarah combined a lot of different decisions or choices you know so um you know my son wanting to pursue basketball was a big thing which is on the west coast if you want to play good basketball southern california is kind of the center of it okay so that was an aspect of that then another aspect was do we really want to live where we live in the bay area we had been there 13 years um you know we kind of wanted some different things in our life i wanted to live near a beach and so southern california provided that option for us um we also have family down here in southern california for a lot of family a lot of friends i went to school san diego state my wife went to cal state northridge so it was it was probably a good time for us to get around family friends again and and really start to grow that um and then i also wanted to get to a smaller company so i was working with another public company i wanted to give back to a smaller company to pursue innovation change excitement uh you know new products new companies things are moving faster um it was it was i just wanted more innovation within my career and the way to get that innovation was going to a smaller company all right so then you make the you make the transition you make the leap you provide the smaller company you have a change in career make more of an impact allow for the the sun to be able to be in the epicenter of basketball and all of that good things and then i think he said as you know so you made that job or jump and then you made at one point you were flying back and forth or in europe and yeah and you had kind of i don't know i guess what i'd call an epiphany after that you know after you flew back and we're walking on the beach maybe jump into and provide a little bit more on that yeah so we ended up you know relocating the los angeles for an opportunity uh with a with a great company with great people um here in los angeles we live in redondo beach so we were able to kind of get that beach life as part of things that were happening so we moved to um we moved out here and then i was going to eastern europe and then western europe and la once a month i have four kids i have a wife i like i like and love them i kind of want to think they like and love me and so it was one of those things to where that that travel schedule was pretty hectic because i'm gone for seven to ten days at a time and so i flew back from europe um and this goes to the epiphany experience and go and fly back from europe i go to lunch in in hermosa beach at tuesday at one o'clock los angeles is a very different culture um next thing you know i get out there and at one o'clock uh gosh people are out there happy as ever acting like they have nowhere to be but they're definitely handling business and they're able to afford this kind of lifestyle and so that that piqued my interest which was i've worked in san francisco i've worked in washington dc i've worked in new york i worked in chicago worked in a lot of different areas and you know if you're in the corporate environment it's kind of one of those things where you're up at seven in the morning working and you you end working at seven at night and so i was always in search of okay what's the better quality of life and so while i was at lunch i started to have conversations with just random strangers like hey what do you do for a living what allows you to be out here at tuesday at 1pm with nowhere to be and it all came down to you know i got various answers in the space but it all bubbled up into running your own company or running your own firm and so with that i left that lunch saying i want to start my own company okay and then actually verbalize that and said i want to start my own company and so as i said that i kept thinking about going just because so when you walked up to strangers how did that conversation start of hey you don't know me but why are you here instead of at work or how did you how did you have that conversation well it was more so sitting at the bar of restaurants you know and sitting at the bar and having something to eat and and having that conversation just striking up a random conversation whether it be about sports or current events or hey you know finding something in common just hey you know what do you do for a living you know they're asking me what i do for a living and so i ask it back and so that led me to get those answers from a a group of people all right that makes much more sense bye-bye i almost saw you walking around the beach just seeing random people saying so i wha what allows you to be here at [Laughter] and so from there um i left lunch and i said hey i want to start my own company this is that path a week later i got calls from two ceos and executives of companies and you know they were like hey we need your help our companies are growing and scaling um do you think you could take on a couple of projects and i was like okay well i'm still working full time with this company i'm here with in los angeles but yeah let's do it and so i did that for the next i did both of those for the next six months and at the end of the first six months i was like this is really what i want to do this is the next phase and that's how i started my consulting from red beach advisors and red beach advisors is a technology management consulting group focused on strategy operational efficiency and digital transformation and so it started with corporate strategy market strategy and go to market strategy for companies and then on the operational efficiency side it's all based around lean six sigma agile methodologies project management product management within companies and then you get digital transformation through technologies which is going into companies in in kind of transforming their environments to utilize technologies that can benefit them either in cyber security cloud computing or maybe even injecting some software as a service initiatives to create efficiency um and so i started that about five years ago um and and you know you go through your ups and downs in terms of having a company and starting the company and in year one i had clients and customers in year two i have taught myself how to sell um because i you know i started my company with clients so it was completely different i created it out of a need for other people so i didn't create it thinking hey i just think this is something people want or i want to start a company i created my company out of need and i'll bring that forward and so um year two was teaching myself how to really sell how to pursue how to develop contract or how to develop relationships how to develop contracts um partnerships year three was great year four was great year five has been fantastic as well um and then fast forward to starting point and kind of how starting point kind of came to be is i needed a tool within my consulting firm to where i can manage internal requests from customers clients small businesses medium-sized companies and even some of our larger clients and then also be able to have that visibility for communication across my team so consultants that were working for my consultancy firm and how they were engaging with clients and customers and so from there i kept thinking about this idea and i had this on a notepad for two years like i need this tool i need a tool and i kept out looking out there to like hey what kind of tool would help me do this within my company that was affordable we're a small business it doesn't need to use i.t development resources it's easy to implement and it's efficient you know i've seen a lot of tools that are out there that are you know you kind of need to be a 70 60 70 percent developer engineer to be able to use it or you need the worst type i always i'm in complete agreement what astounds me it took me a little while to figure it out or you know to understand it is you know a lot of times when you look at you know whatever the tool is especially in software making something simple is a lot harder than making it complex or adding having a whole bunch of features so making it that intuitive easy simple y'all often times you want to say oh we need to add in all these features we need to add in all this complexity we need to add in all these abilities to customize and not sometimes you don't need some of those things but you get it to be so complex and almost to your point you have to be a developer just to understand that and then the common person is saying either one is way too much work to try and figure it out and use it or two i can't even get it what i need to and i just wanted to do x and so i completely agree with you yeah exactly and and the goal is building a simple and efficient tool that companies can use service based companies and teams can use and so as i was building it and once again that goes back to building something or structuring something out of need i needed it for red beach advisors so now i've got a tool that does exactly what i wanted to do for my firm and my company in a simple and efficient manner we launched it may may 15 2020 um so it's relatively new you know 45 days in um we're obviously have customers now so it's great um going through the process of building it was an in an interesting journey and so um you know it's exciting and it leads back into innovating um developing a tool out of need for that i saw that i needed within my own company um and we're going through the journey so you did that so you launched it you've been in what 45 days ish from when he launched or you know a month and a half or so so you know because i always wondered we're actually in in a similar path to developing one of the companies i'm a part of is on the legal industry but you know it's one where there's a lot of kind of you know you have a lot of project management tools out there and you know but there's something or something specific for the legal industry there's really about three or four providers all of which in my mind are just terrible and that you know just don't have most of them look like they're made in the 1990s and they've never updated and so they're just all horrible so we actually are a little bit in the same process out of a need for needing to have a much better project management system within the legal system we're creating something internally and then gonna say hey well if we need it other people likely need it and it's probably applicable in the marketplace so now i'm trying to glean off of your experience so going to launch that taking a tool that you needed internally you're always looking for really wasn't out there and then turning around and selling it what are the lessons learned or how have you gone about approaching that to actually get that out of the marketplace get people to be interested and do that is it using natural you know your network or people you know in the industry is it making cold calls or how have you gone about launching in the last 45 days gosh you know man it i'll i'll tell you this starting taking a product to market since it's completely different than my my experience with red beach advisors my consulting company for starting point that was extremely challenging you know because you you're also you're always fighting that perfectionism and that idea that is it ready is it ready is it ready and that's always a challenge um for us you know what i did to kind of come together with this idea was obviously i had the idea for myself but i also went out to 150 different other service based companies or teams and and pulled them as to hey what are you using what features do you need what problems do you have what challenges do you need to solve and then going through a lot of that research that just general market research of people i know across companies clients of mine vendors of mine it all came down to one thing which is client and service manager that was a challenge for all of them which is we've got a lot of communication coming from a lot of different areas we need to solve these challenges and we're a small team but we need tools that are simple for us to use and so i was like okay we'll do that that's what we'll build and so that created the initial demand for it then as we went forward and kind of structured a team i started to really lean on people that i knew a long time in my lifetime so that professionally and personally uh you know i've always been a person that's always held relationships very close um in terms of friendships and professional relationships personal relationships and checking in on people and just following people movement and making sure people are okay and so i have a wide network of individuals i've been able to you know develop a great relationships with um and so i've been able to develop a team of 10 10 people and that's myself my head of sales my head of engineering i've known my head of sales 20 plus years i've known my head of engineering for since seventh grade another one of my operations platform leads i've known through another client that i managed on the on the consulting side and then my sales team is all through people i've known throughout my career um and to a certain extent a benefit of the pandemic is they're going through periods where they're looking for different opportunities in terms of sales leadership and really the ability to get involved at the ground level with a company that's providing a tech solution a software as a service solution that's out there um and so i built the team and then obviously the components of of moving the product to market were challenging you know you've got a lot of steps you know you've got your corporate steps you've got um strategy you've got pricing you've got marketing you've got product development you've got product support you've got all of those things that you've got to tie together along with the infrastructure and operational aspect of it that you've got to manage like you don't want to say here's something that's in the market and then you sell it to somebody and then it immediately crashes and burns like that's not what you want to happen but that process of getting to that point just it took it took a while it took a while and it took a lot of hours to get it to that point so you know if you really want to focus on building a product or inventing something it's going to put in a lot a lot of work you know and your first version is never going to be perfect yeah you know however it does need to be useful and serve its purpose for people who are paying customers yeah no and i'm in in the complete agreement with you and i i think that you know you always hear i think it's the old cliche maybe this is the one that i've heard as you know perfect or perfect is the enemy of good right in the sense that if you're always striving for perfection you're never going to launch a product it's never going to go anywhere you're going to either burn through cash reserves you're going to burn through that and so you know i always i always hate the word minimally viable product because in my mind it always means i'm going to put out the crappiest product as quick as i can but i think that you know i always go with the maximum viable product which means understand your constraints how much money you have how many resources you have how quickly have to get to market and then say what can we reasonably do to get the best product out within that amount of time which is yeah makes more sense to me but i certainly get that and i liked how you kind of highlighted that you know what you did was you take a lot of the people you met over your career you made connections with you were comfortable with you knew that their skills and their talents are saying okay if i'm going to build a team i'm going to go with the people one that i trust two that i know that will do a good job and three that i have a good relationship with and that's how you're going to build a team which i think lays a good ground work or foundation for success so well as we as we start to get towards the end of the pot there's always a whole bunch more things that we can talk on and never have enough time but as we start to get to the end of the podcast i always have two questions i always ask and so maybe we'll jump over to those now so the first question i always ask is what was the worst business decision you ever made gosh i'd say the oh the worst business decision yo oh you're easily joining that biotech company early in my career you know i i took an opportunity directly out of college with an educational company which was actually a michael milken company so if you're not familiar with his story look of his story um and then i got a job on a i was extremely young and i took a job opportunity with a biotech company for two thousand dollars more annually and you know i was like oh yeah biotech is the new wave such such let's let's go i don't know anything about biotech i don't know anything about pharmaceuticals i was obviously in their i.t department and i made that jump and while it was the worst business decision i made because the company eventually went under um it taught me a ton of lessons so it did serve dual purpose but that was probably the worst decision i made at the time i want to say and so you know whereas typically in my network i meet a ton of people there are a lot of people inside the company you know uh it just it's it's stream it's it's made me stay away from biotech and pharmaceuticals in every aspect of my entire career all right no i think that that's a you know and sometimes it's enticing either because of the startup nature or the cut you know the technology they're in or the extra pay bump or whatever but it's sometimes you jump in too quickly or you don't bet and sometimes you just have to learn those lessons of hey i thought this was a great idea and sometimes there aren't any flags on the forefronts not nothing you would have changed or you would have known beforehand but it's one of those that you can learn a lesson along the way so all right so as we jump in now to the second question i always ask which is if you're talking with the somebody that's just getting to a startup just getting into a small business and getting going what would be the number one piece of advice you'd give them ask be be humble enough to ask for help you know and hey well there's it's that's twofold so humble being humble and humility is goes both ways so ask people for help don't ever think that you know everything or there's you know you can always go out to your network and ask people for help it's the first thing of being humble then the second thing of being humble is be able to take criticism in terms of what you've built and people poking holes at it because those people will help you build a better product and so you know when people are arrogant about the product they've built or their concept they don't really ask for help on one side and that's challenging because if you don't ask for help everybody needs help everybody you know everybody needs help that's why you build a team that's why you have advisors that's why you you know maybe you want to go raise money from people and and work with people like yourself definite lawyers who know more you need help you know and then on the second side when you do start showing your product to people or you do start showing your idea your vision to people be willing and able to take criticism and so you have to be humble and have some level of humility to say open yourself up to say hey i want to show this to you rip it apart and give me your book your your toughest feedback toughest critique and be willing to take that in internalize that and use that and then put it back into your product to improve it those would be that would be my advice for anybody i have oh gosh it's been a struggle you know just in terms of i built my consulting firm how i wanted to build my consulting firm but building a product for other people to use is a completely different experience and everybody has a different point of view but you do need that external feedback no i think that's good i mean and i think what people realize you may not take all the feedback you may not agree with all the feedback and some of it may just be wrong or not be or miss but be to be able to be open to take that feedback take that criticism and be able to incorporate the good parts of the things that will improve the product that will make things better i think it's an attitude that you need to learn because if you're so closed off of hey i know how to do this hey i know you know i don't need any feedback don't need any help then you're going to get in your spot in a position to where you're deaf to what the needs of the market is so where the clients are customers are and you're not listening to how you can improve and make things better so i think that's uh definitely a good or some good lessons to learn of asking for help as well as being yeah now it's not easy to take criticism you have to steal yourself especially if you've been working on something for months or years and you put in a tiny ton of blood blood sweat and tears and then somebody pokes a hole in there that you just they it's true and you know you need to you need to fix it you need to do it but it's really hard to say no it's fine like i don't need to fix that and so you have to steal yourself before you ask for the criticism but i think it's something that once you if there is a hole that needs to be plugged it's much better to know about it than not so yeah exactly you hit the nail on the head so all right well as we wrap up so people want to um want to reach out they want to get to know more about starting point they want to make any connections they want to invest they want to be hired on they wanted to talk with you they want to be a customer any of the above what's the best way to reach out to you definitely the west best way to reach out to me you'll find me on linkedin raymond mckenzie founder and ceo of starting point that starting point is all one word you can go to our website and you'll find all of our contact information collateral you can request a demo you know and and call us if you need to um and those are kind of the best ways to follow us and reach out to me and once you reach out to me obviously we'll be able to set up some time to talk if you need advice if you want to see the product if you you know want to do a demo if you're interested in utilizing the product for your company um or if you just you know want to start to develop the relationship between us feel free to reach out to me and we'll schedule some time to talk well awesome well i definitely encourage people to reach out to you get to know the products more get to know you more and you have a fun story to tell and always again wish we had more time to tell it but appreciate you coming on it's been fun to hear your journey appreciate the advice and the lessons learned and for those of you that are wanting to now tell your journey that you have a good journey to tell and would like to apply to be a guest on the podcast feel free to reach out to us at you can apply to be on the up or on the podcast and for those of you that are listeners that are want listening this episode want to make sure that you catch all the future episodes and the new ones coming down make sure to subscribe to the subscribe to the podcast and lastly if you need any help with patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law well ray it's been fun to have you on it's been a an interesting and fun to hear your journey wish you the next less leg of your journey as well as the past legs have been and uh look forward to seeing how things go for you definitely thank you for having me on the podcast devin um appreciate it well it's a pleasure meeting you as well pleasure talking to your audience and uh looking forward to uh you know the developments on both sides of our companies all right English (auto-generated) All Sales Recently uploaded

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