Start With The Customer In Mind

The Inventive Journey
Episode #347
Start With The Customer In Mind
w/ Eric Johnson

What This Episode Talks About:

How To Manage Business & Self

"Start with the end customer in mind. Figure out who your end customer is going to be and go starting lighting those people up. Because at the end of the day that's who you have to satisfy. So whatever the business deal is just figure out where the end customer is going to be and make sure that through letters of intent or something like that you get a relationship in place. And if you do that you'll be ok."


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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

uh start with the end customer in mind figure out who your end customer is going to be and go start lining those people up okay because at the end of the day that's who you have to satisfy and so whatever the business deal is just figure out who what where the end customer is going to be and make sure that through letters of intent or something like that that you get those relationships in place and if you do that um you're gonna be you're gonna be okay [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devon miller the serial entrepreneur has thrown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help now today we've got another great guest on the podcast eric johnson and eric in his own words was an ab a very average high school and college student so um but one always wanted to be an attorney but didn't think he was smart enough to do so um so for a while went into work instead as a housekeeper to hospital i believe um friend got and then one of his friends i think that is working out with the hospital got into law school and he decided hey i'll give it a try how hard could it be if my friend could do it so could i um plied into applied to several law schools got rejected by him also his initial history was at least additionally correct but he then spent another a year improving his odds reapplied got on a wait list and was the last person off of the wait list to get into law school ended up getting great grades and being number one in his class i one from waitlist to number one wrote a book about that experience going from worst to first also graduated or graduated clerked at the utah supreme court worked as a litigator worked for other firms over the period of about 10 years decided he didn't like how and i'm much the same way decided how he didn't like i did like how some of the other firms were doing it so eventually opened up his own practice built that with a partner and now specializes in public and private partnerships with the government and industry so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast eric hey glad to be here devon uh glad to have you on excited to have a great conversation so with that um you know i gave the shorter condensed version the 45 second or 30 second or however long it was version of a much longer journey but why don't you take us uh back a bit in time to when you know or you were quote unquote an average high school college student and how your call or how your journey got started there well i'm i'm absolutely an average guy even my name's average eric johnson uh and uh you know i just i always got average results you know as one of those guys who you know politely clapped and applauded when other people got awards that i wished i had you know that was that was me uh pretty consistently and uh you know that was that was all the way through growing up that was all the way through college and even after college and uh you know was i happy being average hey i always wanted to be more than average right who doesn't and i don't know i've always wait this is the complete i'm always waiting for that because you gotta figure there's only one person that's actually average because everybody's either above average or everybody's below average so i'm always wanting to meet that person that is exactly in the middle well i was i was pretty close pretty dang close pretty much all the time all right and uh uh anyway yeah like like you pointed out i had a friend who you know i was five years out of college i was working as a housekeeper in a hospital and i had a friend one one just real quick question on that because he jumped on the college so what did you study in college so if you always kind of wanted to be an attorney but didn't quite go that route at least not initially what did you study in college before you went to work at the hospital my undergraduate degree is called physical plant administration which is a fairly unique degree in which i studied to uh you know maintain and take care of physical assets of companies of businesses and so that's what i was doing i was working in housekeeping at a hospital that's i'm one of the few people who actually trained to do that and so that's what i was doing and um yeah i had a friend say got into law school and i was green with envy but of course congratulated him heartily and thought well i never actually applied to law school so why why accept a rejection that was never made right and uh so i i went and took uh the law school admissions test the lsat and uh did well enough i thought well i'll i'll apply to some law schools i'll give it a try and uh they all they all agreed with me i didn't have the grades i just wasn't smart enough to get in and uh so uh now now you do that so you know first of all i get it and you know first of all nobody it's not an enjoyable process to go and apply to law schools you're gonna take the lsat you have to do studying you have to do all of that and then you get on you have to wait for a while and it's it's not a it's it's not an enjoyable experience in that sense but you say okay didn't get in the first time a couple questions on that and i guess i'll i'll break them up but what did you do in the meantime because i know you mentioned you kind of work to get your odds up or to get you in a better place to reapply but did you continue to work at the hospital that time did you take a break and say i'm going to do this as my sole focus or what did you do for that period of time you know i continued working at the hospital uh i got hold of the admissions officers of the law schools that it took me down and just said i can't change my grades is there something else i can do to improve my application package and they gave me they were all very kind and generous with their time and gave me some pointers and um so yeah i just i worked over that year and kind of polished up my my resume so to speak to kind of tweak it the way law schools want to see it and uh then i i applied again that next year and uh you know i i will say this there was absolutely nothing that suggested to me that i should pursue going to law school okay the only the only the only factor in favor of me going to law school was it's what i wanted to do every other factor cut against it but i decided you know what i'm going to give it another goal to uh to see if i can get in and um the day i graduated from law school my wife told me she said you know the only reason i said you could go to law school was because i knew you couldn't get in and i figured it's better someone else to tell you no than than me right so you proved here wrong you know it took you a bit of time but you got in so that is that is funny and my wife's probably the same way he's like you'll never go for four degrees we'll just let you or continue to pretend that then i got him she's like well okay i guess you did it so so you got so you finally reworked you know kind of looked and said what can i do to improve how can i improve my chances my odds you apply you get wait listed you know the last one to be accepted off the waitlist and then you go and do well in law school and so you know that in and of itself was kudos to you but now you come out of law school and i think he also wrote a book about it but what did you do is you now finally get into law school prove everybody or prove your wife wrong at least get her go and get the degree and then coming out how did the journey go from there well um you know anytime you anytime you level up anytime you just make a jump from where you are to you know where you always wanted to be right where you always dreamed of being a matter of fact i leveled up so high i never even dreamed of being top of my class in law school uh at most i thought hey if i can just not be last wouldn't that be awesome okay i mean because i knew i started dead last very last in my class and and so um you know i there's there's a real emotional uh fortitude that is required to to make that transition and that's really what i try and capture in my book that i wrote about it called worse to first and just to try to help people understand because the whole time you're doubting yourself right the whole time you're going i'm just an average guy i can't do this yet at the same time you're trying to do it anyway and you know that's really um that's really the way it is for every entrepreneur they're they're trying to do something they've never done before you know they're trying to to go from where they've been to where they want to be and while they have some ideas about how to do that uh they've just never done it they don't really know how and it's a matter of cracking that nut of trying to figure it out on the fly and that's uh it's a rush when it finally happens oh i and i agree with them you know i think that i think there's a lot to it now i mean i i came in a bit differently but i came in from an engineering background and so i did electrical engineering in chinese as my undergraduate but with the emphasis on electrical engineering i came into law school and it was a much different mindset as to how the professors want you to write things and how you take tests and everything else and so didn't start out last but i definitely get the having here going in there with a bit of having to have fortitude to take it and you know the first year i did fine but the second and third year once you get it figured out i went to or did considerably better just because you're having to figure out how to do that so i get a lot of that fortune now on the other hand if you're starting at last place you really can't go any lower so it does give you the opportunity to say all i can do is move upward and all i can do is do better and now let's make it happen so i think that there that's a great um great story to have so now as you're coming out of law school you wrote the book shared the experience now you started i think started clerking for the utah supreme court is that where you got started my first uh full-time job out of law school was looking at the utah supreme court kind of the spoils of doing as well as i did and uh and then uh you know did some commercial litigation at uh some of the high-powered litigation firms and and uh work at at a large national firm and after doing that for a number of years it was just like you know what i gotta i gotta take off the handcuffs and uh it's hard because you know they're kind of golden handcuffs they they pay you well but at the same time uh they hold you back in other ways it's certainly much more difficult to build a business of in the practice of law within a large law firm than it is out on your own because there's some inherent restrictions within the large law firm and i'd agree with that now and just now now you're playing into here a little bit of the same reason you know i went and built my own law firm as well but we know just out of curiosity kind of what were those restrictions or kind of what was affiliate what was what were the things that kind of felt like they were holding you back or weren't weren't driving with what you were looking to to accomplish sure first of all when you're with a major law firm their billing rates are high and when you're just starting out your practice one of the arrows you want in your quiver is to be able to say to someone you know what if you take a chance on me i'll give you a real discount at the large law firm you can't do that they won't allow you yeah another thing is large large law firms are built to support very senior attorneys that have already have established client bases and they're more interested in the junior attorneys helping them and carrying their briefcase than they are in those junior attorneys building up their own client base right i definitely agree with that and there's a lot of they're true to that and in a sense one it is hard when you're if they're billing you out of the for clients that are already well established that are wanting to um that are willing to accept the rates especially if you're at a big law firm and then to come in and say okay now oftentimes as a junior attorney you're not able to go land those huge clients and it takes a bit of their time to build up a book a business and do that gives you a lot of handicap to not have much of that flexibility as well as you're already servicing all those big clients as you mentioned that are built for the the the partners already in the firm yeah not to mention they already want you to work uh you know 10 12 hours a day on their clients where are you going to have time to go get your own and to work on your own clients right i mean all of those are just kind of inherent and they're not mean spirited or anything like that i mean they're not trying to hold you down right but that's just the structure of it and you know i just got to the point where i kind of said you know what uh i'll go flip burgers rather than continue here now one one thing i think we talked about along those lines is it i think it took you a little while together because i think you worked for several different firms along that realization that you're trying to find that firm that was right for you or that fit and couldn't quite find it is that about right yeah i was uh i was in house counsel for a while with uh with a large natural gas company and uh you know was at a couple of different law firms uh for you know some unique reasons and uh yeah just really really what i what i figured out is that in the private practice of law having your own clients is that's it doesn't matter anything else you have to have your own clients in the private practice of law and so i kind of got to that point was just like okay i got to get out of here i got to get in a in a situation where i can be more of an entrepreneur don't i agree with you know the some of the irony is is that they really are wanting you to have your own in other no in order to succeed within the legal industry you're having to build that book of business you're having to actually go in bring on those clients and do it and then you said all those handicaps or those things that kind of handcuff you and it makes it for a frustrating thing so i certainly understand where you're coming from and mirrors a little bit of the same journey i took i was a bit different i was always saying hey i want to be able to pursue startups small businesses entrepreneurial things and a lot of times the law firms again aren't necessarily set up for that they're not looking for you to come up with different systems or different approaches or try things out or do things they're really just looking for you to service your clients and so i think that you know a lot of times i think the lawyers especially if you start your own firm it's not always just hey i'm motivated by money so you know just as you said i'd rather go flip burgers but you're saying i want to do it my own way and have that freedom this is not the environment that's going to set it up for me in the long run and so now i've got to go figure that out so no now as you figure that out as you're saying okay i'm going to go i'd rather flip burgers if i have to but i'm going to go and figure out my own practice kind of you know that's oftentimes a big leap for return especially for attorneys is because you're going from a law firm that where you have business that is quite getting putting on your docket you're having steady clientele you're having you know so to speak a full docket you're not having to worry about that not to mention not having to worry about payroll and doing all the malpractice insurance getting of that all set up now you go do your own thing and you're having to work you know you're having to deal with all those things so how did that transition go for you decided okay i'm gonna go start my own thing yeah well it's uh you know it's a little bit like uh you know diving out off one of those high platforms into a kiddie pool because you know you go from uh a fairly healthy paycheck that is there you know every month and i had zero clients and i just walked out the door and said goodbye to all of you know to the paycheck i had no clients whatsoever and uh you know just kind of joined a a group of attorneys would let me hang out my shingle and and uh build build my own practice and so that was uh yeah you're just you're kind of diving into that little pool and hoping it's going to work out okay oh i i couldn't agree more and you know you always it is always kind of that leap of faith or you're not sure especially if you're taking the leap without having client you know client base or ones that you're saying hey i can have some billing or i know that i'll have some income it's just a bit of that leap of faith let's you know i think i can do it i'll i'm going to try it out and we'll see how it goes type of a thing and so do you know as you're doing that how long did it take before you kind of started to figure out you know area of law you're going to focus in the client base how you're going to do client generation kind of what was that journey yeah so you know i was able to build on the expertise that i had developed working with the big law firms and so i at least had that um and i had looked up to see you know okay how long should i expect for me to build a full practice and the different things that i read said oh it'll probably take you know three to five years to build your own practice that's kind of uh an average time and so that's what i was prepared to do um which kind of meant i was prepared to tighten my belt for a while so to speak and uh fortunately everything worked out swimmingly uh six months after i broke out on my own uh i had a full slate of clients that were keeping me busy within the year i had to hire a second attorney to help me and that really was you know spectacular to the point that you know i tell other people don't don't expect that that's that's rare and if someone asked me what what led to that it's kind of like i have to admit i don't really know uh fortunately i did have some contacts in industry from from what i had been doing i didn't have clients but i had contacts you know some relationships in industry and basically what happened was there were a couple of folks who took a chance on me it turned out really well they told their friends and it just went from there oh and i think i'd agree i mean that is certainly er outside the norm of being able to ramp it up that quickly get the firm established and and be able to grow so that's awesome that it was a great opportunity it sounds like it was a great uh leap over and it was worthwhile so all right well now that you know as you as you've now gone out on your own establish your own firm started to grow it bringing out additional attorneys where does that kind of put you at today in other words what you know bringing your journey full circle to today kind of where things at what are you working on and then what are what's uh the next steps for you that what you know kind of what's the next six to 12 months or 12 months look like for you well i could i can tell you some of the things we're working on and let me just start mentioning my my audio book again worst of first it was published with nightingale conant uh nightingale conant there's you know that's uh they've done audio programs with the likes of earl nightingale napoleon hill zig ziglar dr wayne dyer dr deepak chopra just you name it they've they have been the leader in motivational audio materials for more than half a century and so i was just super excited when they picked up my book it's available on audible uh it is an audio only product there's not a written product but just look it up under worst to first eric todd johnson as the author and uh and you can find it there and that's that's just been a lot of fun i i wrote it mostly just to to kind of share my journey in case there were others that you know i might be able to help um and just from the the publisher you kind of gather the genre of of what it is and the other authors that they work with so my practice today is in public private law where i help i help governmental entities figure out what they can do to help private entities to build their businesses in ways that neither can do alone there are some things that governments can do that they're really good at there's a lot of things governments do that they're not so good at but there's some things they're really good at and if you focus on those things they can really be a benefit uh to private enterprises um one of my my clients uh just uh was able to get a railroad authorized by the u.s surface transportation board that's the federal agency that regulates freight rail uh we're told that it will be the longest greenfield railroad in the lower 48 states since world war ii and uh it'll be about a probably close to about a two billion dollar project uh to get constructed and under operation uh i'm working with another client uh we are standing up a nuclear research lab there will be open access meaning it'll be open to both public and private entities that want to do advanced nuclear research and uh you know that's just been a a real blast and just you know something fun to work on every day where you're you're dealing with emerging technologies and let me just if if you will indulge me for a minute devin let me just kind of talk about that so everybody's familiar with with traditional nuclear with a light water reactor what is little known is that in the 50s and 60s there was an alternate nuclear power that was researched and it's called molten salt nuclear and it's way safer than light water reactors for a variety of reasons one there cannot be a meltdown because the radioactive material is already embedded in a blanket of molten metallic salts okay and so it's already melted down so to speak and so if you lose power or something like fukujima you cannot have a meltdown so it's safer that way it's also safer because the um the radioactive materials that you use in it are not good for weapons proliferation and then the third thing that's safer is based on the technology available today which is being researched to improve the long-term nuclear waste from a molten salt reactor is only 17 of the long-term nuclear waste from a traditional light water reactor and so it's just it's just safer and better in every way and they're hoping to reduce that 17 percent down even further uh with additional research and so it's just it's exciting you you deal with technological advances it's exciting to deal with those things oh that's awesome that's a uh you're right i mean i i certainly love to to work in the on a lot of different technologies see those inventions and and see those improvements and so definitely makes it for a fun area and you know it sounds like within the your practice and generally get it to be able to work or see a lot of those connections make a lot of those improvements and otherwise um or take it or see that uh that or gratifying result so with that so now as we've kind of caught a bit up to where you're at today what you're doing and heard your and you know and heard the journey always a great time to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of each journey so we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made what'd you learn from it uh the worst business decision i ever made was let me back up and preface this by saying uh when you're making business decisions who you work with is everything and when you make a business decision based on other criteria thinking oh well they bring this that or the other to the table and that really is what i need and that's really what fits then you you can make mistakes and so the worst business decision i ever made was um connecting with you know some others that it just it just wasn't a fit and uh you know nothing nothing negative to say about those folks it just wasn't a fit and it just became apparent fairly readily and that you know what let's uh let's just move on from this because um you know it's just it's just not a fit between us they were not nearly as entrepreneur as i was and you know i was constantly feeling like they were holding me back that i was pulling dead weight they always thought i was out you know on a lark and doing crazy things that were very risky in their mind right so it just it just wasn't it just wasn't a fit that way so that was that was probably the worst one i think that you know sometimes it is hard to be able to gauge that in the sense that sometimes as you kind of alluded to it's not always they're not bad people it's not that they're doing anything wrong they're conducting the business but you know i've worked with you know kind of along the same lines of you'll get into some people that just that aren't necessarily wired to be entrepreneurs or they want to do it more than traditionally or they want to they have a different vision for where you're heading and then you get into that and you're saying hey it's just it doesn't the way the air the directions that we want to head just don't or don't go together and it will cause continual friction it will cause you know their issues and those will rise and so it's better when you get in those circumstances to say hey it's better to part ways we can each pursue it how we want to and it will make it more um a more successful for everybody so you know that's certainly an understandable mistake to make but also a great one to learn or look for to learn from second question i always ask is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business would be the one piece of advice you give them uh make sure you have more of a cushion than you think you need uh that uh your odds are you will burn through the cushion faster and further than you think that you will but the other thing i would say is uh start with the end customer in mind figure out who your end customer is going to be and go start lining those people up okay because at the end of the day that's who you have to satisfy and so whatever the business deal is just figure out who what where the end customer is going to be and make sure that through letters of intent or something like that that you get those relationships in place and if you do that um you you're going to be you're going to be okay if you can't get that in place after a little while you're just you're just hanging out there i like that the first the first one that our point you even hit on which is you know my experience with almost every business it takes longer and it's more expensive than you're going to anticipate or you plan and even if you plan conservative you're still going to take longer be more expensive than there than you think even is a conservative planner and so i always think that having that cushion and also having the realistic expectation of what the time is and then saying i've got a plan even beyond that because it's going to be something that i'm they're going to be un variables that i'm just not going to consider i think that that's definitely a great takeaway as well well as we wrap up if people want to reach out to they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor in your firm although most time you can invest in law firms they want to be a 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 why don't i just uh give you my phone number area code 801 520-5333 eric johnson again 801 520-5333 and devin i don't i don't want to turn the tables but if i can ask you a question um you know what's uh what's some of the fun technology you're working with these days that you can talk about yeah and probably always walk that line of what's confidential what not but i mean i work with a lot of technologies in the augmented reality space which is just fun we do it more with uh with some of the clients with uh industrial applications and training and other things not necessarily consumer based work a ton of wearables and that's always a fun thing and do a lot with the medical app for things or apparatuses and then there's just a lot of fun things i do i mean i've done everything from food that's with chocolate molding to edibles that are with flower bouquets to boat anchors to i'm trying to think of all the different ones i'm sure i'm leaving out all the other cool ones of the clients that i work with but for me it's one that's you know i get to work with some of the areas that utilize this on my educational background but you i just got to see a lot of cool things that i honestly would have never thought of i know everything or everything across the board and just makes it kind of exciting to see all the interesting and cool things that people are working on that's awesome well awesome we'll definitely encourage people that reach out to you give you a call and that sounds like some great opportunities and if they're looking for an area of your area of expertise i definitely encourage them to make sure to connect up there and also check out your book and if they're considering going into law school or just looking for a good read but 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 your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast feel free to go to fly to be on the show we'd love to have you also as the listeners make sure to click subscribe share leave us a review because we want to make sure that everyone finds out about all these awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else in your business just go to grab some time with us to chat and we're always here to help thank you again eric for coming on the podcast and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks steven

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