Julie Traxler & Corey Harris, Helping Small Businesses Succeed (#175)

Julie Traxler and Corey Harris are business coaches with a passion for helping small businesses succeed. Having spent years in corporate America, they noticed that the market is full of high-priced consultants that sell services that are not really needed, especially by small business owners that are often left alone and in debt. That’s what inspired them to start SB PACE, with the goal of helping small businesses succeed. They do that following a very precise mission: to offer the value to each client, to never sell services that aren’t needed, and to understand fully what a client needs before they ever try to sell anything.

Helping Small Businesses Succeed

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, every businesses had to face unexpected challenges, but nobody had been impacted more by the lockdowns than small business owners. That was the sign that Julie and Corey had been waiting for, and it served as a catalyst to start SB SPACE. That’s their company where they help small businesses succeed.

Julie is an expert at project management, change management, communication, coaching, and mergers & acquisitions, while Corey has a background in owning and operating restaurants, so he knows what it is to be a small business owner. That makes them a strong & multidisciplinary team with all the necessary knowledge to helping small businesses succeed.

Full transcript below

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Podcast with Julie Traxler & Corey Harris. Helping Small Businesses Succeed.

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, business, small business owners, thinking, acquisitions, business owners, podcast, julie, clients, cory, talking, question, company, small business, months, impact, book, restaurant, week, richmond

SPEAKERS

Julie Traxler, Corey Harris, Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta  03:18

Hey, Cory and Julie, thank you so much for joining me today.

Julie Traxler  03:26

Thanks for having us. We are happy to be on the show.

Mike Malatesta  03:29

Yeah, you guys. listeners are in for a treat today. Because I connected with these two on pod match. I think it was which is a podcasting platform that it just got, I just kind of got on to to, you know, check out and it’s amazing how many different cool stories are out there. And you’re gonna hear one of those and maybe maybe more down the road, but one of those great stories today. So I’m Julian, Cory, I start every one of my shows with the same simple question. How did it happen for you?

Julie Traxler  04:02

I’m going to say slowly, is my answer. Right? So And by that, I mean, when we started stps, we had this silly notion of if we build it, they will come. And that is not at all how it worked for us, right? There was in, you know, despite the fact that we have been, you know, entrepreneurs and then consulting for the better part of both of our careers. And we’ve always been in small businesses. We really didn’t recognize or didn’t. We didn’t realize how long what the uphill battle was going to be in starting the business, right. So there wasn’t so much that we had started during a global pandemic. It was that there were just bits and pieces that we didn’t know and had to learn. the hard way. And so it took us, quite literally, Mike, we got to I can tell you the exact day, it was day 367 when I thought, Okay, this is gonna work, we know what we’re doing. So yes, one year and two days after we started, I was like, Yes, things are now coming together. So it was slow, it was really slow for us. But you don’t, I mean, the time went very fast. But I kept thinking we would see positive revenue and like, month two or three, and it didn’t happen until month 13.

Corey Harris  05:39

And what our business was a response to the pandemic. So when we, back in the beginning of 2020, I had just finished a contract. And I was actually living out of state and moved back to Virginia. And we were just kind of hanging out, Julia just moved to Virginia, February March, pandemic happened. And so we just kind of, I was out of work. And then Julia found herself out of work. And, you know, nobody was, nobody was traveling for No, nobody was hiring consultants to do any work, because nobody knew what was going on. So we just started calling around and asking friends and family that we knew who owned small businesses, like if we could help them, you know, just kind of like, you know, we’ve got skill set, what can we do to help you weather the storm? What can we do, you know, whatever. So then I just kind of turned into us realizing that suddenly, that we already knew is that the small business, the community, the small business industry, let’s say it was just underserved by people like ourselves, is not is not an easy industry, let’s say, or a subset or the economy to get into because it’s not very connected, connected? Well, it’s disjointed. Like you can, it’s really hard to find clients just because there’s millions and millions of them out there and who aren’t advertising that they need help. They don’t know they need help, they don’t know they can get help. So that’s kind of where where we started was with that was just figuring out how we what we could do to help help small businesses.

Mike Malatesta  07:14

Okay, and what was it that brought the two of you together.

Julie Traxler  07:18

So we used to work together. And that was less corporate jobs. for both of us, we have worked for a food distribution company on their mergers and acquisitions team, and traveled 100% of the time to client sites. So the company that we work for serial acquirers at serial integrators, and so we were the team that was brought in to integrate the acquisitions that they had made, and they had all those acquisitions were small businesses. So it was very beneficial for us, because we got to learn front to back everything that was happening inside of these businesses. So it gave us even more small, small business knowledge. But we work together, we have some of the same degenerate habits. So became fast friends. And shortly after, when I left that company, private, six months later, Cory left, and we started doing some consulting together from clients. And then just, you know, I was up in the Philadelphia area, and was thinking about moving to Seattle, because there’s some family out there. And breweries like, come to Richmond, it’s a good area. So I literally live across the street from each other. And we started a business, wrote a book started a podcast, and pretty much spent all of 2020 like working on things together.

Mike Malatesta  08:46

Okay, got it. And before I get more into that, which I’m definitely going to I want to go I want to, first of all, ask you what happened on day 367. That made you think, oh, that you have that they do have that day. So, you know, clearly etched in your mind, we

Julie Traxler  09:04

find three clients, okay. And one of them, I was really confident we were going to there was a planned meeting where I knew that was going to happen. The other two came completely out of the blue, where was people that we’ve been talking to in the past, and also they reached back out and one of them was literally like, Hey, I’m ready to sign. He had previously told us he decided not to do any work on his business, I’m not gonna invest anymore in this and we’re like, okay, you know, my follow up to him when he said that he was not going to do anything else with this company was, Well listen, you know, totally respect and understand that Thanks for letting me know, and are letting us know and if there’s anything we can do, like as you’re continuing to wind things down any connections we can make, let us know we’ve got some people in, you know, fulfillment that we could probably hook you up with or whatever, just make some offers to them and just said, you know, best of luck and let me know if you need anything. And there was probably like, what, four or five weeks Yeah. Then you just sent me a message and said, Alright, I’m ready to do this. I’m ready to sign this contract. I’m ready to pay it today, send me an invoice. And I was like, whoa. And then the next one was as big of a surprise. So three in one day, and then I think we have like three more there. Probably will find very, very quickly here. So just things really started to switch in the blink of an eye.

Mike Malatesta  10:24

Got it? Okay, so Well, congratulations on that, by the way. Cory you had mentioned? Or maybe it was Julie mentioned the habits like you guys did? Yeah, that was usually that mess and same degenerate habits. I can’t let that go without exploring that a little bit. Okay. Okay, got it. gambling.

Julie Traxler  10:50

Football season is a real downer around here.

Mike Malatesta  10:53

Okay, got it. Okay. Thank you. Appreciate that. So when you when Cory when you said you started just talking to small business, business owners, and you didn’t really have sort of an agenda, you were just trying to, you know, help wherever you could? What kind of questions were you asking him? And what kind of answers were you getting?

Corey Harris  11:15

The first, I mean, the first question was always this, how can we help? Yeah, how are you doing? How can we help? What’s going on? I mean, we had everybody from doctors and dentists to people who Merchant Services retail, like all over the place. And, and so it was it, every industry was, it was pretty, there were a lot of similarities. But there were a lot of differences as well. So it was just kind of, for a lot of people, it was more of like a therapy session than anything, it was what they they finally have somebody who’s willing to just listen to them complain about or, you know, just vent about what’s going on. And because a lot of those people, I mean, they’re surrounded by other small business owners, and that nobody wants to hear their said there’s, you know, software, because they have the same one. So for us, it was there was a lot of that. But one of the interesting things that we that we kind of realized is that a lot of people were more prepared than they thought they were after they had a chance to sit down, you know, clear the air and talk it through with some people of Oh, okay, things aren’t that bad. I do have options. I’m not, this isn’t the end of the world. And that’s the world that we live in. Now with the 24 hour news cycle and social media everywhere. It’s like you just get flooded with negativity, and just everything terrible. And nobody wants to just stop and say, hey, let’s let’s talk about everything that’s going right. And, you know, for a lot of people that was like, Okay, yeah, if things continue like this for six months, I’ll be fine. You know, what, might have to tighten the belt a little bit, but outside of that, I’ll be fine. And that was, that was the big reaction that we got from most people.

Mike Malatesta  12:59

Okay, so people, these business owners or entrepreneurs were kind of up in their own head about Doom or inadequacy, or were proud, whatever. Bankruptcy whatever it was, or just fear, right, that and you, you sort of talked him off the ledge, you know, see, there’s a bright side to this or that right?

Corey Harris  13:23

Yeah, cuz I mean, for most business owners, I would say they’re, they’re type A, they’re control freaks. And this was just 100%, outside of their, like, their area of expertise, their area of knowledge, their control, and it was just, it was brand new, and it was just something that nobody was rolling with the punches was not something that they they had had to do previously.

Mike Malatesta  13:47

Yeah.

Julie Traxler  13:48

Yeah. Uncertainty was extremely difficult for the majority of the small business owners that we spoke to, there were some who really like leverage and took advantage of that uncertainty and the unpredictability of what was going to happen where some people realize, like, you know, there, they were shut down, and they’re their employees were collecting unemployment. And they use that to their advantage to be like, Okay, well, this employee really wasn’t performing that, well. I’m not bringing them back. So they made some really smart moves. And I’ll, you know, a lot of the questions that we ask them, in addition to like, you know, how are you? How are you position financially like, you’re you have you made pivots, like, where do you need help? What can we do? A lot of it’s centered around that, you know, how basically trying to get to the point of how many how well prepared are you for a disaster? What kind of plans do you have in place? What can you execute on? And, like, what do you need to think about and build up for and think about for the next couple of months or the long haul without it because so many people didn’t know like, there was no end in sight, right? It felt like every day something was changing. And

Mike Malatesta  14:57

yeah, just kept getting kicked down the road. Like, oh, it’d be a couple months. So it’ll be longer on. Yeah.

Julie Traxler  15:02

Yeah, yeah, one of the business owners we talked to, she thought that she was really unprepared, right? And she’s like, really in trouble. And she literally, so we started, you know, asking all these questions, and Cory is the math guy. He’s the numbers guy. So he’s like working through the financials with her to see like, Okay, how bad is it? what options are available to you. And, as we’re working through it with her, realize that she wouldn’t have like six or nine months or nine months worth of savings to cover all of her bills without any impact, and just didn’t even didn’t realize that because she was just thinking of, you know, all she was looking at and all these other ways, and was just kind of consumed with the uncertainty and realizing like, I’ve got nine months to figure things out, do I want to blow through nine months worth of savings? No, but if I have to keep my business afloat, I can. And in the end, that end up being really really comforting for her to know, like, oh, wow, I’m doing way better than I thought.

Mike Malatesta  16:05

And it’s, there’s nothing like a like a crisis, or a disaster or a pandemic, to get you really clear about what’s important in your business, too. I’ll bet you found with people like, like, you mentioned, joy, people that maybe weren’t the best team members, but you could tolerate them because things were okay. And it’s kind of harder to get rid of somebody than replace them or something. But when some when stuff gets really scary, whether it actually does or whether you think it does, you start thinking you start thinking way more strategically, I guess, about the performance of your business than you might otherwise. Is that been your experience?

16:47

Yeah, definitely.

Mike Malatesta  16:49

Quite, it was quite it was for Julie. Yeah, that’s for anybody.

Corey Harris  16:53

Yeah, I think that it’s like there’s that facing adversity is certainly a big thing. And I especially as soon as the dust started to settle after the initial shock was, was over, I think everybody like they’re resorting to pivot, and they’re looking for quick wins, they’re looking for a way to kind of get control back over their business and their lives and is what can I do? What can I do how I can do this. So I’ve been looking to get rid of this employee for a long time now, because I’m just not going to rehire them. You know, I’ve been meaning to, I mean, we had one, one of my friends, she had to, had two businesses, and she had to close one down, unfortunately, she had to close with one that she didn’t want to close down, but because of some issues with leases, and whatnot, but for her, she had expanded and she realized she was like, You know what, I didn’t think that was a good idea. So this kind of worked out where, you know, I can just kind of go back to having just a one location instead of two. So, you know, that was definitely a big part of what people were realizing. And just,

Julie Traxler  17:56

I think just entrepreneurs in general, right? Like thinking like, what days and hours do I want to work, right, they got to modify all of those things. So there were a lot of upside, there was a lot of upside that came out of the pandemic, in terms of entrepreneurs being able to get really creative, and actually, so more into the type of business that they wanted to run versus maybe the one that they ended up running, you first start, you do a lot of things to to get business to get clients or customers in the door, you make some compromises along the way to sort of get where you want to be. And this was an opportunity for a lot of people to reset me like, Yeah, I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to work with that person, or I don’t want to work with those kind of clients anymore, and get to reset and have a really good reason and not feel bad about doing that.

Mike Malatesta  18:44

Sure. Yeah. When you’re starving, everything looks good. Right? Everything looks tasty, right? Because so if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back a little bit to your experience with I think it was performance food group, where you guys were working on integrating acquisitions. Because I think there’s there’s lessons in integrating acquisitions that not only for people who want to grow their business, but in terms of messaging and culture and all the other things that tend to trip up a business, whether it’s been acquired business, or whether it’s a business that sort of started with one person or two people and and now starting to grow and add people and being you know, with an acquisitive company and having the responsibility if I understand correctly, the two of you and maybe others having the responsibility to go in there and help really turn these entrepreneurial businesses into corporate divisions or new locations or whatever the case may be. Is that that’s, that’s hard work. That so I’m just interested in in both of you sharing your experience on what That was like and what was important about it and what you got out of it, like, what changed about you when you got into that those kind of role taking on those kinds of things.

Julie Traxler  20:14

I will say some of my favorite stories of my entire career have come from that role of performance. I, you know, I have like over 10 years of experience in mergers and acquisitions and a lot of that work, and specifically love that post deal, close acquisition integration piece of it, because it’s all about the people, right? So I, Cory and I, and four other people were the were the business transformation team was the name of the team at the time, and we represented the business. So there was an IT team, we were business. And that was a really big benefit for all of the operating companies that we were helping to integrate into performances, corporate culture, and technology ecosystem and everything in that we got to we represented the business we went, we landed on site, we stayed with them until after the integration was completed. And when we say for a couple of weeks after making sure that everything went well, but we It was a people first approach, right. So understanding the people on the team, understanding the strengths and the weaknesses, we always started with the SWOT analysis to really understand, you know, what, what was the secret sauce? Because you think, because performance was and still is, I would say a serial acquire. They’re, they’re acquiring faster than they’re integrating. And so companies are sitting for a while, right? And so we would get there, we would always ask like, hey, what is you know, what’s, what is it that makes you so great? Like, why do performance value because those are the things we want to make sure we preserve, we want to highlight those and make sure that everybody in the team is still feeling really good about them. So we emphasize the SWOT we focus really heavily on the change management in the communications aspect. If we work and add processes, which is really Corey sweetspot, I was more on the people and the chief side and managing that. And I think the biggest lessons came at the leadership level, because it’s really hard to go from being a business owner, to being an employee, their own company. And most people when they are acquired, they don’t they have this sort of no romantic notion that it’s going to be easier that they’re going to really enjoy being an employee because being an owner is hard. Businesses are, but what they quickly learn is, it’s harder to not be able to make the decisions that you used to be able to make to not have the control ease to be able to make to not protect your people the ways to be able to do it. And so lots of coaching around the leadership and figuring out, in many instances, an exit strategy for the leader for them to leave and but there’s a lot of, you know, the technology piece is the part that everybody thinks about when it comes to that acquisition and integrating with them in. But it’s the people piece and the process these that are really the important part of it.

Corey Harris  23:23

Yeah, and I’m just gonna just jump on there, especially for me, the people part was important, because prior to joining the Julie’s team, I was I was working independently for the company. And I basically I oversaw for blackletter work, eight warehouses, and they were like the stepchild of the company, the sister companies that that that made up performance food group, neither of them really wanted to own this kind of sub company or take care of them or whatever. And so I got brought on to basically I was there one resource, or, like, their main resource for help when it came to anything they needed from technology, process, training, etc. They were on their own their own GRP. They, they it was the Wild West, they can do whatever they want to know that they had no oversight or anything. So when I came on part of the job was converting all of those warehouses over onto a common VRP. So for me, I had been working with these people for a while already. And I already knew the team and it took me a while to build their trust. Because you know, the last thing anybody wants to hear is, Hey, I’m from corporate I’m here to help.

Mike Malatesta  24:35

Yeah, right.

Corey Harris  24:37

So, you know, when I walk in the door, and I’m like, hey, I want you to help they actually like Oh, he is here to help. And so just making sure that we weren’t steamrolling over what they were currently doing because they in the food service industry, from across the board, whether you’re producing, distributing or selling it’s the margins are razor thin. So the smallest like breaking service the smallest error here or there could, like seriously impact the company. So yeah, that was for me, it was just making sure that everybody was as whole as we could make them as we were rolling out new technology, new processes.

Mike Malatesta  25:14

And we’re either of you, or both of you involved in the pre acquisition part, you know, so that you had an understanding of what was being conveyed to, you know, between performance and the potential acquire company or any, so you came in, shaking your head, so I’m thinking you came in, came in afterwards? Yeah. Because, yeah, I so I’ve been involved in probably 20 or so acquisitions, like a, you know, 18 to 20 on the buy side, and couple on the sell side. And I, you know, it’s maybe this gets talked about a lot, but but I don’t hear it very often, where it’s it, buying the company, the financial transaction. And even the people part of buying the company is often so much easier than the post buy. And the actual integration, I mean, the Trent, the financial terms, that the the capital structure, all that stuff, you know, okay, met the math works, we’re gonna, we’re gonna go ahead and do this. Oh, and by the way, I’d love to like you, I think you said you, I’d love to join your company, because you know, I’m tired of running this business or I want to diversify, you know, I want more time with my family, whatever the reason is, but there’s up but the thing that it doesn’t get spoken about often, in my experience, really, really often is what’s going to be expected of me after this closes, and not just me as the the old owner, but also my team, because I think the expectation is, oh, we’re going to buy you, and guess what you’re going to be able to run everything the way you have. And I’m thinking I’m putting my clicker thing on here. And we’re just going to bring some systems in, you know, help and do this kind of thing. But, but but me a lot of times, what that means to the person saying it, and what it means to the person hearing it are like, a wide, Pat, a wide moat, that you you guys then have to, would have to come in and close it My, my, on the right track with that.

Julie Traxler  27:30

Yeah, we’re literally working with a client right now, who is getting ready to exit their state the letter of intent. We are like working really hard to make sure that this owner, this husband and wife team understand. The first off due diligence is disruptive,

27:58

it’s disruptive

Julie Traxler  27:59

to the target, it’s very disheartening. And once the deal closes, you know, people, most small business owners here know that that’s a performance was fine. That’s who we work with. Now, right? There, their instinct is I want to protect my people. But what they you know, what we like, worked really hard to communicate is you’re gonna have a say in adapter, right? You can, you can ask for it. But you’re not, you have no control over it, right? If we’re there’s duplication, they’re most likely going to take their employee that they already have, right, they might have a role for your people, but maybe not. There’s no guarantees when that happens. And that whole, you know, it’s such a slippery slope, because you want you increase your likelihood of success with the acquisition and reaching that full revenue recognition. If you keep the owner on for six to 12 months, right? Person stays in their role, you’re the success of that acquisition goes way up. But it is so hard for that owner to go through that period, and they don’t, they don’t have a really good understanding of what that means for them what’s going to happen and we’ve seen, I’ve been through a lot of them where the owner, the former owner doesn’t make it that whole six to 12 months, whatever was in the room, they don’t make it they can’t like I can’t I can’t do it. And it’s not uncommon but it’s there when they do stick around. They’re like I’m gonna stay for the employees because they have such loyalty to their employees, but it’s very difficult, very difficult.

Corey Harris  29:41

Yeah, it’s all about reading the fine print too. But when it boils down to it, because you have a company coming in to swoop up and purchase a smaller company and you’ve got a mom and pop or maybe it’s you know, 2030 employees, something like that. The bigger company, they come in, they’ve got their their normal All legal paperwork, they’ve got whatever it is, they flash this number in front of everybody that looks. That’d be great. Let’s do that. And then you go, you dive into like, Oh, well, no, here’s all the things that we need to change. Because otherwise, these are all the problems that you’re going to run into. It would be nice if you could just, you know, they’re just gonna cut you a check, and you just walk away. But that’s not how it happens.

Mike Malatesta  30:22

Right? Okay. Well, I appreciate you diving into that a little bit. Because I think it’s important that people understand how, because you know, everybody that’s starting a business is going to hopefully sell it at some point, right? or pass it up, you know, sell it either to someone in their family, to their employees, or to someone else. And it’s been my experience that the sooner you get to understand what that is going to mean, the better you’re going to one position your business. And then as you grow it, and then to, the better prepared, you’re going to be when that eventuality ends up happening?

Julie Traxler  30:57

Oh, absolutely. When we help entrepreneurs launch new businesses, one of the exercises that we do really early on is building exit strategies, right? What are the conditions under which you would exit? What are the triggers? Take the emotion out of it as much as possible, and at least have been thinking about, you know, that begin with the end in mind, because that’s really the way to do it. Then you just know and revisit it annually, like okay, are these still true? Is this still are these so much triggers? What I still exit if this happened, and this adjust and keep moving forward?

Mike Malatesta  31:31

Got it. And Cory? Did I read to that? you’ve you’ve owned some restaurants or been in the restaurant business, as well as a not in food service, like performance, but in the restaurant business?

Corey Harris  31:43

Yeah, yes. I’m actually working on big mistake going back into that business car soon.

Mike Malatesta  31:49

Okay, so yeah, let’s dig into that a little bit. Oh, it’s like what do you think?

Corey Harris  31:57

Question? So yeah, prior to my my life, my corporate world life, I was a partner here in Richmond in a small chain of cafes. So it was coffee, and for many, for most part, and like a retail part, piece of the business as well. And I was brought on initially just to help manage the initial location, but the woman who have the business, she offered me equity in the business to help her grow. So I came on as a partner, helped grow into three stores, we’re working on the fourth store, and I just got burned out. I had been, I’ve been working at that point in restaurants for 14 years, ever since high school. And that’s all I really knew. And so I left and got blown away by the corporate world for sure, in terms of I get weekends off, every weekend off. I mean, I don’t have to come into work. I will, you know, so that was, that was a weird, weird concept for me for for a while, but for for restaurant, people, such as myself, it’s just something that’s in your blood. So a couple of years ago, I just kind of got the itch again, where I was just like, I want to get back into the business. And it’s one of the pieces of advice that I get to anybody who says that they want to open a restaurant is don’t because it’s, it’s it’s hard work. It’s it, it’s hard work, you can you have the potential to make a lot of money, but you have potential to fail just as easily. And it’s, it literally has to be in your personality in order to do it. Because people will they’ll, you know, entertain friends once a week or so that they’re like, Oh, I love to cook. It’s like, well, you’re gonna hate cooking. If you open a restaurant, you’re gonna hate people, if you open up the restaurant, you’re never gonna want to entertain. Right. And so, yeah, so that’s, that’s that but I, in the spring of so back, that towards the end of 2019, I was working on a deal. And in the spring of 2020, so in this was February, I had a lease in my hands for this location here in Richmond. Then I was talking about my realtor, and I was like, let’s just slow play this and just see what how everything is gonna kind of pan out. I don’t feel comfortable signing a lease right now, obviously, in February of 2020. And then we know how that turned out. So I dodged that bullet. Yeah. But the owners of that property have just been clamoring to get myself in the concept into their space. So it’s still vacant and we are like, they came back with just a deal that I’ve been turned down. And everything’s got to turn it around now. So we’re, hopefully in the next couple of weeks gonna have a we should have at least sign and start build out. really gonna have the restaurant open by the end of

Mike Malatesta  34:58

the fall of this year. Same kind of restaurant a cafe sort of thing or something different full service restaurant full service. Yeah. Well, I applaud you. That’s, that’s brave. And, and hope and hopefully brilliant as well. Because Yeah, like there’s a pent up demand, that’s for sure. Or at least it feels like there is. So let me get back to SB pace to 2020. You guys sort of get started with these conversations? How long did it take you? I know you said 367 days before you were like, Oh, yes. But but to come up with the business model that you you, you actually are helping, you know, business business owners with? So you kind of got into it, you were asking these questions. You were sort of collecting information? If I heard you, right. And then, you know, that I’m assuming developed into Okay, here’s, here’s the way that we can make the maximum impact, positive impact on business owners?

Julie Traxler  36:05

Well, we’ve been through a number of iterations, I will say that we pivot fast. And we initially started off with, you know, a couple of services that we were offering. And then we kind of moved more towards thinking like helping with launching businesses, which we didn’t really think was going to be a thing, right? When we first started, we didn’t realize that the two most common areas that we help businesses with people who want to start a new business, and people who are new that you know, exit phase where they’re either looking to acquire somebody else, or they’re ready to exit themselves. And so the start and the finish of businesses is really where we’ve had, most of the work that we’ve done has been in those areas. We, it took us a while to like really find our groove with that and get exactly the right services. And I think everything kind of really sort of evolved together probably in the November timeframe were we, I would say November, late, like mid November is where we kind of found our voice in terms of this is who we are, right? We kept talking about we love the concept of being owning our own company, we can, we can do what we want. And we can say what we want, but we were still kind of marketing to please everybody. In November, we just weren’t It was a conversation over the weekend, because we were helping a client who just wasn’t listening to anything we said, and just to be like, is really ready for what was coming. And so at that point, we just I think it was something Cory said to me like, he’s like, from now on, let’s only work for people who actually work with people who are actually ready to do the work. Normally, I was like, yeah, and so you know, we started, we came up with a motto, you know, SPP is when you’re ready for success, right? So it’s this so much of what we do require such hard work from the entrepreneur, the small business owner up front. And so we’ve been we’ve gotten much better at explaining to people like, Look, this is this is a heavy investment of your time upfront to do what you want to do. And if you want to grow strategy, yes, we can do it. But you, we can help you, you have to do much of the work. And this is what it’s gonna look like for you from a time commitment. So if you’re ready, let’s do it. We’ve gotten smarter, we’ve made some mistakes along the way that we’d like. Okay, well, we’re not going to do that again. Right. And then when we did our we do annual strategic planning, we sat down in December and had like three or four sessions where we walk through basically, we kind of did a recap of the year, what were we really good at? What do we what didn’t go so well? What do we need to stop doing? What should we do more of all that stuff. And when we build out the strategic plan for 2021, we build a plan that’s designed around getting more what we would call mailbox money, right? So courses where we’ve got this work, we do the work, and then we can get recurring revenue from it. Because we wanted to position ourselves that we were still going to work with clients, we need to be really, really aware of what’s going to happen the quarter schedule, once he starts working on the restaurants, we still need income coming in. We still want to work with some clients and help people. We also need to figure out what’s our strategy for being able to do their restaurant and keep SP pace growing and helping small business owners and so we were really strategic about our plan for this year.

Mike Malatesta  39:44

Yeah, so you’re basically scaling your intellectual property in a way that you can impact more people without you physically having to maybe coach them through every part of it. It’s not Am I getting that right? Okay.

Corey Harris  39:59

And Yeah, and for, I mean, kind of back to the way that we, we changed our approach. And it goes back to like what I said about restaurants with just small business in general, the foods talk about, Julie talked about was that is owning a business is hard, and nobody’s going to do the work for you. And you could pay somebody like us to do the work for you, but you’re not gonna be successful. So, you know, what we tell, tell people that, you know, often when we’re talking to them is that if you’re not going to be willing to put the work in, you’re not going to be successful.

Mike Malatesta  40:33

Yeah, because you, I mean, I really like that you’re, you know, saying that to everybody, because you if you don’t invest in anything yourself, you expect someone from the outside to come in and and, and, you know, fix or prep or whatever your business for the future, and you’re just going to sort of be a bystander, that’s, it’s not, you know, that doesn’t work anywhere. It doesn’t work in anything.

Julie Traxler  40:59

We’re smoke all we ever got, from a client that we’ve been working with, where we’re helping them with their growth strategy, they had a pretty aggressive plan. And, like, Alright, let’s, let’s do it. And he called me one morning to tell me that it was his work to have a conversation, and they realized that Cory and I were more invested in their business than they weren’t.

Mike Malatesta  41:19

Oh, wonderful.

41:22

This isn’t gonna work.

Mike Malatesta  41:25

So what did you actually do, as you were thinking about, you know, this thing you said, you know, we only want to work with people who are ready, how do you? How do you get to the root of readiness? Now? How do you sort of matrix your way through when you have a discussion with somebody to determine, okay, this person is ready for us.

Julie Traxler  41:46

So for my marketing perspective, in some ways, we’re a little bit antagonistic, in terms of, you know, talking, talking directly with people about like, we see, we see what you’re doing. Now, you just need to see it yourself, right, we see that you are, you know, you’re working 18 hours a day. And that’s stupid, you should, you don’t have to write there, there are solutions to that. So we’re a little antagonistic in some of our approaches, in terms of the way that we market and talk about what we’re able to do. But we’re also much better at we realized we got some really lucky breaks early on with clients that we have been courting, and really thought we want to work with and we’re like, we dodged a bullet there. Because they would, we would have had to drag them kicking and screaming. And, you know, we, we had a client that was he’s things are wrapped up with him now. But he was very easy it was it was tough, because as much as he wanted it, he wasn’t ready to be an entrepreneur. And so we did do a lot more heavy lifting. So we just asked a lot of questions upfront in terms of, you know, their goals and what they’re prepared to do, and making sure that they really, really understand what they’re doing and make a pay up front now. Right,

Mike Malatesta  43:08

I was hoping you were gonna get there because I was going to ask you that question.

Julie Traxler  43:13

And we weren’t aware that the hard way to Yeah, we’re, you’re nice. And you’re like, Oh, yeah, well, you can pay us overtime. And then all of a sudden, now, in addition to, you know, all the other things that we have to do as small business owners, I’m like, well, never in my wildest dreams that I envisioned that I would be the collections department.

43:31

Sure.

Corey Harris  43:33

And I think that for, especially industries like ours, but any kind of service industry like that, you need to join sort of talking about that the the interview, the initial interview, that you have the first couple of conversations, like you need to interview your client as much as they’re interviewing you. And I mean, we’ve got, we had three calls in the past week, with potential clients all looking for very similar services. And two of the three seem like they are going to be good to go, like we could work with them. And one of them, we’re going to have the conversation that we, if you spend money with us, you’re just throwing it away. Unless you’re willing to commit to x, y and z, we don’t want to take your money because it’s not gonna get any value.

Mike Malatesta  44:22

Well, there’s a and that actually may be a good strategy for convincing the person that they really need to move forward to by telling them, hey, you’re not ready to move forward. What do you mean, I’m not ready to move forward? I, I can be ready to move forward. And yeah, there’s nothing that says serious, like writing a check. Right? You write a check? I’m probably a lot more serious than just Can I, you know, get on the phone with you and, you know, see what I can get for free. Right.

Julie Traxler  44:51

Interesting. It’s an interesting conundrum for when you’re the person who’s providing the service. Yeah. Is there’s this notion of Oh, like, if you’re doing courses, for example, right, like, Okay, so we have, let’s say we have a course that’s that’s available, and people buy it, and they don’t do anything with it. Well, yeah, we got money for it. But that doesn’t help. It doesn’t help the small business, right? Because if you didn’t do the course, you’re never going to tell anybody else to go do.

Mike Malatesta  45:20

Yeah, there’s no testimonial in it. If you know, there’s no validation,

Julie Traxler  45:24

right? Yeah. In most people, Oh, right. If I agree something, and I can just sell it over and over again, it doesn’t really matter what happens with it as long as I get the money. But it’s such a short sighted way to look at it, you really want people to benefit from what you’re putting out there.

Mike Malatesta  45:42

So when I first started reading about you guys, I there were a few things that that made me think, yeah, this is something I want to do. One was, you know, the book, the podcast, you know, all of this starting up in a relatively short period of time. And now I’ve learned more about you know, how Julian had to move and, you know, do so. So I’m even more impressed about that. And then there was this other thing i read where I think this is probably on your website, I’m not sure but where your your goal is to inspire 1 million small business owners in the next 10 years, whenever I read something like that, whether you call that a moonshot or a mission or whatever, I think to myself, okay, so that those are people who are really serious. So before I get into the book, in the podcast, I want to get into that statement, because I don’t know what inspire means to you. And I’d like to know what it means to you. And I also don’t know how you define small business owners. And I’d like to understand and connect those two into that very powerful statement that you have.

Julie Traxler  46:47

I think it says impact.

Mike Malatesta  46:49

impact. Did I write the I say inspire? And okay, impact? Okay, well, in any event is same, same question.

Julie Traxler  46:56

Yes. So impact 1 million small business owners. And the reason that it came to be is either 2020 it was just this, god awful, your personal businesses, right? It felt like at every turn, somebody was trying to punish business owners just for wanting to have a dream and do their own thing. And so we much of what we did last year, when we did a lot of work for free last year for people wanting to try and you know, build our name and get the brand awareness out there. But also, because there’s, I mean, there were a lot of people who just couldn’t afford to pay for help. And we’re like, Well, we’ve got some runway, so let’s help people. And it just feels really good to be able to give back and to know that we are playing some role in small businesses staying in business and being able to move forward, whatever that looks like. So that’s why it’s like starting helping people start a business is, is really fulfilling for us. So impact, it could be something as simple as you know, they’re they’re regularly reading our blogs or listening to the podcast and getting getting takeaways and tips from that, because we try and offer tips and like everything that we do. A lot of our social media is built around providing information on how business owners can be better business owners, and things that they can do, we try to sell very little and show the value of what we do. Do a lot of work on clubhouse, hosting rooms, and talking with clubhouse to get more and more awareness, not just to spps, but to you know, things that people can do to improve their small business. So we have I did a rough calculation at the end, at some point, I think it was we always get concerned calculations.

Corey Harris  48:51

Well, no, we’re like, because she initially said that number to me. And I’m like, You’re crazy. Like that, that sticker shock on that which, when she’s like, we’re gonna do this. But then she broke it down. And then we started, like, sort of expanding it over 10 years and talking about what impact really means. And so for example, one of your listeners can listen to this podcast, and they had this notion, this crazy notion that they wanted to open a restaurant and maybe I convinced them not to. But that’s that’s an impact that we’re making. Or, you know, maybe they’re going to spend a little more time researching it before they do because it’s not just yeah, playing games. So, you know, once we kind of broke it down, that, you know, across the, oh, it’s this many people that these people are going to tell this many people these are going to tell this many people, you know, just how it can kind of exponentially grow is where you know, we want to make that impact.

Mike Malatesta  49:42

Okay, got it. Do you? Are you familiar with a guy named David Meltzer, Dave Meltzer? He? It doesn’t matter. he’s a he’s a very, very popular podcasters a sports agency with Warren moon But anyway, so his his goal is to is to impact a billion people and Whenever anyone asks him about it, he says, which I’m glad you something similar to what you said, you know, the way I’m going to impact a billion people is by impacting 1000 people who impact 1000 people who impact 1000 people and you get 2 billion, you know, really fast with that math, Julie. So it’s so Okay, I got I got it now that i’d love that as a aspiration. Or as I said, moonshot, or whatever you guys decide to call it. So let’s talk about the book and, and the podcast I, I’m, that’s like, I’ve been trying to write a book for a long time, and it’s not done yet in here. You guys come along and pop out a book and like what appears to be no time. So. So yeah, how’d you do it?

Julie Traxler  50:49

It was an interesting process. I courses, you’ll never write another one with me. But I think he

Corey Harris  50:57

will not be read. Oh, it doesn’t matter who’s Well, okay.

Julie Traxler  51:02

So we, initially, we hired somebody who helped us map out the entire book, Cory had a concept for what he wanted the book to be, I had a different one. And by the time we were done working with the, the guy who helped us mapped it out, we were writing the exact coconut quarter thought of, it’s, of course, like, why don’t we just pay this guy to help us do this? Right. But essentially, he just gave us some really great tools for figuring out exactly how to lay out the book. And then we the approach that we took was we figured out the what we thought was going to be the structure and then built the outline from there and started to fill in the outline. And then, I mean, we started the book, what in like, mid April,

Corey Harris  51:43

yeah, it took us three or four months start to finish with design, the workbook and everything that went along with it. We were lucky in the sense that we didn’t have any clients really at the time. We had time on our hands. But But yeah, it was a, it was an interesting process. And, Julian, I both read that book front the back half dozen times, two dozen times, at least. Because it’s you know, you have to read the book, get the Edit to go back, read it again. And so it’s a very, it can be a very painstaking process, especially if you want to do it, right. Sure, well, but for us, like we, we made a very public about the book that we’re writing the topic, the content, and about what it was going to come out not, you know, this fall is, it’s going to be out in August of 2020. So that way, we had that public accountability as well, to where we we set a date, we’re like, Alright, well, we got to hit the date.

Julie Traxler  52:45

Yeah, it was. And we learned really quickly, like the writing process that worked really well for us, right. And, you know, I, for as bad as I have a math, I’m actually worse at grammar. And so, you know, I took the first pass of writing filling information, and then core human behind, added more context cleaned up my bad grammar. And then we just iterated through the entire book that way and went through a couple of times, it got to the point where I’d be like, you can’t even tell who wrote which sections unless it’s like a personal Okay, sure, no idea who did the writing. And we that’s why we have a lot of blogs still is one writes the other one edit to clean it up. And so it’s really super collaborative. And we think very differently. So we’ve had, you know, we’re working on a course right now, that’s actually we’re releasing next Monday, that’s on the 12th. And we have the same process with the book in that we’re working on something and we have to remember to take a pause and talk through the flow and how things are working. Because we even you know, between the two of us will be like, no, I thought we were doing it this way, or this is what it means to me. And then we you know, we come back we read we’re like, Okay, this is what we’re doing. And we can, you know, move forward from there. So really iterative, a lot of collaboration and communication. And I think the moment that I knew that we were probably overachievers on some level was I had been talking, I was talking to a friend that I hadn’t spoken to several years back maybe in like the August timeframe. So we’d started recording episodes for the podcast, but hadn’t released anything yet. was out, we started the business. We were working on this course that we were going to be releasing this workshop type thing. And mother form with a friend and she says to me, hey, what have you been up to? And I’m like, oh, to Richmond and coordinate sort of business. We wrote a book and recording podcast, we’ve got this course coming out and she’s like, wait, and in my head, I’m thinking God, there has to be more like there has to be more than we’ve done like this feels like nothing. And she said I finally got out of my pajamas. Yeah. Someone else asked us like shortly after that, do y’all ever do anything that doesn’t go straight to the deep end of the pool? Do you ever just like kind of Wade your way in? And I’m like, isn’t this how everybody works? But I guess not.

Mike Malatesta  55:16

No, it’s not how everybody works just and you should know that by all the people you’ve talked to in your business so far this business owners know not everyone works like that at all. So congratulations on that. And what’s, what’s the book called? And what’s the podcast called? And what are you trying to accomplish with with the podcast?

Corey Harris  55:34

So the book is called seriously now what a small business guide to disaster preparedness, disaster preparedness. And so it walks the business owner through the how to build a strong foundation in their business all the way through to creating like an actual plan to respond to a disaster to be proactive instead of reactive. And that our podcast is called biz quick. That’s bi z qu ik. So this quick podcast, and we, Julian I just bring on small business owners and experts and kind of just cover a different topic each week. We, you know, help troubleshoot problems, we provide tips and tricks we, I mean, all across the board, you need something that a small business owner has to deal with, and we most likely covered it already. There’s a few there’s a few areas we’ve yet to hit. But we we released that in September, and we put out two episodes a week. They’re 20 to 30 minutes long, so they’re they’re easy listens.

Mike Malatesta  56:33

Okay, and you have guests on? Are you guys just talking through the various things together? For both

Julie Traxler  56:38

guests, we just this week, we are back to back episodes that are just released one recently called the failure files, which was all about how people think about failure and how it’s got such a negative connotation. Really, they really, failure is such a great thing to encounter. And so we cover that Garmin coming up with time management, but it’s almost we almost always have guests on Yeah.

Mike Malatesta  57:03

Okay, super. And Julie, I just okay, super. And, Julie, I just, this is kind of an aside question that I, I listened to Seth Cohen’s podcast most weeks, and I see that you went through the alt MBA thing with Seth and I just wanted to see what it was like.

57:57

Yeah, you gotta be kidding me.

Mike Malatesta  58:32

Okay, you’re back. That’s always that’s always fun. Sorry, I lost my internet connection there. Okay, so I’m just going to count down 321. I asked you the question that I was going to ask you finish up if that’s okay. Okay, so 321. So, Julie, this is a question as a kind of little tangent here. But I noticed I listened to Seth Gordon’s podcast most weeks. And I noticed that you participated in the his alter MBA program, and I hear them talk about that all the time, but I don’t really know what it is. And I kind of thought, well, I’ve never seen that before with someone I’m talking to. So I’ll ask what is what is it and is it valid? You know, what kind of value Did you get from it?

Julie Traxler  59:19

So it is this, I want to say it’s a five week program. I did it in like 2018 I believe that’s when I went through it. Okay.

59:30

And you

Julie Traxler  59:33

honestly, it’s like an accelerated MBA, like a mini MBA or XP or, you know, sort of concept of businesses and working together as teams. Is you build our presentations, and I would say worth it. Yeah, I developed some friendships that are, you know, lifelong friendships. So they still talk to these people and see them Really great people. Biggest thing that I learned from it is this, I learned. I had a massive improvement on my ability to give and receive feedback, right? So he talks a lot about the notion of, you know, generous feedback and how to give it and how to really help people. Excel. I learned a ton in there. I really, I’m glad I took it, and anybody who is considering it, and I say, do it, it’s absolutely worth the investment. It was a really interesting approach. And it was great. It was a great experience for me. Okay. Well, thank

Mike Malatesta  1:00:43

you for that. I appreciate. Sorry to go on that tangent. But I thought Bianca, I just got to ask. So I appreciate it. And I love what he Yeah, I just love the way he sort of approaches things. So I figured it would be good. I,

Julie Traxler  1:00:55

I just heard the other day that Seth Godin will go on anybody’s podcast, if they have 100 episodes recorded and released. Because that says to him, that you are committed to it, you will follow through and that you are doing everything you can to make that podcast work. And so Oh, is that right?

1:01:15

I’m like, I

Julie Traxler  1:01:16

think we’re on like, Episode 7075. Yeah, now, like I’m asking you, that’s gonna be when we hit when we hit 100. I will reach out to Seth and ask him tomorrow.

1:01:28

Well, I’m

Mike Malatesta  1:01:28

thank you for that clue. I’m gonna ask them to Why not? I’m not saying no. Yeah, right. Yeah, that’s just like, everybody. That’s what’s so nice about podcasting. It’s like, yeah,

1:01:40

yeah, I’ll do it or No, I

Mike Malatesta  1:01:41

won’t. Okay, fine, then let’s, let’s, yeah, so

1:01:47

how do people? Like who who need

Mike Malatesta  1:01:50

who should be calling you? And how do people reach you? So if I’m a business owner? And what do I need to be experiencing? To be serious about it to be in your in your wheelhouse? And how to, and how should I connect with you?

Corey Harris  1:02:10

Well, if the if you want to be serious, like, what what are you looking for? Yeah, yeah. Like, like, I’m a perfect

Mike Malatesta  1:02:17

candidate for your help, what do I look like?

Corey Harris  1:02:21

So I mean, you’re definitely, I mean, the small business owner, somebody who’s ambitious, somebody who’s willing to, to do the work, who’s realistic, you know, and willing to take direction, the, the, a lot of times, it’s, again, it’s that entrepreneurial spirit, you have a type A, I can do whatever I want. And then you will, or they ask for help, but they won’t take, they won’t take the the advice that they give, that they’re given. So just just being humble about it, and understanding that you don’t know you know, what you do? Well, so if you’re create a product, you provide a service, that’s great, but you’re, you know, that you need help in other areas, and that, you know, you’re willing to look for that help and ask for that help and, and improve upon what it is that you do. And ultimately, we’re not looking for anybody who’s, who wants a crutch, you know, for their business, who needs us like we, we hire, we want to be hired to be fired. We don’t want to I mean, obviously, we would love to help business that we start two years from now grow, expand, whatever, but we’re not looking for 12 to 18 month contracts for, you know, to teach a manifesting approach, or come

Mike Malatesta  1:03:29

back in stages as they implement and have success. Okay. Yeah, exactly. I would

Julie Traxler  1:03:35

also say this, so entrepreneurs who want to start a business, but don’t know how to get started, or they know what not, but want to make sure that they’re building something that’s built to last that’s really has a very strong foundation that’s really core to almost everything that we do. And the biggest thing is, I think that successful entrepreneurship and small business ownership is where desire and ambition meet, right? So so many people have the desire to do something, and they don’t have the ambition. You have to have the ambition, because desire is just not. There will only take you so far. And most people only have desire, they don’t have the ambition. So you got to have the ambition. That’s great advice.

Mike Malatesta  1:04:23

Well, how do you want people to connect with you and where are you geographically? You mean, I know you’re in Virginia, but you can work with people anywhere, right? Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Julie Traxler  1:04:37

Not even really happy. But we have clients in Northern Virginia, but we don’t have any clients in Richmond. People so really, we work with clients that are anywhere and people can find us on LinkedIn, and Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and we have a YouTube channel because we We are running an experimental Project 365 we’re we’re posting every day a video on our YouTube channel, everything’s under SB pace. We didn’t get the same exact spelling on every part exact, you know, username on every channel, but it’s SP pace and you’ll find this and all that’s

Corey Harris  1:05:16

on our website. So I always forget about that. Just go to sp pace.com. All of our links. Everything’s out there. Got it. 365 videos,

Mike Malatesta  1:05:24

that’s ambition. See, you’re you’re walking the walk. Yeah, you’re walking

Julie Traxler  1:05:29

the walk for 35 days, we are releasing a new video. That answers a hot question around being a business owner in the entire month of May. Mike the entire month of May is on mergers and acquisitions. Oh, wonderful.

Mike Malatesta  1:05:43

Okay, yeah, I’m gonna check that out then. Well, Cory Julie, thank you so much for being on the show. Congratulations on your success and your your aspiration to impact 1 million small business owners in the next 10 years. You’re going to be busy and I think you’re going to do it too. I really appreciate the opportunity to get to know you guys and share your story.

1:06:05

We appreciate it.

1:06:08

Okay,

Mike Malatesta  1:06:10

sorry about the internet thing happens. Thank you. So I’m Julie, I wanted to ask you, I saw you went to Immaculata college. I grew up in that area. Where did you what what brought you there because you were from Minnesota or something right is that?

Julie Traxler  1:06:30

I moved to the east coast. For a couple years after I graduated high school. I first wanted to say I went to school in Wisconsin and then in Minnesota. I’m in Wisconsin, by

Mike Malatesta  1:06:44

the way. I live here in Wisconsin.

Julie Traxler  1:06:48

Between Milwaukee and I’m a huge Green Bay Packers in St. Norbert. Okay, St. Norbert

Mike Malatesta  1:06:55

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So you went from one Catholic school to another Catholic school at a maquiladora.

1:07:02

Oh, graduating from Drexel, Drexel. Okay.

Mike Malatesta  1:07:05

All right. Okay. Yeah. I was just curious about how that how that works. So well, Cory. Good luck with your restaurant. I probably should have asked you the name of it for everybody. But I missed that. That part but and yeah, this. Okay. Yeah, you guys are impressive. I really do. I do. I’m grateful to have the chance to have gotten to know you a little bit and share your story and, and learn too. I got I got I feel like I need more ambition to keep up. So

1:07:39

thanks for having

1:07:41

Okay, my pleasure. See you later.

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