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Strategic Growth and Acquisition With Dean Dutro

Gray MacKenzie
Gray MacKenzie is a true operations nerd who has spent the past decade helping hundreds of agencies build more productive, profitable, and healthy teams by solving the core issues plaguing their project management.

To chat with Gray and have ZenPilot lead your team through the last project management implementation you'll ever need, schedule a quick call here.
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Dean Dutro is the CEO of Worth eCommerce, an email marketing agency. His team helps e-commerce companies increase revenue by up to 60% in six months with email marketing systems built in Klaviyo. Dean co-founded Worth eCommerce with the mission of boosting profits, engagement, and brand loyalty for clients.

Dean is also the Founder of, where he teaches clients how to grow their e-commerce revenue by 30-40% using email marketing. He has previously founded two other agencies, Instant Email Copy and GobySavvy.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Dean Dutro tells the story of joining forces with his co-founder to start Worth eCommerce
  • How did Dean scale his agency so quickly?
  • Why Dean invests in constant learning and mentorship
  • Identifying your professional strengths and outsourcing the rest
  • Dean discusses the process of being acquired by SmartBug Media and the ways his role has changed
  • The business lessons Dean learned from the acquisition
  • Open positions at Worth eCommerce
  • Dean talks about generating ROI from his Relationship Commerce podcast

In this episode…

The path to success is never straight — it often comes with surprising curves, rough patches, and hills. So, how can you take the lessons from each trying experience and turn them into a victory?

Dean Dutro’s path to CEO of a successful agency certainly wasn’t smooth. At the age of 24, he quit a comfortable job in aviation sales to co-found a startup — which sunk into debt. At the age of 26, he was living in his granpdarent’s basement and starting up an email marketing agency. It slowly grew, but he was met with competition from his previous business partner. Rather than butt heads, they decided to join forces, and now their combined experience has created an email marketing empire: Worth eCommerce.

In this episode of Agency Journey, Gray MacKenzie is joined by Dean Dutro, the CEO of Worth eCommerce, to discuss how he quickly scaled his agency. Dean talks about the inception of Worth eCommerce, what’s changed during SmartBug Media’s acquisition of the agency, and his goals for the future of the brand. Stay tuned.

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Resources Mentioned in this episode

Episode Transcript:

Intro 0:03

Welcome to the Agency Journey podcast where we connect with agency leaders to uncover the hidden systems and processes that drive their success. Now let’s dive into today’s show.

Gray MacKenzie 0:17

Alright, welcome back to Agency Journey podcast. This is Gray MacKenzie this week, I’ve got the pleasure of bringing on Dean Dutro from Worth eCommerce, recently acquired by SmartBug. And we’ll get into that whole story podcasters. This would be a fun conversation, Dean, welcome to podcast, man.

Dean Dutro 0:32

Thanks for having me, man. Appreciate it.

Gray MacKenzie 0:34

I’m excited. We’ve only gotten a chance to know each other here over the last year and a half or whatever it’s been. But but your agency story obviously goes back farther than that. I think in I’ll let you kind of figure out where you want to go. But you’d run an agency prior to Worth eCommerce. Right? You and Ryan were both running independent things and then join forces.

Dean Dutro 0:55

Yeah, so the actual, like, even further back story is that I was working at this company called Aerotech. And I was doing like aviation sales. And I was kind of selling like to Boeing and like these large aviation companies and traveling all over the Northwest. And it was a blast. And Ryan was working as a digital nomad doing UX design, and it started a UX design agency. And he came and stayed with me for a month. And at the like, the last day that he was there he like asked me if I wanted to go into business with him. And, and because he needed someone to help with sales, right? Like he was doing all the UX work. And he was at a point where he just couldn’t sell anymore, but he still wanted to grow. They’re super nervous to ask me because I, I loved my job as a sick place to be. I was like, 24, 25. And. And it was, it was hard to say. It was hard to leave. But I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to start something and join him. And so him and I actually started GobiSavvy. And we our goal was to travel the world, work with cool companies meet cool people make a ton of money, like live at the beach. And, you know, we did that we went to Asia. We went to Europe, we went to Australia, we traveled all over and we did everything except for the make money part. And, you know, about a year in, we just kind of realized like, this isn’t working. And whatever we were doing. Just it wasn’t generating income, right, we end up going into debt. And both of us move back to the states and live with our grandma grandparents. So like, I’d like 26 I was like living in my grandparents house. You know, kind of like what the heck do next. And what had happened is he had gotten into E commerce and really enjoyed doing e commerce work. So he started an E commerce company still did some UX work on the side. And we had a client, then him is that quality mattresses, which is this like the CASPER of Australia at the time. And they asked us if we if we did email marketing, because you’re doing some UX and CRO work on their site. And I was like, Yeah, we do. I’d never done it before, you know, and we charge them $900 Which is ridiculously cheap amount for what we provided. But I took a week and I learned everything about What worth does is we’re an email and SMS marketing company for E commerce companies. This is kind of the origin story. But you know, I learned everything I could about copywriting design, email marketing, pick a software, and just went for it. In the first automations or flows we set up for these guys within weeks for generating like 15, 20 grand a month. I was like, I think we could sell this. And so I started Instant Email Copy. And Ryan would send me clients to fulfill email work on and I also helped his company’s ecommerce company and just over over time grew it and grew it in the Portland Oregon area. And I changed my mindset from like, kind of being a a consumer business where like I was just going to these places to explore and, and not really give back to an idea like how could I create a community? How could I create something where the core value is growth for ourselves and for our clients. And that is still a core value of worth as we go. And while I was growing Instant Email Copywriting was was doing his E commerce business. He had some success, and he started competing with me and doing email marketing. I was like, I was like, What the hell man? And but it was, you know, there’s so many clients, it was like neither of us could fulfill on the amount of clients that were coming in and finally met up in California for a week and we were like, wow, just joining forces. Take what you know, take what I know, combine our teams and we decided to do it. We spent two weeks in Bend Oregon, which is my hometown We came up with worth a commerce, we create a list of values that we wanted to live by and hire people by and types of clients who want to work with creative mission. And that was a big turning point for us like having values and a mission and attracted so many more people to join our team that I really believe that was a huge part of our growth.

Gray MacKenzie 5:20

Yep. That’s awesome. Sorry, what’s the timeline there? And I had no idea that you were in aviation sales at all that the one cool story. You get started Worth when you joined forces. When was that? 2019 2018?

Dean Dutro 5:36

September of 2019. Okay, so

Gray MacKenzie 5:39

two years ago, actually, yeah, that’s crazy. Where were the two businesses at the time? In terms of headcount, or like, basically, headcount client count, whatever is the easier metric though.

Dean Dutro 5:50

Yeah, instantly, no copy. I think we had 10 employees. Okay. And it was like a hybrid of some employees and contractors. He was still running Gobi savvy, and I think he had five or six. Okay, so maybe, like 15 Total people, headcount wise. Well, and

Gray MacKenzie 6:06

that’s so then when you got you guys just sold a couple months ago? Yeah, earlier here in 2021. So in under two years, you go from that to what was headcount, when you were acquired, like rep 45, we were required, big tripled in two years, which is crazy to to have that kind of growth. Obviously, you’re buoyed by a couple different things. One, the market, I mean, here we go. For quarter number five of the best agency growth in the last 10 years. Yeah, consecutively, which is crazy. But that wasn’t the story for the whole first half year journey, obviously. COVID We had no idea when COVID started, it was gonna turn out. Yeah, this beneficial for this specific segment that were and you guys are also buoyed by your any calm, which is doing super well, in your Klayvio has paid off that bet that you guys made going with them? Yep, in a big time way too. But But still, there’s a lot of folks who are swimming in that pond who aren’t growing that quickly. So it’s a long way of saying that’s what I want to understand. That’s what I’ll unpack and share is like, what did you guys get? Right? And what should agencies take away from that in terms of how you scaled so quickly? Yeah, and,

Dean Dutro 7:18

you know, perspective, like, we’re at a new level. And where we are now is, like, I’m having to relearn everything, right. And it’s that kind of old philosophy of like, what works for us, now isn’t working for us. And so we’ve Since being acquired, we were acquired by a larger agency. There’s different challenges. But to go from 15 to 50, it was pretty quick. And, you know, I think there’s two parts to it. One is we had experience prior in the industry, right? It wasn’t like, we just started something and and, and then caught this wave of ecommerce boom and COVID and people working from home and all that it was, it was, you know, we actually had prepped for it, right. So we were ready for the opportunity in a lot of ways. And it just became a matter of I would, I would literally just write down on paper, I would say, I would create an org chart, right? And I would I would sketch it out and say, Okay, if we gained, you know, 10 more clients, what does our company look like? If we gained 20? More? What does it look like? And how can we kind of scale that way? So it was almost like, like a cat, like all these old sketches of org charts, right? Like what it would look like. And, but we always lead with the core values, right? Always lead with the growth and the mission. And you know, we had to have different systems in place. So the other things I got mentorship, right, so I joined the Jason Swick agency mastermind, and connected with people to put systems in place that allowed us to scale to where we are, including hiring systems, which is super important. Now, I’m lucky because I’m a former recruiter, right? So my first job doing aviation sales before I was promoted there, I was recruiting and I would, you know, interview 1000s of people for years, every year to get them into jobs. So I knew how to set up a recruiting pipeline. And a lot of people don’t think about that, right. The thing about the sales pipeline, which is very important, but you need an equal and strong recruiting pipeline, because if you optimize sales, you need to have people to fill in the work. We had this hybrid model of having employees and having contractors and whatnot, I now only do pretty much employees because the model works better at scale. Right? And then contractors add up in costs over time and you start double paying, like people doing them types of work, but ultimately, it came down to like being ready and then having a mentor and then charting out what growth could look like. In tying that to our values, I think that was super important.

Gray MacKenzie 10:03

That’s helpful. I have a couple specific questions on that. One of the things that impressed me or that I can think we’re looking at the outside from what you guys have done is that you have invested we’ve got a lot of ties together. You’re on a podcast, we’re both working with Jeremy Weisz and the guys at Rise25. Connected with Joey Gilkey and Sales Driven Agency. Todd Taskey has been on the podcast recently, from a acquisition perspective, there’s all these new mentioned, Jason. You guys have been, you kind of brought you were prepared and ready to go, which you mentioned, this isn’t like a it’s a two year story for Worth eCommerce, but it’s a six or seven year story or whatever it is for the actual. Yep, kind of wrote here. So that piece has impressed me. And I guess that’s my first question is where did that I assume that’s intentional. But sometimes this stuff’s not intentional, just like, hey, that’s the way that we know to go. But a lot of agency owners are super hesitant to invest in getting outside help. Is that something that you and Ryan have always been in lockstep on? Is that something that one of you pushes more than the other? What drives that decision to get outside help?

Dean Dutro 11:11

Yeah, I think you have to go back to our core values is growth, right? So for me, like I love to read, I love to learn, I love to hear people talk, I love all that kind of stuff. And I find it super helpful. To put in perspective, like from an ROI standpoint, like the Jason Swank mastermind was great, because there were other agencies in there. And a lot of those agencies became referral partners, right? So maybe I’m paying, you know, X amount per month and spending, you know, 10 to $20,000 a year on mentorship. But from that mentorship, and that group of people, you know, probably close 10 clients, which is worth hundreds of 1000s of dollars, right? We got a podcast started, which is also probably worth, you know, equal amounts, it’s like a, you know, a $20,000 investment has turned into a 10x 20x return, because of the relationships that were were built, the systems that we’re able to put in place referrals that we got marketing that we got, like, that is the best ROI I’ve ever seen. You know, maybe Bitcoin could beat it. You know, if you invested two years ago, but that was my biggest investment was, was going down that road. And then you talk about joey Joey Gilkey, building out a sales system for us, that was a that was a major, major investment. I won’t say much, but it was, you know, basically, basically near six figures, and that has generated millions of dollars of revenue that system. And so, you know, when you make these, but I’ve also made decisions that didn’t pan out, right, like, I’ve hired lead gen agencies that, you know, we paid and they still haven’t delivered, it’s been like a year. You know, we’ve paid marketing agencies, so we’ve made mistakes, but when they pay out they’ve helped launch. So it seems like, right.

Gray MacKenzie 12:56

When this also kind of surprised me, because when we got a chance to work with you guys, and got in touch,

Dean Dutro 13:04

I didn’t mention you guys either projects.

Gray MacKenzie 13:06

Well, we’re in that failed bucket, click a build ClickUp consultants in the in No,

Dean Dutro 13:10

no, we use ClickUp on the regular.

Gray MacKenzie 13:14

But, but Ryan was leading growth, but you’re actually the one who comes from the sales background? How did you guys how did you guys get to that point? Did you flip flop roles?

Dean Dutro 13:23

Yeah, actually, that’s really interesting. So when I’m good at enterprise sales, right? And that takes time and energy and a completely different system. Right, in the sales cycles, you know, back when I was selling enterprise could be six months to two years, right? Right. The sales cycle in our space is like 20 to 30 days. And I wasn’t as good at that as I was with the other types of sales. Like I like taking, you know, a prospect or client to a dinner and flying out to see them and that kind of stuff doesn’t work in this space. So Ryan, Ryan actually moved into the sales marketing, and he’s essentially like the VP of growth, I moved into more of the CEO operations and getting the team line because it turns out I’m really good at recruiting. Right. And he’s really good at connecting with a lot of these business owners. So we thought you’re totally right. And that’s that’s a great catch. Like we completely flip flopped once we knew, like our actual skill sets and what we like doing

Gray MacKenzie 14:29

yeah, that’s, that’s really it’s interesting to see people and then from that, like your that story that you come from the sales background, I can definitely see that. Not that. Ryan’s not a relationship builder as well. But there’s different types of relationship builders, some people like the new and kind of like constantly new and there’s other people who are boring like me who’s like, I like having long term relationships and going deep with people and like the meeting 100 people at a party and having two minutes of conversation. It’s not, that’s not very invigorating. For me. It’s just kind of draining but Pick up the duck the smaller group of people and know them over a period of time. And that obviously is really effective in long term like rescue and sales. And if you’re in a very transactional relationship,

Dean Dutro 15:10

yeah. The other thing that I realized too is like, there’s salespeople that are, are better than me is as the owner, right? Yeah. And a prime example is, you know, this month actually, like my salespeople, we’ve got four salespeople, and they’re selling a product that I used to sell for $1,500. For like, 12 grand. Yeah, it’s literally the it’s the same thing. Right? Now, we’re much better at what we do. Because we’ve we’ve grown a lot, but it’s essentially the same deliverables. And I would, I don’t think I would have ever been able to sell it for that, you know, my skills aren’t there. I helped create the scope and operationally how to deliver in strategy. But they went out and sold it. That was like, what they did that I was like, this is like, I should have hired salespeople five years ago.

Gray MacKenzie 16:05

That’s awesome. Well, let’s fast forward then to the decision to sell. I assume you’re right. I mean, what, just back to the even being open to it. And I don’t actually know the backstory yet. Which I’m excited to have this conversation. I don’t know who reached out to who first, whether Todd was engaged by Ryan, the start hunting and found you guys, or how that connection originally got made. But was that you and Ryan already talked about? Hey, we’re open to that stuff selling off and hopefully having a second bike down the road? Or how did that evolve? Yeah, so

Dean Dutro 16:37

running a again, going like going back to growth? Like most of our decisions are based off that, that values like how can we get to the next level? We there’s so there’s a couple items in there. One, I wanted to learn about the mergers and acquisition market, right? So I wanted to learn was all back skip hearing these stories of you know, a competitor of mine sold, and I got another person I was like, let’s like, what is this? Like? How do you actually do that? That’d be really cool to learn. So I reached out to Todd, who’s referral from Jason. And he was like, Hey, man, you guys are probably too early. Like, we can just see what’s out there and see who’s interested. And that was like a year long process, right? And so we engage pretty early with the idea of like, if we wanted to sell out the opportunity, would we have everything in place to be able to do so. And if not, then at least I get to learn how successful companies operate from a financial perspective, right, from a legal perspective, and, like put themselves in a position to either grow or be purchased. So my mindset was like, either way, I’m gonna either learn how to scale or be acquired. And we talked with various companies that weren’t a good fit, either. We were too small. They, they were too enterprise. They weren’t in the same marketplace, etc. And then we met SmartBug. And instantly, like, hit it off, there’s like connection. Their senior team had a lot more experience than my team. And for me, like I was ready to get to a new place in my own career. You know, like, I’ve got a mastermind and mentors, but I was looking for like, what’s next? Personally, like, professionally, how do I go from 50 people to, you know, 500 people. And I don’t have a clear path of how to do that. And I feel like the SmartBug team has a pretty clear path of how to do it and has experience and you know, real estate like I’m 31 I sold mouse 30. So to me, it was just like a career move in some ways. And it also worked out because we’re a sister company, right? So we got to keep the name. And how SmartBug grew was very similar. So they they went through HubSpot. And we’re going through Klaviyo. They do b2b to b2c. Right? So the model is this is almost the same. It’s just a different market. And so we’re learning a lot from them. That’s, that’s what I wanted. And I also provide opportunities for my team, where we just specialize in two things basically, to be able to have opportunities to cross pollinate skill sets. Because we want to, you know, potentially expand services, etc. But that was sort of the thinking behind that. And if that answered the question, but

Gray MacKenzie 19:13

yeah, that’s helpful in Ryan. It’s been a couple years since we had on the podcast, but I should only say positive people, positive things about people on this podcast. But Ryan has an interesting I have a ton of respect around which which Ryan? Ryan Malone Sorry. Yeah. Yep. CEO at SmartBug are the founder of SmartBug. Originally the action shins around Ryan. He has a kind of distinct view on the market. He doesn’t he’s not a kind of someone who’s just following the beaten path. Entirely. He’s got his own. He’s got strongly held convictions about how to build an agency which I have a ton of respect for. And he also when he feels like He has some secret sauce, some of that leaks back out into the world and some of that he keeps close to the vest. And I’ve run into folks who don’t appreciate that about him, which totally, totally fair. And I actually think it’s kind of baller of him. So I’ve always had a lot of respect for Ryan and the way that he’s built stuff. And been real intentional about it structuring remote team before that was the cool thing and the normal thing to do. And

Dean Dutro 20:23

yeah, that was another piece was I love that that intentionally built it that way. And we were, we built that with first and then I kind of went hybrid. And now we’re going fully back to that. And yet to build a culture like like they have remotely is very tough. And so I’m excited to keep keep learning from them.

Gray MacKenzie 20:44

What but I guess from the outside looking at that, what is the like, what’s the big one plus one mix three, go back to the pre HubSpot, but HubSpot tried to co op that that phrase for a while. Because you guys I mean very similar models like they’ve been upset ecosystem warehouse ecosystem with them for a while. You guys are in the Klaviyo ecosystem. But you’re talking about you guys are B to C, they’re b2b. What’s the overlap there? Like? Are you guys pulling Klaviyo into SmartBug clients? And how many of those clients? Does that make sense? How does that How do those add up with different audiences and different service that obviously different service types make a lot of sense, but often see those go together with similar audiences. And we’re layering on more email marketing for this. So how do you guys, what does that value prop in the alignment there?

Dean Dutro 21:38

It’s a good question. We’re flushing out some of it. They recognize that they needed to be in the E commerce space. Right. And so they saw this as an opportunity to take what they knew, apply it to another agency and leverage it to grow faster. And, you know, there’s like, like they, they were turning away ecommerce leads, because they didn’t have someone to fulfill on it. And we often turn away b2b leads, because we don’t have the expertise. So there’s, there’s some sort of crossover. But the other key piece is Klaviyo. Is going more enterprise in a lot of ways. So they see that coming down the pipeline. And what’s interesting is that a lot of people from HubSpot left and have gone to Klaviyo Right. Right. So there’s this there’s a ton of overlap in many different ways. In terms of like, hey, like, we run a Facebook ad agency, you guys do email and SMS, let’s refer it’s not that distinct. It’s more like, hey, we know this model works. And let’s take these guys who have the same model and loosen them up in a market that’s rising. Right. And I think everyone knows, ecommerce is blowing up and has been since 2015. But really started taking off like, you know, during COVID. And I still think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg. It’s now it’s now just getting easy to to sell stuff online. You know, like this year, it’s much easier than it ever has been. But so I don’t know if that answers the question. But

Gray MacKenzie 23:15

yeah, well, I think that’s helpful in terms of, hey, here’s some of the easier ways the value, obviously, I mean, you see value in some of these deals where we get to pair up the back, the back end operations, there’s some value created there, which I don’t know how much you guys may not have integrated that many things on the back end. At this point, have you done a lot of kind of on the other hiring or stuff? Or does that say several because it’s a sister brand?

Dean Dutro 23:37

Yeah. I mean, we’ve done some minor stuff like like some HR stuff, some accounting stuff, which, which is nice, because it kind of takes the pressure off, like, like I was in the books all the time, trying to figure out our accounting. And now there’s a CFO that we get to kind of lean on, which is super helpful. It was it was a pain at first because I had to reorganize our entire books and collect every invoice about two years to get it over. But once that’s done, it’s done. And I think I know, recruiting wise, there’ll be some integrations, because our HR guy is a solid recruiter. And, you know, you might as well lower costs and find good talent, different ways. Sales, like we’re learning different sales strategies from them to sell enterprise, learning how to roll out new services better. Right? So like, their full service, how do they go about it, how they tested, things like that. So there’s some so just minor integrations but add up over time, you know, right. Right now, hiring is the biggest problem companies face. So having two companies targeting different different types of skills, but like great people is really helpful.

Gray MacKenzie 24:50

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That what was the going through that process? I mean, there’s all kinds of things that you’re going through an acquisition seem to struggle with, whether it’s on the front end of the deal with all The due diligence and learning that there’s inner and outer, like figuring out deals get structured from a cost perspective. And then on the back end dealing with through ups and get some revenue and all that kind of stuff. Is there one piece of that? You mentioned kind of digging back through invoices?

Dean Dutro 25:18

Yeah, yeah. Due Diligence sucks. Like, it’s not fun at all. And we were lucky that we were relatively organized, but it wasn’t like, no one’s ready for it. I don’t I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone be like, Yeah, I was totally ready. Like, No, you are. I’m sure large, much larger companies probably have some things dialed in. And you know, during the deal, even up to like, last week, I didn’t know if it was going to go through is everyone had deal fatigue, right, everyone was sick and tired of looking at the numbers, looking at these contracts, looking at invoices looking at, like, everyone’s sick of it, you know. And I remember talking to my girlfriend, I don’t know if this is gonna go through. Like, it was like the Friday before signing, and they got pushed a week. And I was like, yep, probably not gonna go through. And so that was super stressful. And I feel like I took my eye off the ball for a few months, like, I could tell the business suffered a little bit. And then post sale, it was kind of that like, like, like, post grad blues or post vacation blues. Like, it just I get I make the right decision, I was amped up, but also like, and there’s a lot that’s, that could change. One thing going from cash accounting to GAAP accounting, right. And you know, you’re talking about true ups and stuff. So there’s, you know, revenue that I thought would go into our pockets that actually went to the company, because of the way GAAP accounting works you have revenue is encountered until the work is fulfilled, right. So all that gets pushed, so you actually end up sometimes having to write a check to the company that purchased you for that weird period of revenue. That stuff I would always advise, Todd kind of told me that, hey, this is a possibility this could happen. You’re on cash accounting, when you move to GAAP things can change. And but it all will hopefully equal out there’s there’s like little things like we weren’t like chewing up PTO. In our p&l. Yep. And when you get acquired, you typically will figure out a percentage, and you have to pay that out. So that wasn’t expecting that kind of stuff. So there’s like these little things that kind of like ding you. But keeping your eye on the bigger pictures? What’s what’s important?

Gray MacKenzie 27:32

That’s a good point. There’s enough of that stuff that it starts to get really annoying. Yeah. Yeah. I feel like, at least in the folks that I’ve seen go through this process. And the friends I’ve seen kind of run through that can be easy. Everybody thinks they’re off the ball. I don’t think anybody has not. Yeah, like a the company definitely suffered. And also, for a lot of people that stress associated with I have this huge, exciting news that I’m excited about. And I can’t share this with Yeah, all kinda like living a double life to me. Yeah. Right. And that’s, I mean, you probably have to be a psychopath. But that’s, that’s some degree.

Dean Dutro 28:12

And then the other thing I would say, like if people do get acquired, I think, at least this happened for us, like, we were all gung ho about, like, we’re gonna change stuff up, like, we’re gonna change our processes, our systems, we’re gonna make it better. And we’re this whole spreadsheet of stuff and action items, it was too much, right? You don’t realize how hard it is to change a system. You know? And so we finally had to, like had a conversation and say, Hey, like, we need to go back to our core focus and competency. Because all this other stuff. It’s, it’s not moving the needle forward. And it’s, it’s too much at once. So I would like if you get acquired, everyone’s gonna want to improve things, fix things, like 20 at it, you know, right. Yeah. And I made that mistake of not holding to that kind of philosophy, which is something I hold dear. And but you know, now we’re, now we’re in a good place, I think. Right?

Gray MacKenzie 29:06

That makes sense. Well, so a couple things here, then as we’re on the on the tail end of back was you guys have made it through your smartphone company now. Still run with E commerce? In terms of vision, the stuff that you’re looking forward to and excited about right now? Obviously, you mentioned hiring everyone’s struggling hire, what are the hardest roles? Or what are the current roles that you guys are looking to fill?

Dean Dutro 29:33

Just just looking for good marketers in the space? You know, I think we we, during COVID, for example, we hired a lot of green people, and we had to basically train from scratch, which is good and bad. It’s It’s good in the sense that they develop skills and you can hire cheaper and faster, it’s bad in the sense that they can get poached sometimes. Right and you become like the training ground for other agencies. Yep. Which is not good. thing either. But you know, I think that we, for people who are hiring, if you can hire remote, you’re gonna get a lot more applicants, right. Like, to be honest, we our troubles, we get too many applicants and sifting through it right, we’ll get 100 200 applicants. And because it’s remote and we pay well, and you know, we lead with our vision and values. We don’t even talk about the job until later on in the post, right? We talked about the company, the culture, the values, and that attracts a lot more people, I think, right? But you know, we’re always looking for great marketers. And I try to tell my team, like, you’re not a copywriter, like you’re a marketer, you’re not a designer, you’re a marketer. And you just have this other skill set in some ways, and some people like that some people don’t. But

Gray MacKenzie 30:47

that makes sense. These, I’ve got a couple other quick hitters here. You guys see much seasonality. I know you’re a retainer driven business. Yeah, I would imagine. I mean, you go to Worth eCommerce right now. And there’s a countdown timer at the top, which is really smart. Come to the Black Friday. Are you ready? Yeah. I would assume. I mean, like, we have this all the time. q4 is our biggest quarter, because everyone, like I’ve been fighting this struggle all year long. I’m not gonna go into next year with the same thing. It’s gonna take me two or three months to pick this up work was in pilot and streamline our apps. You can see the same thing it brought the holidays.

Dean Dutro 31:22

It’s it’s kind of interesting. So because we’re vertical and E commerce, we serve different industries within e commerce. So different industries are seasonal, right? So a lot of people experience like q1 seasonality in various companies, we don’t because we have a lot of nutrition companies. Right. And everybody’s buying nutrition products, right? Yeah, I mean, what we do see a boost in is just upsell revenue, right? So we’ll still get the same number of clients sweet. We, on average, close about the same amount of clients throughout the year, which is really nice. And then just during q4, that’s when we’re like, hey, clients, like you need to implement this, you need this, you need this. It’s gonna cost this and here’s your potential ROI. So we see a lot more upsell revenue, and we’ll stop taking clients at some point. So we can deliver. But I wouldn’t say it’s like an influx of new clients. Again, it’s just an influx of scope that we need to to sell.

Gray MacKenzie 32:25

And then one of the thing I wanted to mention is even running the Relationship Commerce podcast. For a while now, you mentioned you tied it back to Jason, which I wasn’t familiar with. So how did the podcast come about? And what’s that experience been? Like? Yeah.

Dean Dutro 32:38

So you mentioned Rise25. We work with them to Jeremy and John are awesome. And it came about because we were trying to find new ways to market to get leads and to find prospects. And I love talking to people and hearing people’s stories and whatnot. So I think we’re almost at 100 episodes, which is, which is awesome. And I like longer for like 45 minutes to an hour. And sometimes people come on the show and in and they turn into clients, sometimes they’ve turned into repeat guests. There’s always a connection you can make. So it’s been a great ROI. And then I just always, like I learned something new, right? Like, it’s like every ecommerce business person or software has like a little something little, like you mentioned for like a secret sauce. And oftentimes, they’ll they’ll give you a little bit of it. And then we can take that and you know, use that for our other clients. Right? It’s like we’re in that position of learning and knowledge at scale, to help our clients grow even faster, which is cool.

Gray MacKenzie 33:39

I don’t I don’t know at what point I discovered the podcast. But it was close to when you had I’m blanking on his last name. Randall from dugout mugs. Oh, yeah. And I’m a huge baseball in there. So I was like, Oh, this is perfect. But anyways, it’s awesome to see you. Podcasting using that tool. And it is I mean, it’s an awesome relationship builder,

Dean Dutro 34:02

a great opportunity to I mean, you mentioned personal and it’s obviously something or professional development. That’s a big priority to you. There’s no better way than podcasting getting defined. You’re interesting folks and kind of dig through their story. Yeah. And people are willing to share a lot. That’s an awesome tool. And I like I like personally finding like, like what I call like the hidden entrepreneurs. Like the people out there that maybe are on Forbes, maybe are on like Inc 5000. But they’re still, you know, have 1020 3040 employees, and they’re growing a business. You know, it’s more real conversations. Some of the ones I’ve had where they’re like larger businesses. It’s like always a script. It’s like always the same. Like I’ve had some like pretty large companies and I just, like stopped because it’s like, it’s like I’ve heard this on five other podcasts, right.

Gray MacKenzie 34:54

That’s, I feel like there’s a mix there of some people who give it who do it ton of speaking authors are usually Yes, pretty good on podcast because they had to think about this stuff and deal with it. And like Seth Godin, for all the speech, all the talks he’s done, he’ll always be interesting to me. But you’re right. 80% of same 8020 rule like 80% of the time, you’re gonna get the same story that you’ve heard everywhere else. And so yeah, I think there’s an element there of, I take pride in kind of finding the people who aren’t featured on agency podcast, like, how can we hear an exception because you are on a bunch of different podcasts. But how can we find the people who aren’t out there and dig into that story, it’s a hidden miss, sometimes those people have great stories, but it’s not told in a super interesting way. And that’s, that’s fine, too.

Dean Dutro 35:38

I, I want to make sure I give you guys a shout out to because you guys helped build our operating system. Like, basically from scratch, and we use ClickUp every day we use it for for everything, we’re billing scopes, and time tracking. And that was phenomenal. It was a phenomenal investment. And, you know, basically, any new person that comes in can go into the system that you guys have built. And it’s step by step, they know what to do, and they don’t always follow it, right. Like, not everyone always follows the system, but at least it’s there and people can find it. And it’s been a training tool, a project management tool, time tracking tool, ideas tool to use for social media stuff or podcast stuff. It’s it’s he has a tremendous work there. Just wanted you to shout out,

Gray MacKenzie 36:20

I appreciate it. And a lot of the credit for that project. I mean, we consistently see this. We’ve got a system, pm and Ops is such a core function that a lot of that knowledge has to get centralized in house at some point in time. But it makes a ton of sense to work with somebody from the outside has done this a ton of times to come in and build it initially. But someone’s got to run it and are leading on your end. But during your whole leadership team, diving in and jumping through the good and the bad, and like just just running through it all. There’s a big difference in how quickly agencies benefit from it when there’s that Rockstar internally. Yeah, versus kind of they don’t have the same infrastructure and, and a lot of times, it’s not necessarily the person who’s leading it internally isn’t talented. But they’re also not enabled or empowered by the leadership team to make a lot of decisions that they need to make move things forward. So you guys can top to bottom, did a really nice job do that project. implementation. So it’s been cool to see you continue to grow and scale using ClickUp and continue to improve. theme has been super fun. I appreciate you coming on and being willing to share a is the website. We mentioned SmartBug and the podcast is there anywhere else we should point people to follow you or connect with you.

Dean Dutro 37:41

I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. Just Dean Dutro. If you search me and I get a lot of interesting stories on there, and there’s a lot of cool people to connect with there. But that’s that’s where I’m most active.

Gray MacKenzie 37:52

Awesome. Well, I appreciate me want to come on be so generous with what you know what you’ve learned. Thanks for attending.

Dean Dutro 37:57

Yeah, appreciate it.

Outro 37:59

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