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Episode #206
Joshua Schultz

Building Systems to Scale Your Consulting Business

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Summary

When starting a consulting business, you should always look to build systems. Where most small businesses think that systems only exist in big companies, Joshua Schultz believes otherwise. In fact, he encourages small businesses to have a system mindset. Joshua is the Director of Data Services at Pacific Air Industries. He is also a contracted Supply Chain SME and consultant to SourceDay. In this episode, he joins Michael Zipursky to discuss how to scale your consulting business by using systems. Discover Joshua’s journey and how he started working with his dad. Learn how to focus on one thing at a time so that you can grow. Find your system mindset today!

I am with Joshua Schultz. Joshua, welcome.

Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Josh, you have built and sold 3 or 4 businesses at this point. You also are involved with software and automation, optimizing and scaling businesses because of your area of expertise. You spent about twelve years in the global operations and experience around supply chain, and building a business with your dad. You really have a very interesting experience and insights around process design, decision-making, systems analysis, and strategic sourcing in a lot of other areas.

You shifted into consulting as well as some other projects. You are also an Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University. Where I wanted to start off our discussion is to take us back to the early days of your career. I know that you built this business with your father that you later sold. That actually took you across the US border into Mexico but also overseas into Asia. Before you’ve got involved in that business with your dad, do you have another “real job” or was that the main job that you’ve got into after education?

I have about five years in finance. I was really in asset management. I did a little bit of trading for a small hedge fund down in New York City. I did some stuff in Rochester, then moved back home, which is Syracuse, New York. I did some asset management stuff there. I really loved the math, trading, the feedback, and being able to see if the decisions were right and modifying.

I started to develop a bunch of what you might call econometric systems for trying to slightly automate but help us make more objective decisions about waiting. From that, I’ve got into writing in a newsletter with a guy who ran the derivatives desk at Jeffrey’s, so that’s all of what I was doing up to getting my grad degree, and then coming out of my grad degree is totally different.

What happened in your mind? Why the shift from that world of asset management derivatives into a supply chain-related business. They are very different businesses. What was the pull for you to leave what sounded like something that you were enjoying into a completely different field?

I absolutely enjoyed it. I was obsessed with it and I still really enjoy reading about it. For me, it was looking at reality. I mentor a lot of students through Syracuse University in Upstate New York and founders. One of the things I tell them a lot is, “If you try to be successful on somebody else’s terms, you are going to fail.” That’s what I was trying to do. I didn’t have the network in New York, the wealth or any of the things that the people were making like those strides that I wanted to be my life had. I was trying to be them.

I finally came to terms with that when I was getting my grad degree that I didn’t have the connections and the wealth. I was always going to be working ten times harder against people that were very well connected, ten times smarter. On the flip side, I believe everybody has a unique step up in this life and that we just missed it. Mine was my dad owned a very small fastener business. My whole life, that was what I didn’t want to do. That was lame and it was boring but that was my unique advantage in this world.

When I finally embraced that coming out, he said, “Come work with me for a summer. You won’t be bored. We’ve got a bunch of stuff we are working on.” I went there for the summer between years and I absolutely loved it. I just fell in love with all the problems and the issues. He also said I can apply the same amount of energy here that I have been in finance. I will probably go 10X further during my working career. I stuck on that. I was looking at VC, which was starting to get into niche industries. They had not had a supply chain yet in 2007-ish.

If you try to be successful on somebody else's terms, you're going to fail. Click To Tweet

I knew that tech was going to be rolling down the supply chain soon and that was going to be interesting. On the flip side, we were just going into and coming out of the financial crisis. I also knew that I was going to be fighting a consolidation where finance is 24% of GDP. I was going to be fighting that consolidation of employment my entire working career. That’s not something I wanted to do. All of that lined up, I said, “I’m going to make a shift here that I think will be better for the next 40 years.”

It sounds like you really went through a process very consciously around trying to identify your strengths, your weaknesses, where did you have an advantage, and where you might be facing an uphill battle on an ongoing basis. That led to the decision or at least had a big influence on the students that you work with at the university or those that you do mentor, or give guidance to. Is there any process that you found that can be helpful for somebody who’s reading now who goes, “How do I identify my strengths and my weaknesses?” Is there anything you could offer around that?

I was lucky. I ended up in China, which for me only meant I didn’t have a cell phone for a month. I had the book, The Alchemist, and I was not speaking to anybody in English and barely understood Mandarin. That forced me to do a lot more reflecting than I probably ever would have if I had been in the States for that month. What I did, what I share and what I believe is good. I go for a morning walk every morning for 20 to 30 minutes if you can, or 15 if you can’t. All you are looking for is, “What do I have that no one else has?” Don’t worry about what it looks like or it fits the ideal thing.

What you find is once you step into a lot of those, you can shift them to be what you want. I started selling fasteners. I ended up writing a supply chain ERP. It’s the software I always enjoyed. You can take it, mash it into what you want it to do and look for what you have access to. That’s a real thing. What can you access that no one else can? I could access a couple of large customers, a warehouse or my dad. I accessed it and the whole world opened up.

Part of what you said early on about just being in a very different environment with a great book like The Alchemist is a great way to get some inspiration or self-reflection. I remember reading that book many years ago. I would highly recommend it to anyone that hasn’t read it. Let’s now get into the business. You started working with your dad. It’s this supply chain, fastener-related business, and very different from what you were doing before.

You mentioned you encountered a lot of different challenges. When you think about the business side, what were some of the biggest challenges that you just remember as being, “These are really big issues that maybe I’m not equipped for or that are hard for us.” What stands out for you? What do you remember from those times?

I have a word for it now, I didn’t then, that there were no systems. Again, this is like a storybook fail. I’m looking back with what I know now. I grew up building Legos and with this idea that everything had a place and only one place. That’s natural to me. For me, watching them work in his business, there are so many places they can make mistakes, transcribed wrong and there’s no set form. They have to make this up every time that they do it and decide what to write down. The sheer amount of information was overwhelming and no structure to put in. It may even be worse.

For me, that was the biggest first thing. I was like, “What the hell is going on here? How are we going to make sure that we are at least doing what we are supposed to be doing, let alone add to it, grow and all that stuff.” The first thing I did was create an ISO manual. ISO is basically ISO 9000. It’s a common standard that a lot of companies use to check your customer requirements and your quality. It says what you will do. I did that but then I also expanded it to a whole process manual and a whole asset list. I operate all the assets.

CSP 206 | Building Systems

I basically wrote the manual on how to run this entire business from box crusher all the way to complex sales and negotiations, which allowed me to better understand what’s happening and launched the next four years of improvements that have work done. It helped me learn a lot of terminology around the way that I thought and be able to use it better.

Once I understood that I was viewing the world through a systems mindset, I was able to read books on systems thinking and get those tools, which made a lot of sense to me. I read thinking in systems and I read the system’s Bible. On there, it talks about systems, complexity and feedback loops. I said, “This is the lens that I naturally believe in and view the world through.” Now I have this giant toolbox I didn’t even know existed to fold back over on my world and make adjustments.

What would be one example that you think might resonate with a consultant where there was a problem, there was no system, you built a system around it, and the result that you saw by then having that system? What would be something that would probably resonate with a consultant reading now?

Consulting is huge because a lot of it is qualitative. It’s conversational. If you want to scale a consulting business, this is my opinion, you cannot do everything that you are able to do. I know how to do a lot of things but you are all over the place and you don’t scale. You end up doing the little bits of everything. Once you can figure out the one thing like, “This is the guy I’m going to be. I’m going to be the X guy.”

Once you have that, now you can actually standardize your initial onboarding conversations with sales conversations. I had that at the beginning but by the end, this is the work I like doing, the work I’m good at, and brings in a high fee. That means I need to know these twenty things upfront. Now, your conversations go from, “Tell me about the business.” This is very wishy-washy and you are just trying to become their friend almost.

Two, “I’m going to ask you twenty questions. We are going to run through this and it’s going to give me an idea how many employees, give me their breakdowns and if they are in the warehouse or in the front office.” You have a reason you are asking these. It gives you confidence and it makes you look more professional to the potential customer. The close is much easier because it’s like, “He came in. He knew what to ask and was already fired up.” Creating a questionnaire alone solves my problem, their problem, and my future problems when I’m doing consulting.

You are definitely speaking our language and we are big believers in that. That’s a very powerful example. Did you have any pushback when you were working in your dad’s company? You were a younger guy and you had obviously some ideas about introducing things that were not there before. Oftentimes, when people hear the word systems if they are a smaller business, they dismiss it and go, “Systems and processes are things for bigger companies. We don’t need that,” whereas everyone is very accepting of this. Did you have to really push it through and make it work?

Nobody was accepting. One of the great things about working with my dad, especially earlier on was at the office. It was Josh and he was Dutch. It just happened naturally but the best thing ever was a name change and role change in there. It was literally flicking a light switch. We must just be able to compartmentalize and that’s what made it possible. In there, he didn’t trust me in business. I had no business history. I was a finance numbers key.

His partner called me junior until the day he retired out, which was endearing but also a little bit of a slam, and he meant it in funny like, “Junior has got to change here. What are we going to do now?” There was always that fighting like, “This is the kid that used to come to mow my lawn.” It was a small business. They all worked there for eighteen-plus years. Thirty by the time they’ve got done. Me coming in was like, “I know all the mistakes that this kid made in high school. Why are we going to listen to him?”

There was definitely a series of small projects that had the success that showed them like, “This actually makes it easier,” to the point where it was about four years in where Kevin, one of the partners, started saying, “Let’s put Josh on it and he can figure this out.” It implemented change, which means they were no longer questioning the system to the point where six years after I started, no major decision was made without me. Not because I asked or I needed it but because I was a trusted source of decision-making and problem-solving.

Don't worry about fitting in with the ideal thing. Shift them to be what you want. Click To Tweet

What you are describing is almost in the consulting world, what we refer to as a discovery offer and an initial project to demonstrate value surrounding the client having to say yes to $50,000, $150,000 or $1 million engagements. You start with something small. It might be $5,000 or $10,000, whatever it might be but a much smaller piece, which allows you to demonstrate value. Therefore, it’s de-risking the larger decisions they have to make. Is that how you would think about it? What would you say to that?

That’s a really good analogy. I will bring it back to consulting here. Even for myself, the biggest trouble is not convincing people that you can do something with such a will. Most owners, whether it’s the owner of the business that’s hiring you, the owner of that department or the process that’s going to hire you to do something, they want somebody to handle this. The problem is with their experience, nobody has been able to handle it. They have taken it on themselves.

That’s why they are even talking to you because everybody below them or above them is either too busy or not able. It always ends up back on their lap. Now they are protective of saying, “Whatever I hand this off to, it’s going to end up back on my lap.” Bad enough when it happens to an employee. It is definitely not going to pay somebody to hand this back to me in a month.

When you are selling yourself as a consultant, it’s selling the idea that like, “I’ve got this. When you hire me and you give this to me, consider it done. We don’t even have to talk about it. I know what I’m doing. I know what you need. I’m thinking along the same lines like you.” The best way to do that is to watch every conversation but a confident discovery where you pull out the info that they say, “He gets it. He’s asking the right questions.” You come back and say, “He gets it. He’s got three of the ideas I already had plus he has two new ones.”

Sometimes, when consultants are selling, they get, “I did. You share the idea.” They are like, “I thought that, too.” You are like, “Great. I’m not adding any value.” What you don’t understand is the fact that they thought that too means you are lining up with them. They don’t want to do it because they are not people with tons of time that are like, “If I can do it, I’m going to sit on a weekend and play with this.”

They are not hackers or young bucks just sitting around. They’ve got stuff going on. The fact that you lined up with them, every little piece is like more and more that they can back off until finally they hire you and they say, “This person has got it.” That buy-in, discovery or whole small step of a small win, whether it’s a $2,000 win or something, is a fantastic step to prove alignment and help them take their hands off the big one.

You mentioned that one of the biggest challenges of the business high when you came in was, they didn’t have any systems. Therefore, putting systems into place created a lot of value and allowed the business to grow before you exited. The business did grow considerably over the years that you were a part of it.

Looking back and looking at your experience now working with other companies as a consultant, where do you typically find the biggest opportunities for optimization and improvement? We talked about systems. Are there any other ones that you typically just see or even back to your experience at that company really made a big difference in terms of having a big impact on the revenue and the growth of the company?

Resource utilization is huge. Our drivers, delivery guys, warehouse, quality equipment or whatever it is that you have, every business is using something. How are you utilizing it? The biggest thing is when you are in the middle of it all the time. For example, you are running a delivery company of some sort. When you see your driver and your truck, you think historically over the last 10, 20, 30 years, that truck has done routes and it has always been by ZIP code. I’m just making this up but if you see that, it’s so hard to step out of that and say, “What if we did it by,” and you create a new paradigm by which the deliveries can happen. “What if we did all deliveries on Monday and we did all picking on Friday. That thing will speed it up.”

CSP 206 | Building Systems

You are not acquiring new things or you are not creating a system. You are literally just changing the order of some operations so that it can happen faster. In manufacturing, we call it SMED. It’s basically realizing what’s an external process and an internal process doing external processes at a different time. For example, back to this delivery idea, if you are picking and then delivering, why not do all picks and all deliver?

If you are doing consulting, why work on just one client at a time? Why not batch all of the similar activities when you are in a certain piece of software, whether it’s Excel. Your mind is more focused that way. You can streamline and you could probably move through it faster. You didn’t hire anybody to help you but by changing the order of when you are doing things, changing when you are doing software or billing, you can handle or probably double the clients by changing the order of some things.

That’s a really interesting example and you took me to where I was planning to go in terms of the next follow-up question around this. It sounds like what you are getting at or at least what I took from this, I want to make sure that everyone joining us now can see it as an opportunity is when you are interacting with a client, rather than always bringing new ideas. New ideas are great. You could propose a whole new initiative but a new initiative oftentimes to a client might sound like a lot more risk.

What you are saying is that a bigger opportunity might even be just to look at a prospective client and really look at what they are currently doing and find improvements within that. That’s less risk typically. It’s easier to make those changes and see results faster. Therefore, you are able to get a win for that client much sooner, which increases the trust, removes the risk, and has them wanting to give you a lot more responsibility, permission, and autonomy to help them to grow or to achieve more results. Would you say that’s correct or anything you want to add to that?

Probably the majority don’t bring new ideas. I just change some things. With my clients, what I try to do is help them step out of where they have been because most of them are smart. They are just so ground down in the day-to-day. They do not have the opportunity. My job is to jolt them, force them up for a minute and be like, “We could do it this way.”

Most of them are smart enough to see all of this. They are like, “That would be great.” They could figure it out. A lot of the consultant’s job isn’t just to be, “I’m the innovative guy,” but to be, “I’m going to help grab you. We are going to go for a 30,000-foot flight really quick. We are going to look down at your business.” When we drop back down at the end of this call, you are going to have a much better idea of like, “I’ve got to change this whole thing now.” Our job is to help them get out of that.

The other thing you mentioned as well as for the actual consulting in their own business, what are you currently doing? Where are you spending your time? How can you be more efficient with it? One of the things we do a lot with our coaching clients is looking at ways to productize their service offerings. If you are doing something many times over, rather than trying to customize every single project, if you can actually pull that out, extract that, turn that into a training, course, workshop or something that you can build a system around, that creates typically significantly higher profits but also a lot more leverage in your business.

That’s what I’m taking from those examples that you just shared. You went off, you grew the business, you had interactions overseas, as you mentioned, China, Taiwan, and Mexico, what did you learn? Give some advice to a consultant or a consulting firm owner that maybe wants to start doing business overseas, especially with what’s happened in the world in the last little while, people are starting to see that, “I don’t have to necessarily meet my clients face-to-face.”

The customer base could be all around the world. I remember from my time in Japan, there are certainly some things that stand out to me and I’m happy to share those as well but for you, what did you learn? What would you advise somebody who’s looking or considering developing their business overseas?

One of the biggest things that I learned was two big things. 1) Everyone is not America. I learned that from not only business, just personal travel. I was looking up to study overseas. I realized America is one of many views. It’s not even the majority view. 2) Everybody makes decisions differently. A lot of times, we only think, “Why would anybody want this? This isn’t big enough of a business or a consulting area to focus on.”

The job of a consultant is to help people step out of where they've been and jolt them right back up. Click To Tweet

The more I travel, the more I realize that there are thousands of companies spending millions and millions, if not billions of dollars on this specific niche problem. Not inventory management but specifically buying fasteners. Not only buying fasteners but focusing on buffer stock in time of inventory. Not only just in time of inventory, focusing on how it’s delivered. You could keep niching down and there are still millions there that people are focusing on trying to solve.

Once you realize that, you stop trying to be everything. You start just focusing on one. All of a sudden, you’ve got all these people talking to you and they were like, “Where have you guys been? I have been trying to run this consulting business so somebody would talk to me. Now I’ve got to raise my prices up high enough so that people will leave me alone.”

There are a lot of decisions being made. Some of them are being made by people that have way more money than you will ever have, some by people with less, some with businesses that are way bigger than you can imagine running and they are hitting problems that you don’t run across day-to-day in small business. With that understanding, go out and don’t be afraid to stand for something to be something because that means it’s there. It’s probably much bigger than you think it is.

Two of mine would be one, is relationships. When we took our business to Japan, I went there and put on the branch office. The business was called Kankei Culture. Kankei in Japanese means relationship. We are all building a relationship culture. Probably some people have heard me tell this story before but the way I really started to make inroads into the Japanese market, I ended up working in some very large organizations over there is through the connections that I made. There was one key person that was in Toronto that I sent a bunch of emails to.

Two people responded. I met with both of them but one, we hit it off right away. This guy’s name was Shinoski. He opened the doors. When I was in Japan later that week, he took me to another meeting. We were in Osaka. It was one of the large construction companies that had a building. There’s a restaurant at the top or a bar. We were sitting there. He introduced me to another person and that person has opened doors.

You have to do all the work yourself and you can connect yourself. I know you had a similar story too, Josh, where there’s someone I think in China or Taiwan who took you around. That one person, I’m guessing, also opened up many doors and taught you so much about the culture, the language and how things are done.

I had a couple of people that were so key and without them, there’s no way that we would have seen the success that we saw there. I would say to anyone, always look for somebody who’s at that next level or somebody who can open those doors for you and really try, and build a relationship with them. When I was meeting with these guys, I wasn’t trying to sell. I was trying to learn.

The second principle that I have around is listening. One of the ways that I learned in Japanese and led to the success that we had was I wasn’t trying to talk all the time. I would just sit quietly and we would be in these small little bars, smoke-filled, people are drinking, laughing, having a good time, and I would ask questions and then listen. That way I learned.

CSP 206 | Building Systems

I’m able to use that then when I’m making a proposal or when I’m suggesting something because I have been taking in so much information, not just trying to say like, “Here’s what we should do. Here’s what we do in Canada, in the US or whatever.” It was very much absorbing. Based on what I heard, I’m filtering that, analyzing it, and then making a suggestion or putting on an idea based on that. For me, that was the two really powerful principles that I learned over the years.

I would never be where I was if it wasn’t for a lot of people, including Mr. Joe out in China that just took time with me for whatever reason.

Let’s fast forward a little bit. You and your dad decide to sell. Why did you decide to sell the business, first of all?

It’s a mix of a lot of things. He wanted to retire. I wanted to buy it but I wanted to do something different. There are a lot of pressure on that business and it would actually be easier to restart it with a different focus than it would have to change the current business over. We could have risked too much customer loyalty.

The best decision was we sell and turn it into liquid assets. It frees him up at it frees me up to be able to do a couple of things that I want to do without having to worry about the cash burden, including restarts and stuff. It was just the easiest way to get to the next point in my life. It was to actually sell and then redo some things.

Were there any sticking points or anything that, looking back, you wish you would have done differently in terms of partnership agreements or the way things are structured? Would you learn anything through the pros of selling the business that you think would be a best practice you would definitely want to use or apply going forward?

I can’t think of anything. We’ve got really good valuation and due diligence. Everything was packetized and given to them because of the system work that we had done. We’ve probably got lucky. I’m friends with the people that bought it still. I have heard some nightmare stories and we didn’t have any of that. We gave them what they needed. We ran it like a business. The numbers were all open.

I can’t think of anything I would really do differently. A real problem would have been if we didn’t have our systematized process manual, ISO manual and all the forms. We had it ready to sell within a week just because of how we had structured everything. We also work backward. I don’t know if you remember but we had actually known that we were going to sell. We had been spent two years preparing for that, not just the systems but also the financials, the cashflow, and the tech that we were building all that.

Was that life-changing money for you when you sold?

I would say life-changing but not like I’m not going to work again that it was enough where I could sit and think for a second without worrying about the monthly bill. Nowadays, the ability to think is life-changing, even if it’s just for a few months to be like, “What am I going to do next? Am I going to invest in something? Am I going to start something?” Not many people get a chance young enough like me but old enough like me where you are old enough to know what you are thinking through but young enough where you’ve got a couple of decades ahead of you still to run with that next thing.

How did it change your life once you’ve got that cash windfall from selling the business? What actually changed for you?

I don’t even know if that was the cash. I was not tied to Syracuse anymore so I moved down to Austin. My family is from San Diego, they are used to warmer weather. It was my chance to move South again. I drive the same car and I read the same stuff from Target. I’m not really doing anything very different, to be honest with you.

Very often, as entrepreneurs, we put things into the future. It’s like, “When I achieve this level of success, this level of income, when I do this or sell this, then I’m going to do these things or approach life a little bit differently.” Is there anything looking back that if you are really honest with yourself, you would think, “I could have actually done more of those things that I was planning to do in the future at that time?”

I had that lucky time in China where I could think, and I actually realized that before. I had to look back at my last couple of financial years and realized all the things that I wanted to do when I’ve got as successful as I wanted to be. I had access to that at that time. I love going on the boat. I’ve got four friends, including my parents that have a great boat up in the Thousand Islands. I love going for walks. I love reading and drinking coffee.

I love the Jazz music of Sinatra and bird sounds. All those are just random things but those are all the things that make me smile. All pretty much free and all accessible wherever I go. What I realized was I’m going to work so hard to buy a boat to go out on the water. I can actually do that now. What that did for me is it helped relax the over-ambition, which can be dangerous and allowed me to chase curiosity. I was lucky that I had that, “A-ha,” in my mid-twenties and not just now. Looking back, I knew all that.

For example, I used to drive my friends crazy because I lived in Monterrey, Mexico. My apartment faced Cerro de la Silla, which is the big saddle mountain that you see when you look at the Monterrey scape. It was literally out my back window, a little town and I was right there. I went on every night and I said, “This is amazing. Someday, I’m not going to be in Mexico. I’m not going to be able to come to smell the air, feel the humidity and see this mountain.” I did it in China with Hangzhou. I went next to West Lake knowing this isn’t going to be forever. I’ve got a view now that is to die for and I go out there every morning because I might not be here someday. I try to always embrace that.

Go out and don't be afraid to stand for something to be something. Click To Tweet

Where does that perspective come from? Is that from reading certain books, having mentors, coaches or study? It’s a very good perspective to have. Often people are just rushing through day-to-day getting their work done and building their business but they don’t necessarily appreciate or even give thought at that level. How do you develop that?

I don’t know. It’s not natural. I was a real selfish person in my early twenties. It’s a combination of hitting some really hard times in my twenties. Losing a lot of friends because of how I was acting, losing all my money and going into massive debt. Coming back on my hands and knees to live at home just crawling. A lot of things went wrong.

After that time, a lot of self-reflection, journaling, reading, and walking through other people’s troubles that came out of it and wrote about it. I have a lot of biographies that I have gone through. It’s a combination of self-reflection, learning from others, and then hitting some stuff myself. It made me realize that there are some more important things going on here. There’s a whole humanity aspect to everything. There’s a beautiful world that’s free. That’s the stuff everybody is trying to get to and it’s right outside my door.

That will certainly resonate with some people here. You sold the business, you had some time to think, you have been an Adjunct Professor at Syracuse, you have been coding, building some side projects and you have also been consulting. How did you get into consulting? Did you just let people know, “I have sold the business I’m now available?” Did you do some marketing? Do people just find you? How did you start getting into that world of consulting?

The truth is I have tried it a few times and I felt every time was different at times when I had an audience. When COVID hit and I moved to Austin, I know a lot of people were bored. I was still working but it just didn’t take up as much time because I didn’t own the business anymore. I have all these notes of small problems I had and possible solutions. It’s almost like journaling business style. I started it and I was going through them like, “I wonder if there are any ideas here. It’s little tools I can build.”

I had some software I wanted to learn and I was looking for something to build and learn. I started sharing them on Twitter. It’s niche, operational things that I didn’t think anyone would care about. Lo and behold, some people did care. All of a sudden, I’ve got people asking me questions and it’s like, “This is great. I can talk about this stuff. I thought nobody else cared about ops.” There are these other nerds on Twitter so I started doing that.

When I finally stepped away from working for the company that acquired mine, I stayed on for about a year, I was already getting 3 to 4 requests a week in my DMs like, “Can you help me with this?” I was trying to do as many for free as possible but if it took up too much time, I basically had to say, “Here’s what I would do. Here’s where I would look, try and go solve it.” Some of them were, “I really would like you to come on.” That was when I left, I started taking some of those on and fumbling big time with some of them.

I want to get to that in just a moment but it makes it a little more tactical for everyone reading. You went on Twitter and why did you go into Twitter? Was that just the platform that you thought resonated with you or did you feel that your audience would be on that platform? Why not LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram?

I don’t know. I have always liked Twitter. I hate waiting. That’s ideal for me. It’s literally kept so I could write. I tried blogging and newsletters. I have a newsletter. I write it about once a month and I enjoy it. I enjoy the newsletter, the finished product. I hate the actual writing but Twitter was something where I could be short, skip words, leave punctuation off, and it’s accepted because of the character cap.

CSP 206 | Building Systems

For me, that’s why it was appealing even my threads. I don’t think in sentences. I think ideas. I can tell because whenever I write emails, I leave a lot of words out. When I go back and read I’m like, “What was I thinking?” I realize I’m writing how I think. Twitter allows you to do that without any judgment. Nobody even thinks anything when you do that. It just fit my personality, I guess.

How often were you posting on Twitter? Was it every day, every week, multiple times a day? Give us a sense of your output and frequency.

If you want, I can share a quick Twitter 101 thing from my experience because I really think having an audience helps, whether you are launching a product, a consulting business, thought leadership or whatever it is, I’m sure your whole audience is trying to build something. Having an audience makes it ten times easier. There are some key things that you can do. The first thing I did was I talked about a lot of things.

I talked a lot about the supply chain. Nobody ever commented or liked it. I talked about coding. Nobody cared. It talks about Syracuse and some of this startup tech stuff. If you go back and look at the last couple of years leading up to probably the summer of 2020, you will see all kinds of weird stuff. I was just testing. I was playing. I had 400 followers, so nobody felt like I was making a fool of myself.

When I started talking about ops, all of a sudden, this got liked a bunch. This got followed and now I’ve got ten followers. That’s a huge increase. I throw a bunch of stuff out there. Don’t think you know what they want to hear. I thought my supply chain stuff is super helpful. Nobody cares every time I do it. It’s like crickets. The first thing is to throw a bunch of stuff out there, see if it gets some traction. Using peer or beloved, it’s not your ideas and don’t be subjective. It’s not what you think is smart.

The stuff that I think is the dumbest stuff people love, the stuff that is really insightful and will help, nobody cares about. You can see that across the board. If you talk to anybody on there, they will say the same thing. The only way to beat that is volume. You have to be pumping out a lot. Twitter makes that easy because it’s easy to do volume. Anybody can type in two sentences a day. You can do it while you are walking from the kitchen to the office.

Twitter makes that easy every day. I have a matrix I created where it’s got categories of topics and then types of posts. There are threads. There are ones you are contrasting two ideas so I can mix and match. I can all start to measure these threads with these topics get a lot but these two topics don’t get any. I systematized my content creation approach. Include people that are well followed, whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn or whatever and tag them in it.

Try to follow keywords. For me, it’s ops, no code, SMB. If somebody with a lot of followers, if you can be one of the first ones, people will start to see that you have an intelligent comment. They will go follow you. I have a list of these. I would be happy to send them over. Maybe you can put it together and distribute it out to your following. Anything that’s worked, I have kept in a roam notebook. I had this Twitter 101 thing but it’s really consistency, testing, iteration, and piggybacking on other people.

You talked about reading books has a big impact on you. You study many biographies. If you were to pick or maybe identify two books that you have read or listened to that have had a big impact on you, what would they be?

What I read was Kochland. I really enjoyed that. It is about Charles Koch building Koch Industries. It’s well done. They talked about his merger and acquisition strategy and what he was looking for or not looking for, I found that interesting. It could be applied small and large. It’s very systems-oriented. I’m trying to think of Good Strategy/Bad Strategy. It was pretty good. I’m reading AI, The AI-First Company and that is surprising. I thought it was going to be very high level like, “You need to have AI in your company because you can predict things.”

It’s like some non-AI person writing it. It’s actually some great frameworks on implementing AI in your business, how to move some statistics to AI, and the strategic benefits of it. A lot of specifics that I’m enjoying that I have been applying in some of my consulting gigs to help them get up to speed, not necessarily an AI but just implementing data-backed, services, companies and all that stuff.

Is there one non-negotiable positive daily habit?

There's a whole humanity aspect to everything. There's a free, beautiful world out there, and that's the thing everybody's trying to get to. Click To Tweet

Find somewhere beautiful. It changes depending on where I am but I’ve got pretty set spaces. Right now, it’s my back porch here. It was a small lake, two blocks from my house in Syracuse. I reflect. I find somewhere beautiful that is natural. I just think about where I’m going and where I came from. It’s not long. It could be as short as five minutes. It can be as long as twenty. I’m just taking that check out of my day. I have two kids. It gets crazy and nuts.

I’ve got business and calls. I’m taking that time before everybody gets up to check in with me. Remember that I have way more than most people in this world, I’m well off, and I’ve got food in the fridge. When you start your day realizing that you have a ton, you are set for the day, and you’ve got money in the bank account, all of a sudden, you are like, “I’m way better off than I might feel when everybody is telling me I need to be afraid, worried, I need to hoard, cram and keep people away.”   Everything is really good actually, even when it’s going bad, it’s still good. You have traveled, you have seen some bad things I’m sure. From there, everything is much easier with that state of mind. That’s my non-negotiable.

Where would you say is the best place for them to go?

Go to my Twitter. Feel free to DM me or call me out. If you don’t agree. I love it. I’m respectful. It’s just @JoshuaMSchultz. I’m always looking to learn from people on there as well. There are a lot of really smart people on Twitter. Share with me what you are working on, what you are doing, how I can learn from you, and maybe I’ve got a chance I can help you, just let me know how.

I’m really glad to have you on, Josh. You shared your stories and very powerful lessons here that I know people can implement and actually see an impact in their business. Thanks again for coming on.

This is a lot of fun. Thanks.

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