Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the podcast today, we have Bryce Conlan. Bryce, welcome.
Thanks for having me, Thomas.
It is my pleasure. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m happy to. My name is Bryce Conlan. I am an entrepreneur. I have been my entire career, and I have had some really good wins. I’ve had some really tragic, catastrophic failures and now I’m on a mission to help leaders level up their leadership so that they can straight up missed the, missed the landmines and the bear traps that I ran headlong into. So, that’s what I do these days. Well, I’ve heard the phrase you learn more by losing than you do by winning. So, did you want to go into that story that you referred to regarding – let’s just be straight and get to the real stuff. Yeah, so it’s a long story and I’ll give you the abbreviated version. We can unpack it if there’s interest. I started a business right out of college.
I went to school. I graduated in 2008, which for those who were around then, no, that was not a great time to graduate from university. There wasn’t a lot of hiring going on and so I made the decision to move into entrepreneurship. Mostly out of necessity, I got lucky candidly because it was right around the time, 2008. There was a new camera technology that had just come out and it made HD video, which now seems ubiquitous. So we all carry it around in our pocket, but it was new at the time into YouTube for perspective was three years old, that was it, it was only three years old in 2008 and I saw this massive opportunity in video and so I bought a camera. I learned how to use it because I didn’t know and started making films for small restaurants in our neighbourhood, basically just I’d go in and shoot show the food, show the chefs, show the environment and then we put it up on YouTube and in those days if you put anything up on YouTube immediately was like, it got attention and it got eyeballs and so it was really good business for these restaurants, well it didn’t take long for a national restaurant company to see the work I was doing and recruit me and, and so I went corporate and I didn’t last very long in corporate as most entrepreneurs can attest.
There are some people who are just unemployable and they tend to be entrepreneurs and anyway, so this, but very quickly after that, even after I left the corporate, I said, you know, this is the business that I’m going to stay in for a while and built it up and within a year we went from working with tiny, just like restaurants on the corner to working with large multinational organisations. And we were doing really big projects and so I needed a team to support. And so I did, I went and hired that team. I brought on some co-founders, everything was going really great. Year one, we cleared six figures with no outside money, which is great. Year two, we doubled our revenue, which is amazing. It almost never happens. Year three, we doubled again. And by the end of year three, we were almost out of business. And the entire thing was hinged on honestly, just me as a leader, as the guy who is steering the ship, not knowing how to engage the people around me.
Not realising that I was hurting people that I was creating a toxic work environment and I had a great team and they all walked out the door to for better opportunities or different opportunities simply because they didn’t want to work with me anymore. And a lot of questions that I’ve got. Yeah, so I mean the growth is pretty much as you, anyone would take that kind of growth, I would say. So, would you make yourself responsible for the growth as much as the Yeah, actually that’s a, I’ve told this story a lot. Nobody’s ever pointed that out. But yes, um, I, the growth was as a direct result of the work that really, truly that I was doing in business development, I had some great relationships and what I know now is that I’m especially good at building relations deep relationships quickly in a one on one setting.
And so in business-to-business sales. That’s a lot of what it is. It’s sitting down with one person or two people and having just a normal conversation and it turns into a exploration of how can we work together and before you know it, you’re on retainer to do x number of projects a year. And so, it was a lot of luck. I’m not going to take credit for everything, but the growth. Yes, it was. I was in the driver’s seat on that too. And I don’t, you’re right, I shouldn’t minimise that. Why would I? Well, um, I also wanted to pick up on one thing which you said, um, when the YouTube videos were getting attention, um, corporate, does that mean that you went into employment? I did Okay. What was the story there? Yeah. So this is again, this kind of goes back to understanding who you are, what drives you, your motivations, your fears, right? And my parents are teachers and as teachers, they have had a good life, but it’s a very safe life in a lot of regards, right?
You, you know, if you’re employed as a teacher, you know where your paycheck is coming from. It’s coming from the school system that you work for. That’s just the truth. That’s a fact. There’s still a teachers’ union, a lot of teachers in this country anyway, a lot of teachers actually still receive a pension in this country, which is incredibly unusual in the United States. There’s not a lot of pension jobs anymore. And so the message that was kind of repeated to me for my entire upbringing was go and get a stable job that pays your bills. And so here I was, I saw entrepreneurship as a Plan B, you know, it was, that was the fallback plan. I’m an entrepreneur because I can’t get a job versus the reverse, whereas I’m choosing to go and build something from nothing in the service of others. I didn’t really see that as a viable option. Now, I do, of course, but yeah, so I think that when the opportunity presented itself and there was an offer on the table for a steady paycheck where I didn’t have to like my ability to eat did not come from my ability to, to perform, um, all of the talk from my upbringing came back and said yes, say yes, this is a good thing, this is safe and secure.
And I learned later that that’s not really true at all. So what happened? How long did that last, and how did it end? End to end? It was about 18 months. Well, that’s not too bad. No, it was after six weeks. Well, I had actually, I had had sex after six weeks, had had enough, but I wasn’t sure how to get back to the entrepreneurial life because I had told everybody all of my prospects that it was no longer available. I told everybody that I was courting that I’m working for the, you know, I’m working for the man now, you know, you can’t, I’m not available and so they went and found someone else to do the work. Well, where does that leave me now? I’m starting literally from scratch. Newly married, we have an apartment. I’m trying to like, you know, prove myself in this relationship that I am a good pick as a spouse, you know, I mean all these weird social pressures and um, no, but I really had had, it was, it was 69 weeks and I remember sitting in my little grey cubicle after, after like the balloons had stopped and people stopped coming by to introduce themselves and all the, you know, I kind of settled into a routine and it was a like Wednesday morning, my grey little cube under flickering green fluorescent lights and I was like, what am I doing here?
This is not me. Yeah, but again, 18 months is, is how long it took, the way that it ended was I was looking for an exit and it just so happened that two departments were merged within the company, the department that I was in the marketing team was merged with kind of a strategy group and in the merger budgets were cut, people were let go and I was on the chopping block. And so it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I mean it is, I sat down on Friday afternoon and the big conference board room with the Creative Director and he said, well there’s no easy way to say it, and I had to fight back the smile, because I knew what was coming and I was so delighted because now I had to get into entrepreneurship again, there was no plan B the course was set and someone else had made the hard decision for me. So the best thing that ever happened to me, do you make that person feel better or did you let them mull it over for a while?
I let him mull it. Yeah, I mean, it’s funny though, I did catch up with this individual at the beginning of the pandemic and it just goes to show you that relationships matter right in business. And so I caught up with this guy and it had been a few years and he now was in that very same situation where he had been laid off by his employer and I reached out and just said, hey, I you know what you’re going through, hit me up if you want to talk. And he, he did, he called me and he said, you know of all the people, he said, first of all, almost nobody reached out almost nobody reached out and of all the people who did, you’re the last person who should want to be kind to me after what I did to you. And that was such an interesting thing too because it’s like, dude, it wasn’t personal, like your boss told you what you needed to do and you did it like it wasn’t personal, it was just business. and so we’ve actually rekindled that relationship and we have a really good one now.
So I’m, yeah, it just goes a long way. Like don’t burn your bridges, you never know when people are gonna pop up later down the line. So do you go pretty much immediately into that business you’re referring to or what happens when in day one when you don’t have a job anymore. Yeah, so our situation was um, kind of like the, the scene out of a bad comedy film, right? And if you can imagine this, so it was a Friday. I found I found I find out that I’m being let go. They give me three or four weeks to stay on the company payroll while I kind of get my affairs in order. And I appreciate that. By the way, I still work with this company. Like we’re, we have a great relationship to this day. So again, don’t burn your bridges like exit gracefully. And, and so I come home. It’s a Friday and I’m carrying kind of while I’m happy that I’m not there anymore.
I’m also carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders because my wife and I had bought a house and it was a total like, handyman special, total fixer upper and we had torn it down to the studs and so literally the day that I got home, we didn’t have any walls up in our bedroom, it was studs, the plumbing was incomplete in the bathroom, that was a work in progress. And there were just like all these big expensive projects looming, so I’m carrying all of this and I walked through the front door and I say to my wife, I said, listen, there’s something that I need to tell you? And she says, me too. I said, okay, and I’m getting ready to drop the bomb to tell her, like I lost my job and she goes, I’m pregnant. And it’s like one of those moments where you’re like, what, like the conflicted feelings like I want to be happy about this, but I’m not really right now in this moment because I have this big weighty thing laying on me and so she, so she, she says I’m pregnant, I’m expecting and I’m like in shock and then she says, so what was that thing that you wanted to talk to me about?
And it’s like, you know what? It can, it can wait a couple of days. and so I had 30 days after, you know, I found out that I was going to be like, go, it was February 1st 2000 and 14 was the day that was the last day that I was formerly employed, and I didn’t know what I was gonna do, I filed unemployment and my plan was to go and get another job, honestly, even though, because again, this is the lack of self-awareness, as for me, as an entrepreneur, as leader, I still didn’t get it, that I was not made for corporate life, I believed that if I wasn’t happy in one job, it was because there was a problem with the job, I should just go find a different job and it’ll be fine, it’ll be, I’ll be happy there. And that’s a myth, because that’s not me as I’m built differently and I need to, I needed to lean into that, I needed to just be who I was, but that was, that was a hard thing for me to do. So my plan was to go and get another job, it happened that some freelance work came along, and one thing led to another, and like I said, between in 2014, I had no plan, And by the end of 2015, we had a six-figure business, and that’s just how it went, it was just kind of like, okay, it’s a thing now, so yeah, but it’s the journey is kind of the, you never really know where it’s going to take you, you’re just on the journey and it took me a long time to embrace the idea of I’m a builder, I’m an entrepreneur and I am comfortable with those risks even though I wasn’t raised to be, even though my parents aren’t, even though it felt like I was somehow disappointing people and letting them down by not getting a stable job, by not having a job with a pension by not becoming a, you know, a post carrier like my grandfather or a teacher like my dad, I felt like I was disappointing people and it took a long time to get over that and just say no, this is who I am and it’s not for everybody, but it is for me.
Well done for realising, at least. I did want to ask you about the growth because although there’s probably a lot of lessons in the, in the failure of it. There’s also most likely a lot of lessons in how you grew that company so quickly. So I know you touched upon the relationship building and the sales. Would you say it’s predominantly down to that or was there some other? Yeah, absolutely. We never ran. We never ran at the end. We ran some marketing very small campaigns, you know, traditional whether it’s digital or printer, you know, the mailers or whatever. Um, but for us it was all about relationships and what I learned and then maybe this is the most significant takeaway from the growth is the longer you stay in the game, the more you grow naturally, and here’s why it’s just it’s a really interesting thing.
People aren’t staying at jobs as long anymore. So if I go and do a job with company A, you know, and we do a project together, I’m likely going to meet five or 6 or seven people on at company a in the process. But those people aren’t going to stay there forever, They’re going to move off and they’ll go to Company B and C, and X, Y, Z. And they’re going to progress their careers. And as they do, you now have these strategic footholds into all these other companies where you didn’t before because you have an ally. And what I learned is that the longer you stay in the game, the more of those connections get made and the other vendors who are out there, the freelancers, they’ll take jobs where they’ll get out of the business. And so suddenly all that work that was going to other people finds its way to you. And so it really was just a function of building great relationships. And our premise was never to try to sell anything to be honest, we were just there to get to know people and in the process of just getting curious and asking questions.
Okay, so what are you working on? How are you going to do that? Gosh, that sounds really stressful. How are you handling that? People would surface these really interesting problems that we were uniquely positioned to solve or like, oh, I didn’t know you had that, that project on your docket. I’ve actually done a project just like that for another client. I’ll send the files over to you so you can take a look at them. Would you like to know more about that? And suddenly you’re solving these problems for people with their guard down? They’re not, you’re not trying to sell into the organisation, you’re just helping out a friend and in the process of helping out friends, some really amazing things have happened. Our clients have set our rates for us. That’s an amazing thing. Alright, so I I had an issue. I’ve never been good at pricing my, my work. I’ve always undervalued it to be completely honest. I think it’s a common problem and my clients have raised my rates for me. Like literally, I’ve had the phone calls and emails where they’re like, hey, so you undercharged us for this project?
I want you to triple it and send it back and you’re like, what? Okay. we’ve had situations where projects have gone catastrophically wrong, but because we’re working with friends, we’re not vendors were not partners. We’re just friends. We show up and talk about it. Honestly. Okay. Listen, I really blew that. We totally dropped the ball on that I love working with you, I’ll give you all your money back. I’ll do whatever I need to do. How can I fix this? And as friends, you collaborate, you solve it through and they hire you again, because that’s rare. It’s hard to come by. You don’t see that very often. And so 100% of our business growth was just relationships and that’s all it was. And the key, I think, was again showing up to these conversations authentically that’s a real human being and not someone with an ulterior motive, not someone who’s trying to get to Yes, trying to close the deal. That wasn’t me. It was showing up authentically and finding ways to encourage other people to do the same to show up as real humans.
Dropped the guard. We’re talking about you. We’re not talking about your business. I’m not talking about that project. I’m not here for that project. I’m here for you. Tell me about that Iron Man you’re training for. Tell me about those golf lessons that you just signed up for. Tell me about your vacation to the Barbados and suddenly you’re talking to people and people want to spend more time with people that they like interesting. I can totally see how that that would come through. Not particularly my strong suit, but I don’t know, maybe I’ll learn more about that as we go. But in terms of what the, what happened to this business that you grew so quick and you know, you build up to what must have been quite a good number. Where did it go wrong for you? And what did you learn from it? Yeah. So here, so here’s where it went really off the rails is when you grow that quickly, you have to build a team and infrastructure, whether that team is talent that you own, meaning, their employees or talent that you rent, meaning they’re independent contractors or freelancers, you need support.
There’s no way that I could produce on my own. A six-figure project. That’s You know, where we’re shooting in nine cities across the country in 13 weeks. Can’t do that. I need people, whether it’s people to help plan or organise your book, just book flights or actually be there running the camera or editing and on the, on the back side of things you have to have people Yeah. And I like to say that business is really easy on its face, create a solution to a problem and sell that to people with the problem. That’s really easy. But where it all gets complicated as soon as people are involved and there’s always people involved at any sort of scale until where it all went wrong for us is I invited some co-founders into the business guys who had there were two guys, they had complementary skill sets to my own. The problem was none of us had the maturity or the self-awareness to work through conflict in a productive way to clearly articulate the vision that we had two, um, hold ourselves and one another accountable again in a healthy way.
And so it after a while, one of the co-founders, we actually booted out of the business within the first four months after formally forming just because I saw him as a problem, as an obstinate stick in the mud, we’ve again repaired that relationship and now I see how his strengths could have been an incredible asset to keep us out of a lot of trouble. But at the time I saw him as an obstacle. And so what do we do remove the obstacle. And so I was left with myself and one other business partner and where it all went wrong was in what we were trying to build honestly. And it boils down to how we thought about our business and how we talked about our business. And so in its simplest form, when we sat down, we define success in our organisation, not in terms of dollars and cents, but in terms of impact. And so success for us was we wanted to build well based in Chicago.
We wanted to build the best place to work in Chicago and we knew that we would be the best place because we’d be featured in Crain’s business. We’d um, there would be write ups in the local newspapers, in every creative in Chicago. Would you know who we were, every filmmaker in Chicago and our and our premise was our thesis was if we can get the culture right, we can build the best place, then we’ll get the best talent and if you have the best talent, then you get the best contracts and suddenly you have a flywheel that’s just thrown off cash. Our breakdown was in how we defined the best place to work. We’re on opposite ends of the world. What were yours and what we’re here’s then, what was your other business partners? It was a him. Yeah, it was him. So for me, the best place to work was one where people could show up, they were properly resourced. They were given the tools that they needed, they were trusted to do their jobs in the ways that they saw fit where there was a culture of teamwork and camaraderie and where people were challenged to do work that they didn’t think they were capable of. Because that those are things that I value, I want people in my corner who are saying you can do more than you think you’re better at this than you realise you’re undervaluing your services, ask for more. I I value that. Well, my business partner valued, wanted to build his idea of the best place to work and he never said this expressly never came out of his mouth, but actions speak louder than words, right. His idea of the best place to work was somewhere where he could show up, put in minimal effort, zero with 0 accountability and still pay his bills. And so you can probably see then the tension that starts to form when one person has the pedal pushed to the floor and is trying to accelerate as quickly as possible to attract these great talent to build an empire, to really scale up a business.
And the other is legitimately watching movies. Taking a 2-hour lunch break every day to watch a film because their bills are getting paid and why would they work that hard? And these things happened, um, why they happened, how they happened. That’s more, that’s more nuanced component to the story of course. But functionally we were building two different things and you can’t be in business, you know, or expect any sort of reasonable returns if you and your founders or your leaders or hell even your team are not aligned around what it is that you’re trying to do. That is the most important thing. And I’ve been shocked in the work that I do now to see how few teams are functionally aligned. Many of them are not and they have no idea what they’re doing and they’re spinning their wheels, They’re wasting resource. They’re wasting time, which is your most valuable resource and they’re getting nowhere fast, the owners are getting frustrated, the great talent walks out the door because they’re being underutilised and so then you’re left with a bunch of B and C talent who are really fine doing whatever mediocre job as long as they can pay their bills.
And this is kind of the glut, the cycle that so many businesses fall into simply because we’re not building the same things and we’re not clear about what we’re even trying to build. So predominantly it’s conflict and lack of lack of a common goal or common vision about what the business is, I can see, I don’t necessarily think that the vision for both of you is wrong. I just think it’s how it is in the opposite directions, right? That’s right, that’s right. Because you can build any kind of business you want, like, you can build a lifestyle, I have friends who build lifestyle businesses where they make between 152 100 grand a year and they work with a bunch of VHS to do kind of their admin work and they travel around the globe doing whatever it is that they do, that’s fine. If that’s the kind of business you want to build, but if you want to build an organisation that can have some oomph behind it that can have systems that operate without you that can maybe even, and maybe even live beyond your life.
So as you move on, two other things, the business can continue to operate. That’s what I wanted to build. You can’t have both though, you have to pick one or the other and that’s not a wrong answer. So there’s no judgment either way. But I was I was in bed with, I was married to because that’s what business partnerships are. I was in bed with someone who wanted something completely different and how on earth was that going to work? And well, it didn’t, what does it sound to me unless I’m missing something like you’re particularly at fault. It’s just apart from perhaps like you said about, you know, picking the co-founders. So what happens then? I’m a big believer in taking as much responsibility as you can and so maybe I’m not “at fault”, but there were definitely things signs that I missed or things that I could have done differently. So my approach, whenever conflict happened, whenever there was a difference of opinion was to get really big.
Alright, I raised my voice. I bring in a very assertive tone and it was going to be this way. Well, that doesn’t create the culture that I was on paper saying I wanted to build collaborative, empowered and so that was a fault, that was a mistake because when things started to feel out of control, I used my assertiveness in my personality to control them, but that’s opposite of what we’re trying to build, right? So that is a problem. When my co-founder was burning out, which he was burning out, like I found out later, that was the big problem. He wasn’t taking these two-hour lunch breaks just because he just had a really low capacity for, for stress. And so as we were taking on more and more clients, it was overwhelming him and he was burning out and so he would go and watch, you know, a movie every day and that’s not an exaggeration. It was actually a movie every day for his lunch break and that was his like respite.
That was his way to recharge, but I didn’t ask the questions to find out. You’re burning out. Are you burning out? Do you have the resources that you need to continue to function in this role? Do we need to bring in somebody to help you with this? Are we looking at the tasks that you’re being given versus your personality and capacity? The things that fuel you versus the things that drain you, are we giving you more of the things that fuel you, are we just overloading you with the things that drain you which I was by the way? And so that’s a at fault too. And so, well it’s like, it’s not one single moment where it’s like Bryce and everything, it’s seldom is right, it’s more the failure was a the culmination of small moments where I failed to lead well because as a leader, your job really is one thing and that’s to serve the people who are on your team, to figure out how to give them a direction and then give them like block and tackle and resource them and give them every opportunity at success.
And I didn’t do that, I was saying we’re going here and you better step up or else and that’s not leadership, that’s just being bossy, that’s threatening, that’s toxic. It’s unproductive and that’s what I did. And so no, there was no one moment where I like ruined it all, but there were definitely moments along the way where my failure to lead well to lead with empathy, to realise that I was coming down on my team from a very heavy-handed way to realise that my fears, my insecurities were flaring up and causing me to control rather than to create space to invite them into, let’s solve this together collaboratively. Those were all areas where yeah, I didn’t get it wrong and it culminated in burnout. Ultimately, that founder left the business.
He was going to leave the business one way or the other, you know what I mean? Ah and he moved out when he did, it was a very messy. a lot of our really great team left as a result, it kind of crippled us in that regard. I panicked. This is this was the beginning of the end. I panicked because now that we, you know, had contracts that were unfulfilled that we had to execute on and I didn’t have the people to do it. So I rushed out and hired folks as quickly as I could. I hired some really bad people. They came in. I mean, just cultural bad fits. They didn’t know what I was looking for. So I hired for skills instead of hired for human always higher for the human, not for the skills you can teach skills that’s easy. And before you know it, we were losing contracts were dropping the ball. Suddenly our clients didn’t feel that friendly, warm, fuzzy feeling that they had felt for so long and they took their business elsewhere and I don’t blame them. So no, there was no big one moment where all the fault lies with me.
But if you’re leading an organisation, the buck stops with you. And so if it fails, it’s on you. Whether it’s one grandiose bad business decision or it’s like it happened to me or it’s a culmination of small infractions that add up to create a toxic work environment where you can’t retain your people, it’s still on you. So does it make you think about, I’m interested to know what your business is now, but I’m also interested to know whether you, whether you would want to go back and do that again and if you would, if you would then you know, how differently would you act in those circumstances. So where do you want to go first? Yeah. I have learned actually that you are supposed to just ask one question at a time. I gave you three there. What are you doing at the moment? Yeah. So now, so now I am helping leaders really avoid all the pain and then I went through. So if you’re the leader of a company, you’re the owner of a company, you’re the founder of a company, and you have big aspirations.
You have to recognise the number one reality is that your biggest asset in your business is you. You’re the biggest asset. You’re you are your own greatest chance at success, but you also have to realise that you are your own biggest liability. Like if anything takes you down, it’s not going to be from the outside, it’s going to be you. And so leaders need that healthy dose, I think. And so what I’m doing now, the work that I’m really doing is focused on helping leaders find the alignment that we never had so great. You’ve got your team, you have a vision, you’re starting to hire in or maybe you’ve been hiring in for a while and you’re just stagnating but you’re not seeing the forward momentum, it’s likely because you’re expanding your wheels. You’re expending energy places where you’re just not aligned. You’re moving in different directions, exerting force and resource and a myriad of things instead of just one.
And so a lot of our process is really just helping leaders understand what are you trying to do here with this organisation? And let’s get you in the five people who are most influential in the business, whether they’re your senior leadership team or if you’re a smaller team, your entire team, let’s get you onto the table to have a conversation around what you’re trying to do. And it’s really an amazing process because I’ve done this hundreds of times. We call it the foundations process. It’s like, let’s get back to basics, let’s go down to the foundations. And we spent three weeks answering five questions and they’re really simple, obvious questions and I’ll give you the first one, just cause I’m always, I like telling people about this. The first question that we asked is what do you do, what do you do? It seems like an easy question to answer, right? We do X, Y and Z. But what we find in almost 100% of cases, these people are surprised by the answers that come out. People sitting around the table are like, oh, we do that.
I thought we did this. You’re like guys, if we can’t even answer that question, we’re not even clear what do you do here? We gotta start there. And so, um, and I’m amazed, I mean every night, by the way, everybody thinks that we know that I know your listeners who are hearing this today are going to think like, well, clearly that’s bad company, you know, that’s not a company that’s run very well, but I dare you to try it, go and talk to the people on your team, write down your answer first and then just go and ask them, what do we do here? Like, what do we really do here? And you’ll find that there’s usually a mismatch and sometimes a pretty severe one. So that’s what we do now is really just help leaders find that alignment first in thinking and understanding the organisation and then really in operation. What’s most important to you. So we talked about values and organisations all the time. You know, it’s we’re about excellence and integrity and honesty and honour, right? And they so often just become words on the wall in the foyer or in your handbook or on your website and then we act completely contrary to those things like I did where I said, I want to build a collaborative environment where everybody feels empowered.
And then when things went wrong, I brought down the iron fist and was like, no, we’re doing it my way, that’s out of integrity with what we said, we were about. And every time you act out of integrity, whether it’s with a client or just in a small internal one on one, you are eroding confidence and trust in your business and your players will go and find other places because they believe what I believe that, oh, it’s just a terrible job. If I go find a different job in my life will be better and it won’t be. But you still will have to replace that a talent and that good talents hard to find. So that’s really what we do is just help these leaders get clear so they can scale up and we’ve seen some amazing results. Like there was one and not everything is a happy ending by the way, but we’ve seen some incredible results where, like one startup, came to us and they wanted to really pioneer a new area of financial services. Like it hadn’t been done. It was a non-profit venture fund. How do you do that? Like that’s, those are kind of on two ends of the spectrum. You have, you know, capital guys over here who do the venture fund and make a ton of money and then you’ve got non-profits, they’re always begging for money.
How do you have a non-profit venture fund? And we went through this process with them. And by the way, the founder went kicking and screaming. He just had an advisor who said, you really should do this. And he told me later, he’s like, I hate doing this. I hate talking about vision, mission and values. It’s like such a waste of time. But he’s now he’s a believer now they went from wanting to raise money for a fund for their non-profit fund. They didn’t know how to talk about it. They got clarity around it. And within six weeks, they were fully funded. They had found enough investors to fund their first year projection in six weeks, which was incredible. Another team, it was a tech, a tech startup, Very cool platform that they were building and they have been working on it for 14 months and we’re just spinning their wheels like they went through so many iterations, they couldn’t go to market, there was always a problem. And we got into this work with them and realised that functionally, like in my experience, they’re two co-founders were building two different businesses.
And so we were able to confront them with that fact and said, listen, you’re not going to succeed in this business this way because you’ve got, you’re trying, you’re going two different directions. And so one of the founders made the decision to leave the business with some equity. He left with some, some of the, some of the pie, We left the business. And in the four months after we had done that work, They were able to make more progress than they had in the previous 14 months and land their first three big clients, which actually made them money, they were in the black. They were actually making money now for the first time in two years simply because we were able to come to the table and say you’re not clear clarity is paramount. And if we’re not clear, man, we’re done. And so that’s the work that I do now is really just help leaders get out of their own way, find their blind spots so that they can achieve everything that they want to achieve whatever it is. Nice answer. I’ve been practicing that one. So the other part of my question was, did you, do you ever look back and think, you know, I want to go and do that again, perhaps differently.
Yeah. You go ahead with that one. I’ve got a follow up as well. Yeah. You know, it’s, I want to tell people the story, especially other entrepreneurs who’ve been through similar things or can imagine themselves going through similar things. I kind of get that sympathetic. Like, oh wow, that’s really hard. You know, good thing. It’s over. And the truth is while I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone, I’m really glad that I did go through it. I wouldn’t want to do it again by the way, like that way, But I’m glad that it happened because it showed me, like I got to see my dark sides. I got to see my problem spots, where I need to pay more attention, where I need to be cautious, where I have room to grow and improve and become more benevolent and kind with the people that I work with and who work for me. so while I wouldn’t want to do it the same way I do have aspirations to build a team again, it took some time off after we shut down the business and I’ve done some soul searching and this is how I’ve arrived, where I have.
And so over the last two years I’ve been working in this capacity where I am now helping leaders just piloting programs and understanding where do we want this to go? Like, do I want this to be more of a lifestyle? Do I want this to be more of an organisation? And I do. I want it to be more of an organisation and so now 22, this is the laying the groundwork for rebuilding that team. How we build that team will be very, very different than the last time. And yeah, I learned a lot about that. Good and I didn’t pick up on something prior, so we’re going back a little bit now, but the house that you, you moved into or that you was, bear was having worked on it. What was the outcome there in terms of, and you had news, obviously you had good news, what happened there? Yeah, so I mean the house, it’s this house, so that I’m that I’m standing in now. It did come together, we do have it. We’re able to retain it. We did go through some, I mean honestly you talk to any founder of any business and you will hear a story of lean times of hard times and we had that.
So there was the kind of the time in between finding a job, you know when I were being laid off from my steady, consistent job and when the business really ramped up and so I like I said was still looking for a job I believed after I had been laid off that my next best plan was to go and get hired again and I took a freelance contract with against somebody that I had known from that company who was also laid off the same time. She went and found another full time job. She brought me in to do a little bit of work, reputation spread introductions and by the end of that year I had replaced my corporate salary with freelance work just you know, odd jobs here and there in my industry which was which was a wonderful thing to be able to do. The year after it was when we formally started, you know kind of formally started building the business, which was an amazing an amazing thing.
And Yeah that year was a six figure a year, you know, I can be relieved now makes me feel better. Yeah, we’re all good, everything all’s well that ends well and now I mean I have an amazing kiddo, we actually have three now and they were all home births, my wife wanted to do that. So they were born in this house, like actually in this home, which makes it even more special. So the goals side of the conversation is um, is that, would you say your main goal is to build up an organisation doing what you’re doing now or have you got some other things in mind? Yeah, so I, I again, how we define success matters right. Um, this is unrelated to your exact question, but I just had, it was just introduced recently to someone and they introduced me as a successful businessman and it was a really odd thing for me because I’ve never heard that before, like I don’t feel particularly successful, but that’s maybe because I’m looking at the wrong metric or maybe the person who made the introduction is right, maybe they’re looking at something different than I am and so how you define goals and success really matters if it’s in terms of revenue, if it’s in terms of number of employees that matters and the way that I’m choosing because it’s his choice to define success for myself in this year moving forward is one of impact.
And so by the end of 22, I want to help 100 founders owners of businesses, leaders of businesses make substantial changes in their lives in their businesses so that they can level up and get to those, that next level, whatever it is that they’re trying to achieve whether its revenue goals, whether it’s hiring and on boarding, whether it’s, um, succeeding the business, like handing it over to someone else, selling the business, um, growing the business, whatever it is, like whatever your goal is, you’re your own biggest asset and biggest liability. And so I want to help 100 founders, owners, business leaders get out of their own way, just a little bit more so that they can build a business that they want. So that’s success for me. If I can do that with 100, I’m succeeding. So are you a successful businessman or not? Well, God, that’s, I gotta be honest, Thomas, I’ve never been asked that question directly, and I don’t know if I have a good answer for you, It’s something that’s just happened yesterday and I’m wrestling through it because this is an identity thing.
And I guess the fact, let me say it like this, I guess the fact that I’ve been able to support myself, working for myself, pretty much my entire career, there’s a success in that, but there’s always more, right, there’s always bigger and higher um, for the ambitious and I think I’m kind of grinding up against that. So this is an area where I have some work to do, this is in how I see myself. Right, we’re talking about self-awareness. How do I see myself in the story that I’m telling myself about me? Am I a success or not? And then and this matters because what changes as a result of seeing yourself differently? How would I act if I saw myself as a successful businessman? If I had with a convicted Yes, come back and said, absolutely, How would my life be different? I don’t know. But let’s catch up in six months and I’ll tell you that would be good. Yeah. Is there anything that I should have asked you today? That’s a good question too. I don’t know if there’s anything that you should ask, but I will leave your listeners I guess with this is soft skills are not soft skills, you know the idea if you, you know, listen to Simon cynic or burn a brown and they talk about these ideas of self-awareness.
Oftentimes they’re presented as very soft and squishy around the edges and they’re also, by the way, presented in a kind of binary fashion. Either you are self-aware or you are not and I guess I would leave your listeners with this idea that it’s a process. It’s a journey, and it’s really not about doing more, it’s about looking at who you already are in finding the goodness in who you already are, and learning to love that and live with that in a way that is productive. So I don’t know if that made any sense at all, but it’s important that it’s not, it’s not something to be achieved. It’s a journey to go on and just start, just start going on it, admit your shortcomings and own your and own your success is your big wins.
That’s really, really helpful, Bryce. Where’s the best place for people to find you?
Yeah, so I’m really active on LinkedIn. So my name is Bryce Conlan, B-R-Y-C-E-C-O-N-L-A-N. I’m really active on LinkedIn and so that’s a great way to connect with me directly. If you want to know more about the work that we’re doing, you can visit us online at narrativeadvantage.com and that’s a great way to find us. You can see what we’re doing there and yeah, that’s a great place to get plugged in.
Well, thank you for being a great guest and I’ll speak to you soon.
My absolute pleasure, Thomas. Thanks for having me.