Never Pick A Fight With An Elephant Head-On

Full Transcript

Ed Pizza: Just because we think it’s interesting doesn’t mean the person listening thinks it’s interesting.

Paul Singh: You can say your brand is whatever. You could say you’re hardworking. You could say you’re ambitious inaudible. But if people don’t see you do it, then that’s not your brand anymore.

Ed Pizza: From a restaurant standpoint, all we do in restaurant spaces is look at transaction.

Paul Singh: Why haven’t the Uniteds and the Deltas and the Americans of the world just recruited whoever’s running social for Wendy’s and Taco Bell?

Ed Pizza: Hey, guys. Welcome back to the Results Junkies podcast. It is a crazy time for entrepreneurs. The supply chain is causing issues for so many folks out there right now, things that we never even really assumed were a problem. And to win right now, it’s simple. As my cohost Paul Singh likes to say, you just need to outwork your competitors.

Paul Singh: Oh, I don’t think that’s true, though. I think it’s simple, but I don’t think it’s about outwork. I think it’s about picking the right thing and then really just nailing that. So I want to get away from this whole hustle porn, boil the ocean kind of thing that permeates the entrepreneurial community, because that’s just not smart.

Ed Pizza: We’re 30 seconds in, and Paul has already used hustle porn. I love it. So when you’re sitting there right now, man, and you’re thinking about the way the landscape looks, we were talking offline before we hopped on the show about your tweet on the three rules that you’re waking up every day and thinking about. And I think that when I read your tweet about it, it was one of those things where I nodded my head through all of them.
And yet I’ve known you for I don’t know how many years now, and I’ve never heard you frame it this way.

Paul Singh: Well, clearly, that’s because you haven’t been listening closely enough, because crosstalk I talk about these ideas often. So yeah, I tweet about this thing I’ve been thinking about for years, probably decades now. And I was actually surprised how many people picked up on it. I got a lot of DMs about it.

But anyway, I tweeted about this idea that I think there’s this game people play, this invisible game that defines how the world works. And to be clear, before I go further here, I have no idea, I’m probably stealing ideas from other people that I don’t remember. So I’ll just say out in front. And I also don’t have any empirical evidence to say that these are the three rules for everybody. But they’ve certainly worked for me. And for the people that I’ve shared these ideas with, over time, it seems to be working for them.

So the three rules are your brand personally and professionally isn’t what you say you do. It’s what other people believe. So that’s rule number one. And we’ll explain them here in a minute, so let me just go through the rules. Rule number two is you never pick a fight with a elephant head on. And then rule number three is if you understand and address the hopes, fears, and dreams of the people across the table, you win.

So those are the three rules of the invisible game, and I say that because I think the game, I’m doing air quotes here, the game that people talk about is this idea of hustle porn. Gosh, if you just work hard enough, if you just outwork somebody else, if you just, I don’t know, put in a little bit more effort, you’ll get there, whatever that is, a promotion, a startup, a growth, whatever.

But the invisible game is a little bit different, and I think that that’s not to say that hard work isn’t important, by the way. You can’t be lazy and be successful. But it’s just that the invisible game’s a little bit different. I think some of the most successful people I’ve watched over the last decade or two, they sort of … whether they do it on purpose or not, I just couldn’t help but notice they do it a little different.

So let’s just talk about rule number one. This whole idea of brand isn’t what people say or do. It’s what other people believe. I remember looking at … I’m not a brand guy, right? I’m an engineer by training. So I’m like … I didn’t quite understand brand. Maybe I still don’t now. But I think a lot of people would say, “Oh, this is our brand,” or, “This is my brand. I am X. I am Y.” And they somehow assume that maybe or imply that, by saying that, everybody else will now see them that way.

But the truth is you can say it, and now people will hold you to that brand or whatever. But then if you let them down or if you … What you actually do matters. I guess that’s my point with rule number one, is that you can say your brand is whatever. You could say you’re hardworking. You could say you’re ambitious inaudible. But if other people don’t see you do it, then that’s not your brand anymore.

And I think at the very least, the key idea here as I ramble is that if you understand that your brand is how people perceive you, then that should affect the way you either set your brand, like you need to lower those expectations, or you need to, in your actions, totally outdo them. This applies again as a company or as an individual or whatever.
And the second thing, never pick a fight with an elephant head on. I think that all these things apply personally and professionally. But you never really see any sort of success going against an incumbent head on. That’s just a war of attrition usually. You’re better off trying to find the chinks in the armor and coming in from the side. The old cliché is you eat the elephant one bite at a time.

And I know this sounds crazy, but there’s this other idea we have on the sheet about how we got stuck at airport and why aren’t the airlines doing some interesting stuff with … I don’t want to let that one out of the bag. But this is an example of that, where it’s like don’t pick a fight. If somebody’s your gatekeeper, you don’t get past the gatekeeper by insulting them. You’ve got to find another way.

There might be an incumbent in your industry that is much bigger than you. You are not going to do well to go head on with them. But maybe you go through the side by exploiting their unhappiest customers or exploiting some new customer acquisition channel that they don’t know how to do yet, right? So that’s what I mean by that second one.
And then last thing and arguably, I think, the most important of these three rules is this idea that if you understand the hopes, fears, and dreams of the people across the table, you win. Again, personally or professionally, we’re all dealing with people on the other side of the table, whether it’s somebody that could give you a promotion, somebody that could be one of your customers.

And the best way to just interpret this rule is just to say that everybody seems to just talk about features or hustle, like, “I’ll do X, Y, and Z. And gosh, I wish you’d give me a promotion,” or, “Our features are X, Y, and Z. That’s why you should pay us.” But look, on the other side of that table, for example, let’s say you’re in B2B sales. On the other side of that table is probably an HR rep that is the buyer, that wants to not fail.

So I’ll just use maybe our corporate wellness business as an example, right? We sell corporate wellness stuff to HR divisions around the country. And one of the things we try to remember is, even though what we provide is something that the employees that are parents … that the underlying employees of that company are the people that are going to open that box that we send, right? But the buyer is something different. The buyer who signs the check, who agrees to let Bump Health do this, they’re thinking, “Gosh, I don’t want to get fired. Is this a good bet?”
Anyway, you know the old adage is, “Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft.” Do you remember that?

Ed Pizza: I’m older than you, so it was, “Nobody ever got fired for buying Maytag,” but yes.

Paul Singh: Or that, right? And that’s what this is. If you really think about that statement, it’s like, yeah, these people are buying … When they think about whether to buy your solution as a corporation or not, it’s not about who has the best solution. It’s who’s least likely to let them down.

And I think that’s what this rule three is super important at, why I think rule three is even more important than the other two, is that if people just took the time to figure out how those people across the table think, what their hopes, fears, and dreams are, just speak to that. You want to be less risky if you’re selling into the corporate world. You want to be…

Anyway, I’ll stop there.

Ed Pizza: Well, when you talk about rule three, one of the things that pops into my head when you think about addressing the hopes, fears, and dreams of the people you win, it also goes back a bit to me for number two, about never pick a fight with an elephant head on.

And I remember back in the mid 2000s, we were in the restaurant space, still are. But back then, we saw that there were a lot of restaurants that really struggled with their point of sales systems, and there were just limitations that have been around for decades. And we said that we thought that there were some problems that we could solve, not to replace point of sale, but small things that we could start to do as SaaS was becoming easier to build and write code and get things out there quickly and stuff like that.

And I remember when we looked at this, about how we were wanting to try and create some things, we were trying to create a virtual wallet, almost like an Apple Pay before there was really Apple Pay. But it was really just supposed to be for restaurants. And I remember at the time thinking … I looked at … The dominant player in the space back then was a company called MICROS, MICROS-Fidelio.

Paul Singh: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ed Pizza: Had thousands and thousands of point of sale installs around the world and hotels and all that stuff. And I remember one interesting fact that I found when I started researching those companies was the number two company at that point, I don’t remember what their official name was back then, but it was a company called Radiant Point of Sale, and a bunch of mergers and all that stuff, so they’re part of Aloha and bunch of other stuff, which really isn’t relevant.

More in terms of the number one and number two, the number one player in the market MICROS, their research and development budget as a publicly held company was larger than the number two player’s gross revenue for the year. And so to your comment about never picking a fight with an elephant head on, we said, “Look, if we’re going to create this little product, we don’t really want to flaunt that we’re trying to take on MICROS, because if MICROS turns around and realizes that we’re trying to eat some small part of their lunch, they can crush us, because they’ve got millions and millions of dollars just sitting there waiting to research something. We need to be tactical and need to find a way to just create something that can be a recurring transaction for restaurant owners that would save them money, and they’re like, “Ah, this is cool.””

I’m not looking to replace your point of sales system. I’m looking to kill a pain point and save you five or 10 hours of paperwork a week. So why don’t you pay us 10 bucks a month for every one of your locations? And we’re just going to be this little thing over here that doesn’t interfere with your point of sales system.

Paul Singh: Yep. Yep, yep, yep. And I think that actually is an interesting example, by the way, too, right? Because I think in one of our earlier episodes, we talked about this idea that for a lot of these offline industries, the biggest opportunity I think in the next 10 years is really going to be what I call the intersection of online and offline. And what I mean by that is what you just talked about, this example of restaurants.

You know way more about this than I do, but when you look at the point of sales these days, here we are in September or October of 2021 where it’s Toast and Upserve or Breadcrumb and all these other things. And I look at these tools, and I’ve never owned or run a bar or run a restaurant or anything like that. But man, I look at these things and it’s like … it clearly to me looks like somebody outside the industry created this thing and shoved it into the restaurant.

And don’t get me wrong. I think I saw, was it Toast that went public a week or two ago and multi-billion dollar valuation? So people are going to say, “Well, Paul, even though they just shoved it in, they’re worth a lot of money.” That is absolutely true. But I’m just saying if you really took the time to understand those hopes, fears, and dreams and you took your tech skills and built it from the inside of those restaurants or the inside of those bars, I don’t know. If somebody like Toast can come in from the outside and make something worth that much money by pushing what I think looks like a very clunky thing, then, gosh, somebody from the inside could do much more.

Sorry. I’ll give you one example, by the way. I was just talking to one of my buddies who owns a bunch of bars, and I just happened to be looking over his shoulder at one of the morning reports he looks at.

Ed Pizza: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Singh: And it was interesting. As you scroll through, it gives him a high … I think that point of sale was maybe Breadcrumb or something like that. But anyway, what caught my eye as I was looking over his shoulder is it said something like, “Five employees clocked out with AutoClose.”

Ed Pizza: Yep. Yep.

Paul Singh: And I was like, “What is it?” And he said, “Well. Oh, yeah, yeah. They do it at the end of the night. They just …” I was like, “But why don’t they just clock out?” And he’s like, “Oh, well, it just auto closes them anyway.” And I was like, “But you as a manager, do you know that they … Did they stay the whole time?” He’s like, “Oh, I don’t know.”

Anyway, I just thought that was interesting. Maybe it’s not a big deal, but … Well, actually, the next thing that really interested me was he has … You know how you’re supposed to type in your server number to then-

Ed Pizza: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Singh: … I guess create a check or open a check? Well, what I thought was interesting was the majority of the sales were POS1, POS2, Handheld7. And I was like, “Well, wait a second. So why do you have IDs for people when they’re just using the generic log-in anyway?” He was like, “Well, it’s just too hard. These aren’t tech savvy people.”
I don’t know where I’m going with this, other than to say that it felt like there were a lot of extra features built into this thing, but the people inside the bar needed less than 10% of those features.

Ed Pizza: Well, I understand what you’re saying. I will clarify it. It’s not that they don’t … It’s not that they only need 10% of the features. It’s that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

Paul Singh: Yeah.

Ed Pizza: The time it takes to set up in a typical point of sales system is painful. So take your example of people clocking out. Well, I’ve said for years, “Why can’t a point of sales system have a report that tells me in the morning who hasn’t clocked out? Why do I have to go hunt for it? Why can’t I just get a notification that says, “Hey, here’s your four employees?””

Paul Singh: Yeah.

Ed Pizza: There’s a report, and it exists in every point of sales system. But there’s a number of steps I have to set up to have the system tell me that in some way that’s in my face.

Paul Singh: Yeah.

Ed Pizza: So that when I show up in the morning, my dashboard says, “Hey, you have five people that didn’t clock out last night,” as opposed to having to plunk through a bunch of screens or go dig up a report or things like that.

Paul Singh: Yep.

Ed Pizza: And when we think about the way that a lot of the SaaS companies that you and I know are built, if you think about the typical Google Analytics dashboard-ish sort of thing, it has all of your critical pieces right there in front of you like, “Hey, here are the numbers I need to work on today.” And for restaurant folks, it’s different. For Bump Health, it’s different. Everybody has their dashboard.

The probably is that, as you say, in this intersection of online and offline, in a lot of these typical offline sort of businesses like restaurants, the dashboards that they get are so poorly built for what these people actually need, because most of them don’t sit down with your friend who’s a restaurant guy and say, “Hey, what do you want on your dashboard? What would be 10 really cool things?” They go look at what reports are most often used in the system and just assume that must be what every restaurant owner needs.

Paul Singh: Yeah. Right.

Ed Pizza: When in reality, a lot of the smaller reports that they can’t find or don’t know how to pull are really the key information that they need.

Paul Singh: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. It’s like there’s never been more technology available to brick and mortar businesses, but it’s also all glued together these days with spreadsheets, Zapier, and duct tape, to be honest.

And so I think that’s the real opportunity. To your point, I think that’s the real opportunity over the next couple years now, is how do you create maybe a deeper, smoother integration across all these different things that are available or build it from the inside out? I don’t know. Well, it’ll be interesting to see.

But I think for tech enabled people, people that have built, let’s just call it, air quotes, “online companies” or whatever, wherever you go out to eat this weekend, look at it from the inside and just see if there is an opportunity, because I really do think there is.

Well, that actually gives us an interesting segue to one of the other topics when we form a list here, is just this notion of a North Star. I think this is going to seem obvious to a lot of people, but maybe I’ll be able to make the point here. We’ll see.

The thing is I think it’s so interesting to me how many people make the common mistake of spreading themselves too thin. I think in one of the earlier podcasts we did, we answered somebody from Twitter that asked this question of, “How do you go from zero to a million in sales?”

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Paul Singh: And it’s so interesting to me that so many entrepreneurs overthink the whole thing. So for example, when Bump Boxes was the first thing growing into Bump Health, right, we were very unemotional about this idea that we called the North Star. Transactions are all that matter. If you can’t move that average daily transaction from zero to one every day, there’s no point in thinking about what it’ll look like when it’s much bigger.

And if you couldn’t figure out how to systematically move it from an average of let’s call it one transaction a day to 10, and then from 10 a day to 100, you had to think about that and be unemotionally attached to any ideas that come up or any projects that come up.

And again, I know that people listening to this are probably like, “But Paul, that’s so obvious.” And I don’t disagree. But just you don’t have to scroll far down Twitter to see entrepreneurs saying, “Oh, what’s the new platform we should try?,” or, “What should we do?” Or they’ll complain about how many things they have to do in a given day. And it’s like, “Well, no. That should tell you you’re spreading yourself too thin.”

Anyway, this is actually a little plug, by the way. So behind the scenes for the last couple years, I’ve actually been working on this … So when I was starting to build this up, I knew that transactions were all that mattered and I built a team around me that only focused on those transactions. And then I built a culture and a company that did all that, right? And I built a little Chrome extension that only really worked for me originally, where it would just pull my Google Analytics eCommerce data.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, I saw that.

Paul Singh: Every time I opened a tab, it would just … that’s the first thing it would show me, is what today’s transactions were. And then I’ve just honestly … It’s been on my browser for years. It’s such a crappy little plugin.
And then more recently, somebody I know happened to look over my shoulder and was like, “What is that thing?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah. That’s this thing,” whatever. And he’s like, “Oh, man. I want to use it.” And it dawned on me at that point that maybe I should just open source or make a free thing or whatever.

So anyway, I’m almost at the point where it’s ready to launch into the Chrome store. I think I’m going to call it North Star. Honestly, it’s nothing special, but the idea here is that it helped me just stay focused on the transactions. So every time I opened a new tab, I wanted to know how many transactions have I had today and how does that compare to the average daily transactions over the last seven days, the last month, and the last year.

And it, for me, worked out really well because it just kept me focused. And every time I’d get off track and opened a tab, whether it was to doom scroll through social, this was my reminder that I had to get back to work.
And so anyway, I think I’m going to call it North Star. I don’t know. But, yeah. Hopefully, by the time this thing’s published or this podcast is published, hopefully it’ll be available. It’s going to be free. It’s all secure and all that stuff. And I won’t have access to your data. It’s all stored on your browser there.

But, yeah, hopefully, it’ll help other … It’s primarily designed for other eCommerce stores. But we’ll just see. I’m interested in what people say. But growing your company is not easy, but it is very simple. Just pick that one North Star and just stay laser focused on it. The world wants to distract you. The internet wants to distract you. And you have to actively fight that to stay focused.

Ed Pizza: Well, and you say it’s obvious. And you’re right. And I do still think that so many companies miss it. And in reference to the plugin where you’re talking about eCommerce specifically, that makes a hundred percent sense. But it also goes both more offline and more online. So from a restaurant standpoint, all we do in the restaurant space is look at transactions. And certainly, we’re trying to increase them, but we’re also trying to increase the size of them.

Hey, the old McDonald’s adage of, “How do I get you to order fries and a drink with your burger? Well, I package them all together.” And then on the online model, I’m a travel writer. I’m a podcaster. So we’re looking at, hey, how do we get somebody to read … to click on three or four different stories instead of one when they’re on my site? Or from a podcasting standpoint, how do we get folks to … The average dwell time for podcasts is about 48%, according to industry statistics. That means that most of the people listening to an average podcast will listen to half of it. And so if that’s our transaction here, then my North Star is how do I get you to listen to 60% of this podcast, and then 70%, and then 80%? We’re putting out the whole episode. I don’t want you to stop halfway.
And I think people … I use podcasting because we’re here recording right now. I think a lot of podcasters are focusing on, “Hey, I want to put out a great show that my friends tell me sounds good and looks great. Maybe I get some Twitter re-shares and all that stuff.” And that’s all cool and stuff. And downloads are valuable as well as a statistic. But at the end of the day, there are millions of iPhones all across the country that are downloading podcasts automatically and to various players. But are people actually listening?

And so I think defining what a transaction is for your business and what it means to succeed, I think, is critically important.

Paul Singh: Agreed. And maybe I’m going to take this in a direction it may not want to go, but I’ll just say that I think that … Just listen to what you just said there, and I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit.

Just crosstalk what you said there, it’s like, “I want people to listen to 60%,” or, “I want dwell time to be X,” “I want this,” or even sometimes other entrepreneurs say, “I want more sales. I want more stuff.”

I don’t know how to say this clearly, but what I’ll just say is those goals are a byproduct of whether or not you add value to the listener or whether or not you add value to the customer. Now, that doesn’t seem like a groundbreaking and new, novel idea. I admit that. But I think that it’s important to …

Let’s just use the podcast analogy because that’s what you used, right?

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Paul Singh: If we want to drive dwell time up, we need to give people something worth listening to.

Ed Pizza: Absolutely. Yeah.

Paul Singh: And the Howard Sterns of the world will give you shock value, and that’s what drives their crosstalk.

Ed Pizza: … shock value from us.

Paul Singh: In our case, I’m hopeful that this particular podcast is giving people tactical things they can do to grow right away. But maybe in the absence of that, maybe we’re giving them an interesting viewpoint from two operators and two investors that might make them think about a problem they’re dealing with a slightly different way.
So all that to say, though, that if you really do want to grow whatever your metric is, if you know what your North Star is, then it’s important, I believe, to then recognize that that North Star is a proxy metric of whether or not you actually add value to the underlying customer on the other side of that.

In other words, in my world, if I don’t make a way for moms to have a safer and easier pregnancy, she will not use any of our stuff. If I don’t make her life easier and allow her to extract every dollar the insurance company owes her with seven clicks, my Bump Medical business doesn’t grow.

So anyway, I’m not saying anything groundbreaking or novel or new, but I just think that people that talk about growing whatever their metric is, they don’t talk about what’s on the other side of that coin, right?

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And I think we’ll use this podcast mentality again. Just because we think it’s interesting doesn’t mean the person listening thinks it’s interesting.

Paul Singh: Agreed.

Ed Pizza: You’ve got to be critical with yourself to say, “Hey, are people actually absorbing this? If not, I need to pivot and I need to figure out some other way to connect with my audience or connect with my customer,” as you said.

Paul Singh: Agreed.

Ed Pizza: If the mom doesn’t get the value, why is she going to continue to use the product? And I think I see so many … Not to belabor it on podcasters specifically, I just see so many that get into it and say, “I don’t understand why I can’t get past 100 downloads. I don’t understand what the issue is.”

And I think I would just say collectively the easy issue is, if you’re in any sort of a content production business and people aren’t clicking, downloading, reading, whatever, you need to take a hard look at whatever it is you’re producing, because it’s not resonating with people. And it goes back to your three rules, where your brand is what other people believe. If we believe that we’re tactical and we’re giving people great advice, but they never listen past the first five or six minutes, we’re obviously not giving them great advice or advice that they view as helpful or great for them.

We always have this long list of stuff that we say we’re going to go over each episode, and we’re already almost 30 minutes in and we’re on topic number two and half.

Paul Singh: Yeah. Yeah.

Ed Pizza: So I’m curious … I’m going to tee up two and I’m going to let you pick which one we do next. Now, do you want to talk about Delta Airlines and large companies with old, stinky moats, or do you want to talk about the Ozzy controversy?

Paul Singh: Okay. I was actually going to use what you just said there to segue into that Delta Airlines moat thing, because I thought that might be an interesting way to take that last part of the conversation a little further.

Ed Pizza: Okay.

Paul Singh: So I don’t exactly remember how this particular topic got on the list, but I remember what we talked about right before the show in terms of the idea. So to what you just said, let’s try to connect this idea, this part to that last idea.

So this idea of being interesting, being useful, adding value to the listener, adding value to the customer, and if you could do that, then the proxy metric, your North Star, will move on its own. So this particular idea was … Again, I don’t remember how this ended up on here, but I do remember what we talked about right before the show, and that was why aren’t airlines using things like social media complaints to just give a free seat on a similar route?

Ed Pizza: Oh, I love that idea that you came up with. Yeah.

Paul Singh: Yeah.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Singh: Yeah. So I can’t remember exactly … Again, I apologize. I can’t remember how crosstalk.

Ed Pizza: No, I’ll tee it up. I’ll tee up. So it was crosstalk.

Paul Singh: Yeah. Go, go, go.

Ed Pizza: I’m a top tier Delta Diamond Elite member, and I called up because I had an issue with a ticket.

Paul Singh: Do you listen to yourself? “I’m a top tier Diamond Elite.” God, who talks like that?

Ed Pizza: I was just trying crosstalk to define for people what Diamond is, because they use all these plutonium and titanium. And so it’s like it used to always be it was silver, gold, platinum. And so everybody knew what it is. And now, it’s like, “I’m super titanium plutonium elite.” And it’s crosstalk.

Paul Singh: God, that’s a mouthful. That’s like-

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Paul Singh: I’m over here, I’m like, “I’m 1K.”

Ed Pizza: Yeah, right. Right. Well, yeah. But it’s like if you say to somebody, “I’m a United 1K,” and they’re not a traveler, they don’t actually know what that is. They’re like, “Okay. Well, are you at the top of the pyramid or the bottom of the pyramid?” So I’m just defining for people what they already know, which is crosstalk.

Paul Singh: … United 1K is still the bottom of the pyramid. So…

Ed Pizza: Yeah. But if you’re 1K, they say sir when they screw you, so just to be clear.

Paul Singh: Oh, you go to the nice airports. I don’t even get that, but okay.

Ed Pizza: So anyway, so I called the customer service line, which should have the shortest wait times because I’m … Again, Paul loves this phrase. I’m a top tier elite. So I should be the smallest group of people that produce the most revenue for them.

And the wait time was over three hours to get someone to call me back, or I can wait on hold that whole time. And so as I framed it to Paul when it happened, it was … With these large incumbents, they have moats. And in this case, with airlines, it’s obviously hard to start an airline. You need lots of money. You need slots at airports. You need all of these things.

And so the age old question is can Delta get away with making their most valuable customers wait three hours to talk to someone on the phone? And similarly, how could another business attack this?

Paul Singh: So can they do this? Look, they did it to you and you’re still there.

Ed Pizza: All right.

Paul Singh: Right? So the answer is can they do it? Yeah. Now, but to tie this idea back to a couple of the other topics we talked, for example, not attacking an elephant head on or even this previous idea of how to add value, let’s just say you were an upstart airline. Now, I’m going to say this really carefully because I know you travel people are very particular about crosstalk.

Ed Pizza: You travel people. Thank you for crosstalk there.

Paul Singh: Yeah. But, here. Let’s just tie it together with a hypothetical example here. So if I’m an upstart airline and I want to add value and I want to build my business and I want to not attack Delta head on, they’ve got the 737s and I’ve got the 30 year-old CRJ or whatever. Well, look, if I’m sitting on a route that let’s just say was a high volume route between X and Y locations, and I sit there and watch social media, I want to see for better, for worse the people that complain and go, “@Delta, my flight is delayed. DL Flight number whatever. Come on, guys.”
So I’d watch that. And I don’t know how often that happens, but at a high volume hub, I bet it happens a lot. And I know my plane’s going no matter what. And I’d be sitting there, looking for those tweets or whatever, and I’d just offer the unbought or the open seats for free, because the plane’s going no matter and this is your chance now for getting people over.

Now, is that a great idea? I don’t know. But maybe that way of thinking inspires some ideas.

Ed Pizza: Well, I don’t think you have to be a startup to think that way either in a market like this. I think you talk about it like, “Hey, I’ve got the smaller planes and I need to find ways to compete.” But I think this was Delta’s model when they came into Seattle to compete with Alaska Airlines. It was, “Hey, let’s go eat their lunch and let’s offer status to their top tier status members.”

To your point, I love the idea, because all the airlines are on social media. Why wouldn’t you try and pick off the people that are complaining about another airline? Typically, those are customers … The customers that are taking the time to go on Twitter and engage an airline directly, not just ranting about something, they’re likely probably going to be somebody who flies more than once a year.

Paul Singh: Honestly, why hasn’t … And maybe you know this. Why haven’t the Uniteds and the Deltas and the Americans of the world just recruited whoever’s running social for Wendy’s and Taco Bell? Have you seen those crosstalk?

Ed Pizza: Yeah. They don’t.

Paul Singh: Sometimes, Wendy’s and Taco Bell will get into fun fights with each other, and they just start to bash each other. It’s just hilarious. They’re not dong it to be mean. But somebody ought to recruit those people.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. It’s just never been something in the aviation industry in the US. There’s a few airlines that have a little fun on Twitter, Southwest, Jet Blue to a lesser extent. Those guys have a little fun. But very rarely do they poke at other airlines and try to eat their lunch.

Paul Singh: And maybe we’ll talk more about this idea in the next episode. But just to plant the seed, there’s this framework that I use when I think about building new businesses. And so with Bump Health, we’re a collection of a couple different businesses, right?

And so there’s this framework that I’ll just hint at here and we can talk about it more in the one of the future episodes. But related to this idea, when I think about starting something new, the way I think about is, number one, find the incumbents in the industry that I want to get into and, of those incumbents, now filter them and only look at the ones that are greater than 10 years old, have greater than 1,000 employees, have greater than 10 or 20 million dollars of revenue.

And then here’s the important part. Imagine rebuilding that company if you had a deep understanding of today’s technology stack. Number two, imagine rebuilding that company if you had a deep understanding of today’s digitally native consumers. And number three, imagine rebuilding that company today without that legacy stakeholder baggage that tends to hold these companies back from the innovation that needs to happen.

And I think that framework has worked very well for us. I think it could work very well for others. But back to this idea, I think that those airlines have not innovated, but the people sitting on the little tube are different consumers now. And I think that there’s opportunity there. I think whoever has that first move or advantage, whichever one of those airlines ends up being the most forward thinking, this is not … Innovation is not, “How do we find an internet device on the plane that adds another hundred megabits a second to the consumer?,” or whatever. No. it’s actually, “Which airline could meet the digitally native consumer exactly where they are and build their brand that way?”

Ed Pizza: Well, and to tie it all together, and God knows I’m a bit of a cynic, but I think this is where you get into tying back to your three things, your three rules of your brand and what people perceive you to be. I think that there by and large is a perception that airline travel, at least in the US, is a commodity business. It’s meant to be traded at the lowest common denominator. People are looking for a cheap airline ticket to get to that cool place they want to go.

And so a lot of it for folks who are … for discretionary travel, it’s almost always based on time and price. When can you get me there and what’s it going to cost? Whereas when you talk about things like Bump … And to be clear to folks listening, I don’t have any vested interest in Bump. I’m not an investor. I spend a lot of time listening to Paul talk about it, so I know about it. I think when you think about that, you’re talking about how to talk to someone about one of the most personal and emotionally connected decisions they’re ever going to make in their life: child care. And you’re saying, “Hey, we’re going to be somebody that you can trust, somebody you can believe in, somebody who’s going to tackle certain things that are pain points for you that keep you from the enjoyment of being a mom.”
Obviously, an insurance company is the ultimate mom enjoyment killer. And you’re saying, “Hey, we’re going to try and get rid of those mom enjoyment killers.” And I think that’s the … You’re tackling that, and that’s your … Alongside transactions, that’s your North Star.

Paul Singh: Well, yeah. And again, this might … Maybe the episode’s getting a little long and the people that dropped off at the 50% mark are going to miss this, and we’ll talk about it more in a future episode. But here’s the deal. What you just described there, this notion that people see air travel as a commodity thing, “Get me from A to B as cheap as possible,” you’re not wrong there.

But this is a half baked thought and I’ll have it ready for the next episode, but here’s the thing. When you’re starting something new, whether it’s our company or a new airline or a new startup, whatever it is, brute force is what you use to get off the ground. You have to just brute force your way, figure out how to acquire customers. You’re probably not going to have a brand yet. You’re not going to know all these things. You just have to get started. And that’s understandable.

But here’s the part that I’m starting to recognize now personally, is that at a certain point, what happens is there’s a certain sameness, a certain sameness across everything. So for example, you’re right, airlines tend to be a commodity business. But why is it that I choose to fly United on a regular basis versus you choose to fly American or what it is you fly usually?

Now, we can joke all day my airline choice sucks, yours does too, right? But this is the Nike versus Adidas thing, right? At a certain scale, the shoes are all the same. But some people choose Nike. Other people choose Adidas. Here’s where I’m going with this. At a certain scale, it becomes about brand. And this goes back to rule number one, the invisible game, that brand’s not what you say it is, it’s how they perceive you and really how they perceive themselves alongside you.

So here’s where I’m going with this. The most important lesson I think I’m starting to recognize now, and I’ll hopefully have a better way to talk about this in the next episode, is this idea that you have to actively, proactively, consciously work towards a business and a brand that forces the consumer to choose whether they see themselves in the way you see the world, but you’ve got to not let them compare you to others.

And I know that’s easier said than done, right? So I’ll just say it one more time. You have to force your customer to choose whether they see the world the way you do and simultaneously disallow them from comparing you to others.
So when I think about … Let’s just use our business as an example. And just as an example, okay? So I don’t want to make it about us, but hopefully this maybe sparks some thoughts for the listeners and maybe for you as well, is I believe that mom’s life should be easier. And I think that I want to make you choose whether or not you agree with that.

But what a lot of other companies do, including us in the earliest days when we were trying to figure things out, we were like, “Gosh, we’re at 33.99 and the other one’s at 32.99. Do we go down one or do we …” Everybody does this, right? If you compete on price or features or all this stuff, at a certain scale, you’ll stall. And you’ll stall because you’ve positioned yourself to be compared against the other thing. You have to make a conscious change and go the other way and say … It’s not that we don’t want to serve the price conscious customer. That’s not what I’m saying at all. It’s just that we believe that it shouldn’t be hard to have a safe and healthy pregnancy. We believe it shouldn’t be hard to extract every dollar that’s owed to you by your insurance. We believe it shouldn’t be hard for you to know without a doubt whether or not you have the best and most price effective insurance, whether it’s Life or PNC or anything else.

If you believe that life shouldn’t be so hard for moms, then you can’t not choose us. And I think that’s … When I think about how brands, other brands, particularly even large airlines, should be thinking about this stuff is how do you force more of the customers to choose a certain thing? Again, I don’t know much about airlines, but I think that the company that came the closest to this, at least in my limited experience, company that came closest to this is Virgin America. I don’t know if … Again, I’m no brand expert, right? And I understand that they got acquired and different people think it was a failure and different people think it was a success, whatever, right?

But as a consumer, they were the first airline that I recall that made travel fun and cool and sexy. I don’t know if you ever flew on them.

Ed Pizza: Oh, yeah. No. Many times.

Paul Singh: They were the first airline that I recall … I’m 40, so I don’t feel like I’m old or anything like that. But they were the first airline I remember that ever made the safety video interesting. And then after that, some of the airlines started to do it. But prior to Virgin America, I don’t remember it being interesting.

Ed Pizza: Well, and there are other examples, but I think, yeah, Jet Blue, and then before there were really safety videos, Independence Air out of Dulles used to have fun videos where they played on politics and other things. Not videos, but audio played on politics and all the things that were popular at the time.

But I think you bring up a point about companies that come into the space and try and differentiate themselves. And I think … Ultimately, I think it’s why we see a lot of entrepreneur dollars go more towards the SaaS businesses of the world or things that are easily changeable as you learn about your customer and how they perceive you. You can obviously iterate a lot quicker at Bump than Delta or American or United can in buying new airplanes.

I think that’s probably a good place to tee it off and say that we’ll get back to this next week. You know I love talking airlines, so we can spend a whole episode geeking out about airlines and bore the heck out of everybody and watch our dwell time drop.

Paul Singh: I know it.

Ed Pizza: But before we do wrap, one thing I like to ask people to do as well is … We’re a few episodes in at this point. So I want to ask you guys what’s working and what’s not. Just going back to Paul’s three rules, let’s figure out how you guys perceive us. What parts of the show do you like? What parts of the show do you not like? Do you like Paul? Do you like me? Obviously, you like me.

But, no. Let’s figure out what works and what doesn’t, and let’s figure out what we can bring you guys that is valuable. We love you guys are submitting questions, and you can keep doing that at You can also hit us up on social media. Paul is @PaulSingh on Twitter, and I am @PizzaInMotion.

But at the end of the day, we want to answer your questions, but we also want to be topical and interesting. So tell us what you love about the show. Tell us what you hate about the show. And gosh, we’re going to act accordingly, right, Paul?

Paul Singh: Look, the whole point of this podcast is to give people stuff that helps them grow their careers and themselves better. So yeah, if we’re not doing that, then what in the world are we doing?

Ed Pizza: I don’t know. We’re sitting in our basement staring at each other on camera.

Paul Singh: Oh, that, I think, is adulting in 2021, which is a different episode entirely.

Ed Pizza: All right, man. Well, I’m back on airplanes again next week. Are you staying put or are you going to be out on the road?

Paul Singh: So next week, I’ll be on the road just for a day or two. I’ll be out in Sioux Falls speaking at an event, and I’ll tell you all about that after that’s all done.

But yeah, other than that, I’ll be cranking. I’m actually hoping to close an acquisition as well, so just going to hint at that and maybe just talk about that crosstalk.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. Do we talk about it when you guys close it?

Paul Singh: Can I or will I?

Ed Pizza: Will you?

Paul Singh: Oh, you know I like to talk, so absolutely I will.

Ed Pizza: All right. We’re going to hold you to it. All right, folks. Thanks for tuning in again. Until we upload again, we’ll talk to you soon.

Paul Singh: All right, everybody. Hey, thanks for the time. And for anybody still listening, Ed’s so worried about dwell time. Thank you for making it all the way to the end.

Ed Pizza: Dwell, dwell, dwell.