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  • Positive Polarity Podcast

Innovation, Problem Solving & Learning How to Amplify Your Strengths For Success

What is SWICKtech?

SWICKtech is co-owned by Gary Swick and Isaac Monteagudo. They each had their own entities back in the early 2000, and they came together in 2004. So I've been with SWICKtech for three years. I started as an account manager. I found a home for myself in our marketing department and then navigated to sales.

So, I still help with marketing, and I still help with account management, and I am one of the external outside sales reps. We are a managed service provider. We've really transitioned to more of a managed security solution provider. We really have a lot of security and cybersecurity baked into our DNA, but traditionally in the short side of it, we're a technology consultant and solution provider. Think of it as a service.

Is there anything that you want to share about what's going on outside of SWICKtech before we jump into more stuff about you?

I suppose it's a gift and a curse to have so many ideas. I've gotten better at not letting every idea turn into a thing. Still, before I was able to really kind of harness that gift, I launched the Where To Hunt Podcast, which is a podcast that's based around Whitetail hunting throughout the Midwest. And that turned into a national radio show that takes live calls every single week on Tuesday nights. That also is a GPS based app for Whitetail hunters and all sorts of hunters to help identify occupied and unoccupied hunting land that got put under an umbrella of a media company. I also do a logo design on the side. I have a degree in graphic design and media. So I really have aimed my outdoor or my branding and logo design at the outdoor industry.

Where did you get the idea of Where to Hunt App?

I had the idea that selfishly, as a hunter, I spent a lot of time in Spring scouting. In the hunting season, after Spring had passed, I would get to some desolate area that I perceived to be off the grid. It never failed that I would either get bumped by someone or do the bumping. I just thought there was a better way. I looked in the market, looked at the app store, looked online, and did a lot of Google searches.

There wasn't really anything like it there. So I sent some emails out to some companies after doing searches for app development. And I got bids for upwards of $150,000. So for me, it was really just part of my mindset to not give up and push through things and get it done. So I just kept digging and digging and digging. And I eventually found a guy in Chicago that could do it for 10,000. But then through conversation, cause I'm a loudmouth, I learned of a site back then called Elance, which has been acquired or merged with Upwork.

So I put a bid out, and I got 40 replies back, and I hired a company that has roots in California but is based out of India. And I had someone put together a minimum viable per under 5,000. Got it built. And I had about 10,000 followers on Facebook at the time for the page. And I thought, "I'll get 10,000 downloads", and then it would be a hit. I had no idea how to monetize it. I didn't know anything about revenue models. I didn't know anything about venture capital or angel investors or startups. I didn't know anything about that world. I didn't want to be a guy that just had an idea. So I built it, and it's just continued to evolve since then. And as I've learned more about business and kind of grown into my own, it's really changed.

I just went through an incubator in January through March, and I got plugged into the startup ecosystem here in Milwaukee, and we're building some really exciting. I have some revenue models, I have monetization on the thing, generating revenue. So it's changed quite a bit since the inception, but that was the initial concept.

It sounds like you enjoy learning the stuff as you go.

I do. I like to build. I like to flex that side of my mind. I could do that forever and never get tired of it because it's always new and exciting as things evolve with the App. I'm continuously learning in new areas, pushing me to do things I've never done before. One thing leads to another.

So you mentioned that a good path for people who need some help making their ideas a reality are incubators. What are incubators exactly?

There are incubators, and there's accelerators. And accelerator is really meant to be a program that gives you all of these resources. That's legal, that's accounting, that's, development, graphic design, and mentorship, et cetera in exchange for equity. And then when you come out of that, your graduation date is pitch day. They help you build a pitch deck. They help you refine your go-to-market strategy. And so at the end of that, you're pitching that to venture capital investors and angel investors in hopes that you're going to get some sort of capital raise. And then you can kind of go to the races from there.

Incubators are a little bit different, and you may be there a little bit longer. They're really focused on mentorship. And there's a couple of them here in Milwaukee that focus on different verticals or markets. So like the water council, it focuses on a lot of like water tech and things like that.

The one that I went through is completely free, with no equity exchange, and it's put on by the community. So it's called FOR|M, which stands For Milwaukee. It was put on by just a lot of good people in that ecosystem that really just want to see people succeed and help. So that's helped me gain access to more people that have a shared interest.

Where did you notice your strengths being?

Most people would note my strength and weakness are strongly correlated. Where I'm strong is also where I'm weak. I'm very comfortable in public speaking and sales. I'm very confident in that kind of role. Where I'm weak is organization and structure and things of that nature. So for me, I was able to be tenacious and dedicated and not give up and just go, go, go. I was able to outwork myself and leverage my work ethic to keep powering through weakness on that the double-edged sword. However, there is burnout on that. So you could really burn out if you don't have the help that you need and the people around you to help support what your vision might be. I think in the last year, the biggest help has been people. So like I mentioned a CTO, I have a podcast cohost that I brought on.

I have another friend that I went half on a different business, and he's more on the accounting and analytics side. Yeah, exactly. I follow Gary Vaynerchuk, and something that I gravitate towards is doubling down on your strength and hunting your weaknesses. There's a whole industry around self-help, and I refuse to put too much energy into things that I know that I just can't turn the needle on. So by doubling down on where I think I'm stronger has been, that's been a testament to the last two years of my life. I think I've really turned the needle on everything. I just focus on what I think I'm good at and then get help where I'm weak.

Did you know early on in your career that you have that self-awareness about doubling your strengths?

So to a degree, I was self-aware enough. I had a good idea of what my strengths were, but I think at that point when I was younger, I tried to force some of those things. Like when I was in college, I was going for a business management major, and then I hit accounting, and I was a really good student. I was 25 when I was back in school and working full time. So, I wasn't like some of my cohorts next to me that showed up to class high, just graduated high school, and had funding. It was out of my pocket. I was trying to get as much out as I could, and I never tried so hard.

I got help from people that I knew were accountants because I was already the business community. I got help from the professors. I was like, "I don't know what else I can do?" I know I'm not that stupid, but this just doesn't click for me. It's not my thing. So that was a pretty good moment for me to try and actually fail and learn from that and discover that this is the stuff that I probably could learn over time and get it. But I'm just not going to excel nearly as fast here if I were to put my energy somewhere else.

What are you passionate about in that particular company, and in that field on a day to day basis?

Problem-solving. You don't know what something can do if you have never been exposed to it before. You don't know what you don't know. There's a number of businesses and leaders that I talk to on a regular basis that, like the technology, have been commoditized so much. So even three years into it, there is a sort of dryness to it that it's like, "I flip a light switch, and it should work." Right. But what goes into that light switch turning on in your house? It came from a power plant. And how did it carry through power lines, and how did that get engineered? If you want to set up a remote office because you acquired a new company and now not only do you have to deal with the cultural side of it, but you don't want to get hung up on the technology side where you can't literally speak to the people at the company you just acquired So there's ways that we can engineer that.

How do you convert that then into selling and keep that emotion there? You know, keep it exciting for a potential prospect?

Once my passion gets uncaged in any conversation, it's pretty easy to get people to follow along with what I'm saying. And for me, that the first part of that equation is listening. I'm just here to listen. I want to take some things in and believe it or not, as much as I love to talk and hear myself talk, I'm also a really good listener when I need to be. Because there are certain things that I can pick up on and look at holistically, someone else might have blinders on or zoomed in on a very acute problem. I'm able to, with the experience that I have, start to see things that maybe companies have done in other industries or congruent or adjacent industries, and start to tease that out and then put that back into the conversation. So really, it's just knowing about the product offerings that we have, how we support those things, how we engineer them, and paying attention to what that person has going on in their environment.

How do you turn it into emotional things that somebody is going to try and buy?

I would say I to explain it in a way that I would understand because I'm not actually that technologically smart. I don't have that intellect as one might think. I've gotten it all through osmosis. So for me, when I talk to our engineers, I'm asking the questions that I think a client would ask. First of all, I'm not convincing anybody of anything. If I get a new conversation where I feel I have to convince someone I'm done. I'm not going to waste my time convincing people.

If I realize I'm not trying to convince someone, then it's just painting a picture of the future. And if I, for some reason, am sensing that they're not interested in some pie in the sky thing and that we're jumping too many steps ahead, then I can usually find a way to tie it into solving a problem. Then, we can take some baby steps in the direction that I'm trying to head. It's just having, knowing what's in your toolbox, and knowing when to pull out the tool for the job.

You talk about creativity and sales. The convincing thing is something some people do. That's why I think there's a really strong marriage between marketing and sales. And that's why I like to be straddled in both worlds at SWICKtech because I can control to a degree.

What does your audience look like, and how can you determine which person you're selling to?

Here's what I did when I started at SWICKtech, and I got into a sales seat. I reverse engineered all of the existing sales we had closed before me. So, where did our sales come in? We have two types of sales. Primarily we have agreement sales for ongoing recurring accounts that are paying us monthly for monitoring, maintenance, security, et cetera. And then we have project sales. And when I reverse engineered that all, all product, all project sales, I noticed that all agreement type of sales came from C-suite decision-makers. Once I figured that out, I knew who I'm good in front of. I'm good in front of C-suite.

Now, anytime I try to talk to a technical person, it doesn't go as well, because they want to know every angle. They want to stop at every stop on the train tracks and investigate and get off the train and look around. I have no ability to do that. That's where that self-awareness comes into play. It's not that it's a bad thing. I just don't have the patience to do it. I'm not wired for it. And that person is going to pick that up from me, and they're not going to have a good experience. So, for those ones, I just bring an engineer with me, and they do the talking. I don't bring an engineer with me when I talk to C-suite decision makers because that's going to deter them. If I brought an engineer to you in a sales meeting to talk about technology, you would glaze over. You 'd be thinking, "like, why the hell did that just happen to me? I don't even know what to do with that information."

But my closing rate has only gone up since I got into the seat, and I took a little to reverse engineer and figure it out. It's different for everybody. Our sales cycle is long at SWICKtech because these were big projects. There's a lot of trust involved in letting someone into your information. There's a lot of trust-building that has to happen before someone's going to pull the trigger. Other industries are likely different, but knowing your audience is really important, and you can figure out that kind of stuff. If you just look at historical success, what's filled the marketing funnel, where did that come from? And what has closed from that? And then just work backward from there.

You were talking about networking. So what tips would you have for anyone listening?

It's a long game. It'll be very interesting what the compounded effect of networking will be over the course of the next 20 years. I hope no one takes this wrong way, but I'll be candid and be myself. When I go to the traditional networking events that happened before COVID, honestly, it's a bunch of rich, old white dudes. These are people that have been doing business together for 30 plus years. Those are relationships have forged over time and are codified and are unbreakable.

And so for some newbie to go in and think that there's going to be some overnight success of you shaking hands on something, exchanging a business card, and getting business out of it... you're not wrong. It might work, and you might get lucky every now and again, but you need to be conscious and mindful that you need actually to give more than you can take. And so I believe in the 51/ 49 rule. If I enter into a conversation with someone, I'm immediately on the offensive, looking for ways to extend value to that person and give because I believe in reciprocity. Over time, if I give to someone and I have nothing that I expect in return, that person's going to feel compelled to return the favor in some sort of way. Maybe it's a referral, or maybe they have a business themselves.

If I can overextend and give them more and more as that network builds, it becomes even more valuable because I now have ways to connect more people. I'm an extrovert. So this time has been really challenging for me. So I did a weekly coffee and chitchat meetings with folks. And I did that by putting something out on LinkedIn, and I talk to people. I think I talked to close to 20 folks, and I made tons of connections for people because I'm aware of everyone in my network.

I probably annoyed a lot of people, but the serendipity makes me intrinsically feel really good that I connected. Now just sitting on the back burner is reciprocity just stewing up real nicely. And over 20 years, with the relationships that I'm forging, I'm hoping those relationships will come back around later on.

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