// conversationS 

TextBroker.

A conversation with Phillip Thune, CEO of TextBroker.

August 11th 2017 | New York City, NY

AUDIO

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Raad Ahmed:
Textbroker is one of the largest marketplaces for content writing. How did the solve chicken or the egg problem when getting your first users? Did you go after the content writers first or clients looking to hire writers?

Phillip Thune: 
Typically, whoever’s paying you the money is the side that's harder to get. Whoever is making money, it's a bit easier. I didn't found the company so I wasn't there at the very start, but I've been there the last seven years. Since I've been there we've launched in eight different countries or languages. The author side is easier to get. We don't spend much money in terms of paid marketing for that, whereas we do on the side of trying to get clients into the marketplace or into the system. It was interesting, we were established in Germany and then our Founder launched in the US. Germany was 2007, US was 2008 and then the very end of 2010 was the UK, and 2011 in France. I think after that we did the Netherlands and Spain and Portugal, Poland, Brazil and Italy. 

It was interesting in that, you would think, okay these guys do German and English. Why would anybody know Text Broker in in Spain? And, there were a few things we would do on the paid side in terms of launching a market. When we’d launch a market, we would try to launch it for the authors for two weeks, so without clients having the ability to join. After that, then let the clients join. I think the one that sticks out for me in Spain is -- because I think we have maybe, I want to say 1,000 to 2,000 Spanish authors within a manner of weeks.

Raad Ahmed:
Can you talk a little bit about your acquisition strategy in Spain? Was it driven through paid marketing? 

Phillip Thune: 
It was very fast word-of-mouth. This will sound funny, but every time we launch a country we have someone who's native to that country, the first thing they do, which I think is great for them to understand how our platform works. They basically had to translate everything, literally every word on the website. Inside the author account, inside the client account, on the homepage, they had to translate everything. By having to translate every, single step of the process it makes them understand what the process is and how to explain it. Their job, once you get close to having all the translations done and getting ready to launch, is to figure out the best way to get the word out. I don't think we've ever done Google ad words for authors. In Spain, it was kind of funny. The person we started in Spain was from Madrid, and she just started telling friends and family back home that this was what she was doing, and that grew quickly. I think if we were to do it today, Facebook, no matter what country, our authors seem to like to hang out on Facebook. So, we have Textbroker Facebook pages in every country. They’re open nights, so clients could go there if they wanted to. It seems like that’s a good method for authors to communicate with us, communicate amongst themselves and to discover that we're there. 

Raad Ahmed:
That’s clever Let’s take one step back and tell our readers a more about what Textbroker exactly is in your own words and what problem it solves for people. 

Phillip Thune:
The easiest way to describe it is we connect companies or people that need freelance writers with people who want to be freelance authors. I like to say it's a better, faster, easier, less expensive way to find a freelance writer. It’s better for a few different reasons. Because we've congregated so many authors in one site it's hard to stump us. I've been at trade shows where, one of the main questions somebody comes up to is like, oh, I need somebody who knows healthcare. Or, I need somebody who knows equipment rental, because that's actually something that somebody asked me. I need somebody who knows renting computers. Not buying computers, renting computers. So, if I go to Text Broker how do I know I'm going to get the authors that know that? I think when our founder set the thing up -- these all sound like little things but they make a huge difference -- as an author you can only pick up one assignment at that time from what we call our open-order pool. If I want someone who knows equipment rental obviously, I could sign up and I could create a client account, and I could do an author search and type in those keywords. But, if I put it out into the open order pool the reality is, any of our authors who are qualified at that writing level can grab it. But, think about it from an author’s perspective. In any given moment in time we might have, on the US platform for example, between 200 and 8,000 assignments. Let's say it's 1,000. If I'm an author and I can only pick one out of 1,000 and I know nothing about equipment rentals, well I'm going to pick no. For me personally, I would go to, probably sports. I would see, are there any articles about sports that somebody needs writing, and I would pick that. If there was nothing there maybe I would go to business. The authors are motivated to pick the things that they know, that they like writing about and that they can do quickly because they can't pick up another assignment until they finish the first one, and they also don't get paid if the client is not happy. The last thing I would to as an author is pick up something about fashion because as my wife will tell you, I don't know anything about fashion. So, I'm going to have to spend a lot more time researching it. I'm probably going to get it wrong, there's a chance it's going to get rejected and I'm not going to get paid. There are a lot of reasons why I wouldn't do that, but in terms of better, faster, easier, and less expensive, it really does work. Opposed to going on craigslist or trying to figure out, geez, where am I going to find somebody and how am I going to be sure that they know something about equipment rental? If you come to Text Broker we have this huge pool of authors. The author pool is made up of a lot of people from all different backgrounds, but if you had to categorize them there are a decent number of students, college students, and grad students. A lot of stay-at-home folks, moms and dads, either because they have young kids or folks who need to stay at home because they're taking care of a parent or a relative. A decent number of retirees. When you think about those various groups, especially the stay-at-home folks or the retirees, these are people who, probably their career wasn’t in writing but maybe they had a career in equipment rental. Now, they're home with two kids and they're looking for something to do and keep their mind active, so they love writing about things that think know. The key to us is that the database is huge. Like I said, I used that example in Spain. In a matter of weeks we had a couple thousand writers sign up. Going back to that chicken and the egg thing, you will lose a writer. If you have no clients and you have no assignments, and we saw this in Spain because the author adoption was quicker than the client adoption. The authors will stop because you can only pick up one assignment, but there's got to be an assignment there. So, let's say you're an author, you login to Text Broker. There are no assignments, or there are no assignments that are interesting to you. Are you going to come back tomorrow and look? Yeah, maybe. But, if you come back tomorrow and there are no assignments are you going to come back the next day? I don't know. Maybe in the next week you come back. After a while, you're not going to want to keep spending time working if there’s nothing that's interesting. So, easier to get those authors but it takes a while. In terms of from a client’s perspective, the better, faster, easier, the faster thing is actually what I think throws some of our clients. We've had clients who ordered, let's say it's 50 articles. They needed something about, a real example I think when Obamacare first came out. We had a client who wanted an article about it, how it impacted their industry. But, they wanted it tailored specifically state-by-state, because Obamacare can look different in different states. They ordered the 50 articles and they placed the orders all at the same time. The way our platform works is when an author submits something to you, you have four days to review it and if you want to, to ask for a revision. If you let four days go by and you don't ask for a revision, it's yours. The copyright transfers to you. You've now paid for it, the author gets paid and like I said you control the rights to it. This was somebody who placed 50 orders. They got them back -- I don't know if they got them all back within a day, but they got most of them back I would say within a day. They were like, whoa, I can't read all these in four days and ask for revisions and then, I’m not allowed to ask for revisions after four days. So, we get that from time to time. The platform is so scalable because we've got so many authors and I think we've done a good job within that pool of having them be qualified and having them easily find the things that they like to write, which again also makes it better and easier, right? There are a lot of freelance sites out there I would say generally. You are a very specific site for a very specific reason, but I think all of us who are focused on one particular task or a couple of particular tasks, at some point a lot of times we'll come up against an Upwork or a Freelancer or a Fiverr, now. I think a part of that is, those folks and Upwork specifically has been around longer, much bigger company, has a bigger brand. But, we love when people come to us from there because our process is so tailored just to getting written content. Upwork will give you other client’s ratings of an author. What we do, and I think we're the only company I know that does this. We've got an internal team for every country we are in. We are evaluating the author’s submissions on a continual basis and we're rating them between two stars and five stars. Not based on industry and knowledge per se of any particular industry but just, I'm sure, kind of writing ability. So, when you come to Text Broker you're not trusting that some random folks who used this writer in the past thought highly of them or didn’t. You're getting a uniform set of standards that we apply for every writer in terms of grammar, spelling, style, tone. Do they use filler, meaning are they using words that don't really add much to the power of the article? So, you know if we say it's a five-star writer it's not because we looked at a writing sample three years ago or because some other client said it. It's because we're watching that author on a continual basis and continuing updating rating. That quality control makes the platform better and easier. 

Raad Ahmed:
How big is your team right now in terms of headcount, writers etc…? Have you guys raised any venture capital or was it just self-funded from the beginning? 

Phillip Thune:
I'll take the last one first. Our founder is what I like to call a true entrepreneur. He’s never worked for anybody, and he started his first company when he was 17-years-old. He actually started Text Broker when he was 25. He was able to -- well, I guess I'll tell you a story of the founding because I think it's interesting. He was somebody, and this is 2005 timeframe. He was somebody who even back then -- I'm not sure how many people knew about SEO, or search engine optimization , but he was an expert in that and he knew how to get his sites highly ranked on google, and then get the traffic and try to make money from the traffic coming to his pages. And, even back then he knew how important content was. It's only become more important, but he knew that having quality content was important to his rankings on google. He tried freelancers, individual freelancers and that was kind of a nightmare, chasing them down and they would disappear on him, and trying to negotiate the pay and having to pay them individually. He went to this programmer and he said, hey, I've got this idea. Could you help me build a platform where I could aggregate my writers and make the whole process be much easier? He wasn't the first person with that idea. There were companies like Associated Content back then and Demand Media who had that same concept. Let's use the power of the Internet to aggregate a bunch of freelance writers so that we can get content for our own needs. He did that, and he's German so I guess the first platform was the German platform. I think the German SEO community is not that big, especially back in 2005. As he was talking to his friends and he described what he had built they were like, oh, that's awesome. Could I borrow your writers? Or, could I borrow your platform? Because I have the same need. I think it didn’t take long until the lightbulb went off and he said, oh, maybe I should be in the business of providing freelance authors to people as opposed to being in the business of trying to get my own traffic and figure out Google’s constantly-changing algorithms. That’s how we came to be. Text Broker.de was launched in 2007. As far as I can tell, it was the first platform -- again, not the first platform that aggregated freelance writers, but the first one that aggregated them and then allowed anybody to come and order content, whether it be one article, or 1,000 blog posts or 10,000 product descriptions. He was funding that himself because he was making money for the sites that were ranking highly on google, and then as he pivoted to being a writing content creation company, it actually took off really quickly. It was completely self-service. As you know from marketplace business, as you get a little bit of traction it works pretty well. We gained traction in German in 2007. I think most German entrepreneurs, if they have something that works in Germany their next thought is, how do I get into the US? Because it's such a bigger market. He launched TextBroker.com for just US authors in 2008, again doing that just with his own funding. It was 2010 when competitors started to pop up. It's not that hard to create a website and say that you offer content writing, so competitors were starting to pop up and he went looking for venture capital funding, and got it in 2010 from a Frankfurt-based VC. So, that venture capital firm to-date has still been our only investor or shareholder besides our founder. They invested money in us in 2010, 2012 and 2014. 

Phillip Thune:
In terms of size, we have 100 internal employees at this point. In the US, most of them are based in our Las Vegas office. We have a few people in New York City and the rest of our platforms, which are mostly Europe plus Brazil, are all managed out of our headquarters which are in Mainz, Germany. It's a city that's a little bit outside of Frankfurt, 100 internal employees. At this point we've had over 500,000 -- wow, that's a crazy number -- over 500,000 freelance authors create accounts with us. We've had not quite as many, but hundreds of thousands of clients create an account with us. Again, that's over a ten-year period. I think more relative is on a monthly basis, it's in the thousands. So, thousands of clients are ordering things from us and thousands of authors are fulfilling those assignments for them. It kind of goes up and down, but in a given month we're doing, let's say about 100,000 different assignments for our clients.

Raad Ahmed:
Were there any books that you would recommend entrepreneurs to read, or that had a profound impact on the way you look at business? 

Phillip Thune:
It's a funny question. This is going to probably sound really bad for me, but I am not big on reading books. I honestly can't remember the whole last book that I read, whether for pleasure or business-related. It doesn't mean I don't read, I read a tremendous amount. I think that's kind of key. It's hard to find time, especially if you're an early-stage founder. But, I think being aware of what's happening, and it's not just so specific to your industry, or reading your competitor’s blogs which I think you should do. I'm reading constantly. I'm probably on too many different email newsletter things every day. 

Raad Ahmed:
That’s pretty funny, but I respect that. Well then, on a day-to-day, week-by-week basis what are you consuming that keeps you up-to-date with industry trends?
 
Phillip Thune:
I've signed up over time for email newsletters, specifically things that are coming to me about content marketing, about SEO. Within the specific sphere that we're in there are a lot of people producing a lot of good content. Frankly, we produced, I hope fairly good content on the subject of writing and content marketing and SEO ourselves. I'm focused on very much industry things, again not just so specific to content writing but in general, what's happening in the SEO world because that impacts us. In general, what's happening in the content marketing sphere because that impacts us. I'm looking at advertising in general. The prior Internet company I worked for was publicly traded, and I've gotten myself on a bunch of email lists from Wall Street research analysts that follow Internet stocks and I find that really interesting, to kind of get the Wall Street perspective. And again, there's not any really pure play, comparable company to what we do that's public. But, even looking at someone like a GrubHub, or obviously a Yahoo before they were acquired, or Google, or Facebook, or Snap now. The travel folks, Expedia and Travelocity and Priceline. Yeah, I think because we’re an interesting company. I think you guys kind of have this same thing too, which is that if you’re doing it correctly, pretty much every company that has a website should be producing content. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should be producing content from someone like us, but the content marketing has become and is only going to become more of such a fundamental element of how you sell your services. Not only sell your services, but convince potential customers that you know what you’re doing and convince existing customers that you’re innovating and that they should stick with you. The way to do that is to produce really good quality content and obviously we can help with that. It is a little—I’ve gotten off the question, I know, a little bit, but it is a little tricky for us in terms of focus. When you have a product that literally every business with a website can use, we don’t have the resources. We’ve got B to C funding, but not that much that we can sort of get the message out and try to get it out to every business. You do need to focus on who are you most likely targets and who are your most likely high-volume targets. I mentioned some of these before, but like an ecommerce company doing product descriptions. The great thing for us about an ecommerce company is they might have a thousand products, they might have 50,000 products depending on how big you go. We work with some of the biggest ecommerce companies out there. They can have a million products. The thing is, those products change over time. We’ve had actually one company that sells high-end dresses that have used us since I’ve been around so they’ve been using us for seven years. That’s their business. Every three months there’s a new season, a new set of dresses, kind of new things that somebody has to describe and tell a story about. Going back to resources, I would say definitely kind of figure out who’s writing intelligently about your very specific industry, but then broaden it a bit. I also kind of want to know what’s just going on in the economy in general. I’ll use kind of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, and kind of review that for that purpose. I’m a big reader, but not of books.
  
Raad Ahmed:
The customer that you just mentioned that’s been using you for seven years, really seems like a huge customer. How did you attract them? Did they find you on their own or were you deliberately going after that demographic of companies with thousands of pages of product descriptions?

Phillip Thune:
Sure. The main ways that we get clients whether it was that client or any client in general, at this point, a lot of it is word of mouth. Let’s take when we’re launching a new country. The single base thing we’ve found that kind of works is Google Ad Words. You can’t necessarily do this on day one, but we’re as you would imagine, we’re huge believers in content marketing and sort of SEO optimize. So, contact marketing. In terms of pure where do you spend money to get visitors to the sore throat, Google Ad Words would be number one. We tend to do tradeshows, especially when we’re early on in a country. What’s interesting is they have different levels of effectiveness in different countries. You can’t necessarily know with a trade show, before you go in, whether it’s going to kind of work for you. Let’s take the US. Like I said, it’s not early days, we’ve been around for almost 10 years in the US. Because I think service is good, it’s interesting that at this point, these numbers aren’t quite exact, but it’s somewhere in kind of the 65 to 70% range of new client sign ups coming to us from what I would call word of mouth. It’s not like we paid for that visitor to come to us. Word of mouth could mean they read something; one of our content marketing pieces, one of our blog posts or something, which obviously we spent money to produce, but it wasn’t kind of pay for that specific visitor. It’s either they’re reading something that we’ve written or truly word of mouth. We do ask, if you sign up for Textbroker, if you go to our self-service page, you’ll see we only ask three questions. What’s your email address? What’s your password? How did you hear about us? It’s funny in that box some people will be like Fred Smith told me to use Text Broker. We’ll get those kinds of referrals. We’ll people to say oh, my agency. A lot of agencies use us. We have direct clients and we have agency clients, but they’ll say oh yeah, my digital agency recommended you guys. The other interesting thing is, this is where we get the authors, there’s just been a huge amount of stuff written about us. Again, the longer you’re around hopefully if you do a good job and have a decent reputation, this happens. Granted we’re at a much more mature stage, but it’s like 65 to 70% is word of mouth. It’d say 20-something percent is Google Ad Words. Maybe in terms of numbers of clients, it’s a very small number that come through tradeshows, but hopefully they’re kind of the big ones. Then, we do have in most countries, a sales team. That sales team is handling both inbound inquiries, but they’re also doing outbound stuff to the most obvious targets. The biggest ecommerce companies are clearly targets for us. Big digital agencies are targets for us, big publishers. The earlier you are in a market obviously it takes a little while to get word of mouth or to even get to have published enough great content to start to get some value from that and from getting ranked highly on Google. We’ve actually been slow. I think what’s interesting about our business and I think this is different from a lot of businesses I’ve seen, I don’t know that this is great general advice, but sales people, it’s a tough thing to sell. About five years ago we launched something called manage service. We actually had a really big client who had used our platform and then they stopped. We reached out to them, said why did you stop, and they said well, this product runs great, but we don’t have the internal resources to do our own editing and to ask for revisions, and we really care about deadlines. If we order 500 things and 499 of them are done, that’s nothing, we need all 500 because we have a schedule and we’ve got to upload them onto our website. It was kind of an interesting moment for us. We said what if we could do all that for you? What if we could place your order? What if you never had to go to Text Broker and log in, we could place your orders, we could find the right authors, we could tell them what to do, we could ask for revisions if necessary, we could do editing and proofreading, and make sure it followed your style guide and meet your deadlines, and then at the end of the process we send you a spreadsheet or we send you an email with all of your orders totally done, publish ready. They were like oh yeah that would be fabulous. Obviously, they’re going to pay more for that than if they do self-service, but that’s what we now call managed service and that’s become a decent percentage of the business. I’d say in terms of finding new clients, the sales folks are more focused on those kinds of clients and more focused on selling the managed service. Your second question, I apologize, was? 

Raad Ahmed:
That's a lot of growth. 

Phillip Thune:
That's a lot of growth. It's less than two and a half years, actually, and we're now in our third office. We have a seven-and-a-half-year lease in this office, so if our building manager’s watching, don’t worry. We're going to be there for a while. Hopefully, we'll take over another floor at some point. Yeah, we've had over 4x the growth in the last two and a half years. 

Raad Ahmed:
A lot of marketplace startups the face issue of leakage. The demand-side going around your platform and using the supply side to avoid fees. How do you prevent that? I’m assuming the way you guys make money is by taking a transaction fee from the author’s earnings? 

Phillip Thune:
The way we make money is whether it’s managed service or self-service, clients pay us and then we in turn pay our authors by PayPal every Friday. We keep a percentage of what the—to be honest the majority of the money that a client pays us in terms of the writing goes to the writer, but yeah, we keep some of that. On leakage, that’s a great question. I think it really depends on what kind of service you’re selling. I think part of it actually depends on how much does the marketplace keep. I’ll take this to extremes, but if we kept 90% of the revenue and the author only got 10 the there’s huge incentive to go around us. If we keep a fairly low percentage, which we do, then what’s the point? Why would you go around us if we’re not sort of adding that much to the price or the client? I think the main reason that people don’t go around us—well actually, I think there’s a few. First, I said the founder did a bunch of smart things at the very beginning, that really helped. We’re ghostwriters so we actually don’t share the names or the contact information of the authors. Hopefully authors pick a nickname for themselves. If not, they show up as author 02579.3. The clients don’t know exactly the name and the location, and the email, phone number of the person they’re working with. They can communicate through our platform. You can send a message as a client to an author or as an author if you have a question you can send a message to the client and you’ll get an email that you have a message on the Text Broker platform, but you have to communicate through the Text Broker platform. That really helps with 99% of the issue. If you don’t know exactly how to contact somebody it’s going to be hard to go around us. I think part of the reason people, I believe, don’t really try very hard is like I said, we’re not adding that much cost to the process because we’re not taking that big a percentage to what the client is paying. If you are an author—it’s interesting, we have some authors who even though they know we take a cut, they use Text Broker as a way to kind of manage their clients. IN some cases they’ve gotten those clients through Text Broker, but in other cases, they might have a client and they’ll tell the client you know what if you want to work with me, why don’t you sign up for Text Broker, why don’t you create an account; here’s my nickname. Do an author search, find me, and send me your orders through Text Broker because we protect the authors and like I said, exam pay them every Friday and we have this four-day review period. If you think about the problems a typical freelance author faces, one is finding assignments. Well, we solve that problem because we always have hundreds if not thousands of them. Two is negotiating how much you’re going to get paid. Well, we kind of take care of that. We have set rates if it’s an open order. If you have a direct client, what we call a direct order, as an author you set your own price. Three, we take care of collecting the money and paying for those processing fees. Like I said, we pay you by PayPal every Friday for the orders that you’ve completed; either the client accepted or the client let four days go by. You know you’re getting paid every Friday. Again, we don’t charge you any processing fees, the PayPal processing fees. As an author, you’re protected in a lot of different ways. I mentioned before that if a client’s not happy with something that an author wrote, they can ask for revision. If they’re still not happy they can reject it and the author doesn’t get paid. Well, that happens so infrequently, I think the number is 0.02% of the time is there a rejection 2 out of every 1000. 

Raad Ahmed:
There’s probably a high vetting process you do to onboard authors to have that low of a rejection rate? 

Phillip Thune:
The platform works really well in that way. The other thing is authors really don’t want to get a rejection. If a client is not thrilled, they can’t reject it on the first submission, they have to ask for a revision. An author is really motivated to do that revision not only because they won’t get paid unless the client is happy, but they also don’t want it to show up as a rejection on their profile. They’re highly motivated there, but that being said, if they—because there are so few of them, we actually look at every single rejection and if we believe that the author did what the—sometimes a client will have a one-sentence set of instructions. Write me something about this latest news event, but they don’t talk about the tone or the style, or the resources they want the person to use. All they do is sort of say it has to be 400 words and it’s got to be about this. An author may do that and when it gets to the client, the client will be like oh, that’s not what I meant at all. Well, you can’t then kind of reject that or ask for a mater revision with a whole new set of instructions that you didn’t tell the author the first time around. I think authors feel like we’re in their corner and we kind of protect them to the extent that the client kind of asks for something and they deliver it, the client can’t then change their mind and say oh, I’ve changed my mind I’m not going to pay you. In that scenario, we’ll actually say to the client, hey client, sorry you have to pay the author or we’re going to have to pay the author on your behalf, you’re going to own this content even though it might not be exactly what you were thinking about. Because it happens so rarely there will be times where we’ll say to the client we’ll refund your money and we’ll say to the author we’ll pay you for this work just because it’s not maybe such a clear black and white line in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong. From an author’s perspective, I think we give them a lot of reasons to not go around. From a client’s perspective yeah, maybe if you’re just dealing with one author there’s some motivation maybe to go around us, but a lot of our clients like I said, are ordering in volume and that’s why they came to us in the first place. Trying to manage even 100 articles in a fairly short time period and dealing with individual freelancers, trying to keep it all straight on a spreadsheet or something, that’s just a nightmare and we’ve made that process really easy.
  
Raad Ahmed:
What does your morning routine look like when you’re ready to start the day? 

Phillip Thune:
I’m in somewhat of a constant loop of either being in Las Vegas where our big US office is, being in New York where I live, or being in Germany where our headquarters are. It looks different. The morning routine, a lot of times, I’m in a hotel, but it typically starts and my day becomes very long. The difference in hours between Germany and Las Vegas is nine hours. Most days start with me having calls with somebody on our German team. Again, if you’re a brand-new start up and everybody’s in the same office, you don’t have this issue, but with a company where you’ve got different offices and people focused on different things, I find the people that I need to work with on a direct basis, I have a weekly one-on-one call. That doesn’t mean I don’t talk to them the rest of the week, but I think it’s really important that, that’s a set time, it’s always the same time every week. They know they’ve got me and I know frankly, that I’ve got them to discuss kind of all the things that might be on our list. Then, obviously, as a management group, we’ll have kind of set things. I think that one-to-one is important so most morning I’m going to have at least one one-to-one with somebody in Germany. That’s typically how I start my day. Once I’ve done that, it’s funny, that gap of nine hours usually means I have a little bit of time before people are even getting into the Las Vegas office and I’ll one-to-ones with people there. In between, I’m kind of focused on emails or client contacts, or things that I’ve got to do. It may be an interesting way to start the morning, but yeah, the day starts kind of early and it typically starts with a phone call with somebody. 

Raad Ahmed:
Cool. What time in Las Vegas time does your day actually start? 

Phillip Thune:
If I’m in Las Vegas, because I don’t like to move those calls. If I’ve got a Thursday call with somebody when I’m in Las Vegas that means it’s a 5 AM. When I’m in New York it’s at 8 AM, or when I’m in Germany it’s going to be at 2 PM. It doesn’t matter where I am, I tend to keep the time the same for the person I’m talking to. My Las Vegas days start very early. My New York days start a little bit early, not too bad and then when I’m in Germany I actually tend to work—I’m always far and away the last person in the office because even at 10 o’clock at night, it’s not that late in Las Vegas.
 
Raad Ahmed:
What is one thing that you would recommend to all current and aspiring entrepreneurs that they can do right now to take their business to the next level?
 
Phillip Thune:
That is a tough question. I think I just mentioned in the last answer, which is that one-to-one. I would say even if you’re in a small office, even if you only have six people, I would assume at that point as a founder, the other five people all report directly to you. Maybe not, but I can’t imagine you have a very complicated management structure when you’re six people or even 10 people, or 20 people. I would say anybody certainly that reports to you or you’re responsible for, that might—I don’t know if that’s my best piece of advice, but that’s certainly important that you set aside, it can be—we’ll do this, it’s typically an hour. I set aside an hour for all these folks that I’m talking to one on one every week, but there’s time when somebody’s like hey, I don’t really have anything on my list, Philip, do you have anything on your list? No, not really. We just talked on something else yesterday and we’ll skip it. You want to have the time reserved and you’d be surprised how often you fill up that hour really quickly. That hour doesn’t necessarily need to be all about business or all about their department, there are times when that hour is spent—I’ve obviously got the broadest view of what’s going on at Text Broker than anybody in the company. One because I’m the CEO, but two because I’m the only one who’s constantly traveling and going to these various offices, and seeing these various things. There’s huge value for me to maybe spend some of that time, some of that hour kind of talking, let’s say it’s somebody who runs our client services team in Las Vegas. They’re basically doing the same job as the person who runs the client services team in Germany, but the two of them don’t really talk very often. I do try to encourage it, but 9-hour time difference, it’s hard. Even if I’m just saying hey, I was in Germany last week, this is what I’m seeing or this is a new initiative, have you been thinking about those or have you been seeing this problem? Even if it’s kind of personal, if you’re the founder of a company, especially if it’s smaller, part of the thing that makes—to be honest at that sort of size, as the founder, you are the culture, you do make the culture. I think, assuming you want the kind of culture that I’ve always thought makes sense, I hate the word family, companies are not a family, but these are people who you’re spending a lot of time with, especially when it’s an early-stage startup, you’re probably working long hours and really kind of under a fair amount of stress. Some of that hour can be just kind of personal like hey, what’s going on with your family, what’s going on in your personal life, what’s going on with the Knicks if you like basketball. I’m not sure that’s my best advice, but I think that’s a pretty powerful way as a founder, to make sure you’re in tune with what’s going on in the company, make sure people have access to you and I think it really helps build a culture.
 
Raad Ahmed:
That’s an awesome answer. I think sometimes founders sort of lose sight of that because they’re just so heads down into the business, but setting the tone for the culture and really getting to know your employees on a personal level while you can, I think is super important. I do one-on-ones with my team, as well. It’s just kind of like a breath of fresh air to just talk about something not business related, give them some sense of encouragement and just be there from a friend in a personal perspective as well as sort of like a business teammate, as well. This has been great. Super, super awesome advice. I think might even use your service, as well. Do you guys have a lot of legal writers on your platform, people that write legal stuff?

//QUOTED

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"Typically, whoever’s paying you the money is the side that's harder to get. Whoever is making money, it's a bit easier."

-Phillip Thune, CEO Textbroker

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"Not only sell your services, but convince potential customers that you know what you’re doing and convince existing customers that you’re innovating and that they should stick with you"

-Phillip Thune, CEO Textbroker

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// NEXT conversation 

August 8 2016 | NYC