Building is Half the Battle | JB Kellogg at Madwire

In part one of my conversation with JB Kellogg, the co-founder and co-CEO of Madwire, he talked about his all-in-one marketing and management software solution for small businesses.

In this second part of our conversation, JB tells the story of walking into a random company down the street from his college and getting his first web design job—despite that he knew nothing about web design—and he shares his thoughts on how to grow your business by growing the leaders.

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JB Kellogg is the Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Madwire®. He founded Madwire when he was 28 years old and helped grow the company to over 100MM+ in revenue and 500+ employees in under 10 years.

Madwire’s mission is to help small businesses grow by enabling SMBs and entrepreneurs to manage and grow their brand from a singular platform called Marketing 360®. At Madwire, JB enjoys being a part of building a championship team that pursues championship performances and making a difference everyday.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

JB Kellogg 0:00
Make sure that you take sales very seriously. You know, there’s a lot of businesses that think that you know, it’s like a Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come. And that’s actually not the case at all.

Alexander Ferguson 0:16
JB, I’m excited to continue our conversation now hearing a bit more about your story, your journey over the past 11 years. Where did it all begin? What was the beginning? That kind of led to where you are today?

JB Kellogg 0:31
Well, we started in 2009. And, you know, the years leading up to that, you know, I was playing college football, and I was very busy at that time. And that’s like, a full time job in college. And then when I finished my senior season playing, I had a lot of time on my hands, I didn’t have to practice anymore. I didn’t have to do all this stuff. So I said, you know, what I’m going to walk down about a block away from school was this magazine travel company nearby. And I just walked in there because I always had a passion for design and marketing, just in general, just even when I was younger, and I walked in said, hey, you know what, I’m pretty talented with design and sales, or whatever I got to do, you know, I’m willing to help out for free, I just want to learn. And they said, Well, we really don’t have any positions available. But we do need a website, do you know how to build a website and I said, I have no idea how to build a website, but you give me a desk and a computer and a couple months, and I’ll figure it out. And and so they did. They took a chance on me. And I learned how to build a website. And I built it like three or four times before I actually showed it to the owner there. And then they looked at it. And they’re like, this is the best website I’ve ever seen, you know. So then I realized that I had a talent that not a lot of people had at that time. And I saw the opportunity that businesses were shifting from really the traditional ways of marketing to digital, and saw that opportunity. So I talked to my dad about it, he had a futures and commodities brokerage firm that he had started himself and was very successful. And he thought it was a great idea to but at that point in time, it was mostly freelance, it wasn’t real companies doing, you know, digital marketing, those sorts of things. And so I started working with him. And we started testing these things. So we started doing Google ads, when it first came out, we started building technology, online trading platforms, all those things, we started leaning into digital and technology in general. And then around 2009, we both just, you know, could see that it was just such a huge opportunity, we just had to jump on it. And so we decided, hey, you know what, let’s do it. So we started in this small little office, we gave away all of our brokerage accounts of which we were very successful. So we took a big risk with that started in a small little office, and they’re just off to the races. From there, you know, we had our first lead come in, we turned our marketing had our first lead sold them, that’s actually still an account with us today. And we just like a snowball just grew from that point to where we are today, which is about we’re about 600 people and 20,000 accounts today.

Alexander Ferguson 2:44
That initial beginning, getting getting started sounds like you were self funded, or you have this successful business with your family, your father, and then being able to get started getting that first customer is there any words of wisdom or tactics that you’ve had used to get that first customer and get that beginning started, that another person can learn from?

JB Kellogg 3:04
I would say like make sure that you take sales very seriously, you know, there’s a lot of businesses that think that, you know, it’s like the Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. And that’s actually not the case at all, you have to build it and then go hunt them. So you have to have a salesperson, if it’s not you. And you have to lean into that. Luckily, we had an experience through the brokerage industry and just realize that sales was so powerful and so important and customer experience was so valuable, you have to build raving fans, and you have to really invest in that. And so I would say start there, and then do your marketing. So we had marketing budget set aside, it was only $1,000 A month initially, as all it was, you know, today we’re spending, you know, five $600,000 a month on marketing. And so we started with just 1000 bucks, that’s only $30 A day was our budget, and we built all our marketing campaigns built our website out and we turned it on, we went to work out for an hour, we came back, we already had a lead, we call the lead right away, and just continue following up until they open their account. And so you have to just attack your business with a mindset of it’s not going to be easy. But if you believe in your product or service, then it’s your duty to sell it to somebody. So put some effort behind sales,

Alexander Ferguson 4:17
the power of sales, that’s what leads to the growth to then manage that growth. You have a good team, can you tell share anything about what is it been like to grow a team now to 600 people? What does it take?

JB Kellogg 4:30
It takes great leaders. You know, I think you know, what we always say here is championship leaders build championship teams that drive championship performance, and championship leaders. Their responsibility really is the mission, the vision, the strategy of how to get there, the goals and the milestones you need to achieve along the way. And then the personnel and the personnel makeup that championship team and a championship team is two things. It’s its culture and execution. So you have to just focus on the culture of the team and the execution of the team that’s needed to drive, you know, championship performance. So if you can just take care of building a championship team, the championship performance piece at the end, that just takes care of itself. And so the key is great leaders. And as you’re building your organization, you have to keep your eye out all the time for really that next leader, because as you grow your organization, there comes a point where you can’t lead everybody effectively anymore. So you have to be able to duplicate yourself with somebody that is as good or better as you scale. So that you can maintain quality and performance and culture and execution and all those things. So always be looking for that next person that’s going to take over the leadership of that next thing or that next department, so that they can then grow the team underneath them. And if you can be successful at that you stay pretty consistent grow pretty effectively.

Alexander Ferguson 5:49
What was the first few hires that you made?

JB Kellogg 5:52
First few hires, the first the very first hire was a designer Naam. At that point in time I was doing, you know, that piece of the of the project myself. And so that was one piece, I really was realizing was time consuming. And I could focus my efforts on other areas that were really important. So we found a good designer brought them in, they were also a developer, they could do both. So we brought them in, um, that was the first hire. But after that we just hired based on you know, the the things that I was doing at first, I wear all the hats, the things I was doing that I needed to probably offload so I could focus on the next thing, we would bring that person in, and we just kind of scaled up from there.

Alexander Ferguson 6:28
When you’re looking for leaders than to lead a division or a section, are you naturally already thinking I’m gonna hire this person? Oh, they could potentially grow into that? Or do you hire them leaders externally to to come in? What’s your your mindset?

JB Kellogg 6:41
Almost all of our leaders have come from within. And so we don’t necessarily have them pegged as the leader, when we bring them on board. What we want to do is bring people on board and let the cream rise to the top and you’re going to identify those leaders, they’re just going to naturally become the leader, they should be the leader before their leader, you know, it should be a no brainer when they are moved into that role. Everybody on the team like Yeah, I mean, why did we wait so long? You know, that’s how it should be. And so you just need to keep your eye out for those people and just kind of let them rise to the top.

Alexander Ferguson 7:14
That initial beginning, he said, to get the first couple customers and clients it was just dogged determination, just do it sales and reach out and get it scaling now going from you know, first couple 10 or 100 men to hundreds 1000s. Now 10s of 1000s. What does it take some tact? Can you share a tactic that you use to to really scale then and get to where you are today?

JB Kellogg 7:38
Well, I mean, you have to process and prove all the time, I think that’s the key because what worked with 10 people didn’t work with 50. And what worked with 50 Didn’t work with 100. And what work with 100 isn’t working today with 600. So you’re constantly innovating and evolving your processes, you have to be willing to change. And so you have to build a culture that embraces change, and you have to be willing to change. And by doing that, you’re actually not afraid to take risks. Because if it doesn’t work, you just change again, right, just keep changing you. I call it pivoting, you’re just constantly pivoting. And so don’t be afraid of pivoting, then so have good processes, solid processes that are documented that your team understands, it’s very clear, but then be willing to change them, you know, all the time. And if you’re continually changing and improving your processes, and you can continually adjust as your company scales and as it grows.

Alexander Ferguson 8:28
This past in 2020 has been an interesting year, how’s it affected you guys, both internally and externally as far as how you communicate and the way you do business?

JB Kellogg 8:38
Yeah, it’s been very challenging as far as how we communicate and do business that’s even become more digital, essentially. I mean, our organization was all on site. So we had, you know, 500 plus people coming on site every day. And then COVID happened. And we were a pretty early adopter of just allowing everybody to work from home. And so we started doing that, thankfully, our industry and were able to do that. And also, thankfully, we actually moved to the XOOM phone systems literally about two months before COVID happened. So we just leaned into it said, hey, you know what, we’re gonna keep doing all our same meetings, same schedule, same everything. And we’re just going to do it all on Zoom. You have to be on camera, though. So we bought everybody a camera to make sure everybody was on camera, because you need to have that human interaction. Still, that’s really important. And we actually started increasing our meeting volume, but making them short. So we call them micro meetings. So having multiple micro meetings a day with your team keeps them feeling like they’re still connected to the team, even though they’re not sitting right there with each other, I think is key by doing a meeting only like once a week or every couple of days, you start to lose that. So for example, you could do three meetings a day one in the morning. Here’s the goals for today. How’s everybody doing? What questions you have a mid day meeting, which is like a halftime update. Here’s where we’re at for the day. Here’s our pacing, any questions, maybe a small training on a new thing that you’re rolling out and then an end of day recap. Okay, days over. Here’s how we did any questions. How you guys feeling? You know, just by doing those quick five minute or less meetings, it really keeps that connectivity of the team. And so that’s what we’ve been doing.

Alexander Ferguson 10:08
That’s powerful to have those micro meetings keeping that visual face to face happening. So you keep that connection? Are is that a company wide? Is that division? How do you break those, those regular meetings?

JB Kellogg 10:22
Division mostly. So as far as company wide, we do one meeting a week, company wide, we call it our all hands meeting. We do it every Friday. And actually, what we call it internally is the Friday tag up. So every Friday, we have the Friday tag up, it’s at 7:15am our time, and it’s usually done within 15 or 20 minutes. And so we do this meeting on Zoom. So everybody in the company is on Zoom. And we will cover you know, just company updates. We believe that, you know, clarity plus transparency equals prosperity. So you need to be clear on where we’re going, what the vision is where we’re at, you need to be transparent, and how we’re doing. And if you do those two things, then it’s usually a prosperous outcome. And so we try to be very clear and transparent every single week on those things. We’ll also talk about client feedback, show positive reviews, do quick highlights on the new features on the platform and that kind of thing. So that we’re all on the same page as a whole.

Alexander Ferguson 11:18
Moving forward in the next a year and going into the future, what challenges do you see you’re going to need to overcome to move forward there is more internal or even external reaching out to your customers and clients.

JB Kellogg 11:32
The big challenges right now is just, you know, continually leaning into platform adoption. So the challenges is, you know, how do we properly make the platform, you know, very valuable to these small businesses, but easy to understand, it’s hard to have a platform that is complex in terms of its functionality, but yet easy to understand. And so that’s a challenge within the technology of just making it so easy, my grandma could do it, but so powerful, any business could use it kind of a thing. And so that’s what we’ve been really working on. And so we’re actually just constantly training our own team, because I think it starts there, their knowledge and their confidence has to be absolutely full every day. And if that’s the case, they can pass that down to the customer. So that’s really where we’re starting, is leveling up our team’s knowledge, because it’s still a new platform. And many, you know, it’s only been live for not even a year. So a lot of our team is even still learning the functionality. So we’re starting there. And then we’re going to just continue to find ways to level up our clients knowledge base and get them using the platform more

Alexander Ferguson 12:31
for you. How have you grown and learn and innovate what books or audiobooks or podcasts have you found of helpful or insightful to grow?

JB Kellogg 12:42
For me, personally, I commute about 20 minutes to and from work is about how far away I live. And so I still come into the office, I just enjoy that. And so what I do during that time period is just stream content. And my number one way of doing that is actually just YouTube. So when I’m on YouTube, you know, the feed, the algorithm starts to know what you like. So it’ll be showing me marketing, you know, videos, sales, videos, leadership videos, things like that. And I’ll kind of go through that once or twice a week and just add a bunch of videos to my watch later list. And then when I’m driving to and from work, I’m just streaming that. So it’s just playing through all the videos that caught my eye that I thought would be good and good content to consume. And I just do that to and from work every day. So it’s about 40 minutes of content that I’m consuming across all different types of topics. And I’ve I’ve just found that’s most effective for me, I don’t have the patience to sit through a really long audio book anymore. And I actually prefer content that’s like in the 10 to 20 minute or less range, for me is better across a variety of different topics. So that’s my process.

Alexander Ferguson 13:46
Interesting. I’ve never heard someone using YouTube that way in their commute to listen to it. It’s creating the algorithm just plays it for you auto plays. Yes. Cool. Yeah. How, if you had to share kind of your how you’ve changed the leader over the last 11 years, you probably weren’t the same leader, when you started, as you are today is 600 people later. What did it take to change as a leader? And do you think that there’s anything you can share to someone else to realize that they can’t be the same person that they were, if they truly want to grow?

JB Kellogg 14:21
Yeah, I think it’s John Maxwell that says the law of the lid is the organization can only go as high as the leader taps that at. And so the only way to continue to grow is to move that lid up. And you as a leader have to continually be doing things to increase your lid move at higher. And that’s through things like we just talked about, you know, consuming that content, continuously learning, self development, and also just really just listening to your team. I think you need to listen to your team for feedback and from your customers and you need to take action on that. And they’ll tell you, they’ll tell you where you need to improve whether it’s you personally or as an organization and if you’re taking on those things, you don’t necessarily need to go out and find areas to improve, you just need to listen to it and actually do it, you know, and if you just continually do that you’ll continually improve. And it’s just like anything through experience, you know, you just get better. So over the course of 11 years, you know, new levels bring new devils. And as you’re growing up, there’s new problems to overcome. And as you overcome those, you sort of mastered that level, and then you move up to the next one. So, you know, it’s like, when you start a video game, the easy level is, is really easy. And then you get good, and you move up here, and you get kind of beat up, and then you get good enough to go here. And it’s sort of the same thing in business. And so I’d say, just don’t get discouraged. You know, like problems, you’re in your role for a reason. It’s because you’re a problem solver. And so stop being upset that there’s problems to solve. That’s why you’re there, you know, figure out how to solve them and move forward. And I think if you do that, you just naturally get better.

Alexander Ferguson 15:55
You’re a problem solver. Don’t be afraid, when there’s problems that arise. I love that. You I also like the the imagery, Jack, John Maxwell, the law of the lid, I mentioned. Your yourself, yes, but even the leaders that you have within your organization, they also can prevent growth. What do you look for, in a good leader, when you’re when you’re saying, oh, we need a new leader here? What are like two or three things that you look for in those team members to say this will be a good leader?

JB Kellogg 16:22
Usually somebody that has a positive mindset positive mindsets, create positive outcomes, and negative mindsets create negative outcomes. And so you can give a positive mindset person and a negative mindset person, the same problem to solve and the positive person will be innovative, they’ll find new ways, they won’t take no for an answer. They’ll continue figuring out how to do it, and they’ll do it and they’ll solve it faster. A negative mindset person will complain it about the whole time, they’ll tell others how frustrating it is they’ll take three times longer, and they won’t fully solve it quite right. And so we look for positive minded people that you know, really radiate positivity of those around them, that does not mean that they’re Yes, men or women, it means that they’re positive minded in terms of they are still creative thinkers, and they’re willing to speak up if they think that their way is a better way. But they ultimately believe in the brand and the organization and that there is a solution. And if we work together, we can find it as opposed to being negative minded. That’s really who we would look for

Alexander Ferguson 17:26
positive mindsets, makes a difference. Last question I have here for you. What kind of technology innovations do you predict we’ll see in the near term, the next year or so. And the long term 510 years from now?

JB Kellogg 17:42
Well, I can really only speak to our space, because that’s where where I’m most invested in terms of my time. And I would say in our space, in particular, you’re just going to continually see a trend towards a singular platform. There’s a lot of point solutions today for various things. There’s point solutions for payments, for email for E commerce, etc. And so really, there’s going to be this move towards a singular platform from a singular log, and you can do everything you need to do. And that’s really where we’re trying to go, you know, with marketing 360. And I also see a continual push on automation, particularly in things like ads. So you know, you’re seeing some of that now. But essentially, in the future, you’ll be able to put your campaign ideas into the system, upload your branding collateral and hit go. And it will be able to understand who to show your messaging to where to show it to them what time to show it to them, so that you get the positive return that you’re looking for. There won’t be so much background scenes Ad Management pulling levers in the background, you’ll still need the strategic thought because you’ll never replace the creativity of the human mind. But you will be able to replace the manual labor piece of doing a lot of the work in the background seeing so it’s actually should be exciting for people in the marketing space. Because a lot of that work isn’t necessarily the fun part of the job. Fun part of the job is actually thinking about the campaigns thinking about the strategies that will still exist, but the execution of it will be more automated. I think that’s where it’s going.

Alexander Ferguson 19:10
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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