Interview with Steve Maynard, President, Virtual Meeting Advisors

In Episode 1, Steve Maynard, president of Virtual Meeting Advisors ( walks us through the evolution of leaving his corporate job to start his own company that helps businesses find affordable audio conferencing and technology solutions.

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Transcription of Podcast

Intro: It’s nice to believe that you’re actually going to make a you know a lot of money right off the bat but it takes a bit of time to get going and the industry I’m in is a bit of a different model but you live lean for a little bit of time and it definitely pays off

Announcer: Welcome to the mad prophet podcast where we interview active investors, entrepreneurs and experts who left corporate jobs to buy or start successful ventures and live life on their own terms listen to their stories learn from their experiences and heed their advice so you too can create mad profits and the life you’ve always wanted…and now here’s your host Laurent Truc

Laurent: Welcome to our first episode or inaugural episode and I’m really excited to have one of my good friends with me as our guinea pig Steve Maynard from Virtual Meeting Advisors. Steve how are you today

Steve: Pretty Good thanks, Laurent

Laurent: Awesome. Thanks for joining us. I really appreciate you taking the time and taking the risk.

Steve: You got to start somewhere right so let’s give it a run

Laurent: So Steven I have known each other for what’s been like 15 years now.

Steve: It’s been quite a while yeah.

Laurent: We worked together for some time and then Steve went on to greener pastures so Steve why don’t I have you give a brief introduction of yourself to our listeners so we can kick this off okay

Steve: So, Steve Maynard I am the president of Virtual Meeting Advisors which is a telephone solutions and conferencing services company companies a little over 10 years old. Basically we started off in the conferencing space so tools such as zoom WebEx GoToMeeting, Adobe those are all tools that we provide as well as telephone conferencing and then in addition a number of years ago we got into the voice over IP space. So setting up phone systems for small to medium businesses with the whole goal of our organization is to actually have multiple backends and the advantage of that is then we can really sit down with our clients understand what their needs are and make sure they’re using the correct solution and because we can provide multiple solutions it really eliminates that square peg round hole problem comes up occasionally and the client has to get the right application for their needs

Laurent: Got it, very good. So tell me a little bit about because when we started we were both in corporate well I left us what we started but when we got together we first met each other so your journey has taken you from that to this new world of entrepreneurship so I can talk a little bit about how you decided to leave corporate and why getting into this field and what was that whole transition like for you.

Steve: The biggest catalyst was actually when I finished working with you I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore in the corporate world (Laugh). I couldn’t resist. No I mean really right so you and I had a great relationship both working at personal the big scenario for myself was I left school I’ve always sort of had an entrepreneurial spirit I created a company when there’s a king called Steve snow shoveling and hired friends I mean different process they just literally shoveling snow it was you know two people essentially made it faster than you bought product inventory to be able to make it even faster so a little spins like that when you sort of finish school you have this great idea that you want to work for the big sexy companies.

And I must say I did and it was pretty fun but I learned very quickly things tend to be slow so the nice part was is I actually had got some good names on my resume but then eventually I got into a small business that was right in the conferencing space. Some roles I’d had were in internal investigations, audits, some purchasing experience but someone told me Steve you’re just really good with people you’re really honest person you should probably look to get into sales and that was back when I was at Nortel and when I did it was just crazy because there was a lot of money to be made in addition it was nice because you had essentially the big group so I went and did a number of things but essentially started getting to more of a sell side and when I started into the small world small medium business I just a lot of fun so I was at a startup that was in the conferencing space worked very well and was there for five years.

I honed my craft, did well for myself and then after that that’s when you and I met at the next large space. But going through all that and and after you go to a large company when you’ve been on sort of in the smaller space you really learn the catalyst for changes and they’re as fast and you know there’s nothing like walking into someone’s office and saying hey I think we need to do this and it’s done a week later right and then there’s nothing becomes even better when you walk into someone’s office but really it’s your own and you can turn I think this is really good yeah good idea.

I’ve had two of my own businesses one with partners and this one on my own. And yeah it’s it creates a different lifestyle.

Laurent: yeah, so the talk to a lot of entrepreneurs and that jump of going from the security net which isn’t really there of being a big corporate world to jumping into a start-up and they can petrify people to the point where they know they want to leave they need to leave the big business but they’re really afraid of jumping into that small and being fully responsible type of business so what was your mental state like when you decided I’m gonna go do this on my own. I forget the job, forget the steady paycheck was it a big risk for you? Walk me through a little bit about that component of making that switch

Steve: Interesting so a great question and I think I’ll be different than some so I find network a lot I work with a lot of other entrepreneurs we talk a lot I think there are people that are good at certain things and you have to do what you exceed act to be able to be successful as an entrepreneur and then you have to surround yourself with either other people or processes to complement what you’re lacking we’ll say entrepreneurs tend to have a pretty strong opinion of themselves mostly so it helps to have that confidence my world was a little different because when I made the jump to become an entrepreneur I’d already been involved in the sales aspect on the corporate side. Being in sales, there’s always a little bit of inherent risk with your role because you have to perform to able to get paid the necessary enough in general so for me it was really great that I could make that jump and feel confident my ability to do what I did so there were two components of that:

So first if I had made the jump the first time I wanted to do it I’d be fully retired as of 10 years ago really yeah there was there were some scenarios there I’m not guaranteed but something went very well and I was in a position to do it and I with I passed on that basic was the best way to say and everyone’s got a story like that however the the next few I set myself up in a few ways first of all I had the ability to have a spouse who had a steady income so that was great that’s the other side of it is is that I’d already had risk portfolio with sales I did well where I was and that made it a lot easier for me to have a safety net behind me to go on and do these and the last thing I did is particularly with VMA when I started it I started it will call it passively but part-time so I recognized the need to have some additional income and I did some consulting for some companies in a sales and account management capacity to be able to augment my income until VMA got up to up to speed.

But my business is a little different than a lot of others. We don’t have a product or that that’s a physical good so you don’t have some of the risks of physical inventory and things like that tends to be a little less risky from that side so it was about time and service were you did you know the level of run rate you wanted to have before you could stop doing the consulting and stop doing the corporate gig and say okay this is okay so walk you through that did you go through and say okay this is what I did budget budgeted in my life this is what I need to be able to sustain myself let me get to that as a recurring part-time revenue and then I’ll jump in like how did that work out so yes I think an interesting thing is I’m always I’ve always been numbers so my backgrounds in mathematical background and I was very diligent even in the corporate world and understanding my ratios and things that I need to do to accomplish certain goals who I understood right off the bat that I could generate a certain amount of revenue for myself to be able to be sustainable and then there were other catalysts basically that came in so I got to there at a certain point.

The other thing to do is is you know it’s nice to believe that you’re actually going to make a you know a lot of money right off the bat but it takes a bit of time to get going and the industry I’m in is a bit of a different model but you live lean for a little bit of time and it definitely pays off okay

Laurent: So what did those first 90 days look like? So you leave your job you got your shingle up. I guess you transitioned into doing some consulting? Was there any times of concern in those first 90 days or those first six months where you were feeling like I’ve got a trajectory I’m good pretty good overall, I’m feeling great about it.

Steve: Again I’m in a different mode than I think a lot of people are when you don’t have the risk of having inventory and and and though I ran it from Home Office to start so all these little things made a lot easier and I knew the process it was a product and service I was familiar with so definitely made it a lot easier now you know anyone that says that they were 100 percent confident they are truly probably lying. There’s always the things in the back of your mind that says what if…what if and sometimes those will cost sleepless nights but in general you’re pretty good now myself I just made sure that if there was a what if what was my you know to redundancy plans away from that so as entrepreneurs come in you really want to make sure that you accept that there is a risk you’re not doing something that’s you know gonna be excellent they estimate that a high percentage of businesses fail within the first year. I don’t wanna quote the percentage because I don’t remember it off-hand but I know it’s pretty high.

Laurent: It changes depending on who you talk to

Steve: Yeah Exactly. Obviously its 95%. The number that’s in my head if over 50% but I want to be careful about that.
Laurent: So advice to entrepreneurs that are about to take the plunge. I think many do take the plunge when they feel that they have a background in something or a passion in something. You talked about having a kind of budget already in mind of what you need revenue wise, looking at doing some consulting or other ways of bringing an income knowing that it takes a lot longer than you expect to get things off the ground any other advice for those really early stages those first kind of six months to a year that people should be focused on

Steve: There’s two components to me one is you believe you’ve got a good idea but does anyone else right and that’s a slippery slope I believe in having a mentor or a business coach or someone you can go and bounce ideas off of because you know my experience was a little different my goals were a little different my goals were I’d made a bit of money or previously so now I want to invest more time with my family and have a lot of flexibility so I wasn’t about making a billion dollars right off the bat it was about you know enjoying myself and being around when my family was was there so you’ve got an idea on what you want to do you know not bad to talk to someone say hey what’s this because I don’t want them to really talk you out of that but not everyone is built to be an entrepreneur and A there might be things that either a you’re thinking of or B processes that you’ll have to put in place they you might not excel at. I have my own that a you know I’ve recognized and I surround myself with people or things that help me to allow me to do what I’m really good at. So the biggest piece of advice I have is sort of on the same edges is one that mentor and business coach if possible and people develops ideas off of and people that believe in you and maybe people who are a little skeptical because it’s not bad to hear some of the negative because hopefully the negative doesn’t talk you fully out of it you hear that you don’t want to stop doing what you’re doing but you really have to be careful if it’s just forgive me but a bad idea it’s not gonna work for one reason or another.

There’s a bunch of jokes out there about pumpkins you know buying pumpkins and trying to sell them and you know mid-november that’s when you think they’re gonna peak you know, that would be a really bad idea. Talk someone out of that.

Laurent: That’s great point, cause I actually think it’s hard to get people to give you advice correctly I’ve talked to a lot of people about ideas I’ve had entrepreneurship and either the people that are close to me and they don’t want to hurt my feelings so like oh great idea that’s wonderful fantastic but no real adcvice behind it or it’s you’re completely crazy and I think finding somebody that you can trust and that’ll give you the goods and then support you that if they say yeah this is a great idea but here are the things you may face and here’s my advice I think this is important you don’t want to get squashed but you also don’t want a whole bunch of yes people telling yeah go for it go for it. At the end of the day, it’s your money, your family, your life. You can be put in a very difficult position

Steve: Yeah and you’ve actually addressed something there is that how do you find that person that’s going to be being and the yin and yang give you both the sides of it right and a great one obviously as if there’s anyone in the industry that you know, and if not find someone you know that could help you because entrepreneurs are a bit of a different breed but they do you like to talk about themselves right so if they have success you know asking someone for help it can work well doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be open to it but if you have the right plan you speak to the right people you’re gonna find it some of the mistakes that they made hopefully and how to avoid them right and that’s actually and maybe they’ll turn around I know there’s been a few things I’ve talked to where people just look to say wrong time I wouldn’t do this now, you know and in truth a few of those things I’ve actually made work but it based on my balance and a few other things happening.

Laurent: Would have done anything differently from the way you left and launched your business to where you are today? Anything you would have completely done in another way?

Steve: I did mention earlier in the conversation the one opportunity I like in a way that would have been done differently. In addition there’s a few things I would have done differently. I was pretty happy with the way I ran things I think actually I would have slid away from my consulting endeavor a little sooner I think it was fine but it just created having that safety net was nice and it allowed me to relax a little bit and when we took that away it forced me to be a little more diligent that’s really what ended up growing the business a lot faster.

Laurent: awesome awesome well you provided a ton of advice already through how this conversation any other kind of last point of advice that you would give someone who’s thinking about making the jump not really sure if they have the confidence or not to take that next step or to not take that next step? like you said it’s not for everyone any other voice

Steve: Yeah a great what I look at is set yourself up right so in this day and age with everyone wants everything now it’s great so if you’ve been living well that’s great and I’m happy for you or maybe you’re you’re making it do but be prepared that there’s going to be so many times ahead unless you were really lucky out immediately and it’s a lot of luck and skill to be able make it happen really quickly but your diligent and you work hard set yourself up so that you can complain for to run for a period of time I’m a big fan of the reoccurring revenue model so that’s where I convinced something someone to use something and then they just keep paying us for it right so some people say that’s a product side I’m a little more on the service you can do that I think it’s great and it gives you the ability to scale. And don’t be afraid to calculate what happens if things go poorly. You know really run the numbers and look at it in that way you’ve got an idea and when you can take your risk. And it doesn’t mean that you want to jump ship but you just want to be prepared that you know sort of some some hard numbers that if you choose to keep going this is what its gonna mean to you because even when things get tough things will get tough you can turn and make it better and then you sort of you’ve hit the other side and

Last thing I know it’s hard to start a business don’t miss the forest for the trees you know smell the roses all the purpley you want to do smell the roses along the way enjoy yourself take pride in what you’re doing you know it’s something fantastic that most people can’t do and if you set yourself up right you’re gonna be in a good spot

Laurent: awesome Steve thank you thank. you so much I think we should cut it off here this has been a wonderful insightful conversation and I’m excited about putting this as the very first episode for podcast so thanks a lot for being here really appreciate it and you know look forward to having you back on and maybe a few months or a few years to get a summary of how things are going and maybe some more advice for our listeners

Steve: yeah do this don’t do that oh my gosh I can’t believe how much I’ve swung in this one and hopefully next time we’re talking you’re like doing this on a plane or something

Laurent: exactly, that would be nice thanks on Steve talk soon

Outro: Thank you for joining us on this episode of the mad prophet podcast we hope you enjoyed the show don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes Google Play or the listening platform of your choice also check us out at Maddox capital comm for more useful information and resources to help you achieve your investing entrepreneurial and business goals see you next week on the mad profit podcast.

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