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How do you build a great company that a lot of people want to buy? Paul and Rich join Chris and Gina to discuss their Postlight journey, the process behind NTT DATA’s acquisition of the company, and how to date interested buyers when looking to sell your agency.

Transcript

Paul Ford You and I founded this company in the year 1445. I was a humble cloth merchant. What were you doing?

Rich Ziade Churning butter. I was selling blocks of butter. [Everyone laughs.] I keep being like, no! Jefferson drones! 

PF Ah that was so good.

PF Hey Rich.

RZ Hey Paul.

PF Time to do a podcast. You ready?

RZ Always Paul.

PF Ah well, we’ve been talking about product strategy. We’ve been talking about the news. Talking about Postlight.

RZ Don’t get Misty on me, Paul.

PF No, no. What do you think we should talk about today?

RZ I think we should talk about Postlight and where Postlight is going.

PF That’ll be a big change. [Rich laughs.] All right.

RZ Before we do that, let’s just remind people they can email us at hello@postlight.com for world class digital—

[1:01]

PF Product strategy.

RZ All right.

PF So Rich, we started Postlight in the year 1445. I was a humble cloth merchant. What were you doing?

RZ Um, I was importing silk.

PF Oh, that’s good. No wonder we met and got along doing the—

RZ There was a synergy there.

PF And then a couple years ago, after 700 years of running the company, you and I stepped back and two people took over: Gina Trapani as CEO and Chris LoSacco as president. Do you remember that?

RZ I do. I do. Absolutely.

PF And you know, we’re not the right people to even talk about this part. And then something really wacky happened. By which I am talking about speech-based interfaces using Alexa. No, by which I am talking about the title I always wanted to give the blog post when Postlight was eventually acquired. Do you know what it was? 

RZ No. 

PF Our credible journey. Because everybody’s always like, oh my God, it’s the most wild thing that ever happened and we can’t believe it. And here we are. And we sold the company to NTT DATA.

[2:04]

RZ Yeah. Yeah. We did. A really, really nice home for Postlight. We’ll get into the why and the journey to get there. But we are joined today by Postlight’s CEO and president Gina Trapani and Chris LoSacco.

Chris LoSacco We’re here. We’re here. 

Gina Trapani We’re here. We’re here. CL We’re here. [Someone makes a horn noise.]

RZ We should state the obvious. I mean, Paul and I have been quietly sort of fading into the background on the podcast. Like we never really formally said anything, but there’s been less of us and more of others. The spirit of the podcast and the signal it sends out is the same, but it’s been less of us. And we’re back here today, I guess, in some ways to sort of talk about the journey and this new phase for Postlight and we have to say it out loud. I can feel the sobbing around the world as I say these words. Paul and I will not be hosting the Postlight anymore.

[3:00]

PF Wait, what?

RZ Yeah. The gasps. The gasps. 

PF Omg oh, no. 

RZ Like in a park in Barcelona, somebody gasped. I’m gonna go ahead and draw that out in of my brain.

PF 50 pigeons just took off from a bench, right?

RZ Yeah, exactly. [Laughs.] Exactly. But here we are. And you know, people asked why a lot.

PF Why we did the podcast, why we were in the business.

RZ Why, why’d you sell? My mother was upset that Postlight got acquired. She didn’t see it as this nice positive celebratory moment.

GT Your mother was upset. She texted you and said, what’s wrong? Is that true?

RZ She said, yeah. Yeah. You haven’t heard about this yet. I pasted her the press release. She didn’t understand the press release. And she’s like, what is this? This is very upsetting. Do you still have a job? Was essentially the sequence of how it broke down. [Gina laughs.]

CL Amazing.

RZ But it’s true. A lot of people said, why’d you do that? And I think that’s what this conversation in some ways is about. And I think we should go around the room and ask each person why they did that. But before we do that, I want to say something else. Without Chris and Gina, this journey would not have happened. This outcome would not have happened. It’s worth saying that out loud because the truth is when you look back, it all looks obvious, but none of it is obvious. And if you really saw how it all happened, it truly, truly isn’t obvious. So you have to navigate it all. But you also have to acknowledge that this was not some blueprint we executed on, but actually a very delicate transition that went smoothly and then culminated in yet another even bigger transition. And it wouldn’t have happened without the people on this podcast today. For sure.

[4:41]

PF Completely true. All right. So we have to go around the room and introduce ourselves.

RZ No, we have to say why. You’re doing great? Why would you sell? People asked that inside Postlight. People asked outside Postlight. Why would you, why would you sell your company? Let me get the bullshit out of the way moment for Rich. One more let me get the outta the way moment for Rich on the last podcast I’m on. When you sell a company, you make money.

PF Hmm. 

GT Oh, okay.

[5:06]

RZ It’s weirdly unspoken, but you get money for your company. It’s okay to say that. It’s okay. It’s okay to say that. Everyone knows it. It’s an unspoken thing.

PF You can say it in a podcast. You can’t say it on Twitter, but you can say it in a podcast.

RZ That’s a safe space, a podcast, isn’t it? But is that the primary reason? No. I’ll go last, actually. I have my own thinking about why we would do this, but I’ll go last. Chris, why’d you sell the company?

[5:39]

CL I mean, this is an easy answer for me. We’ve talked so much about it. The answer is growth. We wanted to enable more growth for this amazing thing that we’ve built. You know, sometimes companies get acquired and it’s a fire sale because you can’t make payroll or because— 

RZ They’re in trouble. 

CL There’s trouble. We’re in dire straits. We’ve got to find a good home for this thing before we don’t have a choice. This was not that. We were doing great. We had an amazing year in 21 going into 22, but we wanted to turbocharge the thing. Wsaw the trajectory that it was on and we wanted the stability and the investment that we could get from a much larger backing. And we found it in NTT DATA and they’ve been an amazing partner. It’s early days still, but we’ve been so thrilled with the support and the backing that they’ve given us already. But that’s my answer is enabling more growth.

[6:35]

RZ Okay. Gina?

GT I got ambitions. I wanted to have more impact on the world. Postlight is a special thing and we were operating at New York City scale and I found myself running the company. I love running the company, incredible team, incredible clients. But I found myself frustrated that we couldn’t grow faster and in a way that was sustainable as well. So when we talked to NTT DATA this is a top-tier firm that operates on a global scale. It felt like an opportunity to have bigger impact and to get more, better software out to the world. There’s so much crappy software in the world. And this is an opportunity to lessen that. Partnering with NTT DATA behind us as part of the family and the sibling companies that we now have. It was my raw ambition, Rich. That’s the true answer. [Laughs.]

[7:23]

RZ That’s a fair answer. I love this. So far we checked off money and ambition. I’m liking the vibe of this podcast so far. Paul, you want to talk about power?

PF Pure naked power. That’s right. That’s right. No, look, there’s a book by Rick Webb who founded a company called the Barbarian Group. It’s called Agency, which is, you know, it’s about running agencies. And I read it when we started Postlight. Because when we started Postlight I was perhaps a little less seasoned as an entrepreneur. And I was like, oh, okay, we’ll build a cool meeting place and it’ll have a good culture. And we’ll kind of figure it out from there. And Rick, there’s a part of the book where he is just sort of like your agency will grow and it needs to grow. It cannot stop growing because if you don’t keep growing, you will create an enormous amount of risk. You’ll hire people. And then if you don’t have more work for them to do, you will have to let them go because you won’t have enough work. A client will leave. Things will happen. This is the nature of this business. And the other part of the nature of the business is that agencies get acquired. Firms like this get acquired because the next phase of growth is for—and for Postlight, you know, to Gina’s point, the next phase of growth was tough. It was setting up an office in another country and it was finding the right people to staff that office and then figuring out the HR systems in that office. And then doing that multiple times and finding bigger clients and figuring out what are we going to do about Salesforce and WordPress and Sitecore and ERP systems. And like that is destiny for services firm like ours, getting closer to giant platforms, growing, and you start to lose some control, no matter what you do. And this was a way that, and the way it worked out, right, everyone was going to have real stability on the other side of this, that’s what became very important to me. You’d have stability, you’d land on the other side of this deal, people would get to know this company, and this is a very calm, large, rational actor. It’s a Japanese firm. They have sort of long timeframes. They’re not necessarily focused quarterly as much as they are on like a five-year cycle. And so I saw why do it? First of all, people have been trying to buy Postlight kind of from the second day we were started. At this point with that kind of growth in front of us, a big org like that could do two things. It could bring that growth. It could bring lots of places for people’s ambitions to grow in a way that would be so much less painful than if we tried to do it ourselves. Second, it could bring a lot of stability into the firm so that people could make their own decisions about their futures and their careers. Everybody had the same job, day two, everybody had a really nice, steady landing, and then they can make their own decisions about what they want to do with their lives. And that felt very good to me. And that felt like a good completion to this whole long journey.

[10:18]

RZ Cool, cool, bro.  I’ll share my read on this. I think people sometimes say why grow? Why don’t you just chill out and don’t grow and stay who you are, stay true to yourself, dude. And I think you can do that up to like 12 people. If you’ve decided you’re going to have a lifestyle business, you can kind of be picky and play, you know, keep it kind of small. I once ran into Lynda of lynda.com fame at a conference. Lynda.com is I think tutorials for all things tech design, product, project management. It’s just this massive line. I think they got acquired by LinkedIn, if I’m not mistaken, but it’s still lynda.com, L Y N D A dot com. Been around. It’s an early web platform for education and training.

PF And Lynda is an actual human being.

RZ Lynda is an actual human. I met Lynda, which was wild to meet actual Lynda. I was at my old agency. It was at South by Southwest, in like 2009 or something, and she said, how big are you guys? I was like, I proudly said we were 24. And she’s like, Ooh, you crossed the line. I was like, what? She’s like, well, that’s it. Now you have to kind of keep going. [Laughs.] I did not understand what she was talking about. And what she was essentially saying was you jumped the chasm away from lifestyle business where you get to write essays into this other place where you have to kind of keep going. And she was right. You do have to keep going. And as you keep going, the job becomes more and more different as you keep going. And when you cross, I think the key thresholds are that 20 employee threshold. The next one’s at like 60 and then 60, what happens is scale becomes a quarter of your job. No matter what you’re doing, it just sort of becomes the job. And then you’re on your way, right? We crossed 100 last year under Chris and Gina’s management and we kept going and going and it becomes something very different. And you start to see— you ever go like real fast in a car and the steering wheel starts to shake because the whole car’s not designed to go that fast?

PF No of course not. No one drives that fast.

[12:27]

RZ I’ve done that. I’ve done that on city streets in need for speed, hot pursuit. Okay. Sharing that with everyone.

PF Mmm—mhm. That’s a good place to do it.

RZ Yeah. That is really what I think starts to shape your decisions. Some people have like—none of the people on this call I’ll speak for others—have like raw ambition around like, I want to give keynotes to 500 employees on a regular—like not, I don’t think that’s a driver here. There is ambition, but that like, some people love that. They’re like, I’m going to grow the biggest company I can grow. And that’s not here. I think it’s worth sharing. Sort of what a lot of people don’t know first off is that this was a collective decision to even pursue selling Postlight, this was not any two people imposing something on others.

PF You can’t do that. You can’t say like, go over there.

RZ You can’t say that. Won’t work.

PF I mean, you can, you can. Yeah. Won’t work.

RZ You can’t. There’s another thing worth sharing that a lot of people probably don’t know is that Gina and Chris had veto power. In fact, a couple of parties that were interested in Postlight were sent home. And so we were very careful about where the home was going to be for Postlight, which leads me to a question I want to put in front of Chris and Gina. Why this, why NTT? Why not someone else? Like, what were the qualities that you look for? Because one of the things we always tried to do on this podcast was turn it into advice. We would usually vent for the first two thirds and then turn it into advice. There are other agency owners out there, there are other people have businesses out there. What are the things to look for?

[13:57]

PF And they’re very, very curious about acquisition. That’s one thing you learn after this process,

RZ They really are.

PF They’re how did that go? Who was—

RZ Yeah. What was it like?

PF What’s going on?

RZ It’s true. [Laughs.] What are the things you look for when you’re talking to a potential acquirer?

GT Yeah, I mean, this is a great question. I can start. I mean, you know, for me, we spoke to many parties and we talked about Postlight the business and you could see people light up about certain aspects of the business, right? And the people with whom Postlight’s true value resonated like the people who reacted to product-led thinking, strategy, great digital experiences driven by design, creating platforms at scale, and that are beautiful and people love to use, that’s what Postlight does. And it was very clear. I mean, this would happen in the first 30 to 40 minutes of the presentation. You could tell who cared about those things too, and who was there to add a hundred and some, 20 more employees to their staff. Right? And there’s like a big difference between those things. And you know, Chris and I, our ambitions are about doing more product-led thinking, driving with design, making great experiences. So any home that we were going to be up for exploring had to prioritize that and want that as well. And we weren’t interested in a pure, just sort of acquihire, let’s take this glass of water and just pour it into the ocean of a giant company and Postlight is no longer. So what we’re really happy about with NTT DATA is that we are Postlight, an NTT DATA company. We get to continue to be Postlight. There were no changes to our org chart, or our approach, our practice, our craft, like they don’t want to break it. In fact, it’s not that they don’t want to break it. They actually want to grow it. And they want us to work with their civil companies to inject the kind of thinking that we already have and scale it across a few different organizations.

[15:52]

PF I think it’d be helpful for people like, so a giant company bought a little company, and that sounds weird, but explain what the sibling companies are because that actually puts this into way more context.

CL Yeah. Over the past, I mean, even within the past 12 months, NTT DATA has bought Nexient which is a product engineering shop, and Vectorform, which is a sort of next generation design and invention firm.

PF And these people see the world like us, right? I mean, it’s—

CL Absolutely, they’re very much like-minded. I think they, we are, in some ways there’s overlap in other ways we are complementary, but we can think about how we approach the market in a way that is similar and dovetails pretty nicely into where NTT DATA wants to take their company. Something that was really attractive to us is that, you know, the folks we talked to said to us explicitly, you represent the future. You represent where we want to go. And so we want to grow around you and Nexient and Vectorform and others to help chart the path of how we want to evolve this group and this company, versus continuing to just do what we’ve always done with IT services. So that was really attractive to us. And it made us think, oh, okay, there’s clear recognition of what we do and why and why there’s value here. And then there’s going to be investment to say, let’s keep going down this path and blow it up, which is really attractive.

PF Don’t throw anybody under the bus, but what were the bad ones? Like how quickly could you tell? Like, so you said it was like a half hour and you’d be like, ugh.

CL No conversations were bad.

[17:27]

GT Yeah. Everyone is running their business and trying to do the best for the world. It was, it was the wrong fit. It was a misalignment. It was like, oh, you know, I don’t see Postlight thriving here in this relationship. That’s all it was. Listen. Every business, every good business, has a point of view and has values and has things that they really care about and has ways of working that are going to maximize their effectiveness. Right? Postlight has them. Every single company that we talk to have them. Everyone has a strategy. Here’s what we want to go forward and is this a good fit for one another? Are we going to do well working together? And it became clear early on in the conversations the ones where it was like, what they’re doing is interesting. It’s just not what we’re trying to do. Because this is not a great fit.

[18:07]

CL There are companies who have like a template and they acquire you and they say, okay, over the next 180 days, we have the seven stages to integrate you into our way of doing things. And, you know, first is payroll and next is blah, blah, blah. And they just like take you through the process. And again, for some companies, I think that is very helpful. And they see that as, oh, this is a source of, you know, I’m going to join this much bigger thing that gives me a bigger safety net. And for us, that was never attractive. When we got approached with those kinds of conversations where it was like, we’re going to fold you in over a period of six months or so. We were like, that’s not how we see this being successful.

PF I think that works if you build something, if you build a company that is really focused around like a particular platform. Like I think if you’re like the WordPress shop or the Sitecore shop, or you’re a Salesforce team, like they go like, great, we’re going to bring you in. We don’t have enough sales force. We’re going to plug it right in here. When you are long-term relationships, product strategy and product development, that isn’t, it’s just not, it’s not a Lego piece. It kind of, it’s very crosscutting across the whole org. And so I found that too. Whenever we talk to people, it’s hard for them to understand. And it’s actually a tricky conversation because they don’t understand why. Like they’re not like, yeah. I mean, it’s cool. You have really good logos and you build stuff, right? So obviously we want that. And it’s kind of hard cause you’re in this position where you need to go, like, I don’t think you understand our value proposition, which is very pretentious to say to someone in a much larger company. It’s a complicated conversation.

[19:44]

RZ It’s look, this is, people think holy moly, someone showed up with, you know, money and wants to buy you that success. You just jump. But it’s really a grind of a process. It’s actually a lot of courtship. It’s a ton of dating before you’re going to decide you’re going to have a second or third date. And then from there—

PF How many dinners did you all go to?

RZ I mean, it’s a lot, it’s a lot.

CL There’s a lot of dinners.

GT There’s a lot of dinners.

RZ With a lot of different people I mean, it’s worth saying, like maybe they’re thinking it’s just with NTT, but it’s with a lot of different people. As much as this is driven by spreadsheets and legal documents, the human connection is a gating mechanism at the very, very beginning. If it’s bad vibes at that dinner or at that meeting, it’s kind of done, because there’s going to be snags. And if there are good vibes, you can work through the differences. And if there are bad vibes, like why bother? Right? [Laughs.] Like the motivation isn’t mutual on both sides, right?

PF So let’s get to the most important part, which is what are your plans for the podcast?

GT [Laughs.] Chris and I are going to continue the grand tradition that Rich and Paul established for the Postlight podcast. We’re excited about being on the podcast. First of all, this is not your last episode of the podcast. We’re going to pull you. We’re going to come to your houses—

PF I do what I’m told. I don’t run the company anymore. So it’s—

GT [Laughs.] Yeah. We’re excited to keep going with the podcast. Every Tuesday, there will be a new episode. We’re going to hear from folks from NTT DATA. We’re going to hear from folks inside Postlight. We’re going to hear from our clients.

RZ That would be cool, actually. I’d like to hear an episode with some people from the NTT side. Yeah.

GT Yeah. That is in the works.

PF We always wanted to give that’s a great place for —we always wanted to give people—a lot of the listeners are like, what the hell is all of that? When they see like the larger services industry. Cause they’re like, I use an app and I kind of want to do product. And I think actually giving people direct access to how that works, how those projects are organized, how the contracts that run for like 36 months get constructed. And then the way that people learn new skills in those environments is really good. That’s cool. I’ll listen.

[21:48]

GT I mean, look, this was like, this was not like a finish line. I think people think about acquisitions and they’re like, oh, I’m just going to try to get to this acquisition. And then it’s all going to be done. You know, I said to Chris over and over through this process, like we are approaching the starting line. [Laughs.] So we’re excited to keep talking about and keep sharing. I mean the podcast is based on generosity, which is like sharing opinions, thoughts, advice, things that we’ve learned. And we’re going to continue to do that and you’re going to kind of get to see it kind of from the other side, like what happens on the other side? Our story continues.

CL What’s next for you guys? I’m assuming you’re retired now. You’re just going to go on the beach and put your feet up and chill.

RZ You know, it’s funny that you asked that Chris. I would’ve loved—we’re not retired. Let’s get that out of the way. We’re not at Postlight but we are close to Postlight. We care deeply about Postlight.

PF I do still have some—I have some stuff at Postlight. I need to get that stuff. [Rich laughs.]

GT No rush. You’re always welcome.

[22:46]

PF Okay. There’s a box. I still have my key card. That’s true.

RZ What should have happened is like, oh cool. This is a nice outcome. I’m going to take the summer. But what wasn’t factored in is that there is a full-fledged startup that was born out of Postlight called Aboard, which you can check out at aboard.io. There’s a teaser landing page there. Paul and I are going to start to market Aboard and talk about it and get back out in the world. The best way to stay connected is to put your email address in that box at abord.io.

PF Well that is some marketing right there.

RZ That’s some marketing right there. 

PF That’s what I like to see. There we go.

[23:23]

RZ You know, I think I will vent for a second. It was actually, I wanted to kind of hide after this was all done for a month. And I couldn’t because there was a whole team essentially saying, where the hell are you? And so—

PF Oh man, you know what I can hear right now?

RZ And it was actually, I was really tired after everything and it was hard to just flip a switch and be motivated. I am motivated. We’re very excited about it, but it was hard.

PF I mean, I’m just, I can almost hear the audience’s sobs of empathy for you right now. [Rich laughs.] Just the way that they’re like, oh Rich—

RZ In hindsight I should have—

PF Rich sold his company. That poor poor guy, and then he has to go run his startup. [Rich laughs.]

GT It’s a tough life. Rich is actually in his hammock right now. I know you can’t all see the video, but he’s laying in a hammock. I think there’s a frozen drink with an umbrella.

PF That’s why the wifi keeps going out. He’s on a boat.

GT The startup life is rough.

RZ Yeah, no, but also just I’ll speak for my own, just psychological makeup. I can’t be in a state of absolute comfort and peace. It’s just not my nature. So I’ll have to go—

PF And neither can anybody who works with you [Rich laughs.]

RZ Oh man. So Paul and I will continue to work together, I think is the headline, which is we enjoy working together and we’ll continue to work together at Aboard.

[24:50]

PF I wish we talked about this before the podcast. I guess so, huh? I think that—we’re going to keep working together for real and um, there’s lots we want to do together and kind of taking what we’ve learned. Ideally we’re still working with Postlight and collaborating and I’ve been talking for a while about climate in these sort of broad, abstract terms and talking about getting some writing done and things like that. So, you know, it’s time to hold myself accountable and get more done. But I think kind of more the same realistically, like I don’t think we’re—we’re not done there’s no. And I don’t want to go be a VC and just kind of like stare at people and tell them no based on their poor pathetic decks.

RZ Well, I do that for the people who report to me, but yes.

PF That’s right. [Rich laughs.] No, I want to build that relationship with others, but um, no, I don’t. I don’t, you know, it’s just, when people go and do—you know, what happens is after people sell their companies, you know what they usually do, they get into drones. They’re like, oh, drones or Bitcoin or just whatever. And I’m just like, nah, yeah, we’re pretty good—

GT Or life-extending technology. Yeah.

PF We’re like good at this stuff. And I’m okay with it being a little boring that we might do some of the same kind of stuff, not selling digital services, that’s Postlight’s job, but sort of making software, making things, helping people build businesses like that. That’s exciting and fun. I’m going to keep doing that until I’m not allowed to anymore. So—

GT You don’t miss the chaos of working with clients?

PF I love client services. And I think sometimes I’m the only one [Laughs.]

GT No, me too. I love clients. It’s a particular thing. And I love it too.

[26:28]

PF They’re like baby birds. And they’re like, but instead of you regurgitating a worm, you’re begging them for the worm and it’s just this horrible dynamic. And you’re just like, Hey baby bird, will you gimme the worm that’s in your mouth and it can be in my mouth and I can feed it back to you and that’s client services.

RZ I’ve got a surprise for you, Paul. Oh no. SaaS products are exactly the same. You’re pretty much asking clients for—

PF This is the thing.

RZ Yeah. Yeah.

PF Rich is driving the core platform at Aboard and I’m kind of like, you know, going along and then there’s marketing to do, and it’s a horrible, horrible list of like enterprise sales and failure ahead of me. And I’m like, oh, that looks interesting—

RZ All right. Now you’re the tragic figure Paul Ford. It’s your turn.

PF Ah poor me. There are no tears for me. There’s only confusion.

[27:13]

GT  [Laughs.] Let’s bring it back. Let’s bring it back to the listener. So to wrap this up, I’m curious to know Rich and Paul, if there’s someone listening to the show, who’s thinking about maybe selling their business, maybe thinking about starting an agency to maybe sell someday or maybe just to, you know, to create a lifestyle business and just live happily ever after with their 11 other colleagues. Like is there anything that you would’ve told yourself or that you wish that you knew or any advice you would’ve given to yourself six years ago, or I guess for Rich, it’s been 20 years of running, direct client services businesses. What should somebody know about this? How do you make the journey credible?

PF Credible journey.

GT What’s the advice you’ve got?

PF Richard, what do you got? I’m thinking.

RZ I would say, I mean, this is by any measure, a success, people going back to the why question. People wonder why things happen. Sometimes they wonder if it was a bailout or, you know, a scrapyard sale or what, and this is a beautiful outcome for a great company and it’s worth saying that out loud. So I think what you’re asking is how do you build a great company that a lot of people want and you do that by not consciously trying to build a great company that a lot of people want. You do that by taking nothing for granted, approaching things with intelligence and humility, being very defensive tactically, but offensive strategically and going, and then success comes out of that. Rather than like, I once met a founder who said to me, my company’s going to be worth a billion dollars one day. He said those words to me. And I thought it was such a preposterous actual outcome because the company was actually really good and made people much more productive without mentioning who it was. I was like, why don’t you say I’m going to make everyone more productive? And then the billion dollars will just come. But instead the outcome was the billion dollars, right? So don’t chase that. If you’re starting an agency and saying, I’m going to sell this one day, you’re kind of thinking about it wrong. So that’s the advice I’d give with one key asterisk, do it in a healthy way. Unlike me who is pathological and paranoid, but take nothing for granted, but stay well-adjusted and healthy and hang out with your friends. [Everyone laughs.]

[29:37]

PF Yeah. There’s a lot of good outcomes on the other side of that. I’d say a few things. I’d say one, don’t go alone. It’s hard to work. And sometimes this job is very, very isolating, leading an agency. You have clients that are frustrated, employees that are frustrated. Being alone is tough. The people I know who’ve done it alone, I feel that they burn out a lot faster. They don’t have an escape patch. So there’s that. I think the advice that I would give is it’s similar to Rich. And if you look in retrospect, what did Postlight do that led to a good outcome and a stable outcome. We identified a thing that we love doing, which is building kind of complicated, advanced digital products with new technology and helping people get that done because they had so much trouble getting it done and they had trouble getting it done because most of the other service providers didn’t know how to do it. Okay. So we’re like, we’re going to get in there and we’re going to help ’em. And that if you fast forward five or six years, what happened is that the rest of the market realized that there’s a lot of value here and that the way that we did things and the stuff that we built and the way that we worked with people was actually learnable and valuable and that it should be part of something else. It could roll into a giant organization like an NTT and it could add value there. Right? That wasn’t the strategy. That’s what happened in retrospect. But the thing that I think I learned from that is if you’re going to do something like this, you should set your sights seven or eight years out where things are going and what is the best way to do something right now. And it’ll take a while for everyone to kind of come find you, but if you’re legible to them and that’s sort of the last part, which is, and I think that took us a long time to get right, which was start to communicate with a good clear brand, update the website, put the case studies up, tell a story about the company that is something that people can kind of put in their back pocket and walk around with and go like, all right I kind of get what they do. Because for the first, probably three, four years, I think a lot of people would just come to me and be like, I don’t really understand what you guys do. Right. And then as the website updated and we started telling a better marketing story, people were like, okay, I get it. And that’s true of acquirers and that’s true of customers and that’s true of clients and that’s true of employees. Right? 

So like legibility partnership and setting your goals, like kind of out into the future. And I think that what I like about this whole thing that just happened and with the acquisition is that Postlight is still on the hook to deliver a big pile of future. Right? Like it’s not like, okay, well we’re done in its product strategy. It’s like, go keep figuring out where this industry is headed. What are the new frameworks and tools? What are the way that design happens? How does product happen? What are the strategies that are going to work? Because software is still this sort of great, totally undiscovered unsolvable country. And so I think if they just bought us cause we had some nice logos on the website, that would be really disappointing, but the company’s on the hook to deliver something good and ambitious inside of a large sensibly run firm. And that is like a mix of stability and a big challenge. And I think that’s just great. Like that’s an exciting, positive outcome.

GT So true.

CL What a good place to close it.

[32:43]

PF I’m no longer the—I guess I’m always a co-founder—but I’m no longer the CEO or even a director or anything of Postlight. So what if I needed digital services? Where would I go?

RZ Yeah. Who would I call? Where would you go?

GT Love that you asked that question. What a great, great question. You should send us a note. Hello@postight.com. We read every single thing, a human being, which is usually both of us or one of us, but both of us, read every message we received. Hello@postlight.com. You should reach out. Ask questions. Tell us what you’re working on. Yeah. We love to talk. We love to hear from you.

CL This was fun. It was great to look back.

RZ I’m going to go ahead and say, I thought this was an incredible journey, but we can call it credible journey.

PF Wait was it? No, no, it was incredible. It was wild.

RZ Yeah. I mean—

PF We did it. We did it.

RZ Credible journey makes it sound like I brought down the cost of like packing peanuts by 10%. 

[Outro music fades in, ramps up.]

PF [Laughs.] Well, no, all I’m saying is when startups would sell, they’d put up those posts and it would be like, oh, we cured every disease. You know, and it’s like, wait a minute. You’re like an ad analytics platform that just got rolled in the double-click section of Google. All right. So Rich, you and I are not, we can’t close this, this isn’t our podcast.

RZ No. Gina and Chris, we’re going to hang back. You guys close it out.

CL Thank you. Thank you guys. Thank all of the listeners. There’s lots more Postlight to come. A big pile of future in our future. [Gina and Chris laugh.] And we’re going to be talking more with NTT DATA folks, with our clients, with our employees, with friends of the firm going forward on the podcast. So there’s a lot more to come.