Episode 186 Featuring Connor Curlewis

How This App Help Agency Owners Manage Their Client's Subscriptions

How This App Help Agency Owners Manage Their Client's Subscriptions

In this episode, we are joined by Sunir Shah, founder of AppBind, an app that helps you manage subscriptions for your clients.


His backstory

Connor: You know, I have a little birdie that told me that you're very close with a certain Toby.

Sunir Shah: And a bunch of other people there.  Well, like I'm Canadian, right? I live in Toronto as my hat. I'm like proving I'm wearing all my proof here. My LinkedIn profile wasn't good enough for anybody. I started the marketing team at FreshBooks in 2007 and partnerships in 2008. So this is so long ago, people don't remember that there was a time when FreshBooks was bigger than jaded pixel, which is original name of Shopify right. 

And so I knew Scott and Toby and Toby was the CTO. And so we went down to Ottawa and I'm from Ottawa. And so Mike and I were there, I think Saul was there with us too. And we're just visiting Shopify. Cause they're just like really good SaaS company in Canada. There weren't that many at the time. We were kind of on the similar footing. And they were like a rail shop and we were talking about rails at FreshBooks and all sorts of things. So we go over there. We planned the trip.

And I think at this time, in the time when we booked the trip and we time we got there, I think Scott had left and then Toby was taking over, but he was still like the main coder. And it was really, really funny to me watching him, you know, we're waiting for him to, for a meeting and he's sitting there like coding away, cause he's like still the main coder right. He's like writing all these rails codes and checking it in. 

And he comes over to us CEO to CEO to have a conversation. And there's like 90 people at the company. I mean, this is like during the transition and to me, that was hilarious. Right? Cause he is running this like thing, this huge company, you know, relatively still, it's bigger now, obviously, but still checking in code. And I can just imagine what his engineer in my head, I was like playing the script back in my head, what his engineers are thinking. He's like, is Toby checking in code right now? How quickly can we revert this? 

Connor: When you say rails, are you meaning payment rails? What do you mean by that? 

Sunir Shah: He is using ruby on rails. He just talked about it in his recent letter. I know it's a sad letter, but he was talking about it for like Toby, like wrote Shopify. And so he's like a coder at heart, you know? Plays Factoria on his free time. You know, I appreciate that about Toby. You know, I appreciate that. He also wears a hat all the time cause he's losing his hair. 

Anyway, it's nice to see their success obviously recent news is a little bit rough, but they're still growing quite rapidly. The pandemic obviously hit us all. And they're really nice people. Mostly at Shopify. Everyone I've met, I say mostly, but Harley he's intense. I can't keep up with that guy. He's so energetic. He's a nice guy. He's like nice plus more has more energy than I can ever hope to have. And so, I mean, you need someone like that to run the company. I wouldn't pick nice is my first word for Harley. I would pick like Energizer bunny, I think is my first adjective for Energizer bunny.

Anyway, that's just me dropping names right off the top, because I wanna sound important on your podcast. It's really what it's all about. I'm stealing their thunder for me. I just wanna ingratiate myself to your audience. Also have, Toby Harley, invite me over for a drink Monday.



Connor: Where were you at in that sort of time? 

Sunir Shah: This is like 2009, maybe. This is in their office above the Bywood market. And so it was like a tiny little, it was like, they used to be a design studio, like an agency. Right. And then they built this side of that as a rails thing. And for a long time, they thought rails was their big advantage. They were building like an eCommerce plugin for rails. They thought that's what they would be. They were. And then they lay, I think Toby was one who realized that it wasn't rails that was the most important thing. But it's actually providing this software itself to people who are merchants.

I mean, I don't know the whole story there, but I do remember at the beginning they thought originally they were a dev tool. Like they were marketing to developers. I remember they had a lot of marketing to like straight on Ruby developers and that changed. And once that changed, I think they hired Craig Miller. And he just really ramped it up going for merchants, which was obviously the right move. I mean, it's what the market needed. They needed like a true experience so that anyone could be merchant. But that's what you guys play. I mean, you guys are solving problems in that space too. Right? 

The Cloud Software Association

Sunir Shah: Cloud software association's a drinking club for partnership people. There's 4,000 SaaS companies in there. Partnership teams. Shopify is one of them, of course. When I started FreshBooks, I started the marketing team, you know, quickly switched to partnerships. 

So I probably, I mean, you said you mentioned in, hopefully my intro, if I'm not canceled, that's I'm a CEO of AppBind. And what we do is I'm trying to solve this problem of how, you know, for instance, e-commerce agencies can set up the systems and full stacks for their clients without, you know, being in the pinch of managing the subscription costs like the bookkeeping and the financial risk, and also how to set up accounts that they own, they manage with the customer's own very difficult problem.

And I have a whole story about that and get into later, but I was at FreshBooks and I came from the licensed software world, right. I worked for a Microsoft VAR as we called it back then value added reseller, which no one understands what those are anymore, but they're like systems integrators or more simply they're a dev shop. You know? 

So customers that come to us, we'd buy. This is how I grew up in, when I was 18, we'd buy computers and networking cables, windows, licenses, SDKs. We put quote our time and the training and implementation it'd be $300,000 to build a system for a typical client. But I asked I was 18, so it was like the teacher's pet there, like a happiest squirrel.

And I asked the president the consultancy, you know, how the company worked. And she said to me listen, Sunir, we're not selling you. We're not selling your time or your labor. No one buy, no one cares that you're working on this project, except for me do put your head down and type faster. Cause you do need to deliver on time, but the client is not buying our work. They're buying the system. They want the result. They want what this thing does right. 

But what we're selling them is again, not you we're selling them the service contract cause the service contract is a where all the profit is, cause it's recurring for three years and it's usually pretty unused time. So you get a lot of margin from that, but she says it's actually more important than that. That means we get to talk to this client, you know, every month or every quarter and, and see upgrades maintenance, but also more importantly, what else do we sell them? What's the next system and build that trusted relationship.

And to me that was, I didn't actually think anything of it cause that's how contracting has been going for 12,000 years of human history. I mean, everyone works this way. If you hire, even in your own house, a plumber, right to dry your basement, he or she's not gonna make you buy your own pipes and pumps. You're just gonna build you know, a basement waterproofing system for you. You know, God help you. If they ask you, buy your own flux, like what the fluxes fluxes, you gotta tell them. Flux is actually the chemical you use to oxidize a metal before you. I've learned this because I've asked, I've made this joke so many times. And so one guy's like well is clearly, it's a joke.

So I was at FreshBooks and I started the partnership team because I just assumed all softwares sold through partners, cuz it is like 64% of software B2B software still sold through partners, but turns out not SaaS like 20% or less is sold through partners. And if you're living in the Shopify ecosystem, I'm sure you have a lot of customers who are the merchants themselves, but you probably have a lot of e-commerce agencies are also Shopify experts managing things. And they could probably tell you, you know, you probably know that it's like a complicated, weird love triangle.

Like when they want to get Debutify and Shopify organized for a client, they have to get the client involved with you. They have to get Shopify involved with you. They have to get involved. There's like a lot of relationships, you know, when really, I mean, are you anything different than, you know, a check valve or a pump or a pipe really in the overall system of the eCommerce store? I mean like the eCommerce theme is not like a significant decision, you know, it's like, you're gonna use this, just get it something they could do, they should take care of for you as a contractor. 

Anyway, so I was at fresh books and we had all this demand, all accountants and bookkeepers and SMB consultants saying, Hey, how do I get fresh books for my clients? I love it. And this is 2008 when no one knew how to do this. And so we get into the conversations. They couldn't figure it out cause they couldn't figure out how to create accounts that they managed customers own the data, but they managed it.

And so the customers had to own the accounts and they couldn't pay for these things because there was all these recurring charges. They didn't wanna be doing the bookkeeping. They didn't want me in the middle of the financial expense. And I was still arrogant enough to think I could solve the problem with computer science at the time, but just coding my way through it. 

So we started off trying to build a re like a portal, a reseller portal to create accounts. I was solving the problem for FreshBooks, although I didn't ever finish it. Cause we had to actually rebuild FreshBooks billing on FreshBooks to solve this. And that was like a whole like. Boondoggle, not that it was a bad idea, but me wanting to do that was like too much work. And I, you, I actually asked the CEO to kill the project. Cause it was so crazy. 

They said, okay, people could see this, the images like we're showing them. It was like, yeah, well what about MailChimp? What about shoebox? What about all these other tools they wanted? Cause they needed to build a bunch of tools into the system. It was like, not just FreshBook. And then we started thinking, building, building an app store and I started okay designing that. And I was like, this is getting outta control. Cause the problem was actually way more complex than I thought it would be. So I had to kill it after we spent, you know, I think we spent $300,000 Canadian at that time. So like $500,000 in today's money. 

How AppBind Started And How It Works

Connor: Just before you go on. Can you just outline what is FreshBooks?

Sunir Shah: Oh, FreshBooks is online invoicing or they always say cloud accounting for at the time we were doing online invoicing for creative web agencies. Now it's cloud accounting for service companies more generally. That's what we do. Yeah. So it's kind of like QuickBooks, but lighter and easier to use is one way to think about it, although I think it's even lighter than what you think, not accounting. That's what I like to say. 

It was a crazy idea. And so what I had to do with that bind, you know I was chewing on this problem for years and years. I was at CMO for like almost five years, you know, I didn't have a really good eCommerce story but an agency there I should share with you. And then I finally figured out the solution and it sounds simple, but like what's a subscription credit card. 

So AppBind allows you to create a shared virtual email and a shared virtual credit card, but it's funded by your clients instead of you. And so then you can go buy their stuff. You know, the emails forward to you. You manage the account forward to the client, they own it. And the credit card is funded by your client automatically. And so you just buy whatever they need and it builds the client and you're not in the middle of the money, but you're managing their stuff.

So you can actually set up a whole system for them. You're not just constrained, buying just Shopify. You can buy Shopify and clavia, you can buy Shopify and debut beautify. You can buy Facebook ads, you can build a whole system for them, you know, and keep solving problems and not getting them like buried in the weeds of like what pipe and pump you need to get the job done. You can just get the job done, which is all what clients want. 

Connor: And you get a disposable card for each client? 

Sunir Shah: Every subscription for each client gets its own virtual card, because then you can mark them up individually. You can cancel them. You can transfer them to the client at the end of the project. Cause everything belongs to them. You just hand them the whole stack. It's a very professional way to work. It's exactly the same idea as a gardener setting up your lawn, you know, you own your lawn, right. You own your plants, but I don't wanna touch the fertilizer or weeding or any of that. I just have them. I pay them monthly. They go buy all the stuff expense me. 

Actually, I expend them, give 'em a deposit and then they expense the deposit and then they maintain my lawn. That's how my landscaper works. And I don't know, need to know a pesticide. You know, from a flux, I don't really care. Like just deal with it. I don't wanna deal with it. 

So this is actually, the story is one of the stories that led me to app bind. It took me a long time to actually realize the problem was this chocolate factory thing. So it was at Olark and one of our big channels is in the Magento, right? Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce were like the big three eCommerce platforms for those who don't know Magento's open source. And it's huge.

I was in Vegas Magento. Imagine they're a big conference and I'm sitting down at lunch. And this like thousand year old man, sit down next to me. He was hilarious. I call him, you'll see why I call him a thousand years old, but he sits down. And first thing he says is I don't wanna be here. That's an amazing opening line. Yeah. Just like I sits down at lunch, supposed to be meeting and greeting and be friendly. And he is like, I don't wanna be here. It's like, okay's like, okay.

Why? And then, but he was a joker. So he says, listen I'll shorten the story, but he's like, listen I hire these Wiz kids from Manhattan, by the way I he's from he's from new England. I give him a Texan accent every single time because I just think of Americans, Americans being Texan. That's what I think, just roll with it anyways. Like I hire these kids from Manhattan, he says, and do you think they did anything for me? 

And I'm like, I knew the agency, the e-commerce agency had hired. I'm like, they're really good. And I'm like, yeah, I think they did a lot for you. I was like, Nope, they did nothing. I was like, what do you mean? But the first thing they did is he asked me to go buy all this stuff and start doing the project for them. And I was like, oh, okay. This is subscription problem. Right? Where they couldn't buy, they know magenta and the hosting and all this crap they needed. They had to get him do it. He's like, I don't have time for this. So I gave it to my it guy. I was like, you know, you think he dealt with it? I guess so, no. No. Yeah. He's only a few years younger than me, you know, he barely knows what a phone is. It's like so anyway, he got it done. 

And then meanwhile, he's interrupted in the middle of lunch with phone calls one from the trucking union complaining the trucks don't work. And also from the auto mechanics were supposed to fix the trucks complaining. They can't get the parts to fix the trucks and he, and he, and he says to the auto mechanics, why are you calling me? Isn't your job to fix the trucks? Yeah. So go get the parts. He was like, oh, okay. It's like you take care of it.

That's his attitude like it's an 80 year old chocolate factory. He's the CEO of this damn thing. There's a lot of pieces here. His expectations as CEO is every department is just taking care of their own business and not bothering him unless he has to be involved like buying a buying apart for a truck. He doesn't know anything about, it's not his problem. It's the auto mechanics job. Right. He just take care of it. And he was getting frustrated with them. And so now he was like understanding more of his mentality. Right? His e-commerce agency certainly failed on step one right. They made him take care of something.

Then he's like, are you supposed to deal with this? He knew he needed to get to e-commerce. He didn't know anything about, he doesn't know anything about e-commerce. So he hired the best agency in Manhattan he could find. And so he said, so what I had to do is he continues on with the story and I'm like swallowing my lunch. He's like so what I have to do is to hire these kids, these college kids from new england from community college and you think they were better than the Wiz kids in Manhattan. And I like an idiot trying to flatter this guy said, yeah, sure. great, great move.

Yeah. I was like, I'm sure they're great. It's like, no, you dummy. The Wiz kids are clearly better. That's why they Wiz kids. They're from Manhattan. They're obviously doing better. And then community college kids, its like, okay.  Yeah, he hates everybody. He's like but who did I see at Christmas? And I, okay. I think the, your kids, by the way, don't forget, he's a thousand years old. Like he hired adults, right. For him everyone's a child. Yeah. So he said your kids and it's like, yeah, you got one finally, like, okay. And you, so who do you think I fired? The Wiz kids. He's like, yeah, you got two. So like, so I asked like, why are you here? 

Like, well, it's simple, you know, once they're my kids, I love 'em, I'm gotta make sure they, I help 'em grow. I help them develop. It's my job. They're my responsibility. So I, this conference in Vegas is where I have to send them. But you think I gotta send the kids to Vegas on their own for the first time? No, no, sir. I had to come down to make sure they're okay. Yeah. Cause he's, you know, he doesn't, you know, children as far as he's concerned, its Vegas. 

But this story of how the eCommerce agency, they were great, failed right away because they couldn't take care of things for clients. And they created this frustration and how the client ended up hiring internally is not uncommon. I've actually talked cause at FreshBooks I could see agency and client relationships and I've talked to a lots of agencies. I've talked a lot of clients and I was a client too. The moment you increase the anxiety for a client, they're gonna fire you. They're gonna replace you with in house staff. That's what's gonna happen because they need to get this problem under control.

And if you as an outside contractor, can't just take care of it, right. They're gonna be like, okay, well, I'm gonna have to find someone who can get this problem out of my mind. You know, you ask a lot of agencies and we saw the benchmarking data at FreshBook. Those around license software had three year contracts. Those are in subscriptions, had three month contracts. 

You know, it's a big difference similar like six months contracts, because they're just doing initial labor. And if you're on, you're only doing labor. You're just doing the scalability trap, where you're selling labor for money. So the more revenue you have, the more payroll you have, the payroll turns over the clients turn over.

You have to scramble for more clients. It's a very difficult way to build. But if you're thinking about e-commerce, e-commerce actually has a very long runway for clients because building the shopping cart is one thing. Building the product catalog, building fulfillment, right? Building the marketing and building the post art pro sales funnel.

And then you can start like building from there. Once you have the skeleton, you can do the coupon codes of discounting. You can do fillings. Affiliates, you can get the seasonal marketing going social media. There's a lot to build in an e-commerce site. And a lot of merchants actually are only good at a few things like building the product and identifying the customer.

I mean, you know, there's a lot you could do if you can say to the client. Yeah. We'll take care of it for you. We'll build one system after another for you, right? I mean, what does Debutify, if anything, but a package to solve a lot of system problems right. So you can leverage and go to bigger, bigger problems. And if the product can do that, surely a service company can do that. Right. That's what we. You don't wanna get fired by a thousand year old chocolate manufacturer. 

Mindset When Working With Clients

Sunir Shah: Okay. Well, I'm gonna response your pushback. I talk to a lot of agencies at my own podcast and now drinking club. Agency cocktails. So you go appbind.com/agencycocktails, and we'll buy your drinks and hang out with other agency owners. That's good solving business problems. 

Cause I think a lot of agencies don't know how to organize your business. So you gotta think of yourself as not no longer an employee of your clients as someone working for them and therefore saying yes to whatever they want. You can do that. But what happens is you end up with more chaotic work process where you don't, you can't control and predict outcomes. I mean, at the beginning, you'll do that. Cause you're trying to learn what you, what you are and what you're offering.

But every successful agency or freelancer, who's managed to find margins and sustainability ends up with some form of productized service where they have predictability. And they fire clients. I mean, you're chaotic. You have to know what you're offering. Cause you can know how many hours it goes into producing it. If your labor is your fundamental resource, right? You wanna control what that labor is doing. Some agencies are really tight with their labor and you end up with like basically templatized work.

But, you know, there's other way there's flexibility in there. You can do creative work, but you have to know what, what is a good client? You have to have a standard operating procedure that you're writing down. Things like tools like app bind, also establish you're worried about getting the credit card for the client. 

Everything about app bind is actually established trust and transparency with the client. They see you give them a, you give 'em a purchase order showing exactly what you're gonna buy, how much is you're gonna budget for. You can set a maximum spending limit. So his controls, it's very clear. They own everything. Everything's clear to them. It allows them to delegate the work of dealing with it all to you, but they own everything. That's what the whole point of tools like app bind, fresh books, whatever are, and they're about establishing this trust where a client can say, okay, you, you take care of it. Cause that's all they wanna say. Take care of it. For me, please. 

This client didn't know what they wanted to be taken care of. Right? That's a red flag client. They don't know what the outcome might be and you couldn't advise 'em what an outcome would be because they were, you know, lot of clients like this, you give them like, well, this is what it's gonna look like. They say, no, I don't want that. And then you keep thinking, there's an opportunity there and you can get, they can't say yes to anything. They actually don't. They're actually too afraid to say yes to a particular outcome. And they're not decisive enough. Right. And you have to know what you're offering.

Like, well, this is the deliverable that I'm selling. You know, you want this deliverable. If they say no, then you have to go, well, they didn't buy what I'm selling. And then move on to the next opportunity. Like you have to know what what's happening as an outcome. Every project I did as a consultant where I sold them, like, this is what the deliverable looks like.

And you know, I got pretty good at repeating outcome, even though the creative work was different every single time, the template, this is the document I would deliver them on which timeline, what are the workshop sessions? What are the communications I would do. I knew what that was. And then the thinking, you know, was I knew would take 20 hours of thought roughly plus, or minus 10 hours for any given client. So I can budget that in. 

Every time I sold one of those. It was really, really good. They bought it pretty quickly. I did the work. I was successful. It profitable every time I, I learned about a problem go, Hey, that's fun and interesting. Maybe I should try that. It was like the most stressful thing. Cause I was inventing the business as I was going along. 

And when you have more than one client, right? You're juggling things that you owe other people against this UN like unbounded liability of time that you just committed yourself to. So, like you could only eat one of those a quarter maybe of like, like new work, just to see, but your pushback is real, but because you haven't established what you're selling, that's what I heard. Is that true? 

Connor: Yeah. That was incredibly perceptive of you cause that's exactly what happened. I took the job because it was different but then it ended up being a different product, one that hadn't made before. So I couldn't point to those other products that I had made before and say, well, this is what it should look like, but because there was no direction and no. Like you said, like, you know, pulling the trigger on the final deliverable. It never got finished. 

Yeah. Thanks for sharing that, cause that is I guess like the nuance is just like knowing where along that that's happening, where, where you're going. Oh, I can't actually, they don't actually want what I'm selling. I mean I, how do you see that? 

Sunir Shah: I have another principle that's also I think is important to understand every client, well, not every client, but 90% of clients in my experience. They hire contractors when they're freaking out because they would've done it internally if they could, but they can't for whatever reason, they, they either don't know what they're doing, which is quite common.

I mean, if I hired a, I'm not gonna fix my own toilet, I'm gonna hire a plumber. I would never wanna, or you may not have the organizational resources capacity, or you may not have. You may not trust your internal organizations, then millions of reasons why the project couldn't be done internally. And they're already behind schedule and they, and then they have to hire someone new and they don't trust you.

Cause you don't go through their normal interview process. Right? What are, what are you selling them? And every contractor, whether you're a digital consultant like you are, or you're an auto mechanic or a plumber, or even a nail salon on the bride's wedding day, you're selling the same damn thing you're selling the clients calm cause they're freaking out, calming them down and more importantly, making them feel like they're in control of their lives again. 

What they really wanna do is have this problem, like disappear from their mind. Cause it's a total distraction from them and they wanna go think about something else. The more you can say, yep. I'll take care of it for you. You're great. But the moment you increase their anxiety, they're gonna fire you. You know, I've been fired by a client, you know, it's basically the moment you, you just start increasing the chaos for them these chaotic clients, I've learned to just say, you know, honestly, it's chaos.

If I feel anxious about this project, right? Then I know it's bad cause I'm increase the anxiety for you. And then you're gonna fire me. So one, this is not gonna work. The moment I start feeling anxious about a project. I know I'm in deep, deep trouble with the client. I usually have that conversation with them. This is too much cookie. I can't control this right outcome. 

What can we control about this? If anything, and if we can control some outcome, we'll continue with that. And if we can't control the outcome, we're gonna have to, you know, kill it because like what happens is, you know, either you respect me for saying that we'll continue working together or will. You won't, but if you go through with this, you definitely will not work with me again. Right. Cause I've absolutely screwed you. 

I actually say it to them before the first sale, when I was consulting. I actually got into this, not initially. This is just before app bind. I left Olark. And I was consulting. I had the most lucrative year in my life that year. What I learned was the people were hiring me at a different point in my career. So I was working with the CEOs or, or CMOs, and they were all hiring me because they, it was kind of a mix of management consultant and implementation.

So it was like hitting both roles simultaneously. And I realized that nothing about my implementation mattered to them. Is really the management of the company that was bothering them. And they were all freaking out every single one of them in like a really meaningful way, but they couldn't tell their staff because they had to be leaders in their mind.

They couldn't tell their investors. They could tell their customers, couldn't tell their partners. It kind of were, were kind of trapped holding this fear and trying to hold it all together. But I was the only person they could trust because I was outside the company and I was like, kind of being a therapist.

And I have this vibe where I'm, it's like great gatsby feeling like Nicholas. Right? I'm like, people just think that you can tell me anything. They think and feel. And so I started realizing, I just say that right up to their face, like. So I have the meeting with everybody. We meet everybody and I take 'em aside.

They're like, listen, you're hiring me because you're freaking out. You're anxious about this problem. And really I told them it doesn't really matter what I deliver. I will deliver what I promise, but all that matters to me at the end of the project is you feel like. At the end of this project, no matter what happens this part of your business, you feel like you're, it's back under control for you and you're, and you're feeling calm about it.

You know, this whole line of business may be a total fail for you, but at least you will have it under control and know that and bring it to a place where you can feel confident going forward. That's where really what you're buying for me, not like landing pages or emails to people you wanna know, like this thing is under some kind of control and if it's gonna grow, it's gonna grow.

If it's gonna die, it's gonna die, but I can get you there in a way that everyone feels supported through the experience. And I was like the only person that you know, who would ever say that to see or whatever that you're freaking out. Know, actually his mic at fresh books would probably tell you. I said that probably to him way too many times we have a good relationship.

Importance Of Showing One's Emotions

Sunir Shah: Yeah. I mean the emotion comes from this problem, right. Or if it's something else in my life, I would just tell 'em straight up, you know, like, well, I try to be as selfish where as I can't like, this is how I, this is if you're I'm acting weird or whatever, it's like, this is literally what's happening to me right now. So then they can manage their response. 

Otherwise people think I'm attacking them or threaten them, or if I'm feeling anxious and they're in a call with me and I'm feeling not reacting the way they want, they could feel like I'm not, I'm not buying what they're selling or I'm not like, you know, I'm not engaged what they're saying or that about to fire them for some reason cause I'm reacting for a way. 

But if I just let them know, like I'm worried about this thing right now, I just came into this meeting. Don't worry about my response. I'm listening to you, but I may be reacting this way. Right. Then if I ever act in a way they don't understand, they can ask me. Cause they'll get to know that you can ask me, like, is what did you actually feel about this? I can say right now, I can't feel anything about this, but I'll come back to you and we can have an honest conversation. 

And in return what I find is that people that will then tell me how they feel very openly about whatever in the same way. And it's a very mature and adult way I feel to get on through life. Cause I actually don't believe. I mean, actually we're just talking about Shopify. I think Toby wrote a very mature letter. I mean, he had a difficult day, right? The other day. 

Connor: I haven't read that, but if you wanna summarize it for people's listen and myself. 

Sunir Shah: Many CEOs, when they do a layoff, they talk about themselves and how it impacts themselves and all this stuff. He talked about his relationship to Shopify, obviously it's his love of his life in a way he was there from the beginning and he talks about the mistake they made. And he talked about the impact of people. And he talked about how they're taking care of people. And you know, it was a mistake and, but it's like, now they're correcting it.

And it was his, his mistake, and a lot of CEOs who do layoffs will like talk about themselves the whole time and how it impacts them. It's the first time they've had to do a layoff, like no one cares about you and your reaction. And so I think a lot of CEOs, they're afraid or of looking like they have imposter syndrome.

They're afraid of looking crappy and they have, they hold their emotions in. Right. But how do you hold, how do you leap people? I mean, to me at work. May be your boss. I have that role. And you're responsible for your outcomes, right? And your development, all these things nine to five, but what happens after 5:00 PM? We're just adults in society together. Right? So maybe then you're, you're coaching my kid at soccer. I have to listen to what you're saying. Cause you're the coach and I'm like the right different roles. We're just people, right? 

For this particular context, we have roles relative to each other, but we're still adults. Like the game of a corporation doesn't change ourselves as human beings. Does it make it can to many people, but I don't understand it. So maybe I'm a little bit unique anyway, that's a bit of a ramble, but you know, I think dealing with your emotions, if we're gonna talk about that it's worth it.

Like who cares? Rolling it together. If you're worried, be worried that you know, the longer you hide it, the more dramatic it becomes and where my emotions on my sleeve will tell you is right up. I don't care. Yeah. I mean, I do care actually. I want you to know as fast as humanly possible so that it doesn't become a dramatic moment where I'm like, by the way, I've been secretly hating you for six months and you'd fire them. Like, that's weird. It's wrong. Like you didn't give a person a chance to grow and fix the problem. 

Connor: Yeah. I think it's probably quite a common experience. So I hope that you inspire some people today that really definitely was the highlight of speaking to you today was learning how you deal with things like that.

Sunir Shah: Some people will think you're a lunatic to doing that, but they're the ones who are the most insecure about their own feelings. I'll tell you one more story. So I was doing a partnership deal while I was at FreshBook. I will not mention the company, but they were in Seattle. And it was falling apart. And then there was this, it was back before video calls.

So it was like they had, they had a conference room with a Polycom, with a conference call and I was at fresh books listening to them and there's the global VP or whatever came in to kill the deal. And he was just like yelling on the phone for like 20 minutes. And I was just like, okay. So I put, I put myself on, I put the hands up down, put him on speaker, muted myself, and just went on with my email.

And he just kept going for like 20 solid minutes. And then he finally, you know, finished and he is like, well, what'd you. I didn't catch it the first time I was like, what are you there? What do you think? He was like, oh, sorry, I wasn't listening because it didn't matter. By the way as angry and intimidating, as you think you are yelling at a piece of plastic in Seattle.

And let me look it up a map quest. This is how long ago it was. like, we're like 3000, I'm 3000 kilometers away from you in a different country. I'm not feeling very intimidated right now. like genius. My handset is not gonna leap up and attack me. I'm like, I don't know what you think you're doing. I mean, clearly he was yelling at the other people in the room by yelling at me.

He's like, you're having a meltdown and you're having an adult temp. I didn't say this. I realized was having an adult temper tantrum. Mm-hmm cause he couldn't actually manage his relationships with his own subordinates. 

Unless you're gonna punch me. I don't really care. What's gonna happen to me. So nothing is gonna happen. Like what are you gonna do? What's the worst you gonnado to me, nothing. So I don't feel that intimidated. And I'm not gonna do anything for you. Obviously at this point, you can't make me do anything after you yell at me for 20 minutes.

Cause I don't wanna do anything with you. You could have just said no. I was like, okay, that've been a lot faster. But he took out his emotions of the tempera tantrum mm-hmm and I, I remember that story. I had one other story like that. I was just like, I've had blowups with my partners before, but I've always treated them respect.

I buy them drinks afterwards. I got them keening my conference. Even we like killed a partnership. Cause I always try to treat them with dignity and respect, you know, I even . Yeah. It's like so many stories like that where, you know, it just seems absurd to me. It's like, it's like a panto mine of stupidity to lie to someone with your emotions for your own selfish needs. Like it's not real, like it's just business for beginning and why even bother get angry at somebody.

And like for 20 minutes, like you can be, you can just tell them I'm angry at you. That's all the information they need. That's it. And then you can move on to what you're gonna do about it. I don't understand the point of yelling. 

Connor: I mean, you are incredibly stoic. It's not the emotional response for probably most people. For most lizards. You you're gonna hear shouting and you're gonna go. I need to like step up and defend my honor. But to just sort of sit back and be like, read between the lines and be like, oh, he's actually just having a temper potential. And I can just let that happen. It's very stoic. 

Sunir Shah: Yeah. I'm not stoic, but I am not violent. Cause I am. That's how I grew up. That's my religion. And so I just don't see the negative emotions are like a gift people want to give to you that you don't want to take. Like yeah, I'm feeling, I'm feeling crappy inside. And so like, here's a gift to you. It's a negative emotions. So like, you can just say, mm, no, thank you. I don't want it. There's too much wisdom for an e-commerce podcast. Like at this point you're gonna have to found a religion. 

Connor Curlewis
Connor Curlewis

Former Content Producer

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