Episode 184 Featuring Connor Curlewis

How This App Leverage Postcards To Grow Your Business

How This App Leverage Postcards To Grow Your Business

In this episode, we are joined by Michael Epstein, a Board member and Principal at PostPilot, a platform that allows you to send personalized postcards automatically at scale, as easily as you'd create an email campaign.

After selling his first company in 2013, Michael has served as CMO of multiple 8 and 9 figure private equity backed online retailers where he successfully utilized direct mail to improve customer loyalty, retention, and profitability. After leading a turnaround and successful exit for a $200M portfolio of aftermarket automotive brands, he now serves as CMO of a leading venture backed ecommerce aggregator, Ecommerce Brands.


His life growing up

Michael Epstein: I was always into a bit of a workaholic from the time I was young, where I was taking odd jobs and starting businesses from, I think I had a DJ business in junior high. In high school, a car detailing business in high school. I was always just an entrepreneurial. 

So I don't think it came as a surprise to my family that I started a company while I was still in my college dorm room and grew that in the first year to over a million in sales, went on to grow it to tens of millions and ultimately an exit in 2013. That's when I got involved, sold it to private equity and got involved in private equity operating work, where myself and my business partner and co-founder post pilot had a similar story.

And we joined up in 2013 and started doing this private equity operating work where we'd go in and kind of be the bench for private equity funds that had portfolio companies focus on e-com and direct to consumer. So we would either do advisory work or help them on due diligence when pursuing a deal or actually go and get hands on in some cases to help them grow the business. A lot of cases were turnarounds where they acquired companies that were distressed and needed to, to get them back on track. And that's what we were doing for a while until post pilot.

So always kind of been in e-com and direct to consumer. The company I started was an e-com retailer and manufacturer of consumer electronics back in 2000 before Shopify, before Google, before all this stuff. And it's been in my DNA for a long time, over 20 years. 

Connor: Wow. Yeah. That's pretty credible. How did you do that? Like before all of those DAWS and things? 

Michael Epstein: I think the first website was on a platform that nobody here will will know or remember, I called me of a merchant and then I think OS commerce. And we used a predecessor to Google ads before that was a thing. The first search ads was actually a company called go to, which became overture, which got acquired by Yahoo. And then Google came with AdWords and just obliterated that company. 

We built our company through what's would now be known as influencer marketing. It didn't have a term associated with it at that time, but this was when people were just first starting their own websites around different niches and categories. And so ours was consumer electronics and a lot of gaming. So people would create websites around popular video games and gaming and, and consumer electronics in general. And we found them and partnered with them and they helped spread the word, because again, it wasn't even like search engines were that big at that time, it was, it was just partnering with people that had an audience.

And that's how we grew it so quickly. We would just email them and people were game to try new things and truck partnerships with a lot of them. And that's what really got us off the ground and, and helped us grow until we got into more of, you know, SEO and paid acquisition model that became standard in the years that that followed at that point.

Connor: Who's the influencer? These people have an audience they're slightly different to how, like people would have an audience now that they have like a blog and then you come in and you go, we can connect you to other people like other, like, is it the same linear other influencers with blogs? Or are you connecting them to like, well, no, you're connecting with the customer. 

Michael Epstein: It would now be probably called a blog at the time. It was probably just a website. Yeah. And it would just create a website and either code it themselves or use whatever platforms were available at the time, which were not many.

And just create these websites dedicated to and forums and things like that, dedicated to these niche communities of gamers or people that were into technology or consumer electronics. And yeah, we'd approach them by email and we'd come up with some affiliate type deal and they would help promote the products or we'd advertise on their websites. And they had just a captive audience of our target customer and that's how we grew. And then, yeah, again started adopting traditional kind of search ads when that, when that became a thing and kept growing from there. 

Connor: True, true. So it was kind of just hopping on the latest. So were you doing like banner ads on those websites? What did the affiliate look like? 

Michael Epstein: The ugliest banner ad you could ever imagine at this point, but it was like one of the first, no one batter ads were still a thing and they were. 

Connor: Yeah, they didn't change for so many years as well. They were just like the same one, right? 

Michael Epstein: There's a great article by Andrew Chen, who is the head of growth for Uber and is now partner with Andrewson Horowitz called the law of shitty clickthroughs. Kind of like a seminal article that he wrote, which talks about how marketing channels continue to get saturated and cost go up as competition increases as all competition drive up cost and drives oversaturation of these channels. So people start ignoring them. 

And one of the things he talked about was like the first banner ad was the ugliest thing. I think it just said click here or something. And it got like a 50% click through rate or something like that. And now it gets, you know, 0.01%, but to kind of segue that a little bit that what drives a lot of the interest now in direct mail and with post pilot, is that these channels that continue to evolve and get popular over time, continue to get more and more saturated over time.

So it used to be obviously that your email inbox was where all the important, only the important stuff went and your mailbox, your physical mailbox is where a lot of junk mail went. Now it's just completely flip Flo to where your email inbox is 140 messages a day. People ignore them or delete them, or it goes to your promotions tab and you never see them. 

And email engagement continues to go down and down and down to where the average open rate is under 20%. And that's of people that are subscribed. Facebook ads are now being impacted by the iOS updates and competition continues to drive off cost as ROAS continues to go down and digital in general is just becoming so oversaturated that people are just blind and numb to these tactics at this point and ignoring them. 

And so there's just been this massive increase in appetite to diversify your channels and find unsaturated new ways to reach and engage your target audience and your customers. And that's what's just led to this big resurgence in direct mail, particularly among e-com direct consumer brands that were previously completely dependent on channels like Facebook and digital. 

How PostPilot Works

Connor: I'll just quickly say to be clear, like, so post pilot is now sending out postcards instead of emails to make sure that people get the ad, they touch it, they think about it. But do you have a system for like, oh, they actually got the postcard. Do you have any like feedback loop for that or is it kind of just like send 'em out? 

Michael Epstein: Just to kind of give the overview post pilot is a native Shopify app with integrations to Shopify, Klaviyo and other e-commerce tools. And it's a direct bail automation platform that allows you to send individually personalized, segmented, triggered, like automated and track direct mail postcard campaigns as easily as email.

So think Klaviyo for postcards. If you're familiar with Klaviyo, the big ESP for e-com stores and kind of forget everything you knew about or perceived about traditional direct mail in the past, which was like this batch and blast kind of campaign structure, it was a bunch of spreadsheets and uploading it to a print house and blasting a bunch of people, either with a zip code or the met certain attributes and then using more spreadsheets to figure out, try and figure out what the return on that campaign was. 

We've really made it again cuz direct consumer e-com and digital marketing is my DNA in our and my co-founder's DNA. So we set out to build a platform that feels familiar and functions like a digital marketing tool you can send email campaigns think of or direct mail campaigns that are similar to how you would think about an email campaign. I wanna segment these customers. I want to target everyone that's bought within the last 30 to 120 days and bought this product or spent over this amount to announce a new product that we're launching or a new sale that we're promoting. You can send that as a campaign, or you can do something even more powerful, which is flows and automations like you have in an email flow or an email automation.

So that's trigger. You define what the criteria is that you want to, to use, to target, to trigger that campaign. For example, someone makes a purchase if they don't purchase. Again, within 35 days, trigger a camp, trigger a card to go to that person that says, hey, it's time to come back. We miss you. It's time for a refill, whatever it may be. And that card is individually triggered and personalized. 

So it would say, hey, Connor, it's time for a refill on the supplements you just purchased. You'll receive that card. We know because we're integrated with Shopify when you receive that card. We know if you go on to make a subsequent purchase and we can attribute that back to the card that you received. And we know if you used a coupon code that was on that card, whether it was static code or a single use code, meaning a unique code sent to every individual recipient of that card.

And we can attribute the use of that code directly back to the card as well. And so you're engaging with the 80 plus percent of customers, like your best audience, the people that have done business with you. And shown a willingness to do business with you, that you are not reaching using email.

You can reach that large swath of customers in a way that they're gonna engage with. And we can track the ROI in real time. And typically brands are seeing 8, 10. We run campaigns that see 20 plus X return on ad spend very frequently on those types of campaigns. And then we continue to move up the funnel.

So from customers more to prospecting, but we start with this customers that have done business with you, but you're unable to reach via traditional digital channels or just ignoring your message or not getting it. And direct mail is just a hugely effective way of getting in front of them, getting them to engage in getting incremental revenue and LTV from those customers.

Connor: Can you tell us about the not to give away any sort of like magic secrets, but like, you know, if you're gonna be doing it to cold traffic, as opposed to those customers who are already bought from you, like, what does that look like? 

Michael Epstein: Again, we think about it very differently from traditional notion of direct mail, traditional mail houses, just, they want you to start with cold outreach because one it's the only thing they can do. And two it's the highest volume. Great. You wanna send to everybody in this state or everybody who has a female between 25 and 44 with this household income. Great. We'll send a hundred thousand cards for you. And then the problem is that's very tough. It's very tough to make work and get an acceptable ROI when you're doing that.

It takes a long term commitment to the channel, to analysis, to continued iteration and refinement of that strategy. We prefer to start at the bottom of the funnel. So start with people that are already engaged with your brand and have shown a willingness to do business with you before. But for whatever reason have stopped. They have not exhibited the behavior you expect. They're not repurchasing the way you expect you're you're not reaching them because obviously you're probably, they're probably in an email flow or other retargeting campaigns and they've not converted. Direct mail allows you to again, get back in front of them, get them back.

Much higher ROI on those types of campaigns and then work your way up the funnel. So for example, we just worked with a brand called beard brand. It's one of like the OG men's grooming brands run by an awesome direct to consumer marketer eric Bandholz. He targeted, they sell these men's grooming products for obviously people with beards. He wanted to target people that had not purchased in at least six months. 

So you're pretty defected at six months of not buying a grooming product, which is typically bought every 30 to 60 days. If you haven't bought within 180 days, you've likely defected. He saved you bid. Yeah. And he layered in people that were unsubscribed to his email list. We don't, we say it's not even necessary that you do that. But for the sake of this task campaign, we went with like the most, the people, he was unable to reach with his, with email period because they were unsubscribed. We got a 10 X return on that campaign. So people that were long gone. Unable to be reached by email 10 extra turn on those folks by sending them a direct mail campaign.

And we see that all the time. Avi, Rocket ship, D2C supplements brand. They did 30 million in their first 30 months of existence, like killer marketers, killer branding. But again, typical repurchase for supplements is 30, maybe six up to 60 days. If you're not buying again something's changed in your life or something's pulled you away and distracted you and gotten you off the routine.

Again, start targeting customers at 90 days. If they haven't purchased within 90 days, something is wrong and they have not responded to our follow up email campaigns or our SMS campaigns or our retargeting campaigns. We need to get them back because the LTV of that customer is so high when you keep them.

You're not paying up for the customer acquisition cost is really high so that you have to keep them buying. If you wanna make any money, you're not really even really making money on those first couple purchases, so we've gotta get them back. And so we sent campaigns to customers that hadn't bought again within 90 days.

I think it's up to a 22 X ROI on that campaign. Again, they were trying to reach them through digital channels. They were not responding, but 22 X return on these customers that we reached out to via direct mail and got them back and they didn't buy just once more. They got back into their regular routine and kept buying over and over and over again. So the value, the actual value of that campaign is just massive because it's so much more profitable when you get that customer back versus paying to acquire them again. 

What Makes These Postcards Effective

Connor: What do you think it is about just receiving a physical postcard that like leads to those kinds of results compared to like an SMS is kind of like personal as well, and it's right there.

Michael Epstein: Yeah. But I think a couple of things, and it's a great question. One, digital ads are often seen as a distraction or an annoy or an interruption or an annoyance. And so even emails, you're just kind of getting bombarded with them. They're fleeting. Like you see, and same with an SMS. People are getting so many SMS messages, so many emails they're instantly forgotten.

You just see them, you just ignore them or you delete them or you, or you just move on from them really quickly. There's just been a lot of research that also shows that receiving a physical piece of mail in your hand is perceived more like a gift. And that's why it just gets so much more engagement.

Like you get a piece of mail from a brand that you recognize and have done business with. You're gonna see it. You're gonna read it. Some people may discard it, but you've actually spent the time to actually look at it and see it and process that message. And it's just much more memorable. And a lot of our brands, for example, promix a, another big supplements brand.

He was talking just the other day about how having physical representation of your brand in the customer's hand and in their home is just so powerful and effective relative to digital ads that again, just are so fleeting. And so, and he gets massive returns on the campaigns that he runs, but he also just loves that it's it's, it makes his brand feel bigger than it is.

It makes his brand feel more credible and it just creates a relationship with that customer that is so unique and more memorable. Than just blasting an email like everybody else. So the data supports all of this, but we hear it from brands just all the time. It is a more memorable and unique touchpoint now in this kind of age of digital overload. 

Connor: I was interested in, do you think that it's a cycle? Like what you described earlier about the email being like once like quite an amazing thing, like what, I got an email and now it's like, ah, what we got a letter, like, do you think that that'll flip or do you think we'll go into something else?

Michael Epstein: I definitely don't think that the trend towards physical and kind of offline touch points is gonna change anytime soon. I just think that this age of digital overload is not stopping or changing people, aren't gonna pull back in a major way from digital spend or if they do other brands are gonna fill that gap.

And you're just gonna continue to kind of bombard people with digital messages and ads and physical. While we see a big increasing demand and trend towards direct mail and physical kind of touch points. All these brands that we hear it from brands all the time they have to start developing if they aren't already this multi-channel multi-touch point strategy because you have to meet customers where they are, you have to find different ways to engage them.

And how many times do you respond to the first ad that you see? Usually it takes multiple touches across multiple channels to get customers, to take the action that you want. And so direct mail and physical kind of touch points like that in general, I think have a lot of runway before they get anywhere close to being saturated and even so there's still gonna be an important component of your overall marketing mix.

Connor: Yeah, no, I think you're right. I think it's time to return to the traveling salesman, right? 

Michael Epstein: In all seriousness, just that face to face engagement and just those types of experiences are the things that are now gonna help stand out and be more unique. I'm not suggesting everyone hire a bunch of door to door salesman by any means, but just the essence of that experience, that offline experience and engagement with brands is gonna continue to be really, really, important.

Connor: Yeah, no, it's true. It's kind of scary thinking about it. When you explain the like, you know, you're gonna create a vacuum if you were to ditch digital ads and somebody's just gonna come in and continue the bombardment. Like I always think like how much a consumer's expect it to take.

We're seeing right now kind of like the, you know, the exponential trend is growing due to like the pandemic. Most people are now like shopping online, far more eCommerce is booming. I kind of think we're gonna reach like a singularity almost in the physical, digital, like dichotomy, because yeah, I just don't know if people are ex like we, as humans should be able to take this.

I feel like there could be a kind of revolution where people are like, well, I actually just quit Instagram and I don't see any Facebook ads anymore. Hell like quit Gmail, you know, like what would we do then as e-commerce marketers? Do you have any ideas? 

Michael Epstein: Yeah. And I mean, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that people give up on digital marketing by any means. I think I've been a digital marketer for 20 years. A proponent of that and life cycle marketing in general across all channels. I just think that you've got to diversify. If you have been dependent, beholden to the Google tax and the Facebook tax to build your business, like that is not a long term viable strategy.

And to your point, I was reading something even last night, how there's just this increasing kind of resistance to, to Google as a search, as a search provider, because now so much of real estate on the results page is taken up by ads. They're just 60%, just all ads. Yeah. And so again, it's people are, are starting to tune that out and eventually to your point, I think these brands are gonna have to realize at some point that the experience is being degraded so much that they're losing actual users and visitors, but at the same time, this is the CA I mean, this is the, the cash cow for them.

This is the business model has built on that. So it's gonna be very difficult to move away from that. You're just gonna have to continue to find channels that your, where your customers, where you can actively engage your customers. And it's not gonna continue to be exclusively through search and social ads and email going forward.

Connor: Like this isn't really to do with what you are doing. You're doing a great thing with the direct mail, but like me personally, I have like a pretty sophisticated ad blocker. So I don't even see like recommended YouTube videos. I have like a blank slate, internet experience.

And I feel like I'm probably like in the minority there, people are going to use Neva and brave instead of Google, they'll just pay for it. And they'll be like, oh, five bucks a month. I don't have to get ads. I use Doug do go, which is kind of crap. But like, you know, when these things come out, I'll use them and then what's gonna happen.

I think it's very interesting. Like, it's kind of like, we're definitely coming to a point where the creative marketers are gonna blow everybody outta the water because you know, at a certain point in time, well, yeah, like you said, like things are just gonna get degraded. And like, I don't know if you've seen ready player one, but there's a scene where like, in the virtual world they figure out that you can put 80% of people's experience with ads before they have an epileptic seizure. It's like obviously like a hyperbole, but I'm also like, well, that could happen, you know? 

Michael Epstein: Sure. I mean, I think you're right in increasing number of people are using ad blockers and things like that. Which again, it's because you, you crave a different experience, but from the a brand and advertiser perspective, it means they don't have a way to get in front of you using the traditional channels that they've been dependent on. 

There's gonna be a growing number of people that will continue to want to use like ad blockers and things like that. The nice thing about direct mail. It's not subject to the same, obviously there's not an ad blocker for it, and it's not subject to things like can spam or other types of compliance around opting in.

So you can reach literally a hundred percent of your customers. And of course they can request to be taken off. I'd say the amount of people that do that, I can probably count on one hand out of like millions and millions of pieces. But again, it's a way to reach essentially all of your customers are audience that has engaged with your brand. It's just becoming kind of a must have part of the overall marketing mix. If you're, if you wanna continue to reach your customers. 

Eco-Friendly Postcards

Connor: Yeah. Having done a 13 months long distance with my girlfriend, writing love letters is kind of a it's a bit false, false errand. Do you guys have any environmentally friendly versions of postcards or are you looking to do that in the future? 

Michael Epstein: Yeah. Good question. We get that question a lot more in the last couple years is obviously that's been something more top of mind for a lot of brands being eco-friendly and just responsible.

We've always been that way. Using recycled material, using inks that are eco-friendly. And then we also have a program where we plant double the number of trees that we use in our cards and ensure that we're more than offsetting and the actual paper usage. 

Connor: Dude, you need to put that top of the landing page that. That sells me. 

Michael Epstein: Really? Good to know. We are in the process of doing some updates to the site too. And that's gonna be a more prominent piece because we're getting more and more questions about it. 

Connor: Yeah. I mean, that was my first thought when I was going through the business, I was like, I would love to do that for my film company. Kind of like, you know, it's like an extra thing. I did a film in Greece two years ago for a hotel. They gave me the business card after I did the film. And they said they invited me to cycle around the world with them. They were like, we're doing this thing. We'd love to have you. You're a filmmaker would love to have you like, you know, film the film, the cycle around the world thing.

And I was like, that sounds wicked. And they gave me the card and it was like a, it was wooden with like burnt engravings on it. And I still have that card three years later. So yeah, that's what I thought when I saw your company post pilot, I was like, am I gonna sign up and send out like a thousand pieces of glossy plastic that are gonna get thrown away and you know, so that's awesome to hear. I didn't expect that. So thank you. It's good. 

Michael Epstein: Yeah. Well, good to get the feedback, cause it's continue to validate kind of how we're thinking about it, but you're definitely right. We're gonna make it more prominent because we know brands care about it and we care about it. 

Future Of PostPilot

Connor: What else are you looking forward to in the coming years? I mean, now we're going out of hopefully many lockdowns and like the world's gonna change. People are probably very excited to get out and start things. What's next for post pilot? 

Michael Epstein: Well, I think we continue to move kind of up the funnel you asked earlier about more on the prospecting side. Again, we advise brands to start lower in the funnel and then work your way up. But now we have brands that are also doing things like taking their email opt-ins people that have not converted yet have probably gotten the email welcome sequence.

We can scrub that against the data set of physical addresses. So, because they haven't purchased from you yet, you would normally not have their address. If we can source that address. We can then send them a card that gets them to convert. And so again, it's moving up funnel, but in a more responsible and power and, and, and results oriented way, because these are, again, people that have at least demonstrated a level of intent and interest in your business versus pure cold people that have never heard of you and have never displayed any sort of intent to buy.

They've been to your website. They've even chosen to give their email address, but they clearly have not converted. And again, you've probably retargeted through ads. You've probably sent them your email welcome sequence or retargeting or abandoned card sequence. They have not converted. So you can get net new customer acquisition, but at a much higher ROI than going pure cold.

And so these are the kinds of things that we're continuing to roll out, expand the universe of campaigns that people could send. We have interesting technology that we acquired last year that allows you to send actual handwritten card. Automatically. 

This is using proprietary robots. So actual pen to paper, like holding a pen, writing on paper with all the nuance of a human hand, you have the letter variation and the different indentation and spacing and waviness, like all the things that make it, that make it human we've created with our technology. And so you,. If you really wanna deliver a surprise and delight experience like for your V I P customers, it's a great additional touchpoint, super memorable.

Again. Think about it. If you're pulling out your mail, you get a hand addressed envelope in the mail with a stamp on it. And your name written on it in pen. How often do you get that these days you are 100% opening that piece of mail reading it, and you are remembering the brand that sent that to you.

So it's just an awesome touch point. We're gonna continue to create these other sorts of tangible experiences that that brands can use to reach, engage, and, and stay memorable with their customers. 

Connor: I was just thinking again, like until until a hundred percent of brands are using handwritten notes, then you'll be the guy that comes in and we need to go back to typing it, but yeah. No that's awesome. People don't know. 

Michael Epstein: No, it's great. I mean, it's pen to paper and it's really, really effective. And again, it's just meant as an additional touchpoint to just say thank you to a V I P customer acknowledge them, it's all personalized. You can sign it from your name and it's just a really nice way to reach your customer. And yeah, we can actually copy your own handwriting. Like we can digitize your own handwriting if you want. 

Connor: You can't digitize mine. Mine's terrible. 

Michael Epstein: That's the perfect kind. That's the kind that we can definitely copy and it's even that much more distinct, but a lot of people are like, well, my handwriting is terrible. So I'd actually rather choose from one of your handwriting styles that, that you have that still is completely authentic, but is a little more legible than what than mine. And it's not like customers are gonna know exactly what your handwriting looks like versus one of the options that we can provide you. 

Connor: That's quite interesting as well with the VIP experience. Like if 10 of your customers get the same postcard and then you have the 11th customer gets a unique one and they, you know, somehow their friends found out like, then you are adding this extra layer of social. And like, you know, correspondence like one way correspondence with your customers. That's, that's pretty, that's pretty psychologically, I guess, just like effective. Yeah. 

Michael Epstein: Yeah. And we see that a good amount where people post a picture of the card that they received to Instagram or something where, cause yeah. How often does do brands do that these days and it takes and for, you know, $2 to be able to deliver that experience to a customer that may, that might have bought from you now five times or spent $500 with you. Like, how else can you get something that memorable and special delivered to a customer for that kind of cost? It's just really special experience. 

Connor: Tell me more about the case studies like with this new handwriting thing. I also wanted to ask how many customers do you have and how many customers have used this new technology?

Michael Epstein: We have thousands of brands on our platform, you know, ranging in size. Ideal customer is typically a seven figure plus Shopify store because we, you know, we natively integrate with Shopify. You get kind of very robust functionality. And it's seven plus figures you at you at least have enough of a customer base that we can create good segments, target like appropriate size segments to get real data and actually move the needle.

If you're a tiny store, just starting out, you're not gonna be able to build enough segments out of that, out of a very small customer base to really allow you to be as effective. Yeah. But we have thousands of stores. Seven to nine plus figure brands that are sending, you know, anywhere from hundreds or thousands of cards a month to hundreds of thousands of cards.

And consistently see just really, really good returns. And that's why they stick with us. And that's also why we really focus on guiding them and being very hands on and concierge with our service to ensure that they're doing it the right way. Like we know what we've seen thousands of these campaigns, we've sent millions of cards, we've designed them. And so we know what works and we wanna make sure that they're set up for success.

Connor: So you're saying that it's kind of diminishing returns to scale if you can't segment the audience enough? 

Michael Epstein: Like it's just hard if you say, I wanna target customers that hadn't bought in 30 to 60 days and the audience size of that is 40 people. Yeah. It's just, there's just not a lot you can do with that. That's just not, it's not statistically significant. It's not massively moving the needle. You can still, of course do campaigns you can even do if you're a growing brand, like the handwritten card is a nice touch to establish yourself, especially if you're a growing brand, really acknowledge the people that have bought in early and help build your business. But in terms of seeing real scale to your campaigns, again, if segment sizes are really tiny, kind of default, there's not a lot of scale to those campaign. 

Lessons He Learned From His Family

Connor: Okay. Pivoting again. Sorry. You know, if you wanna share them, you don't have to, but like, what are the lessons that you learned from your parents or your grandparents, or if there was a mentor in your in an early stage? 

Michael Epstein: Yeah that's a good question too. I mean, it's interesting because I don't come from an entrepreneurial or business oriented family at all, and I have a very small family, so I didn't have a lot of like mentors or a big family kind of growing up.

My dad was always a very hard worker. And I think what I learned from him is more sacrificing to do what is needed to take care of your family and not putting yourself first and working really hard. I can certainly take that lesson from him. He is the furthest thing from like a business mind that you could probably get, but he's a very smart guy, but yeah, I think those kinds of values were imparted on me, which shaped a lot of my thinking, even if it wasn't pure business oriented, but I've always been a big fan of reading kind of business books. 

Everything from psychology to biographies on successful business, people like jobs and Musk and Bezos and, and all those guys. And I think I've just been a very avid reader and consumer of stories and data and news and, and information about different success stories, different failures. All different kinds of businesses. And I think that that in general, continued to kind of help shape my views and how I I'm just always learning something too. Like always feel like I have a lot more to learn just a work in progress I'd say. 

Connor: Nice. Yeah. That's good. That's nice and humble. Yeah. I would definitely recommend anybody read the Walter Isaacs and Steve jobs book. That's probably one of the best books I've ever read. Yeah. Great book. And the Musk, the Musk biography is pretty good. I haven't read the Bezos one, but yeah, the Musk one was pretty good. 

Michael Epstein: Yeah. The everything store was a really good book on Bezos and there was actually another good book on Amazon that I like a lot called working backwards and it wasn't a biography, but we talk about like business books and learnings, and it was written by some of the senior execs at Amazon who were in the room for a lot of the big decisions that were made strategic decisions that were made at Amazon, both successes and failures teaches about like the management leadership principles of the company, how they approached certain decisions that were major decisions and how they became so successful. 

And I really like that one as well. Again, shapes really helped shape a lot of my thinking, how to structure, meetings, how to think about hiring things like that always, always interested in learning that that was a fairly recent book. 

Connor: Working backwards. Oh, I'd like to look at that. That reminds me of Ray Dalio's principles. Yep. That's genius. Like the idea meritocracy. Everything. Everybody who works with the company has an equal voice and it's, let's respect the idea. I try and bring that to all of my film sets because I've had experiences on film sets where the director, or even a gaffer, like somebody in middle or lower, like hierarchy will turn around and go, oh, sorry, Mr. Assistant Director. Sorry, Mr. Producer.

Like your idea doesn't mean shit here. Right? And you go like that shouldn't be the way like it should be whatever the idea brings to the table, look at it objectively. And it doesn't really matter where the source of that idea is it gonna help the project, the process then let's do it.

Michael Epstein: Yeah, no, absolutely. Right. And when I've run some of the larger eCommerce brands in almost every case, I start, we don't need to go on a tangent, but like I start by sitting with the customer service folks. Nice because they're the closest to the customer. Like they're the people on the front lines with the customer on a daily basis.

And it is a gold mine of information. When you wanna know what the problems are at the company, don't start with like the VP. Start with the people that are talking to customers on a daily basis and hearing their pain points and complaints. And they will tell. Pretty definitively yeah. Where the problems are in the company. So, yeah I totally agree with the meritocracy approach and try and cultivate that wherever I am. Definitely a good call out. 

Connor Curlewis
Connor Curlewis

Former Content Producer

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