Ben Walker is a CEO, entrepreneur, and visionary leader that enjoys helping others become successful in business and in life. Ben’s company, Transcription Outsourcing, provides user friendly and cost-effective transcription services for the medical, legal, law enforcement, and financial industries for organizations all over the world. Ben is a sought after thought leader and has made contributions to publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc, Forbes, and the Associate Press. Follow Ben’s Tweets: @benjaminkwalker
Intro: Welcome to the Lucky Titan podcast where you will learn how to fill your favorite platform with tons of your dream customers from some of the world's top entrepreneurs. I'm your host, Josh Tapp no let's get started.
Josh: What is up everybody, Josh, tap here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan. Today, we're here with Ben Walker, which you all remember from our interview, well, over a year ago, we had a really awesome conversation, this is the guy who runs transcription outsourcing, this guy has a really fun business model, it's honestly very simple but they've done such a great job of scaling it out and making it into just an incredible business and Ben, I'm excited to have you here and is to kind of give us some insight today and like we talked about of the what not to do, right and I love that because really, I think the biggest thing for entrepreneurs is no is having that not to do list so excited to hop into that, if you can say what's up to everybody, we'll hop in.
Ben: Thanks, Josh, for having me again, it has been a while, but yet things have changed and gotten better.
Josh: Love it love to hear that happen. I mean, honestly, most companies that we interview on here, you know, the people that we've talked to they their businesses are never stagnant, you know, we look at these big, you know, Inc 500 brands or whatever for Fortune 500 brands and there, we look at them as Oh, they've never changed their product offering or whatnot, which is not really true but the truth is, is that the pivots that small businesses have to make have to happen much more frequently and I'm kind of curious what you guys have been doing, because as you told me, your business has been booming and so what are some of those big strategic pivots you've had to make to keep up with the demand?
Ben: Well, the original pivot, and I hate using that word, because so many people use it but the original diversification that we went through, was adding the other kinds of transcription services we offer so we were specifically medical only, or exclusively, and we would get calls from law firms and law enforcement agencies in and around Denver and they'd ask us to transcribe stuff and we tell them no, then as we kind of plateaued with medical clientele, and then turn the corner and we're losing clients because things changed in the healthcare industry, we started researching legal transcription, law enforcement, transcription and then we found that there were these other worlds that existed so we diversified in order to stay open, that's what it came down to, I don't have a resume, I don't take orders well, and I didn't want to work for someone else so we figured out a way to add to our service line and not be a one trick pony anymore.
Josh: Yeah. We'll see when it comes to that, though. I mean, how to I mean, obviously, there was demand, right and with these within these other industries, but how did you decide to go with those industries, instead of maybe moving towards podcasts, I mean, there's so many different, you know, applications for transcription, that what sparked your interest about that was just the quantity of demand.
Ben: Yes, the quantity and then looking at the overall market, because podcasting back then was new and the legal industry certainly wasn't new, and neither is law enforcement industry and then digging deeper into the legal industry was the legal system United States is growing, it continues to grow, especially on the non-criminal side, where people are suing each other people are getting divorced, things like that those legal systems are they're getting so big, it's almost too much to control where we saw the need for other than court reporters in the legal transcription industry, because the court reporters couldn't handle the amount of volume so someone had to help, then in law enforcement, we found out that their budgets were shrinking so when their back office staff were retiring, or moving to new positions, they weren't filling them with new back office staff so they were coming to us and then we realized quickly, that was going to continue to happen and then obviously, in the last three years, law enforcement budgets have gotten even smaller so we're getting more calls to help them keep up with the amount of reports and interviews that they need help with so a little I guess, I don't want to say common sense, but it kind of was common sense, I mean, it seems simple and it was simple, not everyone will go with that though, they want to sometimes complicate it too much, or think too much about it and then not jump on the opportunity when it presents itself so yeah, jumping on the opportunity when it presents itself and not over analyzing, because when you are pivoting or diversifying, you may go the wrong direction one time, but at least you went to direction to try it out, see if it would work, like we don't get a lot of podcast transcription, we've offered it and we have a landing page on our website, we just don't get a lot of it at least we try, you know what I mean?
Ben: and then the ones that do well with like we do well with legal transcription and law enforcement transcription, then we press on the gas harder and those industries and go after it even more.
Josh: Yeah. When you it's funny because there are a lot of risks with entering new industries and because it's changed and your customer and so your language has to change, your websites have to change your marketing in general has to change, did you feel like you had to do a lot of that or do you feel like it just kind of naturally happened.
Ben: we did do a lot of it, we had to learn those other industries, like I didn't know anything about law enforcement and that's, I mean, it's kind of a good sign that I didn't know anything about it but now, just learning the lingo and talking to detectives and talking to surgeons, and police chiefs, now I know how to talk to them and now I also know how to talk to a clerk of a court at a courthouse anywhere in the country, I know what they're talking about so yeah, you do have to learn it. Otherwise, they won't go with you or they won't even give you the time of day, if you can't speak their language, it is a risk, but everything's a risk, I mean, if you want to be successful or moderately successful, you're gonna have to take some risks.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and those risks, I feel like in your case that was calculated, right, you had already done the research that people are coming to you saying, Hey, would you be willing to work with me and a lot of times, I would even counseled people not to take those clients who are coming to them and right potential clients, if they're too far out of their wheelhouse, but sound like in your case, it was a good, a good shift and like you said, it was kind of risky in that sense, because you didn't know if it was going to pan out or not.
Ben: Yes, I mean, I wish I would have written this down before about the things that didn't work out because we've done a bunch of things that have worked, I just forgot about them, because you move on. It's best probably to move on anyway, instead of dwell on hey, this didn't work out, you know what I mean, like, get back up and go, again, we're doing some other projects right now that are even outside of transcription, but they're related to data entry and typing, and translation so they're not in our wheelhouse, but when they came to us and said, can you do this, we sat down as a group here and laid everything out said, can we do this, well, yes, of course, we can do it but will we make any money, will we do it on time, will we do it accurately and will it take us away from our other work and when we found out it wouldn't, and we could make money, then we do it so they're unique projects that are kind of tangentially related to transcription, but they're not transcription, like in the traditional sense of listening to audio and transcribing.
Ben: I can tell you about those projects, I don't know if it would help.
Josh: love to hear them, right. So what are the things that didn't work, right because after I kind of caveat this, because just because it didn't work for Ben doesn't mean it's not going to work for you but it is, I mean, if you're listening to this, sometimes you got you have to look at those things and say, is it worth pursuing, even if the result was mediocre, right so I'm the kind of guy I'm like, if it's not a heck yes, it's a no, right and like, if I'm not all for it, then it needs to be a noun and so I'm just kind of curious, what are some of the not to do is that you'd recommend?
Ben: with some of the things that haven't worked out? Well, for us involve, well, it's called Copy typing so people will send us PDFs, and we will type it out and do a Word document so they can have an editable copy and people have sent us books before in the past that we underpriced and then we ended up losing money on because it took us much longer than we thought and OCR didn't work well, because the books were old, or the images were poor, or whatever but some of the projects that have worked the same type of project, but we price it correctly and we do more research before we commit to it. Like we're doing one right now for the Idaho Department of Water Resources, they have 125 years of leather bound books that measure water levels all over the state of Idaho, and it needs to be digitized for public consumption and modeling so they can figure out how much water is going to come out of Idaho, into neighboring states or into their reservoirs or whatever, it all needs to be digitized, we've lost money on projects like that before. But this time, we did the enough analysis to figure out how to make money on it and to get it back to them done correctly and on time or early so it's not traditional transcription and we'd lost money on a project like this before, now we're doing it correctly, we have the right people and we're not pulling away from our clients that we already work with.
Josh: Yeah, I don't know if you knew this, I'm from Idaho so it's funny, I live in Idaho and water levels are gray here, it seems like but who knows, I'm obviously not in that that realm but yeah, so I love that it's learning to know which projects are going to be most profitable for and do you find that like government projects end up just having a longer sales cycle like those or do you feel like they're working better?
Ben: They do have a longer sales cycle 99% of the time, and it's because they have to get approval to spend the money, right so like a project like this, they knew they had to do it and we've been talking to them since last summer, they had to get it into the budget and then they had to get approval for it before they could ever say hey, we're ready to go and we're going to ship you the books because at one point, we had talked about going up to Boise and spending six months there and scanning, I think it's 350,000 pages of data yeah, so I had worked out with people I found here in Denver that were willing to go to Boise for six months and live in a motel like, and then we worked out how much that would cost and we shared it with the Idaho Department of Water and then they said, Oh, my God, okay, this is a massive project, we didn't know it's going to cost that much so we had to figure out ways to make it more affordable for them so working through that with them to help them save money, and to shorten the timeframe.
Ben: So to answer your question, yes, it's a longer sales cycle but it ends up being almost always better thought out in the end for everyone.
Josh: Yeah. Love that. So what are some of the other ones that you like things you would say, like what not to do when you're growing an agency like you're doing?
Ben: Don't say, yes, if you can't handle the amount of work, they're gonna send you because we've done that before, too. So they sent you, they send us a whole bunch of work, and then we don't get it back on time and our policy is, if we don't get back on time, we have to give it to him for free and I don't like giving away money, especially a lot of money, yet, don't take it if you can't do it and I'm guilty of this a lot because I don't like turning business away and my operations people get kind of mad when I say yes to things that I maybe should have asked them about beforehand, it hasn't blown up on us in a while but it has before and we don't want to the first impression to be bad with a new client,
Ben: right yeah, and I think the timing thing is, it's awesome that you have an offer like that, where you can say, hey, I will, we'll get it to you before this date. You know, and I know for myself, there have been times even in our agency, when obviously, we thought we were fully capable of taking these things on and it turns out that they're way more work than than we had anticipated, and it ends up becoming extremely unprofitable, you know, we just had one recently, too, because we actually deviated from what we normally do for somebody, because of who it was, I was like, it'd be really excited to work with them and then it just like, not blew up in our face but the client relationship just ended where it was kind of awkward and both like, well, that didn't work, and we had to a refund and all this stuff, it was not fun because we went outside of our wheelhouse, I know, it's like sticking your core competencies is also extremely, extremely valuable.
Ben: It is and at the same time, you can't diversify or pivot if you don't try other things.
Ben: So yeah, I'm trying to think of something like someone asked us recently if we could do medical billing along with medical transcription and they asked us to do some other data entry in their electronic health record system and I told him no, even though I probably could have figured it out, we're not a medical billing company, like that's not what we do, that's other companies. So yeah, knowing kind of which ones to take, and which ones to turn away because I don't think the Idaho Department of Water project that we're doing is that far away from like, what we really do.
Ben: and we're doing another massive project for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Virginia, obviously, that's going to take a year, that's German, I had German transcribing from handwritten letters in the 19, teens, 20s, and 30s so it's all handwritten, terrible handwriting in a good form of handwriting, they don't teach anymore in Germany, then we transcribe it to English so it's an old world German, handwritten, and the way they spoke, they don't speak like that anymore so we had to find people who could translate it and that again, it's not that far away from what we do so we did a ton of research, talk to a ton of people that do German translation, then met with them before we ever said we could do it.
Ben: because we want to make sure we didn't mess it up.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. When and I love that you're able to analyze it that way and look at that project and say, hey, this one's actually, you know, worth pursuing because I honestly, I bet you and a competitor of yours would look at that and go, well, that has nothing to do with what we do, right but then if you look at it, and you say, Hey, I could we develop the core competencies for this, like you said, it could be risky, but could also be highly beneficial?
Ben: Yeah and it worked out because my Director of Operations, majored in German, and his spend time in Germany so we tapped into our resources in order to make it happen so if it had been someone coming to us asking about Cantonese, we probably would have had to say no, because I don't know anybody who can speak Cantonese.
Ben: And I don't know that my director of operations I like if he knows anyone, I mean, I would ask him because he was a language guy in college, but I don't know. Yeah, I probably would have said no, yeah.
Josh: ‘cos that's, it's funny sometimes that you do have those random connections that are you could you could make it work so yeah, we are coming up to the interview here and I wanted to ask you a couple things. So if you could give our audience a key takeaway, like saying, Hey, this is one tip that you could give them they could go apply today, what would that be?
Ben: Oh, I bet I said this before, but get as much PR as possible, I can't stress that enough. Public relations is tremendously important because people can't buy what you're selling if they don't know you exist.
Josh: Right, well, you know, it's so interesting to me that people don't do it as often as they should, you know, going out there and getting that PR exposure, because it's huge. I mean, and I appreciate that tip, you know, I mean, obviously, our businesses around because of that, right. So absolutely love that, well, then. So everybody, if you're listening to this show, and you're saying, hey, we might need some help with some transcription work, or you know, somebody who might go to transcriptionoutsourcing.net and then Ben, if you could give us one final parting piece of guidance, or would that be?
Ben: I'd find either a coach or a group of people that are in your industry that you can talk to, because it doesn't matter what you're selling, or providing, if you're new to it, you don't know everything about your industry, there's no way to know you just can't and Google doesn't know all the answers, I promise find industry trade group or a mentor who's been in it before that can help you because that's also so helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of, or hey, have you done this or have you tried this or what's this, like, yeah, it's more helpful than I think people realize.
Josh: Yeah, I would agree with that. 100%. Well, Ben, I appreciate you coming on and sharing your wisdom with us today, I know it's a short interview, but I always appreciate your time and you coming on the show. So once again, everybody check out transcriptionoutsourcing.net and we'll catch you on the flip side.
Ben: Thanks, Josh for having me.
Outro: Hope you enjoyed this episode of The lucky Titan podcast. If you've learned anything from this or any other episode, make sure you rate it and share it with another entrepreneur could help. Thanks again and I'll catch you on the flip side.