The Lucky Titan

Turning Disruption OFF and Innovation ON With Terry Jones

June 21, 2022 Josh Tapp
The Lucky Titan
Turning Disruption OFF and Innovation ON With Terry Jones
Show Notes Transcript

Terry Jones is a Digital Disruptor, an author and a venture capitalist. He has founded five startups, with two billion dollar IPOs, Kayak and Travelocity, and has served on nineteen corporate boards in high tech, internet, cyber-security, travel, artificial intelligence and mobile communication sectors. 

His career path has established him as a thought leader on innovation, disruption, digital relationships and entrepreneurism in our increasingly digital world. As a speaker, author, venture capitalist and board member Terry has been helping companies use the tools and techniques he’s developed to keep up with this rapidly changing world. 

The breadth of his business experience allows him to share unique innovation insights with audiences. His programs on innovation, disruption, marketing and AI are always thought provoking, entertaining and customized. Attendees walk away with inspired ideas and concrete action items to implement in their companies.

In his 15 year speaking career, he has inspired over five hundred audiences in more than thirty countries. Terry is a frequent contributor on Bloomberg, CNN, FOX, CNBC and other news outlets.

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, now let's get started. 

Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan. And today we're here with Terry Jones, I almost called you Terry Bradshaw, you're both really cool. It works out well but I'm glad to have you back here, Terry. I mean, for those of you who don't know, you've probably heard his episode. In the past, he had one of our most listened to episodes, because this guy is the leading expert on innovation and disruption, which he says are basically the same thing, two sides of the same coin, right so I'm excited to dive into that topic as well today. So Terry, say what's up to everybody, we'll hop in.

Terry: Hey, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me back, I really appreciate.

Josh: Yeah, I'm excited. It'll be good. I had a lot of fun. Our last conversation said, Hey, let's let's invite him back on. So Jerry, I want to ask you, because on our last call, you know, we talked about, you know, innovation and disruption all this, but it was pretty much right, the beginning of COVID, I think is the last time we talked. 

Terry: Yeah. 

Josh: and we've actually seen over the past two years, the power of pivots, right and everybody's sick of hearing that word of pivoting innovation or whatever but we're sitting at this stage where the economy and everything is changing so quickly, that it's pivot or die, in my opinion so I'm kind of curious what you've been seeing in this space. You've told me a couple of good stories. I'd love to hear this.

Terry: Well, I mean, I put a thing in my speech, you may remember it from the play Hamilton, you know, Jefferson comes back from Paris and says, What did I miss? He's been gone for seven years. What do I miss in common? You know, look, GM announces the end of the internal combustion engine shut and they can't go back because it's public company, right? Shell announces Peak Oil, China who invented paper money, invents the digital one, right, Amazon's above a million employees mass Mutual Insurance invested 100 million in Bitcoin, their 150 million 150 year old company, and they invest in Bitcoin. I mean, so we've seen a lot of interesting pivots, we've seen people, you know, get run over during this time but I was talking to the president of a cruise line and we were a whole bunch of people talking about digital transformation and I said to him, you know, talking to you, I mean, you're shut down is that like talking about the color of your lifeboat do you really want to talk about this and he said, You know, one of the things we've done as they were just launching a wristband product where you could pay for your drinks, you can open the door, your cabin, you could even gamble paying with this, they thought it would take them eight years to get it in all the shifts, they said we did in one year, because all the chips were important so they had the courage to go do that and that's exciting, I also made a big speech to a trucking manufacturer and I went down to one of the dealers and I said, you know, how did you deal with this crisis and he said, you know, my competition laid people off, I hired every one of them, every mechanic I could get, I doubled the size of my mechanical space and I stole all their accounts, because they were pulling back and I was going in, he also designed he was paying too much to get his it fixed so he bought the IT company, little company, five people, now he gets good it response. He's selling it to all his competitors but we talked about the fact that what is the next truck going to look like it's not going to be full of gauges, it's going to have a great big screen like my Tesla and he said, I think most of my work because electric trucks don't need a lot of maintenance, he's going to be fixing software so people have sort of a different way of looking at the world and, you know, you can put your hands up and say it's, it's not going to happen to me but then, you know, you'll probably get a historical marker in the town that says, you know, here was the Josh Tapp company, they failed to change used to be our biggest employer and all this left is a historical marker because you didn't pivot.

Josh: Right? When and you see that happen over and over and over again and it's interesting, because that and I want to kind of bring this to a level of our audience, right, most of you are doing half a million $2 million a year in sales, and you're saying, okay, but I'm still trying to figure out my product, right and you're, I think people $7 million, or pivot happy. It's like the constant Oh, we've got to change our product or change our services, like what, what would you say to somebody in that range?

Terry: Look, I think you have to have the faith of your convictions for a while, you know, until the market tells you you're wrong. So you're gonna get turned down a ton. Anyway, no matter what you're doing, if it's new, at some point, you know, when you get it in the market, the customer have to tell you, you're wrong, I made a kayak. When we launched our mobile product. This was early in the mobile days we thought, hey, it's mobile so let's just make it about a hotel for tonight because you got stuck or next slide out because you got out early and we did that we rolled it out with but we really listen to the customer feedback that was coming back into us through email and SMS and all kinds of ways, they were using it just like the desktop. In early in mobile, we didn't know that, right and if we hadn't changed, they wouldn't have 150 million customers today so you've got to listen to what the end customer says but sometimes you got to get beyond the purchasing manager, or the executive who you're trying to sell to and see, you know, what is the end user think because those are the guys who are really going to tell you what they think about the product, if they don't like it well, then you better change.

Josh: Exactly. Yeah, I agree completely. Well, it's funny, because the market does, they do tell you right, and they tell you with their wallets and I'm curious, because you've worked with such massive companies, right and, you know, having been one of the founders of kayak and some of these other big companies, when it comes to pivoting that large of a company, you kind of have to spend massive amounts of money to make changes happen, typically and so when we look at an I'd love for you to contradict that, if you believe that that's not true so I'm curious, from a small startup perspective, and figuring out what the market actually needs, like, are there specific types of pivots that they need to be making at this point?

Terry: Well, let's go back to the first one. I mean, sometimes you can have to spend a ton of money. I mean, for example, at Travelocity, we kind of had the idea of kayak, which was just not being a travel agency is just a lead gen company, basically, we couldn't get there, because we would have had to fire 90% of our people and change our business model totally and Wall Street would have gone nuts, I mean, you can't change that much if you're public but on the other hand, you know, early on, and this, this was before sort of continuous product development, you know, I broke up our product team so that we were reduced introducing products every two weeks and we could there were small enough that we could measure and if they were a big hit, you know, away you go so I introduced for example, fair, fair calendars, the ability to see 30 days and click on the lowest airfare, I spent a million bucks on that, nobody used it. Today, every travel site has, it was just too early, people were still figuring out how to put their credit card on the internet, I was, you know, I was showing rocket space travel, the people who were trying to build a fire was way too far ahead, on the other hand, we introduced seat maps and that was an unbelievable hit, you know, so we, it didn't cost us a lot, it was small, but it took off and were the first guys to do it so we've milked it a lot so it was the customer who told us, you know, this is how you have to change and I think, you know, you can't, you don't want to get away from your core but how else can you present it to the customer? How can you change it? We've all seen those guys on Shark Tank, when all the sharks say, well, this is a pretty good product, you know, your nuclear powered egg fryer, whatever the hell it is and but if you just change these two things, you'd be great and the guy goes, No, I won't change anything and rocks out, oh, he's dead. You know, I mean, and these, these wonderful mentors who didn't say it was terrible, but just said, you know, try these tweaks and that's what's so great about being an entrepreneur today because you probably outsourced everything, you outsource your development you don't have, you don't need to have a data center, you're doing something else with you're the idea person so it's not so expensive to change, as it used to be, and therefore you want to do it but get feedback. There was a great quote that I heard somewhere that said, I'm trying to get it, it's about, you know, you have to build prototypes, you have to test, don't fall in love with your prototype, it's a prototype, if someone says it sucks, it sucks, right or if enough people change it, you know, that's the whole point, I mean, Bezos said recently, it isn't an experiment if you know the outcome, right so you don't know the outcome, it may be wrong, and you've got to fail a lot and that's where entrepreneurs can move quickly because big companies never want to fail, they want to know the outcome. Okay, go build this Josh and it better work. Instead of saying, well, it didn't work wasn't Josh's fault, the customer didn't like it. What did we learn? entrepreneurs do that all the time? 

Josh: Yeah, 

Terry: it's kind of funny. I'm doing a I'm doing a speech next week. I was writing it this morning and it's for a company that does really deep website analysis so they do complete customer journey, you can see every click that person made and God I wish we'd had those tools you know, back in when we built Travelocity kayak, but I went to look at the top reasons for cart abandonment, why do people abandoned carts? I had to create an account, it was too complicated, I can't see the total price deliveries, too slow, those are 2022 reasons, they're the same reasons from 2005 so what have we learned, you know, I mean, all these tools are here, but people are still saying, well, I think the website should look like this, I think it should look like that. No, your opinion doesn't matter at all, you know, some people think that, you know, all I need is a lot of strength to move forward and I'll succeed. No, you have to listen to a lot. Yeah.

Josh: See, what's interesting, though, is you're kind of bringing up almost in the subtext there a little bit of communicating with the client, right and or the potential client and we see a lot of times you and I were joking about this beforehand of NFT's, right? Everybody thinks they know what it is but then nobody actually knows what it is or how it works and, you know, businesses are just throwing it at their team saying, hey, you need to launch an NFT but communicating with potential customer is the biggest barrier, I feel like an NFT's being an extreme example but how would you bridge that gap of, you know, actually communicating with the client, what you're offering? 

Terry: What when the client or the, you know, the customer, I'm a little lost? I mean, I think, you know, that's where our proof of concepts and testing and getting people to partner with you is so important, right and many times, if you have a direct to consumer product, I mean, I had an AI company, and we were selling direct to travelers, but we were also selling to travel agents, it was almost impossible with this was to convince the travel agent, that the AI was smart, because they had their own opinion. Oh, no, that isn't the best hotel in Cancun, this is and we said, well, you know, there's 100 reasons why but the traveler themselves loved it so sometimes you have to, you know, particularly in a distributed product that goes through a distributor is get the customer pole, I mean, I've got a business now where eventually we're going to sell that business, to some other big company and we'll never build a Salesforce to sell this product direct all over the country to internet security product but we're selling it direct now, we're selling it direct now, because we want to build the base and the poll, so that the big guy who buys us says yeah, that's that's a good product right, now, the big guys are saying, Oh, that'll never work because that's what they say, you know, Mark Twain said, all you need in this life is ignorance and confidence and successes is sure, they have a lot of ignorance and confidence but you know, as a new guy, so we have a direct sales strategy, we're going to build a team to do that, we hope for a year, and then we want to sell this technology, you know, but we know if I walk into a fortune 500 security company, they'll either will steal it, or they'll say it'll never work so I don't want to do that, I have to find a way around them.

Josh: Yeah and so but communicating with from a client perspective, I have like communicating the technology needs to a client. How are you making that happen? I think I've missed that part.

Terry: Oh, okay. Well, it depends. Sometimes the end clients are usually more willing, you find somebody who's willing to experiment with it, in this case with a POC, so yeah, I have that promise so we went to universities who have a bunch of students who are doing internet security and saying, Hey, we want to experiment with a new idea, you know, we've gone to some large governmental organizations, so we're always looking to experiment and we've explained the technology to them, and they get it, they're not sure it'll work, you know, we say it'll work, but they're willing to try. Whereas, you know, big state corporations, probably, I'm not going to put that in my data center it, it won't work, right so you have to find the right person. I mean, I recommend a big sales teams, even, you know, what I've talked to Oracle, and Microsoft and others, if I'm selling to a large corporation, I'm going to try to find a young person on the way up who wants to make a name for themselves, who's willing to take a risk, because they got to find a way for them to break through so I find that person and say, well, let's go try this, they say, Yeah, I'll go try it, I can get the money to do an experiment, if I tried from the top down, I'd never get in the door, because the top doesn't want to change.

Josh: Right? Yeah and that's the thing is, I mean, speed of changes is difficult for a lot of those bigger companies, that's why I think there's such a benefit to being a small privately held company, because you can make those changes and be the leaders where some of these big ones can't

Terry: right but in the end, you may be selling your product to big customers, right and you can change fast but you can't get in the door, I mean, my last company failed, it was an AI company and travel, we were selling to the wrong people, we probably should have been selling to CFOs we were selling a product that dramatically improve conversion by using AI, conversion of sales but the IT people had a list of my along and they didn't you should have been selling to the CFO, because we could prove to the CFO, we'd make more money, and we shouldn't but we didn't have salespeople at that level and you know, I missed it. So in the end we pivoted we tried some things in the end we were getting some traction but the money ran out before attraction increased and that that happens. 

Josh:  Yeah. Well, I appreciate you sharing that story because people will look at you and be like, oh, man, you're successful, you got so many big things, it's fun to see that. He's not gonna walk through.

Terry: After I learned, I still, you know, I failed and, you know, some of the startups, I spent a lot of time mentoring startups today, you know, I know most of them are going to work, but some of them will, right and they just have to sell it a different way, I'm joining the board of a company in travel, that allows you, as opposed to going online and making a booking and business travel, you can send an email, it says, I want to be in New York tomorrow by four stay at the Midtown Hilton, and come back Friday, just plain text, and you'll get back. Here's three, three itineraries that and we know your preference, and we know the company policy, nobody's doing that but they've been trying to sell that as a tool to make the travel agent more productive and I so just go around them, let's get the traveler excited, because nobody wants to spend 30 minutes online looking at flights if they can send an email, right, that's like it was for me 40 years ago, when I leaned out the door and told my assistant, because I had one for two years ago, giving New York tomorrow before that's all I did so, you know, I've changed totally how they're selling, because they were selling to the wrong customer so sometimes the product is right, you just haven't figured out, you know, who's the right person who's going to drop the dime on me here?

Josh: Yeah. Well, I feel like that's a really interesting distinction because I feel like a lot of times we think, especially in the b2b sector, oh, it's the business, the business is the client and where the business is the one forking the money, yes but who is that player, that's actually going to be the one who consistently gives the cash right, like you said, turn the dime on it, I think that's. 

Terry: yeah, I've seen in businesses where I was in a business, and we sold online travel and expense account management, we got all excited, because we did deals with two big credit card companies and they said, oh, we'll resell your stuff right? Wow, they have 1000s of customers. And wouldn't that be great, yeah but what we didn't understand was, how do we motivate their salesperson, he has a list of 22 things he's selling, we weren't the best thing we couldn't, even though the partnership was great. Oh, we're partnering with Citicorp, we didn't have the ability to push that individual salesperson to get done. So, you know, partnerships can work in sales but boy, the incentives better be aligned, where they where they look at the product and say I can earn more commission, because they're all coin operated, they need coin so unless the incentives are right, partnerships can drown. 

Josh: Yeah. well, and Terry, I mean, we've basically come to the end of the interview here. And you've given somebody good pieces of advice, I just want to get a couple more out of you before we hop off here so first one would be, first off, where can people connect with you, that's the

Terry: easiest way is to go to, T is Terry B is and Brian and you can connect with me there and you can also I've got a lot of video content there, you can watch of what I speak about, I've got books, two books, one called on innovation, and another one called disruption off, disruption offers great for entrepreneurs, because it goes through all these disruptive technologies that you can use as a weapon to knock off those big guys.

Josh: Yeah, that's awesome. Well, and there's some amazing content over there, guys, I actually went down the rabbit hole on that, I think two days ago, when I was doing some research here. So there's, there's plenty of good information there, go check it out and deep dive into that and then Terry, just to kind of wrap this up, what would be your piece of advice for somebody who is at that million-dollar stage and they're really not loving the direction they're going right now? What would be your advice to them?

Terry: Well, depends why you're not loving it. I mean, you may not be loving it, because you can't raise any more money and that's what you spent a lot of time doing. I mean, if you don't love your product, you know, what are the customers telling you about it, they hate the whole thing? Hopefully not, you know, there's something is wrong how can you modify it without a complete pivot or it may be the business model, you know, the products great, I don't like how you price it, I don't like how you sell it, maybe there's a whole different way to take it to market. When I look at decks today you know, people say, I've got this, here's the problem. Here's the solution. We have this great team, we're done, give me money and I said, Where's the page about how you get customers the pages missing and, you know, what is the way are you are you going to go through dealers are you going direct are you going to build a sales force are you just selling the whales and if you're just selling the whales, it's not working? How can you sell to somebody else? So you know, there's so many moving parts in a business. If you hate it all, well then go take a job with a big corporation you're not an entrepreneur, you got to figure out what part you know what gear you want oil and go change that one and see what works and if that isn't it, well then move down the food chain to the next gear and see what it is, it can't all be wrong, hopefully

Outro: help you enjoy 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