The Lucky Titan

Turning Disruption OFF and Innovation ON With Terry Jones

March 01, 2021 Josh Tapp
The Lucky Titan
Turning Disruption OFF and Innovation ON With Terry Jones
The Lucky Titan
Turning Disruption OFF and Innovation ON With Terry Jones
Mar 01, 2021
Josh Tapp

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.

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.

Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan podcast and today we have Terry Jones with us here and honestly, this guy, I mean, if I were to spout off his entire career, it'd be about a mile long description of who he is but really the big highlights of who he is, is, this guy has spoken over 30 countries have over 500 speaking engagements, he built five startups two of which IPO at a billion dollars, I mean, you don't get to that kind of success without really knowing what you're doing. And one of the parts that really inspired me to bring him on was to come and talk about innovation, especially in today's ever-changing markets and in the bootstrapping space, a lot of us, I think, are kind of risk averse, you know, we're trying to make sure that we're very safe but what I really like to talk to Terry about today is, is how we can leverage all of that to really scale our companies, and or pivot them, as you all know. So, Terry, with that intro, say, what's up to everybody, and then we'll move on into the interview. 


Terry: Well, great, great to be with it. Today, I'm happy to have the opportunity to talk to your audience.


Josh: I'm really excited to have you here. So, you know, I just in our pre interview, I mean, you already spotted so many good pieces of knowledge and like I've got to hit record, people are gonna miss this. So I'm going to kind of backtrack a little bit on a couple of those pieces. And the very first question I have for you is about pivoting. You know, as one of the founders of Travelocity, and honestly, if you haven't heard of that brand before, I'd be very, very surprised because they've been such a successful company. How were you able to pivot Travelocity successfully? That's the big first question.


Terry: Well, you know, we were we were pretty nimble. You know, when we started, we had hardly any competition, there weren't any other online travel agencies and then, of all things, Microsoft, the largest IT company in the world at the time launched Expedia. So there we are fighting, Expedia and we were terrified that they were going to build travel into the browser, which because they were building many services in ao we went out and, you know, had to do big deals with Yahoo and AOL and others to try to combat that and interestingly, the airlines looked at these two giant companies, American Airlines on Travelocity and Microsoft and they said, We don't want to giant travel agents so they immediately cut commissions from 10% to 8%. So that hurt, right and so we moved into cruises and tours and then they cut commissions from 8% to 5% and we went into telephone sales, and said, you know, look, we're getting all these people into the business but we're not closing them all, because they're afraid to book online. It's a long time ago and so we said, here's a phone number, right? Call us and that that helps and we kept building our base and then after 911, travel, fell 70%, almost like today and the airlines took that opportunity to cut all travel agent Commission's to zero, nothing and so our, you know, our biggest revenue, over a period of two years had gone to zero we instituted a service fee. We made other changes. But what had happened was, by that time, we had 40 million customers and there's a great quote that says, you know, the battle is over if the startup gets the distribution, before the incumbent gets the innovation and that's what happened here. So we had a huge business and hotels and cruises and tours and we went public for 1,000,000,002 and the fact that airlines weren't paying anything really didn't matter. We got back end fees from the reservation systems and we grew giant businesses. So, we had to change and continuously evolve and our competitors weren't American Express and Carlson Wagon lead, the two largest travel agencies in the world never went online they didn't get it. In fact, I ran the American Express site for a while, which is nuts they outsource to me, you know, it's like, target outsourcing the Amazon. So, if you can change and pivot through strength, you know, not through fear that's always gonna happen. I've done five startups; I've been on 19 boards everybody pivots. I mean, you've got look at IBM 100 year old company I, you know, as a CIO, obviously, very close to them they invested in my last company, they just pivoted again, and 100 years and we're trying to become a cloud company, and I bet they'll succeed.


Josh: Yeah, and I love that. I love that concept because I mean, really, the baseline of that is you had 40 million customers who said still needed a service provided to them you just had to find a monetization strategy that worked well for your company is what it seemed like.


Terry: Exactly. And that's exactly


Josh: yeah, that's a beautiful process.


Terry: And you know, monetization is is always changing look at the airline business most of the money they made in the last five years was for charging you for things it used to be free baggage, change fees, food, right and people complain about it and it's a terrible thing to change a customer that way. But hey, they all went bankrupt. So they had to do something.


Josh: And it's kind of funny to see that happening. I think people are the consumers averse to it. But because it's there, they kind of have to right? Like the theaters and the snacks, right? They, they're already there you can't bring in your own food. So, let's charge. 


Terry: It is hard to change a business like that. I mean, if you go to Home Depot and don't get a clerk to serve you, that's kind of okay you go into Neiman Marcus, and you don't get a clerk you're really upset. So, nobody's mad at Southwest for not having food but everybody's mad at Delta for not having food because he used to have it so it is hard to pivot but eventually, you know, the customer will come around.


Josh: Yeah, I love that. Well, and I want to ask you this question just in the context of our customer, our listeners, and people who are listening here, most of them are b2b service providers and a lot of them are at the million dollar point and they're really struggling and it's because they can't grow it, they can't they feel like they can't grow it. So they're looking at other opportunities. So they either pivot or start a new company. In your opinion, do you feel like that's way too early to even pivot? Or do you think it's okay to pivot early? 


Terry: No, I mean, it's okay to pivot. But if you know, if you've got a great business, I mean, the first thing you do I say, you know, why? Why can I grow beyond this rate and what's happening, and a lot of b2b companies are changing dramatically, I was making a speech to a very large electronics distributor and I was riding the van to the dinner, and I'm talking to the guys this three, four years ago. So, what's your biggest problem, they said, We can't call on the purchasing agent anymore. He or she is working out of their house in their pajamas. You know, we have to have a new strategy so you know, that was pretty insightful to me saying before COVID, hey, we have to deal with these companies, electronically b2b companies have been slow to move to e-commerce, they've been slow to move to portals, they've been slow to move to using these tools. I mean, now, you know, we're seeing people who flipped in a week to using zoom and in one of the companies, I'm on the board of a large company, billion dollars they're saying, Hey, you know, our travel cuts are going to be permanent, because we used to send a salesman and a sales engineer to every sales call, the engineer is going to be on video, we're not sending them anymore, we're gonna save a ton of money and yeah, maybe the salesperson has to still go out. And Glenn handled people, but we can do this a different way and so I think b2b has gotten a kick in the head, particularly during COVID. To say, we can change, we don't have to sell the old way and the ones who are selling the new way, are doing just fine and we also look at our business and say, we can accelerate our speed of decision making I, you know, having worked in large corporations, I use an example of a pinball machine in terms of how companies make decisions, you know, that you, you launch your idea out there and the first two flippers are maybe marketing and sales that's a dumb idea, we could never sell it, right and then it's manufacturing and customers are, well, we couldn't fix it, we can't build it, we couldn't fix it right and then if you get through all those flippers, you get down to the big ones, which are of course finance, and legal, which kill every idea and what we've seen during COVID is company making companies making decisions way faster companies like IBM and others are saying, Hey, we don't ask permission anymore, we just make the decision Best Buy had an 18 month plan to get the curbside delivery they did it in two days. So you know, the boss won't forget that but that's the speed of business today and so if you're about to pivot, I would I would reassess everything about your business, and how can I use new technology and new business models to accelerate my current business? Now obviously, if that doesn't work, you know, then you could say, well, I need either to add new lines of business or pivot but hopefully in pivoting, you keep the best part whether it's your unique manufacturing capability, your unique supply chain, your customer base, something because the pivot isn't starting over a pivot is using everything you have to go somewhere new I'll give you an example, Philips, the lighting company, just went to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and said, instead of selling you guys light bulbs, we want to sell you light. So what they said, well, we want to contract to light the airport for 20 years, which they got, well, they immediately put in bulbs that last longer bulbs that use less power, they're paying for the power, and they recycle the bulbs at the end, because hey, they're paying for him. So instead of selling iron, they're selling an outcome. Honeywell has done the same thing moving from sensors, that sense when air conditioning goes down to a service that says it'll never go down, we put it back up and we automatically dispatch much more profitable business models. So they use their assets, to move upstream into a better business model, that that's another way to do it.


Josh: And you're you're a marketing expert, too. I didn't realize that, Terry, I mean, the positional.. 


Terry: build companies without marketing.


Josh: I love that. Well, that. I mean, I really love that perspective. I mean, there is so much I would say fear around pivoting and taking risks in a company, especially at these early stages. And I mean, that's something that you we were talking about pre interview that I really love. 


Terry: it's really the biggest thing I talked about in my book disruption off, you know, I really emphasize that the companies lose out with the future, because they stop taking risk. Risk gets driven out of companies and boards are about controlling risk and a lot of boards and, you know, the cyber committee and the audit committee, it's all that don't take risk if you take risk. Now you don't have to take huge risks anymore because a I can test with 3d printed prototypes, right? I can, I can test with AI prototypes on the web if it's a web product, I they're all ways to test small, but we have to realize it's not an experiment, if you know the outcome. So you can't say, Well, this is gonna work, I have to do an experiment, and I'm gonna fail most of the time. Look, you're awesome baseball player, if you fail 70% of the time. So if that's true is startups 75% of startups fail. So why would your idea work? Mr. Corporate America, it won't necessarily so get used to failure, but kill projects, not people. You know, it's the idea that failed. It isn't. It isn't Terry, you know, now, if I fail all the time, you're going to send me to the miners. I get that, you know, but mostly, it's the idea that failed the execution and you'll use another sports analogy, why did teams watch Game film so incessantly not to assess blame, but to ensure victory, right? I learned from my failure, we're going to learn how to do that play better, or we're gonna throw that play out and never do it again whatever it is so I think it's building a culture of experimentation getting people who understand the business can change, we want it to change and that's up to the leader to create that culture of experimentation continuously and change. And in the tension, there is you have to run the marathon in the sprint, the marathon is running the business you've got the sprint is creating the new stuff and you have to do both and it may take a different group of people to do both those things but that's, that's how you have to adapt and adopt to the changes in the world today.


Josh: But and I think that's so, so, so clickable right now. I mean, we're watching this happen in real time as people who are slow to make decisions and slow to take risks are gone in three months, and it's kind of kind of sad right now to see people relying on like, government bailing them out of it when they could literally like you're saying, take some risks, make some strategic decisions in your company, and it will help you to change. I mean, for us, we had to make a huge pivot in order to really make sure that we were okay during the Coronavirus and actually thrive during it. It sounds like a lot of companies you've been working with 


Terry: In me, do you know, look, I'm a public speaker, the last 15 years part of what I do, also the speaking business closed. So I build a studio here in my office I bought really advanced technology because I realized immediately my competition is television If I'm going to be on zoom like this, you know, I have to be able to change the scene immediately right? And suddenly, there's my books behind me or I don't want to be that little zoom guy in the corner so I've got a very sophisticated TV studio here where I can put myself anywhere on the screen and I'm doing interviews which I never did during a speech before I'm doing polling right, I'm using lots of video and the speeches are much shorter because attention span is slow, you know, is short so I had to revitalize my business I did 45 online speeches, I was in Saudi Arabia and outer Mongolia on the same day I couldn't have done that before, unless I had an F 35 Jet right. So we all have had to pivot and that's healthy now I think we have to look at the world and say, What are the permanent changes that COVID has made? Because we generally don't go back? You know, TSA didn't go away 20 years after 911 still there, right? So some of these changes contactless shopping, the rise in e commerce 40% of consumers have changed you are a brand, or the way they shopped during COVID, Oh, Where'd they go? We need we need to be there. for them. I mean, instacart, hired 350,000 people, meetings are all going to be hybrid going forward, there aren't going to be any meetings that are just in person, they're all going to be hybrid, I believe in hotels got to be ready for that so car dealers, you know, fought Tesla like crazy and Tesla can't sell in 19 states because the car dealers made it illegal for Tesla to sell. Well guess what's happening now and all those 19 states, the car dealers are beating on the door, the legislature, we want to sell online, because they figured out work during COVID and it's the only way they can do it so I think now is the time to make the change you were wondering about and test it out, see if it works.


Josh: I hope those words resonate in your ears I mean, that's that's no, no bigger wisdom than that in this interview I mean, think about you've been holding off on these projects for maybe years for some of you right now is the time to do it. I mean, it's it's so easy to make those transitions right now and because the world is more accepting, I felt like and yeah, and


Terry: and we have so much new technology, you know, my, my book disruption off talks about 10 new technologies that are coming, and you think about telemedicine, and how quickly that's changed and there are hundreds of 1000s of telesales sessions going on. Well, that was illegal before, it's it's okay. Now, I have a friend in Chevy Chase, Maryland, he called up for grocery delivery and he came in a drone, like a wagon that just drove down the street. The grocery guy just bought a dozen drones and says, nobody's gonna stop me It's COVID and he did it and it's working great. He's making great money. You know, GE just got the first 3d printed engine part approved by the FAA. We think about how that was made before five guys made a sub assembly send it to an assembler, when in a warehouse eventually won a boat and a truck to GE Now, GE can do it all. In house, they get a part that's cheaper, lighter, faster, stronger, and what happened to the boat, to the customs broker to the trucker to the sub assembler, they're gone. So better to be the disrupter because look the difference between disruption and innovation. They're just two sides of the same coin. The only reason you call it a disruption is because you didn't do it. If you did it, it would be an innovation. Oh, is this damn disruption? I, you know, it's guys are attacking me? Well, on the other hand, you'd be Oh, so innovative, I did it. And I blew those guys away. So you know, it depends on your attitude to the world and you can make all things new think about who ever thought people would subscribe to razors right? Billion-dollar business, right? direct to consumer mattresses I mean, people just looked at an old business and thought about it in a new way and that's what you have to do today is look at how these technologies and business models are being deployed in other industries and so I could do that I could blow up the mattress business. 


Josh: Yeah and I love those examples, because we see those a lot in product businesses but I think what people haven't realized is that it's been happening so quickly with, you know, education and with, you know, information products and with true b2b service. I mean, businesses are changing so rapidly right now and I love to see your pivot. You know, there were so many speakers I mean, I interview a lot of speakers, and a lot of them will come on and they're just yeah, I'm just kind of waiting until we can go back and, and speak again. Yeah, I go on podcasts and stuff and you're just like, wow, you don't get it. Tony Robbins had an event with 40,000 people in his event. I mean, right. People are okay with that.


Terry: Yeah, and look, online events are way bigger than physical events. I mean, one of my companies, you know, we normally had 1000 people to the dealer meeting, we got 5000 and, and the interaction was terrific I did the night before New York closed, I was in New York, supposed to give a speech next day got called off, I went home. Three weeks later, we did a virtually thing of 250 new ideas and they use zoom breakout rooms to shut people together and, you know, I was popping from room to room, it works. So, if we're not going back, I don't know if he'll be a hologram, but you know, I have friends who are doing that. So, I think things aren't going to change, we have to break down the silos in our business realize that the key today in business, I think, is using big data to organize around the customer, looking and financial, they're getting whacked by the Chinese but before they did, you know, they spun out, they're sort of the PayPal of China, they spun out of Alibaba and then they started saying, well, we have these customer relationships, why don't we become a bank? Why don't we become an insurance company? Why don't we become a loan company, all focused around the customer instead of being focused around the product because that's what Amazon does. You know, they just, they just grow around their customer relationship and that's how we survive to Travelocity. So, understanding the core customer having the data, they're about that customer, then it's what what can I bring to them? And that's breaking down the silos in your business, and saying, we're all in around the customer. Now, what are we going to do?


Josh: Yeah, and I love that as kind of one of the final thoughts of the interview I mean, that's the number one problem that people are running into right now is they are going product centric, like you said, I mean, we've seen so many amazing products never even sell a single, you know, copy of their mood, or physical product and it's because they're like, Oh, I have this amazing thing, who wants it instead of employing what you're talking about having an audience and just adjusting and giving them what more of what they need?


Terry: Exactly and what's amazing today is that cloud based products, even physical ones, give you so much customer information and we had tremendous customer information at Travelocity, obviously, because we're watching people online all the time, we invented fare watcher, the fare, you've looked at LA three times, all sudden, the fare falls, you get an email said, Hey, here's the low fare. Nobody, no physical travel agent ever did that was easy, because we could watch. But look at John Deere today, instead of waiting for the annual meeting to hear from the dealer. What the dealer thinks the farmer is doing with the tractor, they can watch the tractor every day and they do. I talked to a bank who just said we shortened every transaction, agricultural bank every transaction to less than six minutes and I said, Well, what got you to do that he said, that's how long it takes to tractor to get from one end of the field to the other because these guys are on line, they got nothing to do. So they're trading, you know, corn, and they're making doing their banking transactions instead if they lose the transaction at the end, then, you know, they're gonna choose choose a bank that does it better. So you have to understand every customer is connected and you're fighting for the edge and the edge today is this device, your phone, right or the computer, and you have to own that edge and if you don't on the edge, somebody else will.


Josh: There's I have a belief that when, when an idea hits your head, it hits five other people's heads at the same time and it's like, it's a race to see who can get it out there faster.


Terry: You know, it's true. Oh, it's true. 


Josh: So, Terry, you know, I have two final questions for you. And the first one, I mean, obviously, if you've been listening to this interview, you understand that Terry's information is just absolute gold. So where can they consume more of your information, Terry?


Terry: Well, has is my website and there are lots and lots of videos, there are speeches I made my books, disruption off and on innovation are available on Amazon. And they're in paperback and Kindle and audiobook. So, if you like podcasts, you probably like audiobooks. And they're unusual books both of them are 72 three-page chapters it's short for media, it's a cookbook you can read it front to back, back to front pick it up. And a lot of people just keep it on their desk and use it as a manual of how to deal with disruption or how to be more innovative. So best way to learn more about me

Josh: love that so go check that out I will also add that link in the show notes as well. So make sure you go over and check out that I mean he has so much really are just very, very cheap information, go check it out. I mean, this is the kind of stuff that people are paying hundreds of 1000s if not millions,


Terry: well, if you want to pay more, you can hire me as a speaker,

Josh: there you go. bust out that wallet, maybe.


Terry: Because you know, you're gonna have that event this year, it's not going to be in person for many months, I keep looking at the vaccination lists, and they keep moving them around, and it's gonna take a while. So, think about having that virtual meeting because they work exceptionally well and you can put one together in a week it's not didn't take six months in negotiating without town, everybody flying there, just do it.


Josh: Yeah. Love that. So make sure you take advantage of that. And then Terry, I have one final question for you. So the question is, you know, we've covered a lot of different topics in this interview. So if you could leave one final parting piece of guidance for everybody and saying, hey, if this is the one takeaway they could get from this interview, what would you hope that would be?


Terry: I really think that it's about failure, that failure isn't the end of the road and you just fail small experiment change look, my my son was working at Electronic Arts. He's a game developer. And he left and formed a company with four guys now, how do they compete against a $250 million game? Right? Well, their office was their apartment, their money was from Kickstarter. They outsource the things they didn't need. They use the cloud for IT, right? And they build a great game and it sold about a half million bucks. That was fine, but not enough to sustain a company and they were burned out. So did ban fail. Now he got a much better job immediately, because people said How the hell did you build that game and now he's gotten promoted again in the company. Now he's at a company that just sold a Microsoft for a billion dollars. So, failure doesn't close the door failure teaches us a lot if you're willing to let it. So, learn experiment and, you know, pivot if you have to, but deploy these new technologies read disruption off, it'll help you figure out how to make those decisions, and deal with disruption in a way where you use it as your weapon and isn't used against you.