Ep. #1039 - Common Challenges in Running A Dev Team
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, a founder sits in a tell-all interview about the common challenges in running a dev team. Hoss Devine, CEO and founder of Automotive Innovations, shares insights with our host, Matt Watson. Moreover, these veteran executives share the best how-tos for avoiding the usual pitfalls when managing a development team.
Covered In This Episode
What is the importance of having someone with technical expertise? Can the founder’s disease kill you eventually? Are there drawbacks to hiring a team of experts?
Hear all the answers to these questions today! Listen to Matt Watson and Hoss Devine talk about the common challenges of running a dev team. And share their best advice on how to conquer them.
Tune in and level up with this Startup Hustle episode.
- Hoss Devine’s backstory (01:44)
- How Hoss went from being a trainer to entrepreneur (04:47)
- Hoss and his first business (08:35)
- Enter the beta stage without capital (09:53)
- His biggest frustration in the tech business (11:48)
- The importance of having a technical co-founder or a trustworthy leader (16:07)
- What Automotive Innovations is trying to solve (19:15)
- The problem with having a vision that other people don’t see (23:16)
- The full stack developer thing is BS (25:41)
- Founder’s disease, what is it? (30:11)
- Is it okay to have multiple products to sell? (34:57)
- Challenges when selling to car dealerships (38:47)
- Advice for startup founders (43:58)
- Why do you need a mentor, advisor, or coach? (45:12)
It doesn’t matter if it’s somebody that runs sales, runs support, or runs finances. Whatever it is, you’ve got to have people you can trust.– Matt Watson
You’re trying to sell to different personas, and the sales process is more complicated. The pricing is more complicated. How you price and package the product is its own problem.– Matt Watson
I think that’s the difference between an entrepreneur, a visionary, and an integrator, right? An integrator is going to look at all the things that could happen, and they never get started. Because they’re looking at all the things that could go wrong.– Hoss Devine
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Also, check out our podcast partners for other business services that you can take advantage of.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt Watson 00:00
And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson. I’m very excited to be joined today by Hoss Devine and his company, Automotive Innovations. We’re going to be talking about his background, from going into the automotive industry to becoming a startup founder. And the trials and tribulations of that. Before we get started, I do want to remind everybody that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by FullScale.io. Hiring software teams is difficult. Full Scale has the platform and the talent to make it quick and easy, and affordable for your team. Please visit FullScale.io to learn more. Awesome, welcome to the show, man. Now, hold on. What should I call you?
Hoss Devine 00:39
Oh, thanks, man. That’s what I’ve noticed. Yeah.
Matt Watson 00:41
So I know everybody’s listening and not watching today. But, you know, he’s got his cowboy hat on. And he’s definitely the high-tech redneck. So excited to have you in the studio today.
Hoss Devine 00:50
Oh, thanks, man. Good to be here.
Matt Watson 00:52
So tell us your background. You worked in the automotive industry for a long time. Right. And so tell us your background there. And then, kind of how that led you to start a tech company in automotive?
Hoss Devine 01:04
Well, it was kind of, you know, I guess, maybe from the listeners’ perspective. But then, you know, when I was 15 years old, I got expelled from high school for life. And then, on the same day, my parents kicked me out of the house. So that’s when my lesson in the school of hard knocks began. And so I became an emancipated minor and got my own place. And then, at my 19th birthday party, my roommate’s friend came over, you know, wearing a nice suit, jewelry, pocketful of cash, driving a brand new car. And I said, hey, what do you do for a living? And he said I’m a car salesman. And I said, man, tell me about that. What can that be about? And he’s like, oh, you just talked to people. And I was like, really? I’ve been hustling my whole life. So, to survive, I could do that. And then nobody would hire me. They said I wouldn’t be good at the car business. And then I finally got a job. And in my first month, I sold 17 cars and made a bunch of money. And I’ve been hooked ever since. And so, just you know, working in the car business, working through every seat. That general manager, general sales manager, sales manager. But I’m kind of weird. I’m not your normal-thinking person like I learned as a teacher. And so, I don’t know why I’ve always done that. But I’ve always tried to learn as a teacher because I enjoyed the training and teaching people to do stuff. So it’s all about mastering your craft. And so, what I spent the next 25 years doing was mastering my craft in automotive. And so, in 2009, I started my consulting company, which by the way, was the second or third business. I started before that. They were all training stuff. But so, anyways, I just spent, you know, years taking dealers to the next level because, as we talked about previously, I don’t work well for others.
Matt Watson 03:15
I hear you. I’m not employable, either. I couldn’t do it.
Hoss Devine 03:19
I just, I’ve been fired more times than I can count. And I’m always the reason I get fired is I’m a catalyst for change because just because that’s the way we’ve always done it, it doesn’t mean that’s the way we need to do it.
Matt Watson 03:34
Amen. Brother, amen.
Hoss Devine 03:37
So I’m like, Well, why don’t we treat customers this way? Why don’t we be transparent? Why don’t we be upfront? You can actually make more money if you’re transparent upfront, then. And dealers weren’t ready for that at the time. And so I just went out on my own, and then they paid me for my opinion, right. And I still got fired from some of those gigs because they thought I was too far out there. But I think that’s what’s allowed me to create a product that it’s not like anything anybody’s ever seen before.
Matt Watson 04:05
So tell me more about that. How did you go from doing training and stuff to what led you to the idea of creating your own tech company?
Hoss Devine 04:13
Well, it was kind of by happenstance, I guess, because years ago, I created a spreadsheet to run a dealership by, so when I ran a dealership, and we went to consult a dealership, I’d put this in. And this spreadsheet had like 50,000 formulas; it took me 140 hours to build one for new clients. Right? And, but then when you share it on a shared drive, we all know, one person can only edit it at a time, and then I tried Google Drive, and that didn’t work out well because even though it is Excel, it’s still not the same as Excel and so didn’t have all the same functionalities in it and so So in 2016, I was at a client store and they were The client asked me to come in and teach their son, you know how to be a car dealer, and how to run a store. And so I came in and, you know, sat there and did that with them. And, then I just got the idea one day because I kept hearing people page, you know, page and all these different people to hate to get out of that workbook we need to put stuff in because we can only enter one at a time. And I thought, Well, why don’t I make that a piece of software? So everybody can write, you know, data at the same time? And Sure. So I called my wife. And I said, Hey, honey, I want to start a tech company. And she said, Okay, well, what’s that mean? And I said, Well, it means we need to sell everything and move into our fifth wheel or camper, and just put all of our money towards this. And when all in all, man burns the ships. And she said, “Okay, well, how long are we going to live in the camper?” And I said, Oh, it’s just software, no more than a year, three and a half years later, we finally moved out of the camper. And it was, but I got it to bait on my own without any investment from anybody. And, you know, but it was 12, 14 hours a day in the store, working in consulting, and then another five or six hours every night, doing mockups and wireframes and sending them off to developers and having them build it. And so, and then my. And then the dealers that I was working with, they started throwing money at me and said, Hey, can I buy into this? And I was like, Yeah, I’m not really want to do that. I want to do it on my own. And, but then I got, which was mine being naive about a tech company. And it’s so front-loaded with the expense. Oh, yeah. Nobody understands that. Yeah. They think, oh, it’s the opposite of having a training business, right?
Matt Watson 06:56
If you have a training business, you’re like, here, show up, do the work, and get paid for it. And you’re ready to go with technology, you know, as you learn, it’s like, hey, it may take a couple years even to build this thing, right? Yes. It’s totally different having a service business versus a technology business. Absolutely. So tell me this, the couple of the biggest challenges that founders like yourself have is you’re not a technical person, you’re not a software developer, you got the right, you got the business idea. You built all the formulas in Excel, which is awesome. And I’ve actually heard that story several times. People like, hey, I had all these crazy spreadsheets and all this cool stuff. And I just wanted to figure out how to make an application out of it. So what was the next step for you in regards to finding a developer to do that? Like, where did you start with, with, like, Hey, I gotta find a software developer.
Hoss Devine 07:41
Well, I started interviewing guys, you know, on up work, and, you know, different platforms like that, talking to guys, and, and then I actually consulted a tech company years ago, and I met one of the developers there. And so I got to know him while I was there. And so I called him, and I said, Hey, man, this is what I’m thinking about doing. Could you provide me some direction and what I’m looking for? And, you know, and I said, What would you charge me? You know, would you be interested in doing this on, you know, just on the side, you know, as a side hustle, you know? And he’s like, um, I don’t know, man. He said I’ll tell you what, I’ll, I’ll try it on with you. And we’ll try to build it together and see what happens. And then that’s kind of how it started. And so it was just me and him for the first couple of years.
Matt Watson 08:30
Now, is he considered one of the co-founders? Or was he just an employee? Or?
Hoss Devine 08:34
No, he just built what I sent him? Okay, you know, I mean, now I gave him stock in the company for doing it.
Matt Watson 08:42
You paid him sweat equity. Yeah. Okay.
Hoss Devine 08:45
And so, he, well, not only that, I pay him with sweat equity, but I actually paid him too. So I mean, that was the, you know, in the beginning, I didn’t, but I mean, I tried to, you know, if he needed some kind of software solution, or needed some tools, or whatever, I mean, I paid for whatever he needed, and you and you were able to pay him from your own savings or your job.
Matt Watson 09:06
You were, yeah, your business. You were still running. So you didn’t raise any capital at that point?
Hoss Devine 09:13
Nope, didn’t raise any capital. Got it to the beta stage. And, you know, and then the day I put it in the store, the dealer was like, Hey, can I buy into this? And then I, you know, I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time. And that’s one thing I would tell anybody trying to do this, I mean, I, I sold, you know, 50,000 shares, or No, I sold 2% of the company for 50 grand to him, which is, you know, 25 cents a share. And not knowing what I didn’t know today. Okay, you know, but I don’t regret that. I mean, that that family has given us a whole lot of a lot of money and, and helped us along the way, and so that’s been a great anything but. But I think people, a lot of times when you’re starting to do this, I mean, I don’t have an education. So my education is the school of hard knocks.
Matt Watson 10:11
So that’s a kind man. So that’s kind.
Hoss Devine 10:13
Well, I try to learn from others’ mistakes. And that’s what I love about listening to Startup Hustle is, you know, since I met you, and you turned me on to it, I was like, you know, I’ve been listening. And I was like, Man, where was this years ago? Whenever I, whenever I needed this?
Matt Watson 10:30
Well, there are 1000 episodes. So you got a few years, a few years ago. I’m gonna catch up. So tell me, that’s you. You set it took about two years before you got that first version done. And ready for the client? Your first customer, you describe, how long did you think it was gonna take? A year? A year? Okay.
Hoss Devine 10:48
And it actually took me three and a half years to get it to where it could be put in the store.
Matt Watson 10:56
So yeah, two years to get to that first, like the beta customer.
Hoss Devine 11:01
But you’re saying, well see, it was yeah, it was about two, two and a half years for that first beta customer.
Matt Watson 11:05
But then a whole nother year to work out the kinks and figure out what we should actually see, that’s the challenge.
Hoss Devine 11:08
My biggest frustration in this business has been technology. Yeah. Because I mean, everything that I have, the UI has been built, and everything’s been built in this, like, you know, hey, this has all been built for years. Just nobody could get it to work, right? Because you did a solid LinkedIn post that you did that. I was like, Man, I wish somebody would have told me that years ago. Because I fell into that trap of I hired people way before I needed them,
Matt Watson 11:49
you had to be a salesperson before you had a product to sell.
Hoss Devine 11:51
Well, actually, I hired a CTO, okay. And he was the CTO at another tech company that I knew and he and I had to have a relationship. And we, and I hired him. And then I caught him in lies and caught him, you know, doing stuff, you know, this is why I wanted to build it. And I was like, well, that’s stupid. And I’m like, Well, you, people aren’t paying for your ideas, men are paying for mine. So you need to build what I tell you to build, because you don’t know my industry.
Matt Watson 12:22
You know, your job was to be the product manager, the product owner, right? And, it was his job to build it, right? Like, it’s your job to tell him how to build it. I’m sorry, it’s your job to tell him what to build. Correct. And it’s his job to figure out how to build it right. And so that’s the relationship you’ve got to have in a good software company where you have somebody that’s the product visionary, they understand what the business needs to do, what the product should do, right, and how the product should work. But it’s his job to engineer things like how to actually build the product. And I mean, you bring up a good point, that happens a lot. Sometimes you hire somebody, and like, they just have their own ideas, like you’re the product visionary, you’re the one that should be leading the charge on what the product is supposed to do.
Hoss Devine 13:05
Yeah, and I’ve gone through four heads of technology, since then, and so, but I’ve kind of been one of those people, although I’m not educated. I am smarter than the average bear, I guess. And so I read a lot. And I’m very cautious about what I put in my brain. And the older I get, the more I’m like that. So I only hang out with other business owners and I, you know, the stuff that I read or that I listened to, it all has to have something that allows me to help further my education or my knowledge base. And, you know, it’s in the stuff that makes logical sense to me that doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand why developers do some of the stuff that they do. I mean, and I think most founders or CEOs of tech companies, they don’t understand like, I mean, you’ll. So for instance, I go to add all this stuff, and I do things a little differently. And I’m told differently, but developers don’t tell me what to build, I tell them what to build. And what I mean by that is, I do all the mock ups first, right? Tell them to build around the mock up. And that’s what you should do. Whereas they want you, they want to build the backend first and then worry about the front end later. And if that’s not my process, my process is, let me mock it up and show you what I want done and how it’s supposed to work. And then you build that. But when they do that, it’s like they don’t pay attention to, you know, I’ve got these massive DTOs, right, that they’ve keep adding to and adding to and adding to and adding to when when we’re trying to do a query or something on a report or a dashboard or whatever. And we need, you know, 10 pieces of information to run this query. But yet, they’re pulling in, you know, a megabyte of data to transfer back and forth. Yeah, sure. Well, I only need a small You know, 10 or 15 kilobytes of data. And so it’s like, why did we architect this way? Why are we building all these massive objects that we’re transferring back and forth, it’s really expensive. And it’s not efficient. And so that’s why I spend a lot of my time reading so that nobody has to, none of my guys have to dumb anything down for me, they can tell it the way they normally talk, and I can communicate with them and their language.
Matt Watson 15:27
You know, and understand, you know, you sound like somebody who you’ve worked with a lot of different developers, you mentioned you had three or four different kinds of lead developers, or CTOs or whatever, over time. But it sounds like you’ve never had somebody that saw eye to eye with you that you could trust.
Hoss Devine 15:41
Yeah, I got trust issues, man. And I think I will go through four guys. And they all build it. You know, I almost, you know, I guess the thing that I would, you know, it’s Trust, but verify, right? Sure. Absolutely. And, but it’s challenging for a founder that doesn’t know anything about tech to verify.
Matt Watson 16:02
But but but the issue with being a startup founder, business owner, and this isn’t just about software development, is you’re gonna have people you can trust, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s somebody that runs sales, they run support, they run finances, whatever it is, you’ve got to have people you can trust. And you know, from my VinSolutions days, I’ll never forget the day we hired a CFO. I don’t know why. But that was such a big relief for me, because it’s like, now I could sleep at night not worrying about getting if we’re gonna make payroll or not. It’s like, I finally had someone I could trust that could deal with that thing, right? And I think the lesson here is, in all phases, your business but especially in a technology company, you’ve got to have a technical co-founder or leader that you’ve hired that you can trust, right like that, that’s a big component to this. Well, because you need them to do their job. So you can focus on doing your job too.
Hoss Devine 16:51
Right. And I mean, I’m, it’s kind of funny, though, my last CTO that I just let go recently, I really liked the guy, right? Like I really do, and I trusted him. But then, my spidey sense, right kind of said, Something’s not right here. And so I kept asking questions, asking questions, asking questions. And one thing I found with developers in general, and technology is people like to work in silos, and I’m not a silo guy, right? Um, you know, hey, let’s, let’s communicate, let’s talk, tell me what you’re doing. And what I found was that he’s building stuff that was so complicated, that only he could understand it, right. And the architecture, and to me good software development is, it’s as simplistic as possible, so that anybody can jump in and work on it, and comment out your code and do the right things in the code so that people know what’s going on. Whereas this was so complex that even all the senior developers were at a hard time trying to figure it out.
Matt Watson 17:53
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I do want to remind everybody that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and then see what developers are available to join your team today. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. So you had a lot of challenges with getting the product on and we haven’t. We haven’t talked much in the episode so far about what the product does. So we should probably do that. So tell me, before you started the company, you had the spreadsheet, and that was the product. What did the product do? What was your original goal? When did you start? Like, what was the job to be done? What was the main problem you are trying to solve?
Hoss Devine 18:35
Well, the main problem I was trying to solve is analytics. Because most companies, whether it be a car dealership, or whatever, you know, I focus on car dealerships, but it’s so fragmented, you have to log into 10 different systems to get all this data and you got to know, and then you know, trying to then parse the data. And then dealers, especially young dealers, are coming up in the business, and this new generation of operators is coming up. I mean, a lot of them can’t read financial statements, they can’t read, they can’t, they’re not the car guy that I grew up with. And so my spreadsheet basically had one huge data field that you know, one big, deep, you know, positive, or you can say, of data that she would put everything in, and then it would spit out reports and all the other different tabs, right. And then it would tell them where the profit leaks were in their business.
Matt Watson 19:32
And you would analyze all the cars they had sold specifically like all the deals that had been done right and where they made money, or you know what their profit margins were in different pieces of that and how they could improve them.
Hoss Devine 19:43
Yeah, well, we tracked so every dealership, for instance, has a sales log, and they keep a spreadsheet of how many cars they sell, right? And there’s typically 10 data points on that log. Right, right, maybe 15 If you’re lucky. Well, my spreadsheet had 118 data points per car deal. Yeah, but it’s all manual entry. Okay. And so I built it as a manual entry system to begin with, and everybody entered it manually still. But, then that, you know, went into Okay, well, now we’re going to integrate with all the DMS. So people don’t have to enter, you know, do this anymore. And so that was the joke, the very first product that I built was an analytics tool, which you can’t even find what I’m selling today.
Matt Watson 20:25
Well, and that’s what I was going to ask you. And yeah, how did that change over time? So by the way, for those who are listening, he said the word DMS, which basically stands for dealer management system, but think about it’s like the accounting system that the dealers use, basically. But so Oh, sorry, man, I’m, you’re gonna, you’re fine. You’re fine. I got it. So you started out doing the analytics at the spreadsheet trying to automate some of that. And then, so tell me then like, two years later, you’re saying, Hey, we went to the first client, and we had something to show them? What was that? Like? What were you? It was all clicks, it was still analytics, it was still in place. And then it also paid plans.
Hoss Devine 21:04
So okay, so my goal is how to pay the salespeople at the dealership. Yeah. And so my goal in all of this was the average dealership uses over two dozen spreadsheets to run their business, okay. And my job is to eliminate all spreadsheets and automate everything, okay. And so instead of logging into five, or six, or 10 systems to aggregate all your data, we have a select few integrations to aggregate all that data. So today, we take 748 data points of every car deal. And that’s what’s all by automation and feed. And so Okay, so with that, then we can provide analytics that nobody’s ever seen before.
Matt Watson 21:37
And so that is still a core part of the product, it is still a core product product, you have several other products. So
Hoss Devine 21:42
So do we have a recon tool? So I went and said, Hey, what do I do when I go into a dealership, you know, like, I’ve been into stores that, you know, the last store that I actually was at, I mean, that store lost 125,000 a month for two years straight. Ouch. And, you know, when they hired me, they’re like, Hey, man, just so you know, the store has been losing, you know, six figures a month, you know, for years. And in 60 days, I had it in the black. It’s not that hard. Its culture is a process. It’s, you know, knowing what levers to pull to make something, make money. And that’s just the way my brain works. I have a sickness I call it that I can’t go into. I’m incapable of walking into a business and not analyzing it. I don’t care if it’s a restaurant, if it’s church, if it’s whatever, how can this be more efficient?
Matt Watson 22:36
And this, you see all the things that other people don’t see? Correct. And I have this, I have the same problem. I’m gonna call it a sickness. Because like, it’s hard, right? Like, you go, you walk in and like, I can immediately tell, you know, like, all the problems, like, it’s almost like a sickness, right? Like, you walk in and you like, you see all the problems, but like, you hate to focus on the negative all the time, right? But it’s like, you just see the things and other people don’t see them.
Hoss Devine 22:59
Well, I see. I mean, I don’t really like this term, but my team calls me this. And other people call me this the visionary, right. Sure. And, by the way, great book, you recommended rocket fuel. That’s what actually made me be a little more okay with the term visionary. Yeah.
Matt Watson 23:18
But for those who don’t know, I don’t remember who the author’s book was. But rocket fuel, you know, Hickman. Yeah. And so it talks about the role of the visionary and the role of the integrator. So usually, that’s like the CEO and the chief operating officer or what have you. And that book was important to me and one of my previous companies, I’m glad you got value out of it. Because I say this all the time. And I recommended it to somebody else this week because this guy had like, a million ideas. He’s running like all over the place, he can’t even describe what his business does. And there’s no way this guy can operate a business. So he was just all over the board. And I’m like, Dude, you need to read this book. And you need to find an operations person that can help you actually achieve these wild dreams that you have. And a lot of people have the same problem, like their vision, their heads running around, but they struggle with day to day tactics and stuff, right? Like, I get it. I’m one of those people.
Hoss Devine 24:06
Well, and I did it day to day for years. And then I hired my CEO, and he, I’ve known him for years and the best operator I’ve ever met. And so then he gets there. And the first you know, after the first week, he said, Man, how did you do all this by yourself? I mean, like you’re hitting up software and you’re doing all these mock ups and then you’re doing accounting, you’re doing payroll, you’re doing all this stuff. How do you do all that at once? I slept very little. Right. And I had no other options.
Matt Watson 24:37
Hoss Devine 24:39
And but you know, it’s but yeah, I mean, it’s, I think it’s that you know, when you have that vision about things, I don’t look at it as seeing the negatives. I look at it as seeing the potential in a business
Matt Watson 24:53
how to improve things. Yeah. And that’s what I mean. It’s not so much about the negative and like just pointing out all the negative negativity, but it seemed like an opportunity for improvement. I think we can do this better.
Hoss Devine 25:01
Well, you know, one of the things you asked me about a topic, and I know some of these topics may be a source of debate. But I mean, there’s a couple of topics that I’ve heard you mentioned. And, and then also, one that’s been kind of, I think it’s funny in the tech world, but this whole full stack developer thing, right? Like, to me, that’s all BS, right? And you’re either a front end guy or your back end guy. And, and I liken it to a surgeon, right? Like, if you have a surgeon whose Do you want a general surgeon doing your open heart surgery, right? Do you want somebody who is an open heart surgeon, right? And that’s what I like in full stack, too. I mean, I’ve got a front end guy that nobody in the company can do what he does, right? Because, and when the backend guys do frontend work, it looks like shit.
Matt Watson 25:56
Yeah, I’m the backend guy. So I relate.
Hoss Devine 26:01
Matt Watson 27:37
It’s different, it’s a different kind of sale, right? So my first company, VinSolutions, was similar. We did inventory management, to help them with online advertising. We did websites, we had a product to help them with their internet leads with our product to help them with their CRM and all of that part of it, we had a similar kind of f&i thing. And yeah, it’s really difficult to go into any kind of business, forget a car dealer, or even any kind of business, like having something that touches every department in your company. And I need every stakeholder in your company to agree to do this thing. Right, it’s a much different difficult kind of sell. It’s more like selling like an ERP system or a really complicated CRM system, like back office systems and large companies.
Hoss Devine 28:19
And that’s what you figured out kind of the hard way, you would almost agree with that, because I spent four and a half million dollars, building this system, this monstrosity of a system that by the way, we have, you know, 40 patents pending on, right. And, you know, I heard your deal the other day about patents too.
Matt Watson 28:36
I’m not a big fan of patents myself.
Hoss Devine 28:39
Well, I mean, I’ve read enough of them. And, and we’ve written enough of them. My attorney is a patent attorney. And there’s a lot of benefits to him, you know, when you look at the top 20 patent holders, most of them are software companies in the United States. And so but you have to be strategic about how you write them, and so on and so forth. But you know, we’re just very innovative and how we try to handle problems. And that nobody’s thought of before. And nobody’s figured it out. But the ironic thing is, is the stuff we’re going to market with, you know, there might be, you know, of those things, there might be eight patents that we have on the product for coming to market with and all the rest of them. We’re on other stuff that we’re not even going to market with. It’s already done.
Matt Watson 29:31
Well, so let’s talk about that. So more talked about, you’ve built these five, six different products and it’s hard to sell all at one time. So now are you kind of pivoting by saying look, I’m gonna focus on one of them?
Hoss Devine 29:41
Yeah, so we pivoted and we, you know, we have smart choices, what is called which is our f&i menu system and an observation with his our reporting arm to that and and then Smart Desk, which is our piece of hardware that we offer but so those are the only products that we’re going to mark okay with In fact, I took all the other products off of our website. I mean, I hit everything and said, This is all we’re focusing on. And let’s just get laser focused on this. And let’s be the best at this that we can. And, you know, I, and I know you and I haven’t talked about this, I call this founder’s disease. That’s my term, which is, when I look at our product, I don’t see what it does. I see what it doesn’t.
Matt Watson 30:28
Yes, yes. And so actually, I read something the other day on LinkedIn, it talked about like, first time founders versus second time founders. And it can be like first time founders usually have this problem with like, they’re trying to build all these things. We’re trying to solve all these problems, right? And most founders in the first time around learn this problem that you’re learning. And I learned this problem, I learned this problem, too. And then the second time around, when you start on the company, you learn you’re like, you know what, I need to do one thing, I need to be really, really good at that one thing, I need to say no to every other thing there is, right? Because we all struggle with this, what you describe, and it’s even worse for me because I’m a software developer. So it’s easier for me to lock myself in the basement, somewhere and just code, just write code, build. And the tragic mistake a lot of technical founders make isn’t they never sell anything, either. They don’t even try to sell it. They just keep building, build, build, build, they don’t know how to sell shit. So at least you know how to sell stuff. But yeah, it is a very common problem that startup founders and startup companies keep building, building, building building. And as you found, it becomes harder to sell. You’re trying to sell to different personas, the sales process is more complicated. The pricing is more complicated. How you price and package the product is its own problem.
Hoss Devine 31:45
And well, my goal was to buy the whole package for one price, and that was it no upsells. Right. And that comes from me running the dealership for years and being 595 and 995. To death. Right. And it’s and I imagine most businesses are that way, too. There’s always an upsell opportunity. And, you know, kind of the ironic thing is I said, Well, we talked to 100. Dealers, nobody wants to have one price and one platform, one product, one price, so I’ll make more money by splitting it all apart and upsell them everything. Sure. You know, there’s like, okay, these guys don’t want to save money. So I’ll just, you know, they’re telling me based on their reaction, right? That they want to continue to do things the way they’ve always done it now, I still have the vision for what I started, but I need to be an established company in order to implement that vision. And so I have to do whatever it takes to get to market to start getting revenue coming in. And, you know, I think a lot of founders, especially like myself, who I have a lot of connections with, I’m really known all over the country.
Matt Watson 32:56
And you know, people don’t forget Haas, you know, and nobody forgets the high-tech redneck.
Hoss Devine 32:57
Right? So. But the one thing that, for me, was a big mistake is I had a lot of connections. So I thought, Man, I can sign up to all these stores once I have a product, right? Right. No, not the case. Because once you cross the threshold of being a car guy to a vendor, now they look at you differently, it doesn’t matter your relationship. And now, it’s not as easy to sell, you get the meeting, right? But then they’re more like, Well, man, I’ve known you for a long time, what do you really know about tech? And what do you really know about this? And what do you really know about that, and it’s like, but you’d get into weeds with them. They can’t, you know, they don’t want to get in the weeds about stuff. And so and then a company that I did a lot of my consulting with, they’re one of the only finance companies that has their own software. And so that’s where 80% of my relationships were dealers who use that company. And that company kind of blackballed me and said, Hey, we don’t allow anybody else to software in our store, right? Sure. And so then that kind of, you know, hit me the something that I wasn’t used to was that, well, I have all these relationships, but nobody will sign because they have somebody from the outside telling them, Hey, don’t use their stuff, use our stuff.
Matt Watson 34:17
So let me ask you this, I’m thinking about this. We’re talking about having multiple products to sell and the challenge of having multiple products to sell. So you have these six products, reselling all of them to the finance managers, the dealer or they were different personas.
Hoss Devine 34:30
Well, we started with the CIO. Our system is all about accountability. So it gives you visibility like you don’t have today. And so we didn’t want to pitch to the other personas in the store because a lot of guys don’t want to be held accountable. And so but the dealer sees everything that we did, and was like all our systems 96% automated, like they don’t have to do anything different. And that was the thing that when I built this car that I wanted to do This car, every car dealer does, I mean, I’ve been in hundreds of dealerships consulting over the years, and everybody does a different thing. The store doesn’t matter if it’s in the same group and gets a dealer group of 20 dealerships in that group, and all 20 of them do something different, you know that, I mean? Sure. So there’s no standard in how dealerships work and operate. And so I tried to build a flexible system that right, any process can be done, but be automated. And we start with the dealer, but then like you said, because we touch every department when they Hey, now I want my controller to look at it, I want my finance director to look at it, I want my fixed office director to look at it. I want my parts manager as well.
Matt Watson 35:40
So what I’m thinking here, and I think the lesson for those who are listening is I think it’s okay, if you have multiple products to sell, as long as you’re selling them to the same person. Right? Like, if you had five or six different products to sell, that you can upsell or mix and match, you know, different pricing packaging to and you have the same buyer, then you’re probably okay, it’s when you start building something that you have to go to different stakeholders within an organization, it becomes really hard. And I saw that at my last company Stackify we had stuff that was designed for software developers, but then some of it would encroach into the IT operations side, it’s okay, now I got to get both of them agree. Or if I only sold to one or the other, it would be easier. And I think that’s the key lesson here is it’s okay to have multiple products or things to upsell, but you really want to stick to trying to sell to a single buyer. Otherwise, it just gets way more complicated.
Hoss Devine 36:30
Well, that’s the mistake I made. I mean, I would say, I don’t consider it wasted money, because we’ve got a lot of stuff already baked and built. Right. Sure. But I could have been making money years ago.
Matt Watson 36:43
Well, here’s the number one. Here’s the lesson though, what you could have done is built the core product probably twice as fast. Correct? You could have maybe you would have I think he said earlier, he’s you raised four and a half million dollars, maybe you could have done it for $2 million and half as much time and be a lot further along than I could have.
Hoss Devine 37:01
And that’s the challenge is, you know, it’s lessons learned, man. I mean, this is, you know, there’s no blueprint for doing this. And, and I’m not one who I mean, I’ve done enough forecasting and enough stuff and business plans and stuff over my career that, you know, I put it all together and I have a plan and I go in and execute that plan. And then I don’t worry about the roadblocks that happened during that plan. I just address them as they come. And I think that’s the difference between an entrepreneur and you know, a visionary and an integrator, right? an integrator is going to look at all the things that could happen, and they never get started. Because they’re looking at all the things that could go wrong, right? Whereas an entrepreneur references that book, I don’t know exactly how they say it, I’m paraphrasing it. But they talked about that, that visionaries live in a distorted reality. And I live in a distorted reality, I can tell you that I find the positive and absolutely everything right? And how to spin it in a positive way.
Matt Watson 38:07
So I have another topic I wanted to ask you about, I thought it was really insightful and interesting. So you sell the car dealers? And how, what was your thought process going into this of, okay, look, probably car dealers could invest in my company, but if they invest in my company, or other car dealers are going to somehow want to know that or I have to tell them that. And then they’re not going to want to use the product because of this dealership, like as an owner of it or something like that. What was your mentality on that? Is that something you’ve done? Is that a problem that you’ve had?
Hoss Devine 38:40
Well, that was a strategic thing that I did. And so one of the challenges with being a founder and having to raise money is you don’t want to give up control of your company. Sure, right. There’s only so much stock, right? And, so I thought who better to invest in the people who know intimately the problem 100% 100%. And that’s why I went to car dealers, they gave me higher valuations. A VC looks at my last evaluation and flips out. And it’s like, Hey, man, that’s not me. Given that evaluation, that’s these guys, customers, you know, that’s our customers getting that evaluation. So. So that’s, and by the way, people ask, I’ve had guys ask, well, and I tell people, you know, hey, our investors or dealers and they say, Who are they? And I said, they don’t want to be known. I tell nobody who our investors are.
Matt Watson 39:39
Well, that’s why I’m, that’s why I’m curious about this topic, you know, does that create problems or is it a benefit?
Hoss Devine 39:44
I think it’s a benefit. I haven’t had anybody we haven’t had anybody today get upset
Matt Watson 39:51
about that. I don’t think you’ve lost any customers or lost any deals. Oh, no. I mean,
Hoss Devine 39:54
they, in fact, if anything, they think it’s cool that other dealers and nice Are you in your dealer stores? And I said no, some of them I’m not. I mean, one of my investors owns, you know, over two dozen stores, and I’m not in any of them. Wow. And I asked him, you know, Hey, can I put this in your store? And he’s like, nope. And I’m like, why do you have all my competitors? And he goes, I know, but I’m not as what do you say? I’m not a, I’m not a guinea pig. And he said, once you get it baked, once you get it in a few 100 stores, you get all your problems worked out, then we’ll put it in my store.
Matt Watson 40:29
He’s got 27 stores. He doesn’t want to be the beta. The basic restaurant is great with it. Yeah. And I can understand that just like a large lot of other bigger companies, enterprises, they don’t want to deal with that stuff, either. Right? They’re right. They’d rather buy IBM and pay more than pay to buy something from a little startup, right? They just don’t want to, they don’t wanna deal with the problems.
Hoss Devine 40:48
You mentioned an interesting stat in a podcast I listened to last week about the percentage of early adopters, right? You know, and how it’s like two or 3%, not a lot of people that are early. So we start out with that, right?
Matt Watson 41:05
Yeah, Wintel deals, bleeding edge.
Hoss Devine 41:06
If you’re, if you’re all about being on the cutting edge and all about, you know, doing that and being involved in the next greatest thing and where your company, right? If you don’t want to be involved in the cutting edge, and you don’t want to have, you know, bugs or little issues and stuff pop up, you know, and help us make the product Great, then this probably isn’t for you right now. And but I’m honestly the fall. So I mean, that’s, that’s just the way I roll when I talk to people so well, and that’s the right way to be.
Matt Watson 41:31
Absolutely, that’s the right way to be. Well, if you do have bugs in your software, you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders. Full Scale can help. We have the platform, and the people to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions and then let our platform match you up with a fully vetted, highly experienced team of software engineers. At Full Scale, we specialize in building a long term team that works only for you to learn more when you visit FullScale.io.
Hoss Devine 42:00
Well, so as we start about Full Scale, okay, I know you didn’t prompt this, but I, I keep, you know, listening to this, you know, while I’m not a customer, I do plan on being a customer. But once we get this, you know, we’re in the middle of a cap raise right now, but the, but I will say your website is badass, man. Okay, cool. I mean, going on there and just filling out everything. And then hey, what, you know, What languages do you use? And what’s your stack? And, you know, and it’s like, and then you know, you get to see pictures of the developer. Yeah. And all of that. I mean, that’s, that’s really cool, man. So crops and kudos to you. I thought your website was great. I mean, good follow up from your team, by the way, appreciate that. Glad the team’s doing a good job, emails follow up.
Matt Watson 42:49
And so yeah, we had to build our own internal database to do all that, like, so. Really? Yeah. Our own employees work on building all that.
Hoss Devine 42:55
And so yeah, it was really cool, though. So I just wanted to give you props on that. Yeah. Well, thank you.
Matt Watson 42:59
Appreciate that. So as we round out the episode today, do you have any other kind of final thoughts, words, words of wisdom for guys out there that are in your, in your position? They’re trying to figure out, like, how do I do this? Or I already started doing this, and I’ve got, I’ve got problems, you know, what do I do? You know, you got any words of wisdom for those guys?
Hoss Devine 43:18
Well, I sometimes think as founders, I know, I fall into this as I’m so in love with my vision, sure, that it kind of blinds me from certain things of reality. And so, you know, I’m writing a book right now. And one of the chapters is the lens through which we see things, and everybody has a lens through which they view their life, their business, in everything through and, you know, I study psychology, I love psychology, and I, you know, study a lot of that I have a personal executive coach, which by the way, I’d recommend to anybody to get an executive coach, and, but trying to, you know, get out of your own heads and back up and take a step outside and look at it from a different perspective and a different lens. And, you know, that doesn’t mean you’re not being true to yourself. That just means you’re being open-minded. That may be what your vision can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. And so, I think that that’s probably the hard thing for, you know, a lot of founders to do.
Matt Watson 44:32
Well, everybody needs a mentor, advisor, Coach, you know, people that they can learn from, you know, I had a call with a guy yesterday, and he reached out to me on LinkedIn, and he said, Hey, you know, Matt, you’ve done this a couple more times, and I have I’d love to just pick your brain for an hour. And if any of you listening out there want to do that, you can find me on LinkedIn and shoot me a message. And yeah, I had a great conversation with him for an hour yesterday, and you know, people just need to bounce their ideas off other people, some But you know, sometimes really what they need is somebody to tell them the truth, not what they want to hear. And that’s a big problem that people have is, they meet with friends and family or whatever. And they’re all just cheerleaders like, yeah, man, keep doing the thing, whatever, good job, but then they need to run into somebody who’s like, No, I’ve done this shit before, and you’ve got problems. And here’s what, here’s how you got to fix them, right? Like, we all need that person to help us?
Hoss Devine 45:20
Well, I think it’s the culture that you build within a company. So my team and I really tried to build a culture where conflict is frequent. And I know that might sound strange to people. But I think innovation comes from conflict, okay. And it’s different ideas. And I’m not talking about screaming and yelling, although that does happen from time to time. I’m talking about people not being afraid to tell you what they think.
Matt Watson 45:47
It’s like having an open-door policy, right? It’s like, we’ve got a problem. Let’s talk about it. Let’s figure out the right way to do that. And I’ve always been that kind of guy.
Hoss Devine 45:54
I’m like, hey, if two people in the same room always agree on everything, what was not necessary? Right, exactly. So you need different perspectives, even though sometimes it’s hard to can’t take it personally. Right. And I think we do take it personally sometimes. I’ve been in meetings where my guys recommended stuff, you know? And I’m like, No, and I kind of flip out, say we’re not doing it that way. You guys are completely distorting what the vision is. And then, three months later, I’m like, you know, I think you guys were right. I felt like they kicked your puppy. Right?
Hoss Devine 46:24
I mean, and so it’s trying to get that different perspective. Yeah.
Matt Watson 46:28
So well, and that’s, you know, they always talk about diversity in the value of diversity and, and it’s the different backgrounds and stuff and especially with your tech team, right? They’ve built other technology before other products. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work. And that’s where that diversity and bringing it all together helps to build a good product. So Well, thank you so much for being on the show today. Again, this is Hoss Devine. What is your guys’ website address?
Hoss Devine 46:52
Matt Watson 46:54
All right, well, there’s a car dealer out there listening; check them out. And you can also find me on LinkedIn and Instagram and Tiktok, and all these places. Just look for MattWatsonKC. And make sure you join us on Facebook. There’s the Startup Hustle podcast group, which is also really good. And thank you, guys, for listening until the next episode.