Ep. #1187 - Scale like a Pro
Today’s episode of Startup Hustle features Lauren Conaway and Alexa D’Agostino, CEO of Thynk Consulting. You’ll hear all about how to scale like a pro from an actual pro. Gain extraordinary insights as Alexa shares how she became so experienced at scaling and exiting multiple businesses. Lauren and Alexa also discuss the importance of networking, hiring the right people, and self-awareness.
Covered In This Episode
Only one in five startups that survive for five years scale up. Considering that 52 percent get to five years, the odds are not looking good for entrepreneurs. However, you can learn to scale like a pro with the help of Thynk Consulting.
Listen to Alexa describe her journey to serial entrepreneurship across 15 startups and why she does it. Lauren and Alexa ruminate on being unemployable, how to scale like a pro, and the importance of self-awareness. Alexa advises hiring fast, promoting fastest, and managing the divide between autonomy and ownership. They also discuss how to build your network and marketing by modification.
If you want to scale your business, you shouldn’t waste time. Join the conversation in this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Alexa’s journey (1:16)
- The why behind Alexa’s serial entrepreneurship (5:13)
- Being unemployable (9:14)
- Hire fast, and you promote fastest (14:46)
- How to build your network (20:05)
- Marketing by modification (24:08)
- Managing the divide between autonomy and ownership (26:15)
- How to scale like a pro (29:57)
- The importance of being self-aware (33:37)
- Alexa’s favorite smell (40:39)
The reason why I’m good at scaling and exiting is because I’m really good at two things. I’m really good at building revenue. The second reason is I’m really good at hiring people. Not a good leader, but I’m good at hiring and finding people and getting them to buy into what we’re doing and be committed to what we’re doing.– Alexa D’Agostino
And I think one of the things you had acknowledged was that networking piece. So you know, you said that, yes, we had a great product. And yes, we were doing all of these really amazing things. But at the same time, a part of the reason why your companies were attractive was because you knew the right people. You have the right market of people who would be interested in buying your company.– Lauren Conaway
Those silly little 30 under 30, 40 under 40 awards, it’s not about the award. People think, oh, it’s about the award. No, it’s not. It’s about the other people that are in it. So, to be honest, at the beginning of my career, I met some of my biggest mentors and some of my biggest clients in those groups.– Alexa D’Agostino
You can have all the ideas in the world, but if you can’t execute it and you don’t have the work ethic to do it, you’re never gonna get there. I talked to so many people that have ideas, ideas, ideas, and they can’t do anything with them because they don’t have the right skill set. So you have two choices: either A, go ahead, and put somebody as a partner with what you don’t have. Or B, you go be an intrapreneur and work for somebody else with that.– Alexa D’Agostino
Passion, purpose, and dedication are three values that Full Scale follows to create magic in software development. So you know where to hire world-class software engineers, developers, testers, and leaders now. Full Scale has different platforms that help define your needs and manage your team effectively.
Also, be sure to check our Startup Hustle partners. These organizations support the startup community and offer services that your business may need.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Lauren Conaway 0:01
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHer KC. And today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult, but Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And they have the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io or check the show notes for the link to learn more. Now, friends, we have with us today a founder who has already expressed that she is a Taurus. And I’m gonna go ahead and assume that that means that she is stubborn and that she is unafraid to persevere and that on her entrepreneurial journey, she has probably dealt with some challenges along the way. And we’re here to learn from Alexa D’Agostino, CEO of Thynk Consulting Group. Alexa, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.
Alexa D’Agostino 1:01
Thank you for having. Stubborn definitely. I’m 100% stubborn.
Lauren Conaway 1:06
I well, I love that. We’re going to explore that just a little bit. But first things first, I’m gonna hop right in. And I’m just gonna say, tell us about your journey.
Alexa D’Agostino 1:17
Yeah. Oh my god, goodness, my journey, my journey. My journey started at age five. My family’s from Cuba. So when they came to America, they all became entrepreneurs because they couldn’t really speak English. And they couldn’t get jobs back in the 70s. So I grew up with entrepreneurship. So at a young age, I was obsessed with innovation and making money and figuring out how to come up with solutions for problems through, you know, products or services. And so, at a very young age, I started working and building things. And at seven I was, you know, ripping computers apart and rebuilding them and then reselling them, and I was quite the little dork and worked in my family’s business. And, you know, my dad was a super smart guy who was a project manager on the very first microchip ever created, IBM. And so he would come home, and he would say, I have this problem. How would you solve it? I’m like, 6, 7, 8 years old at the dinner table, helping him solve, like, billion-dollar problems, you know. So I started my first business at 18. Had no idea what I was doing. I literally posted an ad on Craigslist, if you remember that creepy site.
Lauren Conaway 2:31
Round, by the way round, and it’s still, it’s still creepy.
Alexa D’Agostino 2:39
And I basically was like, I have no idea how to make websites, but I’m gonna figure it out. And like, I kind of have an idea that, I’m like, I’m just gonna say $300. And I’ll build you a site. And this lady, her name is Valerie Lynch was my and I actually still have the photo somewhere. And I actually have it sitting right in my office right now. And she was an artist, and she lives in Westchester County, and she’s like, I would love for you to make my website. And long story short, her husband ended up being a really big wig in the government and getting me a bunch of gigs. Next thing I know, two years later, I have a seven figure company. And it kind of I mean, I’m 20 years old, I still have no idea what I’m doing. I had 129 employees at one point. And in 2013, it’s really started 2012, I was doing work for an advertising agency. And they basically were, like, hey, we do traditional, you do digital, why don’t we exchange services. So I started exchanging services that they started to, like, ask me a lot of questions. So one day, and these are all men because advertising is all men, right? So here I am coming in as like a 20 year old pompous look like you No, no at all. And I’m like, if you’re gonna keep asking me questions, you either have to start paying me or buy my company. And the CEO was, like, that’s a good idea. Why don’t you give me a number. So I gave him I threw out this wild number. And he goes, all right, come in and pitch me. I was, like, okay, now mind you, I had three exits prior to this, but much smaller than the number that I gave him. So I’m like, This is life changing. So I go home and I go to my partner, I go, so we’re going to Long Island and we are going to be pitching to sell our company tomorrow. She goes well, what? And so we ended up creating this PowerPoint, we called ourselves the duty and the professor, which was my dad’s nickname for us and my dad has since passed away. So it’s an even more meaningful part of the story now and we walk in and we’re, like, here’s why you should buy our company and he goes, I know you pointing to me and he points my partner goes, I don’t know you. Why am I buying your company? 35 minutes later, we signed a deal and I sold that company officially in 2014. And, and a part of me sold it because I think I was young. And it was really stressful having that kind of company that level of accompany at such a young age and I had no idea and that was before coaching was really a thing. I might had mentors, but I’m really just I couldn’t handle the stress. So when I had that out, I took it now that company’s worth over 200 million now, just just just to show it, I did not sell it for 200 million.
Lauren Conaway 5:13
My jaw just dropped. I know that y’all can’t see me, unless this is one of the pieces that they have pulled for video promos, but like my jaw has dropped. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna stop you right here because I do want to take a moment to honor and acknowledge something and it’s something related to to what you just said, but you are what we would call a serial entrepreneur. And one of the things that I happen to know about you is that you had actually started 15 companies and exited six by the time you were 30. Which is insane, by the way, but like in an awesome way. So I’m really, really curious to hear it. You know, you mentioned growing up around entrepreneurship. Do you think that’s the why behind your love of starting companies? Is it your love of problem solving, talk to us about your, your entree, serial entrepreneur origin story.
Alexa D’Agostino 5:25
It’s definitely how my parents raised me, which is how I’m trying to raise my three year old as well. And I’ll say to her, I’m like, if there’s a problem, there’s a wedge, she’s like, Oh, solution, and she’s three. And it’s funny actually had her once come on to my coaching call and tell all my students that it’s just how I was raised, I was always raised to think about the solution, not the problem. And I think to be honest, like, I tried the corporate thing. So when I sold my business, I tried to go into corporate and I ended up going into nonprofit kind of by accident because the president had bought one of my products that I had sold one of my exits. Because the people that bought my company was their main ERP system, so kind of happened by accident. And, and I tried corporate for six years. And I’m like, I can’t. Too much red tape and having a boss, I was like, this is awful. And I just couldn’t, I would walk into the president’s office like, hey, we have to do this, this, this and this, and they look at me, like, you know, like I was used to walking in and being able to be like, this is what we have to do. So I think it was partly how I was raised. And also definitely, you know, going back to the full comment, like, my, my personality is I like to go, I don’t like red tape. I don’t like being told what to do. Like, I’m just, but I also like, I mean, yes, it’s great. I’m like, Okay, I’m
Lauren Conaway 7:37
I’m so proud of you. But like is somebody who is kind of similarly situated like I, it’s funny, I’ve had people reach out to me and like, offer me jobs through because they found me through my work with InnovateHer. They found and I’m just like, you don’t you don’t want me I’m unemployable by anybody else other than myself at this point. And it’s very, very much because of the reasons that you’re stating. Like, I think that as entrepreneurs, first by necessity, but then by desire, we just, we have to move quickly. And we don’t like working through that those murky gray areas, like we make decisions fast. We make them intuitively or we make them data driven. But like we do not, we don’t like being held back. And when you said I don’t like being told what to do, I started to laugh because I’m like, yep, I get that. It was like being told what to do. And I to be perfectly honest, I think that there’s a little bit of ego, and being an entrepreneur like to look at a problem, I can uniquely solve this better than anyone else. There has to be a little bit of ego in that, right, like being just out and believing it and completely changing your life. to that to that goal. So so I’m really, really interested in because I feel as though we have some commonalities here, my friend, you and I have some things. But talk to us a little bit about that like you you are. I’m just gonna tell you, Alexa, I think you’re unemployable by the way.
Alexa D’Agostino 9:14
Lauren Conaway 9:15
So talk to us about the experience of being unemployable. I’m really really curious to hear what you have you there.
Alexa D’Agostino 9:22
Yeah, I am definitely unemployable 125% and though I was a really good employee, every job I ever had, and I always did very well and always had, you know, rave reviews, but I would be bored. In six months, I would be super amped about the job for like six months. And then after six months, I’m like, alright, this is boring. So the best jobs that I had knew that I would get bored and would just shuffle me around to fix problems through the organization. And I think it depends in a very innovative organization. It sees talent and somebody like me who you got to keep busy. Otherwise, I’m totally bored. I’m not wanting to just collect a paycheck, like I want to make difference. I want to move the organization forward. And if I come in and six months solve the problem, and it’s humming, you got to give me another problem to solve. I can’t just sit in a really well oiled machine. And that’s what I was really good at. And what I ended up doing throughout my corporate career was becoming basically a fractional CMO coming in. And every literally every corporate job I had an ad for every single one, three, sorry, three, three of them, I came in, I literally had to fire my whole marketing team, and rebuild a marketing team from scratch every single time. And then I ended up in my last one actually doing admissions as well, like, the sales side of it. So I mean, it’s kind of cool because it gave me a different perspective of my skill set. And what I’m good at, I’m good at building things. I’m good at solving problems. And so I definitely learned something from corporate. And I’m glad I did it. But I’m definitely meant to be an entrepreneur.
Lauren Conaway 11:11
Yeah, for sure. Well, and you said something, once again, that just really kind of resonated with me like you like it? Well, actually, I’m going to ask the question, we’re going to utilize the Socratic method here rather than me just assuming, but I feel as though I love to start things. I not necessarily as strong on like the execution finishing piece. But what I find interesting about you is that you know, you start companies, but you also scale them and exit them. Do you think that you’re unique in your ability to kind of see the broader picture, the long term strategy, talk to us a little bit about that, because you’re an expert. You’re an expert in scaling businesses, and, and often with entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs tend to be like, really, really good at one part of the journey. Like, I’m really great at the start. I’m really great at the finish. I’m really great at the middle. But I feel as though like just looking at your career, you might be good at all of those things. How do you feel about that?
Alexa D’Agostino 12:13
No, there’s things I’m not good at? I’ll tell you, I’m a leader, I’m not the best leader. And I’ll explain why in a second. I’ll go back to that. But the reason why I’m good at scaling and exiting, because I’m really good at two things. I’m really good at building revenue. I can make money off of anything, like I told you, I was like that kid that can find money anywhere, right? So I’m really, really good at creating offer, selling those offers and making money. The second reason is I’m really good at hiring people, not a good leader, but I’m good at hiring and finding people and getting them to buy into what we’re doing, and be committed to what we’re doing. And I always hired people who kept for organization super quick. So if you’re going to sell, you have to have a clean organization, your finances have to be clean, you have to have a very clean set of books. So I always knew what I had to do without actually knowing what I had to do. But I would say that my beginning exits the first four, the fifth one wasn’t by accident. But the first four was kind of by accident. The other three stories are very similar to the fourth exit I just shared, where I just knew the right people because I talk a lot. And I kept talking and talking and talking about what I’m doing. And then I’ve run into somebody that would say, Oh, I know someone at Cantor Fitzgerald. They own Counter Gaming, they might be interested in your IP. I’m like, Oh, next thing I know, I’m flying to Vegas pitching Counter Gaming, which Cantor Fitzgerald is one of the largest financial institutions in the world.
I know they bought my IP, which we had a patent for online gambling, and they bought that and now that patent is worth billions. So they knew something. That’s the first lesson I learned with that one is always keep a little piece of it. So next time, sell like 98% keep 2% for yourself. So that’s a good lesson learned.
Lauren Conaway 14:02
Is your retirement plan. Right?
Alexa D’Agostino 14:04
Exactly. Exactly. At the time though, I was 20 I think I was 21 or 22. And so at that time, it was a lot of money for me right? Not, not a huge exit whatsoever. But I wasn’t exiting a company. I was selling and exiting patent, right? So for me, I was like this is six months of work. This is a great payday for me. You know as a 21 year old walk away with a couple million bucks got freeze pretty awesome, right? Yeah. But yeah, so to answer your question, I’m great at finding people. Good at getting buy in from people. I’m really good at creating revenue, which that’s what people they want a clean company that makes money, that’s profitable, and have cashflow.
Lauren Conaway 14:46
Yep, well, I love all of that. Now, there are a couple little areas that I want to drill down in. But the first one that I want to drill down onto is that that hiring piece you said that you’re really really good at hiring. And we talk a lot around Startup Hustle about this fact that surrounding yourself with the right people is one of the most crucial skills that you can pick up as a founder. So talk to us a little bit about your hiring process, what are you looking for? What are some of some of the steps that you might take in order to identify not just a person who can do the job, but the person who can do the job, the way that you need it to be done, and the way that the company needs it to be done for that long term, sustainability and longevity? Talk to us a little bit about that.
Alexa D’Agostino 15:30
I started to like, kind of giggle a little bit.
Lauren Conaway 15:32
I know I saw that smile like torque, is
Alexa D’Agostino 15:34
Because it’s funny, because you probably think I have this like grand hiring plan. And I think you’re gonna be surprised by what my hiring plan is.
Lauren Conaway 15:44
I don’t I don’t necessarily think that you’ve got like an algorithm for it or anything like that.
Alexa D’Agostino 15:48
But it’s probably an unpopular one. But it works. It’s called, hire fast and you promote fastest.
Lauren Conaway 16:01
I love that so much. And you are actually not the first founder who has told us something similar. So. So just just to make sure that we’re clear like that we’re on the same page here. Like what you’re saying is, maybe you don’t need to have a six month hiring process, what you need to have is like a significant onboarding process and an accountability process built in for new hires. Is that an accurate?
Alexa D’Agostino 16:26
Yeah. And just to extend that even further, you can have somebody that goes through three, four or five hour long interviews and does. It’s easy to fake that, right? If you could, you could get through interviews very easily, and then get somebody else at the end of that interview as an employee. So what I do is I do, I personally will jump on for 10 minutes. And I asked three questions, and I get to know them, and half the time assignment about their skills, like I look at their resumes, and I know your skills. Will deal with your skills, or do you have the right attitude? What like, what’s your purpose you want to work for us? Or do you want to just work for anybody because that’s a big difference, right? And have you done your research on us like that those are really, really important. And then from there in 10 minutes, I’m really good at gauging whether or not somebody could be the right fit. I send them to my partners, they do a 30 minute interview. And if we like them, we hire them. That’s it we process faster because time is of essence. And then what we did is we did exactly what you said we have a whole onboarding process that they do, it’s automated. They shadow us for a week, it takes very little of my time. I’m a big believer, I’m not going to sit with you and train you for five weeks. No, I’m gonna give you a week to understand who we are, we have a whole course it takes about three, four hours to go through it, where we walk through our processes, who we are, who’s the team, how we work. And then depending on what your job is, you’re good.
Lauren Conaway 17:58
Alright, so if you want to back it to the last statement.
Alexa D’Agostino 18:03
Sure. So when it comes to hiring, I’m a big believer, you don’t waste a lot of time in that hiring process. You make sure somebody has the right attitude, they have the right skills, if they do, and they have the work the right work ethic, and they want to work for you. I rather spend the time in the onboarding piece. And we’ve even automated that so that it is still going on. Oh, sorry, sorry.
Lauren Conaway 18:29
Now we now you need to say it again. I was like I was looking at you. And I was like, oh, no, no, just just keep on going.
Alexa D’Agostino 18:37
Sorry. Go all the way back.
Lauren Conaway 18:40
Go back to the yeah, go back to the last sentence that we said before the break because we need one continuous.
Alexa D’Agostino 18:46
Alright, I’m on it. So I’m a big believer and a very quick hiring process. I will literally jump on the phone with him for 10 minutes, ask them a couple questions, make sure that they’re the right personality fit that they work hard that they want to work for us, and they have the right skills. That’s it. And then once I get that, I ship them off to my partners, we do a 30 minute meeting. And if my partners like them, we hire them. And then we spend the majority of the time in the onboarding process. But I also don’t believe in having a long onboarding process either. You can tell within the first week or two if somebody’s the right fit. Why would you spend weeks training somebody to then find out once you start doing the job that they’re not the right person? I rather throw them in the fire. Right from the beginning, we have a two it’s a three to four hour course. They take the course it learns how we work, who we are, what our systems are. And then I even have it broken out for writers and content creators and or coaches depending on what part of the business and it gives you them an overview of what their job is, if they’re a writer, they know how to write, throw them in the fire, see how they do, right? And within the first week or two we’re pretty good at understanding if someone’s the right fit or not. And it takes very little off me to train them. I’m not a big believer in doing have three, four ,or five weeks worth of training. They just shadow us and we throw them in the fire.
Lauren Conaway 20:05
Yeah. Well, I love that that baptism by fire thing. It’s so useful. But one of the things that you said that really struck me as well, you know, a lot of conditions have to be have to work in order for a company to scale successfully. And I think one of the things that that you had kind of acknowledged was that networking piece. So you know, you said that, yes, we had a great product. And yes, we had, like, we were doing all of these really amazing things. But at the same time, like a part of the reason why your companies were attractive was because you knew the right people. You have the right market of people who would be interested in buying your company. So talk to us a little bit about that. How are you building and maintaining your networks? And I understand that maybe some of this wasn’t super intentional on the front end. But with hindsight being 20-20, talk to us about what that network building piece look like?
Alexa D’Agostino 21:00
Yeah, I mean, a lot of it was there’s a couple pieces. First is those silly little 30, under 30, 40 under 40 awards, it’s not about the award, people think, oh, it’s about the award. No, it’s not, it’s about the other people that are in it. So to be honest, the beginning of my career, I’ve met some of the biggest mentors and some of my biggest clients in those groups. Right. So that’s the first piece. The second piece is obviously masterminds, but you have to get to the right mastermind. And then the third piece is once you get to a certain level, it’s creating your own community. So for example, I have an event going on in my house and a couple of weeks. I have 50, really high level seven, eight, and I’ve to nine figure people coming to my house. And it’s a mastermind, where we’re just going to sit around, and we’re gonna talk about how to build wealth together. And what’s great is we’re all successful, we’re all different levels, and we’re all going to be able to help each other with one thing or the other. And that’s where the magic happens. The last time we did this, I did this at a billionaires house, he has a $35 million house. And we did this huge mastermind with 55 people there. There were seven companies that were created out of that one, three day mastermind, one of which are that’s, you know, one of which is now worth over eight figures. So, you know, it’s it’s how it’s how you have to do it and jumping on trends. You know, I’m in a business right now. We scaled it from zero to 30 million since January one, basically. And we were able to do that because of the people that are in that group. And I met those people in that group through networking. Yeah, it’s, it’s the best way that you could do it.
Lauren Conaway 22:39
Well, and I love that part of your story. Friends, I think that it’s no secret that I’m a huge proponent of networking, and really not so much networking, it’s all about surrounding yourself with people who are invested in your success. Now, I want to tell you Full Scale does 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 available developers testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit FullScale.io or check the show notes for a link to learn more. Now friends, we are here with Alexa D’Agostino, who is the CEO and founder of Thynk Consulting Group. And Alexa, I gotta tell you, my friend I have I’ve been wanting to ask you about this the entire time. And you’re very proud of you didn’t know that you were proud of me, because I really wanted to jump right into it. But I didn’t I manage to hearing
Alexa D’Agostino 23:39
to get there. Can, you say that again?
Lauren Conaway 23:43
Alexa, you don’t know this. But I have been waiting to ask you this question for quite some time. Because I’m so fascinated. Our producers, they give us something called a setlist and it has like information about the company and about the founders and things like that. And one of the things that I found just fascinating was talk to us about marketing by modification. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Alexa D’Agostino 24:08
Yeah, so that’s like my alter ego. So. So it’s actually funny. So I didn’t even realize this was my philosophy that I’ve used my whole career until one day, so after I sold my business, I told you, I went to corporate. And after about five, six years in corporate, I was like I’m done. So my wife and I are walking on the street, and I’m like, what should be the name of my, my next company? And she goes, well, tell me a little bit about your process. So I said, well, I basically just, am I allowed to curse? I basically, I basically just fuck up a lot and fix it. Like, I don’t care. I just go fast. I go with speed and I make a lot of, like, mistakes and I just fix it and learn from it. And I keep going and going and I kind of take that approach from a marketing perspective. Like, I don’t, I don’t do the whole three to six months branding bullshit. I just sit there and go out with something, get responses and get results and then tweak it and modify it based on the results. And she goes, so it’s like marketing by modification. And I was like, ah, that is awesome. So I ended up actually trademarking, marketing by modification, and then the theory of modification. And that’s actually what my entire TED talk was about, I talked about how my whole life not just with marketing, my whole life. I have basically modified my whole life and gone against what society said. And the key thing is, I don’t care what people think. And I don’t care if it’s wrong, I’m just gonna do what I feel my gut is right. And if it’s wrong, I adjust it and that’s it.
Lauren Conaway 25:45
I love that so much. And I, I swear, I am fangirling a little bit, don’t get me wrong, but this is not coming from a fan girl place. But like, I feel very, you’re helping me to feel more confident because apparently you and I make decisions in very similar ways. Like there’s a balance between intuition and data. But the point is, you make the fucking decision. And then you get off of it, and you like it, and you move on to the next thing. Like, it’s, it’s my favorite part about being an entrepreneur.
Alexa D’Agostino 26:15
But I will tell you, it’s also one of the reasons why I could sometimes be flagged as a bad leader. So I’ll give you an example. This morning, my team came to me and they’re, like, we think we should do this strategy. And I listened. But I very quickly knew was the wrong strategy. And I hate wasting time. Like, I want them to feel empowered. But I’m not going to spend 45 minutes you explaining a strategy that in minute three I knew was wrong. So I gave him like five minutes, let them explain it, and I interrupted them, I go, I appreciate your strategy. But that’s not the direction we’re gonna go. This is what we’re going to do. And they kept going, but but I’m like, nope, I’m telling you right now, we’re not going to continue this conversation like that strategy is wrong, and we don’t have time to waste right now. This is the strategy, like until you build an eight figure company, then you can come back to me and tell me this strategy works. I’m like, I’ve done this strategy before. I know it works. And this is the way we go. So sometimes, like, I have to make the quick decision. And sometimes it does make me a bit not, I don’t want to say a bad leader. It’s just sometimes, like, we’re in the entrepreneur world, we’re not a corporate. In corporate world, you can bring people along for the ride a little bit more and entrepreneurial world an hour is a month. Right now, you don’t have time to fucking waste.
Lauren Conaway 27:29
Well, and that’s when I say like, that’s, that’s a piece of feedback that I’ve gotten before. Like, the exact phraseology of it is you’re not good at bringing people along with you. And it’s like, well, because in my day to day, I am I the only person doing this. So not only is there nobody else to bring along with me, like there are interested parties, but I’m the only one who’s in it, like actually doing the fucking thing every day, you know, and so but that also gives me insight that others don’t have and so I’m, I’m coming from a place of expertise when I say no, it’s not because I like saying no. It’s because I am using my lived experience in my deep enmeshment. within my organization, I am the only person who has the knowledge that I have, I am the only person who can knowledgeably say, yes, that’s gonna work or no, that’s not going to work. And so it’s interesting because you have to walk that line. You know, you want your teams to have autonomy and agency and ownership. But at the same time, like, it’s still your baby, you know. It’s still your company. So So talk to us a little bit more about how you, you manage that divide?
Alexa D’Agostino 28:37
Yeah, I mean, it’s hard. I, I am a big fan. So for instance, we own equity in a lot of companies. We have our main coaching and agency done with you done for you service. And I have over 50 employees, full time. And many of them have equity in the company. Not large parts, but like one to 3%, some have 5, 10. But I own the majority, but and the reason why I give them equity is because it’s not about selling our agency, which we very much could, right? But yeah, great, we sell our agency for 100 million, which is what our target is, that’s great. But that’s not life changing money, which life changing is the fact that we own equity in a company that most likely, we’re aiming right now for a four to $5 billion exit, and it’s going to happen in the next 24 months. That is life changing money. So I give them that picture of hey, I know it’s hard now and I know we’re grinding now, but look at what is in the future. And it’s not just one company we own equity and a ton of companies and have a lot of opportunities here for something to hit for us to all never have to work again, which I would always work anyway but and I think that’s really the thing. It’s I bring them along in a different way. I think.
Lauren Conaway 29:56
I like that. I very much respect that. So, so talk to us about, I’m going to ask you, I’m not going to ask you to give away the farm, I’m not going to ask you to give away your secrets. But what I am going to ask is I appreciate that. But I also believe in paying women for their labor. So. But that being said, I’m going to ask you, what are some, not all of our lives, listeners are going to be able to go out and start and exit multiple companies. A lot of them, they have a different path than you. But there are some commonalities. And so I’m going to ask you, what is some advice that you would give the entrepreneur out there looking to looking to scale, they have the great idea, maybe they’ve got their product and market, they’ve got some traction and some customers, but they’re really looking to take their organization to the next heights. What is some some advice that you would give them?
Alexa D’Agostino 30:51
So here’s my advice, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself the fucking truth. Do you have the personality, you can have all the ideas in the world, but if you can’t execute it, and you don’t have the work ethic to do it, you’re never gonna get there. People I talked to so many people that have ideas, ideas, ideas, and they can’t do anything with them because they don’t have the right skill set. So you have two choices, you either A, go ahead and put somebody as a partner that has what you don’t have. Or B, you go be an intrapreneur, and go work for somebody else that has that. And so perfect examples. My COO she was one of my students, I helped her triple her business. But then she couldn’t get past that. I mean, she she was making about 225. By the time she was done doing very, very well. But she was like, I want I want millions, I want what you have. So I said to her, I go be honest with yourself. Are you really an entrepreneur? Are you an intrapreneur? Because you always question yourself, you kind of get lazy a little bit sometimes. And you, you don’t like to make decision. That was her biggest weakness. And part of her laziness wasn’t because she’s personally lazy. It was because she had like decision paralysis.
Lauren Conaway 32:03
Analysis paralysis. And I have to tell you, like, I know that everybody can get analysis paralysis, but I do think that it’s particularly insidious and noticeable in women. Or you really folks who have been historically marginalized people who are not expected to be the archetype of success. So I totally get that. Like, it’s not laziness, per se, it is hesitation.
Alexa D’Agostino 32:29
This is probably the wrong word to use, because she’s not lazy. But she appeared she was, but it was really, because she just couldn’t make decision. She needed somebody above her, because she’s a great entrepreneur. But yeah, she’s a better intrapreneur. And so now she and I always ask people, would you rather own a company a 100%? That’s $100,000? Or would you rather own 10% of $100 million company, right? And it just depends how far you want to go. And there’s, I know, I am not the CEO of a billion dollar corporation. I know that in my personality, right? And that’s okay, I’m a good CMO of a billion dollar company. I’m a good CMO even have a multi nine figure company. I may not be an nine figure CEO, I’m a SEVEN and an EIGHT figure CEO. Wanna know why? Because I’m good at making revenue. But then I get bored when I tell you, I get bored. And so I want to go to the next thing. So I’m going to building and scaling something, exiting and becoming the CMO and letting somebody else run with it. Yeah, that you got to look at yourself in the mirror and know what you are and aren’t good at. Sometimes people lie to themselves.
Lauren Conaway 33:36
Well, well, I mean, it feels like maybe this this journey started when you were younger, you know, you were surrounded by entrepreneurs. Clearly, you had a strong relationship with your father. You know, so you had people to kind of help you along the way. But for our founders listening at home, who maybe they don’t have didn’t have that start in life, how did you become so self-aware? Because I think that that’s really what we’re getting back to like, one of the things that we talk about here in Kansas City is is the fact that we are nice, but we’re not always kind. And being nice means that you tell people what you want them to hear or what they want to hear. Being kind means that you tell people what they need to hear. And it sounds like that’s something that you’re pretty comfortable doing but not everybody is. So how do you bridge that gap between niceness and kindness to help people achieve long term success?
Alexa D’Agostino 34:30
I’ve always just said how it is my whole life and a part of this because that was my mother my or is my mother. My mother is I’m not gonna sugarcoat this. I’m just going to tell you how it is. Even if it hurts. I’m going to tell you anyway. And I’m the same way I don’t sugarcoat things. It is what it is. You could hate me, you could love me. I literally have a little sign somewhere in my drawers here and it says just love me. And and that it’s just been how I always am, you have to be. Because what happens is if you if you don’t, if you sugarcoat things, or you don’t say the truth, or how you really feel, it’s gonna be bottled up in you, one. Two, that’s when people take advantage of you. And that’s when entrepreneurs fail, because oh, they feel bad that they don’t like the website. Okay? Well, if you don’t say something, then you’re going to be stuck with the website. And then I’ve seen so many people not use things that they’ve paid for. I People come to me and say, Hey, can you fix us? I said, Oh, well, did you get your money back? No. Why didn’t you ask them to fix it? I just paid it. Well, now you’re now you’re paying two people do the same job, you’re wasting your own money. This is why entrepreneurs fail. Just come out and say it.
Lauren Conaway 35:44
Yeah. Well, and I have to ask, because one of the struggles that I have, like I came up in male dominated industries. I spent a lot of my early career in aerospace it in automotive, and our listeners know that. It’s not for the faint of heart as a woman, because I think like,
Alexa D’Agostino 36:02
male dominated in
Lauren Conaway 36:06
The automotive industry was insane. Like, the amount of code switching that I had to do in order to survive was like, I was crazy. And I would not recommend it to any woman, like just avoid. But that being said, like, one of the things that you get really, really good at is, is softening yourself or trying to make yourself more palatable in these environments. And I’ve reached a point in my career now where I’m like, I don’t want it anymore. I want to be able to exist in a space where I can be my authentic self. Where I can, where my conception of womanhood is the only thing that matters and nobody else’s conception of womanhood matters. And I love that about my life. But not everybody is in this position, like, did you find that your demeanor, and I asked this in the kindest way possible with the understanding that I am also sometimes viewed as an asshole because of my style of delivery. But do you think that that has created barriers or do you think that that has created challenges for you in your career showing up as you show up?
Alexa D’Agostino 37:13
Absolutely. But I’m self aware. So like, on our team call this week I go, guys, I know, I’m an asshole. But I just want things done right? Like, put them in the right folders. Like, I know, I could be an ss sometimes. But like, it’s just because we don’t have time for me to be going. You don’t want me spending my time spending an hour trying to find something in these folders, like, you know, and so I just come out and say it. So at least I’m honest I’m an asshole. That kind of,
Lauren Conaway 37:39
I do actually think that that goes a long way. I used to have a sign that I would show people I’m sorry for what I said while I was busy. Because usually when like when I would get snippy or snappy, it would usually be like, we’re setting up for an event or something like that. And I have like a million things on my mind. And somebody would come up and ask me about something unrelated. And I would just kind of look at him like they’re the dumbest fucking person. Like, why are you talking to me about this right now? And I always had to apologize because I’m like, I know that that was an asshole move. I swear. I know it was but it was also very in the moment, please forgive me. I swear. I’m not an asshole all the time.
Alexa D’Agostino 38:15
Also to like, I mean, I’ve had people I have people on my team that had been with me for 15 years. So I’m doing okay, right. Like, I sound like I have people quitting, I fire a hell of more people. I’ve probably fire 99% of the people that leave. There’s very, I had one person quit. And she was from the UK. And she was just, she wanted me to give her a raise after two months. And I’m like, dude, like, no, your your work is subpar. And you’ve been here for like, a couple months. I’m like, Get out of here. And she didn’t like that. And then she went and bashed me and said I was an awful person. And I’m like, that’s fine. But you know, other than her, I mean, we, for the most part, do keep people because I give them the longer vision, you know, yeah. Like,
Lauren Conaway 39:00
I might need a candy bar, like right now because I’m hungry and I’m snappy. But the fact is, I am also the kind of leader that you can learn from and I’m creating the kind of environment that you want to be a part of, and you will learn a lot from, right?
Alexa D’Agostino 39:13
You want me to be fucking nice, which one?
Lauren Conaway 39:17
You’re gonna you’re gonna you can choose one I love that I also get like, I’m gonna start presenting that as a choice. Like you can have me mostly a nice person, but occasionally an asshole, but you know, a good leader, or a good a good business owner. And you can come along for the ride or you can have me nice and sweet and we all failed. Like, this is not how this works.
Alexa D’Agostino 39:38
I’m not always and so I would say I wouldn’t say that 7% of the time I could be an asshole. I just hate stupid fucking shit.
Lauren Conaway 39:47
Well, honestly, like, I almost feel like we’re doing ourselves a disservice disservice by saying like, asshole because the fact is, like, if we were to exhibit a lot of these behaviors, if we were dudes, it would just be like, oh, you know, he’s just he’s not actually being an asshole. I’m just not couching every single thing that I say in compliments and big ass smile. Like, I’m just being very direct and to the point. And that doesn’t tend to be taken well from from ladies because we’re supposed to be the nice ones who care about everybody’s feelings above all else. And I’m like, no, I actually care about my company, above all else, but then I absolutely care about you, and want you to be to succeed. And this is how we’re going to do it. Right?
Alexa D’Agostino 40:38
Lauren Conaway 40:39
Well, I love that. So I am, we have come up. We’re kind of toward the end here. And I’m about to ask you a human question. And, and I really don’t have a great one. But this is the one that struck me as I was scrolling through, and I found it interesting. And it’s, what is your favorite smell?
Alexa D’Agostino 41:01
My favorite smell? Definitely food. I mean, there’s a number of different food but like, I love the smell of like, pizza.
Lauren Conaway 41:12
Ooh, I love the smell of bread baking. And I don’t even necessarily like I don’t eat that much bread or anything. But I love the smell of it baking like that yeasty.
Alexa D’Agostino 41:23
Yeah. I’m like a pie of pizza. And just Yeah. Oh, yeah. When you open in, it’s like,
Lauren Conaway 41:32
It’s amazing. So we have one of those. We have a few of them. But we have like one of those dining halls where like restaurants open up little kind of kiosks in one big place. And it’s really fun to go to but whatever we walk in, the one that I go to is called Parlor and its a pizza company in there and like the smell of it just envelops the whole thing. You can’t even smell anything else that anybody’s making. But you walk in and it’s like, yeah.
Alexa D’Agostino 41:57
Okay, and then the second one is a baby smell. Like baby powdery, like, baby, new baby smell. Not the poopy smell but,
Lauren Conaway 42:08
Nobody likes that smell. But like when you’re holding the baby, do you like? You’re like I love it.
Alexa D’Agostino 42:17
I’m a softy. I’m not an asshole.
Lauren Conaway 42:20
Oh, no, you’re just someone who gets shit done. And I love that about you. All right. Well, I got to tell you, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today, Alexa. I am so appreciative for of you sharing your wisdom and your expertise. And this was a lot of fun.
Thank you for having me.
Absolutely. And friends. You know what else is a lot of fun. It’s when you are fully supported, and you have everything that you need to start your tech products, start building your tech product. If you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, Full Scale can help. They have the people in the platform 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 the platform match you up with fully vetted, highly experienced software engineers, testers and leaders. At Full Scale they specialize in building long term teams that work only for you. Learn more when you visit FullScale.io. You can also check the show notes for a link. One more thing, friends. I don’t know if you heard but we recently did a series not too long ago about the Power of dot dot dot. Each of the Startup Hustle co-hosts got to pull an episode. I personally did the Power of Choice, which was a super fun conversation that we had with Tammy Buckner of WeCode KC. But definitely keep an eye out for those episodes. We’re talking about the Power of Technology, the power of the things that empower you to build better businesses. How do we talk about those things? So check out the Power Of series on Startup Hustle. And friends, we are extraordinarily grateful that you come back to us week after week after week. We recently had 5 million downloads which kind of freaks me out a little bit, but it’s all because of listeners like you. We invite you to keep coming back. We do this all for you, and we want to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much, and we will catch you next time.