The Grow Show: Business Growth Stories from the Frontlines

Introduction: The Grow Show

April 01, 2022 Scott Scully, Jeff Winters, Eric Watkins Episode 1
The Grow Show: Business Growth Stories from the Frontlines
Introduction: The Grow Show
Show Notes Transcript

The Grow Show is a weekly business podcast where three business leaders take you through success stories, pain points and everything in between that comes with growing a business. If you are looking for actionable advice and tips during your daily commute, workout or focus time, this is the podcast you need to be listening to.

Scott Scully, CEO at Abstrakt Marketing Group

Scott has started, invested in, or played a major role in several companies over the past 28 years. His main focus has been in the Marketing and Lead Generation space, with three companies exceeding $12,000,000 in annual revenue. His current venture, Abstrakt Marketing Group, has grown by a minimum of 20% for 12 years straight, surpassed $50,000,000 in 2021, and will grow to at least $100,000,000 by 2024.

He attributes his success to niche focus, powerful solutions, great team members/business partners, sound processes, and an innovative workplace culture.

Jeff Winters, President at Sapper Consulting

While at a previous sales position, Sapper founder Jeff Winters implemented a unique email strategy that consistently landed him in Fortune 100 boardrooms. But every time he finished his pitch, these companies would grill him on his  strategy: “Great product, but how the heck did you get this meeting?" In 2013, after hearing this a dozen-too-many times, he started Sapper Consulting. Since then, Jeff has led the business to become one of the fastest growing companies in St. Louis and was most recently featured in St. Louis Business Journal’s list of 40 under 40. He is a candid, thoughtful and dynamic leader.

Eric Watkins, President at Abstrakt Marketing Group 

Eric started at Abstrakt Marketing Group in 2012 as an unpaid Operations Intern. In just nine short years, Eric has gone from an intern to holding a position on the Executive team. Today, he oversees the entire company as the President of Abstrakt Marketing Group. While each role that Eric has held throughout his tenure at Abstrakt has been vital, his role in the restructuring of the Partner Sales division was one of the biggest highlights. He enabled Abstrakt to grow immensely in a sustainable manner with the employee count increasing by 140%. 

As the company grows in revenue, leaders like Eric ensure that its culture also progresses. While it’s true that Eric has already accomplished many impressive feats right after hitting the age of 30 and his career is just getting started.

Eric Watkins:

Welcome to the grove show where we make it easier for entrepreneurs and leaders to grow their businesses. You'll hear from real leaders with real stories about their successes and failures. So you don't have to make the same mistakes. We won't break out textbooks or talk theory only raw stories from the front lines with actionable takeaways.

Unknown:

The gross show is sponsored by Heil sound, world class microphones for stage studio, broadcast and podcast. Find your sound it Heil, sound.com and five, Reggie, are your outbound sales campaigns not driving the engagement you're looking for? Revenue leaders rely on reggie.ai to write high performing sales copy that cuts through the noise and books more meetings. Want to see how it works, head over to reggie.ai/growth show and learn how to put the power of best practices in AI into the hands of your sales team. Here's the next episode of the Grow show.

Scott Scully:

Well, welcome to the growth show. Sitting here with my partners in crime, Jeff winters and Eric Watkins.

Eric Watkins:

Welcome. Welcome, everybody, everybody.

Scott Scully:

We are super excited about doing this. Eric's the president of abstract marketing group and Jeff's the president of sapper consulting. And together combined, we've just been through a lot in building business. We've had rapid growth, we've made mistakes, just like everyone. And then we've done some things right as well. And our whole goal of having this conversation, ongoing conversation is to try to make it a little bit easier for you guys out there that are in the middle of running your business or thinking about starting a business. And hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and the things we totally screwed up. We've made a lot of it we have, you know, that's it. That's the conversation. We've gone from zero to over $50 million dollars in revenue in a hurry. And we've got some background and other organizations as well. So I guess that's why you would tune in, because we've been there done that and why not listen to what the heck we screwed up. I love that. So you don't have to do it yourself. So

Jeff Winters:

wish I could have listened to this podcast before I screwed some stuff up myself would have saved me a lot of anguish. Absolutely.

Eric Watkins:

I've been begging Scott to write a book for a really long time. And I think the odds of that are very slim, so we can get him to download it all via audio recording for this podcast. So I'm super excited about that.

Scott Scully:

I'd have to be able to write, which can talk. So we thought it'd be fun to introduce each other. It's kind of awkward bragging about yourself or talking about your background. So we're gonna take a stab at introducing each other to start here and, and then we'll just get into the overall goal of the show itself. Eric,

Eric Watkins:

I'll start it off. So I I picked our very own Scott scholar here, CEO of abstract Marketing Group, a little background on Scott. He was born in Iowa City. He's from Iowa. And I feel like that's super important. Go Hawks. Go Hawk eyes. Yeah, Scott was raised on a foundation of hard work. And the job's not done until it's done. So he has an incredible ability to just get people around him committed to a vision, do whatever it takes to realize that vision and graduated from Minnesota State University the Mavericks go Mavericks proud Maverick. Yeah,

Scott Scully:

it was a it was really, really tough school to get into

Eric Watkins:

very tough, self proclaimed incredible students got scoli, they always say Attention always showed up to class. But what he was very good at is he was very good at making connections with other people. And, you know, when Scott graduated college, he started cutting his teeth and sales development for a local accounting firm. And I think it really set the foundation. You know what launched the rest of his career because he started to learn the sales development game. And he realized, for lack of a better term, how clueless businesses were, when it came to their sales and their marketing and what they needed to do. So ultimately, some things happen. He ended up in St. Louis with some friends at a company called advantage marketing group. He started there as a sales rep actually started in marketing and then transitioned his way quickly into sales. And, you know, he's selling to a tough industry of the automotive industry and working with auto dealers, and we love them. It's a love hate relationship, but they're some of the toughest people to sell to. And Scott quickly just rose through the ranks. He started selling and he was the highest sales rep at that company. So much to the point of where, you know, he went to his owner and he said, Hey, I've sold all my leads, like I don't even have time in a day to sell any more business. I'd like to get a higher price. adage of my commission because I'm your top sales rep. And the owner said, Well, I'm not going to do that. But what you can do is you can go hire somebody,

Scott Scully:

that's not exactly how he put it. Use different

Eric Watkins:

words. Long story short, he gave him the perfect training ground to create abstract marketing group. But you know, what Scott did was he did that exactly that. So he went and hired his own sales rep. And then from there had to grow them, train them, make sure they were produced and help them sell. And then he did it again. And then he did it again. And then he did it again. And then you can follow the rest of the trajectory, he gets to the point where he's running the sales department, and ultimately worked his way into the president role of that company that ultimately sold seven years later. So that was his first forte, and helping grow a business and then selling that business. And then from there, he partnered up with some friends and created a business full circle solutions. They started in the basement of one of the partners houses, and they did sales development, and the same thing, direct mail, selling to the the automotive industry. And this company, he took what he learned in his previous job, he took what he stuck with what he knows that's marketing, direct marketing, and growing sales teams. And I think there was a story about someone getting a phone thrown at them by a wife or something like that.

Scott Scully:

Yeah, my partner, my ex wife, let us start in their basement and it started to become super obvious that they wanted us out of the basement, she put flagstone down the side of her yard, and then a special entry door in the bath. She was sick of us coming through the kitchen. But the day that she ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it over my head, I knew it was the time of time for the six of us to move out of their basement,

Eric Watkins:

that was a good place to start. Great place. Yeah, and no motivation, like getting out of a basement. That was a lot of stories, she

Scott Scully:

made it clear.

Eric Watkins:

Scott was able to grow that company over the course of eight years became really, really successful. And it ultimately got bought out by a company called DME automotive who was part of a multi billion dollar conglomerate. And what they realized they didn't have was inside sales. So they took on full circle solutions to really help with their inside sales. And so after selling, you know, growing to businesses selling them, he's in a spot in 2009. He's trying to figure out what he should do. And over the course of his career, he's realized there's a very big problem that almost every company has, and that is consistent sales. And it's something that he's been able to do and what really where he planted his flag in his career. So 2009 He said, why wouldn't I start a business? helping businesses can make their sales more consistent. So he started abstract Marketing Group, he started with no outside money, which is very, very rare these days. And Jeff will get to you. But Jeff's company, he did the same thing. And we're looking, you know, over the course of the last 12 years, we've been able to grow. You know, after our first five years where we just had incredible growth, we've been able to sustain 20% growth year over year, outside of COVID COVID. But we actually grew during COVID, 1%, be it but we'll take it 20% year over year. So he's proven he's taken what he learned in his previous two companies and previous work experience, created the formula. And the product that we deliver to the client to our partners is the same one we use for ourselves. So he's been steering this ship. He's a marketing genius, his ability to take a message to market and take complex problems and just make it simple and really focus on what matters. He's just been really spearheading this entire organization. And Jeff will get into my background, but I started here nine years ago, and I've just been able to soak up everything he's taught me like a sponge, and I'm excited for other people to really hear this. Because I think there's some some brilliance that needs to get spread out. Yeah, that's that's Scott school, his background.

Scott Scully:

I'm thinking two things.

Jeff Winters:

One, you're in pain, I can see your

Scott Scully:

one. I think I own Manet, for over glamorizing me, and to my parents, when they hear this, you're gonna wonder if they're talking about the same person.

Eric Watkins:

There's nothing worse than hearing somebody talk good about yourself, right? Yeah, tell me what I'm bad at and I'll I'll fix it.

Scott Scully:

You weren't that, you know, that was pretty accurate. No, thank you. That means a lot. There's one thing that I know it's, you know, you have that many years in doing the same kinds of things there. You just have some things to talk about. And a lot of it's going to be don't do this. But I just hope that you you won't have to, that we can help. Just make it a little bit easier. Whether you're just starting or you're you're into it already. We hope we can make it easier for you. You may go next year you next

Jeff Winters:

Next. So I'm going to talk about introduced Eric Watkins. You're not here in the studio, but he can't even look at me, which is that that's how I know it's we're right in the right spot. Eric's the president of abstract Marketing Group. I don't think Scott Don't mind me saying this. Scott and I are the heads of our business because we made the decision to be the head of the business when we started the business. Eric did it the right way. And he did it the hard way. Eric started as an intern nine years ago, and has worked his way into the president role. No, I guarantee there's not a person among the 500 in this building, who would say anything other than he was built for it. He's made for it. Over that time period, name a few awards of note, in 2018, he was named a game changer by workforce magazine. And in 2021, just recently named a titan in St. Louis business, which is given to the top 100 C level leaders in and around St. Louis. I tried to figure out if he was the youngest on that list. I don't know if he was specifically but if he wasn't the youngest, he was probably one of the youngest, which is incredibly impressive.

Scott Scully:

biggest badass. Oh, is

Jeff Winters:

this that I did find that he's the type. He's the biggest badass. They haven't invented a list for fastest growing companies that Eric hasn't led abstract beyond. St. Louis Business Journal, Inc, small business monthly, you name it. If there's a fastest growing list, Eric has been captaining the ship of abstract that's gotten made sure that abstracts on that list. In terms of Eric, I think he's the quintessential example of it's not what you do. It's how you do it. Sure. He's led abstract to incredible heights. Sure. He's hired amazing talent. Sure, he's gone out of his way to be an integral player in the acquisition of another business. Sure, he leads the company to year over year growth. Sure, he ensures clients success, he does all those things. But beyond that, he has zero ego. He is as humble as he is wise. He is his thirst to win for himself. And for the company is only outmatched by his thirst to have his people when when you talk to his people, you can you don't have to ask or or hear from them how loyal they are. You can see it, you can feel it. He's one of those magnetic personalities that people want to be around. People want to work for. People want to work with. And I know that firsthand, my company was acquired by abstract. Not But about a year ago. And when you come into a situation like that, with somebody who's going to be your peer, you have questions? What's this person going to be? Like? Is this person going to be good to work with is? Is there going to be any jockeying for position and and there hasn't been that for for for even one second?

Scott Scully:

I'm just fortunate enough to your face.

Jeff Winters:

Right? He says, just got plenty behind my back. By the time this podcast come out, he'll be my boss. So they have to cut that line.

Scott Scully:

When does this come out? Right?

Jeff Winters:

Isn't the first quarter. The best thing I can say about Eric is, is when you look at Eric, he's one of those people where you want life to fast forward 20 years a little bit so you can see how right you were that he's so much more successful than he even knows. So you can come back to present and go, I told you so. And that's Eric, and he deserves everything he's gotten. And for everybody who's gonna listen to this podcast, Eric's a phenomenal leader. He's got tremendous experience all the way up and down the hierarchy. And you will all be the beneficiary of that knowledge. Wow, thank you. Good, good notes, Jeff.

Eric Watkins:

Yeah, she's now I almost don't want to be on the podcast anymore. Because I feel like nothing I'm gonna say is gonna live up to you lay it out there for

Scott Scully:

you all can appreciate it, see what's in front of us. But Eric has some notes. Jeff has a book. And I have no notes and it's about ready to be obvious. Preparation is one of the most important things in business do's and don'ts. Back to Eric, when you're building your business where it becomes obvious that that it's an individual that you have to keep pushing upwards and give them responsibilities. It becomes obvious when they're selfless. And they're willing to pay, play whatever role and just do whatever it takes to to get the company moving. And that was one of the things that that Eric did I'll never forget. He took on this sales manager role from you know, from the operations role and hadn't made a phone call and made fun of himself when he got on the phones. It was awesome to watch because he told his team look, I gotta learn this. If I'm going to be your leader. I got Learn how to do it. And he went from being really bad to probably the best on the team. And they really appreciated that. And he did that in a lot of different roles. And it's how he went from intern to running the place. So when you're when you've got talent, and they show up every day, and they're motivated, and they want to learn, and they're asking questions, and it's not about them, and they're willing to do whatever it takes, give them more responsibility and push them forward. Because it's, it's gonna pay off, especially for the individual. You owe it to them to set high expectations and, or have high expectations of those people. Jeff, Jeff might want to, he might be one of my biggest business failures. I met him back when he was a vendor. For us for email. We started having conversations, then it was years ago about coming together. And I think we had the opportunity to buy his company for about 100 grand. And now it's going to cost us 10s, or is costing us 10s of millions. Super smart move on on my part. No, I'm kidding. Jeff, growing forward and taking this company and, and starting it and taking it to, you know, almost $20 million dollars in the year of our acquisition, developing 140 people. A lot of the leaders in this entire organization are going to you know, there's going to be a bunch of them that come from that group that he built. You know, he came from a background of sales, went to college at the University of Miami in Ohio.

Eric Watkins:

The you but not really the other. Yeah.

Scott Scully:

In from Ohio. That one?

Jeff Winters:

Yeah, the one everybody knows, yeah, that one.

Scott Scully:

No, he's a super smart guy, he gets back to St. Louis gets in a sales capacity and selling software and super hard to get into, or get in front of the decision makers of these larger organizations, gets frustrated, all of a sudden builds out his own email process to to get in front of these very large organizations, ends up sitting in boardrooms with groups of people that had no idea how the hell he got there. I think that's when he knew he was on to something and left and, and started to build his own company, build those processes, put put those processes together and started selling that very offering that made him successful in sales, you know, started selling that to individual companies, we started talking several years back, and then we would get together, you know, four or five times a year, have a steak, drink too much wine, talk about lead gen. Just always loved the conversation, because we're going through some of the same things. We just talked about what it might look like, there was kind of a lot of courting, because Jeff was, you know, super concerned about what he'd built. And if we had the same things in mind if cultures would max and, and was always putting his people first. And, you know, we got to a point he'd grown, we'd grown and we wanted to get better with the email portion portion of our lead generation offering and, and he had built the best in the world. So it just made sense to come together. And since coming in, he's helped take on our marketing services division and lead our SEO product. And he's helped build this combined executive team and is going to be a major, major part of why we get to the next level as a whole. I guess the best thing that I ever did in my business career is realized that I had to, to find the right folks to help steer the ship and and I'm sitting with a couple of them and they would they would tell you that there are people that aren't on this conversation that are really on the front lines, doing the work. So I think they feel the same way. We don't get anything done unless we find super smart, motivated people to go go do the work. We can set the vision but people need to carry it out. It's kind of interesting introducing each other, right? Yes, like little weird at the end of the day 30 plus years of experience in growing business. Now Jeff started one, I've been part of three, Eric literally went from the you know the bottom to the top and is running, you know, the biggest piece of it. And hopefully, in our episodes, you can find content. Just if you find one thing that makes it just a little bit easier, tomorrow or next month to get to where you're you're going, then we will feel like it was time well spent. And we might have a little fun along the way,

Eric Watkins:

a little bit of fun. I'll say one thing about Jeff, real quick, as well as just, you know, whenever you you've just started in one company and grown all the way up and then you hear Hey, you're going to acquire another company, the first thing you think of is like, oh, no, who am I going to run up against? Same thing you said, Who am I going to have to work with? For how successful he's been at such a young age. He is just completely selfless. And he is by no means feel like he's arrived, he continues to train and develop. And he's just one of those people that people just love. I can't tell you how many times I hear. Did you hear what Jeff said here? What Jeff did in this meeting. It's just one of those people that it makes it fun to come to work. I'm excited to learn from him as I have from Scott from a long time. And we got a good group. So be fun.

Jeff Winters:

As I was thinking about that was very painful, but nice and

Scott Scully:

light a little bit. Yeah, you were trying to build things up.

Jeff Winters:

You never had dinner.

Eric Watkins:

Oh, you did? I remember when I came back, and it was like staffers getting 600 email leads. All Yeah, everything's from email, no calls, we're only getting 100. What are we doing?

Jeff Winters:

But like, Okay, so let's, let's just think about that. For this show, we were talking about it. I said, we're planning and I said, you know, this should be this should be like a peer group. Like we're a your peer group. For those listeners out there. We're your peer group, we want to answer the questions that are on your mind that are actually on your mind that we've all had to deal with that maybe theoretical resources or whatever might say the other one other way. But who would ever thought like, Hey, make sure you go out to dinner every quarter with your biggest competitor?

Scott Scully:

That was pretty smart. Jeff just robbed everything. Took it all have to go, you're doing it. So how do you do that? How did when do you make that second follow up call? Great.

Jeff Winters:

Well, I had a notebook. And Scott had the notes. And the notes were in his head. Oh, we took it all. But we but from that came a lot of success for us from all the stuff I stole, but also, also this this awesome partnership. And I hope that we can be the peer group. We talked about what this is for, I hope we can be the peer group for people out there and answer questions that folks really have.

Eric Watkins:

Yeah, and I think also, we all agree we don't have all the answers, either, right. And we can share some of the things that we're dealing with. And I'm sure others are and be an opportunity to have a forum to provide us with some feedback as well.

Scott Scully:

Yeah, we promised that although we have some super exciting episodes planned, that will pull in some others as well. You don't have to just listen to us. The whole goal is just to get you the content needed. It's honestly it's not going to be textbooks or theory. This is going to be hard core, Ben threw it down it sat in the middle of it type of advice. And we hope it helps. So just in wrapping this up, we want you to to spread the word about the gross show out to anybody that's out there thinking about starting a business or you know in the middle of driving their business now tell them to tune in, give you a little sneak peek on our next episode, it's going to be about why a predictable pipeline sales pipeline really solves every problem. least least that's the way that we feel. And thanks for tuning in. Let's grow.

Eric Watkins:

Let's grow let's grow. Thanks for listening to the growth show. Leave us a review and let us know how we're doing or if there's a topic you'd like us to cover in the future.

Unknown:

The gross show is sponsored by abstract marketing group whose outsourced sales and marketing services provide you with everything you need to close consistent business for less than the cost of a full time employee sapper consulting. Let us schedule your sales appointments so you don't have to abstract cloud solutions leveraging the power of the Salesforce platform to solve complex business problems with straightforward solutions.