Search Interviews:

Jeremy Weisz 14:40 

What about, you talk about where you send people. I’m just searching here for protein bars. I’m just seeing what comes up. I see there’s a number of brands that will send them to their site. There’s brands that will send them to Amazon. There’s brands that are sending to Costco. What are your thoughts on Amazon, sending direct to Amazon as opposed to a website?

Edwin Choi 15:05 

Yeah, well, I would say it depends on your organization’s goals and strengths, right? Some brands do tremendously well on Amazon, right? They found the right niche. They have the right talent and the right resources to dominate Amazon, and obviously it is an enormous market, so it may make sense for them to send that incremental dollar to Amazon right. Other brands Amazon is complimentary to their strategy, but they would rather keep the customer in their ecosystem right. They would rather own that customer, know who that person is, be able to speak to them whenever they want and however they want. And if you’re that type of brand, then you should be sending your customer to your own site, right?

So it’s different strengths and different weaknesses. I think the most important thing is, are you measuring the effect between the two. Okay, so I think a lot of brands simply send it to Amazon and they don’t think about it any longer, whereas other brands do the same thing with their own owned website and their own properties. But perhaps that there is more incrementality sending them Amazon or you might get a better lifetime value, sending it to your own site. I think those things have to be measured so you can make an educated decision.

Jeremy Weisz 16:27 

Talk about Perfect Bars. I want to pull up the site you can go to Perfect Snacks. I’m sure people have seen them. They’re every store I’ve been to at least. What kind of work did you do with Perfect Bar?

Edwin Choi 16:41 

When we started in 2017, we were pretty much all over the place, right? So not only do we manage their paid media, uh, their paid search, paid social, we also rehaul their entire analytics back in so they can track to the nth degree what is happening. We launched and optimized their sub and safe functionality and experience. We took over the email and SMS pieces. We grew the list. And this is from memory, so it might be a little fuzzy since it’s been since 2017 but I think we grew the list something like 500-600% in size, so now they have a strong owned list that they can go ahead and obviously market to and manage. We also developed the website and designed the website, and that went through several iterations, and we’ve done a lot of testing on the site itself to make sure it can convert very well. So if I could kind of put it all together in a this discrete, distinct summary, I think we were sort of their in-house marketing shop, so to speak.

Jeremy Weisz 17:50 

I think it’s a family-owned business, is that right?

Edwin Choi 17:53 

It is a family-owned business until it was acquired.

Jeremy Weisz 17:57 

Oh, it was acquired. Okay.

Edwin Choi 17:58 

It was acquired.

Jeremy Weisz 17:59 

Got it. You mentioned. I mean, there’s a lot of and we’re looking here and subscribe and say website and other things that you had to do. What are some of your favorite e-commerce tools or plugins that you’re probably recommending to your clients?

Edwin Choi 18:15 

Yeah, absolutely. I think one of our favorites right now is a cool tool called KNOCommerce. So KNOCommerce is a post-purchase survey, and they have tremendous performance. I am always shocked at how many customers they get to answer this survey. And the data that you get is tremendous, right? Because you’re getting it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. So when you’re living in a world where Google and Apple are no longer giving you data, they’re no longer accepting cookies, that word of the customer becomes that much more valuable.

So if they say that they saw you on TikTok and that is what influenced them to buy your brand off of a TikTok ad or off of organic TikTok post, then it has some credence, right? It must have some credence, no matter what the other interfaces and what the other numbers say, right? So that’s something that we give some weight to. Another one that we use is called DataBox. DataBox is a custom dashboard solution, and we have really hack this thing up like we are getting the real time visibility and the stats are very difficult to get in other ways. So for example, for all of our client sites, we know how many people add to cart on a daily basis, and we track that every day. So if we know that there’s a sudden drop in that maybe something’s broken with that cart page, and we need to be on it right away, right?

We also track the amount of searches that people are doing on a client site, because, believe it or not, when someone searches within your site, your conversion rate could be quadruple, right? That’s why, when you go to amazon.com, what is the biggest thing that’s in your face? It’s a. Search bar. It’s a search bar because it gets the customer to the product as soon as possible. So we track that as well, and we want to make sure, we kind of maintain that day trader mentality, like we know exactly when a number drops or when a number rises. And we need to quickly figure out why that is and what we can do to take advantage of it.

Jeremy Weisz 20:22 

Are there certain platforms you recommend? I know there’s a million out there from Shopify to WooCommerce to whatever. What do you like?

Edwin Choi 20:30 

Shopify. Shopify is by far the most value-packed, powerful, user-friendly and stable platform out there, there’s nothing that really comes close.

Jeremy Weisz 20:44 

Yep, we talked about the evolution of kind of hiring for you, and I know that you spent a lot of time, and that’s something you’re really thinking about, is hiring for the best talent and revamping the recruiting process. What have you done to revamp the recruiting process?

Edwin Choi 21:04 

Well, I think number one, one of the most important things is we need to figure out the right questions to ask someone in your interview process, right? And it’s far less focus on your actual skills and far more focus on your potential, your background and your personality, right? So one of the biggest things that we ask for is, hey, let’s swap roles. Pretend that you’re the hiring manager and I’m not the hiring manager. I’m the applicant for this role that you’re applying to. What are the top three things that you look for in order for you to make a good X, right where X is a job title, Operations Manager, media buyer, whatever case might be.

And then you just listen, you see what three traits that they think is most important for that role. And then you see if it matches your company culture and what you need in order for them to come on the team and succeed, right? So they may say something like, oh, you need to be heavy attention to detail, you need to work hard, and you need to learn quickly. Let’s say they say something like that, right? And then you go, okay, well, why don’t you give me one story each from your career that highlights each of these main points, and then have them talk through and the best applicants will immediately bring up three scenarios where they’re exhibiting these traits, and hopefully they’re backed with numbers, back with data.

It fits the type of persona that you’re looking for at your company, and that starts to separate this individual from the rest of the pack, right? Because the skills we can teach, but the intrinsic motivation and the personality we’re looking for certain fits that would mesh well over our team. So we have a lot of situational questions that are centered around things like that. And we also like to ask, what is your five-year plan and what is your 50-year plan, right? And we don’t really care what the answer is, but what we do want to hear is that you have a structure and answer.

You’re a clear communicator. You have thought long-term at some point about your life or your career, because we’re looking for, at least for us, we’re definitely looking for long-term thinkers. We don’t want you to just hit the month. We want you to hit the year.

Jeremy Weisz 23:33 

What if people said about their 50-year plan?

Edwin Choi 23:35 

Oh, I’ve heard all sorts of things. Some people want to go fishing, 24/7, in 50 years. Some people want to run a Fortune 100 company. Some people want to be teachers actually, they want to go and progress a career to a certain point, and once they get to a certain point, they would like to teach full time. So yeah, we’ve heard all sorts of answers.

Jeremy Weisz 23:59 

It’s interesting because I was on a call with like, around 15 agencies the other day, and this question came up about their hiring. And they go, how do I determine longevity from the hiring process? Like, obviously, I want this person to stay with us for many years. What have you done? Are there any questions? And maybe that’s one of the questions that can help determine, yeah, this person is going to be with us for a while.

Edwin Choi 24:33 

That’s a great question. I think there’s a two part answer, right? The first part is that if you’re hiring well and the pieces are fitting. It fits that person’s career trajectory. It fits their personal situation, and you as an organization is able to offer a great landing page, a landing spot for their career, then you’ve done half of the legwork. Right the fit at the beginning is about half of the legwork the. Rest of it, the longevity is an ongoing nurturing process that never stops, right? So are your individuals, once they come in, do they have a clear plan for growth that’s trackable in a platform where there’s check boxes that they can see that are being ticked off?

Are you having regular, ideally weekly, conversations about how their career is going and how their performance is like. Are you constantly challenging them and allowing them space to experiment and fail with grace? Right? I think if you have the right type of team members on board, then you’re creating an environment where they’re able to grow, stretch, fail, learn, then the longevity will come, but you constantly have to earn it right, very much like a marriage, right? You constantly have to earn upgrade, level up, and you never really stop. So I think that helps that the other half of the equation.

Jeremy Weisz 26:00 

Edwin, love that. Thanks for sharing that. The other thing that you are thinking a lot about and continually evolving and improving is how you run finances.

Edwin Choi 26:13 

Absolutely, absolutely in 2022 and 2023 we completely revamped the finances for our agency. We’ve cleaned up all of our books, and we’ve implemented systems that allowed us to really tremendously increase our margins, right? I think the first thing was that, number one, we built custom dashboards. We know exactly how the month will end, why you’ll end at those metrics for what reason, and then we could start pulling the levers right? And for an agency, the levers are really your team members’ time, right? So we built a system where it was relatively painless for our team members to enter in on a weekly basis what they’re spending their time on.

We have a little piece of software in the back end that’s categorizing these things and building them in the charts. And then we meet with senior leadership every two weeks to discuss how these things are going. If we’re spending too much time on a certain type of task. Why is that right? Then we really dig in. Is there automation or AI that can be implemented that would cut this in half? Do we have the wrong people in the wrong seats, we have the right people in the wrong seats. Is there someone who’s five times faster at this versus another individual? Is there a lack of in-house training that we can do to make up that gap so consistently asking the right questions and then answering those questions allowed us to really increase efficiency of our agency, because people are producing better quality work with less time invested.

And then what happens is that as people become more proficient at what they’re doing, because you’re putting them in the right seats, they become less stressed. And once they’re less stressed, they produce better quality work and a better quality workspace for itself. And it becomes a virtuous cycle. So all that manifested and came to life in 23 and the amount of fiscal reporting and fiscal analytics that we have is light years ahead of where we were.

Jeremy Weisz 28:18 

And sound like Edwin. You use a data box for your clients. Do you also use that same internal of what you’re talking about to build a dashboard for these things?

Edwin Choi 28:27 

Yes, yes, we track internal agency health metrics on a monthly basis, and we’re trying to move it to every mid month. We’ll know how the P&L will look and where you know deficiencies or gains are coming from?

Jeremy Weisz 28:43 

I know with that type of thing, you’re pulling data from different sources. I’d love to talk about tech stack for a second. You mentioned time. I don’t there’s like, a time-tracking tool you like and other tools that you like to utilize.

Edwin Choi 28:57 

Yeah, we have a project management software called ClickUp. So ClickUp not only helps organize projects, and has a functionality of project management tools, but it also has a time tracking tool, and it has an API, so anything that has an API, as soon as we get a free second, we love to hop in there and start messing around, start pulling data, so we aggregate it into a in-house, small database, if you will, and then we figure out how to visualize it. So that is really kind of the hub of it. We also build a lot of custom Slack bots.

Slack, we use Slack a lot internally, and we have these commands where someone can fill out a form, or check out the performance of their account, or, guess, they get alerts if something looks funky, they get that in Slack. And these are all ways that we can help save time for individuals. So we noticed that individuals are spending a lot of time doing mundane or rote tasks, then we’re quick to build or get a solution that helps free up their time so they have more headspace to think of about the important things, so the more strategic things.

Jeremy Weisz 28:57 

Yeah, we love ClickUp too. We used Asana for many years, but Clickup has a lot of amazing functionality, so I totally agree. What about from an SOPs perspective? Are you just using ClickUp, or do you have a separate platform for SOPs?

Edwin Choi 30:26 

So we tried a lot of different systems. We tried Google Doc, we tried building internal wikis. And what we kind of came back to it was ClickUp, right? We want, ideally, we want one platform to rule them all, because we don’t want team members to have to learn seven different platforms and wrangle seven different sets of data and seven different areas, right? So we’re all centralizing ClickUp right now.

Jeremy Weisz 30:51 

Any other important tools that you like?

Edwin Choi 30:56 

I love 15Five. So 15Five is an employment engagement tool. So it has pretty much everything, right? So it tracks all of our one on one agendas with our team members, so there’s a place to see everything that was discussed and what has been action since the last one on one. We are centralizing all of our employee reviews there and all their growth plans, like we said, so we’re moving it from one platform centralizing this one. We also have something called a check-in so people are rating themselves on a scale of one to five. Five means I feel amazing.

The week has been fantastic. One was this was one of the worst weeks ever. So allows us to keep track of burnout or situations before they become too gnarly, right? And then, last but not least, we have a functionality in there called a high five, right? So if a team member is really exhibiting one of our cultural pillars, and they’re doing a great job helping others, right, then you can give them a high five. And then we have a little bot that basically takes that high five and we’ll put in Slack, and then everyone will see it, right? So you see people high fiving each other all day as they continue to grow and produce results and follow our cultural pillars.

Jeremy Weisz 32:17 

Edwin, what are some groups or maybe even mentors that have been instrumental in your growth, because it seems like, the way you think about teams and all these things is pretty sophisticated. I’m wondering who’s helped you along the way?

Edwin Choi 32:33 

Yeah, absolutely, there’s so many people. I would say that immediately, right away, back when I was in-house at my last opportunity, the CEO of that company, tremendous in my career, just really brought me up from a boy really, to be a man in the business world, right? The former COO of that company, extremely instrumental, taught a lot about leadership and operations, both of which I was sorely, sorely lacking, and that the former CMO of that company as well, like in terms of marketing analytics, how to structure data, how to clean data and how to grab insights, tremendously influential. I mean, those three individuals immediately top of mind, have been tremendous.

I also have some groups that I’m in. I have a group called the Five Star Group, and really, the leader of that group, Steve, has been incredibly instrumental in terms of operations and how to treat people with respect. And that sounds like a simple term, but it has a lot of complexity to it that I think I’m still mastering to this day, right? So I think all those individuals are tremendously influential, I wouldn’t be here about them.

Jeremy Weisz 33:57 

What you mentioned leadership at the previous company, with the CEO COO, is there an example you can give of something maybe they did or said that helped you, that you take to Jetfuel?

Edwin Choi 34:10 

Yeah, I think one very important thing is that you want to try to avoid parachuting, right? Because of my position and my experience, you have a habit, or I had a habit of parachuting into a situation, throwing everything awry, and then parachuting back out right, which obviously, as someone who is highly driven. That is my natural instinct, right? I see a problem. Like, as soon as I see a problem, I jump in there, try to fix as many things I can, and I jump off to the next problem, right? But one thing that they told me was that, well, if you’re doing that, you’re actually hamstringing your team.

You have never allowed them to. Fall flat on their face, because sometimes falling flat on your face is the best teacher. It’s like that with your kids, right? Because I have two kids, so I think about this quite deeply. There’s, there’s instances where you can set them up for success, but they’ll probably learn more if they fail, they’ll probably learn more if they fail, they’ll build the muscle memory to get off the mat when they get knocked down. And then everyone needs to build that muscle, right? So I think that’s something that I really had to restrain myself, is that I actually see problems happen in slow motion, and I let them happen, and I sit back and I see how the team would deal with it, right?

And sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t, right? That’s life. But the times where it didn’t work out, I was tremendously surprised at how much they learned from that, and they would learn more from that than me observing my behavior, or by me making sure that problem never happened in the first place. And that, I think, is key, like that drove more growth in the long term than me, parachuting in and fixing everything for everyone.

Jeremy Weisz 36:16 

Do you remember one of those situations where you actually became self-aware, like there were times when you would parachute in you didn’t even realize that you were parachuting in. There’s times after now that you’re like, I’m not touching this. I’ll let them handle it. Was there a moment that you remembered, like a situation you could talk about, where you came in and you were kind of aware of parachuting, and then you went back, and you’re like, oh, God, I shouldn’t have done that. And what was happening? Like, what was actually the situation?

Edwin Choi 36:51 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me think of that…

Jeremy Weisz 36:54 

Because I could totally relate to what you’re saying here, right? It’s like, you see it unfolding. And you’re like, I could see if it goes this way, it’s not going to be good. If it goes this way, it’s going to be great. So talk about one of those times where you actually were self-aware and you parachuted in, and after the fact, you were like, ah.

Edwin Choi 37:15 

Yes. I’m struggling to just pick one, right? So, well, I think one that really stands out is we were all working on a project. There’s many individuals involved. I mean, it must be at least eight individuals, and this is a project that’s client-facing, right? So it was a big presentation that we had to present. There were a lot of storylines that had to be wrangled and I know that I was looking at the deck, right? And I was looking at the drafts of the deck, and I was just going, okay, this is not it. Like, this is not at the level quality. There’s nowhere close, right? So I went in there, and I must have left, what, 50 comments like red lines everywhere, right?

To, like eight different people. So I was like, first, I was, like, a flurry of activity. So I did all that. Okay. So obviously, if the CEO does that, human nature’s that everyone drops what they’re doing, they immediately start fixing it, right? And the thing is, I do a lot of post-mortems. So I did a postmortem with the head and media. And he was saying, you know what you did was terrible, right? Everyone sweatless. They don’t even know why you made the comments. They just know they have to do it. So he told me, I guarantee you the next project that is, because we were going to do several these. So the next project you’re going to do the same thing, same exact scenario, is going to happen. Because they never learned like, why and how you’re making those comments, right?

And then they’ve never had the feeling of presenting something that was subpar, because you’ve always came in and fixed everything before, right? So you were sort of the helicopter parent making, propping up the kid to make sure they don’t fail at the recital. But sometimes they have to not do well at the recital. Sometimes they have to not do well the recital, because then, when that happened, you could see a click. They’re like, I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want to feel that uncomfortable again. And then the next iteration that work, I was a lot less involved, but the quality was much better.

Jeremy Weisz 39:33 

Yeah, maybe your next leadership book is going to be called Edwin: Avoid Parachuting. I love it. I love that. I’m always fascinated how people get clients like you’ve had some amazing brands that you’ve worked with. I don’t know which would be a better example to talk about how chops heard about you, or Tate’s Bake Shop heard about you. What would be the best thing to talk about?

Edwin Choi 40:01 

Well, I have a very unsexy answer that. And the answer to that is, if you do tremendous work that proves itself out, then the word of mouth is very powerful, right? Because if you talk about chomps that, that was referral from former Perfect Snacks members, if you talk about Kate’s, that was the portfolio company of the same company that acquired Perfect Snacks. So they have observed the growth, they have observed how we run things. So, that’s why I will always tell the team, is that, yes, it’s not to say we shouldn’t do these other things right, which we certainly are and will continue to do. But it all starts and ends with performance.

Like, if you perform and the bar quality is this high and you’re constantly hitting that bar, exceeding it, everything else will fall in line, because we will be seen as a solution that to a problem is tricky to solve and it’s hard to trust agencies, especially nowadays. That’s number one. Number two. When we started out, we’ve had a lot of relationships with venture capital firms, right? We’re doing due diligence projects, and that really kind of came from our DNA of being extremely data-oriented and also telling the truth respectfully, if that makes sense at all times. And those are things that a lot of venture capital firms look for, and I think that has opened a lot of doors, because obviously they are talking to a ton of direct consumer brands, and they know of a lot of people, so that continues to be something that we lean upon to this day.

Jeremy Weisz 41:50 

First of all, Edwin, I have one last question before I ask it. I just want to thank you. Thanks for sharing your journey, your lessons. I want to encourage everyone to check out jetfuel.agency to learn more. And last question is, just about some of your favorite resources. Those could be books. They could be speakers who you follow, who are some of your favorite or what books are some of your favorite resources over the years for business?

Edwin Choi 42:18 

Yeah, absolutely. The number one book that comes to mind is a book called Traction. If you only read one book, that’s the book that I would read, because it quite literally op it lays out the entire operating system for running a business and running an organization very well. So first and foremost, that’s number one speakers. I have to tell you, I’m a big fan of Tony Robbins. I’m the big Tony Robbins disciple, and I think one of the most important things that I derived from his speeches is, what meaning do you choose to derive from what’s happening to you right now? Because that’s something you can control.

Good is something that’s happening to you. Do you determine it as a good thing that’s happening to you, or do you determine that as a bad thing that’s entirely within your control? You can almost make anything a good thing if you see it through. So I think that has been tremendously helpful, just because as a business owner and as a leader, I could certainly tell you very few days you wake up and it happens exactly the way you wanted it to. You could probably count those on both hands, right those days. So I think those keeping yourself mentally strong, mentally stable through kind of thought exercises like that. I think it’s a service to your clients and the service to your team and a service to yourself as well.

Jeremy Weisz 43:48 

Love it. Yeah, I want to echo that. I had Gino Wickman on the podcast, who authored Traction. So check that episode out. Also RocketFuel. I had Mark Winters on he co-authored RocketFuel. Gino Wickman, that’s another good episode. And Tony Robbins, I love, I mean, I listen, I was listening as tape cassettes. For those of you are younger, there’s these like things that you stick. I don’t even want to explain it, but tape cassettes in my car of Tony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within. I had personal power one, personal power two, which was like, who knows, 20 different DVD, CDs or whatever. So love, love those suggestions, Edwin, and just want to encourage everyone to check out jetfuel.agency, and we’ll see everyone next time. Edwin, thanks so much.

Edwin Choi 44:33 

Thank you for having me.