Nov 18, 2020
Today’s guest is Ken’s business partner, Bob Strachan. He’s here to fill in for Brad and also to dive into the secrets behind what has made his business relationship so successful. It’s great to get along with a potential business partner, to have similar interests and produce a successful business. But there is so much more to it than having complementary skill sets. Listen in as we break down Bob’s journey from Hong Kong to Nashville, how the accumulation of knowledge and experience outside of Metacake has added to the success of his current business, what it’s really like to work with Ken Ott on a daily basis, and what the process of starting a partnership might look like in the beginning. Ken and Bob talk about how they have grown alongside each other as well as challenged each other over the years, covering everything from dealing with conflict to keeping their relationship strong and healthy.
Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:
For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:
About Our Guest:
Bob Strachan: Bob is a co-founder of Metacake, working together with Ken to lead their team as well as establish strong business partner relationships and help brands unlock massive revenue online.
About The Guys:
Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob:
Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:
Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken:
[0:39] Bob H introduces Ken’s business partner and today’s guest- Bob Strachan.
[2:55] Bob S talks about how he grew up in Hong Kong, which was a British Colony until 1997, which is why there is a bit of a British tilt to his accent. He grew up in Hong Kong and then went to college at Sheffield University in England.
[5:33] Bob S continues, he got a job back in Hong Kong after graduation and started with a Boston based consulting company called The Monitor Group. He got a dual honors degree in molecular biology and biotechnology, but realized that the next step was a PhD and he really just wanted to get out into the world and create something.
[7:00] Bob S says that he sort of lucked into an industry and a company that did really well and worked for him. He found it fascinating, and there was so much growth so quickly that he learned a lot super fast. At that company, there wasn’t a typical path to consultancy other than being recruited from a US Ivy League school. But they saw potential in him and slowly he was able to get training in the US and expand his knowledge further.
[8:45] Bob S continues, saying that as he learned more and technology shifted so quickly in the late 90’s, he got really passionate about how tech was going to serve business. Growing up as a “third culture” kid, he honed a skill set based on communication skills, reading between the lines, and eventually sitting down with business people and figuring out what they need, what they’re capable of, and helping them bridge that gap.
[10:00] Bob H asks if growing up overseas gave him an advantage, seeing the world through a different lens.
[10:24] Bob S says “At its foundation, it gives you a sort of humility and respect… you come in with an open book and know that this is a new situation, I’ve been in these situations many, many, many times before, and I know that I don’t know what’s going on here, so I need to just have wide eyes and pay attention and listen.”
[11:09] Bob S talks about meeting his now wife in Hong Kong, who’s parents started an orphanage in Hong Kong, but they were from Colorado originally. By the early 2000’s they moved to rural western Colorado, and Bob says he loved it!
[13:27] Bob S continues, saying he met an author by chance who eventually hired him full time doing marketing and media for him. Fast forward to 2007, and he and Ken move to Tennessee in the same year, later starting Metacake in 2011.
[14:25] Ken shares that the 9 years of working with Bob have been a great ride and a huge learning experience. He talks about believing that they are here for a higher purpose, being stewards of good inside of the business together and helping businesses they serve to be the best they can be.
[16:40] Bob H asks Ken and Bob about what the process of starting the business together was- how did they maneuver that dance?
[17:12] Bob S says that at the time he had his own consulting business, but in terms of a team he was just contracting things out to people. He had worked with Ken in the past and had a lot of respect for him, so they slowly began to do more projects together. As time passed, there were conversations around how they would bring the businesses together. Bob was on board pretty quickly, and it didn’t take him long to make the decision, but Ken said “What if we wade into this together?”
[18:45] Ken says that slowly wading into a business partnership together is smart, because it’s a decision that you can’t undo very easily. There’s blending that has to happen, and undoing that would likely burn some bridges.
[19:39] Bob S says that pulling partnerships apart is a huge relational burden as well.
[20:15] Ken “What we did, and what we’ve done with other businesses… we started by acting like business partners and set a period of time in place to try it.” Figuring out how to manage projects, how splits of work will go, etc, with the intention being that if it works out, you can bring the two sides together.
[21:48] Bob S shares that the biggest thing he had to wrestle with was that he was bringing more clients, money to the table. “So I had to go through the process of, do I think by partnering with Ken and sharing this, that there’s more?”
[22:47] Bob H says that he sees a dynamic and balance of risk seeking versus risk averse- having a balance of both works well.
[23:15] Bob S says that those roles can flip flop as well, Bob S can be more impulsive and Ken catches him to slow him down, and Ken can be a visionary that wants to go all-in on one thing down the line, and Bob steps in to course correct.
[23:50] Ken brings the convo to personality profiles and knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
[26:45] Ken talks about how a lot of different business ventures and partnerships allowed him to learn in a stable environment.
[28:15] Bob S says it is really important to know what it is that you’re testing as you’re in the process of wading in, knowing what it is that you may run into and measuring your success over 6 months based on how well things are going.
[28:36] Bob H asks Bob S for advice for anyone who’s looking for a partner or just interested in going into business.
[29:03] Bob S says that he hears often that the partnership and he and Ken have is rare- and he appreciates it more and more as time goes on. “Often we get into partnerships because we respect the talents of a person… but I think what happens in partnerships that succeed is it becomes more of a respect for that person.”
[30:55] Bob S continues that ultimately if you’re going into a lifelong business proposition with someone, it has to be someone you can do life with, so thinking of it as a marriage of sorts isn’t too far off.
[31:15] Bob S “I think asking that question, is this person someone that I can do life with… is this someone that I can see being in business with over the long term beyond maybe just their capabilities and skills and what they bring to the table.”
[31:29] Bob H reflects on the fact that when you’re married for a long time and you hold it together for the long-haul, it doesn’t have anything to do with how they look or what they can bring to the table, but their soul.
[33:00] Bob S says that if those things are important to you, if you want to be able to do life with someone and get along with someone for a long time as well as build this business relationship and get things done, the process of wading in is even more important and valuable.
[33:31] Bob S shares a great quote, “Don’t let your gifts take you where your character can’t keep you.” Life can have us wind up in a lot of places based on our gifts, but if our character can’t keep us there then you’re bound to have a fall. This applies to choosing a business partner as well.
[33:57] Bob H shares a quote as well- “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
[35:05] Bob S: “Partnerships work when interests are aligned,” which is true and can sustain relationships for a period of time. But Bob has 2 additional pieces that are important.
[36:55] Ken agrees, “I think 3 things have to be aligned, interest, purpose, and character.” If those things are aligned, you’ve got the potential for a great partnership.
[37:35] Ken adds that it’s also not great if you’re the same person- really your interests need to be varied, and ultimately complementary.
[39:08] Bob H asks Bob and Ken about conflict and being willing to have healthy conflict. “What does it look like when you disagree?”
[39:57] Ken says that he grew up in a place where conflict is more common, so he is a little more comfortable with conflict.
[41:15] Bob S shares that he is an Enneagream 9, always a peacemaker and looking for a peaceful way of resolving conflict. “Stability and Harmony are what gives me energy, so conflict is challenging.”
[41:48] Ken tells a story about how Bob came into work once and was super upset and down because he’d had a fight with his mom. Ken says that he argues with his mom regularly, it’s part of the way that they communicate, so that situation just exemplifies the different ways that they deal with conflict.
[42:15] Bob S says more often than not, there is a pretty quick alignment but on occasion there is real disagreement that will slowly burn over a few days, but those situations are rare.
[42:50] Ken agrees, and says that maturity has shrunk his ego over time and has allowed him to be able to handle conflict in a more peaceful way. “In general I care more about what the end result is than how it’s done or who does it.” So that keeps his tendency towards conflict in check as well.
[44:13] Ken shares that he and Bob both have separate mentors in their lives and coaches as well. They don’t have a “board” but have talked about it, and about how it will give objectivity to decisions as the business scales and grows.
[45:00] Ken talks about not allowing outside voices to get in between of you and your business partner- you need to own the relationship.
[46:30] Bob H asks what Bob is most grateful for within their company- what thing can he say is most beneficial about it?
[47:21] Bob S shares that he’s most grateful for the partnership, because it’s allowed him to get better about expressing his thoughts, desires, needs, ideas ahead of time. He’s gotten so much better with communication, and being honest about what he will fight for versus let go.
[48:42] Bob continues, saying that there will be days when things go wrong. One of the biggest benefits of a partner is to have someone that’s rooting for you during a hard day or hard life season.
[52:25] Ken mentions having Bob on again to dive deeper into how his life experience has created a lot of skills that fit his role at Metacake well. Traditionally he would be called a salesman but in reality it’s a much more subtle definition- “What you do is really just helping people add value with every conversation and help them make a decision.”