My guest, Kelcey Lehrich, is the co-founder of 365 Holdings, a firm that acquires and grows e-commerce brands with a focus on shared services and vertical integration. He and his firm view e-commerce with an interesting lens, one of their most interesting ideas being their view on product vs customer focused brands, which we dive into. During the episode, we discuss which services they began sharing across portfolio companies and the timing on when those became shared, a story of a failed e-commerce growth plan, building 365’s brand, and more.
Think Like an Owner Sponsors
Live Oak Bank – Live Oak Bank is a seasoned SBA lender focused on search funds, independent sponsors, private equity firms, and individuals looking to acquire small companies. Live Oak has closed billions of dollars in SBA financing and is actively looking to help more small company investors across the country. If you are in the process of acquiring a company or thinking about starting a search, contact Lisa Forrest or Heather Endresen directly to start a conversation or go to www.liveoakbank.com/think.
Hood & Strong, LLP – Hood & Strong is a CPA firm with a long history of working with search funds and private equity firms on diligence, assurance, tax services, and more. Hood & Strong is highly skilled in working with search funds, providing quality of earnings and due diligence services during the search, along with assurance and tax services post-acquisition. They offer a unique way to approach acquisition diligence and manage costs effectively. To learn more about how Hood & Strong can help your search, acquisition, and beyond, please email one of their partners Jerry Zhou at --@----.com
Oberle Risk Strategies – Oberle is the leading specialty insurance brokerage catering to search funds and the broader ETA community, providing complimentary due diligence assessments of the target company’s commercial insurance and Employee benefits programs. Over the past decade, August Felker and his team have engaged with hundreds of searchers to provide due diligence and ultimately place the most competitive insurance program at closing. Given August’s experience as a searcher himself, he and his team understand all that goes into buying a business and pride themselves on making the insurance portion of closing seamless and hassle-free.
If you are under LOI, please reach out to August to learn more about how Oberle can help with insurance due diligence at oberle-risk.com. Or reach out to August directly at --@----.com in sponsoring? Send me an email at --@----.com Transcript:
Thanks for joining Kelcey. It’s great to have you here. Looking forward to hearing about your e-commerce background and just talk media in general. Can you give us your background first?
For sure. Thanks for having me. So my name is Kelcey Lehrich, the company is 365 Holdings. And the business is owned by myself and my business partner, Justin. He and I have been working together for about a decade now. And the first five, six years of us working together was kind of local small business entrepreneurial pursuits. We had service businesses that did business locally. And we did everything from selling time clocks to payment processing services, just tried a number of things. And about four years ago, we bought our first e-commerce business with an SBA loan. Several months later, we tapped the line of credit and most of the cash in the checking account and bought our second one. And it’s kind of the genesis of what is today 365 Holdings.
So we’re a holding company that seeks to buy and hold for the longterm e-commerce brands. And we want to hold them in a vertically integrated model where we insource as many of the cost centers and operations of the business as possible. We want to give these brands just kind of the best permanent home for long-term success. When a founder or owner is looking for an exit, we just want to be a fantastic home for that company to live on for a long time.
So what attracted you to e-commerce from service businesses?
We looked at a number of businesses when we bought the first e-commerce business. We looked at software businesses. We looked at services businesses. And I didn’t have a strong conviction about we had to buy any one particular type of asset. We were just looking for like a good company at a good valuation. The business we bought was not terribly high priced, so that was attractive to get a great multiple on the way into the business and be able to finance it with SBA financing. And generally, probably it didn’t have a very sophisticated view on it at the time compared to now, but kind of thought hey, this internet thing sounds good. I like to buy stuff online. This should be a good thing for us longterm. And here we are.
What are some of those early beliefs you had about e-commerce businesses and have they turned out to be true or have they changed and evolved a little bit as you’ve gotten more experience?
There’s definitely some things that have changed and evolved, probably more so because of maybe entrepreneurial overconfidence that I could just walk into any new business and obviously and be an expert in it. So [inaudible 00:05:49] a lot of trial and error. I think one of the most obvious ones that comes to mind is trying to fit certain e-commerce strategies in to an e-commerce brand that it doesn’t apply to. I’ll give you an example.
In some of our businesses, we do a lot of affiliate marketing. So we pay a commission to a publisher for the sale of a product. In other businesses, we do a lot of email marketing or Facebook or Google, whatever the channel might be. Just because you can do one of those sales channels and it gives them business doesn’t necessarily mean you should or that it will work well. We have a lot of learnings about trying to jam new channels into businesses that it just wasn’t necessarily an audience or a profitable fit to go acquire customers in that new channel. Not every business can succeed on every channel necessarily.
I’m curious if, over time, as you’ve figured out that certain strategies don’t work for certain businesses, if that’s been frustrating because previous learnings don’t apply as easily to new companies? Or if it’s beneficial because you get to see all these different ideas and that gives you a wider frame of reference for any new company that you acquire.
I think what it did is it probably helped us refine our view on acquisition criteria, on prioritizing growth initiatives, on selecting technology stack to build the businesses on top of. It’s great when you can take a learning from brand A and go apply it to brand B. Being able to zoom out and really understand it kind of a more of a metal level or a framework. Why is it working? How is it working? And does it actually translate over into this other environment or not? And if it does, even if it’s a good fit, there’s likely some adjustments or tweaks that get made.
Yeah can you talk a little bit about your acquisition criteria? How has that evolved over time?
Today it is really a focus on what I would call market based brands. And the differentiation of a market-based brand is that it’s a company defined by the customers that it serves or by its avatars, not a brand defined by its products. The typical maybe shark tank business is all about the product. You look at some of the biggest, most successful brands in the world, and they really are defined by the customers that they serve.
Maybe a good example might be Nike. Like they have a humongous product catalog. But like everybody knows like if you want great athletic wear, like Nikes got products for you. They’re not defined by the shoes or the coat or the hat, whatever the end good is. And so when I look at the small brands that we buy, if you have a brand that is Alex’s best car wheel brush, well once you’ve sold everybody Alex’s car wheel brush, and that’s the name of the company, it’s kind of hard to sell them Alex’s car wax and car soap when the company’s name has car wheel brush in the name. If instead it was Alex’s automotive gurus and you had every product under the sun and you had training materials and you had a community around automotive care and you built an end market of people passionate about taking care of vehicles, much easier to launch a couple of products to that customer base that knows and loves your brand that’s all about taking care of cars than it is to try to pivot from whatever product category is hot today to maybe something new.
Gotcha. That makes sense. How do you assess that? Is that something that if you’re looking at a company, you try to talk to some customers? Or how do you figure that out?
Honestly, as simple as looking at the homepage of a lot of the brands that sell products on the internet. You can usually get a pretty good idea in the messaging if they are centered around products, or if they’re centered around end customers. If it’s not obvious who the customer avatars are and how the brand is connecting with them on more of an emotional level through solving problems, through creating content, through building a community, it’s probably a product brand most likely.
The world really falls into like lifestyle brands, product brands, and then like market driven brands. There’s identification, clearly, in the messaging, the imagery, the branding that identifies who the customer is. It is challenging to sell products on their own merit. Even if you have great unique selling propositions like fast shipping and free returns and great warranty. Like you can have all the value props in the world, but when your product is judged on the merits of the product itself, it’s a highly competitive market.
When you have an emotional connection with end customer because your brand stands for their community, the things they believe in, the other people who shop with them are just like you, and you have shared views around parenting, sports, hobbies, whatever that lifestyle component is, those brands have a much more durable relationship with their end customer. And when those brands create media and content for their community, it’s much more like magnetic and engaging than hey, here’s the latest widget that we launched this week and it’s X better and Y faster and Z cheaper.
That makes sense. Can you perhaps walk through an example of a company that had a strong brand with its customers and certain ways you strengthened it after acquiring it?
Yeah. So one of the companies in our portfolio is Valley Food Storage. It’s one of our distressed acquisitions. It was not a healthy company when we bought it. And the product is emergency food storage, so it’s food you buy, and maybe not with the intention of eating, but with storing for, I don’t know, a global pandemic, perhaps. When you can’t go to the grocery store because the world’s shut down. So we had a good year last year for that brand with people having high demand for that product.
So we really have dialed into a handful of kind of customer avatars for that business. So kind of the home center maybe live a ways out. Maybe they do some light farming and they grow some of their own food. Maybe they have some animals or livestock. They are living off the land. They’re kind of independent people. Other avatars are kind of the traditional kind of prepper survivalist kind of guy. Talking about governments conspiracies and he’s got his bunker full of stuff. Those avatars were not developed at all when we first launched the brand. Even saw them change last year. We rebranded the company after we bought it thinking it was very much targeted at just those two segments, kind of the homesteader and kind of the prepper. We really saw last year with the pandemic, everybody had demand for emergency food.
We normally did not see a large concentration of orders from kind of major metros. And last year we really did. Tons of orders to New York and Dallas and Los Angeles and San Francisco and places that we just didn’t normally see orders coming from that were not traditional.
That’s fascinating. It’s kind of an interesting data set of people’s fears or concerns as a company.
I can tell you what the news was doing based on watching our sales dashboard for that business in some ways. But yeah, when we bought it, it was not healthy. And the rebranding has been a bit continual and we’ve really brought about as mainstream as we can just because there is kind of a very broad demand for that today.
So did you have this idea of broadening the customer avatar when you acquired it? Or was this something that you got into the business and discovered was a potential opportunity?
We try in every brand to have a view of what we think the customer avatars are before we buy it. We usually find out in operations post-closing that we were probably directionally correct, but there’s always some learnings. New ones we found, some are weaker than others. The feedback we get from actual advertising and actual marketing is very helpful. And we augment that data with surveys, customer interviews, actual market research of existing customers to help influence the growth.
So with the thesis around brands that are defined by their customer base, we certainly have ideas and we want to buy brands that are predicated on that, but it is an organic and living thing that evolves with time. And as we find pockets of demand with advertising, the customer base evolves over time.
You talked earlier about being vertically integrated and trying to integrate a few cost centers of these companies. What cost centers have you found integrate really well across multiple different unique brands?
Kind of the easy layup for us is always going to be service and fulfillment. So we have our own warehouse we operate for pick pack and ship and receiving and warehousing. So that’s an easy one. Customer service is right behind that. We have a call center and we have customer service software and a whole team that runs those processes. And then the core operations of marketing and supply chain and project management and HR and finance and all those things are, of course, core to what we do. But it’s not uncommon for e-commerce brands to outsource things like service and fulfillment. Whereas we view those as a competitive advantage to have control over those processes.
Our marketing team definitely does things with changes on the fly to kitting or bundles or promotions of some kind that we can very easily do because we have control of the product onsite that a three PL that’s not owned and operated by us might find more challenging to deliver on.
Can you walk us through the timeline from acquiring your first company to adding these different services? So at what point did you add the warehouse? At what point did you have enough companies that centralizing customer service made sense? Can you walk us through a few of those items?
Really great question. So poor Chris, his first day was driving a minivan to Chicago to pack up a couple pallets of product and drive it home for our inaugural warehouse. Warehouse is definitely a generous term for the facility that was used with some shelving and a label printer that he called home for awhile. So warehousing was first. Customer service was second in the kind of the evolution of things because you need staff, enough people to meet call demand for phone hours. So that was number two.
And now we’ve come really all the way where we’re even doing some manufacturing in house. So between our two food brands, so Valley Food and Cultures for Health. For Valley, we started a food co-packing plant onsite and our facility in Ohio. And with Cultures for Health when we closed the acquisition, we inherited one. That does all of the production for that brand. So for our two holdings in the food market, in addition to everything else that we have control of, we also have control of most of the manufacturing supply chain.
Can you walk through that first one? Just adding the warehouse. So how long were you able to make it doing the warehousing right out of a house? And at which number of company did you add the warehouse?
So we were using three PL just immediately post-close of that first acquisition. Immediately post-close that second acquisition that was a matter of months later, we decided that we wanted to bring fulfillment in-house. It was very easy to do the math on overhead pick, pack, and ship charges from the three PL, the amount of space we needed, it was a simple spreadsheet to figure that out. So it was a very quick and easy decision.
As the team grew, it was a lot of organic growth those first couple of years of just the two brands. The third acquisition was, I don’t know, 18 months later or something. And those first two years was really just organic growth of needing more space, needing more resources on the team, and just growing.
Excellent. I read your annual letter recently, too. And I’m curious as you’ve written about and talked about building media brands, how do you think about building the media brand of 365?
That is a bit of a newer effort. It’s not been on my mind until recently. So I’ll take a couple of different paths with that question. So the annual letter was the first year for that. And I had a couple of audiences in mind and then even closed the letter by saying it was pretty open-ended. I certainly wanted our team currently to read it and see what the thoughts were from leadership side on the year. I’m hopeful and I’m starting to hear from our HR director that applicants and recruits are finding it and reading it to get a taste of things before they walk in the door, which is good.
And then broadly, I thought about it as just a way to kind of build some brand for 365. So a lot of folks that are doing the build in public thing or publishing or just kind of sharing, and to the extent we can start some conversations, help some people along, maybe open up some new doors and new opportunities for 365. I thought that letter could be insightful and interesting and open some opportunities.
For our portfolio brands, the media company strategy is really around building a couple of kinds of content pillars. So things like Facebook groups and podcasts and having video assets that are live to use for advertising, both kind of for top of funnel awareness and also for kind of direct response acquisition. And so that really kind of speaks to just our overall thought on like marketing what a modern brand should be. My thoughts for that are really kind of inspired by the prime example being like Red Bull. There’s not a single thing that they spend money on where you see their product featured. They got guys jumping out of mini space craft with parachutes on their back and stuff. It’s just the greatest content machine ever sitting on top of an energy drink brand, which was just fascinating to me.
For 365 broadly, we’ve got a lot of ambitions for where we can take the holding company. Whether that’s through continuing to have these wholly owned subsidiaries. Whether it’s the potential launch of a platform to bring in other outside investors to kind of co-invest alongside for future acquisitions. Whether it’s a talent magnet for finding interesting people that want to come work with us. I just felt like it was time for 365 to begin building a brand a bit more. And that we had the bandwidth internally for me to spend more of my time on that. I’ve been really in the nuts and bolts of the operation for a long time. And we’ve been fortunate enough to get to a scale where I could think at a higher level, do more problem solving, more big picture.
As I began to think about our business model, kind of the flywheel of growth that has propelled us to where we are, I knew that having a brand would be a part of that and just kind of getting started was really the main goal of publishing that letter and publishing some of our other things that we’ve begun to write about [inaudible 00:21:15].
It’s fun to hear that potential hires are even looking at your annual letter and you’re getting some perhaps unintended benefits from being more public. I’d be curious to hear a little bit about the different channels you see yourself building at 365 to build that brand and marketing. So you have writing, you have a few blog articles, you have annual letters. Are there other things you were thinking of building or doing to continue building 365?
In the short term, I think it’s going to be just the written word, publishing, Twitter, email, the blog. I don’t, at least right now, have any aspirations for a podcast or YouTube show or anything. Although ask me next week, maybe it’ll change. Who knows? I think that there is a appetite for long form, written, interesting, well thought out content. There’s also a lot of it out there. So you got to have something valuable to say to capture people’s attention. But the formats of choice right now would be written.
There are other people that might be in my position that want to do coaching and consulting and have a mastermind and charge for a book group and do a Slack channel and sell courses. I’m like, I’ve got no problem with any of those things. A lot of them are probably fantastic. Some of them probably aren’t, but that’s okay. The market will decide what’s good and those people will generate the business results based on the value they deliver. I just think our focus is going to be on our core competency of buying brands, integrating them, and growing them. And so when I think about media, it’s really about that end goal, not about some other monetization method of selling an e-commerce mastermind, coaching consulting, training, $27 ebook thing. Again, nothing wrong with those products, that’s just not our goal with what we’re doing.
You view the end product as the investment from 365, not the marketing itself.
I view the end product as our value proposition to sellers to be the best home for their business. Our value proposition to potential employees and interns as a great place to work. I view our value prop as potentially if we raise funds from outside parties to back the next acquisition on an equity basis as our reputation to them as a GP of a sponsored transaction. And I view the eventual end customer to be two, three, four decades from now when I’m old and ready to be done, whoever ends up owning 365, like our timeline for this business is measured in decades, as far as a holding period. But we need to build 365 into a platform company for it to live on past it’s founders. If Justin and I want to leave the business when we’re in our sixties many years from now, we need to build a self-sustaining perpetuating business. And I think having a brand will be part of that.
What do you view as the steps to remove yourself from the business in terms of your role? Like if you get hit by a bus today versus five years from now, how much is the business affected?
Me? Less so than Justin. So Justin serves as our president and kind of COO. All things kind of route through him. We have been more successful at extracting me from operating roles in the business than extracting him. Frankly, one of our secret sauces has been that one of us always, usually Justin, is able to parachute in and do whatever needs to be done to ensure continuity and success of operations. If I had a great answer for that, we’d probably would’ve done it already. I think it’s the struggle of the evolution from small business to mid-sized business, to mid-sized business where the owners are actually the owners and not the operators.
I think for me, it’s going to be a continual focus on brand building, capital allocation, mergers and acquisitions. Where Justin wants to get to is just working with coaching, training, development, oversight, not doing. And as entrepreneurs, it’s definitely easy to want to roll up sleeves and just jump in and do. And it’s probably as much emotional attachment to the satisfaction of producing work product and then the identity crisis of not having work to do anymore as it is anything.
Yeah. Do you view yourself as enjoying the starting phase of these companies and brands? Or do you feel like you enjoy the growing phase and removing yourself and professionalizing these businesses?
Definitely the latter, definitely the growing and professionalizing phase.
Did you know that from the beginning? Or is there some experience you had where you realize that about yourself, that you enjoyed that rather than the starting?
We’ve never been good at starting anything. All of the businesses that we have ever had have been acquired. We’ve never started a from scratch business. I take that back. We tried once, it failed really miserably.
A lack of understanding of how to start an e-commerce business. Once you buy two of them and they’re growing pretty well, you say, hey, this is easy. We should just start one of these. Not actually understanding how that works. Our core competency is pattern matching and executing against the playbook. So to understand kind of from first principles, what it’s doing, how it works, why it works, and then iterating on that is what we’re good at. Coming up with that zero to one idea is not.
Are you willing to share the play-by-play of the failed venture?
Sure. So we had a sunglasses business that we own. We actually exited it last year. It was a product based brand not a market based brand, which would be the reason we exited it. That was a learning. We tried starting a brand extension of beach towels because hey, if you’ve got sunglasses, you definitely need a beach towel. We saw some advertisements for some competitors and thought, hey, this is great. Attractive people on the beach. Great beach towel. How hard could it be? We’re making a lot of revenues on sunglasses during busy season. And it just didn’t work. There was no traction in the marketplace to sell these beach towels. So we doubled down and we did hammocks and backpacks and beach chairs and all kinds of stuff. And we’ve since liquidated all of it at not a lot of profit, if any.
What do you think the key mistake was?
That was the learning of understanding the difference between a product based brand and a market based brand. We didn’t start that business with a market in mind. We said, oh, we know how to sell sunglasses on the internet. We should be able to figure out how to sell beach chairs and backpacks. Thinking we understood the playbook for that. And we didn’t.
What do you think the better move would have been?
I don’t think we’re good at it, but my suspicion is having a identified market and understanding the pains, goals, and aspirations of that market. Building a media brand first and then monetizing it with physical products later.
What do you think the target market was?
Somebody that saw cool Facebook ad and wanted to buy something that looked interesting that wasn’t that expensive, kind of an impulse buy. And that was the mistaken understanding that the ad that we were good at running would be enough to build a business around.
That you could do the same thing with towels using the same ad writing strategy as the sunglasses.
Similar video editing, similar creative, sharing some Facebook audiences. I had this brilliant idea of exactly how it would work and it just did not work.
What do you think have been some other key learnings as you’ve acquired brands?
We’ve had one or two other acquisitions that were not meaningful. They were very small dollar amounts. And those have never gone well. So I’ve got two of them. We ended up exiting both of them at a loss. Where I would come across a transaction and go, oh man, we could buy this for like, it wouldn’t even feel it in the checkbook. We can just buy it at small or run on the side over here. It’s great.
That’s not real. That doesn’t actually work. There’s not enough time to invest in it. There’s not enough capital to do important strategic work on that little extra side business that is a fraction of the size of the brands that pay your bills. And that was a learning that if we’re going to invest in something, if we’re going to buy a business, it needs to be a business. You can’t spend $50,000 on an e-commerce website that sits next to your multi-million dollar websites and expect that it’s going to get the love and the investment and the growth, because the numbers just don’t make any sense. When you could invest them instead in your primary asset.
Where do you think that threshold is? Is it just by a purchase price revenue or earnings? Where do you think that number is where it starts to make more sense?
For us today like our acquisition criteria is a minimum. Post-integration like minimum of a half million of cashflow. Now an acquisition for us is highly accretive. We tend to add a lot of margin post-closing through our shared services and kind of vertical integration model. If we can see a path to post-closing 500,000 or more of cashflow, then it’s going to be of a size and scope that makes sense.
What have I not asked you that you’re dying to talk about?
Market size and scaling for e-commerce.
Go for it.
I think it’s really easy to talk about growth and you see screenshots where every chart is up into the right and you hear about venture funding for all these e-commerce brands. Not every business can always be scaled to the moon. There’s a saying, I forget where I picked it up, it’s not mine, that there’s riches in niches. Many profitable, good e-commerce businesses that are well-run product brands that are making one, two, three, five, 10 million in revenue, whatever it is, may not have a path to double and triple year over year. There just may not be enough demand in the marketplace for that. And that’s okay.
It’s been a learning for us to understand what is the total addressable market that we’re entering? What are the growth levers we can pull by advertising, growing media properties, product line extensions, brand extensions, having more inventory in stock. You could run the best practices playbook of all the right things. But if there’s not enough demand in the market to efficiently capture, the business just isn’t going to grow a whole lot beyond whatever scale that is today. And so you don’t always know that answer going into it. Our thesis around the market-based brand methodology gives us a better hit rate of brands that are more likely to be growable to bigger scale. But not every business necessarily has the opportunity to do that. And by the way, that’s okay.
How do you measure the total addressable market of a company?
Not very scientifically, we’re not venture capitalists. What I do try to understand is those customer segments and the cyclicality, or lack thereof, in demand for it. So we’ll use some basic tools like Google trends, do some research on Facebook, look at competitors in the space. If there’s only three people selling the product, it’s probably not that big of a market. If you can find a company that’s doing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue in the category, it’s probably a very big market. It really isn’t that hard to figure out to get a sense of. It does come down to execution of how much can you afford to invest to grow that business in that market. And how much market share can you capture at what level of profit.
Do you try to always invest in companies that have an addressable market today? And avoid companies that are trying to break into or create a new market?
Yes, we are more so a classic value investor. I want to buy an e-commerce business that’s 10 years old, it’s got a couple of years of profitable tax returns, it’s got lots of customers, it’s got established product and vendor relationships. We’re not trying to catch the next wave of new venture backed startup idea and compete in that ecosystem.
Moving into some closing questions, what class would you teach in college if you could teach about anything you wanted?
I feel like a lot of formal education is really around kind of taking the test and getting the right answers. And one of the things that’s maybe been more helpful than not in my career has been the ability to kind of understand at a meta level from first principles how to answer questions, how to learn, how to find the answer to things. And so I would not teach a class that would put me as the guru or center of information. I would teach a class about how to learn, how to solve problems, how to find answers in a framework that was probably centered around personal development, practical entrepreneurship, personal finance, some of those kind of hallmark topics that I think a lot of your guests, because we all kind of think alike as entrepreneurs, we all kind of think is maybe under educated in higher education. What I would do though is not teach it. I would try to help people learn how to learn it for themselves and find their own right answer from a first principles basis.
Are there any resources you would give out in class? Or are there a few websites like Reddit or something like that?
There’s certainly thought leaders that have influenced my own thinking. So I might send people in the direction of say a Tim Ferris on how to learn about things, how to think about things, how to be outside the box. Maybe if it’s more about kind of personal goal setting, personal development, maybe it’s a Jocko Willink on self-discipline and executing and planning. So there’s definitely people whose thinking, writing, experience I respect a lot that I think others can learn from first principles how to apply.
What belief did you use to hold strong on that you’ve changed your mind on?
I spent an hour thinking about this question and I asked my wife and we came to the same answer. Neither one of us can identify a time when I have changed a strongly held belief. I think that’s because I know who I am and what my values and principles are. And so those things really don’t change. I do think there are things I’ve had strong opinions on that maybe aren’t beliefs, but are business ideas, strategies. The idea of starting a beach towel brand on my own with our hold co that I had strong conviction on that I was led to change my mind about. I think that there are a lot of things where I have learned a lesson where I’m not as smart as I think I am. And hopefully we pivot quickly on those things. But core beliefs, core values, real principles, I believe that I have a firm foundation in what those things are and those are unwavering.
What’s the best business you’ve ever seen?
I also thought about this one for awhile and I landed on Disney World. My wife gives me a hard time because I don’t keep up with all the Disney stuff nor do I remember half of it from my own childhood. But we took my oldest son a couple years ago before we had our second. And I was blown away at the business systems and the upsells and the monetization of brand. For somebody that is running a company predicated on market-based brands, tapping into what consumers believe about themselves, and then presenting them with products that they’re going to love because they identify with an end market. Man, selling some price Mickey ears and like an ice cream for six bucks, like that’s a great business. And it all runs like clockwork and the streets are clean. And I was expecting the food to be terrible and it was even pretty good. Like it’s a great business.
Is there anything from Disney that you’ve been able to apply to 365 or any company you’ve owned?
I wish we were that sophisticated. I generally just admire the collection of IP that they have. I don’t know that I have a way to execute on that the way they do with the portfolio from Star Wars to Marvel to kind of the classics from years ago. But they are a absolute world-class collector and monetizer of culture and of just tapping into like consumer imagination and general like happiness and joy. It’s just a phenomenal business.
And it goes beyond the Mickey ears. There was a student, friend of mine in college who had a bunch of Disney themed stuff and they have Disney team ties, wallets, socks, shoes. It goes way beyond just the-
Yeah. It’s incredible. I never thought of the cruises. That’s a good one. Or things like ESPN.
You’ve watched the rise of Disney Plus and what that’s done for when they have no theme park business in a COVID world. They’re monetizing their content library through subscription revenue. So like the resources and assets that they have compared to what a small business people can execute on is obviously different. I think from first principles use that phrase again, there’s a lot to be learned. And maybe the simplest one to apply in a small company would just be operational excellence. Like everything they do is just really fantastically done and what I would consider to be probably a pretty high risk experience of a theme park and just to get all the details right and the attention to that and how it runs like a Swiss clock is pretty incredible.
It is pretty incredible. Thank you, Kelcey, for sharing your time with you. I’ll let you go now, but thank you for sharing about your background in e-commerce and your different views on what you’re doing. And I’m really appreciative of you sharing a little bit with us.
Thanks for having me.