First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tyler Garns: My family and I are doing great! We’ve made an intentional commitment to spend quality time together and make the best of things. We have one son who is 20 years old who was serving a church mission in the Philippines. He had to come home because of COVID-19. So, that was hard for him because he enjoyed his service so much. But, as soon as possible, he was reassigned to serve in the Jacksonville, Florida area. So he’s out there now. Our next oldest son was a senior in high school this last year. COVID-19 was probably hardest on him because he missed out on so many things: prom, state championship surf contest, normal graduation, and so many other things. But, he and his friend started writing and recording music, and now they’ve released two albums and a single on iTunes, Spotify, and other platforms. We’re so proud of him. Our other two kids are doing great. Beyond all odds, my wife has decided to homeschool our 6-year-old daughter, and, surprisingly, it’s going really well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Box Out Marketing.
Tyler Garns: I worked at Infusionsoft from 2007 to 2012, where I eventually became the VP of Marketing. We grew from about $4M to $40M during that time. In 2012 I left to start my own consulting business, and Box Out Marketing (current biz) was formed in 2014. Even before COVID hit, 2020 was shaping up to be a pivotal year for us. We’ve completely changed our business model in the last 12 months, and we’re now on a growth trajectory that’s really excited. COVID seems to be helping our cause because our model shift has allowed us to provide our services at a fraction of the cost we were offering them before, which is great for the struggling small businesses we serve. And, the good thing is, the service we offer is more profitable for us.
How does Box Out Marketing innovate?
Tyler Garns: Jeff Bezos once said, “Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency. You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries — the “non-linear” ones — are highly likely to require wandering.” I’ve never been afraid to try new things. We’ve tried a lot of stuff that hasn’t worked. I love to high-five our team-members when they try something new, and it fails. In most business environments, people get in trouble with they screw something up. My philosophy is entirely different. We need innovative thinkers. We need people who are willing to go out on a limb and try something crazy. That’s where true innovation and learning happens. The learning is powerful in the failure as well. So, I don’t want creativity stifled by the thought of “I might get in trouble if I screw up so I’m not even going to try that.” The innovative thinking we need is what has brought us to our current business model change that’s really fueling growth right now.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Tyler Garns: We serve small businesses. We do the technical implementation of marketing automation software (Infusionsoft). Infusionsoft users are typically small business owners who are entrepreneurial and want to grow. Those types of people are creative and make stuff happen, despite COVID or anything else. So, the fact that we shifted our model in late 2019 set us up for real success in 2020 as the economy started to shift, and our clients needed to cut costs but still wanted to keep being entrepreneurial and find ways to grow. When COVID first hit, I gathered the team and established some rules: no checking COVID stats during the day, no checking social media posts regarding COVID during the day, etc. The goal was to keep optimism in the forefront and not get sucked into the vortex of the downward spiraling negative news cycle. And, it worked. We’ve crushed it over the last few months.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tyler Garns: There are always difficult choices to make in business, whether there’s a pandemic or not. If it were easy, everyone would do it, and everyone would be successful. But the small business stats paint a very different story. Running a business is hard. It’s gut-wrenching. It takes a toll on people, their families, relationships, and everything else. There’s no getting around that. The question really is how do we deal with the difficult times how do we continually try and make things better. We learned the power of clarity in the vision. The vision for the future of our business was crystalized very powerfully for us during the last 10 months or so. As that has happened, the team and rallied like I’ve never seen before. Each team member is aligned with the vision and is putting in the effort to achieve our goals. It’s a phenomenal thing to be a part of.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Box Out Marketing in the future?
Tyler Garns: I’m the type of person that doesn’t experience stress in the same way most people do. Pretty much every day I can go into the office optimistic and excited about what we’re doing. I don’t often feel stressed or anxious. I can certainly get overwhelmed. At those times, I just stop, organize all my thoughts, projects, and to-do’s, make a game plan, and then get back to work with clarity and peace. Creating that clarity each day and getting all those thoughts into written action plans allows me to sleep well at night and be productive when I’m in the office. In the next few years, I see us crushing our goals, having a TON of fun in the process, and eventually selling the business for a great payday for all team members involved. We’re on an exciting ride, and I’m really looking forward to the next few years.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tyler Garns: Our competitors are other providers of implementation services in the Infusionsoft community. Most are really small shops and can’t scale the way we have. They also can’t provide the quality of services we provide at the low price we provide them. I know this because we used to be a premium provider of our services. We were always on the high end. For reasons I can explain to you if we talk, that business doesn’t scale beyond about $2M in annual revenue. Our new model will allow us to scale far beyond that mark and gives us a real advantage against our competition.
Your final thoughts?
Tyler Garns: It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur. I saw an article the other day showing the number of EIN filings over the last 6 months skyrocketing. You can look at these “rough” times as “tough and dark times”, or you can look at the bigger picture and see how much innovation and how many really exciting things come out of the pressure that’s put upon people. Humans are AMAZING. We already see it, but just watch what will come out of COVID-19, AMAZING things.