Guest: Scott Swedberg
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone. Welcome to the agile entrepreneur podcast and video cast. And this is your host, Ramesh Dontha and today we are going to talk about jobs. The next person I'm going to talk to, will get you a job. His name is Scott Swedberg. Scott is the founder and CEO of job sauce, a career services company focused on the individual. He founded the company while working at LinkedIn and the job sauce has helped 10,000 professionals since 2014. Scott, welcome.
Scott: Thanks for having me Ramesh.
Ramesh: so right off the bat, I know I introduced you as the founder of the company that focuses on the individual and I think that particular word is very important for you. So can you talk about, you know, what job's sauce is about and why the word individual means so much to you?
Scott: Yeah, so something that we recognize at job sauce and I founded it because I experienced personally is so much of your life is tied to the work that you do. It's how a lot of people express their fulfillment in life. That’s how most people make money. So it's really important for an individual to feel fulfilled in their career. And I noticed that most career services type companies, it was either, you know, an individual resume writers say helping people, which is great, but you kind of have to trade your time for money. You can only help so many people or you've got these bigger outplacement companies that focus more on a B2B level. Certain company has to lay off employees and they contract this company to ease the landing, provide them with resume services or what have you. What the job sauce does is we focus on the individual, like individual resume writers career coaches do, except we can do it at scale. And we bring in a lot more resume writers and career coaches to help the individuals who are coming to us, so we can actually impact 10,000 people in the last five or six years as opposed to if I were doing this just myself and didn't have any support, you know, maybe I could have eclipsed a thousand by now if that's all I did. But we're able to reach a lot more people because we're focused on this niche, helping individuals grow in their career as opposed to, and I'm just helping a company ease the landing of their weight off employees.
Ramesh: Great. Okay. So just for my own clarification is job sauce a market place where you're connecting people like resume writers and career coaches with the people who are looking for a job or you as a business owner, you will manage all that who to bring in as a resume writer and career coach, but you are the front of the company. How does it work?
Scott: And so it's not a marketplace. When someone comes to us, if they're going to work with us, all of our resume writers and career coaches have gone through extensive training and onboarding to be able to work for us. So while a lot of these career coaches and resume writers, they're already very qualified to do what you're doing. We wouldn't hire them if they weren't because they've gone through our protocols and methodology. We know for certain that they're going to be able to make the impact that we promise.
Ramesh: Great. So now that we know what jobs sauce is about and what it does, let's start on tracing your entrepreneurial journey. So you started the company in 2014 and can you tell us what was the situation with you at that time and why you decided to start the company and how you decided? So let's take one at a time.
Scott: Sure. So I had pretty recently started working at LinkedIn. I had just moved to a new city, had gone through some family health issues and it really rocked my world, completely new transition in life. My mother had just died of cancer. I was kind of questioning everything that had to do with my life, what I was going to do with it. And I thought that I wanted to go work for one of these big tech companies that something like LinkedIn, it really does make a difference for a lot of people. The platform that provides really is exceptional. And when I got there, you know I was pretty good at sales, got on the phone, good at consulting with people. So I thought, okay, I can bust my butt and work hard and do that. And I started doing it and I just felt too disconnected from the impact that I know LinkedIn makes, the individuals who are trying to grow in their career. But fortunately for me, because I had LinkedIn on my LinkedIn profile, a lot of friends from college and some are recent jobs, they started coming to me asking for advice, you know, what do I do in my LinkedIn profile to stand out or you know, help me get a new job. And I wasn't qualified to do it because I worked at LinkedIn. But because I already had that experience, because I was passionate about it, I just started doing it. And in a way, one thing led to another the people I helped start a referring their friends. And before I knew it, people started asking how much you charged? And I realized I liked doing that a lot more than I like doing my actual job. And that's when I started to realize maybe this is something I should really explore.
Ramesh: Okay. So now you decided that Hey, you know, there is a basically a purpose or a meaning that you could find to your life, given lots of other things going on. And I'm sorry to hear about your mom. And so you thought about then job sauce then, I mean, out of the blue, you, you started it? You put up a website or can you walk us through the steps that you took to actually start your business?
Scott: Yeah, so you know, there's the clean easy version that you can put on a website and then there's the reality as you very well know. Sometimes it's just doing a few things an hour every single day that can really make the difference. And that's the spot that I found myself in. I didn't immediately decide, Oh, I'm going to call it the job sauce and I'm going to do these kinds of services. I just knew I liked helping people in this way and I started doing it. And as I dedicated more and more time to it, it was a matter of, first okay, someone asked me how much I charge, how do I come up with that? I don't know. How do I value my time? How do I know how much time it's really going to take? What am I, what are the program or the packages that I'm going to offer? And it's funny that the price that I charge my very first client, I think I charged him $400 and I helped him get a $40,000 raise.
Ramesh: How did you come up with that? It's a very fascinating discussion. I love this piece. So how did it come up with the $400 to start with?
Scott: Well, at the time I wasn't expecting him to ask me how much I charged. I distinctly remember I was actually driving in the middle of nowhere, Indiana in a snowstorm. And, you know, call the guy, John and John asked me how much I charge. And I kind of felt a bit of a panic because I had never thought to put a value to my time quite like that before. So I thought, okay, well maybe it'll take, I don’t know, 20 hours’ worth of work on my part, give or take and let's just say $20 an hour sounds fine, I guess. And I just said $400. And he said, that works. And I immediately knew, wow, he's definitely sold on the value I can provide more so than I can. I should've said to charge more, or I should've charged more. But I just picked a number out of the blue. So that was a lesson for me. I should be a lot more intentional about what I charge and why. Otherwise I'm going to find myself, you know, work my butt off for not very much.
Ramesh: Okay so then afterwards, how did you learn and how did it evolve the pricing piece of it?
Scott: So it at first started as a bit of a, you know, trial by fire. Just try things out and see what sticks. Particularly when I ultimately launched the resume writing side of things. The same kind of resume deliverable you can see charged on the internet anywhere from, you know, realistically $100 to $1,000. And if you look at executive resumes where these people were making half a million dollars a year, they would much rather pay more to make sure that it's done right. There are no errors, they have complete peace of mind and some of those are 2000, $3,000. So it's what I did decided was first, what do I want my target market to be? And I didn't want to stick myself in a position where I wasn't comfortable providing the kind of support that my clients needed. You know, a CEO of a company as least back then when I was 24, 25 years old. I didn't feel too comfortable giving guidance to someone at that level, even though ultimately the strategies remain pretty similar. But I knew I didn't want to work with people who were just out of college because most of them have enough money to pay me anything. So I said, okay, well let's figure out what other people were charging for a mid-level professional for the kinds of people I'm good at supporting. And let me start there. And ultimately, I went to what kind of results am I really helping people get? If I'm helping people pretty reliably get a $10,000 to $40,000 raise, what is that worth to people compared to if they were to do it on their own? That's where I started and ultimately it came down to how good my sales skills were and finding the right clients and trying things out. Ultimately charged well over 10 times what I charged my first customer.
Ramesh: Fantastic. That's good. So then now let's get into the business model. So you focused on the individuals and then I see lots of career coaching services, you know, and I know the big guys like a ziprecruiter, all those guys are there as well. But jobs sauce seems to differentiate itself. I mean you got 10,000 people that you helped, so that must be doing something. So what's your business model like?
Scott: So the way we approach the business is whatever we're going to do, we want to make sure we add so much value that the client is delighted with the experience and wants to come back to us for more. Because many people, they find us because of one specific thing they need, most often it's something like a resume. They're about to start their new job search journey. They know they haven't updated their resume in a long time, or they don't really know what it takes. Maybe it's been awhile. They don't know how applicant tracking systems work or what's changed. So yeah, they come to us and you know, costs about $150 bucks to get their resume redone. And when we leave them so happy with the experience that they want to know what else we can provide because they just don't know what the job services is going to require from them. That's the foundation of our business model. Making sure they're so happy that whatever they need, they're going to come to us. Or they might essentially ask us what else do you have that would make a difference for me. Everything we do is based on that first and foremost.
Ramesh: Fantastic. Okay. So good. So that is how you basically, to some extent, I don't know if you'll want to call it this with sell up or you know, cross selling other services because you provided so much value with the very first service that you are able to deliver. So I mean that seems very reasonable to me because I think most of the time if you have gone through the barrier of getting one customer, the customer may be, you know, getting him or her to buy other services, lesser of a barrier, which makes a lot of sense to me. Then let's talk about the growth of the company, right. So how did it grow over the period? 2014 you started, so you got, well, how many customers in the first month? Can you talk to us about the journey and the initial years?
Scott: Yeah. So that very first series of months didn't get a lot of customers, you know I was still feeling out was this something I really wanted to do as a business? Was this the difference I wanted to make for people? I was pretty sure, but it was hard. You know, it's hard to get customers just through referrals alone. So I was feeling out how do I actually get people to find me and ultimately found some useful resources online related to coaching and different high value services that people provide and realized, well, one thing I can do is I can do a bunch of webinars for universities and many of them have alumni career services to try to help their alumni grow in their careers after they've graduated. So I can walk through my methodology for how I help people get jobs and spread that word. And if people want to do it on their own, then great. I helped them and maybe they'll tell other people about the webinar or if they want support, then they'll come to me directly. That's really where I started getting my first higher paying customers and especially beyond referrals, was working with universities to deliver high value content and giving customer, giving viewers the option to have a phone call with me if they wanted additional support and then add a bunch of value there and make it clear to them what kind of services we have available and if it makes sense, pitch them on it and work it out from there. So those were the initial, I probably got to that point within maybe a year of getting started, but the first few months were just feeling my way around. I wish I had something like the 60 minutes start up just to know what I could be doing. Give me a structure for trying things because it was a lot of spinning my wheels initially.
Ramesh: Okay. Scott that is, I mean I think you basically told the story of many of the entrepreneurs, you know, this getting started heart of it. But now let's talk about the crossover, right. So you were working, you're making some money and I don't know how long you are with the LinkedIn after you started the company, but at what point of time did you feel comfortable that you're making enough money with job sauce that you want to continue with this business as opposed to, I'm not going to make it this way. I need to go back to the job. Like, so we talked about one year, but do you remember the exact cutoff?
Scott: Yeah, so I left before I had replaced my income. I certainly took a risk. But the nice thing about my expertise is I'm very confident in my ability to go get a job. So I know how that process works. So I figured, well, worst case scenario, you know, when I hit X point and I’ve burned through my savings or have struggled to make a certain amount of money for a certain period of time, I know I can go get a new job. I just need to be smarter about what I'm actually doing because you know, the role I had at LinkedIn wasn't a good fit for me. So when I left, I wasn't prepared financially for that and my business was not up and running. But to me, it didn't have integrity to keep doing the job that I was doing because it was such a struggle for me just to do the very basics. And I was pretty good at the actual work and my coworkers with me and I added a lot of value to the team outside of my core responsibilities. But ultimately, I wasn't very good at my actual job, so it didn't make sense for me to keep doing that. And I talked to my boss about it, I told him what I was dealing with and what I was struggling with. And fortunately that he handled it really well and he pretty much told me, Hey, if this isn't a good fit for you, then we absolutely want to support you in leaving. And if you want to stay, we want to do everything we can to make sure you're successful, but now you need to decide whether this is something you want to do. And I took the weekend and fortunately I had enough faith in myself that I would figure it out. And worst-case scenario I go find a new job that I was willing to make the jump.
Ramesh: Okay. So Scott, let's talk a little bit about your operations of your business. So there is probably by this time, if you're talking about five years since you started your company, so there is probably a customer pipeline that you're building. So how do you acquire your customers? How are they coming to you?
Scott: So many of them are finding us through LinkedIn and we'll use some of the LinkedIn services like LinkedIn Profinder was a really great way that we started our resume service. It's essentially a marketplace for professionals who are seeking certain services to find other professionals who offer those. So that's how we started acquiring a lot of customers. And that formed a group, certain writing really good high value content that will ultimately have people form for whatever.
Ramesh: Hey one second. Alright. So Scott so how do you acquire your new customers?
Scott: And so initially one of the ways that we acquire customers was through LinkedIn. They have a service called LinkedIn Profinder. That is a marketplace that matches professionals who are seeking certain services to professionals who need certain services. So that formed a useful foundation for us to get our resume service in particular up and running. And since then we've expanded to develop valuable content related to the services that we offer or you know, the pieces of the job search that people need help with. And because we add value there, when people do need support, they trust us as the place to go. So, you know, once they find us through searching for certain kinds of support, then they may schedule a call with us or buy a service straight from the website.
Ramesh: Okay. So I got it. So now you've got enough of a pipeline. So it looks like you started a technology company and you started and learned a lot of techniques there and then you, of course, people reached out to you as well. So now if you could give us a profile of the customers, is it mostly technology people who are looking for jobs in technology or they have a widespread, do you have an idea of what's the profile of this people that you're helping with?
Scott: Yes. So many of the people that we support do have jobs in tech. But we work with just about any kind of professional who's out there. You know, we've, we've worked with from doctors to dock workers to know to people in the military or transitioning from the military. But the majority of people who come to us are, white collar workers who work for a tech companies in a broad range of positions. You know, while some are more technical and our engineers are software developers, we work with a lot of people who work at those kinds of companies as well in sales and marketing and operations. So pretty much any mid to senior level white collar worker is our typical client. But if you're in a career where you need a resume to go get a new job, then we're a fit for you.
Ramesh: Okay. So let me, before I go into the final stretch where I'm going to talk about your journey and ups and downs, let me ask you one question. So what I'm hearing is that one third of you know, the people, the millennials definitely are doing a side job, side gigs. So are you also helping people not find a full-time job but a, you know, maybe part time jobs or you know, people who can do side jobs kind of stuff?
Scott: So, many times we do end up doing that. Not necessarily intentionally, but because when people decide they want to go get a new job and they'll, and they'll start working with us through the coaching, we may uncover that it's not that they need a new job or that maybe that's not the best fit for them, but to pursue some type of side hustle or passion to potentially launch their own company one day, that that is ultimately the priority. So while we don't seek that out because so many people decide that that's what they want out of their life and that's how they would be happiest overall, we do end up providing that kind of support. Our focus is helping people go get new jobs, but something that we do intend to pursue at some point is something more aligned with launching one of those side hustles because that tends to be such a fulfilling thing to do in a career.
Ramesh: Fantastic. Okay. My next question is, okay, let's take me myself as a prospective client for you. I heard about your company. So what is the next step I would do.
Scott: So if you've heard about my company, then the best thing to do is to go to the www.jobsauce.com and probably go into the blog and read some of the content we have. It depends on what you're looking for. If you know that you need a new resume, then it's pretty clear that you can, that you can sign up to learn more about our resume program, book a call with us to see if it's a good fit. You know, same with a few of our other services. But what most commonly happens is some will come to our site, they'll read through some of the blogs and realize they might not be sure exactly what they need next. And then we've got an option for people to book a consultation call where someone like me or one of my colleagues will get on the phone, talk through what they're dealing with and ultimately, whether we have something that would make a difference for them. And if we do, then it shifts more to a sales conversation. And what packages are a good fit. And what the pricing is and that sort of thing. But if you're starting your career journey and you're not sure what to do next, just go into the www.jobsauce.com and going to the blog is a good place to start.
Ramesh: Okay. Excellent. So now the final stretch, you've started a journey and then not from a regret perspective, but as an advice to other as entrepreneurs, what are the things that you would've done differently in your business building?
Scott: Yeah, early on what I would have done differently is focus on developing more forms of quality content. Okay. I mostly focused on doing webinars and something that was more, I guess immediate gratification or focused on near term sales. And that was, I'm glad I did that, but I wish I had also created written content like the blog that we have now. I wish that I had written those kinds of things and put them out there back when I originally knew that that's something people needed because the value of that over time, the number of people we could have impacted beyond what we have, we've been much higher. And then just from a functional sales standpoint, the longer quality content is out there, the more backlinks you have, the more traffic you end up getting, the more people that are exposed to the job sauces brand. And you know, I wish I had done that earlier.
Ramesh: Okay. So, good. And then going forward and what are the plans that you have for building and growing your business?
Scott: So continuing to add that high value content and spreading that to anyone who wants to share it. That's definitely a big priority for us. But something that we've started looking at now is how best to partner with the people in the career growth world. You know, individual resume writers all the way through people who own executive search companies. What value can we provide them? And specifically their clients who are trying to go out and get a new job, that there are many recruiters who they only have so much time to vet candidates and send them to open requisitions. If we could add value for the executive search company by having their clients be more prepared. That's something that I'm currently exploring with a few different firms. And that's something I'm really excited about because it gives us more reach to add value wherever we can and make sure people have the best possible career journey that we can offer them.
Ramesh: Fantastic. So Scott based on your journey and based on what you have learned what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Scott: The first thing would be to start now. It's really easy to sit back and wait and think that the timing has got to be right at some point, but just doing something, even if it's small, even if it's just a couple times a week or I mean I keep coming back to the name of your book, but just doing 60 minutes a day, it makes such a difference. It puts you into action and being in action is something that's actually going to cause some kind of result. But sitting back and thinking and pondering it's not really going to get you too far. It's a lot easier to go try something than figure out whether it worked or not and just sit back and wonder because we don't know until we try.
Ramesh: Fantastic. I call it agile entrepreneurship, be agile, you know, instead of trying to plan and, you know, create this 90-page business plan. No, go do something. You know, I'm very fascinated how you build your business, Scott here, because you're very agile where you said you didn't know about pricing, but you did something, but you learned from it. You kept improving on it. I mean that's the agile framework they use in software, iterative method, right? So you did know what form of content worked and you did something and then later on you learned that the long form really helps a lot of businesses. So it's unique, I'm happy that you were able to build your business over the last you know, five years, 10,000 customers. I mean, good luck going forward for you. So just sum up your journey. You worked at LinkedIn, people were asking you about how do I get job just because you worked at LinkedIn, people in LinkedIn and then you saw an opportunity there. And then of course in the personal side, things were going on for you. And then you wanted to find the purpose and the meaning to your life. And this gave you away. And then you started with one customers, you kept building. And by end of the first, you felt comfortable to continue with this one. And it's a very fascinating how you're built. So in your new endeavors, I really wish you good luck. Scott, thank you very much for coming on the show.
Scott: Yeah, thank you so much for having me Ramesh. This is a great podcast and I appreciate your thoughtful questions.
Ramesh: Right. To end it, what are the places and the websites or the areas that they can contact with you.
Scott: The best place to contact us is to just go to the www.jobsauce.com and you can find us on virtually every form of social media at the job sauce.
Ramesh: Fantastic Scott. Scott Swedberg for you. I'm sure all of us at one point or other, we'll be looking for a job and if you are a career coaching or a resume building, you know, www.jobsauce.com. Thank you.