Ben Ridler | Building an Early Franchise Business and Transitioning To Business Coaching and Software Development

Ben Ridler 10:04
Well, we did other things, but whether it’s business, whether it’s health, like, you can’t put more energy through something that’s not alive. Yeah, you know, the two things you’ve got to have are alignment and energy and alignment comes first, if you want to pump light, if you want to put the foot down on business, and you don’t have alignment, you blow it up. So getting alignment first, then allow all the other things we were trying to do. Because we’re all working together, so you know, that’s what I put it down to. So yeah, so that company played out for a while, and it went quite well, we expanded into the Canada setup results Canada, which is still going still in there, you know, Inc, 500, New Zealand ones still going to. And then I was there was a management buyout going on in the New Zealand, it was eight-figure company by then. And so I was snowboarding and chasing girls, you know, board. And, and so I started the software company called chief execution officer with a good friend and CEO or out of Vancouver. Peter Steele. And so we were working on that outside of results. And then I got a phone call from the guy some that messed up and borrowed a whole lot of money in the New Zealand franchise and practice. So they asked me to come back and run it. So I rolled the software back into it, thinking, hey, this will reinvigorate the company, we’ll have some cool new stuff to take to market off, we’ll go again. But I’m strange because they’ve done so much harm to the culture in such a short amount of time. All we got was like resistance. And it was a good lesson, I wouldn’t go back and try and unfuck a broken culture, like, It’s too hard. It was horrible. But we tried that for a while. And then we got the company stabilized and making money again. And then we had Christmas holidays. And I went to go back to work after Christmas. And I was like, oh shit, I don’t feel like going to work. So my rule is if you don’t feel like going to work, change jobs, life’s too short. So I call the guys up and say I need to come over. And I said, Hey, I’m Tom. And I was the majority shareholder. So the company, the consulting firm was in called So I took the URL and took the,

John Corcoran 12:14
by the way, is there a story around how you got that URL? I know, you said you got 2014. That’s,

Ben Ridler 12:19
that’s a story. Anyway, I took those set up a new company and with the software. And that’s how We became a software company. And that came out of doing two years with Stanford, on the Stanford d school and IDEO on design, thinking, and getting exposure to Silicon Valley. And I was like, I’ve got to learn from these people. You know, we were teaching core values and vision in the business world, they were doing it in every company, but they did something we weren’t doing in New Zealand, then every company had employee share schemes. And you know, I’d always been looking for the most alignment, the most equitable way to run a business, I’ve got to learn this. So I literally designed a company to get me to the belly. And when it’s been four years learning from those guys, that was awesome. Yeah. So that

John Corcoran 13:08
you get the domain, I want to hear how you got the domain.

Ben Ridler 13:12
Okay, so we’re the results group, we were very attached to the word results. We did this deal to go expand. So we will, I think the biggest in the guesthouse organization by quite a bit. And then the second biggest is a company called align link out of Canada. We’re doing a lot of work in the oil and energy industry and great guys. And so they gave us a call, Hey, we love what you do. And we’d like to bring it to Canada. We heard that a lot. And like, Oh, if you’re serious, come to New Zealand and see it properly. And they did. And they were amazing. Guys, we got on really well. So So yeah, we expanded that there. And so we were looking at like trademarks and stuff. And you know, there was a trademark for this results group and that results group and we couldn’t use the name. And so we’re thinking we’re going to have to rebrand. And I was very into goal setting. And so I was like, man, we just need results stock, then we’ll be sorted then we don’t need the trademarks. People want to, you know, rip us off. Everyone’s going to our website. It’s a beautiful brand. So it’s like, I had a gold thing on my wall. So I’d wake up, I’d look at the wall of my apartment, and then was like all my goals. I had this artistic girlfriend, so she put them all make them look calligraphy. And so right in the middle by So every day I get having a How am I going to do that? And use at the time. Yeah, and it was a guy sitting on it. And, you know, he was wanting to sell it for a fortune. And I managed to convince him that it was gonna go down in value and it’d be better to exit get it now. And so I did a deal to buy it for what was at the time, a million New Zealand dollars. And then

John Corcoran 14:47
pretty well, a good chunk of change.

Ben Ridler 14:49
Yeah, it was a big chunk of change. But I figured it would appreciate.

John Corcoran 14:54
And so then, how did you can if you were convinced I would appreciate it. How do you convince them the otherwise

Ben Ridler 15:00
cuz he wasn’t a very experienced entrepreneur. And, you know, I mean, I, there was an agent involved from a company called see do who, right? Yeah. But yeah, so we got this deal done we gave him we’re all set to do the deal at the time we had a credit facility which was 30% of our foreign books, it was a few million bucks. And and then Lehman Brothers happened all at the same time, like all in the same week. Yeah. And all facilities got pulled in the bank say it’s nothing personal. Yeah. Like, everything’s good.

John Corcoran 15:34
And I was like, so you basically couldn’t get the funding.

Ben Ridler 15:37
I couldn’t. And then I was like, I really wanted to sing. And I was basically about to sign the deal. So I managed to convince the guy that the banks were really unsafe as well, I am right now. And you know, he didn’t want to let money sitting in a bank because banks were closing down Fannie Mae and all that and pay at a time. So I literally paid it over a few chunks over the next year or so. And it was just like this entrepreneurial juggling act, man, I was moving money here. They’re getting people to help people. It was like, and we pulled it off somehow. And it was powerful. Like, as soon as we became results com we got taken so seriously, I think capital raising all sorts of things. Everything changed. Yeah, like I went out to raise 500,000 in raising a few million dollars from the first group. The next guys that came in wanted to IPO the company straightaway. And I think a lot of that was to do with the brand. Yeah. Yeah. It was with all but it went sideways. One of the investors who came in got a valuation of 20 million US for it. So they tried to liquidate the company and take it out under a redemption clause and run up with it. So. So yeah, it was good. But yeah, it became a bit of a challenge for ArcSight

John Corcoran 16:52
into it. Yeah. Now, once I got one thing I want to ask you about is you were building remote teams back before that was popular to do as it has been in the last few years. So tell me what this was like building remote teams 15 years ago, or more? Well,

Ben Ridler 17:09
so again, like, because I started in franchising? Yeah, the problem in franchising is, you know, people, they’re all at their homes struggling with business, and you become the enemy. And so I’m keeping people aligned, you know, I had to do a lot of talking. Yeah, and just keep, because as soon as you talk through stuff, it’s like, oh, no, head office hasn’t grown to heads, they’re all good. And so you know, I had weekly meetings going on with the guys that were fixing windscreens for me as a group. And then, as we got into the coaching and consulting, how we made that stay liners, we have meet weekly meetings, and every 90 days, we got everyone together. And that worked really well. So keeping everyone aligned was the key. But yeah, back in the day, we had nine offices, this was before the cloud. So we had everyone’s data, sort of integrated into service, and we had a SharePoint site. And on the front page of that SharePoint site, we had five KPIs per office, all the offices listed and red, yellow, green things, and it got a dated at two o’clock on a Friday. And it was, it was amazing. The difference of having that data, in terms of the performance of that company, was amazing, because, you know, you were now all sitting on one side of the table, going, how do we make the data better, instead of telling someone how they’re done, and then not agree. And so I guess that lesson I’ve taken through all the businesses I’ve done now. So, you know, I, you know, when I’m consulting with a company, the first thing I’ll be doing is getting a control center that has live data in it, and then giving them different views of that for different meetings. I don’t bother with reports that are already out of date. And, you know, building remote teams is about trust, if you want a high performing team, you want trust, and I guess my audience and growth companies. So growth companies means you have to be agile. Yeah. And so you know, because things change. So you’ve got to build a high performing team that trust each other, and systems and processes that allow you to change and adapt without changing the systems and processes. And so, you know, we kind of work that out by trial and error over, you know, three decades of being in business, and two and a half decades of having remote people.

John Corcoran 19:24
And this is ultimately what evolved into your current company, which is meeting Zen, right, which is, which is kind of the ability to connect and use live data in real time, using, you know, four dimensional voice video data, that sort of thing. So talk a little bit about that. What that comes down to that the origin in that company.

Ben Ridler 19:43
So with That was way before its time, I should start it again. Now we were using cascading metrics from your strategic plan to connect every person in the company’s activities to the company KPIs. And so we had dashboards and API’s and all things way back in the day when It was hard to do that stuff. But you know, the big insight I had is none of it means anything unless you never have a meeting without a data. Never have a data without a meeting. Yeah, dashboards for dashboards sake, wasted time. So then it’s, you know, that it was working out what data to put in the meetings and how to run the meetings. So we actually build a component of the meetings within that closed ecosystem and worked out how to make them work. And we had a few big insights and breakthroughs, live data, very important, powerful questions even more important. So you know, you come to a meetings and meeting you’ll have your data here, KPIs metrics, and there were some questions like, How do you feel, you know, we’ve done against our metrics this week, you know, what’s standing out any blockages, whatever it might be, and, and so those work really well. But, you know, when people are remote, we’ve got to add some other stuff to it. And so, you know, we’ve been working through how to, you know, how to create a process that you facilitate, without personalities, so the personalities become irrelevant, that will build a high performing culture. And I think we’re doing really well at it actually, we’ve got that nailed.

John Corcoran 21:09
And so one thing I know, that you’re excited about is that AI is all the rage these days. ChatGPT, which came out from open AI has been getting a lot of news in March of 2023, as we’re recording this, and that’s one of the elements, if you will, you’re building into your product.

Ben Ridler 21:27
Yeah, so in 2016 17, got taken over by a group of investors, who also owned a company called Arria NLG. So they were the leaders in natural language generation. So bringing data to life, I’d imagine that have just been cleaned out a bit by what’s happened with the generative AI, but I think that’s still pretty strong in their analytics, like looking at data, turning it into words. And so, you know, we became aware then, so so we were working with the guys, we were looking at, you know, combining the two companies, and they were looking at me having a leadership role in this AI company, so as learning all about it, and and I decided not to go ahead with it, not because of the business opportunity, but you know, the values of the, you know, the organization’s went online, so I moved on. But, you know, what I saw there really showed me that AI was going to change the game completely, you know, all business decade from now be AI to AI, I suspect and the bulk of it. And so, yeah, we’ve been watching this space, and we design meetings in it, right? The core engine is what runs your meetings. And alongside that, we’ve got this concept of the meeting verse, where we create a meeting aggregator, we’ve got so much thought leadership and templates. And we’re now using machine learning to objectively say, what is the best way to run this type of meeting? How long will this agenda item take? What’s the best questions to ask alongside the sales staff? And so we’ll be able to move meetings from objective to subject of using AI to give

John Corcoran 22:59
like an example. You mentioned sales, like if you have a sales team, like you could plug it in and say, Okay, we have sales meeting, what should the format be? How should I run this meeting?

Ben Ridler 23:08
Yeah, and the idea is, you’ll go to the meeting, guys, she’ll go, Okay, we’re running a sales meeting with as many people were in this industry. And they’ll go, Okay, well, here’s how the leading, you know, ones do. And so the idea is people will upload and share and that type of thing. So that hasn’t been built yet. We’ve built the core engine, because you gotta have that right first. And there’s two ways to scale SAS, yeah, go out to everyone and pull it all back and see what happens or get it so it’s scalable, and then get it wired. And this one’s viral. So we’ve got to do the latter. So we’ve built the core engine, it’s working well. And then we’re kind of adding in the thought leadership and the things that go around it. But the other area, we’re using AI with the ChatGPT, which is a great start, we’re building that. And so that will basically, as you run a meeting, you’ll be able to ask it, or it’ll be able to give you information about any decisions or any questions or any other commentary that’s ever been raised about a specific topic in any meetings in your company that you have access to have been in the past. So as well as being able to answer questions about your company data or search on the internet, it’ll also be able to look into your meeting records. And so I think that becomes pretty powerful, pretty quick. But yeah, we’re excited about machine learning. And so the idea is you’ll go to the meeting this you’ll create your meeting, you’ll connect your AI as you can already with meetings. And right now connect all your chat apps, your task apps, and every individual in the meeting can have a different chat app to pre populate the meeting questions and a different task at where they send the tasks to. So you know, you don’t have to all be in one ecosystem. And then you’ll also create your pick a Metaverse environment so you connect your tasks, your API’s, we’ve got over 2000 integrations already with business data that you can pull up live in the meeting. Anything from, you know, sequel, dashboards to anything you like pretty much now And then you’ll connect your iOS and connect your, your Metaverse environment. And so so that’s where we’re hitting with with that project. And

John Corcoran 25:08
do you find that? I mean, this is kind of a, let’s, I’ll say, pretty forward thinking concept. Are you finding that this is a difficult one to explain to any of the clients you’re working with? Or do you find that if you’re talking to the right clients?

Ben Ridler 25:26
That’s a great question. I’m always 10 years out normally. And so normally, I have to wait for the world to catch up here. You know, I started meetings in before COVID. And online meetings were an early adopters tool, they were the fastest growth category in the history of business and 90 days, they went from early adopters for market penetration. So people now have the tools to run the meetings. But you know, ship meetings in the outside world make even worse meetings in the online world. And so you know, giving them the capability is what’s missing. So the basic meeting stuff, we’re finding the people who are adopting it, the easiest are the guys who have already done EOS already done scaling up. And they have the basics of a one page plan of metrics, you know, all of those sorts of accountability things. But what we’re finding is when we then try to plug it into meetings in it shows them where all the gaps are. And they need to take, basically give it an upgrade again, so we’re calling it levels in so you know, you have a level 10 meeting. So we take that to a levels in meetings. So we bring

John Corcoran 26:29
on 10, for those that don’t know, is a concept of kind of a management level meeting, right? And in the Eos framework,

Ben Ridler 26:37
so that’s always firmer. So the two main frameworks, we see EOS scaling up. And so we’re finding anyone who’s using those, and have, you know, got some mastery, they’re got the components of that. I find it much more valuable to then yeah, I get that old and upgrade by bringing it all into live real time. Yeah, man.

John Corcoran 27:01
It’s an interesting point that you made about thinking like 10 years ahead, because if you think about, you know, go back 20 years, there was, there was webbed van, there were a couple of these big com flameout companies that were just way ahead of their time, right. They people weren’t ready to adopt it. Now, grocery delivery, especially during the pandemic became such a common thing is, is there a part of you that, does that lead keep you up at night thinking like, I love this idea, I think eventually everyone’s gonna adopt it. But is there a part of you that’s afraid that maybe you’re too far advanced? Well,

Ben Ridler 27:35
I know, with meetings in it’s not because I’m using it with a whole range of companies. And it’s hitting the sweet spot. But it’s one step and four of my next four projects. So you know, this one’s very much about me finishing that circle around business development and giving the tool to people that they can actually really run a business with everything at their fingertips. You know, seriously, when you get good at this, you’re on a leadership team meeting. Yeah. And I run a company all hands and I can run a 4050 person company all hands at 90 minutes, no problem. And everyone’s contributing to core value stories. Everyone’s contributing to good news. Company heads are talking to the metrics. And what I found when I was running the business with over 100 employees. Well, no, actually, it was that results I had about 50. Yeah, but we fire on those two meetings a week and nailed them. Everyone knew the top priority, whatever new out everyone else was working on. Everyone had committed to their action that they were going to get completed this week. A strategic priorities were those projects were chicken, I literally could go snowboarding for the week unless something went sideways. So that was, yeah, that’s where we got to, I’ve got like my next 10 years of projects mapped out. So you know, the funds been waiting on AI. And this is basically now I understand how to bring the data to life a lot easier than last time. And, you know, this is a meeting software design for everyone. And then, you know, I’m basically going from here across to the blockchain for my next three projects. So I’m

John Corcoran 29:08
gonna have to say that for a future

Ben Ridler 29:12
I got a project that I came up with four years ago, and we decided the technology is not there yet. So I’ve got really heavy duty backing for the crypto world but you know, it just be too hard. Now, you know, if we rebuilt results now, we’ll do it at a 10th the cost and the beat twice the uptake. So yeah, that was the lesson. Yeah.

John Corcoran 29:30
Yeah. I the reason I asked this question is because I get excited about the future, too. I think about these things, you know, I think about like, we’re gonna have like self driving cars, and then you’re gonna go, your car’s gonna like leave your driveway in the middle of the night and go to a carwash and get washed all night and come back, like, completely clean it. But you know, if you rolled out that product today, like it’d be a little too ahead of its time.

Ben Ridler 29:52
I mean, think about the exponential curve. Yeah. Like technology’s moving so fast. We’re gonna have more change in the next 20 years in an all of history and AI is moving at double the speed of Moore’s law. Right now it’s decision making capacities every six months, it’s doubling instead of every two years. So whilst that’s, that’s always been frustrating, I suspect, we’ll see an acceleration and change. And we’ll all be wondering what the future gonna look like five or 10 years from now, because it’s, it’s not going to be shaped by humans much longer. So

John Corcoran 30:22
yeah, that’s crazy. Well, I want to wrap things up with the question I was asked, which is, I’m a big fan of gratitude, expressing gratitude to those who helped you along the way. I know that it’s been a rough couple years for you. We were talking beforehand, and you lost your son a couple years ago. And so this is a particularly challenging question for you to handle. But you gave me permission to ask it anyway. So I’ll throw it out at you. What are some things that you people that you’re grateful for now, including the son that was with you for 29 years?

Ben Ridler 30:56
Yeah, like he really shaped my life and became a solid dad at very young age. Yes, I miss him a lot. But I’ve got three beautiful children all doing well. I got a lovely partner. I got the best dog ever. Who was my son’s dog were his parents. And an hour after we buried him his dog had puppies. Who was wow, that was pretty amazing. But, um, my meetings, and I’m very grateful for a couple of people who’ve really stepped up and helped us. You know, William Wiebe, who’s our CEO, who’s by basically when my son passed away, we just started this journey. I was like, bro, I don’t know how long I’m gonna be. See if you can keep it going. And he’s done. Amazing. And He then brought in a CTO, who’s basically come and provided us dibs from x fortune 50 CTOs got, like, saw the whitest thieves I’ve ever met. To get this think Bill Rogers. So yeah. Rajiv from go promo. I’m so grateful for you, brother, and your support. And Williams has been my rock. So, you know, I’m very blessed to have a lot of people who’ve believed in me and supported me and, and I’m finally feeling capable of going out and doing what I do again, which is, you know, being the interface between the company and the market. So I appreciate greatly. I’m very grateful for you for having me on here.

John Corcoran 32:16
Jobs. Yeah, my pleasure. Yeah, it’s really cool. I love geeking out on this, this type of stuff. So thanks for taking the time. Ben. Where can people go to learn more about you and meetings and and connect with you? Is there anywhere they can go? Yeah, like

Ben Ridler 32:29
I’m being Riddler on LinkedIn on benzene and Facebook and meetings. We’ll show you how. We’re we’re hitting meetings ins working great setting it up difficult. So we’re sort of helping people with that if they would really want to take it to the next level. And we’re having huge traction with that bringing live data into into companies and allowing them to really focus on what’s important. So Semia helped me out. I love talking about business. That’s all I’ve done for the last 30 years or

John Corcoran 33:04
so. Yeah, I can tell. All right, Ben, thanks so much for your time.

Ben Ridler 33:08
See, you’re on the radio. Well, John, thank you.

Intro 33:10
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