Craig Swanson | Building an IT Support Company for Creatives and Scaling Business to Over $1M

John Corcoran 13:09

And actually one of your early hires when your first hires actually ended up leaving shortly later, and that was a devastating impact for you talk to me about that.

Craig Swanson 13:19

Yeah, so that was one of my very early hires is even maybe overstating it, because this is freelance, this is freelance, where I was looking for, like lifetime permanent commitment from somebody for the brief, emotionally involved in my company as I was, and yet I was trying to commit as little to them as possible. And at a time, we were talking about particular potentially him coming as a partner my business or trying to figure that out, he ended up becoming a partner in a competing business. And so not only did I lose the person I thought I was going to be able to work with to build into the next phase, but then he became my competitor. And basically, I watched my competitors start to figure out things that I was struggling with.

John Corcoran 14:00

Hmm, that’s, that’s devastating. So this, this business kind of evolves and and Swanson tech support becomes CreativeTechs. Is that right? Yeah.

Craig Swanson 14:12

Okay, so, um, around around 2000, to around 2000. I was I started business was eight in 2000, in 1988. So we had, bust all this stuff. There were a lot of my clients that were design firms that were starting to our business, they were service based design firms, technology was shifting. And one thing that I started to notice is that in a service based design firm, the people that had their name, and the company name tended to have a lot less success creating anything that lasted beyond them. Now, there’s probably indicators of other things beyond just the name itself. But when I looked at that, and I looked at what I was trying to build, I really started to see that me Craig, something called Swanson tech support was branded around me it wasn’t a random rant about my Audience, it wasn’t giving room for other people. And also there was just this mentality around it, that was not what I want to build. And so I rebranded as creative texts, we were texts for creatives. This was also probably the point at which I actively tried to be hiring people smarter than me with different skills than me. And I think started to get into the process of learning how to allow others to lead within my company and how to learn how to be a leader of leaders, I would say I was a fledgling at this, but I was starting to show signs of it. And I was starting to shown signs of a business owner, as opposed to just a single practitioner trying to like leverage other people to do what I tell them to do.

John Corcoran 15:43

Now, what point did was interesting, I was looking into your background, I was I was reading a couple of old blog posts here. And I saw the evolution of what became CreativeLive, which was so innovative when you when it came out. But you kind of baby stepped into it. Because you got into education and training, you kind of incubated the idea. what point did you get involved to Chase Jarvis? And at what point did you start to test around with this idea of building this kind of platform.

Craig Swanson 16:15

So I had always loved education and writing. And so I actually I even way back when I had written a newsletter for Photoshop 1.0. So way back when so I’d always had some type of publishing mindset. But what became creative life really started incubating inside of my IT company, around the time that I had created enough space that other people were running most of the business. So at that point, I was not doing most of the client services, I was doing some of the sales, I had really good technicians that were doing most of the other work. And I had, and also the company was profitable. So with all those things, I like to joke that other business owners at that point, that’s the point that they buy themselves a boat. And so I took my boat payment, and instead of buying a boat, I poured it into another hole that you can pour money into, which happened to be for me, a a internal startup and an eternal online startup company. And this was I ended up hiring a really great trainer, Jason Hoppy that was an expert trainer in Photoshop, Illustrator, all the Adobe products. And then for about a year, we we built out our own studio. And we were experimenting this with this way of creating bite size education I have my original vision was people were like my clients, were going to come here during lunch and have like lunch and learns. We’re going to create all these different things that wasn’t really working. So like we were iterating around all these different ideas around trying to create different ways of creating education.

John Corcoran 17:46

And this is what 2008 2009 time period,

Craig Swanson 17:50

this would have been this would have been 2006 2007 2008. So like,

John Corcoran 17:55

and I think YouTube started in 2005. So we’re talking early days of online video, are you streaming it? Is it kind of live online? Or is it recorded video,

Craig Swanson 18:05

it’s in the very early days, it was just a lunch and learn. So we are just trying, we are actually creating content that we could like, basically deliver in an hour and let people drive to be in person with us. So once they get online, and then we weren’t we weren’t making any money. I mean, it’s like we are spending, you know, 60,000 $100,000 a year on my, on my education per minute probably brought in $5,000 a year. So it was not a very Yeah, it was a not a very good business. But it was my love. And so impersonal is not working. We thought, Okay, let’s switch to webinars, this new thing had just come out, go to webinar, we were playing with this thing. And so we started doing some virtual classes. And then I think really what ended up being the trick that like tripped over to make what CreativeLive is possible, is we started experimenting with something that did both at the same time where we took our in person classroom, had people in person there in person, and simultaneously did a broadcast to a webinar externally, so that the people watching externally. Most most webinars at the time had this dead performance of the person teaching because they were not talking to anyone, they were just talking to a screen, they had no sense of anything. So I wanted from Jason I wanted his in person audience I wanted laughter I wanted humor, I wanted him to be like responding to an audience in front of him. And so we ended up building this classroom that had about five or six people in person that were paying to take the class there. And then we had, you know, 1011 12 people that were tuning in remotely. And that created such an amazing connection. Jason had the instructor had an audience and person to react to. We had the people watching remotely that let us like support more people. And then I was making sure in the back end that I could like have their audio from the remote people come in. We did a lot of work to basically try to make this all work working where were Jason’s eyeline was going so all this said we were doing all these things to like Trey create this hybrid classroom and Armand which leads up to 2008 when the economy tanked and you know, we had we had the the wave of banks going out of business in fact, Washington Mutual Bank and Seattle was my, my biggest client and they went out of business. And it’s all of a sudden this this IT company that was that was running without me that was giving me the owner my boat payment to go reinvest in my little my little favorite little hobby.

John Corcoran 20:34

Did you get sucked back into it did you have to cut the cord and get sucked back into running the IT company?

Craig Swanson 20:40

Basically. Basically, the IT company could no longer afford to do nothing owner. So I needed to either I either need I need to do something, I need to do something. And I remember I was going over spreadsheets, I was just basically I really didn’t want to give up the the classroom. But I knew that that was the thing I need to do. I basically just

John Corcoran 20:58

three years into it. And you’re you’re passionate about you built the studio, you’ve got the momentum. And you’re that’s that’s like devastating for you. Exactly. Yeah.

Craig Swanson 21:08

And I was going for spreadsheets, we were looking at Google ads. And I was basically just saying is there any way I can make this classroom pay for itself and like I was looking at what it cost to advertise and all these things. And the spreadsheet over this weekend, every time like I was I was getting a zero at the bottom or a negative number. Basically, nothing I could do in terms of like pricing strategies or advertising was getting this thing to actually, like not cost more than I was doing. And I remember just kind of like at one point, just saying exploitive? Why don’t we just give the thing away for free? I don’t often swear on your podcast, but basically just if I’m going to be losing money on this thing, why can’t I just give this thing away for free. And at least we’ll go out with a large audience. And so we we basically scheduled the final class for this online course it was a 10 week Photoshop course. So we had the curriculum all set up. And I had at that time, I had had about a three through a 30,000 person email newsletter list that I built up over the years just because I liked writing. And we emailed everything and like put this over social just basically said free 10 week Photoshop course just show up. You can watch it when it’s live. If you want recordings of it, you can you can pay for the recordings. And that basically is the CreativeLive model that the very first week of that 10 week course. We had a 1000 person license for Go To Webinar. And I genuinely thought the 1000 person was enough bullet point No, no, I thought I thought the 1000 person bullet point was a marketing number. I thought there’s no way that they’re actually paying attention how many people there’s the end at 1000 People like it cut off our new people. And so

John Corcoran 22:45

angry people couldn’t get in. I’m angry, frustrated.

Craig Swanson 22:48

But it was great. I mean, like, like, there’s a lot of energy. And so what is happening is over the next several weeks, we couldn’t we couldn’t upgrade that limit, we couldn’t upgrade that limit. So we just started the webcast early on earlier. And so basically, it would be filling up five minutes earlier than 10 minutes early. And so basically, like there was such a capacity desire for this thing, that people were basically just like, you know, just filling up the funnel

John Corcoran 23:15

with probably people who are out of work and looking for work are looking to upgrade their skills. So there’s good times and good sounds. Yeah.

Craig Swanson 23:21

And then we we sold recordings, and we basically just we sold recordings for I think for 50 bucks. And we made $30,000 off of this first 10 week course which,

John Corcoran 23:34

you know, previous revenues. Is that a lot more than what you’ve done previously? Well, I

Craig Swanson 23:38

think I mentioned before we were doing like $5,000 a year like it was not an economic engine. It was it was it was it was a love engine. It was not an economic engine. Yeah. So yeah. And kind of stumbled into a freemium model. Exactly. Yeah. And a freemium model that really like everything inverted, and all of a sudden, it became the driver that kept my company alive. So my IT company, actually now instead of a company of an important $100,000 A year into the training around the other way, it turned around the train of the training company was now generating a lot we did a we did a a Photoshop course that did $30,000 in sales. We didn’t illustrate a course. I was talking with Chase. So yesterday when I met Chase,

John Corcoran 24:18

Chase, by the way, well, very well regarded photographer who at the time had built a social media following I guess you’d call it early days of social media.

Craig Swanson 24:26

Absolutely. Chase Jarvis with with one of the one of the big photographers like worldwide and Seattle like was early on in terms of doing online education and just sharing the behind the scenes of what was considered to be kind of a secret, like untalked about backend of how photographers work. He had been a client of mine I think for about a decade. So remember, I supported the biggest ad agencies, design firms and photography studios in the Seattle area. And Chase was one of the biggest photography studios in the area and had been a client of mine for years.

John Corcoran 24:56

Got it. working relationship.

Craig Swanson 24:59

I Think we were on a panel together at AIGA at the Graphic Artists Guild. And at a break, I was talking about, like, what was happening with the Photoshop course. And we just started talking and basically over about the next four or five months, kind of expect out moving the thing that had been in prototype stage in inside of my company, we spun it out in 2010. So the in terms of timeframe, the 2008 is when the economy tanked around the end of 2009 is when I kind of knew that I needed to do something with my it. So my Hail Mary with the education computer in 2009. And then between 2009 2010 is when Chase and I were talking and then we launched CreativeLive in 2010.

John Corcoran 25:46

And then by that point had was your IT company back on more stable footing?

Craig Swanson 25:51

Um, it was, so by that time was actually it was okay, it was okay. So I sold my IT company to

John Corcoran 25:58

key employees. Right, exactly. And telling a story about these employees, because they’d actually left and you had a bunch of different you defeat different relationships with them in different capacities.

Craig Swanson 26:08

Yeah, I So Tim, who is now one of the owners of creative life, said that it Tim and Kyle had been with me for about a decade, Tim actually was a consultant of mine that worked at Washington Mutual, he ended up leaving my company going to Washington Mutual, and in doing so invoking, or non compete that we had with our employees. So we actually negotiated his exit where I was working to enforce my non compete with him as he was going to my biggest client. So we negotiated him exiting as an employee to be to my biggest client where he became my boss.

John Corcoran 26:46

So rather than you putting your foot down, saying absolutely not No way, I’m gonna enforce this non compete. It sounds like it was a more of an amicable discussion.

Craig Swanson 26:54

Yeah, yeah. I mean, so I’m always, for the most part, I am always trying to make sure that I’m taking care of me. But I’m also I tried to play win win. So when he left, we’re just trying to make sure that we’re taking care of as long as and he’s taken care of. And so basically, he actually was able to use the lever because he didn’t really want to be the IT guy. So we actually actually appreciated being able to say, I can’t do this work that I’ve been doing with you because he was going to do other work. And so he got to use us, he got to keep using Kyle. And then a couple years later, Kyle left, so Kyle left. And so he actually went to start his own gig and we actually even negotiated we went through his client list and I, we let him buy out buyout or gift, I basically went through his client list and gave him a couple clients that he was really cool with, it allowed him to kind of start his practice, in return for him, not going after other clients and just kind of negotiating the terms under which he was going to leave. I think a lot of ulcers, rows are so afraid of this, they never talk it out and then and create a lot of a lot of dead end conversations where basically of two people like not trying to negotiate. So we’re basically really proactively trying to work this out. And then when Washington Mutual went out of business because of all that, Tim left Washington Mutual, I lost my biggest client, Tim lost his current job. And then Tim and Kyle went into business together

John Corcoran 28:20

as as competitors. Okay, competitors, just say what you who you were doing.

Craig Swanson 28:24

Okay, exactly. Meanwhile, I had some other like, I had other team members, but yeah, they they were no competitors. And Kyle had a few clients that we’d passed along to him. And then, you know, you can interpret this. And then they did a marketing campaign to that, that included people that Kyle was explicitly expressly prohibited from marketing to and that could be found out about it, I felt I found out about it, it could be a mistake, or it can be intentional. But we then had a company then had a conversation about that. And I went back and enforced our non compete with Kyle. Um, I think in a way that was not that that kept relationship, like I mean, like it was, I don’t think it burned our relationship. I mean, it would probably put us under pressure. But then about six to nine months later, when, when I was when I was selling my business. I actually had an offer from a couple a couple other IT companies, but was really feeling good about it. I was able to go back to Tim and Kyle and say, Hey, I’m selling my business. This is what we’re getting offered. Yeah, you guys can if we can work it out. I would rather have you guys run this because you already know how to do everything. Like all the clients know you. And they we worked out we worked out a deal. They bought it. What they bought it for totally worked for them. It also provided some support for me and my family over the next three years as we migrated over to the creative life startup when we weren’t getting outcome.

John Corcoran 29:47

Nice to have that cushion while you’re working on building up. Yeah.

Craig Swanson 29:51

And today. I mean, today is what I mean. I think we’re a decade later, Kyle, Kyle and Tim are still the IT company that supports my wife. I am not my wife too. Support. Nyan good for marriage. And, and so I like to say like, like this is a reference I can give these people like if you ever want to know who Craig is, this is these are people that reported to me as employees that I reported to as clients that we have had adversarial relationships or competitive relationships, and where we have actually negotiated some uncomfortable non compete conversations and eventually who bought my business. So now I

John Corcoran 30:32

have all that that relationship like that. Yeah.

Craig Swanson 30:35

And I’m not I’m not saying that they you know, that every report they would have of me would, but they they know me on all that. And so I like they are they’re the referral I give because there is not an aspect of me in business that they have not seen some side of.

John Corcoran 30:50

Now let’s talk about CreativeLive, I must have done it probably around 2013 2014 or something like that, as I said, my friend Dorie Clark was doing and she had me come in as a guest to the San Francisco studio. And this was not a small operation at this point. So you know, reflecting back on what you said earlier about the difficulties of managing a lot of people. Now you’ve got a huge operation. I mean, it was like going down to the NBC Studios or something like that. There’s makeup, there’s hair, there’s a green room. There’s a studio, huge studio and rows and rows of desks. And then there was a party afterwards, I had a blast. When I did it, it was really a lot of fun. But talk, you know, what was that like for you getting to the point where this? I don’t know if you took on VC capital or not. But you know, it’s a huge operation. And at some point,

Craig Swanson 31:36

yeah, I was laughing. We said it’s not small operation. At that point. That point you saw, I think it was a million dollars a month in payroll somewhere. If not, if not, we were within striking distance of that. It was for sure. Yeah. It was it was a big operation. So no, it exploded like a rocket because we had just hit the economic downturn. And so basically, when we launched in 2010, it was messy. It was a messy business. But startups I find are messy. But we hit the audience and the audience is interested, we are serving a market and they rewarded us with purchases and everything else. So we we grew tremendous. I think we did a million dollars $1.2 million in revenue in the first year and just grew and grew and grew. Two years into this. We did take VC funding from an a round from a from group and Silicon Valley, Greylock, and that’s a top tier VC, Oh, absolutely. You know, you’re watching the Facebook movie, and like their characters. In Play, there were part of our dynamic that had, you know, that are being played by various famous actors on the TV. And that was, I mean, that was like, a business education on steroids. I learned a lot about scaling, I learned a lot about what, where my strengths are in scaling, and my where my weeks our weaknesses are in scaling, and in terms of what type of personalities and team are needed to really be able to, like take things to the next level. Yeah, and what

John Corcoran 33:17

was it like for Chase also to I mean, many most photographers are probably like, you know, small group operations that have no one working for them. That’s a it’s an unusual dynamic for someone to go from being a photographer, a well regarded photographer to running a big business like this.

Craig Swanson 33:31

I mean, Chase was very much a visionary so so I think like from a dynamic standpoint, Chase is very much a visionary does not very focused on brand very focused on on audience perception and, and connections within the community. And very much less detail oriented in terms of finances or technology or things like that. And I’m kind of the reverse, I am much more detail oriented, much more focused on kind of the technical side, and where I’m involved with creative is more on creating the structure and creative as opposed to creating the creative. Yeah, yeah. And, and honestly, like, you know, Chase’s company, as a photography studio, he always was a fairly large company. So he always had like, a good healthy number of employees, like he always had like a team of like five to 10 people. And that is about the size of my company. So in terms of both of us, both of us had different coping, Scott coping styles and different like, personality styles, but neither of us were prepared or qualified for what creative I grew into.

John Corcoran 34:33

Now, at what point did you know you say in your bio, now that your passion really is taking businesses kind of the accelerator model from you know, 100 to under $300,000 to 10 bucks or more, that seems like really what you really enjoy, but there must have been a point where you looked around you’ll see all these different people you don’t know their names, and maybe you’re like, I don’t know if this is for me. Did you reach a point like that with great Avila.

Craig Swanson 34:58

Um, I did, but Also, I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be CEO. So I was never I mean, I was a CEO of CreativeLive in the, in the early incubator days, while we were figuring out where product market fit was. And then we brought in Jon Cunningham, who, as a CEO at that time to basically kind of like start to build the systems. And Jon really knew how to basically put together the executive team, build the team, all that. And then Chase and I basically reported to Jon in different areas. So we may have been on the board, we may have been like founders. And there was this there was this kind of triangle dynamic, where Jon was the CEO and fought for the control that a CEO needs to have. And then you had two founders, who were major stakeholders, and also necessary components and employees to make the system run.

John Corcoran 35:53

Did you ever find at some point that you weren’t sure where you fit up fit in? And that dynamic? Oh, yeah.

Craig Swanson 35:57

Oh, yeah. And at some point, at some point, it grew to a point where I did move on, because at some point, when, in 2015, when Chase became CEO, after we’d gone through a couple rounds, like I did move on to the next phase, for me personally, because I really realized, I love the act of building a company and creating a company to about that $1 billion a year mark, basically that like, for me, the act, the hands on act of creating, solving, finding the product market fit, working with creatives, basically, all that struggle of figuring out where you know how to build a sustainable business that can break a million dollars, that is like my sweet spot, the next the next March, going from 1 million to 10 million and then beyond, I move into a mentorship role for for different for different people through the executive team for different areas. But it actually gets to a place where I am, I’m not the person to lead it or handle the details in that. And so I’d say, definitely, I know about myself now, I think that emotionally, I was left less comfortable with that during CreativeLive, like during CreativeLive, it felt like power is being stripped from me, I was not. I was discovering this about myself at the time and learning what it took to grow and maybe in denial were struggling with it. Whereas today, it is something I built into my program today. Like I, you know, I get companies up to replace and then basically, around the time we’re crossing a million, I’m also kind of cherry picking who is going to be the executive team that’s going to take it to that next level. Yeah. And how are we going to basically build that team so it can go and thrive?

John Corcoran 37:38

It’d be great if we came with an instruction manual, then that told us these things, but it’s really once you cross those bridges that you you learn those things. So that natural transition to some of the current more current work you’ve done with Sue Brice as Sue Bryce was a similar kind of idea here, she was a well regarded photographer, right. So talk about how that partnership came about.

Craig Swanson 37:59

So So Sue is actually an instructor credit fly. So she was one of the she, she taught her first class in 2012. And then around 2014 2015, one of the things that happens with instructors on credit blog, especially as things are developing, because when credit life started, nobody knew how to do livestream the technology was all hard. Critical. I’ve made a lot of instructors really big and famous and and made them a lot of money in a really short period of time. But then when you have

John Corcoran 38:28

you had some some people like Tim Ferriss, the Brene Browns that are now much, much bigger individuals, you know that you can claim credit for some of the growth in their career.

Craig Swanson 38:38

So those two Tim, Tim and Brene I supranet. Like they were huge when they got involved with creative life. But yeah, there’s a lot of people that like, kind of like use CreativeLive as an initial springboard for really significant impact. Yeah, and so sue got to a certain level impact and then then made a conscious choice that she was going to go do her own thing. And so she did that. A little bit later, Chase became CEO I had kind of made my piece in terms of like, where my role and creative life wasn’t critical. I was growing to a place where where I was an owner but I wasn’t really involved in so I went through like I exited CreativeLive still an owner but basically went through my non compete earn out period and all that and at some point Sue and I got together and like we’re both free of crave law. She’s been doing her own thing and she had her online education company was doing about doing about $600,000 a year and and she knew that she knew she was like bumping into a nonsustainable place for she was either gonna blow it up or like you know, get rid of it or I just it was she was basically running into her own limitations in terms of what she wanted to do and where she was skilled. And then I came in along with a couple other partners we came in and basically partnered with Sue Brice created the incubator company that you that I was doing that I basically did a lot of work with. And we basically took Sue Brice, I think, yeah, we we basically built rice into a company was doing about $6 million a year. Eventually it got sold and acquired by, by emerald, one of the biggest imperson trade show companies out there. And that became really like the first big incubator company that I took first to a million or was part of a team that took first to a million, and then built out the team that could basically grow that to the next level.

John Corcoran 40:34

And now you’ve got another one you’re working on. This is KaisaFit.

Craig Swanson 40:37

Yep. And then KaisaFit. We started in 2019, which is an online fitness platform.

John Corcoran 40:43

Good timing, by the way, leading ready to the pandemic, but you plan that really well.

Craig Swanson 40:47

I’ll tell you what it it was really lucky. And it’s also really lucky that we did our prototyping so quick, because we basically started in June 2019. And if I if we had not had kind of the scrappy prototyping, like, prove out the audience find product market fit mentality, we would have missed the opportunity that was about to be like, you know, laid on the entire planet. And when I say opportunity, like terrible disaster, but yeah. But we were selling online, we were selling workouts that people could do in their living room. Yeah, at a time when the entire world is about to be locked in their living room for a couple years.

John Corcoran 41:25

Yeah, yeah. And so there must have been some moments though of fear going into it, or were there not any moments of fear?

Craig Swanson 41:33

Oh, there were Oh, yes. I mean, a fear. There’s always fear. So for me, like I was gonna ask you where fear of the pandemic fear, fear of failure, fear, fear, like, like, my life is fear.

John Corcoran 41:44

It’s interesting how many, you know, entrepreneurs and businesses that grew through the pandemic, at least the first month, two months, no one knew anything, had no idea was going on. They’re scared for their family, for their parents for their kids, that sort of thing. And then all of a sudden hockey stick starts.

Craig Swanson 42:03

I would say also, that is, that was both luck. And also choice. So we did we had a conversation, we had a conversation both at Subarus education and also at case if it because because I tend to, so I tend to have one company that isn’t scaling mode that I’m mentoring in, so I don’t not use as much and I have one cup I’m turning to be growing. And so I’m usually have time between a couple companies. But in both companies, we had a conversation about how we were going to respond to the pandemic, which is we could basically take ourselves out of the game and just, you know, huddle in and wait for this to blow over. Or we could look for the unique gift that is buried in here. That only exists for us if we if we had the opportunity to see it. And And in both cases, we ended up basically making some shifts to what we’re doing really leaning into it. Rather than running from it. I’m doing a lot of marketing. And in both cases, both businesses just exploded. We were We were lucky in the positioning like like we are the type business that did explode. But also, we’ve not really talked about EO accelerator, which you mentioned, I was the chair of your accelerator, but it was also my next topic. Yeah, I was gonna say I was coaching, I was coaching any accelerator at that time. And so when the pandemic hit, we were six months into our my coaching program in my small group. And so we had our first zoom call, because none of us like we were all trapped at home. Yeah. Where, where, where I’m the coach, and we’ve got six entrepreneurs of different businesses, including businesses that are event businesses that are completely like, they what they believe their business is does not exist anymore. Yeah.

John Corcoran 43:44

Yeah. And we haven’t tried to completely pivot or else they do nothing for two years. Yeah. Yeah.

Craig Swanson 43:49

And basically, my, my challenge was, was I gave them I offered, I offered three kind of like concepts for them. Just talk about first of all, like, how’s your family? How’s everyone doing? Like, how’s the health? Like, where are we? Is there anything you need to do just to cover yourself? Number two, are there any hard decisions that are long term decisions in your business you’ve been putting off, because there’s a saying, like, never waste a crisis, like you’re in the middle of a crisis, this is the time that you can make a bunch of really, really hard decisions that are going to just basically be like, swept away emotionally by everything else that’s happening right now. So like, if there’s if there’s a long term thing you’ve been in denial about, this may be the time to look at it. Yeah. And then number number three, is there a unique opportunity in this circumstance that you have not been seeing because of fear?

John Corcoran 44:36

Yeah, and I have to say so you know, Entrepreneurs Organization, which is the parent organization of the accelerator program, such an amazing organization during that crisis, I feel it’s like a it’s like a template for what to do because every day I’m receiving and I was an accelerated program, the beginning of the pandemic. They’re sending a text, message and email have a litany of different In online educational activities, that we’re educating people about things to do marketing ideas, how to do the PPP things like that. And it was just amazing to see people step it up and help one another.

Craig Swanson 45:11

Absolutely. And, you know, one, one company in particular, like one company in those small groups, coaching is a event business. Basically, she did audio visual for, for hotels, well, in the pandemic audio visual for hotels, there’s just a career business went from almost to qualifying almost a million dollars a year to zero, yeah, in a month, like she had, I mean, she had hundreds of 1000s of dollars of cancellations. All in this in this in this what she was dealing with. And she pivoted she, like she has impresses me like like very few entrepreneurs I have met like she was she didn’t she, she took a step back and look at okay, what do I have? I have, I have crew, I have cars, I have logistics. And she basically called up food companies that were like delivering to people that are now like reworked for home. And she basically re pivoted her entire company to provide emergency food and delivery services, or like basically utilizing what she’s got. And then at the same time was building out a studio in what was once your storage space to try to create some type of online space for charities or other people to be able to do events and try to get to some semblance of business. So and even best she was she, she did this for two years. She became EO qualified at the beginning of this year, and she is now an eel member in my forum. So she has now my four eyes in my form. That’s great, man. That’s just extraordinary. And there’s other stories like that like, like, there were so many people that struggled, but also so many people that basically respond to try to figure out something and there’s nothing like having a group of of fellow entrepreneurs, some succeeding some like but all being honest and pulling for each other and like creating the sense that we can choose how we’re going to respond to this crisis and how we can navigate it.

John Corcoran 47:06

Right to be delivered intentional, rather than to just let it happen to you,

Craig Swanson 47:10

you know, and to look for the opportunities. That does not mean denying the crisis. But it also means that there are unique opportunities that do exist in every crisis.

John Corcoran 47:19

Yeah, I mean, I was, you know, Slack is one of those, I think that was a failed different startup. And they are about to go out of business. They’re like, what else can we do? And they had this internal tool that they built like, well, maybe we should look into that and it ends up being huge multibillion dollar company, and lots of examples like that. This has been amazing. Craig, I love talking to you. We’re almost out of time. I love to ask my gratitude question which is I’m a big fan of gratitude, especially expressing gratitude to peers and contemporaries and mentors and partners who’ve helped you along the way in your journey. Who would you want to shout out publicly?

Craig Swanson 47:52

There are so many I’m gonna I’m gonna name check a couple like the one that comes to mind for me is Celeste, Celeste Olds, who was our first producer at CreativeLive who who reported to me but took me aside one day and talked to me really straightforwardly about how my behavior was being disruptive for her team and distracting her team for me he will do the work that we hired him to do

John Corcoran 48:18

were to harness wow

Craig Swanson 48:22

and and did so in a way that grew trust instead of breaking trust and and I think Celeste probably gave me more opportunity to learn about myself and grow than any individual I mean, there’s so many individuals I’ve learned from but like I’m gonna just call up Celeste on this one because she and she also she taught me what a producer can do she she taught me my superhero. Celeste is my superhero. Celeste became the Celeste you know in there’s this the entrepreneur operating system there’s a thing called the integrator the fish she basically taught me what a differently attraction what a differently skilled person can do if we build trust together, and she takes my vision and I give her the power to execute with what she knows to execute creative life would not be a credible I became an I would not be the entrepreneur that I would be if I had not learned from Celeste how I can work with people like Celeste. So it’s not not just that Celeste, like did all this for me for creative life and like made an incredible team and grew an incredible team. Celeste taught me how to work better with future producers and that there was this role that could unlock an amazing amount of creativity and creation for me that I didn’t know existed.

John Corcoran 49:46

Craig, I know you’re super passionate about the accelerated program in Seattle. So where can people go learn about that and where can they also go to learn about you connect with you?

Craig Swanson 49:54

So the best way to go if you’re in Seattle, you’re interested in EO Accelerator, go to EO Accelerator, And there is a single page you can as all the summary of that Best way to connect with me is look for me on LinkedIn or go to Is Craig I don’t own the .com, but the .org

John Corcoran 50:17

Got to get on top of that. All right. And thank you so much. Thank you.

Outro 50:21

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.