Entrepreneurship, Journalism, and Testifying Before Congress With Dan Grech

Dan Grech is the Founder, CEO, and Lead Instructor at BizHack Academy, which provides digital marketing training to corporations, marketing executives, and businesses nationwide. Before starting the academy, Dan was the News Director at WLRN Public Media, worked as a correspondent for NPR’s Marketplace, and was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Miami Herald. He also co-hosted Miami’s first podcast, Under the Sun

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Dan Grech, the Founder and CEO of BizHack Academy, about his journalism career and how he became an entrepreneur. They also discuss entrepreneurial and journalism challenges, the effects of AI on businesses, and Dan’s experience testifying before Congress.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [02:20] Dan Grech’s entrepreneurial ventures growing up
  • [04:40] Dan’s experience testifying before Congress
  • [16:34] How Dan became a journalist, and how he lost his job at NPR
  • [25:30] The challenges of being a journalist 
  • [27:48] Dan talks about transitioning to marketing and entrepreneurship
  • [33:10] The similarities between entrepreneurship and journalism
  • [37:50] The evolution of BizHack Academy

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

Today our guest just got back from testifying before Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC at the House Subcommittee on Small Business talking about small businesses, the economic climate for small businesses, and some technologies that are affecting small businesses. So we’re gonna hear from him what that experience was like, his name is Dan Grech. He’s from BizHack Academy. I’ll tell you more about him in a second. So stay tuned.

Intro 0:27

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:43

Alright, welcome everyone. You know, if you’ve listened to this program before, we get great guests every week, who we get to talk to their smart CEOs, their founders, their entrepreneurs from all kinds of companies. We’ve had Netflix, we’ve had Kinkos, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, GrubHub, and Redfin. Go check out the archives and you can see some of those different episodes in there. And this episode is brought to you by Rise25, my company, where we help B2B businesses get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you go to rise25.com to learn all about what we do. 

And quick shout out first to Cesar Quintero, great guy, founder of The Profit Recipe and EOS implementer, and all-around amazing business coach, and shepherd. You can learn more about him, but he introduced me to today’s guest. Dan is the founder and lead instructor at BizHack Academy, which provides digital marketing training to corporations and marketing executives and businesses all across, I believe all across the country with a focus on on South Florida as well. He was news director at WLRN, which is Miami’s NPR station. and part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Miami Herald. He also fun fact co-hosted Miami’s first podcast Under the Sun. That’s really cool. He’s worked for the Washington Post marketplace, PBS is Nightly Business Report. And now he’s a very active member of the South Florida startup ecosystem and a graduate of Princeton University. And, Dan, I’m excited to have you here. And I’m excited to dive into this topic and hear all about what it was like going to DC and testifying before Congress. But first, before we do that, I always like to know a little bit deeper about people and about how they were as a kids. And you actually had a nickname in high school. Were people calling you The Candy Man, because you were the guy who’s selling Blow Pops around school.

Dan Grech 2:33

That’s exactly right. You know, I played soccer growing up and we needed to raise money to go to Europe for a tournament. We went to Denmark and Copenhagen. And so they gave us Blow Pops to sell at a quarter apiece.

John Corcoran 2:55

And Lysol loves to pay for a flight to Denmark.

Dan Grech 2:59

I know right? Well, we did. It was like one of like 30 things we did. You know, we washed cars like everybody, but I got really good at selling these Blow Pops. And so after we went to Denmark, I went and found out where the distributor was where they got the Blow Pops, which cost about five cents apiece. And then I became and then I realised they sold more than Blow Pops. They also had M&M’s. They had KitKat. And so I used to fill a little satchel, and would go to my high school in one of the richest suburbs of Philadelphia mainline and I would sell candy to ravenous rich kids. And I made a fortune doing this. And it became really almost an all consuming thing. My mother at first was thrilled and then she started to get horrified because I became known as the Candyman. And it was a very, it was very like, I was like a very wealthy, you know, you know, eighth grader but I was also like very Declasse. A, because all of the, you know, the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers, were buying the candy from me. And it all ended when Franco Siciliana, who was from the other side of the tracks, broke into my locker and stole all of my money. And my mom sort of felt like I was about to get into some kind of gang war. And so she forbids after it before that, she’d been like very much, you know, supporting me and driving me to the blow plow place, and then she said like, it’s all over stop. You know, there’s distracting from your school and you’re gonna get yourself killed. And so I had to shut down the candy store.

John Corcoran 4:36

Man, that’s that’s sad that it ended up that way. On the other hand, you have found your career in journalism and other interesting things which we’re going to get to but before we get to that, you literally Today’s Thursday, you got back you were in on Tuesday. You were testifying before Congress. How did that come about? I understand was your local congressional representative who saw an op-ed that you’d written and what was that experience like? Yeah,

Dan Grech 5:02

it was a little bit of a Mr. Grech goes to Washington, kinda experience. I was definitely kind of like a country rube, you know, looking at the big city and sort of living and dying at all the pretty buildings. So I have a journalism background, we’ll probably talk a little bit about that. And I wrote an op-ed, in my local paper, the Miami Herald saying, basically, hey, Congress, when you guys legislate generative AI, and ChatGPT, and Bard, and tools like that, and you absolutely must do it, because you really screwed the pooch by not doing it in social media and look at the consequences we’ve had from that. So because there’s still no legislation around social media, so Congress, when you get to legislating this, you know, please, please make sure that small businesses have a seat at the table, because this is the most powerful productivity tool in a generation. And we really don’t want you to ruin it for us. So I wrote that editorial and I named checked this local representative, Congressman woman, Maria Salazar, who’s a Republican who represents South Florida, because I’ve been in conversation with her staff, educating them about the small business uses of AI. So I just said thank you to her and her staff for like taking an interest and asking my opinion, and more. Like she’s on the House Committee of small business and more legislators who are involved in legislating AI should do that. And she really appreciated that. And so when she had an opportunity to nominate a small business from her district to testify in Congress, she nominated me and I was chosen. And it was a very interesting experience. You know, one of the things is, you know, for those of you who are watching this video, you’ll see I’m actually holding up a baseball that signed the chair of the House Committee on Small Businesses named Roger Williams, and he’s a seven year old, retired professional baseball player used to play an outfield. I myself am also a baseball player. So I brought this baseball with me. And then he gave me one of his signed baseball cards. He’s in the Hall of Fame, he was a very famous coach for Texas Christian University, which is one of the best baseball universities in the country. So that alone was like worth the price of admission, just to meet him get him to sign my baseball. The experience itself was interesting. Someone said to me, Dan, we really don’t want you to be disappointed by this. But they’re gonna be walking in and out of the testimony that

John Corcoran 7:34

sometimes these subcommittees you know, it’s half empty, a lot of them are not there. They’re not paying attention, right. But did you have that experience?

Dan Grech 7:42

Totally, oh, it was exactly what it is. So you’re, you’re there’s a Deus right, where they have two rows of, you know, nice leather chairs, and all of them are empty, with exception of about five. So when I walk in there, there’s like five people in there. And the Chairman has two assistants and like five other Congress people, and I’m like, gosh, this is a two hour test, you know, meaning it’s going to last for about 15 minutes. Because everybody gets like, you know, five minutes to talk and like this is going to end really fast. Well, what would happen is each member would get five minutes for their question. They would spend the first three minutes bloviating about whatever issue they cared most about, they would kind of eek in a question with like, 30 seconds left, one of us would try to answer it, and then we would run out of time, and then that person would leave. And then while that was all happening, in through the side door would sneak another committee member and suddenly there’s somebody sitting on the other side of the room. And the way you knew who the congress people were, they would put up their name, their name plate, and once their name plate was up, they were like ready to ask their question. The chair would would call on them, they would ask their question, and then they would leave. So it was this crazy game of like,

John Corcoran 8:54

there’s like a greenroom in the back or they’re all hanging out waiting for the next turn. What I

Dan Grech 8:58

learned was happening, because one of them said is they would monitor the hearing from their office. And when they saw that there was like a shorter line, they would walk on in, ask their question and leave. You know, for them, this is a media hit. This is a chance for them to say, you know, uncIe, spam, their spiel. If it was a Republican, it was almost always about overregulation. It was a Democrat. It was about things like affordable housing and access to childcare issues that are important, but not necessarily totally germane to small businesses, and I can tell you, not on the highest, they’re not on the highest priority list for what’s been, you know, struggling, what we’re struggling with, you know, what we’re struggling with, are things like dealing with inflation margin compression, you know, hiring shortages, supply chain issues, almost none of that was talked about what was instead talked about were whatever the political hay that they wanted to make.

John Corcoran 9:55

Was that disappointing then that you know, here you’re ringing the alarm bell. This is what I want you guys to pay attention to and they’re not at all focused on it.

Dan Grech 10:05

I would say that it was, I was so prepped to expect that this was going to be Kabuki theatre that I couldn’t pass, it was definitely not disappointing, but if I hadn’t known that before him, and I thought I was like coming to Washington as a crusading, you know, small business owner to change the world, I would have been, I just, I was disabused of that very early on by the people who were coaching me. One of the people who coached me has testified eight times in front of Congress, and he said, This is Kabuki theatre, and you are a character playing yourself. 

John Corcoran 10:39

Well, I suppose the other end of the extreme would be something that everyone’s paying attention to, you know, last week we had or the week before, that was these three heads of Harvard and Penn and one other university that got a ton of attention. It was the Saturday Night Live opening sketch and everything. So that would be the other extreme, which would be petrifying in its own right.

Dan Grech 11:01

Well, it’s funny. Yeah. The other one was MIT. And what happened is, at least the phonic one of the Congress, women, basically, set them all up with a completely you know, a question that you really there’s no right answer to so the question was, if somebody on your campus calls for the genocide of Jews, you know, would you allow that? Yes, yes, or no? Yeah,

John Corcoran 11:32

I think it was it was asking about if had violated their code of conduct or something along those lines. 

Dan Grech 11:38

Yeah, exactly. And, you know, they answered legalistically. And she was asking for a moral answer. Yeah. But the bottom line is, I saw that, and I was petrified. So one of the really cool aspects of this, John is I am a part of Have you heard of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Training program? 

John Corcoran 11:56

And my business partner? Jeremy did it. 

Dan Grech 11:59

Yeah. So they have a voices initiative, right, which is a small business advocacy initiative. I’ve been involved with them for years now. I’ve spoken to my local Congresswoman. I’ve spoken to the mayor of Miami Dade County. And so when I got this opportunity to speak, the first call I made was to the voices representative for my region. And she connected me basically to the Goldman Sachs PR machine. And so I actually went and spent two hours in prep within Goldman Sachs offices overlooking the Capitol, I could see the Christmas tree, the National Christmas Tree from from the office, it was like, one of the higher buildings, and they prepped me for every possible eventuality. And it was very interesting, because I’ve never been prepped before, for how to like, dodge and weave and avoid. And, you know, it was incredible. Like, there’s really an art to it. And you know, one of the things that they taught me was, “Do not rush your answer.” You know, when they ask you a question that has you a little off of your game, take a beat, take a beat. And so I actually don’t know, you know, your listening audience won’t be able to see this. But I have a piece of paper, the only piece of paper I had with notes because I knew this stuff. Cold is the name of the chairman, the name of the ranking member, the name of the woman who invited me, because I was not confident I was going to remember any of this. And then the words, take a beat.

John Corcoran 13:35

Yeah, you got to be careful with that these days now, with these high resolution cameras, and iPhones and stuff like that. There have been a few times when someone’s like notes have been caught. You know, it’s published after the back, especially with something a little bit embarrassing. Yeah, that’s not embarrassing to have that.