Strategies for Growing a Software Company Through a Recession With Brad Griffith

Brad Griffith is the President of Buckeye Innovation, a software engineering and design agency with a passion for creating dynamic digital experiences. The company helps growing businesses utilize software and design to amplify their impact on their communities. Brad founded Buckeye Innovation in 2009 after graduating from Ohio State University. He has several years of experience in web application development and has worked with JPMorgan Chase, Qualcomm, and the Go Big Network. 

One of Brad’s first projects involved building a website in sixth grade, developing the same robust skillset he still uses. He is also a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization chapter in Columbus and serves as the EO Accelerator Chair.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Brad Griffith, the President of Buckeye Innovation, about his strategies for growing a software company in a difficult season. Brad also explains the concept of a self-imposed downturn, the effects of technology and AI on businesses, and how he built a company during a recession.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [01:39] Brad Griffith’s experience building a website in sixth grade 
  • [07:08] How the business lessons from Brad’s family prepared him for entrepreneurship
  • [12:35] The effects of technological evolution and AI on businesses
  • [15:42] Brad’s experience starting Buckeye Innovation during a recession
  • [18:27] The future of digitally solving problems 
  • [24:12] What is a self-imposed downturn?
  • [29:20] The people who’ve had a significant impact on Brad’s career

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00 

Today we’re talking about how to grow a software engineering design team company over a15 year period. My guest today is Brad Griffith. And I’ll tell you more about him in a second. So stay tuned.

Intro 0:14

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

John Corcoran 0:30

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And you know, if you’ve listened before, you’ve seen that every week I talk to smart entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs of all kinds of companies. We’ve had Netflix to Kinkos, YPO, EO, Grub Hub, Redfin, Quicken, you name it, lots of great episodes in the archives. And of course, this episode’s brought to you by Rise25, our company, where we help b2b businesses get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you can go to to learn more about what we do. And before I get to today’s guest, I want to give a quick shout-out to Warner Moore of Gamma Force is the name of his company, go check it out. He introduced me to today’s guest. He does a variety different things, including entrepreneurial technology and cybersecurity. So go check him out. 

But my guest is Brad Griffith. He’s the President of Buckeye Innovation. It’s a web engineering design team that he founded back in 2009, after graduating from Ohio State got a couple of degrees there. And he’s worked in web application development, including working with JPMorgan Chase, Qualcomm, and the Go big network. And fun fact I want to launch into here is that one of his first projects that he worked on, was he had a sixth grade book project. And rather than just turn in a boring PowerPoint presentation, or a paper book report, he decided I would build a website. And that’s really cool, because that kind of launched your career and kind of introduce you to the world of web development. So first of all, how did you figure out how to build a website? When you’re like, what, 1112 years old? And I imagine back then there weren’t the types of tools that we have today.

Brad Griffith 2:11

Right? Yeah, it was it was early on. Thanks for having me, John. I really excited to be here. Yeah, it was an exciting time to try and learn something that was brand new. I built it on my AOL web space, you know, backup America Online days. I actually went to 3g.

John Corcoran 2:24

So not a geo city, I guess, geo cities was owned by Yahoo. I think so right

Brad Griffith 2:28

around that time. Okay. We had our internet through AOL, one of the CDs, a mail out and theatre. And so that’s where I launched it. I learned actually by going to the Columbus Metropolitan Library, who’s now one of our biggest clients for my business. So it’s exciting for this to come full circle. I went to the Columbus library, and I checked out HTML for dummies and some other books, the JavaScript Bible, and they’re the books that I would check out and sit in the library and read them, check them out and take them home. And I would on my old gateway computer, trying to know I’m dating myself here, with data

John Corcoran 3:00

gateway, the big boxes with the white. I ordered one I lived in Washington, DC, and I came home after work one day and was sitting on the front step. I’m like, I don’t know why no one stole this thing. Right? Yeah. But now it’s clear as a computer. So

Brad Griffith 3:15

yeah, my, my oldest sister, she actually worked for gateway in sales. So that’s how we ended up with a gateway computer. So I bring the books home, I write the code on my old gateway computer, upload it to my ALR web space. And it was successful, I got neg on the project, because teachers had not seen that before. And it was kind of an old, ugly frames based website, you can actually still see it. If you go to Brad You can see the same time I was building my animal form book report, I built my own website. And so my website from when I was a kid back back in sixth grade, I built this website, and it’s up there, Brad And there’s an animal farm link as well. And you can see the Animal Farm book report that I felt

John Corcoran 3:55

that is absolutely beautiful. That is a beautiful website. In in the 90s. That would be exactly what almost all the websites looked Yes.

Brad Griffith 4:05

Early 90s website, there’s just to see the animated Mail icon that like shows a piece of mail being folded up in an envelope and then

John Corcoran 4:14

share it here. Yeah, great. That’s absolutely beautiful. Yeah, that is very sophisticated. Very simple. Yeah, go back there,

Brad Griffith 4:22

my animals. That’s my cat.

John Corcoran 4:26

So you do that. And then you actually ended up I think it was in high school getting a job working in web design, which that’s pretty unusual when everyone else is working down and hopped back on the stick in the food court at the mall. Right?

Brad Griffith 4:41

Yeah, I’m just telling you good luck tonight. I have to say I grew up with a lot of a lot of good connections, a lot of good family support. I was in a suburb, suburban Columbus, Ohio, in Dublin is a suburb where I grew up. And my brother’s best friend, was an entrepreneurial fan. Willie, his dad owned an educational plane firms called de Yong and Associates. And so he I think my brother got a little gig painting the walls in their office at one point, and I might have gotten to help out a little bit. And I said, You know what, I’d like a job. I had a little bit of time, between tennis seasons, or tennis and soccer seasons. And so I talked to the educational planning firm, they said, You know, I heard that you did this website for school. You know, we’ve been thinking about having a website and knew we could do some help with our computers. They said, Sure, I’ll come in and do it. So I got a job making good money. In high school working for an educational planning firm, got their first website, built a web application that collected survey data, they used to send out paper surveys, to a bunch of school districts that did educational plans, enrollment, projections, things like that. So it’s sending surveys out to schools around the state of Ohio, and then collect the paper surveys back and code all the data and it just didn’t make sense to do it that way.

John Corcoran 5:58

One small thing could have been a massive cost savings for them. Yeah,

Brad Griffith 6:03

absolutely. That’s the sort of thing that I do Johnny get really passionate about, like, for this growing innovative business, they ended up growing into multiple different locations. They had partners in different cities. This was able to in this, this really enabled some of that. And so thinking about how can we uniquely apply technology to their business that enables them to grow with limited resources. And so I’ve done that and I went to work at JPMorgan Chase and built a letter writing application there that they used to have call centre workers that were largely minimum wage, high turnover employees, pulling the Word document off of a shared drive, typing in information about someone’s alone and then printing it stuffing in an envelope and mailing it all manually. And it was very error prone. So even for a company like JPMorgan Chase, they couldn’t figure out a way to do this more efficiently. And I love just the idea of building software that automated that process. And it it was in the first year, it was like a million dollars a year of savings for that. Wow. From there stuck around, gives us a habit today. And so this

John Corcoran 7:06

give Brad a raise after that. And you actually grew and grew up in an entrepreneurial family, your father was a VAT, I believe and owned his practice. What was that? Like? What did you learn from him as a kid observing that? Yes,

Brad Griffith 7:19

so much. He was a veterinarian, he ran a bit veterinary practice in Dublin for 40 years, just passed away four years ago, lived a very long life of entrepreneurship. And so taking emergencies, I learned that when you are in a small business or a growing business, the Bucks gotta stop somewhere, and it stops with the owner. And so I learned that he was the one who had to do everything that was leftover, there was no room to just say, Oh, the like you could that J sort of corporation, someone else will handle this, you know, I’ll do it most of the way and then someone else will finish it. Or I’ll wait until next week. There’s there’s no waiting, there’s no one else to do anything. So I learned that I learned, you know that the most challenging situations I’ve dealt with in life might have been having to wait for Christmas presents until 2pm. Because we had to go take emergencies at the hospital. So again, realising it’s a very privileged life. But I learned this hard work that he would bring his kids to help clean the kennels and to assist in exam rooms. And when your dog ate the wishbone from the turkey, they would come to him and he would help. So it’s I learned a lot about sales about solving problems about how do you identify someone’s need, and maybe not just solve the one problem they had. But what are the other health issues that animal had? And how do I move more comprehensively solve a problem for that client?

John Corcoran 8:40

I found interviewing a lot of people over the years, who came from entrepreneurial families that sometimes they go two different directions, one, go, I don’t ever want to be like this because it’s too unstable. I can’t handle it. And they go and seek out the most stable thing they can. And then others say okay, this is the life that I’ve that I’m aware of. I’ve learned a lot about it. And I want to pursue it maybe maybe put my own shake on it or pursue a different industry but still being entrepreneurs there. Was there a moment where you kind of realise what direction you wanted to go to into that you did want to have your own business?

Brad Griffith 9:16

That’s a good question. So I think you know, one of the big things I learned from the whole experience working for my dad seen my dad work hard, really hard in his business. I knew that I didn’t want to go work for someone else and be constrained and working at JPMorgan Chase. I was very much constrained by corporate life. And I knew it wouldn’t last very long when I went there. I was there for two years, which in these days terms is a lifetime for young technologists. I knew that I was going to take that entrepreneurial path at some point and I wanted to get some experiences along the way I worked for JP JP Morgan Chase over for Qualcomm out in San Diego did a couple of internships for them. I worked at this educational planning firm I worked at an internet startup. So I try had to get a variety of experiences knowing that those that variety I would help prepare me those combined would help prepare me for what I would see ultimately. So now, I can tell someone who’s in banking. And we’ve had a couple of clients who are in banking or financial services and say, I’ve worked at JPMorgan Chase. I know how all the separation of responsibilities between environments and across teams works. We had to work within Sarbanes Oxley laws. But I knew that was not what I wanted to do. Eventually, I wanted to run my own business, I feel like I have more of an opportunity. Maybe it’s a little bit of control freak in me that I feel like if I can have more of a say, in my path, if I want to work harder, I can work harder, and I can make more money. Now. I don’t have to wait two years until that clock starts on my promotion cycle. Yeah, so I knew it was always going to be the entrepreneurial path eventually. And

John Corcoran 10:47

you also, you told me beforehand, a story about your family used to go and collect Buckeyes, which I learned is not just the mascot for Ohio State, your alma mater, but is actually a poisonous nut, which is the mascot for Ohio State. So you went around and I’m assuming you’re wearing some kind of like, you know, mask and appropriate outfits and gloves and stuff like that and collecting these nuts and then drilling holes in them and then selling them as a necklace that people put around some kind of weird pagan ritual put around their their neck at sporting games, is that how it works? That’s