The LoCo Experience

EPISODE 86 | Kim O'Neil on Scaling, People, and Processes

October 24, 2022 Alisha Jeffers
The LoCo Experience
EPISODE 86 | Kim O'Neil on Scaling, People, and Processes
Show Notes Transcript

Kim O’Neil is the former Chief Operations Officer and current shareholder and Board Member of Encompass Technologies, and investor/advisor for a new startup: Beverage Distribution Consulting (BDC). In this episode, we talk a lot about the topic of scaling. From boot-strapping to private-equity assisted scaling, Kim has been a part of the growth of organizations throughout her career.

Kim goes in-depth on the lesser-known technology of beverage distribution and shares some personal stories along the way. Her passion for business and enthusiasm for Northern Colorado is a wonderful asset to our local community. 


Check out Encompass Technologies


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My guest on today's episode was Kim O'Neil, former COO of Encompass Technologies and current shareholder and board. And also an investor advisor for a new startup, BDC short for beverage distribution consulting. Kim grew up in the small town of Akron, Colorado and went off to a foreign land for college, Tula University in New Orleans. From there, she fell in with the smart, crowd at HP and found her way back to Colorado through that organization where she was quickly moved into a management role and became a project management specialist while in her early to mid twenties. Encompass Technologies was founded by Kim's husband, Jonathan and his father Kent, who owned a beverage distribution company in eastern Colorado. She left HP and joined the company when it was eight local employees, and the organization grew over less than 10 years to become over 125 local employees and over 500 employees spread between domestic and international Operat. Although we had a lovely and wide ranging conversation, I'd say the theme of this episode is scaling, bootstrap scaling for many years, and then private equity AED scaling the last few years. Kim's a great gal with whom I've only just met, but I'd love to have her passion for business and enthusiasm for Northern Colorado as part of our Lo- Community. Tune in and get to know one of Fort Collins's finest business ladies. Kim O'Neil

Curt:

Welcome back to the Local Experience Podcast. I'm honored today to be joined by Kim O'Neil. And Kim is the former COO and current shareholder board member at Encompass Technologies. And she's also an investor and advisor to a new startup called bdc, Beverage Distribution Incorporated or something. And so, uh, Kim, I think that it's, uh, just so great that we were introduced recently and I really enjoyed our first conversation. And so, um, maybe we can just start by describing Encompass Technologies at the time that, that you departed here. Uh, what do they do, how big a company has it grown to, and all that stuff. Okay.

Kim:

Yeah. Um, thanks for having me. I'm like really excited to be here. Um, so Encompass Technologies this summer, um, is when I decided to, to take a break and do something different for a little while. And at that time I think we'd grown to about 200 people, um, in the United States and about 125 of those are, or two, Yeah, 200 people and 125 of those are based out of Fort Collins. So Wow. We have an office. Oh, I have no idea. Had so many people in B here. Um, we have an office that's right on the banks of the p just across from New Belgium. Um, so if you ever see that kind of big gray building right there, that's where our offices

Curt:

are. Yeah. Yeah. And almost having our wedding reception

Kim:

in block one. That, the block one. Um, so that's all part of the, the, our same family building and um Okay. Is

Curt:

that your business too, the event center then? Yes,

Kim:

it is. Okay, cool. Yeah. Um, so it's pretty exciting. So we, we have that office and we can talk about what that was like, building that as we, as we did. But we also, um, had done a couple of recent acquisitions. So one in, um, 2020. 2020. One of a company out of Portland. Mm-hmm. um, called Orchestra. Oh yeah. And orchestrated software. And then another one, um, more recently like in May of a company out of, um, Australia called Vin Trace. Wow. So we'd grown and so that's kind of our, um, core employee base. And then we had two sister companies that we built as well. One in China and one in the Philippines. Oh, wow. So in China, um, that group does mostly software development on behalf of Encompass and the Philippines team does mostly customer support on behalf of Encompass. So globally, like our footprints about 500. Oh, I'm so

Curt:

interested to hear more about that. So kind of, Yeah. And is that, are those all your companies or do you have to share ownership and management

Kim:

with local? They are individual companies. They are locally owned, but they contract only to encompass. Yeah. So they're very much like started in the image of Encompass, like a build to suit company to serve a specific need. So, um, we. Went there, Jonathan, um, my husband who founded the company, um, had spent a lot of time in China and he actually worked with his friends to start that entity in China and then grow and recruit. And it's very much a cultural extension of campus. It's not like outsourcing or offshoring. They're, they're part of our team and we do a lot of international travel back and forth and, you know, it's all. You know, different locally, but part of the same corporate culture Yeah. At the same time too. So, Oh, I'm gonna wanna know

Curt:

so much more about that. There's story unfolds. Yeah.

Kim:

Um, but what Encompass does, you know, like kind of the elevator pitched part is provide business management, like end to end business management solutions for the entire beverage supply chain. Hmm. So Encompass as it was founded and was originally, um, focused, was really around beverage distribution. Mm-hmm. so, and mostly beer distributors, right? So, um, everybody that gets beer gets delivered to the bar restaurant, like a store on a truck. And those businesses that own those trucks are our customers. Right. So they're getting it from brewers, like high country beverage here, for example. They're, they're one of our customers and they've been a long time customer and partner of ours. They were your Guinea pig probably on CBS in a lot, in a lot of ways. Yeah. And then also, um, one of the original founders, my father-in-law ca owns beer distributorship. So that was kind of originally how things started. So, um, yeah, so everything, it's the, it's the inventory, the ordering, the trucking, the routing, the pricing, the invoicing, the ar, and then the payments processing. So he

Curt:

developed the business initially to solve his own problems. Yeah, exactly. And then said, Hey, somebody might pay me for all

Kim:

this work. And then, um, with the acquisitions that we had done, so orchestra does beer production. Oh, right. So for actually for the brewers. So you take it up a level on the supply chain, and now the brewers are using the software. When they're getting

Curt:

their hops ordered ahead of time and their supplies sorted out, malts, whatever. But for

these

Kim:

brewers that are talking to these distributors, you know, they're emailing files or, you know, there's lots of data that has to be, um, interchange so that they know what to brew. Like what's, what's in inventory in

Curt:

well in matching production with actual needs and real

Kim:

time. Yeah. So that combined that, um, also in 2020 we did an acquisition for a small company, um, called Handoff Outta Denver, and they do, um, retailer interactions, right? So really integrating with point of sale systems. So, you know, well, what does the liquor store have? What does the distributor need to send them? What does the brewer need to make? And, um, so that gave us this really, you know, breadth, broad footprint in beer. And then the acquisition of Vent Trace is they do similar to orchestra, they do production for wineries. Hmm. Right. So tracking everything from, they call it like grape to the bottle, right? Yeah,

Curt:

yeah, yeah, yeah. How cool. I had no idea. Like that steady evolution of services and you, you solve some problems and you find new problems and you're like, Well, we could build a solution or. Merge was

Kim:

a bias solution. Yeah. It just keeps going. And we built a lot for many, many years and then, you know, in the last few years had the ability to do some buying. Right, right. Um, it was a lot of building before that. Fair

Curt:

enough. Well, I think, um, it would probably do justice to the story to start in the way back machine early on. Is that make sense or there anything? Yeah. How, how far back do you want me to go? You know, I don't know. Let's, uh, Where, where'd you come from? Where were you a little girl at in grade school? Um, I

Kim:

grew up in Akron, Colorado. Oh. Which is, you know, northeast of Fort Collins here. It's about 1200 people. Mm-hmm. So it's really small. Um, I lived there my whole life. My parents are from there. My grandparents are from there. Um, my husband Jonathan is from there. His parents are from their, his grandparents are from there. Oh, wow. So, you know, we, So you guys were like high school sweetheart season or? Um, we dated in high school. High school. Aware. Yeah. We went to, um, my senior prom together. Okay. And then, um, we didn't get married for like 11 years after that. Oh, wow. Yeah. Then,

Curt:

yeah. So, well, we'll get into that last story as well. But it was, it was a small town. What does that mean? Like, classes of 20 or 30 kids

Kim:

ish or? Yeah. 50. My, my graduating class was about 30. Okay. Um, and so, you know, everybody Sure. You know everybody your whole life. It makes you really good at. You, you kinda have to learn how to be friends with people around you because there's not a lot of, lot choices,

Curt:

Right. Is the rule, because they're not moving away and neither are you. But

the

Kim:

thing that I think was very good for me is that you get to do everything. You have to do everything right. So our school had, you know, a future business leaders club. We had a future homemakers club, a future farmer's club. We had all the sports and you had to do all of them. Otherwise there weren't enough people to do them, so you never had to try out for anything. Right. If you wanna be on the basketball team, they're like, Yeah, just show up. Right? Right. So you could be on the basketball team, except, except there was one thing that you ever had to try out for. And that was the dance team, the Palm Squad. And I think the reason why they had try out was, cause they only had nine uniforms, so there could only be nine, nine girls. So this, I'll just tell you this very story Sure. Is I, I did try out for the Palm Squad and I am bad, like really bad at dancing, at choreographed dancing. I didn't know how bad, I was so bad that my best friend actually had a pretty severe like, um, four wheeling accident the night before tryouts. And they, and she couldn't actually try out and she still got on the teams and I did it right. So the one thing I've ever tried out for, I didn't get, but um, it was really cool to be able to, um, just play all the sports and do all the clubs and go.

Curt:

And what was your family like? Were your parents like farmers

Kim:

then, or? No, we lived in town. Um, they were both like raised by people that did a lot of farming, but we lived in town. My dad was the, um, general manager of the electric, rural electric co-op for the tri, the re whatever. Yeah, exactly. So he worked there my whole life for, you know, like his entire career. And then my mom was a teacher and then she took some time off when my brother and I were kids, and then she became the librarian at our school. So she was kind of this ubiquitous presence at all the junior high dancers and all those activities. Well,

Curt:

it just ingrained and, and you know, I sometimes think about relationships as being like braided ropes. Mm-hmm. or whatever. And sometimes you're only braided for a season. You intermingle almost. But somebody like your mom, it sounds like she was probably ingrained in lots of different

Kim:

elements. Yeah, I had one brother and we had a lot of, um, elderly people in our life. Like we had old people, neighbors and lots of old great aunts and great uncles that all lived in town. And so we worked a lot. Like our weekends were either mowing lawns or shoveling snow for all the neighbors because

Curt:

they needed young blood to help

Kim:

get that stuff done. I don't remember getting paid a lot, but we shoveled a lot of snow and mo a lot

Curt:

lawns. Well, and both a lot of goodwill and work ethic and social capital. Um, and was your brother older or younger? He's younger. He's two

Kim:

years

Curt:

younger than me. Okay. Yeah. And so I guess take me kind of. Out of high school, Was there like a lot of uncertainty about what you would do and, and, and, and what kind of student were you? Were you like a, a student? I, you're kind of nerdy looking not to be a

Kim:

stereotype. No, I am very nerdy. I was super nerdy, so I worked really hard at school. I did all the nerdy things like science fair and like academic de academic Olympics. Yeah. Yeah. And I knew that I wanted to go to college. Right. I like, absolutely wanted to go to college, which

Curt:

wasn't necessarily that,

Kim:

It was probably of my graduating class of about 30 people. I think about a third went to like four year school. Yeah. Yeah. About a third. Did other, some other tech school or something. Yeah. About a third, you know, stayed in agriculture's, probably similar to my background. Yeah. Um, but I knew I wanted to go to college. I knew I wanted to go far away Right. And like branch out. Like I, I really wanted to do something different. Um, I, I really wanted to do something technical, like, even though I had spent a lot of time reading and, um, my math teacher, when I told him I was going to, um, do an engineering degree, he was shocked. He, he like, thought I was gonna go into literature or something. Hmm. And so, but I also wasn't sure. So I, um, I thought about going abroad and that was a little too scary. So I ended up going to Tula in New Orleans, which is about as far away and foreign and as close to a foreign country. Yeah. Close to being a foreign country as you possibly could. And it was a school that had everything. Right. So it had engineering, but if I didn't like it, it also had other, other things. And so I started as a civil engineering major and that lasted like a semester And that was enough of that cuz I did not like chemistry. That and there was too much Oh, that was one for you? Yeah. I was like, I couldn't, I got really frustrated with chemistry and my, I had this really, really great advisor, um, the head of the engineering school, um, her name was Janet Hassell. Okay. And, um, she was amazing. She, um, I went in for one session with her and she was like, Well what do you like, what classes are you actually liking? And I was taking, this is embarrassing, but I was taking a FORTRAN programming class that have been like the last campus in the contrary that was still teaching Fortran. But I loved it cuz it was just like problem solving. Yeah. And so she's like, Well, why don't you do computer science? And so that's what I did. And very

Curt:

logical plan. Was that what attracted you to it?

Kim:

Yeah, I liked the logical problem solving and, and like, I liked getting the right answer. Right. You compile it, it's supposed to do something, it spits out the right answer or it fails and you Okay. Fail going until you know you get the right. Yeah.

Curt:

Engineering's a little vague. He like, could you have made it better for cheaper? Right.

Kim:

I know I had wanted to do anthropology and my dad. The, what job are you gonna get? Right. So, um, And it was during like dad, Yeah. I was kind of during all the.com stuff, so computer science was a good, good choice. Mm-hmm. and then, After college, I knew, like, I like always had these like, very goals. Like I want to be a project manager at a software company. So, um, I applied and did all these applications. I did a lot of internships and, and things while I was in school. And I did one internship at Hewlett Packard and here in Fort Collins. Mm-hmm. And they let me, um, continue working when I went back to school and take, take my computer, which was amazing, you know, right at that time. And so then I, I did come back and that's where I started full time after graduation. So I worked very. Worked

Curt:

at Hewlett Pack, they offer these internships basically to identify the talent. Yeah. They're trying to snag later. So it worked, it worked out well. Um, that's pretty cool. I bet your folks were stoked to have you back up here in Northern Colorado, even if it was in the big city of Fort Collins. Yeah. But they, they'd lost you to the wilds of the world by that type

Kim:

kind. And I enjoyed Louisiana, but it's slow. It's very different. Yeah. And it's more like Akron than it is. Yeah. But the pa the pace of everything, just checking out the grocery store is, was painfully slow. And so I was excited to come back to Colorado and, and be closer to family, but not too close. Yeah. So it was perfect. Yeah. Yeah.

Curt:

And uh, like what were you doing outside of just the education stuff? Did you continue in any kind of academic contests or were you in debate team or any of those kind of nerdy things?

Kim:

I strangely, I strangely joined a sorority. Okay. So I joined Cap Alpha Theta while I was there, which I did as a social outlet because I was afraid of becoming too nerdy. Yeah. And I thought it would be good to go to some parties and it was also more like a social club than a lot of sororities. Cuz in New Orleans you can't live in the same house cuz there's anti brothel laws. So we just had a meeting house. Oh. And I still lived in the dorms or an apartment Oh, interesting. And stuff like that. So it's, it was a different experience than a lot of sororities. And I did like Society of Women Engineers and um Oh, so, Cause the boys have fraternities. Yes. The boys had live in fraternity houses, but the girls could not. That seems kind of like bullshit. It is, it is pretty crazy. Um, interesting. Yeah. So it's kind of a lame law. Um, so yeah, I did, I did some things, but. I did internships, like I worked at Right. The, um, energy company. And my internship was literally searching SQL code and it was before y2k. So that tells you how long ago it was searching for. Anything that said Why, why? And then just replace with why, why, why, why for, for like three hours a day. it. Just go through. That seems like

Curt:

a really strong

Kim:

use of your clothes. Yeah, it was a really strong use of anybody's. Sounds like how could, how is there not something that can just do that? Right? Like, why are you paying someone? My friend could whip up a butt for that in like, Yeah, exactly. Four minutes these days. I did that and I still worry cuz I, it was not the most like, um, attention grabbing things, right? I, I'm still worried that I messed it up. Like I probably put a just a y y why sometime and who knows what happened. I don't know. Right? But it's. And, um, I did a, I did an internship one summer at the Department of Defense, which was kind of cool. It sounds really cool and exciting, but I was a system administrator and I set up laptops and stuff like that.

Curt:

Yeah. Can you put word on here? Yeah. Yeah.

Kim:

So I did that. That's what I do. And that's, that's where I, I started interning at hp. Even I was in the assisted admin group, like setting up servers and doing things like that and inventorying

Curt:

all the aspects. So what's that, uh, out of the gate job like at hp then?

Kim:

So, um, my internship was in Cied admin, and then they did hire me to be a programmer full time out of college. Um, this project that monitored servers, it was kind of a cool, um, thing. So big companies that had huge data centers at that time and nobody has a data center like that anymore. Mm-hmm. would pay hp, these service contracts. And so we were trying to minimize the amount of work on those contracts by detecting when something was gonna break. Yeah. Yeah. And predicting that it was gonna break and then ship, you know, the piece out so it could be repaired before it broke, before there was downtime, before you hit all these penalties. And, um, I worked there for six months and the project I was working on got canceled. Oh. And um, they just took us all in a room and told us that it was canceled, but they didn't tell us what, what happened we were supposed to do. And I remember just feeling the world. Fell out from underneath us. And, um, eventually somebody came around at my desk like maybe a couple days later and they're like, You're good at like PowerPoint, right? Like, you should, you should be a manager. And so um, it, it was something kinda random. I'm 23, it sound random like that. And so, um, this one, me and one other, um, younger guy that had just started at the same time as me, kind of, they scuttled us off to start working on like, the next generation of this. And so then I became a project manager, which was what I was striving for anyway. Yeah. And I, I worked with a really good team for several years on that. And then I, um, took a break. I decided to, after about a couple years, I, um, went to China, um, with Jonathan. Okay. For a, a, we,

Curt:

Yeah. Hold on. I'm gonna hit the breaks. Let's, let's rewind. Yeah. Rewind. Yeah. That's cool. So where did you meet John? You knew Jonathan? Yeah. You like dated him once in the senior pro at least or whatever. But then

Kim:

we dated off and on. We, um, while we were in college and we dated off and on while I, during the early HP years. Okay. While he was, he was in school and then he was starting in Compass. Oh, right. So

Curt:

E Compass was, Cause he did, he came right outta college. Yeah. And. Fix the problem that his dad identified. Yeah. In

Kim:

some ways it was his, his senior project at csu. So he went to csu, um, for electrical engineering and computer science and needed a project and it was kind of skirting the edges of like what was an allowable project cuz it wasn't really electrical engineering. Right. But it was, there was a business problem. His dad had, like, there was not, not great solutions out there. Yeah. And nobody was doing anything web based online. And it was the whole.com era. Yeah. So Jonathan wrote like the very first version of it. And then, um, that was his senior project. Then he, um, he took a break and he went to China for a while on his own for a summer. Okay. And just kept coding and.

Curt:

Teaching English re missionaries type

Kim:

stuff? No, I was just teaching English and just learning Chinese. Like yeah, he was, he had a kind of a fascination with Chinese that he'd started studying in college. So he was just living in a basement in China and coding and like uploading stuff to the server and the warehouse of the beer distributorship that his dad owned. And then at some point he came back probably. 90, 19,000 ish. And, um, decided that they were gonna sell it. And so that's when his dad started selling the product, like product ties it, and actually start selling Encompass as a

Curt:

product. And they, How long did they use it inside the distribution company? And, and where is this, where is, is it Kent's

Kim:

dad? Yeah. Kent Kent's distribution company. Um, and now, um, Jonathan's brother's involved with it as well is out in Sterling, Colorado. Okay. And then they've acquired Distributorships in, um, North Plat Garing in Nebraska. Gotcha. And also Dodge City, Kansas. So they've expanded as well. Yeah. Cool. So they used it for a couple years before I think there's probably any other

Curt:

customers. Yeah. Yeah. And probably worked some bugs out and stuff and realize that, hey, we might have something here, Jonathan, do you wanna come back from China already and like try to make all of this? Yeah.

Kim:

So, and that was kind of it, just deciding like, let's, let's do this. Right. And so, um, Kent had connections in the industry and he would get somebody to agree and then Jonathan and they added a couple employees over time would go and actually implement it. And, um, the beverage distribution space is a, a very unique regulated space. Yeah. I was

Curt:

gonna say, is this like a, almost like a custom solutions thing, because everybody's got such.

Kim:

It's not platform super custom, but it's just that every state or every type of beverage has different rules. So, um, some states don't allow you to charge and you have to pay cash on delivery or this 24 hour kind of bank transfer. Um, some states really have strict segregation between like three, 2%. Alcohol on anything higher. Oh, right. So you can't

Curt:

put the cash from selling this in

Kim:

the same time. And, and, and so then there's, and different, like, there's different things. Like if you're just selling non-alcoholic stuff, you don't have to worry about these laws. And if you have the mixed, you have to keep track of everything. And other states you have, if somebody's overdue, like if they're 90 days overdue, you can't sell to them. Like their license is revoked and don't mess up because then your license gets revoked. Uhhuh. So there's, there's a lot of like nuances of like how of this works. And then it was also happening during this like big rise of Walmart and Walmart in a lot of cases. And other big chain stores like that, they pay the supply are not the distributor. Mm. So if you're distributing and you take in, you know, like seven different brands, you have to have those segregated on seven different invoices because they're not ever gonna pay you. They're paying directly. Yeah. So there's just a lot of interesting things. Yeah. A lot problem solved. Yeah. That I, I never knew I needed to care about. Right. Yeah.

Curt:

So, um, and were you and Jonathan and China at the same

Kim:

time? So Jonathan had done one semester study abroad while he was in school on his own. And I was, um, just moving back to Fort Collins and kind of starting at hp. And then the next summer he, um, went on his own and I was still here doing, doing my own thing. And then, um, I think it was 2001. Okay. And this was, this was kind of one of the crazier things that I had done is I, um, asked for a leave of absence from HP after like four years. You're like, I've now bitch. But I didn't know, I didn't know that. You don't ask for that. So I like, Yeah. Can I have like six months off to go to China And so I was 2024 and we just, we went and we, um, through some friends of his, they had recommended this university in Dian, which is in Northern China. It's really close to North Korea. And, um, I didn't really know that Yeah. At the time either. Right. And so, um, we went and we went to this foreign language university and he studied like advanced Chinese and had classes. And I studied baby intro Chinese. Right, right. We did calligraphy and tai chi and stuff, and we, we'd lived in a dorm for six months and like had three pairs of clothes

Curt:

that we brought with us. Like what made you think this kind of lifestyle was allowed? You were from

Kim:

Akrons? I don't know. I have no idea. But we, we just did it until also, I suppose his prior trips helped to, Yeah. Told us, told us that it was okay. And then. Then we came back and we had what we both refer to as the, the lost years. So for the next four years, we both just worked. Um, I worked, you know, like workaholic style at HP doing projects and project management and Yeah. Um, getting better at that. And he worked developing Encompass and traveling and every implementation of a new customer at that point was like, yeah. So, you know, two to four weeks on site. Right. Just figuring out like, what do you need? And then he, he would come back at night and write it and then the next day they would go try it out and see if it worked. And just a lot of, lot of trial and error and a lot of travel. And we didn't, we didn't do anything. Like, we can't remember anything from those four years cuz we can't, like, we didn't go anywhere. We didn't do anything. We just worked both of this. Were you married already that this No, we were, we were just dating, um, for that part of time. And, and, and we would like go to Chili's on Fridays. Like that was our big thing. Right. Um, and then I think we looked up after about four years and we're like, Wait a second, this, like, this is not so fun. This is not really what we wanted to be doing. We wanted to be doing more traveling and Yeah. And things like that. And so then we did get married in 2005. Yeah. Um, and did some more traveling and things like that.

Curt:

So Did you, like, that's a quite a few years of just like being together. Mm-hmm. Did you, I'm sure there was a time of engagement or whatever, like, was there ever a place where you, at least for your part that you were. Am I gonna end up with this guy or we're just having fun, like, oh,

Kim:

I was always the one, like wanted to get married and he was like kinda waiting for the right time. And then I, I probably like did some ultimatum and then I picked out my own ring and I planned a wedding and he, he came and it was great. Fair enough. But yeah, no, we, but we were always together and I think, um, I was always real. He's just like, You knew he was gonna do something amazing. Yeah. And I really wanted to be part of that

Curt:

That's pretty cool. Yeah. That's, uh, that's high praise, um, for any man, frankly. So. Cool. Well, we'll get a little bit more into the love story during the family segment here, but, um, and so I guess my other question that I was biting me was like, did it work, Like doing these 60 hour weeks and, and grinding it out and going on all these three week trips all over the country to implement? Sounds like it made it through. Yeah. But so

Kim:

I think it did. Yeah. But we, whatever we did at Encompass, we did the hard way. Right. So you think about people that. I can't even think of anything good. But if you make some consumer level application that has, you know, billions of people that could possibly download it, and even if you just get a little bit for every one of those and you make a single use app for lots and lots of people, that's, that's easy. Right. Right. That's not what we did. It was the exact opposite. It's a very complex, multifunctional application with like very few customers. Yeah. Niche customers. It's very high touch. So, um, if you go, if you think about a beer distributor for example, they have drivers that are not super technically litter. Right. Right. You know, at all. Especially 20 years ago. Right. Better now. And you have sales people that have, have primadonna, had attitude. Right. And they don't do any notes or anything. You have office staff that doesn't like change. You have owners that want the, the business to make more money. You have warehouse teams, so you, there's every single person in that business has to learn a new way of doing when you implement an EER p Yeah. So it's very intensive change management and, and training and it's, it's not easy. And so, and it, and just like, it's kind

Curt:

of almost a small miracle that you've made it out the gate. Yeah. Like the, the amount of complexity that you have to. compared to the number of customers that you have when you're just out of the gate? And do they play, like, did it start as a subscription

Kim:

type service right from the start? Um, that was a kind of an earth changing thing that Encompass did. Okay. So when we started, um, there was already an established, um, competitor in the, the big space, like for larger distributors. And there was a really crappy thing for, you know, low end you know, but there was nothing, Three trial. Yeah. Nothing in the middle. And, um, those distributors, those midsize distributors can't afford to pay like a hundred thousand dollars for an implementation or, you know, these big licensing costs. That was the way software was for. And what, what's that big competitor? Um, it's called vip, Vermont Information Processing. Okay. Yeah. And they're still around and, and we're still kind of head to head on a lot of things, but they were all charging, you know, big upfront licensing, you know, more traditional costs. Mm-hmm. and, and we knew that they. These distributors couldn't handle that. Like just from our experience with kids Right. And his businesses. So we started as a subscription. We started in the cloud. We were the first ones in the cloud for a long time before competitors caught up in, in some way, shape, or form on that, we really transformed the pricing model, which, um, was. Earth shattering, right? Like to, to go in as that subscription and really lower that, um, barrier of entry. We also changed the, um, device model. So for most, um, of the software out there at that time, particularly driver salesmen, they were using these like big Motorola bricks that like, if you kind of see the ones the UPS guys have, they're huge. Yeah. It's kind of like that. And those costs between like six and $9,000, they're really expensive. And if you have a lot of drivers, a lot of sales people, um, that's expensive and they're putting, like they're, they're inputting the order, right? Or printing out the receipt, capturing the signature, changing the order, all that kind of stuff. And then printing, print it

Curt:

kinda like the, the what now the waitress comes to table to have you pay the bill. Just more complicated and whatever. Getting

Kim:

a mobile solution was like a big step forward. And we kind of started the point where everybody expected you to have something mobile, but they were paying a lot of money for really low low technology. And so what we started selling in were, um, we. Like the PDAs, like the H Yeah, the palms, the ipac, that kind of stuff or whatever. So we, we've sold a crapload of, um, HP 24 95, like IPAC in these and um,

Curt:

Well cause you got have clearance cause you had some insiders at

Kim:

hp, but, um, we, we, we were using that for such a long time that we were like getting them off of eBay at some point when they stopped making them cause Right. Cause they were so good. But they were, they were between 300 and $600. Right. So the price point changes, the game was huge. And so people could afford something that they couldn't and it really upped the game and it made everyone else kind of take notice. Like, well what, what's

Curt:

Encompass doing? So it as your cloud, but is it kind of like a, like an app too, is what I'm imagining? Like Yeah,

Kim:

so it's, it's a, it's all web-based. So if you are, um, a salesperson out in the field and you're meeting with a liquor store bar owner, you're, you're using the app and you're inputting the order, you're showing 'em stuff, you're calculating prices and that's like syncing back to back to the cloud to the server so that the warehouse knows like, what are we delivering tomorrow? Let's forecast. Then they're picking it, It has all warehouse optimization, optimization stuff. They pick it, Hey,

Curt:

warehouse guys, Yeah. Go make

Kim:

these tiles. And it even has voice pick, um, and warehouse management, um, parts. So all these things added on over time. It wasn't like we had everything. It was like we have little pieces and then, um, Then the driver the next day is taking the truck out. He's checking out the truck with the inventory. And, um, when they go to deliver by having an application, let's say you, you're carrying some product in and you accidentally drop and break one. Right. You, you can edit it Right. Then make sure the invoice matches what you really did. Right. Previously when they couldn't do that because it was too expensive, they would have to write it on a piece of paper. Someone in the office would have to do it. Your AR gets all messed up. Right. So that was a, a major advancement was to make it affordable for the delivery team to have that and they were using. Um, so then we were also the very first one, and again, by like a couple years, we were like, what is everyone else doing? But by a couple years we beat the competition with iPhone apps. Right. Um, so we had it on iPhones and, and before iPhones they were using iPods, so Oh, really? Like, Yeah. The, the warehouse teams and they would go out and do all their work. Like you kind of disconnected in sort of like airplane mode. Cause you didn't have wifi and then they would go to Starbucks or McDonald's or get back to the warehouse and sink in over wifi. Huh. And those were cheap, I mean like $200. Right. So we, we ran off of iPods for a long time. Oh, that's wild. Yeah. And, and it really took, it was surprising. It was really surprising, like how kind these behemoth softwares couldn't. Catch up. Right. Well, they were really entrenched and so that's been the hardest part is like de entrenching those customers of theirs. Right. But it's not because the technology's better, it's just because it's

Curt:

known. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Well, and I have to think that it was gonna be like a huge investment. Like every time they wanted to add this new feature because it's just got, you know, one of my, one of my friends, uh, back in the banking days, hey Rob, uh, MGR Industries, and they built like, um, very strong like encrypted keypad boards. Okay. That would go on like ATMs in subways or even in places like Antarctica. Mm-hmm. and stuff where they needed something that just wouldn't break no matter how bad it was beaten on and this and that. And, and it can, he kept strapping new features onto the carriage until, as he described it, it was like the, the frame of the carriage can't handle any anymore features anymore, you know, and yeah. So I imagine those kind of legacy softwares even potentially face some of those things. It's like, we've got too much hanging over already.

Kim:

It, Yeah, it was a lot. It's a, it's a heavy ship to turn right. It's hard to, to get it to turn in that way. But they were also, again, very entrenched. And so for a long time, um, we were bootstrapping and encompass until 2020 had never taken on any debt or investors at all. So it was completely self-funded and, you know, just totally bootstrapped up and. Now I kind of forgot where I was going with that, but, um Oh, just

Curt:

the burden of developing those

Kim:

things and we really started small Yeah. Yeah. In that boot set place. And so then because we started small, they used that against us in marketing. They're like, Oh, well you don't wanna encompass, they're just for small businesses. Well, and they're probably gonna go away. We're the solution for large businesses. And so it took a while to get, to break into like the different tiers. Like there's definitely different echelons of, um, beverage distributors to get them to trust, you know, a, a new incumbent Sure. And take a chance. Well,

Curt:

and so I think some of this stuff that you just described was in the, I'm working at HP and Jonathan's telling me all these problems at night kind of thing. But then you joined the company when you said was

Kim:

Oh, 2008. Yeah. And we had, we had eight employees and, and prior to that I had helped in the background. Right. You know, just on, on weekend. So I actually did the, some of the accounting and payroll and I remember, um, we actually folded paper statements to send to the customers and my job was folding them and it's like, Oh, if we get 20 customers it's gonna be so great. Um, needed much more than that. But, um, yeah, so I joined in 2008, so I had had two stints at, um, Hewlett pack grade in the middle. I left and got my MBA and, and then went back to work again. And then I was really getting to the point where Encompass just sounded so much

Curt:

more fun when you left to go get your mba. Was. To, to skill up in case you needed it for Encompass. Was it for, was HP in support of

Kim:

that? Like, Um, they were, they were in support and I think they would have supported me and paid for it, but I was under this like, misconception that it was going to be really hard and there's no way that I could do my MBA and work at the same time. So I just straight up quit and I, I resigned from hp. This is like probably one of like the most ridiculous things I've done. I resigned from hp, I started my MBA program and I got married all within a month. Oh. Um, and I was just like, we're just starting over. Yeah. And so I did the MBA program and then as I was getting close to graduation, I was like, um, realized I was pregnant and probably should work somewhere that had health insurance. And my friend is like, There's this opening in the same, basically the same group that you just left at hp. Would you like to come back? And I'm like, Sure, I'll do that for a while. So I went back for another,

Curt:

So apparently didn't burn any bridges. Yeah. By being like

Kim:

out ski. Yeah. I worked, I worked in the same like even section of cubicles, like around the same people that it was. So it was kind of an odd thing. So yeah. I really did, I really wasn't intending, I could just see him, Hey, everybody. Kim's coming back. She's back. She's back. Yeah. And I still, um, am in touch with a lot of the team members there, and a couple of them have come and joined me at Encompass full time. But, um, yeah, I wasn't intending to go to Encompass. I, it was really just, I felt like that was kinda the next step in professional development was doing

Curt:

that. So when Encompass was a team of eight mm-hmm. like, is it like Jonathan in charge of customer relations? I, I assume. It, it was still involved. Yeah. More so at that time

Kim:

and whatever. So that time, um, Ken was involved, like doing, you know, he was spending a lot of time on the road, um, meeting with customers and, and sales type of things. And Jonathan had hired, um, a gentleman, Darren Spence, who came from both software and, um, managing a distributor. And he moved here from Kansas. Interesting. And he, he became the general manager and was there and was very, very instrumental in a lot of the growth and information of the company. Yeah. So he, it works at, um, Entrench Consulting. Um, so he's out there now and um, and then Jonathan was definitely doing product and implementation and kind of heading customer, you know, success to kind of all of all of that. So we had a couple developers, a cus couple customer support people. Sure. Um, Bobby, who's so with the company in in finance, Mike, Cheryl, they were like really early employees. And then Jake, um, joined Jake was also from Akron and, um, we'd known him a really long time and just really trusted him. So he joined and was, um, doing customer support and then he did implementations and then sales. So he's kind of really grown with the company. And how many people

Curt:

have been with the company for over 10 years?

Kim:

Um, not if you had to guess Not that many. I, I should know, I made a spreadsheet of this, um, not too long ago, but it's probably. About 10. Um,

Curt:

That's a lot though. Yeah. Because you only had 12 employees 10 years ago. Yeah.

Kim:

And so those people have been extremely loyal and worked really hard and you know, I think they've learned and gained a lot. Um, you know, like we've all, all of us in that really early room, like we would just sit in one room together. Right. And when the phone rang, it rang at everybody's desk and we would just kind of like round robin and see whose turn it was. And then you, we'd only get like one phone call at a time, so we'd all just listen to that person. So it was, it was like really kind of stressful. Well, it could be like a

Curt:

coaching thing almost like, Yeah. It was like the way you

Kim:

said what we could do with it. When someone first started, they had to sit next to Jonathan because he would just like tell 'em like, No, you can't say that. Like, or say it like this. And he would like sometimes grab the phone from people and like,

Curt:

Hey Bob, Bob, Bob. Nope, nope. No, we're not doing that. Sorry. Um, some

Kim:

things like that. But I think that group, um, and there were a couple others that joined, you know, shortly after, um, Bill Cro as another one. Um, so we had this really strong team that was just all in. Yeah, right. You know, like that. And it's, that's like that.

Curt:

Well in going through the fires together Yeah. Kind of all ends.

Kim:

You it, it does. And you like, you really get into that moment of flow and you're willing to like, try anything and you just have a lot of trust in that group.

Curt:

This was probably about the time I first heard of Encompass cuz when, when did that building first start to be a whisper on the radar?

Kim:

So, um, like 12 or something maybe? Yeah. So we um, moved into 3 24 Jefferson in 2008. Yep. That was, um, it used to be like kind of just a defunk. United Way or something using it or something like that. And it was a, before that it was a plumbing supply store or something. So we remodeled that and moved into 3 24 Jefferson and bought that space. And we started to outgrow that really fast. Like we grew really fast between 2008 and 2012. Um, and filled it. So from eight people to, We were at like 45. Um, I think when we moved out, this

Curt:

would be great for when we have 20 people five years from now. Exactly. And be

Kim:

like, we have 40 people. We, um, we like fill, like first we were in one room and then we were filling the floor, and then there was, there's like a warehouse in the back and we remodeled the warehouse and like put people back there. And, and we hosted conferences in the warehouse and stuff like that. Like we had dualing pianos at a Christmas party in there. And we started the new building at, on Linden Street, probably it was about 2012. We bought land and it had been a, a cement plant. Mm. And so it was just land, but it was one of the very few developable, is that a word? Developable spots, Um, on the river Sure. In Fort Collins. And so That's cool. But it also came with a lot of restrictions.

Curt:

Well, in cities. Like, Hey, you see how messy the river is for a quarter mile? Yeah. Both ways from your property. So if you could just go ahead and clean that up and make it beautiful. We did.

Kim:

We had to go like, That's pretty cool. 500 yards or something. Of riverbank to, to clear that up. We had a lot of restrictions and, Sorry, I didn't know that I was No, it was real. That's how city it was. Reals. They damned the river. Oh, you wanna build

Curt:

something? We'll hold you blackmail for all these other projects

Kim:

that you want. We've fixed so much seven and then there's like, Oh, and you have to buy this, this lamp post that goes cuz it matches all the other lampposts. We're like, we don't do we want that. And you know what's really funny? This is like a really funny thing is if you look at the Encompass building, there's one of those like fancy city lampposts. Mm-hmm. there's no electricity to it. because the forgot to run the electricity to it and then we're gonna charge us to like rip up the sidewalk to redo it. And we're just like, eh. So it does, it's it's decorative piece. Yeah. Um, but there was a lot. And that was a big, big project. But we moved in, so we, we moved in in 2015, January of 2015. Okay. And, I think, I think the day we moved in we might have had 45 people. Wow. And then in like a year we were over a hundred. Wow.

Curt:

Yeah. So I wanna back us up to those kind of the startup that cause it, it sounds to me like, I mean cuz what, like 2000 or something was one of the very first

Kim:

2000 was one is when we say the company was

Curt:

incorporated and started. So, So from one to eight, you know, you grew up to eight employees. Yeah. And that's a lot and stuff. Right. But it's like one new employee a year. Mm-hmm and then from eight to 12 or you know, nine to 14, it was like eight to 45

Kim:

or something. Yeah. And I think, you know, it was that point where, In those early, early years, you're doing like kind of one thing at a time, right? Like one customer at a time and then you add the next customer and you add the next customer and then you get to a point where you have enough, um, yeah, I got, got three key leaders and you can, and you really are doing that like kind of very grassroots growing and then it starts to snowball enough that you can start doing things in parallel and then you can start specializing. Cuz before that, it's like everybody did everything. If we get a new customer, everybody goes to that customer and helps implement them. And so when, when I came on in 2008, that was partly why I was able to convince like Kent and Darren and Jonathan, Oh you should hire me, is because they were doing so much traveling. I said, I will stay home because that was also at the time that we were having young children and babies and stuff like that. So like I'll stay home and kind of run the fort right? And, and be, you know, kind of a management force in the office over time while you are all traveling.

Curt:

And in the meantime I'm gonna figure out how to make your installations much more efficient as well. Well, did

Kim:

Darren, Darren and Jake were really driving a lot of that early implementation stuff and then I was doing a little bit more on the customer support side and like, how do we make this more efficient? So like not everybody's phone rings all the time and um, you know, how and how do we build systems? And so we again built a lot of that in Encompass, like we built our own task system, our own customer support

Curt:

system. How much. Did your experience at HP and seeing the systems that they had developed, both internally and externally and stuff, how much did that influence what you knew you needed to change and how much it was just blank space? Cuz they were so much bigger. Yeah, so much more

Kim:

evolved. I think like all the, the systems and processes that we developed were kind of blank space, but knowing that we needed them. Yeah. And, and really kind of thinking about like building teams. Like how, how do you structure teams and, and project management. Cause everything's a project, right? Right. So if you can apply project management and some general team structure to it, um, you know, I'd seen I think good examples of compensation structures and performance management and hiring practices and things like that at hp. That gave me some grounding to bring, to encompass to in

Curt:

that area. Yeah. Yeah. Was it like, noticed had some of these other folks, you mentioned that GM that was there early that had kind of software and distribution experience and stuff, but was there other people that had been maybe working in bigger, maybe more developed companies that also filtered that in?

Kim:

Everybody had really interesting skills. So, um, Cheryl was employee number one. She had been the bookkeeper for, um, Kent peer distributorship. So she knew the office side. Yeah. Mike had worked at MCI and various other software. So he was the first developer that stuck around, um, Bobby had a lot of finance experience, so like he's now our, our VP of product, but he started doing like the books, right. Jake, um, came from Enterprise and came up through that like, um, you know, all their professional development sales and, and University of Phoenix, I think maybe. Um, so he'd done a lot of sales, right? Yeah. A lot of customer phone work and, um, problem solving and sales. And Bill had worked for, I, I'm gonna mess this up, but it was something with like the department of, like the state, but the historical preservation. So he traveled around and like worked on, um, you know, preserving properties and, and doing that sort of research. So it wasn't like anybody had ever made beer distribution software before. Sure. But everybody was like, like I said, all in willing to learn, willing to try and like we were figuring things out

Curt:

together. Yeah, yeah. Well it's kinda like a stone soup it sounds like. Yeah. You know, that old story, you know, everybody brings what they have and adds it to Yeah. The thing and, and you know, with Jonathan's vision and you know, even Kent's experience of what things don't work as much as I'd like them to be. Right. Yeah. And it was just a lot of work. Yeah. Yeah. Well and your, cuz you're bootstrapping all the way along. And so you mentioned that there was like these a hundred thousand dollars softwares early on. Um, what was, what was your monthly ticket? Like, was this a thousand bucks a month? Was it, did it depend, I assume, how many thousand whistles you

Kim:

wanted installed? So, um, early on we started doing the subscription model, and so we started charging by number of distribution, like delivery routes that a distributor has. So that's basically how many trucks are you running? And we came up with kind of a flat rate on that. And so a, a small distributor is maybe two or three trucks, and they're paying, So if you take two or three trucks and they're paying like a hundred dollars, $110 a truck a month, it's not very much. No. Right. And then you get to somebody that has 40, like, oh, that's the big money. Right. But then it goes, you know, there's echelons above that. So it wasn't huge. And, and the hard part was we worked for years where we kept adding more functionality in charging the same price. That's what I was gonna ask you next. And then, so then the next thing is like, okay, how do we take a price increase? So we did, we did do price increases, but then what we did was like, all right, you get this in tier one, and now we're adding tier two. Right. And you can, if you want these other features now if you're little, but you want some more features, Sorry. And, and that's when we brought in like the warehouse management solution or the voice picking solution. Mm-hmm. or, you know, even recently we've added financial, so we're doing like, full-fledged financial package. Wow. So we, we did draw a line in this end and say, no more new features in the base tier, new stuff comes at a premium price. So we, we learned over time. Right. Would

Curt:

you, like, if you had it to do over again, would you have started raising the price sooner as you kept adding those

Kim:

new features? Yeah, I. Where you the price or just even just doing like really consistent annual increases. Like we, we didn't do that. Yeah. All that consistently. So I think we could have done more, but you also don't wanna price yourself out. Yeah. And, and cause people to, to shop. And that was really the, the exciting part of doing the subscription model is you just become like a utility bill. Yeah. And they, you know, the office accountant just pays the utilities and no one ever asks about it. Right. Right. So that model of not having a software renewal and not triggering someone to reevaluate on an annual basis was genius. Right. Like, just don't ever talk about Well you could just

Curt:

say your stuff was just that good. That nobody had a reason to. Yeah. I

Kim:

think it, it is good. It is really good. And I think that we've also really done probably over done in some, in some cases, the customer support, like mm-hmm. I think, you know, it ebbs and flows. You, you over invest, you under invest. Sure. You know, and you kind of like have to balance it out. But I think historically we've had really good customer service.

Curt:

Well there's that notion, you know, people don't leave companies, they leave bosses. Mm-hmm. it's kind of like that, you know, just don't give 'em a reason to wanna leave you. And they probably would be fine.

Kim:

Yeah. But we did a lot of phone, phone support, like lots and lots of phone support so that people always, we just encourage them, like, if you have a question, call us. We'd rather rather help you learn to do it the right way than try to reteach you. Yeah.

Curt:

If so, doesn't seem like it's working. Right. Just call us. Call us. You probably isn't. Cuz we worked hard at making it

Kim:

work. Right? Yeah. And so when probably you. 2015 was when I was really deep in the customer support side of it. Mm. And we were taking, you know, an average of 200 calls a day. Wow. And um, we've, you know, double tripled, we're taking about 200 calls a day. Right. So I think, you know, there's just this Yeah. These weird numbers that just sort

Curt:

of, Well, and you'd been in a high growth time. Probably There was more bugs and hassles than. Maybe there would be today, you know, in

Kim:

comparison. And we created a lot of customer support because we were never stopping, you know, like we, the softwares always developing. Um, that was, that was also another thing that we've really pushed is that, um, a lot of people talk about agile software development and things along those lines. We evolv, we tried different cadences of updates and where we've landed and what the team has been doing for the last, like, I don't know, it might be like 10 years, I'm not even sure how long we've been doing this, is, um, time based releases. So we do a software release every month Oh wow. Every month. And all of the customers are on a version that is no older than six months. So there's a team that's catering them through these updates. So not everybody's taking every version, but you're updating at least every six months. Yeah. And um, the way that, the, what's nice about that is, you know, software developers will write code forever, right? Right. And like just kind of pet the hair off the cat if you, if you give them enough time. But also if you say if it's done, you can put it in this box and if it's not wait until the next time. And so you get better code.

Curt:

I have express I should pet the hair off the

Kim:

cat And um, so you get good code in this time box. And it's good for customers because they never feel like they have to wait too long. Cuz if you tell somebody, you are not gonna see that for six. Right. That's a long time. But if you tell them we'll have that, you know, in next release next month. Yeah. They chill out. Like, I can wait for a month. Right, right. Or even

Curt:

if they say, Hey, this thing would be neat to add, and you're like, Well, our next release is only two months from now. We're not gonna be able to have it in that one, but we can definitely talk about peanut

Kim:

time. It also like prevents that kind of long waterfall thing of, you know, somebody going really far off track. Right. So you can see it. Somebody can get their hands on it, they can touch it, and it's either good or it's not. But you know, like your feedback loop is fast. Did

Curt:

you have, um, mentors in either the software industry or just general business? You know, especially I'm thinking about during this time of growth from eight to 45 people. Mm-hmm. I mean, that's frankly when a lot of companies go off the rails is when they try to get the, you know, that 5, 10, 15, they don't, you know,

Kim:

it's hard. We had some, I mean, Um, we started working. I'm trying to think, like I've, I've talked to you about before about working with Mark Weaver. He was Oh yeah. Was really helpful. Really? Yeah. He referred me to you. Yeah. And I think, I think he probably came on board somewhere around like 2012. Um, and was really, you know, about 10 years ago. Yeah. You know?

Curt:

So how did you stumble on Mark, by the way? And,

Kim:

and, you know, it's so hard. I don't remember exactly. I think that we were looking for help in benefits design and some HR things, and, and we had looked at some different consultants and I remember, um, Meeting him. And I'm a fast talker. And the first time I met him, he was talking kind of slow. I was like, I don't know. I don't know if this is gonna work, And the second time I met him, he like matched me. I was like, All right, now, now we're going. Right? And so, um, so he was really helpful in helping us kind of evolve our HR structures and, and grow in that way. Um, Jonathan and I, you know, and you guys and I have talked about this a little bit, we joined, um, the Renaissance executive firm Oh yeah, Yeah. Um, with Marine Boy. Yeah. Um, and that was Hi Marine. Yeah. That was definitely in that 2008, 2012 timeframe, cuz I remember us meeting in the, the Jefferson building. And that was a really great group of really strong leaders that, um, they were, again, not in our space, which was the joy of it. Right, Right, right. Totally. But they had were growing teams. They were hiring people, you know, they were dealing with like similar just business challenges. Yeah. And so that was a really valuable group. Yeah. I mean, that's what

Curt:

we do here, basically. I

Kim:

think. And I,

Curt:

I think, Do you remember some of those fellow members from back? Because that was really, when I heard of Pure Advisory in Fort

Kim:

Collins. I'm gonna blank on it, but there was, um, a, a woman from I Bailey, um, that was amazing, Chris. Um, be sure. Yeah. And, um, the, this was one of our first speakers actually. Yeah. And, um, the, the owner of Alans, um, security mm-hmm. So there were, there like a, it was a really good mix. Um, there was a restaurant owner in there, there were, you know, different people that came in and went. But it was a really good group. But other than that, It was a lot of us just figuring it out. Right. Yeah. And, and Jonathan hates it when I say this, but I, I really felt about in those early years that Encompass was like a lab. Like you could try something because, you know, we had enough agility that we could turn it off or, or try something to You would recover from a failure. Yeah. You could recover. So we could try something and see if it worked and if not, we would change it. And so, even today, you know, we still tell new people when they come in the building, like, don't get too comfortable because we change the seating every six months and we literally do, We like pick it all up, put it all back, you know, in a different way about every six months. And there's, there's some logistical reasons for that. But, um, when we were developing the support organization, Huh? We had kind of a, a single funnel support organization for a period of time. Yeah. And we, we had this queue where every task, every ticket came through, and then I was like, divvying them out Gosh. To people and like that

Curt:

decider of who's smart enough to charge

Kim:

this puzzle. Yeah. You know, just like, you know, who does it go to? And, and then we split into three. Buckets by customers. So everything for particular customers was going to a team, right? And each team had a manager and it was going really well. And then it started going not so well and it was hard to, We were having like employee retention issues. Yeah. And what we discovered is it was because of the stress, cuz the product had gotten really broad. And when you have these like 50 customers that are calling your team and it's anyone from that customer, it could be a accounting issue, it could be a warehouse issue, it could be a truck driver. Yeah. It, it could be, you know, a technical issue with our I iPhone. And you didn't know what you were gonna get and that unknown ness of answering the phone and it just being a random problem. And maybe you felt like you were an expert in accounting but not on the technical side. And it was just super stressful and people didn't like that unknown part of it. And so then, We evolved and we did two different things. We split the team into product focuses. So you have a product support team, Topical pace. Yeah. Yep. And so the accounting team is a team and they're responsible for the product development and the support. So you, you have this very holistic little group that is very, you know, strong ownership of this. And, you know, um, when you get a call, it's gonna be accounting based, right? But the other thing we added was, rather than adding push buttons to the phone, we added a team of customer care liaisons to the front of that. Oh, that takes the call and it kind of vets it and figures like, who are you? Oh, um, how high up in the organization are you so that we understand, you know, how urgent this call is, Right? And, and what product this is. And they do a warm handoff to the person that's gonna take it. That's, they have a moment to. Gather. Yeah. You know, and be ready and, and you know, everything kind of is where, you know, it hits its limit and that, that model may be hitting its limit, but it served us really well for a solid eight years.

Curt:

I, I was thinking when you mentioned the six month thing, uh, a moment ago that, uh, you know, like local think tank has kind of a once a month kind of rhythm. Mm-hmm. we can add new members. At the monthly meeting. But other than that, you know, all of our time is just kind of, we're just screwing around playing ping pong and stuff. And so we've got this like once a month rhythm. And although you can add customers at any time, it seems like, um, Encompass really developed this every six months rhythm on the seating arrangement on the software updates.

Kim:

Yeah. Well, we're adding customers all the time. Like customers are, there's multiple every month that are coming on board of customers, but they, there's a seasonality to every business, I think. And we definitely developed a season, so every summer we host our user group conference Yeah. For our customers. And so we would clear, clear out the whole building and become a conference center. Right. And, and do that. And so we, we, this last year, we actually took all the desks out and put 'em in storage. Wow. That's the first time we like moved em offsite. Cause we needed so much space. And Terrell Davis came and spoke. Oh, cool. And it was, it was like a really exciting conference, like, um, really big to be back after covid and everything. So we would reset in June for that. And then we also, um, big into celebrating and having parties. So every December we'd clear the floor again and have a big, big ass party in, in our space too. And say that on the, Yeah. So anyway, say it quiet. Um, so anyway, Yeah. There, there's some kind of, you know, seasonality and it gives people something to look forward to, which

Curt:

is important. Yeah. No, I think that's neat. I think that's neat. So I guess if you remember some of the, the biggest lessons learned or pivots during. Especially during those, those first five years or so that you were with the organization. Yeah. Cause once you got to be like 50 employees or something, it was probably a lot more stable. Yeah. I think, um, Well did you, I guess here's a question for, or Yeah. I'm gonna ask you two questions at a time. Yeah. I'll answer all them. Okay. The, like, when you moved into that big building, you know, from a, from a building that was good, big enough to hold 20, but you had 45 in there, but then moved into a building that was big enough to hold 150, but you had 50. Like, was that a growing pain to begin with? Was that hard to strap all that overhead on and stuff? Were you planned for it? You were ready

Kim:

for it? We were ready. I mean, at, at 3 24 Jefferson, we were squished. Right? And, and people that we hired during that time, like we, we were like, if you were on the inside, it felt really cozy and comfortable. If you were from the outside and you walked in, people tell me these horror stories cuz we'd say like, Yeah, you come to 3 24 Jefferson and these glass doors and they walk in and this, you're just faced with this sea of people. Cause it was just desk, right? Right. Everyone looks up three feet from the door was like the first person and you're just like, whoa. And so it, we didn't realize kind of how intimidating and, and maybe like overwhelming that was because we just, it had like boiling the frog, It just grew around us type of thing. Um, we moved ourselves. So the moving day it was pretty exciting. So we knew we could, we could move in and it was like, it was a nice day. I think it was in January, January. 2015 and we had everything choreographed like this. And this is kinda like where Darren and I would like enjoy working together on stuff. We like choreographed the whole thing. Like team A was going at this time and they're gonna set up and, And Mike, who's the engineering? Brian, he likes to make the floor plan layout. So he like Visio diagrams everything. And so we knew we'd have every, everybody from team A would go get set up, Team B would stay answering the phones. Right. And last, that was so fun once they, because we did it during like a business day and then we'd cut the phones over Team A starts answering and then team B Yeah. To move over. And we have pictures of like the last guy, you know, like the last man standing in the office, just on the phone waiting for the last phone call so we can cut the phones over and then, um, live the next day. So there was no business interruption, just go. Everybody picked their own desk and their own stuff up and carried it over to the office and we moved. Well,

Curt:

I think that really reveals your sense of obligation almost to be like always on for your customers and

Kim:

always at service. I didn't know you could send them an email and say, Hey, we're closed for this holiday.

Curt:

I didn't think we could do that. That was my question is, is your stuff. Urgent on a day to day basis, or is it like, if I can get it back in there next Tuesday, it's fine. Well, I guess especially with all the things you've added for forward production, tomorrow's warehouse pick and

Kim:

all that. Yeah. There are businesses who wholly depend on the software and there 24 by seven operations. Yeah. And, um, you know, we think they'd survive, but it's better not to

Curt:

make Yeah. The, the less ship shows you could create for

Kim:

your customer's better. You know, when you have a a party at your house, you could decorate the living room as much as you want. Everyone's gonna stand around the kitchen. So that was exactly what it was like when we moved into, um, Lindon. Right. So we had, we had more space than we needed at that time, but everybody still kind of congregated together, so we put all the desks together so people could feel cozy. Yeah. And then the, the other spaces were more like social training, um, interaction. Yeah. It sound like you

Curt:

guys had

Kim:

a lot of parties anyway, so. Yeah. And, um, but what I did, what we, we did put twice as many conference rooms as we'd had before and it was still wasn't enough. Sure. So that, that was my like one big learning of like, building design is more conference rooms. Yeah. Lots of, lots of places for people to do phone calls and

Curt:

stuff, but, Cool. If you were gonna describe your general culture, and maybe especially how it's changed or evolved from when it was you and Darren and Billy and Jonathan or whatever in the early days, like, has it stayed the same, Has it intentionally changed? How much influence from your. Employees have you brought into there?

Kim:

Um, I think it's definitely very much like one of our, our core values that we've held onto is figure it out. And I think that that shows up in a lot of ways. Like, we don't know always what we're doing. Mm-hmm. and I, you know, I've said many times, like every day that I was going to work, we were running a company that was bigger than it was the day before. Bigger than, bigger than we'd ever run before. So you have to figure out what to do and what the problem is and how to solve it next. So very much a problem solving and I, I think of that figure it out culture is, it's different than just being curious. Like somebody that's curious wants to know like, why. Yeah. But I'm very

Curt:

curious, but once I know why, I don't really

Kim:

care anyone. So if you, if you are like, of to figure it out mindset, you wanna know why, and then you wanna figure out like, how can you make it better? Right? And how can you, how can you move that forward? But it also, the other value that we have is, is use the team and it would, that we do this together. So we try to avoid being siloed and try to, you know, like we might somebody, an individual might mess up, but you don't throw 'em under the bus to the customer. Like, we are united to the world, to the customer, Right. And have each other's backs in that way. And I think building that trust that, yeah, we want you to try things, we want you to figure it out. And if you're, if you are truly doing that, you're probably gonna make mistakes or you know, like there's other things, but we'll help you and we'll all unravel this together and then we'll, we'll move forward. And so I think you. You don't go out and hire people that are, you know, familiar with Encompass, cuz it's a niche software, um, or that are all that familiar with the beverage industry. You know, it's a kind of a niche industry. Maybe you get one or the other, like somebody's familiar with the industry or software. Yeah. But you have to learn a lot and so you've gotta, um, give people a chance to learn and prove themselves. But we, again, if you hire. Smart people that wanna work hard. Yeah. That wanna be part of a team. Um, you can do amazing things that you never thought you could do.

Curt:

So that brings us back to Mark just a little bit. Mm-hmm. he helped you set up some of these HR systems and policies and communicate compensations and things. Who was the, the hirer or, or was that a combination? Was Jonathan involved in that for a long time? Did others excel at that better than he did? Oh, like John

Kim:

Jonathan did the first few hires and then Darren, and then he hired Darren to do the, the next few hires. And he, he, you know, he joked at times that he hired Darren to help fire people. You know, he's like, I don't think Jonathan's ever fired anybody. He hires the people to do that. And then, um, as Darren started, um, leaning more in towards the marketing and sales and front end types of things, and I was doing more of the customer support, that's where we were hiring into. And the other thing I guess kind of culturally that we'd done a lot of is hire and grow internally. Um, like give people opportunities. So we did a lot of promoting from within. Yeah. Um, over time. And I would say, so kind of rewinding back to your question, and I'll come to this other one, um, that's probably one of the things that's changing. Like as the company gets bigger and you have more structure, you have a lot more employees, there's, it's just larger. It's, it's a bigger company. Um, it becomes easier and also more important to bring in outside expertise. Right. Like, um, team leaders and executives and stuff like that. And that's, that's probably like the biggest, most notable change recently. Sure. Right. Of just more experienced hires because we. Almost promoted it from within everybody that we could. Right? Yeah. Fair enough. That we just didn't have enough. Um, so I did, I did start doing a lot of hiring and again, kind of back in, um, 3 24 Jefferson in that 2008 to 2012 period, we were hiring a lot. And when you're a startup, sometimes you hire the same person, you know, the same position many times. I think I mentioned to you like, I think we hired the 10th person 10 times. Yeah. Because there's such an integral part of the team that can't be a mess up. Right? Like you have to have the right, the right people. And I got exhausted.

Curt:

Are you faster to fire than Jonathan then,

Kim:

or No? You're also okay. I'm, I'm a softy.

Curt:

I think we got Darren to send

Kim:

slackers packet. I but, but also, like, sometimes it's not me that's deciding it's just me that's doing or you know, something. So it, it varies, but hopefully you don't have to do that very often and we haven't had to very often. But I think I was getting exhausted from hiring because if you think about the interview process, you, you go to the career events and screen and you're shaking hands and I'd screen resumes really fast and then you'd interview a lot of people. And at that point, you know, even being a 45 person company, it's still really small. Like not a lot of people, college graduates and stuff, they're looking at Google and Microsoft and they have no idea who you are. And so they're gonna come for the interview, but they're not really into it type of thing. Or they're not gonna take that risk. Their parents are asking for what does the 401k look like, right. And things. So, um, I got really tired of doing, Interviews and I would, you know, you get to the point where you're telling them the spiel about what the company is Sure. For the 15th time that day and you just sort of glaze over. So we did create something, this is one of the things I'm really proud of is what our recruiting processes, where we started doing recruiting events. So once a month cuz we decided we will just always be hiring cuz you never know when the next like Bright Star is gonna show up. So don't restrict yourself to different times. So every month we had been hosting and we've been doing this now probably for 12 years, um, a recruiting event. And it's by invitation only, so it's not like an open house. But we'd invite people that had have applied or that we met at career events, at the colleges and things like that. And we would bring them in. and um, do one presentation. So here's everything you need to know about Encompass and the roles that we have in our culture and things like that. So one presentation and then we would have that whole group break up into small groups and do a group challenge. Hmm. Which is like the most weird and uncomfortable thing. Right. And it's been a variety of challenges. So sometimes it's just kind of a brain teaser. We've done escape rooms that we've set up that are kind of encompassed themes. We've done speed dating interviews, we've done different things. Um, build an Eiffel Tower out of Popsicle sticks. Yeah. Where you force people into uncomfortable situations. Yeah. And then the group has to come back and present their solutions. So you get some public speaking Yeah. You know, out of that a little bit. And then it devolves into a mixer where they can ask questions of the hiring managers. And we would do this in about, out of every month, we would have about 20 people that we would invite. We would invite about a third back for actual formal interviews. But then when you sit down for the interview, all you have to do is start talking and you don't have to go through this whole like, introductory piece. Right, right. And it made the hiring Oh, brilliant. So much more efficient and, and so much more fun. And we got to involve a lot of people. All, everybody that is a manager would participate in the, the mixer side of it. Sure. So that they could get a feel for these people because scout their new prospects even a little bit. And then we would kind of like vote, sort of like sorority rush right behind the scenes of like, do you wanna see this person again or not? Yeah. And it, and it wasn't like you couldn't vote Yes. If you wouldn't have that person on your team. Yeah. Right. So you can be like, Oh, I don't want 'em, But I'm sure like Barry does, Right? No, Like you have Mikey likes anything. Yeah, exactly. So it's like, no, would you have this person? Yeah. Then we'll bring him back in for an interview. Oh, that's so smart. We, we carried that through even through Covid remotely, which was awkward and weird, but we did it down to the point where we would like do zoom breakout rooms and still do the thing and then come back and it was like Brady Bunch on the screen, like, you know, asking questions and stuff. But we kept it going the whole time. Very cool.

Curt:

I feel like, um, I should use the restroom and fill up our wine glasses soon. Um, let's take a break and then we'll come back and I, I wanna talk about C and how that play was, and before we get into the recent chapters. Cool. Awesome. Oops. Oh, well here we're back. Okay. Hey Alma, cut this part out. Alma, cut this part out and we're back. So one of the things I was thinking when I used the restroom just now, Which is that hiring process you just described was like, if I did that at local think tank, I'd be broke from having hiring fairs and stuff. Right? Like I hire a new person every six to 12 months or something like that at my scale. But

Kim:

I think you could do it even if you're doing it less frequently. But what I, what I liked about it was for me, right? Yeah. It was efficient. Cause I only had to tell the story and the background one time to give it. And then by having all the candidates, like even if you were hiring for a position, right? Sure. You have all the candidates in and you kind of give them equal footing. Yeah. Because they get to hear the same pitch about the company and then whatever questions they have, they might be more likely to answer if it's like happening in kind of a group setting. Yeah. And they all get to have all these questions answered about like, is this a good fit or not? And then they can self-select out. So you're not wasting time with a 45 minute sit down interview with all these candidates. No,

Curt:

and I do agree. Like any company over like even 2030.

Kim:

Yeah. People, it's nice, it's, and it's fun and it, Right, And it also again exposed a lot more of our employee base to the hiring process so that it wasn't so like hidden or mysterious. It was like, no, you're part of this, right? Yeah. Like we're all, we're doing this together. We're all picking the next person in the boat.

Curt:

Yeah. No, I think especially during those formative years. But yeah, I think it's brilliant across the board and, and I guess we're partly where I was going is partly as a function of your scale since you were always growing, always adding new people. You know, you always had a need to be hiring. And so, and what I also like about it is that you didn't have to sell for whoever happened to see your ad when you actually put your ad up. You can kind of keep your eye on people, even if they work at other companies or

Kim:

whatever. Right? Yeah. We did a lot of referrals. Like, again, I think that's another thing that, um, maybe not everybody knows when you're working at just a big company, but that smaller company, it's a lot of like who, you know. Mm-hmm. it's a lot of referrals. It's a lot of this person's roommate and that person's cousin and stuff like that, because they have to hear the story from somebody they trust. Yeah. Because they're, they're all taking a chance on a smaller, you know, and it, even though we weren't a startup, You're still a young growing company,

Curt:

and did they have to make a sacrifice to choose you? I mean, did you pay 20% less than Microsoft would've for a comparable position or things like that? I think like the

Kim:

big, the big, big companies, um, were definitely always paying more. And they still are. That's just part of it. But they sucked to work for. Yeah, exactly. So that's what you're, you're trading off is you, you get really amazing experience. And I think we've had a lot of people, you know, relatively early in their career getting to do things that you would not get to do if you were at a larger company. Right. And they're like suddenly managing a team. They're leading people, they're traveling internationally. They're, um, you know, really taking point and having, you know, very visible responsibility. You're on the team,

Curt:

you're a contributor. Yeah. You know, you're important already.

Kim:

Benefits was hard. That, that was also hard as a growing company. Like we started, we were just giving like a insurance stipend, like Right. People find some insurance. Good luck. Good luck. And then, um, we went through like a p at one point we evolved to like, um, self-funded insurance. Like we, if there's a, there was a model. We've tried it. Like we've done all the different Yeah. All the insurances.

Curt:

Yeah, fair enough. Um, when we left off, we were also starting to talk about Covid Nation and, and things like that. You know, people drank more beer than ever. Uh, so I have to think the need for your services was great, but the challenge of managing through Yeah,

Kim:

it was a really challenging time. So, um, One, we were very much, um, a very in person type of company, right? Mm. Like we all came to the office, right? We did. We had maybe two or three remote employees before, right? Like we were all in the office all the time. We also traveled a lot. So our implementations like to bring on a new customer for anything bigger than like about four routes, like four trucks from the vast majority of our customers on our revenue. We went on site and it was a two week, like intense in person training engagement. Right. And no one wanted to do that. Right? Right. So that changed. So, um, and, and to tops it off, we did the, the orchestra deal, um, in November of, of 19, a 2020 into 2021.

Curt:

Okay. So you were already in Covid Nation?

Kim:

Yeah, it was in the middle. We were in, we were in shutdown cuz we didn't even get to go see them as we were working through the deal. Right. So the bulk of the deal, it was there in Portland. So the bulk of the deal and like initial ramp up and all of that, like, we kind of like broke quarantine sometimes to go there and do some in-person meetings Right. Because it was so like, so shut down. So there was a lot that was all happening at that time and we were still hiring and growing Right. During all that period. So we grew during that time, but all, so, so on the implementation side, we. Had like, pretty much, there was like this one quarter of, you know, like from that march of shutdown. Yeah. Like one quarter of real quietness, like where all the businesses were just trying to figure out, nobody needed anything. No one was gonna travel any questions to ask. Any implementations we had were on hold and we're like, Okay, we'll just see how this goes. Right. And try to figure out what we can do to augment our, our revenue. And we know we weren't gonna travel and we tried to push through as much work as we could remotely, but no one wants to buy software when they're not sure what the economy's gonna do. Yeah. So we were really careful, um, during that time period not to like overhire or overspend or anything. Yeah. And we were able to, to weather it. Um, but it, it made everybody cautious and we had to really rethink our implementations and. As, as that year went on, people were like, Yes, we need the software because it's going to help us, um, you know, survive this. So we started doing more implementations but doing them all remote. Yeah,

Curt:

we're doing very, which is probably more challenging cuz you can't actually see the warehouse space.

Kim:

You can train office staff that are used to being on computers and they know how to zoom and Google meet. But warehouse staff is an entirely different thing. And so then we'd do some hybrid and, and different things and then we'd have to, when it started opening up a little bit, have distributors that would, you know, confirm to us that they're gonna wear masks and test. And then you have all these, there all these unknown challenges. So let's say, you know, you take a team of 12 people and everybody agrees they're gonna travel and they're gonna wear masks and you have a person who gets sick while they're there, right? And they test positive. Do you send them back to the hotel team? Does everybody have to quarantine? Do you put 'em on a plane and send them home? Like, what do you do? You get 'em a car and send em home? You know, like all those things. We, we probably did all of those cause we, you, we just weren't sure, you know, like what's the best thing to do in this situation? So we tried all the variations of that. Um, the beer industry was interesting during Covid too, because, um, people kept drinking beer, but all of it in cans, none of it in kegs because they weren't at bars. Right. So the mix, the mix changed dramatically. Then there was a can shortage, right? Because everybody wants cans. A lot of the breweries. So we'd done the orchestra, um, merger acquisition during that time, and then that's very brewery focused. Small breweries that were heavily dependent on their tap rooms. Yeah. That weren't distributing really. They didn't need any help. Yeah. And, and they couldn't pay. And, and so we're still even seeing a bit of a tail of that where like they say, Try, try, try. And it's like finally they just succumb. They can't, can't make it. They just couldn't make it out of it. So, um, it was tough on breweries, um, the little ones especially mm-hmm. Yeah. So it was a very interesting time. And then, um, we came back, Excuse me. And I think every, you know, things are different, so we proved that we could do more work remotely, so maybe we don't have to travel quite so much mm-hmm. um, which is nice. We prove that employees can work remotely, so it's hard to say like, Oh, well you'll have to come back to the office now. So we came back in a, a 60 40 mode for most of the teams where we have three days a week in and two days off, and it's, it's pretty flexible. Mm-hmm. you know, just let's get the job done and, and be there. But I, I, I was very, I have personally always been like, I want the team in the office. And then these last like six months are like, no, I, I get it. It's working better. Yeah. With like this flex time. Cool.

Curt:

Cool. And how was the navigating the political realm? During Covid, do you know, especially as you started to come back together, some people were freaked out. Did you guys lose people?

Kim:

You know? Um, maybe, maybe two. Yeah. Um, that, that really didn't want to come back at all. But there was, and just, just because they liked the lifestyle, standard taste of the work perform. And so, um, you know, we, we made accommodations if there was like medical concerns and, um, a lot, some people even like, moved to during Covid, right? And we, we didn't know they moved So there was, there was just a lot of, um, a lot of different nuances, but it was challenging coming up with the policies. So, um, even here in Laer County, there was a moment where there was gonna be this policy that if you had everyone vaccinated, you could come, you could be in the office with no masks, right? And so we put that plan in place, we got confirmation, we got waivers for everybody that wasn't, and we made a no mask office. And then like the next week, the county came back and said, No, just kidding. We're not doing that. Right? And we're like, Okay. So like we, there were a lot of, And

Curt:

did you have some, some push on from those non-vaccinated employees that were

Kim:

like you again, like We did, we did waivers of if people needed 'em and said like, Okay, we understand like you need some time to, to work through this. And so we kept track of all of that. And I, it was hard and I think. What I learned, you know, not really what I learned, but just what people wanted is they just wanted clear rules. Right. And it's hard when the rules are always

Curt:

Yeah. That was the ultimate bait and switch was like, here, take this experimental vaccine and then you don't have to wear your mask anymore. And then like right after, not even a month, it was like jk Yeah.

Kim:

Expect that that was all people wanted to like, well do what you want. Just tell us what the rules are. Yeah. Yeah. And, and so trying to communicate and give people, you know, people needed a couple weeks, like we had, we actually at one point went through where we made like four tiers so that we could say we're in tier one, we're in tier two, you know, and so then we could be better about communicating. Um, in two weeks we are moving to tier three. Yeah. Right. Unless something else happens, you know? Yeah. And, and so being able to plan a little bit ahead of like, when am I gonna have to be in the office? When am I not? What's going on? And, you know, then we started having, um, customers coming back in and a lot of our customers, our customers are national, international, and there are very different views on, on masking and vaccines in, in different states. And we'd have people,

Curt:

especially those early customers Yeah. That were the smaller distributors that are from country.

Kim:

Yeah, exactly. And so, you know, we had like a lot of like southern, um, businesses and they, they. We're going to come here. I'm like, Will you, We need proof that your employees have been vaccinated before they can come in our office And they're like, No, we do that. So, so then we had like an offsite location and we'd have to, you know, say which employees are comfortable meeting with them so that we could keep doing business Interesting. And offsite locations. Yeah. A lot

Curt:

of, uh, accommodations. A lot of variables and accommodations.

Kim:

That's, Yes. And you know, we all learned a lot from it, but it also, you know, all that stuff is just a distraction when you're Well, there's still work to do. Yeah. Trying to do your job. Yeah. But I do, I do appreciate, like the work from home and the covid and all of that, I think did teach all of us to kind of just like, slow down and breathe Yeah. A little bit. I agree. And be gentler with each other. And you know, like you always, as a manager and as as a leader, you realize that everybody's got something going on. And sometimes what you're seeing at work is a manifestation of something that has nothing to do with work and what's going on. And definitely Covid brought all that stuff up and I think it, it forced everyone to be a more sensitive manager or leader. Yeah. And look at people as people cuz you got to see them in their living rooms and with their dogs and understand, um, you know, how they were fearing for their families during that time and how they were trying to take care of everybody around them. So I think. There were some good things, but it was

Curt:

hard. Yeah, for sure. Well, and so, but also during all this time, you guys were going through like some private equity stuff. Mm-hmm. acquisition of orchestra, uh, all these things like do you wanna describe that scene or that circumstance? How much do you wanna talk about? Yeah, we more recent events. Um,

Kim:

Yeah, we can talk about all of it a little bit. I mean, there's, it was a pretty big change. So up until 2020, I mean, we were a private partnership, um, between Kent and Jonathan O'Neil, Right? Yeah. A father son team and family business is hard and you, you throw the wife in, in the mix right. As I, who seems to be super useful and, um, opinionated and, you know, stuff like that. So, um, it, that's, that's challenging. And also, you know, Ken and Jonathan are, you know, a generation apart, so they have different financial needs at, at different times. And so,

Curt:

um, Jonathan's like, let it ride. And Kent's like, uh, I'd like to do some. That's my retirement now.

Kim:

Yeah, exactly. So, um, You know, there was different, different things. And so how, how it started was we start, we did start looking for an investor, um, to help provide Kent with some liquidity so that he could kind of make some exit and, and enjoy the, the time with his family and stuff like that. And, um, it was really important to us to find somebody that we liked. Right? Yeah. And because Jonathan was not interested in taking liquidity at that time, like we were really deep in this, it was important to find someone that was interested in investing with us, in partnering with us for a minority share. And most private equity doesn't look for that. Mm-hmm. right? They, they wanna have a controlling interest. They like, they're gonna put their money in, they wanna be able to vote how it's gonna go. Right. Right, right. And we encountered a couple of firms and we ended up landing with Radiant Capital out of New York. Okay. And they, um, have a couple rounds of funding and we, we have part of their first and part of their second, and they were just really, um, personable. Um, they seemed really forthright and, um, you know, kind of the things that excited me about working with them is, you know, they have portfolio companies and they've seen a lot of things and we were growing really fast. I'm like, I would welcome some advice, right? you know, in terms of like, how do we get over the next ho and what do we do and, and what does that look like? And um, so we were talking with them and then they kind of brought to the table the idea of bringing orchestra in and they had invested in orchestra in 2018 and done a round of investment and really helped them create a lot of processes.

Curt:

So they have a specialty in this beverage industry? No. Or just coincidence? Mostly. It was

Kim:

just a coincidence mostly. And they, um, they specialize in software as a service, you know, like kind of niche, niche markets. Makes sense. Um, technology, things along those lines. So they both just happen to fit and so they're like, what if, you know, we provide some liquidity and bring orchestra and encompass together. And we're like, Ooh, that seems kind of cool. Right? Yeah. Um, and so we, we did that and we closed in like November of 2020, I think was when that happened. And simultaneously, um, independently Jonathan and Bill had run into, um, the. Handoff guys down in Denver at like, you know, kind of one of those innovation, some of the things. And so we were pursuing acquiring them and bringing them in house. And so we did both of those deals kinda at the same time, but independently. And it kind of all came together and now we have the, the three tiers. Yeah. All at once. And, um, that was hard. The, the merger acquisition was really hard. And I keep saying merger and acquisition because that was a big part of the challenge. Um, from the orchestra standpoint, they were really small. There were about 35 people. Um, but you know, in about a third of the revenue, about a third of the people, so it was like a one third kind of two third type of thing. But they had been, I think, told the story that they had heard from their leadership team was this was a merger and nothing's gonna change. We keep going together. And, you know, looking at it from the bigger fish side, it always looked and felt like an acquisition. Right. And so there was some, some differences right from the beginning in that regard. And then as we started peeling the onion, you know, you just learn more that you didn't see in discovery. Cuz maybe we didn't dig at everything that we needed and really trusted, um, what, what we were getting into. But there were a lot of challenges in the technology. Um, SAP was going through, it is going through a new version and orchestra was based on SAP and moving from kind of the sequel version to their new HANA version. Okay. And, and there were some real technical challenges and so mm-hmm. digging into that, um, It took a lot more energy than we thought. Yeah. And a lot more resources and, and really moving all of that around.

Curt:

So if you had it to do again, would you have not done especially that

Kim:

bigger merging? Um, I think, I think it's still absolutely still worth it. Yeah. I think it was worth it. I think it makes sense. I think that, um, knowing everything, you know, like going through that from just like the HR and personnel and system side of it, um, I was probably a little overzealous and aggressive Yeah. In some things and maybe not as sensitive or understanding of what everyone else was going through. And there's some different ways that we could have handled some stuff, um, in communication. And also I do think that Covid exacerbated it. Mm-hmm. like trying to communicate to people that a lot of the systems they use are changing, but doing it all over Zoom. Right. And you can't read body language. You can't go out for a beer afterwards and just talk about it. It just feels very sterile. Mm-hmm. And it didn't lead to the types of relationships that we would've

Curt:

wanted. Well, and I don't know if you've noticed, but like people are significantly more fragile now than it were two years ago. Yeah. Or three years ago or whatever. Mm-hmm. Um, and so like even during that time, like you're, like, you're trying to make a change and

Kim:

then, Yeah. And then right about the time that we were hitting like kind of the ultimate stress. Of that merger was when the, the hiring mark just took off And so if people weren't loving the experience they were having, it was easy for them to find the door. So some did. Right. And so that was, it was, it was like really a culmination of a lot of things all hitting at once. Like kind of that easing of covid, that market thing and the stress and pressure of

Curt:

that deal. So one of the interesting things about Loco Think Tank, you know, we, we wanna, it's a subscription business as well, and kind of once we have a member on board, their relationship is with their chapter and with their facilitator and their credit card gets billed every month and whatever. And it just kind of, so if I, if me and my team want to screw up for a week, probably nobody would really notice. Yeah. Is it kind of that way? A software company like this too, where most of the efforts of the greater team is on developing new things, Or is there, You said the customer service team was a pretty significant size and there's a lot of things that just needs to happen every day too. Yeah, there's

Kim:

a lot going on every day. I mean, there we are doing most of the software updates for customers over the weekend, but there's an entire release team that works with customers all week to prep and test and validate what's happening, and then they schedule the upgrade and then they support them after that. So that's all happening. Meanwhile, you have all the day to day support coming in. Mm-hmm. and then ev at any given point, there's customers that are in projects to either add custom functionality to upgrade to another tier. So there's multiple gears that are always turning all the time and Yeah, like if any one, you know, person or couple of people is out, that's fine. Yeah. Um, but the gears have gotta keep going, but yeah, you start losing teams of dev. Yeah. And so that's where,

Curt:

um, a 30 year Portland team leaves or half of it because they don't like the new boss as much as the old boss

Kim:

or whatever. Yeah. You gotta fill the gaps and it's, it's hard, um, to fill the, fill the shoes of people that have been running the software for five, 10 years and, and know it and have relationships with the customers. And you gotta reestablish relationships. You gotta learn new technology, um, hire people that might know it. Yeah. And so it, it's a, it's a tremendous amount of energy that went into that.

Curt:

Interesting. Interesting. And so, like in our first conversation there was. Some elements of the private equity thing and how that all played out, that, that are new? The recent stuff? Yeah. Or there were, there were some words of caution, I guess, or whatever.

Kim:

Well, I think, I think, you know, what I learned is just don't, don't take anything at face value and do your homework and do, do the research and, and really ask the hard questions. Um, so that you know, what you're, what you're really getting into and what, what the investor's true motivations and true, true goals are. And so, um, I, I think I've had like two, two experiences, which is, you know, more than some people, right? Yeah. So we worked with Radiant starting in, um, 2020. And then, um, we were looking for, you know, some ways to accelerate our growth, um, as we, So one of the things we didn't touch on in Covid, but we launched a new product, um, DSD link, which is, um, retail ordering, which is an app. Oh. And it's at another app. Right. But it's an app that the retailers, particularly like large, um, liquor stores and, and bars can use to order directly from their distributors Oh wow. And do payments and do all of that, which was great during Covid. And so it. Took off, but there's more that we wanna do there, particularly in payments processing and things like that. And so that's where we're really trying to like, grow and commercialize and, and build that side of the business, which is new to all of us, Right. Like in payments processing and mm-hmm. there's a whole lot of other,

Curt:

there's a lot of opportunity there. And, and the established players are Yeah. Just not that

Kim:

nice. And it's, and it's cutthroat. It's really cutthroat. Right. And you kind of have to, you know, make hay and make it fast. And so our sort of bootstrapping, you know, like just linear method needs to hockey stick and move up. And so that's where the next, um, round of PE came in. And so in December, like, what year is it? It's 2022. 2022 though. Okay. So like December, 2021, um, we started looking at, at other firms and, um, so in, I think February of 2022, this year we, um, closed a deal with, um, Cohi out of Boston. Okay. Cohi. Cohi Partners. Yeah. And, um, they kind of did a couple things. So. You know, like Encompass, we never do just one thing, right? We gotta, we gotta like snowball a couple things altogether. So, um, Brad Ecker, who is the founder and um, CEO manager of Orchestra, right? He'd been, um mm-hmm. continued to be working with the company in advising and he kind of realized that it was time that he, he was taking some, he got some

Curt:

chips, he wanted more of his chips

Kim:

and outta here. Yeah. So Cofi, um, was part of, you know, his, his strategy there. So that was nice for him. And he's, you know, hopefully able to enjoy that. And he's farming in Portland? I think so. Um, hi. And um, and also we needed a little bit of, a little bit of cash to kind of like, um, put into the business to, um, streamline some of those things. And then also, um, kind of how we encountered Cohi was we were looking at this vintage Tracee company out of Australia, as was Cohi. And it's like we were, we were kind of like bidding against each other. And it's like, what if we,

Curt:

but if you just

Kim:

mix money all alone, like I'll do this together Right. In some way. And so they were able to help us fund, um, that acquisition Oh, as well. So it brought three things together. Some liquidity for Brad and also for Jonathan and I. Yeah. Um, and then also some small amount of investment into the company to give us a little bit of, um, and then, um, some, some capital to pull together acquisition capital too, and then trace steel. And so, um, that changed things in, in a way that. A little bit, um, you know, faster than I expected. Cause we weren't like really soliciting this deal. It kind of like came to us and, um, the combination of the two PE firms now has enough say to, to drive things forward and, you know, be a little bit more aggressive in the, the growth strategy. So even

Curt:

though they're not majority

Kim:

owners, neither one is, but together as a block, they've got a lot of, um, power. Yeah. Um, in, in the board. And so that's, that's been, you know, interesting and, and fun. And so one of the things that they have

Curt:

professionals running the company now. Yeah. But

Kim:

yeah, so we've got some new leadership in the company and that's, it's very new. Very, This is like in the last, like, couple of weeks. So what it's like been a month. Yeah. Um, that the, the team's been in place and I've, I'm hearing really good things from, you know, the team that's there, um, about the leadership that's coming in. And we'll have, you know, board meetings and get to kind of see the results of that over the next year. And I'm excited to see the results. Um, I, I was, you know, probably. Expecting to continue to be part of the ongoing team for longer, but when the new management came in, because I am, you know, kind of opinionated and I ca I care. So you know a lot about the company and, and where it's been um,

Curt:

they were jerks that didn't like me telling 'em

Kim:

what, so No, not at all. Like I, I really did had had very little interaction with them and it's all been very positive with the, the, um, executives. But I also just know myself. Yeah. And I, I know that I, I like driving policy, I like driving direction and it was going to be uncomfortable for me to to yeah. To take,

Curt:

You can either be frustrated trying to, Yeah. Yeah.

Kim:

And so I, I also think that I'm definitely, you know, part of the old guard a little bit and I don't want the rest of the team being like constantly looking at me and, and what's my reaction? What's my face? I want them to follow the new team and, and really like, get into it and not be distracted by, by me and whatever I might be. So

Curt:

you're in this amazing blank slate kind of place where you've got capital, you know, you've got some liquidity, you've got interest in this company, you've got some investment already done on the bdc. I I know I messed up that last part. Yeah.

Kim:

Say, but beverage distribution

Curt:

consultant and, and like, what's different about that than it's, it's more about the brain than the software, obviously, or Yeah.

Kim:

Well the consulting side is different cuz it's, it is, um, yeah, it is consulting, but I think what's fun for me Right. You know, and it's, I've, I've been doing a lot of introspection, right? You know, when you have like big change in your life and thinking about what do. What, what did I really like about Compass? What do I really like to do with my time? Yeah. And now that my time is my own again, what, where, where do I wanna spend it? Yeah. And make the most out of it. And what I've, you know, when you think back to those moments when you're in the flow and when things are, are really fun, um, it's when it was, you know, like eight to 45 people and, and you get to build processes and you get to build structures and, um, you have a lot of creative license because you, you're, you don't have a lot of baggage at that point, and it's easier to steer. You're not gonna offend a bunch of people, you know, if you, if you do that. And so that, that's where I would like to spend my time. Mm-hmm. you know, and that's kind of where I'm helping BDC a little bit. I'm just advising and helping them build HR processes and, um, structures and things like that, that hopefully will serve them as, as that company continues to grow. And so I, I like doing that.

Curt:

You looking for an

Kim:

active role there? Yeah. No, I'm, I'm not, I'm not like consulting, um, or working with clients, but I'm more like advising them as business leaders that are starting

Curt:

up their company. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I guess I don't, we, we've sold a lot of the story. I'm, I'm thinking back to our conversation and about like how we could engage you in the local community here. And, uh, you know, we talked about different facilitator options and things, and I won't put you on any spot, but what was it that attracted you to that conversation and, and even made you feel welcome to say yes to having a, a podcast conversation? I

Kim:

think, um, you know, it's kind of. you all. I like rewind. I always sort of have a bit of imposter syndrome of, you know, not feeling like I really know what I'm doing. Um, you know, like we're making it up all, all of the time. And I've also, um, spent a lot of time, you know, just very focused on encompass, very heads down, working in that space. And, you know, over the last like few months just bringing my head up and breathing for a little bit and trying to realize like, you know what, I, I kinda have done a lot of things. Like, there's a lot of very proud, a lot of problems that I've encountered that I've helped people solve or, you know, figured out. And, um, I, I think I can help people navigate around those and maybe not have to work so hard that, you know, it's hard as I worked. Like there's some, there's some easy buttons if you know where to push them, right? Mm-hmm. And so I think that's kind of fun and intriguing to, to do. Yeah,

Curt:

I like that. I, I mentioned, I. Had a podcast with Mark last week. Yeah. And, uh, I mentioned to him that I was like, I would love to get Kimberly as a facilitator someday. And he was like, Oh man, she would be great at it. So. Well,

Kim:

well, I, I think I mentioned this to you. I'm one of the, the first women in my family that's not been a teacher. Yeah. So I think there's like, also I have like some strong teacher genes, you know, like that. That's

Curt:

super cool. That kind of, Well I'll be crossing my fingers until we figure that out. Oh, cool. Um, so as you know, and do you need a potty break or anything? You happy? I'm good, I'm good. Yeah. So we always close with the faith, family and politics segment before the local experience. Have you been Uh, I've listened to a

Kim:

couple of, Yeah, no, I've not prepared. I'm just winging this all. Who,

Curt:

uh, who have you enjoyed in the previous programs?

Kim:

I really liked, um, Val Miles meeting cuz I've actually worked with them like Oh, I know that. So yeah, I feel like I know them a lot better now. Yeah.

Curt:

Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. So. which would you like to start with? Uh,

Kim:

faith, family, politics, Faith is gonna be my weakest, so I just hit that one. Okay. First, we'll get that one outta the way. All right. What, what do you, what do I need to talk about?

Curt:

Well, did you, I mean, you're from Eastern Colorado. You're supposed to be either a Lutheran or a Catholic. As far as I

Kim:

know, I, I grew up Methodist. Okay. Um, in a, and I would say light Methodist like late. So, um, my parents like, took us to, um, our town. It's like a mile aqua's a mile square. Oh, right. It's like eight blocks by eight blocks. Okay. Pretty much. There's 13 churches in town. there's like one restaurant, 13 churches. And so my parents always, um, my brother and I always went to Sunday school and I never really figured out, like my mom and dad weren't always going to church. They, I think they just wanted the morning to themselves. So we went to Sunday school all the time and, you know, we're pretty active in the church cuz you got to go skiing and things like that. Activities and So summer camp. Yeah. Um, and I think my parents have gotten a little bit more like, active in the church lately, but it wasn't so much like about the religion or Yeah. That type of thing. More about the community is, Yeah, it was about the community and kind of the, the morality, you know, like, I think the golden rule's good. Regardless of wherever. So stuff like that. You never said it as still did one. Yeah, exactly. So, so that was, that was good. And that was fine. Um, Jonathan grew up in the Catholic church and you guys had like different, um, you know, levels of involvement there. We, we got married in the Catholic church. Oh, you did? Um, but I, I didn't, You didn't have, I didn't convert. Did. Whatever the optional motive.

Curt:

Okay, fine. I think

Kim:

it's the Okay, fine. Okay. Fine. One, um, we, we've, um, baptized and confirmed our kids and that that was something that mattered a lot to his family. Mm. Um, and so, you know, it's, it's not something that matters a lot to me. Yeah. And again, I think the education in the morality and the community is Okay. So we've kind of like, um, moved along with that. Jonathan goes in, in ebbs and flows around, um, you know, some kind of Buddhist and Dallas to teaching sometimes, you know, based on just like listening to philosophy and traveling and stuff like that. So I would say that I care about Yeah. The community side of it. Yeah. And exposing kids to different, like, thoughts, but not pushing them too hard on any one area. Yeah.

Curt:

And so, like, you don't, what do you do with the Jesus box? Like, Yes. No,

Kim:

maybe. I mean, I think, I think he was a person. There's probably some teachings that came out of it. They've been like incredibly warped over time, you know, in the, like, a lot of biblical things. So do you think that Jesus teachings have been warped? Not too much, but it's all, you know, it's like second, third hand edited by scholars and it's, it's hard. I, I like the historical stuff. Yeah. Things that you can really tie back to, I think is kind of cool. Um, so I, I think I like the history and philosophy of things more so than like the truly like religious, faithful side of it. Yeah. Fair enough. And yeah, I, I think. You wanna do good while you're here. And

Curt:

I wrote a, a blog, I called on virtue, I think in the fall of 19, maybe it was 20. And I basically said, you know, instead of thinking it as the 10 Commandments, thinking about like the 10 principles for your best good. Yeah. Like, I'm not gonna make you, but your life will be better if you do less of these

Kim:

things. Kinda. And I think, you know, organized religion, you know, there's community to it, but there's also history that's not great And it's hard. It's hard to like buy into that

Curt:

too hard. So I think it's easier to find a bad church than it is to find a good church for sure. Unfortunately. All fair enough. Well, if you ever get curious enough you wanna visit, I've always excited that invitation. Um, Family or politics.

Kim:

Uh, politics also is not my strong point, so get that one outta the way too. Okay.

Curt:

Um, I imagine like you're probably from, from the part of the, well, you guys were city kids, so Yeah, so I

Kim:

would, Yeah. Yeah. So I grew up like very independent, right? Yeah. So even my dad as we thinker. Yeah. My dad, dad, um, is probably very instrumental in this. Like, he, he was mayor of Akron for a long time when I was, um, growing up and so he's like this political figure, but, um, he also was always kind of like registered independent, like didn't wanna be, nobody knew whether

Curt:

he was Democrat or publican,

Kim:

didn't wanna be like, super tied to, to anything. And I, I do try to pay attention. Um, I think like voting is obviously like very, very important and there are certain like, you know, issues I care about. Yeah. But I've never been like super like gravitating. You haven't been an

Curt:

activist in anything in particular or anything like that?

Kim:

Not really. I mean, I, I will say like the, the recent things around like Roe versus way to have probably fired me up more than anything is that right. That ever has before. Um, and, and I think it's hard because as a business owner there's certain policies that, you know, are like conservative on the business side, but I would say I'm much more liberal on the social side, so it's hard to find that right mix. Yeah. Yeah.

Curt:

Well, you're a closet libertarian, just like, Yeah. About one half of America. They just, That makes sense. Won't confess it. Yeah. Very much so. So, um, I guess just hold you in the uncomfortable place of politics for a little longer. Are there any like topics right now, either locally, statewide, um, Even, even internationally that, that are significant to you. You mentioned Roe versus Wade. Yeah. So you're opposed to it being a state by state thing? Yeah.

Kim:

I mean, I just, I, I think I'm definitely very pro like women's bodily rights. Women's rights. Yeah. And so you have the combination of all the Roe versus Wade stuff happening in the United States and all the stuff happening in Iran and, and different things along those lines. And it, it does feel like we're taking some major steps backward and like, why are we even having these conversations right now? Right. Well, I hate to say,

Curt:

but even voting, uh, men in as Women of the Year and things like that, I, I have to think that feels like backsliding to a lot of women.

Kim:

It, it does. And, and I think the part that's hard is you can never, like, you know, I think this is the part we just all have to like really, really learn. You cannot trust other people to vote for you. You have to vote. Right. And we need to be voting more and often and loudly and making sure that our voices are heard so that they can continue to be heard.

Curt:

Yeah, fair enough. Um, Well, I'll let you off the hook, kind of call out hoops. I could tell

Kim:

Yeah. I mean, the other, the other thing I'll say that Yeah, please. That's I think politically challenging internationally is, um, the unrest that you see in, in Russia and Ukraine, and then the, just like this, this eggshell stepping around China and Taiwan, Right. And with, um, you know, a significant portion of our companies, you've got a lot of China going on in China. That's something that's like, that's a, that's a real business risk, Right. Um, we talk to these people all the time and up until Covid, um, we were like, Jonathan went to China every quarter. every quarter. Yeah. And he hasn't been since December of 2019. Oh, wow. And this is insane. And it, it's because there's Is he not allowed still? No. You could go, but you have to still quarantine for two weeks. Oh gosh. And, and so two weeks on a two week trip is insane. Yeah. And right now, um, like the converse, like we've hosted Chinese summer camps for our employees in the United States, like every summer. And they're just straight up not processing visas. Like there, It's not like there's a backlog and you're waiting to get a visa from China to the United States. It's like the answer is. They're close, they're not accepting applications. Wow. And so I have, I have friends and family that are split, you know, there's grandkids in the US and grandparents and they can't, they just can't get a visa. And no one's really

Curt:

talking about that. Why is China has stayed so strong on that zero covid policy or, or whatever. Because it seems to me thatn is like wimpy enough, like kind of vaccinate the, whoever hasn't been vaccinated yet, get 'em done, You know, So, So

Kim:

what I, I think in personal opinion is that China's using Covid as a launching pad slash excuse, whatever you wanna say to put in place the types of social engineering policies that they've wanted to do for a long time. Right. To control this, you know, growing, you know, feelings of freedom and, and, and populous type of stuff. So for example, most um, housing complexes in China have gates. Right. And most of the time the gates have been closed to keep people out that don't live there. Well, during Covid, they closed them to keep people in. Right. And, and they couldn't leave. And there were kids, like I know personal friends, kids, they did not go. For nine months. Yeah. And, and like that's just insane. And, um, now you hear about the, the, the apps that track, you know, like the, the Covid exposure and you have this app. And if you are at a place where then someone later was reported that they had covid that turned your app red and if your app is red, like your personal identity app read, you can now, you can't get outta your gate. You can't get outta your gate. You can't go to the grocery store. Well, I don't know if you heard this recent story, but there was a, a run on a bank in a rural area of China saw that and people wanted to get their funds out and the leaders turned their apps red. Not because they were exposed to C but because they needed them to be locked down and they to protect this bank from a room Yeah. To protect this bank. So they're misusing the instruments that they've created around, um, you know, zero covid policy. Well are using them exactly for what they, for politic political reasons. And so, you know, and then the people in China are shocked, like, how could they do this? Like, well what did you think was going to happen? Not

to

Curt:

turn this conversation back to faith. Um, but if God isn't number one, then the state is number one. And that's just kind of definitionally the way the world will work if God is dead. Yeah. Um, and so I would encourage you to reconsider and check it out a little more sometime maybe. Cause otherwise

Kim:

the state is, Yeah. So I think, I think China's. Becoming inaccessible right now. Yeah. And that's, that's kind of hard and scary and it's hard for our business.

Curt:

Yeah. I'm sorry. That's, uh, obviously an emotional thing because you've got 200 people that you care about a lot of China and Philippines. Is that what it was? Um,

Kim:

yeah, and the Philippines has always, like, we, we hadn't gotten as much cross-pollination there. Like, and it's open, it's a younger relationship. Yeah. So we've, we've got, um, we've had employees moving back and forth now since Covid. It's not so strict, but

Curt:

yeah. Wow. How fascinating. Yeah. Um, let's talk about your family. So yeah, let's, we talked a little bit about you and Jonathan. Like what was it, why did you guys have this kind of on again off again? Like, was it because you were both from Akron that you didn't like, just No, I

Kim:

think it was both, you know, like both we're both was very driven, you know, to do our own things and very free thinking and independent. Yeah. So he, he was traveling, you know, and he, he'd spent time in China, He'd spent time in, um, he did internships at Microsoft and IBM and I was doing internships in different places. And I think, you know, we both wanted to give each other space in college to, you know, don't, don't we meet people, Don't box me in. Yeah. Like meet like people and stuff. But it was weird cause we just like kept gravitating. Back back to each other. Yeah. And, and I was fairly persistent, so eventually.

Curt:

Well, and you mentioned a little while back that you had like almost this foreknowledge that there was gonna be some amazing things coming out of his little head. Mm-hmm. um, did that stay consistent the whole

Kim:

time? Yeah. I mean, like even now when our, our roles and things are really changing and he's in more of a advisory role of encompass his, his little wheels are turning of like what he's gonna do next and it'll be something crazy. It'll be interesting, you know? And so it's, he's, he is that very much like entrepreneurial mind. He doesn't wanna be fenced in. Yeah. He wants to, you know, think of whatever he wants to

Curt:

next. Do you like wanna be there to help him execute that next thing? Or do you have a season of finding your own self again now? Or? I

Kim:

wanna, I, I would like to be able to support him as a wife. I think after working together for 12 years and being like, so intertwined, you know, like where work and life and everything, like, you know, it's all the same. I, I think it would be healthy for us to like, have, have our own ventures, take a sabbatical for a little while least Yeah. A little bit. Like, you know, and have businesses. And, and I think too, you know, I am proud of what I've done, but there is always a little voice in the back of my head that's like, you would, you would've not, you wouldn't have done that if it wasn't for Jonathan. Yeah. You helped Jonathan with this thing. Yeah. You wouldn't, you, you couldn't have done that job at some other company. You know, like that kind of imposter syndrome. Mm-hmm. And so I think there's a little bit. I need some time to kind of prove myself on my own two feet a little bit. Yeah.

Curt:

So I, I like to say, uh, I've said for years actually, that my special talent is identifying special talent, And I gotta tell you, you're a powerhouse, so Oh, thank you. Whatever imposter syndrome you have, you can just check that at the door at your next stop. Okay. Oh, cool. Um, let's talk about, you have kids, three kids. Three kids, Yeah. Um, what are their names, please and ages?

Kim:

Um, Lena is 14. Okay. And Tommy is 12. Okay. And Kathleen is 10. And

Curt:

I always look for a one word description.

Kim:

I, I did, I did think about this. And it's like really hard.

Curt:

It is really hard. That's why we do it. Otherwise, if I said, you know, so three words, you'd be like, Well, that piece of cake. How about

Kim:

Lena? Lena is like animal lover if that's like, if you dash it, hyphenated it. Yeah. Um, she is so comfortable with animals. Um, she's very creative. She's, you know, very talented animal. Whisper. Yeah. She's an animal whisperer. And, um, this is a crazy thing, but my, I had a grandma, a grandma Louise. Um, she was a farmer, like rancher. Mm-hmm. she was an animal whisperer. And, um, she like raised horses and cats and like just every animal and she would like bottle feed the baby animals and everything. Yeah. And she passed away. The day Lena was born. Oh. And it's like the spirit, It's like they're the same. Like they're, there's some, there's something about them that is the same and that interesting. Lena will rescue like little baby birds that fall on the sidewalk and like feed them. And she currently has three birds and she's helping train our new puppies and Wow. It's,

Curt:

Well chickens, if anybody CSU vet school is listening to this Yeah. You might have a recruit in about four years, three

Kim:

years. She's, Yeah. She's good. And she's just a really earnest person. Yeah. Like, she works really hard, by the way,

Curt:

don't let these words put you in a box. Yeah. Doesn't, uh, And Tommy,

Kim:

Tommy is, he's a diplomat. Hmm. Um, and he's at that Quin middle child, Right. Between two very peacemaker opinionated sisters. He's a, he's a genius. Like he's a really smart problem solving kid, but, um, So sensitively emotional. Yeah. Right. So he will, you know, like. We'd do this thing where we'd do like movie nights on Friday night and you know, try to pick the movie. And I don't know that we've ever watched the movie that Tommy wants to watch because he will always is like given and like when, you know, like when we were younger, Cat really was, we'd watch Frozen all the, like, frozen 14 times in a row. And so like, Tommy never gotta watch anything else, but, um, yeah. So he, he wants everyone around him to be good. Yeah. He, he doesn't like it when plans change. He likes things to be like very even keel and like Yeah. Yeah. Calm. Yeah. I like it. I like it. He's, he's a good kid. Awesome. Kathleen. Oh, Kathleen,

Curt:

she, What's up with the old lady name for the young child, by the way that,

Kim:

that's a grandma name Totally is. So I, Oh yeah. Um, her name is Cath Kathleen Louise. So she's got, she got two grandma names and it sounds very Catholic. Kathleen Louise on you. Um, yeah, she, so she's a, you could be Katie, so Yeah, no, she goes by Kathleen and really, um, like for sure, like she's never Katie or Cat or Kathy. I thought she'd be a cat or something. No, Kathleen, she's a firecracker. Um, So she's like, she's very, I think like really well rounded, you know, and I, maybe this is kind of that third kid thing, but she's extremely observant of everyone around her. So she is, before she does something, she's watched everybody else and figured it out and then, then she does it. And, um, I don't know exactly where she's gonna, you know, spend her energy. Um, but she's got a lot of it. Yeah. And she's kind of spicy

Curt:

I like it. I like it. And what would those girls say about you? Uh, or the girls and, and Tommy, obviously,

Kim:

they would tell me to calm down. chop mom, just calm, chill out, Calm down. Yeah, chill out. Don't get so uptight about everything. Um, they would, they would tell me to stop telling, I'm gonna clean up their rooms. Mm. Um, yeah. And like, being home more, I notice like, all the stuff on the floor a lot more. And like, I want them to pick things up a lot, so Yeah. Kinda stop nagging. But also I, there's a, there's a, like, we get along really well, like all of, all of them. And they always, you know, for good or bad, like, want to spend more time with me. Yeah. Or like, I, you know, like, what do you guys wanna do? Like, we just wanna hang out with you. they just wanna sit on the couch and hang out. And so they just, they all just want more time. That's pretty. And so that's, that's what's kind of nice about this period right? Is just having some more time Yeah.

Curt:

To spend with him. I've heard a lot of. Admiration, I guess at times in your voice when you describe Jonathan and, uh, turn it on the other side, like what if I, if he was here and I ask him, what was it about Kim that, uh, made it thus that you wanted to, uh, tie the knot and raise a bunch of littles?

Kim:

Um, I don't know what he would say to that, probably just that I, I, I just kept going, you know, I kept at him about it, so he is like, Okay, fine, we'll, we'll do that. Um, I think he, he's always wanted to have kids, so he's like really excited to have kids and I think, um, there are times I think he really appreciates and enjoys having somebody that can kind of make his visions come to fruition and get all of the things done. Um, I think other times he would also tell me to like, chill out, right back off a little bit. But, um, yeah. Well, he

Curt:

probably doesn't necessarily recognize how many of his ideas have had a, a, you know, a touch from you to make him help happen.

Kim:

Oh, I, I, he probably does. I'm sure he does. But yeah. Um, I'm also really good at, um, Poking holes in something, you know, kind of the devil's advocate, which, if you are an idea person and then you're constantly being hit by the naysayer, that can be like, kind of frustrating. So I think we both have to kind of like navigate that a little bit cuz he'll immediately come up with an idea. And I feel like it's like my duty in life to tell him all the things that are wrong with that idea. And he is like, Could you just, could you just like let this one, like live, I think we talked about

Curt:

this in our coffee,

Kim:

like stop being the dream

Curt:

killer. A place for everything and everything at its place. Well

Kim:

stop it. Yeah. Yeah. So I, I have to kind temper my, you know, like, dream

Curt:

crushing. Well, I think that's, you know, the, one of the best things that we can do for ourselves in the way that we think and to with our partners is contend with each other. Mm-hmm. I think that's why frankly, single men rarely change the world, you know, because it, it, and, and, and vice versa. Yeah. Frankly, I think that power. Component of of a, and it doesn't have to be a man and a woman. It can be too way, I suppose it's

Kim:

somebody having somebody somebody contend with to call you out. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Cause like sometimes, you know, and I think that's hard, even like when you're leading a company, like, and you know, it's not like being famous, but it's kind of like being famous. But like at a certain point no one will tell you that you're wrong. You're the designer. Yeah. Right? And, and you have this danger of being surrounded by like yes people. Mm-hmm. And so you've gotta have somebody that will tell you like, that's, that's a great

Curt:

idea. Well, that fits in the ammo. Put the, the commercial for loco think tank right there, right there, right there. Um, but it is a big part of why we do what we do too, is because when you're the decider, there really isn't anybody to tell you when you're being a total

Kim:

dumb as, and sometimes you, you do, you just need that group or person to bounce an idea off and you just be like, Tell me, is this crazy?

Curt:

Right? Yeah. Yeah. And to know that they have their best, your best interests at heart because you can find a consultant to tell you anything that you want Yeah. Them to tell you. Yeah. If you pay 'em the right amount. So last segment, the low co experience, the craziest experience that you're willing to describe to our listeners. And I have no very few boundaries outside of that.

Kim:

So just one, just one thing.

Curt:

Yeah. You can tell two short stories if you want

Kim:

to. No, I think, I think something that is crazy when I look back at it, especially now as like a mom is when I was. Let's just say I was like 22, 22, 23. Jonathan was in China. Um, and he was in China for that, that he was in college. Yeah. So he was doing his exchange program. And it was crazy for him because he was the first CSU student that ever did an exchange program to csu. And it was like, not really Very strange. To China, you mean? Or Yeah, to China. Um, so he, it was not super structured. His professor had just kind of set it up, and so he got picked up by people that didn't speak Chinese and, but he, he loved it. It was great. He had a, like, it was a very expanding experience for him. So after he'd been there for a while and all of this is over email where he's like having to go to like an internet cafe at the time. Right. And I'm working at HP and I'm like a young single girl and I decided to go visit him. And so I don't speak any Chinese at this point. I don't know much of anything. I'd never, I'd spent, I'd been to Europe one time, you know, like in the little backpacking trips. I hadn't done a lot of international travel. Yeah. And he's like, I'll meet you at the Shanghai airport. And he was gonna plan this whole two week romantic trip through China for

Curt:

Oh, so you guys kind of, kind of fell in love from

Kim:

far in a way. And, um, and so I got on a plane. To go to China to meet this guy. Right. And, um, I mean, like obviously I'd known each other Sure. And, um, flew the 13 hours to get there at this time, didn't know anything. And I get off the plane and he's not there. Oh. And that's when I realized this was a crazy thing and everyone on my plane who like landed at 10 30 at night disappears. Right. And there's one guy, I speak English anyway. Yeah. There's this one guy, um, from Mexico that's there and he's like, Do you want to come to my hotel with me? I'm like, Uh, no. Make that I don't think so. And so I just stayed there at the airport and I was like, Either Jonathan's gonna show up and everything will be fine. We're in the morning. I will get back on a plane. Right. And, um, he, he did show up. It was much further to the airport than he expected from the hotel. And we did have a really great, um, two week trip. But, you know, thinking about that as like a mom, you know, at that time, you know, just like the way things were, I would, I would never let my kids do that But, um, it was really, it was really, I mean, I was adult. Yeah. And it was still really scary. Yeah. And exciting and interesting. And, um, China at that time, you know, this was 20 years ago, Right. Um, we went places during that trip that, um, we were the only foreigners there. Yeah. I was maybe the first blonde person that I, anybody had seen. And we were really off the beaten path and, and there was not a lot of communication back home, like, you know? Right. We had disappeared. No one, as far as we know, comes in China. Yeah. No one would've ever found us. Yeah. Um, so that was pretty scary and exciting. Yeah, I bet It was. Um, the other like, crazy thing I did that was kind of fun that I won't like dwell too long is while I was at T Lane, I had an opportunity to not only go to Mardi GRA and be on the like bead receiving side of everything mm-hmm. for, for several years and like, you know, kind of experienced that part. You heard your beads? Yeah. The part No, but I, Sure maybe a little bit um, that party, the party culture from that side. But my senior senior year I had an opportunity to be in a parade on a float Oh. And, um, be the other side and, um, be throwing the beads and, and go to the, Oh, that, that was crazy. The ball and everything. And so it was really cool and, um, a really cool experience cuz those, the crews, like with the k um, of all the crews in, um, the parade season in New Orleans are pretty closed and it's hard to just like get access to them. So that was really fun and really

Curt:

interesting. That sounds really cool. Yeah. Yeah. And, and. You know, there's probably only a few hundred people that have had that bird's eye view. Right? Yeah. From that perspective. It is interesting.

Kim:

And so what you don't realize is that like everybody on their, like on their floats Yeah. Is you're, you have a belt in your strap Oh, really? In so that you can't either get too drunk and fall over or there, pull you over and you have to wear masks and everything. And so the bo not the bulk, but half, half of the people throwing the beads to everyone on the set are also women. Right. So it's, you gonna see a lots Interesting.

Curt:

You've probably never seen more boobs in

Kim:

a 20 hour period. Yeah, it was a lot. It was a lot. And, but, and you have to, you have to buy in. Like they won't let you be on the crew unless you buy a certain number of gallons of beads. Oh gosh. Because you have to, you have to bring your own beads. Oh, that's, And you have to have enough to make it through the parade. You get hook me

Curt:

up. I should be on that list sometimes. Yeah. It was fun. It was really cool. Jill, if you hear this is on my bucket list right now, be in a parade. It was. Well, not just in a parade, in a Mardi GRA parade, you ain't gotta see that many boobs in other parades. That's true.

Kim:

That's rare.

Curt:

Forgive me Jill. Tease. It was fun. Um, Kimberly, I think you're awesome. I think this has been a lot of fun. Well, thanks. Um, would you like to ask me any questions before we get off this channel? I guess

Kim:

like what, what made you want to start doing a podcast? I.

Curt:

Good question. I don't, you know, part of it was like all the social tensions and all of the things that I had to say on, on social media that mm-hmm. were so obviously true that other people just thought wasn't so and so I quit the social, social media for a while and I was like, But I, I wanted a place to express, and I've just got this really special place in the world where I've met and know so many amazing business leaders. And many cases, those stories are just, they're just stories that nobody knows. Yeah. Nobody else knows. And I consider it a public service in a lot of ways to help document these stories for future generations of Fort Collins. And what

Kim:

one Northern Colorado. And then do you have like a goal of like what, what you would like to see in terms of like listenership, viewership or like adoption? Like what would you like to see this be?

Curt:

You know, I'd love to be in a place where we're getting tens of thousands of listens every episode. Um, and ultimately I would love to see the local Experience podcast be the scout for future local think tank chapters, where I could go to Colorado Springs or Omaha and interview a dozen notable business people with my Sprinter Van podcast studio. Oh, cool. And then, um, we can start pushing those out on social media and things months ahead of when somebody, when a licensee or a franchisee or something wants to open in those locations. Oh. So we can kinda be their ground cover and awareness builder as part of their gigantic franchise fee that they pay me or whatever. Has anybody

Kim:

asked you what your craziest experiences,

Curt:

um, do you have like your Nobody has yet. I shared one where I like Rodeo, tackled a rodeo, wrote a guy. Really? It's on the Patrick and Janna podcast. Um, do you want to hear it really? Yeah, totally. So here's my first Real Loco experience. I, I don't have them ranked, but I've got about a dozen that are pre crazy. You're like in there. Okay. Yeah. And the first one was a, the road Rage. Before you knew what road rage was Oh boy. And, and I'm giving my girlfriend a ride to work at Pizza Hut in college. Okay. She lived in Morehead, I was in Fargo and we're on the old Highway 10, which is like a 45 mile per hour divided highway. And there I was. Being ready to turn left soon. And so I was just chilling, whatever. There was a little space in front of me and this guy with an old Ford pickup like wants to get past me and squeeze in to get in front of me. And I'm like, whatever, dude. And I, I kind of cut him off for a while and kept him from getting to his spot that he wanted. And then eventually I let him in and flipped in the bird and he came to a stop. As soon as he pulled in front of me, he came to a stop from 50 miles an hour down to zero. And I bumped him with my Pontiac Grand Prix and just barely. Yeah. And he's got this old crappy Ford pickup and he's got this like 85 pound crack horror in this side pickup and looking out the back window this whole time. Oh my gosh. And this guy's like 240 pounds built like a, a circus barrel guy or whatever. Yeah. And I'm at that time up six two, buck 50 if that. Buck 40 probably. And he's like, We're gonna settle this right now, and you need to like, we're gonna get the cops here and this and that, because, I don't know what, And you bump my truck and I'm like, Dude, I'm happy to do all this, but can we like move our vehicles off to the side of the highway? Yeah. Because like, there's cars, You're in the middle, right? There's cars starting to go past us now. And he's like, No, we're not. So he goes back to his truck to get the, his cell phone. This is when cell phones were like huge brick things. Okay. And I found out later he was a volunteer fire department member, which gave him this superiority complex on the laws, I guess, or whatever. And actually when he first came back, he kind of physically grabbed me and like tried to grab me outta the car and I, but not really. And I had the window down for some reason. So he, he's on his phone and I'm like, I don't wanna be here So, and, but there's a car right behind me that didn't run into me, but, but came right behind me. So I gotta wiggle my way out of this spot and then I'm gonna pull over and pull onto the shoulder and be like, Dude, we're over here now here. We're over here now. Right. And so he sees that I've got enough room to wiggle out now and. He's like screaming at me. Of course. And, and he's like, Stop right there. Stop right fucking there cussing. And, but he won't get outta my way so I can pull out. And so I bump him a little bit with my Pontiac, got a five speed v6 and he's like, screaming louder now. So I, but he's not moving. So I bump him again and now he runs over the side of the car, tries to grab me out of the car, but I'm strep into, No, I wasn't strep in. I was like, That was dumb. I should have rolled up the window. But I was able to fend him off and start going. And so now we're going around his truck back out onto the highway and he's running alongside just screaming in my ear, like, Stop this fucking car you. And I'm like, Pretty sure not. And I like hit second gear, kept going about 40 miles an hour. He flies off the car and just tumble rolls in the middle of the highway. Wow. And, um, I'm like, kind of concerned, I didn't really wanna do this. And so I come back to check on him, kind of, and his crack h girlfriend is like running across the meeting of the highway to try to like intercept me somehow. So I hit the gas and blow past her. See him standing there. He's standing. So I'm like, Well, no, he's fine. His knees were all bloody. And I could, I could still see it. Wow. And I go straight to the Moorhead Police Department and I'm, I'm like, guess I should make a police report. But this is what just happened. And they're like, Oh, the Big Lots incident, which is like this used car lot right there. And uh, they're like, Oh yeah, that's such and such. And yeah, he's a volunteer fire department member and he is kind of got a superiority complex and whatever. Do you wanna press charges? And I was like, No, I don't want him to ever know who I am. Yeah. You know, it, just call me if you need me and call it a day. He got punished enough for his craziness.

Kim:

That was probably like so much the right thing to do, cuz then it like def defeat like, like I don't wanna press charges against him. And then he Yeah.

Curt:

They already knew about it. Who knows? They knew he was a powder kick. That's what they call him. That's funny. And uh, yeah. Never heard Another thing, I, I took my, well I took my girlfriend to the work at Pizza Hu before I went to the police department and then Yeah. Never heard another peep and my relationship with her, with her was toward the end anyway. Yeah. And so whatever, but that's crazy. Yeah. It was a fairly high adrenaline situation there for a moment.

Kim:

Yeah. The parade was much easier than

Curt:

that. Yeah. But I didn't see nearly as many boobs. Well, sorry, Me too. Anyway, thank you. Well cool. Well thank you. Yeah. It's been fun. Bye-Bye.