Uncover an Idea, Find a Co-founder, Build a Business

My guest today helps startups and companies attract new clients online.

He is the co-founder of HubStaff.com, which allows businesses to manage their remote staff by tracking time and activity levels, providing screenshots and calculating employee payments.

HubStaff allows us to see exactly what virtual teams are working on so we can track expenses to specific projects.

My guest is also a self-published author, consultant, and father of two.

Now, let’s hack …

Dave Nevogt.

In this 30-minute episode Dave Nevogt and I discuss:

  • Taking risks and not being afraid to go after your dream
  • Why you need to be putting yourself out there
  • Why communication with your partners and co-founder is so important
  • How and where to find a technical co-founder
  • You will never learn unless you try things out for yourself

The Show Notes

Uncover an Idea, Find a Co-Founder, Build a Business

Jonny Nastor: Hack the Entrepreneur is part of Rainmaker.FM, the digital business podcast network. Find more great shows and education at Rainmaker.FM.

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Voiceover: Welcome to Hack the Entrepreneur, the show which reveals the fears, habits, and inner battle behind big name entrepreneurs and those on the way to joining them. Now, here is your host, Jon Nastor.

Jonny Nastor: Welcome back to another episode of Hack the Entrepreneur. I’m so glad you decided to join me again today. I’m your host Jon Nastor, but you can call me Jonny.

My guest today helps startups and companies attract new clients online. He’s the co-founder of Hubstaff.com, which allows businesses to manage their remote staff by tracking time and activity levels, providing screen shots, and calculating employee payments. Hubstaff allows us to see exactly what virtual teams are working on, so we can track expenses to specific projects.

My guest is also a self-published author, a consultant, and a father of two.

Now, let’s hack Dave Nevogt.

Before we get started, I want to thank today’s sponsor, 99designs. If you’re like many listeners, you’re in the early stages of getting your business off the ground. Your to-do list may seem like it’s a mile long, but there’s one task you should tackle sooner than later: your branding.

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Welcome back to another episode of Hack the Entrepreneur. Today, we have another very, very special guest. Dave, welcome to the show.

Dave Nevogt: Thank you, sir, appreciate it.

Jonny Nastor: Absolutely. My pleasure. This is going to be fun. Dave, can you tell me, as an entrepreneur, what is the one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes so far?

Taking Risks and Not Being Afraid to Go After Your Dream

Dave Nevogt: Taking risks.

Jonny Nastor: Fair enough.

Dave Nevogt: What I mean by that is not being afraid to go after it and go after several things, so it’s a numbers game. If you’re willing to try several things and the more you cast, the more chances you’re going to get a bite, right?

Jonny Nastor: Yeah.

Dave Nevogt: I’m not afraid to go after an idea. I know it’s going to take time. I know it’s going to be hard, but until you can start talking to customers and not be afraid to put yourself out there, the chance of success is pretty low.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, totally. Is this something you had to learn the hard way, or have you never been the person who goes after the shiny object? The fact that where you say that you know it’s going to be work. You know it’s going to be hard. It’s not just going to be an easy win with any of it. Is this something you had to adapt to and you learned a hard way?

Dave Nevogt: No, I just think that’s in my nature. I think it’s in my blood. I’m the guy that was mowing lawns at 12. That’s just the way it’s always been. I’ve always enjoyed going out and trying to discover new ways of doing things and potentially better ways of doing things. Just always enjoyed the feeling of making a buck for myself. I think that’s what pushed me towards being an entrepreneur in the first place.

Jonny Nastor: All right, I want to figure out where this happened for you. There seems to be this time in every entrepreneur’s life when, we typically don’t realize it at the time I don’t think, but looking back where something happened and we either have this calling to make something big in the world or we find we simply can’t work for somebody else anymore. Can you tell me which side of the fence you fall on there, Dave, and then when that was? Between mowing laws to now, where did this happen when you look back?

Dave Nevogt: I went to college like I think the vast majority of entrepreneurs probably do, at least online entrepreneurs. In high school, no one really understands what they’re going to do, for the most part. At least the vast majority don’t. You go to college as a typical path. Then, no one understands even what they want to do when they’re in college. I think what generally happens is that they go out and get a job because you’ve got to make money. You’ve got to pay the bills.

There’s a big realization that now you’ve got to evolve into the workforce. I think that’s when a lot of stuff happens. Mine happened when I went to go work for a very large company. I realized that I wasn’t challenged at all in that company. It was totally different than what I thought. I couldn’t make any moves.

I could not change the game in that large corporation. The only thing I could do is perform to the best of my abilities, and potentially, 15-20 years down the road, I could be in a position where I wanted to be financially. I just couldn’t change the game. I needed to be the person that changed the game. That’s the way I felt.

Jonny Nastor: When you decided that, how’d you make the transition from working for this giant company straight out of college, which is a very common path in North America, right?

Dave Nevogt: Right.

Jonny Nastor: You’re right. It totally is. Did you sort of like side hustle it and try and figure stuff out?

Why You Need to Be Putting Yourself Out There

Dave Nevogt: Yeah, totally. I built a golf business on the side. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning. I made a commute, an hour-long commute north of Chicago. I worked eight hours a day. During that eight hours, for the most part, I was thinking about my side business. On the way home during the hour commute, if I took the train, I was working on my business. If I took my car, I was thinking about it. Then I got home, had some dinner, worked for another three hours, and then I did it all over again. It was a period of just putting everything I had towards this new venture.

Jonny Nastor: How long did you do that for?

Dave Nevogt: Six months.

Jonny Nastor: Wow. Why golf?

Dave Nevogt: I got an online course. Well, back in the day, back in 2004, it wasn’t even online. It was physical. It was mailed to my address in this big bulky container.

Jonny Nastor: Are you going to tell us which one?

Dave Nevogt: Yeah, I don’t even remember the name of it even. Terry Dean is the guy who wrote it. I don’t even remember the name of it.

Jonny Nastor: I know that name.

Dave Nevogt: It was how to make money online or something like that.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I totally know. I know that name. I’m from that era, too, so I was wondering.

Dave Nevogt: I don’t remember the exact name of the course, but it was good, man. It taught me a lot about advertising and copywriting. It told me where to get my start. Now, today, you could learn all the information just in blog posts for sure. But back then, that information just wasn’t readily available. It was a brand new market, brand new kind of thing.

Jonny Nastor: Nobody gave that stuff out. Now, it’s content marketing. Everyone just gives it out, doles it out for free.

Dave Nevogt: Totally, totally changed. Totally changed. To answer your question, why golf? In that course, he taught me that you have to find a hungry market, somebody that has a pain point that is ready to make an impulse purchase. I guess the main part is that pain. Golf was something that I was into at the time. It was between golf and poker were the two that I were looking at.

Jonny Nastor: Two things you were into at the time.

Dave Nevogt: Yeah, so those were the two things. Golf just happened to be it. It’s one of those things where it was luck, man. I was in the right place at the right time, but again, if I had been afraid to do that at the time, if I wouldn’t be willing to actually just create the website, even though I had no idea how to create websites, if I didn’t have the ability or the inner strength to try to write headlines, although headlines was something that was totally new to me, never would have happened. I never probably would have been where I am today.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, that’s cool. Are you still in the golf game?

Dave Nevogt: I am. I sold half the company. The company now is kind of dead. I’ve moved on twice over now. Things die out pretty quick if you don’t pay attention to them.

Jonny Nastor: They do, yeah. Totally. All right, so you are excellent at taking risks and knowing that success is a game of numbers, so you’ve got to keep casting. Every blog post now, every expert talks about 80/20. Do 20 percent. Get 80 percent of the results. Do what you’re good at. Delegate the rest. Dave, can you tell me something in business that you absolutely are not good at?

Dave Nevogt: Yeah, that whole process is something that I’m still totally learning, and still, it’s very hard to do that. Something that I’m not good at would be paid advertising.

Jonny Nastor: Oh wow. I thought that was what you did?

Dave Nevogt: Well, it’s what I did back then. It was easy back then. Back then, you make a headline. Then you go into your AdWords account, just throw them in one ad group, and then you go from there. Now, you’ve got to have your YouTube ads set up. You’ve got to have so many different ad groups set up in AdWords. You’ve got to know Facebook advertising. There’s a whole big world out there now that didn’t exist back then when I did it.

Jonny Nastor: I know it’s insane actually. I fully don’t understand it, either. Do you guys use paid advertising at Hubstaff?

Dave Nevogt: We have not found a way to really scale paid advertising yet.

Jonny Nastor: Really.

Dave Nevogt: We do it. Right now, we’ve got some Facebook ads running. We’ve got some Google ads running. We do not have YouTube yet. We’ve started experimenting a little bit with sending traffic to blog posts that are more like content, like Outbrain or Taboola, or whatever the name of it is. We’ve started with that stuff, but we have not found a profitable campaign really yet, if that makes sense?

We kind of break even, but it’s not something that we’ve been able to scale our business with. Part of that is just because of the size of the market. Coming from golf, golf is a very big market for B2C market online, so you’re dealing with the individuals. You’re dealing with individuals that have a pain, and they need something now — and there’s a lot of them. You’re dealing with people with personal budgets.

Then, Hubstaff, what I do now, is B2B, and it’s a lot different. You’re dealing with entrepreneurs, very time-starved people. This is not their habit. It’s not what they want to be doing at that point in time, so the market is very different from B2B.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, that makes sense. All right, Dave, we’re going to move onto ideas and projects. ‘Projects’ — obviously, a very, very loose term — can be a whole new business venture or something within an existing business, but just for ideas, before you even get to projects, to coming up with these ideas, would you consider yourself a serial idea starting person?

Why Communication with Your Partners and Co-Founder Is So Important

Dave Nevogt: Yeah. I have a lot of ideas. I think it’s hard. You can only do so much for sure. I have to continually tell myself, “No, you know we don’t want to go and distract ourselves,” but there’s a lot of ideas that I have that we could do if we could do multiple things. Right now, actually, what I’m trying to do is focus in and focus on the core business.

Jonny Nastor: Which is Hubstaff?

Dave Nevogt: Yeah.

Jonny Nastor: Will there be a point, or do you get that weird entrepreneurial itch, where Hubstaff is going well, and it’s like, “Oh, I’d love to start something else maybe too on the side”?

Dave Nevogt: For me, I love what I do. I love Hubstaff. I love it. It’s my baby. I’ve got a great partner. We have a very solid foundation, and the software is awesome. That goes a long, long way to helping us focus on the core business that we have. That being said, what it is more than anything is a feeling of missed potential. It’s opportunity costs. Where is the highest ROI going to be? Is the ROI going to come from doubling down and putting all our energy into one product that’s doing really well right now? Do you go deep into that product?

Or would it be smarter to invest somewhere else, for example, like development resources? Right now, for example, we have eight, maybe seven programmers. You take that team, or at least a subset of that team, and build out another product that you can monetize in other ways where we can take a lot of the knowledge that we’ve gained from starting this first product and build another one three times faster.

Then, that brings in a whole new demographic of people that may cross-fit into what you’re currently selling. There’s a lot of things to consider there. That’s the main thing for us. What’s the smart thing to do?

Jonny Nastor: You’ve decided, though, to double down on what it is you do?

Dave Nevogt: For the present time, yes.

Jonny Nastor: It could change tomorrow, who knows.

Dave Nevogt: That could change tomorrow, yeah. Right now, we’re focused on building other things out, but those other things are all going to feed into Hubstaff.

Jonny Nastor: Excellent. Well, first of all, where did you guys even come up with even the idea of Hubstaff?

Why Pain Points Can Lead to Opportunity

Dave Nevogt: I have been doing online business now for a long time, 10 plus years. Back in 2008, I was searching for a product that did this. My main pain point in my life was dealing with all the moving parts in a business — just all the admin, why projects weren’t moving forward. I had a physical office out in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I had about eight people in that office.

When I came home at night, man, all I could think about was this feeling of stress because, “Joe’s doing this, but it’s not really moving forward. We need this to happen, so we can … ” — it’s like a big Gant chart that is hard to control. You don’t have any vision into what anyone was doing. Today, it’s a lot easier. You have these project management softwares that you can use, that can help you do this.

Back then, we were doing things in Excel, email. It was harder to manage back then. I was searching for this product that didn’t exist. I kind of got it in the back of my mind that I’d love to do something like this. When the opportunity came three years later, I jumped on it.

Jonny Nastor: Wow, that’s cool. The opportunity came because you met your co-founders or … ? I know my listener’s sitting here, “Hey, where’s that opportunity come from?”

How and Where to Find a Technical Co-Founder

Dave Nevogt: A very quick explanation of it is that I was in an e-commerce business at the time, and I had no idea about software. The opportunity came because I threw myself into another business. I bought a business that was software oriented because I wanted to learn software. I felt like it was the place to be. I felt like it was easier to sell, so I moved into software through an intermediate opportunity.

I was hired on to run the company, but I also put my personal money into the company. So I owned 18 percent of it, 20 percent of it. I ran that for four years. Then I understood and could make more decisions. Then when I was looking for a new product after that, that’s when I went for Hubstaff.

Jonny Nastor: You met your co-founders, though?

Dave Nevogt: I met my co-founder through LinkedIn, and I found him through LinkedIn.

Jonny Nastor: Really, wow. See, that’s cool.

Dave Nevogt: Yeah.

Jonny Nastor: That’s cool, so it’s not like an existing relationship?

Dave Nevogt: No, I had to sell him. I had to search him out and sell him on this idea. He did not like it, and I had to sell him on it.

Jonny Nastor: That’s awesome.

Dave Nevogt: Yeah.

Jonny Nastor: How long did that take? How many tries did this take when he’s like, “No, man”? I’ve been through that, too, and I’ve had people be like “No.” Then you’ve got to keep pushing.

Dave Nevogt: Yeah. I’ve got a full blog post. I write about my experiences in growing this business. I have a full post on this topic, but to make a long story short, I had to court him into the idea of both myself as an entrepreneur and the idea — he’s a smart guy, and he has lots of opportunity — and the idea for him to jump in on this specific product.

So it was like, “What makes you right as the entrepreneur, and then what makes this product right as a product.”? I had to sell him about those things. When I did, that took two or three in-person meetings. He lives where I live in Indianapolis. It took two or three in-person meetings, probably three or four phone calls, and 30 emails to do that.

Jonny Nastor: Wow. You don’t give up easy do you?

Dave Nevogt: Yeah. Well, it wasn’t like the whole time was me. It was a process of us getting to know each other.

Jonny Nastor: Right, which it is, right? From the outside, though, it always seems like, “Oh, he had these connections from somewhere else,” but no, you made that connection.

Dave Nevogt: Yeah, you have to go out and make it, man.

Jonny Nastor: Did you intentionally look for somebody local with you?

Dave Nevogt: I did.

Jonny Nastor: You did, eh? Wow.

Dave Nevogt: That’s not required by any means. The software that I build is all about remote, but I’ve been in business now for so long that I know that, if I’m going to commit to this thing, it’s going to be a seven-day-a-week thing. Business is on my mind all day long, every day, no matter what I’m doing pretty much. It’s very hard to turn off. For me, that commitment from my partner — we had a 50/50 deal — I wanted him to have that same mindset. Local was important to me for that reason, if it makes any sense.

Jonny Nastor: It totally does make sense. The 50/50 deal, do you think that’s kind of an essential?

Dave Nevogt: It is. Totally.

Jonny Nastor: Why do you think that?

Dave Nevogt: Well, because I’ve discussed it in depth with him and because, as the founding person that wanted to build this company, I needed that because I know I’m building software, and I know how important it is to have somebody driving that side of the business. I mean truly driving it. I don’t want to drive it. I can’t drive it effectively if I’m going to build a product that’s going to realistically be a $20 million company some day. I can’t build that as a non-tech person. I don’t think I can at least. I still don’t think I can. I couldn’t do the job that he did. That’s number one.

Number two, I was at the point in my life where, if you’re going to give me two deals, I’ll take 50 percent of something that has a high likelihood of success because the other person is driven and it’s a 50/50 deal versus giving somebody 10 percent and just having them not be fully committed to the project. Then I’m a year and a half into this project, and it’s like, “Why doesn’t this seem to be taking off?” — because I don’t have my partner’s full support.

I love the 50/50 partnership deal. I know lots of people say that, “Hey, it’s not as best to do that,” but man, I wouldn’t do it any other way to be honest.

Jonny Nastor: I absolutely, absolutely, absolutely agree with you, man. I’ve had that discussion with other people. Anything I’ve ever been part of has been 50/50 or if there’s three people involved … You hit it totally — it’s better to have half of something huge, than all of something that is nothing. Also, the fact of you can sell the person on the idea to join you, but then they only have 10 percent. They’re just not invested in it. They’re not, and they’re not going to care.

Dave Nevogt: The other thing to is, especially if you’re looking for that development side of the business, the whole development world is very much built on a per-hour basis. That’s what they measure on, so they’re measuring their investment into the business based on what the opportunity cost if they went to go work six hours a day for somebody else at $100 an hour or whatever it is.

They build the backbone of your company, and from a technology standpoint, at zero dollars an hour. That saves your company a lot of money if you have somebody doing that work, that foundational level work for you, for the business at no cost, obviously. That’s the only way we could do it. I didn’t want to pay that out of pocket.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, exactly. No, man, I love it. It’s great. All right, Dave, we’re going to wrap up on something I’m calling the ‘entrepreneurial gap.’ It seems that, as entrepreneurs and dreamers, we’re constantly looking forward and pushing forward, setting goals one month, three months, six months, a year, three years, 10 years out. Before we even hit these goals, we set five or 10 loftier ones into the future.

We’re just, “Everything will be better in six months when my business does this. In three months when I get to do this, it’s better. When I get to do this in a year, everything will be better. I’ll be successful then,” but we never seem to quite get there.

I know you’ve been in this game a long time now, and you’ve done a lot of really, really cool things. I would love it right now, Dave, if you could stop, turn around, and look at all the stuff you have come through, everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve built, everything that’s done well, done terribly. Just tell me how you feel about what you’ve accomplished today.

You Will Never Learn Unless You Try Things Out for Yourself

Dave Nevogt: I feel incredibly proud. I feel proud, and I feel very secure at this point in time. Those are the two words I would use.

Jonny Nastor: Nice, proud and secure.

Dave Nevogt: Yeah.

Jonny Nastor: Secure is usually the one thing people, that’s their excuse for not taking the leap into entrepreneurship. They think that having a job somewhere is more secure than doing it yourself.

Dave Nevogt: Right, just to close it out real quick. I feel secure because you’re going to learn so much more by going and trying something by yourself. You’re forced to learn a very broad set of skills. I feel like, if worse came to worse, I would have any one of 300 startups begging to have me on board.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s very cool. All right, Dave, this has been a lot of fun. We have got to talk about your business in passing, but could you specifically tell the listener where they can find out more about you and your business?

Dave Nevogt: Yes, I run Hubstaff, Hubstaff.com, @Hubstaff is our Twitter ID. I blog about a lot of the stuff we talked about today, about my challenges with growing a SaaS-based business. It’s just Blog.Hubstaff.com. Those will be the places that you can find me. My email is Dave@Hubstaff.com.

Jonny Nastor: Excellent. Are you on Twitter?

Dave Nevogt: I am, @dnevogt.

Jonny Nastor: Excellent. Hubstaff.com, blog@hubstaff.com, and dnevogt on Twitter. I’ll link to all those in the show notes, so they are very, very easy for you to find. Once again, Dave, thanks for your time, and please keep doing what you’re doing, man, because it’s really, really awesome to watch.

Dave Nevogt: Thank you, sir.

Jonny Nastor: Well, that was a lot of fun. Dave is a smart, smart guy. I like how he’s evolved in online businesses from a niche sort of business where so many people start with just figuring out how the Internet works with golf, and then he took that to this huge level and then went on to now SaaS and software as a service product, which has a huge, huge massive big potential. I really, really dig that about the conversation.

Going back over the conversation, I have all these things that he talked about. All these things that he mentioned that were really, really important and key and smart. Yet, there was one thing. There was that one thing. Did you get it? Did you hear it? Let’s do it. Let’s find the hack.

Dave Nevogt: Back in 2008, I was searching for a product that did this. My main pain point in my life was dealing with all the moving parts in a business — just all the admin, why projects weren’t moving forward. I had a physical office out in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I had about eight people in that office. When I came home at night, man, all I could think about was this feeling of stress.

Jonny Nastor: And that’s the hack.

Yes, Dave. That. That exactly. I do not know how many times I’ve been asked this question. “Where do you come up with an idea for a product to create, a service to create, or a business in general?” Dave just nailed it. It’s that scratching your own itch. He had this pain point in his life. He had this problem where he was trying to do something in his business or online, and it couldn’t be done with what he could find out there. We all have these things.

This is the whole, to me, part of the mindset change of moving from just being a consumer to being a producer. This will make you start to see and deal with things in ways that, when you’re looking for something and you can’t find it, when you’re dealing with something and it’s too awkward, or it doesn’t work the way you think it should, rather than just grumbling about it, you’ll start to think, “Hmm, maybe I should actually just start this business. Maybe I should just find a co-founder on LinkedIn, like Dave did, create this software, and then sell it.”

These are where the ideas come from. This is a recurring theme of people that I’ve been talking to on this show, of scratching your own itch. It really, really, really is such a great way to find a business idea. It’s not the only way. It maybe isn’t even always the best way, depending on what they are, but it definitely gets the wheels turning in your head for products and ideas that you could possibly create and take to market.

Dave, I loved how you said that. I love how you’ve done that with Hubstaff. I love, then, how you also weren’t technical, so you went and found somebody to build it. It’s brilliant. It’s awesome. That’s totally what it takes. It just takes doing it and scratching your own itch, so thanks, Dave.

All right, as always, this has been so much fun, and I really, really do appreciate you stopping by. If you’ve not had a chance, HacktheEntrepreneur.com/iTunes. You will be able to leave me a rating and a review. It’ll help the show so much, and I’ll be so happy.

Maybe you don’t even like iTunes, how about Stitcher? HacktheEntrepreneur.com/Stitcher. A wicked app for your Android phone or your iPhone if you wish. It’s a great place to seek out new podcasts. If you could go to HacktheEntrepreneur.com/Stitcher, not only will it take you to Stitcher, it’ll also take you to the Hack the Entrepreneur page, where you could also leave me a rating and review. Both of these would be greatly, greatly, greatly appreciated. It helps so much.

All right, thank you. It’s been fun, and please, until next time, keep hacking the entrepreneur.