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Lasting Businesses Do This ONE Thing Differently

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Starting the conversation:

Adapt! Change! Evolve! These are the three things necessary to create a lasting business. The fuel for success is determining your business purpose — that as the business develops and evolves, it continues to be fulfilling even as customers and technologies change. JJ Parker, CEO at Tightrope Media, talks about the importance of self-awareness in leading a company through multiple changes to adapt and thrive.

The insight that reflection brings is highly undervalued. Many of us use data as reflection — what happened before and where are we at now — and how we look forward is based on numbers. What about you? Your team? Your customers? Reflection affords the opportunity to see and feel how you have changed so you can show up fully to the way those around you change. Leading a company denotes the expectation of being the example. The more you are willing to acknowledge shortcomings, desires, and strengths … the more you are able to bring an insight to coaching for personal growth at every level.

In this program, you will learn the importance of founding values and business purpose. Dive deep into these themes to hear about the significance of recognizing the significance of self-awareness, addressing inevitable change, and to focus attention on to the current state and future goals of your company. Jess Dewell talks with JJ Parker, co-founder and CEO of Tightrope Media Systems which makes the Carousel Digital Signage Software and Cablecast Community Media products, about creating a lasting business by focusing on bringing people together to do their best work.

Host: Jess Dewell

Guest: J.J. Parker

What You Will Hear:

7:55 Founding core value remains the same: make technology accessible to everyone.

  • The same founding value over 25 years later.
  • Looking back, it is profound to have articulated the founding core value so early.
  • The business sounds boring, yet meaningful and exciting to connect people together.

10:30 Awareness about what the company does: normalize “boring.”

  • It’s OK not to be big.
  • Easy to be distracted by so much cool stuff and new stuff.
  • Can you look at the work your business does as an art project?
  • An unexpected hobby that is exciting, creative, and builds business thinking…

13:40 Distractions are everywhere, so you can work them out or be harmed by them.

  • And, still have fun!
  • Self-awareness is HUGE for: 1. Motivation and 2. Past reflection

16:45 The human condition can get in your way.

  • Coach to personality traits.
  • Understand and accept self-limiting behaviors so you can change them.
  • It’s an inside game and requires effort to change your limiting behaviors.
  • Tips to recenter quickly.
  • It is important to bring leadership coaching to every level of your organization

30:20 How do you show up to what is out of your control?

  • Economics, industry, and customers will change — how you adapt will determine the longevity of your company.
  • Your business model will evolve with external factors that influence and demand your business to change.
  • There will be surprises during change. A story of resistance from within.
  • Change management takes time and will have difficult patches.
  • Mindset and head space: What is the reason and value behind the change, and how this can be the constant reminder that’s why change is happening.

35:35 How do you work ON your business?

  • Leadership team requires deep trust to run the day-to-day.
  • Boundaries provide guidance and a way to keep the pulse of the business and the external factors that impact business.
  • Actively explore the state of the company now and what you want it to be in the future.
  • When you sense being stuck, seeing stagnation or lack of alignment. STOP, figure it out, and then take the next step.

40:45 Get lost, literally!

  • JJ Parker’s ultimate dream.
  • We don’t know what direction to go, yet we have experience and the ability to be thoughtful about what we are facing.
  • What we do and who we serve stays at the center of decision-making.
  • GET UNCOMFORTABLE by: 1. Being a noob; 2. Challenging your identity; 3. Letting go of attachment to outcomes.

48:25 It is BOLD to find markets that are underserved and to excel, even if it is a boring business.



J.J. Parker 00:00
Having a core founding value that sack clear is like a real gift. And I actually didn’t realize how much of a gift that was when I was young.

Wow, you are listening to the Bold Business Podcast, where you will hear firsthand experiences about what it really takes to ensure market relevance and your company’s future.

Jess Dewell 00:23
As you will hear in this conversation, JJ Parker and I cover a lot of different ground. We’re talking about business elements. And they boil down to one thing, how we are how we show up in the world, and our own personal self-awareness. While we did not get to spend too much time in that particular topic, we did explore and discuss different places-in-business that we find ourselves needing to pause and look a little deeper to hold up that mirror to check in with ourselves. Are we self-aware enough? Is there something we’re missing? How can we decide what to carry forward? Let me tell you a little bit more about JJ Parker. Not only is he the CEO of tight-rope media systems, he has been a business owner for over 25 years of the same business, carousel, digital signage, software, and cablecast. community media products are things that he has been working on, when he found a need to connect people together and make technology accessible, tight rope was started in 1997. And he has been applying his unique perspective on work life and personal expression ever since. Yeah, you might have enjoyed it. He’s a nerd. His first computer was an Apple two. And then he went to art school and used MCAD. JJ believes entrepreneurship is an artistic expression. And every business can be treated as an art project. And maybe even should be when he’s not building companies. He’s spending time with his wife and kids on the lake playing tennis, snowboarding, even hanging off the side of a mountain. I’m gonna get you back to JJ now. We’re going to just jump in. Tell me just real quick. Why did you go into business? And how many employees do you have today? And how many years did it take you to get to today?

J.J. Parker 02:16
Okay, you got to rewind the clock to 1996 I don’t know what you were doing in 1996. But graduating from high school, I was fresh into college. My first couple years of college, I went to art school. So I went to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. And while I was in high school, and while I was in those first few years of college, I was working at a TV station, our local public access TV stations, if you remember, it’s like that kind of TV station from the late 90s. It was like straight-up Wayne’s World kind of stuff, right? Like people would come in and shoot their stuff like whatever. But we also did a lot of support for the school district, right? So we would help produce the concerts, we do the football games, and we do all of the school activities and televise those. And one of the other jobs I had there working for the school district was to teach teachers how to run video equipment. And in 96, that was like a tube TV hung in the quarter of the hallway that showed the school lunch menu and like the activities happening, do you remember this?

Jess Dewell 03:18
Totally, they were in my school.

J.J. Parker 03:21
My high school buddies working at an AV reseller. So he was like working for a company that would go install that stuff in schools. And we would have to train these teachers over and over how to use the software. And he was like all he was a little bit hot, more hot-headed than I was the audience teachers. They’re so dumb, we just have to train them over and over. And I was like, Dude, the teachers aren’t dumb. The software is not made for them. So we’re like, wait a second, we should make software that the teachers can use, because the software we’re training them on was really like a more sophisticated like graphic design tool. And even those tools back then were like not very good, right? It’s not it’s not like logging into Canva. Nowadays, where you can pretty much do it. It was like some really archaic things. So we’re like, let’s make new software this easier for the teacher. So because I was an art student, I like drew a whole bunch of like user interface designs I thought would work. And we tried to find a computer programmer to make this our vision was, hey, quibbled web page where the teachers type in their school information. It shows up on that tube TV. Every programmer we found they’re like, Yeah, dudes, websites and tube TVs don’t connect. No, like, they got to connect. Come on. We got a $5,000 loan from his mom. We bought a laptop and a stack of programming books like yay-high. And I programmed the first version of the software. And that was it cool. It works. And they love it. And their content was always up to date. Teachers thought it was like a great thing. And then we had no business experience, right? Like I could draw really pretty pictures. But other than that, so we just made our thing a little better. So hold another copy made a little better sold another copy. And we literally just bootstrapped that business all the way.

Jess Dewell 05:07
How long did it take you to pay off your friend’s mom?

J.J. Parker 05:10
Oh, a couple years. See, when you’re in like a friends and family financing situation. It’s like lingers, maybe?

Jess Dewell 05:19
That’s right. Uh-huh. I agreed that.

J.J. Parker 05:21
She was extremely supportive as we went on our really up-and-down journey, especially those first. Hi smells like 10 years. It was tough.

Jess Dewell 05:32
So all these years later, you are working at the same company, you are the torchbearer for the same company.

J.J. Parker 05:38
Yes. So that product is called Carousel. And yeah, it is still in market today and in a pretty dominant way. And so yeah, it’s 25 years. Like if you do the math, I don’t want to tip off my age. But I started that company, I was 19. And I was 25 years old.

Jess Dewell 05:57
And everybody was my age now because I told them when I graduated from high school, so we’re all in the same boat, JJ, they could have figured it out plus or minus a few years.

J.J. Parker 06:06
It’s a pretty interesting journey that whole time, like a lot of tech change, a lot of market change. It was a market. We’re in today, what’s called the Digital Signage market. That wasn’t even a word when we started. I know, right? So it’s been pretty fun to be like in an emergent market for a very long time. And it’s mind-boggling to me that I have a 25-year-old software company who has that that’s not

Jess Dewell 06:27
It is nuts, and awesome. And, and unusual in general for business, outside of even technology. So you were on the early side of when technology met mainstream in a way that was meaningful outside of just us having them in our homes, in a more of a workspace-connected community space. And then you’re right, all of those changes.

J.J. Parker 06:48
Again, leading on that early experience I had working at the TV station, we actually made a product called cablecast. And cablecast helps local government TV stations playback their shows, for example, whatever town you live in the station that shows the city council meetings, that almost for sure it comes off our software. It’s crazy, we run like a majority of the TV stations in the country. This is not sexy TV, right? This is not like NBC and ABC and the big colors. But this is like critical transparency and government kind of communication, right? Where we’re enabling these small municipalities to get all of that information out to the residents. sAnd that’s sometime, sometimes all of that it’s necessary. And the way to make impact is to listen to what is actually necessary. It’s not always about what kind of transformation can we make? Where can we go from here? How big can it be? It really is connecting people to people in a meaningful way. And it may not sound sexy, but it’s one of the biggest things that we have to do with each other. In general,

J.J. Parker 07:55
One of the interesting things, as I tell that story, especially the carousel story, the born out of the school story, is that we had this like founding core value, that visual communication tool that was showing messages in the schools accessible to everybody. That was it. It was a very simple concept. Of course, you’d want to have everyone participate in the communication tool. But it wasn’t like that thinking back then. The amazing thing to me is that little core principle is in the product today, 25 years later, it’s like the single differentiator we have still having a company that has a core value, a core founding value, that sack clear, is like a real gift. And I actually didn’t realize how much of a gift that was when I was young. We just did a thing. We’re just like, oh, teachers have problems, we fix the problem. But as we like matured as a business over the years, I was like wait a second, that little insight was surprisingly genius. Yes. Now we just stumbled into it. So when I look at other businesses and ideas and covers, I’m really like always looking for what is like the founding core value, that business can stand on for a long period of time.

Jess Dewell 09:02
And you’re looking back and you’re seeing it, and you’re recognizing it. When did you actually realize it? That this was a founding core principle

J.J. Parker 09:11
I probably didn’t really appreciate I would say I wouldn’t, didn’t appreciate how important that was. Until maybe even five years ago, we were working on some founder story work in our marketing team. In developing that story. I was like, Oh, wait, there it is. It’s sitting right there.

Jess Dewell 09:30
That’s actually an interesting thing. Because some of the things that are our strongest traits, some of those things that really are they’re the fuel for why we’re doing something are often the ones that we take for granted or overlook or don’t think they’re actually as important as they are. Yeah,

J.J. Parker 09:46
I would agree like the Simon Sinek start with why stuff it helps you try to get to the core of like, why are you actually doing a thing? You said something earlier which was a lot boring business is actually really connect so well and perform well. Building tech for tech sake, often misses this like core y. And this core like connection with the customer, other people. I’m a nerd, I like tinkering and building stuff. But at some point, when you’re trying to build a business that’s going to last, you’ve got to get to a point where you’re like, I’m building this to make an impact. And these are the core values that impact stands on.

Jess Dewell 10:28
So let’s think about that tech for tech sake, once upon a time, Google bought Fitbit, right? That was a few years ago. Now, I just learned and I know, this is not a new thing. But I just learned that they’re totally scrapping the What is it 1.2 Or something billion dollars that they spent, they’re shutting it down. This is a tech for tech sake, versus a connecting piece at even the highest levels of those companies that we look to to be innovative. And I find that wasn’t very interesting comment on your part. Are we trying to be innovative? Are we trying to do it for the sake of it? Or are we trying to do it to do something else? And really knowing the difference or tapping into the fact that it’s okay, if it’s not, I almost wonder if that’s the normalization piece, right? We have to normalize that.

J.J. Parker 11:10
So being aware of like, why you’re doing things I actually, literally started the business 10 years ago, I was having a partnership-issues with my business partner. Partner. Story. Yeah. Yeah, part of the story is, like, I have that founding business partner, but then I bought him out in 2015. But like, in 2014, I was like, so frustrated, at work. And with my partner and everything, I literally started another company. And like, funded staff, I mean, not like I was tinkering around on the weekends, it was like full-on company, office space, everything. And like, looking back, and I’m like, oh, wait a second. I started that company. Not I mean, yeah, I wanted to start it right. It was interesting to me. But I put frankly, honestly, part of me started it because I was frustrated that my other thing wasn’t going as smooth as I wanted. I want like, fun little garden to play in.

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Jess Dewell 12:22
When we are distracted, when we have these big ideas, when we have something that seems so exciting that we can’t not do it. All we’re doing is leaving exactly who we are behind while we go do that. And then we have to always circle back, there’s always the circle back to where we left ourselves to keep going.

J.J. Parker 12:40
I call all my businesses, our projects, they’re all our projects. Because if you think of your business as an art project, it’s actually way less stressful. Yes, well, you’re like, Oh, I got payroll, and blah, blah, blah, on and all the art projects get paid.

J.J. Parker 12:58
Yes, it takes the edge off of it. But I’m chronically distracted by the like ideas. I like to explore a lot of ideas. So like, my wife absolutely knows this about me. Like for fun on the weekends, I make business plans. And she actually also knows that this affliction is so deep with me that if I have an idea, like Friday afternoon, she doesn’t know is like, Oh, yep, I can’t disturb him the whole weekend, because he’s gonna be down there in the basement writing a business plan. And I can’t do anything else until I get it out of my brain. You know what I mean? Like, I have to unload it out of my brain or else I’m just like, completely, not even functional.

Jess Dewell 13:41
So coming back to that, is that your quick way of working through other problems?

J.J. Parker 13:47
What things are kind of distractions in your life? What things are good kind of tributaries to explore? And how do all of those work in conjunction with each other? Or how are they harmful? So what I’ve noticed with myself, is like, I have to put some guardrails around the side project stuff, or else I get a little bit to add or obsess, which is silly, because like my main gig, or my other two companies, carousel, and cablecast are pretty great businesses, they should probably focus most of my energy on, like, the thing that’s going to return like 90% of the result. Like it’s like an 8020 thing, right? Like, focus on things that’s gonna get you the best results. But I kind of contrast that with. I also know myself and I just know that I need to do some of these things for fun, if you can bucket in personal growth was professional growth, what’s fun, and just be aware of what you’re doing. It’s gonna make you a lot happier.

Jess Dewell 14:47
So you’re talking about it from a business perspective. I want people who are listening and watching us to recognize it might be good if it brings something back to add to the 20% is returning 80% or whatever your personal equation is, but it’s in You’re seeing too, because I do think we need to leave ourselves behind because I think we have to discover something new about ourselves to be able to bring back and go, Oh, this fits for me or not. And I have forgotten how to show up. Or I need to show up differently to grow into the goals that we have set, personally or professionally. I think there’s an element of this, that whatever that outlet is, it’s an interesting piece of awareness that if we’re not building in things like that, and then consciously going, and it doesn’t have to be every time. Well, looking back over the last few years, was there something I took away from that? Are you excited about integrating e-commerce differently into your businesses that are your primary ones from your pickleball thing? Or is it because you really wanted to support pickleball? And you want to just walk around me like, where did you get your T-shirt from my website? It could be I both.

J.J. Parker 15:51
I play a lot of tennis. Yeah. And all the tennis players hate pickleball. Yeah, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these T shirts that say, the antisocial. Yeah. So I made anti-pickleball, pickleball Club T-shirts because all my tennis player friends would like badmouth pickleball. But who would I see out on the pickleball court every week? All my tennis friends.

Jess Dewell 16:10
See, I’m telling you, it’s the thing. I love that.

J.J. Parker 16:13
So you said something very key that I’m really passionate about. And I think it’s like one of the keys to my certainly personal but has had a huge effect on my professional development, which is self-awareness. Especially as entrepreneurs, we’re like, running super fast all the time. We’ve got ambitious goals, we put 150% into our work, we often neglect big, important parts of our lives to focus on some of our goals. But taking the time and working on self-awareness to understand hey, what’s actually motivated me, why am I doing these things? What about my past would lead me to behave in some of these ways doing that work is really important, especially when you’re an entrepreneur.

Jess Dewell 17:00
It is true, we are our own biggest obstacle. Our own I don’t like to say our own worst enemy, because maybe but I don’t think we’re inherently like that. I’m not sure if that’s like part of where we’re at in society. I’m not sure if that’s a human condition. All the reading I’ve done whether it be stoicism, theology, anthropology, talking with people all through time in different cultures. I can’t tell. And maybe I’ll never know that answer.

J.J. Parker 17:29
I feel like it’s a human condition thing. Because if you go, like you said that if you go read the stoics the advice that the stoics give, is amazingly timeless. You’re like, Wait, this applies to today, and social media and everything about my modern life today. And this was written hundreds of years ago or 1000s of years, I don’t know when I was written a long time ago.

Jess Dewell 17:51
We’ll go with both.

J.J. Parker 17:54
So to me, that kind of indicates a lot of the side almost self-destructive behavior we have, or at least, I would say self-destructive vessel heavy-handed the self-limiting behaviors we have are in us. And what I think about a lot actually, is what did it take from a brain perspective to survive in the woods with no resources? They are human, we plunked you, we put you in the middle of the woods survive, don’t get eaten by a lion. And so much of our brain chemistry in the way it behaves today in modern society is built for don’t get eaten by a lion. Yeah, it’s true. So I think our brain is still in a little bit of a primitive mode. And a lot of our and certainly a lot of our initial reaction is very primitive. It comes from a very primitive part of our brain, just recognizing, and maybe even just taking some of those moments and be like, Oh, I had a strong reaction. Let me attempt to put a little space between that strong internal reaction and my external reaction.

Jess Dewell 19:02
Okay, so how do you do that?

J.J. Parker 19:03
So a couple of things that I do that, that have helped me is, I think, like you I do all Han of reading in the self development genre because I think it’s really fascinating. My business partner in that business that I started out of frustration. She’s a professional coach. So she and I spent a lot of time like talking about this topic. And then things that helped me just like on a day-to-day basis is doing mindfulness and yoga practice. To me that gets my brain to slow down. I took maybe like a six-month break from yoga practice last year. I got back into it. Like, I was like, Oh, God, I gotta get back into yoga. I gotta get back into it. So I signed up for the yoga class went there, and minute one, almost like crap. I got so many good ideas right now. I should have brought a notebook into this yoga class. And I’m like, What on earth am I thinking my smokey brains going like 1000 miles an hour, I’m like, that’s not the point of this. The point of it dummy is stop thinking. That’s the whole point.

Jess Dewell 20:07
Okay, so for yoga for me, when I am in the middle of a break, and I can already tell you, my husband has said, When is this over, and my team is you are a little feisty because I can only do yoga, when I’m in a yoga class, I’m the exact opposite, I cannot think about anything. And I love that because it’s the only place in the entire world. And so in my household, it’s when is just going to yoga, then everything else can happen is how, like, when you go to the basement to write a business plan, everybody knows. And I think that’s interesting. And for me, when I get all the ideas, and I have a voice recorder, I hate having my phone with me, when I’m out. And when I’m out in the woods, when I take a walk when I’m on a five or 10-mile hike, from the first five steps, I’m like, Am I really going to tuck into this thing the whole time? Am I really going to end sometimes I do. But that’s when it shows up for me. So it’s a cool thing that you’re talking about that maybe each one of us will open the floodgates of what we haven’t been able to access.

J.J. Parker 21:08
Another trick of mine is, especially if I’m going to have a hard conversation with somebody, I’ll make myself a hot cup of tea. And I won’t put it in this insulated mug I have, I’ll put it in just like a regular ceramic mug, because then I can feel the heat on my hands when I hold it. And something about that, for me, helps ground me and gets me back into the moment and just takes the emotion down just enough. So I’m making like, much more thought out. And rational choices.

Jess Dewell 21:38
We’ll see you actually have practices that are almost whether it could be ritual, it could be ceremonial, but they’re used in the moment to help you achieve a goal. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. How long have you been doing that? Is that a newer thing? Or is that something that you reflected and just knew about or?

J.J. Parker 22:02
No. So back in again, back in 2015, I got super interested in like how to give my team feedback, an actual be feedback. And so back then i You probably remember that like personality assessments or thing 360 feedback was a thing. So I had constructed this version of 360 feedback for my team. And we did it. But then the whole team was like JJ, my coworkers think I’m too assertive. What should I do? I’m like, I don’t know. Be Less assertive halfway.

Jess Dewell 22:36
So what’s next? That’s great. Get started these awesome conversations.

J.J. Parker 22:40
Yeah, next client come in, I’m an awesome coach. What I realized was like, hey, this feedback, like personalities has 360. Like, that’s all fine, but it’s like data. But how do we get the coaching opportunities for these employees for an end for everybody. And what I’ve noticed in the market, if you’re an executive, there’s like lots of coaching opportunities. Like you have an executive coach, you have leadership off-site. So you get like speakers, maybe you’re involved in a Vistage group where you got all of these growth opportunities. But if your rank and file and especially if you’re like a frontline worker, like interacting with our customers, you have almost no coaching opportunities. So we actually set off me and Melissa set off to build what we call the core ology. It was like an online coaching platform, so you’d get a light personality test, they would just bucket you into the big five, right? So pretty standard. And then it would provide you with, like, specific coaching based on your personality trait, like I’m very introverted, which means just I need to think in order to talk and a lot of people would be like, oh, yeah, just kind of arrogant. Like, what are you talking about? I’m not arrogant. And they’re like, Yeah, we say stuff to you. And you just sit there. I was like, I’m thinking, what?

Jess Dewell 24:02
Hi, pause. There’s a power there. It’s a practice.

J.J. Parker 24:06
And then meanwhile, like, we’ve got these extrovert co-workers, and it’s just like diarrhea of the mouth. I’m like, Will you shut up so we can all think so we had 1000s of videos, and we would deliver coaching packs, like here’s a conflict coaching pack, but it’s tuned to you Jess who might be assertive, low patience, and like highly extroverted. Anyway, we were working on that. And that’s really where I got super interested in understanding the different people’s personality. And again, this isn’t good or bad. This isn’t right or wrong. This is it just is. It’s an is thing, right? Your brain is just wired in a way and it’s luckily wired in a different way. In all of us. It’s what makes humanity beautiful, but the more we can understand, like, how I’m wired and how you’re wired and maybe how we can work to gather in a really effective way. Otherwise, this button heads all the time. All right, that’s a whole big rant about that, about that company, where we’re trying to bring those kinds of coaching opportunities. So that’s where my absolute obsession with self-awareness has come from.

Jess Dewell 25:14
I kept getting told the way I should be. And I never felt like the way I was told I was actually was the way I actually am. And that goes way back.

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Jess Dewell 26:02
I remember knowing I could always get the job done by myself. And when I found myself in my first company where I had to have a leadership role, and not only rally people, but be clear enough that we were all moving in the same direction to hit generally the same time targets. And time is definitely not my is a challenge for me. That I think is when I actually remember figuring out I have to do a lot of work, so that I can show up in a way that people can receive me to hear the information they need to get their job done. And saying that I love. I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud before Jay.

J.J. Parker 26:41
That’s a remarkable insight. Like, if everyone could have that insight that you just, that you’ve had, and you had the you must add that insight years ago, that was like an absolute gift. I’m sure it’s affected, you were able to say, Hey, I recognize the thing, I’m not showing up the way I want, I’m gonna figure it out. And that’s amazing. It probably is deeply affected your work and core happiness.

Jess Dewell 27:05
It has, it also reminds me I want to just go be in the trees more. So as extroverted as I am, I enjoy the silence and the connection that the outdoor brings. Because I don’t know if it’s busyness I don’t know if it sound I don’t know, if it’s all the vibrations. All I know is at some point, that’s the most tiring people are not tiring. Behaviors are not tiring. Tasks are not tiring. But they take away from the time to do that big creative work, which is probably why when I said earlier, oh, immediately that happens. Because it’s the time that everything else is at bay enough that my energy has another place to go. So that’s an interesting thing too about like this concept of energy management, which I’m sure plays a huge role in continuing to carry the torch. How do you evolve having a 25-year-old company means there are big changes because the world changes. Sometimes it’s technology, the way people will buy or interact with what we’re selling changes. Sometimes it’s other things. And so I’m curious how has the self-awareness, both consciously and unconsciously, over time helped you either anticipate or be ready for or respond to the marketplace changes that made it necessary for you to go okay, if we’re going to, I’ve got my founding principle, if we’re going to continue, how do we do that?

J.J. Parker 28:26
When we first started, we were selling like a rack-mounted computer that you’d, you’d slide in an equipment rack, you would run one channel, it costs like $8,000 is an appliance model, you bought an appliance slot. That’s right, I bought the thing, that thing came in a box.

Jess Dewell 28:42
There are a lot of people that listen to this podcast that know exactly what that means. And there are people who listen to the podcast who have no concept that computers came in many boxes at one point and had multiple pieces that you work together outside of a keyboard, a mouse and a screen.

J.J. Parker 28:58
So we went from that model. And fast forward to today, we’re 100% Software as a Service subscription revenue. So we had to go from an appliance sale, perpetual software license that were moved to a software-only model, still a perpetual software license. Then we moved to a subscription model. So each one of those changes was really hard. Especially the perpetual to subscription change, which we started in 2019. I look at it like okay, we’re selling this is a one-time sale, perpetual software license just like used to buy Microsoft Word back in the day. We got that. Now we’re gonna switch to subscription. If had to charge them one time. We’re gonna charge them every month, forever. CMZ easy. So we started doing that. The thing that was so surprising to me wasn’t that the customers wanted it. Tactically, it wasn’t that hard like that all of the soft billing software. Yeah, we had to learn some new software. But it wasn’t that hard. The thing that was remarkable is the team, the team had a surprising amount of resistance to that change.

Jess Dewell 30:19
I got to know more about this.

J.J. Parker 30:21
Hopefully my team knows, like, listen, we’ll listen to this whole entire episode, as I call them out on being change-resistant. And love you guys. Know? So like the sales team, right? The sales team were like, Hey, we need a subscription product. Cool. Here’s your subscription product. Who? I don’t know about that. We built that thing you guys have been asking for for five years. You sell it now? Yeah. That’d be a little dramatic. But, but it was surprising how much internal resistance we had when we made these bigger moves. And to me the lesson there is a change management. Especially if you’re in a little startup, like three, four people, yet, no one’s going to get any significant whiplash, if you like, pivot instantly, like I was, Oh, cool. We got to go run over here now. Cool, let’s go. But when you’ve got a company, that’s 5060 people, it gets harder to move the ship and especially when you make big business model changes, it was surprisingly hard. We had a like a little bit of a ship it and forget it mentality, a aura came in, we close the deal with sent the invoice that they went out the back door, we’re good on to the next one. But the subscription business is no, we got to earn that business every single month. Right? So we have to show value every single month. The thing I love about software subscription businesses is it really aligns the value of our product with the value that the customer is receiving. So, yes, I like it. But it’s a different mentality.

Jess Dewell 31:57
How much did you lean into all of those training modules and doing that self-reflection for your team during this time? I’m guessing it was a big part of it, because I can completely understand. And I’m thinking boy, I wish I had the some side project awesomeness during some of my biggest times of change, too. Because I think there’s something to be said for that. Because it takes time, it takes a lot more time than we ever estimate or could imagine.

J.J. Parker 32:25
Yes, thanks for calling out the thing I didn’t do well,

Jess Dewell 32:30
Hindsight being 2020, you’re just telling me these stories, and I’m connecting dots?

J.J. Parker 32:34
Well, it does seem obviously, the guy that has the coaching business should be able to somehow apply that to the other companies. And I think personally, I was a much more equipped leader at that point, when we did have to make that transition versus the others, we had other transitions that were bigger, and I probably was just not as good of a leader back then. So going through all of that self-awareness stuff and understanding how people are wired. And I was still surprised at how hard it was to change the direction of the ship,

Jess Dewell 33:08
I’m listening to you. And maybe that you would go and the equivalent of going in your basement for the weekend and making a business plan is how you’re going to solve this problem. Me, I’m going to come up with a new idea every day. And we’re going to throw spaghetti at the wall and I’m going to tire out my team until it gets fixed. So both missed the communication effort on the extremes. And then of course, as a whole piece in the middle. So I think where I’m going with this is that it doesn’t really matter where we’re at. It just matters that as soon as we realize we’re in it, to be able to pause and say, Okay, what is that communication piece? Is there change management necessary here? Are we pushing too hard, or expecting too much too fast? We’re not changing a process. We’re changing a mindset,

J.J. Parker 33:54
A lot of the changes we do in business is a lot of tweaking on process. But you have to recognize when you’re changing a mindset, and sometimes that’s hard to do because we’re all like in the weeds all the time. And again, it’s like how do you zoom out on your business to see it more holistically, so you can work on it and not in it?

Jess Dewell 34:12
Yeah. And people come out operations consultant, and I’m like, to an extent, but we’re never going to touch a process work together. It’s a hard thing, because it’s that change management piece over the course of time. And until I said it. Wow. Thank you, JJ. i Oh, no. Are you sure you’re the one that’s all the gadgets?

J.J. Parker 34:33
The other thing with all that change stuff? Yeah. Surround yourself with really complementary leadership team. Yes. So we spend a lot of time as a leadership team, knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, communication styles. So it’s not me like I didn’t do all that work. No, I didn’t pick every company that worked. We all did it.

Jess Dewell 34:55
We all did it. And ultimately, though, as the role that you’re in, In my introduction, the role that I’m in, we’re responsible for the container with which it can all occur.

J.J. Parker 35:06
I call myself the company cruise director. Yes. And so like my job is to make sure we’re going in the right direction and everyone’s having a good time.

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Jess Dewell 35:33
How do you step back and work on your business?

J.J. Parker 35:36
I am fortunate enough, where I have a really great leadership team on both the cable house on the carousel business. And until I had a leadership team, in those businesses that were really running the day-to-day, I have a very high degree of trust with them. One of my goals for the past 10 years has been to basically be unemployed, if I’m anywhere near whatever you’re doing day to day, that’s not a good sign. So I want to make sure that I am, like available to the team, from a strategic perspective from culture, but get myself out of the day-to-day, so I’m not a necessary piece of it. That is what allows me to look more holistically at the companies and say, Hey, are we headed in the right direction? What’s What are the markets doing? What’s the general economy doing? I also started doing a thing. Where did you ever hear this book, Vivid Vision by Cameron Harris. He’s like the one 800 got junk guy. So I started writing a document called The Vivid Vision, I started doing this in 2013, or something, 14 Somewhere in there. So the idea of vivid vision, it’s like you write the future like it is present. So I started doing this exercise alone. Like I wrote this document that described what the company was three years from now. I didn’t share it with anybody just wrote it. So it was like how it felt, how people acted, what kind of products and services and what markets where I wrote this whole thing. I forgot about it. And then a year later, I found it on my computer. I was like, holy cow, half this stuff, or almost all this stuff came true. That’s weird. And then I wrote it again the next year, but I showed it to just a couple trusted folks in my leadership team. Okay, you guys wrote this? What do you think? Putting a document like out like that out there for your team? Because like, it feels really personal. It feels like they’re, I don’t know, like in your head a little bit too much.

Jess Dewell 37:42
And are you handwriting it?

J.J. Parker 37:43
Are you typing it? Everything I do is handwritten in my notebook. And then it’s transferred later. I’m like a big-hand writer.

Jess Dewell 37:52
Yeah. Okay, so then I can say this is actually true for you, too. I learned this from the Waldorf methodology of education. Whatever starts in our head, we can think about it, we might even be able to talk about it. But until it can come out, down our arm through our instrument and onto a piece of paper, there’s something magical about that passing through that makes it become real impossible. Nowadays,

J.J. Parker 38:15
I make a vivid vision, we show or the whole company will have it printed in the books. It’s like a 13-page little booklet, like six by six, and send it to everybody, so everyone can have it on their desk.

Jess Dewell 38:27
That’s cool. And it connects us more to the work that we’re doing together, as well as the role that we have within that.

J.J. Parker 38:34
So I had written in the vivid vision that by 2024 that we wanted 500% growth. That’s a lot. Is that possible? I don’t know. I’m just gonna write it anyway. So I wrote that. And we nailed it. We rolled over that, right on December 31. I am not kidding. You got the last day of December that we hit. It was like 500.02 or something like that insanely accurate, like how could that even happen? I think this idea of vision exercises, visioning, writing it down, like you have to write it down, like you said, you can actually create, and, and manifest again, that’s kind of like a hippie word. And I don’t know if how many business folks like to sit around and manifest things, but is a very important exercise.

Jess Dewell 39:23
Okay, and it actually belongs in business way more than we give it credit for. Because if we set this goal, and we just turn it over, we’re asking other people who have hitched their mission to the companies, but don’t actually understand necessarily the where it needs to go or have that bigger pulse on things without visioning from the top seats of an organization. There is no way for people to understand what direction their wagon is actually going that’s been hitched and then you end up in a tug of war, if you will. It doesn’t matter if it’s two people or 100 people or anywhere in between

J.J. Parker 40:02
When I was having like the worst sort of business partner issues, he want to go in one direction, I wanted to go in another. And so everybody in the whole org just, it was just massive wheel spin, like, nothing was getting done. Everyone was cross at each other, nothing worked. Everything’s breaking all the time. It was terrible feeling. And once you get everybody aligned, moving in the same direction, it’s magical. Right now, we just had an all-hands the other week, and I’m like, we have got magic in a bottle. Because we’ve got wonderful people. Everyone’s aligned. Everyone’s doing the best work of their lives. This is amazing. It feels great.

Jess Dewell 40:44
How does all of this translate into wanting to be dropped off in the middle of the woods and having to figure out what to do?

J.J. Parker 40:50
If my wife thinks that is absolutely insane? Like, why would you do that? Like no, like, you could just drop me off in the middle of nowhere, like just some food and maybe like a water or like a water purifier. And then let’s just see what happens. I love it. I’ve got another more than side project at this point. It’s called Screen wave. It’s a video-sharing collaboration tool for remote teams. And very early stage, right, we’ve got a couple of people working on it. We’re still trying to figure out some of those early core values. So that to me is my current being lost in the woods. We don’t know which direction we’re going. We don’t really know where we are. We don’t really know which direction to go. And we’re doing a little wagon wheel experience. Oh, let’s go see what the customers look like over here in the HR space. Yeah, like that. What are they look over, like over here in this it space? Maybe that doesn’t work? What do they look like over here in this micro-training space. So we’re doing like all of this little exploration. And it’s uncomfortable. I’ve noticed people who are maybe mid or late-career really don’t like being uncomfortable. For me, I was actually feeling like, I’m doing these things that make me feel like a newbie again, like a rookie. And I was like, Oh, I don’t really like feeling like a rookie anymore. I would like to go back to running my like, wild million dollar companies instead of this, like startup with $0 of revenue. Because I just feel so new. And then I’m like, Oh, am I gonna go to as a 25 year software entrepreneur, person? Am I gonna go to the local tech startup events with all the other 20-year-olds? who are trying to use AI to invent the next whatever? You’re not? I mean, I’m like, Oh, God, this is where I am. But I think it’s actually good.

Jess Dewell 42:47
Just so you know, I find the people that are the most fascinating are the second-time CEOs of long-standing businesses. So they’re our age, they’ve got to be cool because they’re our age. You’d usually they’re a little older. Interesting. But yeah, so you’re willing to be a noob is the word of the day, the mainstream 12-year-old world, that word anyway, I got that one. But you’re right, it challenges your identity. And it’s hard to have identity challenged.

J.J. Parker 43:21
Yeah, for sure. That’s probably the hardest thing. The other thing I was really conscious of, is, are we attaching too much of our self-worth to our vocation. So this is like a super artist thing. Like, when I was in art school, we would get assigned, like a piece to create painting, drawing, graphic design, whatever it was, we go off for a week and make our precious piece of art. We come back to class, hang them all around the room. And then one by one, the entire team would tell you why your piece of art is a giant piece of crap. And it doesn’t mean anything. So you want to talk about hardening your ego. But then one of the more valuable lessons I got from art school, is you are not your art. Your art might be an expression at a point in time in your life. But you are not your art. It’s not you just make your next thing better.

Jess Dewell 44:19
Do you find yourself becoming attached again? Do you find yourself going oh, I’ve become my thing or did art school also help you make that boundary and I’ve got that boundary forever now

J.J. Parker 44:33
Almost like a competitive advantage I have or an advantage I have is that they have a very FLIR boundary there are very hardened boundary. I love when people say my startup is Dominus not going to work. Like why this says, share with me why and it’ll make it better. I don’t care what you say.

Jess Dewell 44:52
You’re actually not finding markets that are underserved. You’re just finding a place where you can create connection and accessibility.

J.J. Parker 44:59
We’ve got to Digital Signage, which visual communication, we got television playback, which is video communication out to citizens, we’ve got the video collaboration sharing, which is like employee communication, I’ve got even the core ology, which was the coaching and self-awareness business was all about how do you communicate with your coworkers better. So everything I do is wrapped up in this idea that I want to help people communicate with each other more effectively. So part of that is being self-aware, like aware of how they are so that they can be more comfortable with themselves. And then a host of all of these tech tools that that kind of make communication either easier, smoother or faster, more effective.

Jess Dewell 45:45
So it sounds like you found your calling, and it’s taking different forms over time.

J.J. Parker 45:49
Yes, I would say that was pretty consistent.

Jess Dewell 45:52
And that would be an interesting exercise for actually, probably anybody of any age could do this, is to look back, what is the commonality across all of the endeavors? roles, positions, jobs, creations that have been done? And what drew you to them? And what do you feel like you did well in it, and be able to go, how do you use that?

J.J. Parker 46:13
Probably thinking back, there’s probably roles that people have been in, that maybe didn’t give them a lot of energy, they felt like they were a drag. And that’s a sign to that’s like the anti sign. Oh, yep, that one was a real drag. So it’s probably not that, which was energized. Do which one? Yeah, yeah. And if you can find the thing that really lights you up and motivates you, it’s great that we hear these stories of like our parents or older generation, where they’re just like, oh, yeah, I just grounded out in the nine to five for eight years, I hated every minute of it. Like, that’s not, that’s not what you should do like, like there is a certain core value of sticking to things and then can trudging through the mud.

Jess Dewell 46:59
And sometimes they had to do that I come from a family where there were people who did it. And they complained and did not do anything about it. And then there were people who did that, and did not complain, because they came home. And they built replicas of the Hubble Telescope, or they came home, I built somebody a kitchen table who had, you know, didn’t have the money to buy a new one, and it broke. Sometimes it’s an end to a means. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because it allows us to have the freedom to do what we want to do, too. Yeah, yeah. And I find that fun finding your happiness. Yeah. So what makes it bold? What makes it bold to really get uncomfortable? And maybe find the glimmer of what does make one happy to be able to move toward that?

J.J. Parker 47:42
What a bold person is white courageous, makes uncomfortable moves. What is your definition of bold? Just curious.

Jess Dewell 47:54
It changes every day. Sometimes it’s putting one step in front of the other. Sometimes it’s, oh, what do I have to say no to other times, it’s, oh, I recognize I’ve been putting this off. And I really need to have this conversation with this person. Or, Oh, I see. Because of the reflection work and the strategic work that I’m able to do. I see this change coming. And it’s bold to stop and look at what has come or what’s coming before it actually arrives. To be able to navigate it a little differently.

J.J. Parker 48:27
Yeah, I think, to me, the root of it is forage. Because it’s really easy to not do anything and add on to this problem go away, I’ll just ignore this, or whatever. It does take a lot of courage to stand up and say, hey, you know what, this isn’t working, we got to change. And if you want to make big moves, you have to have enough courage to do it, you have to have enough insight and enough conviction to actually follow through with that decision. Now I’ve got this, like, very specific idea about generational wealth, where I don’t like it. So like, I have this whole plan, where we give our kids some amount of money, but not our entire state. We’re going to donate the rest of it. Here, there’s a fine little insight to my marriage. So that’s and we agree on that my wife and I agree on that. But we’re at the lawyer’s office, we’re working on the actual legal stuff. And the and I was like, here’s what I want. I want a number written on this piece of paper that commits us to give in that amount to the children. That’s it. Nothing like where’s the paper to sign that right now that commits me to this decision right now? And I never have to think about it ever again. And the lawyer is like, huh, like you I don’t think we should draft an agreement that you can’t go back on and I’m like, yeah, no, I want to I want to come fully committed one way door, never go back. There will be like an insight like I wanted to make a very bold commit. Did never go back burn the ships move and they weren’t really comfortable with that now that’s not like the sword I need to die on when he made everything much more loosey-goosey, but I am the kind of person that is totally okay with marching into battle with no backup plan with no plan B with this has to work or we’re going to die. I’m comfortable there. Apparently not everyone else is that’s I learned that just like a year ago.

Jess hosts the Bold Business Podcast to provide insights for building a resilient, profitable business by deeply understanding your growth strategy, ensuring market relevance and your company’s future. It is bold to deeply understand your growth strategy with your host Jess Dewell. Get more information about how to drive solutions and reset your growth mindset at Thank you for joining us and special thanks to our post-production team at The Scott Treatment