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September 29, 2023
Mike Beckham

How To Build a purpose driven brand with Mike Beckham of Simple Modern

How To Build a purpose driven brand with Mike Beckham of Simple Modern

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Show Notes

Mudassir (00:00.466)
is just downloading and uploading at the same time. So you continue and you know, yeah just keep going. So I don't want you to be taking retakes or something like that because again, I just wanna be very, very careful of your time. That's the whole thing.

Mike Beckham (00:03.289)
Yeah. Just keep going. OK.

Mike Beckham (00:13.049)
Yeah, well, hey, I appreciate it. OK, tell me how you pronounce your name.

Mudassir (00:16.598)
Give it a try and I'll let you know.

Mike Beckham (00:19.217)
Modus here.

Mike Beckham (00:23.858)
What do you think? Moodisir? I don't know. I'm butchering it. Uh oh.

Mudassir (00:27.126)
Oh, I lost you again. Yeah, yeah, I lost you. Yeah, can you hear me? Okay. Yeah, I can, I can, I can, I can see you. Just give me a second. Let me see if I can do something on the back.

Mike Beckham (00:31.513)
I can hear you and I can see you. Can you hear me?

Mike Beckham (00:38.447)

Mudassir (00:49.95)
I have a two year old and then they just go crazy with all the internet speed and like what not. So I'm sorry about that.

Mike Beckham (00:55.741)
Yeah, I like your camera by the way. It's a very you've got a very good shot. What do you use?

Mudassir (01:02.338)
So this is A7S3. So we got this one and we have another one which is ZVE10. So there's two of these, but it's pretty much the same because the quality is pretty much the same. To me at least because I'm not a photographer so pretty much the same, yeah, yeah. Okay.

Mike Beckham (01:10.217)
Okay, nice.

Mike Beckham (01:17.773)
Right, right. Well, it looks good. It looks good. Okay, so I'm ready. Okay, so we were talking about your name. Is it Moodasir?

Mudassir (01:23.71)
Yeah, perfectly fine. Yeah.

Mike Beckham (01:26.317)
Okay, close enough. Okay, sounds good. I'm ready to go when you are.

Mudassir (01:30.174)
Right. Okay, awesome, awesome. So please do a clap for me.

Mike Beckham (01:35.08)

Mudassir (01:37.07)
Awesome, thank you. So this is not a gimmick. This actually helps us in syncing audio and video. So this is not a gimmick thing. OK, all right, so rolling now. Hey, Mike, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?

Mike Beckham (01:37.673)
There we go, better clap.

Mike Beckham (01:42.557)
Got it. Okay, got it, got it, got it.

Mike Beckham (01:55.049)
Okay, it kind of froze again. Do you think that's you or me?

Mudassir (02:00.066)
So it says both are fine. It looks like both are fine.

Mike Beckham (02:03.345)
Yeah, because I'm actually plugged in. I'm plugged into ethernet. And so I'm...

Mudassir (02:07.582)
Yeah, I'm also plugged into the internet, so it shouldn't be. Let me turn on the low data mode, so the videos will be recording, audios will be recording, but we won't be able to see each other, and we will turn that on at the end of the recording. So, yes, I think, yeah, can you hear me now? Yeah, okay. So yeah, keep on taking the video, keep on taking the audio, and we won't have any hiccups, and at the end, we'll just sync it up, okay? Awesome, all right, rolling again.

Mike Beckham (02:15.241)

Mike Beckham (02:20.006)
Okay, that sounds great.

Mike Beckham (02:23.898)
Yeah, I can hear you.

Mike Beckham (02:33.733)
Okay, that sounds great.

Mudassir (02:37.098)
Hey Mike, welcome to the show, how are you doing today?

Mike Beckham (02:39.385)
I'm doing great.

Mudassir (02:41.914)
It's my pleasure to have you. Usually when anybody comes over to the podcast, I ask them a very specific question just to know their side of the story. So I'll ask you the same question is, what's the earliest context you have of your life? Who is Mike behind all the success, behind Simple Mortar and who are you?

Mike Beckham (02:59.132)

So, earliest context, I think one of the things, I don't know what my earliest memory is, but one of the memories that I took away from childhood, and I think that this ends up really becoming thematic in my journey as an entrepreneur and my career in general. I remember as a kid having a conversation with my parents. My parents were both in the mental health profession. My mom was a social worker, my dad was a psychologist, and

I remember them from a very early age telling me that they picked careers not based on where they could make the most money, but where they felt like they could help the most people and make the most impact in the lives of people. I'm a naturally achievement-oriented person. I think that what that did is from an early age, it framed the idea of success is positively impacting other people.

What a gift that's been for me because I am a very driven person and I am a person who wants to achieve, but I at a very early age associated achievement and the highest form of achievement being helping other people. And I think that came from my parents.

Mudassir (04:03.734)

Mudassir (04:22.254)
Okay, that's a very great thing. Yeah, you're saying something?

Mike Beckham (04:27.825)
Well, I was just going to say that over the years, I think the way that has played out in my career, and I've talked about this before, but I've been out of college for about 20 years, and about half of that was in the nonprofit world, and about half of it has been in the for-profit world being an entrepreneur. And one of the things that I love to talk about, and the reason why I like doing podcasts like this, is I love talking business, I love talking about how we built the company.

But I also really love talking about how we've tried to build a company where the focus was still on how you're impacting the lives of other people, whether that's the customers or your employees that you work with, your teammates, or even the community that you're in. That's been a pretty motivating part of the journey for me. And usually that's one of the things that I talk about that's maybe a little bit more unique. There's a lot of people that can talk about entrepreneurship and starting businesses.

Mudassir (05:23.581)

Mike Beckham (05:24.094)
But very few probably have the same level of focus on, hey, how do you use that and turn that into impacting the lives of other people?

Mudassir (05:33.87)
Okay, such a noble cause. So I wanna ask you, the question that I had in mind was like why simple modern exists, but another follow up question that I have on that is like how are you using simple modern to improve the standards of life of people, impacting the life of people in positive way?

Mike Beckham (05:50.521)
Yeah, that's a great question. So to give you some backstory that'll help set it up, graduated from college, worked in the nonprofit world for 10 years, loved it, and was really comfortable in it. Even though I had majored in business, I thought when I got to 30, I probably thought I was going to be working in the nonprofit world for the rest of my career. And I have a younger brother who had been really successful doing some internet marketing stuff and...

came to me one day and said, hey, I've got an idea for a business. Is there any way you'd just be willing to help on the side, help me launch this? And so I said, yes, helped him recruit some other people as an initial founding team and to launch something that in its first year, it went from being a brand new startup to having like million dollar revenue days. And that's really what pulled me into the for-profit world.

is just seeing the amount of impact that I was having working in the business world. But by about 2015, I was really, I think I'd done it for several years and I really missed the nonprofit world. And so I kind of made the decision that if I was going to stay in the for-profit world, I wanted to build a very atypical type of company, a very mission driven, culture driven company. And the two co-founders that I started Simple Modern with and I...

Mudassir (06:58.9)

Mike Beckham (07:13.617)
we're all really aligned in that vision. Like, hey, let's do kind of an experiment. Let's build something that's very different and has a very different approach. Still, you know, a capitalistic company that's about driving profit and being excellent in how it's run, but where we have a different take on the purpose of driving profit and the purpose of the company. And one of the things I would say is that the reason the company exists is to create

a high quality of life for the people that work in the company and to make positive impacts on the lives of people that the company serves, whether that's customers or the community. And then we just so happen to sell water bottles and tumblers to kind of fund that mission and that vision. And so I do think we live in a culture where people are increasingly critical, maybe, of for-profit companies and capitalism.

And profit can almost be a four-letter word to some people. And I think when you don't have any kind of vision for how you want to use profit, and specifically how you want to use profit in a way that positively impacts the world and positively impacts other people, that it's easy to view it that way, that corporations or companies are just these kind of soulless things that all they exist to do is to just suck in dollar bills. But I think once you have a vision of...

how profit can be used to improve the quality of life of the people that work at the company, invest in the community and give to local nonprofits and serve your customers better. And things like this invest in new and innovative products that make people's lives better. Then all of a sudden you realize, hey, profit's not a bad word. Profit is one of the best words in the entire English language because profit is synonymous with possibility. And

The key is, do you have a vision of how to use profit? And as an aside, this is one of the things I've noticed with a lot of entrepreneurs is that they think, I want to build a business and I want it to get really profitable because when it's really profitable, I'll have a lot of income and then I'll be happy. And if you ask them, if you kind of push on that and you say, well, how is it going to make you happy? It's hard for them to really verbalize what that is.

Mudassir (09:22.122)

Mudassir (09:29.962)

Mike Beckham (09:32.785)
But it's just like, well, I'll have a lot of money. Surely I can figure it out. And it turns out it's actually not even, it doesn't work like that. Like quality of life, just because you have more resources doesn't mean you're gonna have quality of life. Doesn't mean you're gonna feel a sense of purpose. And there's a lot of examples of people that build companies and they sell them and then they feel lost. They have all the money in the world, but they feel lost. And so the thing that really helped us with Simple Modern is that we had an idea of what we were aiming at from the very beginning. What we wanted to create.

and that as we've grown as a company and become more and more profitable, we really know how we wanna use those resources to impact the lives of other people. And it also provides the motivation to continue to grow because at some point, you're not doing it, you're not growing the company because you need more resources. I mean, I've got more resources than I'll need in my lifetime. And so what's the motivation? Why am I still doing it? And the motivation is...

I really love the fact that we get to impact so many people's lives by the work that we do in a variety of different ways. So that was the founding thought process with Simple Modern. Can you create a for-profit company that through being generous with the people that work in the company, the people that the company serves, the community that you're in, everything else, where you really make quite an impact?

And I think what we've seen so far is that the answer is yes, you can build a different type of company and not only can you build a different type of company, but that there is a real hunger and thirst in our culture today for that type of company and that likely this kind of conscientious capitalism that our company often gets associated with, like that's probably where things are going. That 10 years from now, 30 years from now, 50 years from now, people are gonna care even more about.

Mudassir (11:08.561)

Mike Beckham (11:19.209)
not just what does your company make and is it a great product, which matters a ton, but also what is your company about and how is the world getting better or worse as a result of your company's presence in it and you doing business.

Mudassir (11:23.943)
Mm hmm.

Mudassir (11:31.686)
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I was like, you know, when the team was doing some research on you, on Simple Modern, all the things, one of the things that we stumbled across was there was a tweet from you, I think you said, Simple Modern did like 125 million in revenue, or something like that. I'm sure it was 125 million revenue or something, close to that. One question that comes to my mind, like right away, the moment I saw the tweet was,

You guys are generating a lot of cash, profitable, I'm sure of that. It's a successful company, all of that stuff. So you're checking all the boxes. And then the focus is still to impact and improve the lives of people, like the customers, other people around you guys. Why it's not common these days to do so? Because usually, as you already mentioned, the word profit is kind of an infamous word because people...

Mike Beckham (12:16.989)

Mike Beckham (12:29.673)

Mudassir (12:30.594)
just attach that to corporate and this is like a dollar bill or something like that, but you can do a whole lot of good things with that. So why it's not very common in even in startup world as much as in corporate world, like you can make money, you can make profit, but by your not purpose even.

Mike Beckham (12:52.217)
Yeah, well, I think that I think I would start here. I would start by saying that running a profitable business requires a bunch of different skills and abilities that are not necessarily correlated to high self-awareness and high sense of mission and purpose, right? Like being able to understand how to effectively price something or effectively run digital advertising.

Mudassir (13:12.163)

Mike Beckham (13:18.385)
You can be really good at those things and be really lost as a person and not really know what you know where you're going or what you're trying to accomplish with your life. So for me at least, one of the reasons why we've been able to be successful in building a different type of company, I really credit to the years I spent working in the nonprofit world. And in my 20s, I think everyone in their 20s, one of the major, we'll call it developmental milestones, is that you start to generate

dream for your life, in a sense of what you want your life to be about, what you think matters, and how you want to spend your time. I think those decisions really happened and were crystallized in my 20s. When I got into my 30s, I was probably behind on a lot of the business tactical skills that you need to be successful. But I was probably ahead in having thought through.

what do I want my life to be about? And what do I want to be able to look back when I'm 75 or 85 and say what's true of my life? Whereas most of the time, like if you get on Twitter or you read the entrepreneurship books, the thought process is not that at all. It's, okay, let's teach you all these skills that you're going to need to make money and be successful. And I don't think it's an either or proposition. I just think it takes a lot of hard work.

to really have clarity on what you want to be doing with your life and what you think is meaningful. And it's one of the reasons why I do podcasts and I do so much on social media recently is because hopefully I'm helping people to grow and think through those areas because I really needed it. And if I can write thought provoking things that help other people to grow and develop in that area, then I think it's gonna lead to more

strong leaders and it's going to lead to, in general, more people's lives being really positively impacted by the companies that they work in. So that's part of it. Part of it is successful business skills don't necessarily translate to successfully managing yourself and having a clear vision for your own life. Some of it also just comes down to structure. In our country, we've got a very public markets driven...

Mike Beckham (15:42.185)
VCPE driven funding structure for a lot of companies. And it really does become like the point of the company is to generate profits. And that is the totality of the purpose of the entity. I don't think that's always how it's been. In fact, it's pretty easy for me to make an argument that if you go back in time, 50, 100, 150 years, even in this country, that that's not how it really worked. That communities were full of businesses.

Mudassir (16:08.139)

Mike Beckham (16:10.821)
that understood, we'll just say the social contract to be a lot more broad. Like, hey, my responsibility as a business owner, I do have a responsibility to the local high school football team and to pay for the ads and the program and to help have the night where everybody can come and eat at the restaurant and we're gonna donate towards new football helmets or whatever. Like this was just normative and it was understood that, yeah, hey, I have a responsibility, not just to make the most money, but also

to impact the lives of those people around me in a positive way and a responsibility as a business owner. Some of that's been lost with the multinationals and just the corporatization of America. And I'm not saying corporations are bad. It's just like, if you go to just about any city in the United States now, it's like, well, there's an IHOP. Where's IHOP headquartered? What are they about? I don't know. There's a Home Depot, there's a Lowe's, there's a McDonald's, there's, you know, whatever we could go down the list. It's just a bunch of.

Mudassir (16:52.491)

Mike Beckham (17:10.053)
generally faceless corporations that have no real investment in the local community and that we know little about what motivates them or the kind of way that they're run internally. If you go back, you know, if you think about it, if you go back 150 years or something, if like 200 years, if you're going to buy bread, you there's a couple of bakers in town and you kind of would say, oh, you know, Bob, he's

not a very good family man, he's kind of a drunk, like I'm not gonna buy my bread from Bob, I don't really like Bob, I'm gonna buy it from Sam, the other baker because he's generous and he does these things, whatever. So like knowing the people behind a company, I think drove our buying decisions in the way that we thought about business a lot throughout human history. And then we got to this just really recent period where our technology and globalization and corporatization and all these things have kind of changed it in a way where.

Mudassir (18:03.246)

Mike Beckham (18:06.685)
It's hard to do that today, but that doesn't mean that people don't care. People are still wired to deeply care about these things, and they want to vote with their wallets for things that they believe in. So one other thing that's worth saying here is that we are very mimetic. People are, like we learn by watching and by imitating. And so for a lot of business people, they just don't have examples. It's not that they don't wanna be about

Mudassir (18:14.466)

Mike Beckham (18:36.329)
positive and impactful things. It's like they just don't have examples in their lives of people who have shown them how you can do it. And so that can be the deficit also sometimes is that, like, hey, who are the examples we're holding up? And as a culture, we tend to hold up examples of either people that are kind of infamous, notorious, right? Like the SBFs and the, you know, the Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, and you know, like these kinds of things where it's just like,

Mudassir (18:55.32)

Mudassir (19:03.159)

Mike Beckham (19:04.837)
It's controversial, it's interesting. So everybody knows those stories and everybody knows the stories of people like Zuckerberg or Musk, where they've had these really extreme outcomes. But I'm not really convinced that any of those stories are like the stories that are the best to tell. There are tons of stories of fantastic business people that have grown meaningful businesses that really made a positive impact on a lot of people's lives.

Mudassir (19:14.912)

Mike Beckham (19:32.313)
And maybe they weren't worth a gazillion dollars or they didn't do anything shady in the process. They were just good people that focused on treating people well and had a sense of mission and purpose. And we've probably under-told those stories because those stories don't make a great tweet. They don't make a great headline grabber or special on Netflix. And so we don't hear those stories as much maybe.

Mudassir (19:48.631)

Mudassir (19:53.965)

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And I was about to ask the same question, why we don't get to hear those stories, and it's exactly the same because it won't sell. So stories like these won't sell. So you mentioned one word multiple times already, and I've seen you tweet it about the same thing, even on LinkedIn as well, and that is about importance of culture, building a culturally driven company and stuff like that. I actually wanna understand this thing.

as a student, what exactly is a culture in a company? Like what is a culture? And the second, the follow up on that is, so Mike is driven, he has this noble idea in his head and all that stuff, his co-founder is driven. Once you get to a point where, I don't know, if employee 521, he's joining the company, how do you make sure that he's also aligned on the same mission, on the same purpose? How do you do that?

Mike Beckham (20:56.441)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, this is a great question. So we'll start at what is culture. Culture is what people experience over time being a part of your organization. And like one of the analogies I'll use is culture is like, if you get a piece of chicken and you put it in a marinade and gradually over time, that chicken takes on the flavor of the marinade as it sits in it. That's the impact that culture has in it.

Culture is the surrounding atmosphere that we're a part of every day. It's the way that people interact with each other. It's the norms, it's the values, it's the rituals that make up a particular place in its community. The way that I think about culture is not in terms of right and wrong. I think about it more in terms of strong or weak, consistent or inconsistent, sustainable or unsustainable.

Mudassir (21:40.184)

Mike Beckham (21:53.313)
Because the reality is the more that you research culture you realize there are a lot of examples of Cultures that helped propel an organization to success that were very different so it's not as much about the specific values of the culture, although there are some values and principles that do tend to transcend and are always true and There's a lot of different ways to do this where I think it's powerful and it's

Mudassir (22:03.968)

Mike Beckham (22:21.897)
a real advantage. So what are those some characteristics of really healthy, sustainable, strong culture? One is that everyone knows what you're aiming at. So what can happen all the time? I mean, listen, none of us perfectly embody what we want to, the values or the attitudes that we want to because we're imperfect and we're messy.

Mudassir (22:37.07)

Mike Beckham (22:50.685)
We have bad days. Cultures are like this too. No matter what standard you set yourself up for with the culture of like, we're gonna value these things, we're gonna be about this stuff, you're gonna have days where you fall short. But it's incredibly important that everyone in the organization understands and has the same picture in their mind of this is who we want to be. That everybody in the organization is sincere in that. They're not just going along to get along.

Mudassir (23:12.014)

Mike Beckham (23:18.865)
saying, well, I don't really care about that, but like they pay pretty well here, so whatever, so that there's alignment on those things. And then there's a willingness to sacrifice in the pursuit of those things, that there are specific stories. So if your culture values honesty, right? Like let's say that's a core value. Well, then you should be able to tell stories about when it's really cost you to be honest.

Mudassir (23:25.803)

Mike Beckham (23:46.757)
If your culture values excellence, when are times where the team has had to make real sacrifices in order to pursue and achieve excellence? And so a phrase that I've used a lot recently that I think is really helpful is, it's not about perfection, but it is about sincerity. That having a group of people where everybody's saying, we know where we're aiming and we really care about this and this is what we're really going after, that makes, and we're really willing to sacrifice for that.

Mudassir (24:06.318)

Mike Beckham (24:16.473)
makes a ton of difference. Another aspect of really healthy culture, I talked about this, that kind of is it even or is it uneven? And it flows out of the first one. In any organization, what you usually find once it gets to a certain number of people, and you mentioned you get to three, four, 500 people, is that you have a lot of subcultures, right? There's kind of culture with a capital C, which is everything, but that really that's not super descriptive. It's more

Mudassir (24:36.407)


Mike Beckham (24:46.321)
there's a bunch of subcultures. And what you see in a lot of organizations is, it's just very uneven. Like, Bob might run accounting, and he's a really thoughtful manager, and people love being on his team, and they've got healthy, strong culture on his team. But just across the hall is the manufacturing team, and that's run by Jim, and they've got terrible culture, right? And people can't wait to get away from there. And this is actually, sadly, really common.

Mudassir (24:52.934)

Mudassir (25:01.943)

Mike Beckham (25:14.745)
is that in any organization, you have these very disparate subcultures that don't reflect upon each other at all. So when you have consistency among those subcultures, each of these subcultures usually, and departments will differently express the culture, but you wanna have consistency among those. A third aspect that I talk about a lot is that culture is like a garden. And for a garden to thrive, it needs a bunch of people to take responsibility for it thriving. So...

Everybody waters the plants, everybody fertilizes the soil, everybody picks the weeds, and everyone in the culture takes on a sense of responsibility and leadership and ownership of the culture. Because when that happens, something really powerful is possible. And that is, no matter how big the organization gets, you have the potential and the ability to continue to have strong and consistent culture.

Mudassir (26:01.396)

Mike Beckham (26:13.257)
But the only way you can ever scale culture effectively is if everybody has a sense of ownership. You know, like at this point, we're about a hundred employees and you know, I'm, I'm 1%. I'm 1% of our company. And so no matter how eloquently I can communicate, you know, the vision for the culture that we want to have, or that I can live it out. I am just a small piece of that. 99% of the experiences that people will have in the building are going to be experiences that don't involve me by and large.

Mudassir (26:22.879)

Mike Beckham (26:44.229)
and that is what they're going to experience as culture. And so it's critical that we create a sense of ownership among everyone. When we hire a new team member, the very first day that they come in, I spend an hour and I go through a two-page sheet that's our mission, vision, values, is what we call it. And at the end, I basically have two challenges. And the first challenge is culture is like a garden.

And even though this is your first day here, I'm going to need to ask you to own it with me. Because that's the only way we can ever build the type of culture that we want to have. And you came here in large part because of culture. So if you want to continue to be able to enjoy the culture that you came here for, you're going to have to lead with me. One final thing I would say is that we recruit, even when we're thinking about the candidates that we're going to consider for a position,

we are running it through the filter of culture. And we think about character and culture fit even more strongly than aptitude. I would say it's character and culture fit and then aptitude in that order when we're going through the hiring process. We communicate and lead with our mission and our values very early on when people are in the very first stages of being an applicant. And it's a huge part of how we grade applicants.

Mudassir (27:43.982)

Mike Beckham (28:08.717)
As a result, when we hire people, we already know that they're very, very likely to fit well culturally. We have confidence that if they fit well culturally, we can teach them the skills they need to be successful in their position. But it's harder to teach character. It's harder to teach value, fit. I think the one final thing I would say, the final characteristic of healthy cultures, and I'll tell a story with this, healthy cultures have high trust.

Mudassir (28:11.351)

Mudassir (28:22.659)

Mudassir (28:35.307)

Mike Beckham (28:39.161)
And it makes sense when we feel safe and when we have high trust, we do our best work, right? And when we don't feel high trust, we can feel like we're in competition with our supposed teammates. We can feel discouraged. No positive emotions come from being in an environment where we don't feel like we can trust the people that we're surrounded by. And sadly, this is what is true in a lot of corporate environments is that

We feel like we have coworkers that, given an opportunity, would be happy to badmouth us if it meant a promotion for them or to take credit for work that we did or whatever it is. And so McKinsey, which is the biggest consulting firm in the world, they will say the number one characteristic of high-performing teams is high trust. So high trust is...

Mudassir (29:18.766)

Mudassir (29:26.732)

Mike Beckham (29:37.937)
where you are working with people that you believe are for you, and you believe in their competence and their credibility, and as a result, there's not a lot of looking over your shoulder, there's not a lot of questioning people, there's a lot of driving forward and getting things done. I'll give one quick story that kind of illustrates this idea. Every month, we have a team lunch at usually a restaurant

Mudassir (29:44.085)

Mudassir (29:59.852)
Yeah, please do.

Mike Beckham (30:06.957)
some kind of a nice venue and I will give a speech. So we were having a lunch at a local pickleball place and at the end of lunch I got up and I wanted to start my talk by recognizing all the different departments in the company and how they had a great year. It's been a great year for us and so I wanted to really acknowledge everyone's contribution to the great year. And I had...

I come up with all of these points of recognition about 30 minutes before I stood up. And so I'd done it somewhat quickly. And I get through all of the departments and I'm just about to transition into the second part of my talk. I'm reading this off my phone because there's, you know, whatever, 15 or 17 departments. And as I'm just about to transition, I get a text message from a member of our sales team and she said, hey, you forgot the logistics department. And

So I was able to immediately stop and before I transitioned to the next part of the talk, say, oh, and you know, I also really wanna recognize our logistics team. It's often work that goes unnoticed, but it's critical. And I was able to talk about some things that they had done. Here's why I love that story. I love that story because what it takes for that to happen, let's just deconstruct what has to be present for something like that to happen. Well, one is,

Mudassir (31:16.973)

Mike Beckham (31:28.081)
We have to have an environment where a member of our sales team feels comfortable pointing out something that I've missed to me and not being worried that I'm going to be frustrated or angry with them for pointing it out, but that instead I'm going to see that and I'm going to want to do something with it. But even more than that, it required her to be self-aware of what I had said and how I had recognized other teams. If you think about it...

Most of the time when recognitions are going on, it's just kind of waiting to see if we'll be recognized or what's going to be said about us. It's like, yeah, there's all this stuff about other people, but let's get to my team. She had obviously paid attention to what was being said because she was able to mentally go through this checklist and then realize, oh, you know what? Logistics did not get mentioned. I feel comfortable enough sending my CEO a text message right now and saying, hey, you missed this. You should be aware.

I was able to make that team feel a lot more valued. But what's the required ingredient for all that? And it's trust. It's trust and then some level of self-awareness and empathy that she had for her teammates that created, I think, a really special moment. So these are some of the characteristics that I think about and I try and emphasize internally with the company when we're talking about culture. And as a result, we've been able to... I feel like the culture has become stronger.

as we've grown. I'll make one final observation. As the number of people in your organization grow, one of the forces that drags against your organization is that you're just more and more likely to revert to the mean. This is true if you think about a stock portfolio. The more stocks you hold in your stock portfolio, the more likely your portfolio is to perform just like the index. The same can be true of hiring. The more...

Mudassir (32:54.723)

Mudassir (33:09.847)

Mudassir (33:18.712)

Mike Beckham (33:22.281)
The more people we hire, the more likely our team is to be kind of just an average of the surrounding community. That's a force that has to be dealt with and works against exceptional culture. But there's another force that you can create, and that is if you really do breed a sense of ownership when it comes to culture, where everyone feels like this is my responsibility.

Mudassir (33:29.986)

Mike Beckham (33:51.089)
you're able to create an environment where the path of least resistance is actually aligning with the culture. So what that means is, I'll give an example, humility is one of our core values in our company. There are days where I'm not my best self and I probably wanna think about myself or think about the accomplishments of the company more highly than I should in a way that's unhelpful.

Mudassir (34:01.782)

Mudassir (34:06.731)

Mike Beckham (34:19.869)
kind of a chest beating type of a way. But if I show up to work and I'm surrounded by people that are displaying an air of humility and self-awareness, it creates a lot of incentive and a lot of pull for me back towards where I want my mindset to be, right? It rubs up against me and rubs off on me. And the same is true for me. There's days that I show up and I do have a sense of humility, but maybe another one of my key leaders doesn't.

Mudassir (34:21.954)

Mudassir (34:38.19)

Mike Beckham (34:47.969)
and I rub off on them, and this is the amazing thing about culture, is that culture becomes this almost groove that you naturally gravitate. Even if you try and get out of it, it's like a rut that you gradually, you just tend to kind of gravitate back towards. When it's unhealthy, that's really destructive, right? When it's healthy, that's incredibly conducive to building a great company. And the more people you get in your organization, the deeper the rut gets in a good way.

Mudassir (34:51.649)

Mudassir (35:03.374)

Mudassir (35:06.955)

Mike Beckham (35:16.625)
the easier it is to live out the culture because every day you're surrounded by so many people where that's what they're doing. So it's difficult to continue to build a team and to hire around this kind of focus on culture. And usually it doesn't happen. Usually as an organization grows, the demands of the business and the pressing nature of deadlines causes us to sacrifice.

on cultural decisions and just to try and get people in seats. But when you are deliberate here, there is a compounding effect that grows with scale. And I think at a hundred people, we have the strongest culture we've ever had because there's literally a hundred people owning that. And even if two or three are having a bad day, they're surrounded by 97 that are living it out. And that becomes an encouragement and an accountability that moves.

Mudassir (36:11.028)

Mike Beckham (36:15.097)
each of us towards becoming the best version of ourselves.

Mudassir (36:18.374)
Absolutely. Love it. I love it. Thank you for explaining that in such depth. One question that I want to ask you, and this is, so I'll give you some context. So I was looking at Amazon and specifically in a drinkware category, where you guys are actually dominant, I don't want to say operate. And then the thing that I picked out is, so everybody is selling somewhat of a similar product, right?

like people are selling some similar product. But when it comes to branding, it's just like simple modern, it's like standing out. You guys are like way, way ahead of everybody. And then a few weeks ago, we were also doing some research for another guest, and we happened to come across Liquid Death example, and it's exactly the same thing. So they're operating, they're like what? It's packaged water, like anybody could have used that. But the branding is just like...

Mike Beckham (37:05.596)

Mudassir (37:16.414)
so different, they stand for something, all of that thing. So my question to you is, what exactly is a brand? Is it a name? Is it a logo? Is it a mission? Is it a statement? What exactly is a brand? And how do you create one?

Mike Beckham (37:30.029)
Yeah, well, it's a great question. And I think I had not really worked on this at all before Simple Modern. And so Simple Modern has been my education in this and I'm still learning. We've been really successful in growing a consumer brand and yet it's funny because of how much I still don't understand. I think I will say this.

First of all, your brand is the sum total of many, many small micro interactions that customers have with your company and your product. And that sum total becomes the brand identity. So we have sold tens of millions of water bottles, and those water bottles get used hundreds of times.

And so really there's billions of interactions that have happened with our products. And those billions of interactions have in some become the simple modern brand. And I think branding is primarily an emotional feeling that we have towards something. And we use...

Mudassir (38:29.073)

Mike Beckham (38:56.925)
pictures and symbols and colors to trigger those feelings, is the way I would say it. So, you know, like, if you think about our logo, our logo is, you know, it's an S and a line and an M, I guess we have a long form logo too, but it's like, it's really just a bunch of squiggles. But these squiggles, our brain, you know, the brains of many people see those and they associate those with memories and experiences.

Mudassir (39:15.467)

Mike Beckham (39:26.621)
that are hopefully positive, and that really triggers the way that they act towards those squiggles. And it's especially fascinating in our category because we're in a category, as you mentioned, that is highly commoditized. There's almost no intellectual property. There's almost no barriers to entry, no moats. And yet, as our category is getting older, this insulated stainless steel drinkware, what we're seeing is that,

Mudassir (39:40.28)

Mudassir (39:51.863)

Mike Beckham (39:52.789)
all of the numbers say is that it's becoming even more brand-dominated. It's easier than any point in human history to make a great water bottle, which is something that has probably always existed in some form that we've always needed as humans. And yet, even though it's as commoditized and as easy as ever to make one of these, it's more important maybe than ever before.

the branding that's associated with that thing, which I find really fascinating. One of the stories that I'll tell to people when I talk about the evolution of us as a brand, early on, probably two years into the company, we went to a show, the International Home Housework Show. And while we were at the show, it was our first booth we'd ever done. We literally bought the furniture at IKEA. We spent a couple thousand dollars. Other people...

the thermoses of the world had booths that cost $100,000 and were like houses that were basically built for a few days and then torn down. So we looked very, very small time compared to our competitors. And this particular show was a show where the emphasis was on drinkware. So even though it was a housewares show, the emphasis of this particular annual housewares show was drinkware.

And there were probably 60 drinkware companies present at the show. And the first day there, I walked around, I looked at all of the different exhibits and there were a bunch, obviously, with 60 something drinkware booths. And I would, I would guess that we were one of the least expensive of those drinkware booths in terms of the presentation and the furniture, because we didn't really have any money, we were bootstrapped. And

Mudassir (41:43.831)

Mike Beckham (41:47.173)
That night, the team and I went back to the hotel and I gathered them in the lobby and I just made a very direct observation. I said, listen, took a bottle, I pointed at the logo and I said, if we are selling this, I think we have a really bright future. I said, if we're selling water bottles, we're screwed. Like, there are so many people and so much competition and if we are just selling

Mudassir (42:07.49)

Mike Beckham (42:16.489)
drinkware, we are done. And it really helped to crystallize for me that we have got to create a brand that's meaningful and means something in the mind of customers where they are going to say, I want to buy Simple Modern. And if we can't achieve that, then I don't know how we can build a sustainable business in this market. So there have been a few ways that we've approached that. I think one of the ways that we've approached that is clearly the way that we've been

Mudassir (42:32.304)

Mike Beckham (42:45.553)
message the brand and the way that we price the brand. We make the best product we can and we sell it at the lowest price we feel like we can and still fund the growth and the innovation and the giving that we're doing. We've developed a reputation as a brand where people get more than they thought they were buying. That is something that I think emotionally, it's interesting we've done research. What the research says is...

most people don't remember what they paid for something. It's easy to assume that people know everything or they remember everything your brand does. That's a bias. There's actually one of the cognitive biases is that we overestimate how much people think about us. When you're running a brand, it's the exact same way. You overestimate how much people pay attention to what you're doing or how much people know about what you're doing or how much people remember about the price they paid.

Mudassir (43:17.096)

Mudassir (43:32.142)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Mike Beckham (43:40.669)
But people do remember this. They remember how they feel about that purchase. I bought that thing, and did I feel good about the money that I spent? Did I feel like I got great, you know, a great outcome for what I spent? And we could all probably sit here and say, I can name several transactions where I bought something and then was like, oh, and that's it? And then I can probably name others where it was like, man, I felt like that was amazing, the amount of value I got for the money that I spent.

Mudassir (44:02.594)

Mike Beckham (44:10.049)
And so part of great brand building, I think, is giving people that sense of, wow, I feel great about what I got for what I spent. And that doesn't necessarily mean low price. That just means that what people feel like they got, that they felt great about trading the amount of money they did for what they got. And if you can create that sense, that emotional feeling in people, they're going to want to come back and make that transactions more. That is a positive reinforcement.

Mudassir (44:22.561)

Mudassir (44:29.335)

Mike Beckham (44:37.693)
where they're going to want to over and over again. I liked that trade the last time I did it, I want to do it again. Another thing that we've tried to be deliberate about is constantly improving our products and saying even when they're good, we're going to try and make them better. We've really relied on things like Amazon reviews and customer feedback to do that. We live in a digital age where it's easier than ever before to understand.

how a customer's experiencing your product, how they'd like it to be better, and to act on that. We live in an era where if you're running a consumer brand and you're not constantly asking, how do we evolve and how do we get better, then you're going to get disrupted. We've continued to focus on that. We have a huge commitment to giving. It's what the company's built on. We found that that's not the lead foot with most people, but once most people have an experience where they buy one of our products and they feel great about it, if they then learn what we're about...

that really helps them get to a place where they really just want to buy products from us because they do want to vote with their wallets. That's a concept that came up earlier in the meeting that we were having. People love spending their money on things that they believe in. These are a few of the things that we've employed to try and build that sense, that kind of association. The way that we measure it is we look at how often are people coming and saying,

Mudassir (45:49.398)

Mike Beckham (46:02.477)
I want to buy Simple Modern, and how is that changing over time? And as you said, we've got a very big business on Amazon and Drinkware, for example. One of the stats we're the proudest of, 55% of the people that hit a product detail page on Amazon got there as a result of searching for Simple Modern in some way or another. Not searching for Tumblr, not searching for a water bottle, but saying, I want to buy Simple Modern.

Mudassir (46:23.55)
Wow. Unbelievable. Yeah.

Mike Beckham (46:31.269)
And that's a protected, that's a business where it really, if you continue to serve your customers well, you're always gonna have a business. And that's the ultimate goal with brand, is that you build something that has that kind of power where people, you've earned people's trust and they really wanna keep coming back to you.

Mudassir (46:31.416)

Mudassir (46:51.53)
Yeah, agreed. Mike, how much time do we have? About 10 minutes, okay. So I get two more questions and, so yeah, just two questions and we'll try to wrap it up, okay, so all right, there again. One thing that I've, specifically, for my own learning I wanna understand is, because I've never built an e-commerce business or a DTC business or anything like that, so if anybody from our,

Mike Beckham (46:56.125)
About 10 minutes.

Mike Beckham (47:00.316)

Mudassir (47:20.734)
you know, from the audience, a lot of those are first-time founders, second-time founders. People are like just, you know, bootstrapping things. So if you were to start a DTC business, any business, suppose this mug that I have right here or something like that, any category like you guys have today, how would you just go about that? Like from step one to step hundred, making it, I don't know, that business hitting a million dollar in a year and then 10 million and then eventually a hundred million dollar business. How would you do that?

Mike Beckham (47:48.721)
Yeah, that's great. I'll give you a stream of consciousness on a few things that I would be pursuing. I would look for a category where I could launch digitally, and I would look for a category or a product where I could either create differentiation in a very big market or in an emerging market that's growing really rapidly, where I could get in early and establish a differentiated presence in that market before a lot of competition shows up.

Mudassir (48:17.12)

Mike Beckham (48:17.733)
I would start digitally because it gives me the ability to be really agile and to try a lot of things and to iterate quickly. And early on, you're really trying to find product market fit and you're trying to buy smaller amounts of inventory and just iterate into where you want to get as quickly as possible. But also, digital allows you to form communication with your customers that allow you to establish feedback loops.

Really, what you're trying to do is you're trying to run experiments and then learn from the data and pivot, and then start a new experiment, learn from the data, pivot, and you're wanting to do as many of those loops as you can to compress those loops down to as short a time interval as you possibly can to maximize how quickly you're learning. If you have the ability to, just as a simple example, I don't know how to price my product.

If I sell my product in physical retail, first of all, it's gonna take me months or years to get in there, and then if I wanna do some price testing, that's gonna take months to be able to do and really understand what's going on. But if instead I have a product and I launch it digitally, I can sometimes, I can run price testing in a day. I can say, hey, what happens if I drop price for $10 for five hours? Okay, what did conversion rate do?

How does that impact customer acquisition, yada, yada? And so I love how agile digital allows people to be. And I love that we have digital tools. An example of one thing we do, we do a lot of surveying and we will survey a lot around ornamentation and look. So we sent one out just a few days ago. First 24 hours, we had 14,000 responses. So it's amazing.

Mudassir (49:47.989)

Mike Beckham (50:12.093)
that we can throw 200 designs up. And within 24 hours, we can literally have an entire basketball stadium full of people tell us what they think, right? And that we can then with confidence say, these are the colors we wanna order and this is how we wanna come to market. And so we've built a lot of digitally based systems that allow us to go fast while still listening to customers and still incorporating their feedback. And that's probably...

Mudassir (50:21.159)

Mike Beckham (50:41.807)
where I would start.

Mudassir (50:43.758)
Okay, amazing. All right, Mike, really appreciate it. So we do have this small ritual on the podcast. What we do is we ask all our guests a question for our next guest without telling who the guest is gonna be. So we have a question for you. Yeah, we have a question for you. And that person was a VC, just so you know that. Yeah, not gonna reveal the answer or anything like that. And I'm gonna take a question for you after the recording as well, okay? Yeah, so the question that we have for you is.

Mike Beckham (50:56.25)
Oh great.

Mike Beckham (51:02.845)

Mike Beckham (51:07.951)
Okay, sounds great.

Mudassir (51:12.05)
What is something that you have learned recently that you wish more people had known?

Mike Beckham (51:21.765)
Well, I think that one of the things that I very much am experiencing these days is kind of the quote unquote having made it. Like the business is bigger and more profitable than ever. I have more influence than ever before. And yet what I'm struck by is although I appreciate those things that I'm not happier necessarily. I don't have more purpose in my life.

I've really learned how true it is that life is a lot more of a process than a destination. And it's about being able to enjoy and learn and soak in each of the different stages that we are at. And especially when you're very driven and you want to cross goals off your list and you want to get to the next step. There is a high level of impatience.

that comes with that. And I think the underlying assumption of that impatience is, gosh, I just want to get to the next step because it'll be better. It'll feel even better. I'll be even more fulfilled. And that's just not the case. And it's not to say that I don't love my life. I love my life and how I'm situated right now. But there are tradeoffs at every stage. And there's aspects of my life now that I like less than...

my life when I worked for a nonprofit and made $18,000 a year. And there's parts that I like more. So I think that that's one thing that I would say is that, you know, don't live your life thinking in the future and thinking about when you get to a certain outcome or a certain goal, it's going to make you happy. Because that is a, that's its own cognitive bias. And

what I think truly successful people are able to do is not just live in the moment, but they're able to find meaning and purpose with exactly where they're situated right then. Yeah, okay, that's what I'll go with as my answer.

Mudassir (53:29.454)
Okay, thank you, appreciate it. Let's say the bias and then, you know, I'll take it off the recording, okay? Okay, awesome. Yeah, thank you so much, Mike. Really lovely talking to you, and I appreciate the time a lot.

Mike Beckham (53:35.92)
OK, great.

Mike Beckham (53:41.773)
Absolutely, thanks for having me on the show.

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