Nick Paulukow talks with Miles Veth, CEO of the Veth Group, about his marketing company and how Christianity has influenced his business practices.
Welcome back to Servant Leader Library.
I’m Nick Paulukow, and I have a guest here today, Miles Veth with the Veth Group.
Super excited to have you here.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and the organization that you lead today?
Thank you for having me.
I know we, we both connect a lot on this topic.
So it’s my pleasure to join the show.
I have a marketing business with about 15 employees.
We help 100 or so customers basically fill their sales calendar and then nurture those leads that they talk to try to get them to buy.
So it’s a fun challenge every day.
That is one heck of a thing to do, right?
Everybody loves you when it’s working and it’s frustrating when it’s not right.
Like, tell me a little bit about the challenges of growing a business such as yours.
So you’re exactly right.
I think we’re in the unique case of everyone always has our pain.
So you never can have enough meetings.
You never can have a low enough cost per meeting.
Most businesses bottleneck at some point by their inability to either pulse what the demand is in their market or capture that demand.
So it’s interesting because a lot of businesses are pitching cost savings or security or risk reduction like in IT where I came from, we’re really pitching revenue growth.
But the challenge is as you scale, there are so many reasons you could lose like so we do 24-hour cancellation, you could lose a customer because they get bought, they get too many meetings, they don’t get enough meetings, the buyers don’t buy.
The sales Rep leaves.
The owner has a change of heart of wanting to grow.
So we have a hard time keeping customers even if we’re getting meetings at the level of someone like an IT MSP.
So we always have to have a constant funnel which as you scaled you know $4 million plus in revenue, it becomes a lot of a lot of new business needed.
So the good of that is we’re constantly inventing new products that help our customers.
The bad of it is I get some gray hair.
Man, you’re always doing something.
I always hear you talking about LinkedIn, right?
And you’re always on there and use that as a powerful tool.
Tell us how you’ve used kind of the LinkedIn platform to build and scale as part of the services that you provide your customers.
Yeah, LinkedIn to me is a really fascinating thing.
It’s about 600 million members.
I’m sure it’s still growing, and we all go on it every day willingly to look at each other’s content.
And I saw a stat a couple years ago it was only 1% of users were posting on a regular basis.
I don’t know the yeah, I don’t know the remember the exact specifics, but it I don’t know if it was daily or even a couple times a week, but it was something crazy.
So right now, there’s this huge void of they’re trying to show individual user content to each other to keep us on the platform so they can then run ads that we’re not paying attention to and don’t care about that they monetize.
So I think it’s just for recruiting for sales, for insights.
It’s such a hub that I definitely have benefited from it in our business enough that we’ve created service lines around it.
And for me, as Someone Like You shares whether faith in Jesus or just a belief in doing the right thing in business, I think being able to put out what I believe has actually led to finding a lot of like-minded people, which has been cool.
Yeah, that’s great.
I appreciate that you kind of said something a minute ago.
I saw on your LinkedIn right when we originally connected that you said the first thing it says is that I follow Jesus Christ.
And so like, wow, what a powerful statement that is.
Kudos for kind of living kind of your belief in faith.
Tell us a little bit or more of how you kind of follow Jesus Christ but deal with this fun thing called business that has a lot of different pieces to it that aren’t always ethical or there isn’t always ethical behaviors done.
Can you kind of give us an understanding of how you marry those two together?
So I think for me, following Jesus, you, you have to decide.
Lots of people believe that Jesus existed, walked on this earth, died.
You know, maybe some people even believe that he was God in some sense, but don’t really want him to be the Lord of their life.
And I think the distinction, when you understand what it actually means to believe, is not ahead logical understanding that Jesus existed, but it’s an alignment of our life that we’re not going to have another Lord, whether that’s money or romance or status or comfort or any other thing.
So for me, I think fundamentally if Jesus is the Lord of my life, that should permeate the way I do everything else, obviously and perfectly.
But I think in a business sense, to your point, I look back to God’s word, the Bible to say you know where the guidelines are that were given.
And I think one is we’re supposed to count others more significant than ourself.
So we don’t do contract lock in, we don’t mark up our out-of-pocket expenses.
We don’t make promises on the numbers we can generate.
We are careful about overlaps in markets.
If it’s a small market to make sure that we’re not accidentally, you know, sharing insights between competitors or we don’t violate end user policies, end user policies can be gray.
But it like if we say for example, you know, we’re not going to automate the LinkedIn interface if we’re on this platform, we’re not going to automate the LinkedIn interface.
Like, I’m all for a little bit of creativity and how you define some of these things.
But if there are things that are just dishonest, and for me that’s been the baseline is you know, Google says you can’t have multiple inboxes for the purpose of beating spam filters.
We don’t get to have multiple inboxes for the purpose of being spam filters like.
And I think it’s less gray than people act like it is.
But I think the uncomfortable part is, early on we had a situation with LinkedIn where they didn’t want you logging into other people’s accounts and DM ING on their behalf.
So we had maybe a $40,000 month business and 20,000 a month was coming from DM ING on other people’s behalf.
We’re doing that.
We walked away from half the business like a couple years in, cut it from 40 to 20 just because of that one honesty thing.
And for me, it’s just, I think integrity is a muscle.
The more you squeeze and stuff, the more you’re going to stick to it.
That is amazing.
And I mean, you know, we’re talking about here about like serving leadership.
This is perfect, right?
You know you know from a commitment to service leadership that it sounds like we have you know how you manage like your goals and profit and to you know staying within kind of your values.
Can you kind of help us understand if somebody’s new in business and they’re trying to grow like and they have a faith-based background, how do you, how do you you know balance both of this?
Yeah, it’s a great question.
So I, I, I look at it like I want to make a modest profit in our business.
I don’t want to make a outsized profit relative to our customers.
So this is very contrarian because a lot of people would say charged with the market will bear and but I believe in making about a 33% profit margin as a business should be the goal can’t always be there right away.
But I think for you know my customers, if they knew at the end of the day, if we pay Veth Group 3000 bucks a month and they make about $1000 a month, I don’t think anyone’s going to complain about that.
If they knew that I was making $2800 a month off 3000, I think it’d be a little heavy for me.
So I think the first thing is with customer profit, not that we can always hit that, we’re always chasing that.
But I think a good goal is 1/3 in terms of if you make that third new scale of business, some amount of the business is reinvesting, taking care of people and distributing that.
And and I think that’s really great.
I think once you get down to owner profit, how much do you keep yourself?
I think the key question is a hard issue of of really, if this is all God’s money, I think we should be able to justify why I live in the house I do, why I have, you know, the Apple products I have, why I go to Titans games like the circuit deck relative to the other uses of our money.
And I don’t think it’s like we can’t enjoy ourselves.
I know you and I share a love of hot tubing or, you know, my dad and I grew up around race cars.
Like I think it’s OK to have hobbies and enjoy ourselves and do this with other people.
But I do think we’ve got to be really accountable to every penny.
I do believe we have to answer for.
So I think it’s more about making.
It’s not wrong keeping too much of it’s wrong.
That’s a great sentiment.
Like it’s not we’ve been given the talent to be able to earn it.
It’s what we do with it is really what counts, right.
You could you kind of give your perspective as someone who’s taken the, you know, an entrepreneur from something Ground Zero.
There’s not as many of us that have gone from Ground Zero to where you’re at now.
And maybe just explain to everyone kind of the challenges.
You know, we see you now, right?
Successful, able to be able to be in your business.
But only ever people see kind of our success, right?
They don’t see all of our, you know, fumbles or frustrations or, you know, crying in the corner.
Who knows, right?
But it is a tough road.
Could you kind of give a little tips and tricks for those entrepreneurs trying to get started?
Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is you just have to have a why that isn’t making money.
I think the three reasons people start businesses normally or they want to make more money, they want freedom of their time or they want revenge.
Someone told them they couldn’t do it and they want to prove that.
And I think those are all terrible reasons to start a business because money.
If you share my belief in Jesus that the love of money is the root of all evil and we just we also have to remember our hearts are incredibly deceitful.
The Bible tells us so.
We can think we don’t have a love of money and have a love of money, so we need other people to tell us that.
But I think money is a bad motivation because the more of it you have, the as diminishing returns of its value.
I think the 2nd motivation of time building a business, you know 30 years from now, the idea you could work yourself out of a job is the idea of passive income.
The first five years is just not real.
Guys that have tons of rental units, they’re fixing sinks every day.
They’re personally on the hook when the government, you know, wants to call because a renter got something wrong with the way Section 8 Housing Works or e-commerce businesses, Amazon’s algorithm changes or your business or mine.
So I think time’s a bad motivation.
And I think, I think revenge is the worst of the three because I absolutely, I’m sure, like, you had people that told me I would fail and I can’t even remember half of them.
And it’s not like right now it’s like you’re going to go back to them and be like, oh, look who was wrong.
It’s like who clearly has the emotional issues.
If you’re doing that, they’ve probably forgotten all about me, moved on to critiquing the next person.
So I I think that the right reason to start a business is like you embody and talk about the desire to serve.
And for me, the desire to serve God with my life led me down a path of being a fourth generation entrepreneur.
So I didn’t wasn’t totally from scratching my learning.
And I think from there it’s how do you serve your, you know, really I think your team, if you serve your team, they’ll serve your clients.
If you serve your clients, that will create profit where you can serve your community.
But when people ask, you know, how do you do this at 1:00 in the morning, it’s like, well, I see what’s going on in Israel.
Like our business will seek out opportunities to find those Israeli refugees that can’t pay their hospital bills or anytime there’s a crisis to be able to actually have a front row seat to trying to be able to serve like is so motivating when you see what they are going through versus us sitting in our cushy lives here.
It’s 1:00 AM is light action compared to what those people are going through this week.
And that that to me definitely is, is fuel that keeps you going because that’s the hard part, is keeping going.
And even having the ability to do what we do in the country that we live is, is a blessing in itself.
You know from a you had said you’re kind of 4th generation entrepreneur.
So who was who is your greatest mentor and why?
Yeah, my dad’s taught me the the most in terms of one person.
I think he’s he’s been at it for 30 years 35 years.
Just think it’s brought.
Yeah, just brought a real integrity to both his for profit and nonprofit pursuits.
And I think in terms of just his ability, I most admire his ability not to hold grudges because I’ve seen him get burned so many times and he doesn’t, he doesn’t hold it against people.
But I think he’s just taught me frameworks that I would have taken me 20 years to learn.
So how to price, how to hire, how to incentivize like.
And I think I was able to take his 30 years and cram it into about two years of learning.
And he’s actually underwritten a lot of our technology.
So he he has been a a mentor, but he’s also a lot of the code of how we’re able to deliver so many emails comes from him.
So I so I wouldn’t wouldn’t be without him.
So dad’s been a big, big help.
So he’s clearly the number one.
But I think the number 2.
There’s been a ton of people that have have really helped me, from pastors to fellow business people to professors from college, like, so yeah, it’s been an army that’s helped me get here.
Kudos to dad that dads are wonderful people.
It’s neat to see that you’ve been able to have that journey with him, too.
We all, we all talk about kind of like mentors, but then we also talk about long life learning too, right?
So I know you’re a fellow reader and love to digest information.
So as we wrap things up today, why don’t you tell us the a book that all of us should read and why and how it might have impacted you as you kind of, you know, went through that journey of of additional learning through it.
So I would always first and foremost plug the Bible.
I’d say if you’ve not read the Bible, Jordan Peterson is not a Christian, but he has talked about this idea of the Bible has this living quality like no other book he’s ever read.
And I really think that is true, that any amount of wisdom that I have gathered has been from that one book.
And the book of Proverbs is really helpful for business and leadership, especially for a non.
For a more just an average human written business book, I would recommend the crux is one I’ve been reading recently.
His name is Richard Rumfelt I want to say.
And the crux is a business strategy book.
And what it’s really helping me to understand is you want to look for problems that are both essential to solve and you have the ability to solve.
So he kind of brings a realistic look at business strategy of not every problem can be solved, not have.
We don’t always have the resources.
But what you need to do is take an inventory of your options and look for the crosshair of where something is both meaningful and impossible to be influenced.
So if I think about the broader economy, it’d be great if the broader economy are moving my direction, but I don’t really be able to influence that worrying about it or talking about it.
And he really is helping me even today.
I’ve been listening to it.
He’s just I think the the framing because I’m at the beginning of it so I’m this is encouraging to read alongside me.
I I think what I’m just realizing is how much we get distracted by things we cannot control.
So a great example is we spend all day writing vision statements that’s not really the problem.
Like my biggest problem right now is is find more customers that are a good fit for what we do.
So don’t waste a bunch of time writing my 15 year goals because like the biggest problem is spend time on get more customers and I think that that is a is a refreshing perspective because if you read too much you know business literature it almost is like you need to do 1000 things.
Well I think what the crux is saying is what’s the one thing that if you did the problem might go away and that I thought was a cool perspective.
That’s cool that just start by doing one thing and then start in the next.
Yeah, that’s cool.
So you know as you, you talk about kind of growing your business and we always use this word success, right.
And so it’s like what does success mean to you and like how do you measure it?
Like what what what is considered success?
For me, I I think it success is someday standing before God and him saying like well done, good and faithful servant.
I don’t think it looks like the business perpetuating or wealth or reputation or.
I really do feel like I’m living for the next life more than this one.
I know a lot of people talk about your best life now.
I think I want to be at 80, having spent the time looking forward to the life after this.
I think tangibly what that would look like in terms of how do you measure that.
I would want it to be true that there wasn’t a a meaningful gap between what I espoused to believe about following Jesus and how my life actually was lived out.
And I’m far from perfect and I’m as much sin in me as the next person.
So that’s not going to look like Jesus’s life looked.
But in trying to follow Jesus, I think my hope is that people would genuinely say there was something about Jesus that influenced this fallen person who was clearly fallen miles to to love in a way that was different than the people that didn’t follow Jesus.
And I think if that was true of me, I’ll be happy.
And if that’s not true of me, I’ll have probably more regret than just about anybody on earth.
So I was like, yeah, serious stuff.
I mean you’re you’re almost saying how much that you’re, you know, God has given you a talent and you’ve really found your talent and feel that you’re using that talent to serve other people and that and at at a, you know an age that you’re at right now that’s an amazing and impactful thing.
Many people take many, many years to figure that out.
So kudos to you.
Thank you very much.
You would know.
All all the credit goes upstairs for that.
But I really, I appreciate your kind words.
And yeah, I think I think it’s a it’s a high calling.
And yeah, as Christians, I mean our job’s to make it easier for other people to believe in Jesus and that as a high bar in our society, you know, the church is failing in many ways.
So I know you’re you’re someone has made it easier for me to believe in Jesus.
I think that’s what I want to be back to other people, right?
It’s kind of saying like get get with like minded people, right, right.
And we many times in my faith right, we leave our church and the last thing they say is go and tell others about your faith, be a disciple.
And so you’re definitely living that.
I think it’s amazing.
It’s wonderful to hear and and and hear from like minded people in that regard.
So you said a minute ago as we go to wrap up that you’re looking for new business.
So tell us what your ideal customer is, who are they?
You know what, what would be the ideal customer today to continue to add new wonderful organization and how they contact you.
So for for me it’s it’s probably a business owner that has likely like one or two salespeople, maybe one marketing person has a relatively large deal size, but probably you know an LTV or lifetime value of like over $5000 and and wants to wants to grow in a way that is long term minded.
So I don’t think we’re not in the magic bullet business.
We’re not trying to bring people leads that are going to be foaming at the mouth by the next week.
We’re really trying to help people build relationships through you know, creative outreach, creative nurturing.
So I think someone like you that’s got a long-term view of serving their market, that’s up for doing things a little bit differently that has a little bit of budget but really wants to be budget conscious.
I think is a great customer for us and we have everyone from the Fortune 500 down to one person armies.
But I would say you know if you’ve got like 10 to 30 employees and and you fit those criteria and wanted a partner that’s willing to not lock you in any kind of contract, I’d love to talk to you.
Oh, that’s perfect.
Well, I can say from a consumer of Miles products and services, he instituted some of his services with us and we were overwhelmed with leads.
So great job, really does a great job in serving even at that level too.
So thank you Miles.
I appreciate your time today and look forward to the next time we speak again.
Thank you very much, Nick.
All right, Thank you, Miles.
Have a great day, everybody.