Daniel Oyston – Launching A Global Sports System

by Joshua Strawczynski

Voiceover: 0:02

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Josh Strawczynski: 0:26

Welcome to another episode of business life hacks. Today I’ve got a very long-serving friend of mine or say an old friend of mine, I didn’t want to put him down. Daniel Oyston who I actually met when I was still a university student. And we had blogs on the internet when magazine blogs were still a big emerging thing. And there was a little community of us, the world just pushing the boundaries. Well, Daniel continued on that, he is Daniel every man, everyone can relate to him. And by being willing to push the boundaries without having fear, he ended up creating a company called Sponsor, which was the first of its kind.

A Saas sponsorship management solution, which he spoke to most, if not all of the sporting organizations in the world that have sponsorship today. I want to explore, how do you actually do that? How do you take something from an idea to a very successful business, which spoiler alert ultimately got bought out? And what are the lessons that you learned along the way? So Daniel, welcome to the program.

Daniel Oyston: 1:41

Thanks, Josh. Great to be on the other end of the microphone or zoom call. So to speak because in my normal life, day-to-day doing work for people. I look after 2, 3, 4 podcasts on and off for people. So I don’t often get the opportunity to be on the other side of the microphone. So this is going to be fun.

Josh Strawczynski: 1:58

Well, the way you tell a story, my biggest concern is this big, short, sharp, and to the point, you and I just reef forever. But I think it’s going to be a really interesting episode, particularly for people that have ideas or even yet have got a business that I’ve got off the ground. They’ve got traction, but where to from here, this there’s just so many angles. We can take it. Let’s start with your story about what was sponsored. Why don’t we start with that? What was it?

Daniel Oyston: 2:31

I was the world’s first SAAS. So software as a service platform for managing sponsorships. So primarily it was focused on sporting organizations, but it also has applications for the not-for-profit community. So charities, schools, events, anybody who takes sponsorship and needs to give something back in terms of signs, logos, emails, social media, that sort of stuff. And we built the world’s first SAAS sponsorship platform.

Josh Strawczynski: 3:01

And so when the people think about that, that’s pretty impressive on paper. It sounds like it probably was a big organization, lots of money and really smart people planning it all out. I know that’s not the case. Well, smart people but maybe. Tell us how it actually came to fruition.

Daniel Oyston: 3:20

Well, the smart paper was actually the thing that probably pushed us along in the early days, particularly when you don’t have any money as a startup, but it’s a classic startup story, particularly a classic tech startup story. We had three co-founders, but initially, it was just an idea from one guy; Mark, who had plenty of experience in the sponsorship industry in Australia, both in the not-for-profits or the charity sector, but also at sporting clubs in Sydney and Canberra. And he actually only leaves 400 or 500 meters away from my house, just serendipitously having a beer at the back of his deck one day. And he said I’ve got this idea. I was like, yes here we go.

So he tells me about this idea about how every sporting organization in the world manages their sponsorships in spreadsheets. I was like, that’s bullshit. He goes, what do you mean? I said you’re trying to tell me Manchester United. And I literally said, Manchester United said, you’re telling me Manchester United manage their sponsorship, their global sponsorship portfolio in spreadsheets. He’s like, yes. I was like, how do you know that? He said I know someone that works there. I rang. See a couple of years earlier, his boss had actually said to him, because he went to his boss and said, it’s too hard to manage sponsorships in spreadsheets. I need to buy some software.

And his boss said you can go and buy some software, go do some research. And on his research, he couldn’t find any software purpose-built for sponsorship. So we have software for email, we have software for spreadsheets, for writing word documents, for designing, for websites, for Xero for managing our finances. All these platforms, HR systems, specific software platforms for managing specific functions in an organization. Sponsorship had never had anything. And so he had a mate at Manchester United that he just knew through school and networks. And so he rang him and said, what do you guys use? And the guy said, well, we have to use spreadsheets as well. So that’s where my argument first fell down.

So I had to cop that one on the chin. And he said, he talked me through this idea and it sounded like it met a real need in the market. It’s only software. So it should be reasonably easy to build, et cetera, et cetera. But at the end of that conversation, he said to me, so what do we do about it? I said, what do you mean we? I’ve got a job. I don’t need to be trying to start some tech software. And I didn’t really have much experience in sponsorship. So it wasn’t really my wheelhouse. He said, you don’t understand, this is going to be a huge opportunity, we take over the world. I was like No. What do we do? And I thought, well, I’ll give him a task. I’ll keep him at arm’s length. So to speak, this is all you need to write a business plan. Thinking that most people have had business ideas over the years. Some of us have lots of them. Some of them are good.

Some of them are rubbish. Not a lot of people actually start work on them, let alone actually take them to market. So I thought, well this is just a conversation over a beer, but he had spent a lot of time thinking about it. So when we went away, write a business plan, he came back and said, I’ve written a business plan. Now, what do I do? It’s like, I think you need to get a software scoping document. You have to scope the software out. What’s that? It’s like, where you write down, this page goes to this page and this is the functionality here so that somebody can build it. It’s like the plans for it, but you know, quite basic. Okay. And he was having hip surgery at the time, so he had a lot of time in bed. We joke that a lot of the foundations of sponsors were built on massive painkillers, which might have actually not as well known as the Beatles, but, and so he scoped the software out and then of course realized that I was never going to get away from this.

I was like dragged into it. And I was never, I mean, it wasn’t an unwilling participant, but it wasn’t my passion. I didn’t really see the vision, but I just kind of went along with it because it’s easy just to go, yes, I’ll read the document and I’ll write this bit and I’ll have some input. But then it got to a point where it was like, well, we need to actually find someone to build this. And then we need to figure out how to fund it. And so we had this other mate, Tim, so he became a co-founder spoiler alert, showed it to him. And he said you could definitely build something like this. That’s not even remotely hard. And we’re like, so build it for us. And we’ll give you a third of the company. I don’t have any time. So a few months went past probably maybe five, six months. And we have lots of wacky ideas about how we can fund it and how we can get people to give us money and trial it and all this sort of stuff, but nothing really serious that we could really hang our hat on and take something to market. And then Tim brings back, just checking up as a mate, how’s life catching up.

We work on a lot of projects together because he builds tech and websites. And I work in marketing. So we obviously lean on each other a fair bit. And he just says, how’s that software idea going? I said, well you know, it’s kind of dead in the water. We’re not really sure how to progress it and come up with these wacky ideas for funding and partnerships and stuff, but nothing serious. He said, send me the documentation again because I’ve got time on my hands. I might be able to build it for you. I was like, okay. And he said is the deal still a third of the company. So we’re equal. I’m like, yes. He said, okay. So I was sending the stuff I rang Mark. I said I think I just gave away a third of a company that we haven’t actually formed. Right, like we didn’t have, we hadn’t registered a company.

We didn’t have a constitution. We had nothing with no shareholder agreements, nothing. It’s just all handshakes. At this point, he said, that’s fine. Let’s say, Tim says okay I’ll build it. He builds it a couple of weeks later, he shows us the demo. And the demo was probably 20% of what the platform actually grew into by the end. Once we sold the business there, I remember mark sitting next to me because Tim was running it remotely and he’s just mouthing swear words at me. He’s like. And I’m like, is this fun? Is this good? Or bad? Or what he goes, this is amazing. I was like, is it because I didn’t work in sponsorships? So I didn’t deeply understand the pain that these people had day in, day out. He said this is going to change. People’s roles Mandy’s can change the industry. I was like, okay. I mean, I still didn’t deeply understand it. And so then we kind of pretty much had a working prototype. We tried it with people.

We eventually took it to market and just grew it from there. I mean, we’ll probably get to this fine, but we took two rounds of funding over the years to help us grow. But that’s pretty much how we got it off the ground. But I think an important point to make here is, and I think you mentioned this in your intro that, lots of people have ideas. People need to understand don’t be put off by people that don’t buy into their vision. I didn’t try and discourage Mark, but I could have created an argument about why it was a bad idea. And a lot of people’s default position is this hasn’t been done before. So this might be a bad idea rather than, and I’m a big subscriber to the thought that if you can easily kill a business idea, you’re probably don’t have a good one. But a lot of people don’t take that attitude. They are just negative because maybe it’s too good to be true, but, or they can’t see your vision. I’m working on a new business idea at the moment.

I can’t really say too much about it, but I’m sharing it with some potential investors and listening to them talk, I’m struggling to get them to see the vision of the organization. But the key point here is I’ve spent five or six years thinking about this. They’ve had two weeks to think about it. And so you have to understand that you’ve got to try and take people on a journey with you don’t be put off because your mum thinks it’s a bad idea or your mates don’t think you’re going to be able to do it. Or they say, there’s a company over here already doing it. But you deeply know that they don’t really do it the same or as well because that’s where your ideas will stall. So don’t ever be put off by other people’s negativity, if you truly believe in the idea.

Josh Strawczynski: 11:13

So you’ve had a job at the time. So you had financial security, you would do that in your spare time, right? And Mark was passionate about it but he wasn’t doing it going. I need to get this to pay the bills tomorrow. Was it?

Daniel Oyston: 11:27

No correct. So we both had full-time jobs. So I mean, I worked for myself, so, and have gone back to working for myself and it’s just me. I don’t have any staff. So now it’s pretty flexible. I can, I’m going to spend Wednesday morning, five hours working on it, or I can work on it for five hours when we’re at that point. But mark had a full-time job. I had a full-time job. So we could build this software and have the software agreements in place and have a company in place and have a website and business cards and all that sort of stuff. But somebody needs to sell this software. And so we didn’t have money at that point, but we did have money, but we didn’t want to necessarily put it into a company. So what I did was, I actually went and worked. I think it was two, maybe three days a week in the business as an economy treated them as a client. Right? So I wasn’t an employee.

I was a consultant that would go and do demos. So you’ve got this weird dynamic where you’re a shareholder and you’re on the board, but you’re also a contractor. You’re not even an employee in the middle. Right. So I was just a contractor, but I would jump on planes and travel around Australia and chase people up and try and close deals and manage our trial partners, and all that sort of stuff. And once it got busy enough, I think mark then went part-time two or three days a week. So he was working at the Australian sports foundation at that point. I think he then went full time and I went full time.

Once we were successful enough and we had enough money coming in and we needed more staff, I started to drop back because it’s not really my jam to go and sit in an office, working on the same project day in, day out, the same brand anymore. I need the variety. So I sort of scaled back. We had staff go and do the sales. And so I just looked after stuff like the marketing, the podcast, the websites, the social media, and any sort of stuff that they needed help with. And that’s how we transitioned. I’ve got, an old confidant. He’s probably 75. Now. It used to be an old boss, but I don’t always agree with the advice that he gives me, but he always makes me look at things a little bit differently.

Whether I follow his advice or not. Is that a conversation for another day? But he described the business starting as you are running on a horse and you are running as fast as you can. And there’s an opportunity next year, which is a train. And that train is flying and your horse is only just keeping up and you gotta make a choice about whether you’re going to keep riding this horse, or you’re going to jump from the horse to the train and really take off. And so there’s always that point in a startup where you’re like, it’s not just part-time work. It’s not just mucking around. It’s not just something you’re doing in the evenings, the train is next to you. You’ve got to jump and there are always risks to that, right? Whatever it might be.

Josh Strawczynski: 14:13

I like the burn. The boat analogy is, the generals when they landed on the Viking generals, whatever they were called, when they landed on the banks of the opposition’s land, the first thing that says men burn the boats to send a message. The only way you had gone home was by putting on the bullet. You have to be fully committed to your vision, not have one foot on the boat. It doesn’t look good. I’ll just, I’ll just Nick off again.

Daniel Oyston: 14:43

Makes sense.

Josh Strawczynski: 14:45

But I’m curious, right, and I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I think people would be interested. You talked about it, you said your motivation. You’re like, I’ll come along with this for the ride. I’m doing it because it’s easy. Mark’s driving it through his motivation and his knowledge. I mean, he knows. So was he carrying you in the early days with that motivation or you’re doing it because it was simple and yet didn’t have anything else to do?

Daniel Oyston: 15:12

Well, I had lots of stuff to do, but the comment about it being simple, I mean, and you probably relate to this, right? Like without sounding so really, really full of ourselves, we’re good at what we do. And so what takes us an hour to do might take somebody else three or four hours to do so you can actually turn out quality work really, really quickly. So I found being involved in the early days, quite simple, but I’m not sure I was ever fully, I mean, I was fully committed. I was doing the meetings and doing the work and the support and a thousand phone calls a day and all that sort of stuff, but I’m never sure I was never in the early days convinced it was going to be amazing because I mean, I have never done it before.

I’d never done something like that before, like the completely new ideas and building software and having to travel the world and then support those clients. But you kind of get dragged along or Boyd by the success of the other people. I think if it was just marked by himself, paying somebody to create the software and then trying to build a business, the guy’s massively tenacious and he’s an extremely hard worker and committed, but it probably feels like a 50 50 proposition. So the thing that was really important for us, and it was just dumb luck. We were talking before you hit record about how luck plays such an important role, but we got lucky to have three people. One who understood the problem that we were trying to solve for the target audience deeply and had experience in it and could relate to these people.

We had a guy that could build the software where we didn’t have to pay, you know, half a million dollars to build some software or whatever. It might’ve cost us. And we had a guy like me that could market it and build systems and, you know, marketing databases and create podcasts and email campaigns and run the social media. The one thing we missed was a bit of the finance in the early days, but you can muddle your way through that. But those three people coming together, a deep understanding of the target audience and the problems that you were solving and being able to relate to them, a guy that we could ring and say, this is broken, fix it now. And he wasn’t like, oh, well, it’s now in the production line. And it’s going to cost you $500 when we get to it next Friday, we had a guy that could fix it straight away, as soon as we come out of meetings and we had made that could get it out there and, help market it and create buzz. So, you know, you still got to execute on those skills, but it wasn’t planning that those skills came together. That was luck.

Josh Strawczynski: 17:45

So no, I take that and luck is a big bit, but there’s also something else you said to me offline before was when you went back to your business plan and you analyzed in retrospect how it actually went. None of it came true. I’m curious to know when it came to them, pitching that stuff, you go into these businesses, you know what their pain point says, guys, I’ve got a solution for your pain point. What happened?

Daniel Oyston: 18:16

Well, firstly, there’s a big misconception. So our key target audiences were generally the big rich, see flashy sports clubs, right, anywhere in the world, but primarily in Australia in the early days. And then in Europe and then a little bit in North America, but there is a common misperception that they are flushed with cash. But a lot of people don’t understand is that the majority of the cash in a sports and elite sports organization goes to the wages of the players and the elite departments that support them. So the medics, training, all that sort of stuff, Staff generally speaking in sport, get paid under. So they might get paid 25, 20% under what they would get for doing a job somewhere else because they get cool tracksuits and tickets and the prestige of working in sport or for that sporting brand.

And so there is a misconception that sports organizations have a lot of money. And so people try and sell to them. And so they are very guarded about making sales calls and then demos because they’ve seen it all before. They’ve heard it all before we knew were different. We can solve all your problems. We used. Our networks will very market, an amazing network in Australia that allowed us to build getting in front of people, build credibility. Some people would buy on the spot and some people wouldn’t. If I forget, ask me about hockey. Australia is a really interesting situation. But when we first started doing demos for people, when you work in a business, you understand everything that you can do back to front. You can understand all the processes and the features and the benefits. And so there’s a real danger in particularly with software and, but just talking to people in a linear fashion, he’s the login screen. So you’re logged in here.

This is what you can see. If you click here, you can do this and then you do this and you walk them through the hundred things that the software can do. And really you’re just taking them on a linear journey where you know that they’re not going to use the software like that. They’re going to be, it’s going to look like a couple of bits of spaghetti thrown against the law clicky click there, right. And so sales were good. Demos were good, but sometimes there are really hard. We get people asking questions about things that we’d already spoken about to them in the demo, but it was like they weren’t paying attention or we hadn’t presented it properly.

Now it’s easy when it’s other people’s businesses, Josh, and you’re giving advice on how they should sell a market. But when it’s your own, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. But I reckon it was about a year and a half, two years after we hit the market that I suddenly thought to myself, we are selling software and focusing on selling software instead of focusing on solving the problems for our target audience. And I’m a big believer that if you’re selling anything, you need to spend time trying to understand who you’re selling to. It’s easy to look at an organization from the outside and go, I work with banks. So that bank will need, my help might be a fair assumption, but it’s pretty arrogant to contact a bank and say, look, I want to talk to you about lead generation or your website or whatever.

You don’t actually spend any time saying, Hey, can I just understand your business and understand what your pain points are? Because you might have the same pain points, but they might be managed differently, or they might have a different priority from one bank to the next sporting organizations, no different. So it suddenly occurred to me that in our initial conversations with people, maybe we should say to them, look, we don’t know if we can help you. We don’t understand your business deeply. We work with teams in your league. So, there’s a fair chance that we should probably at least have a chat. But if any of these keys, I think there was 13, maybe 15 key pain points or problems or issues in your business.

We would send them at least prior to the demo. So if any of these resonate, maybe we should have a chat and people would come back and go, let’s have a chat. And then I’d say to them, give me the ones that you definitely want me to show you how the system would help you. And so they would send a list of five things, how to run reports, how to add a new sponsor in whatever it might be. And we would just jump striding to level 46 of the software and show them how to add in a new sponsor and just go, these are the things that are painful in your business and just directly show them how we can solve those problems.

And then just let the rest of the demo go. However it wanted to if they wanted us to go back to step one and show them something, or sometimes we wouldn’t even go to the home screen in the software. We wouldn’t even touch it. When we first started, we tried to work through this linear process, cover off everything and try and wow, them with all the different things, but really you need to focus in because that’s why people buy, you’re solving a need or want or a problem. Right? Once we got that, it kind of cracked the code a little bit, made, getting demos, and then closing sales after demos much, much easier.

Josh Strawczynski: 23:25

It’s interesting. My latest book on Ronnie alignment, the zone, how doing alibi, the pitch, and the summary of it is don’t try to be everything to everyone. People have a certain pain at a certain time. And if you’re the band-aid to their cut toe at the time they need it, there’ll be very open to you. I would hate to be one of those dudes that stands in a supermarket trying to sell band-aids. Tested on your finger. I don’t have the need right now. And you trying to put a, I think you said it before a square peg into a round hole. It’s and yet as a consultant, let me ask you, this is an easy one. Do you see it all the time? People trying to force their marketing messaging of what we do versus what you’d need.

Daniel Oyston: 24:18

Absolutely. It’s just that I think, I suppose I don’t use the word lightly. I think it’s highly arrogant for anybody to just assume that they can help you without spending any time. I’ll tell you a story if we’ve got time, right? So we all get these spam phone calls and I get one afternoon. I don’t usually answer them, but I had a moment of weakness and I thought, we’ll see what this one’s about. Sometimes they’re a little bit fun if you’re in a good mood.

And this bloke says to me, he goes, Am I speaking to Daniel Oyston from content Grasshopper. So we noticed you’re not on the front page of Google. And I was like, have some fun with this guy because I’m a marketer. If I want to be on the front page at Google, I know how to get there. Anyway. I said, really? I’m not on the front page of Google. yes, that’s right. I was like, that’s not good. He’s like, that’s right. but we can fix that. Don’t worry. I was like, thank God. And so he goes into his spiel and I let him go for a minute or two. And then I’m like, hang on. Guess what I said? So am I going to have to work past midnight every night of the week? He’s like what? I said, well, at the moment, I’m so busy.

I’m actively looking to try and reduce my work hours. But if I’m on the front page of Google, I’m going to get more work. And he’s like, yes. And I’m like, but I’ll have to work past midnight every night to get through all of the work. He’s like, And I said, wait, you have not spent any time asking me, even if I need more work. What if I was retiring? What if I was retiring tomorrow? I was selling my business tomorrow. He just makes an assumption that I need his help. Now bless this guy’s heart. He was actually really cool. He goes, well, how do I do that? I said you could have qualified me.

You’ve got to qualify leads. They’re qualifying leads without even speaking to people, you just ring up and you say, Hey, listen. We work with lots of businesses like yours to get them on the front page of Google. And I’m not even sure if you need more work or want to be on the front page of Google. Is that something that you might need help with now? I’m good. Thanks, Okay, bye. Or yes I do. I’d love to have a conversation. He just launches into his pitch and just makes this arrogant assumption that I need his help. What was the opposite? He had said we can help you work more efficiently and make the same amount of money. I’m all eyes.

Josh Strawczynski: 26:44

It’s funny because I get those calls as well. And the like to be sometimes I’m into times by them as arrogant because that’s the type of sounds. But it’s interesting when you listen to them because it’s like you were saying about pitching your system originally. You’re telling everyone everything about it because you’re so passionate and yet their brain can hold seven bits of information, five of which are related to their house, their wife and their kids. So how many of those have they got left to be firing? Thinking ahead, listening to you thinking ahead and trying to work out how on earth to apply that to their actual real-life situation?

Daniel Oyston: 27:25

Well, it’s an interesting point because you say seven pieces of information. I’ve heard people say that people can only actively carry seven problems around the front of their minds at any one time. And some of those problems are big. Like the roof of my house is leaking, others. I have to go and get the fruit and vegetable after this phone call right there, problems or things I need to work on. You see lots of bald people walking around. We see lots of ads saying that we can give you hair. And their bald person has just pushed the fact that they’re bald outside their seven active problems. And unless if that’s where you find your business, and we all know those clients that ring up and go, we really need a new website. And Mary told us, you’re amazing. Can we work with you? They’ve elevated that issue into their top seven.

They’re the ones you get easy sales from. It’s just a walk in the park, the ones where you have to say, why do you spend two days doing this? We can help you do it in an hour a week. The person has to push one of their active seven problems out and elevate yours. And the only way to do that is if it becomes super painful for them and they feel like they need to change. And so they elevate it or you position your solution that makes it the action that they have to take to solve. That problem just goes, well, we might as well just do it because I can tick this off and get it done.

Like, here’s a great example. A little piece of what’s the bidding, your house, where you have the corner, where the wall and the roof. And then you’ve got them, it’s not the skirting by the corner. So I think it’s called, I’ve got a piece of a connoisseur in my house. That’s fallen down, wait, it’s been fallen down for about six months and I’ll keep walking past it going. I should call someone about that. She calls and then there’s another problem I’ve got to work on. Now, if there’s a knock at the door this afternoon, and a guy goes, I do odd jobs around houses. I can do this. I can do plastic. I can do corner saying, have you got anything that needs doing?

I’m dragging that bloke into my house. He’s elevated that issue from number 56 on my list of issues I’ve got in my life. He’s making it so easy to fix it. I’m like, bang. Let’s do this mate. And that’s what businesses need to do because I’m of the opinion that people change their behaviour, or they buy something that solves a need want or a problem for two reasons because a business builds a vision of what life would be like if they changed their behaviour or something becomes so painful. And the solution is quite easy that they make the change. So for example, if I go to the doctor today, it’s just, how’s your health. I’m not pretty good. How’s your diet. My diet is actually really good. I know yours is too. My diet’s amazing.

But let’s say I’m an average male, well, you know, I probably drink too much a week, but you know, I’m all right. I feel good. And I probably don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables and doing enough exercise does. So you should really eat five servings of fruit and vegetable a day. Okay? We all know this, it’s not new information. Your skin will feel better. You’ll have more energy. You’ll be able to run with the kids. You’ll sleep better. All this sort of stuff. You walk into the doctor’s office. You don’t change your theme. If the doctor says to me, Daniel, if you don’t eat five servings of fruit and vegetable a day, you’re going to be dead by June next year, I’ll make broccoli smoothies for breakfast. And so if you can find people with painful problems and you can qualify those painful problems, and then you can position your solution as one, that’s easy to be able to solve that problem. You make sales handouts of the feast every day of the week. It’s that easy.

Josh Strawczynski: 31:07

All right. Well, look that is bang on, but let’s go to sales skills 2.0, which is, you start at an island pitch, you started going in and saying, we can save you lots of time, lots of money, et cetera. But in some instances, you still were met with a level of resistance that you weren’t expecting. Tell us about that resistance and how you overcame it.

Daniel Oyston: 31:33

It’s funny. You don’t really understand some of the resistance that’s there until you actually get to know that business and those people. Well, and, and even just selling your own product and really understanding how it’s perceived in the market. And I say this to clients and businesses all the time, you are not your target audience. So if your target audience watches TV all day, maybe TV advertising is great. It’s irrelevant. Whether you’ve got a TV in your house or not, you are not your target audience. And so while we had a deep understanding of the industry, really, we were removed from it because we weren’t working in the day-to-day.

We weren’t living and breathing it as a sponsorship manager on the front line. There are two pieces of resistance that happened. There’s one. We don’t have any money and we don’t need any help on this front. We’ve got it under control. And we would quite often say, well, let’s just get them in the pipeline. Let’s just go and build a friend, build a relationship, nurture them. Maybe they buy, maybe they don’t.

A great one was hockey Australia. I remember in the early days, I’ve been in contact with hockey, Australia. There’s a lady there called Lee, a lovely lady, really friendly, but she verbally upfront said to me, look, I’ll take a look at the software, but I can tell you now we won’t be buying it. And I was like, well, I’ve got time. I was in Melbourne. I was like, I’ll come and see you at the end of it. She said I am going to buy this. I said, Lee, you told me you are not going to buy, but I didn’t understand how good it was. And so there’s resistance there. People just go people don’t like being told that they’re wrong or that they’re not doing their job well or that they might have to change. And so you do have to understand and be conscious of that and be quite soft around it.

There’s also really weird ones that happen. I remember sitting in a, I won’t tell you the organization, because they don’t want to throw people under the bus. Or through these people have probably moved on. But I was sitting opposite the lady who looked after sponsorships for this rugby league club. And she would be the main person using the software. Her boss was next to me. So we’re both facing her. There was another guy there. And because our system provided such efficiencies, her boss, and it was just a throwaway comment. It wasn’t serious. But he said to her, I can’t remember her name. Let’s just say it’s Jane. He said, Jane, you’ll only have to come to the office three days a week. The look on her face was one of terror because it instantly hit me that there’s some people out there. And I reckon that’s why we got some nos early on that we’re worried that this would make them so efficient that their boss would think that only have to work three days a week and that they would lose their position.

And so then you, your sales or your not your sales so much, but your messaging, your sales messaging needs to incorporate that. So we would say, look, you can save yourself. For example, we would say to people, look, you can save yourself 40% of the time during the week. It’s an outcome. But you, as a marketer knows, we don’t just talk about features. We talk about features and we have to relate them to the outcome that benefit. So the feature, so to speak loosely speaking, crudely speaking was that you could save yourself 40% of the time. But the benefit to that was you could go and do X, Y, Z, which would make you even better at your job.

And more importantly, you cannot assume that your target audience draws those dots and comes to that same conclusion, which is what we were doing inside the business. We knew that’s what you should be doing with your free time, but were we sure that’s the dots that other people would join and come to the same conclusion. It became really obvious that it wasn’t. So we had to start including those things. I think being just tuned in and listening and just always learning from your clients and just seeing where conversations go and paying attention to them and tuning into them really does teach you a lot about how to overcome resistance. And I’d be less concerned about if I was pitching his software to you and you are showing resistance, I’d be less about trying to overcome your resistance but paying attention to why you were resisting so that I could get ahead of that resistance with the next person I was meeting.

Josh Strawczynski: 35:50

This is exactly what we use in our content strategy for our clients. When we’re building websites by converting landing pages, we’ll advertise material. It’s not just solving the problem. I need accounting software. This is great accounting stuff, but there are lots of solutions. Usually, what are the frictions and anxieties that people are feeling? And what you’re saying, I think is clickable. So many businesses, small businesses because you know, a lot of them don’t have marketing staff. We think about these things, but both of us have consulted big companies. And it’s always shocking to me how few of those anxieties and frictions most of them have covered.

Daniel Oyston: 36:34

I think the other thing, the resistant one big resistance that we would often get from people was we’re different. We’re different to that competitor or that organization a hundred percent. They’re all exactly the same. But the trap you can fall into is half getting in an argument with somebody you’re trying to get a yes at all about why they’re the same as everyone else. You just say, yes, we understand you’re different. So we can tailor this or do this and make them feel special. But a hundred percent, I never came across an organization that was so unique to. And another one that had sponsorship just doesn’t happen.

Josh Strawczynski: 37:14

So let’s fast forward. Now we’re on five years in or something like that. You’ve been making a good clip out of the business. People are really taking notice of you. This is now your full-time gig. How does it all come to a head? What happened next.

Daniel Oyston: 37:31

In terms of selling the business? Well, those were the good days. We had lots of clients. We had about eight premier league clients in England at that stage. So my wife’s from England. So whenever we went back, there was always lots of opportunities to go to corporate boxes at football matches and get wined and dined. And sometimes we build those into our agreement. So we definitely live a high life. So to speak there wasn’t anybody. And still to this day, there are not many sporting organizations that we couldn’t ring and get tickets to if we wanted to go to something. And that the industry’s amazing, they’ve looked after us.

We’ve built relationships. We’ve kept those relationships. People still call us and ask for help or advice and catch up on coffees. And it’s great. It’s amazing. But we were just doing our thing. We’d taken two rounds of investment, kind of from the same people. And we were doing okay, we were building it. Wasn’t going, we weren’t off the charts, but we weren’t going backwards. It was solid, but you’ve always got this tension of, we need more money to grow more quickly. But if we make more money, we dilute our shareholding, but we need staff to grow, to make more money. And then so there’s always that balancing act in that challenge. But we had a perceived competitor in America called core software, K O R E.

And they provided amazing sports tech software, but the big hole in their portfolio of solutions was sponsorship management. And so they got acquired. I think a finance company and investment company bought, but 95, maybe even 98% of the company took it over with the idea to grow at 10 times over the next sort of 10, 15 years, and then maybe sell out instead. There’s obviously a lot of due diligence that happens in that process and we never knew it was happening. We didn’t hear anything about it. And we skipped this phone call one day I just invested in Kore.

How are you positioned to sell, sponsored? Because we’re flushed with cash to grow because that’s the mandate of the investors, right? We want to grow this business and get a return. We’re flush with cash to make that happen. So we could go off and build our own piece of software for our portfolio to many sponsorships and compete with you, head to head, or you could just sell it to us and people can keep their jobs and we’ll eventually roll it into our own software. So we had a conversation and to take them on, probably would have had to have diluted our shares from anywhere from another 50% age down to maybe even 75%, total dilution.

So, you know, whenever you take money on, you’ve got to give something back and that shares and that’s we could have taken investment, diluted our shares, doubled the value of the company and then sold it. And we still would have made the same amount of money as if we had sold it right there. And then so, and there’s a whole lot of pain that comes with it. More travel, more staff, more offices, more growth structures, processes, managing people. Then you’ve actually still competed with somebody that’s flushed with cash. Maybe their product is better. It’s not like there are high barriers to entry of, to create software and start selling it and say, just think you should make, make hay while the sun shines, that’s getting out and sell. We sell the company.

Josh Strawczynski: 40:54

I love that. I love that because it’s forced thought thinking on a very humanistic level. There’s more money might speed the ego, but it doesn’t really feed well. Anything else? In fact, I think it was Jodie Foster, who said winning is sleeping better not how did you sleep after you banked the money and didn’t have the responsibility of the company anymore?

Daniel Oyston: 41:22

Well, when you sell a business, you don’t just turn the tap off in terms of responsibility the next day there’s earn-out figures and other KPIs that you have to meet, you just get, I mean, you get a wack of money, a good whack of money straight away, but any smart company that’s going to buy or acquire, you will essentially want the key people in the organization to stay involved from anywhere, probably from a year to maybe two years, because there’s continuity with client management, with an understanding of the business, all that sort of stuff. And then there’s certain, I mean, there could be as many milestones as you want different milestones set and KPIs to then earn the rest of the money.

So the good news was that we earned the rest of the money, but it kind of feels as though you’re getting weaned off the business. So it’s not like, well, we sell the business and we’ve got this huge payday and now all, what are we doing on Monday? Well, let’s go play golf. You kind of get weighed off at, right. So some people just got absorbed them with staff in this new company. And then they just found other opportunities. Like you would leave any organization, director level like myself, I’m still involved actually making podcasts and doing some social media for them.

Mark was still stayed involved for probably two and a half years and then gradually cut back. So we got weaned off it. But yes, it’s an interesting process because I still remember exactly where I was standing because we sent our lawyer to New York to make sure it all got over the line at the end, because there’s a lot of, we want to change this clause type stuff. So we essentially sent our lawyer to the US and just basically, they just locked themselves in a room until the deal was done. And so there are lots of phone calls and bits and pieces.

I was standing at the gym in the doorway when they confirmed the bank codes and swift codes and all that sort of stuff. So the money to go in, and then the money was in the account probably about five hours later. And It was kind of called open up your phone and look at your bank account. And the celebrations were fueled because it was also Melbourne cup day. So put it all on sleep as opposed to having passed out that night after the deal was done was probably a more apt description. And the next morning was quite dusty, but yes, it’s kind of cool. And, it is the thing about it is, you know, it’s happening for quite a while. So you get a lot of time to get used to that.

The sale’s going to happen. They can always fall over, but it’s when you can actually talk to your mates about it. So that day was the time where we could say to our mates, we’ve just sold the business because the rest is under confidentiality up until then. I’m not even allowed to talk about numbers and it’s in pieces in how much money, but I can tell you one very weird thing is that it’s a kind of really cool thing to be able to say to your mates there when everybody was drunk and everyone had the day off work and everybody was excited, it was about four o’clock, four 30 in the afternoon. There was like, you know, you buy a few rounds of drinks for your mates and stuff, It’s good fun, a story for another day. I actually have a mate who won $1.3 million in the Boystown lottery.

Now that was big, that was a big night, but that might be a story for another day. But it is kind of cool. I can tell you one weird thing is the perception that people have of how much money you make. The deal was amazing. It was a life-changing right. And it allows you to, you know, completely own your house, be debt-free, all this sort of stuff.

And we’re not really allowed to correct people and say, so I’m a hundred percent just making up numbers here on the allowed to say to people, no, no, we only sold it for 1 million or 20 million or whatever it was, but people run around town going all these guys. I sold their business for a hundred million. And you know, that you can just sort of go, like it, wasn’t maybe that much, but it’d be, it’s really weird. The perception that people build in their head based on nothing of your success and they’re going, oh yes, they sold these companies to this. Like, what we did, it’s weird.

Josh Strawczynski: 45:48

I’ve looked at valuations of a few of my companies before and been, well, that adds a little bit of reality check to what I’m thinking. Very good.

Daniel Oyston: 45:57

Well, valuations, is a funny point. I’m working on a new business at the moment and you do a bit of research and how should you value a business that hasn’t started well in a normal year of budgeting, ballpark figure, double it. So if you’re going to earn 3 million a year, your business is worth six. This is before you launched startup world could be anywhere between five and a 15 times multiplier of what your EBITDA earnings before interest and tax are.

But at the end of the day, it’s all. Because now it doesn’t matter whether you’re buying an apple or you’re acquiring a software company, something is only worth what somebody else is willing to pay for it. So you can say to somebody, I valued this at 15 and they’re like, well, that’s nice. I value it at eight. Do you want eight million? You’re like, sure. So it’s all well and good to have an idea of how much you think it’s worth, but ultimately you get out of that full price that you’re going to sell it for. And you want somebody to buy it for something higher than that for price. It’s as simple as that.

Josh Strawczynski: 46:58

I remember a time, this is going back a long time ago, and you can tell it is, because it’s a story about Yahoo. Yahoo within my office. And they would just try super hard to get my immediate name, to invest in this new display advertising technology they bought. And it distinctly remembered them saying, it’s so good. We paid some hideously fly amount of money. I can’t remember what it was. It’s like $60 million for it. And that was their proof point. I turned to the guy and said, it doesn’t mean it’s any good. It means you’re an awful negotiator, but it doesn’t mean the software is any good.

Daniel Oyston: 47:43

I ride mountain bikes and people say, how much is your mountain bike worth? And it’s like, what they’re really asking is how much did you pay for it? Because it’s not worth what I paid for it four years ago. It’s worth whatever I can sell it to somebody now. And it brings me out. And then there’s a great story about selling that same motorbike for us or that mountain bike more than you bought for the story comes to mind. A mountain bike. His greatest fee is that when he dies, his wife tries to sell his bike for what he told her. He paid for it.

Josh Strawczynski: 48:17

When I was a kid, we would go on the shortstop finishing questions in a second. But I remember when I was a kid, I used to play the violin and I had this book in my mother’s attic Dickens. And it was probably, it wasn’t that many years ago that I sold it. Finally, just put it on the marketplace and sold it. And I sold it more than twice. I paid for it when I was a kid. Sure. Inflation had gone up by that time, but it hadn’t gone up that much. And as every good marketer knows what sells the problem that it solved for somebody. The title was positioned as the perfect violin for a beginner by professional Hudl. Loved it to the end, with the exception of the professional thought. That was true, but it added a hell of a lot more value to it than the wood that was made up of.

Daniel Oyston: 49:12

So it’s a funny story value or funny concept. And that story value, because I remember I used to work in a nightclub. You might remember Bobby McGee’s down in Melbourne, there was one in Canberra?

Josh Strawczynski: 49:23

And, that’s a classic.

Daniel Oyston: 49:26

So I used to work in the Canberra one and we had the seventies dress-up night. And I said to my dad, you’ve got any seventies kit in your cupboard? And he says, yes, he pulls out some stuff because this leather jacket looks pretty cool. And so I go, or I’ll take that leather jacket. I was put a white t-shirt on or something. Jack was a little bit too small. And so I was wearing it around for a while, but it was just, it was maybe like size or two sizes too small. It s really tight across the shoulders and under the armpits and stuff. And so I took it off and I’ll put it in the staffroom, put it in my bag. Anyway, DJ comes up to me. You guys would do that.

Kick, lay the jacket. You were aware. I was like, what? I love that jacket. Where’d you get it? I said I had fished it out of the back of his cabin I don’t think he’s worn it for 30 years. Go, guys, you can actually sell it to me? I said I don’t know. probably will, but I don’t think he still knew he actually had it. He just abandoned it at the back of the cabin. So I said, I’ll ring him. I said, how much will you pay for it? Because tell him, I’ll give him $300. So I ring my dad. I’m like, what about his DKD? the DJ is going to pay $200 for your leather jacket. He’s like $200. I was like, yes, he goes, so, I got a leather jacket. They got $200. I’ll get a hundred dollars. It’s like a perfect business transaction.

Josh Strawczynski: 50:48

The ultimate arbitrager.

Daniel Oyston: 50:53

That’s my commission for selling it. All right.

Josh Strawczynski: 50:55

All right, let’s talk about short, sharp lessons to close the software. Sure. Advice for someone who’s got a business idea or whose mates ate throwing ideas at them while they’re on the beers of the back of it in the back of their house, what do you tell them?

Daniel Oyston: 51:12

First thing is, if you can kill a business idea easily, you probably don’t have a good idea, but if you can make that idea or that business idea survive by throwing rocks at it and it still holds up, you’ve probably got a good idea, but you have to keep moving forward with it. Don’t just sit on it. Keep moving forward until you get to a point where you have to commit, or you don’t have to commit.

Josh Strawczynski: 51:37

His books, podcasts, or advice. Do make sure you give your podcast a blog. I plug in sometimes.

Daniel Oyston: 51:46

Well, I mean, look, if anybody works in sponsorship or knows people who work in sponsorship, but still do an inside sponsorship podcast for the core software, the company, the board sponsors. I also do marketing buildup podcasts, which is really short and sharp and just really focus on practical advice Josh has been a guest on it in the past. I do like Tim Reed’s, small business, big marketing podcast, particularly if you’re a small to a medium business owner, not a big fan of these podcasts that get the, you know, the global head of marketing for Coca Cola on, because I just don’t find that you can relate to them.

If you’re looking for short, sharp marketing lessons, there’s a book out that is a collection of short essays. So they can be a page or they can be four pages by a bunch of super-smart marketing people from all over the world called eat your greens. And so it talks about everything from quality in the marketing industry through to how to put a new cereal brand in a supermarket through to the future of the email market. It’s like, it just it’s just so you can just pick it up and read a couple of pages and put it down and you might not pick it up for a couple of months. So it’s not like you have to read a story and stay engaged with it. But if you need short, sharp advice and keep your brain ticking, then definitely ‘Eat your greens’ would be a good one.

Josh Strawczynski: 53:10

Very good. I love it. That’s a great note. All right. Last one for a marketing person or a business owner, the new year’s coming. What’s the trend. What’s the good advice. Where Should they be paying attention to get ahead of the game and get the biggest bang for their buck?

Daniel Oyston: 53:30

I would be revisiting a couple of key things, with most people are going to be pretty tight on their target audience. And we know as marketers, we want them to document that in personas or avatars, let’s assume people have a good understanding of their target audience. Maybe it’s documented. Maybe it’s not. I would 100% be doing some analysis on your pipeline. So a lot of people will focus on just putting more leads at the top of a funnel. And I like to use that funnel analogy.

Let’s your funnel might have holes in it. Your marketing might actually be best focused on what marketing you can do after proposals are sent after a meeting, or it might be best at the top of the funnel, but all of those stages in the funnel that buyer decision process are all elements that you can focus on and changing any of those and being better at them. So converting now another 5% at the top or the bottom of the middle flows through to more sales, but a lot of people are just focused on the top of the funnel.

The top of the line marketing can get let’s just put more people into the top of the funnel and then just hope it flows through. You might not need more people at the top of the funnel. I was talking to a business last year, talking to them about their marketing. So what happens when you send a proposal? Well, we followed people up with an email a week later, or what happens if you don’t hear from them? We give them a call. What happens if you don’t speak to them? We leave a message. What about after that? No, we just assume they’re not interested. I was like what? You sent them a proposal they’re highly interested in. Don’t worry about Google ad words.

Don’t worry about changing your website. Don’t worry about new flashy brochures or ads on the radio or email campaigns. Just put some effort into that. So look, but you don’t understand that unless you pull out the numbers of your pipeline, naturally matte them, put them in the spreadsheet, figure out the percentages and make sure that you are focusing on the right areas because you can’t focus on the whole of the pipeline. It’s usually for most organizations too much work.

And then I’m a big believer in the objectives and the goals. So what’s your overarching strategies and objectives and revisiting. These are important because people come and go from an organization. Markets change your products and service offerings changed. So it’s good to revisit these, but a lot of people don’t have documented strategies. And when I say documented strategy, I’m happy if they just say building an audience, brand awareness, I don’t need a 50-page document about how you’re going to do that. But a lot of people don’t have it documented. A lot of people just assume let’s just put more effort into the top of the funnel because brand awareness will turn into sales and the actual goals, like, what are you measuring against?

If it is to build an audience, what do you want to build your database by and by when? Right? So that boring, smart goals, stuff, specific, measurable, actionable, realistic timetabled, all that sort of stuff, because otherwise, you’re like Alice in Wonderland. Alice is walking down the path. She gets to the fork in the road, the tissue catching the train. She says to the cat, which way should I go? The cat says, well, where are you going? Alice is, I dunno, the cat goes, well, it doesn’t matter. So for those people listening and looking at the new year, if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter what marketing you do because you’re going to go somewhere with it.

Josh Strawczynski: 56:40

Love it, put one foot in front of the other. And at least it’s better than standing still. That is a new title. We haven’t had that one before Daniel. I always feel I love our conversations. I think this podcast is representative of how we catch up and have a beer, which is exactly what I was trying to get out of us. Thank you so much for spending time on the show. And for everyone who’s interested in chasing up Daniel, we’ll make sure we put the links into the buyer so that you can listen to the podcast and look at his current business content. Grasshopper, Daniel, thank you so much for being with us.

Daniel Oyston: 57:15

My absolute pleasure Josh. Thanks for having me.

About the Author

Joshua Strawczynski
Managing Director

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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