15 Sep September 20, 2019 – Total ReThink David McCourt and Content Marketing Joresa Blount
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David McCourt – Chairman and CEO of Granahan McCourt Capital, Emmy Award-Winner, and WSJ Best-Selling Author of Total Rethink: Why Entrepreneurs Should Act Like Revolutionaries – Read interview highlights here
Because of globalization, digitization, and social media, you need a revolutionary change in your business, and quite frankly, in your life, if you want to be successful.
In 1982, David McCourt founded his first company, McCourt Cable Systems, operating as a designer and builder of cable wires. The company grew to be the largest privately owned designer and builder of cable systems in the US. David soon purchased the first independent TV station within the Caribbean Island of Grenada and founded the first competitive phone company in the US, Corporate Communications Network. This was merged with Metropolitan Fibre Systems (MFS) before being sold for $14.3bn to MCI. David’s next venture became the largest designer and builder of residential cable television and telephone networks in Europe and he was responsible for bringing the first competitive telephone and TV landscape to Mexico. He later turned his attention to TV and film and won an Emmy for the series Reading Rainbow, a long running children’s show that encourages reading. He also worked with Spike Lee to produce Miracle’s Boys on Nickelodeon’s new teenage network. He also served as Executive Producer on the ten-part documentary series “What’s Going On?” which documented the impact of global conflict on children around the world. In 2013, in his role as Chairman and CEO of investment firm Granahan McCourt, he led a consortium of companies including Oak Hill Advisers and the family of Walter Scott Jr. in acquiring Irish fiber company, enet. Its network is used by 70 different telcos to serve broadband to over a million people across Ireland. In 2016, David announced the first Public Private Partnership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan presented David with the first award from the White House recognizing extraordinary accomplishments by private sector businesses. He was selected as “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young LLP in 1999 and was named “Top Entrepreneur” by the Harvard Business School Club of New York.
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you probably launched too late.
Joresa Blount started a blog in April 2015 that launched her current writing career, but she’s always been a storyteller. She has acted in NY theater, twice hosted her own show, and worked Hollywood red carpets. She wrote a book in 2016 and got a job through Linkedin that led her to Silicon Valley. She has interviewed over 100 startup founders, like a mentor-ship with them. She iscurrently working on launching her own startup, GoFlyy (goflyy.com) which is an on-demand return and delivery service for retailers.
Highlights from David’s Interview
As a business guy, you’ll recognize this, but from the Industrial Revolution up to Jack Welch’s tenure at GE, business was all about incremental change. You can add words for it, they expect Six Sigma, another kind of inventory, another point of view. But if you could just tweak your business a little bit in a year, you could be very, very successful. But now for a variety of reasons—globalization is one, digitization is another, Commedia is another for a variety of reasons—you need a revolutionary change in your business. And quite frankly, you need a revolutionary change in your life if you want to be successful. 2019, 2020 and onwards, you can’t get there any other way. Steve Jobs or Netflix would be would be great examples.
But think about it. If you take businesses out of that, you just have what has happened. Internet 1.0 was just packet switching that was invented in the 70s by a couple guys that worked for the US Department of Defense. And then a British guy invented the whole www. So you could visit www dot whatever more easily. But internet 1.0, it was just about moving ones and zeros more effectively from point A to point B; you could move a bigger file, quicker.
Internet 2.0 was where people interacted with a machine at scale. That was you and Google, you and Instagram, you and Twitter, you and LinkedIn. Internet 3.0, which most people can’t get their head around yet, is going to be bigger than both of those combined. 3.0 is going to be the biggest revolution. That’s when machines interact with machines at the consumer level, at scale. And when that happens, when you have billions or trillions of machines communicating with each other at scale, that’s going to change everything. How we educate people, how we get jobs, how we get trained, how we raise our family, healthcare, education, safety, security, everything is going to be upturned in a revolutionary change. And people have to get on board, otherwise they’re going to be a bystander. This is another reason why I’ve been so passionate about getting internet access to everyone in the world, because there’s 5 billion people that have no access to the internet in this new world. They’re in trouble enough, but they’re really, really in trouble if they don’t have high speed internet connections in this new world order.
Old jobs will be eliminated, but there will be new jobs. The United States was an agricultural country at one time, there was an industrial country at one time, it’s neither of those right now. You have to adapt. That’s another reason why people have to be willing to embrace change. That’s where I wrote the book about. You can embrace change not only in your business, and if you’re not a business person there’s a lot of people that don’t find business interesting. They don’t find making money interesting, but they’re passionate about diplomacy or medicine or law, drug research, rehabilitation, it could be anything, but the money is not their thing. This is not their thing. They need to think more revolutionarily, it’s more important for them to think that way, because those are the people that are going to be more apt to solve the problems that we have in society. We have a lot of problems in America right now, and globally, that need to get solved. And then I get solved, that’s for sure.
My grandfather was an immigrant. He owned his own house, his own backyard, he was a janitor. He cleaned floors, and cleaned bathrooms for a living in Boston, and he had his own home. He had an apartment above his home that he rented out. In his own backyard, he had a couple fruit trees, and he grew his own vegetables. That’s where my mother was born, and he raised a family in that house. Back in the day, for a long, long time, for years and decades and decades, the average house in America was 1.2 times the average yearly salary. Think about that, the average house was 1.2 times the average yearly salary. What’s happened over the last 30 or so years is housing has gone up 10 times faster than wage growth, education has gone up eight times faster, higher education, than wage growth, healthcare has gone up six times faster than wage growth.
The basic things that make you safe and happy is that you can have a house for you and your four kids, you can go to bed at night knowing that if you were to get sick, you’ll be able to pay the health bills, you can go to bed at night, knowing that if you save some money, you can afford to put him through school. And if you take what my father paid to go to college, you fast forward to today, in today’s dollars, comparing apples to apples, that’s about a 10th of what it costs to go to college, in actual terms, today. Those things, housing, education help you, and are the fundamental DNA that makes someone feel safe and secure. They grow faster than wages, than you can ever catch up. Education, healthcare, housing, totally have to be rethought. Then, of course, you have environmental issues. One is coincidentally the environment and the other is guns. Those two things are fundamental to our safety as well. These are big issues, that if they’re not fixed, we’re going to have really, really big problems. Our problems will get so big, there will be a revolution; it might not be so peaceful if we don’t fix these issues.
The last thing I do, I’m going to support as soon as I find some sane man or woman, I’m going to support them. But I haven’t been able to find a sound man or woman yet running, because the system encourages them to lie, because they need to get reelected. So they need to make promises they don’t need to keep, and that encourages them to lie. That’s why we need term limits.
I think there should be the same amount of public funding, no private money, everybody gets the same amount of money, every big campaign for a short period of time. I’d make them all six years, congressmen, senators, and the president. One term, one and done, then there’s no need to lie, there’s no need for you to be telling people you’re going to do things when you’re not going to do them. I want to get elected, so I’m going to get rid of all student debt? First of all, it’s not going to happen, because it costs a trillion dollars. It’s the largest amount of debt we have in America, outside of home mortgages; it’s even more than all our credit card debt combined, and it doesn’t do anything for your baby. If we get rid of all the student debt today, that works if you have a kid that just graduated. But if you have a baby, it doesn’t solve the problem, it just solves the problem long enough for you to get elected. We need to lower the cost of education by rethinking how we put people through school, because a fireman, a school teacher, a man or a woman who’s a nurse or a fireman or a teacher, they can’t afford to send kids to school. We said we have to lower the cost. That’s the solution. We lower the cost of healthcare, Medicare for all, that’s another lie. That’s going to cost $3 trillion, which we don’t have. That’s not going to happen either. People gotta start telling the truth. One?
I think you cannot teach entrepreneurship. However, what you can do, with many people, millions of people in the world, maybe billions, that would be an entrepreneur, could be an entrepreneur, if you can light the fire, you have to give them hope. You have to give them a mentor, they need someone to say to them, “You can do it, if you fail, pick yourself up,” they need encouragement. You can give people encouragement, you can tell people, “It’s okay that you’re bad at five things, let’s find the one thing you’re good at.”
Society always tells you to double down on what you’re good at, what you’re bad at, and take care of your weaknesses. You come home with your report card, your parents usually tell you to work on the C, and they don’t tell you let’s double down on the A’s. But in reality, in life, it’s very hard to improve your weaknesses, and you can improve your strengths instantly. The only place that instinctively that comes is in sports. If some kid can hit a ball out of the park, and he’s five years old, when he’s six years old, from 30 feet away like Tiger Woods, a parent or a mentor says “Let’s double down on that.” But everything else in life, they don’t do that, and they need to. People need encouragement. And it’s okay if what you’re good at is very different from what I’m good at. I don’t think you can teach it, but what you can do is find that spark. That’s what we need to do with this 5 billion people right now that we need to get internet access. We need to find out how to educate them online, and we need to encourage them to find that spark. In another 20 years, they’ll be 60% of the world’s population. 68% will be living in cities. Of that, about 70% will be under 18, and about 70% will be poor. That’s a problem, because about 100% of them are going to be angry if we don’t solve these problems.
I vote on it, depending what’s in that kid’s heart and soul. If he thinks that he wants to go to university, he thinks that’s good, that’s a good experience for them, then do it. If he’s turned off by it, then don’t do it. But I wouldn’t open up, I wouldn’t make it binary. College was really important for me, because I was immature. I needed it to mature, I needed to be in a controlled environment for four years in a dorm, and give me some time to grow up. Some kids, by the time it’s ready to go to college, they’re all grown up. And they’re plenty smart enough, and an eight year old kid says he wants to be an entrepreneur, because what he thinks that means is I don’t want a boss, and I want to make a lot of money. Well, that’s not what it means. It means working yourself crazy, and failing and falling down repeatedly, and probably not having a lot of money, but loving what you do. Hopefully.
Anything when you can go directly to the end user is the future. The middleman, the way money has been raised over the last hundred years, is someone in the middle takes a fee, and they connect to people anywhere. As a middleman, you can count on that going away. Over time, it might not go away tomorrow. In some businesses, it’s already gone. Renting, going to a store and a middleman or renting you a movie for you to get back in your car and take home, that’s gone. Going to a travel agent, that’s gone. There’s some middlemen that are already gone. But there’ll be more that will go. The insurance industry is a good example. It’s run by hundreds of thousands of salespeople all over the world. It’s been that way for 200 years. That will go away. People buy insurance direct, you see that slowly with Berkshire Hathaway and Geico, you see that slowly, with TV ads about being able to buy insurance directly. There’s no need for a middleman for lots of things. Some of them will take longer to collapse than others, but you can rest assured that going direct to the user, or the person with the money, or the person that wants the product, that’s the future.
Whenever there’s confusion in a market, the big guys all manage. And you’re going to see mergers for a while. They do that for all the wrong reasons, they do that because it gives them time to think, CBS and Viacom. At the last internet revolution, they separated. Now in this a direct to consumer, they’re coming back together again. So you see Fox was created at a whole cross as a new network, and then you saw Fox and Disney coming together. People, big companies merge when there’s confusion in the market, because if you do a merger, there’s two of everything. It’s like Noah’s Ark, so you can throw one of everything overboard. You can do that for a number of years, you can do that for 12, 16 quarters. Keep on cutting costs and make things look better. But over time, it’s usually the wrong move. Usually, it doesn’t stop until there’s a huge bad one, like the AOL Time Warner merger, when there’s a big reboot, a bad one, that’s when it stops.
The winner is going to be people who know not to put context around content, not only content is context around that content. What is that? What’s the purpose of that content? Why is it good? Who you trying to reach with your podcast, your radio show? There’s a lot of context around it. People listened to it for a specific reason. And that’s a much more valuable listener than just some random person.
I live my life every day. I’m just getting started. My mother lived to 102, she just died a couple months ago, healthy up till the day she died. She lived her life right up to two days before she died, as if she was just getting started. She was getting up every morning, putting her earrings on, putting her lipstick on, learning new things, meeting new friends, visiting with new people, trying out new restaurants, trying out new experiences. And that’s how I knew I was lucky; I had a role model that allowed me to witness that. I live my life that way. I’m just getting started. Maybe I’m not smart enough to get scared, but all this change doesn’t scare me at all. I don’t want to live an ordinary life. I want to live an extraordinary life. Why would you live an ordinary life that you don’t have to?
I want to do a TV show. I’m going to do a TV show around my book, which is finding interesting people around the world that are doing interesting things. Can your listeners that go on my website, www.DavidMcCourt.com, and they can reach out to me. On Instagram I’m at DCMcCourt. Twitter’s at DCMcCourt as well. They can they can buy the book first.
In time, I want to travel around the world and find interesting people doing interesting things and highlight them, their duty, and their passion, and give other people encouragement that, “Hey, I just saw Mary Jane or Paula John on TV, and they were doing something very interesting. And they didn’t have a college education, or they were a doctor, and they gave it up to do something else. They were house painter and they were up on the ladder, and they came up with a great idea, and they did something unique.” I want to find people trying to solve very interesting problems in beautiful parts of the world, shoot it beautifully tell the story beautifully, and let them tell this story to the world. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m also going to help artists.
On Saturday, I was on Venice Beach, which is really great, our art scene. Someone read my book, a street artist, who said to me, “I read your book, and I want to paint the name of your book, my version of it, on a wall 78 feet long. It’s almost 80 feet long and 10 feet high.” He painted total rethink on it. The light was exploding off the wall. He said, “That’s my way of thanking you for inspiring me to go out and do something with my career.” He left Disney, where he was working as a graphic designer, and now he’s an artist, and he’s selling his canvases, and he’s still practicing on streets around the world. His name’s Ezra, to follow him as well is a great story.
Highlights from Joresa’s Interview
I’m from a generation where your parents tell you to go to school and get a job, so I don’t think that it was the first thought to be an entrepreneur. But I think for a lot of people, when you start working in corporate America or working for other people, you feel this power to do your own thing. And with each job that I would have, there will be aspects that I really enjoyed about it, but then there was this tug of wanting freedom, wanting to be able to create something that I can call my own. I think it took a lot of years for me to get to the point of being confident enough to be able to say, it’s okay to be an entrepreneur, it’s okay to not want to work in corporate America, or work for someone. So now I’m at that place where all of my knowledge and all the things I’ve learned from working in those corporate structures have served me well. Now I’m at the place where I’m very confident, and I think being an entrepreneur is so amazing. You get to create something that people need, that people want. It’s exciting, the ups and the downs of it. I’m really excited to step full force into it.
I was trying to secure the domain, and I realized that someone had GoFly around the aerospace because that would make sense, right? Go Fly. So I added the extra Y so that I can secure the domain. But it actually worked out better, because I wanted to give it a little bit of flavor, and that extra Y does that. So GoFlyy is on OnDemand, same day return and delivery service for retailers, focusing on fashion first. Returns is a huge problem for fashion retailers, a $400 billion problem. I am looking to make a difference in that space by helping them retrieve those items, so that they can resell them quicker, before they’re out of season or all the things that happened with returns that caused them to lose money.
Say you bought a pair of jeans from one of my favorite stores. You would either go to our website or go to our app, both are being developed right now. You can schedule a pickup, we would have a driver come to you, take your items, return it to the store, and do the whole transaction for you to get a refund. Let’s say that you’re at home, can’t make it to the store, you don’t want to get into it. I’m in LA, you don’t want to be in LA for an hour just to return a pair of jeans; we would be that Uber for fashion for you. We come pick it up, take it back to the store, you get your refund, and you can do whatever with that extra money that you have.
We would integrate with crowdsource drivers, Uber, Lyft, using their drivers, they’re already doing deliveries, and things like that. We will just integrate with their system. It’s already saved, they’re already vouched for, they’ll come to your house, pick up your items, you don’t have to feel afraid, because everyone is familiar at this point with getting either Uber Eats or something delivered by Lyft. And they would just retrieve those items for you and take it back to the store.
I’m going to start in Los Angeles. That is my market right now. Fashion is a huge deal in LA, as you probably already know, and it’s been a really great market to test in. We’ve been doing some testing periodically, and it’s been really, really great. We’ve gotten some great feedback from people saying that it takes the frustration out of picking items up or returning items. It just saves them time, and that’s our main point. We want to be able to save people time, people are hyperactive these days, are hyper busy. People don’t have time to do things like return items. Again, it’s pretty frustrating. I mean, who wants to use a Saturday morning to go and return something? And our services help them get that time back, so they can do the things that’re really important for them.
One of the steps that I took to get this off the ground was being clear about what I wanted to offer. This is the first time that I’ve ever done anything that was tech based. I don’t come from a tech background, other than interviewing a lot of entrepreneurs in the tech space, so I don’t have that. But I remember going to San Francisco to meet a project manager who is going to help me develop the first phase of it, and I had a mentor who told me that I needed to take nine steps back before I even got to that point. I really appreciate that she stopped me. The first thing was, I enrolled in a female founder school, which is an accelerator for women who are looking to build something. There’s where I really got to learn the groundwork of building something. One of the first key steps was interviewing people, finding out, is this a problem? A lot of people want to start things because they’re excited about it, and I get it, I was the same way. But I actually had to make sure that people needed it, and to let people pay for it, because you definitely want to be able to generate revenue. I did a lot of questions, I interviewed over 100 people, asking them, what are their needs? Do they work at home? Do they work in an office? Is this something that they would use? How often would they use it if it was available? That’s where I started that groundwork. The next phase was, I moved into another accelerator here in Los Angeles called Red 110, which was absolutely amazing. Amazing. I took some more time to do some more studying, then I started to build what I call a basic prototype, something that I can build right now, that doesn’t require that extensive technology, but will allow me to test it out. That’s what I did. I built up a website. It was very basic. I connected it to Google Docs to ask questions, and that’s what allowed me to be able to test it out. To see like, what is the process? You think that getting the delivery or returning something is so easy, but you don’t really know until your hands are in the work, you’ve got to get your hands dirty and really understand, what are the things that happen? And if this happens, what do you do if that happens? Also, I had a really great mentor, he’s a former president of Nordstrom, and he became my mentor. I would speak to him often, because he was an insider, he had that information that I didn’t quite have. I knew that there is now a desire for something like that. But I needed to know what are the things that I can see, and he could give me that information. Those are some of the steps that I took. I haven’t launched officially, but I am hoping—because we know how these things happen—I’m hoping that that’s going to happen in October, before the holiday season.
I’m still dealing with our prototype right now, I still work that way. But I want to have our app built out, and that’s being developed right now. For the app being built out… I’m really good about using my resources and trying to barter as much as I can. I’m getting an app developer, that’s a huge partner to ask for, but I do have some contacts in the space. For me, I wouldn’t spend more than $10,000 to have the app built out. I spent less than $1,000 to have the wireframe done. I know some people spend close to $40,000 to $50,000, which were some of the quotes that I heard. But again, I try to use my resources as best I can. That’s why you have to network before you need people.
I asked around in my network, you know what they think about it? Was this accurate? How much did you spend? Don’t be afraid to ask, How much did they spend, or do they think it’s outrageous? So I collected some data that way. And that was your second question, how was I able to buy someone? I say, what can you use to get you off the ground? I think then, you want it to have some quality, but you also want it to be… you want it to work and you want to be able to collect more data. I wouldn’t strive for perfection, because you’ll never launch it. There’s some people who never launch because they’re striving for perfection. Quite honestly, I’m not going to know what works until I put it out there to get the feedback. You have to make sure that what you’re building is what people want. And people this day and age with social media, with so many different ways to contact you, email, LinkedIn, etc., they are not shy at all about voicing their opinion about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve done it myself. And founders are very open to that, because they want to build something that makes sense for the consumer. You want to get something that’s off the ground, that looks great. But I think, what is that famous quote? “If you’re not embarrassed about your first product, the first version of your product, you probably launched too late.”
I’m not so worried about Uber taking the idea. I hope they will be a partner with me. But I’m not worried about that. I’m more worried and focused on getting the product out there. My fear would be not leaping. I think a lot of times as entrepreneurs, you’re getting your head about things. You may think that you don’t have enough skill, or someone is more skillful than you or can do a better job. I fear that, that those thoughts will paralyze me, so I have to be on top of those thoughts. Those are the things that keep me up at night, is making sure that my game, my mindset is on point.
I haven’t written a formal business plan just yet, but I definitely want to in the future. I’m definitely putting my own funds into it right now, because it’s something different when you put your own money into it than just being given money. I think the stakes are a little bit higher, so I definitely wanted to do that.
I do have a business Canvas model. You can definitely Google this to get a template to use it, I recommend it for anyone, especially because it’s a little bit on the creative side. I just need this to be very simplified. If anyone ever asked me for a full business plan, I don’t know how long it would take me to do that. But your business Canvas model, what it asks you is to identify what is your value proposition? Who are your customers, really digging down into what those personas are, as far as the segments? How are you going to generate revenue? Are there competitors in your space? What is the advantage that you have over those competitors? I think having that type of skeleton, that type of bullet point type of template really helps you to get clear about your business so that you can move forward without spending tons and tons of time doing a business plan.
I will I say the countdown probably… Look, it always needs to be clear, it really does. Because if you’re not clear now, you will pay for it later, meaning you’ll be developing your website or your app, and then you’re not clear with a developer, and then you’re developing something that doesn’t work, or it wasn’t really what you wanted. And now you have to spend money again with another developer. So you can never be too clear. Doing the business plan, it’s going to help you get those ideas on paper, get them clear, so that you can execute. Do it.
I’ll definitely need to raise money by the end of next year. It would be for expansion of the team. And hopefully, maybe one or two other cities. I want to make sure that that I’m able to dominate the space that I’m in. I don’t want to grow too fast, but I’ll see where it goes.
A lot of people actually lose money because they don’t even want to deal with the hassle of returning. I’ve heard that so many times where people are like, “Oh, I just keep it, and then I’ll try to give it to somebody else,” because they don’t want to go back to the store. Happens all the time.
You can go to the website GoFlyy.com. I’m on social media as TeresaB. You can also follow GoFlyy now on social media to stay tuned for what’s coming in.