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Phil Alves _strategy and tactics_lessons from growing

Hired a Chess Coach, Grew His Business: Lessons from Growing from Phil Alves of Dev Squad

February 7, 2024

Entrepreneurs often view strategy and tactics as essential elements for propelling their startups toward success. Today, Phil Alves of DevSquad and DevStats sits down with A.J. to shed light on the nuances of strategic planning and tactical decision-making and how to balance these two vital aspects. They also explore the significance of tactical focus in business, how to build operational excellence, and why a good work-life balance is vital for every business owner.

About Phil Alves:

Phil Alves is currently the CEO of DevSquad and DevStats. He became a successful business owner very early on at 18 after teaching himself to code and becoming an SEO powerhouse—ranking a post at #1 on Google while still in high school. From there, he grew his first venture to a 10-employee size business, then sold it all before he could legally buy a lottery ticket.

Phil’s relentless zeal for entrepreneurship didn’t stop there. He moved to the US from his home country, Brazil, seeking further education, and settled in Salt Lake City, fore-fronting a new adventure by founding DevSquad. Over the years, he successfully grew his startup into a 100-person cross-functional team operating in the US and Brazil. Alongside, he’s been instrumental in leading numerous startups to multi-million dollar exits and developing digital products for major establishments like ADP, Box, and the US Ski and Snowboarding team.

Balancing strategy and tactics for business success

Running a business is about striking the right balance between strategy and tactics. Strategy is your grand vision, your ‘big picture,’ while tactics are the moves to get there. These are the practical steps to take your business towards your goals.

It’s critical to maintain a balance between both your strategy and your tactics. Here are some key points to help you do just that:

  • Set clear goals: Define your objectives and set measurable KPIs aligned with your strategy and vision.
  • Create actionable tactics: Identify the tactics that will help you realize your strategy and drive results.
  • Prioritize and allocate resources: Prioritize impactful tactics and distribute resources effectively for successful implementation.
  • Stay flexible and adaptable: Adjust your strategy and tactics as needed in response to business changes and challenges.
  • Monitor and adjust: Track the performance of your tactics and adjust as needed for continuous improvement towards your goals.

Successful businesses are those who navigate their way with a sound strategy, execute with well-planned tactics, and maintain a balance between the two, adapting as necessary and learning continuously.

Key Insights:

  • Make the most out of your team’s capabilities. Leverage the unique skills and expertise of your team. When you invest in developing and expanding their skill sets, you boost your business’s tactical adaptability. This makes you more equipped to adapt in the face of changes, keeping you at the forefront of your industry’s curve. (05:34)
  • Balance autonomy and direction. While giving your team autonomy is key, it’s equally important to provide strategic direction. The right balance between the two can improve productivity and bring fresh ideas while moving towards the same business goals. This helps your team be happier, perform better, and feel more motivated. (08:33)
  • Reduce the downs in your business. Every business experiences peaks and downs. However, consistently striving to reduce those downs can strengthen your business and make it more resilient. This involves proactive risk management, where you identify potential problem areas, analyze their impact, and take measures to prevent or reduce their occurrence. (14:56)
  • Build a strong acquisition channel. A strong customer acquisition channel ensures a constant influx of potential customers, allowing businesses to focus on delivering quality products and services without fear of losing current customers. Instead of limiting yourself to one method, use multiple platforms to widen your reach and secure your customer base. (23:23)
  • Find a good balance between life and work. While professional accomplishments are important, they should never override the value of personal well-being. So, aim to find the right balance between work and personal life to avoid burnout and feel more fulfilled. (31:45)

Phil’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“Every business has ups and downs, but what you’re trying to do […] is reduce the downs. And also, you’re going to be able to know better how to behave into those downs because you know it’s not the end, and things are going to turn around.” (14:56)

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Transcript

Phil Alves:
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

A.J. Lawrence:
I’ve been going through your background. You have this technical background, you’ve done agile, you’ve done this, you have these two really cool companies. You’re from Brazil and you’re living in Salt Lake because that’s exactly where everyone in Brazil grows up wanting to be. And you have your own airplane. So, you know, where are you on your own entrepreneurial journey these days?

Phil Alves:
I think I’m in a good stage. I think I’m a pretty mature entrepreneur, that’s how I see myself. And I start very young. I start my first business when I was 18. I exited the business before. I have a lot to learn, but I think I’m probably in my best years. I think the next ten years of my life, it’s going to be the years that I’m going to do my best work. I think I already went to my 10,000 hours as an entrepreneur.

A.J. Lawrence:
Well, why don’t we kind of get into that? Because the 10,000 hours one, it is that kind of what is the value? And I think it’s not always just the time, but it’s the type of time you spend in it. And we were chatting before and you kind of really got excited when we were talking about putting in tactical effort to execute on what you need. And you had a great story about how you’re trying to improve your chess that I think could be really good jumping off. So you wanted to get better at chess, so you hired a chess coach recently, you said.

Phil Alves:
Yes, and that starts from business, right? So in business, as you start running business that have a little bit more resources, you learn not to do everything by yourself. You hire a professional. So I want to get good at chess and I want to find my consultant. So I actually did the research and I went and I hire the best brazilian chess player in history. So that guy, he would mentor and he would coach me. He played against Kasparov, he’s an older gentleman, and this guy’s going to make me good at chess. And we meet three times a week over Zoom.

And then I thought he would teach me strategy. I thought he would teach me, like, end games and ways to really win. And then he spent the first six months of working together only on tactics, and he went over and over, like pants, forks this. And I’m like, I learned that the first week I learned chess. That’s so basic. He’s like, but you don’t see it. You don’t see it. I need you to see this in many different scenarios. You know what it is, but you don’t see it. And I need you to get very good at the statical things because you’re going to be able to recognize patterns, and those patterns is going to allow you to be a better player. And a couple of months went by and I went up 300 points in my rating. And so he was right. And I do that all the time when I’m doing something outside of work and I try to get things that I can learn and apply at work. And that changed a lot.

A.J. Lawrence:
How?

Phil Alves:
I saw things inside my organization that was growing. I was like, I think I’m being too, talking too much big picture, think about the strategy too much. We need to get more real. How do we go from A to B? How do we execute on this? What’s the tactics that we’re going to be doing the day-to-day? And I think I was casting down that too much. I think in an organization my size, 100 people, we don’t need a lot of strategists. That’s me, the CEO, and maybe my CTO. Everyone else has to know the tactics that they have to do to implement it. It was funny that took me hiring a chess coach to change how I run my business in a more tactical way.

A.J. Lawrence:
We just got the title of the podcast, how hiring a chess coach changed this guy’s business. All right, we’ll work a little bit. I have a marketing background. I’ll spin it up a bit later. But I like that because I think it is very similar. In my early career, I went from being a developer to a coder, back end to front end, in the early days of the web to kind of moving my way up through production into project management. And the years I spent doing that, which I thought were miserable in my 20s, by the time I got to my 30s, all of a sudden, I could see how things would play out.

Like, I could just understand just by looking at code, just by looking at project management plans, just by listening to team meetings, things are going to blow up. Or oh, wow, there were things you could just know just because I had made so many mistakes on getting there. I had muscle memory built in. And I like that you’re using that to build, to utilize that effort in your team. So what are some of the things you think that really focusing on the tactical capabilities of your team have helped your companies achieve?

Phil Alves:
I think we’re able to execute in a much better way and be a lot more consistent on how we execute and how we got better. And also, you’re able to grow our people quicker. Because when you’re telling people this is what’s expected of you and this is how we’re going to do this, and we teach the tactics and they start to learn the patterns, I think that it’s very helpful. And then you do want to bring over a strategy at some point. But I feel like we do upside. We want to start with the big picture. And even like, you’re talking about coding, and I have this conversation with my CTO all the time. I think the way they teach coding at university, it’s crazy. Because they teach the hard stuff first, because you have to understand the foundation, and then they teach you the stuff you got to actually do it. And I’m like, I think the right way to learn coding, it’s learn it to do it and see things working and take a step back and then understand why they’re working. Because then you feel better about yourself because you are a competent professional that you can actually deliver things.

And then you can start to understand like you say, that piece doesn’t work, this doesn’t work. Why did it work? And I think that was the switch that helped me realize we need people to get proficient and feel good about themselves and then we need to deliver better service to our customers before we understand even why we’re doing that at a high level. Before at least everyone understands.

A.J. Lawrence:
But it is that tension you are kind of talking about. Yes, you do need to have some directional structure strategy but you probably don’t have to overdo it, especially at this time of year at the end of year planning and all that fun that’s been going around. There’s all these glorified texts, especially tweets about strategic planning and building your strategy and all that. And I think sometimes most people do it wrong because they do mix up strategy and tactics. But I think a lot of times it becomes a sexy thing that you do in business. Oh, build your strategy to 10x the company and all that. When the real path to mastery is the ability to execute consistently and incremental progress directionally correct is that way of just living it and being able to understand it.

Let’s kind of just break out, if you don’t mind, that transition from your thinking of going, oh, shoot, he’s right about my chess game. Really need to better understand the movement to, oh, maybe there’s something about this in the business and how’d you do it? Because I know my own experience and then when I talk with other entrepreneurs, a lot of times the team want to know why, where are we going? What’s this? What’s that? And sometimes when you tell them, no, just focus on this, you get a lot of, So you don’t want me thinking? You get that kind of like, But I want to give you my thoughts. So how did that transition go? And what was that sort of initial piece?

Phil Alves:
Yes, for sure. I think the first piece that came to mind that was very applicable to the business. The organization is growing 100 people organization, culture becomes very important. Right? So then we went and we read popular books like Good to Great and why. And that’s great. Culture is very important. There’s no way to keep a company aligned without culture. And then we start trying to do that and then we start talking about culture with our leadership, but in that same general way. What the heck does that mean? So then when we are back and you say, this is the things that we’re going to do to improve our culture. Manager, this is what I expect you to do. And that’s when you start seeing results.

But you are right. The more areas that you do that, and actually, the more a person knows about a topic, the more they’re going to be like, no, I don’t want you to just tell me what to do. Let me think too. But I think we just have to train people on that process. It’s okay. We’re going to have that time. We’re going to have that space. But let’s build on the foundation. This is the foundation. Let’s put this in place and then let’s iterate on it.

Everyone is equipped on the static, and then from there we improve. Because this is proven to work. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We’re going to do this block and then we improve on that block. So that’s kind of like how I work. But that’s definitely a challenge that you have, especially your best people is going to be the hardest ones. 10-15 years of experience and they’re like, what? You don’t want me to think? But I think that’s what makes a great business is where people don’t have to think all the time. Things just get done.

A.J. Lawrence:
It’s funny because it is that very thing. Like I know from just something I’m doing where different team members are wanting to, oh, we should be doing this and this and this and this and this. So when you said that, I was like, wow, we really did spend past couple of quarters really just kind of working, all of a sudden, know we should be doing this but I don’t know somewhere up here it should be done. So you have to figure out that jump. The fun of being the CEO sometimes you have to be able to wave your hand magically and make things appear so something else can happen. Now, these ideas that I had, we could do these things that get us this. I do think that happens and it’s hard because squeaky wheels and you want to make your team happy.

So I think that getting to the culture where people know they’ll be listened to, but it has to be relevant. But you can’t say that. You have to kind of do it in a way encourage and grow them how to make their insights relevant to the rest of the business.

Phil Alves:
I think that’s very important for us as leaders to figure out what part of the field that player is going to work. But we have to define, say, hey, here’s a defense. You’re going to play in this part. This is what you’re going to do. Then from there they can improve. Like the last thing that I want, it’s bad, but I think we kind of have to set the boundaries of each person and what those boundaries are. And in the beginning that’s very hard. And then you allow people to have ideas but in that sphere. Like you say, where the impact is going to be the biggest? Where you can improve most?

For example, the company that is fun to watch is Apple. Steve Jobs was a lot more visionary than Tim Cook, but Tim Cook made Apple grow so, so much more. So why? We put the company in the right trajectory, then someone can really come and get better at doing what we do well. And I think that’s where most of the people on an organization, at least the organization my size, have to be focused on. It’s improving those things.

A.J. Lawrence:
I think this is so much of the entrepreneurial journey. It’s a Goldilocks approach. There are times where you have to be able to walk the walk with having no idea what it is. You have to be able to convince other people with no real understanding to do stuff, that early rubbing of the sticks. But when we really get into that mid-journey piece, I do think it is our ability to execute consistently and develop that type of effort that then sort of the fun of being an entrepreneur starts hitting. Because, yes, it’s exciting when you can rub two sticks together and get some sparks out of it and like, oh, my God, I have a business. Yay. But it’s looking at what you’re doing with your journey.

It’s the money, obviously. I have a podcast called going Beyond 8 Figures, so duh. But it’s the ability to do things and have things consistently occur based upon your vision that I think is the real fun satisfaction. Seeing the growth of a concept is, I think, the best part of being an entrepreneur. So how you bring that about is so fascinating.

Phil Alves:
Yeah. And I think just as humans, what I think is that we like things to be predictable. When I go to a restaurant, if I’ve been there before, I expect the same experience. Even when you go travel, for new places, we want some level of predictability, right? And we want that. We crave that more than anything in life. As much as sometimes we may think we want things to change and we want to explore, most of the times you want to do things and we expect the same results. And bringing that to business is a very hard challenge.

How you make your business predictable? How you make, like you say, your inputs are going to generate the outputs that you want?And I think as you get to the mid-journey, like you’re describing, you’re just getting better at that. You’re getting better at putting the odds in your favor because business is about playing your odds. You’re never going to be always right, but you’re like, hey, there’s an 80% chance that I’m going to be right here. And so I think that getting there is super hard, but it’s where I personally want to be. I prefer to grow 20, 30% every year than to go 51, -50 the other.

A.J. Lawrence:
As someone who has done that, that’s an emotional roller coaster that you’re always just worried that around the next bend is a drop.

Phil Alves:
Yeah, every business has ups and downs, but what you’re trying to do as you become a more seasoned entrepreneur is reduce the downs. And also you’re going to be able to know better how to behave into those downs because you know it’s not the end and things are going to turn around.

A.J. Lawrence:
Well, in even just referencing your work with the chess coach, you kind of made a reference to the who, not how philosophy or whatever the book from a strategic coaching guy. And you’ve talked about bringing in, diving into the culture, really trying to understand how to work into a culture that really looks at sort of that tactical operational focus to then kind of bring it in. What are some transitions you’ve had to face or that you faced that you had to kind of go out and re-adjust how you were looking and what did you do to kind of do that?

Phil Alves:
Yeah, I think to stick with that whole concept of right person, right seat. Oh, I put the right person and they’re going to figure out it is too much to ask. Most of the times it’s better for you to be closer to that person, to mentor that person, to teach that person some steps of how that should work or bring outside consulting firms or consultants, but to talk about the doing of that. So I think I change a little bit, leaving the person and hoping they’re going to figure out more to this is a plan and improve on the plan.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right, let’s come back to DevStats. Let’s talk a little bit about DevSquad and how entrepreneurs can kind of look at when they should be looking at a company like DevSquad and what are the thoughts that they should be going through about having that type of development in their situation.

Phil Alves:
So when companies look something like DevSquad, my service firm, which is where I make most of my money, it’s usually seasoned entrepreneurs that are building a business but they don’t want to figure out everything. They want to kind of cop the playbooks. So they hire us, we show them how a development team is supposed to work. We give them a team with like four engineers, a product manager, a product designer, QA. So this is everything that they supposed to have. And this is how we professionally run a development team.

And so what happens is our customers going to stay with us for on average 18 months and then they’re going to transition to in-house. But now they have a benchmark and they know what to do because they saw us doing. So what DevSquad does is not just build the product, but teach our customers how to run development teams. And DevStats, which is my SaaS offer, it comes from seeing my most successful customers, how they did. It’s my opinion that the easiest ways to get rich is a service business, right? Because it’s super scalable.

But companies that are worth more money are SaaS companies, are software companies. And so I saw a lot of our customers that made money in service and build a software that they learn for that industry. And then they made a lot of money in software too because software is expensive and take years to build. And it’s kind of hard to bootstrap a software company. It’s easy to bootstrap a service company.

So if you’re bootstrapping a software company, it means that you were successful somewhere else. And money is coming. It’s coming from consulting, it’s coming from somewhere. You can’t bootstrap a software company like just out of the blue, but you can do a service company anyway. So I saw a lot of people doing that. A lot of my customers like, hey, this person had a driving school, a bunch of driving schools, and then they build software for driving schools and now they make a bunch of money. Or this person is an accountant, and now he builds software for accountants and he worked in big accounting firms and whatever.

And so we had a lot of internal tools that I use at DevSquad to keep track of our developers, to keep track of our KPIs, and to make sure that we’re delivering high performing team for our developers. And I was like, okay, I’m going to extract that into a product that any development team can use so they can also measure the developers that they can actually improve. And that’s my experience. My experience has been running high performing development teams. I’ll build a software to help other people do the same. And so that’s kind of like how the two companies play together and one is profitable, the other one is not. Because, again, software is very hard.

A.J. Lawrence:
Other than as someone who’s also spent money on trying to build software in the past and unfortunately, not having clear structure, a huge, expensive lesson I learned the hard way. I love the combination, because if DevSquad really is about this, hey, let’s build it, but teach you at the same time, you’re already planning on they’re exiting your environment. So, yes, it’s a high margin, high value offer, but it’s a finite where you’re building DevStats as that way of being like, hey, we’re going to set you off. And then you could use this to navigate yourself. Looking at this, how are you doing? How’s the cycle? How’s your development? How’s your cadence going? How is this ability for you to execute on your engineering efforts on a consistent basis?

I think that is a fascinating way of looking at it. And I really wanted to just hit pause for a second and start taking notes on something I’m working on. But duh, I’m in the middle of a podcast, so let’s continue this and hope it doesn’t disappear from my head. Because I do think that, yes, I understand that DevStats is probably a little more time and stuff to get that up off ground that sits so logically and million little steps in between. It’s a great concept.

Phil Alves:
Thank you. Exactly. Because nobody hires a consulting firm long term. That’s how I see. Like if you hire a consulting firm, you have a problem right now that you want to solve. You want to bring the experts and eventually you’re going to get out of that consulting firm. But you’re right, the dev stats, it’s the next thing that they’re going to be using through the process with us. And they can buy the product and they can keep doing the things the way that they learn to do from us.

Again, I think that’s the biggest value of hire consulting firm, and that’s why I hire consulting firms all the time on my own firm. So let’s say if I want to do a new marketing strategy, I’ll hire a consulting firm. They’ll teach me how to do, I’ll learn from their processes and then I will bring that in house or not. But most of the time that’s how people think. And I think as a consulting firm owner, it would be naive of me, and at some point I was naive to think people would stay forever.

A.J. Lawrence:
Having built a bunch, this is one of the difficulties, I think, around the consulting agency, et cetera type of approach. If you don’t have an appropriate off ramp, it is. One of your major goals is to develop the relationship with your clients in a way that lengthens and strengthens them. But as long as your main focus is creating value for your customer, your client, you’re going to do well. But as you said, eventually clients are going to leave you. But you have this tension as a consultant, agency owner, et cetera, where you don’t want that to happen. So it kind of misaligns you sometimes from your client.

And I was always kind of frustrated, I think with something like what you’re doing is you’re off right from the start. Hey, we’ll get this done for you and we’re going to make you better off. Good Boy Scout. Hey, we’re going to leave this campground in a better shape than you have by having the internal cadence structure. But we also have tools to help keep that going. And that, I think, is a really great business model. Yes, I understand there’s some difficulties in making it scale and grow so it can live on its own and all that other fun stuff.

But I think it is sort of a type of business model that straddles the two worlds in a way that I think a lot of clients are looking for more and more in this day and age.

Phil Alves:
Yeah. And I think the mistake that a lot of agencies make is that they have a very poor growth strategy. They don’t have a way of bringing new customers in. If I’m getting 50 leads a month, I’m not worried that my customer is going to leave after 18 months because I’ll come, I’ll add the value, I’ll make the offboard experience as amazing as the onboarding experience that they have. They will feel the freedom. And I feel like people sometimes stay longer because they feel the freedom. When you know you can leave, you don’t leave because you’re like, okay, I can’t, but I don’t want at this point. But I think that the secret for that, to be able to have that mentality and to be able to not be afraid of losing a customer, it is to have a very strong customer acquisition channel, more than one, like many, many channels.

And that’s kind of like where we spend a lot of our time at DevSquad. So people listening to this podcast probably heard about DevSquad before because we are everywhere. We are advertising podcasts, we are advertising on Google, we are on YouTube, we are everywhere. And so that allow us to not be worried and really be on the same page with our customers. And they can be upfront with us too. They’d be like, hey, planning to offboard in three months. Great. And then you can start thinking about because they’re not afraid if they tell us our quality is going to go down or whatever is going to happen.

Because I feel like there’s always this game with agencies where everyone knows that people are going to leave at once, but people just don’t say, don’t tell. And then one day it’s just like out of the blue.

A.J. Lawrence:
Now I think, I don’t want to kind of hide. Well, it is your business model sort of thing, but getting into that meta concept of agencies and the value of agencies, consultants, et cetera, it is that concentrated process of thinking on a very tight subject or having a degree of expertise of a piece that’s very expensive or time consuming to acquire within an organization. That’s the value prop. It’s like, hey, I know how to do this and I can bring that into you, but over time an organization should be able to grow and do it. But then the consultant’s piece is like, well, how do I keep feeding myself? I remember back in the early, early days, I was coding late 80s into the remember people who in the early days of a lot of the dev stuff, they wouldn’t mark up their code, they would pretty much just hide everything, make it super, super difficult to understand from another developer’s point of view. So that way they had hired again to do it. That’s so stupid, so short minded. And then I kind of grew up and I went to development shops or worked with and like, wait, the company policy is literally doing the same thing that that $24 an hour javascript guy I always hated working with was doing.

Now I’m working with a company that charges half a million a month to develop clients. Yes, it is that mindset of scarcity, and I don’t like going into woo woo, scarcity and abundance mindset stuff. But it is kind of the belief that you have a belief in your DevSquad that you will create enough value and create your clients to be in a better place, that then you can help them continue their growth by not having to do it for them, but just by supporting them along the way and just coach too.

Phil Alves:
Exactly. So you hire an agents because they are better at a tactical level as something they need to implement. They are better at running a development team, or they are better at doing whatever it is. But you want to have that skew at some point. Maybe not. Maybe that’s not your core business. We do have customers. That development is not their core business.

They’ve been with us four or five years, but that’s not the norm. The norm is you come, you grow, and you outgrow us, and that’s okay. But I like what you say about this scarcity mentality, because if I know that there’s new customers coming in the door every month, and then I’m picking the best customers, the ones I really want to work with, I’m not to worry about ending a cycle with this one customer. That’s what success looks like. Success looks like helping them going to the next stage. So that’s kind of like how I see it. But it is harder for sure. If you don’t have the engine that is bringing out the leads, how you’re going to trust how you say, how are you going to eat tomorrow if you lose this one customer? So that’s why growth strategies are so important.

A.J. Lawrence:
Okay, well, let me get back to the question that I asked and then I took us off track to kind of get, so let’s say I’m working on an agency capability and I have a concept, let’s just call it DevStats, that I believe could actually align with what I’m doing as a. So one of the people in the audience, they’re looking at their service company, or I was just talking with someone. He had bought a collection of landscaping companies and various home services and kind of growing that, but started doing the business mullet. He started hiring back office people overseas. And all of a sudden his business of doing that, first from his own, then from his friends, and now that’s gotten to be a much larger portion than his various home service companies overall. But it’s a very manual. They are putting in processes, automations. How should they start looking and what are the type of questions they should be asking themselves to say, you know what, I have something that probably could have a better client interface where they have this growing need for a better technical solution.

We’ll just leave it there. Not that they have specific SaaS or something, but they know they need a better technical solution to help them continue growing. How should they be thinking about what questions should they be asking?

Phil Alves:
Most of the time people are in a stage where they’re using a lot of Excel or they’re using other out of the box software out there in the market, but it’s not doing everything that they want it to do. And they have some specific ideas that comes from their knowledge of the industry. They’re industry expert and that’s their unfair advantage of how things should work and how to make things better. So that’s when usually people think, okay, if I build a software to do this portion of the business, let’s say, let’s stick with the example that you gave of the service company that helps with home care. What our back end people need to make sure we send the people quicker, to make sure we build people fast, whatever. And what we don’t have that’s specific for our industry. Because what happens in the market today, a lot of the big, big companies, they are playing on the very big level. They’re in a horizontal play and they want to serve everybody.

The problem when you serve everybody is that you don’t serve anyone very well because you don’t understand that person. And so if you go in a vertical, and you understand that vertical very well of that one business. So maybe you’re using a CRM, like you’re using Salesforce, but Salesforce wasn’t built for you. And then you’re like, okay, I will build my own CRM for construction companies because construction companies need this, this and this. And I understand because I run a construction company for so many years, I still own a construction company, that I can test the software on. A lot of our customers, they actually get results. They get their money back before they even sell the software for other people, just by implementing that in their organization, just by having a better way of running the organization.

A.J. Lawrence:
Very cool. All right, so we have that. Looking at how you’ve built these two, you have your plane, you’re living in the blue, blue skies of Salt Lake City, Utah. How do you look at success as an entrepreneur and where you want to go? Not like how well the businesses are going, not how well, not. Maybe it is the money, but how do you define success as an entrepreneur?

Phil Alves:
I think it’s very easy to be very good at one thing. It’s easy to run a business very well. It’s easy to be fit. It’s easy to be very good at one thing. But when you try to think about your life, us overall, and trying to be good at different parts of your life, good at relationships, good at your health, good at running your business, that’s kind of like what I see as real success. For example, if I look at pictures of me from three or four years ago, I was taking home a lot of money, but I was big and I was super stressed. So that’s not success.

So now I’m 40 pounds lighter and I have more time. So I think that’s how I define successful entrepreneur. It’s the master of you, not the master of the business. It’s easy to master business. And then I always see like a lot of successful entrepreneurs, that they are divorced, no one likes them. And I’m like, what happened? Why is your money good for at this point? Right. So I think success is about finding equilibrium in the different parts of your life. And it just happened to be that money might be the first one that you want to tackle. But when you take money out of the table, you have to have the money work for you and not you for the money.That’s how I see.

For example, I leave at 10:00 a.m. three times a week and I go to a jiu-jitsu class. And this is success for me because I can leave in the middle of the day, come back, have flexibility, and do something else.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. I remember when I was young and I had my first business, and I was able to sell it, miracle. A miracle. But some older entrepreneur I was talking to was like, oh, yeah. The best part I love about having my own business is if I want to go see an afternoon movie, I can go. And I’m like, I worry about sleeping.

And like this guy, yeah, I go away for the afternoon, I went away for a few weeks. And I was just like, I don’t sleep. What are you doing? What is this black magic you talk of here? I remember that, yeah. The things you don’t understand about being is that process, that building of the capability, the tactical needs to really build an infrastructure and a capability that exists beyond just that force of will. I will rub these sticks together really, really fast.

Phil Alves:
It’s about building a team and creating leaders. And in your job, it becomes to find the best people to mentor them, and it just changes. The bigger the company change. And that’s when you start having more time, but also a lot of the time, you’re just so afraid, and you’re doing busy work, and you’re afraid of letting go. I was the same in the early days. Like, you’re working 16 hours a day. I work a lot less now, and I make a lot more money, and I use more my money, which is most important, because what’s the point of working, not doing anything with the money that you make? I feel like you make money to use the money. Sometimes people are like, oh, you have a lifestyle business.

Yes. And I love my lifestyle. I fly an airplane that I own. It’s a lifestyle business. I serve the business. The business serve me. Sorry, not the other way.

A.J. Lawrence:
No, I think you’re calling it lifestyle but definitely seems a bit more than what I used to. I’ve been in some business groups where sometimes I feel like most people’s concept of business is that the cheap version of the four hour work week? Hey, I have a backpack I’m going to live in. I have a great business idea. I’m not going to live in Thailand because it’s too expensive. I’m going to live in Laos. And that way, I only have to make $2,000 a year, and I will be rich. Good luck with that drop ship for crypto teaching program every three, six months. Change.

Phil, I am really fascinated by your approach to doing this, and I think, as we are looking in the new year here on the show, to kind of get deeper into some of these things. I would love to maybe bring you back and talk a little bit more about that approach to building. You said tactical, but in my mind, I think you really took an approach to building operational excellence, building up operational capability, and I think that’s one of the things isn’t talked enough. There’s a lot in, like, building up your strategy and sending your this or doing x, y and z and all this, but that operational capability and really building and consistently working on it is a lot harder than, I think, a lot of people outside of, because we’re all so busy. A lot of times people think, oh, entrepreneur, of course, you’re doing the operations, you’re doing this. It’s like, no, I’m really just consistently putting out fires, really working on getting this better. I’m just working so no one hits me.

Phil Alves:
Yeah.

A.J. Lawrence:
I would love to have you come back on the show and let’s talk more about that and maybe a couple. Let’s approach this.

Phil Alves:
Sure. Yeah. I like to say, how do you actually get shit done? We have to stop talking about the work and start doing the work.

A.J. Lawrence:
Has this wonderful automated thing. You say any curse, and even if you don’t have to do anything, it’s just like they scan it, and if a curse, they just put a little e up on the thing and it’s like, all right, we’re explicit. Okay, well, there we go. We have the e. All right. If someone in the audience is wanting to learn more about what you’re doing, or even more importantly, if they would like to discuss with you how to bring a better technical capability within their organization, how should they reach out to you? What’s the best approach?

Phil Alves:
Yeah. For people that are looking to build a product, take a product to market, they can just go to devsquad.com, reach out to us and we’re going to speak and we’re going to understand the problem and see if we can solve. If people just want to kind of hear about me and see the things that I’m doing and how I’m doing business, they can just go to philalves.com and sign up for my newsletter. So those are the two ways that people can stay in touch.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right. Well, we will have all that in the show notes. We will also send it out in the email when this episode is released, which is always weird that I’m saying it because you’ve already gotten it if I’m saying it. But, ah, future has problems. And also, obviously, in our social media, we will have all this out there. So please everyone, if you enjoyed what Phil said, if you are interested, go check out DevSquad. I’m fascinated by DevStats but we will talk about that type of offering again later because I think it’s such a cool concept. Once you reach that capability within your organization, sign up for his newsletter and go check out DevSquad. And also, if you found anything interesting in this that you think a friend of yours or someone else, another business entrepreneur, could learn from, please share it with them and really suggest that they subscribe on their podcast listening or viewing platform of choice. And it helps us bring on really great entrepreneurs like Phil back to the show or find new one. So anything you can do, we greatly, greatly, greatly appreciate. I’m just going to keep dropping greatly.

All right everyone, have a wonderful day. I’ll talk with you soon. Bye-bye.

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