This week begins a special series on the podcast where Matt sits down with local entrepreneurs to discuss their businesses and the growing startup scene in Northwest Arkansas. We begin the series with Carter Malloy, founder and CEO of AcreTrader, which is a land transaction and investment technology company based in Fayetteville. Matt and Carter discuss the background of how AcreTrader began, the importance of finding product market fit and the challenges in managing a business with a two sided marketplace. They also touch on the importance of experimentation within your business, finding the right messaging, the journey to raising capital, and importance of building a culture in a growing startup as well as mentorship.
Learn more about AcreTrader on their company website.
Carter Malloy 0:01
It is important for our local entrepreneurial ecosystem and the growth of our region that you are active in investing even tiny checks in local companies.
Matt Waller 0:11
Excellence, professionalism, innovation, and collegiality. These are the values the Sam M. Walton College of Business explores in education, business, and the lives of people we meet every day, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Walton College and welcome to the be epic podcast. I have with me today, Carter Malloy, who is the founder and CEO at AcreTrader. We're going to talk a little bit about that today. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2004. He has seven years of experience at Stephens Inc, he was managing director, equity research internet and IT services. He has a number of other experiences. And he's also a member of the board of advisors of Signature Bank. We're gonna focus quite a bit on AcreTrader today. But before we do that, thank you so much Carter, for agreeing to engage in this. I really appreciate it.
Carter Malloy 1:23
Thank you, Dean Waller, excited for the conversation.
Matt Waller 1:25
So Carter, you majored in physics, and then you went into finance. That's a little unusual. I mean, it happens sometimes. But at what point in school, did you realize you were interested in finance?
Carter Malloy 1:39
Throughout the whole thing, actually, so I studied science, because I find it fascinating. I liked the problem solving nature of physics, I think I was a class or two short of a minor in business. So my intention actually was out of school to start a business and be an entrepreneur, and which I've probably tried and failed at a few times before strapping on a necktie. But yeah, always did want to be in business just really enjoyed science, too.
Matt Waller 2:04
So science is very interesting. For sure. physics is very challenging. Because not only is it science, it's so integrated with mathematics, and really today, computer programming. So I'm sure you learned a lot. I mean, computer programming and quantitative techniques are helpful in finance, for sure. Did you find that to be the case, when you went to Stephens?
Carter Malloy 2:31
I think as it is, with just about every job, 90 something percent of what you do with that job you learn on the job. And so what physics taught me was was really just thinking creatively about problems, right? It's often which formula do I apply to this problem? And then then how to actually engage that particular solution set to try to find an answer. I'd say that core learning of physics like it was a plugging and chugging formulas at Stephens I learned in the Physics Building, no, but I think a lot of those learnings from from college were highly applicable in the world of finance. I was unfortunately, too early probably to have a lot of software engineering in in undergrad, I missed a lot of tha, learned a little bit of it on the job for fun more than anything, but I'm a huge fan now of the integration of computer sciences, alongside you know, whether it's mechanical, or electrical engineering, or physics. I think just learning those core skill sets, like Python are, are really valuable throughout just about anything you do at this point in the world. So yeah, I think that's not a ton, like from acoustics. I was big on music and performing and recording music in school. And not a whole ton of that you can apply on the job in finance, but again, that the engineering mindset and problem solving mindset was really what my greatest learning was in school.
Matt Waller 3:45
Before you went to school or while you were in school, you got interest in potentially starting a business, right? Do you know what spurred you on in that direction?
Carter Malloy 3:53
Both my parents were entrepreneurs. And so I was around that a little bit as a kid, and both the good and the bad of that. And so that was a meaningful part of it. And then I always had a job. So in high school and college, I always always worked. I worked in kitchens a lot, you know, in restaurants and bars. I had a lot of years inside the walls at Grubbs here in Fayetteville. And so initially wanted to start a restaurant actually and then sat down. And as you should always do before starting a business really think about the economics and realize that that was actually not a great idea. The odds of success were very low and a success is defined by low profit margins and long hours.
Matt Waller 4:31
And you're also interested in music. What kind of instrument do you play?
Carter Malloy 4:35
In college and post college I played with a band and toured around quite a bit and playing lead guitar and a little bit of synthesizers. I now really focus on the drums and play drums or piano most days.
Matt Waller 4:45
What kind of music were you playing?
Carter Malloy 4:47
Strangely, electronic music so some pretty out there stuff. I think it's become a lot more popular now. But there's tons of fun.
Matt Waller 4:54
That's great. So I'm going to skip over to AcreTrader which you started in 2018. First of all, why don't you describe what AcreTrader does?
Carter Malloy 5:07
AcreTrader is a farmland investing and transaction platform. So we help consumers and farmers and investors, people within that ecosystem. We help people buy and sell land smarter with advanced technology, data and expertise.
Matt Waller 5:20
What led you to see that as an opportunity for a business?
Carter Malloy 5:25
Well part of it is I was lucky to be around that as a kid, my dad, I mentioned entrepreneur, and part of that venture was was always farming. So we always had a farm to go to as a kid. And so had a had a love for the sense of place and being outdoors and being in the country. Then through my investing career, as you mentioned earlier, I spent seven years at Stephens and then I spent five years at a long short equity fund on the West Coast. And in the background, I've been buying and selling farmland. And at some moment, you know, after having a really good financial outcome with investing or trading in farmland, I stepped back and realize I spending 12, 15 hours a day some days trying to grind out alpha on public markets. And over here in the background, there was this multi trillion dollar asset class that was wildly inefficient with intense information asymmetry. And so started focusing on it more, again, as a hobby, I guess, or investing hobby, if you will, and fell in love with it and knew a lot of people that wanted to get involved and looked around and was surprised to see there was no way to get involved. And so probably for the 20th time in my career, I spent about 2017 sat down and built a slide deck for our business. And this was the first time was like, hey, wait a minute, this actually has legs and and can scale and what I share with people, they don't laugh at me.
Matt Waller 6:35
Amazing. So your experience in trying to invest in and trade farmland really helped you see, okay, this is a huge asset class. It's got information asymmetries, which means that some people have a lot of information, some people don't have hardly any information, it's difficult to access. So if you can create a tool to allow larger numbers of people to trade, and to share information, then you could gain efficiency in that market. So that makes total sense. There's a big leap from recognizing the inefficiencies and the asymmetries to actually having a tool, you know, to help solve that problem.
Carter Malloy 7:25
Yes, a very big leap. I think the biggest one obviously, is leaving a paying job for one that does not pay. I was lucky enough to be a little further along in my career, and wanted to move back to Arkansas and the Fayetteville place I've loved since coming here in 99. And this was a real opportunity to go try something and go swing it an opportunity. I had a friend I worked with at Stephens of like, in my very first year, there's 06 or 07 named Will Slavof, another graduate of the business school here. And I was thinking about taking a big risk at the time. And his response to me was always make those big decisions in your life as your 80 year old self. And that really stuck with me, I've actually looked at the data sense. And there's numbers and numbers of surveys of folks in nursing homes. And the what do you regret most in life question, the overwhelmingly most popular responses, I did not take enough risk. And so when you talk about that big leap, it really was one. But when I sat down and thought, am I going to regret this? Right? And so let's just plan on for the mental exercise was plan on failure and just assume that this doesn't work. If I go spend six months of my life or a year of my life swinging at this and some save money, and doesn't work, will I regret it? And the answer to that case was easily no, we got to try. So through good luck along the way, a lot of hard work, we've been able to build a great company.
Matt Waller 8:49
When you create a company like this, where you're trading, in this specific case, trading farmland, there's so many different realms that affect us regulatory, legal, practical, informational, you know, making sure people are aware, these are monumental challenges. And so I'm sure over the past four years, you've had some moments where it's felt like a heavy lift that has been a heavy lift, what were some of the most challenging aspects of getting the point where you thought you had product market fit?
Carter Malloy 9:24
It's a long list of mistakes and failures along the way. I think those are important to, to have and to celebrate them and learn from them as quickly as you can. In terms of product market fit. I'll perhaps give you an example of that. So our business is a two sided marketplace, right? There are investors and there are buyers on one side, and there are farmers and land sellers on the other. For us early on in the business, we really focused intensely on land owners. So let's go try to find landowners that are interested in selling their land and working with us and we can give them a great transaction experience. Strangely, the supply side of our marketplace was in romain. The challenging side of the business. So I kept banging my head against the wall and trying new marketing programs and with our small team of going to try and find more landowners that wanted to sell. And one of the folks on our team said, Hey, let's go work with the farmer. Instead, we've got to partner with him anyway. Let's see if the farmer can go out and find land for us. And I actually like push back against that often farmers rent land, right to grow their business. And so they may not own this land, I'm not sure if it's a good idea. And this partner of mine in the business, Ben Maddox, and Garrott McClintock, both our COO and head of farmland operations today, really pushed me hard and challenged. Let's just try. So we went out and try it. And lo and behold, that lit the switchboard up. And so one was, in terms of finding product market fit, it's often in surprising places. And then two was just trying new things, right, we had a business plan, we were sticking to it. And then we tried this small change and who were speaking to, and it really turn the company on.
Matt Waller 10:55
That seems to be so often the case which shows why it's so important to experiment. But what was it about that little change that really gave the leverage?
Carter Malloy 11:06
In our case, really, it was about with a landowner, they're going to sell one time, if they are going to sell at all. Usually they're not. And so you're out hand to mouth, feeding yourself one thing at a time, and this is specific to our business, but it applies to many other companies out there. With the farmer, in our case, suddenly, we have a partner. So that was going to be working on this land anyway. And this partner was now out looking for land for us and speaking to a whole bunch of landowners. So we got this important network node out there in the marketplace for us. And ultimately, we found people that are building businesses on top of ours, that is just a far more scalable way to build a company than it is to go do one thing at a time over and over, especially when it's really hard.
Matt Waller 11:51
So tell me a little bit about the technology side of this, how you built the technology, what does the technology do that kind of thing.
Carter Malloy 12:00
The initial technology was really about this notion of fractionalizing or securitizing. So taking an asset and breaking it up into small units or shares. So the most classic example of this is an IPO. When a company goes public, they take their shares that have been private thus far, and make them available to the general public through an IPO. And in that process, that initial public offering, they securitize right. They actually create these small securities to allow more investors in. And then trade for, as you mentioned earlier, lots of really hard things, lots of regulatory difficulties and legal legal work along the way. So in our business, the to me, the idea really before quitting a job and a partnership, I'd probably never find, again in my career, I wanted to make sure to test it. So I was able to find a group of engineers to work with. And so I'll start there. It's a sort of fascinating approach of just trying to be programmatic about things. So in that case, I knew I wanted to build an investment platform. And so I went out and found roughly 100 consumer websites for investing, and then picked my favorite 20 of those and found their lead engineers and reached out to every one of those, I think, like a couple have responded to me. And, and one of those turned out to be incredible. And so we began working together. And so I've worked on this with him at night. And ultimately, we built what's called an MVP, a minimum viable product. So we built a really, really bare bones website, and investing technology that will at least allow you to start the investment process. The whole thing didn't work. But the idea was just to get it out there and see was the public actually interested. So we spent months building that and then put it on the internet towards the end of 2018 ran a bunch of surveys alongside it, bought some Google ads and Facebook ads, which Lord knows, we didn't know what we were doing. But just to go try to throw some traffic at this tool and see if there was interest and lo and behold, there was interest and so that was really that first signal on the demand side. Ah ha. There is real product market fit here. And that was the moment for me that was the moment of comfort to jump across the chasm there and leave and go start something new.
Matt Waller 13:22
So when you started developing this technology to securitize farmland. At some point,
you know you have to wonder, right? When you think about owners trying to communicate
this concept, hey, we we could securitize your property. How were you explaining that
to them initially?
Carter Malloy 14:27
It was hard, and we explained it the wrong way 100 different ways. Right. And so for us, as I think for many businesses, some of the initial hurdles to be successful are really building trust, building trust with your customers. And in our case, with landowners and farmers, this is a huge part of their livelihoods and, frankly, a large chunk of money for investors the same thing, this is their money, that's important to people come to find out. And so it was really about creating educational materials, writing those education materials and then just getting on the phone. Right, like one of the worst mistakes I ever made was this notion of, hey, the MVP is built people like it. Great. Let's go do this, and then come to find out. Like you can't just build it and expect them to come. It takes a lot of really, really hard work and grinding and just picking up the phone and calling every person you've ever met, to try to make it work and ultimately to find the answer to that question. So I can talk about our specific case if you'd like. But ultimately, it's really the process of discovery of discovering the right messaging that resonates with the customer.
Matt Waller 15:29
So once you started finding that for it to be scalable, you can't always be calling people for it's become a real market, there's got to be enough awareness, kind of like in the stock market, where people already know you can buy and sell stock, that's known. And owners of private companies know that going public is an option. But landowners don't generally know that they can securitize their land, I think so scaling it, then there's a still a marketing challenge there is they're not.
Carter Malloy 16:03
It's a monstrous marketing challenge and continued today in our business. And I think the, ultimately, there is no silver bullet to solve any types of marketing problems. But the biggest one is, in frankly, throughout business, the most important thing is empathy is understanding what the customer wants, what your co workers want, and the employees of the company want and the partners want the investors in the business want. And so making sure that always sitting on the other side of the table. And so for us, in marketing, I think what that really meant is building a story brand. So if I go out and say, hey, we built all these features, and it securitizers your land, and it does ABC and D, they don't care about that. What does this do for them, that's what they care about. And so explaining to people, this is how this is going to help you. Suddenly, it really begins to resonate, if you're helping people to make money to grow their business, to better their livelihoods. And you can explain it in that direction, then it's far, far easier to begin that conversation and to have them actually engage and come learn.
Matt Waller 17:01
So when you're investing in stocks and bonds in the market, you don't have to be a certified investor. But if you're going to do seed funding, or private equity or something like that, you have to be a certified investor. So for someone who's switching to the other side, someone who's wanting to invest through this, do they have to be a certified investor? Yes, so
Carter Malloy 17:29
Yes, so for our platform, they are ultimately private securities. And so you do need to be an accredited investor. And so there are several ways to do that. Several of them unfortunately involve money, but a few don't, so you can be accredited if you make two or $300,000 a year. You can be accredited if you have a million dollar net worth a few other sort of financial litmus tests, or you can be accredited if you've taken some securities exams. It would be really wonderful if everyone were that were actually investing would take some exams and go or at least go study up on this. And I don't mean, read a 10 minute blog on Robinhood, about how you can get rich buying Bitcoin, but actually understanding the fundamentals of investing. So while it is somewhat of a negative for us, and that we can't let everyone invest that wants to invest, it is really positive, and that the investors coming to our platform, are generally educated on investing. And then we provide lots of subject matter expertise and educational materials. Because at the end of the day, no matter what part of the world we're talking about, the best investor is an educated one.
Matt Waller 18:27
So you're talking about explaining this marketing this in a way that is meaningful to them, that appeals to their psychographics not just what it does. So we're not just talking about securitizing property, what were some of the key things you found that they were interested in?
Carter Malloy 18:46
In our case, the primary thing that people are interested in is growing their business. So in the case of a farmer, most farmers they own equipment, they get economies of scale in that and depreciate that across more acres than economies of scale in buying seed, you're going to get a better discount, the more volume you buy. So as a result, many if not most farmers are in growth mode, they would like to grow their operation. The problem is in their case, if you want to go by the neighboring track, it may cost you a couple million dollars. Newsflash, not everybody has a couple million dollars laying around. And so our messaging towards those farmers is, hey, look, you can go to the bank and have a mortgage hanging over you if you can get that if you have the cash to put up. Or you can work with us as a quick financing mechanism to go lock up more land and grow your operation. And so that idea of we help you grow your business really resonates well. And it's a fact of life, I think in our company. And it should be in any company that it's got to be a win for your customers, or the outcome has to be positive. If you want to build a big sustainable business. You have to produce positive outcomes for the people you work with.
Matt Waller 19:49
Back to the buy side. That takes a totally different approach to marketing. I would think I would think that a lot of people want to diversify their portfolios. And I would think that knowing that this is a big opportunity that your technology or business is going to enable something that is really valuable, and has good returns at times allows for the average person to invest in farmland that normally wouldn't be able to, because they wouldn't have the time to put into it, to study it and figure out how to do it. Which is important. Even when there's good opportunities. If you don't know what you're doing, you can lose a lot of money. And so do you have different kinds of funds that are transferred, that are invested in? Or how does that work?
Carter Malloy 20:43
Through our website, you have the opportunity to invest in individual pieces of farmland. So once or twice a week, we'll put up a new farm early on in our business that tended to be row crops. So things you plant every year corn, soybeans, cotton, rice, things we're used to here in the Delta, in particular, and in the Midwest. And so that was initial focus, then we expanded out to permanent crops on the west coast. So things that grow on trees, or vines, apples, citrus, nuts, grapes, things like that, after that expanded to Australia. So we've begun doing some international offerings, and are now doing timberland as well. And so the idea for you the investor is that you can come on and build a portfolio of individual pieces of land, to our website.
Matt Waller 21:25
and what percentage of the investors are, I mean, obviously, they have to be an accredited investor. But what percentage are just individuals versus say institutional and those kinds of things?
Carter Malloy 21:38
By numbers the extreme majority is individuals and then by dollars, institutions are growing as a percentage, although still certainly a minority of what we do, it is all US based people, but almost all individual US citizens.
Matt Waller 21:52
And you've expanded globally, what are some of the challenges with expanding globally?
Carter Malloy 21:57
You know, with Australia, the reason we went there is one, we believe in the farming there, the farming ecosystem and water rights. And it's just a fascinating place to do business in what we do. But importantly, Western laws, great court systems and fantastic title law, similar to here in the US. And so it looks and acts very similar mechanically, to what we do here, obviously has its own sets of rules and regulations. And so we will likely stay concentrated there before we continue to expand internationally, just as every time it creates more and more work for the team. And we want to make sure that we as a business are well prepared to continue to under promise and over deliver and what we do.
Matt Waller 22:35
So Carter, once a company has product market fit, which is excruciating, it just takes lots of work, lots of critical thinking, lots of pivoting and morphing and, and then you've got to come up with a business model that works even when you have product market fit. And that's not always easy. It can be just as hard in some cases is harder. But once you have that you want to scale. And to scale, you need to hire people, you need to buy technology, you need to implement processes, etc, etc. And to do that you need money. And you need money at different stages, especially in technology types of businesses, you need some seed money, at some point, you may need venture capital money, different types of venture capital money. Would you mind talking to your journey with raising capital?
Carter Malloy 23:28
I'm happy to, it is a long one that we are always on. Right. I think the big takeaway for me and I may think a little more conservatively than perhaps a lot of similar hypergrowth businesses and on the west coast. But I am a pretty big believer in getting money when you can and wherever you can. And raising capital for business making sure that it is well insulated, is things will always take twice as long and or twice as much money as you expected them to. Obviously, you know, we talked about product market fit, it is incredibly vital that in that process, that discovery process, the product also has good unit economics, right so that on a per widget basis or a per transaction basis, in our case, that does have an attractive, gross margin to it that you're able to actually make money. So that if you're not growing very fast, you can focus on margin, which is really important. But as a leader of any company, the most important thing you can do before anything else is make sure you don't run out of money. Because that's it, it's over. Everything else is important there they can be much softer. If your customers are unhappy, you can still stay in business. If you run out of money, you no longer have a business. And so ones that focus again on your economics and making sure that the business can sustain itself without outside capital. And then once you've established that, it is an option for many business leaders or entrepreneurs to go raise growth capital, to invest ahead on growth to drive the business faster and to take advantage of especially when you working in large markets, the opportunity to go be a large player in those markets. So I'm happy to discuss the process of that and the challenges of that as well. But I want to make sure to call out the the importance of having money inside of your business is many years ago in my first entrepreneurial ventures, I ran out of money a couple times, and that's not fun.
Matt Waller 25:18
If you're not able to make money on the margin, you will scale yourself into poverty pretty quickly.
Carter Malloy 25:26
Matt Waller 25:26
and it does happen quite a bit. Surprisingly, during the.com, boom, it happened a lot. You know, things were scaling before they should scale quite a bit. You know, one thing that's been really interesting in Northwest Arkansas, I'm sure you've seen this, but I saw a study, I can't remember who provided it. It was only looking at accredited investors. And it was saying what percentage of accredited investors invest in seed funds or provide seed funding. And, you know, the coasts it was a lot higher percentage. Here in the middle of the country, it was low. I don't remember the numbers, but quite a dramatic difference. Meaning, essentially, people that could be investing in seed rounds didn't compare to the coasts, especially the West Coast. How about for you, before you went for venture capital. How did you go about getting seed funding?
Carter Malloy 26:31
Beg and borrow with every person I know, I think that's the way to do it. I would also take a quick moment to say that that study referring to was shared with me recently from the atento capital guys, out of Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa, and it does suggest that we have a hole in our ecosystem of folks that can invest in startups are not doing it at the rate that they do in other geographies. And so if you are one of those people listening here, it is important for our local entrepreneurial ecosystem and the growth of our region, that you are active in investing, even tiny checks in local companies. Importantly, one because it's nice for the area but two to make money, don't invest in bad companies, right. But if there's some ideas out there you believe in, sometimes it's worth taking a flyer because you can make real returns, and again, also help grow the region. For our business, I'll say Dean Waller I was lucky to work inside of technology and investing in my previous career. And so I was able to go into a lot of senior leaders and executives of tech businesses, and friends in finance. And so we as a business raised, the large majority of the capital we raised was outside of Fayetteville or outside of Northwest Arkansas. So a lot of it was on the West Coast, out of Little Rock, out of the UK, even, you know, and some some here locally, for sure. But I'm very excited to see the ramp up locally in activity among angel investors, you could call them or seed investors. So to answer your question, again, in our case, as it should be, the way to raise money is the way to build a business, which is pick up the phone and call the person you know, and you don't always have to ask for money, you can always ask for advice, and or ask for introductions. And so if people don't want to invest I would always ask well, what are the things you don't like about the business? Because it's helpful to hear and then do you know anybody else I should be speaking to, take the opportunity to get advice and to get introductions.
Matt Waller 28:18
And at what point did you will raise venture capital?
Carter Malloy 28:22
So we raised angel round call it in 2019, by is $1.9 million, you know, friends and angels, folks locally, introductions, again, through networks, etc. Then in 2020, we did our seed round, which was an actual formal priced equity round, right? So you're actually going out and doing the whole song and dance and raising raising real money. And that was three and a half million dollars if I recall, one venture capital investor, and then a few follow on investors from the previous round.
Matt Waller 28:54
So Carter, Peter Drucker was famous for saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast. And, you know, the real underlying thought there was that you can have great strategies. But if you don't have a culture that will allow for those strategies to be implemented and people buying into it, then it doesn't really matter. And you know, culture can get a lot done without communication. Because people understand, yeah, these are things that we do. But I'm wondering, since you now have over 100 employees in a relatively short period of time, how have you done that in a way that's been able to maintain the culture that you're striving for?
Carter Malloy 29:39
For a business like ours, and frankly, for any business, they're just talking about venture capital investors. They were looking for three things. They're looking for market rates, are you in a large enough market to build a real business. They're looking for product. Do you have a product the customer wants, and can be something big? They are looking for people, and I would argue very, very loudly that third is the most important by far and it's something that we really pride ourselves on as a company, is just how intense we are about hiring and have been since day one. And really seeking to work with only the absolute best and brightest. And so the most important thing I could say there is, we have never made compromises intentionally. And the temptation is insane, right? Where, oh, we just need to get this salesperson hired. Gosh, we need him so bad. We need him yesterday to start. And we met, you know, this is the 15th person we've interviewed with, and they're good enough to get the job done. Let's just go ahead and hire him, we need him. And that is the worst decision, I believe one of the worst, if not the worst decision you can make as a business. One rotten apple destroys the batch, right. And so it is absolutely incredible to only hire people that completely knock your socks off. Often, people show their best side in an interview. And so their best side isn't making you just oh my god excited, probably don't choose to live next to them. For the foreseeable future. You spend most your waking hours with these people. So we, as a business, first and foremost, with culture, have just focused on hiring incredible people. And today, our hiring process, interview process is obscene. It's more than rigorous. that offends a lot of candidates, because we ask them to do big projects for us, we ask them to do technical interviews, then come in the office and interview with a dozen more people then go through finals. And that turns some people off great. We have people that really want the job, they're really excited to come work here and are willing to go through a rigorous process. And for them, and for us both it weeds out a lot of candidates. So we're speaking a little bit to the importance of when we're talking about culture. First is making sure that your culture is built to truly and only truly exceptional people, we tend to mean reverse human nature, if there's 20 of us in a room, and one of those people is leaving at 3pm every day, we as a roomful of people probably start leaving closer to three. And so it is important that everyone is pushing one another and driving one another. So again, foundational culture is just absolutely amazing people, but then still, we have to provide as a business, anyone has to provide the beacon and the boundaries. So we're not here to micromanage people and give them task lists. Or else we'd never get anything done. And we would probably drive a lot of people crazy. So instead saying, here's where we're headed, making sure we have a very, very clear beacon that we're we're looking to achieve together. And then here are the the rules we operate within. And making that list of rules as short as possible. For us. One of those is the idea of transparency. We sit down once a month, every director point, every manager sits down and does start, stop, continue. So the employee tells the manager, hey, I want you to stop doing this thing. I want you to start doing this thing, and then continue this incredibly uncomfortable conversations. But it allows us to air our laundry, get the difficult stuff out of the way and build trust faster. So there's a long way to answer it cause it's something I'm very, very passionate about is building incredible culture.
Matt Waller 32:52
Building a business like this. Not only do you need mentors, externally as a entrepreneur, we all do, actually, no matter what you're in, I believe, but certainly people within your company also need mentors. Mentorship is so important. You know, I I've never seen a study on this. But I would suspect that people that continually have mentors and are mentoring, probably outperform those that don't. How have you been able to manage that, in your business?
Carter Malloy 33:27
For us, most importantly, just like the people that work here is we want to find really great mentors. I think everyone will be surprised at just how senior of a person is willing to mentor if you ask them. It's really exciting to be asked to be a mentor, as anyone listening here can imagine, and many have done. And so we're not afraid to ask, we will ask the absolute most senior people that we meet, whether that's for our CFO to find somebody incredibly senior in finance, other fast growing large companies or me personally or anyone else here. So one is never be afraid to ask, you don't get what you don't ask for. And then two is we really try to focus mentorship on improvement. So the worst conversation you can do with the mentors is hey, here's my idea. And here's what I'm working on. mentor says, great, you're doing a cool job. This is awesome. No one has gained anything from that conversation. So we make sure to guide those conversations with I hate to say negative but critically posed questions, right. So what can I be doing better? What have I presented today that we could do better on as a business? In this case we'll get done with a podcast today. And my question to you, Dean, Waller should be how can I do better on the next podcast? What about my answers, other than being long winded, what about my answers could have been better. And so constantly focusing and working with folks that are more experienced. Focusing on how we can improve is really what mentorships all about.
Matt Waller 34:50
That's terrific. Carter, you know, I think we are so proud of what you've accomplished to me. It's just it's so exciting to see someone from the University of Arkansas from this area create a business like you have had monumental challenges that you've overcome and are continuing to overcome. And I can see that your commitment to continuous improvement is a key part of that. But thank you so much for what you're doing for the community, for your company, for society and really, for investors opening up this opportunity. That's terrific. Thank you for joining us today.
Carter Malloy 35:34
Thank you, Dean. You're doing great.
Matt Waller 35:36
On behalf of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. I want to thank everyone for spending time with us for another engaging conversation. You can subscribe by going to your favorite podcast service and searching be epic. B E P I C