University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 118: Collin Jones on How to Position and Prepare Yourself for Success in the Digital Economy

April 07, 2021  |  By Matt Waller

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Collin Jones is the president of Resi, a streaming technology company, and a 2015 Walton College graduate. Collin has found great success in the digital world at a young age. In this episode of Be EPIC, Collin provides insight on experiences that can be valuable to pursue in college and skills that will position you to find success in the tech and digital industry.

Learn more about Resi.

Episode Transcript

[music]

0:00:08.3 Matt Waller: Hi, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Welcome to Be Epic, the podcast where we explore excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality, and what those values mean in business education and your life today. I have with me Dr. Collin Jones, president at Resi, he graduated from Walton College in 2015, and has been quite an entrepreneur. He had started his own business back in 2012, doing search engine optimization, web design, social media, e-commerce, etcetera, etcetera, and now he is the President of Resi, a streaming technology company. So Collin, thank you for joining me today.

0:01:07.3 Collin Jones: Yeah, thank you so much, Matt. I'm looking forward to the conversation and of course, love my time and love the Walton School of Business and got a lot of value out of it and... Yeah, you're in a great spot. I miss Northwest Arkansas.

[chuckle]

0:01:20.5 Matt Waller: Well, Collin, Your path is really interesting, and if you wouldn't mind... 'Cause you were in school from 2011-2015, and you started your Collin Jones Design in 2012, so I suppose that was at the end of your freshman year, is that right?

0:01:40.7 Collin Jones: Yeah, correct. So I started when I was about 16, I played golf with a guy that ran his own internet company for car dealers it was called Click Motive, and by the time they sold they had Ford, Acura, Toyota, Alexa, all of these big companies and brands that... Basically every big auto company that they did the websites for, and so that's how I learned website development and SEO, and then that was a really great experience 'cause I got to work under him doing various different roles across the business. And then when I came to school, I did the entrepreneurship degree in college, and that was a great experience 'cause they taught you, you actually had to do your own P&Ls and all this stuff that's very recommended on a very detailed level, and then in school, that was before websites were really... If you were a small business, the chance of you having a website was pretty low. The larger companies had them, not the smaller ones, and so we could go to these smaller companies, whether it's an insurance agency or a gym or whatever it was, and build them a website and get them on a recurring monthly kind of ad spend and design work spend, if you call it, and so I did that and that worked out well, and it paid for a lot of my college life and savings after and all of that.

0:02:52.0 Matt Waller: So when I look at the list of what you're doing, you were looking at different verticals like aerospace, healthcare, retail, and you were doing, of course pay-per click search engine optimization and many others, that's a broad range of industries and also a broad range of services. Was it hard for you to learn how to do all of that?

0:03:20.2 Collin Jones: Yeah, I think copywriting as a skill is very important and it's becoming increasingly important, but essentially copywriting from a marketing standpoint is very similar across industries. It's what's the value prop and how do I communicate with whoever your customer base is, whether that's a technical customer base or a customer base that doesn't care, and they just want the quick facts, and so I think that really taught me copywriting, which I think is a very important skill in terms of value prop, but it's really... I would sell to whoever would buy at that time, and we got a few employees during college that works part-time on doing things for us and wanted to keep them as busy as possible, and it was kind of cool because in that phase, I didn't have to run it like the company that I have now where I have full-time staff with benefits that I have to pay, and we have... Now at Resi, we have over 80 full-time employees. And that the P&L looks a lot different than it used to, and you just have a lot of flexibility in college when you can do your own businesses, and it really taught me the founding core principles of where's the blue ocean of what's not being reached today, and what's the cost per click to get a lead, and now it's kind of cool because technology has changed.

0:04:27.9 Collin Jones: Now, you can get what's the cost to get a customer. That was really difficult to get back then, we could estimate it, but now in our business today from a marketing funnel, I know that each new customer cost me $236. Technology has definitely grown a lot even in the six years in terms of a tracking perspective.

0:04:43.5 Matt Waller: So Collin, if you wouldn't mind, talk a little bit about your transition from your own company to being the president of Resi and also, just tell us about Resi.

0:04:55.0 Collin Jones: I'd love to. So high level, career story-wise, after doing Collin Jones Design, I always did different kind of jobs, so I was a camp counselor in my freshman year of summer, and that was a lot of fun, and then I led student instructing and then wanted to do a management program with that too, and then worked for Hewlett Packard and got the big company experience, and then actually didn't like that at all, and left after two months. I finished my big commitment as an intern and then went to work as a start-up and same start-up to this guy. The previous startup that I worked for it sold to Dealer.com and an auto trader, and so I got to see... Learn a lot of the financing side and what happens up after you get bought, and this one was the same story with a new company, triggered around medical software, and so I started working for them a lot of hours during the week, my senior year, and then as I was interviewing for different jobs and trying to walk through that question, it's so hard when you're a senior and you're looking at different things to do even if you've had internships, its just... The whole world's open, right? And you've seen a very small amount of it from a work perspective, and that was a very pressure-filled, anxiety-filled time for me as someone who wanted to make a difference in the world and be a good steward of gifts and wanna be high performing, and that was a very difficult time.

0:06:08.9 Collin Jones: I remember I was doing this interview at Workday and I was at the very, very last... It my second time in San Francisco, one of the best companies to work for in the world, and it was a shoot and I had already gotten the job offer and all of that, and I needed to do one last presentation, more so for fun, and I had this time where I couldn't remember the next thing on my mind, I've done presentations all day through different work stuff, and was a student instructor so I spoke in front of people all the time, and that had never happened to me. I just got in front and literally couldn't remember, and it was kind of funny, the first two of the people in the front row started crying because they believed in me so much, and then were seeing me fail, and that's what the job was, It was presenting technology to executives and you can't have someone do that, that can't remember the next word on the presentation.

[chuckle]

0:06:49.3 Collin Jones: And so I didn't get that job and walked out really disappointed, but also thankful for the clarity, and then ended up getting a few different kind of job opportunities that different companies that I worked with, like Hewlett-Packard, and different things like that, and took kind of a smaller one in healthcare software. It was at the time they'd just gotten bought by private equity and they were expanding by buying other businesses. And there was a real fit and that I was a person that understood digital and the digital transformations that need to happen, and what happens when you do things like the API economy and all of that, and the move to the cloud and the different sectors there. And I know you guys are very focused on blockchain, and that's definitely one of them. And so this was positioned that way in the company, and so I got to sit in a really cool spot at that company, and was there for two years as the... I kinda led the digital marketing stuff. And so that was a lot of fun. And I would definitely recommend to students that are listening to position yourself in a digital way, be the one to volunteer to write the right white paper on blockchain or whatever the next thing is, digital was today, whatever is tomorrow.

0:07:49.8 Collin Jones: And then got really restless every day as I was working in my office there, and then I would always stay open and help out my friends as they're starting new businesses and give them financial statements on how to do marketing and all of that. So this one was one... Resi used to be called Living as One that one of my friends had started, and he was a really great guy, a very technical founder that had solved this problem, and it was streaming, so we were trying to stream in different buildings and the online audiences, and there's no good solution for it. He actually worked at Hewlett-Packard and ran all their streaming divisions, and so they would use very expensive technology, like millions of dollars to give video from different locations unreliably. We all know the downsides of Zoom and/or Teams or whatever we're using. It's great for conversations, but a bunch of people watching a meeting happen is not very fun. There's drop-outs, there's bad video quality, and people expect Netflix quality. 70% of people are gone by the second buffering wheel. And so the Zoom and Meetings, it's all based on this protocol called WebRTC. It's a [0:08:46.5] ____ problem. It doesn't do well over public internet. And so we created a patent and a way to do it with much better clarity and reliability, and so the technology got a really great value prop and was changing the world in that aspect, and all we had to do was scale it.

0:08:58.4 Collin Jones: And so I jumped on, I guess, about four or five years ago, and then now we have over 80 employees and have over 150 million-dollar valuation and are growing really quickly. And we also get to do what we love, so we get to kinda choose our customers and choose the culture, and it's been really fun getting to lead that now. And you're right, I am very young and it's been very difficult in that aspect. I've had a lot of bosses that I've learned from that have been really good and some that are really bad, and you probably learn more from those that are really bad, so I wouldn't be afraid to take a bad boss 'cause it teaches you a lot of the leader that you wanna be. And now I get to be in a really fun position that has a lot of risk, but a lot of reward, and I love getting to lead a culture and get to be the guy that does all the dirty work.

0:09:41.1 Matt Waller: So Collin, it's hard to find talent right now in the space you're in. How are you doing it?

0:09:49.0 Collin Jones: Yeah, that's a great question. We struggle with it. We have a very appealing culture. People normally come to us who want to make organizations better, we have a lot of churches and non-profits that have a lot of mission behind what they do. And so I think a lot of people come to our culture that want to get out of the, Hey, I'm working 9 to 5 to sell diapers or whatever it is, even though diapers are very meaningful, I wanna do something that's more directly meaningful or whatever, something that can impact lives being saved, like Samaritan's Purse is one of our organizations, whatever it is, right? And we're that way as founders, and so we get to work with a lot of people who are mission-minded, and we actually don't hire people that aren't, so it makes it makes it even more challenging for us to hire people because we have a very strict... Keeping that culture, that culture because we believe that even though we can hire people and get butts in seats, that would be way more expensive than just waiting until we find the right person that aligns with the mission and culture.

0:10:45.9 Collin Jones: And so we hire people mostly through our customer networks, so we get to hire a lot of those people and their infrastructure, and then also just relationships from us. It's very hard right now, 'cause we're competing with Amazon and Facebook and all of those salaries, so most of it's through existing relationships, which gets hard as you get bigger. It was easier when we had five employees to hire friends that you knew did well, and now that we're over 80 and we need to probably hire another 100 people in the next year, it gets a lot more difficult to scale that, so that's a big current problem we're going through. And I noticed too, a lot of the resumes that I see don't have the right tech experience especially after college, so I would love to talk to that to be helpful to the new grads.

0:11:24.5 Matt Waller: Please do.

0:11:26.0 Collin Jones: Yeah, I am responsible in what I do for... I share strategy with our CEO, and then I'm responsible for finance, sales and marketing and success, so those are the four divisions that are under me, and then the budget for everything. So we hire developers all the time. If you're listening to this on the Walton College of Business, you want to make relationships with developers, but you're probably a personality that doesn't wanna be one, it's still a great thing to learn how to code. Java developers right now, Amazon is paying ridiculous prices, if you get a job at Amazon, it's about 150K starting salary right now, which is nuts. And so we're competing with that. And on the other side of the business, all of these other roles start out much lower than that, so if you can become a successful Java developer and just be happy writing code all day, you'll have a great salary for at least till robots automate things. And then on the side of success, I think success is probably the underdog, especially when you're in a CPG focus kind of economy and I've noticed a lot of cool things coming out with the Walton School of Business relating to technology, the product development and all of that.

0:12:27.3 Collin Jones: But we don't have a lot of insight to departments like success, so success... There's really three entry points, if you're a people person, or have one of those gifts in a software company, and those are doing entry-level tech support. I'm doing entry-level success and having a SDR role in sales, which is sales development. In the marketing side too, there's obviously entry-level roles, but normally we never really hire marketing people that don't have any experience. They gotta have some sort of intern story that's, Hey, I was able to build X to X at my short time at this or whatever. And we'll hire that way. And that's a great...

0:13:02.0 Matt Waller: So I would imagine your experience, having your own company around e-commerce and web design and search engine optimization, etcetera, etcetera, that probably helped you in this role too, right?

0:13:17.7 Collin Jones: Yeah, for sure. What's funny is I would try to get out and sell anything you can. Sales is kind of the key skill that as long as you have that you can figure out funnels and value prop, because you're trying to do it. So we used to do this thing where we... At nights we'd get off work with a friend and we would go paint numbers on streets, and we would knock on each person's door and try to sell that to them for anywhere from 15 to 40 bucks, whatever they would do. And that was a really great experience 'cause you got to... There's only a few types of personalities in the world and ways to sell to them, and that was really, really helpful and understanding that from a scalable online approach and seeing what works. And so I think actually marketing experience is great and what's probably the most valuable thing is going and trying to sell things to people, which I'm sure any entrepreneur has had to do, whether they like it or not.

0:14:06.5 Matt Waller: I've known of a few people in my life who are quite successful business people who, when they were in college sold books door to door. It's really hard and challenging and you get turned down a lot, but I even know of a student this past summer that did that. I think it's good training but it is very, very difficult.

0:14:31.7 Collin Jones: It's true. And once you can kinda get over the self forgetfulness, if you wanna call it that, then it's great. And yeah, in terms of the success department too, I think we'll see that up and coming and it's a great way to get another product work flows, really you have... Success is kinda wrapped in with professional services, which means custom solutions for customers and keeping on the platform. So they're responsible for numbers like net revenue retention and churn, which net revenue retention is how much is your existing customer expanding every year. So for a company like Salesforce, that is big, or even Zoom, net revenue retention, well, not right now, because of Corona, but net revenue retention is oftentimes a much bigger piece of their revenue than net new business. Because if they can expand the customer base by 125% every year, and they're a $500 million company, they would have to sell $200 million worth of stuff in order to outbeat the net revenue retention.

0:15:20.9 Collin Jones: And so I think we'll see success really come up in the world, and I think it's a great positioning in the organization, and not many people know about it. You're talking to customers, generally, you're given quite a bit of customer access, even though you're not very trained, like the sales route of the SDR first, you're pounding on doors, just basically doing what we were talking about selling books to people across the dorm. And that's not a very fun job, but it leads you to other things. Success, you kinda get to skip that role and you're responsible for when a customer wants to cancel, you talk to them. So you have to do that gap selling of "Hey, why did you originally come to us? And what's your ideal stay? And then what caused you to stray?" and all those things. And I think all of the divisions are interesting from a "Hey, I'm out of college, what do I do?" standpoint but I think success is one that because it doesn't pay very high in the beginning, it leads to very great things. We have a guy right now that started in success, that is now leading our whole dealer network. He almost doubled salary in whole 11 months just because he's been so successful there. So I think that's a great way to move up the organization.

0:16:22.4 Matt Waller: So Collin, we've got a number of students that are listening to this, and I'm sure they're very impressed by what you've accomplished at such a young age, what should they be doing to really just improve the value they can add when they graduate?

0:16:40.5 Collin Jones: Sure, yeah, I think Matt just told me about his son, Luke, who has started his own PPC, data-driven marketing agency, and just doing anything like that that you can do even while you're working or anything where you're teaching yourself a skill is really important. In school I learned a lot of great stuff in college, but they don't teach you the detailed, how do you do X, Y, Z, and how do you move a number. They teach you the theory behind it but you don't get the actual experience of how to move the number, you've gotta do that on your own. And a lot of the classes encourage that like, "Hey, go start your own business," or whatever it is. So you can still do that inside school, but definitely try to make your summers and the time outside of class meaningful with activities of getting the "Here's how I move this number X to Y." So whether that's doing a website for your friends coffee shop or that's being an intern for free at a company that allows you to manage their support, whatever it is, I would definitely try to get experiences like that. As we move on to more of the gig economy but also the tech economy, I think that'll move much more into how did you move X to Y, number to number. There's a lot of ways to do that, but most of the time you need to apply yourself somewhere outside.

[music]

0:17:55.4 Matt Waller: Thanks for listening to today's episode of the Be Epic podcast from the Walton College. You can find us on Google, SoundCloud, iTunes, or look for us wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us. You can find current and past episodes by searching Be Epic podcast, one word, that's B-E-E-P-I-C podcast. And now Be Epic.

[music]

Matt WallerMatthew A. Waller is the dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair and professor of supply chain management. He is also the host for the Be EPIC Podcast for Walton College.

 

Walton College's EPIC values -- Excellence, Professionalism, Innovation and Collegiality -- are the heart of Dean Waller’s podcast. Since the beginning of the series, Waller has interviewed business professionals, industry experts, CEOs and Walton College students to bring listeners first-hand accounts directly from the entrepreneurial world.

 

Waller is an SEC Academic Leadership Fellow and coauthor of “The Definitive Guide to Inventory Management: Principles and Strategies for the Efficient Flow of Inventory across the Supply Chain,” published by Pearson Education. He is the former co-editor-in-chief of Journal of Business Logistics. His opinion pieces have appeared in Wall Street Journal Asia and Financial Times.

 

Waller received an M.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and a B.S.B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Missouri.





Walton College

Walton College of Business

Since its founding at the University of Arkansas in 1926, the Sam M. Walton College of Business has grown to become the state's premier college of business – as well as a nationally competitive business school. Learn more...

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We're sitting down with innovators and business mavericks to discuss strategy, leadership and entrepreneurship. The Be EPIC Podcast is hosted by Matthew Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. Learn more...

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