SAVE THE DATE: Sleep Summit Oct 8-11, 2024

From Bike Shop Attic to $3B Tech Titan: The Unstoppable Journey of Podium Co-Founder Dennis Steele

Dennis Steele is the co-founder of Podium—a company they’ve taken from the attic of a bike shop to being named Forbes’ Next Billion Dollar Startups, Forbe’s Cloud 100, #13 on the Inc. 5000 list, and Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies.

Podium started as a reviews company, but that was just the beginning.

Now Podium is leading the charge to modernize the way business happens locally—powering everything from reviews to messaging and insights. Podium is a complete Interaction Management Platform, handling the full communication process for businesses.

In this episode, you’ll hear the incredible story of how Dennis and his cofounder Eric figured out a way to help Eric’s dad get his happy customers to leave reviews for his tire shop. Plus, Dennis reveals the very first conversation they had with a potential customer that made them know they had an idea that was going to work — and it was going to be big.

Discover how Podium evolved from reviews into a full platform that 100,000+ customers use for everything from text messaging to payments to phones, and tune in to hear key insights about asking for help, being resilient, and listening to your customers over industry experts.

FULL TRANSCRIPTION

Mark Kinsley: Dennis Steele is the co founder of Podium, a company they’ve taken from the attic of a bike shop to being named Forbes next billion dollar startup and cloud 100 number 13 on the Inc 5, 000 list and fast companies, world’s most innovative companies buckle up and get ready for an incredible story. The sleep summit show with Dennis Steele begins right now.

Mark Kinsley: Welcome to the sleep summit show. I’m Mark Kinsley. I’m so excited to have Dennis on the podcast today. Dennis, I have been connected to Podium for a number of years and to be sitting here with one of the founders of such an incredible company with amazing people is truly an honor. So I got to jump right into it and ask you a real question.

So outside of the bedroom. That was the first office. You were above a bike shop. I have to know, did you get the bike shop downstairs to actually

Dennis Steele: use Podium? We eventually did. Um, so I’m really proud of that. They were really hard to get though. And it kept bugging us the whole time we were up there. We were like, we got to get the shop downstairs.

Um, but we, yeah, we do work with a lot of bike shops. We eventually got them on. But that office was great. It was a great office to start and it was, we call it an attic because it was close to an attic. We, uh, there was no AC, no heat. And you can imagine we worked through like the winter in Utah and Our first piece of like company swag was a Nike winter coat so people could wear the coat the whole time they’re there in their office, like typing away on their computer.

So, um, yeah, it was a fun place to start

Mark Kinsley: the business. Surprise. We got everybody Nike coats and they’ve got Podium embroidery. We’re so happy to have you as employees and we don’t want you to turn into ice blocks. Exactly. Double meaning there. I love it. Well, Hey, it’s kind of interesting startups that do begin in bedrooms.

I can think of no better connection to the mattress industry and startups, uh, than Podium, because you guys did start in a bedroom. You eventually, you and your co founder, Eric Ray, uh, there is another Eric Ray in the mattress industry, by the way, uh, different guys, but you and Eric started Podium in the bedroom, moved above the bike shop, and it’s just been an absolute rocket ship.

Uh, was there a moment when you Hey, we, we’ve kind of got a tiger by the tail here. And was that moment when you realized we’ve really got something? Can you describe that?

Dennis Steele: Yeah. Um, I think it was when we talked to the first customer and that’s pretty early, but there, it was, it was a special moment. So.

Eric and I, we had this idea, right? We, we realized that local businesses had a huge gap in their, in their, in the software that they were using to grow their business. And we were familiar with local businesses. So Eric had a, his dad had a tire shop when he was growing up that he worked in. And, uh, right after graduating from school, I was working with local businesses actually at a PR and marketing firm.

And so I saw some of the nuances there and we, we realized that there was this big gap in software. And at the time, Google reviews was brand new. It’s funny to think about that, but back in 2004, 2013, 2014, you looked up a business. Um, this was just when we, Google started highlighting reviews for them. And so we realized that.

We needed to help businesses with this. It was killing Eric’s dad. He was bugging him every day that he was getting negative reviews and he had a lot of happy customers, but the negative people were the only ones talking. And so we said, we think we could go solve this. So we come up with this idea that we could figure out how to text a customer to get a review from them and help the business out.

And so we went in, Okay. We were designing it. I remember sitting there at my kitchen table in my one bedroom apartment, and we were designing how this application might work. And we got stuck. I can’t remember what it was, but we had this issue where we got stuck and we’re like, I don’t know how this would work.

And Eric goes, Hey, to figure this out, let’s just go talk to a real business owner. We’re just making assumptions here and talking to Eric’s dad and making guesses. Let’s go talk to a real business owner. So we looked up a, uh, a business close by. It actually happened to be a mechanic at the time and we drove down the street, looked, looked up the owner.

It was Bob Sylvester at this Honest One Auto was the, was the business. And we walk in, we say, Hey, we have a meeting with Bob. And the front desk person kind of thought they forgot the meeting and kind of it was flustered. Oh, I’ll bring you right back. So we sat down with Bob and we told him, Hey, we can help your business out.

We can help you get reviews. He started talking about how he was getting negative reviews, this pain that we saw so early on with all these local business owners. And we told him what we could do. And he said, Hey, um, yeah, I’ll sign up for this. I think we said it was a couple hundred bucks a month. He’s like, yeah, if you can do this, I’ll sign up.

And so we said, okay, great. And he said, Hey, and then you know what? If you guys build this, every business owner is going to want this. And you guys are going to be able to build a huge business. And we were like, Oh yeah. Okay. And like, we played it really cool, right? We’re like, yeah, yeah, we’re, we think it’s going to be really good, but this was the first business owner we had ever talked to, and so we wrapped up the meeting and we walked out to the car, still playing it cool, drove down the street, pulled over and just.

Started celebrating. We’re like, wow, did you hear what he said? He said, you know, we’re gonna this was gonna be huge and everybody’s gonna buy it. We were high five and we couldn’t believe it. And it was like that moment of validation. That I think we thought, okay, we have something here. We can make this into something.

There’s a huge need. And it happened to be the first business we talked to. So we got really lucky in that sense, but we held on to that for a long time because there was a lot of naysayers saying this was not the right space to go sell software into. But we held on to that, that feedback from Bob Sylvester, which was the first business owner that we talked

Mark Kinsley: to.

Uh, thank you, Bob Sylvester, number one for giving, you know, taking time to give some guys that had an idea, some feedback also, what just a serendipitous thing to be able to walk into somebody’s office who understood the pain that he was experiencing and other business owners would experience. And I remember that Dennis.

I remember back in the day, seeing all these negative reviews. And knowing that these were really good companies. I’m like, I had a positive experience here. Why are their Google reviews so terrible? And that’s because I think you typically hear from the people who are upset. They seem far more motivated than the people who had a wonderful experience.

And so you figured out a way to cultivate the customers that had a great experience and make it easy for them.

Dennis Steele: Exactly. Yeah. We saw that pain and it was a real pain and, and that just stuck with us. And, you know, what I appreciate about local business owners. I mean, I think we feel very fortunate that we get to serve local business owners.

These entrepreneurs that take on a ton of risk and run in their business, all aspects of the business, right? It’s very different. Then like the large company that we’re running now, where there’s like somebody owns everything, but still with local business owners, there’s so much that they own. And we saw and felt that pain really early on.

And it kind of embedded this like fire in us to go help these local business owners solve that pain. And, uh, yeah, we’re super fortunate to be able to serve local business owners. They’re, they’re, they’re some of the best people in the world.

Mark Kinsley: And it’s awesome. Local business owners. Let’s talk specifically about mattress retailers and furniture retailers, because that’s the world that I run in.

Um, what was it about that category, this vertical, that Podium, maybe you went and talked to customers like Bob Sylvester. In this space and you figured out what are the different transition points that had a lot of friction that we could serve. What was it about this category that got you in there and what have you noticed?

Dennis Steele: Yeah, I think retail specifically furniture and mattress. It’s a really interesting industry because Yeah, we started with, you know, the mechanic was the first one we talked to, but we quickly got into the retail space in the furniture and mattress stores and saw how powerful, um, kind of this aspect of texting was because at that time, this is when this great divide between the e commerce retail experience and the local business owner.

This is when this, like back a few years ago was when this divide was. It was the largest it had ever been. You had Amazon and Shopify and online retail creating this amazing modern experience. Great communication. You know, they were on the forefront of reviews and texting and shopping cart reminders and all these advantages you have when you’re building an e commerce business.

And it was creating this new expectation for the consumer. Right. That you, you, you purchased something, a retail item online, um, with some of the, you know, the Shopify tools or through Amazon. And it was a new buying experience for retail and it was setting a new expectation. And there was this big difference, I think, with what kind of the traditional local store experience was.

Now, there were still some advantages, right? Being in person, which I don’t think will ever go away. And I think it’s a, is a huge advantage. We can come back to that of, of why I actually think it’s a massive advantage, but there was this differentiation in basic customer journey experience. Right. And so.

That I think is what particularly we saw when we started evolving the product. I mean, we started with reviews, but we quickly went into text messaging and, and kind of molding this customer experience to, to basically break that divide and bring those experiences closer together. So you could go into a local store and the goal was to say.

If you go through this local store experience, we want, we think there’s advantages of being in person, and we think we can get this experience to be even better than a purely online experience, right? And I think we’ve been able to achieve that by pulling all the tools over all that we’ve built over these years together, but that was the goal.

And so over the last few years, I’ve seen that experience lesson and lesson and lesson. I think you could argue today, if you have the right local store experience using the right set of modern tools, you can have the ideal customer journey and the ideal customer experience than, than just being an

Mark Kinsley: online experience.

I’m going to, I’m going to bring it down to the, down to the, to the clay, put our hands in the clay for a minute. I found out about Podium during COVID because I was talking to our retailers that sell mattresses. And I was saying, Hey, what’s, what’s working for you? Are you doing appointment shopping? Are you doing virtual shopping?

And one of our retailers, sweet dreams, mattress and furniture in Mooresville, North Carolina. I was talking to Andrew Matt, man, Schlesser. And he said, Podium. I said, tell me more. I’d heard a Podium, but I didn’t quite know the use cases. And they had signed on with Podium. And of course they saw their customer interaction through their website and the web chat tick up right away, instantly.

Uh, then COVID hit and what they started doing was bringing people into the store appointment shopping. And then if somebody didn’t want to buy, they would send them a text with the information about the product they saw. I think they had a PDF attached to it. And then they said, Hey, and we’re going to include.

Eventually a path to purchase. And so they would have a text to pay link. So I always say, it’s funny, the B back bus travels in one direction and it’s not to your store. Yeah. So if people leave and they need to go talk to their spouse or think about it, they still want to be able to complete that purchase by that mattress, show it to their husband and wife and not have to go back to the store, organized delivery and boom, it’s done.

And so they were using those tools to communicate, answer questions, text with people, because when you’re texting, it feels like it’s your friend and then provide a path to purchase. And then on top of that, I’ve heard from other dealers, mattress dealers who have automated using Podium. As a way to communicate delivery expectations, phone calls don’t work.

People aren’t picking up their phone, but their text messages get read, Hey, delivery’s coming. We still good for 2 PM. Yes. Bing, bang, boom. And so their sales team, sorry, their delivery team doesn’t even have to reach out. It’s all automated. And you have a higher response rate, leading to better customer satisfaction on the backside.

So like you said, that customer journey, I always look at friction points, you know, transitions often create friction and that’s when you can lose customers. And it seems like Podium is really good at finding the friction points. And smoothing out the transitions to create a little momentum inducer there.

Yeah.

Dennis Steele: Yeah. I love the, the be back example. I think you nailed it. Like, let’s take that as an example. So especially before COVID and after, after COVID, because I think it’s important to look at the cut, the consumer. Um, the shift in consumer behavior and as a business owner realizing we have to adapt to that shift in consumer behavior or we become irrelevant, right?

So before COVID, uh, you know, you take a typical BVAC, uh, scenario, um, in store versus online. These were more distinct before COVID, right? At since COVID, those things have merged. The consumer behavior has shifted to where you almost always have this online experience, this, this, this browsing and initial, um, shopping.

Online to, to do discovery. And so before you’d have a person come into the store, you could start building that personal relationship right off the bat in person. Right. And that can give you a distinct advantage after COVID and during specially stores had to adapt to say, okay, how do I build this personal.

Trust, uh, with a customer to be able to win their business. Earlier on in the funnel and through digital tools, and that’s really what we tried to tap into. And as you said, text messaging, it’s the most personal form, right? And so we said in any of those moments of discovery for a consumer, how do we get as quickly as possible to the highest trust level of communication?

And so you’ll see with the tools, what we what we designed was a customer journey flow to within a few clicks or within a It basically pushes the customer into the highest level trust of personal communication, which is, um, you know, over the digital aspect, it’s definitely texting. And then you can move that into in person.

You can continue that online. A lot of people continue that online and then we end up sending a payment link. It’s, it’s amazing how. Powerful and personal, that conversation can be and how much of a hook it can be when that consumer is in discovery process.

Mark Kinsley: I remember I was in college and I, I did a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communication.

And I remember in communication school, we were looking at how do you establish trust online? Now this is early days of the internet. Okay. I’m a little bit old school. Um, but one of the, one of the stats that stood out to me as a student was you can establish trust. Let’s say, let’s call it online through, you know, non face to face communication, but it took about four times as long.

So it’s four times as long. When you say you’re trying to get people to that highest level of trust through this form of communication that is facilitated by Podium or plumbed by Podium, how do you see that in relation to that four times as long? Do you think you get there quicker these days with texts because that’s what people do with their friends?

Yeah, I do. How do you get them to that high level of trust in that communication?

Dennis Steele: Yeah, I think it’s having a real conversation with the real individual and connecting about the the questions and the context that they have and Being right next to the text message from their mom and their friend, right?

And you start to live you start Developing this this relationship and the higher you can do in that funnel the higher that you can do that in the funnel and I think it’s still You still, it’s still quicker in person, right? Because you, there’s just so many aspects of in person that are so advantageous to building that trust.

However, there are some, just some things that you can implement early on the funnel to try to establish that relationship earlier than, than your competitors. Right? So in that discovery process, if every, if I’m, you know, if I’m looking at 10 different mattress stores and going through just initial discovery for what I want to go purchase, and every one of those experiences and initial discovery is the same, you know, it’s pretty fair playing field.

If one of those starts texting me, answering my questions, gives me like really attending to the needs of my discovery process before the others. Well, now I’m, I have a huge advantage to the competition, right? And we see that for people who implement these tools the right way. Um, they, they hook them early and it changes the whole funnel of conversion downstream from there.

Mark Kinsley: I always tell people, whenever somebody is trying to solve a problem these days, they’re trying to solve it right now. I’ve got a friend who’s got a business in the in home healthcare space. And whenever mom is getting released from the hospital. And the daughter picks up the phone or texts through the website to try and find a place for this, for mom to go.

They want to solve that problem right now. And I think the same thing is true for a mattress and furniture. You know, when they have the capacity or the space. To solve that problem. They want to solve it right now. So the most, you know, the quickest in terms of communication is often going to win. And when you’re texting with somebody, boom, I’ve got my mattress person, or I’ve got my furniture person.

Dennis Steele: Exactly. They save that in their phone. It’s a contact in their phone. And now, yeah, it’s our starts to deliver, deliver that level of relationship. I’d also say. Like that’s an early in the funnel kind of enhancement, but then you say, okay, now they’re in store, right? And they, because it’s so often that they need to actually experience it in person, right?

So let’s say they come down, they, they test a mattress in person. Now you’re using these, these forms of communication to enhance that in person experience, right? So we have a, we have a pretty cool use case with one of our mattress stores where, um, every time somebody comes and tests a mattress, You know, and I’m sure everybody’s been there, right?

A customer comes in, test the mattress, feels like a great sale. They leave and they’re gone. Never hear from them again. Right? Um, and so what this store has started to do is they get the right information. They get some of the questions that they have. As soon as they leave, they send that text message with that information, the bed that they tested.

Um, they kind of build this really nice followup text and they have this. digital journey that they continue after that person has left the store. So you’re enhancing this advantage that you have with if you have that in person experience. You’re enhancing that with these digital tools.

Mark Kinsley: Real situation that speaks exactly, Dennis, to what you’re talking about.

I was speaking to a friend named Kelly, who’s actually going to be at Sleep Summit. And Kelly was talking about how a couple was at a restaurant next to their mattress store. And the couple just decided they were on vacation. They decided to come in and try a mattress and they liked it a lot, but they were from California and they were going to go back and they obviously weren’t going to throw it on top of the station wagon and go cross country with it.

And so Kelly said, Hey, can I just text you this information and I can give you a path to purchase if you want. Sure. No problem. Well, two hours later, the lady texts back and says, I’ll take it. It was a 4, 000 sale and they paid through their Podium text to pay link. So I think you’re absolutely right.

People are trying to solve these problems. They’re trying to solve them now. And the more you can connect with people and not, not give out a business card, just be like, Hey, I don’t have a business card. synced up. And I’m here to answer your questions now. I have another question. I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit trail, but we can go as far as you want.

Does, does AI and GPT style technology help facilitate. Increasing that trust, improving the communication and serving the customer better. And I guess the, the thought behind the question is if you are a business at scale, let’s say you’ve got a lot of different communication styles from the people that could be sending the text messages will now Podium has AI built in that can suggest a response.

And I’m sure that LLM is getting trained to better suggest responses. That lead to better outcomes. What’s, what’s the lay of the land there for Podium and AI and GPT style technology?

Dennis Steele: Yeah, one of my favorite topics ever. Um, definitely a huge relevant advancement in technology, especially since we’re in the communication space.

And so we’ve been spending a lot of time on it over the, over the last few years. Um, and the short answer is. Uh, I believe it can if done in the right way, and I’ll kind of explain a little bit about that because I was at an event a few weeks ago, and this event was all about text communication and AI, and you have probably the two most influential leaders in the world around communication and AI, which was the CEO of Twilio.

Uh, who is, you know, Twilio is a main texting software that powers part of our platform. And then you have open the CEO of open AI and they were having a discussion with us. The CEO of that open AI actually was an early investor through Y Combinator in us. And so we’ve had a relationship there and have had a partnership with open AI for a long time.

And so we’ve been, we’ve been able to be on the forefront of all of this. And it was very clear in that discussion, AI and GPT are tools that will clearly be available to almost everybody, right? And so that’s not as much the differentiator as it is the ability to take those tools and shape them into things that are actually.

Valuable for the use case, right? Cause if you just take GPT out of the box and start texting somebody, I think there probably are some gaps in being able to develop trust, answer the right questions and be really attentive. And so what we’re, what we’re doing with AI, especially as we build it into Podium is we’re saying, how do we take.

The data, right? We have 100, 000 businesses on Podium, uh, running their customers journeys through us via text message every single day through millions of conversations and, and, and thousands of thousands of, uh, furniture and mattress stores doing that as well. And we get a map these customer journeys, look at the conversion rates of those conversations and start to pull that data and train the AI to understand how to handle these conversations, particularly around furniture and mattress.

And that’s, I believe where this technology gets even more powerful. I mean, it’s, hopefully most of us have gone on and played around with chat GPT and it’s incredibly impressive. It’s even more impressive once you start to train it on the right data. And that’s what we’ve been doing at Podium. And so coming back around to does it develop trust?

I think utilizing it early on, let’s say early on, let’s just use a use case, right? So we have a hot lead kind of texting into a business and asking a few basic questions. That could be a perfect place for AI answering those questions. Incredibly quick. Um, with great insight based on all the data and all of the store information customized to that store can be extremely powerful.

And then as that conversation develops, then moving on to a person that can continue to develop that relationship and answer more questions. So that’s kind of how we think about it. Um, we want it to enhance Like I said before, you know, thinking of that, enhancing that in store experience, we want to take the advantage that most of these local businesses have, which is a relation, relationship based purchase, um, and enhance that with AI rather than completely replace it.

We might be there someday, but I think that’s the best use case for the AI today is enhance that experience and not completely replace it.

Mark Kinsley: I want to go down a little bit deeper on training the model with your own data. Uh, but before we go there, um, I heard an analogy I think is very relevant to the conversation about like chat GPT and AI, uh, in the very beginning of the, uh, the Iron Man movies, you know, Tony was the superhero because he had the Iron Man suit.

And then in later films, everybody had the Iron Man suit. It was who used it the best. I think that’s a very. Similar situation with OpenAI, ChatGPT, these large language models and training them. It’s, it’s going to be there for everybody. It’s figuring out how you can use it in your business and then use it the best.

And so as I, as I look at people thinking about how to use it best, it’s definitely a situation I think personally, where if you’re training it on your own data versus continuing to train ChatGPT. For example, you’re going to get better results. So let’s say that you’re a mattress store or a furniture retailer, and you’ve got one store or 10 stores or 20.

Do you think there’s a world where you’re going to have your own data bank that creates your, essentially your own large language model of everything that’s in your store, all your delivery processes, all your financials, all your HR, all your legal, but then. Podium, for example, is going to be able to access certain levels of that data to answer customer questions about specific products so that it’s more native to that business.

Dennis Steele: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s, that’s exactly where it’s headed and it’s really, really exciting. So, you know, right now we have, we have basic AI tools. It’s taking into account the context of the conversation and providing some suggested responses. That’s already. Kind of delivered in the market. What we’re piloting right now is exactly what you said.

So we’re uploading the, all of the information on every webpage of your, of your website. We can upload additional documents. And like you said, delivery processes, inventory, and really start to weave that in to the capabilities of the AI. And, um, it’s very, very exciting. So we’re piloting that right now, looking to deliver it soon.

But as this progresses, um, that’s the exact path where we go is how can we train it more and more even in tone and style and language to match the, the, the store culture, you know, the, the store personality, like. Um, everything that gives you an advantage as a business. And sometimes that is just basic culture and customer experience that you can deliver as a, as a business.

Sometimes it’s, it’s amazing how when we talk to really successful, um, businesses that have expanded and built out a lot of locations, sometimes that’s purely built on some basic cultural principles that the business has delivered from a customer experience standpoint and figuring out how to implement those.

Um, in a customized way to match those principles, um, is really in a really exciting future where we can use AI and some of these communication tools.

Mark Kinsley: Just in all transparency, I, uh, have been very deep down, um, down this well of AI and GPT, not as, not as obviously deep as the team at Podium where you have a partnership with, uh, Sam Altman and, and, and chat GPT and open AI.

Um, but I actually worked with the team to build what I call a mattress brain. And so we scraped hundreds of thousands of data points from all the industry trade publications, all the earnings calls and all the public company information, and we fed it into our own LLM. And so at my fingertips, I have the ability to access insane amounts of information, create content on and on it goes.

Uh, that was totally as an experiment, but there might be something there that, that becomes available. To, to the industry at some point. So I’m, I’m a huge fan of this and it’s really cool for people who are business minded and, but not technical to now be able to, to start thinking about, gosh, I can pull together information from all these disparate places, access it, synthesize it into something meaningful.

Um, Okay. So what’s your, what’s your like day to day go to, like, what are you automating away? Like what are the tools you’re using? Like you’re behind the scenes on Dennis

Dennis Steele: here. Um, yeah, uh, I use, I use it all the time. I find that what I used to use kind of Google for, I am opting more and more often to go, to go to GPT.

Um, I think actually my favorite use case recently was, uh, I was, uh, went on an anniversary trip with my wife to Italy for the first time. Amazing. We went to Rome. And, you know, we went to the Coliseum and the Roman ruins and it was hard for me to sleep that night. I was so fascinated by this, um, by this history that I hadn’t been too familiar with that I, I was, I couldn’t really sleep.

I just kept thinking about the Roman empire and how impressive it was. And so I sat down and I just, whatever question I had, I just started asking chat GPT. And I spent a couple hours, to be honest, just. Kind of informing myself of all these things around the Roman Empire and I have it tell me my sources So you can you you know now that they have that feature where you can customize how it responds to you I say always list the sources and so it lists all these Amazing books that have been written about the Roman Empire that it was resourcing and giving me the highlights of with my questions and so just going through that kind of self education experience for me Was, uh, pretty awesome.

And there’s so many use cases, but that one for me opened my eyes on how maybe chat GPT is going to be for my kids and teaching themselves how to do things as they grow up and, uh, looking at the future of where this all goes. That was one where I thought, wow, um, what a game changer

Mark Kinsley: it’s going to be.

I’ve done similar things from an international standpoint. We have, uh, England or licensees in 25 countries. And I sent an email in Portuguese the other day, and I just put it into chat GPT and said, translate it into Portuguese easy

Dennis Steele: peasy.

Mark Kinsley: We’re here on the sleep summit podcast, talking to the one and only Dennis Steele, co founder of Podium founded the company with.

Eric Ray, and they’ve built it into, I mean, from what I have read, it’s what, about a 3 billion company in terms of valuation for that number thrown around a few times. Dennis, as you think about, gosh, what a, an absolute crazy adventure this has been, what are some of the lessons now that you’ve learned and think about that you would pass along to somebody that that’s maybe in the middle of a business or, or thinking about growing and scaling a company?

Dennis Steele: Yeah, that’s great. Uh, two that come to mind. One, um, you probably heard of before and that is, um, how important it is to ask for help as an entrepreneur. I mean, Eric and I probably two guys that you would think you would never guess that this was going to be our story, right? I don’t think, um, you know, unassuming, uh, you know, sales guys that had an idea and wanted to help local businesses.

And, We asked for a lot of help and honestly, when we started selling the first version of Podium, we just were going door to door, walking into businesses, sitting down with business owners. Um, and after we had that initial feedback from that story earlier, we said, okay, I think we can actually build the product now.

And to build our first version, we, it was 750 bucks each. That was like as much as we ever invested, but. For at the time it was like all our savings has like four recently graduated college students. And so, you know, we invested that 750 bucks each got into this thing and realized, man, we have no idea what we’re doing.

And I think every local entrepreneur has kind of been there and we started asking people for help. And I look back to kind of every milestone that we hit early on. Was completely assisted by an investor or a mentor or another entrepreneur that we had never known, but we reached out and we said, Hey, we love what you’re doing.

We’d love to pick your brain and kind of figure out how you’ve learned and made mistakes. And it helped us kind of get past some of those roadblocks in the early days. So. I always say, and it’s, and it’s actually surprising how common it is for people to, and I totally relate to this kind of get stuck, hit a roadblock and, and, and kind of say, well, I’m just going to figure this out myself.

Right. When so many people have been there, right. Every founder and entrepreneur that I’ve talked to. When they were started their business, they say, I didn’t know what I was doing. Right. And we were definitely in that boat. We had no idea what we were doing. We thought the first money that we raised, which was 500, 000, we thought, okay, somehow we tricked these investors.

We’re never going to raise money again. Right. And you know, we ended up raising over 400 million, but you know, I go back to those early days and even now, okay, let’s, let’s go ask people for help. And, and people who’ve been through that before. And see how they can help us. So, um, that would probably be number one set close second in that is, and I think it’s related, but it’s kind of understanding that lack of, uh, capability and capacity in there as you’re starting things out and pushing through and just saying, Hey, everybody’s been here before, you know, I can, I can go figure this out.

And, uh, I mean, we’ve definitely used that over and over and over as we’ve

Mark Kinsley: built the company. Having some grit pushing through. I love the asking for help piece of the puzzle. I actually spoke at an event back in April, and that was one of the central things I talked about. I’m like, let somebody help you.

Let people help you. They want to help you ask for help. And we’re all in this together. Uh, when you did go out and ask for help from people and you came across, I’m sure some amazing people, cause you’re a part of the Y Combinator program, which is very prestigious, who, who are like the one or two people?

I’m sure you came across many brilliant people, but people that you have stories about, or somebody that. Had amazing advice or somebody that just struck you and arrested your attention for a long

Dennis Steele: time? Well, um, there is this one early on, uh, and it’s kind of counter to like great advice, but I think it was important for us.

So this was early on. Um, we had been selling this basic, basic product. I mean, compared to the product today, I mean, it was so basic. It was just. sent out a text, um, uh, essentially and asked for a review. We had been selling this door to door. We had gained some traction. We had some customers. This was after we raised that initial 500, 000 and we went to a startup event, uh, here in Utah.

And it was an entrepreneur that had come in from the Bay area who had been a very successful entrepreneur. We looked up to him quite a bit and he had had a successful exit and he was on his second business, which was really innovative. Um, and he gave, he gave a talk session to these, to these tech entrepreneurs here in Utah, and we ate it up.

We thought, Oh man, he’s so good and he’s learned so many things. And so we were talking to each other during the presentation. We said, Hey, let’s go up to him, tell him what we’re doing and get some advice from him after the, after the, after the conference. And so, you know, we looked up to him, we said, okay, we kind of, we, we got brave.

And we said, let’s go up. So we went up after the speech and, uh, we said, Hey, we want to tell you about what we’re doing. And he was a very dynamic speaker. I mean, very impressive. And so he starts, he lights up as we’re talking, you can see his facials. He’s really into it. And we’re thinking he’s loving this.

He is really excited about what we’re doing. Well, we misread his facials a little bit. He kind of steps back and he goes. Guys, um, I am very concerned and we’re like, Oh, uh, you know what? You know, and he said, I think you will fail. You’re selling to the wrong customers, right? Small businesses. That’s not where you want to sell software to.

It’s where software companies go to die. Um, you are in the wrong markets. Right?

You know, SMBs and, uh, you know, it’s like moving so quickly that it’s very difficult for them to adopt software. I mean, you’re just, you’re doing the wrong thing. I like kind of what you guys are doing, but you got to go sell to a different market. You got to sell to enterprise. You got to go do all these different things and totally just laid into us about how we were going to fail.

And so we sat there like completely dejected. Uh, it got gut checked, right? We were like, Oh, man, what do we do? And it took a couple days. We’re like, Hey, you know, like, have we gone down the wrong path? Are we doing the wrong thing here? So we sat there. We reflected for a few days, but we kept coming back. To knowing our customer really well, and that’s important for any entrepreneur, whether you’re a local business owner selling mattresses and furnitures or furniture or for, you know, us as a tech company, we knew the customer that we served and we knew that we actually it was really going back to Bob Sylvester’s pain.

And say no. Like we knew what this ent, what this entrepreneur was saying to us. We understood his concerns, but we knew that there was a need that wasn’t being solved and we knew we could go solve that. And so super important moment for us, we almost pivoted. We, we almost took it to heart and said, yeah, let’s shift.

He’s totally right. But we couldn’t get past the fact of like knowing that we needed to go serve this market. And it was important for us. ’cause we put our heads down, we said, no, we think this is the right way. I know there’s like, there’s, it’s going to be difficult because it’s a competitive market for local SMBs, right?

Everybody knows this. It’s a tough, tough space and that, that’s, that’s for us included, right? Because it’s, it’s, it’s pretty, uh, these business owners, they don’t have like a marketing person in an office typically. They’re, they’re, like I said at the beginning, they’re doing so many different things as you know.

And so you got to find ways to connect with them and it’s not easy. But we pushed through that, we figured out ways to get it done, and, uh, I’m glad we did. But that, that was one that came to mind.

Mark Kinsley: Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who to listen to and who to ignore. Yeah. I think the double red underline for me is you knew your customer.

You knew the pain that Bob experienced, and you had talked to plenty of other people that had similar pain. And you had a solution that was simple enough for small medium businesses to adopt. The complexity was reduced. The pain was real and you knew your customer, know your customer. That is such an important point.

And if you maybe, yeah, maybe there’s a lesson in there. If you enter one of those phases where you’re getting advice and you’re trying to filter through who to listen to. Go back, got to check it with your customer. Always,

Dennis Steele: always, always know your customer. Uh, super valuable lesson for

Mark Kinsley: us. Well, Hey, as we get to know you a little bit better, I understand you’re a triathlete.

Is that, is that right? You like to play basketball. You’re a triathlete.

Dennis Steele: Yeah. Yeah. I love it. And, uh, not, I haven’t always been, this is more of a recent thing. We had, uh, you know, one of the people that works here at Podium. They’re an iron man, which I am not yet. I’m not even half iron man yet. I’ve only done Olympic triathlons, but, uh, he challenged us.

You got to do a triathlon and I love learning new things. I’d never done much biking, running, or swimming, and, uh, had to push through some challenges with definitely the swimming, but, uh, it’s been really fun because it was a new thing to take

Mark Kinsley: on the last couple of years. Well, it sounds like swimming might be at the bottom of the list.

So which do you like better bike or run?

Dennis Steele: Um, Oh, that’s tough. I love going out for a run. Um, but biking you could travel a lot of distance and we’re lucky here in Utah. I travel kind of this path by the mountains and then we go up the canyon into some amazing picturesque locations up that up that canyon, um, in the mountains.

And, uh, it’s hard to beat. It’s hard to beat on a spring or fall day. So.

Mark Kinsley: Yeah, it’s hard to beat being on a bike. Uh, I live in Bentonville, the U S national mountain biking team just relocated here. So we’ve got a lot of landscape. I just cracked a rim on my gravel bike the other day. So I’m trying to get back to it.

Hey, there’s a question I have. So my friend, he was a very accomplished triathlete. And decathlete in college and beyond. And he would always talk to me about the transitions and triathlons. So do you, do you have any like little trick that you do during your transitions that made like a big difference for you or something you picked up?

Dennis Steele: Um, no, I really don’t. Those are tough. Those are tough because you’re so tired, you’re switching, especially from like bike to run, your legs just feel like rubber. And then from swim to bike, because swim is like such a challenging thing for me. Uh, actually, uh, this last triathlon, it’s a, it’s triathlon up in Idaho.

It’s on the Snake River and you get a little bit of current. So it’s one of the easiest swims. But for me, still pretty difficult. So I get to the end, I come out, I am just completely, most people are getting out of that swim, who are good swimmers. And they’re like, Oh, that was refreshing. Let’s, let’s go on the bike.

Uh, I’m the fleet ops. I get out completely wrecked. Uh, you know, I think even one of the judges there, one of the helpers was like, are you okay? I’m like, yeah, I’ll be okay. You know, and I’m like straggling over to my bike. So transitions for me. Tough, but, um, it is surprising how much they contribute to your time.

Um, so as I’ve gotten a little more competitive with my time, you sit there and you stare at the transitions and you’re like, you know what, it’s, it is the little things, it’s the little transitions that get you, so

Mark Kinsley: got to get better, just like with Podium. It’s those transitions that customers are going through that gets you, you got to fill them in, you got to, you got to refine those you’re so you were up at the snake river.

I’ve actually been up there. I’ve been in a twin falls and I’m playing around a golf. And a person jumps off a bridge that’s like hundreds of feet high. Luckily, they had a parachute. It’s a big base jumping spot. The Snake River was where Evel Knievel actually did a couple of his jumps over the

Dennis Steele: canyon.

Yeah, that’s awesome. The ramps are still there, by the way. I think I’ve been over that canyon in Twin Falls. It catches you out of the blue. You’re just driving along the road. Uh, I think this is the one. And then all of a sudden, this huge, beautiful canyon

Mark Kinsley: in Twin Falls. It’s like a yawn opens up in the earth right in front of you after you’re seeing tumbleweeds, basically.

Yeah. Gorgeous area. I love it. Beautiful spot. Beautiful spot. Well, thanks for Dennis. Thanks for sharing your story. Thanks for investing in the furniture and mattress category. It’s really important. I’m glad that you didn’t listen to the advice of that one person. I’m glad you used that as an opportunity to grow and learn as a leader and as a business owner.

Um, but we are, we’re thankful for Podium. I mean, it’s something that I recommend to my dealers because, you know, if Englander retailers are doing better, we’re doing better. And I know just as a, you know, communication guy and business owner, how important it is to show up, be responsive, refine those transitions.

Um, figure out modern technology and tools that can help you run it. And it’s not a burden. And I love the way that you put this. I heard you say that Podium is an interaction management platform. You’re handling the full communication process for businesses. So as you think about handling that full communication process for business and where the world’s headed.

Are there any insights into what’s on the horizon for Podium? What’s next?

Dennis Steele: Yeah, I mean, uh, we’ve kind of love how the tools have come together and, uh, it’s, it’s been a little bit of a journey, right? You started with reviews, realized that texting was the most powerful piece of that tool. And built out the messaging, realized that all those message conversations were leading to an old, archaic way of collecting payments.

So we modernized the payment piece. And now most recently, really, um, investing in phones for the last couple of years. And, and building an entire phone system into Podium. And now unifying all, we thought, you know, messaging inbox was a great thing to accomplish. But it was still missing 70 percent of the leads that you get still come through phones.

And so we built the phone system into Podium and we’re really proud of that phone system and the robustness of it now. And so phones will continue to be a focus. As you said, AI will, it’s developing at such an incredible rate. Uh, it really doesn’t slow down every couple of weeks. There’s a new development with AI and we’re trying to stay on the forefront there.

So I believe AI will continue to be a huge focus. And what we found as we looked at all these tools coming together for a business, you can run a lot of your communication and marketing on Podium. But one of the most valuable pieces that we continue to focus in on, especially with our partnerships and integrations into all the systems is lead conversion.

And it’s just such a key component of running a successful local business of, of being the business that can convert leads because you’re delivering. And customer experience that is a head and shoulders above the rest of your competition. And so we’re going to continue to focus in that area. There’s some exciting things that we have coming out on just how to convert those leads.

Because like we said earlier, for a local business is a competitive market. That’s the name of the game, right? You have to adapt, you adapt to kind of the customer, consumer behavior shifts, and then you got to be the one that can build that trust and hook those customers. And so that’s what we’re trying to focus on and, and empower business owners to

Mark Kinsley: do.

Give us a little flavor into that. Cause when I think of leads, I think, well, you’re going out and you’re doing social, you’re doing paid, you’re advertising, you’re getting leads. Um, Podium might be attracting leads through reviews. So people see reviews, they come to your site, your site’s got web chat.

Boom. They’re chatting with somebody from your team. You’ve And then you want to convert that lead. When you think about lead conversion. Can you give us a little definition so that somebody thinking, well, what do they mean by lead conversion? How are they going to help me with that?

Dennis Steele: Yeah. Our most recent product is called lead drive.

And so this is where we said, you know, we’re really good. Like if you put the Podium web chat on the website and somebody chats in it, it starts a direct text conversation with that business. And like we said, two clicks, you’re building that personal relationship. But we realized a lot of people are spending a lot of marketing dollars across a lot of different channels, Google ads, and you know, third party sites and all these marketing dollars that you’re putting to work.

Most businesses don’t treat leads all the same. They say, yes, it would be ideal to text every lead exactly when we get it. But like, it’s really hard to facilitate that. And so what we built is lead drive. And what that does is. It’s AI based and we connect into your email and we are able to consolidate all the leads that are flowing into your business from all the different channels out there that you’re spending marketing dollars to.

And we, we pipe it into that ideal customer experience in the Podium. And so now you’re enhancing all those marketing dollars and you’re. You’re getting all of them. So even if you come through some random third party site that you decided to run a promo on, they’re getting texted within a few seconds and you’re answering those questions and you’re hooking them with that personal relationship.

And so huge lift for lead conversion. And that’s the starting point. Let’s get all leads that you’re, if you’re spending a single dollar to get a lead, um, you, you want to be maximizing that dollar. And, uh, you know, we know a lot of people are spending a lot of money on marketing. And so let’s bring all this together, treat them the right ideal way.

And from there, continue to move towards conversion, use AI, give you the insights that you need as the customer, uh, progresses through the journey to help convert them and help you leverage the data that we have, right? We’re lucky to have thousands of businesses converting. Let’s let’s help you and inform you and educate you as a business owner on how to convert leads.

And so we’re working on how to put that more into the product. That’s, that’s a little bit on the future roadmap, but we have a lot of data. We’re lucky. We get to sit in the middle of all this. We get to see what works. Let us help you kind of, um, adapt to what works so that you can be getting the right customers.

Mark Kinsley: Going back to what you said. Ask for help. Well, Podium, there’s somebody, partners, you can actually ask for help. Hey, other people have solved this problem before you set at the intersection of mountains of data. How can I get better at this? And I know you’ve got a great team that that’s out there to coach people and maximize how they use Podium.

Before speaking of maximizing Podium, before we get too far away from the phones, I’m like, Hey, a phone. Yeah. Okay, great. I got a phone. What’s unique or special about the Podium phone system? And like, cause changing is hard. Why would somebody change?

Dennis Steele: Yeah, great question. Exactly what our investors, uh, some of the top investors in the world asked when we said, Hey, we’re taking on the phone system.

They said, that doesn’t sound like the most innovative thing we can do. And we said, yeah, but, uh, you’ll be surprised. And the reason is, is because it’s still so fundamental to the business. And there hasn’t been much innovation there. So some of the highlights, uh, to, you know, to be brief here is we’re utilizing AI.

So one of the things that we can do is transcribe every single phone call, have AI analyze that we summarize the phone call into a few bullet points and we deduce action items for the team from that phone call that happens on every single phone call. So this is so helpful. You’re on the run. Right. Like we talked about, you’re doing so many things as a, as a business owner, or even as a salesperson, um, and clock doesn’t stop, right?

In retail, people are purchasing 24 seven, right? And so anytime you take a phone call anywhere. On your phone through the Podium app, we’re transcribing that we’re analyzing it with AI. We’re giving you summaries around, Hey, you talked about this item, talked about this price point. You talked about this availability, you made this appointment, and then we’re creating action items from that for you.

The idea here is. Enhance this experience, which talking to somebody over the phone create form of communication. How do we then enhance that in a modern way to drive conversion? And that’s what these tools are meant to do. Um, there’s a lot of other features in phones, but that’s one I think that’s just so innovative and there’s still a long way we can go with that.

And so many people miss phone calls. I mean, going back to Eric’s dad’s business. He didn’t even have a voicemail, right? And we’re like, man, how much business are you, are you losing? Cause you don’t even have a voicemail, but it’s so easy to miss a phone call. And so you miss a phone call on Podium. Since we’re tied into texting, you get an automatic text back.

Hey, sorry, we missed your call. What can I help you with? And if you have the AI turned on, there’s a quick response there. So even if you’re tied up or it’s non business hours. We’re trying to say, somebody’s reaching you through the phone, high intent, high intent. How do we not lose that conversation? The most recent stats is, uh, on average, from the study that we did with our customers, there was 28 missed calls that never interacted with that business again, per month, per month, on average, this was in, this was in retail.

So. 28 missed opportunities, probably from expensive marketing dollars of customers coming to you, missing the call, and then probably getting tied up with your competition down the road and not, not calling or text or not calling back. And we were able to re engage with almost all of those through text messages.

And so what we came up with is like, Hey, you will gain about 28 additional leads every month by turning on Podium phones because you’re not missing those calls and you can keep that engagement with that customer, which 28 leads a month, uh, on average was, was surprising to us, but you’re busy, you’re busy business.

It’s going to happen, uh, but just don’t let it cost you so much. Right?

Mark Kinsley: My gosh. I, as a business owner, can you imagine if you had salespeople at different stores and you found out that they were in the back room when 28 ups walked in the door and they never got to interact with them and even on, uh, on a recent show that I did.

We were talking, uh, this guy named Todd, um, what Diamond Mattress was telling me, hey, we got to treat the phones like an actual person that’s in front of you and take them through the entire sales process. Uh, so yeah, that’s, those are big dollars. I mean, even at a 10 percent conversion rate, let’s call it three sales a month.

You’re missing three sales a month at an hour, you know, I don’t take your average ticket and think about that. And then over the course of a year, that’s, those are, that’s real money that starts adding up. And that’s where my mind, Dennis immediately went was even if somebody calls through the Podium number and you did miss them.

That number goes into your database so you can then interact with them again. So you’re never actually fully missing that call.

Dennis Steele: Yep. You never lose them, right? You text them right back, of course, but you can remarket to them, but the marketing tools later on, they’re always in there, right? So you, you, yeah, you don’t lose them.

So,

Mark Kinsley: Hey, we’re going to find out also, I’m not going to let you skip out on the strangest place you’ve ever slept, but I got to ask you a question about you and Eric. So Eric is your co founder. So as. These guys on this amazing growth journey What gives you a ton of energy versus the parts of the business that feel like they drain

Dennis Steele: you?

Oh, man, great question First of all, you know having a co founder like eric I feel extremely fortunate. Um, you know, it’s such a, you know, it can be a difficult partnership. Um, you know, business partnership can be very difficult and sometimes a source of a lot of issues within the business. And we’ve been very fortunate there.

We were friends before Podium. We’ve been able to kind of keep that all the way through and, you know, working closer together today than ever. I think that, I think that that is an aspect of what really drives a lot of energy is we You know, we still feel like we’re constantly collaborating and innovating on how, on how to take this business to the next level.

And I don’t think I would have guessed it. If you would ask me 10 years ago, Hey, on year 10, are you going to be as, or more excited than you were? And, and, and, and this like first year when you’re starting the business, I probably would have been like, ah, I doubt it. I highly doubt it. But that’s the reality.

Uh, so feel really lucky about that. I think there’s two things. One, I do think we serve like the best customer in the world and that’s your local entrepreneur. Um, it’s just so fun to that customer when, which is our mission. And if you have a mission, if you have something, you’re you’re striving for every day that’s a little bit bigger than just like, you know, monetary reward or, you know, um, you know, building something big, chasing after a mission.

It’s, I’ve learned a lesson around how powerful that’s been and how sustaining that’s been over the years, where I can get up every day and say, Hey, yeah, you know, we had a great month. We had a bad month, whatever it was, but we were on a mission. Around a mission to be a platform that changes the way local business happens and how local businesses win every day.

That mission is just so invigorating every day. So advice. There’s like, find that mission. Find that. Why have that drive you and not, you know, a shallower form of motivation. Um, and. It hasn’t stopped and it’s, it’s been so cool to see these, these technologies. We never thought we’d have the capability of building a phone system.

But, you know, as we built our capacity and we brought on a chief product officer that had built MailChimp, we said, okay, yeah, we have the skills. We have the team. We have 180 engineers here. Like we can build an, a modern phone system and actually pull this off and going after those ambitious lofty challenges has been so rewarding and then invigorating to go take on the next thing.

And then AI comes out and we say, Oh, how do we be the system? It’s such a hard thing to maybe access. For the average individual. How do I access a I and make it actually have help? Have it help me make money. Well, how do we become the platform to naval local business owners to do that leverage a I to help them make money?

Wow. What a challenge and how invigorating exciting that’s been in the last year or so. And, you know, I think there’s There’s more that’s going to come out that just is going to maybe take us to the next level and have us kind of go after again. So constantly going after a new challenge. It’s been a fun, fun ride.

Well, and as

Mark Kinsley: those new things develop, we’ll have to have you back to talk shop. But in the meantime, we got to know, I’m inquiring minds want to know where is the strangest place Dennis Steele co founder of Podium has ever slept.

Dennis Steele: Wow. Um, great, great question. Um, I might have a good one for this. Never thought I would do this.

Eric is an extremely adventurous guy and I, you know, don’t really back down from an adventure. And so, um, it’s kind of a longer story, but we basically had the opportunity to go do a five day. Legitimate survival trip to the Marshall Islands. And so, strangest place I ever slept was on a remote, deserted island.

Uh, who, you know, people hadn’t been there for at least ten years because you need permission from the Marshall Islands government to go there. Um, probably the most remote part of the world because we took multiple planes and then two fishing boats out to this remote island in the middle of the Marshall Islands.

And we survived for five days. With a spear, uh, like snorkeling equipment. Uh, we had some water desalinators to pump the seawater into regular water and a hammock. So, sleeping on that hammock for five days on this deserted island with very limited food, uh, very strange for me. Um, really, really strange.

And that last night where we were just suffering through hunger, um, I’m sitting on that hammock, and it’s, it was really windy, and so I had this noise. I was having trouble sleeping, and, you know, I just had this overwhelming sense of gratitude of, man, I get to sleep in a, And I felt pretty grateful at that moment for having a mattress.

So I don’t think anybody should take mattresses for granted. Such a great thing. Cause I was sleeping on a hammock at an Island and it was not fun.

Mark Kinsley: What’d you eat? I mean, at that point, did you actually spear some fish? How did you stay?

Dennis Steele: The first day we had a great.

Um, he went down and speared a 40 pound grouper first day and we thought there was about five, uh, seven of us who went on this trip. We thought, okay, this is basically going to be like an island vacation. We’re going to be eating fish. We had so much leftover fish. We ate till we were so full that first day.

We thought, okay, this is going to be easy, man. That was it. We barely got any, like, we didn’t really get anything after that. There was a few land crabs, uh, they’re called coconut crabs. They get like the size of a volleyball, but split between seven people. Um, there wasn’t too much crab. So it was like a few crabs, big fish the first day, but by day five we were hurting.

So

Mark Kinsley: happy to get back home to your wife and four kids and that beautiful mattress. Yes,

Dennis Steele: exactly.

Mark Kinsley: Exactly. Well, I think that, that goes right up there with some of the stranger places anybody’s ever slept. Especially when you’re talking a couple planes and a couple fishing boats and seven guys and spearing a fish and sleeping in a hammock and hoping that your hunger’s gonna go away.

Yeah. That’s legit. Yeah. I definitely had the, uh, ketosis kicked in, I’m sure.

Dennis Steele: Oh, definitely. Definitely.

Mark Kinsley: Well Dennis, hey, thank you so much. I always like to ask, is there anything I didn’t touch on that you want to highlight? Or anything I didn’t ask that you think is important to share?

Dennis Steele: No, I don’t think, uh, I think we covered a lot of ground.

Um, so I can’t, I can’t think of, We’re an exciting, we’re in an exciting time. So like you said, we should get back together and chat more about, you know, the developments of AI and how fast everything’s moving. It’s, it’s an exciting future. So we should continue the conversation

Mark Kinsley: for sure. Should absolutely do it.

You’re an incredible guy. I mean, amazing, um, marks of success and humbleness and a spirit of giving purpose and mission. Uh, if anybody’s watching this, I mean, Dennis is not, he’s not an old guy. Uh, young, he’s a young guy and, um, you’re, you’re certainly, uh, impacting a lot of lives and we thank you for everything, uh, that you do for the furniture and mattress industry on the retail side of things.

And I just have to give a shout out to your entire team at Podium. I’ve had a chance to get to know a lot of them. And Shannon Blake is my, my dear friend and so many other people that I’ve interacted with along the way. You and Eric and your leadership team are clearly doing something incredibly right because the people you have are some of the best I’ve ever interacted with in my entire career.

So kudos to your team.

Dennis Steele: Huge. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. That means, means a lot. It’s so amazing to hear and you know, I feel the same way and it makes such a difference to work with such amazing individuals that inspire me every day. I learn from them every day. Um, it’s one of, it’s been one of the greatest opportunities I think of.

Like being lucky enough to start Podium is being with amazing people that you can learn from every day, uh, makes all the difference. So really appreciate that. And I agree with you. Great, great team. Great individuals.

Mark Kinsley: Well, Eric, thank, I’m sorry. Tell Eric hi and Dennis. Thank you so much for being on the show.

And we’ll look forward to catching up with you soon.

Dennis Steele: Awesome. Thanks so much, Mark. Appreciate it.

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