The History of BookClub
Steve Arntz and Todd Erickson are the founders of BookClub. Todd loves to understand others and solve problems creatively. He is intensely curious, loves to wear lots of hats (design, code, business), and revels in the joy of delighting customers with what he creates. Steve has a passion for helping people grow in their knowledge and career. He’s product focused and determined to solve new problems.
In January 2020, there was no BookClub. No business. No LLC. No whiteboard with ideas. Nothing. There were two people, Steve Arntz and Todd Erickson. With desire and a plethora of ideas, they landed on BookClub. A company where they could work at the intersection of human connection and growth. All they had was a name. Silicon Slopes was coming up 3 days later and they decided to launch their new company that day. With that short turnaround, they created a logo, website, and brand; they printed t-shirts, business cards, and vision boards. They researched the breakout sessions of Silicon Slopes, matched up books with each session, and created a twitter storm throughout the entire event, posting on twitter after every breakout session, taking pictures of people with their vision board and the book that changed their life.
During the entire conference, people approached Steve and Tood, recognizing they were ‘the bookclub guys.’ Amidst all of this, Steve got a text from a mentor and friend– Whitney Johnson. They met briefly, and Steve asked Whitney to be the director of their board. In response, she extended one challenge– they needed to get a paying customer. Steve and Todd promised to have their first paying customer in one month– by the end of February. So far all they had done was establish their value and idea, but still had not built a product– some code, but not fully baked.
After presenting their idea to a valued friend, Steve and Todd got their first paying customer March 1, 2020. A little past due, but they got it.
Solving New Problems
There are far more problems that haven’t been solved than problems that have been solved. Successful entrepreneurs find those new problems.
Zero to One¹ is a book Steve Referenced in the interview. It’s about the time in entrepreneurship that’s the hardest– finding the idea, getting momentum, gaining traction, making an impact, moving toward impact. It’s the part of so many stories we don’t end up hearing. It’s the long days and nights that have gone, unglorified, and missed when finally success is found and people seem to think it happened overnight. But the entrepreneur knows that isn’t the case.
Amidst COVID-19, we have a slew of new problems to solve. We’ve already seen some fast and innovative thinking, but this could be a breeding ground for a surge of new entrepreneurs. For those who have longed for the entrepreneurial life, now may be the time to take the leap. Some may even be forced into taking that leap. In fact during the week of March 23, 2020, we had 3 million people file for unemployment² (at the time of the interview–We’re now at more than 22 million unemployed). And there’s no saying that number will stay where it’s at. Many of these people have ideas that they are on the precipice of bringing to fruition and recent events are forcing them off of the metaphorical cliff, to take the leap to entrepreneurship and make that idea come to life.
In the same vein, many established entrepreneurs with strong employees, strong growth, strong revenue are finding themselves closing their doors. This makes space for new entrepreneurs to step in and for those old entrepreneurs to adjust to this new world, to solve new problems.
Taking Calculated Risks
Taking control to create value is a large way entrepreneurs take calculated risks. In fact, there are 4 key components to creating success:
- Support great relationships
- Have influence
- Be able to strategize
Very few people can do all four of those things really well. If you want to see where your strengths line up with these components, take the Clifton Strengths Finder³ evaluation. This will give you your list of 34 strengths, showing you how you stake up in these 4 categories.
Understanding your top 5 strengths can help you find partners to help you augment your weaknesses and reinforce your strengths. Check Born To Build4 out to see how your entrepreneurial strengths stack up.
Support great relationships
An idea or cause can only go so far with one person. Building relationships and knowing how to leverage them is key when trying to take an idea to a product or movement. Take a moment to see how your strengths line up in this area. Are you able to connect easily? Do you often meet one person and think of another person you should introduce them to?
Outside of business and strategic relationships you still have relationships that need to be built or maintained that will help you push yourself forward. Don’t underestimate your relationship with your partner. If you don’t have one, look to your relationship with your best friend. All familial relationships. It’s easy to get sucked in, focused, in the flow when working on a project. Don’t let this be an excuse to neglect these relationships. In fact, they can be some of your most valuable. Let them in. Share your ideas with them. They may not be your business partner, but they’re invested in you and care about your success.
Malcolm Gladwell refers to people who are especially good at this as Connectors in his book The Tipping Point. They see people as great resources, scanning through their network to think:
Who do I know that’s done this?
Who has expertise in this area?
Who do I know that shares this passion?
Articulating your idea effectively is crucial. You have to bring the right amount of emotion followed with supportive logic to get someone sold on the idea. A second group of people Malcolm Gladwell talks about are salespeople. Not your typical auto salesman. It’s true, they have a negative reputation. But the art of selling (persuasion) is crucial. If you can’t get your idea off the ground and hooked into someone, it’s not going to take off. And, often, people don’t know what they want, what pains they’re experiencing, or even quite how their life could be simpler, easier, more wonderful.
That’s where influence is important. We often look to people with knowledge or expertise to advise us. Scratch that. We often look to anyone, even social media, for input. We read product reviews, ask questions on our Instagram stories, and observe others. Being able to effectively influence others is crucial in getting your product or service sold.
Be able to strategize
The last group of people Gladwell refers to in The Tipping Point are Mavens. Mavens make change happen through information, ideas, and strategy. Processes, operations, and logistics are no joking matter. Nor are they everyone’s strong suit.
Strategy can feel slow and cumbersome. But when done right, it truly pays off. It’s a game of slow down to speed up. Measure twice, cut once. Ready. Aim. Fire. None of this cut twice, measure once. No more ready fire aim. Or even worse, no more ready.. aim… aim… aim……. Which leads us to our next area of strengths.
It’s one thing to have an idea, and a complete separate thing to turn that idea into reality. Knowing the steps it takes and taking those steps. Or even just taking the steps and making assessments along the way. Those not good at execution can spend hours or days on developing their idea. Instead of creating 1,000 small, simple prototypes, they make one complex one.
Studies have shown that quantity over quality actually results in a better outcome. For example, photography students were split into two groups and would be graded accordingly. One group was graded on their output– quantity. The other group was graded on their outcome– quality. Turns out that group one ended up doing a higher quality job by their last photo than group two did because they tended to over analyze and under execute.
When Steve was young, he received some great advice that has always stuck with him and he has given them as his three takeaways.
- Invest in relationships. Not just your business ones either. People are so crucial to your success. And not just because they can help you with business related things. Great relationships keep you sane, build your mental and emotional strength, and provide you with a safety net to fall back on. Because, let’s face it, you’ll fall a few times.
- Invest in learning. You’ll never know it all. And more knowledge, even in obscure topics, can help fuel your creativity.
- Invest in yourself. Don’t be a martyr to your business. Self care is just as vital to your bottom line as keeping good margins. We no longer live in the days where it was a badge of honor to sleep only 4 hours. Great, you did suboptimal work because you weren’t well rested. What’s there to brag about? Investing in yourself can be broken down further.
- Invest in your body & mind
- Invest in your family
- Invest in your faith
Since this conversation, Steve and Todd have decided to pivot and rebrand already. Isn’t that amazing! Sometimes it doesn’t take long to know that the current iteration you are on already needs to see the next round. So, to keep with their desire to foster human connection, they’ve rebranded to Campfire. With this approach, they won’t be stuck to one solution– book clubs. It opens up so many possibilities that really resonate with them and their company mission.
How to connect
Steve’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevearntz
Todd’s Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tericksen/