Jake Shaefer: Elevato
In this episode, Kyle and I talk to Jake Shaefer, the CEO of Elevato, a full-stack agency that specializes in all things web. With over 18 years of experience running marketing and tech businesses, Jake shares some insights that he’s gained through selling companies, buying new ones, developing an app and selling it, and now creating a new agency to help brands with all their digital needs.
Jake Shaefer is the CEO of Elevato, a new company serving all things web. The new brand encompasses several different brands that Jake and his business partner have acquired, in order to create one large conglomerate to serve all digital needs a business may have. From advanced website design and intelligent digital marketing campaigns to secure hosting and data warehousing, Elevato has digital experts at every level to help businesses grow.
Jake got started in his career as a young account executive for a local radio station in the Midwest. His job was to secure new accounts, and that’s where he was able to learn business skills that have influenced his career today. In 2006, he started his own traditional media company. Since then, he’s sold that business, acquired established businesses, developed and sold an app, and is now creating a new brand called Elevato.
Our conversation with Jake was really interesting, especially for business owners who have ever thought about acquiring a business or selling their own. We hope you enjoy the episode. Here are a few thoughts to summarize our conversation:
When you purchased your first digital agency, was it well received by the employees at that agency?
“They received us very well. The leadership team that was there prior stayed, so my approach to it was to be very humble. I’m not here to change things. I’m not here to tell you a better way. I’m just going to observe and offer to help. My goal was to get in and be of assistance and add more than take away.”
Has buying agencies been a game changing decision for you?
“I just learned along the way that we liked to buy momentum. There’s lots of great things that come with that. You buy into a book of business that’s stable if you know how to analyze it. You buy people, resources, which in our business - people are our business. They are our product. You buy expertise. You buy a shortcut past all of those long, tough mistakes that are made in business. You meet with the staff and you realize they already solved these problems 5 years ago and if I did this on my own, I’d be learning those things the hard way. It is my preference to buy my way past some of the toddler phases and get into a more mature business situation.”
How have you managed acquiring a team and getting them acclimated to the new culture?
- Aligning them on the vision of the company and where we're going
- The values - what are the handful of values or concepts that we can all rally around?
- Having good communication along the way
Biggest takeaway from implementing EOS in 2020:
“We are going to lead this company on purpose. We’re not going to grow on accident. It’s going to be on purpose.”
What is the new company you’re starting?
Elevato is the name of the new brand and our vision and positioning statement is “All Things Web.” Anything under the digital umbrella that a business has to work with we can handle.
What’s your long term goal?
“I want to do badass work. Work with people that I love working with. I want to have resources for everyone to make a ton of money, and I want to have fun. The only way for me to do that is to grow.”
If you want to sell your business, here are a few tips:
- Go find a buyer. Go think of the types of people that would potentially want to buy your business and call them. We have sold three businesses that way.
- Don’t treat your business like the typical small business. Keep your books super clean. Don’t use the business credit card on Netflix, childcare, or dry cleaning. Just keep it clean.
- Work yourself out of the business. Once you’re gone, you’re going to be very hard to replace for the buyer.
- Consider pulling yourself off payroll, just take distributions. This way you aren’t taking resources that could be used elsewhere.
Startup Weekend: https://www.techstars.com/communities/startup-weekend
He mentions the book Traction and the EOS system: