Startup Strategies for Success

Startup Strategies for Success

Check out the latest episode below. Mr.Biz Radio provides business owners with the knowledge and insights needed to drive their companies forward.

Mr. Biz Radio: Startup Strategies for Success!

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:


Welcome to Mr. Biz Radio! Biz Talk for Biz Owners. During the next half hour, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth, a leading business advisor, and two-time best-selling author will cover topics that'll help business owners run their companies more profitably and more efficiently. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward. This show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth.


All right, welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz Radio. With me Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth an exciting news. For those of you are watching on YouTube or on the Mr. Biz network. We actually have our first in studio guest today. Very exciting, very exciting. So this today we're gonna talk about a, a, a really cool concept. Steve's been a friend of mine for about, I don't know, four or five years now. And it's kind of funny how we, we got started doing Steve was running an event here in town and reached out to me and, and I was gonna come speak at this event after the, the event, he and I were talking and he was telling him more about his business. And I said, you know what? I heard a guy, I gotta look up his name and connect you with this guy because I heard him speak.


It was about 18 months ago, maybe two years ago at an event about something really similar. It sounds like, you know, very similar to what you're doing. You, you probably know him already. And I started tell him about it. And he goes yeah, Ken, that was that was me. So, so yeah, I, I had forgotten Steve's name and well, we were on the phone, my defense, we were on the phone, so I, I wasn't actually looking at it. But anyway we're, we're talking this week with Mr. Steve Flaherty, who is the founder and CEO of a company called Neco Tech, and a lot of exciting things to talk about. We're gonna talk about Neco Tech, what it is, how it came to fruition. I'm telling you guys are gonna love the concept of this. We're gonna talk about an investment opportunity, and this is not a sales pitch, so don't, don't tune out now.


It's not a sales pitch, but I do wanna let you guys know about that. And then because of what Steve has been through, not only with Neco Tech with some other things as well in the third segment, we're gonna talk about, we're gonna get some tips from him on what are effective startup strategies. So some of the things that he's been through, some of the things that bumps in the road that maybe he's hit, that maybe we could steer around that avoid those things. So that's what we're gonna talk about, but before we get started with that, Steve, so first of all, welcome to show. Yeah. Thanks for having so excited to be here. Yeah. So I should mention Steve's office is like two doors down from the studio here. So that's, that's the other thing. And again, I've known him for a while and I, I got made the studio here because of Steve and, and all that kind of stuff.


So it was a very short commute for Steve to come into the studio to be on the show. But so Steve, why don't we get started with tell us a little bit about how Neco Tech got started. So what is it, how did it get started? How did it all come to fruition? Yeah, yeah. So so Neco Tech is a sustainable infrastructure company is what we say sustainable, sustainable infrastructure solutions. If you think about it, we've got sustainable equipment and sustainable materials. And then the, the perfect holy grail blend is both sustainable equipment utilizing sustainable materials. It's something that get started in my MBA at the university of Louisville. We were looking for technology to take out and compete on the venture circuit. So we had the opportunity to represent the school as we went through our MBA and actually had to be a legitimate legal entity.


So you had to be a company cuz you were actually pitching investors. But we competed all across the country and we did quite well. So in, in 2009 we ended up placing third in the, the world out of you know, over 300 teams that competed on the circuit that year. And we, we found a technology that was taking waste plastics and converting it into something that could be utilized in hot mix asphalt. And so it was, it was really cool. We were looking at the huge waste problem out there and did well on the circuit. But then, you know, you look at the, the market potential and it was like, we were just a little bit too early to market. And so we looked at it and we said, okay, well, if we're going to launch this, if we're trying to pull a market towards accepting this and you know, putting it out there it's gonna take a, probably some time little bit of political pressure and some social pressures but then also just a lot of money to, to be able to launch.


Yeah. so especially being that early in the game. Yeah. Oh exactly. So, I mean, we were talking about a waste problem that people are like, oh yeah. That's, I mean, this is cool and we get it, you know, there's there's plastic, but is, is that a huge problem? And talking about is 13 years ago, it's long time ago in the, in the, in the, in the age of a startup. I mean it's a long time ago and people, nowadays, people are talking about this all the time, but back then, yeah. I mean, like I said, you're just starting to scratch the surface of this, especially in the us anyway. Yeah, yeah. I mean, this is 2008 through 2010. And so we were starting to see the sustainability movement or impact whatever you wanna call it. We saw it as way more than a trend.


So we didn't feel like this was gonna be something that, that faded out. You had brands that were making commitments about their efforts, looking at their futures setting goals. And then, you know, genuinely caring about what was happening, you know, with the planet, you know, the whole, you can take politics aside because I mean, it was, it was it's waste you know, materials that are, that are out there, it's a problem. Doesn't matter left right center. It's an issue. Right. and you know, we, as humans are always gonna accumulate waste we're not always the best corporate citizens. And so, you know, there's a, you know abundance of it out there. And ultimately what we decided to do was kind of put it on the back burner. I kept my W2 job in the infrastructure market.


So I'm selling into the market that if we did launch, we'd already be in it. Right. So all my customers, even though I held these w two jobs kind of knew that I had this side thing and my bosses, you know, knew. And,uyou know, some of 'em thought I was crazy. Some of 'em were like, oh, you know, you should pursue it someday. Yeah. Uand also from now, maybe this will be,umaybe it'll be something right. So,uso 2018 hit with the national sort effort in China. Uand all of a sudden, you know, we have this global crisis, right? So we,uwe at the us had been shipping off 70% of our plastics overseas. Uand so we went through an accelerator and, you know, reanalyzed re honed the idea,uand found better procedures. The, the technologies had advanced to where it made it more economical for stuff.


And then ultimately, you know, still looking at it and it's like, okay, we're, we're at that game of where we've gotta go raise money or find a faster path to revenue. And ultimately we found a technology that existed that the army Corps had built for the air force. And we licensed that technology and that got us into a whole new world, the, that I never foresaw coming and starting to work with the military as a, the military, as a customer. And that's something that, as a startup, that's probably one of the most intimidating and unimaginable nuts to crack. Like, you never envision like, oh, we're a startup. We could go work with the military and not have a department of 40 people handling all that. Right. That's kind of what we foresaw. And it's actually been quite the opposite. They've been very nimble.


We're in a certain program with the air force that we can delve into later. But it's been it great. And so it's opened our eyes and gives us a testing, improving grounds with our company that they expect prototype type material. They expect, you know, to be able to run it through a gauntlet, kick the tires you know, break it essentially. Sure. Which is great from a proof of concept entrepreneurial standpoint. I mean, so, I mean, you always wanna go proof of concept, minimum viable product, soft launched, and then, you know, version one, doesn't have to be version 10, right. So you can always, you know, reiterate the military allows us to do that. But then also as a startup, you know, as you're coming out into the commercial market part of the hardest thing to compete is the valid, right?


Like, oh, you're a startup. We don't trust you. You're not this, you know, crazy organization. That's got all these skill sets and everything else like, so they're leery of you in the, the commercial marketplace coming out with the military validation has allowed us to transform and take a different approach to what a, the normal startup role would be. Yeah. So, yeah. So I'm imagine this. So you guys, you're gonna wanna listen to the rest of this because imagine being a startup and getting in with the government, let alone the military, but any type of government thing, obviously huge opportunity. So we're gonna hit a break here, come back. We'll do the Mr. Biz tip of the week. And you talking with Mr. Steve Flaherty, CEO and founder of Neco Tech


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All right. Welcome back to the show. And as we always do at the top of these second segments time, Mr. Biz tip of the week, and this one's short and sweet, and I'm sure all of you business owners out there as well as consumers will appreciate this one, happy employees, equal satisfied customers, satisfied customers, equal happy owners, right? So many people, you know, you hear this all the time. Customers number, no offense to customers. I'm one, you're one, we're all one at one point another, right? It's all about the employees. You gotta start there. You gotta get that part, right? Because if, if your employees are unhappy, they're not going to treat your customers properly. You're gonna have unhappy customers. There's gonna be more pain, the butt for you, right? You gotta start with your employees, employees gonna backbone, your right. There's only, especially as you grow and expand.


There's only so much you can do as the owner. You have to rely on those employees. So you really have to make sure that you have those happy employees. And especially now, as, as we've seen with the great resignation that's been going on now, since the pandemic, you really have to make sure that you're taking care of your employees. So you become the employer of choice in your industry, whether that's just local, global, whatever it may be, you have to make sure that you're doing some of those little extra things. And it's not always about money. Sometimes it is right. You gotta pay faired course, but it's not always about money. Sometimes it's just a little things that you can do. Little fringe benefits. You can offer your employees that are just critical and give you that little bit of an edge to make you the employer of choice and have healthy health, healthy, hopefully healthy, but healthy and happy employees, which means you're gonna have satisfied customers.


And it's gonna make you your job easier as a business owner. So that's Mr. Biz tip the week. All right. So we're talking again with Steve Flatherty this week. He's the CEO and founder of Neco Tech. You can find out more at That's and NECO spelled N E C O You get that three times now. All right. So Steve, tell us a little bit we got a little bit of the Genesis of Neco tech. Tell us about some of the, the products you guys have developed now over the last 10 years overnight success, right? Yeah, exactly. So yeah, so like I said, I mean kind of started with the recycled plastic and asphalt. That is something that we are definitely pursuing working with the army Corps of engineers in the air force, civil engineering center as well as Nash center for asphalt technology to develop that it's been amazing, the partners that we've kind of gathered over the course of a decade to be able to tackle this now that it's relevant.


So that is something that we're pursuing. We've kind of pushed that one into the development queue and the engineering queue, cuz the, the rapid asphalt patching solution that we licensed from the army Corps that is in a phase two trial with the air force right now we'll finish up that contract in the next couple months. And then look to roll that out for deployment. So looking at large scale contracts with the military, then we begin adjusting that to the commercial or traditional market. So, and if you can think about that, it's literally a fancy way of fixing potholes. So you can imagine we've all hit a pothole in our car. It sucks might cause some damage or whatever. Now imagine doing it in an F 15 that is what the military faces and, and so they have to be able to rapidly from enemy fire and natural disasters.


That's what it was developed for. So it's a it's a fancy way of fixing potholes and, and rapid statement of our infrastructure, which also translates over to asphalt and concrete all over the world. So we're super excited about that one. And then our most recent one that's gaining probably a a lot of attention just because it's it's we call it the BSR. So the Big Sexy Robot. So taking a little cue from Elon there. Yeah. but it, it is literally a, a six axis fan style robot that is mounted on a truck or a heavy duty chassis that laser scans the road and then crack seals the road. So a dry road is a happy road, so kinda like employees. So if you keep the the road dry the, the road's happy. So crack ceiling is critical to that.


No matter what climate, wherever you're at, that is what keeps out the, the stuff that can do the damage to the road. So that that's the one we're spending out. Now I'll be down at tin air force base in two weeks doing its deployment. It's testing with the air force at won a top 30 innovation award with the air force last year was one of six to get a contract out of 140 companies. So we're super excited about it. Yeah. So I was gonna say, you guys gotta check this thing out. I'm telling you whether you're in this type of thing or not, you're gonna watch this video and then you're gonna watch it again and then you're gonna send it to like 10 people I'm telling you. It is so cool to see how this thing works. So with, is it, would it be easiest to look at robotic asphalt crack seal or RMV or yeah.


Yeah. So if you go so that this is a partnership deal with RMV, so RMV.LLC. So we are the, the federal build in provider. So we're going to all the, the federal aviation, so airport the department of Homeland security, national parks and then the big one is obviously the D. O. D. With department of defense with air force, army Navy, et cetera. And before we go further, I did wanna mention, and you, you touched on it a little bit, but I don't wanna just gloss over it. You guys have had some huge wins in the last yeah. So tell us about some of those points. Yeah. So yeah, we've we've won six air force contracts in the last 24 months. Like I said, I mean, never, never envisioned doing business with the D.O.D Or if we did, it would be like the last thing right after you've, you know, succeeded everywhere else.


You'd, you'd go tackle the D.O.D. Once you have a massive so kind of flip the model on, on what we, what we thought with go to market strategy. So they're willing to pay and test a lot of different things. So that's what our contracts are, is building prototypes taking solutions that, that impact the war fighters, but then also have a dual market use cuz at the end of the day it's it's American taxpayer dollars. So it's, they're wanting to make sure that it has a broader impact on job creation on economic development as well as a actual solution to problems out there in the real world. Yeah. I mean, it's absolutely insane. Again, all the different things they're doing, but again, think about that. You know, I, I mentioned at, at the end of the first segment, but just as Steve has just alluded to as a startup, right.


You start to envision how you're gonna build this business. And like you said, you know, you think, oh my gosh, I gotta get this thing and I gotta have, I gotta have all kinds of proof before it can, I even can think about going to the government, let alone to the department of defense or any, anything like that. This guy's flipped the script he's gone the other way. So he's gonna have all this he's he's going the other way. He's gonna be, you know, have all this this proof of concept with the government, with the department of defense air force army core of engineers, et cetera. And then he is gonna go out to the market. Now, how do you think the market's gonna react to that? They're gonna be like, oh geez, this sounds pretty cool. You have you guys done this before?


Oh, I don't know. Yeah. We just do this for the air force, right? I mean it's pretty crazy. I do wanna mention, you can see, you can find this at, but Steve is actually running right now a, a campaign on we funder. And you can get in on there's an early bird discount on valuation, things like that. I will disclose and be full, fully transparent. I'm the lead investor for that. So but so this is not a sales pitch or whatever, but if what you hear is interesting to you definitely go out, you can connect to the we funder campaign through find out more about it out there. And then once you get to the Wefunder page, there's a lot more detail about specific things. They're doing the contracts that they won, the six that he had mentioned.


There's some videos out there. You get to see Steve hammering it up to the, to the camera a little bit. But you can find out more about it. And there is, there are some opportunities out there you can invest for as, as low as a hundred bucks. So even if you're like, man, and it sounds really cool. I could see the future of this. Yeah. I'll throw a hundred bucks in or a thousand bucks in or something like that. And you don't have to have a lot of money to get started with something like this. So again, if you go out to there's a link from that page. Or you can find out more about the company obviously and all the different things they're doing in different products they have, but you can get to fund your campaign through that as well. All right, we're gonna hit a break here. We're gonna come back and you hear the guy's experience. We're gonna pick his brain next and we're gonna find out what bumps in the road to avoid as a startup.


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All right. Welcome back to the show. And again, this week we're talking to Mr. Steve Flaherty, CEO and founder of Neco Tech. And again, you can find out more And you've heard about the success he has had with Neco tech. You've heard how he has absolutely flipped the model, unbeknownst to himself at the beginning, right? It wasn't really part of the plan, but nonetheless he's figured it, it out just like you have to do as a startup founder. Not everything's gonna happen a hundred percent. It's not gonna happen the way you think. I don't care how smart you are, what context you have, whatever it's always gonna be different in this case, it's been different in a massively successful way in that, you know, he's getting these, you know huge opportunities with the government, with the department of defense, et cetera.


So is, would it not be valuable for everyone listening, watching let's let's, let's hear from the master here. Right. So Steve, tell us about some startup strategies that you think not some strategies we should be doing and we should considering, and then if you've run into some issues, you know, some things we should avoid. Yeah. Yeah. So it's, it's always funny with these cuz oftentimes it's, it's so easy to give advice and everything, and then you take a step back and it's like, wait, am I, am I doing that? Am I own company? Yeah. So you know, I, I, I'm blessed to be able to ask, to teach entrepreneurship at Ohio we university and kind of do it a little bit differently than I'm not a, I'm not a normal professor or academia. So run it like an accelerator, make the kids create an, an actual company and, and go out and do a venture pitch competition at the end.


So they actually have to build a company and go through all the things. So I think the, the biggest thing to remember is that, you know, business, I, I always say ideas are free. Execution is key, so you have to be executing on things. So you have to be moving forward. You'll hear all the, the, the normal stains and everything fail fast, fail forward you know, and that's all true. So, but when you're pushing that envelope, that's when you're really getting into that growth regardless of whether your business is whether it's a main street business or whether it's a high growth startup. So, but that boils down to kind of those, those key things that we alluded to earlier with, you know, proof of concept, right? So there's a lot of ways get savvy. There's a lot of ways that you can test different things.


You know, we've, we've done things where in previous companies where, like there was a pallet sales company that we were working with. And so we literally took a picture of what the pallets would look like and threw 'em out on Facebook marketplace, just to see the response, because it's like, okay, well, if somebody respond well to it, great. If they don't, we didn't have to go spend a thousand dollars to go buy the pallets. Right? Yeah. So things like that, you know, not, you know, being malicious or, you know, false information or anything like that. But what are some of those low scale tests that you can do to test the, the, the market and then put that proof of concept out there, then, you know, the biggest step from there to, you know, commercialization is, is MVP. So minimum viable product because especially we as Americans, we're, we're very want everything and want it now, now and there's a lot of things of features in a product that, you know, you, you hit that line.


What do I need to, you know, operate a car, like, okay, it's gotta have a steering wheel. It's gotta have tires. It's gotta have an ignition switch that I can turn on. Does it have to have heated seats? Well, no, but I like them well, that's, you know, an option biz. It has to have seated seat. So I'm just gonna say, but so, but those are the things that you start thinking about because otherwise you can, you can always have you can have too much engineering, you can never have enough revenue, right. So you're never gonna have, you know, enough revenue, if you wanna solve problems in your business, getting more customers is a good, good way to solve a lot of those problems. Right. You got more things to engineer, get more customers, you know, with the version one and you can get to version two faster.


Yeah. Cause the more customers, the more feedback. Absolutely. Absolutely. So you're building that as you go. So you're getting the revenue in and you're getting feedback for you say, you know what? These heated seats don't get hot enough. Right. You know, using that example you used earlier, oh my gosh. They're scorch in my rear end. Like these things are too freaking hot. Can you tone it down a little bit? Yeah. So then you can, you know, like you're talking about like make those changes. Yeah. Oh, I think probably the original heated seats had the one, one setting. Right, right. And so that, that's where the three settings came from fire hot or, or nothing. Oh my gosh, I don't need all this. So it was either all go or no go. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I think that's important because without customers, you never get that feedback.


So you start with the MVP and then if you don't get enough customers, initially, you never get beyond that. So then you never don't have enough revenue. You start to run outta money. Yep. Start to panic. And then what I, I think what I've seen at least, I think a lot of the startups run into and that, and that scenario that we just talked about is the, they start to panic and they go, holy crap, our product isn't good enough. So then they take whatever money they have left or a big chunk of it and push more into the development. Let's do this. And let's do that without necessarily having all the feedback necessary to know that it's the heated seats of the problem. Yeah. Like they go fix the steering wheel and no one gives a crap butt steering steering is fine and they push money into the, a steering wheel and they run outta money.


And here, if they'd gotten the feedback they needed, it was the stinking seats they needed to the heated seats. So I think it's super important. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, customer discovery is huge. I mean, they're, they're your number one advocates. Right. So I mean, the, you can look at all the different metrics of everything, of customer acquisition costs and everything, the best feedback and the voice that you can get. It's somebody that's already bought from you. Right. And, and that's the, the easiest one to keep happy. So, you know, if there's a problem it's like putting out a survey, say, Hey, we know everything's not perfect. What can we do better? Or what's, what's, what's a sticking point for you and getting that and solving before it goes to mass market, that's the whole point, right? And really, you could even kill two birds of one stone net scenario, depending on what type of product you have, but asking for testimonials or, or Google ratings or whatnot.


And what you may find from that is the bad ratings are necessarily bad because that's feedback for you. And you could reach out to those folks and say, Hey, you gave us a three outta five. We really want four and five stars. What would, would it take for you to be a four, five star customer? Yep. And they go, well, let me tell you and you go, holy crap. And then you hear that from eight people out 12 that respond. You're like, we gotta fix that. And you know exactly what to fix, you know, what to go after. There's an interesting stat along the lines with what you're saying, Steve is someone, once someone buys something from you, even if they it's five bucks, they are six times as likely to, to buy from you again. Yeah. And that's that think about that? That's overall.


So even if they had a mediocre experience, there's still that's, those people are mixed into that average. Yep. That's huge. Think of the people that are four, five star rating, your company, your product, where they are, they gotta be, you know, 12, 15, 20 times more likely to spend more money with you and, or recommend you to their friends, other colleagues, et cetera. Yeah, absolutely. Well, and, and I mean, that gets into like the, the, the fundraising that we're doing you know, it's, it's cool to, you know, get capital and, and grow our business. But the main reason that we did it was to have that community, right. So, I mean, we've got 90, 96 investors in there right now. So I've got 96 people. Like I just got introduced to a Congressman through one of our investors because he happened to be sitting on a plane, had no idea that there was a Congressman that stood next.


They still parked a conversation. This guy's saying, yeah, I'm in the asphalt industry. And the Congressman saying, oh, Hey, I, I wanna, you know, know more about that because it's a hot topic right now. And he is like, I've got a really good guy to introduce you to. And next thing you know, I've got a Facebook message, you know, from this guy saying, Hey, I wanna set up a meeting with a us Congressman. It's like, that's, that's awesome. We've got 96 champions out there and more to follow, but that's the power of community. Right. And so there's, there's different ways. And so, I mean, I guess that would be the last tip is, you know, get savvy. I mean, the, the air force program that we're in is called AF works. And literally they, they funded a fertility treatment. So if you think, you know, of the air force is only weaponized systems and everything, it's way more than that.


They've got, you know, P people, you know, 80% of what the air force does is people management and taking care of the families and all the things they're like many cities. So if you have a business out there that, you know, has a a need that services, the market odds are, you can find a, a, a fit over in the air force and go get some funding. So, and then get savvy with the different ways to capitalize, you know, crowd equities is a great way. So is is what we're on. There's many different platforms we found Wefunder. It's been great. And it's, it's a way to unconventionally grow the business. Yeah. Right. So it's kind of unique. Yeah. Love it. Love it. Well, great tips, Steve. I really quick appreciate you coming on. Yeah. Good stuff, man. Good stuff. Have you back on here in another six months and hear about another six contracts you guys want. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thanks for watching guys as always. Thanks for listening. Thanks for Steve for coming on and talking about Neco tech again, Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. And as all week, don't forget cash flow is king.


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