Brett Farmiloe knew he couldn’t sit by and do nothing when he found that half of the American workforce dislikes what they do for a living. He took a road trip in a RV across the country with a few friends to interview people about their careers. What he discovered from interviewing everyone from goat farmers to CEOs is priceless. He’s brought his insights from the road into the culture of Markitors, a Phoenix based digital marketing firm. As the company’s CEO, Farmiloe is intentional about doing everything he can to create an atmosphere where his employees can thrive.
Get ready to laugh, be challenged and be inspired by this premiere episode of The Benifit, a podcast that interviews executives who are a testament to the idea that when humans thrive, companies prosper.
[01:00] Brett talks RV road trip, fainting goats and overcoming fear
[04:42] “I think my morning routine really starts in the evening of the night before.”
[08:09] Brett shares the song that gets him up and moving in the morning
[09:34] Brett shares the three rules he lives by (Spoiler Alert: One is happy wife, happy life)
[10:50] “When I look at how I’ve gotten to where I’m at today, a lot of it is because of broken rules.”
[15:43] Brett talks about creating a thriving culture at Markitors
[20:52] Brett shares how marketing firms can create perks through partnerships with clients
[24:16] “If you’re a founder or in an execute level position, or even in a mid-level, entry-level position, trusting yourself and your instincts and trusting that you’re a valid audience has some really positive results.”
The Benifit: Interview with Brett Farmiloe, CEO of Markitors
[00:00:05] Kate King: Hi, this is Kate King, host of the Benifit, where every episode we dive in and explore companies, their culture, and the benefits they offer to enable their people to thrive. My first guest, I’m joined by Brett Farmiloe, he’s the CEO of Markitors, a full service digital marketing agency and the author of the book Pursue the Passion. He’s also a pretty cool dude, backyard chicken farmer, and three time RV owner, and father to two awesome kids. Today we talk about how we action benefits for his company, his passion and purpose of being an entrepreneur, and his fearless nature as to how he gets stuff done.
Brett, in your TEDx talk, you talk about discarding conventional career wisdom and turning your passion into your profession. Can you just tell me a little bit more about that and the journey you’ve had with this?
[00:01:00] Brett Farmiloe: Yes, for sure. It’s good to be with you, Kate. In regards to your question, when I was coming out of college, I read a stat that said, “Half the American workforce dislikes what they do for a living,” which I realize there’s some stats out there that are a little higher than that. But my response to that was taking a road trip across the country in an RV with a couple of friends to interview people about their career path. We interviewed over 300 people over two summers on two road trips. The commonality of what I found with all the different interviews that we were doing is that there was an element of fear in everyone’s story that they had to overcome.
We interviewed this farmer in Tennessee and it brought everything full circle for me. And that the farmer– with the farmer of fainting goats, and fainting goats are goats that actually faint when they have– basically, when they experience fear. They get a boost of adrenaline, they freeze up, and sometimes they just straight up fall over and freeze for like 10 seconds. It’s one of the most outrageous things. Kate, if you ever go to goat farm, you just run right at them and they freeze, and it’s crazy.
When I looked at the fainting goat and I experienced that for myself and heard all these stories, essentially, what we’re facing in career decisions is constant fear. And as human beings, we have just a natural tendency to paralyze ourselves with indecision and with worst come outcomes and all that stuff. So, when I look at the journey of how I’ve gotten here today in some of the career stuff, really it’s about being– I guess this is such a stupid analogy, but a baby fainting goat, because baby fainting goats don’t faint. They’re fearless creatures, they have yet to learn any kind of fear like the adults.
That’s how I try to approach each day. It’s kind of just from a fearless angle so that I don’t paralyze and I continue to make some progress.
[00:03:16] Kate: Wow, fantastic. That’s an awesome story. When I was listening to you on the TEDx, I was so hoping you’ll bring that up. Because now I have in my head, “Is this a fainting goat moment? And am I going to be a young goat here or a kid?” Do they call them kids? I guess so. That’s a fantastic story.
[00:03:40] Brett: Yes, no doubt.
[00:03:43] Kate: [laughs] I still got this goat in my head now.
[00:03:46] Brett: I’ll tell AA, go to YouTube, type in fainting goat, and you’re going to be entertained for, at least, 30 seconds.
[00:03:52] Kate: [laughs] Awesome. I probably can tag, at least I’d say, 10 of those that I can readably give examples of just in– going out until what would have been an entrepreneur. I’m sure many of our listeners also will have that.
[00:04:11] Brett: Okay, yes.
[00:04:13] Kate: Yes. I’m going to move on to morning routines. I love this idea. I look at conventional career wisdom, and this was never brought up for me in my past where I had a conventional career, and I’ve read a lot about it. Tim Ferris uses it all the time. All the big players out there all talk of morning routines. Talk to me about yours. What’s your morning routine? Do you have one? Did you create one? Do you think, “What the hell you’re talking about”?
[00:04:42] Brett: Yes. No, it’s a really good question. I think my morning routine really starts in the evening of the night before. I’m a big proponent of making a list before you go to sleep of what you’re going to accomplish the next day, and so that you’re waking up with– well, first of all, you’re thinking about it while you sleep. And then second, you wake up with a certainty of what you’re going to set out and do that day. With every night, essentially what I’ll do is I’ll jot down six things. I try to limit it to just six.
I’ll also put amount of time that I’m going to spend on each task so that I could wake up and organize the day and accomplish what I need to accomplish, before addressing anything else that’s stacked up on top of the possibilities that I have. The morning routine really starts in the evening, and then my mornings are pretty basic and boring as getting up, getting ready, having coffee, getting the kids out. Then going over the day.
[00:05:38] Kate: Oh, I love it. I love it. How successful you are implementing that. Do you pretty much stick to it?
[00:05:45] Brett: It’s a daily challenge where you’ve got your six things. You’re armed and ready for the day, and then you get temptations like, “Oh, I’m going to open this email inbox and see what has come in there.” Another really good tip that has kept me grounded, and it also punishes you a little bit, is that if you open an email, you have to take action on it. That is the worst of eliminating the mark as unread button. Then, all of a sudden, you’re spending time doing these tasks for these emails that you’ve just opened.
That definitely keeps you honest because if you force yourself to take action on everything that you, I guess, come across, then you do not accomplish anything. That really keeps me away from emails. That if I do open it, I do take action. Yes.
[00:06:42] Kate: That’s a fantastic rule to live by. I love it.
[00:06:46] Brett: Yes, because you’re wasting a ton of time. If you think about it, you probably waste about 15 minutes a week or a day just opening emails, marking them as unread. Then if you take a look at that over the course of a year, essentially, you’re wasting like two weeks of inaction. Yes, if you go back to that fainting goat thing, and you’re looking at the lack of action that is taken and all the time and opportunities that are wasted by being paralyzed and not taking action on something, then you’re basically wasting your entire vacation time for a course of a year.
[00:07:28] Kate: Yes. That’s a fantastic way to look at it. I’m just looking at my email box. I’ll be looking it once we’re done here going, “What’s my fainting goat moment?”
[00:07:41] Kate: That’s fantastic. So, you get up in the morning and you’ve already got your agenda set. I always look at how you bring music in. Is there any song that really gets you going in the morning that you– you’ve got your to-do list, you’re going to go nail the day, and there’s that song that just entirely energizes you and gives you the confidence to just go get it?
[00:08:09] Brett: In the morning, I would say that we play the Don’t Want To Know music video by Maroon 5 to get these kids ready and out the door. That is my get up and go song because it gets my kids up and gets them going. In terms of my music when I need to get in the zone and I’m like in web development mode or writing mode or some kind of get stuff done moment, there’s this playlist on Pandora that I’ve been probably listening to for like five years. It’s the Wet Deck Mix by W. Hotels.
It’s like the stupidest playlist, but because– it’s weird because I’ve almost trained my mind to hear these songs and then I immediately focus. So, it’s more background noise than anything, but it’s the weirdest thing ever.
[00:09:01] Brett: W. Hotels Wet Deck Mix.
[00:09:01] Kate: I love it. That’s fantastic. All right. Well, Brett, thank you. I just really wanted to get to know you. I’ve got one last question before we really get into the meat of the podcast today on Benifits. Can you just give the audience–you’re an entrepreneur. We’ve talked about a backyard chicken farmer, you’re a threetime RV owner, it’s all these great stuff. You’re a dad, you get up, you do all these. What’s the three rules you live by?
[00:09:34] Brett: First of all, those are huge accomplishments right there. Three time RV owner and backyard chicken farmer. Second, that’s a pretty tough question. So, three rules I live by, I would say, happy wife, happy wife. That is by far the most important rule. Keep your partner happy and your life will be pretty happy as well.
Second one, I like the saying, you are unique. I feel like that’s a pretty good statement in the sense that the way that I try to approach life is recognizing that every human being is that you’re a repeatable miracle. By putting that into perspective, those unique qualities about everyone, no matter how much you may not get along with them or how they’re treating you, though it’s really difficult to get along with everyone, but when you put that into perspective, it forces you to take a different approach to a human being. That’s definitely one that I have. Then third one, in regards to rules, maybe break all the rules. [laughs]
[00:10:49] Kate: Nice.
[00:10:50] Brett: I guess why I say that is when I look at– I’m probably just going to dig myself a hole here, but when I look at how I’ve gotten to where I’m at today, a lot of it is because of broken rules. Not like gone out and stolen cars or rules that are laws, but rules that just don’t make sense. That I want to test the boundaries. I think when you look at marketing, there’s a lot of those rules. You look at Facebook and Twitter and some of these different social media platforms that have these limitations, I’ve always tried to push those limitations.
And a result of pushing those limitations and breaking these arbitrary rules, you experience what it’s like on the other side so that you could go back and know where the true line is drawn and what the benefit is of pushing boundaries. I guess that would be the third rule I’ll advise. To, I guess, question the rules, break them, and then to retreat back on the other side. [laughs]
[00:11:59] Kate: I love it. You know what? I love it so much, because at the beginning of the podcast, we started talking about conventional career wisdom. It’s not just the conventional career wisdom that you are like, “Okay, I’m going to do something different.” Even in your every day, you’re looking at, “What does it say that we do and how can we make it better? How can we start changing some things up?” I love that and I think that’s a critical trait of a successful entrepreneur.
[00:12:29] Brett: I don’t think boxes really work out too well.
[00:12:33] Kate: Yes. And I love that you know, in your number two, that everybody is unique. I think you’re right. It comes down to that. If you could give unconditional love, if you can go that far and just love everybody as being unique, then you’d have that real open-minded opportunity to go after breaking the rules, if you like.
[00:12:53] Brett: Yes. I can see it.
[00:12:56] Kate: Very cool, Brett, thank you so much. I’m just going to move now into a few questions about your business, if that’s okay. I really want to get at culture, what you do with benefits at Markitors. I’m really going to your kind of decision-making behind how you created that, and how it really enables your people to thrive. First of all, let’s just take a step back and talk about your core purpose at Markitors.
[00:13:23] Brett: Okay. Personal purpose with Markitors?
[00:13:27] Kate: Yes, but the personal and what Markitors does. Why would people come to you?
[00:13:33] Brett: All right. I got you. Markitors is a full-service digital marketing company. We connect small businesses with clients and customers and have a good time doing it. That is our mission statement. When I look at our mission statement, the way that the mission statement is derived, it really goes back to my core purpose. And my core purpose, I think, comes from two statistics that I’ve read that have had a significant impact on my life. One is the step that inspired the couple of road trips which, that the majority of the workforce dislikes what they do for a living.
The mission statement, we purposely put in have a good time doing it, so that we create a culture where people enjoy going to work. For me, that is a really important driver, is to create a company and create a large company that attracts people. And if I could carve out a small portion in the world that has employees who go to a job that they enjoy, then that is my definition of success. That’s one. And then the second purpose is, you read that, I think it was like 80% of small businesses go out of business within 5 years.
In my experience, there’s been some really deserving small businesses with good ideas, good energy, and just have had trouble connecting their products with the clients and customers who can support them with revenue. And so, that’s a skill set that we have here, and that I have, in doing marketing that actually works. So, I think that’s another core purpose, is to be of service to these small businesses that are going out of business at such a high rate.
[00:15:14] Kate: Fantastic. When you look at the success metric and as we are looking at kind of people in the workplace, I think there’s a huge connection between ensuring that you have the same voice of customer and voice of employee, and that whole ecosystem works really well together. Based on that, can you talk about how you create a thriving culture at Markitors, and perhaps give a few examples?
[00:15:43] Brett: Yes. So, creating a thriving culture. My favorite question as of late, that I think everyone here is sick of me asking is, “What would you do if you were the CEO today?” When you think about creating a thriving culture, really what you got to do as a CEO is listen and hear the suggestions of the people who are in it, who have different perspectives, different wants, different needs, different believes. And then to listen to them and take some action on it.
In asking that, one of them was like, “Hey, we need a water cooler and not water bottles. Very conscious of the environment and it makes me feel bad every day where I drink a water and throw a plastic water bottle away. Get a water cooler.” So, you go get a water cooler. Another one is like, “My boyfriend is in New York. I’m in this long-distance relationship. I really [unintelligible 00:16:40] a flexible work environment. It would be possible to work remotely to go to New York for a week.”
So, it’s basically adopting and shaping our culture based off of the feedback that you’re receiving. Which is very similar to, I guess, how you can approach marketing and life is take a look at the data, take a look at the responses that are coming back to you, make those adjustments, and then continue to proceed and improve moving forward.
[00:17:07] Kate: Fantastic. And as you’re growing, you feel like that’s just going to be something you do pretty much on a quarterly basis and then create your real, I guess, softer benefits around that?
[00:17:22] Brett: Yes. It’s a good question. I don’t know. We don’t have a lot of structure to it. We’re a nine-person company right now, so we’ve got the, I guess, benefit privilege of having that core 10 people be the people who shape the future foundation for our company. So, I don’t know what it looks like in terms of like, “Hey, we meet once a quarter,” because right now, we’re such a tight-knit team that we see each other every day. But yes, I definitely think that in terms of like benefit adoption and some of the softer benefits, the best ideas will never just come from one person.
Well, that’s exactly where they come from. They come from one person, but it’s not always you. As one leader of a company, there’s no way that you could define every soft benefit that would make sense to employees. So, when we look at benefits and we look at the benefits that we roll out in terms of soft and hard benefits, it’s about, what’s the adoption rate for our team? Like one thing that we recently did, which a lot of company do, it’s not really unique, it’s a paid day off on your birthday.
So, it doesn’t count towards your vacation days. It’s a given that when it’s your birthday, you get to celebrate your uniqueness and go out and do whatever you want, as long as it’s not in the office. Because we don’t want you here, we want you out there enjoying life. That’s 100% adoption rate so far with our employees, people appreciate it. So, when you look at the soft benefits and how that evolves into a company, it’s just about, okay, how many people does this impact? And does it align with our actual culture and our values and what we’re trying to do?
In the case of the birthday example, one of our core values is, you are unique. So, it’s just a natural extension of practicing what we’re preaching.
[00:19:20] Kate: Nice. And I love that even when you’re talking through it, that core skill of the CEO is to listen. And based on how you’ve really crafted your career and how you are in terms of that metric, right? Sometimes the metric is half, sometimes it’s like 86% of the work, or worldwide workplaces, and disengaged from their job. Even listening to you, I can see that listen and that ensure people are engaged is so critical to you as a CEO and to Markitors, which is really exciting.
[00:19:55] Brett: Yes, for sure.
[00:19:56] Kate: As a CEO, what considerations do you put in, or did you put in, as you start thinking about the benefits package? We hear a lot about benefits. Typically, it’s about health insurance or disability. It’s like more mundane stuff, but more and more we’re seeing companies really embrace this side of benefits to really be inbred in their culture and really start understanding that it’s not separate. This is something that is fundamentally foundational to my workplace to ensuring the care and retention, I guess, or acquisition of the best talent out there.
As a CEO, can you give me some considerations and thoughts that you had as you formed your benefits package for your company?
[00:20:52] Brett: Yes. So, I think that it goes back to exactly what you’re saying. How do we recruit and retain the best employees? When you listen to candidates in the interviews, a couple of the questions are, do you offer a medical plan? Do you offer a retirement plan? Basically, all of the really what I would call kind of boring benefits, even though they’re, I guess, necessary benefits is a better definition. As a result of listening to different candidates in interviews and listening to our own employees, we rolled out a medical plan, we’ve got a retirement plan, dollar for dollar match.
So, we’ve got that stuff, but then another interesting part of what you were just saying was, what’s the foundational benefits? The extension of your company culture type of stuff? For us, we’re really fortunate that we’re here in a marketing agency. We’ve got incredible clients, and with those incredible clients, comes incredible benefits as well. As my job, as heading that business development for right now, it’s to make sure that we’re bringing on the right clients that engage our employees. That operate services and products that our employees like working on, but at the same time, what’s the core– how do we support our clients, and then, how do we also benefit from what they’re offering?
A couple of examples, we’ve got a brewing company that we’ve structured our agreement so that in addition to getting compensation from them, we also get a keg of their latest beer to put in our office. That’s a no-brainer. Then they range from anywhere from like executive coaching services to doing fun stuff with clients too, where just last month, one of our employees went to Cancun for a week with one of our clients on their company retreat. That’s something that, again, from a benefit, from a soft benefit angle, if we could build ourselves as a natural extension of a small business’s marketing team, then we get to enjoy those highs and lows with them as well.
[00:23:05] Kate: Yes, I love it. I’m so intrigued with– it’s very rare, I think, that you always get a CEO who comes out of the gates saying, “How do I get employee voice and customer voice connected?” I think just those are the perfect examples of how you are building this true connected ecosystem which can only, ultimately, serve your clients so well and your employees to really be engaged in their job. I think it’s– I love the way you walked us through it and really understood those somewhat nuances of customer and employee and how you really bring them together.
Brett, I just have a last question. You’ve given us some great advice and some great techniques of what you’re doing, but is there any other– is there any last bit of advice you would offer to other founders who really look into create that perfect tribe for their company, for their goals and results that they want? Is there any last minute advice you’d give them around the culture and the benefit side of things?
[00:24:16] Brett: Yes. I would say, trust that you’re a valid audience. When we were on the road trip, we interviewed this Oscar-nominated screenwriter and we talked about, how do you write something that pleases audiences? He said, “Look, you got to trust that you’re a valid audience. You have to trust that there’s enough people out there that if you can please yourself, there’s enough people out there that will enjoy what you create.”
So, when you look at the advice to other founders, there’s like a million things that are on blog post, that are on webinars or podcasts like this. And at the end of the day, if you’re a founder or in an execute level position, or even in a mid-level, entry-level position, trusting yourself and your instincts and trusting that you’re a valid audience has some really positive results.
I wouldn’t question, because that’s the thing. When you get into a role, you start to question yourself. It’s good to question yourself, but at the same time, you’ve got to trust yourself. That’s probably what I would say, is that for any founder, any CEO that’s in the position that you’re in today, you’re there for reason. You’ve worked hard to get there and you’ve got to trust yourself and trust your natural instincts when they do come to light.
[00:25:43] Kate: Fantastic. So, you are unique, go break all the rules.
[00:25:48] Kate: Fantastic.
[00:25:49] Brett: Don’t forget happy wife, happy life.
[00:25:51] Kate: Happy wife, happy life, absolutely. Brett, it’s been a true pleasure. Thank you for joining us on our Podcast today.
[00:26:05] Kate: Firstly, thanks for listening in and spending time with us today. I hope you enjoyed the interview with Brett. For a transcribed version of this show, please head over to Beni.fit/podcast. Beni.fit/podcast. This is the start of conversations that begin to identify the best practices of when humans thrive, companies prosper. If you would like to recommend anyone for the show, please email me [email protected], [email protected] Thanks.
[00:26:48] [END OF AUDIO]