Join us for an insightful chat with David Henzel, Co-founder of Upcoach. David has been working in SaaS and e-comm for over 20 years and has had multiple exits, most notably MaxCDN. Upcoach aims to help people achieve their goals using group coaching. Watch this interview to hear where getting to know ‘The Jungle’ comes from and how it applies to David’s business.
[00:00:00] – Peter
Okay, so in this week’s SaaS founder interview, I’m live with David Henzel from Upcoach. David, thank you for joining me for the chat. Love to have you here. Can you just introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you’re doing, what you’re working on?
[00:00:13] – David
Sure. Thanks for having me. Always good to see you. It’s been way too long. I have a portfolio of businesses, a few productive services and a few SaaS businesses. And also a platform called Managing Happiness where I help people to figure out their personal mission, vision, values and their habits. It’s basically helping a players to stay in the agame. We’re launching these personal development clubs in companies and also open ones kind of like Toastmasters personal Development. It’s my passion project.
And in terms of the businesses, I’m mainly involved in Upcoach.com, which is a platform for coaches to run the coaching business better, which actually is a result of scratching my own niche in Managing Happiness because I need a software to facilitate this. And latest obsessions, Uber, creates a software, QA, because we need it again, I love to scratch my own age and build services around that. So Uber QA is a quality assurance for developers. We’re not happy with the ones that we had. We thought it belongs. So, yeah, that’s me.
[00:01:16] – Peter
I love it. So I love all these projects where you’re like you say, scratching your own itch. And the one that I became most recently was obviously Upcoach because I joined your Managing Happiness programme and had a really great time, really enjoyed it and I thought it was really valuable for me. But I think the way that you build up Coach around that project was really impressive. And one of the things I noticed you did a lot was understanding the market and the people who work in the industry. So you called it “Understanding the Jungle”. Can you tell us a bit about your process, how you did that and what you learned from that?
[00:01:53] – David
Yeah, sure. So, “Understanding the Jungle” comes from a story where the US President, after the Vietnam War, went with the American general and they went to Vietnam. First time the American President came there after the war and the two generals met and the American general asked the Vietnamese general like, hey man, how in the world could you beat us? We had better weapons, more weapons, more money, more people. Like, how in the world were you able to beat us? And the Vietnamese general said, because we understand the jungle better. And taking this idea to ask you or to any service that you’re building, if you really understand your customer well, or the jungle out there, the market, your customer, the pain points, this will really set you up for success.
I initially created some documents where I had a bunch of questions to really understand how coaches work, because I’m a coach by trade and I built Upcoach to scratch my own age to facilitate these managing happiness cohorts better. But then I thought, actually, what we’ve built is really valuable and I want to understand the market better, because we thought about spinning this out into a separate product, because I showed a few people and they’re like, how this can really help me in my business, in my coaching business.
[00:03:14] – David
So I did this, interviewed probably 100 coaches to understand what they need. But the pain points are to understand what do I really want to build? And also kind of make decision, like, what other third parties do we integrate? Because you can build I mean, you can build everything, but you don’t want to build everything. Kind of want to be like, good at a few essential things, especially in the beginning, especially when you bootstrapped and then taken to the next level.
I always like, in all of my businesses, I like to have a domain expert in my business because you can kind of dream up what people may need and you can also logically understand what people need by interviewing them. But if you have somebody on the team who really felt the pain of not having XYZ in their business, it’s really powerful. And so with our coach, I reached out to Todd Herman, who went through thinking about who is the best coach, most well known coach I know, who’s been doing this for a long time and thought came to mind, even I didn’t really know him.
I just met him at some entrepreneurial dinner and I sent him a video saying, like, hey, man, I’ve built this coaching software, I’m not a coach by trade, so what do you think? And create a loom video about our coach. And he said, it’s amazing. It solves 80% of my problems. Can I invest? Become your business partner. Completely down to this. And I’m like, okay, let’s do this.
Having him on board has been super amazing and really helped us to build what people want. And actually, another thing that we did, just shy from experience, what worked really well for us once we had Todd on board, we also did something. We called it founders pricing. So basically, if you join now and you sign up, you get a you get grandfather into a special pricing and you give us feedback.
And so we did this. We got, like, probably between 500 coaching organisations on, and then we closed the doors and then we focused only on these guys to really understand what they want. And we really changed up the app quite a bit based on their research. And I think now we really have. I never had a business where we had such dramatic product market. People really lose their mind of like, holy cow, this is really helps me.
[00:05:31] – David
So, yeah, we talk about a lot of stuff.
[00:05:33] – Peter
That’s great. I think it all sounds really awesome, I think there’s loads of stuff in there for founders to learn from. I want to go back into your partner and talk a bit about that. But first I thought I’d just ask you about the practicality of how you started Understanding the Jungle. So how did you identify the people that you needed to speak to? What were the kind of things you asked them and how did you know the stair to take? As you learn more, I imagine that uncovers more things that you needed to discover. So how did you kind of navigate? I just wanted to explore that a bit more.
[00:06:11] – David
I have a sheet with a bunch of questions and a few other questions to kind of really understand where they’re at and how they measure success and kind of what the pain points are like to understand, like, you know, where they’re at and how the business works. Do they one on one coaching, do the group coaching, do they have a course or whatever to kind of understand what kind of flavour of coach they are? Then I always want to understand what they’re currently using. What do they do for payments, what do they do for scheduling, what they do for course delivery, what do you know? Kind of all these things, which software are they currently using?
And once I’ve understood this, then I showed them what we’ve currently built. And afterwards I asked them like, okay, what about the stuff that we’ve built is really relevant? What really resonates? What are the stuff you think it’s not really needed? And also other questions like, where can I find what do you get information about? Or how do you call this thing that I just showed you? What really is it that we’ve been creating here?
[00:07:15] – David
And also questions like, where do you usually find information about this? If you want to make decisions based on a product like that, so we can kind of find the watering holes where we can then advertise and what other questions that we asked them. Who else could you introduce me to that could give me valuable information for this? And another cool thing is when you do this Understanding the Jungle thing, when you talk to these influencers and people who are in the space, you keep them in the loop.
You ideally get them to your founder’s circle and you kind of keep them updated on and get their feedback. And then they really feel part ownership of this thing and they become advocates for you, and they can become customers or they come affiliates, et cetera. So there’s like more to it than just getting information, but you also kind of build up this pool of advocates in that scenario.
[00:08:13] – Peter
We always build a kind of community around the product to people who feel invested in some way. You’ve seen how you’ve been forming the product. Did this lead towards meeting todd and then bringing todd on, or at least approaching Todd? Were you looking for somebody like that? Already or was it more of a chance? Where the counter?
[00:08:40] – David
To some degree? I always have a lot of serendipidous moments in my life with these things. Be super hippy, maybe say law of attraction. But with Todd, I met him at an entrepreneurial dinner at my buddy Eric had organised a traffic and conversion summit and we just sat next to each other and kind of hit off. And then first I thought, like, who can I reach out to to show what I’ve built to see if this is really viable for coaches or not. And I thought, okay, my thoughts, do I want to reach out to them? But then I feel like fear focused. Like we probably think I just want to sell them and I didn’t do it.
But then he shared something that he’s doing a lot of group coaching with his customers and thought like, hey, this is actually what I’ve built this for, so let’s contact him. Because I always want to act out of fear and out of love and not fear and acting out of love. Because what I have, you can actually really benefit them. You know, I used to hate sale for the passion. If I don’t if I feel like a used car salesman, if I only sell because I have to my numbers or I have to pay my mortgage, but if I sell a lot because I think what I have here, can I actually benefit this person in life, in the business, then I can even be pushy.
[00:09:56] – David
And so I’m very happy I’ve made this mindset shift and pitch them.
[00:10:01] – Peter
Yeah, I love that because I think this is a kind of mindset issue that a lot of people have. I mean, I think most people experience that. So this apprehension, maybe you’re afraid to ask or you’re worried about how we perceived, but it goes to show like with the right approach and mindset, it can be something really beneficial for that person. I don’t sense the coach on an author. I just wondered how the collaboration works with you because are you both able to allocate just a minimum amount of time each? How do you work together? How do you collaborate?
[00:10:42] – David
Todd holds the role of CMO in the business and he also is because he has deep experience in the coaching world, he’s also giving lots of input into the product. So this is kind of how we dice this up.
[00:11:00] – Peter
Yeah, cool. Okay, got you. And then another question I wanted to ask you is around you’ve launched a couple of new services, products and services that you just told us about. One for billing and one for QA. So how do you know when is the right time to release something new? To launch something new? How do you validate those? Because you’ve obviously got already things you’re working on. So it’s quite interesting to see how you’re able to multitask and how you’re able to run several projects simultaneously.
[00:11:33] – David
Yeah, I’m an organisation development, so I like to build systems. I’m always a systems thinker and I like to work on the business, not in the business. So for example, I never really talk to any customers. I can maybe bring a customer in, make an introduction like I did, like a key strategic partner. But I don’t do any day to day stuff which kind of frees me up to find partners or find business partners or GMs that can run the individual businesses.
And in terms of when to launch something, I guess with LTV Plus, my outsourcing business and Task Drive first I started Lt Plus with the vision to employ as many people as possible, give them a great place to work. After reading Conscious Capitalism, which is an amazing book, which I highly recommend, I bought Task Drive because it was just a good opportunity and it’s also people centric business. And now with these other services that we’ve built, we’ve built a software around this. This was like pain points that we had that we’ve kind of doing it for some customers already. So we saw there’s a market and it’s a good way to build another productized service.
[00:12:49] – David
So with Recoverpayments.com we’ve built integrations to stripe into Recharge and to a few other payment providers and whenever a payment fails, it gets pushed over to us and we follow up with them via call, chat, whatever to kind of get them back or to renew the credit card or whatever. And having this hybrid approach of people and software has been working really well for us.
[00:13:17] – Peter
Yeah, great. It’s good to see how you’re doing things. I think some of the key takeaways for this has been so scratching your own. Itch is a big thing for you. Understanding the jungle. So all of your interviews with prospects or your ideal customer profile, finding a partner who really knows and understands the problem in your SaaS, so can help you with big decisions, shaping the product speed of decision making and making progress in the marketplace. And then, yeah, it really stands out to me, what you just described about how you keep yourself out of the running of the business, the day to day running, but you’re actually more in a kind of strategic role, finding partners, helping the systems, thinking. So it seems that that’s the most valuable place for you to spend your time in the systems and processes and partnerships.
[00:14:16] – David
Comes very natural to me. I was wanting to operate in my zone of genius. Actually a cool thing I just did. Also talked to Eric in Miami and he said he just did this. He asked everybody on his team what is something that he’s world class at? What is something that he’s good at but they can tell he’s not enjoying it? And what is something that he sucks at? And.
[00:14:44] – Peter
So I’ve just lost your audio.
[00:14:46] – David
I don’t know if test one, two, three. So why did you lose me?
[00:14:54] – Peter
You just described when people said what they’re best at.
[00:14:59] – David
What a world class. So you basically survey people that you work with asking them what do you work class at? What are you really good at? What are you good at? But they can tell you do not enjoy it and what are the things that you suck at? And kind of like know thyself super powerful because once you know these things you can kind of find crutches to help you with the things that you suck at and ideally delegate them away and find people around you that are good with the things they’re not good at. For example, I’m not a client, I don’t like numbers so I have partners who are like uber numbers nerds. So it’s kind of always kind of finding the compliments to your weak areas or areas that you don’t enjoy yeah.
[00:15:48] – Peter
And you get to optimise your team using that system as well and move people around from what they’re not good at or they don’t enjoy onto the things that they’re good at. I’m in an agency coaching group and one of the coaches there has a system which is very similar to that but using traffic lights.
So they cheque in with people regularly and take a red, amber or green on things that they enjoy or hate doing and their job is constantly removing the things that people don’t enjoy or are not good at from their roles and allocating them to people who enjoy them. I think the organisations really benefit from that. So David, thanks for joining me for this chat. I know it’s brief but we’ve had loads of really good insights from you, how you operate it in what you’re doing so I think that’s really valuable and really appreciate your time. Thanks for joining me.
[00:16:38] – David
Thanks for having me. Good to you. Yeah, you too.