Our guest today is James Fratzke, co-founder of Fratzke Media. Fratzke Media is a digital marketing consultancy based in Southern California. What piqued my interest in Fratzke Media was that James and his brother are identical twins. That said…it was not long into our conversation that I realized James’s startup story is much deeper than the fact that his co-founder is his twin.
Our guest today is James Fratzke, co-founder of Fratzke Media. Fratzke Media is a digital marketing consultancy based in Southern California. What piqued my interest in Fratzke Media was that James and his brother are identical twins. That said…it was not long into our conversation that I realized James’s startup story is much deeper than the fact that his co-founder is his twin.
What I appreciated most about James’s story was how well he articulated the challenges that come from comparison to those around you. The complexities and benefits of being raised by entrepreneurs, and the importance of looking out for family at all times. I think that last point is a unique byproduct that comes from co-founding with your family. The entrepreneurial journey will sometimes lead us to a place where the only people around us to help are those closest to us…and oftentimes that is our family.
In this episode, you will hear what James thinks about seeking validation and affirmation from those around you and how you respond to their reactions. You will also learn the importance of staying focused and how it is key for any small business in the first few years of growth. I hope you find James’s story of value and benefit to you. And now, here is James Fratzke’s startup story.
“I can be a visionary to a fault. I need to be intentional with staying focused.”
—James Fratzke, Fratzke Media
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Special Guest: James Fratzke.
The Startup Story - James Fratzke
James Fratzke: Hi. This is James Fratzke, the co-founder of Fratzke Media, and this is MY startup story.
James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.
James McKinney: The Startup Story began in January of this year with the vision of telling stories that would tell the transparent stories of entrepreneurs of all stages in business. We've told The Startup Story of large established brands like E! Entertainment Television and Varidesk, and we've shared the startup stories of smaller startups like Monkwood Studios and Barbecue Wife. Our hope in sharing these stories is that the would be entrepreneur would have a real understanding of the entrepreneurial journey and not fall into the trap that comes from reading the incredibly rare success stories that make the media outlets. The other reason I started The Startup Story was to help existing entrepreneurs realize that the challenges they're facing are common and are not unique to them.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love the massively successful stories as much as anyone else, but those stories are the anomaly and not the norm. Would I love to unpack the startup story of Uber and Instagram? Absolutely, but I would want to talk about their challenges and how they overcame them so that you, The Startup Story listener, one would be encouraged that their challenges are similar to yours and that you're not experiencing anything that is unusual for the entrepreneurial journey. And two, that you'd be given a different perspective from someone who has pushed through that challenge with hopes of providing you a different way of seeing the solution.
Now, from firsthand experience I know it's hard to see the shores when all you're doing is thrashing around in the flood, trying to keep your head above water, and that's why I love learning from people that are farther down the road than I am, and that's why I love bringing those stories to you. All that to say, The Startup Story is a podcast about the real journey of entrepreneurship, and anything real has some scars worth talking about. So now let's jump into this week's episode.
Our guest today is James Fratzke, a co-founder of Fratzke Media. Fratzke Media is a digital marketing consultancy based in southern California. Are they a large, 100 person agency? Not at all. Is James' journey in bringing Fratzke Media relevant to you? 100%. Full transparency, what piqued my interest about Fratzke Media was that James and his brother are identical twins. That said, it was not long into our conversation that I realized James' startup story is much deeper than the fact that his cofounder is his twin. Although, I am incredibly curious how many twins go into business together. I think there's something of interest there, but I digress.
What I really appreciated about James' startup story was how well he articulated the challenges that come from comparison to those around you, the complexities and benefits of being raised by entrepreneurs, and the importance of looking out for family at all times. I think that last point is a unique byproduct that comes from co founding with your family, but is something that all of us need to hear because the entrepreneurial journey will sometimes lead us to a place where the only people around us to help are those closest to us, and oftentimes that is our family.
James Fratzke: My twin brother and I, we were raised by entrepreneurs. It's kind of going all the way back to my grandparents. So we're based in Fullerton, California. We're actually right across the street. Our office is right across the street from where my grandma had an antique store for 20 years, so it was always interesting growing up in that environment and seeing somebody that you really cared for own their own business, and that was just normal. Some people grow up and go to work with their parents and they wear a suit and tie, they have that typical 9 to 5 job. I think our experience was always we went to work with our parents and our grandparents and they had their own businesses. So that was just normal to us.
Our dad, who's also a twin, so they say it skips a generation but for us it didn't. So our dad's a twin, an identical twin. My cofounder Ryan Fratzke and I, we're identical twins. Him and his twin started a landscape business when they were 15 or 16. They were always just hard workers. They turned that into buying their first house together. They turned that into buying their first cars together, so they just worked hard. So when we grew up and he still had that landscaping business, we got to see that. That again was what work looked like to us. Our mom, she's kind of the visionary of the duo. So our dad was just a really hard worker, knew how to get things done. Our mom was always how do you turn it into something bigger.
Now, with that she didn't always have the same follow through that my dad did, so she had a lot of businesses that started and ended.
James McKinney: Fascinating.
James Fratzke: But I think… Yeah. So one of her projects that I really liked was called Made By You, and it was in Whittier and that's where she was from. But it was just a space where families could come and make things, and it was made by you. So again, just kind of seeing our parents start these things and my dad being a hard worker, our mom being someone that liked taking chances. You take both those things and kind of combine them, and that's how we kind of got that entrepreneurial mindset that we have.
James McKinney: That's fascinating. It's interesting that you talk about your dad being we'll say the muscle, like the hard work, the I'm just going to accomplish, I'm going to tackle this hill regardless of the challenges in front of me. Your mom, kind of being the strategic side, the innovator, the creator, but having some challenges with some of the follow through like the repeat serial entrepreneur because of some failed ventures. As you look back now, and I want to continue on with your younger years, but as you look back now can you see that same narrative play out with you and your brother in your current venture? Is one more that I'm going to tackle this hill regardless of what's there, and the other one is better with strategic but not so much follow through on the details? Do you see that playing out in your current venture?
James Fratzke: There are certain things that Ryan is really strong at, and there's certain things that I'm really strong in, and I think we complement each other really well. In that same way, I feel like we both got both of those aspects of our mom and dad. Like equally distributed, so it's not like he's really good at the follow through and I'm really good at the visionary part. We're both like right down the middle on both sometimes. But we certainly complement each other where we fill in those blanks. But yeah, no I think that's a really good question. I haven't thought through it in a way where I could give you a really solid answer.
James McKinney: You know, it's funny that answer you gave though, only because I ask similar questions when it comes to siblings and birth order, and some of the dynamics that play out in that. I'm curious if that same answer you gave would play out for other twins that are cofounders, because it is genetically you are identical.
James Fratzke: Right, exactly.
James McKinney: A lot of times that's personality and appearance, so I'm just kind of curious how that plays out, because I can tell you right now in other sibling ventures, that answer would have been completely different and has been completely different.
So going back to your childhood to continue on with that journey, having seen it though, because again southern California, the landscape business, probably incredibly competitive. It's a commodity in a lot of spaces. People just want that as cheap as they can get it. So I assume your childhood was not lavish and plus, and there were some challenges that came with being a child of an entrepreneur and even entrepreneur in the landscaping business. Did you want to be an entrepreneur, or were you deterred from that because of the challenges you saw growing up?
James Fratzke: I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but there's some interesting stories here that I'll kind of dig into a little bit. On one end, I think you probably talk to a lot of people. You had Zack Swire on a while ago, he's an acquaintance of mine as well. The first thing out of his mouth is, "I had a landscape business," so there's some sort of connection there between entrepreneurs and hard work and landscaping. I'm not allergic to that either. Ryan and I, one of the first businesses that we started when we started to be entrepreneurs is one, mowing and just doing tasks around people's house and things like that. We started a business called Stain Pros where we were literally staining fences. We grew up in the Temecula/Marietta area. A lot of new houses there. Well, with those new houses came these redwood fences and if you let them go uncured, you know that they tend to look really bad in a couple years. So we saw the major market opportunity and went after that.
But I think the consistency you see with a lot of entrepreneurs is they were all candy kingpins, they were selling candy in class. They were all doing these different things and I certainly was guilty of that too. The fun thing about it was our mom was always very encouraging of that, so she would be the one that would be like, "Well, if we go to the $0.99 store and we get it for this much, your margin is that much."
James McKinney: That's awesome.
James Fratzke: It didn't really matter that it was against the rules because you're not supposed to do that at school. But back to your point, yeah I think we always wanted to be entrepreneurs. I think there was something about my dad's journey of always kind of being out on his own. He was the one that when we decided to go to college, was like, "Okay, cool. You're going to do something different. You're going to take the more serious path." He never gave himself enough credit in what he did. And what he did really was be a provider, but it took a lot of work, and I don't think he ever glorified it. I don't think he ever saw himself as an entrepreneur. I think he just saw himself as somebody that worked hard and was able to fill a gap.
So I think that the journey that we went on is we went to college. We worked at Disney for four years in their special events marketing department. We went from there and we both were strategic account managers at a digital marketing technology company for four years. Ryan and I did both of those things together, so a lot of people jokingly ask is it always a package deal.
James McKinney: I have to ask. I mean, is it?
James Fratzke: Well, it doesn't have to be, but it certainly has been, right? So the funny thing is we take different steps apart, and then somehow we always kind of come back together. So I had left Disney. I started working at this company called Brandify and the CEO said, "Hey, you're such a great worker. We're looking for more people like you. Do you know anybody?" it's like yeah, I know just the person. I know someone exactly like me. Then there comes Ryan. So it's not always like we show up that Will Ferrell movie, Step Brothers or whatever it is. They do the interview together. It doesn't always work that way, but I think we're always kind of thinking how can we bring the other person along for the ride because work really well together. Why wouldn't you want to work with your twin brother or your best friend, or somebody that just complements you really well?
So my dad, when we started moving up the corporate ladder at these different companies, when I would go to him and say, "I want to start this business. I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I want to start this business," he would actually surprisingly say, "Don't do it. Don't do what I did. You're going up this corporate ladder, you went to school." So he saw that as success. He never saw what he did as success, and he still, him and my step- mom are still entrepreneurs to this day. Their fulltime job and income is from six jewelry stores that they own up in the San Diego area. So he's got this long track record of being in business for himself, but then he's got these two sons and he says, "Don't do it." So it's kind of an interesting division.
James McKinney: Did he ever explain why he gave you that guidance?
James Fratzke: Not directly, but I think in certain terms he would say stuff like, "Don't do what I did. Don't put yourself in the situation I did. I never graduated from college, you did. Why would you want to put yourself in that situation?" I think he just saw the stress that went into being a business owner, and saying if you don't have to take that on, maybe you shouldn't. I think the other thing for him is we're in digital marketing and he's not a digital focused guy at all. So sometimes we'll tell him some of the projects that we're doing and he'll say, "Well why would anybody pay you for that?" He doesn't understand the context of it.
So I think that, combined with just for him I come back to that example I gave you. My mom was a visionary. My dad was the hard worker. So my dad sees a $1 million business and he goes, "Oh, that's a good business. You really couldn't get it much higher than that," and I see a $1 million business and I go, "How do we get it to $10 million? How do we get it to $20 million?" so I think that's part of it too. I think when saying to him, "Hey, we're going to go out and start this," I don't think he's got the same vision that we have sometimes. So we see this big idea and he sees this small little thing. So I think those are some of the things that played into it a little bit.
James McKinney: So you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur and you go to college. How old are you by the way?
James Fratzke: 28.
James McKinney: 28, so the narrative of college was different 10 years ago when you entered it. Obviously, there's a lot of upside to going to college. This is not the podcast where we debate whether college is necessary or anything like that, but in the entrepreneurial space it's not. You don't have to go that route. So if you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur, why pursue college? Again, let me step back one second and say that of the entrepreneurs I have met, I don't know if anyone knew they wanted to be an entrepreneur, there was just a general appeal to it. Whereas you said you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur, so why pursue college?
James Fratzke: For my dad and my uncle which is his twin brother, who is also a prominent kind of male figure in our lives that we really rely on his opinion a lot. They had been reinforcing in us for so long take the safe route. And that's not bad advice, right? But it was kind of this idea of… and not in a bad way, but it certainly will sound bad when I say it. You're average. This whole family is average. That's all you're ever going to be. Might as well get into a lane where you can excel at that rather than to try and do something that's a little bit more visionary.
So that's part of it. Now, looking back, hindsight being 20/20, I don't regret it for a second. I don't regret spending eight years of my career where you could say that's eight years you could have spent building a business. Yeah but what I did was I wanted to be a photographer, so I went and worked for a photographer. I understood the bits and pieces. So coming out of working for Disney, arguably one of the best customer service brands on the planet and they do some other things pretty well too.
Coming out of a technology company and being an account manager and working with Fortune 500 brands, understanding how their marketing departments work, understanding the logistics that go into actually running a company, contracts, negotiations, figuring out your hard cost for things. I got a crash course in that. So now I feel like our business, and we've been doing this for two and a half years, we hit the ground running and were able to jump in and sign some pretty large deals upfront because we knew what that looked like.
It wasn't like we were trying to figure it out in the moment. We kind of knew what the steps were and what we needed to execute on. I think again, hindsight being 20/20, I'd do it again. Maybe I'd start a little bit of a side hustle as they would say during the college years to make a little extra bank. I just kind of focused on working, but I think it worked out well for me.
James McKinney: So coming out of college, you said Disney and being in Orange County, Disney is a common first job or college job, how that transpired. I do find it interesting that somehow you and your twin brother were able to get a job with the same company, because Disney is not easy to get into all the time.
James Fratzke: No, and here's the thing. I'll touch on that a little bit. And I went to Cal State Fullerton, so that's Cal State Disney. It's all pretty common. Zack Swire went to Cal State as well. I don't know if he worked at Disney, but he probably did. Most people that go to Cal State probably worked at Disney at some point. With that being said, yeah we showed up to an audition together for Disney and that's actually how we started working there was I jokingly say I played Prince Charming, and then I wait to see how people react. If they go, "Oh yeah, I see it," I feel good about myself. If they look at me kind of squinty eyed like, "Really? You?" then I'm kind of like I feel bad about myself. So it started off that way, where the role that we were in was called Innoventions and it was about talking about different products and things like that. I think the twin thing played well there, like oh this is cool, these guys are outgoing and twins, that's interesting.
What happened next then was we had some managers there take a liking to us and noticed that we had some talent, and they said, "Okay, you guys don't really want to work here. What is it you want to do?" Well, we want to go into marketing, and they kind of helped connect the dots there. So that's how the twin thing kind of kept going side and side. But I don't know, I think here's the interesting thing and you probably don't have a lot of twin entrepreneurs listening to this. Maybe you do. My advice to the twin entrepreneur or just to twin listening is people will ask you as twins to separate. They will ask you to be different and distinguish yourself. I'm not sure why they do that. I think it's maybe a jealousy thing because they don't have a twin and they want one. I'm only joking, but who knows?
But I think that the inclination that a lot of people have when they're getting feedback is you guys should try to separate. I think what really worked for us was when we said let's just do what feels natural to us, and what felt natural to us was doing things together. I think that's been successful for us.
James McKinney: That's awesome. And if you are a twin entrepreneur listening, I would love for you to connect with us on Instagram @TheStartupStory and just
connect all the different twin entrepreneurs out there.
James Fratzke: That would be great.
James McKinney: It would be awesome if it's a much larger community than you and I both think. It would be pretty cool.
James Fratzke: You're right.
James McKinney: So you are with Disney. You then go to Brandify. At which step along the way did you start thinking of what your venture might be, and when did you actually move on that?
James Fratzke: Yeah. So I was at Brandify for four years, and I think that the idea about the venture came towards the tail end of that. Just to kind of clarify things and set the scene, I think it was always something that I wanted to act on, wasn't sure what it was going to be, and was kind of just waiting for the right opportunity. So I think what happened was four years into working for somebody else again, I kind of took a step back and said, "Well, when is the right opportunity? It will never be the right opportunity."
James McKinney: Yeah, no kidding.
James Fratzke: I'd like to sit here and say that… and you hear this story a lot, and I'm not downing it at all, but well the corporate trappings and the expense accounts, I risked it all to leave and start this thing. I think for me, it was just it will never be the right time. You have to make the time. Just go out and do it. I knew I was highly employable so it wasn't like some big risk. I knew there was a backup plan. When you want to go do your own thing, that's always going to be chipping away at you and it's just about when you decide to actually lean into it and take that step.
The timing worked out really well, but at Brandify what was neat was that because of the Disney experience, I was able to service some pretty large accounts because they liked the fresh perspective. So I worked with Dollar Tree. I worked with Jelly Belly, Advanced Auto Parts, Patagonia, some other brands because they liked what I was bringing to it, because I came from Disney, I had a Disney background. You were able just to service people differently than maybe somebody that had kind of grown up in the account management space.
So I think after getting to learn these Fortune 500 brands and seeing my dad's companies and saying, "There's something in between here, in between a Walmart and a Scott's Body Jewelry, these midsize businesses that are being demolished by these Fortune 500 brands from a digital perspective. How can we help those companies learn from the leaders and if nothing else, get up to the standards of what it takes to win in digital? And then once we get you up to the standards, how do we then help you leapfrog the competition and learn from the leaders?"
So I think at some point in that four year journey at Brandify, towards the end I had the idea of that's what we need to go do. We need to go help these midsize companies win in digital, because the world is changing. You know that, I know that, a lot of people know that. Your storefront is now your website. An ad in the newspaper is now Google Ads. Word of mouth is now Yelp or Facebook or something like that. So all these things that were very analog are now very digital and it's how do we help people kind of get with the times, and then not only get with the times but how do we help them make digital their competitive edge.
James McKinney: That's awesome. So I want to talk about that transition, though where you are leaving Brandify now to start Fratzke Media, because I think there's probably quite a few listeners that are in a job that they enjoy, it provides well for them or them and their family. But they too have an itch for something else, and maybe they're working on a side hustle right now but they feel like man, if I can just give more to it, it can be that much greater. But, and the list goes on as to what the "buts" are. What was that move for you? Just up and leave, two weeks notice, gone, start anew? Did you try to land your first account before you gave notice? What was that transition for you?
James Fratzke: You nailed it on the head, right? There's a long list of things that you can go down of why not to do it. I have some advice and I can tell you the practical side of it. My advice is if you want to do that, there is no time like the present. So I would just put in that two weeks notice and go. I've heard it from my dad and from my uncle, from people that are important to me that wanted me to stick more to the practical side, "Well, why don't you start and you can do these things in the evening, on the weekend? At least you still get your paycheck," and all that. And sure, I think that's sound practical advice. I don't think you're taking yourself very seriously then If you do that. If you take that advice and this is my opinion, so this isn't to dis anybody that might have a different opinion, but you're not taking yourself seriously. You don't believe that you're actually going to make this business work. Because making a business work is a fulltime job. And it's one of those 80 hour a week fulltime jobs, not a 40 hour a week fulltime job.
So to think that you could still do the job that you're getting paid to do well and start something that's going to ultimately hopefully support you and your lifestyle, it's in conflict. Those things don't really go well together, at least in my head. And so I think a couple of things happened for me. I made a decision that I was no longer going to talk to anybody about leaving because when you talk to people about leaving, whether it's your family or it's coworkers, whatever, when you talk about your big idea it's almost that release. It releases the endorphins and it kind of scratches that itch for a little bit, then you forget about it. Then six months later, people go, "Oh, I thought you were out of here," and you're like, "Yeah, well, I'm over it." Then you get that itch again and you talk about.
So I think when I decided I'm not going to talk to anybody about this anymore, I'm not going to talk to my dad, my uncle, my coworkers, I'm just going to do it. That was a big kind of flag for me. That was like okay, something about this is different. Then I think when I said it to my girlfriend at the time who then became my fiancee, who then became my wife, she said, I remember driving down the street when she said, "Tell me something that nobody knows about you," and I said, "I think I'm going to leave my job and start my own business." When she looked back at me and was like, "That's awesome, you should do that," and she didn't go running away… Now, to my benefit we were in a moving car so she couldn't do it at that point anyways. But that, she supported me.
So I think here's the takeaway there. You've got to find somebody or somebody's that you really trust to support you, that have a track record of supporting you and listening. So when you're ready you can talk to them, but don't go telling a bunch of people that you want to make this transition because I've really noticed that for me at least, and if anyone listening sounds like, "Oh, that sounds like me. James sounds like me." When I tell people about it, I have a hard time executing on it. But if I keep it to myself like, "Okay, I'm just going to do this and I don't care what everyone's opinion is, I'm just going to do it," those things have worked for me. The last point I'll make there is kind of circling back to what I started with, with do you stay at the job and then do things during the night, or during the weekend.
There's this great concept of burning the boats. Sometimes if you want to storm the island and take the island, you've got to burn the boats. You've got to get rid of your backup plan. This is different than burning a bridge, and I think that's an important clarification. So it's not saying, "I quit, here's my two weeks notice, FU, FU, FU," but what it is, it's saying I'm not going to worry about the backup plan. I think when a lot of entrepreneurs are in a job and they think about starting a business, they always come back to this concept. Well, they would always hire me back. They like me. They'd always hire me back. What difference does it make? Okay, you're highly employable. You've made it this far. You can always get a job somewhere, whether it's back where you were or it's somewhere else. Get that out of your head, burn those boats, and think about how am I going to go forward. Don't worry about how am I going to get back.
James McKinney: Yeah, yeah. Man, you brought up a lot of great stuff there. I say it often, but if you're listening to this podcast and you're driving, I hope you will go back about five minutes right there. Find the spot, get in front of a browser, get at a desk with a notepad and pen. Go back, write a bunch of these notes down because James just brought some incredible truth there. I share so much about what you are saying about the idea of burning the boats and moving forward. There's a survival mindset that comes into play when you don't have the backup plan in your head. You lose a bit of that hunger, that must do attitude, because you know there's something back there.
Age and stage really does play a role in kind of how we execute out of that 9 to 5 job. If you're sitting on a mortgage with no emergency fund or anything like that, that taints your decision on how you make that transition and that move. What I want all the listeners to hear and what James is saying is it's about intentionality. I think man, what you mentioned about not speaking it, what I heard there was the brilliant truth. It satisfies the itch, it scratches the itch. I can see in my own life, and in the lives of many people that have spoken with they wanted to do but not moved on it. It's almost like they're testing the response. Like to your Prince Charming comment. I'm going to say this, and I want to see how you respond to it to know whether or not I'm crazy or if I should.
The idea of not speaking it and doing it, that is fascinating. I can see so much power in that, so thank you for bringing all of that there. Again, listeners, go back, jot notes. Would love to get your comments on what you think about what James is sharing here. But now that you've made the move and you have quit, you gave your two weeks notice, your girlfriend, soon to be fiancee at that time is onboard with it. You've obviously got the confidence of the support system that is your loved one. A lot of things you did in life are with your brother. Did you speak this with your brother? Did you guys start this together or did one go before the other?
James Fratzke: I started the business, Ryan joined a year later. Again, you brought up a really great point which is worth noting. My story is different than the next guy's story, which is different than the next girl's story. So take these things with a pinch of salt. Ryan had a wife and three year old daughter, so it's a little bit different of a decision for him.
James McKinney: 100%.
James Fratzke: He needs to make sure that income is still coming in. So in a lot of ways, what's neat about Ryan and I's relationship, and some people have business partners like this, some don't. some people have family members like this, some don't. I was okay with saying, "Let me put this on my back, let me go forge the path. Let me get it to where it needs to be. My goal is to get it to the point where you can leave."
James McKinney: I love that.
James Fratzke: So that's a family thing and some people have friends that are probably that tight too, but we were looking out for each other. That's a principle that we learned from our family, so that's another family of origin thing, always look out for each other. If you can bring that person along with you for the ride, then do it.
So I took the leap originally. Now, there's this beautiful story that then happens. Ryan goes to Hawaii with his family. You may remember this, there was a missile crisis thing that happened in Hawaii, North Korea, right?
James McKinney: That false alarm, right? Yes.
James Fratzke: The false alarm, exactly yeah. So yeah, it's not fair to quite attribute it to North Korea, but you get the whole story. So for those of you listening, there's false alarm that gets sent out to everybody on the Hawaiian island saying there's a ballistic missile coming, seek cover, this is not a drill. So you know, you're hoping to see, "This a drill," but when something says, "This is not a drill," you kind of have to take that at face value.
He calls me up and he's kind of like, "Hey, I don't know what's going on, can you help play some support here? Look and see what's going on. This is what we got." An hour later, it was pretty clear that it was in fact a drill. In the moment, it wasn't so clear but I think Ryan was able to reflect and say, "Man, today could have been the day. What am I doing with my life?"
Now, not everybody listening again is going to have that moment, but for him after he came home from Hawaii, he put in his two weeks notice and it was pretty clear to him what he wanted to do. Luckily for me and for the business, I had set a pretty solid foundation at that point and so it was good timing.
James McKinney: So Ryan joins the company. What is Fratzke Media? So now we're jumping into Fratzke Media, and for all of our listeners, before we walk this journey a bit, share with us what Fratzke Media is and how is it different than your competitors out there?
James Fratzke: So Fratzke Media is a digital marketing consultancy. And that last word, consultancy, is really important. A lot of people are familiar with the agency model and so a lot of people that do marketing or digital marketing might work with an agency. So let's focus on those two words for a second. Agency means that you're giving somebody agency on your behalf to go out and do things. Consultancy means that you're asking somebody for help and you're asking them to come along side you in the consultant, point you in the right direction. So I just want to make that distinguishment clear. At Fratzke Media, we're a consultancy.
Our opinion is, our point of view is, we want to teach you how to fish so you can eat for a lifetime, not just catch the fish for you. And as long as you keep signing the retainer check, we'll continue to provide those results. But the second that you are unhappy with our services and you want to go somewhere else, well too bad, we own everything, we own the keys and you're just going to have to figure it out, good luck. Right?
Now, somebody listening, especially a founder, has had that experience at some point in their life. They say okay, we need to figure out marketing. Let's go pay an agency a bunch of money and they'll solve all of our problems. What we're focused on is helping midsized businesses, so folks that are doing anywhere from $10 million to $1 billion in revenue, that might be blue collar, or they might be a little behind on the times, they're industry hasn't been super focused on digital. Revenue keeps growing, why do I need to worry about my website, those type of folks. We come in and help them set the foundation. We help them understand what their competitors are doing out in the digital space, what they could be doing to make digital their competitive edge. Then ultimately, we come along side them for 12, 24 months, whatever it is, and help them setup the infrastructure to succeed in digital and to again use it as their competitive edge and beat the competition. So that's kind of at a high level what Fratzke Media is.
The way that we do that is we've institutionalized digital to try and make it simple and repeatable. So we look at digital as eight distinct channels from your website down to social media, digital advertising, fill in the blanks. I won't bore everybody will all eight. Then we've identified within those eight channels what's the bare minimum and what's the leader. What are you going to do within that channel to be a leader in that space. Then we work with our clients to help them understand how quickly we can get them to that leader status, what are the moves we need to make, and it's actually, it's so gratifying. It's so rewarding because you're able to come in and share wisdom, open people's eyes, and help them grow their revenue. To them, it seems like magic but to us, it's something that we've gotten pretty darn good at. So it's nice to come in and be able to help folks kind of step their game up in a way that they didn't know was possible.
Let me end on this note. We've had clients sometimes say to us, "Well, we didn't have a website before, and revenue keeps growing. A website's not important." What if you did have a website? How much more money would you find? You don't want to make more money, is that what you're telling me right now? So it's always kind of a fun little process that we go through, but yeah that's at high level what we do. Does that make sense to you, James?
James McKinney: Absolutely, and I love that we have listeners right now that are probably out saying, "Wait, there's actually businesses out there that don't have a website?" There is a demographic that the idea of not having a website is equal to not having a cell phone. It makes zero sense why a business wouldn't do it, but there are so many businesses that still do not have a digital presence and it sounds like that's the market you're trying to meet. But my question in this, and part of The Startup Story, especially when in the small business arena, what are the things that keep you up at night right now? Because you're new, two years old for Fratzke Media. There are challenges that come with starting anything from ground zero, but you're still really early on. So for those listeners that are starting something new, what keeps you up at night right now?
James Fratzke: For the entrepreneur that's listening that, again, has similar qualities that I do, I can be a visionary to a default sometimes. So it's always what's the next idea or here's the new idea, or here's the thing. What we've had to do to be successful and I would say that this is probably true for anybody at that, we're at the two and a half mark making our way to three years, this is probably consistent for anybody within that one to five year range for a startup, is stay focused. So the things that keep me up at night is how do I stay focused and get all the other ideas out of my head. It's fun to go chase down certain things. It's fun. We have a very fun office. We have a fun environment. I like being in front of a camera. I haven't made a video in two and a half years because that's a distraction. This business is growing and it's helping people, and as long as I can invest myself in this business and stay focused and not let the outside noise come in, it will continue to grow. .
I listen to podcasts. I like the Tim Ferriss podcast, and he's got all these "high performers" on there. One of the biggest things they always say is you've got to learn how to say no to things. I think well what a crock is that? What do you mean? How many things could you possibly be saying no to? How lucky are you to have all these opportunities? Well, at the two and a half year mark I can tell you man, my eyes are open to it is about saying no to things. It's about saying no to different people reaching out that want to do different things. It's about saying no to different charitable organizations that might want you to be invested in them and things.
Different opportunities that we've passed up on although it would have been nice from an ego standpoint, like yeah I am a successful business owner in Orange County, I should be represented. It's like you have to remind yourself just to stay humble, and all those opportunities that are about ego, those will come and go and they won't be as big of a deal as you think they are. If you've ever been on TV before for a game show or the news, you're always like, "Oh, this is my big break, people are going to see me." The reality is it plays and then it disappears. It's not that big of a deal. Kind of being able to identify as a business owner what are the real opportunities, what are the ego opportunities, saying no to the ego opportunities as often as you can.
And you'll make a mistake from time to time and say yes, but then hopefully by the end of whatever that exhausting thing you participated in was and you didn't get any meaningful movement on your business in relation to it, you go okay, I learned that lesson. I'm not going to do that thing again.
So I think back to your question, James, what keeps me up at night, growing the business, being able to grow the team, being able to support the team as a good leader or even a great leader one day. Being able to make sure we're providing 11 star service in anything that we do. I stole that from Airbnb, who stole that from somebody else. Basic concept there is five star service should be the standard if we're going on a five star scale. Nobody goes somewhere and says, "Okay, give me three star service, please. That's my expectation." In fact, I'd be willing to venture that most people listening to this, if they saw a three or a four star review on Google or Yelp, they would say, "I'm not going to go there. Why would I waste my time?"
Well, what does six stars look like? What does seven stars look like? If it's an Airbnb, 11 stars looks like you check in, the guy takes you for a tour around the town, he's made a reservation for you at his favorite restaurant, he's planned your entire trip. It's like so much further outside of what you expected, so that's another thing that keeps me up at night is how do we not provide the bare minimum service? How do we go above and beyond? When you're growing your business and you're doubling each year, that becomes more difficult, right? So you have to think about how do I continue to provide that service.
James McKinney: That is awesome. One of the questions I want to ask, two episodes ago we had Josh Stine with Seat Insiders, and part of his journey was, as a young professional, not an entrepreneur yet but a young professional, it was keeping up with the Jones' as a young person making good money, working for a big four consultancy. The cars and the constant eating out and drinks, entertaining, wining and dining. He accumulated quite a bit of debt that became a barrier before he could launch his venture.
As a young entrepreneur, because I know I've got young entrepreneurs listening, as a young entrepreneur do you find yourself challenged with keeping up with the Jones' as you are out at various networking events, or various entrepreneurial conferences or endeavors, wanting to keep up with the Jones'? Or are you disciplined enough to stay in your lane?
James Fratzke: Oh, I'm human. I think we all struggle with this. I think the grass always seems greener on the other side. The lesson that I keep trying to teach myself and I will probably be teaching it to myself until the day I die is the grass isn't greener on the other side, it's greener where you water it. You have to attend to it.
Here's my solve for going to networking events and feeling inferior. Go to less networking events. Sounds counterintuitive, but here's the thing. I'm a millennial so I grew up with Facebook and different things like that. The people that will excel are the ones that identify social media, personal social media. So this isn't necessarily advice I'd give to my clients, I'm talking now as James the human being. Social media is a distraction and there's tons of research out there that says that it's not only a distraction, but it negatively impacts your mental state of mind. So I think young professionals or young entrepreneurs have that to deal with. So you have your Facebook, your Instagram, now LinkedIn is a place where you can get into some rabbit holes if you try, you can.
So I think that if you can try to eliminate those distractions, go onto your new iPhone 10 or whatever number we're at right now… and by the way, I have an iPhone 6. Again, counterintuitive. You would think okay, he'd be super techie. But I think this kind of gets to the heart of what you were saying earlier. You have to find opportunities not to keep up with the Jones'. So of course I want the new iPhone, because I want to be at the meeting and say, "Oh look, my new iPhone," but I take pride in the fact that well, this iPhone 6 works the same way as the iPhone 10 does, I don't have to spend that money.
So you have to look for opportunities to cut out your exposure to wanting to keep up with the Jones'. Get rid of TV if you can do that, cut the cord. Stop going and checking Facebook five times a day. Delete the app from your phone if you can. Some people can't for certain reasons, but if you can do it. Eliminate the amount of notifications you get on your phone. I think all of those things help you fight against what's natural as a human which is wanting to keep up with the Jones'.
James McKinney: That's awesome. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that journey, because again it is something that I don't think people talk about because it requires a bit of vulnerability, but we're all susceptible to it. Doesn't matter what stage they are. Even they mentioned, even the Bob Iger's of the world are always trying to keep up with the Jones' and it's the perspective of the other grass. That general discontent that we have buried inside of us, it's part of our being and we have to be diligent and intentional to sure that up so that we can stay laser focused on what it is we're trying to build for the long-term. You've got to play the long-term, into the short game.
James Fratzke: Absolutely. One last point I want to make on that too, James, is debt is a son of a B. So I would say young professional or somebody that's in their fifties or sixties, whatever it is, any decision that you make that forces you to go into debt, you should think long and hard about especially if you're a young professional that wants to be an entrepreneur. The best gift that you can give to yourself is not being in debt. The second best gift that you can give to yourself is having savings.
James McKinney: Yes, yes.
James Fratzke: Those things kind of go hand in hand. If you can't have savings, at least not be in debt and vice versa because then, listen when I made the decision to start this business, it's because I busted my ass and I worked hard. I did spend a lot, so I can support myself.
James McKinney: Again, the reason I'm asking these questions for all the listeners is to go back to your earlier point about not talking about it. It's about intentionality. It's about knowing what it is you want and fighting that battle every single day to keep that main thing the main thing. Because there are so many things that can derail us, and so thank you for sharing all of that. As our time comes to an end, there are two questions that I ask every single founder.
The first one is so important, and I believe it with every bit of my being and it's about gratitude. The question is as you look back on your entire journey, who are the people that you point to that have contributed in such a significant way to your entrepreneurial journey to where you stand today that you just have such immense gratitude for them? The reason I ask this question is that I believe that if we stop remembering those people and remembering all the shoulders that we stood upon to get to where we're at, we'll begin to think we reached that point by ourselves, begin to isolate ourselves, and that will inevitably lead to our failure.
So who do you point to with such incredible gratitude for your life journey?
James Fratzke: First off, when you ask that question, this weird sense of emotion just came over me, because I'm like starting to go through the list and I'm like oh wow, I'm really impacted right now. I won't be able to name everybody, but let me tell you this. My grandparents always would sit there and listen to my brother and I share these out in space ideas and different things, and they'd encourage it. And they do that to this day. My Grandpa Joe will sit and listen to us talk for hours and it's just nice to have that outlet, and have people generally believe in you.
I would be remiss if I didn't say my mom and my dad. Again, just seeing their journey and being able to pull on the hard work and the visionary stuff that we talked about earlier. Then some of my professors at Cal State Fullerton. Again, when they notice students that want to learn and want to excel, they'll invest their own time. It's always like why are they doing this? Why would they do that? The human race is confusing and you wonder why anybody would want to help anybody, and I'm still trying to figure that out sometimes. But those are some of the people that stand out.
James McKinney: That's awesome. That is awesome. The last question to wrap it all up. We've been talking to your listeners and the number's in tens of thousands, but right now this last question, I want you to picture yourself sitting with one singular person and maybe that person is a current entrepreneur who is frustrated and discouraged with the lack of traction they've had. Maybe that entrepreneur is someone who is an aspiring entrepreneur, they've got a 9 to 5 but they've got a mortgage, kids, or maybe they're sixty and they think that they're just too old for it. But whatever it is, they have some narrative as to why they can't move and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams or ambitions. Or maybe you're speaking to that defeated entrepreneur, the one who has been punched in the gut time and time again, and they're now starting to think that they just can't execute, period, and willing to call it quits. Who is it you would like to speak to and what would you like to say to them?
James Fratzke: I think I'd like to speak to the entrepreneur that is waiting and maybe is at that job, and is just waiting for the right time. We talked about this a little bit earlier, so I'm kind of in some ways trying to find people like me that were just waiting. I think I would just tell them that take the week. Burn the boat. Brene Brown, I don't know if you're familiar with her writing. She's got this very popular book called Daring Greatly and the concept is, based off a Theodore Roosevelt quote that basically says that when you're in the arena fighting, there's lots of people in the stands that are going to have opinions, but they're not in the arena, you are. So when you're in the arena, you have to be willing to win or lose, and it's okay to do either. But at least you took the chance. At least you were in the arena. So I would say to that person get in the arena, get out of the stands. Get in the arena. You might win, you might lose, but you really don't get the benefit of moving forward unless you get in the arena and take a chance. I would just encourage them to do that.
James McKinney: I would love to hear what your key takeaways were from James' journey. I know for me, it was the idea that oftentimes we vocalize our ambitions to see how those around us respond to it, and then we allow that response to dictate how we move forward. What James was talking about here is not the feedback loop that is critical in developing a product. No, James is talking about the tendency we have to seek the validation and affirmation from those around us. You know, for me that was extremely personal where I would constantly talk about this venture I was going to pursue and depending upon how people responded was whether or not I actually did it. As James said, it was looking to scratch that itch. Another key takeaway from James' story is that staying focused is key for any small business in the first few years of the company. Oftentimes, we look to certain activities as a success metric, activities like a board seat with a nonprofit or any activities that are not directly related to your business. You need to be laser focused those first few years to keep the company alive.
James' entire story was about intentionality, and that is something that often gets lost in the entrepreneurial journey. I think part of the reason it gets lost is because we want success right now. It's the Veruca Salt syndrome. You remember Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka, right? "I want an Oompa Loompa and I want it now, Daddy!" I know it seems odd to relate Willy Wonka to entrepreneurship, but that's just the reality of it. We see what success looks like on social media and we think that's exactly how it should be. We think that it's something that is attained in the short-term. We need to keep that survival mindset that we have in the early few months and keep it for a very long time in order to assure that our business is shored up for success. We need to keep the main thing the main thing.
Entrepreneurship is incredibly challenging and one of the ways it becomes harder than it needs to be is through comparison and lack of focus. I hope James' startup story was of value and benefit to you, and if you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. So if you found any value from James' story, then stop by Fratzkemedia.com and let James know that you found value in his story and appreciate what he shared with us. You can also reach out to him on LinkedIn. In our show notes, we'll have links to both of those. Entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so let's make sure to show up for James and Fratzke Media.
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