Oct. 25, 2022

Grow, Scale, and Innovate Your Business with Start-Up Leader Patrick Bryant Ep. 92


Patrick Bryant is serial entrepreneur, professional speaker, and co-founder and CEO of Charleston-based software product agency CODE/+/TRUST. After co-founding his first company Go To Team, the largest staff video crew provider in the U.S., and taking it to 20 offices around the US 25 years ago, his bio is then a steady stream of starting new businesses in media, rolling papers, and software. 

As a serial entrepreneur, he continues to start and invest in new startups including, Teamphoria (human resource engagement software), Event.Gives (fundraising event software), Crew Mama (crew production directory software) & Shine Rolling Papers. All told, Patrick has successfully launched 6 (& counting) multi-million dollar companies.

Bryant feels strongly about making the world a better place through the impact of entrepreneurship. He serves as the co-Director of Startup Grind DC, is a Trustee of Trident Tech, works on the SC Department of Workforce & Employment Workforce Review Committee, founded and currently chairs the Harbor Entrepreneur Center, and was previously Chairman of Palmetto Goodwill as well as the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. He’s also recognized as a Liberty Fellow by Wofford College and the Aspen Institute, as a Riley Fellow by Furman University, and is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Bryant is also an Entrepreneur Organization Certified Speaker.

The keys to his entrepreneurial success are now the founding principles taught to start-up founders in the Harbor Accelerator, a 14-week program offered to 16 companies a year in Charleston, SC. Each company selected receives free space, mentorship, access to investors, and free services like marketing, legal, and accounting.

The same principles used at the Harbor Accelerator are now also the primary focus of his professional speaking engagements. Concentrated on innovation, scalability, and execution, Patrick has created a 3-part framework that entrepreneurs at fast growing companies can use to craft products and services that are made for growth. In addition, through the study of hundreds of business models, Bryant created the Business Growth Score, which is designed to analyze the perfect business idea.

Patrick currently splits his time between homes in Isle of Palms, SC and Washington, DC. When he’s not leading his business or mentoring other entrepreneurs to success, Bryant enjoys traveling, flying his drone, and spending time with his sons Pate and Jack.

To learn more, visit codeandtrust.com/patrick

Where to find Patrick Bryant

Website: codeandtrust.com

 

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This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 

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Transcript

Patrick Bryant:

Do you have experience in the industry? Do you have network in the industry? Do you have an understanding of how the mechanics and economics of that industry work? And if the answer is yes, those are the early metrics that now I'm going, Okay, is there revenue? Is there innovation? Is there scale? Those are the things we can bring to the table that you might not have you.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life or are they building to exit? These and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. My book, RELENTLESS is now available everywhere. Books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Try your local indie bookstore too, and if they don't have it, they can order it. Just ask them, the reviews are streaming in, and I'm so thankful for the positive feedback as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively. It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be relentless. You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information. Thank you so much. Patrick Bryant is a serial entrepreneur, professional speaker, and co-founder and CEO of Charleston based software, product agency CODE/+/TRUST. After co-founding his first company go-to team, the largest staff, video crew provider in the US and taking it to 20 offices around the US 25 years ago. His bio is a steady stream of starting new businesses in media rolling papers. And software. Now let's get right into it.

Patrick Bryant:

CODE/+/TRUST is a software development firm designed by and for entrepreneurs. My two partners and I have all had software companies that we grew in a really big ways and then turned focus to helping other people grow their companies through the use of software. So about 50% of our clients are software tech companies, and the other 50% are more traditional companies that are using software in some sort of unique way. But we focus on startup software. So almost always it's a new idea. It's a, we like to say you're building a house that doesn't have blueprints yet. So we've gotta start at the beginning and figure out who the customer is and then iterate and really help the client grow through their business model, competitive analysis, good UI, all those things.

Natasha Miller:

GoodUI. That's, I mean, I love GoodUI. I'm such a design freak. That kind of leads me to a question that I had when I was researching you. I really liked the way that your business name CODE/+/TRUST.

Patrick Bryant:

Yes.

Natasha Miller:

But I didn't know how to say it. And then of course,

Patrick Bryant:

You did that a lot.

Natasha Miller:

I looked it up further, so it looks cool, but not easy to translate verbally. I mean, first of all, that's just me making a statement, but the question I really have is what's the trust part of Code and Trust?

Patrick Bryant:

What, what a great question.

Natasha Miller:

I have with that in your world.

Patrick Bryant:

Well, as you see the logo behind me, the slash plus slash is basically an amper sand. So to us that is and it's CODE/+/TRUST, and the reason we named it Code and Trust is because we passionately believe that's what we're selling. We're selling code, but we're also selling trust, and the trust is probably the more important piece of it. Our team is there to help the business owner come forward with their idea. And build the piece of software that they want, and trust is an important piece of them being involved in our process. We're very opinionated at Code and Trust. We have real thoughts on what we think will work and what we know has worked in the past and the core competencies of our team. And so we bring a lot of opinions to every project, and those opinions are only valued, if there's trust involved, then people understand that we're gonna take care of 'em, and we're gonna be part of that team as well and look out for their best interests first.

Natasha Miller:

I'm wondering why you felt you needed to put the word trust in there. Is it really a differentiator? Are there companies that are in your space that are not trustworthy in general?

Patrick Bryant:

No.

Natasha Miller:

It's a world that I'm not familiar with.

Patrick Bryant:

Well, I wouldn't put so much on our competitors, per se. They're not trustworthy. I don't wanna say that. But what I will say is that, especially in a lot of cases where you're outsourcing or you're with a big company, it's not that they're not trustworthy. They just might be neglectful, right? They're not paying attention to the absolute needs of the business owner, and as an extension to that, the employees or clients that business owner is here to serve, right? At the end of the day, I'm a eight time entrepreneur with a lot of successes, and I know that the key to any business is not the people running the business. It is their relationship with the people that are gonna purchase those good services. And when you combine those things together, a lot of times as an investor you say, "Oh, well, I'm betting on the team." Well I agree. But that team needs relationships and expertise in a particular area, and that's what makes them run fast and be successful. And that's what I bet on as an entrepreneur. So to me, trust means that we are a team that is gonna really listen to the owners needs. And the needs of their clients that they're there to serve ultimately and pay attention to the piece of software that they need, not just what they're asking to be built.

Natasha Miller:

So you've invested in startups and launched six and counting multimillion dollar companies. What level of day to day work are you doing in all of these endeavors?

Patrick Bryant:

I get that question a lot because people say, "Oh, Patrick, you're running all these companies. You've invested in all these things. How do you do it?" And my answer is joyfully. I am so incredibly happy to be involved in the businesses that I'm in. The long answer is I have some tremendous business partners who really take on the blunt of the exercise that we're working on. I think, startups is movie scripts where there's some in pre-production. We're talking about a business, maybe an idea. We're working on some funding, we're kind of playing with it. And then we have businesses that are in production, and I can only be on set for one business at a time. So I'm very focused on one business in that particular moment that's what I'm paying attention to. And then once we get that to a place that it has scale, it has a strategic vision, it understands what it is and who it serves, then I'm no longer need it. And I think of it as switching into my post production, which is all right. We gotta have a team that's paying attention. They gotta be growing it. They gotta be following through on the five year strategic plan. But I don't have to be there for that because my unique skill is when we're at zero and we're crafting a new piece of software, a new business, a new idea, that's where I really thrive and have a lot of fun. So about 20 employees is the place that I exit companies that I've been involved in, and if we can scale 'em to 20 employees within two, two and a half years, that's my ultimate goal for every business. Then I'm happy to exit. And if after two and a half, three years we haven't scaled it to 20 employees, time for me to exit. Either way, we have run this horse as far as Patrick Bryant. Gonna run it and we need to transition it to somebody else that has the next set of skills. Okay, so that just opened up so many questions.

Natasha Miller:

One question is, are you mostly a visionary and a strategist for these businesses and not a technician or an operator?

Patrick Bryant:

I end up being a little of both in the sense that I definitely think of myself as an innovator, strategic. Let's paint the picture and then let other people really run with the details. Having said that, I am really skilled at some of the early stage customer development. Skills that can power a company into scale. And so when we talk about mass communications, which is, I'm originally a broadcast major from 30 years ago, so when it comes to mass communications, social media, broadcast messaging, listening to a customer, forming relationships, creating partner channels, those customer development pieces, Are really my skillset as a technician. And so that's, to answer your question, that's exactly what I try to do. I try to go in as a technician and work through the problems creating scale. And once we create scale, my pieces are done and we can bring somebody else in who is better equipped to really grow it into that next level of 200 employees. And that's the goal.

Natasha Miller:

So I'm assuming your metric of 20 employees includes other things because depending on the business, 20 employees means one thing and one set of profit. And for a different business, 20 employees means a completely different thing. So is that just a general. Mark of,

Patrick Bryant:

It's a general mark for sure, and I will caveat that to say it's a marker for me because in my life, the businesses that I've been involved in, somewhere between 0 and 10 employees, I am having the time of my life. I just enjoy it. When we're at zero, it hurts. It's never an easy process. There's a lot to figure out, and there's naing of teeth somewhere between 0 and 10. You hit a stride that you're like, Oh man, we got this. We're figuring it out. We're hiring people. We're creating roles. We're building a strategic vision. Things are really beginning to grow here, and this is a lot of fun for me personally, and then somewhere after 10, and I can't say where it is, but it's a definite marker and I can feel it when it happens. A thing happens that employees start to ask off work and they start to be disgruntled perhaps. Because this isn't the right fit for them in life. And they start questioning the company in ways that large corporations are expecting employees to question. But young little startup guys, they can't deal with that sort of pressure. They want employee handbooks and specific rules. And as those things happen, I begin to signal, Oh, I don't like this quite as much. It might be time for there to be an HR manager and a CEO and or a general manager. It might be time for someone else to come be the person that those people want to talk to about those issues. If you don't like,

Natasha Miller:

It's the spark of excitement, not the-

Patrick Bryant:

Exactly. If you start to lose that a little. And I have friends, a friend of mine, ceo, publicly traded company, and he loves managing people and he loves the strategic value of all of the things that they're accomplishing. And I do too, but I do not wanna report to a board that way. I don't want to be at work at nine and leave at six. I want to be able to have fluidity in my life that allows me to have more autonomy and moreover work with people that enjoy working in that autonomy. When you're first, you do your first five hires, they end up being pretty autonomous freedom driven people, but you're people that you hire when you've got 50 employees. They start to feel like people that want structure. Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying, "Hey, this is bad." I need those companies to keep growing, but I'm just not the right person to be CEO of, of a firm that size. I'd rather go back to zero. And get back to that crushing moment. That's where I find the reward.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. You remind me. I, during the pandemic realize that I'm my very best self during a pretty deep challenge's where the fun and the enjoyment for me is so,

Patrick Bryant:

Oh, we're still aligned in that.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. Have you ever thought that you should write a book, that you should write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience? Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your publishing path and market your story, your memoir, to a best seller status.

Patrick Bryant:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

You mentioned you scale innovation to grow companies. Tell us more. What does that mean to you?

Patrick Bryant:

Well, scale is the key I think that really separates growth business from any other type of business. And again, I wanna be clear, there is nothing wrong with a 50 year old law firm that has had the same partners for 40 years and has had the same employees for 20. That is a great business and I applaud them and they are doing a great thing for our society and economy. Those aren't the kind of businesses I wanna run. I wanna focus on things that are really scaling. And to me the definition of scale is that we've got a service product, mostly products that can be sold around the world repeatedly to the same client. And if we can hit those marks in what we've built, then it can scale and scale and grow right all around and we can pivot to other products. And before, you know, it can be a very big company, and so if we're talking about, "Oh, I wanna start a business that's a chiropractic firm in my zip code", and then I may be gonna be able to go to two or three other zip codes through a lot of hard work. Then I'm excited for that entrepreneur, but that's not a challenge that I'm seeking. I'm seeking the challenges that allow us to really get products out across at least the entire United States. If not the entire globe. And that's normally my initial marker when I'm looking at a business idea is, is this something that on its face value, someone on the other side of the country would buy? I don't have to sell to them today. I'm a very narrow, focused startup guy on who our client is. But is it achievable that if I took that product to someone on the other side of the country, would it resonate? Would they also be a client? And if the answer is yes, then we have something that we can really work with. So that to me is scale. And then to answer the other side of the question, innovation is something in a process, in a service based business perhaps, but a lot of products where we can protect it and the next person can't come along and spin up what we are doing right now, right beside us and beat us up on cost. And so I'm always looking through that lens to say, is this something that if we go. We can create some protections. I call it oil slick behind us that's presenting the next person from going. Wow, Patrick had a great idea to create bold rolling papers. I think I'll go do it too. I know you want.

Natasha Miller:

Is it with trademarks,

Patrick Bryant:

trademarks,

Natasha Miller:

trademarks, and patents. Is that what you're using to protect. Your IP?

Patrick Bryant:

Well, I mean, I think, yes, of course, trademarks, patents, really good ways to create oil slick through IPA. On the other hand, there are plenty of other ways through trade secrets, proprietary process, brand building around creating loyalty to a particular product. So there are other ways to create that innovation. That aren't just locked up in a patent, in a trademark, and so sometimes they have really good, valuable places, but the key is to create something different, to find something that the marketplace needs. That only you or very few other people are offering that particular thing so that we really got a little room to go figure it out before they come attack us on price.

Natasha Miller:

Are there any metrics attached to businesses that you're looking at investing in that are above and beyond the scalability and the innovation?

Patrick Bryant:

I normally get in so early? That we don't have all that figured out. So normally when someone pitches me something I can get very quickly to, "Well, what do we think the scale of that could be in the future?" Doesn't have to be there today, of course. And what do we think we could do it? Iterating around to find some innovation. And as I have those dialogues, I might already see things that the other person that's running that business doesn't see.

Natasha Miller:

Do they not need to have revenue yet?

Patrick Bryant:

Yep, definitely. Yeah, I'm totally fine with no revenue. I think that's a good time to get in. If I feel like the team is strong and the idea is strong and that we can find innovation, find scalability, we they don't have to be there right then. That's right there. Revenue is the same thing, right? We don't have to have revenue yet. It could certainly prove some things. But it's not a requirement. We can always find revenue. We can find innovation, we can find scale. What we can't find, going back to the most important thing is we can't find team, right? Building team is very, very difficult. And when you meet the right person and you go, "Oh, you're a subject matter expert and landscape design, and you've been doing it for 20 years and you've got an idea for a piece of software." But as we look to that person that is an expert and they have that ability to talk to future clients, they have an ability to understand the market that they're gonna move in. Any of those things allow us to see that there is a lot of potential here. And so that's normally the biggest marker that I'm looking for is, okay, you wanna develop something in a particular industry, that's great. Do you have experience in the industry? Do you have network in the industry? Do you have an understanding of how the mechanics and economics of that industry work?, And if the answer is yes, those are the early metrics that now I'm going, "Okay, is there revenue?" "Is there innovation?" "Is there scale?" Those are the things we can bring to the table that you might not have yet.

Natasha Miller:

And how are you sourcing and qualifying these potential investors? Are they finding you? Are you finding them?

Patrick Bryant:

For us, there's a couple of plays. The first of which is we, here at CODE/+/TRUST. End up talking to a lot of entrepreneurs that are building software, and so we will help them build that software and along the way, put ourselves in a position that we can invest and help them move forward with. These concepts that I've talked about, and that's our goal in meeting those entrepreneurs. Sometimes it's a big corporation and we're not gonna take any equity. We're just developing software for hire. On the other hand, it might be that we develop version one and two, and then when revenue gets there, we jump in and say, "Hey, let us develop version three, and we're gonna take some equity in exchange. And everybody's happy for that arrangement. So we don't force ourselves into an equity position with our clients, but we do often offer it. And so-

Natasha Miller:

It's a great business model. You're attracting potential clients that are going to pay you for the service, and then you're gonna get in there and ask for equity if it's the right fit. So you kind of have your own machine. Churning these out. I love it. So your first business, did you have an exit in mind when you started that?

Patrick Bryant:

I did not. That was 25 years ago. In October of this year, we'll celebrate our 25th anniversary. And when I started that business I was a journalist. I understand journalism, and I formed a business with my business partner. Who's my boss at our television station, Dwayne Scott, who I love deeply, and the two of us were two guys in a truck and an SBA loan for a hundred thousand dollars. We were starting a business because we knew it would be fun and intriguing and put us in the rooms and covering the stories that we thought would be a lot of fun. And so that was really our passion and our reason for doing it. And once we got going, About maybe two years in, we really said, "Oh wait, like we could grow this. We could scale it". And really do something larger here. And it didn't take until 10 years in for us to write a strategic plan with the imagination and the vision to have video crews around the entire United States. Now, today we're 25 years in, we got 16 offices around the United States. We're one of the largest producers of television in the United States. That's not a network, and in doing so, we've created a ton of systems and innovations and abilities to grow and scale a service based business. But we didn't know any of that when we started out. We were just two guys trying to start.

Natasha Miller:

So, do you still own that business or did you add?

Patrick Bryant:

I did. I'm the majority shareholder.

Natasha Miller:

Okay.

Patrick Bryant:

And to the point I made earlier. I left that company in 2013 and handed the reins over to our current CEO who has grown the company tenfold since I handed it over to him and just a true, fantastic entrepreneur named Sean Moffitt. Sean took it in 2013 when it had maybe 15 employees, and he has now run it, including full time equivalents that are 10 99. I think were up to 150 employees in that business, so about 50 employees that manage television above the line. And another hundred that create and shoot television for our brands. So it has grown significantly. But I put a lot of that in. My business partner, Sean Moffitt, who really grew it after I got it to its infancy.

Natasha Miller:

You have a lot of success. I know for sure you have challenges. We don't have enough time to talk about those, but I want know what your number one strategy for growing CODE/+/TRUST is.

Patrick Bryant:

The number one strategy by far is to communicate in a must calm way. To help entrepreneurs grow their businesses. We like to say at CODE/+/TRUST that we're like a preschool teacher. She wants your kids to be successful. She wants her kids to be successful. She just wants everyone to be successful. And that's how we feel about CODE/+/TRUST, is we give away a lot of information online through social media. I speak at conferences. I'll happily have a dialogue with anyone that's listening about whatever business they're thinking about starting or where they are in their business. Because we truly want people to be successful. My favorite saying that I coined was The best way to make money is to make someone else a lot more money. And we really do have a heart for helping people create. A really interesting enterprise, and that's how we've been successful. That's how we've been able to grow because our clients tell other clients, "Man, these guys, they get down in the trends with you and they really do help you. They're not just gonna listen to what order you give them to develop software. They're gonna push back and go, 'Hey, wait, don't spend money on that. You need to do this other thing, or test it first.' Or maybe we need to learn more." So that's our mission to success is just help other people get to where they need to.

Natasha Miller:

For more information, go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast. Wanna know more about me, go to my website OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now. I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Patrick Bryant Profile Photo

Patrick Bryant

Serial Entrepreneur & CEO of CODE/+/TRUST

Patrick Bryant is serial entrepreneur, professional speaker, and co-founder and CEO of Charleston-based software product agency CODE/+/TRUST. After co-founding his first company Go To Team, the largest staff video crew provider in the U.S., and taking it to 20 offices around the US 25 years ago, his bio is then a steady stream of starting new businesses in media, rolling papers, and software.

As a serial entrepreneur, he continues to start and invest in new startups including, Teamphoria (human resource engagement software), Event.Gives (fundraising event software), Crew Mama (crew production directory software) & Shine Rolling Papers. All told, Patrick has successfully launched 6 (& counting) multi-million dollar companies.

Bryant feels strongly about making the world a better place through the impact of entrepreneurship. He serves as the co-Director of Startup Grind DC, is a Trustee of Trident Tech, works on the SC Department of Workforce & Employment Workforce Review Committee, founded and currently chairs the Harbor Entrepreneur Center, and was previously Chairman of Palmetto Goodwill as well as the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. He’s also recognized as a Liberty Fellow by Wofford College and the Aspen Institute, as a Riley Fellow by Furman University, and is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Bryant is also an Entrepreneur Organization Certified Speaker.

The keys to his entrepreneurial success are now the founding principles taught to start-up founders in the Harbor Accelerator, a 14-week program offered to 16 companies a year in Charleston, SC. Each company selected receives free space, mentorship, access to investors, and free services like marketing, legal, and accounting.

The same principles used at the Harbor Accelerator are now also the primary focus of his professional speaking engagements. Concentrated on innovation, scalability, and execution, Patrick has created a 3-part framework that entrepreneurs at fast growing companies can use to craft products and services that are made for growth. In addition, through the study of hundreds of business models, Bryant created the Business Growth Score, which is designed to analyze the perfect business idea.

Patrick currently splits his time between homes in Isle of Palms, SC and Washington, DC. When he’s not leading his business or mentoring other entrepreneurs to success, Bryant enjoys traveling, flying his drone, and spending time with his sons Pate and Jack.

To learn more, visit codeandtrust.com/patrick