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Digital Agency Growth: Infancy through Adolescence to Maturity

Published by Summit Marketing Team on 23 Apr 2024

Karla Santi, CEO of Blend Interactive, joins Jamie and Jody to discuss her journey in web design and development since the 1990s and the growth of her agency since its founding in 2005. They explore the agency's focus on complex projects for sectors like healthcare and finance, and Karla's strategic business management, including seeking financial management help and integrating AI into web development. The conversation also covers the importance of empowering employees, Karla's role as a mentor, and the parallels between mentoring in business and sports. Additionally, the value of professional relationships, attending industry events, the evolution of accounting events, and the benefits of advisory boards are highlighted, emphasizing vulnerability, honesty, and the impact of diverse perspectives on success.



Intro (00:00:00) - Welcome to the Creative Agency Success Show, the go to resource for agency owners looking to scale their business. Join us every week to stay ahead of the curve and position your agency for future success.

Jamie (00:00:15) - All right, Jody, this is another one of those fun episodes where we get we're lucky enough to bring a friend in. So, what are your thoughts on, on Karla's, podcast coming up here?

Jody (00:00:23) - Karla’s awesome. First of all, I've known her for almost ten years, a lot of different exotic locations. We talk a little bit about that, during the podcast, but Karla is a true role model for a lot of folks and, and a role model. And we talk a little bit about that, but it's not a forced role model. It's somebody that you can really look up to. She definitely enjoys making that connection with people. And, you know, it's obvious when you meet her. So, I mean, Karla is just a great, great individual looking forward to the conversations and a lot of great stuff.

Jamie (00:00:56) - Yeah. No, I definitely agree. I think that if you are an agency out there, I would, I would follow Karla on LinkedIn. I would see when she's speaking next. I would try to meet her in an event, because I do think she is just an amazing person who runs an awesome business and follow, blend and are active as well. Just kind of see the things they're doing follow their blog because I've always feel like they're one step ahead and they run a really, really well-run agency there. So definitely someone to follow and listen to in this podcast just kind of gives you a little bit of insight into it. And she's very humble. She doesn't talk a ton about a lot of stuff she does, which I tried to I tried to throw that softball question to her, because I really wanted to give her a chance to brag about all that she's doing. But no, Karla is a great person to follow and look out for. Hello everybody. Welcome today's episode. I am very excited about today's guest because it is another one of our long time friends.

Jamie (00:01:42) - It is, Karla Santi with, Blend Interactive. So, Karla has a awesome agency she's going to tell us all about there, so, very excited to talk to you, Karla. Welcome to the show.

Karla (00:01:51) - Thanks for having me. It's great to see you guys again.

Jamie (00:01:54) - Awesome. And as always, were joined by Jody Grunden. So, Jody, welcome to the show again.

Jody (00:01:58) - Yep. Thanks, Jamie.

Jamie (00:02:00) - Karla so, we both of us know how awesome your agency is. We've known each other a long time. We can talk about our backstory a little bit, but before we get to that, why don't you give the listeners a little bit of your background and a little bit more about your agency?

Karla (00:02:11) - Sure. Yeah. Well, actually personally, I started in web design and development back in the 1990s. So, I'm kind of old school in our, in our world. But I have founded and I'm the CEO of my company now called Blend Interactive, and we've been around since 2005.

Karla (00:02:28) - So we really focus on complex web design and development for big industries like hospital systems, financial services, organizations, kind of the more complex web work that needs to be done, sites that have like thousands of pages of content and a lot of audiences. So, our jobs have certainly evolved over the years since both I started when, you know, the web was a very simple place. And now we can do everything. And with AI, it's our jobs just keep evolving. So, it's super exciting to run a company that is on kind of not the bleeding edge, but leading forefront of some of these technologies and change.

Jamie (00:03:10) - Awesome. So, that's yeah like I said, I know we're going to get more into all that you guys do, and just some of the ways you run your business and how you make it great for your people. But before we get to that, Jody, do you want to talk a little bit about our history with Karla and kind of all the times we've seen her and how long we've known her for?

Jody (00:03:25) - Oh, geez.

Jody (00:03:26) - Well, I just met her.

Jamie (00:03:28) - Just right now before the show.

Jody (00:03:33) - Now, heck, you know, Karla and I met. I can't remember how many years back it was. It was in Puerto Rico, actually at one of the very first events that I attended for the bureau, and Karla just happened to be the. I don't know what you call it, the room right next to me. So as we're as we're getting coffee in the morning, we're walking out in our little balcony areas, and Karla was sitting right next to me, and we, that's pretty much how we met, just, shared some coffee and, and, you know, in Puerto Rico and then later in Belize and then, man, you've, we've been to a lot of different events together, to the most recent where we invited you to be part of our, advisory board, which is a pretty exciting. So, we get a chance to hang around each other, even more.

Jody (00:04:17) - And so, Karla, you've always been one of those. One of those people that when I see you that, we're going to be at the same event together, it's like, it brightens my day. So, it's fun to have you on the on the, the podcast. And I just want to thank you for everything you've done for, for us as well as, for the community itself.

Karla (00:04:36) - Well, thank you. I think meeting a small group of people on a private island, you know off the coast of Puerto Rico, brings a group of people pretty close. Quickly, I love being your morning coffee buddy, keeping each other accountable and things like that. But I think, you know, over the years, my relationship with both of you has really evolved. I think when I first met you, Jody, that was also my first owner camp, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that I needed to focus on the business instead of working in the business.

Karla (00:05:12) - So, that was really one of the first events that I attended as a leader. Even though it was my company, I had a lot to learn, your company did a presentation, some utilization, pulling the right levers to, you know, be profitable growth, things like that. That really opened my mind to be like, oh, yeah, we have a long way to go, and then I met Jamie, actually in Hawaii, and...

Jody (00:05:38) - Oh, that's right. Yeah.

Karla (00:05:39) - He took your place in the presentation. And again, I once again saw, like, we need to do this. And what I learned from you is that, you know, there are so many metrics that we should have been tracking, but weren't quite ready to be a client of yours yet because we needed to get our poop in a group, but there came a time I met Jamie again, in what was it, 2022?

Jamie (00:06:05) - Yep!

Karla (00:06:06) - In Costa Rica. 

Jody (00:06:07) - That's right.

Karla (00:06:08) - I knew that it was the next step in maturing my company, Blend Interactive, and it was the right time. We had everything in place to then bring you on and bring our company to the next level. And for me, I'm the CEO. I'm not a CFO, but I was acting as one. It was not my favorite part of running a company because math doesn't excite me. Like it? It does. Some of you, I can do it. And I think I did it pretty well. But to be able to have a firm come in and take a look at how we've been running the company and honestly, just to get reassurance to be like you guys, are you you're good, you're not doing things wrong and you've been able to come in and, really tweak things and make it even better. So, it's been quite a journey from first meeting you. It was 2015 or 26.

Jody (00:07:03) - Yeah.

Karla (00:07:03) - I don't know, it was a long time ago, but as an agency, I think you do need to decide when is the right time to really be committed to working with someone like your team to expand grow.

Karla (00:07:17) - And we're there. Yeah.

Jody (00:07:19) - What was that little spark that that made you made you decide? It's kind of curious because we because, you know, you're doing great. You're growing. You know, there's a lot of I mean, you really didn't have a ton of pain points that on the surface at least, yeah. So, what was that? What was that one triggering event that made you. Hey, maybe we do need some help outside. Whether we hire somebody internally to be that CFO or a Virtual CFO like ourselves.

Karla (00:07:44) - I think as a company, we've been rapidly maturing as we've hit our teens. So, blend is now almost 19. But my company is the same age as my son. So, I had I had him he was nine months old when I first started blend because who shouldn't start a business when they have an infant, right?

Jody (00:08:03) - Exactly.

Karla (00:08:04) - But teenage boys, as you hopefully remember, like, grow an inch. Week at some point, like 13, 14 years old, and they mature and grow right before your eyes.

Karla (00:08:16) - And it actually took that kind of switch in my brain to be like, oh my company is a teenager. We need to mature and grow. And how are we still in business running by the, you know, seat of our pants all these years? It really felt like it was the time to mature. Our first step wasn't actually digging into the financial side of things because we had money in the bank. It wasn't a huge concern. We implemented EOS, and that kind of brought the maturity and structure that our company needed to get to the next level of maturity. And then honestly, what was left was, all right, we've gone through a pandemic. We still have money in the bank, but what could we be doing better to really fine tune our operations? Are we losing money by, you know, billing clients by the hour? We really wanted that next level of maturity for financials that now matched our operating system that were running. So, I can say now we've been on board for almost a year, if not just a year.

Karla (00:09:20) - I think our year anniversary with you was January of last year, 2023. And after a year like we have fine-tuned a lot. And, you know, it's an investment that were ready to make for our company, knowing that over time it will pay for itself. And just the reassurance that, you know, we're a mature company both in practice, process and finance.

Jamie (00:09:46) - Yeah, I definitely, love your path and I love your path about you, Karla. And this comes back to even meeting you in all those exotic locations. So, I first have to point that out. Anyone that's listening now knows that the only events Karla goes to are the nice ones are the ones that are in hot locations. So, she's in Puerto Rico, Belize, Hawaii and Costa Rica. So that's it.

Karla (00:10:07) - Live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. So, when I put a business trip on my calendar that has some sunshine, I'm not opposed.

Jody (00:10:14) - Yeah.

Jamie (00:10:16) - So, yeah I mean, at those events as well as working with Karla, what I love about Karla is I think you're so thoughtfully strategic, right.

Jamie (00:10:23) - If you talk about your path of how you came to us, it was very thoughtful and how it came, came there. And I think you do that with all of your business. So, what I'm curious is, let's just say the last two years outside of us, what are two things you've done with your business that have made a large impact? Because, like I said, I think you're always thinking two steps ahead and always have some initiatives that are really awesome that I think our listeners would love to hear.

Karla (00:10:45) - Right. Well, obviously the finance thing was a big part, but if I can't mention that, you know, it's 2024 now, the buzzword is I as I said in my entry here in my opening, we are not trying to be bleeding edge. We're not like throwing everything we know out the window and replacing it with something new and exciting. We are certainly approaching things with caution and trying to adopt AI where it makes sense for both us as a company and for our clients.

Karla (00:11:15) - Like learning new things is an investment, so we would need to make sure that we're spending our time thoughtfully and in a place that will benefit both the company and our clients. So, I would say over the last year, I mean, in web development, there's always something. Right? But this one feels pretty big, and it could really change how we work, what our teams look like as far as their job functions. And can we reduce some of the simplistic, repeatable jobs that people do with more exciting and complex problem solving? So, I think is definitely one area that that we've been focusing on, especially in the last 18 months. Another one is just, you know, employee development, I think, as so I'm co-owner with Joe Capelli. We are both equal partners. It's sometimes hard for us to step, step out of the decision making and hand over bigger responsibilities to a leadership team. But we've certainly done that in the last two years. Like, Joe and I are certainly aiming to not be a roadblock for anything anymore.

Karla (00:12:24) - I'm traveling a lot more. And so, I feel that when I'm away from the office, things tend to backlog and like, well, we need Karla’s opinion this. So, I think as a business, our next step of maturity beyond financials is really in empowering a leadership team to make decisions without ownership, having to weigh in on things. And if you've ever started a business and you're an entrepreneur, that's something you have to work on and be comfortable with. And it's something that we're certainly aiming to do over the next few years. Right, at some point we'll want to move on from this job. Maybe, I don't know, we're working on our exit plans if we have one, but it's certainly something to think about at this stage after being in business for. 19 years next month.

Jody (00:13:11) - Yeah, it's kind of funny you mentioned that because that, you know, through even my journey, you know with summit and now Anders, you know, it was the same thing, you know, it's like, hey, everybody came to me with the decision making.

Jody (00:13:24) - Oh, Jody's not going to like that. Let's do it this way or whatever. And over time, you have to get you. You have to give that away to different people, you know, you've got to give, you know, let Jamie do what he does best, what Jake does, what he does best and trust that they're going to do what's right, and they prove that through experience and working and doing things over and over. But it really it's a tough not to micromanage it, not to feel like you've got to be in every decision. And it probably wasn't for me probably, what, 4 or 5 years ago where it just kind of morphed out of it, you know, it's like, you know, hey, I think I've given away all my responsibilities to where. And it sounds weird, but to make myself useless, you know, to the company, you know, meaning that the company doesn't need me anymore. You know, it can run by itself, managed by itself, make decisions by itself without me being in that way.

Jody (00:14:22) - And it sounds like that's kind of where you were at, in the decision making to just kind of getting out of the way of the overall company, you know, being successful. And it really wasn't until that, until I released it, until Adam released his, my partner released his that the company really started, you know, just you're really doing well. We're really flourishing. And, a lot of times we are the people that get in the way. The owner.

Karla (00:14:49) - Yeah.

Karla (00:14:50) - I think personally to like you, I've spent so many years, heads down, focused on this bubble, you know, and now at this point in my career, people look at this business and myself as a role model, which is something I really try to live up to, I do a lot of mentoring, which I enjoy. I think I've learned something from every mentoring relationship that I've been in, and also just being up on stage and again, kind of being in that role model position where, hopefully I'm relatable and real.

Karla (00:15:26) - I think you both know me well enough to know that that's me. And so if that inspires, you know, another young, middle schooler to enter the Stem field, and I can make that change and, and represent, you know, those girls in, in this industry, I feel like that's my job now is to really, move not beyond the business, but use this position that I'm in to influence others and make others successful as well.

Jamie (00:15:59) - I'd love to dive in more into the mentoring part that you're going down. So, I think that I'm sure you had mentors that you were under. And then now I'm sure you're mentoring a lot of people. So, can you talk a little bit about that process? The one thing that's always curious to me about mentoring is how much of it is forced mentoring or stage mentoring versus just natural mentoring. So, I'm kind of curious, like which path you gone down and which one has worked better for you?

Jody (00:16:21) - And to kind of add to that, you know, is it just in business or is it in other parts of your life? I'm curious to know that too.

Karla (00:16:29) - Yeah. So, I think for me, your first question is in in my career path, when I started, I don't think mentoring was as planned out and official as it is now. Like now, we have mentoring programs through organizations, and you get matched with people. My mentors were really people that I met along the way, whether they were other agency owners and they saw potential in me or other professionals that I ran across, that kind of just pushed me out of my comfort zone and, and ask some hard questions or essentially forced me to figure things out like, you know, Karla, come join us, do this to do this thing. And I'd be like, oh, I'm not qualified for that, but I'd do it anyway. So, I think my mentors along the way were, predominantly male, by the way. I would point that out, and I think that's hopefully changing with the industry, but especially in tech, most of my biggest champions were, men in in leadership roles.

Karla (00:17:30) - Now, today, I feel there's a mix of types of mentorship that I am involved with, very involved in the startup community in our area. So, they have official mentoring matches where, you know, someone that has requested to meet with me, we have a set number of times to meet. Those are sometimes a hit and sometimes not. Honestly, mentoring is a personal, deeply personal commitment of time for both parties, and you need to understand each other even if you don't understand each other's businesses. I think there needs to be a personal connection with mentoring, and that's what I've seen over the years, is as I've been introduced to some of these people, they become true friends and we stay in each other's lives for years to come. And if something comes up and we're like, hey, this happened, you know, what do you think about this thing? Or what would be your advice? Like, those relationships stay strong. So honestly, anymore, I'm pretty careful about signing up to be a mentor for a program, because I want to make sure that the relationships that I'm going to be forming are valuable for both of us, and there's strategic outcomes from spending that time together.

Karla (00:18:50) - So, yes, I think there's a lot of wonderful mentorship opportunities out there. Ultimately, it comes down to meeting people that you care about and wanting to help them along.

Jamie (00:19:03) - Yeah, I know that's. Go ahead. Jody. Sorry.

Jody (00:19:05) - No, I love it. And, you know. You know, I yeah, I think that's great, with mentoring, you know, do you see yourself, you know, like, for instance, Jamie, you know, Jamie coaches all kinds of sports. I mean, basketball is as big as thing. He coaches all kinds of teams. He's got probably 20 teams he's coaching at any one point in time, it seems like. And you know, and he's reaching kids at the youngest age and mentoring. Now he's not talking accounting. You know he's not talking. You know he's just basically talking about how to grow up and how to be a great adult, how to be a great person, how to work together as a team, quit being an individual, all those kinds of things.

Jody (00:19:47) - You know, I'm kind of curious. Did you have any of those folks, you know, mentoring you and you're growing up, or is it just something that that came about once you actually became a business owner?

Karla (00:20:01) - Yeah, I think the sports reference is actually quite important. I grew up doing ballet since I was three years old, you know anything about ballet? It's pretty fairly regimented. You know, there's a lot of rules, there's a lot of guidance and oversight from someone like an instructor that kind of shape and mold you in a certain way. Right? You carry yourself a certain way. You learn about rules and having someone kind of keep you in line, if that makes sense. But I've also played tennis since I was really young, and I had a coach that, you know, I learned the coaching aspect that you do, Jamie. And, you know, having someone believe in you. And if you're if you're not winning a match, coming over and like, giving you a pep talk and having your back and just that someone believing in you and you're being a part of a team.

Karla (00:20:57) - So even though tennis is a pretty individual sport, I played doubles. So, I had a doubles partner, but I also played singles. So, some sports are individual, but you're still part of a team and your performance and your attitude, all of those things actually affect others. And so, in my career, I guess I would say that my participation in tennis and ballet, have actually shaped, how I'm working with the team here. And even though I'm now the coach, I still feel like we're all working together for a win.

Jamie (00:21:33) - Yeah, no, I definitely, obviously resonate with that with all the sports references and the coaching. And it's interesting because I think on both sides, I think what you said very early on is, is important. It's the connection, right? It's the connection and making sure that it's not a forced mentorship. And I always think back to my, my first job when I was like, Grant Thornton, you know, you got assigned a coach and that was supposed to be your mentor.

Jamie (00:21:53) - And I got along fine with my coach. But like, there was another, senior that I clicked with pretty early on, like, and were working together a lot. And I definitely consider her my mentor throughout my first, you know, 10 to 12 years of my career and still now, like, if I ever like, I'm thinking about something like, oh, I wonder what Kelly would think about that and I'll still reach out to her. And so I think like, yeah, there's a lot of the force mentorship and this is what we tell our team, right. So obviously you want to have a coach when you walk in the door. I think that's really important. But I tell them, like if there's someone that you're connecting with, let me know. Like we don't have to like keep that, keep that force mentoring relationship. Because I do think and it's the same thing with, you know, with the youth. Right. Like they're definitely kids that I connect with more than another coach might connect with to.

Jamie (00:22:31) - So I think it is important to find that person you connect with. And I think the for all the listeners out there, especially the young ones, I think the biggest thing is, if there's someone you connect with, like you got to like make it happen, right? Like you got to make sure you're fostering that relationship so that it grows and it blooms. Right. And I think if it's if it's easy to do, that's probably the right mentor. Right. It's like, oh, I love Jody. He's a good dude. He's definitely there as one of my mentors currently. Right? I talked to Jody all the time outside of work, and so, you know, I think as you see those relationships that you connect with, they're really important. So yeah, that's great advice. Yeah.

Karla (00:23:02) - I do want to call out Jody has been a good mentor for me as well. I think, you know, our relationship was started as friends I know.

Karla (00:23:09) - Right.

Karla (00:23:12) - Something, but I always know that, you know, if I have a question like, hey, what do you think about this thing? We're going through this big restructure. What is your opinion from an outsider, given what you know? And I know that Jody will, like, give me the truth whether or not it's what I want to hear or not. So, I think that's maybe one of the more important things is having transparency and trust with those connections that you make. And even as a team here at blend, when we have a new employee, we kind of pair them up with a buddy. So, no question is stupid. This is your person that usually creates a bond between those two people because they work together differently at a level of trust. You're not trying to prove something to that person from day one, you are open to ask whatever question that you want. And I think that's been really successful for us, bringing new people on into the team.

Jamie (00:24:11) - Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. So, we've gotten to our, our fun section, so this is going to be a little bit more of a work, a work question that we normally ask in this situation. And so, the three of us all go to a lot of conferences, as we've already talked about, and a lot of them together, sometimes apart. So, what I'm curious to think about the last couple of conferences you've gone to and what are you 1 or 2 takeaways that you took away from them that you walked away and like, wrote it down in pen and tore out that piece of paper and put it on your desk. And so the reason I'm asking this is to give our listeners a little bit of a, a free, a free sample here, because obviously we go to a lot of events, and I think we walk away from each of those events with a lot of stuff, so this is kind of just a free sample of why we go to these events and the stuff we, the stuff we learned from them.

Jamie (00:24:52) - So, Karla, we'll start with you as the guest. So, what's the what's one thing you've walked away from, from one of your most recent events?

Karla (00:24:58) - Okay, well, I attend a couple different kinds of events. I attend, professional events, put on by kind of our software companies that we work with, so those in that case, I am learning a couple things. I'm learning. Technical things like, hey, we should be learning how to do this thing that's coming out next year so we could provide that service to the client. And I feel like I write frantically and leave those events thinking I know nothing. It's like things obviously changed so quickly in our industry that we're forever students. Like, we're always frantically learning the next thing so we can be again, you know, learning and teaching our clients what they need. So I've been to a couple of our vendor events like that where it's not just the learning of the technical stuff, but the community that also attends.

Karla (00:25:50) - So other business owners, developers, project managers, all different walks of project life attend these things. And those connections that you make are super fun. Like, I love the social part of eventing, going out in the evening, having a nice dinner, so those are definitely two big takeaways from any event that I go to. I try to do the technical things, professional development. So, I'm continuously learning, but also the social let's get together. Let's, you know, let's learn from each other and create a network of people that I can trust. So, I'm not going to mention specific conferences, but I would say as I look at my schedule for travel, I try to balance those two things, like how can I continuously improve my professional development, and also how can I meet a larger group of people where, they can impact me or I could have an impact on them?

Jamie (00:26:53) - Great. That's a great approach to events. And I know we take a similar approach.

Jamie (00:26:57) - And so it sounds like you get a lot out of them Jody. Any takeaways for you.

Jody (00:27:01) - The follow that's kind of sucks. But we, you know, when I, when I go to two different types of events as well. So one, one type of events, industry related events where I'm going to creative agency events and that the idea there is to really teach and educate and be a thought leader and really help a lot of agency owners understand finances and metrics and all that kind of kind of good stuff, but what I do come back with every event. I come back learning something, something new, you know, and it could be a just a different way. Somebody's doing something. It could be, you know, something going on in the industry, updates and so forth. And, and I walk away. I don't think I've ever been to an event where I didn't actually walk away smarter than what I came to. And often, like Karla had mentioned it, maybe it may not have anything to do with any of the talks that happen during the event.

Jody (00:27:54) - It more likely happened after the event because what I find is if you go to those types of events and you become vulnerable, people open up to you and they will share honest stuff. Instead of posturing on how great my company is and how we're doing everything perfect, you know, that's a bunch of B.S. and there's not one company out there that's perfect and doing everything you know, right? And so being vulnerable, I think really helps. And again, that that a lot of times that's at the dinner or maybe a beer afterwards or something like that, we're really hey, we're having issues with this. What are you guys seeing too? You know, you've seen the same thing. You know, those are the types of things I think you come back and you're like, well, that's the purpose of the reason why I love going to those type of industry events, and we have a very similar thing with the accounting events, because we go to I go to probably an equal number of accounting events where again, I'm not just simply sitting and listening to the lectures, but we're, we're they're opening up and trying to figure out, hey, what's working, what's not working the way we're doing things, you know, is there somebody out there doing it better, you know? And if they are doing it better, will they be happy to share and figure out, what they're doing differently to kind of help us? Because, you know, when we go to the accounting events, it's the same thing.

Jody (00:29:05) - It's, you know, we're teaching other CPA firms how to provide virtual CFO services. That's the basic reason why we're going there, and we're going there as a thought leader. But in the same point as a thought leader doesn't mean you know everything and that you're 100% right on everything, you know, thought leader. It goes in there with the idea that, hey, I'm going to educate what I know, but I'm also going to learn from everybody else. And I think that holds true on both of those type of events, industry events as well as, you know, professional events like the CPA events that that we go to all the time.

Karla (00:29:35) - Well, Jody, that's a very humble answer. But I mean, you're kind of a big deal.

Jamie (00:29:42) - Karla come on. You know better than that.

Karla (00:29:43) - I don't want to inflate you or anything, but my finance manager from blend here attended the one of the latest, conferences in Las Vegas where you were a speaker.

Karla (00:29:55) - And she said, I saw your friend Jody on stage, but she's also a CPA and is also a teacher at a local college. So, she got a lot out of your talk and working with a company like Blend as part time that she can bring back to her students. So, it was kind of fun to have her all excited that she met you in person.

Jody (00:30:15) - They actually came inside of me after the after the talk.

Karla (00:30:18) - Maybe wrote a book. Whatever.

Jamie (00:30:21) - As a firm, we have not recovered from that CPA event. I will tell you that, like the amount of people that came up to Jody, I was sitting right next to them and I had to leave a couple times because I was so sick. Like people came up to him like, Jody, you changed my life. I'm like, oh my God, we're gonna hear about this in the next five years. And so I do agree though, I'm giving Jody a hard time, but like, yeah, I think the presence that Jody brings to an event is, is awesome.

Jamie (00:30:42) - And I think that the approach to and I think, I do feel like Jody has a big part in why events have changed on the accounting side. So going back to my early career, I would go to accounting events, and it was terrible. You'd go in and you'd hear very technical presentations by people that had no business, public speaking, and you would fall asleep, and most people would either leave the room and get to sign in and get their CPA and leave, and there'd be 100 people signed up at 12 people in the room. And I went to those events for ten years, and like, I never want to go to an event ever again. Like it's awful. And then, when I started with, summit, Jody took me to a bureau event or an agency event, and, and it was just a different atmosphere. People were talking and people were sharing. Like, I walked away with ten pages of notes. And to Jody's point, most of those notes, I had to go back to my hotel room after a night at the bar and write down as I talked to people, outside of the actual event.

Jamie (00:31:34) - And so I think I'm like, wow, that's how an event should be run. And now I've been at summit eight years. Eight years later, I attended my next accounting event. I've been to an accounting event in a long time, and the accounting events have changed more to that style, where people are actually interacting with each other. And I don't think it's all Jody, but I do think that's a big part of it, is that we've kind of brought the agency style of events to the accounting world. Now, accounting events are much more valuable and much more worth going to. So that's my big takeaway is that I think the accounting industry is starting to catch up a little bit and realize, okay, this is how events are run. Like no one wants to hear someone talk for two hours about depreciation laws for farmers. Like no one wants to sit and listen to that conversation. So, I think that it's definitely changed over the last, at least eight years since I've been out of the accounting industry.

Karla (00:32:17) - So this sounds kind of deep, but I mean, there's a great importance for that, right? To be different and to be comfortable being different and not to go back to role model. But, Jody, I think you are one for a lot of people. And, it's important for us to get out of our comfort zones and quit hiding behind our desks and actually get out there, be present. And, you know, hopefully people can learn from us. Not that we know it all. And I think that's key, too. You can't have that ego that goes with it. You need to be humble and always be learning as well. But yeah, getting out there and cheering people on and being, you know, someone who they can relate to is super important in our roles.

Jamie (00:33:02) - Awesome.

Jamie (00:33:03) - All right. Now that we've boosted Jody’s ego for the last three minutes, let's get to our final thoughts. So, Karla I'd love to start with you. I know we talked on a lot of topics here, but this is the section where we just want one. One final thing for our listeners who made it this far through the podcast to take away. What's that one thing for them?

Karla (00:33:19) - Oh, one thing. It's been a lot, yeah. I think for this is this is kind of a, not a hat tip to you guys. Let's just put it that way. But don't underestimate the amount of information you can learn from someone else. You know, I've been in business for almost 19 years been doing this for even longer. I was somewhat blown away at how much I didn't know. Once we brought on your team, who cares as much about our success as I do, which is very cool. So, first of all, finding that that company or that agency or service that really doesn't just want you as a client for money and revenue. They want to actually make an impact on your company.

Karla (00:34:06) - So I think that that's one of the biggest takeaways is really look inward, try to figure out what your weaknesses might be. As hard as it is to admit them, do that and try to figure out how to how to fix them.

Jamie (00:34:20) - Yeah, I love it. I think it's not just in the finance realm, but any realm. When you're looking for that help, like, what are you? What are the areas you're weak on and bring someone in? So, we talked a lot about mentorship. So, I'm sure someone's listening to this podcast and be like, I want to talk to Karla. I need her to be my mentor. So how can someone get hold of you?

Karla (00:34:36) - Well, I mean, reach out via LinkedIn and slash Karla Santi. I think I'm at Karla Santi on most platforms. Or at least I try to be, you know, I'm certainly willing to jump on a call again. It's kind of one of those. Are we a right fit both ways.

Karla (00:34:52) - Whether or not we choose to spend time with, with each other going forward. But I'm also trying to do more public speaking and be more involved with writing. I'm not I don't have a book on my radar yet, Jody, but I am trying to share a little bit more of my experience in what I know online for people to read. So, if you just want to follow me online, I'm just today creating one of the I think it's LinkedIn blog, even where I'll have my own page and voice. So that's one way to follow along.

Jamie (00:35:22) - Great. I appreciate that. Jody, final thoughts from you.

Jody (00:35:25) - You know, I guess the biggest thing I think Karla mentioned, and it doesn't necessarily have to be on the CFO side, but just having guidance from somebody else, whether that's a, an iOS implementer guide or a pinnacle guide or somebody that can be there with you, and it could be a CFO, too. You know, somebody can lean on, ask questions, kind of help you through your journey.

Jody (00:35:46) - I think that's important. And we touched a little bit on it, but we didn't really hit it, hit it, hit a home run with it. But I think with having an individual that you can open up. To be honest with that, you know that, hey, it's going to stay in this little confined bubble here and there. They're there to help you out, has really helped me out through my journey. You know, in the, in the public accounting arena, you know, and growing a virtual CFO firm, you know, something that nobody's ever done. It's like, you know, how do you how do you be vulnerable to a team and it's easier to be vulnerable to that person. You know, that person that maybe a third party that's not, that you're not giving a paycheck to, you know, that type of thing. I think that is real important. So, I would say, you know, Karla, you know, we've been great friends for, you know, almost ten years.

Jody (00:36:36) - And it's been fun. Looking forward to many. Just again, thank you publicly for being on our advisory board, that's exciting stuff. And, and hopefully we can take the information that you're that the team there is providing us and improving our service, to make it even better. And I appreciate you and the efforts and the input and everything you've done for that. So, again, thank you very much.

Karla (00:37:01) - Yeah, it's my pleasure. I think advisory boards are just another example of bringing together a group of people that want to see you succeed, your business, succeed, and are willing to sometimes share the hard things that you don't want to hear, so surrounding yourself with, whether it be an advisory board or mentors or other business professionals or friends, it's so key in success these days.

Jamie (00:37:25) - Great. That's both good thoughts and hard to follow. I'd say my biggest thing and just kind of hearing you talk about, the summer relationship that you have or the relationship you have Karla, I think that, on both sides, relationships are so important, right? Like, I think when we go to these events and, and when I've talked to Jody about sales and what it looks like is like it's about relationships. And I think it goes on both sides. It's like once you find someone you connect with and someone that really understands what you do, it's a lot easier to work with them. And it's also really rewarding to work with them. And so, I think as you're as you're thinking about, okay, I need to find a CFO or I need to find a coach, it shouldn't just be someone you cold call and say, yeah, you want to be my coach. I think I'm going to. The places where you can find those people is going to be really important. And then obviously from a sales side, going to events where you connect with people, I think is huge. And I think it's a really big part of the business is those personal connections.

Jamie (00:38:14) - And again, I know that the three of us are, all pretty close and close to each other. And I think we've developed that relationship over many years. And I think that's made the working relationship a lot easier. So that's kind of my final thought from this, from this podcast. But, with that said, enjoy both of you guys. Thank you for taking the time to get on the show, and I'm excited for this one to go to the air.

Karla (00:38:32) - Well, thank you so much for having me. It's been a delight.

Jody (00:38:36) - Thank you.

Jamie (00:38:37) - Thank you.

Outro (00:38:37) - Enjoy this podcast? Visit our website summitcpa.net to get more tips and strategy for achieving business success. We're here to be a resource in this ever-changing industry.

Digital Agency Growth: From Infancy through Adolescence to Maturity with Karla Santi

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