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Rebranding Your Agency for Success with Todd Nienkerk

Published by Summit Marketing Team on 28 Sep 2023

The Virtual CPA Success Show: Episode 100

In the 100th episode Jody and Jamie chat with long-time client Todd Nienkerk, CEO and co-founder of Four Kitchens. From startups to Fortune 500 companies, Four Kitchens is a creative agency that has left an indelible mark in the world of digital innovation. Rebranding emerges as a key topic of discussion, with Todd and Jody emphasizing its significance in staying relevant and competitive in the ever-evolving digital realm. They stress the importance of maintaining a consistent brand image and identity, ensuring that clients and stakeholders can easily recognize and connect with an agency’s unique value proposition.




intro (00:00:00) - Welcome to the Virtual CPA Success Show for creative agencies. 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. So today's episode, I'm going to give you an opportunity to make fun of me. Remember 100 episodes ago when we recorded our first podcast and how bad I sucked? Let's talk about that real quick. 

Jody (00:00:25) - Oh, dude. That was like, I thought maybe your first and last episode. If anybody wants to Comic Relief, go back and listen to episode number one and you will, you will definitely get a chuckle or two.

Jamie (00:00:37) - I listen to it once and only once because it's that bad. So if you want to comment on this YouTube video and tell us how bad I was, I would love to hear it and I don't mind making fun of myself. So. So can you believe we made 100 episodes? Jody Yeah, no kidding.

Jody (00:00:50) - That's a lot of episodes.

Jody (00:00:52) - I had no idea it was 100 episodes until I just found out a few minutes ago. But the cool part about it is we had a super all star guest on during that time, Todd Nienkerk with Four Kitchens. Great, great. It was just a lot of fun listening to his stories and his successes and failures and how I went and did a lot of rebranding. And so it's a great, great piece to listen to for sure.

Jamie (00:01:18) - Yeah. I love Todd and I mentioned it during the podcast. I've been to several events with Nienkerk and he's the one in the room where when he talks, people put their notebooks down, people stop multitasking and they're just like all eyes on him. And that's how I felt during this podcast. Just listening to him talk and tell his story. He definitely has it all, all put together and has learned a lot in his journey and just just expressed a little bit of that here in this short podcast, but loved having him on the show and hopefully all of our listeners enjoy the show as well.

Jamie (00:01:45) - Hello everybody. Welcome to today's episode. Really excited about today's guest because it is one of our longest standing clients here at Summit CPAs. So excited to be talking to Todd Nienkerk from Four Kitchens. So I'm also joined by Jody Grunden, as always. But before we get to Jody, Todd wants you to spend a little bit of time kind of introducing yourself and let the audience know a little bit about your background.

Todd (00:02:05) - Sure, happy to. So my name is Todd. I'm CEO, owner and co-founder at Four Kitchens. I co-founded four Kitchens 17, 17 and a half years ago with some friends from college. We got involved in web design and development really early on, particularly in open source web development and Drupal especially. And since then we've made all kinds of websites for publishers and nonprofits, higher ed educators. We do tend to work with larger scale projects and clients. So we've worked with some really big names in publishing like NBC, The Economist, Time Inc, Meredith, and some really well known universities, but also lots of small schools, state schools, nonprofits that range from very local city or state based to national and international.

Todd (00:03:01) - You know, no need is too large and no project is too small.

Jamie (00:03:07) - Awesome. Well, we'll love the introduction. And yeah, just like said, Jody's also on here so say hi to the audience, Jody

Jody (00:03:12) - Yeah, it has. I'm happy to have you on here. This is pretty exciting. I've been looking forward to this ever since I've been on the calendar today, so

Todd (00:03:19) -  Likewise.

Jamie (00:03:22) - Let's, let's jump right in. So, Todd, I'm going to use the word lucky here, but I'm not sure if you'll feel that way. So every one of the directors and owners has that one client that's kind of their pet client. And so for you, it's always been Adam Hale. So it was one of our partners. So he's been he's worked on your account a lot. And I know you have a lot of experience to work with. Adam, but one of the one of the joys of working with us is that your name comes up a lot and your company comes up a lot when we're talking through stuff as a group.

Jamie (00:03:49) - And so I know for Kitchens has been through a lot. There's been a lot of changes. And you want to talk a little bit about kind of the story that Fort Kitchens has been through over the last 17 years. Just a brief history and kind of some of the ups and downs years ahead.

Todd (00:04:04) - Yeah. So, you know, I haven't actually sat and thought about all 17 years plus in total all at once. It's a lot. I think we've experienced pretty much everything a company can experience short of, knock on wood, getting sued. But everything else, we check all the boxes, you know, good and bad. And we've when we first started working with Summit, we were definitely at a low point. And it was because we had grown past our ability to internally manage and forecast our finances. And my business partner at the time and I realized, you know, a little too late, man, you know, we're pretty slow. We don't have a lot of work and we don't have a lot of payrolls in the bank.

Todd (00:05:02) - And the only way that we had to really forecast things back then and this is a long, long time ago was just kind of looking at the amount of money that we had and the amount of money in receivables. And we weren't really even at the point where we were doing like cash flow projections, we weren't really paying attention to when exactly as this or that check going to land. We're just sort of like, Boy, we hope it gets here and quick. So we weren't like completely ignorant and tripping over ourselves, but we had reached a certain stage in our complexity and growth that doing it the way we were doing it before wasn't working anymore. And we had to level up our finances. So we, got a really glowing referral from our friends at Labatt who we share a lot with culturally and clientele and the types of technologies that we use. They're another web agency and having a similar history to them and and having similar needs. We thought like, well, this we're going to take this pretty seriously.

Todd (00:06:10) - And it was a major investment for us at the time. It was one of those moments that all business owners run into where you think, Man, for that I could hire somebody. And it's that's true, but should you usually not? And we realized that this was kind of like we have to save the company kind of moment and we were happy to make that kind of investment. And I'm really glad we did because we were able to get through that rough patch and several others since then with sometimes it's been motivated by the economy or, you know, the pandemic or other outside factors. And sometimes it's driven by our own failure to effectively market ourselves or to focus on the right kinds of services or to specialize and really refine our message. So, you know, lots of things that I feel like we've done right. A lot of things that I feel like we've done wrong and learn from. But the big things along the way that we've experienced. Going from four co-founders to an owners to just myself over the course of about the first 15 years being in business.

Todd (00:07:31) - We merged with an agency two years ago. We acquired another agency internationally in Costa Rica last year. Those are two big moments for us as well. And navigating all of that has been overall, it's been a very good experience, but I or anybody on our team would tell you that it's not without its challenges. And there are still some things that feel unresolved and kind of complicated. And we continue to work through those. And we've also, you know, to be completely frank, we have been at the point a couple of times where we felt like, you know, we just want to throw in the towel. We're just kind of done with this. We don't this isn't fun anymore. It's super stressful. How do we get out? And we've worked with your team on, well, what does it look like if we just sort of stop? What does it look like if we just shut down and hand off our client relationships to people that we trust and.

Todd (00:08:33) - Well, what would it look like if we did these other things and we'd sort of play out these scenarios? I'm glad and we almost sold a couple of times as well. And ultimately I'm glad that we did not give up. I'm glad that we did not sell. And but but I think it would have looked very different if we didn't have the the right kinds of relationships, not just with Summit, but with our content marketing agency, with a branding agency that we've been working with over the past year and a half, which I'm sure we'll talk about momentarily. And just other people that I've met through professional networks, people that whose advice I take very seriously and people who are generous enough to give it.

Jody (00:09:22) - Yeah, that's a lot. I mean, there's definitely a lot. And I remember the ups and downs just talking to you in different conferences and stuff that one unconference, you'd be high as a kite. The next one, it's like it's doom and gloom.

Jody (00:09:34) - And the thing about that is that's not just characteristic to your company. That's with all entrepreneurs. There's not many entrepreneurs that cannot go out there and say, Yeah, everything is roses all the way through the whole process. I think the difference between you and many is that when that time came to, you know, hey, do I give up or not, something gave up and you didn't. And that's a lot of credit to you for that because it's just perseverance and perseverance. And why did I do this? I'm not making any money. What's going on? Or I'm not getting any sleep or, you know, whatever that monster might be that's hit you in the face. You know, a lot of credit that you stood through that and made it through. Which is great. And you grew it from basically bootstrapping it way back when to now you're super successful doing well. And success is obviously relevant to the person speaking. But I would consider you a very successful entrepreneur and business owner.

Todd (00:10:32) - Oh, thank you. Thank you for that. I think that there's I mean, there's a lot to dig into there. And there's also a lot of positive criticism that I would give myself for things that I feel like, you know, I could have done differently or done better along the way or maybe advice that I didn't take that I should have taken or something, things I should have done sooner or hard conversations I had, I should have had sooner. But one of the most interesting moments, one of the most interesting conversations I had with somebody about, you know, do I give up? Is was back in I mean, this must have been late 2019, very early 2020, like right before the pandemic hit. We were actually impacted as a business a lot earlier than most US based businesses because we had a major project lined up with a company that was very impacted by tourism and they did most of their work in Southeast Asia. Well, that part of the world was the first affected by Covid.

Todd (00:11:46) - So they stopped spending money and they started really buckling down in October, November 2019, and they had to halt a $1 million engagement that would have kept a big chunk of our team busy for the first 6 to 9 months of 2020. And so going into that year, we were already pretty scared about what was going to happen. And then everything just seemed to get worse from there, like there was just no relief at all. So it was around that time. It was at that moment when this major project had been pulled and there were these like whispers of a virus, you know, coming out of somewhere in Southeast Asia. And I spoke to a couple of people and I, I won't name names. I'm sure that they would be happy to be named. But just for the sake of I don't know how they feel about this. I won't say who they are. But one person I talked to sort of famously in our industry, left, like left this world had to shut down their agency and has spoken about it publicly and in a very heartfelt and vulnerable way.

Todd (00:13:00) - And he was just like unequivocal. He's like, you should get out of this. The world of agencies is over. Everybody is screwed. It's the best decision I ever made. I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I thought like, oh, I mean, this is somebody I've known for a long time and really respect and like, yikes. You know, here's a really dire picture of the world that we work in. And then I spoke with our content marketing agency and the principal there, very famously in our industry has a philosophy of never sell, never retire. Like that's just it. Like, this is your business. Make it work. Right? It's up to you. You can if you don't like it, you change it. And he, I did a total 180 because of this conversation with him because he just sort of reminded me of like, well, what is it that you like about this? And, and would you like to like that again? Because you can it's just going to take a while, right? You're going to have to really suffer through like a lot of hard change and difficult conversations to get to that point.

Todd (00:14:05) - But I really do have to credit them with putting me in a, I guess, a better place mentally to be prepared for what was going to happen in 2020.

Jody (00:14:19) - Yeah, because I think it's all between you here for most part, right? I mean, business owners, entrepreneurs, it really is all between the years. How much can you put up with how much can't you? I mean, stress is stress. And it's a real thing.

Todd (00:14:31) - It's a very real thing. I mean, it took me some of the worst stress that I've experienced in my life was within probably the middle of the 17 year stretch, probably in the middle of that. So after we got over the hump of, you know, whoa, this is crazy. We're running a company. Like we get past that where we're super young, you know, we're in our early mid 20s and like we could go broke the next day and it wouldn't matter, you know? Right, Right. Well, that was fun.

Todd (00:14:57) - Like, we never really expected to make it anyway, and so whatever. And then you get to this place where it's like, whoa, we have we have employees and like, we have real responsibilities not just to ourselves, but to people and to our clients who are increasingly reliant on the work that we do and providing quality work and not yet having figured out like the relationships and the people I can trust in the not to say there are people I can't trust, just I hadn't met the people who really could help guide us through this yet. And stress at that point when you're in that middle space of okay, now it's real, but I don't really know how to do it yet, in a real way is physical. Like the physical manifestations of stress are like. I remember very distinctly there was probably like a month long period where it felt like somebody had tied a line of fishing wire, like around my heart. Like it was this like. Like it just was like, oh, every morning I'd wake up and it was just like this literal, like, pain in my chest.

Todd (00:15:57) - And like, I just drag that around with me all day because it was like I don't there just fires all the time and all of that. You know? Part of it is you learn to cope. You learn to find better ways to manage it and to like name it and deal with it, but also just going like making deliberate decisions to create a less stressful environment for yourself and therefore also your entire team.

Jody (00:16:23) - Yeah.

Jamie (00:16:24) - Yeah. So listening to you talk here is bringing back a lot of, a lot of flashbacks. So think we've just similar to Jody and you, you and I have been to several conferences together and just listening to you talk like you're one of those people at those conferences that when they talk, when you talk, everybody is listening and everybody's taking notes because like, you really have great insight. And I think that, you know, there's always 1 or 2 of those people at every event and every event. I've been out with you. You've always been one of those people.

Jamie (00:16:46) - So definitely appreciate your insight and your stories here. So let's turn the page a little bit and chat about rebranding. So I know you kind of mentioned that a little bit. And I know it's a big decision. It's a big cost. It's a big there's a lot that goes into it. And it's not only the actual cost, it's the cost of time and the cost of resources and the amount of conversations that are focused on that. So let's let's let's kind of talk about your rebranding story a little bit here.

Todd (00:17:13) - Absolutely. Yeah. Do you want me to just start with like, why? 

Jody (00:17:17) -  Yeah, yeah. Why you did it? Yeah. Okay. 

Todd (00:17:18) - Yeah, I really I really love talking about this. And I'm going to name names in this one. Okay? They deserve it. So, um, let me go back to let me, let me provide a little bit of context because I think that's important to understand why we decided to do this.

Todd (00:17:39) - So in let me make sure I get all the dates right. In 2021, we had an opportunity to merge with another agency that was even a little bit older than us in the Drupal space. Very well known, lots of history. For those of you who can see the video, it's the letter A here on the on the pillow behind me, Advamatic. It was an opportunity that we weren't seeking out. The idea of like M&A was just not like didn't seem like it was possible in my universe. But I had developed a relationship with the owner of Advamatic at the time, Sarah Durham. And we'd gotten to know each other really well over the previous year and she decided that she wanted to retire. And so she was looking to to sell Advamatic. And so we had done that. And that was a really great experience. And then about a year later, we had an opportunity to expand internationally by acquiring an agency in Costa Rica called Manatee. That's the manatee over there on top of the chair.

Todd (00:18:46) - So you see it's a little family of so that allowed us that's kind of a whole other topic, like why we decided to do that, why we expanded internationally, what that means, why that's beneficial for everybody, all of that. But suffice to say, we found ourselves at the end of 2021, going into 2022 with a team that was like 75% new or would be at the time. I have my timeline, a little cross but at the time we actually did the rebranding, something like 75% of the team was basically brand new to four kitchens and had been there like less than two years.

Jody (00:19:28) - 75%.

Todd (00:19:30) - Yes, like a huge amount. Right. So in other words, four kitchens was like very fresh to them. And also it was newly fresh to me as well, because I had bought out my last remaining business partner during the pandemic. And I was then faced with, okay, now this is entirely on me to make work. What do we want to be as a company? What kinds of clients do we want to work with? What kind of work do we want to do? Do we want four kitchens to start reflecting more of my personal values and the values of the leadership team? And so all of these questions were in the air, brand new team, some M&A activity, a single owner now after 15 years of co ownership and I went to an event at the very beginning of 2022.

Todd (00:20:28) - It was an industry event where a lot of owners get together and I went in there with no expectations of brand like I didn't even at the time really know what a brand was. Exactly right. And listening to the conversations that we had that week, I realized, well, there were like three branding agencies here at the table. And one of them had had one agency that was in this room, had hired one of those other branding agencies to do a rebrand and hearing their story was really intriguing and it kind of got the gears turning. And the thing that really made it click for me was like, we had gone into that year. We'd set some goals for 2022, and one of them was that we needed to document our brand guidelines, like our stuff was all over the place, the documents we were creating for clients and internally and whatever. Like, yeah, they had our logo at the top, but they looked different. They were all structured differently. So it was like it didn't look professional.

Todd (00:21:26) - In other words, it just didn't look refined. So I pulled aside one of these branding agency owners at this event. We wound up spending the day together, and he walked me through their process and he showed me these like, PDFs of like stages of deliverables that they do. And it was like, wait, this is what a branding agency does. Like, this is amazing. It's defining the personality of the organization, like the words and the characteristics and the colors and the typography and the logo and like and the messaging. Like it's everything that expresses your company outwardly to the world and also inwardly to the team. And I realized that what we needed to do was not document our brand guidelines. We needed to just sort of wipe the slate completely because we were a new team. I was sort of a new owner. Everything was fresh. This is the right time to do this. So we wound up searching for a branding agency and we found one that we really liked, and that was Focus Lab.

Todd (00:22:26) - And we had just a fantastic experience with Focus Lab. Lots to dig in about also how much their process informed our process. And we've actually changed a lot of the ways that we do work with our clients because of our experience being a client with them. So we just.

Jody (00:22:45) - Oh wow, that's pretty cool.

Todd (00:22:46) - Yes, we really, really, really loved working with them. But what we got in the end from all of this was, you know, it wasn't just a new logo and it wasn't just like new typography, but it was really clear positioning. It was, you know, a lot of us in this space listened to folks like David C. Baker and Blair NS and these folks and David Baker in particular really hammers home this point of like, you need to be really well positioned. You need to simplify your positioning, you need to go after he sort of shares this approach with Seth Godin, where it's not about getting the most amount of people. It's about getting just enough people, just enough customers, just enough clients to support the thing that you want to do.

Todd (00:23:27) - You don't need as many as possible, just enough. And that this branding exercise was really all sort of all of that was swirling around as we were doing it. And so we now have a very clear picture about the kinds of clients that we go after, the kinds of projects that we want to to win and work on how we talk about ourselves, how we can simplify our message to the world and also everything that we produce now, every PDF, every spreadsheet, every Google doc, every email has a unified tone and look and feel that makes clients and potential clients realize that we are really sophisticated in what we do. The sophistication of our work is now represented in our brand and the sort of like profound simplicity with which we can deliver our message and our deliverables to our clients gives them the confidence to spend large amounts of money on the work that they need to do with us. So it's really helped us be more competitive. It's and it's not like we didn't change the business to make the brand work.

Todd (00:24:39) - The brand just had to reflect the business. It was just putting up a mirror to the brand and doing something that we never would have been able to do internally. Not only because we are not a branding agency, so how could we be good at branding, right? You can only be so good at it, but also just having somebody on the outside, it's that problem of like, you can't see the box when you're in it, so you got to bring somebody from outside to tell you this is what you're doing, this is what you think you're doing that's special. But here's what you're actually doing that's special, and here's how to find a balance between those things.

Jody (00:25:16) - Wow. A lot to unpack there. Geez. Yeah. With the a so during this process, I mean, you have two two different companies you just acquired. How much of what they did did you incorporate into this new brand or was it just simply, you know, here's what Four Kitchens was really beforehand and it changed a little bit.

Jody (00:25:36) - You know, now here's the new brand. How much was the impact of the other two organizations?

Todd (00:25:43) - The other two organizations really brought in a larger focus on advocacy work, non profit unions, labor. It's work that we had done before at Four Kitchens, had always done in our history, but wasn't the largest or even the second largest vertical that we were working with. Sometimes it was like the third or the fourth or the fifth largest, and that was also part of the problem. We had a lot of different verticals that we were trying to go after all at once. And so the merger and acquisition that we experienced really launched our portfolio and our internal capabilities in the nonprofit and advocacy direction. And so that was really well timed for a rebrand because we needed to make that clear to the public. We needed to really highlight that what we're doing is working with mission driven organizations that focus on like education and advocacy and social justice and fair labor and all of these really important things.

Todd (00:26:45) - So the rebrand was, it was staying true to the work that we had been doing all along at four kitchens, while also double underlining this area of work that we had rapidly expanded into through this merger and acquisition. And I don't know if I mean, it is still pretty recent that we publicly launched it. This is just in April that we sort of publicly put this out there. But we had the brand was already defined and documented and in use internally since October of last year. So we were already thinking in those terms and our sales language, even though it didn't have the new logo at the top, the way we were talking about ourselves was already starting to evolve towards that. And I think that it's just very clear that like there are relationships that we've made and projects that we've won as a result of this messaging that we would not have been in the running for previously.

Jody (00:27:48) - So branding was more than just colors and logos. It was the complete messaging.

Todd (00:27:55) - It's how you're perceived, right? It's how you get people to understand what you do and what makes you unique.

Todd (00:28:03) - Yeah, it simplifies the buying choice. In other words, to kind of put it in sales speak, it just makes that a lot easier for the kinds of clients we want.

Jody (00:28:12) - Right. Right.

Jamie (00:28:13) - Yeah. What's interesting to me is a lot of people only think about rebranding, think about what you just talked about. They think about the future customers, the potential customers, like what is this going to mean for them? But when you started this process and you started the conversation, you actually were thinking about internally, okay, does my internal team understand who we are and what we are? And I think that's something not a lot of people think about when it comes to branding or rebranding. So I'm curious, now that you're down this path, how has the team taken it? As have you seen that impact? Is there a more clear message, a little more cohesive, or what impact have you seen from the rebranding on the team?

Todd (00:28:45) - I've seen a lot of great things, but I think the two things that stand out most the first is I guess we could talk about like look and feel of the brand.

Todd (00:28:57) - So I've seen that be adopted by the team in the sense that people are actively using these templates that we've created that have the right typography and colors and logos and things like that. And most importantly, they're asking questions like, Hey, I want to do this, I want to make this kind of chart or I want to make this kind of table. How do I, do you have an example of that? How do I do that? Right? Rather than just saying screw it, you know, and they just like do whatever default Google Docs thing and they drop it in there and they walk away. Just out of expediency. They know they've taken to heart that like, this matters. We've invested a lot in making sure that everything looks good. They want to do it the right way. There are lots of right ways to do it. But, you know, if you're not if you don't have the time or the inclination or to like make a table on brand, you know, in a word doc or in a Google doc, like you're not going to do it right.

Todd (00:29:56) - So you have to make sure that people have the inclination and you have to instill that brand pride and that enthusiasm. And a big part of that is also just documenting things in a super clear way. You know, having we took all the brand guidelines, all the deliverables that we got from Focus Lab, and then we rewrote it in our own words on our internal company Wiki and made it like super easy to find and understand where like you want to do this, click here and it just boom, here's my document. It's ready to go. It's made a copy. I don't have to fiddle with anything. So that's like the first thing that we've seen. And the second is around messaging and we've really seen people. I've seen people in public, like at events that we've attended and sponsored, saying the phrases and highlighting the things that we want the brand to highlight. And honestly, a big part of that is just like come up with as few things as possible and as simple as possible.

Todd (00:30:49) - Like don't over complicate the message. So we have just a few little phrases that we use here and there. Some are used in different contexts, but we have all this documented on our wiki. We have things like the story of the name of four kitchens and and like why is the company called that? So if anybody on our team asks like a client asks them like by the way, like what does four kitchens mean? Where does that name come from? They can pop open this wiki page and there's like a two paragraph thing, plain English. They can send it to him, they can read it over the phone, whatever they want to do, like providing people with that information at the ready that's easy to find was also really key. And I've seen people tell the stories that were first told in the rebranding process, and that's also been very well. It's humbling, but it's also it's just proof that like this is working.

Jamie (00:31:43) - That's great. So. So we're at the part of the show where I get asked the fun question, and you actually led me right into it, talking about the name.

Jamie (00:31:49) - I know you can tell the story if you'd like, but I know the name where it came from, and I'd love for you to tell that. But I'd also I'm going to ask a question a little differently, so I'm not going to ask what your favorite restaurant is. I'm going to ask what your go to restaurant is. So my wife and daughter had a concert last night, so it was just my son and I. And it's one of those times we were like, oh, there's there's it's only two of us choose and I know where we're going, right? And so it's like, I'm curious, what's your guys's go to restaurant are that if you have or sometimes it's the whole family it's like where are we going to go and decide this is where we're going? So I'm curious for both of you guys, what is your go to restaurant?

Todd (00:32:25) - Yeah, well, yeah. Jodi, you go first. I want to hear about you.

Jody (00:32:32) - Okay.

Jody (00:32:32) - Okay. Okay. So if you know me, I'll eat anything. And I usually have people pick food for me that at the restaurant. So I go in and, you know, hey, just pick something for me. And then they usually bring me a great dish that I probably never would have picked before. And it's a great experience. And so I highly recommend doing it. It's a risk, especially if you have allergies. You have to let them know seafood allergy can't have fish or whatever, but great experience. And so that being said, I've got two places I live in. I live in Indiana, and with that, there's a go to place there that without a doubt, if my wife and I are out and about, it's Casa D'Angelo's Italian love it. I've tried about everything on their menu and it just it's great. My wife opposite to me has the exact same thing every time. But with me I yeah exactly thing every time it's chicken with potatoes with some spaghetti but that's my go to here, my go to there.

Jody (00:33:38) - And I just recently moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And with that, trying to find a go to place, I can walk really anywhere. And I found this place. It's called the Parrot. And it's one of the it's one of the oldest bars in Fort Lauderdale. And I just happened to mosey in. And one day I can walk right to it from my condo and I just moseyed in and I was like, Wow, this is pretty good food, great atmosphere. It's something I can hang with. They, we tried the fish. I've tried many different places that are known for their Philly. I probably tried about eight different things there over the past since April as when we moved. And it's definitely my go to now. The funny part about it is my wife hasn't moved here yet fully because she hasn't retired full yet. She retires here in a few months. And I'll be interesting to see if that is also her go to place because as you know, when you're married, your go to place has to be the same.

Jody (00:34:32) - So and so we'll see how that pans out. But I would say the parrot in Fort Lauderdale and then Casa D'Angelo's in Fort Wayne.

Todd (00:34:42) - Oh, let's see. So this is a tough one. I mean, my wife and I really like food quite a bit. So we go to all kinds of interesting places. But I think that like our go to thing, if it's just like, what's our default? We're going to get fajitas somewhere. Like there's just something magical about fajitas. Yeah, just the whole experience of it. And so there are a couple of places, you know, I live in central Texas around Austin, so of course there's just like ample Tex-Mex everywhere. Fajita, is a bit it's really more of a Tex-Mex staple than anything else. There's a place down the road here called Loop Tortilla, which is like some chain out of Houston, but it's delicious. And like it's I wouldn't say it's like the lazy choice, but just whenever we're like, time to get dinner, right? Like, we know what we're going to do, there's just something fun about it.

Todd (00:35:35) - Like you put it together, it's a little different every time there's the whole presentation. Oh, fun. I may be spoiling fajitas for some people, so if you don't want fajitas to be spoiled for you, like skip the next 20s. But you know how they come out and they're like sizzling.

Jody (00:35:53) - Oh yeah.

Todd (00:35:54) - So they squirt water on it right before they walk out the kitchen.

Jamie (00:35:57) - Oh, that's not natural. 

Jody (00:35:58) - Oh, is that seriously?

Todd (00:35:59) - That's what it is.

Todd (00:36:01) - They have a little like thing of water and they just like, here we go and it goes. And then they walk it.

Jamie (00:36:06) - It's been sitting there for three hours. They just put on there and just squirt some water on it.

Todd (00:36:10) - They weren't cooking it on the cast iron and like they pulled it out, you know, they put it on hot cast iron and then they spray it with water. And so it's steaming and sizzling. So a little kitchen trick that I learned pretty late in life. Anyway, um, let's say you had asked about 

Jamie (00:36:27) - The name.

Todd (00:36:28) - Yeah, the name. Okay. Yeah. So where does the name for kitchens come from? So way back in the day when we were first getting started, we were originally a publishing company. We all met at the all four original founders met at the University of Texas at Austin, where we worked on the student humor publication. So we were all comedy writers and creators and publishers. And so as we were graduating, we thought like, that's a lot of fun. We want to keep doing something like that. What would that look like? So we decided we wanted to start a launch a publication in Austin to compete with the established at weekly here, the Austin Chronicle and the Austin Chronicle. They have pretty deep pockets because they own South by Southwest. So they have a lot of resources to draw from. So we published this online paper called that other paper. The joke was there's the Austin Chronicle, and then there's that other paper we wanted to do like the Stranger in Seattle was sort of like the secondary, like alt, alt weekly.

Todd (00:37:26) - We wanted to do that kind of thing. And it was super fun. And we love doing it, but it unfortunately just didn't work as a business model long term, What did happen, though, is we had to build a website for it. We had to do it ourselves because we were broke and we had no investors or right out of college. And so that's where we learn Drupal and that's the first big website that we built. And people started to call us and say, Hey, I've got a Drupal website too. I need some help, can you help me? And one thing led to another and suddenly we're making websites for people and that was the business. So we went from being a publishing company to a company that made websites for publishers and then also nonprofits and universities and all of that. So the name, back in the early days when we were just getting started and it was us and a bunch of friends and we were like, you know, we're going to do this all weekly.

Todd (00:38:14) - We want to create like a creative collective kind of vibe. Let's all, like, live together. Let's find some studio space and all live together and, you know, have that sort of creative community and feel because that's how it was in college, right? You'd all get together and sometimes I'll like barbecue or whatever. 

Jody (00:38:34) - Yep. 

Todd (00:38:35) - So we met this, this guy at some open source event in Austin, some meetup or bar camp or something. And he had created this like co-working space. This is back before co-working was a word. He was just like, it's like a collaborative tech space out in the woods outside of town. And we went and visited it and it was this like he had clearly built it himself, but it was this like big three story Ewok Village kind of thing, like in the trees. And it had all these different like big work and living areas and all of that. And there were four separate living areas, each with its own kitchen, and there were four founders.

Todd (00:39:15) - And we thought like, this is just kind of perfect. So we needed to come up with a company name for this company that was like going to publish this paper. So we're like, Well, if we all live in this place, we can be four kitchen studios. And we wound up not moving in to this place and we dropped the studios eventually from the name. We just became four kitchens. But what that name still means to this day is collaboration and creativity and a bit of improvisation and doing things that are new and haven't really been done before and maybe a little outside of our grasp, but we're going to figure it out. That's what that name still means to us.

Jamie (00:39:55) - I love it. Yeah. It's a great name. Very catchy. I know. Every time I hear it like it, definitely it rings, right? Like it's. It's a name. It's a name that rings. I think that's definitely what you want. And so I love hearing the story and definitely appreciate that.

Jamie (00:40:07) - So we are we're right at time here. So I'm going to give both of you guys a chance for just your final thoughts. So and obviously people been listening to this whole podcast took a lot away from it. If they could take one note or highlight one thing, what would it be? And we'll start with you, Jody, and then end with our end with our guest.

Jody (00:40:22) - Yeah, no, I think I mentioned it earlier. I think just perseverance. I mean, I've got a lot of respect for Todd and I've known him for a very long time. He's somebody that when he talks again, you pay attention. You know, you articulate your words extremely well. You've got meaning behind it, but more so it's the what you have behind your words. You've got meaning behind it. And it definitely shows all the way through your journey. As I mentioned, the perseverance I mentioned, you know, all the way, you know, acquiring different agencies and the risk that you took on each one of those.

Jody (00:40:56) - I mean, that's a huge risk. We didn't really get into that a whole lot, but there's a lot of risk involved in there. And you did it and you did it really well. And yeah, there's, bumps. There's always many bumps. To me, that's just how it works. I mean, life's never, never super easy. But I see getting through that into the next stage and I'm really looking forward to seeing what you and four kitchens looks like. You know 510 years down the road it's you blow my mind so far what you've done and I can't wait.

Todd (00:41:25) - That's very kind of you. Thank you. Certainly a lot of hard lessons along the way for sure, which I guess is kind of related to the last words I'd want to share. And that is the some of the things that I've been most resistant to in my career have have revolved around the idea of I mentioned it earlier, like, well, I could either hire this agency or group or consultancy to do this thing or for that same amount of money, I could just hire somebody in house to do it.

Todd (00:41:57) - And if you're a smaller, younger agency, there's really no reason why you should be trying to do anything in-house that isn't exactly your business like you. You are not an HR company. Get H.R. out of your company. Go find a PEO professional employment organization or something, a consultant to take that over. You are not a CPA. Like find somebody, right? You are not you. If you're not a marketing agency, you're not a marketing agency. Right? Like don't try to do your own marketing. And even if you are, you should probably find somebody outside of your company to do it. Case in point, we don't build our own company websites like we hire people outside to do that. And the main reason is

Todd (00:42:47) - We tend to be our own worst client. So when it's time for us to like build a website, if we had our team do it perfectly capable of doing it like this, what we do for a living right there, it's client like paying client stuff is always going to take people's attention.

Todd (00:43:04) - It's always going to pull people off of this thing. And as a result, that company website is going to remain undone for a long time. And I have talked with multiple agencies who have taken 1 or 2 years to rebuild their own website for that exact reason when they could have just gone out and hired somebody and it would have been done in two months. But there's I think people get kind of caught up in like the principle of like, why are we a web design agency hiring a web design agency to make our own website that seems all upside down and backwards?

Todd (00:43:34) - It's not.

Todd (00:43:35) - Unless you make websites for agencies professionally stop making websites for an agency.

Todd (00:43:40) - Like.

Todd (00:43:42) - It's not your core business. So don't do it. Like it's that's my takeaway. And those are some of the maybe more long winded examples of that happening. But don't do it if you don't do it don't do it. Like find somebody else who does that and loves doing it.

Jamie (00:43:57) - That's definitely great advice. And I'd say my final thought and my lessons I've learned from Utah is always be open minded, right? Like I was at a conference where you were up in front of the group talking about how you were done.

Jamie (00:44:09) - You're like, I don't want to do this anymore. This is the end. I'm ready to move on. And then, you know, a month later, I'm asking Adam, like, how's four kitchens doing? And then like a year later, I'm asking four kitchens. He's like, actually, they're acquiring other companies and they're moving. They're getting bigger. So, like, think the what I've learned from that is that like someone as smart as you and someone as intelligent as you can have an idea and get it out there, but still change their mind and be like, oh, actually, acquiring these companies might rspae rk my interest in what I'm doing. Or, you know, Oh, I found this new client that's really sparking. So don't like get dead set on one idea and like, say, that's what I have to do. And so that's something I've definitely learned from you over the years. And that's just one example of things that you've, you know, you've shifted pretty quickly as you've needed to as in order to keep the company going.

Jamie (00:44:51) - So I'm definitely appreciate you coming on the show. I think this is. A great episode and think just just the company name alone will bring a lot of listeners to this podcast. So definitely appreciate you coming on.

Todd (00:45:00) - Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to share whatever advice I can and I certainly appreciate all the kind words from both of you. Thank you.

outro (00:45:09) - Enjoy this podcast. Visit our website Summit CPA Net to get more tips and strategy for achieving business success. We're here to be a resource in this ever changing industry.

VCPA-Episode 100-Todd Nienkerk