Feb 16, 2024
41 min
Episode 23

TOP CEO: Shufflrr- 'The Spotlight' (With James Ontra)

Tom Cain  00:00

Imagine you're the CEO. Shoot, I'm running late.

Tom Cain  00:14

Hello, hi, hello, excuse me, sorry, everybody, can I just get everyone's attention, we're about to start the presentation

James Ontra - Shufflrr  00:22

to concern shoots through the roof. And that's what was shut down right off the bat.

Tom Cain  00:28

Imagine you're the CEO of Shufflrr, a presentation management software designed to help organizations manage and distribute presentations more efficiently. You grew the company from a presentation creation agency to a software solution. The challenges that come with it made you stutter. But you persevered and managed to engage your audience,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  00:51

the foundation of knowing where you're going in your space, we're going there, there.

Tom Cain  01:00

Bootstrap funding has been the backbone of your journey, and you built a strong brand identity, you are a top presenter. Then AI comes with a storm.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  01:14

I wish I understood that we're going too fast too soon. But it was my clients telling me everything was going too fast too soon.

Tom Cain  01:23

The financial benefits are alluring. But the potential threats loom large. So you create an AI product. But it's rebuffed because of compliance and risk management issues.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  01:36

There's going to be a choice over the next three years on all these different companies. But it'll be competitive without a question.

Tom Cain  01:45

The choice to incorporate AI means possibly losing sight of Shufflrrs core mission by alienating your customers. But you can't afford to stay behind in the technology race? Do you prioritize your audience's concerns? Or innovate?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  02:05

Moving fast without wisdom sometimes can do more damage than not.

Tom Cain  02:11

How do you adapt without losing your spark? The AI race is now no time for stage fright. All eyes are on you. And it's time to go out and give a presentation that will alter the course of your brand, forever. This is the story of James Ontra. And this is The Spotlight.

Ben Kaplan  02:39

James, your background is you had an agency since I think early 2000s. That was creating you know, high end presentations customized for clients, you decided to then create software to do this more efficiently, especially when some of the high end animations that were very expensive. Other software tools made it easier to do that. So that wasn't quite as special anymore. You were doing that? Have you raised money along the way? Or have you been bootstrapped the whole way since you had the you know, agency beginnings? And have you raised any money,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  03:09

we've bootstrapped almost all of it. We have gotten some money along the way from friends and family but not not like you know, huge amounts or anything like that. And what we did we use that to make a full animation component for PowerPoint. So through Shufflrr, if you upload a presentation, all of the animations from PowerPoint run on the web, and that you can see them on the phone and all that all that stuff. But absent that all of the growth has been bootstrapped. And

Ben Kaplan  03:35

there's certain types of entrepreneurs and certain types of CEOs and founder CEOs that are that are like, I am not taking outside money. Or maybe I'll take a little bit of friends and family money, but I'm not because once you take outside money, it's like you hire your boss. Yes, you've hired your boss, because investors become your boss. Yes,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  03:53

I've been CEO of a funded company, and I was promoted to vice chairman because I did such a good job and the company crashed afterwards. Just say and I've been through the cycle.

Ben Kaplan  04:04

Take me through the moment happen, you know, within the past year where you are excited about the potential of generational AI, people are talking about cat GPT, you have a product that could certainly benefit from it, meaning you help companies oftentimes very big companies make presentations easier and better. And what was the moment where you started thinking about well, gosh, have we embraced all of this too fast too soon? Take me through that sort of moment in time and then we'll we'll go back and we'll we'll explain how you got there.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  04:42

Well, I wish I understood that we're going too fast too soon, but it was my clients telling me everything was going too fast too soon. The beginning of 23 About a year ago chat GPT hit on the scene, and my company does slide libraries presentation management, we help global companies manage They manage their presentation communication. And when this came out, we were like great a new function, we've got new intelligence, we can help make presentations better, cheaper, faster, everything for everyone, and we rushed out, and we plugged Chappie GPT into it. And we brought it to our clients. And they all came back and said, We can't do that. And I was like, Why can't you do that? And they're like, well, we don't know what's gonna happen is all of our slides, all of our business intelligence gonna float out into the ether? Is our competitors intelligence going to end up in our sales pitches going to our clients and being mixed up? What is gonna happen? How does this work is your slide library, giving all of our information out to the world? And the moment I thought I was I was about to explode in good business and happiness and make make this big thing turned into a slamming on the brakes. And what are we going to do? I had to take a step back and really look at what Chet GPT means for content management and content management communications for a big

Ben Kaplan  06:05

company before we talk about thinking about deeply talk about the need that maybe other CEOs feel to like, jump into the generational AI race, meaning, it seems like it's the hottest thing, people were really blown away by what chat GPT could do. And so put a renewed focus in AI. Lots of people are trying to figure it out. What did you feel like the pressure to sort of like, we've got to be first mover in this, we've got to do this before other people come in, and disrupt us talk, talk about that, that feeling that sense, you've had to run

James Ontra - Shufflrr  06:39

that puts everyone on on on their toes. I mean, because you go home, and you hear a story about it, and then your neighbors talking about it. And you're wondering what you're missing and where it's coming from it. There's been different tech rushes in the days, you know, through through the years, they're the beginning of the web and, and you know, when web 2.0 and started coming up and all the social media, this is like a brand new wave of understanding. It caused anxiety by everyone. I remember I was on I was in Europe, and I started seeing stuff online and I got crazy, and I started typing out all these things, missives to everyone, you got to do this, you got to do that we have to be here, we have to release we can't have. And I needed to slam on the brakes and say, we're going to figure this out. Moving fast without wisdom sometimes can do more damage than not, we have a solid company, we need to understand what we're doing, how it affects our clients, and then directly here and listen to what they say and give them the service they need. In many cases, that service was just asking the questions that that caused concern for everyone. Is the information really going out to the cloud? Are we open to to to getting shortcuts to these things? Does It Really Work? Who's our dataset that it's being pulled from?

Ben Kaplan  08:03

And what was the product that you sort of the first iteration that you did? You had rushed out? Or people said, Whoa, hold on there a sec. What was the nature of it? Was it just a, like using the chat GPT API to put queries and suggest things or what was like kind of the nature of the product that caused concern.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  08:20

It's called Shufflrr for Windows, and it works on every Windows platform and kind of plugs into PowerPoint. So that if you're open in PowerPoint, on the right hand side, you have a chat window where you can ask questions, ask them to make a presentation for you. And it will assemble a presentation and put it together. It can enhance the slide, right click on on a sentence and say, you know, fix the grammar. fixes the grammar gives you a suggestion, maybe summarize the sentence a different way suggest a new way. But the one that really scared them was make a new presentation, because

Ben Kaplan  08:59

that was like not just like little focus thing to you know, like a, you know, spell check on steroids, right? Like a better version? To do it. This was like a whole thing that could just make something from scratch. Well, yeah,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  09:11

you could you could turn around and say, give me a presentation on how to make a taco. Is that data coming from the Food Network? Is it coming from Emeril Lagasse? Is it coming from Taco Bell? Is it coming from the meat industries? Who's whose cheese is being used? Who's being branded in there? What recipe like where did this information come from? And now that it's on my page, and my people are using that to represent me, as the company owner to concern shoots through the roof, and that's what was shut down right off the bat. So

Ben Kaplan  09:42

when did you realize that this was this wasn't an isolated problem, right? Like maybe you have someone who's who's, you know, hyper concern. They're in a highly compliant industry and, you know, you might just need to ease their mind and have some conversation Asians do something specific for them. Where did you sort of realize this as a bigger problem than that?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  10:04

It was a when we put it out there and they said, Oh, we can't do that. I was like, Oh, we just need to get over that. But as two or three weeks went by, and the the answers weren't becoming prevalent, like we didn't have an easy fix, like, oh, we just need to go this way. That wasn't there, the questions got bigger and bigger. And the answers, believe it or not got smaller and smaller. As the problems got bigger, meaning the scale of information that can be broad in their focus need to be smaller and smaller, just my data, just my company's data, just my, my own knowledge to make these slides. For example, if I said, if I had, if I was a banking company, I said, Give me the sales in the Northeast region against the southwest region for commercial branches. If you did that in the world, you might get commercial branches of banks for you know, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, five different banks. But if you worked for US Bank, you only want the knowledge coming from your own information and where it's coming from. So it's your branches, your banks, your salespeople. Now your slide is relevant for what you're doing. And now you can achieve compliance going out the door.

Ben Kaplan  11:26

And do you consider just like turning off AI altogether, just saying, hey, it's we got to discuss in the background, you didn't consider that. What Why was that?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  11:34

No, no, I consider I consider AI. Back in the day when when calculators started, they took numbers and calculated and made them nice. And we've been calculating numbers. So good that you and I are watching video right now, because numbers are calculating so fast behind behind the scene. Right? This is how fast computing is done. AI is kind of like not using numbers, but they're using words, sentences, paragraphs and thoughts to start calculating against each other. So I feel that the AI, which is using words, as opposed as as parallel to using numbers on the calculating, I just think it's going to explode just as fast and I have no idea what's going to come

Ben Kaplan  12:14

out your thinking was this is going to be transformative. This is a huge tidal wave that's coming. We can't just like say, we're not going to plan a tidal wave, we just got to figure out a way to do it. And in even in the short term, have people jump on board and the issue was that just even bring up the AI discussion and brings in a whole host of other questions. Other considerations, other factors, that probably someone who just wanted to sign up for Shufflrr in the past, didn't have to think about and now suddenly they do which puts a big break on your, you know, your sales closing speed that you can do.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  12:51

And here's here's something that goes into this. Here's a little cynicism. The value of a good MBA or attorney at a big company, is to bring up a possibility that something might go wrong and articulated in such a way that everyone takes it seriously. Ai great creates a host of possibilities. And a lot of these managers are getting value on oh my gosh, do you realize that also pulls from a different database that could possibly end up there that one question could cause two weeks of stutter in making commitment to a product.

Tom Cain  13:31

Intriguing. What will happen next? Are we doing good so far? Okay, let's presume. Despite the challenges of choosing to remain bootstrapped, James managed to emerge victorious and turn all eyes on him. Born from the need for more efficient presentation creation Shufflrr developed software that garnered a loyal audience. But as Chat GPT and generative AI stomped onto the scene, James knew the game was about to change. So he dipped his toes into that world, starting small, with little AI recommendations and enhancements. However, as he dived deeper into it, new features didn't sit well with customers, and he was forced to go back on his choices. But he couldn't let the opportunity pass by not when the rest of the industry wouldn't. So the spotlight grows even more intense. How can James act fast without sacrificing Shufflrr’s reputation and loyal audience?

Ben Kaplan  14:51

James, did you think about what your options were for this meeting option A, you could just shut the whole thing off option B You could like make it an opt out, you could add a somebody you could toggle out, see, you can make it an opt in meaning it's, you know, you're not going to have it. And then you could choose to have it. D, there's probably some other variations of this, what was your thought process on you spent time you felt there was a race for AI? Because there might be new competitors, you don't even know yet coming into the space? Because lots of people are looking at that, too. So you have that pressure as well. How did you sort of evaluate what decision to make with the product you already have? Even though you know, like, Okay, I need to make more of a walled garden moving forward. That seems to be the consensus, what did you do right away,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  15:38

we, we took our Shufflrr for Windows, and made it where when you connect it to the Shufflrr library, which is a slide library for presentations, and PowerPoint, and such, it then closed the data directly to your library, and you have your own connection with your own information. If you're not connected to the library, you can work individually as a person who's just online or you know, on your computer, doing whatever, you can get that taco with any with any recipe you want. But when you're connected to your library, you only get the information that's relevant to you.

Ben Kaplan  16:13

I see, then you were able to how fast I know you've been working on this, I think you said 10 months when we were chatting before. So what did you do right away when the problem exists, and people are sort of freezing or pausing their subscription, or it's affecting cash flow, it

James Ontra - Shufflrr  16:26

affected new sales. Basically, everyone got tight that no one wants a house, I say not that they got tight, like they were trying to save money, they get tight, because they were afraid to make a decision, a bad decision was worse than making no decision. And there was so many unknowns that that I felt people were that way. So our job was to alleviate the unknowns and give a basic tool that allows you to better your your, your your system, in our case presentations without threatening the RISK COMPLIANCE component. For example. One simple feature is add speaker notes, you have a slide the slide has bullet points on it, there's a sentence on it, there's a picture, but you have no speaker notes. Now there's a button to give us suggested speaker notes. But it's only using the slide that you're using that the data that's already in there to make your query. Just make sense. Sure. And now, and that's just one component. And then what happens is we did that component, and then we did the AI image component. And then we do an organizational one where you you can make presentations, only polling from your library. So the library is already approved, you ask a question, and it gives you approved slides as opposed to making it from scratch, using AI to get the right ones. And by doing each one of these pieces, makes presentation management as a whole a strategy where AI can fit into it, because it's not one AI fits all, there's a half a dozen places within your organization or within presentation communication, that AI is relevant. And each one they have to manage the risk, you have to go through full compliance on each each feature, sadly enough,

Ben Kaplan  18:20

so how did you then go about thinking, Okay, we're gonna we know where to go with the product, we're gonna kind of wall it off to eliminate a lot of these edge cases, what if one of this could happen, so we're going to do that. But then you also have to do two other things. Once you've done that, you have to one communicate that to the end audience in a way that they'll understand. And also not even just the person making the buying decision, but they can tell their lawyer or they can tell their compliance officer or someone else, it's number one, you've got to communicate it well. And number two, you've got to be able to then show value compared to everyone else about how it makes their life easier, not even just on the AI itself. But compliance issues, other things like that, right? So you've got to do all that. So how do you start tackling that, because it's not just having a tool that works, you've got to do these other things related to it very well,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  19:12

this goes back to my classic agency days where part of it is working with your client and then knowing it and it's not that product problems happen. It's how you deal with them, and knowing very well that that we're going to be working continuously on the product, and no matter what happens, it's going to be getting better, tighter, more efficient going forward. And we're gonna get there. I mean, software is amazing if you started one time, and then you're working 20 years for the same piece of software. So

Ben Kaplan  19:42

it was important to you to communicate not only that, it's functioning well that addresses your concerns now, but there's like you can trust our team, you know, it's gonna get better you can trust our roadmap, and how did you think about communicating that so that people you know, Wood, wood, wood, wood, no, they want to do business with you, even for nuts where you are, but where you're headed.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  20:05

Amazingly enough, we've made a huge effort to reach out to every single client and get a personal meeting discussion. Because you know, with with a SaaS product, a lot of people come on, and they can use it and do very well and such, and sometimes you don't have direct hands on. But we, in these past three months, have taken a full blown effort to actually speak with a human being with every one of our clients, and let them know exactly where we stand on these issues. And plus, we have the Shufflrr for Windows plugin. So we want, we want to get that on the machines. But yeah, we took a real hands on approach, we went back to the old fashion, let's talk to the people and know we're working on it and know they can contact us directly. And they don't need to feel concerned,

Ben Kaplan  20:54

which is ironic, given that all this effort is to enable trust in AI, which, of course, is less direct human contact, less direct need for all of this, but to do it to give the Trust for it, you felt like we need to actually go back to human contact first, so that people would feel more trusted in this. So they

James Ontra - Shufflrr  21:11

know what we're doing and how we're dealing with it. So they know how we're dealing with it. So we stand up for our values and principles with it. And then they can feel comfortable, more comfortable going forward. You know, because if you say you're going to be a loose cannon, and everyone can get everything everywhere, that's an identity. My identity has has large corporate clients who their business intelligence is tied up and slideshows, if you've businesses do lots of slideshows in their intelligence or is in it, so there was a lot of value that that they didn't want to lose, or have have watered down.

Ben Kaplan  21:51

Well, and when I go to your website now, today, I see you know, a big headline that says AI presentation management, I see the it says P button, there's a big button, it's blue, when I hover over it, it says PPT AI plugin. So you're clearly you know, from the from the get go emphasizing the AI component. How did you think about that? You know, was there decisions that were difficult? Or was it easy on where to position the company.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  22:20

And it's a lot of marketing in it. There's really like, the searching for what's going on. People are interested in AI, they're interested in AI presentations. They're interested in AI, legal documents, they're interested in AI coding, I'm in the presentation space. And this lights up on the Google searches right now, people are, believe it or not on Google search, because people are like, Oh, what's the next stage? It's how AI affects our presentations. Well, who's good at that? Well, this is how it does it. And since we went right at it full speed and then paused and said, Okay, these five points of AI contact are right for a large enterprise. Let us put them in one at a time properly so that our clients can feel comfortable with the risk factor of what's going on. And that becomes a full strategy for presentations.

Tom Cain  23:14

So far, so good. When the situation seems black or white, James found gray, he did not miss out on the AI train, but chose to prioritize his existing customer base over external growth. James set up personalized individual conversations with clients to discuss concerns and seek constructive feedback. This proactive communication managed to build trust and assure the audience of ongoing efforts to enhance the product. These enhancements, in turn, were made considering what people liked or disliked, feared or encouraged. All the while marketing focused on the AI aspects of the company making use of the ongoing interest surrounding the technology, the crisis was averted. But what of the future of Shufflrr.

Ben Kaplan  24:13

In this particular space you're in you happen to be in by sort of embracing the AI side, more more so than the presentation servers. That's one use case of AI. You're in the hottest space for fundraising now as well. Because everyone's looking for you know, how is this AI thing gonna shake out? So have you been tempted? Or have you thought about? Well, maybe we should think about raising because we are in the it's red hot the space we if we position this right, and maybe we can do some things we otherwise could not do if we had a pile of money from investors.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  24:45

I agree with that. One of the things is that i i believe after this pause the product we're putting out right now because I have the full means to put it together. The traction that comes from that could open that opportunity. Unity, I'm gonna look for money to advance sales at a geometric rate, I'm not going to be looking for money to develop a product that might or might not come, I can use my own team to develop a product and get it tasted and see who likes it. And if it starts getting that traction, then I'll open the doors to that

Ben Kaplan  25:22

you're open to the view of if raising money can enable you to grow sales and American or other currency fast, and it will help you do that faster than you're open to it. But not if it's something else, that's more of a pie in the sky that's less proven that you don't want to chase after them. And

James Ontra - Shufflrr  25:41

as much as anything else. At the beginning of this year, we were talking about all the decisions we made were a little less proven, we were trying different things, we'd bring it back to our clients, they would say, Oh, we like this, we don't like that we'd go back and keep working it out. When you have the pressure of a lot of money on your back. A lot of times you start running into things that you think are right, and they're somewhat faddish, especially when something's as as wild as AI right now,

Ben Kaplan  26:10

and how do you think about other challenges, new challenges coming down the pike? Now? Do you have a process to incorporate feedback differently than you did before? Or have other issues raised? I mean, you know, do you have a plan for, heck, if Chad GPT is somehow hacked, and it makes headlines and people have questions in how has it sort of changed how you approach just future unknown challenges that may arise?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  26:39

I would say the foundation of knowing where you're going in your space, allows you not to get distracted by things that don't affect you. I addressed the chat GPT components in my category of presentation management of presentations, and not letting all the chatter everywhere else distract what we're doing. Because in almost every meeting in for a period of time, there's, there's some new company coming up doing something new, and someone wants to talk about it. And it's competing here. And this one's doing logos, and this one's doing full pictures. And this is I know that we have corporate clients who are who are doing corporate messaging, and have specific needs on it. And we try to keep our direction on the people who are paying our living, because a lot of these new dreams are super cool. But who's really making a living off of it, I would bet out of the 10,000 new AI companies coming out, only a few 100 are really making money. The rest of them are have investment, or they're trying to do something or they have a dream or it's different when you have actual clients and you have to pay your payroll out of your income and revenue. You tend not to get overzealous for something that hasn't quite delivered some traction. Do you

Ben Kaplan  28:01

ever worry or think about just like preserving the existence of your business? What I mean by that is, sometimes when you're a founder, when you've bootstrapped the whole way, and particularly different iterations, right, you've sort of have it sounds like three phases of really, this presentation business, right? The agency side, the sort of pre AI side of just scaling software tools, and now the sort of post AI side do you ever worry about just like, I just need to protect the business I have from some kind of existential threat that could just take it out, or you pass that and you've said, you know, we've survived other things. We've survived disruption from software that that changed our agency, business and AI came and now we're sort of embracing it, we're okay. And are you confident? Are you constantly on the lookout for something that could just be like a wave that could take you out?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  28:50

Well, the wave that can take you out, I it's sometimes very hard to stop, because it's, you know, sometimes a huge technology shift. However, I've been in business long enough that I've faced a lot of tides going in and out. And if you pay attention, keep your eyes open and not closed minded. You're gonna get through it, you also have to know what your core value is to what you're doing, and try not to stray away from that.

Ben Kaplan  29:16

So what do you think the next three years look like? For Shufflrr? Where do you hope you'll be? Where do you think you can be? What what is the roadmap look like?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  29:25

The roadmap is basically this presentation management is going to be a decision in the C suite in the top 10,000 companies in this world. There are going to wonder about communications through presentations everywhere. And once that takes place, the discipline of managing slide libraries approved content will flow through entire organizations and in turn become a line item on the balance sheet. No long note no not much different than sales enablement or CRM. These components weren't around years ago, and it's just another way of coming indicating properly and managing it. When the C suite knows, they can know who's saying what to whom, when, and where what slides are being used more often by the best salespeople versus the worst, that data becomes extremely valuable. And almost every C suite, who's gotten this type of knowledge from our sites, suddenly has a different view of the way people use presentations in their company. They use it for training, onboarding, sales, communication, on almost everything, it's like an eye opening experience, I see it as a discipline that you

Ben Kaplan  30:33

see as the discipline is that the trend will be

James Ontra - Shufflrr  30:37

in your favor, oh, I was gonna say there's going to be a choice over the next three years on all these different companies. And we're going to be a competitor at the top stage of each one of them. And hopefully, we'll be taking the lion's share of them. But it'll be competitive without a question.

Ben Kaplan  30:51

And what do you think are the biggest threats to realizing that vision which is essentially market leader in a, you know, space that grows in importance to the overall sort of kind of business marketing sales transition? What are the challenges you're gonna have to overcome?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  31:09

I would say the biggest challenge is going to be a bigger competitor deciding this is a space they want to be in and coming at at full speed. On one sense, it's going to open the market and make a lot of opportunities. On another it's it's it's, you know, formidable competitor that way. I believe in making the best product and solving the need. And hopefully, that will carry it to the higher level. Like if, you know, if, if a company like Salesforce said, we're going to throw $8 billion at presentation management, I would feel very threatened.

Ben Kaplan  31:47

Okay, what about the nature of all of the folks or companies that are not really direct competitors in the space? But could presentations could be an output, even open AI, which makes chat GPT itself? Right? It says like, oh, on our new version, we can output to presentation slides? Do you worry about that? Or do you think they'll not have enough focus compared to you,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  32:08

I believe our focus on corporate presentations and corporate communications goes beyond the I'll make a great presentation, make it quick, make it beautiful. I believe that much like your website, or billboards or advertising, communications that come from your company, it's critical, what is said? To whom, when and where how it's presented as your logos, right? Or the words being used, right? Is it all in line that has a big value equation, and our company kind of focuses on those value equations? And companies need those value equations? And that's what we offer to them peace of mind in the in presentation communication?

Ben Kaplan  32:48

And finally, how have you changed as a CEO? Over this journey? We talked about maybe the three phases of the business with gray hair, a little bit of that, because that can be a badge of a badge of honor. So maybe that but like, how are you different now than maybe in the first iteration of your business? The second iteration of the business now you're in version three? How are you different? How are you? Wiser better?

James Ontra - Shufflrr  33:14

Well, yeah, I, I try to learn it's basically go, that's the big going from a me to an eye to a weak company, a me to a weak company. Basically, it when it starts, and it's small, it's all me, everything's going through me, I bring in three other people, they're going through me, it's coming back to me, you get to six, eight, you get to 10, you get to 12 or 15. People, it can't go through me anymore, it's got to be a way and giving that authority to each of those people in the right place. And holding them accountable is the big difference. It's one thing to hold myself accountable and beat myself up. It's another thing to allow it to, to give it to others and let them do it. And at first, I was freaked out by it and had to be all over everything. At this point, I feel very comfortable letting the true talents of these people come forth, because most of them are better than me in almost every facet. And if I give them a good platform to let them shine, our company gets better and better. And

Ben Kaplan  34:20

the equation would be we is greater than me. Right? We the greater side of the mathematical symbols greater than me were greater than we are individually. And then at a certain point, do you ever think about, well, you know, you get through it, it starts out kind of centered around you, you empower other people, and it's not all about you anymore. But then at a certain point, they've got to empower other people, right? It's not all about them anymore. It's gotta it's got to replicate. It's got to grow. And do you think about how you, you know, create that ability? Once you hit 75 people, let's say and if the average person can have about eight to 10 reports now you've got reports Have reports. And there may be two steps removed from you. How do you think about making that work in your journey as CEO,

James Ontra - Shufflrr  35:08

it's all about all about culture. It's about culture and people understanding where they're going and why and what they're doing makes a difference. And when people have purpose, I find that their output is better, their attitude is better. And the pettiness disappears.

Ben Kaplan  35:27

And with culture, the why it becomes so important also is because, you know, basically, you're the CEO, but there's going to be some decision that you're not going to see that someone else is going to make, and they're going to be the CEO of that decision. And the question is, how do they make that decision? What is that based on? Especially if it's a critical decision for the success of the company, maybe it's a decision, and how they interact with your biggest client and your biggest customer, or someone else? And it's a little thing? It seems like, but they're the CEO of that decision? What do they have to base that on? And it's going to be culture, isn't it, it's going to drive that like everything that they've been around how they've taught the act. And that's what it's going to inform that critical decision that could make or break Shufflrr that you might never see, culture is going to power that.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  36:13

Well, there's two things culture is is is the defining what how it's being chose. But the why is you need to be able to point to the horizon. And everyone needs to know where we're going, we're going there, there. And if let's just say you're in a boat, and you see the lighthouse, it's out there, and everyone's going there, you might get blown off course. But if everyone knows where that back end is, they will make the best decision to bring them to that final destination. Because, you know, dark winds are going to hit your boat, and they're going to throw you off course, I don't care who you are. If you have communicated where everyone's going, they will know how to bring it that direction. And then the culture will will help them in the how of making the decision. I

Ben Kaplan  37:05

think you're describing a similar to a concept they have in the military called commander's intent. And Commander's Intent, you can imagine military comms becomes important because let's say, you know, you've got 20 steps you need to do that you're supposed to do to enable, you know, this, this complex logistical operation. But let's say step 14, is to go up this road, but because of the fog of war, the road doesn't exist anymore. In this case, the Commander's Intent says, we are going to take this hill, this is the hill we're going up. So if the road even though that was part of your duties in the road doesn't exist anymore, you have to find a way to do the part that would get people up the hill. So what you're saying is that intent has to be so clear that people can make decisions, they can figure out things that are unexpected challenges that happen, they can do it because it's so clear where they're headed. And if you don't give that intent, it might not be clear.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  38:02

Well, if it's not clear, people are gonna go in their own direction. Everyone's got different opinions, different ways. They're all but they're all on your payroll, and you're all on the same ship and you're all going the same direction. You don't want people pointing to two or three different lighthouses and start debating on which one we're going to.

Ben Kaplan  38:19

And the other thing is that one thing to have a person saying I'm gonna go left, but then you put them in with, you know, a bunch of other people saying, I know I'm gonna go right, I'm gonna go up, I'm gonna go down. And it's even more confusing. But if you kind of get everyone I think going in the same direction, then they reinforce each other people kind of support each other, right? You're not in it alone.

James Ontra - Shufflrr  38:39

To use a football analogy, when the quarterbacks saying we're going this way, the receiver running out to the side doesn't say, Hey, wait, I'm thinking a different play. No, you're on the same team. You make the play. When you get back, you could suggest Hey, I saw something but the quarterback still is sending us on our direction we're going and unique. You everyone needs to be on the team that way. You can't you can't have you know, people running up to the line and deciding Well, you know, something different than then what the quarterback saying. Well,

Ben Kaplan  39:12

well said it's been a certainly an interesting a challenging and exciting year for you, James all in one. It's never a dull moment. Never a dull moment. You're you're in a hot space. There's a lot to be excited about a lot of opportunity possibility and we look forward to watching what happens next. See your journey, your continued journey as CEO and best wishes for an exciting 2024

James Ontra - Shufflrr  39:39

Thank you, Ben. And as a basic thing, this is James entre from Shufflrr presentation management or global enterprise.

Tom Cain  39:51

Though the AI market has grown more and more competitive, James has stood firm in his vision for Shufflrr. He believes in staying true Due to the purpose of your company and not letting the exhilarating rush, take control. And while the threat of competitors may be as real as ever, trusting that his brand is genuinely helping others has helped him remain focused. So what can we learn from James's story? Anyone? That's okay. I know I've learned by making sure his focus was on his existing audience. James stayed loyal to his beliefs and manage the seemingly impossible situation. He got the best of both worlds because he retreated, took his time to regroup and came out with a solution. The solution that made sense for the company, sometimes all it takes is a little time and a little reminder of who we truly are. And with that, it's case closed.

Tom Cain  41:02

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