08 October 2022

When Stig Brodersen and Preston Pysh started The Investor’s Podcast in 2014, they had no idea that we would be closing in on 100M downloads eight years later. In this episode, you will hear the story of how the founders met each other and stories from the early years up to 2020.  

The first part of this episode is called “Our Story” about The Investor’s Podcast Network. Stig Brodersen is joined by Clay Finck, who will debut as the host of We Study Billionaires. 

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  • How Stig and Preston met and why they started The Investor’s Podcast together.
  • When did Stig and Preston know that the podcast would be successful.
  • What the pivotal moments were along the way.
  • What is the relationship between Stig and Preston today.
  • Why was the bitcoin show not set up in a separate podcast feed.
  • What is the mission and vision of The Investor’s Podcast Network.
  • Why is The Investor’s Podcast Network a team-based company and less focused on profits and customers.
  • How does The Investor’s Podcast Network identify the right hires.


Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Stig Brodersen (00:00:03):
When Preston and I started The Investor’s Podcast in 2014, we had no idea that we would be closing in on a hundred million downloads eight years later. In this episode, you’ll hear the story of how Preston and I met each other, and all about the early days of our podcast. You’ll also hear about the pivotal moments for our team, Preston, and me along the way, including how it wasn’t even our idea to start a podcast in the first place. If you have followed us for years, or just curious, you don’t want to miss out on this episode. In this first part, episode of two called Our Story, I’m joined by Clay Finck, who will make his debut as the host of We Study Billionaires.

Intro (00:00:42):
You are listening to The Investor’s Podcast where we study the financial markets, and read the books that influence self-made billionaires the most. We keep you informed and prepared for the unexpected.

Stig Brodersen (00:01:03):
Welcome to The Investor’s Podcast. I’m your host, Stig Brodersen, and I’m here with my new co-host Clay Finck. Today’s episode is a little different compared to what we are used to. We are two hosts, no guests. Another thing is that most our listeners do not know Clay, but later on this episode we’ll learn a lot more about you, Clay because, starting Monday, you’ll be hosting this podcast on a weekly basis.

Stig Brodersen (00:01:25):
This will also be the first time in eight years that we’ll go into detail with the business about The Investor’s Podcast Network. Here in the first part of the episode, we agreed that Clay will be interviewing me, and then we’ll actually transition and turn the tables, and then I’ll be interviewing you at the end of this episode. But Clay, why don’t you take it from here. Well, I should’ve probably started by saying welcome to you as well, because this is your first episode here, We Study Billionaires.

Clay Finck (00:01:48):
Thank you, Stig. I’ll be honest, it’s a bit surreal to have the opportunity to record this episode with you today. I’ve been a fan of the We Study Billionaires podcast for years. So let’s get right into the episode covering the business of TIP. How about we just start from the very beginning. Many of our listeners might have started tuning in over the past couple of years, as COVID shocked the markets, and many people got interested in stock investing. A lot of people might not be familiar with how TIP originally got started back in 2014, where it was just you and Preston. You two were the only hosts up to, I believe, 2020. How about you tell the audience about the founding story of TIP?

Stig Brodersen (00:02:34):
We are back in 2013, and I was in something called a garden leave from a job as a commodities trader, and my wife and I moved to Sweden at the time. My wife is, at the time, doing her PhD in economics. As a part of that, everyone is asked to go abroad for one semester, so that was why we went there. I mentioned garden leave, and if you’re not familiar with that term, it’s the situation where you have a non-compete and your employer like to uphold that non-compete. Mine was 12 months, they will have to pay your salary or, in my case, it was half salary. So you can take another job in another industry but, if you do that, your garden leave salary will be deducted. This was my first job after grad school, and I was making $160 at the time, so they paid me 50% of that, so $80k. So if I took another job, they paid me a $100k, I would only get additional $20 to go to work.

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Stig Brodersen (00:03:32):
This was this weird thing where it was like a blessing and a curse. It was definitely a blessing because making $80k for doing nothing is great. But it was also terrible, because I couldn’t work. I’m just not cut out for that. At the time, my friends and I, I guess like today, quite interested money. Just before my wife and I relocated to Sweden, we were hanging out with some friends, and we talked about that it would be great to have more money. I know it’s sounds super original, but that was basically what we did. Like me, they didn’t like their jobs particularly well, my friends. One of them said that a trick that he had learned, probably read from a book, was that you should just do what other successful people are doing, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. To me, it was like, “Great. That sounds awesome.” So I went home and I googled the Forbes 400 list.

Stig Brodersen (00:04:23):
I remember, at the time, Bill Gates was at the top. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not going to create the next Microsoft, that’s for sure.” I’m the least technical person on the planet. We actually got started on this interview, Clay, 40 minutes too late because I couldn’t figure out how to use my new computer. I’m not a technical person. Number one, no, I’m not going to be the next Bill Gates. Number two on that list was Warren Buffett. I remember hearing his name in school. I have a finance background. Please don’t hold against me, but I do. Whenever you study finance in grad school, you’re taught the efficient-market hypothesis, which basically means, don’t think about the market, it always has the right price. All the stocks have the right price, don’t think about it. Just put your money in, and the rest would take care of itself.

Stig Brodersen (00:05:14):
I read Warren Buffett’s name in one of those school books and it said that he was the luckiest investor, because luck plays a role. He was called the best coin flipper, so that was how I knew him. I was thinking, “Well, I’ve definitely learned a bunch of stuff in school that wasn’t true. Okay, let me just challenge that whole notion of Warren Buffett being the luckiest person, and just see if that makes sense.” So I basically just started reading up on everything Warren Buffett. At the time, it appealed to me because I’ve read that he got wealthy by picking stocks, which is actually not the truth. As you also know, Clay, he built a business. That was actually how he compounded his wealth. He wasn’t just picking stocks.

Stig Brodersen (00:05:58):
The more that I read about Warren Buffett, reading The Snowball, I know that’s a book you also read, I was just so, so impressed with everything Warren Buffett did. Not just so much about investing, but also how to live a good life. I googled a bunch of stuff about Warren Buffett, and I came across this website called BuffettsBooks. The website still exists. I don’t think we updated it the last eight years, but it still exists. It was a website that Preston, my co-founder, original created. On that site was a forum where we discussed stocks and accounting. Through that forum, Preston and I got to know each other. One day I received a message from Preston, if I wanted to jump on a Skype call. Yes, this was back in 2013, people actually use something called Skype back then.

Stig Brodersen (00:06:46):
So we jumped on this call and he was saying he wanted to write some books, and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I was like, “Sure, why not?” So this happened back in 2013, and we started writing. Then 2014, my wife had to go to a conference in Washington DC, and I decided to join her. We took this opportunity to visit Preston’s wonderful family who, at the time, lived in Maryland. I remember Preston and I were editing the Warren Buffett Accounting Book at 4:45 in this basement. You might be like, “What? 4:45 AM? Why would you do that?” “Hey, that’s what you do if there’s four kids in the house, and two of them are toddlers. That’s when you can do your deep work.” So we got up pretty early, and we started working on that book.

Stig Brodersen (00:07:33):
After that, Preston and I met up in Omaha with the Buffett’s Books community. Don’t be too impressed whenever I say community, we’re six people. It was Preston, Preston’s dad, Bill, me, Andrew from Sweden, Christa from Germany, and Jim from the US. The six of us had a blast. It was fun, but nothing more than that. I read about Buffett, and you’re supposed to go to Omaha and check it out. So we did, and that was fun. On the way back, whenever Preston was flying back to Maryland from Omaha, he was sitting next to a gentleman called Harry Ramachandra on the plane. Harry was actually our first guest we had on the podcast. Some of you, I should also say, might know Harry from our Mastermind group. We became friends after that. But it was actually Harry’s idea to start TIP, and start the podcast. It wasn’t Preston’s or my idea, which was weird.

Stig Brodersen (00:08:25):
But they were sitting next to each other, talking about Warren Buffett. Apparently Harry said to Preston, “Why don’t you start a podcast about Warren Buffett?” Preston was like, “Sure, that sounds great. Let me call my friend Stig in Denmark and be like, ‘Should we restart a podcast?'” I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I want to say it was the summer of 2014, after the meeting. Preston gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to start a podcast with him. I remember I was a bit worried. First of all, I wasn’t sure what it meant to make a podcast in the first place. Honestly, I don’t know if Preston knew that either. But Preston always had a great attitude, and he was like, “Yeah, we are going to figure it out.” He’s a quite technical person. So I was like, “Okay, if you just teach me how to set up equipment and stuff, we’ll figure it out.”

Stig Brodersen (00:09:11):
But I also remember, I had this concern that I had to do it in another language. My native tongue, that’s Danish. It’s similar, but it’s also different than English. The best way I can describe it would be if you were an American and you had to learn German. It’s more similar to German, I guess. So it would be like me calling you up, Clay, and being like, “How do you feel about learning German? Then educate the world about stock investing.” I just remember I was really concerned about having to do it in another language. Anyway, I heard myself saying, “All right, Preston. Let’s do it. Let’s create a podcast,” and we called it The Investor’s Podcast. That’s why, at least internally on the team, we just call it TIP. That’s for The Investor’s Podcast. Today, the name is The Investor’s Podcast Network, but I haven’t seen anyone on the team call it TIPN. We just still call it TIP. So that’s the founding story of TIP.

Clay Finck (00:10:05):
What an incredible story. It’s almost funny how you hear about some of these businesses that sound like they almost started by accident, similar to TIP. Selfishly, I’m pretty grateful that it did end up happening because it’s just had such a huge impact on me. For some of the newer listeners, if you haven’t listened to some of the old stuff, Stig and Preston, they would do book reviews. Originally, they started out studying Warren Buffett, and they figured out pretty quickly that you couldn’t just talk about Warren Buffett on, and on, and on, every single week.

Clay Finck (00:10:36):
You had to branch out to other subjects, so that’s how the, We Study Billionaires came about. They read all these books about all the billionaires that are out there. I’m sure you didn’t originally envision TIP to become as big as it is today. When did you realize that this podcast, you and Preston did pretty much on the side, could be a legitimate business? Today, it has, I believe, nearly a hundred million downloads to date, and 29 members of the team and counting. So when did you realize this could eventually become a legitimate business?

Stig Brodersen (00:11:14):
Ooh, it’s a great question. You’re right. If you said that to me in 2014, after I said, “What’s a podcast?,” I definitely would’ve called you crazy. We didn’t know it would be that successful. Preston had this idea back then that the strategy was not to have a strategy really. Let me try to see if I can make it a bit more elegant. But, I actually felt it was a massive stroke from his end because he said, “Let’s just test it out for a year. Let’s not think at all about business strategies and fancy stuff. Let’s just create a lot of value for listeners, and put out really great content.” He was very particular about, “We have to do it every week. No matter what happens, we have to put something out every week,” because it was all about consistency.

Stig Brodersen (00:12:00):
To me, that sounded pretty perfect because my garden leave ended in 2014, so I was starting a new job as a college professor that summer, so I was super busy. So doing the podcast, I’m not saying we weren’t taking it seriously, but it was definitely more like a side hustle, more than anything else. After that year was up, Preston and I was looking at each other and we were saying, “Well, this podcasting show is a lot of work. Let’s see if we can make some money out of it.” But, we had no idea how to do it. We’d been very influenced in the early age. This gentleman, his name is Pat Flynn, and he has a podcast called The Smart Passive Income. I don’t know if he still has, but he sure did back then.

Stig Brodersen (00:12:39):
So he had made a small fortune of unaffiliated marketing for online businesses. We started looking into it and we had this idea, “Oh, let’s recommend different stuff we use.” But, then we realized, we didn’t really use any good stock investing tools, and the ones we did were free. So we were like, “No. That was probably not the right business model.” We stumbled from one project to another. But I also say, if you look back in 2014, and if you look at the charts, we did fairly well. Whenever I say charts, it was podcast charts about which shows performed well. You shouldn’t be too impressed whenever I say the number one stock investing podcast, because podcasting was very recent. So if you were the number one, it was primarily because you were, more or less, the only podcast in the space.

Stig Brodersen (00:13:24):
Early on, we had this positive feedback loop. Not in the sense that I want to discredit hard work, but I would say that luck played a huge role in the success of the company because you’re number one, which means that you get recognized, and people find it, which means that you can then be number one. So, you have this positive feedback loop of staying at the top of the charts. But I want to say that there was a big change, or at least I felt there was a big change, back in 2016, whenever I went full-time working on TIP. There’s this saying that, “If you work part-time on anything, you get a quarter of that attention,” which I found to be absolutely true. Also with TIP, but just in general.

Stig Brodersen (00:14:04):
I went full-time in 2016, and we weren’t making any money at the time. But my wife got relocated to another place for a time, due to her job, so I couldn’t continue teaching back in Denmark. I think business books would tell you that you are supposed to go full-time whenever you can really see something great was happening, and you probably started making money. That was definitely not the case for us. It was more like, I couldn’t do my regular job, we were away for a year, why not just give it a go, and then go full-time, and live off my wife’s salary? It was just what we did. But, I think that was definitely a moment. Then there was another moment where I met our now CEO, Biance Alcera, and I did that in the fall of 2016. But we didn’t have any full-time people, and Bianca was the first. We didn’t have any full-time people on the team before the summer of 2018, so it was a very slowe start, let me put it like that.

Clay Finck (00:14:54):
So you go full-time and, as I’ve joined the team about a year ago, and learned more about the company, most of your hires were actually in 2020 and after. So I’m curious what things you were up to from the time you went full-time up until 2020, before you really started to expand the team.

Stig Brodersen (00:15:16):
That’s interesting, because I don’t know really if I can separate the years that well. I know it’s not that long ago, but whenever you’re keeping your head down doing the grind, it’s tricky to say I did this that year, and then the next. But going back to what you said, about hiring has mainly happened in recent years. Yes, we might have been five full-timers going into 2020. It was also quite important to Preston and me that, in general, we didn’t want to invest any money into this, if you can avoid it. The expenses for growing the team would have to be paid for revenue generated by the company. Since that was our approach, and we didn’t make any money, it was a fairly easy decision to wait to start hiring people.

Stig Brodersen (00:15:57):
Podcast advertising, which is the bulk of the revenue, we didn’t really take off before 2020. Which was, again, one of the reasons why we couldn’t hire that many before then. I think that there is also this element of luck that I keep on returning back to, because we started to appear at just the right time. When we were ready to scale, partly with the skillset we acquired, but also just mentally, and where we were in life, and family, and all that, the industry also started to make money, and we could then generate the cash to grow. It would be amazing if I could say that we had foreseen that years in advance, but it’s just happened.

Stig Brodersen (00:16:32):
Off the top of my head, I don’t remember how much money we made in 2019. We didn’t really do accounting before then. But if you do put me on the spot, Clay, I’d probably say it was $200,000-ish. I do remember in 2020, because we started to do accounting halfway through, that we did just above $600k in 2020, we did $2.3 million in 2021 already, and then we were close to $4 million in advertising alone in 2022. Of course, you would need a decent size of the show before you could sell advertising on it. But it was, more or less, if you, before 2020, had a big show, you couldn’t really make a lot of money because the money just weren’t there.

Stig Brodersen (00:17:10):
It might be different if you were NPR. But, for most podcasters in the space, whenever we talk about what happened back then, you could probably sell your own products. We didn’t have any, so it was relatively easy for us. But podcast advertising really didn’t exist the way it does today. I do remember the very first auto we had, that was back in 2017. It was for $8,000 a month, and we signed them for three months. It just felt like all the money in the world. So we went from $100 a month in Amazon affiliate to $8,000 a month in advertising, which just seemed like this ridiculous amount of money.

Stig Brodersen (00:17:51):
I just remember, I went out celebrating with my wife, we were super excited. We were like, “This podcast thing,” not like it was a gold mine, but it was like, “Oh, my god. $8,000.” Then we have to split it with Preston, and then we have some costs and stuff. But, perhaps there would be something left. So we went out for pizza and beer. I just remember, it was an exciting moment because it was just fantastic that someone wanted to advertise on our show. But, back to the original question about what were up to until 2020. We tried a ton of different projects, including TP Finance, that’s our financial software. We actually tried setting up some courses. I’m not saying it was a big success. We tried some newsletters, which just came out very irregularly, like once a month, if that. We did some affiliate marketing.

Stig Brodersen (00:18:37):
We published a few books, and we set up the Millennial Investing Feed too. But generally, we failed a lot more than we succeeded. I definitely didn’t want to take the opportunity to highlight the Millennial Investing Feed that Robert Leonard set up. Robert thinks better about business than anyone on the team, and we’re just really lucky to have him on. Back in 2019, I thought we would be setting up multiple shows, and the whole rising tide lift all boats thing. But I don’t think I appreciated how lucky we were with the timing of We Study Billionaires. In many ways, with Millennial Investing Feed, 10% the size of We Study Billionaires, it was a lot more impressive what Robert, and then turned you and Rebecca, starting a new feed these days is just so difficult. Preston and I just got a lot handed to us, whenever we started We Study Billionaires in 2014, so a huge element of luck there.

Clay Finck (00:19:33):
Very interesting. To recap and just look at the big picture, you guys started the podcast in 2014, you went full-time in 2016. What were some of the pivotal moments along the way? You mentioned the first check you got from your advertiser. Talk about some of the critical moments. What were some of the keys to success to lead to today?

Stig Brodersen (00:19:56):
Well, I would definitely say that hiring Bianca Alcera, which was the very first hire, that was likely the best decision I ever made. I keep on joking, even though I’m half serious, whenever I speak to Preston I say, he shouldn’t be worried about me leaving. He should be worried about Bianca leaving. I would not say that this was part of the grand strategy, because it really wasn’t. I speak Danish and I speak English, but Bianca, at the time, was hired because she could speak English, but she could speak five different languages. We were relocated the time and didn’t know the local language, so it was just amazing to have the opportunity to be teaming up with her. It was like buying Amazon pre-IPO. It was just too good to be true.

Stig Brodersen (00:20:37):
At the time, she was a student doing a graduate program in filmmaking. She was more hired as a translator for me. But I told her that I doing something called the Investor’s Podcast, and she was like, “Okay, I don’t really listen to podcasts, that sounds good.” That wasn’t her job at all but I said, “Oh, I had some issues with some things on the website.” I never learned how to program, I still don’t know how to do that. We had some issues and she was like, “I can probably program that.” Because, as it turned out, before she started filmmaking, she had a degree in computer science, she had five years of experience with Hewlett-Packard.

Stig Brodersen (00:21:14):
So she was like, “Yeah, let me just fix that,” and she fixed it. We needed some help with some of the videos we wanted to publish. She’s like, “Yeah, I’m doing a degree in filmmaking, let me help you with some videos.” Then we had some issues, we needed some design skills and she said, “I have a sister you should probably speak to, because she’s a designer.” So we hired her sister Camille, and she’s been with our team since 2017. It’s just a crazy story. Then I remember we had some issues with some publishing, and Bianca said, “You know, I have a sister-in-law, why don’t you hire her?” So she’s also worked with us since 2017.

Stig Brodersen (00:21:41):
So, the three women are running our team in the Philippines. I think they were 15-ish or so, most of them around Manila, the capital in the Philippines. The Investor’s Podcast Network is perhaps, 5% skill and 95% luck. Of course, you need that 5%, but I am very humble that luck played such a huge role for us. Lucky to have met Preston. Lucky to have met Bianca. Getting that flywheel spinning is just super important. Then we met a bunch of other wonderful people, including you. It’s just about the whole, right people at the right time in your life.

Clay Finck (00:22:15):
I’m really happy you mentioned Bianca, and Camille, and the Manila Team. I remember when you were interviewing me, and I was working through the hiring process, both you and Robert mentioned that they’re really a big key to the success of TIP. I didn’t really fully realize, or understand that until I actually joined the team and started working with them. It’s just really incredible what all they do on the back end. Most of the listeners probably aren’t aware of what all it takes to run a podcast. Surprisingly enough, we’re at 29, close to 30 people. Why do you need so many people to run one or two podcast feeds? Talk about maybe why you expanded to be that large.

Stig Brodersen (00:23:01):
Yeah. It’s interesting and completely understandable. I remember telling my parents about it, I was doing this thing called a podcast, and they’re like, “What?” They were like, “But you took an education, you’re not supposed to do things like a podcast. What?” It wasn’t like they weren’t supportive, they were just a bit confused about what I did. It was a bit easier whenever I was a teacher. It was like, “Okay, you teach economics. We get that.”

Stig Brodersen (00:23:25):
In the Philippines, we have three teams, we have three programmers. Plus Bianca, who’s also a programmer, but oversees other things too. We have a design team with five people. They’re working on a few YouTube channels, they work on the website, the podcast artwork, really anything that’s design-related. We have Operation Support Team, they handle the podcast editing, and really anything that’s related to operations that’s not design or programming. I want to say we probably have five, six on there too, depending on how you measure it, so 15 total in Manila.

Stig Brodersen (00:23:59):
Then if we look in the west, it’s mainly in the US, the team is based. We have one host from Millennial Investing, Rebecca Hotsko. She’s up in British Columbia, in Canada. Weronika, one of our YouTube hosts, she’s based in Poland. We have a Sales Team with three people who are selling advertising and a bunch of other stuff. Then we have more hosts. If you’re familiar here with the We Study Billionaires Feed, you probably already know Trey and William.

Stig Brodersen (00:24:23):
On the other feed, our Millennial Investing Feed, I just already talked about Rebecca, but Robert also. He used to host Millennial Investing, but now he’s hosting a Real Estate 101 Show. And then we also have Shawn, who is a host on YouTube. We recently hired Patrick, who are writing newsletters, and he will also transition to a role of hosting some real estate content too. So yeah, I don’t know if I gave you too much information there. But that’s the way the team looks like right now.

Stig Brodersen (00:24:52):
Just the last comment to that, I would say that we probably also started 2020 with a bit more ambitious mindset, and we could just see that we had a lot of great investment opportunities, so we really invested everything we could internally and found great people like you, Clay, that could really run with those opportunities. There’s this saying, I think it was Larry Page or Sergey Brin from Google, who I like, “The best companies, they die from too many opportunities.” I remember, today also, but around 2020, there were too many things we could do. I think you’re right, things really started to take off around 2020-ish.

Clay Finck (00:25:28):
One thing that somewhat surprised me in joining TIP was Preston’s role with the company. Preston was someone I really looked up to as a listener, not only for the investing insights, but his insights on life. You alluded to this with Warren Buffett, and I think it’s the same thing with TIP. A lot of podcasts today are really all about the hosts, and the host just giving their opinion, and acting in a way like they’re on top of the world, they’re the most important person in the room. But that’s not what I found with TIP at all.

Clay Finck (00:26:04):
What really stuck out to me with Preston and you, Stig, your focus on providing as much value as possible to the audience. I felt like, just listening to you guys over the years, I was almost certain to learn something new each time. When I look at Preston, for example, in the Mastermind groups over the years, he wasn’t afraid to be the one person who disagreed with everyone, and just speak his mind, and say what he thought was right to him.

Clay Finck (00:26:36):
He’s also someone, I think, who’s just a very gifted teacher. He just has a way of simplifying things for someone like me who’s just driving in my car in college, that’s just interested in learning about investing. He’s able to put it in a way that is simple, and understandable, and actually makes sense. Nowadays he’s talking all about just the macro environment. A lot of this stuff just does not make sense to your everyday person, and he has a way of simplifying that, which I really like.

Clay Finck (00:27:05):
To add to that, he’s just a very likable person, which is great. Hosting a podcast, has over 400,000 followers on Twitter, so it’s obvious that a lot of people really like him. Still, to this day, I listen to a lot of the content he puts out, and keep an eye on what he’s doing on Twitter. I also see Preston as someone who just really understands the big picture, and can really separate the signal from the noise, which is so hard to do nowadays. Still, to this day, a lot of people say, “It’s impossible to beat the market.”

Clay Finck (00:27:37):
You mentioned earlier, the efficient-market hypothesis and how Buffett has defied gravity, so to speak, in the investing world, and other ideas that you can’t time the market. Well, I’ve been following Preston for the past few years, and I haven’t seen his actual portfolio, but I’ve followed his calls and seen what he’s doing with his portfolio. He mentioned on our Millennial Investing show, he absolutely crushed the market in 2021, obviously, because he was invested in Bitcoin at the time.

Clay Finck (00:28:04):
But if I had to guess, just over the years of the podcast, I would say he has handily beat the market over that time period, and I don’t think that’s by accident. Whether you like Bitcoin or not, for example, he sold his entire position in 2017, started off as a small position, obviously grew from there. Looking back, that was obviously a very advantageous price to sell. In the years following it dropped by 80% or more.

Clay Finck (00:28:32):
I also believe he publicly stated on Twitter in March, 2020 that it was a very opportune time to buy Bitcoin, at that time, because he was seeing the fed’s response to the liquidity crisis and the dollar shortage. So the Fed, so to speak, flooded the system with money. He said Bitcoin was the play there. I’m not saying he’s perfect, and there’s obviously some luck that’s involved. But, from my perspective, I can see that he has this knack for weighing the probabilities of being right.

Clay Finck (00:29:02):
He admits to the times when he is wrong too, and I just really appreciate that. How it’s really all about providing that education to the listener. He’s just able to speak his mind, in a way, and communicate the probabilities that he’s seeing in the markets, and the actions he’s actually taking. So much I’ve learned from Preston, and you as well, Stig, over the years.

Clay Finck (00:29:24):
Wrapping back to what I originally said, I was surprised by Preston’s role with TIP because he has these other obligations, he has his own family, and a different job outside of TIP. So maybe you can tell the audience about your relationship with Preston, given that you don’t technically host, We Study Billionaires together anymore. How often do you speak, and what’s your relationship look like?

Stig Brodersen (00:29:47):
Clay, I’m really happy that you said all those nice things about Preston, because Preston is absolutely amazing. I’m really happy with the relationship I have with him now, and in the past, and I feel very lucky and grateful that we met whenever we did. I think we talked once or twice a quarter, probably. It’s not like we have a fixed agenda, or any fixed schedule, in terms of when we will do different things. We don’t have a lot of touch points.

Stig Brodersen (00:30:11):
Preston’s main responsibility is hosting the Bitcoin podcast in the feed, and I’m not involved with that at all. Just in that, we don’t have a lot of touch points. Preston, also, he’s not really involved in the strategy or operations of TIP. So we have this strong mutual respect, and we completely trust each other to make the right decisions. I should say, despite the countless mistakes I made over the years, it’s just this wonderful relationship built, and this mutual respect.

Stig Brodersen (00:30:38):
We do own the company 50/50, so I can only say that I feel so grateful that we never had any issues. I heard a bunch of 50/50 partners just makes it really difficult because you don’t really want to join. I’m not saying you don’t want to, but it can be challenging going into a relationship and being like 51/49. It probably has some advantages because then someone always calls the shots. But I guess if you’re also the 49% person, it just feels very different that being 49% than 50%, I guess.

Stig Brodersen (00:31:04):
I think we divided things up pretty well, also in terms of how we want to live our lives. As you mentioned, Preston just have other obligations that I don’t have. Preston’s done a wonderful job, on specifically Twitter, but he’s just generally good on engaging with the audience, and hosting a great podcast. I like running TIP instead, that’s behind the scenes a bit more. I still host from time to time, even though I don’t do it as often as I have in the past.

Stig Brodersen (00:31:27):
I definitely miss hosting episodes together with Preston. It’s just not feasible anymore with the time zones. We often had to then coordinate with the guests, when we started to bring guests on. If you look at my job description, I think I host every other week-ish right now, so it’s probably less than 10% of what I do. You could even make the argument that I shouldn’t be hosting at all, because we have all this other stuff going on.

Stig Brodersen (00:31:51):
But if I can just touch on the Bitcoin show too, and I know this was a decision that surprised a bunch of people. Especially because, if you are raised by the Church of Buffett and Munger like Preston and I am, you’re not supposed to be invested in Bitcoin at all. After Preston got quite interested in Bitcoin, and I was also quite interested. But I was also doing the same old, same old, the value investing, the conventional stuff.

Stig Brodersen (00:32:20):
It seemed like it makes sense for Preston to do Bitcoin, and it also makes sense for me to continue with We Study Billionaires. Preston and I talked from early on, the importance of being authentic in what we do. I can personally say that I’m very upfront with the stocks that I own. I only own four stocks right now, and don’t plan to add anymore time soon. But we were just like, “This is what we invest in, this is what we do. Take it for what it is. You don’t have to do the same thing as us, but we are just telling you what we do. Take it for what it is.”

Stig Brodersen (00:32:50):
So whenever Preston got really interested in Bitcoin and started to invest in Bitcoin, it seemed like the authentic and right thing to do, to have a show about that where he could talk with someone on a weekly basis about it. The listeners can just feel if you are not sincere. It would be crazy for him, for business purposes, to pretend that he was this old-school, value-investing, doing discounted cash flows every single day, not liking Bitcoin, whenever he did.

Stig Brodersen (00:33:20):
I believe it’s very important for all type of relationship that you have that you are authentic, it’s a marriage, close friendship, relationship with your listener. You have to be who you are. Those who don’t like you, they won’t listen to you anyway, and that’s fine. Those who like you are, you’re also going to attract new listeners who are interested in the new topic that you’re going to bring up. I think that’s very important.

Stig Brodersen (00:33:45):
Like you also mentioned before, Clay, we thought we would be talking about Warren Buffett every single week and you realize, after a few episodes, you can’t do that. Actually, a big part of the whole thing about Warren Buffett is that things don’t change that often. So, how can you do it weekly show about it? I also started just doing individual stock picks. But then, gradually transitioned to searching for 15 uncorrelated assets, the whole Ray Dalio appraisal of looking at things. I feel that’s natural whenever you start investing, you figure out what the right thing is for you.

Stig Brodersen (00:34:15):
I would also like to debunk this story. I’ve seen it a few times on Twitter. I try only to be on Twitter once a month or so. But I have seen some comments about that. Preston and I are supposed to have a falling out because of his interest in Bitcoin. It’s a bit sad and weird that I’m supposed to say this, but I don’t choose my friends based on whether they’re interested in Bitcoin or not. That’s not one of my criteria.

Stig Brodersen (00:34:39):
I’m still in love with my wife after 12 years, despite that she puts pineapple on her pizza. If there’s something that’s polarizing, it’s Bitcoin and pineapple and pizza. People just see that very, very differently. I don’t know if I can just sum it up and say in one sentence, wonderful relationship with Preston and super grateful that we started this adventure together, and are still on it.

Clay Finck (00:35:03):
I remember, as a fan of the show before I joined the team, that Preston had mentioned a time or two that much of the growth of TIP was because of you, Stig. At the time, I probably assumed that Preston’s humble side was showing. After joining the team, I just realized, that really was the truth. Anything that happens behind the scenes really originates back to you. I just find that so incredible to have the humility to step away from being a host, and step away from the spotlight, and just work to being focused on empowering others within the organization, which I know we’re going to be diving into here soon.

Stig Brodersen (00:35:45):
Well, thank you, Clay. It’s very kind of you to say so. I want to say that I probably see this slightly different in the sense that I don’t so much look at what originates back to Preston and then originates back to me, but rather to the team. We couldn’t have built a great team in the Philippines if it hadn’t been for Bianca. I could say the same thing about Robert, who found you and other great hires in the US.

Stig Brodersen (00:36:08):
Also, some of what you also mentioned, the comment is that Preston always had very different expectations to The Investor’s Podcast Network that I had. I was always more ambitious with it, in terms of driving growth and then making more money. I think later I’m going to talk about how, perhaps, I’m not as ambitious anymore. But I definitely started out being a lot more ambitious.

Stig Brodersen (00:36:32):
Preston was always like, “I love podcasting. I love the life. I love the way that we do things. I love how authentic we are. If people want to listen it’s great, and if not it’s fine. If we can make a bit of money on the side, that’s even better.” Whenever we were Preston and me, he was like, “That’s great.” Then we were another two people, it was like, “Great. We don’t have to grow.” Today he’s like, “Great, we don’t have to grow.” It’s wonderful working with Preston.

Stig Brodersen (00:37:00):
I don’t want it to sound like he doesn’t have any opinion. He’s definitely a very opinionated person on bunch of different things. But he’s always been very good at not setting arbitrary goals for no apparent reason, and very big on the whole, why are we doing this? Who do we want to make more money for? Do we need that?

Stig Brodersen (00:37:22):
Whenever I realized that TIP was the way of life for me and, like you mentioned, Preston has other obligations, he was very upfront with that from early on, that he didn’t intend to go full-time on TIP. He was doing his own thing that he was very passionate about. I was like, “Great. Let’s just see where it takes us.” I don’t know if I really answered your question, if there were a question there. But anyways, my mind wanders. So, please rope me back in, Clay.

Clay Finck (00:37:50):
No, I think you’re doing just fine, Stig. One item I was particularly interested in learning more about was the decision to put the Bitcoin show, run by Preston, in the We Study Billionaires feed. I think a lot of people got turned off by that. They’re like, “Yeah, these guys used to study Warren Buffett, now they’re talking about Bitcoin. You can’t mix those two together. What’s going on here?” So I’m curious why you made the decision to keep the Bitcoin show within the We Study Billionaires feed. Just from the perspective that Preston is one of the founders of the show, it makes sense that he still maintains his presence on there. But, I’m curious what your thoughts are behind that decision.

Stig Brodersen (00:38:32):
Yeah. It’s a tricky question because, partly, I want to say it’s a business decision in the sense that we really wanted to get the message out with Bitcoin, and the importance of Bitcoin. So we just knew that we would get a lot more listeners if we kept it in the same feed. Really, a lot of the value from podcasting is that you have people who subscribe to the show, and automatically get it delivered to their phone. That ask about, search for a new show, and then subscribe to that show, or follow that show, it might seem like it’s a small ask and people will do it. But, we are stuck in our ways, and we just don’t. That was a part of it.

Stig Brodersen (00:39:13):
But I had this idea that podcasting would be more like a channel. What I mean by that is, I felt that podcasting would go more into be a sports channel, or a football channel, or a finance channel, rather than different topics with individual shows. Of course, you have some hardcore fans that would listen to all the episodes. But I definitely noticed for myself, being a podcast listener, that I’ve been increasingly just picking and choosing from the episodes I’m interested in. I’d listen to a bunch of football podcasts, and I’d listen to some other stuff. I don’t listen to all of it, but I listen to what I find most interesting.

Stig Brodersen (00:39:50):
And so seeing the industry going more into that direction, we were thinking, “Well, if people don’t like Bitcoin, then skip it. If they don’t like to hear someone doing the same old, same old discounted cash flow, skip it. That’s perfectly fine too. We have to be a bit more specific on YouTube, having a specific We Study Billionaires and a Richer Wiser Happier channel, and then a more specific channel, more about Preston’s content.

Stig Brodersen (00:40:15):
But it was just more the way we saw the industry going, because it was important to get out to lots of people. But it was definitely a decision we could feel was quite polarizing. We got a lot of new listeners, we lost a ton of listeners who were definitely not inclined just to skip it. They really didn’t like it. That was our train of thought going into it. Whether or not it was the right decision, I guess that’s up for interpretation.

Clay Finck (00:40:40):
That is quite interesting. We’re going to be getting into the business model for TIP as well. Just looking at the business sense, it makes a lot of sense to add it to the existing feed, just due to the scalability. You’re able to sell so many more ads, just because of you’re adding those additional episodes, getting additional listeners into there. We’re going to be diving into that a bit later.

Clay Finck (00:41:03):
But one thing that’s really different about TIP, is the culture you’ve built. It almost sounds somewhat cliche, all these companies talking about culture, but it really truly means something here at TIP. I may be a bit biased, being a member of the team here, but I’d like to talk about the mission and the vision of TIP. Maybe you could talk about what those are, and how they’re different for those who might not be familiar.

Stig Brodersen (00:41:30):
I’m going to say something that’s very corporate, that’s my disclaimer. A mission is the reason why you exist, and a vision is where you want to be. For example, a mission statement for We Study Billionaires could be something like, “To empower intermediate non-professional investors through simple, actionable, and authentic education.” Again, it sounds very corporate, and I guess it is quite corporate.

Stig Brodersen (00:41:55):
What I wanted to highlight is that we are targeting intermediate investors, definitely not beginners. It’s tempting to focus on new investors because that’s where the money is. Because, by definition, you have more beginners than intermediate investors. But, it’s more fun to talk about intermediate investing. In that sense the decision was easy. If you want material for the beginner, we have our YouTube channel, wonderful, with Shawn and Weronika creating great content for beginners. Perhaps you could also say, to some extent, the Millennial Investing Show that Rebecca’s now hosting is a bit more catered to beginners.

Stig Brodersen (00:42:28):
But it was really important to Preston and me early on, that we wanted to be authentic. Which, I’ve now started to make a bit more of cliche because I keep on saying authentic. But there was a limit to how much we wanted to do beginner stuff. We were definitely more beginners ourselves in the beginning, so we talked a bit more about that. Then we grew together with the listener, and now we want to talk about other stuff. It’s great if people want to be along on that journey, it’s great if they don’t want to. I think that’s just a normal progression.

Stig Brodersen (00:42:59):
Going back to your question about vision, this is a very difficult question for me to answer because you are taught in business school that you’re supposed to have this guiding style called a vision. Which is, where do you want to be? An ambitious goal, of where you want to take this company. I would say, that never really resonated with me. Please don’t get me wrong, I can see why it works. But I also felt it was a bit constraining to have such guidance.

Stig Brodersen (00:43:29):
Let me give you an example. A vision could be the biggest financial media company in the world. But here’s the thing, I would hate running the biggest financial media company in the world. Just making the company bigger for the sake of making it bigger, just sounded like a bad strategy. I feel that Preston’s view on life has really been rubbing off on me whenever comes to that. What would likely happen if you want to be the biggest financial media company, is that you would dilute the quality of the content because you have to produce more.

Stig Brodersen (00:43:59):
It might be a good business decision if you optimize for dollars. But I would also not feel good about it. It just wouldn’t feel it would be the right thing to do, and it wouldn’t serve the audience the best possible way. Let me give you another example. We had a recent job interview with a candidate here to join the team, and that person asked me that question, “What’s the vision of the company?” I was like, “Huh, I should probably have a good answer for that.”

Stig Brodersen (00:44:26):
What I told him that was that, “We wanted to create the best possible workplace for our wonderful team.” I didn’t say the best possible financial content, the most money, anything like that. I really want TIP to be a great workplace where you can empower a team to create wonderful things. Work alongside Preston, and me, and the team to have this canvas, and you can start painting and do whatever you want to do.

Stig Brodersen (00:44:54):
Of course, it has to make sense in terms of why we’re here. But, what are you passionate about? What can we do together? That was just more the approach. I guess I had this philosophy that you have to start making sure that your team loves their job. Then, as a result of that, the content will be great. I don’t believe it’s the other way around, where it’s quality first and then, in turn, the team will just be happy about it.

Stig Brodersen (00:45:21):
One of the issues about having this vague approach to business is that I don’t have a good, what we call, KPI, like a key performance indicator. I don’t have a good KPI for that. What should we optimize for? How should we quantify it? I don’t really know. We could have something called retention. We are eight years in, we only had two full-time people leave us on their own volition, and we never had any host leave us. So is that a sign that we are good companies to work for? I don’t know.

Stig Brodersen (00:45:52):
I think for the right people at the right time, it’s wonderful. But at the same time, some people outgrow the company, or the company outgrows someone, and that’s okay. They get different interests. The hosts that we have here on the team, they’re very passionate about finance, and perhaps they’ll start being passionate about something else. “Great.” You are on this journey together for a given amount of time, and that’s great.

Stig Brodersen (00:46:19):
You can hear, I’m almost making it up as we go. If we have a vision, it will be about the culture. I think it probably comes from whenever I was teaching at the local college. I loved it, but I was also frustrated about the students who were there, who were not motivated. I’ve also started in the US, which I found really inspiring, because the students were just so much more passionate about being students and learning, than they were in Denmark.

Stig Brodersen (00:46:49):
We have this broken system where education is completely free, and you even get subsidized scholarship for everyone. So you get paid to go to school. In a way, it’s great because it gives a lot of social mobility, and you get to call it the American dream. That’s the reality, because everyone can get an education, and get a good job, and you don’t hold anyone back because you pay them to go to school. But you also have this terrible downside, that you get a bunch of students who are like, “Yeah, I don’t want to be here, but I get paid to sit here so why wouldn’t I sit here?”

Stig Brodersen (00:47:28):
This lack of motivation is really just a pet peeve of mine. I just can’t have it. If I can make an example, whenever I watch something in sports, highly paid athletes, and they’re not motivated, I’m like, “Hey, you traveled thousands of miles to go to play the game, and you’re here anyway, why not give it 110%?” I don’t get that. I just don’t. Let me give you an example about the importance of this.

Stig Brodersen (00:47:50):
We had an intro call where Rebecca was introduced to the team. This was not long after she was hired as a host. She said that, “I applied before. I applied this time. I would apply for any other job you put up. I just want to be a part of the company.” Whenever I heard that I was like, “Yes, that is exactly what we want to achieve.” Again, I don’t know how to quantify it, but it’s statements like that, that just makes me more excited than another million dollars, or a million downloads.

Stig Brodersen (00:48:21):
I know it sounds probably crazy because I think I just said a million dollars. But making that difference to the team, and building that culture, yes, I can definitely live with the proceeds, don’t get me wrong, but that’s really a driver. I don’t want this to come off in any way. I don’t believe in altruism, for example. I have very selfish reasons for wanting to work with wonderful people, and making sure they’re happy. Whenever you’re around wonderful people like Rebecca, you just don’t feel like you are working.

Stig Brodersen (00:48:48):
Warren Buffett will call it, Tap dancing to work.” It’s just wonderful to work around motivated people. I guess that’s the culture. That’s the vision, being part of something that’s greater than yourself and where everyone loves being. If I might add, a culture without big egos. Clay, if you allow me to take a detour, even though I feel I covered a lot of ground already, it’s for the same reason why I ask the support team to rate our hosts, it’s not the other way around.

Stig Brodersen (00:49:19):
Being a host on The Investor’s Podcast Network, and I know I’m selling this hard here, and I’m super biased, but being a host is a great job for the right person. You get paid to speak with famous people, and you get to meet up with the audience. Whenever you do that, you everyone’s best friend. You might get fan letters, and people want to take photos with you. It can easily get to your head. Some people might start missing deadlines or not responding to the email from the team, because you are a star. You’re a host. You’re recognized. That’s awesome.

Stig Brodersen (00:49:51):
So the Support Team is being asked to rate the hosts, and the hosts are supposed to maintain their popularity to the Support Team to stay on the team. They achieve that by being humble, responsive, accommodating. It probably sounds like opposite worlds, but I’ve just seen this in other companies. Where you have high performers that just behave like jerks. TIP has just been structured in the way that, that’s not the case.

Stig Brodersen (00:50:22):
I don’t want this to come off as me being passive aggressive towards you, Clay. Because, if I might say so, last time we asked the hosts to be rated, you came out with the highest number of points. Which was one of many, many reasons why we wanted you on the We Study Billionaires feed, because we wanted your approach to working with the Support Team and being a host. We wanted that to carry more weight on our network. You’re wonderful, Clay. What can I say?

Clay Finck (00:50:49):
I should also mention that Robert was a close second in that assessment, so please do not give me all the credit. Robert and I have actually gotten the chance to become great friends over the past year or so, since I’ve joined the team. By happenstance, he visits Lincoln quite often, where I live, and it’s been great getting to know him.

Clay Finck (00:51:09):
You mentioned how he has the best business mind on the team, and that’s why I really enjoy chatting with him, because he never has a shortage of new ideas, and his thoughts on a particular business idea or business model. It’s pretty awesome to have that feeling that the people you work with feel more like friends than colleagues.

Clay Finck (00:51:31):
Related to what you were saying just there, you mentioned the altruism piece, and how you don’t believe in that train of thought. To some degree, I might push back on that and say that, you are very selfless. To your points about just treating others right and not having a big ego, it’s only right that the hosts treat anyone else on the team or anyone in the audience even, just with the same amount of respect that we would anyone else.

Clay Finck (00:51:58):
It reminds me of something from my childhood, actually, growing up. I’m from a really small community here in the Midwest, in the US. I attended a small private school. When I say a private school, it’s anything but your typical private school, that oftentimes has more money than they know what to do with due to these massive donors from whoever. It was really anything but that. It was a school that was really open to anyone in the community that wanted to go, whether they had the financial means or not.

Clay Finck (00:52:29):
If I remember right, it was one of the cheapest private schools in the country, if not the cheapest. I believe it was something like $750 per year in tuition. But the cost to actually educate the student was 10 times more than that. But what I’m really getting at here is, the school was built on volunteering, and the giving of one’s time and one’s money. That environment reminds me a lot of TIP.

Clay Finck (00:52:55):
It’s not, what can my company or what can my school do for me? It’s, how can I be of service to the audience? How can I be of service to my colleagues, my community? So I really experienced that growing up, and I’ve really experienced that as a fan of the show, through you, and Preston, the other hosts, just being so giving of your time and knowledge. I’ve also experienced that working with you guys too, as a host.

Clay Finck (00:53:21):
I’m just so grateful for what you’ve done for me, both as a listener and being a part of the team. I really, really couldn’t be more grateful. I’ve worked at a few jobs ever since I graduated college in 2017, and we’re going to be diving into that later. But it’s not something you find everywhere. When you do find it, it really is something special.

Clay Finck (00:53:41):
I wanted to transition a bit and tap into your thought process on TIP. Warren Buffett has these brilliant shareholder letters that he writes every year, as the audience knows. It reminds me of the weekly letters you send to the team at TIP, where you share what’s happening at the team, your insights around business as well. One of your recent updates I really liked, you said that you distinguished companies in three types of ways.

Clay Finck (00:54:14):
The first being a customer-focused company, which you gave Amazon as an example. Bezos wrote in his early shareholder letters where, “It’s all about the customer. The customer’s always right. Whatever the customer wants, we’ll give them.” The second type of company you outlined was a shareholder-focused company, and that’s what pretty much all company falls into. At the end of the day, you need to produce some bottom line profit so the shareholders can get their kick, and that’s that.

Clay Finck (00:54:41):
Then the third type is a team-focused company, which you said was TIP, Southwest Airlines, and very few others. Why did you choose for TIP to be a team-focused company? It seems somewhat counterintuitive, given that we need to attract listeners to the audience. We need to have a listener praise to make money. So, why focus on the team first?

Stig Brodersen (00:55:05):
Let me try to see if I can go around, and then answer the question. Let’s focus on the customers and shareholders that you also mentioned. Just to make it even more logical, I’m going to start with the second point first. We don’t want to have a shareholder-focused company. We do a ton of different things that makes no sense from a shareholder perspective. We can afford to do it in the sense that we don’t have any investors who would need to make money. So, we don’t have any pressure from that.

Stig Brodersen (00:55:33):
We could, for example, set up more podcasts. That would be, I wouldn’t say easy because very few things in business is easy, but it would be a simple way to make more money. I just don’t know what to say, and I just don’t want to force it for the sake of making more money. So, unless we have more things we want to share with the world, why would we set up more shows? Any rational shareholder would say that we should focus less on happiness, and more on making money. I just don’t agree with that. I just don’t want to live that life.

Stig Brodersen (00:56:08):
Let’s go to the other point, customer-focused companies. I never believed in the whole, the customer’s always right. Many customers are just not nice. Some customers are really annoying. One of the first thing I say to our people on the team is that they can fire the customers. They’re like, “What? What do you mean fire a customer?” Yes. I don’t want to wake up in the morning and have to deal with unhappy customers who just complain. I don’t expect for anyone on the team to want to wake up in the morning and deal with unhappy customers. It just sounds like a terrible way of living your life, if you can avoid it.

Stig Brodersen (00:56:47):
Whenever we experience that, we want to be objective. If a customer has a good point, it’s not like we want to be dismissive, nothing like that. But if we see something where we feel it’s unreasonable, that advertiser, or someone who bought a course, or whatever it might be, are just unreasonable, give them the money back as soon as possible and block their email address. We don’t want that negativity on the team. I would just rather have happy team members than happy customers.

Stig Brodersen (00:57:17):
A company like Amazon, who are just obsessed with customer satisfaction, I can see why they’re doing well in their marketplace. I can see why that approach to customers are probably a lot better than what we do on TIP. But just as obsessed as Amazon are with customers, just as obsessed we are with happy people on the team. I truly believe that it ultimately reflects on the bottom line, if you treat your team really well. Even if it doesn’t, I just think it’s the right way to run a business.

Stig Brodersen (00:57:54):
If we go back to our business model, we use advertising as part of a business model. Please don’t get the wrong, I can see why you can make the argument that the podcast would be better if we didn’t have advertising on. We have this weird thing here on our team, we really like to pay our rent and mortgages, so we have to do that with dollars. So yes, I can see why it would better if we didn’t have advertising. But, it’s part of the deal of delivering a free product.

Stig Brodersen (00:58:19):
But what’s great about advertising is that, you can create whatever content you want. If people don’t like it, they can just choose not to listen to that content. That’s perfectly fine. Of course, there is a fine line. Because, if you create something that’s ridiculous, or that’s too niche, you can’t run the business. Of course, we also have to consider that. But the way I see this is that, we attract the people who like the content we create.

Stig Brodersen (00:58:49):
You can, of course, pay for our content if you’re on Apple Podcast, and buy premium subscription with no ads. But same, if you like our content, and you can live with the ads, or have now learned that you have to click six times and then skip the ads whenever you’re listening on the podcast app, fine. We have this inner scorecard where we feel like, if we publish content we’re really proud of, we will attract the right people in. Capital will tell us if we do a poor job, and people will stop listening.

Stig Brodersen (00:59:23):
If I had to clarify our team-based approach, I’m, of course, very biased whenever I say, “This is a wonderful place to work.” You should probably ask when I’m not here, someone else on the team. One of the first things I do, and this is at hiring Trey Lockerbie value, you should ask someone who’s already hired on the team to jump on a confidential call with a new hire, before two parties decide to work together, and then tell all the bad stuff about working that place.

Stig Brodersen (00:59:56):
I’m sure there are a ton of bad stuff working here at The Investor’s Podcast Network. I don’t know if you can find any workplace that doesn’t have any bad stuff. But you want for the new hire to know that unpolished version before they start. It’s not good for the candidate or for the company if they don’t realize it before they start. They should know that before they potentially start working.

Stig Brodersen (01:00:18):
Another thing is to highlight that, for this team-based approach, it comes with a lot of responsibilities. It’s true that we don’t focus too much on profit, or what the customers like. But we set a really high standard for everyone on the team, and it’s supposed to be a good workplace. It’s just more fun if you work with talented, hardworking people. Again, I might go back to the word fun. I don’t know if this is the right word.

Stig Brodersen (01:00:42):
But if you’re going to spend eight hours on something every day, why not make the best out of it? So we have a number of visible boards with the performance of everyone on the team. If you don’t perform, you will be asked to leave. That likely sounds harsh, but I truly believe that you’re doing someone in disservice if you ensure that they stay in a job where they don’t do well. For example, as a host, aside from the respect of the Support Team, you are also evaluated on your downloads.

Stig Brodersen (01:01:15):
There’s this book called, No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix. He has this point that you shouldn’t call a company a family, because you cannot fire your family. He compares Netflix to a professional sports team where you are coworkers, but you’re also competitors. You are given full autonomy, more or less, as long as you meet your goals at Netflix. I’m definitely not saying that TIP is a professional sports team, not at all. To me, that sounds like a terrible place to work. But it’s more a sports team than it is a family, if we have to put it on that scale.

Clay Finck (01:01:48):
Wow, so much good information in that one bit. It’s definitely no question you’ve thought a lot about business over the years. The idea I somewhat struggle with is the idea that your work should be fun. Yes, I really enjoy my work here at TIP. But oftentimes, a job is a job. There’s oftentimes a reason why someone’s willing to pay you to do it. So I think the team-based approach does work well for TIP.

Clay Finck (01:02:17):
But I think it’s also critical for the audience or for the listeners to understand that each business needs to take their own approach. Not everyone can use a team-based approach. Not everyone can be Amazon, in that they are completely focused on the customer. Amazon probably wouldn’t be who they are today if they took the team-based approach. So it really just depends on the company, and even the industry as well. Since you mentioned that top performers are crucial to the success of a team-focused business, how do you go about finding the right people on the team?

Stig Brodersen (01:02:56):
It’s tricky. If you read management books, I have to point out the irony, I read a ton of them and I disagree with so much of it. But anyways, if you read those books, they would tell you things like, “You have to lead by example. You can only set the expectation of others that you set for yourself.” I think the latter is just completely off the mark.

Stig Brodersen (01:03:18):
You cannot, as the owner, expect that your team is as motivated as you are. It’s your baby. You’re compensated differently. If you do set a good example, you can work to have people on the team that are hopefully almost as passionate about the company as you are. That’s likely the best thing you can hope for. Continuing the thread of fun, perhaps it also depends on how you define fun. We have sematic discussion about it.

Stig Brodersen (01:03:45):
But I think it’s so important that you match expectations before you hire people, even though it’s very difficult before you actually start working with them, what that means, for both parties. Of course, you also have different expectations for different people on the team. Even on team, you cannot expect for everyone to be equally motivated. For example, I have higher expectations about the host’s excitement about working with TIP than the Support Team. How could I not?

Stig Brodersen (01:04:14):
The process of finding people on the Western Team and on the Filipino Team has been quite different. For the Filipino team, it’s been very much a network of Bianca and her family, and now a more conventional job posting. But for the team in the west, it’s been quite different because we have the advantages of having listeners and, luckily, also a lot of passionate listeners who would like to work with TIP. It has been the strategy from early on to have future hosts be fans of the show.

Stig Brodersen (01:04:44):
I felt like the best way to ensure that the new host would resonate with the listeners, especially now that Preston and I are, in some ways, taking a step back or at least create less content, or relatively lower less content. So we really wanted to find hosts that were super excited about working with TIP, and why we’re here. If the host is not excited about the show, how can we expect the audience to be?

Stig Brodersen (01:05:10):
For example, Clay, your position is, to date, the position we got the most application for. I want to say it was close to a hundred. Robert went through that process, and he handpicked five people at the end. I was then looped in, and I was sitting in on those five interviews. Both Robert and I had you as our clear number one pick. Whenever you are selected among many other candidates, it comes with high expectations.

Stig Brodersen (01:05:36):
Again, I’m happy to say that you exceeded those expectations, which is also why we wanted to promote you to the We Study Billionaires show. Finding the right people really comes down to values. Again, I really dislike talking about values, because it sounds so corporate. I remember, whenever I heard about corporate values in business school, I just felt it was the most useless lesson I ever had.

Stig Brodersen (01:06:00):
It likely was because I was too young and too immature to understand why it was important. I didn’t have any work experience, so I really couldn’t put it into perspective, whenever you talk about values. Clay, for example, we provide feedback quite bluntly to each other here in the company. It’s something that you should be ready for. We have this value of radical transparency that we bought from Ray Dalio, and we expect everyone to live by it.

Stig Brodersen (01:06:28):
For example, I remember you and I read a book together, and we had a follow-up session. I want to say that book was Good to Great, it might have been Principles, but it was one of those two books. During that conversation, I said that I gave you the great 5 out of 10. I later typed up and messaged you, and you were reporting to Robert at the time. I said, “Here’s why I’m giving you the great 5 out of 10, based on your performance today.”

Stig Brodersen (01:06:53):
Instead of me like hinting and being passive aggressive, “You didn’t perform,” yada, yada, yada. I was just straight up. You didn’t have to guess why you did well or didn’t do well. You knew exactly what was expected of you. If I might add to this conversation, not long after you got a promotion, you got a raise. I don’t want people to think badly of you in any kind of way. I really believe that it’s important to constantly provide feedback.

Stig Brodersen (01:07:19):
One thing, and this is another concept that we borrowed from Ray Dalio, I have a dot collector. So whenever I speak with someone from the team, and they perform better or worse than what’s expected, I put it in the dot collector. By the end of the year, whenever you review the performance, you’re not susceptible to recency bias. I had one point that said, “Reading a book together with Clay, 5 out of 10. Was not good.” But then had a lot of other dots that said, “Clay did a wonderful job, X, Y, Z.” So that’s just at the very core of working with TIP.

Clay Finck (01:07:54):
It’s interesting, you talk about my personal experience with TIP. It honestly was a bit of a culture shock going from your regular nine to five corporate job, where you’re just told what to do. You show up, you know what’s expected of you. Oftentimes, the expectations aren’t super high. For someone that has that kind of competitive aspect inside them, or maybe they’re just wired a bit differently, I just feel like the corporate environment isn’t fit for everybody.

Clay Finck (01:08:24):
So I knew that TIP would be a right fit for me. But even having that experience, wanting someone that wanted something a bit different, wanted to be more in a financial and investing-type role, I knew TIP was a good fit for me. But it was still a culture shock going into that. I’m really grateful for the radical transparency that you do provide. That was taught to you essentially by Ray Dalio and his book Principles, which is sitting right behind me right now.

Stig Brodersen (01:08:53):
Clay and I hope you enjoyed the first part of the story behind The Investor’s Podcast Network. Tomorrow, October 9th, we’ll publish the second and last part of this episode. We decided to call it, Our Finances. If you’re interested in the business of podcasting, or in the numbers specifically behind The Investor’s Podcast Network, you do not want to miss out on the second part of this episode. We will disclose our current free cash flow, discuss why we declined offers on our company last year and, more importantly, why The Investor’s Podcast Network is not about money, but about creating the best possible workplace for our wonderful team.

Intro (01:09:25):
Thank you for listening to TIP. Make sure to subscribe to Millennial Investing by The Investor’s Podcast Network, and learn how to achieve financial independence. To access our show notes, transcripts, or courses, go to theinvestorspodcast.com. This show is for entertainment purposes only. Before making any decision, consult a professional. This show is copyrighted by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Written permission must be granted before syndication or rebroadcasting.


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