How to Avoid Burnout While Working Remote with Harvard MBA Phil Strazzulla

Episode 98

Phil Strazzulla is an entrepreneur and the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams to find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. Phil started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. He joins us in this episode to share some tips and strategies to be more productive and avoid burnout in a remote setting.

Tune in now and learn from a rockstar entrepreneur!

[00:01 – 06:31] Opening Segment

  • Let’s get to know Phil Strazzulla
  • Phil tells us why he built SelectSoftware Reviews

[06:32 – 12:02] How to Build Your Entrepreneurial Mindset

  • Phil shares the story on how he built his entrepreneurial mindset
  • How to overcome the fears of firing the man
  • Why you might still feel unfulfilled even with a good job

[12:03 – 22:02] Training Yourself to be Productive

  • The ups and downs of entrepreneurship
  • Alternative paths to starting a business
  • How to train yourself to be productive

[22:03 – 29:08] The Connection Between Boredom and Productivity

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  • How to avoid burnout in a remote setup
    • Why being bored boost productivity
  • Phil gives some tips to manage your emails

[29:09 – 34:53] Focus and Deep Work in Business

  • The insecurity among entrepreneurs according to Phil
  • The power of focus that you should realize now
  • Is SelectSoftware Reviews applicable for your business?
    • Phil explains their services

[34:54 – 44:09] The Right Human Resources Software For You

  • Phil shares an interesting observation about human resources
  • What to look for in a software about human resources
  • Know more about Phil in the Fire Round!

[44:10 – 46:13] Closing Segment 

  • Connect with Phil
    • Links below
  • Final words

 

Tweetable Quotes:

“It’s really important for you to take breaks for you to work really intensely and basically be bored.” – Phil Strazzulla

“Focus has become one of the core skills of successful people today.” – Phil Strazzulla

Resources mentioned

Email pstrazzulla@gmail.com to connect with Phil or follow him on LinkedIn and his personal blog. Check SelectSoftware Reviews out to find the best HR and recruiting software vendors!

 

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David 0:00
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Phil Strazzulla 0:46
And even in that job, I still had this like burning fire in me that was like start something, build something, work on this thing, do something creative, etc. And so I knew that if I went back to a job, even if it was an amazing job, I would still have that I would still feel unfulfilled. And because I’d written that down in my journal, I would just go back to that. And it’s like, that’s the end result. And so you can go and like do this McKinsey thing, your big lot of money. And you’ll have a lot of prestige, and you’ll be in a great career path. But you’ll still feel unfulfilled. Literally, it’s like you can work out with Navy SEALs, you can learn how to debate with people who won national championships, you can hang out with people who are the heirs to the biggest brands in the world. All of these things are like that’s like a week in your MBA program. Because this classmate was a seal this one won the national championship. This one’s the heir to Louis Vuitton like, that’s just like, that’s a normal week, which is kind of insane. And like, you’re not gonna do that anywhere else. I think that the lessons that I learned in the first three or four years, even though they were super hard, it was sort of like training with weights on. And I learned a heck of a lot more than I would have being a person at a company, even an early stage company or going back and working in venture capital. And I’m now able to sort of reap the rewards of those learnings on a day to day basis with my current business. And so I would say like there probably was like a six months time when I was just like, that was like so dumb. I wasted all this time. I’m so much more poor than I should be. I’ve skipped like so many friends weddings, because I couldn’t afford to go to them and blah, blah, blah. And but at this point a couple years later, I’m like that was it was a really hard path, but it was the right one for me.

Intro 2:41
Welcome, everyone to the firing the man podcast a show for anyone who wants to be their own boss. If you sit in a cubicle every day and know you were capable of more then join us. This show will help you build a business and grow your passive income streams in just a few short hours per day. And now your hosts, serial entrepreneurs David Schomer and Ken Wilson.

David 3:05
Welcome everyone to the firing the man podcast on today’s episode, we have the privilege to interview Phil Strazzulla. Phil is an entrepreneur and founder of select software reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in depth expert advice. Phil started his career in venture capital before getting his MBA at Harvard Business School. We are really excited to get Phil’s story and learn more about his company. Welcome to the show, Phil.

Phil Strazzulla 3:33
Thanks, guys. I’m excited for the conversation.

David 3:36
Yeah, absolutely. So first things first, let’s hear a little bit of background in your life story. And what led you to founding select software reviews?

Phil Strazzulla 3:44
Yeah, sure. So I grew up in the Boston suburbs. As a kid, I was always interested in entrepreneurship. I had my lawn mowing company and stuff like that. I was also interested in the stock market. So I started investing in the stock market when I was 12. My brother and I begged my parents to take us to Fidelity and then they finally did was in the, I think we opened the accounts in 97. So from 95 on we were, should we do this? Should we do this? It was right after the Netscape IPO the market was too hot. My parents thought we’d get like burned, investing into a bubble. And so didn’t want to take us down there but eventually relented. And ever since then we’ve sort of been interested both of us in investing. That’s what my brother does primarily as his profession. And I did it for a while as well after college, studied finance, worked at a venture capital firm doing early stage software investing at a really big VC. And then I’ve always had the entrepreneurial itch. I’d read the Paul Graham essays and have to stop myself because it made want to quit so badly and just start something. And so I always had that fire a million ideas. I still have, you know, a folder in my Gmail that’s like business ideas and probably once a week I add something to it. When I was at business school, I finally sort of got the guts to start something, I started teaching myself how to program working on a lot of different projects, one of those turned into a thing that could eventually be a business. And I convinced a friend of mine to partner up with me. And we built this small HR software business that about two or three years ago hired somebody to sort of replace me on a day to day basis as a general manager. And so I had this extra time wanted to start another business. Still had that fire, I love to learn, I love to teach and the gap in the market that I saw is buying HR tools is really hard. There are hundreds of vendors for every single thing that HR teams need to do from payroll through hiring through leveraging artificial intelligence to engage team members, remote work, etc. And I looked at businesses like NerdWallet and wirecutter. And thought, hey, what if we did something like that for this space to really help people in an unbiased kind of journalistic way, figure out what’s the right solution for them. And so that’s what I spend the majority of my time on, in addition to spending probably like 10 to 20% of my time, depending on the week, on investing. So I invest in a bunch of search funds, I do some secondary investing into late stage technology companies where I find employees and I’m like, hey, I’ll give you some money for stock that’s not going to be liquid for a really long time. So you can start a 529 for your kids or find investment property or whatever. So I do a bunch of random stuff like that as well. But my primary focus is select software.

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Ken 6:32
Awesome. So Phil, thanks for sharing your story. So taking a look back, you mentioned earlier you said you have had the entrepreneur itch for a while. Did you do anything like Kool Aid stands or anything when you were a kid?

Phil Strazzulla 6:43
I had a lawn mowing business. And I also I’ve been journaling since I was a kid. And like, I have like sketches in my journals of like, I remember this one. It’s really stupid. And this is like what you do as like a fourth grader, this like camera system in a store that if it saw somebody stealing something would like shoot them with a laser. And I was like, I should invent that. That’ll solve theft. And I remember my dad being like, very critical of this idea. And not really understanding why you can’t just like kill somebody in the store for maybe stealing something that the camera decides you’ve stolen. But yeah, I guess I’ve just always had these sorts of ideas. And even when I look at like my Google Analytics account, there are all these like, old domains that I don’t even like remember buying. And I’m like, oh, yeah, that was like that whiskey of the month idea that I tried to do like 15 years ago, and that was this that was this. As a kid, I had my own lawn mowing business. And then I was really into like, money, like collecting money. When I was in first grade, the interest rates for a savings account were 5%. And I remember this idea of like, for every $100, you have, you just get paid $5 a year. Like that’s crazy. And so I started like, trying to trade baseball cards and make money that way, or like collecting coins, collecting stamps, like all these little tiny things to try to like build that savings amount. And then eventually, I took that money, and I put it in the stock market. And we kind of got lucky investing in the 90s. And then knowing when to sell before the bubble burst and getting back into the market and knowing when to sell again before 2008. So it just sort of compounded a little bit over time.

David 8:26
Yeah, absolutely. I love the lawn mowing story, the number of entrepreneurs that we’ve had on here that either had a lemonade stand or lawn mowing business is incredible. And I have a son, he’s 20 months old, but I will definitely be encouraging him to get into at least one of those for sure. So very nice. Very nice. So obviously, the title of the show is firing the man. And it’s all about quitting your job and working for yourself. So let’s dive into that a little bit. So you were working for a big VC firm. And then you went to business school? Is that right? Yep. Okay. And then I would imagine, towards the end of business school, you had to make a decision, either go back and work for the man or run with my idea. So let’s dive in there. What was going through your mind as you were evaluating that what were some of your fears?

Phil Strazzulla 9:12
So I had an amazing job before business school, it was so interesting, every single day, I’d talk to five different entrepreneurs, I got to work with incredibly smart people. And it was just like, I was like, this is sort of like the peak if you’re going to have a job. And even in that job, I still had this like, burning fire in me that was like start something, build something, work on this thing, do something creative, etc. And so I knew that if I went back to a job, even if it was an amazing job, I would still have that I would still feel unfulfilled. And because I’d written that down in my journal, I would just go back to that. And it’s like, that’s the end result. And so you can go and like do this McKinsey thing, your big lot of money. And you’ll have a lot of prestige. And you’ll be in a great career path. But you’ll still feel unfulfilled. So just don’t do that. And don’t allow yourself to go down that path of convincing yourself to do that by starting day one going to a dinner with one of the partners or something like that.

Ken 12:02
Nice. Now, Phil. Yeah, I really liked that early on, you kind of journaled it down, and then you just kind of stuck to your guns, you’re like, you know what, I’m just going to do this and not deviate from that. Now, thinking back on that from where you are now, any regrets? Or are you extremely happy with your choice?

Phil Strazzulla 12:20
Things are never, especially an entrepreneurial path, things are so up and down. And for a long time, my first business really struggled, and I was absurdly burnt out on it doing sales, that was just a complete slog, trying to build really in an under resourced company that for various reasons, we decided to bootstrap and not raise capital for. And so for a while, I was like, why didn’t I just join one of these companies. And of course, like, in business school, you’re in these sections of 90 people. And so within your cohort of 90 people, you’re going to have a couple of people, even three or four years out of college that like joined the right company, and their equity is worth $40 million. And you’re going to have somebody that joined a VC firm, and they made a really good investment. And they’ve got $30 million of carry coming their way. And I’m just like, why did I decide to do this thing that was like, so hard with such a low probability, like that was so stupid, I should have gotten paid to learn and gone and done this other thing. And really, I think, especially like visiting like, companies offices, and I’d be like, Wow, this is so nice. And they have like health insurance, and free lunch, and like all this stuff. But at the end of the day, now, I’m seven years out of business school. I think that the lessons that I learned in the first three or four years, even though they were super hard, it was sort of like training with weights on. And I learned a heck of a lot more than I would have being a person at a company, even an early stage company or going back and working in venture capital. And I’m now able to sort of reap the rewards of those learnings on a day to day basis with my current business. And so I would say like, there probably was like a six month time when I was just like, that was like so dumb. I wasted all this time. I’m so much more poor than I should be. I’ve skipped like so many friends weddings, because I couldn’t afford to go to them and blah, blah, blah. And but at this point a couple years later, I’m like it was a really hard path, but it was the right one for me.

David 14:24
Okay, okay. And last question to round out the MBA discussion is, and actually I was talking to my little brother about this today. He would like to own his own business, and was talking to me about getting an MBA and I think it was Tim Ferriss who created like a synthetic MBA program for himself where he went out he started a company, and he was going to take two years just to learn. And I’m curious, knowing what you know, now, would you have gone to business school? Or would have you started this company a couple years earlier? What would be your general advice on someone considering Business School to help them pivot in their career?

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Phil Strazzulla 15:03
I would still definitely do the MBA program. And that is because I went to, arguably the best program in the world. And so I live in Boston. So like, going to Harvard doesn’t really mean anything. Like nobody really cares. Like, there’s so many different alumni here. But like, the further I’ve found that you get away from Cambridge, the more people care about it. And so that really helps to do business development, to hire, to do all these things, it greases the wheels a lot, especially when you do business internationally. I learned a ton. I met people that I do business with, that are really good friends of mine lifelong friends. And I think most importantly, like I just had two of the best years of my life, you travel, you’re with these amazingly interesting people who are outgoing. We’re like, Hey, let’s go surfing in Costa Rica. Let’s go to the Amazons, go to Galapagos, let’s go backpack through Europe, let’s do all these things. And so I wouldn’t replace that for the world. I think that if you’re not looking at a top five or top 10 MBA program, then it becomes a lot more challenging because it’s so much money. And if you’re going to start a business, I would say, probably even going like a really good school like University of Michigan, probably not the best use of your money and time. All that stuff you can learn through reading, through experience. And I like the Tim Ferriss thing. The guy actually that we hired as a GM for my previous business, he was like a huge Tim Ferriss guy, and that was like, one of his first things is like, because I think Tim Ferriss like went like learned like Moy Thai, and like learned how to be a chef and like all this stuff. And he’s like, I only spent 10 grand or whatever it was. And I learned like so much more. And I completely agree with that. And I’m sure that he probably learned a lot more than you would at any MBA program. I also think Tim Ferriss bit of an outlier, most people probably aren’t going to do that. Like, you’re going to sit on your couch and play video games or something. But it’s not an easy decision. I think if you get into Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, do that. If you don’t, then you really got to think about it and the answer is probably don’t do it.

David 17:11
Okay. Okay. Yeah, I think if the concept of an MBA was a stock, I would short it right now. I think especially in the internet age with, you know, everything being available online, it is becoming less and less valuable. But you’re absolutely right, that top five like that, in the end, that’s an important caveat I need to follow up with my brother on is that top five top 10 program, I would definitely agree with you. So, well very good.

Phil Strazzulla 17:37
Yeah. I was just gonna say like, literally, it’s like you can work out with Navy SEALs, you can learn how to debate with people who won national championships, you can hang out with people who are the heirs to the biggest brands in the world. All of these things are like that’s like a week in your MBA program. Because this classmate was a seal. This one won the national championship. This one’s the heir to Louis Vuitton like, that’s just like, that’s a normal week, which is kind of insane. And like you’re not gonna do that anywhere else.

Ken 18:09
So Phil, that was a great perspective on MBA programs versus you know, not and yeah, it’s pretty interesting. I want to pivot a little bit and kind of hit on some of your strong points. The audience that David and I, or Firing The Man podcast, mostly is solopreneurs, entrepreneurs or small businesses working remote. And so can you give us some tips on kind of like this work life balance, and remote work? And it probably relates to most people now, nowadays.

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Phil Strazzulla 18:36
Yeah, it’s kind of funny, I started working remotely, like just before the pandemic. And I’d tried to do it a couple times previously, and totally failed. And it was because I didn’t have the right physical space. And I also hadn’t really trained myself to just like, focus and get into routines. And so how I actually got successful with it was I started having a routine in the morning that sort of trained my brain into saying, like, Hey, we’re going into work mode now, or having a cup of coffee, or having our yogurt, or sitting down in this chair in this room. This is the time that we really focus. And then I was having a ton of trouble focusing at home. I’d always like procrastinate, like, Oh, I got to do the dishes, I got to take a nap, I got to work out. And so I found this app called Focusmate, which is really amazing. And what it does, it’s kind of weird, but it pairs you up with another person working remotely for 45 minutes. And at the beginning of it, you’re like, Hey, I’m Phil and here’s what I’m going to get done in this 45 minutes and you put it in the chat, like I’m going to write you know, like this blog post and like send this email, whatever. And they do the same thing. A lot of times it’s like a grad student, a lot of computer programmers, etc. And you just work and like they’re on video. They’re on microphone. Like there’s like some sort of like social contract with this person that like we’ve been evolved to like make these social contracts with each other and do what we’re going to do otherwise, like, the rest of the people in our tribe won’t trust us, then they’ll make us like, leave the cave or whatever. And it works. And you just like get tons, you’re like, you’re just working so hard. And then at the end of the thing, for the last, like, 30 seconds, it’s like, Hey, what did you get done? And it’s like, I wrote the blog post, I didn’t write the email, but I did this or whatever, right. And then you take a 10 minute break, and then you do another focusmate. And you just like, those are your most productive 45 minutes, like you’ve ever had in your entire life. And after doing probably two or 300 of those, maybe more than that, I just sort of got in the habit of like, okay, when I’m here, like, I’m working really hard, I’m focused, I’m not like going on YouTube, I’m not doing the dishes. I’m just like getting stuff done. And that helped me to figure out how to work from home for me. And then the amazing thing is, obviously, you have all this flexibility. So you can go to the gym if you want and you can start regimenting yourself there, I like to block all the time on my calendar up until about 11am eastern time, so that I can get two or three things done. I’ve got this little, you know, journal that I write down, one thing I’m grateful for. And then two things I want to get done in the morning. And then I try to get those two things done, go to the gym, do some meetings, make dinner and sort of transition out of work mode for the rest of the evening. I’m also a big fan of that book, Deep Work by Cal Newport, there’s a lot of tactics that I’ve kind of stolen from there. But that was sort of my journey. And now, I love working from home, I probably will try to find an office when we have a kid in five months for a little bit so I can get some stuff done when the baby’s crying. But otherwise, I sort of see myself working from home for a really long time.

Ken 21:43
That’s awesome. So just to recap real quick. So accountability partner, that kind of sounds like what focusmate is right, you have an accountability partner. That’s huge. So for you, you do your best productivity times in the morning, right, that’s when you feel fresh, and you’re alert?

Phil Strazzulla 22:00
Yeah.

Ken 22:00
Okay, awesome. So great tips.

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Phil Strazzulla 23:45
Yeah, and there’s been so much interesting research, obviously, I’m in the HR space. So I stay on top of this stuff around, workdays getting longer, people spending more time on emails late at night, early in the morning. And I think what’s happening is people’s work brains, and all the cortisol, the adrenaline, etc. is just like persisting throughout your entire life, your waking life and maybe your sleeping life as well. And if you don’t relax, if you don’t sort of get into those other states, then it’s really easy for that to compound and eventually for you to sort of cycle into burnout. I think I read a stat that 89% of employees last year felt burnout at some point. And I think for entrepreneurs, it’s probably even higher, because we’re always on anyways. And so the book deep work actually talks about this a lot, which is really cool, essentially, like it’s really important for you to take breaks for you to work really intensely and then to like basically be bored and like let your brain like travel around like I’ve found one thing that really helps me is I used to like be on Twitter when I’m like brushing my teeth or something and your brain just needs to be bored and like not think about anything and not have all these like rushes of dopamine, like, hitting you all the time. And so allowing yourself to just do nothing is really important. And I think also allowing yourself to, when you are the most productive to really get things done that are hard that make progress. That’s not just answering emails and things like that is really important. Scheduling emails is something I’ve found to be effective. I don’t have my inbox open all the time. My phone’s always on Do Not Disturb, one of my friends actually just texted me, why does your phone always go to voicemail? It’s so annoying. And I’m like, yeah, it’s on Do Not Disturb. Like I don’t, when I’m like, doing something that I need to concentrate on. That takes me 10 minutes to get into the zone before I start hitting Max productivity, I don’t want you to call me unless it’s super, super important. I don’t want to be distracted. So all these little things, and there’s a lot of literature out there from companies like Zapier GitLab, that had been remote first acceleration partners, the guy that owns that just wrote a book about managing remote teams. And I think there’s a lot of stuff that’s applicable if you manage a team or if you’re just doing it yourself.

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David 26:05
Okay. Okay, one follow up question. Have you ever done a sensory deprivation tank or a float tank?

Phil Strazzulla 26:12
I haven’t. Last week or two weeks ago, I was actually on a vacation, a beach vacation. And I was like, in the water, just sort of like floating like that. And I was wondering if that was what it was like. But of course, I can’t hold my breath for that long, either. But yeah, why do you ask?

David 26:30
So you were talking about like, entrepreneurs needing to like unwind, and I am wound up pretty tightly. But I have found that to be the single most effective thing to helping me unwind. And so it’s been well documented on this podcast, I’m a huge fan of them, Ken as well. And so anyway, if you’re ever looking to unwind or get some quiet time, that would be my pro tip is give one of those a chance because they’ve been incredibly helpful for me.

Phil Strazzulla 26:57
I’ll give it a shot. Thanks for putting that on my radar.

David 27:00
Yeah, for sure.

Ken 27:02
Yeah, one other follow up, Phil. So I’m like you I have my phone is right here. But it’s on d&d, like, all day, like I never turn it on. And so it’s on d&d, but I have, like seven people or eight people may be in my list that can get through. And so that’s been I started that last year, that has been probably the single biggest, help for me, increasing my productivity. You mentioned email, that’s something I struggle with is having my inbox open all day. How do you manage that? Like, can you give some tips on email?

Phil Strazzulla 27:33
Sure. So I think your browser, which I do most of my work out of my browser, is really important. If I’ve got a lot of Chrome tabs open, I find that my memory is worse, my concentrations worse. If my emails even open, like if I can see my email, like Google spent, God knows how much money like figuring out like how to make their tab in Chrome, like, grab your attention. And for you to be like, oh, there’s an email, like, I need to go answer that thing, like, and that’s why even actually, on my phone, I’ve programmed that, so that I can triple click the power button, and it’ll turn it to black and white, because I found that actually will significantly decrease the amount of like, response that my body has to anything that’s on my phone, if things aren’t in color, because all these colors are designed to like make us want to do stuff. And so I think just not having it open, you can set the expectation with your team and the people that you work with as contractors, etc, that, hey, I check my email at 11am, 2pm, and then 5pm, something like that. And if you email me, I’ll get back to you within 24 hours. The interesting thing is, unless you work at McKinsey, where you’ve got a client that’s paying you 3 million bucks a year to do something for them. Nobody cares if you email them seven hours later, it’s just like this weird work culture where everybody wants to be super responsive, and like prove that they’re working, but nobody cares. And all you’re doing is decreasing your productivity and decreasing your happiness and increasing your burnout. So I would just close it. As hard as it is.

Ken 29:09
Nice. Yeah, I’m gonna try that I’m gonna because you’re right. Like, I’m such a, I use Chrome, such a chrome junkie, that I have folders on there of like, all my projects and businesses that I own, and they’re all in folders. And so when I want to switch between businesses, I open an entire folder, and it has like 15 or 20 tabs. And so I think I’m going to yeah, maybe go to like just doing email, like twice a day. I know, David does something similar, but you’re right. Like, I was in a corporate environment for 15 20 years and the expectation of like, Oh, hey, I can do this faster. And maybe that is still there. Yeah. Anyway, I’m gonna try that.

Phil Strazzulla 29:44
I think we’re also just like insecure a little bit as entrepreneurs and like, we kind of want to like prove to ourselves and to others that like, it’s like, I’m not just at home, like watching YouTube videos or something like that. Like I’m just as on top of it as anybody else out there. And we all have this chip on our shoulder. And it can be a bit detrimental.

Ken 30:06
Yeah, absolutely. Grinding, yeah, is I think, ingrained, very deep, and then shutting that off I think it’s tough. So that kind of leads me into my next question. You mentioned a few times deep work. And so can you kind of explain that and what that is and how to do more of it?

Phil Strazzulla 30:23
So the basic idea is that your brain needs like five or 10 minutes to get into a task. And to get productive at it, you have to sort of forget about all the other stuff going on in your life. And I’m sure there’s some really complicated science behind it that maybe we don’t understand. But if if you try it yourself, you’ll realize that you become a lot more productive after like five or 10 minutes into a task. And this is something that these are tasks that are challenging, like computer programming, or writing something really well, or doing some sort of an in depth analysis, the stuff more or less, that helps your business, get to the next level and move forward. And so you need to block off time and not have notifications during that time in order to make progress on those really hard things. And then you also need to give your brain a break from those really hard things, the author, I’m going to misquote him, but I think he says that your average person can really only do about three hours of deep work per day. And the guy came up with this book, he’s a professor, because he just realized that he had figured out a couple of hacks to become way more productive than all of his other colleagues in terms of the number of peer reviewed papers he was putting out. And all these things he was publishing, in addition to teaching classes, etc. And everybody was blown away. And he was like, I just like don’t do all the administrative BS, all day long when it comes in that you guys do, I actually spend like three hours a day like writing stuff. And if you do that you can be amazingly productive. So that’s the basic thing behind it. He’s got a couple of good podcast episodes, and maybe a TED talk out there if you don’t want to read the book. But it’s really amazing. And I think, especially for knowledge workers, with the amount of distractions that we have, focus has become one of the core skills of successful people today.

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David 32:12
Very nice. I’ve had that book on my shelf for probably a year. It was recommended to me by somebody, this is a good reminder, I need to pick it up and give it a read. Because I think that’s something we could all get even a 10 or 15% improvement in deep work would be, I mean, that’d be huge. So very nice. Let’s pivot a little bit and talk about select software reviews. And let me ask you this, who does that platform serve?

Phil Strazzulla 32:36
Our users are HR and recruiting professionals, mostly in the United States, but globally as well, who buy tools and software. So you could be, I talked to a company last week, that is a 200 person landscaping company in Massachusetts, and they need to buy payroll, they need to buy time and attendance software, they need to buy some recruiting software. And we’ve got companies like KPMG, that use our research to buy things like performance management solutions for lots of different people all over the world, different cultures, different workflows, etc. And so we just do a ton of research on what’s going on in the HR tech space, try to write it up into the most actionable, useful, unbiased content that we can so that when you go to buy one of these software’s, you’re going to kind of have a cheat code to get to the right vendors, and then pay the right price, implement it the right way, capture the ROI, evangelize it, make your boss think you’re super smart, and kind of keep growing your organization.

David 33:41
Okay, at what point would, in terms of size, at what point would it make sense for business owner or the head of an HR department, pick up the phone and get in contact with you guys?

Phil Strazzulla 33:54
So there are people that pick up the phone and get in contact with us, but it’s pretty rare. It’s like there, my cell phones, like on the website. And so some people find it and call me. And they’re like, hey, I need help with XYZ. And I’m like, alright, great join our community and ask the question. We don’t do any consulting, we make money through advertisements. So on our website, we have a bunch of ads from the vendors themselves. So if we pre select a vendor, we’re like, hey, we looked at 300 payroll companies, here are the 10 we actually recommend. Within those 10, maybe one or two, will do an advertising campaign. And that’s how we make money. We also will pretty shortly have a marketplace of consultants. So if you want for example, somebody to help you select the right thing to implement it to do whatever, we’re going to say okay, here are 30 people that are really good at XYZ, talk to one of these folks and partner with them. But we don’t really work too much directly with companies. We’re more of like a media company.

David 34:50
Okay, okay. No, that’s good to know. That’s good to know. As a follow up, what do you think most HR departments are lacking in terms of software tools that are out there that can help them?

Phil Strazzulla 35:07
I think most HR teams are using legacy tools that are sold to them by somebody who was already a vendor for something else. A really good example is there’s a lot of payroll companies out there that have really crappy recruiting platforms, employee management, platforms, etc. And because you do my payroll, I’m going to buy the recruiting platform from you as well, because it’s easy, and I trust you and we already have that relationship going. I think that the biggest problem with most HR teams is they’re not thought of as a strategic asset to the business, they’re thought of as a cost center. And in many times, they act not like a strategic asset. A friend of mine just bought a company. And it’s a three or 400 employee company, and they’ve got a head of HR who makes a decent salary. And really all they do is run payroll every week, and just make sure people like, sign up for health insurance and stuff like that. They’re not thinking about how do we onboard employees to make them educated on our market on our product, part of the team faster, they’re not thinking about how do we tap into different pools of talent, maybe remote workers, maybe people that don’t have the resume, but have the skills etc. They’re not thinking about all these like strategic things. And so the CEO, my friend in this case, is like, I don’t want to task HR with being strategic, because they just haven’t done it historically. And therefore, I don’t trust them, and they’re not bringing good ideas to the table. And I think that’s the biggest thing is that a lot of HR folks would honestly benefit from an MBA program. As much as we said, maybe that’s not the best thing to do in the first place. But for an entrepreneur, but they need to think about the more like analytical sort of business way of thinking to understand how to strategically change the organization versus just executing on the really basic stuff like paying people.

Ken 36:55
Nice. Yeah, that totally makes sense. Yeah, I think what you said like HR, they’re just taking one kind of plug in COTS software that they’ve used for a couple other things, and just plugging in all the other modules and not really thinking of like, hey, is this going to be the best module for us in this space? So getting into that, like, review and evaluating software, so on our team, David and I both do that. Whenever we’re ready for a new software for something. Do you have any tips like at a high level of like, what we’re looking for if someone’s evaluating software, your team evaluates a lot of software and writes reviews and ranks right? So do you have any high level tips on what to look for on just any kind of software? What are you looking for to find a really good software?

Phil Strazzulla 37:41
Yeah, I think just like the business school example, where it’s like easy for like McKinsey to like trick you into like, being an employee, it’s easier for a vendor to like, kind of trick you into becoming a customer. And so what I like to do, before I start to buy anything, is just write down like, what’s the problem? What am I trying to solve here? What’s the ROI? And what do I think might happen from a business perspective as an outcome? And that’s a really cool thing to look back on in six months to see like, was I right? Was I wrong? kind of learn something about yourself and your decision making process. What are the key criteria that I really need, and then go out and do a little bit of research on the internet so that you don’t spend an hour with the wrong vendor. Look at, you can look at it on LinkedIn, like employee growth. You can look at things like Glassdoor reviews, you can look at venture financings, you can look at sort of what the product does. And all these signals, if you do two or three minutes worth of research on a vendor, you’re going to be able to tell a little bit like do you want to do it? Do you want to talk to that company or not? There also are obviously a lot of free trials out there. There’s a lot of user generated content on the internet. There’s websites like Hector and Jeetu, which are a little bit biased. But a lot of times you’ll find like somebody just like you that wrote like, hey, like I’ve got a podcast and like, here’s why I’m using Zen caster, here’s why I’m using zoom and like, you can really understand from that person’s perspective, why or why not that might be good for you. And then of course, actually talking to companies, you should always realize that a lot of times you can negotiate on price, you can control the conversation by asking the right questions and not just allowing somebody to take you through sort of a pre formatted script that’s designed to get you to one answer at the end of the day. And you can constantly refer back to that original document around what did I actually want to accomplish here? Versus being sold on the Mercedes Benz when you walk into a dealership like it’s like, oh, all I wanted was like a place to you know, put my golf clubs and like, do a hike on the weekend. I’m going with the CRV. So those are some buying software tools is like really complicated and really hard, and it’s different for small companies versus big companies. But those are my quick tips.

Ken 39:50
Sure. No, I really appreciate it and yeah, hits a lot of the box of going and doing just a couple minutes of research on the company like that totally makes sense. And it’s something that I don’t do currently, so I’ll be adding that in there. And follow ups a funny story on my previous life as an engineer, we had two main vendors, we would use two or three and one of them, their software was shit, it really was. And but we went to the best lunches, the best dinners, Top Golf, drinks, like, they had that marketing piece dialed in, right? But their software was shit. So be very wary of that. So awesome. So David, and Phil, anything else we want to cover before we get into the fire round?

David 40:32
Nothing on my end, what about you, Phil?

Phil Strazzulla 40:33
Just on that one point around like the top golf and drinks, all that stuff, it’s kind of funny. I’m reading this book called Influence by Cialdini, who’s like this psychologist. And the book has been recommended to me a number of different times. But the reason that I really picked it up was I listened to this Charlie Munger speech that he gave at Harvard, like back in the 80s. And he cites this book like seven times. And I found out that they actually they’ve never met the author. But him and Warren Buffett, they sent the guy a letter and they actually sent him Berkshire stock, because they were like you’ve like, influenced us so much on like how we think about psychology, like, we just want you to have some ownership in our company. And I picked up this book, and chapter two is about reciprocity, which is essentially like, we are just designed as people like if somebody gives you something, you want to return the favor, like it’s just such an overwhelming desire. And I’m sure we can all think about how this has influenced our purchasing decision. Maybe like a sample at a grocery store, whatever the case may be, walk into a car dealership, they give you a cup of coffee, these small things like have an actual, like, huge impact in how we transact. So it’s a really good book, I’m only on chapter three, I’ll admit, but it’s pretty amazing.

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Ken 41:20
Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting how, yeah, all the stuff behind the curtain is going on that we don’t know until we know, right?

Phil Strazzulla 41:55
Yeah.

Ken 41:57
Awesome. All right. So let’s jump into the fire round. So what is your favorite book?

Phil Strazzulla 42:03
My favorite book and this is a bit of recency bias. But it’s Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. My favorite book for entrepreneurs, I would say it’s just like, in my opinion, it should be like a class that they teach in high school or something. It’s just so amazing how a book written 100 years ago can ring true in everyday life, probably 50 or 60 times a day, that book can help you out whether it’s dealing with your family or business or whatever.

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Ken 42:30
Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree. What are your hobbies?

Phil Strazzulla 42:33
Hobbies, golf, yoga, cooking, reading, hiking, anything with the water, swimming, kayaking, stuff like that. And yeah, just always up for like new things that people want to do.

Ken 42:48
Nice, very cool. What is the one thing that you do not miss about working for the man?

Phil Strazzulla 42:54
I do not miss the stress that I used to have from having a boss and wanting to please that person and migraine headaches that would induce.

Ken 43:06
Nice. Last one. What do you think sets apart successful ecommerce entrepreneurs from those who give up, fail or never get started?

Phil Strazzulla 43:13
I think people that can be their own best coach, are usually successful. I think the vast majority of people are capable of building a business. However, you get stuck on the wrong idea. Or you let your ego get in the way and you get in a fight with your partner. Or there’s just like all these like really stupid reasons why people fail. And from an outsider’s perspective, it’s so obvious why this other person wasn’t successful. But from your perspective, it’s really hard to see those in yourself. And that’s why I spend time meditating and journaling and trying to get feedback from you know, people on my team or people around me about the things that I’m doing, because I just hate the idea of falling into those traps. And I think that people who are successful are either super lucky, or they’re really good about figuring out where to focus their energy, where to change things.

Ken 44:08
Okay. Excellent. David, you want to close out the show?

David 44:11
Yeah. Phil, how can people get ahold of you?

Phil Strazzulla 44:13
Sure. So LinkedIn is a really good place to find me. Phil Strazzulla, two Z’s two L’s, Select Software. I’ve got a blog www.philstrazzulla.com. But LinkedIn is probably the best place to find me.

David 44:25
Awesome. And we’ll post links to all that in the show notes. I wanted to thank you for being a guest on the firing the man podcast and looking forward to staying in touch.

Phil Strazzulla 44:35
Thanks, guys.

David 44:35
Thank you everyone for tuning in to today’s firing the man podcast. If you liked this episode, head on over to www.firingtheman.com and check out our resource library for exclusive firing the man discounts on popular e commerce subscription services. That is www.firingtheman.com\resource. You can also find a comprehensive library of over 50 books that Ken and I have read in the last few years that have made a meaningful impact on our business, for that head on over to www.firingtheman.com/library. Lastly, check us out on social media at firing the man, and on YouTube at firing the man for exclusive content. This is David Schomer

Ken 45:16
and Ken Wilson. We’re out

David 45:33
Before you go fun fact for all you Amazon sellers out there, when you start selling in international marketplaces, all of your reviews come with you. At the beginning of this year, Ken and I sat down and talked of ways that we could double our businesses in size and landed on international expansion as our number one initiative this year. We partnered up with Kevin Sanderson from maximizing ecommerce and he has made the process an absolute breeze, walking us step by step through the process. If you want to grow your revenue and reach new customers head on over to www.maximizingecommerce.com/fire and connect with Kevin Sanderson today. Now back to the show.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai