Fearless – Criterion B

This week's guest on the show is Jon Simpson with Criterion B, a branding and marketing services company for the multi-family housing industry based in Dallas, Texas. When it comes to the agency business, Jon has been around the block a time or two.  My agency and Jon’s even used to compete for projects on occasion as we were coming up in the world. You’ll quickly see that Jon is an entrepreneur at heart and wastes no time when it comes to pivoting and doing what is needed to move the business forward.  

Company: Criterion B

Owners: Jon Simpson

Year Started: 2008

Employees: 1 – 10

Welcome to an inspiring journey through the entrepreneurial landscape of marketing agencies with the podcast series “An Agency Story”. This special episode titled “Fearless” spotlights Jon Simpson, the heart and soul behind Criterion B, a branding and marketing powerhouse dedicated to the multifamily housing industry. Jon’s story is not just about the challenges and triumphs of running an agency; it’s a testament to the relentless pursuit of innovation, growth, and adaptation in an ever-evolving industry.

From the outset, Jon’s entrepreneurial DNA and his unwavering commitment to pivoting and moving forward set the stage for an engaging narrative. Listeners will be captivated by the insights into Criterion B’s specialization in content, marketing, and branding for multi-family real estate, a niche that Jon carved out through perseverance and strategic thinking. His ability to navigate the complex terrain of agency business, from initial startup challenges to making bold decisions like firing his dad as the company’s CPA, adds layers of depth to his story.

The episode is peppered with humorous anecdotes, like the misadventures of allowing employees’ dogs at the office, leading to a particularly embarrassing situation involving a golden retriever puppy. But it’s the powerful moments, such as Jon’s candid sharing of having to make painful layoffs to save his business, that truly resonate. These stories not only highlight Jon’s resilience but also reflect the emotional highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

Jon’s journey through rebranding challenges and his innovative leap into developing a software platform, Swifty, underscores a forward-thinking approach to solving industry problems. His reflections on entrepreneurship, the importance of taking action on one’s ideas, and his vision for the future of Criterion B and Swifty offer invaluable lessons on leadership, innovation, and the entrepreneurial spirit.

This episode of “An Agency Story” is more than just a narrative; it’s an invitation to explore the intricacies of running a marketing agency, the importance of adaptability, and the power of steadfast determination. Jon Simpson’s story encourages listeners to embrace the entrepreneurial journey with courage and an open heart. Tune in to “Fearless” for a dose of inspiration, laughter, and a few surprises along the way, leaving you pondering the endless possibilities that come with embracing change and pursuing your passions.


You can listen to this episode of An Agency Story on your favorite podcast app:

Listen to other episodes like this one…


Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up, the first big sale. Passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth. Hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach, enjoy the next agency story.

[00:00:38] Russel: Hello, welcome to another episode of An Agency Story podcast. I’m your host Russel. Today’s guest on the show is Jon Simpson with Criterion B a branding and marketing services company for the multifamily housing industry based in Dallas, Texas. When it comes to the agency business, John has been around the block of a time or two. My agency and Jon’s even used to compete for projects on occasion as we were [00:01:00] coming up in the world.

[00:01:01] You’ll quickly see that John is an entrepreneur at heart and wastes no time when it comes to pivoting and doing what is needed to move the business forward. Listen to his story and how he mastered the art of never looking back.

[00:01:11] Enjoy the story.

[00:01:16] Welcome to the show everyone. I have John Simpson with Criterion B. Thank you, John for being here today.

[00:01:22] Jon: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:25] Russel: First question, right off the bat, who is Criterion B? What do you do and who do you do it for?

[00:01:30] Jon: Criterion B is a content, marketing and branding agency that specializes in multi-family real estate.

[00:01:40] Russel: Succinct and to the point.

[00:01:41] I love it. One of the interesting things I’ve loved about your story is, which often isn’t the case, you knew exactly what path you’re on to start your own agency from the onset of your career, if I understand it right? Why was that your chosen path?

[00:01:54] Jon: So it was more of an entrepreneurial path than anything.

[00:01:57] Grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. My dad, [00:02:00] all my uncles and aunts were business owners. So I just had it in me. I knew that whatever I chose to do in college, my goal was to go out, work in the real world for a few years, learn the business, and then go start my own thing.

[00:02:12] Whatever it was gonna be, I didn’t know that I was gonna be an agency until I tried my hand at accounting and failed miserably and decided that wasn’t the right path. I took the art route.

[00:02:23] Russel: No CPA services in your entrepreneurial path?

[00:02:26] Jon: All of my family are CPAs, so I thought surely that’s what I’m gonna be and no.

[00:02:31] Nope, it didn’t work out.

[00:02:33] Russel: Was that helpful as you were getting into the business, to have guidance from family?

[00:02:37] Jon: From a guidance perspective for sure. My dad was my CPA for the first eight years that I was in business.

[00:02:44] Doing business with family’s hard and it started coming between us. Eventually I had to say, hey, the relationship is more important than the business. Let’s go ahead and part ways, so my dad’s no longer my CPA.

[00:02:54] Russel: You had to fire your dad? How was that?

[00:02:57] Jon: Our relationship is much better now. So now we just gotta [00:03:00] do fun stuff together and don’t have to worry about all the business stuff. We still talk business, but it doesn’t affect our relationship, which is good. He still gives me advice and I still take his advice. It just, I don’t have to, get onto him for accounting mistakes, and I don’t have to be lectured to about accounting mistakes .

[00:03:14] Russel: I’m sure many folks don’t envy having to be in that situation and fire your parent.

[00:03:19] After college, you did the corporate gig, always knowing you’re going down the entrepreneurial path and picking up knowledge. When did you decide it was time to actually, jump off the cliff and start your own business?

[00:03:29] Jon: It was about four years after graduating.

[00:03:32] My goal was to work there for four or five years and then go off on my own. Four years in, I just felt hey, it’s time. Don’t have a reason. There was nothing that was pressing. I had no phone calls. I had no idea what I was gonna do afterwards. I just felt, now’s the right time to do this.

[00:03:48] My wife agreed. She confirmed it. Put in my notice at the job, my boss also said, yeah, man, if that’s what you’re supposed to do, go do it. He actually ended up freelancing for me over the next two or three years.

[00:03:59] The creative director [00:04:00] did moonlighting on the side as I went after some bigger projects.

[00:04:03] Russel: So you didn’t have a side hustle, freelance clients or anything like that. You just said, today’s the day and here we go.

[00:04:09] Jon: Today is the day. Within that first month, I started getting phone calls out of the blue from people.

[00:04:13] People I hadn’t talked to in five and 10 years, they were calling me and saying, hey, I heard you build websites. We need a website. Hey, we need this. Coincidentally, or maybe not coincidentally, after I left one of the clients at the firm I was at, they decided and the agency decided that it wasn’t a good fit anymore.

[00:04:29] When they decided to leave, I went and approached the agency first. And I asked my old boss, hey, do you mind if I go after them directly? He said, not at all. I ended up picking up a hospital group out of Texas that owned something like 26 hospitals.

[00:04:44] And started building hospital websites, for all these hospitals. The agency I left from had hired me to do contract freelance work as well during that first year.

[00:04:54] It was a busy first year.

[00:04:56] Russel: It doesn’t sound like you had some of the nervous jitters when you were making that [00:05:00] transition of where you’re gonna get your clients, it sounds like it was more, how am I gonna get this work done.

[00:05:04] Jon: Exactly. It was very much the hustle and grind figuring out where work’s coming from and then just work to get it done.

[00:05:12] At that time, I was doing everything. I was the artist, I was the programmer, anything that we were producing was on me. I say we, my wife and I, my wife didn’t work for me, but our family. I was doing that.

[00:05:25] Russel: What were you building your websites in the start? Just straight HTML?

[00:05:28] Jon: Flash.

[00:05:30] Russel: Flash. There we go.

[00:05:31] Jon: We did Flash from, that was 2003 and I was building Flash sites all the way through 2010, 2011. We were still doing Flash intros, Flash banners, all kinds of things.

[00:05:42] Russel: I still miss Flash a little bit.

[00:05:44] Jon: It transitioned really well into JavaScript.

[00:05:46] We still got to use a lot of that same technology. Similar technology.

[00:05:49] Russel: Started out and you were doing a lot of either white labeling or a subcontractor to other agencies, and at some point you didn’t enjoy that and wanted to branch out. Was that just a creative [00:06:00] preference, a business necessity? Tell us a little bit about that.

[00:06:02] Jon: When we started the agency, under the name Cannonball Creative is what we had started. We branded and named the agency in ’08 .

[00:06:10] We started out as an agency to agencies. The whole idea being that, man, I’m not gonna need a sales force, I’m gonna use my network, go after these ad agencies, and they’re gonna bring me all their clients and I’m gonna do all their digital work and it’s gonna be great. Sold the bank on the idea, and I got my business loan on that idea and all of the things that I needed to do to start my company.

[00:06:31] That’s not how it ended up. It was very hard work getting in the agencies. Once you’re in the agencies, the work did not just come in droves. It was very slow coming. It was a lot of education and working with their clients to sell them even on some of the technology changes ’cause in ’08 there still wasn’t a lot of people doing it.

[00:06:48] And doing it well. There’s a couple other, competitors out there doing similar things, and we’d pride ourselves on the fact that we wouldn’t say no. A lot of developers would say, no, that design’s not possible. We [00:07:00] would just make our programmers work a lot harder to make it possible.

[00:07:03] We would do what we called back then Pixel-perfect HTML designs. Today it’s not really a thing with media queries and the way that sites change sizes and dimensions. Back then, the artists wanted it to look exactly like their jpeg. It couldn’t be different font sizes and everything.

[00:07:21] Did the extra work to do that. That first year in ’08, we probably talked to 80 or 90 agencies in Dallas, and we did work with maybe 30 or 40 of those, with some of the largest ones Tracy Locke and Timberland McLean. We did so many Brand Hatchery was one of the smaller boutique firms. Moroch and Publicis, a lot of big companies.

[00:07:42] We were always the lowest man on the totem pole. We were the guys doing all the work and they did the design work, gave it to us. We did all the production work, and turned out great products, and they continued to use us as a result of that. It wasn’t very long before we hit a glass ceiling.[00:08:00] We could not seem to get past doing project work.

[00:08:04] We did no retainers. Everything was project work and every year we had to go hunt for more work. Every year for three years, we hit the same numbers. I was like, man, this is the worst. We gotta figure out, a better way. It was outta necessity that we really started looking at what other options we had. Having been a freelancer for four years before I started the agency. I didn’t fail out of accounting, but I stopped going to accounting and started doing art. Never looked back at business classes.

[00:08:34] We were definitely learning business as we went. I ran the agency like a freelancer. If we made enough money to cover payroll, we were happy. We weren’t looking to make more than that. It was a long, hard learning curve to get past.

[00:08:47] Russel: I at least hope that you had some well designed Excel spreadsheets for some of your accounting work. You can certainly blend the two arts. Going back to the Pixel-perfect thing, I’m sure some of our developers similar to yours, had the horror story, traumatic memories of a designer [00:09:00] sitting over their shoulder, making sure that their design was Pixel-perfect.

[00:09:03] Jon: Then asking why it wasn’t in internet Explorer.

[00:09:06] 5, 6, 7, 8. Always the bane of our existence.

[00:09:12] Russel: When you made that transition and broke the working for agency model, was everything rosie after that or was it a tumultuous period? What was that time period like once you made that decision?

[00:09:21] Jon: We mixed two different decisions at the same time. When we looked back at what work had made the most money for us, but was the most stressful for us, it was web development.

[00:09:32] When we looked at that, we said, maybe we should stop doing web development if it’s gonna cause all this, stress. Knowing that it was our most profitable, our largest revenue building thing. We made the decision to completely pivot the agency an entirely different direction and go after content marketing and said, we’re gonna try our hand at a retainer based model that’s all about writing content.

[00:09:57] We ended up having to let a bunch of [00:10:00] developers go. We lost some clients. We had to become lean. I hired a couple content writers and we were off to the races. There’s few, if any things in the world of business ownership that are worse than having to lay people off or fire them. I’ve had a couple of those moments in my career where I had to let a lot of people go and it was awful. That was the first one. That was in 2012. We let five people go that day.

[00:10:27] Very somber day for me.

[00:10:29] Russel: I can imagine.

[00:10:30] Jon: Not everything was rosie. After we did that we still did well that next year. As far as revenue goes, we were able to hit the exact same revenues we had the year before, but this time it was a mix of retainer work and project work.

[00:10:45] We were on our way.

[00:10:46] Russel: You hinted at it there. Down the road you decided to make another pivot and focus purely on the real estate space. Why’d you make that pivot? Why were you confident in that and how did that go for you?

[00:10:58] Jon: I don’t always think [00:11:00] through all my decisions when I’m making ’em. I make fast decisions and we fail hard.

[00:11:04] Russel: The theme I’m picking up here, you have no problem making big, brash decisions and going full steam ahead.

[00:11:09] Jon: Once my mind is made up, we go at it with everything we have .

[00:11:13] The first decision was to cut websites. When we did that, it hurt, but we said, we’ll still take one or two. That next year, we took a couple websites a year all the way through 2015.

[00:11:24] In ’14 is when we decided to focus on real estate more. We hadn’t cut ties completely with the agencies yet, and we would do real estate for ourselves. We’d find those clients and work on ’em, and then we’d do whatever projects came in through these agencies.

[00:11:38] It was a little bit of both. That last year with the agency, we had done two very large web projects. Just two, but they’re both with a big ad agency and they were high paying jobs. They were the only two big websites we did all the rest of our work was either design work, branding work ,or it was retainer work. At the end of [00:12:00] that year we had the best year we’d ever had. I looked back and said, you know what, now’s the time. We need to cut off our agencies. We need to say, hey guys, we’re gonna go after our own work now. We helped ’em find other replacements. We didn’t burn any bridges.

[00:12:11]  There was real estate work that—we had lined it all up for the end of ’15 and it would’ve been enough to carry us through a good portion through ’16.

[00:12:19] It just didn’t happen. All of it didn’t happen so we started bleeding in October, November of ’15 tens of thousands a month. We were pulling from savings, we started pulling off from the line of credit.

[00:12:32] Russel: Oh, gosh.

[00:12:32] Jon: We just started piling up debt.

[00:12:34] I’m like, let’s keep going. I know this is gonna turn around , all this work’s gonna hit. It’s gonna happen. I don’t know how it’s gonna happen, but it’s gonna happen. We looked up in June and I had a run rate of about three weeks left before I was gonna have to shut the doors.

[00:12:47] I had no money. I’d depleted everything that I had in all accounts. I couldn’t pay for toner to print the payroll checks on. We literally were out. I felt so bad, for all these people. I went to the bank, I was like, just tell me what I have to [00:13:00] do.

[00:13:00] I said, I gotta survive, what do I have to do? They said you gotta go lay off a bunch of people. I said, okay, I’ll come back tomorrow. I went back to the office and the next day I laid off 13 people. That was the worst day of my life.

[00:13:12] I loved my employees and they loved me. It showed, as we all were in tears, but, a whole lot of it’s not your fault. We loved our time here. This is great. We knew we had to be lean if we were gonna get out of the hole we were in.

[00:13:25] That was in June of ’16, middle of the month. We were completely in the black by the end of the year. We kept five people. We paid off the entire line of credit, had it all back up at zero and were cash flow positive again by December 31st.

[00:13:43] It was a great resurrection story, coming out of the ashes and being able to pull it out.

[00:13:48] We had a lot of clients that wanted to leave. They felt we were changing, we were falling apart. I had employees telling people “it’s a sinking ship. Get out now. Get out while you can”,[00:14:00] all of those things that happened and other employees who are showing my work on their websites and I’m like, hey, you can’t do that.

[00:14:06] I’m still doing that work. You can’t use my work on your other websites. Trying to hold everything together. We had five left and those five, I didn’t hire anybody else for three years. We maintained that level and just ran very lean and pulled ourselves back up into good profitability and started hiring again.

[00:14:26] Russel: Another interesting thing on top of all this transition, around that time you had to change your name. Did that have a negative impact on your business and what was that like?

[00:14:35] Jon: I think we, made a pretty positive spin out of it. That was in 2017. My name at the time was Cannonball Creative.

[00:14:42] That’s still our legal entity name. There was another Canonball Creative out of St. Louis, Missouri. They were another creative agency and they did traditional advertising. We had known about each other since the beginning, and we were in different markets.

[00:14:57] We went after different types of clients. It wasn’t [00:15:00] an issue but something flagged or they got a new attorney, or something happened on their end and they sent a cease desist letter for us to stop doing business as Cannonball Creative as they own the trademark.

[00:15:12] After talking with my attorney, we decided it’d be easier to rename. Because we were going through so much transition, as an agency, we really felt like, hey, we need a new brand, a new name, a new identity. We need people to know us as something different than they’ve known us as in the past.

[00:15:29] We came up with a new name, Criterion B. Canon was spelled as one N in the middle, so C A N O N B A L, “canon” is a body of work, and “cannon ball” is the projectile. We were like, even though it’s spelled wrong, a cannonballs projectile is always forward moving with, thrust .

[00:15:46] The whole idea is that we’re a content agency that helps you propel your agency or your work, your company, whatever it is that we’re working on. I wanted to stick to the same concept whenever we renamed. Criterion is a synonym for Canon. [00:16:00] It also means body of work, and it’s a singular form of criteria.

[00:16:04] We always have prided ourselves on being a data-driven agency. The B comes in as A is not always the right answer. Oftentimes it’s B. It allowed us to keep Criterion B.

[00:16:14] I was able to keep that CB moniker and also the meaning of the name.

[00:16:18] We’ve doubled down a multi-family every year since.

[00:16:21] Russel: That is a very creative thought process and name change and how you made ’em all still interconnect together with a completely different name. I Just looking at the two concepts, you would never even surmise all that. That’s that’s really cool.

[00:16:35] Another fascinating thing I found about your story is, a lot of business owners and agency owners say, getting their office space was a significant moment. An exciting moment of, hey, this is real, I’m established and it seems like you not only had a pretty interesting beginning to your first office space, but the end of your office space you mind sharing about that?

[00:16:53] Jon: I’m back to the big decisions, just do it and then figure it out.

[00:16:56] I had a cousin who was a real [00:17:00] estate broker , and I had asked him if he’d helped me find an office space, and this was right after we started the company in ’08. For that year, him and I would go and look at different office spaces all around DFW. We knew we wanted to be near downtown Dallas because there was about 300 ad agencies around a five mile radius of downtown.

[00:17:19] So we said, hey, that’s our market, that’s who we need to go after. We have to be in the middle of all of it cause we’re gonna be visiting a lot of ’em and really going out selling. We were getting into the fall of ’08 and we hadn’t found anything. As we were discussing and talking about it, he said, hey, one of the things that’s cool about commercial real estate is for every year you sign on a lease, they’ll give you a month for free on the front end. And he had found a cool office for us in an old building in the west end of Dallas.

[00:17:48] It was built in the 18 hundreds or early 19 hundreds. It was some old factory, it was just a really cool building. They had this one little suite, 1800 square feet. There was probably 10 of [00:18:00] us at the time and they said, yeah, we’ll give you a month free for every year you sign.

[00:18:03] I said, sign me up for six years, I’ll get six free months and by the end of that six free months we’ll figure out how to pay for our rent. We were barely making payroll, so it was like, we’re gonna do this. I figure if I have something hanging over my head, I don’t have a choice.

[00:18:16] I’ve gotta figure out how to make it work. That’s exactly what we did. We absolutely loved that office and we made it our own. Every person on my team, since we didn’t have money, pay interior designers, we went and did it all ourselves. We painted everything and made everything.

[00:18:33] It was a great first office. On the other end of that, fast forward 12 years, this was in 2020. We had moved offices in 2015 to a downtown tower, which is at St. Paul and Federal, a block or two away from Klyde Warren Park.

[00:18:47] We were on the 10th floor of that building. It was a better office space. It had a great view. We were right in downtown. We could walk everywhere. Unfortunately, it was on the dirtiest the worst dark [00:19:00] stop in all of Dallas. There was a lot of homeless right there and panhandling.

[00:19:04] We moved in and we signed another five year lease to get another five free months out of the deal. We were there probably four years. My team, who is now mostly made up of younger people, all wanted to work from home.

[00:19:19] I was used to having everybody in the office. We’d have five interns every semester. It was lively and fun. Now they all wanna work from home. I’m like, eh, I don’t know. I’m pretty traditional, everybody come in, so I said let’s try it out. We tried it, let everybody come in two days a week and work from home for three days a week.

[00:19:35] We did that for six months. This was in 2019, so it was all leading up to it. By the end of 2019, we had made the decision. I said, okay, yeah, we’ll do it. We’ll get rid of the office space. We’ll all go remote. Over that six months, we had worked really hard to figure out how to do our processes in a digital environment.

[00:19:56] We had switched our standup meetings from being in-person [00:20:00] standup meetings into doing Marco Polo standup meetings, which is like a video voicemail tool. Everybody has to have their voicemail, their videos in by 8:15, and everybody has to have ’em watched by nine o’clock so everybody knows what everybody’s doing.

[00:20:13] We put these things into place so that we could still work. We were doing Slack, we were using Zoom and Google Hangouts. We said, okay, it’s time. Let’s find somebody to sublease cuz we still had six months on the lease. I talked to the building, and they were okay with it.

[00:20:27] We had found somebody, they signed the lease and we moved out. They moved in on February 28th of 2020.

[00:20:36] Russel: Oh gosh.

[00:20:37] Jon: So everyone knows what happens in March. Everything goes up in flames. We were out and already working from home, out of our lease and everything.

[00:20:45] It was a huge blessing. We got out and we haven’t looked back. Everybody has done an amazing job working from home and the team is awesome.

[00:20:52] Russel: A real pioneer into the remote distributed workforce, if only by a week or so.

[00:20:57] Jon: That’s right.

[00:20:58] Russel: Awesome. Dodged the bullet [00:21:00] there for sure. Clear theme here. Make pivots, make decisions fast. Don’t look back. And sounds like you’ve got another pivot, or maybe this time less than a pivot or a redirect. You’ve created an extension by even starting your own software platform.

[00:21:13] What is the new venture?

[00:21:14] Jon: We’ll back up just a little bit here.

[00:21:16] I hired my first business coach in the 2012 time period, a guy named Martin Holland out of Oklahoma City. I fell into it through a vendor. A vendor called me one day who we were using for a lot of our programmers, and he said, Hey, Jon, you’re one of our best clients I feel like to help me grow, I need to help you grow. I’m starting a mastermind group. I’ve got a facilitator named Martin Holland. He’s gonna run the group and I’m gonna pay for you and eight other of my best clients to be in this group together so we can figure out how to grow. I thought, man, that’s genius. That’s awesome.

[00:21:49]  I kept on with Martin, he was an avid reader and he would have all of us become avid readers.

[00:21:54] Which is good cuz leaders are readers, right? You’ve gotta read, I’m a firm believer in that. The book that really [00:22:00] changed the direction that I was taking heading in Criterion B was a book that was by a guy named John Warrillow, and it is called Built To Sell.

[00:22:07] I looked at my agency and realized where it was, nobody in their right mind would want to buy me. There was no exit plan. I couldn’t get out of it. If I leave the company would go away. Even though I had a great team of people, I was still doing a ton of work.

[00:22:23] I was doing design, I was doing sales, I was doing programming, I was doing a lot of things and it would fizzle out. From that point on, after reading that book, I was like, that’s what I want to do. I need to have a plan. Even though I love my company, I have no plan to sell it.

[00:22:37] It’s a lifestyle company. I want to have options to sell it, and eventually I want to sell it to retire. I started working down that path and it’s systemizing your company and it’s putting things in place so that you can become less and less involved in the day-to-day. You delegate more to your team, you hire people that you trust and hire people that are [00:23:00] responsible, who can actually do those tasks.

[00:23:01] That’s what we started doing. To get us to where I can step away more today to focus on other things that started back in 2012. Hesitantly. It wasn’t easy and a lot of changes ’cause nobody can do the work like I can do the work and nobody’s gonna care like I care.

[00:23:18] There’s a lot of letting go that has to happen. Once I make my mind up, I just do it.

[00:23:24] Russel: We know already.

[00:23:26] Jon: Yeah. That usually has a lot of pain that comes with it. It’s, oh, I hired you. Here. Just do it. I give it to ’em and then things do fall apart sometimes.

[00:23:33] Or we hired the wrong person. It took us a while to get to where we really have the team that we have now. I trust them, and they do an amazing job. They allow me to be able to do other things that I want to do. My passion is to solve problems.

[00:23:50] I feel like software is the platform that I use to solve those problems. When I see problems that marketing managers at the firms that we work with [00:24:00] are having, or owners or developers or investors , I see those issues and I want to help figure out how do we solve those with software. That was how we fell into the software company that we’re in, which is called Swifty.

[00:24:12] We started out as a software platform through Criterion B that we built around one or two of our clients who are marketing directors, the most busy, hardworking individuals. They work around the clock. They travel nonstop. A lot of them have 50 to a hundred properties under them, so you have a hundred managers or 50 managers asking for stuff nonstop, and they’re a team of one to three usually.

[00:24:41] They’re very busy. I said how can I help? What can we do and how can we automate and streamline that, mixed with the fact that properties have tiny budgets, they don’t have the same big budgets that new developments have, or that big corporations have. We needed a product that was affordable, automated, [00:25:00] and removed stress from our clients.

[00:25:01] That’s what we set out to do in 2018. Took us two solid years of programming before we released it to the market in 2020. We spun off into its own company in ’22, just this year. It’s a fun ride. This is a company that I definitely am building to sell from the very beginning.

[00:25:19] We started with that mentality and we’re growing it with that in mind. We have very clear targets that we’re trying to hit along the way. My focus has not gone away from growing Criterion B either. The work that I do on Criterion B is all strategic and growth oriented work.

[00:25:37] It’s not the actual production work anymore .

[00:25:40] Russel: Do you enjoy that? Do you miss having your hands on?

[00:25:43] Jon: I don’t at all. I enjoy this so much more. I love this. I do tell people that A, don’t talk to me if you’re not really interested in becoming an entrepreneur.

[00:25:51] If you have a inkling and you think, oh, maybe I should quit my job, by the end of our conversation, you’ll probably want to quit your job and you’ll want to go try your hand at entrepreneurship. [00:26:00] I’m a designer. That’s what I went to school for.

[00:26:02] That’s what my degree’s in, that’s what I did. I started a business. If you started a business, you’re not gonna get to do what you went to school for unless it was business. I had to put on a whole different hat, I had to leave design on the wayside. I found along that path, I really enjoyed entrepreneurship way more.

[00:26:18] Russel: You got two businesses going down a successful path. What’s the big picture? What are you trying to accomplish with all this?

[00:26:25] Jon: On the Criterion B side, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. It’s a lifestyle company for me. It’s what pays my bills. I’ve got an amazing team that works for me, and that company serves them just as much as it serves me. I love that about it. Swifty I see as a challenge. I see it as something that I want to grow.

[00:26:48] I want to build it. I want to sell it, and then I want to do something very similar to it again. I feel it’s one of those things that I’m gonna be able to keep solving these problems and hopefully create a lot of opportunity and a lot of [00:27:00] jobs along the way, to be able to give back from that perspective.

[00:27:03] Russel: Sounds like a good path to go down. Excited to ask you this question. As a lifelong entrepreneur yourself, from a family of entrepreneurs, are entrepreneurs born, or are they made?

[00:27:14] Jon: I think most people have a little entrepreneur in them.

[00:27:17] The difference of an entrepreneur and a non entrepreneur is more about someone willing to take the first step. ‘Cause so many times in our lives I feel like we have these great ideas and then we look up at six months, we see that idea in reality and you’re like, that’s my idea.

[00:27:32] You’re like they took action on it. That’s really the only difference. That willingness and the courage to take action. We all have it in us. I definitely think it can be learned. I’m glad they’re teaching actual courses in it.

[00:27:45] Cause that helps people have that confidence to step out. So many people I talk to that are not business owners, but have great ideas, or they talk, man, I wish I had that drive. I wish I had the ability. They [00:28:00] have it and you can see they’re right on the edge.

[00:28:01] They really wanna do it. They need a push to do it, and sometimes you don’t wanna be that push ’cause then they may not succeed. They may not go through with their ideas. I definitely think they can be made. We’re all born with the ideas and the concepts in our heart.

[00:28:13] We just need to act on ’em.

[00:28:17] Russel: I love that answer. Certainly is about taking risks. Someone that is , to your point, thinking about starting their own business, I was talking to recently, they asked, do I have the personality for it? I was like I don’t know you yet, but if you have the personality where you’re willing to wake up every morning, get punched in the face and then do it again the next morning. If you can feel comfortable with that, you might have the personality for it.

[00:28:38] Jon: There you go.

[00:28:39] Russel: If people wanna know more about Criterion B, where can they go, where they can learn more about the great work you do?

[00:28:45] Jon: Criterionb.com has a lot of information about what we do and who we are. You can also follow us on Instagram, you’ll have to go to our website to get that link or Facebook or read our blog or sign up for our newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn.

[00:28:59] [00:29:00] We’re in all of the above, start by going to our website, you have links to all of those different avenues to get ahold of us or to learn more from us.

[00:29:08] Russel: Nice. You have a website for Swifty as well?

[00:29:10] Jon: BEswifty.com. B E swifty.com. All those same things we just talked about on Criterion B, you have access to on Swifty as well.

[00:29:20] We are content agencies. We like the work we do. We’re proud of it. It looks cool. It’s nice and we would love it if people would join our newsletters. We send out weekly newsletters on both companies just with different tips, marketing tips, things like that.

[00:29:34] Russel: There you have it folks. Go there, get us signed up, get all that great content. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Jon. It was an absolute pleasure to hear your story and love so many different parts of that. Much appreciated. Thank you for joining us.

[00:29:48] Jon: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it.

[00:29:51] Intro: We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from [00:30:00] around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to podcast@performancefaction.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Factions.

[00:30:12] Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to $5 million and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.

[00:30:23] Jon: There was one point we had the office in downtown Dallas on St. Paul and Federal that we decided we wanted to let our employees bring their dogs to work.

[00:30:35] One at a time. We weren’t gonna let everybody bring their dogs at the same time, but, they could take turns. One of the ladies on the team had a new puppy, a golden retriever, brought him in, and he was scared to death of downtown, scared to death of the people.

[00:30:47] Peed all over the bathroom. Luckily he was in the bathroom. She proceeded to take him out, tried to get him outside fast to go to the bathroom, and he proceeded to poop all over the sidewalk right in front of a restaurant where all the people were eating. She was [00:31:00] incredibly embarrassed.