Today on The Fastest Growing Companies podcast, we're talking to the Founder & CEO of Crisp Video Group, Michael Mogill.
Today on The Fastest Growing Companies podcast, we're talking to the Founder & CEO of Crisp Video Group, Michael Mogill.
Today on The Fastest Growing Companies podcast, we're talking to the Founder & CEO of Crisp Video Group, Michael Mogill.
Chris Ronzio (00:51):
Welcome back everyone. I'm Chris Ronzio, today I'm here with Michael Mogill. He is the CEO and founder of Crisp Video Group. What's up Michael?
Michael Mogill (00:59):
Hey, thank you for having me.
Chris Ronzio (01:01):
Thanks for being here. So you're in Atlanta, right?
Michael Mogill (01:03):
I'm in Atlanta.
Chris Ronzio (01:04):
Cool. ATL on the east coast to round out our week. Thanks for being here again. So I am excited to tell your story, but first, why don't you just tell us what is it that you guys do?
Michael Mogill (01:15):
So I run a company called Crisp. We are a law firm growth company, and I think everybody says they're a growth company, right? So everyone helps their clients grow. But specifically, what we do is we create videos for law firms to help differentiate them. We place that content primarily on digital and social. So there's the marketing component. And then we also help them on the coaching front, meaning that we help them in terms of how to become better leaders, how to lead better teams like culture-wise, structural, foundational KPIs, all the foundational stuff. And our evolution has really been from the video company of 2012 to now really the, I argue the largest law from coaching company in the legal industry.
Chris Ronzio (01:52):
Wow. So, you know, you can tell, you've got your elevator pitch down when you say you're the law firm growth company, because so many people just can't articulate it, that cleanly, what they do and who they do it for. I'm already thinking of law firms. I know that are growing and probably need what you do.
Michael Mogill (02:06):
That was, it was probably one of the smarter decisions I made a long time ago, because when we started Crisp, we were in the large, the big brand space. And they said, who are you four? And we said, well, everyone, right? We work with Coca Cola, Verizon, small business, big brands, and legal happened by accident. This happened, I think in 2014. A lawyer came to us. She had no online presence and she was really struggling. We did some work with her and her business just blew up, you know, because of the work she was doing online. What we saw was that you had a super competitive, hyper saturated space that was largely commoditized. And that larger firms who had, significantly more resources in smaller firms could invest a lot more money and things like TV, radio billboards, a lot of traditional advertising, but there were opportunities primarily on digital and social for smaller firms, like great attorneys that just didn't have the, let's say the financial resources to be competitive and to do so in a way by differentiating themselves and telling their story.
So that's how it all started. We help one and then another one and then another one. I saw something here. I'm like, here's an industry that's stood still. It seems for like 20 years. We continued to hone in and dial in on that. And that later led to us writing a book on legal marketing, a podcast on good marketing and the more we focus, the more the business.
Chris Ronzio (03:21):
So I want to talk about the book and the podcast, the game-changing attorney. We'll get to that in a little bit. But you mentioned this starting as a video production company back in 2012. And actually I had a video production company back in 2012, but I sold a year after that. Uh, so it looks like we've got some shared roots, but how did this go from just video to all the things that you do now? Was it just trial and error, or did you have that insight that like, ah, this is what's going to scale?
Michael Mogill (03:47):
So it's interesting in the sense that I always looked at it and cause that's amazing to hear you had a video company in 2012. Cause every time I tell this story, I always say, well, at that time, the idea of a video company, like let's say online video, everyone was telling me, this is the worst idea ever. They said, you couldn't compete with the agencies. No one wants video online. Right? They want like TV commercials and stuff and you know, Facebook and YouTube and those platforms, weren't what they are today back in 2012. It wasn't primarily video. What led to that expansion from like video to marketing, to coaching, it was always about how do we support our clients at a higher level? And it actually, it happened the standpoint that when we started with the videos, we create these almost like movie trailers, very narrative story-driven videos that communicated their, why, what set them apart.
And they were these beautiful videos and we'd hand them over to our clients. We found that many of them didn't know what to do with them. Right. They have this great video and they're like, okay, what now? So then we realized, okay, we got to help place this content and not just on their website, but on digital and social. How do we get it out in front of their ideal client? And then once that was accomplished and let's say they were getting a lot of phone calls and leads and things like that, we then realized, okay, the challenge then is if they don't know how to answer the phones, right, there's not consistent intake happening or if the leadership isn't right. Or if like, let's say the team isn't aligned, all those different things, the ROI and the marketing was always a function of the foundational aspects of the business. So that's kind of how it went from video, to marketing, to coaching
Chris Ronzio (05:14):
Makes sense, very natural journey. And I know a lot of the lawyers that I, the attorneys that I know they're not the best marketers. And so it seems like they needed, they probably needed your help once you just gave them that video and they didn't know what to do with it. Let's talk about the people side of this, because when you started it, it was a team of one. And now you told me right before the call, you're at about 80 people, which is a tremendous growth story over the last, several years. So what was the early team like, you know, in those early days when you were doing just video production, was it just a small creative team?
Michael Mogill (05:45):
Yeah, I mean, when I initially started the business was, it was just me. And then when we were doing video work, it started out originally with contractors. One of the reasons we shifted to full-time employees, as soon as I could was that I wanted to maintain consistency in terms of that client experience. Right? We would be doing video shoots, not just in Atlanta, but all across the country. And if you found someone let's say that they were good at it shooting video, that didn't necessarily mean that they have held the same values that you did as an organization and so on. But really where I went from one to two was I was at a video shoot in New York at one point. And I also got a call about a shoot in Denver and another one in Atlanta.
And I'm like, well, I can't be in three places at the same time. So I had to say no to the other two. I had to figure out a way to replicate that model. I went from one to two, eventually 80, but, initially I would say that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I didn't have any formal training in any of this, no formal training in marketing or sales or finance or any of this. I didn't have a formal hiring process. There wasn't any training and development. There was no onboarding. There was no like proper vetting. So a lot of people, especially in the early years of Crisp, I would say that when they were unsuccessful, that was a hundred percent on me because I wasn't, there was no way they were getting vetted.
I was going by gut instinct, which when I look back at the data of me going by my gut of whether I thought someone would work out or not, I was 50% right. And 50% wrong. So I might as well flipped the coin. Right? Literally like that's how good my gut was for that. It was just realizing that, there was no clear, like there were no processes in place. There was no foundation in place. I was just working hard. That was it. I gritted my way to a million. Let's let's put it that way. Like just through sheer grit, working hard, all that. Yes, I think we were putting out great work and a great product, but it wasn't scalable.
Chris Ronzio (07:34):
Yeah. So at some point that changed because you started to grow really quickly. So you must've gotten more intentional about this. And I'd love to compare notes after this because I had camera operators in Atlanta and Denver, and we probably know a lot of the same people, but as you started hiring more people with a 50% success rate, what did you tweak? What did you do differently to make the process more likely to succeed?
Michael Mogill (07:57):
Well, I mean, we created like a hiring funnel if you will. And I owe my wife while I was credit because I, she had come from a consulting background. She stepped into the business in 2014. I asked her to come help for 30 days. Just like help me put some processes in place in 30 days has turned into, 2021 and beyond. Right? So, there was no like foundation in place, but very early on, to me at the root of all things. It starts with the hiring process. Like, how are we vetting candidates? How do we determine if someone's a good fit or not? And, you know, before anybody could apply now, it was, we made it complicated. They had to call a phone number, right.
If they submitted it through job board, you know, we wouldn't consider them, they call a phone number, they'd hear a voicemail. The voicemail would tell them, here's what you send your resume to with cover letter. Well, here's the email, here's the subject line that filtered out about 80% of them because they just couldn't follow instructions. Then there was actual assessments. For the video team early on there were tests edits, but for different roles, whether it was a project manager or a marketing manager, or somebody in operations or a different roll, we had different assessments depending on the role to gauge their capabilities. And then there were also like different types of, I don't want to call them personality assessments, but work-style assessments like we've used specifically the Colby and the print and even the Wonderlic. So we would figure out the cognitive conative intrinsic drivers.
And we built these profiles around, like someone who'd be successful in one type of role may not be successful in another role. Basically, someone in sales for example, has a very different skillset than someone in a creative role versus project management. So, that type of vetting upfront. We went from probably hiring one out of every, I don't know, four or five people interviewed to one out of a, I mean, it got to a point about 800 to a thousand. So like we built this hiring model, now we're saying we're going to hire the best of the best. So that was key. But we also then had a onboarding and a whole training program, everything before someone can, we never let them work with a client. Learning about our core values, the culture of the organization.
How to be successful in the role? And then, you couple this with like metrics and key performance indicators. I want to highlight this. If people listening to this are like, yeah, I've heard all this stuff before. Or if you're like me, you're here, all this stuff. And you're overwhelmed. You're like, I don't even know where to get started. And I remember going to this conference, like this seminar. I think it was like a scaling up seminar or something. I went to it in Pittsburgh. I remember walking in. So I was feeling pretty good about myself at the time. Like we had done over a million in revenue, we were a seven figure business. And I remember walking in and they're talking about systems and processes, and they're talking about like human capital and cashflow management and all these different things.
And I mean, I'm looking around the room and I'm like, I don't know anything. I felt like the students, like the beginner. As good as I felt when I walked in, I was like, okay, I've got, I feel like 50 things that we need to get right. That we're not a real business right now. Like I felt like it was this, a hustle that we're running. I will say that like slowly but surely, one year at a time, we put those things in place and we started really starting to see that stability and consistency. But, I'll tell you what, just because... This is kind of a lesson that I learned. Just because you do, let's say you bring in a big client or you have a strong, like month, quarter or revenue year, does not mean that that's a healthy, strong business. Okay. That just means you brought in a great client or let's say you did a ton in sales or something like that, but that if you can replicate it consistently, if you see that predictability week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, okay, now that's something that's real. I used to think, hey, we had a good year and I knew what I was doing. Which was, you know, it couldn't be further from the truth.
Chris Ronzio (11:33):
Well, anybody that's listening to this, yes. It's like drinking from a fire hose. But like Michael said, there are so many things that you've got to learn about the business of your business. And even though he started in this creative element, the video production and marketing, a lot of entrepreneurs start in that same way. They start doing something really well, but in order to get to that next level, you can't just keep grinding in the same way that you grind to get to a million. You have to be better at business. You've got to leverage other teams, other people as you're growing. So it seems like you really dialed that in now. I'm curious as you added people to the team, are there certain like levels or thresholds where, you know, like we hit 15 people in this change or we hit 30 people and this was different?
Michael Mogill (12:16):
Yeah. I mean, I'd say the first one, was probably at 20 people. I think after that, so it was like probably from 20, then to 50, then I think the big next leap was 70. We're a little bit over 80 now. We're on pace for something like a 110, 113 by the end of the year. But going back to that one, that first plateau at 20, it was, I mean, it went from me working next to everybody. We worked in like a very small office. It was like less than like 800 square feet. And like, we all were in the same room. I could turn around. I knew what everybody was doing, everything that was going on. But then at 20 people, there was a lot more complexity. I think that's what happens as team members scale.
If you look at the number of communication points you have, it's easier to interface with five people or even to have five people interface amongst themselves. I'm sure someone can run the math equation. It's like five times, four times, three times, two times one. And that tells you how many communication pathways there are. So imagine once you get the 20 and that meant that like there had to be some sort of organizational structure, right? I think you could have one right out of the gate, but especially at 20, like who's clearly accountable for what, who reports to who? And also as the business started to really grow from, let's say from 20 to even 50, management would change and it turned into managing through metrics. So it was very important to have insight into whether somebody was doing a good job or a great job, and everyone had to have a number, right?
The things that they were doing to drive critical results and to be able to get that information because otherwise, I mean, when you really think about it, if you got 50 human beings in your business, every single day, let's say eight hours a day, maybe 10 hours a day doing something, right. They're sending emails, they're on calls, whatever. You multiply that times, 50 people, that's a lot of activity. That's a lot of actions and decisions that are taking place on behalf of your organization. So imagine that, like, let's say each of those people is doing one thing off culture, right. Or it doesn't align with their core values. Or even if it's just like, make a bad decision every day. That's 50 people making 50 bad decisions everyday, scale that by a week or a month. And you want to wonder why things go downhill?
I'm not trying to like freak anybody out, but businesses die of paper cuts. Right. So that's why, when you start, when you look at it, you know, how do you maintain your sanity? You've got to have the right key performance indicators and like that proper insight to get, to be able to know metric wise, this person's on target or they're not, or let's say we get the right feedback happening, the right feedback loops with our clients. So we've got surveys. We know what the client experience is. We know what's going on with the deliverables from a project management standpoint. All of those things in summation. I think that's where at each level of plateau, it's more complexity and then you got to go through a wave of simplification, which is what I've described with the metrics. Because at 20, I was trying to keep track of all this stuff and I had no reporting, no metrics, no real accountability chart. And I was wondering why. It was driving me crazy.
Chris Ronzio (15:07):
Right. Well, everybody's got to go listen to, we had Verne Harnish on the show. You mentioned Scaling Up. So go listen to Vern's episode about the responsibilities and just how that accountability is and how that breaks down. But what Michael, what you've said is you're right. Businesses just get more complex if they get bigger. And if you don't put the systems in place to deal with the complexity, that's why a lot of businesses don't make it to that next level of scale. It sounds like you've been able to do that. How has your role changed at 20, at 50 at 70 and beyond? What is your day to day?
Michael Mogill (15:36):
Yeah, when you look at it know, I do less. Let's say, I still work hard, but the actual number of different things that I do has become less and less and less because early on I was doing everything. I was updating the backend of the website. I was doing some design. I would write out a process. I was running the payroll, all those different things. Whereas now I only focused on the things that are my strengths and I'm sure this has probably come up at some point on the podcast, but not enough can be said about being able to have that self-awareness to know here's why I had the most value. These are the things that are the highest and best use of my time. Now, the rest of the stuff still has to get done, but let me hire around that.
I like to think that, I'm probably not the smartest person by any means. Definitely not the most talented, but if there's one strength that I have, it's the ability to bring in great, smart, talented people that can support all the things that I'm not good at. So right now, my role was largely, it's leading the team in terms of like mentoring our team leads. So I spent a lot of time around them. Obviously the podcast, any type of thought leadership work, like the book, vlogs, that type of stuff. Overall strategy as a whole, like, where are we going as an organization? To move that type of stuff forward. But I am now out of a lot of the details. I mean, I don't help when I'm in the details and we've got a lot of really capable people that do a much better job of that than I ever did. But at the same time, like knowing where we're going to go, like we just, we purchased a 60,000 square foot building at the height of COVID in March. And we started construction. That's now set to complete at the end of this month, but things like that and decisions like that require being able to kind of think into the future. And I always say that I live in future company, and the rest of the team lives in present company, but someone's got to live in the future.
Chris Ronzio (17:18):
I love that, entrepreneurs should be paid not based on what they do, but based on what they delegate successfully. That's the only way to grow the company. In essence, that is kind of how we're payed. It is how the values of our companies increases. Right. And you seem to have built a good team around you. Do you have a right-hand person or what's that dynamic like?
Michael Mogill (17:38):
Yeah. For those familiar with like the visionary integrator dynamic, I've got the integrator, right? Our COO, it took a journey to find, but I'll tell you, this is one of the best things you can do as a visionary to have this type of person. Definitely a right-hand person, that helps to keep me in check. And also makes ideas real, right. Because you have to think, right. Let's say you have multiple teams. I think we have even like seven or eight departments at this point. If I'm meeting with each one and we're like, let's say, we're talking about something that we want to move forward, who follows up with those people, right. Because then they cascade that message down to their team members. To have one point of contact to funnel things through, which is my COO, that can then, let's say, even follow up with the team leads, that has saved them a lot of time. And again, it's simplifies complexity.
I guess we'll keep coming back to that. So it's huge to have somebody like that. I think from leaders trying to do everything on their own, it's this belief that if I just work harder... I think a part of it is actually ego, but it's just, if I just can work harder, I can do it better than anybody else can. Yeah, sure. But at some point you hit a limit on what you yourself can do. And I hit that limit in, 2015. Congratulations, you did a million. I was so proud of myself. I ended up at a hospital emergency room of exhaustion because I fell up the stairs. Like Chris, I felt up, not down. I came home, went to tie my shoes and fell straight forward.
And I was exhausted. I was doing these hundred hour weeks. I was such, you know, so proud of myself thinking like this hustle mentality. And the reality of it is, when I was sitting in the in the hospital bed, I was of no help to anybody. Right? How could I help them from there? At that moment I realized, look, there's gotta be a better way. Hopefully people don't have to discover this the way that I did, but, there had to be a better way. And look, I work probably, you know, at this point, if I'm being honest, I went from the a hundred hour weeks to now probably 50 hour weeks. And we are doing more than 25 times that in revenue. So it's not, it's not an effort thing. Right?
I think a lot of it just comes down to like putting the right systems in place, getting the right people in place. Um, having clarity around that and also realizing that look, there's a few key decisions that you can make, on a day-to-day basis as a leader that drive the most impact. And you can do a lot of things, check a lot of things off the to-do list, but there's always a few key things. If you look back on every year, maybe there's three, maybe five decisions that move the needle forward the most. So that's where I try to focus my time on that.
Chris Ronzio (20:12):
You mentioned the right hand, I got to ask about your other right hand, which you said you're working with your wife. And so, what's that dynamic like or what recommendations can you have for people in the family businesses?
Michael Mogill (20:23):
So I got very lucky. I will say that part of the journey was definitely luck. I had someone that she was actually my integrator and director of operations all up until the past year. She's still with the company now, but she's moving to our director of coaching strategy role. I think this works if you're kind of aligned from the very beginning. So like from the very time that we met, I said, this is the human being that I am. I'm like, I'm starting this business and this is, these are the hours. These are the commitments necessary. And if that's not for you, like you can walk out right now. Like this is the first date. I will 100% understand because this is what this life is going to be like.
And for some reason she was like, okay, I'll go with that journey. She was doing way better than me as a consultant. I mean, I made myself look like maybe I had something together, but back at the office, my net worth was zero. You know?
Chris Ronzio (21:15):
So it sounds like it was a 50 - 50 coin flip in the same way with your hires.
Michael Mogill (21:21):
Absolutely. So the thing I'll say is when it works, like all the things that she's good at, I'm not good at all. She's the process person, she's the backend operations person. She makes like logistically everything work. And that's where she, likes to be. I'm the idea, strategy person. I think that type of compliment is the reason why it's been so successful. I find that in business, if there's like two people that are trying to be the guy, right. Then it creates this conflict.
At the same time, if people are in, let's say they're competing for the same role, she doesn't want to be the visionary. And at the same time, I didn't want to be the integrator. So it was a perfect compliment. In all the years we've worked together, I never got guilted in terms of working late, staying late, like all those difficult moments. I think business is hard enough. And if you have somebody in your life that is also giving you a very, let's say a hard time on that journey, especially early on, man, those words can weigh 10,000 pounds. It's like climbing Everest with an anchor. The advice that I would give is to think very, very carefully about, is there like a role each person to play? Is it something that they're both committed to?
Cause when it works, there's probably no one that cares more and you trust more, but at the same time it never ends, right? Like when we come home, I never have to explain anything that happened at work because we were at work together. I mean, she knows. She knows the people challenges. She knows like any sort of client issue, any struggle or challenge that we're going through. So it's not like I have to explain anything, but at the same time, like that becomes like something that you're continuously living with. And I do believe at some time that it can be important to shut it off. Like we've got a two-year-old daughter and it's very important to me to be home for bath time. And when that happens, I come home and put the phone away.
I put it down, I don't even look at it. We have this rule, when we get home, it's an hour, we're not talking about work with our daughter. And when this rule first started, I didn't know what to talk about. I mean, I literally didn't. I was like, I looked outside, I looked in the front yard. I'm like, oh, we need some landscaping out there. I didn't know where to take the conversation, cause that was all that we would talk about before. It got easier over time. I would also just, say like, this requires a lot of clear expectations, alignment, transparency, vulnerability. So I would not recommend it unless each side knows what they're signing up for, but if they do, it can be a beautiful thing.
Chris Ronzio (23:46):
Yeah. It's not for everyone doing business with family, but if you can get the right roles and the right division, like you said, you're not going after competing inside the business. I think it can work well. So as we wrap up here, I want to ask you about your book, The Gamechanging Attorney. What was the concept for coming up with this and how has it worked for you?
Michael Mogill (24:03):
Well, I think like many authors, people would say, Hey, I think you should write a book. I'd hear this for many years. Um, but the idea behind it was, I mean, I was giving presentations, I think every week, at one point, whether it was a webinar or like a conference or something, every week or every other week for years. Essentially I thought, okay, there's going to be a lot of people that we will, for whatever reason, because of price point where they are in, you know, in their business and so on, that we won't be accessible to at that point. But let's say if I can put all of this information and everything that we've learned about marketing, about helping these firms, like differentiate, stand out to attract the best cases. I mean, I interviewed over a hundred firms for the book.
If I could just put it into a book, a book is accessible, right. And then all that type of information would go, would go in there. At the same time, I also was trying to move us out of that kind of that vendor perception. I didn't want us to be seen as the, as the video company or the company that like ran our ads. Right. I'd heard about this idea of thought leadership. I had no desire to be famous, but at the same time, I, you know, like with the book I was very intentional about, there's not a Crisp logo on it or anything like that. I'm not selling Crisp or anything like that. I mean, I give examples and case studies and so on that are Crisp clients, but that's because I knew I knew the data behind all of that.
The idea behind it was really about putting all of our information into a book that could be DIY. They could do it themselves. But what we found was that our clients didn't want to do it themselves. And by reading this book, we kind of gained trust and credibility and said, okay, I think these guys might know what they're talking about. And, you know, as a result would reach out. The book has been one of the best things I've ever done. Hands down, I went from one day being Michael to the next being bestselling author. And I was still, I thought I was still the human being, the same human being, but I got this weird respect after. I'll also say one of the best decisions I made with the book was calling it The Gamechanging Attorney. I thought a lot about this because you could do a find and replace in that book and call it the game-changing doctor or the game-changing optometrist, but going like so in our niche was very, very important that it was the book for lawyers and that's helped to be the best selling book, I think for the last two years, at least, in that category. So I strongly recommend it. And the final thing I'll say is when I got done writing those chapters, everything, I felt like Neo from the matrix. I would get on a call and someone asked me about something I knew I just wrote a chapter about, and I knew it at such a different level than I did before. So, your familiarity with your own content and how deep you know a subject, it goes up substantially when you write a book about it.
Chris Ronzio (26:36):
That's amazing. Well, everybody that's listening. I mean, I think we came full circle. We talked about at the beginning, how you started as a video production company and then really verticalized to go after this legal industry. And at the end here, you wrote the book for that industry to just be the thought leader, be the expert, be the best seller. What a story you've had, man, from growing the team, just from you to the big team you've got today. From working successfully with your wife along the way to grow through those levels from 20 to 50 to 70 plus. Thank you so much for sharing. Everybody else that's listening to this, go back and listen again, because he said so many things in this that, it's probably a 90 minute episode stuffed into 20 minutes, and you need to just take some notes and go look into what he's saying. Hopefully you could take a page from Michael's playbook and put it in yours. Michael, where can they find you if they want to learn more?
Michael Mogill (27:26):
I actually have a website, believe it or not. It's Michaelmogill.com and M O G I L L. Or, of course, Crispvideo.com. Ether one of those, if I can ever help anyone to support anyone in any way or answer any questions, I'm always happy.
Chris Ronzio (27:41):
All right. Amazing. Michael, thank you again for being here. Everyone else, we'll see you next time.