We caught up with Clayton Collins – the CEO of HousingWire. He is subtle, humble and has some great words of advice;
- Throw ideas at the wall and constantly innovate.
- Digitally Native – Makes you agile and nimble.
- Idea Tornado – Add a Slack channel that execs can post random ideas – by the hour!
Recording Transcript of this episode: Clayton Collins | HousingWire:
Alright, we are here for another episode of broadcasting with the bacon Romy. I’m your host for vague and Romy with me again over here, but today we have somebody who’s, uh, who’s bought a business who came in acquiring a business and is crushing it so Clayton. Welcome to the show.
11:03 Hey, appreciate it back and appreciate the word of confidence of crushing it.
11:08 I think we’re pretty well, but I never got the definition of Crushing
11:12 Crushing it is when you when you wake up in the morning and you’re like dude, fucking, it’s awesome. That’s it. That’s all it has to say it’s a pretty pretty abstract statement that’s that drove me. What do you think, what’s your definition of Crushing
11:26 There’s so many definitions is playing sense but you know plate and you guys have been growing at a pretty easy Calgary for the last three years. And from what I know and I may not know everything. You guys have been growing even during this, during this pandemic. What’s the secret there.
11:41 Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the funny thing about crushing it. Right. Like you joke about like waking up in the morning and like me, like, Wow, is this real
11:49 Well, I think another part of like crushing it and growing is there’s some nights for you. You don’t wake up in the morning because you just slap you see work straight through. So
11:58 It’s, um, I mean, I think that we talked about a bootstrapping building business growing whatever you’re doing it just takes an insane amount of work and at least from my experience, I haven’t found a
12:09 I haven’t found a formula where it just like it happens by by luck or by chance. Like, it comes with it comes a grind so we’ve actually mentioned, we bought business for years ago. We’re on a on a great growth trajectory and a lot of things a lot of things working in our favor. But it’s come through, you know, pain and long nights and long weeks and a lot of
12:37 Staffing changes and infrastructure and technology changes and like, and in missteps and backups and go forwards and like, it’s certainly not like a straight path to crushing it but when you, you start to go through, enough, enough changes and challenges, at least for for me recently been able to kind of find that find that tail and and and find that momentum and so
13:03 I think about our general and then, you know, pretty wonderful physical magazine, you know, and really think about us, sort of, if not even company at the company in the in the housing steps right in the real estate space and, you know, everyone knows that as those real estate. So those things.
13:23 Again, yes Abella. How do you hold that position of that mantle. I mean, the responsibility of running a media companies opinion in his word effects big responsibility.
13:38 Yeah i mean the the responsibilities really large and I mean as kind of backing up a little bit so like the, the, the leading position.
13:47 I when you like kind of look back in hindsight, we got some some big things working in our favor. And one of the biggest is that the company was was founded in 2008 So we’re a digital business.
14:00 I joked about my background is not a virtual background is actually our newsroom the notice, nobody’s in it right now because they’re all remote and they’re distributed throughout the country. And we’re running at full steam and I think that’s like a big differentiator, and just a advantage we have working for us as being a digital business. We didn’t come into this with a legacy technical debt or revenue line or business unit debt, like we came into this with a nimble, agile business.
14:33 That can adapt to the needs of our audience and our clients and now a pandemic and economic and social unrest, like we were nimble, we can we can
14:43 We can move through this stuff. So as you think about how we apply that to the the ecosystem. We cover that housing the mortgage real estate world.
14:52 It’s an industry that much like much like media, much like technology has to be nimble and has to be adept and ready for changes that come down because interest rates are moving or demographics are working in our favor, not in our favor or housing demand shifts because of a generational situations or people need a home office or whatever the case is like business changes quickly and in some ways, it hasn’t changed quick enough in terms of technology adoption and in other ways.
15:24 It’s it’s moving, moving quickly and adapting to consumer and in economic demand. So we think of ourselves as needing to kind of reflect the
15:37 Reflect reflects the industry in a certain way. Like, if we’re nimble and we’re quick and we’re adapted. We hope our audience can
15:44 Can can match that culture and and be quick and nimble and adaptive to serve the, the overall economy.
15:52 Ultimately housing is one of the, the biggest sectors in the US. And I think here your statement on as good as housing as because the economy is a
15:59 Is a great assessment and especially as we look at where we are in q2, q3 now 2020 housing really has an opportunity to be a sector that that leads the overall economy.
16:14 Out of a recession or at least provides a baseline of strength inside of our like US economic
16:20 Overall situation here. And when you look at the mortgage industry that the industry has been relatively blessed with low rates for the last three months, which has driven a lot of volume.
16:32 For purchase, as well as rifai which which translates to more cash and consumers pockets. When they will reply to a lower rate or different am schedule. There’s a lot of positive that comes from the, the strength that the mortgage industry seeing right now, but also with that a lot of responsibility that that lenders have to meet consumer demand and also help sustain a healthy housing economy.
17:00 We don’t want to see another 2008 I don’t think we’re gonna see another 2008 the the architecture is very different, the underwriting and risk appetite is is very different.
17:10 That doesn’t mean we can’t take our eye off the ball. That’s it. We have to keep focused on tight underwriting standards and doing what’s right for the consumer.
17:19 Guilty and nimble is no bigger than me. So let’s talk about the people
17:29 We are 32 full time employees right now. And that’s, I guess, or 27 of those team members are in the DFW area, but many have kind of scattered a little bit in the recent year and we’re Pretty distributed right now.
17:47 I will admit when I, when I first got into this industry through the I approached him. I
17:54 You know, I thought you guys must have three 400 people because you had so much stuff going on so totally get that, you know, I see on LinkedIn and LinkedIn is now this place. We all go to find out what’s happening. And for me, it’s definitely way more on Facebook. I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn accounts Panthers.
18:13 But LinkedIn. You know, I was always hiring from rules. I mean, it’s pretty mind blowing. I mean, they’re having, you know, pending employees right now. What do you do to keep hiring at this tour.
18:28 Yeah, I mean, we have, we’re a growing business cash flow positive we found ourselves off of off of net cash flow net income. So we’re never going to be the the venture back business that comes in and announces 500 rolls higher before the end of the year, because we just got our series A and have a lot of cash to burn
18:49 We’re funding to meet the the growth of our business and also fuel future growth. So we’re kind of running two simultaneous strategies we know we have a core business at housing wire that we need to continually bring in the best journalists from the business media world so often almost always have an eye out for talent.
19:12 In financial and business journalism that we can plug into to our model and better cover the mortgage real estate and in fintech ecosystem.
19:20 At the same time, we’re always looking at new opportunities or that’s the launch of a newsletter.
19:26 Like we’ve launched multiple in the last three years of lending live for a loan originators open house for real estate agents rent liar for multifamily which didn’t work and we killed it. So,
19:37 You know, not everything works.
19:39 And now we’re working on the launch of a new brand outside of housing wire focus entirely on the fintech landscape and we’re hiring around that brand. Now, so what you’ll see from us and what you can expect is a
19:52 Controlled approach to hiring. So we’re always recruiting. We’re always looking for the best talent but that’ll be a mix of people. We need to continue feeling growth and core business as well as new players that will help us launch and drive growth and new verticals or new products.
20:10 I mean, it’s
20:12 He’s mean hundreds of people again through the same principle, you
20:18 Know, I do have a question. By the way, right. I do have a question. How do you can have in your head. So you talked about two things. One is going to, you know, putting money to fund the current operations and then taking these bets right these bets on you two, three or four beds and obviously wondering work.
20:34 Is there a ratio that you run with like at 20 1910 5050
20:39 Or is there a method to that madness is from my perspective, I’ll just quickly say like there is no i mean i don’t know i don’t have a solution to this problem. I’m morbidly curious about
20:49 Do you have a model. I don’t have like I wake up one day and say, fuck. We got to do this and we kind of do it, but do you have a model and play.
20:56 Yeah, so I don’t have a ratio in play, but we do have a model. And I have an investor group. I have a board director. So we do look at, we look at risk reward. Like, we’re not going to go throw a seven figure summit, something that
21:09 Has a low likelihood of success, but we might be able to to put a lower dollar amount into multiple projects and and know and be comfortable with the risk reward profile there much like technology media is a
21:25 Kind of in some ways a high margin like low Lyft business and launching new products and verticals, like we can test things in a very nimble and capital efficient way.
21:38 Especially as we talked about inside of like our core business. So we talked about, like,
21:42 The winners and the losers inside of like our new product launches. So like like lending life.
21:46 We were very fortunate to be able to partner with a launch partner to get off the ground gave us the financial resources we needed to bring the product to success.
21:56 And also provided a ton of value to that marketing partner as they were the hundred percent share of voice in that product for the first six or six or 12 months.
22:04 We’ve learned tactics of ways to use our own capital and then ways to work with partners to get new products off the ground.
22:10 Which which you know the pros and cons of that sometimes you like it’d be great. Just, you know, throw all the cash in the world at something and and give it a year and see where we are. But we’re we’re much more I guess calculated in the the efficiency and efficiency of projects. So like
22:28 We’re and how often and how often do you guys kind of like think about these new new projects once a quarter once a month.
22:35 Once a week, though.
22:37 So Robbie has the pleasure of knowing one of my partners in the business Diego Sanchez their chief operating officer.
22:45 Diego and I have a have a Slack channel.
22:49 That’s that’s called the idea tornado and it is like our early like where we got, like, just random ideas going by our layer. And we know into
22:58 Thumbs down thumbs up on what what to what to bring light to and what to, like, pretend that we never even gave credence to
23:05 But, um, it’s a we have a creative team across the organization from from our head of sales Jennifer who talks to clients all day. And here’s feedback. And here’s ideas needs ideas come from our clients and Jennifer
23:19 They come from our newsroom, or realty and they come from the ego and I who are kind of scrappy entrepreneurial creative types who just want to
23:28 Make things all day long. And so our problem has never been like where does the next idea comes from. It’s like, what’s the best idea. And what’s the best idea for for right now and yeah
23:42 Being here in just a second. Because you see the Diego scrappy but barber.
23:53 Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Harvard guy who was an investment banker. Yeah, like straight, straight, straight up institutional I
24:00 Think I think he likes a bit
24:02 So my hunch is he likes a bit
24:06 But You gave me a great idea. By the way, I’m going to implement it all good. I just need to be stolen this idea tornado ideas are actually. I love it. So having
24:14 Almost internationalizing the concept of throwing throwing shit at the wall realistically right in your slack and the proverbial can I need your Slack channel. I absolutely love it. I don’t know why we don’t do it, but we I’m gonna steal it. And we’ll see
24:37 Rob’s listening to this and say we’re not pitching my product.
24:43 Investment banking background.
24:50 You can grow your business.
24:55 Acquire companies.
24:59 You don’t need to submit anything too secretive. But what about acquisitions.
25:07 Yeah, so I mean like we like, we started with, like, we, we started with housing wire through an acquisition. So I formed a mean, essentially, it was just an LLC that time hw media. Foundation of the media that housing. Housing wires. The core asset. So like housing wire has been all my operating focus the business strategies two prong so we, we have this core business housing wire and it’s great it’s growing audience loves us clients love us. And we have some technology and infrastructure to run it.
25:37 We can take that infrastructure and apply it to new verticals, so we can do that and that two prong strategy, either through organic launch, which we’re currently working on with the new fintech brand that
25:46 Will probably will come to light in the next three or four weeks. So stay tuned. And we can also do that through acquisition by taking
25:56 What’s most likely kind of legacy media assets and scrapping their, their CMS and ad servers and bringing them on to to our system and running them in a similar fashion as as we do as we do housing wire.
26:12 We are simultaneously working on both of those projects. So I’m, I’m always looking at deals challenges all you know, finding the the the right asset that fits our fits our culture and
26:23 It has the it has the right financial performance. The last six months, I’ve been. I’ve been really telling me we were having this conversation.
26:31 A year ago, I think most media operators and acquires are pretty attracted to the live event space and that space has a whole different complexion right now.
26:41 So that’s it’s the world has evolved as do corporate strategy plans and as do acquisition interest. So I think you’ll see us.
26:51 Much more tightly focused on the what what actually is the core of our DNA is digital media, we’re likely to stay much tighter to that lane. As we look at deals and and look at launches.
27:03 You know all the almost the other way. I mean, instead of you being you are, you might be. The fact is, you build something credible and
27:12 I came to this event companies and we looking for unit. They’re looking for digital native businesses they’re successful and get some guessing you’re getting a political
27:21 Yeah, we’ve definitely seen an influx and conversations. But the reality is, I’ve never been more energized and excited about building something
27:33 Really freakin big here and it’s what’s really cool about it is we for for 30 people in North Texas. We have a have a national impact and impact the biggest
27:46 Sector one biggest sectors in the economy. And that’s, um, that’s the be straightforward that that’s pretty damn fun and and i think we can do that. We can we can replicate that.
27:57 In verticals and build out a very focused. But, but, uh, but focus media strategy across multiple verticals. So, so we will get bigger, we will we will be broader and financial services, but keeping our audiences tight.
28:14 I do have one last question for you, which is
28:17 Revenue is it, is it more or less than Christensen.
28:25 So one thing. So if Jennifer was on this call with me. She laughed and say Clayton has no damn idea how much tax Prescott salary, literally, if we’re like a cocktail hour conference. If someone starts talking sports. I’m like, all right, Jennifer, this is this is you
28:43 Can see he brings to the table 40 million a year.
28:47 You can, yeah. We were not quite at that level yet.
28:52 But, but I don’t know his spending habits, we might we might be higher margin than that. Yes.
28:56 You may be just as good as soon as he is. So, hey, this was a lot of fun Clayton and more power. You can’t wait for me to actually have you on again.
29:08 All right back. Thank you, gentlemen.
29:11 Thank you guys. Bye.