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The SaaS Podcast

Treehouse: How a Developer Bootstrapped an 8-Figure SaaS Company – with Ryan Carson [246]

Ryan Carson - Treehouse

Treehouse: How a Developer Bootstrapped an 8-Figure SaaS Company

Ryan Carson is the founder and CEO of Treehouse, an online school that teaches beginners how to code and do UX design.

In 2004, Ryan organized and sold tickets for a one-day workshop in London, where he taught people how to code. The event went so well that he decided to run more workshops.

Eventually, his idea for doing a one-day workshop turned into a full-time in-person training company. And he ran that business for around six years.

During that time, he created a blog to help web designers and developers. And as he built an audience, the blog became a marketing channel for his in-person training workshops.

In 2010, Ryan started looking for a better way to create training that was affordable, scalable, and accessible. His wife gave him the idea to start teaching people online.

So he took some money from the events business to hire a freelance web developer and recruited his best friend, who was a web designer, to bootstrap his new company for as little money as possible.

The blog that he'd been working on for years helped him find his first online customers.

Today, Treehouse does tens of millions of dollars in revenue. And despite an extremely competitive and crowded market, their business growth is continuing to skyrocket.

This is a great story about a former developer who's bootstrapped an 8-figure business. But what's even more impressive is how he's done that.

Instead of creating lots of content, he's focused on a smaller number of courses and been maniacal about the quality of each course.

And he's grown the business by doing the right thing for his customers, even if that meant losing short-term revenue. There's a great example of that in the interview.

I hope you enjoy listening to it.

Transcript

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Omer Khan [0:10]
Welcome to another episode of the SaaS Podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode, I talked to Ryan Carson, the founder and CEO of Treehouse and online school that teaches beginners how to code and do UX design. In 2004, Ryan organized and sold tickets for a one day workshop in London, where he taught people how to code. The event went so well that he decided to run more workshops. Eventually, his idea for doing a one day workshop turned into a full-time in-person training company. And he ran that business for about six years. During that time, he created a blog to help web designers and developers. And as he built an audience, the blog became a marketing channel for his in-person training workshops. In 2010, Ryan started looking for a better way to create training that was affordable, scalable and accessible. And his wife gave him the idea to start teaching people online instead. So he took some money from the events business to hire a freelance web developer, and recruited his best friend who was a web designer to bootstrap his business for as little money as possible. The blog that he'd been working on for years, helped him find his first online customers. Today, Treehouse does 10s of millions of dollars in revenue, and despite an extremely competitive and crowded market, their business growth is continuing to skyrocket. This is a great story about a former developer who's bootstrapped an eight-figure business but what's even more exciting listing is how he's done that, instead of creating lots of content, he's focused on a smaller number of courses, and really been maniacal about the quality of each one. And he's grown the business by doing the right thing for his customers, even if that meant him losing revenue in the short term, and we talk about a great example of that in this interview. So I really hope you enjoy listening to it real quick before we get started. Firstly, don't forget to grab a free copy of the SaaS toolkit, which will tell you about the 21 essential tools that every SaaS business needs. You can download your copy by going to theSaaSpodcast.com. Secondly, if you're a new or early-stage founder, who needs help launching, building or growing your SaaS business, then check out SaaS Club Plus our online membership and community. Instead of wasting cycles figuring out what you have to do at each stage. You can get step by step guidance to help you take the right next steps with confidence and you'll connect with a community of like-minded people who can support you through the challenging times, and help you find solutions to your tough problems. So if you want to learn more, or are ready to join, just go to SaaSclubplus.com. Okay, let's get on with the interview. Ryan, welcome to the show.

Ryan Carson [3:15]
Hey, great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Omer Khan [3:18]
So do you have a quote to share with us something that inspires and motivates you or just gets you out of bed?

Ryan Carson [3:23]
Yeah, I do. And it's been something I've kind of held to, since I was, you know, five, and it's a quote from Jesus and it is “Treat other people like you want to be treated”.

Omer Khan [3:36]
Love it. Simple. And I we're going to talk a little bit about what that means to you in terms of the way you you run the business and things that you've been doing. So let's sort of jump into that. And before we sort of talk about how you got started, for people who aren't familiar, can you just tell us, you know, what is Treehouse? Who's your target customer? And what's the big problem that you're helping to solve?

Ryan Carson [4:06]
You bet. So Treehouse is an online school that teaches beginners how to code and how to do UX design. We've been going for over 10 years, and we've taught 650,000 adult students over that time. And we have two really great products. One is a $25, $49 a month product that gives you access to all of our library, and our tracks. And the other is called tech degree, which is all that plus projects that are real projects that are graded, a Slack channel for support, and a certificate at the end. We also help businesses with product called Teams, where they can buy those accounts for their teams to help them rescale.

Omer Khan [4:53]
Alright, good. So you know, I've wanted to do this interview for a long, long time and for people who are listening, we actually tried to do this a few months ago and had all kinds of technical issues. So hopefully this time around, it's going to be better. But I want to kind of start the story from, you know, before even Treehouse where the product was I guess like, it's like think vitamin, right?

Ryan Carson [5:15]
Yeah.

Omer Khan [5:16]
So how did you get started? Where did the idea come from? Why did you decide to start building that business?

Ryan Carson [5:22]
So I had the idea for Treehouse when I got my first job as a software developer. So I got a computer science degree from a kind of standard University in America. And then I got my first job. And I remember, you know, during the interview, they said, Well, we code in cold fusion and I said, I don't even know what that is. It doesn't matter you know, read a book and I thought, what this system is totally broken. You know, why did I go to school for four years and and what is happening here, and so I just decided to build a better school. One that was online one that was effective, one that was affordable. And we launched Treehouse in 2010. Because of that, we've taught over 650,000 people now. And I love my job. It's It's so much fun.

Omer Khan [6:16]
Okay, great. So you decide to build a school, but how did you get started?

Ryan Carson [6:20]
Well, I never studied business. I never, you know, studied finance. I just kind of went off my gut. And it all started out originally, as a in-person training company. So we actually started teaching people how to code during these one day workshops in person, actually in London, because I had moved to England and married a wonderful British person and, and so we started teaching people during these one day workshops, and they started selling out and we thought, gosh, this is seems to be working, you know, let's do more of these workshops. So we started doing more and more and it turned into an events, you know, in-person training company. And we did that for years. So from I think it was 2004, or five all the way to 2011. And that kind of gave me the idea then for the online school, because near the end of that time period, it was about 2010. I just thought there's got to be a better way to do this something that's affordable and scalable and accessible. And my wife said, why don't you just teach people online? And so I said, that's genius. Let's do that. So we just bootstrapped and launched it and and then here we are today.

Omer Khan [7:37]
So when you started out with these events, what were you teaching people? And sort of how are you getting them to these events? Like typically, how big would a live event be?

Ryan Carson [7:47]
So the very first events were about 20 to 25 people. And this was literally before social media, right? So what we did is we went to websites that had traffic that we knew was similar to who we're trying to sell to. I had already built relationships with a lot of those because I had been doing a passion project called by designers for designers, which was a Meetup. It was a simple meetup for web designers and web developers to get together in person and just share stories and have a drink and and meet each other. And because of that, all the the important websites that were for web design and web development knew about me and respected me. So I basically went to them and said, Hey, would you post on your website, you know, that we were going to do a training workshop. I also emailed everybody I knew and boom, you know, we had our first workshop and it it actually sold out, which was shocking to me. You know, we charge I think it was something like 250 pounds per ticket, you know, it's about you know, 300 bucks in US dollars. So, that was kind of shocking that people actually would pay for this and and attend and then at the end of the day, They said we love it. So we just kind of kept going with that. And then eventually we started doing conferences, which got very large. We ended up doing I think it was a 2000 person conference in London. Mark Zuckerberg spoke at it. And that was kind of the height of our conference business. So it really span the range.

Omer Khan [9:21]
And then you did that for about, I think you said seven years.

Ryan Carson [9:25]
Yep.

Omer Khan [9:25]
And then you you launched it online. And initially, when you when you sort of took the business online, was this bootstrapped? Or did you go and raise money?

Ryan Carson [9:35]
It was bootstrapped. So we basically used a little bit of cash flow from the events business to hire a web developer freelance. One of my best friends was the designer. And it was you know, we bootstrap it for as cheap as we could. And then the key is that we had set up a blog called thinkvitamin.com to be a resource. For web designers and web developers, and we had been working on that for years, it was essentially the marketing machine for our in-person events business. And so, you know, what we did is we told that entire audience about this new venture, and we called it Think Vitamin membership. So it wasn't called Treehouse in the beginning. The idea was, let's layer it on top of the website so that people would trust the brand. And I tweeted out, hey, I'm looking for two teachers, one designer, one developer, and Nick Pettit, Jim Hoskins tweeted back and said, hey, that's us. You know, we're good on camera. We're passionate about teaching. And they were our first two teachers, and they were located in Orlando. I was in Bath England. And so we created a remote company. And what actually happened which was interesting, this was all owned by Carsonified which was my company back then, and we actually decided to sell off the events business, the in-person events business and focus just on think vitamin memberships. So I went out and hired a banker to help me find a buyer and we had a media company in Boston ended up acquiring the events company. And we separated out the online training company. And we just move forward that way. And we were bootstrap for a while. And we were just growing like a rocket ship. It was It was great.

Omer Khan [11:26]
And so most of your customers were coming from the audience that you'd already built with the Think Vitamin blog.

Ryan Carson [11:35]
Exactly, yep. We had built up a very large audience and an email newsletter, and a good network of friends that, you know, trusted us and liked us and would would spread the word.

Omer Khan [11:45]
Do you remember what the first course was that you published?

Ryan Carson [11:48]
It was probably something very simple on HTML and CSS on the front end, and probably, I think the first backend language we taught was, either Ruby or JavaScript possibly. I mean, JavaScript wasn't a back end language back then. But I think I think it was Ruby was the first back end language we taught.

Omer Khan [12:08]
I remember you from I guess it must have been around 2011 or so. I actually signed up for thinkvitamin.com the membership. Thank you. And well don't think because it was like I I actually didn't stick around. And I think it was just because like, there wasn't like a ton of stuff there at the time. I must have been pretty early.

Ryan Carson [12:34]
Yeah, yep.

Omer Khan [12:35]
And so I kind of send an email. It just sort of said, Hey, you know, can can you kind of cancel a subscription? Got an email back soon? Yeah, it's done. And then about a year later, I looked on my credit card statement. And there was like, 11 months of charges, but it wasn't Think Vitamin, it was like Treehouse, I was like, What? What is this?

Ryan Carson [12:57]
What the hell's going on?

Omer Khan [12:58]
Yeah. And then I sort of figured out like, oh, man, there's just like something must have happened, like, you know, when you guys transitioned over or something. And so I emailed support, and you know, somebody got back to me, I think the same day saying, you know, sorry about that, you know, here's like 11 months, and we've refunded everything. But then I also got an email from you. Oh, and you were like, Hey, you know, I'm glad, yeah, we're gonna take care of this. And I'm really sorry, this happened, I feel terrible about it. And that always stuck with me. I always, always remember that because, you know, the support team had already taken care of it. You didn't have to send that email and we kind of had brief exchange, but you did. And, and I think for me, it kind of goes back to the quote that you use sort of shared earlier, which is about I think, the sort of the sense that I got the kind of person that you are and the way you want to treat people. So even though I didn't stick around as a customer, I had a very positive experience of, you know, think vitamin at the time and, and that sort of also kind of explains like wow, when I said at the beginning like I want I wanted to have this conversation for a long time. I've really wanted to have this conversation for a long time.

Ryan Carson [14:07]
For for what is that nine year? Yeah. But I appreciate you sharing that story. And it means a lot to me because I think it's very important that we do the right thing as leaders and business owners, you know, eventually it's going to somehow come back and help you but it's important to do the right thing, because it's the right thing. You know, we did one time we made a choice that hurt us financially that was hard to make, we have the ability for students to pause their accounts. So you can anytime you get busy or you just want a break, you go and pause your account. And initially we had it auto unpause at either one two or three-month point you could choose one two or three months but you had to choose one of them. And you know, we just got we regularly got angry emails when the account would auto unpause People just said, this is so annoying. Like I keep having to go in and re pause my account. Like, why don't you just let me pause it and definitely, and you know, financially, it was great for us that it would auto on pause. And we just sat down as a team and said, we got to change this. This just isn't right. This is annoying to our customers. And it's the wrong thing to do. Let's stop it. And so we removed the auto on pause. And we immediately took a 5% hit in revenue, and it was brutal. But it was the right thing to do. And now, you know, that kind of goodwill and doing the right thing has led to an NPS. That's just off the charts. So we are measuring our NPS every week, and we just hit 84 on one of our products. Wow. So it's one of these things, you got to do the right thing. You got to take care of your customers first it'll come back but you got to do the right thing.

Omer Khan [15:54]
I wonder how many SaaS companies or anybody with a recurring revenue business would be okay saying, let's do that or let's let's let people pause indefinitely. It's kind of really counterintuitive. It's really seems like a really risky thing to do. And I think many people would say, you can't build a sizable, recurring revenue business, if you do something like that.

Ryan Carson [16:27]
Agreed. Yeah, you got to do the right thing.

Omer Khan [16:29]
But I think you're the exception to the rule. Right. Yeah. And and so I mean, I know you don't talk specifically about revenue, but you know, give us a sense of like how big the business is right now.

Ryan Carson [16:39]
So we're 10s of millions in revenue, and our team size is 51. So we're also distributed so we work from home. And it's been a really fun ride. I'm going to talk a little bit about this later, but I've learned a lot about how to manage a company well and manage people well, and we're going to talk about trust and and later in the interview so

Omer Khan [17:02]
great. So yeah, I mean, that's, you know, you have built a sizable business. And you did that doing something, which was probably a difficult or a scary decision to make at the time, but I think it kind of goes back to trying to do the right thing. And it just, sometimes it just takes courage to do that. So let's talk about like, okay, so you kind of launched Think Vitamin, how big did that grow? And then what was the sort of the reason to sort of rebranded as Treehouse?

Ryan Carson [17:34]
It was actually a podcast that cause me to rebrand? So I was listening. I've been a big fan of This Week in Startups forever, you know, and Jason has done something like 1000 episodes or something bonkers. And I was listening to one of his podcasts as I was, I think I was sanding some wood in the backyard or something. And he said, does your brand name pass the, I think called the Bar Test. And he said the Bar Test is, you know, imagine that you're an allowed bar, and you lean over to the person next to you and you say your company name, you know, will they understand it? So, you know, I imagine myself leaning over in a bar and saying to someone Think Vitamin membership. And I just laughed out loud, you know, cuz I thought, well, it's ridiculous. So I thought we have to change our name. And I went inside and I said, Hey, Jill, who's my wife, I said, I think we have a problem, you know, we'd have to change our name. And she said, well, let's let's, you know, sit down and think of some ideas. And she was a senior editor at a large one of the largest publishers in England, and she used this method called, I think it's called thought bubbling. And you basically start off with an idea and you draw lines out from it, and then you draw bubbles around that that are attached that idea and we just started doing that. And she thought of the word Treehouse and you know, I thought surely something's called Treehouse. It's just a popular name. So we googled and nothing was was called Treehouse. And we thought, well, this is the perfect name because it it kind of instills a thought of wonder and creativity and and fun and, and it just was the perfect name. So we went and tried to get treehouse.com but a company that own that had owned it for years and they wanted a million dollars. We said we don't have a million dollars, so so we went with TeamTreehouse.com, which is funny because I think people actually think our name is Team Treehouse now, which is kind of fun. But whatever it works, so.

Omer Khan [19:39]
it took I'm just gonna kind of play this through. So it's just like it to get your online business and you kind of your first hundred customers probably took seven or eight years in terms of the work you did, with the live events with the blog, building the audience. It wasn't just you know, you were starting cold launching a site and suddenly you were attracting all of these customers.

Ryan Carson [20:08]
Now it was, it was a lot of work. And this is a theme across all of your shows. I mean, everybody who's built something, it actually took years and years and years for it to take off. So same story with us.

Omer Khan [20:20]
Yeah, I was reading something about Notion this morning, and you know, they just raised like, $50 million. And, you know, I didn't realize they'd been around for like, seven years.

Ryan Carson [20:32]
I know. Isn't that bonkers?

Omer Khan [20:34]
Yeah. And now it's like, oh, yeah, overnight success. Like, yeah. Okay, so you rebrand. And then and then So tell me about like, how long was that sort of strategy about Okay, we've got this blog. We're doing content marketing. And did that just keep working? And it was just a matter of doubling down on that, or did you guys have to stop trying to look at new channels to grow the business?

Ryan Carson [21:01]
Yeah, so we just relied on word of mouth for a long time. And we eventually started spending on YouTube and pay per click. I've got to be blunt. I don't think that we really got good at pay per click and, you know, aggressive performance marketing until we hired our current director of marketing Bo Jacober. So I think now we're really good at it. But you know, gosh, it's, and this is one of my regrets, is not hiring the right person sooner on this, but now we've got our CPAs locked down. We've got a really good machine in place now. And thankfully, we're growing like bananas. I mean, we've never seen Treehouse growing this fast before.

Omer Khan [21:45]
What do you mean this like, in recent months, so the last year or two?

Ryan Carson [21:51]
This year. Yeah. 2020 has just been like a rocket ship. It's great.

Omer Khan [21:55]
Wow. What do you think is driving that growth,

Ryan Carson [21:57]
focus, focus and higher the right people, honestly, I think that's it. I've tried a couple of different strategies. And some of them worked, and some of them didn't. But it turns out that we've built one of the world's best online learning experiences, you know, we have an NPS that's just off the charts. And we really just need to focus on it. And so we're doing that. And it's really, really fun to see.

Omer Khan [22:20]
So let's talk a little bit about that, that net promoter score. So what do you think you guys are doing to kind of create that sort of positive response from customers?

Ryan Carson [22:34]
So it's pretty straightforward. Actually, we have a strategy that is completely vertically integrated. So we do everything from, you know, building the platform from scratch. We don't use some off the shelf CMS, we hire fulltime teachers. We have our own studio, our own video production team. We have our own Cloud-based Development Environment called Workspaces. We have a very editorialized linear, take on our learning that you should learn things in a certain order. And we continually update and refresh our content. So I think it's just the maniacal attention to quality that is causing that to happen. You know, some of our competitors, like Udemy have, literally the opposite approach. And they're big, and they're growing fast. So that's fine. different strategies do different things. But I would much rather have less content that's high quality that is effective than more content of lower quality does ineffective. That's why we're getting those scores. And we'll continue with that strategy. I also just think it's the right thing to do. I don't really think it's a good idea to empower you know, anyone to teach anything they want online and then sell it whether it's good or not.

Omer Khan [23:54]
Yeah, I mean, it's a very different experience to something like Udemy where anybody can, you know, upload a course. You know, the one thing I'm kind of curious about is when you started out and launched Think Vitamin, or, you know, treehouse, the early days, a lot of these competitors weren't around or the market wasn't as crowded as it is today. How do you think about competition? Or let me put it another way? How did you think about competition in the first few years? And how has that changed as that the marketplace has gotten more crowded out there?

Ryan Carson [24:41]
Well, there was no competition at the beginning except for lynda.com. So then we saw Pluralsight Codecademy pop up as the primary competitors codeschool.com, which then got bought by Pluralsight. And, you know, it's gotten more crowded. But our business is growing faster than ever now. And I think it speaks to our strategy, that quality matters over quantity and endurance is more important than rocket ship growth. You know, some of our competitors, like Udacity raised 150 million dollars on a billion-dollar valuation. And now, they're being hamstrung by that, you know, there's no way they're worth a billion dollars because they weren't worth a billion dollars in the first place. And now, you know, they're gonna run out of cash it you know, unless they catch up to that valuation. So we we've just been a very methodical long term focus company. You don't want to give props to Codecademy and Zach, the CEO over there, he has a similar approach, you know, it's just long term minded, not flashy, not raising, you know, money at, you know, billion-dollar valuations. But I think the truth is you know, especially with the world shifting to online learning now, almost completely, I think that there is a huge potential for Treehouse and other companies, you know, I don't think it's a winner take all approach, we're just going to be a very specialized very high quality, very effective school that continues to grow and be sustainably profitable.

Omer Khan [26:21]
And over the years, like, have you spent a lot of time looking at what competitors are doing to to help us sort of think about where to go with Treehouse as a business or as a product. And the reason I asked that is because there's, you know, there's a lot of lot of founders who, that's a challenge, right? I mean, it's easy to see what your competitors are doing externally anyway. And then, you know, you can see all your warts and everything that you don't do well, internally, and it always feels like an unfair comparison.

Ryan Carson [26:57]
Yeah, you know, I thankfully have never been terribly distracted by my competitors. I'm human, like any other person. And of course, you know, I may see some flashy features or some new product development coming out of my competitors. But let me get distracted for a little bit. But we've been pretty focused. And I use my own product. So I'm a student on Treehouse, and, you know, I regularly file bug reports and, and give the team feedback. So, thankfully, I've been able to stay focused and kind of just care mostly about our students versus what our competitors are doing it. Because you just don't know what's going on inside your competitors, right. You don't understand what's happening with their cash flow with their strategy with their culture. And it's best just to ignore it as best you can.

Omer Khan [27:45]
Yeah, I think that's great advice. It reminds me of a conversation I had with JD Trask who's the founder of Raygan, right and, and he was going through sort of a similar thing where, you know, he was kind of struggling comparing himself to what competitors were doing. And I think it was his wife who said like, don't compare your insides with other people's outsides.

Ryan Carson [28:08]
Yes. That's such a great product.

Omer Khan [28:11]
Great advice. I love that. So so things are going well, and you're growing even faster than ever before. But when you look back at the last, you know, six, seven years, what do you wish you had done differently?

Ryan Carson [28:30]
The main thing is, I wish we would have shifted to project-based learning faster. So we have two wonderful products. One is only $25 a month, you get access to the entire library, you get access to our tracks of learning. And then the other product is called the tech degree and that's $200 a month. And we've added projects and those projects are graded and you get feedback. And you also get access to a Slack channel and a certificate at the end. Both of them are wonderful. They serve different needs, and they're both important. But I wish we would have decided to do project-based learning earlier, we launched the Tech Degree in 2016. So you know, we were six years into the business, I wish we would have done it, you know, year two, but hindsight is 2020. So, now they're both growing, you know, tremendously fast that those products and and they both serve important needs. You know, some folks just can't afford the $200 a month, or don't have a specific outcome they want, they just want to take a course or two. So that's one thing I learned, I wish we would have done differently.

Omer Khan [29:34]
But well, what is it about the project-based learning that sort of makes you feel like you wish you'd done that sooner?

Ryan Carson [29:40]
It's number one, the product is very effective. I mean, it's really the best way to learn. The truth is it cost us money, to you know, deliver those projects to grade those projects to support people in Slack. So it just, it's more expensive, so we have to charge more money. So not everybody can afford it. But it really is, you know, the best example of competency-based learning that you can possibly get to, you know, practical real world application of learned concepts. So one thing that also makes us different I should have pointed out is that we built our curriculum and our platform based off of science, the science of learning. And the most cutting edge, most effective learning methodology is competency-based learning or competency-based education, you know, where you map competencies to learning objectives to cognitive levels, and then you assess on that. So that's all built into our platform. But the third level of cognition is, is practical application. And you can't measure that or assess that unless people are doing real world projects. So that's what we do and that project-based learning.

Omer Khan [30:55]
Yeah, I mean, it's hard enough to create quality content and to teach people. But it's, I can just see that opening up a whole can of worms, when you say not only you kind of grading and supporting people, it's like, Hey, you know, my code doesn't work. Right? It's like how much effort needs to go into, you know, solving those kinds of problems.

Ryan Carson [31:18]
So, teaching people does not mean solving all their problems. It means teaching them how to solve their own problems. So our support in Slack is mostly pointing people to resources to solve their own problems versus, you know, hey, here's how to fix your code. In when we upgrade projects, we give people specific feedback, which is a little more pointed, but you can't submit your project if if it's broken. And so you have to get your project to a certain level before you can even submit it. So

Omer Khan [31:48]
Got it. Okay, great. So let's, let's talk a little bit about like the business and and the team and how is that so how's your role changed? As the team has grown, like, you know, you as a founder, I mean, it's interesting, you just you kind of just said, hey, you're still kind of still roll your sleeves up, and you're kind of, you know, using the product and logging bugs and all kinds of stuff. But yeah, what does your sort of typical day look like?

Ryan Carson [32:16]
You know, the biggest thing I've learned that I want to encourage all of your listeners to, to think about is building trust. So one of the most important books I've read as a business leader and manager is called the “Speed of Trust” by Franklin Covey. And it just really explains why trust is so important in an organization and in a relationship and how to build it, how to fix it. And we roll it out the speed of trust across treehouse, I think it was about two years ago. And it just transformed me as a manager, transform the company. And I would say, you know, day to day, my job is to manage people, you know, to support people to lead the strategy. Make sure we have money in the bank, you know, manage the board and communicate with them. But a lot of this is day to day, you know, having one on ones with my direct team, and building trust with them. The secret is that trust is a hidden multiplier. So you know, your output will be determined by the amount of trust in your organization. And if you have trust with someone, it multiplies output tremendously. And it also just increases happiness at work. So I think a lot of that is instilling that culture into the company, measuring that training people on that, you know, we really lean in pretty hard on on building a healthy company culture, a treehouse that's inclusive, that is diverse, and is equitable.

Omer Khan [33:44]
So is that something that you sort of came naturally to you or is that something that once you read that book? No.

Ryan Carson [33:53]
No, I didn't understand this stuff until I really got trained on it. So I really learned a lot and I may a much better manager now I really feel like I know what I'm doing now, you know that I think any CEO, that is a entrepreneurial CEO founder, you know, kind of learns how to do this job on the job. And I'm really finally in a place now where I feel like I'm good at this job. I know how to be a great manager, I feel really confident in what I do. And it's just wonderful. It's taken, you know, a decade to get there. But it's it's nice being there. But that's because I've trained on things I've learned. I have a CEO coach, that's really helped me a lot. So I'd recommend any CEOs or founders, listen, you've got to go get trained. You've got to get help. It'll really increase your effectiveness.

Omer Khan [34:41]
And finally, do you miss England? Because you're in Portland now? Right?

Ryan Carson [34:47]
Yeah, it's funny. So I'm American, my wife is British and there's parts of Britain I really miss you know, I missed the history and the beauty and, and I miss the subtlety of people and I miss being close to Europe. So I miss all those things. I found the UK to be stifling as an entrepreneur, I just It feels like nobody wants you to, to kind of win that you should kind of stick to your knitting. Which was hard, you know, and I know that people don't really mean that, but you know, it just kind of beats you down a little bit more. And as an entrepreneur, you I think you have enough people beating you down to you know, to, to deal with without that. So I don't miss that part. But I do miss other other parts tremendously.

Omer Khan [35:34]
Yeah. And I think I'm not that far from you, because I'm up in Seattle, the Seattle area. But I think I must have left. I grew up in London and I must have left around the time when you started doing the life training because I moved here around 2004.

Ryan Carson [35:52]
All right, yeah.

Omer Khan [35:52]
So I must Yeah, must have missed those. But maybe otherwise, maybe I would have been one of the people turning up to one of those classes. All right, great. Let's wrap up and move on to the lightning round. So I'm gonna ask you seven quick fire questions. Okay, you ready? Let's go. All right. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Ryan Carson [36:14]
Build trust.

Omer Khan [36:18]
What book would you recommend to our audience? And why?

Ryan Carson [36:20]
“Speed of Trust”, for that, for that very reason. Yes.

Omer Khan [36:26]
What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

Ryan Carson [36:31]
Endurance, hands down?

Omer Khan [36:33]
What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

Ryan Carson [36:37]
I love Asana. And every morning I get up and I'm very focused about my to do's.

Omer Khan [36:43]
What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

Ryan Carson [36:47]
I have no time. I cannot think about anything else. I'm sorry.

Omer Khan [36:53]
But what's an interesting or fun facts about you that most people don't know?

Ryan Carson [36:57]
I'm an Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts.

Omer Khan [37:00]
Wow. Are they still around?

Ryan Carson [37:04]
Yeah, believe it or not, they still around.

Omer Khan [37:09]
Finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

Ryan Carson [37:12]
I'm falling in love with Dungeons and Dragons. I'm a dungeon master for my kids now. So it's a lot of fun.

Omer Khan [37:19]
How old are your kids?

Ryan Carson [37:20]
Kids are 12 and nine.

Omer Khan [37:22]
And how long did it take you? Because we've got the same thing going on here. Like my son is like seriously into it. He's 14. And he started being a dungeon master at a club at school. And I've been trying to get into it, but kind of failing hopelessly on it.

Ryan Carson [37:39]
It's fun. Yeah, it is hard to get into that. I think someone needs to create a school for dungeon Master's actually. Maybe I'll do that next.

Omer Khan [37:48]
But I think what I love about it is that in many ways, it's just about especially playing the game or being a Dungeon Master. It's about you're really becoming a storyteller. You're using your imagination. And you're able to do that without having to use screens and technology, which I think in this day and age is like a beautiful thing.

Ryan Carson [38:10]
Yes. I love that.

Omer Khan [38:12]
Cool. Okay, great. So now if people want to find out more about Treehouse, they can go to teamtreehouse.com

Ryan Carson [38:20]
Correct.

Omer Khan [38:21]
And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Ryan Carson [38:26]
Just send me an email ryan[at]teamtreehouse[dot]com or follow me on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn. It says Ryan Carson.

Omer Khan [38:33]
Awesome. Ryan, thank you so much for joining me I'm, I'm delighted we were able to actually record the interview this time. And as I said, it's been a long time coming. So I'm really grateful that you know, had the chance to sit down with you and finally have this conversation and I wish you and your family and your team or the best of success.

Ryan Carson [38:58]
Thank you so much. It's was a blathering on show appreciate it. Take care.

Omer Khan [39:02]
Awesome. Thank you. Thanks for listening. I really hope you enjoyed the interview. You can get to the show notes as usual by going to theSaaSpodcast.com where you'll find a summary of this episode, and a link to all the resources we discussed. If you enjoyed this episode, then please consider subscribing. And if you're in a good mood, leave a rating and review to show your support for the show. Thanks for listening. Until next time, take care.

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The Show Notes

Omer Khan

Hi, I'm Omer, the founder of SaaS Club and host of The SaaS Podcast. I help early-stage founders and entrepreneurs to build, launch and grow successful SaaS businesses. Join me on this journey.