Cultivating Customer Loyalty: Secrets from a CEO's Playbook With David Wachs

David Wachs is the CEO and Founder of Handwrytten, a company bringing a modern twist to traditional communication through automated handwritten notes. As a seasoned entrepreneur, he founded Cellit, a text messaging company providing innovative communications solutions to leading brands. David is also a frequent speaker on messaging technology and has presented for the Direct Marketing Association, the Advertising Research Foundation, and other notable organizations.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [1:48] A three-step plan to turn customer service blunders into brand loyalty
  • [6:00] How acknowledging and overcompensating for mistakes can transform customer relationships
  • [9:41] Can adding a personal touch online outperform in-person engagements?
  • [12:46] Why consumers feel underappreciated by brands — and how a simple note can change that
  • [18:31] The significant impact of augmented reality on the buyer's e-commerce journey
  • [25:32] What are the four C’s of customer communication?
  • [33:10] From corporate layoffs to entrepreneurial success: David Wachs’ journey
  • [45:25] David shares the therapeutic benefits of meditation and hypnosis in stress management

In this episode…

What does it take to make your customers lifelong fans of your brand? Sometimes, going back to the basics is all you need to win over your customers in a digitalized market.

David Wachs, a communication brand builder, emphasizes the value of personalized communication, like handwritten notes, to stand out in the digital age. This demonstrates appreciation and lets your customers know they’re top of mind. Additionally, owning up to your mistakes and going above and beyond for the customer can turn negative experiences into positive ones and improve lifetime value. Producing valuable content, creating a cadence for communication, giving consumers choices, and providing a channel for feedback allows customers to feel in control and valued.

In this Up Arrow Podcast episode, William Harris welcomes David Wachs, the Founder and CEO of Handwrytten, to discuss personalized customer communication. David explains how augmented reality impacts the buyer’s journey, his journey to entrepreneurial success, and why he utilizes meditation and hypnosis for stress management.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Elumynt. Elumynt is a performance-driven e-commerce marketing agency focused on finding the best opportunities for you to grow and scale your business.

Our paid search, social, and programmatic services have proven to increase traffic and ROAS, allowing you to make more money efficiently.

To learn more, visit www.elumynt.com.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris, featuring top business leaders sharing strategies and resources to get to the next level. Now, let's get started with the show.

William Harris  0:13  

Hey, everyone, I'm William Harris. I'm the founder and CEO of Elumynt. And the host of the apparel podcast where I feature the best minds in e-commerce help you scale from 10 million to 100 million, as well as help you upscale your business in your personal life. And I'm excited about the guests that I have here today. David Wachs David is the CEO and founder of Handwrytten the world's leading provider of automated handwritten notes used by e-comm retail and luxury brands, including a $1 billion fashion brand that we'll discuss later, Andrew and helps its clients engage with their customers on a deeply personal level. We're going to talk about retention over acquisition and how turning your customers how you can turn your customers into fanatics. David, excited to have you here.

David Wachs  0:55  

Thank you so much, William, this is a true honor. Yeah,

William Harris  0:59  

and I want to give a shout out also to Alex Petrarca. Podcast booking agent. She's the one that you worked with that reached out to me. So thank you very much, Alex, for putting us in touch.

David Wachs  1:09  

She's amazing, highly recommend her. Yeah, that's good.

William Harris  1:14  

I do want to announce your sponsor, then we'll get into the good stuff here. This episode is brought to you by Elumynt. Elumynt is an award winning advertising agency optimizing e-commerce campaigns around profit. In fact, we've helped 13 of our customers get acquired with the largest one selling for nearly 800,000,001 That IPO recently. You can learn more on our website elumynt.com, which is spelled elumynt.com. That said, I want to hear more about your three step plan to win back customers. I understand there's a good story here. But what is the three step plan to win back customers? Number

David Wachs  1:48

one is to own it. So if you screw up, you have to own your screw up. Number two is to over overcompensate for it. So fix it and over fix it. And then number three is never do it again. So I know this for my last company, I ran a text messaging company before this. And we had a large national spa chain as our client. And we sent the wrong marketing collateral to a couple 100 stores, which they didn't think that much of but for us it was like end of the world. So we apologized, we flew out to every location, handed them roses and new signage, and promised his one time blip and then we absolutely never made that mistake again. That's kind of you know, I could give other examples. There was one very, very early on in that company. I had a the circus as a client. And the Circus circus that well Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey as as a clown. Yeah, yeah. And they would do have the elephant paint a picture during part of the show. And then you could text in, I forget the full thing, but you would text in, I guess the painting has nothing to do with it. But you would text in to win a family four pack to Disney on Ice, which was another property owned by Feld Entertainment. Well, only one winner was supposed to be selected. But that night, it was a very small company at that time. And I forgot to turn on the one one client limiter, or one recipient limiter, and sent out family four packs to every single person that entered. So the tech at the ticket booth. They were overwhelmed with people coming asking for their family four pack. And I quickly got on the phone with them and said I guess you know, I guess my company's buying everybody a family for pack. And we did. And we were very small at the time. So it was it was a big hit to our revenue. But they became a client for life. Because of that they saw that we were willing to accept what we did wrong. And then we over corrected or corrected in that one case, and never made that mistake again. So plenty of other mistakes, but not that one.

William Harris  4:16  

Yeah, well, and I think that's important to call out on our website, we actually have a section that says we promise to make mistakes. And I have that there specifically because it's jarring and you're like What do you mean? And the idea is that, you know, if you're moving fast and you're doing something that's groundbreaking or different or new, there will be mistakes that are going to be made. In it either either the agency or the company or working with this may be just too incompetent to realize they made the mistake in the first place. So they think they didn't make a mistake, or they're just trying to bury it. And so our point is, it's like it's going to happen, but we're hopefully going to be the ones who find it, call it out, fix it. Proactively tune in to your point. There's a client of ours it's been with us for years from a similar situation where We made a mistake. But we found it, we called it out, we credited them back before they even had a chance to realize what happened kind of thing. Okay, we already took care of it. And I think that speaks volumes to creating that, that situation with the client. Yeah,

David Wachs  5:13  

you know, being on the other side of the table, my wife and I started a product that was on Indiegogo. And we were working with a marketing firm on the rollout of that product. And they screwed up. And we kept pointing out to them that their mess messed up here. And they never once owned it, you know, they blamed us. And I'm fine taking the blame when it's my fault. But, you know, having the vendor blame the client, when it was clearly the vendors fault, you'll lose brownie points real quick. And the problem is, I think millennials or whatever generation people are hiring now often don't know how to accept ownership for things. So we didn't use that advertising firm much longer infuriated me. So

William Harris  6:00  

yeah, yeah. So own it. Fix it. And never do it. Don't do it again. Yep. Easy enough. Yeah, it's easy to say hard to do. Sometimes, like you said, you could end up eating a pretty big amount of cost. But when you do that, now, I'm curious, you know, you won some of these customers for life. But did it translate into other things as well, where it's like, well, you know, now there's also additionally, they've, they've told other people about you or anything like that,

David Wachs  6:30  

certainly, in the case of felled, I mean, we expanded from Ringling Brothers to, to the ice ice shows of Disney on Ice. And then also a monster truck rally and all their other properties, we expanded, which was a big, big deal for us, in the case of the spa, they just stayed with us forever. So nothing really in that front. But when it came to sell the company, I needed client references, and they came to the table. And they were all willing to glow about us and stuck with us through that transition process, which is always a risk for an acquirer or, you know, to to know that those clients are going to be there after the fact. And they all stick around. Yeah, and

William Harris  7:19  

I think that's the thing to think about when you know, there is a cost to doing the right thing. But you do it because it's the right thing. Yeah, oftentimes, there's also a payback as well for doing the right thing. And you might not always be the case. But you know, in the e-commerce space, one of the things that I think we run into a lot of times would be, you know, you ship somebody the wrong product. Well, how do you handle that, or the shipping was late or you know, a number of problems that can happen with that. But when you take good care of the customer, sometimes people look at this, and they say, well, the cost of making the return free is too much for me to handle or deal with maybe the cost of not offering the return for free is too much for you to handle it deal with.

David Wachs  7:59  

Yeah, you know, I think what people and this is not me, this is Joe Polish, who is a marketing expert. He says this, and I believe that every company has a money back guarantee. It's just how much are you going to fight with the customer until they win? And they get their money back? And are you going to market your money back guarantee. So for instance, handwritten, my company would always do right by the client. But we never published, we had a money back guarantee, we didn't make it known to people, we had a money back guarantee. So we were missing out, you know, you should use that as a point of difference that you have a money back guarantee, even though everybody does, you know, the weak, squeaky wheel gets the grease. But now right on our website, it says if you're not satisfied, you get a 100 money back 100% money back guarantee. For that reason, we know either you're not happy, you know, what we offer, some people are a little apprehensive towards. So we need to make sure people understand how we understand that we understand that sensitivity. And we also want to build trust with our clientele. So yeah, we're putting it out there front and center. Because even if we don't we still have it, so we might as well use it as marketing.

William Harris  9:11

I think that's brilliant. And so let's talk about this because I think one of the things we talked about before when we were chatting is the turning your customers into fanatics. And so if you treat your customers this way, the inevitability of them not just being a happy customer or a repeat customer and that's all well and good increase your LTV, but they become fanatics. What are some examples of customers who have become fanatics for you?

David Wachs  9:41  

Well, I have a few I've got a I mean, I'm gonna have a podcast or a webinar and feature I'm Tim Sweetman. He's a owner of a couple Chick Fil A's, and he's running around on his podcast and his his sphere of influence. It's been really pushing us. So you do get that influencer effect. So I was on Britney hood acts podcast talking about what we do. And then she really inspired me, I bought her book, I read it, we implemented some of the things from her book, such as swagging out our customers. So if you spend $600 or more with us, we're gonna send you like a full swag kid and notebooks and pens and coasters and playing cards and all this stuff, just to surprise and delight. But I also offer her free access to our platform to try it out. And now she's out there on other podcasts, and on our weekly, you know, her own show, and she's talking about what we do and how much she loves it. So, you know, it's kind of just paying it forward and doing the right thing. But, you know, we did a survey, which is available on our website, a blind survey of 2000 consumers, and we asked them if they feel appreciated. And by and large, these consumers said, No, they didn't feel appreciated. And then we said, Okay, what forms of communication would make you feel appreciated? What would you know, would a phone call with a handwritten note with an email a text message? Well, first we ask, ask them what's the most personal form of communication? And they said, the most personal is a phone call. And the second most personal is a handwritten note. And then we said, Okay, well, what's the most annoying form of communication runs the risk of being most annoying, and the number one was a phone call, because they're calling you on their timeline and the light, least possible, annoying as a handwritten note? So if you're trying to run the balance of super personal, not annoying, that's handwritten notes. And then we also said, Well, if do you feel appreciated by brands? And by and large? They say no, we said, what would make you feel appreciated a handwritten note from the brand. If you receive a handwritten note from a brand, or if you do feel appreciated by a brand, what are you more likely to do well, buy more, buy more often, by heart, higher value, promote more to your sphere, whether it's through online, social or off, those are all common, and it's all nothing's really all that mind blowing. But what people don't think is, it's as easy as making people feel heard. And the best way to make people feel heard and seen is through simple acts like a handwritten note or, you know, an occasional piece of swag. You know, whatever it is, you know, just those little out of the way gestures really mean a lot to people.

William Harris  12:46  

It really is a little out of the way gestures. It's not, you know, grand magnitude things. But I have to laugh about the phone call that you're talking about being on your own time and everything. And yeah, because this happened just last night. Somebody sent me a text message. And it seemed like something that I should probably, you know, have a conversation about. I was walking back to my cars after dinner. And so I'm walking back to my car and I'm jumping in and I called them, they replied with, okay, Boomer, I kind of had a laugh, because we are at that point where it's like, you know, they're looking for here's just read it on your own time reply on your own time. Don't call me like, this is my time right now. And that is true. So I can see how you know, the phone call is very personal. It's extremely personal. But it could be maybe not received as well. But the handwritten note being so highly weighted on the personal side, but also the least, intrusive. I hadn't thought about that before. And I think that's really interesting. Yeah, and, you

David Wachs  13:46  

know, obviously, we're asking questions, because we want to find out about handwritten notes, but the results speak for themselves. And it you know, we had a third party research firm look into all this. They came up with the questions, they analyzed the results. And I mean, it's, it's striking. And I think in today's day and age, when the least used inbox is the one at the end of your driveway, because the average consumers getting are the average office workers getting 124 emails a day spending 23% of their time, just managing their inbox before this podcast, I had to sit here and turn off teams turn off slack turn off outlook, because the constant interruption right, yes, do not disturb my phone. You're overwhelmed with electronic correspondence. But what people don't get are the old fashioned things, handwritten notes. I had a guy who knew I'd assume he knew what I did. I mean, he sent me this big FedEx and it was like, it wasn't a flat it was like a box and I opened up the box. And in the box was a very thick card, like greeting card and I opened up the greeting card, and on the inside of the greeting card was a video screen. And it started playing some total blather. It looked like some corporate video, you know, just the most corporate of corporate videos. I couldn't watch it for two seconds. But what I thought about was how distracting Wow, how does the screen work? How much does this cost? If this costs a lot of money, does that mean he's making a super high margin business who's trying to sell me something super high margin where he's gonna make a fortune off my hard earned money. So it was all the wrong things. And I'm not just saying this because I run a handwritten no company, but I was just like, you know, this is probably a $25 product plus shipping, or maybe a $20 product, plus shipping, and it just set the entire wrong tone, you could do something much cheaper and pick up the phone and call at an appropriate time or send a note or something. But you don't need to go out of your way with these ridiculous gimmicks. Sure.

William Harris  15:56

Now, I will say that in the lead gen side of things when you're getting into, you know, bigger customer accounts, or it's like, hey, linen account to you is worth $100,000. So sending a $20 thing is not that much from a customer acquisition cost standpoint. So there are times where I've, I've used some tactics similar to that with other businesses that have helped grow. But what I liked that you called out is that it's like, Is that the right approach for the thing that you're selling? And maybe that's not that said, it reminds me of just that I did the mail still got your attention, it was still something that was sent in the mail. That was a really big thing, like you said, the least used one. Did you see there's a meme or something or post going around about some guy who I think he got the job, but basically dressed up like a donut delivery guy, and shows up instead of having, you know, a resume or whatever, that he hit it. But he shows up basically, the inside of the doughnut box was his resume. So he basically got escorted right into the person who he needed to see. And it was like, hey, here you go. And I'm dropping some donuts with my resume right there on your desk. It's brilliant. Because to a point, you know, emails, text, all the other things, it's very easy to be overlooked among the millions of notifications that we're getting. But that was hard.

David Wachs  17:10  

And it's so easy to send. You know, everybody knows how easy it is to send an email. It doesn't take any effort when I was in college, so going back 25 years or more. I was trying to get in a job at a venture capital firm. And what I did was, I contracted the companies that had alumni that were from my, my school, and then I sent them a FedEx resume, and followed up via email as well, because I wanted there to be a FedEx envelope on their desk. 25 years ago, I mean, email was a problem. Then I got the job. And then 10 years later, I went out to drinks with one of the VCs there. And he had a friend join. And that friend asked him, How did he get the job? Did he email you his resume? Or was it through monster or something? And grant knew that it was from a FedEx resume? Because no, I believe he FedExed his resume. So 15 or whatever, years later, he remembered that I took the extra effort to do something different to get in front of them.

William Harris  18:30  

Yeah, I think that's brilliant, right? It's just that little extra effort can go a long way. And from what I understand this happened recently to you in the mall where you saw firsthand kind of how that little extra effort is impacting people, right?

David Wachs  18:46  

Yeah, so my company handwritten. We send handwritten notes on behalf of brands. And you mentioned that in the opener, the client was a perfume brand or cologne brand. And we were sending the handwritten notes after purchase of that cologne, but only on the online side of it. So I walked into a Neiman Marcus with my wife and kids. We were strolling the mall. It was a hot Arizona day and nothing else to do. And we walked into the Neiman Marcus and their friend center was the Cologne brand. So I turned to my wife and I said, Oh, we send the handwritten notes for that cologne and a store clerk ran right over. You know, it's department store. So the Department of just that brand came over and said, Can I help you? And I said, No, no, we just send a handwritten notes. And she said, No, you don't. I have to do that. And I never get around to it. And we started talking. I said, Oh, do you do it? She said, No, I never get around to it. I said, Well, why not? She goes, Well, I'm supposed to send the notes. I'm supposed to merchandise I'm supposed to sell and I'm supposed to do the end of day books. How am I supposed to do that all versus the Online, we were automating the whole process for the online and sending those handwritten notes right after every sale, and other luxury brands we work with, we handle the offline and the online. So what's very interesting is a lot of these brands now, the online is able to create a much more personal connection than the offline because of services like ours, and just just having the data and infinite time because it doesn't take any time when you have services like ours, so I just think it's really interesting that we are forging more loyal connections online most of the time, then off, it doesn't have to be like that, that luxury brand is doing it offline as well. So but a lot of companies, I think are missing the boat. They're just optimizing their online funnels and not talking about they're off. Yeah,

William Harris  20:56

I think that's such a good testimony to how even as shoppers, we aren't just online versus offline. Everybody buys things online and offline. Why can't say everybody there's some people don't buy anything online. Yeah, there's, there's definitely a pocket of people like that. But for the most part we do we shopping in both situations. And so you want to have that same experience, that same personal connection, no matter where you're buying it, whether it's walking into the mall, or whether you're getting it online, and there should be no reason for the online to have such a dominating presence of creating that personal relationship more than the in-person. One. And so if there's a disconnect there, then it's how do you get that fixed there?

David Wachs  21:34  

You know, it's funny, I was just at a conference, I was talking to a very long running furniture brand. They've been around for at least 100 years, I believe. And we're talking about their online and offline. And they're like to believe that our online sales only make up 2% of our business. And it's actually losing money. And I said, That's not true. He goes, Oh, I know, that's not true. But everybody in the organization thinks that's true. And I said, because people use your online store, to, to do their research. And they, you know, go through and they find the chair they like or whatever. And then they walk into the physical store and make the purchase. So that online store is not responsible for 2% is probably responsible for 70%. You know, because people do all their filtering online. But it's it's a great cross sell there, then taking that activity, bringing it in the store and sitting on that chair sofa or whatever. And he totally agrees and he's trying to get his corporate to agree, because they're trying to pull all funding from the online when it's, I think it's pretty I mean, I bought a chair from that company. I know how it goes. So yeah, it's just very interesting how different people kind of mix miss the big picture of, of how people think and how purchases are made. And they do have that benefit of the offline, you know, the brick and mortar where a lot of stores these days don't so people are leveraging it.

William Harris  23:04  

Well, and that shopper journey is changing again, a little bit. I don't know if you're familiar with the Apple vision probe? Have you tested it out? Or anything?

David Wachs  23:11  

I'm familiar, I have not tested it. Do you? Do you have one,

William Harris  23:15  

I have one. And I've tested it out. And I have to give some credit to I've tested on all of the different spatial commerce apps. And the one that comes to mind that you just talked about here would be the Wayfair. One. And I actually know the guy who did most of their their original AR VR stuff there, Mike, he's actually an investor in another company now as well, another VR company. But he or the the way that the app works is, you know, you've got your goggles on, and they have this augmented reality that you could do from your phone. But it's completely different when you say, Alright, I want to see this table in my office. It's like I put the chair I put the table, I turn around, and it's like I see it sitting right there in my my physical space exactly the way that it would be. And to your point where it's like, well, you know, maybe I say, okay, great, I want to come pick it up. Maybe it's IKEA or something like that, right? It's like, I'm gonna go pick it up at IKEA, or I'm gonna go pick it up at whatever furniture store. I don't know if Wayfair even has actual retail locations? I don't think they do. I'm not aware of it. But it's changing that journey. And so maybe you look at there and you're like, Okay, I'm gonna do a little bit more browsing, I'll buy it maybe on the website, and maybe the AR doesn't end up getting the credit for the sale or whatever. Right. But it's, all of these things are leading to the different point where you have to understand how your, your shopper is discovering, qualifying and then officially purchasing. Yeah, you

David Wachs  24:32  

know, I used to go on to entrepreneur podcasts and talk about how you have to think of your, your online presence or, you know, a SaaS company as a platform, not a website. And I think retailers need to think of themselves as a platform, not an online store, offline store, but being everywhere the customer is I mean, if you know if you want to allow people to buy that desk through Alexa and say, you know, hey, Alexa to buy me that way pair desk or if you want to buy on the VR glasses, whatever it is, you have to be everywhere because it all influences the purchasing decision, or the company that is everywhere, it's gonna have the leg up. Rather, this

William Harris  25:13  

reminds me then of one of the other things that you and I wanted to talk about, which is developing a consumer communication preference center, the four C's that you have for this. And this kind of follows right along in line with that, where it's like, where people want to buy, but what about communication? What are the four C's for this?

David Wachs  25:32  

Yeah, and so the four C's are calm content. So what are you saying? You got to think about okay, am I is this long form short form? Is this a thank you is this informational? Cadence? How frequently? Am I going to send content? Choice? Am I going to allow people to choose which content or which channel to opt in and out of? And then channel is the fourth one? So do you have SMS do you have in my last company was an SMS company? Email, obviously, print handwritten notes, no push notifications, whatever those are? So just thinking through how are you going to touch people across all those channels, and allow people to choose which channels in which content they want to receive, I think are, are very important. So yeah, content, choice channel and cadence in any given order. And the

William Harris  26:37  

choice is huge. Because like you said, while some people might view the phone call as intrusive, other people likely within that survey are like, No, I want that phone call. And that makes me feel, you know, loved and appreciated even more. And so being able to have that choice, I think, is a big part of just how do we work towards what's best for each individual person? to the best extent possible.

David Wachs  27:02  

100% Yeah. And it's, it's not easy. I, I've seen very few, I see a lot of preference centers, but it's usually limited to email, you know, do I want to receive just transactional or marketing? Very few incorporate, and that, you know, maybe one or two of them include text messages? Very few even do that. So I think there's a real opportunity for brands to think about their preference centers, holistically, one that encompasses the foresees. Yeah.

William Harris  27:35  

Well, in I think, you know, if we're talking about what are ways that we can improve retention over acquisition, because acquisition is costly, right. And that's kind of what we started this topic on is, is retention over acquisition, acquisitions, costly retention, then sometimes there's the idea where you're like, Okay, well, how do I, how do I retain customers, and maybe it gets a little bit of a thought. And so they're saying, Okay, I'm going to do email, I'm going to do SMS. And there's, there's some element of thought that's going on there. Somebody else that we talked about on the podcast we had on here, Michael Siegel, with deco created, they create a whole bunch of content specifically for post purchase almost maybe more content for post purchase on how to handle and what to do with things. And I think that that's brilliant, as well. But it's just the idea of how do you, if you're if you are the type of person type of company, then that is saying we want to invest in growing the LTV of our customers, we want to invest in growing the viral coefficient, which I didn't talk about the viral coefficient, right. So for every person that ends up becoming a customer, they refer at least one more person, if you want to increase that these are the types of things your your your foresees, in the way that you're communicating with them their communication preferences, if you make a mistake, which you will. So now if when you make a mistake, calling it out, saying Yep, acknowledging it, owning it, fixing it, and don't do it again, right. These are the types of tactics that are going to drive significantly better long term growth, because acquisition no matter what you do, is going to become more costly overtime.

David Wachs  29:13

Yeah, you know, one example is a client of ours, they're a snack brand. And so office snacks, they'll send you a box of snacks every month, your office with granola and chips and stuff. And if they screw up, you know whether that's not deliver your box or deliver the wrong box. What they found was that well, they would they would follow up with a earn Winback box and we're so sorry, we screwed up. Here's here's a and they include a handwritten note and we're so sorry, we screwed up. Here's another box of snacks for your troubles. We're truly sorry, and we promise not to let it happen again. What they found was those clients that had the wind back experience Now granted, it could be the extra boxes, snacks, and the handwritten note then a higher lifetime value than anybody everybody else that if you didn't really a bad experience you didn't get screwed up with. So then what they did was they just taught decided to screw up with everybody have the leanback experience for everybody. And that raised overall lifetime value because which is a little sneaky, sneaky, but it's a way to, to kind of raise all boats. So yeah, they were they were doing that. And for all listeners on the line, I just had oral surgery. So if you hear something, I'm stuttering over my essence here, but But yeah, so that's kind of kind of how things are going.

William Harris  30:48  

I think, first of all, I'm not hearing you stutter over your essence, but but also, I will. Okay, so tangent. Now, there's got to remind me of like, sometimes you get that, you know, surgery, or you go in and get the Novocaine or something injected in there. And then yeah, so your tongue is a little bit like this, and you just like your, and then you inevitably bite your cheek, right? And then it's like, you've got this like, man, that's, that's brutal. So I hope that you're doing all right with that. Ideally, it's all good. It's all good. So but the I want to go back to this snack one here, because they took this to the extreme, where they're not just fixing it on the ones that they made mistakes, you're saying that they take it to the point where they actually, quote unquote, make mistakes on purpose, just so they can do the wind back. And that's driving an overall better experience for people? Absolutely.

David Wachs  31:35

That's what they're doing. And I think it's brilliant. They've done it. They've been doing it for years. And we hope other customers follow suit or other clients follow suit. Yeah,

William Harris  31:47  

and maybe not everyone, right? Like, there's, there's a limit to that where you can maybe that becomes a trope as well. But I think it's a brilliant idea. And I'd say that even in my own life, that is true. There are times where maybe something there was a mistake that was made. Maybe somebody made a mistake, maybe it's not even a brand, right. But then you go through that mistake, forgiveness process. It reminds me of a story that I remember in I don't remember which company it was, but when I was in college, about a guy who made a $700,000 blunder for this company, and they were interviewing the CEO about, you know, why are you gonna fire this guy? And he said, Why would I fire him? I just paid $700,000 to train him. And the idea there, it's like, sometimes with those mistakes, you're not gonna make it again. And sometimes there's even more trust going forward now with that.

David Wachs  32:39  

Yeah. Yeah. It's a great example of trying to, you know, build trust with clients, you might not really know that much about or whatever. But yeah, that's, that's one way they've been doing it successfully.

William Harris  32:52  

Yeah. I want to get into a little bit of the backstory here too. So other listeners have heard a lot of my podcasts before I normally start off with backstory. I'm trying something different this time. Tell me what you were doing that led you to where you've now founded handwritten.

David Wachs  33:10  

So prior to handwritten for eight years, and then two more, I ran a text messaging company called sell it. We we were providing text messaging services to brands like Toys R Us, Abercrombie and Fitch, IKEA Sam's Club, OfficeMax blooming group, the circus, and sending a million texts a day just for Abercrombie alone. And we, after eight years, I sold that company and I spent two years with the new owner company called Hello World, which is now part of Merkel. And then the day after that rolled over, I started handwritten, which, basically, I was trying to think, Okay, what am I going to do next? And I realized that text messaging and electronic communication is great, but just because it's so prevalent, how do you stand out and all this noise so that's, that's why we started or I started handwritten. And I did not take a break. I went straight from one end to the other, I would not recommend now I would travel the world or use you know, enjoy life, but here I am. Prior to sell it, going back even further. I was living in San Diego. I had moved out there I was at a party that I was in Chicago and working for investment bank in New York and investment bank in Chicago. I moved to San Diego to work for a venture capital firm and have never, you know, suspect quality and within four months, I was fired. It rained incessantly in San Diego, which is the best climate in the country. I was in a car accident, and I got evicted from my apartment. and all at in four months. And so I ran from San Diego screaming. But the problem was what prior to that, I, when I was in New York in Chicago, I was making good money. But I was spending it all to pay down school debt. So when I ran screaming from San Diego, I had nowhere to go, because I had relatively little school debt, but I had nothing in my pocket. So I moved back to Arizona where I grew up, and I started sell it based on the idea that and this is before 2008, the big real estate meltdown. But the whole idea was to provide information on real estate over text message, there was no such thing as Zillow, there was no iPhone. So when you drive up to a house and you want info on the house, you'd call the realtor and you wouldn't get them on the phone. But you can now text them, we're the first company to do that. And it would send you back tech photos of the inside of the house and price and all that and then the realtor would get a lead. And to date myself, you can even request the fax. So you type in their fax number and you get a flyer fetch you. But that became the basis of of Salat. And I quickly pivoted off real estate onto big retailers and brands like that. Live entertainment. So yeah, that's what started it. And I ran that company, we did not take any funding, we grew profitably. And then eight years later sold it. It was no $800 million exit, like your, your, your client there, but it was a fine exit. And then I just use that to start handwritten.

William Harris  36:45  

So you know, you've got nothing in your pocket or little in your pocket. Yeah. What was the thought process that made you say, you know, what I'm going to do with this that I'm going to, I'm going to start a business instead of just getting a normal job. Well,

David Wachs  37:00  

I was fired, and I was very picky. So being fired, made it a little difficult to get a job after four months. You know, I drove up to San Francisco from San Diego, and interviewed at a firm up there and no dice and then I was kind of thinking maybe this is the chance I opportunity I needed. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Prior to college I had my own computer company I built and sold computers just tell you what a nerd I am. This is kind of before Dells big thing, you know. And we sold mostly to housewives, and you know, and all that stuff. And then before that, when I was very, very little, I used to go door to door selling candy with my little red wagon, when I was like four years old. And one day I didn't have any candy. So I put the first aid kit in the in the red wagon, and I went door to door knocking without just saying, hey, is there an emergency going on? And people would answer with no. And I'd say okay, I'll come back later. In emergency, exactly. So I've always wanted to start a business and getting fired was kinda out of desperation, it forced me to find my true calling. So it was the best thing to ever happen to be by far, San Diego was a train wreck, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I

William Harris  38:31  

love hearing that I pressed on that because I kind of thought that's maybe where you're gonna go with this. And I wanted to get that part out. i You hear that so often that sometimes the best things happen when your back is against the wall and you'd have nowhere else to go except for to go forward to through that dungeon that you're scared of like, you have to slay the dragon or whatever that's facing you. And you're like, you know that it's there. But if there's any other options, you kind of want to go around it. But when you don't have a choice, you go through it and it ends up being one of the best things you possibly could do.

David Wachs  39:01  

Yeah, it was four months of craziness. I mean, the car accident I'll take responsibility for i That was the reigning no evicted from the apartment was pure lunacy. But and then getting fired the crazy venture capitalists came in my office screaming at me saying I sold stock that I didn't even know what he was talking about. And then they offered to they were such amateurs they offered had me back at the company if I just wrote a letter apologizing for selling the stock. And I just you know, I'm like I wasn't born yesterday. I know what you're trying to help me do so. So that job quickly ended. And I literally just packed up my boxes and went back to Scottsdale and then for the next eight months or so I sat in a room with a two liter bottle of Diet Mountain Dew stereotypical programmer story. And I programmed at the time PHP code, and I wrote the back end and front end of house for sale, and then the, which was the real estate and then something called coupon zap, which became the basis of what Abercrombie used. So that's kind of how it happened. And then honestly, that business took off way faster than this one. But you're, you know, different different industry different time.

William Harris  40:28  

Now, that's pretty cool. Um, we're definitely in the, in the personal side of this now, and I want to get into like, Who is David wax, and one of the things that you said that I really appreciated here, let's see, if you get where I'm going with this. You are getting DP DP, from what I understand you use hypnotism a bit, too, and meditation to help deal with the stress of running businesses and just life in general. Tell me a little bit a bit more about what like, what kind of meditation and what kind of Hypnosis are you talking about here?

David Wachs  41:00

Yeah, so it goes back 12 years. 10 years, for sure. I was living in Chicago, I was dealing with some anxiety issues that were serious and physically manifesting. I mean, I would break out in rashes. And when I sold my last company, I literally I was in the hospital for a week with literally a twisted gut. My stress was so bad, I physically, somehow my body twisted my gut, and I was in the hospital for a week. But beyond that, just in general, I would break out in rashes, and all this stuff. And I started seeing a very kooky hypnotist. And he turned out to be my guru, and really kind of changed my life. And now that I no longer live in Chicago, I His name is Mark St. Camille, power hypnosis, chicago.com, I believe, but he, I still see him remotely. So we'll talk on the phone and he'll send me an mp3, I'll then listen to that at night for a few nights in a row. And I can only remember the first couple minutes of it. And then I think he's got me programmed to go out to his voice or something, something crazy. But I'll listen to a few. I'll remember a few minutes of it. And the rest of us don't remember, but it's been life changing for me. And he's a big proponent of meditation too. So the meditation is 20 minutes of sitting comfortably on the floor typically crisscross applesauce style, you know, and then you repeat a mantra, the mantra that he likes that I do is so hom which is Sanskrit or Indian, or whatever so homme. And what it means is I am that. And so when you repeat it, I Am that I Am I Am that I Am you just repeat that over and over. And you breathe in and breathe out and just clear your mind for 20 minutes. And it's been very centering for me, it's been my way of getting clear. And it's really helped me out a lot. And working with Mark St. Camille. I mean, he blows me away. I mean, the stuff that he wrote, I haven't seen him in person in 10 years, but he remembers so much about you. You must take copious notes, and I would recommend them to absolutely anybody and everybody. It's been the best money I've ever spent in my life. You know, it's a powerful testimony. And I didn't I didn't believe any of it. I thought it was all malarkey. I am not a what I call a woowoo person that believes in you know, afterlife or anything like that. But I 100% believe in in his technique and it's really interesting and it's helped me out with anxiety was strapped with rage issues. Getting you know, there's certain people in my life I've had lifelong resentment for ironically, teeth, people relating to my orthodonture growing up and he's really helped me kind of overcome those issues. Relationships just sleeping better at night. I mean, it's it's been it's he's really a guru. Amazing.

William Harris  44:33  

And yeah, and I hope it didn't seem that I was coming across, you know, like making fun of I just wanted to have you are getting sleepy. I'm a big fan as well. And I think it's something that a lot of people don't realize just how much our brains really are you we're talking about coding PHP, how much our brains really kind of our like computer systems. Yeah, and every once in a while they get stuck in this like loop and you just almost have to kind of reset it. Upload new software. So I can kind of move forward past whatever the thing is that it's hung up on. I

David Wachs  45:04  

think that's why it appeals to me is because I, you know, I make the exact same analogy to programming. And, you know, if you think you can kind of get, you know, crack the code to get in there and apply that code. Yeah, I think that's why it really appeals to me. And I am 100% A believer at this point. Yeah,

William Harris  45:24  

that's really cool. Speaking of mantras, I believe there are a couple of other quotes that you've told me that you have around your office that you really like to live by, that are powerful as well. Yeah.

David Wachs  45:34

So when I was in college, I used to bring speakers to campus. So we brought Billy Joel and all these things, and the speaker that he was relatively young at the time, Conan O'Brien, Oh, really. I have a poster on my wall at home with him. And I was looking at it yesterday. I'm like, my god, you look young. And at the time, I was a kid. So he looked old to me. But sure, it's like a baby now. But he came to school to my university. And he was very thoughtful. And he said, You know, I don't know anything, he was just starting his own show. And he said, If I had to offer you one bit of advice, that would be always get in over your head. And somebody just recently put it a different way, which is, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I think there's so much truth to that always getting in over your head. If you don't do something out of your comfort zone, you're never going to, you're never going to succeed, you're never going to do things beyond what you thought was possible. You're never going to you just have to constantly press yourself. Yeah. And when I started sell it, the last one, I would think about it daily. And apparently I share that share the news, because the first time I was on the Inc 500. I was being interviewed for the Inc 500. And they said, Do you have any quotes? I said, always get in over your head in somebody. And the woman goes, oh, somebody else said that. This time I said who? And it was a guy I told it to so I he owed me. Yeah, so it really just meant a lot to me. The other one that's that's kind of meaning more to me now, and is kind of more empowering, I think, is there's a poet. And I couldn't tell you who the poet is. But he wrote, lions don't lose sleep over the opinions of sheep. And what I take away from that, as all the naysayers out there that tell you, you can't do something, you know, they're sheep, or your competitors that are constantly being annoying, you know, duplicating your stuff, you know, ripping off your stuff, that type of thing. They're the sheep and you just have to move forward, you can't get overly entrenched in their opinions or what they're doing. So be that lion and just kind of forge your own path. This actually does get back to some hypnotist advice that one of the parts I do. Remember before falling asleep on one of my hypnotism sessions was the notion of meeting a lion and a lion when it when it's in the jungle. It doesn't just pounce, a lion surveys and it sits there and it determines the right thing to do. And then it bounces. But it's not. It's not reactionary. So, you know, I think there's multiple reasons to kind of be like a lion.

William Harris  48:42  

Yeah, one I love that quote, then too, and it reminds me of something. Just the idea that understanding the difference between opinions and advice is this kind of core to success, right? There's a lot of opinions that fly around, acting as if it's advice, sometimes well intentioned, but being able to discern whether it actually has advice, or whether it's just an opinion, I think is important. And so to your point, it's like is that an opinion of a sheep and you're the lion? Maybe don't worry so much about what that is. I've really liked that.

David Wachs  49:17  

Yeah. I met a superfan of handwritten recently and her husband is coming out with a product it's a it's I have it at home, I need to try it. It's a salt that you cover your steaks and before you grill them, I guess it's an Argentinian method or Brazil, Brazilian method. And then you shake all the salt off and you finish cooking the steak without supposed to seal and all the juices or whatever. But her husband is getting a lot of flack because of his accent and people don't think you can start a company. You know, he's he's got a Brazilian accent and he, I don't know maybe it doesn't communicate well. But I just told him Are you know, lions don't lose sleep over the opinions of sheep share that with them. And she did. And, you know, I think a lot of people need to just, you know, you know, move past the losers in their lives and decide who's important to listen to.

William Harris  50:13

Ya know, I think that's very wise. As a busy entrepreneur, business builder, a lot of people will say that they feel like they, you know, juggle a lot of things at work, but I understand that you You mean that not just metaphorically, you actually juggle? Yeah, I'd like to know more about this. No,

David Wachs  50:35  

I mean, you asked me a few interesting facts. I do. I do find juggling very meditative. I also find long runs five, five miles or more meditative, but it has to be the past by miles once you hit your stride something, at least for me, something happens after five miles. But juggling, same thing I mean, it once you kind of get into motion, it, it takes focus. And you can't be checking emails, and you can't be thinking about other things. You kind of got to get into the groove there. So that and then, you know, prior to that, I think you're I'll hit you off on this one. The other weird side of me is before starting my professional career, I went to cooking school, and I did a little bit of that for a while. So I thought for the same reason I prior to cooking school, I was in a

William Harris  51:34  

like that just any school like no.

David Wachs  51:37  

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So what happened was, I was in, I went to University of Pennsylvania, I did an a double degree at Wharton, and the School of Engineering and Computer Science. It was a very rigorous five year program. And in those five years, I had two electives. That was that the rest of it was work. And those two electives weren't even the ones I wanted, but wanted certain and I didn't get them. And here I am five years later with like no electives. But I walked away from that program, and I had a job waiting for me, they didn't want me to start for three months. It turned out, you know, so I said, Okay, well, what am I going to do for those three months, and I thought, Gee, I could go to cooking school, I'd always wanted to do that. And I thought the idea of sitting, cutting carrots, chopping carrots for a couple hours a day would be really relaxing. Turned out it was and it was very stressful. But I enjoyed it. And living in Paris was fun. And then I also learned a valuable lesson coming out of that whole thing, which is taxes because I was that signing bonus I got that allow me to go to cooking school. I didn't think about the tax implications. So I came up a couple of grand short after everything, but still a great experience. And all it's done though, is it makes people want me to cook for them. And I try to explain. I'm not that great. And it was a long time ago. The most frequent word the chefs would use when they tasted my cooking was poo Bal. Which means trash can.

William Harris  53:11  

So so the French Gordon Ramsay over there,

David Wachs  53:16

oh, 100% his name was chef ghee. And he was a he was a piece of work. He was a he was a very tough guy. That's good. That's funny.

William Harris  53:32  

David, we've been able to cover a lot of really fun topics, drawing it back to you know what we started with retention over acquisition. Yeah, I really appreciate that you just helped us to walk through ways that we could turn our customers into being more fanatics if you need to, you know, go back, rewatch the beginning of this. There's a lot of things and it's, it's not as big of things as you might think. They're just very simple little things, thinking about it from the customer's perspective. And I appreciate that.

David Wachs  54:03  

Well, William, I really appreciate being on your show. This was the most involved podcast I've ever done. So thank you, I appreciate it. It speaks very highly of your attention to detail and work ethic. I'm I'm actually very impressed. I that Alex Petrarca gets me on a lot of podcasts, but few leaves me feeling Jesus guy did his research. I

William Harris  54:29  

really appreciate that. If people wanted to work with you handwritten, what's the best way for them to get in touch follow you anything along those lines?

David Wachs  54:38

Sure. So the best thing to do is learn more about us@handwritten.com and hndwrytn.com. You can request samples there. You can also find me on LinkedIn. I'm not I'd love to say I'm active on Twitter X or but I'm not, but you can find me on link Then David out handwritten, and we'd love to connect. But really, I recommend finding our samples seeing for yourself if they pass muster if they look real to you. We actually have our own. We didn't even get into this. But we have our own technology stack. We have four patents approved that you know, for life patents for robots. Now two more than when I spoke to you last time actually.

William Harris  55:24  

That's cool.

David Wachs  55:25  

We are 175 robots. Yeah, thank you. And we are, I believe the largest provider of this in the world ascending for you going to major luxury car brands, everything else. That's kind of what we what we do.

William Harris  55:42  

Well, David wax again, absolutely amazing. Appreciate your time and wisdom here today. And everyone else. Thank you for joining. Have a great day. Thank you.

Outro  55:52  

Thanks for listening to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.

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