Episode · September 14, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Office 365

[Unedited Transcript]

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] So, Rich, right now, I’m looking at you, and you are wearing a t shirt. A nice watch. What watch is that?

Rich Ziade: is that? This is actually a bespoke watch made by an Italian pilot, and it’s inspired by the altimeter planes.

Paul Ford: Jesus Christ. And then, uh, you’re wearing,

Rich Ziade: yeah, very exhausting answer. You

Paul Ford: I asked, it’s my fault.

Rich Ziade: a brand.

Paul Ford: wearing, no, no, absolutely. Uh, you’re wearing gray shorts, glasses, and a crucifix. Okay, and you and I have decided to start a business together. Uh, we’re, we’re in a small railroad [00:01:00] apartment with two other people.

Rich Ziade: It’s getting crowded.

Paul Ford: warm. It’s warm in here.

Moist from the humanness. Um, and so we’ve started to talk and there’s a sort of larger issue involved which is It may be time for us to go get an office again. And this is, we used to have an office in the city with the agency that we co founded. Um, and we’ve been in startup mode, hiding out in this little place in Brooklyn that is an apartment.

This is, it’s got an oven. And, um,

Rich Ziade: essentially a one bedroom

Paul Ford: It’s a one bedroom apartment. So now we’re going to go look and we’re trying to decide between Brooklyn and Manhattan and all these sort of archetypal things, but what I want to talk about for like 20 minutes is the real function of the office because in the conversation about work from home. And the conversation about what people, you know, why people should go back to work.

It’s very employee centric, and that is fine, I get that. [00:02:00] People, people who, some people just may not want to come to the office, etc, etc. Like, everybody’s had that conversation. But for you and me, an office is a tool. And I don’t think people talk about and think about the office as a tool very often. And I want to just talk about the ways that it’s a tool, because I just feel that like no one documents it.

While you’re doing this, you are, you’re playing around with your necklace with the crucifix on it. And I’m slowly losing my mind watching you do this.

Rich Ziade: Well, it came out. I had to

Paul Ford: You know, you got to fix that. Otherwise, you can’t.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, I mean, uh, I think there’s two things that come to mind, uh, when I think about an office. And, and by the way, it feels wrong. We’re a startup. We don’t have revenue yet.

Paul Ford: And we’re looking to spend money. First of all, we don’t have revenue. And we’re many months away from having a product where I could say to somebody like, Use this in your company.

Rich Ziade: We’re months away, I don’t know about many, but yeah, it’s far away, so it’s

Paul Ford: More than two, right? Like

Rich Ziade: scary. It’s scary. Uh, you know, um, I [00:03:00] have two voices in my head.

Paul Ford: I would have put the number much higher.

Rich Ziade: One says stop spending money

Paul Ford: Yeah, I got that one.

Rich Ziade: tighten the ship. And be frugal, so you can

Paul Ford: Longer runway.

Rich Ziade: longer runway and make a profit. Then there’s this other voice that says you’re thinking too small.

And the second voice has done me much better than my first

Paul Ford: Yeah, the second, the second voice tends to be right. The second voice, what the second voice does is put you in the situations where you have to react. Um, the second voice creates chaos.

Rich Ziade: I think that’s right. And what do we mean by that in relation

Paul Ford: Well, let me, let me describe a situation. Um, Somebody came out to visit us, uh, who was interested in our product from a big company and they came into this space.

Rich Ziade: It wasn’t good.

Paul Ford: And you watched them, they didn’t shut down or anything. It just was like, suddenly they started to tell [00:04:00] themselves a complicated story.

Rich Ziade: That’s right.

Paul Ford: And now we had to spend a lot of time countering the story without ever saying it explicitly.

Because what they were looking for was something that looked kind of startup y. They wanted a startup y experience and instead they were

Rich Ziade: Or something of a bigger scale of some sort. It didn’t help

Paul Ford: No, it didn’t. And so, so, but like, okay, so now we, let’s say we get a place and we’re trying to decide between Brooklyn, which would be like just more room to work, more people can come by, or Manhattan, which for me is like, now somebody can come by, check out the space, and we’ll talk to you for two hours.

Rich Ziade: I think that’s right. And, and I think for me the reason to do it is twofold. One is that

Paul Ford: and that’s, you know, people who are not from New York City won’t process this. And even many people who like have offices in Brooklyn will be like, what are you talking about? Asking a person to leave the borough of Manhattan, the central borough where I don’t go most days.

Rich Ziade: Yeah,

Paul Ford: is like asking them to go to Mars. Like they just, [00:05:00] even if they’re in Queens, like they don’t, nobody wants to come to an office in Brooklyn. They want to go, everybody like, that is where things get done. And…

Rich Ziade: I think, and I think there’s two things happening here. One is, um, and this touches on the whole remote work debate and all that. One, one is. We as, frankly, technology thinkers, leaders, strategists, whatever you want to call it, um, love to talk to people. We find when we talk to people, things happen. And, and, whether it be a partnership, whether it be, um, an interview, whether it be a potential client or customer or whatever it may be, we like it.

We like it because we find that things happen when we do it

Paul Ford: Let me make an observation. We’re doing this startup, right? And we keep going out and having conversations with people about how most startups do it. And what’s unusual to me and confusing to me is that most of them do not base [00:06:00] their growth trajectory on the idea that humans will be involved.

Rich Ziade: initially. And when we talk about the classic SAS product, they always come to terms with the, the fact that getting the credit card out won’t build you a mega. Company

Paul Ford: they start, you’re right, they start that way. They’re like, you’re gonna get, you’re gonna, people will get their credit card out and if a million people use this product, we’re gonna make so

Rich Ziade: No, you can make good businesses doing that because everything’s automated I mean you just need stripe and a couple of forms and and off you go and you could take people’s money and Make money like from anywhere the But the ones that have really, really big ambition come to terms with the sales team.

Like you’re just going to need humans, uh, and those humans are going to go out to big, people with big budgets, and they’re going to court those people for possibly months, or they’re going to respond to an RFP. I mean, a major city agency will throw out an RFP for 15 million. Let me tell you, [00:07:00] they are not getting a credit card out.

That is not how they’re going to buy 9, 000 seats for that RFP. They want to meet you. They want you to pitch to them. They want you to jump through hoops. They want, they want you to get to know them.

Paul Ford: They want to get to know them. There is a 40 person conference call.

Rich Ziade: Oh,

Paul Ford: there. Let me, let me

Rich Ziade: not an appealing pitch.

Paul Ford: pause for a minute because Noah, this is in our future and we need to look into each other’s eyes and acknowledge that we’re ready for this.

Rich Ziade: Well, we come from this, right? But we’re not,

Paul Ford: Hey guys, I got Paul Ford and Rich Ziade here.

Bloop, bloop, bloop. And then for the 15 minutes. Bloop, bloop. This is Mike. Bloop, bloop. This is Susan. Bloop, bloop. This is also Mike. Bloop, bloop.

Rich Ziade: You’re giving me flashbacks right now.

Paul Ford: This is Susan. I’m sorry I got knocked off the call.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, sorry, I’m in my car. So, it’s worth noting, Paul, if we do start talking to people about, you know, bigger opportunities for our startup, we are not [00:08:00] selling services. We’re actually prohibited from selling services, but we can sell software licenses.

We may sell them to bigger companies. We may sell them to little mom and pop shops. We want to sell them to everybody. Everybody come, come one, come

Paul Ford: no, no, this licenses like this. This is this is our future. That’s right. And but it’s still relationship building.

Rich Ziade: this is, the way I always frame it is East Coast, West Coast. West Coast wants to automate. They tried to automate, like, money.

Paul Ford: do.

Rich Ziade: West Coast.

Paul Ford: I have a formula. I have a formulation for this. The West Coast makes the boxes. The East Coast fills them in.

Rich Ziade: Interesting.

Paul Ford: Right, that’s Twitter. They made the box and then the media industry was like, cool! Yeah,

Rich Ziade: Yeah. It’s, it’s lunches, it’s drinks, it’s meetings, it’s connecting. And that’s what sales is, right? For a lot of

Paul Ford: would love

Rich Ziade: love for you to meet my boss because I think this tool would be so good for this, you know, for Delta Airlines. And like, yeah, I’d love to meet your boss. Let’s talk to your

Paul Ford: boss. Absolutely. What’s your boss [00:09:00] like?

Rich Ziade: Your boss is not taking a credit card out, I’ll tell you that, right? So, um, I have a friend who is head of revenue for a software company and he started the process to like sell to government in DC.

Paul Ford: Oh, you know, I’ve been on these. I once was part of this process and people kept retiring before we could finish the paperwork.

Rich Ziade: Oh, no, no, he’s I he said he’s like we’re excited about it. There’s a ton of money there. Obviously, it’s it’s government contracts He like when when do you think you’ll start to see something come together? He’s like We’ll start to see like possible possible options in a year I couldn’t believe what he was saying

Paul Ford: When

Rich Ziade: and, and, you know, that’s the grind.

That is the grind, but once you land it, you kind of never leave. Um, you know, it’s the classic, you know, screwdrivers to the

Paul Ford: It’s a grim world. I’ll tell you that part is hard.

Rich Ziade: that’s grim.

Paul Ford: because I remember being told like, well, if you really want to, it was, it was so that we could do some open source work for the government. And we were told that we needed to hire a [00:10:00] 30, 000 expediter in order to move the contract. And it was just like, we’re not going to make, I’m not going to lose money on this.

This is bad,

Rich Ziade: Okay, so recapping. Reason one we want to be out there is we like to connect with people. We like to find

Paul Ford: I want we’re building a product. We’re building a product that people can pick up and use. Okay, that is what they can do and I Could sit here and assume that people will find it decide what it’s good for and pick up and use it But what will work much better is people coming to the office and saying what is this thing and me going?

Well, it works like this. Would you like to try it and You know making friends

Rich Ziade: It’s funny. It’s anti scale what you’re saying because you can’t, you, you, you, what Pete West Coast, hold on, let me finish this thought. West Coast says, give me a million prospects. I’ll 20, 000 paying customers. And those 20, 000 customers will pay me 10 or whatever [00:11:00] a month. East Coast is like, give me a few hundred leads.

I’m only gonna land like a dozen of them, but they’re big,

Paul Ford: Lemme tell you

Rich Ziade: right? Which is because you can’t host everyone in your office who’s interested in your product. That’s impossible.

Paul Ford: This is a, all these formulations to me just feel like they are very abstract and not connected to how humans communicate. I’m going to tell you how I see it, because I think the way I see it is actually quite different than most people.

And part of this is because I’m, I’m good at communicating with large audiences. I do that, right?

Rich Ziade: Here’s the flex take your time

Paul Ford: not a flex. This is a,

Rich Ziade: No, no, it’s true

Paul Ford: what is it when you, okay, first of all… Somebody wants to come to the office and talk to me. People want to talk to me about this product. Okay, great.

I want to talk to them. My ultimate job is to tell a story that people connect to so that they Care about this product and I wrote about this in our newsletter that’s going out today at a board, right? Like the [00:12:00] fact that when I was I’m gonna tell you a little story when I was at Harper’s magazine which is a very like non it’s an old magazine in America that Um, it has a good reputation and it’s very lefty, etc, etc.

And I built the website and so on and so forth. And when I launched the website, I built an archive of the whole thing back to 1850 and thousands of people got in touch. And I had to do customer service, solve subscription problems, they would ask, they would send letters to the editor, they would, and I

Rich Ziade: was your title

Paul Ford: Editor.

I was an editor. Associate editor.

Rich Ziade: you were dealing with you weren’t doing classic editor

Paul Ford: I was a little org. I ordered the computers. A little company. And, um, so I was a little org. So I ended up building hundreds and hundreds of relationships. Sometimes I’d meet people after and they would go, Man, I yelled at you once in email because there was something wrong with my subscription.

It was weird. You responded and, you know, it’s crazy to meet you at this party.

Rich Ziade: you respond to everybody?

Paul Ford: I tried to. Yeah, I did my best. I had thousands. So over the years I had thousands of interactions.

Rich Ziade: not an editor. That’s customer support and

Paul Ford: Let’s never worry about titles, ever. [00:13:00] Okay? Like, never worry about titles. If I was doing an editor’s job, I wouldn’t have had those interactions.

Those interactions taught me how people behave when they get a consumer product in their hands.

Rich Ziade: Mm hmm.

Paul Ford: And they taught me about what people want, and what people expect, and how people see customer service, and how they treat organizations. It’s very, it can be very alienating, and then the minute you talk to them as a person, they start to really interact.

People, and then in the other direction, when you have a direct personal interaction, that teaches you how to interact with thousands of people at once. It’s this whole system. I need to have people come by and tell me what they like and don’t like. I need to make eye contact. And then when I go out and talk to thousands of people, I’m using that information.

And then when the thousands of people talk back to me, I know what to say to the person to help. What is this? This is not to sell a software product. This is to understand where we live and to understand how to communicate so that people can get more frickin value out of it, right?

And what I feel is that everybody is looking for a funnel that goes exactly one way. Right? People are going to come in and they’re going to give it, they’re going to like this [00:14:00] thing, they’re going to like the website, they’re going to give us a credit card, and then they’ll go into like the customer support thing and we’ll log in.

There’s no, it doesn’t work that way. It works, it works two ways. You’re sitting there at the bottom like going like, hey, what do you think? And should we do this? And I like your hat. And the thing is, is some of those relationships from back in that day are still extant. Like some of those people who used to write me still send me like birthday notes.

Rich Ziade: extant. Like some of those people who used to write me still send me like birthday notes. Interesting. It’s relationships. What you’re saying is it’s relationships. And that is… It’s connectivity.

Paul Ford: It’s connectivity. It’s connectivity around humans and software is one of the things in the middle.

Rich Ziade: Yep. Um…

Paul Ford: And an office is a utility for making that move

Rich Ziade: And an office is It’s a place to meet. It’s a place to meet. And, and, you know, are there a lot of places to meet in a lot of different parts of the country? Even parts of the country that are… I think what is so fascinating and unique about New York is, yeah, could you do this in [00:15:00] Austin? Sort of. But you’re kind of meeting your, you’re the same kind.

You’re meeting your own kind.

Paul Ford: I think what happens with New

Rich Ziade: meeting other technology. Austin’s a big tech center now. San Francisco is a tech center. The thing about New York City is, you’re gonna see it all. Like, they all converge.

Paul Ford: meeting the representations, uh, the representatives of organizations that are sort of apex orgs, like big companies. They all have to be here. And then they need to go buy some

Rich Ziade: In different sectors.

Paul Ford: And so they’re going to come and they’re going to tell you what publishing needs. And they’re going to tell you what fashion

Rich Ziade: Right. Right.

Paul Ford: And that’s very, very valuable information. And then you use that to guide the product strategy.

Rich Ziade: So let me, let me tack on, I mean, I agree with you. We happen to have this in common, strangely. We like to be in the room with the other people.

Paul Ford: I I going to learn about how this all works? I,

Rich Ziade: I mean,

Paul Ford: Because you can’t, you can’t literally, you know, what, what happens, you’re, you’re a smart guy in your 20s and people are like, you should subscribe to The Economist. [00:16:00] Right? Well, I’d rather actually go into the economy and look

Rich Ziade: go into the economy.

Paul Ford: Go into the economy.


Rich Ziade: I’ll say one other thing. And I’ve said this in the past around. Having a place to work. I, I, I am a, I work out my puzzles by talking to people.

Paul Ford: my upper body. I was,

Rich Ziade: There will be a bench

Paul Ford: people don’t know this. Rich works out every morning before he comes to the office and there’s usually like a two minute breakdown about how just freaking ripped he

Rich Ziade: I’m not very ripped.

Paul Ford: No, it’s

Rich Ziade: I’m older and my muscles

Paul Ford: it’s, it’s an ironic, it’s an ironic

Rich Ziade: ironic. But, uh, I believe in, I believe in, uh, I, I, it’s not that I believe in it. It’s just how I work. I’m very, I’m, I’m an oral communicator. I do think something is so severely lost when you’re trying to compartmentalize it into, you know, a one hour meeting once a day or twice a week or whatever you’re doing.

It, I’m [00:17:00] a, I’m a collaborative thinker. I’m a tough collaborative thinker. I’m a very like. I, I, all I do is inject doubt into the conversation

Paul Ford: imagine 50 hawks swirling around your head at once, and that’s what it’s like

Rich Ziade: Sounds beautiful.

Paul Ford: you are in interrogation mode. What’s funny is it doesn’t matter who. I’ve worked with you 200 years.

You love me as if I am, like, in your family. And it doesn’t, your brain switches and you’re like, well, hold on a minute there.

Rich Ziade: yeah. No, but I, I, I think it’s massively valuable and, and people talk about this, I think Apple sort of put their foot down and we’re like, you know, we’re, we invent things like we gotta be together, we gotta see each other and talk about stuff and walk up to a whiteboard and throw ideas around and talk.

You need that, that sort of casual ability to, to talk. And lemme

Paul Ford: Let me, let me tell you something as a boss, it’s real dangerous because without the employee’s body language, you don’t know how badly you’re screwing up.

Rich Ziade: as a boss,

Paul Ford: telling you, like, why do I need [00:18:00] you to come back to the office? Like, you in the office, if you’re somebody, not, not, it’s not really our current team, we don’t have this challenge, but like, but like, if you’re in the office and I can see you kind of looking at the floor when I walk by, I now know something about the organization.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: can’t learn that,

Rich Ziade: You can’t.

Paul Ford: and it’s, and you’re, and people will be like,

Rich Ziade: You can’t.

Paul Ford: everybody will have a litany of like, you shouldn’t have known it anyway, and I don’t need to come in the office to tell you you’re an asshole, and it’s like, you don’t, but you won’t.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Yeah.

Paul Ford: me see it.

Rich Ziade: Also, it’s an… Condensing the interactions into one moment that everyone’s sort of prepping for is not

Paul Ford: You know what I love? I love boss elevator ride. That’s my

Rich Ziade: It’s the

Paul Ford: how you doing?

Rich Ziade: of

Paul Ford: It is just, it’s the worst minute of their lives.

Rich Ziade: minute of their lives. That’s what I’m looking forward to the

Paul Ford: of their lives. So that’s, I’m looking forward to that. That is the New York [00:19:00] office special. Yeah, so maybe, you know, not far from now, in a room, in a small commercial real estate available, Paul, there’s tons of it, there’s like

Rich Ziade: Recording in a room in one of our new offices. There’s a lot of commercial real estate available, Paul. There’s tons of it. There’s like swaths of it.

Paul Ford: It’s also time to get a bar and relaunch this beautiful product.

Rich Ziade: Get a bar?

Paul Ford: Get a bar? Get a bar, for the night. Oh,

Rich Ziade: Oh, throw a party.

Paul Ford: we’re not going to get a bar as well, we’re

Rich Ziade: gonna say, we’re pivoting to bar.

Paul Ford: Pivoting

Rich Ziade: I’ve heard worse

Paul Ford: don’t tempt

Rich Ziade: Um, anyway, we keep saying this product and this startup. It’s aboard. com.

Paul Ford: com. Anyone can sign up. Mobile’s coming soon. It is humming along.

Actually, lots and lots of users. Very exciting. And we’d love you to use it and beat it up. And, you know, you can tell us straight up what you like and don’t like. Um, And, uh, this is Ziade Ford at Ziade Ford on X, uh, and, um, wherever else Ziade Ford’s can be found, you know, hello at ZiadeFord.

Rich Ziade: In the wild.

Paul Ford: com. [00:20:00] We love you and we will talk to you soon.

Rich Ziade: Take care. [00:21:00]

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