#163 – How Kirk Deis Took an In-House Tool and Launched a New Business

Click on the button below to listen to this episode of the Start Fierce Business Podcast.

Kirk Deis founder of The Bug Squasher is also a writer on Forbes.com and Founder of the digital marketing agency Treehouse 51.

The Bug Squasher is a powerful new project management tool that streamlines communications between developers/writers/designers, project leads, and clients.

In this podcast episode, he shares how an in-house tool his agency built has become a new business. He shares how he’s grown his new business through podcasts and creative marketing. As well as why he’d like to have lunch with Elon Musk.

If you’re going to start a business you also have some type of safety net. - Kirk Deis Click To Tweet

In This Episode of the Start Fierce Business Podcast:

  • Kirk shares how an internal tool for his agency became a new software company.
  • He talks about expanding the product from a WordPress only product to work with all types of websites.
  • He talks about a rap video he made for his new company and why he likes having fun with his marketing.
  • We also discuss the different expenses you have when you start working for yourself vs. having a 9 – 5 job.

Kirk’s Favorite Online Apps:

(Some of the links listed below are affiliate links, and I will receive compensation for you signing up for service using my links.)

Mentioned in this Episode:

Reach Out to Kirk:


Note: Transcripts are created automatically and are not 100% accurate. However, they help our visitors find relevant content using our website’s search feature.

Welcome to the show. Kirk. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Thanks for being on tell us about yourself outside of your business outside of my business. Let’s see. I am on Netflix attic, been married for about a year of a screenwriting background. So film school for that that’s what actually got me locked into the whole marketing realm. What else I play guitar.

When did you know that you are an entrepreneur?

It kind of fell on me calling myself an entrepreneur real long time to actually accept. I never thought of myself like that I was worked nine to five jobs. And eventually what happened was, I worked for different agencies, different companies, and I knew all these people in the film world and knew all these marketing people from all over and I just started doing my own thing. And then I realized I was like, wow, you know, I know all these great talented people, I want to do my own thing. I want to create this creative hub. I feel like it’s only been like recently like this past year that I really considered myself an entrepreneur before I just considered myself like, I just have really great people around me and or do something special. Well, tell us about your business and how you got started with that. So I have two businesses, I have a trio 51 so digital ad agency in Newport Beach, we do video promos, websites, PPC, email marketing, like really anything under the umbrella of marketing we do. And that one started just like I said, I knew a bunch of people in the marketing world and I knew a bunch of the film people and I wanted to get everybody together and create something. And so that’s how that started. And then during the process the second company was created the book squashing calm, and the story behind that is we we make a lot of websites tends to be our bread and butter, and we had a client and I would say, she was like, in her 70s or so really nice lady, but just didn’t understand the concept of how to use a computer, you don’t how to turn it on one day, she sent this email, sent me an email, it was like 1000, 2000 words long and single space. And she was angry. And somewhere in the middle was the problem. I was like, Oh, my God, this is horrible. And so I told the guys, I’m like, Okay, so the problem is XYZ. And it was some something so small, it was on some web page. I don’t remember what it was. But she didn’t have a small website. And so I had to reach out and I had to diagnose the issue. I had to be like, so you something what the problem was, but she didn’t tell me what you’re all you’re on. And so I had to ask her. And that just that was not well known. As they say, she got really even more upset. I was like, why don’t you know this stuff? I don’t answer these questions. And so I went back to the guys I’m like, Yes, we’re going to be a tough one can so during that process, I’d had the idea of like, I just wish there was a way that we could diagnose issues without having to put this client on the spot or making them feel like they’re being put on the spot and get all this valuable information for them. And we just started brainstorming and and that’s how the books crusher started, we just started adding more and more features to it. And then we were like this, let’s share this with everybody. So now people can just take like a screenshot and will we can tell you what browser they’re on, URL again, annotating shot, and then internally, you can assign it to different team members, share reports, does everything you’d want to manage those requests and diagnose issues a little bit better.

So is this an internal tools just for your agency, and then you decided to release it?

Yeah, so in the beginning, it started off where I was like, this seems like something we should have for ourselves. So we developed it for ourselves, we weren’t really sure if people were, how they’re gonna react to it. So we tried it on a couple clients and we showed them some demos, some videos and got really good responses and really good interest and a lot of people say like, why didn’t we use that in the beginning we heard that and when I started to see that I started getting excited enough like you know, originally we developed it for WordPress, I I love WordPress. I know there’s like a ton of frameworks out there. But I personally love WordPress. So it’s for WordPress and our, our whole belief with the book squash it was we want to streamline communication. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to communicate. And if we’re true to that we know that not every website is built on WordPress wicks larval. I’m sorry, good. So there’s all these different frameworks. So when we recognize that we said we have to go bigger than WordPress so we took the plugin and we developed it to work on any type of framework out there wicks larval anything out there and we just just ran with it that’s awesome. And how did you get it out to market what we’ve been doing is super grassroots approach we’ve been reaching out to podcasts like yourself doing that just like a lot of organic cold email asking friends like hey, do you know any podcast series you might be interested to check this out doing a lot of that other stuff that we’ve done is I write for Forbes so I’ve gotten a little shout out from them that helped us with some SEO backlinks and then the latest thing and I’m he had a chance to check out our YouTube channel we actually shot a little fun rap video and that idea was pretty cool. There’s a target where I live and every weekend my wife line drive by it and there’s this kid there for like, maybe for like for like it good. Five weeks, this kid was there to sell in his rap seat. And on the fifth week I was it was like the universe told me I was like, Oh my god, I have to make a rap video for the book squashes.

I told my wife and she’s like you’re not and I’m like, No, no, it’s the universe and so I did not hire that kid actually probably like 20 different rappers and we hired a rapper and then we shot this video we didn’t shoot the video we got like stock footage and stuff and put it all together and we put it on YouTube it’s been online for like maybe three and a half weeks man it’s gotten over 20,000 views so we’re trying to have some fun with the marketing I’m a strong believer that if you do marketing for somebody else you want to honor their voice their brand voice as much as as possible if you do marketing for me like let’s have let’s just go crazy and just have some fun and see how people react and so or we have some liberty is for ourselves.

Did you hear Wendy’s mixtape like Wendy’s the burger place?

No i don’t think i don’t think i’ve heard that they have their own rap.

Yeah, they came out with a whole mixtape.

Okay, so the bar has been raised.

Yeah, there were like taking shots at McDonald’s. And they’re always broken ice cream machine and everything. Nice. Very cool. We’ve been talking about maybe doing like a country song are or something that sounds like System of a Down because I love them. Yeah. Yeah, that’d be cool. I also see Billie Jean Have you heard of him? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Billie Jean the marketing guy. Yeah. So, I’ve seen him do music videos for Facebook ads. Yeah.

Yeah. He’s, he’s promoting so heavily on social media. I seen his stuff. He’s got one where it is. He’s like doing a mock of the wolf on Wall Street. I don’t know if you’ve seen that one. But YouTube, but you’ll find it. Yeah, it’s really funny.

He’s got so many that like, every time his ads pop up on my timeline. It’s never the same one. So crazy. Yeah. Yeah. What’s been your greatest business challenge?

I think it’s evolved. I think in the beginning. There’s somebody on our team, his name’s any of those great quote that he told me once. And I forget what it was about. But what he said essentially was, how do you know what you don’t know? So when we, when I first started treehouse with you on there were so many things that I didn’t know. And I just, you know, you can read books, you can Google it. But stuff happens all the time. You’re like, oh, lesson learned, I’ll never do that. So I remember thinking that a lot. And then other things, finding talented people is really, really hard. And keeping them sometimes can be even harder. So you need to what I’ve learned is you need to really make it an environment that they want to be that they have a chance to be challenged, that that they can grow and that it feels like it’s part of them that it’s not just it’s not just one person running the show. It’s all of us. And that’s so, so important.

Aside from not wanting to work for someone else, and aside from your family, what’s your why?

That’s easy. For me, I’ve, I’ve always wanted something creative. And I’ve always like, that’s why I was big into writing, and screenwriting, I always wanted to, I just want my vision was always to tell a story and entertain people and have a really be like, this is awesome. This is great. So I feel like for my own personal quest, creative journey of trying to make something that people are generally like, wow, that was an awesome experience. That was awesome. Tell me more. Tell me more. What advice do you have for someone that’s just getting started in business, I would say, don’t forget about meat and potatoes. It’s really, really easy to get excited with the idea of being an entrepreneur, and starting your own business, doing things on your own. All of it sounds really glamorous, you know. But the truth is, it’s a really, really hard road, lot of companies fail, a lot of people fail, there’s going to be mistakes, you can guarantee it. So make sure that if you’re going to start a project, if you’re going to start a business, if you’re going to go out and bank on yourself, which I think you should do, at some point, make sure that you also have some type of safety net. So maybe that means I’m working a nine to five job, I’m not going to quit right away my passion on the side until I feel comfortable enough. There’s clients, there are a need there, I have enough resources to get by for a while. I think that’s really, really important. Important. keep things in perspective.

That’s excellent advice in one big mistake that I see people with nine to five make is they want to quit their job once they replace their nine to five income. But one thing that they don’t realize is that you’re going to start paying your all of your taxes when you have your business. So right now, your company pays half of your taxes. But when you’re self employed, you’re paying all your taxes. Unless you’re getting paid as your LLC, LLC is paying you on payroll. Most people aren’t getting paid that way. So you need to make more and on top of taxes, then you’ve got business expenses. So you really have to be consistently making a lot more than you’re making it your job.

Yeah, that’s another one. How do you know what you don’t for us, we actually had an early on where we had a referral through a friend. And we did work for this client. And we did a we did a couple months worth of work. And it was all email verbal, complete rookie newbie mistake only did it because the relationship was there. And the guys kicked out on the bill never heard from again to the work, change those passwords, and it’s just been this whole whole ordeal. So really big headache, but stuff like that. Like you would never expect that on a nine to five world. And it’s just inexperienced, not recognizing like, hey, there’s a right way to do things. You don’t want to take shortcuts, you want to make sure that you do that, that type of research and things. And there’s again, like there’s going to be something else where it’s like, Oh, I forgot to check this. I forgot about this. Like, you can guarantee that the unknown will become now at some point. Yeah, definitely find someone in your industry that’s taken the leap and read their books, read their blogs, follow them on social media, get to know their story. Because those things that Kirk is talking about that you don’t know, you start to learn them as you start to follow these people. Yeah, and a lot of people mind if they’re not like huge companies. They’re not like Elon Musk, they will give you the time of day, if you send them an email, if you reach out to them. If you contact them, they will answer you, they’re not going to tell you like the 10 things like did exactly. They’re not going to give their process away completely. But they will point you in the right right direction. You know, it might take like 20 emails to get that one person, but it will happen people do. There are a lot of good people out there are a lot of good, like mentors and people you can reach out to. There’s also like Facebook groups. If you can find the right Facebook group. definitely connect with people who are relevant to your niche or your cause, who will give advice and not try to sell you stuff that might be an area to look into.

So that brings me to my next question. If you could have lunch with one business thought leader, who would it be?

Oh, Elon Musk. I, I am a huge fan of the London Moscow I think he’s changing the world. And, and always I like so hard to grasp from PayPal to Tesla, the Space X boring company, this is all these things are just like, wow, I would love to just like I don’t know, if I’d want to have lunch with them. I’d love to actually get the Tesla and go driving with him and talk to him. But it’d be interesting, interesting just to see like this, talk to him and see how he sees the world. Somebody like that. Like, I don’t know why he does things he does. He says like, I’ve seen him in interviews. He comes across really awkward and not always the friendliest guy. And he’s sometimes those things where it’s like, I’m doing this because I want to leave a better world. I want to do things because, you know, I have the ability to do it. But sometimes I feel like those answers on enough I’d love to be like, Well, why, what got you started and, and where do you see it going. I can only imagine what he’s going through right now, just of all the troubles that Tesla’s are going through just overcoming everything and, and like the last few dozen in every business has been, it’s been pretty pretty harsh to reporters. So it’d be interesting to see like that guy to me is the ultimate entrepreneur changing the world. And I think that’d be somebody like, you would definitely learn a lot from him. Because I know he’s like this multi billionaire. But it doesn’t look like it’s all been an easy ride.

What’s your favorite business book?

haven’t completed too many business books I have completed like a lot of like writing. That’s where that to me is like, my strength, like telling stories and writing and creativity so highly would look at that. And at least if you’re in the marketing world, or in the creative world, because a lot of what we do is how do we get the story across? How do we how do we convey what we’re doing? And for that, there’s one by I’m drawing a blank on his name, I want to say Steven Spielberg, what assessing it’s Robert gets the other. It’s a Stephen guy, and he writes all the harder books on writing and see, can you see me Okay, yeah, thanks. Stephen. King has this great book on how to write and how to tell stories. And it’s it is it’s a really good book if you want to become a writer. It’s also really good book if you’re interested in marketing. And that’s been like really, really tremendous, helpful tool for me to be like, how do we tell these stories?

What’s your favorite internet resource or app that just makes your life easier?

Ooh. So we use Podio we like that it’s a project management system I like I like that one a lot.

And we’re also using we’re using the bugs crusher now not the pitch ourselves, like website projects. Other other one, I don’t think a lot of people are going to know this one. It’s called plan sexy la fit Expo. com. It’s a Russian company, I think, or European company. Another really great project management system. I think for us, I’ve gone through so many different project management systems from base camp to a sauna slack. But finding one so that I like or that we use a lot is so important to us.

I think I’m more of a put things down on a piece of paper person, because I’m like, Oh, my gosh, I already have these things listed here. And now I got to put them back in here. But sometimes I do use it just because I need to give myself deadlines, right? Yeah, I I know, like a sauna would be probably like, a little bit more like a to do list. Oh, I was gonna say I kind of like trellis, but I know that it’s a little basic for certain for like project management. It’s a little basic. But then again, so it was a pen and paper.

Yeah, that’s true. I know. A lot of developers Hello? Yeah, a lot of like, who prefer that one. I i I’m like you. I’m not a fan of base camp. And I’m not a fan of the sauna. I know a lot of companies that use a sauna, no, older companies use base camp a lot, pretty big. I think. I think they have like, free versions to they do. And I think it’s, you don’t really pay that much. And you can put so many people and have a bunch of projects on it. I think that’s one of the reasons because most of these others you got to pay per user. Yeah, plan fix. You do have to pay they don’t have a free version. I think po do they do you have a free version. But I think it’s up to like five seats. And there is like there is setup required. So that’s why I like I like it. There’s no project management system that’s perfect. There’s always going to be like, Oh, I wish it was red and blue. Yeah, audio there is that there is that setup that you need to like, kind of go through. We’ve been using it for over two years now. So we’ve kind of tailored for our needs, and then the Buzzcocks. We do have paid plans but it’s all unlimited so you can have as many people as you want okay so it’s like base camp you just pay a monthly fee and you can add whoever you want yeah you can ask whoever you want from the beginning as many people as you want yeah cool.

Well where can listeners find you online where you add on social media What are your websites?

The easiest way to get ahold of me is to visit one of our websites so thebugsquasher.com or treehouse51.com and then just go to the contact page and hit contact and if you say hey, I want to talk to Kirk The guys will tag me on it. Say like this is for you. That’s all that’s happened in the past. Correct. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.

Yeah, thanks so much for the time Cindy. I appreciate it.