To leave the corporate world at the beginning of a financial recession to start a company requires big thinking and even bigger action—and Rebecca Clyde has both in spades. Add that to her ability to outhustle and outwork her competitors and it’s no wonder Rebecca was able to quickly find innovative paths to revenue and growth for her clients despite all odds.
Today, Rebecca has built one of the most highly sought after marketing communications agencies in Phoenix, Ideas Collide, in addition to co-founding her newest venture Botco.ai, a platform that offers chat-nurturing solutions for businesses. How does she do it? By leading with value and operating under the mentality that if you pay it forward, the rest will follow.
In this episode, we talk with Rebecca about the forces that drive her enterprising spirit, the hard lessons she’s learned along the way, and how she creates channels for paying it forward.
Read on for a selection of questions, and listen to the entire interview by clicking the player above.
What led you to leave the corporate confines to build your own company, Ideas Collide?
At the time, I worked at a good company and really enjoyed everything I did while I was there. But I wanted to take more control of my destiny and my income and I realized the corporate world had a lot of limitations. I realized I had outgrown my ability to work for somebody else and was ready to spread my own wings.
In those early days, what were some of the challenges you had to overcome to achieve growth?
We started the company in the middle of the recession in 2008. The very beginning years were scrappy. Our goal was to help our clients find a path to revenue and growth despite all of those downward forces. We were also lucky that we were a startup. We didn’t have the overhead of a big agency so we could charge less, be nimble, try different things and experiment without a lot of risks. Our clients really appreciated that and as a result, some of our fastest growth years were during that period where most other companies in our industry were contracting.
What was the turning point when you realized you had stumbled onto something viable with Botco.ai?<
My co-founders and I had a hypothesis that the world has shifted to become on-demand. Everyone was struggling to keep up with that on-demand world because the marketing technologies, processes and frameworks that have been built were not designed for it. If we could shift that, and make businesses really responsive, then they would be able to attract more customers and retain them for longer. Last year, one of my customers at Botco.ai A/B tested a campaign where half of their customers were driven to a ‘chat with us’ experience in which they got to interact with the Botco.ai chat. The other half went to their typical landing page to book an appointment. What we learned was when people have a chance to ask questions and get an instant answer, they’re twice as likely to convert and become customers. As soon as I saw the results from that effort, I knew we were onto something.
Was it tough to make the decision to leave Ideas Collide and go full time with Botco.ai?
It was a transition I had to plan over a good amount of time. I couldn’t just walk away from it without being very thoughtful. One of the things I did was make a list of all of my duties and responsibilities and slowly began training people to take on each one of those tasks. It was a way to be able to step away from that business so I could start a new company, but it was also a really great way to develop my team. It created that growth trajectory for many of the team members to step up, take on ownership, and truly have an opportunity to run the business, not just be an employee. It was also a growth opportunity for me because it was time for me to build a new company. There was a lot I needed to learn. I needed to have that space to be able to fully give Botco.ai the attention it deserved.
What was one of your darkest moments and how did you emerge from it?
With both companies, it had to do with the loss of a major customer or client. With Ideas Collide, there was one particular client that was doing a lot of work with us until they essentially shut down and disappeared. I felt like a punch in the stomach. We had all these outstanding payments with this one client and I had not put in good measures to protect ourselves against that. It was a good lesson. Sometimes these learnings can cost a little bit from a dollar standpoint, but we recovered.
With Botco.ai, we also had one client that was hit really hard with the pandemic. Unfortunately, their business contracted almost down to zero overnight. They had to go dark and having to deal with that again was a big blow. Very quickly we had to pivot our value proposition to target customers and industries that were not affected by the pandemic, or at least were affected in a different way. We realized that everything we had put in place could be easily adapted into other sectors. We took those knowledge bases and workflows we had created for our old industry and customers and pivoted those for the sector that was going to be having a lot of movement and activity as a result of COVID.
What’s one of the best things you’ve done for Botco.ai to help propel its growth?
Getting really plugged into the Arizona startup ecosystem. Phoenix is a very young scene for the startup world. Many people would say we’re largely underdeveloped, but because of that, there’s a lot of desire to help and a lot of great resources. What specifically helped us was winning last year’s Arizona Innovation Challenge. We were one of 10 companies to receive a $150,000 grant. It also came with incredible wraparound services that I am incredibly grateful for. We got to participate in a 500-startup entrepreneurship boot camp that was really transformational for the business. It’s resources like that that have helped us get more visibility and teach me things that I didn’t know.
Are there one or two connections along your journey that made a big impact?
I could write a list of the people in my life to whom I am deeply grateful. Mike Denning has been my coach for many years and has been instrumental for me in terms of my leadership development. Meghan Bednarz, one of my first bosses at Intel, was one of those people who believed in me and my abilities and presented opportunities to me that propelled my career in many ways. Dorothy Dowling at Best Western has also been an incredible mentor and opportunity provider. She’s super visionary and an incredible leader that I admire hugely. Gina Corley is one of those quiet forces here in Arizona who is doing a lot to move businesses forward and to modernize the state of digital marketing in this town. Zack Ferris over at Coplex has been an incredible mentor and friend. Eric Miller at the Arizona Tech Council.
One of the big things I really believe in is surrounding myself with positive, high energy, experienced leaders because they have so much they can share and if I’m willing to listen and pay attention, then maybe some of that will rub off onto me.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to fellow entrepreneurs looking to make impactful connections?
The most important thing is to always give and provide value first. For every ask I make, I give 10 times. In my case, I do a lot of giving back through Girls In Tech. I also get asked to support a lot of other organizations here, whether it’s teaching a seminar for Local First Arizona and helping small business entrepreneurs, or helping a friend that just wants to learn a little bit about software or sales. Or supporting a fellow founder that just needs a friend to listen to or confide in. There’s so many ways we can give back, but unless we’re willing to do that on a pretty regular basis, I think the asking will fall short and we’ll ring hollow. Make sure you have channels for paying it forward, and then the rest will just take care of itself.
Coffee drinker, yes or no?Sometimes
One business tool you’re geeking out over right now? Botco.AI, obviously.
Favorite piece of technology? The Hypersphere. It’s a workout ball that helps loosen up your muscles so that you’re not so tight.
What’s one book you’d pass along to a fellow entrepreneur? Pitch Anything
One person you’d like to make a connection with?The founder of Infusionsoft/Keap, Clate Mask.
What’s your favorite ice breaker when introducing yourself to someone?I would say, “My name is Rebecca Clyde. I’m the CEO of Botco.Ai and I’m helping businesses double their conversion rates with intelligent chat.”
How many hours of sleep do you get each night, on average? Not enough. Probably about five.
How can people connect with you and Botco.ai? It’s probably best on LinkedIn. Just mention in your note about how you heard about me, whether it was on this podcast or at a conference or wherever. Just include a little note because I’m most likely to see it that way. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org