Kansas City Content Marketing Agency Guild Content Owner Justin Ricklefs

Table of Contents

Have you been heartbroken by your digital content creation partner?

Have you struggled with getting quality blog posts, reliable video production, or need help getting your podcast produced (yeah, your company should have a podcast by now)?

If you’ve ever struggled with content marketing, you are going to love this episode.

In this episode of the Local Business Leaders Podcast, we interview Justin Ricklefs of Guild Content, an award-winning Kansas City content marketing and social media marketing agency and discuss how they have solved the content production problem for their clients and their own agency.

Connect with Justin Ricklefs & Guild Content

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I’m your host, Phil Singleton. Today we have a Kansas City legend, Justin Ricklefs. Justin is the founder and CEO of Guild Content. I love that name by the way, we’ll talk about that. Probably the first or second question. A KC based marketing agency focused on creating content that connects and builds brands that can be trusted. His love of writing and connecting to the emotions of audiences led him to leave his front-office role in the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 to start his agency. You can learn more of their story at GuildContent.com. Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin Ricklefs:  Dude, I don’t think I can continue after you called me a legend. What do you… I’m out man.

Phil Singleton: You are my in eyes, man. Totally. We’ll talk about a little bit more about why, but really awesome stuff. I’m just so happy. Like you said, we become kind of fast friends, I feel. I’m just so stoked because you and your company are bringing such a breath of fresh air to the Kansas City business owners. I can’t wait to just kind of spread the word out more for you guys, but at first I just really like to get into, tell us about your first steps out of school and what got you in the business world and then how you started a Guild.

The Justin Ricklefs & Guild Content Origin Story

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, man. First, I’m really privileged and honored to be with you, number one and also with your listeners. So appreciate the invite and man, happy to tell that story. I grew up in KC, North of the river, went to Oak Park, graduated in 1999 back in the day, the whole thing. Was going to go play baseball at Rockhurst and stay in KC and through some personal stuff that was going on with our family, ended up being like, dude, I got to get the heck out. So went to Mizzou and kind of chased both my older sister and a girl who ended up becoming my wife, and still my wife, thankfully. Yeah, thankfully. Went to Mizzou, started as an education major and frankly kind of wanted to do the high school coaching thing, and got two years in and this shows my ADD and my lack of process.

You’re a process guy and I’m opposite of that as you know, and so got two years in and there’s like this huge capstone, not it wasn’t called the capstone. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s some like huge project and I was like, I’m not doing that. It’s way too hard. I changed my major midstream to communications, which if you go to Mizzou and you’re a J school person, like lots of clout, lots of like people it’s a really highly regarded J school, but if you go to Mizzou and don’t go to J school and get your communications degree, people are like, really man! That’s lame. So anyhow, long story short, I can make stories really long, but the long story short was graduated from Mizzou in 2003 and met a guy who changed the course of my life really, and is still like a really deep mentor to me.

A guy named Clyde Lear. Clyde started a company called Learfield, at the time it was Learfield Communications and it kind of evolved into Learfield Sports, and now Learfield IMG. Has been kind of bought and gobbled up along the way. His passion, his wisdom, his generous spirit, he was one of in mid-Missouri and really across the country, if people know him by Clyde, like he just has this aura about him. He’s probably in his mid to late 70s now. I met him through an organization called Young Life and we were in his basement at like this volunteer retreat and he had this, essentially this party. He had like a Bob Stoops signed football on his wall and he had a North Carolina signed Roy Williams, basketball.

He had this huge sports memorabilia and I kind of grew up playing sports and that was an outlet and the thing for me. I was like, what the… Super nice house, like what the heck does this guy do for his job? So I started asking questions and he’s like, Oh yeah, we own these multimedia rights in all of these colleges and we’re growing this school business and we have awesome people that work for us. I’ll remember this forever. He’s like the motto of our company is, build the team, grow the company have fun. I was like, I’m in. How do I work there? For about six months after I graduated, I legitimately worked in a fraternity kitchen flipping burgers, working just like a cook.

It was a job because I was so desperate to find a spot at the Learfield kind of team. I kind of scratched and clawed and annoyingly hung around and interned and ended up, they hired me in 2004 as like an entry-level sales guy. I’m making like $22,000 a year with a little bit of upside. So I worked at Mizzou for three years and then they transferred me down to the University of Memphis for a couple of years, which is really cool. Our third daughter was born in Memphis. We have five kids. I feel like I’m jumping into the deep end here. Sorry, man. We have five kids, two of them were born in Columbia. Our third daughter was born in Memphis.

My wife wasn’t this dramatic, but she essentially said, we have three kids. All of our family is in Kansas City, I’m moving back there. If you want to come with us, you can. I get it, it wasn’t that dramatic, but…

Phil Singleton: I know, but I also know how that goes.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, there was this call towards home and the comfort and the support of home. So we went to KC. I fortunately had a chance to interview with the Chiefs in 2008 and took a sponsorship sales job in 2008 with the Chiefs and kind of did the corporate thing and worked my way up or whatever. Then I actually took my first entrepreneurial swing with a cousin essentially. Left the Chiefs in 2013, we moved to South Florida, which is a story in and of itself, to try to help him build this business. It was kind of my first swing with equity and growth and all this stuff. I was like yeah, I’ll do that. Let’s go do that. We moved our five kids to South Florida.

Unplugged from the NFL and all the cool stuff that comes with that. Dude, again, it’s totally a longer story than we have time for, but it was a disaster. It was a total disaster. Like a swing and miss. I missed like a million things that I should’ve seen. He misled me on things that weren’t true. It was just a bad fit and essentially kind of agreed to disagree on lots of things and then he agreed to not let me work there any longer. That was in 2014 and we kind of limped back with lots of shame and embarrassment and weirdness and not much money.

Lived in my in-law’s basement for a few months while we were trying to figure it out. I took a technology job for a year that I didn’t really love. Great people, awesome family, but not the best fit for me and ended up kind of sneaking my way back into the Chiefs world and felt like, this is something I know, this is like a backbone of a job I can go perform at. I say this lovingly, because in my resignation letter, I ended up writing like, I recognize that I’m walking away from the coolest job in the city. There’s nothing but respect that I have from the team and the time I had there, but if I’m honest, I was manufacturing at the last 18 months because I just grew this really big disconnection between what I felt like I wanted to go do, versus what was actually taking place proverbially 9:00 to 5:00.

The components that led to the start of Guild, which I think is the long winding way to your question is that the last couple of years I’d begun to just write. I didn’t really know that it was in me, man. I just started blogging. I started creating long-form Instagram posts and sharing stories about the struggles of being a young family with five kids and-

Phil Singleton: A personal blog basically.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, so like a spun up and it’s really, you will laugh at it. I spun up this little website, justinricklef.com and it needs like drastic attention. I started blogging man, and writing stories and telling stuff about the ways I was failing as a dad or the challenges that we’re through in marriage or leadership things that I’m learning, whatever. Just random more personal and emotional type stuff. I found like there’s a lot of lessons there, but the thing that I try to kind of keep coming back to with Guild and what we’re doing now, is when you create content that connects to the emotions and the experience of others that they can relate to, what happens is really magical. It creates this like audience in this community, in this conversation. Then, I mishandled some of it and like screwed up and kind of got weird and the desire to build some audience or whatever, but there’s cool stuff happening.

Justin Ricklefs: I was writing for HuffPosts and I was writing for the Today Show, and I was writing for Yahoo Parents and all this cool stuff started to happen. We had the Today Show in our living room filming us about daddy blogging stuff. It was really-

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: It was really weird. It was really weird.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. It’s so cool.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. Yeah. Again, like most things, it had like some weird… There’s some mixed motives and I was trying to build this thing that I could leave my job for and then what was really just profound and good timing was, I have good friends, like we all do. We had this group that we used to call the Guild, we would meet, I named it because I’m a dork and we had this once a month, fire pit in our backyard with, hopefully your listeners are okay with whiskey and cigars. We had whiskey and cigars once a month and sat as guys and kind of had friendship and just talked and shared stories and challenges in life and excitement, whatever. Just super organic.

I had to give it a name because I’m in a dummy. I was like, man, this thing needs an identity. It kind of started naturally and organic and then it grew to like 30 or 40 guys. I was like, man, we need a name, so we called it the Guild. What started taking place in my real job, my day job, where I was getting money and 401k and health insurance from was all of these big companies that we work with. Everybody in Kansas City knows most of them, right? Like it’s Community America, Hy-Vee and Sprint. Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Farmland Foods, all these big corporate partners that the Chiefs were sitting in these meetings and for the most part, it’s a generalization.

For the most part, the conversation continued to turn to, hey, how do we tell our story? How do we create content that our audience wants to read via email or on social media or on our blog. I just had this, again, not the most brilliant business idea in the world, but I was like, hey man, I’m kind of doing that on the side over here with weird stuff like marriage and parenting. I think I could write a blog about selling stake that would probably be better than what they’re doing right now. It was like the aha, right? I think those companies would pay me to do that. Again, this is in 2016 when I’m kind of trying to figure it out. So I started searching, probably companies you work with and it’s like content marketing is a thing.

I didn’t grow up as an agency background guy. I just like stumbled into this need and this pain that these companies were experiencing going, they need help connecting. We’re living in this transformational era where the power has left the brand, so to speak and it’s now fully in the hands of someone with an iPhone or an Android phone, right? If you can’t connect to their emotions and make them pay attention, they’re not mean or bad, but they don’t care if you don’t connect to them emotionally, they don’t care and they’re going to move on.

Anyhow, I kind of fortunately had a couple cool relationships that allowed me to test the concept and they were like, oh, dude! You got to go do that. You got to go write words for companies and help them get out of their own way from selling products and services and features and benefits into, their customers care about themselves, right? They’re not bad or selfish, it’s just how it is. So instead of us talking about the stakes that we have for sale, let’s talk about the holiday table that, that stake sits on and the meaning behind the meal with the family or whatever analogy or whatever story. So Holy smokes, Phil, I just rambled for a long time.

Guild Content Kansas City

Phil Singleton: No, it’s brilliant. I love it. I love it. I love it. As you’re talking, I’m looking and reading because before we even started recording, I Googled Guild because I love the name. I did this before and I’m reading a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants or having considerable power, but then an association of people from mutual aid or their pursuit of a common goal. Awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: Definition B was originally the meaning behind… Again, man, I’m kind of weird and a little bit more old school than a traditional digital marketer. My desire is like there’s nothing that will ever replace the human connection that people make friendship over and sit across and eat a meal together, drink a glass of wine and say I trust you and I will do life or I’ll buy something from you, right? Nobody talks like that, but in the digital, and I was like, man, the old school craft and art of a Guild in that definition. It was the meaning. For me, it started as like fellow like-minded, again, in my particular instance, men that would gather around a fire and talk about life for an hour and a half on a Thursday night.

It’s morphed now, it’s grown. It’s evolved into like, we’re hoping like-minded businesses that have really meaningful stories to tell that kind of have either been overlooked or forgotten or maybe the big agency wouldn’t take the meeting because the monthly retainer isn’t enough. So these scrappy, hungry, beautiful storied, local for the most part brands that are looking to create a mutiny a little bit, are perfect clients for us. We love getting to help tell their story.

Phil Singleton: I love it, man. I love it too that you’re so… I mean everybody and myself too, I’ve got tell my story from time to time. Every entrepreneur has gotten their butt kicked hard and that makes you who you are, me too. Gosh, I could just, all the times I’ve fallen on my face and all the time… Yeah I love it. It makes us hungry. It makes us move forward. We learn from it, but it makes you humble too. So it makes you more appreciative of what you’re doing and use it as a stepping stone, not something to blame stuff, but I just hear all that in your voice. It’s so in your story, it’s awesome. It’s awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. Thanks Phil. It has been, you don’t have enough time for me to tell you all the ways that I’ve screwed up over the last four years, but….

Phil Singleton: I’m the same way because nobody wants to hear about, I just made my first billion dollars at a lemonade stand when I was five years old. It doesn’t work that way. Every entrepreneur has got several failure stones they’ve stepped forward on so it’s great. I got to ask you a couple of things. Let’s jump right into because I’ve been around a little bit longer than you have, not too much longer, but a little bit longer.

Justin Ricklefs: Triple the time.

Solving Business Owner Content Creation Problems

Phil Singleton: Well, maybe from a business standpoint, but you guys have gotten much further along than I have in a much shorter period of time so kudos to you, man. I think that’s true to that. In fact, we’ll get to our last question, which is like if you were able to do it all over tomorrow, what would you start? What you have learned in how to rebuild Guild? Think about that one for a little bit, but really what I want to get to is I’ve been in this long enough where the same problem has existed from when I started to yesterday and that is, getting content going. For us, we build SEO driven websites, but guess what happens when we go through the process. We get 90% done and then we’re waiting sometimes days, sometimes a week for guess what? Content.

Justin Ricklefs: The words.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, exactly. Whether it’s more and more, we want video. More and more we want words and copy and that kind of stuff. We can do some of that. It’s not really what we do in house so much, but my point is, it’s just a struggle because I think a lot of people think content is hard, or there’s not good story. Every company out there has got too much content inside their company in terms of what they can write about. There are stories, there’s FAQ, there’s emails, there’s expertise. I mean, sometimes they feel like, well, we don’t know what to talk about or say. They’ve got plenty, but why is it that you guys have been so good and so successful at being able to create good quality content in the voice of the client, which is what I’ve noticed, which is really exceptional:  consistency – that’s the problem for a lot of us that are not professional content creators.

Like I’ve said before, we do it, but we do content that’s anywhere from good to… Okay, maybe sometimes it borders on great, but it’s still not our thing because it’s not what we focus on and we get to it because it gets us the results, but I want 10X return, which is what great content does. Not 1X or 2X return. The problem is, the clients can’t do it. They want to do it and they’ll say they’ll do it, but they’re busy running the business. They’re not writers and they don’t know how to do video most of the times, they don’t have to do it. So being able to get in there and develop a process where you can extract great content from the client, tell their clients stories. I mean, how are you guys do?

I mean, it’s really amazing. We’ve already talked about this. I’ve been in heartache after heartache of trying to work with other people, other companies on cases. Other agencies definitely writer after writer, after writer, and it’s the same problem that we have for literally 15 years now, but here we come and work with you guys on a mutual client, hopefully many more, problem-solved. Great, authentic content that we can take way further. That adds way more value to the client’s digital footprint and it’s coming from you guys. I want to know can you give me some insight on how you’re able to solve this problem that so many other people have problems doing?

Justin Ricklefs: I’ll answer your question with a quick story. We’ve got a guy on our board, his name’s Corey Scheer and his fingerprints are all over what we’re doing. We sat actually in this exact same room I’m sitting in now looking at the whiteboard, remembering him, he drew this… He’s like, everything comes back to Venn diagrams. He draws this Venn diagram that said, one he labeled creative, one he labeled care and one he labeled operations and he was like… This is probably 18 months ago. He’s like, you guys are beautiful at the storytelling and the creative part. You guys are first class in the care. That’s for me that the mission here is how to get, not literally invested, but telling the Lumber One story with Dan and Kevin and that group that we’re doing kind of mutually together.

It was like, my ass is on the line. I want nothing more than for everything we produce for them to be first-class and like connecting. When it does, and I feel like personally responsible. Anyway, the third circle he drew was the operations. He’s like, you guys are really bad at that. He was like that part is a huge area that has to get better in order for quality of life to increase for lower all of the things that we were kind of struggling with. We’re still not perfect at that, but we’re getting way better. A client version of the same story, a dear friend, Marcy Johnson, who’s been a client since day one. She runs the corporate communications at National Beef and we do their social media and help them with their newsletter, and it’s a really fun, beautiful project. I wrote this blog for her and submitted it to her at literally like 11:30 PM the day before it was supposed to go on the website.

I caveat it with like, hey, I’m really sorry and this and that. I’m like, all these reasons why it’s so kind of last minute and I’ll never forget. She called me the next morning. She was like, hey, couple of things. I won’t get a word for it, but she essentially said, hey, the blog was amazing. It is unlike anything that we could have produced. She’s like, but if you put me on this spot again, I’ll have to tell my website guy that he has to get it up today, it’s not going to work out for long. It was in that moment, where I realized, of course we have to produce great stuff. We’re in the content creation business.

If we write bad words or blame blogs or crappy videos, or create graphics that look like crap, of course, people should fire us. The secret and the biggest aha I’ve had in this kind of three and a half, four year journey, is like man, really 90% of this stuff is being really crisp on the execution and showing up and being thoughtful and responsive and caring. I wish it wasn’t such a low bar, but it is. It’s a low bar. It’s a low bar that people have been taking advantage of for far too long that we’re just like, hey, you have a dedicated account manager who lives and breathes and speaks your business and anytime you need them, they’re going to respond to you within… Company policy is, we don’t have many policies because we’re kind of are anti.

Really it’s me. It’s my own dysfunction, but company policy is like, hey client, you don’t go to bed if there’s a client email, I will respond to it or someone on the team responds day of and really within four hours is kind of a goal. Again, we miss that and there’s exceptions and all this stuff, but like the culture is like, we need to come alongside and be these people are desperate. Whether they have zero internal marketing people or 30, they all have too much work on their plate. They’re all spread way too thin and they just need somebody they can trust to execute the stuff that we said we’re going to do. I wish it were more complicated, but that’s been our experience is like showing up, being consistent, being thoughtful, having a plan, and then being able to execute that plan in ways that are not scramble mode, is really key for where we are.

Phil Singleton: I love that. I love that one part too. I think there’s way more to it from what I’ve seen. I think I’ve seen that a lot, which is what’s so refreshing about you guys, but you did hit the nail on the head in one thing. It’s how I feel on the web design and maybe even the SEO services side is, you can kick just about 90% of the market’s competition’s butt just by answering your phone and answering your emails. Being responsive. Do you know what I mean?

Justin Ricklefs: 100%. Yeah. Again, especially in Kansas City and I’m biased because I live here and this is where we’re raising our family, but if you like the people… The obvious caveat is, man, Phil if you and your team develop a really poor website, like you’re not going to get very many clients. Lots of people in Kansas City can develop nice websites. Lots of people in Kansas City can develop on-brand, on voice blog, but if you have a team of people who care and go above and beyond with being consistent with the way they communicate in a way that they like… I’ll give it a great example, Colin Potter on our team, he’s like this funny ninja about, he knows everybody’s birthday.

He knows their anniversaries and he sends them gifts that they care about. That’s how it started. Now this culture is like, hey, I noticed… This is a real example of our selection of this week, hey, Andrew’s birthday’s coming up on the 16th of November. Today’s November 5th when we’re recording this, so he’s about two weeks in advance going, hey, Andrew’s birthday’s coming up in two weeks. I noticed when we did the Google Meet, he had his daughter’s Hello Kitty bobblehead thing in the background. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we sent him a Hello Kitty lunchbox, along with $100 Scooter’s gift card, because Scooter’s is his favorite coffee shop. You think when Andrew gets that in his mail at his house on the 16th, he’s going to be like, those guys suck. I hate those guys.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. It’s almost like the flip side of like how to me SEO is. It’s so in the details of just noticing some stuff and that’s so beyond what people would even remember. That’s really clever. I love that. I do have another question because we run into this occasionally where your stuff and you’re so responsive that you create a monster.

Justin Ricklefs: Big time.

Phil Singleton: So you got to be careful of that too, because it’s like all of a sudden it’s like you’re able to reply so quickly that now it’s the expectation if you don’t reply in a couple of whatever it is and then all of a sudden there’s more and now you’re getting outside of the stuff. It doesn’t happen to us that, but it does happen sometimes where we got to say, hey, this is kind of… We got to kind of figure out a way, because it’s not sustainable what we’re doing type of thing or disappoint somebody, because it’s like, Oh my gosh, you answered the next day and now all of a sudden the world sky is falling. I don’t know if I…

That’s pretty rare for us, but it does happen enough or sometimes we have to have that conversation because we’re our own enemy there. You know what I mean? If there’s not some understanding of somebody saying, we got to find some middle ground where you don’t become high maintenance for us to where it’s like not a workable relationship, right? Where we don’t want to disappoint you. That’s what happens sometimes when you’re really trying to over-deliver and you over-deliver into somebody where the expectation it’s on demand little stuff. I don’t know. Like I said, assuming you’ve run into it at least once before.

Justin Ricklefs: Oh yeah. Honestly, man, it feels like you’re my counselor at this point because that’s the struggle of what we’re doing right now. It has become so, and it’s beautiful, but there’s this been kind of contagious energy to what we’re doing. The challenge is like, hey, we can run this fast for a while. Everybody can’t and our people might get burned out and our clients might feel like whatever and so that is a struggle to kind of say, okay, how do we be real? This is again where you bring so much more value in and the way you approach stuff, it was like, how do we take a big deep breath and create the process and not just like be so nimble and responsive. Nimble is great when you’re three people and six clients.

Nimble is a little bit harder and more chaotic when now we’re at 10 and client work is growing and evolving and it becomes a little trickier and it becomes a little less sustainable and some people get left out of the communication. I don’t know what’s going on. So we’ve done a lot of work and really Colin and Rachel and our team have led the effort of like documenting what is the Guild way? How do we cook the food here? What are the step-by-step ways to cook the food. I’m used to like, hey, cool. We need a blog, let’s like whip up the blog? I didn’t take the time to write down the recipe. We’re starting, it’s been like the six month journey, but we’re documenting all of our processes and exactly the steps we take.

I’ll be giving one specific random example. I got really frustrated one time because I was like, hey, this blog post kind of sucked and it missed the mark. What happened? It didn’t get to the client, but we stopped it and it just wasn’t very good. I was like, guys, this isn’t that hard. Colin pushed back on me, which is beautiful. I’m glad he did. He said, you haven’t given us the ability to sit and document it. So we did it on that call and the Guild way to build a blog post and the way that we want to do it, which the end result is 400 words, or 600 or whatever it is. Is 17 steps from interview the client, to that grab the photo, to make sure the title’s right, to make sure we get three steps of editing and all this stuff. That kind of pull them back and we’ve got to become more operations and process minded like you are. Again, that’s my random answer.

Phil Singleton: Well, its like how you saw it, I mean, I think I sent you over kind of a demo proposal from us. It was like a half a page when I first started, now it’s like six or seven, but it’s more like trying to… It’s not like we have proposals, it’ll be like contracts so much as expectations to walk through. For me, what I’ve done in the past and I got my butt kicked a few times, was if you’re such a yes person, you want to be a pleaser, right? I feel like we are-

Justin Ricklefs: Which I am totally.

Managing Kansas City Digital Agency Client Expectations

Phil Singleton: You can slippery slope yourself into hell and then really turn… It’s not even the client’s fault at that point. You just kept giving and giving to the point where you gave away your value and now the expectation is… So that’s kind of how we’ve done it and you guys are doing the same thing. It’s really just trying to kind of systemize stuff and put a price tag on things and we’ll do stuff sometimes where it’s like, okay, we’ll do this one for maybe, but we can’t keep doing it this way. We’re going to have to charge you type of thing or you got to. I think that’s almost get to a point where you have to just make sure that you don’t over… Like I said, I think you can… Can you? I mean, you tell me. I guess I’m asking you the question. I feel like if you don’t, you’re at fault for making a relationship go bad because you’re the one that cheapened yourself by just overdoing it and not setting some kind of expectation or boundary up.

Justin Ricklefs: 100%, man. I am the worst at like, I’m being critical, but I am the worst about the… I am a pleaser. I am like we’re scrappy, trying to build it and trying to get the thing off the ground. I’m fortunate that I’ve had enough burn marks that I’ve put some people in my life to help me not do this again and again.

Phil Singleton: Saying yes to everything.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, yeah. As an example-

Phil Singleton: These can stress your team out too, right?

Justin Ricklefs: Totally. Totally dude. Totally. The billable hour thing, like we don’t really bill hours. We just do projects and like stuff, but like at what point does Justin getting in his truck, I hate talking in third person. I just did it, sorry. Me getting in my truck, going to a video shoot in Lawrence, Kansas. That takes me four hours out of my day. My wife said like, are you sending them an invoice for that? I was like, yeah. I mean, right. I had no answer for it because I didn’t build the boundary in the right way, the front end. So that’s the area that as we get through a little bit through the bootstrappy hustle, money in, then you can do stuff kind of mindset. Then as we grow up, these next couple of years that’s the area we’ve got to be more disciplined and rigorous as in our own internal stuff. The client work, we’re going to kind of always be in the mind of doing it, but anyway, I’m not answering your question directly.

Phil Singleton: That’s thorough, that’s thorough.  Just being able to kind of talk shop on that, so no. Then, just good communication with clients kind of letting them know sometimes what the scope is. Sometimes, I myself, was so afraid in the past to charge people. Now, I’m a lot less because we’re trying to, okay. We can’t do that because if we do it throws these other projects out of sync, we can’t just jump in and do this thing for you unless we put a price tag on it. What I found is most people are pretty cool about that.

Justin Ricklefs: Of course, they are.

Phil Singleton: They expect to be charged, it’s not like they’re asking for something for free, type of thing. So I got out of that mindset and it actually worked out better for us, but it’s always kind talk about, see how other people struggle with that kind of stuff because of your nature, it sounds like mine is you just want to make people happy and you’ll bend over backwards, but then sometimes like you say, you can really just create a problem for yourself.

Justin Ricklefs: 100%. You nailed it. For me, from my personal relationships and also for our team, the discipline to be like, hey, let’s slow down. Let’s make sure this is in scope. Let’s make sure that we clarify on the front end what we’re going to do, what we’re not going to do. As simple as like, hey, if we have four hours of graphic design built into the retainer per month, if we go over that, it’s going to suck. We’re going to send you a bill for $125 an hour or whatever it is. When we send those now, it’s cool. Like yeah, you guys communicated, went through it-

Phil Singleton: Because they knew ahead of time, right? They knew it was going to be was there, it’s not surprising, not angry.

Justin Ricklefs: That’s right. That’s right.

Phil Singleton: So let’s wrap that up because-

Justin Ricklefs: I was going to say that’s one of a thousand ways I’m currently learning how to be a better CEO.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: All of us. That’s awesome. A couple of things like to wrap up with, one is, most of the time I’ll ask the $10,000 question, which is, let’s just say you got to rebuild Guild tomorrow, you have nothing. You’re just starting from scratch, total scratch. So you’ve got $10,000 just to rebuild the business that you have now. None of the people, right. What would you do right now, if you had to just kind of start a new company? Would you with $10,000 bucks buy a computer, go to internet, what do you do? What do you do to start making money the same way? Also, it kind of gets into what have you learned and how would you get jump-started knowing what you know now, but not having any of the employees or team or anything or resources to work with.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. What a great question, man. I’m smiling. I can answer it a thousand ways, I think. I think the current answer to that question would be, I would have invested quicker in video and audio as storytelling mechanisms. The words we write are always going to be like the lifeblood and kind of the like ongoing thing. I think the way we’ve been able to tell stories through video and then specifically through podcasts for clients has been really cool. I think I’d hire somebody who’s really awesome at videography. So that’s my corny answer. The other answer I really want to give is, if I had $10,000, we probably should invest knowing the wards and the challenges we have internally here is like into the operation or the financial discipline of everything, to prevent some of the stuff that we’re kind of trying to figure out now in year four, right? Like we should have just maybe hired a CFO first, not like a client service person, but that obviously. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s great insight. Then lastly, I’d just like to just ask people, it used to be a little bit more before COVID and stuff, favorite places to go, but I just like to ask people now. You’ve been around Kansas City long enough, not necessarily has to be clients or not clients. I’m just wondering other companies that you know of in town here that you admire for whatever reason. It could be people of influence or a company that you look to as like, wow, this company does this great. I look up to this company for this reason. Are there a couple that kind of stand out that you… Anything specific about what you admire about them?

Justin Ricklefs: That’s great. I’d say this if I was on a different podcast, I have a huge man crush on what you and your team do. It feels like this missing ingredient for us, because I want to… Maybe you’re speaking to my ego here, but I want to be the 800-pound gorilla. I want when people think of good content in Kansas City, I want them to think about us and the way you approach the website, period. The foundation of the digital marketing engine is so refreshing and it’s a piece that our group had different experiences with other folks on. You guys are this huge breath of fresh air for the way that you do your work. I legitimately, I’ve like fanboyed on you behind your back a lot.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. I appreciate that. I wasn’t trying to set myself up for that one so much.

Justin Ricklefs: No. Then another one that just came to mind, there are a million and I don’t know this guy super well, but Matt Wegerer, I think his last name is Wegerer of Whiskey Design. They’re really like boutique design shop. When I, and I’m kind of a visual person so when I see something really pretty and visually compelling, and he and his team the stuff they produce from a visual arts perspective is just mind blowing. It’s so good.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, I’m just gonna wrap it up. Where can we find out more about you and kind of things that you’re doing and anything that you’ve got special going on that you’d like to promote too, let us know.

Justin Ricklefs: Man, again, I appreciate the invitation. Our kind of ongoing, evolving story is at guildcontent.com and we have our own podcasts and kind of do that thing there. Then me personally, I’m actually pretty silent on social personally, but I am fairly active on LinkedIn. Then yeah, man. I think that’s kind of on all the social handles as Guild Content…

Phil Singleton: Yeah, it’s pretty funny because social stuff too, for me personally, I’m on it for business and stuff, but I don’t participate in it almost at all, except for LinkedIn of course, for business stuff we do it a lot. Okay. We’ll make sure we put those links up and thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing your story, man, it was awesome. I was just listening to every second of it and it’s so great when people come and share inspirational stories like you have, because it was inspirational to me and then being able to talk shop and how you guys are really doing some special things here in Kansas City for your clients. Man, we’ve said it over and over again, but I already know we’re going to do. I mean, when people see what we’re about ready to bring to Kansas City, partnering on some of these things, I think it’s going to be like King Kong and Godzilla. That’s what it feels like.

Justin Ricklefs: Let’s go!

Phil Singleton: Let’s get ready to crush it here. So yeah, man, this is going to be really exciting. I’m already excited about some of the stuff we’ve started to do. It’s just great. I really appreciate you and your team and I can’t wait to do more stuff and I want to thank you again for coming on the show.

Justin Ricklefs: Oh man, it’s my pleasure and it’s my honor. I’m grateful that you would have me, man. It’s a blast. I’m pleased to call you a friend.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, likewise. All right, man, take care.