How to Manage & Run a 250+ Employee Business Entirely Remote ⎜ No Limit Creatives ⎜ EP 70
Ryan Cramer: What's up, everyone? Welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm your host, Ryan Cramer, and this is Crossover Commerce, presented by PingPong Payments, the leading global payments provider, helping sellers keep more of their hard earned money. What's up, everyone? I'm your host, Ryan Cramer, and happy Friday. Welcome to another episode of Crossover Commerce, number 70 on the docket. We're presented by PingPong Payments, and quickly about PingPong, we provide marketplace sellers and entrepreneurs global solutions for controlling their domestic and international funds. An account with PingPong enables companies to significantly reduce their costs when receiving or making international payments, all in one platform to increase operational efficiencies, save time, and allow sellers or businesses to manage their business profits from a single source. For more information, go ahead and check out the link in the comments section below or in the show notes. Go and check out more about PingPong there and sign up for a free account today. Thank you for everyone who is joining us live on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We appreciate the time that you're spending with us. Hopefully it's a beautiful day like it is outside for you as well. Maybe a lot warmer than it is here in Indiana or maybe in Maryland, where our guest is today, but we appreciate your time, spending a little time in my corner of the internet, like I said in the intro. Or if you're not watching this live and you're on team replay, thanks for listening to this at a different time of day, but we appreciate you either doing that or downloading us on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple, or Google Podcasts, truly wherever you can find a podcast, I'm going to be there, just search Crossover Commerce, presented by PingPong Payments, and subscribe and rate those shows below. We're a little bit behind on putting those audio up, but we will be rolling out all those content in the few weeks ahead. But go ahead and do me a favor. If you're watching us live on those social channels, go ahead and follow, like and share this episode on social media. We want to get the word out to everyone who wants and might be interested in this topic. It's really cool about what we're going to be discussing today. Make sure that you hit the reminder button to be notified of future episodes of Crossover Commerce. We have our own Facebook page, just search for us there, or you can follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook or on Instagram. So, if you can't catch us live, make sure you just tag us in those comments, or if you are live, ask your questions in the comments section below. We do see those live, so we can answer any questions you might have about the topic we're covering or maybe about the business for either one of us that we can shed light on. About our guest today. He has been a self- employed designer for over 15 years. He's worked on projects for companies like TrueCar, McAfee, Pluto TV with Viacom, Christine Brinkley skincare, and more, which is a pretty impressive portfolio, if you ask me. My graphic designer background tells me that this is a pretty big deal. He became well known in the marketing industry for a specialty of social media and creatives, which we'll really talk about and dive into today as well. In 2018 he launched No Limit Creatives, a subscription based design service that offers businesses of all sizes graphic and video designs for one flat monthly rate. In just two short years he is employing over 250 different employees and contractors across 30 countries and runs the entire operation all from a single home. He was working remote before it was cool to work remote, everyone. So, we're going to dive into what he and his team are doing that is so successful. Everyone he employs actually works for their own remote location and has not set foot in a brick and mortar location, which is super impressive, especially at that scale. He's helped thousands of companies increase their revenue and improve their reputation through high quality custom creatives that serve a purpose and tell a story. Mentioned many times on this podcast before from the likes of Mina. We had Steven Black also mentioned and tout his business as well, but welcome to the show, Jeff Minnichbach of No Limit Creatives. Jeff, what's going on, man?
Jeff Minnichbach: Ryan, thanks for having me, man. I appreciate that amazing intro.
Ryan Cramer: I've done it a couple times now, but yeah, it's true. Your name comes up quite often on our podcast, from just sellers who, like I said, Steven Black and Mina. He's always tagging you I see and people asking creatives, but that must be kind of cool to have people who go to bat for you and your business if done it right, especially in the creative side of things.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah. It's amazing and I mean, they're both just genuine caring and loving guys and the network of people that I've been able to get involved in has been amazing. So, they're both heavy hitters and they always do a lot of name dropping for me, so I always appreciate that greatly.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. I was going to say, how many employees have you hired just because of their referral system?
Jeff Minnichbach: Oh god, yeah. Yeah, who knows? It's been a lot, I'm sure.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, but yeah, welcome to the show. I know you're kind of on the backend side of things and not on too many podcasts, so I was really excited to be introduced to you. I have a visual and graphic design background, so I get super jacked when I see people in the same industry that are just crushing it right now. So, for people who may not know you or see your face too much, terribly much on YouTube or whatnot, you make your rounds, but what's kind of that background? How you got from your own business to now scaling at a crazy ridiculous amount of people.
Jeff Minnichbach: I started freelancing a long, long time ago and using platforms like Elance and Upwork, and Freelancer. com, and just bidding on jobs. It was all a numbers game for me, so I'd sit there and bid on jobs all day, every day, and I'd buy extra bids so I could just keep that going. The more I bid, the more jobs I was landing. That's really like Elance and Upwork is where it all started for me.
Ryan Cramer: That's awesome. This was back in 20 what?
Jeff Minnichbach: It's been at least six, seven years now since I was freelancing pretty heavily. I got a top rated status there on Upwork for the amount of revenue, and the reviews and stuff like that. It was a really interesting way to make a living at the time, and that's really what kind of just made me explode. I mean, I really started getting a lot of requests for making ad creatives specifically, and that's what really got me thinking oh, I guess maybe I need to get more involved in the ad space. So, I started hitting Facebook and Instagram ad creatives really heavily and getting involved in groups. It just kind of took over from there. So, back in 2018 I wanted to test this model out. I had seen it pop up from some other companies, and freelancing is great, but it's not always consistent. So, the idea of being able to get a more consistent income while also not breaking the bank for companies was really important for me. So, I tested this out and got a couple of designers of Upwork myself, and it just took off from there. It's been a really crazy journey, and like you said, we have really great people that support us and talk about us on podcasts, and groups, and things like that. So, it's been really an interesting journey so far.
Ryan Cramer: That's amazing, yeah. Again, I can imagine just the amount of people who are bidding on, like the likes, and as again, background knowing how people work not in the creative space, they're like, " This is what I want." And this is kind of funny how like Steven said, I have to be super specific on what I want, if not I have people like Jeff who look at me and you're just blank face, you're like, " What do you actually want us to tell the story?" Because as a designer, you have to be specific in the image that you're painting, right? It's almost like doing a portrait, but you have to know what message you're portraying. So, from that perspective, what was it like early on? Were you working with lots of difficult people and you have to navigate the space? What is that like as a freelancer? You're like I know I'm not technically... I'm a freelancer for you, but what's it like going back and forth with clients like that, especially scaling up even?
Jeff Minnichbach: It's a frustrating process. I mean, you deal with a lot of people who just they're not visual people and they don't have that creative mind. I mean, they know what they need, but they can't articulate that or convey it in writing. Without knowing what you want and just kind of jumping into it, it's almost a guessing game. Myself and other designers that work for us, we all hope at the end of the day that we're on the right track and we're-
Ryan Cramer: You're playing a big guessing game, yeah.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, I mean, it's really difficult, and especially working remotely, not having your designer right next to you in a business, in an office. So, it's very challenging. There's typically a lot of back and forth. As we've grown, we've been working on more and more ways to simplify briefing processes and give people different ways to communicate with us, not just typing. So, I've really been starting to push the Loom screen records, and I'm telling people write what you want, but go and make a recording too and share your screen with us, show us what you're talking about. There are sites out there like Frame. io where customers can now actually click on parts of a video or a graphic, and draw, and put arrows and things like that. So, that's something we're going to eventually implement into our custom portal. It is a tedious, time consuming process quite often, but we do work with some really great people too that really have the briefing down to a science, or they have strategists that their whole job is just to kind of give us step- by- step visuals of what they're looking for. So, it's an interesting process.
Ryan Cramer: And you actually made the decision, and I can kind of say everyone who's watching live, a lot of people have from Rob Stanley, he's like, " Jeff is so good, but he's always booked up, but he does great work." So, even that tells you just have the ability to scale quickly, which is probably what you're doing, but we have a couple questions we'll get to. My question is, from early on you had to make the distinction you don't want to have a brick- and- mortar agency, right? You had to say, " I'm going to do everything remote." What was that decision like and how did you come to that decision?
Jeff Minnichbach: Back in the day I would say I was more extroverted in high school when I did a lot of sports and stuff, and as I got older I really... My parents would say, " What the heck are you doing in your room all the time on the computer?" I was in there when I lived at home all the time, trying to make money. I did some affiliate marketing stuff, and I was doing designs through Craigslist for small businesses running ads. I really just got comfortable with the work at home lifestyle, and I was very disciplined, and I still am. I get up and work the same hours every single day and I don't take sick days and things. I mean, we go to one vacation a year typically, and to work from home and be remote was a no- brainer for me. It's what I was very comfortable doing. As I started to hire people from other countries, the remote game was just something that we had to keep going, and it's been working really well. It's definitely got its own set of challenges operating a business through Slack and Asana, and not having in person meetings and things like that, but we've really been able to set up a lot of processes and procedures, and weekly calls, and things like that to try to stay as together as we can without physically being there.
Ryan Cramer: Interesting, and you have employees all over the world. So, what's it like managing from one timezone obviously to people in the opposite end of the world?
Jeff Minnichbach: That's been a challenge. So, we have set working hours, everybody does work in the same timezone as us on the East Coast.
Ryan Cramer: Awesome.
Jeff Minnichbach: So, we don't have different shifts. We are at some point going to open up a second shift because people like in the Philippines are working night shifts, and that's a tough shift to work, especially just kind of being on a computer all the time. You're already tired, and now your eyes are starting to get strained and sore from looking at the computer all night. So, currently everybody is on the same timezones with us, thank god. It's worked out well. There is a little bit of a drop off with people working night shifts, of course, but we have a really, really, really solid team and everybody is really good at working together, and at the end of the day, I wouldn't change anything on that side.
Ryan Cramer: Amazing. So, what's it like recruiting? And people are finding you all over the world. Is it like contracting through Upwork? What's that hiring process like to make sure that besides them sending their portfolio or their digital assets, what is it like to know that they're a legitimate business entity that you want to tie your brand to?
Jeff Minnichbach: We initially used Upwork to recruit and the fees were just crazy through that site. I mean, to be an employer on Upwork you lose money, to be a freelancer, you lose money. So, it's great to generate business and gain revenue through those sites, but the fees when you're at this level of this many people is really exponential. So, we typically do recruiting ads through social media now. We do posts in Facebook groups that are for motion graphics or graphic design groups. Unfortunately, portfolios are great to look at, but they're not always legit, and we've had to find that out the hard way. I mean, we get some really great portfolios, and we bring somebody on board and find out that that wasn't even their work they were showcasing. So, now we have part of the process where people can do test submissions with their application. It's usually a simple graphic or video. That shows us right away if they have the skillsets that we need, if they understand the briefing process that we go through with our customers. So, there's a lot of comprehension testing and skillsets that we're looking at and things like that. It's really helped us kind of get rid of tire kickers, of people who aren't really a good fit for the brand. So, some people don't like that and they think, " I have a portfolio I've been designing for 15 years. Why should I have to do a sample first?" And it's not like we're asking for free work that we're going to go run on the internet and make money off of, it's literally the same test job for every single designer, and it's for our own protection at this point. We just can't hire people that are not showing legitimate portfolios that could be a risk for us.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, and then we had a couple of people ask already questions, so I'll just pop out those. For one of our followers, Brendan Girdler, how do you account for accountability for a remote worker? Do you vary project based or rather than hourly? What's that like for you as a manager and kind of company owner? Then he had a followup question, I thought this was funny. Did you all plan on wearing gray shirts?
Jeff Minnichbach: crosstalk the gray shirt, yeah.
Ryan Cramer: The answer to that is this is the thing I grabbed on my laundry basket quickly before I came down here, Brendan. Thank you a lot. Brendan is a friend of mine.
Jeff Minnichbach: Gray wall.
Ryan Cramer: So yeah, I was going to say gray walls. Come on.
Jeff Minnichbach: Similar shelves, I'm not sure-
Ryan Cramer: We definitely were messaging before this about different things and setups, but we did not plan to wear the same clothes together, so thank you for pointing that out. He's a friend of mine, so thank you for calling that out.
Jeff Minnichbach: What's up, Brendan?
Ryan Cramer: You big jerk. No, I'm just kidding. No, but yeah. So, for the first question, going back to accountability. I'm assuming that's a big thing. Even when COVID hit, I know everyone shifted to online, but you've been doing this out, you've been doing this for multiple years now. What is it like to have to hold people accountable? Are you actually doing your work, is it project based, is it hourly? Is it like monitoring through how much time you're on a computer? What does that have to be for you?
Jeff Minnichbach: We decided not to go the route of installing software in computers and spying. I just feel like, I mean, I always try to give people that trust that I think everybody deserves right off the bat. So, I've never asked anybody to install anything. At the end of the day, if they're not getting their work done, we know they're not working. I mean, it's pretty simple. We have everybody is assigned to X number of projects a day, so we don't do it hourly or anything like that. If they get the jobs done in two hours or eight hours, they still get paid for those jobs. So, we go by project basis basically. But it's tough. Like I said with the night shift, I mean, people oftentimes fall asleep on the job, or they wait till the last minute to do stuff. We ultimately have to just terminate the contracts or let them go because we just can't have that. So, it's challenging to put your faith in people and just trust them and hope they're doing the work, but I think I treat people really fairly and give them that trust they need to know that hey, I believe in you and I know what you're going to do, and if you don't, we just move on, so.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. So, what's it like? So, the work that you guys are doing, it's mainly focused in graphic design and video production, so both, correct?
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, yeah.
Ryan Cramer: When we initially talked, it wasn't from the get- go it wasn't e- commerce clients, it was just brands who were reaching out to you that needed design work done, correct? What was that client base that has naturally shifted for you?
Jeff Minnichbach: Because we grew pretty much through referrals the first couple years, the majority of clients that we had were ad agencies because we were just really, or I myself was involved in a lot of those marketing groups. So, when I got referrals they were typically other agencies or media buyers. Then Amazon selling got really crazy and Shopify popping up, and I definitely saw that transition into a lot of e- com space and I think they make up about 50% of our client base now in the e- com space. It's crazy. So again, it's been primarily referrals. People like Steven and Mina, and their groups, and other similar groups. We have a good presence in there and we get a lot of referrals. So, we have a lot of happy brands as customers and they're referring other brand owners, and it's been a really, really cool way to run a business and get business. We are really focused on advertising and podcasts, and partnerships this year in 2021. So, we are still hitting the e- com and marketing agency space pretty heavily.
Ryan Cramer: Nice.
Jeff Minnichbach: But you know, when we started out, it was kind of everybody we worked with too, not just ad agencies. We had a lot of brick- and- mortar places, a lot of one man shops, things like that. I think where we differ from other companies is we have a much bigger presence in these two particular industries than everybody else. I feel like there's a lot bigger mixture of client base in other services than where we're at today. So, yeah, we're just going to keep that going, because that's where we excel.
Ryan Cramer: Well, and it's really a cool model what you're doing. It's not like ad hoc per project, it's a subscription based company. What's it like? For people who may not understand how do you have a subscription based company with creatives. Is it like as much as you need in that monthly and then you just get charged on a monthly rate? What does that look like in terms of a subscription based service for yourself?
Jeff Minnichbach: So, the client would just pay one flat monthly rate. There's no hidden fees or anything like that, no contracts. They can come and go as they please, but as long as they're paying subscriptions, they can continue putting in design requests and we can service those design requests as they come in. We do have a limit where we work on a couple of active projects at a time, otherwise somebody would expect us to make 100 designs a day, and it wouldn't work out, but within each project or request we do do multiple design variations, different sizes. So, we're really volume focused and try to give people literally as much as we physically can every single week. So, the subscription model is great, and I'm sure you've seen it's everywhere now, no matter what kind of product or service, there's a subscription for that.
Ryan Cramer: I know.
Jeff Minnichbach: That should be on a T- shirt.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, it's like join my subscription, no matter what. It's just blank. I've been telling Mina, because you and I both know this, I keep giving him shirt ideas. I was like for him a T- shirt idea was like I'm the... What did I tell him the other day? Everything I tell him, I was like, " That should go on a T- shirt." And always I feel like I leave my conversations with him, that should go on a T- shirt. I'm waiting for one of these times for him to post online a T- shirt of a idea I gave him, like networking badass or something like that, or like serial networker. You can't hide from me, or something crazy like ridiculous like that, because he's everywhere. Like you said, the space is all about networking, and that's the beauty of it, is people keep swapping business back and forth because we're all talking to in theory the same people in that space. So, what's it like? What's the most... Maybe my own personal question, what's the funnest project that you've been able to work on?
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah. I think TrueCar was a really cool company that I freelanced for, and they, believe it or not, are on Upwork right now looking for freelancers till this day. I mean, they're still hiring freelancers, but that was actually the first customer that I was given a bunch of 360 degree pictures of a car, and our job was to animate that and make it spin seamlessly and not choppy. We were making ads that way, and these cars were spinning and they had a employee discount program, they had a partnership with Sam's Club. So, all the employees of Sam's Club got discounts on cars and special pricing and financing and stuff like that. That was one of the coolest projects I had ever worked on because at the time I had never done anything like that, where somebody gives you like 250 photos and you have to patch them all together and make them animate and spin. So, that was a really cool one, but then with Pluto TV we did a lot of video ads where we were doing promotions for different TV channels on Pluto TV, and it was stuff like Jack Black and Unsolved Mysteries, and stuff like Unsolved Mysteries was always on as a kid, and that's something that resonated with me. So, working on projects like that were just really cool and got me all giddy to be able to be part of those.
Ryan Cramer: Do your kids ever come to you and go, " Dad, that's your work." Or something like that if they see it? Do they recognize your thumbprint on design work or whatnot?
Jeff Minnichbach: Not so much the design, but they get hit with my ads on their tablet constantly.
Ryan Cramer: Don't click on that.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, I'm like, "You're costing me money. Do not click that banner." My daughter just this morning-
Ryan Cramer: It would be fun to see broken down how much they're costing you. If they're like, " That's daddy's company, click." No, don't do that.
Jeff Minnichbach: Coming out of, yeah, your money.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, exactly.
Jeff Minnichbach: But yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, I was going to say, the same thing with my son. He goes, " Hey, it's a PingPong ad." I go, " Don't click that."
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: I yell, on his tablet, if he happens to be getting served our ads, but that's funny.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, and I guess we're doing audience network stuff through Google, so our banners pop up on their tablets when they're playing games, or they'll see stuff on YouTube, and it's so funny. They always know, because we always use the same style of gradients and palette and things like that. So, it's pretty cool for them to be able to actually see it for themselves on their own devices.
Ryan Cramer: Interesting, yeah. I can imagine that, seeing it multiple places like that is a pretty cool concept. Is it something where that's... What's kind of the vision long- term? Is it to be this agency that can scale and have thousands of employees and just work as a freelance company, as a subscription company, or does it fishtail off into something else do you think is your vision?
Jeff Minnichbach: We've talked a lot about that. I think we are at a really good place right now, but I'm always concerned about going stale and just being like that oh, they're has- beens, we're onto the next best thing now. So, I'm always thinking about what's next for us. Every year I try to set new goals for the business and the service, but because we're so big in the marketing space, I think we're going to work on some things where we get some more marketing focused packages rolled out where we have creative directors onboard that can actually help agencies or other brands come up with ideas for requests and things like that. So, that's been a really big struggle across the board for everybody we worked with, is they know they need to keep designs fresh, but they don't really know how to convey what they need, and that just goes back to us talking about how to brief properly. People run out of ideas at some point, so having creative directors on our staff to be able to actually offer strategy and visual ideas for companies every month is something that we definitely want to get into. We're definitely growing that e- commerce space stuff as well and partnering up with companies to offer actual product photography, and lifestyle photos, and video production. So, we're really working a lot on expansion this year, and I think we're just going to keep that going every year and just think about new things to roll out and get more specialized in, like Amazon is going to be a big thing for us this year.
Ryan Cramer: That's amazing.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Well yeah, I was going to say, especially I pull from this too in terms of creativity. I think a lot of people run into that roadblock consistently, especially when you're pumping out as much as you guys are. Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is it from people or is it reading? Is there a certain well that you always go back to to get refreshed and kind of reinspired?
Jeff Minnichbach: It's all over the place. We have a lot of designers that are constantly just looking at Dribbble and Behance all day, every day, and they're always getting inspiration from all over the world, because-
Ryan Cramer: It's a black hole though, if you are just constantly searching.
Jeff Minnichbach: I know.
Ryan Cramer: I'm always in a black hole when it comes to those locations, or those websites, I should say.
Jeff Minnichbach: It's crazy. I mean, the amount of talent that's out there is unbelievable to me. I always think I've seen everything, and then I see some new portfolio and looks amazing, but we're actually working this year on educating our designers right now. So, we're actually making education roles and some of our highest level of designers are going to be constantly teaching new tips and tricks, and skills and things like that to our designers every month. So, it's a really big mixture of things, but I think education is really important and always looking for the next best thing and what's the new palettes this year, the new patterns or textures, what's crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: What is the color of the year? I didn't catch what it was for 2021.
Jeff Minnichbach: I don't know. Yeah, I want to say last year it was blue or purple or something, I can't remember.
Ryan Cramer: Is it like surgical mask blue?
Jeff Minnichbach: Could be.
Ryan Cramer: For 2020.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah. I mean, I can't keep up with all the stuff, and now we're going back in time. In 2021 we're going back to geometric shapes, and primary colors and things that were 15, 20 years ago that was cool, and now it's cool again. So, even like Burger King is rebranding what that retro logo crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: I finally have somebody I can ping, and say like who do I talk to about is this a good idea that they're retroactively going back and bringing forward there. Now I have someone I can message and talk about this all the time.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah. I mean, when I say that I was like, is it a good thing? I don't know. I mean, I don't know what their position is with that or why they're doing that, but it is following a pattern that we're seeing across the board, and everything is kind of just like coming back through 20 years later or 30 years later, and that seems to be what's popping right now.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. I wanted to give a shout out for your daughter, Sofia. She wanted to tell you hi.
Jeff Minnichbach: I saw that. Hi Sofia.
Ryan Cramer: Sofia, it's nice to see you. Thanks for watching the show. Make sure you like the channel, subscribe on your mom's profile. So, we appreciate you tuning in. Make sure you get all your chores done, make sure you get all the work done now too.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yes. She's a good supporter.
Ryan Cramer: That's awesome. I was going to say, so, are your kids into art or design? Is the household very much a creative space for your kids and-
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: ...do you pass that onto them?
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, and my wife is very artistic as well. She does some insanely talented crafts, and clothing, and cups. I mean, she makes some crazy stuff on a cricket. My daughter is super talented. She just has that natural gift to be artistic and she has that eye for detail. My son, he's getting there. He's more about just punching people and watching wrestling, and that's crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: My six- year- old would love to meet your son too. crosstalk.
Jeff Minnichbach: I mean, you got to watch yourself. He's always hitting us and it's crazy.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, I was going to say, all of a sudden it's like run in head first into your stomach, you're like, " What are you doing?"
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: I don't remember doing that as a boy, but I could be wrong, who knows. But yeah, he's also-
Jeff Minnichbach: crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: But also he has a flip side of he can put head down and come up with this intricate drawing of like... He has left and right side brain that he's tapping into constantly, because you'll ask questions and he'll be super cerebral. Come up with here's this machine that I created with multiple different ways, this is how it is, and this is what it's creating. We're like, " This is amazing." I can't believe that you're projecting this in your mind, which is really cool. So yeah, Rob said, " You should get both of your kids to do a podcast."
Jeff Minnichbach: That would be crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: It's true. My son has joined multiple meetings recently. Most recently yesterday with Rob. So, he would talk-
Jeff Minnichbach: crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: ...a lot obviously, but they would stare at the microphone all the time, wouldn't realize where the camera is. But yeah, so that's interesting. So you create that kind of the home environment as well for creativity. What about maybe on the flip side I talked about what was the worst project that you had to deal with. You don't have to name names of companies. What was the one that was like I can't wait for this to be over? Whether it's your own personal reasons or the client just sucks.
Jeff Minnichbach: I don't know if I have a specific project, but I did have a lot of projects as a freelancer that never ended and I never got... I just I couldn't get paid until a job was over, and that was a thing that Upwork had. You could do milestone payments. So, after X amount of progress in the project they could release a little bit of money, but there were so many times as a freelancer, and I guarantee this still happens now, where people are just asking for constant changes, and constant variations. It just gets to be really ridiculous and you're going a whole month without being paid on the job that probably should've only taken you a couple hours. So, one of the reasons that I kind of set myself apart from others is I was not going after the hourly rate jobs. I was doing it as a fixed rate. I'd be like hey, I can do this ad in a couple hours for you, I'll charge you 50 bucks, or whatever. That bit me in the butt quite often. I would get times where just stuff was really, really taking a long time to get finished. I would end up losing so much time and money, it wasn't even funny. So, I don't really have a specific job that I can think of that was just brutal, but that was a very common scenario for me as a freelancer.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. Do you have more fun with the graphic work or do you have more fun with the video? It sounds like you are more graphic focused and then you dabbled into video.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yes. Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: So is that just a constant educational thing for you?
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah. I mean, I've always been huge into art. I mean, I went every year of school from preschool, whatever, kindergarten to 12th grade I was in art. Even if I didn't have to take it, I took it. I loved it. So, graphics and drawing and painting, all that stuff was really fun to me. I love video, but I can't do anything crazy like these people that work for us now. So, I got into very simple video stuff, very simple motion, and I did a lot of it through Adobe Photoshop, believe it or not. People don't even know that you can do video in there sometimes, but crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: It's difficult, but you can do it, yeah.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, and it just uses up so many resources on your computer and it takes like two hours to render a five second video. It's super inefficient, but yeah. Graphics was just always my bread and butter, and I was self- taught. I didn't go to school for art or anything like that. I started kind of doing the hustle game out of high school and whatever I could do to make a buck, I was doing. That's kind of how it all evolved, but video was so high in demand back in 2018 when we started that it was a no- brainer for us to get into that. Surprisingly, a lot of companies still don't offer that for whatever reason, but it's very difficult to find video designers that are ad focused and understand how to get attention. There are a lot of editors out there, but we really look for a very specific skillset when we hire people for the video side. So, it's interesting how much more difficult it is to find people in that space than graphics.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. So, was 2020 difficult because of people cutting spending? For example, a lot of people cut creative. In my mind, I've seen people do that and cut. So, you have to cut places, they're not probably spending money in advertising. Does that mean that that was a down year for you guys or did you guys still see pretty substantial growth?
Jeff Minnichbach: We had huge growth in 2020. I think we almost tripled our business last year.
Ryan Cramer: Wow.
Jeff Minnichbach: When COVID really hit hard in March, we saw a big drop off of business, and that was pretty scary. We were constantly asking other people we know if hey, are you guys experiencing this too? Is it just us? We had a lot of agency clients, like I mention, a lot of them did event marketing. So, when COVID happened, events were no longer a thing, and these people unfortunately lost their entire businesses overnight. So, we lost them as clients, they lost their full- time income and their business. It was a sad situation for a lot of people that we knew. We were doing some relief times where we were trying to give people a little bit of a discount to keep them onboard with us for our own sustainability, but also to help them as well and keep their businesses going. So, after about a month everything just kind of bounced back and just skyrocketed. It was crazy, and people quickly figured out how to operate remotely without going into the office. I feel like remote working is just so much bigger right now. We know how big Zoom has gotten, and they couldn't even keep up with all the sign ups and the downloads. It was crazy. So, we were really blessed to just keep growing last year. I know a lot of people that are in the same boat too. They had a really good year.
Ryan Cramer: I was going to say, especially with the overhead of a retail space, or leasing an office. I know from a former company they were just trying to get out of their lease in general forever, trying to sell off equipment, desks, computer monitors, things that employees had. You can obviously have your own setup at home, but just the additional equipment, like food cost, any tech company has now seen. Here in Indianapolis we have Salesforce's second biggest location, besides in San Francisco is actually in Indianapolis, and they have one of the biggest, they have the tallest business in Downtown Indy, but now they're telling people, " We are probably not going to go back full capacity, if not at all." And that's scary for lots of buildings, like downtown businesses and whatnot, but it's a reshift in the marketplace, where people are operating from. Do you look at yourself and you're like, " Dear god, thank god I wasn't locked into a lease or something like that."
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Does that scare you going forward, that you might eventually you might have thought you want a retail space, or is a retail space like an office, but now you're like nope, never going back there, or not even going to think about it?
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah. I think a retail space office, it's just a thing of the past. I don't think I'll ever worry about that. We've been able to operate this way effectively for the last few years. I've been doing online working for 15 years. I've never had an office location or anything like that, but yeah, it's really scary. I mean, we've had one of our biggest agency clients, they were paying like 20 grand a month for an office space with a studio, and they were doing their D2C marketers, so they were doing a lot of production work in- house for these e- commerce companies. After COVID they're like, " Jeff, we're probably never going to go back to an office again." And we've actually been helping them operate remotely by recruiting more designers, and kind of filling in the voids for their creative teams, and they're able to cut some costs that way. So, we've seen the shift, and it looks really promising for the future. I think if you're already working from home or from a remote location, you're in good shape.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, and then... We actually had a question from Rob. What are some of the software programs and tools you use for video and graphics? Is there something that you're like can't start or you have to use those, if you work with us, you have to use these tools.
Jeff Minnichbach: We only use Adobe Suite. So, it's primarily Photoshop and Illustrator and After Effects. We are dabbling in Canva sometimes because we have a lot of customers that like to work in Canva and make different iterations or sizes of our designs quicker than we can. So, we have a Pro account with Canva now and we have some designers go in there and kind of set up templates almost that are blank, but they have the design base there and they can add in text, things like that. So, Adobe has always been the suite of our choice and probably always will be. It's been around for years.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah.
Jeff Minnichbach: I was using GIMP. You ever heard of that back in the day?
Ryan Cramer: I have not. No.
Jeff Minnichbach: It was kind of like Photoshop and PaintShop Pro, and it was free. I used to design with that as a freelancer back in the day. So, I see Robbie asking about Premiere. We don't really use Adobe Premiere. The majority of our videos we do are motion graphics heavy and After Effects is really, really solid for that. So, Premiere is great for us if we need to edit stuff or patch things together, but motion graphics is really ideal in After Effects.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah.
Jeff Minnichbach: He used to use GIMP.
Ryan Cramer: He knows. He always knows how to outsource and he's always saying this is how I get my quick graphics. Luckily for me, I always have a designer. Well, I have one designer on hand. He's on the West Coast, so if it's something that he needs to pump out, like our intro graphics and stuff like that, he's been great to get it out, but I know he gets inundated with requests all the time, so. God bless my graphic designer, honestly. I was like, it would take a while for me. I don't even have Adobe on my computer. I wish I did, but yeah, to put things together. That's the thing, is do you have like pet peeves with people? If you see a random person saying, " Yeah, I design this in Microsoft Word. Can you help me edit it in Word?" Or something like that, and you're like.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Oh dear god. crosstalk.
Jeff Minnichbach: We get that a lot, and like, " Oh, we need you to design it in Word or PowerPoint." I'm like, "Well, they're not design programs." We can make the graphics for you in Adobe and you can pop them in there on your own, but we don't go into Microsoft programs and design stuff because it's just not efficient.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, makes sense. Yeah. The programs are not used for design work, so don't take crosstalk.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Especially my wife who she likes to put together stuff in Word, and I said, " Please, stop doing that. You're making me crosstalk." Yeah, it's vector programs versus, I forget the name of the other one, but yeah. They're two completely different program sets.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: What's kind of like... So, for e- commerce, if people are interested, they're in the e- commerce business, what ways are they using you guys? Is it for listings, is it for infographics, photography? What are the different iterations that you guys are getting approached to use for?
Jeff Minnichbach: I think primarily it was really ad focused for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest. Amazon is just exploding, as you know. So, we've gotten into A + content now, and Amazon listing images. We're doing Photoshopping people's products onto lifestyle stock photos to try to make it look as realistic as we can. We're doing Amazon videos now. We do package designs for products, labels. I mean, literally anything you can think of that an e- com seller may need, we have done it on the graphic or video side. So, infographics are massive right now, especially for listing images and all the call outs, and selling points, and features of products. So, we literally just do it all for this space anymore.
Ryan Cramer: That's amazing. So, what's kind of the... So, you've seen the evolution of Amazon. Do you guys have to go in and is there any sort of partnership thing with Amazon that is for graphic design? I don't know if you've ever crosstalk.
Jeff Minnichbach: Not that I know of. I mean, we could go in and try to edit the A + templates and stuff, but we don't get involved or anything like that. So, we have them pick a template they're going to use for the listing. Get all the dimensions and then just kind of go from there on the graphics. So, we don't really get involved in the other, like the backend side of things, we just do the design.
Ryan Cramer: Gotcha. Do you request that clients send you samples to give you inspiration or what's kind of that process?
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, we like to see examples as much as possible, because that really cuts down the guess work and a lot of stuff is kind of just up in the air, it's open for interpretation where we're just reading stuff and not seeing any examples. So, any time we can get examples, it's going to be a lot better than not having them. So, it is in the brief that we do ask if you have examples, please upload those. We have design libraries on Google Drive that we let our customers access, so they can see all kinds of different things we've done, and they could reference it or say, " Hey, I like this package design. I want to try to emulate something like that." So, we're trying to give them all the tools to help us be successful for them.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, and actually Rob was on the same wavelength as me. Have you guys worked with PickFu in terms of A/ B testing with images or graphic design, or do you even know what PickFu is?
Jeff Minnichbach: No, we haven't. No, I don't. We haven't done anything like that. We really have just focused on design only.
Ryan Cramer: Interesting.
Jeff Minnichbach: So, we get requests all the time to hey, can you just go in Facebook and load this ad for me, or can you go in and find the template sizes and things for this or that? And we really the only way we can scale and keep a really quick, efficient workflow going is to just stick with what we do best and not try to offer things that are really outside of our wheelhouse.
Ryan Cramer: Well, with PickFu it's like the crowdsourcing of which one do they think is... They'll actually go and take basically a pool of people who opt in. It's like which image is better, or do you find more appealing?
Jeff Minnichbach: Okay, yeah.
Ryan Cramer: So, maybe that's a company, if you're not connected with them, we can connect you with, because they do a lot of testing on marketplaces. So, people can do$ 50 per, again, I think 100 people or something like that, where they can say, " Which design did people like better?" Or they can A/ B test names and titles of stuff like that. But in terms of that seems that a lot of people are using them for creative. They're in the e- commerce space, they're in the e- gaming space but then they're also in the publishing space. So, book covers, and titles, and how it looks to consumers. So, that might be a cool. I'll make sure that you guys gets connected with a team over there and see if there is an alignment of some sort.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: They're always like people upload and they're like, " I don't know if one graphic is better than the other." And then they might have their own personal preference, and then 70% like one, the opposite one. So, it's kind of like a testing it before they put it to market. It's pretty cool.
Jeff Minnichbach: I like that, yeah. I'm a lot of times shocked at what works or what the favorite design is. I mean, it's really wild that sometimes we see stuff that we would think is definitely not going to work, and it does, and it's very amateurish or native looking to social media. Yeah, that's pretty cool. I have to check that out.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. I'll make sure. Rob and I both know the guys, the owners over there. So, we'll make sure we connect you guys in that, because yeah, they're constantly A/ B testing and they're really big into e- commerce, but like I said, book publishing is where they first started, and they're growing really big into e- gaming. So, it's a big. There's a bunch of different areas you can just A/ B test, images, titles.
Jeff Minnichbach: That's awesome.
Ryan Cramer: Mainly imagery, so it's kind of a quick straw poll of people who give you feedback really quickly, what they like, what they don't like. Like it looks childish, or it doesn't depict the image or depict the product or anything like that. So, it's really cool stuff that they're doing.
Jeff Minnichbach: Cool. Thanks Rob.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. I was thinking the same thing too, Rob. You don't get all the credit. I was going to tell him initially. But yeah, him and I both know the owners over there. But what's it like, before the top of the hour, and we have to let you go. What's kind of the... Who is doing pretty cool work that you kind of idolize in the space? Is it an agency, is it like a designer you know? Is there a person that you're just pretty excited to see their work as they're pumping it out?
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah, I think there's a couple of brands and agencies that I've really liked to follow. I don't know if you've heard of Monster Agency, but I started following them a while back because they had some hilarious video ads. He was doing Dr. Phil, and he had that guy. What's that guy, To Catch a Predator, that show, Dateline? I can't remember his name, but he had all these spoofs, and they just had me dying laughing when I saw them. I've started to actually follow their page, and then I connected with the owner because I was so excited to see what he was putting out next, so that was really cool. We've always been really close with agency owners and things. I mean, Common Thread Collective is another company that we work heavily with, and I always love seeing all the creatives that we actually do with them, but they are basically the leaders of the strategizing and the creative direction, things like that. We just get some really awesome work that we get to do with them. There's a couple of e- commerce companies out there that I really love to always see their creatives. There's a cereal one that's... I can't remember. It's the weirdest looking ads. I always see them, and they're in one of my presentations, and I forget the name off the top of my head. Hydrant, I don't know if you've heard of them. They have some really cool creatives. We worked with them a little bit at some point, but I'm always just looking through ads and stuff on social. I just scroll all day long, and anything that catches my eye I always just look at it. It's really cool to see all these people and what they do. I don't even mess with the ads library on Facebook. I just kind of see what I'm being targeted by, and if anything catches my fancy, I'll go check them out. Yeah, I mean, there's a couple of guys out there that I really like to watch.
Ryan Cramer: That's awesome. Then for your business, is there... Where do you think the next step of growth is? Is it still in e- commerce? Is it going to be in social media, or what's kind of the avenue that you think is going to kind of perpetuate you guys even more forward?
Jeff Minnichbach: I think the e- commerce space is a no- brainer for us. We're seeing the trends, and the growth, and the demand there. So, we're going to just work really hard to becoming specialists at as much as we can in the Amazon space, and Shopify, and just e- commerce in general. Ad agencies, the marketing space is still huge. There's a lot of uncertainties right now with the Apple changes, and people not knowing if they're going to be able to track their conversions and their ads the right way. So, I don't know what's going to happen.
Ryan Cramer: Even Google yesterday said something, they might not have the holistic trackable nature that they do even currently.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: So, they might scale back a little bit.
Jeff Minnichbach: That's concerning, even for us, somebody that runs ads. I mean, anybody that's in that space, that has revue coming in from there, it's kind of scary, but with Amazon taking over the world. We have an Amazon warehouse here in town now that's like a million square feet, and it towers, it's right backed up against a neighborhood, so when you come outside that's all you see is the Amazon building.
Ryan Cramer: Lovely landscape outside.
Jeff Minnichbach: Oh my god. They had a helicopter, my brother sent me a picture of the helicopter with a rope picking up cargo and just flying it back and forth over the building. It's just crazy. So, with them becoming so big and all these sellers everywhere, it's really a quickly growing industry that we're going to stay in.
Ryan Cramer: That's awesome. Well, I appreciate your time today. I know you're a busy guy, managing your entire team at scale. For people who, again, who don't know where to find you, what's the best way to gain contact with you or try to see is your business maybe a little bit are best for them, or if they want to refer other people to them if they've heard this. What's the best way to do that?
Jeff Minnichbach: Just check out nolimitcreatives. com, nice and simple. You can learn more about our services, see our plans. You can learn more about me. You can book calls with us, or me, myself, so. That's the easiest way to do it, is just check out our website. We have a nice live chat on there if people have questions, they can chat in as well.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. We'll make sure we put that in the description. So, if you're watching on social media, go ahead and check out nolimitcreatives. com, go and check out, and just mention Crossover Commerce to Jeff and his team, just to let them know. You guys are doing great stuff, man. I always appreciate when graphic teams and design teams get touted quite a bit.
Jeff Minnichbach: crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: So, you guys are doing awesome work. I love following some of maybe the mist, the one with the sail boat with the pointy fixture, a picture that you posted on social media.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: It's probably making me cry way more than I thought it should, but it was just fun stuff like that that I love following. For sensory purposes, for who is watching or listening potentially, I won't get into that right now.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yes, yeah. You never know.
Ryan Cramer: But that's just fun stuff. Yeah, you never know, yeah, whoever is listening. But just fun stuff like creative that you might just miss entirely from a 10, 000 foot perspective. You're just like, oh god, what am I thinking? And slips through the cracks, but.
Jeff Minnichbach: Yes.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, man. Congrats on all the great work and what you're doing.
Jeff Minnichbach: Thank you very much.
Ryan Cramer: Love to ... Yeah. So, go check out No Limit Creatives, everyone. Go check out Jeff, follow him on Instagram, YouTube, their page on YouTube as well as on Facebook. So, thank you so much today.
Jeff Minnichbach: Thanks guys for watching. Thanks Ryan for having me. I appreciate it.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, no problem.
Jeff Minnichbach: All right.
Ryan Cramer: Thank you everyone again for on Crossover Commerce. Again, this show, we go live four to five times per week. So make sure that you subscribe to our social media channels, or if you subscribe to us on any sort of podcast form, whether that's Amazon, Apple Podcast, Spotify, or Google Podcast, we'll be there. Just search Crossover Commerce and we'll be there. So, subscribe and rate us, with those kinds of shows. That's it for this week on Crossover Commerce. We have an exciting group of I believe four individuals next week. They are going to be coming in hot to give you top tips in the e- commerce and Amazon space. I'll go ahead and if you subscribe to our social channels or follow me on social media as well, again, on LinkedIn, Facebook, or on Instagram, you can follow and find out more information. I'm also on Clubhouse, so be sure to follow me on Clubhouse, again, @ ryancramer. I'll be more than happy to connect, join rooms, and will be giving e- commerce tips and tricks out there as well. So, for Jeff Minnichbach of No Limit Creatives, I'm Ryan Cramer, thanks for joining us again on another episode. Have a great weekend everyone. Be safe out there, continue working hard and growing your business on Amazon and e- commerce.
Ryan Cramer of PingPong Payments talks with Jeff Minnichbach of No Limit Creatives, about how to manage and run a 250+ employee business entirely remote. They also cover what's popular with ad creatives for social media and eCommerce.
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