Struggling to focus your agency’s offerings?
Marketing pro, Brian Gerstner of White Label IQ explains how splitting his firm’s development arm into a separate white-label business fueled growth for both companies. Gain tactics on building trust to overcome client skepticism.
Discover why AI won’t reduce workload but rather accelerate delivery. Find out how to leverage automation to systemise processes so you can delegate and scale.
Get proven relationship-building ideas to convert contacts into customers. Learn the common mistake killing content campaigns and how to fix it.
Hear Brian’s favourite book for delivering radical candour to empower your team. Take away an inside look at the AI trends that agencies are adopting behind the scenes.
Tune in for an transparent peek behind the agency curtain and actionable techniques to streamline systems, boost trust and focus your offerings.
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The UnNoticed Entrepreneur is hosted & produced by Jim James.
Jim James (00:02.786)
Hello, welcome to this episode of The Unnoticed Entrepreneur. Today we're gonna talk about why AI is in, I'll start that again. I made a better clock up there. I'm gonna do that again. I made a clock up, right. I need AI to help with my podcast, right.
Brian Gerstner (00:19.119)
Jim James (00:25.366)
Hello, welcome to this episode of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur. If you've wondered about the impact of AI on your business, then you go and listen to my guest today. Brian Gerstner is the president of a company called White Label IQ. He's joining us from Loveland, Colorado. Brian, welcome to the show.
Brian Gerstner (00:42.179)
Jim, it's a pleasure. Thank you.
Jim James (00:44.086)
Well, thanks, Brian Gerstner, you are the founder and president of a company called White Label IQ. You've got some views about the impact of AI and what that means about skillsets and mediocrity. Anyone listening is worried about whether they should niche or not niche. You're going to talk about that. And also whether you think radical candor is a good thing or not. First of all, Brian, tell us a little bit about White Label IQ and
Brian Gerstner (01:08.704)
Jim James (01:13.826)
You know, how you've separated out this business from an existing business, what opportunity you've seen and how you've managed to create a new company from an existing one.
Brian Gerstner (01:26.039)
Yeah. So, you know, White Label's origin story is one that many others may be able to kind of relate to in the sense that, um, it was kind of birthed from another company. And we, as a marketing agency, a full service marketing agency, um, we're kind of growing uneven because you have a lot of requests from clients, you know, because as an agency, your job is to solve the client's problems. Okay.
Maybe today it's radio in marketing, maybe it's podcasting, influencers, web. But in that, because of that, you can grow really uneven when you hire into your agency. And a lot of times you're just trying to fill that and keep those people busy, right? So the trouble with that is you start providing solutions to your clients that are based upon your own needs and not necessarily solving the direct needs of the clients.
So as we were scaling as an agency, we started to grow very uneven in the way we're staffed because budgets were increasingly moving to a lot of development. So in that, we started basically needing more specialized skillsets. And we started doing hiring in-house, freelancers, working with other agencies and then going offshore. As we started to do this,
White Label IQ branched out of that agency so that we were able to give Heavnore Marketing at that time more focus. Allow them to really be great at what they do instead of just trying to keep everybody busy across multiple disciplines. That change in the company was huge because that allowed them to really focus down and show just really strong authority in what they're doing and then allowed us as White Label to turn around
and take the problem that we solved for our own agency and then scale that for other agencies. It allowed us to find a focus. It allowed us to find our audience. It allowed us to really understand who we were serving and understand their pain points because we lived it, right? How better to like find an audience and be able to talk to them and let them know that you understand them than to have experienced those problems. Not everybody has that all the time, but you...
Brian Gerstner (03:47.111)
in as you live life, you feel the pain of living life and you feel the pain of working. And if you realize that like other people have that same problem, then all of a sudden you have something that you can take to market.
Jim James (03:51.044)
Jim James (04:01.958)
Yeah, Brian, I think when I ran an agency, I developed a tech product as well. And I think a lot of agencies have a demand from a client that they then build in house a solution to, and they take some of the profits from the agency service fees. And they build a team that in effect becomes a cost center for the company and starts to become a little bit of a lag, and then the company founders end up trying to find work for the development team
rather than for the strategy team, right? It's a fairly common path. So though.
Brian Gerstner (04:36.311)
Yeah. But there's power in that too, not doing it, but like, I mean, agencies do have a lot of IP in the way they work, in the focus that they have, even in the spreadsheets and documents. So there is value there, not to be ignored, but it is risky to really, you know, diverse if it's not the core of what you do.
Jim James (04:57.874)
Yeah. And I think that what you've done with White Label IQs are really brilliant. And, and of course you've created two sets of value haven't because the original Huberner marketing agency retains its value and retains its focus. And you've actually created a whole new value within White Label. But from a marketing point of view, if people have seen you come out of an agency,
and you're marketing yourself to other agencies. How did you overcome the skepticism or the cynicism that they say, well, you know, really you belong to another company and you're really still a development company, really a development department for another agency, but now you're pitching for my business. How'd you overcome the trust issue, Brian?
Brian Gerstner (05:48.371)
I don't know if other people really had that issue. And a lot of times I know that we did because we looked at that, but at the end of the day, agencies didn't really seem to be too concerned. We were more concerned about it than they were. A lot of that does come, a lot of that though, we did solve in the way we focus down. The fear is competition, right? The fear is coming to the table and your competitor taking the work from you.
The fear was that we would do that. So, you know, just, it's a big ocean. There's no need to fight over a cup of water, right? So we just walked in and we're just like non-compete, you know, non-disclosure agreements with every single client that we put in place. We just locked down, like, we're not here to compete with you, we're here to support you. You know, all ships rise, you know? And we really just focus on being helpful.
Coming to the table with just real genuine, like we're here to help, we're here to bring the ideas, we're in this together, if you win, we win, okay? If you lose, we lose, okay? And that type of authenticity really moves things forward because at the end of the day, we're not selling projects, okay, we're selling businesses trust. The people on the other end have to know that you're in it with them and I'm not gonna
make this company off of a project or one client engagement, okay? I need people who like working with me. I need people who trust working with us and I need to trust that they're honest players too, and that they have what it takes to win. So this is still a people thing. You know, we, we try and that competition thing, we try and break things down into these rational understandings, but at the end of the day, we're people, we're emotional. And if you, if you don't
Jim James (07:30.275)
Brian Gerstner (07:42.775)
deal with the human effect, the logic doesn't really play out.
Jim James (07:49.098)
Brian Gerstner, it's interesting because you're taking a very human approach or humanistic approach, if you like, to White labeling. And White labeling by definition has always been sort of a no brand good or service, almost a commodity. How have you gone about then marketing to agencies? Because you're presumably going in, if you like, multiple doors of the same kind of agency. And do they never say, well, Brian, that's great. But if you develop this application
for my client in mobile, for example, that you're gonna just go to the next agency and sell the idea that I gave you and build it for the next agency. How'd you deal with that?
Brian Gerstner (08:31.735)
Well, in that, a lot of it goes back to trust. Number one, you just don't do it. You just don't do that. I guess part of it is me personally, whether it's a fault or that is, I'm very big picture oriented. So when I look at those situations, you can look at the value of like,
Oh, I can take that website template and I can duplicate that or that product. And I can sell that like, what am I going to do? I'm going to win some dollars today. And then I'm going to lose the company later because you have, you have to build upon a set of principles and beliefs. And in, if, unless you can hold that down, you're not able to move past that beginning phase of your company.
Because really the key in growth is being able to take situations like that and demonstrate them to people on your staff, what your beliefs are, you know, what your constraints are, what you don't do, and then living them and demonstrating them because at the end of the day, if you want to grow, you need other people to make decisions for you. So you have to take moments like that and just show them we're not going to do this because part of our core value is trust and communication. It's not...
Those whole core value things, they're not fuzzy. Okay, it's real. It's how you give people clarity within your company so that they can help you grow because you can't do it yourself.
Jim James (09:59.564)
Jim James (10:06.326)
Brian Gerstner, that is really refreshing and plainly is a great way for your team to feel that there's, as you said earlier on, there's enough ocean for everybody. For those people that are not sure what sort of services or applications you're building, do you want to just touch on some of the tools or some of the applications that you see people adopting and where you see the trends going for marketing?
Brian Gerstner (10:17.72)
Brian Gerstner (10:36.107)
No, definitely. A lot of it beyond specific platforms is a huge movement from just custom coded to low code and no code solutions. So in that agencies are, there's a lot of price pressure in the bottom market as far as like simpler applications and the ability for people to bring things in house. So agencies are experiencing that with their own clients.
And we also experience that with clients, agencies themselves. But even in knowing that, there's a moment of relief. There's a moment of like, we do need to be concerned about it, but take a deep breath because the truth is, not everybody has time to figure out all these tools. OK? People are still a bit lazy. People want, people have other things to do that they need to focus on.
So like some key tools that we're looking at is definitely WordPress is a big part of the market demand inside of development, okay? So there's a lot of innovation coming out of WordPress to be able to build things faster, to be able to lean on templates, to be able to lean on Chat GPT for a lot of SEO basic keyword layouts and things. So in it, the big push for us is
identifying areas in our company where we can reduce our amounts of effort, putting training into it with our team and deploying things like, you know, co-pilot into our coding. It's getting, you know, getting mind journey into our initial design concepts. So the very beginning, the conceptual development of the project can move faster. Okay. It's about, you know, Chat GPT to increase the detail of communications.
So when someone writes a response, you know, chat GBT can just validate it and go like, well, the person you're talking to may also want to understand this better if you explain this, this and this. Because we're talking about, you know, marketing concepts, development concepts, explaining them to people who don't understand them because they hired us for it. So a lot of this is really, in every one of those scenarios I discussed, it is a matter of
Brian Gerstner (12:58.283)
the technology and platform basically being your partner in developing and iterating faster. And when we get into AI, that's the thing, like AI is not gonna make our lives any easier. Okay, if anything, it's gonna get harder because I'm old enough to remember when the internet really became a thing. And everybody's saying, hey, three day work weeks, it's gonna be heaven, okay, now.
Jim James (13:18.866)
Me too, yep.
Brian Gerstner (13:25.815)
We just ended up working two, three times harder and faster. Same thing's happening now and faster. We're gonna be producing three, four, five times the amount of work at a higher quality for lower dollars.
Jim James (13:37.77)
What does this mean for the entrepreneur, Brian? So at the back end, you've talked about WordPress and I know you're using, like you say, Copilot and there's Python and all these other applications. That's, if you like, one step removed. How can an entrepreneur almost skip the agency side, which is where a lot of the cost maybe comes in. Are there
some trends or some guidance you can give the entrepreneur who's now struggling maybe with content generation, with sequence automation, with creativity, with brand management. With your experience with White Label IQ and what you're seeing agencies serve to their bigger companies, are there things that you believe that entrepreneurs like me can do with the tech
that are not that expensive and not that complicated and that can be deployed quite quickly.
Brian Gerstner (14:35.999)
Yeah, in it, it starts with, once again, like focus. If you're beginning as an entrepreneur, your team's gonna be smaller, your resources are gonna be smaller. So find something you can do well. And just as you alluded a bit earlier, Jim, in the conversation, the IP that some people take and develop into platforms, but do know that like you have a process, you have an understanding, you know.
Start writing it down and documenting it and stop reinventing the wheel every single day. It's finding a way to build something, to build a system of how you want things done, how you deliver it so you can have a consistent delivery and consistent expectations with the people you're working with. But on the back end, for yourself, without that kind of investment like
you'll never be able to hand it off. You'll never be able to delegate it. You'll never be able to hire into it unless you can create clear expectations of what you want delivered. And if you're reinventing the wheel every day, you're just creating chaos. And then your next hire is just, you're gonna find that same type of person and you're just gonna feed your chaos addiction until everything spins off and you can't manage it anymore or you bottleneck and stop it like two or three employees.
Jim James (15:57.85)
And Brian, hearing you talk there, it becomes so clear why your, if you like, very clear niche strategy of serving agencies with a certain service enables you to build those processes because every time you have a new client or a new offering, you have to build a new system, right? You have to find a new way of working. So you can't have a
workflow because you've always got to put rocks in the stream to cross it, haven't you?
Brian Gerstner (16:30.403)
right? Yes. No, it's a great analogy.
Jim James (16:33.966)
So Brian, we did touch a little bit on AI. Can you suggest maybe a mistake that you see people making now around marketing, with AI tools, for example, that you're seeing that from your perspective, which is as an agency on the inside, inside HUBANer, but also now running a development shop, can you see mistakes that people are making that you'd
you'd suggest that they work to avoid?
Brian Gerstner (17:06.039)
Yeah, well, a couple things. One of them is just a general marketing thing. And I see this across the board with agencies, with clients, with businesses. You have to have an audience. So chicken and the egg scenario, right? How do you develop content when you don't have an audience? If you don't have an audience, who's going to read it? So particularly at the beginning of a company where you're in zero to five, just
your business is going to come from people that you know. They're going to come from relationships. They're going to come from referrals. That's where everything is going to come from. So as you're developing content and marketing, focus on those people. Provide content that's not necessarily just throwing it out into the wild, in the open wild, where no one's going to see it and it's an empty room. Talk to those people, those referrals, and write them up
like a small White paper on a problem that they're having. Validate that and then find another person, give that to, start small in that regard. Don't think marketing's not, advertising, promotion's just one small part of marketing. So just buying a bunch of LinkedIn ads, just shouting out in the room is not going to do it for you. When you're small, you have to focus on those relationships providing
useful, helpful content that'll help solve problems and things that are really hands-on practical. That's still marketing material. That's still going to demonstrate authority. That's going to create contents and process some procedures in your company that you can then start stair-stepping out and then, you know, from that cornerstone content that you're creating, then sure, start doing some social posts based upon what you just created. Make a case study -
put it out on social, share it on people, put it on your website. But like that outward reach cannot be your focus because it's an empty room. Look at the person in front of you. That's still marketing.
Jim James (19:14.086)
Yeah, and I think that's a wonderful, wonderful advice. And of course that really every customer base starts with the first customer, you know, the same way that the Chinese say that, you know, a long March starts with one step, you do have to get the first customer first. Brian, with your, you know, length of experience as an entrepreneur, you've plainly built a wonderful business in White Label like you. Is there one thing though that you'd say that you haven't done a mistake, a marketing mistake that you'd say you'd...
something that you tried and didn't work that we can learn from.
Brian Gerstner (19:47.739)
Um, in that like key thing is trying to do too many things at once. So like classic scenario here is, um, in being unsuccessful is you have to realize that if you're an entrepreneur or a visionary or these things, like you're going to have a million ideas. Like you can't chase them all. You need to like tame yourself and you need to focus on certain things and write them down and move forward. My biggest mistakes have come when
I've just been trying to push two, three, four, five, 10 initiatives at the same time. And I'm wasting so much time and money. And these are words coming out of my mouth, but it's really hard to practice. Okay. I can tell myself I can, it can be a mantra. I can have other people tell it to me, but you really have to focus. And it's really hard. Like
Jim James (20:44.411)
Brian, I absolutely hear you on the focus thing is so hard as an entrepreneur.
Brian Gerstner (20:47.695)
I mean, I say that, but I'm sure I'm like not doing it in many ways. There's probably some people on my team are listening to this going like.
Jim James (20:57.982)
We told Brian not to do podcasts yet. We told him to wait, but he's like, Brian's doing them anyway. Brian, no, Brian Gerstner I'm glad that you have come on the show. If there's one thing that you've done, both in Herbner and also within White Label IQ, you've talked about focus. Is there anything else that you think really does help and that people should look at?
Brian Gerstner (21:21.283)
So one, so I think about this in the sense of growth. When you do wanna move from, if you do wanna grow, you have to trust people and you have to understand that you're not the only one that can do these things. Okay, so there's, I come from a background in creative, as a designer and it's really painful to let go.
But if you don't start letting go, then things, then you'll never grow. And you come into the realization that even though someone might not do it exactly as you're doing it, 80% is okay, 70% is okay, you know, and you can grow together in these things. So it is, I'm not sure if I'm exactly answering your question, but like the...
you are your own worst enemy often. The entrepreneur is the bottleneck. You know, at the leader of the company, like, you know, you have to take your hands off it at times. Okay. And you have to trust that you're going to fail a number of times. But if you're an entrepreneur, that's probably okay, because you probably do have some degree of chaos addiction already. And you're okay with the
Jim James (22:41.131)
Brian Gerstner (22:46.979)
fight that urge just to step in and save the day.
Jim James (22:51.606)
Brian, you've grown a White Label from 17 to 80 people in three years, so you know what you're talking about and you're being very modest about your exploits and your abilities there, but you've built it up so well. Brian, I like to ask people now about a podcast or a book that you're referring to or have found inspirational in some way. What would you share with us?
Brian Gerstner (23:19.099)
Yeah. Whenever we bring someone up in kind of our leadership circle, radical candor is a book. I make sure everybody reads because I'm in professional services, right? So got some eyes, got some keyboards, we got some desk laying around, but like it's the people, the people are what's important and people don't grow unless they can, you know, get good constructive feedback. And feedback is hard for people.
It's hard giving it. It's hard receiving it. Okay. Radical candor is basically how to be a great boss without being an asshole because you have to really be able to be. You have to say things that are very uncomfortable. Okay. Um, and you can't pull punches. You know, you have, you need, you have to be talking in the moment. Radical candor is just a great way of knowing that you have to invest in the relationship so that you can have those moments,
and that they're not going to be interpreted wrong, and that you understand the people that you're talking to. It's just a great way because as you get into leadership, people are what you have. The relationships are what you have, and you can't grow without being, having constructive critical criticism.
Jim James (24:36.69)
And that's a radical can by Kim Scott, isn't it, I think. Brian Gerstner, if you want to find out more about you and have a candid conversation with you as you've done with me today, where can they find you?
Brian Gerstner (24:40.143)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, that's it.
Brian Gerstner (24:49.428)
Well, whitelabeliq.com on the website, definitely. But we also on LinkedIn, I highly encourage people to join me on LinkedIn. I produce a lot of content. We really strive to be really helpful. Then you go to the website, fill out the form, just reach out. I love talking. I don't always love selling. I just love building relationships. Then when we find alignment, it's something that happens
Jim James (25:17.858)
global fan alignment today. And thanks for coming on the show, Brian Gerstner, the president of White Label IQ. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Well, you'll be listening to Brian Gerstner. And as always, I will put my guest details in the show notes. And thank you for listening. I think a couple of big lessons there. One is that it's possible to take a business that's residing inside of a company and make it into a separate and discrete business. And to have that grow to even an equal size of the original business, so really do get
Brian Gerstner (25:24.068)
Thank you, Jim.
Jim James (25:47.99)
two companies coming from the same source. That's a wonderful way to capital gain. Secondly, what really comes across is about the importance of trust and relationships. And finally about the need for focus, because out of focus you can't build systems and you can't build a proper and consistent marketing message without knowing who you're speaking to and what problem you're gonna solve. So some wonderful, wonderful takeaways
for me today from Brian, hopefully for you too. So thank you for joining me, Jim James, your host today on the show. Hope you've enjoyed it. Do please follow the show because I don't want you to miss another of our wonderful guests and do please share the show with a friend because we don't want any entrepreneur to be left behind. And until we meet again, I just encourage you to keep on communicating.
Brian Gerstner (26:37.736)