Cody McLain – President and CEO of PacificHost

Businesses are built around copying each others ideas and improving on them. By understanding how your competitors sell products you can compile a list of what works and what doesn’t.

Since the age of 15, cody has set out on many entrepreneurial endeavors. After selling several companies he has gone on to start his own incubator company and has since opened business’s in a variety of industries relating to medical, web hosting, support services and more. Today Cody not only seeks new opportunities for investment but helps others learn how to optimize their time more efficiently to achieve more in less time. Cody is currently in the midst of writing a book while he is a contributing editor at which talks about the psychology of getting things done.

Where did the idea for PacificHost come from?

Being an entrepreneur, you sort of become the jack of all trades. You have to take time to learn and really understand every aspect of your business. Pacific Host in many ways was me learning from my previous mistakes. I had started a few hosting companies by this time and learned some hard, but valuable lessons and I was eager to put what I had learned to work, on my own terms. PacificHost was the largest company I ever built singlehandedly and it took me less than 4 years to do it. While I no longer actively manage the company it has played a huge role in helping me get to where I am today. After creating several companies I now currently manage a team of people that are managing companies for me. To do this I had to create a tremendous amount of automation to outsource tasks I have been doing daily for years on end.

What does your typical day look like?

I’ve spent many years trying to find the best way to work, think and do. When I was younger I focused all my free time to learning how to become more productive. I was trying to optimize myself to become the most productive entrepreneur. After years of trying and feeling like a failure I just drudged on working 12 hour days trying to keep up with the pace of my business. I took a step away from my business and looked at myself first. I was drinking red bull everyday, cereal for breakfast and generally consuming way too much sugar. I took time to learn and understand the basics of the habits that form who we are. We can either let habits form the basis for our immediate self interests, or condition them to work for our long term goals. It’s difficult though because we are wired to seek the quick rewards, like playing a video game, over the long reward of finishing that essay paper. I looked at my habits and daily routines with a much bigger magnifying glass than I had before, found great habits, and optimized them to suit me. Today I wake up at 7am after getting 7 hours of sleep, strength train for 30 mins, do cardio for 30 minutes, followed by a quick shower and a 20 minute meditation. I practice a form of “zazen” meditation which helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and activities (habits) throughout the day. Then I’ll read my kindle using a 30 minute timer to limit (yes, limit!) my reading. Beyond this I’ll work for the next 6 hours practicing varying timed methods of the Pomodori technique. After that, I generally work (no surprise) or spend time planning out my next travel adventure. Oh, I didn’t talk about that yet? Keep on reading…

How do you bring ideas to life?

We all have ideas; they are constantly coming and going throughout our day. I feel the biggest issue many people have is simply forgetting those ideas and not being mindful enough to realize those ideas even existed. I’ve established methods for every time of the day that will allow me to capture an idea and then put it to action.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

There are so many interesting and exciting trends it is hard to pick one, because there is so much great innovation. The problem is taking time to focus in on any one of them. Since running companies and making money is something I can check off my list, I’ve devoted much of my most recent time into learning everything I can about bio-hacking and productivity. This is generally something we’re all quite interested in as entrepreneurs, but of course, we often lack the time to learn how to be better with our time. I’ve looked at both personal ways to optimize my time, as well as ways to automate it. I spent so much time researching how to optimize but you can only make yourself so optimized. This is where my interests in both personal productivity and automation come into play. I’m absolutely excited with the advent of new smart-home technologies which can be configured to save us time, and optimize our own productivity. Technologies like the smart hub by SmartThings, thermostat control from Nest, or the Hue lights by Philips have all changed what is possible in the modern home today. I’m truly interested in exploring the complexities between automation and how it helps to make us more productive and happier throughout the day.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Having core foundational habits is what I believe to be the true key to success. These habits create the success mindset we need to prevail as successful entrepreneurs. I used to be really cynical and looked at every aspect of a situation from a negative point of view. In some respects as entrepreneurs, we need to always look at the worst outcome of any situation in order to make the best decision. However, they key is to be able to set the negative aside and don’t let worry overtake your thinking.

Beyond looking at how we think, it’s what we do that has a more drastic impact on our overall productivity.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’d say being an early entrepreneur. No, seriously hear me out. I never had a job as a kid because I started working when I was just 15. There was a lot I had to learn, and many of the lessons I have learned have been the hard way. I built up a successful company that was generating oevr $600k a year, and then lost it. It is a long story, but at the time, I was in shambles. The company I had spent years working on was gone; but with less than $70k in the bank, I went right back into it. I remember friends back in high school, they all sort of tried to copy me by building their own businesses. Despite having the capital, their biggest mistakes were losing interest and giving up. That persistence which was required from me to be successful required 8-12 hour days everyday. I worked myself to the bone from a very young age and lost a lot of time I could have spent being a happier kid. Graduating from that “early entrepreneurism”, as I might call it, is what finally put me in a position that allows me to enjoy life now, while I am working.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’ve started a multitude of companies, from web hosting companies and to an office in India to provide outsourced support; they all required a lot of extra time. Thinking outside the things I could have done differently with each company I launched, it’s not what I didn’t do, but what I did do that I regret. It’s spending hours of time running the businesses while almost completely neglecting my personal life. If I were to do it all again, I would take more time for myself and trying to maintain a better work-life balance. However, it is never too late to change and I am currently pursuing many interests in my free time, such as working towards a private pilots license and learning Spanish. I have taken up photography too and am going to be touring Kenya with a renowned nature photographer and author this November.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

To spend time on the areas of the business that you hate the most, because it’s these areas that as an entrepreneur you need to push through and do. If you are a developer making an iphone app, go learn marketing! Expecting to launch a product and have people come to you is one of the biggest misconceptions of new entrepreneurs. More efforts need to be spent in the area you are procrastinating the most. It is by spending this time to gain understanding that is going to help you form a more comprehensive picture of your company , which in turn can be used to set you on a path for a better future. Grounding yourself in a solid understanding of how every aspect of your business runs can provide insight so you make difficult decisions from a fully informed place. As any executive or entrepreneur can tell you, the more information you have to make business decisions, the better. Additionally, by learning about every aspect of your business, it can be easier to relate to and inspire employees, as well as to provide specific feedback when something needs to be changed.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

After finding my niche, I went and analyzed my competition. I had a list of companies which I considered to be my competitors. By creating this list, I analyzed their websites and sometimes even bought their products. Businesses are built around copying each others ideas and improving on them. By understanding how your competitors sell products you can compile a list of what works and what doesn’t. Over time, you can modify your product to not only match, but exceed, the specific values you discovered through your competitors.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

As an entrepreneur, I’ve had many failures. As previously discussed, I built a company that was generating $600k/year in revenue and then just lost it all. I overcame it with what little money I had, determined that I was going to do things again, do things differently – do them my way. Instead of relying on a partner I built up another company that was even stronger and more profitable in the long run. If I had not lost that initial company though, I never could have built an even more successful company. By sheer force of might, I didn’t give up or consider myself a failure for even one second. Being an entrepreneur cannot be defined by your successes until it has first been built by your failures.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Build a Smart Home Hub. The problem with all the existing automation hubs is that you can’t easily add the devices and configure them to what you want them to do. I would propose a SmartThings like startup which focuses on working in combination with all the existing z-wave and zigbee devices. Such a method would only require a little bit of engineering and getting the device created using an ARM linux processor programmed to work with both IOS and ANDROID devices. What the app does that would really set us apart from every other smart automation startup is the way the devices connect and setup. As a user adds a new device it would immediately walk them through a setup wizard of sorts that would allow them to choose from every potential possibility, or interaction, they may want to use it for. Current methods are hard to use, setup and maintain. Furthermore there would be a web interface where people could go to manage the device settings in an even easier to use admin theme we can grab from theme forest.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I’m really living life to the fullest and that’s what I’m trying to share and promote. I lived ten years of my life, pushing myself to be as successful as possible, but I have been practically in a corner of my room spending that time working. Sure I didn’t get as successful as quickly as I would have liked, but I’ve come to a point where I realize I don’t want to live like this for the next 40 years, retire and go live on a beach. Why give up your young years working yourself to exhaustion? Why not be everything that you can be? Beyond being an entrepreneur, I’m a certified Scuba Diver, taking lessons to get my Private Pilots license and traveling the world to take photographs. This November I’m going to Kenya to meet up with renowned author and photographer, Guillaume Bonn. As one friend one put it “You have fun by optimizing the way you have fun”. And that’s exactly right. Why not try something different, grow on a personal level, and experience life for all it has to offer?

What software and web services do you use?

I have spent years trying to find the best software to fulfill each role in my company, and how I can integrate the software to work with together. I believe in simplicity over a long list of features and integration over any be-all-end-all type solutions. I recommend the following software with high regard. I’ve tested many competing products and have found the following to be the best in their field.

HipChat – an amazing chat client that allows us to have different rooms for each project we have running. It will auto-paste images from links and we often have meme battles in chat.

Zapier – This tool will integrate practically any service with another. We primarily use it for sending vendor updates, or tweets about service interruptions from our datacenter to this room. It requires a bit of creative thinking, but if you can think of it, the integration will surely be there. The biggest benefit for us is our ability to set up notifications in HipChat about Raid alerts on any of our servers, in case a hard drive fails.

Google Drive – I was using Dropbox but in terms of managing your business Google Drive is the way to go. I’ve been using Dropbox for years and loved it’s simplicity. However I’m sure some of you might have noticed with Dropbox that sometimes your files go missing. This is a Dropbox bug that they seemingly refuse to acknowledge and fix. It’s because their client only operates two protocols: delete and upload. When you move a file from one folder to another, it actually deletes and re-uploads that file. If you created a new file, Dropbox starts to sync that file, but if you move that file or change the name of that file while it’s syncing, it might disappear on you. Google Drive doesn’t have this problem and has a full suite of built-in editing tools so you can collaborate effectively with your team. I tried using Evernote Business, but it lacked that real time editing since you have to wait for the sync to complete. I have several folders for different groups of teams inside my organization: customer service reps have access to a specific folder with FAQ, getting started and internal walk-through videos I created, while my web developer has access to the web development folder where I keep scripts and html files that go on the website. Everything is compartmentalized and yet the sharing is instantaneous.

Redbooth – I’ve used TeamworkPM, Asana, Azendoo, Wrike etc.. You name the task application and I have tried it. I vetted each for simplicity, ease of use and features. While Redbooth doesn’t have everything we need, it’s by far the best at allowing you to delegate tasks and keep track of them. With other task management applications it is much easier to get lost in the chaos from too much going on, and tasks can be missed or forgotten about. Redbooth avoids this by centralizing the dashboard around activity related to tasks you are subscribed to. Say you assign a task to Sammy to update your Facebook page and he comments that he needs the login details. Instead of getting spammed inside my inbox by every action made inside a comment, I can follow the dashboard to see the tasks that concern me and the ones that need my attention without sorting through countless irrellevant posts. After I am done with each task, I simply X out the list item and don’t have to worry about it.

Mitro – Password Management for organizations is an absolute pain-in-the-ass. I have tried every team password manager I could get my hand on, and quite frankly, every one has fallen short to my expectations. Mitro is a small startup, but the simplicity, ease of sharing, syncing, and custom control over who has access to what makes it the best company password management I have come across. For example: I have Marketing logins, Forum Logins, Customer Service Logins, Vendor Logins etc. Mitro allows me to keep track of which passwords are assigned to each team and person. It also gives me the flexibility of assigning individual passwords. Let’s say I need to give my secretary access to PayPal so she can pay a bill – but I don’t want to give her access to my entire financial folder of passwords. I can individually assign her access to that password. You can also prevent employees from copying passwords, which prevents them from being changed. Most of the time systems require the current password to change logins on most websites so this is a good layer of security.

They all help me do one important thing: be more productive and efficient at how I run a business. They are essential at reducing confusion, increasing communication and overall efficacy for the entire team. Small optimizations like these can help you no matter how small your business is because the time saved will add up in the long term and help you reach your goals that much quicker.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Only one? That’s tough; I could list a bunch of books, but in terms of which one might be the most beneficial to anybody reading this is The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. He offers some amazing ideas on hiring sales people and getting new clients to come to you over a competitor.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I’m a big fan of other business thinkers like Seth Godin, Jonah Berger, Tim Ferris, Derek Sivers and Chris Ducker. I admire the brands they’ve built and the hard work it took for them to get them there. They inspire me by showing me what is possible, and by their actions help me create my own path for myself and others.


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