Born and raised in Canada, Jeff Dyck completed his high school education before becoming a private investigator in his 20s. He continued in that career until his early 30s, with hopes of getting into the police force, but through experience he grew disillusioned with what he terms “the injustice of the justice system.” He grew to view the justice system as more of a business than a public service, and this disillusionment led him to search for another career path.
As he was good at sales and thinking on his feet, Jeff decided to start his own business. Seizing the opportunity he saw in the car culture in his area, he opened an auto detailing shop. While he didn’t know much about the business when he entered into it, he learned as he went and focused heavily on marketing. With door-to-door sales efforts and partnerships with local car dealerships, his business found quick success. However, he discovered that business dropped significantly any time he turned his attention away from marketing to get more hands on in the shop. For a solution to this problem, he looked into the loyalty industry, but he found it to be flawed, with little utility for small businesses like his, and even less utility for the customers who were purportedly receiving the benefits. His dissatisfaction sparked a 15 year journey into technology and the loyalty industry, with the goal of creating a system that benefits small businesses as well as customers.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
It was out of a necessity. Out of a need. I needed something that was going to benefit my company, and the loyalty business was it. I researched the industry, and found the common implementation of loyalty points to be rather redundant because they’re always only good for one store or at one company. I needed to find something that would benefit everybody. I wanted a platform that wasn’t just getting points for Amazon, or points for the gas station, or for the movie theater. No, I wanted to find a platform for points that could be used anywhere. And that’s what I found in the cryptocurrency world. I wanted to create a digital currency that was a benefit, that when you shop at a certain place, you’ve got all this money that you can use anywhere you want to. But my loyalty business was developed out of necessity, as there was nothing like it out there that would benefit my small auto detailing company.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
It depends on whether or not I have my kids. I share them half-time with my ex. If the kids are here and there’s school, I work while they’re in school and then focus on them when they get home, but then get back to work after they’re in bed. If it’s a weekend or holiday, I typically get up early and work throughout the morning. Then at 12 or 1 o’clock, I’ll go spend the day with the kids. When my kids are around, my time revolves around them. When they’re not around, I work.
But, I will say that I enjoy what I do, so it’s not really work to me. It’s more of a hobby. Some people like woodworking and some people like gardening, but I actually would prefer to take my laptop out and work. I feel good about it. I feel accomplished when I’ve done something.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Day-to-day experiences are key for me in that regard. It’s all about what I’ve experienced in my own life. If I go to a restaurant and find the service to be slow, I think about what could be changed to fix that. If I go to a gas station and I fill my car up but there are problems with the payment, I think about how that could be resolved. I come across issues in my daily life, and I think about a better way to address them. And if I come up with an idea that I think could be made into a business, I do some research on it. I figure out the industry, figure out how big it is, figure out who the competitors are, and so on.
If I find that my ideas are worth investigating further, I figure out the pros and cons, and I map everything out on a whiteboard so I can see it all. At that point, I decide whether it’s going to be financially viable to pursue the idea. Sometimes you might have a really good idea but it lacks a viable market, and you’ve got to know when it’s right to set an idea like that aside. If it’s worth doing, I will find a team that can help me put it together. I can’t do it all on my own; I’ve got to find really smart people and build a good team. I map it out, create a good direction for it, and then trust people to do the jobs they were hired to do.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Definitely cryptocurrency and other alternative forms of payment. Bitcoin was created not long after the 2008 economic downturn. It caught on because everyone in the world was seeing all of the corruption, all of the greed, and all that was happening with the corporations, and people got tired of it. They wanted something that would be outside government control. Bitcoin was decentralized, meaning that nobody owned it. It was anonymous, meaning nobody had any idea who was holding it. But these same strengths were also its greatest weaknesses in the beginning. It was decentralized and anonymous, and that allowed it to spiral into a dark economy very quickly, which is why the government got involved.
Now there are thousands of cryptocurrencies on the market, and it’s created a whole new world. But once again I’ve found that there are a lot of problems with it. I believe that there has to be some sort of government control. It’s unavoidable. You can keep your cryptocurrency anonymous, but how are you going to cash out? You need a bank for that, and banks are controlled by the governments. It’s an exciting industry, but there’s a lot wrong with it.
I want to create a currency where it’s not decentralized but it’s not controlled by governments, either. There would be checks and balances, and it would be controlled by the economy, not by companies. Of course there has to be some government oversight, because people have to be able to cash out. I believe we’re developing just such a solution.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m always learning. I’m always focusing on education and knowledge. And I’m not talking about hitting textbooks, but rather finding things you’re interested in and learning about them. But the key for me is I don’t learn 100% of something. If there are ten different things I’m interested in, I’d rather learn 10% of what there is to know about each one of those things than 100% of one. I have the ‘Jack of All Trades’ mentality, in a sense. If there’s something I want or need to know everything about, I’d rather find an expert in that field and rely on their expertise.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Use your brain, not your heart. Especially in business. All of the mistakes I made happened because I was using my heart. I hired the wrong people based on situations and on friendships, knowing full well that they weren’t the right people to be in my business. But I followed my heart anyway, and that didn’t turn out well.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Many people have the idea that corporations and governments have your best interests at heart. People think that’s the case, but it’s not the case at all. I think governments are often very self-serving, and corporations are typically very self-serving, and they’ll always do what they have to do to survive and to increase profits. If it helps you out, great, but if not, they rarely seem to care much.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
When you come across problems or obstacles, whether in business or in life, you’ve got to break them down. Don’t let yourself be paralyzed. Instead, break the whole thing down into smaller steps. Identify what the problem is and find small solutions to isolated parts of it. Those small solutions will add up, and eventually the larger problem will be solved. Avoid thinking only of the big problems—that’s how you get overwhelmed, and how depression and anxiety sets in. Think to yourself ‘Okay, here’s a problem. What steps do I need to take to get past it?’ Separate everything into baby steps. I always tell people, “You have to go through it to get through it.” Just keep moving.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Finding the right people and incentivizing them. It’s not always about just finding the right people, but also giving them a financial interest in the company, whether it’s through profit sharing or whatever else. It’s about making sure they know that if the company’s successful, they’ll be successful too. For example, if you’ve got people stocking shelves and they get a little raise or a bonus when the company does well, they’re more likely to take pride in their work and pay attention to how well they’re stocking the shelves. You can apply that idea to pretty much any business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My big failure came from thinking with my heart and not with my head. I had the wrong people in the company. At the end of the day, I got through it. I ended up having to shut down the company and start fresh. But I learned from my mistakes. I learned what to do differently. And as an entrepreneur, you just don’t quit. You figure out how to pick up the pieces and apply what you’ve learned, whether it’s to your current project or to your next one.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I actually have an idea. It’s not technology related, but I think it’s a brilliant business model for anybody who wants to adopt it. And it has a bit of a philanthropic side to it—you’re basically helping your community—but you can also profit from it, too.
In our lives, we’re all too tied up in stuff—bigger houses and bigger cars, and so on. As a result, a lot of us end up debt-ridden and living off credit cards. Right now, we’re living in a society that encourages those ideas and those outcomes. People end up in situations where they have to seek out places where rent is cheap, and that’ll often be a not so nice area of the city where crime is high and the overall quality of life isn’t so good. I think we can solve this problem with tiny homes. I think it’s a brilliant idea to find nicer areas of the city and build entire communities of tiny homes there. For example, take North Las Vegas. It’s not a very nice part of the city. Rent is typically around $800 for a small apartment, and it’s not a good or a nice place to be. But for $800/mo, you can afford to live in a tiny home in a nicer area that’s brand new. Sure, it’s a smaller space than you might get in an apartment, but tiny homes tend to make very efficient use of their interior space, and the best part is that the resident can own the home. So, compare spending $800/mo to live in a tiny apartment that you’ll never own in a bad part of town to spending $800/mo to pay toward your ownership of a tiny home in a nicer neighborhood. You’ll actually have an asset to show for your money, and you’ll be living in a nicer, safer environment. I think if we adopted the tiny home mindset, and if we found entrepreneurs throughout North America to orchestrate it, I think we’d create a much better environment for our kids to grow up. And I think that would change the futures of those kids for the better.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It didn’t cost me $100—it was considerably less than that—but to me, spending time with my family is the most important thing there is. So, I scrapped work for the day recently and the kids and I went to the beach. There’s a private beach here that costs money to enter, and the kids and I spent the day there eating ice cream and whatnot.
In the same vein, for the birthdays of family and friends, I often won’t buy them presents. Instead, I’ll go out for the night with them. So, it’s not just giving them something they may or may not want, instead it’s spending time with them. That’s how I prefer to spend my money.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Basecamp. It keeps me and my team organized. We put all of our projects on there, and it gives us project due dates and reminder notices and so on. It works really well for us.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s a book called The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. I’ve read it several times and it still sticks with me. The whole concept of the book is what I base my life upon. The book says that when you see these massive goals in front of you, you shouldn’t be intimidated by them. Break them down. Create baby steps. The whole concept is that you can still think big and you still accomplish your goals just by being persistent and breaking down these big projects. I’m working on a project that’s going to take about a year to roll out, but we’ve got it whiteboarded and broken down into small steps so we miss nothing and accomplish each goal.
What is your favorite quote?
“The comeback is always stronger than the setback.”
- Don’t let setbacks, even major ones, slow you down.
- Break large projects and goals down into smaller, manageable chunks so you don’t end up overwhelmed and spinning your wheels.
- Carefully consider who you hire. In business, think with your brain, not with your heart.
- Find ways to directly incentivize your employees to care about the performance of the company.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.