Scott Yates – CEO of BlogMutt

Spend more time listening to customers and less time listening to venture capitalists (with apologies to my VC friends).

Scott Yates is CEO of BlogMutt, the leading professional blog writing service for businesses and agencies. Scott, along with co-founder Wade Green, built the site for two reasons. One: to make it easier, faster, and more efficient for businesses to produce blog posts — critical for a sound content marketing strategy. And two: to foster a supportive community of freelance writers that get paid for writing original, unique blog posts for BlogMutt’s customers across an array of industries.

He comes to this business after successfully building and selling two previous businesses, one related to traffic information — where he earned a patent — and another related to state­level legislation. He also wrote a book “The Future of Water” before launching BlogMutt. Prior to his startups, he was an award-winning writer and editor in New York City and Colorado.

In his spare time, he’s spearheading an effort to fix daylight saving time.

Scott lives in Colorado with his wife, son, and mutt Buddy (and his dictionary collection).

Where did the idea for BlogMutt come from?

In short, I had a bunch of friends who ran small businesses ask me how they could make their websites work for their businesses. I told them a little about SEO, but then I started to research it. I learned — even back in 2010 to 2011 — that classic SEO techniques were dying and what small businesses needed to do was write blog posts every week. (That’s become even more true since then.)

Armed with that, I sat down with my longtime collaborator Wade Green, and we hammered out a way that would benefit both writers and businesses. Writers get paid to write posts, businesses get the blog posts they need, and both sides do so on a platform that’s super easy to use.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

I live in Denver, and our office is in Boulder, so I come up to the office typically three days a week. I use the commute time to get exercise, catch up on emails, etc. I try to use the days I don’t come to the office for phone calls and bigger projects.

When BlogMutt started, I was doing sales, customer service — everything. Now, we have a staff who does a much better job of that, so I work on managing that staff, building partnerships, and exploring new opportunities for BlogMutt. My productivity is helped by the fact that I’m a really fast writer, so I can quickly get through a lot of email replies. I am also a believer in “inbox zero,” and I try to maintain that.

How do you bring ideas to life?

This may not be surprising from the CEO of a blog-writing company, but I blog about my ideas. If I want to try something new, I write a post about it and gauge the reaction. If it’s a business idea, the next step is to ask someone to pay for the idea.

It doesn’t matter if it’s built or not — the process of asking someone to pay is the best way to see if the idea has any traction. And you can’t ask if someone would pay because people love to say “yes” to that question. You have to say, “Can I have your credit card number for a down payment?” Then listen closely to the answer. That’s the way to test a new business idea.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Crowdsourcing. The world of work will continue to get transformed by the “wisdom of the crowds.” That’s at the heart of BlogMutt, but I think we are still in the early days of this trend.

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

Talking on the phone as little as possible.

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

I was a busboy at a restaurant where part of my job was schlepping kegs of beer up a rickety, wooden staircase. I learned that I should try harder to have jobs that don’t require me to do manual labor. Or, as Apollo Creed said so well: “Be a thinker, not a stinker.”

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

I would have bought stock in Chipotle (which I absolutely loved) back when I first discovered it in our hometown of Denver.

As an entrepreneur, what is one thing you do repeatedly and recommend others do, too?

Spend more time listening to customers and less time listening to venture capitalists (with apologies to my VC friends).

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

This is kind of a self-serving answer, but blogging has definitely helped. When the whole company was just me, Wade, a few customers, and a couple of writers, we started blogging every week. That built up to every single day.

Now, our blog is just fantastic, and it has been our main driver of new business and new writers since the earliest days. (And it’s really nice having others write it for us so we don’t have to use staff time for writing posts. We use the same writers that all of our customers use.)

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

Naming the company. I came up with the first name, “Turuly.” Our motto was: “The web is unruly. Tame it with Turuly.” It was a turuly terrible name. Luckily, one day my wife looked down at our “mixed breed” dog and came up with the name BlogMutt. I had the wisdom to listen to her.
We thought about changing the name when we got a new logo, but no name was as memorable or did as well at getting across the idea that we are a no-ego blog-writing service.

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

“The Salad-Bar Bar.” People on the go love to eat food bars when they don’t have time to sit down for a meal, and people are always trying to get enough vegetables in their diets.

Someone should take all the best stuff from a salad bar, and through the magic of modern food processing, dehydrate it and compress it into a yummy bar. Maybe it can have a crouton crust on the outside. And, instead of selling it with all of the other processed “health” bars out there, it can be sold in produce departments.

Hence, “The Salad-Bar Bar.” It’s also fun to say.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? On what, and why?

I recently bought a new headlight for my bike. Because of the end of daylight saving time (Do NOT get me started about that!), I’m biking home in the dark, and a really bright headlight helps very much.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use HubSpot, and many of our customers do, too. We love that it’s integrated from the blogging tool all the way through to the customer relationship management system. HubSpot is a fast-growing company, so every so often there are growing pains, but the team there is all super responsive and helpful. They all understand the importance of blogging to an overall inbound-marketing strategy, so they frequently share the news that BlogMutt can help small businesses get blogging done. There’s a lot of love in the room.

We also use Zenefits and ADP, but I wouldn’t say I love them. In fact, we’ve written at length about our issues with these two.

What is one book you recommend our community read, and why?

“Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. It’s a massive biography, but it inspired the musical about our first treasury secretary, which I also recommend very highly. (The tickets are hard to get, so until you can see the play, be sure to buy the soundtrack here.)

In reading this book, you realize how close our country came to not being a country at all and how hard it was to create a completely new form of government from scratch. You also realize that the founders were real human beings with plenty of faults. Armed with that information, it’s a little easier to forgive yourself for your own faults. More than that, you feel a challenge directly from the founders.

The founders of this country didn’t create the U.S. so that we could sit on our collective butts and watch TV. They created it as a challenge to each and every one of us, letting us know that we were not made to be subjects of a monarchy, but instead to have freedom. The challenge is: What do we do with that freedom? Are we going to sit around, or are we going to create something?

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

I really don’t have any one place that I turn to for news or ideas. I let the social media engines produce the content that I’ll find interesting. I also work with many of the people at our local NBC affiliate, and although local TV often deserves the bad rap it gets, I think the people at 9News are really trying to do the best they can for the viewers on the air and online.


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