“The most important quality in a salesperson is common sense”
Company: General Devices
CEO: Curt Bashford
INC5000 Profile: https://www.inc.com/profile/general-devices – 2017 Rank 2503 // 3-Year Growth 142% //Employees 31 // 2016 Revenue $6.1 M
General Devices was featured on the INC5000 as #2503 and is a medical device and software technology company who’s core purpose is “To improve the health and well-being of the public at large by providing Responsive Innovation for public safety responders and health care providers.”
Joe Apfelbaum: 00:49 Curt Bashford is the CEO of GD, formerly general devices, a medical device and software technology company whose core purpose is to improve the health and well-being of the public at large. Curt shares with us what he did in order to secure him a spot on the INC 5000 this year. I’m really excited to have a fellow EO member join me on this episode. Let’s begin this amazing episode and find out how Curt grew his business. Welcome to the Ajax Union B2B marketing podcast. As you know, we’re interviewing dozens of ceos and leaders of INC 5000 businesses and your business was featured on the INC 5000 to the year as number 2503. Congratulations. That’s amazing.
Curt Bashford : 00:49: Thank you. Joe, Appreciate that , Kinda at the halfway mark there.
Joe Apfelbaum: 01:37: The halfway mark. You’re in good company, so it shows that your 2016 revenue was 6.1 Million which is three year growth of 142 percent. That’s a pretty incredible growth for business.
Curt Bashford : 01:51: Yeah. Yeah. Now the trick will be sustaining that, right?
Joe Apfelbaum: 01:54: Yeah. We’ll talk more about that. I’m so glad that you can join us here today. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your business, your growth, your marketing strategies. Are you ready to share some insights on this program?
Curt Bashford : 02:05: Ready to roll.
Joe Apfelbaum: 02:06: All right, let’s do it. So you mentioned earlier about getting out of your comfort zone. Do you feel like you get out of your comfort zone when you talk about your business? Like when you tell the story of your business?
Curt Bashford : 02:15: I used to, um, not so much anymore. You know, it’s, it’s a muscle memory a little bit. I’m wondering what I could do it in and can just roll in and talk. I think about it too much. It’s harder.
Joe Apfelbaum: 02:28: So let’s try to test some of that muscle memory. Tell us a little bit about your business. What do you do and why do people do business with you?
Curt Bashford : 02:35: Right. So, so, you know, is uh, y, you know, we also needs out there for hospitals and emergency medical services. So we created some invasive innovation where, which we call response innovation to solve problems and help those two entities communicate better. Um, ultimately to save time, save money, certainly for, to save lives and help healthcare.
Joe Apfelbaum: 03:01: That’s awesome. So you’re supporting hospitals by creating technology that helpS them be able to do what they need to do faster and better
Curt Bashford : 03:10: ambulances, emergency medical services communicate with those hospitals better patient care.
Joe Apfelbaum: 03:16: so what do you attribute your growth over the past four years? Do you have something specifically that you did? I mean, because you where your business was founded when I was born.
Curt Bashford : 03:26: Yeah. ANd I’ve been here, this is my thirty first year here now. So I started when I was two w we’ve gone through a few different evolutions. I’m probably the biggest pivot point. Um, you know, we went through and we went from becoming a design manufacturing from a design contract from into a manufacturer that was one pivot back in about 1990. Um, and then we had our own products, but I mean we’re, we, we had some moderate growth but we were kind of really a operationally centric company. I’m an engineer by background. The founder is an engineer, so we’re very engineering technically order oriented, which means we make cool stuff, how to sell it,
Joe Apfelbaum: 04:08: which is a comical stuff, but you don’t know how to sell. So what changed? How did he start selling it
Curt Bashford : 04:12: to um, you know, w we had some processes and we did well in, in some niche, you know, territorial markets and such like that. Um, but we, we hadn’t broken that ceiling if you would, um, in [inaudible] I’m founder retired and myself and my two partners for you could say his exit strategy that kind of opened the door for us to make another pivot. You know, there was a good Company, he had a great foundation here, but we kind of wanted to go a little bit bigger, a little bit different direction. so we started to make some changes. Um, firsT senate changes was on salesforce. We only had a few direct guys so, um, where we had boots on the ground we did well and where we didn’t have boots on the ground, we didn’t do so much. I’m so we put some by practices in place here linked up with a manufacturer’s rep organization, gets more boots and that gave us a little bit of growth, a little bit of working capital to start to do some other things.
Curt Bashford : 05:08: IT thrust me into a new role. So I went from being, you know, in operations, but more technically oriented to being the ceo to run a business. My fi, my deGree undergrad and masters in engineering. What do I know about running a business? So, uh, you know, I kind of, it hit me like a lead balloon, I guess, that I got to go learn some things. So, um, uH, I got a business coach that helps set things off and then kind of like you, I believe, um, in 2014 I got bob would l so remember, you know, New Jersey and you know, between those two, that kind of thrust me into the world or were others learning the other, but he’s got the same issues and problems and how do we do these things. And so I got into a kind of a learning Mode then, um, applied some of that here, meal from the culture up because before then I didn’t even believe culture was a real thing. Right. And again, an engineer, we don’t have feelings, we don’t have the emotions. What do you need culture for?
Joe Apfelbaum: 06:07: That’s pretty incredible. Yeah, no, I’m a technical person myself. So I totally, I totally get that. Like what do you need foster for? Let’s just get the work done, let’s find a solution. RighT? So, so since you got a business coach and he joined eo, you grow your business significantly. You were your feature on the [inaudible] now that you grew the way that you grew, like what’s more important to your business right now? Is it now? Are you looking back and saying, ok, now I’m focusing on pre-tax profit. I’m focusing on ebitda or I’m going to continue to double my business over the course of the next three years. Like what is your, what’s your approach now?
Curt Bashford : 06:43: Good question. Um, I think we’re still in growth mode. So we had some evidence by, by the awards, and we want to continue that. I don’t know that we quite want to double our beehag is to hit 10,000,000 revenue now again, by self we know means nothing. Arabia, revenues, vanitY and, and all that. But that’s kind of our target. So it’s really comes out at a book and if you look at the progression and companies, how they’re majority companies, ninety six percent are somethings in that no less than a million, four percent in less than five. And we want to get to that point four percent. That’s kind of a, a lofty, beehag target for us that we’d like to get to, um, we’d like to make some profit along the way, but we’ve been kind of reinvesting that into the growth because as, as you know, as you do grow, you find that you need to do a lot of things differently, processes, systems and people and you have, uh, you know, growing pains along the way that you got to take care of. I think we’re still in that mode.
Joe Apfelbaum: 07:48: You look at revenue per employee or profitability per employee. Do you look at a per head count or anything like that?
Curt Bashford : 07:54: We haven’t done that. Um, you know, our head count along with the growth, we’ve, we’ve, they will more than doubled in people too and they’re probably already are having looked at revenue in those terms though.
Joe Apfelbaum: 08:07: Cool. Cool. Let’s talk a little bit about your marketing, because in order to grow, you need to have really awesome, incredible marketing. What marketing strategies do you use? You mentioned boots on the ground getting salespeople. Did you do any like search engine optimization?
Curt Bashford : 08:22: The paint, we’re finally just getting down to doing things properly that we need to do as part of our growth balloon. Part of that was related to a, um, a replacement market of our own products that I gave us, kind of a bump them give us some working capital for that. Um, I would say at best and being generous, you know, a lot of our marketing in the past, it was kind of a ad hoc, you know, what’s, what’s the quick fix to the day, you know, where do we need to throw something out there? Um, I, I very, very little strategy. Um, we are now. I actually hired our first full time marketing person last year before that and kind of we learned some bad habits. He, along the way being engineers, we tend to do everything ourselves, right? Technical people or we can do that.
Curt Bashford : 09:08: Why do I need an outside person? And then you find a ceiling in. Yeah, your limitations that you really want to do it. Right? So I got a good guy last year and he’s taken us in new directions and things differently outside the box. So we’re starting to slowly now. Yeah. In place. The things we need to do. You mentioned seo, so we’re, we’ve got the foundation work, we just started an ip retargeting program. I’m more looking more critically at shows because we used to do too many, too many shows. Anthony’s, he used to do full coat color ads in magazines in the. We get, roy said, now we’ve got an hour. Certainly we’re measuring uh, some of that and trying to direct it smarter and really got to start planning for 2018 and stuff. Just doing this,
Joe Apfelbaum: 09:54: not just doing the do and expecting different results. Call. So. So who is your most ideal client? Is that the ambulances or is it the hospital’s like who actually buys your product?
Curt Bashford : 10:04: So it’s a little both. We have a few different product lines. So core product goes in the hospital, emergency department. So there are our prime contact. That’s a majority of the bills, the kids a lifetime. Um, so that’s, that’s our main target, but it does tie in with emergency medical services. So there’s some ambulance services actually want in your backyard. And why is the customer first? Wow, they are good hands. um, in w were out there were probably in four or five hundred hospitals around the country. Wow. That’s doing well. And then the ambulance side of things, the product, there is a more mobile telemedicine. Mmm. you know, using the technology that we all carry now for doing live video and audio and what can we do to take care of this patient better and maybe not go back to the hospital.
Joe Apfelbaum: 10:54: Right ryan? So even asking them do we need to come back to the hospital or can I just give them an injection of an epi pen or whatever it is.
Curt Bashford : 11:00: Yeah. And then that’S where things are done here in healthcare is evolving. It’s too expensive. And you know, eat emergency departments are overcrowded. So there’s programs go mobile, integrated healthcare and community paramedicine or bore you with details, but it’s different ways of thinking and not everything needs to go back to the emergency department. There’s sometimes more appropriate places for care.
Joe Apfelbaum: 11:22: So by hiring a full time person to help you with your marketing, do you have now like an inkling of what you’re going to want to invest to continue to grow profitably? Is it based on, because you’re starting to measure roi so you thinking based on profit, based on gross profit based on revenue, like a lot of business owners I speak to are not sure how to measure return investment or how to measure like what marketing budget they should be spending. Do You have any ideas?
Curt Bashford : 11:47: So, so I don’t know that we have a great idea. We know that’s where we want to get to, You know, a typical, it’s a, you know, some percentage of, of acts. I’m working towards it. I think we’re having to put some foundation pieces into place so that I don’t know that, you know, the more of a startup phase, the dollar amounts would be the same as if we already had it up and we’re maintaining or they’re tweaking along. So we’re kiNd of evolving that way. We got some work to do, but I think we’re in the right direction.
Joe Apfelbaum: 12:15: Cool. And especially because you’re cutting back on some of those traditional stuff that didn’t work. Let’s talk about some of those things that some people call it mistakes. What mistakes did you do from a marketing perspective where you throw a bunch of money at something and it just flopped.
Curt Bashford : 12:28: So one of the first ones you know is to not measure it. So how do you know if it’s working and you know, you do a trade show and you get some leads out of it, but who’s, who’s tracking those? And then before you know it, ten months have gone by and you have to decide, are you going to do that same show again? How was it? Well, I think it was ok. I think we got some leads that. And it’s a lousY way to do it. Know it’s, it’s not smart, it’s not how we should be doing things. and you got to fight those inclinations of uh, well, you know, we’re more noticeable if we don’t, you know, appear at the show and um, and balance all that out. And sometimes that’s, those are tough decisions. Soda demetrick. She should help us to some degree on that.
Joe Apfelbaum: 13:08: Wow. That’s powerful. Yeah. Now totally like winging it and not measuring it. Somebody recently came to me and said, joe, how’d you lose eighty five pounds and keep it off over the past three years, and I said, well, how much do you weigh? And they’re like, I don’t know. I don’t measure. It was like, if you don’t measure it, you don’t set a goal, then like there’s no way for you to get there. You’re not gonna know if you’re succeeding or not succeeding and not succeeding, not gonna know who did it or didn’t do it.
Curt Bashford : 13:31: Right. Goals for everything, and that’s about those metals and that’s part of goal setting. If I say I’m going to do that race, and I tell people on, I sign up and I do it, then I got to finish and then you get that sense of accomplishment. You’ve got a goal and do that.
Joe Apfelbaum: 13:49: Cool. If somebody who was entering the world of healthcare and the way that you are these days, what would. What advice would you give them from marketing or from a growing perspective? Wouldn’t you tell somebody that wants to solve a problem
Curt Bashford : 14:00: for hospital over at mom’s healthcare stuff? Business is growing in a thing is a great one to get involved with. Um, the real thing comes down to, and this is a marketing sales saying off the right value. What is the value you’re providing? Um, there’s a million shiny objects out there and cool devices and technology. So the real question is, will they buy it? And that comes down to do you solve a need to solve a problem addressing their pain points, their needs, um, their busy places. They’re frazzled customers. Then they’re doing things because that’s the way they’ve always done them and they may not have time to look at something for a change. And you really have to demonstrate the value. You’ve got to do that through your marketing.
Joe Apfelbaum: 14:47: Cool. that’s really awesome that we spoke about your growth. We spoke about your business. We about your marketing. Let’s talk a little bit about you. What’s the driving force behind the business? I know that you’re going to start it, but you were there from the beginning or from a really long time ago. Like what’s your purpose now to be able to get to that big hairy, audacious goal of practically doubling your business? Again,
Curt Bashford : 15:08: so many things. I’m kind of self driven, um, but I’m actually kind of competitive. I, it comes out in different ways and, you know, I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to fail. Um, I want to succeed. I am not so much janet for status or anything like that. Um, but I want to do good. So I liked the industry that we’re in, um, you know, but it’s not just about me also, right? It’s all the employees and the company and their families. And uh, that hit home. We just had our company picnic outside on sunday and you sit there and you look around and so it’s not just me, it’s not just my family, it’s the employees but their families and you see that there and we’re all, you know, together we’re in this together and responsible for that and that, that’s a big driver.
Joe Apfelbaum: 15:59: It’s cool on from the metals on your wall, I can see that you’re competitive and you like to win just like me and many other entrepreneurs. We like to win as a leader of a fast growing business. As you’re growing your business, sometimes things come up and get you bent out of shape, get you stressed out. What do you do to deal with that stress? Everybody has a different way of doing it. What’s your unique way of dealing with stress?
Curt Bashford : 16:21: Equal for the night guy? Yeah, it’s amazing and I hear it’s a common problem, but those, those stress type things tend to hit me at about two or three in the morning. Um, it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, the day I tend to grind through and work on what I need to work on and it’s, it’s at night when my mind just kind of wanders when the stress starts to hit junior and you, you go to those negative places and dark places of, you know, what happens in and what do I need to do and then you start the next day and uh, somehow get through that push through. Um, but it’s getting input from the coach and from my wife and for my partners and my teammates here, how to, how to solve problems in a really don’t get past that stress until you dive in and really understand the problem and start to fix it instead of just worrying about it.
Joe Apfelbaum: 17:10: Right? They say the best way to extinguish feaR is to distinguish what you’re afraid of and that will diminish the effect of it by. What’s that bell behind you? Is that like when you want lunch,
Curt Bashford : 17:26: that is a part of what you mentioned, right? So scoreboard and measuring into how do we measure success, so where we would get a, a new customer ordered as a relevant order. I put my speAker phone on, hey joel around the building and we ring the bell on. Everybody in the company knows that we had success. So we share that.
Joe Apfelbaum: 17:45: Wow, that is so awesome and so unique. Totally going to share that with other people. That’s really, really cool. So what are some hobbies and passions? You mentioned you do these competitive runs. IS there anything else that you’re personally involved with?
Curt Bashford : 17:59: Personally, I had been a lot more, my kids are now, my daughter’s just finished college. my son’s been out about three years and working in his career, marriage, my daughter just started her, so it’s given us, my wife and I find to do more things for us. Um, so we’d like to do some travel and we actually still do family trips. We just did a one in san francisco and until yosemite park and went on a hot air balloon ride over napa valley and doing some things that we’d like to do together. And so that’s one of them, but you know, doing the obstacle course races and my son and daughter and my friends get involved with that as well and kind of push each other and have a lot of fun out there too. And I find that from a goal point of view is helpful, but it’s also about being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Joe Apfelbaum: 18:50: That’s something I get out of it. As an entrepreneur, we get asked a lot to do things, especially in eo, were being voluntold to do things. How do you say no and what are the things that you specifically say no to in your business and in your personal life?
Curt Bashford : 19:05: Yeah, so I’m not good at saying no and actually did it today. I was supposed to one of your podcasts on away way and I kind of give me, there was a segment in there about saying no and I kind of gave me the rationale yet. Yes I can do that. It makes sense to say no at times. It is hard with the team because you know, you get ideas, you get the different directions, a squirrels shiny objects, right? That you want to go in. Um, and we’ll play with them to a certain point, but at some point you have to say no. Um, but it’s a challenge and something we really have to remind each other about it and it doesn’t come naturally. I would say.
Joe Apfelbaum: 19:43: Awesome. On leveraging this prestigious award of being on the inc five thousand.
Curt Bashford : 19:49: Good question. Um, I think this podcast is an example of that, right? So I think that’s probably how you found me. Um, although I think we’ve crossed paths and, uh, at an eo event or two, um, and we have some mutual acquaintances in that, but um, yeah, it’s a, it’s part of the networking and in recognition and um, you know, when I talked to others, um, you know, people kind of know the debt means something. Um, being on that list. It’s not everything, but it’s a piece in it. It may open some doors, it leads to other networking business activities that you might not otherwise.
Joe Apfelbaum: 20:22: Yeah. What learning or advice from others was most helpful to you? I know that you started your major entrepreneurship learning journey and 2014 by getting a coach and joined the l. Were there any books or business gurus, a mentor? Is there anything that you’d like to share?
Curt Bashford : 20:37: Yeah, there, there, there’s a bunch. And, and before the eo, I really didn’t do any reading. Right. I went to school for all those years. What do I got to keep learning? Um, and then the woman who interviewed me for the application, she asked me an innocent question, much like you just did what is a theory? And I had flaws because I really had no answer for that afterwards, that embarrassment. It guts me. It’s like, you know, she’s right, I should be doing this. Why am I not doing this stupid? So I, but she put me onto a tip because my excuse was I don’t have time. Um, but I do sit in the car and commute. She said try what are your books? And I did and that was three years ago and I’m up to about forty five business books now. So, um, that, that was helpful in that. And I think that the team here hates it when I started. No, because you know, you always grab a couple of nuggets and you got to share with everybody else and we’re going to try something different. But you, if there was a couple in there, I really liked it. Pat lencioni books, the five dysfunctions of a team because I’m trying to get the team involved in learning and growing is because there’s stories behind it that helps relate to others.
Joe Apfelbaum: 21:48: Yeah. That’s a powerful book. Powerful story is really, really great. Do you consider yourself smart or lucky? And why?
Curt Bashford : 21:58: Good question. I think I’m smart. I don’t think I’m overly smart. Um, yeah, maybe a little above average and net luck is about putting yourself in into the right positions and, and, uh, you know, what’s that intersection, right? Of a looking for opportunity and success in all that.
Joe Apfelbaum: 22:20: Yeah. No, definitely. And one final question to wrap this up with a little bow. We feel successful when we get recognized. How do you personally measure success in your life and your business when you don’t get recognized?
Curt Bashford : 22:34: That’s a good question. So when you Don’t get recognized, but you know, you maybe have some internal satisfaction with that. Maybe you know, you feel good about it and you know, you did the right thing or are you accomplish something? So maybe some others didn’t see it as a little bittersweet that way, but if you know you did it, you can sleep on that.
Joe Apfelbaum: 22:55: Ok, awesome. Thank you very much.
Curt Bashford : 22:56: I appreciate the opportunity to hear and look forward to meeting you in person at some.
Joe Apfelbaum: 23:00: I look forward to that as well. All the best have a wonderful day. Thanks. Take care.
Joe Apfelbaum Outro: 23:05: If you enjoy the podcast, please share it with a friend or two or three and remember to leave a five star review so other people can enjoy the podcast as well. You can reach me, joe, at email@example.com Where you can send what questions
Joe Apfelbaum Outro: 23:23: you want me to ask the next batch of ceos that I’ll be interviewing. I look forward to hearing your feedback and remember, stay amazing.
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