Todd Greer with The University of Mobile

Todd Greer with The University of Mobile

On this week's podcast, Marcus sits down with Todd Greer. Todd is the Dean of the School of Business at the University of Mobile. He is passionate about Mobile's entrepreneurial community and finding ways energize and help it thrive. Listen to this week's podcast to see how he's doing this at the University of Mobile and beyond!


Todd: Hi. I'm Todd Greer, dean of the School of Business at the University of Mobile.

Marcus: Yay, Todd. Now, it's been a while since we've talked to you, and quite a bit has changed, so we wanted to get you on and kind of share some of the good things that you're doing up at University of Mobile, but to keep this all packaged nicely, I know people, we could send them back to the old podcast and make them listen to that, but why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, like where you're from, where did you go to high school, college? Are you educated?

Todd: No.

Marcus: No?

Todd: Not at all. Yeah.

Marcus: Are you married? Just give us some of your backstory.

Todd: Sure. So, it's been, really, three years-

Marcus: It's been a long time.

Todd: ... since we recorded the first one, and so much has happened since then. I am Todd Greer. I'm originally from Southeast Michigan. I grew up and was raised as a Wolverine fan. I know that's really important when we talk about football in the south, to know where people's allegiance lies, so I'm a Wolverine fan.

Marcus: We just lost all of our audience now.

Todd: Well, either they love me or they hate me. It depends on how things progress later on in the season and so on. I have been in Mobile for about four-and-a-half years right now, but came here by way of Richmond, Virginia, spent about five years there as I was finishing up my PhD, my wife as well. So, a little bit of education, a lot of different schools, a lot of different places.

Marcus: [crosstalk] but come on.

Todd: Okay.

Marcus: Yeah. What did you get edumacatedin?

Todd: So, started out, undergrad was communications, organizational communication, master's degree, did some organizational communications, and then continued on, did a master's in ministry, and then finally, a PhD in organizational leadership. Since that time, I've spent a lot of my time working with nonprofits around board relations, board development, succession strategies, those kinds of pieces, and then really, the last four years has been very deeply working with entrepreneurs. So, started, was one of the co-founders, I should say, with Exchange 202 here in Downtown Mobile, the first coworking space in Mobile, continued on in working in training startup founders. So, how do you understand, as we like to say, if your baby's ugly or not? So, is your idea good-

Marcus: Will it fly?

Todd: ... or will it fly? Yeah. What does it look like to be able to put time and energy to it? So, I've been able to do a lot of different stuff. I moved to the area with a wife and one child, and since we've been here in Mobile, had a second, so I have a nine-and-a-half-year-old and an almost two-year-old, and my wife is a professor over at Spring Hill College. So, we've spread our allegiance around in this area, but go Rams, go.

Marcus: There you go. So, organizational communication, describe that to people. What does that entail?

Todd: Yeah. So, a lot of what happens when we talk about organizations, people get thrust into organizations. They get thrust into teams and groups, and frankly, other than kindergarten, there's nobody who really teaches us how do you interact with other people, do it nicely, do it well, and do it in such a way that you're actually able to move that thing forward. Oftentimes, people come into organizations with their own agendas. They come with their own personalities, and everybody comes carrying their baggage, and so really, a lot of that was kind of the internal nature, so how do we understand how to communication internally? How do we make sure we respect each other, that we show honor to each other, that we know what is appropriate and what's not inside of organizations, and then there's the external factors, so how do we appropriately communicate who we are to a community, and some of that is now in social media and branding and other pieces, but typically, before, it has been largely focused in public relations. So, I spent a lot of time in my early days, in undergrad and coming out of undergrad, around that field, so how do we make sure that we're communicating properly in a bidirectional way, so not just we're telling the community, “This is us. Deal with it,” but we're listening to the community? We're understanding what that looks like and making sure that we have our stakeholders involved.

Marcus: Very cool. Now, I was always very impressed with how you impacted the entrepreneurial community here when you were at Exchange 202, and I know Brad Custred, who has also been on the podcast, now owns Exchange 202.

Todd: Well, he's one of the partners. That's correct.

Marcus: Okay.

Todd: He owns the building.

Marcus: Okay. If you don't want to get into that, we don't have to, but ... So, he's one of the partners in Exchange 202, but he owns the building, but regardless, you left a legacy there where people were being educated, and there was community being built, and so on and so forth, and I guess what I'm getting to is, what is it going to take to build an ecosystem, a community here of thriving entrepreneurs that are moving the ball forward and moving Mobile from a city of perpetual- 

Jared: Potential.

Marcus: ... potential ... I always have to point to Jared because I forget the potential part.

Todd: Yeah, yeah.

Marcus: Any thoughts?

Todd: Yeah. I think there's a couple pieces that we've recognized that it's funny that you say that. I was just in communication with Beth McKay, and Beth is a friend. She's an ecosystem builder, has worked in Birmingham, has worked in Denver, has worked all over the country, and that's one of the things that she and I have had some communication on, and I think what's happened is with the birth of Innovation Portal in 2015, with the University of South Alabama's Melton Center for Entrepreneurship Innovation, with the chamber's focus on entrepreneurship through emerging leaders, with the partnerships we've had through Minority Business Accelerator, this is now ... We're getting ready for, I think, our fourth Startup Weekend, and then we also have the I-Corps program that our higher ed institutions work on together. So, we've got a lot of programs right now that are moving forward. The two things that I think ultimately are pieces that we're still working to be able to get together on are some capital. Okay? So, capital is one of those pieces, it's tough. If you don't have it, it doesn't matter how good your idea is. It doesn't matter how hard you're willing to work. It doesn't matter how well you understand your market. If you don't have the financial resources to be able to move that thing forward, there's always gonna be a stop, and so I think sometimes we have a market that does not ... They don't exist in the way that in South Carolina, in Southern California, if you have an idea, you can pitch it and you're gonna find millionaires and billionaires-

Marcus: Millions of dollars, yeah.

Todd: ... that are right there, and they're going to take risk. I don't think we have a market yet that fully understands and is capable of taking risk, and I don't mean that in a negative way. I think that's just kind of the evolution of an ecosystem, is you have to have some folks that are willing to say, “Look. You know what? I believe in this. I'm gonna take some risk,” and in doing so, they're gonna allow people to move from stage one to stage two, three, four, and beyond. So, I think that's one of the pieces. I think the second piece is we're gonna have to continue to grow our talent pool, and I think we have an amazing collection of people here that are working to advance entrepreneurship in Mobile, but I think the number is gonna have to continue to grow, and then I think our tech-savvy folks are gonna have to continue to increase, and I think that's always one of the challenges. So, we're looking at our higher ed institutions to make sure that we're putting out individuals that are prepared for a world that's gonna look vastly different than the world that any of us started out in as we came out of undergrad.

Marcus: Yeah. I've just been having some conversations lately with folks. There's been a couple of thoughts. One, I don't think people understand the various programs that are available to them, and there's gotta be some way that that is communicated more effectively, because I think ... So, you brought up emerging leaders, but emerging leaders, you have to have 400,000 or so revenue-

Todd: Be in business for a number of years.

Marcus: Yeah, and all that stuff, and then there are a couple of other programs where it's very similar to that, but that startup phase where you go from, say, a Startup Weekend, which you're at zero, but you have an idea, and then move into something that's generating enough income maybe to support the founder or something along those lines, so a hundred, $150,000. People get lost there. So, there's that thought, but then also ... And I lost it. I can't remember what the other thought was.

Todd: Well, if you don't mind, let me jump in there, because I think-

Marcus: Go ahead, please. Yeah, save me.

Todd: I think one of the things that you've touched on right there is communication, and truly-

Marcus: Oh, I know what it was.

Todd: ... without talking about that prior two, that's really one of the things, because we've looked to model communities. If you look at the startup ecosystem in a Kansas City, in a Denver, obviously, in a Silicon Valley, in a Boston, Chicago, other major metro areas, you see a communication arm for that startup ecosystem. So, Kansas City, they have a newspaper that just covers startups and entrepreneurs, and I think ... So, there's that vehicle then to communicate what's happening, where is it happening, what are the programs, how do I get into it, and how do I build that, and that's one of the things we've talked a lot internally. So, some of that is gonna take ... It's gonna take somebody stepping forward, whether it's an existing organization or a building, and I think that's one of the things that you guys have done well, is you've tapped in, even in this podcast and other ventures, you've tapped into the need. People want to know what's going on. People are interested in this.

Marcus: Well, I think, and I remember what my other point was, but kind of hopping onto what you're saying, I think one of the things that I hear over and over again about this podcast is that people just didn't realize what was going on in the entrepreneur community, and that was really our whole purpose behind starting this thing.

Todd: Well, step back. I remember your first podcast when you were on ... Was it Ty Bullard you were on with?

Marcus: No. I mean, that was-

Todd: That was one of the earliest ones, right?

Marcus: Yeah, it was one of the earlier ones.

Todd: Because I remember you making a comment that you were sitting in something, 1702 I think is what it was, and you said you looked to the right, and you looked to the left, and you recognized, “I didn't know what all these people were doing, and so if I don't know, and I'm pretty plugged in-”

Marcus: Yeah, exactly.

Todd: “... who else doesn't know?” I think that's long been our piece.

Marcus: It was Paul Shorrosh and ... Gosh, I can't remember his name. He was a developer that had an app, and I'm sorry. I know who you are. I can see your face. I just can't pull the name up. But the other thing that I was gonna point out is one of the difficulties that we have is that we do have some people that are extremely talented here, but there's a chicken or the egg that's happening in order to keep people from leaving, and I'm getting super frustrated by the brain drain that's happening in Mobile because we have ... For instance, Paul did an internship with us this past summer and went to school up in Atlanta, and now he's being offered all kinds of jobs with Google and all these people. It's like, he's never coming back, but he's a young black man, extremely intelligent, extremely well-spoken, would have been a huge impact on this community, and then it's like ... But what can you do to keep people here and keep them from moving to Atlanta or Chattanooga or Birmingham even, or wherever, Silicon Valley?

Todd: Sure, and one, a lot of love to Paul Lockett. He's one of the best and brightest. Love the opportunity to have worked with him through other things as well, so I'm glad that you guys had that experience here. I think one of the greatest things that can happen is, one, there's a recognition that there is a problem, and I think if you go back, and this predates my time here in Mobile, Mayor Stimpson recognized in his first campaign that one of the greatest exports that we had was our talent, and that's not the way that you continue to build a community for it. I will say that if you watch what's happened over the last four years, I think we're probably losing those young people at a lesser clip than we had been before.

Marcus: I agree, because I think they're starting to see the entrepreneurial ecosystem that you and I are a part of, and they're realizing that they may have a bigger impact on a town like Mobile than they would ever dream of having in an Atlanta or a DC or Boston or whatever, because there, you're just a drop in the bucket, but here, you're like the shiny unicorn that lays golden eggs.

Todd: Sure, and I think you step back, Marcus, and you're originally from Northern Virginia. I'm originally from Southeast Michigan, and it's important, I think, in coming here that we find the opportunity to thrive. I think what also happens is you're finding a lot of people who are from Mobile who left, and they gained experience, and they gained opportunities going other places, and it's in their coming back that they understand and appreciate more what's going on, and so yeah, I really think we have to acknowledge that there's value in diversity of experience and diversity of locations in order to be able to continue to build this. I think right now, with what's happening with our global business environment here in Mobile, it is gonna be part of that. One of the things I think we almost focused on a little bit too much was that nascent entrepreneur, the person that just had the pie-in-the-sky dream, but frankly, you've gotta take people from where they are. The piece that we have to continue to build on is that corporate entity or that midsize business in Mobile who recognize that the future of their business is in tapping into these entrepreneurial individuals or these innovators, because not all people that are truly entrepreneurs or innovative have to start their own business. Some of them-

Marcus: They're intrapreneurs.

Todd: That's exactly it, and it's interesting because-

Marcus: Stealing from Andy Frisella [crosstalk]

Todd: ... we're finding more and more people that are having that conversation around what does it look like to have some room inside of an organization to be able to build that new and creative piece that's moving forward, and frankly, in a town like Mobile, that may be a better opportunity for us because if you don't have startup capital, if you don't have an existing team of people who are willing to put those 18-hour days together for months on end without knowing that there's gonna be truly that great win at the end, you need some support and structure, and I think that's gonna be one of the opportunities for our growth moving forward.

Marcus: Yeah. So, full disclosure for those of you that are listening, I am the chairman of the advisory board for the business school for University of Mobile, and I agreed to do that, one, because I love Todd, and he's just always been kind of on the forefront of what's going on, so I'm very excited about what he and the others at University of Mobile are doing, but I'm not gonna tell you. Why don't you tell them some of the changes that are happening up there?

Todd: Yeah. So, I've been extremely excited. It's a weird transition, I think, in most people's mind, to leave the world that I was in to go do what I'm doing, and yet, Marcus, we just sat here for the last handful of minutes, and we talk about how do we build the vision of the future.

Marcus: Right.

Todd: Well, we can sit back and we can bemoan that something's not there, or we can be part of the building process. So, I have a passion for the academy. I have a passion for students and seeing them grow, and so it was just a beautiful blend to be able to come into a university that had that same vision. So, what we've been able to do over the last year-and-a-half, and truly, this is based upon great faculty, great students, and its supportive administration, is we've been able to really look at where's the market going. I think all too often, higher ed, bad rep for good or for ill, or is it accurate or not, tends to be in the past. I think all too often, higher ed is living in the past, and so what happens is our academic programs don't always live up to and stay afresh with where the market is trending, and so because of the time that I've spent around entrepreneurs and studying entrepreneurs and seeing market trends, I have sought to really identify some of those key areas that we know in Mobile we have to be able to move forward on. So, one of the first ones that we worked on was software development. If I had a dollar for every person around this area that asked me about a front-end developer or a backend developer, I would at least have a hundred bucks, which is a lot of money. Right?

Marcus: Yeah. That's right. Yeah.

Todd: I mean, I could fund my startup right there because head of our startup.

Marcus: Head of our startup?

Todd: Yeah, there you go. So, we're hearing those kinds of questions, and so I think that's part of what we've really focused on, is making sure that we have the pulse of what's going on, which is why we built the advisory council and brought in high-quality professionals like yourself who were at the forefront of where their industries were going. So, we've been able to step into that digital media advertising as another area we know digital is king right now, and so we have to continue to prepare our students to go out and have success in those areas. We've stepped in in understanding more ... We've seen a push, I think, away from the quantitative side of things. In general, people are fearful of numbers, and so you've had that specialized group that's gone that way. Well, we've been able to maximize some of the things that are happening with our accounting students who never have a problem finding jobs, but building in finance and economics and making sure that those programs are really looking ahead, so thinking about blockchain and other pieces as we conversate. Conversate? I'm making up words as we go. Have conversation-

Marcus: You're a professor. Everybody's gonna believe you, so ...

Todd: That's perfect. Yeah, highfalutin ideals.

Marcus: No, but the thing that I've always thought is that, for the most part, when you think of a university, you think that they're probably three years, five years behind. Right?

Todd: Sure.

Marcus: When it comes to things like digital marketing, digital advertising or any kind of technology, it can be even further beyond, five to 10 years beyond. I mean, there are still kids that are learning C+ and Cobalt and stuff like that in university. Now, granted, it seems like they've done a pretty good job of bringing ... For those of you that aren't ... Forgive me, but if you're not a developer-

Todd: For everybody that didn't geek out and know exactly what you're talking about?

Marcus: Yeah. They're still now starting to offer Node.js and other kind of JavaScript frameworks that are more fluent in today's development environment, and so I'm very excited that you all are kind of taking that on. Now, you have taken the tact of doing a certificate program for some of these. Right? So, why don't you talk about-

Todd: So, yeah. That's one of the pieces that we're working on right now, and part of that is you as an institution, you always have accrediting agencies, and then everybody reports back to the Department of Education. That's at the federal level, and so we're working on some pieces there to be able to solidify that, and I think those are gonna be able to step in and tap into some recognized needs here in our community to be able to help them move forward. So, we'll be offering those before too long. Not ready yet, but pending all of our approvals, we'll be able to move forward on that. I do want to touch on one of the things, though, that you said, because your reference even to some of the older, more traditional languages, one of the things I think that has been incredibly helpful, and you're seeing this across the University of Mobile as a whole that we're dealing with, is this mindset of pracademics, and I know, Marcus, you and I have talked about this before, but really, one of the keys that we're trying to build a foundation for our student, and an understanding of the theoretical basis that allows that discipline to be. So, even by teaching somebody C+ and Cobalt and some other older languages, if we do that, but by doing that we're building a foundation to allow them to understand where the things in their discipline have progressed, and then we build it to an understanding of, “This is practice, and here's how you thrive in practice. Through your internships, through your practical experiences, through the projects that you're working on, this is what your practice should look like. This is how you do it.” Then people aren't left going, “Well, everything's this new whatever,” and they forget where the discipline is built on. So, I think you'll never see people totally leave behind some of the undergirdings. I don't think we should. I think it's important that we talk about it from an organizational perspective as you gotta know the organizational narrative, the history. Well, I think in the same way, you have to understand the narrative of that discipline to know where it's come from. I mean, we jokingly talked sometimes about punch cards and different things before. Jared and, we were talking about the floppy disk. He was talking about somebody saw a floppy disk and they thought it was a 3D-printed rendering of the save icon because they didn't understand.

Marcus: Yeah, that's hilarious.

Todd: So, we need to build those foundations. We don't need to live in those foundations. We need to help bridge them and prepare them for the future, and then really, I think the greatest thing that we can do in higher ed is help people learn how to think-

Marcus: Absolutely.

Todd: ... think critically, think collaboratively, think creatively, and it's awesome because my daughter's in elementary school, and those are the kinds of things that they're working on, so if we can just continue to perpetuate that-

Marcus: Yeah. Somewhere along the lines, we get that beat out of us, I think.

Todd: Absolutely.

Marcus: So, I know that college is kind of a full circle bringing people back to that idea of being able to work in groups and to think creatively and stuff like that, but yeah. No. I mean, this is very exciting because I think you guys are trying to think outside of the box on what you can do to impact, and I know that your heart's desire is to bring some level of that back into the business community. So, it'll be exciting to see how that kind of comes to fruition, so ...

Todd: It's fun. I mean, I'm at the point right now, I've been at the university now for almost a year-and-a-half, and so what I'm starting to see-

Marcus: Gosh, has it been that long?

Todd: I know. It's crazy to think of that. The exchange is now-

Marcus: I'm just like, where did it go?

Todd: ... over three years old. I've been at UM for a year-and-a-half, worked ... I mean, been in Mobile for four-and-a-half years. What I'm starting to see, though, is I'm starting to see some of even my students and students that I've worked with ... I mean, Alabama School of Math and Science, we worked on the Young Entrepreneur Academy. I've got a student that I worked with there who's up in Birmingham at UAB, and just had a beautiful launch for a new product on Kickstarter called Fledging. It's an SSD, a portable SSD, but it kills every other portable SSD mindset that's out there.

Marcus: Interesting.

Todd: I mean, they've raised money on that. They're doing stuff with Innovation Depot, which would be correspondent innovation portals work here in Mobile. So, we're seeing those students who started with us moving out and moving forward, and some of our students are interning with startups. So, I think we're gonna continue to see that. At the same time, I think ... I give kudos my colleagues over at USA, Don Moseley, Thomas Nelson. We spent a lot of time collaborating across those institutions. Dr. Chris Puto at Spring Hill, we're all as educators recognizing that we have two roles, and one is in the classroom and the other is in the community.

Marcus: Absolutely.

Todd: So, we want to really work to bridge that gap and continue to find, where are the needs, and how do we move forward? I think that's a real positive, is that you have higher ed administrators in this area who they're thinking differently. We can't-

Marcus: Well, that's because most of them come from a business background where ... I mean, you talk about Chris Puto. I mean, he has done some amazing things in his life. We interviewed him. So, I was just gonna kind of say a number of years ago, I read Startup Communities by Brad Feld, and I know you've read that book as well, and so one of the things that I didn't realize when I read that book, but I started to kind of peel back the layers of the onion, was just how much the Chamber of Commerce, the city and the universities worked together with the business community here in Mobile to try and impact and make change. Brad's whole thought process is that it's not something that can be dictated by government, that it's something that has to happen organically because the people basically want it, and that people just have to rise up. Unfortunately, we do have some folks in the business community that have done that, that have risen up and have just said, “Now we want to make this happen,” and of course, organizations like the Chamber, when they do stuff like emerging leaders and stuff like that, it just all feeds into that. I mean, I get it. We're moving in the right direction. It's just, I'm impatient.

Todd: No, and I think we have to have a little bit of that, because I don't think it's ... I mean, as entrepreneurs, if we sat back and waited, things wouldn't happen, and so I think we have to grab life by the horns, so to speak. We really have to be able to work forward on that, and so I think it's important for us to continue to press forward on this. It's an agenda. It's an agenda that we believe that there has to be diversity in the way that we do economic development. We have to think not just big corporate economic development, but how do we build grass root community development. There's a corresponding book that you may have not read. It's called The Rainforest. Victor Hwang is the ... I believe he's the vice president for entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. He wrote this prior to coming to the Kauffman Foundation, and he really talks about ... He said, “Traditionally when we've thought about economic development, we've thought about farming. Okay? So, farming, what you do is you clear the land, you fix the soil, you plant the seed, and you tend the crop, and then you pull it, and then everybody experiences the joy of it.” He says, “The thing is, entrepreneurship's not like that. Entrepreneurship's like a rainforest. You don't know what's a weed, and you don't know what's the thing. You don't know how it's gonna grow. You don't know what is symbiotic to each other. You just have to throw a bunch of stuff out and let it let go, and let it build, and see how the things begin to merge together, and see how the things that you built that you thought was gonna be perfect actually takes a backseat to this emerging piece that grows up.” It's a really beautiful analogy when you step back and you think about it.

Marcus: It's capitalism at is finest.

Todd: Yeah. I mean, we can't predict this stuff, and that's the hard piece. If we could predict it, we'd go get ecosystem in a box.

Marcus: We'd be millionaires.

Todd: We'd go get ecosystem in a box, and we'd mint that sucker. But that's the hard piece. But it really takes understanding your own unique place and helping to build the thing that's right for your place, and that's, I think, kind of part of that process.

Marcus: Well, I know we have a place in it, for sure. So, I'm excited about that. I mean, folks, we've gone, what, 20-some odd minutes now, and we haven't even gotten to question number two, so ... But we're gonna kind of go through some things quickly here. So, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started on running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?

Todd: Fail fast.

Marcus: And often.

Todd: Yeah, yeah. I think that's the piece ... Again, I talk to my students about the difference between failure and fatal. Failure is a learning process, hopefully. You're gaining wisdom. You're moving forward. You're learning like Edison learned 999 things that didn't work for the light bulb. I think fatality is dead. You're not dead yet. Keep moving forward. So, that's where I would start.

Marcus: Yeah. No, that's good. What's the one person that motivates you from the business world?

Todd: Wow. That's tough.

Marcus: See, that wasn't a question-

Todd: I wish you'd have told me that one in advance.

Marcus: That wasn't a question that you had before, so ...

Todd: No, it wasn't. I'll tell you, there's a group, and it's more a group right now that I'm finding a lot of inspiration from. It's called Praxis Labs, and it is a group out of New York, and they have trustees. They have people that are part of their board of directors, and they have a faith component to their entrepreneurship. I think they're doing some amazing things right now, and some names that I highly respect have poured into that organization, and so it's a group that I think is definitely worth checking out.

Marcus: Very cool. Any books, podcasts, people or organizations that have been helpful to you?

Todd: Yes.

Marcus: I know you're a big book reader. So, why don't you give us one or two books, a podcast, and a people or organization, because I know you know all that stuff.

Todd: So, I'll tell you one of the ones, and I literally just finished this up this morning, it's a book called Red Teaming, and it is by ... His last name is Hoffman, and I'm gonna blank on it. He actually wrote the book on Alan Mulally. Alan had been the CEO of Boeing and then went over, and some people would say he rescued Ford, but it's Red Teaming, and the concept is ... It's pulled from war games, and the idea in war games is you always have to be able to have somebody that looks at your plans and your strategies and finds-

Marcus: The holes.

Todd: ... those holes. Yeah. I mean, we talk about it in the world of computers. It's stress testing or it's trying to find the way in from a hacker perspective. In the Vatican, going back, it was the Devil's advocate. It's that, and I really think entrepreneurs can find a lot of value in that. It's finding people in their life that help them with that red teaming or Devil's advocate type of approach, because if you're surrounded by everybody's who's, “Man, this is great. I love it. You should definitely do this,” you're in trouble because you're gonna fail, and you're not gonna see it coming. It's gonna really hurt. A corresponding book to that that I always recommend is The Mom Test, and I think I recommended other books the first time I was on, Business Model Generation, Value Proposition Design. Those are great books, Alex Osterwalder, but The Mom Test has become one of my favorite go-tos. It's a simple book, but basically, it teaches you how to do what we call customer discovery. How do you ask people what their pains are, what their challenges are with the current way of doing things so that you can better understand and you can innovate moving forward? It's built on the premise of if you told your mom, “Hey, Mom, I'm gonna start a new company, and we're gonna do this.” Your mom's gonna say, “Oh, that's great.” I mean, this is what my mom would say. My mom would say, “Oh, that's great, honey. I'll buy whatever your thing is,” whether she needs it or not, because she loves me. So, you go and you learn how to ask questions appropriately, not based upon what people would do in the future, but what they've done in the past, and use that to kind of guide your thought process. So, those are huge ones. I'll tell you, from a podcast, a new one that I'm geeking out on is called The Knowledge Project, and it's by Farnam Street. Shane Parrish is the guy that runs that, but they really talk about mental models, and I think that's a really interesting piece because I think it's quite important for us to be able to look at the world differently as entrepreneurs, and the idea is if we can begin to dissect what's happening around us, and we can gain some mental models, we have a better preparation for when we go into new environments and new situations. So, it's one, and it always has unique people on there, and I'll tell you, and this is, I think, part of the natural growth of where we are in entrepreneurship, is I'm spending more and more time now thinking about unique revenue streams and business models and finance, and less time specifically focusing on the early stage idea.

Marcus: Yeah. No, very good. What's the most important thing that you've learned about running businesses?

Todd: Humility. I mean, no doubt about it, you have to learn to be, A, self-aware, B, learning to surround yourself with the right people who can give you advice and tell you when your baby's ugly, when your idea stinks, when you're not doing it right, and all of that, doing it in such a way that you don't lose your own self-worth. So, I think that's a really big piece. You have to be willing to learn, and you have to be willing to grow, so humility, bar none.

Marcus: Very good. Well, tell people where they can find you.

Todd: You can find me on the interwebs. I'm the social media, @teamworkdoc on Twitter. You can find me, I'm Toddfather on Instagram if you care to do that. Most importantly, you can find me at the University of Mobile. You can find us through all of our social media. is the website. Find out more about our programs if you have interest in those, and then really, you'll find me all throughout the community with our Minority Business Accelerator, our I-Corps program, Startup Weekend, Innovation Portal and more. So, a big shout out to all those groups.

Marcus: Absolutely. Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?

Todd: Yeah, and I think this podcast is a great little piece for us to think about. It started with a felt need in your part, and then it began to recognize that your experience and the opportunities ahead kind of matched, and so you were able to see what's going on. Michael Chambers uses the quote ... Michael's the associate VP for research and innovation at the University of South Alabama. He always pulls out Wayne Gretzky's quote, which is, “I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck's going,” and I think that's what you did with this podcast, and I really encourage people to look at that as they think about the future. Skate to where the puck is going. Begin to show enough interest that you're looking at what's the future gonna hold, and lay some little bets on that.

Marcus: Yeah. No, that's very good stuff. Well, Todd, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.

Todd: Thanks, Marcus.

Follow Us on Instagram @allthingsmobileal, and use the hashtag #allthingsmobileal