Episode 109: Pivot with Ryan Mason

Ryan Mason Learning Life Jon Tota


Ryan Mason is a savvy entrepreneur and author who is making waves as one of Yahoo’s top 12 entrepreneurs to watch in 2020. He’s the founder and CEO of Luxe Brand, a leading luxury shoelace provider featured on Good Morning America, the NFL, and with over 30 athletes and celebrities. Ryan also founded and runs Bizbuzz Digital, an award-winning marketing automation software company. And he just authored his first book called The Digital Playbook where he shares proven processes to increase your visibility, grow awareness, and supercharge engagement and conversion.

Get to know Luxe Brand at https://luxe-brand.com/
Take your digital marketing to the next level with https://bizbuzzdigital.com/

Pre-order The Digital Playbook: Proven Methods for Using Digital Marketing on Amazon today: https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Playbook-Marketing-Advertising-Visibility-ebook/dp/B08LF3KN9S

This episode is sponsored by eLearning Brothers. Check out the Virtual Onboarding Handbook to make sure you’re setting your employees on the road to success.  http://elb.learninglifeshow.com/

Check out this episode!

Alissa Galligani (00:00):

Hey everyone. It’s Alissa. Galligani here, Senior Producer of Learning Life with Jon Tota. Thank you for tuning in to the show each week. We love our Learning Life community and are so grateful for your support. We would appreciate it if you would take a minute to rate and review Learning Life on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening. It helps new people find the show so we can keep growing our community and bringing you great interviews about the business topics you care about. Thank you so much. That’s all for me. Now onto the episode.

Ryan Mason (00:25):

Have your head down. It literally becomes sometimes easy to feel like giving up, but listen, I tell this to everyone, right? Successful people really fail their way to the top.

Intro (00:39):

Welcome to Learning Life, where top experts share their business knowledge and personal journeys each week. “And The thing that I realized from the CEO to the NFL football player, to the janitor – we’re our toughest critics, and we’re hardest on ourselves.” – James Lawrence And wanted to bring education to the market. I wake up in the morning and I am constantly learning.” “The only way to grab somebody’s attention is with a story” – Cal Fussman. Happy learning. And now your host, Jon Tota,

Jon Tota (01:07):

Welcome back to Learning Life with Jon Tota. My guest today is Ryan Mason. Ryan is the founder and CEO of Luxe Brand, a leading luxury shoelace provider featured on Good Morning America, the NFL, and with over 30 athletes and celebrities. Ryan also founded and runs Bizbuzz Digital, an award-winning marketing automation software company. And he just authored his first book called The Digital Playbook where he shares proven processes to increase your visibility, grow awareness, and supercharge engagement and conversion. Ryan was recently named by Yahoo as one of the top 12 entrepreneurs to watch in 2020. So I’m excited to have him with us today. Ryan Mason, welcome to Learning Life!

Ryan Mason (01:46):

Jon, what an intro. Thank you so much. Excited to sit down and chat with you today.

Jon Tota (01:51):

Yeah, man, it’s great to have you with us. So you know, it’s super exciting. I know this was pretty recent with Yahoo naming you to that, that top 12 entrepreneur list. Tell us a little bit about that. Cause I know you’re very excited about it and on our listeners would love to know more about it.

Ryan Mason (02:04):

Yeah. So I mean, man, it caught me off guard, but what an amazing feeling it was. When I first heard about it, a friend of mine actually had reached out to me on Instagram and, he’s done amazing business before- but basically he reached out and he said, Ryan you know, Hey, can you send me a bio and also a headshot? So it was one of those days where I was just so busy and all I did was I grabbed the folder, sent it to him and kept on going about my day. A couple of days later, he said, Ryan, it’s about to drop. And I’m like, well, great. I know it’s going to be something amazing that you’re doing. Can’t wait to see what it is. And then he says, no, listen, just think about this: Anytime that I have the opportunity to sit down and discuss what you’ve been doing, I do it right. So you’re going to be really stoked when this come out. And basically after that, I said, Oh my God, I can’t say I’m not going to be able to sleep. You got to tell me what it is. And a couple of days later it dropped. So that’s exactly how it happened, but man, it’s been a great feeling since then.

Jon Tota (03:05):

Ah, that’s awesome. It’s great recognition to have. And I know, you know, there’s guys like Neil Patel and Gary V on that list alongside you, so great company for you, man. That’s very cool. Congrats.

Ryan Mason (03:15):

Thanks. Thanks so much.

Jon Tota (03:16):

And now for our audience and obviously as you know, our audience has a lot of entrepreneurs, business owners, themselves out there so they love to hear about your entrepreneurial story. I know you obviously run two companies and I think you told me you started them when you were back in school at the same time or pretty close together.

Ryan Mason (03:34):

Right.

Jon Tota (03:34):

Um tell us a little bit first about Luxe Brand and then BizBuzz, but Luxe Brand sounds pretty interesting. What’s it all about?

Ryan Mason (03:40):

Yeah. So Luxe Brand, we are the leading brand and provider of luxury leather shoelaces in the US, okay. So we make these really cool, exotic leather shoelaces. Most of them are made from Italian lamb skin, occasionally we’ll do things like suede and exotic leathers like snake skin or Python skin. But basically we are literally giving people an option and a way to express their sense of fashion within their shoes.

Jon Tota (04:08):

I love it. I think that’s awesome. And, and so what do you do with that typically are they, you’re doing partnerships with different groups and they’re doing branded laces like that?

Ryan Mason (04:18):

Right, right. So that’s something that we are actually working on here. And we’ve done it before, but basically, you know, there’s, there’s a lot going on right now. So for us, we are actually going to be going out and partnering with different organizations to bring awareness to different social causes and also different illnesses. You know, I think that’s, for me, that is one thing that is super important. I want to make sure that we give back and, and that is something that I really, really look forward to is basically just bringing awareness to certain illnesses and also certain causes.

Jon Tota (04:49):

I love it. I think it’s great. And it’s everybody uses laces. Right.

Ryan Mason (04:53):

Right.

Jon Tota (04:53):

And you don’t even think it’s a platform to get a message out there at the same time. Right?

Ryan Mason (04:58):

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jon Tota (05:00):

That’s great. And so now tell us about BizBuzz. I’m assuming, it sounds like it’s one of those businesses that you kind of started at the time to solve some of the challenges that you were dealing with in your Luxe, in the Luxe Brand business, and then kind of evolved into another company in itself.

Ryan Mason (05:15):

Right. That is exactly what happened. So I started both of these companies in college, but basically right now today, BizBuzz provides marketing management and automation software and services for small businesses. So basically it was definitely a way for me to basically help myself within Luxe Brand. At first, one of the things that I noticed was literally at the very beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I didn’t know anything about business. I didn’t know anything about marketing, right? But I knew that, Hey, as a college student student in Alabama, I needed to figure out how to brand a product so that is appealing some of the markets that love fashion, like New York or California or Atlanta; and being an Alabama, I had to be really, really creative and figure out how to actually do that. And I had to do it every single day. So basically that is how BizBuzz got started. And along the way we implemented software and then we also make sure that basically we were able to provide a system and a platform that was scalable and that other businesses could actually use to scale as well.

Jon Tota (06:30):

That’s great. And that’s, so today, where are you spending more of your time? Is it on Luxe Brand or is it running the software company?

Ryan Mason (06:37):

Yeah, so it’s fairly split. Some days, you know, some weeks I’m like, Hey, I’m Luxe Brand heavy; some days and some weeks I’m like, Hey, I’m BizBuzz heavy. I would say if I could say out of both of them most of my time is spent in BizBuzz as of right now. But granted, it depends on what is happening at the moment.

Jon Tota (06:57):

Yeah. And now, so, so many people and other entrepreneurs out there trying to do the same thing, kind of split themselves between multiple companies. I know I did it for a while and it is hard to split your mind share between two companies.

Ryan Mason (07:12):

It is.

Jon Tota (07:12):

You know, what are some of the lessons learned? What are some of the things that have helped you be able to do it successfully? And tell me how they’re structured. Two completely separate teams in different locations, or have you tried to keep them all together so it’s easier for you to manage?

Ryan Mason (07:27):

Right, a lot of teams have a lot of overlap. So there are people on the team that are separate and completely separate and will probably always stay separate. But some of the core teams, it’s almost like for me, BizBuzz is basically the entity that allows us to help scale and grow the business, so a lot of the team members that I have, they know just that. They know how to grow. They know how to market. They know how to scale businesses. So basically sometimes they will actually, Luxe Brand is like their project, one of their projects. So basically as one of their projects, they do some of the same things that they do for Luxe brand that they, that we do for other clients as well.

Jon Tota (08:12):

And, and so, and how, what challenges and, or maybe just the things you’ve learned along the way, running the two different companies, what kinds of things would you do differently or you’ve just learned, and, and other people could learn from kind of bouncing between two companies like that and trying to give everybody equal time.

Ryan Mason (08:31):

Right, right. One of the big challenges is just being consistent, you know, so obviously having, I tell people all the time, one at one company is enough, right. But I can tell you, one thing is when you have your head down, it literally becomes sometimes easy to feel like giving up. But listen, I tell this to everyone, right. Successful people really fail their way to the top. Okay. So what I’m trying to say here is that make sure that, Hey, it’s okay to pivot. It’s okay to learn from your mistakes, but make sure you don’t give up. Okay. and a lot of cases in my experience, you know, this could be literally days and weeks and sometimes months of not much progress or external progress, right. You could be making a lot of internal progress and then one day something happens and boom, next thing you know, you know, businesses literally kicked off or exploding or skyrocketing to, to, you know, new revenue and new opportunities.

Ryan Mason (09:35):

Okay. another thing is just to make sure that you are taking time to build processes. You know, I really believe in people, process and platform. Process is one of the things that basically I have seen not changed so, so much from company to company. Okay. So really I teach people all the time. You know, if you, if you have to do something more than three times, then you should literally take a step back, record it, document it and make sure that it is a by step-by-step checklist so that not only can you do it, but if you’re gonna grow your team, someone else can pick up and do those same things as well, just as effective as you were able to do it also,

Jon Tota (10:20):

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Jon Tota (11:10):

Right? Right. And I know that that for entrepreneurs, that’s always one of the biggest challenges is effectively delegating knowing the things that you have to do versus the things that other people might even be able to do better than you.

Ryan Mason (11:21):

Right.

Jon Tota (11:22):

And we all, we all struggle with that. And you had mentioned overcoming challenges, and I know that’s a big piece of your story. And for all our, all of our listeners, Ryan was, you know, you went to high school in Alabama, which we all know is big time football state. And you were like one of the top rated high school players, football players when you were coming out of high school, but you hit some challenges along the way and overcame. How did that shape you, that whole experience? How did that shape you into what you’re doing today?

Ryan Mason (11:53):

Yeah, it’s a really funny story. It wasn’t funny at the time, but [laughs].

Jon Tota (12:00):

[Laughs] They never are, they never are.

Ryan Mason (12:00):

I remember going, you know. My single biggest dream was to kind of follow my dad’s footsteps. You know, he played professional football; he was a running back. He played for the Green Bay Packers. All right. So for me of course I wanted to do that and I had a younger brother too, who was, I mean, he’s like a walking giant at this point, but he was growing and excelling in sports as well. So I had some big shoes to fill. I had people watching me as well. So funny story. I remember my father saying one thing and he always told me, Ryan, it doesn’t matter what you do. There’s one thing you gotta do and that’s perform- every day perform. Okay. And I did that. I can really say in high school, I really did that.

Ryan Mason (12:44):

And so that would lead me to basically go into the, some of the really big schools, some of the SEC schools. And literally I would get ready to basically you know, do drills with some of the other recruits, right. And I remember one day I was at Tennessee and I’m sitting upstairs in the press box and I’m looking at this guy, I hit the dummy, he hit the sled. He was a linebacker as well, just like me. And I’m like, Oh my goodness, I will destroy that dummy. Listen. I’m going to go down there and probably run circles around him. And I went down there and I kid you not, he looked like a freaking mannequin in the store. I mean, he was every bit of six, five looked like he was cut from rock and here I am you know, five 11. [laughs]

Ryan Mason (13:32):

That was the story of my life. You know, honestly I did perform and I, I did get some accolades and, and break some records, but the big thing for me was that I was undersized. So that was a really huge challenge that I had to overcome and what that taught me. And I didn’t realize this till later on, but what that taught me was that life was not linear. I mean, things that we do, the things that we really we prepare for, they don’t always happen the way that we envisioned them to happen, right. And for me, I had tunnel vision growing up. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew exactly how I was going to do it. And in most cases I was able to move and execute on it, but it didn’t happen like that. And that’s how I actually, you know, my story evolved into me actually taking a pivot and getting into business in college.

Jon Tota (14:25):

Yeah. And I, I think that’s such an inspirational story and you hear it from different people all the time, just, you know, for one reason or another things don’t work out, like in your case, just not having the size that you, that you would need at the next level. And, and then dealing with the challenge, overcoming it, turning it into a positive. And yeah. And I know faith is a, is a big piece of it too. How much did that play into your journey? And some of those challenges you overcame?

Ryan Mason (14:50):

Oh my goodness. Everything. I mean, if I didn’t have faith, I would not be where I am today. You know, I literally wouldn’t change a thing about my story in the past, all the heartaches, the headaches, you know, I wouldn’t change anything. The biggest accomplishment for me. And the life changing pivot was basically me leaning on faith and understanding that, Hey, you know, God is in control of this and whatever you do next, you just need to have faith and work hard at it. And things will happen. They may not be in your timing, but they’re going to happen eventually.

Jon Tota (15:27):

Yeah. I think that’s great advice to it. And I always say that to people too. It’s, it’s, it’s not that you don’t have to work hard. You still have to work hard. You still got to put the effort in, you still got to strive for greatness, but you, you know, you gotta believe you gotta have faith. And the, you know, that, that God’s got a plan, right. And that it’s, it’s gonna work out.

Ryan Mason (15:47):

That’s a real thing.

Jon Tota (15:47):

And now I know you’ve been building up your personal brand a lot now. And a lot of our listeners are also experts, thought leaders out there. So they always love to hear how people are building their brand. And you also are a marketing expert. This is what you do for a living with, with BizBuzz.

Ryan Mason (16:04):

Right.

Jon Tota (16:04):

So what are some of the things that, that, you know, are really working for you out there as you’re getting the Digital Playbook out? And I know you’re putting tons of great content out on your, your website. What are some of the things that you tell your clients to do, or some of the things that you’re doing now to build your personal brand out using some of your digital playbook strategies?

Ryan Mason (16:23):

Yeah, absolutely. So the first things first is, you know, creating a topic wheel. I think, you know, this is crucial because what this does is you have to establish thought leadership in certain areas, right? So what this topic will looks like is I tell people to basically choose three personal topics and three professional topics. Okay. So once you choose those topics, then you can literally sit here and think about who are others in those topics, or who are other people who actually represent those topics. Okay. And with those figureheads, what you can do is actually create content with them and around them. And what this does is this helps promote and increase your authority in your industry. Because now what you’re doing is you’re not only associating yourself with those people, but you’re also becoming a thought leader. You’re learning, you’re learning from the top in the industry. And also you’re able to put your own twist to the content that you’re actually putting out there. Okay. So that’s, I think that’s the very first step to actually, you know, building that authority in your industry and becoming a thought leader.

Jon Tota (17:34):

Oh, that’s great advice. And that’s so, and I know a lot of people try to do this and it’s, it’s kind of that authority by association strategy. And, and so you’re saying you do it with them or around them, obviously with, with a thought leader, an established thought leader in your space. If you could, co-author something, if you could work on a project together, that’s excellent. Right. But the other thing you said is around them, is there a way to do it that even if I’m getting started trying to build my brand and I can’t get to be on a project or co-authoring, or, you know, working on a blog together with a notable person, how do you do it around them? What’s that strategy?

Ryan Mason (18:14):

Yeah. so some of the things that I’ve literally done for my own branding, some things that, you know, people who are our, our clients do is basically they, they come up with these subtopics. Okay. So if, if we pinpoint one specific topic and we have, let’s say three figureheads for that one specific topic, we should know that topic enough to be able to come up with subtopics. So once we have those subtopics, you know, for example, let’s say if it’s digital marketing as one of our topics, and then let’s say that, you know, Neil Patel is one of those guys who are the figureheads. Well, we may know a certain amount about SEO or a certain amount about video marketing or a certain amount about something very specific. And what we can do is we can go online and actually find content related to those very specific subtopics, use that as thought joggers for us to generate our own content around it. So basically at once we have those thought joggers, we can basically extract that, read it, and literally pour into our, pour our own thoughts and opinions and expert experience into those topics. And we can actually do that once we actually, you know, pour that into, you know, maybe a, a document on a sheet of paper or whatever medium, you can actually take that and create other forms of content. Like one minute video is about it as occasional videos about it, and literally post that on your social media channels.

Jon Tota (19:48):

Oh, I think that’s a great strategy. And now is that, by the way, all of this you’re talking about is this kind of stuff that’s in your, your digital playbook?

Ryan Mason (19:55):

It is, it is. We talk about literally leveraging your personal brand to build your business. So it’s twofold, right. We always think, you know, Hey, we want to build our business, right. And a lot of times we find ourselves building a faceless company, and I can tell you now that can, that can work, but I can tell you an even faster way to do that, right. It’s by leveraging the personal brands that are part of the business to build that company.

Jon Tota (20:24):

Yeah. And I know some people are kind of opposed to doing that. Some entrepreneurs don’t want to leverage their personal brand. They don’t want to put themselves out there as the face of the company, but from a marketing perspective, you see a lot of value in that.

Ryan Mason (20:38):

Absolutely. You know, people like to really connect with people.

Jon Tota (20:42):

Right. Right. And I know like, I’ve looked at some of the videos on your site and your website, it’s RyanDMason.com, right?

Ryan Mason (20:51):

Correct.

Jon Tota (20:52):

Yeah. So everyone check out RyanDMason.com. There’s a learn section on there, and you’ve got a ton of good videos. What’s your strategy for creating content? You, because you seem to be creating a lot of content and they’re really good, you know, informational, but you know, fun to watch videos. How are you doing it? How are you keeping up the pace? What should people be thinking of? Yeah.

Ryan Mason (21:12):

So I use a strategy that is basically why, how and what? Okay. So this is basically the practice of taking one minute or making one minute videos. Okay. One to two minutes and basically filtering them or sectioning, segmenting them into why videos, which is videos of you actually show telling your story; how videos, which has videos of you actually showing your expertise and what your business can do for others or how you do it, okay; And then what videos, which is basically your offering. Okay. So why, how and what. And what- if you do this the right way, what happens is basically you’re posting these videos, you’re boosting these, these posts and what’s happening is the audience is able to connect with you. And once they have watched so many of your videos, and they’ve watched a certain amount of those videos, then basically they get filtered down into the next category, which is the how, and once they have consumed a good amount of that content. So at this point, they already know who you are and they already like you and they already trust you. And then what happens is they get filtered down into the what, which is the offering. Okay. So at that point, you’ve literally filtered them through the ACC funnel. They’ve already, they’re already aware of you, they’re already, you know, considering what it is that you do or you’re offering and engaging with you. And now it’s the perfect time to actually convert them.

Jon Tota (22:47):

Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s, it’s obviously a proven strategy. A lot of people see it and they see it working for other people, but they don’t know exactly how to take that step, how to get involved and do it. And, you know, so I think obviously your Digital Playbook would be a great tool for this. Tell our listeners, if they’re interested in learning more about what you’re talking about and what you’ve learned along the way, the things you’ve gotten, the digital playbook, how do they get a copy of the book?

Ryan Mason (23:14):

Right. So you can actually go to RyanDMason.com. And if you scroll down to about half the page or the middle of the page, basically you will see a section that talks about the digital playbook. Okay. And there, you can actually do two things. You can actually have us implement that strategy completely for you. All right. Or you can literally hit get started. And basically it’ll take you to the Amazon link where you can actually purchase. So we are going to be doing a pre-sale. Okay. So right now you can actually go on there and literally go ahead and sign up for it for pre-sale and go ahead and get early access. There’s a few perks and stuff. That’ll come with it as well, but I definitely encourage you to go and actually get the book.

Jon Tota (24:01):

That’s awesome. Yeah, everybody, I think it’s, you know, and I’ve just from talking to you and looking at all the stuff that you put out there, even the stuff you’re putting out there for free. I think that book sounds like a great place for a lot of people to start. And, and obviously BizBuzz, it’s a BizBuzzDigital.com, right?

Ryan Mason (24:18):

Yes, BizBuzzDigital.com. B I Z B U Z, Z digital, right.

Jon Tota (24:23):

Yeah. And so and, and how, how big it is is big, but BizBuzz gotten now? How many people do you have there?

Ryan Mason (24:29):

So we got usually it’s about 10 people give or take. And then outside of that, we got a bunch of contractors who are, you know, they pick, they pull in whenever we need them. But yeah, so we are a growing team and I’m just super excited because we really, really, you know, we really fond of working together and that’s what really has made my, my, the last couple of weeks is because I see it all coming together.

Jon Tota (24:56):

That’s great. And so for anybody, if they go to BizBuzz Digital, they can get started for free try out the software. And then I would imagine your team then also offers consulting services to make sure people are effective on the platform.

Ryan Mason (25:08):

Correct, correct.

Jon Tota (25:09):

Yeah. Very cool. Very cool. And what else, if people want to keep up with your, what you’ve, you know, your thought leadership, what you got going on, you know, how to see more about your speaking. Obviously you can go to the website, but where are you, where are you doing the most on social media? Where should they look for you?

Ryan Mason (25:26):

So they can look for me on Instagram, which is @TheGreat_Mason. Okay. That’s my Instagram handle. You can find me on Facebook and also on LinkedIn as well.

Jon Tota (25:38):

Very cool. Very cool. And, and so just so closing advice, I know I wanted to ask you about happiness because I think you had a quote on your website. It said “Happiness comes in waves, and it’ll find you again.” Before we close out. Just tell our audience a little bit about your outlook on happiness and, you know, cause I think nowadays with everybody dealing with, you know, different stages of COVID and getting back to work and, and being half remote half, not you know, everybody needs a little boost in the happiness level. Tell us, tell us where, what you thinking about that.

Ryan Mason (26:12):

I think happiness really comes when you are able to surround yourself with really positive and influential people. So there’s one thing that I really live my life by, and that is if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. Okay. And what this means to me is basically that, you know, Hey, if you don’t surround yourselves by, or if you do surround yourselves with people who are high energy, people who are, you know, motivating you, pushing you, who are literally giving you constructive criticism, and they’re also happy people and bringing happy vibes, then you’re really going to start to see the growth. So us as entrepreneurs, I know that, you know, at times we, we we’re, we get so bogged down and we’re running all day long, but it’s important to keep in mind that listen, family matters the people around us, our friends matter. And we need to make sure that we are spending time with those loved ones as well.

Jon Tota (27:12):

Yeah, I think that’s great advice to live by. So thank you, Ryan. And congratulations on making the Yahoo top 12 entrepreneur list. That’s a huge recognition. So very cool for you, man.

Ryan Mason (27:23):

Thank you so much, Jon. Thank you.

Jon Tota (27:25):

And thank you for being here and for all of our listeners. Thank you for being here every week. Definitely check Ryan out. All the, all the links to different websites are going to be in the, in the show notes and for all of you guys, make sure wherever you’re listening to subscribe, leave us comments. We’d love to hear from you. And until our next episode, happy learning.