John DeShazer, LogicSpree
John DeShazer is the President of LogicSpree, which makes Salesforce simple for small and mid-market organizations. As his business and fully remote 11-person team grow, John focuses on alignment. By standardizing work hours, the LogicSpree team can collaborate in real time and keep clear work-life boundaries. This structure also aligns with John’s personal goals: to be stable, happy, reduce stress and ‘have enough.’
Episode 07 – John DeShazer, LogicSpree
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: John DeShazer serves as President of LogicSpree, where he works with his team to make Salesforce simple for small and mid-market businesses. Before LogicSpree, John had various corporate roles, but all were focused in the Saleforce space. Here today to share more about LogicSpree, how he sets boundaries, and what technology helps simplify his life is John DeShazer. John, welcome to the show!
[00:01:18] John DeShazer: Sanjay, it's a pleasure to be here.
[00:01:21] Sanjay Parekh: Before we get into the more interesting questions, I'd love for you to give us like just a 30-second, minute background on who you are, where you're from, and what got you to the point that you're at right now.
[00:01:34] John DeShazer: Sure. Born and raised in Georgia. I went to Georgia College & State University down in Milledgeville, Georgia, which actually started my career in a very different pathway.
Took me to Florida, back to Georgia, California to back to Georgia again. Starting over. Eventually I found my way into Salesforce space, and as my career continued to progress, I started getting more and more requests for support or help or just expertise. And while I was working a corporate job, I was starting to do side projects and that just sparked the idea that I could do this full-time. And I discussed it with a friend and we both decided that we needed more experience before we jumped into the consulting space. I happened to get recruited by a consulting firm right around that time, so I got the experience I wanted, set aside some of my finances, put together a business plan, and quit my job. Started Logic Spree about four and a half, five years ago.
[00:02:22] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. Okay. That's awesome. Was this the first time that you've done something entrepreneurial, or did you do something when you were younger, when you were a kid?
[00:02:31] John DeShazer: That's great question. I've always been an entrepreneur. The best story has to do with video game emulators on PCs. So, my brother taught me how to put them together and put them on floppy disc back in seventh grade. So, I used to put Dragon Ball Z and Japanese version of Pokémon on floppy disc and sell it to my classmates. Until my parents told me to stop because it was highly illegal.
[00:02:54] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, but when you're that old, you're probably not going to go to jail, I don't think.
[00:03:02] John DeShazer: Depends how much Nintendo wants to go after children.
[00:03:07] Sanjay Parekh: Exactly. True. That's an interesting kind of start. Is there anything from those days, like any kind of story, like how did you do the sales? Like how did you make it all happen?
[00:03:21] John DeShazer: It actually just started off by putting the games on computers at school. Again, we weren't supposed to do that, of course. And everyone asked, how do you do this? And instead of explaining it to them, I said, hey, I can just do it for you if you give me a couple dollars. And so that's just how it started. Just sparked the demand and people paid for it.
[00:03:41] Sanjay Parekh: I love it. What did you what did you use your newfound wealth to spend on, what did you buy?
[00:03:47] John DeShazer: Of course, toys and candy and starting to get into CDs.
[00:03:53] Sanjay Parekh: Nice.
[00:03:54] John DeShazer: I do have a second story with that. That's even better.
[00:03:56] Sanjay Parekh: Hit us up.
[00:03:59] John DeShazer: So, my junior year we moved out to Covington, Georgia, and I was a wrestler. Now in this school, we couldn't carry around gym bags unless you're an athlete. I had a side job at Red Lobster as a busser, and I would take the money that I made, buy fruit snacks, put them in my gym bag, and then go around the school selling fruit snacks to people. Now, because fruit snacks, you can smash them. Didn't matter. They were underneath my books. Yeah, that was my second entrepreneurial route.
[00:04:29] Sanjay Parekh: I love that. There's, so there's a common story I talk about a lot of times on this podcast and yours is a variation of that. It’s basically candy bar arbitrage, right? Where we go and buy candy bars at the convenience store. We bring them to school; we sell them for more, especially to the kids whose parents won't give them candy bars in their lunch bags. And we do that. And so, I used my earnings to buy comic books, a lot of which I still have to this day from back in those times. Some of them are worth a good bit at this point. Maybe haven't kept up with inflation necessarily, but yeah. It's a good nostalgia.
[00:05:10] John Deshazer: From that, the first thing I, I bought with my earnings from some fruit snacks was actually an iPod.
[00:05:16] Sanjay Parekh: An iPod. Okay. Yeah. Nice. That didn't get you into any kind of music trading side hustle, did it?
[00:05:23] John DeShazer: No. Although I was burning CDs, but I wasn't selling them.
[00:05:27] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. That's good to hear. The MPAA is not going to come out, or the RIAA. So, one of those four letter acronym organizations won't come after you then. That's good. So, when you were working and then doing this, you said that you thought you needed more experience and you needed to get some consulting thing. Why is it that you thought you needed more experience before launching on your own? What was the piece that you felt like you were missing?
[00:05:54] John DeShazer: I knew how to do the work, but I didn't understand the business around consulting as far as the sales, the marketing. Or even client relations.
[00:06:04] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. So, in so when you started doing the consulting work were you intentional to try to figure out how to do that stuff? Or was it just accidental and they put you in the places that helped you learn those skills?
[00:06:17] John DeShazer: It was very intentional. So, I had the idea to set my own business around that space. So, I learned as much as possible. Whenever there's a learning opportunity or an extra assignment, I took it. Specifically, around just client engagement.
[00:06:29] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, what, a lot of times when we talk about consulting, it ends up being a lot of travel for people that are consulting. Or was that the case for you or was it a travel light consulting engagement?
[00:06:43] John DeShazer: There was a good amount of travel. Now most of my clients were in the southeast, so it wasn't very distant. But I did spend a lot of time in the airport.
[00:06:51] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. And that's tough. It's easy to do when you have a lot less attachment or when you have a goal in mind, like you did, of starting a business.
Okay. So, you get this consulting experience and you are leaving, I guess you leave, right?
[00:07:08] John DeShazer: Yeah.
[00:07:08] Sanjay Parekh: Did you leave right away and start your thing? Okay. So, you put in your notice. What were the things that in your mind, other than the skills that you needed? Was there anything else that you were like, okay, I need to make sure I have these things in place before I go out on my own?
[00:07:23] John DeShazer: A business plan was critical. A lot of times, people overlook that, but a business plan was something I made sure that, I wrote multiple versions of it. It made sense to me, other people read it. And also, just having enough in my savings to go without income, to make sure that I had time to see the business actually develop before having to go back and get a job.
[00:07:48] Sanjay Parekh: And so that was your fallback, right? So go back and get a job if it didn't work out. How much time did you set aside in terms of savings? Like how many months or weeks of savings did you have set aside when you went into this?
[00:08:02] John DeShazer: My situation, I think it's going to be different for other people, right? I set aside two years of savings, so that way to give myself, plenty of runway. But I also would say I have a very low-cost lifestyle, so that was another key thing was keeping my expenses very low.
[00:08:18] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. And those things are not generally what we attribute to consultants, right? People that are in consulting at least, they travel a lot. So, they just spend, spend, spend. But you had this in your mind of going out on your own. Did you constrain your lifestyle? Did you like figure out ways to live cheaper and more affordably so you could extend that runway for yourself?
[00:08:41] John Deshazer: Yeah, actually, and it actually came from that travel earlier in my career, from going from Georgia to Florida to Georgia to California. Essentially. I was constantly on the move, so I just learned to just live within my means. And I just kept that mentality and that helped out and gave me flexibility when I did decide to step out on my own.
[00:09:02] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. How long did it take you to save up that runway before you left?
[00:09:10] John DeShazer: Between my previous corporate job, which was the Home Depot, to IBM, I would say three years, maybe.
[00:09:18] Sanjay Parekh: Three years to save two years’ worth of runway. Yeah, I mean, that's phenomenal. That's obviously living well within your means and saving every penny that you can.
[00:09:30] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox, committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, the business insurance experts.
[00:09:51] Sanjay Parekh: What was it that made you decide that was the right way for you? Leaving what you quote as this supposedly safe job and go out on your own. Was there one thing you're like, I want to do this because why? What was that main motivator?
[00:10:10] John DeShazer: It may sound simple, but I just wanted to see if it worked. Because I like figuring out things, which is also why I enjoyed consulting. And so, I developed this plan and had it in my mind of how to make this work. So now it's like I can test it out. I can see if it actually will work.
[00:10:26] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And I think that's what a lot of entrepreneurs are, right? Like we want to just play with things and see if we can figure out how to make it all fit together and work. Okay. You've been in this now for four and a half, five years at this point. Is it just you or do you have other people that work with you, for you? Within the company?
[00:10:50] John DeShazer: So, there's four of us on full-time salaries with benefits. We have one part-time person, I think another six contractors that we leverage on a part-time basis as well. We'll probably grow another two to three full-time people before the end of the year.
[00:11:04] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. And are you doing all of this remote? Is there an office? Like how do you set up the company?
[00:11:10] John DeShazer: Yeah, so we're a hundred percent remote and actually one person who I've been working with for about two and a half years, he works for us full time. He lives outside Chicago. I have never met him in person, but we talk probably multiple times a day.
[00:11:24] Sanjay Parekh: That's fascinating. And is that because most of this time was probably the pandemic. And is that just not worked out to meet up in person or is it just like it doesn't matter?
[00:11:35] John DeShazer: It doesn't matter. Eventually we will meet. But I had the idea of being remote from the very beginning because when I was in a consulting space, our clients had their own offices and we had to go travel to meet them. So, they never came to us. So, I was like, do I need an office as long as I can go to see them and talk to them on the phone or use the internet.
[00:11:56] Sanjay Parekh: So, you were well before the kind of rush during the pandemic because it's been four and a half, five years. So, you set this up intentionally from the very start.
[00:12:05] John DeShazer: Exactly. And actually, before the pandemic hit, in October of 2019, I spent a week in Frankfurt, Germany and worked from there just to see if anyone would notice. And no one did unless I told them.
[00:12:14] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah, except for the fact that you only want to do afternoon meetings right? Line up the time zones for you. That's actually a great segue into this next piece, this next question. What does it mean for you in terms of setting boundaries between work and life and all that? How do you manage all of those things? It seems like you've snuck in a little bit by going to another country and working from there and not telling anybody. But what else do you do to help manage those boundaries?
[00:12:48] John DeShazer: I would say expectations and goals with life overall, that's getting more philosophical, but when is enough? Like my goal is to be able to pay my mortgage and take vacations when I want. So, I'm not going after every single dollar or trying to be the next billionaire, but my plan and my goals are to be stable, have enough, and to be happy and reduce stress. Which means we're not going to be the largest player out there, but I don't have any plans to be.
[00:13:21] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. You mentioned stress. I want to ask you about stress and how do you manage that? Owning a business, working, having employees, that are all over the place, and balancing that with life. Is there something that you do? Is there some, hey, I'm only going to work eight to five? Is there what do you do to help manage that stress?
[00:13:46] John DeShazer: Yeah, so it's alignment with everyone. So, our hours are nine to five Eastern Standard Time, even though our clients aren't all Eastern Standard Time, and we can operate outside of that, but it's case by case basis. But that allows us to all operate around the same time and to collaborate, but it also puts boundaries for everyone. So, if someone wants to work late or work on the weekend, we put the breaks on that because that means everyone else has got to work on the weekend or at night because we have to collaborate. So that's a big piece of it all working and collaborating with the same constraints, essentially.
[00:14:26] Sanjay Parekh: So, this is interesting. You brought up a question for me. So, you've got a fully remote team, but you're anchoring to the nine to five time Eastern. You mentioned you've got one person in Chicago, like where all, where is everybody else? Are they in roughly the same time zone as you, or are they spread out more than that?
[00:14:44] John DeShazer: There's another person in Nashville. Everyone else is primarily full-time in Georgia. Then our contractors are in Minnesota, Texas, Boston. Pretty much split between Central and Eastern time.
[00:14:57] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. So that's why that works. Because if you had people on the west coast, 9:00am is 6:00am for them. But then again, they would get done by, what is that one o'clock? Or three, yeah, two o'clock two o'clock in the afternoon, which is, that's not bad either to be done with work by two in the afternoon and you have the rest of the afternoon to yourself. Do you see that changing if you grow the team to other locations outside of Central and Eastern time zones?
[00:15:26] John Deshazer: I can see that changing based off of the concentration of our clients. We do have clients on the west coast. We concentrate heavily on the eastern and central portion. So, they're more exceptions to the rule and for our internal team, they can live wherever they like, as long as they're able to operate the same like time zone as us. So, we had one person go and stay in Italy for a month. As long as he was willing to work in our time zone, he could live and reside wherever he would like to.
[00:15:57] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah, I don't know what the time difference is between here in Italy. I can't imagine it's it would be easy. That's working pretty late into the night I imagine. Probably had it every morning to himself too. So, as you've been building this company is there any kind of technology or apps or systems that you've implemented that have helped you grow, that you would recommend to other people as they're thinking about going off and doing their own thing?
[00:16:30] John DeShazer: I would split that into two categories. As far of technology and applications to help run a remote business versus something that just helps you maintain your own schedule and lifestyle. The first area around just personal usage, there's two that I rely on heavily. One, it's the old school, somewhat. It's called Rocket Book. Are you familiar with Rocket Book?
[00:16:52] Sanjay Parekh: Yep. I love Rocket Book but explain it to the listeners.
[00:16:55] John DeShazer: Yeah, so Rocket Book is just a simple notebook that you can write in but you're going to erase essentially what you write, however, there’s a QR on each page. So, you can quickly scan your notes and put it into a Dropbox, Google, or wherever. So that way you only need one notebook to write in and you can scan and keep up with all your notes. And the reason I list that out is because I write out my schedule every. So, I know I need to get that done that's important. And then everything else, essentially something that are like nice to haves, but it allows me to just to focus on what needs to happen today.
[00:17:30] Sanjay Parekh: I'll mention since you're mentioning that I actually use the note cards that are from Rocket as well. And these are great. I have a stack of them sitting here right on my desk I can grab them anytime I want and take some notes down, but then also be able to wipe them clean when I'm done with them. What else, John?
[00:17:47] John Deshazer: So, the next one is Calendly, which is actually just control over your calendar, but just allows other people to find time on your calendar to schedule time. But the feature that I think is just really important is that you can set limits. So instead of your calendar getting filled up, you can say, I don't want more than two meetings on my calendar set from Calendly per day. And so, what I've done is set that limit. So, I don't get back-to-back meetings. I get at max two meetings in a day. And then I also make sure that people have to set those meetings at least a day in advance. So, there’s nothing impromptu. I can prepare for it. So, it always gives me time and space. And that's been critical.
[00:18:29] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. The reason for having just two meetings a day is because you have then time to do actual work. Because as we know, meetings are not real work, it's just talking about work.
[00:18:40] John Deshazer: Exactly. It's so I have time to do work. I can work with my team, respond to their needs as well. So I have time to do things.
[00:18:47] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, thinking back it's been like you said, four and a half, five years. Looking back, is there anything that you would do differently, knowing what you know now?
[00:19:00] John DeShazer: So, that's more of a challenging question because a lot of things that, say, didn't go the way I planned, set us up for the future for future success, right? There's a number of things that did not go according to plan, but they reinforce things. Like, such as, having contacts with attorneys, like having a good attorney in mind, a good accountant, having someone to help review finances and plan those things out. We've learned some lessons the hard way, but they just reinforce the importance of these key areas. But just changing things, I don't think so. I think it was the right time to do it. I think if I waited, it'd probably have been the wrong time. Just because I didn't have that many personal responsibilities that were at stake when I did it. So, if things fell apart, it only impacted me.
[00:19:52] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Do you regret not taking the leap earlier?
[00:19:57] John DeShazer: I do not. Because that learning experience was valuable. So, I know there's sayings around you have to fail a few times before you can succeed. I believe that you can learn lessons from other people, and you can get trained by other people as well. So, you don't have to learn things the hard way. I have several mentors that I gained along the way, and they helped prevent me from making a number of mistakes. So, I'm not having to learn the hard way.
[00:20:30] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. That's great. So, if there was somebody you're talking to, or one of our listeners here on the podcast, that was thinking about taking the leap of launching a side hustle like you did or taking their side hustle into a full-time business, what advice would you give somebody like that?
[00:20:51] John DeShazer: The greatest piece of advice I think, is to find someone who's already done it before and find a good mentor, because there's a lot of people who have likely gone through the experiences that you're going to go through. And being able to ask somebody questions and feedback and even guidance is critical. That's more valuable than any investment, I would say in terms of monetary investment, someone's knowledge and time that's willing to support you along the way.
[00:21:20] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. You said that you've had mentors, or you have mentors. How did you find your mentors?
[00:21:28] John DeShazer: A few I met just through networking, being part of the Atlanta technology scene. There's a number of entrepreneurs in this space. And I met a few, and I remember one particular person I met at a networking event, and he told me that he did the same thing I did 20 years ago. And he offered to take me out for coffee and tell me what he did right, what I did wrong, and see if, you know, anything of value, he can share with me.
[00:21:55] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. And did that then eventually become a full-fledged mentoring relationship? They, do you still talk to this person on an ongoing basis?
[00:22:03] John Deshazer: Yeah. Yeah. I consider him a good friend these days as well. So yeah, it's, those things I think are extremely important that people don't talk about as much relationships you develop with people. Because business is a lot about relationships, not just your customers – vendors, mentors, your employees. And it doesn't get talked about enough.
[00:22:24] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. How often do you, are you intentional about how often do you speak to this person? And if so, like how often is it once a day, once a week, once a month?
[00:22:33] John Deshazer: Yeah. Typically, it's once a month just because you know, he's running his own business. But he's somebody I can call up if I need something.
[00:22:42] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. That's great. That's great. I'm glad you have that. Listen, John, this has been a great conversation. I think it's great for listeners to kind see this side of launching your own thing. But if listeners want to find and connect with you, where can they find you?
[00:23:00] John DeShazer: I am on LinkedIn. We also have our website, LogicSpree.com. But my full name on LinkedIn of course, is John Robert DeShazer, and we also have a company page on LinkedIn as well, LogicSpree.
[00:23:14] Sanjay Parekh: Awesome. Thanks for coming on the show today.
[00:23:17] John DeShazer: Thank you Sanjay, for inviting me.
[00:23:22] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit www.hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter at @sanjay or on my website at www.sanjayparekh.com.