At what point in your career as a poker player did you decide that, yeah, I want to start a business instead? What convinced you to start Oats Overnight?
Brian Tate: In poker, success is about winning. Personally, it was about being best at the game that I played. In poker, you can buy into different games. When you’re beating a certain game, you can go up a level. I started online at 50 dollars a time, and made my way up through a lot of growth and a lot of practice. It was when I was beating those games that I felt I really succeeded. I felt profitable. It came to a point when I was getting a table that went for 15 hours a day.
Poker is a very solitary sport. I realized I was responsible for everything, but I wasn’t really building anything. A few years before I moved away from poker, I started to ask myself, when I’m fifty years old, do I still want to be doing this?
So, I started to make a couple of real estate investments, and on the side I was making oats overnight as part of my fitness routine. And that’s where the idea came from.
I liked making oats, but I wanted to figure out if there was an easier way of doing it. What I came up with was something a little different. I knew hundreds and thousands of people were looking to find out how to make their drinks more convenient and spoon free.
I knew I had something unique to offer the market, so in 2015, I began to develop Oats Overnight.
Looking back on your journey, what did you learn as an entrepreneur that you wouldn’t have learned as a poker player?
Yeah, of course. In both poker and business, if something happens and it’s out of your control, you don’t beat yourself up over it. The result is the result. You learn and you adjust.
What didn’t translate is the idea that you’re not just responsible for yourself anymore. Building a team and being responsible for their welfare is the biggest learning curve that I had to work on. Early on, I brought on as many people as I could to help the business grow.
You’ve talked about hiring people from your own poker circles. What’s the best thing about collaborating with them?
I worked with a lot of people that I knew, some of them I still work with now. Others, we parted ways.
I think the biggest advantage about working with poker players is being aligned with the way we think. We’re all used to being logical thinkers and being logically aligned. What you get is people who are more open to sharing their ideas. We evaluate performances based on their results. But we’re also more inclined to question the status quo, and that’s been really helpful in bringing the necessary insight into what we do.
You focused on building a good customer service team. What’s the best thing about the customer service system you have now?
Customer service is a number one priority. We like to think that it’s not even about the product that makes a customer happy, but the feeling that they get when you work with them.
From the beginning until about a year ago, I was still responding to the Facebook comments and we still like to do that. We like to have that close touch, we want to integrate that into all our marketing approaches. Right now, we have five dedicated people. Our head of customer service is Thomas Keller, who’s also a former poker player. He looks at things in a world class way, and is great as possible in everything he does.
We’re very generous, and we don’t look at situations in a vacuum. We look at things at a scale. We want to give our customers good experiences across the board, even to people who don’t require our products. If something goes wrong or a customer wants something returned, we see it as an opportunity to take care of them. We don’t consider what other businesses might see as a chance to charge back for sending back a package, or to find consolation for losing a customer. The hope is that years later, they might remember the way that we treated them and find their way back.
We prioritize customer experience, it is especially important for growing your space as a company. We’ve carried that through and we practice that in everything that we do.
The product itself. We’re giving people options. Parents are too busy with their kids in the morning to eat breakfast, and Strabucks can get expensive over time. So, they just end up grabbing an unhealthy snack at 10 in the morning to make up for it. And I love that we are giving a really affordable and convenient alternative to that.
We’ve grown a lot, and I love winning generally, but with all the growth that we’ve had, the most meaningful part is getting messages about how much our products have changed people’s lives. For example, we got a message from someone who has said that her mom is in hospice, but she loves the oats very much. We get messages like that all day long, and it’s what makes it worth it.
We’re all generalists. We’re doing a lot of things and wearing a lot of hats. Down the line, as an organization, we want to hire more specialists to take the lead to the next level. Personally, my goal is to streamline. I’m still wearing too many hats. (laughs) As we kind of develop, hopefully we can spread the responsibilities more evenly and permanently.
If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would do anything differently?
I would have hired more advisers. I would have worked with more people. Coming from poker, it’s a very solitary thing. In business, what I’ve come to realize is that there’s people that have done it before. I didn’t have to learn it on my own, so, earlier on, I probably could have used more outside help.
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