Victor is the President and CEO of VZP Digital. A seasoned Executive with experience as COO, CTO, CIO he is constantly driving innovation in accessibility services (closed captions, Interpreting, translation). As a dynamic and respected leader in various industries, Victor applies an effective blend of EQ, relationship building, creating diverse accomplishments for large organizations such as NBC Universal, Comcast, Liberty Media, and Starz! A visionary leader, he has the innate ability to foster growth and leverage his employees’ strength to build a strong, successful, cutting edge organization! Victor drives home the importance of giving back to the community. He continues to Volunteer/Mentor for a variety of organizations.
Mary Grothe (00:00):
Welcome to the House of Revenue. I'm Mary Grothe, Founder and CEO. I love scaling companies to their first 5 million, then 10, 15, and 20. If you've reached a revenue plateau and aren't sure how to get past it, you're in the right place. Listen in as we interview CEOs and solve their most pressing revenue challenges. If you want to be on our show or want to learn more connect with us at houseofrevenue.com. You've heard to never burn a bridge, right? Because things come back to you in life, relationships come back, people come back, situations come back. And I learned thankfully at a young age to always have a positive, beautiful, powerful ending, or closure or wrap up with different people, jobs, careers, businesses, relationships, what not in life, because you never know when it's going to circle back around. And I took that seriously. Growing up in the world of B2B sales, I had an opportunity to build relationships with some pretty remarkable people. One of them is joining me here on the show today. I remember back to a short stint where I was selling technology for EMC. And part of the strategy was to invite CTOs and CEOs to like a steak dinner. It was a tough life or two, you know, a sporting event. I had a huge budget and I did a cold call and got a response from this executive and he took me up on the offer when there was so much more to him than just the title that he held or me viewing him as a potential prospect. I met somebody pretty remarkable and I'm so thankful that we've been able to not only just stay in touch, but we're actually on the CEO journey together. Interestingly, we met when we're both working full-time. Now, we reconnected as we were both in those early, early stages of scaling a company. Victor Perez is the CEO at VZP digital. His story is powerful. What he has created is innovative. It solves and meets a huge need in our community. And in the first 18 months of his entrepreneurial journey, he felt like he was walking through sludge. Have any of you been there? Just learning flexibility and adaptability, but impressively, he turned a profit after the first 18 months and then set out over the following three years to gosh, the next year was 10 X growth and then five X growth and to see this year over year, he's sitting in a position now saying I want to nearly two X again in this next year. And it gets harder every year. The number gets bigger. So it gets harder to continue to have growth at that level. We're going to talk about today, what might be getting in his way, but first I want to formally welcome Victor to the show hear about his story. I can't wait for you to learn about this man and hear what he has done learn about this business, and then we'll get into the revenue challenges. But Victor, welcome to the show.
Victor Perez (03:21):
Thank you. Thank you for having me glad to be here. So, VZP digital, we serve the deaf and hard of hearing. We also learned through some creative technology and just talented labor out there that we can also serve first-generation immigrants in terms of who may be new to the English language. And this whole industry is just, I fell in love with it because when I worked with the NBC Comcast of the world, one of my jobs was to go find captioning companies. And it was a very simple task, but I also realized how kind of below the line of everything else that was going on, that it was perceived as, as a service. And that always kind of bothered me. And I had the opportunity to go work for a company and provide this service as a COO. The company is now a competitor and the reason that I stepped away from that organization was I just didn't feel they had, they had really kept pace with technology. As a former CIO, I just saw so many opportunities to improve serving this underserved community. So, I set out to build a company that of course performed all the traditional services, but then started leveraging some of the technology and I knew I was onto something because one of my first tasks was to get a patent or on-demand captioning and translation, utilizing artificial intelligence. Plus, we also had a hybrid to integrate the talented stenographers and captioners that are out there already in this industry. So my goal wasn't to displays and it never is intended to be that it's to enhance the services because we came at this to serve the community first. And that was something I think, a little different than our competitors, who serve the likes of big organizations, television media companies. But we kind of started very organically meeting some of the local organizations that live and breathe deaf and hard of hearing every day. In doing so, we really kind of learned their challenges and it just inspired and motivated me to try to see what we can create with their guidance. So that's where we kind of started.
Mary Grothe (05:50):
Yeah, that's beautiful. And to that point, I just had this epiphany we're, we're sitting here doing radio and thinking that how many people can't even experience what our audience is experiencing right now. And I'm thankful for the advancement in technology and how we always post the shows the next day after they air at houseofrevenue.com and they're transcribed. And you're able to engage with the content in a way that is meaningful and easier for that community. But I never thought about those things. I mean, I grew up never having to worry about it, and I didn't have anyone in my immediate family nor did I have a profession where it exposed how serious this is. Your innovation, it was born this idea, and really your heart for this was born and seen how captioning service was treated through news and media outlets. Right. But then the innovation that has taken place since you're taking this into universities, into live gaming events, into any event ever, that takes place anywhere around the world, not just for deaf and hard of hearing for language translation, and this has not been done. So, yeah. Nice job getting the patent, but talk to me about some of that innovation and how that has fueled the growth this year over year growth you've had, or the last three years
Victor Perez (07:21):
What it really did for us, I think, it was funny. I was pursuing it from a point of innovation, but in doing so you learn so much more about the needs of the community and what really matters to them. And you're absolutely right. We started, doing captioning for television stations, just like everybody else. We provide captioning for the Denver nuggets, the Colorado avalanche, a lot of the local teams, a lot of the local universities as well, we're nationwide, we're international. And really when at one point I was calling us that captioning of things, IOT, right? cause there's internet of things, but our ability to deliver captions everywhere was really kind of the goal. And we've kind of met that goal through some of the development and technology that we've created, all while continuing to serve the traditional businesses, what I call it, which again was kind of the impetus behind me trying to enhance the business and the services that are available because the closed captioning world, I mean, you figure it started somewhere about 79, 80, maybe a little bit earlier, and it really hasn't changed in the television world. What has changed is the distribution of media. And you're absolutely right. I mean, now this could become a podcast. It could easily be captioned along with the transcription and there's just so many places we can kind of unify communities. The big push this, this time at this point is diversity and inclusion. And I think, um, what I hope doesn't happen is this community of the deaf and hard of hearing isn't leapfrogged in terms of needs and serving them because to me, their needs have not changed and really my goal is to move the needle on our impact in this social world of communication. Everything is so social. And when we can embed captions in social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, that's always a win for me. I love that. And when I see a company or your company, any company without, I am quick to comment, this would be wonderful to the 360 million people worldwide that are deaf or hard of hearing.
Mary Grothe (09:45):
Yeah, it's a huge call out. We've used your services before, and it was such a pleasant experience and it made a difference. And I'm actually sitting here feeling super convicted because I realize we have a big mess. We launched all of our free sales training courses this past year. And they're all on our salesbq.com website, they're free and accessible to every one, but there's no captioning on them. And that's an easy fix, right? Because we can just lay over the SRT file or upload that into YouTube. Right. So done easy. Okay. After this, we'll have Riley email you we'll get you the raw videos. Let's get it done. But it's just something as simple as that. You know, I would proudly say, we've made it free for everyone. And even the term accessible, all of our training is accessible. You don't have to pay for it, but it's not accessible for a certain community. And that's a huge miss on our part. So yeah, I'm fixing that. Okay. Next. So you're looking at almost 2X again, that's the goal for this year. What is, as you're sitting in this chair, what is the top revenue blocker challenge, hesitation, unknown that you're feeling that would be beneficial to talk through today?
Victor Perez (11:09):
I think it's, I mean, we've done very well in the sense of growing within our means because I think it's one of the things businesses need to be mindful of is you don't want to outpace what you can do, because that's the fastest way to go out of business as you make all these promises that you can't deliver on. So, I think there was an organic pace that I wish I was smart enough to know that was what was happening, but it just played out. But now I feel we know who we are. We know what our products are. We know what our clientele is. And now it's just the awareness and the effectiveness of calling that same person again. That may be setting out at this time and changing the pace, changing the story, changing the pitch. And obviously it helps when you can say, well, we support universities like Baylor and university of Virginia and Denver university. I mean, we're providing captions across. We got NHL, we got NFL, we got NBA. And that seems to get their attention, but I feel we're missing something in the sense of what is different now. I do feel we've turned a corner. We are a force to reckon with, the cross the industry. And, I got to believe our competitors are wondering, how are these guys doing this? How are they winning these big contracts? And, we just signed the Ohio state, so there's this really good momentum, but I feel like we can grab them. I want to cast a bigger fishing net and I think that's part of the problem and doing it in a way that leverages the experience we have to date the success we've had to date. And what can we do to change our story, to encapsulate where we are now versus where we were three years ago and make that resonate with companies?
Mary Grothe (13:04):
Yeah, this is interesting because you have such a strong and beautiful track record, and there's not a shortage of opportunities right now, and you are securing great new contracts. This is really just an augmentation of that. I would put revenue generation for this next year with the goal that you have of putting it into three buckets. One would be, though there's two buckets of low or lower hanging fruit. The first bucket would be to go to people who bought from you, but haven't bought from you recently putting myself in the bucket. So finding companies like ours, old clients of yours, that you did one, two or handful of projects, but the work trailed off and do a little research to find what they're doing online. So many people in the pandemic year of 2020 had to switch to virtual - virtual training, virtual courses, virtual recordings, virtual events. And did they bring in a translation and a captioning tool with them as part of transitioning to virtual? I think that that's a huge area of opportunity. I would go to people that already have familiarity with your company. They're already very pleased with the work that you've done, but it became out of sight out of mind, or there wasn't an active project. I would put attention there to re-engage and ask if it makes sense for us to reconnect and learn what you're doing today, how you've adapted to virtual and what your needs are in this area, to make sure that you're still serving this community and fill in the blank. What we could do, the second bucket would be those that we call lost opportunities. So those you didn't win at the time, but it's worth going back. So you already mentioned, and having another conversation. So it's the same re-engage we met 18 months ago. It wasn't the right time for us to work on a project together. You were filling the blank, fill in the blank, but does it make sense for us to have a conversation now? Here's why we believe it makes sense. I'm open to your feedback on if this is the right time, you're a university, 18 months ago, and we ran into these challenges, or you were uncertain because of this. Since then here, eight new universities, we're working with some of the ROI that we've seen, or some of the advancements and ways that we're serving them in some statistics for you that might be meaningful. Is it the right time for us to have a conversation? So it's going back to opportunities that you didn't win and seeing if you can, re-engage in that conversation that has been very fruitful for us, by the way, because like you, we continue to innovate. We continue to expand our own product and service set of how we're working with clients and someone we met with a year ago. They'll probably be shocked to see what we're doing today. And even if the services isn't so wildly different, we would also see that we have more case studies. We have more proof of concept. We have more labels, logos names, like, you know, the Ohio state, the bait in the us, but you, that means something to that person. And so I would definitely re-engage in that area. When you look at casting a wider net, you've done extremely well in certain verticals, universities, sports teams, and then your news and media. Is there another vertical that you would add into that or that you want to get more involved in?
Victor Perez (16:27):
Well, I think what I want to do is almost create captions as a commodity because even in a one-to-one conversation, a Quantis club meeting, that it is just so easy to integrate our services. That to me is really where I think there's a lot of opportunity. I came into this, not necessarily looking to displace a lot of the competent, it's to expand the market because I think technology affords us that capability that didn't exist in the past. So, to me, it's now kind of retracing the smaller opportunities because you put them together and then it becomes a huge opportunity. And I think, how do we become kind of that commonplace? When people think captions, they think VZP digital, and that becomes the automatic go-to. One distinction that we hear from clients all the times is we take the time to listen to what their needs are. I mean, 2020, like everybody else, March froze. Everybody froze in their tracks and businesses took a nosedive, but as it did across all industries, I'm sure. But it was a fairly quick rebound because if you think about what we do and the people we serve, everything went to zoom meetings and online and trainings. And what that did is it's accelerated the need for remote accommodations and all those universities that were providing classes to students that were deaf and hard of hearing. They typically had to hire somebody on premise, and that just became a deal breaker. So, inter VZP digital, our ability to do remote and integrate with zoom and all these other technologies, and really simplify how we provide these services. So, now it's like, let's let it overflow into the local restaurant, the volunteer classes. I mean, any form of communication, that's really what we're talking about is can be enhanced now.
Mary Grothe (18:42):
This is brilliant! Because two things: One, whenever you can diversify your revenue streams, it helps the health and security of your business, your profitability, and the growth. Having a focus on these large contracts is fantastic. Those are big wins, and they move the needle, but building a base of smaller, more repeatable transaction, transactional engagements creates, like you said, they're small, but when you add up all of them, they're large and they're less of a threat to the business. As long as you have a very quick and easy and a low margin or high margin, what am I saying? Low, expensive way of delivering on it so that it doesn't take a lot of labor and time to delivery. And it doesn't right cause it's just instant when you sign up for an account and anybody can use the tool, right? So here's my million dollar idea. Instagram ads, you should set up an ads account on Instagram and Facebook, saying with a click and drag in showing, do you produce video content on Instagram and Facebook? Did you know, you're missing out on 360 million people worldwide who are deaf and hard of hearing, and can't hear your message, go to VZP digital.com. Place an order here, upload your video. We'll have it transcribed, captions added, however, whatever the process is within whatever amount of time for this low nominal fee. And then boom, you can post your video and immediately your accessibility goes through the roof, put your money where your mouth is and wanting to reach and engage with an audience and acknowledge that X percent of the people engaging with your content may not be able to hear your video.
Victor Perez (20:28):
Right. That's a wonderful connecting of the dots, because what you just did is you, right-sized the platform for us to solicit our services to the audience we're talking about. Which is all these independents that are out there now. and you're absolutely right. I think two years ago couldn't do this because it was a one-to-one effort. And you know, you want to fish where the big fish are in the beginning and get those foundational agreements and contracts, but then you'd become, Okay, we can do this. We can self-provision. And now let's just make our services known. This is where you go exactly to your point. So I love that.
Mary Grothe (21:06):
Get on LinkedIn. I mean, one thing too is if you don't have current bandwidth on your team right now, you could find a college intern, even a high school intern that can sit there and surf LinkedIn, and look for influencers. Look for people that post daily videos and content that don't have the captioning on their videos. It would be the easiest direct message to them, or an InMail message or an email or phone call or whatever to say, heads up, you're missing out on this market. This is not accessible, but we have a solution in here's the fee and here's the return. And here's why you want it. And here's how simple it is to use first one's on us or whatever. Give it a try, see what happens. And I mean, the research in return. So when you can do it through ads to pull people who are already on the platforms and doing that, but then secondly, there's a very low cost labor asset to your team, unless there's someone internally right now that could allocate a few hours a week to doing this and being a research analyst to find these leads and being able to just send that one outbound and potentially it's a prerecorded demo that you can create as well. If you don't already have it, it's as easy as one, two, three. This is how the influencer, the content producer, the whatever you want to call them. These people on social media that really love promoting themselves and their expert knowledge that they have. There's a lot. But a do it yourself platform is self provision is what you called it. This is a very, very quick path to getting those sales because the market is so hot right now for this. And by the way, you can sign me up, send me the demo video. All right. We have a couple of minutes left. Any feedback expansion on those or anything else that you want to bring up and talk?
Victor Perez (23:05):
Well, I think you probably knew this, but just in listening to you, you've basically kind of strategized. It's not only a sales, but almost a marketing campaign that matches, meets the audience we're going after. And I always think that's good. Of course, we're still going to go after the big fish. That's kind of the name of the game. But I just feel more than ever, we are unique, and that we have this full spectrum of services all the way from the, whatever your budget can accommodate to the economical service, to the white glove premium service. And, you tell us what you need and we'll right-size the solution for you. And I think that's unique. And then the other piece is that I know you, at least when we talk from the sales perspective, was this good old fashioned customer service? I can't tell you how many times our clients say we haven't heard from our provider and the 10 years we have been using them. Oh my gosh. And it is just amazing to me that that is still out there. That there's an absence. So if you own a business, I mean, get back to some of the basics in terms of just good old fashioned phone calls and communication. And face-to-face because nine times out of 10, when we can do that, face-to-face engagement when it's not just a cold call or a cold email, we typically will walk away with the business.
Mary Grothe (24:29):
That's amazing. Getting back to the basics is a principle that is so often overlooked. Sometimes when we run into trouble challenges, we think we just have to be super creative, do something no one's ever done. And the true honesty here is go back to what worked for you in the beginning and do some of those core foundational principles and then identify what needs to adapt from that point to take it to the next level. I do believe the pandemic year with COVID, it just wrecked a customer service for most companies. It just got hard for a lot of people to be able to deliver in general. But yes, there are some industries that for years, decades, forever, I was troubled with it. And I know that's an area that you shine and we can speak to that. We'd loved working with you, and apparently I, Victor, we're going to be working together again. How do people get in touch with you?
Victor Perez (25:17):
www.vzpdigital.com. You can contact us through email or (720) 482-4012 by phone. Good old phone call.
Mary Grothe (25:27):
Please connect with Victor. He's a good man. He's a good soul. And his company is innovative and incredible. Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you're interested in being on our show or want to learn more about how we can help you scale your company, connect with us at houseofrevenue.com or with me, Mary Grothe, spelled G R O T H E on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.
To be considered, you must be a CEO between $2M - $20M in revenue who is experiencing a revenue plateau or some form of revenue challenge and are willing to troubleshoot and discuss those challenges on-air with Mary Grothe. We will honor certain elements of confidentiality that you prefer to remain private. You must be able to record with Mary on a Tuesday, at 10 am, at 710 KNUS 3131 S. Vaughn Way Aurora, CO 80014. The show airs weekly on Sunday mornings, at 8 am MT.