200. Kevan Lee on part-time advisory work, mentorship, equity compensation, and more

Kevin: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of Mindshare Radio. Today I've got a special guest for you. His name is Kevin Lee. Kevin has an interesting background. He started off as a journalist, eventually got a job working with Buffer in the marketing department, worked his way up through the ranks, eventually becoming a VP of Marketing over at Buffer.

Since then, he's kind of opened up doors to additional opportunities to do advisory work, mentoring. And in this episode, we basically talk about his experience going from a marketing leader in an in-house organization, which he still is today, working for another tech startup to doing advisory work, and how that works as a part-time thing, how that works around a full-time.

As well as the reasons for, for mentoring, how he structures some of his, advising engagements, books that have changed how he looks at both his life as well as marketing and a whole bunch of other topics related to advisory work and pricing and, and modeling and, and methodology stuff. He's got amazing playbooks that he gives away as part of a [00:01:00] subst membership over at.

At a sub stack and uh, yeah, honestly, just an overall great guy. Really knowledgeable in the world of marketing and he's still figuring out advisory work like a lot of us. And so he's got different experiences and I just wanted to kind of bring him on to talk about how he's been able to do advisory work.

It leverages expertise that he's gained over the years of leading marketing teams in house. He's a wealth of knowledge, shares all of his playbooks, his thinking on his website, his playbooks, everything. Great guy to listen to. And in this episode we're gonna unpack his experience with it and also talk about things like, you know, advisor equity compensation, and his experiences around that.

And so we just sort of explore the edges of what it means to be an advisor, a mentor, a coach, and what the business models look like around that. And, uh, I think you're gonna love this episode. Kevin is a wealth of knowledge and it was really fun exploring the topic with him. So listen in and let me know what you think.

Kevin, thank you for joining me in today's podcast. Really nice to put a face to a name and get to know you this way. How are you? Absolutely, [00:02:00] absolutely.

Kevan: I'm good. I'm good. I'm excited to be here and to chat advisory.

Kevin: Yeah. Yeah. We kind of connected over one of your subst stack newsletters. You wrote kind of like advisory for beginners.

Again, this is sort of you, your way of exploring some of the, the topics around advisory work. You've been doing it in various capacities for a while, and you have a long, credible background leading marketing, which is very similar to advisory work. Uh, just it's in house. So I kind of wanted to talk to you, explore the edges of your experience, see what you're, what you're doing, what you're learning.

Just kind of, you know, have a bit of fun discussing this world of advisory work, which is sort of evolving and it feels, it feels like it's on the cutting edge of where work is going. From your perspective, what is, how do you define sort of advisory work? How are you kind of organizing what advisor work means in your mind?

Kevan: Yeah, so advisory work for me started with this concept or this desire about giving back.

I came into marketing from a non-traditional background, and so everything I've learned has been on the job, has been learned as you go, and I feel so grateful for [00:03:00] the people who have taken their time to walk me through that. And so that was the initial reason why I started, uh, to lift my eyes up and see what types of, of advising opportunities there might be.

Um, was also interested in, in gaining. Broader perspective of experiences and, and challenging what I thought I knew from being in house of a company for a long period of time with other business models, other growth models, et cetera. So, uh, sounds selfish is kind of my introduction into advisory in that sense.

But I think that was the. That was my direction of it. And so from that point of view, it's like, you know, yeah, you could borrow, borrow my brain for an hour. You could have me, you know, do a, a one off project for a little bit. It could be working with individuals, it could be working with, with a team, any different stage like I was, I was open to all of it.

I think one of the things that helped me early in my career was saying, Anytime something came up, which I know was probably awful advice to give anyone to actually say yes, I think you're [00:04:00] supposed to say no or often or to have, have a system there, but, um, but saying yes was really critical for me as I learned and grew.

So I kind of took a similar approach with advising, just saying yes to anything that even smelled remotely, like advising I was here for it.

Right. That's, that's great. So for those who who don't know, and we'll get into this, but you had a background working in Buffer. So before that you were a journal. At some point you, you moved to Buffer, you went in the content department, you kinda leveled up as far as I know, through the ranks.

You ended up becoming VP of Marketing, which is a great role for a big company like Buffer. So I, I, I assume you learned a lot from the ground up about running marketing and leading marketing, which is very similar in overlapping with what advisor work is, except you're less. Directly responsible for the implementation.

Kevin: You're more so there to coax it along. So as Buffer sort of surmised and you kind of, you know, moved on to other ventures, was that sort of the platform that kind of you started advising on top of, in terms of your experience? Was that where your, your experience in advisory work began?

Kevan: Exactly. Yeah. So towards the end of my time at Buffer, I had [00:05:00] been able to experience a lot of great things at Buffer, and we, we had, we kind of had this reputation around brand building and product led growth, and so we didn't call what we did product led growth.

During my six years at Buffer, the term didn't exist, but toward, toward the end, the term existed. People were really, really excited to learn more about that. And so I, I was fortunate to have a lot of introductions to different folks to advise more on that. Direction of things. And so it was based on my buffer experience, but I think I was also more open to it having.

You know, in house at the same place for six years. I did kind of have that crisis of confidence of, do I even know what I'm saying or talking about here? That was, that was helpful even professionally within the job to be able to practice it outside of the job to give that confidence.

Got it. And so what was your first sort of advisory role?

I think it was an interim head of marketing, if I'm not mistaken. From, based on your timeline and your LinkedIn, what, what was that first kind of taste of advisory work looking like for you? Or what did, What [00:06:00] shape did it take?

Yeah, so I, I did spend six months at a company called Poly, and I stood up the initial marketing team there.

It was, I was more or less full time there for six months. Could have. Much longer if, if, if everything had played out. So that was probably my most intense stop along the, the journey. Uh, but before Poly, I did a handful of one off advisory roles, and so while I was full-time at Buffer, I got plugged in with the, with the Open View Ventures community, which is one of the, the biggest and best VC firms about product like growth.

They kind of coined the phrase and they, they do a lot of great work with it and. I was fortunate to get connected with those folks and they connected me to companies like Callen Lee and Mil Note and a couple others that I was able to, I didn't get, they weren't paid roles. It was more like, you know, networking is, is kind of the, the guys of it, but for me it felt like advising.

So I might be breaking a rule, calling, networking, advising, but I, [00:07:00] you know, the conversations were, here's my brain on this topic that you're interested in, and if there's something here longer term or if I think I even thought of it. If they're looking for a head of marketing later on, like that would, this is a great opportunity for me to get my foot in the door and to build, build that relationship.

So they didn't go anywhere long term, but just had initial. Kind of towing the water was enough for me to feel, again, confident to build those relationships. And so I did a number of those things toward the end of Buffer. And then, yeah, jumped over to Poly, which was, um, a full-time, full-time gig for those first six months.

Kevin: And it was always the, the poly work. Uh, was your interim head of marketing that was always intended to be fairly inter, like you were essentially consulting, but on almost a like, essentially full time role. That was the intention was, hey, why don't you to lead our marketing, get us set up with things we're maybe quickly growing, and then we'll see where it goes after that.

Or, was it an actual employment opportunity?

Kevan: Yeah. It, it was a full-time employment, so it was okay. They wanted me there as long as I could be there, and I, yeah, I didn't stay as long as [00:08:00] maybe they, they would've liked, and I, I would've thought before I joined, there was another marketing advisor who was there for maybe three or four months, kind of putting together a lot of strategy, working with the founders to understand the path.

And so I was intended to be the one to stand up the team, and, and I, I did stand up the team and, and take it from there. Yeah, I don't even know. It's a bit of a stretch, even in hindsight to think of it as advising, even though it was such a short amount of time.

Kevin: Got it. Okay. So in our world, fractional CMOs are becoming a bigger trend in terms of how people are working, especially in tech space and other industries where, you know, maybe the opportunities are big, but the, the financials haven't caught up to the work that needs to be done.

So people are bringing in experts to do. Sometimes they're called interim head of marketing. Sometimes they're called fractional CMOs, Freelance CMOs, what have you, Have you done any of that kind of work? Like has, has any of your work been not just advising, but maybe leading, managing, overseeing some of the work?

It's not. No, but I've been interested in it. It sounds really cool. I, I think that [00:09:00] is, that's a very appealing feature. For me is, is something like that. And, and what appeals to me is I love starting things and I love exposure to a lot of different problems that, that needs. Solving a lot of different puzzles and I feel like that is a pretty cool path to get into something like that.

And so, yeah, the poly thing was full time, but even in my, my head I was like, this is really fun to be here. At this stage doing this type of work, I, you know, is there a future that you could do this for multiple companies at once? So,

Yeah. Well, I mean, so my, part of my teaching and philosophy on it is that fractional CMO is more of a service than an actual, Like, I, I wouldn't wanna identify as a fractional cmo.

I wanna be like a CMO in some sense. Because what ends up happening is with two, with two fractional CMO clients, you end up being really busy, even though you're not like doing all the things, you're kind of leading it and maybe managing it. So once you get to that level of like, okay, I'm no longer gonna manage it that, cuz once you remove that component, Then you kind of get to be at the, the fun level in my view.

It's like you're, you're in, you're in charge of creating the, the roadmap and you know, helping build [00:10:00] systems and bringing in your templates. And we'll talk about all the playbooks that you have, and then execution in terms of the day to day, back and forth, emailing nitty gritty proof of concept stuff that gets done by either someone you help hire or someone on the team.

And so that's my like mini, like there's kind of like, you know, mini kind of levels to this kind of work and, uh, you would certainly, um, be credible enough to be at the very just advisory level, access to your brain stuff and, um, yeah. That's interesting. Yeah. It's interesting you haven't had to cross that chasm yet in terms of a service outside of an employment.


Kevan: Yeah. Would it be fractional in the sense that you would have, you'd only be fractional at one company and then you end that commitment and go onto the next company? Is it possible to have multiple at the same time? Is that not not right?

Kevin: Uh, yeah. So I, I don't want to be seen as an employee, right?

So I, and because it's very slippery slope. So yes, if you are employee shaped, then they're gonna give you all the tasks and say, Hey, go do this. And you kind of end up taking some orders and leading some stuff, and you end up doing a [00:11:00] lot. Work that frankly is below your pay grade, not below, like you're not too good for it.

But if someone can do this easily for $30 an hour, that's the person who probably should be doing it. Not, not you. So yes, you could do it full time, but that's basically a job without any of the profit and the benefits. You can do it for two or three companies and then you can really get burned down.

People do that for like, you know, five to 10 grand each, so you can make good living. Kind of managing and overseeing three people's marketing or two or whatever. My limit is, I'll do that for you for 10 grand, for three months, and then I'm, I'm done. I'm gonna move into an advisory capacity, but I'll set it up for you and get everything running, get the team and organized, and then I'll advise cuz when you're in the advisory level, you can juggle 10 clients without and still have 40% of your day.

Free 40% of your week free and you're ear in the multiple six figures range. And, you know, you can earn a really great salary and have a, a nice, balanced lifestyle without the stress. So that's kind of my view on it, but I like that. Yeah. So you're like, you, you have a full-time job now. You work at, uh, an HR tech company that you've had really great success with.

Based on a few things [00:12:00] that I've seen about the growth of the company. How do you find it juggling having a full-time job and then, you know, being, you know, taking on side advisory projects or some of the other things that you're working on, which will get into more, in more detail. How do you find that balance working out for you?

Kevan: Yeah, I mean, maybe you can tell, I was asking you how many fractional roles can you have at once? Like, I think I, I might be predisposed to putting too much on my plate in a sense. So, yeah, I think in, in my full time job, I'm very disciplined about, How I spend my time and, and my working hours, which allows me to pursue things that bring me joy outside of work.

And, and I think in, in another way, in order for me to be my best self at work and to do my best work, I need to be stretching my mind in unique and original ways. And I see advising as a path to do that. And so, I mean, honestly, it's maybe. One to two hours a week. It's not, it's not a, a ton of time at all.

It's almost like a learning and development investment for [00:13:00] me in a way Yeah. Is how I, I think of it for, for the company. And so, um, you know, I, I just carve out the time when I need to. Typically I'll block my oysters where I works in my oyster. Time comes first and, you know, that is sacred and anything.

Comes outside of that. So for instance, at Oyster we have more flexibility on our Fridays where we don't have any oyster meetings. And so I can take a meeting during the day on Friday and then maybe, you know, move some oyster work a bit later in the day. So just having that flexibility makes it really, um, really easy for me to dip in and out of, you know, small time advising stuff.

Kevin: Did you have to run the, like when you got hired there, did you have to run this by the company or was it sort of expected that you know, hey, you know, you're influential. Obviously people want, like, you're already doing probably certain things by the time you got a job there. How did that combo go? Did, did, Was there any issues with that?

Cuz I agree there's a ton of benefit from seeing inside all these other companies and you get to be sharper and bring that into oyster. Yeah. Do you have any of those conversations or was it just sort. [00:14:00] You just sort of did it and it was kind of fine. ,

Kevan: I just, I mean, I just kind of went for it. So I, I will definitely share this podcast with my network and if someone oyster hears it and tells me I should have talked to someone, I guess I'll, I'll have that conversation later.

Yeah. But, uh, but no, when I joined, I, I did have a couple of gigs currently going on, so I teach at a university here in town. And so I mentioned that during the, the hiring processes, you know, this is something I wanna maintain and keep, keep doing. They were totally fine with that. The other way that I've done it is I've not been shy about it.

Like, I think, I guess my style is, is a bit more of an indirect communication style in general. And so rather than have like this explicit conversation of, I'm going to spend an hour talking to Kevin on Friday about advising on a podcast, like, are you all cool with this? Or I'm gonna spend an hour talking to this, you know, seed startup that's in a totally different category than, than we are.

Are you cool with it? Just like not hiding it like it's on my oyster calendar. Um. I bring up, you know, learnings from it with my [00:15:00] ceo, with my team, and like, it's like that gives me a lot of peace, not feeling like I have to hide things. There, there is nothing to hide, like I mentioned, like, it, it helps me be better at my job.

Um, but I think the things that I, I really. It really would give me pauses if I'm, you know, advising or working with someone that is anything at all related to oyster or, or things like that. Or if I'm advising or talking about things that are proprietary, don't oyster, like that's, you know, absolutely where I would draw the line on things like that.

Kevin: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's, that's really great and super healthy. And I know you work with a company that, uh, is remote as far as I know, and, uh, that, and helps companies work remotely sort of thing. And so there's, there's that element of flexibility built into the organization. Hopefully the culture. Yeah.

And I think that mindset of, Hey, I'm gonna do some of this because frankly that's what's gonna keep me probably in your job for a lot longer. Cuz I get to stretch my mind and continually be challenged. I think people leave jobs when they're not, when they've kind of figured it out and there's no more room to be excessively challenged and you're kind of just incrementally.

Challenging yourself, but also [00:16:00] then I'm gonna bring these learnings in and it's gonna be low time intensity, but it keeps me sharp, keeps me out there and makes you probably a better promoter of the business through your own personal brand as well. More credible and more awareness and that sort of

Kevan: thing.

Yeah. We have career matric matrices. Is that the plural of matrix matrices? Sounds about right at oyster, something like that. A career path at oyster where, um, like when you get to a certain level in our career progression, one of the things that is asked of you is to be self-directed in your learning.

And I think, you know, you, you probably see this as you progress anyway. Like, I can't teach my community person. Anything more because I'm not a community expert at this stage of my career. Like she is more of a community expert. My comms person is more of a expert, et cetera, etcetera. So similar to my boss who's the ceo, like, he's not there to level me up on the marketing side, so I need to do that myself.

And so it's like a very, um, specific part of our career progression is you take ownership over your own development and you take ownership over your own brand and influence [00:17:00] and all these different bits and so, Either explicitly or implicitly. The, the intention is for us to be doing this type of thing.

When you get to, um, a certain level, which I've, I've tried to embrace.

Kevin: Would you be as fine with that, with your, with the, with the people who work for you? Like, you know, let's say you had a, there was a, I'm gonna pick a graphic designer, not to call anyone out on your team, but like their freelance graphic designing and like, is like, is your mentality that, hey, it's great that you're doing that as long as it doesn't interfere with your work and you ship and you, you're producing and you're productive.

Totally. You, you would generally be pro. Yeah, because it works the same way all the way up.

Kevan: Absolutely. Yeah. It's, it's funny, when I sent my newsletter out, someone on my team was like, they re replied to it. And, you know, we chatted in our, our company Slack, and they were like, Oh yeah, I do advising all the time and I have questions on this and this is how you do it.

And I was like, I had no idea this person was doing advising all the time. But I, but I love it. I was like, Tell me, tell me more. I think that's the spirit that I try to bring to it, is tell me more. And then as a manager, like if someone were to tell me they're doing it, it's Absolutely. Tell me more [00:18:00] then I, I also could just kind of have.

It's just bug in my ear of like, are they enjoying this more than they're enjoying their day to day or are they getting something out of this that. Would prefer to get in their day to day, and that helps me a lot just to understand how can I best align them for, for growth and success within the company too.

Kevin: Yeah, I think that's critical too, is it's about empowering your team, helping them level up in their careers, and then even if that means that they have to do some extracurricular. You know, learning or, or, or work. But that's great. As a leader, you're also thinking then maybe there's an opportunity to help mentor or to help share, share notes or to help, you know, broaden their knowledge a little bit more through your expertise and your experiences.

So I think it's a very healthy attitude. I think there's a few people in the community that, that I work with that are thinking about doing some advisory or doing some light advisory work outside of business hours, and they feel like they have to hide it from their boss. And sometimes that's legit. But I think more as experts in marketing, you can't become an expert just isolated to one company in my opinion.

You really run into the boundaries of your, your learning very [00:19:00] quickly, you know, within a year or two. So I think the message has to be, Hey, this is how we're gonna, you know, as long as you're doing your work and you're productive, like what you do outside of that is, can be very valuable to a company if they foster that.

And I think that conversation needs to happen a little bit more, especially in the creative space.

Kevan: I think that's great. Yeah. We tend to think of our, our work environment as a results based environment, and so if you're getting the results that you're accountable to and responsible to, then yeah, like personally, I don't care how many hours you work or what type of, where you're working from, any of that.

Like we, we just care about you being engaged in, in the stuff that you have committed to be engaged about with us.

Kevin: So, Well, let's shift gears a bit to, to some of the bra, the brass tax of your advisory work. So I know you're, you know, you've been doing this to some extent for a while, several years, and, and I think all of your engagements it sounds like are quite different.

Are you able to sort of describe everything from, Okay, you've had the, the free quote unquote conversations from the VC intros to some great companies and sometimes those lead to things. [00:20:00] Especially if you position yourself well and there's an OnRamp to working with you, what are some typical engagements on a more monetary sense that you would have?

What do they tend to look like? If you could describe a couple or if there's maybe one you mainly go to.

Kevan: Sure. Yeah, so there was one, one time when I, I was lucky to work with the team at Feedly there at RSS and content tool and. I had known, I had met the, the founder through my time at Buffer. Buffer and Feedly were good SAS friends, and so we connected through that and yeah, he, he Feedy didn't have a marketing team at the time or didn't have.

Many on the marketing team, and they were interested in this next phase of growth, growth for them. And you know, they wanna build out a team, they wanna shift positioning and all these, all these big things. And I had just taken on another opportunity that might have been when I was around my time at Poly.

And so I was like, Yeah, I, I'd be more than happy to help you kinda lay the foundations here. And, and my [00:21:00] ex exact commitment with them was, let me do a program on positioning. Let me work on that, that project. The next six weeks, the deliverable is this series of interviews and slides and conversations around where positioning will land.

Let me be involved in your hiring process for a, a full-time leader and a couple of ancillary roles that that will roll into marketing. And then I got paid on a monthly basis from them to, I think it was 10 hours a week or something like that, which I just kinda shifted over into my weekends since I was full time else.

So that was one example, which was, you know, a lot of fun. It was a really great, great connection to, to that team. Um, that was probably the most project based work that I've had. Another example was through the, this community called Product led. They're one of the best product led growth communities out there.

I had this connection to, um, another company that had just acquired a product [00:22:00] and the parent company was very sales led, but this product they acquire. Had more of a product led motion, and so they connected with me through the product led community and I've been working with them, you know, an hour a month, just like very, very light advisory on, you know, how does, how does PLG work for?

How does it work in general? Um, like big, big picture questions, but also like, let's talk through the numbers. You know, show me the projects you're doing, Bring questions if you haven't, but let's get into nitty gritty of how it's actually going and I can advise you on what I would see, what I would think about this, or what I would go next more as just like a thought partner in that sense.

Kevin: Right. And so did, that's not based on hours in that case, is, would it be based on number of calls or, or has that like a, and you said it was one call per. About one per month?

Kevan: Yeah. Yeah. I kind of leave it up to them

Kevin: to schedule. Yeah. Okay. And do you charge them, say like after the call, Like are you kind of charging 'em on per call basis or is that just a standing retainer recurring [00:23:00] engagement kind of thing?

Yeah, so that,

Kevan: that one started as a payment through the community, like through the product, like community, the initial introduction mm-hmm. , um, they kind of manage that intro for me, but at this stage we've been doing it for several months and so I might set the switch and just do it myself to make. Make it easier, but honestly like it's, it's almost become one of those things.

I just enjoy too much to. Want to charge. This is an awful thing to tell you. Like I probably breaks the rules in saying that,

Kevin: but like, that's the secret when you're aligned with what you like, when you like doing what you like, you're like, I would do this for free, but don't tell anybody .

Kevan: Yeah, I know I shouldn't, but yes, that is, that's where my mind is going next.

So we, we'll see if they wanna chat again and. What I decide to

Kevin: do on that. Yeah. Yeah. I think part of it is like you may love it and that's why you're good at it and that, you know, at the same time it's taking, you think of all the grinding you did, you know, from being a journalist and then getting in and like becoming an expert at, you know, content and then like work, and then just working.

Obviously very hard to move up in the ranks and the companies you've worked for at the [00:24:00] same time, it, it's nice to be paid for all that sort of effort and maybe it feels effortless now because you ultimately become an. So when you're, when you're doing these kind of things, are you thinking about the value that you're creating and, and like, are you, it sounds like you do this out of your, like really interest for you, so you're probably not thinking in terms of maybe even value based pricing or, Hey, you're a big company, I can charge you this price versus if you're a little guy, maybe it's this price.

Do, do you ever have discussions around, like, is, or is it just like, here's my price, or like how do you, how do you organize the way you price ?

Kevan: Yeah, I mean, this is. Total beginner pricing stuff for me. So like, yeah, there's the basic one, like, I like you and this is fun for me. Like I, let's just chat. Like that's probably my default state, which I know is not, not good advice to take.

Um, but I have started being more spec, more like, um, explicit with what I'm asking for. So I have, what I say is, I, I charge a thousand dollars an hour unless you're part of my network, in which case I cut [00:25:00] it in half to $500. Yeah. And then the secret is like, pretty much everyone is part of my network, but I'm, I'm saying like I'm anchoring to a thousand being like, this is the value.

This is what I think I am worth at a thousand dollars. But I love this so much. Like I, Let's cut, Let's cut it in half. Yeah. Basically. So I'm trying to cut a feel premium, but not scare people away with a first.

Kevin: Got it. And so do any of your advisory relationships have like email, like email me between calls and We'll, we'll talk or add me your Slack or I'll join you.

You join my Slack. Like is there any access to you between calls or is it very sort of call based right now or at least based on what you have been doing recently?

Kevan: Yeah, What I have been doing is it's been kind of an always on. Like, email me with any questions. I, I was in the Feedly Slack as an example, so we were 10 hours a week, but I was part of their slack, part of their notion, um, full time.

And, uh, I'd be curious to your advice on it. Cause I, for me, I thought it would be problematic, but it didn't end up being that [00:26:00] many questions that, that came my way. Like, I think that my fear around this being, this open channel was bigger than what reality ended up.

Kevin: Yeah, so these are one of the areas that I have a lot of like very nuanced thoughts around.

One being that all my engagements are unlimited access, unless you're buying a one off call, which I sell on my website for 7 50, 700 $50. All of them are unlimited. The question is, Unlimited For whom and how. So my lower tier consulting stuff, uh, would be like, okay, for you or one person from your team, you have unlimited access to me.

We'll meet, we'll do say two anchor calls per month, but if you wanna pick up the phone and if that person or you wants to pick up the phone and call me, we can do that. Or if you wanna talk in Slack, we can do that or email. And so with the lower ticket stuff, it's typically fewer people have unlimited access to me.

And then there's fewer anchor calls, like one or two versus say a weekly call. And then I'll even include things like, Like if I only like Slack is easier for me cognitively than responding to a bunch of emails. I can just get back to it faster. So I'll say asynchronous, [00:27:00] you know, Slack, unlimited, asynchronous slack communication.

So the expectation is that we're gonna have a big, long conversation, although that does sometimes, sometimes happen. Um, but that way there's like, I never want them thinking, is this worth 500 bucks or a thousand bucks for me to have another call, or can I figure this out? So I always say, you know, one, it's recurring.

Not ad hoc. So I try to just build up that recurring revenue, just like sas. Number two is this unlimited, depending on who. So if you're a bigger team and more people need access to me, then you're gonna be at a higher level. And then you can also include email or whatever, or, and, or if we have to bring on a supplier, like a, an ads person or an SEO FO person or who, whomever on lower price points, they can join our, our scheduled monthly or weekly call, or at biweekly calls.

On the higher tiers, it's all join any calls anytime like to like key calls. And those are kind of the words that I'll use. Basically. I don't want people ever thinking about the clock and that allows them to say, Look, here's the price that I, I can live with. I'm really happy with this price and it's really lucrative for me too.

Even if it's a [00:28:00] thousand dollars retainer, we're doing one call a month and then there's some she slack and people don't abuse it. You think they will and they don't and uh, so that's great. I love that. That's a great, Those are some of the great routine. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So. So how many, So, okay. Actually, I've got a couple more questions around how you structure things.

Have you had any experience, so you, you working for some of these tech companies, I imagine you've accrued a little bit of equity or options and you, we don't have to get into that or talk about it too much, but have you had any experience with, especially cuz you're in the vc, in the tech world with advisory for equity relationships, yet, has that topic come up for you at all?

Kevan: Yeah, it's come up a couple of times and I was willfully unprepared to answer it when it came up. So on the answer I gave, probably scared them off from like pursuing anything further with me. So I've been on that side of it where, yeah, I've been chatting with folks and when they ask about compensation and equity, you know, I think that's, that's an area that I don't, it's not my strength even understanding my own equity at like [00:29:00] oyster for instance.

And so I'm not great on that side of things. Then I also have been on the other side where we've worked with a couple advisors at Oyster, um, for me and for my team, and one of them was, was gonna be like pure sweat equity was their offer for us. And so no cash at all, just all equity. We ended up doing all cash with the other one, but they offered a split of, um, I think it was up to 50% equity to, to cover the cash too.

And I, I really liked that latter approach. I mean, sweat equity is kind of cool too, but I, I think having a mix of cash inequity with flexibility to go between the two based on the company's circumstances, I think is, is a neat, it, it was a neat selling point for me as, as someone buying their service.

Kevin: Interesting. So, so you preferred the cash and equity sort of model in that case as the buyer? Yeah. And why, Why exactly? Why not? I prefer one or the other, I guess. Um, Or you don't wanna give away too much equity or you don't wanna give away too much cash. Like what's [00:30:00] the, I guess it depends on the business you're working for, but what was appealing with the hybrid approach?

I think cuz it gave me

Kevan: flexibility. So like if I'm managing my budget, I mean, if you think of the last 12 months in tech, like budgets have changed dramatically. Yeah. Um, and pocketbooks and things. So like, I liked knowing that I could flex between, Yeah. Let's do. Mostly cash now, but with the ability to switch that up later on and go more equity to save on cash that I can spend cash elsewhere on my budget.

And just knowing that was always there was kind of a comforting thought for me. I felt a bit more control over the engagement.

Kevin: And the ceo, did they allocate some equity that you could play with potentially as compensation or was that just like a conversation you would have to explore together in on a case by case basis?

Well, yes. I

Kevan: mean, ultimately we didn't give any equity to this. Okay. This particular advisor, because it was a really hard conversation to, for me to get through, right? Yeah. Mm-hmm. . But, uh, but there were others maybe at an earlier stage of a oyster where we were able to do that. And so I think that added [00:31:00] complexity on my plate to try to figure, figure some of that stuff out.

And so knowing, again, back to the flexibility point, knowing I didn't have. All the way there on the equity side right away. Like we could do cash for a while and I could keep those conversations going. That was nice too, that it wasn't a hold up.

Kevin: Yeah, that's it. Okay. That makes sense. It's, to me, the onus should be on the advisor to come up with the equity offer to say, Hey, you know, okay, like here's how, Or maybe even creating options like, like actual stock options as a form of compensation or something.

And like they should come to you to not make, you have to say, Okay, let's figure out how we're gonna do this. Right. And um, So that's where my head is at in some part. Like I'm at the stage now where in the areas like I, you know, in my areas of specialization, I work specifically in the co-working industry as one of my niches as a consultant.

And there are now conversations beginning to, to develop where it's like, well, what if we did an equity thing where you're more bought in, more involved, you know, at some level. So I'm, I'm on that journey to learn what that's gonna look like, and, uh, I'll let you know if I [00:32:00] find a good approach to it or if I successful at it.

Kevan: Very great. Yeah. Ours was like, like our advisor had a very particular point of view on what would make sense for him from an equity standpoint. Like, tell me, tell me the value of these shares, and I'll tell you generally how I would think about the relationship of that to cash. I think where it got tricky for me was we didn't ever get to this point, but I, I anticipated this moment where the advisor.

Want shares value at a certain point in time on our oyster journey, and our finance team would want them from a different point in time on the journey. And that was where the. The evaluat, the difference

Kevin: would, the

Kevan: evaluation piece was really tricky, and so we never did quite get over that hump for, For this particular one.

Kevin: Yeah. Yeah. I think it requires a high trust scenario, like you almost have to potentially work together for a little bit first, and then maybe options later. They, they can buy at a certain price in the future. And as an advisor you're thinking, well if, like a lot of our early stage startups will be handing out equity like candy cuz it's high risk.

[00:33:00] And uh, I've told people in the past, like, I wouldn't do a lot of execution work, for example, where you're spending 30 hours a month or, or a week or whatever doing execution for pure equity because probably you're gonna lose it all. And then there's this idea of like preferred liquidation things where you, you know, if in the case of a sale you get paid first and like the, a lot of complexities.

If I figure it out, I'll let you know. And it sounds like you're starting to see some of that, but for someone like you in your stature and your experience and you know, I could see someone really benefiting from having you both being an advisor, not just thinking, what's the value of your time relative to the value of, but really saying what would it, what's the value of having Kevin on my team as an owner, at least mentally, even if it's only for two points.

Which is still can be a lot, you know, one or two points. I think that's the mindset. It has to be a real partnership where the pie gets bigger because there's co-ownership and co involvement. Yeah, and that's a hard conversation.

Kevan: It is. One of the things I noticed that I really appreciated from the advisor we worked with was that he was [00:34:00] great at kinda shifting my mindset and, and the conversation for me about.

Value that he brought to the table. Like I, there were times when I would look at, look at it from like a budget line perspective and like, Well, I could save this much if we reduced to this and, or I could, you know, go up to this if we had this. And, and he was more like, like exactly what you said, Kevin was like, what is, what is your, what is the value of having me as part of your team in a sense?

Like I, I can. I have all this wonderful knowledge on how oyster works. I have, um, you know, great pattern matching from where I've been before. Like, I, I think that is, that was something I didn't anticipate needing to be able to do as an advisor was like, sell yourself on. Why sell the other comp sell your company that you're working with on why you are valuable.

Yeah, I guess I always thought. Well, of course if they're coming to me to work with me, they know why I'm valuable. But I think there's like a next level of that that I haven't yet unlocked [00:35:00] personally in my conversations when I go out and advise. But I imagine you and others are probably spending a lot of time on that.

Kevin: Yeah, I think, I think it's important. I always say Zig, Zig Zigler, the former motivational speaker guy, he was like, um, He's like, be a co buyer with your, with your customer. Right? So I try to, during the sales conversation, I try to sit on their side of the table and say, Cuz first of all, that feeling of sitting on the same side of your table is the benefit of being an advisor.

Because when you separate execution from advice, you're kind of like, here's, you know, you can be agnostic about how things get executed, and you can kind of be a little bit more, you know, you're impartial to one solution or the other as long as you get the result. Whereas if you're selling the thing and doing the thing, it kind of ties you up.

But during the sales conversation, I try to say, Well, like, let's, let's make a business case to work together. There's three things that I look for. One is, what are your, what are your objectives? Two is how are you gonna measure success against those objectives? And three, what's the value of those? You know, assuming we make progress towards these objectives on term measurable terms, so we know when we're winning or losing and we're all marching to the beauty of the same drum, what's the [00:36:00] value of that?

And then can we make a business case for whether you should be at this level with me or at this level? And that way you're kind of like saying like, Okay, so if all we did was help you grow by 5% in the next year, that would mean a value of say x and my fees would be say a 10th of that. So I think you're in the realm of being a good potential candidate for this level of involvement.

And then the equity conversation would much be like, you know, I think we can make this pie bigger by me being differently committed to the organization, being taking an owner's mentality. And, but those conversations have to happen. So you're a senior leader, which means you are responsible for the long term success of the business.

Uh, however, you're not the ceo, right? So, so at some point, the question then is, so in these big conversations, especially with, with their equity at stake, it has to be at the, almost at the owner level who's like, cuz you could get turned over in three or five years or whatever. Who's gotta be riding in this bus in 10 years from now?

Cuz they're the only ones who can make long-term value decisions at that level. And, uh, it's been my experience,

Kevan: but yeah, I love that framework that, that three.

Kevin: Three [00:37:00] staff. I learned it from Alan Weiss. Alan Weiss is, he's like a consultant, teaching consultants. And that really resonated with me cuz then I'm like, cuz I really like, as an advisor, I wanna be a, I have a fiduciary standard of, of a, of advice and that means that I have to act in your best interest at all times.

I don't mark up anyone's time or take a commission on anything so that I remain neutral and I'm biased, like, like a nutritionist recommending food rather than say a butcher recommending what's on their menu. Not that there's anything wrong with either models, it's just a different feeling for both people.

But, um, yeah, so that helps to me, it helps to make the business case together, I find. So switching gears, just again, a little bit, um, so we've talked about some of the structures. Did that kind of cover high? So you, you, you're pretty loose right now. You're, you're doing, you know, a call a month, a couple calls a month.

Some, some of them are free, some of them obviously are paid. Any other structures that we didn't talk about before we move onto the next topic?

Kevan: I think that covered most of 'em. I, I teach at the university here. We didn't dive too deep into that. That probably doesn't count as advising unless you think 18 to 20 year olds are.

Hoping to like steal part of [00:38:00] my brain for that, but that's been like, it kind of scratches the edge of giving back for me. And then I do get paid for that, that work that I do there. And so I, I lump it into my kind of advising external. Time

Kevin: and brain. Yeah. Cause that's, I mean that's going back to our sort of early definition, sort of providing access to your brain and your thinking.

Let's talk about mentorship, cuz that's another form of, of advisory work. And I know that's something that you're passionate about and interested in and especially as it relates to say, marketers at different stages of the journey. And also obviously if you're teaching at a university, and going back to the original thing that you said, I think what drives you is just that personal desire to give back in some way or to, to kind of be.

How do you look at mentorship? Is it like what motivates you to do mentorship? I mean, we've talked about just to give back, but like what's, what's driving that? Why give, why give back? Why, why is that important in your business or in your work?

Kevan: Yeah. I, I think it's important just from a, like a human level for me and, and the [00:39:00] things that matter to me and my family and my upbringing, and.

My life and my faith and all those different things like that is one of, one of my core values as a, as an individual. So that's, that's one, one aspect of it. Um, like I mentioned, like I've really gained personally from others spending time with me. And so I, I can see the impact that that has. I, I become more and more aware of my privilege all the time in where I'm at.

Like, I live in Idaho and so that's like, there's not much of a texting here, so I'm not privileged in that sense. But like I'm, I'm a white male in tech and there's, you know, That comes with a certain amount of privilege. And I, I meet so many folks who come across so many folks who may not have had the same advantages of me, the, the same advantages that I've had, whether that's, uh, geography, gender, race, you know, any, any aspect of it.

And so to whatever degree I can help level the playing fields, so to speak, or, or help elevate others. I think that's something that I feel is always worth my time and energy. And then maybe [00:40:00] the last thing is I. I didn't really know where to turn for marketing guidance when I was coming up. Like I, I read a lot and so I guess I, I knew to turn to Google and, and blog posts and things like that, but when it came to like, who do I talk to about this stuff?

I didn't really know a place to go and there's a lot of great places now, so I don't, I think that the landscape has changed quite a bit, but I do think marketing mentorship is, is not the most. Obvious or, or even mature form of learning and development to say like, I don't think it's, it's an easy answer for folks who are looking in that direction for something like that.

So to whatever degree I can help help people in that regard, like I'm, I'm happy to.

Kevin: Yeah. I was gonna ask you, had you, had you been mentored in the past, it sounds like you were similar to me, you, there was a time in your life where you were sort of struggling for a mentor looking around saying, Who can probably grasp me at straws?

Asking your friends or professors or whomever you can get ahold of. Um, but did you have any good mentors [00:41:00] growing up, like in your career?

Kevan: Yeah, I did. So, I, I, I went to school for journalism, so I couldn't rely on any teachers cause they would, they were just gonna show me how to lay out a, a newspaper page, um, which is cool.

And I, I loved it. And then when I got into tech, I joined such early companies that I was reporting into. Co-founders initially and then, you know, was able to progress a buffer. And ever since I've been reporting to CEOs and I love so many things about CEOs, I, I don't know that I have ever had like the, the type of marketing mentorship from a CEO that I, I would imagine could be, could be kind of cool.

Like, I think that's one thing. I would be really interested in later on in my career, like, is there someone with a marketing expertise I can learn from within a company? I have that to a degree at Oyster now, which has actually been, been really nice. And then the other time, so that, that's one, one example that has been true.

There's a, a co-founder who has a marketing background and, and I have the privilege of getting to chat with him [00:42:00] once a week just to, to pick his brain on things. And then the other example would've been when I started a buffer. One of the co-founders was more of the marketing, half of the founding team.

And he was there for maybe my first two years at Buffer. But it was my, my very formative years, like me coming, um, like totally green into tech and, and and sas. And so I feel like those two years was, was just like an amazing time for me to learn and grow with him. And so he was one of the best examples that I've been fortunate to work with.

Kevin: What are your thoughts on paid versus sort of free mentorship? Does it change it if there's a monetary aspect? First of all, do you see mentorship as being purely non-transactional free pro bono? So traditionally that's kind of how I would think about it. But I want to hear what you say. Part of my definition would be like helping others do kind of what you've done.

So because you're a senior leader, you don't mentor someone to like paint a house if you, if that's not like kinda your path, right? But yeah. How does that element of money play into it for you? Should it all be always be free? Is there a place for being paid? Is it, [00:43:00] would it benefit a student or you if there was a paid mechanism to it?

Kevan: Probably won't surprise you to say I'm totally fine with it being free, Like, that's state. Um, I, I do think there's something, something like Noble and Pure about keeping mentorship free and I guess, For me, it all switches gears. If you were to call it coaching, I think coaching for me is where it feels, maybe it's just semantics, but it feels a bit more appropriate to attach a dollar figure there.

And I think, I don't, I don't know enough about it to know what the difference is between mentorship and coaching, but I think for me, the, the line is almost like when it becomes, it starts to have a certain cadence to the relationship with the same person. Like if I'm spending two or three hours a month with someone consistently, That's, that becomes a non insignificant commitment of my time and energy there, even if I love the person and love, love what I'm doing.

And so I think that's when I might start to think of bringing money into it.

Kevin: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. Um, cuz at the end of the day, there's only so much of [00:44:00] yourself and time that you can give out and, you know, you've got a lot of pulling obligations and Yeah, it's an interesting, interesting model, right?

Uh, it feels good to give back and also you learn more, you become better at your job every time you teach something. It forces you to solidify your thinking a little better. Interesting. Um, okay, so last kind of couple questions for you. I know we're, we're coming up on time here. Um, and I wanna be respectful.

Playbooks, you have a lot of really deep playbooks. So I subscribed, I'm a paying member of your subs stack, and that's at Kevin Lee dots stack.com. K v a n, not like mine. Uh, but part of it is with the, with the, with the pay version, you get the, the playbook in notion, which is extensive and, uh, really impressive how detailed you've gotten in so many different areas.

How much does that, do those playbooks inform your work and how, like how rigid are you to them, to your processes and uh, how does that play in your actual work day to.

Kevan: Yeah, I, I would say not too rigid. I, I tend to think of them more as starting blocks for things, foundations to work from. I think in the absence of any [00:45:00] other context for information, it's helpful to have something to start with and, and ultimately what I've found over the last few places I've been is each company is so unique in individual that the playbooks will fail if you, if you stay too rigid to them, if you're not willing to flex a little bit given.

The unique nature of the companies. Um, so I think of them more as, as starting, starting blocks and foundations. That being said, there are some bigger picture philosophies and things which might, might be included in the playbooks in terms of more like mental models or how to think about different things, frameworks, et cetera.

And those tend to be a bit more universal for me. So when it comes to team building, I would recommend starting with, you know, a foundation of brand, product and growth marketing and. And kind of your variations could grow from there. But starting with that foundation, when I think about hiring, I always look for, uh, for drive, curiosity and empathy and the folks that I would hire onto marketing team regardless of roles.

So there's a few different things that I think translate a bit bigger, but, [00:46:00] um, more or less, you know, making sure there's room for flexibility I think is really important.

Kevin: And have you, have you had the opportunity yet to sell, So you're doing advisory, you're doing, you're doing, obviously you're using, in your job.

Have you had the opportunity to sell anything digitally? Outside of your sub stack, which this is a part of. No, that's

Kevan: next. I think I, I would like to try that out. Yeah. But I haven't, haven't got got there yet.

Kevin: Right. Okay. Yeah, I'd be curious, I'm gonna follow along. Curious to see, cuz you have so much content, so anyone listening to this, if you're in marketing and you want to have, and you're building teams as a leader or an advisor and you wanna have a lot more starting places like your suggesting, definitely get on Kevin's subst stack because it comes with that.

And that's kind of my whole mentality is how do you go from doing to leading or advising in our case, uh, to teaching And you're kind of on that path yourself. You're, you're, you're doing all three and, uh, as a, as a literal teacher in the university and. With your playbooks and through your, your blogs, which are extensive and highly detailed, really great for marketers.

So you're on that journey and, uh, so, you know, where do you see yourself [00:47:00] in like 10 or 15 years, you know, on that path? Do you see yourself being a practitioner and advisor and a, an educator at the same time? Or do you, do you see yourself going up the chain a bit more?

Kevan: Yeah, it's a great question. I might have to talk to you in a couple years when.

More official with like my course and all that kinda stuff. I feel like you're, you've seen my future in a sense. I think what appeals to me is having, having control, being able to not have to answer to anyone else or anything else, which sounds a bit immature to say that, but that's, that's how I'm feeling in my career at the moment, is just having that, that agency over everything.

And so whether that's, you know, starting my own business even, or if, or if it does look more like advising and, and selling. And teaching and, and these different things. I, I'm totally open to either path. I think the path toward more advising toward creating a course that I can sell towards scaling in that regard seems clearer to me at the moment.

But really I'm open to, open to anything that gives me, um, more [00:48:00] freedom and flexibility long term with, with life.

Kevin: Yeah, I think that's a good insight as well as you're advising people, cuz I think everyone wants basically that same thing. Jobs don't have to be commuting to work on the subway every single day.

You can have, you can have lifestyle and flexibility even within your job, especially remote work. It's amazing that, that, that exists now. Um, so great. Thank you so much for kind of sharing your story because you, you're, you're, you're truly an expert in the marketing area. You have experience now advising, you're, you're obviously, you're at the level where it feels like it's fun and that's the great sign.

Uh, definitely figure out your business model and so you're charging appropriately for a certain engagements. My last question, do you really, is around, do you have any like, books that have sort of changed your thinking in your mind or like have like, or maybe recently or in the past that kind of just changed the way you think about either your work or life that you'd wanna recommend to.

Kevan: Oh yeah. So I love Anne Lamont's book called Bird by Bird. It's, it's supposed to be a book about writing, but it ends up being more about life. Um, there's this quote in it. She says, I give generously. There will always be [00:49:00] more, which kind of sounds like my pricing philosophy in some ways, just give it away.

So, um, but the book in general is, is great and wonderful. And then from a marketing side, I, I loved a book called Alchemy. It's written by Rory Sutherland who was connected with the Ogilvy Agency. It's a really interesting look into marketing more from like, you often think of marketing as it's this science that you can figure out, but this book, Really lean into the art and the magic of it too, which I think doesn't get enough, uh, enough creds.

So it was a, a great book on on that bigger picture stuff.

Kevin: Great, great recommendations. I've read both. Love them both and uh, yeah. Thank you for that. Well, Kevin, this has been really great just to talk shop with you and to kind of explore, cuz a lot of people in similar positions, either they're working or they've been doing marketing for a long time and are thinking about.

Advisor work. And what you're showing is that it doesn't have to be complicated, it can be lightweight. You're, you know, and I think airing on the side of generosity is probably a good strategy. And if it needs to become more monetarily, you know, you need to make more money from it, then that, [00:50:00] that, that can come.

I think you're right to, to be thinking this way right now. And the world is better for the mentors out there or for the mentees out there who, uh, are under your, your guidance. And so just wanna thank you for your time. Uh, thank you for breaking down kind of your experience cuz that's, we're all just exploring this, knowing there is no right way to do this kind of work.

So thanks again. Where can people go to follow you, to find you online, anywhere you'd send people? Sure.

Kevan: Yeah. It's been such a pleasure chatting with you, Kevin. Um, you can find my subst. It's kevin leesac.com. K e v a n. And then I work for a really cool company called Oyster and our website is oyster like the A Shellfish something.

Yeah, Seafood. Oyster cru oyster hr.com is the website for oyster. Great.

Kevin: Well, thank you again Kevin, and uh, I look forward to following along with your work and, uh, getting to know you further. Absolutely.

Kevan: Thanks Kevin.

Kevin: That was the interview with Kevin. I hope you enjoyed it. Kevin is a true wealth of knowledge. He [00:51:00] really helped show that you can bring all this expertise that you have in your day to day job and still. Learn more and still expand what you're doing through advisory work, through mentoring, through education and teaching.

And really that's sort of the whole purpose of this podcast of what I do is helping you go from living in the weeds, from doing execution day to day, to starting to look at your expertise as valuable in and of itself, and to find ways to package and sell that independent of your hands, independent of being the one to actually create things yourself.

And so that's what we were trying to explore here on this podcast. Kevin was a good example of someone who has gotten into the world, tried things, started mentoring people, Really found that passion that a lot of us have as advisors, people who have been doing marketing in this case for a long time, and are now able to sort of see from a bird's eye view the best way to manage, to operate, to get a result without necessarily being the one to write that thing, to design that piece, to do that thing themselves.

[00:52:00] Oftentimes it's who you know and how you work with those people. That's gonna matter most. And so Kevin is in a great example of how you can make that transition even while you have a full-time job. Or in some cases if you are doing freelancing or consulting or running an agency as it is, there's many ways to borrow pieces of, say, your educational expertise and to, you know, like Kevin has his playbook in his Subst Stack newsletter.

How do you take your playbooks? How do you take your saw dust as it's called and package that up into a knowledge product or turn that into a subscription? In the case of, say, Kevin with a Subst stack and his playbook that he gives access to a part of notion. How do you start to pull all this stuff together to create assets out of your expertise so that your hands don't have to be the one to recreate the same thing over and over and over and over.

And really that's the whole goal here is leveling up in your career so that you can create greater leverage in your business, impact and help more people. And then of course, increase your earning in the process. And frankly, it's just fun. It's fun to advise people, It's fun to help companies grow and to be on their side, to be a fiduciary, to be an advocate, to be a leader with [00:53:00] your clients on their side, and ultimately to help them to learn and become better at the work they do, through the education, the knowledge, the training that you put.

By doing that, it allows your ideas to live outside of you and then to make a bigger impact without you having to be the one to necessarily do the delivery of that knowledge every single time. So hope you've enjoyed it. If you're not on the newsletter, I write almost daily over@kevin.me, k e v i n.me, and uh, you can go check that out, subscribe to this podcast and tell a friend.

That's how we grow and that's how this community has started to foster and started to develop is through word of mouth. And so if you know other marketers, other experts who are going. Doing some level of execution, wanna get into doing more advisory work and or wanna start packaging up their expertise into knowledge products.

That's what we do. We've got the membership, we've got one-to-one coaching consulting options, and then there's of course just community in general that, uh, you can tap into for, for advice and for feedback and that sort of thing. So check it all out that kevin.me and for now I will say goodbye and have a great one.

Talk soon.

200. Kevan Lee on part-time advisory work, mentorship, equity compensation, and more
Broadcast by