Todd Zegers is a passionate entrepreneur and most recently the global leader of Ingram Micro’s ITAD & Reverse Logistics business unit from 2015 through 2022. His experience in the ITAD industry dates back to 2003, when he left his post at a top Tempe, AZ based IT reseller to co-found GreenAssetDisposal, an ITAD company focused on serving F1000 clients worldwide. In 2009, after nearly six years of incredible growth, GreenAssetDisposal was sold to CloudBlue. Zegers became part of the executive leadership team and led the sales & marketing organization from 2009 through 2013, until being acquired by Ingram Micro in 2013.
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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian, and I’m so honored to have you with us today. My good friend, Todd Zegers, welcome to the Impact Podcast, Todd.
Todd Zegers: Thank you, John. Thanks for having me today. It’s good to see you, man.
John: Hey, Todd, it’s always great to see you and today we’re going to be talking about the life of an entrepreneur. You have a new venture, you’ve started Circular Integrity, and for our listeners and viewers who want to find Todd and all the great work he’s doing at Circular Integrity, you can go to www.circularintegrity.com. The name says it all, but we’re going to get into that in a little while. Before we get into your new venture, Todd, and your life as an entrepreneur, again, talk a little bit about Todd Zegers journey. Where do you grow up? How do you even get involved with the ITAD Industry and the industry of making the world a better place?
Todd: Thanks. Well, it’s funny, we had a conversation a few years back with some of my colleagues at my former employer, and we were talking about what our first job was. I was born in Davenport, Iowa. My dad was a Motorola guy out of Chicago, that’s where our family was from, and he relocated to Davenport, Iowa to open a sales office for Motorola so that’s where it was conceived and came into existence. In Iowa, it was funny, it was a very small town, obviously lived in a place called Bettendorf, where my dad would play softball on, I think Wednesday or Thursday nights, and they used to drink a lot of beer. There were always these cans, these aluminum cans sitting around in Iowa, there’s a 5-cent refund on aluminum cans, right? The joke was that this was my first job ever with going out hustling and collecting aluminum cans to go turn at the grocery store to buy candy and toys, right? I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was, probably 5 or 6 years old, collecting aluminum cans, which is this ironic for the industry that I’m in today. It was a precursor.
John: Wait for a second. Everything’s adding up now. First of all, you’re a mobility baby because you’re down, was a Motorola executive, so you’re the son of a mobility, executive. Secondarily, you’re a recycling entrepreneur from five years old. Now, it’s all making sense. Mobility, recycling. Okay. Why you’re in the ITAD business. You were born to be in it, obviously, so that’s great. How long were you out there in Iowa, until you guys moved together?
Todd: I was born there, and then moved here to Arizona when I was nine. My dad feverishly hated the snow when he got an opportunity to relocate to Arizona. Do you remember Motorola was very big in Arizona back in those days?
Todd: [crosstalk] about, so he did that.
Todd: It’s funny, John, as I think about what I was doing as a kid, I used to take my brother’s toys and sell them to a sale on the corner too. I’ve been selling refurbished products for a lot of [inaudible].
John: This all makes sense, Todd. We don’t need psychologists and a therapist here. Well, this is all very clear. Well, you ended up on this journey.
John: You’re growing up in Arizona and you went to high school there and college near?
Todd: Yeah, I went to a big high school there in Arizona. I just played baseball. I hurt my shoulder, so I’m like, I got to figure out a different way to go to college. I actually got into golf my sophomore year in high school, didn’t make the team wound up making the team. In my junior year didn’t even play in the playing squad and then in my senior year, I was Allstate, so I ended up getting a scholarship, and got to community college. They were the number one JC in the nation for golf back then, that’s where I got into the college. When I was going to college there, a bunch of my golf buddies used to go to the Native American reservations to play poker. I started doing that a little bit on the side and ironically started getting into dealing poker and playing poker so I did that from 1993 to 1998. Right after high school I got into that and finished my degree at Scottsdale Community College and went to ASU I think I dropped out of ASU towards the tail end of my junior year because I wanted to be a professional poker player.
Todd: After making about maybe $7 or $8 an hour playing poker versus $20 an hour dealing, I realized it wasn’t going to be a very good career.
John: Oh, my gosh. Do you still play poker for fun? Is poker still at…?
Todd: A little bit. I play in buddy’s home games, but you know me, we’ve known each other for a little bit now. I like to talk fast. Everything I do is pretty fast, and these home games are very low and torturous to me.
Todd: I would prefer to play online or in a casino, but with the kids in the family right now, I’m just an hour of tv, much less trying to go play poker with my buddies.
John: You’re a dad, you’re husband, and a dad. I got it. Now, you’ve decided that that’s not your future so what was the next step when you decide poker wasn’t going to be your long-term future?
Todd: Yeah, a few of my friends got a job, and a couple of guys went to work at Insight, the big IT reseller out of Tempe.
Todd: A few guys, something called [inaudible>], which is an IT distributor back in those days it was owned by Michael Rage. I started there, worked there for a couple of months, and then my buddy said, “Hey if you got to come over to Insight, it’s really great over here,” which it was. In 1998, I jumped shipped and learned how to sell computers, hardware, software, et cetera. Getting on the phone, making a hundred phone calls a day and just dialing for dollars, right? I did that for 4 years. There was a very successful made President’s Club and Chairman’s Club and all that stuff. In 2002 Insight, so it was mail order was mostly hardware and software, realized they needed to get into the services spec sector. They bought a company out of Chicago called Comarch, which was another enterprise IT reseller, but they had a services division and they brought a few of us top reps over into the services group to learn that and help them grow that business so in doing that Comarch had an ITAD program. That’s actually where I learned about ITAD.
John: When did you have the entrepreneurial itch to decide to go into business for yourself?
Todd: It is funny because one of the Insight was an amazing company. The culture there was incredible. They invested in their people and they actually put me in touch. They started bringing mentors in for some of the top salespeople to figure out what we’re going to do in the future. I’ll never forget the day I sat down with those guys, and this guy’s name was Mike. He used to be a consultant for TGI Friday with a bunch of other really cool things. But the guy was awesome. He said, “Todd, one day I see you sitting on a boat, running a fishing charter, and owning a bar down in the Bahamas or something.” I’ve got the boat now I get the bar down in the Bahamas. He just basically told me, he’s like, “You need to get a mentor, right?” I never really had a mentor. My dad was a great business coach, but my dad could only take me so far.
Todd: Right. As Rain, probably a couple of weeks later, I asked, if there was a guy named Robert Parker that was running Insight Global Finance back then, and his division was overseeing the ITAD group so he became my mentor when he started talking about this ITAD stuff. I’m like, “You know what? That seems like a pretty cool thing.” I know we just sold a bazillion computers in 1999 for the whole Y2K panic so there’s going to be a lot of material coming out here pretty soon. So I decided, “You know what, it’s time I’m making Insight a lot of great money. I want to go do that and go do it for myself and just set my own schedule.” I cash out my 401(k), whatever, a little bit of stock options I had, and a lot of computers sat in my front living room and started making phone calls, to old customers to try to hustle and sell some ITAD services.
John: What year was this?
Todd: That was 2003.
John: You’re all in 401(k), all in. It was just like a garage startup, except it’s in your living room and you’re an entrepreneur now. Oh, there are a lot of people that watch and listen to this show that wants to be you. They want to be the next you. They read about and watch the Elon Musk of the World and Zuckerberg and the Todd Zegers of the World, and they are enamored with the entrepreneurial journey. How was it for you from what you thought it was going to be like to what it really was like?
Todd: Well, back then, because I had a mentor and a few partners coming in with me, I had a lot of people who have been through the wringer a little bit themselves.
John: Got it.
Todd: I was [crosstalk] entrance for me because it’s just something as simple as filing your LLC and getting a bank account set up like some of the really fundamental basics of just starting a business. People are very scared of it, and now that I’ve gone, I had to do it myself a month or so ago.
Todd: It’s something [inaudible] people think it is. There are people that can help you through that, right?
Todd: I think that was a nice piece of having that there. But getting the desire to go out and do it, really, the TV show and I have a 22-year-old daughter and I have a 5 and 7-year-old so I’ve been watching a lot of kids movies for a very long time.
Todd: There’s called a Roblox, that’s kind of Pixar or whatever it is, but there’s a guy in there called Bigweld and he always talks about see a need, fill a need. That’s what I’m constantly doing is looking for where there are needs in the world, especially in fields that I love, like technology, and I love the environment. I saw in an emerging need to go do that. When the idea came up, I was all over it. I didn’t really know what I was doing, like when I jumped in this consulting business, I’d never been a consultant before, but I’ve had some pretty good success already. But, that’s really what it’s about to me, is looking for needs that are in areas that are really passionate to your heart so you can spend the right morning, noon, and night doing it. It doesn’t feel like work. I think the people who are really successful are the ones that can take technology and apply technology to that need and somehow disrupt that or make it differentiated from anybody else in that space.
John: That’s a great point, Todd, because even when you’re filling white space, when you see the white space and voids out there and you decide to fill, they still have to be personal and something that you really care about. Because in every venture, the fit hits the shan at some point.
John: Yeah, you got to be able to push through that. You got to be able to push through that. That’s really, that makes a lot of sense what you’re saying. You start this in about 2003, how did it go, like, talk about the beginnings. You had a couple of seasoned veterans with you, which makes it, like you said, a little less scary, and a little easier because you have some people around, plus a mentor. How did it go in terms of scaling that venture then?
Todd: Yes, our model back then, and I think 20 years ago, obviously, the space very well. 20 years ago, there wasn’t a company like yours that has 9 locations or whatever it is, all across the country, right?
Todd: Maybe one, maybe a couple of good people made the market. I realized there was a need for these large nationwide corporations to have that single pane of glass and one throat to choke. Back then there weren’t a lot of online tracking systems, or online ordering, especially in the ITAD space. What I realized I could do is go out and create partnerships all across the country in the major metropolitan area with the best-in-class partners. Then I built a system called Green Track with our partners that basically sat on top of all that. If it’s a pickup in San Francisco, I would use this partner. If it’s a pickup in Chicago, I’d use this partner. If it’s a pickup in New York, I’d use that partner and even globally, right? All that reporting would be feedback through a single pane of glass. Again, applying technology really fills a need for large corporations to aggregate and keep all of their asset management and tracking all in one place. That was really the charter, we realized, and we kept looking at it. Do we want to open a warehouse, this, that, and the other? But obviously, it’s very expensive to do that thing, and it takes a lot of capital time expertise, et cetera, to get that up and going. There wasn’t a Todd Zegers who was a consultant 20 years ago, it could show me the ropes…
Todd: [crosstalk] Yeah, we built that, right? As we grew, and this was when the time when corporations were starting to get more aware of what was really happening with their electronic assets, they started coming out to audit facilities and see what was going on there. One of the challenges we ran into is these companies loved our platform. They loved our service, they loved their pricing, but when they go out to visit your site and they’re taking it to a partner every single time, right? They don’t like that. They want that single-throw to choke also to have the entire chain of custody of their products. That was when we were starting to look to raise money. If you remember 2008 and 2009, the economy wasn’t doing so great, you’re in the commodity space. I’m sure you felt the pain of that back then.
Todd: CloudBlue, who was Ken Beyer, was the CEO there, and Kevin Corgan and some other folks, they were running that business. They were one of our partners. We were always getting really good values from those guys, really good logistics, pricing, and everything else. I said, “Hey, Ken, “you know I can’t really raise any money right now. Our investors are out. What do you think about doing something? I think maybe in a 15-minute conversation we agreed that we would join forces. Fast forward a few months, we joined CloudBlue, and what was amazing to me is the same set of customers that we were serving at that time probably turned into 4 X the revenue in the first year of joining CloudBlue. Because what I came to realize was that a lot of the recovery revenues and scrap revenues, and everything else that our partners were sending out, were not legitimate. Right? I was getting hose if you will [crosstalk] really happening there, which again, is one of the big mantras of why I started Circular Integrity because there’s still a lot of that in our space. Something needs to be done about it, right? Because people are getting sold a bill of goods that’s not always true.
John: Yeah. People are afraid. It’s a great point about what you did with Ken in that people are afraid of sometimes partnering up. I think at the world was a zero-sum game, but here, you took one in one, you and Ken’s CloudBlue, and you were written the first year were four, but what you were two, you were four. So it wasn’t one in one equals two, it was one in one equals four. Both of you saw the intrinsic value of partnering up, and that size does matter. The scale does matter in most industries. You may start making one of the bigger scale companies in our industry happen. For our listeners and viewers out there, first of all, we’ve got Todd Zegers with us today. He’s my good friend. He’s the president and CEO of Circular Integrity to find Todd, you go to www.circularintegrity.com. Back then, Todd, 2003, when you started, just for our listeners to understand, there was nothing ESG wasn’t an acronym that was being used. Sustainability, that was before Inconvenient Truth came out. This was before the iPhone came out. This was before the shift from linear to the circular economy so you were literally an environmental, and ITAD OG. Literally, the pre-day of this whole thing and help really grow up, start and grow up in the industry. How did it evolve with you, and again, post-merger, post-first year, you had a great merger, one-on-one is equally four. How did it evolve from there?
Todd: Well, I think from a sheer business perspective and building a business, right? Ken Beyer was amazing. I’ve learned a number of lessons and just IP that I’ve got from just being around him all these years has been amazing. My gift has always been the gift of gab, and the ability to sell. I was always really, really good at selling. I think there was a good fit for me at CloudBlue to really focus on going out to the marketplace and finding ways and developing solutions, as you probably know very well, whether it’s E-waste or ITAD, very few customers do things the same way so you have to be able to think on your feet and listen to the customer’s need and pitch a little bit of vapor where, “Hey, listen, I see what you need, our systems can do that. Just give us another month and we’ll develop it and make it happen.” Right?
Todd: I think my ability to sense the need and fill a need, going back to my comment earlier, kind of ironic was really good at getting corporations don’t want to use us. Kevin Corgan, was my counterpart on the remarketing side of the house, right? He was really good at selling products because you and I both know that Green is really cool, but when times are tough like it was in 2008 and 2009, and probably much like it is now, cash becomes king. If you’re not really good at selling products and finding homes for those, a lot of times you’re not going to win a lot of business so we had a really, really great team, led by Ken.
John: How long until you guys had, you decided we’ve taken this a long way, we’ve done real good, and someone was willing to write you a check that well got both of your attention?
Todd: Well, look, I was just a low man on the total pole, Ken Beyer and Randy Altshuler really the owners and then we had a private equity firm that was involved with it as well. But if you remember at that time, that’s when Arrow was doing their big roll-up. I think they bought 14 companies, [inaudible] I think Ahmet had bought some players in the space. To see Ingram Micro make a move and get in and buy our organization, wasn’t really a surprise. I didn’t really get notified much until it was almost a big deal.
Todd: When you look at why Ken chose to partner with Ingram Micro was because of their global footprint. I think the natural attachment to their core distribution business, right? CloudBlue is very good at PC and laptop under distributed assets, and that’s a significant portion of Ingram’s business, right? They obviously do data, say they do pretty much everything under the sun, but they have a very large business in that space. They really good attachment for us, not only because of the types of products they sell and just IT generally, but also the number of global locations that they have, right? Going back to my comment earlier, most US iTech companies can conserve their clients here in the US but most have to use a partner. Even in my other companies, we had to use partners, if you go to Uruguay or Turkey or some other small country where you don’t have a lot of bombs, you’re never going to set up a facility there. So the need for partners is always necessary, but the more brick and mortar with your name on the side of the building, you have to tighten up the chain of custody and make sure you’re getting the right value of recovery is pretty important. We thought Ingram’s footprint was a really, really good fit for us. They had a great culture and everything else.
John: What year was this went that your club was sold to Ingram?
John: 2013. You joined Ingram as an executive and continue to work your way up the ladder, and eventually, you became one of the top well, leaders at that company. That was an amazing and great run. That’s how I got to meet you and we got to be friends, and you got to be known as one of the people in the industry with true integrity. Everybody loves you. Literally, nobody ever says, I’ve never heard a negative thing about you, ever. When did you start understanding that this was another great organization, just like Insight was, and you had a whole nother set of skills and a great run there, and a great experience there, and you multiplied the sale of CloudBlue many times over? It turned out to be another brilliant move by Ken and his partners and you in terms of why that fit worked one and equally many times over, just like you envisioned it. When did you start seeing the white space again, that intrigues you?
Todd: I think there’s always been a lot of opportunity. If you look at any economic cycle or business cycle, it grows and then it has a retooling phase and it grows and it has retooling phase, right? On that curve up and down over the course of time.
Todd: I think COVID, as we all know it, COVID really pumped up our industry, right? It made a lot of value better, it made people pay more attention to it. The demand for refurbished products.
Todd: Like never before. But along with that came, higher wages and a bunch of other challenges in the space. I saw a lot of opportunity that there was going to be a lot of turnovers and a lot of change in the industry. It was a good time to make a move, but that really wasn’t the driving factor behind why I left. Right? Typically, what I try to do, if you look at my career from 1993 to 1998, is poker. 1998 to 2003, Insight. 2003 to 2008 Green Asset Disposal. 2009 to 2013 Ingram, and then 10 years there, right?
Todd: I really tried to, one of my mentors always told me to try to reinvent myself every five years. When you try a business in a five-year run, that’s what it should be humming on all cylinders, right?
Todd: I’ve always the back of my mind, but I really loved Ingram and the team that’s still in Ingram that we built the company with. It wasn’t me, it was a collective effort of all of my leadership team and all of our team members on the floor. We had a lot of success and I loved working there. I loved working with my team and everything else, but at some point, again, I have a 22-year-old daughter from my first marriage and I missed a lot of her life. I traveled for business is very heavy, especially as you work your way to the executive ranks and especially when you’re in a global role. In January of this year, I was out with COVID and I was sitting in a room for 7 days by myself and probably had too much time to think. I just said, “You know what, maybe it’s time to make a change.” Right? I had a conversation with leadership and said, “Listen, guys, I really want to go focus on a better work-life balance and not so much that, but more being with my family because by the way, the work-life balance is self-imposed. It’s not because of any company you work for, it’s up to you how much you want to spend, right?
Todd: That very quickly in doing what I’m doing now. My kids are 5 and 7. They’re in kindergarten and first grade right now, so I want to be there to tuck them in as much as possible. We actually just got a new office about a mile away from our house now that we have a little lobby area set up. My, daughter got the design, how we’re going to do the layout.
Todd: It’s a family office, right? My wife’s a newborn maternity photographer, half of that’s her studio. The other half is my office and a conference room and stuff like that. To me, that’s the American dream. What could be better than that? As long as I could pay my bills, and I have that time with my family and our kids get to see us being entrepreneurs. How much better of an example could a father be from a work ethic perspective to show them that, “Hey, listen, me and your mother both went and started our own businesses.” My daughter was talking the other day about the aquarium. She said earlier, she said she wanted to work at an aquarium and then I think the other day she just told me, “Daddy, I really want to go start my own aquarium.” Right? That gets me like an old…
John: Chip off the old block. It’s funny you say that. You’re still very young, Todd and it’s great that you’ve come to realize it because most of us realize it when it’s too late. You don’t have a second chance at your children’s childhood, unfortunately. There are a lot of things in life where you get a second and third chance, but in your children’s childhood, once it goes, it goes. Once they’re five, they’re five, they’re not going to be five again. It’s great that you’re doing this now, so you could all be together and you and your wife get to be great examples to them. Talk about the white space that you saw, because as you said about 15 minutes ago, there was no Todd Zegers to lead the way for you back in all three. By the way, the funny part is what I’m seeing, once you decided to want your new business and announce it, is that there’s still really no Todd Zegers in our industry and now he is, she’s a big deal. Now, integrity is bigger than ever, which is part of your name, which I love, and circular to the linear economy is bigger than ever. Which again, is something why you put that in your brand name and sustainability is here to stay. There were no Todd Zegers and from where I sit, you are the only consultant really with your body of 20 years of experience stepping into this space. Talk about your vision for starting circular integrity and the space that you’re filling and the role that you want to play in the industry from year on out.
Todd: Yeah, I really think that there’s a lot more complexity that’s getting put into the ITAD space, right? 20 years ago, you could just back up a truck, takes people’s stuff away, maybe you give them or receive your certificate and they’re okay. The guy down the food took it. “Yeah, he gave me a certificate,” but he doesn’t know if the person has insurance and what they’re doing back in their operations and that kind of stuff, right?
Todd: Think of caveman style, 10 or 20 years ago versus where it is today and versus where it’s going to be even 10 years from now, right? You talk about ESG and circularity and again, back in 2008 and 2009, the company we started in 2003 was called CARD, which is Computer Asset Remarketing and Disposal. We rebranded 2007 the Green Asset Disposal because there was a massive wave around being green. We wanted to take advantage of that and it was also the day where whatever you do as your company, you make that your name.com, right?
Todd: Obviously, when the economy changed and commodity markets went down and just general, the financial times were tough, right? Green wasn’t quite as cool. Now, what I would tell you is that may be a similar scenario or dynamic we’re going to live through in today’s day and age, but I think the ESG framework is going to change that. The reason I say that is having worked at a big company, seeing the efforts that they put in to make sure ESG is front and center, was very prevalent and our daily lives there. But I also see where, a couple of years back, you can do a quarterly business review with a client on your ITAD services, maybe the last slide or somewhere there you have an environmental slide and it’s nice to have and they pass it along and then nothing happens. In today’s day and age, I’ve just got done interviewed about 20 CEOs over the last couple of weeks. Customers are proactively coming to them asking them for that ESG data, right? It’s no longer just a nice to have, it’s a requirement.
Todd: The real need there going into your white space common is there are a million different environmental calculators out there, right? That are taking inputs and giving out data. Some of them have been looked at by MIT or ASU or you name it, the entity out there. But there’s not really one guiding light and North Star for that. I’d like to figure out how I can help drive that, whether it’s my own or whether I help collaborate and bring people together to make that happen. An environmental calculator is absolutely critical. But taking that a step further, how do you create some ESG calculator where you’ve got the environmental piece, you’ve got a social mechanism built in there, and obviously as well as the government that is blessed and tried and tested by industry experts and people who have the authority to say “Yes, I believe in the data that’s coming out of that.” Because now, you talk about a powerful tool for a recycle, for E-waste recycling, and ITAD company. Not only to give back to their clients but to do for themselves. Because you got to remember, if large companies, the Fortune 1000 are embedding ESG in the framework of their organization, the DNA when they start doing business with either other companies of their size, medium companies, and even small companies, they’re going to start requiring that just like supplier diversity and another thing. I think ESG is here to stay and going to your white space common, it’s still white space. I’ve spent the last few weeks spending a lot of time diving into ESG and I thought I knew a little bit. I know nothing, right?
Todd: I know a decent amount, but the amount of opportunity to learn out there is incredible. I love learning so it’s been a really cool experience so far. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up a year from now. I’m trying to navigate those waters. But something tells me it’s going to be something very close in the ESG sector as it relates to the reverse and ITAD industries.
John: Todd, correct me if I’m wrong, but from where I sit, there is no other consultant in our industry with 20 years of experience as you have on all sides of it. Reverse logistics, resale, and remarketing, the sales side, the sales cycle side of it, the tracking side of it, and the technology side of it. There is no Todd Zegers or for anyone to coach young entrepreneurs who want to get into this industry. There’s plenty of room for young entrepreneurs who are listening or dreaming about being an entrepreneur and wanting to make the world a better place to get in this industry. Plus there’s very little connectivity along, as you say, all the various CEOs out there and a common understanding of what ESG really means to all of us to go forward. There’s lots of white space in your new role in this industry.
Todd: Yeah, I totally agree. My years of global experience, right? I’ve racked up miles much like you probably have over many years, but I spent the last couple of years in the mobility space as well. You pretty much named the widget and I’ve done a piece of it somewhere.
John: In terms of Circular Integrity, when you started it, who were you hoping for and who has already, if you’re allowed to talk about it, become some of your clients or what is the client base you’re looking for? Is it to coach the young entrepreneur that wants to get in the industry? Is it to coach and better some of the larger players in the industry? Is it to coach some of the NGOs who need some help on what the commercial enterprises are doing and how they can better interconnect with the commercial enterprises? Where are you most excited to fit in and become a leader?
Todd: I think where I can add the most value if I’m honest with you, is helping out with private equity firms or strategic players looking, to move into the space, right? Again, you and I saw what happened with Arrow. They bought 14 companies in a very short period of time together.
Todd: Went ended well for Arrow, right? I’ve seen them and I’ve seen others make mistakes of doing acquisitions of not really understanding what it takes to run an ITAD organization and all the complexities that really come with it. People underestimate how complex of a service ITAD really is, right? The challenge is it’s typically a low top-line revenue business that typically has higher margins, right? That’s what’s attractive and why people want to get in the space. But the top line’s fairly low. The people come in wanting to make turn this 50 million ITAD into 2 billion in 5 years. I want to be the one that tells me, “Listen, I love your ambition, but in trying to do that, you have to buy up almost every single ITAD, E-waste company in the United States to try to get there because you don’t understand the financial dynamics because by the way, a lot of times this product comes out of an installment somewhere. It goes to an ITAD maybe it makes its way to a specialist and then down to an E-waste company. A lot of times this revenue size, everybody tries to project in the market space is double and triple counted. Having that type of insight to share with companies who are looking to spend a lot of money on a very big investment and give them some of the catches in there that they need to be careful of, right? Looking at people’s balance sheets, looking at their income statements and looking at their operations and understanding in what they’re telling you that yes, this is legitimate, or “Hey, listen, you may want to dive into this a little bit further because I don’t believe in that. It’s just not possible.” Because I’ve seen everybody else’s financials and all that’s been support, that’s where make the most value in the spaces and in that…
John: Right. Talk about the differentials of being an entrepreneur in 2003 and 20 years later. Basically, being an entrepreneur again, obviously. It’s always exciting. It’s always a little bit scary, but it’s always fascinating and exciting beyond that. Now, you’re a seasoned vet, like you said earlier, you know how to set up the LLC, you know how to get the website going, and you know how to get all the technical things happening. How is the scaling of it and landing always the first client and then the add-on client and then making it what you want it to be? Because this is really, you get the craft that you really want here. This is your baby and you have no partners here. How’s that going so far?
Todd: It’s going great. Obviously, after leaving my prior company there are certain things I can do and certain things I can’t do. I always have to make sure I respect that first and foremost.
Todd: I mention never starting an iTech company myself again.
Todd: I don’t want to be married to it. I want to work the hours I work and be with my family as I said.
Todd: The biggest difference to me is 20 years ago I was 28 then, right? The young buck, tons of energy, but I didn’t have a very large partner and business network, right? I was a sale guy. I was selling whatever products that Insight had available to sell and some services. After 20 years of being in this space, again, globally touching enterprise hardware, touching distributed assets, touching mobile phones, locations all around the world, and dealing with different types of software, right? The partnerships and relationships you build, especially over the course of 20 years, it priceless, right? I think your personal capital and IP that you retain by being a good guy and doing the right thing and never taking the quick and easy way. You take the right path over the course of time that all adds up. When I decided to leave and when I left Ingram Micro, I started making phone calls to people and I’ll say, “Look, listen, this is what I’m looking to do, do you have any projects? Do you have any of this? Do you have any of that I could help out with?” People are like, “When can you start?” Right? The challenge I have now is saying no to things that may not be the best fit for me at the time, or not the best use of my time but you are also involved with that. I’ve had a bazillion phone calls with all these people that I know, which has been fantastic, but at some point my time is now literally my money as a consultant, right? You, I’m not selling a product through service anymore. The time I spent on a phone call is where I make my money. You have to be careful not to just waste a lot of time with people that are just calling you to say “Hi, and that’s fine, let’s talk after hours.” But when it comes to my business like you have to take that seriously. That’s one of the challenges I’ve had so far is cause I love to talk to everybody I want to learn, but I wouldn’t always say it’s good money after a bad or wasted time because with every conversation you learn something, right?
Todd: Pick up something here, pick up something here, pick up something here.
Todd: I can put these three things together and make a product or an offering that I can take to the market. I’m still trying to figure out who I want to be when I grow up, right? Again, John, the amount of opportunity in this space right now through every facet is just, it’s unbelievable. I think maybe it’s always been there, but now that I’m outside of working for a competitor, perceived competitor.
Todd: It’s available to me, but I don’t think there’s ever been as much opportunity in this space as there is right now.
John: I agree with you and I still feel like at ERI, we’re at the top of the second inning, and when the statistics show Todd, that only 17%, this is the UN number, UN numbers back from 2017, that only 17% of all electronic waste is being responsibly recycled either on destruction or an ITAD basis when it comes to its end of life or flows to its end of life. The numbers are anecdotally even less in the United States, but 17% is a worldwide number, which is an 83% delta for all the young entrepreneurs out there and all the seasoned veterans to go capture still. That’s still an industry in its nascent stage. You get to be a 20-year veteran that gets to become a leadership coach and a mentor and a hired assassin. But all those great things, for private equity firms, NGOs, large corporations, small entities that want to grow and you know like I said, I know, you know the reversal logistics side of it, the remarketing side of it, the sales cycle side of it, the technology and the importance of as you said earlier, the leveraging technology for radical transparency, which is in a high demand today. It must be exciting. You’re a month or so into this now, are you busier or less busy than you thought you’d be one month into this?
John: Busier. Good problem. That’s a good problem.
Todd: Yeah. Again, some of its white noise is busy. I got to start getting better at managing my a little bit better…
John: Yeah, but that’s everyone’s challenge. I think Todd, that’s a challenge that we all have with all the distractions in this world, including technology. That technology, the curse and the blessing of technology are text messages, emails, and phone calls, that’s just from phone technology. Imagine then family and friends and all, and you have young children and you have a wife and both of you are entrepreneurs. Your prioritization is constantly as an entrepreneur and as a family man constantly shifting every day based upon the wants and needs of those that you love. Ability also to bring in, and put the dinner on the table, so to speak.
John: Yeah. That’s the fun of being the entrepreneur and also the CEO and your own boss so good for you. What do you see, Todd? Is this what’s like when you go to bed at night? Circular Integrity, for those listeners and viewers that just join us, we got Todd Zegers, the President, CEO, and founder of Circular Integrity to find Todd in his important work in the ITAD space, go to www.circularintegrity.com. It’s ITAD ESG circular economy, making the world a better place space. When you go to bed at night, do you dream that 5 years from now you’ll have 30 consultants underneath you and you’ll be consulting on a worldwide basis, or do you just want to limit it to 5 or 10 people, or do you want to limit it to just yourself and 2 or 3 people? What’s your dream on this venture?
Todd: That is a fantastic question that I’ve constantly go back and forth on because there’s a side of me that just wants to just do a couple of good clients and just live a quality lifestyle and just get by. But there’s the entrepreneur in the hunger in my belly that he’s an opportunity to really create something big and something special and something different than faith, right? That’s a million-dollar question, but I could tell you had a conversation with my ongoing business mentor. One of the guys that Mike Warren who’s on my advisory board, and he told me, he is like, “Stop, stop trying to build something that you’re going to take out and sell. Stop trying to build something that you’re going to be the king of the empire in 5 years. Enjoy your life. Do some consulting work with some people you like. Don’t think of this as where there’s an end game.” He’s like, “I’m planning on doing this till I’m in my 70s or my 80s. Right? If you start making it a true part of your life and doing it because you genuinely love doing it, that’s the way to go and if something happens along the way and it turns out and it takes off or whatever else, so be it.” But that was probably the best piece of advice. He’s given me a lot of good advice, but that was a really good piece of advice and it really helped me calm down and not want to go take the hill and just go conquer the world and go build everything big. I think one of the things I really want to try to do, John, that attach is nice to that is, there’s only one of me. How do I commoditize myself or build some subscription model or membership model where some of my IP or my experience can be sent out through a client portal or a log or people have access to that IP or take some of the key things that I’ve learned and put them into practice to where they’re accessible and I don’t have to be on a phone 24/7 to try to monetize that and make a living off of it, right? I think that’s something I would look to do. But building that type of thing, that’s not something where my strengths, so I have to build a team to come on to help me build some of these things. I definitely think over time I’ll bring on people to help me with the venture. Right now, I’m just trying to make sure that I live up to my commitments to my family that I took on this job to go be more with them and be at my son’s t-ball game like I was yesterday. Be able to take vacations with them, like we’re going on spring break next week versus doing phone calls while I’m on vacation.
John: That’s so great. What’s the goal just for this year? What do you want to do in terms of how many clients you want to land just your first year or your first six months and how’s that going? How’s that journey going?
Todd: Well, I’ve got five clients already.
Todd: I’m probably going to take on maybe one or two more, and that’s probably going to be about it.
John: Good things.
Todd: The last thing I want to do is take on a bunch of clients to take on clients and I don’t deliver any value back, right?
John: Right. Got it.
Todd: I got to be very careful not to get my deer in the headlights and see off all these opportunities because as a sales guy, it’s really hard to say no.
Todd: I’m used to chasing and pursuing people. Having someone come to me and ask me if they can hire me and pay me, is a hard thing to say no to. But I’m learning how to do it. Again, I’m picking my battles and what I’ll start trying to do at some point is say, “Listen, I may not be the right guy, but the one thing I can also tell you is over the last couple of weeks I’ve started to meet a lot of other consultants in the space. I learn what their backgrounds are, and what they’re good at. If I do have someone that comes to me and says, “Hey, listen, I need help with GPS tracking, barcode RFIDs.” or whatever that may be, “Hey, listen, that’s not my jam, but I know this guy over here that comes from that space, he’s a perfect person to go talk to.” I’ll refer that out because it’s a small industry. Everybody knows everybody for the most part. If I can share some love if you guys over here, over there who is the better fit? First of all, they may see an opportunity down the road when maybe my pipeline is drying up, that can feed some business back to me. It’s really building a community, right? Within the industry.
John: You’ve proven it over and over again, throughout your life. You’re not afraid to partner because you really, always have the openness that it’s not a zero-sum game. There’s no competition in making the world a better place. There’s plenty of room for all of us and you’ve shown it works what you did with Ken, what you did with Ingram, over and over again. You’ve shown that partnering when there’s a logical path forward just benefits everybody along the way. Well, it’s so exciting to have you, with your new venture, circular integrity, Todd, and to have you on the Impact podcast. I want you to come back in the future and share your entrepreneurial journey and how it’s going to see so many young people out there that look up to the Todd Zegers of the world and want to follow it, but I want to understand there’s no straight line and there’s no putting it down on paper at a dining room table or a kitchen table thinking it’s going to follow some perfect line but entrepreneurship is a true journey. For those listeners and viewers that want to find Todd and want to learn more about all of his great services in ESG, circular economy, radical transparency, integrity, which is critical to our industry, and also E-waste or ITAD reversal logistics, go to www.circularintegrity.com. I’m on your website now. It’s a great website is an email portal audit to email Todd. There’s a phone number where you could call him direct. Todd Zegers, you’re my good friend. I wish you all the best of luck and continued success. I hope this venture turns out to be your biggest one ever and I can’t wait to have you back on the Impact Podcast.
Todd: Awesome, John. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the time. It’s good to see you, my friend.
John: Good to see you, always. This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com. This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry with thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent, speeches, custom experiences, live streams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit letsengage.com.