Episode 103: Why you should get out of your comfort zone – with Michael Fritzius of Arch DevOps

Michael Fritzius of DevOps explains how getting out of his comfort zone enabled him to start his own business and how he balances multiple projects simultaneously.

Today’s guest

Michael Fritzius of Arch DevOps

Website: Arch DevOps

Instagram: @archdevops

Youtube: Arch DevOps

Twitter: @archdevops

LinkedIn: Arch DevOps, LLC

Email: fritz@archdevops.com

Michael Fritzius, or “Fritz” as he’s known by, has been in the technology sector for almost 20 years.  But he didn’t start out planning to be a business owner.  It’s been a series of changes that make a career look more like a “careen” than anything.  These days, he balances being the CTO of Arch DevOps with also creating online courses, writing a book, doing sales and marketing, and running a new business with his wife, Charlotte.  Is it hard?  Yes.  Is he what he wanted to be when he grew up?  No.  But is he loving it?  Absolutely.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [01:29] Michael introduces Arch DevOps and explains what they do.
  • [03:06] Michael talks about how he got involved in technology.
  • [04:33] Michael explains his career background.
  • [06:27] Why Michael wanted to get out of his comfort zone.
  • [08:28] Why you should get out of your comfort zone.
  • [10:48] Michael explains why he started thinking about being a business owner.
  • [15:14] Michael talks about how being laid off prompted him to start his business.
  • [21:45] The differences between contracting and working for yourself.
  • [24:49] Where Michael sourced information and advice when starting his own business.
  • [26:43] Thinking about scaling within your own business.
  • [28:24] Why you need adaptability when you have your own business.
  • [32:06] Michael explains scaling up in his own business model.
  • [34:10] How Michael’s focuses within his business have developed and evolved.
  • [36:20] Michael explains his podcasts and the topics they focus on.
  • [39:50] Michael explains the five-year plan in relation to his business.
  • [41:54] How to work effectively on multiple projects at once.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 103: Why you should get out of your comfort zone - with Michael Fritzius of Arch DevOps

Jeremy Cline 0:00
How often do you break out your own comfort zone? Do you prefer to keep doing what's familiar to you, what you're good at, what you're comfortable doing? Or do you force yourself to step outside your comfort zone from time to time? Try something new, try something scary, see it as a development opportunity for you. That's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:37
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. In the past, we've talked about how you can plan out your career by figuring out where you want to get to and then identifying the steps you need to take to getting there. But sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. You get side-tracked, opportunities come up and it can feel like maybe you're along for the ride without necessarily being the driver. Is that a bad thing? It certainly doesn't have to be. And that's been the experience of my guest this week. Michael Fritzius is the Chief Technology Officer of Arch DevOps, a website and software consultancy. He's also a podcaster, author and course creator. Fritz, welcome to Change Work Life.

Michael Fritzius 1:17
Thanks for having me, sir. Good to be here.

Jeremy Cline 1:19
So, can you start by expanding on some of the things that you've got going on at the moment, the business, the podcast, books and so on?

Michael Fritzius 1:25
Sure thing. So, you know, at its core Arch DevOps is, you know, we're not trying to be all things to all people, but we're trying to help as many people as we can. Mainly, we help businesses grow and scale, so any kind of obstacle that's keeping them from doing that we'll have conversations with folks and understand, okay, what's getting in the way, and then present exactly what it is that can help them. And over the past few months, I've gotten into creating really small courses, like maybe an hour's worth of content, and put them up on Udemy. And there's one about getting into automation, there's another one about how to build a podcast, that was a fairly popular topic. And then also, I recently finished up a book about how to work on a company's culture to bring about the changes that normally they'd say, "Hey, we've got to automate all of our stuff." And it's like, well, before you do that, why isn't that just naturally happening? You know, there's maybe some kind of a cultural block here. So, let's take a step back to make sure we know what we're doing here, and then push forward once we determine, yeah, our culture is ready to rock. So, I just finished that up, I want to say about two weeks ago, and it's up on the website. I'm sure we'll talk a little bit more about that after a while. But yeah, there's a bunch of stuff, I didn't realise like running a business would be so active, you know.

Jeremy Cline 3:01
So, your background's in technology, how did you get into technology in the first place? What was your route into that?

Michael Fritzius 3:07
Oh, my dad was a huge nerd. He used to work at Wang Laboratories years ago. Over here in the US, that was a fairly at the time well-known computer company, they got into personal computers, they were in the business computer space, IBM was a big competitor of theirs. And he just constantly worked on hardware, software, and, you know, I'm his son, so I mean, that's what I knew, you know, and I got into technology and computers, took kind of a different route, I got more into computer science and computer programming, software development, that type of thing. And just sort of kept rubbing elbows with different people and creatives and writers and, you know, huge nerds like myself, but kind of mixing other disciplines in, and now here I am today. Kind of a weird type of person. You know, I'm not just a straight software developer. It's like, "Wow, you can write code and you know how to talk to people? Like whoa, what a rare combination." Like I know, right? It's kind of, it's weird for me to, you know. I used to be a really shy kid growing up, and you'd never know what to look at me. Now, I'm like a huge, I guess I was like a closeted extrovert, I just didn't realise it. Like, is that a thing?

Jeremy Cline 4:24
But if it's not, I think we've just discovered it. So, what did your initial role look like? So, when you first started to work, what sort of things were you doing?

Michael Fritzius 4:33
Oh, a lot of deep software development stuff. So, my first actual job outside of uni was like an embedded software developer. So, you know, you break open any electronic device, you've got the big green board with all the parts on it, and you've got the big black chips on there. Well, I would programme those big black chips. And you had to really get in the weeds, like there were some things that, each microchip is different, they would have a different instruction set, they'd have different features, like this one's got this feature, but this one doesn't, you have to figure out how to simulate that on a lower quality chip or whatever. But that's how I got my start, was programming in a language that is not widely used by a lot of companies. Now it's called C. It was like pretty foundational for a lot of other languages that we have today. But this is like bare metal, it's almost like working on a car by sticking your arms in the engine block and getting all greasy. And it's just, it's messy, you know, it is dangerous. You can get away with a lot of stuff there, but you can get yourself in a lot of trouble too with that language. And yeah, from there, I mean, I got into the financial sector, I got into software testing, I got into automation and just it's been kind of a steadily, I wouldn't call it so much of a career as it is a careen. It's just kind of you know, bonking around and hey, let's see where life takes me, you know. But yeah, that's where I got my start, was doing that real low-level stuff. And it was just me and the boss. It was a really small company at the time, two people. Oh, scary thinking back about that, man.

Jeremy Cline 6:14
You say careen, I mean, there must have been, when an opportunity came along, there must have been something that made you think, "Oh, yeah, that's worth pursuing", or "No, that's not for me at the moment." What sort of stuff would be going through your head at the time?

Michael Fritzius 6:27
I think the stuff that went through my head the most was, like how different is this new thing compared to what I'm doing now. You know, and if it was almost identical, like oh, hey, here's another job, which is almost identical to what you're doing, but with more money. Like a lot of people would say, "All right, sign me up, because I don't have to get out of my comfort zone." I'm like, eh, I kind of want to get out of my comfort zone. It's almost like if it was less than 40% new stuff, I wouldn't be interested. So, the change from that first job where it was me and the boss and a dog, we had a dog, where it was that, to something different. It's like, okay, it's a different sector, it's a bigger company, it's what most people would think of as a start-up, it's like less than 50 employees. It's a real like high-strung environment, there were NERF darts flying all over the place, the environment was just totally different, I was learning a lot of stuff, it'd be testing. And I said, "I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that." Because it's time, it's time for me to go, I needed to go. And we were growing a family, and we needed the extra, we needed the benefits, the money. But jobs after that would be like, hey, this is a full-time job. Now, here's another opportunity. Same sector, it's still financial, but it's different. But it's a contracting role. So, no insurance, no benefits. It's just all hourly and it's contracting, it's scary, you got to perform, like pow! And that alone was like, okay, I'm going to do it. It was wildly different from before. So, it's always been like, whatever gets me out of my comfort zone the most while still using a lot of what I've learned before, that's what would make me go that direction.

Jeremy Cline 8:16
At the risk of asking you to psychoanalyse yourself, why go for, or why not go for the path of least resistance? Why always push yourself to go out of your own comfort zone?

Michael Fritzius 8:29
That's a good question. I'm pausing because I have an answer right away, I just don't want to, blam, throw it out there and seem like a know-it-all, right? But I mean, I've asked myself that question quite a bit. And I think it's because I've had times in my life where I felt like, oh, I've mastered this job, or I've mastered this role, I've learned everything there is, I'm at the top of my game. And it's almost like I can feel myself getting mentally fat, like out of shape, you know. And I found over the years that constantly putting myself in situations where I'm out of my comfort zone, it's like I learn stuff faster. And then, my mind will take ideas that are seemingly unrelated and smash them together into something, and then now, I've got an ability to solve a problem in a niche that not many, if any people understand, like how to fix stuff there. So, really, I mean, I could go that direction, I could just take the path of least resistance, but I don't feel like I'd be getting as good of a mental workout, if that makes sense. I'm kind of mixing analogies and metaphors here, you know, what for am I talking about cars and exercise and that, and it's like, I just can't see myself doing that because I feel like I wouldn't be doing myself a good service. Like I'm just wired differently.

Jeremy Cline 9:57
I think that makes a lot of sense. And I think it's something that probably more people could be aware of, it's probably a combination of liking the familiarity and perhaps being fearful of change. And I think in your case, you've managed not to let the fear of change hold you back from doing it. And actually, having gone through these different changes is ultimately been good, as you said, it means that you've learned stuff more quickly, it means that you don't become mentally fat, as you describe it. So, I think this is actually a really valuable lesson that a lot of people might want to think about.

Michael Fritzius 10:39
Yeah, I hope so.

Jeremy Cline 10:41
When did you first start to think about business ownership, so having your own business rather than being an employee?

Michael Fritzius 10:49
Probably partway through that contracting job that I mentioned. So, it was probably about six months into it, because it was about a yearlong contract that I was there for. And I built some amazing rapport with my boss. He really liked my work. There was some things that I did that he was like, "Whoa, I can't believe that you pulled that off." New best friend, right? And I have just been thinking, I'm like, well, how hard can it be to find clients and stuff, right? Like, it's happened all the time for me so far. But I think that's when it first started creeping its way into my mind of that being a possibility. And it took a little while for it to really germinate. And my wife and I were catching up with a friend recently, a couple weekends ago, and I've forgotten this, but she was not on board at first, she was not on board with me starting a business at first. She was like, "That's not, that sounds really, really scary." So, it took probably a couple of years for it to finally, like hey, let's do this. But it's a unified decision. Right? Like I can't just jump out there and be like, "I'm doing this so catch up." You know, I've got to go at a comfortable pace for my family. But yeah, it was in the middle of that third job. That's when it first started peeking, started peeking in there.

Jeremy Cline 12:24
So, you mentioned that that job was a contracting role. So, was the business that you were envisaging kind of like doing contracting, but making that your business, so effectively, selling your services as a freelancer, or were you envisaging something a bit more than that?

Michael Fritzius 12:41
It was the freelancer part, yeah. So, I thought, you know, as long as I can keep chaining together contracts like what I was doing, where I was coming in, working full time, and then when things start ramping down, then it's time for me to start looking for additional work and just, you know, keep cascading it like that. And it hadn't really occurred to me until later that I should try to get more work than what I could actually do, and then hire people and actually become an employer. And that was a really weird mind shift for me, it was an incredible growing experience. But that wasn't the first thing I thought, was how do I build a business that can scale and can flex and grow? Like, I'm not, you know, my dad was never a business owner, so I didn't learn like entrepreneurial stuff until much, much later in my career. So, kind of flying by the seat of my pants, right? It's a careen. But yeah, when it first started out, it was just me, a man with a plan and a dream.

Jeremy Cline 13:46
What was it that appealed to you about having this consulting freelancing gig, rather than going back to a more stable employment situation?

Michael Fritzius 13:56
I think it was a mix of freedom and also, continuing to get out of my comfort zone. You know, this was another degree of separation from that comfort, you know. Kind of going back to the mentally fat thing, right? Like I wanted to avoid that as much as I could. And this was a way for me to keep, I guess, insulating myself from that. But those two things together were what was so alluring to me, is just the freedom and the discomfort both together.

Jeremy Cline 14:34
How long from having the thought to do this to actually doing it did it actually take? As you said, it was about six months into this role, but it took a little while for your wife to get on board. So, how long did it take before you set up your own freelancing consulting business?

Michael Fritzius 14:51
About two years. About two years and I had something that happened. I can tell you why it all of a sudden just, boom, happened. I don't know, was that the next question on the list? Like, what was it that made you do that?

Jeremy Cline 15:05
Well, I mean, the next question was, so what did you do in the intervening period? And then what changed? What actually made it happen?

Michael Fritzius 15:14
Yeah, well, I had finished out that one contract, it was about a year. And they were like, 'Well, would you like to convert?' And I'm like, I' mean, I might, but I was looking for...' Like, if I were going to convert, I was like, I really want to have more leadership, like, I want to take on a lead role doing what I'm doing. That wasn't available. And the price also was like, I'm not feeling it, the price is not high enough. So, I went ahead and said, 'Alright, well, I've got something else coming on', to make sure to leave them in a good spot. The next contract that I had was with a great big company. And it was in the telecom industry, and I was there for about a year and a half. And unfortunately, what happened was they were struggling near the end of that year and a half. And they said, 'Well, it's nothing personal, but we're going to have to let you go.' Because I was a contractor and contractors are often the first ones to get let go in that situation. They were really gracious. They didn't like hand me a box and 'See you', you know, they gave me like a month's notice. They really, they liked me. You know, they weren't, they didn't do the thing where they like escort you out the door, and you know, there's a security guard with a gun, that's like, they liked me, right? So, funny enough, what had happened was I gotten some good advice from a close friend who's in the recruitment industry. And she's like, 'Fritz, you ought to start an LLC." She's like, 'It's a really good thing to have on your resume, even if it doesn't materialise, just the fact that you have that, that you own a business per se, is really good. And you can spin it up, make it as big as you can, if you want to.' And I had gotten on the government website, the Secretary of State website here, and put in all the information. And all I had to do was click the button, and I would become a business. But then I was like, 'Oh, my goodness, what if I didn't do it right? What if I forgot something? Is the government going to come and like steal our house or whatever?' It's worry and fear, right? But the day that they told me, 'We're going to have to let you go', I went home and went ding, and I clicked the button. And I became a business. And it was a weird feeling, man. Like, I told my wife, I text her, I'm like, 'Oh, hey, by the way, my bosses want to talk to me in a little bit here. So, I'll call you after a while.' And when I called her and told her what he had said, she's like, 'Something told me that that's what that conversation was going to be about. I just kind of knew that they were going to be letting you go. I don't know why. But I just kind of knew.' But that's really what kicked things off, was I got that push. I got pushed into discomfort instead of choosing it for once. So, it was weird, man. I mean, it was only like six years ago, but it seems like a lifetime ago that that happened. You know?

Jeremy Cline 18:21
So, after you found out that you're going to be laid off and you have the conversation with your wife and so, you've set up the LLC, it sounds like it's just to be there. I mean, it might be a dormant nothing, or it could be something, is that right? That was kind of your thinking when you set it up. So, what was your wife saying to at that point, having been not overly keen on the idea of you going the freelance route? What do you think changed her mind at that point?

Michael Fritzius 18:51
Well, I mean, by that time, she was okay with it. I mean, it took a little while, because, you know, her upbringing was more like stable, oriented. And up until that time, our marriage was like that, right? It's like, hey, we're going to go for stability, we're still going to take some risk, but it's going to be calculated risk. Like, hey, this looks like an opportunity over here, let's go that direction. But by the time that happened, she was okay with it. And actually, funny enough, I had already started calling around before I got told that I was going to be let go. And I started asking some people, 'I'm thinking about doing this. I'm thinking about doing, starting up this company that does software test automation. And do you think that this is a good thing to go do?' And I think it was like my first or second call. I called an old manager from that place, he had left like months before, and I called him up and I said, 'Hey, I just want to let you know I'm thinking about starting up this business.' And he's like, 'You should do it.' And he's like, 'We need that help. And actually, we probably would be your first client.' I'm like, 'What!?' So, I totally like lucked out on that. So, I think that might have been one of the things that she was like, 'Hey, this might have some legs on it. I mean, if you're going to do this, and you've already got a client lined up, like, wow, right?' So, I think that kind of helped sweeten the pot just a little bit, just a little bit.

Jeremy Cline 20:26
It's funny, you describe that as luck. And yet, I've had so many previous guests describe similar things happening, where they're thinking about starting a business, or they're in a redundancy situation, and they start getting in touch with former colleagues and talking about it. And there's a former colleague who says, 'Oh, really? Well, guess what? You can come and help us.' So, there's definitely a lot in this, I mean it comes under the heading of networking, I guess, but just staying in touch with people, making sure that people have a good impression of you, so that when you do reach out to them, and you know, you don't come straight out of the blue going, 'Hey, can you give me a job?', that you know, they're thinking favourably of you, and you know, you kind of lay the ground for these sorts of opportunities.

Michael Fritzius 21:14
Very true. Very true. It's funny how that works, isn't it?

Jeremy Cline 21:19
It's remarkable how often this has come up actually. What was the day-to-day difference like between operating as an LLC and operating as a contractor? Were they very different? Or could you tell that there really was a big difference between going into these companies as yourself as a contractor versus going in as an LLC, as you're in business?

Michael Fritzius 21:46
Right. Well, the biggest difference was for this first contract, it was all me, I wasn't going in through any kind of recruitment firm, I didn't have anybody else that was kind of helping warm up the client, you know, like the clients coming to them and saying, 'Hey, we really need some help with XYZ', and like the recruitment firm is asking a bunch of questions, and then they reach out to me, and it's like, wow, 90% of the work is already done, I just have to go and get it over the finish line. No, it was all me. And I had to have all those conversations and do the sales, right? Which I didn't realise at the time that it was sales, I just thought it was talking. And it's like no, I'm trying to convince them that they should let me help them. Right? That was totally different. Invoicing was a brand-new thing. I spent quite a while looking at samples of invoices that I had seen to make something in Excel that looked professional. I'm like, 'Oh, I've got to put a logo in there. I've got to put maybe a motto, like, you know, it's got to look just so, because I don't want them thinking I'm some kind of a dingus that doesn't know what the heck.' It's like, this is my first client. I spent a lot of time on that, right? And yeah, I mean, it was kind of weird. I mean, it was like, it was like doing a different kind of exercise, using muscle groups that you didn't really know you had. But it still was like, this is manageable, it's a little sore, but it's manageable. We'll make it. Yeah, I was like, I was in control of the entire process.

Jeremy Cline 23:23
Did you have to make this up as you go along, or did you have a playbook that you could kind of look up how to do all these things?

Michael Fritzius 23:30
No playbook, man, I was making it up. You know, a lot of it seemed to be, I don't want to say like it was posturing, but I had to have a level of confidence in myself to just push forward and do, and not second guess myself. And, you know, I didn't want to spend a bunch of time like, 'Whoa, what if I do this wrong? What if...?' It's like, just get it out there, and if it's wrong, if something's not signed properly or whatever, like they'll let you know, and then you can correct it. But yeah, I didn't have a playbook, I didn't have a business plan. Like I went about this the wrongest way possible. You know, I don't know if your other guests always had like, 'We got a business plan, we know exactly what we're doing, we talked with the bank, we got funding', and I'm just like, let's just start a business. Wee, right?

Jeremy Cline 24:24
I guess the reason I asked this because you're kind of not the first person to set up their own consultancy and started down this path. So, I just kind of wondered whether there were, you know, either other people that you could talk to or you know, blogs around setting up this kind of business that you might have taken advantage of, you know, whether there was some kind of, you know, existing knowledge out there that you could or wanted to tap into, or whether you just thought, 'I'll figure it out by myself.'

Michael Fritzius 24:50
I think it was more the ladder. I think it was more the ladder. And I mean, there were a few people that would offer some advice, constructive advice, the stuff that would support that decision was very few and far between. The people that most often offered advice were like, 'Ooh, that's a scary venture, like don't do that. Just get a job', you know. But yeah, I mean, at the time I hadn't, I still mainly network with people that were like me. Like, they would mostly be either technical recruiters, or they'd be in the software industry, developers, testers, automation people, that sort of thing. So, on LinkedIn, if you looked at my connections back then, it would be like, posting 1000 people and look at how technical they are. I mean, it was skewed, very nerdy. So, I didn't really have a lot of people I could talk to that were owners that had advice, that could mentor me, I didn't know anybody. Like, I wouldn't know how to even reach out to them. Like, wow, they're so busy, why would they want to talk to me, right? But I didn't have anybody like that in my network. I do now. But you know, back then, it was like flying by the seat of my pants. Man, that was a scary time, Jeremy, you're bringing back some like scary, scary, like, whoa, feelings. Like, I'd be freaking out if I was still operating that way.

Jeremy Cline 26:14
That's good to know, I mean, that's what I want to do, is get out of these interviews, you know, what you were feeling at the time just so other people realise, yeah, it is scary, but it's okay to feel scary. And it'll probably work out all right.

Michael Fritzius 26:26
It will. It will.

Jeremy Cline 26:27
You said how you hadn't initially thought about how this might scale. So, you were thinking really just in terms of you being the person who is going to go and do the work. Is that something that's since changed? Have you started thinking more about scaling?

Michael Fritzius 26:45
Absolutely, I have. There is a really good book that had a profound impact on me, which I'm sure we can talk about after a while. But it's definitely something I'm thinking about now. And I'm constantly coming up with ways to work on the business, not in the business. So, anytime there's something that it's like, oh, hey, I'm the only one that is able to do this, you know, years ago it would have been like, hey, job security, right? They need me. But it's like, now, it's like, that's a liability. What if I get hit by a bus? Like is that going to ruin the business? And I've got a business partner, is that going to affect him? Like, I try to find ways to make sure that I'm not the long pole in the tent. And, you know, back then, yeah, I was like the more hours I work and the higher I charge, more money I make. But now, it's like, hey, there's opportunities for me to find work for people. And I'm not going to be making as much per hour because it's not me doing it, but they can make some money, I can make some money, and the more contracts we pull, the more that happens, you know, because I can have like 10 people out there working and making a little bit of money off of each one. So, yeah, it's definitely a significant change mentally, but is a welcome one. And it came right at the right time. Did I tell you how I got that forced onto me to? Like, I was going to keep doing things the old way, and then I had a situation where it was like, suddenly, I have to hire somebody. Did I ever tell you about that? Did I say that on the show?

Jeremy Cline 28:25
No, go ahead.

Michael Fritzius 28:25
I had one client, so this was like my second client that I had, no, third client that I had, where I decided, okay, I need to make sure I'm giving myself enough room, I can't have all my eggs in one basket, I have to have like, a max of 24 hours for this client, so that I can work at another client and diversify. And I had been working to find some additional leads. This contract that I was on was about halfway done, it was a six-month contract. And I had not one, but two opportunities fall in my lap. And I'm like, okay, well, if I commit 24 hours per week at each one of these, I am going to go insane. I don't, I can't, I can't work that many hours in a week. I'm not going to work 72 hours. So, I had to hire somebody, I had to hire somebody. And instantly, you know, when I found somebody, and again, it was one of those like happenstance encounters, it was actually the same lady that told me to open the LLC. She knew somebody that was like, 'Hey, I think he's looking for work and he wants to do the kind of stuff like what you're doing.' And I ended up talking with them. And I'm like, 'I really liked you, man.' I said, 'I want to see what I can do to bring you on.' So, I brought him on, and I closed both contracts. And so, part of my time was spent working on doing the client work for these clients as much as I could, but also training him and trying to turn him into a protege, so it was like, that's even more uncomfortable, right? Because part of me is like, 'You're giving him the secret sauce', and the other part is like, 'Yeah, but you can't work 72 hours per week either, Fritz, so you've got to do something.' And it just created incredible loyalty. He's like, 'Man, I love doing this kind of stuff. I love my job', he says. I'm like, 'I'm glad that you can say that, that you feel comfortable saying that.' But yeah, I mean, that was just, it kind of forced me into that situation. I never thought I'd be a manager. I never thought I'd be anybody's boss. You know, like, being responsible for somebody else's wellbeing, it's like, 'Whoa!', you know?

Jeremy Cline 28:57
And is he still an employee? Or is this the business partner that you were talking about?

Michael Fritzius 30:41
Well, he's not an employee anymore. We actually had a downturn a while back with, you know, stuff leading up to COVID, and then COVID itself, we ended up, at one point, I had two employees and an intern, and I had to let people go, because folks just weren't buying. They just weren't buying, and I didn't pivot fast enough. Everybody is taken care of now, you know, they're all gainfully employed. They're actually working at places that, had they not been with me, they probably wouldn't have been qualified to work there. One's working in the financial sector, another one's working at the Federal Reserve. So, well, I think they're doing okay. I check in with them every once in a while. But yeah, I mean, I had to have a real hard talk with them and say, 'You know, it might just be, I mean, I know you want to work here for like 30 years, I'd love to have you on that long, but maybe my role in your life is to prepare you for something more.' And made me a little bit weepy, because I really wanted it to work. But life was different. But we all grew, we all learned some cool things about ourselves and each other, and we were prepared for the next step in life. So, no regrets. You live and learn.

Jeremy Cline 31:59
So, having scaled up a little bit, and then scaled down again, what are your thoughts now? What do you want to scale up to?

Michael Fritzius 32:09
We're already to a point where we are scaled up quite a bit. So, the business partner, Alex, that I mentioned before, so our model now is we're the only employees in the company, but when we take on projects, we have a pool of consultants, contractors, agencies, other companies that we turn to for specialised work. So, whereas before, when it was me, and it was two employees and an intern, now we have access to almost 1000 people. And we're really good at having the discovery call with a client and finding out exactly what challenge they're facing, and distilling it down to, okay, what specific skill sets do we need to solve this problem for this person, for this company. And then, lightning fast reach out to our network and say, 'Alright, who's available? If you're available, what would your rate be? Do you have a proposal? Like, if it's a big project, can we get an RFP here? Do you have something that you can send us, that we can send over to the client?' And we're able to close deals really quick, we had a really small project recently where it was like, it's a two-week project, so I mean, the decision cycle is a lot faster, but within a couple of days, we had an answer, and we were rocking and rolling. So, it's a lot of fun. And again, it's another example of, I never thought a business could be built with this model, but it's working. So, I guess we'll just keep going until the next cataclysmic, uncomfortable thing comes along, whatever that is. I haven't been able to guess so far, so I have no idea what's coming. I'm not even, we'll get there when we get there.

Jeremy Cline 33:56
What's your role in the business now then? It sounds like before you were kind of doing everything, are you now literally just having the initial call with the client and then putting the team together and then just kind of managing the relationship between the two?

Michael Fritzius 34:12
It's that, but it's also figuring out how to automate parts of the business process. So, you know, kind of going back to my roots, I'm still an automator at heart, you know. How do we build rapport with people at scale? You know, how do we keep in touch with folks and make sure that we're aware of what's going on in their situation? I mean, there's pieces of automation that we've made that helps with that. With a podcast...

Jeremy Cline 34:39
When you talk about automation, do you mean doing software automation, or do you mean sort of systems that like, standard operating procedures that humans still use? Or do you mean it's effectively automated in a sort of software computer, just right click here kind of thing?

Michael Fritzius 34:56
It'd be the software kind. The nerdy kind of automation. Yeah, so writing little pieces of software that take care of some aspects of the day-to-day or enable us to be able to scale our operations quite a bit. So, I mentioned, you know, we have access to about 1000 people, these people are folks that I'm in regular contact with, on a semi-monthly basis. So, at the very least, like I'm going to be reaching out to them every three to six months just to see how they're doing. If they're more frequent, like maybe if they're a podcast guest, it's maybe one to two months. If it's a lead, it's going to be like once a week. So, that kind of thing. It's pieces of automation that help with that. And then, the podcasting, you mentioned before, podcast host also, there's a lot that is done there, where, you know, I'm able to break the ice, learn about people and find out about what they've got going on. And you know, sometimes it results in some leads. And it's pretty cool. So, yeah, a big part of what I do is maintaining relationships, but doing so in a way that can be done at scale, because I can't spend 100 hours a day doing it, right? I've got to find ways to be efficient.

Jeremy Cline 36:15
So, can you talk a bit more about the podcasting? I think you told me that you have four podcasts, something like that?

Michael Fritzius 36:22
Yeah, right now, it's four. I found over the years too that I'm not a person that does anything in moderation. Like, I'll just go hard and be like, 'Whoops, I've overcommitted, and I got to figure things out.' But yeah, I've got four podcasts. I've got the one that I know I had you on a while back. It's a podcast about podcasting. So, I get on with fellow hosts and talk with them. I've got another one that's focused on marketing, and one that's focused on entrepreneurship. And then, the last one is really focused on all things having to do with the human mind, like mental health and self-awareness, meditation. There's all kinds of stuff, I've had people come on and talk about cannabis, I've had people come on to talk about mushrooms, I've had, you know, I've got somebody that's coming up soon, that's going to be talking about light healing energy. And I'm like, 'Hey, there's some cool stuff.' But there's a lot of cool topics to cover in all these different podcasts. And you learn a lot about a person when you've had them on like two or three different shows. It's really cool.

Jeremy Cline 37:25
Where do the podcasts fit in with the business, or do they fit in with the business? And what's the motivation for running this business and running four podcasts as well?

Michael Fritzius 37:36
I mean, there's overlap with just meeting people and being open to, you know, where the next opportunity is going to be. And I just like talking with people, you know, I like to keep practising the art of human-to-human communication. And those podcasts have been an amazing practice ground for me. I didn't realise it at the time, I started up the first podcast with an eye toward, I got some ideas in my head, and I got to get them out, and the world needs to hear it, and eventually, I started having guests on and started hearing what they had to say. And I'm like, 'This is really enriching, like, it's helping me and it's giving them a platform.' So, you know, to kind of bring it around full circle, the reason why I do it, and how it sometimes overlaps with a business is, it's all about staying top of mind. You know, like, you were on my podcast, and now I'm on your podcast. I'm pretty sure we're going to remember each other for a while, you know, and that's coveted real estate. When it comes to, right, the people that are top of mind are the ones that get the yeses most often. And it could be, yeah, maybe there's a problem that we can solve, and it comes up in casual conversation, that's great. But also, it could be that they know people. And since I was just talking with them recently, they're probably going to think, 'Oh, I was just talking with a guy recently who does automation stuff. And, you know, I should get the two of you introduced.' It's like, that's awesome. I mean, my network has just exponentially grown since I started doing podcasting. And it's amazing. And the quality of it is increased to, you know, I'm not doing all the work of trying to, you know, reach out and find people and maybe they're a good fit for our services. But introductions are just amazing. So, I'm going to keep doing it because it's fun. That's how it fits into the business, Jeremy, it's because it's fun.

Jeremy Cline 39:38
I can vouch for that. It is a lot of fun. It is a lot of fun. So, what, if you have one, is the five-year vision? What do you hope that Fritz's life and life for Fritz's family looks like in five years' time?

Michael Fritzius 39:52
I want to have more businesses spot up, and, you know, kind of going back to the idea of how do you make things, how do you make them scalable, how do you make them repeatable. Like I would love to have Arch DevOps to a point where I don't have to invest more than, like, five or 10 hours a week max in it, and it can still be going. My wife and I have started a business recently, beginning of 2021 actually, where we make a lot of handmade soaps and lip balms, and all kinds of things like consumable goods, we love making this kind of stuff. And we started a business, I want to get that going. I have a podcast editing service, I'd like to get that going. I started making card games, I want to get that knowing. You know, I want to, you know, five years from now, I'd like to have all these different revenue streams. I wouldn't mind if I had like 50 different small revenue streams, you know, it'd be pretty crazy, but it's uncomfortable deciding. So, we'll see what happens. I don't know what's going to happen five years from now, though, I haven't really planned that far ahead. I don't know if that sounds bad.

Jeremy Cline 41:05
I think in the current circumstance, it's very difficult to plan that far ahead.

Michael Fritzius 41:09

Jeremy Cline 41:10
Just to pick up on something, how do you avoid, is it squirrel syndrome, where you kind of, or shiny object syndrome, how do you stay focused sufficiently on each of these things that you don't kind of let one get in the way of the other? If that makes sense. Yes, there's kind of received wisdom that you focus on the one thing and then get that sorted before you move on to the next project, or the risk is that you've got 10 started but unfinished things. So, how do you manage yourself in your own mental energy, in your own time and your own resources, so that you can progress each of them without just ending up with a load of things that aren't really going anywhere?

Michael Fritzius 41:56
You know, it's a mix of time management, which I'm not an expert in, I'm still a neophyte, but I've learned some very powerful things about it. It's a mix of time management and self-awareness. So, you mentioned managing your mental energy, right? If I feel like I've started a bunch of things, and I'm not finishing them, like I just feel kind of yucky. Or I feel overwhelmed, or I feel stressed. And I've just got to be aware of that, that as soon as I start feeling that way, that okay, I need to list out all the stuff that I think I need to do and categorise it. Do I drop, do, delegate or defer it, and mow through it until I feel like I am getting things done. I've also got to be aware of what specific activities will actually get me closer to the goal, which then, you know, presupposes you have a goal, right? You know, how much money do you want to make in a particular business? Alright, you want to make, let's say, $1,000 a week, great. What does that take? How many contracts? Or how many items? Or how many games do you have to sell to make that much? And once you figure that, you walk it back and say, 'Okay, well, here's what I need to do to hit that goal.' And then, focus on those actions which result in this result, and this result, and this result, until you start seeing the water pump out the other end of this long pipeline that you're building, right? But yeah, I mean, a lot of times, when I have that come up, when I feel like I'm suffering from shiny object syndrome, it's because I'm focusing on the end, you know, 'Ooh, look at this, like, what if I did a region there and pulls stuff?' And it's like, no, I've got to go all the way to the other end, and be pumping, so that I can get the result that I'm looking for. And it's a few degrees separated from the end result, which kind of throws me off sometimes. I'm like, 'Am I doing the right thing? Am I really doing the right thing?' But I've got to like map it out and say, 'Yeah, I am doing the right thing because this leads to this, which leads to this', until you get the end result you're looking for. So, and I do suffer from that. That and imposter syndrome, or like arguing in my head all the time, right, and I've daily got to make sure like what am i focusing on, what am I really focusing on. And really, it comes back to just building rapport, you know, that one activity of making sure I can email people in a timely fashion or check in with them, how are they doing, making sure that we're still like growing and learning about each other and how can I help you, and can I make an introduction, or what do you need from me today, or whatever it is. It helps with everything. It helps with the business Arch DevOps, it helps with podcasting, it helps with games, it helps with Exactly Zero, that's the business my wife and I have, all those things together, you know, and it's one handle I got a pump, that I've got to just keep building relationships with people. So, that helps. That's how I manage, man, and lots of coffee is the other thing I forgot to mention. That's probably the more important of the two is to stay caffeinated. If that's the one thing that I can share with your guests, is like just snort a line of it, just every day. You'd be good to go. I'm kidding.

Jeremy Cline 45:19
I was about to put in a disclaimer about this not being a health advice and any actions you take in reliance on the content of this podcast, you do so at your own risk. You mentioned a book that helped you in terms of you're thinking of scaling and that sort of thing. So, what book is it by?

Michael Fritzius 45:37
Oh, it is the E Myth Revisited. It's the E Myth Revisited, and I am having a brain fart, I can't remember who the author is. I mean, you can google it, the E Myth Revisited. But yeah, but that was just a mind-blowing book. And I have it on Audible. And it's awesome. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but it's basically a story, it's kind of like a fictional story interwoven with life lessons and business acumen, about how do you get yourself out of the business and work on it, you know. I used the phrase 'work on the business, not in the business', that comes directly from that book, and figuring out ways to, you know, categorise a lump of duties together and be like, 'Well, these are all financial type things, maybe I need an accountant, so I don't have to mess around with this.' You know, that's an example of that. And the more you can take yourself out of the process, the more of a sustainable business you'll end up having. And you'll really have something that maybe an investor would want to come help fund. Or maybe somebody will want to come buy, for a pretty penny, and then you can start up another business, or you can retire early, or take a sabbatical or something. You know, but getting yourself out of that process is key to it. So, I totally recommend that book. I'm not going to say I read it late in life. I think it happened right on time, I read it right when I needed to read it. But if you're starting off, and you're already asking yourself that question, like how do I make this critter scalable, read that book, and then read it again, and then you'll have a pretty good understanding of it.

Jeremy Cline 47:20
Fantastic. I'll put a link to it in the show notes. If people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way, what's the best place for them to do that?

Michael Fritzius 47:28
Best place for them to go would be our company website. You can find us at archdevops.com. There's some pretty cool resources out there, you can see what we're doing with the micro courses, you can read some blogs, you can check out the book that I just wrote, if you're interested in finding out how we get into people's heads and kind of help them think that it's their idea what we're doing. It's awesome. That's some tips and tricks in there for you, along with some good relaxation techniques that can help you get some good focus. But yeah, if you want to check out the site and see what we're up to, that's a good place. If you'd like to email me directly, I love emailing people and my address is fritz@archdevops.com. Those two places are probably the best to find out more.

Jeremy Cline 48:14
Fantastic. I'll put links to those also in the show notes. Fritz, this has been a really, really interesting conversation, lots of takeaways. Thanks so much for coming on and sharing your story.

Michael Fritzius 48:24
Anytime, man. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Jeremy Cline 48:27
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Michael Fritzius. I've got to say, I found Fritz's attitude both rare and very refreshing. Fritz is someone who's not just happy to get out of his comfort zone, but he actually seeks it. He actively goes looking for things to push himself a bit, to force him to try something new. He said that he needs it to stop himself getting mentally out of shape, and that by doing so, he learns stuff more quickly. It's such a terrific attitude to have. So, maybe in the future, where you have a choice of either sitting in your comfort zone and doing something which is familiar, or getting yourself out of your comfort zone and trying something new, perhaps try the new thing, see what it's like. As we've discussed before on the podcast, really, what's the worst that can happen? There's a full transcript of the interview, a summary of everything we talked about, and links to the resources mentioned there all at changeworklife.com/103 for Episode 103. And if you're finding these interviews useful, entertaining, just generally part of your weekly routine, I'd love it if you'd share the podcast and tell your friends about it. Word of mouth is genuinely the best way that you can help me get more listeners to the podcast. And if there's stuff in here which is useful for you, then there's going to be stuff in here which is also useful for other people you know. So, please, do share the podcast. On each episode page, you'll find buttons where you can share individual episodes on social media, so Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or just email someone, or just tell them about it. We've got some more great interviews lined up including next week where we're talking about whether it's possible to make a living entirely from trading. So, from trading stocks, shares, other financial investments. Can you really make a living from doing that? If so, how? That's what we're going to talk about next week, so do subscribe to the show if you haven't already, tell your friends and I can't wait to see you in next week's episode. Cheers. Bye.

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