In this Episode of Unstoppable Talk, Milwaukee entrepreneur Mike O’Donnell discusses his many years of experience helping political campaigns, political action committees (PACs) and conduits report their data, make decisions, and effectively manage political contributions. Mike has worked with local, state, and presidential campaigns on the national stage in his role as CEO of Media Systems Affiliates, and created a suite of software products for the space such as eZcontribution and eZconduit. With the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, we will likely see data and AI impact polling, voter outreach, and contribution drives in new ways, so learn what might be coming, and how the industry has changed, by listening to this episode.
Sam Schutte: So we are here with Mike O’Donnell who is the CEO of Media Systems Affiliates. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike O’Donnell: Thanks Sam. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Sam Schutte: And Mike, you’re based up in Milwaukee is that right?
Mike O’Donnell: Yup. Yup. Just a little west of Milwaukee, in between Milwaukee and Madison really. Closer to Milwaukee though.
Sam Schutte: And a lot of the work that you’ve done with MSA is work in the political space. So, that’s kind of going to be a bit of our conversation today. So, Mike, maybe let’s talk a little bit about you and some of your background. So, where are you from and where did you go to college and how’d you sort of get in to the business world?
Mike O’Donnell: Sure. Sure. I grew up in Chicago, and then to the suburbs. But the greater Chicago area. And my whole family is still there, so I have really really close ties. But predominantly, really been a Midwest guy. I ended up going to college at a small liberal arts college in Iowa. My dad actually went there. So, that’s not really the reason I went there, but it was strong draw. So, I went to called Loras college, and they had a kind of a tri-college thing there. So, it was three little schools to make up a relatively still small school.
Mike O’Donnell: So, that’s kind of where I started my schooling for communication. And ended up with an advertising design degree. And I had a professor tell me that I had great ideas but probably won’t be a web designer or developer. So, that made me angry. So, I started a web design company and more for marketing, web-based company right out of college.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And what is advertising design? Is that basically a design degree or meaning like the graphics of advertising?
Mike O’Donnell: That’s how it started because it was eons ago. As you know, it was still kind of desktop publishing and things like that. So, what it is today is not what it was then. But I had, the emphasis in the marketing and the business side of the business administration, but kind of had a little bit of a creative bone to pick with myself, so to speak. So, ended up getting into advertising design because I had just a real strong background from, study wise, in business. So, I thought to be a little more well-rounded needed to go towards the design. So, yeah, it was more everything from PR to layout and design. Things of that nature.
Sam Schutte: So, your first business was in the webdesign space and when did you found that company? What was that called?
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah, I had a little boutique firm called Wavelink, and just right out of college. And it was designing for print and web at that point. So.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And when was that?
Mike O’Donnell: Oh God. I think mid to late, yeah sorry. Mid to late 90s, actually. Because I went back to school and I was kind of doing my own little business and then went back to school to get that advertising design degree as well. So, it’s kind of a hodge-podge of, in and out of school and degrees and things like that. So, and then you had the mix of meeting a girl in between there. So, that affected some things as well so. Who’s now my wife.
Sam Schutte: Yeah almost like a dorm room, almost a company that started in your dorm room type stuff it sounds like. Right at there real peak, or explosion of the dot com boom and all that. Right?
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah, it was right before, and so, and probably good. Because if it was at the peak or in the middle or even the start, I probably would’ve been frightened out of it. So, I think ignorance was bliss at that point.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And then, so, then you’ve gone on since then to found, or run, or be involved with a number of companies, and how did you sort of go from web design into sort of the political sphere and with some of the companies like eZcontribution and such?
Mike O’Donnell: Right, well it was kind of like you said, a lot of different experiences. As I was putting myself through school towards the end of getting that advertising design, I worked for a radio station, a larger communication company that had newspapers, TV, cable and radio. So, I went anywhere from selling advertising to print, to every little part of multi-media if you want to call it that. And as I got more into all the production value and production challenges, so, I noticed that from print to everywhere they had all this extra time. And they had down time. So, especially printers. They were going at three shifts, but if they didn’t have things to print. So, I kind of put together an idea to bootstrap MSA, which is Media Systems Affiliates. And I wrote a patent that was going to do digital variable media. I expanded it to instead of just digital variable printing and digital variable web.
Mike O’Donnell: And we’d go around and sign up printers and different media producers and anywhere from sales agents and thins of that nature. Developers, hosting companies, but mostly printers all over. And our system would take in data, and make variable output onto paper. So, back then it was not common if you bought a car to then have that mailer out to you to say, “Hey Sam you just bought a Ford. Here’s, you’ve got to get your new tire program” and this and this and this. And it would say your name, and have tires or oil change. So, we kind of were a little early on that, but it was a really good experience. Because I was able to interact with a lot of different media outlet type companies. And that’s how I started in politics, is I had some friends who worked in politics and they said can you print this? Back then people just thought well, if you print business cards you were a business card printer. If envelopes and, I said hey if it’s on paper we can do it.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we started printing and doing some, get out to vote, and other types of campaign literature. And so, then I put our system to work for that, and none of them had websites, and so then we went to that. And at that time, no one at least at the state level really collected donations online. Not pledges or even credit cards. So, we set up a first project for some state level campaign in Wisconsin. And started running campaign donations and, yeah right there online. So, that was a huge learning experience because the campaign finance laws were still being followed from 1974. So, there was real no basis point of any type of reference for digital and how money is now transferred and things of that nature. It was more, here the day of the check or the date of the cash receival.
Mike O’Donnell: And so, we got into more of the data portion of the company, too so that they can comply to campaign finance law. So, it just kind of steam rolled. And so, we would eventually set up kind of a campaign in a box, if you will, where they could, we could flip up a campaign from the media side or the marketing side from when they announced. Where they would have envelopes, letterhead, everything to a website to collecting donations. So, we were kind of a full scale campaign in a box if you want to simplify it. Everything they needed to get rolling. And then continue on down the line to when they had to comply and register their donations. And things like that.
Sam Schutte: Okay. So, you mentioned the campaign in a box, and that’s the eZcontribution. But I’m curious, so maybe before we get into that, what were some of those changes that had to be made for the rules for campaign contributions when we started collecting online contributions? And this is something that this political topic is something that I thought would be interesting to dive into and discuss this sort of stuff as we’re coming into an election year here in 2020. But back then in the 90s and early 2000s, what were some of the things that had to be put in place from a regulatory standpoint?
Mike O’Donnell: Well, we had to change, or I guess adhere to, because they weren’t going to change their entire rule system, and we consulted with an attorney who was an expert in campaign finance. He actually was a staffer during some of the federal oversight that happened with, was it McCain-Feingold I think?
Sam Schutte: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike O’Donnell: And so, he was not only a nationwide expert, but then resided here at Wisconsin. And didn’t matter on either side of the aisle, he was everybody’s go to. So, he advised us to say, sometimes as long as you can prove time date stamp. And I said well that’s data. That’s everything with online. It’s actually more accurate then because anyone can post-date a check if they wanted. I said, so we’re actually more accurate. So, he said let’s just play within their rules and as long as we can say within 15 days, people will be funded. Because that’s what it was. You had to actually say you made a pledge. So, whether it was in the old days phone or direct mail, you basically made a pledge to a campaign. And they had to within 15 days, say the money became realized as cash.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we easily could fit that, even in the, I don’t want to call it the infancy of online, but with gateways and credit card processors, you had a lag between when the transaction was made and then when was it deposited in the bank. So, that was the biggest worry, was really when does the campaign get funded. And it was more of a campaign finance expert who maybe with a campaign to say, “Well, I consider it when they made the pledge.” Other people consider it when the cash is in the bank. And the state clearly says that it was when it was in the bank. Now they’ve kind of gone a little bit to say, well, you can either as long as you’re within that window.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we did do some changes that we can get into later with some of the other software titles we have for PACs and things like bundlers, like conduits. However, we’ll stick to where we’re at right now. So we really didn’t change the regulations, we just made sure that our process fell within the boundaries that were already set up. Because sometimes, if you stir the pot, you be careful what you ask for, you might get type of thing. So, as long as we could actually go in and prove from a data standpoint, and from our data to basically where the bank received the funds, then we were okay.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And I’m curious. So, what were some of the first campaigns you worked on and can you say the names of people that you worked with back then? Were they state senators, local politicians, or how did you sort of first get started in it and kind of with who?
Mike O’Donnell: Sure. Well, I had mentioned a college roommate of mine actually was working at the Capital here in Wisconsin. And when my wife and I moved here after she was done with grad school, that’s when they said, “Hey, can you print anything?” And so, it was state senate campaigns at the time. Or one in particular that we started with the printing, and then I got involved with some of the people who were more or less directing all of the messaging and campaign fiance for the State of Wisconsin Senate campaigns. Now, we always had intentions of being just bipartisan. We wanted to be able to provide a service, we didn’t necessarily wanted to be, they call it a shop, which would be we’re a Republican Shop or a Democrat Shop. They would call them where sometimes like with printers, because data’s everything. They get a little freaked out, they don’t want their data or their lists, but we really wanted to be party agnostic, if you will.
Mike O’Donnell: But that didn’t happen, only because, quickly after we started this whole process we realized there was a PAC on the Democrat side that basically did all the services at cost or for free. And considered it as a PAC contribution. So where on the Republican side they were more for capitalism, if you will, and I don’t want to get into the whole each party. But it just turned out that more Republicans were interested in working with us than Democrats. And it was more, not by anything other than the Democrats already had a thing put in place through this PAC. So, we are bipartisan, but by nature Republicans are pretty much the only ones that worked with us on a consistent basis.
Mike O’Donnell: But it stared out on the senate level. State senate level. And we’ve worked on presidential campaigns all the way down to Alderman races in the city of Milwaukee and little towns and things like that. SO, we’ve done it all, but it started out in state senate and then here in Wisconsin they call it the House of Representatives, they call it Assembly. So, that was kind of our major footprint here in Wisconsin and how we learned a lot about how the campaign world works. And how can we spread out into either other states or federal and things like that, so. That’s how that started.
Sam Schutte: Well, it makes sense that the network you gain of clients, if they’re one particular party or another, regardless of what you, the work you’re doing is, would be the same for either party. But it kind of makes sense that both parties wouldn’t necessarily work with the same vendors. Because they’d think wait a minute, you’re helping this guy, he was my opponent in the last. I’m not sure I want to work with you if you’re helping him right?
Mike O’Donnell: Exactly. And back then, the privacy laws, either didn’t exist or they were not known about. So, by nature it wasn’t built in that you had to have a standard of ethics, if you call it that, through privacy, for the internet, as it relates to the internet and online. SO, it was kind of a little more guerrilla. I don’t want to call it warfare, but campaign fare. Or whatever. So, yeah just, like you said. They had their guys, and the other side had their guys. And I ended up on the one side. So, it kind of just by nature of keeping their cards close to their chest, kind of fell that way.
Sam Schutte: Well, and it’s interesting because our clients that we are building custom software solutions for obviously as individuals they range the gamut in terms of their political beliefs, but it doesn’t really impact or touch any of the work we do. So, nobody ever really, it doesn’t come up. You know what I mean. But if it did, if we were building systems specifically for a particular platform, it would tie in I’m sure. So, it’s interesting.
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah, I’m sorry. That was a little bit why we wanted to actually, eZcontribution started as a software title. And then we actually made it a company because we did kind of want our other entities, because we had growth projections and plans to not be political because it just, we wanted to run a business. So, we kind of kept that as, this is a political based or non-profit was really intention, political non-profit. So, that way we could have a little bit of what you had, and have. To where politics doesn’t matter, It’s separate. Because we really didn’t want to be labeled as a political based company. Because we had services and things that we wanted to provide for everybody, or as many people as we could affect.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. So, tell me a little bit about, because I think the two main sort of politically oriented products you have is eZContribution, which is a campaign in a box, and then eZconduit, right? Those are both, I think for that industry sort of, is that correct?
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah, that’s fair. Absolutely. We did have another title for PACs, but by compliance really dictated how the software was developed. So, by nature PACs report almost identically to campaigns. So, we developed a software for, what in Wisconsin they call our conduits, in other states they call them bundlers. But basically if you’re a PAC, they wanted a way for businesses or trade associations or organizations to be able to fund campaigns, or at least get credit for it.
Mike O’Donnell: So, they set up a thing in Wisconsin called a conduit. Where they would bundle money together from individuals and deposit it or donate it in group, so if there was five people in a conduit, everyone threw in $100. They would say here candidate, here’s $500 from the ABC organization but really it’s reported from the five individuals. So, it was a very manual process and there was transmittal letters, it’s called. And different things to where it’s almost how you file your taxes. Do you do the standard deduction or when you do line items. And things like that. So the each line item was a donor. And so, we developed an electronic platform that was able to collect the deposits from the conduit members, and then it sits there. And then when the organization says hey we want to donate to all the different, and those were many many times, especially for the trade organizations and lobby type things, totally bipartisan. Because they supported both sides.
Mike O’Donnell: So, that was a great thing for us to get a little bit out of that, I guess one-sided realm. And it was more about software than just, and data, than it was about just collecting as much money as you possible. And then reporting at the end. So, it was an awesome project because there was so many unique data and reporting needs and you had to track from as soon as a funds were deposited all the way through to where it ended in to the campaign coffers. So, it was one of the coolest and most exciting projects that we worked on from scratch. Because all these big systems like ours nationwide, if they weren’t from Wisconsin, which not many were, they didn’t understand the bundler thing. And all the different intricacies, if you will, or details of how to report.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we were fortunate for that, but it was also, I knew we were developing something that was extremely niche. And so, that could be a downfall as well. But I saw some opportunities that, since it could be a communication and a data trail, that we could really use it to learn about just all sorts of data and compliancies and paper trails. And we were really getting heavy into the payments world at that time as well. So, how could it relate to other business cases? Whether it be political or otherwise.
Mike O’Donnell: So, eZconduit, I think fundamentally changed me personally as how I approach technology and payments and data. So, for me, for my personal growth as a, I don’t want to call myself a developer, but kind of an architect of software and data and communication. It was a game changer for us on a lot of levels. So. It was great.
Sam Schutte: So, when it comes to PACs, political action committees and their reporting, one of the aspects of those is that is sort of unique and maybe somewhat, sometimes controversial is sort of not knowing exactly who plays into it. So, I imagine when it comes to some of the reporting and stuff that you have to do, do you get demands from folks saying, hey we need to know who contributed or is that something you have to sort of battle and be involved in, or is that something they sort of pull out through your tools and sort of what do they? There’s compliance with just the legal rules they have to follow, but then there’s other things that obviously there’s people trying to uncover who’s involved with this stuff. How does that affect sort of the privacy that you guys have to deal with and the reporting you have to sort of supply?
Mike O’Donnell: Right. So, you said it best when you said the tools. I mentioned one of our major advisors is an attorney in the campaign finance world. He right away said I like when you call it a tool because you don’t want to be a campaign finance expert. And you don’t want to do filings for people. Let them do that. Let them file it, you give them the data and the tool to export and import, and then later on became APIs and things of that nature. But really at the end of the day, we want to provide a tool that they can get customized data to fit the data pockets into their regulatory body. Whether it be state, federal, or whatnot.
Mike O’Donnell: So, for us, yeah. I’m sure people would want us to give the data, but we had a strict policy from day one that that’s all we are is a tool. So, if you had an authorized account you could do what you want with that data. Even in between to where once it was campaigns where they said, hey campaign A wanted to share their data with campaign B, so it’s like what’s good for the whole group. I would say that’s fine, but you can do that. So, we always stayed with good fences make good neighbors policy from a data standpoint. And it also gave them a little bit more of the driver’s seat.
Mike O’Donnell: How it’s reported, PACs like you had said people don’t know, because really PACs typically don’t donate to a campaign. They purchase media or other get out to vote or things like that on behalf of. So, they might do negative advertising against a campaign and then it always says at the bottom paid for by ABC PAC or type of thing. To where conduits, that’s where the control was. You are able to see a lot much more transparent, who the donors were. So, that’s why they were able to donate to a campaign versus on behalf of them messaging and things of that nature.
Mike O’Donnell: So, that was exciting because from a data perspective again, we were able to create some really great communication and reporting tools that facilitated that transparency.
Sam Schutte: And I think you mentioned the get out to vote stuff, is that something the eZcontribution also kind of manages as basically mining voter data and that sort of stuff as well? And managing the volunteers or, because I think you do some stuff in that space, right?
Mike O’Donnell: Sure. Voter data, the campaigns always got themselves. So, but they could pump in data into our system. And that’s kind of where that campaign in a box kind of comes back full circle is whether they had data that came in through our system, through donors, or it was when we would build them maybe a campaign site that would tie into eZcontribution and whatnot. So, you have your volunteers, right, then you have your donors, and you kind of have all these buckets of people. And you try to get the most out of every one of them.
Mike O’Donnell: So, that’s then where we kind of took a fundraising tool to make it more of a marketing get out to vote. So, help them manage their data because basically at the end of the day, everyone gets, I always call it dat drunk. You just don’t know what to do with it all. And we were trying to say, you have so much data but you’re not using it enough, or you’re not using it properly. And so, we help them utilize our existing tools, and sometimes other CRMs and other types of tools that we would consult them on to get the most out of their data that they possibly could.
Mike O’Donnell: So, did we, and then obviously, hey we can do personalize printing. So, then we went boom. Full scale back into the MSA world of doing general marketing, the software for digital variable print. So, trying to say whether they wanted to just collect funds, and then go on down the line where we can impact their organization from start to finish and many places in between was the goal. How many touchpoints can we have with the client?
Sam Schutte: And you talk about digital variable printing. So, something I’ve seen a lot here, or you hear a lot of talk about in Cincinnati here is, what Kroger has done with Dunnhumby and 84.51, with their membership and loyalty cards and all that sort of personalized coupons and stuff that come in the mail, and it sounds like with the printing that you’re doing, you’re doing some of that same stuff with their data and customizing a bit what they receive in terms of political mailers and stuff. Seems like there could be some kind of crossover approaches there.
Mike O’Donnell: Oh absolutely. We got involved in a larger statewide gubernatorial campaign. And that’s kind of, at that time, gosh probably 2008, or so was when these loyalty programs were really starting to get hot. So, it’s kind of funny you say all right what, because we started talking to these campaigns and say, they’re like are you an expert in campaigns or political. And I said well, our strength is business and data and messaging and marketing. So, all these experts sat at the table for this gubernatorial campaign and they were all political. And I was kind of the one, yeah we had political experience but like I said, we really wanted to be a software company and solutions company. Didn’t want to be totally defined by just politics. Because we did have other arms if you will or verticals that we were doing on a general business, in MSA and otherwise.
Mike O’Donnell: So, I said if they treat campaigns like a business and all their issues, meaning their issues not challenges, I mean when a campaign has issues whether it be taxes, whether it be all the different things that they run on. They want, some people are concerned about taxes and education and others are for gun rights or not and things. So, everyone, you have all these buckets of people and I said your goal is to, if you have a universe, they call it a universe which is your list, your master list of people.
Mike O’Donnell: If you have 100,000 people, and that’s divided up into these four or five buckets of, let’s say four buckets of issues or things you’re running on, you might have 10,000 in this bucket, 30,000 in that and so on all the way up to the 100,000. I said your goal is everyone in your universe cares about all your issues as much as possible. So, the end goal is, if you had 100,000 list that you would end up with really 400,000. Meaning everyone cares about education. Everyone cares about this, this, and this. And that way you have more of an impact on that individual person. And if people then will get engaged, they’ll volunteer and if they volunteer, they may donate. And if they do either one of those, they’re going to vote.
Mike O’Donnell: So, it was really that kind of conversion, we call it a sales conversion, if you will. But convert them, everything’s a transaction. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary, it’s how do we get them to take action, in particular, put a yard sign. Go knock doors. Hand out literature. The volunteer stuff. All the way down to forwarding an email. Say hey forward to your friend. Get out to vote, or if it’s a donation based plea, get people engaged. Get them going. This is before the whole grass roots thing became kind of known to everybody. Let’s be honest the Obama campaign changed the way campaigns are run. They were very effective in get out to vote. Get organized, things like that.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we tried at some levels to have data do that. And now we hear all the time, I’m not saying we’re the front runners of it, but seeing that data was important from us from a company fundamental because of that digital variable print aspect, that’s kind of how I pushed our advice, if you will, of how to use different political tools that we would either build or sometimes customize for the campaigns and whatnot.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And you mentioned sort of what you all have been on the vanguard of or, and it sounds like you’ve done a lot of innovative things. I think even just, you mentioned you were one of the first folks out there trying to get groups to accept electronic payments. Is that sort of what you see as one of the most innovative things you’ve done in your time? Or where have you really driven innovation outside of that?
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah, I would think in the political space definitely that was a big one for us to overcome the fees. And kind of the bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But I would say for innovation it was how to use existing data to impact the greater influence that they had on the campaign from an individual standpoint.
Mike O’Donnell: So, yeah. I would say payments and that we also did have an advisory opinion on to change political compliance. As I said earlier we didn’t want to, but there was one where from the organizations like conduits they had to physically write a check to the campaigns. And on a large campaign they would have, just way too many checks to process. So, we were the first at least in our state, to be able to on a technology side and also we got the advisory opinion. Which is kind of a change in the law, to say that you can now send funds from one organization to a campaign electronically. Whether it be e-check, ACH type or credit card and what have you.
Mike O’Donnell: So, it sped up the time it took for funding and it also from a really, workforce to just get checks calculated, deposited, things of that nature done. And I would say from an innovation standpoint it’s still actually not super common. And I think that’s a hug asset for us and why we probably get more of the organizational political, not political action committees, the conduits and, you don’t want to call it special interest, but any trade association. They’re all politically active.
Mike O’Donnell: And for them to be able to not have to deal with kind of the old school checks, and things like that, that gives us a huge competitive advantage mixed with the data trail.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And so, when you, and especially when you look at recently there’s been so many big changes in just the payment industry in general. Obviously you go from check to credit cards to things like PayPal, that’s sort of been long established. But then more recently you’ve got Bitcoin, you’ve got other block change driven payment systems like Veem, you’ve got stuff like Venmo that’s out there. Is that something that political campaigns are able to, or you think they will be able to, I’ve not seen any that are able to accept Venmo for instance. Do you think that that is something that we’ll be seeing soon in that arena? Are you getting a lot of pressure or questions about that? Or where do you think that will go?
Mike O’Donnell: We haven’t had any questions on it that I know of. However, I think as processing fees are lower and it’s all a matter then of having probably where we’ll be where we do both data and processing. When I say processing I mean payments processing. Through other gateways, credit card processors, we work with them. To where we kind of try to be the one solution. Now APIs are all over the place. It really should be a lot easier for people to pick and choose how money is transferred and received. And then their data. The problem is the other companies like ours, they want a piece of the processing and the Venmo’s and things like that are really more focused on how low can we get the fees for the transfer. And that’s all they’re focused on.
Mike O’Donnell: So, they really collect not enough data. So it would have to be kind of like the Reese’s Pieces, chocolate and peanut butter. They would have to choose to work together. And at this point it just would probably be a distraction to the Venmo’s and things like that.
Mike O’Donnell: PayPal’s been a pretty big force in the political world, just because like you said it’s been around for a long time. And when you asked about our innovation, some of our most innovative stuff was all these, also kind of an Achilles’ heel because we might have been too early to the game, and it wasn’t, if it’s not practice … Sometimes they say it’s better to be the better mouse trap than the first one to it, so, I think sometimes the greatest innovation can also be a little bit of a downfall. And we’ve definitely had our share of that. And for sure. But that doesn’t take away from what we’ve learned from it. And that. But from a marketing standpoint, or a bring to market standpoint, wasn’t always the best.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, because it’s interesting. I’ve helped a little bit with some non-profits in the area when it comes to fundraising and doing just some fundraising campaigns. And I think there’s the lower the barrier is to entry and the higher ease of use that you can allow people to have when it comes to something like donating money, right, or especially setting up recurring campaigns. People are getting so used to that, and there’s also a reward, sort of serotonin type thing in your brain when you hold your thumb print down on your phone and it’s just cha-ching. That I expect that there will be some better solutions there in the future as opposed to sort of more old school, like go in, fill out the web form for your PayPal credit card thing or something, right. Because if you can send someone a text for instance and they click it, and it opens in Venmo and you just hit approve a $15 a month recurring subscription for instance. Right now you can’t really do that with Venmo because it’s only person to person, and it’s not person to organization. Right. And I guess to some degree you can do that with PayPal, with PayPal’s app. But I’ve just found that sort of allowing people to do it really quickly they’re more likely to do it at all, right.
Mike O’Donnell: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Sam Schutte: Because they don’t want to have to enter too much data.
Mike O’Donnell: Well, and that’s the thing with, that’s the little bit of a difference between political and non-profit. Is I think compliance requirements have inhibited I guess progress in that, kind of like you said, thumb print. They’re quick easy, or get a text. I know, I mentioned to you Obama campaign, they had to where they would sign people up and get all of their campaign finance requirements out of the way. So, they kind of signed up people as this organization, if you will, or grass roots. And so, they would already have all the information they needed. So, then they could send out the text to say boom. Click here and approve $20. And then it just went.
Mike O’Donnell: So, they didn’t have to comply on the spot every single time. Because they almost had an account. Kind of like Amazon. One click purchase. So, that’s kind of a big ticket item for bigger campaigns. But it’s just still not practical from a technology cost standpoint for smaller. But I think for sure, from a non-profit level, where you have less requirements. Where it’s more on the donor side to say hey I gave to this organization and it’s tax deductible. Yada yada yada. That’s the requirements for who gave are a lot less and how much they gave. That’s the other thing with political . You can only give so much to a particular campaign. And a level of campaign. So.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, because you figure in, I think right now if you, at least any political contributions I’ve made, of course it asks are you a U.S. citizen? Usually I think it asks who do you work for? If I’m not mistaken. Of course it asks your address and such. And so, part of the problem is if it was as easy as just go to the such and such campaign app, and tap with your finger and boom. They don’t, do they know that you’re a U.S. citizen? Do they know, they don’t know anything about you. Right? What if you work for, I don’t know, the federal government, or somebody who’s, there’s certain jobs you might have where you’re not allowed to contribute or something, right?
Mike O’Donnell: Right.
Sam Schutte: And how would they, they’re not going to be able to easily find that through a Venmo transaction or even, or anything like the whole iMessage send money to people type functionality that Apple has built out. It doesn’t have enough information. So, to your point, if they had it all set up and entered ahead of time, they knew, oh this cell phone number right here, that’s for Sam, and yes he’s a U.S. citizen. And we know that. Right. But that’s a whole lot data set up to get in ahead of time.
Mike O’Donnell: Absolutely. Yeah. So, it’s that groundwork that has to be done. And so, only the larger campaigns with really good organization outreach and things like that can really accomplish that. And you mentioned the employer and the job and this and that. And there’s all these different data points that change that. And it’s usually, all right, at least here in our state it’s have you, is the donation over $200? Well, then you have to answer more things about employment. Then it’s also well, is it $200 per donation? Or is it in total? So, if I have given $50 four times, then now I hit that $200 threshold. So, there’s still a lot of requirements on the donor side, and the campaign side because it’s illegal for me or you if you want to give over the limit to a particular campaign or candidate.
Mike O’Donnell: So, you have to be aware of how much you’re giving. And a lot of times they compile it by household. So, then if you have a husband, wife, partners, what have you, who are both politically active you kind of have to, the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. So, it’s still more about data than just about anything. And that’s why we said if we get people focusing on the data part, it can affect their entire organization from getting volunteers and all the things we spoke about earlier.
Mike O’Donnell: So, to keep them engaged and easily managing their data, that was always our goal. However, you mentioned apps. So, we made a fundamental choice to, we said all right. We’re either going to have to change our entire platform, or we’re going to go relieve in more specific to build customized things for particular organizations. And so, now with campaigns, there are so many apps out there that are available. And they keep things, like you said a little bit more simple. Click click. And they want to almost get out of, they’ll say here’s the data over here. Here’s the funding over here. And now it’s on the campaign again to match them up. So, there’s been a little bit of avoid, and we kind of avoided it ourselves, to do more of those specialized applications. To make it more of a business type thing. And it was strictly donations, or strictly data.
Mike O’Donnell: And so, that’s how we got more into the political organization fundraising now versus campaigns. DO we work with campaigns? Absolutely. But it’s not our primary focus anymore because it’s getting, with social media and all these other things, it was … By the time you were done developing an app, it’s already out of date. It took a lot of focus of energies and people. So, we made a kind of an effort to be good at, great at a few things versus good at many many things. And so, from our standpoint it’s more quality than quantity anymore from how we impact a particular customer or group of. So.
Sam Schutte: Well, and it seems like all the compliance stuff, just because a lot of that, if a lot of it is based on sort of the old way of doing things. Or at least, if there’s campaigns that aren’t really with it from a data perspective, let’s say, or small campaigns and such. It’s so easy, it’d be so easy for a tax payer, or for anybody who wants to contribute, to sort of skirt the rules. Because it’s not like its, they can look at the checks that were sent from a certain person. And that’s the only way they’d get campaigns, or contributions, rather. If I wanted, if I had 10 credit Cards and I just used a bunch of different addresses, and my mom’s address, or whatever. It’d be real difficult to figure out that I was $1 over the limit. Right? So, seems to me like there probably, it’s got to be really hard for them to be responsible for that compliance. And to even really know when there’s minor violations. And major violations obviously would stand out like a sore thumb, right?
Mike O’Donnell: Absolutely.
Sam Schutte: If somebody gives ten times what they’re allowed. But a little people giving $50 too much here or there, geez, how do you ever catch that?
Mike O’Donnell: It’s really challenging. And it’s scary because it’s always retroactive. You don’t know. Everyone always talks about the tax laws that are so complicated, it’s the same level of complexities from the campaign finance area. So, people would ask us all the time. We really want to protect our members. This is coming from the trade associations and things like that. Or companies that are politically active, so that they don’t go over their limit. I said well, from your organization standpoint, we’re not giving advice but I would stay very clear saying you have to put the ownness on the donor. Unfortunately. Because if they donated through your organization or even just taking one campaign, I donate online, and my wife donates with a check. Or even myself, I go to an event and you think oh this is for an event. I’m paying for maybe my meal, and my what have you. Well, you don’t think of that as a donation but it is. It’s a donation.
Mike O’Donnell: So, I wrote a check for $100 to go to the event in particular, and then I may a few months later donate another amount of money online. I’m not connecting those potentially. And I don’t think the donors do. And that’s where people get themselves caught. So, there’s a lot of sending money back to people I think, and stuff like that. So, everybody has to be on the same page and it’s, like you said, extremely challenging.
Sam Schutte: Well, and you mentioned the meals and such and I know there’s this, I think when you watch some of these political dramas, I saw somewhere that, if you go to an event, a lot of times, at least this is what this one particular fictional show is saying. Is that if there’s no chairs or anything at the event, if you’re walking and standing and eating snacks or whatever, well, that’s not a meal, right? But if you’re sitting down at a table that’s a meal and you have to report that. Someone’s giving you a free meal or donated a meal to your whatever type stuff. So, it’s funny, there seems like there must be some little wrinkles in those rules, right?
Mike O’Donnell: Oh for sure. And like I said, we don’t get into that at all just because we wanted to stay away from being on the hook for giving, I always say no advice is better than bad advice. We want to be ones and zeros. Juts all data.
Sam Schutte: Yeah.
Mike O’Donnell: But you’re right.
Sam Schutte: So, what do you think coming into 2020 here, and we’ve discussed this a little bit before, but what are some of the major innovations around data and sort of campaign drives and voter sort of information management. And if you look at all those little categories, what are some of the things that we’ll see new in this election that we didn’t see in 2016’s election, presidential election?
Mike O’Donnell: Well, I think if anyone’s paying attention to the news now, they’re already talking about polls. And because the last time they had Hilary Clinton winning big, the whole thing. I won’t go through the whole thing, but I think everyone’s afraid of why was it so wrong and was it? Now this is not our business, we got involved in some things because everyone wanted the data to share and because donors this and this. But so, they would compile all the data now through these massive systems. And so, I think everyone learned a lot from that last campaign. But I’m not sure, in my opinion, this is now just being not the guy who does political and data type information for campaigns and that political, me as a, don’t want to call it just a citizen, but as a bystander, I’m not so sure the big data companies or anyone, they learned a lot. But I’m not sure they’re putting it to action, or know how to. So, I think a lot of people are shooting form the hip.
Mike O’Donnell: And people are also wondering from an organizational standpoint, who’s really running the data? Since President Trump it looked like he self-funded a lot of it last time to where now they’re doing a lot fundraising. So, I think their data is going to be just as new and not stale, typically we have an incumbent. A lot of times their data is stale because they don’t start as much of the activity as early as when there’s 10 candidates in a primary. So, the machine, if you will, starts percolating and going earlier with those types. But right now they’re picking up the game. So everything’s starting earlier. And so, I think as they’re accumulating data they know now that they need to segment it and treat the data with care. But I’m not so sure they know how to take that third party data and really filter it through, in my opinion. It’d be really challenging.
Mike O’Donnell: Because we’re finding that even data companies’ social medias have been accused of kind of curbing whether they are on the right or left. So, I think the data segment is going to get smaller, and everyone’s going to maybe bypass all that social media and other things as fluff. And that might prove to be the successful way to go or a huge huge mistake. So, I just think that they eventually said hey we have to make a choice and can’t do analysis to paralysis. So, for me I think that, I think everyone’s kind of figuring it out right now. And I think if they say we’re going to just keep the doors closed and just our data. So I think internal polling is going to get a lot stronger versus, I think you mentioned some of our either previous conversations different polling companies, or data companies that got paid a lot of money. And they were way wrong. So, I think it will be interesting.
Sam Schutte: Well, and I think we talked a little bit about the impact of bots and AI in the space. Particularly just around if you think of the gathering, or sort of campaigning for contributions, managing contributions and getting out to vote and sort of activities like that. I could see certainly more of those, people interacting more with those type of AI bots on websites and what not, and vie text for instance to make those sort of things less resource intensive.
Mike O’Donnell: Absolutely. Earlier in our conversation today I talked about I went into a meeting and said well, here’s what I would do, treat it like a business. You have all these different issues, we’ve got to treat those like verticals. But that was all manual. Because most of their lists were old, so there was no real way to say who’s active and who’s not. The AI, we were trying to do that 15 years ago, but manual. And it’s so laborious. And the AI component will just impact this, and has, in a huge way. That was they can throw just tons of data at it, and get not only a quicker result, but more accurate. And it will only get more accurate just by the nature of the AI platform, or what have you.
Mike O’Donnell: So, you’re absolutely right. Just besides the labor intensiveness of it, just the accuracy and how much data you can actually process, more accurately is the key. And it’s, man kind of like wish I had this then or wish I knew then what I know now type of thing. Would totally change the way we did our business. And we might be more focused in that now versus, kind of saying, well, we had to choose, there was a fork in the road. We either go all in again it was almost going to be like starting a whole another organizational company, and we chose not to. We chose to be more on data and payments, versus being all encompassing political facilitator and we chose not to do that. And I’m kind of glad.
Mike O’Donnell: Because still to this day as we found out you mentioned from the last campaign cycle and now moving into this one, it’s almost more of a guessing game. Because there’s so much data, again. What do you trust? Your own systems? Their systems? They’re being a third party, the media. All these others. So, polls are scary.
Sam Schutte: You’d have to have a whole team of data scientists to, anymore, you’d be a data science company to really make a big splash in that space.
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah.
Sam Schutte: So, I’m curious on the payment side, when you’re sort of bringing a new customer in, I imagine that’s very cyclical because you’re not getting, having a new customer coming on in October right before an election, right? So, is that something, is there a huge amount of ebb and flow to that? Do you get a ton of requests 18 months before an election, and then a minimal sort of interest for two years after that, or how does it sort of, on board with customers? And what’s that cycle look like kind of?
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah, exactly like you said. When you said 18 months. It is like that more now. In the past, when we first got into it, they’re like oh don’t worry about it. We don’t really start cooking until 6 months before, or whatever. We kind of said, hey. People are starting to fundraise pretty much nonstop now. And we were promoting that, obviously because it was our business model and that’s how we made revenue and things like that. But it’s gotten, and I don’t want to call it crazy, but it’s, there is an ebb and flow. There’s the high times, cyclical seasonal if you want to call it. But people are managing donations pretty much year round now. Does it spike and plateau, and then go down? Absolutely.
Mike O’Donnell: And then the onboarding, we just had a few recently, like I said, very small campaigns, some bigger. But they’re definitely starting earlier. And continuing the process much longer afterwards, if they win especially. Or if they’re planning their next one. So, there’s definitely peaks and valleys. But there’s much more of a, less of a sharp spike because people realize when it’s easier to set up the systems, we have it down. Our KYC process, know your customer or know your campaign I like to say. For us, we’ll also do payments for other industries. But that whole process we have down almost like a profile with the different processors and partners that we have in that realm.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we can flip a campaign on really quickly. Where it was weeks, in the beginning, now it’s hours or days, really, where we can get things set up. We know exactly the profile. But yeah. Definitely now, especially since this 2020 thing, everyone’s starting again. Even the smallest campaign at a state or local level, when people are in the mood even though people say they hate it, they’re still motivated and they’re active and they’re thinking about it. So, when the juices are flowing people jump on. So, the activity level is spread out more, but there’s definitely spikes, absolutely. For us.
Sam Schutte: And talk a little bit about that set up process. What is that onboarding setup process, what does that involve? Or what do you have to do there?
Mike O’Donnell: Yeah, now we, like I said we have it down, it’s all online. And we send out if someone is interested they come on our website, send an email through our boarding system. And then immediately send them out, here’s what you need. Because people don’t know sometimes. And even the old, some campaigns have been around a long time, their, hey what’s your EIN number? I don’t even have one. Well, now all new campaigns do. So, we kind of have that KYC process that we say here’s what you need. Basically the same thing you need if you’re going to set up a bank account. So, we send them this pre-app checklist, that way once they do go online because now it’s so easy to apply, that they’re not prepared with the information. And then they start and stop.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we don’t want them to start and stop because they might not come back. And if they don’t come back then their consultants are mad because they’re not able, they sent out a mailer and they can’t take contributions, and it’s a total nightmare for them. And so, we try to make the processes easy and organized for them as possible. So, we just give them a little, all the pieces for the bird house, and they can just quickly build it. Mark A B C. So, right on down the line, they apply online, and then it gets sent to an onboard, then it gets to underwriting, then it gets to where we build and flip up their system. And if they have a website, do we have to integrate it. So, it just goes on down the line, kind of like the Henry Ford type deal. Where every part of the car eventually gets put together.
Mike O’Donnell: And it happens so quickly now, like I said, I think our pre-boarding is much more important than the actual application process now. So, that way they’re feeling less over-whelmed, and things used to be how quickly can you do it. And now it’s so quick that we want to make sure they have all the right things to put into the system so that way it doesn’t get hung up.
Sam Schutte: Gotcha. I’m curious. What some of the more rewarding projects you’ve worked on in this space have been? And I know there have been some projects you worked on that were small, sort of local efforts that grew and sort of exploded and became more national stage, and talk a little bit about those projects and sort of how you were involved and what, how those were rewarding for you professionally.
Mike O’Donnell: For me professionally, that’s a key factor, but it’s all about what we learned. And it affected our entire company from political form of technology infrastructure standpoint, we had been part of a campaign, small moving on up. And then it was a statewide. And basically I was entrenched into the campaign, and to learn as much as possible about it because most of the apps and things like that now have all been started by people who were politicals. And we were a company that never had intention of becoming a political based, or political service engine. And it was by accident. So, we kind of fell into it. And as one particular project grew and grew, we were there from the beginning. AND like I said earlier with the AI question, where we were trying to manually do AI with data and how to get old data and people, kind of active again and see what data was junk and what not. And then we mixed that in with our donation process.
Mike O’Donnell: And we got to a point where, yes there was a campaign, and not just a campaign but an entire system, political system, campaign system that was extremely volatile. And it went nationwide. AND to the fact that they were, people would be on Fox News or CNN, MSNBC. And every time we had to work very closely with the political organizations and of that time to say all right. You’ve got to tell us when you’re going to be the media because every time they were, a huge spike in donations, or volunteers and things like that. And so, we were just moving to the Cloud actually at that time. And we configured with a technology partner of ours, a group of engineers, to configure different firewall settings. Basically not to be technical, but almost opposite of that, but daisy chain flip up Cloud servers for resources so that way we wouldn’t crash.
Mike O’Donnell: Because if we did there would be no data, there would be maybe partial data collected, donations not processed. So, from pushing the throttle standpoint of what technology can do and how do we put together a platform that can expand and contract at will, was extremely rewarding. We were able to figure out at a major host, if you want to call it that, Amazon, Rack space type server farms, to configure, to make a configuration so that we could utilize the Cloud in an e-commerce situation and still be PCI complaint.
Mike O’Donnell: And we were just doing what was necessary. And months later we found out, hey we’re now using that whole platform you guys built with our systems. And I wish I had been able to coin it, or something like that because I could have done, sold it to the powers that be. Meaning the technology providers. But for us to be able to figure out quickly, how to expand and contract with kind of a national message, regardless of it being political. It really gave us a huge insight on how being nimble and able to pivot quickly. But yet still provide a platform that was really gold standard, rock-solid from a data perspective, was not just rewarding but really really important from the growth of our organization in total. And how we then take it, and I would then go and consult with other companies to actually kind of give that story. And give that inclination of definitely in some spaces, you don’t want to be the super tanker. It’s hard to turn that super tanker around in the ocean. But the jet ski, if you will, can do circles. And you had to be in between.
Mike O’Donnell: So, being kind of that mid-size, nimble, able to react taught us a ton about how we would develop systems, how we would interact with other systems, how we choose our partners, if you will. It gave us so much insight on who we want to be, and who we want to be with. I can’t say how much I learned on that particular. So, it was gratifying to be there at ground level. From their organization and see growth and see the ups and downs of some of this political angst. But more importantly was how it changed, at least in our local landscape here in Wisconsin and things like that.
Mike O’Donnell: How much stronger they are now with or without us. They’ve moved on obviously in many aspects because there’s different products. And we chose like I said earlier not to continue on some paths and be great at a few things versus good at many things. We were, I feel made a really good contribution to them from a, kind of a consulting standpoint. As we all learned together. And it’s just fun to see that they’re still utilizing things that stemmed from challenges that we helped them overcome. So it helped us grow, and it helped them grow.
Sam Schutte: So, it seems like having the infrastructure and sort of dynamically scaling infrastructure in place so that, because it’s so easy for politicians or political candidates to sort of go viral nowadays. They, if they’re a completely unknown candidate, you look at Pete Buttigieg, and his campaigns right now. Pretty much came out of nowhere, and obviously if he goes and does, whatever some of his very first initial interviews were. I’m sure his website exploded. And that’s, it is certainly not uncommon for those sites to go down when that happens, right. And it’s not enough for those campaigns to have a Go Daddy site somewhere, right, that just can’t handle the traffic.
Sam Schutte: So, because at any moment you could have a great speech, do really well, whatever, get an opportunity. And again, if that’s when donations are going to flow in, traffic and sign ups, and volunteers are all going to happen, you can’t have it be crashing. And at the same time, and that’s sort of what the Cloud stuff provides is that ability to scale. You would never have gotten with physical hardware, right?
Mike O’Donnell: No way. No way. Not, to be able to turn on a dime, if you will, no pun intended on the campaign finance and political contribution. But yeah. There was no way to do that. There were, just financially from a, it just wasn’t possible. Even at large campaigns when you don’t have a constant infrastructure, because you mentioned those ups and downs of when it’s seasonal and when it’s not. If you don’t have an infrastructure that’s all the time maintained, you have to start and stop, and it’s hard to keep that high quality because a campaign ends, right? So, they would just start and stop. Start and stop. These campaign offices, and then they would go away, and they’re just a bunch of desks and leftover phones.
Mike O’Donnell: And it, now everyone has adopted that viral atmosphere. Whether you go viral or not. By nature campaigns kind of have that life span, that viral lifespan of all right, we’re on and now we’re done. Now the election’s over. Even though once you’re elected as an incumbent you kind of try to keep things going, but I think that word viral is kind of the key word. You never know what’s going to happen, even on a small scale. So, like you said, yeah. From a technology infrastructure you can’t just have a little website.
Mike O’Donnell: And we worry about that now because we went from creating a system, to where when I said we kind of changed how we’re doing things for campaigns in particular, is we’re now more of app-based, gateway -based. Where they can install our contribution system with the campaign finance requirements right on everyday websites. So, we run into that to say you can put it anywhere, but if you do get a spike, unless you’re on our, we’ll call it approved hosting platform, we can’t guarantee what you’re going to do or not. And it doesn’t take much. Like you said with kind of those everyday bargain or discount hosting platforms, whether it be Go Daddy or any of the others. Do they have the capacity to do it? Sure. But everyone see a dollar a year or whatever from all these different people. And it’s just not the way.
Mike O’Donnell: So, I think what we learned from that particular, I don’t want to call it campaign, but situation and couple years of really dealing with high volume media influence, social media just grew like crazy at that point. So, I think from a business standpoint and utilizing technology, we learned a lot and it’s enabled us to actually help many different organizations deal with traffic. And it’s not always the problem of getting it, it’s what do you do with it when it comes? So, how to be prepared, and not waste money, time, effort. Because not everybody can afford a high end, let’s just call it IT infrastructure. And so, kind of like campaign in a box. Now could be infrastructure in a box if you will. We’re able to say what you need and what you don’t need. And relatively speaking with a little cushion on either side.
Sam Schutte: Well, that’s interesting because I don’t think there’s too many organizations out there in the business, in any kind of business world where, if you look at a major campaign that has thousands of employees, right. And it fires up, it operates for maybe two years, and then it basically shuts down and goes to sleep. And then two years later, if you’re running, say like the Trump campaign, obviously they’ve been continuing to operate for his entire presidency, but they did not have, I don’t, I wouldn’t believe they had all the employees working full-time. And they weren’t spending, like let’s say in 12 months after he was elected, they weren’t spending anywhere near the same amount of money, effort, data, everything else as they were five months before the election. Right? And so, it’s like this constant ebb and flow. And somebody coming back and dusting the spider webs off the data and everything, right? Like you said, telephones, desks, servers, everything. It’s, it would be almost impossible for a lot of businesses to do, because you’d come back and be like oh man, what version of windows is this system running? Just little things like that, that probably cause a lot of chaos I imagine.
Mike O’Donnell: There is so much. Like you said any version. People are bringing their own laptops and things like that, and then when they win half the campaign gets hired. Just it is what it is. They all talk bad about it but that’s kind of the way it is. If you win, and you’re the campaign manager, you’re probably going to be Chief of Staff. Or what have you. That’s not our area, but we’ve seen enough of the trends to where, you win and then yeah, you’re ground game it gets eaten by what becomes now government employees. Because you go from being a campaign to all these people that you know and trust and so, by nature you’re drawing up you’re talent on the campaign side that still, like you said, not just the presidential. Every campaign now, they really need to run data and operations all the time. They just have skeleton crews. And how do you do that? Utilize technology. So, one person can do four, the work of four people at least for a little while, until they then transition back.
Mike O’Donnell: And it’s, I think a lot of, like I said earlier, we coached the campaigns to think like businesses. I think businesses, I’m just kind of off the cuff right now thinking, can learn a lot about that transition and nimbleness, if you will, that campaigns have to do because you have to take an entire infrastructure and it gets, like you said, fundamentally destroyed, if you will. Or transformed into something else rapidly. And you still have bills to pay, and things like that. So, I think definitely business can learn a lot from how to do much more with very little.
Sam Schutte: But honestly, it probably is similar to what happens during an acquisition. A business is bought by another business. And a new guy comes in and says what is all this? And if you’re a new, really regardless of if you win or lose an election, because if you lose you might run again next time, if you look at Hilary for instance. She, I know ran multiple times of course through the last so any decades, or at least began exploratory efforts towards that. So, if you’re the new campaign manager, you come in and say well, let me see your, I don’t know, send me your Excel sheets you used last time. It’s like what is this? So, a lot of the same problems I suppose if an acquisition happens in the business world and now there’s a new IT manager, let’s say. Or a new CEO or whatever, come in and figuring out what was done before and you know what I mean? Even just, who works here exactly?
Mike O’Donnell: And then there’s overlap and waste, right. And in the business world they can kind of smooth it out over time, but probably like you said, if you look under and in between the sheets of the binder, you’re finding a lot of duplicate. Or what is this? How is it been in government’s even worse. What’s going on? Because there’s always something new. And there’s legacy problems. And so, yeah, I think that from us to be able to step back and be afforded those opportunities of the peaks and valleys of those cycles, has actually been … A lot of people say how do you do it with a business where you’re busy busy busy? Create revenues. And then the water faucet gets turned off. And they have no more need for you, and things.
Mike O’Donnell: So, that’s how another reason we became diversified for business to say we need to say all right this is a vertical of ours. We work for or provide services for campaigns or political world. But we also, we work with medical, dental, legal firms, all different business types. Engineering. What have you. Because we have to be able to not be destroyed. It’s kind of like that sales adage. If you have three big customers and you lose one, that’s a third of your revenue gone. So, we’ve learned from that campaign cycle to really manage our businesses much better as well. To say, and to stay away from stealing from Peter to Pay Paul. That’s been a big thing as well. All right, well, this is making a lot of money now, let’s push it in to here. You want to have cleaner budgets, clear spending patterns and things like that. And it’s still challenging. Are we great at it? No. Are we better at it than we were? Absolutely.
Mike O’Donnell: So, we’ve been afforded those peaks and valleys and I feel like we’ve learned to utilize the up time and down time well. And that’s always a challenge with a lot of different startup companies. And that’s how I become really a sucker for startups. Consulting, or helping people start them up, or doing our own. I enjoy it so much, and each time, try to do it better. What did we learn from last time? And I think really the political world helped me out as an individual. Build teams quickly and be able to make, do I make the best decisions all the time? No. But I’ve learned that to make fast decisions, not reckless, but fast decisions are much more effective than really well-calculated mitigate all risk. Well, that’s, that just posed more problems for us than, like I mentioned the nimble decision-making. The quick reaction time.
Mike O’Donnell: And how do we be proactive instead of reactive? You can’t all the time but … I’ve learned a lot and I try to pass it on the best I can to who we consult with, and the organizations that hire us, or that we help co-found and what have you.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, well, hopefully there’s folks listening to the podcast here that can take something from some of the experiences. And without a doubt it’s pretty impressive, the sort of broad family and portfolio of companies you’ve been involved with and built. And the startups. So, I certainly appreciate you coming on and talking to us. And telling us a little bit about your history and background in this. And I think it’s all very applicable to what we’re going to see coming up here in this next election year. And campaigns and stuff can learn a lot from some of your experience without a doubt. So, if people want to read more about what you’re doing and your companies, your main website is oscompanies.com. Which has links to all, eZcontribution, eZconduit, as well as MSA and some other companies that you work with. So, people can go and check out that website if they’re looking for more information.
Sam Schutte: And we really appreciate you coming on and talking to us Mike, and we hope that we can talk again sometime soon.
Mike O’Donnell: Appreciate it Sam. It’s been fun. And like I said, like you said, there’s a broad range and … My biggest I guess come back to that is always everyone asks, what do you do again? So, it’s been exciting for us and rewarding. But like I said. When we can take all these different experiences and make a focused effort better each time and just meeting folks like yourself. So appreciate the time. Its been great.
Sam Schutte: Thank you.