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Growing from a Startup to a Half-Billion All-Cash Exit
Roger Hardy is the Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of KITS, one of the world’s leading eyewear companies. In 2000, Roger founded an online company, Coastal.com, and later achieved the largest exit for an e-commerce business in Canada at the time. He has investments in real estate and holdings in companies including Cymax, Sonder, Flexday, Mogo, and Privé Revaux.
Roger is a recipient of Business in Vancouver’s Forty Under 40 and a two-time winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Business-to-Consumer category. He enjoys spending time with his family and empowering communities across the globe through his charity, the Hardy Family Foundation.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [04:10] Roger Hardy talks about growing and exiting his first company, Coastal.com
- [09:31] The value of consistently searching for the next growth vector
- [10:55] Roger explains how he baked culture and cadence into his brand
- [16:42] Should you take the risk of acquiring debt when growing your business?
- [19:00] Some of Roger’s core business values and growth strategies
- [23:55] The importance of satisfaction metrics and how they correlate to growth
- [28:13] Roger discusses the success of his team and what is on the horizon for his brand
In this episode…
Do you want to know how to achieve a successful, multimillion-dollar exit? Are you looking to build a transferable company that is pushing for growth?
Building and growing an e-commerce business takes work, and getting it ready for a sale can be even more challenging. Many businesses and investors are looking for a brand to purchase and scale — which means a profitable exit for you — but they also want to verify each business’ structure and profitability. Roger Hardy’s departure from his online business was the largest in e-commerce history for Canada: a whopping $450 million. He knows how to make groundbreaking steps to grow and transfer a business, and today he’s here to share his insights with you.
In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Mark Daoust sits down with Roger Hardy, the Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO at KITS, to discuss the key to achieving a multimillion-dollar exit for your e-commerce business. Listen in as Roger discusses the importance of client feedback, the evolution of culture and cadence within his company, and the value of a net promoter score to scale your business. Stay tuned.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Roger Hardy on LinkedIn
- Quiet Light
- Quiet Light on YouTube
- Mark Daoust
- Joe Valley
- Quiet Light Podcast email: [email protected]
- The EXITpreneur’s Playbook: How to Sell Your Online Business for Top Dollar by Reverse Engineering Your Pathway to Success by Joe Valley
- Verne Harnish
- Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish
- Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm by Verne Harnish
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.
There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. By providing trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations, your Quiet Light advisor isn’t your every-day broker—they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.
If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.
Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on their website. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!
What are you waiting for? Quiet Light is offering the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to quietlight.com, email [email protected], or call 800.746.5034 today.
Hi, folks, it’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals.
Mark Daoust 0:29
Right, Welcome back, everybody to the Quiet Light Podcast. I’m really excited to have Roger Hardy on the podcast today from KITS.com, Roger has been in the online world for a really, really long time. And that’s not to say that you’re old Roger, that’s just I’ve been in this for a long time. It’s nice to talk to somebody who understands what yahoo shopping cart actually is, and has been probably used it before. At one point, Roger had the largest exit for an online business in Canada, which is really, really cool. We’re going to talk about his story about growing that business what it was like to grow something to that size, and to have that exit. Before we start, just as a reminder, this episode is brought to you by EXITpreneur, if you have not downloaded your copy of EXITpreneur, or bought your copy yet, please do so as you can find it on amazon.com. This is the complete guide to how to prepare an online business for sale. Everything that we teach and everything that we look at when we’re looking at a business that we might help sell. This is the absolute guidebook for it. So go to amazon.com. Download it, it’s a best seller, it’s got tons of really good rating five star ratings. At this point, we’re hearing from people left and right about how much they wish they had this book before they sold the business, or how much this book is providing them with a roadmap to maximize the value. So go to amazon.com. Download it, send a message to me not to Joe, I don’t want his ego to get any bigger about how great the book is. Just send a message to me about what the book is done for you really appreciate it. Roger, super happy to have you on today.
Roger Hardy 1:53
Thanks, Mark. Great to be here with you. Very exciting.
Mark Daoust 1:56
I want to start off the same way that our initial call went. And that’s nothing to do with the online world. And that’s your involvement in NASCAR. That’s pretty cool. What do you have? You have some interest in NASCAR? Right?
Roger Hardy 2:06
Well, you know, we, we’ve, we did participate in the Indy 500, which took place back on July 4, down in Indianapolis. And we ran a car there with the Canadian team actually the only Canadian running in in the Indy 500. Adult and tell it in the KITS.com car. So super exciting. Dalton in his family just just a great family that’s been running the K line car for a while in Indy. And for anyone who loves racing. I mean, you can’t get any better than you know, we were in the pits at Indy watching the team change tires and washing the cars come in having our brand on the side of the car. Very exciting for all the KITS team, all our KITS family and super excited to work with them. So great exposure. You know, it’s I think the biggest fan engagement so far this year, up to that point in the US. So they you know, there are 90,000 200,000 people come through the gates. Super just just I mean, you can’t have any more fun than that in a weekend. I don’t think what a great event.
Mark Daoust 3:09
Yeah, I mean, it’s a it’s a cool conversation starter, even cooler to be down in the pits and everything. I am not a racing fan. But it’s one of those events where I don’t know anything about it. I would love to go to an event like that I’ve always heard once ago. It’s like an experience like no other.
Roger Hardy 3:25
It really is. Yeah. And I guess I’m like you I only got into it running a car a couple different times. And it’s just a thrill. I mean, I think we’ve been finished in the middle of the pack. And you know, we may as well have one from our perspective, it was just so, so enjoyable to to participate on that level. Yeah, I encourage anyone who can get get into the pit to do it. It’s, you know, it’s the most exciting eight seconds when a car comes in, you know, the gas goes into wheels come off and out. It goes in under eight seconds. I mean, it’s fantastic.
Mark Daoust 3:54
That’s pretty cool. Oh, we didn’t, we didn’t jump on this to talk about racing as much fun as it is good to be able to talk about that sort of thing. We’re going to talk a little bit about your exit and building a business up in Canada. What was the business first of all?
Roger Hardy 4:09
Yeah, sure. So back in 2000, a bit like you. In the early days the the internet web. My sister and I started a company it was called coastal.com. It was a vision care provider similar to KITS. We sold contact lenses initially then launched an eyeglasses business became the largest seller of eyeglasses online Coastal.com when we got an unsolicited bid in in 2014, and I should back up and say that company grew from startup in 2000. To be you know, the largest seller glass and contacts online. We listed it on the NASDAQ in 2012. So as a fairly big and interesting business did business all around the world office in Scandinavia, that handled Europe an office in Australia, New Zealand that did Asia pack and then one in Vancouver and one in Washington state that handled North America so grew very quickly became now listed and then that’s the lor, who’s sort of the grille of the category, the 25 billion euro monolith of, of classes in the world came along and made an unsolicited bid for the company in 2014. So we took the the offer to our shareholders, and, you know, frankly, they were tickled pink, about a half a billion dollar offer and so all cash offer so from the startup, that my sister and I built a website, you know, bought our first inventory on our credit cards. You know, that type of story to half a billion dollar exit, the largest exit in Canadian e commerce history at the time, still, I think is either the biggest or one of the biggest. So yeah, Was it good? It was a good run.
Mark Daoust 5:45
How long? How long period? Was that? The 2000s a starting point, when was the
Roger Hardy 5:48
start 2000 sold in 2014. And as I said, the NASDAQ listing in 2012. So, you know, gosh, we wish we had your book before we done that sale, I’m sure we would have learned a lot from it. And, you know, as you know, the experience of doing exits, you know, you learn something on every single one. And so, the more you’re involved properly, and the more you can learn from others. It’s, it’s helpful, right? Like anything? Yeah. Now
Mark Daoust 6:13
that that I mean, I’m sure people hearing the number half a billion dollars cash is going to make some eyes bug out, you know, because a lot of the conversations we have with people are much different scale, right? Much, much smaller scale than that. What I love about this, though, is the startup Park, right? You and your sister buying inventory on credit cards, back in 2000? What shopping carts and you start out with?
Roger Hardy 6:40
Yeah, funny, you mentioned the yahoo shopping, you know, we had a home built a home grown system here. My sister’s husband, boyfriend at the time was computer science engineer. And we basically pulled together all the friends and family we had and, and, you know, built a homegrown system that we started out on and it continued to evolve to be pretty much home grown, you know, all the way through to sale, it was a proprietary system, right to 2014. So, you know, but we were there at the beginning of things like go to an overture which I think you and I are the only two guys to remember. And you know, which became Yahoo and, and then ultimately became kind of what, you know what Google is now, which is sort of a pay per click model. So and it evolved very quickly, as you’ll recall that, you know, we’re one of the first to buy advertising and AltaVista, Lycos all those snap calm before it was something different. You know, there was a snap. com. So all of these hopefully, you know, you know, people can remember if they were if they were alive back then it was Yeah, I’ll say interesting times and all evolves. So so quickly.
Mark Daoust 7:49
I you know, I know that there are people listening that actually do you know, they’ve been around a long and they’re hearing those names and bring them back in with a snap, calm the go to comms I remember playing around with those engines and seeing what they were doing and what a different world was. back then. How many employees do you have thrive at the time of the exit? How many employees did you have
Roger Hardy 8:10
to tell me the exit about 750. And at the time of the start is my sister and I literally in, you know, in a in a basement and then a basement suite man. Then we actually got an office and then and like I said her boyfriend now husband joined us and it grew from there.
Mark Daoust 8:28
You know, we’ve grown a business like that from startup, where it’s two of you to 750 employees that’s got a series of climbs and plateaus and climbs and plateaus, that every time you reach those plateaus, you as the founder need to figure out how do I navigate and get to that next growth cycle. From the speed with which you went from zero to half a billion, you obviously navigated those plateaus pretty pretty quickly. Right? What point which one of those would you say was the most difficult? What size would you say was the most difficult to navigate? And I think I mean, in fairness, there’s probably way different qualities I know 20 employees and 40 employees can be choke points for some companies. 100 can be choke points. But dealing with 20 employees and the choke point there is way different than dealing with say a 300 employee choke point. What does anything stand out in your mind as far as boy, this is a really difficult challenge or even that decision point of Yeah, let’s let’s keep pushing growth, or is it always front of mind? Yeah, well,
Roger Hardy 9:29
okay, a couple questions in there. But, you know, for sure, we were always growth minded, just the way the company started. We had that growth mindset. It was built into the culture built into the core values built into everything we did, I would say, you know, and that that focus on growth kept us always searching for the next growth vector. So we’re always looking at the category, what’s the growth vector? How can we innovate? How can we be out in front of this? And I think in every category, there are growth vectors, even you know, the contact lens business was only growing, you know, eight or nine percent single digit, but our company was growing, grew 30% a year for 14 years. So we were always able to kind of find that fast growing vector inside the category. And then, you know, launched the eyeglasses category, which became, you know, a very fast growing and very interesting part of the business, which ultimately led to why US law acquired the company. So the biggest choke point I would say, was less about people for us, because I think we had culture baked in early and so people scaled in a predictable way, I would say, it’s just, you know, finding those growth vectors, trying to innovate, especially when you get to 100 million, you know, you’re on everybody’s radar at that point, everybody, you’ve got a bunch of competitors, they’re all fighting for different sectors, and you have to kind of understand your segments, understand who you’re trying to reach? And understand really, what’s your differentiation? What are you going to do that’s different and better for customers. And that’s what kept us growing all the way along,
Mark Daoust 10:55
you said the culture was baked in how important you think the culture was to to the growth that you experienced and been able to maybe navigate some of those those changes throughout the entire history?
Roger Hardy 11:08
Yeah, I think I think you’re so right to, to talk about culture, I think it was key for us to grow, you know, from a people standpoint, to have cultural values baked in early, and then to reinforce them in everything we did every morning huddle, every weekly team meeting, every quarterly launch, where we identify the priorities for the quarter, make sure that everybody knew their contribution for the quarter to those priorities, literally sitting on their desk. And you know, to be direct, I think with COVID, I think it’s gotten harder when people are working remotely, I think, especially in fast growing companies, you know, your culture is being defined over zoom, and you’ve got people, you know, that you may not have met even in 612 months, in a fast growing company, it’s it’s tougher to get the culture, I think it’s connected, you know, KITS.com, we’ve hired more than 100 people in the last year. And we did a team event, you know, kind of at the end of q1, when COVID sort of led up. And I was shocked, we had two guys who were six foot seven, and on zoom, maybe, you know, like you do come across a six foot SAP and we go, you know, where did this happen? And then and and some of the other team at same thing, you know, just like, wow, you know, you’re so cool to meet you. And your energy in person is obviously different. And you can connect better, I think in person. So, you know, it’s, I think that was key for our, our past company culture. And what we’re trying to get KITS is just a high level connection with our team, high level engagement, and what’s the mission here? What are we trying to do? And, you know, let’s have some fun doing it.
Mark Daoust 12:39
You set that out from the beginning, as far as identifying what our core values gonna be? What’s our mission? You know, what’s our purpose? And why we’re doing these these things? Were these well defined from day one.
Roger Hardy 12:50
Yeah, they, you know, they really were for us. I think I read a book really early on, you know, like, in 2000, right away, that that spoke to culture. And it was it had a bunch of kind of character traits. And so we set that out. But that then continued to evolve. So you know, I think it’s up to the CEO to set and define culture, I think I did the initial one, I set the initial mission, and then it’s about getting everybody else around the table each quarter to say, Hey, is this still the mission? Are these still the values, and so those values over time would evolve, and, and they would, I think they got better and better. Over time, you know, we didn’t, you know, over time, we added one that was about doing good, and doing good for our company having a purpose that that was more than just, you know, contributing, you know, to vision division category. So we provide it more than million pairs of eyeglasses to people in need around the world, you know, in places where a pair of eyeglasses was tough to get and flying our folks all over the world to put glasses on, you know, the elderly and others and seeing that, you know, the reaction they would have, for the first time seeing the grandkids was, you know, it was pretty, it was pretty moving. And it was pretty foundational talk to our culture to build that in to say, Hey, you know, we’re gonna have a purpose here that does good in the world. And yeah, I think those kinds of things, you know, that evolves that was beyond just me saying that back in 2000, that really kind of evolved into that. And that’s what we tried to do with KITS.com as well as we set a vision. But especially a company growing as fast as ours, you know, over 100 million of revenue in under three years. It’s grown very quickly. So the culture almost has to evolve as you go through each stage of growth. Like you said, 10 million looks like one thing. I think 25 to 50 is another and as we get to 100 million where we are now, you know, the culture has to evolve really, really quickly.
Mark Daoust 14:38
Yeah. Do you? Do you follow things like EOS? Are you familiar with that? Are you familiar with some of these tractions or different systems that people are trying to implement into their businesses? Do you follow that at all?
Roger Hardy 14:50
No, I’m not I don’t know Eos. I love to hear about it.
Mark Daoust 14:53
Okay. Just wondering like what your It sounds like you follow some systems within your businesses as far as frequency of meetings, making sure that you are Looking at initiatives, how did you come up with with the structures and the system cases within your business?
Roger Hardy 15:05
Yeah, so our cadence was really set again, early on, I just happened to go to a lunch and a guy called Vern Harnish, who many entrepreneurs probably know from Scale Up, hosting a lunch in Vancouver, and you know, a bunch of, you know, random, the Small Business guys like me at the time, we were three, four months into our company had gone 60,000 the first month 120, I think our run rate was 250,000. And our fourth month, and he did the lunch was a one hour presentation. And everybody got up and left. I just sat there. I just, I just sat there, everybody laughed, I said, Excuse me, you know, Mr. harnish, sir. everything you just said, I need desperately, you know, I, my teachers who were both or my parents were both teachers didn’t have any, you know, business business real experience. My sister had a degree in engineering and, you know, so So, you know, everything that he said, so that was really the base of our those systems. And we’ve kept running those scale up systems, he called them the Rockefeller habits, then, but now scale up systems ever since. And those have evolved as well. But yeah, that’s been what we’ve used.
Mark Daoust 16:12
That’s, that’s, that’s fascinating. Thank you for that, by the way, that I think that’s really important, especially in an acquisition, right, when you’re buying a business for a lot of our listeners, they’re gonna be buying businesses, and how do you bake culture? And or how do you inherit that culture as well? You know, how do you make that sort of transition? Because I do think culture and or you, as you put it, cadence right, within the company, having that in place is really, really important. And I think it’s a consideration for anyone buying a business. I’d love to know from you. Did you ever utilize that to grow the business? And if you did, what went into that, obviously use credit cards, but I mean, you even more formal, sort of debt processes?
Roger Hardy 16:55
Yeah, you know, you know, so the business, we tended not to use it early on. And then we basically had a line of credit as we went, and got, and that just continued to expand, I should say, we did do a sub debt round just before the IPO. And the idea there was to put some to grow the business without giving up equity for the last kind of, you know, the last year and so we raised about a half a million in debt with sub debt terms. Sounds crazy today. But I think the rate was about 15%. Right. So you know, but in that year, I think our business grew 40%. So it’s one of those trade offs where the grew the business faster, the equity would have been diluted. And in the end, it ended up being productive. But I think today with with, with, you know, the cost of capital being lower, it’s probably productive for people to consider, I think, you know, going back to debt, though, debt is a high risk undertaking for small, you know, early stage ventures sub sub 10 million, I think it can be, you know, if you if you ever borrow money, you have to make sure you can pay it back. I mean, I guess that’s a simple truth. But I sure hear a lot of stories and and I’ve unfortunately seen the the realities of, you know, some of these loan sharks out there that will loan you money, and they’re, they’re really just trying to take your business. So I think it’s something to be to be super prudent and careful with. Yeah, I
Mark Daoust 18:16
just the growth that you had it, you know, I’m just trying to unravel some of the things that happen behind that growth and the growth mindset that you obviously had, as cultural mindset within your company, and the different tools and leverage that you pulled to be able to get there. Because I know a lot of our audience that maybe they’ve experienced their first exit, and maybe they sold for half a million dollars or a million dollars or $2 million. And now they have their sights set on bigger things, they want that 100 million dollar exit that $250 million exit, and that’s that’s where they’re at. So how did they get there? You know, what, what tools do they use, utilize to get there? And I think so far, you know, what I’m hearing is, obviously, you got to set the culture, right. I’d love to know from you. You’ve taught it for 14 years within your company. Do you remember the core values of the company?
Roger Hardy 18:59
Yeah, sure. Yeah. I mean, I can tell you the core values, and then maybe talk a bit more about the growth between those different segments. But so it was it was team bias to action. So you know, we were going to reward people for taking action, whether it’s right or wrong, do it learn something, move on, agents of change. So knowing that, you know, we’re trying to change a category, there’s gonna be friction in that, that do more with less, was one of them do? I guess it’s obvious again, but, you know, we, in its sense of interviewing and adding team members, you know, we weren’t looking for people coming out of big companies that had a big company mindset, I’m going to come in and hire 15 people. And I’m going to need, you know, three admins and then sort of thing we, we always want to say, entrepreneurial, you know, doing, doing good, you know, so being focused on making contribution, giving back having a purpose. And so I mean, a lot of these we’ve tried to incorporate in the early days. At KITS, they’re kind of sad, a little differently. But, but but all those, you know, and I don’t have written in front of me, but how many of them at five or six? Yeah, bad. Seven years out, there’s still kind of, you know, they were on the back of my, my, my card, my key card so long. And every quarter we did reinforce themselves, that’s actually you seem to more or less team. Anyway, they’ll be one more that will come back in a second. But on your one one point about, you know, how do you get from a $50 million access to $100 million exit happening for us, it was finding the growth vector in every category, because every category has some part of it, that’s growing quickly. And then looking for the products that are, you know, that are kind of that your customers need. So for us, it was listening to customers, we were a contact lens business till 2008. We were listening to what customers told us and and eventually, we heard enough, I love what you did for me in contact lenses, you made it more cost effective, you saved me some time You saved me some money. But every time I walk into the the eye doctor, I’m walking out with, you know, $700 $500 pair of plastic and glass. How is this possible? And when we heard it enough, you know, at first were like, wow, you know, glasses, it sounds complicated, you know, these two companies control the whole world, we can’t really help with that. But we heard that message enough, we started looking into it trying to figure out, you know, how can we participate in the category? Can we actually do something good and valuable for customers, and it was literally hearing that message over and over again, that, you know, we decided to launch the eyeglasses business and and then got, you know, super focused on how to deliver a tier one product, so sourcing the planet for the best quality eye care providers. And, you know, ultimately, that led to us vertically integrated, right. So, you know, I think that was kind of key. So taking the, you know, taking our one product and hearing what our customers are saying and adding in that second product. And vertically integrating it, you know, the second most creative thing businesses can have done in the last 20 years, if you’re b2c or, you know, like a direct to consumer, like many of the companies that I think you you help, has been to vertically integrate, you know, find a way to have your own brand in the category, do something special differentiated, you know, on your own. And I think that that was a key step and really contributing, you know, taking the value of the company that that alone doubled the value of the company.
Mark Daoust 22:26
You said something in there, and it was almost a throw throwaway sentiment to it. But I think it’s so important. You know, what prevents a company from from growing it and seeing that massive acceleration? I think it’s taken on the difficult challenge, right? It’s, it’s seen something that is difficult seeing something that might be complex on its surface, and deciding you know, what, we’re actually going to try and unravel this, and we’re going to try and see if we can solve it, you listen to the marketplace here where the marketplace is saying, and then trying to address that, you know, that solves a product market fit. But a lot of people don’t move into the challenge. But what what I think, because of the work involved, right, and because of risk, or at least the apparent risk, but the benefit of is, is that challenge is also a moat. It’s also protection. It also gives you if you figure it out space to play, without any competitors, with a market that’s ready and willing. And oh, yeah, just hats off to you for pursuing the challenge, listening to people in pursuing the challenge and obviously paid and paid off dividends. With the can do with KITS.com. I imagine if we put a lot of the same lessons between the two companies here. What are your quarterly meetings look like? It sounds like you have quarterly meetings as part of a regular cadence for what you’re doing. If you don’t mind me asking?
Roger Hardy 23:41
Yeah, sure. So so the company, as I said, in the third year, we just did an IPO on the Canadian exchange on the TSX, raised 55 million to invest in growing the business getting the brand out there. And so we do quarterly meetings where we identify priorities in each functional area. So the marketing team, they’ll each, they’ll have a top five that rolls down into the entire team. So if I’m in charge of, let’s say, paid media, I’ve got to talk five things I got to do, if I’m in charge of email retention, customer journeys, I’ve got a top five and so on. And then that that rolls through to customer service, if I’m answering calls, I’ve got a top five around satisfaction around how many calls I do around, you know, you know, all kinds of different metrics. So that blend in there. And so we try to put you know, those metrics in front of people that we think all tie into the top five of the company, so which is you know, generally starts with revenue goes into, to margins, earnings, and then and then into satisfaction metrics. You know, for us, we’re focused on NPS Net Promoter Score. We think that the best net promoter score in every category, that company ultimately has the highest value in the category. And so we’re very focused on listening to customers, we have the most satisfied customers and the highest ROI You count in the category today. And so that gets us really excited, we see that our competitors turn off their customer comments. And I think you know, there are folks that do that, right. And these are big companies, billion dollar businesses we compete with, they turn off their customer comments, if you think about that, you know that to me, yes, you’re going to have some customers that are unhappy, and they’re going to say some awful things you online, we all know, everybody has a voice. But you know, you got to be willing to listen to that, take a bit of flak and try to get better every day. And that’s what we’re trying to do. And so we’re super excited to have the satisfaction metrics, we do the best in the category, that ultimately is what we think leads to growth. If you have happy customers telling the story to other people, they know friends and family. I mean, that’s how we found out about Google, right? Somebody told you Hey, have you tried Google somebody? That’s how you found out on Facebook? Someone said, Are you on Facebook yet? You know, have you tried Instagram, you know, none of these things, you didn’t see an ad for any of those products, right? And yet, that that there was somebody told you about it. So to the extent we can, that’s what we’re trying to do is provide you a pair of glasses that allows you so much that you want to tell your friends and family about it, we want, you know, a pair of glasses at KITS.com $69 we think it’s the highest quality frame you can get in the market. And we’re sure that, you know, other companies are paying more than that to acquire customers. So we want you know, if we allow a customer and they tell the story that that’s really, you know, for us that’s that’s kind of what we’re trying to, that’s the Nirvana, you know, that’s the lift moment for our company, right is with word of mouth carries it.
Mark Daoust 26:29
You can’t get there, unless you’re leaning into the negative comments, though, right? I mean, you know, right off the bat,
Roger Hardy 26:34
you’re so right. You know, I think, and that’s why I think some of these companies have such a high acquisition cost that they, they ignore the market. You know, we when we launch our glasses offering a KITS, biggest thing we heard over and over again. And the biggest comment was where progressives, you know, which is, you know, if people are under 45, they don’t know what a progressive is, but basically a bifocal, once you’re 45, it gets harder and harder to see the menu and see, you know, see small print, we’ve all seen our friends kind of your arms get too short squinting, so those are progressive that we kept hearing that comment over and over, we said, this is a very complex thing to make a progressive lens to make a bifocal lens, we need very sophisticated equipment, it’s millions and millions 10s of millions of dollars, we had to put into that, to be able to make that. And like you said, you know, what’s the thing that’s hard to do? That’s really good for your customer. If you can find that hard thing to do, that’s good for your customer. That’s where that’s, you know, that’s a sweet spot, right? If it’s easy, everybody’s doing it, it’s the hard thing that is creating value for your customer. So we do a digital progressive lens that retails across the states anywhere from 600 to $800. We retail that for 199. Now, and that’s you know, we’ve got the best state of the art equipment, we’re running in a completely automated lab. It’s made in North America, you give it orders today, it’s on your doorstep tomorrow morning. So you know, those are some of the things we’re trying to do is take that art thing and make it easy and give customers a while.
Mark Daoust 27:58
Between company culture, having a good cadence to your company, utilizing the growth in the right way on different growth levers and and then obviously listening to the customers pursuing the hard things. You’ve done. You’ve done some amazing things. half a billion dollars. I have to ask, how do you celebrate? What’s gone through? I mean, that’s, that’s that’s a serious feather in the cap.
Roger Hardy 28:51
Yeah, I mean, great question. We were you know, it was a real team effort. And probably the best part was knowing that along the way we’d had a employee share ownership plan. So all of our staff and employees I think it was 92% so anyone had been there more than three months, we would match their contribution so all the staff had been you know, accumulating stock and and really the run up in a in a year before we sold the stock you know more than I think either double or double than you know a bit more than doubled so was just you know, holding that that big party that event you know I took all the 20 managers out I bought them all sort of a deal gift and look like a Super Bowl ring. You can believe it bought them all in Super Bowl ring is that that was as close as we were getting to Super Bowl ring so but you know that that just celebrate with the team was really the most rewarding part. You know, it was financially obviously great for all the all the team and that’s the biggest reward and we’re trying to do the same thing and kits again, that’s the nice thing about being public is is getting everybody on board getting everybody you know as owners and thinking like owners, that’s really the target For me is if I, it’s no good for me to think like an owner, and everybody else think like an employee I needed, you know, in that case, all 750 people in this case, you know, the 150, that were will be out shortly here all kind of thinking like an owner pulling in the same direction. So, I know not everybody thinks that way with equity, but it’s been my experience that I would rather have everybody owning some stock and kind of, and then and then I can, you know, hold them accountable and say, Hey, I need you to think like an owner and I need us all on the same page here and, you know, challenging them. Is that how an owner would think, would you make that decision? If it was your money? You know, would you pull that same trigger? Would you do that same thing if it was your money? And that’s that’s kind of something that, you know, I anyway, so all that to say, yeah, it was a good celebration, you know, team when, what felt really good?
Mark Daoust 30:47
Or just up about time goes fast these conversations, because I can always like, yeah, I’m praying for more and yeah, I mean, I’m not sure if you understand just even some of the subtle comments are saying I think are dripping with some business wisdom. Obviously, what you’ve been doing is it’s been remarkable. KITS.com. You’re at 100 million in sales. Three years old. You said, is that right?
Roger Hardy 31:06
Yeah. Yeah, this is a third year. Correct.
Mark Daoust 31:02
I gotta send you on public. I want you to go public with it in
Roger Hardy 31:02
Mark Daoust 31:02
Congratulations. That’s awesome. Thank you. Yeah, that’s incredible. And what was the horizon on that? Just continue to grow that and replicate
Roger Hardy 31:19
that? Yeah, so we were public in the Canadian market. TSX I think as we get a little bigger, we’ll probably do a NASDAQ listing you know, next year, and we’ll wait and see if others in the US kind of, you know, bring some attention to the category there’s a few other folks that are you know, maybe thinking about doing doing IPOs and listings, I think that just bring some eyes and attention to the category and people get the sense that hey, I can actually buy eyeglasses online it’s really easy it’s easier than buying almost anything else. Because you know remarkably the the size of your glasses right inside the arms people don’t know that and you get a copy of your prescription it’s easy to enter and you know, gosh saves you 50 to 70% so that that’s kind of what keeps us growing gets us excited and real pleasure to talk to you Mark you know, I love all your insights and and you know, it’s impressive how you’re able to help companies and really break it down. I think you articulate my story better than I do. So nice to chat with you.
Mark Daoust 32:14
I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me it was a these are always a good opportunity for me to pick really smart people’s brains and we just recorded for other people listened to as well. Roger, thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate your time. You to Mark all the best.
Today’s podcast was produced by Rise25 and the Quiet Light Content Team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast subject or guest, email us at [email protected] Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.