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Troy Ivan: “Be different to be BETTER, not just to be different”

Be different to be BETTER, not just to be different. The truth is no one really knows what’s going to work until you try, so don’t be afraid to be different and capture the customer’s interest, doing the same as others provide little strategic advantage. I mentioned “interest” instead of “attention” because interest includes attention, […]

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Be different to be BETTER, not just to be different. The truth is no one really knows what’s going to work until you try, so don’t be afraid to be different and capture the customer’s interest, doing the same as others provide little strategic advantage. I mentioned “interest” instead of “attention” because interest includes attention, but attention doesn’t necessarily create interest. Being different just to be different can catch a person’s attention, feel shallow and recede quickly, unlike if you’re really different and different to be better, you can deeply hook a person’s interest. Catching someone’s attention stops them from scrolling for a brief moment but catching their interest will make them click the learn more or shop now button.


As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Troy Ivan, CEO, of ExactCraft. Troy has more than 20-years of international experience in the financial industry, building startups in difficult business segments, and launching new advanced trading technologies. As a hobby, he teaches people how to fly small aircraft in and around the Rocky Mountains.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I grew up in Michigan outside of Ann Arbor roller skating and working on farms from a young age, throwing hay bales and shoveling cow poo for 1 dollar/hour. I received a scholarship during college to study in Japan and later graduated from Eastern Michigan University, directly followed by an MBA from Thunderbird, culminating in an experience of a lifetime working in the financial markets in various global centers with most of my career located in Asia. By 2012 at the age of 41 I was burned out, I decided with my wife to retire from the markets and find something that would be more personally fulfilling and allow me to spend more time with my wife and young children.

At the time my daughter was 7, son 4, and my wife was pregnant with our second daughter. It was time to get out from under the soul-crushing environment of the institutional financial sector and find something new, unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea what that would be. After considerable deliberation, we decided to leave Tokyo and start anew in Colorado. Colorado was appealing because of the wide-open space and active lifestyle with year-round outdoor activity. I love the mountains.

We took a house-hunting trip to explore different areas around the state, purchased a house in Boulder County, and moved about 8-months later. Boulder felt right because it’s beyond beautiful, very active, and most important to my end goal was its renowned startup and funding community that I prayed would be useful in finding a new and interesting path. I wanted to take my time finding something that fit well, would be interesting and would be the base for which I could build a future for myself and my family. I decided on a two-path approach to flying airplanes and looking for business opportunities. I knew it would take a long time to find a good fit and I didn’t want that time to be wasted so I reasoned that learning to fly would be a great skill to have and possibly a source of employment if I failed to find the meaningful business opportunity. There was, and still is, a huge pilot shortage that presented a viable career path with flying so it’s not as crazy as it sounds. I decided to race the two paths to see how far I could get with flight training before an interesting opportunity presented itself. I hit both paths as hard as possible flying, studying, and chasing down all opportunities all day, 7-days a week. I started flight training at Boulder Municipal Airport and attending every startup and investor event I could find.

After 2-years in Colorado, I’d made one funding in a local startup that was floundering and probably not going to make it, received my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certification and was teaching at the local flight school, but I was still searching for that elusive ‘something’ I knew was waiting for me. In 2014 at an early morning Longmont Startup morning coffee group I saw Lee Sutherland do an investor pitch for ExtractCraft’s seed round. It was so far out there, nearly a pipedream, the dreaded hardware sector, in an incredibly uncertain cannabis-related market at the time, but I could see the application and a glimmer of opportunity where nothing like this had ever existed. I became one of the original investors, spent another 2-years hunkered down in my garage figuring out how to make what we had into a real product with reliable processes, I joined the management team and here we are.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Wow, there have been so many. I’m not sure if it’s funny, but it’s something that made me look like a complete idiot and taught me a huge lesson. After I made the funding in ExtractCraft I wasn’t working for the company but working in tandem in my garage trying to understand the process and understand exactly the boundaries of the Source’s potential. At the time no one on the ExtractCraft team had any cannabis experience and they weren’t cannabis consumers at all, so they barely had a foggy idea about what a concentrate was, and “barely” is generous. They were working with an old hippy they knew in Boulder that had ‘decades of experience’ in the cannabis underground as a consultant to develop the extraction process. Even though I started smoking cannabis at the age of 11 and partake in cannabis consumption for most of my life, the US concentrate revolution happened while I was working overseas so I didn’t have any concentrate or processing knowledge either. I thought we were lucky to have such an experienced hippy to help us shorten the learning curve and teach us the magic secrets of extraction. He showed us how to take the cannabis, mix it with ethanol, put it in a blender for at least 10-minutes, strain it, then run it through the Source to remove ethanol, and magically you’d have this dark black, swamp smelling concentrate that everyone LOVES! I was very grateful for him sharing this closely held wisdom.

We had no access to any other sample or comparison at the time, we were flying blind with this beacon of cannabis knowledge showing us the secret to success. I raced home, repeated the process, and was overjoyed to find out that I was able to make a beautiful dark black, swamp smelling concentrate that everyone would love. The next day I went to a smoke shop in Boulder to do some market research and educate myself with the market, tools, and what’s new. I was speaking to this amazing girl that was a huge fan of concentrates, a treasure trove of knowledge and was very generous with her time because it was mid-afternoon, and the shop was quite slow. She educated me on various cannabis topics, so I mentioned, using the same words as my hippy mentor, “I have this new alliance that makes concentrates that people are killing for.” She got really excited and offered to try it and promised to give me honest feedback. This was awesome! I had someone that could provide some feedback on this new killer concentrate I made but had no idea how to smoke it myself. I rushed home and rushed back to the shop with my black gold. With great excitement, I passed my treasure over the counter for her and a coworker to be amazed, but I was met with a look that combined ‘who farted’ and ‘I need to throw-up.’ This was the ‘funny’, more like the humiliating, point where I realized that no one in the company actually had any idea how to use the equipment to make a product that people would want.

I learned the huge lesson on that day of humiliation. The vast majority of what you hear from people in this industry, especially when it comes to “I’ve been doing this for 20-years,” must be treated with caution and nothing can replace putting the work in yourself. This is when my work in the garage changed from curiosity to a serious effort to learn everything I could and develop processes for anyone to make high-quality extractions with the Source. There’s an ocean of cannabis and cannabis processing information circulating that’s bad, inaccurate, confused, and antiquated; people really need to be careful with the information they take on and forward as fact.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Absolutely, we don’t get anywhere on our own whether we realize it or not, every interaction we have influences us in some way in the long term. There are a great many people I owe thanks to for contributing to my development into who I am today, but for this forum, I would like to focus on a few that have had a direct influence on my success with ExtractCraft. Obviously, the first was the young lady in the Boulder smoke shop that taught me dark black, swamp smelling concentrates are not to kill for which began my scouring search for information. At that time there was very little information anywhere and most of the information available was inaccurate or about making concentrates by blasting butane. I got lucky and found SkunkPharm.com (the original website) when Gray Wolf was still involved. The legal landscape then was dramatically different than today and Skunkpharm was the best source, and just about the only source of information at the time. It set me on the path to understanding what we really had to work with. I was able to visit him, hangout, and tell him personally how much I appreciated his work, it was a wonderful day.

ExtractCraft wouldn’t have the success we have today if it wasn’t for my partner Lee Sutherland who invented the original Source, leads the development of our groundbreaking technology, and works tirelessly developing the new tech we’re known for. I’m the face of the company and get a lot of credit for our success but his work behind the scenes is just as important. Lee develops the tech and I develop the product, one can’t be successful without the other, so I’m grateful for his efforts.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

The hardest part of the entire customer journey is getting them to your front door and interacting with you, once the hard part is accomplished don’t waste any chance to dazzle them, provide an experience that will create a supporter for life and lay the foundation of success. Customer service includes all interaction with your potential customers as well as existing customers, there’s nothing more important than doing your best to make those interactions positive, informative, and solution directed with as much empathy and understanding as possible. If a company has a culture that respects customers and is always focused on making every customer experience personalized, attentive, and caring then it will be organic, and the customer will feel that extra care. That real, organic customer service experience born from the company culture will be special, and that’s what it’s all about; it’s what makes people come back to you, it’s what makes people spread the word about what you’re doing, it’s what makes people go out of their way to recommend and support you.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

My time in Japan provided an extraordinary set of customer service experiences to draw on. The customer service in Japan is absolutely unbelievable from the legendary hotels and department stores to McDonald’s and KFC, and even convenience stores are incredible. The Japanese take customer experience and service to a level that has to be experienced to be believed. I am very fortunate to have experienced and learned from it for a long time and now it’s part of my tool bag. If I’d never experienced it, like most people, I wouldn’t have that as a benchmark, and my understanding and the value I place on of customer experience would be quite different.

It’s so hard for me to imagine how someone running a business wouldn’t prioritize the customer experience I’m kind of stumped, even the Post Office is upping its game. Implementing changes, tools, and training to achieve high-quality customer experience is very expensive and effort-intensive. It’s entirely possible that when a company is started and experiences rapid early growth, the novelty of their product or service provides such a great customer experience impact that may distract from the need to develop quality customer service early, but that will change and changing course mid-way will be much more difficult and expensive than building it in from the beginning. Likewise, if a more mature operation loses its way due to poor management, implementing the necessary change can meet serious resistance from management due to costs and employees who are set in their ways. Lastly, it’s entirely possible that a company, or product, becomes such a cash cow the need to improve the customer experience is quite low, like your wireless and cable companies. Whether a company misses the mark from simply not recognizing the problem or they’re lazy and complacent, eventually competition will come with superior customer service and either wakes them up or taking them out.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

It absolutely should, ideally, competition would drive companies to battle as Pepsi and Coke used to for the best customer experience! Unfortunately, when competition increases companies can find themselves in a position where they have to tighten the belt, and customer service is often sacrificed. In head-to-head competition with comparable quality goods or services, customer service is going to win the game for you every time. In the financial industry, I was essentially a pencil salesman. Whether I was working in bonds, repos, CDS or whatever my competition had similar access to everything I had, like buying and selling the same pencil, so being successful was entirely about customer experience. If I could get a price to my customers fast, accurately, hassle-free, with clean execution they would do the business with me instead of risking getting the trade done with another broker who probably had the same price. It was the most intense, bare-bones form of competition I know of, and forced us to provide customer experience at an unbelievable level. It was no different than a pencil salesman and it’s no different than the way I approach customer service with ExtractCraft. Competition is always won at the customer level and you can only win the customer by providing them the best experience and service.

The pressure “to improve” customer experience originates internally because it’s ultimately used as a tool to improve company performance, where “how you improve” the customer experience, if done properly is almost always determined by external pressures. Customer experience in terms of messaging, branding, and approach are all designed based on what will be most effective with customers and are all influenced by external pressures like societal attitudes, trends, current events, social media, and such which then put pressure on “how” to improve. Having said that, working in the very uncertain regulatory framework that existed when we started out forced us to make the best possible customer experience, it seriously limited the number of consumers we could reach as well as what we could say to them. We had to be very smart about getting to them and impactful when we got there. In this case, I suppose the outside regulatory pressure forced us to improve the customer experience to a new level to compensate for the constriction of brand exposure.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

I’m wondering if you would like to hear it straight from the customers themselves?

“And now, the verdict is in on the potency of my medicinal cannabis after my first time using the Source Turbo…

I can basically sum it up in three words, and they would be

Oh

My

Gawd

Ok, there is more backstory to this.

I’m a medicinal cannabis user of nearly 15 years now. I have incredible neuropathic pain in my entire body, and it’s worse in my feet and hands. I have chronic fatigue and chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and several eye problems — all of which have combined in me over 25 years to turn me into a hunched-over, old-before-my-time (47 years), crumbling on the inside human being.

Smoking works fastest for me, but I can’t smoke anything anymore because I get bronchitis and pneumonia easily. Edibles and capsules are my treatment of choice — I’m terrified of prescription antidote and have been for my entire life.

I typically make easy medicinal chocolate using 3–4 pounds of Hershey’s and one pound of cannabutter, and while it has worked fairly well for over 10 years, I realized that I needed to either dramatically increase my consumption, or that I needed to make a more potent and more pure form of medicinal cannabis.

That’s what led me to the Source Turbo. I researched all the methods for over a year. Infusing with butter or oil isn’t the strongest way to get all the glorious healing benefits of cannabis. I can’t smoke it. I’m not a scientist with a lab or the knowledge required to work lab equipment, and I’m not terribly attracted to the idea of blowing myself or my house up using a rice cooker and a solvent.

I’m on Medicare and Social Security Disability and will be the rest of my life — I don’t make much money each month, so spending the money on the Turbo and the extra 100 dollars in alcohol, candy molds, silicone accessories, and filtering equipment all added up to a hardship on me financially.

Yet I knew that it was time. I’ve read many people on the company’s Facebook posts complaining about the cost of the machine, and I am here to tell you that the cost is an funding in your health, your happiness, and your ability to live as pain-free as possible.

I ran an ounce of Sour Diesel two days ago through the Turbo, and I had to do my ‘cook’ in two passes. The first yielded about an ounce of the tincture. The second smaller batch yielded about a teaspoon and a half of oil — I didn’t realize that it was done until it was almost too late.

I used the teaspoon amount in a cup of coconut oil for a topical, and I added the tincture of 3.5 pounds of gently melted Hershey’s chocolate and two snack size Reese’s Cups.

I poured them into the new silicone candy molds I bought on Amazon and set them in the freezer. I ate one of the pieces about 4:30 yesterday before whipping up homemade burgers and sweet potato fries for dinner.

It took one hour for me to say to my wife, “It’s happening!” Usually, four hours is my average time for edibles to kick in.

Perhaps 90 seconds went by, and, Oh My Gawd — I was floating. I looked over at my wife and told her with my voice trembling that my eyes didn’t hurt. Then I smiled non-stop for about 45 minutes. Then I told her with more emotions in my voice that my feet didn’t hurt, and I smiled some more.

My 3.5 pounds of Source Turbo-blessed medicated chocolate made 161 pieces, and I plan on eating those pieces a third of piece at a time. That’s 483 servings, minus the full-size piece last night that had me floating in pain-free outer space for three hours. I tried my coconut oil topical this morning, and it worked in about 2 minutes to leave my feet as pain-free as they’ve been since I was a kid, long before my body turned on me.

I knew the Source Turbo oil was going to work. I knew my potency was going to be higher than ever (pun not intended but I’ll take it anyway), and I knew that the process and machine were going to do exactly as my research had shown, but I was still worried sick over all of this.

I was afraid deep down that I’d put in nearly 1,000 dollars between the machine and accessories and ounce of green material, and was a bit freaked out when I saw how small the amount seemed after each Turbo run.

I ate a whole piece somewhat afraid that it wouldn’t affect me at all. Halfway through my evening, I commented to my wife that I should have cut it into three pieces and that I was remarkably successful, ASTOUNDINGLY successful, on my first ‘go’ at making my own super-concentrated treatment with this innocuous-looking device.

My recent efforts at squeezing every ounce of yield that I could out of my two grow cabinets would have all been for virtually nothing if I hadn’t also concentrated on producing the most potent treatment that I could possibly make on my own.

So there you have it — one disabled man’s personal and firsthand experience.”

Here is another example.

“My god Troy, the source has touched countless lives in so many ways. The medical aspect alone is a blessing to humanity. So many cancer patients being re-invigorated with hope and healing. The Source saves medical users thousands of dollar by giving us the means to by-pass the dispensaries. Plus, through your website, you get to hang out with some pretty cool and highly intelligent people. YES, brother, you are making a BIG, positive impact on society. Don’t forget that crap.😆👍✌️🤟”

We have so many people thanking us all the time and telling us how blown away they are by our attention, equipment, support of the community, and the fun they are having. I love the cancer success stories and the stories of people helping loved ones heal, but it really fun when we get grown 60 and 70-year-old men calling us to tell us they just ordered a unit and “I feel like a kid at Christmas time, I haven’t felt like this in years!” It’s great to hear the real excitement, then a week or two later they’ll call again and tell us how they’re now the talk of their town and friends won’t stop dropping by for a sample. We blow people away with our equipment and our customer experience all day every day and we are committed to continuing that for as long as we can, there’s nothing better than knowing we made a positive impact on someone’s day even if it’s just answering a simple question with as much care as possible.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Oh yes, every positive WOW experience a customer has contributed to the image and reputation of the company and can be more effective than any marketing dollars spent. You can witness these ripples clearly all day on our social media groups. Customers share their incredibly positive experiences with their friends as well as perfect strangers not only in our user groups but in other groups and pages across social media. Well before social media “word of mouth” was known to be the most effective form of marketing but it was opaque and difficult to quantify. Now you can actually watch it play out on social media and observe how incredibly powerful these ripples are at growing your brand and expanding your customer base. Getting tagged in posts, your posts get shared, people getting tagged in the comments of your posts, and backlinks in blogs, the ripple effects in social media are what make it so powerful and can make it very affordable exposure if you get it right or free if you get lucky.

The word of mouth ripple effect sometimes leads to wild and unexpected opportunities. I recently received a call from a representative working with a minister of a foreign government that’s considering making our equipment available to its citizens through a government-backed distributor. He told me he learned about us from a friend who has a Source Turbo, and that friend found us through another friend with a Source Turbo. A single sale with great customer experience, shared friend to friend has led to a potential government-backed business deal. That’s a pretty impressive ripple effect that really surprised even me.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

Creating a true WOW experience will be unique for any company and product and will change over time. Some products are a rapid impact, purchase, then no continued company contact until the next purchase opportunity. ExtractCraft on the other hand is deeply committed and involved with the customers after the purchase, during the initial operating experience, along the learning curve and skill development, to a long relationship in the community. The most powerful WOW isn’t only an initial grabbing of attention because that will fade, but the ability to exist in a customer’s afterthought in a positive way for an extended period and then continue to impress them as often as possible.

1) BE DIFFERENT

Be different to be BETTER, not just to be different. The truth is no one really knows what’s going to work until you try, so don’t be afraid to be different and capture the customer’s interest, doing the same as others provide little strategic advantage. I mentioned “interest” instead of “attention” because interest includes attention, but attention doesn’t necessarily create interest. Being different just to be different can catch a person’s attention, feel shallow and recede quickly, unlike if you’re really different and different to be better, you can deeply hook a person’s interest. Catching someone’s attention stops them from scrolling for a brief moment but catching their interest will make them click the learn more or shop now button.

2) CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING

We’ve all heard the cliched “you have to have passion,” but if you really care about what you’re doing, that’s where the passion comes from. If you care about what you are doing in business it will show, it will be contagious and grab everyone’s interest. This is what you might think of as how passion can draw others in, but it can feel hollow (like a used car salesman) if someone doesn’t actually care about what they are doing. When that passion is derived from something you really care about it’s much more powerful.

3) CREATE IMPACT

Potential customers must feel that what you’re doing will impact their lives positively, then you must make that impact a reality for them. When you come through and can meet, or exceed, the expected positive impact, that’s the real genesis of the WOW experience. This is where the expectations become the experience.

4) BE A GUIDE

Sherpa your customer through a great experience by being visible, accessible, and relatable. Never let the customer feel like they’re on their own. I like the idea of being a guide more than a ‘leader’ in the customer experience because it immerses me in the journey with the customer on the same team rather than opposing customer and business roles.

5) COMMUNICATE WITH EMPATHY

In the world we live in people are tightly wound and patience is often at a minimum so practicing a high level of empathy when communicating with customers can go a long way. Just giving that extra bit of care and understanding will improve every customer’s experience every time. Whenever a customer has a question, problem, or concern and they feel that you can understand and share their view and feel the experience will be infinitely more pleasant than if they feel any ambivalence, dismissiveness, or adversarial tone. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s so powerful I had to mention it. Often the little things are the strongest, and just the simple act of communicating with empathy will turn what could be a negative experience into a WOW experience.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Yes, and that is the power of the evangelist and word of mouth. You must make it as easy as possible for anyone that hears the words of your evangelist to find you by being visible, extremely accessible, and highly engaged with customer inquiries. If you’re visible, engaged, and accessible, people will be much more comfortable and likely to communicate their experience with a friend knowing the friend will receive the same exciting experience they did. Be visible so they can find you easily. Be accessible by providing an easy and frictionless way to connect when they do find you. Then, engage them with a quick and personal response. The next level is when a community of evangelist forms around a company or product with a culture of wanting to share their experiences.

This is where the magic happens with a large group wanting to add support and tell others what they’re missing, helping you grow the community in an organic and engaging way. In our groups we see satisfied customers interacting with curious prospective customers asking questions or commenting on social media ads, we see our posts being shared with praise, we see people so happy with their user experience they can’t help but to make social media posts showing people their experience. We are touching people so deeply, improving not only their health but also their lifestyle that they can’t stop themselves from sharing their experience and encouraging others to do the same. Make a positive and meaningful improvement to your customer’s life and the rest just happens.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Haha, I’m barely an influence at all, let alone a great influence. Aside from large general ideas like world peace and people being kind to one another as a practice, I would focus on something we are already working on and I may be able to achieve to a small degree. Hopefully, I won’t be found like Jeffrey Epstein or floating in a swimming pool for saying this, but I dream of a world where our society is not subjugated to the profits of such an evil pharmaceutical industry and the corrupt healthcare system.

It’s astonishing to me that people’s lives, and often the lives of entire families are decimated by a single health problem of one family member. I understand the need for profit as an engine for development and progress, but the state we currently find ourselves in is unconscionable. I wish I were a person of great influence as you mention because fixing this would be my singular mission. With the super-wealthy like Bezos, Buffet, Gates, our lawmakers, and our President unable, or unwilling, to really swing the bat at addressing this very important issue I really have no confidence that I can make a big difference, but we’re trying and working on it by helping one person at a time. If I could somehow start a movement that empowered the people of our great country to be able to bring enough attention and pressure to demand and accomplish liberation from the terrible burden of an out of control pharmaceutical industry and the unmanageable, life-crushing healthcare system, that is the movement I would wish to start above all else.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook User Groups: (these are incredible)

“ExtractCraft User Group”

https://www.facebook.com/groups/921284877977347/ and

“ExtractCraft Test Kitchen” https://www.facebook.com/groups/183294065570985/

Facebook company page: https://www.facebook.com/extractcraft/

Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/ExtractCraftVideos‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

How to blog: www.extractcrafter.com‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

‬Instagram @extractcraft_team

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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