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Customer Insights with Rick West

George Grombacher June 23, 2022

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Customer Insights with Rick West

LifeBlood: We talked about customer insights, getting real time data from retail stores, connecting brands with shoppers, the future of retail, and the value of in-person work environments, with Rick West, entrepreneur, CoFounder and CEO of Field Agent.  

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Rick West

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on I’m left with this is George G and A time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful request, Rick are ready to do this.

Unknown Speaker 0:18
And we are ready to do this. I’m excited.

george grombacher 0:20
We are ready to do this. Rick is the CEO and co founder of field agent. They’re an on demand tech company built for winning and retail, retail, connecting brands to shoppers, enabling brands to capture in store information, gain insight, and drive product trials on demand. Rick, I’m excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Unknown Speaker 0:43
Yeah, so I start out by telling people in very few times when your podcasters are listening to this, I am a cross between Hillbilly Elegy and Friday Night Lives. I’m not sure how many people from Appalachia, you have on your call, probably not many, how many people that can say that they grew up a hillbilly and I holler in Kentucky. And I take that from my childhood all the way to now I’m a CEO of a tech company, and I’ve lived all over the world. And my life has completely changed. But I give you that beginning of who I am to say that the culture that made me still kind of goes through my veins and follows me today. And we’ll talk a little bit about, you know what that means from a work ethic standpoint, from a loyalty and what it means to who I am. But if you fast forward a little bit personally for me, I’m a husband of one father of three, Granddad the two. That’s a little bit about who I am, I spend most of my time chasing grandkids now, which is fantastic. And the other side of this, I manage a tech company. And so I’ve got 100 employees, and a bunch of them are under the age of 30. So I’m driving the Gen Z millennial thing. And we’re really trying to change the way the world engages at retail.

george grombacher 2:00
I appreciate that. So y’all have been around for for 10 plus years.

Unknown Speaker 2:05
Yeah, yeah, it’s I tell people where I 12 Your overnight success?

george grombacher 2:09
No, I appreciate that. Yeah. And we’re theoretically speaking coming out of the pandemic, which doesn’t seem like it would be perfect for your product for what you do. Coming out, yes. But surviving, they’re

Unknown Speaker 2:22
not we’re sorry, for very basic standpoint, that there’s two facets to what we do. There’s the the agent or the user of our app. And that’s where people can make a little bit extra cash. So while you’re shopping, while you’re engaging, you can take a photo inside of a store, you could answer some questions to do a survey and do some research. Or you could buy products and try them and tell us about your experience or your rating, some review. And so if you look at the breadth of that, from user standpoint, during COVID, were one of the few companies that still had people going inside of retail, because people still needed to shop. And you really couldn’t justify sending in a third party because of COVID. So if you wanted eyes inside of a store, were really the only game in town. Now that being said, Because of COVID and supply chain issues. Our mystery shopping research business wasn’t it was impacted more significantly, because retailers and brands are saying I really don’t care what people think right now. I’m just trying to get things on the shelf. So then our quantitative was the product on the shelf, what did the store environment look like that business Shut up, the mystery shopping came down. And when you get into the sampling side of things, you can no longer go to Costco and get a demo. All that shut down. Well, our business shut up because we would have people either order something online and try it inside of their home to engage and get sampling going. So we ebb and flow pretty well. I think we netted out a little bit neutral to up as opposed to downs when I talk to my peers. They’re like wow, you you actually weathered it pretty well.

george grombacher 3:58
Nice. How did you get into this business?

Unknown Speaker 4:03
Yeah, so I came from p&g Back in the day. So that’s my corporate world in the US and Asia came to the US to do a shopper marketing shopper research work within the Walmart vendor community. If you fast forward about 10 years you know drugs were literally sitting around with our really cool iPhones and this is pre selfie. Okay, no front facing camera, right? No video unless you did a jailbreak on your phone and it’s hard for a lot of your listeners to say what like yeah, business people have blackberries. The cool kids had slider phones or flip phones. And maybe you had enough money to have a Blackberry and an iPhone sitting beside of it. So in those pre selfie days, we just had the iPhone three s that came out it was arrangement to megapixel camera of such a sweet phone. It was so good. It’s so we’re sitting around with the phone kind of googling on our phones because that was a cool way to do it. Whether or not someone was using the technology to capture data or insights inside of a store or inside of a home. At that point in time, our brick and mortar boutique research firm was traveling all over the US visiting homes, visiting people at retail, and trying to engage them to get insights with a Gosh with this phone, that you can take a photo, or do a video, eventually, maybe we could use that technology and no one was doing that. So if you’re an entrepreneur listening, think of it in terms of, we’re managing five LLCs. And we started working nights and weekends again to go launch the very first app in iTunes that paid you cash. All other apps at that time were badges, you could get points. We launched made cash. And from a business standpoint, if you were using the data, because of the metadata, the geolocation, we had really smart photos, we had really smart data. So that was primarily a tool for our research business. In Georgia. I’m telling you, we looked around and said, Gosh, I think we could scale this thing. I think it’s more than a tool. I think it can be a standalone company. So fast forward a year, we get rid of the marketing company for other LLCs rolled the research underneath and started driving filled agent haven’t looked back since.

george grombacher 6:18
Nice. Opportunity Plus technology equals new company. So

Unknown Speaker 6:24
it well it isn’t I tell people again, if you’re the entrepreneur wanting to start something, the piece that gave us confidence is that we knew we were solving a problem. And what was really important that we were using technology to solve a problem. And that’s when we knew we had something. It wasn’t a fun hobby. It wasn’t a fun gimmick. I mean, this really was going to revolutionize a how people engage with research and technology. But be on the client side. They’re saying so I could just be sitting at my desk and not traveled to a store. And you can tell me today, what’s adjacent to cream cheese and a whole foods. And you can tell me this afternoon? I said yes, I can. It just blew people’s minds. Now remember, that’s pre selfie. I mean, I was literally showing people how to use an iPhone. They said, Well, how are you going to train people to use the camera? Okay, the next question was, well, gosh, Rick, that’s interesting. But when they take a picture on their phone, how are they going to upload it to a computer to send it to you? Right? These were fair questions that today you just like, that’s just the dumbest. But it was, it was a very fair question, because we were literally mailing digital cameras to people. And they would mail the digital cameras back. I mean, that was the world we were living in only 12 years ago.

george grombacher 7:47
It’s easy to forget that. It’s it’s very, really nice. All right. So and as you’re reading the tea leaves and looking into the future with with the benefit of your experience and intellect and everything else. How are you? How are you thinking about retail.

Unknown Speaker 8:07
So retail today, what we’re starting to find is that you’ve got agency and major brick and mortar service providers. And if we’ve learned anything over the last two or three years, and if you’re if you followed, you know, the company terminus, you know, Sanjay, the the guy that created that he’s got a great book out called move. But if you’ve learned anything, there’s three primary issues that we’re all trying to solve really in the indie world, but especially in the tech world, it is. So you know, problem market fit, then you get into product market fit, and then platform. Now we are confident when I look at retail, people are trying to solve age old problems. And we realize we have products to fix that problem solve them, we look at our products, we’re really, really comfortable with the products we have. But on the platform side of things, was kind of flips it back to the to the actual user of our data. They’re no longer really wanting to have three meetings and five phone calls over three weeks to be able to purchase our product or purchase our service. So we’re actually launching a standalone marketplace. It’ll be called plumb for like product lead marketplace. And people will be able to engage our products and services the same way you do Amazon. So instead of calling Rick to say, Hey, Rick, I need to go get 100 ratings reviews or I need to understand research. They’re going to click click answer a few questions, go to Cart Checkout, and they’re finished. I mean, think about that. When you’re on Amazon today, and you’re buying a package of batteries. You don’t need three phone calls. No. You can go to Amazon today and spend $3,000 on a TV and you didn’t ask two salespeople to call you to tell you you self selected you self educated, zero friction. You can buy a Tesla today. How many salespeople are you going to talk to? Maybe I’ll be Have you probably have friends that have purchased a home because of the market we’re in today, sight unseen. They saw the video, they clicked it everything on DocuSign didn’t even engage a bank. And they travel halfway around the world and go into the house and someone hands him the keys. Well, if that’s true, when I look at the state of retail today, then why do we have brands and manufacturers have three meetings, two phone calls, and a Statement of Work? Over a course of three to four weeks to go execute a $500 project makes no sense at all. So we’re revolutionising, again, we’re kind of back in the old field agent days, We’re revolutionizing the platform fit again, got the problem fit. We got the product fit with the way people engage the platform is what we’re focused on now. And I think you’re gonna see that exploded retail, where people need things on demand as quick as they can and frictionless and the agencies the world that don’t understand that are gonna struggle.

george grombacher 10:57
And is your ability to gain insight immediately, on demand as people want it? Do you view that as the benefit? And because when I go buy something on Amazon, my my wife always said, Well, did you read the reviews? Right? Is that really is is that kind of a big key to what you’re doing?

Unknown Speaker 11:21
Well, I think it’s part of it. So think about the review aspect of things. We know that if you had one review, and there was another product on Amazon that had 1000 reviews, or 500. And it’s the exact same thing pricing equal, which which vendor Are you going to buy from, we’re gonna buy from the one that has solid reviews, right? So it’s no longer an if I had some reviews, it’s okay, so that alone tells me that you need to be in the game, they need to be fresh, you need to have a minimum of call it 50 to 100 or so. And obviously, you’d like to be as good as you can. So that’s the review part of it, I think on the platform that we’re building. Now you’re coming in saying so I can buy ratings and reviews from 20 people, but how do I know if someone’s good? I can buy research in the store. Who’s really there to say that this is quality research. So what happens in our world, Georgia is that our brand means something, we know that our clients are saying, yeah, great quality, you know, amazing data. So as we we build this marketplace elect, well, gosh, filled agent has vetted this supplier, and this third party coming in. And in our marketplace today, there’ll be filled agent products, but just like Amazon will have other third parties selling on a marketplace. We vetted them, and we’ve engaged them well. Why wouldn’t you trust us as providers suggesting this third party so we’ll go down that ratings review route, even within the marketplace to say, Yeah, we vetted and these are really strong providers.

george grombacher 12:52
Nice. Makes no sense in the world. We hope so. All right. So now tell me about being a hillbilly from Kentucky and now working with 100, millennials or Gen Z’s or whatever they are,

Unknown Speaker 13:04
you know, you’ve got to bring home. What really is in your gut and and your DNA. And so I’ll start out with saying that, if I’ve taught my team anything, number one is my tweetable, quote, would be success, or really being significant, most often follows the path of death, depth, and breadth of relationships. In this really quick texting world pushing around, I don’t think that the Gen Z millennial world really values relationships the way they should. And this is even more so Georgian, this post COVID, I’m not going to come in the office, and I’m going to work remote, that’s fine, you can get work done, you can be a cog. But you’re naive to think that the depth of relationships that your peers are having from either coming into the office, having coffee engaging someone, I’m telling you, whether it’s three 510 years down the road, those people will be running the companies of tomorrow, those people are going to get deals you’re not going to get get access to because of the depth and the breadth of their relationships. And I think it’s really important to people listening today is that it might be different. But it doesn’t go away. And that gets back to that hillbilly culture. I mean, I could call on friends and engage people from 40 years ago. And they would literally as we would say, give me the shirt off their back. I mean, that it’s so important. And so I’ve tried to bring that into our world today to keep reminding people that relationships matter. And you only you can say yes to a relationship and can engage others.

george grombacher 14:46
How are you trying to do that?

Unknown Speaker 14:48
Yeah, I think within our world today it is. We’re a hybrid workforce coming in, so three days in, you know, two days, wherever it may be. And so what we’re engaging with our team Just to say, hey, when you’re engaged, be all in and don’t engage just for the work. Again, I’m not saying that we need to hang out and you know, have parties at work. That’s not the point. But the point being, is that when you’re engaging someone else, and you’re walking down the hall and you see Person B over there, well make the effort to engage and see what they’re working on what it looks like, kind of broaden what you’re doing. And those two remote days, you can go sit in the same coffee shop or go sit in your apartment, or what if he just engaged in a different place, go to a workspace, he called up a couple of friends and go work together somewhere. So so there’s practical things we can do. Because my encouragement to them is three to five years from now the people that you were working with, on those two off days working remote, you might find that friend A or B says, Hey, I’ve got this great idea. Why don’t you come work on it with me? And the only reason they did that isn’t because you were smart, that they liked you. They did it because they had a relationship with you. And so it’s this little things like that, to have people do things differently, but not to lose sight of relationships.

george grombacher 16:06
A little bit. I’m fond of saying and practicing that one of the greatest gifts that I can give somebody else or they can give to me is their 100%. undivided attention. And yeah, sorry. It’s hard to do that.

Unknown Speaker 16:19
Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. And I think another thing along the the same lines is, as you’re engaging today and against working with the millennial aspect of things that could give you a couple of movie quotes, but there’s one from a Jerry Maguire, you Jerry Maguire fan. Sure. You remember that the dad of Cush, Cush, his dad said, Man, my word is good as like an oak tree, maybe I don’t need a signature. And so another thing that I bring from my culture back in is that you need to let your Yes be Yes. And your no be No, don’t live in the world maybe. So I was, you know, discipling this guy and I was gonna be meeting with them in the morning and said, Okay, we’re gonna get scheduled with some time. He said, Alright, what do you want to meet? Well, we can meet before work. We can do some lunch, say, hey, let’s meet before works. Great. So what time you want to be here? Let’s meet at 730 said, Okay, we’re gonna be at 730 at base camp coffee. It’s gonna be fantastic. He’s a great, I’m gonna put you down as a definite maybe. I went once a definitely said, Well, you know, if something else comes up, and you know, I move this. But you know, you’re definitely maybe am i Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, well, that’s like the old school school guy saying and what a pencil you and so I can erase it like now? either yes or no. So what I’m saying yes, but it’s a definite maybe. So that mindset has to be changed in the young people of today coming in? Because they’re always waiting for the next big thing. And it’s always maybe, maybe, maybe. And so I just keep beating this drum saying, Let your Yes be Yes. And your no be No. The no sometimes is the best thing you can give to someone. Because now they’re not waiting and wasting their time thinking well, maybe Georgia is going to show up. Maybe Rick is going to show up? Or maybe he’s going to do this they know or say yes, not now. I’ll do that for you. But it’s going to be in a month or in six months. And so that yes, no mentality comes from where I grew up, which is Hey, you said you were going to do it. Your Word is only so good. You better do it. And I think that’s another kind of mountain thing that’s really been driving me.

george grombacher 18:25
I love it. But yes be yes and no be No, no definite maybes that bass cup coffee sounds like a good spot wreck.

Unknown Speaker 18:33
It’s a great spot. It was there this morning. It was great. I love

george grombacher 18:37
it. Well, Rick, that’s a really good one. But the people are ready for your difference making tip, what do you have for them?

Unknown Speaker 18:42
I think the difference part is that regardless of whether you are talking about your personal life, or you looking at the business life, I think that setting a vision or a goal or seeing where you’re going and creating Rails is one of the healthiest thing you can do. Rails allows you to have margin and rails allows you to stay focused. And as an entrepreneur, especially Are you going to be a dentist a busy person is that the worst thing you can do is chasing shiny objects outside of those rails. Okay, it’s just distracting. I just I’m just ebbing and flowing. So if I have these rails on to listen, you can make them fairly broad and be completely creative within those rails. But if you start chasing things outside of that, you say, Hey, I’m focused on a, then D and G and W looks fantastic. You’re never going to be productive. That your your comment, George is that I want your undivided attention when you can’t because I’m on my phone and I’m chasing these things. You’re like, well, we’ll come back in here. I think in your personal life, whether it’s with your family, your kids, whether it’s with your spouse, good friends, business, staying focused, and driving is a really really healthy way to live. Live your life. And I’m not saying all shiny objects are bad. But the fact that use objects plural, it’s not a healthy thing. You may get the one or two that comes in it says, gosh, I could have missed it. But in most cases, lack of focus is really, really detrimental to business and relationships and bricks opinion.

george grombacher 20:15
Well, I think that that is great stuff that definitely gets Come on. Rick, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with field agent?

Unknown Speaker 20:24
Yeah, so I’m a LinkedIn guy you know, so you can just DM me there with your friend of Georgia is your friend of this podcast you’d be surprised I’m actually take that phone call, you know, or engage a little bit. So just go on LinkedIn. DM me, let’s connect make that happen. From a business standpoint. If you’re trying to make a little bit of extra cash download our app will make you make a few bucks this weekend or try some really cool products filled agent, it’s the orange with a white tie. You can’t miss this. If you’re a business wanting to engage our marketplace. You can go to Plum dot tech at WWW dot plum dot tech or you can learn more about our products at field agent dotnet so those three simple places LinkedIn plum dot tech and field agent dotnet you can find us

george grombacher 21:03
excellent well if you enjoyed the switches I did show Rick your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas find Rick on LinkedIn and ping him about whatever you’re into go to if you’re interested in in earning some extra money download the field agent app and make that happen. And if you are a business owner interested in engaging go to plumb that tech is that P L u m dot tech rel u m dot tech. Yes. Excellent. And then you can also go to field agent dotnet to learn about everything else they’re working on.

Unknown Speaker 21:37
You got it. Thanks again, Rick. Appreciate it. Look forward to next time.

george grombacher 21:41
Likewise, and until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

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