Scot Wingo has launched four businesses, sold two, brought one to public offering and is now working on his fourth, Get Spiffy, an on-demand car-washing service. Wingo, who lives in Raleigh, talks about the highlights and the biggest misconceptions of launching — and selling — a business.
Q: You created ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce company that helps retailers connect with customers. How did you go from that to a company in which customers can have their cars washed at home or at work?
A: That’s the most-asked question I get. Here’s how I think about it: Over the last 20 years we’ve seen products go digital in large numbers. Twenty years ago, it would have seemed like science fiction that products could show up from Amazon in an hour from Prime Now or Instacart. I think the same thing is happening with services. We can all see a little bit of it in transportation companies like Uber and Lyft where the phone has become the remote control for your life. I think there will be a day when any service you need around your house, car or life — plumber, electrician, HVAC — you’ll (access) through an app-based system. I call it the digitalization of services.
Q: How do you find Get Spiffy employees?
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A: We run (potential employees) through driver’s license checks, drug tests, the whole nine yards. We’re 20 percent female. A lot of women love to do this; they come out of the housecleaning world. We get a lot of people out of the fast-food industry, fulfillment centers and warehouse jobs. There’s one technician and one truck. You’re your own boss for the day.
Q: What’s your strategy for launching and selling businesses?
A: It’s surprisingly simple. It’s finding a customer pain and following that, getting customers, listening to them and scaling up from there. The No. 1 mistake a lot of people make in the start-up world is they put the cart before the horse. They think, “I want Google to acquire me so how can I build a business Google will (want to) acquire?” At least in my experience, that’s the backwards way to do it.
Q: How do you get a start-up to a place where it’s profitable and attractive?
A: There are hundreds of pitfalls and only one or two paths to success. Focus on the thing that’s going to get you to success. I see people who are running a three-person business and doing 20 things, none of them really well. Picking the right thing and doing it as awesome as you can is important. You also have to realize there comes a point when you have to course-correct or pivot to the next thing. That’s hard because it’s easy to get emotionally bonded to something. Every little failure you learn something that gets you to that next step.
Q: ChannelAdvisor, which you launched in 2001, was offered publicly on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013. What were the challenges?
A: That was one of my bucket list items as a business person. When I was a teenager I thought it would be really fun to take a business public, but I didn’t know how much work it involved. The IPO market being open and closed is out of your control. What is in your control is how you think about your business: Are you growing; are you at a scale that can go public? We were very fortunate to have Goldman Sachs, very blue chip, who had been following our business, and we had a great relationship. The stars aligned and there was a window of four months in 2013, and we were able to get out and go public. It was a surreal. I’m a big CNBC junkie, and I got to meet Jim Cramer and be on “Mad Money.” It was super exciting and a career highlight.
Scot Wingo — Tar Heel of the Week
Born: Aug. 14, 1968, in Columbia, S.C.
Education: Computer engineering degrees from the University of South Carolina and N.C. State University
Family: Married with three kids
Fun fact: He does the “Jason & Scot Show,” a business podcast.