From Lemonade Stand to Tech CEO: Millennial Serial Entrepreneur Ryan Vet

Ryan Vet started his entrepreneurial journey as a 9-year-old selling newspapers. But not a paper route – his OWN newspapers that he created, printed, and distributed.  Since then Ryan has started everything from coffee shops to technology companies, and he’s had time to be a podcaster, speaker, and author.  His accomplishments are impressive, but at 31, his career is just getting started.

Cracking the Millennial Code, by Ryan Vet
The Dental Experience Podcast


Donald Thompson: Welcome to the Donald Thompson podcast. Today, I have an opportunity to talk to Ryan Vet, and he’s both a marketer and, more importantly – and more germane to this topic – a entrepreneur. And what we’re going to talk about today is how do you not only have an idea and a concept, but how do you transition that concept into something that’s commercially viable?

Ryan, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on.

Ryan Vet: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Donald Thompson: One of the things that, Ryan, we like to do as we kind of dive into the subject matter is let’s just take a step back and talk to us a little bit about you, right? Where are you from, where you grew up, brothers and sisters, a little bit about the family, and then we’ll just talk as friends and kick it a little bit.

Ryan Vet: Yeah, well, I appreciate that. I have the quintessential, probably non-exciting entrepreneurial journey. It did start with a lemonade stand. And I say that tongue-in-cheek, but also very seriously. That lemonade stand – I quickly realized as I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago that it could be more. And so, I did some product diversification. Called the Daily Herald, which is the big newspaper in Chicago, when I was about 9 years old, and they said, “Yes, ma’am,” and I was devastated. And so like any entrepreneur, right? When, when someone comes at you and, and they, they put an obstacle in your path, you figure out a way around it. So, instead of paying the, I think it was like $20 or $30,000 a day for full color backpage ad that I had requested, they, they decided, or I decided rather, that I did not need to go with the local newspaper and I could do my own.

So, I started a newspaper for kids, a whopping two issues, and went to about nine households -did go to two States. I mailed it to the only friend I had in another state at the time. But I say all of that slightly ingest, but also seriously because, somehow one of those nine printed copies with my parent’s inkjet that they spent too much money on, ended up in a local business.

And someone said, “Hey, you do design work. Could you do design work for me?” They had no idea it was 9. And so over email, I said, “Sure, I am totally capable of doing design work here in my qualifications.” And so, that’s really how I got into graphic design and launched my first marketing business. So, it is the quintessential entrepreneurial journey with an interesting twist.

Donald Thompson: That is awesome. So I want to unpack that a little bit. You know, for me, I started out in elementary school selling Jolly Ranchers getting, you know, not just a little bag. I would go buy them by the pound. And then, and then sell them, you know, sell them for a quarter a piece.

There’s something about that entrepreneurial bug that can be identified early on. Where do you think that came from? Were your parents entrepreneurs? Is that something they taught in the home? Did you have a relative, like where did that spark, right, that you could be your own boss come from?

Ryan Vet: That’s a great question. It’s something I, I think you’re totally right on buying the pound bag versus, you know, the, what, 12 ounce bag and, and selling them. My dad was a pastor in Chicago, my mom was a nurse. Neither one of them super high paying jobs at the time, and living in the Chicago area, definitely not – the dollar didn’t go quite as far.

And so, they always said, “You can have whatever you want, but you’re going to have to work for it.” And they didn’t ever limit anything from me or limit my ability to get something, but they always encouraged me to pursue different and creative ways to get  the different things I wanted, so, at the time, it was a PlayStation.

I think it was like a PS1 or whatever came out – I don’t even remember. And I bought it, and I ended up not using it, which was a whole ‘nother lesson that we can unpack another time. But it was this idea of, “Hey, if you want it, absolutely. Don’t – I’m not going to tell you no, but you have to be creative. Here’s what we’re going to come with,” and they told me how much they were willing to give and how I had to come up with the other I think it was like $160.

Donald Thompson: I mean, that’s really powerful because that links motivation, right, to that creative mindset, to then that financial outcome.

And I think that, you know, sometimes, you know, our society today a little bit, and I will be a little pejorative. We went through a period in our country where everybody got a trophy, everybody got a ribbon. Right? And what you’re describing is your parents gave you that unlimited freedom to dream aligned with, right, a work ethic that says you gotta put your mind and your motivation and your work together, and then you can have what you want.

Ryan Vet: Yeah, that’s so true. And there’s a great book called “Everyone Gets a Trophy.”  It talks about marketing to millennials. I got into speaking about a decade ago now, and it was to a group of realtors about the topic of millennials because millennials weren’t buying homes.

And, so fast forward, 10 years later, I wrote a book, “Cracking the Millennial Code,” talking about that very same thing. And it’s talking about how sometimes you, you’re faced with things in life and, obviously, generational cohorts are very much segmented in a group and not looking at the individual, but there, there is the reality that my generation – and I’ll admit, I got honorable mentions for many things I probably didn’t even deserve that for  growing up – that we got a trophy. And so, I unpack that a little bit more in the book.

I mean,

Donald Thompson: that’s fantastic. One of the things that I would like to start out with, tell me something interesting about you that I wouldn’t find on the internet, on your LinkedIn profile, kind of that standard surfing. Tell me something fun and interesting about Ryan.

Ryan Vet: Yeah. So lemonade, I would say was my, my start in the beverage industry. I went to college, and I need to make some money ’cause I was paying most of my way through college. I did have a little bit of financial aid and a little bit of help from my parents, but I know I had four years ahead of me, and I chose a private institution, and so I had to make money.

And, I decided to open a coffee shop in my dorm room.  I saw a very interesting opportunity with my suite mates to serve coffee at certain times, so I actually posted hours on our suite door, and I ran a coffee shop. We had like 30 different drink options, I had a little espresso machine that was like 89 bucks, and I made that back in like two weeks, and all cash business and I did pay taxes on it. I always am a firm believer of giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But, did that and ran that out of my dorm room. Fast forward four years, I opened a coffee shop across from campus, but my real first coffee shop on Elon’s campus was in my dorm room called Cafe Segreti, meaning Cafe Secret in Italian.

Donald Thompson: That is awesome, right? Like, you know, were diligent, paid your taxes, right?

Did the right thing from that respect. But as most entrepreneurs, you don’t mind living in a little bit of gray. Right? As we, as we chase those, those ideas and that, that is really, really powerful. When you think back on all the different twists and turns from your entreprenurial journey, let’s talk a little bit about lessons learned.

What are some of the things that you learned along the way that you would share with emerging opportunities so they could get there a little faster?

Ryan Vet: I think the biggest thing is you’re always in the business of people. So many people, businesses cut out people. They’re trying to eliminate, or use process to cut out people or, or whatever it might be.

And there are some opportunities to streamline processes in business. And I’m not saying that that’s bad, but at the end of the day, you have to remember that people are what are getting you and helping you move forward, and I did not know that at first. I did a lot of solo-preneur type ventures early on, and then, obviously, added co-founders and then teams later as my career advanced.

But at the end of the day, the one thing that’s never changed is people. You’ve got people that are your clients. You’ve got people that you’re serving. And if you put people first and people before profits, you’re always going to be more profitable. You look at many companies right now, you think of Delta airlines. In the time that we’re in today, Delta is doing things that many other companies are not doing and it’s costing them money, but they’re putting people first.

And they’re the ones that aren’t canceling service routes because people are OK with their limited service the way they’re doing it. Of course, all of these companies have had bumps along the roads, but they put people first and you see a dip

Donald Thompson:  Man, that’s powerful . Those are great examples of brands that people recognize that are doing what you’re describing. And I think that what’s interesting about what you said is it putting people first is a personal choice. Some advice to entrepreneurs, right, may take more funding than I have, may take more knowledge than I have, right? The mindset you just described is a personal commitment to do business a certain way, build it into your culture, and I think that’s really important.

When you’ve grown companies and then moved from solo entreprenurs and now driving into having employees and partners and different things, what are some of the ways that you look at who you work with so that you actually can maintain and grow that people first mentality? How do you recruit?

Ryan Vet: That’s a great question. I look to a lot of books I’ve read, a lot of them come out of Silicon Valley, and they talk about your hiring the dream, the dream team. And I think the best one is Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”

It’s a fictional book based on non-fictional data, if that makes sense. Basically, what he does is Patrick Lencioni goes and unpacks this fictional startup on the West coast, out of Silicon Valley, and how they’ve hired this dream team, but it’s the, the rock star marketer – and I’m spoiling it, spoiler alert. But that, that ends up causing the most dysfunction in the team because they, they did have the accolades, they did have all these things, but they didn’t fit culture. So, to answer your question, that was a long, long way to get back to your, your question, but culture is most important, and every company has its own personality, its own DNA, and it’s important to hire to that. There are similar companies that might have similar values, but aren’t the same DNA. And so pulling that rockstar person in company A, your company, might not be that perfect fit. And so, I would say that the biggest thing I’ve found time and time again is hiring for culture almost always supersedes hiring for qualifications. And I think that is one of the greatest learning lessons. I wouldn’t say a hundred percent of the time, but I’d probably say 98%.

Donald Thompson: It would be right there with you. And as I think back as I was listening to your answer, and some of the things that have worked well in companies that I’ve worked with and been a part of and things that have kind of crashed and burned, it has come back to that synergy and that culture with people, right? Because most times, when you’re running a business, you’re talking to bright, smart people that can interview well, they’ve got cool things in their background, right, you’d love to chat with them ’cause they’re just super interesting. Right? All good. But, if they make you take a step back in terms of the synergy of the team, right, super expensive

Ryan Vet: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I have the opportunity to run a couple of, or own a couple of

Donald Thompson: coffee shops and craft  beverage, Donald, is what we

Ryan Vet: call them. Coffee, beer, wine, and whiskey.

And one of the things there is, yes, you can have awesome bartenders, you can have awesome baristas, but if they don’t fit the culture, everyone on the team’s unhappy, and the same thing’s true in corporate America, but I think it’s harder, sometimes, it’s more undercover to find it. And you have to kind of dig a little bit further, but in these situations where you’ve only got two or three baristas running, running a shop, and one doesn’t fit, everybody on the team, even the late night shifts, can be affected by the person that worked not even at the same time because of how they clean, how they conducted themselves, how they interacted with customers.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s really, really powerful. One of the things I can tell, just by listening to you, your examples and different things is it feels like you’re an avid reader, an avid consumer of knowledge, right, to try to improve. What are some of the foundational books, right? If somebody were to come to you for entrepreneur advice, but even though you wanted to, you just didn’t have time to help them, but you could point them in the right direction to some resources, right, where would you point them?

Ryan Vet: I’ve got a whole laundry list of business books, and they’re great, and I could point them to the listeners today, but I do want to give an example of an author that called me on Wednesday, a couple of days ago, and personally called me because he found out it was my birthday and he knew I was a huge fan of his first book, which is probably a decade old now. But, called me to say, thank you for repping my book. His name is Mark Sanborn, his book is called “The Fred Factor,” and it talks about how a mailman went above and beyond to just exceed all expectations. I have used this book in many of my consulting opportunities and many of my lectures across the country and the globe as a reference point.

But then, when, when Mr. Sanborn and I’ve talked to him a couple of times over the last decade, but when he called me on my birthday, ’cause he knew as a milestone birthday and I, I missed this call actually. I didn’t notice him. I called him back, he missed me and then he called me back again and we talked for about 30 minutes.

It proved everything is booked. So, I have to start off with saying the best book, because of the freshness, is “The Fred Factor.: He’s also got the Fred factor 2.0 by Mark Sanborn, talks about caring for people, which is what we were just talking about a couple minutes ago. Beyond that, a lot of people try to figure out the entrepreneurial journey, how do you become the next Mark Zuckerberg, or how do you become the next Bill Gates and all that, and there’s books on that. I would say one of the most interesting books for me, who has spent most of my career in software. And I don’t write a line of code, like I know you said in your, your last one of your last episodes this season, you don’t write a line code, I’m with you there.

But, “Shoe Dog,” by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. And he goes – he writes it himself, which is very impressive ’cause he wanted to be a journalism major first of all, but then got into shoes. And he talks about the true grit and perseverance it takes to run a startup, and it’s in a different industry than what a lot of entrepreneurs are trying to pursue today, but I highly recommend that book. And like I said, I’ve got about a dozen others, they’re on my website. You can check out my, my list of recommended books, but those two right now come to mind as we’re talking today.

Donald Thompson: And you’ve got a couple different websites for different businesses. So share with me the website that we’d go to, to get those list of books.

Ryan Vet: Yeah. So my personal website, R Y A N V E T. It’s pretty simple. People try to add extra letters to “Vet” because it’s such a short name, but that’s it. Three letters VET,  go to that website, you can get all my recommendations on books and book reviews on my blog, link from that website as well.

Donald Thompson: Oh, fantastic. No, that’s great in terms of sources of information, because I think, with so much out there,  where you’re a fingertip away from opinions and perspectives on Google, one of the things that’s been really important to me is to curate great sources of content for people that are going in a direction I’d like to go, right?

Because there’s just so much out there that it’s hard to choose what to listen to, what to read, who to trust.

Ryan Vet: And you hit on something so important, it’s the direction you want to go. I mean, there are so many things and I would say a lot of them are good, but they might not be good for you or your organization. So, I think you hit the nail on the head. Figure out who you want to follow, and pursue that line of thought.

Donald Thompson: So, we’ve touched on some of the entrepreneurial past, some of your perspective, talk to me about your career trajectory. Tell me a little bit about some of the jobs and the startups you’ve worked at, and take me through that, that it probably helped shape you, but will give us a little bit more detail in terms of the background of your journey.

Ryan Vet: After my coffee shop,  which I don’t consider my dorm room a startup, I did have your traditional dorm room startup, which was myself, the marketing sales and design guy, coupled with a developer. And we launched a software startup that I risked all the money I’d saved for my future wife’s engagement ring to get us out to a trade show in Vegas, we doubled the money and no, it was not at the slots, it’s actually through one single sale to a university. And, and that was my first, what I call, traditional startup. I had a lot of lessons there from fundraising fails. Not because people weren’t willing to give us money because we were unwilling to give up equity, which is a whole nother story.

So I did that. And then, after that, I launched my first real coffee shop that I mentioned earlier across from the campus of Elon,  so it was a legitimate business. You can still walk in there today, although it looks different, you have to walk in with masks today.  So that was my –  another business I had.

And then I went to work for a company called Anutra Medical. It’s a medical device startup, it’s still around today. It’s based out of the Triangle, a dentist by the name of Dr. Daniel Davidian in Raleigh founded this painless instant anesthetic. If you want a shot, you don’t want it to hurt and you want it to work fast, that’s what Dr. Davidian figured out.

Had the opportunity to, to help that brand from pre 5k, 10k approvals. For those of you in the medical device world, you know, that’s an ambiguous time, all the way through marketing and growing that to a multi-million dollar company. After that time,  there was just a lull in that, that industry, and I was open to new opportunities and I had an opportunity to jump to, what I consider, a sister company, a similar investor profile and hop on over to Netsertive,  which is a marketing company in, in the Triangle, great digital marketing company.

And so, worked with them for a period of time. And then, in that time I was getting restless, as an entrepreneur does. We don’t always make the best employees, and I was looking for the next opportunity. And I had this idea for the gig economy  in the back of my head. I’d seen Uber, I’d seen Lyft, I’d seen all of these companies boil up from, from nothing to something. And I said, there’s so much opportunity in the gig economy, but it’s just not replicable. You’ve got Uber, you’ve got Lyft, you’ve got all the other companies, BlackLine and everything else that’s failed. How does someone start their gig economy without several million dollars?

Because it costs a lot of money to balance the marketplace, costs a lot of money to build the tech. And so, I started in dental, which was familiar to me both from my time at Anutra Medical as well as my wife being a dentist, I had the opportunity to launch a podcast in the space, do a lot of writing in this space, speaking in the space and being a keynote speaker at a lot of national meetings.

And so, I was like, I can start in dental. This is an industry ripe for picking. Found out it’s about a $40 billion a year industry when it comes to dental staffing. I was like, OK, that’s a decent market size play in, so I launched Boon. And going back to our earlier conversation about people, I wanted to launch a company with a mission that was all about the people that we serve. And so Boon is an old English word, and it took me the longest part of this company was actually finding the name. And, it’s an old English word that means doing something good or beneficial. And, and so that’s why we picked the name, you know, bone, bueno, benicio depending on what languages, you know, but it’s all the same root Latin word.

And I decided to use that as the name to build this company that’s this idea of practicing good. And it’s not good grammar, but it’s this idea of dentists are practicing, medical professionals are practicing. They’re doing something every day, and we want to help them do it well, or good, to go along with our name.

So, we launched Boon in 2018 as a software platform, allowed signups in late 2019, and started getting traction growing about 30% a month by late 20, literally the last month of 2019, December last year, up through 2020. And then all of a sudden, COVID hit, and dental practices were closed down and everything else, and our revenue went to zero.

And so I said, “Well, this was never, this was never about the money, first of all, and this was never just about one industry.” We’d built a platform that was scalable to literally any industry, and it was the idea of empowering people to work when they were able and how they wanted to. And so, we very quickly took our gig economy or marketplace platform and scaled it to about a dozen other industries during COVID. And so, we are no longer, even if you look online, it’s like the marketing agency fallacy. If you, your marketing agency, your website is usually the worst ’cause you’ve updated everyone else’s first, that’s like us. We’re still dental website if you go to, but we have entered into law, commercial, cleaning, residential, cleaning, cooking, personal service cooking, coffee roasting, wine subscriptions and everything else because we’re matching customers on demand with a need, and matching them with the best person possible.

So we’ve, we’ve made some major, major pivots during, during COVID and this time, but it’s gone to fulfill our mission of practicing good and helping people get access to things that they otherwise wouldn’t, including our, our – some of the people on our platform that are working on getting access to capital or cash that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get.

Donald Thompson: Man that is powerful. One of the things that everyone is struggling with, right? It’s when you think about the age of COVID right, we’ve got some racial unjust and societal issues that we’re dealing with. So, this is a time in our country and our society that chaos is kind of the norm, right? And there are businesses that are ebbing and flowing and you described growth, growth, growth, growth, hard stop, right? Talk to me about, you talked to us about the pivot. Talk to me about the emotional mindset, right, of how to think through that, stay enthusiastic and figure out that next thing to do.

Ryan Vet: Yeah. So I was on a plane on, on March fifth or sixth – I’ll have to go fact check my dates- but whatever that Thursday was, and the plane was  I was speaking at a conference in San Francisco the next morning, had a book signing, got on the plane that afternoon. So, I was on the ground for less than 24 hours, about 20 hours. The plane was empty on the way back.

This was a week before the government in any state head talked about COVID, and it was just sort of a reality check for me that, “OK, something big is coming down the pike.” So, immediately we turned around at Boon and said, “Hey,  for all of our dental professionals that are going into offices, here’s the criteria you’re going to need to face going into this week.” And then give it three days and the government –  both federal and local – start imposing new restrictions on just everything that we did, our, our way of life. And so, that little pivot that I thought was “OK, I’m, I’m ahead of the curve. We’re doing something good. We’re practicing good,” right? All of a sudden became ancient history and we had to really pivot.

So, it wasn’t just doing something a little bit better by putting out a good email and telling people safety precautions, it was our whole world’s changing. And we did not pivot right away. We, I wouldn’t say we wallowed, but we were scratching our heads like, “Oh, this will be a week. This will be two weeks. This will be three weeks.” And by about the three week mark, I was like, “No, if we don’t pivot, we’re done.” And so, we decided around week three, which was about the – a little before original tax day, so a little before April 15th this year. And I call that OG tax day because, you know, July 15th was our new tax day. But, a little before then we decided to really take our company in a different direction.

And we’d already built it to be able to scale into any industry, but we hadn’t tested it. I said it doesn’t matter, we’ve got to go, because there’s companies that – there’s people that aren’t able to collect unemployment because they haven’t been at their companies long enough. There’s people that need to work to pay their mortgage, all of these different things.

So, so we pivoted it quickly and said, “Hey, we’re open to any industry.” And we almost opened –  I hate to say a VC fund because it wasn’t that – but we said, we’ve got several hundred thousand dollars of technology. We can invest into any two-sided marketplace, whether that’s gig economy or marketplace, like an Etsy or eBay. We said we’re going to start investing our tech into these companies to help them help people, which goes along with our mission of practicing good. So in April, we started doing that. We were able to approve five companies, into our, what we call our first cohort, and we’ve totally transitioned our mission to helping a two-sided, three-sided, four-sided marketplaces grow and scale to give people the ability to work on their own terms and with what they’re comfortable with.

Donald Thompson: And that’s, that’s powerful both in terms of the story that, that happened to you, its authenticity, but also how you stayed with your mission of people first even in the midst of being able to pivot, you know, with a lot financially on the line. And that is, that is pretty awesome. Right? And so, I just want to say that out loud. One of the things that you mentioned a couple of times, and this kind of weaved it in, but you talked about the different keynote speeches that you do, the books that you’ve written and, andyou did it in such a smooth way. I don’t want it to be lost on our audience, right? So talk to me a little bit about some of the types of topics, right, that, that you feel like are in your sweet spot, right, that you share about. And then I do want you to talk about it a little bit, a couple of the books that you wrote in the past and why and what the, the, the message you were trying to convey.

Ryan Vet: Yeah, I think a lot of those, and I thank you for the opportunity. I think a lot of them coincide, so I can probably answer them simultaneously. The first one, which doesn’t have a book, so I’ll start there is “Creating Experiences Worth Sharing,” and that is just something that I learned early on. You look at the story of the Wal-Mart smiley face sticker or the, the Starbucks frappuccino,  those were created from entry-level employees that wanted to do something different for their team members. It goes back to “The Fred Factor” book I was talking about earlier. It’s people who see take an ordinary opportunity in their career or in their job and transform that into an extraordinary opportunity.

So, my “Creating  Experiences Worth Sharing” lecture really explores what it means to, from whatever seat you’re in, whether you’re at a, you know, a fortune 50 or you’re at the mom and pop business down the road, how to take your job, and take it to the next level. and just make a difference for the people.

And again, it goes to people that we’ve been talking about a lot today, but to the people that you interface with every day, whether that’s your team, teammates your, your bosses or your guests or customers. So, that’s kind of one of my big lectures and topics. The, the most recent one is the “Cracking the Millennial Code.”

I would say it’s been 10 years in the making, but you could say it’s my lifetim in the making, since I am a millennial. But, it’s this idea of the millennials aren’t actually that different than previous generations, and I think a lot of people are all of a sudden scratching their heads or are angry at me, me saying that.

But, there are things that every generation past has passed on to the millennial generation. So my, my book talks about how every generation influences the next and how there’s this cascading impact and how the millennials are now influencing the, the following generations. And, and so, that’s what that book is, and, and I speak a lot, around the country on that topic and the influences on millennials. So, those are two of my major topics a lot with colleges and universities, and as well as some high schools that I talk about the journey of leadership and entrepreneurship, and how there are some awesome things about it, but there’s also a lot of grit that goes behind it and perseverance.

So, that’s a, an another topic I cover.

Donald Thompson: I really appreciate the more detailed explanation there. And I think, you know, one of the things that, that I’m working on these days as the founder of The Diversity Movement is how do we create that broad context around diversity and inclusion and, you know, race and gender and sexual orientation, right?

Those are like the big three, but there’s so much more, right? And one of the things that’s really important is that construct of multi-generational teams, because we have many, many generations now that are in the workplace together. That need to learn how to interrelate, really understand one another to create a high-performance team.

And so, I’m definitely going to, to order this book “Cracking the Millennial Code,” and read on it. And I’ll probably reach out maybe for a question or two, but this is a lane that applies to the very important work we’re doing with diversity and inclusion because generational equity, right, generational coordination and productivity is very, very important, right? To the growth of businesses.

Ryan Vet: So true. I couldn’t agree more.

Donald Thompson: One of the things that, you know, as I reflect on our conversation and the experiences you’ve described, what are you wanting to do next? Like you’ve got, you’ve got all these talents, you’ve got all these skills, all these things you’ve done.

Right? What’s the next big thing that keeps you motivated and pushing and next leveling up in your day-to-day work?

Ryan Vet: That’s a tough question. I love what I’m doing now. I’m loving, helping these, these companies and our, what we call our Boon accelerator, or current cohort, these five companies that each have a different perspective on marketplace or gig economy.

I love helping these founders from all different stages. Some of them are, are founders that have been in a career for 20 years and are now looking to be startup founders of some of our recent grads. I love helping them look at not only how they can use software and technology, which is what we’re providing to scale their businesses beyond their local region, but really how do they do that and simultaneously care for the people that are on their platform? And how do they care for the people on their team? So I love doing that. That is, I – I’ll confess that I’ve always thought about what’s next. And every, every opportunity I’ve had, it’s like, this is great. How can I get it bigger and then move on to what’s next? Where I am today and helping people and helping them figure out what’s next has been a blast. I love it. I’m passionate about it, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving to me personally, it’s a very selfish endeavor, but watching these companies love their people.

Well, love the people on both sides of their marketplace. Well, it was just a blast, so. That’s not, that’s not an answer to your question at all. It’s a round about, but that’s where I’m at.

Donald Thompson: No, it is. I mean, there’s, there’s different phases, right? And so, depending on when I asked you, that question, right, the answer can be remotely different, but what I sense is not really different than where I am personally with The Diversity Movement.

When you’re in a moment, right, where your giftings and your blessings can be bestowed on other people in a powerful way, then you’re living in that momentum, right? You’re living in that zone, right, for that period of time. And so, you know, you, you answered the question and I, I appreciate it.

I’m a competitive learner, and I’m really enjoying our dialogue because you’ve given me, and I know this is for our audience, but like I’m part of the audience. I get to do this. One of the coolest things  is I get the opportunity to talk some tremendous people, tremendous thinkers and business people.

And now, I get to count you in that, that mix, right? Like I’ve got two pages full of notes, right? Just on what we’re, what we’re talking about, which is really, really awesome. When you think about our country, let’s move away from entrepreneurship a little bit. Let’s now talk about some of the macro events that are happening in our world.

Give me some of the perspective from where you sit on some of the racial unjust, on how we’re handling COVID. Any of the topics that you pick, but I know you’ve got some perspectives and some, some opinions, and I’d like to hear them.

Ryan Vet: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of opinions. Let me boil it. Let me start with the individual level first, because there there’s just so much – everyone’s picking, you know, let’s go development you and I don’t write code, but it’s an easy reference point.

There’s a one or a zero. You’re either a one or you’re zero. And, I think that’s the fallacy that so many people, especially millennials, more than other generations have found themselves in is they pick one or zero. And I would argue that, yes, that’s true in development, but when you’re dealing with people, there’s a million digits between one and zero.

And so, at an individual level, I think the most important thing is being willing to listen, and being willing to listen to people that disagree with your beliefs. And I’ve just seen so much hatred and build up of people that are unwilling to listen and have constructive dialogue versus argument.

And I think there’s a place for argument, I think there’s a place for debate, absolutely. But, people that are willing to listen, and you have to worry about yourself first before you can worry about what someone else believes. And if you’re not willing to listen to what someone else believes, feels, is hurting, if you’re not willing to lament, understand what other people are saying, then I think you’re fundamentally flawed. And I’ll say that, that’s a, I know that’s a bold statement, but I think the people that fail to listen to others and at least engage in dialogue by listening first, are, are just missing out on a huge opportunity to really change our, not only our country, but our world’s trajectory.

Donald Thompson: Wow. That’s powerful. And fortunately, said in an eloquent manner. What do you think when you look at hope for the future? Because we are so parse and we are so separated, we are so “If you’re not aligned with my belief system a hundred percent, you are my enemy,” right? Like that, that’s kind of, a lot of the culture.

The thing that gives me hope, from my perspective, and I’m very fortunate, is a lot of the leaders that I talk to, a lot of the people that I work with. Are trying to find a way out of that chaos, right? They’re really trying to lean into how to be better, how to have that different dialogue. And so, that does give me that kind up momentum, that emotional momentum to keep going.

When you think about millennials specifically, right? How, how do we change that paradigm for the next generation of leaders that are going to take our country forward? How do we do it better?

Ryan Vet: Yeah. I think it, and it sounds cliche, but I do stand behind it. It’s leading by example. If you, if you don’t agree with a millennial’s perspective, let’s just take that as an example, since that’s on the table.

Listen to why their perspective is the way it is. And if you listen, I will almost guarantee you, can’t promise, I’m not gonna promise for other people, but they will listen back because there’ll be so shocked you’ve listened. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, and I think there’s a fundamental difference between listening and agreeing.

And I’m not just saying that with millennials, but across the board. If you’re not okay with someone else’s perspective, at least listen to it, acknowledge that you heard it. And feel free to debate, argue it, whatever you want to do, but respect it and listen to it. And I think we, especially millennials, and I’m generalizing a little bit on behalf of my generation, but we’re used to a projecting persona.

We have had social media, we’ve had identities, we’ve had blogs. We’ve had these things where we project who we are that we aren’t good listeners, because if you have comments we don’t like, we swipe and delete them or we restrict them or we block them. And again, I’m generalizing. This is not the case with everyone, and I just got blocked from a bunch of people saying that, but – and that’s okay because they’re not listening and that’s their problem and I’ll catch up with them later. But I think, again, we, if – it’s a golden rule, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. If you want to, if you want to make a change, at least listen to someone else’s perspective because you might be wrong, but you also might be right.

And if you listen first, the other person might listen.

Donald Thompson: That’s powerful. From an innovation standpoint, what you’re saying makes sense also, because a lot of times you can come at a problem, and you have two points of view, and what I like to call the third rail of innovation may come from them. It may not be an either or, it may be that third way of thinking that solves the problem differently, or at least moves the conversation differently than either person or party understood.

And I think that the, the level of discourse that you’re advocating is what is required for us to move from this moment in a positive way. Agreement on some of these big issues, right, who knows if we get there, but human decency is attainable, right? Respect of one another is attainable, right? And there are some things that I think our country has been allowed to become intellectually lazy because we can just get drawn into the soundbite arguments and nobody really has to do their homework.

Like for me, my soap box is we pay all of these politicians in Washington to give us rhetoric on bills they haven’t read or didn’t write. And that is not Democrat-Republican, that’s just like our structural system of people that we pay a lot of money to not actually work, but to show up on news channels and yell at each other.

I’d rather, none of them be on the media, and they have to do work, and if they don’t get a certain amount of legislation passed then they don’t get paid. Like that to me, like it’s not even what they, the side of the isle. I actually just want them to work. You know what I mean? Like to try to, to try to do their job better.

Let me give you space for – we’ve covered a lot of different things. Maybe there is an organization, a nonprofit that you believe in you want to share about, maybe there’s one last comment that you want to share about or a book you want to promote. Give me, give me the last two or three minutes to have our listeners remember you by as we kind of wind down our time together.

Ryan Vet: I appreciate that. I think,  with our conversation, I’ve really been further inspired to the idea of it’s all about people. We are, we are living with other people and yes, there are issues that people stand for and support. Yes, there are political parties that people stand for and support, but at the end of the day,  we’ve got brothers and sisters in our business that we work alongside every single day that we’ve got to support and love for who they are.

And so, I think, in our conversation today, more than ever, it goes back to Boon’s mission of practicing good. It’s doing the right thing by, by people, regardless of your beliefs, your, your opinions, where you’re from, what you look like, how you talk, it’s just who you are and loving people for who they are.

So, I, I think this conversation, though that’s been a passion of mine, has solidified that even more. It’s it’s about, just loving people,

Donald Thompson: Ryan. It has been my absolute pleasure to meet you. I look forward to reading more, more of your stuff. I encourage people to go to, R Y A N V E T dot com and get to know you a little bit better.

And again, my friend, thank you very much for spending time on the Donald Thompson podcast. Your time is appreciated and you’re welcome back anytime, a friend.

Ryan Vet: Thank you so much.

Full Episode Transcript

The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

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