The Hive Five Podcast
5 Key Takeaways from Mike Slack
1. Know thyself.
2. Focus on your strengths.
3. Serve by saying “Yes”.
4. Partner with people in life that fill in your gaps.
5. Have fun!
In this episode of the Hive Five podcast, Keagan sits down with Mike Slack, a man of many talents. Mike’s “day job” is as the evangelist and head of business development at Clevyr, Inc. where he helps people learn about and buy personal software. However, he also has a couple of side hustles. StarSpace46 is a co-working space in Oklahoma City that Mike co-founded in October 2016. If that doesn’t sound like enough, he is also the business manager for Justin Wren, a MMA fighter. This entails searching and identifying different business opportunities for Justin.
Mike didn’t see himself as an entrepreneur until recently. Growing up and going to school, Mike was preparing to become an ordained minister. He studied religion in college, majoring in it, and then went to seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout this time, and even after, he was able to work in multiple capacities in different churches. During this time, he also had an interest in nonprofit work. After working in churches, Mike had the opportunity to work in Atlanta with the nonprofit Teach for America. He was a high school teacher and coach for two years, but couldn’t see himself spending his entire career in a high school setting, despite his love of teaching. After his two years with Teach for America, Mike moved back to Oklahoma City and got his master’s degree in nonprofit leadership.
He started working in nonprofit fundraising and did that for six years. As he worked to fundraise, he dealt a lot with entrepreneurs and passionate businesspeople and really was attracted to the things that they were working on and doing. So, Mike started doing small entrepreneurial things like tutoring, for example, just to get his feet wet. It just so happened that one of his best friends was a board member for a nonprofit called Techlahoma, serving tech entrepreneurs in Oklahoma City. Through Techlahoma, Mike was connected to a group of people looking to start a co-working space in OKC as well. He was asked to become a partner, and ultimately StarSpace46 was born.
To learn what the secret sauce of coworking is, how Mike became a business manager for an MMA fighter, and more, you’ll have to listen to the episode. We also ask that you please rate and review this episode to help us improve the podcast and provide more value to you.
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I looked at you said you got a lot of people out there in the trenches digging ditches, trying their hardest to grind with their idea or their startup or their project, whatever it is, and they’re trying to make something happen and oftentimes they’re trying to make something happen that never happened, whether it’s an APP or their business or whatever it is, and so there’s a tremendous spirit of camaraderie.
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My name is Keagan Henson with BriteBee where insurance quotes don’t sting. We’re excited to have Mike Slack with us. Mike has definitely worn a lot of hats, but currently is the evangelist, Aka head of business development at Clevyr, Inc. and cofounder and co-owner of StarSpace46, a coworking space in Oklahoma City. Also just found out he has a background in software and nonprofits and also a business manager for Justin Wren, MMA fighter. I can’t wait to hear about that because I don’t know how that plays a part in all of this, but I think it. I think it does somewhere, so welcome to the Hive Five Mike.
Hey, thank you very much. Kagan. Glad to be here.
Well Mike, we’re really glad for you to be here because first off I just want to hear kind of. I mean you’re doing so many different things and I’ve done a lot of different things, but I’ve had to. I’ve had to do one thing for a little bit because my mind just goes crazy. So how, what are you doing? What? What’s going on here?
Well, the way I like to say it as I have a day job where I really spend most of my working hours and then I have a couple of side hustles and I haven’t had like the language to articulate it in that way before, but I’ve basically been doing that, um, from the time I was in college, so, uh, so right now you know, my day job is helping folks to learn about and by custom software here at Oracle in the city based company. Um, and then side hustle number one is star space or coworking space. I’ve been involved in that since it started in October of 2016. And then Justin’s a good friend of mine and I’ve been working with him for about the last year and nine months or so. I guess I’m identifying business opportunities, so love to chat about all those things and look looking forward to explaining how all works together, how I try to make it all work together.
So tell us a little bit about your background. Where did all this entrepreneurial spirit start?
That’s a really good question. So I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur for a long time, it’s only been recently that I’ve kind of put that hat on my head and identified it as an entrepreneur because I started my career, I’m preparing myself to be an ordained minister and so I studied religion and Undergrad and I got a four year degree in religion and ethics. And then I went to seminary in Atlanta at emory university, Candler School of theology. And so I worked in churches and the pastoral stuff and was a chaplain and preached. And I’m definitely during that time learned the value and skill learned to value the skill of listening. I’m listening deeply to what’s going on with someone else. Um, and so that, that’s been like one of those key takeaways from that part of my career that’s been really helpful and everything else I’ve done.
So after I spent five years kind of in this ministry phase, I spent two years as a high school teacher and as a coach, I’m in, in Atlanta. Um, I did the teach for America program and so taught two years, taught special ed and then freshman math coach girl’s volleyball than boys soccer, love all that stuff, low being a coach. I love teaching, but kind of found out that being in a high school environment isn’t really my longterm calling. And so came back to Oklahoma City and did a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership. And so through that really started to get quite a bit more experienced in, in entrepreneurial things. Um, you know, I was, I graduated from that program, got a job as a fundraiser, worked for six years in nonprofit fundraising, but you know, the people that I’m interacting with and raising money from, you know, many of them are business owners and entrepreneurs and I was, you know, watched how they lived their life and listen to how they describe what they do and the skill sets they had to go do those things.
And I thought, man, I really want to be like those people. I really like what they’re doing. And so I started doing little tiny, like micro entrepreneurial thing from the side. I’m like, I started tutoring, right post on craigslist, get some clients and all of a sudden, you know, I’ve got a roster of folks that I’m tutoring and so I do little things like that. And then, um, yeah, that’s, that’s. I spent six years in in fundraising. So I’ve talked about kind of like my first 11, 12 years of my professional life, we’re in kind of in this do gooder face, right. Um, and I haven’t left the do gooder faith, I just don’t do my do good or stuff professionally now. Um, I do that on my volunteer time. Um, so that’s a little bit of my background. Then I got involved in that.
That doesn’t really have anything to do with tech, right?
Yeah. So, um, one of my best friends was a board member of the nonprofit called Oklahoma and their mission is to advance the grassroots tech community here in Oklahoma City. And so we would, we’re, we’re friends and we would meet and talk and um, I’m a nonprofit fundraiser. He’s on the Board of a nonprofit. He would ask me for advice and he would tell me about the things that they’re doing and I would give him some guidance and direction. He’d take it back to the board and try to implement it. And we’re having lunch one day and it was that, uh, it was, um, um, in, in the plaza district and we’re sitting there and talking and I said, you know, I think I’d really like to be a consultant one day and, you know, do like what I’m doing with you guys, but, um, you know, be an actual consultant. And he said, Mike, you are a consultant, you’re just not asking me to pay for it. And I thought, Oh man,
I need to figure this out.
And I said, okay, well how about I proposed the campaign for you guys and run it? And he said, that sounds great. And so I said, all right, let me try. So I put together a proposal and I sent it to their board and did a presentation to their board and they said, they said yes. And so ran that campaign and it was successful. So, um, we, we raised, it was the first time they put together like an annual, a grassroots fundraising campaign, so for their members and so we did that and then at near the end of that campaign, some of the same folks that are involved in tech, Oklahoma, we’re talking about getting this thing called star space 46 up and running and um, and it kind of grew out of, out of this campaign that we’re running. And so they invited me to join the partnership group and to help get it started. So that’s, that’s how it, how it got started. I was still a nonprofit fundraiser by day. Um, and then help start star space 46 by 9:46.
So special. What’s your belief in coworking?
So I, I really would love to hear your answer to this question because I think I know what makes it special, but you’ve been a guest at, at star space, you’ve seen some of the things that we’ve done. Um, I mean, I, I know I’m the guest, I’m supposed to answer the questions, but uh, it would, it would be interesting for me to hear what you have to say and then I’ll kind of share my thoughts. Would that be okay
dude, with all the things you’ve been doing? I mean, you’re taking over the host. Look at that. I’m fine with it.
Bring it. Okay. Well, what, what makes star space special? Like you’ve, you’ve been around, you’ve spoken at events or what, what do you think?
Yeah, so I think first off just coworking in general is pretty, pretty interesting. Um, you know, when I, I really found out more about what coworking was when we were dealing with our development team in Colorado and honestly it’s the, I think there’s an energy. I’m one of the things that I’ve told my mentors a lot is that sometimes I feel alone, but when you’re, when you’re doing all of this at this tech startup and you know, that’s, I think that’s a very generic term for a lot of people, but there’s something, there’s a, there’s a different demographic of these people that are doing these things and it’s a, there’s a, there’s an energy to be around other people who, you know, when you see them through that glass wall, you can’t hear what they’re talking about, what you sure wish you could, but now they’re doing something and they may be given. I mean, it may just, it may not mean anything to you, but you know, they’re doing something and I think there’s something there. There’s something there to, to know that other people are getting after it. They’re digging ditches and I, there’s a community and so that’d be the short answer. I think it’s also just cool anyways. Exactly
right. Exactly. So the words you said there at the end was going to be my one word answer in the secret sauce of coworking and we’re revealing it right here on, on this podcast is community, and if you can create community, which is a place where people feel belonged, um, and if they feel belong, they want to be there and not only do they want to be there, they want people who are likeminded to be there. And so the people who are like minded in this sense, the thing that unites these folks is that I loved how you said it. You got a lot of people out there in the trenches digging ditches, trying their hardest to grind with their idea or their startup or their project, whatever it is, and they’re trying to make something happen and you oftentimes are trying to make something happen that’s never happened before.
Um, whether it’s an APP or their business or whatever it is. And so, um, there’s a tremendous spirit of comradery. Um, so, so elaborate just a tiny bit more. The community is a pretty. I’m kind of a serial thing. It’s a touchy feely thing, but, but the next step that makes it supportive, um, beyond just emotionally supportive but supportive for your business is, is what we call the ecosystem. And so we feel like we’ve developed a pretty strong startup ecosystem where there are services which are many times startups themselves, right inside this one place that has many of the things you need to help your startup grow. So if you are a tech startup, we have software developers who are right there in how we have hr consultants who can help you work through issues about hiring your first employees and putting together an employee handbooks and onboarding.
We have a fractional a bookkeeper, so you don’t need to hire a bookkeeper, but you need someone to run some reports and do some line accounting and reconciliation. We’ve got that person right in there. You need someone to help you with content writing or search engine optimization film. We’ve got those folks right there. Um, we just recently have a new tenant who’s a startup lawyer, a lawyer for entrepreneurs. So he’s moved into this space now as well. So you start thinking in the way, and then just by nature, many of our folks who are involved in star space, the amount of partnership group, they’re also helping you connect the dots and so we’re doing kind of a little bit of business development consulting as well. Um, and so you put together that ecosystem and it just dramatically increases your ability to stay alive, number one, and then to grow and thrive.
How do you establish this community? As I said, people are digging ditches and you know, sometimes that means is that you don’t have any other time to do anything else but to work. So how do you encourage or how do you establish this community when everyone’s got their heads down trying to do the best they can and survive.
So there’s several, there’s several little things that we do that are like programmatic things in addition to just providing a really cool, awesome space and trying to attract really cool people. Um, every Friday we have what’s called family lunch and family lunch is voted upon by all the members of star space in our slack channel. And what they do is they vote on where we’re going to go, we’ve for family lunch, family lunches, open to all members of the community who are, who are members there, and we go out and have lunch together until you’ve got 25 people sometimes amongst this building that’s filled with 100, 25 different businesses getting together as one family. So that alone just goes in, speaks volumes to how we kind of create community and not everybody you know, wants to participate. Not everyone’s there for the exact same reason.
Some people are attracted by the community, some people, they just need that office space with a good fast internet. They’re tired of working at starbucks. Um, and that’s okay. We’re there. We’re there to serve those folks as well. Um, but things like family lunch, things like a video game room, things like now we have a, a sponsorship from Red Bull. So, you know, there’s a place you can go in the kitchen, always sit down and grab a red bull. We’ve got a beer sponsor now who comes in and once a month replenishes our kegger rater. And so you come and sit in the kitchen booth and you sit around, you enjoy a drink and talk about what you’re going through because you’re there late working on your idea. So all those little things just provide those additional touch points.
So what would you say some of the other things that you guys are doing and what, what are you guys dreaming up over there that you see for the future?
So there’s a whole lot that could be done and I’m being a little vague about this because we haven’t announced anything or we’re, we’re considering a lot of things, but we’ll, let’s just say that there’s a whole lot of things in the world of related services. So what are the related services that entrepreneurs and startups need that we as an empty or it’s a facility could provide, um, that would be a value both to the, the client, the person who is there and to star space and, and also to the overall kind of Oklahoma City entrepreneurial ecosystem. Um, so, uh, I would say stay tuned because there’s gonna be some new things. It’ll be announced.
Yep. It says evangelist business development, are these two separate things or do you really consider yourself more so an evangelists and then you’ve got to put business development because it sounds professional,
so everyone at clever has really your avatar or your like your, your superhero ability. Um, and then, and then like your formal role. Right? And so matt, our CEO was the alchemists because he’s the visionary who can mix together 10 different things to create some brilliant solutions. Like he’s really, he’s the CEO. He’s the outcome is at its core. And so at my core I’m an evangelist, so I share good news and that’s what the, I believe the Greek root of the word evangelist come from evangelical. It means to share the good news, good news about what a clever team and really what software can do for businesses. So you know, what, what we see oftentimes is we go into a company usually because they have some sort of pain that they can’t resolve on their own. And if they’re going to work with a custom software development company, it’s a really deep or really big expensive pain. Because custom software is not, um, it’s not cheap. There’s a whole lot of less expensive ways to get software into your company. And so, um, I share the good news though about how, you know, that big, that big scary long lasting pain that they’ve been experiencing, whether something is slow or inefficient or ineffective are always broken. It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a better way to do business. So, um, it’s, it’s a lot of fun
because I’m allergic. I think I’m like allergic to sweat and I, and also just, you know, punching people and everything else. It’s just not, it’s not in my DNA. I kind of flee from it. I tell my kids like if someone punches and just run away, run away and may be wrong on my part, but, but that’s who I am. So what made you so excited about being a part of the MMA world and what are you doing with them?
So it’s a little bit of the story. So the MMA people, mma as a human chess match, and it’s a human chess match where you’re trying to defeat the opponent and the opponent, the opponent, you’re just trying to defeat them in this sport or combat. So, um, the last, the last nonprofit I worked for, um, I met Justin wren who’s a professional fighter. He fights in the League Bella tour, which is one of the two main MMA fighting. He fights in Bella tour and he was um, for awhile he was kind of the spokesperson for this nonprofit that I was working with and so one of my assignments at the nonprofit was to work with him and to make sure that we as a nonprofit really maximized on that, this kind of a position that he had with us. And so we worked with him. I worked with him to develop fundraising campaigns for the nonprofit and we did a number of different events together and house parties and we just found out that, you know, we worked really well together. So when I transitioned out of the nonprofit, um, you know, we both still wanted to work with each other because we enjoyed it and they were significant opportunities for both of us to do that. And so, um, so I’ve been working with him a really, I mean very, very part time basis, but trying to secure a speaking opportunities, product endorsements, um, and in other deals and develop products related to his brand. So, uh, so yeah,
you guys work well together and one of the things, especially in the startup world, we hear a lot about people failing because of their teams and speak to what, what does that actually mean by working well? What does that look like for you?
Yeah. So talking about that is going to bleed into one of my five takeaways, if that’s okay,
you’ll let it fly.
So I believe pretty strongly that if going to be the best, I’m the best possible version of yourself and kind of your professional and personal life, um, you, you really need to focus on your strengths and as, as strong as you might be in one area, they’re just naturally going to be areas where you’re weak or where you’re less inclined to be excellent or lyft APP and that one of the most important things you can do is to be really honest with yourself about where your strengths lie and where they don’t, and then to surround yourself with people who can fill in those gaps. Um, and so there’s a great book that I just finished reading called born to build and it’s by the folks who do the strength finder survey. It’s a Jim Clifton I think is the name, but it’s the Gallup group and they identified three major categories of talents for entrepreneurs and builders.
People who are building companies and startups and all that in. One is the rainmaker, the person who can bring in the money, manage the money. The second is the conductor of the person who can put all the pieces together and make sure the trains going in the right direction saying on and um, then the third is the expert is the person really has the deep knowledge or subject matter expertise on something. And so you look at really successful teams, they oftentimes have, you know, these three people or two people who can play these different roles. Maybe they play rainmaker and expert or rainmaker and conductor or something like that. And so with Justin and I and with any of the successful teams that I’ve been a part of, you really identify me and I’m good at that, so I’m going to stay in my lane.
I’m going to go do that thing because I’m so good at it. When it comes time to do that other thing, let me hand that off to you because you are so much better at that. And so that’s something that requires trust. You need a foundation level of trust with the people you’re working at so they don’t see the things that you’re not good at as weaknesses. They see that as, as just the area where there’s an opportunity to hand off to someone who has that strength. Um, and um, and so there, there needs to be a base layer of trust for relationships to work out like that, but when you get that in place, you can be so much more successful. At least that’s been my experience.
So you seem like a really good network. Or would you say that that’s one of your strengths?
Um, I would say that’s one of my strengths.
What would you say was one of your weaknesses?
Um, one of my weaknesses is coming up.
No, I’m so it in certain ways I am, but in many ways I am not like the detailed expert in, in some things, right? Like I am not the person that’s going to look at like a thousand swaths of paint to find the perfect color for my office. Right. Like that kind of a task would drive me crazy. Um, I don’t have that kind of like creative, like creative artistic, a perfectionism. Right. And I know a lot of really awesome people that I love to work with because when it comes time for a project to be done really well, you need one of those people. But that’s not what gets me going. I love, I love to. I’d love to get people excited about the project to see the better future, to see what could happen and then me and partner with some really awesome technical people on, on making it happen. Right. Um, I, I, I could do it. I could project manage. Um, it’s just not what excites me.
You’re really good at getting people excited about whatever you’re excited about. It looks like it. It doesn’t matter what it is mean. It could be, you know, throwing a couple punches with the, with the MMA or coworking or clever. So it looks like you do really well of getting people excited and in whatever you’re a part of and that’s
that speaks, that speaks highly of you and what you can accomplish. I mean, just by you telling me about coworking, again, I know I’ve met with you once or twice a about it. And uh, just to hear you again, I’m like, man, he’s trying to get me really excited about this.
I’m trying, I don’t know if it’s working, but I’m trying.
You’re moving, you’re moving the needle
well and it’s easy honestly. It’s easy to be excited about things and this is going to sound self evident, but it’s easy to be excited about things that you’re excited about. Like I truly honestly excited about some of this stuff and that’s the difference between what I’m doing now in doing, in, in, in, in things that sometimes I’ve done in the past is that if you really have to force yourself to be excited, if you have to force passion, man, maybe, maybe, maybe you’re doing what you need to for now. But boy, life is going to be so much different if you’re in a place where you don’t have to force passion or try to generate it artificially. I am passionate about these teams that I’m working with and I know that what we’re doing is good and the product we’re selling is good and it helps people’s lives. And so yeah,
easy to get excited about that. Well, I’ve, I’ve veered off from a lot of our questions. Our content guy has done a lot of research on you is going to be ticked because he’s going to you not do any of the questions I asked. I worked really hard on that. You know, we’re going to have to have another conversation to get more into it. Sounds great. The trenches on, on other things that you’re doing ar, Vr, lots of other things, your business card and how it pops up and does things, all of that. But we do like to make sure that all of our, our consumers who are listening or anyone listening, here’s a little bit more about five key takeaways and, and what you believe is important for people to understand and take away from this lesson.
Absolutely. The number one takeaway across the board for me, personal life, professional life, um, your sense of happiness is to know thyself. Know thyself is something that socrates, I’m ancient Greek philosopher, 400 or so BC said. And, and so the route in my mind of, of all wisdom, um, is, is really knowing and understanding yourself. And so that, that can happen a lot of ways, whether it’s you read books to help understand the human psyche and the human condition, you have conversations with others to understand what makes them tick, you know, sometimes people go to professional help or engage with life coaches to do that. But I think when you know and understand yourself and what motivates you and what does it motivate you, um, that’s, that’s incredibly coordinate all facets of life too. This is, this is kind of what we indicated and we talked about a little earlier, um, which is to focus on your strengths.
So takeaway for me, hope folks will, will have and understand is that, you know, I know that I’m, I’m a good evangelist. I know I’m good at getting people excited and so I’m going to focus on getting people excited and where our roles and positions that I can play on the team where I get folks excited, man, that’s when I’m going to have the biggest impact on that team. It’s not going to be, um, you know, the person who’s doing the conducting and connecting all the pieces, that’s somebody else’s straight and the company will do better if somebody else does that. So focus on your strengths, do, which are really good at, but you have to know yourself to know what your strengths are. So I’m the third thing. This is a real, this is a life philosophy for me, um, which is to serve in, to serve by saying yes.
Um, many people, um, are, are asked to do things within, in. Oftentimes they’re asked to do things that they’re not being compensated for. And because oftentimes you were asked to do things that you’re not compensated for. A lot of times people say, no, I’ve got to focus on my business. I’ve got to focus on myself. I’ve got to focus on x, y, or Z. and you can’t do everything. But when someone asks you to serve, say yes, and you’ll be amazed at what, what happens, the people you’ll meet because the other people you meet while you’re serving, or other people who say yes, and I found a tremendous amount of value being around people who say I’m so takeaway number four, again, something we kind of previewed earlier is to partner with people in life who fill in your gaps. Um, so it goes back to the strengths finders kind of mindset and approach of doing what you’re really good at and focus on your strengths and then partner with those who can fill in your gaps.
And then the last thing, and this is something I have to put in here to remind myself because I am, Oh man, I fill my calendar with stuff to do and I like to do things and I like to stay busy and I’m focused on my key key, um, a key performance indicators and my goals and my, uh, all that. Um, and so number five is really to remind myself, but it’s have fun. You’ve got to have fun with what you’re doing. And so sometimes that means forcing yourself to take a break, um, or you know, hanging around people who have, uh, uh, just, just a little bit more easily drift into a, a fun and playful attitude and spirit, um, but go have fun. So in our office we have ping pong, we have a vr room. And so I, I make a point, I have to schedule it, you know, you’ve got to put on my calendar, go play ping pong, go hang out in the break room, don’t just sit there and in email and call and text and try to try to work, but go out there and have fun. So those are my takeaways.
How do people get Ahold of you? I mean, I’m assuming that you don’t have three cell phones and two pagers. You’ve got some way to get ahold of use. What’s the best way? If they want to learn more about coworking, clever. If they want to learn more about mma and everything else, what’s the best way?
Best Way to get ahold of me, his email and clever.com and [inaudible] dot com. And then from there I can, I can route to any of the different things. Um, but yeah, the email’s the best way to get hold of me. I’m also on Linkedin. I would love to connect with folks on Linkedin and would be happy to connect and start a conversation there as well.
Awesome. Well thank you again for being on today and this conversation needs to go for a lot longer to understand more so of who you are and what you’re doing and we’ll definitely have that if you’re okay with that. I like to get people to say yes on the podcast so that I can hold them to that.
I will say yes to no wonder you’ve been so successful just listening to you talk on it every single day. Good. I’m glad to hear that. Too much
to the team. So they hear that you said that about me and uh,
I mean don’t they already know some days I think they liked me and other days, I don’t know.
So hopefully, uh, hopefully in my next meetings they’ll really think I’m something special. So that is great. Well, we want to remind everyone to subscribe and also give a review. Please do it now. Subscribe to the podcast. It helps us and it will help you. We’re going to have great content moving forward and also give a review that is so helpful. Tell us about Mike and all the things that he’s doing and how it’s inspired you as well. Also, don’t forget if you’re looking for insurance quotes that don’t sting, which everyone should be, go to [inaudible] dot com. Click get a quote and find qualified agents of your choice, hassle-free spam free. Guys, we really appreciate you listening. If there’s anything else we can do as a team or Mike can do, all you have to do is let us now. Thanks for listening. Have a good day.
Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/slackmike/
Check out Clevyr, Inc.: https://clevyr.com
Check out StarSpace46: https://www.starspace46.com/