Richard Walker is the CEO of Quik!, a provider of forms automation and management solutions for companies looking to maximize efficiency and productivity. He started Quik! in 2002 to help people spend less time on paperwork and more time on what they do best. Before Quik!, Richard was a business consultant with Arthur Andersen. He is also a published author of two books and a father of three boys.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
How and why Quik! was started
Richard Walker talks about his first entrepreneurial experience at age 12
The benefits of working with Quik! and using forms automation
When Richard knew that Quik! was past the initial tough times
Richard’s proudest moments as a founder
What differentiates Quik! from other forms automation tools?
Richard discusses his new podcast and target audience
In this episode…
Do you feel overwhelmed by the constant paperwork needed to run your company? Are you looking for a forms automation solution to handle the time and hassle of paperwork in your firm?
Serial entrepreneur Richard Walker says that paperwork takes up too much valuable time. That time can be used by entrepreneurs to focus on clients and increase the efficiency of their companies. Looking for a way to solve the issue and make his life easier, Richard founded Quik!. He shares how the tool provides forms automation solutions, empowering firms in the financial industry to improve their bottom line.
In this episode of The Customer Wins, Chad Franzen of Rise25 sits down with Richard Walker, CEO of Quik!, to discuss his entrepreneurial journey in the forms automation space. Richard shares the backstory of how Quik! was formed, the challenges he faced, things that differentiate Quik! from other forms automation tools, and his new podcast and target audience.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Sponsor for this episode...
This is brought to you by Quik!
At Quik!, we provide forms automation and management solutions for companies seeking to maximize their potential productivity.
Our vision is to become the leading forms automation company by making paperwork the easiest part of every transaction.
Meanwhile, our mission is to help the top firms in the financial industry raise their bottom line by streamlining the customer experience with automated, convenient solutions.
Welcome to The Customer Wins podcast where business leaders discuss their secrets and techniques for helping their customers succeed and in turn grow their business.
Richard Walker 0:16
Hey, Rich Walker here host of The Customer Wins where I feature business leaders who describe how their company thrives when their customers win. Today's episode is brought to you by Quik!. At Qiuk!, we provide forms automation solutions for companies looking to maximize efficiency and productivity. Our vision is to become the most compelling forms automation company by making paperwork, the easiest part of every transaction, go to quikforms.com to learn more. Today, I'm excited to have Chad Franzen here of Rise25, who has done hundreds of interviews with successful entrepreneurs, investors and CEOs. And we have flipped the script and he's going to interview me. Chad, welcome to the show.
Chad Franzen 0:55
Hey, Rich, thanks so much. Great to be here. How are you doing today?
Richard Walker 0:58
I'm doing great. Good to see you.
Chad Franzen 0:59
Yeah, you as well. Hey, so let's talk about a little bit more about Quik!. Kind of tell me maybe how you got to the point where you were starting the company, and then why you decided to start it?
Richard Walker 1:08
Yeah, I actually started 10 companies starting at age 12. And at age 12, I figured out wow, if you build something that people like, they'll pay you money, which was amazing to me, because I was super poor. When I was a kid, we lived on welfare. We moved around a lot. And suddenly I had a product when I was 12 years old. And I realized man, I'm going to be an entrepreneur. This company started because I decided to become a financial advisor. And I thought that's it. I'm going to become like a Suze Orman. I'm gonna go on shows, I'm gonna have books, I'm gonna do seminars and workshops for my clients. And immediately when I won my first client, I was struck with just how inefficient it was to be a financial advisor. So imagine year 2001, I am filling out paperwork by hand open their accounts, you work so hard to earn their trust, their respect, violated to have them say, okay, we'll rollover some IRAs to you. I'm going to make like $40 Commission, and then I realized, I'm going to spend an hour filling out their paperwork. Well, that was dumb. And I had a technology background. So I decided I'm going to build tech that will fill out the forms for me. And I did that. And then everybody for six months kept saying, Rich, how'd you do that? I would turn in this really clean paperwork, the back office would call me my branch office would call me other people would call and say I want your software. The funny thing is, I built it in Microsoft Excel, there wasn't a saleable product. And after six months of people saying they really wanted it, I went back to my technology partner and said, you know what, we should build this. And so we spent some time doing that. Our first install was on February 11th, of 2002. And it was with a financial advisor, who was a top 75 producer with American funds. She had a staff of five people, one person's full-time job was literally handwriting all the paperwork. And after we did our install two weeks later, she called us up practically in tears saying, oh my gosh, you're going to change my life. I don't have to fill out paperwork anymore. I'm only spending four hours a week on paperwork instead of 40. So we knew we had something and that kicked off a almost 21-year journey now.
Chad Franzen 3:10
Wow. That's amazing. So we'll get back to this Quik! in just a moment. But when you were 12, what was the product that you had the people wanted?
Richard Walker 3:16
So it was a water toy? Now I have to describe it. It's kind of funny. It's called a water weenie and not everybody knows what that is. But do you know what surgical tubing is? Right? Latex rubber tubing, you see it at a hospital. Well, if you take a length of that tubing, let's say a foot long or a foot and a half long, tie a knot in one end, and then go get a ballpoint pen and just take the tip and shove it in the hose. Then you go to your garden hose with a cone-shaped nozzle and put the pen inside of it. You can blow up a long, long water balloon, and it would skirt 30 feet. Now you got to understand back in the early 80s There was no Super Soaker. So your choice was a stupid water gun that's four to five feet or a water balloon, or if you're lucky enough to get a hold of the hose. But that hose didn't travel. So when we had these water weenies, it was incredible to have water fights. Well, the story of that product was my neighbor was a supplier to physicians and his son and I played all the time and one day he came out with these water weenies and handed it to us. We had just an amazing day of having water fights and none of our neighbors could compete with us. So we were the kings. Well, he took them back at the end of the day and all the other kids were like Rich, how'd you get that? And like, he took it. So I went to him one day and I said hey, I noticed in his shed by the way that he had this reel of tubing like 25 feet of tubing and I said hey, can I buy these from he was like No, I said okay, can I buy that tubing from you? And he said, okay, so I went random my piggy bank and I got out I don't know what it was 15, 25 bucks and I bought those, the real I now at 25 feet of tubing. I then went off and destroyed every pen in the house and put pen tips and all these things, cut them all the length of course and then I went out into the neighborhood and sold out in the day and I moved out had this business, which was a lot of fun. And my uncle saw this because he took me camping and I started squirting all the kids at the campsite and selling more of the stuff. He's like, hey, next summer, I am running the Fourth of July ceremony at a local park, why don't you have a booth? I'll get you a booth for free. I'm like, this is amazing. So yeah, I'll try to do that. Look, there's a lot more to the story, because I needed to get the money to buy the tubing and stuff. And that summer of selling the water weenies allowed me to save up to $300, which I had been saving for four years to buy a radio-controlled car. So of course, I went and bought the car. Well, fast forward six months, my uncle reminds me that I have this opportunity. And I go to my neighbor, I say, hey, how much for 1000 feet of tubing and he says 300 bucks. I didn't have 300 bucks anymore. So I went back to a little later and said, look, your son's birthday is coming up. Would you trade me 1000 feet of tubing for my radio-controlled car as a birthday gift to your son. And this guy has a heart of gold? Because he said yes. And he did it. Well, so now I had the tubing, I needed the pen tip. So I wrote a letter to Scripto, the pen company and said, hey, I'm doing a project. Can I get some sample pen tips. And they literally sent me 5000 pen tips for free. So now, I just had to do assembly. That summer showed up. We went to the Fourth of July, we started selling at 7am. In the morning, it was already 100 degrees. I was sold out by 1pm. And on that day, I bought everybody dinner, I paid my brother $75 for helping me assemble these things. And I took over $1,100 at age 12.
Chad Franzen 6:36
Wow, amazing. Well, you were quite the shrewd 12-year-old. What did you learn from that first entrepreneurship experience maybe that you still carry on today?
Richard Walker 6:48
I learned that when you provide value to people in some form or fashion, they're willing to pay for it. And it's really amazing. If you focus on delivering value, you don't have to worry so much about price or other things or I mean, sales are always hard. But it's always the focus on value. And what we're delivering that day was unparalleled value in terms of how far you could squirt somebody and how you could cool off on that hot summer air. And then consistently we did that. The funny thing is Super Soaker is what put me out of business when they came out a couple years later. And you could skirt 25, 30 feet with this thing that never broke. Oh, man game over.
Chad Franzen 7:26
So water weenie didn't last after Super Soaker came along?
Richard Walker 7:30
Yeah, we tried it until I was around age 15. And I just couldn't make the sales anymore at the same scale.
Chad Franzen 7:37
How wide of a reach did you end up getting? You said you sold them to the whole neighborhood or whatever. But beyond that, how far for reach did you get?
Richard Walker 7:46
Well, it was my school, everybody in my school. And we eventually went to flea markets, outdoor fairs. And we tried that a few times. I certainly sold several 100 of them. But it's just lost its luster. You got to imagine a 12-year-old sitting at a booth getting cash wads of money I'm stuffing into my pockets because the money just kept coming. And then my mom would come empty my pockets and put it into a safe box. That experience was unlike anything else, people just handing your money over and over. I mean literally hand-over-fist money.
Chad Franzen 8:18
That is amazing. That's amazing. So anyway, back to Quik!, what is it about Quik! that causes people to choose you maybe the big benefit and uniqueness about working with you guys?
Richard Walker 8:28
Well, Chad, do you like filling out paperwork? I mean, I've yet to meet somebody who enjoys the part of filling out paperwork. And when you consider where we add the most value, it's in revenue-driven transactions, financial advisors trying to open accounts for their clients trying to get life insurance products or move into annuity products. They're driving towards transactions that have money involved, not only for the benefit of their client, getting invested well getting into the right product, but also for that advisor, whether it's commission or just a fee for what they're doing, that is a very sensitive transaction. And the last thing you want to do is spend your time handwriting the forms over and over and over again, what we've done for our customers is make it easy to get their data out of their systems, various CRMs or data sources, put it directly onto the documents that they need at that moment. Continue to work on those documents, e-sign them with DocuSign and SIGNiX, or print and sign because still there's a ton of companies that won't accept electronic signature and really perform their transaction faster and easier. I think a common frustration everybody can express is I go to my doctor's office, they've known me for 10 years, they have all my data and yet they still want me to fill out the clipboard again and again. Like why, that's so inefficient. So yeah.
Chad Franzen 9:49
So, what kind of challenges has Quik! had to overcome during its lifespan?
Richard Walker 9:55
Oh man, let's go back to day one. The naivete that my partner and I had, and I want to reveal something, my partner's my mom. She's also a technologist and we said, let's put this together with a simple premise. We said, okay, you know what we'll go out to market we'll make 1000 sales 1000 seats of software is really not that many, we'll charge $150 a year. So $150,000 in revenue, we'll take 50,000 each in income and 50,000 to run the company, that'll be our baseline. In year one, we successfully signed up six paying customers. And suddenly, we realized, wow, you know what? Delivery is hard. We didn't want to deliver CDs or DVDs or boxes. So then we spent that first year building a website with e-commerce and automatic download. And then everything that happens in a business is a challenge, you learn and learn and learn. So we had to build our own email management system. Oh, my gosh, today, you think about like Constant Contact or AWeber, these email systems that didn't exist back then, we had to build our own e-commerce capability. There was no stripe, no authorize.net, no simple way to do it. So it was just challenge after challenge in that way. I'd say one of the biggest challenges that I personally faced as an entrepreneur was we are a bootstrapped company. And I went from making multi-six figures to making $1,000 a month income for four years straight. And in year five, I only made 2000 a month, it still wasn't enough to pay my bills. So yeah, those very early days, were just very challenging.
Chad Franzen 11:29
What was it that caused you to want to keep going, if you had other ways to make money, you didn't have to stick with it? What would cause you to want to keep going?
Richard Walker 11:38
Oh, man, that's a tough question. Because part of me says, Well, I was just dumb. I had the ability to go be a CTO somewhere I turned down offers, I could have made six figures all over. But I think it's just this vision I had about the kind of company I wanted to build. I had the opportunity to work at Arthur Andersen in the 90s. And Arthur Andersen was one of these rare companies that grew to 80,000 people without major acquisitions. You think about their competition like Ernst and Young, well, those were two different companies merged together, then you have culture clashes and operational problems. Arthur Andersen grew with this amazing company culture, and it taught me that company culture is what drives your success. So I had actually defined my company culture before I ever started Quik!, I had these four principles in mind, because I wanted to do my best work. And when I worked for other people, I never felt like they were tapping into my capabilities or my potential. So I built these four cornerstones of my company culture. And then when Quik! came about, it was obvious that that was going to be our company culture. And that's what I was driving forward. So I think what kept me going, is the sense that I want to build an amazing company culture where we're empowering everybody to do their best work. My team members, my customers, for sure. And I think just the sense of fulfilling our potential is what I'm after.
Chad Franzen 12:59
Well, actually, how long did it take you to feel like you guys were kind of rolling, or you had gotten past those initial, kind of really tough times.
Richard Walker 13:10
Man, I remember one, a couple of different things. Our first major enterprise client was MassMutual, the broker-dealer, which was 5500 reps, I mean, that was a huge accomplishment. But I also remember the first check that we got from Fidelity Investments. And it was like $50,000, we literally framed it on the wall. Because my mom and I both looked at each other, like, we made it, we're working with the big dawgs, we got a major company to believe in what we're doing and pay us for what we're doing. There was a lot of other milestones. I mean, frankly, I could have shut down the company at least three times in our history, if I paid attention to the writing on the wall in certain ways. But I'm also stubborn about where I want to go. So we just kept going.
Chad Franzen 13:54
How did that change your outlook?
Richard Walker 13:56
Oh, I mean, we were always looking forward, but it just was validating. It created a sense of optimism, it helped us understand a whole new world because when you're working with that scalar customer, they're saying different things to you. And they're communicating in ways that are big company feel like how they do procurement, how they do contracting. So it really helped us mature quite a bit and realize we could go further and further with this and work with more companies like them.
Chad Franzen 14:23
I'm sure that's one of them. But maybe what are some high points or moments that you're most proud of? Kind of in your journey with Quik!?
Richard Walker 14:30
I'd say, if I fast forward, I am very proud of the fact that my mom was able to retire from the company. And I mean, that's a really, really great feeling because she was much older than I in starting this company, she took on a huge risk. I mean, being an entrepreneur is risky, and it's not for everybody. She also worked exceptionally hard. She worked really, really hard. She put money up from her house. I mean, a lot of our financing came from her home equity line of credit. So she put a lot at risk at her age, and I'm really proud of the fact that she's retired and doing well along with our company.
Chad Franzen 15:06
That's great. It all started with putting wads of cash into a safe for you back when you were 12. Your service pretty unique. What's kind of your secret sauce that makes people choose you over others?
Richard Walker 15:23
Yeah, when you look at the world of forms automation, there's a lot of tools out there. And I think of forms automation a little bit like building a house as an analogy. So think back 200 years ago, how did you build a house, you probably did it more like the Amish do, you did a lot of hand tools, you cut down your own trees, you just put things together and maybe had a small community to do it with. In today's world, what do you do you get a general contractor. And there's all sorts of proficiencies and prebate stuff. When it comes to forms automation, what most people do is they buy a tool, and they have to learn the tool, they have to figure out the architecture of this system they want, they have to think about scalability, yada, yada, yada. And inevitably, it's not their forte. So they don't necessarily build the best solution. We're kind of like a general contractor in a way because we're service oriented. The first thing I did when I looked at forms, I said, how am I going to repeat something like your first name across all the forms in the world? I mean, think about it, if you go to your doctor, and the doctor is like, hey, Chad, fill out this form, there's three pages, put your name at the top of every page, are you going to put the same name or a different name every time? Like it's stupid? Your name never changes. And oftentimes, an electronic form is only fillable, meaning you can enter it over and over again, but you still have to type it over and over again. So one of our key foundational differences is that we have put a lot of effort into defining the field names that go on to all the forms. And we said, let's build a universal definition of fields. So first name is always first name, whether it's a US government form and annuity form a life form, your own internal HR forms, it doesn't matter to us, first name is still going to be first name, as his last name, etc. Today, our field definition is over 750,000 unique fields, that enabled us to have very high capabilities of automating forms, think about opening an account, it really doesn't matter what company we're talking about, they want the same info. So with that level of definition, we can actually automate a very high percentage, if not 100%, of the new account form at various institutions. And then you can bring that backwards to service request, like change of address, well, we know all those fields, beneficiary request, withdrawal request, all those types of things become much, much easier with this level of definition. And look, I'll put a finer point on it, our nearest competitor has only defined less than 200 fields, not 200,000, just 200 fields. So it's a really, really big difference between a do it yourself approach where you have to figure that out, versus what we bring to the table where it's all done for you.
Chad Franzen 17:55
Okay, wow, sounds great. So you've got this podcast that you're starting, this is kind of your initial episode, it's called The Customer Wins. Tell me how you came up with a name first of all?
Richard Walker 18:06
Well, it was a struggle, frankly, because we had so many different ideas. But one of the things that we think a lot about is customer success, and the customer experience. And we think about how we help our customers win. Again, I go back to that demonstration of value. And I will tell customers right up front, if we're not delivering value, why would you pay us? Why would we keep you as a customer? Or why would we earn you as a customer in the first place? So as an organization in our culture, to empower others to do their best work, we're always thinking about how does our customer win? Or how do they succeed? Or how do they get value from our product? So the name The Customer Wins is kind of a couple of different things. It's one about celebrating the wins of our customers, it'd be great to talk about some of those things. It's also about how we, as business owners, or entrepreneurs or operators, try to figure out how to win customers. My wife is really great. She is a nurse by training, but she's also starting a business on the side. And she said to me, she's like, look, if you can just tell me how to get these customers, it'll succeed. I'm like, yeah, that's the number one problem all customers or companies face. And nobody has a secret formula for it, because it's so different in every industry with every product. So I'm excited to talk to other business leaders about how they have approached this problem. How did they find this secret to finding a customer? Or how did they identify what their ideal customer looks like? Or how did they create the best customer experience to differentiate themselves? Chad, I don't know if you've ever looked at this but Gartner Group and Microsoft they both done studies that demonstrate that the companies who build the best customer experiences are the ones that are actually growing the most and uncertain do you feel that way about that? Because as a consumer, you and I choose products based on what we enjoyed interacting with that company. This is one of the reasons a company like Amazon and their Prime service is so successful because returns are so easy, there's no hassle with it, et cetera. So that's what the podcast is about is talking to people about their experiences, their secrets, the insights that they have about how they won customers, how they helped customers win, and really celebrating how companies grow.
Chad Franzen 20:15
Great. Sounds very interesting. What made you decide to start it?
Richard Walker 20:18
I run this company for 20 years, right. And I've been through various roles in my career as CEO, as co-founder. And one of the things I really enjoy is talking to people, I love entrepreneurs, I love hearing about their stories. And I was trying to not just be talking about other entrepreneurs, I wanted to do something that was aligned with how we work and what we're doing for our customers. So I thought about what are the ways I can engage with people, plus, you have to imagine, there's a lot of effort that goes into going to conferences, trade shows, or meeting your customer in person and today's world where we're all on Zoom. podcast just makes a lot of sense to me. Now we can meet virtually we can have a really dynamic conversation, maybe even a better conversation than we would at a trade show, and get to know each other a lot better. So that's another aspect of this that I'm really looking forward to.
Chad Franzen 21:06
Okay, sounds great. Last question for you. Who do you think, I'll be sure to check out some future episodes, who else do you think this show might benefit? Who might be most interested?
Richard Walker 21:16
Well, I think our customers are going to be interested because all of them are small business owners, if they're independent financial advisors, and they're going to be thinking about how do I attract and win customers? I think other entrepreneurs across industries are going to be interested in this because we're always trying to get that next little idea for how we attract a customer or win a customer. I'm also hoping that people who have established companies and they're trying to improve their customer experience, they're thinking about the last mile a customer goes through. I mean, look, when we talk about making forms the easiest part of the transaction, we're typically talking about the last step in the transaction. And I think a lot of companies are looking for how do they get to that last step and make it no hurdle, no challenge so that it's smooth sailing. So I think companies and operators, whoever that might be in operations, or marketing, etc, hopefully, they're going to get value from this and want to tune in to hear more of these types of stories.
Chad Franzen 22:11
Absolutely. Sounds good. Hey, Rich has been great talking to you today. Thanks so much. I'll look forward to future episodes.
Richard Walker 22:16
Thank you, Chad. Really appreciate you being on my show today.
Chad Franzen 22:18
Thank you. So long, everybody.
Thanks for listening to The Customer Wins podcast. We'll see you again next time. And be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.