It feels like this ‘Letter from Phil’ should be special. Or something different. But in many ways, just like the TubeBuddy product, it’s business as usual for Letters from Phil, even if the topic might be a bit bigger than normal. In this letter, I will share with you a ‘behind the scenes’ look of what the TubeBuddy acquisition by BEN actually entailed.
First off, as we’ve said over and over already, the TubeBuddy you know and love isn’t going anywhere. I wanted to take this quick opportunity to repeat it one more time :)
Back to the story....
It all started with a phone call to Ricky Ray Butler, CEO of Branded Entertainment Network (BEN) back in February. It was a call just like any other I’d had with many companies - until Ricky Ray talked about how Bill Gates owns BEN and they were looking into expanding their business and considering acquisitions of like-minded companies.
BEN was far from the first company to ask us about investments or acquisitions and as a self-funded company who avoided venture capitalists like the plague, we had never seriously considered an acquisition before. That was until we realized what a great team BEN had and saw how closely our values aligned as far as empowering the creator community. We were also at a point company-wise where things felt like they had grown beyond what we were suited for managing.
The following 8 months were some of the most stressful months of my life. Were we making the right choice? How will employees react? How can we ensure that everything continues running smoothly? Everyone *seems* amazing at BEN but how can we be sure that’s actually how they will be post-acquisition? Should we back out and just hire more employees to run TubeBuddy instead? What roles would be best for us in the future? Will this process ever end??
The ‘due diligence’ process of an acquisition was as big of a nightmare as people warned me about. When I saw the amount of information we had to put together and provide, I think my jaw literally dropped. Thankfully Chuck was there to take on the bulk of the work while we focused on the business. It took months of work to complete and reminded me of the Ironman triathlon that I completed 10 years ago. In that race, I started at 7:30 AM and finished 15 hours 21 minutes later at 10:51 PM that night. In that same way I ran that race, it was one foot in front of the other and eventually, all of a sudden you look back and realize how far you’ve come. This mentality can be applied to so many aspects of life I’ve found - including building your YouTube channel.
Through the discussions, I always tried to put myself in my own shoes post-acquisition and think about how I’d feel. Any concerns I had as far as what would happen to employees, I wanted addressed and resolved so that I knew I’d have a clear conscience. If I knew that if any employees (or contractors / partners / affiliates) would be treated poorly or even any less-awesome than we treated them, I’d be miserable for the rest of my life so perhaps in a selfish way, I was overly concerned with how everyone else would do. I also knew that although I’d be happy and excited for the future once the deal was completed - it wouldn’t be a moment I’d necessarily be celebrating. I knew it would be bittersweet at the time but better for everyone in the long run. Those realistic expectations have helped me through the last couple weeks. Having to tell employees about the decision was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in the business world. I was a nervous wreck all week, having trouble eating and sleeping. But as hard as it was for me to tell them, I can’t imagine the shock on their end.
Luckily I knew we had done everything humanly possible to ensure a smooth transition. All employees kept their jobs and received a bonus from us to help financially. The TubeBuddy team remains an independent and tight-knit crew with weekly Mario Kart races still ongoing. We really focused on keeping everything as normal as possible and I actually believe the team will enjoy being part of a big family, while being able to escape to the cozy, familiar TB crew the majority of the time.
As far as my role moving forward, I will be transitioning into an advisory role and passing off most of what I do to Rob Gabel, former CEO of TubularLabs who is TubeBuddy’s new General Manager. His previous company, TubularLabs is a company that everyone looks up to in the industry and is a pioneer in the space. Rob’s leadership experience and familiarity with the industry is a perfect fit.
I’m going to continue and help as long as the employees let me stick around but also excited to tinker on personal side projects more and see if there are other ways I can help the creator community in particular.
I happened to read an article today about someone who made a similar decision to sell his company and his explanation was eerily similar to how I feel: “The majority of my time was spent as a ‘manager’, not a ‘maker’. At my core, I’m a maker. I’m at my most fulfilled when I’m creating and am generally indifferent on growing or scaling things. I also realized that the same people who are good at starting companies aren’t always the same people who are good at growing or managing them.”
So there you have it. Only time will tell how things pan out but one thing I’m sure of, is how incredibly grateful I am to all our employees along with our affiliates, partners and customers and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for TubeBuddy.
TubeBuddy Co-Founder & Strategic Advisor