Ryan Westwood Transcript

Clint Betts

Ryan, there is one word that comes to mind whenever I think of you, there's actually a lot of words, maybe we'll get into the rest of them, but the one word that comes to mind the most often is entrepreneur. That's how I think of you. I think of you as the ultimate entrepreneur. You're like the entrepreneurs' entrepreneur. You love the game of it, the grind of it, the commiseration with other entrepreneurs about it. When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

Ryan Westwood

It's interesting, Clint, my father was an historian and my grandfather was an entrepreneur and he owned some of the first Greyhound bus stations in the Utah area, and then he owned a restaurant called Westwood Cafe. And I remember seeing as a young child, these pictures of Westwood Cafe and Greyhound bus station and hearing a little bit about my grandfather. Now, what was interesting is probably one of the greatest blessings of my life was just knowing what I wanted to do and be when I grew up.

And I actually found the other day in the seventh grade, I was supposed to write a report about the career I wanted to go into and I wrote a report on entrepreneurship.

Clint Betts

No way.

Ryan Westwood

Yeah, I wrote a few pages on entrepreneurship back in the seventh grade. But Clint, the first time it really reared its head, when I was trading cards and I found a Beckett. When I found a Beckett, it was like all these lights went off, I'm like, "This is so much better now." Now, basketball is cool, baseball is cool, but the prices of these cards are what I got excited about. Other kids were thinking about the players and I was just looking at what are the margins on the cards? How much did they increase from Beckett to Beckett?

How can I price these? I went and bought little price tags, cases. And then I left Sunset Elementary in Provo. And I went to Rust Coin and I asked if I could rent a small kiosk in the store after I finished school. One day I got so excited I said, "I'm not going to school." I rode my bike over this viaduct and I went straight to Rust Coin and just entirely skipped school. And I went to set up my cards and get ready for everything, and I was so excited, Clint.

My dad came tearing in that store because nobody could find me. And he was so upset at me because I had just left to start my entrepreneurial journey. But Clint, it's been a passion I can't even describe. You have some times in life, something you're so obsessed with and love so much that you're willing to do most anything around it. I've written books on entrepreneurship, I've written columns on entrepreneurship. I have built my own company, I've been the entrepreneur-in-residence at a university, or I've taught entrepreneurship.

It's just everything in and around it, whether it's investing in other entrepreneurs, whether it's venture capital. If it relates to entrepreneurship, in that orbit, I want to learn it and understand it.

Clint Betts

Well, I have to ask before we continue, do you still have cards? Did you hang on to any of those? Because that's a big deal right now.

Ryan Westwood

Clint, I didn't realize it until the Michael Jordan documentary came out. When that Michael Jordan documentary came out, I thought, "Well, I should see how many Jordan cards I have." Well, I've got pages of Jordan cards, and so I pulled it out and I actually looked up a few cards and I was like, "Wow, this is pretty neat." So yeah, I kept the cards, I just hadn't looked at them in 20 years.

Clint Betts

I want to talk to you about entrepreneurship a lot and the grind of that and how you mentally and physically prepare for that. But I also think of you as a leader, someone who's a great leader, someone who you'd want to be in the foxhole with when things are going right or wrong, and you'd want Ryan Westwood inside of there with you. How do you think about leadership? What do you think are the most important characteristics?

Ryan Westwood

Clint, I'm committed to just giving the most raw and honest answers, and so I think my definition here 10 years ago wasn't the same as it is today. I think that today, I care more about having other people, seeing other people become successful. I think the great trait of a phenomenal leader is all these other leaders stem out from them and all this other success occurs. I didn't get that or appreciate that this time. There was too much where I was trying to figure out myself as a leader to fully appreciate that.

Now, I find actually a deep joy from watching and seeing people develop as leaders and as human beings, and then watching them create companies, and be leaders in organizations. I have now a network of people that I follow and work with that are phenomenal leaders. And so for me, what I want to focus on the rest of my life is helping create more leaders. Everywhere I go, I want to help be a part of that.

Clint Betts

What drives you to do that? Why do you think that is? What was your answer to that question 10 years ago? I think that'd be helpful for people.

Ryan Westwood

Clint, I think it would have been about some characteristics of leadership that I'm trying to learn or expand on, and it would have been more about me. There's something that flipped inside of me, there's this book called The Autobiography of a Yogi and it was a life-changing read for me. It's a spiritual book based in India and it's about this Yogi that comes to the United States. And Steve Jobs actually gave this book out at his funeral. It's his favorite book.

It's called the Autobiography of a Yogi, and in the book, Clint, there's this guy who is going up against a tiger. Now, it's symbolic of his life's mission, or the pursuit, or the thing he has to conquer in life. And the tiger is, they call them Raja Begum. And Raja Begum is this big nasty tiger. And he goes into this arena to fight this tiger. He gets in this bloody fight. He thinks he's won and the tiger comes back. There's all these people watching. And as the story goes, he gets out of this bloody fight in the arena.

And as he walks out, Clint, he feels weight of the world leave him. He's no longer worried about what other people are saying or thinking. When I think of myself as an earlier leader, I was worried about me and how I develop, I was worried about what other people thought of me. But when I read this book, I thought of, after we sold Simplus, it was like this moment where I walked out of the arena and I'm like, "I no longer care what these people are saying or thinking. I'm just going to lead."

After he beats the tiger, he leaves the world behind him. It's an incredible, symbolic story. It's probably a short read. It's one of the chapters in Autobiography of a Yogi, but it's an incredible story of a leader struggling to become a leader through the symbolism of this tiger Swami in Autobiography of a Yogi.

Clint Betts

That's super interesting. I wonder what you think of this. Do you think you have to beat the tiger? Do you think you have to have such an incredible wit as simple as to like walk away and say, "I don't care anymore what anybody else thinks of me, I'm on this other plane?" Or can somebody achieve that now somehow? Or is it entirely experienced? I actually don't know. You may have to go through that experience, huh?

Ryan Westwood

For me, it was. It was like I had this idea since I was a little boy in my mind, and the vision or whatever it is that sticks with you. I find with different people, you could have so many different things that just stick in your heart or your mind, and a lot of things I think we’re the product of the environments we were in, Clint. As a young kid, I just envisioned, I want to create this big company, create a lot of value, and I want to create it from nothing. And so that was my pursuit since I was 10 years old. It took me almost 30 years to get to where I ultimately wanted to go. That was a long pursuit.

But when I got there, it was like, well, what's next? It was interesting, Clint, because it was, one, a feeling of relief, but I had pursued something for the majority of my life. So there was also a recalculation of where I was going and what I was going to do next in my life because that was my purpose and the plan I had had was all based on accomplishing that one big goal. But it was life-changing for me in my outlook.

Clint Betts

Let me ask you this. What do you think prevents people from even getting in that arena?

Ryan Westwood

I'll tell you exactly, I think it is all mind. It is all our minds. I believe that I would have achieved those things sooner had I not gotten in my own way. I believe we all have certain mental mentalities that get in the way of believing. I'll give you an example. Todd Peterson, one night at a Jazz game where we were having a conversation and I was talking about building a billion dollar business. And he looked me in the eye and he said, "Why don't you start thinking of $10 billion? Chew on that tonight."

And when he said that, Clint, I was not ready for it. I mentally was not ready to shift my gears. I did not have the capacity at that moment to fully appreciate what he was saying to me. Now, it's taken me a year mentally to get to the point where I am now today ready to have that conversation. So I think it could take you a year, it could take you five years, but mental preparation and working through those barriers, I think when I started meditating, Clint, and taking time to say, "Okay, what are truly my mental barriers to that big goal of mine?" And being honest with myself, not lying to myself and then attacking the problem mentally in my head? That's when things started to open up for me. But I think it's our own self limitations. It might've been a teacher in the first grade who told you something that just hangs with you 30 years later that you have to work through.

Clint Betts

Well, it does seem like we do let what others have said in the past or the way we view other people viewing us, which is fascinating. They probably are not even viewing us the way that we think. That's another thing I've learned, I'm like, "Ah, I don't think that person likes me." And then I find out like three years later, that person didn't even care. One way or another, like, what are you talking about dislike? Wasn't even like on the radar, why do you even think about that that long?

And that's a fascinating thing that we all need to overcome, it seems. This whole what you believe is holding you back probably doesn't exist, which is really an interesting thing to play with. But you found meditation to be useful in that. How long have you been doing that?

Ryan Westwood

It's been about four years, Clint. And it's only when I've had the time in my head to sort out what really is going on now, what is really holding me back, and then how do I overcome it? And like you said, one of the things that helped me is realizing that a lot of really unqualified people give you advice. How often did you receive advice or did somebody say something to you that stuck mentally, that you don't even realize it's stuck there by somebody who wasn't qualified to give you that piece of advice along your journey?

Clint Betts

Oh my gosh.

Ryan Westwood

Most of the time, right?

Clint Betts

Yeah. All the time. It's crazy, man. There's always these stories, and I bet people who watch or listen to shows like this are probably sick of hearing them, where the entrepreneur will come on and they're like, "Man, I had all these people." Todd Peterson's are an example. By the way, I should tell people who Todd Peterson is. That's Vivint's CEO, Vivint founder, CEO, incredible leader in the state of Utah and beyond. Really invented the home security, smart home space. A fascinating and wonderful human being. I have to give some context on who that is.

There are people who will, and there are probably people who watch these types of shows or listen to them who are tired of hearing the stories of all these, “People were against me. All these people told me I couldn't do it. All of these people told me that it wasn't possible. What are you thinking? You should be doing something else, you can't do that.” And it's really fascinating, we've all had that in our lives, entrepreneurship or whatever in your life you're doing, whatever you're pursuing. We all have that.

I got that when I was writing. I started a blog, put no thought into what the name of that blog would be, put no thought into the technology, any of that type of stuff. It was worse than a WordPress site, which is free. We made it somehow worse than that and I got people saying like, "Who are you to write a blog about startup and tech companies in Utah?" That was like a fair point, I'm like, "I don't know, who am I to do this? Maybe I shouldn't do this." What did like, who cares who does that? It's an odd thing to say to people. Do you try to avoid saying things like that, like being something that will stick in someone's head along their journey that may limit them?

Ryan Westwood

I think people need to be more careful in what they're saying and when they're saying it, and I think sometimes, you can gain knowledge through reading. You can be really smart. You can gain that, but the only way to gain wisdom is experience. Period. No matter how smart you are, you could be the smartest person on earth and 20 years old and you need experiences, you need to start collecting them to gain wisdom. And you gain wisdom with time, enough wisdom to be able to make calls like that, Clint.

To know if what I'm saying is adding value and whether or not I'm qualified to say it, or if it's necessary that I say it. I think with immaturity, sometimes we say things just because we want people to hear us. We want to be heard and we want to lead, not because it actually is beneficial to those people. It's almost like a basketball player who starts out as a rookie and then becomes an all-star. And when they're an all-star, the court slows down, suddenly. They're making all the right reads, the right passes, the right shots.

And if you've ever watched someone who's truly wise, who's a little bit later in life and they know when to speak, when not to speak, they make the right reads. And everybody around them is slowed down. I think it takes time to get there, but that only comes with experience.

Clint Betts

Well, I wonder on the immaturity side too, on the flip side of that is like, not only could you stifle someone's growth by saying, "Who are you to do this? Why are you doing that?" That type of thing, but also you could take that and really let it stifle your growth. The opposite of that is true. Right? We know, you and I, I don't know I just said you and I know this, but it seems like we probably have an understanding a little bit more so now than when we were younger. We're both still quite young—

Ryan Westwood

Sure.

Clint Betts

... that nobody knows anything really. And so at that point, you're just like, you're wanting to get experience and advice on other people's journeys because how would they have any sense for the journey you're on or really any sort of relevant advice on how to do it? What you're trying to gain is like, how did you do this? Maybe there's something inside of that that I could glean or pull from that would be useful in my journey. It's like when you're a kid, you're like, "My parents know everything. They know everything about the world. These are the smartest people on earth."

You grow up and be like, "My parents were idiots." I mean, not actually, obviously, you love your parents, but it's like, "What do they know? That was crazy. They were just winging it like everybody else, like I'm doing now with my kids." And so I wonder how you think about that on the flip side, how do people who get over the sense that there are people who know things and would have a say on their journey, if that makes sense?

Ryan Westwood

No, it totally makes sense. I think there's great skill in extracting from others, from their journey, lessons learned, applying them to yourself, and then just being you. Because there's a borderline between wanting everything dictated for you, like you said. When you're younger and you're like, "Hey, they know, they're ahead of me. They're going to just give me a script. I'm going to follow it and everything's going to work out." The reality is, you're going to extract some value from those conversations and those people, but you're going to have to make your own journey.

And Clint, I truly believe that great leaders, great entrepreneurs, they are the ones that can fill in those gaps. They're the ones that can look ahead so far in vision that they get everyone else, they make everyone else around them better, they get everybody else excited. And then they reverse engineered the small steps. Because some people have a hard time sorting out in their mind, “I have this vision of $10 billion company, but what is my next step right now? And then how do I communicate it and get everybody excited about it?”

That's a skill that I think makes your greatest entrepreneurs, is you're able to fill in those gaps. But I will say, Clint, I think I've told you this before, I interviewed 60 or so CEOs when I was writing for Forbes. I can tell you that I have taken so much from so many great leaders that I've taken myself to create my own style of how I lead. But I have to give them all massive credit. But at the end of the day, I've taken pieces and then I'm just being me.

And I think that's where a younger entrepreneur has a hard time just being themselves. They want a script to follow.

Clint Betts

Well, speaking of that, sometimes it can be overwhelming as you're building these companies or being an entrepreneur, trying to start something on like where to start and how do you prioritize your day? Where should I be focusing? I wonder how you do that now. How do you prioritize your day in terms of like, this is the most important thing I'm going to focus on, then this, then this, then this. What does that look like for you?

Ryan Westwood

I think that there's this tendency, and I don't know if it's American culture, Clint, but I think we have a tendency to play a bit of Whack-A-Mole, where we are reactive and we start to just see things coming at us. When I think you've grown as a leader, you start to dictate, you go on the offense instead of the defense and you dictate where you spend your time and how you spend your time. You may get an email or a call for something that is not critical in nature. How do you handle that?

How do you say no to those things, or ignore those things and focus on the things that are most important? I think that's one step of maturity, some people are just afraid to say no. And there's more power in no. I have found that there can be more power in no than yes, because the amount of things you have to say no to, to have a productive day is a lot. And some people lose the battle of just saying no, and then they're not able to have the production that they could have because it's easier to just say yes and accept a bunch of things that aren't critical to their main priorities.

That's the first thing that I would say is, you have to know your main priorities and then you have to be able to say no. And I like the V2MOM methodology. That's the type of OKR that I enjoy. And I use that kind of strategy to write out my thinking. And then I follow that to a T. Everything that falls outside of my V2MOM doesn't get my attention. And that's how I manage my time and everything else comes next.

Clint Betts

That's interesting. I'd love to go deeper on that. We need to do that at some point. I want to talk about your journey though. Building Simplus, selling Simplus, how all of that came to pass. And in particular around the idea of raising money, I feel like you innovated in a way and how you'd fund your business and capitalize your businesses that was well before your time. And I'd love for you to touch on that too, if you wouldn't mind.

Ryan Westwood

I think that there's a couple of different types of entrepreneurs that I've seen when it comes to capital raising that fascinate me. There's your entrepreneur that is proud to be bootstrapping and is funding their business based on customer revenues and they want nothing to do with the venture capitalists. Then there's your entrepreneur who is so tempted by the capital and the excitement of it that they just dive right in and raise as much money as they can.

I very rarely see somebody, an entrepreneur, I think it's actually pretty uncommon of the entrepreneurs that I talk to or meet, that they have a more down the middle pragmatic approach. And I don't know if you've noticed this, but they'll have a visceral frustration with VCs, and even mature CEOs that I know do that. I can name a few running big companies in Utah that have a visceral feeling towards VCs. And then you have those that are just all in, and I think there's a balance.

A lot of times when I'm talking to entrepreneurs, I coach them through just thinking about the venture capitalists. And one of the big things I've learned, is when you say venture capitalists, they are not all created equal. And it's up to the entrepreneur to be very, very curious about them and reverse the script in questioning. Now, I'm going to let this out, but years ago, you and I were involved in UVEF, and that's the Utah Venture Entrepreneur Forum and this non-profit supporting entrepreneurs.

And one of the things, it was me and you, Clint, and basically a bunch of venture capitalists in Utah. Right?

Clint Betts

Yes.

Ryan Westwood

The reason I took on that role was it was the perfect time for me to analyze, dissect, and watch all these venture capitalists in Utah. I was watching super close how they thought, what was getting them excited, what was disappointing them, and I learned a lot about their psychology. And I think that entrepreneurs need to pay more attention and learn more about the way venture capitalists think and the way their funds are structured.

So sometimes I will have a rudimentary conversation with the venture capitalists about, okay, what does it mean to be a limited partner?

What is an institutional investor? How do they raise money for their funds? Are there different structures of funds? Is there an evergreen fund or different types of funds? And understanding, do they want a board seat? Do they have a propensity for a board observer seat? Do they like to follow on? What is their check sizes? How do they think? And almost interviewing them. And one of the things I've learned throughout all venture capitalists, psychologically, is that no matter how many good deals they do, they still can't sleep at night over the deal they missed.

It's so funny to me, Clint, they do not want you as the entrepreneur to represent that big building in Lehi at Thanksgiving Point of that billion-dollar business that they passed on their seed round. It's to the point where you miss a couple of those and you're a VC in Utah, you don't want to drive through Lehi because you're, "Ah, ah, these are the ones I missed." And so that's one thing that I realized is, venture capitalists are just as competitive as entrepreneurs are.

They don't want to miss out and scarcity drives their behavior. And a lot of times they don't move until they have to, until it's competitive. And so I could go on for hours about understanding capital-raising, hours and hours. But if I were to give one piece of advice to entrepreneurs, it's just understanding that they're just as competitive as you are, and they don't like to miss out on big opportunities.

Clint Betts

You brought up something interesting I actually haven't thought about in a long time, which is UVEF and this organization that was in this state of Utah. I think it'd been around for like 30 years. It seemed to be waning or it needed some reinvigoration. Somehow you and I were reinvigorated into this organization. You led it, I think I was like your secretary, basically, I was just taking notes as you were saying stuff.

What was fascinating about that, it was probably the only time every venture capitalist in the state of Utah, which is where we were doing this, was in the room together. Historically, they hadn't been, and it was an odd thing. And even prior to us getting involved in that, and you leading UVEF, it was more like lawyers, and service providers, and other types of folks who were in there. And you pushed all of that out and said, "No, the board is only VCs, like me.”

It was like, "No, we're only going to have VCs as part of this." And we'd meet like once a month. And it really was fascinating for like an hour and a half to have lunch with these competitors, who were not only competing with themselves and competing with everything else that's happening, as you mentioned, we don't want to miss deals, that type of stuff, but they're competing with everybody around the table daily, constantly.

It was interesting to see what information they would let out in front of the whole group, who would be a little bit quieter. That was a fascinating dynamic that you took from. I think you eventually ended up raising money from one of the venture firms in that group, if I'm not mistaken.

Ryan Westwood

It was actually a couple of them. It was actually a couple of them, Clint. Honestly, it was an incredible psychology experiment for me because the whole time I was paying attention and watching, I learned how they react to different situations. I learned how supportive they could be of each other and how they've worked together and the dynamics. You learn what stages they truly care about investing in and you saw who was maybe a little more standoffish with one than another.

It was so much fun to analyze and watch how everybody worked together and get a feel for the venture system. It helped me a lot in my process of raising capital for Simplus and just thinking through how to work with them and who.

Clint Betts

You also, if I'm not mistaken, you were doing debt financing. You were only funding your company through venture capital, right? That's why I said you were really innovative on this. You were just raising debt and paying it back, which I think a lot of high growth tech companies don't even think of, or at least they weren't particularly. You were the only person I knew who was doing it back then.

Ryan Westwood

Yeah. Clint, we use near banking, we even used the TCIP programs of the state. We used a line of credit where I personally guaranteed it on my house at the bank. We graduated to a Silicon Valley bank venture debt credit line. If you think of all the different ways we funded Simplus from near banking, venture debt, angels, traditional line of credit, venture capital, angel, growth venture capital, a late stage venture capitalist, a seed stage venture capitalist—we used every mechanism you can imagine, all the tools in place.

We actually raised a lot of capital from our employees. We even had corporate VCs like Salesforce Ventures heavily involved in our rounds and in our business. And I remember when Salesforce ventures looked at it, they said, "We've never seen so many employees on a cap table." One of the things we did was really unique, Clint, that I would advise other entrepreneurs to do in capital raising. I still don't see this in any other cases that I'm aware of.

I made every single one of my executives, the lowest investment was 50K, the largest was a million. And if you came onto our executive leadership team, you had to look to your significant other and tell them you're cutting a check to the company. And we raised a lot of money from our own leadership and our own employees. And I found that to be incredibly helpful because their hearts were committed to the vision and they were in it in a way that was very different than I had experienced before.

When you hear entrepreneurs, sometimes, Clint, say, "I was super worried about this problem. I was trying to resolve it on a Saturday and you can't get a hold of anyone." Well, I had the opposite problem. I had people, I couldn't get them to stop calling. It was like Sunday afternoon, I'm like, "Hey, I'm with my family. I'm hanging out. I want to be done today." I couldn't get Amy Cook, my CMO. She was just driving. She's calling me saying, "Hey, Ryan, there's this." Or it was Lance Evanson or Paul Fletcher, my CFO.

They were all just in it around the clock because they put significant amounts of their net worth into the company. And so maybe going outside of your venture capital group, fundraising with their own executive team can have enormous benefits beyond the capital.

Clint Betts

That's super interesting. At what point did you know it was time to sell Simplus?

Ryan Westwood

Clint, it was an interesting time and I started to see that we did a couple of things. One, we were focused on a niche, and that niche was CPQ, configure, price and quote. It was the software that you use to configure price or send a quote to a customer. It was complex quoting for big companies. And what I saw as we rolled up a bunch of our competitors, we built a really strong brand focused in the Salesforce ecosystem. So every event, we were usually a big sponsor of those events. We built up a big brand, we did a lot of PR.

We acquired seven companies, and Clint, we had hit all the regions in the United States, Australia and the UK, all the kind of low-hanging fruit, the English-speaking areas. We hit all those global markets. We had focused on our space, and I realized we were going to have to make a big jump into another market. We were going to have to add another capability or specialty before and it would have an impact on margins. It would be a material change in the company.

And we had a strategic buyer come in fairly aggressively at the time I told them we weren't for sale and that they couldn't get to a price where it would make sense. I flew into New York City and spent some time with Infosys executives and the World Trade Center. I was sitting in there having discussions where I realized they were dead serious and they were going to be able to bring the offer that would make it happen. And it was a moment for me, Clint, where I realized, okay, we're at a pivotal time where we could shift or we could exit.

We have an excellent buyer and the buyer is going to do something really, really unique, Clint. They haven't built a competitive business to the level that the other buyers in the market have to Simplus. They're willing to give us the keys to run the company within Infosys and they are going to give us their existing business to reverse integrate into Simplus. And so it all came together, it was the right price, it was the right time. And we were being given the opportunity to run a much bigger business.

Just to help you understand that, we've added hundreds and hundreds of employees from Infosys who are now working under the Simplus umbrella and our business has doubled since the acquisition within Infosys. Now that we're this greater Simplus business that takes a part of Infosys' revenues, we're running a much, much bigger company and it's a bigger opportunity for us. Those were the three things, it was the price, it was the opportunity to lead a bigger business, and then it was the right time in the growth of the company.

Clint Betts

Well, I want to talk to you about timing because I vividly remember this. We were at a Jazz game and I think it may have been the last one before the whole world shut down. You had closed this deal or on the verge of closing this. Who knew what was going to happen back then? And the world literally shut down to a certain extent right after this.

Can you talk about the timing of that—the timing normally is fascinating when people are able to do that, but you did this right. As soon as you did it, the whole world shut down.

Ryan Westwood

Clint, it's interesting. When we were talking about having the vision to see the future and seeing the strategy, it also, you have to have the vision to know when the time is right to make a decision. And entrepreneurs that understand timing usually are your very most successful entrepreneurs. They seem to be the ones that stand out more so than any other. You can have a great strategy and a vision, but if you don't know when to execute on it or not to execute on it, that becomes a really big problem.

When do you hit a market? When do you get out of a market? And this was one of those cases where I obviously had no idea that COVID-19 was going to hit, but when I was at that basketball game with you, I'll be very honest, Clint, I was so nervous. I was nervous because we had finished all the documents, everything was done. The only thing we needed to do was sign. All the legal process was through, the LOIs had been signed and over with. We had announced to the public that we had signed a definitive agreement.

But the final docs and the capital, the cash for the company had not been wired. All the hysteria and the news coming. Well, the day, the morning that the capital funded and that the deal actually closed was the same day that Donald Trump stood up in front of the country and said, "We're in a national pandemic. We're officially here." And I just remember sitting back and I actually remember just being like, "This is the most euphoric and unreal moment," because it had funded and I was thinking we did it.

And in the same moment I was thinking, "But what is happening to the world?" It was a crazy time, but the week I was with you, when Rudy Gobert had his little fiasco and all that, I think that was the game we were at? Wasn't that the game we were at? I know it was the last game before the whole NBA shut down, right?

Clint Betts

Yeah, it was the last one. Yeah, for sure. All right. I have two more questions for you. We got to have you back on because I would love to go deeper on a lot of this stuff that we've touched on, but I have two questions for you. One is, how important is faith to you?

Ryan Westwood

That's a really good question. Let me give you my answer. The world is right now full of fear. Everything that you can imagine, let me just give you the little microcosm that is my home here in Salt Lake City. You have a fire in the canyon. The air quality is very, very poor right now, people are having a hard time breathing. You are being told that it would be highly preferred to wear a mask. You're also hearing that there's different variances of COVID-19, and we have all of these kinds of health emergencies.

In the last year, we had a pretty good sized earthquake. Wasn't that one of the largest ones we've had in many, many years?

Clint Betts

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ryan Westwood

You have all these things coming at you, California, all the smoke is coming in here to Utah from these fires. You're hearing what's happening in Afghanistan. You're having these situations in Haiti with these big earthquakes and the world is so focused on all of this fear, all this bad news. And what carries me through all of it is faith. It's faith in Jesus Christ. That is what gives me energy in my heart, it's what gives me hope.

It's what makes me excited about the future—future generations, future people. And it's looking forward to the Savior returning, and that fuels me.

That is the counter to everything that the world offers. That has become the most important thing to me. I know that's not a topic that's always covered in interviews like this or in a work setting—but it's everything to me, Clint. And that faith energizes me. When I think about people, spiritual leaders that I admire, there is a big contrast between them and many of the people that are in the current state of this world. And I want to be more like those people. They have a certain optimism and energy that I want to possess, and that comes, I believe from faith in Christ.

Clint Betts

What lessons did you learn from your parents that have transferred well into entrepreneurship and being a leader and what leadership lessons would you or advice that you think would be most important would you leave us with today that you think those listening, those watching may benefit from?

Ryan Westwood

One of the big things is my dad never disparaged me for any question. My mom and dad would answer some of the most bizarre, weird questions that I would ask about life. I'm sure they were annoyed. Now, as a parent, looking back, I'm like, "Man, they were so patient with some of my bizarre questions about what was going on on earth." And so, one of the big things I learned from them is just to be extremely, I think, radically curious.

I think people that develop great relationships in life and people that are great entrepreneurs are just very curious. They constantly want to understand and learn about earth, life, everything. I think my father taught me to be extremely curious, and I also think that that's a critical component to entrepreneurship, because at every level, you have to be understanding that you don't know everything. And that the more curious you are, the more open you are to being a sponge and learning, the further you're going to be able to get ahead and to grow your capabilities and your business and whatever else you're doing.

I see that with you, Clint. You're extremely curious and watching your trajectory and how you develop as a leader and as a person, I can see it in black and white from the time I've known you. And it's incredible to watch you grow as a leader and to just be a third party to seeing all that happen. I think back to when I met you at JCW's and we went and had a burger the first time to who you are today, you're a massively different person because of your curiosity. But that's one thing, and that's one thing I learned from my parents.

The other thing that I learned from my parents, my dad, I think a lot of times he would have me question authority and question whether or not there was validity behind things. And that's part of being an entrepreneur a little bit is you're always a little bit curious about different people and you don't just take them for their word, but you follow their actions. And what I learned from that, Clint, is in my life, the people that I trust and that I love, I've watched their actions.

For example, my wife is the most honest person I've ever met and over the last 16 years, I have closely watched her actions. And it's incredible to watch it doesn't matter what anybody else says, it's her actions. And to me, the finest form of leadership and entrepreneurship to sum all of this up is you're an example, and there's no way to get around it. When leaders say that their personal actions or the things that they do don't matter, that's simply not true. And people follow your actions more than your words.

So what are your actions as a leader? If you have core values, that there's things you believe in—if you don't live them fearlessly, then you have compromised your ability to lead. So be curious and be a good example. I think those are the things I learned from my parents and learned, I would say are great things for entrepreneurship and leadership.

Clint Betts

I love that. Sergio Simpson says, "The only word you need to know in life is why." I love the questioning of authority. We should all do that. We should all question everything. I love the curiosity stuff. Ryan Westwood, CEO of Simplus, founder of Simplus, you're a good man, my friend. Again, come back, we gotta go deeper, but really appreciate you coming on today.

Ryan Westwood

Clint, thanks for having me. I always appreciate dialogue with you. Thanks.

Clint Betts

Thanks, Ryan.

Weekly Newsletter

For Leaders

Subscribe to the weekly newsletter read by the world's most influential CEOs.