Leveraging Technology to Build the Kingdom with Bob Pritchett
FaithLife co-founder Bob Pritchett joins Ray to discuss his early interest in tech, how he skipped out on the dot com bubble, and the importance of doing the right thing for your people–even if it means firing them.
Bob Pritchett co-founded Faithlife Corporation (makers of Logos Bible Software) and serves as President and CEO. Bob speaks regularly at industry conferences and to academic groups on entrepreneurship, electronic publishing and digital libraries. He is a 2005 winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, one of Glassdoor’s Highest Rated CEOs 2015, and was included in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.
Bob is the author of Start Next Now: How to Get the Life You’ve Always Wanted, and Fire Someone Today, And Other Surprising Tactics for Making Your Business a Success.
“That desire to hold on to people when you know they need to go is really more selfish than helpful.”
“I think there is a job where everybody can be successful, get promoted, get affirmed, get encouraged, and grow.”
1. Being used by God is a privilege.
2. You are not the provider for your employees; God is.
3. Don’t sacrifice opportunity for the sake of perfection.
4. Spend more time building relationships and networking.
FaithLife Bible study app
Ray: Hello everyone. This is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith. And this is the program where we love to talk about the intersection of faith, business, life and leadership. We get the opportunity to go around the country, and talk with some of the most amazing leaders in business and in the marketplace, followers of Christ who not only love Jesus, but are really integrating their faith on a daily basis in their leadership.
If you’re a regular listener to the program, welcome back. If this is the first conversation you have been able to catch with us here at Bottom Line Faith, we are so glad you are here. I am excited about our conversation we’re going to have today. I’d like you to join me in welcoming to Bottom Line Faith today, Bob Pritchett. Bob is the President and CEO at Faithlife and Logos Bible Software. We are going to learn all about Bob and his company. Bob, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Bob: Thanks and glad to be here.
Ray: Well listen, just give us a little bit of your background, and then we’ll learn more about your career, and your company, and what God’s calling you to do in leadership.
Bob: Well, I grew up in New Jersey outside Philadelphia. I came out to the Seattle area to work for Microsoft long ago. I went out to Microsoft as an intern in 1990, and I had met my future wife and my business partner, and just kind of got transplanted.
Ray: And so with your background being at Microsoft, what led you to what you eventually launched with Logos Bible Software, and your company at Faithlife? Tell us that journey. How did that come about?
Bob: Well, I grew up going to Christian schools and church every week, and I had Bible class six days a week as a result. And I was into computers. So back in high school, I wrote a Bible software program to speed up searching the Bible, so I didn’t have to use Strong’s Concordance to look things up in that big paper book.
And a few years later, when I was at Microsoft looking for a hobby project on the side with a friend, I said, “Let’s do a Windows version of that Bible software, because I have the files for the Bible, and it’s an interesting technical problem.” So we wrote that Bible software back in 1991 as basically a hobby project. And by the time we got to the end of the year and the product was finished, we realized that it had potential to be a real product, and it needed support, and it needed more Bible translations, and we had to pay royalties to license them. And so it just turned into a business as a surprise.
Ray: Okay. Now you caught my attention there. So I got to hit the rewind button just for a second. So you’re in high school, you’re studying the Bible, and there was something that you wanted to do better. Take us back to that, because as a high school student, that’s pretty impressive to me. Tell me more about that.
Bob: Well, I was in high school in the ’80s, before the web and everyone was on the internet. And my dad brought home one of the first Bible software programs, which was actually written for the Apple IIe, which really dates us. And it was cool that you could search the Bible on a computer, but it was really impractical. You had 25 floppy disks, and you had to put the right floppy disk in your Apple IIe, to search the right portion of the Bible.
But I was intrigued by the idea that you could use the computer to search the Bible. And as the computers got more memory and hard drives and finally could fit the whole Bible in memory, I came across some files on the old computer bulletin boards where people had typed the King James Bible in, and I could download the whole King James Bible, or get it on floppy disks. And it came with a search program that was very, very slow and tedious, and I knew a better search algorithm. So I wrote a brand new search program using the faster search algorithm, and that’s what started building a mailing list of people who were interested in knowing when I updated the Bible software.
Ray: Okay. So this is while you’re in high school. So at what point did you learn about yourself, that you had this technical aptitude?
Bob: I got my first computer when I was eight in 1979, and just took to it immediately, and I was very interested. And then my dad was interested in computers as well, as a hobbyist. And he eventually started a computer distribution business. So I had maybe unfair access to a lot of technology as a high school student, because my dad was, by that time, running a computer distribution company. So I got to use the latest machines, and I was using business machines when all my friends were using Commodore 64s and things like that.
Ray: Okay. So did you say it was in ’91 that you wrote your first software for the business?
Bob: Right. So in ’91 we wrote what became Logos Bible Software.
Ray: Obviously it’s gone through many revisions and maturity over the years. But essentially, when you wrote that first program, what did you have in mind that it would become, or what function would it serve? What problem would it solve, and how does it continue to do so today?
Bob: Well in 1991, we were just excited about the idea to make it easier to search the Bible and find things in it using a computer. Very early on, that we started showing it to people, said, “Well this would actually be helpful to me in my sermon preparation, or my Bible study.” And by the end of that first year is when we made the decision to quit our jobs at Microsoft and go full time. And it was really about saving people time. The paper index is, the big Concordance is, that lets you search through the Bible, they just take time away from reading the text. You’re spending your time in indexes and flipping pages. And that really has been the mission of Logos Bible Software ever since then, as we’ve grown the library to now 130,000 titles about Bible, and faith, and Bible study. All of that is about saving people time.
Pastors tell us that they save maybe five hours a week by using our software versus when they did everything with paper. And those five hours a week, they do a better job in their sermon preparation, and they have five hours a week to get back to their family or their congregation. So I think that’s just a blessing to be able to be part of that. And we see that as a real win. People didn’t go into ministry to sit with paper books and look things up in indexes in the library. They want to preach the Word, and love their congregation.
Ray: Yeah, I love it. So you founded the company, formerly what, in 1992? Is that correct?
Ray: And help us understand the size and scope, you mentioned now over 130,000 titles that you’ve published under this. But give us an understanding of the size and the scope of your company. And then we’re going to dive into some of the lessons learned, and the growth and development of the company over the years. But help us understand that.
Bob: Well, we’re about 400 people, and primarily in Bellingham Washington, but now with lots of remote employees scattered around the country, and even the world. We have a satellite office in Chandler Arizona, where we’ve got a larger team, and a small subsidiary in Mexico, that helps support our Spanish products.
Ray: There’s a passage in Zachariah. It says, “Do not despise the day of humble beginnings.” And so when you and your partner started out in 1992, how would you, at that time, have defined success as a business, in terms of size and scope? And in your wildest dreams, would you ever have imagined that you would be where you are today?
Bob: I had no idea it would be where it is today, and just feel very thankful the Lord’s chosen to use us to serve in this way. We did have an ambition to be able to cover our paychecks, and I had a personal goal that we get big enough to get those cool polo shirts with your logo on them. And we achieved that one pretty early on. So after that, it’s all been great.
Ray: So you’re the big visionary, huh Bob?
Bob: Yeah. I wish I could say I had an outline of the whole thing. And over time, the vision has grown. At first, it was just, “Let’s build the Bible searching tool and sell it.” And then it was, “Hey, we can add a whole library of books.”
And at each stage, we’ve seen where we could go next. And right now, as we move into tools for church management and communications, we see an opportunity to be this big platform to serve the church with technology in lots of ways. But at another level, we take it every day. I know that there’s lots of people serving the Lord in technology, as well as in other areas. And right now, we’ve been called to do what we’re doing, and we’re doing it the best we can. But I don’t feel like, it’s not an entitlement. We’ve got a vision of what we can accomplish, but we’re also tools to do what the Lord wants to do.
Ray: Absolutely. I want to get into a little bit more of the journey, some of the highs and lows, frustrations, and so forth. Before I do that though, I just want to talk just for a moment about the importance of what you’re doing. What we’re seeing in culture, frankly even in the church, some level of, some might call it biblical illiteracy, at least not understanding the power of God’s Word, and how it transforms lives and leads cultures. At that level, what is your hope and vision and dream that your company can help in that regard? Do you see this as a game changing, world changing approach to help in this whole area of literacy in the scriptures, or is there a different vision behind all this?
Bob: I think that we can play a part in that. And I’m excited for that, that piece we have in the puzzle. At some level, I think people have to be led by the Holy Spirit. They have to be mentored and guided and exhorted by the people in their community of faith around them, their pastors and the people in their church. But what we can do, is we can take away the friction. And sometimes it’s friction that’s in the way.
The reason that somebody isn’t reading their Bible every day is because it’s on a shelf, and it’s not with them when they have the 20 minutes free in the middle of the day or whatever. If we can put that Bible in your hand on your phone, if we can pop up a reminder that you wanted to do a reading plan and today it’s time to do the next reading, we take out the friction.
Now the technology is not going to change your heart. The technology is not going to drive your interests. But the technology can certainly take away all the excuses. And I think that that’s one of the things that we do, not just take the friction out, but we can take the friction out of going deeper.
If you have a paper study Bible, you can read the note below the verse, and that’s the end. And then the next step is a hard step of going to a library and finding a book that goes deeper on the subject. But digitally, we can show you the study note, and then give you a button that says, “Learn more,” and you can click and be opened up to a whole digital library of commentaries and other books on the subject. I’m excited about that ability, to remove friction. And we joke about building a positive slippery slope, where you’re drawn deeper into Bible study unintentionally.
Ray: Fantastic. So let’s say that I’m a business owner, I’m listening to this conversation. I say, “I really see my business as a platform for ministry. I really believe God has called me to lead this organization to His glory.” How can Logos Bible Software help me do that?
Bob: Well, we have a huge library of resources on almost everything you’d want to look at, related to the Bible. We also have tools like the Faithlife Study Bible. Faithlife Study Bible is a free app that’s in all the app stores. You download that. It gives you a study Bible with extensive notes on the text, and then just what I talked about, it has a learn more button that will draw you into a whole much larger digital library that’s been carefully curated and linked back to those verses.
From there, some people step up to a large library of Bible study tools and Logos Bible Software and more. We also do video curriculum as well, so FaithlifeTV.com, which works on Apple TVs and Rokus and Amazon Fire. It’s a whole video library of faith oriented and biblical studies content. Because we know that not everybody is a reader, and sometimes video is the right way to reach people.
And then in terms of organizations, we tie that together with the ability to create private groups. So you could share your notes on Bible reading with a group. You could choose to do a Bible reading plan, where you invite a small group of people to read the Bible together and to see each other’s notes as they’re reading. So lots of ways to do that in community.
Ray: That’s fantastic. And so what’s the simplest, quickest way for someone who’s listening right now, to learn more about the company and or your offerings? What’s the best way for them to do that?
Bob: So I would encourage them just to download the Faithlife Study Bible, and start there. And that’ll get you an account in the whole system and give you a free study Bible with some great resources that’s really easy to get going from. And from there you can go to Faithlife.com and explore more.
Ray: Okay. So whether I’m on my Apple or my Android, I can get that app. The Faithlife Study Bible app? Is that correct?
Bob: Yes. And Faithlife is one word without a space.
Ray: Oh fantastic. Thank you for that. It’s great background on the company, and what you’re doing. But I’d like to now hear more of the story. I’d like to dive into some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way. Some of the things that God has taught you, as a CEO and a founder, or cofounder of a very thriving company. As you look back over the course of your company and your career there, what’s maybe the hardest decision that you can remember having to make? And of course, what role did your faith play in it?
Bob: That’s a hard question, because there’s been so many. Back in the 1990s, I think while we were a Bible software company, we had this ambition to take our content technology into other markets. And we had one of the first best reading experiences on computers. And this is long before the Kindle, and before a lot of the other ebook industry. So we looked to raise money, and to grow our company, to do scientific technical legal publishing. Basically to take this technology we built for Bible software into lots of other markets.
It was an ambitious plan to be an electronic publishing digital library company, more than just a Bible software company. And we went through a money raising process, and we ended up unrolling that. We had money in escrow from a fundraising that we returned to the potential investors. And at the time, it was very hard, and very frustrating, and very humbling to feel like we’ve failed in this attempt to grow.
But I look back on that and think, that was the Lord keeping us focused. We’re building tools to serve the church, and thought we could take that technology to other places. And whether that was a good business decision or not, it wasn’t the right thing for us to do at that time. And I’m really thankful for that.
And now we are completely focused on serving the church. Our mission is to use technology to equip the church to grow in the light of the Bible. And we don’t have any plans to take it to other markets, or other categories, or other areas. Everything we’re doing is about serving the church. And that was really hard, and that decision to end the fundraising process, and literally send back money, there’s investors that had already put into an escrow account, was a really difficult one. But I’m very thankful for it now.
Ray: Do you have any sense along the way, and maybe it’s impossible to answer this, but do you have any sense that maybe God was protecting you from something, or at least reminding you of clarity of calling?
Bob: Oh, absolutely. As a result of that process, we ended up sitting out the dot com boom. And as somebody who grew up in the technology world, and then was in my twenties in the late 1990s, I couldn’t believe that I was sitting out the everybody’s turning into a billionaire on the internet thing. I felt like that had been my life plan all along. I just hadn’t known until the internet arrived.
But a lot of those companies are gone, and we’re still here. We’re still serving the church. We’re still building Bible software tools. And that’s pretty remarkable. Think of how many software companies from 1991 you’re still working with. And I feel like this is where we’re supposed to be, and we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
Ray: Absolutely. And so in that moment, it sounded like there was at least a season or a time where you felt like you had failed in that. What I’d like you to do is just go back to that moment, and then relay it to maybe somebody who’s listening to the conversation right now, who maybe has been trying to raise money, or trying to grow their organization, and it’s just not happening the way they had hoped, and maybe even the way they prayed that it would. What advice or counsel would you have for someone who’s feeling the way you just described you felt at the time? What encouragement would you offer to them right now?
Bob: It’s tough. And I remember that feeling. I remember feeling like we’d failed in the plans we had, that we got in a situation where we got ahead of ourselves, and we owed money that was difficult to pay back. And so instead of putting funds into growth and expansion, we were busy paying down what we owed the bank and other people.
And it was really easy to feel like a failure in that situation, particularly while you’re seeing the rest of the world going through a boom time, and building up the internet bubble, the first of dot com bubbles. But I feel like it did turn my attention back to prayer, to asking for the Lord’s guidance. And it was a reminder too that it’s not about me. We’re doing what we’re called to do, and we need to be attentive to what we feel is the leading and direction that we’re getting in that area.
And I was also reminded that it’s not my job to solve these problems. And like I said at the beginning, I feel thankful that the Lord is using us as His tool in some ways now, but I don’t have any belief anymore that we’re entitled to that role, or special in that role, or necessarily going to continue in that role. That’s how we’re being used now, and thankful for that opportunity.
But I think changing my perspective to it not being about what I’m building and what I’m growing, but in a sense, what I’m being called to do, and where I’m being called to serve, really changes your attitude as well. If you can see it as a service role, serving the Lord, then then you can trust that He’s going to take care of things how He wants them to work out.
Ray: Absolutely. So in that vein, as an entrepreneur, as a CEO and a co founder of a company, what are some of the challenges you have experienced of connecting the whole world of entrepreneurship and your faith?
Bob: I haven’t found that as difficult as some people do. And I think part of it is that I’m running a business inside the Christian space. I’m selling to people in the church. So at some level, I probably don’t face some of the temptations or ethical challenges that people might in a different work environment. Most of the people here are not going to encourage me to do something contrary to my faith in order to advance business goals. That’s just a circumstantial blessing that I don’t have to deal with some of those things.
I do think that we get a different kind of problem though. When you are serving in the faith market, you get people who think, for example, that everything should be free. If you’re serving churches, it should all be free. And you should give it away. And how can you sell Bible software when the Bible should be free?
And we do give away free Bible software for exactly that reason. But we can’t build the tools we do without a revenue base. We can’t employ the people we do to write the software and support it. So I get challenged more the other direction. It’s not like somebody comes in and encourages me to do something that would involve compromising my faith. They come in instead and say, “Why aren’t you working for free?” And we take that challenge seriously.
While I can be very quick to give you a good answer why we can’t give our products away for free, I also have to think carefully about what’s an appropriate level of profit for the company to be aiming for. And are we delivering great value to our customers, because a lot of them are pastors, are paid out of the offering plate, and they’re spending that money with us on tools for their ministry. I want to make sure that we’re delivering a great value to them.
Ray: And in that, I think any Christ follower who’s in business, they share that as a challenge, or perhaps a struggle as well, as how much is enough profit? How much is too much? I need enough to run my business, and to glorify God through that, and properly compensate employees, and bring shareholder return, whatever those cases. It really is an issue of stewardship, is that what you’re telling me?
Bob: Yeah, and I think the big challenge too, is keeping an eye on your own motivations and things like that. I’m not a believer that the money is evil. It’s the love of money is the root of all evil, not the money itself. But guarding your heart against the love of it, is an ongoing challenge.
And figuring out that balance of where do I give, and where do I sell, and how do I answer people who think I’m making the wrong call on that. And then of course, there’s the people issues too. A classic problem with people, in Christian ministries, or Christian business people, is maybe not being realistic enough about employment decisions, or being challenged to keep employing goodhearted people who are doing a bad job in their role, things like that.
Ray: And actually, that’s a beautiful segue, because I haven’t read this, but I’m intrigued by the title, and I’d love to talk about this. One of your books that you’ve written that’s called Fire Someone Today: And Other Surprising Tactics for Making Your Business a Success. Now, come on Bob, you’re a Christian, you’re a follower of Christ, surely you don’t fire people. Now there’s sarcasm. So forgive me.
But there are many Christian CEOs and business owners who have been told by employees, former employees, “And so you’re a Christian, surely you can’t fire me or you wouldn’t fire me.” As a follower of Christ, what do you cover in that book, and what’s that look like as a Jesus loving man who’s running a company? Do you fire people, and why? What’s that look like?
Bob: So the book actually deals with 21 different topics, and firing’s one of them. But I’ll tell you the story that opens that chapter. I had a guy who worked for me who was in the wrong role. We tried him in sales, and he wasn’t a good salesman. And we moved him to another department, and made him a manager of a small department, and he was unhappy in that role, and he made the people he worked with unhappy.
And we just spent a year moving this guy around the organization, and he was not working out anywhere. And he was smart, and it seemed like we should be able to find something that worked for him, but we couldn’t. And I was just getting very resentful, because we’re paying him a salary, and it’s just causing trouble everywhere, and we’re not getting what we want out of him.
And I’m being the good boss who doesn’t fire him. And I feel this responsibility. He’s married, he’s got kids. I don’t want to make him unemployed in this small town we were located in at that time. But I’m just building up this resentment, because he’s just sucking down my resources without delivering the value. And finally, at one point, we just got to the end, and there was nowhere else to move him, and we couldn’t leave him in the role he was in. And so we let him go.
And two weeks later my mother said, this is a small town we’re in at the time. My mother calls me and says, “I ran into John’s wife at the grocery store.” And I thought, “Oh no, I’m going to hear some horrible story of how their life is ruined and everything is terrible and they can’t pay the bills.” And she says, John’s wife said she’s so thankful that we let him go, because he was miserable in the job, and it was just the wrong fit for him. And now that he’s had a couple of weeks out of the job, he realized that where he really wants to be is ministry, and he’s going to go back to school for ministry.
And he did go back to school for ministry and then he became a pastor, which is still the career he’s in now, as far as I know. And 10 years later, I kid you not, he actually came by the office on vacation, and my son was there, and he joked with my son. He said, “Your dad fired me, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
And what I learned from that lesson was, for a year, I wasted his time. He was in the wrong place, and he knew it, and I knew it, and we spent a year pretending it wasn’t the case, and that was a year he could have gone to school sooner, and gotten into ministry earlier, and gotten to the place where he really needed to be.
And in that year, he didn’t get promotions, he didn’t get raises. He didn’t even get any positive encouragement. He didn’t even get affirmation that he was doing a good job. Instead, he got people around him who were just grumpy and unhappy that he was in the role that wasn’t a good fit for him. And I think that desire to hold onto people when you know they need to go, is really more selfish than helpful. I was protecting my own feelings about being benevolent, or being generous, or being a good Christian boss, or something like that. What I was really doing was holding him back from a place where he could be successful with the skills that God gave him.
Ray: Isn’t that so true? And Bob, I’ve heard these types of stories for years. And I think many Christians, particularly who own or run businesses, struggle with this. And ultimately, I think it gets back to hearing stories like this, is maybe we just don’t have enough faith that God has that person’s back, and that we’re their provider, not God. Did you wrestle with that, or-
Bob: Absolutely. I remember thinking, how’s he going to take care of his family? But that’s not my responsibility.
Bob: My responsibility, when he’s working well for me, to pay him well so he can do that. But God’s taking care of him, not me. And that’s not my job to take over that role.
Ray: So I love to do this on the program, as we learn these stories, and learn lessons learned. I want you to just take a moment and give advice or encouragement to that business owner, that leader who is wrestling with that underperforming employee. What encouragement, what advice would you give at this point?
Bob: I think that there is a job where everybody can be successful, and where they can get promoted, get affirmed, get encouraged and grow. And my encouragement to you is, if you’ve got somebody where you’re not doing that, it’s not just something that you can do to free up your payroll. It’s something you need to do, because if you’re keeping someone from being in a place where they can succeed and grow, if you’re keeping them in a role where you know you’ll never promote them, never give them a raise, never really come by and say, “You’re doing an awesome job,” then you’re doing damage, not helping.
Ray: I’ll bet that’s not the only time that’s happened, right?
Bob: Not at all.
Ray: Well, I want to have you share a little bit about some of the changes you’ve seen. You love to talk about entrepreneurship, and digital publishing, and the new media models. What are some of the changes, Bob, that you’re seeing in digital media and in technology that may surprise us, or may interest us as business people? What are you seeing in that whole world?
Bob: I think that we’re seeing more and more people seeking a specific solution. They’re seeking answers to specific questions. You go to Google, and you type in your actual question, and expect it’s going to give you an answer, or point you to a resource that has the answer. And of course, many businesses are already on top of this, and getting out there ahead with the right content.
But in the publishing business, we’re stuck with traditional models. We’ve got books, and they’re organized and they’re pulled together over a long period of time, and they try to be comprehensive on whatever subject they’re covering. And some people are still reading them, and many people are. But you’ve got a lot of people who are actually just going out and looking for the answer to my question. The answer to my question might be page 73 of your book, but that’s all they want. They don’t want the rest of the book. They want the answer to the question.
And I think that that’s going to be a challenge for content creators, and people who are putting information out there, is to be adapting to the different information seeking models that are out there. The book is not the only way to deliver that information now. That answer might be a video, it might be an article, it might be taking content you have neatly organized and breaking it up into smaller pieces.
And then of course, lots of people are doing this with their websites, and trying to SEO optimize against the questions people are asking. But I think that you can never be thinking too much about that problem, and how to address people who are seeking specific answers.
Ray: And along those lines, as I’m listening to what you’re talking about right now, there’s been some news stories lately about the bias around search engines, whether it be Google or others, but the algorithms and things. What advice would you have for us who are using technology to glean and gain information, to help us understand, are we getting a balanced approach? Are we getting real information? Or are we just getting slanted and biased information? Do you have any thoughts or advice on that?
Bob: That’s an ongoing challenge, and that’s where I think brand and reputation comes back into play. We probably have our own perceptions about which news sources are trustworthy, and which ones are propaganda. And it is dangerous on the internet, because there’s so many of them, you can’t know all the brands and reputations.
But I think that that’s why those things are going to continue to be important. And even though the internet opens up availability to even the smallest of providers, who are going to have more and more dependency on what we know about trust, to know who we trust for answers.
Ray: And I’m going to put you a little bit on the spot, but have you ever given consideration for you becoming one of those Christian platforms for news gathering?
Bob: We talked about it a little bit. But it just seems a little off topic for us at the moment. We’re focused on building tools specifically for the church, and I think there are some people doing a good job in that news gathering and commentary for the church.
Ray: Okay, fair enough. On that note, where would be a good place for followers of Christ to get good biblical worldview on their news and world developments? Any thoughts on that?
Bob: I think Christianity Today is still a trusted, reputable place to go for thoughtful commentary, and what’s happening in the church and the world. It’s not so much a news magazine, but it keeps you up to date with what’s happening in the church.
Ray: Okay, thank you. So as you look back over the course of your career, we talked earlier about the hardest decision you’ve made in business, but what would you say, as you look back, has been the biggest mistake you’ve ever made? And what lesson did you learn in that mistake?
Bob: Oh, biggest mistake. There’s again, so many of them. I’d say one of the biggest ones is, we were late to the mobile space. And what’s really embarrassing is we knew it was coming. It wasn’t like we didn’t see it, or we didn’t realize it was there, but we had a powerful desktop, vital software program. And when Apple finally announced a mobile app, and there’ve been earlier mobile stuff on Palm pilot and things like that, but we were late because we didn’t want to deliver something that didn’t match the experience of our desktop product.
So instead of putting out a quick early mobile app that was basic, we waited until we could do something we felt worked well. So we were only two years, a year and a half late into that space. But in that time, other people jumped in with less featured products, but solidified their position in the app store rankings. And the way the app store works is you win early and you win forever, because you end up at the list of top apps and it self-perpetuates.
So when I look back and think, if I could go back and do it over again, I would have been really early in more new platforms, and less worried about brand consistency or feature consistency, and more worried about getting a foothold in the new spaces.
Ray: That was really good, especially in the fast pace of today’s world reg. It may not necessarily be perfect, but if you can get out there, get out front, and get some awareness, you can catch up with your branding and all the perfection.
Bob: Yes, we certainly could have beefed up, we could have put a basic Bible app out faster than anyone else, and then caught it up to the desktop functionality over time. But we disdained to do the easy thing, and that we probably should’ve done the fastest thing.
Ray: Fantastic. So let me go back to the 20 year old version of you. Think back to the 20 year old Bob Pritchett. And if you could sit across the desk and counsel and advise the 20 year old you, what advice would you give to yourself?
Bob: I would advise myself to spend even more time building relationships and networking. As a 20 year old, I was more of an engineer than a marketer, and I thought that if you build a quality product then that was all that mattered. The old better mouse trap, and I didn’t put enough weight into the relationships and connections, unfortunately.
I mean, we’re still here because my dad joined the company to run sales and marketing, and he was better at that. But now I realize how much, at this point we’d built a great reputation, and the people in the Christian, the church space, and in our market, know us well and trust us. But it took a long time to do that. And I would have worked earlier at building up those relationships.
There’s that old saw about, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. As an engineering minded youngster, I thought that was ridiculous, and it ought to be about what you know. And as a slightly older, wiser person, I think actually there’s a lot of truth in that.
Ray: Great lessons learned, some great advice, build those relationships, build those networks and maybe some of the technologies and models can come along later. Well Bob, we are at the end of our conversation. And first of all, thank you for being a part of our program here at Bottom Line Faith. It just means the world that you would invest this time. And secondly then, those who are regular listeners to our program know that this is the last question, and it’s based out of Proverbs 4:23, where Solomon writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it determines the course of your life.”
So Bob, you’ve given us a lot of great insight today. You’ve helped us understand your journey. You’ve helped us understand more about what’s going on in the technology world, and specifically how your platform can help followers of Christ really study and understand God’s Word better.
At the end of the day, let’s imagine you have an opportunity to gather your family, your friends, and your loved ones, and you have a chance to pass along one piece of advice. Above all else, what I’d like you to do, is fill in the blank for us. What’s the best piece of advice you can leave us with today? Above all else-
Bob: I’m going to answer with Ecclesiastes 5:10 to 12, because we’re talking to business people and entrepreneurs and leaders, and I think one of the temptations for people who are successful in business is money. And I love what it says in Ecclesiastes 5:11. “When prosperity increases, those who consume it increase. So its owner gains nothing, except to see his wealth before it is spent.” And it might seem a little silly in terms of being advice.
It’s a lot of fun to build a business. It feels like success to be able to turn a profit and take home a dollar more than you spent. But I like to be reminded over and over that all of that is meaningless in the big picture, and the dissatisfaction that we’re going to get in the work that we do for the Lord is not going to come out of that profit. That Ecclesiastes passage is a great reminder to me about that.
Ray: It’s a continuation of his advice around guarding our heart, sounds like to me, is that right?
Bob: Right. It’s guarding against that love of money, which you said, is I think it’s for people in business in particular always going to be part of the temptation, because that’s what we’re doing. Making a business is pursuing a profit.
Ray: Absolutely. Well, Bob, thank you for what you and your 400 team members around the globe are doing to equip the body of Christ. Thank you for being a pioneer for Christ in the technology world, and thank you for being a guest on our program here today at Bottom Line Faith. I just really am appreciative. Thank you so much.
Bob: Thank you. It’s great to be with you.
Ray: Well folks, there you have it. Bob Pritchett, President, CEO, at Faithlife and Logos Bible Software, out of Bellingham Washington. What a great conversation it is, to hear how God is using this man with technology skills and vision, way back from his high school days. God planted this skillset in him, and today, helping the body of Christ on a global basis study God’s Word and living God’s principles, and preaching the Word and living the Word. If you’re not a regular subscriber, you can check us out on all the podcast platforms. I am your host, Ray Hilbert, saying so long, and we’ll see you next time here at Bottom Line Faith.