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Description

Michael Mogill is a first-generation immigrant whose family arrived in the U.S. speaking little English, with only $500 to their name.  After graduating with honors, Michael was accepted to several medical schools, but after shadowing doctors and surgeons, he realized that medicine just couldn’t satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit.

Michael is best known for his company, Crisp.  After finding his way to the legal industry by chance, his storytelling through video broke new ground, helping lawyers to differentiate their services in a crowded marketplace. 

In this episode, I talk to Michael about growing up as an immigrant, why he stopped talking to his parents for a year and the toll that took, and why he believes that his work will never be done.

Transcription

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Luke W Russell:

Hey, everyone. This is our first episode of season two, where we are focusing on powerful partners within the legal space. These are folks who work with lawyers. Season three, which will start in early 2022, will return to our focus on people with a Juris doctorate.

Michael Mogill:

We had a client of ours who had messaged me privately and was saying that, you know what? Earlier this year I was looking out my office, I was looking into the window ledge and I was thinking, do I jump? And I was in a super, super dark place. And if it wasn’t for you and your team that helped encourage me, and support me and held me accountable, I may have actually done it. And I hear that, and the first thing I think is, how many people are out there struggling and aren’t sharing those concerns, and how much time do they really have?

Luke W Russell:

Welcome to Lawful Good Powerful Partners, a series about interesting and caring folks that we know and trust whose journeys brought them to collaboration with the legal community. I’m your host, Luke W Russell. I’m not a journalist. I’m not an attorney. I’m trained as a coach. I love human connection, and that’s what you are about to hear. My guest today is Michael Mogill, a first generation immigrant, whose family arrived in the U.S. speaking little English with only $500 to their name. After graduating with honors, Michael was accepted to several medical schools, but after shadowing doctors and surgeons, he realized that medicine just wouldn’t satisfy his entrepreneurial real spirit. Michael is best known for his company, Crisp. After finding his way to the illegal industry by chance, his storytelling through video broke new ground, helping lawyers to differentiate their services in a crowded marketplace. In this episode, I talk to Michael about growing up as an immigrant, why he stopped talking to his parents for a year and the toll that took, and why he believes that his work will never be done.

Luke W Russell:

Michael, what kind of home produces an entrepreneur like you?

Michael Mogill:

So I think about this a lot, because I’ve long since said adversities can become strengths. And you would think from my upbringing, which is essentially my family and I immigrating to America back in 1990. And it was basically my brother and I, my parents and our grandparents. So they came over here from Eastern Europe. We came over as refugees. My dad was an engineer, my mom was a nurse. When they came over here, they had to start over. So my dad became a mechanic, my mom became a hairdresser. They didn’t have any money. Didn’t speak the language. I mean, they came over here with $500, two kids, two grandparents. And when we got to America, I remember my mom saying this, because apparently when you’re immigrating, you hear these amazing stories of what America is, and when we had arrived …

Michael Mogill:

And so I grew up in a lot of low income housing, especially just throughout my early childhood. When we arrived, I remember my mom telling me the story of, she thought that we were kind of on the pit stop on the way to America when we were in America. So they’d heard these stories of what America was, and then when we got here, it wasn’t as glamorous as we’d initially hoped. But I will say, I have incredible, incredible loving parents without a doubt. I mean, they’ve always been very supportive and they valued education, and even though we didn’t have much growing up financially. But I will say what it has inspired me is almost this tremendous sense of opportunity and gratitude, if you will. So just from the standpoint that all the things that my parents had to give up, and as I think about this now, I’m in my mid 30s, and my parents were in their mid 30s when they came over to America, the idea of coming over to a new country, not speaking the language, with children and not having any money, what an incredible risk that was.

Michael Mogill:

Just throughout my life, I felt like, wow, they’ve given us this amazing opportunity to make something of ourselves. And I wanted to obviously to honor that.

Luke W Russell:

As a first generation immigrant, what was your early experience like with American schooling?

Michael Mogill:

Somehow from first grade to sixth grade, I went to this incredible Jewish private school. And I found out a few years ago that this was a very, very, very expensive school, to the point where there’s no way on earth my parents could have afforded to send me to the school. So I was the sponsored kid, meaning that this is something that they were somehow able to go to bat for me and allow me to be the sponsored child. And I’ll tell you, growing up as that kid, I got a great education. However, I was made aware on a daily basis by the teachers and the students that I was not like them. I didn’t grow up in the communities they grew up in. I didn’t grow up with the generational wealth that many of them had. Nothing against them in any way, but just that I was the kid whose parents spoke with funny accents.

Michael Mogill:

And I remember going over to their homes, and even the parents were like, oh, I know we have to have him come over because he is part of the class. But my parents weren’t neurosurgeons. And I’d pull up to their homes and they’d have these mansions with fountains, and basketball courts and all these incredible things. And I was the kid who had to be driven in from an hour and a half away each time going to school. But I will tell you, even though that made me feel perhaps very, very different, and growing up as a kid I think that was very tough, what it did create for me was just the vision of what was possible, because I didn’t have to watch these grandiose lifestyles on TV and think, wow, this is amazing. I got to see it for myself. And even as a young kid, when we were driving up to their homes, I thought, wow, this is possible. This is real. This exist. I see it with my own eyes. It’s tangible.

Michael Mogill:

And that inspired me, because growing up as a kid, I saw how much of a stressor money was, how much it stressed relationships, how difficult that made it for my parents at times where they wouldn’t eat in order for my brother and I to be able to eat. And I just, I vowed at an early age that I would not want my later in life to be defined by money. I didn’t want that to be a barrier that could prevent anything in terms of affect relationships, creativity, all of those different things. So in a way, I think it very much did inspire me. And I look back at that, so for anyone who’s ever listening to this, if they look back at that and they feel sorry for me in any way, that is the wrong response. So I look back and I think, how grateful I am to have had those experiences, to have those adversities, to be able to grow up and be so just this sense of gratitude, and drive, and opportunity and commitment, what a blessing.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Now, do I have it right that you immigrated from Russia?

Michael Mogill:

Yes, sir.

Luke W Russell:

And how old were you when you got to the States?

Michael Mogill:

I was four years old.

Luke W Russell:

Did you, as a child, really sense your parents struggle with assimilation?

Michael Mogill:

My short answer is no. They were always very grateful. I did not grow up with parents that ever complained about anything. They did not ever look at their situation as, they never felt like that they were victimized in any way. I mean, everything was always, this is a great opportunity. We’re here in a sense coming from, let’s say a communist country, to have the freedom of choice. I think just from a perspective standpoint, I think they really did look at everything no matter where they were, and no matter what their financial situation was, no matter what opportunities we would get or we wouldn’t get, but just as an opportunity to have just more control over what that destination would look like. And in particular, I mean their investment almost 100% was into their children.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Now, you mentioned your father was a mechanic. When did you discover a love of cars for yourself?

Michael Mogill:

With the expression, it’s like Ferrari’s are sold at age five and then bought age 50. From an early age. I mean, I always loved them. My dad, when he worked at an auto shop, ironically he was working on European import car. So it was like BMWs, Volvos, that type of stuff. So he would sometimes get these promotional items where it was like a BMW poster or something like that. I mean, as a kid, I thought these cars were so cool, so amazing. I mean, the idea that even driving one one day would be incredible. So there was one side of me that just liked the cars, and then there was another side that loved motor sports, so in terms of actually driving them.

Michael Mogill:

So I will say that wasn’t realized until much, much, much later. I was kind of an onlooker for the majority of my life. But I will say, I just, I think I just admire the … And this is probably a common trend and across a lot of different fields and industries of things that I’ve appreciated, but just the attention to detail, the craftsmanship, just automotive engineering in general. And then just this desire for excellence. That in itself, I think was always something that appealed to me.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Now, what kind of student were you in school? Did good grades come kind of easy for you? Was it a bit of a struggle?

Michael Mogill:

So I was a good student. Sometimes people think entrepreneurs, they’re these C, C plus students. And that wasn’t me. I was a pretty good student growing up, especially through high school. When I got to college, I went down the pre-med track, originally was going to go to medical school. Things got very, very difficult for me then. But I will say all the way through high school and so on, by and large, good student, good grades. I didn’t have to study a whole lot, at least all the way through high school. When I got to college, I did learn a very important lesson in the sense that I was studying to go to medical school, so it’s taking classes like organic chemistry and cellular biology, all those different things. And then ultimately studying for and taking the MCAT.

Michael Mogill:

And I was originally studying to go to medical school, because if you immigrate from Eastern Europe, you don’t have many career options from the standpoint of what your parents want you to do. So meaning it was either doctor or lawyer, and that’s it. This idea of entrepreneur, it was just this foreign concept that I might as well have said unemployed. So I was doing these things, but I felt that I was working against my strengths. I was studying longer hours. I got up earlier, I stayed up later. But the benefit of it was just that you learn how to do things that you don’t always want to do. And I think that’s also very important.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Was faith or religion part of your home life growing up?

Michael Mogill:

So we are Jewish, yes. But I would say where Judaism has really helped me is more so from the concept of community. The Jewish community, I think has been really great. I really value just this overall sense of community, and whatever religion or whatever anybody believes. But there’s just something to be said about that. And if you go deep into just various different types of religions, just the emphasis on community, of having that support system in place, of having certain rituals, if you will, all of that, I think is very good. And then also as a family, we would, of course celebrate all these different holidays. And that to me has always been very helpful. There’s a certain value. And if you look at every single religion, what it really comes down to, I think it’s just this shared community. And that in itself, I think seems to be the most powerful aspect.

Luke W Russell:

I imagine too, as immigrants in the United States, I mean, in a foreign country, that was a really important factor as far as acquiring a support system.

Michael Mogill:

Absolutely. I mean, that’s literally the way we even got here. So there’s this organization called HIAS, H-I-A-S, that helps refugees. I learned in later years, the other European Jewish immigrants they helped was Sergey Brin, who went on to start Google. So I feel like I underachieved. But I will say that’s the reason we got here.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Now, when was the first time you were working to make a dollar?

Michael Mogill:

Oh, so I always had some sort of job growing up. I mean, I’ll tell you, to make a dollar, that was, I mean, easily starting probably in middle school and high school. I was waiting tables, working as a server. But even before then, I learned, I think this was back in even elementary school. So I always had chores as a kid, whatever it was around the house, whether it was mow the lawn, wash the dishes. And I remember going to school and I learned one day that other kids got paid for their chores. So this was a mind blowing concept for me. And I remember coming home that day and I asked my dad, I was like, “you know what, dad? Is it possible for you to pay me for these chores that I’m doing?”

Michael Mogill:

And I’ll never forget the look that I got. So I’m surprised I’m alive to this day. But he turns to me and he says, “pay you? This is your contribution to this household.” So I never got paid at that point. But then later on, I always had, whether it was a job in the summer or even during the school year, and even into college, it was waiting tables. I worked at, ironically, at a photo lab at one point. This was at a CVS pharmacy. I worked at an ice rink, checking out ice skates. I was always, always working. And most of it, I think was working in restaurants and waiting tables through high school and college. But that was always from an early age. I mean, will say I did get of course support from my parents in terms of them supporting education and so on. But it was very clear that, yes, you’ll absolutely have to get had a job. I wasn’t just sitting around.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Now, did you ever have access to a video camera in your early years?

Michael Mogill:

No. No, actually. So the photo, video stuff happened in an interesting way in the sense that when, so I mentioned earlier in the sense that I always felt like I was working against myself when I was in college, and studying for the MCAT and getting into med school, and I did get into med school. But I spent over 100 hours shadowing doctors, and surgeons and so on. And after all this time, being very entrepreneurial, I didn’t feel that that was for me. I saw the types of interactions and conversations that they were having, and I almost felt like how much of it left them almost powerless, if you will, and how reactive they had to be on a day to day basis, that when I did finally get into med school, I made a very unpopular decision, which was I decided to defer for a year.

Michael Mogill:

So I graduated in 2008. We all know what happened in 2008. I go from honors graduate to working and washing dishes at a dive bar. And I remember, I went from there to washing lab equipment at the CDC. And when I was at the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, I’m trying to figure out my path forward in life. I don’t know if I’m going to go back to school, or if I’m going to go down a different career path, or what. And I remember at the time I was thinking, you know what? I should buy a camera. This would be a good lifetime skill to learn if I could just learn to take some pictures, photos of nature, of plants, the sky, or landscapes, those types of things. So it really just started off as just something like, this would be a great hobby and something to learn. And I set a goal for myself.

Michael Mogill:

And then I bought this Cannon Rebel camera at the time. And I bought this book on how to take photos, because I needed to learn about all sorts of things, like aperture, and focal length, and exposure and so on. And I just challenged myself to take a photo every single day. And then I learned how to process those photos. So for me, there’s trends in my life where my hobbies become more than hobbies.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Is there perhaps another example of a hobby or passion that you turned into a business early on?

Michael Mogill:

I remember at one point, so I was very much in the web design from an early age. This was at the geo cities days, way back in the day. And we did not have a computer at the time at home. But I remember going to the library and getting a book on HTML. And in this book, they had exercises that you would do on a computer, but I didn’t have a computer. So I would try to do these exercises in my head. It’s funny, because that led to, this is probably my first business, I had a web design company when I was 13 years old. My mom would let my clients in quotes through the door. So I worked with companies like Georgia Tutoring and so. I’m creating their websites. And Front Page, or Dream Weaver or whatever it is.

Michael Mogill:

And I’ve always joked that I think I was born 10 years too late, because when the dotcom boom was happening, I was 13 years old. And I was thinking, man, if I was born 10 years earlier, I would’ve been right on top of this stuff. And this is where Amazon is launching and all that’s happening then, and I was just so young. But when I say my first business, I never looked at these things as a business. I was just doing something that I really enjoyed. I mean, I didn’t even think what I was doing was special. For example, I was doing TaeKwonDo at a karate studio and they needed a website. So they’re like, “well, can you create a website for us?” I didn’t have any desire to charge anybody for anything. I just felt like, well, yeah. I mean, this is pretty simple to do.

Michael Mogill:

But obviously to them, this is a very foreign idea, and this idea of even creating websites was foreign at the time. So I think that was the first business. But there was always something entrepreneurial in my life, even back to the early days of elementary school with the, I don’t know if you remember POGs, those little [crosstalk 00:16:09] … So my parents got called in at one point, because I would buy these POGs and then I would trade for, it wouldn’t be for money, it would be for candy or something in school. But the teacher saw this as gambling in some sense. And I remember coming in and my parents were mortified. And I felt horrible. But I will say this, and I hope to not do this with my children, because I’ve got two young girls now, I will say being very different from the mold isn’t something that gets a lot of support, especially in the education system.

Michael Mogill:

And when you’re a kid and you’re doing something a little bit differently, I think that as a young child, you can be perceived as that being wrong. So a lot of the things that I got in trouble for … And my parents were like, “why can’t he just be like every else, like all these kids? We’re getting called in for this stuff. Mike, stop.” We had an art project at one point where we had to basically lay down on a sheet of paper, outline ourselves and draw ourselves 10 years from that point. And I had a lot of fun with it, and they’re like, “this is unacceptable.” They ripped it up in front of the class and they’re like, “you’re going to have to go home and do this over the weekend.” And I just felt horrible, horrible as a kid. And now I look back and I’m like, I just had a very different, let’s say vision, or work style, or anything.

Michael Mogill:

I mean, if you fast forward to, let’s say middle school, my mom gets called in at one point. They’re like, “I think we’re going to have to put him in some special classes.” Meaning that, we see Michael, he’s sitting in the room. And he’s looking out the window, and all the other students are working. And my mom was like, “no, you can’t do that.” She immediately kind of standing up for myself. But what they found was I had already completed the assignment, like if it was some math assignment, and I was just bored. I mean, that’s just what it was. But traditional society and traditional education system, I think they judge that a little bit differently. And hopefully that’s changed since. But that was a lot of my upbringing.

Luke W Russell:

Do you ever feel a tension between this idea of, be like the norm with quotes, be the big, what the standard way of doing things, be like that, because that makes us comfortable? However, everybody we celebrate are all the people that absolutely went against that grain.

Michael Mogill:

Man, look, I got to say, I have gone completely in the opposite direction. And just over the years now, I think just being able to gain a greater sense of self-awareness, and then also you can gain more confidence over time. I would have zero desire, absolutely zero desire to be like everybody else. Because I look at, if you look at even almost like a bell curve, if you’re in the middle of that bell curve, you look at let’s be like everybody else, the majority of people in this country are struggling financially, have student loans, are not engaged in the work that they’re doing, are struggling with anxiety in some form, are generally unhappy, all these different things. And I’m like, well, why would you want that?

Michael Mogill:

You see the majority of people trading five days a week, let’s say Monday through Friday. For two days on a weekend, that is the life trade off that happens year, over year, over year. And I look at that, I’m like, man, I don’t want to be like everybody else, because everybody else to me represents financial turmoil. There’s no actual striving or ambition towards something greater than one’s own. All these things that I think, wow, you want to be an outlier. Without a doubt, because if you live this common life, that common life, I think is filled with the types of struggles that aren’t the struggles that come from aspiration, but rather the types of struggles that come from just simply being in the middle.

Michael Mogill:

And that’s where, I think that’s where the hurt comes, and that’s where life happens to you rather than you being very proactive and operating from the standpoint of an internal locus of control, if you will. So I don’t know. I’ll tell you what, I’ve noticed this a lot. If I ever go to a wedding, and I remember one time I had to go to a wedding, and my wife was out of town and they invited me. And I sat down at this table and basically sitting with all these people that I just met for the first time. And they’re complaining about their job. They’re complaining that they can’t go on vacation.

Michael Mogill:

They’re complaining about this and that. All these things in their life, they’re just apparently so horrible. And I’m listening to this for, I don’t know, maybe 20 minutes and I just got up and left. I left the wedding. That was it. Maybe I just rejoined regular society for a minute, but why would you want to be around human beings talking about all the things that they can do something about, and yet are doing nothing. And it’s almost like they’re saying my life is miserable and this is what it will be for , forever. I don’t know. That just doesn’t seem like a pleasant way to live.

Luke W Russell:

You went to college, you studied biology. I assume at that point, the plan was angling toward med school. Is that correct why you were studying biology?

Michael Mogill:

Absolutely. I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy, I’m watching Scrubs. I’m thinking this is going to be my future. I’m going to be like this doctor. And so much of that was less about what I wanted, but looking back, this is about what a lot of other people wanted for me and, to no fault, I think what a lot of immigrants view as, if you’re looking at something for their kids, this is a stable career, this is a stable future, and they associate doctors with success. And that’s I think what a parent wants for their child.

Luke W Russell:

Sure. So you graduate college, your undergraduate in 2008. Is that right?

Michael Mogill:

Yeah.

Luke W Russell:

So at that point, you’re 22, 23, because you said you took a year of deferment.

Michael Mogill:

Yep.

Luke W Russell:

And now we have the great recession hits, all kinds of lovely banking crashes in the US, and whether you’re waiting tables or you’re working with the CDC, you start getting into photography. How did you go from getting that camera, picture a day and developing photos and that evolution into Crisp?

Michael Mogill:

Yeah. So what happened here was… This was interesting because I’m taking pictures and a friend of mine that I grew up with in high school, he’s a bartender at this nightclub and he essentially asked me, he’s like, “Mike, I hear you’re taking photos. How’d you like to come by and take some photos at this nightclub?” And I’m like, “Well, okay, this will help give me some experience. I mean, I’m going from taking photos of flowers and plants to people. Okay. I’ve never done that before.” And I’m like, “What time do I show up? 7:00 PM, 8:00 PM?” And he’s like, “Midnight. Go from midnight to 3:00 AM.” And I’m like, “Okay.”

Michael Mogill:

And I remember, this is a scene that I knew nothing about. I’m walking up my little backpack with my camera gear up to the club and I’m seeing everybody waiting to get in and there’s the general admission line and the VIP line. And I go up to the front and this was my first experience ever with doing photography at a restaurant or a nightclub or anything. I go up to the front and say, “Hey, I’m here to take pictures.” It just so happened that there was apparently another photographer that night that was the regular photographer that comes there every week. And the very first thing that I ever heard was, “We don’t need you here. I’m here taking photos. You can go home now.” And I think, “Okay, I’ll just turn around and go home, because clearly.” And I start to turn around and leave. And I think, “Wait a second. This is my buddy Brandon asked me to come out” and I’m like, “Let me just go back inside. I don’t think it’s his decision. I think they invited me here.”

Michael Mogill:

So I go in and I take pictures and I come home that night, 3:00 AM. And the very first thing I do instead of going to bed, I start processing these photos and I’m Adobe Lightroom. And I turn these photos over to them and they liked the photos and they’re like, “Will you come back next week.?”And then next week becomes every Friday night and every Saturday night. I’m doing this while working at the CDC and I happen to like it. I think it’s great.

Michael Mogill:

I also at the time, I think I used this as a way to help build my confidence around just being able to approach strangers. I was not a very confident kid growing up. I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, but this is funny. My mom might laugh if she ever hears this, but I was very much an introvert and I was not very comfortable in social gatherings and those types of things. My mom even bought me a book on how to have self confidence, which don’t ever do that to somebody in middle school, get your son a book on self-confidence. It might destroy them. But when I worked in these nightclubs, you go up to complete strangers and you have to start a conversation. And then you do this night after night after night, it’s just a great way to develop that type of skill set of doing things that make you uncomfortable.

Michael Mogill:

And essentially, taking these photos every Friday and Saturday night, I think, “You know what?” The entrepreneur in me, I’m thinking maybe there’s other places and other bars and restaurants that could also benefit from this. But I can’t be in two places at once. So I think, “Well, maybe I need to get another photographer. And then another one.” And that led to a photography company. So for years, I think it was almost four to five years, we were doing nightlife photography. And that expanded to doing video for these venues as well. And it wasn’t just nightlife. We worked with Live Nation, a lot of hospitality venues, concerts. And at one point, we had like 90% of the market share of these types of events that were happening in Atlanta.

Luke W Russell:

What were some of the challenges?

Michael Mogill:

I will say when you say 90% market share, that’s not a huge pot in the sense that we weren’t really making a whole lot of money when you’re going out and taking pictures for $50 a night. And especially if you’re going out and getting a $50 a night and then you also have to pay a photographer. So I pay them, I think it was like $40. I remember I’d have these three hour meetings arguing with promoters, trying to get paid. And we were arguing over $25 for three hours. Then this would happen again and again and again.

Michael Mogill:

And there came a point after four years in that… So it was a great experience. I’ll tell you, just growing that business, the name of the business, ATL Nightlife, but growing that business helped me learn how to be able to succeed in a very, very difficult industry where you have to be very, very resourceful. So what I mean by this is that in this industry, over 50% of our client base would turn over every year because these venues would go out of business. Right? So a lot of these bars and restaurants wouldn’t exist from year to year.

Michael Mogill:

At the same time, if it rained, let’s say on a Friday night, that would drastically impact the attendance at one of these venues. They’d look to us as somehow being responsible for promoting these events and being in control of the weather. So that would impact things. Also, a lot of the people that you’d work with, these are people that wouldn’t wake up until noon. They were also not… I don’t know how to best put this, but they’re involved in a lot of things that they’re not the healthiest of individuals and also not those of the highest integrity. Let me put it that way.

Michael Mogill:

But I learned a lot. I learned a lot of great business fundamentals of how to grow a team, how to lead people. I didn’t know anything about any of this stuff. I was no leader. I didn’t have any formal business training, no marketing training, no sales training. I knew nothing about finance. And here I am trying to survive off these engagements. We’re making like $50 and I have to pay out $40. It’s just how do you make it work? And I don’t have another income source because as this starts to take off, I think, “Let me just go full-time.”

Michael Mogill:

I leave the CDC and I start doing this, and this has become my full-time gig every single night. And over all these years, almost every weekend, you’re getting at 3:00 AM phone call where this photographer didn’t show up because the people we’re working with are college students or somebody gets intoxicated or whatever it is. I mean, it’s literally if I were to say an industry not to go into, if you want to create pain for yourself, start working with people that are dealing with substance abuse and are working at 3:00 in the morning and are just the most unreliable industry you could ever go into.

Michael Mogill:

But we just learn so much that eventually this is kind of leading into how Crisp began. I looked at this and I realized, I was like, “You know what? I think I’m sitting at the wrong table.” Meaning that we’re working very hard. We’re trying to run this business and we’re trying to make something out of nothing, but I’m like, “Yeah, I think we’re just working with the wrong type of client, and the wrong type of business.” We were working with the W Hotels at the time. They were one of the few corporate clients that we had. And I thought, “Well, what if we just built the business around just working with corporate clients?” Instead of working with the nightlife in the hospitality industry, where all my headaches were coming from, literally all of them, I’d say, “Well, what if we made the shift towards this corporate?”

Michael Mogill:

And ironically at the time, there was this event taking place, it was the first time Tech Crunch would be in Atlanta ever. So they were coming in to do this Tech Crunch. I don’t know if it was Tech Crunch Disrupt or something. And somebody that I knew from the nightlife industry said that, “Oh, you should film this.” And I thought, “Okay.” They’re like, “If you film it, we’ll give you a booth and you’ll film it for free.” And I thought, “Okay, if I’m going to get a booth at this thing, I should probably start a company.” So I found out about this on a Thursday and then the Tech Crunch event was on a Tuesday and I had to come up with the name Crisp and I had to come up with the logo. We didn’t have a website, none of these things.

Michael Mogill:

But all that came together from Thursday to really Tuesday. I didn’t have any employees or anything like that, but I had a few friends. So I said, “Can you guys help me work this booth?” And we had a Crisp booth at this Tech Crunch event. And then when we actually ended up filming and editing this video and just giving it to Tech Crunch for free, they liked it so much and they were so impressed, they wrote an article about us on the Tech Crunch website about this company called Crisp.

Michael Mogill:

So when I started Crisp, we were working primarily with just the brands like Coca Cola, Verizon, Red Bull. And if that sounds fancy to anybody listening, because I remember sharing this with this girl I was dating who would become my wife, and I was talking about Coca-Cola and Verizon and Red Bull, you’d think that these are these massive accounts that are paying a ton of money, but I am here to tell you that I was broke as can be and everybody in Atlanta works with Coca-Cola. If you are an agency, that is not anything that’s unique. There’s no correlation between that and actually the amount that they’re paying, but it did make us sound much more credible at the time.

Luke W Russell:

Sure. Was that a pretty stressful four years of the photography business? Were you sleeping? How was Michael fairing in that both growth of you’re personally growing in your skills, but you’re also really being taxed in new ways?

Michael Mogill:

You know, as I look back on that, I did not feel… One, I didn’t have the highest of self-awareness, but two, it was this moment in time where I was just evolving so much and I wasn’t self-aware and I was learning constantly that I never felt… Was there stress? Yes. But nothing that I would identify as stress. I mean, we were working late at night. You go 2, 3, 4, 5 in the morning and you wake up early the next day and it just felt like this constant rush. So meaning that I felt like I was building towards something. I was so excited. I was so engaged. Yes, I didn’t have much money and yes, looking back now, it wasn’t this great business that I was building. But just the relationships that I was developing, I was so engaged in what I was doing as an entrepreneur. Let me put it that way. Just the idea of creating something, the idea of scaling something was interesting to me, the idea of multiplying something. That to me was just so much fun.

Michael Mogill:

And then I also, at the time I really didn’t have much responsibility. I didn’t have kids. I didn’t have a family. It was just me, so I could eat ramen noodles every single night and it would work. And also I didn’t have any real employees or anything like that. Everybody I was working with, especially the photography business, they were all like college students, contractors, just work for hire, very much in the gig economy, if you will. So just for that reason, not having much responsibility… Also, I didn’t have much to lose. So at that time, it was just so engaging to me.

Michael Mogill:

I think when I look back at that, it was just a lot of fun. I didn’t know that that moment was fostering so much growth in me. I was learning a lot of things the hard way. There was so many things where I’d have people cheat me, I’d have people steal from me, I’d have all these things that would happen. And at no point was I started feeling sorry for myself. I remember one point I went… So my birthday’s on Christmas and my family and I, we went to this trip. I don’t know if it was in Costa Rica or it was one of these places that I went there with my parents.

Michael Mogill:

I remember during this time, and this was back when I had the nightlife company, while I was there, I was there for four days or something like that, I had come to find out that essentially a partner that I worked with in this photography business had teamed up with our greatest competitor, changed all of our passwords and everything like that, held every single let’s say team member, employee that we had, they brought them over as well, and that I was going to come back to nothing. I was basically getting just sabotaged. I remember as I was sitting there, in Costa Rica learning this, what I’m feeling is not how could they do this to me. I intensely remember this feeling. It wasn’t like, “How could they do this?” I was thinking, “Oh man.” I got so excited. I don’t know if this is the inappropriate response, but I just felt, “Oh, he’s awakened the sleeping giant.” And I was so excited to get back and build it back.

Michael Mogill:

And again, it wasn’t fueled by this anger or resentment or anything like that. It was just more so like, “Here’s a problem to solve.” And I almost got energized by it. I don’t know if that’s an underdog thing or whatever that is, but in a way, it just, as the deck is stacked more against me, I get more… With pressure, you almost kind of rise to that occasion. So for me, at least in my experience, it’s brought out a lot of greatness.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. I love that. What were your parents, what was your relationship with them like? You were on the med school track, and then now you’re taking photos at bars and then eventually migrating into other things. Was there tension in that relationship?

Michael Mogill:

Yeah. So this one’s tough to talk about because ,as you can imagine, you have parents that risk everything to come over to this country to create opportunity for their children, and then they’re investing so much in their education and I’m almost there. Basically it’s like, “You’ve made it to med school. You got in” and saying, “Nope.” In their view, they’re like, “We failed somehow. He’s making a huge mistake.” I would constantly have my parents, like, “You got to go back to school, you got to do this. What are you doing?” And especially, as you can imagine, I get it even more now as a father of two.

Michael Mogill:

But to have all this going for you and essentially to give it up and then to be struggling and broke and trying to navigate this entrepreneurial journey, which is running around nightclubs, taking pictures at 3:00 in the morning, I mean, as a parent, you’ve got to think, “Where have I failed this child?” My relationship with my parents during that time was extremely strained, extremely so, because I’m basically going against everything of what they believe I should do career-wise. And I understand it now, because if you love someone, say as a parent, you don’t want to see that child struggle.

Michael Mogill:

So it was strained. There was a period of time where we didn’t speak for almost a year straight, and that was extremely difficult. For me, I look back at that as a fault of mine, that was youth, that was immaturity. But also, I will say the business challenges I could deal with, and those were tough. But if you don’t have the support that you feel perhaps should be coming from your family or from your friends, that weighs 1000 pounds, and that’s what made it the hardest. So at one point I just said, “I need to block this out because this is a distraction for me and it’s hard enough for me to see these strides and grow, but my family isn’t helping.” So I had to cut them out for a moment.

Michael Mogill:

Now, I will say, fast forward to now, my relationship with my parents has never been stronger. They forgave me and I see them almost every single week. We’ve never been closer, we’ve never been more in each other’s lives. But I will say those early years of starting a business from nothing, which from the first company to Crisp to all that stuff, there was just so many people that just didn’t agree with what I was doing and how I was going about it that I was the type of person where it’s like, “If you’re not going to help me, you’re not going to support me, let me just at least block you out because I just need to focus on this and try to make something of this.” And then in my mind the whole time, I’m not supremely confident at all. I’m just thinking, “I’ve got to make this work, because if I don’t make this work, maybe they’re all right. Maybe all these people saying all these things are actually right and I actually shouldn’t be doing this. So I’d better make it work.”

Michael Mogill:

And look, I’ve had this fear my entire life. I will tell you this, I have this fear that if you put your all into something and you fully commit yourself and you invest your life into something, and sometimes if you get knocked down hard enough and you don’t get back up, I worry sometimes that will I strive and try again? So what I kept in my mind constantly was like, “Well, you better not give up because you may not get up again.” And if you take a failure big enough, at least this is in my psychotic mind. I’m not saying this is actually true. But in my mind, I was just thinking that if I hit the ground hard enough, maybe I wouldn’t get up. So I just never allowed myself to stop.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Is it perhaps a fear that if I give my absolute all to this and it doesn’t work, it’s a greater rejection of me rather than if I were to have done something partially and it fails, I didn’t give it my all, so maybe it’s not as much of a indicator of my own failure?

Michael Mogill:

Yeah. Well, at the time, especially for me, a lot of it was based on validation from others. When a lot of your motivations are extrinsic, like they’re coming from this desire to prove somebody else wrong, or to be able to prove something to anybody, I think that could get you to a certain point. Maybe it creates a certain desire. But I will say that once I shifted to being less about me trying to prove anything to anybody else and me more so trying to prove something to myself, just in the sense of like, “Well, what do you want to do? What impact do you want to make? At the end of the day, are you doing what you want to be doing in the same point of are you engaged? Are you fulfilled? Are you challenged? Are you growing?”

Michael Mogill:

And if I am, look now I’ve got way more people that don’t agree with what I’m doing than I ever did then. At the time, I only had a few people, but now anything I do, it’s like there’s going to be massive just criticism somewhere. And that gets really, really difficult to weather if you really care about that criticism, if it really truly bothers you. And also you’re not in sync and you’re not congruent with what it is that you want to be doing and why you’re doing it.

Michael Mogill:

But what keeps you committed to something, engaged in something, wanting to push that next level? And it has to be some greater purpose and it has to be some greater why. There has to be that. And when I made the shift to not being about proving anything to anybody else and more so looking inward and saying, “Well, what are my values? What kind of impact do I want to make,” all those things, I’ll tell you that that made me a lot more, I guess, not just self-aware, but probably more secure in myself.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When did you realize the purpose of video is to tell a story?

Michael Mogill:

So I’ve always had interest in just let’s say digital media or media in some form. And in starting the photography company, I think that time, I just, I love the aspect of creating something. I think that in itself. And then from a video standpoint, that was really just the next evolution of it, because there were so many other emotions that you could convey from that. Video is fluid and then you’ve got like other sensory experiences and you can engage music, and now there’s a narrative and all these different things that it makes it a greater level of complexity, if you will, in what you can convey than just a photo alone. I always loved kind of a good narrative and the complexity of that, of the emotions that you can convey and communicate of this journey that you can take somebody through and then, in the end, where they end up.

Michael Mogill:

So I think over time, I didn’t realize necessarily what I was doing. I just knew that, especially at the time, and I started Crisp it was 2012, everybody’s telling me there was no future in digital video, that it was all TV and you’re going to be able to compete with the ad agencies. And I was telling them, “No, no. Video is great.” You have to understand, Facebook and YouTube weren’t what they are today, or Instagram. Those social platforms weren’t predominantly dominated by video by any means. But I was starting to see just this increase in consumption and how much more powerful video was, and also just how much it helped just businesses and individuals differentiate and stand out, the bonds that it created, the emotions that it was elicit, all of those different things. And I thought, “I think there is a future here.”

Michael Mogill:

And then also when you’re limited, let’s say to short form video, it’s one thing if you’ve got several hours to tell a story, but let’s say you only have two or three minutes, what creativity that requires. So that was always very interesting to me. And I’ll say that 50% of it to me… I don’t even know if it’s 50%. Maybe like 33%, if I’m being honest, of it, just love the creative video side of it. But then the 66% part was the entrepreneur. And that was this idea of creating something and scaling it and growing it and then basically figure out what are the needs, how do we create value? Because at the end of the day, I think we all pay for the value that we create, so what is valuable to somebody else? And then, how can you really multiply that in some way? So I started to see the marketing applications of video and what that could do for businesses, particularly small businesses. We moved out of working with these large brands relatively quickly. As a small business owner myself, I didn’t feel that the impact that we were making for this massive brand like Coca-Cola was anywhere near the impact that we can make for a small business that really, really needed to differentiate and stand out versus this company with a multimillion, maybe billion dollar marketing budget.

Luke W Russell:

Michael’s company, Crisp, has been growing law firms’ revenue by an average of one million per year, which is probably why the company has made the INC 5000 list for the fourth year in a row. When we come back to our conversation, we’ll hear how the Crisp team evolved into a top tier growth partner for modern law firms. Season Two of Lawful Good is about powerful partnerships, interesting and caring folks like Michael, that we know and trust whose journeys brought them to collaboration with the legal community. In our next episode, A Business Spotlight, Michael and I discuss the specifics of what his company Crisp has to offer and whether it is something that would benefit you or someone you know. By highlighting companies like Crisp, we create an opportunity to help make Lawful Good possible financially.

Luke W Russell:

As you can probably imagine, Lawful Good requires an enormous amount of resources to make happen. One way we are making this show possible is by featuring people we know, like, and trust, many of whom we have a referral relationship with. After you finish up this episode, check out the Business Spotlight to learn more about Crisp and how they help attorneys differentiate and thrive in their markets. Now, let’s get back to the show. Did you stumble your way into working with lawyers?

Michael Mogill:

Yes. I get asked this almost every interview. When I’m interviewing a candidate and we’re hiring people, they’re like, “How’d you get started working with lawyers?” I’m like, “It happened by accident?” When we started the company, we were working with the brands Coca-Cola, Verizon, Red bull. Then we started work with different industries like medical, dental, tech, financial. I mean, we would do video for anyone. I remember, I mean, we’d film a bar mitzvah. At one point, we filmed the video for, we had an executive’s assistant reach out to us and ask us to go film a video for this soccer match for his son, because the executive couldn’t be at the game. So they’re like, “Well, can you film it? And then he’ll watch it later.” And just now I wrap my head around this, this is when you know you have failed as a parent in life.

Michael Mogill:

So we send one of our videographers out there, which also I didn’t realize how weird it was at the time to send an adult to film a child playing soccer. But my point in this is that we were willing to do video for everyone. I didn’t have any niche focus. That wasn’t a concept that I was aware of. It was just literally we’ll do video. And when it came to working with lawyers and law firms where this happened by accident was really just that we had a lawyer, she came to us, she had no online presence. This was not even [Geo City’s 00:43:31] website. And she was a great, great attorney. She cared deeply about her clients. And I didn’t know anything about the legal industry. I didn’t know that most solo small firms were at a tremendous disadvantage in terms of their ability to compete against large advertisers. I didn’t know that many of them had graduated from law school, became lawyers, but didn’t really understand the marketing side or how to get their message out there. I didn’t understand the saturation, the commoditization, or even the need to differentiate.

Michael Mogill:

But when she reached out, I could tell that she cared deeply, but she was struggling to get any business in the door. So we created a bunch of videos for her, started marketing those videos, and her business just transformed. It was transformational for her. So I started to learn more about the legal industry. We did it for her. Then we did it for another lawyer and then another lawyer, and I saw essentially that here you have this super competitive, super saturated space that these people need to stand out and if they can’t invest in something like TV, radio, or billboard, because many of them just don’t have the financial means of doing so, they need some other way to compete and perhaps they could do it with video, an online video in particular. You look at putting a video on their website or on social that if nothing else it could help them to level the playing field. Whereas they wouldn’t be able to compete with your additional advertisers, they could compete on the internet.

Michael Mogill:

And if we created this content where a lot of the videos at the time, particularly with lawyers and law firms, were these direct response TV commercials, They were just these, man, I’m going to get a cease and desist for saying this, but, “I’ll fight for you,” and all this crazy stuff, someone’s standing on top of a semi-truck. It was a lot of the types videos that, don’t get me wrong, I will say, lawyers for many years probably wouldn’t have done them if they didn’t work. I mean, I’m sure they worked really, really well. They probably brought in a lot of business, especially in those early days. I also believe they did a tremendous amount of damage in the perception of lawyers and law firms across just the legal profession period.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Michael Mogill:

I think it wasn’t respecting their audience. General consumer perception I think tanked in terms of lawyers. When you ask people, “What do you think of a doctor versus what do you think of a lawyer?”, people generally feel a greater sense of warmth and trust to a doctor than they would just a lawyer. They almost roll their eyes and they’re annoyed in some way. And I think much of that has probably had to do with a lot of early legal marketing and advertising. But as I saw that, I’m like, “Well, there’s got to be something more sophisticated we can do here. You’ve got to be able to connect with these people.” So we started creating these videos. We call them brand videos, but essentially, it would tell their story, their why, it would convey why they entered the practice of law, who do they help, what’s important to them, what their values are, and that would be it. It wouldn’t be, “Hire me right now,” or, “Call now,” or any of this other stuff. They’d look almost like movie trailers, if you will.

Luke W Russell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael Mogill:

And they started to really differentiate and stand out, and this helped a lot of solos and small firms compete. But I didn’t know that we were niching down into an industry at the time. Like many of the ventures that I’ve had previously, we started with one and then went to two, and then that continued to grow. And as I saw just this greater need, we continued to focus in and then over the years, really since 2014, ’15, it’s been exclusively working with lawyers and law firms. That’s all we do, and nothing else. But if you would’ve told me, let’s say in 2012, “Mike, you have this company, you’re going to work with lawyers,” man, I would’ve been in disbelief. “I don’t see the path, you know what I mean? I can’t connect those dots.”

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Now, 2014, speaking of, that’s when your wife came on to do a 30 day stint with your company, which ended up turning into a longterm engagement. When you met her, what was your first impression?

Michael Mogill:

Well, my first impression was I was incredibly intimidated, and I was also just thinking, what in the world would this incredible human being want to have to do with me? So when I met her, she was working as a consultant for medical practices. She had graduated as an engineer. She worked at Capgemini, and I was trying to make myself this business. I didn’t say I’m starting this business. “I’ve got this company and we’re working with Red Bull and Coca-Cola,” and I tried to build it up to more than it was because I just didn’t want to disappoint her. And my thought, I remember just even in the early days and weeks when we met, my whole thought was, I don’t want to mess this up. I really, really don’t want to mess this up and I hope that I can live up to what this person thinks of me and needs me to be. Because I’ve joked before, if you invest in stocks, we have a south paw story. And I was essentially like a penny stock. There was nothing.

Michael Mogill:

I don’t know what she saw in me then, and when I say we have a south paw story, if you saw that movie with Jake Gyllenhaal, all the way up from essentially when I had nothing, she has been with me, and I have to give a tremendous amount of credit. And I’m not saying this to be nice or because I feel like this is the thing to do as a spouse. I would not be where I am today 100% absolute certain without her. And the reason why I say this is that, when I asked her to step into the business for 30 days, because I said, “Could you just come in, put some processes in place?” I had idea about how an organization was supposed to be run. I didn’t know anything about hiring people. I would hire people based on gut instinct. And when I ran the math, I was 50% right and 50% wrong. I might as well have flipped a coin. That’s how accurate my gut instinct was. There was no formal structure to anything.

Michael Mogill:

80% of the things I was spending my time on were not my strengths, only 20% of the things I was spending my time on were, because I love the marketing and sales aspect. And she comes in these 30 days and my entire life transformed. She comes in and I was even nervous about that because she could see it for the mess that it was of somebody who knows absolutely nothing about what they’re doing. Because I’d realized that, okay, I’m good at marketing and I love sales and I love business strategy, but as far as making this stuff work every single day and actually scaling it, I’m learning as I go. I didn’t know anything about accounting. I didn’t know anything about financials or an org chart. I didn’t know anything about key performance indicators, none of this stuff. These were foreign concepts to me. And I was just getting to the point of, wherever I was when I met her, I got there through sheer grit. Not through any actual competency, but just because I could work hard.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. What were some of the changes she made during that 30 day period?

Michael Mogill:

First, she cleaned house, I will say that. Because we had the kind of environment, sometimes people would show up to work on times, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes I would sell something and I remember I would get these calls from the client that the person never showed up. I mean, all these crazy things that I thought were normal. I’m like, “Okay, well, this is just normally how an organization operates.” She’s like, “Absolutely not. We’re not going to have any of this.” And she helped to really enlighten me. But the biggest thing I think, the greatest value she offered me was that all the things that I wasn’t good at were her strengths and that was able to get that off me that I felt this newfound sense of freedom in saying, “You mean I can get to focus on all the things that I love and enjoy and I’m good at?”

Michael Mogill:

Because I thought, all this stuff that I didn’t enjoy doing, nobody would enjoy doing. And as it turns out, that’s actually not true. As it turned out, those things that I hated were the things that she loved and the things that I really loved were things that just were not her strengths. So it was a wonderful compliment as we’re building this business together. And as soon as I saw, I mean, ironically, that year we had a million in revenue. I wouldn’t even say ironically. The year Jessica stepped in was the year we did it, and my next natural step was, oh man, I need to lock this down. We got engaged and then later married and then further locked that down, our daughter Mila. We had a child.

Michael Mogill:

But people ask me sometimes about Jessica and they’re like, “How did you know or when did you know you were going to marry Jessica?” And my answer that I don’t mean to sound cheesy or sappy or anything when I say this, it was literally our very first date. We sat in this restaurant and we shut it down, meaning we were there all night talking. And I remember on this first date, I even said to her, I’m like, “I want to let you know what you’re signing up for. I work all the time and I totally understand if that’s not for you. I’m giving you this out right now and I’m trying to start this company.” And I was giving her this whole list of reasons that she should not go past this first date with me because maybe I have PTSD in a sense of all these people that didn’t believe in me that I’m trying to shield her from whatever I believe that would be. And it didn’t scare her off.

Michael Mogill:

But I remember that night when I dropped her off and I’m driving home, I got this smile on my face the whole ride home just like some lunatic, a smile, and basically I had this realization that I sure as hell was never going to do better than that. I feel blessed in such a way to have found this human being because so much of the good in my life that has happened and the relationships that I’ve built, developed the team that I’ve built, the clients, the company, all these different things, I think have been really thanks to her and whatever it is that she saw on me. And I’m just so grateful to have that type of in my life. I almost feel this guilt for what I’ve had to put her through.

Michael Mogill:

There’s so much pain I think in growing a business and starting a business and all the things that you have to go through and I’ve always felt guilty because I took this amazing human being who was just such a positive light in my life and I had to bring her on this journey with me of Shawshank, when they’re crawling through that shit on the way out, I feel like that’s what I had to pull her through as we were growing this business of all these stresses, all these headaches, all these late nights, all these weekends, all these things. She’ll say now probably that she signed up for that and she knew, but I always have felt guilty for it.

Luke W Russell:

When you were going through so many different challenges, did you feel a lingering fear that the trials of growing the business, you might lose her?

Michael Mogill:

Believe it or not, no. I mean, it was like we were going on this journey together, let me put it that way. At no point was she like, “Why are we doing this?” Or, “We shouldn’t do this.” That was the amazing thing, because I would constantly ask her, “Are you all right? Is this okay with you?” She’d always be like, “Stop.” She’d always stop me when I’d say this type of stuff, because I’d always almost try to talk her out of dealing with all this shit with me. I’ll tell you this, it never put a strain on us. I think a lot of it is because I was always so vulnerable with her. I’ve always been very honest about where we were with the business, where we were financially, what’s going on. Once she stepped into the business, I was no longer trying to impress her anymore. I really do want to say that I think there’s a few key decisions in our life that are some of the most impactful decisions we can ever make in determining what our future will be.

Michael Mogill:

And one of which is the person that you marry, without a doubt, 100%. And you can have the type of person that is your anchor, if you will, that literally is not supporting you and the things you want to do, does not agree, does not align, where you guys are not on the same page, they view the world differently from how you view the world, and that is a very, very difficult place to be in. Or you can have the type of person that is supportive and you’re aligned with them and they push you to greater heights, and they’re ambitious. Whenever, if you ever come home frustrated and you complain, instead of saying, “Yeah, that really is unfair. You really should feel like this victim,” instead that person says, “Pick yourself back up. Refocus. I believe in you. Keep moving. Keep going.”

Luke W Russell:

People close to you call you an empathetic person and people on the outside see your intensity. They see Crisp seems to be very grandiose. Everything’s big and flashy. And I mean, yet just yesterday was your reveal of the grand prize for the upcoming summit. Everything’s real grand, and so do you ever feel a tension between who you view yourself as and who those close to you view yourself as and what people on the outside come to a conclusion because of maybe just your own intensity or the way Crisp markets itself?

Michael Mogill:

At first, early on, when I say early on, I was really worried when I would get any sort of criticism. It really, really bothered me. It would keep me up at night. I couldn’t understand it. And at first I will say, look, when we started out, even as the video company, we got a lot of support. We would go to these conferences and various legal conferences and a lot of the legal industry and a lot of just vendors and companies in the legal industry, I think they were very friendly and supportive. And I look back at that and I think they’re very good people, but also we were one of the few companies that was even doing video for law firms. We weren’t doing any SEO, we weren’t doing PPC, we weren’t creating websites, so we weren’t necessarily a bother to anybody else so they’re like, “That’s fine. Let crisp exists.”

Michael Mogill:

And as we expanded and continued to grow and not just that footprint, if you will, expanding the marketing and coaching and so on, but also in the things that we were doing between the book and the conferences. I get a sense that, that started to, I wouldn’t say bother people or anything like that, but they felt that we were getting out of our lane to an extent. We didn’t mind you as the video company, but now is this, where are they going with this? What’s happening here? And just all this never ending criticism, mostly by people that I’d never even met. That’s the most amazing part. These aren’t people that I had a relationship with. These are people that I never spoke with, they didn’t know me, all these things, and that was so puzzling to me, but I realized, okay, you can scale this back and I think they’ll be okay with you, but then you also have to scale back your ambitions. But the more of this you’re going to do, the more criticism you’re probably going to gain.

Michael Mogill:

When I started out, especially in the legal industry, I would hear these criticisms of certain individuals and certain companies that were the big dogs. And I’d hear these things about it and it was almost, in my mind, I thought these were just these horrible people and I believed all these things I heard. And yet, as we grew, I started to realize I had more in common with them, and then I met these people and I’m like, “They’re not so bad.”

Luke W Russell:

I get the impression that you’re not really worried or intimidated when you see other companies doing innovative things. What is your reaction to seeing innovation that might affect your own bottom line?

Michael Mogill:

When I see someone do something great, if they have some amazing marketing idea, they do something amazing with their community, they do some amazing initiative, I’m sitting there and I’m taking notes. I’m inspired. I really am inspired by it. And I remember even early on, I would go to all these conferences and I would see these people, and I was just so impressed by them. But I think, look, that’s inspirational. And I want to come back to our office and I want to challenge us to do something creative and innovative too. I have found out that that’s not the response that a lot of people have when we do something. They see it and they’re like, “We hate these people. They’re terrible. Why are they doing this stuff?” Whereas I wouldn’t love nothing more than, let’s say, when we decide to give a car away or we do a conference or a podcast or a book or whatever it is, that, that inspires somebody else to do that because I was similar inspired by somebody else, whether in the legal industry or outside of the legal industry.

Michael Mogill:

We went about it our way in terms of going big and getting noticed. But if we hadn’t done those things, how could we ever get noticed? How could we ever get attention? Hey, look, I got criticism the other day. When you mentioned the car, we’re giving away this Corvette Stingray, and someone’s like, “How could you do this at a time like this? You’ve got law firms across the nation struggling and COVID and all these things.” I hear this every year, by the way. It’s not even exclusive to COVID. Now, I’m giving away 12 cars. Every time we do this, someone’s telling me, “How could you do this at a time like this?” That is just so ridiculous. And I have to remind them, I’m like, “You know we’re giving this thing away, right?” And if I could get somebody excited giving away a Prius, then maybe I wouldn’t do the Corvette.

Luke W Russell:

Right.

Michael Mogill:

Maybe wouldn’t go that big. But the reality of it is, it takes a lot to get somebody excited. It takes a lot to get thousands of law firm owners to travel across the country and leave their office and get on a flight and book a hotel room and do all these things. Look, everything we’ve done, I don’t think we’ve ever been the first to do it. I joke with this all the time, I’m like, “When we decided to host a conference, there wasn’t a single person in the legal industry that was saying, ‘I think what we really need is another legal conference.'”

Luke W Russell:

Right.

Michael Mogill:

And so I thought, well, how do we differentiate? Because if we just do another one, there’s so many great options out there already, there’s so many great conferences for so many years that, why don’t we just do one where it’s almost like a Tony Robbins Event, Unleash The Power Within, mixed with Salesforce Dreamforce Conference and we go big on the production and we go big on the sound, then we bring in these incredible speakers? Let’s just do something different because, if for no other reason, how else were we going to stand out?

Luke W Russell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I love that. Would you consider yourself an introvert?

Michael Mogill:

I still do. I always say the safest place for me is on stage because the scariest place is at a networking event. Because at least on stage, it’s going one direction, right?

Luke W Russell:

Yep.

Michael Mogill:

I will say, I mean, of course, now I talk to people all day long and I love it but I’m not one of these people that gets energized by going to an event somewhere and talking to a whole bunch of people. That’s exhausting to me. You ask my wife and I on a Friday night, if you were to say, “Hey, go to this cocktail party.” Oh man. You’d almost have to see how, what… be thousands of dollars to get us out of the house versus just sitting there together on the couch. So I’m not very exciting outside of this. So I’m 100% introvert without a doubt.

Luke W Russell:

What misperceptions, in your experience, do people have about introverts?

Michael Mogill:

I think a lot of them think that introverts are not, let’s say innovators in some sense in that you have to have leaders who are just this bombastic, loud, just… I find there’s something to be said and gained in quiet thought. Of being able to really think through things. I’m a big advocate of meditation. I meditate regularly every single day and journaling and reading and all that. But I do believe there’s some misconceptions where they think it’s the extroverts who are the entrepreneurs. Or it’s the extroverts who are the innovators, and honestly I found quite the opposite to be true. Most of the entrepreneurs that I know, most of them are introverts. Some of the people that others see on stage that they feel are giving these presentations or doing these videos, or even doing any sort of thought leadership or vlogs or podcasts, they think that they’re these extroverts and you find that no, really they’re quite introverted.

Michael Mogill:

At the core of it, they have to work at being able to just engage in communicating with everybody and just that to them is something that can sap a lot of energy from them. And yet, I don’t know. I look back at all this, and I think that I always felt that I had to be some certain way, if I think back to it in the sense that, could I be the type of leader that a business needed and that our business needed and was I the guy to actually ever get us to a million in revenue and maybe I was only good to this point, but the gig is almost up. So there’s almost this huge degree of imposter syndrome that I felt my entire life because coming to this country, my family and I immigrating here starting from nothing you think, well, how high can someone like that go?

Michael Mogill:

I knew a lot of people who were much smarter than me, probably much more talented than me. So there’s a lot of the things that I took pride in, especially early on was just my work ethic. I just felt like if nothing else, may not be the smartest, may not even be the most talented, but I could work and I wouldn’t quit.

Michael Mogill:

And if nothing else, I would get more reps in. But I think it’s in recent years, I say recent years, I’d say maybe the last like three, four years or so. It really has shifted in the sense that I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin in the sense that I no longer feel any desire to impress anybody. I mean this in the sense that I have an amazing wife, I have two beautiful girls. We have a great team. We’re very close with each of our parents. We have great clients. What is there to prove to anybody? Who am I trying to impress? All the people that I’m trying to impress I already have in my life. So, at this point it’s just about doing great work.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I love that. What’s your why now?

Michael Mogill:

This is really what’s driving me today. Okay. This is the main thing. We put a lot of pressure on the team. We move at a fast pace. It creates a lot of stress on people and you think, does it have to be this stressful? You’ve got a good thing, slow down, right? Like, why are you pushing so hard? Like expand the timeline on these goals, right? Like I think of the things that would always stress us is the timeline we set to a goal. Like if you’re saying I’ve got this goal to double my business, and I’m going to give myself 10 years versus saying one year. 10 years, you’re a lot more relaxed than if you could give yourself one year and you put this stress on people. And sometimes I feel incredibly guilty for it, but I’ll give you a perfect example.

Michael Mogill:

We had a client of ours who had like messaged me privately and was saying that, you know what, earlier this year I was looking out my office. I was looking into the window ledge. And I was thinking like, do I jump? And I was in a super, super dark place. And if it wasn’t for you and your team that helped encourage me and support me and hold me accountable, I may have actually done it. But now I feel so much more empowered. I feel so much more in control. We’ve gotten our team more aligned, we got the culture more aligned, all these different things that you’ve really helped me. And I hear that and the first thing I think, I kid you not, the first thing I think is how many people are out there struggling and aren’t sharing those concerns.

Michael Mogill:

And more importantly, how many people have we not reached yet that are feeling that struggle and how much time do they really have because they can’t wait three, four, five years for us to get there because maybe they don’t have three, four or five years. And that’s why I believe we need to get there faster. We need to get in front of them faster. We need to help them faster. And that’s why I put that pressure on the team because it’s just almost like this Peter Parker model, right? Of like with great power comes great responsibility where like you feel like if you can help someone, don’t you have, I feel like this duty and responsibility to do so, but it’s also one of those things that brings me incredible fulfillment and joy because it’s helping somebody else succeed.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. How has being a dad affected your approach to business?

Michael Mogill:

Well, if you ask the people close to me, they’ll say it made me softer because I have two young daughters, but I become a person I believe of much greater empathy in the sense that, again, I look at things and I always, I think it’s important for people if anyone’s going through a difficult time to be able to always reframe things and to keep perspective because if you can be grateful and it’s hard sometimes, it’s like you sometimes, you look around your life and you think, well, this isn’t working and I’m not where I want to be. And then you hear about some story about someone’s child is in the ICU, right? Like they’re in the ICU and they’re fighting for their life or somebody is trying to immigrate to this country and they’re literally handing their child over a chain link fence.

Michael Mogill:

Right? And you think about that and you think, what are my problems, right? Like, what are we talking about? Right? Like I’m getting stressed out over what, right? Because this person didn’t pay their bill on time. Right? I get to go home and I feel safe. And I have opportunity and abundance and all these wonderful things. I mean, in a way it’s just, I look at all of this so much now with this immense level of gratitude and in an interesting way when I shifted that perspective and I became more grateful, which I do five minute journal. I highly recommend it to everyone. You can become a more grateful person just by thinking about the things you are grateful for every day. So much good has come into my life. And in terms of like being a dad, we’ve got two beautiful, healthy girls.

Michael Mogill:

And with them, it’s interesting. It’s like, let’s say the person I am at the office, I’m like man, and like, we have these non-negotiables, I’m straight. With the girls, I’m a pushover, right? Like my wife, she’s the strong one. Right? I’ll hear one of my daughters crying at night and I’m like, I should go get her. So, in a way, it’s just made me a person of such greater empathy, but I’ve also, like, I’ll say that in the standpoint that I just want people to be successful. And I want people to be happy. And what that means is that it’s less about what my needs are. Right? Meaning that, like, it’s less about what I want. And I always think about the other person. And in meaning that if they have certain goals that aren’t my goals, or if they have certain needs they’ll say aren’t my needs or whatever it is, I’d rather them just get to where they’re going, then even just like, support what I’m trying to do.

Michael Mogill:

I’ve just found that so much of almost this dad life, if you will, has just been seeing like the good in everybody. Whereas I, growing up, I was like this incredible like pessimist. And I was always thinking like, because even starting a business, I was dealing with like people hanging up, slamming the door on me, hanging up on me, cheating me, stealing from me all these things that I’ve just forgiven everybody. You know what I mean? Like I’m great. So I’ve forgiven everybody to the point where I hold no grudges, no resentment, nothing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I deal with my fair share of challenges and problems every single day. But I get to go home to a loving family every single day.

Michael Mogill:

And I get to try again the next day. So I will say if nothing else, with being a dad, I just don’t feel like there’s anything else that I need. Let me put it that way. I don’t feel like anything is missing.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. What do you want to impart on your children?

Michael Mogill:

Oh, well this has been challenging and I still have yet to crack this because the biggest struggle that I have now is like when I grew up, my family and I, we didn’t have much, right, so they couldn’t spoil me in the same way. And I think one of the reasons why I am the way I am today is because of a lot of the adversities that I faced early on how I had to like scratch and crawl my way and all these different challenges.

Michael Mogill:

But now with our daughters, they’re in a world where I see something on Amazon and like, they like it, some stuffed like Elmo or something, boom, Elmo’s here two days from now. Right? Like that’s it. And it’s like, what happens when you travel? It’s like, well, okay, well we’re going to fly first-class and then we go to a nice hotel, but should we stay at the Motel 6? Right? I struggle with this sometimes. And I think like, how do I make sure that my children remain grateful and don’t become these entitled brats and spoil that, like really do understand the value of working hard and that have like this appreciation for all the things that they truly must earn, that they don’t like step into anything and think that their life is everybody’s life.

Michael Mogill:

But I struggled with this in the sense that I didn’t grow up with a house with a pool. I didn’t up with, like I didn’t have my own room as a kid just early on. All these things, like look at like my daughter, all the toys that they have, all these things, it’s like, oh, there’s a part of me that, of course I want to spoil them because I want them to have this like amazing life. And I’m like their hero to them. But at the same time, I almost am like, well, do I put them in these situations where I have to force them to struggle just so they can grow and evolve in the right way. So for me, if there’s a great lesson I can impart on them is just for them to be able to stand on their own and be able to be confident in their own ability and their own capabilities and the value they bring to this world.

Michael Mogill:

It really is just that confidence that like what they want and what, you know, as long as they’re willing, whatever they want to do, they don’t have to be CEOs. They don’t have to start companies. But whatever it is that they decide to do, that they can remain passionate and committed to that and stay committed to it. Not just like dip their toe in the water on things, but really see them through and just have that confidence that like whatever they want to do and whatever like they align with that, that is okay. And that’s actually a great thing in this world, but also hopefully that they become very grateful people and are giving too, that they always pay things forward because none of us are self-made. I hate, like, I’ll tell you what, it’s a pet peeve of mine when someone says, oh my start…

Michael Mogill:

I mean, yes, I did start the business with $500 to my name, but I’ve had so many incredible people in my life. Like everything that people see, it’s not, you know, the real trick is not the fact that I’m on stage and I’m doing something amazing. It’s the fact that everybody around me allowed me to get on that stage and everything that’s happening that led up to that moment and all the support team that like that I was able to somehow align with my vision to believe in what we’re trying to do, that they were able to be committed to that and that’s why I think that like, no one is truly self-made and I hope that my daughters also understand that when they do reach some level of success to pay that forward and to help others too.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Will you know when your work is done?

Michael Mogill:

I don’t know if it’s ever done. And I don’t know that I ever want it to be done on that note, just because I sometimes view this mindset of like, when you retire, you expire and they’ve done studies on like longevity and so on when like, when people believe they’re at the end of life or they’re close to it, right, all other aspects of their health, everything starts to decline. Like we have a client who’s 77 years old and he’s a law firm owner. And he’s now setting 25 year goals. He’s never been more excited. He to me is an inspiration, but I just look at like a lot of what we’re trying to do. So like our company vision helped thousand law firm owners grow their revenues by a million each over the next five years that, someone asked me, well, what happens when you do that?

Michael Mogill:

What happens when you achieve that? And I’m like, well, why stop at a thousand? Right? Like, let’s continue to expand because if you can help a thousand, what about 10,000 and go beyond that. And I think the best visions are the ones that are infinite in a sense that there’s not some end destination of what you’re trying to get to. There’s no amount of money. There’s no like this final milestone that has to be hit, that this is one of those things that I think it’s, I love the process of solving challenges, of learning, of growing, of impacting others, and I think, why would you ever want to limit the amount of people you impact? Right? Like if the work that you’re doing is helping them and it’s helping their teams, it’s helping their communities, to me, that’s just energizing and exciting.

Michael Mogill:

And the last thing, I mean, I will say this, and maybe you’ve heard this before, but they’re like, what drives you? Like someone asked me because I like to think about my thinking a lot. And there’s this idea and I know some people have shared this in some variety, but it’s like, whatever we get to the end of life, whatever that last moment is and we meet our maker and it’s just you get there and you get to meet the person you could have become. And imagine that when you meet that person, there’s like orders of magnitude like you couldn’t even imagine of all the things you could have been, you could have done or whatever. That to me is the most incredibly depressing, terrifying thing. But the most gratifying would be that you meet that person and you shake their hand. And you’re like, it’s one in the same. I did it.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. As you reflect forward, as I like to call it, even though it doesn’t really, maybe it doesn’t make sense, but as we think to the future, how do you think your focus might shift in the coming decades?

Michael Mogill:

So where I see a lot of the focus shifting, one of the blessings, if you will, of being able to build something, whether it’s a great company or a great team, and it has all these capabilities that you gain, that you can parlay into being able to impact in other ways. But where I really look to the future, I think like what do these capabilities, what other type of good do they allow us to do? One of the things we did, we started a foundation called Crisp Cares, where we donate at least a hundred thousand dollars of our services each year to nonprofits in need just to be able to like support them and help them raise more funding. One of the things I’d like to do, and I have to figure if I can gain the courage to do it as I’m considering what if, as much as we are trying to help and empower our clients, what if I challenged each of them, let’s say this vision of helping a thousand law firms grow the revenues by a million each.

Michael Mogill:

But what if I said, okay, we’ll help you grow by a million. But when you do grow by a million, I challenge you to donate 10% of that, right, to a nonprofit of your choice. Like doesn’t have to be up to me, your choice. And like, it’s this mindset of how do we encourage you to give as well? And how do we encourage you to pay it forward? Because if a thousand of them did that, that’d be a hundred million dollars a year.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Michael Mogill:

And I look at that and I say, well, what if I made that a requirement of doing business that like, hey, we’ll help you grow by a million, but this, you got to take this amount, and again, you choose the non-profit, you choose the charity, choose one that you’re passionate about. I’m not checking or anything like that. It’s not about me, it’s about you. But it’s just like, how do we encourage a movement of people that you help to also pay it forward? And I think that’s what’s exciting me right now.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. That’s yeah, that’s really bold. Okay, Michael. It’s your 80th birthday celebration. People from all throughout your life are present, a gentle clinking on glass can be heard and a hush washes over the room. People raise their glasses to toast to you. What are three things you would want them to say about you?

Michael Mogill:

Wow. Even as you’re saying this, like, look, I’m not like a super emotional dude, but I’m getting a little choked up even thinking about that. I would hope one that like they’re in there relationship with me that basically I gave more than I asked in the sense that like it’s always from the standpoint that I always gave them more value than I ever asked for in the sense of like that value exchange. Two, that I was always just a person of high integrity, of always doing the things that I would say that I would do, honoring commitments. And then three that in some way perhaps that my experience and my journey has inspired them to think in a bigger way or to do something because at the core of it, I think the best thing we can be as an example to somebody else.

Michael Mogill:

And that’s where I like to me, that inspiration and that’s what integrity really means to me. I know it means different things to different people, but to me, integrity is at the standpoint that whatever it is that I’m asking somebody to do, I’m living that out in my life. And I’m doing that in my organization. And wherever we’re saying, hey, invest in your people, do this with your team, that that’s what we’re doing as well. And that it’s one in the same that there’s that true alignment because we live in this interesting world where it’s easy to get onstage and not everybody’s always congruent there. And I would just think that, that the example that we live out for others is what’s most inspiring. It’s kind of like that example of like, if you grew up in a low-income community and you became like this incredible human being that everybody else in that community you came from is inspired because it’s kind of like Bruce Wayne was an orphan kind of thing.

Michael Mogill:

And he became Batman and all the orphans are also inspired. I think that’s the best thing that you can be. So hopefully that’s inspirational to someone, although now I feel so incredibly lucky too, that there were so many things that went my way. And if you would’ve asked me this nine years ago when I started the company because I was a different human being, I would have said, Luke, are you kidding me? I’ve had literally everything go against me. I’ve had everything not go my way. And it’s such a difference in perspective now versus then in the sense that all those things that I thought were working against me then, I look back now and feel they were working for me.

Luke W Russell:

To learn more about Michael Mogill, visit crispvideo.com. And you can learn more in the next episode about Michael’s company, the services they offer, so that if you want to hire them, you’ll have a bit better of an idea as to how they can help you. Thanks so much for listening to us this week. This episode was produced by Kirsten Stock, edited by Kendall Perkinson and mastered by Guido Bertolini. A special thanks to the companies that make this project possible, Russell Media and the SEO Police. You can learn more about these groups by visiting our website, lawfulgoodpodcast.com. I’m your host, Luke W Russell. And you’ve been listening to Lawful Good.