Are you fearful of competitors stealing your idea and selling knock off versions of your product? Good products are always knocked off, but you can still win and grow your business by following this simple, think-outward approach.
In today’s episode, we talk to Robert Harbauer, CEO of NotAGlue.com, who has experienced his innovative product being knocked off by over 37 companies. Robert talks with us about the importance of creating a brand environment that puts people first and keeps customers coming back
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
The value of taking care of the people you work with
How word of mouth marketing is still relevant in today’s social media world
How temporary losses can provide a greater return down the road
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, watch the full video interview here!
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Check out Bondic® products at NotAGlue.com to learn more and get 15% off your purchase by using code “sms15” at checkout.
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare: Are you fearful of being knocked off or someone stealing your idea? Today's guest has an innovative product that has been knocked off at least 37 times over the past couple of decades, including by some very big companies, but his company was able to continue to grow despite all of these external threats. You'll learn from his story some great ways to make sure your business succeeds as well.
Welcome to another episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, focused on helping consumer products, companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs, harvest the growth potential of their product businesses. Today, I'm really excited to be speaking with the CEO of notaglue.com, the Bondic company if you're familiar with it. If not, check out their website again, notaglue.com. Great website name. We'll learn more about it. Robert Harbauer who's the CEO is on the line with me today. Robert, thanks so much for taking the time.
Robert Harbauer: Thanks for having me. I'm glad it's not a farm show. I'm glad it's about entrepreneurs.
Jon: It's funny. I get that question a lot about, "Where did Harvest Growth come from?"
Robert: I was just teasing you.
Jon: [chuckles] It's funny. Tell us about the product. For those that are listening that haven't heard of Bondic in the past, I know the product works awesome, it's incredible, but not everybody has. What is Bondic and how does it work?
Robert: First of all, it's not a glue and that's the biggest thing to overcome because you, your father, your grandfather, basically, since cavemen, boiled bones and tree sap glue has been around so it's in our psyche on sticking two things together. When you have a hole or when you're missing something, a part of something, you can't glue nothing, you can't glue a hole. Bondic is basically an invention taken from the dental industry.
If you've had any dental work the last 15 years or so, they'll put a resin in your cavity where your cavity was, I should say. They'll use a blue light or UV light to cure it hard. Bondic came literally from a dentist, an inventor in Germany. It was modified to be used on virtually everything. It's not meant for teeth at all because it's a different formula, the principle is the same. Curing with UV has been around for a long time. They do it on paints. The printer uses it. They do it on lady's nails, so that's the technology basically.
Jon: Fantastic. What are the primary uses? I'm sure there's thousands of things that this gets purchased for, but what do you find most often that people buy-- [crosstalk]
Robert: Oh, I'm going to list all thousand. We're going to be here for 24 hours.
Jon: Perfect. Fantastic. [chuckles]
Robert: You use it, for example, on any time you're in a bind. Glue is almost always cured by air. That's one of the reasons why when you grab a glue a second or third time, it's spent, it's not working, it's not meant to behave or be open at all because you air-exposed it, so it fails. The second thing is we live in a plastic world. Everything, everywhere we touch from, I don't know, from a toilet seat to your drink, to your pen, your phone, the charger, there's all kinds of things, your car, knobs, switches, toys, and you just might need to make it better.
Many times I bought things and it broke and I'm like, "Wow, this sucks. The engineering was bad, but with Bondic, I would be able to beef it up. I could make it better than the original." The trick is if you've got a very smooth surface, make it rough because Bondic is not a glue, you're making-- You've got liquid plastic or think of it as a 3D printer in your pocket that you can whip out and use quickly.
You smashed a drone, you have a cable that's on the Fritz. You have prescription glasses and you sit on them on your first day of your trip on your holiday, you're messed up until you get back because you're not going to get it in that island where you are. That's what it's for. I've used it a blind wouldn't close at a hotel. You're exhausted, you're tired, they're going to switch rooms, maybe you don't have a room so I just took the Bondic because I was traveling everywhere with it and fix that little chain thing up. Then I was back in business, had a dark room. It's silly but it's practical and it doesn't dry out. It only cures with UV light. It'll always work for years.
Jon: Fantastic. Unlike glues as well, especially the stronger glues, you can use it about three times before the lid gets stuck on there, hard to work with, but this, because it doesn't solidify until you add that UV light, you can reuse the same container for a long time, right?
Robert: Yes. Do you know the superglue, the Krazy Glue was invented in a battlefield? It was meant to replace stitches because you only got a couple of seconds, you can't sew stuff up. There's chaos happening. It was a glue invented to close wounds quickly. They had to dumb it down because people were getting stuck to their eyelids and all kinds of-- literally, technical issues. I say that it's dumbed down, it's not the same stuff that was out there when we were kids but this is different. Many times something from another industry can be repurposed, reused if you just think about it differently.
Jon: I had no idea of that history. It makes a lot of sense. I've actually used them for stitches and they still do in hospitals every now and then, a form of superglue. I had no idea that's how it started. That's interesting. With such a great product, awesome demonstrations, it works really well. I'm sure you've never had any problems with this business. It's just grown and no issues at all since you started, right?
Robert: [unintelligible 00:05:17] another to be honest. First of all, you've got a technology that comes from the medical industry, and you're trying to compete with a $3 product or a $1.99, that's your first nightmare. My dad said to me, he's Austrian. He says, "What are you going to do? Who's going to buy this for $21?" No joke. Fast forward, he was retired. His buddy gave him a wooden boat to build, and he had the pro kit of the Bondic.
Then I said, "I got to show you something. Can I have some more of this stuff?" I go, "What's going on?" He says, "I have no time for this glue. I'm using the Bondic to build a boat quickly." No joke. He became a big fan of it, but he couldn't understand why somebody would spend that much money. What I'm not good at is if it's a commodity, if it's toothpaste, toilet paper, photocopy paper, I'm going to starve.
My specialty is something that's new and unique and never been heard of before. I think I'm good at creating awareness for that. If I'm passionate about it, if I like what I do, then I can be good at it. If I can't be stimulated, if I can't provide a value, it doesn't work for me. That was the challenge with Bondic number one. I had to use the Not a Glue site name, the website name because I had to hammer home what it's not because the number one problem is people buy this thing, try and use it like a glue, and then it sucks.
The big thing for us was knockoffs. We get a roll going and instantaneously, you go to a trade show. Trade shows have a double-edged sword. You think you're going to find great buyers, but what you've done is you've notified the industry. You put them on notice, "Hey, we're here," and there's a lot of people have way more wingspan than you, way more leverage, way more money.
We got copied and we had patents for everything. However, when these companies open up, they create a shell company, there's no assets, it's just meant for that product. If you would sue them, it would take forever, there'd be nothing in the company. It got so bad that one of the biggest brands out there, the infomercial brands bought our product. I have the invoice that they bought it.
They spray-painted the product a different color, did test marketing to see whether it would go, sent everybody a letter, "Oh my God, it's so successful. We sold out." Shipped them nothing, returned the money, or didn't even charge the credit card, but got proof of concept, and then went after us, and went after the space because that's what they do. Then we got complaints galore because my thing was always answer your emails, respond to people.
You're in a social media world, if you don't do that, it's like the death and all, they're going to attack you. Also, on the internet, people become heroes. They're hiding behind a keyboard and they are brutal critics on anything. Our aspect and my business partner, Tony's motto was if they're calling, there's a reason. Little did we know that people are so frustrated from getting ripped off on a bad product that they're sending emails everywhere and we're getting emails from competitors.
We would call them out and we go, "What color is your product?" "It's Blue." The damn thing is like solid rock, the light doesn't, and this and that. We go, "We're not a blue product. You don't have the orange one in a tin?" They go, "No." We go, "Listen, we apologize. You've got one of the knockoffs. Would it be okay if we sent you the original at our cost?"
It was expensive because I FedEx or UPS them the original, but what I wanted was that when they're on the table at Thanksgiving telling cousin Joe, how dumb they were, they're also telling a hero story of what we did for them. That is news. Obviously, if you buy a truck made on Friday with 28 problems and you're the dealership, that's what you tell everybody because that's interesting.
If you make a major mistake, and you goof, and I correct it, and I make you feel good, and I don't care, then you're going to tell 12 people. I think that was one of the battles we have to fight. In the end, in the grand scheme of things, it's not a lot of money to take care of your brand, right?
Jon: Yes, it's something that we often forget that word of mouth starts with one-on-one. We all want to go viral. I do one effort, one video, one picture, one post, whatever it might be, and it goes to millions. That's everyone's dream. In reality, success comes or starts with that one-on-one interaction and solving problems or overcoming concerns or issues even when it's with a competitor and it can go such a long way and it's rare to hear.
Robert: A TikTok is like 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds you explaining what a goof you were to all your family while you're having a couple of drinks is a 15-minute sales pitch.
Robert: I'll take that and then multiply that out and then the whole family network knows about it. That's the one thing that we made really sure of and always having the best product you can. I think part of the process was not getting distracted from that, because you will lose sleep if you start worrying about that. The reality is if people are doing any shortcuts, it just ends up being a failure. There is no shortcuts, you take the long way, the hard way and you do what you have to do and that's what's going to win.
Because I don't know how the rabbit and the hare story fits in, but I was in it for the right reasons. I think I make the best product, I really take care of anybody who has an issue with it. We try and respond to everything and you know what? I don't even need the whole pie. Like it's a giant pie, the reality is 98% of people still don't know who I am. I'm still working on it. Every percent that I get is going to take care of me and that's it. It's also harder to be the only one doing something.
They copied us so blatantly that in reality, our goal was to say, when they're going out selling to a retail store to get on that where the checkout is and that section where that infomercial stuff is, I think they have to go and say, "Listen we're the same as Bondic, but we're cheaper, we're the same but whatever." They have to use me to describe their brand. I don't know, maybe I should send a bottle of champagne to say thanks because they ended up doing all. Because then people called us and said, "Oh you're the real one, we only deal with the original." That was helpful too.
Jon: Love it. Before this interview, we went back and forth a little bit chatting about your business and just stories you have to share. One thing you mentioned was how you place such an importance on customer care. So far we've talked a lot about treating your competitors' customers well. Of course, wanting them and their family and friends to become customers of yours rather.
Let's talk about, one thing you mentioned is how you treat each shipment. I think you use the words like a special gift as you send it out. You sent out millions of these, but every single one of them is so important. I'd love to hear your philosophy on customer care for your actual customers too?
Robert: It starts with the people that work for you. Agnes is a lady that was a temporary hired and I just saw, she cared really about the product. If there was the smallest mark on the tin and John, I'm talking like inconceivable of anything, it's like a fraction of a hair. She wouldn't ship it out. I'm like, "Come on, Agnes, give me a break." You add that up.
You check everything and that's the first impression. I know that people left the LED a lot on, I know that it didn't go out empty because it's impossible the way we fill everything and measure and weigh in and the way our QC is really tight that way. Maybe their kid used it and empty it. It's just cheaper to let them be right and not become a burden. It's like that story with the bad truck made on a Friday. For example, if you get into that space, then you're the news, you're a topic.
I don't want to be a negative topic at any cost, because that just never ends. Then I become one of these other hundreds of thousands of experiences out there that suck. You take care in everything you do, you're proud about it, so it starts with my staff. This lady Agnes came to me and said, "The tin is different." I go, "What do you mean it's different? She goes, "Feel it." I go, "How would I know?" Because she's touched so many she knew that the supplier had ever so slightly changed the dimensions to save money over millions of stampings.
Anyway it was fine, but that's the type of people you need. You take care of your people internally, they watch out for you. We had a guy come in, no joke and there was a mistake in the order. It just the company that picks ships for us literally just made a mistake and we had arranged for it to be fixed immediately. Because he sent an email, he's a retired guy and it was at the back to go out the door. It doesn't the actual person show up at the office and I hear it. I immediately go down as a CEO and say, "Hi, I'm the CEO tell me what happened?"
Then I go to my staff and say, "Do you know anything about this?" She goes right to the back, pulls it out of the UPS, ready to go shipment, gives it to them. The guy is one of my salespeople, he just loves it so much. He said, "Listen, if you ever want somebody to work, I'm retired, I'd love to work the phones, I'd love the sales." He does retail sales for us. You might be too young. Do you remember Victor Kiam and the shaver Remington? He says, "I like the shaver so much, I bought the company." That was a famous collection.
Jon: Forgot his name, but I know that line.
Robert: I go for customers who love the product so much, they want to work for us. That's a good thing.
Jon: I think that's great advice and a great way to think about it no matter what type of company you have. Bring in people that have that same passion that you do, whether you're the founder, the CEO, or you're running the business. They've got to have that passion. I love how you write up a couple of things, there're problems that your people, your employees are going to find with a product or service whatever it is.
That you may not even understand. You mentioned the tin that you're not as familiar with it because you haven't touched thousands these.
Yes, exactly. They get it. It's great understanding and respecting their perspective as well. You also mentioned in your email talking about how you treat suppliers well also. How about suppliers? Can you tell me a story on that?
Robert: I got to air some dirty laundry. I was working with somebody, who happens to be my ex and she did things differently than I would. She was slow at paying suppliers and then when you become that person, you're not a priority. I split up whatever and you don't always go, it's like a rollercoaster. You go up, then you go down a little bit, hopefully, you go back up, and then you're going to watch so you don't fall too far, but I wish I could make it like a perfect hockey stick. If you go back macro-wise, it is a hockey stick, but if you zoom in, it's like a horrible rollercoaster if you manage it micro-wise.
Anyways, I did a road trip, it took me a couple of months and I visited everybody we dealt with and I apologized because I didn't have my eye on the thing. I had complete trust and I was oblivious to it, trying to grow the business. I wanted to make good and in some cases, I needed a second chance for them to trust me. Because they were essentially-- and I was of the belief that there being the problem, but really if look at it, it was our problem. Fast forward COVID hits. I had gotten my terms back from those people and so I picked up the phone. I said, "Listen, I've got an outstanding amount it's due in 49 days, would it help you if I sent it to you right now?" They were like blown away.
They were like, is this real? In some cases it saved their butt, it really was the check that they needed to prevent layoffs because everything went south. A lot of stuff completely stopped in its tracks at that moment, because we've never been globally in such a lockdown virtually all at once in of our phones. We exploded with our online sales because that was a unique event in history for us, for everybody and I was able to reciprocate. It's just a different relationship because nobody does it. I think some people take, take, take, take and I had to really do the right thing.
Because if I don't care if it was early or not, I had it and I just felt maybe they're in a situation, I ask them and now that same. For example, that was a printer. He won't print anything without calling us to see if he can squeeze some of our stuff on and give it to us at a fraction of the cost. How would you ever get that from anybody? I'm able to still produce and maintain and do things in North America because of that. When normally anybody else has to go overseas to get that pricing or that treatment.
Jon: Wow, I love that. If I could summarize it to me, everything you're talking about is think outward. It's not that if we sit there and are very insular think about just ourselves, our product, our revenues, that's it, then our business can suffer. As you think about your customers, as you think about your employees, as you think about your suppliers and realize we're all in this together, then everybody can work together for a much higher level of success. I'd love that.
Robert: If you don't listen to your customers, you don't know where to take your product to the next level. Because they're using it those thousands of ways you haven't even thought of. Like it's hard for me to be original when I've been around it since 2014, but for all these other people it's new and for these thousands and thousands of people they have a complete different use, angle, take, view, position, idea than I would've.
I just need to get that feedback so I can move to the next thing.
The suppliers I want them thinking about stuff because they know, "Hey, take a look at this, did about this?" Like I can't keep up with everything. Just like a doctor can't keep up to reading all the research papers on a particular type of sickness, I can't keep up on all things as well. They're my, I don't know, they're my bird dogs. They're out there finding stuff and telling me stuff and that's what I like. It's fun. It's a way better environment than just taking care of yourself.
Jon: Absolutely. Well, Robert, this has been a really fun interview. I loved hearing your story, super insightful. Again, love the product too. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think could be helpful for our audience?
Robert: I think you've covered everything. I just want to say that make sure you're passionate about what you do because it comes across and take care of the people that you work with because they're your eyes, they're your ears, they're your front because I can't talk to everybody. Then try and provide value. Sometimes I can't just increase the price because everything gets more expensive.
I got to eat it for a while until it's the right time and enjoy what you do. Don't freak out about what everybody else is doing, focus on what you got to do and get there. Not even Elon Musk is going to have the entire electric car business, he's going to have to share it. It's just the reality of it. That's the deal. Just focus on what you got to do with it.
Jon: Love it. I do want to encourage our audience, please go check out their website, notaglue.com. Robert was nice enough to offer a discount code to our listeners. If you use the code SMS. Sam Mary Sam 15. That's the number one five right, Robert. SMS one, five, or 15 you get a 15% off discount on their website so please go check it out. Robert, again, this is a lot of fun.
I do want to tell our audience, be sure to check out harvestgrowthpodcast.com to see other episodes we've recorded and if you liked this episode, and want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and leave us a review on iTunes or Google Play.