Bart Mroz, CEO, SUMO Heavy Industries

Bart Mroz, CEO, SUMO Heavy Industries

Like many digital companies, SUMO Heavy Industries knows no bounds. The eCommerce consulting firm began with two people working out of a spare room in an apartment in Philly. They moved to New York, bounced around WeWorks and are now back in Philly again. This time, with their own dedicated office space.

So how much does the decision of a physical location impact a business? With people working out of New York and Poland, SUMO Heavy isn’t limited to zip codes or timezones. As Bart Mroz, CEO of SUMO Heavy, says, “Live where you want to live.” Bart joins us to talk about making seven or eight moves in nine years, how remote thinking can help onsite teams and how moving can actually be kind of fun.


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Show Notes

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Carl Smith: Swinging by the Bureau Studios today, we have got somebody who I consider to be a really good friend, and the CEO of SUMO Heavy Industries, it's Mr. Bart Mroz. How are you Bart?

Bart Mroz: I'm fantastic. A little cold, but fantastic.

Carl Smith: Well you know, my Floridian mind can not get around how cold it is in Philadelphia right now, let alone parts of the Midwest. But I was told it just got warm enough to snow. Which blows my mind.

Bart Mroz: Yeah I just ran through it. I was coming back from lunch, I was running a little late, but I ran through the snow and it's wet out there, but it's gonna be 50 degrees next week, so I don't understand.

Carl Smith: Well there you go. That's all you need. Philly is a decision that was recently made, but also a point of origin, and this is one of the things that I want to talk about. Now before we kick in, give everybody a little background on yourself, like how you got into the industry, and when you launched SUMO and all that kind of stuff.

Bart Mroz: Sure. So SUMO has been around for almost nine years. We're gonna be 9 in May, which is kind of fun.

Carl Smith: There you go.

Bart Mroz: But I've been on my own, so SUMO is actually company number six for me.

Carl Smith: Maybe this one will make it-

Bart Mroz: [crosstalk 00:01:16]

Carl Smith: I've got confidence.

Bart Mroz: I'm hoping. It's been interesting, and good. It's the company you keep kind of thing. So yeah, I actually worked I think one full time job out of school when I graduated, and then I quit and started doing my own thing. So it's been a while. Did anything from [inaudible 00:01:40] space, to food business, to technology support, to an agency till I stumbled upon e-commerce. So we got into e-com and that's what we do.

Carl Smith: Well there you go. So nine years, coming up on nine years. Everybody talks about ten years, I think nine years, that's the one you celebrate.

Bart Mroz: I think it's the one, and then the five, and then you kind of ...

Carl Smith: Oh.

Bart Mroz: I think it's also where you make your first million and then you're like alright well one is made. And then you get to ten.

Carl Smith: When people say make your first million, does that have to be in one year?

Bart Mroz: That's how I count it.

Carl Smith: Because I'm pretty sure I made a million, but I have to put a lot of good years together.

Bart Mroz: Yeah I think for me it's more of that first million, million dollars of sales type of year.

Carl Smith: I'll keep trying, it's just January, I've still got a shot. Oh no, shit it's February, I've already lost it.

Bart Mroz: You lost it, you're done.

Carl Smith: It'll be fine. So you start SUMO, and you're from Philly originally, right?

Bart Mroz: Yep. Yep, for the most part.

Carl Smith: So you start SUMO in Philly, right?

Bart Mroz: Yep.

Carl Smith: And then at some point you decide New York City is where I'd rather be.

Bart Mroz: Yeah.

Carl Smith: Tell me about that, green acres.

Bart Mroz: Yeah, so yeah we started the company here in Philly. Just myself and my business partner, we actually started the company out of our apartment. We had a spare room and that's how we kind of did it. We actually would hang out at coffee shops and bars, they're our first conference rooms basically. And then New York happened. New York actually happened because my business partner's wife got a promotion in the job that she worked remotely in New York, and had to move up to New York. So they both packed up and went to New York.

Bart Mroz: Funny enough, about six months to nine months later, I found myself single, all my best friends moved up to New York, so it was time to explore that. I had time to do it, so we did it. So everybody moved up to New York for the most part.

Carl Smith: And so in terms of clients and things like that, was most of your client base in Philly when you made that move or did you have a good distribution?

Bart Mroz: It's spread out around the country. Obviously a lot in Philly just because it's the local connections, but spread out. Some in New York, some on the west coast. It kind of spread out for us more than anything else. We're not tied to local things, but New York was one of those I can do it and I had the chance to, so might as well do it once. I meant to be there for a year.

Carl Smith: So once you get to New York, and how long ago was this? That you moved to New York?

Bart Mroz: Five years.

Carl Smith: So five years ago, move to New York, did you notice a difference in terms of access to better clients, did anything really change?

Bart Mroz: I think the hustle, it's a weird word now, but the amount of work you do, and the pace of things, has changed. And I think I've noticed that even more when I moved back. How fast New York, and how much you do and how much is going on all the time. Just kind of that fast pace of you either hate it or you love it. You just do, you either hate or love New York. There's not in between.

Carl Smith: Or you hate it and you love it.

Bart Mroz: Yeah, that's true.

Carl Smith: There's a lot of those people. This place is horrible, blah blah blah. Well you could always move, what? I love New York. But the energy you talk about, that's palpable. Anybody who's been in New York just walking on the streets, it's like anywhere you go there's always something, there's always this high energy. Now if you're working, were you still in an apartment when you got to New York?

Bart Mroz: No, we were inside of WeWork, so we kind of started kind of bouncing around the city inside of WeWorks.

Carl Smith: So now, not only have you left Philly, but you've left the apartment.

Bart Mroz: Yeah.

Carl Smith: So you're in WeWork and you're seeing all these other entrepreneurial types, was that part of the energy that just kicked you in the butt?

Bart Mroz: Oh yeah. It kicks you in the butt, you get humbled really quickly, because you have all these people at work around you and you're trying to do stuff and try to get meetings, and you're like that's not happening, and you've got to do a different approach to things, and you definitely start getting involved in a lot of different ... I mean obviously a lot of the start up world, you kind of get started evolving into events and you go to things, and clients come from that. So it's a different vibe.

Carl Smith: So what was the biggest win for you during those five years in New York?

Bart Mroz: Funny enough, it was actually a company here in Philly.

Carl Smith: See, this makes sense. I had a neighbor who was a media trainer. He would train basically executives on how to appear on television. And in Jacksonville, he would call people in Jacksonville, and he couldn't get a callback. But then his dad got really sick and he had to move to Atlanta. He called the exact same people, but with a different area code, and suddenly they would take his call.

Bart Mroz: Yeah. It's also how you [crosstalk 00:07:18].

Carl Smith: The out of town expert.

Bart Mroz: Yep. The out of town expert, right. It was like a weird, it just happened. We pushed and pushed and pushed and got a humongous company, and kind of got us onto a way of doing things a certain way, so the company kind of grew from that.

Carl Smith: Okay. So you get this Philly client, are you on a train all the time to see him?

Bart Mroz: So I didn't have to be. My business partner definitely had to. He was here like ... so he lived in New York, and he lived in Queens, which was a hike anyway to the city, and then he was going to Philly, if not once or twice a week. Outside of Philly, so if you know Philly it's in [inaudible 00:08:03] so you have to go to a station, get a car, get there, so he was going back and forth. Ironically, when he moved back to Philly, we got a big client in New York, so he had to commute the other way.

Carl Smith: Oh my god. So did he move back to Philly first?

Bart Mroz: Yeah, he moved back to Philly first. We actually moved our offices into Dumbo in Brooklyn.

Carl Smith: Yeah, I know it well.

Bart Mroz: Yeah. So we moved there, because we got a good deal with WeWork, and a lot more space, and it was kind of fun and worked out, but then he was looking in Brooklyn and eventually he was like I'm just gonna move back to Philly, because I feel more comfortable, I like it, and we're like okay. It just happened.

Carl Smith: Okay so you moved to Dumbo, you opened an office, what kind of a lease did you have?

Bart Mroz: WeWork as a month to month lease.

Carl Smith: Okay.

Bart Mroz: Yeah that makes it easy, right? I don't have to sign a ginormous lease on something.

Carl Smith: I hear these stories all the time. Sign this lease, and then we went remote.

Bart Mroz: Yep.

Carl Smith: So at what point did you decide, oh hell, I'm gonna move back to Philly too.

Bart Mroz: So, I met a girl in New York.

Carl Smith: And I've met her as well, congratulations.

Bart Mroz: Thank you.

Carl Smith: She does exist.

Bart Mroz: She does exist. She's now my fiance, which is great. And it actually wasn't my idea. One day we're just walking around, kind of talked about it at some point that moving back to Philly would make sense for family and work and sure and all this fun, maybe eventually having a family, kind of things, and one day she was like why don't we just move now instead of two years or three years from now, why move twice? So we packed up and came back to Philly.

Carl Smith: Well there you go. So how big was the company at this time?

Bart Mroz: We've been about 15 people, give or take, for the past five years, believe it or not.

Carl Smith: So were they mostly distributed, or were they coming into an office?

Bart Mroz: So the ones in New York, we had five in New York, and the sixth person's always been in Philly. So five of us in New York and it was always in office, and the rest of them are actually in Poland. And they have their office there, and they kind of work there. And then kind of the same thing happens now. So we have one in New York still, she's staying there, and then the five of us are here in Philly.

Carl Smith: So how does that work? I can understand, I'm guessing it's mostly development in Poland?

Bart Mroz: Yeah for the most part.

Carl Smith: Okay. So you have like weekly video calls?

Bart Mroz: Daily actually. We have a daily stand up at 9 o'clock.

Carl Smith: Daily stand up, there you go.

Bart Mroz: Yep, daily stand up at 9 o'clock. And then everything else is through our systems and tools and whatever else we have. We've always worked like that since the start, and it has worked out for us very well.

Carl Smith: So it's really not that big of a shift, except now there's this solo flier in New York.

Bart Mroz: Yeah, and she comes down here all the time, it's just New York, and she's on every ... she works remotely. But it doesn't feel like it's remote. We kind of made the whole sort of culture of the company so it does not feel like it's remote for the most part. Even the guys in Poland, it's six hours ahead, but it's enough time to spend together when you need stuff, but enough to leave them alone to do their actual work. And we include them into everything we do, it works really really nicely.

Carl Smith: So you move back to Philly, do you all go back to the apartment?

Bart Mroz: No.

Carl Smith: That would be the best play, I've got to tell you. You get that room, you just kick them out.

Bart Mroz: That would be great.

Carl Smith: Sorry, this is our office. I've still got business cards, I'm sorry. So what do you do, how do you find the spot when you go back to Philly, because now you probably feel a little more like an established company, so is this the thing where now it's like well we need an office.

Bart Mroz: Well, WeWork is a wonderful thing, so we got to open another WeWork location and just kind of work that way.

Carl Smith: There you go.

Bart Mroz: So that happened. And we always wanted a space in Philly, but there's one WeWork, funny enough, actually where Happy Cog was. We actually had that space after them, which is really funny and strange.

Carl Smith: Hey there's good acquisition vibes there man.

Bart Mroz: Yeah, we actually had that corner office.

Carl Smith: Look under the desk, there may be some cash hanging out.

Bart Mroz: So that's fun. But we basically always wanted to have a space and we were waiting for that one because it's center of town, so it has access to everything. So it kind of worked out that way. We had a small two person office and then we grew into something bigger. And we were there until as of last month. January we took our own office space.

Carl Smith: Okay. So where did you move to? What was the decision to leave WeWork, because I do hear great things. What was the decision to leave WeWork and move into your own space?

Bart Mroz: It dropped into our lap. Somebody was moving out of here, they actually closed the business, it was a design firm, and it posted on the internet sort of listserv and it just dropped in my lap. We walked in, the guy literally sold us all of his furniture, everything, that was it. So we just walked in and sat down and off we go.

Bart Mroz: Funny enough, our neighbors are people you actually know. It's Push 10 is our neighbor, on the same floor.

Carl Smith: What?

Bart Mroz: Yep. Greg-

Carl Smith: So I'm hoping you're on the 10th floor.

Bart Mroz: No we're on the fourth. So he's just down a hall.

Carl Smith: Why is it called Push 10? I'm so frustrated right now.

Bart Mroz: Yell at Greg, not me.

Carl Smith: I'm gonna ask Greg, I was ready to push 10. We're on the fourth floor, what?

Bart Mroz: Yeah, so it's kind of fun to have Greg right nextdoor. Same floor, it kind of works out really nicely.

Carl Smith: Well and has it been a situation where you found an opportunity to collaborate? Because I don't think your skills are necessarily that overlapped, are they?

Bart Mroz: Not really. They do design work, and we do heavy development work, heavy strategy, heavy consulting on the e-commerce side. We're actually talking today at some point, just hanging out, just because we needed to move in and stuff, but, yeah we're gonna chat some business today.

Carl Smith: Alright. I think I see what's going on here. I'll be back with both of you in about a year and a half.

Bart Mroz: We'll have the whole building.

Carl Smith: That's right. Push 10 SUMO's is the new company name. I'm gonna give you that one, you can use it.

Bart Mroz: Well SUMOs do push a lot, so there's that.

Carl Smith: So how much do you have to go back to New York now?

Bart Mroz: Once in a while. I don't do much. The funny thing is we have a big huge client, they're actually based out of Connecticut, but the technology side of it is in New York.

Carl Smith: Yeah, there you go.

Bart Mroz: We don't go up anymore that much, because they're kind of spread out between New York, Ireland, Tel Aviv, so it's all remote for the most part. And I go there to see friends, but other than that, it's winter time now, so going to New York kind of sucks at the moment.

Carl Smith: So is this is, you think Philly's the final destination, or do you think you would ever possibly open a second location?

Bart Mroz: I don't know, we'll see. It's what it is, Philly's home and it's gonna be home for a bit, so we'll see where that goes.

Carl Smith: And what do you feel in terms of the energy now that you're back?

Bart Mroz: Good. So I was saying, moving to New York has a difference, the big difference is coming back and going well this is different, this is slower.

Carl Smith: You should come to Florida, you'd be like why are we all asleep?

Bart Mroz: I think now everything is 20 minute walking distance for me in Philly. Money goes further obviously. So everything has changed, it's smaller. It feels different. But it's good. It's a good vibe. It took me a good two months to like get acclimated again, and then going alright. But it also took me five minutes to walk down a street and bumped into four people that I know. It's a fun thing to be around tech community in Philly that you've kind of been around for a while, and then left, and then come back to it, and then bump into people you just know, and then people you've never met but still have connections somehow.

Carl Smith: So what are the questions you get when you run into people that knew you when you were in Philly, then went to New York and came back, what do they ask you?

Bart Mroz: Like wait, weren't you living in New York, what's up with that? That's it. You get those. In New York though, you get oh you live in New York now, did you change your football teams? I'm like I'm from Philly, we do not do that.

Carl Smith: Ah man. So much pain still resonating here in Jacksonville. It's been a year, we're fine. It's gonna be okay.

Bart Mroz: Sorry.

Carl Smith: No it's gonna be okay. Just ten points in the fourth quarter. I'm gonna edit this out of my life, not just the podcast.

Bart Mroz: Hey man, we needed one, we had one, so I'm good. I'm a happy camper.

Carl Smith: Yeah no, no you did good. And now you'll still be able to cheer for Nick Foles over here in Jacksonville.

Bart Mroz: Yeah if he goes there.

Carl Smith: It'll be fine, we took your quarterbacks coach and I can only imagine that's a predecessor.Bart Mroz: When that happens, we'll see.

Carl Smith: Bortles junior.

Bart Mroz: But Philly feels good. Philly feels good because my business partner and I are in the same room, which is always a good thing for us, we work better that way. Having a good support staff, having our family around, like all that stuff kind of makes you go, like it's a good feeling again type of thing. So taking all the hustle that you kind of had in you from New York and bringing it to Philly, kind of doing what you have to do, I think it makes a good combo.

Carl Smith: So what would you tell somebody? Somebody that's thinking about moving their company, what advice would you give them, having this experience?

Bart Mroz: I don't know what-

Carl Smith: Don't do it?

Bart Mroz: Do it. I mean, live where you want to live.

Carl Smith: Yeah.

Bart Mroz: I think the biggest thing for us is that we started our company fully remote. We were in different places. My business partner actually didn't ... so we started the company, actually Will from [inaudible 00:18:49] introduced us. So that's kind of how that happened. And he was living somewhere else, I was living in an apartment, and we kind of started the company, and then he needed to move out, so we moved into the same apartment and that's how we did it.

Bart Mroz: But we started the company really remotely, and even the technology side, all the developers are remote, so we kind of learned to do it remotely really really well, and understand how that works. I think it helps when you start a company remote, and really really have your systems done and process done as you're a remote company, and then bring that internally and if you're together, it just makes it easy, so that when you're moving around, even if you're in two separate places or not, you still have the same system.

Carl Smith: Yeah I think that's amazing advice. Especially given, even if you're located, you should act remote. Because your communication is better, your systems have to be better, and then also the access to great people.

Bart Mroz: Sure, and then people, like one of our project managers is off because he has an anniversary today, so but we know how to handle those things and not worry about it, and everything is handled properly, so I think it just makes people communication a lot better.

Carl Smith: Well Bart, I'm glad you made it back to the city of brotherly love.

Bart Mroz: Me too.

Carl Smith: Still not exactly sure what that means. But I'm happy for you.

Bart Mroz: It means good things.

Carl Smith: It's a little sexist, I'm just gonna go there, I think it's a little sexist.

Bart Mroz: It's just what the meaning is.

Carl Smith: Yeah. You weren't in the meeting, you weren't part of naming it. I get that. But, no it's been great to catch up and understand the pogo stick of Philly to New York to Philly. And it makes perfect sense.

Bart Mroz: It does, right? It's funny because we moved a lot, I think this was our 7th of 8th move in 9 years, so it's kind of fun. Still surviving.

Carl Smith: Well there you go. Hopefully you're gonna stay put now?

Bart Mroz: Well we signed a good lease, so we're staying put.

Carl Smith: Okay I was gonna say. Next time it could be Costa Rica, I don't know.

Bart Mroz: Maybe, we'll see.

Carl Smith: Well I appreciate you showing up and hanging out, and sharing your story with everybody. Thanks Bart.

Bart Mroz: Thank you so much.

Carl Smith: Everybody else, we'll talk to you next week. Be good.

Image via SUMO Heavy

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