Ignite The Gears Podcast: Scaling Your Business
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With us today is Adam Steele, the CEO and Founder of “The Magistrate (https://magistrateinc.com/)”. Below you will find short actionable summaries of what we talked about in the episode. Be sure to listen to the episode so you get the full picture before you start to implement these strategies. Here’s to your success!
Scale your business
Scaling your company is all about growing your company efficiently. The first step in achieving this efficiency is being able to accurately predict all company expenses. You need to know exactly where all your money is going so you can cut any unnecessary cost. To better track your expenses, Adam recommends building in packages.
Build in Packages
A package is a set amount of products or services you offer for a given price. By giving your customers a limited amount of options to choose from, you are better able to estimate any given cost needed to complete the project.
- Consulting Firm: 8 hours of consulting over the phone for $650
- Graphic Designer: 1 new Logo design for $250
- SEO Marketing: 3 articles (400-500 words) a month for $500
Hiring online has its challenges
Not everyone is who they say they are. Applicants are able to hide behind a screen, put up a beautiful resume, and formulate the perfect response over email. You will never know for sure the true abilities and personality of an applicant. Use the following strategies to give you a deeper understanding of who they are and what they can do.
Use the following strategies when hiring online:
You might not always hire the right candidate
The new employee may not fit in with your company’s culture or complete task up to your standards. Even so, do all you can to pave the way for their success. Either way, have a probation system in place and let them clearly know how many times you will tolerate failure before they are out of the game. This will keep new workers accountable and will give them an understanding of what is expected.
Hire someone new to the game
Hiring an inexperienced employee, allows you to grow the talent you need. Newcomers are extremely eager to learn and more than willing to work countless hours to get the job done.
Since they are unaware of the certain biases from your industry, they are more than likely to spot when something is wrong. Work alongside them to create innovative solutions to your problems and do not be afraid to let them experiment.
Each of your new employees have their own talents. As their boss, you should be doing everything you can to bring out the best in them.
If you plan to bring on a new employee, consider developing a training course. This gives them a clear reference to look over as they learn the basics of the job and the industry.
In the long run, having a training course will alleviate you from having to always explain exactly what you expect and how to go about creating it. Be sure to include clear examples of finished work to aspire to.
You are not the only one
Often times you can find yourself working on an overwhelming amount of work. This is great for jobs only you can do but the reality is that some of your work can be passed on. Passing on your work can take immense pressure off your shoulders. Which frees you up to give extra time to more important task.
Ask yourself the following questions before you pass on your work. If you answer “no” to any of these, then you should pass on your work.:
- Am I the only one who can do this?
- Do I personally have to do this?
- Is there anyone else in my company that can do this?
- Is there anyone else I can hire to do this?
Automate your work
Not everything has to be done personally by someone in your company. You can shave off hours of repetitive work that can be done in seconds by a program. Ask your in-house programmer for suggestions on what you can automate. If you do not have a programmer, do a bit of research before you begin automating anything.
Here are a few examples of task you can automate:
- Email signatures
- Performance reports
- Email templates
- Responding to emails
- Posting to social media
- Scheduling appointments
Do as much as you can with the little that you have, before you start using what you do not have. When starting out a business it can be very tempting to take out a small business loan or place yourself in credit card debt. After all, we need money for everything we do.
Still, consider starting out with a minimum viable product that you can scale over time. This product has the bare bones of what you need and is by no means meant to be the finished product.
This gives you a product to run through your customers. Using their feedback you adjust and continue making changes. If your company fails, then it will not be too much of a financial hit for you and you can move on to something else.
Go all in
The other extreme is to give it all you got by putting yourself in a high stakes situation were everything depends on your success. You are constantly trying new things and failure to succeed could mean not eating anything that day or being kicked out of your home.
Using this strategy you have either taken out a small business loan or you have maxed out your credit cards. This is a very risky strategy and should be carefully calculated. Every dollar spend needs to be a stepping stone towards an ultimate goal.
If you choose to go this route, be prepared to lose everything but by no means give up.
You are not alone
People want to help you, you just have to be willing to reach out. Stay humble, listen, and be thankful regardless of what help they do or do not give you. There is just too much work and you are doing yourself and your company a disservice by keeping everything withing your own limitations.
Tools/Strategies to growing your business
- Upwork: A great place to find free-lancers to outsource your work to.
- Groups: Find and join a community you intent to grow inside of. Then spend about an hour a day getting to know the members and contributing to their success. Here you will make many meaningful partnerships and customer leads.
- Trello: A free tool to help you organize information and manage your projects.
- Slack: A messaging app for teams to communicate instantly. It eliminates the need to email your team which allows you to get things done faster.
- Freshbooks: A small business accounting software which helps you invoice clients, track time, and log expenses.
- Referral Spam Tool : A free tool created by Adam that helps remove referral spam from Google Analytics.
Till next time…
We hope this podcast episode has given you valuable insight to scaling your business. As always, we are committed to your success and we believe in your mission.
[showhide type=”transcript” more_text=”Read Transcript (%s More Words)” less_text=”Hide Transcript (%s Less Words)” hidden=”yes”]
Speaker 1: Welcome to ignite the gears buildfire this official podcast all about business development, digital marketing, and entrepreneurship. We invite the leaders who are disrupting the industry to share their strategies, tricks, and wisdom. I’m your host Librado Hernandez, and with me today is Adam Steele, CEO of the magistrate. And will be taking to us today on scaling a company.
So, Adam. Thank you so much for being on the show. And for our first question, what does it mean to scale your company?
Speaker 2: Grow your company efficiently. Be able to predict what your expenses will be, because you’ve created this really efficient, smoothly running machine. For every ‘x’ revenue, you can expect ‘y’ expense. Which is great with kind of SEO and Link build. A lot of what we do is built in packages.
So I know exactly how many hours will be required to perform a particular task. And to fulfil a particular package. Which is nice if you’re selling products you can predict your expenses much more easily.
Speaker 1: What is an example of a package? And what are the benefits of having them?
Speaker 2: Yeah. A package whereby they’ll receive like ninety citations. So ninety local business directories, emissions, or whatever it might be. I know exactly what that cost is going to be down to the cent. And that’s a beautiful thing. And one thing about packages and services that more or less processed out like these are is, I will often not touch a single thing that happens with that rendering of services. I’ll not be at all involved.
The order will come in while I’m sleeping and it’ll be completed by the time I wake up. I’ll never touch that order. And so that will be, I’ll know that that order was for $500. I’ll know that it’s going to cost me $100 and I know that $400 before tax, before overhead, is going to go into my bank account. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Speaker 1: Tell us a bit about outsourcing and how you build your team.
Speaker 2: Well, we are a, as you well know, we are a completely remote group. We started with one guy. So me and one guy. His name is John. I found John via Odesk or formerly Odesk, now Upwork. And adds that layer of difficulty, because people can sort of hide behind a keyboard or it’s tough to get a sense of them just from a resume and chatting with them on Skype or something like that. I found that I went through a lot of people. It’s not some specific to Upwork or anything like that. I’m sure it’s the same case on Elance or Freelance. It’s really hit or miss.
Speaker 1: So what should I be doing to find great applicants, and should I consider inexperienced worker?
Speaker 2: You have to put together a really good job description. You have to have the right questions. Sometimes I found with John for example, and some folks after him, it’s nice to just start totally fresh. Knows how to work a computer and everything but really hasn’t learned SCO or anything like that, and teach them from scratch. For which we have guides and all that kind or stuff for now, which we didn’t have before.
But, I don’t think there is like any fancy trick. It’s a bit of a number game. You have to know exactly what you want. I would suggest that you understand that there is a lot out. You don’t have to settle. I use a three strike system. If they screw up three times, they’re gone kind of thing. Especially with new folks.
And I mean that’s kind of a given that it’s a super affordable way of going about business. Especially in those early days when you’re starting up a company, you can’t afford the $40000 a year or even like a $25000 a year. Especially if you don’t have any funding, you just can’t afford that sort of thing. And at the same time you can’t, if there are a lot of these menial type tasks which exist in what I do, you can’t afford to be spending all that time doing the stuff yourself or else you’ll never grow your business.
I found that the hard way. Is before I found John I was doing it myself. I remember sitting on a vacation. Sitting on a patio somewhere in the warm sun and, instead of enjoying myself, I was literally submitting people to yelp and the like. And creating gmails and doing all that stuff myself. I couldn’t enjoy. I couldn’t do anything. I could barely run the business. So Upwork and the like are tremendous for finding qualified folks that are affordable, and that you can sort of leverage to scale.
Speaker 1: Business owners tend to make the mistake of working in their business instead of on it. Then neglect working on a company’s vision and strategy to instead work on a day to day task. As a result, the company remains stagnant at best. What core activities do you suggest for a business to focus on?
Speaker 2: I’m still figuring that out for myself. I don’t ever want to take myself away entirely from the dirty work, I guess you can say. I still want to learn. I still want to be involved. I don’t want to become out of touch. Especially since I am, I guess of the main sales people, for myself and for my businesses.
So, I don’t think I would ever remove myself entirely, but I do practice this one thing. I ask myself, “Am I the only one that can do this? Do I have to do this? Is there nobody else in my company that can do this? Or is there nobody else that I might be able to hire to do this?” If the answer is no, I’ll likely keep doing it. And if the answer is yes, which it almost always is, I’ll jot it down and I will sort of queue it up as a task for myself to find that person that’s going to be able to take it over.
And I guess that question can be worded a little bit differently. Is there a person that can do it? Or, because I am a programmer now, can it be automated? So I think it’s just about asking yourself and being really honest with yourself. And not just brushing it off as, “It’s just five minutes a week”. It adds up over the course of a year. Over the course of five years.
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You can be doing something much more important with that five minutes. Creating that invoice or whatever it might be. Yeah. Which I suppose requires a little bit of trust, a little but of faith in people to do it correctly. But, most stuff can be delegated.
Speaker 1: How do you cultivate trust within your organisation? And what do you do once that trust is broken?
Speaker 2: I hire people I can trust and then I trust them. And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. They don’t fit, they don’t fit in. They don’t get stuff done, they don’t get stuff done. And they’re gone. I don’t hire recruiters or I don’t dig through LinkedIn or put up job ads or anything like that. When we have a need for somebody, I ask around. I ask colleagues.
But more times than not, we tend to hire before we need people. You could always do with a couple more talented, smart, eager people on my team. And so I brought them on board, and we found stuff for them to do. I can’t say that I try and calculate the ROI of any particular individual or anything. But, as long as they’re moving the needle forward for my clients, then my clients will continue to pay me money, pay us money, and things keep moving.
There’s a saying, “Hire slowly, fire quickly”. But at the same time I don’t bring on people that aren’t great people. So when I do have to let someone go, I’m letting someone go because they just didn’t quite fit. Often times, it’s my fault. I didn’t create a clear path for them. There’s a great book by the founders of LinkedIn, “The Alliance”. They don’t believe in a job for life or anything like that. They believe in a deal between an employer and an employee, whereby the employer does ‘x’ for the employee, and the employee does ‘x’ for the employer.
And so for the employer it might be, he or she helps that employee learn about ‘x’, ‘y’, and ‘z’, which will catapult that employee into their next position. Whether it be with their company or not. That’s the deal. And the employee, they make a deal with the employer, where the employer might say, “You know what, I need this particular sector of my business to grow by this amount in this time period”. So that’s your end of the bargain. So they set a time period. They say, “Okay. I want my end of the bargain to be satisfied by this time. And your end of the bargain will be satisfied by this time. And we’ll touch base throughout, and by the end of it, I hope we’ll be here”. That’s the basis for that deal between them.
Speaker 1: And that is what really helps the company grow. Is when your own employees are growing with the company. Because then the more that they know, the more that the company can use, and the more resources the company has. It should make sense that your company is also evolving with the employees.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I think you just said what I aim to say in about two sentences. Thanks for that.
Speaker 1: So how do you go about financing a company to continue it’s growth?
Speaker 2: I would recommend having some savings and that sort of thing. Apply for a line of credit or something like that. But, really boot strap. In having little to nothing. It kind of puts you in a position where you can’t fail. You failing means you’re getting kicked out of your place. You failing means you’re not eating dinner. I found that really worked for me. I never secured any financing. Or did a seed round or anything like that. Because I never knew about that stuff first of all. But also, I didn’t think Luke my idea was so good that anyone would look at me and say, “Oh my God. I want to invest in your company”.
I was doing what other people had already done. I just had my own maybe twist on it or whatever. So I am a fan of bootstrapping. And the way that I did it, is I just used one venture to find another venture to find another venture to find another venture. Tony Robins and smart dudes like him, they tell you to pay yourself first. And I don’t do that.
What I’ve been doing is I take the profit and I just put it back in either the same company or into the next company. And that’s really worked for me. We haven’t had a lot of companies that we’ve built that didn’t really work out. And I don’t know if that’s because the stakes are just too high, because it’s our own money, and there’s no backup plan. There is no like money that we’re sitting on or anything like that right.
It’s like, this is the money that we made from working our assess off at this company. But, if this doesn’t work out, cash flow is going to really suck for this other company. So this better freakin work. Honest to God. Like that is the way it is for us. And I don’t recommend it. It’s just what works for us.
So, the big thing that I would recommend when it comes to financing and all that kind of stuff related to your finances, is I wouldn’t take it on yourself. I wouldn’t do your own bookkeeping. I wouldn’t attempt to do your own taxes. I wouldn’t stay as a sole prop, longer than you absolutely have to. You can self incorporate in a lot of cases. Which I ended up doing for like 500 bucks. And about half an hour of my time.
Just don’t depend on yourself. I ended up missing out on a lot of tax opportunities. A lot of just general money saving opportunities, because I just wouldn’t ask for help. Which is ridiculous since my father is an accountant. You’d think I’d reach out to him. But I just wouldn’t. I have this horrible thing about me where I have to crash and burn myself first before I reach out for help.
And I don’t think that’s necessarily a very smart way to go for any business. With anything, whether it be your finances or other places where you’re not particularly strong. Reach out for help. Get help from people. People want to help you, especially if they see that you’re passionate, working hard. They will more than likely want to help you. So make the time. Ask for help. So that’s my thoughts on financing and running that part of your company.
Speaker 1: A lot of entrepreneurs, the mentality is usually, “It’s my company. It’s my idea. It’s my dream. I have to put it out there and have to do everything”. That does crash and burn really really fast because nobody really has the skills to do it all on their own. And building a team is really one of the most important things right off the bat, because there is a lot of missed opportunities that they’re going to come across.
Especially if you don’t have the background in business or if you don’t know much of accounting or financing or marketing. There’s so much you can do with a team of people that are going to have your back. The more you crash and burn, the more you learn, and the less mistakes you make in the future. Because that’s really how you learn. You do something like, “Oop”, we’re not going to do that again. And next time you do it better. And I feel like the crashing and burning mentality is really better than the never trying anything at all mentality, where you just let fear paralyse you completely. Just stay there. You don’t really move forward. So I feel like for a lot of entrepreneurs, if you absolutely have to take a step forward, just know that you are going to crash and your are going to burn. But, just because you do it once, doesn’t mean that that’s the end of it.
How you talked about it. You were in a pretty rough financial state, but you still moved out of that. And now you’re growing three different companies. That’s amazing. I feel that if you would have just let yourself just kind of stay in that fire, you really wouldn’t be here helping out all the people that you help out. Growing all the business that you do. And really, that’s what it all comes down to. Once you get past that threshold of, “Okay. I’ve already crashed and burned enough. I know what I’m supposed to be doing now. I’ve got a team”.
And you really start to see the bigger picture of everything that you’re doing. The lives that you’re impacting just by existing. And I feel that a lot of entrepreneurs really just need to know that even if they aren’t succeeding as much as they want to, they’re going to be making a huge difference. Either the already are or they will be in the future.
So thank you so much Adam for everything that you said. Really, everything from scaling your business to building a team to just moving forward despite what you’re current situation is. I just really appreciate everything that you’ve said.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It’s my pleasure. I love talking about this stuff.
Speaker 1: So then is there anywhere where people can go to either learn more or just any tools that you feel will be useful for them as they grow their business?
Speaker 2: Yeah. Well I can be found via the channels. Twitter: Adamgsteel. Tools for growing your business. I’ve already mentioned Upwork. That’s a good place to be. For me, one of the methods was just becoming apart of the community I intended to grow inside. So, part of the marketing community. Where do marketers hang out? Go there. Hang out with them. Talk with them. Spend an hour with them every single day. It’s worth it.
I can tell you that most of my business comes from those relationships that I’ve created over the last five to six years. I love Trello. Great tool to help out with the project management and work flow of any company I think. Slack is a fantastic tool for teams. They say it eliminates email and you get things done quicker.
Yeah. Those are kind of my two main tools. Certainly for invoicing and things like that, I love Freshbooks. And I use it for time tracking. And I use it for running PNL’s. Although I used Quick books for that as well. And then I suppose we build the little tool for referral stamps. So for those that are sort of more familiar with Google analytics, you open your sites Google analytics account. And view your site. And go to checkout the referral section.
So basically, websites that are sending you traffic. You will more than likely see some bogus sites in there. Bogus refers spam essentially. I want to explain why they’re doing it, but basically it’s to get your attention and get you to buy stuff down the road. In a nutshell. So we built a tool called the “Referral Spam Tool”. Can be found on our Loganix website. That’s Loganix.net/rst-lander, or just search referral spam tool in Google and I suspect you’ll probably find it. And it just cleans up that mess for you. So that you’re not left with corrupted data. So that you have data that is dependable, and you can make informed decisions instead of making predictions and forecasting on data that is otherwise totally inflated and inaccurate.
So I think it’s a pretty important thing to have. We built it for our clients and then we decided to sort of open it up to everybody else.
Speaker 1: So what’s next for you Adam? Either professionally or personally.
Speaker 2: Certainly scale is top of mind. As I mentioned, we are struggling to scale one of our companies, the digital marketing company, because it’s tough to package. We haven’t figured out how to package it in a way that still creates a solution that is somewhat catered to each client. So I think just working on that.
Trying to make my businesses as attractive as possible to potential buyers. Not that I necessarily want to sell them or anything. But, just should I ever get approached, I’d want them to be in such a shape that someone could essentially just take over, without having to keep me on for a year, and everything would run just as smoothly, or very close to as smoothly as it would have with me at the helm.
So just kind of basically packaging up our different businesses. Beyond that, no doubt I’ll probably want to get involved in some other types of businesses. Possibly offline businesses I think. But still some online ones. Ones that are sort of outside the realm of what I do, because you knows, SCO could disappear anytime. And if that happened, well we wouldn’t go out of business, but we would be in great shape.
So just making sure that I spend a lot of time diversifying myself and start preparing for a rainy day for myself and my team. Cause we are unfortunately a little bit too dependent on big old Google. So yeah. I’ll be focusing on that. Maybe building some tools. I like building software. So maybe creating some sort of sass product.
And anyone is very welcome to reach out to me anytime. They can reach me on my email to. Adam@magistrateinc.com. And I’m pretty darn good about getting back to people pretty quickly. So, by all means, send your questions. I’ll be thrilled to answer them.
Speaker 1: Thank you Adam so much for being on the show. And I wish you a wonderful day.
Speaker 2: Sounds good. I appreciate the opportunity.