What if you went out there and found someone that actually it was scary how good they were. They were so much better than you and you paid them really good money to basically take a lot of junk off your plate so you can actually be much more strategic. For some of you, it may be to go in and look at the 2018 calendar and say, “I’m going to take three weeks off to get my act together, but I’m going to do it in a way that I come back, not just by lazing on the beach, but I’m actually going to maybe create something while I’m there. I’m going to learn Spanish or I’m going to go and learn how to surf.”You can satisfy your need to learn, but you’re going to actually do something that is scary. You’re going to put it on the calendar and you’re going to take time off. What is it that you need to do that’s going to create a leverage effect in your business? I just keep looking for more of those.
A lot of people will go around asking, they’re going to hear this and they’re going to ask, “How do I know what that is?”How do you go around and find that? How did you know the book was going to do it for you when you wrote the book or did you know?
I didn’t know. I had no idea what it was going to do for me. I just knew that this is something I’ve been putting off. I started talking to other authors and what I pieced together in my mind was it’s not that big a deal. What they would constantly say to me is once it was over, I wonder what the big fuss was. I thought, “I’ve been able to co-create flights to the South Pole, how hard could writing a damn book be?” Also, what is the story I’m telling myself, “Authors are different. That’s the story.” That doesn’t serve me. What I started doing is talk to authors and I realized, “No. They’re just like me. They procrastinated, they fumbled around, they didn’t like it. They’re just like me.” I guess I could just take the first step.
One of the first things I did was I just phoned a printing company. I said, “Give me a quote.” Now, I knew what I was talking about. I am a big advocate of signing up and taking courses, especially live courses where you fly somewhere and you actually are in a retreat or you’re at a conference and you’re learning and experimenting and surrounding yourself with people that are different than you. I get really excited. I’m going to a conference and there’ll be 250 people there and it just stimulates me. I think that just showing up every day is a fool’s game because you’re going to get more of the same nonsense that you’ve already created for yourself.
I’m a big advocate of having a mastermind group, but really make sure that in that mastermind group, those people are better than you. You do not want to be the smartest person in the room. If your mastermind group is boring you or you hear the same stuff every, every week or every month, get out of it. Just save yourself the time because you’re fooling yourself thinking that that’s actually serving you. All you’re doing is you’re just getting bored. Get stimulated, be around people that challenge you and scare you and put something on the calendar.
Hugh, that last bit of advice is priceless. In fact, I encourage folks to come back and listen to it again. Write down those three steps that you gave everyone. What I’d like to do now is talk a little bit about the things that you’ve got going on in the business now because I think they’re exciting both because the service is great that you’re offering. I know we’ve got at least one of our clients who is now client of yours and also because the pivot to this new model that you’ve got in the business is a little bit unusual. You don’t see a lot of people going to what we call it done-for-you services now because it seems like it’s a lot of work. I think it’s a good one and we’ve made a similar pivot. I’d love for you to talk a little bit about how that’s working.
First of all, I think that we’ve been going through five years of online, online, online, and I think that the bloom is off of that formula. I do get inquiries as I know you do every week from people that want to know “How do I create an online course?”They’ve had some modicum of success doing it live and now they say, “I’ll put it online.” The challenge with online or those kinds of programs is that it’s hard to get people to complete them more so than ever before. Maybe when they first started all the Lyndas’ and Udemy courses of the world, people completed them. I think now people are much more likely even when they pay $2,000, to quit halfway through the course and never complete it. There’s a real break in accountability there.
There’s an accountability break for the student, because now they feel bad. “I invested $2,000 or even $19 or even $197 and I didn’t finish it.” Now, they feel bad and they’re breaking their self confidence. Then there’s a break in accountability for the person that designed it because basically they have to convince themselves that it’s okay to have failure because they have no way of measuring it. I thought, “I was really interested in promoting my blog because I like to have more traffic.” If I’m going to work so hard to write a blog post, I created a system where I use my social media to get me more traffic. Essentially, I started posting everyday to my social media and I saw, “My traffic is going up.”
Then I tried outsourcing it and I realized the problems with outsourcing overseas. Then I looked for people that live right where I live. I live in central British Columbia. I live in a beautiful part of the world. It’s very hot and dry here. This is where all the orchards are and all those ski hills. There’s a lot of fantastic people here. I started hiring people here and now we have clients in five different countries that use our service. They pay us every month and we read their blog and then we actually post to their social media accounts and we let people know about that blog. We also include curated content. This done-for-you service to me is a really amazing opportunity for people to look at with their business. If you’ve got any kind of intellectual content or any kind of solution that you provide, maybe there’s an opportunity for you to actually do the work for the client. There are some obvious examples, people come and clean your house, they come and cut your lawn. That’s obvious examples. That’s a done-for-you service. What about in the intellectual service? What about in the training service? Is there some way that you can actually do the work for you?
Some of the ones that really got high profile would be Hello Alfred, which was created by these two women that met in Harvard. It’s actually a technology company, but what’s cool about Hello Alfred, is they’ve gotten multiple steps beyond just house cleaning. Now, they will do anything for you. When you subscribe to Hello Alfred, if it’s available in your city, you can basically get them to bring balloons to your wife’s birthday. You can get them to decorate your host before you arrive home for your kid’s birthday party. They’ll run off and get your laundry. They’ll go and do errands for you. The idea is for a busy person living in an urban center, this is going to reduce your stress level and for not very much money, basically you’ve got this assistant working for you. That’s what I wanted to create. I wanted to create a done-for-you service that basically reduced the hassle on this piece of a person’s business that they didn’t have any other solution for other than DIY or trying to outsource it themselves.
I think it’s such a smart approach because you’re seeing so many people now get educated through all these courses and when they go and buy the course, they don’t necessarily want to go through the steps themselves. Most of the time they don’t want to learn any of it. They want the result at the end. What I find, particularly if you’re selling to business owners, most of them already have a full plate. There aren’t very many skills that they’re going to take on for themselves. If you can come in and offer them something that frees up time and the monetary exchange for the time is, is something that is reasonable that they can wrap their head around, it’s an easy sale. It’s a situation where once you get a client, they never go away because they can’t replicate that nor do they want to replicate that service.
Here’s an example. Trevor Turnbull is just become a client of ours with SOS. What Trevor does is rather than teaching people how to use LinkedIn, he’ll do it for you. This is the flip that people have to make, Steve. For example, if I teach a course right now what part of that could actually do for you? In other words, yes, it’s great that I educate you. Trevor also can teach you about LinkedIn. Lots of people teach you about LinkedIn, but that then basically presupposes that you’ve got the time and the energy and the motivation to go and do the work. This is where the formula falls apart. People happily pay $2,000 or whatever it is to learn about LinkedIn, but then they don’t do it. Trevor, as one example, says, “I can teach you, but you can also hire me and my team will do it for you.”
Whether that’s adding followers or it’s actually mining your list and these sorts of things. I think that for people listening to this, they just need to think more creatively and ask themselves, “What part of what I sell right now, could we actually do for you and maybe even charge a premium amount for that?”What would happen then is that I’m fully accountable for the results I produce and I don’t have to worry about you finishing a course or all that. I don’t have to chase you down and if you do it correctly, you don’t have to even promote this thing every year because they keep coming back to you every month.
That is the most important reason to do it because you’re fulfilling a need that is always there. It’s continuous and it makes the whole process of building the business so much easier because all of your sales efforts then our compounding.
There all these examples. For example, as a coach. As a coach, you could get paid every month to work with that person’s employee or to work with them. That’s an example we’re very familiar with, but I think now in our online world, there’s lots of other examples that nobody’s really tapped into. What about someone that basically manages your inbox? That’d be a great service. The inbox goes to this person first and then you only get the important stuff to look at. Rather than me having to filter through or create rules or unsubscribe, this person will go to my inbox first before I see my inbox. It’s looking at what is it that we’re inundated with that is basically slowing us down and could I create a service that solves that problem for a person and they got to pay for it? Steve, once they start paying for it, they’re not going to go away because why would you ever want to go back to the old ways to do it?
I think the fear that people have a lot of times in going down that route, particularly if it’s a skill that you have. In the case of SOS, you had a method for promoting your blog. It was a skill that you had developed or an intellectual property that you had developed that you applying to your own business. The fear is, now, I’m going to have to do this. I’m going to have to do this for ten people or twenty people or however many and how is that ever going to scale? How am I ever going to be able to do it? That doesn’t seem like a good use of time. That’s not what you’ve done. That’s not what we’ve done. I’d love for you to talk a little bit about how you’ve taken yourself out of the process?
For short while anyways, I did it myself and that was obviously a nightmare because once I got past three clients, I couldn’t keep up. I tried outsourcing but I realized okay, “Yes, I can save money by going to the Philippines or India, but the quality was horrible.” Then once I came to the conclusion that I was really looking at North American staff, which was actually in my mind exciting because one of my goals Steve, is to provide really great income for a lot of people to work from home, which is what we’re doing right now. We’re getting started with eight people on the team. Five of them are the writers, but I could see us having 50 people.
Once I understood where the talent was going to come from, the next part was the systems because I recognized that this was never going to be successful or profitable unless I had really tight systems. I had to look at how I remunerated. What’s my pay structure like? I realized I can’t afford to pay by the hour because then I’m spending too much time basically trying to get on people and look at their efficiency. I paid by the job. Then I had to figure out, what’s every task? There’s a lot of little tasks so I put a price tag on every task. Then I realized, once I do the sale I don’t really want to actually manage it. I needed to have a person that on boarded and manage the clients. One thing led to another.
Once we had the first twenty people, we basically had figured out the scalable system. From that point on there was really, there’s really no end to how big this can go. Just by using third party online tools, we can actually manage hundreds of people and just simply add more and more editors to it. For me, it was thinking in systems way. I was always thinking my first 200 clients. What would I have to build for my first 200 clients? What I had to do was continually remove myself from anything that had to do with daily management of those clients. Now, all I think about is marketing. I don’t think at all about operations.
One of the best things I did with the business, which was we started eighteen months ago was Tuesday calls. Every Tuesday we look at our statistics. Every Tuesday someone on my team has to update all the numbers and that’s the first thing we do on our phone calls. We look at all the numbers and then we can actually make some intelligent decisions and then we look at our existing campaigns and then finally we look at what are our next steps. That weekly phone call changed everything for our business.
How long did it take you to pull all of that together? To go from it was just you’re doing it and then you made the switch to the North American VA’s and started to systematize things. How long did it take for you to get it all documented and in a place where you felt like you had a system that could deliver the results that you expected at the level of quality that you expected to deliver to clients?
It was profitable in month one and by the first year we making $100,000 a year. We’re doing small six figures and it took ten months to figure out that system. The first ten months was just experimenting and trying to find people. To fill the whole picture is, also finding the right clients. After the first ten months I started to realize, we can’t just take anybody because they’re not going to be successful. There’s certain requirements that the client has to have. If, for example, if nobody’s following them on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, it doesn’t matter how much we post, no one’s going to see it.
We started to put in a prequalification now. I remember listening to a very well-known speaker who you know as well. He said, “How did I become successful? I found clients that were most likely to be successful and I worked with them.” I realized, “I can’t accept everybody because I was spending a lot of time sitting down for coffee with people and on the phone with them.”I realized, “If I just prequalify my clients before they actually come to us or before I say yes, we’re going to have a lot more success.”That all that took about ten months to twelve months, the first year.
That’s not uncommon. We see that a lot with the businesses that we work with that as they’re rolling out something new, there’s just that period of exploration experimentation before you really get it dialed. I’d love for you to share a little bit with folks about SOS and what it does. I think it’s a great service. I definitely want them to know where they can find you and know more.