Group Coaching Call: December 21, 2016

Fred wants to know what are the boxes behind me? So I do this from the guest bedroom and I thought it would be weird if there was just bed there. And so I put the box on it to give you some background. That's the reason why. Although next time we do one these videos, I'll be doing it from India. So there should be different background. So Fred you're going to get your wish for a different background. It will probably still be a bed, because it will probably from my hotel room. But at least there won't be a box. I'm not bringing the box with me.

I'm glad that we had an open time to ask questions and that's the question we have. Rosemary wants to know is that, all that stuff going to be available after the course ends? And yes, as beta user you're going to be able to access everything, as long as this course website is up and running. So you're in a cohort right now, there is about thirty of you in this cohort. That's the people who are taking the beta right now. And you're going through this all together, getting the content at the same time, doing the same calls and everything.

And then in March we're going to open up the course to the public and a new cohort will come in, but you'll still be able to access the videos. I'm trying to figure out a way you can access the videos in real time while they get them dripped to them. So you might lose some videos for short amount of time but you're going to have access long term.

Another thing I'm working on that you guys might find interesting is that, we are transcribing each of these coaching calls and turning them into scripts. Now we are having some troubles with transcription but eventually all these coaching calls will be transcribed and available to you as well.

And obviously you should get a replay link from WebinarJam when you do this. But if not we're going to get those on site as well. One of our little projects during our little hiatus here for next week.

Good question, yes everything is going to be available after the course. You guys will have access as long as we keep this course up and running, which I foresee being for a long time.

Jason wants to know on the aptitude test, what level of hire when you use that specific test. I'd say anywhere from an associate junior level employee all the way to a director. On a VP level, I'd probably be more behavioral type of interviews and just the higher the level the more scrutiny I would have, beyond just a test.

The thing I found while delivering the aptitude test is that, if somebody was really junior they wouldn't give nearly as thoughtful of responses or as deeper of responses as somebody who is more senior in the organization. And so it really just depends on the level that you're hiring for, is going to give you more depth in their answers and more experience. Although generally speaking the people who give the most depth in their answers are the one who take it seriously are the people you want to hire.

So somebody takes that 3 pages aptitude test turns it in 21 pages, that's a good sign that, that person is committed. Somebody who just treats it as a job and isn't committed, what they'll end up doing is, they'll think why this person giving me an assignment. They'll think that you're crazy for asking them to prove how good they are and they'll mail it in. And that just confirms your suspicions that they weren't the right person and they are not going to take it seriously.

So it did help in that sense. And I think you can use it for a lot of different levels. It's weird, I don't think I've ever personally hired a VP type resource personally, because I was one of the partners and we basically had four partners in our agency. And then below that there was people who maybe got promoted from within. We didn't put out an executive search to find VPs and CMOs and those types of roles. We just filled that with our partners. So, I don't know if it'll work on VP level or not.

Ryan wants to know did he miss much? Okay, so Stephen and Ryan got in, that's good. Excellent. You didn't miss much. I was waiting for people to get in. We are just answering questions. So for those of you who made it into the new room, just ask me any question. We're doing one on one questions and answers right now, while we wait for others to get in to the room.

And sorry about the technical difficulty everybody. I try to have a 100% on time show up rate, but doesn't always work and it frustrates me more than it frustrates you. Because I'm sitting here wondering if I have to issue an apology or send you guys an email or do something to make up for this. So ten minutes of outage is not the best but it's also not the worst and I'm committed to sticking around longer, if you want me to answer your questions for you.

Jason says did I have the people take the exam at the office or take home? So, here is what I did. I said you can take any resource that you want and use that to fill out the test. You can Google for answers, you can just try to find it, you can use whatever you want to and nothing is disallowed. The only thing is, you can't ask another person to give you the answers.

And the reason why I did that is because you can Google everything. No matter how great you are at what you do. I Google stuff all the time, I'm constantly searching for answers, even if I know something. Because you might hear it and not retain it, or you just might not have everything available. I spent two hours searching this week just looking for stuff that I come up across in the past or whatever.

So I let them Google, I let them find answers because it's not realistic to think that somebody could just know this at the top of their head. Everything is aided by the technology that we work with. So, to deny them of technology doesn't really do them any good, it doesn't do you any good. Because that's not the real environment they work in.

I let them do it remotely, I wouldn’t have them do the test here, I actually gave them, I think it was, three days, unless it was on a weekend and then I gave them the weekend and then a couple of days after that. I didn't want to give them too long, and I didn't want to give them too short. Because I figured if they really wanted the job, three days was the right amount of time. And so that's really how I ended up working for that.

Yes, Thomas, some of you have asked what was in the box. I do like the reference to Seven. I like how I've been mixing in movie references during the course. Robert, you got the answer correct. You're the first one to get the answer correct on the sales. The ketchup popsicles quote from the movie. Now some of you probably hear that now and know that quote. But Robert is the winner of the good job sticker and I even put the good job sticker into the forums. It's something you can print out if you’d like to.

Yeah, fragile must be Italian. That's a Christmas story, that's another one too. It's not a leg lamp, just so you know. It is actually the computer that I'm talking to you on right now. That is the box for that computer. So there is nothing in the box, because I'm talking to you on the computer.

Alright, let's get into it. I think everybody is in, I don’t know what we’re doing here, just answering questions. So let’s get into the serious stuff. I am going to show you our survey results. Okay, so here is the results that ten of you fill it out. I'm just going to hit refresh just in case anymore came in. Now we have 12, awesome. Well, thanks for filling this out everybody.

Basically what we're talking about today is process. I had several questions both multiple choice as well as free form, to get some answers. I've downloaded the free form ones but it looks like some more have come in. So we'll start with the ones I downloaded about an hour ago and then we'll fill in the rest of it as we go through it.

So looks like nobody is really a process pro. One answer is saying that they are pretty good on it. Many of you are just in the beginning phase or have no process. And so this is what I would expect to see. I would say that most agencies are somewhere in-between a one and a three. So two and a half on average, this is what I would expect.

Obviously we had a bunch of videos last week talking about process and things you can do to improve it. On-boarding your clients, using project plans, project management tools and everything, all those different roles that you need to use. But what it comes down to is, just making a commitment that you're going to put some kind of process in place.

And it's hard because it's above and beyond the call of duty to get it going, to actually get to the point where you can have a meaningful process. It takes a lot of time, hours, it's going to change, you're going to realize that you thought that the process should be one way but it needed to be modified or didn't make any sense at all. And that's just the reality of how this works.

It's alright to be at the beginning stages, but I think there are a lot of things in this course you should do as soon as you're done or even start doing right now. I think process is an important one. And as I've mentioned in some of the videos, I regret that we didn't put process in to our agency sooner.

We did a really good job of have processes in place when it was five people in the agency, all able to work together. I remember, we use to all sit around a conference table, and that was our office and we would put our process in place. We would document it. Because we weren't overwhelmed, we weren't in an extreme growth period, we weren't in this crazy phase.

And then we hit the growth period. We hit the crazy parts where everything was going crazy. We added more services, we drank from the fire hose really of people wanting to pay us money. And I looked back many years later, you're like, if we had just stayed in that one path and had this stuff right, we wouldn't have any issues we have right now.

But the reality is that my agency still has issues with process. Because the more people you bring on and throw people at a problem as oppose to throwing technology, process, planning, all these things that we're talking about in this module at a problem. You're going to find that it's way harder to undo all that later on.

So, I know that some of you arw in larger agencies and multiple people agencies, some of you are just getting started on your own. I would say beginning to implement is good, right? And if you have no process, you should shift over to the beginning to implement soon, like as in January 1, 2017, because it is that important.

And the problem is that when growth hits, if you're in the beginning piece you're never going to finish it, because you're going to be only focus on the growth, only focused on servicing that growth. So, I would say, everybody get into that level three right now and then actually get into four. Considering yourself a process pro in this scale, it's difficult. I don't know if anybody will ever be a five. You can aspire to be a five but at least get to that four where you're implementing processes and at least having them in place. That's really the key to scaling that's agency business.

How many years has your agency been in business? Some of you haven't even started yet. Some of you have been doing this for a while. Five plus years, three to five years, one to two years, less than a year. It's pretty well mixed, between different ranges.

Does your agency have a dedicated person who handles processes? And that's half and half. Yes and no. so that's good to see. Because that's really a sign of a mature agency to have a dedicated role in your team to handling processes. Or at least defining that role, that's really good to see that.

Now I think some of you might have answered that as if, maybe you're saying that because it's me. Because you can't really have dedicated role without having a formal on-boarding process. For example if you have dedicated process person as in this one, then you're going to have to have one of the processes as client on-boarding. So you can't have more no’s here, than you have yeses there. So, I think some of you might have misunderstood that question.

So, I can see, a lot of you are say no, I do think that it's important to have this. And in the free form questions, I know some of you are asking can you show me an on-boarding process? That's something I'm considering to see how do we develop that out, as part of a bonus or provide a template. We don't have that right now, but it's something I'm definitely considering because I think it will be useful. So if you're into that, in the form I would say, can we do some client on-boarding processes, can you help with that please? Would be good, and actually I guess we have a template as well.

This is just more of a billing question. What percentage of your clients pay on time? So it looks like between 40% and 80% of your clients pay on time. That's in line with where I am at too. I wish every client paid on time, but the reality is that, the best ones will pay on time. But even the best ones will have terms like 30 days.

Actually I got a direct deposit two days ago from an invoice that I sent out November 15th. They have 30 days payment terms. So there you go. Basically I did the work, just a classic story of getting paid. I did the work for them September-October, a little bit in November. I billed it November 15th, I get paid December, it was either last week or this week, I don't remember exactly when it came in. But basically from when I started the work until when I finished it was 90 days. And that's pretty darn common, right? For how this happens.

I'm glad that a lot of you are getting clients to pay on time. And that is actually 60% to 80% or even 40% to 60%, it doesn't create as many cash flow issues. But if you are getting a very low percentage that definitely can be a drain, a cash flow issue.

How long does it take for them to pay? 30 to 45 days. Some of the people are getting paid 0 to 15 days. I'd like to hear from anybody who is getting 0 to 15 days. What industry you're in? And what type of clients you're working with? Because that's really impressive. I rarely see that. I see more often 16 to 30 or 31 to 45.

Actually I'm curious of any of you who wants to add some commentary on how long it takes your clients to pay you. Because I would say that, do you have a dedicated person who handles payments? Is it a long term client relationship? Do you have their credit card on file? How do you get those payments to come in that quickly? That's pretty awesome, if I can manage that myself every time, then I'll be pretty happy. So, if anybody answered 0 to 15, is it because they are on credit card, is it because they have a good relationship, what is it that's doing it?

Okay, so Thomas pre-bills the monthly at the start of the month. Credit card. That's great. That's really nice. What do you use for your credit card payment, Thomas? And when you do that, do your client complain at all or it pretty straight forward standard procedure to do that? And then also, do you feel like having somebody pay via credit card, does that cut into your margins at all? Is that just a cost of doing business for you? Is that something that you just learned to do? And just a little bit more about how it works?

So Thomas is using FreshBooks and QuickBooks to do it. That's good to know. Okay, so it's auto billing and putting it on a credit card. I think that's a good way to go. It's nice when the payments do come in, obviously.

So, Thomas I might ask you some more on this, just to help other people out as far as, how do you get on to auto billing and just sort of learning a little bit more about it. And Thomas is saying, he'd take pre-pay any day over waiting for somebody mailing you a check. Because if you think about it, the float on 0 to 15 days is basically you're getting paid, you can pay it out. You are not having to sit on a payroll or anything, which is nice. I'd pay 3% to a credit card company for the right to have an extra 45 days of cash. So I definitely think that's a good way to do it.

Now I think that, that is an interesting thing though, because as your agency gets bigger that amount gets bigger and bigger. 3% coming out of your bottom line in your million dollar agency, that's $30,000. When you're a $5 million agency, that's 150 grand. So if everybody is on credit card payments, is it worth the inconvenience or you want a $150,000. I do think that it makes sense for a while and then eventually, maybe it doesn't. And so that's interesting. Really does depend on the size of your agency.

How much cash flow do you keep on hand? So, four of you say one month, three of you say two months, some of you are in debt. Basically you're in negative one month. Three months, six months okay. If anybody did answer this and wants to share some insights behind their answer, that will be great to see as well.

Yeah, Thomas is saying under a million dollars. There is a certain point where it makes sense and certain point where it doesn't. But I think that, again you just need to bill it into your margin structure. When I say make sense, I mean charging via credit card. Would you pay 3% to have your money 45 days sooner? I think a lot of us would and even fits in here to this cash flow question as well.

So looks like a lot of you have one month on hand, some two months. I am not sure if everybody has watched the video, but my recommendation for cash flow is at least three months. Try to get three months on hand and have that ready to go, so you can fulfill all your obligations for three months. It depends on the timing and everything, but six months or more is not uncommon if you want to be really conservative, if you want to be able to absorb big accounts receivables and everything. I try to be somewhere between three and six months.

Carlos wants to know processes to recommend and documents, like top five. That's a good one. I think we might see some of that in our free form answers, so we'll get some people to answers to what processes they have.

One thing I would say is on-boarding is definitely a process you want. Bringing on a new client, asking all the questions that you need to ask, so you don't make the same mistake you did with previous clients.

I would say a sales process. What's the process for putting the contract in front of your clients? What's the process for reviewing it? What are the terms you put in there? How do you make sure that it makes sense in the scheme of things? How do you make sure it's there?

Another process might sound simple, is time tracking. Having people report their time against what project they worked on, so you can get the project level profitability.

Another process is statuses, like weekly statuses, that you might do with your customers. How do you conduct your status calls, whether it's weekly or monthly.

Reporting is a process that you might go through. So, just how do you send reports every month or whatever time period you have to show people your progress. Especially the people you're providing services to. How do you show them results overtime?

Another one is the day to day management of whatever you are hired to do. For example, PPC management. We would have a process for what you should do every day as a PPC manager. You should log into your account, you should look at the searched terms report and mine that for results. You should add new keywords to your account, based on those searched term reports. You should add negative keywords. You should push your bids up if they fit this criteria. Down, if they fit that criteria. You should test ad copy, turn off your bad ad copy, refresh your settings, make sure you turn off keywords that aren't working very well.

I would just map out what the 20 things I did everyday when I was managing and then I would tell people under my wing or whoever I had and say here is the process, check out that you did these things every single day or every week, whatever our terms of service for these people were. Whatever we were expected to do for these people.

And that's the process that, if you can break it down to small enough steps, then more people can do that. It doesn't have to be just one person yourself being the hero and saving the day and using all your knowledge. You can now have more people who can fill that role. And that's an example of some processes we put in place.

You can even have a process around, how do you go about your strategy? What questions do you ask? How do you discover, what needs to happen? Those are all just some examples.

Ryan, I think what we'll do is, we'll start coming up with some processes. I'd said earlier for those of you who weren't on the call yet. I've been thinking about making this into some kind of bonus, just pulling together some processes. So we'll see how we can get that done and in what time frame. But that's something that I really think is something we should do.

Does your agency have a line of credit? Most of you say no, some of you say yes. I think if you are having cash flow issues, or if you are having problems, then you should definitely consider a line of credit. Some kind of way to meet your obligations without paying a ridiculous amount and without bouncing checks. Because there is no worse sign for an agency as if they can't pay their employees. If they don't get their direct deposit and that's definitely is bad.

If you're a one person agency, do you need a line of credit? I don't know, I've had a line of credit on my business account for the last ten years. And I don't think I pay anything for it. You only pay if you use it. So, it's really easy to get a line of credit. So I'll definitely recommend doing that.

I think you have to find that balance for your agency: what is the amount of time that you want to dedicate to something? I would say personally if you micro-manage your [process] documentation, then the process owns you and you don't own the process.

So for example, producing my podcast, we put it into Asana to produce our podcast. We put these videos for the Agency Course into Asana and I found that the more granular we got, the less fun it became to work on a project and the more administrative duties you have. And so it's nice get granular in your mind because you're basically using the project management tool to tell somebody exactly how to do their job.

But actually it ends up being counter intuitive because you're getting owned by the documentation and it's more difficult to perform the work. The only time you should over-engineer project plans, in my opinion, is if you are going to be the one that governs that process and you can adjust to it.

So I'm going to say it's smart to put time into process even though the world is changing. Because honestly the world doesn't change as much as we make it seem like it does. Yes, technology changes, yes, Google changes algorithms and moves stuff around but, Stephen I know you're in SEO. SEO is still really been about on page, off page stuff right? You need your processes there, but hasn't changed much. The mechanics and the results are a little bit different but pretty similar.

Same with managing paid search accounts. It's making sure that Google doesn't screw you over, that's the same for the last 15 years. A lot of these things don't change nearly as much as we seem like they change. Like the fact that Google has no longer has links on the right hand side, as if that's going to change our process. It doesn't change your process. You just try not to get screwed by Google.

I use that as an example because I've worked with Google for a long time and they've changed everything under the sun for me. And I don't think that changes a good process that you have in place. A good project plan, a good way of doing things.

The thing that I've learned about process over the years, is that you either take some dedicated role to this be in-charge of process, which is difficult for somebody just to be only doing process, if they are not doing the work. Or it takes a Herculean effort from somebody who is doing the work to not just do the work, but to document what they are doing and to set it up for the future.

And so, that's why I say that it really depends on how things are working and what your organization structure is. If you have people who are willing to put in that effort, that effort will be rewarded. But it really is a top down thing.

If your leadership in the organization can't commit to documenting processes and you dump it on an employee, who doesn't have the same context as you, doesn't have the same pay grade and incentive as you do, you're probably not going to get a great process. So, it's somewhere in-between. It's really a balancing act that you need to do. So, hopefully that helps answer the question. Probably answers the question more of verbose as you thought it would be.

Have you ever experienced an employee payroll crunch? It looks like a few of you have. I'll be curious for those of you who say yes. How you sorted through it? And if you used a line of credit or something to handle it or it just sort of worked itself out?

Most of you don't consult a lawyer when drafting contracts. I am curious, I think that phrase of question is not the greatest. When you say no, does that mean never or does that just mean no, not on each individual contract? Some of you say yes.

I remember from that lesson. My wife who is an attorney, she approved the messages that we put into that one, in that specific lesson. And she said that you want to make sure that you have the legalese, like the terms and conditions and everything. You want to have that done by a lawyer for sure, and then your individual contracts as long as you understand how to scope something in your saying what you're going to do, then you may or may not need them to look at it. Only if something changes along the way.

Well I am surprised this note doesn't really tell if people are saying no, not in every contract or never have talked to a lawyer. You should talk to a lawyer, it's important. Because once something bad happens to you, you'll know why it's important.

Do you use a project management tool? Looks like most of you do use a project management tool. Now for some reason this thing doesn't give us the free form but I can find what you answered. It looked like a lot of you said Asana that is what I saw the majority of you were using. But I'll pull the rest of them up, when we have a little bit of a down time.

Dietmar saying no to every contract. Yeah Thomas is using a contract that's fairly broad and just use that and modify it. That's definitely how a lot of these base templates would work, is just to use that. Does anybody had to actually enforce a contract or gone in to any kind of legal battles because of the contract?

I find that, from agency perspective, trying to get money from the client, if something doesn't work out or whatever. A lot of times it's better to be diplomatic with them and to talk to them, than it is to try to bring up the contract. It's usually better to do relationship management than it is to threaten to sue them for your contract. Unless it's a really big contract, but usually not worth your time.

Rosemary did enforce ceased and desist. Excellent, I'll be curious to see how that works as well. Rosemary, do you think Smartsheet-Basecamp as a combo. Actually I can't pull up the report right now that says exactly what you write in. But I will find that at some point for you. Actually I can find it now.

Thomas had to sue a law firm client in small claims. That is something I've never gotten into working with lawyers as clients because I'm afraid of them, for that reason. That exact reason. But seems like you were able to get what you needed out of it.

Okay, so some project management tools. I have one, two, three, four votes for Asana, I have Microsoft Planner featured here. I have Trello and Teamwork mentioned as well. The other answers came in after I downloaded those results. That's all we have for that one.

Okay, so let's look at the free form results. These are real answers from real students. I'm changing the format up a little bit right here this time. Stephen using the Mavenlink. Never heard of that one. Drop an affiliate link in there if you need to.

Okay, so what processes are working for your agency? First answer, still needs to be defined, that's okay. I think we are working through that with you. Now next answer is on-boarding, payments, account management is working well. That's good.

Carlos had asked, what type of processes should we go after? I think those are some good ones to start with. On-boarding, how do you get paid, and how do you manage accounts, what should you go through?

This one is really in-depth answer. This one is from Robert. Both account and project management is huge on every project. Once a project is awarded, you select a post producer as a point person and then they review the entire project. Then they expand the team with all the specialty talent needed to complete the project. Another meeting is then created to go over the entire project from start to finish. Letting everybody know what their role is and expectations. And then he'll be adding and implementing the RACI matrix. As he thinks it's going to help everybody keep on track.

That's great so, basically you're describing an on-boarding process. How do you on-board a new project. I don't know, I use the word on-boarding to talk about clients, like how do I on-board a new client. But it's also how do you on-board a new project or however you want to think about it. But basically how do you get this thing on-board with what you're doing. And basically go through, whatever you need to, to make sure everybody knows what they are doing.

I think that's the hardest part here. Usually the person who sells the work has the master plan as to what they are going to get done with this project. And then once they sell the work, they hand it off to another team who does the work. Usually the person selling the work isn't doing the work unless you are very small organization. Usually it's specialized between the sales function and the production function. And so having this kick off is really how you set all the expectations.

Now Robert is going even further to say, is that, because in one of the lessons we talked about the RACI matrix responsible, accountable, [consulted], and informed. I can't remember the middle one. And I am sorry that I told you to use the RACI matrix and I can't remember the middle, the C in there right now. That's just the fact that I'm doing this live. Again, I recommend everybody, just Google stuff that they don't remember something off the top of their head.

Great to see you, Robert. Next one having a process as to qualify leads, calculate their initial worth from a service perspective and then having checklists to implement specific tasks. I like that, I think that's really a good idea.

My lead qualification process has entirely been in my head. Not anything other than just sort of, I guess may be what you are talking about here is just like what do you think this lead's going to be worth and what can they do for you and is it worthwhile. So I just do that in my head but it'll be cool to see what the process looks like for that. I think that's good for sales process. Something that might be supported by a CRM system.

Whenever we get leads we would put some kind of value after the first call that we have with them, in our Salesforce account. That would help us with projecting revenue. I think I mentioned before we used to A, B, C, D opportunities. And if it was an A opportunity but no ink, we would call it 90%. So you would drop 90% of the A opportunities revenue into our budget. So we would forecast as if there is 90% probability. B opportunities, 70%. And that way we could tell how much revenue we would think coming in. More accurately than just saying either we got this deal or we didn't. And so that's how we would do it. But I don't know if we actually defined a process. I think that, what you're talking about there makes a lot of sense.

Reporting process. I've mentioned this earlier. I think the reporting process is definitely one of the one's that would be low hanging fruit for everybody. If you're pulling all-nighters to develop a report or you're inconsistently reporting or you're spending all night massaging data, all that type of stuff, I do not recommend doing that. I recommend coming up with a standard process.

Client on-boarding, Project management and Statement of Work. Perfect. Building a simple website process, content creation process. I'll be interested to see what building a simple website process will look like. Because I found that there is no such thing as a simple website, once clients are involved. So I'd be curious as to what that might look like.

Content creation. I've done some content creation processes using inexpensive resources on Fiverr or Upwork or something like that. Is this from an SEO stand point? I'm curious, as to where this comes from?

Another one, web design process. How to build it and go live. Makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of moving parts with the website. And so process for doing a website design is very, very important. I think it's a price to pay, if you're going to do any website stuff. You really need a process to map it out.

So what processes are not working? Thomas thinks the RACI matrix. I'm going to answer Rosemary's question here. Does anybody know a project management tool is accessible for the visually impaired, one of our project manager is blind. Unless it needs something that works for the site reader. That's good question. I don't know if I know the answer to that right off the top of my head. I can Google it but I think others, if you can give Rosemary an answer there, will be great as well. Do you know any project management tools for visually impaired or that work well with visually impaired?

What processes are not working for your agency? First, I want to say that, project work isn't working. Specifically, the steps to starting a project. Basically researching, scoping the work and everything. An on-boarding process will really work here or sales process. So hopefully you're getting some ideas here, to how people are doing that. And how it can work.

Need more human resources, hiring evaluation, account management, up-selling. We're doing the employment section this week, so there should be quite a few ideas around HR or how do you hire, how do you get that process going?

I've written a bunch about this topic because I never see enough about the hiring process. So if you look at some of my articles, you can see how we did it and how we worked through it, and also from this section. So hopefully this will help you out. Lessons 21 through 25 should be really helpful here.

Sometimes we move faster than the process we have in place. But you can see how consistently a process can make a difference. Here is the thing. You will always move faster than your process. That's just how it goes. It's frustrating, it's annoying, it feels like you're falling behind but recognizing is half the battle. Basically, you're always going to fall behind your process. Because of the way things change and the way the things move.

The key though is governance. It's to basically say, if you're falling behind the process, somebody needs to make the call and say, okay we're just changing the process, we're just making this change. And it takes work, it takes finagling with technology to get it to work, but it's necessary. If something changes or something is not needed anymore, you modify your process.

Now it can be as simple as deleting tasks from your project plan. It could be something where you change your documentation or you move things around. It could be a bunch of different things. But it does get time consuming to change things. But it also means that you're not making the same mistake over and over again. That's what I liken it. Basically if you create one project plan or one process, then you duplicate it a 100 times, right? If you realize that you're wrong on version 1, then you're going to have 99 copies that you have to fix.

Or do you perfect that process as much as you can on one and then move it to number two and then move it to number three. Really depends on how quickly you're moving, right? So if you're moving fast then yes, if you change it, it's going to have this ripple effect to everything you do.

I think that part of it is, if you're moving so fast that you have one plan that gets morphed into 99, then you're probably have to be at the point where you can hire somebody whose job is just to handle that. And if you can't have somebody handle that piece then you either need to make that as a part of somebody's role or you need to just really think and say, is this truly moving so fast that we cannot have a process in place. Because that may be the case. It may be that way. But as you say here, consistency is really a big thing. I couldn't agree more.

Managing creative work. Yes. Managing creative people in the work they do is hard to follow in a process. Just like how I've mentioned with websites, how it can be difficult with clients. Creative is the thing where everybody gets an opinion. People get as hard of a line on opinions as they do on creative, no doubt about it.

Lead generation. You're going to work on it over Christmas break. Awesome. I think lead generation, it is hard to turn it into a process, because as we were saying it is putting out a bunch of goodwill, putting out a bunch of vibes out there and then hoping that people come in and see you and doing inbound marketing. How do you turn that into a process?

I think part of it is just to focus on it. Your process can just be to do something that promotes your business one hour a day. Maybe that's the only process you have. But that is a process to do that is to get it done one hour a day.

Having trouble with building advanced websites. Yeah because it's really hard to have a process for an advanced website, because it is so customized, for sure.

Going from design to marketing implementation. I can see how that can be a problem. Because website design is project focused, so the project is done. When the project is done, when the website is live then marketing is something that's on-going. How do you implement that?

Especially, one of the things that I've found is that when you work on this area, website gets a 100% focus and then marketing is an afterthought. Yet marketing thrives on what you put into the website.

I was just working on a client project where that happened. They’re redesigning their website and we were trying to implement analytics on their site, some marketing type things proactively. And the web design agency was like, oh no, we're not going to do any of those things until after launch. It's like what's the point then? If we are going to have to redesign this website and how do we get this done.

So, I would say, that is difficult. Now the key that I found to go from website design to market implementation is to not consider a transition. To consider a marketing implementation part of the website design. It's the only way I found to get it to work.

Describe your process. A few of you have answered this one. Basically setting up all the tasks necessary to get your client started, is one on here.

The next process is, once the job is awarded, it moves a start up call. This helps you meet the agency team that you'll be working with but also understand the scope, expectations from the agency and client.

There are a few questions I have on here, few things that I want to clarify. Assuming a job is awarded after you put in a bid, so you don't have to do a lot of upfront work. A lot of times when I'm bidding, I have to do a lot of upfront work to scope it out, before I'm even awarded the job. And the other thing is usually I've talked to that team a few times. So usually I will talk, scope something out, submit the bid. And then if you win the contract, then you sort of already know the team you're going to be working with.

This sounds more like you bid blind or bid on a project based on the definition but then you don't know if you're going to get it or not. But then, once you get it, you don't know who you're going to be working with. So that's sort of interesting. I can see how that can complicate your process. But also it means that on-boarding is even more important than you can imagine. Because you basically have to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. So I can see how that's really important in your industry.

Statement of Work and workflow to be delivered with expectations from both the agency and the client. Makes sense.

Start with this meeting about their needs to develop a strategy and scope of work and then implement and train the clients. That makes sense as well.

So, this is just an example. Our process helps agencies and production companies know that we are very mindful and detailed as to how we approach every job and therefore it brings back a great deal of repeat business. That's great.

This is Robert putting in. You're working in very specific production projects, with a very specific set of skills, in very competitive yet very unique in what you do. And so you can use processes as a differentiator. Because you have your ducks in a row, because you manage the process better than the other ones that are bidding, you can deliver consistent work and you can get the results that they are expecting. So that's really cool. So process in this case is a differentiator.

I am not sure about anybody else in this call, but when you think about it, if it's hard for you to define what your process is and how you should do things, or if you think that it’s super complex, everybody else in your industry is probably has the same thought, right? They are probably thinking that it's really complex and hard to do as well.

And so one way to differentiate is to make it less complex by having a process in place by taking your common ways of doing things and documenting them and making them available. I think it makes a lot of sense as a differentiation point. How are you different than others and how does your process make you better? And it's especially nice if these other people have no process at all. Because that truly is a point of differentiation.

Do you have any contract advice that you want to share with the group?

Carlos we talk a little bit about language and then I send link to some sites that I recommend for contracts, Nolo and LegalZoom. If you listened to any podcast ever, you've probably heard of LegalZoom. They have templates that you might want to start with.

I think that's a good way to go through this, is to start with somebody else's templates and legalese and items. And then use some of the advice from our video about how do you limit your scope and how do you handle this? Because that’s really what a lawyer would recommend to you. And I've talked to way too many lawyers in my life about that type of stuff.

Robert is saying, they never skimp by the contracts because if you’re burned once, that's all that it takes. That's a warning we should all heed, right? Don't look at contracts. I know a lot of you never had a lawyer look at it or you don't look at it very often. But this is coming from somebody who has been burned. It seems like with Robert's production company, with what they work on, they are working on six figures to million dollar projects. And if you get burnt once in those projects, that is all that it takes.

Now it may seem like for the rest of you, that perhaps your projects are lower in value, that you don't really need to worry about it. And that is somewhat true. The stakes are lower but also if it's a lower value project it's still probably a high percentage of what you're doing, right? It could be a high percentage of your revenue for the agency.

So it doesn't mean that you should skimp on these things. You really need to be careful there. I would recommend that everybody watches the lesson that we have about legal. And about how you get a contract going and then starting from there. And we can round it out and you can ask specific questions.

Okay, so that is the free form answers and we have the survey answers as well. The only thing that we don't have is a clear indicator of what project management tools everybody uses. So I'm going to go and look at those results again and I'll read those off. But while you're at it, I know we're running a little bit over about an hour into this call after our technology issues.

So, let's hear your questions. What questions do you have? If you have something on the side bar and I missed it, just bump it up to the top, so I can take a look at it. Let's just answer your questions. So that's what we're going to do for the rest of the time in our call today.

Some more votes on project management tools. Mavenlink, that is what Stephen has written. Asana, Asana, Asana, so a lot of people are using Asana. I am not sure if that's because I talked about it or if that's just a weird coincidence. I love Asana. It's probably my favorite. I've tried way too many project management tools and I don't like any of them. But I like Asana. And so it's cool to see that you're all doing that as well and so that's great.

Alright, I'm wondering if I'm still online. Can you still hear me? I'm not seeing many questions. Okay, you guys can hear me, awesome. Alright, everybody, I know this is the last thing before many of you taking a vacation or public holidays or whatever is going on. So I'm not going to keep you any longer than you need to be here.

Jason, great question. What do I think about hiring part time employees as a pipe line for full time talent? I think it's a great idea. I think if you can minimize your risk and bring somebody on for short amount of time while you're figuring out what you want to do. Makes sense. You've half the risk at half time as you do it full time. And sometimes there is even, you don't have to pay benefits or other reasons to do that. We can make them a contractor, temporarily.

Now the hard part is, sometimes when you hire people who are willing to work temporarily for you, you're not digging into the deepest talent pool. Because if somebody is available and they are super good, then why would they only work for you half time. Or why would they accept a trial when there is a ton of people out there who are willing to pay for full time.

Why would they do that? So what do you have to offer them that's unique? Is it your experience, is it your leadership, is it the amount of money that they can get? Do you see them as an up and comer, there is a lot of talent and they just need some place to put it? Are they working part time while they have their job? Because they need security as well and they are working at their normal job, and they're working part time with you to see if they can leave their job, because they want to join your agency.

So those are situation where it makes a lot of sense. They are just looking for experience or getting going. How long is that person going to stay with you? How long is that person going to be in that position before they need to take care of their own needs?

Now I share a story, I’m not sure if it's been published yet, I don't think it has. But I share my story about how I was a temp, not even a temp, I was a contractor for my agency, the agency that I'm the owner in and that lasted for two years. I was just doing contract work with them and then I came in as a partner, as an owner in the agency. And so that's one story where I worked half time for these people then eventually decided to come on full time and everything worked out. So if you can find that arrangement, go for it.

I've also since then, I've interviewed thousands of people and hired 50 to 100 people, and I had thousands of people in my classes and students and everything. And very rarely as a deal that I had a deal that comes across. Now might be because of just the timing of it happened. There is a million reasons why that deal doesn't happen very often, but I just want to make sure you realize that, that's what exactly happened for me, what you're describing. But also I don't know if that's the exception or the rule. I guess more of the exception.

So just keep in mind and make sure that you are clear with yourself and the other person about what the growth opportunities are and what you want to get out of it. Hopeful that helps you understand their motivation versus your motivations.

Now also in my situation I actually used the half time contract to get out of my normal job, because I was looking to take the plunge. It was exactly what I needed to take that plunge.

Stephen wants to know, would you put a non-expert in-charge of a process, that takes an expert to do the work? How much functional knowledge does the project manager have? How many times can a client be told “I'll check with the team and get back to you, before the client loses trust”? You just hit the nail in the head, in adding layers works. Basically, it can be difficult, if someone doesn't know what's going on and they are trying to lead the client.

So there are a few ways you can structure the agency. There is the true agency model, where you have multiple layers and rings of people surrounding the work and protecting your team and insulating your team from the client. Or you can make a decision to only have a team that is experts and only people who talk to the clients are subject matter experts. It's really your choice.

Now how many times can a client hear that? There is almost no way to tell you the number of times. I've been in a lot of places where clients hear that and actually a lot of clients are pretty tolerant. They are just like, okay, this is the status update, I don't expect you to know everything. But also some clients can get frustrated.

Depends on the size of the company. Generally speaking, if it's a big company and you're working at the big agency, a lot of people are MBA types people, who are used to bigger organization and they are not used to immediate answers.

A big client doesn't expect immediate answers because they are big company and they don't ever get immediate answers to anything. They are actually more tolerant than you think. They think it’s just more of an annoyance from you being a subject matter expert, wondering why everybody else can't have your same expertise. And that's a hard thing. I'm still not completely over that. It's just being subject matter expert and then dealing with people who don't have that level of subject matter expertise.

So, I think it's more perceived in your mind that clients are going to get super annoyed than they may actually be. Because I think they don't expect to have all the answers, they just expect to be able to talk to somebody and to get at the answers. That's how my opinion has changed over the years. Probably wouldn't have answered the same way three years ago.

Strategies to say no to organization that don't fit your sales strategy. They are too small, you still want to remain in their good grades especially at a small town. Yeah, that's a good one, Rosemary.

My strategy is a few things. It is exactly what you're saying. The strategy, what you're saying is to say no, but to leave them with some kind of good will. And so that's the strategy. Tactics you use to do that. Sometimes I'll just flat out say I'm really busy with something right now. I am working on a big project and I like to put all my efforts into my projects, and it's going to be done in a time frame that's way in the future. And then sort of works itself out, they'll go find somebody else.

Sometimes I'll say, this just doesn’t seem like a good fit for me. I am really focusing on this now, instead of that. And this isn't what you need. And then I'll say, if you want I can try to find some other people, I have some friends in this industry I can share with you. Then you push it down the line.

Sometimes if it's a small client you don't want to push it on to somebody else. But there are people who just want anything, right? For every one person who has a strategy in place like yourself, like a sales strategy and has an idea as to who they want in place and who has the experience and the fortitude to say no to somebody. To say no, I'm not going to do this, I am not the right person. There is somebody who is desperate. So maybe I guess you find the desperate person or you give a list of names or you don't even give a specific person, you just say here are some agencies that I know in town.

It's funny, I've done all those things and it's really hard to tell the reaction. They are grateful within the reaction that they send to me, like thank you so much for doing that. I never get, oh wow I can't believe you're too big time for me.

Anytime you say, I am focused so much on delivering great work, I don't want to give you poor work because I'm focused on somebody else. They are always going to say oh, that's great, I appreciate it. Thanks for the heads up.

And I don't get feedback on whether I passed to them a good lead that worked out. Unless it's a really close relationship, where they, hey this one is working out. So usually I'll feed it out if it's a really small fries, I will feed it out to somebody who is looking to go out on their own and freelancing on the side.

Because there is usually nothing to lose there. They don't have the same standards or clients. That's usually what I do. And then if it's a big opportunity and I just don't want to do it, because I don't have that expertise, I am not focused. Then I'll try to turn it into a good relationship building thing, to pay somebody back for a lead they gave me.

Thomas asked, strategic partners where you hand off projects back and forth. I think that make sense as well. I think also again the perception that somebody will be super mad, if you say you're not available or you don't want to work with them, it really depends on how the relationship comes in.

If a friend goes on the line and introduces you, that can be a situation that gets difficult. To tell a friend that their friend or whoever they are recommending is not the right one. Again, my strategy for better or worse is to make myself scarce and to say that I can't do anything new. Or that I don't work with individuals or that it doesn't fit my scenario or that doesn't fit what I'm going after. Or that it's not my focus anymore.

Basically just be honest and say, I don't do that anymore, it's not a good fit for me. Everybody respects that, if that's really what's going on. Even if it's not really what's going on they respect it, if that's what you say you're doing.

Anymore questions?

Okay, this is our last chance before the new year to have your questions answered.

Awesome. I think this is a really good call. And I appreciate everybody sticking around and hanging with us. And I look forward to seeing you again. I believe it's going to be on January 3rd, maybe 4th. It should be on your calendar. So you can schedule that.

I look forward to talking to you then.

Thank you.