Okay looks like we are live. This might take a second for it to pop in but if anybody can hear me, let me know in the chat box.
We are coming at you from Tallinn in Estonia. It’s about 9 o’clock here and there’s the midnight sun. The sun goes down but it never really goes all the way down. It sets but then it just sits there from about 10:30 to 2:30 in the morning. This is my last hurrah and then I go back to the US tomorrow.
I’m here for a conference. An awesome conference. Probably one of the best conferences that I’ve been to in a long time. I was invigorated. It was very enjoyable and just awesome feedback. I met a lot of students actually. Some Agency, PPC and Analytics Course students. Probably about 10 or 15 people came up to me here and said that they learned analytics from me so that’s really cool feedback to hear.
I did run into, like I said, an Agency Course person and that was pretty fun. His name is Andres. He’s from Estonia. I think that was the only one in the crowd from our course but other people came in as well so it’s always cool. We’ve had our one-on-one calls and talked about a lot of stuff. It’s really cool to do that and to see each other on video but then to see each other in person, shake hands and everything, that’s really cool. I’m riding the high from seeing some of you in person this weekend and this week.
Looks like Jason can hear me alright so that’s good. Let you guys all take a chance to trickle in. I know we get busy in other things. I’m going to just give people a few minutes to trickle in. While I’m doing that, I’m going to pull up the results of our little survey and have that going on the screen too. Just give me one second.
Jason wants to know if I will be at MeasureCamp at San Francisco. I will not, unfortunately. I go to San Francisco very little nowadays. I’ve been there once this year. Not sure when I’ll be back next actually. When is it, Jason? I do have it on my calendar to get tickets for MeasureCamp. Oh it’s the 22nd of July. Okay yeah I won’t be making that but I do have it on my calendar to try to join the London one in September. Let’s see if I can make that.
If you do have the chance to go, MeasureCamp is awesome. I think this is the first one in San Francisco but it’s pretty neat to see it in action. I would recommend it to all of you to attend a MeasureCamp in your local area, especially if you’re in analytics.
Okay looks like a few people have jumped in. I know people will start to jump in as they can so I’m just going to go ahead and get into this.
The survey we have here is basically about the process we have in our agency, where you’re at and where you’re going.
About 17 people from the course have responded to each of these. So first question: ‘how would you rate the level of process adopted by your agency?’
Looks like the majority are in the middle. Somewhere between ‘beginning to implement’ or not implementing at all. The average for the respondents is 2.4. The most common one that you rated yourself was a 3, being ‘beginning to implement’.
It’s funny, even if you look at the big agencies, I would say that most agencies are in a 3 to 4. You can hover in that area and be ‘beginning to implement’ process for a long time.
Obviously, the sooner you can get a process in place, the better you’re going to be. Just know that it’s going to be changing over time and so one of the hardest parts for an agency is to commit. ‘This is our process and how we’re going to always be doing things’. Or to be honest with themselves, ‘this is the point in time we’re going to be doing the process piece and putting process into place’. As you can see, it does skew even below that so there are people who have no process or beginning to, or somewhere between no and just beginning.
‘How many years have you been in business?’
Some of you on this call haven’t even started yet. Some of you are just getting started. People on this call right now have been in business for 5+ years and so it’s all across the board for where people are in this area.
As you can see, there are companies that have been in place for a long time but they still haven’t mastered process. That’s what I was talking about just a minute ago, is that no matter how long you’ve been in business, it takes a long time to consider yourself a process master.
I would say that most agencies don’t ever get to that ‘5’ level. You can get to be a solid ‘4’ but to consider yourself a pro with process, it’s very difficult. As you develop that process and improve it, we have to deal with changing technology, staff or objectives, adding new services, deciding to remove services… whatever that ends up being. It’s a lot of work to maintain a level of service and maintain that list of services that you put out there. It doesn’t faze me at all really. I think that’s pretty normal.
‘Does agency process have a dedicated role on your team?’
So ‘no’ – 10 of you; 7 say ‘yes’. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I’ve mentioned it in a few videos and one-on-ones but I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned it in one of these calls. That is, what are the roles for your agency team and what should you have?
In Estonia, where I am right now, I’ve been hanging out with a guy named Sujin Patel. He’s a very well-known content marketing person and has an agency. It’s an Australian agency called Web Profits that he is a part of. He’s bringing content marketing to them. We were talking about a conversation he had with his partners at the company.
Since they’ve been selling all these deals, he was talking about where he should be investing now that he’s busy. The first thing he said was ‘what I really need is a Project Manager’. Basically, he wanted somebody in place for process. It would be his second or third hire in the team.
I said to him, ‘That’s probably not the best second hire that you can put out there. You might want to have your sales put in place so you’re always getting sales. Then, make sure you have the delivery in place, and then start to put process in place. Having an Operations Manager who handles process is almost overkill when you’re just getting started. They’re going to be managing this process when there’s not enough business or sales coming in or not enough production capacity to get things done. They’re going to be managing one person. You don’t need one Project Manager for every one production resource. As you grow the business, the way that you would do it is probably not exactly in that order.’
He said that’s what his business partners told him as well. They said, ‘first thing you should do is get a sales person and just get your sales up there. You can have enough revenue to have the luxury of having more production and project management’.
And so, looking at your team, where you might be, where you’re coming along and where you see yourself going, these are things that we should all consider. That is, process is very important. If you don’t have enough capacity to get the work done, no project plan or process is going to save you.
Now this is a balancing act and something we can talk about when you put your questions in and when we share your questions. It is if you want to invest in order to get ahead of the game.
So say that it is you, you and your partner or whoever right now, is it worthwhile to develop process now before you start hiring employees and going through things to say ‘oh here’s our process and you need to follow it’? That would mean that you can hire somebody who can get up to speed faster. You won’t have to do as much hand-holding because they have a project plan for how things should work, or you have a blueprint for where they should go.
I do agree with that. You should, to the extent that you’re capable, have a process and plan for doing things. For example, I have a process and plan for developing the online courses we have, and if I’m mapping out or doing client work. It is important to do that but there’s a fine line between too much process and just enough. I would say having just enough process to get things done and being consistent is where you want to be until you can appoint somebody to be that dedicated role. Hopefully that’s helpful for you all to think about it from that perspective.
Going back to that conversation with Sujin. What I was saying is that, the most important role in getting off the ground is revenue. Revenue is definitely the most important thing you can do, is to get revenue in the door. Then eventually, if you have good process, you can get a lot of production done from the process or having people in place to take care of things based on the process you set forth.
The second investment could be operations. Depending on how busy you are, it could be production resources to work on that light plan that you put in place, then maybe you add process later. My agency didn’t have a Project Manager or a process-czar until employee number 12. It was interesting how it unfolded though.
I was brought in as a partner in the business and the 5th full-time person there. My job was to develop the process out from one of the founders that was going in place. Then, funny as it is, I hated doing it and I was really good at the production piece and selling stuff. They let me go do that, and then brought in another person to do that and that person ended up going elsewhere. Between hires number 2 to 11, we actually envisioned that everybody was going to be the process person but it took until about number 12 for that to actually stick.
That’s just my experience but it also makes logical sense if that’s what you do. There’s a lot more value in getting revenue and getting the work done so you can continue to get revenue and having this perfect process.
The other thing is, from an overhead standpoint, it takes several employees until you can absorb the cost of a high-level Project Manager or somebody who’s in charge of the work. If you look at the investment that you’re making in that resource, you do have to have enough revenue so that it doesn’t cut into your margins too much.
As you go through this, the salesperson pays for themselves because they’re bringing in sales. The production team pays for themselves because they’re producing the work that you sold. But somebody who’s in charge of process – that becomes an expense because they’re not billable nor pushing your sales. So just a little bit of insight from my experience and experience that I’ve seen from others out there.
Okay moving on.
‘Do you have a formal client onboarding process?’
Many people have ‘no’; some say ‘yes’. We go through onboarding in the course. I think onboarding is very important. I’ll give you an example of why it’s important.
My own consulting that I’m doing right now – I was working with another agency, helping them get their team up to speed. They started peppering me with emails last night, asking me if I could do a call the next morning at whatever time it was. I was like ‘yeah that’s not going to work for me. If you’re going to go through this process and work with me, we need to have a more formal process. I can’t do everything willy-nilly like you do as an agency’.
The reason why the agency was bringing me in to work with them was because they didn’t have a process. They had almost no process at all. They didn’t know how to onboard clients, set expectation with clients or get a client to do what they needed them to do. It is important to have a formal onboarding process because it kicks off everything else that goes on in your business.
What do I mean by that? For example, everything that you do from signing the contract through delivering the work and expectations is going on in that onboarding process. If you sign a contract and don’t get on the same page with the client, they’re immediately going to be disappointed.
That’s exactly what’s happening to some agencies that I consult with. Their clients are unhappy and they’re not sure why. Then I start to look at the results they delivered. I ask them questions about what the client’s expectations are, and it’s pretty obvious why the client is unhappy. That is because they didn’t set expectations with them as to what they’re going to deliver, nor did they deliver the results that the client expected.
Those two things can happen at the same time. The client can have expectations even if you don’t set them. For example, they probably expect that if you’re going to be managing an analytics account, you’re going to make their data clean. If you manage an SEO account, your search rankings are going to go up and traffic from organic search are going to go up.
Those are implicit expectations. Anybody can figure that out. That’s what a client wants. If you are managing AdWords, they want their costs to go down and leads to go up. They want to get more efficient. That’s why they’re paying somebody to do this – to become more efficient for them.
These are all implicit things that are expectations from clients. If you don’t ask what those are and assume that you know what’s best for the client, or that they don’t care or are too dumb to know the answer to that, you’re going to have a disconnect and be wondering why you can’t hold on to a client or never delivering to their expectations.
It’s obvious why you’re not delivering to their expectations. An onboarding process really is the key to doing this. Yes, we know how to do the work and get the work done but we don’t always know what the client expects. Even if we get the work done, is the client going to be happy or consider this to be successful? No. They won’t be if you don’t have a formal onboarding process.
‘Formal’ might be a scary word when you’re thinking about it. You need to have a formal process. It can be as simple as ‘hey we’ve signed a contract. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to, or try to reduce your cost per lead from $50 to $40 over the course of the next 3 months. The 1st month we take over is going to be just as good or the same as the other one because we’re just getting to know your account or making our changes. Then, we’re going to gradually make updates, and then our goal after that is continue to increase number of leads you get and lower your cost per lead’.
One email, two paragraphs. Now you’ve set up an onboarding process with your client. You can tell them who their main point of contact’s going to be, what systems you need to have in place, what you need in order to do that.
What do you need to do that? Do you need to have dedicated landing pages, better tracking or put conversion tracking on the site? Do you need something like a Tag Manager because their incompetent web people are getting in the way? Do you need to have Tag Manager installed? What’s it going to take to get to that point?
So yes, I would recommend that you do have a formal process where you say ‘here’s how we’re working together, client’. But in absence of that, you can accomplish a lot with just a single email. Where you and other people are having problems all the time is that they assume they know what the client wants; and the client has an assumption or unreasonable expectation because they know what they need. What you think the client wants and what the client needs are usually two different things.
Clients are defined by certain objectives and that is, from a marketing perspective, how much they contribute to the growth of their company. If the company is consistently growing or doing really well, they don’t have a lot of pressure. If we’re guiding ourselves based on the metrics Google provides us, like cost per acquisition or the number of leads, that does not actually impact the growth of the company.
Believe it or not, it often doesn’t because leads are a nebulous concept – basically just a number. It’s like a +1 every time that somebody fills out your form. For not giving them what they need to grow their business, no matter how good the numbers look, that client is going to be unhappy.
The reason why I’m going in depth in this one is because it’s one, fresh in my mind; and two, this is the type of thing that agencies don’t understand is necessary. We just think that because we’re the experts, everybody should listen to us or care what we have to say. The most value you can provide is by blending and sharing your expertise with that of what the client needs. I think that goes without saying but at least you know that now. If you don’t or have questions on it, definitely leave me a question in the chat box.
‘What percentage of your clients pay on time?’
This is a good one. This is moving up beyond the onboarding process and just wondering if you have a process to get paid from clients and that they are paying on time. As you can see here, somewhere between 40%-80% of clients are paying on time. There are 6 people who responded ‘41-60%’; 2 that said ’61-80%’.
Now this is an interesting one. Ever since I called it out in our lessons for agency course, I’ve been paying attention to all the vendors I work with to see what payment terms are and how to get payment going. When I put out invoices, people pay on time the majority of the time.
There are times that you don’t get paid when you want to get paid. Sometimes it’s our own fault because we don’t build things out or we’re only doing billing once a month when the work is done. Sometimes we’re not clear on payment terms in our contract. Sometimes the client doesn’t pay because they’re busy or we sent it to the wrong person at the company.
This is pretty staggering here when you think about it, that a lot of us have less than half of our clients paying on time; or on average, a little bit more than half are paying on time. How do we get around that?
I might work this into the sales jumpstart course. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it yet but I was being pitched the other day by somebody who wanted to do content marketing for me. They tried to close me on the thing and get a down payment for the entire amount after a 20-minute phone call. While I admired that aggressiveness, I was like ‘man I don’t really know what I’m going to get for it’.
Having been a service provider myself, I understand that. And now being a business owner, I understand that as a business owner, you need to represent what you’re going to get for that money. Even if somebody sounds good or you like what they’re doing, it’s a risk to take on to pay somebody upfront.
I know some of you just ask for a credit card upfront and say ‘I won’t work with you unless you pay upfront’. Some people just do the traditional invoicing or put terms in there. But part of the reason why clients don’t pay on time is we don’t bill them soon enough. The other one is we just don’t set expectations once again. For those of you who are just getting started with your agency, this number should be something to pay attention to.
‘How long does it take for your clients to issue payment?’
We’re saying ‘30-45 days’ and ’16-30 days’. So it takes somewhere between 15 and 45 days for the majority of our clients to pay. Can you absorb not getting paid for 15-45 days from half of your clients? Is that something you can live with and something that your business would be able to absorb and work with? Most would. If it gets longer or bigger than that, that can be really difficult.
The other thing is, payment is not just about clients issuing payment or writing you the check. Payment in my mind just means from when you send the invoice to when they send the payment. What if you don’t have milestones for billing and you put all the billing for the project to the very end, and the project takes a year to complete?
I had a client several years ago, thankfully, who I was doing an audit and some implementation. I would be done with the recommendations usually within 2 or 3 days after they asked. They would get back to me 30 to 40, or maybe 60 days later, and then I would turn it around in 2 or 3 days. It worked that way on and off for about a year before we finally got the project done.
In those old days, I guess I wasn’t smart enough to put incremental billing in there to make sure I got paid along the way. Now it’s written in there. Once you get this part, or we do this, then we get paid. It’s really important to make sure you can get billed. My accounts receivable is very low right now because I learned from those mistakes. Hopefully you understand that as well. This is not just a process thing. It’s partially, we forget to bill or get so busy that we don’t bill it out right away.
That just adds to our time for payment. The thing is we don’t write quality statements of work and aren’t clear with the terms, so we can’t even bill it as it’s written. Now that’s the most dangerous thing. We can all get past our own laziness or busyness with somebody like a bookkeeper, an Account Manager or somebody on your team to handle that, but we can’t really get past the other piece. Keep that in mind as you go forward.
‘How much cash flow does your agency try to keep on hand?’
‘1 month’, ‘2 months’, some are in debt, ‘3 months’… it’s a little bit across the board here. I don’t have the answer for the other in front of me right now but that’s a good amount. For most of you, I would try to get up higher than that. 1 or 2 months is alright when you’re getting started off but a minimum of 3 months, and preferably 6 or more months of cash flow would be really useful.
I know that changes depending on the time of the year. If you take a draw or have to pay taxes for your company, that will make your reserves go down. Just try to save as much as you can and obviously not do too big a distribution to your company.
Keeping as much cash in there is obviously the best way to go because this is a cashflow-intensive business. You got to pay out employees, vendors and then yourself. That’s usually how it ends up going. You pay yourself first, you might not have any money left to pay your vendors or employees. We talk about that a lot in the course as well.
‘Does your agency have a line of credit?’
Many say ‘no’. 12 say ‘no’; 3 say ‘yes’. If you have the capability to get a line of credit, it makes a lot of sense. A lot of times you can do that right on top of your existing business banking account. They’ll give you a free line of credit or capability to do that. It’s definitely worthwhile. Their rates aren’t always great. You can get a specific line of credit that can give you better rates. You should shop around for that.
If you aren’t happy with the rate, think about that as a good safety net in case you’re in this area because if the majority of you only gets paid after 30+ days with only a month’s cash flow on hand, a lot of you could be dipping into that line of credit or needing to do that.
It probably wouldn’t be your fault. It could be that something gets lost in the mail, something happens or there are 3 pay periods over the course of a month. Just make sure you understand that this ’31-45 days’ plus ‘this client’s not paying on time’ plus ‘1 month of cash flow’ does not bode well for the payroll crunch.
Fortunately, many have not received a payroll crunch. I’m guessing that a few of these noes are actually those of you who haven’t even started your agency yet. Keep that in mind because it can get to be really tight.
Okay moving on.
‘Does your agency consult a lawyer when drafting contracts?’
The majority says ‘no’. I’m a little surprised by that. I would say you should consult a lawyer at least for your first contract. In our course, we have provided some resources that give you some off-the-shelf type stuff but having a nice conversation for maybe an hour for the first two statements of work, or a few of them for contracts with a lawyer would take you a long way. I still utilize the advice that a lawyer gave me a long time ago over and over again when drafting contracts.
Remember when we talked about not to use marketing language in your contract. Be very clear with the terms and what you will do. This is your way of writing what you’re going to do, when you’re going to get paid and how you’re going to deliver that work. It’s something you want to use to protect yourself. If you don’t do it, it can cause a lot of problems in the long run, and so you should consult a lawyer.
Yes, it might be expensive on a per hour basis but you’re also probably expensive on a per hour basis. Lawyers actually don’t charge that much more. They probably charge about the same as a lot of us charge our clients for marketing services, and they have an advanced degree and a lot of knowledge that can help you.
The other thing is, the return on investments is amazing. If I’ve had 5 conversations with lawyers over the years and I can still cite those conversations and use them to make better agreements, the return on that investment is amazing. Yes, I paid them a lot per hour but the value is something that has lasted for years. So I pay for the hour and get experience and institutional knowledge for the organization for years. That’s how you have to look at this. It’s not about how much their hourly rate is.
The other thing is, you’re charging a high hourly rate as well so it’s not like you can just say ‘oh that’s expensive’. You’re doing the same thing for your clients, hopefully.
‘Do you use a project management tool for your agency?’ The majority of you say ‘yes’. We’ll get into some of the details of what you say on there in just a minute.
Okay so that’s the survey portion and some of my thoughts on it. We’re about halfway through. Start getting your questions in there. Some of you have done some freeform answers so I’m going to go through those, just to give some ideas as to what’s working for agencies and what’s not.
In addition to that, I want the questions from those of you who are on the live call as well. Start typing into the chat box and while those are coming in, I’m going to go to the ones who had answered questions.
So the first one is ‘what processes are working at or for your agency?’
‘Recently, we’ve implemented a PM tool in Google Sheets. At the start of each week, it serves as a master to-do list, budgeting and time-tracking tool. How it works is outlining what they have to go on for each client or non-billable initiative. They’ll guess how many hours they’re expected to take and adjust actual up or down as they check items out the list.
As a week goes on, tasks get categorized as ‘done’, ‘in progress’, ‘push to next week’ or ‘cancel’. Just a few other columns to help us with quarterly planning and analysis – Who’s the lead? Is it client work?
I’m not sure what this next one is, if it’s administration or client work. What’s the project billing code and any comments on it? On a daily basis, it serves as their to-do list. Weekly, serves as a timesheet and quarterly, it’s used for adcomp planning.’
I like that a lot. It’s actually brilliant. It almost seems like what we’ll talk about in a future lesson, which I think you’ve probably already gotten to. Some of the EOS stuff that my agency does as well is to map out what’s getting in our way of process right now and how we’re going to use that to accomplish our long-term goals.
‘There’s another process which is, after working to the course, they created a landing page client process and a client onboarding process. It’s helped to ensure that their approach is consistent from client to client. It has also allowed them to prepare more accurate estimates and plan projects more effectively. Those are done in Google slides, presentations… As playbooks, using flowcharts to outline the overall process and checklist to make sure that each step is done properly.’
I love that. It’s great. I’m not sure whose response this is. I don’t have names assigned to these but that’s really a great way to do it. It’s basically to go through and create… I like the word ‘playbooks’ too. We use the word ‘powerplays’ when we were starting our processes as well. There are a lot of different ways you can map these stuff out. The more you can have a repository of how you do things, the more consistent it’s going to be and the more your clients are going to be happy.
This stuff tails very nicely into what we just talked about from the survey perspective. The survey’s telling us that a lot of us don’t have these formal or onboarding processes. As you can see, some people taking this course are acting on it right now. That’s what I encourage all of you to do. Depending on where you’re at with your agency, start acting on these and working through it.
Another one says ‘a sales process’. They’ve built out of AdWords building process and management process.
I think that’s great. What we’ve talked about specifically to AdWords – this is something I discovered – is that building out an account is different than managing it. You want to develop a process for each one and the steps that you go through in order to get there.
Obviously, every sale is a little bit different because we need to give different information and sell somebody on our services for that to work well. That’s the only detail behind that one. Sounds like a lot of you are taking the things you’ve learned in this course and starting to apply it. I’m assuming it’s those who are or were a little bit further along when you got started. Now you’re branching into getting more processes. That’s great to see.
‘What processes are not working?’
One says they do too many of the same things in customized ways for clients when they don’t need to be customized. For example, each client gets a monthly status update that lines a project status, notes and next steps. ‘For some clients, we do this in a separate Word document and save it directly to their intranet. For others, we do this directly on the invoice in Freshbooks. For others we do it in Slack.‘
Yeah I can see how that can be frustrating since you’re accommodating to whatever platform they have. That can be difficult to know the process. It’s not particularly difficult to do it for one or two. But it’s when you’re inconsistent and you add new team members and don’t have it documented as to what needs to be done, then you created a bottleneck. Basically, the person with that specialized knowledge is the only one who can do it, and then you become a bottleneck for your business.
‘Working on a way to implement to automatically generate status updates based on a PM tool that you mentioned earlier. We should be standardizing this entire process by providing a separate Google Sheet for each client, with their monthly update generated with the click of a ‘run report’ button that summarizes the tasks from that month. Some human intervention may still be required to improve presentation.’
Yeah, one thing I would tell you is that automating reporting is always a pet peeve of everybody. We want to have that done but it’s always a bigger promise than it can deliver. Purely automating a process will take away one of your competitive edges as an agency, which is a level of service that you provide. It’s actually the last Agency Sage post that I put out last week, that your competitive edge is you have the service. Not that you’re the fastest, it’s that you make it personalized.
You do need some human intervention there. You can’t just send out these automated reports. Otherwise, it’ll often do more harm than good. Even if you have the perfect template, it’s not personal, and they’re paying for the person. If they weren’t paying for a person, they would just use the software and do it themselves. They’d use something like WordStream for PPC. They just trust the automated Google Analytics stuff for Google Analytics.
The reason why they even have an agency in the equation is for that personal touch. You can’t be an agency when all you do is automate because they could just buy that off the shelf themselves unless you have this great piece of software. In that case, if you’re relying on software, you’re probably more like a software company.
Now overall, by doing some hybrid where you’re not doing everything custom and mailing it out but having a human intervention, it sounds like you’re able to save one day a month and resolve some Accounts Payable processing they’ve been facing as well, because they’re getting invoices out faster.
Now that’s brilliant. That’s really good. If you can have some kind of system surface out what you’ve done, make that piece easier, remind you need to do it and get out your invoices, or get it out to Accounts Payable so you can get your accounts receivable going, then yeah you’re going to get paid faster.
If what you need is to automate the reminder and just the chance to look at it, it’s absolutely worth your time to do that. I would say this process is or could be working pretty well for your agency. Just need to get it in place. But I would tell you – this is just my word to the wise since I’ve gone down this path many times – is that spending a lot of time trying to find the perfect way to do this in the perfect tool, it’s going to have almost zero or a negative return.
So letting ‘perfect’ get in the way of ‘good enough’ is going to be a negative return when it comes to telling your clients how much they owe you and generating those invoices. If you look for the perfect tool, you’ll never get it. Doesn’t exist. It’ll never be as perfect as a human, at least not for the next 30 to 50 years.
So use that as an opportunity to build out the bare minimum so that you can remind yourself to bill the clients and get the information they need. That’s what I would recommend. Yes, you can save a day but it’s more than just saving a day. It’s actually saving yourself a ton of hassle with cashflow and client relationships. It’s an excuse to reach out to your clients.
‘Describe your onboarding process.’
One says that they’re basically using the onboarding checklist from Lesson 16, which is great. Glad you’re going through that. We had mentioned a little more about onboarding processes. Not just from the lesson but also in general, like what’s the bare minimum you need. If anybody hasn’t started theirs yet, definitely look at Lesson 16 and just watch this call again.
‘Information gathered during the sales process is documented into a form. A client makes an initial payment and then an onboarding phone call is arranged with the Client Manager and Technical Manager. Any missing information from the sales process is requested. Process is discussed and any access requirements are raised.’
Okay. I think that’s great. This is the definition of an automated way of controlling this. If you can get them to submit information to you and make a payment, you get off your kick-off call. I like how you notice any missing information from the sales process. You request that process is discussed and then the access requirements are raised.
Since the sales process is going to be incomplete for the most part, especially if you have somebody other than yourself doing sales – somebody who hasn’t done the work – that’s a good way to fill in the missing gaps. Absolutely. I like that. Pay attention to this one. It’s a good example. Basically, submit the information into a form, client pays you, you onboard them and then you’d say ‘here’s where we have gaps in our information/process.’
‘Do you have a great client result case study?’
Sounds like nobody really has a perfect process yet. We’re just working on it. I see a lot of ‘not yet’ or ‘soon to be there but not yet’. Hopefully by the end of this course or on a future call, if we revisit this topic, you’ll be able to tell us about those results.
‘What project management tool do you have?’ – the final freeform question.
Trello, Podio, and Smartsheet because they like the flexibility of Gantt charts. I’d assume Smartsheet is like a spreadsheet, like you did Google Docs or Excel sheet.
Great. There are all kinds of different project management tools out there and different ways to manage tasks. It sounds like a few of you have them out there. If you want to look at Trello, I’ll just type it in there. The other one was Podio. Those are the ones you might want to look up yourselves.
That’s the end of our freeform responses to the survey. We have a good 20 minutes to go through your questions or however long it takes. I’m going to open up the floor now to hearing your questions. What’s on your mind? What would you like some advice on? How are things going for you?
How do you like my Estonian artwork behind me? It’s one of the most beautiful call locations I’ve had in a while.
Okay. Quiet one today. I wonder why you’re quiet. Is Tuesday a good time to do this? Tuesday at what I believe to be the afternoon in the US. It’s evening here in Europe. That might be part of the problem. Sort of adjusted the time so the Aussies and New Zealanders could make it on as well. Ha ha, Jason’s saying it’s not as nice as the computer box in the bed. Yes!
So during our Beta when we had these calls every week for 8 or 9 weeks, I had this computer box behind me because I was embarrassed about my location. The computer box became sort of a running joke. It might have to make an appearance once I’m travelling with that computer again. Let the computer box make an appearance because it’s pretty hilarious. I think it’s all duct taped up now. It’s not really in that good a shape so computer box might be seeing its last days.
Good to have you back on, Jason. There are Jason and Jason S. that we’re talking to. It’s the Jason show.
Where is everybody else? What are you all doing? What questions do you have?
Ian, I see that you’re on. You have a question to me. I was going to respond to you. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to respond with my jet lag and travel but I will get back to you. Probably first thing tomorrow morning.
Alright, everybody. I’m going to stick around and wait for questions to come in. It seems like we have a quiet group tonight. I will stick around and hopefully something comes in. Otherwise, it’s been good talking to you and hopefully you learn something new today.
This is my Estonian water.
Jason, good question. So Jason wants to know: ‘With early hires, do you think it makes sense to test them with documenting a process as they deliver work for clients?’
Absolutely, Jason. It’s never too early to get somebody in the habit of doing that type of work, whether you call it documenting or just sharing process, creating a project plan, keeping track of their steps, detailed records… whatever it is.
Going back to the story I told you about my agency. When I was brought in, I was supposed to document processes. I did that and actually had it all up and running. What ended up happening was, it no longer became a part of my job function. There was a difference between an independent contractor who in the stated work I would do.
Oh the sun just came down. The light’s all messed up now. When I came down to a full-time employment position, it was actually quite different… Oh there you go! Alright, now we’re back. Sun’s been blocked out. Sorry for that distraction.
Instead of being a contractor who is working on one particular project or client, expected to deliver that on a weekly basis in a very well-defined process, it went from that to the chaos that I mentioned.
It was selling to home improvement with doing all kinds of different things to grow that business. I actually had the process really well-documented for before. Then, we sold a million dollars off the new business to the home improvement industry and I was doing all the work, implementing and everything. I was like ‘there’s no way I’m going to document any of this.’
So for about a year or two, we went away from that and thought we could hire somebody to do it, or we could do this stuff. The growth that we had in place got in the way of doing a quality process here.
The reason why we let that happen was because we didn’t know how detrimental it was to running things the right way. There were a lot of things we did in the name of growth. I would never say I regret that but I would do it differently in this iteration.
For example, when it was a million-dollar company of 5 people, million dollars in revenue a year, with great documented processes, we had all the time in the world. Nobody was stressed out. There’s nothing crazy going on. But when you go to 2 million and have 10-15 people to get ahead of the curve, and you’re hearing your revenue per employee headcount goes down and drinking from this firehose of new information and things, you start to not do any of the things that was successful in this highly profitable 5-person company.
But in reality, we made more money by going to 2 million dollars because there’s more left over even if it was a bit lower per headcount revenue. If the margins weren’t as great, the total revenue was higher.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, it seemed like a good idea to go to 3, 5, 6, 7 million. But somewhere along the way, the initial methodical perfectly growing organization that we had on our hands, which was doing really well in its own right, got sacrificed in the name of growth. So yes, it’s never too early to instil that value. It’s a really good idea. But what I would say is, be consistent. Don’t lose sight nor sacrifice that in the name of growth.
Ian’s coming to MeasureCamp in Cardiff. Good. I saw you said that you’re coming to the London one too. Like I said, I have it on my calendar to try to get into that. Hopefully we can meet in person. I don’t know how to get to Cardiff but if it’s near Porto or there’s an easy way to go, let me know the dates and maybe I’ll try to meet you there too. We’ll see. I’m a little travelled out right now though.
Jason S: ‘I had the opportunity to join up with another agency with somebody much more experienced than you are, learning a lot and gaining great experience. Being thrown in the fire, a much-needed learning curve, I’m seeing that internal picture you mentioned somewhere, sort of a hybrid between finding my base client…’
Yeah you want to finish that off? We’re halfway through that one. if you can finish that off, we can talk about it.
While we’re doing that, I’m going to look at the Cardiff MeasureCamp. Oh July 5. That’s the release on July 29. Yeah I probably won’t be able to make that one.
Okay so Jason’s talking about the anchor client. Basically, Jason joins up another agency. Somebody’s more experienced and by doing that, you learn a lot, gain experience being thrown to the wolves and get your learning curve. You’re saying something about the internal picture, about being a hybrid between finding an anchor client on your own and then finding a partnership.
Yeah, if there’s another agency that’s asking you to jump in, they have revenue and have done a lot of the things that we’ve talked about in the course, and it’s early enough that you can still steer them in the right direction, then it takes a lot of your risk away.
That’s exactly what I did. I joined an agency that existed. Because it was low risk, I didn’t have to worry about payroll, benefits and stuff that I didn’t know was going on. How to have a sales process, write a contract… I was 22 years old. I didn’t know anything. And so it was beneficial to join in with that.
Now just some warning things I’d say, Jason S. As I went through it, I didn’t know a lot of things internally as well. I didn’t know a lot about how to manage a client. I also didn’t know how to have a proper equity agreement and expectations around what to do with the shares. How they were vested, how much they cost me, how much it costs, how much they made from them, how we distributed profits… a lot of different things that I didn’t know to ask.
If you did that, what you would sacrifice is, you could have 100% of a small pie with risk that is never going to work out. But, you have full control and a very clear picture, and put yourself fully in charge of how the direction of your company goes.
Or, you could have a smaller piece of potentially a bigger pie, at least in the short term, have some of the certainties that you need and the feeling of owning a company without all the pressure and risk.
For some people, option 1 seems like the only way to go. For other people, option 2 seems like a great way to go. I’ve done both and would say that’s my assessment of the difference between the two.
Now, I would not tell anybody to jump away from the opportunity to join another agency, become a minority partner or have some vesting in it. But you got to be clear with what your expectations are, like what are your objectives? Is it to build a team, a legacy or your own financial freedom? Is it short or long term revenue? Are you complementary in your skills?
For example, in our last session of this course, we had several people looking to team up. Basically, one subject matter expert with another. I’d recommended they didn’t do that because they still wouldn’t have addressed the problem of sales nor the need or people for operations. They would just have all these subject matter experts.
I think you need all three of those. If you’re going to have partners, one has to be in charge of sales. That’s first and foremost the most important thing. Somebody needs to be in charge of operations, basically making sure that you’re sound from a back office perspective. Then, you need subject matter experts.
If you can’t have those roles filled, joining up another agency is just going to perpetuate the problems that you could see down the road. So if you’re completely complementary to this person, you can add value and take some ownership out of it, then that’s a good idea.
You have to trust this person. They have to be willing and forthcoming with what their intents are and how they want to do things. The best time that you can ask somebody this question is before you get into a relationship with them. You should absolutely vet them and have all the stuff worked out.
Unless they’re paying you for the work as a contractor or something like that, I wouldn’t do anything without a formal agreement. That’s something I can say from my experience because I regret starting without doing that. It’s something that I’d recommend anybody to do.
So Jason S, I think this is a good idea to talk some more about your specific situations. If you want to send me an email or a personal message, we can get into more details. I want to share some general stuff for everybody on this call. It’s probably beneficial to do offline conversation on your specifics. So send me a note and we’ll get into it.
Awesome, Jason, I’m glad you like that. I was hoping I read into the answer the right way. It sounds like I did, but like I said, offers on the table if you want to talk some more.
Awesome, everybody. Any other questions? I was going to say, the guy who started MeasureCamp is called Peter O’Neill. He has a pretty successful agency called L3 Analytics. He might have changed the name but Peter’s a good guy. He started the whole thing and now it’s going crazy.
Starting that conference was probably the best thing he could have done for his business. When I first met him 3 or 4 years ago, it was just him. Then, he had a couple people and now he has 10 or 15. He’s put out so much goodwill into the analytics world that he couldn’t help but do it and succeed.
The funny thing is, MeasureCamp is like the least commercial thing in the world. He just did it for the love of it, and it’s ended up being a commercial success for him but in a pretty roundabout way. So when you think about what you’re doing and in ways to expand your reach, it’s not always about making a quick buck. I wouldn’t necessarily say Peter has a legacy now but it’s at a legacy point, how well he’s achieved with this MeasureCamp thing.
So what can you do that makes people want to be around and work with you? Is it speaking gigs, contributing to your community, starting something new? What is it?
I mean, MeasureCamp is a great case study on how to do things the right way, and so I’m glad that a few of you are going to several different MeasureCamps. If I ever stayed in one place for a long enough time, I’d be at one as well. I was ever in a time zone where I could get a ticket release too. So I put that link in there if you want to check out MeasureCamp if you have never heard of that before.
With that, I don’t see any more questions coming in so I’m going to sign off. Thanks for another great call, everybody. Look forward to talking to you in early July. Alright thanks!
Group Coaching Call: June 20, 2017
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