Employ Your Standout Infrastructure
All right we are gonna jump into a different lesson now as we continue with this segment. This is all about planning for growth. So, at the very beginning of the class, I talked about that when we switch from that sort of junk drawer business model to a hyper focused, streamlined product plan, having that core offer, getting your brand on board with exactly what you do, what you offer, how that is valuable to your customers. One of the things that happens is you start to build your business around that offer instead of trying to build a business and set up offers that somehow don't quite line up. That's what we're gonna talk about in this lesson. We're gonna start kind of envisioning how our business is going to need to grow to support the amount of sales that we're gonna have to make of this core offer. One of the scary parts, we talk about a lot of scary things in this class unfortunately, one of the scary parts of streamlining, getting down to that core offer, is you realize you nee...
d to sell a hell of a lot more than you've been selling before. You need to get more people moving through this thing or you need to sell it on a higher level than you've sold anything before. You need to have, maybe, a better customer experience, a higher touch experience than you've ever had before and you realize, maybe, you don't have the manpower for that You don't have the technology for that. You don't have the systems for that and so we need to really think about how is your business going to evolve to meet the demand, meet the needs of this core offer, this highest contribution that you're bringing along. So, to do that, we're going to do it in two parts. First, we're going to talk about infrastructure. In other words, what exactly are you going to need in your business to support it and then we're going to look at capabilities. So, let's start again with the ax. (laughing) You're gonna be so tired of axes by the end of this class. If you wanted to sell 1000 artisan axes, the kind they sell in Portland with beautifully painted handles and should never be used to chop wood, what kind of infrastructure would you need? If you wanted to sell 1000 artisan axes per year, what kind of infrastructure would you need? Just like, let's shout some things out. If you were building an ax company, and your goal was to sell 1000 axes, could you build them all yourself?
Probably not, so you probably need a team of ax artisans. Okay, great. We need two ax artisans to help us with production. What else do you need?
You need marketing. Specifically with marketing, what do you need?
You probably want somebody that's dedicated in charge of planning your marketing plan and executing it.
Okay. What else in terms of marketing?
Probably content management and execution.
And social media, blog posting.
Definitely email managemenet, okay. Yeah, those are all things we're going to need to think about. What else?
You need some machinery, a shop.
Yeah, we need a space.
All the physical infrastructure, space.
Yeah, what about an e-commerce website? Yeah, and it better work, too. What about shipping? Ah, who's in charge of shipping 1000 artisan axes? How's that gonna work? That's like the worst job! Maybe not, I don't know. (laughing)
Also, I guess you would think about, too, since they're artisan axes, what's your packaging? Is it distinctive and are you thinking about how that fits in your branding and the expectations your customers have about this magical ax coming to their door.
Yes, the S'more Maker. That's what we're going to call it. It's the S'more Maker. So, great. So, maybe you decide that part of the infrastructure you actually need is someone to put together little cellophane bags of graham crackers and marshmallows and chocolate so that people know, as soon as they open that box, this is why I bought this ax.
You are going to start making axes. (laughter)
I am! I am quitting everything and I'm making axes! Anything else?
First aid kits.
First aid kits. If you're churning out these axes, there's a good chance someone's gonna get cut.
Customer service, yes! You're not answering all these emails yourself, right? Not only are you not building all these axes, you're not answering all these emails yourself. It doesn't mean that for the next three months you're not the customer service department and the ax handle carver and the s'more kit maker and the head of the shipping department, too. You might be, but you want to have a plan for what you're going to put in place step by step by step as you build up to the capacity of selling 1000 artisan axes per year, all right. The reason I asked you about this is because when you're posed with that kind of a question, what does it take to actually sell enough to hit your revenue goal, it's really easy to get your head around, well, I need this and this and this and this. I need these departments. I need these people. I need this technology. But, instead, in our own businesses, as we try and piecemeal things together, as we ask ourselves, "What else can I sell? "What else can I market? "What other idea could I possibly capitalize on?" We tend to make investments in the infrastructure of our business separate from what we actually want to accomplish. I see this most often when people sort of reach a certain position in their business, a certain place in terms of revenue where they say, "All right, I've hit $50,000 a year. "I've hit $75,000 a year. "I must need a virtual assistant." Like really? Really? Why? Why do you need a virtual assistant? You might. Virtual assistants are great. What do you need that virtual assistant to do? Maybe what you're really saying is, "I need a customer support person and "I need a personal assistant. "I need someone to schedule me for things. "I need someone to answer all these customer emails." It's a lot more valuable to know that I need a customer support person and I need a personal assistant than I need a virtual assistant. What does hiring a virtual assistant actually mean? It means there's infrastructure that you have not yet invested in that needs to be invested in. It's a lot better to know specifically what that is. What are some of the other things? Oh, I've been in business for two years now. It must mean I need a website rebrand, right? Because two years, it's time. Really? Do you? Is that the thing you need next? It might be, but it's just as likely that the website that got you here is perfectly fine and also, what do you need that website to do? Maybe you do need a new website but what you don't need is a rebrand. Maybe you need a whole membership site build-out. Maybe you need to add on a course design element. Maybe you need a whole client interaction CRM back-end thing to your website. That might be what you need a lot more than a fancy new logo and head shots. So, when we start to think here's what I'm actually trying to accomplish, here's what my business is gonna look like five years from now, this is the amount of capacity I need to build in, you can get really clear. "All right, I need customer support. "I need someone in the shipping department. "I need a head of marketing. "I need two ax artisans and I need an e-commerce website "that sells like the dickens." Right? So, I want you to start thinking about what does growth look like for your core offer and, even more importantly than that, what does it look like to sell to your revenue goal based on that core offer? So, what would you need in place to support your core offer generating at least 80% of your total revenue goal? What would you need in place to support your core offer, that one thing that you're selling, that one thing you're building your business around to generate 80% of your total revenue goal. I'll share some of mine with you and then I want to hear from you what you think you're going to need. So, for infrastructure for CoCommercial, we were not only changing what we offered, we were changing the type of business we were running. We used to run a very high-touch, high-end, low-volume kind of business. We now run a high-touch business that's low-end and very high-volume. In order to build capacity for 80% of our revenue to come from our core offer, we needed to put some money behind our plans. One thing we decided to invest in was our network, our social network application provider and the app that they allowed us to build. We actually have an app that lives in the App Store. You can go to the iOS Store or the Google Play Store, search CoCommercial and our little app come up. It's so cool. I highly recommend being in the App Store just for, like, credibility and pride. (laughing) There's an app for that, you know? I don't actually recommend that for most of you, but it's really fun. But, that's a significant investment every month, to support that and to support the continued development of that with our partner over at Mighty Networks. So, that's one thing we knew we needed to invest in. We needed the best system that we could get. We didn't want to build it on a Facebook group. Gross! We didn't want to use one of the other out-of-the box tools. They just didn't really work for us. This was the one we wanted. This one was the one that had the bells and whistles we knew we needed, the one that shared the vision that we had. It took an investment. We were willing to make that. We also knew we needed a community manager because, and I'll get into this in a little bit, but we knew we didn't want this to be a thing that just kind of sat there and took peoples' money, we wanted it to be highly interactive, super-engaging and it couldn't all be my time because I needed to be out on the road at creative live marketing of the thing, I needed to be at meet-ups, I needed to be doing all sorts of different things that didn't involve community management and if our business was going to be based on a social network, a community that we were building, it deserved a person who was in charge of that, so that's Shannon and we love Shannon and I love paying Shannon and I pay her well. We also needed a video broadcasting application because we do a lot of video interaction. We actually have two of them. We use Crowdcast and we use Xoom. Xoom is on the expensive side. Crowdcast, for the amount of people that we've got on there at any given time, it's a significant bill. It's the same as what I pay for my email marketing provider and so that's a significant investment for a lot of people and then we also needed to invest time, not so much money, but time, in that monthly editorial calendar, so we've been working on that. We've been devoting time to thinking through what does this need to look like, what's the process for getting that editorial out every week, every month? How far in advance are we going to look? So, we've made that investment in that infrastructure in terms of time, as well, so our app, our community manager, some other applications, and our calendar, those were just some of the things we knew we needed to put in place in order to have the capacity to even build to the level that we wanted to build. Another problem that people run into with this junk drawer business model and that what-else problem is that they never build out the infrastructure to support streamlining their business and so if you don't have the infrastructure in place to create the capacity that allows you to sell to your goals, I guarantee you, you will not sell to your goals. You will self-sabotage yourself every single time. You'll stop sending the emails. You'll pull back on the ads. You won't even know you're doing it until it's done and you're like, "Oh, I could have sold more." Yeah, you could have sold more but could you have delivered more? Could you have supported more? The answer is generally no. So, if you find yourself self-sabotaging your marketing, your sales, there's a really good chance you haven't invested in the infrastructure you need to actually sell to your goals. You put this infrastructure in place and suddenly, you are going to have a completely different outlook on what is possible with your sales and marketing. You are going to approach it completely differently and you are going to love every minute of it because you're ready for it. You're ready for the customers. You're ready to support them. You're ready to deliver your product at that capacity. So, let's talk about you guys. What do you need in place that you don't currently have to support your core offer generating 80%, at least 80% of your revenue goal? Aleah?
Well, I stumbled when you said I didn't already have it.
No, that's okay. I think some things that I added recently were I rehired my podcast editor and my video editor because I hadn't been doing either of those things for a while, but right now I have everything that I need, but those were my most recent hires.
Nice, nice. Greg?
I'd agree. A video crew is probably something I need to hire. I'm doing a lot of that right now. Some kind of site manager.
I'm chasing that all the time. Probably next thing is anything around marketing, email, social, things like that.
Yeah, all right. Maria?
I think for me, too, video. Video. Eveything else, I think I have in place.
Okay, great. You guys sound so prepared. Jennifer?
Someone to help me with customer service support and somebody, possibly a virtual assistant. I've been making a list of things to figure out what that person would do.
I'm just putting it under that heading because I haven't figured it out specifically but there's a bunch of tasks that I need to off-load and have support with. So, I need to add staff. I've already gotten a graphic designer, a web developer, so I'd be getting some support in some of those areas already.
Beautiful! Love it! You guys are super-prepared. Ellen?
Well, I'm in the process of, actually, doing a lot of this--
So, I'm switching from one website to another to make my membership site more robust and its ability to be more robust much easier. In that process, I'm also switching email marketing systems and creating more automations, more streamlined automations and it's all happening right now. (chuckling)
I feel ya, I feel ya! Yeah, Aleah?
What you said and what Jennifer pointed out about getting more specific about what she needs a VA to do is just so important because that, from what I've seen working with clients, it's one of the hardest roles for someone to hire and keep because they put so many non-specific things under one person's banner that it's almost impossible for them to find one person who gets it all right. So, as you were saying, it's much easier to get specific and hire a couple of different people to get stuff done and it just works out much better that way.
Yeah, exactly. During the CoCommercial, this month, it was just a couple of weeks ago, we hosted a virtual conference called The Reluctant Manager and one of the things that Breanne Dyck talked about was creating an org chart or at least understanding these are the different hats I'm wearing at any given time and so one kind of next step with this is really thinking through what are the different hats in my business? With the ax company, we've got the shipper, we've got the marketing person, we've got the artisans that are making the axes. Those are jobs that need to be done. It may be, and in fact it likely is, that at the beginning of your business, you're wearing all of those hats but it pays to know that when you switch from carving the ax handle to shipping the ax, you're taking one hat off and putting the next hat on. Eventually, you can hire someone for each of those hats. In fact, you might have to get duplicate hats made so you can have more than one person doing the same thing. But, you have to know that, all right, down the line, when I go from selling 30 axes a month to selling 300 axes a month, I'm gonna need these people in place. That way, you can create capacity as you ramp up marketing and sales and start to really accelerate once you've hit product market fit. Jennifer?
I'm trying to think. It was one of your recent podcasts. Was it Charles Gilke who was talking about-- Which really struck me. It's not even so much your initial thing as to look at tasks but what responsibilities and get people to have ownership and I was like, that made me rethink my list.
So, I'm like, what responsibilities would I want to hire for that I could train somebody to not start off as tasks but then that's their projects, they're in control.
Exactly, exactly. So, in the next class in this series, we're talking about creating a hiring plan and it's going to be super-important whether you think you're going to hire this month, next year or 10 years from now, to actually make that hiring plan now because that actually helps you better understand the work you're doing and how your company is growing. So, yeah, that is a huge realization. It's one of those huge a-ha moments in terms of building growth and capacity and infrastructure in your business. For our ax company thing, we don't just want ax artisans. We actually want a manager of ax. We want someone who can own the product development quality in the ax manufacturing process and again, that could be you for the time being. You could be maker and manager but eventually, you're going to hire a maker and hopefully that maker can grow into manager but you have to have that kind of forethought. You have to put the plan into place now and you can't just wait for these things to magically, like, for you to have enough money or for you to have enough sales. The sales comes from building the capacity first, which goes back to what I was just saying. You're never going to have the confidence to sell your core offer without proper infrastructure. So, you're going to find yourself in the cycle of self-sabotage over and over and over again if you don't know what you need to invest in in terms of technology. What you need to invest in in terms of customer support. What you need to invest in in terms of whatever it might be for your business. You've got to know, this is where I'm going so that you can have the confidence to sell to the capacity you need to hit those revenue goals. This is what's going to keep you out of the what-else problem. If you know you don't need another else, what you need is to sell more of what you've got and you've got the ability to do that. That's where you want to be. That's really where you want to be. Yeah?
I think sometimes we see the circle as I know the good process is me to track every step I do so I'm creating a system that I can hand off to somebody else but it's so frustrating because that can be so time-consuming to create all that but I keep telling myself it's critical because if I want to build a team, then that's done but if I don't have it done, then I can't build, you know?
Yeah, so right. Creating systems is part of infrastructure, too, as Aleah will tell you. Where I like to reframe things for people and I got this from Natasha Vorompiova, who is also a great systems person. It's not about creating systems. It's about documenting systems.
That's what I mean, yeah.
Right, and so, I know documenting still takes time but I really think when you change up that verbage and you say I'm documenting a system I already have, one, it will take you less time, two, it will be less intimidating, three, you'll actually make time for it. Whereas, god, you don't want one more thing to create! I don't care how creative you are. I know you guys are sick and tired of always starting from scratch and so even though I know you know what I'm talking about, switching from creating to documenting is going to make a huge difference.
I'm all about the power of language.