Monday, April 29, 2024

How to Be an Entrepreneur in 2024: 15 Tactics Revealed

How to Be an Entrepreneur in 2024: 15 Tactics Revealed written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Paul Cheek, a serial tech-preneur, educator, and software engineer. Paul Cheek is also a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the MIT Sloan School of Management and the co-founder of Oceanworks. Our discussion covers the intricacies of entrepreneurship, focusing on the 15 tactics outlined in his latest book, “Disciplined Entrepreneurship Startup Tactics.”


Key Takeaways

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • The importance of structured goal setting
  • a disciplined approach to business for today’s entrepenurs
  • Market testing for product validation
  • Effective marketing and sales tactics, and strategies for overcoming fear and uncertainty. By implementing these tactics, aspiring entrepreneurs can navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship with confidence and drive their ventures toward success.

Questions I ask Paul Cheek:

[01:47] What is disciplined entrepreneurship

[04:02] Do the tactics of disciplined entrepreneurship begin with vision?

[06:30] How do you ensure the vision is shared organization-wide?

[07:50] How do you tie OKRs to shared vision and goals?

[09:59] How are OKRs, visions and goals applied in OceanWorks?

[12:00] How do the illustrations in the book augment the entire message?

[14:39] Do you have a favorite tactic?

[18:52] Talk about the easter eggs laid across the book for reader to discover?

[22:53] Is there some place you’d invite people to connect with you, and grab a copy of Discipline Entrepreneurship Startup Tactics


More About Paul Cheek:


Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by ActiveCampaign

Try ActiveCampaign free for 14 days with our special offer. Exclusive to new customers—upgrade and grow your business with ActiveCampaign today!


Speaker 1 (00:00): I was like, I found it. I found it. This is what I've been looking for. I can honestly say it has genuinely changed the way I run my business. It's changed the results that I'm seeing. It's changed my engagement with clients. It's changed my engagement with the team. I couldn't be happier. Honestly. It's the best investment I ever made. What

Speaker 2 (00:17): You just heard was a testimonial from a recent graduate of the Duct Tape Marketing certification intensive program for fractional CMOs marketing agencies and consultants just like them. You could choose our system to move from vendor to trusted advisor, attract only ideal clients, and confidently present your strategies to build monthly recurring revenue. Visit DTM world slash scale to book your free advisory call and learn more. It's time to transform your approach. Book your call today, DTM World slash scale.

John (01:03): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsh. My guest today is Paul Cheek. He's a serial tech entrepreneur, entrepreneurship educator and software engineer. He is a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the MIT Sloan School of Management, the executive director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and the co-founder of Today we're going to talk about his new book, disciplined Entrepreneurship Startup Tactics, 15 Tactics to Turn Your Business Plan into a Business. Paul, welcome to the show,

Paul (01:42): John. Thanks for having me.

John (01:44): Alright, so first let's define what is disciplined entrepreneurship as opposed to, what's a good answer now? Unruly entrepreneurship?

Paul (01:54): Yeah, yeah, it's a good question, right? And you think about it, it's not what people would usually jump to when they think of entrepreneurship, this idea, and I think even before we do that, John, we've got to define what is entrepreneurship. Well, that's true, and this is first couple sentences of the book, right? Entrepreneurship is about more than just startups. It's about more than just going and building new companies. It's about doing more than is probably reasonable with however much time, however much money you have control of. And that might be in a startup, it might be as a founder of a startup, it might be as an early employee, as a startup. It might also be in Big Co. It might be in a big large company. It could be in a nonprofit, it could be anywhere. And so what is discipline entrepreneurship? It's taking a structured systematic approach to having an outsized impact, whatever your goal or your vision might be.

(02:45): And so when we think about that systematic structured approach, we're thinking about this engineering approach to entrepreneurship. A lot of people think, and this is one of what I believe to be one of the most common misconceptions in entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, they wake up in the morning and they do whatever they want all day long. They spend their time however, they so choose whatever they're going to be most interested in. And I believe that's wildly misguided. The best entrepreneurs build structure into their lives, into their business to help them work towards that ultimate vision. And so discipline, entrepreneurship thinks about what's the most structured approach we can take that's going to increase our odds of success. And startup tactics is a continuation of the original discipline. Entrepreneurship, looking at not just what do we do to go and to start a new venture, whether that's a new startup or within a larger organization. Startup tactics looks at how do you actually do it right? A lot of people know that they want to go start a company and they know generally what to do. The question is how do you take those first steps? How do you make sure you're being as efficient with your resources as possible?

John (03:49): So a lot of times when people hear tactics, they start jumping to, oh, we need Facebook campaigns or whatever tactics you start, of course, and this is the right place to start. But I think a lot of people probably jump right over this with the idea of vision. You mentioned already, I mean, before we decide any kind of tactics, doesn't it start there?

Paul (04:09): Yeah, absolutely. Right. It's like, Hey, why are we doing this? And discipline entrepreneurship looks at this idea of personal detri or a reason for existence. We've got to know what's our vision, where are we going? And the first tactic that entrepreneurs need is a really strong approach to setting goals. Like I said earlier, this idea that entrepreneurs wake up in the morning, they do whatever they want know. It's like entrepreneurs have goals. They know what they're working towards. Oftentimes what I see happen is entrepreneurs may have an amazing vision. They may have some goals, but then if you look at their daily to-do list, right? If we pull out the to-do list, there's a bunch of things on there that don't actually work towards that next milestone, that next goal. So we start with goals. We don't have goals. We're going to wind up doing a lot of things using our most precious resources to go and to achieve something, but that something doesn't move us towards the end goal.

(04:58): And when I think about it, it's something that everybody thinks they're good at, everybody thinks they're really good at setting goals, but when the rubber meets the road, when we actually look at those goals, we analyze 'em like, are those really good goals? We got to take a step back and revise. And the more we can build this skillset of setting goals, the better those goals are going to be on a recurring basis. Whenever we go and we begin that next stage of growth, whenever we think about what's happening with our resource pool, are we getting, are we fundraising? Have we raised money? Do we have more people on the team? Have we lost a couple people? Were those people part-time? Were they full-time? Are we losing or gaining time or money? If we are, then our goals should evolve. They should change in an instant because if we have more time, we have more people on the team where we have more money, our goals should be more ambitious than they were prior. Likewise, if we lose somebody from the team, we've got less time and we need to reset on our goals. We've got to set realistic goals for our team.

John (05:56): So goals, vision, I think are really easy, especially sometimes in the startups. It's like, this is why we're doing this. This is what I'm passionate about. And then chaos hits and diversity hits and more people come onto the team. How do you take that vision and make sure that you're aligning it and that it's shared and that it's the right one still?

Paul (06:13): Yeah, it, it's a good question. Is it the right one still? That one that's so context specific, that's hard to really dig into the details of, but is it a shared vision? That's a good question. And that has to be evaluated with every single person who comes onto the team. The thing that I do with companies in the earliest stages, we do this in our class at MIT, we will sit the founders down next to each other and we'll say, why don't you each grab a pen, grab a piece of paper, write down your vision of the future state of the world, what does the world look like with your innovation, with your business, once it's been wildly successful, what is that future state of the world that you are working towards? And nobody's allowed to talk during that exercise. And then we'll say, all right, put your pens down.

(06:58): Let's see what you came up with. Does it match what the other co-founders wrote down? And if it doesn't, then we need to reevaluate as a team, because if one co-founder has one vision and another co-founder has another vision, even if they're slightly different, they're going in different trajectories. And over the course of time, they'll move further and further apart. And the same thing is true of goal setting. Making sure that as we, and this is covered in the book, it's like as we write down a goal, how clear is it? Is it open to interpretation? Are we going to come back if we're doing quarterly goals and come back and in a few months and then look at them and say, yes, I think we achieved it, and somebody else says, no, we obviously didn't achieve that. How open to interpretation are these goals? The clarity is super important.

John (07:38): Yeah. Yeah. So there's a concept in the book that I was introduced to it. I want to give credit to Google or folks at Google, but called OKRs that shows up in this book as well. How do you tie OKRs to shared vision and goals and the fact that the founder has maybe different goals, I mean shared vision, but different specific goals than maybe team leaders?

Paul (08:03): Yeah, absolutely. Well, OKRs is introduced as one wait to set. Well, people say, oh, do we have to use ok? It's like what goal setting methodology you choose. It doesn't matter to me. What I care about is that somebody actually sat down and thought about these goals and we know why we're doing what we're doing. Our daily activities mapped to those goals and those goals mapped to our vision. When I think about it, it's in the early stages of that entire co-founding team needs to be aligned on what these goals are and the fact that they do actually work toward that vision. As the team grows, as we add additional people, you're going to have different goals for each team, and those teams are going to be responsible for having achieved their objectives. When I think about it, it's, it's got to trickle down, but in the early stages, when there is that chaos that you described, John, we've got to make sure that while none of these goals are open to interpretation, we have flexibility in them because things might change, our segment might change.

(08:56): We might run an experiment. We say, alright, we actually, we need to pivot that market segment a little bit. We're going to have to revise the goals that are associated with it. And so just allowing for that flexibility and really just the constant communication around these goals. It's not like we set them today and we come back to them in a few months. We could be constantly talking about these, and if those lines of communication are open, people are going to fall out of line Just in terms of where we're going as an overall organization. But one of the things that we connect, a lot of these tactics are all interrelated. When we get to, for example, the tactic on building a product roadmap that has to directly tie to the organization level goals. So in the early days, everybody's doing everything, but once you have a product team, making sure that the elements of the product roadmap tie back to the organization level goals is just so important. The same thing could be true with the marketing team and the sales team. Finding that alignment between each team's goals with the overall organization level goals, to the point we try to drive home.

John (09:53): I love examples. People learn from examples, and we had a case of an example business called Ocean Works. How does Ocean work vision and goals and OKRs, and as you've kind of grown folks there, how are you applying this or how have you seen it applied at Ocean Works?

Paul (10:09): Yeah, I mean, for Ocean Works, you set goals, and as the business evolves, those goals change, right? The timescale for those goals has changed over the course of time. The goals themselves have become more refined. The team has gotten more familiar with the goal setting methodology, how to set them and to make sure that everybody is on the same page. So a lot of the stuff we're talking about is absolutely manifested at Ocean Works in the first years of building the business and of course beyond as well.

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John (11:50): So the book is beautifully illustrated. Obviously we don't have all the pictures here to show, but I'm curious. That was probably an investment decision that you made. How do you feel like that? What do you feel like that adds to the book, particularly when it comes to the specific tactics?

Paul (12:06): These illustrations are so important, John, so important and all credit on the illustrations that you see here, Maria, Versace, fabulous, just fabulous. Those illustrations are really important to this book. Why? Because entrepreneurship and the pursuit of building a new business, that seems like something only entrepreneurs can do. Not everybody thinks of themselves immediately as an entrepreneur. So the illustrations are designed to make the book approachable. They're designed to give it a little bit of life. You can go through and we can look at all these experiments and define variables and hypotheses, and then looking at database outcomes. That's not as approachable as something that has some visual elements to it, but the illustrations are also designed to communicate. One of the elements of entrepreneurial math that we talk about, PDOs, John PDOs, you may know PDOs for solving equations. We look at it at MIT as an order of operations, not of parentheses and then exponents, et cetera.

(13:10): We look at it as what is the order of operations that we need to follow in terms of our actions to take that business plan and turn it into a real business? For us, that looks like starting with setting goals, those foundations. From there, it says, let's go test the market before we've ever built product. Once we've got that line of customers waiting down the street to use this product, we think they want, but we haven't built yet, let's go build it. Right? Let's go start that product development process. And then once we've got customers and we have products, we know what we need to continue to grow and scale this business, the time, the money, the team, and then we look at resource acquisition. It's the order of operations through these different stages of the tactics that the illustrations help to convey. When we look at it, John, you go through this and the big thing that I really wanted to communicate is this idea that you're starting down here in the jungle, in the foundations at the bottom, you're working your way towards the big city in the background, but these tactics, it's not like once you do them, you're all done.

(14:12): You see the floor of the jungle in the beginning. It carries all the way through to the end. You see the green stripe going in the distance, and that's because these tactics always carry on for you. You can learn them sequentially, but they're executed in harmony, and I think that's something that's really important for entrepreneurs to understand. You can learn these as you go, and that's a really important thing to do, but you can't just say, oh, well, we set our goals now we're done. Every time you take an action, those goals are revised.

John (14:39): So we've hit on a couple of the early stage tactics. I always love to ask authors this, especially when they have a number in their title. Is there one that's like a favorite of yours or one we haven't talked about that? Think I don't want to talk about that one?

Paul (14:53): Yeah. I think for me, John, when I look at the different tactics in this book, there's no silver bullet in entrepreneurship, right? Everybody. That's important for entrepreneurs to understand, right? It's not like the thing that I would call out in this process. It's not one of the 15 tactics I would call out the market testing stage in particular. Everybody thinks, oh, I'm going to go build a product and then I'll sell it. It's like, well, what if you build it? You waste all the time and money that you have available to you and you go to try to sell it and nobody wants it. We've got to validate that there are customers who are going to buy our product before we've ever built the product. So when I look at market testing, it goes through four tactics. First and very importantly is market research. Market research specifically.

(15:33): Primary market research is one of the most important tactics that entrepreneurs can gain because that's our process of learning. When we are a new business, we don't have a whole historical data set like a big company hacks. We need to build up our own unique dataset of who are our customers in our new market that we are creating? What do they care about? We need to get to know them as well as we know some of our best friends, we use the information, we learn from them about the problems that they face. We're going to try and communicate that out to the world. The problem is you hear a lot of startup pitches and they go on and on. They have so much to say about a new complex innovation that they're developing. As a new startup though, you don't have people who are going to pay attention to you forever.

(16:09): And so for that reason, entrepreneurs need to figure out how do we use the assets tactic? The second in the market testing stage, how do we communicate the value that we're creating and how we create it in 10 seconds or less? How do we use an animation or a video or something that's going to show our end users the value that we can create before we built a product in a very short period of time? While we can hold their attention, we use those assets in the two tactics within market testing that help us to actually talk to real customers and market to them and sell to them. That's marketing and sales. Marketing. It's like you think about corporate market. We could go take a class in marketing when you're in the early stages of building a new business or when you're in the early stages of building a new product at an existing organization is so different.

(16:54): Why? Because we need to be thinking about what is the fastest, cheapest, most data rich approach we can take to running a marketing experiment? It's all rooted in kind of a scientific method, the marketing and the sales. It's we have a hypothesis about what people want, who wants it, who those customers are. We've got to define our variables, run the experiment, come back with real data, and so specifically the market testing and marketing tactic looks at how do we leverage this mousetrap model, the mousetrap model of saying, we think this customer segment wants this value prop. Let's put this value prop in front of that customer segment and see do they react? Not will they pay us, right? Not can we drive revenue? Can we drive conversions? It's can we get them to give us the smallest form of currency that they have available to them?

(17:39): Things like an email address. Will they give me the email address to stay updated on the progress of this product? Will they join the newsletter? Maybe will they pre-order? If we can get them to give us just a little bit to validate and we come back with data and say, yes, a very large segment of the people who we've targeted with these demographic psychographics want what we think they do, that gives us the competence and conviction to move forward. It gives us data to say, yeah, we should go and invest and build this new product, this new innovative product. And the sales tactic looks at things like, how do we run that first outbound sales campaign? We don't want to reach out to anyone and everyone. Let's build a really targeted lead list of our core end user group. Let's craft some messaging towards them with that value prop we want to test.

(18:22): Let's start sending it out and watching this really closely, just like we would watch a science experiment and see what happens. What are the results? Do they come back to us? Do they click links? Things like that that give us the data. We need that unique data set to keep moving, and when nothing works, I think that's a wonderful thing, right? Because we haven't wasted a lot of time and money. We didn't buy a billboard, we didn't name a stadium. We ran a sub hundred dollars marketing experiment to see do people want what we really think they do?

John (18:51): So great deal of more to cover in this book, but I want to focus on the Easter Egg hidden in the book.

Paul (18:58): Which one's that?

John (18:59): Well, I didn't necessarily, the folks that Wiley, I think told us that there was several instances where you did some things in the book that you wanted people to discover.

Paul (19:10): There are a few things. I mean, the biggest one, the most exciting one to me is that within the book, you are going to find me in one of the illustrations and you can find one instance in the disciplined entrepreneurship, expanded and updated version, and one version in the startup tactics version. So that's the biggest Easter egg there could possibly be. When I first saw it, I was so excited. On a more serious note, as you go through these books, there's a couple Easter eggs. Most of those are right within the case examples. Every tactic has a case example that shows you not just, alright, here's what to do, how to do it. Here's an example of somebody who actually did that, and there's two, I'm going to give you two because they're tightly aligned. We think about how these tactics can be used in the course of building a brand new business, something that's brand new to the world.

(20:01): We haven't raised any money, we don't have a team. We're just trying to figure it all out, and there's an amazing story. Within that references two students, co-founders, their names are Anisha and Madeline, and they started a business using this market testing and this marketing tactic that we just talked about, their company's called Livy, matches up women who moved to new cities to make friends in small groups. Instead of one-on-one, and they didn't build their product. They decided that they were coming through one of our classes at MIT. They said, look, we've got an amazing business plan and they do fabulous business plan. They said, let's go see if we can get some people who really resonate with this value proposition. They took a very structured approach to testing different value propositions with their target core customer segment. What they did, the example, the detailed analysis that they did of the data that came back is hugely valuable to entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial marketers, folks who want to test value props because they came back with a list of 1500 women.

(21:03): It was actually 1800 women who wanted this value prop before they'd ever built any product. So that sure number, the volume of people who wanted what they could build provides confidence and conviction to go to build it. Definitely go check out their business too. Livy app is the website, and it's one of those things, you just see this data come back. It's so compelling. That's a new business. The other Easter egg example I'd give you is a gentleman named Camilo Foco, a PhD student in the MIT computer science and artificial intelligence lab. Camilo amazing. He was kind of off of the race and he'd already raised millions of dollars, had a team of at least 20 people, if not more, when he sat down and used these tactics for the first time. There's a wonderful example of how he conveyed his extremely complex artificial intelligence advertising software and all that it can do for a brand running advertisements to improve the effectiveness of those advertisements in sub 10 seconds. Extremely complex technology, huge value prop, a number of different functionalities to convey their animation, which there's a link in the book for people to go check out the live animation. It's one of the best examples of how to leverage that tactic, and Camillo and his team did a lot of other things leveraging different tactics, but I just think that example is gold. It's something that entrepreneurs, that innovators can leverage to go and test, much like with the Libby example, test the value prop before they go much further to minimize investment in any new idea.

John (22:37): Don't want to be out there solving problems that people don't know they have. Right?

Paul (22:41): That's exactly right. That's exactly right.

John (22:43): Awesome. Well, Paula, it's a pleasure having you on the show for a few minutes today. Is there some place you'd invite people to connect with you or certainly learn where they can pick up copies of discipline, entrepreneurship, startup tactics?

Paul (22:55): Oh, absolutely. Come find me on LinkedIn. Visit the books website, it's startup, and of course, grab a copy of the book and leverage all the tactics within to take that idea and turn it into a reality. Amazon, Barnes and noble available everywhere, and my big goal is to get this in the hands of more and more entrepreneurs. So if you know somebody who's going to start a business or somebody who's going to build a new venture within a large organization, get them a copy of the, let's get this in the hands of everybody who can put it to good use.

John (23:28): Awesome. Well again, appreciate you stopping by and hopefully we'll run into you on these days after on the road.

from Duct Tape Marketing

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Weekend Favs April 27

Weekend Favs April 27 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but I encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one I took on the road.

  • Pika Labs AI – Pika Labs AI, is a free AI video generator that can turn your text or image prompts into short, engaging videos.  With a simple interface and easy-to-use features, Pika Labs AI is the perfect tool for content creators looking to add some visual flair to their online presence.
  • Runway – Runway is a new suite of creative tools designed to turn the ideas in your head into reality. All made possible with AI models that can understand and generate worlds.
  • Midjourney – Midjourney is an independent research lab exploring new thought mediums and expanding human imaginative powers. Focus on design, human infrastructure, and AI.

These are my weekend favs; I would love to hear about some of yours – Connect with me on Linkedin!

If you want to check out more Weekend Favs you can find them here.

from Duct Tape Marketing

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Art of Posing Quality Questions

The Art of Posing Quality Questions written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Jeff Wetzler. Jeff Wetzler, co-CEO of Transcend, is on a mission to transform learning opportunities by blending leadership experiences from business and education. With a quarter-century quest under his belt, he’s pioneered innovative approaches to leadership. His latest endeavor revolves around tapping into the hidden wisdom of those around us, exploring unexpected breakthroughs in leadership and life. In this conversation, Jeff unpacks the ASK approach, a framework designed to elevate organizational communication for deeper insights.

Key Takeaways

Jeff Wetzler, co-CEO of Transcend, introduces the ASK approach, a framework aimed at elevating organizational communication for deeper insights. By fostering curiosity, creating safe spaces, posing quality questions, listening actively, and reflecting on learnings, individuals can unlock the power of curiosity for enhanced collaboration and growth.


Questions I ask Jeff Wetzler:

[01:48] What is a co-CEO and how does it work?

[02:43] How did growing up as an outsider shape your perspective on curiosity ?

[11:19] If the ASK approach involves a level of vulnerability how do we get people to adopt it?

[14:46] How do we develop consistency in practicing it?

[17:13] Could this self developmental approach be introduced into organizational culture?

[18:00] How do you better help people come out of their shell using the ASK approach?

[20:35] Where can people connect with you and learn more about your work?


More About Jeff Wetzler:


Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Porkbun

Go to to get a .BIO domain name for your link in bio page for less than $3 at Porkbun today.


Speaker 1 (00:00): I was like, I found it. I found it. This is what I've been looking for. I can honestly say it has genuinely changed the way I run my business. It's changed the results that I'm seeing. It's changed my engagement with clients. It's changed my engagement with the team. I couldn't be happier. Honestly. It's the best investment I ever made. What

John (00:17): You just heard was a testimonial from a recent graduate of the Duct Tape Marketing certification intensive program for fractional CMOs marketing agencies and consultants just like them. You could choose our system to move from vendor to trusted advisor, attract only ideal clients, and confidently present your strategies to build monthly recurring revenue. Visit DTM world slash scale to book your free advisory call and learn more. It's time to transform your approach. Book your call today, DTM World slash scale.

John (01:03): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Jeff Wetzler. He has been on a quarter century quest to transform learning opportunities, blending unique set of leadership experiences in the fields of business and education. He's pursued this quest as a management consultant to the world's top corporations most recently as CO CEO of Transcend, a nationally recognized innovation organization. And we're going to talk about his most recent book today. Ask Tap into the hidden wisdom of people around you for unexpected breakthroughs in leadership and life. So Jeff, welcome to the show.

Jeff (01:44): Thanks, John. Great to be with you.

John (01:45): So I have a personal question totally unrelated to the book. How does the CO CEO work?

Jeff (01:51): A lot of people don't believe that it can work. My co CEO and I, Alan Samoa actually had a chance to lead together and work together in a prior organization before we founded Transcend Together. So I don't necessarily recommend it if you haven't tried it out in a different way at first, but because we had worked together and we knew each other's strengths and weaknesses and we knew that we complimented each other, we said, let's give it a shot. And it has really lasted. We founded Transcend in 2015. It's lasted us since then. As we look ahead, we're actually moving into a stage. We're going to shift into a solo CEO model after almost a decade as the organization has grown so much. But we really feel like the model served us really well up until now.

John (02:36): I suppose clear responsibilities, expectations probably really key to that

Jeff (02:39): A hundred percent. And good communication.

John (02:42): So one of the things you mentioned early on in the book that your own childhood or your growing up as an out or feeling like an outsider as one of the few Jewish kids, I'm assuming in a neighborhood kind of shaped a little bit of your perspective on this. I'd love to hear a little bit about that component.

Jeff (03:00): As I grew up, I didn't always feel safe just saying everything I thought and felt. I had some signals that both explicitly and implicitly said to me, you know what? You may not be as safe as you wish you were here. And it just different people handled that differently. What it did for me is that I just kind of kept my mouth shut. And so instead of announcing my opinion, I would ask questions and instead of blurting things out, I would keep a lot of thoughts and stories in my own mind and head. And at some point it occurred to me, if I've got all this rich set of ideas and experiences going on inside of me, I'm probably not the only one. Chances are other people are too. And how much more interesting could things be if I could talk about it and if they could talk about it as well. I was always wishing someone would say, Hey Jeff, what do you think about this? And it led me to realize there's probably others who feel the same way.

John (03:48): So I'm tempted to ask you to unpack the ASK approach. So you have kind of a baseline of where we are, but I've got a hundred other questions. But maybe let's do the high level. What are the components of the ASK approach?

Jeff (04:02): Yeah, so the ASK approach is five practices that when put together, give us the greatest possible chance of really learning what person in front of us or the people around us truly think, feel, and know. Because far too often people don't often tell us what they actually think and feel, whether that might be feedback they have for us or ideas for where we could take the business or critiques of our direction, any number of things, they stay too silent. We can talk about that as well. So the ask approach basically helps to solve that problem. And you want me to just run through each of the five real quickly? Yeah. Okay. So number one is what I call choose curiosity. And choosing curiosity is basically centering one single question in our mind whenever we're interacting with someone. And that question is, what can I learn from this person?

(04:51): So it's breaking out of the certainty that we so often find ourselves in where we might think to ourselves, I know what's going on, I'm right there wrong any number of things, and it says there's something I can learn from anyone. And when I'm here in this interaction, what can I learn from this person? There's more to it than that, but I'll leave it at that as a starting point. Now, number two is called make it Safe. And what it reflects is that even if I am super curious to learn from you, if you don't feel safe telling me your truth, I'm not going to learn from you. And this is particularly important and I've learned this the hard way across lines of power when there's power differences, but also other kinds of differences as well, when other people may not feel like it's safe to really speak their truth. And so if we want to learn from them,

John (05:31): I'm going to say what I think you want to hear, right?

Jeff (05:34): Yeah. Or I'm going to keep my mouth shut. And so making it safe, it's really about how do we create connection with the other person in ways that build trust? How do we open up ourselves so that they don't have to guess at what is our agenda for asking them questions and also open up about things that might feel vulnerable for us to share too. And then what I call radiate resilience. How do we demonstrate to them that we're not going to crumble based on what they have to say? We're not going to flip out based on what they have to say. We're not going to hold them responsible for the reactions. And so if we can create connection, open up radiate resilience, we go so far in terms of making it safe for the other person. Do you want to say you want to jump in?

John (06:11): All I'm thinking is I'm hearing you go through these. My first thought was a coworker. You want to learn something from that you think they could, which is great, but I'm also immediately jumping to somebody you think that you just are diametrically opposed opinion wise too. Totally. You think about the political divide right now that there are people that think, I can't even talk to you because I don't get you at all. And I'm kind of going through these going, well, maybe that would actually facilitate a good conversation.

Jeff (06:40): Yeah. I mean, the book ends by basically saying, I think the ask approach could be part of what we need to heal some of the polarization and divides that we have in our society. And I tell a story of how I got into an Uber with someone who I thought was basically diametrically opposed to me on a bunch of political issues. And by the end of the Uber ride, I realized we had so much more in common than I realized.

John (06:57): That's amazing.

Jeff (06:58): Yeah. You

John (06:59): Want to go to number three? We're on number three, right?

Jeff (07:01): Okay. Number three is pose quality questions. And so this is really the heart of the ask approach. Once we're curious, once we've made it safe, how do we know what are the questions that are going to actually get to the heart of the matter? I kind of think of it this way that I imagine a surgeon would think about all their tools, their scalpels and all kinds of different things that they would have. I need this tool if I want to get to this. Well, questions are the same way, and most of us have one or two questions that we have as our go-to questions, but there's a whole taxonomy of questions out there. There can be questions if you want to really understand what's the root of someone's perspective. You can ask questions if you want to understand where do they see the holes In my view, you can ask questions if you want to invite their ideas to make things better. And so this is all about choosing the right question based on the thing that you want to learn that's posing quality questions.

John (07:46): So do we have a little index card box full of these questions that we need to tap into?

Jeff (07:51): Exactly. Exactly. And that's basically what the chapter lays out. And then summarize it at the end is what are the most important questions, depending on what you're trying to learn, but once you ask the question, it all comes down to how well you listened. It's not enough just to put the question out there. And so the fourth one is listening to learned. And most of us think we're good listeners. It turns out we're missing so much. There's a big difference between thinking we're listening and actually hearing what someone has to say and also what they're not selling us as well. For the book, I interviewed award-winning journalists who are professional listeners, and I remember one of them, Jenny Anderson saying to me after every interview, she records the interview and then she goes back and listens to it 2, 3, 4, 5 times. And every single time she listens to it, she hears something she hadn't picked up the previous time.

(08:34): And I think to myself, if a professional listener misses things on the first time, second time, how much are we missing when we don't record our stuff? And so this practice is all about broadening the range of information we're listening for. And I talk about it's not enough to listen just for the content of what someone's saying, but also the emotion that they're conveying and the actions that they're taking in the conversation as well. So triple the channels that you're listening through. And then the last one is called reflect and reconnect. And this is my favorite because I am a junkie for learning and reflecting is really how we take all the experiences that we have and we squeeze the learning out of it. That's where we get the insight. And so reflecting is about what I call sifting it and turning it. Sifting it is first to say from everything that I heard, what's valuable and what can I let go of?

(09:16): And then turning it is basically going through three processes where I turn it first to say, what did I learn from this person that would affect the story I have about them or about the situation or about myself? The second turn is what did I learn that would lead me to take certain steps? What can I do about it? And the third turn is, how can I grow more deeply? Does this speak to some of my deeper assumptions or values or ways of being in the world that either confirms them or challenges them or enriches them, et cetera? Those are the three reflective turns, but it's not enough to just do those and walk away. This is why I call it reflect and reconnect. The reconnection part is so important. That's going back to the person and saying, here's what I learned from you. Here's what I took away from our interaction, and here's what I'm going to do about it and thank you. And that says to the other person, A, you didn't waste your time. B, it gives them a chance to actually nuance what you took away. Maybe there's something else they would want you to take away. And C, it really keeps the door open for future sharing as well. They know this is someone who really values what I have to say.

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Jeff (11:05): So those are the five practices of the ask approach in a nutshell.

John (11:09): Awesome outlines, let's break some of this down. Great. First off, as I hear you talking about this, you even acknowledge this takes hard work, this takes brave, this takes being vulnerable. None of that sounds like a sales pitch. So how do you get people past that to say, Hey, I want to adopt this?

Jeff (11:28): Well, one of the things we didn't spend as much time on before we got into the ask approach is, what's the problem it's trying to solve? Because the problem it's trying to solve is also very costly. The problem it's trying to solve is that when we have a customer who walks away but doesn't tell us the real reason why, how painful is that? When we have a strategy that fails in ways that could have been predicted by the people around us, by our employees, by our colleagues, when we have an investor who passes on investing us because we didn't actually understand what their true concern is when we have a friend who goes more distant from us because we didn't realize the ways that we were impacting them, all of those things are really big costs that we pay. And it's so prevalent that people around us aren't really telling us the totality of what they're thinking and feeling. And on the flip side, if we can tap into that, we can make better decisions together with other people, we can get far better ideas to innovate. We save a ton of time. Our relationships are so much more satisfying and fulfilling. That's the payoff of doing this work. And it's not like this work has to take hours and hours. It doesn't take that long to say, here's my idea. What might I be missing? That's a very quick little thing that you can do. So anyways, how does that land with you in terms of

John (12:34): Yeah, I'm finding myself thinking particularly like in a sales environment, the objective may actually ultimately be, the end goal may actually be the same, but using this approach rather than me trying to sell to you, I'm actually trying to learn from you. And that probably feels a lot better to the person being sold to, even if the end result is we're trying to get to this sale.

Jeff (12:59): Totally. It feels better. And it also, I think, reveals information that will make you make it easier to know what's the objection I need to overcome that they have or what do they really value that I can speak to? And by the way, I might also learn that my product is not the right product for them, in which case, maybe today's not the day to make the sale, but the trust that we have together over time is that much better.

John (13:20): Over many years of selling, as all entrepreneurs do, I've discovered that a lot of times I'm selling 'em on the benefit that doesn't address what they want. I'm telling them, this is going to make you more money, and really what they want is more time. Exactly my fault for not addressing that. And so then they walk away.

Jeff (13:37): And incidentally, they also, when you ask them questions, and there's really interesting research in the realm of dating when someone is dating someone else and asks the other person questions on the date, the person who's doing the question asking is literally rated as more attractive. And so when you're having a sales conversation or any other kind of conversation, if you're asking questions, it draws people closer to you too.

John (13:56): Well, and you actually, I think in the intro of the book, you talk about how this approach actually benefits both people. That's right. You're maybe getting some information, but that person either feels a lot better or feels a lot more heard, right?

Jeff (14:09): A hundred percent. This is not just a one way extractive, I'm just going to kind of get what I need from you. This is truly a mutual benefit. And when somebody else has something that they're thinking and feeling but are not saying to you and you can help them get it out, you're enabling them to be more, enabling them to actually come closer to you. And chances are that it's going to feel good for them, but also it's going to get you to a better place together.

John (14:31): I'm guessing that this takes practice because you can make it feel like you're being interviewed, and that's probably not what we're talking about. Or I don't want to go, okay, Jeff, now I'm going to make you feel safe. Right? I mean, so how do we go about practicing this? How do we consistently apply these without them feeling kind of clunky?

Jeff (14:52): Yeah. There's a chapter on this in the book called Make It Your Superpower, and it talks about a few things. One is you got to go from what I call conscious competence, which is like I'm unconsciously trying to practice this to unconscious competence, which means it just comes natural. It's fluid. And the way to do that is just this very simple cycle of practice and feedback. Try it out in safe environments, try it out in small scale ways and tell people that you're trying it out, especially if you can start with people that you feel safe to and say, Hey, I'm going to just try asking some different kind of questions. How did that land with you? As you do that, you'll start to get the benefits of this. It'll start to feel more natural, just whether that just like a golf swing or a tennis swing or any other kind of thing that you're learning, but that practice and feedback cycle, then you start to take it out in slightly more high stakes context, slightly more risky kinds of things. And over time, you level up to be able to do it in more and more places.

John (15:40): Yeah, I mean, a lot of things in life, if we just took one of these and maybe ask some better questions. I mean, we'd be ahead, right? We wouldn't have to master all of this, right?

Jeff (15:49): Yeah, exactly.

John (15:50): So you mentioned high leverage or high, can't remember what you said. High something stakes, but higher stakes. Stakes, yeah. Is there a different way to address this when you know it's going to be an uncomfortable conversation?

Jeff (16:03): I would say when it's going to be an uncomfortable conversation, step one called choose curiosity. You got to invest even more in that because for me, in an uncomfortable conversation, my blood pressure can go up, my shoulders can go up, and I can be thinking to myself, how do I get out of here? Or how do I get this done? Or how do I convince them? Those are the places where I'm most likely to overlook the curiosity that I need, which is how does this other person see the situation? How might I be impacting the other person? How might I be contributing to the issue that we're trying to solve together here? And so using that curiosity, I talk in the book about curiosity as a team sport, you don't have to do this alone. You can actually say to a friend or a colleague, I'm about to go into a pretty high stakes conversation here, help me get more curious. Can you help me put myself in the other person's shoes and just think, what might I be missing in this conversation? I can't know it for sure because I'm not in their shoes, but I can be more curious about that. So that would be the one thing. And then the second thing that I would say to lean in heavily on is make it safe. Because if you're feeling its high stakes, the other person might also be feeling its high stakes as well. And so I would go heavier on those two strategies.

John (17:09): Obviously this is a practice self-development, a great tool to master. Do you believe this is a practice that could actually be brought into the culture of an organization?

Jeff (17:19): I do. And there's a chapter in the book called Make It Your Organization Superpower as well, and there's a few important things there. One is leaders set the tone of cultures. And so one of the most powerful ways to get this infused in an organization is for people at the top to model this and practice this and say it out loud. I talk about in the chapter how valuable it is for the CEO of the organization to think about themselves as the learner in chief. And that doesn't just have to be the formal CEO, that could be the president, that could even be the team leader, but to really be modeling this, but there's other things to do, including even what we hire for in our organizations. In my first job out of college, after I went through this very rigorous hiring process, at the very end, they sat me down and they gave me a whole boatload of critical feedback, and I thought to myself, clearly, I'm not going to get the job.

(18:10): Why are they bothering to tell me all this critical feedback? It turned out they told me the critical feedback. They wanted to see if I was curious about it. They wanted to see is Jeff going to get defensive or is he going to say, huh, that's interesting. Tell me more. And so it's a way that you can screen for curiosity as well. In our own organization, we also have this practice that we call the two by two, where every quarter everybody sits down with whoever they work closely with and says, here's two things I think I'm doing well, here's two things I think I could do better. Here's two things you are doing well, you could do better. And then we exchange it. And that's just a practice that gets each other asking questions, it normalizes it, it clears out the closet, nothing fester. So there's that kind of thing as well.

John (18:45): One last question before I let you go. Today, I'm all over curiosity. I've made the person feel safe. I'm radiating resiliency, but they just don't like to talk. I mean, there are human beings that don't want to be asked their opinion. How do you word deal with that? I don't know. We call 'em introvert, whatever you want to call 'em. How do you deal with that person that just really isn't comfortable in sharing?

Jeff (19:07): So you can't force it on anyone, and you got to respect the limits. And sometimes it's actually honestly in respecting the limits that they get more comfortable to open up. You've

John (19:16): Made it safer

Jeff (19:17): In making it say, if I'm constantly saying, come on real, I know you got something else, they're going to shut down. But if I say to them, look, I'd love to hear anything you have to say and wherever you want to stop, that's okay. Too often that comes more, but I'd go back to the create connection part of Make it Safe. And what's interesting, when I interviewed some iconic CEOs for the book, they talked a lot about the time and place of connection. And so Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic said, if I want to really talk to someone who I think is going to be hesitant, I'm never going to have them come to my office and sit across the CEO desk from me. We're going to be taking a walk, we're going to be sitting on a couch, et cetera. I see it with my own kids too. If I want to hear from my daughter how her day was at school, it's never going to happen right after school. When she gets home, it's going to happen 11:00 PM at night when she's done talking to her friends and done with her homework and wants to stay up a little later, and then it all comes out. And so I would encourage you to just be thinking about the time and place of connection as well.

John (20:12): Yeah, my kids, it was always when I'd have to take 'em somewhere. Right,

Jeff (20:16): Exactly.

John (20:16): We'd get in the car and start driving, and all of a sudden it's like, okay, this is a safe space. It's

Jeff (20:21): Amazing how many people have said that. And there's something about not sitting face to face with them, but sitting side by side that's a little less intense, a little less confronting, and all of a sudden the guard comes down.

John (20:30): Yeah. Awesome. Well, Jeff, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is there's some place you'd invite people to find out about your work and certainly find more about Ask.

Jeff (20:41): Yes. So the book Ask is available anywhere books are sold. The website is www dot Ask dot, and people can also follow me on LinkedIn, Jeff Wetzler, or Ask Approach at Instagram.

John (20:52): Awesome. Well, again, I appreciate you taking a moment and hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

from Duct Tape Marketing

Monday, April 22, 2024

Weekend Favs April 20

Weekend Favs April 20 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but I encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one I took on the road.

  • RobinizeRobinize enhances your content creation with AI, enabling you to quickly research and write SEO-friendly articles. This tool boosts your content’s search engine ranking, making your articles more visible and engaging to your audience.
  • CloseClose offers advanced, high-speed sales software tailored for forward-thinking businesses. This powerful CRM enhances your sales process by integrating outreach, engagement, and automation into one user-friendly platform, making it easier for you to boost your sales efficiency.
  • ReflectReflect harnesses the power of AI to elevate your writing, streamline your thoughts, and become your ultimate brainstorm buddy. Their mission? To revolutionize how you think, one delightful note at a time.

These are my weekend favs; I would love to hear about some of yours – Connect with me on Linkedin!

If you want to check out more Weekend Favs you can find them here.

from Duct Tape Marketing

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Gain Freedom With The Hands Off CEO Blueprint

Gain Freedom With The Hands Off CEO Blueprint written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Mandi Ellefson.

Through her company “Hands-Off CEO”, she rescues agency owners from the daily grind, transforming million-dollar agencies into self-sustaining enterprises. With her expertise, she’s boosted hundreds of agencies to millions in revenue, attracting premium clients willing to pay 50-600% fees. As a former business exit advisor, she crafts exit strategies, adding up to five figures to clients’ net profit monthly so they can focus on growth. She shares her wisdom as a published author of

“The Hands-Off CEO: Triple Your Fees and Profitably Scale an Exceptional Consulting Agency that Grows Without You” and host of the Hands-Off CEO Podcast, helping consulting agencies triple fees and scale without less reliance on the CEO.


Key Takeaways

Mandi Ellefson, founder of Hands-off CEO, shares her journey from overwhelming debt to multimillionaire status by transforming consulting agencies into self-sustaining enterprises. She stresses the importance of building systems that allow businesses to thrive without the constant presence of the CEO. Mandi distinguishes between growth and scale, highlighting the need to create capacity and systems for consistent results. She advocates for productizing services based on outcomes and emphasizes the mindset shift required to embrace delegation and empower teams.


Questions I ask Mandi Ellefson:

[01:45] Tell us about the frustration you encountered earlier in your career, not being able to have a company run without you?

[04:47] How does the Scale to Freedom framework differ from other types of processes?

[08:20] Is a mindset shift a necessary step in undertaking this process?

[09:00] How do you balance working with a passion for the project and embracing the need to scale?

[09:13] Why are service businesses hard to scale?

[16:21] How do you help people differentiate between growth and scale?

[22:16] Where can people connect with you and obviously find a copy of the hands-off CEO?


More About Mandi Ellefson:


Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn


This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Porkbun

Go to to get a .BIO domain name for your link in bio page for less than $3 at Porkbun today.


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(01:03): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Mandi Ellefson , and he went from a hundred thousand dollars in debt to multimillionaire status by revolutionizing consulting agencies through her company Hands-off, CEO e. She rescues agency owners from the Daily Grind, transforming million dollar agencies into self-sustaining enterprises. She's also the author of a book we're going to talk about today, the Hands-Off, CEO, triple Your Fees and Profitably Scale, an exceptional consulting agency that Grows Without You. So Mandy, welcome to the show.

Mandi (01:41): Thank you so much for having me again, John,

John (01:44): Since you put it in your bio. Let's talk about the frustration perhaps that you felt in having a previous business that didn't run without you necessarily to leading you to creating what you do for your life's work now.

Mandi (01:59): Yeah. So can we tell about that experience? You're saying that led?

John (02:02): Yeah. We want to hear frustration and embarrassment that every entrepreneur goes through.

Mandi (02:07): Yes, yes. There was definitely plenty of that and what it looked like as I was nine months pregnant and I had a 4-year-old daughter. My husband lives in a demanding graduate medical program. I had moved across the country. So you're painting a picture of I had. It was a pretty challenging situation, right? Yeah,

John (02:23): Yeah,

Mandi (02:24): Yeah. And my business at the time, I was trying to close up shop for me to have maternity leave because it was not set up in a way where it could run without me at all. And that was a frustration just because I had managed another company before this. I was the manager and I was able to get this company to run without me as the manager. So I was pretty frustrated that I couldn't do this within my own company. And weeks before I was about to give birth to my second daughter, all the stress of trying to make all these things work on my timeframe, it was so stressful and my health was breaking down. So I literally had my arms not being able, I couldn't move them more than just a small amount, and I had to go and get some treatments. Thankfully, I was able to heal my arms from this, but this was not a good time.

(03:16): Just weeks before giving birth to my second daughter, and we could have used that income in our life. That was one time we really could have used it. And again, anyway, I had to shut the business down. But what that led me to look at what is actually stopping me from having this. So then I went out and I started talking to other entrepreneurs after I had my maternity leave, after I took that time and I took some time to slowly start back up to just, I wanted to make sure I got it right this time. So I started interviewing other people and I knew that if I could solve the problem for someone else, I could solve it for myself. So I just started helping other people because I knew I could break down the system and figure it out. I could reverse my engineer back into it because I'm pretty good at that.

(03:59): So I knew I'd be able to figure that out. And before I knew it, I started a consulting company. I didn't mean to, but I started a consulting company because people asked me they wanted to pay me, help them with this, and I started seeing the patterns and the trends for what it takes to be able to take a service business, especially service businesses are very difficult to scale and remove yourself from. So I started seeing the patterns and I helped other people be able to solve this before I was actually able to solve it for myself.

John (04:26): So a lot of books consulting around this idea of scaling, making a business run without you really all come down to systems and process and operations. And I think you dive a little deeper than maybe there's even, I've had Gino Wickman on the show, but EOS and Traction. How would you say that your system, which you call scale to freedom, is that right framework? How would you say that you go beyond the typical systems and processes?

Mandi (04:56): Right. So EOS and other frameworks, they're great. They're really effective and they can help you bring your company to a level of order. But here's the thing is I talk to CEOs almost on a weekly basis who have implemented all of that and still have a company that's not profitable. They may even say it's profitable. Oh yeah, well, you know what, we're profitable. But what they don't tell you is that they're not taking anywhere near a market rate salary for what they would get paid somewhere else. So they're actually losing money every year if you look at it that way. So the thing is, those frameworks, it helps you organize a working and functional business model, but it's not a business model and it's not a profit model, and it's not your pricing model, and it's not the structure for what agreements you create with your team, with your clients. It's not going to give you the positioning in the market. It's not going to tell you who your profits fleet spot client is, who's going to pay you the most. It's going to contain those things, but garbage in, garbage out. So you to get that right first if you want to have a sustainable company.

John (06:01): You mentioned something in the very beginning that you were able to manage this company to run without you, but when you, maybe it was your own business, the CEO, and I'm curious, there's if there's something like instructive in that idea, right? It's like as the CEO, you're very married to what it's doing, you're emotionally attached maybe, and in some cases it's hard to step back and give yourself the distance that it requires to properly delegate and let your people do the work that they're there to do. Do you think there's something, I guess I'm really talking about mindset probably. Is mindset a key role to even start embracing this idea?

Mandi (06:39): Absolutely. And there's two different aspects of it, and I'm glad you brought it up because there is a system and then there's a mindset. And here's the thing is you can build the system all day long, but unless you have a corresponding mindset, then the system is useless and you won't be able to actually use it and you won't be able to let go. So that's one of the things that I've observed too with our clients is that they might get to a point where they have the whole system in place and they're like, I know I'm supposed to be working on sales right now. I can't quite let go of this. And I've even had one of our clients called the hands-off, CEO, Twitch, he named it that. And I asked him, Philip, do you have the system in place? Do you feel comfortable? They have everything that they need to be able to do this? He's like, yep, I do. And then he's like, okay, I realize it's just a mindset. So at that point we knew that it wasn't the system, it was the mindset. And now it's just looking at what are you committed to and your vision being bigger than whatever it is that you really want to be doing that gives you that significance.

John (07:43): And I think I run across a lot of business owners that need to, their business is growing, they need to let go of certain things. And a lot of times it's just they know that. I mean, I don't think anybody has to tell them that they're holding that back, but it's what maybe they feel valuable or they feel, or let's face it, sometimes it's the work they like doing, right? Web designers a great example. I mean, they love to do the work. They try to grow a business and scale business. It makes no sense at all for them to actually be now doing the design, but that's where they are passionate. I mean, how do you get around? Or on one hand you can't scale. On the other hand, this is what you're passionate about. How do you get around that kind of dichotomy?

Mandi (08:25): I think the first thing is just to recognize what actually do you want? And there's nothing wrong with you going and doing the web design work if that's the kind of company you want, but that's more like a freelancer company that's not going to give you the wealth. It's not going to give you the freedom and it's not going to give you some of the things that you would get from a business. But it's a very simple business. And if you really are passionate about being a web designer and you don't want to learn the skills of managing teams and being a leader and getting all of the other things right for a business, then that might be a good thing for them. But on the other hand, if I may add to that, John becoming more hands off, what that allows you to do is pick and choose the kind of projects you want to work on. You get to have autonomy over where your time is spent

John (09:10): As long as everything's not on fire. So you mentioned that service businesses are particularly hard to scale. Why is that? I mean, I think some of the obvious, if I'm selling a $29 product, a lot of people can do that. A lot of people can produce it, do the work. But what is it unique about service businesses that you think make them feel harder to scale?

Mandi (09:30): Well, the origin of it is first and then the structure of it second. So the origin of it is that you were good at something and you start off going out and selling this service because you're good at it, and then you have enough people that are coming to ask you for this service. You start hiring freelancers and then maybe employees. And then after a while you're like, well, there's so many people, I'm going to hire a manager. So some companies just grow organically like that, and they didn't really set out to build that big of a company. So that's one aspect of it that makes it challenging to scale that you kind of, so what that means is that the value proposition of the business oftentimes is the skillset of the owner. So the clients are coming for the skillset of the owner, and anything less than that, they're feeling like they're getting the short end of the stick. And they're also looking at it from the perspective of, okay, great, well now I get a blended hourly rate with their junior level person and I'm paying for a senior level person. So that's one thing. And then on the flip side, well, I guess it creates a scenario where there's not the profit margins within the business to actually properly remove the ceo. That's actually the number one thing that keeps the CEO stuck in the day-to-day is because there is not the profit in order to remove yourself from it.

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Mandi (12:58): And then the root cause of that is the pricing structure for how you're operating. And then the root cause of not having enough, not high enough price point to deliver the service well is that there's not enough value. There's not enough perceived value from the client and the prospect who's buying the services. And there's the root cause of that too.

John (13:19): Well, and one of the things, I work with a lot of agencies and consultants as well, and what we discover a lot of times is that people feel like, well, what I'm selling is my big brain and they have to have me to do that. Well, obviously that doesn't scale, right? So where do you fall on? I mean, one of the things we teach people all the time is you've got to create a repeatable system that you can actually teach to other people and it doesn't rely on your big brain. So where do you fall on service businesses productizing?

Mandi (13:47): I'm a big fan of productizing with a caveat. Oftentimes the way the productizing is done is saying, okay, well here's the problem. We have the CEO is too involved in the day-to-day service, so we're going to solve that problem by it is a knee, knee-jerk reaction of, well, we'll remove the CEO out of it. And by doing that, they're like, well, what is left? Well, we'll systematize that. And that's what productization usually looks like.

(14:13): Instead, the way I look at productization, and I would call it a service product perhaps, and you're looking at how do you elevate the service based upon outcomes? And instead of reverse engineering it to remove the CEO, you reverse engineer it from what does it take for us to deliver this outcome? What does it take to deliver? And at first, that might mean the CEO is more involved to make sure that that you're actually building out a system that delivers the output that the client actually cares about because the client doesn't care about deliverables that are brought to the market as efficiently as possible and as profitably for you. They don't care about profit, they care about the results, and that's why they're paying you.

John (14:54): Great add on to that point. And you could charge a whole lot if you understand the results that they're after and you can deliver those, then they don't care. It's not how many hours did I buy right now? It's like, no, I bought a result. And I think that's a healthy way for people to think about pricing, isn't it?

Mandi (15:10): A hundred percent. But to your point, you have to know what that problem is that you're solving and for who it is. And a lot of times they have, I hear from people all the time that, and agency owners especially who are saying, you know what? Well, we can't make any kind of claim. It depends so much. It depends on so many factors that are outside of our control. It's like, well, there's one factor that you can control and you can control who it is that you're choosing to work with, who it is that you're choosing to target, and what problems that you're willing to solve, especially what minimum, what's the minimum problem you're going to solve? And I would recommend for agency owners to not look at solving problems anything lower than a million dollar problem because anything lower than that, you're not going to be able to have the kind of impact where you can charge high enough price points to make it make sense, and maybe you maybe step up to that point.

John (16:04): Yeah, great point. People will pay a lot more to solve a bigger problem, right?

Mandi (16:08): A hundred percent.

John (16:10): Yeah. So a couple terms that we've mentioned today maybe, and I know get batted around and confused I think all the time. Where do you come down? If I were to ask you directly, what's the difference between growth and scale? Where do you come down on trying to help people understand that difference?

Mandi (16:27): Yeah. Well, growth is where you are generating more growth with about the same resources, right? Scale is when you're able to generate more growth without the same corresponding increase in resources. Does that sound too technical?

John (16:45): I think theoretically, theoretically it needs more

Mandi (16:48): Less, I'm sorry, we're talking over each other, John.

John (16:50): No, I said theoretically I get it. But for the business owner, what are the different sort of mindsets around, I mean growth for growth sake, scaling the scaling have a different purpose. Let's put it that.

Mandi (17:04): Well, here's the thing is that scaling has become a really flashy word, and there's a good reason for that too because that's what people are buying. So that's why the marketing is full of scale. And I don't blame people for using those terms because marketers are going to use what's going to sell. Most of the time what we're looking at when people are say using the word scale, they're actually meaning growth because growth is getting to a point. Scaling is a whole different level, and it does require a different mindset because a lot of times where I see the scaling stage happen is in the early seven figures, and this is where I think it would be fair to say that there's different stages of scaling. Talk about that in my book by the different stages of scaling up. But there's one particularly that happens in the early figures and it happens about between 900001.1 million and over about a three year period of time, I've seen this over and over again where their income goes up and down and it's because they're hitting a new threshold and scale and they've grown to a point where they can't grow anymore without taking the next level.

(18:07): And that usually is putting in place a manager that is changing from being the owner operator to being able to build out a management structure in place. Maybe I went more into the answer than you were asking for, but

John (18:19): No, I mean, I think to simplify what that example you just gave a lot of times what it means is you're going to have to take, you're going to have to spend for capacity that you don't currently have the ability to fill. But that's the only way to grow to that next level is to build that capacity. But that comes at a cost.

Mandi (18:39): Well, that's a great way of putting it to build out that capacity. And then on the flip side there is you have capacity that needs to be filled too. And there's this stair stepping thing where you're at capacity and you have to build out more capacity. So you hire these people now you're like, okay, wow, we've got this big payroll, we've got to be able to make some more sales. But is a pretty challenging situation to be in. And I will tell you, I have in my own company, we've been here before, so I get what this feels like too. Then you have to really be employing some of the things that you teach in your duct tape marketing strategies about being able to keep that consistent lead flow so that you can actually fill the capacity too. Yep, absolutely. That takes an investment, right?

John (19:21): Sometimes you got to build it before they come, right? So you talk, there's a term you use in the book entrapment cycle that I certainly see when growth is happening. Certainly see the entrapment cycle show up. So you want to unpack that one for us.

Mandi (19:38): Definitely. And I think it actually is a perfect tie into what we were just talking about is that cycle that goes up and down. Well, the income going up and down and where there's a plateau of revenue, and it can also be a plateau more specifically of profit because you can see the revenue grow and then the profit stays stagnant. But anyway, the cycle itself, the entrapment cycle, what happens is sales growth happens and then you get busy, you get pulled in. So even if you have a nice team in place, you get pulled into it and then you're like, all right, well we're under capacity, we're over capacity. We need to be able to hire some people. So you go through, you're saying, okay, are we going to choose quality or are we going to choose profit when we're looking at staff members? And you've got to be profitable.

(20:22): So you choose the level of person that you can afford for your level of growth, which oftentimes is not enough. So you end up having to get in there and have a lot more time and energy to either clean up their work or be kind of babysitting them. And then what happens is, meanwhile, as you're going and doing that, working in the business, then you're like, oh crap, our sales are down. We need to go make more sales. And then you go back in and then the only problems is you've got your sales cycle. So your sales cycle could be 90 days, could be 120 days, whatever that is. You wait for that to catch up and then you make sales happen again, and then the cycle happens all over again.

John (21:00): Yeah, you left out one variable there. You're working more than ever probably. Right? I see growth is happening and so now you're working more than ever. And that's, to me, true wealth is like all of those things. Right?

Mandi (21:16): That's a really good point too, John. I don't think I've ever thought about describing that as an additional variable within that cycle, but what we do see happen is that it ends up that entrapment cycle makes your model into a time for money model, even if you have other team members. Because what happens is the business, it's actually so dependent upon the CEO's actual time involvement in it that the only way that you can actually grow is to have the CEO EO grow and more and more of their hours. That means that, and that right there it is a description between growth versus scale where you can scale income while actually the CEO EO works less and less hours, which I know, which is something that you guys have successfully done in your company, which goes to show your, because I know you guys have done really well.

John (22:06): Yeah, I do nothing. I do absolutely nothing anymore. It's amazing. I love it's talent. Well, Mandy, it was great having you stop by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. You want invite, is there some place you'd invite people to connect with you and obviously find a copy of the hands-off CEO o?

Mandi (22:23): Yes. You can go to hands off you can go there and you can download a book summary. And also there's a scalability checklist there that shares the stages to exit the day-to-Day and the business. And that is actually something that I found people have really loved, including our clients. They love being able to know, alright, what should I do first? And there's a checklist. You can print it up, put it on your wall, and it's in the book. I guess you can't see that, but it also gives you a place you can buy the copy if you'd like.

John (22:55): Awesome. So we'll have links in the show notes, and if you're watching this on YouTube, you will see Mandy just held up the book there, so get a copy. Again, appreciate you stopping by. Hopefully we'll run into you soon. One of these days out there on the road.

from Duct Tape Marketing