[31] Mastermind Groups. What, Who, How, and Why?

Bootstrapped Web
[31] Mastermind Groups. What, Who, How, and Why?

Returning champ, Jordan Gal joins me on the show today.  This is the mastermind episode.  Everything and anything related to masterminds, was talked about in today’s show.

Jordan and I are in a weekly mastermind group, where I’ve had the pleasure of watching him launch and grow his startup, CartHook from the ground up.  By the way, you may remember our previous episode when Jordan and I discussed tips to move your business forward, and get to the next level.

But today, it’s all about masterminds…

In this episode

  • What is a Mastermind Group?  Why must you (fellow business owner) join one?
  • What (exactly) do we get out of our weekly mastermind meetings?
  • How should you start one?  How did ours form?  Tips for finding (the right) people for your mastermind group.
  • Meeting structure, who talks when, and kicking it up a notch with “Gloves Off”.
  • Meeting schedule, frequency, and “rules”.
  • Tools and tech we use to run our Mastermind group.

Show notes

[30] Learn How to Systematize Like The Big Boys

Bootstrapped Web
[30] Learn How to Systematize Like The Big Boys

What can a solo bootstrapped founder learn from the corporate world? Systems.  You may have noticed that systems, automation, and outsourcing have been a running theme here on the blog lately.  Well in my day-to-day work running my business, it’s more than a running theme.  Systems are everything. Today I’m joined by Kyle Brown, an expert when it comes to systematization.  He designed and managed large-scale systems operations for the corporate world before going on his own and doing the same on a small business level. He’s gearing up to release his book, Systematize, which will teach you the A to Z of systemization for a new small business owner.

In This Episode…

  • Why systemizing matters
  • When you should create procedures
  • What types of tasks can be systematized (and which one’s not to systemize)
  • How to get your team to adopt procedures and collaborate on them
  • Tools and tips for creating systems and procedures that actually help you grow your business

Show Notes

[27] Let’s Dissect This Email Marketing Automation Sequence with Daniel Faggella (Science of Skill)

Bootstrapped Web
[27] Let’s Dissect This Email Marketing Automation Sequence with Daniel Faggella (Science of Skill)

This week I’ve been working on our sales funnel on Restaurant Engine, specifically our email automation sequence. That is — once a person enters their email on one of our opt-in forms, what happens after that?

I’ve been looking at upgrading from mailchimp to maybe Infusionsoft or one of these other tools, which would allow me to go beyond a basic autoresponder, and get into true “marketing automation”. A tag-based approach, where a new subscriber receives much more targeted and personalized messages, at just the right time.

That’s what I’m trying to learn and trying to implement in my business right now. And it’s funny because I didn’t plan it this way, but my guest today happens to be an email automation expert.

Dan Faggella joins me today to drop some knowledge on what this email automation stuff is really all about. And in fact, he was nice enough to share his screen and actually walk me through the back-end of his Infusionsoft account, actually showing us how he has setup the email sequences on his site.

Show Notes

[19] Selling a Web Agency to Focus on Products w/ Brent Weaver (UGurus)

Bootstrapped Web
[19] Selling a Web Agency to Focus on Products w/ Brent Weaver (UGurus)

Today, Brent Weaver will be joining me. Brent is a co-founder of UGurus.com, a site that helps web professionals level up their business with tons of in-depth courses, and free content.

I first came across Brent when I read an article he wrote on SixRevisions, called “What it’s like to sell your web design company”.

This interview dives deep into that story… What led him to sell his web agency of 13 years, the process of finding a buyer and making the transition — and convincing his business partners and employees to make that transition with him. And the aftermath of the sale, focusing exclusively on products, and re-building his company with renewed energy and focus.

The keyword here of course is FOCUS. A quote from Brent’s SixRevisions article that really resonated with me was:

“I realized that focus was at the root of all major successes, and that most failures are due to a lack thereof.”

I kinda feel like right now, I’m hitting on that same moment of clarity in my business. I wrote about it in my last blog post, called “Stop Starting. Start Growing”. Basically, I’m finally coming around to the idea that can’t pursue more than one path — or one startup — at a time. When I lack focus, I feel like I’m just treading water. Exerting lots of energy, but not making any progress.

As I wrote about in that blog post, I pulled out of the agency I had started with my friend and office-mate, Clint Warren, because it distracted me from my primary focus, which is building Restaurant Engine, and sharing what I learn in the process here in my podcast and blog.

By the way – in case you were wondering why I kinda took a 4 week hiatus from this podcast – well, I had kid! My wife and I welcomed our daughter, Emma, to the world on March 2nd. She’s our first and I couldn’t be more excited, happy, and a little bit unsure of what the next few years have in store… Definitely a “learn by doing” experience, this being a Dad stuff. So I just wanted to share that with you.

Hit the play button above to hear the interview, then check out the key takeaways below.  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Key Takeaways

1. The mindset of web agency clients vs. customers of info products.

Many web agency clients tend to see hiring an agency as more of a chore than something they’re excited about. While the agency owner and team present exciting ideas and ways to leverage the client’s web presence, all the client is focused on is the price tag. They don’t share in the excitement of those possiblities.

Customers of an educational course, on the other hand, are hungry for that knowledge and they’re driven to better themselves and level up their business. That’s what makes creating and selling educational content so inspiring and motiviting — the customers place such a high value on it. Brent talked about how some of his customers would send him 6-page emails pouring out their feelings and aspirations related to his products. It’s hard not to get excited about running a business that has that type of impact.

2. “Bring content marketing to your target audience”

Not every business has the luxury of selling to an audience of web-savvy folks like us, who frequent blogs, Twitter, and podcasts. Brent’s advice to me, when I talked about how my product focuses on the Restaurant Industry, was to bring content marketing to them. In Brent’s case, he publishes interviews with his target customers.

3. The careful process of pitching the change in direction to partners and employees

It’s easy for a solo entrepreneur to shift gears and try a new direction. But when you’ve got business partners and employees who count on you, and count on the strength of your business for their paychecks, it requires a very delicate approach to pitch a drastic change in direction.

I like how Brent approached it, in a very methodic, step-by-step manor. Step 1: Lay it all out for himself. He described how he spent most of his trip thinking through it all first. Step 2: Present it (and convince) his partners. He described how this was a difficult process. Step 3: He spoke to each of his employees one-on-one to get their temperature and determine if they’re willing and the right fit to come along in the new direction.

Show Notes

[14] Consulting vs. Products (or both?) with Brad Touesnard

Bootstrapped Web
[14] Consulting vs. Products (or both?) with Brad Touesnard

How does working as a consultant compare to working on a product?  Is the product world really as dreamy as it’s cracked up to be?  What are the benefits, the pitfalls, and the hidden pros and cons?

In this episode, Brad Touesnard, founder of Delicious Brains and the popular WordPress product, WP Migrate DB Pro, joins me to break all these questions down.

Brad and I are also organizing Big Snow Tiny Conf, a ski/snowboard getaway and mini-conference for web business owners.  It’s happening this January 2014.  Unfortunately, the house is basically full, but if you email me this week (like, now), we might be able to squeeze you in.  Otherwise, stay tuned this time next year!

Show Notes

[13] Case Study: Sacha Greif on His Redesign of Folyo.me

Bootstrapped Web
[13] Case Study: Sacha Greif on His Redesign of Folyo.me

I’ve got a special treat for you today. You’re going to hear my interview with the talented designer and entrepreneur, Sacha Greif, and he’s going to walk us through his recent redesign of Folyo.me, a marketplace which connects pre-qualified designs with clients.

But this isn’t a typical interview for this podcast. In fact, this interview originally wasn’t supposed to be available here for free at all.

This is actually one of a series of video case studies that will come as part of the one the packages sold with my book, Design For Conversions. In these case studies, I invited a few designers/founders to walk me through their design of their product’s marketing site. Each of the videos are around 30 minutes in length (some a bit longer). I asked the designer to share their screen as we talk in detail about their strategies, process, and design decisions as they went about creating the site.

This case study with Sacha Greif was so good that I decided to make this one available for free. You’re going to hear the audio here in this podcast, but I highly recommend you watch the video, posted above. Again, Sacha shares his screen and points through the site as we talk about it, so it’s best if you follow along that way.

Top of homepage of Folyo.me
Top of homepage of Folyo.me

Finally, a quick update on the book: This weekend I officially completed writing all of the chapters of the book. There are 13 in total, and I believe it’s over 35,000 words. Being a book about design, of course there are tons of images as well. So it feels great to have that milestone behind. But my work isn’t over yet.

With less than 4 weeks to go until the release date, here’s what’s left on my to-do list:

  • Edit all chapters of the book
  • Layout the book, I’ll probably use iBooks Author for this.
  • As soon as the chapters are edited and laid out, I’ll be sending the free chapter to all of you who signed up for it.
  • Edit the rest of these case study videos… I’ve got about 6 others besides the one you’ll hear today.
  • I need to update the landing page for the book. I’ll be adding pricing info and other things. Plus I need to hook up the system to actually sell the digital downloads… I’m thinking I’ll either use Gumroad, or the WordPress plugin Easy Digital Downloads for this.
  • I have 6 confirmed guest articles to write on other blogs, with a few more pending. These should all be publishing in November, around the time of the book launch.

So I definitely have my work cut out for me over the next 3 weeks or so. It’s crunch time!

Again, if you want to get on the pre-launch list for Design For Conversions, get that free chapter, and a discount when the book comes out, head over to the book landing page.

[12] Can a Consultancy Be Systemized? Let’s Ask The Expert, Kelly Azevedo (She’s Got Systems)

Bootstrapped Web
[12] Can a Consultancy Be Systemized? Let's Ask The Expert, Kelly Azevedo (She's Got Systems)

Today you’ll hear my interview with Kelly Azevedo, from She’s Got Systems. Kelly is a “systems engineer” who consults / coaches entrepreneurs on how they can systemize and grow their business.

But what I wanted to learn from Kelly was how she systemizes and scales up her business, as a consultant who sells coaching packages and now adding a line of information products, which are courses on systemizing.

I know first-hand how difficult it is to scale up a consultancy when the product that you sell is your actual face-time with clients. But Kelly seems to be doing a great job, putting the necessary team in place to help her actually grow her consultancy.

I’m going to be honest, these interviews that I do here on Bootstrapped Web are actually for selfish reasons. I invite people on because I want to pick their brains about things that I’m personally curious about and want to apply these lessons in my own business. Of course, it’s all here so you can benefit too.

So as some of you know, I spent most of 2013 working solely on products, but I’m actually now starting to make a return to consulting. Believe it or not, I kinda missed it, and that was certainly a surprise for me. But this time around, I’m doing things differently. I’m focusing much more on helping startups not only with design but with strategy and marketing. Part of my goal for Consulting 2.0 as I’m starting to call it, is I’m aiming to grow my team, and just grow the business.

So I was excited to have Kelly on to hear about how she’s done that with She’s Got Systems. It’s kind of a long interview, but there are lots of insightful takeaways so be sure to stay tuned through to the end.

Key Takeaways

1. Kelly talked about how everything that happens in between her coaching sessions with clients is now systemized and handled by her team. So she has put the necessary team members in place to handle all of the things that she’d rather not handle, so that she can focus her time solely on the creative aspects of what she does, like forming strategies for her clients. That makes her more effective at what she does, and of course makes her job much more enjoyable.

2. The power of networking and joining networking organizations. When I asked Kelly about how she landed a spot in the New York Times and all of these other publications, she credited a networking group that she’s a member of. It’s so important to seek out groups like these and get out there and network. Don’t stay locked up in your office every day, with your head down, buried in code. Do some networking. You never know, you could end up with a writeup in the New York Times!

3. Did you notice how Kelly was totally on her game in this interview? What I mean is, she spoke clearly about her business, driving home the value that she brings to her clients. Obviously, she has done quite a few interviews like these, but it really shows how much care and preparation she has put into how she communicates what she does. From her elevator pitch at the beginning, to the way she frames her answers in a clear, meaningful way. Awesome job Kelly, and the takeaway for the rest of us is to take time to prepare and hone how you talk about your business.

Show Notes

[11] From Idea to 10 Paying Customers in Less Than a Week – w/ Dan Norris (WP Curve)

Bootstrapped Web
[11] From Idea to 10 Paying Customers in Less Than a Week - w/ Dan Norris (WP Curve)

Since my last interview with Dan Norris, a lot has changed.  While his first startup, Informly continues on, he launched a new startup, WP Curve, and managed to attract over ten paying customers in the first week!  That instantly doubled his monthly recurring revenue.

So I knew I had to get him right back onto the podcast to get us up to speed on these exciting new developments.  We covered:

  • Where the idea came from (seemlingly out of nowhere)
  • How he validated the MVP by manning the live chat support sleeping with his phone next to his pillow
  • How he met his co-founder and partnered up from across the world
  • How they’re marketing this unique service by reaching influencers.

Key Takeaways

Takeaway #1

Both of his products, while seemingly very different, actually serve much of the same audience.  If you’re a business owner and a website owner, you can probably find value both in Informly, as it gives you updates on the performance of your website, and WP Curve, who provides support for your website.  Very smart to have that overlap, and that’s a pattern I’m definitely seeing across many of these interviews.

You can go back and listen to my interviews with Brennan Dunn and Nathan Barry, who both speak to this idea of audience overlap.

Takeaway #2:

This idea of entrepreneurship as a skill.  Did you guys catch the part of the interview where Dan said he was basically losing $1500 per month and he had only one month left before he wouldn’t be able to sustain it?  So what did he do?  He went and launched a brand new idea, validated and attracted paying customers.  Sure, WPCurve is a great idea, but you know what, Dan has tons of ideas and he could have made any of them work.  Why?  Because he has built his skillset as an entrepreneur, and he can carry that with him through any new idea and any new chapter in his journey.  Entrepreneurship is not about hitting on a single golden idea.  It’s about knowing how to create value again and again, and Dan truly demonstrated that with his launch of WPCurve.

Show Notes

[10] Rob Walling Shares His Approach to Scaling a Portfolio of Startups

Bootstrapped Web
[10] Rob Walling Shares His Approach to Scaling a Portfolio of Startups

Rob Walling joins me to talk about his “portfolio” of startups and his approach to bootstrapping and scaling up one startup to the next.

Rob is the co-host of the popular Startups For The Rest of Us podcast, and founder of quite a few bootstrapped businesses such as Hittail and his latest, Drip.  He blogs at Software by Rob.

I was really excited to have Rob on today because I think he has carved a pretty different path than most entrepreneurs.  He really takes the “portfolio” approach to building businesses.  Instead of starting just one company and growing and growing growing that, what Rob does is he starts one, scales it up, puts people in place to run it, then moves on to the next thing.

So that’s what I dug into in this interview.  I wanted to really understand how he goes about navigating one startup to the next. We talked about his approach to hiring, how he chooses what to do next, and how he’s able to manage it all.

Key Takeaways

  • Rob starts by putting VA’s in place to handle tier-1 support, but then scales up to the point where people are in place to run all aspects of the business.  That includes a dedicated product manager, who has been trained to make strategic decisions the way Rob would.  He mentioned how 19 out of 20 decisions would match the same ones Rob would make himself, and even the if one decision goes a different way, it’s worth it to give Rob that freedom to focus on his next thing.  That’s a very inspiring takeaway because it gives me something to strive for in the future.
  • One of the factors he looks for when deciding which business ventures to take on next is whether or not the idea could 10x his previous venture.  He’s always growing and always challenging himself.  That’s the kind of thing that really shows how far Rob has taken the entrepreneural path.  Again, very inspiring.
  • It sounds like Rob’s ventures are trending away from the B2C space and now focusing on B2B.  But to take this further, his latest ventures tend to be marketed towards entrepeneurs and marketers, which is in line with the thinking of Nathan Barry, Brennan Dunn.  The key takeaway here is that if you’re looking to take the portfolio approach — building lots of businesses, not just one — then it probably makes the most sense to focus your energy in one particular space, the one that you’re most passionate about.
  • The benefit of building an audience — at least in Rob’s case — isn’t so much about building a large stream of customers for his apps, the real value of building such a large audience is it gives him an incredible network.  He can look to his network to build that early access list for a new app, or he can look to his network to find a new hire, or get feedback.  This really brought to light one of the biggest hidden benefits of building an audience.

Show Notes

[9] Becoming a 5-Tool Blogger

Bootstrapped Web
[9] Becoming a 5-Tool Blogger

The 5-tool player is a professional baseball scout’s dream ballplayer.  They’re the players who excel at all 5 key aspects of the game:  Hitting for power, hitting for average, throwing, fielding, and base running.

I’ve always been fascinated by watching professional athletes perform, particularly in the game of baseball.  I find it inspiring.  Not because I dream of playing centerfield for the New York Mets in my lifetime.  I gave up on that dream by the age of 10.

It’s inspiring because these guys are the best of the best.  They’ve got their skills completely dialed in.  They make it look so easy, and most of what they do does come easy to them.  But even at the pinnacle of success, they’re still out there hustling, working on their game, hitting the gym, getting their batting practice in, analyzing video tape, and on and on.

That hunger to continuously up your game and raise the bar is what inspires me.  It fires me up every time I settle in to watch the Knicks play at Madison Square Garden.  And it motivates me when I’m talking to other entrepreneurs who are making it happen in their businesses.

Upping my Blogging Game

Over the last few weeks I’ve been making a conscious effort to become a better blogger.

Blogging isn’t a particularly new exercise for me.  I’ve been blogging for years now.  But I feel I haven’t raised my blogging game to the point where it breaks away from the pack.  That point where real traction takes hold and things start to snowball.

I think there are a few key qualities that the great bloggers do extremely well, which most of us fail to do or don’t do consistently enough.

And that’s the topic for today:  How to become a 5-Tool blogger.  These are the 5 things that will help you and me take our blogging game to the next level.

Let’s do this.

Blogging Tool 1:  Planned Execution

Most people who are new to blogging basically write whenever they feel inspired, and hit publish as soon as they type the last word of a post.

But the pro’s do things a bit differently.  They plan out their content in advance, and execute a content strategy for their blog.  Here’s what I mean:

They keep a running list of ideas for blog posts.  Then they set aside time to give some serious thought as to which ideas will resonate most with their audience.  They keep an editorial calendar and schedule the posts to publish at the optimal times.

They also produce most of their content ahead of time, so that they’re never under the gun of a looming deadline.  This can be really effective for podcasters.

Have you guys heard about John Lee Dumas’s podcast, Entrepreneur on Fire?  He publishes a new podcast episode every single day, 7-days a week.  Do you think you records and edits an episode every day?  No.  He records all 7 episodes on Monday, and schedules them to publish for the upcoming week.

David Siteman Garland calls it “getting off the content treadmill”.  He records a month’s worth of Rise to the Top episodes and drips them out over time.

Blogging Tool 2:  A Strong Newsletter

The best bloggers know that having an awesome blog isn’t only about your website.  It’s just as much — if not more — about having an awesome email newsletter.

And I don’t mean just placing a mailchimp subscribe box in the sidebar of your blog and calling it day.  That’s the step where most people stop, but the pro’s just begin.

The 5-Tool Blogger puts as much effort into his or her newsletter as they do their blog.  They thoughtfully craft an email and send it to their list every single week.  They setup an autoresponder sequence, carefully planned out with high-value content.

They get personal in their email newsletter.  They let their subscribers know that they’re a real human being, writing a real message, and they ask for a reply.

Even the guys with several thousand people on their newsletter lists, engage in genuine email conversations with their subscribers.  And that brings me to blogging tool number 3…

Blogging Tool 3:  Behind-The-Scenes Relationships

The blogger who is on their A Game doesn’t stop working once the post is published or the email newsletter is blasted out.

They’re engaged in relationships, behind-the-scenes, continuing to provide value above and beyond what they’ve already provided in their blog articles.

When you’re putting out lots of content that resonates with an audience, you’ll inevitably receive emails from your readers.  They’ll ask questions, or share their own story, or tell you what they’re working on.

I even use an email autoresponder to ask my newsletter subscribers to reply to me and tell me what’s challenging them right now in their business.  And then I set aside time each week to reply to every response, sharing whatever knowledge I can to help them in their path.  Maybe it’s a link I came across recently, or maybe I experienced the same issue a few months back, so I’d share how I worked through it.

Building relationships with readers happens just as much in your public-facing blog posts and comments as it does behind the scenes over email, at the conferences, at meetups, at your local coffee shop.

And as much as it’s about giving in sane amounts of value and time to your audience, the benefit goes both ways.  You as the blogger get to learn exactly what’s on the minds of your readers.  You can use that information to help you decide what to write next.

I learned a ton about building a newsletter and interacting with subscribers during my interview with Brennan Dunn a few weeks ago.

Blogging Tool 4:  Education and Value

The best bloggers know that it’s not about what’s in it for them.  It’s about what’s in it for the reader.

They are completely mindful of what their audience is after.  Most of the time, their audience wants to learn something or better themselves or their work in some way.

The 5-Tool Blogger knows that their reader is always thinking, what’s in it for me?  So they deliver the goods, every time.

And that’s where the social and viral aspect really comes into play.  When you’re truly delivering something of value to your readers, and they recognize that, then they are much more likely to share your content with their audience.  When someone chooses to click that Tweet button on your content, they know that it’s as much a reflection of their own reputation with their followers as it is a reflection on your reputation as the blogger.

So make your reader’s decision whether or not to share your content a no-brainer, by constantly giving them something of value.

One of the key takeaways from my interview with Nathan Barry a few weeks ago was that it only took a few in-depth, educational tutorials to gain traction and help him build a solid email list which eventually helped his first book become a success.

Blogging Tool 5:  Killer Writing Chops

Finally the fifth key quality of the 5-Tool Blogger is to hone some killer writing chops.

What I mean by that is it’s not just about picking the right topic and publishing something educational.  You have make it interesting.  You have to keep your readers hooked on every word.  You have to develop a connection with your reader.

To do this, you have to develop your voice as a writer.  Your style.  Your persona as a writer.  Yes, I think it’s important that your own personality shines through in your writing, but you have to learn how actually do that with words, paragraphs, headlines, transitions, and so on.

I think the way that each of us learns how to write and improves our chops is different for each person.  I think it comes down to two things:  Reading a lot and writing a lot.

The more we read, the more we’re exposed to different writing styles.  And I don’t just mean reading other blogs in your niche.  Try and make a point of reading books, magazines, websites, across all different subject areas.  I admit, this is something I’m trying to work on.  I tend to stick mostly to business and startup blogs, but I plan to do more reading elsewhere.  I heard great things about this biography of George Washington, so I think I’ll pick that up soon.

And of course, you have to constantly be writing.  We hear again and again that the key to becoming a better writer is to write something every single day.  It’s true.  I firmly believe that writing is a muscle and the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

When a young comic asked Jerry Seinfeld for his advice on becoming a better comic, He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.  So if you want to be a better writer on your blog, make it habit of writing something every day.

Now here’s a little tip about that:  You don’t need to write something for your blog every day.  In fact, you shouldn’t.  Only your very best stuff should be scheduled to publish your blog.  But you should still write something every day.

I recently started a habit of journaling.  I started using Day One app, which is an app for iOS and Mac for keeping a private journal.  I try to write down things I’m thinking about — mostly related to my business — at least once or twice per day.  This is a really informal, and totally personal approach to writing.  There is no editing involved.  I almost never hit the backspace key when writing in my journal.  Editing doesn’t matter because I’m the only one who will ever read it.  But it’s a great way to hone the skill of pouring words out onto the screen.

Now, when it comes to publishing content for the world to see — editing is crucial.  In fact, part of becoming a great writer is becoming an even better editor.

Jason Fried described a course he’d like to teach, all about the skill of editing:

Every assignment would be delivered in five versions: A three page version, a one page version, a three paragraph version, a one paragraph version, and a one sentence version.

I don’t care about the topic. I care about the editing. I care about the constant refinement and compression. I care about taking three pages and turning it one page. Then from one page into three paragraphs. Then from three paragraphs into one paragraph. And finally, from one paragraph into one perfectly distilled sentence.

Along the way you’d trade detail for brevity. Hopefully adding clarity at each point. This is important because I believe editing is an essential skill that is often overlooked and under appreciated. The future belongs to the best editors.

So that’s what it takes to become a 5-Tool Blogger.  I certainly have a lot of work to do if I’m going to get there.  But that’s what this game is all about.  Keep doing it, and do it again.  Learn by doing.