Scaling a High-Touch Service-Based Business with Author Accelerator Founder Jennie Nash

Scaling a High-Touch Service-Based Business with Author Accelerator Founder Jennie Nash

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The Nitty Gritty:

  • How Jennie scaled her high-touch, human-centered service business (and what mistakes she learned along the way.)
  • How she made a seemingly unreplicable service like book coaching… replicable.
  • What encouraged her to adjust the Author Accelerator’s initial pricing model from affordable and accessible to high-price and high-touch.
  • What Author Accelerator’s hiring process for book coaches looks like.
  • How Jennie moved from being a writer to a book coach and, now, an entrepreneur.
  • Why it’s 100% OK to say no to a creative idea (even if it’s a really good one.)

Today on Power. Profit. Pursuit., I jam with Jennie Nash, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Author Accelerator, a book coaching program that provides feedback, accountability, and support to writers so they can finish their books—and finish strong.

Jennie believes that people have a story to tell, whether or not they’re a writer. This belief is what transformed her career as a writer to book coach: to help people finally write that book. That excitement and passion eventually turned into a business. Despite being high-touch, human-centered work at its core, Jennie figured out how to scale the book coaching process and grow her team at Author Accelerator to over 25 employees.

Listen to this episode to hear exactly how Jennie scaled Author Accelerator, what mistakes she ran into, and her four requirements for all new employees.

We release new episodes of Profit. Power. Pursuit every week. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

On scaling a high-touch, human-centered service business

I really resisted it because I thought you can’t scale a high-touch, super human-centered system. Book coaching is so inefficient. It’s about the human touch. It’s about people’s hearts. It’s about their souls. I had this really deep aversion that the two things couldn’t connect. And he (Matt Sand, her business partner) kept insisting they could — and that I’d already done it.

Jennie Nash

It took years for Jennie to accept her now-business partner’s offer to scale her book coaching process into a full-scale business. Why so long? Because she didn’t see a way for someone else, like an employee, to learn her high-touch, human-centered process — and do it right.

But what Jennie found, once she said ‘yes’, was that it was possible: she could teach others her book coaching process. Scaling this business model wasn’t an instant success, as she uncovers, but more of a test-and-tweak-along-the-way to find the right model and pricing.

On how to hire, and retain, top-notch employees

This was the roadblock: I kept saying there is no way that we can get the level of talent that we need to scale this. We can’t get them at the price that will work. That’s what I thought.

Jennie Nash

Finding and hiring the right people was Jennie’s biggest roadblock to scale her book coaching business. But once she found a formula that worked, Jennie was able to grow her team to over 25 employees around the world. In the last 4 years, only 3 employees left Author Accelerator to start families, leave for their dream job, or start their own business.

So how do you craft a team that’s in it for the long run? Process. Process. Process.

Jennie determined what skills and personality type would thrive in the position — and she didn’t make exceptions. Everyone needed mechanical editing and narrative design skills as well as the ability to think strategically. They also needed to be nice and compassionate. This was a requirement. Even if someone had all the skills, if they weren’t kind, they didn’t make the cut.

This hiring process is so successful that Author Accelerator is launching a book coach certification program in 2018.

We’re really proud of the retention of our coaches and how we train them, the ongoing masterclasses, and oversight. In fact, we have become so sure of our process that in 2018 we’re going to launch a book coach certification program which is a whole other arm of our business. We had so many people who we didn’t hire ask how they could learn what they needed to know that we decided to do this.

Jennie Nash

On pricing a high-touch service

We made a lot of missteps, as every business does. We just completed year four and at the beginning of this year, we finally hit on the right combination of how to do it, how to price it, how to make it work, and we very quickly started to see a lot of growth. It was clear that this was the right way, the right system, strategy, and process. It was so exciting. Now we’re really starting to see that scaling happen.

Jennie Nash

Most business owners struggle with properly pricing their products and services. It’s not easy! After 4 years, Jennie found the right pricing for Author Accelerator — but it took many changes along the way. At first, Jennie wanted to offer an affordable program despite being a high-touch book coaching program. That pricing method didn’t work so they tried something else: high touch and high price and — it worked. Since then, they’ve seen a lot of growth.

If pricing comes as a struggle to you, consider this: sometimes it takes a few years to get it right. Focus on what you do well and how you do it — and don’t always look to competitors for your pricing inspiration.

Then, as Jennie says, ask yourself: “What is that I do that’s so different and special and good? And how can I take that and sell that?”

Listen to the full episode to hear even more from Jennie Nash, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Author Accelerator, on scaling a high-touch, high-price service.

Hiring Best Practices with Patrice Perkins

Hiring Best Practices with Patrice Perkins
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The Nitty Gritty:

  • When a team member should be a contractor and when they should be an employee (and why you’re likely not following the letter of the law on this one)
  • What “at will” employment means and why you’re not nearly as committed as you might think you are when you hire someone
  • The kinds of questions you need to avoid in an employment interview
  • How to protect your intellectual property when bringing on a new team member
  • What to avoid when you make an employment offer

During last week’s class, Create a Hiring Plan & Grow Your Standout Business, I was lucky enough to be joined by Patrice Perkins, the founder of Creative Genius Law.

I was able to ask her your most pressing legal questions on the topic of hiring… and probably a few you didn’t know you should be worried about!

CreativeLive was gracious enough to release this interview as this week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. episode.

What the Heck Is drop shipping? with Portlight & Freeeup founder Nathan Hirsch

What the Heck Is dropshipping? with Portlight & Freeeup founder Nathan Hirsch
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The Nitty Gritty:

  • What the heck is drop shipping
  • How outsourcing some aspects of your business helps you to focus on what you do best
  • Why it’s important to know what you’re looking for before hiring

On the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast this week I speak with Nathan Hirsch, author of Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, serial entrepreneur and cofounder of drop shipping company Portlight and, a remote hiring workplace that helps business owners “hire the top 1% of freelancers.” Nathan started his first business in 2009 out of his dorm room to drop ship products on and by 2014 he had sold more than $20 million in products. Through his learning experiences growing and scaling Portlight and building remote teams in the eCommerce space, Nathan co-founded to help other businesses around the world hire their freelance talent online.

What is Drop Shipping?

A lot of people don’t spend time researching what’s coming up and what’s on the horizon.

— Nathan Hirsch

When Nathan was a college student looking to make beer money, he didn’t have to look any farther than the campus bookstore to find an opportunity for entrepreneurship. He started buying and re-selling people’s textbooks and ultimately learned he was really good at selling baby products, toys and home goods online. Although he didn’t refer to his business at the time as drop shipping, that’s essentially what he was doing—his business listed and optimized products on Amazon and handled any customer service issues while passing on the order info to the vendor or manufacturer so they could fulfill and ship it. This business model doesn’t require the drop-shipping entity to hold any inventory. Drop shippers realize profit from the difference between what the customer pays and what the item costs.

Faster and Foolproof Way to Hire

Business owners can go back to expanding and growing their business instead of using all of their time recruiting and finding workers.

— Nathan Hirsch

As any business owner knows, as you grow and need to hire help you can get 100 responses (and oftentimes more) to each job posting. Before you know it, you’re spending all your time on human resources functions rather than on the things you do best. Nathan always wanted a better way. was founded based on Nathan’s own experiences building a freelance army to help support his first business. Today, has instituted a referral program for both workers and clients that is on track to pay out $150,000 in referral bonuses this year. This referral program keeps the business growing and helps find the top 1% of freelancers. Nathan said creating a referral program is one of the better business decisions he has made.

Spend the Time Vetting Your Employees vets a candidate’s skills, attitude and communication, and Nathan only hires his own employees from the network. They look for people who are honest about what they can and cannot do and have a track record of success. Attitude is also very important, because a bad attitude can spread like cancer. Employees need to be good communicators and be proactive with communication. On the flip side, an employer needs to be able to outline expectations to an employee so they understand what is expected.

Tune in to the full episode to hear all of Nathan’s insights about entrepreneurship and online hiring, diversifying clients and team members, finding the right team and the lessons he learned growing two businesses very quickly.

Never miss a single episode by subscribing to the podcast. Each week I talk to today’s entrepreneurs about how they’ve built their businesses and teams and the learning experiences they had along the way.

The Art of Management—For One or Many—With Productive Flourishing Founder Charlie Gilkey

The Art of Management—For One or Many—With Productive Flourishing Founder Charlie Gilkey
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The Nitty Gritty:

  • Why to shift from hiring contractors to hiring employees
  • How to keep your team from becoming overcommitted and overwhelmed
  • How to structure time to enhance creativity

This week, my guest is on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast is Productive Flourishing founder, Charlie Gilkey. Charlie is a best-selling author, speaker, blogger, podcaster and business strategist. His website has been visited by nearly 3 million people and his tools, worksheets and planners have been downloaded more than 1 million times. He’s taught thousands of people how to go from idea to done using simple, but powerful approaches that tap into their strengths and genius.

Charlie and I talk about the art of management—whether for one or for many including the shift from contractors to hiring employees, how to keep your team from becoming overcommitted and how to structure time to enhance creativity.

From Contractors to Hiring Employees

I hire and select for people who are versatile, adaptable and like to do multiple things.

— Charlie Gilkey

Although Charlie still has independent contractors on the Productive Flourishing support team, he built a core team of five employees who are all dedicated to achieving the same goal. They all wear many hats and are multifunctional to allow for changes to, and growth of, the business. He found it is harder to build culture with freelancers or contractors. Everyone on the core team who are employees already understands the goals, processes and culture which is sometimes harder with freelancers or contractors who must figure these things out in addition to doing the job they are getting paid to do. As your business grows what you actually need is people who fit your culture, can show up each day to dedicate their time to your business and be flexible.

Control the Overwhelm

If we have to wear 17 different hats, at least know who is wearing which hat.

— Charlie Gilkey

When you have a small, but versatile team of people who “wear 17 different hats,” it’s important to have very clear job descriptions and roles and responsibilities. People are in different lanes of responsibility and different projects that they own. Charlie’s team also uses Asana to schedule regular routines and projects. When people aren’t keeping up with their routines, it’s a sign that they are overcommitted. By knowing what the routines are, when they need to be done and who is doing them, a lot of the meta thinking is not needed. The answers are in the routines. When your team isn’t clear about how things are going to get done, the uncertainty zaps your team’s productivity and morale. Plus, in the last year the team has gotten a lot better about determining the projects they are going to commit to and saying “no” to others.

Structure Time to Enhance Creativity

A lot of creative people don’t recognize how supportive structure and defaults are.

— Charlie Gilkey

A lot of creative people rebel against the very things they need the most. High-performing creative people inevitably have these really well thought-out structures and containers to do their creative work. Productive Flourishing is to the point that the processes and structure are set, so the team can use their creativity on the work and not use it to figure out what the work should be and how it will get done.

Tune into the entire podcast to learn more from my discussion with Charlie including how businesses and professionals make things harder and how he articulates his intuitive synthesis to his team. You can learn more about Charlie Gilkey and download his free planners for creative people from his website.

And, listen to the Productive Flourishing podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or wherever you listen to this podcast!

Why You Should Hire for Happiness

Why you should hire for happiness

Business owners get too hung up on titles when it comes to hiring.

“Who should I hire first, a VA or a social media person?” people often ask me.

The answer is neither.

Whether you’re on your first hire, your 10th hire, or your 100th hire, you should only look to hire people who would be insanely happy tackling the responsibilities you need help with.

That probably sounds like a pipe dream.

It’s not. 

I talked to Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral scientist whose recent work has focused on happiness, about engineering happy teams. She said that through “job crafting” you can help people experience happiness every single day.

Now, in our interview, she described this process as part of reorganizing and optimizing her existing team. 

But you can–and should–hire this way too.

The first step is to determine what responsibilities you need help with. Sometimes this means delegating work you’re already doing, sometimes this means assigning work that’s been going undone but could really move the needle on your business.

Next, take those responsibilities and organize them into a job description. Forget trying to assign a title to it at first. Definitely don’t assign responsibilities based on what you think a certain title or role should be doing.

Then, you can use the process Vanessa describes as job crafting to make clear who you’re looking for. Instead of just listing responsibilities, include qualifiers:

The ideal candidate would:

  • Feel happy making customers feel understood and taken care of–even when we make mistakes.
  • Feel masterful when it comes to spotting places we could improve our customer service procedures and creating solutions to those challenges.
  • Love to craft customer-focused communication and reach out to existing customers to offer them additional opportunities
  • Feel capable analyzing customer communication and surveys and provide recommendations to the leadership team.

Once you have your job description fleshed out, you can pass it around to friends. Ask them if they know people who are happy doing the things you’ve outlined–not just moderately capable. 

You might be surprised at the quality of people who would respond to such a job description who would never think of themselves as a VA, marketing assistant, customers service rep, or project manager.

Of course, if you don’t find people through your friends or network, you can post about the job publicly, email your list, or advertise the job locally.

How would your life–and your team–be different if you were surrounded by people doing things they loved?

Want more on job crafting and engineering a happy team? Definitely listen to this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Vanessa.

Click here to listen to the episode or read the transcript.

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