“The way I structure my day is my creative work is always first, so if I am doing interviews or I’m outlining a new program or I’m copywriting or writing emails, creative work is first.” — Melanie Duncan
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Tara: Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty gritty details of running their businesses, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them. Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team building, marketing, business models, and mindset. Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business.
My guest this week is Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur with businesses in a variety of industries from apparel to customized home decor. She now runs a multiple seven-figure empire with her husband, Devon, and lives the work-from-wherever lifestyle that so many dream of. Melanie has also translated her passion and experience into her role as an online educator, helping thousands of people start and grow successful businesses of their own.
Melanie and I talk about the role of digital marketing in product-based businesses, how she manages working with her spouse, and the importance of company culture, whether your company is large or small.
Melanie Duncan, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Melanie: It is an honor to be here. Thanks for having me.
Tara: I’d love to start off by talking about the two ecommerce businesses you founded. Can you tell me how you and your now husband got the idea for that first Greek college apparel company?
Melanie: Yeah, so we have a business called Custom Greek Threads that creates customized apparel for sorority and fraternity members. So those organizations and groups in college here in the United States, and the funny little side note about that is neither my husband and I are in the or were in the Greek system. So what happened is we were in college, and noticed that a lot of people were spending, my husband’s sister in particular, spending a lot of time and money and effort into these really cool, customized tote bags and sweatshirts and all sorts of sweat pants and gifts for their fraternity and sorority sisters and brothers, and there was really no one offering it very well online, so they were having to drive off-campus, bring in their own sweatshirts, find stuff, bring it into some little, you know, quilt shop or something, and kind of hodge podge together these creations. We decided to bring it online and create a fully, customizable website, where you could come in and basically design the dream Greek garment that you wanted to create for yourself or someone else by selling direct-to-customer, and by using and learning online marketing principles, we were able to scale it into a multi-million-dollar business in a very niche market.
Tara: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I love how that story really starts off by you guys identifying a need in the market, you know? Not necessarily something that you had expertise in or even experience in, but something that you could see as a clear need and starting from there. That’s something that is so important for people to hear and to recognize. Let’s dig a little deeper here. Can you tell me where you got the money to start up that first business?
Melanie: Yes. So that is, you know, the kind of ugly side of business, and don’t let me forget to tell you about Luxury Monograms, also, because there is another ecommerce business, but yeah, that first business was really kind of a terrible business to start with, to be honest with you, because to create these garments, we identified there’s screen printing, which I’m sure a lot of people in your audience are familiar with for creating garments, and there’s embroidery, and embroidery ended up to kind of be our sweet spot in the market, because there were less people doing it, there was less competition, and it was easier to create one-off garments, instead of screen printing a lot of times you have to do really big runs, and since we were offering, or are offering a very customized, one-off type of item, embroidery ended up being our sweet spot. But embroidery machines, at least the ones we needed to do the type of we were doing, you know, crests and all the sort of really cool customization, thousands and thousands of dollars. I think our … the machine we bought, the first one, was $13,000, which we did not have the money for, so we just leased everything. So we leased this machine, and actually, I think it took us ten years or something to actually pay it off. They wouldn’t, once we started making money, they wouldn’t let us pay it off.
Tara: Oh, no.
Melanie: Yeah, so that one machine ended up being, we ended up, now, I think we have a couple dozen of these embroidery machines that we all paid for in cash after the business turned profit, but that one machine, the time we were actually able to pay it off, it was this big celebration, because they wouldn’t let us pay off that machine, but to answer your question more directly, we, it was very much bootstrapped. We leased everything that we could. You know, I don’t like saying this, because I don’t recommend this as what you do, but you know, we did whatever was possible. We tried, we used some credit cards, but really, we just, we were in college, so we kind of had the beauty of having really low personal expenses. I will probably never do this again now at this point in my life when I have a home and a child and all of those things, but you know, we had our rent covered, luckily, by our parents at that time, so any money that we made, we didn’t pay ourselves for years, it just kept being reinvested in the business.
Tara: Oh, wow. That is amazing. Where do you think that kind of vision came from for you? You know, to be able to say I’m going to lease this stuff, not pay myself, put this money back into the business, I think that takes an amazing amount of vision, even foresight, to be able to work towards that kind of goal. Was that kind of vision something that you always had? Something that just kind of got sparked by this idea? Where did that come from?
Melanie: Well, I think a really important part of it, and this was something, you know, when … when you’d sent me a lit bit of some ideas of what we might be discussing today about, you know, what was something that had a really disproportionate influence on my success, it was definitely my business partner. So as you mentioned, my husband, Devon, we work together now. We’ve worked together in every business we’ve ever operated together, but it was having someone by my side that whenever one of us said this is too hard or I don’t want to be working in a warehouse until 4:00 a.m. in college when everyone else is off at parties. It was having that anchor, that other person that was like yes, we can do this, you’ve got this, and that honestly is what … we kept each other going, and we had, you know, big dreams. I don’t want to get all like mushy on you, but we had big dreams for what we wanted our lives to be and what we wanted to be able to accomplish and the freedom we wanted to have. I mean, I was able to graduate and immediately go into working for myself. We were able to take a three-month honeymoon around the world, because we made that investment, we knew what we were working for. We didn’t want to have to graduate college and just go into some, you know, corporate job. We had big stakes ahead of us, and we knew that.
Tara: Oh, wow, that’s incredible. Is there anything that you do today to keep that vision moving forward? To make sure that you’re always moving closer to that goal?
Melanie: You know what’s so funny is that, you know, I definitely teach a lot about goal setting and read a ton about it, but to be completely transparent with you, after doing this for 10+ years, it honestly has become almost second nature, where there’s just nothing that’s unrealistic and there’s nothing that’s kind of out of sight, it’s just about identifying what you want, and then working backwards. Okay, you want to make $10 million, what does that mean you need to do in the next three months to like create that first step to get there? So everything we do now is whenever we have a big vision or a big goal, something we want to accomplish, we just break it down section by section. What are the projects that are going to get us there? What is the timeline that needs to be implemented if we need to hit this by a certain date or by a certain time frame, and it’s just taking those bigger visions and not trying to play too small. I think that’s honestly the biggest mistake I see with the clients I work with is their goals aren’t big enough, or if they’re big enough, they’re too general and not specific enough. Make really big, specific goals, and then just work backwards.
Tara: Oh, we are so on the same page with that, and I do want to talk about that a little bit later on, but you did mention your luxury monogram business, and I want to find out more about that. Can you tell us how you got started with that business?
Melanie: Yes, thank you. Another … another funny story. So the Greek apparel business, we created, we had always built that business with leaving in mind, not just necessarily in selling, but we wanted it to be something that we didn’t have to personally have our finger on top of, so after, oh let me get the timing right, I think after about three and a half or four years after we started that business, and it was not all rainbows and roses, so don’t let me give you that misrepresentation, but after four years of a lot of very hard, very specific and strategic work, we were able to move to New York City, which is where we ultimately wanted to end up and leave the business in Southern California and manage it remotely. So once we did that, there were a couple of different factors that came into play. I started making friends with a lot of different really dynamic business owners in New York City. A lot of them happened to be interior designers. I got very interested in interior designing.
The second part of the equation was our Greek business, we were having a really big challenge where there were very big spikes and valleys in the revenue, because we were very, very busy in spring and fall, which is right around when recruitment is in the Greek system, so a lot of people buying stuff, really engaged, but then we were dead, dead, dead in the summer, and having a huge facility, having lots of trained staff, our overhead was nuts, and we were basically dead in the summer, so we were testing out different ideas. We kind of dipped our toe into the souvenir market, creating, you know, like the San Francisco, or you know, different novelty items, because we do all of our own manufacturing, but that didn’t really pan out. What did work, though, is I created a site called Luxury Monograms, which following the same vein in terms of our offering, it created customizable home items. So home decor, whether it was placemats, pillows, napkins, using our same machinery, our same staff, our same facility, everything, but we … the booming season for that is in the summer, because there’s a lot of bridal showers and a lot of weddings, and monogram gifts are very hot for bridal showers and weddings, so that enabled us to kind of round out the overall demand on our resources for those two businesses.
Tara: Oh, man, that is serious leverage.
Tara: So, can you tell me something that surprised you in starting up the luxury monogram business when, you know, you’d already been so successful with the Greek apparel company?
Melanie: Yeah. What really surprised me was how hard it was. I think that, I don’t know if this speaks to anyone else that may be listening that has started more than one business, but I think I was a little over cocky. I had started one business, so I thought, oh, this’ll be, and you know, in a very similar vein, I thought this’ll just be rinse and repeat, but I kind of forgot that I was essentially building an audience from scratch. I mean, we had a tiny bit of crossover, some, you know, Greek people that were into monograms in the south and that sort of thing, but essentially, I was targeting a very different type. I was, you know, selling $75 pillows, so I was needing to go after a more luxury market, people who were more into home decor, entertaining. We have a lot of interior designers that purchase from us, so building an entirely new audience in a different industry was more challenging. You know, we were able to do it, and it took a lot of, you know, testing a lot of different things, staying flexible, and being very persistent, but I was able to kind of crack the code again with online marketing and got our company featured on Good Morning America and on NBC and figured out how to get a lot of press for that business without using a PR agency, and that was really what got that company up and off the ground.
Tara: Okay, so now I want to talk about the online marketing and the online marketing space since you’ve mentioned that a few times.
Tara: Eventually, I want to talk about it in relation to the business that you have now, which is an information-based business, but first, I’d love to know what specific online marketing techniques or practices you use to build your two ecommerce businesses. What specifically were you doing to market those businesses and grow them?
Melanie: Yeah, so believe it or not, you know, when we started Custom Greek Threads 10+ years ago now, it was still kind of the wild, wild west of the internet, which makes me feel really old, but I still remember, you know, we were, when we originally started that business, we had an online business, we had an online website, we were taking all of our orders online, however, we were not marketing online. We were still cold calling different Greek organizations, going door-to-door on Greek rows around the country. We were setting up exhibitor booths at all the big Greek conferences. We were not marketing online, which sounds just kind of asinine at this point, but you know, I think it was eleven years ago, so when we made the switch, we start reading … My husband, actually, I still remember him buying SEO for Dummies and Google AdWords for Dummies, and just reading all these … all these pages of books, and we thought, oh, that’s so crazy, and I still remember our first sale we got from Washington, D.C., and we both looked at each other and went we’ve never done any conferences in Washington, how did we get a customer in Washington, D.C.? And it was because we’d paid some guy $500 to search engine optimize our website, and we started getting ranked for terms like Greek sweatshirts or, you know, Delta Gamma tote bag, and that really, that was the first piece that made a big difference in how we were able to scale that business into the, not just success, but multi-million-dollar realm.
Tara: Oh nice. And have you branched into social media marketing with those two businesses as well?
Melanie: Of course, of course, yes. So SEO is really what we kind of got our hook in, and then since then, we started with, you know, okay, our customers, I still remember my husband and I, we were on our honeymoon, and we were sitting in the gardens outside the Louvre in Paris, and I looked at him and I said, you know, when we were in college, we had just graduated, we spent a lot of time on Facebook. I bet our customers, and again, this sounds so stupid now, but I go I bet a lot of our customers are on Facebook, too. I think we should try Facebook ads. And my husband goes okay, well, you know, I don’t really know anything about them, which is hilarious, because now, he’s like a Facebook ad ninja, but back then, he’s like, well, I don’t know, why don’t you just take a stab at it, and so I started running our Facebook ads accounts, and yes, we now spend, I mean, just a … hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on Facebook. Not just for the Greek business, but across all of our different businesses and on paid traffic strategies and yes, we definitely use social media a ton.
Tara: Ah, how about email marketing?
Melanie: Of course. Of course. Another thing that, you know, like, we talk, I do teach all of this now, but it’s so funny to think about I still remember we had Custom Greek Threads for I think a year and a half before we ever started building an email list. A friend of ours that sold surfboards online said hey, you know, like you should really be doing this thing called getting your customer’s emails, and then you can, you know, like remarket to them, and again, it sounds so silly now, but yes, email marketing is really the foundation of all of our online businesses now.
Tara: Awesome. So I will totally admit that I’m asking, you know, leading questions, because I think so many people forget that whether it’s Facebook ads or your Facebook page or Pinterest or search engine optimization, you know, all these different things apply to different kinds of businesses, and those different kinds of businesses may use them in different ways, but they’re still using them. So whether it’s Greek apparel or luxury monograms or an information-based business, these are the things that move the needle on sales and growth. Now, kind of speaking of which, one of the conversations I often have with clients and with my audience is, you know, that the struggle to see how online marketing for information businesses and online marketing for product-based businesses is actually pretty similar, and you have such a unique perspective on that, in that you are both. So can you talk about the similarities and differences between how you market the information side of your business and how you market the product side of your business?
Melanie: Yes, and I will say, actually, that I think this is probably one of the most challenging areas is there is so much information out there now for marketing online and online information business. So how to use webinars to sell your programs and all that type of stuff, and I think that a lot of ecommerce owners, at least … I don’t know your audience specifically, but mine is really underserved, because yes, they should be using a lot of the same platforms, and yes, the overall concepting of how to serve an audience and how to serve a customer is the same, but I can tell you, they are two totally different animals. I mean, running an ecommerce, physical product business and selling something like a pillow is totally different than trying to sell a personal brand, trying to build a personal brand, and trying to position yourself as someone that people should listen to as an expert, and I know that all too well from, again, being overly cocky, and when I transitioned out of having ecommerce … I mean, I still have ecommerce businesses, but working in them day-in, day-out, and then trying to position myself as an online educator, I didn’t understand how difficult and different it would be to sell information and vice versa. I think a lot of people who teach online marketing but have no experience with physical product businesses don’t get how different and difficult it actually is.
Tara: Interesting. Interesting.
Tara: So let’s transition a little bit now. You’ve mentioned your husband a couple of times. Can you tell us what it’s like working with your spouse?
Melanie: You know, it’s really, really wonderful. It definitely comes with its own challenges, but I think it’s actually so much more of a benefit than anything else as long as you structure it properly. Something that has just been very helpful is my husband and I are very different and we have very different skillsets, so he owns the things. Like, he runs our programming team. He runs all the backend logistics and a lot of the more metrics-oriented type things, where I get to focus more on the creativity and the copywriting and the branding and the marketing, and so it’s kind of a dream situation for both of us. The only time we butt heads is when one of … we try to step into the other person’s realm, but other than that, it’s really a beautiful partnership.
Tara: Well, that sounds like a lot of non-spousal partnerships then, too.
Melanie: Exactly. Yeah, you just gotta be very clear about expectations and letting that person own their own roles and responsibilities.
Tara: And then is that reflected in your personal life as well? Do you guys have really specific roles and responsibilities at home?
Melanie: I don’t think so. No, not specifically. I mean, when we’re at home, you know, I’m very much of the little bit more European mindset. It’s like, you know, you’re just as capable as I am to throw in a load of laundry or change Olivia’s diaper, so there’s not … I mean, I love to cook and he doesn’t, so there might be that division, but no. I mean, we both run businesses and work full-time, and we both run our family and our home full-time together.
Tara: Hmm. Awesome. I love that. So you know, while I was preparing for our interview, I was talking with my producer about, you know, what you’re all about, and said that one of the things he admires most about you is your eye for details. Can you tell me how you keep track of all the details that are involved in bringing together a brand, bringing out a new product, creating a marketing campaign, things like that?
Melanie: Yeah. I mean, there … there are a lot of details to business, and I am a very detail-oriented person. I think that that honestly just comes back to systems. When there are so many moving pieces, and you know, as you’ve referenced, I do run multiple companies at this point, so that means managing a lot of different pieces and people and processes, so you know, I really have to reply upon I’m only as strong as my systems. So we use Asana for our project management, and I’m in that every day, but I also am very, very devoted to my own personal processes, my routines, how I structure my time, if you want to talk more about that, but that’s the foundation for my success.
Tara: Yeah, actually, let’s talk about that, because that’s one of the big questions that I get requests for our guests, which is you know, how do these amazing people structure their time? So what does that look like for you on a daily basis?
Melanie: And I do, I kind of hate to say this, and to be honest with you, throw up in my mouth a little bit about morning routines, because I feel like everybody talks about morning routines, but you know, if everybody’s talking about it, there’s probably a reason why. My morning routine is non-negotiable. Even, you know, I mean, does this happen every single day? No. You know, if my daughter has a fever, like no, my morning routine goes out the window, but the days I work the best, the days that I’m the most productive, the most fulfilled, and create my best work are the days that I follow my routine, and I get up every morning. It’s a lot earlier now that I have a baby. It used to kind of be whenever I woke up, but now I make sure to get up in enough time that I can have a good breakfast, I go, I work out even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes in my apartment, and I always read at least three pages of a book every single morning, and the way I structure my day is my creative work is always first, so if I am doing interviews or I’m outlining a new program or I’m copywriting or writing emails, creative work is first. I break my day in half at noon or 1:00 for lunch. I take a good lunch where I actually do not work during my lunch, it’s not allowed, so I go out or I spend my time with my daughter and have lunch with her, and then my second half of my day is reactive, so that’s when I’m going into Asana, I’m having my team calls, I’m answering people’s questions, I am reviewing my team’s work, but creative work is first, reactive work is the second half of the day.
Tara: Oh, that is a really good philosophy to follow, and I love that you called out that you’re prioritizing your creative work every morning.
Melanie: Yes, or else you just don’t get to it, and that’s the most important work to be doing.
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Tara: Okay, so I’d love to talk more about, you know, this philosophy idea, because you have a philosophy for your business that you lay out really clearly on your website, and it’s clear in that philosophy that you think a lot about company culture, which is a topic that I love, and one that I think gets real short shrift in online business circles. So why is company culture so important to you?
Melanie: Well, let me ask you a clarifying question. What do you mean by company culture? Just in terms of like the way that my team and I work together or like what I project outwards?
Tara: You know, I think for me, it’s a combination of both. It’s that … it’s how your insides match your outsides and how the way you represent your brand also reflects back on how you work with yourself, how you work with your spouse, and how you work with your team members.
Melanie: Yeah, at the end of the day, you know, something that I always keep in the front of my mind is, you know, I started my own business not just to have a job. So any time that my work feels like a job, I’m doing something wrong. And that’s not to say that it’s always like that or that it’s like that in the beginning, because in the beginning, you just do what needs to get done, and if you’re avoiding important work because you don’t feel like doing it, you’re probably, at the beginning, unless you’re at a point where you can delegate it to someone else or find a way to eliminate it, you need to be doing everything that needs to get done, but when you get to a certain point in your business where you’re breathing a little bit of relief, you’ve got some consistent clients or customers, you really have to start making strategic decisions about business being a marathon and not a sprint. So how are the choices that I’m making? Like I don’t work one-on-one with very many clients. I have a ton of demand to work one-on-one with people, but it really limits my own freedom in getting to choose to do what I want to do when I want to do it.
You know, if I wake up and I don’t feel like working, my nightmare is that there’s something that I have to work on that day. I enjoy a lot of freedom and flexibility to work on Monday or work on Sunday depending on where I am and what I feel like doing, and that’s not something I want to compromise. So that’s just something I think you have to constantly be asking yourself, and I do a lot of … again, I feel so ridiculous saying this because I’m not a very woowoo person, but journaling is really helpful. I always try and focus on every morning, not just what … I try to think of something I’m grateful for, but I think about what would make today great? So I try and think of one thing, and it’s always hilarious, because usually, it’s not that big of a deal. You know, it’s like I’d really like to go for a run in the park today. I live right by Central Park. Or I would really like to meet a friend for lunch. Like, you know, what would make today great doesn’t have to be like oh, I’d love to go buy a $10,000 handbag, but you know, just sometimes, you think about what would make today really a good day, and it’s something very attainable. But the second part of that is I review my day at the end of every single day, and I think about what made today great and what could I do to make tomorrow better, and by asking those two questions, you start to become really aware of the things that you enjoy doing in your business and the things that you don’t enjoy and how to be responding and editing and kind of changing things around to improve the experience of your work each day.
Tara: Hmm. And is that something that you encourage your teams to do as well? Or is that more just kind of your personal way of working?
Melanie: No, they have to do everything I don’t want to do. No, I’m kidding, no. Very much so. You know, something that, particularly when you’re trying to attract and keep top talent, which I would really encourage you to do regardless of what phase you’re at in your business. It doesn’t mean that you have to pay a bunch of money. You know, people will … the best people in the world will work for free if they really believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and so I always really try to … when you’re attracting top talent and working with them, a huge part of it is making sure that they are feeling challenged, appropriately challenged. Challenged enough but not too much, but also creatively fulfilled by what they’re doing, so I’m always checking in with my team on, you know, what are you liking? What are you not liking? You know, what type of the work are you really enjoying? What are you enjoying about it? How can we get you doing more of that? Because when you get great people on your team, you want to keep them, and you want to figure out and really zone in on their sweet spot, and figure out how you can shift assignments around so that’s what they’re working on, because that’s how you’re going to get the best work out of them and how they’re going to want to work for you forever.
Tara: So good. And that really just kind of leads me right into my next question. You know, you say right on your website that you value people who can handle their own business. You say we’re a team of leaders who can self-manage, work independently, and collaborate, and I love that. I love that that is a guiding principle for your company, and I think that that’s something that a lot of other people should really be incorporating into their teams as well, but how do you structure your team to kind of facilitate that kind of independence?
Melanie: Oh, well, it’s a big part of what goes into hiring, and to be honest with you, that could be like a totally different interview, because it’s … it’s really in-depth how we do our hiring and our marketing processes for our team, but it is … I do very aggressive interviewing and trial projects when I bring on people, and they have to be fiercely independent. Most of our employees, they end up working for themselves, eventually, within a few years, because we really attract a lot of people that are very entrepreneurial, because I am not a hand-holder. Like to a fault. Like people have to be able to come on and like really own their role and their position. I only do one call a week with my team. We do it first 10:00 Eastern every Monday. Other than that, I maybe talk to them a couple of times, like for feedback on Asana, but they are very much remote workers, and because of that, I have to pick people with the right personalities that will actually thrive in that situation. We’ve hired people from corporate backgrounds before that are used to, you know, the meetings and getting connected with people every day and getting constant feedback, and it just doesn’t work in our environment, so we have to be very clear about that from the beginning to attract the right people.
Tara: Interesting. So continuing this topic of philosophy or philosophy of business, you also say right there on your website that, quote, “We believe in creating the best.” How do you and your team measure that? How do you set that standard for yourself and make sure that you’re measuring up to it on a daily basis?
Melanie: That is such a good question. That might be one of the better questions I’ve ever been asked. You know, I don’t know that I really need to qualify what that is. I think that that statement does exactly what it’s supposed to just by putting it out there, because there are two types of people. The people who are looking to kind of do the bare minimum to get by and, you know, get that paycheck, and there’s the people who, when you say that, they get excited, and they say yes, push me, I want to grow, I want to be challenged, and that’s why that is there is to get those people’s attention.
Tara: I love that. I think that’s a perfect answer to that question.
Melanie: Oh, good.
Tara: So last one now on this philosophy stuff. You know, you say you measure output, not the time spent working on a task.
Tara: So what kind of systems do you use to assign work, manage expectations, and insure that the output meets or exceeds your needs? How are you measuring output so that you’re not having to focus on the time spent working on a task?
Melanie: Yeah, so one of the … I was a psychology major, so I’m kind of into mind games. One of the … one of the trial projects when I’m going through an interviewing phase with candidates is I usually do it in groups of like 20 to 30 people if it’s for a particular position, and I’ll give them all the same assignment, and I’ll say … well, I do a couple of things where I say you’re allowed to ask questions, but you will be evaluated based upon the number and the quality of questions that you ask, because again, I’m not looking for someone who’s going to be, you know, messaging me every day with a bunch of silly questions, but I don’t give them a deadline for the project. I say please submit the project when you feel it’s been done to the best of your ability. And I like to see and compare and contrast what quality of work people are able to get done within what time frame. Because there are some people who will turn in something super-fast, but they cut corners. There’s, you know, grammatical errors, it’s not well thought out. There’s some people who turn in great work, but it takes like three and a half weeks, and it’s just like, oh my gosh, like the world has changed in three and a half weeks, it can’t take that long.
And what I’m looking for is the people in the middle who can do really great work but are also very conscious of getting things completed, getting things done, and not too much … I don’t like working with perfectionists. I like people who do great work, but who get work done. I think perfectionists sometimes get too hung up in the process, and ultimately, as a business owner, you know, I can’t make money, we’re not producing revenue until something is shipped, so you’ve got to be able to get it done. So that’s how I kind of evaluate that specifically in the hiring process is what quality of work people are able to get done and within what timeframe, but when it comes to … when it comes to my team after actually on it, I don’t enforce a lot of deadlines. Most of the projects are done, they’re so planned in advance that I don’t, it’s not like I need them on Monday because we’re sending out the email on Monday. It’s more so like here are the things you need to get done this quarter, and because I’m choosing people that I’m confident in their ability to be able to produce great stuff quickly, I don’t have to be as … as much of a governing force in terms of when they get things done.
Tara: Oh, yeah. You know, that planning piece is just so huge.
Tara: You know, you can work with so much less stress if you just know what’s coming even a month or two in advance.
Melanie: It’s all on the front end. Our hiring process is normally anywhere from six to eight weeks.
Tara: Wow, that’s great. Awesome. So let’s shift gears a little bit as we start to wrap things up here, because I would love to spend some time on the topic of money and profit, and I know you’re not shy about saying that part of your mission is to help business owners push past the million-dollar revenue mark. You know, but I know from my own work that many business owners, women especially, have mental blocks around this number. Why is the seven-figure or even eight-figure mark important to you?
Melanie: Well, it … You know, honestly, it came from a place of I have multiple million-dollar businesses, so it just seemed natural that I could speak to that type of business, because that’s what I operate within. That doesn’t mean that I can’t relate to a six-figure business or a five-figure business or a zero-figure business, because I’ve been there. We’ve all been there, but I speak specifically to the million-dollar mark, one, because I like the type of people that attracts, the people who are thinking bigger and pushing bigger and planning bigger. It’s also something that I just feel very personally, I guess very personally passionate about, because I think that we do need more women thinking bigger. I think that it’s too easy to limit ourselves and to think, oh, well, you know, I’m going to start a family, so I’m not going to be able to dedicate that much time. It’s not always a time issue. It’s about if you’ve got that bigger goal in mind, it’s about working backwards, like we talked about. Figuring out what does that mean? What does that look like in your life and your business, and what you need to be thinking about in terms of how you’re going to scale and how it’s going to affect your offerings. But I mean, a seven-figure is more money, it’s just more impact. So whether, you know, maybe money’s not your thing. Maybe you want to change the world and help more people. Money’s just the vehicle to help you do that, so it’s not about, you know, having a closet full of Prada purses. It’s about giving you the freedom to choose what that ultimately looks like for you.
Tara: Yeah, and I love that you said that ultimately, it’s not about time, it’s about how you structure your business, how you make those plans, and you know, what you’re really working towards, and you can do that. In the same amount of time it takes a five-figure business, you know, you could be building a seven-figure business if it’s set up properly. And that kind of leads me into a perfect follow-up question, which is in your experience, what separates a five- or six-figure business from a seven-figure business?
Melanie: So separates a six-figure from seven-figure?
Tara: Yeah. What do you see? Is there a mental block? Is there a structural issue? What do you think separates a six-figure business from a seven-figure business?
Melanie: That’s a really great question. There’s probably quite a few things. There are different ways I could answer that. One thing that I think could be just really helpful for everyone listening is a big difference between a six-figure business, you can run a very successful six-figure business doing what you love, being in love with your products, or being in love with your services. I think when you’re a seven-figure business, you are not just in love with your products, you are not just in love with your services, you are in love with your customers, because to have a seven-figure business, you’re serving your customers or you’re serving your clients in more lateral directions. So it’s not just about creating that great signature product, or it’s not just about having that great signature offering, but it’s you’ve become so obsessed and so centered on the people you’re serving that literally the sky is the limit in terms of what you can create and how you can help and what you can offer them.
Tara: Well, that was a phenomenal answer. I hope everyone was paying special attention to that. So Melanie, what’s next for you and your companies?
Melanie: Well, you know, right now, I’m at a really beautiful place. I just had a baby girl about five months ago, so I’ve actually gone through a process of a lot of clarity, for lack of better words. Where before I had her, I was working on a lot of different things, launching a lot of different programs. My ecommerce businesses are now fully automated, so I don’t spend a ton of time in the day-to-day of those anymore, but really, what I focus on, I have a program called Business Class that’s become my flagship program. It’s a monthly membership community, and I work with business owners on scaling their online presence, on scaling their revenue, on scaling their offerings, and that’s my focus right now is I work inside that community with those people, and we work on teaching them how to expand their exposure, how to work on email marketing, social media, everything that I have learned specifically in my own businesses, I take that experience and that platform, and I use it to help them leverage what they’re doing.
Tara: Well, fantastic. Melanie Duncan, thank you so much for joining me.
Melanie: It has been a pleasure. Thank you for having me. I hope this is helpful and inspired and been insightful for everyone.
Tara: Find out more about Melanie at MelanieDuncan.com, and find her class, Unlock the Power of Pinterest, by going to CreativeLive.com/business.
My guest next week is author and coach, Andrea Owen. Andrea and I talk about the very first thing she did to get clients as a coach in training, how she changed the money story that was holding her business back, and how she collaborates with others to create amazing experiences for clients.
CreativeLive is highly-curated classes from the world’s top experts. Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development. Stream it now at CreativeLive.com.
This has been Tara Gentile. Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at QuietPowerStrategy.com/PPP.
That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast. Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes. If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend. It means the world to us.
Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu. This episode was produced by Michael Karsh. We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.
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Tara: Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
This week, I’m joined by both Jason and Jodi Womack. Jason Womack is the CEO of The Womack Company, an international training firm, and the author of Your Best Just Got Better. Since 2000, he’s coached leaders across industries and trained them in the art of increasing their workplace productivity and achieving personal happiness. Jodi Womack is the CEO of the Get Momentum Leadership Academy, and the founder of No More Nylons, a coaching program providing women business leaders with professional networking expertise. I spoke with Jason and Jodi about the importance of offline relationship building in an online world, the unique challenges of wooing corporate clients, and what they do to create momentum when even they get stuck.
Jason and Jodi Womack, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Jason: Hey, delighted to be here, everybody.
Jodi: Good to see you.
Tara: Awesome. So I’d love to start with how you both transitioned from careers in education to starting an international consulting firm. What inspired you to start your business and kind of how did you navigate that transition?
Jason: You know, Tara, the short answer is we … we both make really bad employees, because we always had great ideas about what the companies we used to work for could be doing, and so in education, as a high school teacher back in the 90s, I really felt comfortable making up lesson plans, developing project-based learning, taking a look at portfolio assessment over time education. Jodi, meanwhile, was in the counseling office dealing with the kinds of issues that a high school campus might encounter when it comes to students who weren’t performing well on tests, doing their homework, or being quote/unquote good students, and so there were several stones in the river that got us from one side to the other side, and one of them was we both left education and worked for a private, very small at the time, consulting business, where we got to explore and start to take a look at, okay, who out in the world needs to know something, what do they need to know, and are they willing to pay for it.
Tara: Brilliant. Awesome. So what misconceptions did you have when you first started your business?
Jodi: Well, we had a good start, because we were working in a company that was also run by a married couple, and while we were there, we sort of got to look at what parts do we like and what parts do we don’t … we don’t like, and my thing was I never wanted to have a company where a whole bunch of employees came to my house, and that’s what I was going to every day, and I just saw what it did to their personal relationship, and I said I didn’t want to replicate that. But there were parts that I really did like, so my hope and goal was to be able to run an international company from a laptop and travel wherever the work was and not need staff, and I think the misconception for me was that we could do it all on our own, even with all the apps and tools and things, and so over the last nine years, we’ve evolved. We have a team of about twenty-four people now, but again, holding back to that original standard of not having people come to us. It’s a virtual team that’s located all over the U.S., and some people around the world, and we had to kind of build that ourselves to figure out what was going to work.
Jason: And on the content side, and I say this with a big smile, I was under the misconception that if I provided really, really good content and really, really good work, that that would speak for itself, and so what I’ve had to learn is a very delicate balance between creating the great material that when someone sees, they’re going to be naturally drawn to share it, and mapping that to what can be perceived as self-promotion. Oh, there’s Jason talking on his Facebook wall again about his new book.
Tara: Got you. So can … I want to talk more about the team piece in a little bit, but let’s … let’s start with this content piece, because I think that’s really juicy and it’s really relevant to a lot of people who are listening. So what have you noticed about content that actually helps you drive revenue without having that kind of self-promotional piece to it? How do you make that balance? What does that look like for you?
Jason: Everyone’s looking for … when they’re … when they’re reading something, listening to something, watching something that’s content-based, they’re trying to answer three questions. Who is this person I’m reading, listening to, or watching? What do they know that I don’t know? And can they help me with a problem I have right now? And so the best content that I think Jodi and I come up with, and it’s weekly that we can come up with things like this, is going to our user-base. Going to the clients that we just coached last quarter. Going to our current academy members. Following up when I do a workshop on site, and asking them, what are you dealing with in the next 90, 60, or even 30 days, and I really like that time period, Tara, because I think once we start getting into over the next year or over the next three years, for me, it gets really fuzzy, but if I can get someone to tell me a challenge that they know they’re going to face in the next 90 days, then all of a sudden, it gives me my own homework, and then I can go back to them and say, hey, you know, based on that conversation we had six weeks ago, I’ve created a white paper, a short video course, a new podcast episode.
Tara: Brilliant. That is incredibly juicy, and I hope everyone’s taking notes on that, because that’s really awesome. Can you tell me how you kind of parse that information that you get back? Because if you’re following up with people that often, you’re getting a lot of information. How do you decide what to focus on when you are creating that white paper or that video course or whatever, you know, kind of content you’re … you’re producing?
Jodi: Well, we find, number one, we put it in people’s hands directly. So it’s a personal email, it’s not just a giant blast that goes everywhere, because we find people just have become numb to that, and I don’t know about you about, you know, if you have a read later folder in your emails, but we find that we send something, we call to follow up, and we do, we hold people’s hands, because we’re the ones with the real interest. You know, that we want to be able to provide service.
Jason: And I know Jodi went digital really fast. I just want to make sure that we spotlight this. We’re just as apt to send a handwritten letter, a photocopied article. I’ll print up an article that I post over on Enterpreneur.com or TrainingMag.com, and I’ll pull that content over into a Word document, I’ll make it a two-column Word document. Up on the top left, I’ll put a big title. On the bottom right, I’ll put a picture and my bio. I’ll make it look like an article, and I’ll actually put that in the mail, and then there’s always a call to action, so if I … if I do mail you something, and by the way, for those of you who are listening to this right now, the easiest way to do this is for the next two weeks, listen to the questions that your customers ask. If you’re running a boutique, listen to the questions they ask you when they call you on the phone. If you run a restaurant, if you’re an artist, if you’re … I could keep on going. If you’ll come up with the five or ten questions that people ask you, then over the next two weeks, find out which of those two, three, four that you get asked over and over again. That’s where we find, if we can give someone some content, if we can copy … if we can write copy on something, if we can record a video on something, if we can give them something that they can use right away, all of a sudden, we become the source. I think, I think, Jodi, if you were to talk about for a moment your women’s business social, and how you gathered people together and became a hub of women in business, that could be a story people could walk away with.
Jodi: I literally printed up postcards at Vistaprint. You know, just online, overnight, and started walking around my community and hand, personally inviting people to my networking event, and it was one of those things that it just handled so many questions all at once. It was actually more time efficient, even though it seemed like it took a long time, but people then felt like they really knew me. And I love that expression, like, oh, what are you waiting for, a personal invitation? It’s like, yes, I kind of am.
Tara: Yeah, that’s great. I … I so love that you guys are highlighting this offline example, because for as wonderful as online business is and all the tools that we have now, we tend to forget that there’s all these techniques that have worked for time immemorial that are absolutely applicable to a business that’s run virtually as well. So I love this … this kind of juxtaposition of you guys running a distributed team in a virtual, you know, in all but virtual business, but also using these on-the-ground marketing techniques.
Jason: I’ve got a quick story on that. My third book is called Your Best Just Got Better. Someone wrote a review of the book, this is a few years ago now, maybe three or four years ago. This woman named Rongenie wrote a review of Your Best Just Got Better, and while I was up at my parent’s house up in Northern California, I took her name, and I pasted it into Google. It turns out that she was in charge of a NAWBO, National Organization of Women Business Owners organization, she was very prominent in her community. I called her at work to say thank you for writing the review. You would have thought like the president of some country had called her. And I tell you, to this day, she’s probably one of our longest-term members of our academy. She’s been to two of our three retreats in Ojai, and she continues … she hired us to come up to Pleasanton and run a program last year. So you know, someone can say, “But Jason, is it cost-effective to call everybody who writes a review of your book?” Well, my answer is yes.
Jodi: Well, and the other part is we’re not doing it as a sales technique. We do this to build our community, and people remember us, and that’s really what we want is a whole community of people who want to take our calls and who do in fact open our emails, because it’s … there’s … it’s just really noisy out there, and it’s really easy to hit that delete button, so it … the human experience, you just can’t underestimate how far it’ll go, whether it is with, you know, building clients, or just that word-of-mouth and people who are willing to speak on your behalf.
Tara: Yeah. Well, and Jason mentioned that, you know, first question that people are asking themselves when they’re reading new content is who is this person, and I think when you’ve got that offline connection, whether it’s a phone call or a postcard or something hand-delivered that, you know, you’re answering that question pretty … pretty definitively right there and then.
Jodi: Yeah. And I’ll share … I’ve also added it on the flip side where I put people’s images, I’ll Google them and find pictures of people that I’ve never met but have been long-time clients and put them in the phone app in the contacts, and I love when I see their face pop up on my phone. It’s like how human can we make this? How … you know, it’s like I know that person. I know them by their look and by their name, and it’s … it’s really very fun. It sparks so many valuable conversations that lead to more things. That’s really what we’ve learned in business. It really is just Jason and I making the whole company run as far as the marketing and the experience with … you know, we don’t have a sales staff. We don’t have people going out into the field on our behalf. That’s all us, and people, our clients will tell you they know us well.
Tara: I love that. How human can we make this? That’s a brilliant question for people to ask themselves. So let’s talk about the company and how you guys actually make money. What are all the different ways that your company generates revenue today?
Jason: There’s three, and what we found over the years was that having a multiple streams of income was absolutely significant. And for this, Tara, I’m going to take out the investing that we do, I’m going to take out the more passive income, and go to what we do actively. So there’s three streams. One is we run an online academy. It’s called Get Momentum. We also put on workshops and seminars. That’s under the Womack Company. And then we help companies build internal information, content delivery, and kind of white label content. We write it, but they get to use it on an annual, and they just re-up every year, whether or not they want to use that information again. So with the academy, it’s a membership program. People jump in for a year at a time. We say that it’s for recently-funded entrepreneurs, people starting up a company where they’re going to be put in a position of leadership, and then of course, on the corporate side, recently promoted managers. And really, what winds up happening is people join Get Momentum, and then they find out about what we do, so then they have us come in and do a workshop. We come in and do a workshop, someone hears about the content, they ask us if we can do a four to seven to twelve video series for their intranet, for their side of the firewall. So I don’t see it as much as three columns, as much as a triangle, where each one gets to lead to the next, to the next. The last thing I’ll say on that, because I know you’ll have a follow up question, is that recurring revenue model we knew we had to jump into a few years ago. So the idea of someone joining Get Momentum for twelve months, at the end of those twelve months, I’m going to look at Jodi, what do we have, eight? Probably 75-80% of retention. Meaning people sign up for another year.
Jason: So where everyone in the world will always look at us and go, well, you know, what are you doing about … what’s that word? Attrition, right? I just always smile. It’s like, well, people come in, and I mean here’s the deal, you know, for example, in April, we study time management. Look, everybody should probably spend a month a year studying time management. Later, in October, we’re going to study relationship management. I can’t find anybody who would say, “Oh, yeah, I studied that last year. I’m done.”
Tara: Brilliant. I love that. And I love how you … you really illustrated how the business model works. Like you said, it’s not three different columns, it’s not three different streams, they’re all related. They all feed each other in a system, and that’s … that, to me, is sort of the holy grail of setting up a really effective business model.
So I do have a follow-up question, clearly, and that is around the corporate clients that you work with and how you woo those corporate clients, because it’s something that often, my audience, my clients ask me about is, you know, how do I get in front of decision-makers at a, you know, companies larger and small. So what have you guys done to connect with the corporate market and develop relationships to book deals? Whether it’s for speaking or for executive coaching or the content marketing that you do.
Jason: So this is hindsight. This is, you know, we’re nine years into this together, and then I’ll get to the foresight on the other side. The hindsight is it’s referral-based. It is absolutely, you know, I could probably do a numbers game where 9 out of 10 pieces of work we get is because, you know, Bob at company Acme was just speaking with Sarah from company whatever. The real question is how did we create that in the first place, and what we did is … and we’re actually doing it again this summer, I’m … I moved … I put that in air quotes, I moved to New York for about two weeks, and in New York, using LinkedIn, Jigsaw, the New York Times, using anything I could do to find real, actual names of people who were at all involved in learning, leadership development, training, classes, I invited them. I invited them to coffee, to lunch, to happy hour, to dinner. Of those fourteen days I was in New York, Tara, I think I had about forty meetings over that time, and we have a story we tell internally, but one of those meetings over coffee was the most expensive coffee I’ve ever bought in my life. For three of us to get coffee, it was about $28. That has turned into nearly half a million dollars in booked business.
Jason: Building that relationship, maintaining that relationship, and then the real big thing is making it easy for people to refer you. The first chapter, the first stage of momentum, we just published a book a couple of weeks ago, the first stage of momentum is motivation, and what we mean by that is what do you want to be known for? What motivates you? So our clear and present job is to let people know here’s Jason, here’s Jodi, here’s what we want to be known for, here’s what motivates us. Your people on your staff being better leaders motivates me to want to be a better coach, let’s work together.
Jodi: Let me jump in, also, and it goes to this humanizing effect. Really understanding what people in the hiring position really value is so important, because a lot of times as vendors, we think, oh, our pricing is too high or too low. A lot of times, the cost of a speaker is about the same as the cost of a coffee break, you know, at a large conference, so it’s really not the significant factor, but you know, they’re putting their name on you. Like, they’re betting their reputation on you, if you’re the keynote, if you’re the person that they hire, and so our job is to always make them look good, and to make it really easy to work with us, and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve had the same clients for the whole time. They take us with them when they jump jobs either sideways or up as they get up the ladder in the HR and training and development departments. We’re a known quantity, you know, a known entity, and they know they can trust us. That we’re going to be easy to work with, we’re going to do what we say, we’re going to show up when we say we’re going to show up, we’re going to make them look really good, and you don’t realize how much of their reputation is really on the line when they bring in an outside vendor, and understanding that game, and again, it goes to these real-life conversations and coffee chats and happy hours and asking good questions and listening to what they really value.
Tara: You know, Jason, you said something about making it easy for people to refer you. Do you have, you know, referral information?
Jason: Really tough. So after I do an event, if there’s any kind of good feedback at all via email or face-to-face or someone follows up, the question I ask is who do you know who has similar challenges to you, and would you connect us via email, I’d like to tell them what we do on the phone. That’s it.
Tara: So simple, so important, right?
Jason: And you know what, I mean, there’s probably three layers to that little process that I just gave you, that each one will scare people away. You know, I mean look, at bottom line, what I do, what Jodi and I do is very scary to some people. Jodi will look at me every now and then, because I’ll see her typing an email, and she’ll look over with this knowing look, because you know what I’m going to say.
Jodi: So the idea is like get away from hiding behind email and pick up the phone, and you would not believe how much time it saves from going back and forth and then wondering if they read your email, wondering what they’re doing with the email, all that. Just pick up the phone and make a call. Even if it’s a call to make an appointment to meet in person or you know, something, but set … put a real person behind it, because people like doing business with people they like and they know and they trust, right? So if you can be that person, and you know, it’s … the referral base is also all reputation-based. We … we’re only as good as our last gig, and everybody is connected, so we know that we have to really shine every single time, and handle anything. Like the more we talk with clients, the more we get to know where their pain points are, and anticipate it so we don’t drop the ball or we don’t let them look bad in any part of the whole process, and that’s really been our business model is stay in touch and don’t mess up. Stay in touch, do great work.
Tara: Oh, I love that. I love that.
Jodi: That’s our system.
Tara: That’s excellent. All right, so you guys mentioned that you’ve got a new book out called Get Momentum. I’d love to talk about the … just even the idea of momentum for a little bit, and specifically kind of the obstacles that we face, or even that you guys face in getting momentum for your work, for, you know, your day-to-day life, your productivity. What obstacles do you see to gaining momentum, getting a hold on things for your work today?
Jason: You know, I gave my first TEDx talk about a month and a half ago, and I led it off, I started off, I asked the audience a rhetorical question, and I asked, I said what if everything they’ve told us about achieving success is incomplete? What if there’s something more for us personally that we need to know, we need to do, we need to be, we need to have? And so if I look at the one thing, and I’m kind of giving Jodi a moment to think here, if I look at the one thing that blocks momentum, that forward motion, that get up off the couch and do what it is that you think should be different, do what it is you’re complaining about, do what it is that you know could be better, and look at any time I say, “Someone should …” or any time I hear someone say, “Why doesn’t someone just …” that to me is an indicator that I am someone. That they are somebody. So the number one thing that I think blocks momentum is that trust inside that they way other people have done it may not be the way I do it. That I will add my unique spin to it. People ask me all the time, Tara, “Jason, you’ve written a bunch of business books, you teach productivity tips, you talk to people about how they could be better managers and better parents. You know, what makes you different than anybody else?” And I go well, you’re listening to me right now, so I’m different than everybody else. That’s it. Where are you going to put your attention and where are you going to step into and do what it is that you know needs to be done?
Jodi: Okay, so my answer to that is we absolutely could not have written a book called Get Momentum: How to Start When You’re Stuck without having been stuck ourselves over the years. Personally, professionally, all that good stuff. And so a lot of it comes from our experience and our stories, and then we also pull from the Get Momentum membership, and people have shared some really big events that they’ve worked on in their lives and what they’ve been stuck on, and we found themes. So there’s activities, it’s very practical, but you know, for me, it’s about getting out of the day-to-day and looking up and out. You know, it’s having a more executive experience in my own business, and not being in the weaves and the day-to-day so much. Bringing in all these people to help support us and have this virtual team means that I end up being the bottleneck more often than I’d like. People are waiting for me to decide and give feedback and give the green light, and so my next challenge and real opportunity is how do I act more like an executive and let other people, you know, for me to set the vision and allow other people to step up to help and support us that way.
Tara: Okay, so I want to talk more about that for sure, because that, I think, is a very, very common problem, and I love that you guys are so far along in your business, you’ve already created all the success, and that’s still something that you’re wrestling with, but I want to back up for just a second, and Jodi, you said, you know, you couldn’t have written this book if you guys hadn’t been stuck before. So could you tell me about a time when you guys were stuck, or when you personally were stuck, and how you found momentum again?
Jodi: That’s a stumper. We’re both looking at each other.
Jason: Yeah. Daily?
Jodi: Well, the Get Momentum program came out of this feeling of being stuck where we were doing these executive coachings, we were doing … Jason was on stage doing these workshops, and it was like having a day job. If we didn’t go to work, we didn’t get paid. You know, we had to show up and be there in order for the work to happen.
Jason: The writing was on the wall for me. There was one year I … I took 168 flights in 12 months, and I was in hotels just shy of 300 nights that one year, and you know, where I was stuck, and this is going to sound ironic or weird, but I was stuck making a lot of money. I mean, don’t get us wrong, you know, we were living fine, but as Jodi just said, if I wasn’t on stage, we could not submit an invoice to a client.
Jodi: We didn’t have a company, we just had our own jobs that we had created. So that was the stuck of not being able to figure out how to get out of that successful loop, but there was really no end to that. We were in our 30s.
Jason: So let’s … let’s … let’s do how we got out of it.
Jason: Because I think that’ll be … there’s a couple lessons that we can share with that one. So Tara, it was back in two-thousand, and I want to say eleven (2011), and I ran an experiment, and we did an email campaign, we sent emails out to about 6000 people, our list was small. We sent an email out to 6000 people, we actually sent 12 emails out to 6000 people over one month asking them what is it that you need information, education, coaching wise that would be of service to you? Long, long, long story short, we created a one-month pilot Get Momentum program that was a class a week, it was a call with your coach a week, and it was a workbook that each member had to fill out of worksheets a week. Now, because it was so intensive, I could only take ten people in this program. Tara, when we opened registration for that ten-person spot, we sold out in 36 hours, and we opened the cart on December 27th. So with everything that was going on, with holidays, with New Years, with all of this, there were ten people who within 36 hours, they wrote us a check, and they said Jason and Jodi, we’re all in. So we did that one-month program, we reached out to those ten people, so this is the iterative process, we reached out to those ten people, and we said look, we can’t keep doing this, the numbers won’t work, but what if we did a monthly program? Not a weekly one, but a monthly one. And so you know, for anybody who is interested to see how we’ve created an online recurring revenue information/education-based business, you can get all those details at GetMomentum.com, but it’s what we had to do that would pull me off the road while maintaining this thought leadership domain expertise that Jodi and I have.
Tara: And how did you manage that transition? Because I think a lot of people, you know, you mentioned you’re constantly on an airplane, you’re constantly in a hotel, you’re constantly on stage. How did you find the space to create even the idea of this monthly coaching program, this monthly academy, and navigate the transition between those two things?
Jason: So there’s a term that people use for when people are playing pool and there’s one person who can really play pool well, but they don’t let everybody know that they can play pool well until they start betting for money. You know that saying?
Jason: Tara, I’ve been studying personal productivity and time management for 19 years. I’ve taught more than 3000 classes on personal productivity, project management, time management. I’ve read hundreds of articles, dozens of books, if there’s a class out there, I’ve taken it. So what I’ll say is there’s a tactic I came up with a long time ago that I’ve been using ever since. Let me explain it, and I’ll ask everybody who’s listening to this, do this for a month, and your life will change. So Tara, I call it the 30/30 rule. 30 minutes a day I work on anything that’s not due for 30 days or more away. So what I’ll do is I’ll open up my calendar in the morning, and I’ll go three, I’ll go four, five, six, seven weeks into the future, and I’ll pick something. Here’s my question I ask: What will I wish I had started working on sooner? And look at personal or professional. Right? Maybe five weeks from now, I’m planning to throw a surprise birthday for my sister. Maybe six weeks from now, Jodi and I are going to take a long weekend vacation. Maybe nine weeks from now, I’m … I’m rolling out a brand new product to a client that we’re working with for the first time. If I’ll spend 30 minutes today working on that, if I’ll spend that little bit of time where I carve out not working on what’s due tomorrow, in 30 or 60 or 90 days, I’m going to be ahead.
Tara: I love that. I love that. I’m going to start doing that. That’s such a great question to ask.
Jason: 30 minutes a day, and look, you know, I’m going to pull in on all the people that you and I know. There’s so many guys out there that are saying, look, for the first 30 days, maybe you need to get up a half an hour early, maybe you need to forego one episode of that one TV show that you want to binge watch over the weekend. I don’t care how you buy or borrow or beg or steal or find these 30 minutes, but if you’ll do this, within 30 days, that’s the bad news, right? If you start doing this today, you won’t know if it works for 30 days from today, but I can all but promise you get to 30, 45, 60 days from now, and over that period of time, you’ve been working a half hour a day on the things that are already coming at you, you’ll be shocked.
Tara: Yes. I think that’s a really … that 30-day bet is a really good bet to take. All right, let’s talk more about this executive experience piece, and how you guys are setting yourselves up to do that, because Jodi, I love that you mentioned that you’ve noticed that you’re really the bottleneck, or can be the bottleneck in your business, and I find that with my clients a lot that, you know, they’re getting better at delegating, they’re hiring more people, they’re investing more in the structure of their business, but at the end of the day, everyone still reports to them. Everyone, you know, still needs something from them to make value happen, to make progress on their to do list. So what specific things have you been doing to eliminate that bottleneck from your business?
Jason: So two things, and I think I’ll have Jodi come in on the second one, which is the Monday meetings. So I’ll have you talk about that. Here’s the first one: we are the cumulative …
Jason: The cumulative average of the people that we spend time with the most. Way back when, before I knew I needed a coach, I had a coach, I didn’t know she was coaching me until later on she told me, “I was coaching you.” But Martha, a woman who helped me a long time ago, she had me make a really easy, quick spreadsheet, it had five rows, and it had about a half a dozen columns. In the first column on the left-hand side, she had me write down the five people that I had been spending the most time with. The next column, how much money each one of those people made per year. The next column, how many books they read per year. The next column, how many days of vacation they made per year. You’re getting where I’m going with this. Well, what wound up happening is when I took those five people that I had been spending the most time with, and I averaged out how much money they made, how many days of vacation they took, how many books they read, I was living the average of those five. So here’s what I’ve done over the past nine years, I continue to add another C-level, executive, founder, entrepreneur. Basically, I look for people who are busier than I am, and I get coaching from them, even if it’s a hike in the woods, a chat over a coffee. I’ll fly around, literally, I flew to Singapore last Thanksgiving so I could have two dinners with a guy over there that I knew if I could hang out with Mark for an extra 48 hours this year, that influence was going to carry me to the next level, and it did.
Tara: Wow. That’s incredible.
Jodi: Yeah, and having those mentors in your life, even like Jason was saying, if it’s over coffee. Learning how to be an executive, nobody teaches you that. They teach you how to be a good employee and competent worker, but learning how to hand things off, follow-up, and train people along the way, that’s … that’s big … that’s big learning to do.
The other thing that is really a surprise to me because nobody likes meetings and I’m especially one of those people that don’t like meetings, but I found that people let me down or I … I don’t like being surprised by people when they come up with something that wasn’t what I wanted, right? And I find that it’s usually my fault not guiding them better along the way. So we’ve created these Monday meetings with each of our teams, and they’re fast, they’re painless, everybody needs to come in with their agenda or they’re not allowed in, and then we have one person that tracks all of the action steps and who’s doing them. That was not a great strength of mine, and that’s one of the things about being executive is learning to find somebody who’s really great and wants to do things that you don’t want to, and so you know, it’s basically a glorified note-taker, but someone who’s really acute to following along and capturing who said they’ll do what, and if nobody claimed it, they’ll say near the end of the meeting before we break, “Well, who’s going to take that one? Who’s owning that piece?” And I’ll tell you, at the end of meetings, everybody always walks away, before we had this piece, saying, “Oh, so and so’s handling that,” and it’s like all the fingers were pointing to somebody else. Nobody knew. So really clarifying who’s going to do what by when has helped us keep projects on time, on schedule, on budget, and that there’s few surprises, and you know, people don’t want to disappoint. I think people work really hard. I work really hard. I don’t want to disappoint anybody, and so just building in a couple more touchpoints, and again, making it a human experience for the staff and the … the freelancers and all the people helping us out, making sure that every … I know that they know that I know that everybody’s on board. That’s really been a big learning curve for me, because my go to is like I’ll just do it. I’ll figure out how to do a WordPress blog site or something, you know, and I have no business doing that. And that’s really the hardest part about being in this executive type space is not going to that go to belief or core inside of like I’ll just do it, and training people so that they can help us along the way.
Tara: Yeah, I love it. So what’s next for you guys?
Jason: Let’s see, I’ll date stamp this thing. We’re in Ohio right now. We’re speaking at an Agile … I’m speaking at an Agile conference in healthcare, and I really am fascinated by, if I look at what’s next, if I look at the next three, four years, you know, 2020 has always been something, I just like the numbers put together, 2020, but Jodi and I spend a good portion of our time working with clients, asking them what will your workplace look like in 2020? Now, in many instances, it acts as a conversation stopper, because people are like, “Dude, I can’t think about this weekend, let alone 2020.” But it’s what I spend my … it’s what I spend my free time looking at. So the big thing that’s next for us is the Get Momentum Leadership Academy, it’s growing. We’ve opened up another level of membership to make it easier for people to get access to our information, without having to commit to the monthly one-on-one coaching calls, because all of that was a staple of our program, and Jodi and I both know how powerful it is to schedule a meeting with each one of our members. There were people out there that said, “Jason, A, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the budget, or right now, I simply need to read and listen to and watch what you create.” So you know, with a big smile, I’m studying very closely business schools, specifically executive education at business schools, because I see in the 2020, 2025, there’s going to be a lot more self-ownership of letting creativity, letting intuition, and letting curiosity guide their learning. And just to kind of, you know, as I know we’re bringing this to an end, it’s why I see CreativeLive being the support system and structure that it is. People are very … I don’t think we’re going to be moving toward a future where people are told as much what to learn, but they’re going to have to figure out how to, because there’s so darn much information to go get.
Tara: I love that, and that is a great place to leave it, but I think that’s also a great jumping off point for another conversation that we’ll have to have sometime soon, I think.
Well, Jason and Jodi Womack, thank you so much for joining me.
Jodi: Thanks, Tara.
Jason: Absolute pleasure, and please, everyone out there, we’re huge CreativeLive fans. If there’s anything we can do for this community or your friends, just reach out. We’d love to stay in touch.
Tara: Check out Jason and Jodi’s new book, Get Momentum, and their executive education academy at GetMomentum.com, plus find Jason’s class, Think Bigger, Make More, at CreativeLive.com/Business.
My guest next week is feminist wedding photographer and founder of Catalyst Magazine, Carly Romeo. Carly and I talk about how being a feminist wedding photographer helps her stand out in a crowded industry, why she decided to pursue a print magazine in the digital age, and how she manages her time to make sure all her projects actually get done.
That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast. Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes. If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend. It means the world to us.
Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Kellen Shamezu. This episode was produced by Michael Karsh. We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week. Subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.