How to scale up your agency: a fresh approach

A colleague and I were discussing “leadership” and what that truly meant.  We came up with this analogy, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Imagine you move rocks for a living.  The more rocks you move, the more you’re paid.  You don’t move rocks, you don’t get paid.  Thus, you understand the direct linkage between putting in time and compensation.  This is the hourly wage model– some rock movers get paid more than others, whether flipping burgers, working in a big corporation, or drilling teeth. The more teeth you can drill, the more you’re paid.  Are you a corporate wage slave or someone who is paid piecemeal?  This was me for twenty years of my life– a prostitute selling my time for money. Whether I billed $5 per hour or $250– it was the same thing. One day in the proverbial quarry, you decide that moving more rocks to get paid more was not the right answer.  At best, you might move 20% more rocks than the other guy in a particular day, but it wasn’t sustainable.  So you leave the quarry for 7 days, much to the surprise of your fellow laborers. In that time you move no rocks and make no income.

THE SHIFT

But when you come back, you are driving a bulldozer.  Now, in one day you are able to move 100 times what a single laborer can do. But to get that bulldozer, you had to temporarily earn nothing– plus spend money to buy the vehicle and spend time learning how to drive the thing.  Your fellow laborers, noses down, continue to keep moving rocks— they don’t look up to see you in the bulldozer. They have heard about bulldozers in the magazines, but never thought it was something possible for them.

You hang out with the other guys driving bulldozers.  You have newfound wealth, which is fleeting, since the crowd you run with also enjoys the same standard of living.  You’re right back in the middle of your peers.  It feels great to be 100 times more productive than you were before, but you’re not quite fulfilled.

ANOTHER SHIFT

So you leave the quarry again and disappear for 7 days.  In that time you move no rocks and make no income.  And when you return, you are back with 100 bulldozers and 100 other eager new bulldozer operators. You’ve opened a bulldozer training school!  Flocks of manual laborers who used to move rocks now come to be trained by you.  And you make a commission on the rocks they move, since these laborers didn’t have enough money to buy their own bulldozers.  These laborers are now moving 100 times what they did before, but given the costs of training, equipment, and your profit, they only make 10 times what they did before.  Still, they are happy.

And you are temporarily happy.  With 100 bulldozer operators moving 100 times as many rocks as a single man can do, you’re at 10,000 times your earlier productivity.  Your lifestyle has changed, too.  You have have a Granite Card by American Express and have a new mansion in Boulder. People admire you–you’re a ROCK star. They think that the secret to your success is getting stoned.

But it’s not enough– something inside you is not quite satisfied.  You can only train so many new bulldozer operators per day.  You’re still moving rocks in a sense, just mass quantities. Growth in your bulldozer school is directly related to the amount of time you’ve put in.  So one day you close the bulldozer school.  The press thinks you’ve gone mad– that you’ve lost your marble.

SCALE UP AGAIN

You disappear for 7 days.  And when you return, you’re holding a brochure in your hand– “How to Open Your Own Bulldozer Training School”.  You’re created a franchise model, where you are training up other school owners. You have first hand experience in training new bulldozer operators, so new school owners can rely on your experience.  You now have sold 100 franchises, each one with a happy owner training 100 bulldozer operators, who in turn do the work of 100 laborers.  That’s 1 million times leverage.

THE LESSON

You would not have been able to pull this off unless you had personal experience moving rocks, driving bulldozers, training bulldozer operators, and running a franchised business.  You were able to take your knowledge and multiply it.   If you didn’t intimately understand each aspect of the business, scaling up would have just multiplied losses.

Now examine your life and what you do.  Are you moving rocks or are you multiplying? Writing software is a multiplication process.  You can write one copy and sell it an infinite number of times.  You could hand-build a single PPC campaign for a client or perhaps write a campaign management tool that can do it over and over in an automated fashion.  But just like the rock moving analogy, if you aren’t a practitioner with hands-on experience in managing campaigns, your automation won’t be effective.  There are lots of guys selling software that builds websites, manages PPC campaigns, creates SEO reports, sends out emails, and any variety of tasks.

If you want to create massive value, consider the rocks that you are moving. Can you write software or processes that can make life easier for others– or perhaps do some task faster, more effectively, or at lower cost?  Everyone has something they know exceedingly well.  What is that skill for you?  You don’t have to be able to write code.  Software is nothing more than rules for machines, just like processes are rules for humans.

McDonalds is a software company that just happens to make burgers.  People go to McDonalds not because it has the most delicious burgers, but for the consistency of the food and the experience. You can take pimply-faced teens all over the world, minds distracted with their latest relationship dramas, speaking different languages, skilled or not– and still turn out that same value meal each time. That’s process for you.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

BlitzMetrics is about empowering individuals to become entrepreneurs– we provide the tools and process to allow folks who know little about internet marketing, but are eager and willing to learn, to perform like experts. Our analysts are trained to help small business owners grow their practices.  We’re about the little guy helping the little guy.  Do you want to be a part of our team?  Contact me to find out more.

Starbucks is not my office

When I left Yahoo! a few years ago, I prided myself on Starbucks being my office. Meet folks there, have a drink, use the free wifi. It was in Silicon Valley, where tech folks meet for lots of coffee, though the elites may wish to mention Bucks, Il Fornaio, or other high-end VC hangout.

But for me, it represented the energy of meeting other entrepreneurs, well before superhappydevhouse, co-working or incubators became en vogue. Meet others and feed off their energy in a 24×7 environment.
Turn the clock back 20 years ago and the forests were my office. When you’re running 100 miles a week for cross country, it feels like you’re doing nothing but running. If you’re eating, then you’re merely refueling after a run or getting ready to run again. If you’re walking, you’re walking to meet others for the 6 am morning run or walking to the gym to do weight training after your afternoon run. Run, run, run.
I ate whatever I wanted, since anorexia was a real problem for us. It was hard to eat enough calories.  I ran the half marathon in 70 minutes, did my first ultramarathon of 70 miles in 12 hours, and weighed 128 pounds.
Today, I’m 195 pounds and definitely obese.
Instead of my default place being the forest, it’s been the airport and conference rooms for meetings. I’m still on the run, but in a different way.

 

So I’ve chosen 24 Hour Fitness to be my new office. It’s not because of The Biggest Loser, a News Years resolution, or even to lose weight.
I had the best times of my life when I was an athlete.
Did you know that the shoe company ASICS stands for Animo Sane in Corpore Sano?  That’s latin for “a sound mind in a sound body”.
I’ve rediscovered the joys of pickup basketball, swimming, volleyball, and even some dancing– yes, I’ll admit to some Zumba and Jazzercise-like classes.
It’s about the context you set, which determines your home base. I’ve found that when I’m fit, my energy levels are higher, allowing me to be 3-4 times as productive when tired, perhaps more.  How about for you?
Check back on me in 90 days and see where I’m at!

Are you going to ThinkTank in San Diego– September 17-19th?

I am pleased to be invited to ThinkTank, which takes place in just 2 months.  It’s invite-only and is nearly sold out– but if you ask one of the attendees like myself, you might still get a spot.  By the way, the registration fee is $3k, so if that’s too much, then this is not the right event for you.

It’s 3 days to hang out in a small group setting with folks like Shoemoney, Neil Patel, Andy Liu, Chris Winfield, Brent Csutoras, Todd Malicoat– and a bunch of other gurus in PPC, SEO, social media, and internet marketing in general.  What would you pay to spent 3 uninterrupted days in a small group setting just hanging out– as opposed to trying to stand in line to get 3 minutes of their time in a conference hall after their presentation?

Perhaps the coolest thing is that David Klein is the host.  DK is the chiropractor turned internet marketer– he happens to rank #1 on “san diego chiropractor“– and is one of the most genuine and knowledgeable people I know.  If you dabble in affiliate marketing, then you know how rare that is.  David puts on these events with the utmost care to make sure that everyone is having a good time– always bringing in special surprises, the best food, and best knowledge sharing.  He has made a number of introductions on our behalf that have really helped our company– for example, to put us in contact with certain folks at Facebook when we were in a jam.

He also doesn’t make any money on these events– so unless you want to see the price go up, don’t say anything! The only reason I can think of why he’s organizing these events is because he’s truly passionate about connecting people– as well as cracking their backs.  And yes, he will do that if you come.  By the way, I’m not being paid to say this– so it’s legit.  Else you can also read up on what other people are saying about ThinkTank:

“I had the opportunity to reinforce existing relationships, build new ones and make friends for life. it was an absolutely awesome event.” -Al, SelfMadeMinds.com

“I’m still not sure if this is a vacation or a conference” -Rhea Drysdale

Well there you have it– a small group of already successful web entrepreneurs.  Ask for an invite if you fit that model.  If you’re not already successful, then you should hold off coming, since there is no structured learning program here– you have to give to get.  No one way streets at this get-together.  But if you have some valuable things to share, check out the guest list and consider who you want to spend some quality time with.

The shame! Even DEAD people get ripped off

If you’re squeamish, don’t read this– I warned you! BlitzMetrics has two clients that deal with dying– one that sells discounted caskets, one that provides free funeral advice (a servicemagic for funerals).  Now to be an effective marketer, you have to really understand what your client does and get into the minds of their customers.  So in the last few months, I’ve read 3 full books on funerals and countless magazines and articles.  I now understand the minute details of how bodies are cremated (they have to remove metal and other objects beforehand, else it can explode at 2,000 degrees) how embalming occurs for organ donors (embalmers can magically rework a bag of flesh into what looks like a human, using wood and metal inserts), the decomposition of corpses even in “sealed” caskets (nothing will stop the elements), marketing tactics by funeral directors to extract your last dollar (every detail of their office is arranged “just so”), how you can conduct the funeral and burial of a loved one yourself (it can involve lots of dry ice and heavily scented perfumes), options for holding a “green” funeral (don’t be part of the several million gallons of formaldehyde that get into our ground each year– 3 pounds of formalin per body), and so forth.  Funny the places that internet marketing can take you.

Do you know the funeral rule?

A few years ago, Congress enacted a law to protect consumers from getting ripped off.  Some of the many provision include:

  • a clause that prevents more than a 7 times markup on casket prices. So then you have to ask– if 7 times is illegal, then I suppose jacking up the price 6 times your cost is okay?  If the law is that you can’t charge more than 7 times your cost, then how badly were most funeral directors ripping folks off before?  Can you imagine Congress enacting such a rule in supermarkets, saying that Safeway is not allowed to charge more than 7 times what it costs for a gallon of milk or box of cereal?  You’d probably be incensed to pay $20 for a box of cereal (even my favorite, which is Blueberry Morning), but you might not have any idea what a $5,000 casket actually costs wholesale, would you?  And what are you going to do about it?  Shop around, come back on double coupon Thursdays, ask for the “scratch and dent” or coffins that are on sale?  No, this is the worst day of your life– your loved one has just died. Not all funeral directors are scam artists, but this is capitalism, folks. And there aren’t many mom and pop funeral homes– most are owned by large corporations that don’t change the family name or feel.  These corporations have executives interested in increasing the stock price and their bonuses.
  • you can buy your own casket. Kind of like bring your own beer, but not quite.  The funeral director MUST allow you, if you so choose, to purchase your casket elsewhere and bring it in without an additional handling fee.  Of course, they will dissuade you that the caskets bought on-line (yes, even Costco offers caskets now), are somehow cheaper, more likely to break, might be damaged in transit, or might not get there in time (can you imagine the horror?).  What they won’t tell you is that they buy from the same place or that it’s as easy as going on-line and buying something from Amazon.com, minus the one-click option.  Look.  They are going to make a good chunk on you for embalming, the service filing papers, storing the body, and so forth– so it’s not like they’re not making money.  Have you ever seen a funeral home go out of business?  They’re doing okay, shall we say?
  • they have to show you a price list. True, they have to break out the prices of each item, but they still will use every trick in the book to open your wallet.  For example, embalming is optional.  If you have the funeral within 48 hours of death, you don’t need to embalm. And if you do embalm– a horrible process that I’ll spare readers the details of what exactly happens– you don’t have to have the funeral right away.  You can even have the funeral a year later and the body will be just the same– just increase the concentration of embalming fluid.  Famous figures have laid in state for months at a time– it’s basically mumification.  Some funeral directors will charge for embalming even when the remains are going straight from the hospital to the crematorium– the family is none the wiser.  But as to what you “have” to buy– the list is endless. You can bring your own pallbearers, get your own flowers– you don’t have to ride in a limo from the service, nor do you have to hold the service at the funeral home.  It can be at a church or even your own home– but wakes are not as popular these days.  More people are living in apartments, but that’s not stopping them from putting the casket in the back of their pickup truck and carrying it upstairs to the second story unit.
  • you can rent a casket. Yes, but the funeral director doesn’t want you to know.  And he will probably be “out of stock” of all but the cheapest steel caskets– and they’re all cheap, by the way. What used to be called a coffin is now called a casket.  What’s the difference?  None, except price.  There is a growing movement among other furniture makers who see the impressive margins that the coffin manufacturers are getting, to enter the business.  There are guys who used to just make tables and chairs– now they are making simple pine boxes for $250– a tenth or a 20th the price of what funeral homes charge.  Plus, you can even decorate the box as you choose with hand-painted images. And these wood caskets can be much nicer than what’s mass produced.  We have a lot of office furniture from Walmart and American Furniture Warehouse– it works just fine, but we’re not paying $2,000 for a table and a chair.

Want to find out more?  Have a morbid curiosity or perhaps you want to be armed with knowledge for when that inevitable time comes?  There was a funeral home that I often passed by to and from school.  They had a banner that changed every few weeks with a new witty saying.  One time, it said “Drop in now for a coffee, since you’ll be dropping by at some point anyway.”  You think my post in undignified?  Try paying 7 times the true cost to bury a loved one.

The secret to being liked

There was once a study where psychologists shown subjects a series of pictures, asking them to rate how attractive the people in the pictures were. Unknown to the subjects, they sometimes saw two of the same person– the difference being that one picture would be digitally manipulated to increase pupil dilation.  The impact?  The picture with the increased pupil dilation would on average receive one point higher in ratings– say, a 7, instead of a 6, out of 10.  The ancient Egyptians knew this two thousand years ago.  Before going out, girls would put eyedropper solution in their eyes to dilate their pupils.

But why does this work?

When you are attracted to someone, your brain instructs your eyes to let in more light– to collect more information on the object you are interested in.  Thus– the law of reciprocity, which is the old Dale Carnegie trick of “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”.  How can you take the old techniques of remembering people’s names, asking people to talk about themselves, and giving compliments (instead of criticism)– and update that to the year 2009?

I like you

Do I?  Who knows, but there was once a car salesman in the Pacific Northwest who mass mailed prospects and handed out zillions of business cards.  He is allegedly the top car salesman in the US.  The secret?  (No, not “The Secret”, which is a book and movie).  He printed “I like you” on the backs of these cards.  Completely obvious, yes– but effective, nonetheless.  Facebook just released a feature where you can click “I like it” against any activity in your feed.  There is almost no downside to hitting “I like it” to anything that is in your feed as well as anything that a friend posts (within reason).  At the extreme, perhaps you can be accused of a nodding bobblehead or a “yes man”– perhaps a risk if you were to create a script that automatically hit “I like this” for anything you and your friends do on Facebook.  Hint: who wants to write the script and sell it to people on Linkedin?  Insurance and real estate agents would love it, by the way.

Your baby is beautiful and what a delicious meal you made!

Not all babies are beautiful– sorry.  And not every dinner at a friend’s house was the best [insert name of food] that you’ve ever had. But back to the rule of reciprocity, people like folks who like them. So in the world of LinkedIn, you can write a glowing recommendation of someone who you’d actually like to have a recommendation from.   There is a good chance they will reciprocate– provided that your recommendation is authentic and thoughtful.

I’ll invite my 10,000 of my best friends

Yeah, right. Remember the days of MySpace trains, where you could join the train and auto-friend everyone else– then get a million friends overnight?  The same is true with LinkedIn and Facebook– there are people who think that the quantity of friends makes up for lack of any depth with a few key close friends.  “So how many followers do you have on Twitter?”, was a question that came up in last night’s Tweetup in San Francisco.  I happen to have almost a thousand. There are folks who have 30 times that.  Yet the ratio of how many folks you have followed, divided by my how many friends you have is a more accurate measure of your influence. There are guys who have followed 10,000 people, and naturally got 3,000 folks to friend back.  Then they unfollow most of those original people and have a great looking ratio.  It goes back to developing relationships, which can only be done one person at a time.

Too much of any good thing is bad…

There is abuse in any of these tactics– but it doesn’t mean the tactic is not valid.  Overdo it and people will wonder if anything you say is just a veiled attempt at self-promotion.  But as Mark Twain said, “The key to success is to be genuine. Fake that and you’ve got it made!”

New Years resolutions that don’t fail– and your way out

How about making a resolution to not make any more resolutions? Seriously, when you example instances of when people fail versus succeed, a few key traits stand out. I’ll explain at the end of the article– but first… I read a study where patients were told by their doctors that if they didn’t stop smoking or change their diets that they had months to live. The doctors explain what their patients would experience with heart disease, lung cancer, and other complications over the remaining months if they didn’t drastically change. You know what happened?

In the majority of cases, people didn’t change. You would think that would be a wake-up call, if any. But a factual recitation about how smoking causes lung cancer is something we, as intelligent human beings, all know. Yet folks smoke anyway. Or they overeat at meals, overspend their credit line, choose bad boyfriends, and make a host of irrational decisions. Why do they fail here, even when literally threatened with a life and death situation?

They make a public commitment, they involve friends in achieving their goals, they have specific goals in different timeframes, they connect emotionally with their goals, and they have a feedback loop. Incidentally, aren’t those the same characteristics that make videos games highly addictive? Aren’t those the same dynamics that cause folks to spend hours on Facebook or (insert your favorite social media site here), coming back day after day? Imagine if you could harness that same level of dedication and enthusiasm in your job, your diet, or any other goal you want to achieve?

How about for the low, low price of $1,995? No, how about just $599 if you act in the next 30 minutes? Operators are standing by now. How about actually for free with no strings and no free set of Ginzu knives? The answer is sparkpeople.com. Sparkpeople.com is a community for folks who want to achieve their fitness and life balance goals. And with great fitness comes success in all other aspects of your life. This site hits upon all the game dynamics mentioned above. Chris Downie, who founded sparkpeople.com originally as a weight loss site, had the community of enthusiasts to prove it.

Instead of the traditional monthly attrition rate of 35% that you see in most programs, he’s less than 1/10th that rate. I had the pleasure of meeting Chris several times, as he explained these motivation principles to me– and it’s amazing how many people he’s been able to help because of this. Look out Tony Robbins, here comes Chris Downie! And what a humble fellow he is. He walk the talk with his own lifestyle. It reminds me of the obese CEO of a famous athletic shoe company or the CEO of a major search engine that didn’t even have a computer their first year. If you want to spark your lifestyle into success into the new year, tap into SparkPeople.com to make losing weight and getting fit as fun and addictive as Facebook.