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Assessing Client Needs for Business Growth – The Smart Way!

We don’t do much of the “fill out this form”, “how did we do today?”, or “rate our services online” stuff for my businesses.  We usually go for more of a personal touch.  When we ask for feedback, it’s more direct through emails or phone calls with clients.  So, how do you gather that feedback as data to assess client needs and the future of your business?

Today I want to talk about those changing needs and determining direction.

crunching numbers business accounting

1. The Numbers Don’t Lie

Track your expenses and income.  Hire an accountant if you’re not great with numbers and/or don’t have the time yourself.  And don’t forget about that bottom line.  If you’re spending too much on a service or offering, and people aren’t paying enough for it (or not enough people are interested in it), then you know something’s wrong.  Maybe you can cut some of your expenses and rebuild that offering in a way that makes sense financially.  Or, hey, maybe that offering is done and it’s time to move on to something else.  I know I’m painting this as very black and white, but it really does help to take a step back, look at the numbers, and determine whether an offering is worth it based on the revenue (or lack of revenue) that it’s bringing in.

One of the tricky parts here is timing.  I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this in the comments as well.  Personally, we track and review numbers across all teams weekly.  If something is outside of the safe zone, we talk about it in our weekly business meeting.  If that continues for a few weeks, we talk more seriously about it.  If a few months go by and we’re clearly wasting our time and resources, it’s time to make a drastic change.

Obviously I can’t share our spreadsheets here, but you’ll need to create a document with your own financial goals in mind that can be updated on a weekly basis.  Include sales and analytics as needed for your business.

So that’s one objective way to see whether your service/offering or product is working for your clients.  But how do we see it coming before wasting that time and those resources?

2. Create Products/Services Based on Repeated ‘Custom’ Client Requests

I can use Content Refined as an example here.  Content Refined is primarily a content marketing company that works on a monthly subscription-based content creation cycle.  Madeleine, our Co-Founder and Business Manager, was finding that she was getting a lot of “custom” requests for upgrades to existing content on clients’ websites.  These clients had content already on their site that they needed someone to go through, clean up, and ‘refresh’ to help it rank higher.  So, that request came in enough times that Maddie thought, “Hey, we need to make this a real offering, not just a special custom thing we do when people ask for it.”

We figured out our pricing needs and built the system around ‘content upgrades’.  Now it’s front and centre on the home page of Content Refined’s site.

Word of warning: you do have to take all requests with a grain of salt.  There’s a fine line between being flexible and bending over backwards.  Custom requests only work if the numbers work.  So you have to be careful at how far you bend your standards to meet client needs.

Which brings me to my next point.

 

assessing business needs

3. Dominate Your Field Before Expanding Out

It’s extremely difficult to expand out to new service offerings when you’re still working on mastering the original one.  Until you’ve got a great system worked out for your business and you’re handling everything on your plate really well, don’t try to start something new.  Pretty reasonable, right?

To be a master in your field, you’ve gotta stay on top of the trends and news in your industry, and really do your research.  Especially in the digital world, things are moving so quickly that it’s hard to stay relevant.  Check out what’s going on in conferences, and get in the networks with the top players in your field.  This way you can figure out what you should be offering before your clients are even looking for it.

To continue with our example of Content Refined, we constantly look at trends in the content marketing world.  With anything SEO related, you really have to look at the data and figure out which tools and methods are the most effective.  Last year around this time we did all kinds of data analysis on all the content that we had created for clients.  Then we had a statistician go through everything to confirm our findings.  Right now we’re in the process of going through everything again to renew those findings and update any strategies as necessary based on the results.  By continuing to evaluate our business with the actual data, we’re able to stay focused in our field while maintaining great results for our clients.

Final Thoughts

Assessing client needs is super important to keeping your business relevant and growing.  It can take your business in new directions that you may have never foreseen.  Have you had experience with something like that?  Leave me your stories in the comments!

How to Stay Focused and Productive When Working

Working on multiple business and trying to stay focused on tasks can sometimes be hard, and sometimes my time on certain projects lacks more than it should. Over the course of the last few years, I have been working on finding more solutions and ways to keep on task, prioritize important tasks, and stay motivated with the doom and gloomy tasks.

1. Create A To-Do List

The night before work or the morning before I start work I create a To-Do list for the day. This helps me sort which are the more important tasks to get finished and which ones are lower, but still important tasks. This plans out my day and doesn’t make me spend any more effort on what I should/shouldn’t be doing, it’s all laid out for me at the start of the day. By creating this list, I am able to stay more focused on the tasks as I know what needs to get done and am able to wrap my head around the game plan for the day. I highly suggest for anyone to create a to-do list each day, it doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to stick to it 100% but its a good starting point on staying on task and being productive. On top of it all, it’s always satisfying when you get to scratch off a task on the sheet and eventually get down to a few tasks left.

2. Working in 30 Minute Intervals

For anyone, it can often be distracting working in an office or at home on a computer. There are many things to do on a computer and staying on task can sometimes be hard. I like to do work in 30 minute increments, or if you have a task that’s 40 mins, sit and ensure that gets done before anything else. Once the task is done or 30 mins has passed, stand up stretch your legs, take a walk, or do something else for 2-3 mins that isn’t work. Scientific research shows that you are most focused in 30 min intervals with a small break then trying to stay focused for longer periods of time, this is called the Pomodoro technique.

I have a couple hourglasses on my desk to help with this technique. I can’t say I use it all the time but when I am really trying to push I definitely do find it very helpful!

3. Determine Productivity

There is always a certain time of day that we feel we are most productive, some people find they are more productive in the morning and some find they are more productive after lunch. Whatever time of day is your most productive, try and schedule the more important tasks during that time. For me, the morning is always the more productive time, so my to-do list reflects this by always putting the more important tasks first.

4. Don’t Multi-Task – WORK ON ONE THING AT A TIME

Some people try to multi-task with tasks and some might even be really goo at this, but I find dedicating time to one project yields more positive results then splitting your time with multiple projects. If you can give a task your 100% attention, you are more likely to finish it quicker and to a better standard then if you have multiple projects on the go at one time.

My Work Vacation in Mexico

During the month of November, I went on a work vacation to Mexico with both my family and a few employees. I knew that there would be many distractions around that I needed to figure out a solution on how to deal with. Before leaving, we came up with a schedule on what times of days would be work, and what times of day would be for family time and other activities. It was sometimes hard to stay focused and on task when I saw my wife and children playing in the pool or going on cool excursions, but I was determined to stay on my schedule. I had a seperate office away from all the noise, which helped me to tone everything out and settle down and work just as I would if I was working here in Ontario using the tips above that I discussed. Cold Coronas were always a welcome reward for sticking to the plan!

 

Books that have Been Influential in Helping Me Stay Focused and Motivated

I always love to find new books that can help me improve my overall business sense. Whether riding a bike or in my car, I often listen to ebooks. There have been many books out there that I have listened to, but two of my favourite ones on being focused and motivated are Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek and The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey.  I highly suggest anyone who likes to read to tackle Simon Sinek’s and Chris Bailey’s books as they provide a great inside look on how some of the most influential businessman stay focused and on task and continue to be motivated by the work that they do.

Conclusion

There are many different tips and tricks that can be used when staying on task. The above are some of the few I use each and everyday to help me with my businesses. These tasks may not work for everyone, and some might even have a better more defined strategy that may be worth looking into. If you have other tips and tricks you would like to share with me or the readers please do!

Alias – What Are Your Thoughts?

In 2012 I decided to document my journey of building up one of my online businesses and this site was born.

At the time I was working hard as an Engineer/Manager at a large Oil and Gas company and I didn’t want anyone there knowing I was grinding 3-4hrs/night building up my online businesses.

So I had a problem…use my real name or an alias.

I would be interested to hear feedback from the many long-time readers… apologies if anyone feels tricked!

Until I was 0% in my career I wanted to give and appear to be 110% there.

As my wife likes to remind me… I suck at lying because my memory is so bad I forget even the simplest of white lies. I almost revealed twice I was about to propose to her the day I did…I moved up the timeline so I didn’t reveal it.  

So I needed a simple solution to an alias that had everything about me being true but not as easily traced back to my employer.

So everything I have ever shared is accurate with the exception of my last name.

Haver no more… real name is Jon Gillham… but everything else is the exact same!

An Alias – NOT Alter Ego

If you haven’t seen Terry Gene Bollea talk about his alter-ego/alias Hulk Hogan it is pretty hilarious and recommended. I am sure if I had planned to create an alter-ego/alias it would have been a more exciting mystery man then a spreadsheet and systems loving family man who builds online businesses!  My point is it is not an alter-ego only a last name change.

Alias (everything but my passwords shared)…

Not Alter Ego…

So… Why Share Now?

I have my most ambitious project ever underway which has been going on behind the scenes for a while involving 5 new in house staff/co-founders including one who co-founded and sold a Digital Advertising Network which sold to Google for $xx,xxx,xxx!

My plans for a long time have been to untangle the alias as I have always had some anxiousness about having the alias and explaining to people in person my last name is Gillham not Haver.

Now is as good a time as any to make this change!

What is the new project?

I have eluded to it a few times throughout the year about a bigger project in the online space and we are very close to being able to share more details. Blockchain technology is one of those things that once you grasp it you realize it is going to change everything (especially disrupt middle-men).

A team has come together around a unique application of blockchain technology and applying some business model innovation to take a GIANT swing at the most interesting problem I have ever tackled. Our development team is working away and the alpha version is closing in on being done with more details to follow.

There are few times in life where the idea/team/resources/skill-set & opportunity all align and I am excited to see what we can do!

If you are interested in projects in the crypto/blockchain space feel free to contact me and I can share more details.

 

Does this change anything here?

Nope – same spreadsheet, data, systems and online business building focus moving forward!  AuthorityWebsiteIncome (although I am not a fan of the name) is a ton of fun to geek out on projects and try to provide some useful guides to people building online businesses.

1 Year Quit Anniversary – What Has Changed?

It has been one year since I left the day job and pursued my online business activities full time.

I wrote a very in depth post on how I got to the point of quitting my day job – http://authoritywebsiteincome.com/quit-my-job/

This post is going to cover…

How Have My Results Been Since I Left the Day Job?

I will break the results down into 3 parts…

  1. Have I achieved my 2 main reasons for quitting?
  2. Financial Results since I quit?
  3. Have I successfully mitigated my concerns about quitting?

My Main Reasons for Quitting:

I had 2 MAIN reasons for quitting…

  • See What I Can Do on My Own – Online entrepreneurship has a lot of opportunities I am excited to explore. I may or may not regret this decision but I am 100% certain if I never took a shot at building something on my own I would always regret it! (from my post 1 year ago)
    • Results after 1 year – I am definitely aligning the pieces of my business between projects and people on my team to be able to make a bigger impact. I would say that I haven’t achieved as much here as I would like but believe the combination of building an amazing team and getting heavily involved in some BIG projects has me moving all pieces of my business in the right way to make a big impact.
  • Ski/Bike/Hike With My Family – My oldest child will be 36years old if I were to retire at 65 (3 years older than I am now) and the number of hours I work per day between now and then were not going to go down based on the path I was on. But the main reason is I simply wanted to ski, bike and hike with my family in my hometown! (from my post 1 year ago)

Results after 1 year – I have without a doubt massively increased the amount of time I get to spend with my family since leaving the day job. Now being home routinely between 3:30 & 4:00 vs 6:30 (on good days) we are able to do an outing almost every day depending on the season (beach, hike, bike or skiing). Plus flexibility to take time off for activities whenever it makes sense for the family. I do believe I still work too much to have a proper balance on the health side and see opportunities for improvement here.

Overall both of the main reasons I wanted to leave my day job to pursue my online business full time have been moving in the right direction. I am especially proud of the amount of time I get to spend with my family.

Financial Results:

“enjoying” working online full time is certainly great but how have the businesses results been? They have been solid, hitting my stretch targets (barely) and having a lot of success with a few new projects.

Have I successfully mitigated my concerns about quitting?

I had been working insane hours (80+ combined day and online job) and pushing myself VERY hard in the couple years before I left the day job. I had some concerns that the loosening of my schedule and the loss of a single clear goal would negatively impact my business. Here are my thoughts on the results…

  • Getting Mentally Soft – For the last few years my schedule has been a little bit insane. Approx schedule… wake 6am, leave for work 6:30am, work 7am-5:30/6:00, Home at 6:00/6:30, family time until 7:30/8:00, work from 8pm-11pm(sometimes much later). Following this schedule was TOUGH and it, like training for anything, resulted in me being able to be disciplined about working. Will I now go soft since I won’t be working the same number of hours?
    • Results After Year 1 – I would say I definitely have gotten softer. My crazy dedication to working EVERY night no matter how tired/sick I was has slipped. Now I take nights (even the occasional day) off. Some would say this isn’t a bad thing but I do think I am getting softer as a result!
  • No Single Inspiring/Driving Goal – Achieving my goal of leaving the day job had become an obsession and now my current goals are less tangible… will my business not have a stimulating goal and as a result be directionless?
    • Results After Year 1 – The goals have become a little more project/business specific. There is a central overall goal for myself which I don’t discuss publicly but am working towards. Because of the new focus on building a business I am continually inspired to build something awesome.
  • Playing Not to Lose – For those that play/watch sports we all have experienced/seen a team take the lead and then play not loose vs playing to win. Will I now play not to loose vs take bigger swings?
    • Results After Year 1 – This one I am very happy to say is not a problem. I would say I am becoming less risk adverse and need to have the controls in place to make sure I don’t risk too much. Over the last 8 months I have put more money to work, hired more staff and started more projects.

What have I done?

Here are the major changes I have done over the last year…

  1. Grew my in house team from 0 to 2 full time and 3 summer interns
  2. Started a couple big new projects
    1. ContentRefined.com
    2. One investment vehicle I will talk about more later
  3. Increased my rate of site building
  4. Focused more on education and extending my time horizon from only a few years to much longer

Summary

I can say with certainty that leaving my day job was a great decision for my family and so far 1 year out my pocket book as well.

However, the fears I had around getting soft and not having a crystal clear goal I don’t think I have sufficiently mitigated. But overall I am extremely grateful for the world we live in where running this type of business is possible. The ability to both throw myself at a business and not sacrfice time with my family is pretty amazing I am extremely grateful for that!

If you are working towards a similar goal please know it is possible and can be done faster then it took me 7years to reach. BUT… it is not easy… I want to stress that it took me 7+years from when I first started and ~3 years after I got serious about building my business to hit the numbers I needed to hit.  Good luck to anyone looking to do the same!

5 Simple Rules To Evaluate Ideas and Control the Bright Shiny Object Syndrome

This post is about a handful of rules I have tried to adopt when evaluating new opportunities. I don’t want to “fight” the bright shiny object syndrome as many new ideas are worth pursuing but this post is about how to “control” the urge to start too many different things!

Chasing the bright shiny object is a big part of what I do but I can’t endlessly pursue every exciting opportunity.

So this post is about a handful of tricks I use to try and determine if an idea is worth pursuing or not.

First Step is Admitting We Are Not Rational! In a perfect world I would put each new project on a list and use some calculation of NPV or IRR and determine the priority of the project. However, my brain is not that rational… the emotional side will skew the assumptions to the point that these calculations will turn into highly precise but inaccurate BS so I have made a handful of rules that try to trick/use my emotional brain to come up with an efficient way to get to the right decision on pursuing an opportunity or not!Continue reading

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