Episode 279 - Featuring Lee Matthew Jackson
August 13, 2020
If you had to start your business from scratch, what would you do differently? What would you do again that worked? Having been in business you will have learned what works and what doesn’t. These are valuable lessons that we can apply to an imaginary fresh start. Let’s go on a journey of starting our business from scratch and see if there is anything from it you can use to make change in your business today.
If I had to start over in my business I would…
What would you do differently? If I had to start over in my business I would…
_ establish my strengths
_ niche down
_ create customer avatars
_ show up in the right places
_ partner with other businesses in same niche
_ build strong contractor working relationships
_ create culture from day one
Posted by Lee Matthew Jackson on Wednesday, 12 August 2020
Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer podcast. This is your host Lee, and on today’s show, I’m sharing with you lessons that I’ve learned from business over the last 15 years. We jump into an imaginary universe where I’ve never run a business before and I have to start from scratch. So using all of those lessons I’ve learned, what would I do if I had to start from scratch? I’m going to shut up and I’m going to let myself tell you via the most recent live stream that you can find over on leematthewjackson.com/live.
Good morning. We are live. My name is Lee Matthew Jackson. Today, I want to share with you what I would do differently if I had to start over in business. This is a really good exercise for people who have already established a business, because if you can remove yourself completely from what you have created and imagine what you could create from scratch. That actually helps you build a roadmap for how you can change your existing business. It sounds weird, right? But if you can just mentally go ‘woop’ that’s a new sound effect and just plop yourself in this imaginary world where it’s day one and you need to work out what to do for day one.
Those activities, those plans, those actions that you would take on day one of the new business, given everything that you’ve learned over the last few years are an amazing strategy for creating a business and can be applied to an existing business. Trust me. Let’s go through some of the elements that I would do if I was on day number one. So I’ve imaginarily taken myself out of this world and I’m now in a clone world where today is day one of my new business.
The first thing that I believe I should do is to establish my strengths is to look at my talents and my skills and say, right, I am sticking my stake in the ground and I am focusing just on Web development. That’s front end development. Let’s get really, really specific. I am really good at front end web development. That’s me. I stick my stake in the ground. That is my strength. Another strength I have is to be able to create a brief, to get inside of the mind of the client and create a brief that meets what they need. So I can see what my different strengths are. And I’m sticking my stake in the ground and I am going to be either a front end web developer or I’m going to be a consultant or what is it that I’m going to be and I’m going to choose and stick my stake in the ground to say that’s the strength that I’m going to go after. Do one or two things really, really well, rather than trying to be a full service agency who offers every single possible skill that you could imagine and just brings everyone in with all those skills, it just became a nightmare in the early days.
Next thing I would do is to niche down and I know it sounds cliche. I know people hear it. I know people are scared to niche down because they think they’ll miss out on business. I know people find it impossible to niche down, but I would still niche down. I’ve learnt too many times that if I try and serve everybody, then I serve nobody because it’s practically impossible for me to describe the industry or the people that I serve. If I have not gone through that exercise and said, right, I am going to be let’s pick a web developer. I’m going to be a web developer, my strength in the events industry because I love events. OK, nice and simple.
Now I can move on to the next step and say, let’s create some of those custom avatars, who is it in the events industry that I help the most, that I can help the most? That I have the most experience so that I can offer them the most value. And it’s clear to me that that would be a PCO, a professional conference organizer, somebody who creates multiple conferences throughout the year in multiple industries. They have to do it on behalf of the people or they do it on behalf of themselves because they’re also a publishing house. So it’s very, very clear who I want to go go after now. And I can start to create an avatar of those people that I need to connect with within those, I need to be able to connect with the event marketers. I also need to be able to connect with event directors, etc. and I can create avatars for those people.
So on day one, I’ve said I know my strength front end web development. I know the industry. I want to go after the events industry. I know the customer avatars of the people, the professional conference organizers and the people within that that I am going to go after this now means I know my business so freakin well. When I started on day one of all of my businesses, I had no clue and spent years trying to work it out. If I look back, I knew all of this information when we even started with Event Engine, and yet I was still all over the place trying to be all things to all people. And I still knew deep down in my heart that there was an avatar, there was a niche. I had strength’s.
Next thing I would do is show up in the right places. If you know your identity as a business, you’ve got your strengths, your avatar, your niche, etc. then you know where to show up. You can start working out where they hang out. So for me, I started hanging out online where professional conference organizers hang out and also going to events where they go. There are event tech conferences, there are all sorts of different online events, physical events and physical networking spaces that I could go to to build up relationships because I knew who it was that I was serving and what I was serving and the value I was providing for them. I knew where to go and show up. Showing up in the right places for me meant creating content as well. So I’m building up this position of authority and trust and value by providing lots of free content and putting one free piece of content out every single week.
Showing up in the right places could also mean showing up on social media with targeted ad campaigns, etc. As long as you know who it is that you are focusing on what problems you’re solving for those people, then you can work out where to show up. It’s that identity is what I should have done when I first started my business and I didn’t. That is all of that is what I would do on day one so that I would then know where to show up and what my messaging should be.
To continue to grow the business the next step I would do is to partner with other businesses within the same industry. And that’s what we do in the events industry. I know companies that can cover all sorts of different elements of a professional conference. That includes people who will do audio; visual, broadcast production, boots on the ground, registration apps, all sorts of different hyper focused, hyper specialist skills. And because we’ve built up all of these relationships, we’re able to share business with each other. When the app developer gets involved in a conference he would be recommending us as an Event Engine. Likewise, if we’re involved in a web build and somebody says, can we have an app for this event, we can bring the app developer in. And that’s something, again, I wish I’d done years and years ago. And it’s certainly something I would be doing in the early days of a brand spanking new business.
Another thing I would do, and I did this the wrong way round, I employed people to fast rather than building up contractor relationships. If I’d have started off with contractors first, I could have built solid relationships and right now we’ve got contractors who’ve worked with us for 10 years plus, which is amazing. But also I would have learned an awful lot from those contractors and been able to build an established decent processes before I brought in employees.
So, again, early days in a business instead of employing people, next time I would have built contractor relationships and then built a better, solid foundation, better documentation etc before I then committed to employees. And remember, it’s our responsibilities as employers to create a healthy business and to create systems and processes that our employees can come in and perform. We’re responsible to our clients to be there. We’re responsible to our employees to be there as well, because that’s their job and that is their livelihood. So for me, starting off with contractors really should have been the point. And that’s what I would do if I was starting over, building up and establishing some systems and processes and then employing when things are ready to rock and roll. And when I felt like the business was on a firm foundation.
There are way more but i’m going to share one last thing, and that is create culture from day one. Even if I started a business on my own, the culture I should have been creating should have been one of some fixed hours. I know that’s hard, especially when you’re in a brand spanking new business and you feel like you have to overservice everything, but I should have established working hours. I should have established holidays. I should have established time with the family, all of those things I really wish I had established early as just me. Then I can continue to establish that culture of respect, of love, of patiences, of family, all of that sort of stuff, then with my contractors and then have that blossom out and widen as I grow my team. So creating culture from day one, knowing what your values are, I think are really ridiculously important.
So let’s do a very quick recap and I would love to know in the comments. Please let us know, bullet them out. What would you do differently or what would you do if you just had to start a business? Right now, everything reset. You got to start your business right now, learning the lessons of business that you have, what would you do? Let us know in the comments.
For me, I would establish what my strengths are. So I would hone in, stick my stake in the ground to say I’m going to go after front end web development. I would niche down to a particular industry. I’ve got a passion have done for donkey’s years in the events industry, so I stick that stake in the ground again. Let’s go after the events industry. I’m then going to create my customer avatars and I know very well the professional conference organizers who is involved in them, how they get set up, etc. So I’m going to create avatars for those professional conference organizers.
Next, i’m going to show up in the right places because I know where they show up, and I’m also going to show up with content and value for those people to help them and add value into their businesses. I’m going to then start partnering with people within the same industry who have complementary skills. I’m going to grow slowly and I’m going to grow with contractors so I can build up good working relationships, good systems and good processes. And I will always make sure that I establish a good culture from day one.
Let’s take a look at the comments we have got Nick Gulic says identify a target audience and specific problem I solve for them, then start crafting content to help them. Correct, no, I mean, yes. Well done. That is freaking awesome. You should really check out Nick’s course as well. Nick, please share a link in the comments because Nick sells by helping and has even created a course to help you sell by helping. Helping is something that we do naturally. So it’s actually the helping that becomes the sales rather than us thinking we have to be good at sales. So it’s a really, really good way of looking at the sales process. So take a look at that. Jamie Hill says this is a great question, I would also not be scared to go to the big players in my niche. Number one thing I would do is spend more on marketing step to find out what I’m good at, my sweet spot and hire others who do what I am not good at. I say that’s a very good point with regards to hiring people that you are on things that you don’t do very well.
So, again, in the early days of my business, I spent hours and hours and hours trying to do php development. So I’m a front end web developer. I can do php, i’m just really slow. It takes me a lot longer. My brain takes longer to think through the logic, to think through the loops. I don’t do it all the time. So sometimes I have to go and start Googling stuff. How do I do it? How to do a date format? Because I’m not doing it all the time i have to go Google it and remind myself there’s just lots of things. I’m just rusty. It takes me a long time. Whereas if I employed someone like a contractor or an employee who was a professional, they can bash this sort of stuff out without a problem. And that is certainly something that I did right when I launched Lee Jackson Ltd. I actually hired Karthik on day one. He joined me as the PHP legend and is still with us to this very day. So shout out to Karthik. You’re Freaking awesome, love you. All right. Have we got any more comments? I hate promoting, but since you asked nickgulic.com/sell-by-helping-course. Don’t hate promoting mate, if it’s helping and I’ve asked you to, nothing to hate. Right, folks, if you got this far and you got to the replay, please type in the word replay.
That wraps up today’s show. Remember, you can find all of our daily life streams over on leematthewjackson.com/live. I’d like to thank Cloudways so much for sponsoring this episode. Cloudways really believe in showing up and providing value. They’ve partnered with us to not only keep the Agency Trailblazer podcast going, but also allowing us to broadcast through their channels along with other fellow Cloudways mavericks such as Picia and Jan, and for us to show a providing value to the community. Thank you so much, Cloudways. Folks, if you are looking for a great cloud platform, check out cloudways.com or the show notes for any latest deals.
Finally, don’t forget, we have a Facebook group that you can be a part of. You can find that over on agencytrailblazer.com/group and come and join the thousands of Web agency owners who are there to support each other, ask questions, make friends, partner network and all of that good stuff. That’s agencytrailblazer.com/group. Folks, if we don’t see you in the community, we will see you in next week’s episode.