ANTHONY TUMBIOLO

Building a Business

Part 4: The Importance of the Back-Office System

This article is part 4 of a 5-part mini-series I started a few weeks back. While it can be read independently, the previous articles will give you more context.

Here they are:

Part 1: The 4 Systems Every Business Owner Should Know About

Part 2: An Inside Look On the New Business System

Part 3: Increasing Your Client’s LTV Through The Production System

In part 1 I gave a bird’s eye view on the 4 systems I believe every service-based business owner needs to understand and manage. And part 2, as well as, part 3 zoom in on the New Business and Production System respectively.

In this post, I want to focus on…

The Back-Office System

Let’s talk about being sexy for one second.

Bringing in clients (New Business) seems to be the most exciting thing there is, right? That’s why there are so many marketing agencies popping up. Content strategy, copywriting, ads… they all are sexy.

Doing the work is not as fun, but that’s how you get paid — so you give it a pass.

But the Back-Office is not generally thought of as sexy. Which blows my mind because it’s a crucial component if you want to take your business to 7+ figures.

What does Back-Office include?

This system manages every foundational element that is needed to run a business — other than your New Business and Production teams.

I’m talking about things such as legal, HR, rent, administrative and operational support, etc.

Anything that is essentially non-billable and doesn’t directly contribute to your revenue is what I would leave under back-office.

Side Note: And what about Finances? Great question. I believe its importance is so relevant that it deserved to be separated from the Back-Office. I will go in-depth on it next week – stay tuned.

Effectively Managing The Back-Office.

Something that I really try to make emphasis on throughout my content is that every system is comprised of people, processes, and tools. And the Back-Office is no exception.

People:

Back when I started Jakt, I was in charge of every single aspect of this system (in all systems, really). I was the one signing contracts, sending invoices, finding contractors, hiring employees, etc.

I thought that I was working on the business…

But, over time, things got more complex. I couldn’t do everything anymore, so I had to start hiring other people and delegating.

It goes without saying, but people are a HUGE determinant factor of your success (that could be a whole article by itself).

Processes:

You can help your people by setting up a process that optimized their efforts and minimizes costs.

But someone has to design that process. It can either be you or someone from your management team — but it has to be done.

Why?

If you can document step by step the actions of your legal and hiring processes, for example, the business becomes less You-dependent.

How will you generate leads when there’s an available position at your company? Who will contact them? How many rounds of interviews will they have to go through? Who are the final decision-makers?…

These are all things that we have documented at Jakt. And sure, it seems like you are wasting a couple of hours to get that on a piece of paper — I get it.

But trust me: you’ll realize how much quicker and sustainable you can scale and grow after you have every system documented in detail.

Note: having clearly defined guidelines will also help you make less emotional decisions — click here to read more.

Tools:

Think of tools as any apps, software, and other tech or old-school solutions that make your life easier.

I’m sure you are already using them in some way: to improve the communication within your team, to onboard employees, to create invoices, etc.

Automation will help you reduce the number of people your company needs to operate. It can even fully eliminate repetitive tasks from your daily to-do list.

A couple of examples:

You could send contracts through DocuSign to your new clients so that you can get that out of the way much faster. And you could automate sending the onboarding material as soon as they sign. Have a recurrent invoice sent at the end of every month.

Much easier, faster, and cheaper, right?

Understanding the Real Cost of Your Back-Office:

As I said before, you –the business owner/CEO– will usually manage the whole Back-Office system in the early days. That’s totally normal, but…

…as you grow, things will change. You’ll have more clients, you’ll expand your business, and you’ll need more employees to fill that need.

But beware to not run into this issue:

As you scale, your back-office will too.

And you don’t want to underestimate how much it’s going to cost you.

Yes, in the very beginning, it will only take time and effort — but not money. Which, by the way, is still a huge expense.

But what happens when instead of sending one invoice, you need to send 10? Or you have to hire not one individual, but a bunch of them?

You can only service a certain amount of business while maintaining your quality standards.  

I remember taking over our Back-Office from day 1 until we had about 10 employees. In hindsight, I probably should have fired myself from that earlier tho.

Of course, when you have someone in charge of that, these costs have to now be factored into the equation. I’ve seen plenty of business owners that they didn’t plan for this…

And what happened?

Their profit margins got screwed up and they realized they weren’t charging enough.

Just as a reminder, this goes like this: revenue – cost to produce everything – all the other shit.

Well, all that other shit will naturally increase over time as your business grows. You’ll want to reduce it as much as you can through automation, processes, and high-performing people, but it will happen.

As long as you’re not just throwing unnecessary bodies and it comes from a place of growth, the back-office is a price that you should be willing and capable to assume. Just make sure you account for it and doesn’t come as a scary surprise.

The Back-Office System Takeaway:

  • The Back-Office System includes anything that is essentially non-billable and doesn’t directly contribute to your revenue. I.e. legal, HR, rent, administration, and operational support.
  • As you grow, you’ll need to find people to take over every element in the system. Use the leverage from well-designed processes and tools to increase your output efficiency.
  • There’s a real cost of managing the Back-Office, especially as you scale. Make sure you factor it into your prices and profit targets.

Building a Business

Part 3: Increasing Your Client’s LTV Through The Production System

This article is part 3 of a 5-part mini-series I started a couple of weeks ago. I’ll do a quick recap to get you all caught up. Sounds good?

Here they are:

Part 1: The 4 Systems Every Business Owner Should Know About

Part 2: An Inside Look On the New Business System

Long story short: on my first article, I wrote about how business owners should think of their company as a machine. It’s made out of systems –4 of them actually– that are both dependent and independent from each other.

So, what are they?

On that post, I gave a bird’s eye view of all four: New Business, Production, Back-Office, and Finances.

I also mentioned that you might start being in charge of the whole thing –and that’s okay. As you grow, the natural transition is to assign specialists to each one.

Due to the positive feedback that article received, I decided to follow-up by closing in in each system individually. 4 systems, 4 in-depth pieces that examine how we manage them at Jakt and how you can too.

This works like a superhero movie: you can watch this film alone and understand it, but you get more context if you’ve watched the last one. So feel free to check it out (I’ll wait).

But just in case you haven’t read it, the first system I touched on is the New Business. Basically, it covers all the steps between generating leads and closing them into clients.

But what’s next?

The 4 Systems Every Agency Owner Should Know About

The Production System

Simply put, the production system is the system that controls the implementation of the work that was agreed upon..

Let’s say you run a web development agency.

Your New Business System brought in a new lead –a law firm, for example.

They’ve asked you to build their company’s website from the ground up. You all determine a fee for the project paid when after completion.

You send the contracts over, and they sign them. At that point, they are transitioning from the New Business System to the Production.

These are the 4 steps that follow:

Step 1 – Start the engagement.

Ideally, the first time your client meets someone from your production team should not be AFTER signing the contract.

Quick note: for “production team”, I mean the people in your company (or yourself if you’re flying solo) that are in charge of the deliverables. In this case, web developers and designers. But people are only 1 out of the three elements that give you leverage.

Anyway, introducing a member of this system during the sales meetings can help you have a very smooth transition. This is what I meant by all systems working together, by the way.

I mean, think about it. If you were a client, you wouldn’t want to feel like the sales guys are “throwing you” around, right?

Also, getting to know and hear from the actual experts will instill confidence in your prospects.

Protip: if, for whatever reason, you can’t bring anyone, at least hype them up during the sales process. “Our web developer specializes in this type of sites. He’s proven to blah blah blah.” You catch my drift.

“The Onboarding Experience”

Something that we really focus on at Jakt is on our client’s transition as we onboard them into the production system.

Ideally, they’re coming from having a great experience with your sales team. You were able to gain their trust (and their business). Don’t lose it now. Make sure that the onboarding system is up to the same standards.

How that process looks like depends on your business. Your end goal is to welcome them, get them up to speed, gather any information you need, and build a strong relationship.   

Step 2 – Deliver (aka: do the work):

By now, you’ve (successfully) transitioned your newly signed client to the Production system. It’s time to deliver.

But here’s the thing: just doing the work is not enough –that’s how you get stuck IN the business.

Your job as the business owner is to be the Architect. You have to design the processes, implement the right tools, and assign adequate people. Then, your company becomes a machine that delivers a great experience every time –consistently and repeatedly.

Also, the quality of your work matters. A lot. I will talk about four different strategies for not having a leaky bucket in the next step, but everything starts with delivering exceptional value.

Step 3 – Prevent the leaky bucket:

If you want your business to consistently grow, you need to stop having a leaky bucket. This is something that’s really helped me grow Jakt to $4M/year.

Here’s what I mean by that:

It doesn’t matter how many clients you bring in if you can’t keep the old ones. You’re just replacing them –not adding on top of them.

That’s why it’s so important that you increase the LTV (long-term value) of your clients. It’s also much cheaper to sell to current one than having to find new ones. They already trust you.

There are 4 ways that you can do that:

Retain/Extend:

Let’s use our web development agency.

One of the problems that this type of agencies often face is that they don’t bring in any recurrent revenue. They sign a client. They build their website. And the client leaves to never come back.

While it’s never guaranteed, having some clients on retainer will help you deal with uncertainty and better predict your revenue targets.

Think about what you can offer to your clients so that they want to keep you around.

In this case, for example, you could offer a hosting and maintenance plan for a monthly fee.

They get a continuously monitored website, and you get some money coming in each month. Win-win.

Cross-sell:

Cross-selling is offering a different service than what your client initially came to you for. The key is to identify another problem that your client has and that you can solve.

After building the lawyer’s website, what’s the next issue that they’ll run into?

More than likely, they have no one in-house to take care of their web content/SEO. They’ll have to go find another agency for that –so why don’t just offer it yourself?

You are now extracting more money from them and increasing your LTV.

At the same time, cross-selling needs to come from a place of service. You are not just trying to get “any” money out of them –you want to help them.

Final note: make sure you still keep your offerings close to your core. If they ask you to manage your social media, and no one in your team has had an account since MySpace, don’t take it. Just give them a referral and build up your social capital.

Don’t just cross-sell because you can. There’s a lot you could cross-sell, but that doesn’t mean you should.

Upsell:

Upselling is increasing the deal size for the same service that they were looking for.

To not confuse it with cross-selling, think of McDonald: “do you want fries with your burger?” (cross-sell). “Would you like to make your fries large for an extra $0.30? (upsell).

For web development, you could offer to add an email opt-in form for an extra fee. Or install Google Analytics. Anything that adds more value and that doesn’t come with the standard package that your client initially chose.

Sell to another division/brand: :

And, finally, you can sell to another division or brand from the same company.

If you built a website for, let’s say, the North American division, you can now offer to work with the European division. Or if they’re the parent company, with one of the smaller brands that they own.

Step 4 – End engagement:

Inevitably, some client projects will end. That’s to be expected with any client services business.

Even if you do a great job extending via the 4 methods above, at some point, some customers will leave. And that’s ok.

As long as you maintain a full pipeline of new business prospects and don’t have all clients leaving all the time, you’ll be just fine.

The Production System Takeaway:

  • The Production System goes from signing a new client to the termination of the contract. It includes your production team, and it focuses on delivering excellent work.
  • To grow your business, you can’t have a leaky bucket. That’s when you sign new clients (adding water) but old clients keep on ending their engagement (leaking).
  • To fix that, 1) deliver great work, and 2) increase your client’s LTV. There are 4 ways to do it: expand/retain, cross-sell, upsell, and sell to another division or brand.

I will cover the third system –Back-office– of your company next week. I’ll touch on hiring/firing, payroll, legal, accounting, etc. It will be stuffed with value.

Opt-in the form below so I can let you know when it’s up!


Decision Making

Do Emotions Help You Make Better Business Decisions?

In a recent article, I talked about the importance of making decisions out of abundance, not fear and lack. I received some great feedback from it, so I decided to do a “mini-series” on decision-making.

I started by sharing a negotiation I was part of a few years back.

Long story short, had I made a decision out of fear and lack when it came down to the wire, the deal would’ve imploded. I would’ve had to start over from scratch. Find new clients, new employees, new offices… It could’ve been one big ugly mess.

Once I stopped letting my fearful emotions guide my decisions, I closed a better deal. Jakt remained profitable, and the following years we saw an extremely rapid growth.

Over the years, I’ve continued to ask myself: how do my emotions affect my decision-making? Could I actually use my emotions to make better business decisions?

And that’s what we will discuss in this quick article.

Note: I use the word “better” intentionally. There’s no right vs wrong — they’re just decisions. The outcome might vary but, as long as you learn from them, all choices were part of your growth process.

How emotions influence our decision-making:

Emotions are normal and part of the human condition.

They help guide us through our experiences, react to the world around us and, ultimately, make better decisions within our circumstances.

Throughout my time as Jakt’s CEO, I’ve learned that emotions are not necessarily positive or negative. We all have them — yes, even you, bro.

What we can control is how they influence our decisions.

They are not supposed to be the driving force behind our choices. Instead, think of emotions as the signal for something important underneath that we need to uncover. They are there to tell us something, we have to uncover what that is.

Use them or be used. But first, you need to be self-aware enough to recognize them.

The power of self-awareness:

Admittedly, it’s taken years of conscious effort to actually learn how to process these emotions and still remain in control.

It’s been a gradual improvement –and I’m still working on it.

In my experience — and this could be a whole article in itself –, self-awareness is what allows you to remain in control of your emotions.

It’s not a black or white thing — there are many shades of grey on the self-examination spectrum. Working on it will not only have a huge impact on your decision-making, but also on you as a leader and human being.

Emotions will arise –and that’s okay.

But when they do, ask yourself:

  • What are they trying to tell me?
  • Am I in the mental state to make a decision now?
  • Or should I wait until I’m clear-headed?

Something that has helped me make less rushed decisions is this:

Establishing Your Decision-Making Guidelines

Think of it like a set of principles or “norms” that give you structure and guide you. They’re the lighthouse of your decision-making.  

For example, I am now investing in cash-flow generating businesses through the Polpo Group. When I’m pitched to partner with a certain company, I need to make a yes-or-no choice.

There’s plenty of factors that can make me lean either way. Some of them are business-related, but others are completely emotional: my mental state on that specific day, my energy, etc.

That’s why I created a group of investing principles –Commandments, if you will– that put logic over emotions. They define the type of business I will invest in, what I look for in a business partner, deal breakers, etc.

I literally have them written down on my phone. Then, when I have to make a decision, I just have to go back to my guidelines.

Keeping Your Cool Through Highs and Lows:

Have you ever looked back on a decision and thought: “why the fuck did I do that?”

And not because the results didn’t turn out so well, but because there was just no reasoning behind it?

That often happens when we let our emotions invade our decision-making. Instead of taking a step back and gaining emotional equilibrium, we are influenced by how we are feeling at that moment.  

Instead of using our emotions, they are pushing us to make decisions we otherwise wouldn’t. And this can happen in both highs and lows.

Let me give you a couple of juicy stories:

Lows:

I’m not Superman. I don’t run Jakt by day and save New York by night. And there’s been plenty of times over the years where I emotionally felt like utter shit.  

A few years ago, I was at an all-time low.

I wasn’t sure what to do with my business –even felt like shutting down the company. My brain circled on repeat: “This is shit. This sucks. Should I just quit? Let’s close this thing down.”

But can you imagine if I moved forward with it? If I had let my emotional state get the best out of me?

The business that I grew, my team who I love, and the clients that we help… all gone.

That’s why it’s so important to make choices from an emotional equilibrium. Recognize your feelings, your behavior, and your thoughts… or you might regret it later.

Highs:

It’s clear why making decisions when everything looks dark and gloomy can lead to situations that don’t fit your long-term best interests. But being hyped up is not the adequate mental state either.

At the end of the day, any emotion –both positive and negative– can skew your decision-making.

I once made a hiring decision based on feelings versus logic. Obviously, it didn’t work out.

Here’s what happened:

I was interviewing this person for a position at Jakt. They seemed perfect and I thought they’d solve a bunch of problems we had. Everything looked great, and I was ready to hire them right away. I was so excited — just couldn’t wait.

Long (embarrassing) story short: I skipped right through the hiring process (aka guidelines we had created on how we make every hire) and gave them the position shortly after.

And yeah, I quickly realized I had set up a hiring process for a reason. They ended up leaving a few months later (and I lost 10s of thousands…).

That was a very expensive lesson to learn, and I hope you keep an eye on that moving forward.

3 Quick Emotions & Business Decision Thoughts:

  1.  Understand that your emotions do influence your decision-making, but they can be controlled and used as input. Take a step back, regain emotional equilibrium, and then decide.
  2.  Running a business is like riding a rollercoaster. There will be highs and lows –and both of them are dangerous. Don’t make decisions when your emotional state is on a high or a low. Wait until you’re clear-headed.
  3. Define your guiding principles to create a structure behind your decision-making. When emotions seem to get the best out of you, they’ll be there to help you out.

Building a Business

Part 2: An Inside Look On the New Business System

This is part 2 of a 5 part mini-series on the different systems that comprise a business.

Here’s part 1: The 4 Systems Every Agency Owner Should Know About

In a recent article, I made the analogy of businesses working like machines. In short, every machine is comprised of different systems that work both simultaneously and separately. When the machine is well-oiled, everything goes well. When it isn’t, it all burns down in flames.

So, how does that relate to your business?

Before I answer that, allow me to make a quick side note. I am the CEO of Jakt –a digital product and innovation studio. I only talk about things I know which, in this case, is service-based businesses: agencies, professional firms, etc.

This might still work for you if you sell goods and not services, and I truly believe the same principles still apply. But that’s the type of company I’ll be focusing on throughout this piece.

Anyway. Where was I? Your business, right.

It is made out of 4 systems: new business, production, back-office, and finances. In my previous post, I gave a bird’s eye overview of how they all work and interact.

After great feedback from fellow business owners, I decided to create a mini-series where I focus on each system individually. I really think it can bring you radical value. Sounds good? This week, we jumpstart this with:

The New Business System:

The 4 Systems Every Agency Owner Should Know About

This system’s main focus is bringing in new clients to your business. It gets people ready to throw dollar bills at you. Simple, right? There’s no need to overcomplicate this.

There are three steps to it:

  1. Generate leads.
  2. Qualify them.
  3. Close them.

It’s a cycle that should be operative at all times. No matter how many clients you are working with right now, having a full pipeline of prospects it’s essential. You never know when someone will end a contract without notice, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Also, while you –the business owner– might start being in charge of all three steps, the idea is to gradually remove yourself from them. As you grow, they will all have one specific individual assigned. And, over time, you might have a whole team specialized for each one.

So, let’s do a quick rundown through them:

“How can you generate more leads?”

I like to separate leads between inbound and outbound.

At Jakt, we generate the vast majority of our business through referrals (aka, inbound leads). Obviously, the longer you’re in business, the easier it gets: you have more clients, your network grows, etc.

Inbound leads have the huge advantage that you don’t have to go and seek them out. That saves you time, effort, and marketing dollars. At the same time, you do have to deliver A1 work for people to be willing to refer you.

Makes sense, right?

From my experience, referrals that come from personal relationships –whether they’re current/former clients, friends, acquaintances, etc.– work better than paid partnerships.

That’s not to say that paid referrals partnerships don’t work. I’ve used them for Jakt, and they did bring me clients. The most important thing is that both you, your referral partner, and the client win.

Now, outbound leads do offer better predictability and repeatability. I haven’t used them much until now, but it’s something I’ll be focusing on moving forward this year.

Things like PPC, FB and Instagram ads (even cold emailing or, God forbid, cold calling) are different ways you can go out and directly offer your services to potential clients.

The truth is, there is no “perfect way.” You’ll have to test what works for you and your business.

“Why is qualifying them so important?”

Qualifying leads is a step that is often overlooked because it isn’t as sexy as its companions. Generating leads is cool. Closing clients with adrenaline pumping down your veins is… well, addictive.

But qualifying leads seems kinda… meh. And it shouldn’t –because it’s a crucial moment in this system.

Each company has different factors that will determine whether a lead is suitable or not. And they can –and will– change with time, by the way.

Things that we look at Jakt are: industry, budget, project type, customer size, timing, etc.

When qualifying, you need to find a balance between cutting off early unsuitable leads and not turning down prospects prematurely.

For example, imagine a new lead says their budget is not large enough to afford you. Maybe they’re right, and you should go ahead and disqualify them.

But maybe they just don’t see the value in your services yet because of weak marketing materials, etc. What if all you needed is to educate them better and they’d sign with you?

“From leads to clients.”

And the last step is turning those leads into paying clients.

At the end of the day, this is what really matters: how much revenue and profits did you bring in. Not how many leads, not even how many clients. It’s a meaningful distinction.

Closing deals could be an article by itself but, in short, here are the basics to it:

You start closing the deal way before you sit down at your last meeting. It starts at the very beginning, and it’s a constant process.

Your relationship with sales and your decision-making are two critical factors that will help you close more business. Check those articles out if you’re interested.

And finally, you have to measure your numbers and performance. As the saying goes, “only what can be measured can be improved.” In fact, you should be measuring the whole sales funnel. Here’s how it works:

Funneling Your Way Out

If I asked you, “how many leads do you need to generate the revenue that you want?”…

…would you be able to give me an exact number?

Or even worse, do you even know the revenue you’re aiming for the year?

The New Business System works like a funnel:

At the top, we have all the new leads that you bring in. And, at the bottom, the clients you sign. Through each step, the funnel will tighten and a certain percentage will drop off.

If you know your average deal size or the Long-Term Value of your clients, all you have to do is reverse engineer the equation.

Theory aside: working out the funnel.

Let’s say you want to make $1M/year — that’s your target revenue. Your average deal size is $50,000/year. And let’s assume you don’t have any past recurring income, cool?

Now, that means you need to sign 20 clients to get there. If you sign ¼ qualified leads, that tells us that you need at least 80 suitable leads to get to $1M.

Moving forward. If only ⅓ of all the leads you generate are qualified, you’ll need 240 leads to reach your revenue target.

240 leads → 80 qualified leads → 20 clients → $1M/year.

Once you break it down like this, you know that, as long as you generate 240 leads, you’ll get to 7 figures. Numbers don’t lie: 240 leads/year is 20/month which is only 5/week.

That’s why it’s so important that you measure and document every single aspect of this process.

Optimizing the New Business Funnel:

“But Anthony, what if I want to double my revenue? Or what if that’s too many leads?”

All you have to do is go through each level of the funnel and optimize it.

For example, you could try to adjust your lead to qualified lead ratio from ⅓ to ½. With the same number of leads, you now have 40 more qualified leads, which really is 10 more clients or $500k/year.

The closer you are to the bottom of the funnel, the larger its impact in the grand mathematical scheme.

Doubling your leads is possible, but terribly hard. You thought 240 leads were a lot, how about 480? That’s really the last variable I want to adjust.

Instead, increasing your conversion rate has a MASSIVE compounding effect. If you up your conversion rate to ½, now you have halved the number of needed leads.

Final note: Another variable is the average deal size. If you are capable of increasing that by only 10%, you’ll decrease your target leads by that same percentage. There are 4 different ways to do that –but I’ll cover them next week. (Opt-in in the form below to stay tuned.)

The New Business System Takeaway:

  • There are three steps to it: generate leads, qualify them, close them into clients. This system should be “on” 24/7 365. The number of people assigned to each step will change as your business grows.
  • It works like a funnel. If you know the variables of the equation, you can reverse-engineer it to predict how many of each you will need to hit your target goals.
  • You can optimize each step of the funnel to either increase your top-line revenue or decrease the number of leads needed. Adjustments close to the bottom of the funnel will have a larger compound effect.

Leadership

How I’ve Built a 24/7 Personal Brand Machine

Over the last couple of months, dozens of people have asked me about my personal brand.

They’ve either read one of my articles (like you’re doing right now), listened to a podcast, watched a vlog, seen a Tweet or a LinkedIn post, etc.

Some of them are surprised. Others are intrigued. And there’s a few that want to get started as well.

They know that I’m the CEO of Jakt, plus I moderate a community for service-based business owners, and I have recently launched The Polpo Group. How do I have time to create content at scale?

But, before I walk you step-by-step on how I’m doing it –and how you can too if you are interested–

Let’s start with why:

I started Jakt, a digital product and innovation studio, 7+ years ago. I launched it from my tiny apartment in New York City. And I don’t want to pull the “rags to riches” cliche, but I was barely scraping by in the beginning.

So I closed my eyes and worked. Obsessively (I’m now changing that). Hundred-hour weeks became the norm.

And the truth is, I did it happily. I found purpose and meaning in Jakt and LOVED helping other businesses.

Now it seems, I “woke up” 7 years later. Jakt is now a $4M/year company with over a dozen fantastic employees.

Looking back, it hasn’t been easy.

There has been a handful of moments where Jakt’s survival was threatened:

Like when my business partner left about 2 years after we founded Jakt. Or realizing I needed to improve as a leader when half my team quit in a matter of weeks –it wasn’t all my fault, but it was my responsibility. Or when we got sued… on and on. 

There were also plenty of extremely satisfying moments. The thing is, I’ve learned a fuckload over the last seven years. Both highs and lows (and probably, even more, the latter) were packed with plenty of extremely valuable lessons.

But I’ve kept my mouth shut for the last 7 years. There are different reasons for that: one, I was too busy working. And two, I didn’t think I had enough “meat” to bring to the table.

My role at Jakt has transitioned into a high-level architect.

I’m focused specifically on our strategy, vision, and having the right people around me.

That has also reduced the number of hours I work on Jakt –freeing up space for my personal brand, SBB, and the new businesses I’m spinning out of The Polpo Group. Our CFO + Accounting service for agencies is an example of that (check it out if you run one).

At the same time, I now think I have enough experience to add to the conversation. While I haven’t seen it all, I’ve seen a lot –and I only create content about what I know anyway.

My personal brand is an investment. My honest goal is to build an audience that trusts me, my content, and my experience by adding a disproportionate amount of value. And then redirect that attention to present and future business ventures.

I am finally ready to get started. So that’s why and why now. Let’s talk about how.

A 24/7 Content Machine

I look at my personal brand as it’s own little business. As such, I’m applying principles I use to run Jakt + the other Polpo Group companies to this.

You can’t build a 24/7 content machine all by yourself. Seriously, this would be a 100+ hours/week if I had decided to fly solo. There’s just no way one person could do all of it.

So, something I’ve learned about building your personal brand (it’s all still fairly new to me), is to not do it alone –as long as you can afford it. But building teams and gaining leverage is something I have experience with.

For my personal brand, I see myself, once again, as the CEO and architect. My job is to set up systems, tools, and find the right people. There are obviously things that only you can do –be on video, talk on podcasts…–, but don’t be afraid to push other decisions out to your team.

That has helped me reduce the number of hours I dedicate to it. Instead of spending all my time on producing and content distribution, I spent the first month getting the “machine” set up.

I found the right people, implemented the right systems, created and refined our workflow, etc. It went from almost 20 hours per week in December 2018 to less than 5 hours per week in January 2019.

You’ll see how there’s just no way I could do this alone. Really, I am now spending roughly 20h/month, but it looks like I’m posting 24/7. Well, it’s because my systems have created that constant flow.

Let me run you through a week’s worth of content so that you understand the magnitude of what I’m talking about:

Written Content

This is how I use written content:

  • 3x 1,000-word articles (like this one). Publish them on my blog, Medium, Quora, Linkedin and create snippets for Twitter. We sometimes submit them to Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc. for wider distribution + SEO.
  • Daily post on LinkedIn. 3x/Week will lead to the newly published article. 2x/Week will direct to either a podcast or a vlog. And 2/week will use them as original content.
  • 10+ tweets per day. We use Buffer to schedule them in advance.
  • 3 emails per week to my newsletter. These are usually 350-400 words, and I redirect them to another piece of content.

The way I can create so much written content is with the help of a ghostwriter. Yes, I could take care of all this –but I’d rather headbutt a knife than spend hours on end checking for periods and commas.

It’s much easier to have someone who can capture my voice and understand what I’m looking for. We first have a 50 minutes weekly interview where we discuss the week’s topics. Then, after he sends me the article, we go through the final edits.

For the Linkedin, Twitter and Email content, I don’t even check over that anymore because we’ve gotten into a well-defined groove. He also knows my voice so well that I trust what he puts out.

Audio Content:

I host a biweekly podcast called Reflections of a CEO where I talk about running an agency, entrepreneurship, personal finances, and personal development.

We post it on Anchor, and it is distributed from there to all mainstream platforms: iTunes, etc. From there, we also link the podcasts to my social media channels –Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram stories, etc.– to drive its exposure.

Finally, we use that big piece of content –the Podcast episode– and create 1-minute clips of its most valuable moments. These are micro pieces of content that we distribute to socials as snippets.

Video Content:

I create one video blog (vlog) episode per week. They’re usually 15 to 30 minutes in length. But I also sometimes create shorter videos on topics I’m interested in talking about when I feel like it/seems to me like it can help people.

I host my show (called The Journey) on Youtube and Facebook Watch. In addition to that, I film myself when recording the podcasts I mentioned above so that they also become video content in itself.

Side note: As you can see, repurposing content across platforms is something that I’m really emphasizing. The most expensive thing (we’ll talk $$$ soon) is to create the content.

Why wouldn’t I try to bring the most exposure as possible to it?

From each piece of video content, we also pull 2-4 microcontent clips that we distribute on socials –mainly Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

How much am I investing in my brand’s equity?

That’s a good question. Something I am really trying to encourage is breaking the money taboo and promoting an open discussion. So how big of a hypocrite would I be if I didn’t give you numbers?

There are two main costs to it: content creation and paid advertisement.

I currently spend about $6,000/month in creating content. That includes written, audio, video, social media management, social media content, etc.

Then there are paid ads. I will be spending $3-5k/month on Facebook and Instagram Ads. In Q1, the majority of spending will go towards building an email list. My goal is to get to at least 10,000 subs this year.

Why am I focusing on an email list and not using ads on growing a social media presence?

There’s a couple of reasons. First, you own the email list. There are no algorithms that limit your organic traffic, etc. If you have 5,000 subscribers, 5,000 people will receive your email. And second, having an engaged list makes it easier to build a relationship and present them with whatever I decide to sell in the future

So, all in all, I’ll spend $100k+ on my personal brand in 2019. While there won’t be an immediate return, I’m playing a longer game here. That said, this is an experiment. There may actually not be a positive ROI (although I really think there will).

But even if there’s not, I am not risking money I cannot afford to lose. Whenever I spend money on experiments, I only spend money that, if it goes to 0, I’ll still be totally fine.

In this case, I’ll be fine financially no matter what happens with my investment. I’ll also have learned a ton, so to me, it’s a win regardless.

Always play a game you can’t lose.

Takeaway:

  • Building a personal brand is not a one-man show. If you are a CEO, you don’t want to manage a whole team of graphic designers, podcast producers, ghostwriters, etc. You want 1 guy who manages them for you –so that your time is not wasted.
  • There are different types of content that you can create: audio, written, and video. Ask yourself if there’s one that comes more naturally to you –and start there. But don’t be afraid to try new things.
  • Building a personal brand will take you out of your comfort zones. I am more of an introvert, and sharing with people doesn’t come naturally to me. But I force myself to do it anyway.
  • This is not a vanity spending. I am not throwing $100k to have people tell me how cool I am. I am ROI-focused (even if it’s long-term). At the same time, helping other business owners is a HUGE passion of mine. There’s nothing better than hearing someone say that I helped them out with their business.