Lessons from AJ and Meaghan's entrepreneurial journey

Lessons from AJ and Meaghan’s entrepreneurial journey

In this week’s blog post, we wanted to showcase our appearance on the First $100K podcast with Joseph Warren. In this episode, they cover everything from lessons learned to current fears about business. Make sure to check it out with our insights below:

What do I really want?

Too often in our lives, we get caught up in the flow of things. We allow ourselves to just progress in our lives without taking the time to ask what it is that we’re truly looking for. By becoming intentional and taking the time to ask ourselves what we actually want, we can start being proactive about our decisions rather than just reactive.

AJ and Meaghan realized that the path that they started on no longer suited the lifestyle that they wanted. They ran a successful marketing agency, but they found that the business could not function without them. This made it impossible for them to live the lifestyle that they wanted, and didn’t fit with their long-term vision for the business.

They decided to ask themselves what had brought themselves to this point in their lives, and what things kept them from reaching their goals. In order to run this analysis though, they first had to define what they really wanted. After they defined what they wanted, they reverse engineered that into what they needed to do to achieve success.

What is stopping me from achieving my goals?

Meaghan and AJ found that they wanted time freedom. But when they looked at their situation, they found that their business was blocking them from that. Because the business was built around AJ and his expertise, he needed to be on every call and project. This made it impossible for them to properly scale the business properly, and cost them their time freedom. They started to analyze the business, and quickly realized that they had a problem with hiring. None of their hires could replace AJ, so he was stuck. In order to gain the freedom that they craved, they needed to start hiring smarter.

Creating a multiplier-

At this point, Meaghan and AJ realized that even though they owned their business, they were still stuck trading their time for money. Inevitably, you reach a plateau or a breaking point in that deal. They realized that they needed to break out of that cycle to live the lifestyle that they wanted. The only way to improve that exchange is to find a multiplier.

Multipliers come in a myriad of forms: employees, automation systems, processes, etc. A multiplier includes anything that can increase your output without requiring more input from you.

Tips and strategies for creating your first $100K-

Hire the right people

Getting the right people on your team will drive your first $100K, almost more than anything else. You can do almost anything with the right team around you. You have to remember though, the people who helped you get to $100K may not be the right people to help you get to your next $100K. For AJ and Meaghan, they hired whoever they could until they reached their first $100K. Once they broke through that initial barrier though, they decided that they could afford to select better employees. They went back and started replacing their mediocre team members with better team members, and this helped them rapidly scale the business.

Target your market

The next tip that they would suggest is focusing on the right customers. For Meaghan and AJ, they luckily already had some clients built in to this new business that they launched. They had some marketing clients that needed tracking and analytics services. This allowed them to hit the ground running, and then expand their offerings to suit the needs of their target market.

During this phase of finding their ideal clients, AJ and Meaghan established a mantra: easy and effortless. They wanted to target clients that would be easy to capture, easy to educate, and easy to serve. By following this focus, they quickly expanded their client base, allowing them to scale in other ways, as we previously discussed.

Over-deliver for them

By properly targeting their clients, they knew that Praxis could over-deliver to their clients, and that is their third tip. During the start-up phase, it’s imperative that you create raving fans for your product. In the early days, most of Praxis’ growth came from word of mouth referrals from business owners. Because Praxis delivered such value to their clients, they told everyone that they knew about their amazing work. This over-delivery keept their clients coming back for more work, and the referrals created a steady stream of new business for Praxis.

What was the biggest mistake?

The biggest mistake that Praxis made was also one of the keys to their growth early on. Unfortunately, Praxis just continued the practice for too long. After years of business, Praxis still struggled with scaling. They brought in great top line revenue, but very little of it made it to the bottom line. AJ and Meaghan decided to run a deep-dive on their expenses to figure out where this money went. They discovered that over-delivering to the clients made it impossible for them to scale.

Basically, when they drilled down into the numbers, they discovered that they wrote off tons of hours in order to provide better products for their customers. This meant that the client didn’t pay for those hours worked on their project, but Praxis did. This one thing ate up almost all of the profit from the business, and cost them more than half a million dollars annually.

Meaghan and AJ feared that if they stopped writing off the hours, that their clients would revolt against them and leave. However, they found that no one had a problem paying the extra money, because the finished product was worth it. They got stuck in the mindset of the entrepreneur, and thought that they still needed to prove themselves. But they discovered that they had already passed that phase of the business, and people trusted and valued them enough to pay the true price.

The unfortunate truth-

Too many businesses get trapped in this same mindset. While it is important to over-deliver to the client, you also need to make sure that you charge what you are worth. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that the relationship works for both parties, not just the client. Most of the time, your clients will understand. If you have priced your products properly, you shouldn’t need to discount them in order to maintain the relationship.

Why do so many entrepreneurs struggle to cross $100k?

Over 90% of entrepreneurs struggle to break through the $100K mark. AJ and Meaghan never felt like the business struggled to cross that threshold, but they found it difficult to reach $100K personally. Meaghan specifically wanted to pour all of the money back into the business, as she felt that she could make more by forgoing her pay and instead bringing on a new employee or expanding the business offerings. She learned over time though that if she didn’t take a paycheck herself, then she would hold that against her employees. If they made more than her, then she felt that they needed to work harder than her.

Once she started paying herself though, she discovered that she valued her time more. She no longer took on menial tasks within the business because her time now had a cost attached to it. This caused her to shift focus towards bringing in people that could do those tasks in her place.

At this point, the podcast shifted to a lightning round of questioning, so we included the questions and responses below:

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

AJ-

AJ loves the creative process. He loves the process of coming up with an idea, and then turning it into a plan and executing on it.

Meaghan-

Meaghan loves working from anywhere, and not having a standard dress code for work.

What is the worst thing about being an entrepreneur?

Meaghan-

Meaghan doesn’t like working 18 hour days. Especially when no one appreciates it.

What do AJ and Meaghan fear the most?

AJ-

AJ fears not having Meaghan around.

Meaghan-

Meaghan fears insecurity. This includes emotional and financial insecurity.

What did Meaghan and AJ spend too much time doing in the first year of business?

AJ-

AJ feels like he spent too much time managing expectations, also doing things outside of his wheelhouse.

Meaghan-

Meaghan also felt like they spent too much time outside of their strengths. They spent too much time putting the entire business on their shoulders and not bringing in specialists to help them out.

What secret fear do they have about people?

AJ-

AJ loves people too much to be afraid of them. He loves to figure people out and help them to maximize their potential, so no fears from him.

Meaghan-

Meaghan fears that people will let her down. She has high expectations of everyone, and has had a lot of people let her down.

What do they struggle with personally?

AJ-

AJ is currently struggling with imposter syndrome. As the business grows and scales, he feels less and less involved in the company. This has caused a bit of an identity struggle within him about who he is to the company and where his role is.

Meaghan-

Meaghan is struggling with her outlook. As a natural pessimist, she tends towards the negative very quickly. AJ always sees the potential for good, and she tends towards seeing the potential downside.

What do they wish they had learned sooner in business?

AJ-

Better hiring skills. If they had mastered hiring earlier on, it would have saved them a lot of time and money.

Meaghan-

To piggyback off of AJ’s answer, training as well. Training and coaching employees rather than being a taskmaster.

What 3 words would they choose to describe themselves?

AJ-

Radiant, inspiring, and clear.

Meaghan-

Disciplined, realistic, and prideful.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself in the first year of business

AJ-

Scattered, frustrated, and hopeful.

Meaghan-

Naive, non-committed, and unfocused.

What is one bad habit that you want to break?

AJ-

Sticking to the morning routine more consistently.

If you could come back to life after death and offer one piece of advice to your family, what would it be?

AJ-

Love more. Every day try to love more.

Meaghan-

Focus on the things that matter.

Praxis Metrics- How to create a data-driven culture

How to build a data-driven culture in your company

Creating a data-driven culture within an organization is a monumental task; especially if the organization is well established. In this blog post, we hope to outline the benefits of creating a democratized data-driven culture and some steps that you can take to achieve it.

What is selective data culture?

Most companies have a selective data culture. In this culture most employees don’t deal with data. Data resides in the C-suite and with the data team (if one exists). General employees receive nuggets of information, but they never see the numbers behind it. This often leads to something called the “Atlas effect”.

The “Atlas effect” occurs when an organization relies on one individual to keep all of the data and insights in their head. A system like this results in the individual becoming invaluable to the organization and causes major disruption when they leave.

In order to create a true data-driven organization, you need to democratize your data. This means sharing as much information as you can with your team. This creates a culture of transparency as well as serving as inspiration for your teams.

Our client, Organifi, has created a culture around their data. They democratize their data by having their dashboards displayed on TVs in their office that anyone can look at. And they have daily huddles around their data to make sure that they meet their goals every day.

This has created what they call the “lift effect” for their business. The “lift effect” has resulted from everyone seeing each other’s metrics, causing them create friendly competitions between departments.

You can see more about the effect that this type of culture has had on Organifi here:

Data democratization allows you to engage your entire team in the business data. By doing this, you can leverage the collective strength of your organization. This protects you from relying on individuals, and the “Atlas effect”.

What are the benefits of a democratized data-driven culture?

Employee engagement

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” -Peter Drucker

In a data-driven culture, employees with less technical skills still work with, and benefit from data. Data allows employees to track their performance and impact on the organization over time, keeping them more engaged in their work. Employee engagement massively helps organizational growth, as engaged employees measure 17% more productive than their peers. Additionally, engaged employees report 20% higher sales than disengaged employees on average.

When employees know the criteria that they are measured against, it helps them remain focused and engaged in their work. Allowing them to track their performance over time helps to remind them of their improvement over time, or serves as a motivator in times of stagnation.

Better ideas

In addition to allowing employees to track their own performance, data-driven organizations allow employees to contribute their specific understanding and knowledge to an analysis. This diversity of viewpoints allows organizations to benefit from a wide variety of ideas. These ideas help them experiment with a number of solutions, and discover new opportunities.

Having someone from marketing look over finance data may seem counter-intuitive, but they may provide critical context to a trend that the finance department didn’t have. Having an operations expert look over sales data can help them understand needs of the team and update or implement new processes to streamline their performance.

Consistent value

In data-driven cultures, employees can discover, reuse, and adapt data to their situation. For example, investing to know the lifetime value of your clients pays off massively over time, as this information provides contextual for your finance, marketing, and operations teams.

As employees gain exposure to data, their data literacy will naturally improve. As data literacy improves, the insights that they bring to the table will get better and better. This cycle increases the potential output of every employee, lifting the entire organization to new heights. This is known as the ‘lift effect’ and we’ll talk about that more later in this post.

Financial

As touched on in the previous benefits, data-driven cultures experience several major financial benefits. One study found that data-driven companies had a 20%-30% higher EBITDA than similar companies.

In 2006, only one of the top-10 companies by market capitalization was data-driven. By 2017, data-driven companies held 6 spots on the list.

Data recently surpassed oil as the most valuable commodity in the world. Is your business sitting on an untapped oil field?

How to start democratizing data

The easiest way to democratize data is to share it. Organifi decided to display their data so that any and all of their employees could see it. Other companies may choose to do weekly meetings where they announce important business KPIs to the entire team. No matter how you go about it, the goal here is to get everyone excited and involved with company data.

Next, it’s imperative that the data be connected to a goal. Data is like gasoline, the goal gives you a destination, and your actions are the vehicle used to reach the destination. Data should fuel the decisions that you make to get to your destination.

From there, the process simply repeats itself. Create new goals, gather new data, share with the team, gather their insights, and hit your goals again.

As you complete this process over and over, it will become the norm and part of your organizational culture.

If you find yourself struggling to create a data-driven culture in your organization, we can help you achieve your goals. Schedule a call with a Praxis Metrics data expert to see what’s possible for your organization.