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- Improve sales using data

How can I use data to improve my sales?

Do you have more data than you know what to do with?

Most businesses do. In today’s world, everything is tracked, and it produces an overwhelming amount of information. Today, most professionals have a harder time sifting through irrelevant data than they do collecting data.

That’s a problem that we wanted to address in this podcast. We wanted to tackle the question: “Now that I have the data that I want, what do I do with it?”.

It’s not about how much data you have, it’s about asking the right questions and then letting the data tell it’s story.

Time is the most valuable asset that we have, yet we don’t keep very good track of it. Most people go through their days not really thinking about how they spend their time, and not realizing all of the time that they waste in a day. You should spend as much time monitoring your time budget as you do your fiscal budget.

If you want to maximize your effectiveness and happiness, you need to find ways to maximize your time. We all want to increase our productivity and optimize the effectiveness of our time, but eventually we all reach our “optimal level”. At that point, if we want to keep progressing, the only thing left to do is to eliminate waste.

Whether or not we want to admit it to ourselves, wasting time is a huge part of our lives. By decreasing the time that we spend on non-income producing tasks, we can further optimize our time, increasing our time spent on actually valuable tasks. By refusing to track your time as carefully as you track your money, you often lie to yourself. You convince yourself that you spent your time wisely, when in reality, you could have done so much more.

Track your time for 24 hours a day across 2 weeks, and see the story it tells.

Break down your day into 15 minute increments and see exactly how you spent your time across those 2 weeks. Often times it paints a picture that you don’t want to see; but that’s the picture you need to see. By seeing exactly how much time you spend doing things that aren’t worth it, you can see how much more you are capable of.

One client found that they spent only 2.5 hours per day producing actual income for themselves. They spent the rest of the day doing tasks that they considered productive, but on further examination, they found that they had much more pressing things to deal with.

We can automate, delegate, or eliminate so many of the tasks that fill our days; making us more productive, or allowing us the freedom to follow a new passion.

We have data in our CRM’s, data coming from social media, data from our website; how do we sift through it and find the things that actually make a difference?

We found that most small to medium businesses have 15-18 different sources of data. We also found that those sources of data rarely talk to one another. This turns into a huge drain on your effectiveness and time, having to go between all the sources of data to find the information that you need.

The first thing that you need to do in order to get out of the rut of going through all of those disparate pieces of data is a process called metrics mapping. Metrics mapping requires you to start with a high level view of your business and ask the questions that you want answers to. Most people want to know things like, “How much money am I making?” “Which products are driving the most revenue?” “Where am I losing money?”. After asking the questions, it’s time to figure out what metrics, or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) answer that question.

After you know what metrics you want to measure, it’s time to find what system tracks that data, and which one you trust the most. If you want to know how much money your business has, your Paypal, Stripe, or bank account is probably a good place to use as where you pull that metric from. If you want to know how many visitors came to your site yesterday, you would probably turn to Google Analytics. Once you have picked out that “source of truth” for each metric, you can begin to track that information and start answering your business questions.

Almost every company has holes in their data, generally because people don’t recognize the value of that data.

Many organizations have problems with incomplete or inaccurate data. There are several potential solutions to this, but the best ones generally are to either automate out the data collection or to train everyone in the organization in the value of the data. Automation represents a long-term and scalable solution to the problem, but it also generally requires a large up-front investment in the technology. For that reason, many businesses would rather just train everyone in their organization on the importance of the data, and how it can actually make a difference for both the individual and the organization over time.

The sales team is the most important team to communicate this to. As one of the first groups that has contact with the clients, they have access to massive amounts of data that often falls by the wayside because they don’t view it as important. Allowing them access to the data and the insights that come from that data is one of the easiest ways to show them the true value of the data that is being collected. If they can see the direct correlation between their data collection efforts and the insights that allow them to make more money, they will never again willingly let data slip through the cracks.

Reward the habits and not the results.

In sales we have lead indicators and lag indicators. The lead indicators are the things that you have complete control over, i.e. contacting x number of leads per day, making x number of cold calls, making at least x number of sales pitches. Lag indicators are the results that follow the lead indicators, i.e. number of sales, amount of revenue, etc. What’s truly powerful about harnessing the power of data is that once you know your lead indicators well enough, you can shift the focus from rewarding lag indicators to rewarding the lead indicators. A system like this allows you to reward the behaviors that drive results, rather than just the results themselves.