While not specifically on publishing like our previous blog posts, this article will be of interest to entrepreneurs we work with or could work with, so that you can see what we're doing to scale the company.
I think you’ll enjoy reading about what your potential publishing partner is doing business-wise and how you can take some of these tips and start implementing them right away in your own business.
A few months ago I interviewed Cameron Herold for our Supreme Leadership series and when I asked him about the best events to go to to grow your business he mentioned Baby Bathwater adding, “you’ll love it, plus their next event is close to you!”.
He immediately connected me with Hollis (one of the founders) and a few days later I was on a call with him to figure out if we’re a fit. Turns out we were and Hollis was a very good judge of it all because I absolutely LOVED the event and my business is experiencing significant additional growth, which I can attribute to the event!
To get a feeling of the vibe of the event read my roommate’s Eshter Jacob’s blog post.
I’m going to share what I learnt and from whom.
Yes, there was a yacht and a submarine and even free massages but I didn’t do any of it because I’m the person who likes to geek out at content sessions.
These are the ones I went to and what I got out of them:
Eshter Jacobs (my awesome room mate!) - "without a budget you become more creative."
Eshter is a location independent entrepreneur, or a digital nomad, which at a certain point got her kicked out of her home country.
She put together several creative initiatives, such as “coins for care” and one thing she said that struck me is that without a budget you become more creative.
My thoughts are: when you are no longer bootstrapping and your business is doing very well, you might be more open to “splashing the cash” without thinking about ROI as much.
This got me thinking about when I was first starting out. I built my business from the ground up, starting with my first book back in 2010. When it brought me more in royalties than my corporate job did in salary, I left. I published more books, documented my journey in How I Sold 80,000 Books and then helped numerous authors achieve best-seller success before packaging my know-how into a turn-key solution - Leaders Press.
Esther helped me realize that some of my best ideas came from having a small budget to start with. For example, I went to the Bologna Book Fair during a day trip, without a booth and just scouted around. That’s how I found an amazing agent, who sold my books by the truckload to the Chinese market and is now representing all of our Leaders Press books.
Often having a small budget helps, you become more creative and that creativity increases your budget significantly. Then it’s just a matter of maintaining that creativity with a big budget!
Maegan Scarlett - "make yourself increasingly obsolete as you scale".
Maegan’s presentation blew me away. It expanded my horizons and gave me some actionable tips I implemented immediately.
When you look at Maegan with her rainbow hair you could easily misjudge her (this was the case with several attendees). Don’t.
She built a business from scratch to around 25 M in 5 years and broke it down for us.
She talked a lot about scaling, which is what I’m doing with Leaders Press now and one of the things she said is that you need to make yourself increasingly obsolete as you scale.
That’s not easy, but something I did right away was promote one of my directors to VP Operations and give her more power than before.
Maegan also mentioned what in her view a good business looks like (no outside capital, profitable, easy to sell). This made me feel good because we tick all the boxes.
She also said that you need to reassess team fit as you grow because some people just can’t grow with you. This is very important and we just recently let someone go because they were no longer a good fit and we’re hiring now as much for “fit” as for skill.
Another thing is that as you grow you will be able to hire people who can do the job better than you, which is an ego blow.
For example right now, I am THE launch expert but I could also hire or train an expert who could be even better than me. Now thinking about it is quite an ego blow but as Maegan says, “we want to become profitable and useless”, so it’s important to practice internal introspection to understand what’s causing us to choose what we choose.
There’s a LOT Maegan covered and I took copious notes but one of the things I implemented immediately was weekly meetings with just my leadership team (yes, standard operating procedure for many companies but we weren’t doing it). After a month I noticed huge improvements across the board, mainly because I felt accountable to my VPs for implementing what I said I would and vice versa.
Sujan Patel - the 4-step hiring process
Since we’re scaling at Leaders Press, Sujan’s presentation caught my eye because he focused on hiring. He talked about hiring a badass marketing team specifically but I extrapolated it to hiring in general.
Sujan presented his hiring process in the following way:
Step 1: Hire for 1-2 hour consulting engagement;
Step 2: 15-20 min phone interview;
Step 3: Test assignment 1;
Step 4: In person interview + test assignment 2.
I’m proud to day that I enhanced my own hiring process thanks to Sujan. Before I used to hire people based on an interview or a test assignment. After listening to Sujan, with my newest hire, an interviewer that we got onboard, we first made sure she was in the top 1% of available talent, we then did a panel interview together with my VP Operations (as opposed to just with myself) AND we asked her for a test assignment - to interview one of our VPs.
This way it wasn’t just me but thee of us who gave the green light. It’s not strictly what Sujan was recommending but I feel like thanks to his presentation we enhanced our hiring process significantly.
Dan Roitman - "when you can’t hire the best, you’re limited by your own skillset".
At Baby Bathwater you get matched with four people you should get to know and one of the people I was matched with was Dan.
I’m thinking it’s because I mentioned we were scaling and Dan is THE MAN.
Dan said wisely that when you can’t hire the best, you’re limited by your own skillset.
And who is considered the best? That would be the top 20% within their pay class, so if you’re just starting out and can offer to pay $10 an hour you want to make sure you’re hiring the top 20% who are happy to work at that rate.
At these lower levels you need more process and structure (as opposed to when hiring c-suite executives).
How do you know you’ve got the right people? They need to have a growth mindset, get results but also be a good fit or values match.
After listening to Dan, the first thing we want to know when brining a new person onboard is that they have room to grow. We want them to be self-motivated. We don’t really want to manage them. Train, support and lead, yes but not manage.
Karen Hayward - "Where are the only…We are the best at…"
Karen’s presentation really helped me fine-tune our USP. She presented a phenomenal graph made of three circles explaining that you want to play where the following two circles overlap:
- what the customers want;
- what you have to offer.
But you don’t want to offer exactly what the competition has to offer.
You want to be able to fill in the blanks in these sentences:
Where are the only…
We are the best at…
Karen recommended putting together an article explaining how you differentiate yourself from your competition (the only or the best at), which is what I did last week here. This is so that we own this topic when someone looks for it online (thank you, Karen!).
She also mentioned several tools we could use to make sure our websites are optimized such as https://website.grader.com, https://www.spyfu.com and https://www.usertesting.com
This was intended as an advance SEO session. I don’t consider myself advanced but I was interested in learning about it so I went anyway.
I learnt that page speed is the #1 thing that matters (now I understand why my web developer keeps mentioning it!).
You can check your site speed at https://www.seoreviewtools.com/google-pagespeed-checker/.
You need content for SEO, which is why I started this blog! 500-word articles should be fine. You also want backlinks to your site. See www.backlinker.com.
The panel of our three experts did mention that ads work better than SEO, which is why I went to Addie’s session (scroll down for more!)
Mac Lackey - "you're not obliged to scale".
I attended Mac's session on Exit DNA with three main questions: how much should I scale my business, should I exit and if I decide to exit when should I do it?
Mac put a lot of my worries to ease by acknowledging lifestyle businesses, talking about natural exits windows, and preparing for an exit.
He gave some great tips for things you need to do right now in order to successfully sell in the future, what the buyer is really buying and how to give them what they want.
Mac asked us to imagine this scenario: a CEO suddenly calls and says he wants to buy your company but he has to start diligence tomorrow at 8:00 AM.
What is your reaction? Are you ready?
You need to create a list of areas needing work or focus:
- What needs to be cleaned up?
- Are my financials in great place?
- Do you have an organized deal room with all key documents?
- Does everyone on the team have a clear job description? KPIs?
- Can everyone on the team articulate the vision?
Now, if you have a great company that’s making cash, should you sell it?
Something that really put my mind at ease was when Mac said that you’re not obliged to scale, scale, scale and then to sell. You can set camp (or a palace) almost on top of the mountain and live there happily ever after, but if you do want to prepare for an exit, you should start now.
Melanie Merkling - "the goal is to get products off the shelves and into carts".
Melanie was the second baby I met (“baby” because it’s Baby Bathwater” - you get it!). We were on the same flight from Frankfurt to Split.
I attended her talk with great interest because getting our books into Walmart and Sam’s Club would be very exciting for our authors.
Melanie instructed us that getting products into Walmart isn’t the goal. The goal is to get them off the shelves and into carts.
One product can be in several different points and often one of these points will be a winner.
There are no slotting fees (paying for shelf space) in Walmart. The product owner can recommend where to place their products but it’s them who make the final decision.
You’ve probably already guessed that I’m talking to Melanie about getting Leaders Press books into Walmart and Sam’s Club.
Addie Conner - "if you can learn faster than anybody else, then you’re always going to win".
Addie started by saying that if you don’t spend at least 1 million dollars a month on ads then “your data is f*cking dirty”. Thanks, Addie! That helps! More about this later 🙂
There were so many great concepts Addie shared:
First of all think about the type of company you are: do you have the flexibility of a cruise ship or an airplane? If you can learn faster than anybody else, then you’re always going to win. And disruptors win the space, especially if they are lightweight and don’t need 80 signatures to make a decision (this made me think immediately about our USP).
Then it got very technical with Addie talking about multi-variate full factorial designs. Now, I am a certified six sigma black belt so I sort of knew what she was getting at but I think some members might have struggled.
An important consideration is sample size and that you need a lot of ads to find out what works.
I won’t overwhelm you with the details (also because I’m so not an expert on this) but what I did learn from Addie’s session and the SEO session is that you need to run ads, which is why I’m proud to day that I had excellent implementation speed and I’m now working with one of the best ad agencies out there (even though I’m far from spending a million dollars a month….)
Vito Glazers - "don't promote yourself, promote a cause".
Vito on the other hand shared that he doesn’t do any paid ads because he focuses exclusively on publicity.
He talked about:
- traditional pitching (think H.A.R.O.);
- news jacking (making a controversial statement in your brand’s voice to troll the media;
- caused-based marketing
- and celebrity by association.
It was hot and humid and my computer was hyperventilating so I didn’t take too many notes but Vito made a great impression on me as a top level PR specialist. You can see what he’s capable of here.
Nate Ginsburg - investing in bootstrapped businesses: "the #1 rule here is: don’t lose money!"
I went to this session thinking this might be something I might consider in the future but the numbers Nate was sharing were not scary at all.
Nate invested $127k in three businesses and gets $8k a month from that, plus happiness and fulfillment. Not too shabby!
So far I’ve only invested in real estate but my horizons widened whiled listening to Nate.
So what are the keys to investing success?
- uncover opportunities (100k annual profit);
- leverage authority to minimize your risk;
- turn on your deal flow (say Not sure if you’re interested but…)
Now, the #1 rule here is: don’t lose money!
You need to define your criteria such as:
- provide cashflow;
- a great opportunity;
- low risk;
- high upside.
You become significantly involved, I mean it’s your company now too!
While I’m too invested in Leaders Press right now to consider investing in another company, thanks to Nate my viewpoint might change in a couple of years.
ROI - was it worth it?
What do you think? 😉
This is one of the more expensive events out there ($10k), so was it worth it? Let’s see 🙂
The results are:
- I'm now forever connected with likeminded entrepreneurs and amazing human beings! Passionate, successful entrepreneurs are not so easy to find! I finally found a place where I belong.
- I brought back (and implemented!) tangible takeaways from content sessions: fine-tuned our USP, put together weekly leadership meetings, started to blog, started with paid ads, enhanced our hiring process, am talking about getting our books into Walmart and Sam's Club.
- I've also got a couple of book projects in the works (stay tuned for some epic releases in 2020!), so yes, hardcore ROI as well.
To sum up, I found my people and I found my vibe. This is who I want to hang out with and considering the caliber of the participants (7, 8 and 9-figure entrepreneurs), I won't be outgrowing this group anytime soon.
I'm looking forward to many more epic Baby Bathwater events!